Maxen: The Slayer I Didn't Know We Needed
When Maxen’s cards went public, I was sad. A ranged slayer whose attack is at 4/4 when it’s range 3? To do better, he needs to get close, but he’s also a slow dwarf? Sure, the ultimate was appealing, but he did not seem like he would have the mobility to do much on other turns. The Gearhawks seemed like maelstrom targets which could make one mediocre attack. Maxen seems low on attack volume and damage.
I was disappointed. I may have posted several trashcan emojis on the Godtear Discord.
But then I thought about things a bit more. I listened to a few opinions. I started to see a way forward. After some playing around, I would like to apologize to our diminutive second amendment enthusiast. Here are some reasons why I think Maxen might be better than he seems at first glance.
Birdshot and Scavenger
Right away, these are the things that stand out as Maxen’s strong points. An 8/8 attack is unprecedented in the game so far. Removing banners without stepping on them is a throwback to the early beta rules which used to really help slower champions stay in the game.
Scavenger, though, is often going to be unreliable if an enemy champion has more than one wound left. These dice are swingy, and a potential nine step swing hangs on one roll of the dice if you try to live by Scavenger with Maxen’s regular attacks. The combination of Birdshot and Scavenger, though, means that you can give yourself rather reliable odds once per game. Against a champion with 3/3 defensive stats and 3 health left, a full Birdshot has a 71.3% chance of getting the KO and removing the flag. Not airtight, but odds I’d usually take to win a particular turn.
Maxen’s trait and ultimate are a nice once per game combo. Other than that, Scavenger is probably not to be relied upon.
Shrapnel Shot was the part of the card that made me the saddest. At range 3, this attack is worse at killing things than Helena’s attack. Why, SFG, why?
Then I realized that my thinking had become very uptight. Maxen is a slayer, but slaying is not the only thing he can do. He can also plant and protect banners. With five followers who all have place effects, Maxen has some flexible board presence. The HIT EFFECT of Shrapnel Shot is a ranged reposition, so that means that this attack can be useful in the banner game as well as the slaying game. We've seen ranged repositioning before with Raith and the Splashlings, but never at range 3.
Here's an example of how this can be helpful. It's the clash phase, and Raith has just put his Splashlings in a position to give him multiple attack angles on Maxen's banner:
By Shrapnel Shotting Raith and using the hit effect to push him back one hex, Maxen can put the Rainy Reptile out of Kersplash range. The banner is safe.
Let's also remember that at range 1, this attack is a 6/6. That's good! It's an accurate delivery ssytem for more damage dice than Peet, Morrigan, or Lorsann can bring without some help. As easy as it is to see a character with a gun and think about ranged damage, Maxen is actually a close-in brawler who can reach out to auto-wound at range.
The best thing about Jeen is the Golden Shrikes because they automatically do something powerful for free a the end of their activation. The Gearhawks are the same way. Eagle Eye gives an accuracy boon to any champion adjacent to any Gearhawk automatically and the end of the birds’ activation. Other than Rattlebone’s Hexlings, the Gearhawks are the only followers which can hand out accuracy to any champion. This is pretty significant. There are champions who can pass out accuracy, but only at short range. Having to keep two champions tied together is a huge limitation. The Gearhawks, however, can do this as followers (and mobile ones at that), which opens up worlds of possibility.
Let’s take a look at which champion attacks might need some help with their accuracy.
Champion Attacks With Less than Five Native Accuracy Dice
Morrigan’s Snowball’s Chance - 1/2
Rangosh’s Jawbreaker - 3*/7*
Lorsann’s Mystic Arrow - 3*/2x5
Jeen’s Rapid Strike - 3/3
Keera’s Vicious Bite - 4/7
Finvarr’s Life trade - 4*/5
Halftusk’s Two Punch - 4*/5
Nia’s Blinding Light - 4/5
Rattlebone’s Deadly Curse - 4/6
Jeen’s Polearm Sweep - 4/4
Blackjaw’s Fiery Axe - 4/5
Luealla’s Rolling Thunder - 4/5
Look how juicy those Slayer attacks look. They separate themselves from the rest of this list with all those sweet, sweet damage dice. All they need is some help with their accuracy! The other classes also are not as tempting for other reasons. The Maelstroms are usually trying to target multiple followers with heir attacks which means that the boons are less needed (followers tend to have lower stats) and less helpful (they affect only the first attack roll). Both of the Guardian attacks on this list have passive traits which help their accuracy without a boon. The shapers on this list have their own access to accuracy boons, so they don’t need the help as much.
So, you might want to consider pairing Maxen with another Slayer. Play two Slayers, you say? Don't mind if I do!
Let’s consider my guy Rangosh for a second. Jawbreaker is an absolutely elite attack. It has seven native damage dice (easily boosted to 8), but its limitation is its meager three accuracy dice (easily boosted to 4). At accuracy 4, you feel great trying to hit dodge 2 (91%), a bit nervous trying to hit dodge 3 (72%), and pretty disinterested in using it to hit dodge 4 (45%). An accuracy boon, obviously, shifts all of that over one notch. Just by being next to a Gearhawk, Rangosh can now hit dodge 3 at a comfortable 86% clip.
There’s something I like to call the Titus test. Essentially, what are the odds that a given attack can one-shot a full-health Titus? Why Titus? For one thing, he is annoying to play against. For another, he has somewhat standard defensive stats (3/3) and a low health pool (5).
If we assume that Rangosh has two bandits to eat and has Channeled Rage, here are his odds of one-shotting Titus with Jawbreaker:
Without the Accuracy Boon: 35.3%
With the Accuracy Boon: 42.1%
Oh my ‘Gosh!
Keera is even more interesting. She has an accurate attack (Reign of Fire) for hitting high dodge targets at 7/4 and a high damage attack (Vicious Bite) for hitting low dodge targets at 4/7. Each comes with a tasty hit effect. Into a dodge 3 target, you had to make some tricky decisions based on how much damage you needed to do. With an accuracy boon, though, Keera can just go for the high damage attack with much more confidence.
Here are her results on the Titus Test:
Without the accuracy boon: 25.2%
With the accuracy boon: 30.1%
Maxen, then, is a slayer helper. His attacks are not that impressive unless he is close up, but he helps allow other slayers to unleash their big guns into a broader range of targets.
Maxen is also just bananas good at fighting Mourneblade. Range 3 autowound which removes the banner no matter where it is? Awww. Our favorite fire skeleton will have to find someone else to play with.
Maxen is not what I expected. I expected a deadly ranged character who killed Champions at a distance to remove their banners, thus making up for his slow speed. This is not what we got. I was confused at first, but now I think I get it. Maxen is a strange kind of support/control slayer. He will not reliably remove banners or KO champs at long range, but he can sort of protect banners and support other slayers. Once per game, he can flash the skillset that I was hoping would be his staple, but he does consistently bring some things tot he table that other champions don't. That means he has a role to play.
SFG keeps nailing these new releases. Most of them feel relevant, but not overwhelming. Useful, but not redundant. Nice work SFG. More people need to play this damn game; it's so good. Le sigh.