Article by Jeff "Gearbox" Mitchell.
At the time of publication, he is ranked #4 on Longshanks overall and is the only player to have logged 10 tournament games with Maxen.
If you need to know what Maxen does, look here for SFG's primer.
If you want to know what to do with Maxen, read on.
Let's start with this dwarf's best feature. Due to the unique nature of his accuracy reduction on his 2 clash phase attacks, you'll want to get Maxen up close and personal. Imagine that this blunderbuss is like a video game shotgun where the closer you are, the better it is. Maxen probably shouldn't fire at much that is 3 hexes away, since those 4 accuracy dice tend not to hit anything but Mourneblade.
Point blank shots are best.
Don't forget the hit effect on Shrapnel Shot. While pushing the target away one hex will reduce your damage by a single die, that one hex may be what you need to save your banner.
If an enemy champion is on one HP, hunt them down. In the clash phase, with an accuracy boon from the gearhawks, Maxen can advance 2 and auto wound from 3 more hexes at 5 accuracy dice. 5 hex threat range is disgusting.
8/8 at range 3. Also disgusting.
Great for when you go 2nd in your plot phase, since you can then pick off a low HP hero who just dropped a banner for the 9 point swing. Only Lorsan has another range 3 plot phase damage ultimate, and she doesn't roll 8 damage dice.
Always put 3 birds into it. The dice gods are unkind, and you'll rue the day you roll too low.
Remember you can remove birds from anywhere on the board.
While easy to forget about, Scavenger stacks with the Slayer for up to 10 point battle ladder swing (5 points for a Slayer kill, and 5 points for a Guardian banner being removed from the board before the end phase). Going 2nd with Maxen is a powerful tool to exploit your passive, and answering your opponent’s banner setup puzzle by Slaying their champion is an exquisite feeling.
While 3 dodge, 3 armor, and 6 health isn’t an amazing statline, it tends to go pretty far in the game. Not many characters are going to want to walk up into blunderbuss/shotgun range to damage Maxen, so there are going to be a lot of ranged attacks thrown his way. 3/3 is a great statline to deal with most 5/5 attacks.
In most of my games, if Maxen is attacked at all, it requires at least two Champion attacks to KO him. Not many Champions can get an advance and 2 attacks into Maxen in the same clash phase, so he tends to Shrapnel Shot anyone who gets too close before he himself is KO’d.
But Maxen’s best defense isn’t his Dodge, or his Armor, or his Health pool. Maxen’s best defense is his…
These are amongst the most annoying followers in the game to handle. Half of Maxen’s game is using his five Gearhawks well. (The other half is using his gun well)
While only Dodge 3 and Armor 2, Gearhawks tend to stick in the worst places for your opponent due to the judicious application of two abilities: Tinker and Migration.
Tinker allows Maxen to drop a Dodge boon on these birds, while returning one to play. Why a Dodge boon? Because you always want to overload strengths rather than shore up deficiencies in your boon game, and a 4/2 follower is usually harder to kill than a 3/3 follower.
Migration allows them to end up in practically any Hex you want them in to gum up your opponent’s plans. Since it’s a place ability, Migration allows the Gearhawks to cross objective hexes (just not end in them) and move through occupied hexes. This allows them to operate like remote Retchlings, blocking off movements and corralling enemy Champions. Move them into Hexes solo (unless you really need a lane blocked off) and watch your opponent have to waste attacks clearing them out or change their plans regarding the turn.
Also, don’t forget about Eagle Eye. This is a free Boon that goes on any friendly champion next to any allied Gearhawk. Applying a Boon tends to be an action in other Warband kits, so Gearhawks almost have three actions a phase: either Recruit, Talon Rake, or Dive Bomb, Migration into the most sticky position, and then Eagle Eye on an allied Champion.
Talon Rake and Dive Bomb don’t do much in the scheme of the game and that’s okay. These birds are there to hand out accuracy Boons and get in the way.
I tend to run one next to Maxen, one next to an aggressive allied Champion, and 3 working in tandem to create an annoying line blocking off my opponent’s access to Objective Hexes or other lanes.
Just remember that Kailinn and Skullbreaker can advance through these, and any, small based followers. Also, Maelstroms can attempt to farm the Gearhawks, but tend to have to invest many resources into tracking them down for the ladder steps.
The Need for Speed
Now for the shoddy part of Maxen’s kit. His short dwarven legs. While March is nice to have on the plot phase, it takes up an action that’s usually better spent Tinkering or actually planting a banner. If the opponent takes a speedy Champion like Kailinn or Raith’Marid in the same lane as Maxen, then runs that Champion off somewhere else, Maxen is stuck planting his banner and Tinkering with his birds. This is usually the best case scenario for the opponent, because 4 points a turn is easier to overcome than a 9 point swing if Maxen can land a killing blow with his Scavenger trait.
Also, if and when Maxen is KO’d it’s a big deal. Having to spend an entire clash phase moving back to position (and only half way back during the plot phase) is huge. If the opponent can manage to KO Maxen consistently, he’s not going to be able to accomplish much with his gun while he waddles around for position. This can be mitigated by using the Gearhawks to create a backstop.
Here’s a short list of Warbands that Maxen likes to see laned up against him.
Piercing Round Mourneblade every Clash phase and delight in his inability to play the banner game at all.
March away from Mourneblade’s Knightshades and giggle on your way to a better position.
Cut Mourneblade’s avenue of retreat off with Gearhawks (that are placed and also counter Knightshades) and continue to farm him for two points a turn.
An 8/8 Birdshot will deal 5 damage to Titus a third of the time. And for the over half of the time that it only deals 4 damage, there’s a Piercing Round in the chamber.
As the slowest of all the Maelstroms, it is decidedly difficult for Titus to chase down Gearhawks that don’t want to be next to him.
Call to Glory doesn’t work if there’s a Gearhawk in the hex where you want to move Titus or his allied Champion into.
Gimgut’s greatest strength is using Retchlings to block off banners from being crushed. It doesn’t really matter much when Maxen can use Scavenger to remove the banners anyways.
While strong into Gearhawks that are right next to him; Grimgut struggles to waddle or Roll after them when they’re in another lane.
This Warband’s strongest attack into a Champion is the 5/5 Slimed thrown by the Retchlings, the perfect attack for Maxen’s 3/3 statline.
Here’s a short list of Warbands that Maxen does not like to lane up against.
Good luck chewing through 7 health with 4 armor attached.
Rhodri can’t be moved by Shrapnel Shot. Maxen can be moved by Shield Bash.
After you manage to KO Rhodri, Scavenger his banner, and move him 2 in the clash phase; if Rhodri is next to an Objective Hex he can just Rally and Bannerfall to cut your 10 point ladder swing in half.
The advantage that Gearhawks have against Maelstroms is that they can spread out. Blackjaw can farm them almost wherever they are.
Unburnt Reavers make the spread out Gearhawks even more inaccurate
A 6/6 Cleaving Strike from the Reavers into Maxen is dangerous and not to be underestimated.
Cannot be contained by Gearhawks
Wants to close even more than Maxen does, forcing Maxen to dance about and play a ranged game. A game that Maxen is not good at.
Can swing a 9/9 with his ult (which one-shots Maxen thirty percent of the time) and beat Maxen 4 hexes back with the KO.
Maxen is not the best Warband in the game.
However, Maxen is a really good Warband. With effective Gearhawk usage, the threat of Scavenger, and liberal application of Shot; Maxen can take the battle to anyone (despite his short dwarven legs). While it’s difficult to get usage out of Dive Bomb or Talon Rake, every other piece of Maxen’s Warband kit is impactful and good.
No other Warband can swing 10 battle ladder points in a single action. No other warband has as many mobile followers. No other Warband has a blunderbuss.
Give Maxen a chance. He has a solid statline, solid abilities, and a solid kit. He lends himself to an engaging, fun, aggressive playstyle that stymies your opponent and teaches them to keep a dwarf with a shotgun on the other side of the board.
If you’ve come this far, you owe it to yourself to read grumpysarn’s article titled, “The Ballad of Rangosh and Maxen.”