Having just finished my first actual tournament with Smoke I wanted to take some time and reflect on tactics with her and what I like about her. I went 3-1 at this event, My only loss was against Jason who has been my main sparring partner and after many games of Smoke beating Hunters he finally learned the value of Hemlock. Plus my dice were crap.
The Line Up
My line up is Smoke, Flask, Calculus, Venin, Mercury, and Katalyst. Hemlock and Vitriol are on the bench. I swap out Hemlock for Calculus if I feel I need Smelling Salts, otherwise I prefer what Calculus can offer in her playbook and aura. Vitriol is there if I need her over Mercury or Katalyst. I have not felt that need yet. In theory, She is there when you think you need more than 1 goal.
My goal going into each game is 4 take outs 1 goal. If I were ever able to win initiative and take the ball first turn I may say 2 goals is good, but I don’t ever get the ball and am quite unsure what to do with it if I do. It can feel somewhat scary to play her. You often feel like you are losing until you start dropping 2-3 enemies a turn. I have had many games come down to who can win initiative to end the game in one activation. Fortunately by that point you are generally up on MP.
I find myself being more conservative turn 1. I normally find myself kicking off and honestly prefer it that way. I would probably only choose to receive the ball if going against strong round 1 scorers, but even then, they will generally fall into traps you want them to. My allocation is fairly standard. 1 INF to Venin, Flask, and Katalyst. At least 3 Inf to Calculus and Mercury so they can run and AOE. That leave you with 5. I generally go 3 on Smoke and then put the other 2 where they may be useful. It is nice to put 5 on Merc if you think he will be able to Jog and use both CPs to gain 2 Mo. Just use your best judgment.
Smoke always kicks. Aside from having the ability to put the ball close to the line without looking like you are trying to, I like having her up more so I can activate her late and still get good positions with Calc and Merc to generate Mo off her. If they do chose to ignore the ball first activation or cannot get it, she can usually recover it quite safely. I have also had a fair share of balls not make it across the line. While not optimal, you do want to lure your opponent into a sense of false confidence, so it is not the end of things.
Patience and proper reactions are important turn 1. You need to gage what you think your opponent is going to do. How aggressive will they get? Are they going for more take outs or goals. A scoring team may actually be harder to deal with as they want to spread out more. That first model going after the ball can be really important in setting the pace of things based on who they are and where they end.
You generally want to activate either Venin or Katalyst first. Normally they want to go later, but the goal is to position them somewhere exposed and hope your opponent takes the bait. This can be tricky so you ant them where they will be in a strong position if your opponent does not bite. Generally I have been leading with Kat and Flask to pass the activations. Don’t forget to ask questions like “How far is Harpoon/Lure/Drags threat?” and then foolishly move in it. It helps to get a strong understanding of what kind of punishment Venin and Kat can take.
As the turn evolve you are hopefully getting more than 1 model in your AOEs as you gain Mo. Then you want to end the turn spreading and reapplying conditions.
You will probably lose initiative here. If not, great. Either way, if things worked out right you should have Katalyst close enough to walk into someone and hit 3 Intensifies off the bat on models nearby that should be under conditions. Know who your low HP models are. Do not be afraid to kill a mascot, even if it is Loved. Taking activations from the end of the turn is far more valuable. Also remember that if they have played Husbandry, that’s another 2 VPs for you if you still have your LP next turn. Smoke should be able to get to them just about anywhere.
Once you get rolling and they start dropping, you should be able to take a strong hold of the Momentum of the game. It is important as things unfold to really keep an eye on your opponents HPs and pay attention to how they are managing their own conditions and HPs. Hold onto your LP for when it will do the best. I will often use it to wipe out a mascot early if I can, but if I don’t I will try to gage where everyone is and when it is the best. Remember that it can actually cause 5 damage if you go last and then move the clouds to poison. It can lure your opponent to thinking they are safe if you use Merc and Calc for things other than AOEs. While Chemical Shower does not directly cause poison it can still be Breezed to do so.
Finally, if the condition game is going well then your only concern with the ball should be protecting it so you can get it to Smoke to close things out. If your opponent is playing smarter with positioning and managing conditions then you need to be a little more aggressive with the ball. Because of Unpredictable Move and Cloud Jumper I do not feel so bad having Smoke hang out in enemy territory, just be aware of who can get to her and be ready to jump and run if things get hot. Otherwise, Merc to Smoke is not a bad Snapshot option. So if you are playing against a heavy scoring team, get her there and let them score before activating Merc.