So, since starting Malifaux, I've been playing McMourning exclusively, and been having a darn good time of it.
I've done other tactics articles, and will eventually try to turn this in to something with more depth, as I gain more experience, but this is a start.
Mcmourning is a very versatile surgeon, and I've found his playstyle very flexible.
Resurrectionist crews often are thoroughly outgunned. Fortunately for you, McMourning has his workhorse spell, Wracked with Pain. Not being a ranged attack, this doesn't suffer from cover or melee penalties, and, doing WDs instead of damage, it ignores most ways of preventing damage. Furthermore, its low Casting Cost means that it's pretty easy to pull off in aiding his role as summoner.
This also prevents (0) actions. Depending on the target, this can be anywhere from mildly annoying (and worth waiting to go until after they've gone) to crippling (if they rely on their 0's).
He isn't a strong ranged piece, but has a reliable way of both doing damage and and getting body tokens. Because he isn't very strong at range and, more importantly, because pieces that are Immune to Influence can't be damaged, you'll still want another ranged piece, assuming you're not going straight melee.
McMourning is fast. Very fast. If you want him somewhere, he has a (0) action spell (Scalpel Slingin'), which will move him up to 9" (if the target is 6" away on a large base, and he Pushes to the opposite side), which will also get him a body part to burn on Fast, giving him 3 5" moves, putting him a maximum of 24" from where he started.
More realistically, if you move three times, he's still able to attack once or summon a piece within 6" of him with a (0) action. Taking into account a melee reach, that puts a threat range at 21" with his scalpel (15" move, 6" Scalpel Slingin') or 23" with Monstrous creation (15" moved, 6" summon range, 2" melee range).
If someone ends close to McMourning (specifically, within 6") and you have a decent hand, things don't look rosy for them.
The first order of business is a 6" move from Scalpel Slingin' (have you figured out his workhorse Ability yet?).
Next, the simplest thing to do is put 3 more attacks in with his Surgical Implements, which should be enough to deal plenty of damage to something with less than a ton of health left. Precise ignores both Hard to Wound and Armor, putting things further to your advantage. If you can guarantee hits, you're where you want to be. Not only this, but McMourning will have regenerated health from Organ Donor, so will probably be sitting pretty at full health if your opponent survives (not a great place for the Good Doctor, but hardly the worst)
However, there are nastier ways to go than simply being cut to death.
If you're lucky or smart, you'll have a high mask. This, combined with burning a Soulstone, can put the fear of any number of deities in your opponent, from a Rancid Transplant. A savvy opponent will do everything in their power to try to stop this, and you want to guarantee its success, so this is probably when you want to burn your best cards.
As a result, you'll likely get a positive flip on any future damage, from any source, on the target model, which means just about any hits that go through will be on your terms (you can play your hand on neutral and positive flips). Even if McMourning fails and dies, your target will be highly susceptible to damage for the rest of the game. If you've got a Red Joker, this is a good time to use it.
Now, the reason I mentioned that high mask. While you will want a high card to be sure it gets through, a successful cast mask will trigger Scalpel Magic-- while it relies on the spell succeeding, you're essentially getting two actions for the price of 1.
Dissect is another option. While his Surgical Implements work well enough and is more flexible (due to alternating cheating/soulstones), this spell does have some advantages:
-McMourning's CA is one higher than his CB
-The spell has longer melee range.
-While it causes lower weak damage, its moderate damage is only one lower than a Surgical Implements severe damage, and there's little comparison on severe damage between the two. This means that, many times when it's necessary to do fewer, stronger attacks, due to Armor, Defensive Triggers, etc., one more inflexible attack is worth more than the flexibility of a couple weaker ones.
Another point to make is his amazing Master Surgeon ability. McMourning has a lot of (0) actions, so I don't find myself using this one often, but has a very strong offensive niche. It's the only guaranteed hit McMourning can make.
-you only need to do 1 damage (but must do it and don't have the cards, actions, and/or stones to ensure it)
-there's some reason you don't want to be engaged with your target and you don't think you can make a Wracked with Pain attack (for instance, they're Immune to Influence, or you don't have the cards)
-you don't have the cards or parts for a worthwhile Monstrous Creation
or some combination of the above, Master Surgeon is great, since it automatically hits and is almost guaranteed to damage (and is, if the black Joker has been played).
What sort of insane doctor would McMourning be if he couldn't bring things to life? (Actually, a pretty good one, but that's not the point. He's a Resurrectionist, so is pretty much defined by raising things.)
Canine Remains and Guild Autopsies aren't worth the high casting cost to summon, outside of a few corner case scenarios.
Your meat and potatoes are your Flesh Constructs and a Rogue Necromancy (technically in the opposite order, I guess...).
Now, there are a bunch of strategies that involve summoning one on the first turn. Personally, I find using up a turn to save 2 soulstones is a bit of a waste, so I won't go in to that. I vastly prefer getting body parts early, then summoning my Construct or Rogue right where my opponent doesn't want it, at full health.
Monstrous Creation is pretty straightforward: keep a 10 of Crows handy, or, failing that, the highest Crow you can, and be ready to spend a soulstone to make it work. Also, remember you can't use Scalpel Slingin' for movement shenanigans, as it's also a (0) action.
Getting bodies is the hard (fun) part.
The consensus is that Canine Remains are the best sources of body parts (partially considering that they aren't limited in numbers, like Desperate Mercs).
To put the economy of bodies in perspective:
1 Flesh Construct costs 7 soulstones
1 Flesh Construct, from bought parts, costs 5 soulstones, from your cache of 8 maximum, and one good card
1 Flesh Construct, from 2 wounds and a Zombie Chihuahua, costs as little as 1 soulstone and 2-3 good cards.
An example first turn:
Step 1: A Canine Remains is Wracked with Pain and wounded twice by Zombie Chihuahua, which tosses it to McM. (1 part)
Step 2: McMourning Wracks the Chihuahua with Pain, triggering Scalpel Magic on a Mask (2 parts)
Step 3: McMourning makes his free attack, wounding the Chihuahua again (3 parts)
Step 3a: The Chihuahua, in dying, drops a corpse, which McMourning is already in contact with, so he picks it up and converts it to 2 parts (2 parts + 3 from above: net change: 5 body parts)
This example leaves McMourning with a (0) action and enough parts to summon a Rogue Necromancy at will.
Also note that going on the defensive doesn't require you pick the best card, so you can use this to cheat low for your defense.
If you have a little more patience, it's worth noting that McM can heal something he just took parts from, and, depending on activations, it may make more sense for the Chihuahua to sacrifice itself instead.
NB: often, I find that there isn't a great advantage to getting a Construct first turn, as being able to place it on a later turn is a serious threat.
There are numerous variations of this (which don't necessarily involve reanimated dog corpses, at all!), some of which I'll touch on later, but this is the gist of how McMourning can recycle dog organs into
-more dogs which are made out of fewer pieces, rearranged*
-a zombie with a pistol*
-a larger zombie, easily twice the mass of the dogs
-some sort of terrifying chimera-hydra thing
*mostly not actually worth it, outside of defying physics for personal amusement
He's quite the improviser!
Also note that, if you have a left-over (0) action on any turn, you can use Master Surgeon to heal one of your poor Canine subjects, to possibly farm more organs.
This is a brief rundown of what I've found works with McMourning. I'll be expanding this, as I continue trying stuff out. There are other options, some of which are probably better, but I'm going off of what I have experience with, now.
Combatants that are cheap and primarily for body parts. These can, if necessary, fulfill other roles, but are largely a resource for those parts. These have the added advantage of extra activations before they become something bigger.
I prefer to take odd numbers of these. 1 is if I'm just using it for fodder. More, and I want pairs for late game flexibility: they can be useful for bodies if I need them of course, or as an accuracy buff: they effect DF and/or WP, both of which are very useful, and I consider any effect that doesn't require a hit to be very worthwhile. See the Nurse's entry for notes on objective grabbing.
Far superior to Canine Remains, and I'll take these in any game I haven't already hired my full quota of Mercenaries already. Third turn is where they shine: You can make use of every ability they have, and still grab their corpse at the end. Because of all this, unless you've got a really good plan, it isn't worth paying the extra Soulstone to keep them around, late game.
Bonus points if you have a Nurse around when they go down. I've regularly had my 2-point desperate merc, with the help of a Nurse and his spray of bullets, take out something worth more than double that, only to be knifed by McM for the equivalent of at least 2 points' worth of a larger construct.
Fantastic for its cost, it's designed purely for assisting gained body parts early in the game. Not versatile, but it doesn't need to be. Generally not a good idea to use it on offensive spells.
I don't like pure melee forces. I just don't. I always believe in having at least one ranged element involved, in order to always start with pressure, even if facing a range-heavy opposition.
The volume of fire this model can throw out can make it a one-man ranged force. Durability helps this a lot.
Not the most effective ranged piece you can get, but they're tough and tend to make back their points in threat and board control. I wouldn't center my strategy around them, but they're helpful. Belles' positioning abilities, of course, work well with the Crooked Men's Shafted booby traps.
Not a great piece, but I've gotten some good use out of stacking support on one model. I feel it's really only worth it to stack multiple buffs on a single model, since it's going to get sacrificed anyway. Also, since you're Ressurectionists, you should be socially responsible and, if the model is in a decent position, kill it yourself, so as to not waste the parts.
Additional notes: the Nurse's defensive abilities are often overlooked for the more spectacular offensive capabilities, however, because of the reliability of them (i.e. no duel to cast b/c it isn't a spell, and not killing what they aid). While it's still an expensive support piece, I'm more inclined to take one, now that I've got a better feel for it.
In scenarios that require activating objectives (such as A Line in the Sand), sending a Canine Remains off with extra speed and activations can be well worth a cheap model.
I wouldn't take more than one with McMourning, unless you're taking a ton of slow heavy hitters, as I find that there are many other ways to go about positioning threats without a lot of aid from them, and I don't like to rely on too many abilities that lots of models can ignore (with Immune to Influence, in this case). These can also help the models I've classified as Reactionary (below).
Its biggest flaw is that it doesn't specifically help McMourning as much as his Chihuahua. However, it's much tougher, and is great for supporting one of your (undead) heavy hitters with its armor bonus.
These are pieces I've found are too slow to get the first hit in, but often hit very hard, for their cost. They're great deterrants, due to the threat of retaliation if your opponent engages your front line, and, due to their position, can sometimes save your crew, late game, when faster strong elements have already gone down.
Accurate, good damage, potentially a lot of attacks, retaliation on death. Slow. Need I say more?
He's incredibly tough, and his assistance role and infrequent play means that opponents will often underestimate the amount of damage you need to deal to him, along with the vast amount of raw damage he can put out (I've had his pulse damage kill 3 pieces in one turn). He's very cheap for his power, but doesn't always fit in my lists.
NB: Occasionally, when McM has gone down, I've found Sebastian is great at holding the line, as he's tough and has the above great damage output. Also, he can at least summon Canine Remains if McM is dead and you're in need of some more allies.
Malifaux being an objective-based game, a fast, often disposable, element that you can send after objectives is very often necessary.
Low on damage output, but high maneuverability and speed, combined with Flock Together, makes them great for claiming objectives or harassing ranged elements that can't handle themselves in melee. Two seems like the ideal investment for me, taking advantage of mobility and interaction with each other, without spending too much on non-combat elements. Their durability is just gravy.
(see above, also the Nurse entry)
While Canine Remains and Guild Autopsies have situational roles, the problem is that you still need that high card to summon them, so you'll rarely use them. While I've already been over summoning methods, these are often going to be your heavy lifters. The reason I've listed these in their own "Summons" category (rather than just below) is because I never hire these models. First, they are more cost-effective (even with lost actions getting the pieces from friendlies (assuming you didn't get parts from enemies) and coming in with "slow") than if you hire them. Second, you have a lot more control over where they appear, since McMourning will move far faster than any of them, if you need them somewhere. Finally, you'll generally get at most 1 activation between their appearance and when they make an attack. This means that, unless you're using them to stall a heavy hitter, they'll be fresh to mangle something.
While it will come in Slow, you're still looking at two actions (typically the ones you want, anyways), just spread out over two mini-activations. They're solid, and not game changers on their own, but, after two or three of them, that much extra muscle will take a toll.
While not particularly tough, they're pretty good offensively. I prefer to blow the less accurate, bonus attacks first, as you can't use them to Focus, and can force your opponent to use up some cards before you get your accurate attack first. You'll only have one in play at a time, but they are a strong presence on the board. Another reason to avoid hiring this model is, summoning one doesn't interfere with Special Forces limitations.
These are your heavy lifters, other than McMourning, himself.
A very high-damage piece, with a very long melee range. A staple for my lists. The only flaw I'd say is a somewhat disappointing low Wk/Cg
So far, due to the high number of actions and good stats, this model can put out a ton of damage a turn. However, I've had it mashed to pieces as often as I've had it do spectacularly. I haven't had it specifically win games for me, so wouldn't say to get one first, due to its high cost (in Soulstones and cash), but I certainly haven't rejected it with McMourning yet.
(summon only, see above)
(summon only, see above)