Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sounds of Silence - Tara and Obliteration Tactics


Tara isn't a world killer and likely won't be getting the job done on her own, but is highly versatile and, most importantly (for me, at least), has a cool theme.

She's pretty well-rounded and has no exceptional characteristics apart from her high volume of actions. Her main strength is having a lot of tricks, and interestingly it isn't crushing if you lose her, since she's more often assisting than doing the heavy lifting herself. Her crew tends towards a very high action count, which makes it able to switch between a focus on objectives and straight fighting, though I think her style still ultimately favors objectives.

I've found that she's most rewarding to play right near the front lines, closer than you usually want your support piece, as her strongest abilities and tricks require her and her allies to be very near enemies. While I originally considered her a finesse master, I realized that a lot of it was from her void creatures rather than her playstyle itself, and now consider her an unusual support master.

NB: Yellow text is for more recent additions.

I haven't gotten to play Tara since her major errata. I'm waiting until I have before updating the basic info post-change.

Addendum to the Intro
The two Upgrades (to Karina and the Nothing Beast) released with the 2nd Wave (which will presumably be included in her regular crew box when it comes out) went a very long way towards fixing her crew. I now feel it's completely viable to play her fully in-theme, though there are still definitely pieces outside of her theme which I'd recommend.

Tara, Karina, and the Nothing Beast each have one upgrade which I consider essential to their playstyle and which I feel should have been included in their core rules. The necessity of fielding them makes the models less flexible than many crews, despite the Upgrades being useful.

Now in Living Color Sound!
So much for "Sounds of Silence"... I'm now on a podcast episode/intro to Tara over on Schemes & Stones, which covers a pretty sizable portion of this article, though obviously in a little less detail.


Tara's Core Stats and Abilities
She's got pretty middling WP, DF, WD. Heartless is a reasonably strong defense against magic in the form of a stat boost; and with a decent hand, a high SS pool, and/or a Defensive Stance, you can reliably prevent any high damage shooting from making contact due to Through the Hole (you can really annoy opponents who aren't ready for this, and people who know her won't take more than the occasional throwaway shot her way).

This sounds like some strong defense but, in practice, what this means is that Tara will typically get her face smashed in melee (because she wants to be near the front), while casting is directed at her incorporeal friends and shooting is applied opportunistically.

Her resistance to Horror will ensure she usually gets her full compliment of actions, which is a nice bonus.

Stutter Time can pretty hugely impact the nature and length of the game: you can dramatically increase or decrease odds of getting that 6th turn:

odds of one draw being a 10+: 30%
odds with a re-flip (attempting high): 40%
odds with a re-flip (attempting low): 10%

These numbers are based on a full deck, but, unless you're counting cards (in which case you've got a way better grasp of math than I do), this should put you in the ballpark of your chances of success.

If your opponent has hidden schemes, in a game where victories are so granular, you can assess the situation and decide if it's worth it for you for the game to continue. Also, this obviously doesn't matter as much during timed events.

She's got a reasonable WK and a better CG (though she rarely wants to be hacking at people), but has far more mobility than this implies, which brings us to...

Tara's Core Actions
She has two pretty bland attacks. Her pistol is a pistol, her sword is a sword. Sympathetic Echoes is a decent ability if your opponent is spamming though it rarely comes up; Glimpse the Void will be discussed later. The pistol is nice to have around but pretty basic for a Master. I guess it's good, for a support master. She's just accurate enough with her sword that I don't feel bad sending her into melee with decent pieces, though I'll only go toe-to-toe with heavyweights if I'm desperate (or stuck) and spamming her Glimpse trigger.

Eternal Moment largely defines Tara's playstyle. You won't always want to go first (her Nothing Beast may need to, for instance), but doubling your actions is certainly a strong incentive to do so. It's a moderately risky move to have her activate first, as she'll then spend a lot of the turn vulnerable, but I do so more turns than I don't. It's worth considering Defensive Stance if she's in a tight spot (or just as a deterrent), since it's fine to lighten your hand and will protect her. Against a gun crew, it can make her fairly invulnerable.

Note: Eternal Moment can't give Tara multiple Reactivates from unburying and activating models, since Reactivate can only be gained once per turn.

Lost Instants (which I'm pretty sure was supposed to be “Lost Instance(s)”) definitely has its place, and can protect Tara and her buddies from being tagged for objectives if you're likely to be out-activated this turn or have her starting in range of being variously marked. Obviously, it needs to be worth it, because you're losing 3 actions for that prevention (unless she's not going first, in which case, fire away!).

Temporal Shift is by far the hardest of her core actions to learn: Being forced to dump half to all of your hand and give at least one enemy Fast requires some great rewards. However, it's also arguably her best ability, therefore very worth learning. 

So, in order to consider it, you want to have as many of the following conditions met as you can:

-you have cards it won't hurt (so much) to dump, or you've emptied your hand
-the enemy model (yes, usually singular) which will gain Fast has already activated (highly preferable); or you've got very good chances of Burying or killing it before it activates (best if it's not something that can wreck you if the cards go against you)
-you have a bunch of models (you should aim for at least 3; I've occasionally tagged my whole crew) that will benefit from Fast
-you've just unburied a model, it's going to Chain activate with the added benefit

I've gotten to the point where I use this ability just about every turn (sometimes twice, to take advantage of it next turn if I have nothing to do during my second activation), and it's a game changer. Generating 3+ actions (and possibly a vulnerability) is pretty strong, and well worth setting up. This means that, for better or worse, I'll tend to make loose clumps of models that Tara can position near to pulse at once, though it's not that limiting, with its large radius: Given Tara's high action count, it's often easy to reposition her to hit several models in a 1' diameter, and you're getting back some large returns if you've got a couple stronger pieces getting actions from this.

I wouldn't recommend using Temporal Shift offensively until you get the hang of it- for your first few games, just tag a ≤5SS enemy and try to get as many friendlies in the pulse as reasonable. Having used the ability a lot, though, I'm now willing to risk occasionally hitting even heavyweights with it, if I think I can get enough out of it.

Note: Temporal Shift doesn't give Tara Fast, or, rather, it expires before she can use it.

Note 2: It has been ruled that you can discard a hand of 0 cards. Very useful during Tara's 2nd activation, since Fast doesn't expire at the end of the turn. Remember, if you're planning to do this, not to waste that good card you've likely been saving and just use it near the end of the turn.

Note 3: It appears that you can't use Temporal Shift if the only enemy you tag can't be affected (not to be confused with models that can choose not to be affected).


The Chart: Options Key
I'll be using this key for all crew options.
X – an X indicates the model is cross-listed elsewhere.
† - models that you're likely to bury, or they're mutually exclusive with models being buried through Glimpse the Void (see Viddy Well)
Red Names - ones I particularly recommend (and ones I would look at first when padding out or improving Tara's crew)
Grey text  indicate I haven't tested this model enough (or, in some cases, at all). I will be updating this list as I get to testing everything. Some of these are still theory, some have practice but no conclusive experience/data. For my own reminders and for anyone interested, I've highlighted my highest priority tests.

Void Upgrades (Dual Faction)
Obliteration Symbiote
This is the Upgrade I consider absolutely essential for Tara, since it defines her ability to control the Bury mechanic (while you can have multiple options for how to Bury models). When going first with Tara, you'll likely want to unbury something big and nasty to (Chain) strike before your opponent can react, and this is the way to do it. You can either pop out a friendly or unleash a bewildered opponent. Either way, you'll get a Chain activation. If using Echoes, I'll usually do it at the end of the turn, after the buried model has activated, so I can hopefully kill it before it can go again.

Either way, it's worth noting that Fast doesn't expire until a model has activated, so if you've made an ally Fast previously or are dumping out a poor sap who got sped up, they'll benefit from Fast when they Activate (and yes, this makes your opponent's Fast condition expire since they're Activating).

While there are a few different ways Tara can get things Buried, I feel like if you're doing anything with Bury (which you should be, since Tara's kind of lacking flash without it and, again, this article assumes you are), this is your first upgrade.

Knowledge of Eternity
This is a staple, especially in small games where Death Marshals or (Outcast) Hannah are too pricy for what you need. With Tara's somewhat risky play style, it heavily works to your advantage to be able to go first (or choose to go second). Pull of the Void also has the advantage of being the only of her Slow/Fast manipulations that can target friendlies. It also gives her the 3rd type of offense, in the form of a more accurate (though less damaging) CA attack.

Pull of the Void is essential for setting up a friendly Bury at range, if you don't have other options, and can make Tara fairly self-contained without a need to run with her crew.

There are also times when all you need is an accurate ranged attack that can do one flat point of damage, since, even though the spell has a TN, it's more accurate, has different characteristics, and targets different characteristics, so adds a lot of flexibility, besides the various set-up options it provides.
You can get along without it if you don't want to use Bury mechanics (which I find kind of defeats the purpose of playing Tara) or if you use Bête or Killjoy, or if you rely on her crew for Bury. However, I consider this Upgrade essential when learning Tara.

When making something Fast, you'll probably get better mileage out of Temporal Shift for aggressive use of Dead of Winter, so this is usually for Burying and ally or making an enemy Slow. 

If you're running Tara with another reliable Burying mechanic (Hannah, Death Marshals, Karina, Bête, Killjoy), it's possible to drop this Upgrade if you want Tara to get another one (though I really like the positive Initiative flip even if not using the action, and, like I said above, I like its flexibility).

Speaking of which...

The Dead of Winter
After the above two Upgrades, I find this the next-most influential in play style, dramatically changing how I focus Tara. Usually, I'll be using Temporal Shift on the lowest-impact enemy model and have one model buried at a time (due to the limitations on Glimpse the Void) but Dead of Winter encourages aggressive use of Fast and Bury, and provides more flexibility with friendly Burying.

Dead of Winter enhances her Bury mechanics: If you're using Bury to protect or reposition your models, Death Marshals are your one way of doing it without damaging your crew (albeit slightly) and gets around the single-model limitation on Glimpse; if you're using it offensively, Death Marshals are your best way of making the WP test not against a flat number and The Price of Haste makes enemies more vulnerable to any Bury mechanics (and a few other abilities that target WP). (For more detail here, see The Price of Haste.)

Dead of Winter is essential in my opinion for getting the most out of (reliably) aggressively Burying models, and I think a Death Marshal is really nice to have around but it's often not worth the upgrade tax to field a DM if you're not using more of the Upgrade: If you're playing Outcasts or as Ressers with Karina (so you can already take most of her crew) and aren't using Fast offensively, you're effectively paying an extra point and an Upgrade slot to take a Death Marshal. I used to take this Upgrade regularly, but find it less necessary the more I play. 

A note on the WP penalty: It adds up quickly, which is nice since it either forces your opponent to spend better cards or allows you to nickel-and-dime them, and it raises the effective offensive ability of variable (vs. flat TN) Bury attacks. More often than not, the WP penalty will be similar to playing a Horror or Manipulative list, i.e. draining a hand. It's most useful during Tara's activation or a direct chain activation (mostly through Faces), though opportunistically useful elsewhere if forcing opponents to make harder decisions about leaving a Fast model around, and you might be able to pull it off if you've out-activated a crew and can make a model Fast after it's activated.

If you're not playing towards WP duels and aren't taking advantage of the added flexibility, it probably isn't worth the 1SS and Upgrade slot for opportunism.

I've also made some alternate cards, for any other Tara enthusiasts out there who have the Dead Justice pack and are using Death Marshals. 



Eternal Journey
This Upgrade allows you to play Tara conservatively. Eternal Journey as a (0) action has some very strong utility for dancing away from a melee threat (again playing to the conservative angle). It can also be used with your second activation, pulling Tara back to either radically reposition her for next turn or get her in position to fulfill rear field objectives. However, I like Tara right up front, running with her mans, so I don't take this Upgrade. It pretty much directly conflicts with most of her strengths (Reactivate, Unburying near the front line, handing out Fast), and I've never been willing to sacrifice that, even if I expect my opponent is taking Assassinate.

With Whispers from the Darkness, the theory is that you can store a glass cannon (like a strong henchman or the Nothing Beast) and make Tara into a heavy hitter (though she needs to pass a test to attack). It's that latter parenthetical clause and its reliance on an 8+ that ruins the Action in my opinion, unless you've got a good hand and something very clever planned.

Karina's summon mechanic may give more opportunities for using Whispers from the Darkness, but it's still often better to give the previously summoned model Fast after unburying it to make room for Karina's next summon.

Voiceless Words
This Upgrade is situational to the point of uselessness, as it relies on a single, relatively low WP test that would really only have reliable value near the end of the turn, but you can't control the timing since it's based on enemies killing you. I don't see the point in paying for this Upgrade, even if focusing on a WP-manipulation-heavy crew, and would take a different one if I were already full on Soulstones.


Special note on Tara and Her Bury Upgrades
Natively, Tara's control over Burying is very limited. You'll basically need Obliteration Symbiote to get anywhere, since she has no special means of unburying without it.

Then, you've got the question of how to Bury models. Tara's sword is too short range and limited to be enough in my opinion, and I don't like needing a suit for triggers (so don't tend to use Void Wretches, though they'll do in a pinch). This leaves two main options: Knowledge of Eternity or Dead of Winter (and Death Marshals). If I'm only taking one, particularly in small games, I'll take Knowledge, since it's cheaper and I like the Initiative control, but Dead of Winter is more flexible and the way to use the Bury mechanic offensively.

The other options are Hannah (whom I consider one of the bunch now), or starting with a pre-buried model (currently just Bête or Killjoy) which is much less flexible but still strong- I've played without other means of Burying to push myself and it works well enough, even though I miss the flexibility sometimes.

...or, finally, you can simply run Tara without a focus on Burying at all and just focus on Fast, which I find too boring to write about in-depth (since then she's largely just an action battery), it's though still reasonably powerful.

Tara's Avatar
Note: I played this model a lot in its first beta. Keeping those notes until I ever play the campaign through to avataring up or there's some accepted format where they're kosher.

Obliteration's Pull is fantastic. It works well with encouraging all Tara's regular Fast/Slow tricks, so if you're doing that thing, or want to try it out, this makes that much nicer. It also works against crews that give friendly conditions to track bonuses or w/e. 

Finally, it allows you to build a few weird lists based on conditions- I liked running her as a Resser with a poison-heavy contingent, though I could easily see an Outcast rat list with her. She's not so amazing that it's worth building a list around that buff, but it's a nice one to use as a basis to try unconventional lists with her.

Even if you never succeed in manifesting, this is a very nice ability to have around.
Speaking of manifesting, Void Echoes is nice, nothing special, but she's no slouch with the sword, and your opponent may be sweating bullets if they're running a spam list.

Heart of the Void is nice work if you can get it, which is to say, it's not an epic or exceptionally easy combo to pull off, and has all the standard sacrifices involved, but with Tara's ability to unbury a strong friendly, pulse fast, and chain activate, it's certainly possible, it's just a question of if it's worth the effort in the circumstance. 

I really like this upgrade, was very happy to be involved in testing it, and wish they hadn't limited Avatars to the campaign system, since getting gamers to play a league is like herding cats.


Void Models (Dual Faction, thematic models)
Karina
Karina has very poor defensive abilities: Average DF, low WP, average WD, no special rules. In fact, point-for-point, she's got the worst defensive stats/abilities in the first Wave if not the entire game. Furthermore, Tara's crew will tend to be starved for defensive cards anyway.

She's got a reasonably good pistol, and the rest of her core abilities are mostly either poor or can be found on cheaper and/or more durable models, which means she's offensively around as good as a 4-5-point minion (okay but not great), but with otherwise trash abilities.

However!(!!...!), she got a patch in the form of the exceptionally good The Faces of Oblivion upgrade card, which, for the steep price of 0SS and your Upgrade slot, made her go from dead weight to dead good. It takes her from terrible close support with little defense to strong rear-field summoner who occasionally has the cards to stick her neck out there, with the bonus of crew composition and some useful, if risky, support options.

Critters is nice in that it means Ressers get a way of Void Wretches and the Nothing Beast without eating up one of Tara's upgrade slots, while giving Outcasts the pleasantly thematic option of Guild Autopsies.

The Upgrade's eponymous (0) ability is really solid, and I can't say enough good things about this weird Summon. It's not exceptionally reliable on a given turn, since she can't buy suits like most summoners, but that's okay since Tara isn't very suit- or soulstone-reliant and the Summon isn't limited by game condition (ex: death by Condition, dead with a Condition, death by X ability, or a token), so it doesn't compete for resources, and one casting will have paid for Karina already: Even if you never have higher than a 9 of Crows in your hand, I'd still consider a well-placed half-health guild Autopsy, plus Karina's pistol, worth the 5-point investment, and dropping a Punk Zombie where you need it is great.

Unlike most summons, it's most valuable the turn it's used, rather than the following one, since they get a full activation the turn they "arrive" and, with an effective range of 11" (move and summon), you can throw a model very far out (add in base size, range, and move/charge), and since it's a (0), you can use your remaining action to hide, extend your reach, or fire off a shot. (Reminder, if you hang around, you can chain activate through Accomplice).

This model then takes half damage, Slow, and Buried, which allows Tara to, the turn later, effectively re-summon the same model at something more resembling regular Summoning limitations.

This ability basically requires you have Obliteration Symbiote (or you'll likely only be able to get it off once), which is a little awkward since one of the crew's big conceptual problems is interdependence of Upgrades, but this is fine by me, since I already consider it necessary for Tara's playstyle. I'll be talking about summoning options below.

Note: This also is nice, since it finally means that Tara has unique summoning abilities that are viable (looking at youShattered Memories.)

Guild Autopsies 

These guys are a fun thematic addition to the Crew unlocked by Karina. I'm still not sure if I consider them a staple, but I'll be looking at it since they're solid and cheap. They're another decently accurate pistol on a pretty durable corpse. You can actually get some good use out of Embalmed on the first turn, since you can make them Fast without effectively losing health.

Ceaseless Advance is a nice ability that can add a lot of flexibility (with their ranged emphasis) since you should already be playing towards emptying your opponent's hand along with your own. The ability to get two parting shots (or one focused) or reposition to place a scheme marker at the end of a turn is gold, and my opponents often overlook it because it's on one innocuous-looking zombie who came in this/last turn.

I prefer these guys as a cheap summon over starting with them.


Void Wretches
These tripedal dog-flea-ghost-things are solid: Can't get enough of these creeps! I usually take at least two of them, and often take three. When their individual packs come out, I expect to get another set.

While these little guys have a bunch of rules, in practice they're pretty simple. They're fast-ish little incorporeal things who want to avoid spellslingers, run objectives well, and assist through their free action, The Hectic Glow. Their abilities that affect Buried models are useful, but I'd avoid fixating on their cool mechanics as (2) actions are pretty expensive on objective runners- I tend to only use these if my stronger models are taking care of everything else. 

They also have a decidedly basic melee capacity but become surprisingly obnoxious (offensively and defensively) against an isolated Fast model, and still pretty solid against a slow model (since incorporeal and slow mean they're likely taking 2-3 turns to go down). The two clear uses for The Hectic Glow are a bonus while attacking with Void Maw, or casting it and charging the target for a flurry of accurate attacks.

When having an isolated void wretch fighting another single model around the ≤5SS range, tag a model with Slow if you've got 4+ cardsFast if fewer- the reasoning behind this is, with low DF they're likely to get an attack through regardless, but Wretches will likely weather a single attack; if both players are running out of cards, your opponent is less likely to waste a good card on a Wretch with a high DF, and less likely to be able to cheat high defensively when you're drawing far more cards than they are. 

Since your Wretches are often objective runners, this (at least for me) is a fairly frequent scenario. More often than not, your opponent will throw a cheap model at one, and underestimate reasonable-to-good defense, the Slow/Fast shenanigans above, and Incorporeal, so they'll last quite some time. It's also worth noting that the positive twist vs. Fast also works defensively.

Again, Karina's summon has somewhat changed these guys' style, since those summons get re-buried with a penalizing condition and without full health. However, most of the time, they'll immediately be unburied since Tara will be going first. If she doesn't, it's definitely worth considering casting Satiating Void, especially on the 7+SS minis.

In larger games, I could imagine taking an extra one to keep back field as a backup for objectives and for Bury effects since those have effectively infinite range.

The Nothing Beast

This guy is expensive, has a low Weak damage, and isn't particularly durable. He's a bit fragile, but his Void Shield helps with this. If you're having trouble using him, I'd suggest switching to another, more direct, heavy hitter.

He's got a very high action count (2 + Casting Expert + usually Fast) attached to a good melee range and high accuracy. In practice, I've found that he won't be doing much damage unless you Focus, because your opponent doesn't want you hitting that Moderate damage of 5- fortunately, though, with likely 4 AP you can, and that 5 Moderate is worth it after you've scraped by with a couple 2 damages and your opponent has gotten complacent, which I prefer to focusing 1-2 attacks unless you're positive that'll allow you to cheat damage based on your hand. When combined with Terror and auto-triggering Glimpse the Void, he can drain your opponent's hand with basic resists pretty quickly. He's accurate enough that spamming attacks for Glimpse might be better if you want to Bury a model.

His weird main attack is CA vs. WP, meaning he acts differently than almost any other melee heavyweight in the game, so a lot of defensive triggers and abilities don't work against him (for instance, the various incarnations of retaliating vs. misses), however, by the same token, anti-spell abilities can wreck his day.

He's decently resilient and has (0) Void, which will protect him from a lot of the stronger threats. However, his biggest threat is starting near a heavy hitter and not going first, as it'll likely end up with him thoroughly mangled, with his tiny DF. Most often, you'll have Tara unburying him and Chain activating, to protect him (see Cthulu in the Box). Note that he's quite vulnerable to unconventional means of attack, since Incorporeal and Bury are his defenses. If going against a seriously offensive spell caster, I'd be hesitant to bring this guy unless he's there purely for a single-turn glass cannon.

If you're already making an enemy Fast and have a card that just barely hits the TN, then Truth in Nothingness is an easy 2 damage (since your opponent can't resist it and probably isn't dumb or desperate enough to take the WP penalty if the 2 damage wouldn't kill them)- it's less potential damage than making a regular attack, but is also more reliable. One of the only times I'd consider making multiple enemies Fast is if they'd be killed (or be forced to become extremely vulnerable) by Truth in Nothingness. The most straightforward means of accomplishing optimal accuracy/WP problems is, at the top of the second turn, having Tara unbury the NB with Faces followed by a Temporal Shift, for the chain-activated WP penalty.

The Nothing Beast's added Upgrade, Void Shield, is in my opinion an auto-include. While you can pay more to make him more of a glass cannon with Decaying Aura, I'd prefer the once-per-game damage prevention, particularly if he's high and dry at the beginning of a turn. Note that it can be used on any damage, regardless of source.

The Faceless Oblivion is a nice (if wordy) addition that allows you to Glimpse enemies more easily, which is nice for making ferrying friendlies or summoning things with Karina a bit less restrictive, though usually not particularly game-changing unless the Nothing Beast is going first (and you haven't dumped out whatever you've buried).


Death Marshals
These guys are expensive, but bring a lot more to the table for Tara than they do for Guild in my opinion, and I consider them worth it, especially when first learning Tara (so you don't need to try risky/damaging things with Glimpse the Void).

First, they've got the obvious support-Bury based off an easy TN with no damage. Second, their offensive Bury is based off of WP which, with the aid of her various debuffs, pushes the ability from average to accurate, and makes it much harder to resist. Reiterating, this is the only way to get a Bury WP test that isn't based on a flat TN (other than Hannah), so is essential if you want to use Bury offensivelyAdding to this that in order to get them you're also buying a WP-debuff, and they're something I always take if going for an aggressive Bury list.

They are also relatively mobile, decent with their pistol, durable, and help with objectives. Their gun is particularly of note for Ressers, since the faction doesn't have many good guns, and their durability is notably high for Outcasts.

I typically take one, if I have the space for it (points and Upgrade slot). If playing Outcasts, this one Death Marshal costs you 7 points effectively, but I still usually feel it's worth it. As Ressers, you're probably already buying Dead of Winter or aren't focusing on Burying so, either way, the cost matters less unless you're already taking Karina, in which case the DoW tax still matters.


Recently, I've found running a pair of them works well, since you don't need to focus on Burying, and they've got a strong enough set of stats that, if I have the room (and I feel I often do now with Karina summoning), I'll take another durable gunslinger.

Note: Remember their Pine Box ability is a melee range so can be used on the charge.



The Scion of the Void
Note: this is mostly based on the late beta, I haven't gotten a chance to play it properly more recently.

I'm not a fan. Sure, it's one more way to get thematic models over in Ressers, but at the end of the day, this model does two things: bury shenanigans and maneuvering (i.e. scheme running, since it doesn't have a serious punch. Problem is, it's really expensive for scheme running, and I find the bury tricks take 4+ points to get working okay, at which point there are tons of 12 point things I'd rather take.

It has that nice Hollowing assist so theoretically you can take Obliteration's Pull off of Tara, but you're sacrificing a chain activation, flexibility, the opportunity to unbury enemies, and range for no TN and activation flexibility. It's something I haven't played with, but if it works as the crew dedicated unbury machine, I could see that being worth 6 points to me (after dropping Obliteration Symbiote).

I certainly don't recommend this model to someone new to Tara. It feels too clever for its own utility.


The Word is not "make," it's "let."
Opinions on the crew's supplementary upgrades.

While I'm very happy Wyrd patched Karina('s uselessness) and the Nothing Beast('s fragility), I'm not really a believer in how they did it, in that these 0-point Upgrades aren't free, but cost you your Upgrade slots.

Karina has no flexibility as an Enforcer: I consider any of her options a waste of points, as 6+ points for a bad model with an Upgrade is wasteful, and 5 without her Upgrade is just stupid. These options were worthless before, and the presence of a 0-point Upgrade makes them even worse, since you'd also be sacrificing something great. Now that she's worth something, I'd actually consider upgrading her to have better mobility or defense, but you can't.

The Nothing Beast is slightly better, but still not much, since your options are paying something to probably make him a better killer, or pay nothing to make him tougher. While this one actually has a use being an upgrade (effectively a one-use item), it still is not free since you've lost your other options.

Not only are these patch/Upgrades taking up your slots, from a mechanical perspective they can be removed (Hans, maybe others), and from a practical one, they're taking up more space on the play space and can be separated from their respective cards, meaning it adds one more lay of difficulty to keeping track of the most bookkeeping-intensive game I've ever played (with the exception of 1st Edition Malifaux).

Main Mechanics to Playing Tara
These are notes on her specific play style, not how to win with any Master. 

"Action! Action! Action! (I'm winning the day!)"
 Action manipulation/hand manipulation
With Tara's second activation, and her/her crew's Burying models to eliminate or delay activation and ability to hand out Fast and Slow, you've got a lot of control over how much stuff is happening on the board. There are times where Tara's actions aren't the most effective on their own, so there will often be situations when denying actions to strong enemy pieces or granting them to your own is more effective. What you often want is to spam as many attacks and tests as possible. Each simple duel (particularly Tara and the Nothing Beast's auto-trigger WP tests) or defense duel you force your opponent to cheat is one fewer card in their hand, and one card closer to even: Because of the Pure Nothingness rule, you'll want to burn some cards early each turn, and this will get your opponent's hand on par with yours.

If you both run out of cards, you're probably in the stronger position, because that's the point where all of those little WP tests and weak-but-accurate attacks add up and start stacking things in your favor. You can force a very high number of actions through a turn, and as long as you're keeping your opponent on the defensive, you have the advantage. I had my first experience burning through my whole deck on turn 2 in a small game when playing Tara, and particularly felt the advantage of minor buffs when neither of us could cheat from our hands. About the only time this isn't advantageous is against Gremlins, since they have Bayou Two-card.


"Focus, Son!": Fast and Focus
It isn't often that you'll have a ton of models with 3AP. Temporal Shift is pretty unique in this way, and it has one huge advantage: A double-focus allows you to Cheat on what would otherwise be [-][-] flips (such as a tie if you have the same stat and have both gotten kings). If you have a few Severe cards and want some attacks to go through, you have a better chance than most to actually make it happen. If attacking against higher defense, though, I'll spam attacks rather than risk one focused attack getting stopped by a high card.

Also note, if Tara has nothing better to do by the end of her first activation, she can Focus, since it won't expire until after her next activation.


Pure Nothingness: Keeping Void Models Alive
Your Void creatures are at a disadvantage early in each turn so, as noted above, you want your Nothing Beast to go early (if it's not Buried) for Void (if appropriate) and will want to burn some cards early, either on good attacks for a strong opening or just on Defensive Stance. 

For Void Wretches, the more pressure you can put on your opponent to target other models during the first half of the turn, the better. If you can use most of your hand and force your opponent to use theirs by the time you and your opponent are dealing with these guys, the combination of high defense and 2 positive twists against Fast models can make them phenomenally good (for their cost) if used near the end of the turn. However, since they have the early turn weaknesses, it would be wise to avoid making them your only staple troops.

Something you'll need to pay very close attention to, though, is anything that requires you discard cards to prevent an effect, such as Headshot.

It's not the easiest way to play, but you want to bring your hand down to 3-4 very quickly, which is okay because you'll usually have a couple junk cards anyway (it just makes bluffing harder). It's worth noting, though, that Void creatures really aren't necessary to playing Tara even if focusing on burying: For starters, Death Marshals are 1 SS away from being available in either crew, and there are many other means of getting some burying tricks done. I can't remember the time I haven't taken a Wretch for scheme running with her to also opportunistically assist burying, but I certainly don't always take a suite of Wretches and the Nothing Beast.

Also note: Some crews (such as Pandora's) mainly target WP. In this case, it'll often be less important to rely on dumping cards to get a decent defense.

Dead (wo)Man's Hand: Managing Tara's Hand
Regardless of fielding Void beasties or anything else, though, I often go through the first half of my hand pretty quickly due to Temporal Shift, so it's not worth getting rid of cards for the hell of it. This also means that, unless you hand is really trash, it's okay to have a couple poor cards and not waste a soulstone getting better ones you'll need to throw away. Having a particularly good hand is actually often restrictive, since you don't want to discard a bunch of good cards.




Cthulu in the Box: Tara's Main Bury Trick 
(sometimes known as the "Tara Bomb" or "Beast Bomb")

One of the easiest tricks with Tara is to throw a big beastie way up field without it needing to waste actions moving or risk getting shot. First turn, you give whatever melee beast (such as the NB) Fast through Pull of the Void and Bury it through Glimpse. A more action-intensive but slightly more controllable method if you have one is, before it can activate, you grab it with your Death Marshal. Or you can just grab it with your DM without giving it Fast, as this method won't damage it. The third option is simply taking a pre-Buried model (Killjoy or Bête).

When Tara next activates, dump the boxed critter out through Faces in the Void. This is an ideal time to use Temporal Shift if the model doesn't have Fast (or even if it does), particularly if you've got Dead of Winter for the WP penalty if that's useful (say, for the Nothing Beast). This will set up a very solid attacker which can (and should) Chain activate and before whatever you targeted can benefit. Bonus points if it already attacked so can't benefit from Fast this turn.

This is a move I almost always play at the end of the first turn, and then will use elsewhere if it comes up, for repositioning or protecting a piece. Even if you only use it the once, it's often worth the Upgrade cost to sling a strong piece into a clump of weaker enemies, which they'll need to deal with at the start of the second turn. 

You can also accomplish this without any thematic pieces or the Dead of Winter tax, if you take Knowledge of Eternity and Obliteration Symbiote. If timed properly, it won't involve much more risk than a Death Marshal doing it, but your opponent can still kill any model in order to force you to unbury your target. Against a melee crew, you probably aren't losing much other than choosing activation order, but a ranged crew will have set you back. This method becomes less reliable, the more things start dying, and I'd strongly recommend looking at other options if a piece can get one-shotted and leave your heavy high and dry for an attack before it can activate.

I do prefer Death Marshals as the means of containing friendlies, because it isn't limited to one model and doesn't do damage. However, if you're not offensively Burying much and if you don't have more than one model you want to Bury at one time, that's 7 points and an Upgrade slot you're opening up.

There is also the moderately card-intensive strategy of Burying a model with Pull the Void and immediately unburying the model to Chain activate. You use 2 AP and a couple moderate cards to pull off this trick, but if you want Tara to activate first (for her Reactivate) but also want a heavy hitter to go before your opponent, this is the way to do it.

(Also see Viddy Well)

As a note: If possible, do this before your last action, as a Black Joker can leave Tara stranded with no second threat/the damage from said threat, so I prefer to keep a second action ready to try again.


The Price of Haste: 
How to Punish Your Opponent With Their Heavy Hitters. 
Ideally, after the enemy heavy has activated, you make it Fast, use a Death Marshal (or Hannah) with a high card to eat it, and ensure it happens with The Price of Haste, use spare Void Wretches to bite it with Time is Meaningless-aided Void Maw attack(s), dump it out of its coffin dimension with Echoes of the Void, then have it clobber its own team with an extra action from Fast, grab the initiative at the top of the next turn, and kill it before it can activate, burning off some of your hand to help your Void creatures stay alive.

There are of course simpler versions of this with fewer steps to guarantee success, but being able to remove, damage, and reposition a piece, and then make 3+ actions is very often worth the activation cost, if you're doing this to a valuable model.

Note: This can be a very resource-intensive and somewhat risky maneuver. You'll want a couple high cards (for burying and dumping the model) and will most likely be burning the rest of your cards on Temporal Shift, and if you happen to draw the Black Joker or you didn't account for some counter (such as something splatting a Death Marshal) and have nothing more to do, you'll end up with a Fast heavy hitter in your face. The amount of resources this takes means that outside of the best opportunistic moments you'll only be doing this to a high-powered model.

More often than not, you should be planning this for desperation or a strong opportunity rather than designing a list around it.

Tara does well supporting her crew and does an okay job debuffing enemies, if you don't want to take this risk: My comments on WP synergies are less relevant below if you don't like this risk, as you'll more likely be isolating a weaker model for Temporal Shift's bonus actions, meaning you'll be using the penalty to take out a weak model you made better before it can activate, rather than a strong one.


Fast and Loose: Risk vs. Reward
Tara is one of those few masters who has no Henchman associated with them. She also doesn't need Soulstones very often (not a very strong fighter, decent defensive stats), so 4-5 Soulstones are probably plenty, especially since she has good Upgrade options. On the other hand, you'll often be using these relatively quickly if you burn through your hand and still need to protect yourself. I'd take more if you have an SS-intensive Henchman, and know that they can likely borrow some of Tara's.

I tend to activate her and one strong piece during the first half of the turn, and spend around 1/2 of my cards then- useless weak ones and middling ones I need for specific abilities. This brings the Void creatures up to around average defenses. I try to save high cards for late turn, since I expect to put the pressure on with Wretches and Triggers, and play another strong piece late turn and of course Tara's Reactivation at the end. If there's some spell I know I need, I'll also keep the lowest card I have to meet those requirements. The above should kind of go without saying regardless of Master, but with Tara, you'll be burning through your cards so it's something to emphasize/keep in mind.

This takes away your ability to bluff, but is usually worth it for the raw stat increase. You'll have fewer options near the end of the turn, but particularly if you tag enemies with Fast, you should have the upper hand with all your positive twists.




Viddy Well: Notes on Glimpse the Void
One of the big limitations on Tara's mechanics are that Glimpse the Void doesn't work when other models are buried. What this means is, unless you're using Death Marshals or one of a few other tricks, you're unlikely to have more than one model buried at a time. This means you'll likely only have one heavy hitter in reserve at any given time, so you don't want too many models relying on being buried. I find two to be the ideal number: One for the first assault (usually at the end of turn 1); one for a later assault or reposition. Tara only has so many things she can do at once, so, even when I have two models buried simultaneously, I rarely use both in one activation, because I'll usually be repositioning Tara, dumping a target out, then using Temporal Shift, which uses up all my actions.

The one-model limitation works out fine, in practice. If you've got models with Bury mechanics other than Glimpse, though, you can use them after Burying a model through Glimpse in order to get around said limitation.

Reinforcing what's stated elsewhere, the combined facts that Glimpse only works when nothing is buried and that it relies on a flat TN (rather than an opposed duel like Hannah or the Dead Marshals' Bury abilities) mean that Glimpse is not reliable nor very useful offensively. If you really want to use it offensively, see The Price of Haste.


And We're All Gonna Be/ Just Dirt in the Ground: 
General Notes on Burying
So, some notes/reminders on how Burying works in general: 
-for Buried models, regular conditions (things without a special timing for when they expire) still apply/expire at the end of the round. These include: Burning/Poison, Defensive, Focused, Distracted (scheme), most specialized conditions not kept on with a special trigger and most stat modifier conditions. Poison is particularly noteworthy when playing as a Resser, since Tara has access to a lot of it.
-for Buried models, conditions that expire during activation don't expire. These include: Fast/Slow, Reactivate/Paralyzed, Cursed (scheme)
-Buried models are removed from play, and count as dead if Buried at the end of the encounter, so it can prevent or score points on a number of schemes: Reckoning (last turn only), Reconnoiter, Assassinate; Protect Territory; Bodyguard; Cursed Object; Entourage; Make them Suffer (this one's difficult); Murder Protege.
-Burying does not forfeit the model's activation if they unbury by the end of the turn, even if you don't like them. If, at the end of your turn, you killing a model might dump something out from Glimpse the Void, or you want to use Echoes to get an attack in, remember that the model can still activate if it hasn't yet, so take that into account. It might be that forcing them to go last is plenty, if they're reliant on high TN abilities and don't have a hand, for instance.
-Buried models are effectively sacrificed for purposes of dropping anything when they die. Possibly a problem.

Unearthing: Enemy Tricks to Exploit
These should be obvious, but I'm saying them for the sake of thoroughness.

If your enemy has Bury tricks (Death marshals, models that start or become Buried because of special rules, etc.), you can easily exploit this with some pre-emptive strikes through the Void Wretches or unbury through Echoes in the Void. This last trick could be pretty risky, and will end up close to Tara if not your crew. This one really depends on who you target- you probably don't want an enemy Killjoy popping out early unless you've got a really good plan, for instance, though dumping out an enemy that's already activated and Buried to prevent its death might work great. This can also ruin some pieces' days, like Leveticus or the Dreamer's reliance on buried.

Fast is another obvious potential vulnerability.

In both cases, it's more likely it'll be a good deterrent rather than actually something you can exploit.


Doing the Things That Folks Don't Do That Need to Be Done: Strategies & Schemes
A few notes on which objectives Tara likes and doesn't. A general rule of thumb is that Tara's second activation and ability to hand out Fast means that you'll often have an easier time managing fighting vs. interact actions, while her lack of personal punch or ability to increase destruction, and focus on objectives, means that she's not a fan of straight up kill-based objectives.


Strategies
Turf War: Assuming you're taking advantage of Temporal Shift (and Dead of Winter), this one is solid, since, reiterating, Tara tends to cluster her main crew.

Reckoning: This is probably the hardest for Tara (at least, in my play style). I tend to take a fair number of models to out-activate my opponent, and that means fewer with a punch, considering the Nothing Beast is a glass cannon (which also makes it notably vulnerable here). Both sides will probably tend towards smaller crews, which will give you an edge from Reactivate.

Reconnoiter: More often than not, both crews will get all 4 points from this and Schemes will determine the outcome. Tara does have the advantage of being able to Bury models rather than outright kill them, if one quarter is being held by a durable model (yes, this has come up).

Squatter's Rights is like Super A Line in the Sand. This plays heavily to her strengths.

Stake a Claim follows the same principle, though Tara's crew can move slowly enough that you need to more actively pay attention to the Strategy in this case.


Schemes
Follow the above rule of thumb of going for interactions over straight fights, not going to cover all of the scheme options here, just a few noteworthy ones. Also, if you figure out (or know) that your opponent has one of the various "kill X" schemes, you can play keep away with Burying or simply giving the model Fast and bolting when it's in trouble.

Frame for Murder is very solid on the Nothing Beast. It's just durable and dangerous enough (and big enough looking if they're not used to playing Tara) that they'll likely send a Henchman or Master after it, and you can unbury it specifically to pick fights, making it look like a failed attack run or like you're trading it for whatever it attacked. Obviously, don't waste it, but, it's already a glass cannon, so if it's hurt, it's a fun one to throw at the enemy. If they catch on, well, it might survive another round and then you're still in a strong position since it can kill more guys. Remember that enemy Enforcers don't count.


Team Outcast, Team Resser: Tara in Her Different Factions

With Karina's additional utility and opening up crew options, I'm actually finding that Tara no longer has a home faction: I think she works quite well in either.

I like Outcasts for their range and mobility, but Belles are just plain old great for their cost, and Ressers have far more summoning options.




Starting Line: First Learning Tara

I've covered a lot above (and there's a lot more below), and it might be overwhelming. I saved this until after the main entries, because I wanted to give readers a chance to formulate their own strategies. This is just one approach, but my favored one.

My absolute and most-reduced core list for Tara that I'd recommend to new players (and what I tend to use unless testing something new) is:


Tara +2-ish SS
-Knowledge of Eternity
-Obliteration Symbiote
Karina
-The Faces of Oblivion
2 Void Wretches


This is 19 points, and covers all of Tara's strengths and flexibility. I'd highly recommend this as a starting point, adding models as you see fit to reach whatever point size you're playing/fine-tuning as you go. Familiarizing yourself with these models should go a long way to learning Tara.

The Nothing Beast is the next obvious addition, but you may want a different heavyweight, depending on your playstyle and experience (even with his upgrade, the Nothing Beast is pretty fragile and relies on Tara's spells).

If you're more conservative with damaging your own models, and/or have the points, I'd suggest Dead of Winter and a Death Marshal, Bête, or Killjoy. If you do so, Knowledge of Eternity is less necessary (though I'd still keep it when learning Tara).

The above list assumes you have at least one of Karina's 4-point summons available, and preferably a Student or Punk Zombie. If not, she's just not worth it without her summon and you can probably drop to a minimum Cache.

One of a few reference cards I've created for Tara, found here
Raising an Army
Since Karina has become a valuable asset, some discussion of the options she adds to the field. I'm breaking these into their respective "price points," since it's always a poor choice to waste an action trying to summon, without the right card in hand.

I don't exactly consider Karina's summoning to be essential to playing a Tara list since lots of people, myself included, did fine without her, before she was salvaged, and her ability to summon is still highly hand-dependent meaning that, while valuable over the course of the game, it isn't very reliable when planning for the next turn.

For the record, the odds of being able to summon on a given turn, assuming no extra draws no cards in your hand or discarded:

9+: 52%
(no summons at 10, currently)
11+: 38%
12+: 30%
13+: 21%

What this means in practical application is around 1/2 of your turns, Karina will be able to summon a model, and somewhere over half of the time you can summon, you'll be able to get one of the models with Flurry, i.e., if you keep Karina alive more than half the game game, you'll average over 10 points in summons. (Also, for the record, going for a long shot summon without a card, there's an 11% chance of drawing a 9+ of crows.)

NB: If you don't have the models or proxies for summoning, Karina is basically wasted space, so ditch her. However, if you're serious about getting into Tara as an Outcast-only player, get a pack of Autopsies and a pack of Punk Zombies or the Students set (or try to get your hands on a single punk zombie if really on a budget). Leveticus can use any of those choices with his Undead upgrade, and the Students are Constructs, too.

If you don't want to rely on Tara unburying your summoned Horrors next turn (due to not having the Upgrade or not wanting to spend the action), a few productive options to kill off your Summons without killing it yourself (these are still theory):
  • Nix, with Infectious Melodies, can make a model Fast, which will sacrifice it at the end of the activation.
  • Rusty Alyce can allow one of the Students to Reactivate, which will sacrifice it at the end of the turn.
  • Abominations can damage the Students for a card (though that still won't kill them on its own).
  • You can use another Bury ability first, so there's an Unbury condition.
I'm also covering these for non-summoning here (except the already covered Autopsy).

9 of Crows
Guild Autopsy (again)
Again, these guys are very solid. Their range helps them have a very wide threat, and they're more accurate than Crooligans. I consider these guys particularly good early game, because they've got built-in healing for the damage they take in the end of the summoned turn.

Crooligan
These little guys have high defense and a WP penalty. They also have a good Interact ability and some useful auras. However, they pop out of existence again after they appear, can't interact the turn they're Summoned, can't take advantage of their bonus deployment, and are less accurate/less damaging than Guild Autopsies. My best theory is, if you've got one flank pretty safe and want an objective runner, they'd be worth considering, but they don't seem very useful as summons.

When hired, they're used better, I think, as they play to two of Tara's strengths: objectives and WP penalties, while not suffering from the summoning limitations so left to more freely support and run objectives. They compete with Wretches and Autopsies, but are definitely on my list of models to explore.

11 of Crows
The Drowned
Not really the biggest fan of these guys, and I don't think I'd hire one, since Tara's got a lot of nicer options for around that price. High defense and Finish the Job are reasons to consider these guys for a mid-game option, as is reasonable accuracy and the Slow interaction, but their Hazardous interactions are pretty niche unless you're already taking. They're better than the 4-point bracket if you have an 11, but if my options were to spend an 11 on one of these or another Crow on another option, I'd take the other option.

Maybe I'm not understanding them yet, but they haven't impressed me.
12 of Crows
Punk Zombie
Solid defensive abilities and mobility, high accuracy, and Flurry/Slice & Dice make this my go-to choice for this cost bracket. Note that Slice & Dice hits friendlies, too, and has a longer melee range.

They're decent as a cheap secondary heavy hitter when hired, but they're expensive enough that I'll tend to reach towards other options first (usually a stronger/more expensive melee piece, or something with a long range).

Hard to Kill makes these ideal summons, since the health they lose at the end of their summoned turn still leaves them at one even if your opponent has damaged them (and they can be chain activated when unburied). This does make them a poor choice, though, if you're considering ways of avoiding them getting re-buried.

Students of Sinew/Steel
Their collective defensive abilities add up to around on-par with a Punk Zombie, but I much prefer the Punk's added accuracy and mobility over the Students' added damage (on a trigger). Also, I think they don't really fit the look.

If you're using a focused thematic Bury/anti-WP crew and have the respective target, they definitely have an edge over the Punk, mostly because you can get that Horror check to an abusive level, with your crew's various WP penalties and particularly with Truth in Nothingness.

With any of the Students, I'd be much more inclined to summon them than hire them, because when summoning you know your opponent's crew composition.

If budget is a concern, Punk Zombies are the clear winner for being more generalist, but if not, then you get 3 (or 4) pretty strong options once you reach a Queen, and picking the right one becomes about an exact plan/knowing the crews.
13 of Crows
Student of Viscera
Well, this takes having and wanting to spend a 13 on something other than a duel, which probably means either a pretty good hand or a pretty poor position. Other than maneuverability, the main advantage this Student has is a much more common opposing characteristic (Living). If I had the Red Joker and nothing better to spend it on than a summon, I'd probably go for the Death Marshal for bragging rights, honestly. (Also, it comes in with full health and better synergy.)

Draugr
The newest non-character Horror. I'm honestly fairly confused by it. I think it's mostly defensive (less useful as a summon that disappears) or for the upgrades (which are fairly expensive, though also means it buffs that piece... again, assuming it isn't disappearing).

Definitely one where seeing it in practice is necessary.



Red Joker
Death Marshal
I might as well include this here... I've never had a situation where I had a Red Joker and nothing better to do with it. However, I also haven't played a ton of games since Karina stopped being terrible, so don't have a very large sample size.

If you've got said Joker and you're feeling confident that you've gotten enough mileage out of Karina (since your opponent will probably get her as soon as there's another opportunity), it's probably worth trying, since it's not often you just get full health 6-point models, and Death Marshals are pretty good even without the burying focus.

Honorary Mention: 4 of Crows
Mindless Zombie

This would be via Guild Autopsies. I haven't yet actually had the reason and opportunity to summon them, so this is still just theory. Since Tara has no corpse interactions, they're mostly just there as another activation to control the turn. They're more likely to be useful as something to get in the way than as an actual threat, but Tara's fast pulse at least means they'll be able to do a little more each turn.

This might mean more if you're taking Tara as a Resser with a summoner Henchman already.


Honorary Mention: 11 of Crows
Rogue Necromancy (resser, via Spare Parts)
So, I don't advocate hiring this model. It's not that it's bad, but I just never do, since I like other things better. But, I'm putting it here, since it's worth writing on. High accuracy on high weak damage with triggers for either a positive flip or poison is just really nice, and even nicer when you're able to drop that model on to the board with full AP's (after a fast pulse) as a summon or unburied piece, just where you want it. Terrifying 13 is at a point where it's no longer trivial, with Smell Fear as a strong penalty (remember, it can whack something other than the target). Impossible to Wound isn't as strong as it looks, with the low defense. 

Book Smarts - Hannah
I've done a lot of looking at and re-thinking Hannah and decided that I consider her one of Tara's bunch, both thematically and mechanically, so this demands some exploration.

Hanna's got a durable stat line, with all the Friekorps perks, along with being a Hench(wo)man. She's also got a very strong and long-ranged melee attack. Particularly when benefitting from Tara's various Fast sources or I Pay Better (allowing her to focus twice, or move and focus once) or, better yet, both for a double-focus, or various other iterations, Hannah can blast apart clumps of little guys, with her extremely high blast damage of 4 (which Crooligans can push to 5). I don't like risking this much on a single action that can get stopped by a Joker, but it's very strong and, if you really want it to work, target one of your own chumps who'll be dying this turn anyways, since killing a weak friendly is worth being able to ensure a massive blast to kill or cripple a few enemies, especially if you don't have the hand to guarantee it against an enemy. The only thing her attack suffers from is a relatively low Weak damage.

Arcane Reservoir, despite the added vulnerability to Void creatures at the beginning of the turn, is just as desirable with Tara as with anyone else- you still start with more options and more chances for those juicy cards, which matters a bit extra with Karina's card-dependent summon.

Finally, the combination of Counterspell and Nether Flux will often deny your opponents offensive suits, particularly if they have a melee focus. This alone is enough to merit consideration, just as a reasonably solid melee model with some passive support.

Next, her more obvious spell, in her Upgrade: While Void Record can only be cast on one model at a time and has the highest TN of any offensive burying in the game, it has some exceptional attributes: It also has the highest accuracy of a Bury in the game, and has no enemy-controllable end condition. Unlike Glimpse or Pine Box where if (respectively) a model dies or the caster dies/is forced to cast again/fails a duel, it doesn't do anything. That model is just out of commission (and effectively under your control) for the rest of the turn.

Another trick with this one is, in any scenario where you absolutely need one of your models to survive during a turn, bury it with Hannah, and it'll reappear after any models can activate against it.

It's a strong and flexible option, but kind of expensive, and not absolutely necessary to playing her optimally in a Void list.

Next, Make a New Entry. This spell has a reasonably low TN and no extra triggers or suits, so it's easy to pull off. It's probably better to plan to copy friendly spells than enemy ones, since you'll be able to control your own spell list, and won't need to face a resist.

There are a bunch of generic options you have at your disposal, here:
  • Ranged damage spells: Ressers have more of these, though Outcasts have a few (mostly other academic ladies), with The Hanged's Whispers from Beyond probably being the best.
  • Support: Lure is an option, as well as many Henchman summons. The Hodgepodge can provide a ball of cover.
  • Friekorps: If focusing on this side of things, the Strongarm suit has a good one, and Lazarus or the Librarian can allow her to heal, while the Trapper can give her more positioning, since his defensive (0) can also help her play hit & run or get some extra distance to her real target.

Note: Remember triggers don't activate, so stuff like Nurses' buffs are useless, and you should be sure that what you're trying to get is core to the spell and not an auto-trigger.

And then there's the more unique stuff you can do with Void-themed models.

Bête gets an honorary mention first, since she was on Tara's beta avatar. Hannah can bury herself, to immediately zap back up to full health and no conditions. Unlike Bête, she can't unbury herself, but, fortunately, she's got a friend who can help her out. This requires a 6 and a 10 to pull off (not counting unburying), but completely healing a Henchman in one (0) is pretty strong, especially when she's as substantial as Hannah. Just be sure Tara won't die before she can bring Hannah back, or you'll be out some decent cards and a Henchman. Basically think of Hannah and Tara as a much tougher Leveticus-Waif combo that's harder to pull off.

Karina, who's now more usable, has a mean little spell for making your buried enemies Slow or Fast. Not the strongest option, but there, if you need a spell that doesn't have a conventional range.

The Nothing Beast has one of the more obvious options, with two very strong spells. This assumes, though, that the Nothing Beast is not buried and not dead, which isn't all that likely, plus the requirement that you have two 10-pt models in your force. However, potentially getting 4 strong melee attacks (2 base, fast, 0 action) can make Hannah a(n even more) serious melee threat.

Finally, my favorite: the Death Marshal's Pine Box. This is worth the setup on its own, and extremely powerful in my opinion, because, well, Hannah is infinitely better at the Death Marshals' spell than they are, and it's a good spell, to begin with.

First, you need to get the enemy in said box. It's Hannah's (0) action, so her threat range is greatly improved, and you can do this on friendlies while moving Hannah much further up-field on the first turn (instead of wasting a move like you would with a DM). She's no more accurate with the spell, so it's worth setting this up properly in a WP-debuff situation if you can. As with regular Death Marshals, I don't really consider it a strong tactic, unless you're nearly guaranteed a success, so you'll want something you can beat their lower/lowered WP with even if they have the Red Joker in their hand, and it's worth saving the card for this trick. This is because it's hugely harder to get something out of Hannah's phantom box than a Death Marshal's:

It's her (0) action, so using Obey or a similar spell won't allow your opponent to cancel the old box. Hannah is much tougher than a Death Marshal, being a Henchman with some good defenses, so your opponent won't be able to kill her nearly as easily as they would a durable minion (though Burying her will still dump her victim out first, which is a possibility in such a Bury-heavy crew). Also, unlike most duplicating abilities which use the original model's stats only, Hannah uses her huge WP of 8 to keep victims locked up, so there are an extremely small number of models who can break out, so you're often looking at only needing to keep an 11-12 around to keep the enemy indefinitely boxed up unless you're unlucky with those Jokers, and there are a few models with such exceptionally low DF that even moderate cards will easily beat them. Then, if the model does manage to break out, Hannah has a full activation to slap them around and even potentially shove them back in her box.

Finally, it's worth noting that Arcane Reservoir also increases Karina's summon chances substantially:
9+: 52%-->58%
(no summons at 10, currently)
11+: 38%-->43%
12+: 30%-->34%
13+: 21%-->24%

This means Karina's likely to be able to summon each turn, and more than 1/3 chances of being able to summon a 7-point model.


On the Fringes - Other Not Explicitly Thematic Models
Some more models with clear thematic links to Tara. Hannah got her own special entry 'cause I love running her, but now I've added a category for the rest.

Aionus (Outcast/Merc)
Well, this guy was a pleasant surprise. Theory only, for the moment. 

He's got some fast/slow shenanigans, and the amount you can throw the two conditions around means he's both a boon to your crew and likely to have +1damage a lot of the time. With potentially 4x 3/4/6 damage coming from him at something buried, he's like a nightmare Void Wretch. Then you've got maneuverability, messing with scheme markers (note that Shifting Sands doesn't require his target to be on the board), and handing out Slow like candy, and you've got a very nice package.

I'm curious about Temporal Flux: the first glance makes it look nice, then severe makes it look unlikely, then remembering I've pretty regularly hit severe when I absolutely needed it to go off (with a lot of focusing) with Hannah makes me thing it's viable.

(Included 'cause of time/space shenanigans.)

Bête Noire (Resser)†
Bête's interaction with Bury mechanics (most importantly, Tara's ability to dump her in an enemy's face at will) is pretty strong, since you can keep dumping her out without reliance on models dying. My only complaint is that Tara's crews don't tend to be great at damaging, which is mostly true of Bête too.

A fun thematic finesse piece, though if you don't like her normally, Tara probably won't make her that much better.

(Included since she was temporarily added with Tara's avatar, besides the obvious bury relationship.)

Conflux of Nothingness
I feel like I should like this guy. Minus keeping guys trapped from the pine box, he's mostly like Hannah in being a big, decently fighty, bury machine. But every time I took either Emissary, I haven't been impressed. I like the Carrion more than the Hodgepodge (I love my summons...), but am not in love with either.

While I don't really like these guys, I know they need another chance, so leaving this here until I can pull myself away from the fun of mopping guys around with Hannah's giant flail.

(Included since, well, that's kinda' what the Emissaries are.)



The Forgotten Marshal (Resser)

This is a curious beast. I consider him (her in my case), from my limited experience, to be a decent alternative to a Death Marshal regarding everything except(!) their signature bury. I think I'd always take a regular Marshal over him, but if I'd certainly consider the Forgotten over a second one.

A nice combination of a pistoleer and a scheme runner, where there's that ugly deterrent of high toughness and a weird summon to make opponents not want to waste energy taking him out. I actually find I rarely get the summon because of it, though.

(Included because obvious themes are obvious...)


Outside the (Pine)Box: Non-thematic options
These are models outside of Tara's theme that have good synergies with her crew or are good enough to be noteworthy options. As stated before, I find that, from a competitive standpoint, you'll often want to look outside of her theme for your strongest options. Note that, while somewhat limiting, playing strictly within Tara's theme is now definitely viable, though you'll be a bit starved for strong pieces at larger game sizes.


Some general composition notes, on what you should be looking for in a model:
-things that are strong but otherwise balanced by a low speed or requiring 2 actions (such as Flurry) or being limited to melee, pieces that require Focusing to get the best mileage out of them (such as models with blasts or wide damage spreads), or pieces that have multiple roles that are normally limited by AP (such as summoners or support pieces, which can hold their own in a fight) since Fast and Bury offset otherwise slow pieces.
-things that interact with Bury or duplicate actions, for hopefully obvious reasons
-mid-close range pieces: Tara tends to bunch up her crew to benefit from Fast. Long-range pieces tend to be too slow to keep up, or too vulnerable to stay even if they move fast enough, meaning they won't get much help (so they've got to be independent to be worth it). Exclusively short-ranged pieces will also be weaker, because they won't have the flexibility to use those extra actions.
-things that manipulate WP (for her bury shenanigans).
-things that attack WP: this is fairly limited, since you'll usually only get strong mileage out of this if you're taking Dead of Winter and chain activating after Tara (so, companions or after getting unburied). Horror/Manipulative checks are more flexible here, since if you get them engaged, your opponent will always be facing the WP penalty, regardless of activation timing.
Something else to consider is Karina: her Summon ability is in direct conflict with taking Horrors as your heavy hitters. If you're only planning on dumping one out at the bottom of the first turn/top of the second, there isn't much in the way of conflict, but if you're repeatedly teleporting them through Bury, you may want to think twice about taking Killjoy, etc.

Note: I don't always list pieces available to both factions in both, if I think one is distinctly not worth it (because of extra cost and/or better options native to the faction). I also haven't included all options in general for the same reason (i.e there are better choices elsewhere).

Note 2: I prefer running Tara as an Outcast (personal preference, rather than a value judgement), so my Resser section needs a fair amount more work than my Outcast one...

Powering Up: Upgrades
Tara's Upgrades mostly focus on the Bury and action manipulation abilities of her crew. Moving away from those, there are a few key areas she can benefit from.

Decaying Aura (Resser)
Most notably useful on one of your heavies (or any durable front line piece), particularly because your crew tends to bunch so it'll be more likely to catch any models you're fighting.

I Pay Better (Outcast)
Reasonably useful as a weaker but more flexible alternative (or supplement) to the equivalent mechanic of dumping cards for actions (well, Focus, here) found in Temporal Shift. Given hand size as a limitation, it's not as strong as it might look, but I'll strongly consider it any game a few of my important models are Mercenaries, and it's always nice to know that you can dump your hand for bonuses if you draw a bunch of trash.

Scout the Field (Outcast)
I'm not sure how much more flexibility Tara needs in picking fights since she's got her Bury mechanics and Karina has a ranged summon, but I want to try this one out.

Scramble (Outcast)
With Tara's huge number of actions, the extra mobility looks strong, but I'm not sure, on the other hand, how much positioning will benefit her more than what she can already do.

Spare Parts (Resser)S
Tara's extremely high Action count makes this a strong option. She also has nothing that interacts with corpse counters, so there's no competition for a limited resource. If you're not going for a Void creature-heavy list (i.e. you have enough corpses around), this is a very strong option for the Rogue Necromancy and, even if you are, adding to your ranks with Autopsies is valuable. With Karina and Spare Parts, you can very easily run Tara as a decent (though certainly not A-list) summoner.

This upgrade is one of the strongest recommendations for Tara as primarily a Resurrectionist. While I like her as an Outcast, there aren't a ton of things she actually runs with that well outside of her dual faction options, and even fewer that aren't mercs or ones that have roughly equivalent choices in each faction.

Of course, there's the meta component of which faction you're running, and that undead and summoning are much more predictable playing against Ressers, but, all things being equal (i.e. if you're going in to a game planning to play Tara), whenever I'm considering running Tara as an Outcast, I weight the advantages of doing so against this Upgrade.


The Brute Squad: Your Heavy Lifters
The Nothing Beast is a glass cannon that works on its weird mechanics (CA vs. WP melee; hand-based DF; Incorporeal). These are sometimes the perfect tools, and can be solid, but can also be vulnerabilities when it can't rely on them (at the beginning of a turn when it's not going first; against high WP; when facing a casting-heavy force, etc.).

There are more reliable and more conventional models to take- this normality however also makes them more predictable and easier for your opponent to deal with, and will tend to not have the particular WP-based offense of the Nothing Beast.

Bishop (Outcast/Resser (merc))
Study Opponent is pretty strong when you can debuff defenses, since it also doesn't rely on one stat or another (if going after someone like Zoraida and her ridiculous WP). Dumping him straight into melee plays to his strengths, since his particularly threatening trigger only works against ML attacks. He's mobile enough, with Swift and Fast, that Burying him is optional, making him very versatile as a hitter.

Also, he can occasionally get 2 Flurries or Charges off with the Fast and Swift combo, which is pretty remarkably brutal, and far from impossible, with unburying or just a long charge range.
Note: His trigger still has gaps to be aware of, including many pistoleers' melee SH attacks and a number of melee spells.

Burt Jebsen (Outcast, merc)
So, I've been playing Gremlins recently, and he looks pretty great for Tara. He's a merc so gets all the advantages of I Pay Better (which, with Reckless and Fast, means he has access to 5 effective AP at will), and all of his attacks are pretty great in a crew with a high action count  and blasts.

Datsue Ba (Resser)S
This model has a lot in common with the Nothing Beast. Weigh Sins seems quite potent, though requires a high card to cast. For now, this is mostly a place holder until I test her out.

Dead Rider (Resser)
Tara has plenty of tools to keep this model alive until the potentially immense number of crow triggers start to add up. If you're patient or already have a heavy hitter, this model looks pretty strong.



Johan (Outcast/Resser (merc))†
Taelor on a budget. He also has the ability to eliminate conditions, meaning, among other things, if it's near the end of a turn and you haven't managed to kill a model you made Fast to make it more vulnerable, you've got a chance to prevent it from getting that bonus, though you'll need to be sure you have a low Ram ready for this. Really strong for his cost.


Killjoy (Outcast/Resser (merc))†
Killjoy epitomizes what I think Tara looks for in a beat stick: slow but incredibly strong once engaged (with bonus points for Terrifying and Bury mechanics). I've had very good experiences with him wrecking any clump of enemies and, as much as I like the Nothing Beast's finesse, this guy is pretty obviously much higher on the "giant scary melee monster" ladder. Like anything in Malifaux, toughness isn't going to keep him alive, but a couple activations should do everything you need as a shock troop.

He's got flexible Burying, combined with Tara, who provides both Fast and a controllable entry point (and a controllable exit, too, if he's gotten out of position). Like Bête, he interferes with Glimpse the Void, and he also interferes with The Faces of Oblivion, but he still comes highly recommended because of his raw power.

His only limitation is the extremely high cost, which keeps him from regularly seeing the field, as I like to play with options and there are a number of strong 10SS options.

Lazarus (Outcast/Reser (merc))
Probably the strongest Outcast ranged option- his durability and a reasonable melee attack means he can hold his own if engaged, which fits Tara's crew well for her close support of Temporal Shift. 4 attacks or two focused (with I Pay Better) is potent stuff on a gun with pretty good raw power.
His Self Repair works well with taking damage via Pull the Void's Fast.
Fielding a second Construct with him is nice when you don't need to heal, but hardly essential.

Montresor (Outcasts)
Similar to the Hanged, except his attacks aren't stronger but WP-based (gets less support) and he has a WP debuff (gives more support). Obviously best if focusing heavily on WP.

General list of good options w/o particular synergy other than Tara & co. providing good delivery systems:
Izamu the Armor (Resser)
Rogue Necromancy (Resser)
Taelor (Outcast/Resser (merc))†


Fistful of Soulstones: Other Expensive Options
I'm grouping these guys as a separate category because they're expensive but I don't think they're in the same weight class as the Heavies, but are still pricey enough that they don't fit elsewhere. They'll tend to offer more versatility or support, and a little less raw killing power.


Friekorps Librarian (Outcast)
High accuracy, high volume of attacks, reasonable damage, decent toughness, and a heal spell all add up to a flexible and valuable model. They're a useful model that I'm taking more frequently of late. The only thing to worry about is an overreliance on CA attacks if heavily using spells in the rest of the crew.

Friekorps Specialist (Outcast)
This is a placeholder for now, since it requires testing, but the severe damage seems well worth it, how Tara plays.

Friekorps Trapper (Outcast/Resser (merc))
This guy's very strong with Fast and I Pay Better, for 2 focused shots, a double-focus and a move (for cheating damage on a tie), or either for a move and a focused shot. If you're hurting for range and you're not looking for pistol-range, the Trapper is probably your best bet. Hardly an auto-include, but also something I'd recommend.

Hans (Outcast/Resser (merc))
I think he's overspecialized and prefer the cheaper Trapper. He isn't particularly noteworthy except for one thing to avoid getting trapped by

There's a tricky move that's been discovered, where you can grant Tara Hans' ability to knock Upgrades off of Masters without the ability to prevent it, however, the resources for this tactic (1 action to Bury, an 8+SS model out of play for a round or more, a situational 1SS Upgrade likely competing with a likely better one, an action and a high card to duplicate the spell, another high card to actually make the attack) are probably better spent elsewhere.


Madame Sybelle (Resser)
With reasonably good ranged and melee attacks, Terrifying, Belle support, and surprisingly high defenses, Sybelle is quite useful. Since I'm often playing Tara as a Resser to access Belles, Sybelle is a natural choice for me.

Mortimer (Resser)
Something I hadn't noticed was that Fresh Meat works on Tara herself. Add to this an accurate ranged spell, solid defense, and Chatty, and you've got a pretty good looking option.

Vanessa (Outcast, X)

Sebastian (Resser)S
Sebastian was a surprise to me- I was playing him since I had some extra points left over and a few Poison pieces so I decided to try him out. He's got reasonable damage, but more importantly has strong synergy with Poison damage and has a cheap Upgrade with a low TN summon. I think he runs really nicely with Tara, as her Fast means he can summon and charge in the same turn, or speed around to get the most out of his increased Poison damage bubble. I definitely expect to play more games fielding McMourning's assistant.

Bonus points since he interacts well with Tara's new thematic friends, the Autopsies.

Sue (Outcast/Resser (merc))
The Man in Black looks very useful in void-heavy crew, because one of the crew's biggest weaknesses is spells, and the crew tends to bunch. Otherwise, he's reasonably good, and is one of my favorite models, who'd look great alongside the supernatural Western theme.

Toshiro (Resser, X) S

Yin (Resser)
I'm very interested in trying Yin out as a chain unbury in an aggressive anti-WP list, since Gnawing Fear lasts until her next activation, giving you a very wide window to get in bury actions, etc. She feels like a more reliable but less aggressive Nothing Beast.


There Can Only Be One!: Totems
This is less relevant now since I love how Karina plays with her upgrade, but in case you're not interested in a fragile summoner, I've left this here.

Malifaux Child (Outcast/Resser (merc))
He can heal and can duplicate Tara's spells, which don't suffer from the poor damage bit since they're support-oriented.

The Graveyard Spirit (Resser)
Given Tara's tendency to clump her crew to get the most benefit from Temporal Shift, her narrow WP debuff, and the short range of some Burying mechanics, you can take thorough advantage of Strength from Below benefitting 2-3 pieces (assuming, of course, no blasts around).

With Fast coming from said pulse and catching him, you can actually turn the little guy into a(n inaccurate) hit and run piece, charging, dealing two attacks, then using Calling of the Grave to bounce back to your cluster.

Finally, One Foot in the Grave is likely going to favor you, given the above notes on hand manipulation (though, of course it's not a good idea to burn decent cards just for the hell of it).

My biggest reservation is that it's one more model with the same reliance on Incorporeal that the her thematic crew has, i.e. overspecialization.


Running the Gauntlet: Support Pieces and Objective Runners
Mostly things that either support or interact well with Tara's abilities.

Canine Remains (Resser)
There are many minis the Remains compete with as cheap fodder, but these corpse-doggies also have their place as cheap objective runners (especially if you have corpse-based summoning). The DF penalty is quite nice on such a cheap/disposable model, and they can fairly easily benefit from extra speed/attacks from the combination of Fast and Scent of Death. I could see going with a poison themed crew with these, Autopsies, and Sebastian.

Necropunk (Resser)
Again, I usually take Void Wretches, but these guys are on my list of objective runners to learn better.

Performer (merc)
I think I've been overlooking these ladies because of how tough, long-ranged, and accurate Belles are. However, other than those specializations, Performers exceed them in a lot of ways. They have a hugely better melee attack, and their Lure equivalent has some nice triggers, including a strong poison synergy. Finally, while Seduction suffers from the same limitations of Glimpse with a static resist, the need for a scheme marker and the basis on WP means they play to a lot of Tara's particular strengths, if focusing on that set of WP traits.

Rotten Belle (Resser)
The Belles have extremely high CA and durability for their cost, regardless of any synergy, which is what makes them such a staple choice in Resser lists. Lure is particularly useful for choosing which enemy gets Fast from Temporal Shift.



More Bodies (of one sort or another): Rank & File, etc.
I mostly have learned to use Dead Marshals as line troops, but, some outside choices...

Bloodwretches (merc)

I'm curious about these little guys. They seem like a very strong option with Tara, due to I Pay Better and her Fast getting around the expense of The Rage Builds. I think they have a very good potential to be winners with her, with that buffed melee attack.

Friekorpsmann (Outcast)
These guys are very flexible, with a good ranged weapon and melee capacity, armor and blast immunity, and terrain negation. Their flexibility and the lack of competition for a generic 5-point line fighter recommends them. I'd probably hire them over a Guild Autopsy even if they're less thematically fun.

Support


Dead Doxy (Resser)
The Dead Doxy's Confused Feelings looks very strong if focusing on a WP game, and Tara can run with a Belle crew decently well.

Montressor (Outcast, X)

Toshiro (Resser) S
I've had very good experiences with Toshiro as a buffer/summoner. The Daimyo's Price is nice in conjunction with Tara's own Fast, for what amounts to several more focused actions (see "I Pay Better"), with the only downside being they need to be from minions, though I already like playing Tara minion-heavy. There's no conflict with corpse counters for any of his abilities, so he's also good at removing a potential enemy resource.