Zoraida the Swamp Hag has absolutely no right being on the table in Malifaux. If you read the lore surrounding her, she is far and away stronger than any other central character in the Malifaux narrative; everything that happens in the world happens because Zoraida is weaving the strands of Fate to her own design. Tyrants, the closest that Malifaux has to deities, are subject to her manipulations. Zoraida is by no means infallible, but she's pretty damn close. If you think about it, a lot of other Masters are working on a much larger scale. Hoffman, Lady Justice, and Ramos are all mortals; exceptionally talented mortals, but human nonetheless. Several of the Neverborn masters like Zoraida, Lilith, and Pandora are more like forces of nature. If we followed the lore, they should be so powerful as to not even be playable models. That's not even me being a Neverborn fanboy, that's in the story. Rasputina, Jack Daw, and Hamelin are on that level too, becoming ascending Tyrants, or simply stuck as a cursed immortal.
Luckily for you, Wyrd balanced the game around fun mechanics instead of lore. Zoraida still has all the flavor that she has in the stories, manipulating her opponents and allies to further her inscrutable goals. Within the context of the game Zoraida is the strongest and most flexible control piece in the game. All of her abilities support giving you more options than your opponent. When you pick a master like Perdita, you know that you're going to be great at shooting. You understand that Mah Tucket is always going to be a fast beatstick. Zoraida however, is exactly as good at anything as every other model on the board. Because of this, I think she is possibly one of the hardest masters to play well, because your game hinges very very strongly on proper unit selection in addition to careful play decisions. Playing Zoraida is never as simple as playing Ironsides, the melee punch-monster; you don't have a single overriding power to lean on.
A mix of Baba Yaga and voodoo mythos makes for a very potent combo
Zoraida is a dual faction Neverborn/Gremlin master in Malifaux. I have no experience playing her as Gremlins, but I can only imagine that it would be just as powerful as Neverborn, depending on the situation. She's a swampfiend, which is her token characteristic, although she doesn't have nearly as strong of a focus on it as Pandora does to Woes or Marcus does to Beasts. A respectable cache of 4 is helpful because I find myself burning a lot of stones for Big Z and her henchmen. She has average defense, but a whopping willpower of ten, matched only by the Electrical Creation and the Pigapult. As you should expect from a Neverborn, she has ten wounds with 5 walk, but no charge; the old lady doesn't like to run.
"But wait," you may ask, "If Zoraida has such mediocre defensive stats, shouldn't she have the trademarked Neverborn Dickass Trickery?" And to you, most discerning of readers, I say yes, she does have the T.N.D.T. Proper Manners gives all enemy attack flips targeting Zoraida a negative unless they were Focused. Usually this means that your opponents can't even cheat unless they have built in positives like the Katanaka Sniper or Punk Zombies. However, if they are focusing that means that they are going to get the full positive to attack and positive to damage. Zoraida can't really dodge that. However, using her Df trigger Regret, she can just end the activation of any model that does moderate or severe damage to her. Between Regret and Proper Manners, Zoraida is tough to hurt, but NOT invulnerable like Pandora.
The last ability that she has is Enthrall. It allows her to hire any Living model in the game with a Wp of 4 or less as though it were a Mercenary. That means that you spend one extra soulstone on top of its cost, and you can only have 2 mercenaries in a crew at any given time. Here's a list of all the non-Mercenary viable targets for Enthrall as a Neverborn Zoraida:
Guild Papa Loco*
Arcanists Malifaux Raptor Silent Ones
Outcasts The Winged Plague
Gremlins Lenny Bayou Gremlin Hog Whisperer Piglet War Pig* Pere Ravage* Rami Lacroix* Raphael Lacroix* Rooster Rider* Gremlin Taxidermist Wild Boar* Bayou Gator*
Ten Thunders Ototo* Samurai*
I've tagged some of the more notable models here with asterisks. I'll also offer a list of great mercenaries that work very well with Zoraida here:
Bishop Hans Johan Freikorps Trapper Lazarus McTavish Gracie Nurse Heartsbane Anna Lovelace Sloth Big Jake Lust
That is on top of every Neverborn model that Zoraida can hire. I think that because of Enthrall, Zoraida has the largest hiring pool of any master in the game. Maybe Leviticus, with his undead and construct upgrades, might come close. This absurd hiring list has three major ramifications: first, it means you have a lot of options to groom your crew to be as strong as possible in the given scheme and strategy pool. Picking the right models to support your goals and hinder your opponents is very important, and the breadth of options can be intimidating. Secondly, it means that to get the absolute most out of Zoraida, it's going to hit you in the wallet unless you proxy models. Third, it means this article is going to be really frickin' long. With that in mind, better get comfortable.
Zoraida is not known for her offensive capabilities, but she can stab you with her Voodoo Pins. It's ml 4 with a one inch range, a 1/2/5 damage track, and gives out Poison 2. If you get a crow it also triggers Puncture, giving the damage flip a positive. I have never used this attack, although it could be good if you don't have anything better to do and there is a Voodoo Doll nearby. Giving a Voodoo Doll the Poison condition is really good, but I'll talk about that later.
Where we’ll be spending the bulk of this installment is on Obey, one of Zoraida’s most varied and arguably useful abilities. So stow those accupuncture needles, and get your game voice on!
Obey . This is Zoraida's signature move, and easily the most difficult ability to use correctly in the entire game. Fundamentally, it just allows Zoraida to give one of her AP to another models to use as she sees fit. What this means is that every time you activate Zoraida, every single model within 12 inches is a possible target, and every single (1) action that they can legally take against any other model in range is something you could try to do. As the Decision Paralysis Master, Zoraida can be intimidating to pilot for even experienced players. I am by no means a king Zoraida player, but identifying the correct line of play with as many options as you have with her is something I think about a lot. Mechanically, you only need a 7 of any suit to fire the ability. It can't target Leaders, so that is one less branch of the decision tree you need to think about. Each model can only perform one Obey attack per activation. You can target enemies, but they can try to resist it. You can target friendlies and relent, letting it go off uncontested. Any actions you perform need to be legal for the target, so Peons can't drop Scheme Markers.
Here's what Obey can do:
Walk - Movement and positioning are so critical to Malifaux. Games are won and lost by eighth-inches, and being able to move people around outside of their activation can let you surprise your opponent by presenting them with a problem they were not ready to deal with. Tarpitting a group doesn't work so good when your guy gets obeyed to just turn and leave their entire gunline unmolested. Moving Nekima up the field so she can charge the enemy master on turn one can throw the enemy plan into chaos with a small investment on your part. Making Hans walk off the top of that height four building is the funniest thing in the entire world. Having the enemy models walk into the deadzone for reconnoiter can score you points, as can having them leave the Turf War zone. Moving a friendly unit up to the enemy Leader so they can activate and score Deliver a Message is easy, assuming your lackey lives through the enemy's activation. There's really no limit to how Obey directly scoring you points, and identifying that opportunity requires some lateral thinking if you activate someone first to fake out an Obey movement later in the turn.
Interact - Charging an enemy into the bruiser just to have him later tag him with Distract or Cursed Object after the bruiser has activated is free points. Having an enemy remove their own scheme marker after they've laid it to deny Protect Territory points or waste their time as they try to score Plant Evidence is solid gold. Dropping 3 scheme markers during Zoraida's activation through three friendly units to score Spring the Trap or Plant Explosives can be an incredible turnaround, especially if the opponent didn't realize that was your plan. Something to note is that if you Obey an enemy to drop a scheme marker, it is the opponent's scheme marker, not yours.
Take Focus or Defensive +1 - You know what's better than a sniper shooting people with Focus? A Sniper shooting two different people with Focus. Priming Hans or Rami means you can really dish out some hurt. If you messed up and you can see your minion is about to get the shit blown out of him, why not Obey his dumb ass to getting his dukes up? You still need to pitch a card to do it.
Attack Action - This one is pretty simple. Attacking people kills them, sometimes. If there's less enemy models on the field you can win. Attacking units is always context sensitive. You can do funny things like have Howard Langston try to cut off Ramos' head, but if you ever manage to actually get that Assassinate trigger off, I'm going to need you to tell me where you live because I want to move to Magical Christmasland, too. Something to note is that if you Obey an enemy unit to hit his buddy, they will try to stop it and you might end up wasting cards. I prefer, usually, to make my friendlies take extra attacks. My crew choices are always informed by the notion of bringing dudes that can do a lot of work with only a single AP. AP compression is what Zoraida can really take advantage of. I'll go into specifics later. While it isn't totally reliable, you can usually expect an opponent to bring models that are good for SOMETHING, so it's nice to make whatever they are good at work for you.
Tactical Action - All kinds of models have great tactical actions. Wouldn't it be nice to give Lelu and Lilitu two stacks of Whispers in Blood before they even activate? One time in 1.5 I made Sebastian create two Canine Remains, and that felt pretty good. Again, this is usually a context call, so make sure you know what your own models and your opponent's models are good for.
Besides Obey there's one other attack action that Zoraida gets. Bewitch is a (1) action that requires a 5 or better to fire and is resisted by Wp. A target enemy within 12 inches get the Bewitched condition, which lets you draw two cards whenever the target performs one of the following actions: an attack action that was NOT generated by a charge, a Walk action, or a Charge action. It lasts until the end of the target's activation, so having Zoraida go late in the turn to manipulate the field when the opponent has lost the ability to respond is a great time to lay this condition on a guy you know is going to be walking or attacking a lot. Once I managed to put this on Izamu, who walked to Zoraida and then attacked her with Focus to show that he had Proper Manners. I got to draw 4 cards and dodge his attack, and i wasted Izamu's entire turn with one AP. That's a good control spell, but I often don't have the opportunity to use it. It is powerful and debilitating, especially if the opponent psychologically doesn't want to give you cards, they can choose to do something other than walking, charging, or attacking. Usually I would say that any ability that gives an opponent a choice is going to end up with them taking the least damaging option. Model abilities that grant the opponent control over the outcome are usually not worth it. Bewitch falls into the pleasant category where both options are powerful enough to affect the course of a game. Bewitch will draw you at least two cards, because if they were going to charge Zoraida, they wouldn't be able to focus so the attacks are almost certainly going to miss anyway, netting you cards. If they walk away to do something, you still net cards. But what if the enemy is going to be in range to do something nasty to Zoraida without walking first, like if they got into range last turn? Well, Zoraida really craves personal space and has tricks. More on that later. Best of all, if you Bewitch someone and then Obey them to do something, you draw cards off it. My parting thought on Bewitch is that it is primarily more of a defensive spell than an offensive one, because I think it is generally less valuable than Obey. You can place it on an enemy to act as a deterrent to attacking, but it won't actually stop them from attacking like an Obey can. Use it when you think it will net 4 cards, but don't expect to use it every game.
There might be a reason why there's a voodoo doll for the black joker
So if you came into this article blind (congrats on the text-to-braille screen, that's really impressive) you should take note that Zoraida is a voodoo practitioner. Using her dark swamp mayjickks honed over millenia, she has the ability to reference David Bowie in Labyrinth in order to summon her Totem, the Voodoo Doll. Her first tactical action is (2) You Remind Me of the Babe, which summons the Totem within 6 inches of her. 2 entire AP seems like a lot, but considering that the Voodoo Doll is a 3 stone model, I never have hired it. There are a few games where the Doll is not helpful, but more often than not it’s a simple matter of resource management. By hiring the doll at the outset of the game that is me saying “At no point in this game will Zoraida’s AP be less valuable than 1.5 soulstones.” That’s crazy. Stones are so useful that I can never justify wasting them on a doll that is going to spend the first two turns walking up the field before it can even do anything. The only time that the Doll should be hired is if you happen to be playing Close deployment or MAYBE Flank deployment. He has an effective useful range of 10 inches, and his walk is only 3. He’s a great model, and I get a lot of value out of him, but he’s better as a slow summon.
Zoraida’s last tactical action is Repulsive. There’s some crass joke I could make here about the action just being her lifting up her shirt, but we are way too classy to say anything like that. Mechanically it forces all enemy models within a 6 inch pulse to pass a TN 17 Wp duel or be pushed directly away from Big Z until they are no longer within 6 inches. This will save her from the majority of Auras in the game, and every single engagement attack that I am aware of. While it will open her up to charges, non-Focused charge attacks are really not a big problem for her. It’s a powerful and reliable defensive tool, because the majority of models are going to need to flip or cheat in 11s or 12s to not get pushed away, and if they do that, you can always just hit Repulsive again. I don’t often have cause to use this ability since it is rare for enemies to get close to Zoraida in the first place, but it ensures that she won’t be in danger for too long.
Had enough for now? Too bad, we're just getting started. Big Z has plenty more tricks to show you: she isn't the control queen for nothing.
As a foreword to Zoraida’s upgrades, I don’t consider any of them to be core on her. She has such a flexible game plan that each upgrade has strengths and weaknesses in different situations. I’ll outline the good and bad as best I can, but be aware that your milage may vary.
Animal Shape (Limited) – For two stones Zoraida gets the ability (2) Raven Form which lets her be placed anywhere on the table within 15”, butyou can’t make Interact Actions for the rest of the activation. That’s it. This upgrade is powerful for a couple of reasons. Paired with Repulsive it can let you perform a nasty little trick like jumping into the middle of the Turf War bubble and forcing your opponents models out of the scoring area to deny them VP. You could push enemy units into the dead zone of Reconnoiter to deny VP. This upgrade also has the secret ability of being free VP for Entourage. If you can walk once per turn towards the middle you can Raven Form and just stroll into the enemy deployment zone without them being able to do anything to stop you. This could also be used as a defensive trick, but I don’t honestly think it is strong enough to warrant inclusion in the majority of games. When positioning is critical, Animal Shape can get the job done for you.
Crystal Ball (Limited) – The second of Z’s two stone limited upgrades, Crystal Ball gives you three possible effects at the start of her activation. You can choose to look at up to three random cards from any player’s hand, you can draw a card, or you can make a target player discard a random card. This upgrade’s value is very luck based, since you only have control over the timing of the effects. I can tell you that the information of what cards your opponents have might not be that helpful. Making them toss a random card is usually going to be helpful, since it could hit a high card, and if it only hits a low card, that’s one less thing for them to discard for abilities or gain Defensive +1 with. Lastly, drawing a card is usually good since it opens up more options for yourself, though I think the impact on a large scale is mediocre. At its worst, Crystal Ball is 2 stones for a slightly better Rush of Magic, and if you draw four cards from it you have gotten the same value as burning two stones for the draw two and discard two ability. The upside is that you can use Crystal Ball in addition to drawing and discarding, thus giving you a noticeable card quality advantage over your opponent. Is this upgrade strong enough to bring every game? No, but I usually take it if my stones aren’t too tight and if Entourage isn’t in the pool. Zoraida having a starting cache of 4 means she can be a little more liberal with upgrades than someone like Lynch or Misaki.
Hex Bag – For one stone, Hex Bag gives Zoraida the (0) Hex ability. With a Ca of 7(Masks) and a TN of 11, this range 6 ability is Zoraida’s only zero act. The action must declare a trigger, and it targets a model and is resisted by Wp. The triggers are one from each suit:
Rams: Prick - The target suffers two damage.
Crows: Just a Drop - The target gets Poison +4
Tomes: Feet to the Flames - The target gets Burning +2
Masks: Curse - The target gets Blind to the Aether until Zoraida’s next activation, preventing it from using soulstones.
I usually take this upgrade because it’s cheap and it lets you do a little tiny bit more on each of your master’s activations than you would otherwise. The best targets for this are the Voodoo Doll, because of its condition mirroring ability (more on that later), but with a Ca of 7 you have a ¾ chance for it to hurt any random minion. Maybe if an enemy henchman or master gets close, you could always block their soulstone use pretty reliably with the built in Masks trigger.
Tarot Reading – This gives Zoraida three different things for only two stones, but it feels a little eclectic, like they threw all the abilities they wanted onto the upgrade at the last minute. The first tactical action is gives is (2) The Fickle Winds of Fate, which casts on a 7 of Masks or higher. It lets Zoraida move all scheme markers within 4 inches and places them within 6 inches, not within 1 inch of another marker. This could be useful to mess up an opponent’s schemes, or even enable a surprise Plant Explosives or something by moving a few markers from the far side of Zoraida up close to the enemy. I feel like it’s value is pretty fringe, all together, and I’m glad it has extra stuff tacked on or else I could never justify taking this upgrade. For a (1) we get Mend, which heals all damage on a friendly Voodoo Doll. This is pretty self explanatory, since we want to be hurting the Doll as much as possible. If there was a one stone upgrade that granted this, I would consider taking it, but in general I don’t see Voodoo Dolls die fast enough to need healing. You could also just bring a Nurse for a larger Doll toolbox, but I’ll get to her later. Finally, this upgrade’s big game changer is that it allows you to hire Swampfiends regardless of faction. Here’s a list of all the Swampfiends in the game:
Neverborn Bad JujuSiluridWaldgeistSpawn MotherGupps
GremlinMcTavishWild BoarBayou Gator
I can tell you that McTavish, the Wild Boars, and the Gators are all very scary. Bad Juju is a solid model for his cost, Silurids are expensive but reliable scheme runners that are very resistant to interference, and Waldgeists are excellent defensive models, though they are lacking in the damage department. I don’t get the Spawn Mother and Gupps, and I don’t think I’ll ever give them a try; I just have too many models to work with already that are effective.
Hexed Among You – This is a Rare 1 Swampfiend upgrade for one stone that gives up to three friendly Swampfiends, including the upgrade holder, From the Shadows. Deploying Bad Juju or some Waldgeists up in the middle of the field could make for some nasty setups, especially considering that the Wild Boars already start with it. My friend Frank wants to run a Zoraida Gremlin list with all advanced deployment units. This upgrade is situational, and I can’t say I’ve ever gotten a lot of mileage out of it. I don’t play heavy Swampfiend lists, but there is value to be had there.
I’m a huge fan of the Doll. He only has one trick, but it’s a REALLY good trick. The most important thing to keep in mind about the little burlap terror is that he is summonable by Zoraida’s (2) act You Remind Me of the Babe. This will come into play with some of his abilities. In terms of stats, the Doll has 6 wounds, 1 Df and 4 Wp. It has a measly 1 Df because, just like a real voodoo doll, you are going to be the one hurting it and not the victim. It’s delightful. With a walk of 3, the guy is slow, which is why I recommend summoning him instead of having him walk for the first two turns anyway and not doing anything while soaking up three soulstones you could have been using for other models, upgrades, or even prevention flips. The first ability is his second most critical one, called Fate Woven. When you summon the Voodoo Doll, it can then immediately take the (1) Hem action. What’s neat about this is that the Doll is summoned with Slow, but it gets to do the only (1) action he really cares about anyway right then and there on Zoraida’s activation, plus it gives her one last AP to play with her dollie, if she wants to. Bound gives any master within 6 inches of the Doll a positive to all duels with a model that is the victim of a successful Hem. That translates directly to more Obeys on the victim, so throwing the Doll onto the biggest, scariest model in the enemy team is a VERY strong strategy, because you can turn their assets against them. The Doll just facilitates what you were already trying to do anyway. Dance, Puppet lets a master within one inch perform and Interact action with the Doll to push the Hem victim up to its walk in any direction. Note that this is a push and not a full walk action, so you can’t turn corners, but it also can’t be resisted. Having movement control over your opponents is a pretty big advantage since you disrupt charge lanes, shooting LoS, or open up your enemy to attacks.
On the flip side we have the Pins attack with is both pathetic and dumb, perhaps only serving to allow the doll to make disengage strikes. I guess if you have LITERALLY nothing else to do with the Doll’s AP, you can try to swing with Ml 3 and just pray. The far more interesting ability is Hem, with a 7 Ca, Tn 15, resisted by the target’s Wp and a 10 inch range. Basically, the victim gets a condition called Sewn Fate that mirrors any conditions or damage that the Doll receives onto the victim. It gives you double mileage out of Burning, Poison, and sometimes just slapping the shit out of the 1 Df Doll is enough to ensure sticking damage onto the enemy model. Remember that Zoraida’s summon places the Doll within six inches of her, so the Hem has an effective threat range of 16 inches on a summon. My favorite use of the Voodoo Doll ever was when Wyatt brought Ama no Zaku with the hazardous terrain buff directly into my team, threatening a lot of damage should I activate anything. I dropped the Doll, stuck the Hem, and then made the Oni Henchman walk out of threat range with Dance, Puppet. On the Doll’s activation, I had it toddle into the hazardous terrain and take a bunch of damage, which it mirrored onto Ama no Zaku and tie her up, who couldn’t even swallow it whole since it isn’t living. It wasn’t a flashy play or particularly effective, but it is a good example of how a bit of lateral thinking can turn Zoraida’s kit into a powerful control suite, and the Doll just makes everything she does better. I don’t think the Primordial Magic is any kind of comparison here.
Zoraida’ box Hennchman is a big nasty beater. For 8 stones you get a 9 wound guy with 3 defense and a handful of defensive tricks like Regeneration +2, Terrifying Living 13, and Hard to Wound +1. I have played with him before and while I find him to be good, I think his kit leaves a bit to be desired for Zoraida’s crew. His melee is solid with a great trigger, but has low weak damage. His strongest ability is a (0) Landslide, an AOE slow and damage which Zoraida can’t Obey to get more value out of. You can have Zoraida walk him up the field so he can Flurry, but the low weak damage keeps him from being truly terrifying. I always like to bring models that can get a lot of value out of only one AP to synergize with Zoraida’s Obey, and Juju just doesn’t quite have it. He can’t stand up to other beaters because Hard to Wound doesn’t do jack against Weak damage of 3 or 4, so he’s an 8 stone bully for small units. His upgrade makes him come back to life on the death of friendly Swampfiends, so if you bring a Swampfiend heavy list with Bayou Gators and Wild Boars, you can probably get more oomph out of him. Juju certainly isn’t Bad (snicker), but he doesn’t mesh with my preferred playstyle and model ownership. He can be good in Turf War, I think, but if I need to bring in a huge melee monster, my preferred alternative is fuzzier.
For 3 more stones than Juju you get a similar stat line that is vastly more in tune with the Obey plan. Teddy has the “unfortunate” effect of being a giant furry nuclear missile, something you launch across the board so it can go HAM on the enemy team, murder his own stone’s worth of models, and then die. Regen and low Df mean that he is best in long drawn out fights, but I frankly just bomb out and try to spill as much blood as possible because of how shockingly fast the big guy can be. Mostly his biggest draw with Zoraida is the fact that on his Hug melee action, he has the built in trigger to push the target 4 inches and then slide into base contact with them. That’s 3 or 4 damage and movement for two units with one of Zoraida’s Obey AP. Plus, he has Smell Fear to punish an enemy model for failing an Obey, Bewitch, or Hem, if you decide to toss one of those out.
But why only spend 11 stones when you can spend 13? Nekima can also get a load of work done when Zoraida helps her walk up the field. The first time I used Nekima I also brought Lust, and the movement shenanigans meant I got Nekima into the enemy deployment zone and beating face on the first turn. It was pretty fun. With a 3 inch melee and a weak damage of 4, Nekima can hand out a lot of damage on her own. I used Zoraida mostly as an N.D.S. (Nekima Delivery System) and then let the big lady do her own work. Whether she is “better” than Teddy is up to personal preference, but I think they are both very strong choices. and on the off chance that Zoraida gets a little too beaten up, Nekima can always claim her Birthright and become leader of the crew. I haven’t gotten to pull that off yet, but I really want to. As a quick aside, any time you are considering bringing a Mature Nephilim, I think Nekima is a superior choice for the slight boost in utility and comparable defenses, plus being a Henchman.
Another dude who can get a lot done on a single AP, the Mind Flayer has a walk of 7 and a great Ml attack with good triggers. As a model, Coppelius is an assassin/scheme runner first, and then a brawler in the late game. His main mechanic is harvesting eyeballs from an enemy to boost his poor defense of 4. For each eyeball he collects from successful attacks, he gets +1 Df to a max of +3. His damage output can be a little low with a Weak of only 1, but he has a trigger that makes him do Moderate damage of 3 and force Horror Duels in a pulse around him. I like to send him creeping up the sides of the board until he can pounce on a smaller unit to kill them, then get his Df up. Once he has a good stack of ‘balls, he becomes very hard to kill due to a Df of 7 and a (0) act that lets him heal for 2/3/4 by eating an eyeball. He can also summon Alps by consuming eyeballs. For 8 stones, Coppelius does a lot of work. Zoraida can give him an extra 7 inches of movement or more attacks so he can stack up eyeballs faster.
For 7 stones you get a reliable Leap of 7, solid defensives, and an average attack. Silurids are scheme runners with a bit of combat, but if you’re looking for combat guys, I think the Illuminated are good to go. The big fish men don’t get a ton of value from Zoraida besides movement, but if you’re running a Swampfiend list, they are quite valuable.
Defensive powerhouses, Waldgeists like to find somewhere critical to park themselves and then waste a whole ton of the opponent’s time. You can drop soft cover terrain that increases their attack range to 4 inches, and they have some good triggers to boot. Zoraida helps them get some extra attacks off, and helps them get into position faster. Plus, Swampfiends.
Mostly useful for the fact that they are tarpits of the highest order, they also happen to be insignificant Minions, so they are very valuable in Reconnoiter. Zoraida helps them get into position faster to prevent the enemy front line from advancing.
Besides giving out soft cover, these guys are awesome at pounding down enemy models with a bit of luck. Zoraida lets them move around more and maybe get some extra Gamble Your Life attacks out of them.
These are the best melee minions in neverborn, and possibly one of the best minions in the entire game. Zoraida doesn’t need to support them, but they form a solid foundation upon which to build any Neverborn list.
Slightly cheaper than Silurids and maybe a little tiny bit slower, being Incorporeal with a 7 inch walk makes these guys great scheme runners. I usually opt for these guys when I need deep scheme markers dropped just because they are more difficult to kill than it appears.
The extra mouths are just a bonus
Lelu and Lilitu
I love twins. I do. These guys have a great synergy and Zoraida makes them even scarier. The main mechanic is that they have a condition sharing mechanic. When one of them gets a condition, the other one does too. Lelu is a melee beatstick and Lilitu has a Lure with a 4 inch melee range. The biggest interaction here is Lilitu’s Whispers In Blood ability. For one AP, Lilitu gets a condition that gives her a positive to all Duels for the rest of the turn. Lelu also gets that condition as many times as it is applied. Lelu has a zero act that lets him push 3 inches and gain Pounce until the end of the turn... which Lilitu then also gets. Pounce lets them get a free attack after an enemy ends a move or push in their engagement range. The play here is to have Zoraida Obey Lilitu once or twice to get a few stacks of Whispers In Blood, then activate Lelu and have him get into position to give Lilitu Pounce, then have Lilitu go and Lure with positives to the attack, then whip the everloving shit out of them with Pounce and her normal AP. As a bonus tactic, you can have Lelu Vampiric Bite on Lilitu if he is hurt to get some free healing, since the damage he inflicts on Lilitu gets healed because of their sympathic bond.
This girl is just really good. She gives you a lot of flexibility and utility, but the only synergy with Zoraida is letting the Doppelganger move around without giving up Manipulative 14.
These little guys aren’t out as of this writing, but they seem solid. 3 stones is as cheap as Neverborn models come, and they could dominate a Reconnoiter game. Plus, they get positives to all flips when taking actions outside their activation, which is a plus for Zoraida.
Besides being Swampfiends, these guys get positive flips to attacks made outside of their activation. Beware of the Bayou Rampage, since Neverborn Zoraida doesn’t have access to a lot of the tools a Gremlin Zoraida would have. While she can’t abuse Pigcharge, she can still help move the pigs around and give them extra attacks with bonuses.
The benefit of Zoraida with Bayou Gators is the fact that she can get them into position to use their powerful (3) Drag Under. Or maybe she makes them focus once or twice to make that 3/4/5 damage flip even scarier.
If you’re playing the Swampfiend game, this guy is just bonkers. I haven’t used him, but I really like his kit. He’s pretty flexible with a reliable gun, and we don’t get many of those in Neverborn.
Papa Loco/Pere Ravage
These two benefit a lot from having Zoraida making him take three walk actions, then just charge into a knot of enemy units to explode. The Papa Bomb trick has been around since first edition, for good reason: it still works.
Snipers are something that Zoraida gets a lot of extra mileage out of. Hans specifically only has a walk of 3, so it takes him a while to get into position. Zoraida just speeds up that process so he can get to shooting faster. Rami is no slouch either, although his gun might work a little differently. The best thing for the snipers is when Zoraida can Obey them twice to focus so on their activations they get two focused shots instead of one. Zoraida’s AP is always exactly as valuable as the best attack on the board, and focused sniper shots are pretty frickin' good. That’s why you can normally only make one of them per turn. So, play Zoraida and take two, because this is YOUR swamp.
Now this is the model that most people think of when they see Enthrall. I’ve tried it, and while it’s cute, I don’t think it’s THAT strong all the time. The big draw is being able to singlehandedly abuse the shit out of the Voodoo Doll and whoever it has Hemmed. Her Syringe attack is easy and reliable Poison without having to put her in danger, and Take Your Meds gives a flexible suite of debuffs for the enemy. Being able to restrict what actions you can take is powerful, but the cruelest one is fully healing the Voodoo Doll, then Paralyzing it. The linked model only mirrors the damage and conditions, but not healing, so it just ends up Paralyzed while the Doll gets 6 more wounds it can transfer. I think this trick is a 45+ stones exclusive, since it’s hard to justify 6 stones in a smaller game for such a narrow combo.
The big guns on the Samurai blow up if you miss an attack during his activation. So... maybe just don’t take attacks during his activation. Getting an absurd triple positive to attacks with a 14 inch range means you can pop people pretty reliably. Having him walk into range and then taking either defensive or focused allows you to be in a good spot so Zoraida can take the shot for him with no downside. The Samurai are also pretty solid in combat, it's just too bad you can't bring their 10T free upgrades along with them.
Between the code of honor, and the high calliber bullets, Samurai in Malifaux really should intimidate everyone
In the 1.5 rules, Ototo had an ability that meant he had 4 WP but was unhirable by Zoraida. I don’t know if he was considered too powerful, but for 11 points and a mercenary slot, I think you might be better off with Teddy or Nekima as a huge beater. Ototo is certainly good, and he’s tough and survivable with great damage output, but there isn’t a whole lot of synergy besides him just being a really good model. If you have him, try bringing him and see how he plays. I know he gets work done, especially if he’s Enraged. Having Big Z give him an extra attack sounds like value to me. Obey happens to be the only way for him to move faster, so he can get into position to Flurry sooner.
Reckoning/Headhunter – While Zoraida herself doesn’t actually ever do much damage, her control suite combined with a tendency towards elite units makes her a solid choice for Reckoning. Bringing some big bruisers like Nekima, Teddy, Ototo, or Barbaros and pairing them with a sniper like Hans or Rami can give you a crew that can attack at unexpected times or from oblique angles with Obey. Toss a Bewitch onto the enemy’s biggest guy, or just tie him up with a Nurse / Voodoo Doll combo can really put a damper on your opponent’s game plan.
Turf War – Using Obey as a late-turn movement trick can mess up an opponent’s calculations and really steal points from them. Making your units get up into the Turf War scoring zone fast can force the enemy units through a really ugly front line if you can get them up the board quick enough.
Reconnoiter – Having Zoraida sit in the middle of the scoring deadzone and obey enemy units out of position, or your own units into position is strong. In general I think this could be one of her weaker Strategies because you need to scatter your team to the four corners to adequately respond to your opponent’s pressure, and that limits her range of influence.
Stake a Claim – The biggest asset that the Swamp Hag can bring to this Strategy is speed. By getting three extra walks on turn one, your units can be much closer to the centerline to pounce on your enemy’s formation. Beware of leaving them too far out into the middle with no support though! I find that the ten inch threat range on the Illuminated can really put some fear into the enemy, as you could charge them before they can claim the marker at the beginning of their second turn.
In terms of Schemes, I genuinely feel that there’s no scheme that Zoraida is bad at. Unlike Lucius, she can manipulate the enemy’s formation, so having them pick up their own scheme markers is an option, and she can have friendlies drop scheme markers at unexpected times. She makes fighty guys fightier, she makes shooty guys shootier, and she makes runny guys, well, runniner. The only caveat here is that she can be vulnerable to Assassinate, as she has no real defense against snipers that attack with focus. Bring a sackful of stones if you are concerned that your opponent might try to plug Voodoo Grandma in the head from 30 inches away.
In conclusion, Zoraida is hard to play at her best. She's considered one of the weaker masters in tournament play because her skill set is reasonably good at a lot of things, but not incredibly good at any one thing. She probably won't carry you to victory at your next tournament, but she's the sort of master that plays her crew like a toolbox. When all the pieces start humming and you line things up in your favor it's an incredibly rewarding feeling. Playing Zoraida perfectly requires almost as much prescience as she has in the story, but don't let that stop you from giving it a shot.
We love Malifaux at Sprites and Dice. Wyatt is a dirty Arcanist, and Eric is a money grubbing Outcast, but we all know it's the Neverborn that are the real winners. Feel free to check out my articles on Lucius, Pandora, and Lynch if you want to know how to win more. Want to hear our thoughts about all sorts of games? Like our Facebook to stay in the loop, and hey, if you want to help us buy miniatures to build our own army in the swamp, take a look at our Patreon.