I had some fun games with Colette, using this core:
- Colette (Soulstone Cache)
- Mechanical Dove (times 3)
- Mechanical Rider (Soulstone Cache)
- Coryphee Duet
Season to taste (Swarms, Emissary, Mobile Toolkit, Captain, Joss... you have options)
The Soulstone Cache on Colette is not fixed there, if you find a better target, go for it. It just has to be there. The Cache on the Rider is necessary.
So, what does this list do?
Simple, you abuse two things:
At the start of the game, Colette sacrifices doves to summon more doves, getting a card and two stones per dead dove in the process. She buries herself and gets another card and another two stones. You get a good hand for turn one/turn two and a lot of stones to keep your models alive, as well as the freedom to put Colette whereever you want turn two, for the low cost of... nothing really. We will get to how that works.
Second, starting turn two, the rider reactivates the duet, giving it six to eight actions to work with a turn. So you have a very sturdy, very mobile beater/scheme runner that can annoy the enemy crew, while at the same time taking pressure off the rider, who can do her thing unharassed.
How does this work?
Deployment: You need to group up a bit. Both Cache models need to be in range of all doves, Colette should also be there. She doesn't necessarily need to be there, but she will be buried after her activation anyway, so I usually put her with her doves somwhere at the front, with the Cache models nearby. Put the duet somewhere where it project threat and the rest accordingly.
Turn 1: You want to have initiative. Cheat it if necessary. You will probably play one activation down, so this is important. I am rarely really threatened early turn one, so if that happens... deal with it? The tools should be there...
- Should you have pass tokens for some reason, use them.
- First dove does nothing
- Second dove does nothing
- Third dove does nothing
- If you have more chump activations, use them here. Every model that activates before Colette is one more activation your opponent has to take and that can not react to what happens after Colette.
- Colette activates
-- and uses Presto-Chango on a dove. Check if you have a 7 of masks or tomes in hand. If you have not, you can buy one of those with a soulstone. Sacrifice another dove to get two stones and a card for the second suit, or if you do not want to summon, for a mask. Either way, place the doves exactly where they were before, movement is not the point. If you did not declare the trigger, swap one with a scheme marker.
-- Do this up to two more times, make sure to always sacrifice another dove. In the end, you should have up to three new doves, drawn up to three cards, and (depending how lucky you were with cards) up to six new soulstones. If you have an original dove left, focus with your last AP and use it for the next step.
-- As your last trick, use Sword Trick on a dove, either with a low mask, or saccing another dove. Relent, kill the dove for all in all two to four more stones and one to two cards, and bury.
- At this point, your opponent has some pass token, and you have new doves to counteract them. Do that. If you killed more than the original three doves, your opponent has more pass token than you have doves. That is unfortunate, but cannot be helped.
- You can activate the rider here, she does nothing of consequence turn one other than advancing a bit, if possible. She has to be kept safe, as she cannot use her fate tokens. You can use stones to keep her alive, but if possible, she should not be attacked in the first place.
- Duet and other beaters can activate now. The duet wants to be on a flank, so it can attack scheme runners or support without directly engaging the enemy fighting core. If you can do so safely, you can attempt to split/reform, but it is not necessary. At least one beater should be near the enemy core crew for Colette to be able to emerge somewhere impactful. This can also be a dove, but they are a bit fragile. They are expendable now, though, so they will serve, if necessary.
Turn 2: You want at least one 6+ tomes this turn, and this crew has very little card draw, so stone for it, if necessary.
- Your first activation will probably be Colette, if nothing else need immediate fixing. The rider wants to go as late as possible.
- Colette wants to unbury in 3" to as many models as possible. Once there, you want to either Distracting Illusion to give out Stunned to people, or False Reality to disrupt them. If at all necessary, you can Presto-Chango to move models, but this activation aims at maximum disruption. Bonus action is Sword Trick to bury something scary. At the end of her activation, she should also engage as much as possible. Try to keep her there as long as possible, but if necessary, bury her to keep her safe.
- The rest of the turn is not as planned out, the duet wants to activate early to further disrupt/kill models, aiming at models that can help those bound by Colette, or whatever wants to score points. Split if you can, but don't plan on it.
- The rider wants to activate late to threaten a second duet activation. It doesn't matter if you really do it, sometimes other models are better suited for that, but the second duet go is usually what is the scariest, so your opponent has to account for that. You should have three fate token, stone for the fourth, you need the card for the fifth tome. The rider is your main scheme runner, keep her safe and she will do any marker scheme there is.
Turn 3 you need another tome for the reactivate trigger, else it is just rinse, repeat. Colette can scheme as well, as can the duet if it needs to.
Colettes activation turn one needs a bit of moderation. You have to look at what you are working with. If you want to go crazy, you can kill up to five doves here (three with Presto-Change, each saccing one and (maybe) summoning one, and Sword Trick saccing one and killing one), but at that point one has to ask if it is worth it. You play two activations down at that point. You definitely should kill the three original doves, as they are essentially free in terms of activation.
Presto-Chango without summoning a new dove is essentially free in terms of stones, as the suit comes from the sacrificed dove. If you have the card in hand, you can summon a dove, but if not, I don't think the stone it worth it. Also, keep in mind that killing newly summoned doves sets you back one activation. I think three doves if you are first player and four if not should be the sweet spot, but that depends heavily on what your hand looks like, what the enemy crew is made of and how many stones you anticipate you will need.
What can you do against it?
- Anti bury tech works, because Colette is a lot less mobile, and cannot pulse out Distracted. This is not her main trick, but it is part of the book, so it is nice to have.
- Anti trigger tech is also nice, as Colette relies on her defense trigger to keep her alive, so she cannot be as agressive if that is on the board. Stunned on the rider is great, as it shuts down the whole reactivate thing.
- Armor ignore is great against the duet (and the faction as a whole), irreducable damage works against the main three threats in this (duet, rider, Colette). Beware of this one. Also, Shen Long (as usual) just kills this list, as he ignores all defenses anything will ever have.
- Early aggression should be fine, as the only thing that could be killed are the doves, and at that point your opponent is doing your job for you. To really shut it down, you need to focus either the rider or the duet before turn three. Spreading out helps mitigate Colettes impact.
And now, the most disgusting part of this:
Lets do some math:
16 (Colette) + 2 (Dove) + 2 (Dove) + 2 (Dove) + 11 (Rider) + 13 (Duet) + 2 (Soulstone Cache) + 2 (Soulstone Cache) = 50
Yes, you can do this with any master there is (in Arcanists). This reduces the risk of getting countered significantly.
Ramos actually gets the whole package for 46 stones, as he doesn't have to pay tax on doves and duet. He also synergizes great with this, as he can repair duet and rider, gets another card for dead doves, can summon, can blow doves and coryphees up, and is an all out great guy. Also, fast on the duet is disgusting.
Sandeep loses out on card draw, but can still use most of his tricks in this setup. You get mobility on top of mobility, and outside of the most aggressive setups you get a very good late game. Also, Banasuva is a beater again and loves himself a Cache. You need to summon a wind gamin to get going, but then, you are good.
Ironsides is a good sturdy beater that can go in with Colette. Not much else to say, some of her tricks work, but the adreanline is slow, the aura doesn't do anything, and anything that disables triggers also works against Colette. Have to test some more, but I suspect pure Ironsides may be stronger. But it is a nice scheming package for Toni, something she doesn't have otherwise.
Mei Feng, again, is a good beater. The rider can put scrap markers down, but there is almost no support for her otherwise, so I am not sure if it is worth it. But I am not really experienced with Mei Feng, so maybe it could be good?
Hoffman has similar support for the crew to Ramos in that he can make the duet fast, repair it, and can also make it sturdier by making the armor stick. Other than that, nothing in the crew cares about power token, and he doesn't seem to be doing much on his own, but as long as he can support the duet, it may be worth it.
Kaeris has no synergies in this crew whatsoever. Conversly, this may not be a bad thing, as I find the synergies not to be very strong in the first place. As many others, Kaeris would be just a beater here, but she is not bad at that, Colette helps keeping her alive (as do many stones), and pyre markers work as they should. Also, she is a decent scheme runner on her own. I haven't played it yet, but just thinking about it, it could work. She wants a mostly independant crew anyway.
Marcus would be completely on his own. Nothing wants his upgrades, he can move nothing, he would be just a beater. I don't think this would be remotely as strong as a standard Marcus crew.
Rasputina would also have no support or synergy to her name. While that would not be so bad (she has still the ability to place markers and channel through them, as well as make things slow), I don't think Raspi would work particularly well in this setup, because Colette wants models to be aggressive with her, and Raspi does not do that. I think this could be one of the stronger Raspi crews, but definitely one of the weaker masters for this. Poor Raspi