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Hey folks - after recently having my ass handed to me last tournament - I've taken some notes and built this list.
Butcher (Lv2, GEN, XHW)
Bruiser (BSB, HA, XHW)
17 Ogres (FC, IF)
8 Ironguts (Std, Mus)
Banner of Eternal Flame
3 Mournfang Cavalry (Std, HA, IF)
3 x Sabretusks
I have a magic banner slot open but aside from Dragonhide - I don't see much use in the options. Maybe Rampager on BSB and Dragonhide on MFC. Champion is there to soak up a lord challenge (most don't take em).
The list before this was similar except I swapped 9 Ogres for 4 LBs and 30 Gnobos. I hate to see the LBs go but they did not come near to my expectations. Ironblaster is next on the chopping block but I feel like his performance was based on bad luck. MFC performed wonderfully - so well, I will add more if the Ironblaster goes. Butcher was another to let me down, the little magic he could get off was not enough to warrant the points but I don't feel like an SM would do any better for the points. Powerstone could help on turn 1 or 2. Cats did their job, TT did it's job. 8 ogres did have enough punch to stand up to a horde of GG w/GW, Barrow and Helm of Commandment (go figure - nothing did). Now I think they can take on just about anything w/BSB. Banner of Eternal Flame because I have nothing else to combat regen.
I don't think you should be so hasty to throw the Ironblaster away.
I've used it in 3 games now, and while in the first two games it performed terribly (1st game it blew up on the 2nd turn and 2nd game it blew up on the 1st turn), the 3rd game it did wonderfully, took out a unit of sword masters and another of spearmen + BSB by itself, all just using the Grapeshot.
The only time I use the main shot is if I'm getting into position to use Grapeshot, or shooting at a monster/single model.
And with Leadbelchers, while I think they are awesome models and the fluff with them is good, they could be better, even just BS 4 would be a lot better. I run 8 in a 3k list, only because I have no MFC models.
The ironblaster is still in the list for the very reason you refer to. I guess my qualm with the choice is the hybrid quality. A shooty/CC unit is impossible to use to maximum efficiency - when you're in combat you're not shooting. When you're shooting you're not in combat. Either way - the full cost is never brought to bear. A cannon is good to have, and a chariot is good to have but so far - having both be the same unit is seeming less and less worth it. I've had a hard time getting the thing to break even which as you said is not reliable. The grape shot is good - I agree - but if you're 12" away, you're getting charged unless you have redirects. I think there are better options to spend the points on.
He's on probation until he proves himself. We'll see after a few games.
At the end of the day, I just don't think of it as chariot, I think of it as just a very mobile cannon, and the only time I would use it as a chariot is if I rolled a 2 on the misfire chart.
I still love the model though, and I think my insisted use of the Ironblaster and Leadbelchers stems from my love of blackpowder weapons.
I will admit that if I did have some MFC, the Ironblaster would be dropped.