I've played Cygnar long enough now and used all the various things to finally have gotten a feel for how I like them and how they stack up in my local environment with our changing metagame. My biggest reason for playing Cygnar was for the warjacks and I love them. I love Stryker, Siege and Darius the most and I run jack-heavy and melee-heavy very often. And I'm loving it. So looking back on all my choices and all my Warjacks, there's one that I always fall back on, as both effectiveness and simple pleasures of `liking' the thing.
The Defender, Heavy Warjack
So I'll take a moment to pause here and ramble, as no doubt the booing and hissing is commencing in one's mind as they click out of the thread to forever ignore it as rubbish, or for those more bold who will reply with some `lol' comments about how crap a Defender is compared to a Centurion or straight up infantry being better and instead take those in stride, knowing they're coming, but still offer something a little different for a change to read, which happens to be a simple but straight forward reasoning pattern of using a Defender, and often times two of them and loving it vs. both WM and Hordes. So if the booing and hissing has subsided, I invite you to read further.
Game Length - The game only lasts 3 or 4 rounds in my average match up, be it a simple straight up brawl, or a scenario driven game. Only the multi-player matches that we do sometimes go beyond that. For me, taking anything that doesn't have something worth while to do nearly every round, beyond the first at least, ends up being dead weight. To break it down, some things are there solely to take damage. Some are there to deal damage. Some are there to move. And some are there to do all of the above. So I tend to favor models and units which generally are effecting the board right away. This brings me to my Defender(s). That weapon with average RAT and a single FOC dropped on him is lovely. Monstrous range with my movement and a healthy POW that can be boosted as well. I like having this option because both I and my opponent know that turn one could see shots fired, and turn two, there will be shots fired. So my big heavy beefy Warjacks, who is hard to eliminate, who is also no slacker in melee, can waltz around dishing out big POW hits that can be boosted from incredibly long range. And when I'm using Siege, it's all the better adding an AOE to that great attack, making it even better. The Defender gives me the most options of my Warjacks in terms of nearly always having something to do from turn one, to end game. That's important to me since I'm paying for something with a lot of points. In it's place, not much can do all the things it can--ranged attack, good melee, good staying power. In my settings, the Defender simply gives me more--more often.
Range Power - Superior range without using Snipe is a big deal for me. I'm likely buffing something else to have that range, if using Stryker. Otherwise, I don't even have Snipe generally due to my Warcaster choice. Having a 16" gun that can walk and fire for a 21" threat range is marvelous. Great for everything under the sun. Especially with an AOE. I like this option because while I have great range, I still have a good durable melee frame under it. So it's just the icing on the cake since I don't have to further buff the thing beyond it's natural state to get the most out of it. He's got range, out of the box.
Melee Power - Ignore critical cortex damage. He's still MAT6 with P&S16 and he can swing that thing a few times given some Focus. With Darius, he's a wrecking ball. Even at dice minus 4 against serious ARM, that's more than enough to pound them out because generally I've already damaged them before melee happened. That ties into the great range of the heavy barrel. It's very rare that something gets into melee, that is actually tough, with my Defender(s) that isn't already dented up. And even if not, that MAT6 hammer is still dropping law very nicely. It's less P&S than his more melee specific friends, but it's accurate P&S that is more than enough to pound out Warbeasts and great for pounding out Jacks too; let along things like multi-wound infantry and Commanders of all flavors. P&S16 with MAT6 is simply great.
Durability - I'm a sucker for things that can take a hit and keep on ticking. DEF12 on a Heavy is nothing to scoff at. ARM18 base is fantastic without a shield, and this is Cygnar, it's not often only ARM18 for long. I can go to ARM21 real quick like. But having a good damage grid behind those numbers matters to me. This is where having a Warjack is very helpful to me, instead of using a Unit to do the same job. A unit gets plastered by an AOE or something like a strafe or similar attack, while the Jack just brushes it off or doesn't even get targeted by it in the first place. The Jack can take a charge from most things, a lot better than a ranged unit in Cygnar can, and in many cases, even our melee units. And in Cygnar, we have no shortage of ways to repair our Jacks, so I never feel like I'm hurting myself by using a Jack--I can fix it if need be, and if they're attacking my things that repair, they're not harming the things that do damage and I'm likely stomping them out. Jack durability with repair options is ace in my book.
Facing down Hordes - I really like my Defender(s) against Hordes especially because his P&S shines very nicely there, and his heavy barrel is serious business. Firing at a Warbeast with a boosted 14 early on is great to me. And in melee, I can pound them out just as nicely, hitting even more accurately and dealing even more damage. All the while, sure, a beast could beat my Jack down, but like any model in the game, that's the case. I just like that I can hit them early on at range and again in melee when it's time with the same model, who also will not be pounded out by some POW10's or POW12's, or some AOE or magic. DEF12 against a Beast is important to me too, because it often means average attack rolls, instead of hitting nearly always against something with only DEF10~11. With Siege, I get an AOE that is fantastic for nailing out those weak ARM infantries with stealth. It's beautiful. With Darius, I have a speedy machine that rolls 3D6 in melee all the time, and fires a cannon while moving around real quick. With Stryker, I have a big ARMed monster that combined with some EQ action, rolls anything but double 1's to start dealing damage right away. And with my little repair options, you either destroy him or he's probably going to get the last word in.
Why not sing praise for the Centurion? Or Thunderhead? Or any others? It's not that the Defender is better or worse than the other options--it's just that for my needs, in my metagame, my Defender(s) have more options and for me that makes the difference. Shorter games with more to do in those rounds means less waste and I always tend to have something to fire at. I love my Centurions, but they're not doing much turn one other than moving, and they're not stopping anything other than charges against it, which is not a trick my opponent can't be smart to get around; Centurions are not impervious and are still slam bait from range/magic effects. If my Centurion is not in melee, and not supported with FOC or Darius for his attacks, his slow SPD4 and MAT5 generally has him only doing any real work when someone runs into him or charges something else near by. With Darius, a lot of those woes are fixed as it speeds up and becomes very accurate and gets repaired with ease. With others though, I favor the Defender's gun early on over the Centurion's melee durability because it's a lot easier to deal with an already dinged target than a fresh one. I like options especially against things that may be immune to melee or range too (this comes up in Feats very often, so having a ranged attack is a huge plus in my book especially against Hordes). The Thunderhead is all that and a bag of chips in terms of what I need, but his low range, but awesome range, is the problem I have with him, or not a problem, but simply why I still go for the Defender. I want maximum range, not just close range. At close range the TH is simply awesome. But often times, do I get one chance and then it's melee time or game over? Pretty much. With my Defender, it's often turn one that I'm already firing, and after that, every turn if not already in melee or completely shut off by no LOS or terrain, etc.
In a Nut Shell - The Defender lets me get the most out of each Round because he has everything and compliments all my Casters, my lovely SwordKnights and I do use Mechanics.
(And on a tangent, though slight, I nearly always use a full unit of Mechanics for their measly 20 points now that they're very nice out of Remix. I put them up front, often in front of my jack. Great little speed bumps who die and cost me next to nothing to block a real charge to something more important, who also happen to be able to fix up any dings before I get there. They rarely run as they're basically always in my CMD range and things charging DEF15 Gobbers is great, they often whiff. Wasting an AOE on them is also brilliant as my other more expensive and damage dealing models don't mind not being fired at.)