You may have seen in either of my previous articles a predisposition towards the Power of Dhunia (PoD) theme at the moment. There are several reasons for this, but the main two are:
- It fixes the Krielstone unit to some degree, allowing upkeeps to be out even when going second, which would normally be a big problem.
- Free points are good, yo!
The second point, while less important to the strength of the list is actually where you can allow a bit of your creativity in list design to shine through. There was definitely an issue pre theme forces where all factions where stuffing their lists full of units and beasts/jacks and finding no room for those all important solos. Players would generally rather have models that do work and often a light warbeast is better than 2 solos. Luckily themes are here to address this need. They come for free and they add some major value. They also change your list design a great example is me needing infantry clear in a Power of Dhunia list, if my options are 3 Runeshapers or a storm troll then I’d probably take the Runeshapers but if the storm troll gets me to 75 points of beasts and thus another free solo then I feel it swings the other way. We’re going to take a look at the free solos available to a PoD theme force and discuss their various merits.
In a theme force dedicated to running beast heavy whelps can be an absolute blessing. People often feel they are just for fury management, but the ability to place them in your opponents turn means you can block charge lanes, contest objectives or just leave them to help heal up beasts in your next turn.
Whelps also have the annoyance ability. The best thing I can say is to think about when is a good time to try and utilize it. If an opponent hits on a 3, you won’t gain much from making them hit on a 4. By the same token if they already need 8’s to hit then they will probably boost anyway so 9’s won’t make a difference. You want to turn 5’s into 6’s or 6’s into 7’s. Those are the numbers that people feel iffy about hitting on two dice. Also look at what is hitting you. If it’s a charging unit with two attacks they are likely to just take their second attack on the whelp as it’s not a charge and won’t do much damage anyway. The idea of spawning a whelp purely for annoyance is to keep a beast alive that would otherwise be dead whether that is making an opponent miss, boost a hit roll when they wouldn’t normally, take an extra high pow attack on the whelp instead of your beast or blocking a charge lane so another model can’t get there.
Whelps also help with order of activation. If a beast loses an aspect you often have to activate your caster first or spend a fury on regeneration. With whelps this problem can go away. Mid activation healing isn’t just limited to healing damage done in your opponents turn. Nothing stops you from spawning one after a free strike to heal the damage in case you lose an aspect. Also remember the whelp can activate the turn it spawns. I’ve contested or scored quite a few victory points by intentionally drawing free strikes. Their biggest use in Mark2 was with Doomshaper 2 and he still utilizes them amazingly. You can trample a huge distance, take a few free strikes and then heal up, because the whelps spawn at the end of the trample as that’s when attacks are made.
Whelps also stop drags. We have a local convergence player and he hates whelps. If you read the ability on the drag it does 1 point of damage and then pulls you in. Whelps thankfully stop this as you pop a whelp down in front or your beast and the drag stops immediately. This is even more pertinent with the release of Loki who is finding his way into almost all Circle lists. It also helps that your beast brick will probably play into Circle and CoC so it’s a perfect fit.
Whelps are hugely flexible. Their strength lies in the fact that they are so cheap and can do so many useful things. You might run one within 4 inches of a stealthed model and shoot it with a storm troll or surround one with fire eaters to set a unit on fire. Shooting them yourself is rarely a terrible option, because you get 5 of them for the low, low price of nothing.
Speaking of tactical flexibility we have the shaman. The general consensus when it came out last year was that it was underwhelming. The biggest complaint came when it was first spoiled and people thought it could give a target model chiller. That would mean a +2 hit buff for beasts lists which would have been really nice. People felt underwhelmed when they realised the usual max range on chiller was 7 inches.
The Shaman can be worthwhile though, especially if you rely on it’s flexibility and use it for the right reasons, the first of which is infantry clear. The simple fact is that most PoD lists suck against lots of dudes. If you’re running five heavies you’re looking at an extremely limited number of attacks. You can send an Axer forward for a thresher, but if they kill him you not only lose your infantry clear, but also access to the rush animus. I run a bomber in every PoD list and it certainly helps with the infantry clear, but there is a recent penchant for blast immune infantry in MK3 and so you can’t rely on 1 bomber alone. That’s where the Shaman’s come in. They do all the other roles mentioned below and are still extremely useful when you’re playing into lists with no infantry, but when they need to they can get some dudes dead. They would definitely be better if they had a higher magic ability, but even if they need 7’s they will help get 1 or 2 troops dead and anything they use to kill them isn’t attacking your beasts meaning they might survive another turn. . Also they bring magic attacks. It might not be super relevant with the stone, but beast bricks usually bring limited magical attacks. These sprays can help with solos that the stone aura can’t reach or if you don’t want to sacrifice 1 Strength from all of your hard hitting beast just to kill 1 incorporeal solo holding a flag.
What the Shaman will be doing most of the time though is forming clouds and teleporting behind them to safety. This is the main reason I always take them in pairs. Sadly Trolls are the only faction in the game without access to channelling or an Arc Node on any caster. This means that while we have a few nice control spells like Befuddle, Rampager, Stranglehold Etc. you need to be within 10 inches of your target to cast them and that often means a swift death. Especially now we don’t have a wall to cower behind. The clouds can kind of help with this. It, in theory means your caster can play further up the field. An alternative is to play your caster as normal and use the shaman’s cloud to protect your Krielstone unit from shooting. This lets you play more aggressively with the stone and sometimes that’s the difference maker. Many of the times that a better players has out attritioned me it has started with them killing the stone and removing the aura for a turn. The clouds can help against that and suddenly they have to attack you where you’re strongest, into your High arm beasts.
Chiller is a fine ability, It rarely get’s used, but for the times it does it is excellent. If your opponent tries to jam you with an Argus or a Raek it’s excellent. If your opponent alpha’s you with def 14 beasts it can again be really useful. It’s extremely limited by its 7 inch range, but in theory you could charge an enemy model 8.5 inches away and if you kill it with a pow10 charge you could put Chiller up on a beast you’re going in on. I’ve never seen it happen, but it’s there just in case.
Overall the shaman is a utility piece. It helps Troll beast bricks with things they struggle with, mainly killing lots of infantry, blocking LOS so your caster can play further up the field, protecting the stone and helping with a hit buff. These are all useful and while you probably wouldn’t spend 8 points on them in a theme force they are a perfect option.
A non Trollblood player recently told me that Janissa was a sad shadow of her former self since she lost the wall and the ability to grant force lock to a horde of 1 point models. While he’s right that Trolls miss the wall and it’s one of the major reasons we’re struggling right now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be counting out the first lady of rock. At first I liked running Janissa with Runeshapers, the idea would be that battle wizard would be a way of making them do more work. They could charge, kill and then dig in, or throw a rockhammer or even knock down an important model like a jack or beast. Truth is I played it a lot and it rarely ever came up. Mat 6, Pow 10 is just too underwhelming, especially with their low charge threat.
Janissa though works fine without runeshapers. Firstly she has Tectonic shift, which is absolutely one of the best abilities available to PoD. The fact is that your opponents will forget this ability exists over and over again. People like to jam beast bricks because they lack quantity of attacks. Janissa can simply move the out the way. It’s great for late game assassination runs, de jamming or even setting up a perfect assault target for Mountain king’s spray (I’ve killed snapjaw that way, a few times) Movement abilities have huge value in this game, because as players we often make our plans based on where models are. It’s kind of why most people consider Telekinesis the strongest spell in the game. It now comes with the added value that most opponents don’t think Janissa is worth killing so she survives to the late game a lot more. You might even charge an infantry model kill it and then battle wizard a tectonic shift to move their caster into an assassination or out of a zone. It’s janky but when it’s there and knowing the options from these flexible solos will make you a stronger player.
She also has a Magic ability 8 rock hammer which is pretty damn good. She can pick off the odd solo or even just contribute another bit of damage to finish off a heavy. You don’t take her for the rock hammers but they really do help. The same is true for her pickaxe. The number of times you attrition down and have a heavy left with 4 or 5 boxes. Send Janissa in with her Armor penetrating pickaxe.
She also creates hills which can be great if you have a shooty caster. Most players still don’t understand Line of Sight. Make sure you do! They can LoS block all they want, but the moment you’re on a hill you ignore any models not completely on the hill more than 1 inch away from their caster. Suddenly you can see them and a caster like Grissel 2 can shoot down most casters with ease. Especially if they aren’t camping enough because they felt safe.
You all know this guy. He’s alright if your caster has a nuke which he can cast once a turn. The truth is that I find he lacks flexibility and I don’t really need him in PoD. I’d obviously take him with Grissel1 though, because a free Boundless Charge every turn is absolute money. He’s probably worthwhile with Calandra as well as you have 2 useful control nukes and you could reroll the hit if needed with her Fate Blessed ability. Truth be told I think a lot of troll players are taking Runebearers in their lists instead of better options like Shamans or Janissa. It feels like a relic of Mk2 list building.
Stone Scribe Chronicler
What a strange choice for a solo in this theme. If we suddenly got a 10 man unit of spell casting pygs he would almost immediately come into contention, but otherwise he’s a hard sell due to lack of targets. He also got hurt because you can’t power attack your own models anymore so the you can’t head butt your own caster to take advantage of feign death. I’d still maybe consider him with Grim2 in theme as you can use the trap to knock down Grim, still it’s super limited in use.
Outside of using his abilities on caster units you can stick charge of the trolls on a Krielstone unit and charge a beast for Mat7, Pow 13 goodness. That’s not bad, but without a primary target for the SSC aura’s I think he’s currently a dud in this theme.
Horgle is fine at what he does. I’d probably question why you’re taking a pyre or slag troll in the first place. He can be a hard hitting solo, but you’re playing a beast brick. Do you really need that?
The main conclusion of all of this is that it’s very easy to drop double whelps and a Runebearer into every list, but the other options give you interesting options.