Balancing Act 2

I’m back. Sorry for the complete radio silence for the last month, but I have been feeling pretty low about Trolls since the new Steamroller pack released and I refuse to whine at you on a blog. We are all about positivity and that means looking for solutions and working with what we have rather than wish listing. Today we’re going to look at one of the aspects of list building that defines a lot of Troll lists: Balanced Lists.

With the arrival of Steamroller 2017, Privateer Press stated one of their desired goals was to encourage more balanced lists. The way they would achieve this goal was by bringing in different types of zones that could be scored by different model types. Potentially this was in response to several Warmachine factions that were spamming jacks and maybe even Oracles of Annihilation.

In the long term this is probably an excellent move, but in the short term it means Troll players need a bit of a rethink. Mk3 Troll lists have been anything, but balanced. Lets take a look at why.

Power of Dhunia

Many would rightfully argue that this is our strongest theme. Often Troll players will bring a full beast brick with a stone and free solos. Some shooty lists also include a Dhunian Knot, but regardless there is not really anything that can score a troop zone before the late game. The theme does allow access to Runeshapers who’s strengths are often overlooked.

Let’s imagine a world where Power of Dhunia allowed us to take Fennblades. At first many of us would jump at the idea. Fennblades are excellent, right? What that beast brick really wants is a tarpit full of Fenns. Think about it more though. If you bring along a unit of Fennblades you should also bring along a Fell Caller Hero. You want that increased Mat and an out for Pathfinder. Suddenly you’re spending 25 points on this infantry unit and you’re paying five points for a support model that only really helps one unit.

It’s this reliance on support that makes most units in Trolls unsuitable to support our beast bricks. This is also why Runeshapers were so good in Mk2. Runeshapers come with native pathfinder and a magical ability of 7 meaning they don’t need any support. They are self sufficient and that is something sorely lacking from many Troll Units.

If they are so amazing, why aren’t they seeing much play? I haven’t been playing them in Doomy3, because I worry they will get picked off on my feat turn. I’ll make my battlegroup functionally immune for a turn and my opponent will still get value by killing my Runeshapers. For other casters though, maybe this is one answer.

Horgle2 (Power of Dhunia)
– Runebearer
– Mountain King
– Blitzer
– Earthborn
– Axer
Min Krielstone + UA
Runeshapers
Runeshapers
Janissa
Whelps

What I like about the list is that the Runeshapers enhance the damage output. They will get boosted attack and damage rolls on the feat turn against an on fire opponent and boosted Pow 14 with Crit Knockdown seem pretty good.

The theme also covers many of Horgle’s weaknesses. Starting with upkeeps out will greatly help him early game. I also quite like the idea of the Earthborn finding a nice piece of terrain and being Arm 24. That seems pretty hard to shift. You might be thinking the Blitzer is a strange choice, but it just has so many attacks that on feat turn it will, on average, one round a Conquest!

Band of Heroes

We have a similar and related issue with Band of Heroes, but it might not seem the case at first glance. You want to build a standard BoH theme. You take Fennblades, because you want bodies and they act an excellent vanguard screen. You also want free points as you don’t want to be playing 10-20 points down against your opponent. You are aware of the points issue so you take two min units of Warders and two min units of Champions. You now have 60 points and two free solos as the core of your list. You add a krielstone and you’re suddenly sitting at 69 points. This leaves you 6 points plus the caster’s warbeast points, let’s assume 28, which seems fairly average.

The issue is now that, just like our units. Most of our beasts need support to make them work. For example with this list we probably want a boostable gun as there are no guns in the list outside of the Fell Caller and potentially the Warlock. If you don’t bring some guns then your opponent will spend down to zero every turn and you’ll be facing an uphill struggle. So you bring a Bomber. That leaves you fifteen points which you essentially have to spend on a Mauler, otherwise you list caps out at Pow 16 on the Bomber’s fists and you’re very probably struggle in certain matchups.

The worst part is that the Mauler will basically have to sit back most of the game. He wants the Bomber to go in first with rage and so you’re paying 15 points for a buff bot, that won’t provide any value for quite a few turns. Worst still, neither models has access to pathfinder so there is a good chance they might not be able to get there when you do need them. In a perfect world you’d include an Axer as well, but at that point you’re dropping a unit of warders or Champions and a free solo. You’ll also be playing 10 points down in many matchups.

This is why, so often we look at the Mountain king. He brings an excellent boostable gun, that contributes all the way through the game. He hits hard enough to kill anything in the game and lastly he has native pathfinder. He is the very definition of self sufficient. The issue however is that as we discussed. Most casters don’t have the 36 points left over after you’ve paid for the units and support. Part of this is an issue caused by the theme not counting Fennblades or the Krielstone.

Free Points The issue however is that as we discussed. Most casters don’t have the 36 points left over after you’ve paid for the units and support. Part of this is an issue caused by the theme not counting Fennblades or the Krielstone.

Basically this brings me to a conclusion that Troll themes are pretty incompatible with SR2017 in their current form. The Northkin theme looks much better, but basically the issues with our current ones are:

Linear themes: One theme is all the beasts, one theme is all the Melee units with no shooting units and the third theme is all the shooty units and beasts. It’s very difficult to play a balanced combined arms list when our themes are so linear. The new Northkin theme contains melee and ranged units as well as beasts with native pathfinder meaning they need less support.

Free Points: A recent comment on the CID forum from Will Pagani responded to the question:

Question: Should they all line up approximately around the 15-19 free point range?
Will’s Answer : As a general rule, yes, but as always exceptions can and do exist

How many times do you ever get close to 15 free points in one of your Troll lists?
In Power of Dhunia Lists I get 12 from the usual 3 free solos.
You could in theory get to 15 with Band of Heroes if you included sixty points worth of eligible models, but that’s not something I’ve seen very often. Fennblades are too tempting.

Troll players used to talk about a stone tax, but I think we got it wrong. The real tax comes from themes. You want to take a beast brick and the stone is auto-include so not only pay for the stone, but that’s also points you can’t spend on beasts. I promised you at the start of this that I wouldn’t wish list, but just imagine if the stone counted towards free points in Power of Dhunia. It would help a lot. Hell if the latest Mercs theme is anything to go by maybe we’re heading to a world where both units and Beasts count towards free points in many lists. I’d certainly be more likely to take Runeshapers if they were counting towards free solos.

Conclusion

Overall I feel that SR2017 and a Meta infested by Banes has hurt us quite a lot. I’m not entirely convinced that all of these problems go away when the CID goes live. These changes certainly help, but it does feel like we’re being asked to build lists in ways that are counter intuitive to the ways Trolls work. It’s especially frustrating to be a faction that relies on support so heavily and feel like we get less free support as part of that. Hell give us a theme with a free stone 😉

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