Monday, March 05, 2012

List Building: pDoomshaper 35 points

Anyone who's been following my blog for some length of time knows that I'm in the process of assembling a Trollbloods army.  What precipitated this desire was a foray into other factions about a year ago, with myself wondering what army I wanted to start for a "slow-grow" league starting up at my LGS at the time.  I eventually settled on Dr. Arkadius but one of the options I threw around was building a pDoomshaper theme list.  General wisdom states that the Trollblood theme lists are not very good, as they tend to be too limiting and leave out units that offer great synergy for a faction which is known for such things.  However, I took a long look at the pDoomshaper theme list and flipped through the faction book when a particular unit caught my eye: Runeshapers.  I've come back to this army over and over again and I've finally decided to take the plunge, but why do I like the theme list so much?  What list do I plan on running myself?

Interestingly, what caught my attention was two-fold: first, the Runeshapers (like I said already), but secondly that most conventional theory about Trolls said that pDoomshaper was their worst warlock.  Whenever someone makes an assumption like this, without acknowledging positive match-ups, I instantly become intrigued.  Is pDoomshaper terrible?  Why would they think that?  What really caught my attention more was that the theme list gave a discount on Runeshapers, making them only 3 points.  So what do I think is so great about this theme list?  Well, to be honest, it has less to do with Doomshaper himself and more to do with those Runeshapers.

Now normally Runeshapers are 4 points for a unit of 3 guys, which seems pretty expensive considering 4 points can get 6 Kriel Warriors, but these aren't your normal Trollkin models.  Aside from the models probably having the greatest $/point ratio, they can pack quite the whallop and take hits like no one else.  It's probably best to think of these guys as artillery pieces instead of normal units - yes, that's right.  Each Runeshaper is a fantastic Magic Ability [7] - quite impressive for any spell user, let alone infantry - and they come with two spells: Rock Hammer and Tremor.  The latter is the same as the (* attack) on the Cygnar Ironclad and, paired with their Magic Ability [7], that means they'll have a good chance at knocking down anything DEF 14 or less in a 2" radius - very effective for Trolls to beat down models or get into better positions.  Rock Hammer is also a solid spell (heh), packing a POW 14 AOE 3 that also sports a critical knockdown effect!  This means that your Runeshapers can inflict damage on clumps of infantry or even warjacks/warbeasts in a pinch.  It's truly an awesome offensive spell!

What else do Runeshapers have?  Well they're tough like any other Trollkin model but they are also rocking 5 damage boxes each!  Now, since they're ARM 15, they're not exactly going to survive hits from weapon masters or warjacks/warbeasts, but they can certainly hold their own against most other infantry models out there - and they're still tough!  Furthermore, they're Steady, meaning that even if they pass their tough roll, they don't get knocked down and still engage enemy models!  This is important for many reasons and can be quite useful even if they're only DEF 12.  Lastly, they sport Pathfinder which is a great ability that you don't really appreciate until you don't have it.  The best part is that pDoomshaper's theme list allows these guys for only 3 points, which is a total steal in my opinion.  While the cheap Runeshapers are great, why do most people think that Doomshaper is so bad, and how can we make him most effective?

The first thing we should notice about pDoomy is that he's clearly an anti-Hordes warlock and his abilities seem to work best while fighting against other warlocks.  That said, he can still be effective against warcasters, he just has to approach it differently.  First, his feat is really solid: for each focus or fury point a model spends in his control area, the model suffers D6 points of damage.  This is a very simple and effective feat, but again you can see how a Hordes warlock would be doubly affected by it (both forcing warbeasts and spending fury on herself) - especially against Legion or other factions which can mitigate their fury usage.  Against Warmachine warcasters this is far less useful, but some warjacks which can get bonus focus other ways (Avatar of Menoth, Power Booster, Accumulators, etc.) will find themselves taking more damage than they'd like or just not spend it.  Realistically, this feat is less about dealing damage and more about getting your opponent to think carefully about their choices and potentially delay a strong assault.

What else does pDoomy bring to the fight?  His spell list is pretty good, albeit again anti-Hordes.  He rocks the ever-useful Purification - a spell that can put a huge dent into your opponent's plans by straining their resources or limiting their effectiveness (especially if cast before your feat!).  In case you're worried about some offensive magic he also has Banishing Ward, but Purification will probably be more useful more often.  Fortune is a great offensive buff to mitigate poor dice rolling - but note its effectiveness drops off significantly if you need to roll a 9+ to hit.  Also note that Fortune does not benefit the Tremor spell from the Runeshapers!  Lastly we have Rampager and Stranglehold, the former being great against Hordes but useless against Warmachine and the latter being a waste of fury for a warlock A) without arc nodes and B) will want to cast other spells more.
I know this is Epic Doomshaper but really, who cares?

Lastly, Doomy rocks some neat abilities: Goad lets him push his Warbeasts further into the opponents lines and is one of the main appeals of Doomshapers epic version, Great Power will let him upkeep Fortune or Banishing Ward for free to save some fury for other spells, and his Scroll is situationally useful against Hordes players and in a pinch can let you run a warbeast a little hotter - even if it survives and frenzies.  Unfortunately, pDoomshaper is probably one of, if not the squishiest warcaster/warlock in the game.  While he does sport 16 damage boxes (the lowest is 14, I think), he's only DEF 13 ARM 15!  While he is tough, that's hardly a consolation for someone who can be hit by MAT 6 on average dice rolls.  Yikes!  He needs some solid protection and we need to make sure that he gets it - no matter what list he's in!

So let's take a look at the list that I want to run with him and see how it plays to some of the strengths that we've already established:
Runes of War (Tier 4) 35 points
Hoarluk Doomshaper (+7)
- Troll Bouncer (5)
- Earthborn Dire Troll (10)
- Mulg the Ancient (12)
Krielstone Bearer (min, 3)
Trollkin Runeshapers (3*)
Trollkin Runeshapers (3*)
Trollkin Runeshapers (3*)
Janissa Stonetide (3)

At first, this list might seem relatively unimpressive, but in this case, the theme list benefits are very important to the effectiveness of the list.  Being able to start with a 4 fury on the KSB is pretty great, even if it's just a minimum-sized unit.  This saves Doomshaper lots of fury on his first turn so that he can get out his upkeeps quickly.  I've considered trying to shave points elsewhere to try to get the unit bigger, but I think this is a list that will need lots of playtesting to get it right.  

Also, having played with eBaldur enough, I can tell you that Rock Wall is a vastly underrated defensive spell, and being able to place a linear obstacle 20" from your deployment zone is huge for it's defensive benefits alone, but also being able to throw one out where you need it with Janissa is even better.  It also synergizes really well with the EBDT and his animus - granting an ARM bonus at will.  This means that he can throw his animus on Mulg, and if Mulg is also in range of the KSB unit, he will be at ARM 23!  That's pretty gross for a Troll who can regenerate health quickly.  The EBDT also is a great warbeast against warjacks, since most warjacks pack weapons with high POWs and his Adaptation rule means that he can often hit with a POW 17+.  Also note that if you are within melee range of Mulg, you can use Adaptation to take the POW of Mulg's club!
To be honest, I'm not terribly sold on Mulg at 35 points but he's such an awesome model that this is going to be my starting point for getting my Trolls put together.  I don't think that I need to bring up how awesome Mulg is, especially with Doomshaper.  His animus naturally has great synergy with Purification and can prevent shenanigans like Spiny Growth spam.  Even though he's expensive, he'll be well worth it in this list when he can take a charge from most warjacks/warbeasts and survive, only to wreck them in return.  Again, I think playtesting will ultimately determine whether Mulg is worth it at 35 points, but I want to use the model, dammit!

The Bouncer is absolutely necessary for a warlock as squishy as Doomshaper.  Not only does the Bouncer provide Shield Guard for keeping Doomshaper save from shooting/magic, but his animus can completely blunt most assassination attempts against Doomy if you find yourself in a bad situation.  The Bouncer also provides a great transfer target since you'll want to save the EBDT and Mulg for beating face.
The Bouncer makes a fantastic bodyguard!

Ultimately, I really like the list and I think that there is a lot of synergy to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.  Janissa offers more than just a Rock Wall and her ever-popular Tectonic Shift, but giving the Runshapers Force Lock means that not only do we not have to worry about incorporeal models passing through our models, but this also protects against models that can take ghostly or use acrobatics to get out of sticky situations.  The list is designed to take the hits well (thanks to the KSB, linear obstacles, and EBDT) and then counter-punch the opponent in the groin.  In theory, it's a fantastic denial/attrition list and that's my favorite playstyle!  This is also a list that I want to have fully-painted before I actually throw it on the table because I think that a Mulg with a mountain of obsidian on his back will look quite striking - regardless of how the list performs.
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