Friday, April 20, 2012

Challenge Accepted! pBaldur 35 points

So today we'll be doing something a little different.  I had an article on pKaya that was almost ready to share, but I found myself reading this article over at ThrallBlacks claiming that Circle is not as good as other factions at 35 points.  Before I continue, I do want to say that I do enjoy reading the material over there and the crew seems really great.  Hell, they make me want to move to New Zealand even more now!  That said, I was a little shocked to read that and figured I'd accept the challenge of building a list and defending it, but not before stipulating that I firmly believe generalship outweighs list building.  Circle is not an army that you can just design a good list and start winning with it (as evidenced by my experience this year's team tournament at Templecon) - it requires a lot of patience, critical analysis, and practice.  So today, I'm going to work a little bit backwards here and share my 35 point pBaldur list (which I love) and why I think it's a great list even if it is only at 35 points.

Rock of Orboros Theme List, Tier 4, 35 points
pBaldur (+6)
- Megalith (10*)
- Woldguardian (8*)
- Woldwyrd (5)
Woldstalkers (5)
Woldstalkers (5)
Sentry Stone + Mannikins (3)
Shifting Stones (2)
Shifting Stones (2)
- Stone Keeper (1)

Let's break this list down piece-by-piece.  First, let's look at the benefits of taking the theme force.  First, you'll notice that we get a nice discount on heavies, thanks to Megalith, and that allows us to take another set of Shifting Stones.  Solid! (pun intended)  Next is this: for each shifting stone or sentry stone unit, one warbeast in your battlegroup gains advance deploy.  This means that all three of my warbeasts gain advance deploy, which is huge - especially for the SPD 4 Woldguardian.  This means that your forces begin far upfield and this means that you don't need to run with them.  With warbeasts this is a significant advantage because it means we can use abilities like Geomancy or their animi while still being threatening to the advances of your opponent!  This should not be underestimated! 

Cheap and annoying!
Additionally, the theme force allows the Sentry Stone and Mannikins to be deployed up to 20" from your table edge!  In a radial scenario this means you can get some first-turn charges, as they can be deployed 20" from either table edge.  This allows a normally lackluster unit to apply early pressure on the objectives and threaten infantry with their cheap sprays, as well as keep the opponent honest by being able to strip fury off of warbeasts for some lulz.  The last ability we're granted from the theme force is advance move for your Woldstalker units, again letting them get far upfield to provide early pressure against the opponent.  In scenario play, these are all hugely significant, as Baldur is the only model left on your normal deployment line by the time the first turn begins, and you can even get some early shots/spells out against your opponent on turn one - a huge advantage which you can leverage!

Well I've written before about the tactics I employ with my Shifting Stones with this list, so you should already be aware that this list has some great flexibility without needing to over-commit anything.  I simply wait for my opponent to get into the kill range or make one false move and then I spring my trap.  Even if they see it coming and don't fall for it, that's perfect!  That deterrent alone is enough to keep my enemy playing defensively and it means that I get into optimal position and sit back and barrage my foe with ranged attacks from the Woldstalkers, Woldwyrd, or Geomancy of Earth Spikes from Megalith until I'm ready to pounce.  The Woldstalkers should not be underestimated here, as their POW 12 magical shots can decimate solos and with Concentrate Fire they have the potential to even wreck heavies (if they all hit, they can deal an average of 15 damage to ARM 18!).
A great piece for denying your opponent
With the high SPD of the Woldwyrd you can use it as a nice way to push a flank since almost every opponent will want to put up some kind of upkeep spell on one of their units and the Woldwyrd will either a) punish the opponent for doing so, with Purgation on a ROF 3 ranged attack, or b) make the opponent decide not to cast that upkeep after all.  Either way, it's in your favor.  Throw in With Hunter and his animus Arcane Suppression (a cheaper, smaller ranged Lamentation), and you suddenly have a great piece which can apply pressure to almost any warcaster/warlock.  I particularly enjoy charging into targets (for free) 10" away and shooting them in the face, followed by Arcane Suppression to force the warcaster/warlock to pay double for their upkeeps during their control phase or pay double until they deal with the Woldwyrd in their face.  This 5 point warbeast is a fantastic control piece and no one understands how flexible and truly annoying he is until they've played against him.

I also want to talk about the Woldguardian in this list, as most people will believe that the Woldwarden is a better choice here.  I have to disagree a little.  While the Woldwarden is great, pBaldur doesn't really need annoying model to use Geomancy and the Woldwarden is only P+S 15 (17 with Stone Skin) and while it has 35 damage boxes (more than any Khador heavy, by the way), it's still only ARM 18 (20 with Stone Skin).  Granted, the Woldwarden does give you a potentially easy assassination with Baldur (Wild Growth followed by Rapid Growth 12" away), it required 4 fury to pull off, leaving Baldur with only 2 fury left to kill his target - and I doubt that will be enough, even if he would be P+S 16 with Stone Skin.  This is a trap in building a Baldur list and it should not be relied upon!

Megalith is more flexible than the
While it's certainly flexible, I feel like Megalith already fulfills its role (and better) and what this list needs is a rock missile to throw into the opponent and say "deal with me!"  ARM 20 (22 with Stone Skin) and 30 damage boxes is much nicer, in my opinion and he hits much harder than the Woldwarden with his P+S 17 (19 with Stone Skin) and has auto-knockdown with his ram fists.  On top of that, he can smash his target backwards and advance deeper into the lines, in case you want to finish-off an already weakened target and get to another.  The auto-knockdown is huge against a wide-range of targets, and even if you have to boost one hit roll, it means that your next 4 attacks will auto-hit at P+S 19 - and that should not be ignored!  If they have a particularly high DEF, consider having Megalith throw up his animus and get within 5" of your target, and suddenly their DEF drops by 2 to make the Woldguardian hit more easily.  While there's no obvious synergy between the Guardian and Baldur, he offers a really heavy hitter to the list and is really annoying to try and dislodge.

A REALLY heavy-hitter!
Lastly, I want to address what Baldur himself offers the rest of the list.  One spell that should be cast on turn one is definitely Solid Ground, just because it allows you to survive an initial round of barrage from any AOEs your opponent lobs at you.  While all of your warbeasts are immune to being knocked-down natively, Baldur and the Woldstalkers are fairly vulnerable to it, so Solid Ground can help a bit with that too.  Stone Skin is obviously a great buff and while it would be great on units like Bloodtrackers, I like the other benefits of the theme way too much to sacrifice them for one unit.  The other spell which Baldur will likely cast repeatedly is Rapid Growth.  I rarely find myself upkeeping this spell unless I'm already in a forest, as I usually find myself continually advancing and needing the forest to pop up in a different location each turn.  Again, I'll upkeep it if I'm already inside of a forest just to keep my opponent honest and on his toes, but mostly this spell is used to keep key models safe.  I usually find Baldur casting the Woldguardian's animus Flesh of Clay to laugh at ranged armies, knowing that they won't be able to touch me.  What really makes Baldur put everything together is his awesome feat.

At first, his feat doesn't seem terribly powerful or impressive.  His control area becomes rough terrain, enemy models lose pathfinder while inside of it, and friendly models gain cover.  There's a lot going on in there, so let's break it down.  Gaining cover for all of your models is fairly situational, but it's a little funny to watch as your opponent tries to shoot an effective DEF 14 Megalith.  It's not enough to be unhittable in most cases, but it's definitely enough to make your opponent spend focus/fury to boost to hit you - especially against the DEF 16 Woldstalkers or DEF 17 Woldwyrd. 

Woldstalkers will really benefit from the safety of Baldur's feat
What really makes this feat great, however, is the large area of rough terrain that can only be ignored by flight, incorporeal, or ghostly models.  While flight could be a problem, most models that have it are not going to be able to take on your entire army by themselves (an Angelius will do some damage with his AP attack, but after that it'll have some problems finishing off Megalith or the Guardian), and incorporeal models will not be able to rely on their usual tricks since the entire army has magical weapons!  So this feat allows you to get much closer to your opponent than you might otherwise, and in order for them to get to you they will have to either sit back and wait for the pain next turn or devote more resources to trying to get to you, and likely fail to kill anything.  Again, Megalith has 35 damage boxes at ARM 19 and heals d3 each turn and the Guardian has 30 boxes at ARM 20 - both of which can be healed by Baldur and can be 'fully-functional' with only 3 boxes remaining.  This means that Baldur keeps bringing the pressure until your opponent crumbles and you just wash over them in a tsunami wave of twigs and stone.
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