Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shifting Stone Tactics

After my tournament performance on Sunday I realized how mean my pBaldur list can be.  While to a certain extent the components of the list are what make it work, part of it also has to do with the tactics that I employ regularly with the list as I use it.  One of my favorite aspects of the list are the Shifting Stones.  This unit is absolutely amazing for Circle and they're even better with Baldur.  What makes them so great?  They give my constructs a threat range that rivals most heavies in the game - especially when combined with the animi and spells present and available in the list.  Today, I will use some images from Vassal to illustrate my two favorite tactics with Shifting Stones: the Slingshot and what I call 'the Feint'.

Before we discuss the tactics there are a couple of things to understand.  First, Shifting Stones have a major weakness and that is that in order to teleport a target model (like I'll be showing), you need to have all three of them still alive.  While the Stone Keeper grants on unit stealth to keep them alive at range, one of those units won't have stealth, and in order for these two tactics to work, you'll need all three alive and present and that is not always easy to do.  We'll discuss some survival tips with pBaldur at the end of this.

The second thing is that the teleportation range is within 8" of the target model's current location.  This means that you can place the back of the model's base within 8" of where its front was previously.  Since heavy warbeasts have 50 mm bases, this means that they can have an effective threat range of a little less than 10.5" if you do it right.  While that might not seem that impressive, remember that the teleportation is also a placement, meaning that you can go behind models and squeeze into places that other models can't - even if they have a larger threat range.  Also, since this happens outside of their normal activation, that means that you can have time to get them into your control area if they wander too far or you can cycle upkeeps onto them for maximum effectiveness.  With pBaldur especially, being able to cycle Stone Skin onto multiple warbeasts can be hugely effective!

Okay so without further ado, let's look at the basic Shifting Stone formation that I use:
Typical Shifting Stone formation
This formation offers me some great flexibility in options and while the picture above is set up for 2nd player deployment, I try to maintain a similar formation as I advance up the field.  The first tactic that I employ (and my favorite), is 'the Feint' and this formation is key for this tactic.  While most players are aware of what Shifting Stones can do, 'the Feint' lulls them into a false sense of security.  What this formation allows is that you'll notice that Shifting Stone unit 1 is surrounding one of the other shifting stones from the unit with the Stone Keeper.  Since the Stone Keeper allows the unit to have a formation of 8", this means you have a much larger triangle to triangulate from.  This means that if Shifting Stone unit 1 teleports one of the stones from the other unit...
 ... Suddenly we have a giant triangle than can encompass any targets that were in front of the Stones, and your opponent previously might have believed to be out of their threat range.  Let's look at an example that happened during my 2nd game on Sunday.
 The Blackhide Wrastler stays just outside of Megalith's normal 8" charge range and I don't have anything that boosts his SPD.  In fact, I might have had Stone Skin upkept on him from last turn so that I could use his full 4 fury available this turn.  So this means that Megalith cannot really threaten the Wrastler... or can he?  Notice that I am set up for 'the Feint' and my opponent probably suspected that I'd teleport the Woldguardian instead - but he also stayed well outside of the Guardian's threat range too.  If I pull 'the Feint', however...
 ... You can now see that Megalith could be teleported within 8" to get to the Wrastler with ease, and I even could even be a little picky about where I want Megalith and his facing - something I wouldn't be able to do even if I could get within charge range!

In the game, however, I didn't actually do this.  While Megalith would've certainly done the job, he's much too valuable to Baldur for many reasons.  Instead, I decided to use the other tactic: the Slingshot.  This is more obvious and harder to set up for longer distances, but in my same formation I was actually able to have Shifting Stones group 1 teleport the Woldguardian to my right, exercising a little practical pythagorean theorum.
 This means that now the Guardian can be teleported by the other set of Shifting Stones within range of the Wrastler.  This is what I actually did in my last game and it allowed me to keep Megalith safe and I used him to instead throw Stone Skin onto the Guardian from a relatively safe distance, preserving him in case the Guardian died.

You have lots of tools for preventing your opponent
from killing off your stones.
What about survivability?  Like I said earlier, the stones need to all be alive in order to teleport and your opponent will likely know what they are capable of.  Fortunately, I had access to some great survival options.  First, along the left flank I had a Sentry Stone and Mannikins which provided a cheap and annoying buffer for any melee attacks along that side.  They don't need to live for long, so I didn't get too attached to them.  They are quite the annoying unit - especially against Hordes where the Sentry Stone can gobble fury from warbeasts.  I also had Megalith using his animus, Undergrowth, which created a 5" aura of rough terrain.  If you're worried about units with pathfinder, then that's where Baldur's feat can become useful.  Also, Baldur has access to a portable 4" AOE forest which can provide both rough terrain and block LOS as needed.  Usually you'll only need to block LOS to the stones without stealth, and often only from one attack vector, so this will be enough.  In a pinch, however, you can move Megalith or the Guardian in the way as well, limiting the amount of firepower that can be leveraged against them.  At ARM 18 and 5 boxes, you really only have to worry about warjacks or warbeasts, but you need to keep those stones alive long enough to deliver your payload.

Lastly, here's a quiz question for you in light of the above tactics.  What is the furthest distance from your board edge that you can project the Lord of the Feast on your first turn, if you assume that he hits a target with his raven?
a) 34"
b) 35"
c) 39"
c) 41"
d) 43"

We will look at the answer to the question tomorrow!
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