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January 3, 2013

Hordes: Mountain King List Building

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I've been trying to gather as much field experience as I can but I think it's finally time to report some results.  Here are the three lists I've spent the last few weeks trying out.


Madrak Ironhide, Thornwood Chieftain:  Madrak and I go back to a midnight Hordes release event in April 2006.  Six and a half years later I'm pleased at how well he's held up.  With only a few simple but very solid tricks, a well played Madrak list is tough to bring down.  Madrak was one of the first places my brain took me when I was hatching Mountain King lists because he has some great ways to make up for the Gargantuan's deficits.

Carnage will bring the King's MAT up to 7 - along with most of the rest of Madrak's army.  Just take care to remember the big limitation on Carnage: friendlies only get that +2 to MAT when they attack enemies within Madrak's sadly limited 10" control.  Since this can cause some order of activation aggravation when you need the MK to get that to-hit bonus against a far away target, you'll have to learn how to plan around it so you can always make sure you have that bonus when you need it most.

Madrak also brings Sure Foot to the party.  I can't think of a better target than a huge based Gargantuan for a spell that creates a 3" aura of +2 DEF and Knockdown immunity around an affected model's base.  The difference in Sure Foot coverage between a large base and a huge base comes to a rather whopping 66 square inches.  Yep, I did the math.  That's a lot more army you can safely tuck under that nice warm Sure Foot blanket.  And while the Sure Foot bonus only brings the Mountain King's DEF up to 11, that's the point at which you can expect MAT 6 opponents to actually miss once and awhile; about 1 in 5 attacks stray.  It's not much, but it could be one less charging Bane Thrall or Conquest attack to worry about.

Finally there's Stranglehold.  This offensive spell is noteworthy not for the damage it can inflict, but more for what happens when it inflicts it.  If this POW 11 spell damages its target, then that model must forfeit either its move or action during its next activation.  This can help protect your Mountain King from a charging heavy and help let you take apart your opponent's army apart on your own terms.  Unfortunately its hardly a sure thing, since its middling POW means there are no guarantees you'll actually hurt your target. Against anything with ARM 21 or higher, your odds of doing damage begin to drop below 50%.   So don't use this spell unless you're confident you can crack your target, or if you think not doing so could cost you the game.

Now that I've made my case for Madrak, let's look at my first 50 pt. army with him:

Madrak Ironhide Thornwood Chieftain +6
         Mountain King -20
         Winter Troll -5
         Pyre Troll -5
Troll Whelps -2
Fell Caller Hero -3
Kriel Warriors (Full) -6
         Standard and Piper -2
         Caber Thrower x 2 -2
Krielstone Bearer and Stone Scribes (full) -4
         Stone Scribe Elder -1
Pyg Burrowers (Full) -6

The first thing you might notice is that I haven't brought along a single method of increasing my army's SPD.  This means there are going to be a lot of things that can alpha strike my Mountain King.  To prevent this I have two fairly massive tarpit units made even harder to kill with Sure Foot screening the big guy from charges.  But that's not the only purpose of the Burrowers and Kriel Warriors.  Everyone should be aware by now of the fighting prowess of these two units which only become more powerful with access to Carnage.  Meanwhile the Pyre Troll helps buff the King's damage output combining with the Stone Scribe Elder to help the big guy swing at a certifiably nasty P+S 22.  While the Winter Troll was originally included to freeze whole swathes of infantry by putting his animus on the Mountain King, I've had bad luck with this technique in practice rarely getting the returns I want in terms of stationary enemies.  But I've kept the Winter Troll around since his spray attack has often helped nail pesky support solos.  And since Spray attacks ignore the target in melee penalty, the Winter Troll can easily help clear infantry engaging your King and help keep him from getting bogged down. Your Fell Caller can do the same with his own spray if he isn't needed for one of his other calls.  He's really in the army for Overcome since there's a lot of extra MAT to go around already, and you can't have this many models in play without easy access to Pathfinder.  At least not at the tables at my LGS.

In practice this is a very scenario driven army.  Your enemy will find it almost impossible to clear everything you have out of control zones.  If you can use your tarpits to keep your Mountain King from getting engaged by multiple heavies at once, he should eventually be able to grind them all down.  If your opponent tries to turn the tables on you by tarpitting your Mountain King with their own high DEF infantry, they have fallen into your trap.  Have your Fell Caller put War Cry on your Kriel Warriors, have Madrak cast Carnage and feat, activate your Kriel Warriors, have them use Fervor, and watch as they lawnmower their way through even DEF 16 infantry.  If you do lose your Mountain King, you always have Madrak himself to throw into the fray late game.  Even enemy heavies have to fear Madrak since your Pyre Troll and KSB Elder can get him swinging at a solid P+S 18; assuming they're still around.


Grim Angus: Like Madrak, Grim Angus is a solid Warlock with a great bag of tricks to help your Mountain King.  Let's discuss his spells.  Similar to Madrak's aforementioned Stranglehold, Grim's Lock the Target can help protect your Mountain King from enemies by preventing them from charging if they are damaged by the spell.  Unfortunately Lock the Target's POW is even lower than Stranglehold which means getting use out of it is even more corner case.  But when it works it can be immensely helpful.  Grim's next spell, Marked for Death, will drop an enemy unit's DEF by 2 helping the Mountain King hit.  It will also cause that enemy unit to lose Stealth and Incorporeal.  I must confess to having felt a significant amount of joy recently when I cast this particular spell on a unit of Blood Witches whose Blood Hag had just used Blood Shadow.  Finally there is Return Fire, which will allow it's target to make a melee or ranged attack as a response to being targeted by an enemy ranged attack; assuming it survives.  I always like my free attacks to be as big as possible, so one of the King's P+S 19 Big Meaty Fists seem perfect for return fire.  And since Gargantuans can make ranged attacks when engaged, you might have the opportunity to catch your opponent off guard with an unexpected Deathly Roar instead.  Just choose carefully since Return Fire expires after you make your one attack with it.

With that brief introduction out of the way let's look at my 50 pt. list.

Grim Angus +6
         Mountain King -20
         Troll Axer -5
         Pyre Troll -5
Krielstone Bearer and Stone Scribes (min) -3
         Stone Scribe Elder -1
Sons of Bragg -6
Trollkin Scouts -5
Cylenna Raefyll and Nyss Hunters (full) -10

Whenever an Axer and Grim Angus get together you know something is going to be moving fast.  With Bait the Line from Grim and Rush from the Axer this army has a Mountain King that can charge a whopping 12" plus an extra 2" of threat from reach.  This will make sure he gets the drop on whatever I want him to.

That was the idea anyway.  In practice my opponents are usually able to see this coming and run a bunch of infantry ahead of their force to try to block the King from charging optimum targets; essentially using the strategy my Madrak list was built to capitalize on.  But no worries.  When this happens Grim feats, the Mountain King and whatever else I have go to town on infantry that has had it's defense reduced by 3, and the heavy hitters my opponent was looking forward to charging me with next turn have their SPD reduced by 3.  Now most of the enemy infantry is gone, and the King is hopefully in a prime position to charge whatever thing I would have wanted him to anyway.  It just all happens a turn later, and less overall SPD is required to get my King there.  This means I have begun to question the benefits of bringing the Axer which I am thinking about replacing with a Bouncer.  The Bump animus from the Bouncer can go great lengths to increasing the Mountain King's survivability while the Shield Guard ability will make Grim a lot less vulnerable to enemy shooting.  This change would also free me up a point to fill out my Krielstone Bearer unit, or buy some Swamp Gobbers to give Grim some Concealment.

The rest of the list is just more stuff that goes great with Grim.  The Sons of Bragg frequently end up being the MVPs in this list.  In my first game with them they nearly finished off a unit of Iron Fang Pikemen and a Spriggan single-handedly.  Soon after they held an entire flank from a full unit of Satyxis Raiders and Blood Witches.  Their Def 13 and Arm 17 (with the Krielstone) gave them the defensive stats they needed to hold through even with Entropic Force from a Blood Hag depriving them of Tough.  As one of the few units in the army without Pathfinder built in they are frequently the target for Grim's spell Cross Country.  While Cylenna Raefyll and the Nyss Hunters are one of the most popular choices for Grim Angus lists, I haven't found them working so well for me.  Maybe I'm too aggressive or just plain careless with them, but I always end up watching them get killed by blasts, or bogged down by some cheap tarpit.  Since the Trollkin Scouts have been faring better I think I am going to try adding a second unit of them in place of the Nyss.  This will give me an extra 5 points to pick up a unit of Farrow Bone Grinders and Janissa Stonetide who has been a great help in my next list.


Hoarluk Doomshaper, Rage of Dhunia:  Another great choice for the Mountain King, Epic Doomshaper brings along a bunch of new tricks to the party.  Primal Shock is a great spell to have in a Mountain King list. Its POW is based on a warbeast's STR and the King's strength is as high as it gets for Trollbloods.  Since the spell uses a beast as it's point of origin, this list has some caster kill vectors that can be difficult to avoid.  Doomshaper also brings along Wild Agression to help compensate for the Mountain King's low MAT.  And finally his feat will grant a nice +3 boost to SPD while providing all of his battlegroup beasts access to force-free charges, tramples, and slams.  Here's another 50 pt. list:

Hoarluk Doomshaper, Rage of Dhunia +6
         Mountain King -20
         Earthborn Dire Troll -10
         Dire Troll Bomber -10
         Dire Troll Mauler -9
Krielstone Bearer and Stone Scribes (min) -3
         Stone Scribe Elder -1
Janissa Stonetide -3

There's one thing that this list has that none of the others do: An ARM 23 Mountain King.  If you're not familiar with the hows involved, it's pretty straightforward.  One of the many awesome things granted by the Earthborn Dire Troll's animus is a +2 bonus to ARM while within 2" of an obstacle or obstruction. And if there aren't any obstacles on the table Janissa Stonetide is there to create one with her Wall of Stone ability.   Add that to the other +2 from the Krielstone Bearer and you have a Mountain King that will be able to stand fast against just about anything.  And with boosted attack rolls from Wild Aggression, and a net +4 to damage rolls from the Stonescribe Elder and Rage, there's little in the game he can't tear apart.

Since Doomshaper is already the master of the Dire Trolls, you have three other models in his battlegroup that can also unleash utter devastation.  Don't overlook these guys since two of Doomshaper's best abilities, Goad and Attuned Spirit (Dire Troll), revolve around them.  So far when using this list, the Mountain King has been more like the rock that the waves of the enemy army break upon.  He's often bogged down by the numerous things that get committed to killing him, while the three Dires find themselves doing a lot of the dirty work.

While this army does run the risk of getting bogged down by infantry heavy forces, I find that using Refuge in conjunction with Amuck and trample power attacks can do some really cool stuff for you.  Even a Dire Troll Mauler, which you don't normally think of as an infantry killing tool, can march through some enemy infantry only to head back toward the core of your army with Refuge.  Then Janissa puts up a Rock Wall in front of him to protect the beast from charges right before Doomshaper swaps Amuck out for Transmute to put the Mauler's ARM at a score that's almost as ridiculous as the King's.  Of course it's difficult, even with practice, to keep the whole army performing shenanigans like these simultaneously.  It also requires them to stick close together, so mind those objectives in scenario games.  Likewise make sure that you never get so preoccupied with keeping your trolls safe that you forget that on Doomshaper's feat turn you can have your Mountain King, or any of your trolls for that matter, perform a 13" trample to put them right next to your opponent's caster.  Or if that doesn't work, there's always Primal Shock which will hit with a POW 15 when cast with a Mountain King as its point of origin.  You can cast two of those boosting to hit twice and damage once.  But just one can end a game easily if they target a caster that's already been hit with a boosted Deathly Roar from the Mountain King's Kill Shot ability.

~Well there you have my first three lists.  And since I can't include every potential combo in one article, please share your favorite Mountain King list if you have one.  Or if your favorite Mountain King warlock is one I didn't mention, I want to know who it is and why you like them so much.  Thanks!
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