04 December 2010

Here comes the thunder: Horthol, Long Rider Hero - A tactical treatise

By Lord Xalys

Hello there, dear community,

Since it has been a while for me writing a full tactica (starting the Retribution discussions at the faction's inception was my last endeavour), I figured I'd pick a Trollblood model I love on all fronts; looks, stats and fluff (the quote below warms my heart every time I read it): Horthol, Long Rider Hero. Of course I aim to have this thread taken up in the 'For Kith and Kriel'-sticky, so I'd better make this read worthwile for you all...

Horthol, Long Rider Hero"That one is all heart. If I put him at the front of battle, victory is certain, If I ask him to watch my faniliy, I sleep assured of their safety" -Madrak Ironhide

Horthol actually has a number of stats that are above average, which combine to make him one of the most potent melee solos in the Trollbloods lineup. What does a melee solo need? Primarily: high MAT to ensure the hit, high STR/P+S to do damage and good SPD to get there where it needs to be and be a threat. Secondarily: survivability. To be more than a one-hit wonder, a melee solo needs either high DEF to avoid getting hit, or high ARM and damage boxes to take it on the chin and live to tell the tale.

As a cavalry model, Horthol, when mounted, ranks among the fastest models we have. This means he can be part of an alpha strike or swift counterstrike if so desired. When dismounted, the Long Rider Hero drops to standard Trollblood SPD. His Reach (see Skills & Abilities) extends Horthol's threat range in both instances.

When Horthol gets in the thick of it, his high MAT kicks in. Unbuffed, he hits DEF15 on average during a normal attack, and DEF17 on a charge thanks to Cavalry Charge. Now factor in things like Carnage and War Cry, and Horthol becomes a veritable AGM-65, being able to have his hammer connect with the most nimble of foes. Horthol's high MAT also makes his Impact Attacks more likely to hit, which is only compounded by Line Breaker (see Skills & Abilities). The hooves of Horthol's buffalo are often the last thing a hapless infantryman sees...

Horthol's STR is the highest of any solo we have, on par with our light warbeasts (barring the Slag Troll). This translates to very potent attacks, making the Long Rider Hero an actual substitute for a light warbeast in terms of hitting power and point cost. His abnormal high STR might have something to do with the Earthborn Dire Troll's Adaptation, as the POW of Horthol's hammer would have been a little bit too high and too easily obtained for comfort. Just a thought, really.

So, Horthol checks all the boxes of the primary characteristics of a good melee solo. How about his survivability then? Well, his DEF won't save him, as it is the Trollblood bog standard. Luckily, our Long Rider Hero doesn't disappoint in the area of ARM and damage boxes. Mounted, his armour equates that of a Dire Troll or Axer (his defence too, for that matter). Behind this stat there are ten solid damage boxes. If the enemy manages to skewer the buffalo, Horthol's ARM drops to the Champion standard, backed up by another eight hitpoints. All of this combined makes Horthol quite a tough nut to crack.

At the cost of most light warbeasts and several minimum units, Horthol doesn't come cheap. These points do buy you a lot of power and tactic, though. Read on!

Weapons & Attacks
Horthol's weapon of choice is the Long Hammer. This implement of war has the same P+S as Rathrok, the dread axe of Horthol's friend Madrak. Like said axe, the Long Hammer also has Reach. This ensures the Long Rider Hero can bring the pain from 12" away on the charge, unbuffed. It also lets him tie up a good deal of enemies quite well, who will be loath to take a lethal free strike at an effective MAT10.

As is common with heroes, Horthol's hammer has a special ability: Critical Stagger. On a critical hit, the Long Hammer comes down with such force that the enemy is buffeted like a turtle dove in a hurricane. The model hit loses its initial attacks and it cannot make special attacks for one round. The tactical implications of this can be subtle, a word that seems ill-applied to mighty Horthol at first glance.

Unless given a free attack from a spell, feat or ability (like Haley's Blitz or Madrak2's Desperate Hour), anything without access to focus or fury is essentially unable to attack on its turn. Those that can force or buy attacks lose a focus or fury point that could have been spent elsewhere. Not having special attacks available (this includes power attacks like headbutts, slams and throws!) can also severely confound the enemy. The examples are myriad, but think about taking away Thresher, the Devastator's Rain of Death or even the free power attack granted by Chain Attack: Grab and Smash.

Of course, Critical Stagger remains exactly that: a critical. It is therefore something you can't base your game plan on. Still, Horthol's high MAT, especially when charging, increases the odds of getting this weapon ability to work. Do remember that when autohitting, thanks to e.g. knockdown, you don't roll to hit and thus don't have a shot at the critical either. This is not the end of the world, but keep it in mind with things like Bull Rush (see Skills & Abilities) and the buffalo's Critical Knockdown.

Speaking of the latter, the Mount is of course also another attack for Horthol. Its power is only a point shy of the P+S of the Long Hammer, which makes for devastating Impact Attacks. Getting the buffalo to hit on Impact Attacks is made easier by Line Breaker, giving Horthol good chances to clear his charge lane or to impact his charge target. On a critical hit (again, factor in Horthol's high base MAT and Line Breaker) the target of the Mount attack is also knocked down. This can make the Long Rider Hero a set-up piece as well, helping other models in your army hit the target. Again, being a dice-dependent ability means it won't come up every time, but it will almost always be to your advantage if it does occur.

Skills  AbilitiesHorthol's innate abilities mesh with his attacks to produce a one-Troll battering ram. Like all Trolls, he is Tough, which means he might live to fight another turn. Remember that you only get your Tough roll when the footslogging Horthol dies, not when he gets kicked off his mount. The Long Rider Hero is also Fearless, so he can charge Abominations or Terror-inducing models unfazed.

With Bull Rush, Horthol shows that he can ride with the best of the Long Riders. The Long Rider Hero can make a slam power attack for free, which deals the Mount's current POW worth of damage to both the target and any unlucky sod that end up as collateral. Even unbuffed, this can mean several dead enemy models. After resolving the slam, Horthol can then make one normal melee attack with the Long Hammer (made easier due to Follow Up), possibly damaging, staggering or killing another opponent. Being a slam instead of a charge, Bull Rush does prevent getting the +2 to hit from Cavalry Charge, but it's a trade off you might be willing to make.

Bull Rush states that when you move less than the required 3" to get off the slam, the target isn't slammed but it still suffers the damage. This standard slam rule works wonders for Horthol (and for standard Long Riders as well), as this can give him a second attack even when in melee. After all, you can still initiate a slam while engaged. You won't slam the target, but you can still deal the Mount's damage and get the free Long Hammer attack.

As Bull Rush isn't an order on Horthol (other than on the standard Long Riders), negating orders won't stop him coming for you this way. It can be stopped by things that negate special attacks (or just power attacks) though, like the Hex Bolt of the Legion's Hex Hunters. The same is true for Long Riders, of course.

Horthol is a Dragoon, which essentially means he's a cavalry model with all the included rules, but also has a dismounted form. As already stated in Stats, this increases his longevity by an order of magnitude. Rember that when Horthol is blasted of his buffalo, you can position the dismounted model anywhere within the footprint of the mounted model's large base. While this isn't as good as with small-based Dragoon dismounts, it can still place Horthol out of reach of further enemy attacks. When dismounted, Horthol loses Bull Rush and Follow Up (see below). While not explicitly stated, he loses Line Breaker, as well as only a mounted model can make Impact Attacks.

Follow Up is what ties Bull Rush and the impact of the Long Hammer together. Whenever Horthol slams an enemy model, he can directly move towards it after the slam is resolved. While this does mean that a single trooper in the way can stop him getting further, it can potentially add up to 6" to his movement. With Bull Rush's free melee attack after the slam, Horthol can either add insult to injury and hammer the grounded slam target, or look for something else to whack along the line.

Last on Horthol's impressive list of abilities is Line Breaker. When making Impact Attacks, the Long Rider Hero gains an additional die on those attack rolls. Coupled with his high MAT, the road to his actual target could be paved with detritus in Horthol's wake. It can also give a heightened chance on a Critical Knockdown when the Impact Attack is applied to his charge target.

Are we done here? Almost! Horthol's prowess has paid off for his brother riders as well, as he grants both Follow Up and Line Breaker as Elite Cadre bonuses to friendly Long Rider models. These will stay in effect even when Horthol dies. With it, the tactical application of Long Riders deepens greatly. When you have the points for him, Horthol is arguably too good not to take along when you're bringing Long Riders anyway.

Synergy & Sample Tactics:


Grim Angus
is known for his accuracy buffs. While Horthol is at the far end of the hitting spectrum already, that doesn't mean he will scoff at an extra DEF debuff or two. Critical Knockdown and Critical Stagger will come up a lot more during Spread The Net and/or Marked For Death. Cross Country, while arguably better on a full unit of Long Riders, still enables Horthol to plow through those woods and bring the hurt. Especially nice against Circle and their many tree-making capabilities. While situational, Return Fire can be interesting on Horthol when going up against models with Gunfighter. This could mean that 1/3 of the Black 13th gets pulped after taking a shot in melee.

Grissel Bloodsong's Fell Calls can work like a charm on Horthol. Even though you should always look to sing to a unit first, having the Long Rider Hero make an extra attack or reposition after his activation could be very advantageous. Of course, Fell Chorus affects him along the rest of the army. Out of Grissel's three spells, Calamity is the most useful for Horthol. It increases both his effective MAT, as well as the POW of his Mount and the P+S of the Long Hammer. Hitting better and with more force is always a good thing! Best of all, the spell goes on the target model/unit, so Horthol won't be the only one benefitting from it. Combine this with Heroic Ballad and unleash the trolls of war...

Hoarluk Doomshaper, Shaman of the Gnarls. The old troll protects his forces (or at least mitigates damage) with his feat and spells. Being all about control and denying the enemy, Hoarluk could appreciate Horthol as an independent damage dealer, who can be shielded against enemy magic with Banishing Ward (and to a lesser degree, Purification) or gets an even higher hitting succes ratio due to Fortune.

Hoarluk Doomshaper, Rage of Dhunia, thrives on mayhem and destruction with his battlegroup. As such, he doesn't do much for Horthol. Still, Refuge can be a very good instrument to reposition him after a strike. Horthol also doesn't need to stay in Doomshaper's CTRL, equating to another attack vector that can't be easily ignored.

Captain Gunnbjorn does the least for Horthol out of all our warlocks, being the ranged buffer that he is. Rock Wall can be used as a (very decent) buff to Horthol's DEF and a possible deterrent for enemy melee attacks. Combined with Fortification, the Long Rider Hero can be kept relatively safe for a while. Horthol himself does bring something that Gunnbjorn needs: melee power. Rock Wall can be placed behind an enemy model, after which Horthol can perform a superslam. This not only does heaps of damage, but also sets the target up to be finished by something else (source: bakaryu). Use Horthol as a complement to the ranged barrage in a combined arms list.

Madrak Ironhide, Thornwood Chieftain, loves Horthol. Especially when fielded with his brother Long Riders, Horthol can be made harder to hit and immune to knockdown with Sure Foot, making them a good wall of trollflesh. Carnage ups the accuracy of Horthol even more. Madrak's feat then, Crusher, is made for hard hitting models with Reach such as our Long Rider Hero, who can lay waste to entire units as long as those models stay in Madrak's CTRL. Great synergy!

Madrak Ironhide, World Ender, buffs the destructive potential of the Trollbloods to the max. Desperate Hour grants a model with Reach like Horthol the possibility to clear out a swathe of enemies. Coupled with Blood Fury and maybe another damage buff, Horthol could potentially take out multiple MoW Shocktroopers in Shield Wall. Remember that the feat can be used either before or after Horthol's activation, which ever suits the situation best (his high SPD is a boon here as well). Warpath then can be fairly easily triggered by Horthol's accuracy and hitting power. Just keep him more than 1" away from Madrak...

Borka Kegslayer! Another very nice match with Horthol. Iron Flesh can buff him to Gun Mage DEF, while Wind Wall can prevent non-magical shooting entirely. Mosh Pit then grants Horthol standard Knockdown on all his melee attacks (including the Mount), possibly knocking down multiple enemies. And then there is Barroom Blitz, Borka's great feat. While the Bull Rush slam won't get the additional damage die (Horthol isn't a true warbeast), both the slam and the charge get +2" movement. This means that Horthol could theoretically hit something 20" away from him (Barroom Blitz Bull Rush + 6" Follow Up + Reach).

Calandra Truthsayer, Oracle of the Glimmerwood. Our frailest warlock and the closest you can come to playing with fixed dice, as Sevwall remarked. If Horthol wasn't accurate and powerful enough by himself, Calandra's Good Omens and Fate Blessed almost ensure good hits and loads of damage. Apart from this, which for me is already reason enough to take Horthol with the gypsy, Calandra can make Horthol quite hard to hit with Bullet Dodger and/or Star Crossed. As a power piece, Horthol complements the Truthsayer well.


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