13 July 2012

Fail to the King? Why Mountain King's Sub-Par Stats Aren't The End of the World

A lot of electronic ink has spilled detailing how disappointed the Trollbood community is with Mountain King  Given its fantastic model, the folks on the Privateer Press forums (and elsewere) have gone to great lengths trying to figure out a way to make playing the Mountain King viable in a tournament environment.  A greater effort has gone into some electronic rending of the cloth: “Mountain King doesn’t compare to Woldwrath!”, “Mountain King is a sad parody of Stormwall!”, “Comparing Mountain King to Galleon is akin to comparing Kobe beef to rotten Spam!”, etc.

While I don’t disagree with any of the above comparisons, Mountain King’s awfulness is a blessing in disguise.   Trollblood players won’t be tempted to try to make our Gargantuan work.  I say this because Gargantuans/ Colossals are a trap: they present an easy target to deal with and given their high point cost, a limited set of uses/combinations on the table.  If huge based beasts/warjacks become the norm in the meta, Trollbloods have an excellent set of tools to deal with them.

Some caveats: This isn’t a theory-based article: it’s based upon play experience against Colossals (e.g. - several weeks’ worth of play totaling about 12 games) run by several competent opponents.  My intent is not to scream “DOOOMMM!!!” but to present some rational reasons why I don’t believe huge based, 18+ point models are going to become the norm in large competitive events .  Most importantly: I don’t think Mountain King is completely hopeless.  A good player can put together some interesting combinations with him.  That said, as I’ll detail here, they’re very predictable combinations with hard counters.  Even so, I should note that I’m still going to purchase a Mountain King.  Because, hey, not every game I play is going to be in a tournament and there’s something fun about having a 20 PC model stomping everything in its path.

I’m in ur basket, killing ur eggs

This guy is all about 2x Stormclads

                Colossals and Gargantuans present a significant PC investment for any list – typically 1/3 of your PC total for a 50 PC game.  Given their rules regarding LOS (can’t be given stealth/incoporeal, can be seen through forests and cloud effects), they’re difficult to hide.  Given the current ruling on Shield Guard, they become even harder to protect from ranged attacks (e.g. – Gorman DiWulf’s Black Oil grenade, Pistol Wraiths, etc).   Given most of these models’ ARM and wound values, this is probably necessary for balance reasons (I certainly wouldn’t want to face a Stealth’ed Woldwrath).  However, it leaves Colossals/Gargantuans open to a hard counter: any affect that causes a model to sacrifice half its activation outside of knockdown/stationary.

                Some common effects that can hard counter Colossals/Gargantuans include: the spell Stranglehold, the Blind weapon ability, Shadow Bind, Death Chill, Vice Lock, Stagger (although the Colossals/Gargantuans can still buy attacks) etc.  Given their status as warbeasts/warjacks, they are also vulnerable to effects that stop forcing/focus allocation (outside of disruption), such as Void Lock, Voodoo Doll, Blight Field, Technological Interference, etc.  Connecting with an attack with any one of these abilities effectively shuts down 1/3 of the opponent’s army.  What’s more: many players will want to supplement their investment with a myriad of support pieces.  For instance, hitting a Judicator with Stranglehold shuts down not only the Judicator, but limits the effectiveness of the Choir, Vassal of Menoth, Vassal Mechanink, etc. that the player brought as support pieces.

One is the loneliest number….

                Aside from being vulnerable effects that stymy their offensive output, being a single model severely limits Colossals’/Gargantuans’ effectiveness.   Colossals/Gargantuans are frequently compared to heavy warbeasts/warjacks, given that they serve similar roles in an army.  Let’s take Woldwrath for instance.  For 20 PC, you could purchase Woldwrath or purchase a Woldwarden and Megalith.  Which is better? 

In absolutely terms, there probably isn’t a correct answer to that question.  However, I’d make the argument that the ability to hold multiple portions of the board, the difficulty in shutting down multiple models at the same time, the ability to block LOS to the two heavy warbeasts, their respective volume of attacks, total number of wounds, variety of animi, their ability to be affected by place effects, and their higher combined Fury value makes a strong case for having two heavies.

                In terms of damage output, Woldwrath wins against higher DEF targets (i.e. – boosting a hit then buying multiple additional attacks against a KD target).  However, against low DEF targets, this becomes a bit of wash.  This becomes more noticeable when a warcaster has battlegroup or control area wide affects.  Take Kaya1 for example.  The bonus from Pack Hunters (ed: you know, hypothetically, if Pack Hunters affected non-living beasts) benefits the two heavies more than Woldwrath (due to their higher volume of attacks) as does the benefit of Soothing Song.  Kaya1’s feat gets more mileage from having two beasts over one (6 fury vs 5). 

                In fact, the only place Colossals/Gargantuans really shine relative to multiple heavies is with warcasters/warlocks singleton buffs (e.g. – a spell/ability that buffs a single model).  Which brings me to my final point….

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….

Oh, its Woldwrath and Baldur2 again.  I wonder what your game plan is?

                In a competitive environment, I can see Colossals/Gargantuans shining with a relatively small number of warcasters/warlocks.  For example, Haley2 ‘s warjack bond grants Stormwall a movement bonus as well the ability to be allocated an extra focus.  Temporal Acceleration gives Stormwall an addition movement buff and an additional attack.  Other than an arc node, Haley2 doesn't really need additional warjacks given Stormwall's melee and ranged attack potential.  What’s not to love?

                Namely, the predictability of the combination.  One of the reasons I love Warmachine/Hordes is how constantly surprised I am at the combinations people put together, even using lists I’ve seen many times before.  With 18+ PC models added to the mix, there are only so many permutations of actions an army can take.  Coupled with their inability to move/be placed outside of their activation, I don’t expect to be surprised by them often.

                Going back to the Haley2/Stormwall example: I’ve been caught by a bonded Stormclad under Haley 2 several times, namely due to TK tricks and clever application of Temporal Acceleration and the Stormclad’s potency at range and in melee.  With the Stormwall, I know exactly how far away from Stormwall I need to stay to prevent getting charged.  While its potent at range, if I can deny Stormwall an easy shot or jam its melee options, I can control a good heft of my opponent’s offensive ability.  Predictability is bad; doubly so in a competitive setting.


                In summary, don’t despair because Mountain King isn’t the bee’s knees.  Sure, it’s disappointing.  That said, I don’t think Trollbloods are going to suffer in tournament performance as a result.  While it’s disappointing you won’t see Mountain King’s gorgeous model on many tournament tables, I don’t he’ll be the only Gargantuan/Colossal sitting on the bench.  If I'm wrong about that assumption, Trollbloods have several fantastic ways of dealing with huge based models; namely: Madrak2, Mulg, two warlocks with Stranglehold, access to Wrong Eye (for Gargantuans), and access to Boomhowler (Rage Howler's MAT penalty REALLY hurts Colossals/Gargantuans).


  1. Good predictive commentary.
    I look forward to watching the meta at our venue shift, and to see the tourney scene a year from now!

  2. You might want to add a caveat to the pKaya example: Pack Hunters only works on LIVING warbeasts. While I agree 100% with your point, perhaps another example would be more appropriate. The example I give is eNemo with his feat - he'd rather have two warjacks to get them 6 focus points total, instead of 3 focus points given to the Stormwall.

  3. Yeah, serves me right for working from memory than from cards. I actually had Nemo2 in there, but decided to change it to keep the Megalith story going. Serves me right to try to help the gorilla Wold!

    While the specific was technically incorrect, I stand by my assessment that multi-model effects are better on a multiple models than on a single one.

  4. As the unit is to the warjack, the battlegroup is to the Colossal - in other words, multiple outshines singular owing to footprint, overlapping melee ranges, economy in buffing &c. &c. Exceptions and special cases do of course exist, but it's a fairly solid principle; more dudes are generally better, unless the dudes are really poor or the caster comes with plenty of single target buffs.