15 November 2013

To Theme or not to Theme... Calandra (NQ)

Evolutionary Elementalism – Calandra (NQ 49)

This theme force is Calandra’s second and was presented in No Quarter Magazine issue #49.
Before NQ49 was released it was spoiled that there would be a new Trollblood theme force, and instantly the speculation began about this being a Mountain King centred theme (based on other factions getting themes featuring colossals/gargantuans). Madrak and Doomshaper were the casters considered most likely to have the ‘fix the MK’ theme.

What was presented was actually quite different. Calandra is an odd warlock in that she’s hard to define, she doesn’t offer obvious buffs/debuff but instead plays with dice and probability – improving yours and messing with your opponent’s.

 You are limited to ‘elemental’ warbeasts (Pyre, Slag, Storm & Winter), the Mountain King, the Krielstone, Runeshapers, Warders, runeshaper solos (Janissa) the runebearer and whelps.

The first and most obviously beneficial tier gives you a reduced cost to warbeasts. This has led to the thinking that this list is all about spamming elemental warbeasts, and why not? Second tier benefit loads up your Krielstone (the requirement for this level) with fury, the third gives light warbeasts Advanced Deployment provided you have three different lights.
The fourth tier is where the Mountain King raises his big meaty fist and says ‘pick me!’, and in return you get to put one animus on everything in your force for turn 1. Hmm.

Doesn't really look like a Mountain King centric theme, does it?

Other than the beasts your limited selection leads you to a combination of Runeshapers and Warders, and note that the theme doesn't increase the FA on either, so in larger games your decision is made for you. Warders, being the new hotness, are everywhere, and for good reason. Battle driven reach weapon masters… and cheap ones too. In this theme their woeful lack of speed really shows, but there’s no doubt that they are you go to unit for zone control.

The Runeshapers are a great unit, and sadly still often overlooked (outside of Runes of War). In this list they fuel the stone pre game thanks to the tier 2 benefit and, er… well. What they bring is a unit of decent AOEs with crit knockdown. With tremor and with Janissa’s Force Lock they offer some zone control/clearance shenanigans. You might like to note also that although you can bring AOEs with the Pyre, the Runeshapers bring three for the same cost. Knockdown is a thing. Beasts with sub par Mat like knockdown.

With the Solos, you’ll want Janissa for all the usual reasons, plus the tier 2 benefit. The Runebearer is goo if you can fit him in. Whelps are a must if you bring the Mountain King. You really need the double spawning whelps.

Your warbeast selection is more a case of which to go with in multiple. Pyres bring flaming AOEs, the Storm bring Electroleaping anti light infantry tech, the Slag munches jacks, the Winter… er… gets more work in the Holiday Season?

But what about the Mountain King? Well, looking at the list in general there is a clear lack of high P+S. Even with a damage buff animus and Stone Strength you’re topping out at around P+S 15. Yes, Warders have Weapon Master, but they are painfully slow in this theme and really your only zone holding models, so the high armour stuff can avoid them easily.

The Mountain King brings your only guaranteed anti-armour.

Calandra here will be trying to survive (Bullet dodger & Janissa’s wall) whilst getting as much into her control area to mess with dice. Soothing Song becomes a very handy spell in the list, and the Krielstone starting with some fury saves here a little bit to use on re-rolls. Obviously the Runebearer helps some if you have a few spare points.

I’m going to wrap up this fast’n’dirty guide as I’m playing this theme a lot at present and will be writing more about it in the future.

The bottom line with this list… it’s different. It’s a challenge (going the MK route) and possibly a bonkers do-or-die (going light spam route). It’s not on a level with Runes of War or Family Reunion, but appears better than most. With more testing I think this theme will become very popular.

Theme force rating:
Originality: 4/5
Evolutionary Elementalism is at first glance a jokey elemental spam list, but I’m convinced there’s more to it than that. Calandra doesn't benefit the list or from it in any obvious way, but that’s the way she is because of her dice manipulation. Fact is that she works with anything. This theme is very different in composition to any of the others currently available, so I’m giving it a good score. For now.

Ease of Playability: 3/5
Spamming advanced deploy elemental warbeasts could be amazing. But the rest of the force does what? Then there’s the issue of high armour, especially without the MK. Of course taking a King is putting a massive investment and bullseye in one place…

Ownership level: 4/5
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that most troll players will have one of each elemental warbeast (except maybe Winter) a Krielstone, and a unit of Warders. If you’ve not gone for Runes of War you might not have any Runeshapers… so go get some! I don’t think the theme is going to inspire anyone on the fence to go buy a Mountain King. If you have one though, this theme is well worth checking out.

Total theme scores:
Evolutionary Elementalism – 11/15

Unbridled Fury – 9/15


  1. I've been just toying around with some numbers for this list, but have no actual play experience with it. I haven't painted Calandra or runeshapers, and I don't own the Slag yet (planning on picking up though), but here was what I wanted to try out:

    Max KSB + UA
    Max Warders
    Max Warders

    And I still can't figure out how to exactly balance the points (one free point floating in there still). So things that I like about this list-

    - Everything is multiwound, and I have a full KSB. Warders are hard to deal with, and runeshapers are hardish to just snipe away.
    - Good attack values on the troops. Everything is MAT/Magic 7.
    - A fair amount of autonomous bodies. Between the number of beasts and the 4 units of troops, they can spread out decently far individually if you need to contest.
    - Decent options for clearing bodies out via Storm and the Runeshapers
    - Knockdowns help the bad RAT of our lights
    - Lots of dice from attacks. What I mean here is that we have 10 weapons masters, 2 beasts which can make 2 attacks each that are potentially "weapon masters" (slag). Calandra's feat is great the more dice you throw.
    - With three damage buffing beasts combined with the KSB, you can get 3 P+S 15 weapon masters without calandra casting a single one of their animi. On her feat that will do some damage. The effective cost of that is only 3 fury (soothing song), plus she can cast one if she needs another to get the buff.

    I don't really know if that list is any good or not. It seems fun. It seems like it has some nice potential synergy. It's also based on the fact that I own all of the models though, which does taint my list building a bit. I do have a mountain king, but it just seemed like I didn't really gain enough by having him in the list. Sure, he's the best armor cracking this list can take, but if you take the King + say warders and KSB, that's almost all of your points. Any warlock can do that and only be at one or two points difference because you are minimizing the tier benefit by only being able to take one or two beasts, and many other casters seem to have at least as good if not better synergy with the mountain king. The building requirements are so strict that there aren't that many different permutations of the lists possible. You could take a different smattering of the lights if you wanted, but the end effect would be similar because there are realistically only three to pick from anyway.

    Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the list =)

  2. I think it's a decent list. It is hard to come up with any wild variation outside of having (or not) the MK, and which flavour of warbeast to max out on.

    I can see why you'd go for the Slag troll in multiples. The bonus against jacks etc clearly helps out where armour is a problem. Problem is that a savvy opponent will realise this, and light warbeasts are easy to remove with a little effort... then again the same could be said for the Mountain King.

    Once you're two warbeasts down, you're relying on the warders to do a lot of work. They certainly can handle stuff, but when the pressure is on the one attack and SPD 4 really feels harsh. In my experience, once any part of the list be it lights/units/MK is gone or reduced to being ineffective, the army suffers a hell of a lot more than seems right for a force without the usual synergy network trolls play with.

    I think with your one erroneous point in hand, I'd swap the second unit of Runeshapers for a third Slag Troll. My gut says if you're not playing MK in this theme list you really want loads of light warbeasts.

    I think it is a tough list to play, but I am enjoying it and will be reporting on it soon.