So I’ve been looking into expanding into Circle (I’m a Protectorate player) and one of the things I’ve tripped across is Bradigus’ Theme force, Wold War. This theme force is something of a terror when all the pieces line up as you find yourself facing a brick that can’t be shot, can’t be charged, can’t be killed and can’t be engaged (various effects stacking together). Engaging this brick just enables it to kill you (whoo, synergy!) and for a comically slow formation (think almost Khador slow) it has an amazing ability to show up right next to your war-noun and introduce them to the end of the game (pretty much perfect video of this happening in the Super Series 2014 finals). With the tech that Bradigus brings to the table, this theme list is basically playing a line of stealthed Khadorian jacks that start each turn with 3 focus and can effectively fly ~13″ without free strikes. Essentially Wold War boils down into a scenario attrition list with the option to pimp slap a careless opponent with an assassination. I decided to take a close look at what this theme force does and how to counter it in Protectorate (one of the streamers said that this theme force would be very difficult for Menoth to handle).
As terrifying as this list is to see across the table, it is a very rigid brick with a number of weakness.
1) Speed. This is going nowhere quickly (in a meta that normally spends the first turn running full tilt for the middle of the board, this is a list that takes it time walking forward). Surprisingly for a list of rocks, they are masters of sliding through terrain (most of the list ignores difficult terrain). Look for speed/movement penalties (knockbacks, slams, etc).
2) Synergy. The entire list keys off of synergy, or rather building up synergy. If this list can’t get that snowball started, then it won’t be able to actually kill anything.
3) Woldwatchers. The core of this themelist. Typically, 6 or so will make an appearance as the front line of the brick. These light warbeasts have several glaring weak points that are easily exploited. When these guys go down, the brick falls apart. Being light warbeasts means that they are vulnerable to being thrown (no pushing or knockdowns). They are also vulnerable to continuous fire (just like a shield wall unit).
4) Shifting Stones. One of the best support units in the game and so very very fragile. Loss of a single stone blocks the rest of the unit from teleporting. Most of the assassination threat of this theme list comes from the teleportation of a heavy or Bradigus himself after building a synergy chain of 7 to 9. Break the stones and that isn’t an option anymore.
5) Zero ranged threat. Part of the penalty to screening yourself with clouds is that generally you can’t shoot out of them. While the Woldwatchers do have a ranged attack, they don’t have the RAT to shoot it without boosting, it doesn’t build synergy, and they don’t have the fury to boost more then once (or they lose the animus).
Watching this list get played is the best way to learn about it. It is just a brick, everything has to stay in a tight bunch to be able to take advantage of the Mannikin’s forests, the Shifting Stones need the Woldwatchers to make a tight battleline to block LoS, the Woldwatchers have to form a line so that the Shifting Stones have enough room to make a teleport triangle. Now to break into a little math. A medium base is 1.5″ wide, at most 6 Woldwatchers can make a 9″ pocket for other things to hide in. 6 Woldwatchers take roughly four Mannikin’s to screen effectively (each forest is 3″ wide and you’ll want the ends to catch any angled shots). Each Sentry Stone starts with 3 fury and 3 Mannikins and can produce 1 Mannikin each (basically means two turns of a full screen).
So how do we break this brick? Through careful application of force.
The most vulnerable part of this list are the Shifting Stones and to be effective, they have to be on the edges of the formation (if your opponent isn’t using them to teleport threats onto key targets then they are bad and should feel bad), meaning that this formation is devastatingly weak to flanking maneuvers. A fast, high defense skirmishing unit or two are exactly what you want to have to run up the flank and into the side of this brick. If they can manage to crack the shifting stone units (all it takes is a POW23 hit), they have easily made their points back by completely crippling the “surprise” assassination of the brick (Nicia Tear of Vengence will pop a stone on the charge on average dice, Errents also will crack one on the charge with average dice. If you’re a feeling a little Elf-y, the Mage Hunter Assassin also pops it as do a pair of the Ghost Snipers). After the shifting stones are gone, all that you’re really left with is a pile of rocks to turn into gravel. With the slow speed, it should be fairly easy to isolate and eliminate pieces of the brick until the whole thing falls apart.
Next up is dealing with that pesky frontline of Khadorian armor. Probably the simplest answer is “don’t”. Two handed throws, one handed throws and slams are fantastically effective against Woldwatchers (lets put it this way, a Woldwatcher has to roll a 4 or better to beat a Crusader that rolled a 1 to not be thrown). Once the woldwatchers start getting knocked through the middle of the brick, things will start dying (a 6″ throw means that the Woldwatcher will not be able to use its animus and get back into melee). Sadly, Woldwatchers are pretty immune to pull/drag attacks since they are immune to being pushed, however if you have a model or effect that can purge animus in the vicinity, that wall of armor becomes a wall of squish (alternitively, if you can overload the Woldwatchers with fury, they can’t cast the animus to begin with). For this brick to function, it has to run very hot all the time (all the woldwatchers generally will spend the first couple of turns loaded with max fury) and doesn’t have the best ability to absorb more then that. Typically, Bragidus will leech a fury and the stones will be positioned such that each Woldwatcher will be in range of two of them.
Don’t get hit. Best way of dealing with Snyergy. If you are impossible to hit (or very very difficult), then the synergy chain can’t get off the ground. Otherwise its a game of limiting your opponent’s attack options (generally staying 6″ away works quite well). If only three attacks are made, that’s a max synergy bonus of +2.
Mannikins are annoying but die in a slightly unstiff breeze (they die to minimum dice on power 11 rolls). Sprays and continuous fire will be your very frisky friend.
The basic core of this list doesn’t change from Tier 4 to 3 (the whole get 5 points for no living models thing). Tier 4 is probably easier to handle but the same principles apply to tier 3 (you’ll see a bunch of woldwatchers, sentry stones, shifting stones and better capability to be “tricky”). If I had to run a Protectorate list against Wold War, I would probably look at something along the lines of:
Harbinger/Kreoss1 – Purification/Feat
-Repenter – Spray
-Repenter – Spray
-Castigator – Double Open Fists/Flaming Hula-hoop/Immunity to Fire
Visgoth Judiah Rhoven & Honour Guard – CMD Radius Animus Cleaning
Errents+UA+Seneschal – What is LoS blocking, difficult terrain?/Weapon Master Charges
Nicia – Flank Threat
The logic behind this list is fairly simplistic. First, set them all on fire (an average fire roll on a Woldwatcher deals 2 points of damage and this occurs after their armor buffs have fallen off but before they can be recast). Secondly, make that frontline comically squishy and then throw it around (via Judiah or Purification, then send in the Castigator). Third, cracking those exposed flanks is done by Nicia and the fully loaded Redeemer (which kills a stone per boosted, battle hymned rocket). The Errents exist simply to screen, tarpit, hold objectives and block teleport locations (if your base doesn’t fit, you can’t jump). They can see through/shoot through/charge through the forests and represent a various serious threat against the Woldwatchers (on the charge vs armor buff and shooting while unbuffed). I’m leaning towards the Harbinger over Kreoss for a few reasons. Woldwatchers lack a serious ranged threat which means I don’t have to worry about LoS screening. Her feat decently denies Wold War as it puts damage on almost everything in the brick on average rolls (while Kreoss’ feat kind of flounders). She also can more safely tag the front line of the brick with purification (she’ll can easily get at least 4 while staying away from the teleport gank).
Overall Wold War is a scary theme list but not something as a Protectorate player I’m tremendously worried about. In the video I linked above the Retribution player seriously misplayed by not popping the last stone in that bottom cluster of shifting stones (he shot a Mannikin instead). With the focus he camped (which is useless against a synergy telegank anyways), he could’ve made two boosted shots at the stone which would’ve killed it (on average dice). Then all the circle player would’ve been left with would be a fairly subpar match up (the Retribution list was silly but rather fantastic at attrition, especially attrition that relies upon synergy).
tl;dr: Against Wold War, kill Shifting Stones, Set everything on fire, Win.