It has been a while since I wrote one of these, sorry about that. As you may have gathered from my previous run of articles I have been playing Runes of War pretty consistently for over a while now and I’ve finally begun to burn out on it. I’ve just gotten tired of playing it so I’m looking to pick up a different warlock and play them instead. One of my all time favorites and a warlock I’ve always considered one of Trollblood’s best is Calandra but I’ve never quite figured out where she belongs in the faction. With that in mind I thought I’d explore how to build Calandra into a list pair for competitive play. Warning, this first article will be heavy on the theory and a bit rambling in tone.
Calandra is easily one of Trollbloods strongest warlocks but I don’t see her talked about in competitive play all that often. She’s certainly not one of the top 3 most talked about Troll warlocks. The problem I always run into when building for Calandra is that she has the problem of the classic turd polisher: when you can make everything good how do actually pick what to make good? I’ve generally tried to build her as a second list whose primary job is to cover my main list’s problems which ends up building her into messy lists that don’t quite work as well as I’d like. So here’s my thought experiment, what if I assume that I take Calandra as my main list and then build a second list to cover whatever I think her general problems are. Then I can determine what my main Calandra list should probably look like. So with that in mind I want to look at her obvious strengths, her problems and possible second list candidates.
So Calandra in my mind has 3 big things that define her: She has an army-wide DEF buff in Star Crossed, a Feat that boosts accuracy and damage and serious assassination potential. She does other stuff but those 3 are her major points of excellence, in my opinion anyway. That’s not to say that Befuddle isn’t good, it’s just not what I emphasize when I build lists. These abilities generally push her towards list with a lot of DEF 13+ and a shooting battle group to capitalize on assassination options. The fact that both her Feat and Star Crossed aren’t faction limited plus Trollbloods’ kind of crappy DEF generally pushes her towards taking more Minion models.
Calandra’s biggest problem is shooting. Her 14/14 stat line suggests she is vulnerable to shooting but she can mitigate a lot of that through Bullet Dodger and Star Crossed. She still doesn’t want to be shot at, though. Her real problem vs. shooting, however, is that Star Crossed requires enemy models to be in her Control Area. Lots of shooting can stay outside of Star Crossed and fire into her control area. If she wants to get Star Crossed onto enemy shooting she has to position herself pretty far up the table and that makes her a lot more vulnerable and suddenly that 14/14 stat line becomes more of a problem. So I want to avoid any serious shooting and there are a decent number of factions that have shooting as a big part of their game plan. Not all shooting is created equal, though, so let’s look through the shooting factions and see which ones are a problem and which ones aren’t:
Cygnar is definitely a problem because it has a lot of long range accurate shooting. Long range makes it easy to stay outside of Star Crossed and the accuracy means even in Star Crossed they can generally get some serious work done. Gun Mages can Snipe shot to stay out of Star Crossed but even inside of it with Dead Eye they don’t really care. Caine2 is easily accurate enough to just shoot Calandra to death as well so that’s a problem.
Menoth has mostly medium range shooting which can stay out of Star Crossed some of the time but more importantly it has choir and large AoEs. Choir singing battle negates a lot of the benefit of Star Crossed and most Menoth warcasters can afford to give their ‘jacks focus so they can boost. Boosting negates a lot of the advantages of Star Crossed. Lots of AoEs from the the Judicator, Redeemers or Vanquishers are another big problem since most models with high enough defense to really benefit from Star Crossed don’t survive Menoth blast damage. Against an infantry heavy Menoth build Calandra has some game but I don’t see all that many of those anymore. With all of the anti-spell abilities Menoth has as well Calandra’s assassination suffers since she generally needs to open with Force Blow to get the kill. Spell immune casters like Severius or just lists with the Covenant in them will shut that threat down. Not a good match up for Calandra.
Legion might be the worst match up for her in the game. Legion beasts, especially Ravagores, can shoot from outside Star Crossed easily enough which is a problem but Legion beasts also just boost a lot of the time anyway so Star Crossed loses a lot of it’s effectiveness. When pretty much every attack roll is boosted the benefits of Star Crossed fall off sharply. Star Crossed is best versus tons of infantry which Legion doesn’t really play. Legion warlocks are reasonably susceptible to her assassination threat if they bother to come forward at all but most will simply hang back and/or shoot your ranged beasts to death. I don’t like her playing this match up at all.
Retribution plays more of a mid range gunline with mostly of infantry. Calandra is one of the Troll Warlocks most likely to be a victim of Snipe + Feat + Go but she’s still not super susceptible to it because she has transfers for those moments when they spike the dice. Also without Snipe and Ravyn’s Feat MHSF aren’t very good at killing her under Star Crossed so you’re really just worried about that one build. The stats on Ret infantry are pretty good but they often don’t have a great way of buffing them further which means they’re susceptible to Star Crossed problems. Vyross Griffon Spam is an interesting match up, though, since Star Crossed could make starting a Synergy chain hard but once it gets going it can start to negate Star Crossed pretty quickly. I’d have to play more Ret to decide for certain on how I feel about her playing this match up. I’m going to say this is a mixed bag.
Khador shooting faction is short-ish range (8-10 inches) excluding a few models like Widowmakers or Rifle Corps. A lot of Khador infantry has fairly low MAT/RAT scores as well which is pure money under Star Crossed. Winter Guard Death Stars with boosted attack rolls are a possible problem since, as we’ve covered, boosts are bad for Star Crossed but on the other hand lots of Khador players run mostly IFP now and their MAT 6 is ideal for Star Crossed units. As a faction they still run primarily infantry which in general is what I like to see. A decent number of Khador ‘casters are susceptible to assassination as well so that’s something to watch out for. I think overall probably a fine match up for Calandra.
Convergence is still a bit of an unknown to me but most builds I see feature enough guns to probably worry Calandra. They also present the Legion problem of being able to pretty trivially boost all of their to hit shots thanks to Induction. I think they’re a problem for Calandra.
So what I need really is a second list to cover Menoth, Cygnar, Convergence and Legion. That doesn’t sound too bad and I think Trolls can do that with a number of options. Trollblood anti-shooting tends to be an ARM skew. The main options I see are:
The Beast Brick: You know it, you love it. Runes of War is always the big name here but I find it has a mixed game vs. Menoth and this article is about how I want to stop playing Runes of War. Madrak1 hates Purification which means he’s bad for Menoth but is really good vs. Cygnar and Legion (even with Vayl2’s purification). Borka is rarely seen in Beast Brick anymore thanks to Family Reunion but it probably still has some serious game. Wind Wall especially makes him very resilient to the types of shooting we’re looking deal with. Doomy2 is the classic Beast Brick warlock and I don’t see him all that much anymore so he may be perfect for what we want here.
The Dude Skew: Grissel2’s Miserable Meat Mountain is probably the poster child here but Family Reunion also fits in well. Both lists are strong vs. Menoth but I think have some specific bad match ups in Legion and Cygnar. Siege is an obvious problem because his Feat blows up medium infantry like Warders and Champs. Vayl2 with a flock of Angels has the possibility of dismantling the list thanks to Refuge/Admonition. Scenario could end up saving the Troll player but it’s a rough game I think. Overall a decent option but having to dodge a few specific ‘casters always makes me antsy.
The Jarl: This category exists to throw out Jarl as an idea. His Feat shuts down a round of shooting for Menoth and Cygnar while he delivers his army. Versus Legion he can’t buy a round but he can use it in other ways and the standard Troll ARM skew is often pretty strong against Legion anyway. SPD 6 Mulg is always threatening and Jarl is pretty good at dismantling enemy support thanks to Magic Bullet. Killing support is really good against Legion and Menoth especially. I think he’s worth some thought.
I’m going to leave aside actually choosing the second list for another article and instead examine what this leaves us for a Calandra build. If I want to play Cally into the rest of the match ups then I’m looking at: Khador, Cryx, Mercs, Retribution, Skorne, Circle and Minions. There’s a chance that the second list will cover one of these factions better, for example Doomy2 is amazing vs. Circle, but right now I’m not picking any specific second list so I don’t want to assume any of the remaining match ups are already covered. Rather than running through every possible option for a Calandra list, since that would take far too long, let’s look at my current playtest list and discuss how it covers, at least in my mind, these match ups.
Calandra Truthsayer, Oracle of the Glimmerwood (*5pts)
* Troll Impaler (5pts)
* Dire Troll Bomber (10pts)
* Trollkin Runebearer (2pts)
Cylena Raefyll & Nyss Hunters (Cylena and 9 Grunts) (10pts)
Pyg Burrowers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Trollkin Scattergunners (Leader and 5 Grunts) (5pts)
* Trollkin Scattergunner Officer & Drummer (2pts)
Dahlia Hallyr & Skarath (9pts)
Fell Caller Hero (3pts)
Gatorman Witch Doctor (3pts)
I’ll spare you the play by play break down and just run through the choices in brief. Bomber + Impaler plays well into Calandra’s assassination potential and her re-rolls help make sure the Bomber hits his shots. Nyss Hunters are insane under Star Crossed and weapon master plus the Feat is great since more dice means more chances to roll high on a re-roll. The Witch Doctor is great both for giving the Nyss Tough and for making the Burrowers Fearless in certain match ups. Burrowers are at that sweet DEF 13 point for Star Crossed to make them annoying to kill and with re-rolls from the Feat they do a lot of work. The Fell Caller is obviously there to do his buffing for them. Scatter Gunners are money against Cryx which is a big match up I’m looking at but with the Feat a lot of their accuracy problems go away and suddenly they can clear a lot of infantry pretty reliably. Clear! works on non-faction models too so they can spray models off of your Nyss to let them move forward. Dahlia and Skarath are both respectable defense for Star Crossed to make them a pain to kill and with Bullet Dodger Skarath can walk out of melee if someone misses him with an attack (Bullet Dodger only grants defense vs. ranged attacks but the advance when missed applies to all attacks) which makes him a real pain to deal with. Dahlia is great in the Khador match up to deny Shield Wall to IFP, Bob and Weave to Winter Guard and/or Charges to Butcher3. She can also come in handy versus Fist of Halaak in Skorne by stopping the Cetrati from using Shield Wall which makes them drop from nigh-unkillable ARM to just really high ARM. This isn’t exactly mind-blowing Calandra tech or anything but it’s what I’ve settled on for the moment, now it’s time for some aggressive testing.
So I’ve got a lot of infantry clearing in the Nyss, Scatter Gunners and Burrowers which is great because the factions I want to cover are primarily infantry heavy factions. The exceptions to this are Circle and Skorne. For Circle I’ve got Calandra’s Feat + Re-Rolls to boost my accuracy and damage so that Burrowers, charging Nyss, Bomber and/or Skarath can pretty reliably kill Warpwolves. A crazy ARM skew like Baldur2 theme could be a problem but Calandra can threaten Baldur pretty reliably. Skorne Titan Spam could be more of a problem although they’re not a faction known for their accuracy buffs. The ability of Calandra’s Feat to tilt rolls shouldn’t be underestimated as it will allow her deceptively low POW models to crack some serious ARM. Their could be a problem taking on a full Titan herd so you’ll have to keep an eye out for scenario or assassination possibilities. Fist of Halaak could be a problem thanks to the Incendiarii setting all her shit on fire so watch out for that.
So that’s the end of my current stream of consciousness on Calandra. You may have entirely different opinions on how she should be played and what match ups that means she should be covering or avoiding. She’s such a well rounded warlock that it’s very easy to build her into completely different match ups and strategies. My build focuses heavily on Star Crossed and yours might not. Hopefully I’ve at least explained my ideas reasonably well and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Next time I’m planning to go into more depth on what my planned second list looks like and discuss what I’ve tested and what I intend to test.
Thanks for reading!