Tactica Time: Baldur, the Stonecleaver


Prologue:

Baldur, the Stonecleaver has had perhaps one word added to his card in the transition to mark 3. His feat and spells now affect Friendly Faction models only, and other than that, he hasn't changed at all.

The rules of the game have shifted around him though, and because of the way that forests now work, as well as speed reductions not preventing charges, as well as upkeep removal largely disappearing, he has come out as one of the best control Warlocks in the game. If Wurmwood wasn't a strictly better matchup into a lot of factions at the time of this writing (December 2016), I suspect Baldur 1 would be a regular in competitive Circle pairings.


Overview:


Hey wait...I don't look anything like my artwork...

Stats and Abilities:

Baldur is really slow for a Circle Warlock - he's only speed 5. He's got a good MAT of 7, which, combined with Weight of Stone, makes him very accurate. 

He has no ranged weapon, so his terrible RAT doesn't matter. He's typical Circle DEF of 14, which is pretty low for a Warlock, and he's got moderate ARM of 16 with 17 health boxes. He can take a punch, but unless you feel really safe, I don't recommend putting him in harms way, since he's not nearly as durable as say Kromac 2. 

He also only hits at PS 14 with reach, which isn't going to break hard targets by itself.

At Fury 6, he's sitting right at the bottom edge of Circle Fury stats, but he makes up for it a little bit by having...

Elemental Mastery: Construct Warbeasts in his battlegroup get to make free charges and power attacks without being forced as long as they are in control. I constantly forget about this turn one, but it's always something that comes back to me by turn three. 

With a battlegroup composed of Megalith or Woldwrath plus something else, Baldur runs a pretty efficient ship. 

This ability also lets him heal construct warbeasts, which is a big deal since the other ways of healing them are pretty limited. 

Forest Walk: This is a nifty little trick - Baldur can sacrifice movement as long as he is completely inside a forest to teleport to a place completely inside a forest that is completely inside control. 

Be aware that you cannot do this if you get placed by Shifting Stones as they require you to sacrifice movement already, but it can be a powerful scenario play since Baldur can put a forest down on himself to get this off. 

The dream with this ability is to have an enemy Warcaster camping nothing within 2 inches of a forest in your control area, sac movement, teleport next to the Warcaster, and then murder them. 

This is actually much more situational than it looks, since Baldur isn't accurate or hard hitting enough naturally to really kill someone by himself. 

I really like to pick on pNemo since he's got the worst statline I can think of at DEF 14 ARM 15 with 14 boxes. 

If Baldur has to cast Wild Growth on himself to get in a forest, he can teleport and boost the first hit on Nemo to drop him to DEF 11. At dice - 1 you will do an average of six damage per hit, and with two for the spell and one to boost the hit, you get four attacks for 24 damage total. 

If Nemo is camping 3, he lives through this on average. 

Compare that to someone like Butcher 3 - DEF 14, ARM 18 with 18 boxes. 

Dice -4 on four attacks is 12 damage, or not nearly enough to kill them. There are, of course, many other ways to soften the enemy caster up before Baldur goes in, but the chances of him killing another caster on his own are pretty low.

Bottom line - don't go for this unless you can do some damage to the enemy caster first. 

Weight of Stone: An excellent offensive ability on his weapon that gives whatever it hits -3 SPD and -3 DEF. This makes Baldur (or Baldur's heavy coming in after Baldur) very accurate. 

Wait....I don't look like my art EITHER, what the heck?!
Spells and Feat:

Baldur has a good spell list, with no less than three upkeeps, and one very strong nuke. 

Stone Skin: 

This is a really excellent spell, doubling up as both offensive and defensive in the same thing. It gives +2 Strength and Armor to a Friendly Faction model or a unit, while giving them -1 Speed and Defense. 

With Circle's easy access to Hunters Mark, the -1 speed isn't as big of a downside as it might otherwise be. We also have pretty high speed models to begin with, so going down to speed 5 for a big increase in damage output and survivability is usual a reasonably good trade off. 

The two stand out units that really abuse Stone Skin are Bloodtrackers and Wolf Riders. The +2 Strength gives them a really scary PS 11 thrown weapon base, and for the Bloodtrackers that means RAT 8 PS 13 Weaponmaster shots. Against an ARM 20 heavy, that's 3.5 damage each, not accounting for spikes. They'll put a serious dent in colossals too. 

Their Advanced Deploy and native Speed of 7 means that the negative speed is less impactful than it usually would be, and their native stealth means that they don't mind the slightly lower defense either. 

Wolf Riders get to do truly goofy things with Stone Skin. Speed 8 and POW 11 Weaponmaster throws combined with Reposition 5 keep them safe while they harry things, and then eventually they get to assault in for a POW 11 Weaponmaster attack and a POW 11 Weaponmaster charge. 

It's a good idea to put this on one of those two units early game if you're going to include them in your army, and then later game switch it over to one of your heavies or Baldur himself. 

Solid Ground: 

This spell is either amazing or totally useless. It prevents Friendly Faction models in his control range from being knocked down. 

If you opt for a Warpwolf heavy version of the list, it shores up the wolves' main weakness - getting knocked down so their high DEF doesn't matter in the slightest. 

It also lets you do some really funny things with a thrown heavy, like Ghetorix. If you play Megalith and a Feral in conjunction, you can throw Ghetorix 12 inches and have him beat up whatever he is next to at the end of it. 

The other REALLY important aspect of this spell is that it gives Friendly Faction models in his control area immunity to blast damage. 

Bloodtrackers love that. They're usually going to die to drifting AOE's before anything else kills them, and this just completely neuters that. Against Khador lists with Behemoth or Menoth lists with a bunch of Redeemers, this spell is total money. 

This spell is pretty terrible against pKreoss though, since Kreoss has Purification, letting him trivially strip it off before he pops feat. 

Wild Growth: 

Same spell Wurmwood has, put a 4 inch AOE of forest down completely inside control. This spell is fantastic for LOS denial, letting you control your opponents' charge lanes trivially and giving you a legitimate defense against shooting with other cooperative terrain or Sentry Stones. 

The applications for this spell are almost innumerable, and are also highly dependent on the terrain, scenario, and matchup. I tend to not upkeep it every turn, since where I will find it most useful varies from turn to turn. 

Earth Spikes:

This is one of the best nuke spells in the whole faction. At cost 3, Range 10, and POW 13 with a 3" AOE, that's already pretty solid for a spell nuke. Add in that it ignores the Elevation, Cover, and Concealment bonuses and you've got a pretty awesome Geomancy spell for Megalith. That isn't all though! On a critical hit, it knocks down everything in the AOE, which can occasionally be a huge blowout. 

This spell is one of the reasons that I really like taking Megalith with Baldur - it gives you something resembling a ranged game, and using Megalith to get a crit KD on a squishy but high DEF Warcaster or Warlock can occasionally just end the game as Bloodtrackers, Woldwrath, Baldur, etc. all converge on the poor Warnoun. 

The FEAT!!!!!

Baldur's feat is one of the most controlling, defensive feats in the whole game. It says that while in his control, enemy models (including colossals) lose pathfinder and treat all terrain as rough terrain. If also gives all Friendly Faction Models cover. 

Until you have felt the awesome power of parking your Woldwrath 6.5 inches away from a speed 5 colossal and being totally free from retaliation, you haven't lived. It's a pretty amazing feeling. 

It also guarantees you a couple turns of dominating a friendly flag or zone, since there's not a whole lot the enemy will be able to do to contest when running for most models will only move them 5 or 6 inches. 

This is obviously totally useless against mass Ghostly skew (Cryx) or lists with a ton of flying models (Una 2, Fyanna and angelii spam, etc), but against most conventional lists, the combination of cover and rough terrain can absolutely wreck their plans. 

You can use this feat to get ahead on scenario, spend two turns in a row shooting at your opponents' models, advance up so you can get a melee alpha, or sometimes all three. 


General Play Style:

Baldur is a Scenario caster primarily the way I play him, with a really good attrition chance against most non-Cygnar lists, and the ever present danger of assassination via a crit Earth Spikes. 

Typically turn 1, you cast Stone Skin on your early game target, put Solid Ground up if you're playing with Bloodtrackers or other squishy infantry so that they can't get blast damage or for no KD on Warpwolves, and then charge up the table. I like to go second with him so that I can score easily, and with Wild Growth, getting the side of the table you want is often very beneficial. 

Turn 2-3 you feat, which either buys you a solid Scenario lead or lets you get the Alpha off in a very definitive manner. There are some lists that you absolutely have to feat against to not get Alpha charged yourself, and this is another reason to feat early. 


Model Synergies:

Baldur synergizes well with a lot of Circle models and units. He can be built as a gunline, a melee force, or a combined arms caster. 

I only have experience with him as a combined arms list at 75 points, but I have played some of the other, also interesting options, at lower point levels. 

Woldwrath:


Wow did this guy get a massive upgrade in mark 3. Spell Ward getting changed to Sacred Ward is such a big deal. 

Baldur loves to chuck Stone Skin on the Wrath late game for an ARM 22, PS 21 Auto KD colossal. Oh did I mention it has hyper regeneration? Baldur can also heal it thanks to Elemental Mastery. 

Also thanks to Elemental Mastery, this guy charges for free every turn, and that is a massive deal. The extra attack is the difference between a banged up enemy colossal or heavy and a dead heavy/crippled colossal. 

Also, he has a fantastic gun now at Range 14, AOE 5, POW 15. The AOE stays for a round and anything that enters it takes a POW 10 electrical damage roll. With Baldur's feat, you can really use the Woldwrath as a bully, taking shots for 2-4 turns before finally going in and messing up the remaining models on your opponents' side of the table pretty good. 

Stick him in a zone and he's not going to be easily removed, especially under Baldur's feat. 

Druid's Wrath also opens up some interesting control builds with Druids. Boosted MA 6 knockdown or push spells are not bad at all, and can really give some lists with many heavies and not much infantry fits. 

The Woldwrath is one of the two ways to build his list, and I think it's a really strong one. 


Megalith:


An LED keyboard, a rock, and Rocky had a baby. They named it Megalith.


Megs is a strong consideration with either Baldur, but he's not nearly an auto-include with Baldur 1. 

Baldur 1 doesn't need the hyper-regeneration nearly so badly as Baldur 2 does, and Baldur 1 only has one spell for Megalith to Geomancy as opposed to Baldur 2 who really, really needs the extra Roots of the Earth every turn. 

That being said, Megalith is definitely a choice worthy of consideration with him. He's a good Stone Skin target, going to PS 19 and ARM 21 with it on him. He can channel an Earth Spikes every turn, which contributes to Baldur's pseudo-gunline. 

An expensive choice, but one that can definitely pay off big dividends.

Warpwolves:




I'm going to file these under a broad category since it's a completely different playstyle choice with Baldur, and if you're going to play with them, I suggest going in on the living beast theme. 

You do lose out on Elemental Mastery giving out free charges, but the Warpwolves are generally superior beasts to most of the Wolds, so maybe that's okay. 

All of these beasts get massive benefits from Solid Ground. Most of the time, good opponents engineer ways to knock a Warpwolf down before sending in their heavies so that they can guarantee their hits. Knocking a Warpwolf down is a death sentence for it, since their ARM and boxes aren't high enough to live through anything that auto hits them. 

Ghetorix is a monster with Stone Skin, hitting at PS 21 before Primal and sitting at ARM 21 with Spiny Growth on him. 

The Stalker also gets a lot of mileage out of the additional hitting power, as does the Feral and Pureblood. 

If you decide to go this route, I like three heavies, some combination of Stalker/Ghetorix/one of the other two. Personally, I go for a Pureblood and a Gorax, but that's due to my love of the Pureblood's spray and having access to Wraithbane

Other Wolds:

I will be blunt - from a competitive perspective, these are almost all bad options. I don't like the Woldguardian or Woldwarden when for a small point increase I could just have Megalith. 

The Woldwatcher losing Shield Guard hurt him really badly. Fertilizer on his gun can lead to some interesting LOS blocking, but it's not reliable enough for 9 points. 

I don't actually mind a Woldwyrd in there if you're going to play a more ranged centric build. Against any upkeep spell on a unit, he can get some major work done every turn. 

Sentry Stones and Mannikins:

They block LOS, they clear charge lanes, and they're cheap. We already know how amazing these guys are and they're just as good, or better, with Baldur thanks to Wild Growth. You can grow a 10 inch forest wall every turn that both Stones are alive. 

As of this writing, I can't help but recommend taking 2 in each list. 

Bloodtrackers:

I've already touched on this, but giving them a damage boost through Stone Skin and immunity to blast damage via Solid Ground is a huge boon to these ladies. I'd strongly consider taking them in basically every Baldur list. 

Losing the point of speed hurts a bit, but they still threat 13 inches and can shred a heavy or unit of heavy infantry. 

Wolf Riders:

Again, I've touched on this already, but these guys are monsters with Stone Skin. This is the one place I'd really consider taking them in the faction right now. 

Skinwalkers and CA:



These are a really interesting option for the non-Woldwrath builds. The idea is that they follow the Bloodtrackers or other, faster unit, and then stick in a zone and become nightmares to remove. 

With Stone Skin, they hit at MAT 8 PS 16 when Gang is factored in, and they sit at ARM 18 base with Hyper Regeneration and Unyielding.

With their 8 health boxes, it takes most heavies two swings to kill each one of these guys. A fully loaded Reckoner isn't actually all that likely to kill two of them in a turn. 

Add to that the beautiful screen they can provide Baldur, and I'd highly consider taking them if you don't have access to or do not like the Woldwrath. 

Druids:




I know, these guys took a massive hit in the transition from mark 2 to mark 3. That being said, I think they're sill a definite consideration if you're also taking the Woldwrath. 

Druid's Wrath makes them quite accurate, and the denial they can have with their push-away spell combined with Baldur's feat can break some very jack or beast centric lists. 

The ability to make a big cloud wall beside the Woldwrath for Baldur/Megalith/everything else to hide behind isn't nothing either. I've played with them probably half of the games I've played with Baldur, and I have really enjoyed them. 

The CA, while nice, is not strictly necessary. If you forget to Apparition a lot, I wouldn't really consider taking him since that's a big part of his draw. 

Shifting Stones:

Honorable mention, mostly because they can heal the Wrath and Megalith, and they're really good for contesting with. 

Do note that you cannot control flags or zones with Immobile models anymore, so don't just send a unit of stones to take the zone over without backup. 

Blackclad Wayfarer/Lanyssa Ryssyl:

I actually like the Blackclad over Lanyssa in lists with the Woldwrath, since Druid's Wrath makes him much more accurate than she is. 

That being said, there's something pretty sweet about popping Baldur's feat, putting down a forest in front of her, and then popping Winter Storm with her to strip flight off enemy models activating within nine inches. 

Either way, you want a source of Hunters Mark in the list to offset Stone Skin and to make your models threaten farther. 

Druid Wilder:

You know what Baldur has lots of? Upkeep spells. You know what Baldur doesn't have a ton of? Fury. If you can make the points work, bring a Druid Wilder. Upkeeping a spell for free every turn is a big deal when you might be upkeeping three. 

She can also run up the table and let you force outside of Baldur's relatively small control area. 



Sample lists:

Baldur has basically modes - Woldwrath and non-Woldwrath

I think currently that the Woldwrath build is superior, and this is what I've been playing lately:



Baldur the Stonecleaver
- Druid Wilder
- Megalith
- Woldwrath

Lanyssa Ryssyl

Sentry Stone and Mannikins x2
Tharn Bloodtrackers and CA
Druids of Orboros



I've played with the Druid CA over the Wilder a few times, and I think into most matchups that I prefer the Wilder. Apparition and Elemental Immunity are both really good, but the extra fury every turn can be an even bigger deal.

This does, of course, change depending on the meta. If you have to drop him into a Menoth heavy Meta, I'd take the CA over the Wilder any day. Being immune to fire really increases the survivability of the unit, and the combination of high value shooting and spells in the list that can completely neuter jacks makes the Menoth player have to actually think about which song the choir is going to sing every turn.

If they sing Spell Ward, then I get to shoot at the jack. If they sing no shooting, then you can knock down and push around the jacks until you can deal with them.

The other build, or something similar, that I would consider running is:


Baldur the Stonecleaver
- Druid Wilder
- Ghetorix
- Warpwolf Stalker
- Gorax Rager

Lanyssa Ryssyl

Sentry Stone and Mannikins x2
Tharn Bloodtrackers and CA
Warpborn Skinwalkers and CA
Shifting Stones



Two high damage heavies, a really hard to remove unit, and the ever present Bloodtrackers to go in and mess things up in advance of the rest of your army.

I still think the Woldwrath build is better, but this definitely has some merit.

The main problem here is that you really want Stone Skin on like...literally everything in the list all the time, and that means that it cannot quite run at max efficiency until late game once you have traded pieces back and forth.

Also, Wurmwood runs a very similar list and does it much better, so I don't typically consider Baldur for this kind of list.

Good Matchups:

Baldur has a lot of game into conventional, mixed arms lists. Anything that doesn't skew incredibly ranged heavy will generally be an okay matchup for him.

Even Sloan with a bunch of Hunters has to make a hard choice against the Wrath build - do you ignore the Bloodtrackers making a beeline for the jacks and shoot down the Woldwrath? Or do you go after the Wrath at dice off six when Stone Skin is factored in?

I like him into almost all of Menoth, with the exception of Kreoss 1 and Harbinger since Purification really ruins his day.

I think he has good matchups into the typical Cryx lists right now that are running Satyxis and 'Jacks over Banes and other Ghostly models.

He also seems pretty darn good into Legion and Minion and many of the Troll lists out there.

I also think he's pretty good into non-ARM skew Mercs, Khador, and most of Cygnar, simply because you get to control the game so well with his Feat and Wild Growth.

Bad Matchups:

I do not particularly enjoy Baldur into most of the ARM bricks that are running around right now. This matchup is a little better if you're running Druids, since you can really mess with their ability to actually engage you between pushes and KD spells, but in the end you really struggle to kill very much.

I dislike him into Cryx if they start running lots of Banes again, since Ghostly just flat out ignores the Feat.

I'm also not too sure I like him into a lot of the popular Circle lists right now. Baldur 2 tanks harder, Wurmwood controls better, and Una 2 will just fly over your army and murder Baldur unless you play super conservatively.

Conclusion:

Baldur 1 is a legitimately competitive caster. He's got an excellent toolkit of spells and abilities, a Feat that can just end the game under the right circumstances, and a highly flexible game plan. \

Currently, he is overshadowed by Wurmwood, who can do similar things, but arguably does them better.

That being said, he can ask different questions than Wurmwood can simply by being able to run the Woldwrath so well. That is a big part of why I think the Woldwrath build is superior - it requires a different set of tools to handle than anything else in the Circle arsenal.

I hope this little tactica was helpful, and thanks for reading!