Dark Horse: Michigan Cup Style

            Hi all, Bulldog here with another exciting episode of Dark Horse! Today I will be providing an overview of a list I used at the Michigan Cup on 9/27. The Michigan Cup is a coming together of all the great hobby stores here in Michigan, with players from each store competing to take home the Michigan Cup trophy. The Gamers Sanctuary in Flint Michigan began hosting the competition around this time last year, and a new tournament has been held every six months. Our store, RIW Hobbies in Livonia Michigan, has won the Cup three times in a row.

            The event format was a two-list Divide and Conquer team tournament which matched players based on their position within the team (1:1, 2:2, and 3:3). I paired Calandra’s Evolutionary Elementalism with a Prime Madrak list that will be the focus of this article.


P. Madrak +6

Mulg 12

Axer 6

Runebearer 2

5 Champions with UA 13

5 Warders 8

Chronicler 2

Fell Caller 3

6 Stone Scribes with UA 5

Lanyssa 2

Champion Hero 3

Total: 56/50


Let’s start by taking a look at our warlock. His SPD is average for a caster, and above average for a Trollkin model. He has good MAT, great POW, and high STR. His RAT is average, but by throwing his weapon he can hit as hard at range as he can in melee. His DEF is high for a Trollkin, but nothing to write home about if you are a caster in any other faction. His ARM is average and his FURY is among the lowest in the game, but don’t let his stat block fool you, Madrak is a much harder target than he first appears. Trolls as a faction have multiple ways of increasing ARM and Madrak rarely has fury commitments that force him to overextend. Madrak survives on more than just his statline though, and has a full suite of unique and powerful abilities.

First, he cannot be charged, slammed, or power attacked by warbeasts that started the attack in his front arc. Period. This is a passive ability that persists throughout the game. Madrak also has a onetime “get out of jail free card” where he can simply opt not to take damage from an attack. It’s important to note that you must declare the use of this ability before the damage roll is made, but that shouldn’t diminish its status as an incredible protective tool. Like all Troll warlocks Madrak is Tough, but it’s best not to rely on that last line of defense.

On offense Madrak can dish out damage at range and in melee. When he destroys an enemy model by throwing his axe, he can immediately make a second POW 15(+) ranged attack with Snap Fire. Further, all of Madrak’s physical attacks possess the Critical Grievous Wounds property. When a model is critically hit it cannot make a tough check, transfer, heal, or be healed for one round. This can serve to set up an assassination or deny a beast the ability to recover lost aspects.

Madrak’s feat, Crusher, transforms his already brutish force into pure murder machines. While in his control area friendly faction models gain Overtake, where if they destroy an enemy warrior model they may advance up to one inch. Additionally, when a friendly faction model destroys an enemy model with a melee attack while the enemy is in Madrak’s control area, that friendly faction model can make a free melee attack. Timing the feat is key. I try and save Crusher for maximum effect and not fire it off during the first engagement. Playing Trolls is about knowing when to take a hit and when to give one. I would rather hold my  feat for an assassination or the opportunity to inflict damage deep in the enemy line than pop it to remove whatever screen or jam is offered up. Fortunately this list hits hard enough and is durable enough to not worry about weathering a few early losses.

When compared to other available warlocks Madrak has a limited spell list. His first spell, Carnage offers a sizable accuracy buff against enemy models in Madrak’s control area. Despite costing more than half his fury and only reaching out 10″, I will almost always cast Carnage on Madrak’s feat turn provided he can camp at least one fury. With Crusher and Carnage I’ll use Madrak himself to clear lanes for the rest of my army, and rely on combining his superb defensive abilities with the maxim, “the best defense is a good offense” to keep him alive. Next on the list Madrak has Stranglehold, an average cost magic missile with subpar POW and a crippling secondary effect. Models damaged by Stranglehold must forfeit either their movement or action during their next activation. Most casters would kill to have this on their spell list, but Madrak’s low fury makes casting it a liability. It will cost between three to four of Madrak’s five fury to ensure that it lands and has the desired effect, and Madrak can get a lot of work done with four fury. The last spell on the list is Sure Foot. Although it costs a decent amount it should really only be cast once per game, and it provides outstanding defensive bonuses. A model effected by Sure Foot gains +2 DEF and cannot be knocked down. Additionally, all models within 3″ of the affected model gain those benefits as well.

So that’s Madrak in a nutshell. Good on paper, better in play. Success will come by synergizing his abilities at the right moment. Speaking of synergy, now that we’ve covered our leader let’s review how the rest of the list plays.

I’ll start the game by having the Runebearer use Power Glyphs to cast Sure Foot on Madrak. It is uncommon to burn a once per game ability in turn one, but the Runebearer isn’t going to get much use out of an unboosted fury 5 Stranglehold, and is restricted from casting Carnage due to its cost. Having the Runebearer cast Sure Foot frees Madrak to dump all five of his fury into the Krielstone which increases the size of the aura and expands Madrak’s fury options in later turns. Despite the danger in having a front line warlock camping zero fury, I generally feel safe from harm due to Madrak’s outstanding defensive stats and abilities. Unless your opponent can strip upkeeps or pull him out of the Krielstone aura, they are looking at taking down a DEF 16 ARM 18 caster with 18 health who arbitrarily dismisses one of their attacks and can’t be knocked down.

After the Runebearer’s activation the Champions will run forward in a clustered formation, followed closely by the Champion Hero for his Tactician benefit. Madrak will then load up the Krielstone and move alongside the Champions to give them the benefit of Sure Foot. Mulg and the Axer take up positions next to Madrak, opposite the Champions, while the Warders and Chronicler run to occupy the flank. This positioning allows the majority of my army to be DEF 14 while out in the open, without the benefit of terrain.

This force loadout asks a serious question of the enemy. Troll bricks are far from an uncommon sight, but Trolls with above average defense are a rarer breed. As an alternative to a full Krielstone unit, you may consider taking a Swamp Gobbers Bellows Crew to increase your infantry’s DEF to 16. The tradeoff here is a smaller ARM aura from the stone, which can come in handy when making Overtake moves on feat turn.

To compound the issues mentioned above, this army is more mobile and adaptable than the typical Troll list. If she survives, Lanyssa Ryssyll’s Hunters Mark allows Mulg to charge for free and threat 11″ prior to Overtake moves. Terrain is heavily mitigated as your Champions have Relentless Charge, the Warders may become Battle Driven, both Mulg and the Axer can be Rushed, and the Fell Caller Hero can grant Pathfinder to anyone feeling left out. Still, pursuing the alpha is not a reliable strategy. But even after taking casualties Madrak’s feat enables your elite troops to clear out waves of enemy infantry with their above average MAT, and even enemy heavies will fall to Trollkin Weapon Masters.

Unless the enemy is playing an exceptionally fast force, I’ll spend turn two further loading up the Krielstone, clearing whatever chaff has made it across the table, and preparing to receive the charge. The counter attack on turn three is of vital importance, and there’s not a lot of subtlety about it. Your opponent knows what’s coming and will try to limit the damage you can inflict. The strength of this list lies in its ability to overcome even carefully considered plans and defenses.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Author: Bulldog

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