Meat and Potatoes: The Krielstone, Take It or Leave It

While I’ve tinkered around with just about every faction, I’ve spent the majority of my Warmachine career playing Trollbloods and Protectorate. They’re very different on the table, but there’s a strong commonality between them: buffing. Both of these factions have key pieces that tend to make lists before I’ve even decided on my caster.

In the case of Protectorate, it’s the Choir and a pair of Vassals. With Trolls, it’s often the Krielstone with all of the trimmings and a Fellcaller.

I’ve come to realize in both cases that these “auto-include” items are more like strong suggestions. With Protectorate, the moment I decided to champion Kreoss2 and his theme force, I lost the ability to even take the Choir. With only Fire of Salvation in my battlegroup, I didn’t miss it.

With Trolls, I’ve recently had a similar experience with Jarl, and it’s had me questioning the points efficiency of the KSB.

I think there are two crucial points to consider before the Krielstone is even a possibility in a list:

  1. Is my warlock capable of filling and maintaining the stone? Jarl, for example, is not. While many Troll warlocks want to do nothing more than dump their fury into the stone and run on Turn 1, Jarl wants to spend at least 4 of his fury on buffs. Every turn after that, he’ll be struggling to even put 1 on it to keep the aura going.
  2. Is the aura capable of covering a significant portion of my army? There are two factors to this: speed and footprint. Jarl is another great example for both of these. Between Quicken, Tactical Supremacy and his army’s preference for fast troops, the Krielstone will have a hard time keeping up–even if it runs. Consider this: if Quickened Kriel Warriors pray Swift Foot and run on Turn 1, they’re going to be 6″ farther up the board than the Krielstone will be if it also runs. Similarly, in an army that splits its forces or covers a large area of the board, the Krielstone will only be able to affect a small portion of them, even if it’s full.

Now, I still love the stone. It’s a fantastic hard counter to lists that depend on continuous effects, it’s one of the few ways we have to deal with incorporeal models and having 50% of Eye of Menoth available on demand is spectacular… not to mention everybody loves +2 ARM.

The problem is, outside of lists that also use Elemental Communion on already high ARM targets, I’m not convinced the +2 ARM is as significant now as it was pre-Colossals. There’s a lot of talk about how Trolls get caught in the crossfire of people’s anti-Colossal preparation. While I don’t think this negates super buffed Mulg sitting at DEF 17 / ARM 23, I do think it makes the difference between ARM 15 and ARM 17 Kriel Warriors significantly smaller. If a minimum of one list in each competitive format is capable of putting 50ish damage on something that’s generally at least ARM 22, that means there are a lot of lists out there that give no poops about 15 ARM 17 single wound models.

The second issue is the cost. A min unit of Choir is often enough to affect an entire 50pt Protectorate army–for 2 points. The minimum realistic cost of the Krielstone is double that, and in most cases will end up being the full 5 points. For less than 4% of an average 50pt army, the Choir is a tiny bite of potatoes that helps the meat get more work done. The Krielstone is a 9% investment that occasionally adds 1/4 the effectiveness of the Choir.

Don’t get me wrong–that’s a bit of an illusion. If that 9% investment means that half of a unit of Fennblades lives when they would have otherwise died, they’ve immediately paid for themselves. The problem is, in a world where Ragman, Aiyana and Holt, the Blackfrost Shard, Grissel1 and everybody and their mother in Cryx exists, the odds of ARM 16 surviving instead of ARM 14 is low.

So, for my own list building, I’m putting forward a new rule:

  1. Does +2 ARM push a significant portion of my army’s ARM into still-difficult-to-kill range? Champs are the simplest example here. Pushing them to ARM 20 while in B2B makes them more difficult to wound, and they’ve got multiple boxes and tough once they do break through.

The flipside to that argument about the Krielstone paying for itself is that for 5 points, you can simply buy more meat. Those points will pick up a the Fennblade Kithkar and a Champ Hero, or a unit of Runeshapers and the Swamp Gobbers, or a unit of Scouts. For one more point, the possibilities really start to open up–the Sons of Bragg, full Dygmies or full Kriel Warriors.

So, here’s my example. I’ve always taken the stone with Madrak2, even though he teeters on the edge of the first two rules. If I’m facing a wall of POW 10s, the KSB does a lot for him. In a pinch, Blood Fury on the Scribes can even get some work out of them.

The problem is that I’m rarely facing down a wall of POW 10s any more. It’s a world of boostable guns, weaponmaster infantry and debuffs. To compound this, there is no sane way to load the board with the full Kriel boat, Fennblades and the UA and full Dygmies, compress them into a 10″ bubble and have everything remain relevant.

Madrak’s force excels at being autonomous. The ability to send Madrak’s battlegroup and a unit of troops to one zone and another couple of medium based, tough units into another zone is an incredible advantage in scenario play. The KSB is locked into going with him because it needs him to stay fueled. This makes the autonomous force the obvious target for your opponent.

Without the Stone, they’ll be just as easy to kill, but imagine dropping 1 Caber and the Stone for the Gatorman Bokor and Swamp Shamblers. Not only does it provide 10 additional bodies that make a hell of a target for Blood Fury, but the models dying in that zone simply become more Shamblers. Rather than relying on +2 ARM and hoping for a tough roll, it’s a tough roll that, when failed, can generate a new (albeit less effective) warrior model.

Consider an average Madrak2 list:

Madrak Ironhide, World Ender (*5pts)
* Troll Impaler (5pts)
* Dire Troll Bomber (10pts)
Krielstone Bearer and 5 Stone Scribes (4pts)
* Krielstone Stone Scribe Elder (1pts)
Pyg Burrowers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Trollkin Fennblades (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Trollkin Fennblade Officer & Drummer (2pts)
Trollkin Long Riders (Leader and 4 Grunts) (11pts)
Fell Caller Hero (3pts)
Horthol, Long Rider Hero (5pts)

It’s got all of the essentials. You’ve got the Ghad Shonkwiler inspired battle group, lots of reach to abuse the feat turn, and just a ton of raw power under Blood Fury. It’s great list I’ve played quite a bit and had a great deal of success with.

I’ve also played him as more of a nightmarish swarm like:

Madrak Ironhide, World Ender (*5pts)
* Troll Impaler (5pts)
* Dire Troll Bomber (10pts)
Kriel Warriors (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
* 3 Kriel Warrior Caber Thrower (3pts)
* Kriel Warrior Standard Bearer & Piper (2pts)
Krielstone Bearer and 5 Stone Scribes (4pts)
* Krielstone Stone Scribe Elder (1pts)
Pyg Burrowers (Leader and 9 Grunts) (6pts)
Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew (Leader and 1 Grunt) (1pts)
Trollkin Fennblades (Leader and 9 Grunts) (8pts)
* Trollkin Fennblade Officer & Drummer (2pts)
Trollkin Runeshapers (Leader and 2 Crew) (4pts)
Fell Caller Hero (3pts)

It’s just bodies on bodies. It’s not fast like Jarl, but Madrak can make any one of these units hit nightmarishly hard, he can provide pathfinder to a large section of them, and the vast majority of them are good fodder for Grim Salvation.

Without counting the Fell Callers (because with 2 weaponmaster attacks, those are some meaty potatoes), the first list has 36 weapon wielding models and 9% support staff, while the second list has 46 similarly equipped bodies and is just under 11% support. In both cases, the KSB is going to have limited use. It can’t keep up with Long Riders or Burrowers, and it can’t cover both the full Kriel boat and full Fennblades reliably.

Instead, we can choose live dangerously.

But before we get too dangerous, It’s important to consider the reality of the Stone Scribes as a melee force. They will fight, particularly if something strange gets too close to your caster or if it’s desperation time. They’ll even do well against low DEF targets with Blood Fury on them. But, at MAT 5 and POW 11, they resemble unbuffed Kriel Warriors without Fervor, and sending them charging into a target is a lot like giving up on the Krielstone all together.

In the first list, it’s possible to drop in a unit of Scouts to add more speed to the list, Runebearers and the Swamp Gobbers or a few combat solos. It’s also possible to sub in the Witch Doc Croc to keep the Burrowers from fleeing, while also helping out against incorporeal models, with 2 points to spare. In the second list, dropping the KSB and either the Gobbers or a single Caber Thrower opens a world of possibilities. 6 points picks up hard hitters (min Champs or the Sons of Bragg), even more bodies (min Boomhowlers, a second max unit of Kriel Warriors) or a mix of the two (Farrow Slaughterhousers). It also gives us the perfect points for the Shamblers.

So, that’s where I am lately with the stone. It’s still best friends with Doomshaper1 and Madrak1, but otherwise, it’s taking a bit of a back seat. How are you guys using the Stone these days? Do you feel that +2 ARM is helping you out every game, or is it just there because of habit?

Author: jbarket

Jonathan Barket is the exception to Hoarluk Doomshaper's quest to kill all humans. He started playing Warmachine in December of 2010, and has been punting games he thought he had in the bag ever since. If this article wasn't enough to put your to sleep, he also writes about Warmachine with his teammates at http://www.midsouthgaming.com.

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