Monday, August 25, 2014

The White Council: What Build Should I Make?

So last year at THRO 2013, I took a five-man Ringwraith force. We lost two of our games outright and nearly tied our third. Why did I take this army? Because I could and because they're fun. My foes agreed that playing against an army of terror-causing, magic-blasting units was different than the traditional fight, but my "all-hero" lists came under some critique on their competitiveness.

This year, I'm bringing a White Council list, which I think will not only be very competitive, but also will be very, VERY fun to use. The list is as follows:

The Might of the Elves (aka, "Melee Is Everything")

Elrond - 170 pts
Celeborn with Elven blade, shield, and heavy armor - 150 pts
Glorfindel, Lord of the West with Armor of Gondolin - 140 pts [Army Leader]
Erestor - 80 pts
Arwen Evenstar - 60 pts

Total: 600 points, 5 units, 1 throwing daggers, 11 Might points

This list features four - count them FOUR - D7 heroes and everyone is Fight 6+ (with more than one wound and usually 3 Fate points). That's a tough army to crack. Arwen is the light-weight of the army, but she has the uncanny ability via Nature's Wrath of putting an entire flanking force on their backs OR sending the front lines into complete disarray (taking away the vital benefit of spears and ensuring my men don't take wounds in a given round). When you consider that Elrond also has this spell (not to mention Renew to put wounds back on those D7 heroes), and Celeborn has Immobilize, the army is kitted out for magical casting.

The army is also great at magical defense because of the White Council's special rule (getting a +1 to your roll means you often only need a single dice to resist). Glorfindel's armor not only makes him D7, but also makes him Resistant to Magic, which is great for continuing to resist enemy spells late in the game (or keeping him free from magic entirely since casting against him may be pointless).

This is a very straight-forward offensive build, but there are other legitimate builds for the White Council, depending on what you value. The build that you see above is subtitled "melee is everything," because everyone is designed to either dominate melee combat or mitigate the effectiveness of enemy units (via Nature's Wrath primarily). I decided that this list would be fun to try in this particular tournament, but here are a few of the runners up.

Alternate Army #1: Shooting is Everything

The White Council has twelve units to work with, and only three have traditional ranged attacks, so we'll buy them first:

Legolas with armor and Elven cloak - 105 pts
Thranduil - 90 pts
Erestor - 80 pts

Subtotal: 265 pts (325 pts left)

After buying archers, you need to protect them (especially when an Elven cloak comes standard on Thranduil), so let's get some "ranged" units from the wizards of the army:

Saruman the White - 150 pts
Gandalf the Grey - 170 pts

Total: 595 points, 5 units, 2 Elf bows + 1 throwing daggers, 13 Might points

Saruman and Gandalf both have Sorcerous Blast, which is a great way of slowing units down (and secondarily killing some). With Legolas and Thranduil scoring roughly 3 hits per round at long range, Saruman and Gandalf casting Sorcerous Blast in medium range, and Erestor rerolling failed to Wound rolls in close range, you've got some serious damage dealing capabilities before your foe gets to you. Enemy archery is not a worry, with Gandalf reducing the effectiveness of direct archery and all of your units being D5 or higher. I didn't choose to take this army because the scoring rules will reward brawlers this tournament...not this army's forte.

Alternate Army #2: Magic is Everything

All but three of the units on the White Council (Glorfindel, Legolas, and Erestor) have magical spells they can cast, so our working list is now down to nine units. It's tempting to approach an army list that centers around magic by buying the units who can cast lots of spells and have a wide variety of spells (i.e. Saruman, Gandalf, and Radagast). From experience, keeping just two of these guys alive is really hard...and I would assume that keeping all three alive would be really, really, REALLY hard. So instead of buying units who can cast a lot, the idea will be to generate a list that has (nearly) all the spells that are available to provide a toolkit approach to dealing with threats.

We begin with purchasing either Gandalf the Grey OR Saruman the White. For the sake of this list, we'll take Saruman, because casting Sorcerous Blast more easily is a great way to supplement the damage out put of our other units. To protect Saruman from both archery and melee, we will also take Galadriel, who not only provides us with one of Gandalf's spells that Saruman lacks, but also gives us a melee queen who will make charging both her and Saruman (once he gets up Terrifying Aura) much harder.

Saruman the White - 150 pts
Galadriel, Lady of the Galadhrim - 125 pts

Subtotal: 275 pts (325 pts remaining)

If we wanted to get Radagast the Brown, he would add three spells to our collection: Panic Steed (which we can't regain with other units), Terrifying Aura (which we can get from Cirdan or Thranduil), and Renew (which we can get from Elrond). Let's plan on taking Elrond (great melee hero), since he provides us with both Renew and Nature's Wrath. In order to get Terrifying Aura, we'll be taking Thranduil for the following reasons.

First, Thranduil is limited to casting Terrifying Aura once per game, but it doesn't cost Will points and it's automatically cast on a 6. That's hard to resist without sinking Might points into when the only person in range to resist is an Uruk Captain with a single Will point (if he hasn't spent it yet). Cirdan will likely have 2 Will points that he could use to cast the spell (one used to cast and one to keep Cast Blinding Light up), but he needs to get a 5+ in order to get it off. He could fail it pretty easily (using his only Might point, he has a 25% chance of failure while using two dice) and like Thranduil, you're only getting this off once anyway. Secondarily, Thranduil is a much better warrior than Cirdan, having one of the best Shoot values in the game, an Elven cloak for protection against archery, armor to reduce damage intake, and a melee weapon that can be used as a two-handed weapon. Not bad, right? Our list then also includes:

Elrond - 170 pts
Thranduil - 90 pts

Subtotal: 545 pts (65 pts remaining)

At this point, you have two choices: upgrade one of your heroes, or add Arwen (the only hero you can get for 60 points). If you're going to upgrade anyone, I'd recommend changing Thranduil to Celeborn with all his gear (if you really like melee and don't care about archery), or if you chose Gandalf instead of Saruman (45 pts to work with), you could forsake the spell-casting requirement and exchange Galadriel for Erestor and Legolas. For the sake of this list, let's assume that you purchase Arwen, since four-man teams are hard to use and because having three casters with Nature's Wrath is just awesome:

Arwen Evenstar - 60 pts

Total: 595 points, 5 units, 1 Elf bow, 13 Might points

Alternate Army #3: Numbers is Everything

So this army list is simple - we're going for body count. That means, we can start with the cheap units, and work our way up from there. Let's begin with three of the six cheapest warriors for overall protection and damage output:

Legolas with armor - 95 pts
Thranduil - 90 pts
Galadriel, Lady of the Galadhrim - 125 pts

Subtotal: 310 pts (290 pts left)

The above units should be safe from enemy archery and should be able to deal pain when the enemy arrives. On their own, though, they're going to struggle, so let's get two more cheap heroes to protect them in close combat:

Erestor - 80 pts
Arwen Evenstar - 60 pts

Subtotal: 450 pts (150 pts left)

Erestor we briefly talked about above as an excellent short-range archer, but his 3 Fate points with D7 should immediately signal a utility bunker captain. On offense, his choice of rerollable wounding dice or using a two-handed weapon is great for damage output. Arwen plays the alternate roll (with Thranduil, really) of making sure your foe can't reach your archers (because when you're sent to your back, it's hard to keep up with nimble Elves).

With 150 pts left, we only have room for one more unit (because of our unit selection). This gives us a few options, but let's assume you want to be able to do some melee damage/protection. You could pick up Glorfindel with the Armor of Gondolin for his melee/anti-caster prowess and equip Legolas with an Elven Cloak, greatly enhancing the archery effectiveness of this team. Alternatively, you could take a fully-decked Celeborn to neutralize enemy units. I, however, will recommend a very different player: Radagast the Brown.

Radagast the Brown - 150 pts

Total: 600 points, 6 units, 2 Elf bows + 1 throwing daggers, 14 Might points

Radagast is not going to kill very many units, but he'll provide tactical benefits that your team lacks. There are exactly four members of the White Council who don't cause Terror...and all of them are in this list (not Galadriel or Radagast). Radgast is the only hero who can reliably cast Terrifying Aura (granting everyone within 6" of him Terror for a turn) more than once. Since all of Radagast's other spells are cast on a 2+ or 3+, it's pretty easy to spend the free Will point only to get these off. Barring a barrage of enemy magic (Elven cloak rule should take care of that), you can spend your Will points casting something that will preserve your archery advantage for another turn (or two, or three).

Secondly, Radagast can restore wounds on your heroes via Renew. With Erestor as your bunker hero, making sure he keeps his spare Wound available will help you a lot in buying time for your archers to do their work. I could go on and on about how great Radagast is, but it turns out I already have on a previous post. Take a look at that for how you can use Radagast in your army!

Alternate Army #4: We Can't Die (really)

We've done a magic, ranged, and melee-focused army already, and we've tried to maximize the number of units we run, but our last list attempts to focus on one aspect that the White Council controls quite well: high health/Fate/defense units. This list will try to meld the benefits of having high defense with lots of restorative powers.

For starters, we want to get some reliable heroes who will pass their Fate points. This means taking two of the three units with the Elven rings:

Elrond - 170 pts
Gandalf the Grey - 170 pts

Subtotal: 340 pts (260 pts left)

With the remainder, we can buy three more heroes if we want, but for this list we're going to just buy two of them:

Radagast the Brown with Sebastian - 155 pts
Legolas with armor and Elven cloak - 105 pts

Total: 600 points, 4 units, 1 Elf bow, 12 Might points

Radagast can cast Renew rather easily on his friends (and doesn't need line of sight to do it) and Legolas will stand nearby to protect him. Purchasing Sebastian (thanks to the new Hobbit SBG profile, which we here at TMAT allow players to use in the LOTR SBG sourcebooks where the same model is reproduced) gives you a bonus attack dice at a really low strength. The goal is not to wound with this dice, but to win with this dice: since Radagast isn't a fighter, anything that gets him more dice is a great thing. For 5 points, it's a bargain.

This list will be hard to win with (because of its low body count), but it has the potential to live for a very, VERY long time - everyone has 3 Fate points (rerollable for two of them), everyone is D5/D7, everyone has 3 wounds (except Legolas), and you have the ability to do mega damage in each phase of battle - who wouldn't have fun with this list?

Adventure Is Out There!

So part of the reason for this post is to get our readership excited about THRO 2014, but a dual purpose is to gain a little exposure for the possibilities of all-hero lists. I was actually able to use/recommend everyone except Cirdan from the White Council list in at least two army lists, so there's some flexibility in what you can do if you invest in them. In the coming weeks, I'll be doing a similar thing with the Fellowship of the Ring and my Riders in Black, just to show how non-conventional armies can be built based on your playing style to emphasize a certain trait. At the end of the day, the scenarios may not make your list competitive, but you can have a lot of fun playing with these lists.

Until I see you again, happy hobbying!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent write-up, Tiberius! Glad you put this up: I've faced the White Council list several times, and I've had my games of painfully losing to it and doing my fair share of damage to it over the past 12 months, and I've really enjoyed facing it as an army. Looking forward to seeing how it holds up against the new and improved Halloween Army at THRO! :D