When Gargantuans and Colossals were released, I don’t know anyone that wasn’t excited in extreme anticipation to see what ‘theirs’ was going to do. Were Gargantuans going to have 7 Fury?!!? Were Colossals all going to be able to get 5 Focus? ARM 21 base? Strength 20? Okay so these were all the meanderings of wistful thinking Warmachine nerds. That’s fine, we tend to do that; but never was there a release that was going to be this impactful to the game, or so it felt.
Much to my chagrin the big construct was pretty much the complete opposite of everything I had hoped and anticipated. He had a one shot gun, ZERO magic weapons, and couldn’t be buffed!!!! WTF!?!?! Half the fun of these big baddies is pondering all the silly combinations you could possibly muster with all the in-faction buffs; who cares if it’s hardly realistic to actually make any of them happen! Dammit I wanted to live the dream with my (non) Magic Monkey just like a Merc player could with Galleon… just imagine if we can get Gorman, A&H, and Ragman into position with Damiano’s Feat, HE’LL ONE ROUND THE WORLD!!!!
C’mon I’m not the only one who thinks of this nonsense, don’t lie.
My faith was renewed, slightly, early in 2013 when, of all things, I took the Kraken to TempleCon and was able to ride that Colossal to a top 8 finish in Masters. Playing a 20 point model was a different thing entirely than I had experienced before. There was a new level of satisfaction and dominance when it was done right that I really enjoyed. Previously I resolved I was never going to play the Woldwrath in sincere and (not so) silent protest. However I received the Woldwrath as a gift, and after having a positive experience with a Colossal at TempleCon I decided to give the big monkey a go; and that’s where we begin this article…
Monster Made of Stone
Like all Gargossals the Woldwrath brings dual threat capabilities, the difference for Circle being he is a rare commodity in that he joins just 4 other beasts that actually have boostable ranged and melee attacks. It’s not just that he has both a gun and fist, it’s more that he may have the best of both with highest base damage ranged and melee attack in faction; neither are to be trifled with. Don’t agree? Let’s discuss!
Lightning Strike is the boostable gun at POW 15, and range 14 which is an attack powerful enough to rip an arm off a jack, destroy UAs, or one shot calv models. Not to mention threaten a Caster or Lock from 19″ away. All that is not even the reason I have grown to appreciate it; the electro leap is really where it won me over. Often Woldwrath is unchallenged early in the game allowing him to fire for several turns before he has to engage. My target selection with him usually starts by identifying a pesky solo or UA that is standing near a lower DEF heavy or objective whom I can shoot and subsequently electro leap into the unsuspecting low ARM valuable friendly; it’s actually quite reliable when the opportunity is presented (which it often is). I have gotten Eryiss, Gorman, Ayiana, Arcanists, Mage Hunters, Mechanics, Souless, Bayle, Wilder, Succubus, Madelyn, Sylas… ok, you get the point. It’s a reliable way to reach out and touch a number of important support pieces. How about simply removing a couple of models blocking charge lanes for your heavies? That is a more common use, especially late game. What about the one model at the back of the zone contesting that you can’t reach otherwise? How about running your own guy out in front of the target and use use the electro leap to clip said target up to 24″ away. Not bad! I’m not suggesting you pay 20 points for an electro leap gun, however I do believe it is added value on his abilities that may not be correctly quantified.
Second part of Lightening Strike I learned to love is the POW 10 AOEs it leaves behind covering the board in a swath 6″ wide. In the event I dont have an important solo to clip, I’ll shoot shoot the lead grunts on a unit, and use Storm Generator to be problematic for the remainder of the unit. If you really don’t believe that matters then go ask a Cygnar player what that does to board control. I have wiped multiple calv models running through the AOEs on the same turn. Did I hot roll? Sure, however the fact that its possible means your opponent cannot simply ignore it. Models with Tough hate it because its a clogged mess if one grunt makes their check. Needing 4, 5, 6 or even 7 on a damage roll will make an opponent think twice about running through it. That means Woldwrath can often dictate his own terms of engagement. Worried about missing and not getting the benefits of the one shot? Welcome to Warmachine, it’s a dice game. There is a 75% chance you hit a boosted 14 DEF, over 80% vs a DEF 13, and over 90% vs a DEF 12; you really shouldn’t be shooting anything higher than that. Those odds are about as good as your going to get in this game. I am frustrated by this criticism every time I hear it; while I understand it, I simply don’t believe it’s a detriment to him more than any other model in the game. Ultimately the gun gives Circle a long range support threat we have never had. Sending a beast in on a heavy and worried about one rounding? Drop a shot into it first, might save you a Primal. How about destroying an objective that your unit or solo failed to clear? Drop a shot. On paper I did not appreciate it until I had it on the table. There is a reason why Circle doesn’t have an abundance of great guns, and after playing this guy a lot, I understand why.
Moving on to what I like to call the Earthshaker Fist, you can make an argument for it being among the best base melee attacks in the game. I know some of you are ready to punch your screen, but think about it: it has an auto KD effect, which has a threat of +4.5″ of KD on nearby models, or put another way, Woldwrath can reliably KD any model (not immune) within +12.5″ of his starting position!!! For the mathematicians out there, he has 2″ reach, center the 4″ AOE on the model hit, netting another >.5″ to the center of its base (if it’s small based, more if it’s larger), plus the 2″ gained from the AOE itself. KD on on the fist is not an overlooked ability per se, but I think the abuse that it can lead to is under appreciated. It’s super reliable in clearing LOS and catching unsuspecting high DEF models that hover too close to anything that is more easily hit. The fact that Woldwrath is the same P&S as Ghetorix after he warps for ST seems to be missed a lot as well. We’ll get to Spell Ward in a bit, but, at its base, P&S 19 is hardly pillow fisted. While G-Rex has 1″ greater threat, the Woldwrath is more survivable and has Reach on both weapons as well as two open fists. The one detriment of the fists is that you run the risk of KD your own stuff, a concern I had when I first started playing him. What I found is that while you have to be cognizant of it, it’s not the huge issue I anticipated it being. Circle is typically model light and the risk of having your own models in the way is less than I thought. Most often I found myself playing him off to a flank and he wasn’t getting near or in the way of much. The benefits gained from the AOE KD effect on his reach fist are far greater than the inherent risk to your own pieces. In my experience the weapon has been money, and he is one of the most reliable melee models I have ever played. This is largely due to the fact that Spell Ward often prevents my opponents from stopping him from doing what he wants to do. His POW/KD combo is very consistent, and his damage output has never been disappointing. Speaking of Spell Ward let’s go there next.
Spell Ward originally felt like a huge issue to me and really made me not want to play him, as I mentioned at the onset of the article; however, once on the table I begun to feel much differently about it. Playing Gargossals I have found that often my opponent needs some type of spell to help deal with them, either by crowd controlling them out for a turn or by adding some type of damage enhancer. While this is not necessarily true 100% of the time, I would venture to say it’s true more often than not. Once I realized how much more survivable Spell Ward made the Woldwrath it began to unlock him for me. I cannot think of a time when I had him taken off the board by a single activation, often it took 3 turns of damage abuse before he went down, if he went down at all. Most opponents that realize a main asset of dealing with a Gargossal (spells) is off limits means they focus their valuable resources towards dealing with other pieces of the army so as to not get behind in other areas. Often that lead to Woldwrath being around until all other pieces that could effectively deal with him were off the table; which usually meant the game was won. All of the Gargossals are most valuable in attrition, however he seems to shine there much more than I ever thought. Where many of the Woldwrath’s abilities come into play is late game when opponents options for dealing with him become much more limited. So the first point on Spell Ward that I want to emphasize is the natural increase to a Woldwrath’s survivability that it brings; while it can at first seem frustrating, in the long run, you will find it keeps him on the table more often than not.
Regarding Spell Ward as a limitation, I’m with you… well, wait, let’s consider that for a minute. The important buffs that come to mind first that he cannot have are Stone Skin and…? Hmm… Okay, I’m being ironical but the point I’m getting at is, when I started to really examine what buffs he could actually receive most that come to mind are already not available to him by virtue of being ‘living’ or ‘self’. When you stop to think about it, really the only ones that you might miss are the ARM buffs: Inviolable Resolve, Restoration, and RoE (outside the Feat). That said, given what we just spoke about in the above paragraph, would we really rather have our opponents with the ability to increase their damage output on him? My experience tells me no. Moreover, I don’t want my opponent preventing him from doing what I want to do with my 20 point investment. I’ll sacrifice the ARM increases for the Spell Ward and base ARM 20.
I admit that there are some buffs that might be interesting: Carnivore would be nice, however I would not trade Spell Ward for those as he already has an accuracy enhancer built in with KD on the fists. So now what are you worried about? Our own damage enhancement? Let’s talk about what buffs he can receive. The one that is most obviously good is Curse of Shadows. It’s on two Warlocks in faction, and brings him up to effective POW 21. That means he should be able to one round most other heavy chassis in the game. My personal favorite buff on him is Wraith Bane from the Pureblood (yes he can still receive Animus cast by beasts), which allows him to ignore the buffs on opposing models, and gives him magic attacks (YAH!!!). With CoS he is dice plus 2 on an Arcane Shielded Storm Wall or a Warded Judicator; put another way that means he will do nearly 50 damge to either in spite of them being buffed!!! A different use that I have gotten out of Wraith Bane on him is his ability to go in and KD a bunch of Iron Fleshed models with multiple attacks and allow the rest of the support to clear the now KD models; it’s situationally brilliant. The most overlooked buff, in my opinion, is Hunters Mark; which he can gain from a BCW or Lanyssa. It will increase his threat by 2” bringing it to a scary 12”, and bringing his KD threat to >14.5”! That is pretty intense given all the melee potential he has, combined with how unsuspecting most opponents will be of his melee threat distance; not to mention the free charge. Speaking of threat extenders, how about Bounding on him? Another 2″ of threat, and +2 to a charge attack roll?? Sounds legit to me, especially when combined with the aforementioned Hunters Mark bringing him to 14″ and > 16.5″ KD threat. Pretty crazy on a Gargantuan. Another one that I have not tried but feel has merit is Amuck. Maybe not ideal at first, but in the event you get clogged in with a lot of infantry jamming the way, you can use this ability to rip through them with a Power Sweep. MAT 6 doesn’t make you excited to use Amuck? Ask Trolls what they would give for this ability on a MAT 6 Mountain King.
The summary on Spell Ward is this: when I started to examine the faction, there wasn’t nearly as much to buff a Woldwrath with as I thought. What’s more, once I realized the real impact of the defensive benefits of having it I can honestly say I’m no longer disappointed in him having Spell Ward and feel he truly benefits from it, all things considered.
A few other items on his card I want to address, starting with possibly his most overlooked base ability stat which is SPD 5, not 4 which a lot of players forget. That extra inch can make a huge difference (that’s what she said). Especially when many of his counterparts (Conquest, Judicator, Mammoth) are all SPD 4. Feels like we stole one here and I’m really happy about that. The threat of 10” base is a different feel than 9”, and the fact that with Hunters Mark he can threaten across an entire zone makes him that much more scenario relevant. The extra 2 inches of run speed early means he gets to position right away with no positional issues on turn 2. All in all, SPD is probably the piece that is missed most often on Woldwrath’s card, but one I take exception to note here and I’m sure upon second thought you will feel the same way.
His Animus was probably the most revered ability upon immediate release, and likely the most underused ability by the general player community a year later. Funny part is everything we thought early on about the ability is still absolutely true, so why aren’t we using it? To be honest, I’m not sure. Part of it is that Woldwrath isn’t really played a ton. Secondarily, when he is it seems that he is used as a gun platform in a list where he is one of maybe two beasts. When you boost and attack and damage, you don’t want to max out Fury and not be able to transfer to your best target; which ultimately means can’t use Druids Wrath. For me, I played him in a beast heavy list, so I was able to max him out without fear, and while the Animus didn’t come up often for me either, when it did it was situationally brilliant. The pieces that benefit from it probably number nearly half the faction, so I won’t list them here, we’ll discuss which models (I believe) he likes the most in the next section. For now, what I want to mention about the Animus is that it’s an extra die not boosted. This is a significant difference maker and when you need every bit to help ensure you land that crucial spell, going to 4d6 is huge. Additionally it exponentially enhances your chances for a Crit to trigger.
And last, but not least… transfers, oh my lord transfers! While this is certainly not unique to Woldwrath, what is unique is his ability to take more of them than any other Gargantuan in the game. Yes I realize (more than most) that Baldur is the only one that can heal him, however Stones do exist and offer you the opportunity to get him back functioning when you need it most. The point is, the ability to transfer a 15+ point whollup and not sweat it is… well, glorious. You won’t know the true comfort of that unless you have experienced it. While the Woldwrath is healthy, and you have transfers on you, your Warlock is nye unkillable; what’s more important is that Woldwrath will likely come out of it still ready to rumble. This goes back to the whole discussion on survivability. When it comes down to it nobody trades better, or harder, than this big stone monster. Having him in your corner as a transfer target is a warm and cozy blanket that, until experienced, you won’t truly appreciate.
Friends of Stone
Now that we have discussed the foundational abilities, it’s important to discuss what models Woldwrath likes to hit the table with. While some of this has been hinted at already, let’s go into a bit more detail. Again, this isn’t necessarily every option available to him, however, these are the ones I feel are most worth noting. Let’s begin with:
pBaldur – It can be argued that nobody loves the big stone more than him. I have a detailed article (click here), if you want to read about it some additional details. Here are the highlights, the free Power Attack is clutch, the ability to heal him, and access to making your models immune to KD makes this combo really sing.
eBaldur – a lot of the same benefits as his Primal version, minus the mass KD immunity. The one big boon here is for one turn he can push this guy’s ARM way up, which also can’t be touched with magical debuffs. The Feat also means your Gargantuan gets the alpha. It’s a strong scenario and attrition combo.
Cassius – these two love each other, he is one of the two CoS Warlocks we have. Additionally Black Roots and Druids Wrath mean Hellmouth is on demand. Also Stranglehold is great for holding heavies that are dangerous at bay until Woldwrath can dispatch of them, which is also made reliable by Druids Wrath (and spammable!). A huge base to hide behind is never a bad thing either, and sometimes the Feat can buy Woldwrath the alpha.
eKrueger – this one has been explored quite a bit on the interwebs. Stormwall does prevent opponents from softening him up further extending his survivability. More importantly Gallows and Telekinesis extend his threat range, and eKrueger is a Warlock that loves having access to Druids Wrath more than most. Also this is another Feat than can buy Woldwrath the opportunity to draw melee blood first, probably more so than any other..
Mohsar – probably one of my favorite Warlocks for Woldwrath. He is the other Warlock that has access to CoS, but that is just the beginning. Druids Wrath and Crevasse is incredibly powerful on a Fury 8 Warlock. You can routinely spam it 3 times off Mohsar himself easily wiping a dozen models regardless of DEF or Stealth, and still camp 2 or 3. Pillars partners extremely well with the AOEs left from Lightning Strike. Fun fact, quickest way to get a judge called is to use Pillars to block LOS to your huge base Gargantuan. Woldwrath is also a decent Maltreatment target and works well in order of activation if you want to put Druids Wrath up first and get your AOEs out. Also its a nice base for Mohsar to hide behind as well. All in all this is a marriage that has not been explored nearly enough in my opinion.
pMorvahna – while less obvious of a choice, I like his gun combined with my models follow up in melee in conjunction with her Feat. Plus she is an awesome attrition Warlock and he is an awesome attrition piece. She has no natural ARM fixer so taking our highest POW beast is not a bad idea for her either. Her Feat can also be one that allows him to get the first strike on the follow up turn. The obligatory mention of a great huge base for her to hide behind is worth noting again.
eMorvahna – while it’s well documented that putting these two on the table together is effective, it is not something that I personally do; that doesn’t mean it should not be noted in this article. There is nothing she doesn’t pair well with and re – rolls on Woldwrath is about as good as it gets for Scales of Fate. He is is a great transfer for her despite that she can’t heal him, it allows her to bleed lower and transfer more. She probably benefits most from being able to hide behind him thanks to her own large base. Overall this is a tried and true marriage on the table.
Pureblood – Wraith Bane is my favorite buff on WW so is not surprising the PB made this list. They play off each other well thanks to their ability to operate well independently while both also having high POW boostable ranged attacks.
Ghetorix – is my favorite beast to play with the Magic Monkey. Together they are such a dynamic duo. G-Rex is a great trade piece and Woldwrath loves to have a partner that is equally if not more scary than him. Another bit that I love about Ghetorix is how he can regenerate and snack. Healing 6 damage in a turn means you need another 2 attacks on top of what he had left to get him off the table. Having him be survivable along side Woldwrath means the heavy piece trade is going to be that much more difficult for opponents.
Gnarlhorn – his Animus is one that really shines on WW. The +2 on charge attacks and extra 2″ of threat can really be amazing. Plus counter charge can be great as defensive tech for WW when an unsuspecting opposing heavy is caught by the Gnarlhorn saving the WW.
Razorwing Griffon – i like light beasts in general with the Woldwrath because with a shot from the Lightning Strike and a buff they can effectively eliminate many heavies that would threaten Woldwrath. When you can get a heavy in exchange for a light it’s always a good thing. I’m noting the Razorwing in particular because his Animus is worthwhile putting on the WW, and he’s got Flight meaning he ignores the huge base for LOS purposes.
Woldwatcher – a shield guard isn’t necessarily bad for the WW to have next to him, and this little guy can be a good speed bump preventing an opposing heavy from getting to the Gargantuan in certain cases.
Feral – a lot of the same things about G- Rex is also true here. He is a great swap piece, can regen, and can kill many of the things that Woldwrath might be afraid of; not a bad partner for the Gargantuan to have..
Other pieces to consider…
Fulcrum – not as crazy crazy as It sounds, when combined with the Woldwrath that’s a lot of firepower on the table, and with Storm Generator in conjunction with Flame Blast that’s 10″ of board that creates difficulty for the opponent. It’s a little out of the box but I like the potential in the right list.
Blackclad Wayfarer – Hunters Mark is a great buff to Woldwrath as we already noted. Additionally, he is a great target for Woldwrath to shoot to electro leap into an annoying model that you can’t seem to get rid of. He can be teleported out ricocheted off of and phase jumped back. Also he benefits from Druids Wrath on his spray attack which is never bad, don’t forget the Crit KD chance there!
Lanyssa Ryssal – while not as good of an option as BCW, she still has Hunters Mark (but does not benefit from Druid’s Wrath 😦 ). Also Winter Storm can be situationally brilliant and should not be overlooked.
Gallows Groves – threat extenders on spells that benefit from Druids Wrath are never a bad thing. Plus medium base models can block paths to WW that can be problematic for opponents.
Shifting Stones – one of the few reasons I would consider taking two sets sets in a list is for Woldwrath. They can heal the WW outside of Baldur, block movement to the Woldwrath and the UA gains the benefit of Druids Wrath with Rock Hammer which also has a KD effect.
Skinwalkers/Ravagers/Bloodpack/Gatorman Posse – medium bases are good friends for Woldwrath to have on the table. Stops trampling and these units hit hard enough that with a little help from Lightning Strike they can take out a heavy and prevent infantry from getting to WW.
Druids – i feel obligated to note them due to to their sweet magic missile and Crit effect that benefits so obviously from Druids Wrath.
Shtics and Stones
Throughout the article a number of tactical ideas have come up, but here are a few reminders.
1. Use the gun as support, not just a way to do isolated damage. It’s a combined arms addition to Woldwrath’s kit and can be used to carve out support, crowd control infantry, or score VPs by clearing zones and finishing objectives.
2. KD is a hugely powerful ability that is the beginning step to many critical turns or assassination runs. Use the AOE KD effect to max advantage. It’s unique to him in that he can do it on every swing with a huge swath of impact.
3. Power attacks, use them! Woldwrath has a threat of 12″ on thrown large base model, 17″ if count his SPD. With a selection of Steady models in faction and a no KD upkeep; that is a lot of reliable jenk.
4. Keeping him alive is relatively easy, but leverage that to win the attrition war. If the Woldwrath is the last heavy on on the board, there is a good chance you’ve won the game.
In closing, I would offer this… Play the magic monkey! He has a lot of depth and is much more than meets the eye. You can build around him in many ways, and we have a lot of unique things to help take advantage of his kit. Have fun with that!