Revisiting Borka 2 – Disgruntled Wargamer

Revisiting Borka 2

It’s been a few years since I first started messing with Borka, Vengeance of the Rimeshaws. When I first started playing with him, I experimented with a massive warbeast army, but settled on a War Wagon with Horthol and Long Riders. At the time, Borka could make something immune to cold, then use his feat. After the Mk3 update and some tweaks during the Northkin update, he lost that ability. Also, the War Wagon didn’t make it into the Northkin theme, presumably so it wouldn’t overshadow the Hearthgut Hooch Hauler.

I’m honestly not sure why the Long Riders and War Wagon don’t show up in a theme, or aren’t both automatically Northkin models all the time, since that’s where they come from the north kriels, according to the fluff. I would love a Borka all cavalry and bear list.

For the lolz, and accidently good?

Borka feels like he wants a ton of warbeasts with some fury management in the wings, helping the beasts rip apart warriors. His feat also feels strong with multibox models, like warbeasts, heavy cavalry, and Champions. A few nights ago, I decided to run something a little more off the wall. It’s fun seeing bears on the table, so two units of battle bears and the hooch hauler found their way into a list.

Battle bears fit well with the bear-riding warlock. Multi-box, naturally immune to cold, and hard hitting on their own. That’s important. Borka can’t boost anyone’s hit or damage capability, nor can he extend their threat. He’s a very linear warlock, in that respect. They’ll sometimes be too far from Borka to benefit from his feat, unfortunately. That’s not too problematic, because the bears act well as independent units, and in those situations will be behind or to the sides of your opponent’s army. The bears can also be used to drive your opponent’s warcaster closer to the center of the table, where Borka waits.

Freshly painted unit of Trollblood Battle Bears and Bear Handler
The battle bears fit both the atmosphere and playstyle for Borka 2.

The Hearthgut Hooch Hauler actually works well with Borka, benefitting from the second half of his feat when it’s in melee. The hooch hauler also benefits Borak, giving him +1 to attack rolls. This gives him almost a fighting chance of landing an assault with his bomb, and maybe even a frost hammer! Beer wagon acts like an Earthborn Dire Troll animus, making Borka immune to knockdown, as long as he’s close to the wagon.

Trollblood Hearthgut Hooch Hauler, painted, front.
Getting the thumbs up from the Hearthgut Hooch Hauler’s gutsiest Trollkin, the living propellant for the cask. If only they’d have picked a larger Trollkin, it might have had range 10.

The hooch hauler feels like it should do more work, or at the very least support more models. The Northkin Raiders throw firebombs, and when the hauler hits something with the cask first, the firebombs do very well as a in lieu of weapon master.

Rear view of a Trollblood Northkin Raider survives being knocked down from a Crucible Guard Trancer's slam.
A Northkin Raider survives a slam from a Crucible Guard Trancer.

Unlike the Northkin Raiders, the Northkin Fire Eaters don’t mesh well with the Hooch Hauler. They’re already cannot be knocked down when they’re on fire. They also have boosted attack and damage rolls when they’re on fire. A spray from the hauler could light them up, but it needs a six to hit, if in their back arc. The Pyre Troll also needs sixes, but it can boost, so it’s a better friend to the fire eaters. If the eaters are included, they form another independent unit. They can hang with a pyre troll and fell caller. For some reason, they don’t have Pathfinder.

Trollblood Kriel Warriors, converted from fennblades take to a trench in front of two units of Northkin Fire Eaters.
The Northkin Fire Eaters are behind the Kriel Warriors here. No worries, as this is a pre-game photo.

The Fell Caller serves a dual role in the list anyway. It helps the Northkin Fire Eaters in the early game, and in the late game turns into a Borka Buff! Remember that Borka is a friendly faction warrior model. The Fell Caller can grant him War Cry, to raise his MAT to 10, or 11 with the hooch hauler’s veteran leadership. Yes, you can turn Borka’s MAT up to 11!

For warbeasts, Rok is an obvious choice. Pyre Troll follows, because of fire eaters and because it offers a +2 to Borka’s damage applicable to his mace, Trauma, and his mount, who doesn’t have a name right now. I think they dropped the bear’s name for smooth gameplay rules.

View of Rok, Borka 1, Brawler, Pyre Troll, and Fell Caller. The top of a caber is in the foreground.
Rok with Borka 1, Dire Troll Brawler, Pyre Troll, and Fell Caller

Storm of the North Battle Bear Build with Raiders

Storm of the North Raiders 1
Borka 2 +27
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Hearthgut Hooch Hauler (15)
Valka (5) (free)
Fell Caller (4) (free)
Fell Caller (4) (free)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Fire Eaters (6)
Fire Eaters (6)
Northkin Raiders (13)
Storm of the North Raiders 2
Borka 2 +27
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Hearthgut Hooch Hauler (15)
Valka (5) (free)
Troll Whelps x5 (5) (free)
Fell Caller (4) (free)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Fire Eaters (6)
Fire Eaters (6)
Northkin Raiders (13)
Storm of the North Raiders 3
Borka 2 (+27)
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
– Dire Troll Blitzer (13)
Hooch Hauler (15)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Troll Whelps x5 (5) (free)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3) (free)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Northkin Raiders (13)
Northkin Shaman (2)

The first list is built as described. Borka is the finisher. He needs to stay alive until he can deliver the final blow to my opponent, whether that final blow is the removal of some key models clustered close together or the enemy warlock/warcaster. The bears drive the army up the middle, where raiders and the hooch hauler try to work some attrition. Storm Troll helps take out lightly armored infantry or important solos. The Storm Troll can be left at home if Cygnar Storm Division isn’t an issue in your meta, and replaced with any other 7-pointer, but its electroleaps are very useful.

The second list drops one of the Fell Callers for whelps, which are helpful for managing fury. Borka wants warbeasts, but can’t really run them well due to only having 5 FURY. Even with just Rok, the Pyre and Storm trolls, Borka runs too hot, and frenzies are a risk I would rather not take.

The third list drops the Fire Eaters and adds a Blitzer for Irresistible Force. Bulldoze can help Borka get to where he is needed when he’s trying his assassination run or just lining up some good kills. The Northkin Shaman is present, for maybe a good spray or to camp a flag in a cloud. Another alternative of the same vein is to add the Dire Troll Brawler instead of the Blitzer, then add an additional whelp. If that isn’t enough options, try modifying the krielstone to a minimum unit and squeezing in Lanyssa Ryssyl for Hunter’s Mark.

List with Long Riders

Storm of the North Long Riders 1
Borka 2
– Runebearer (4) (free)
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Hooch Hauler (15)
Horthol (7)
Trollkin Long Riders (17)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Whelps x5 (free)
Lanyssa Ryssyl, Nyss Sorceress (3)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Northkin Raiders, min (8)
Storm of the North Long Riders 2
Borka 2
– Runebearer (4) (free)
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Horthol (7)
Trollkin Long Riders (17)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Whelps x5 (free)
Lanyssa Ryssyl, Nyss Sorceress (3)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Northkin Raiders, min (13)

Quite the different list, but also not really. The problem is that Borka only does one thing for the riders, and that only works when they’re being hit in melee. An additional problem, or maybe an asset, is the Long Rider speed. They absolutely out-pace the krielstone. They’ll out-pace Borka as well, if he stops to cast a spell. The Runebearer can help by extending Borka’s control range, but it struggles to keep pace and needs strategic placement if it wants to use its abilities.

Adding the Long Riders requires removing other models. They almost always want Horthol for Line Breaker. Line Breaker helps with hitting small, high defense models while moving toward a larger model for the charge. In addition to Horthol, the Long Riders want Pathfinder. A Fell Caller is the next logical choice. After the Fell Caller, the Long Riders are going to want a speed buff. Yes, the Krielstone gives them their +1 SPD, but another +2 from Lanyssa Ryssyl’s Hunter’s Mark will go a long way to landing those half inch range slams. Why bring Lanyssa instead of Boomhowler 3? Boomhowler 3 costs 5 more points, his +2 threat range only works for warbeasts, and the fell calls can interfere with those of the normal Fell Caller Hero.

Shaping out the rest of the army involves adding the Krielstone, a unit of Battle Bears, and the Northkin Raiders. Unfortunately, the raiders drop to a minimum unit, and one of the battle bear units got lost along the way. As an alternative, the Hooch Hauler can be dropped for a full unit of Raiders and another unit of Battle Bears.

Trollkin Champions

Trollkin Champions, Skaldi, and Champion Hero.
Trollkin Champions with Skaldi, being followed by a Champion Hero
Storm of the North Champions 1
Borka 2
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Hooch Hauler (15)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Whelps x5 (free)
Trollkin Champion Hero (4) (free)
Boomhowler, the Destroyer (8)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Trollkin Champions (16)

Storm of the North Champions 2
Borka 2
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
– Dire Troll Blitzer (13)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Whelps x5 (free)
Trollkin Champion Hero (4) (free)
Boomhowler, the Destroyer (8)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Trollkin Champions (16)
Northkin Shaman (2)
Sorm of the North Champions 3
Borka 2
– Rok (17)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Whelps x5 (free)
Trollkin Champion Hero (4) (free)
Boomhowler, the Destroyer (8)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Battle Bears (10)
Battle Bears (10)
Trollkin Champions (16)
Northkin Fire Eaters (6)
Northkin Fire Eaters (6)
Northkin Shaman (2)

The next obvious iteration is the Champions. The champions take place of the other Raiders or Long Riders. Giving up the bears is unwise, since they are what directs the enemy toward the Champions. See the Kolgrima dissection for more details on that theory. The champion/bear build is well understood, and Borka probably plays a weaker version than Kolgrima, lacking threat extensions and a way to deal with eyeless sight.

A common complaint with running the Hauler and Champions is that the Champions will stumble out of being base to base, and lose their defense bonus in melee. This isn’t always the case, since packing them in tightly can prevent them from moving. Leaving the Hauler behind allows for more solos and/or warbeasts as shown in the second and third version of the Champions list.

Countercharge Extravaganza

Storm of the North Countercharge Extravaganza
Borka 2 +27
– Rok (17)
– Dire Troll Brawler (14)
– Dire Troll Blitzer (13)
– Earthborn Dire Troll (12)
– Pyre Troll (8)
– Storm Troll (7)
Boomhowler, the Destroyer (8)
Bumbles (6)
Troll Whelps x5 (free)
Troll Whelps x5 (free)
Valka (5) (free)
Krielstone Bearer (7)
– Northkin Elder (3)
Northkin Fire Eaters (6)

Countercharging models is fun. For maximum countercharging carnage, plug in all the countercharging models possible. It isn’t super strong, but could be entertaining. Whelps are necessary for keeping the warbeasts under control.

If I could change Borka 2…

Borka, Vengeance of the Rimeshaws is actually very cool. He doesn’t have a lot of spells to cast, but he doesn’t want them. He’d rather smash things. At first, I was a little upset when they changed him so he couldn’t make his war wagon or long riders immune to cold. However, playing him in the Storm of the North theme partially mitigates these changes.

Borka’s feat hasn’t changed much at all in the time that I’ve played him. Probably hasn’t ever changed. Stealth for everything, including enemy models, which is sometimes funny when they try to target their own units or models. The second part, the melee stationary thing is a weird way to freeze an army. It can’t do it automatically, but it makes an opponent think. There is a lot of counterplay in the game for Borka’s feat. Eyeless sight, true sight, and so on, see right through his stealth. Being immune to cold drops his melee counterpart. Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of models with both. Anyone can walk to within five inches and shoot, if they want to risk the countercharge. Most people just avoid making melee attacks if they don’t need to.

I flip-flop on whether I feel Borka 2 should have more fury. Having only 5 feels rough sometimes. His control range is small, unless he takes a Runebearer. He doesn’t really want the Runebearer, who struggles to keep up with Borka. Having an offensive spell at fury 5 is kind of a joke. The only semblance of balance here is that Borka can cast an animus for free. He struggles running more than one warbeast. They are either thrown away by countercharging, or they frenzy if they don’t eat a whelp. These pieces don’t mesh well.

The only other nitpick I have with Borka 2 is that his bomb is just a bomb. He’s a Northkin. Why can’t he have Fire Bombs?

Change 1:

Borka’s bomb becomes a Fire Bomb, like the Raiders’ bombs.

This just falls in line with the look of the army, and Borka gains a benefit from the Hooch Hauler’s Cask Bomb.

Change 2:

Borka’s feat adds a line: “Remove any number of fury points from any friendly faction warbeast that is currently Stumbling Drunk.”

This is a change that helps manage fury. First, it always affects Rok. Secondly, it can affect other Northkin warbeasts benefitting from the Hooch Hauler’s Beer Wagon ability.

Which list would I run?

I like Borka and the Hooch Hauler. As I stated before, I really like how he stays drunk when its nearby. The Rok, Storm Troll, Pyre Troll battlegroup works well with the Hooch Hauler. I would like to add a Dire Troll Blitzer, but I also like the Raiders. It’s almost a toss-up, but I think the Blitzer wins out. Boomhowler does a lot for the Krielstone, allowing it to keep up with Borka due to Hoof It. Finally, Valka, Lanyssa Ryssyl and Troll Whelps finish out the list. I know it’s missing Bumbles, but he just costs too much.

Final List
Borka, Vengeance of the Rimeshaws +27
– Rok (17)
– Storm Troll (7)
– Pyre Troll (8)
Hearthgut Hooch Hauler (15)
Valka Curseborn, Chieftain of the North (5) (free)
Troll Whelps (1)
Troll Whelps x5 (free)
Boomhowler, the Destroyer (8)
Lanyssa Ryssyl, Nyss Sorceress (3)
Fell Caller Hero (4) (free)
Krielstone Bearer & Stone Scribes (7)
Northkin Elder (3)
Northkin Bear Handler & Battle Bears (10)
Northkin Bear Handler & Battle Bears (10)
Northkin Raiders (13)

At the end of the day, I can’t justify him in my competitive Trollblood pairing for Steamroller. I want to run Kolgrima, because she answers most shooting lists and can play into both Legion and Crucible Guard fairly effectively. I have other warlocks that do more offensively and defensively for my pairing, answering her weak spots.