Flesh and Stone: A Weighty Guide to the Trolls

Grim towers of muscle and bone power through the tangle. No sound heralds their approach. No trace betrays their passing.

This land is under your protection.


Troll Basics

The Trolls are a mystical race of both powerful warriors and unique spellcasters, affording them great stalling power and peerless utility. If you dream of being the hero that saves everyone else’s bacon, the Trolls are the race for you. Let’s have a look at their defining characteristics.

  • Stone Bones: Most Troll units and heroes have fantastic Strength-to-Gold ratios, making them exceptional melee combatants.
  • Zero to Ninety: Praetorian said it best: Trolls are really slow, except when they’re really fast. Planning is key.
  • Mystic Expenditures: The Trolls have several extremely powerful spellcasters, but they are consequently very reliant on Mana sources. If the Mana Pools on the map get blighted quickly, you may need to beg some Mana from your faster allies until you can reach the frontlines to generate some Valour.
  • Enduring Arcana: The Trolls’ most powerful spells have extreme range and long durations. Proper use offers tremendous value, but mistakes can handicap your entire game.

Bread and Butter

First off, let’s look at the core of the Troll army. These are the real Troll Essentials, no matter what the deckbuilder says. I do not recommend picking up the Trolls in multiplayer until you have each of these cards in your collection.

Core Units

Tangle Mage

troll_boss_card

More than any other, this is the unit that defines the Troll playstyle. Their ability has the second highest unstacked mana cost in the game behind the High Elf, which should make even the most sluggish commanders wake up and pay attention. For 18 Mana, a Tangle Mage can teleport an entire army up to ten leagues away—undisputably the fastest possible movement in the game. He can only teleport to Mana Pools, but even Blighted pools are targetable, so his usefulness never diminishes. Make sure to pair him with a Hydra Gonfalon to maximize your options down the road.

You start the game with enough Mana to use Teleport once before the game even begins. If you’re lucky, you can claim a Mana Pool that’s about to pay out, and maybe even recoup the cost of teleportation in the protection reward. Be careful, though: with great power comes the potential for ruinous mistakes. Don’t strand critical units on the wrong side of the map.

Unlike most other races’ utility heroes, he’s even got a respectable strength score, and he’s cheap enough to throw away if you’re desperate for an extra hour.

The vast majority of Troll strategy relies on this one unit. Besides the mobility, he also provides early access to much-needed Mana Pools. Embrace the Tangle.

  • Cost: 125 Gold
  • Total Strength: 72
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Teleport: Instantly transport the Tangle Mage and everything else in his army to any Mana Pool within ten leagues.
  • Strength Per Gold: 0.58
  • Type: Troll Mage

Bridge Witch

troll_mage_card

If the Tangle Mage defines the Troll playstyle, then the Bridge Witch is the card that convinces your neighbors that yes, you really do deserve this Mana Pool as well. She’s the Trolls’ only form of compulsion, but it’s by far the strongest compulsion effect in the game.

For eight Mana, the Bridge Witch forces every Immortal within three leagues to chase her for an entire day. Without support, this would usually be a death sentence for a weak, slow Troll. However, with a Tangle Mage or two beside her, the Bridge Witch can safely pull huge numbers of enemies away from critical locations, and then teleport to safety. This requires some finesse, since the compulsion lasts for so long.

The way it works is that when you activate Strange Siren, all affected enemies will immediately begin moving toward the Witch. After that, they’ll re-evaluate where she is every time they reach a waypoint, possibly changing direction if you’ve, for instance, teleported behind them in the meantime. This effect lasts a long time. Be careful not to pull strong enemies through undefended towns!

Bouncing around behind enemy lines is a great way to occupy giant hordes of zombies for as long as your Mana holds out. As long as you’re careful to save your allies’ cities, you should be safe begging for Mana if you’re having trouble making ends meet.

  • Cost: 125 Gold
  • Total Strength: 36
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Strange Siren: All Immortals within three leagues must follow the Bridge Witch for one day.
  • Strength Per Gold: 0.29
  • Type: Troll Mage

Hydra Gonfalon

troll_banner_card

Every race has a “Banner” unit, allowing other units to be deployed in the field. However, for no race is the banner as important as it is for the Trolls. The Tangle Mage allows your otherwise velocity-challenged armies to get very far from home, so field deployments are absolutely vital. You can basically never have too many of these in your deck.

  • Cost: 150 Gold
  • Total Strength: 180
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Hydra Gonfalon: You may deploy Trolls at the Hydra Gonfalon.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.2
  • Type: Troll Warrior

25 Trollish Spears

troll_standard_card

No matter what strategy you’re pursuing, you’re going to be training at least a few rounds of Trollish Spears to defend your home towns. As cheap melee combatants, there’s just no substitute.

  1. They provide a ton of strength for the gold, second only to Dwarven Hammers in this regard.
  2. There’s no (or limited) opportunity cost for training your civilians, thanks to the Serpent Charmer.
  3. Trollish Spears are your cheapest source of military population, to take advantage of fortifications and generals.

You will usually want several sets of these in your deck (unless you’re using Turtle Warriors). Not because you might want to drop them at settlements for instant power, though you might, but because you’ll need to be able to drop them at the Hydra Gonfalons. When your armies march this slowly, you can’t be waiting for new units to walk from your home base.

  • Cost: 150 Gold
  • Total Strength: 450
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Strength Per Gold: 3.0
  • Type: Troll Warrior

Spirit of Spellcasting

With Tangle Mages and Bridge Witches eating up so much early Mana, it’s hard to see a place for other spellcasters to fit into the Trollish entourage. But sure enough, there are several more Mana-hungry Mages at your disposal, and they’re all worth using in the right circumstances.

Shamans and Snakes

Serpent Charmer

troll_charmer_card

The Serpent Charmer is almost a core unit for the Trolls, but you really can get along without them. Your economy will suffer a little, but hopefully once you’ve saved a Goblin ally once or twice, they’ll see the wisdom in funneling their money into your coffers.

Once you have Serpent Charmers, though, you can make your own money at a rate even the Goblins have to admire. For eight Mana, each settlement (no matter whose it is) within two leagues hands over 50 Gold (presumably in the hopes that you’ll take the snakes away, please). Mana Pools, monster camps, and Blighted/empty settlements don’t count. Usually, you’re shooting for a spot with 7-8 settlements in range, so you’re making 350-400 Gold per day with each Charmer.

Using the Serpent Charmer does add six hours to each affected settlement’s production timer, so as with all Troll units, there’s some finesse required. Charming neutral settlements is pretty much always worthwhile—you can even use this ability to push back the timer on a settlement you want to claim, if you’d otherwise be a little too late for payday. If you’re thinking about setting up a snake camp near some allied towns, make sure to ask permission first since they’re not harvesting the benefits.

However, for settlements you own (or will claim shortly), there’s a simple rule: if the town produces 200 Gold/day or less, Charm it. Otherwise, try to find a different location. The logic here is that a 6h delay is 25% of a town’s average productivity. Since you’re harvesting 50 Gold no matter what, it’s worth the production delay as long as that 50 Gold is at least 25% of the town’s output. You may have noticed that Troll towns always produce less than 200 Gold per day, meaning it’s totally fine to Charm the heck out of them and never let them produce their own Gold at all.

  • Cost: 125 Gold
  • Total Strength: 36
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Bountiful Harvest: Gain 50 Gold for each unblighted settlement within two leagues. Affected settlement production timers +6h.
  • Strength Per Gold: 0.29
  • Type: Troll Mage

Kahuna

troll_priest_card

Almost as iconic as the Tangle Mage for his rare and highly visible effect, the Kahuna lets a Troll player train units at monster camps without paying the gold cost. You can even train units at settlements you don’t own, which can be extremely useful for defense.

The reason these sometimes don’t see play is that by far the best place to use them is at Dragon Lairs, and unless there’s a Mana Pool nearby, reaching them can be a real slog. Hydra Pools are good on certain maps, but they’re not often worth early investment. The exception of course is if a neutral Hydra Pool is standing in the path of a large army. If your Kahuna can reach it in time to summon a couple more defenders, then stick around for the battle, you’ll still earn all the Valour, even though the neutral Hydras were doing all the work.

  • Cost: 125 Gold
  • Total Strength: 90
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Summon Behemoth: Train a monster from a monster camp without paying the normal Gold price.
  • Strength Per Gold: 0.72
  • Type: Troll Mage

The Crone

troll_dispeller_card

The Crone offers yet another ability unique to the Trolls: the power to dispel magic. She even dispels terrain bonuses and boss effects, making her the most powerful answer in the land to the question “how are we going to kill this enormous Jester King?”

As a small price for all this power, there are a couple of catches.

  1. The card says “buffs” but what it really means is “all effects”. That means in addition to dispelling Boss buffs and terrain bonuses, she also dispels compulsions and other debuffs. Be careful not to dispel something critical, like a Bridge Witch’s siren.
  2. The Crone’s effect is a one-time dispel. If an effect gets reapplied afterwards, it’ll stick around. Keep this in mind especially when dispelling terrain bonuses: use the Crone to dispel the bonus when the enemy is already in the tile where you’ll be fighting them. If they move to a new tile where they would get a bonus, that bonus will reappear.
  • Cost: 125 Gold
  • Total Strength: 72
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Gnostic Muttering: Remove all effects from target Immortal within one league.
  • Strength Per Gold: 0.58
  • Type: Troll Mage

Rune Dancer

troll_dancer_card

Finally: here’s a unit that’s cheap, tough, and easy to use. For only four Mana, the Rune Dancer inflicts a powerful attack on any Immortals within a League. The strength of his boogie shoes scales with the number of dancers, so while he’s not great against Immortal Trolls (killing about 20% of any given stack), he is hilariously effective against Goblin or Human zombies. Did I mention he can drum up that funky beat twice a day?

He comes in most Essentials decks and you’ll usually want several more, as he’s one of the game’s absolute best Valour generators.

  • Cost: 150 Gold
  • Total Strength: 180
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Marsh Stomp: All Immortals within one league suffer a ranged attack with strength equal to 6 times the target unit’s population.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.2
  • Type: Troll Mage

Spirit of Violence

From time to time, your Mana will eventually run dry. These times can be tough, but if you’re prepared, you’ll still have plenty to do with your armies. These are the cards you’ll be using to do the dirty work of actually stomping out the Blight.

Heavy Hitters

Marsh Prince

troll_lurker_card

First and most importantly is this guy. He’s expensive for a Troll, but the strength he offers is absolutely nuts. Troll Royalty isn’t a title easily won, and he’s got both the strength and utility to prove it.

  1. His strength efficiency is better than a Hydra.
  2. He’s a Lurker, meaning you can drop a fistful of them on a single town or Gonfalon.
  3. After combat, you can use the Valour he generated to buy some Mana, then use that Mana to return the Prince to your Deck for a full Gold refund.

These three traits make the Marsh Prince a blindingly fast late-game unit. Once most of your other cards are in play, you can realistically deploy a litter of Princes to every single battle.

  • Cost: 225 Gold
  • Total Strength: 540
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Lurking Fury: Return the Marsh Prince from play to your deck. Gain his cost in Gold.
  • Strength Per Gold: 2.4
  • Type: Troll Royalty (Lurker)

20 Turtle Warriors

troll_heavy_card

These ladies have only half the strength efficiency of your basic Spears, but don’t let that fool you. You’re paying a premium for armor made from the Sacred Purple Dragon Turtle, and it really pays off. You’ll still want some Trollish Spears in the early game, but as soon as you can switch over to Turtles, the better off you’ll be. Turtle Warriors last much longer and are more deployable in the lategame due to there being only twenty of them rather than 25 (most Troll settlements have 50 population, so if even one hero gets deployed there, they can only support one unit of Spears. Due to the Trolls’ increased reliance on Gonfalon deployments, this matters quite a bit).

Math Digression

Let’s compare the value of Turtles to that of Spears. The math is a little complicated, but let’s say you’ve got one set of each unit. Let each unit fight the same set of zombies in order, where the enemy’s strength is equal to half the strength of the weaker unit. For example, the first battle will be against an enemy with 180 strength, half of the Turtles’ starting strength of 360. The table below also takes into account combat experience after each battle, since that’s an important part of any unit’s utility over time.

| Round | Enemy Strength | Spears Remaining | Turtles Remaining | Spear Strength/Gold | Turtle Strength/Gold |
| 0 | 0 | 25 | 20 | 3.00 | 1.60 |
| 1 | 180 | 21 | 17 | 2.66 | 1.44 |
| 2 | 162 | 18 | 15 | 2.40 | 1.33 |
| 3 | 150 | 15 | 13 | 2.10 | 1.21 |
| 4 | 136 | 12 | 12 | 1.76 | 1.17 |
| 5 | 132 | 9 | 11 | 1.38 | 1.12 |
| 6 | 104 | 7 | 10 | 1.12 | 1.07 |
| 7 | 84 | 5 | 9 | 0.83 | 1.00 |


Obviously this is a very contrived example, but you see the difference that saving throw makes. After four combats, the same number of Turtles and Spears have survived, and after seven, the Turtle value begins to outpace the Spear value. The difference is even more striking when the combats aren’t as one-sided. The table below shows what happens in a series of close fights, when the zombie strength is 90% of the lower mortal strength:

| Round | Enemy Strength | Spears Remaining | Turtles Remaining | Spear Strength/Gold | Turtle Strength/Gold |
| 0 | 0 | 25 | 20 | 3.00 | 1.60 |
| 1 | 324 | 12 | 12 | 1.52 | 1.01 |
| 2 | 205 | 2 | 7 | 0.27 | 0.62 |
| 3 | 36 | 0 | 7 | 0.00 | 0.62 |

  • Cost: 225 Gold
  • Total Strength: 360
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Turtle Shell Armour: Bonus 50% saving throw in combat.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.6
  • Type: Troll Warrior

Brute

troll_caber_card

Trolls have a bit of a tough time coming up with enough population to bolster, but once you’ve got a decent army put together the Brute is what pushes them over the top from “strong” to “untouchable”. He’s on the expensive side, but he’s got a respectable strength ratio and significantly increases the power of your Turtles and Spears.

  • Cost: 175 Gold
  • Total Strength: 270
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Troll Strength: All Trolls in his army gain +9 strength.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.54
  • Type: Troll Warrior

Rare and Specialized Troops

Arguably, almost every Troll unit is a specialist. These, however, are more finicky than most, and most of your decks should include few or none of them.

Specialist Troops

Spike Crafter

troll_tracker_card

It’s pretty rare that I bring Spike Crafters in a deck, though they can be useful in certain maps. The issue is that they’re basically a less-efficient Brute unless you’ve got a good source of off-race defenders nearby. That said, +6 Fortifications are nothing to laugh at, and if you can put a lot of defenders back there, it’s a huge benefit. You can also use his ability in concert with the Marsh Warden to protect your units on Mana Pools and such. Consider bringing this stump artisan when you’re going to be defending lots of other races’ cities.

  • Cost: 175 Gold
  • Total Strength: 180
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Spiked Palisade: Settlement permanently gains +6 Fortifications.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.03
  • Type: Troll Warrior

Hydra Lord

troll_quagmire_card

This is a luxury card if ever there was one. Unlike other races’ “better monster” cards, the Hydra Lord offers a very noticeable improvement over its untamed brethren. Besides being stronger and keeping the Hydra’s 2:1 strength-to-gold ratio, the Hydra Lord has a free ability that significantly improves upon its primary use.

The best reason to actually claim a Hydra Pool is when you need to chase down units out in the swamp, especially large stacks of fast and/or nasty units, like a Dread Knight or Lich King. Doing this with normal Troll units is intolerably slow (and then your army still has to walk back), but Hydras are fast and strong enough to get the job done. Where the Hydra Lord shines is in the speed afforded by its free ranged attack—no longer can that Jester King’s dancers or unexpected spawns slow you down. Tough enough to handle Bosses and fast enough to catch almost anything, consider taking a couple Hydra Lords with you if you’re expecting much combat in the deep swamps.

  • Cost: 1500 Gold
  • Total Strength: 3000
  • Speed: 3 Hours/League (Swimming)
  • Ability: Hydra Charge: Makes an automatic 600 Strength ranged attack upon encountering an enemy.
  • Strength Per Gold: 2.0
  • Type: Hydra Warrior

Marsh Warden

troll_barrel_card

Whatever nastiness he’s got in that barrel, the Trollish incarnation of the Storm Friar has a longer reach and more damage, while also limiting his scope to Swamp tiles. This is the cheaper answer to bands of Zombie Goblins desecrating your lands. It’s a strong early play on some maps, as it can generate tons of Valour without murdering your allies’ armies, but you still have to be careful not to fry your own units.

  • Cost: 150 Gold
  • Total Strength: 180
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Marsh Sting: All unfortified units in Swamp within 4 leagues suffer a ranged attack with strength equal to 5 times the target unit’s population.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.2
  • Type: Troll Hunter

Troglodyte

troll_twins_card

If you can get one to the front lines early, the Troglodyte can very quickly become an unstoppable Goblin-killing machine. They’re rather Mana-hungry, but their power increases exponentially as long as you keep them fed. After eight or ten feedings, one Troglodyte can be strong enough to take on (or devour) even the toughest bosses. The primary concern is keeping a fresh source of food nearby, as they’re slower than the Goblins they chase, and getting them out early enough to be useful. Eight feedings requires four days unless you’ve got help from Gnostic Mages.

Note that Troglodytes can devour living Goblins in a pinch, but it’s not usually a great use of resources. However, they are more nutritious than zombified ones.

  • Cost: 125 Gold
  • Total Strength: 180
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Ability: Tasty Goblins: Range 1 Attack at total melee Strength against a Goblin unit or Boss. Permanently gain +4 Strength for each Goblin eaten this way.
  • Strength Per Gold: 1.44
  • Type: Troll Warrior

15 Marsh Hunters

troll_hunter_card

While most of the Troll army has significant all-around utility, the Marsh Hunters are almost exclusively a defensive unit. With a whopping 4:1 strength to gold ratio in swamps, they’re great for dropping on frontier towns to hold the line on a budget. However, their value is greatly diminished beyond their home terrain. The essentials deck includes four on most maps, and that’s often plenty as long as you deploy them carefully.

  • Cost: 150 Gold
  • Total Strength: 300 (or 600)
  • Speed: 6 Hours/League by Road
  • Strength Per Gold: 2.0 (or 4.0)
  • Type: Troll Hunter

Those Other Guys

Finally, there are a few cards that just don’t often see play, or are so situational that they’re usually limited to single player games.

Unusual Picks
  • Ironshell Sergeant: Like the Marsh Hunters, the Sergeant is only valuable in Swamps. However, his buff pales in comparison to theirs, leaving little reason to include him in a deck unless you’re expecting to make heavy use of other races (or simply loads of Trollish Spears) to defend your swamp towns.
  • Hydra: You get one for free when claiming their Pool, and you can generate more with the Kahuna, so it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever want the actual Hydra card in your deck. If you’ve got the money to drop on this card, a Hydra Lord is almost always preferable.

Stages of Warfare

The Trolls rely heavily on having the right cards in hand at the right time in order to be effective. As the war progresses, your priorities (and ideally your resources) must shift.

Nightmare difficulty is often a totally different beast, so we’ll tackle that separately.

"Hard" and Easier

hydra_card

Be Everywhere

As with any race, the very early game is all about resource growth and damage control. Your top priorities in the early game look something like this, more-or-less in this order:

  • Ideally you start with both a Hydra Gonfalon and a Tangle Mage. If not, you may want to pay some Valour to see if you can draw into them.
  • Claim as many Mana Pools as possible, prioritizing those that pay out the earliest so you recoup the cost of teleporting there. Send a Gonfalon with every Tangle Mage. Besides claiming Mana Pools, your goal is to spread out over the map, so you’ll be able to deploy and react at a moment’s notice at any of these “mobile outposts.”
    • On flat terrain with no road, Trolls can move two tiles before the Tangle Mage is able to teleport again. Use this time to split up, claim a couple key locations, then meet up 21h later for the next jump.
  • Identify which towns you can reasonably reach in time to defend. Do not leave the roads unless there’s something critical you can protect (unless you get a free Kahuna at a settlement or something). Claim anything you pass through on your way to the front.
  • Identify the best spot for your Serpent Charmers and start sending them there. These guys can pick up settlements way out in the swamps that take forever to reach while they’re recharging.
  • Develop a plan ASAP to deal with any massive threats, such as a Dread Knight or Lich King.
  • Look for Valour-generating opportunities. This might mean large groups headed your way, or big stacks of Goblins that your Tangle Mages can reach. If you can, drop a Rune Dancer at one or two of these locations to get your Valour on.

A last quick note: it is very tempting to sit back from the get-go and wait for the zombies to come to you. After all, your cities have great fortification bonuses, and your troops are so slow. THIS IS A MISTAKE. Immortals scale up faster than mortals do. Rushing to the frontlines to start claiming territory and slowing the advance of the Blight is always a better rule of thumb than turtling up and waiting for the enemy to arrive.

Save Everyone

The midgame is when you’ve finished the first round of damage control. You’ve likely beaten or distracted the first large threat in the area. You’re getting Rune Dancers into place near the largest groups of Zombies, picking up remaining towns, and starting to play out your Witches, Spears, and Princes. Your priorities here are pretty simple:

  • Your Serpent Charmers should be capable of pumping out a lot of Gold by now. Trade everything you don’t need for more Mana.
  • If you have the Valour for it, send a Kahuna to claim a Hydra Pool or Dragon Lair. This is also a good activity for Marsh Hunters who have already served their purpose, or Serpent Charmers on their way to snakier pastures.
  • Your Mobile Hotspots should each be reinforced with a second Tangle Mage, a Bridge Witch, and a Rune Dancer. Use these to blink around the map, keeping the zombies away from monster lairs and underprepared allies. As the zombies swarm around you, remember to do a little Rune Dance to refill your Valour before vanishing to somewhere safe.
    • If you’re standing on a unblighted Mana Pool, remember that the zombies won’t change direction to follow you except for when they reach waypoints. If you wait for the enemies to be in range of your Rune Dancer, you’d better be planning to stand and fight or lose the Pool. Once you teleport away, the zombies won’t turn to chase you until they’ve finished their trek to the Mana Pool.
  • One army can defend many vulnerable Mana Pools at once. As long as you keep a Gonfalon with each army, you’ll always be ready to drop a fresh Tangle Mage or Bridge Witch as the situation requires.
  • Save your Marsh Hunters and Crones in your hand for when you really want them. Use your Marsh Princes liberally any time you need to fight.
  • Coordinate with your allies! Your area of influence is massive, so make sure everyone understands your plans and make sure you understand theirs. Don’t waste 26 Mana to tele-siren a boss if the Humans are planning to drop a Houndmaster in two hours.

Come At Me, Zombro

By this point, you’ve likely stabilized but you’re still keeping busy making sure your teleporting Bridge Witches don’t drag two thousand Goblins through any hapless villages. Use your remaining Tangle Mages to combine your armies and prepare for the Ultimate Showdown. Or just throw down a bunch more Rune Dancers and kill everything before it ever reaches your Witches. Priorities:

  • Teach remaining large stacks how to Rune Dance.
  • Use Hydras to mop up stragglers.
  • Have fun.

This guide continues below!

32000 characters isn’t enough…

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Advanced Tactics

The Trolls’ arsenal of unique spells, coupled with easy access to any other race on a given map, means endless opportunities for clever tricks. Below are a few common ones.

Tips

Snakey Regenesis

Serpent Charmers can only extort funds from settlements that produce gold. This can be an issue, as Trolls run a high risk of running out of population in many of their towns. If you empty a couple of towns near your Charmers (due to card deployments and so on), it can take days to relocate your snake mafia to another populated area. As long as you don’t let the towns get blighted, there is another option.

The Marsh Prince can show off his versatility here. His ability not only returns the card to your deck and the Gold to your bank, but also returns his population (1) to a nearby city! So deploy a Prince from a Gonfalon or another nearby city, walk him to the empty town, and activate Lurking Fury. The resulting one-population town is a valid target for your Serpent Charmers, and as a bonus, it’s now considered neutral. As long as you don’t reclaim it, you don’t have to worry about future card deployments depleting the population again.

River Confusion

This effect isn’t actually unique to the Trolls, but the Bridge Witch has an easy time pulling it off, thanks to the scope and duration of her effect, and the availability of Tangle Mage support. Basically, the idea is to taunt units into a peninsula with no river crossing, then teleport to the other side of the river and watch the enemy retrace their steps looking for a crossing place. This is a very easy way to extend the effective duration of your taunts.

TeleTenderizer

Human player getting overwhelmed? Endless desert full of Zombie Orcs? Even if you can’t take them in a straight fight, don’t be afraid to teleport a Rune Dancer + Bridge Witch into the hornets’ nest. It’s a simple way to seriously soften up enormous stacks and earn a ton of Valor to help you cover for less competent races. If you can’t afford the mana to get them out, you haven’t left behind a dangerous graveyard, and your Valor gains should more than make up the cost. And if you do have the spare resources, a day or two of back-and-forth can consolidate the enemy armies into better targets for the Rune Dancer, and whittle them down significantly.


Other Races

As the world’s greatest teleganking saviors of the living, it’s often helpful to have a few core cards in your deck for each other mortal race you’re likely to encounter. Putting their population to work for you is the price they pay for your indispensable aid. Below are the cards that I tend to find the most valuable alongside the Trolls.

Making Use of Other Races

Dwarves

  • 40 Wing Warriors: These guys are absolutely insane if there are any Gryphons on the map. They’re cheap, the buff lasts effectively forever, and they scale globally with living and Immortal Gryphons alike. One squad of these can hold a town pretty much indefinitely if there are a bunch of Plagued Gryphons on the map. Wing Warriors are one of the few units in the game that are frequently tougher than your own.
  • Mountain King: If you expect to be crossing lots of Mountains without Roads, this guy doubles your army’s movement speed and holds his own in combat. He’s usually not worth the deck slot, though.
  • The Twins: These two are garbage out on the road, but if you’re planning to hole up in a Dwarven town for any large battles, they’re indispensable. In a normal fortress with a +6 bonus, The Twins take a free 300 Strength attack at everyone approaching the gates. It’s entirely possible to defend towns just with a couple sets of these, freeing your army to move on.

Elves

  • Dark Forest Witch: On higher difficulty settings, this Witch can be a great early Mana generator. Her damage pales in comparison to your own, but her range allows her to be used from unblighted Mana Pools without committing to stand and fight at them.
  • Healer: Not that your armies were anemic in any way, but if you can get her in an army of Turtle Warriors you can basically just roam the map with impunity.
  • Eldermage: Keeping a pile of Eldermages “nearby” can be tricky since you tend to be so spread out, but putting them in range of your Serpent Charmers can be an effective way to generate a bunch of bonus Mana to stay moving.

Goblins

  • Spider Rider: Give all your units the Marsh Prince ability! If you find yourself with a large army three days away from any enemies, sound the Horn of Despair to send them all back to the swamps, to be redeployed somewhere more valuable.
  • Dealer: This card is just stupid good. Bring as many as you want in any game where you’ve got quick access to Goblin settlements. Make sure not to mess up your card ratios for your core heroes.

Humans

  • Cowardly Noble: You don’t have to recognize his “nobility” to let him make you rich with all the Valour your Rune Dancers are producing.
  • Blind Justice: A great endgame unit; the Blind Justice does a great job on cleanup or Boss-sniping.
  • Enchantress: The Enchantress wields a debuff nearly as strong as the Crone. Pair her with a Rune Dancer or Troglodyte to maximize their effects.

Orcs

  • Outcast Warchief: This dual-mode buff can be very valuable on certain maps, especially if you’re likely to have a multinational army. The Orcs’ other general-purpose passive buffs are strong as well. Make sure you understand your game plan for the map before choosing which, if any, to bring.
  • 10 Wolf Chariots: If you don’t have access to Hydras or Dragons, these are some of the best grave-clearing units in the game, and they’re cheap enough for your economy to support.
  • Slavedriver: Don’t raise Troll slaves: raise Orcs. The Mana price is high, but it’s better by far than paying for them with Gold.

Boss Mode

It’s rare for Immortal Trolls to reach a Mana Pool, but when they do, the monsters that arise are uniquely suited to destroying Troll civilizations.

Defilers of Night

Lord of Confusion

troll_zombie_lord_card

Once a day, the Lord of Confusion disables all mortal spellcasters within two Leagues for 18h. It should be clear by now that the Trolls rely heavily on their spellcasting for combat. If one of these abominations rises, you’d better hope you have another army available to teleport in behind him, while his vile mist is recharging.

Trailblazer

troll_zombie_boss_card

Potentially the most devastating threat to the Troll economy, the Trailblazer retains the spellcasting prowess of a mighty Troll shaman. He boasts formidable strength and two abilities, which each trigger every 24h. First, he buffs all immortals within two leagues, increasing their movement speed by a lot, for the next 18h. The enchantment makes Immortal Trolls run as fast as living Orcs, and other Immortals get even faster. Once he’s empowered his rotting allies, he then Teleports to the nearest unblighted Mana Pool.

Left unchecked, a Trailblazer will wreak havoc on your Mana income, as well as making all zombies faster on foot than any of your units. The good news is, Mana Pools are locations that you’re well equipped to defend. If you can predict the Trailblazer’s path, it’s possible to intercept him without losing too many of the sacred springs.


Dreamcatcher — Nightmarish Rituals

Unlike other races, the Troll game doesn’t change too dramatically when moving up to Nightmare difficulty. That said, there are absolutely some changes that you’ll want to make to your early game and especially your deckbuilding.

Nightmare Considerations

Before even considering your deck, you need to take a long, hard look at the entire map. Identify:

  • The highest-priority threats that you can deal with. Rogue enemies approaching nearby Mana Pools or monster lairs may fall into this category if there’s a well-placed Mana Pool behind them. Also low-strength Bosses like the Master of Coin.
    • Don’t forget to identify potential threats as well. A soon-to-be-blighted Goblin or Elf settlement near a Mana Pool can spawn a Master of Coin or Lich King, either of which will seriously hinder your early game.
  • The most problematic threats that you can’t deal with right away. This includes things like far-away bosses with global abilities, Trailblazers, Lich Kings, large armies with the Ironhide or Dread Knight buffs.
    • Again, make sure you’re looking at places these situations could potentially develop as well.

Once you have an idea of what you’re up against, make a game plan for the first day or two. Again, this should be before you assemble your deck. After identifying your first few moves, you can start building a deck to accommodate them.

Rethinking the Value of Life

Nightmare deckbuilding is particularly unforgiving for the Trolls. The biggest problem tends to be this: Troll towns are fairly small, and you may not have many of them to work with. This means you have a very limited total army population, which dictates a few things about your deck.

First, you want to bring as big a deck as you can support. What does that mean? You want your deck to have as much total content as possible, without sacrificing your chances to draw your must-have cards in the early and midgame.

Second, you’ll want to prioritize Heroes over Units. Think about it in terms of population: if you might only have 300-600 Trollish citizens in your whole empire, would you rather they be Trollish Spears, or Rune Dancers? How about Marsh Princes? Even the Humble Bridge Witch has twice the combat strength of a single Spear. Of course, this strength comes at a price – but we’ll get there.

The biggest driving force behind your deckbuilding, then, is your collection. If you’ll want as many total cards as you can feasibly run, then your deck is limited by how many of your core cards are available. Start with those must-have drops: normally Tangle Mage, Hydra Gonfalon, and Bridge Witch, though every situation is different. Then build the rest of the deck to ensure your desired draw probabilities for those cards don’t drop below your target levels.

Probability Benchmarks Let's assume a 60-card deck. If you have N copies of card C in the deck, then the probability of drawing at least one C in your opening 5-card hand is 1 minus the product of the probabilities that you draw something *else* five times in a row.
  • If N = 8, then P(0C) = (52/60)(51/59)(50/58)(49/57)(48/56) = 15470/32509 ~= 0.476, so the probability of drawing at least one C is 52.4%
  • If N = 10, then P(0C) = (50/60)... = 37835/97527 ~= 0.388, so the probability of drawing at least one C is 61.2%
  • If N = 12, then P(0C) = (48/60)... = 71346/227563 ~= 0.314, so the probability of drawing at least one C is 68.6%
  • If N = 15, then P(0C) = (45/60)... = 58179/260072 ~= 0.224, so the probability of drawing at least one C is 77.6%

Due to the likely population restrictions you’ll be facing, several cards do change in expected value (but again, every game is different).

  • Tangle Mage: You can’t really have too many of these in Nightmare, so long as you’re hitting your other drops. The utility is just so, so valuable.
  • Rune Dancer: This card moves up from Very Good to Indispensable in Nightmare. His damage scales with the number of enemies you’re facing, so his value basically scales up with difficulty. You’ll likely be heavily reliant on Valour to buy Mana, and this is your tool to make that happen. You can’t bring too many.
  • Hydra Gonfalon: Sometimes you really do need the efficiency of Trollish Spears. In all other circumstances, you probably want a Gonfalon instead. Mobility is King. However, be aware that an early Master of Coin can turn his smile into a frown in a real hurry.
  • Bridge Witch: You don’t normally need quite as many as your other casters, but you will need them, and you won’t have the luxury of being careful with all of them—some will end up being sacrificed. Make sure you aren’t going to run out.
  • 25 Trollish Spears: You’ll certainly have to train some, but you don’t normally want them in your deck. They’re extremely gold-efficient, but in your hand they’re weak to MoC, inefficient on a strength-to-population basis, and worst of all, they tend to get stuck in your hand once all your towns have under 25 population.
  • 20 Turtle Warriors: An excellent choice if you have the economy to support them in lieu of Spears. You can also deploy two sets out of a 50-population town even if another hero was deployed there.
  • Marsh Warden: This can be extremely powerful if there’s a large swamp on the map and you expect to be holed up in it. It can be hard to fit in a Nightmare deck in sufficient quantities, though, as other cards typically take precedence and early-on the Warden has a tendency to boil your own troops.
  • Serpent Charmer: This card is very scenario-dependent in Nightmare, because there are several ways for it to get shut down to varying degrees. Identify in the deckbuilding phase whether you want to lean on Serpent Charmers or skip them.
    • An early Lich King drives their activation cost up to 16M, which is only worthwhile as long as you’re hitting at least 6-7 low-income towns.
    • An early Master of Coin can make the Charmers very burdensome to play, as they often won’t pay themselves off for at least a full day, let alone fund the next one.
    • If you don’t have an easy way to defend a solid block of towns, it can be nearly impossible to find a location to set up the Charmers at all. They’re often still economical when they can’t hit many targets, but they may not be worth deploying in the first place if they won’t pay themselves off for a few days.
  • Brute: Unless you think you’ll have the population to support a decent standing army, or you’re bringing plenty of Turtle Warriors, the Brute is usually not worth carrying in Nightmare. He’s mostly valuable in the lategame, and early on you’re better served with an Ironshell Sergeant.
  • Ironshell Sergeant: The Sergeant mostly replaces the Marsh Hunters in Nightmare utility, due to his lower population cost. You’re likely to have several pitched battles near home, where you’ll mostly be fighting with trained Spears, and this is exactly the situation where the Sergeant can shine.

Guardian of the Grave

There’s no one list of priorities at this difficulty level. Every Nightmare game is hugely unique, and priorities must be adjusted on the fly as the local and global situations continue to develop. There’s only one overall consideration for the Trolls in Nightmare, and it’s this:

  • Help your allies stabilize against their major threats.

That’s all. How you go about doing that depends on the map, your allies, your hand, and a host of other things. Rather than try to list all the possible considerations, instead here’s a short list of miscellaneous tactics that can be useful to buy time or strengthen your position incrementally.

  • Get used to selling your Valour for Gold and Mana, but don’t sell any more than you absolutely need at any given time. The situation could change at a moment’s notice.
  • Immortal Trolls are some of the least dangerous zombies on their own. On most maps, this means your early game can be spent helping your allies, while a single sacrificial Bridge Witch walks or teleports into rough terrain near your home base, pulling enemies away from your population centers for as long as possible.
  • Immortal Hydra are scary, but you can stall them indefinitely with a Bridge Witch standing outside of the swamp.
  • Don’t be afraid to use “noncombatants” to win a pitched battle over a critical objective.

The Short Version

Trolls are potent spellcasters with a host of unique and long-range abilities suited to making their presence known across an entire map. They have access to some of the most powerful spells in the game, but using them properly requires significant finesse. Their troops and heroes are extremely cost-efficient, and while they’re slow locally, they can cover great distances in an instant. The Trolls excel at buying time for the less-prepared races of Alundria, before luring the Immortals into immaculate traps.


Math for nerds

Updated 2020-06-03

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