The Horde, a motley gathering of the monstrous races of Azeroth - a found family forged by circumstance, loyalty, and honour (plus Sneed). Today, we're looking at the Leaders who bind this Family together, and how they can bring you to victory on the battlefield. Lok'tar Ogar!
The Horde is on the heavier side of things, coming in at an average gold cost of 3.4g. They favor melee minis, having 6 melee relative to 3 ranged and the Batrider as the sole flying mini available to the family. The secondary theme is bloodlust, the iconic spell showing up 4 times in Horde minis (Execute, Grom, Ogre Mage, and Grunts).
The leaders follow this pattern, being cheaper than the Blackrock but are all medium-expensive brawlers. As a result, there are some similarities between Cairne, Grom, and Sneed, but they do play differently enough to be distinct.
Cairne Bloodhoof. The leader of the eponymous Tauren tribe, felled off-screen in World of Warcraft but resurrected here and ready to rumble. He leads his armies by giving Horde minis a 20% health bonus (even when not on the field), an unassuming but powerful bonus.
As a mini, Cairne is decent. He has a little bit more health than General Drakkisath but lacks Armored or Resistant for the type bonuses. His damage is fairly low - a bit more than half of that of Baron Rivendare, but he swings in an AoE conal attack that blasts the backline (Note that even though his attacks will hit minis from far away, he won't attack them until they're in melee range).
More important than the damage is that his attacks stun. This means even if he is not clearing the opponents in a clash, he is locking them down in order for the rest of your minis to do the work.
This stun scales with level, so the duration increases as Cairne outlevels his target and decreases when they do. Since it applies on attack, this makes bloodlust from Ogre Mage or Execute a very potent combo. At high enough levels, attack speed buffs, or slow effects from the Ogre (or other sources), Cairne can completely stunlock a boss, trivializing the encounter as long as you can keep him protected and swinging.
The health bonus is important for breakpoints. A Darkspear Troll cannot survive the impact from Safe Pilot ordinarily, but with the extra 20% he survives and you get a chance to react. Likewise, a Shaman can heal up and survive an Ambush from the Pilot, or an Ogre Mage can endure a Whelp Eggs explosion. Goblin Sappers still die to Chain Lightning however.
Cairne has two fairly good talents and one decidedly mediocre one. Reincarnation brings Cairne back once, effectively increasing his health by 50% (as well as giving him extra opportunities to be healed by a Shaman). It's the safest talent to take, just increasing his value on the field.
Plainsrunning makes Cairne very fast, dashing across the battlefield. This increases his effectiveness as a tank, allowing him to catch and keep up with faster minis, and then stunning or taking blows for them. It provides less direct benefits but I find it pretty effective for the flexibility it brings.
Last and least is Aftershock. A daze doesn't slow attack speed, so it's much worse than frost. As mentioned before, Cairne won't attack minis outside of melee range, so you can't even use the daze to chip down before engaging directly. I would only buy this for the bonus level at Epic.
Cairne relies on having a horde-heavy army to maximize his passive benefit. This can be difficult, because the high cost and melee focus often make for weaker armies if you double down on them. He should get better over time as more Horde minis are released.
Oddly, his main weakness might be that Stonehoof Tauren is a really good mini and plays a similar role as a bulky tank that can also shred backlines.
Grom Hellscream, leader of the Warsong Tribe and breaker of the blood-curse. In Rumble he returns to send your army into a frenzy, giving Bloodlust to nearby friendly minis on the battlefield.
At 4g, he is the cheapest of the 3 Horde leaders, fulfilling a bruiser role with his very high damage, medium health, and moderate speed. He does lack a gap closer like the Prowler and Stonehoof Tauren, so he cannot as easily take down ranged minis like the Huntress as those two.
His bloodlust aura is extremely potent, granting a 30% attack speed and movement speed bonus to all nearby minis. This has particular synergy with poison minis like Harpies, or Fury minis like Firehammer, allowing them to rapidly ramp up their respective effects. Chickens with the Fury talent and buffed by bloodlust are some of the highest damage minis in the game (keeping them alive is another matter).
Grom has some interesting choices to make with his talents. Savage Strikes doubles his damage to targets below 50%, taking his already high damage to astronomical levels. Mirror Images is a little bit less straightforward. The two images add a lot of extra damage, but die in a single hit. Grom only spawns Mirror Images when he re-enters combat (similar to stealth), so if they die, they're gone for that combat. Still, the images can occupy enemy mini attention, which improves his survivability somewhat.
The real potent thing is that the images provide their own bloodlust aura. This means that Grom also has bloodlust while they're up, giving him even more damage. For most situations I would take mirror images, since they provide a good damage and survivability increase. In raids, it might be necessary to take Savage Strikes for the constant pressure.
Bladestorm is a bit lacking. Because of the low damage, the situations where it is useful are limited to clearing things like Chickens, which is pretty limited. It's not awful the way that some talents are, but seems a distant 3rd compared to the other two.
Grom has enormous damage potential and should be a solid choice to invest in for the co-op raid mode. His weakness is his fragility, lacking the health, stealth, or gap closing ability of comparable minis. This is the limiting factor when compounded with the need to keep him on the field for the bloodlust aura.
Sneed. Not a Horde member. After being defeated alongside the Defias in the Deadmines this mercenary Goblin was placed in the Horde family on the basis of racial profiling and a lack of better options. What does he know about the omission of Gazlowe?
Sneed's theme is Greed. His talents and abilities revolve around generating or benefiting from generating extra gold through the use of Siege (damage) minis. Whenever a Siege mini destroys a towers, captures a meeting point, or takes a chest, he generates an extra +2 gold. Note that a Siege damage mini is distinct from a Siege mini - the former deals bonus damage to structures and the latter only attacks structures.
At 5g and 1040 health, you're really relying on his Armoured trait to keep him alive, as he's extremely fragile, having less health than even a Gnoll Brute. His damage output is pretty high, and the cleave attack is potent. Even though he has an attack speed of 3, each swing actually comes it in many small attacks, which can be pretty potent when combined with a source of lifesteal or poison from relics. Still, he's not the best mini and really only shines when fighting small squads or towers. As a result, since his ability is passive, it's a reasonable strategy to never play him and just rely on the gold generation from Siege minis.
His passive has the problem that it is highly dependent on the maps you find yourself in. In some cases it showers you with gold - in others, it has no opportunity to proc. This makes army construction difficult. A mini like Goblin Sappers is an extremely efficient way of flipping a tower, and pays for themselves with Sneed's passive. But if the map features only one or even no towers they are dead weight. The most versatile Siege minis actually come from the Undead family in the form of Meat Wagon and Gargoyle. Earth Elemental is also good, but competes with Quilboar and even with Sneed's passive, not always favorably.
On to talents. Mine Is Money, Friend! grants Sneed the Miner trait. I had generally felt this was a pretty bad option, a 5g miner with 1k health is really not that amazing, but it has a few things going for it. In PvP a map can revolve around a fiercely contested gold mine, and Sneed gobbles an entire mine in a single attack with this talent. Not the best, but there's uses.
Land Grab grants Sneed an extra level whenever he is on the field and his passive triggers. It was extremely potent for a while when it triggered from all gold gains, scoring some players early Onyxia kills as the large amount of gold available on the map poured bonus levels. Alas, the talent is much weaker in the current state and the bonus levels are capped at 10. I'd pass unless you have a particular map in mind where you can reliably get him the +10 from Sieging.
Lead with Greed is probably the talent of choice in most situations. This doubles his passive from +2g to +4g, which is a large increase. In turn, it often means doubling down on the 'don't play Sneed' builds, since it's a passive effect and Sneed himself is not even the best at triggering it relative to cost, with his fragility and slow movement.
In contrast to the other Leaders of the Horde Family, Sneed is a much narrower pick. In the right context he floods your coffers with extra gold, providing a large resource advantage. In others, he's a mediocre Siege mini with nothing to Siege. A useful Leader to have in your back pocket, but since the changes to Land Grab, not one I would invest in as primary Horde leader.