Last weekend saw our local store Wargames Emporium’s second quarterly Shadeglass Trophy event for Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. As I’d managed to win the last event (with the help of some amazingly good luck) I was hoping to defend my title, but as the rest of the Steel City team were going to be there (with the exception of those currently in the Southern Hemisphere…), as well as Jamie Giblin of the Katophrane Relic blog, I knew I had stiff competition.
There were ten players registered, and the event format was a set 4 rounds of single game matches using standard Swiss pairing. While I’m not a great fan of best-of-1, it did at least mean that the rounds wouldn’t be too long which was a blessing given the current heatwave (although fortunately the extreme heat had also lessened up a bit for the weekend).
After my experience playing against Mike in Chesterfield a few weekends before I had switched Invisible Walls out for No Time as it can counter Quick Thinker, stops hold objective lists equipping keys at the end of turn 3, and also helps defend against extra damage from aggro decks’ ploys. I’d also got rid of Master of Tactics, as while it seemed good on paper the effect came up too few times to really be worth it.
Round 1 vs The Sepulchral Guard (1-0)
For round 1 I was paired up against Kurt, one of my co-author Tom’s friends, who was running the Deathrattle warband. While I was originally relieved by his warband choice, I was surprised when he first chose an aggressive board placement and then discarded a power hand of Spectral Wings and 4 aggressive upgrades – was this one of the fabled skeleton aggro decks?
I didn’t really know what to do in this situation, as this isn’t a matchup I’ve ever played, so decided to wing it rather than sticking with a safer and more conservative gameplan (note: don’t do this). My opening hand supported mix of a aggression and defense, so I went with that.
After the Champion and Harvester advanced I charged with Angharad against the Champion, aiming to get her on an edge hex for Skirting Danger score Change of Tactics, and set up for an easy kill in the next round. I used Quick Advance to get her out of range of reprisal from the Warden or Champion, and with Forceful Denial in hand I felt fairly safe against any tricks my opponent might have.
Unfortunately, Kurt was able to successfully use first Terrifying Screams and them Inspiration Strikes past my Forceful Denial to get the Warden in for an attack supported by the Champion, before finishing off Angharad with Ceaseless Attacks. Because of this I ended round 1 behind on glory, and facing an uphill climb.
I was able to turn things around by sending Obryn in with Hidden Paths to take out the Warden, followed by the Champion after Kurt tried to get in to counter attack. For the rest of the turn I switched to a more standard defensive gameplan, using my remaining ploys to score some passive objectives and pull back ahead inth a solid lead.
In turn 3 Kurt used Restless Dead to bring back the recently deceased Champion, upgraded him with Frightening Speed to threaten Obryn. I was able to stop him with Distraction, but the only option I had for the push then set my opponent up to use a Hidden Paths of his own to instead attack and kill Severin. Not getting the charge fortunately denied him most of the glory he’d been hoping to score from a kill, and Alone in the Darkness and Superior Tactician further cemented my victory.
I ended up winning 15 to 5, but despite this result the game felt very close throughout the first 2 turns, and it was great to play against a non-standard build of what is a generally poorly-regarded warband – especially when it was played with such skill.
Round 2 vs Garrek’s Reavers (0-1)
Round 2 saw me up against our own Tom B, who had eschewed his usual Fiends list for the more lightly armored Reavers. It had been a long time since I’d faced the original Khorne warband, but I was fairly confident about doing so – they may be a bit faster than the Fiends but they hit a lot less hard and have much worse cleave access.
Tom has also been writing a great series of articles on how to play aggressive decks against defensive ones, so it was a good opportunity to see if he actually knew what he was talking about and could put his money where his mouth is, so to speak.
Unsurprisingly to anyone who has read the articles, It turns out that Tom does, in fact, know what he’s talking about. He was able to do an excellent job of capitalizing on some bad decisions I made with my starting objective hand and turn 1 end phase, and kept applying pressure to put me on the back foot throughout the game.
I made the decision to do-over a starting objective hand with Bloodless, Sigmar’s Bulwark, and Eternals, which would normally be a snap keep against most decks as it’s 2 easy to score objectives that you want to get out of the way early. I was concerned about the possibility of Shardgale in a Khorne deck, though – and I know Tom runs it in his Fiends list – as well as the high movement of the Reavers making an attack in turn 1 quite likely.
What I forgot was that firstly with fewer fighters I was more likely to go first, giving me an opportunity to move out of the way and lessening the chance that he’d be able to stop me if he didn’t have Shardgale, and secondly that Shardgale is a lot more attractive to Fiends than to Reavers (due to Rivers of Blood). In hindsight keeping this hand was probably the better decision but I’m not 100% sure if that was obviously the case at the time – hindsight is 20/20 after all.
With that plan out of the window and a replacement objective hand with Defensive Strikes and Lightning Strikes, I let Tom go first. He immediately took advantage of this by charging with Saek and killing Obryn in a single blow, then attached Soultrap to Saek to defend against my counter attack.
Great Concussion got Angharad and Saek next to each other and I managed to hit with the setup attack after sending Severin in with hidden paths for support. If Angharad’s follow-up charge successfully got past Soultrap I would be able to hit 2 score immediately objectives and start to recover, but predictably it was not to be.
At the end of turn 2 I kept my score immediately objectives after failing to get them in turn 1, as I was confident I’d be able to finish off Saek and then use whatever additional objectives I drew to recover and get back on track. Having spent most of the game so far on a suboptimal aggressive plan I felt I had no choice but to continue as I was now behind on draws, glory, and upgrades.
Unfortunately I failed the one attack I was able to get before Saek ran away, and from then on there wasn’t much I could do other than try to stem the bleeding as Tom took me to pieces. When it was finally over I had lost 5 glory to 8, a margin that felt a lot larger at the time.
Round 3 vs Steelheart’s Champions (1-0)
My round 3 opponent was Martin Slaughter, a local player who I’ve seen at a few events but hadn’t previously played against. Martin was also playing a Steelheart’s Champions list, and after he won the roll-off for board placement and deployed aggressively it was clear he was playing a more aggressive version of the Stormcast warband.
This matchup favours the defensive deck quite heavily, as the Champions have fewer options for disruptive and movement ploys than the Fiends or Orruks do and their most consistent way to get cleave is an upgrade and so requires glory. I also had a lot of experience playing aggressive and aggressive-hybrid Stormcast in the early meta, so had a decent idea of what to expect.
I was able to make use of the diagonal board placement and a good opening hand of pushes to avoid losing anyone to turn 1 attacks, then get in with an upgraded Obryn in turn 2 to take out my opponent’s own Obryn. From then on it was just a matter of playing conservatively to maintain my lead and stop any last minute upsets using my counter ploys. Everything went pretty much according to plan, and I ended up winning the round with 14 glory to 3.
Round 4 vs Ironskull’s Boyz (1-0)
In the final round I was up against Jamie, who had brought Ironskull’s Boyz. While I was happy to not have to face his aggro Skaven again (a nightmare for defensive lists when played by someone as skilled with the deck as Jamie) I knew that whatever he was running couldn’t be as simple as a standard Orruk aggro list.
When Jamie chose to set up the boards long ways I realized that he had to be on an at least partially defensive list, which was a surprise for an Orruk list and meant that I had to choose whether to try and play the aggressor or sit back and hope that I could outperform Jamie’s passive objectives with my own. I went with the latter, and we had a typical defensive mirror match – quick action phases spent drawing cards and cycling objectives followed by a flurry of ploys in the final power phase as we tried to counter each other’s objectives and score our own.
We were both equal at the end of turn 1 with 2 glory apiece from passive objectives, Jamie’s use of the lethal hexes to score Shining Example stopped me from hitting Bloodless for a full 3. This was an extremely cool tactic to make use of one of the best new passive objectives for many decks.
Turn 2 continued in much the same vein until I sent in an upgraded Obryn with Hidden Paths in the last activation to try and get some additional glory from combat. While Jamie was able to counter with Great Concussion, I was still left in a good position for a follow-up charge in turn 3. Obryn’s cleave meant that I could happily charge in between Gurzag and Basha to avoid a possible Quick Thinker, kill the weaker Orruk and then use a push and Deathly Fortitude to protect against a counterattack.
In the end I managed to win 15-5 Jamie’s list was a really cool deck, and it’s nice to see the new boards being used to do something different and help enable a non-typical version of a warband that’s usually very straightforward. Jamie has written up his experience running this deck on his blog, which is well worth a read generally as well as for his strategy for the deck.
Overall Results and Thoughts
Tom had been the only undefeated player in round 3, but having lost a tense match against his brother’s defensive Stormcast list in the final round the highest record in the room was 3-1. This meant that the trophy would be decided by tiebreakers once again with Mike, Tom, Tom’s brother and myself all in contention.
After what seemed like an eternity the results were in, and I was overjoyed to find myself once again in first place – even if only by the slightest of margins. Tom and his brother came in second and third respectively, with Mike in fourth for a clean sweep by the Steel City team.
The meta at this event felt a lot more evolved than I’ve seen previously, with more defensive and non-standard decks being tried out. As well as some of the new staple cards from the Leaders expansion the new boards were seeing wide use too, which was good to see even if I’m personally still not that impressed by the boards. It’ll be interesting to see if this holds true at the next event I’m going to be able to attend (the weekend after next) or if it’s just a regional thing.
That’s all from me for now – if you’ve stuck through my disjointed rambling for this long then hopefully you’ve found something at least slightly interesting in it. Good luck and have fun!