For part 2 of this series I’m going to be looking at the best objective cards for defensive lists. Objectives are pretty much the heart of any Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire list as they basically determine what your deck is trying to do, so understanding how the deck scores glory is fundamental to playing it.
In defensive decks, you generally have 3 types of objective: passive objectives that you score for just playing the game, positioning objectives that you score from moving your fighters in a particular way, and end-game objectives that let you score larger amounts of glory at the end of turn 3 to secure your victory. Most of these are low-scoring but easy to score, so you need to try and control how much glory your opponent is scoring while building up your own.
A good turn 1 for you is one where you score 2 glory and your opponent scores 0. A great one is where you score all 3 of your objectives and get 3-4 glory. In turn 2 you can generally start to score a bit more as you’re often in a position to start making counter-attacks using the upgrades you played with your turn 1 glory, especially if you’re playing a hybrid deck with a few score immediately objectives. Finally, in turn 3 you want to hit somewhere between 4 and 6 from your high-scoring end-game objectives and upgrades like Hero’s Mantle and A Destiny to Meet (more on them in a later article).
A lot of the best objectives for this kind of deck are universal ones, so you can technically try and build a defensive list with any warband. Generally speaking the two Stormcast warbands are best at this kind of play, though, so you really want to be playing one of them unless you have a particular gimmick in mind.
Because of this I’ll primarily be focusing on the relevant faction-specific objectives for the Farstriders and Steelheart’s Champions. Even though there are some objectives for other warbands that meet the criteria of being easy to score, hard to disrupt and rewarding you for not engaging directly (There is Only Slaughter, March of the Dead, Pride of the Lodge, Rivers of Blood, and so on) I won’t be covering them here – maybe in a future article on brewing oddball decks?
These are objectives you can score just by how your fighters (and your opponent’s) are positioned. They’re a bit easier to disrupt than your purely passive objectives (although not as easy as hold objective objectives), and a good opponent can usually work out what you’re going for if you commit too early, but they’re a great way to keep the glory flowing without too much reliance on what you’ve got in your power hand and what your opponent is doing. You probably want at least 6-8 of your objectives to be split between these and passive objectives (see below).
Alone in the Darkness
Alone in the Darkness is pretty much hands down the best positioning objective, as it tends to be an extremely easy 2 glory – even the best players can forget to play around this when moving in to engage you, and you can generally make sure you score it with the amount of pushes you run.
Note that if you can score this then your opponent can too, so you need to be able to identify when they are trying to do so and whether it’s better for both of you to score it or neither of you (if you can hit your other objectives then the latter is generally the case).
This isn’t technically a positioning objective, but as it interacts with them I’m including it here. I think this is a pretty good card, although the more you want to charge (hybrid decks with score immediately objectives, or just being at the end of turn 2 onwards) the less good it becomes. Even though it penalizes you for moving you can generally score your positioning objectives
This is a great objective that’s generally pretty easy to score. You can even get it while still engaging with the opponent in later turns, especially on long or diagonal board setups.
The main issue here is that Unbroken Wall conflicts with Alone in the Darkness, which is the best positioning objective. While this does sometimes create situations where you can score regardless of whether your opponent counters Alone in the Darkness or not (or vice versa) it does decrease the number of objective hands where you can score all 3 without discarding.
Well Guarded is slightly less good than Unbroken Wall as it dictates that your leader be in the middle (although it’s better if you’re trying a non-Stormcast defensive list as you don’t need everyone to be adjacent), but essentially allows you to double up on glory from Unbroken Wall which is good if you are running Flawless Strategy. I’d probably only include this in a purely defensive deck as otherwise the slot is probably better spent on an immediate objective.
This is one of the best positioning objectives, and one of the reasons that Steelheart’s Champions are the best warband for defensive decks. It’s extremely easy to score in turn 1, and only slightly more difficult throughout the rest of the game with the number of pushes you have access to.
Note that you can still score Consecrated Area if all your fighters are dead too, so it can sometimes help turn a close defeat into a draw or even a close victory. It also synergizes perfectly with Alone in the Darkness, and if you get both in an opening hand you’re pretty much set.
These are objectives that you score just for playing the game, and that your opponent has basically no way of interacting with (short of situations where you need to play reaction ploys to hit Ploymaster and they aren’t giving you any opportunities). You probably want at least 6-8 of your objectives to be split between these and positioning objectives (see above).
This is a decent option as you tend to want to play out as many upgrades as possible in your end phases to increase card draw, making it easy to score in turn 2 or 3 if you’ve had a successful first turn and focused your upgrades on one fighter. It’s completely dead turn 1, though (unless you’re on the more aggressive side of a hybrid deck), so you’re often going to find yourself discarding it if you get it in your opening hand.
I really don’t like Escalation in this kind of deck, despite it being a good card in general. Like with Alone in the Darkness if you can score it your opponent can as well, but unlike with Alone in the Darkness there’s no way to take it back if you decide that it’s best for neither of you to score it.
Even worse, it runs counter to the way you should generally be playing your upgrades – you want to equip as many as you can in the end phase so you can draw more cards and have a better chance of getting the answers you need. The 2 glory is nice, but this is probably your last pick in a purely defensive list.
Flawless Strategy is a very swingy card so you need to carefully consider it in the context of your other objectives. It increases the likelihood of getting a 3+ glory hand and works well with the objectives that you essentially get multiple copies of (Bloodless and Sigmar’s Bulwark, Unbroken Wall and Well Guarded, etc), but it also makes you a lot more open to your opponent stopping you scoring your entire hand if you take it instead of another normal objective. It’s a risk that I personally don’t like taking, but I wouldn’t say it’s wrong per se.
Geared For War
As an alternative to Chosen Champion that doesn’t put all your eggs in one basket this isn’t terrible, but in either of the Stormcast warbands it does require you to have everyone alive which can be risky from the end of turn 2 onwards against aggressive decks.
For defensive decks this is a worse version of Shining Example and has all the same issues (see below) – it’s hard to achieve for Steelheart’s Champions and goes against your gameplan for the Farstriders. It would be okay if any of the warbands with easier and more controllable inspire conditions were better suited for this kind of deck.
Before the Leaders Expansion this was a last resort passive objective – we ran it in our relic deck pretty much out of necessity. It’s fairly reliable against other defensive decks, or in turn 1 against slower aggro decks when you’ve got board setup, but outside of that you really want to be playing your ploys, not sitting on them for 1 glory.
Master of War
This isn’t a great fit in most defensive lists, but becomes better in hybrid aggressive builds. You ideally want to be scoring glory during the action phase to immediately equip an upgrade, so it wants support from score immediately objectives. It’s definitely worth considering if you run Ready for Action or Spoils of Battle, but the more defensive your list is the less you want those cards. Note that playing upgrades to score this can also help enable your opponent’s Escalation so you need to keep an eye on how much glory they could potentially get.
Ploymaster is probably the best and most consistent passive objective. It synergizes well with your general gameplan of drawing power cards and using ploys to counter your opponent, and generally the only way you fail to score it is if you somehow end up not getting to 3 ploys (unlikely with do-overs, drawing power cards, and aggressive use/discarding of upgrades in your end phases) or if you have too many reactions and the triggers don’t come up.
Unfortunately, while this is a great objective it’s pretty terrible for both of the Stormcast warbands. Steelheart’s Champions have an inconsistent inspire condition that you aren’t going to see before turn 2 at best in a defensive deck (and all too often it just never happens, even if you do get attacked), and the Farstriders need to be advancing into your opponent’s territory which is at odds with what you’re trying to do (although a possible combo with Hidden Paths).
This is a better option if you’re trying to make one of the other warbands work as a defensive list – particularly the Orruks (see Jamie Giblin’s post on trying out defensive Orruks on his blog here) or Skaven.
These are objectives that you score just by not taking damage or being attacked. They tend to be really good in turn 1 against most decks and then decrease in value throughout the game (although depending on how things go they may be good again in turn 3 if you’ve managed to neutralize opposing fighters in turn 2). They are generally worth including in defensive decks, but you don’t want too many as Shardgale completely shuts them down and they’re more prone to disruption by the faster aggro decks like Skaven or Farstriders.
This is riskier than the faction-specific versions as your opponent can deny it by injuring their own models, and it also can’t be scored if you want to attack opposing fighters. I still think it’s often worth including for the reasons mentioned above, but if you are playing either of the Stormcast warbands you should only take it if you want a second one of these objectives.
Better than Bloodless because it only cares about your fighters, so you can still score it while making some attacks in turn 2 or the end of turn 1. You can also still score it when all your fighters are out of action so it can help you reduce the glory difference if you’ve had a disastrous turn 2, although that’s an incredibly niche case.
Brave but Cautious
This is basically the same as Sigmar’s Bulwark except that it doesn’t have the niche disaster recovery mode.
These are your high-scoring turn 3 objectives. They help secure wins and increase your otherwise low max glory, leading to higher glory differential (especially important in larger events). You probably only want a couple of these, maybe 3 if you are being greedy.
For this kind of objective you are looking at something that scores 3+ glory and that doesn’t require any additional effort on your part beyond how you’re normally going to be playing with a defensive list. Anything based on holding objective tokens (e.g. Supremacy) or your opponent’s positioning (Contained, Denial) is a bad fit.
If you get 1 of these in your opening hand, don’t be afraid to do-over unless the other 2 objectives are great. If you get more than 1 you should definitely do-over. Note that it’s sometimes fine to hold onto one of these until turn 3 (especially Superior Tactician) as long as you ensure you’re scoring your other 2 objectives each round.
This is fantastic against other defensive decks and hold objective decks, good against slower aggressive decks or ones that aren’t running the tools to deal with defensive play, and kind of bad against faster and more disruptive aggro lists (e.g. Skaven and Farstriders). Unlike Superior Tactician you should probably always discard this in turn 1 unless you 100% know your opponent isn’t going to be attacking.
Superior Tactician is probably the best option for an end-game objective, and I’d suggest including it in pretty much any defensive deck. It does a great job of increasing or creating a glory lead, and is especially good if you have a hybrid aggro element in your deck, as score immediately objectives help make it a lot more consistent.
Exactly the same as Complete Victory. You probably don’t want both of these in most decks as it’s a bit greedy, but for a pure defensive deck it might be worth it. If your meta has a lot of defensive and hold objective decks (which is admittedly unlikely) it’s a lot more attractive as it can help make sure you win mirror matches by having a higher glory potential.
Example Objective Decks
As you can see, there’s quite a few options for defensive lists even when just looking at the two warbands most well-suited for this playstyle. While I can’t tell you exactly what cards should be in your objective deck (as that depends on your own preferences and the extent to which you want to include aggressive elements) I can provide a couple of examples for you to base your decisions on.
“Scaredy Kat” Relic SCE
This is the final version of the list we created to take to the second Warhammer World grand clash (and later revised based on our losses in the mirror match against the only other player who’d come up with the list). While this was a Katophrane Relic list originally, and loses a lot of effectiveness with the beta rule nerf to those cards, the objective deck is still a good example of a purely defensive Steelheart’s Champions list.
This is an example of the objective deck for more of a hybrid list. I’ve consistently top 3’d with this since I started playing it (with a few tweaks here and there) and won 2 trophies so far. The current version is probably about 70-30 defensive to aggressive, and the objectives reflect this.
The End – For Now…
That’s all on objectives for now. Obviously this is only half the puzzle – to actually score these you’re going to need to include the right cards in your power deck and make the right choices during the game – but hopefully it’s enough to get you thinking about what objectives to include in your defensive deck (or which to play around when facing one).
Next time we’ll look at the best ploys and upgrades for defensive lists, before concluding with an overview of what you need to consider when playing the deck – board choice, deployment, and general tactics. Until then, good luck and have fun!