Reavers be Reaving
After a long hiatus from blog writing and dice rolling, I finally managed to get back to some tournament play this weekend. I went to Boards and Swords Hobbies in Derby with the rest of the Steel City crew. This venue is huge, with plenty of room both upstairs and downstairs to fulfil all of your gaming needs! The event was a blast, with everyone attending putting up a strong showing and demonstrating the great attitude Shadespire is synonymous with.
Dropping the fiends for their more numerous and more exhibitionist brother’s in arms, Garrek’s Bloodreavers, I hoped that speed, damage and a flagrant disregard for the lives of my own models could carry me through both aggressive and defensive matchups. This report is aimed at anyone wanting to learn anything about the Bloodreavers, and anyone who wants to teach me more about what they’ve learned about this warband! Let me know what you think and if you have any other advice about playing with Garrek and his motley crew.
Why play the Bloodreavers?
The most commonly cited advantage of the Bloodreavers is their speed. The base movement of all models is 4, with this going up to 5 when 3 models are simultaneously out of action. This gives them a threat range to put all but aggro Skaven to shame. In addition they have the two range threat of Karsus, meaning he is incredibly difficult to stay clear of, especially with ploys like spectral wing lurking around.
What that means practically is you get to pick the engagements you make. You can afford to deploy further back against other aggro warbands, leaving them in charge range of your models whilst they are forced to wait as the Bloodreavers stand just out of reach. Against defensive warbands, you can start the fight as early as Turn 1.
So what if they’re fast, I hear you cry! Skaven run faster from Turn 1! Well yes-yes they do, however they do not have one 3 damage fighter and two 2 damage fighters when uninspired. This gets even better when you inspire the Bloodreavers, when any one of Karsus, Saek or Garrek can become a 5 move monster with the potential (with the right cards) to one shot any model in the game. Even Targor gets a respectable 2 damage profile (sorry Arnulf). Once the fight starts, no one is safe from the Bloodreavers!
(They will probably still be safe from Arnulf.)
Death is Good
This doesn’t mean the Bloodreavers want to gun it over lethal hexes, cackling madly, until nothing but a confused pile of Khornate corpses is left to confront a suitably baffled enemy. What it means is if you are trading models with the enemy, you will come out on top. Once models start dying you get an enormous warband wide stat boost. You also have objectives like It Begins and Khorne Cares Not which mean a bloodthirsty game will reward you with 3 glory regardless of who is dropping. In close games against aggro warbands the self-destructive tendencies of the Bloodreavers mean you will earn glory for both killing and dying, when the enemy is only earning points for killing.
Against defensive warbands this advantage is somewhat nullified as fewer models fall. You will be relying more and the fast moving hard hitting models to close the game out.
Why not play the Bloodreavers?
Despite Targor and Arnulf having a physique to put Channing Tatum to shame, they have the constitution of your average man-rat-thing. In fact, only Garrek hits that lovely 4 health threshold that prevents easy one-shots. On top of this they have a dodge defence characteristic. This means that out of position Bloodreavers will get quickly picked off, and if you aren’t trading models back you’ll find yourself running out of options fast. Having said that, if any of your main three models are alive when you inspire, you can still turn games…
…if you keep them alive…when they have 3 health…and 1 dodge dice…
The affectionately named Arnulf and Targor will normally serve as offering to Khorne to inspire the core of the warband. Uninspired these models are thoroughly uninspiring. They can still provide support and may occasionally land a lucky shot to bring an enemy model into kill range for Blooded Saek, but they can’t really be relied upon to do anything but die. Fortunately, if you can trade these hapless hulks for one enemy fighter, more often than not you’ll be in a position to really start piling on the pain.
No Cleave Upgrades
This can be worked around (lots of dice is sometimes just as good as cleave) but it is very difficult for the Bloodreavers to access Saeks cleave if the enemy are playing around it. Against defensive decks you’ll be lucky to see enough bloodshed to get Saek inspired. Against aggro decks, expect them to try and blow Saek up early to take that option off the table.
The Deck: Measured aggression
- It Begins
- Khorne Cares Not
- There is Only Slaughter
- Advancing Strike
- Alone in the Darkness
- Change of Tactics
- Precise Use of Force
- Superior Tactician
- Bold Advance
- Blood Offering
- Forceful Denial
- Great Concussion
- Hidden Paths
- My Turn
- Ready for Action
- Shattering Terrain
- Spectral Wings
- Twist the Knife
- Whirlwind of Death
- A Destiny to Meet
- Awakened Weapon
- Great Strength
- Helpful Whispers
- Incredible Strength
- Shadeglass Dagger
- Shadeglass Hammer
There is Only Slaughter
How many times have you set up the boards to start a game and joked with your opponent about how neither of you care about objectives? Almost nobody does care about objectives, so why not get a free point for it! This works absolute wonders against defensive decks to get free points without having to change your Turn 1 plan in the slightest.
This card turned me off when I first read it, but after having games where I discarded Denial/Superior Tactician after top decking them, after running cards like River’s of Blood and Cover Ground which rely on ploys, I realised that you take a chance with every objective you put in your deck. If you mulligan, you have a 50/50 chance of drawing this Turn 1. If you have score immediately cards in your hand you can dig even deeper into your deck. If you don’t get Bold Advance, you either didn’t mulligan because your Turn 1 hand was good enough anyway, or you did mulligan, you’ve gone through half your objective deck, and hopefully you’ve managed to get at least one other card you can score Turn 1. If you do draw Bold Advance – especially with Bloodreavers innate 4 move – it’s a free point and another step on the road to Superior Tactician.
I got fed up with people using Hidden Paths to deny Denial, with Quick Thinker dodging my charges, and with every other ploy that threw a spanner in the works. Forceful Denial allows you to swing games, interrupt your opponents plans and assure that your machinations remain uninterrupted. The potential swings this card can cause is worth the dice roll for me.
These came in handy multiple times to turn the infamous danglebros into fast moving death machines. Karsus and Garrek can also benefit from these items, especially when uninspired. These upgrades help you to take advantage of the weaker models in your warband, who still have the advantage of speed, but really need a big glass hammer to punt a dwarf with.
Like last time I’m going to try and focus on learning points from each game, the hope being that this will help anyone wanting to pick up the Bloodreavers for themselves!
Game 1: Khorne Wars
I faced Magore’s Fiends in round 1, which is in many people’s opinion (including my own) the more well rounded Khornate warband. However they do lack the Bloodreavers raw speed, and they also lack 3 damage on any fighter uninspired. The plan for me was to get a quick pick with Saek to start the glory train rolling and then allow the ensuing bloodbath to score me Khorne Care’s Not. This wasn’t how I ended up playing Game 1 after seeing my objective hand.
- Play to your Objective hand, not your Warband: My opening objective hand was glorious, I drew There is Only Slaughter, Bold Advance and Ploymaster. I didn’t have enough ploys to score Ploymaster, but chances were my opponent didn’t have two glory in his hand which did not rely on combat. I deployed back, allowed the fiends to walk at me and snuck Garrek past the fiends to score 2 glory and start stacking upgrades for a bloody Turn 2.
- Remember Ghartok cannot be knocked back: It sucks, Trap cannot save me.
I ended up taking this series 2-0. In Game 1 I had a beautiful run of objectives combined with great dice meant I ended up +12 on glory scoring both Denial and Superior Tactician. Game 2 was much closer, I lost everyone except for Karsus, with 3 Fiends remaining on the board at the top of Turn 3. A first activation kill onto Riptooth followed by a mad dash into enemy territory ended up scoring me enough points to take the game with +4 glory.
As I had hoped, It Begins and Khorne Cares Not kept me in both games, allowing me to upgrade my freshly inspired fighters even as they were killed, and turn the fight later on. Karsus is a huge late game threat if he has Whirlwind of Death and a +1 damage upgrade on, and he carried Game 2.
Game 2: Brotherly Love
Just thinking about this game is mentally exhausting. This is would make the 4th time I have matched against my brother Oli at a tournament, with him holding the winning record so far. In addition, it was a game against Defensive Stormcast, a warband I feel extra pressure to beat. I honestly think my bro has some devious younger brother mind games he plays during our matches, because I almost always do something monumentally stupid in our matches.
- I am the next in a long list of people that pretend to know what they’re doing but demonstrates an inability to count to 3. In Game 1 I had with some good draws and had taken out 2 Stormcast on the long board earning a 3 glory lead halfway through Turn 3. Moving out of range and sitting on my lead would’ve been the smart move and wouldve more than likely won me the game. Thinking it was Turn 2 I figured to secure a win I needed to finish the Stormcast and not allow Obyrn a turn and a half of wailing on all the squishy Khorne in range of him. I ended up missing with my attacks and giving my brother the lead as he happily battered my poor Bloodreavers into pulps. Fortunately, I had Khorne Cares Not to bring the game to a tie. Khorne may not have cared, but I did! Feeling suitably moronic after some abysmal decision making we went into game two after a draw.
- Sometimes the dice go against you: Game 2 was on a long board, and I did not connect a single attack whilst my brother landed everything.
- Sometimes the dice go in your favour: Game 3 was on a short board and I killed every Stormcast by the third Activation of the first turn.
- My Turn combo’s are the saviour of my deck: Shattering terrain into My Turn as an opener is brilliant. Game 3 I top decked these cards and set Saek up in range. Saek charged the one Stormcast in range and used My Turn after the move part of the charge action to bump him between Severin and Angharad. I connected the My Turn attack with Angharad for 3 damage +1 from Shattering Terrain for the kill, and then made the attack that was part of the charge action onto Severin and killed him in the same way. Soultrap went onto Saek and saved him from Obyrns vengeful attack, after which Garreks Hidden Paths allowed two attacks on Obyrn to get the third and final kill.
My Brother played this set excellently. In Game two he turned his Defensive Stormcast on it’s head and managed to almost entirely wipe out my Warband. Overall we ended on a tie. Over the entire series Oli had scored 4 more Glory than me, so I had assumed this would be a loss. However for individual sets glory difference isn’t a tiebreaker, GD just counts in the final standings. I was thrilled to learn this, as it meant my inability to count hadn’t cost me a shot at the trophy, and i went into Match 3 with 1 win and 1 tie.
Game 3: Hi Dan
Yet again I matched up against Dan and his Farstriders. Having beaten myself up about the last game playing a round against Dan was an excellent reminder of how to chill out and enjoy the game.
- Do try to have fun! I want to win every game I play, and it sucks when I don’t. However when things don’t go your way, when someone (God damn you Oli) puts up a much better fight than you were expecting, don’t let it ruin your day. Learn from the loss, keep trying to improve, and continue to enjoy the rest of your games. I can’t say I’ve ever encountered anyone at any tournament who has ever taken a loss hard enough that saltiness has moved into their next game, but I still think it’s a point worth making.
- Shardgale will mess up your calculations for Precise Use of Force: Remember everyone already has a damage on them. Don’t forget it…twice.
This game was an aggro on aggro matchup in which we both smashed through eachothers models and scored objective after objective. Fortunately, It Begins and Khorne Care’s not edged me a win in both games we played. I was helped again by early picks with Saek, the bane of 4 health models with all the extra damage in this deck. Many people are surprised Saek has 3 damage as base, be sure to take advantage of it! (Also make a pun about how you are attacking for the Saek of it.)
Game 4: Steel City Showdown
Having not dropped a game to anyone but Oli I ended up in the final against fellow Steel City author Vanadis in the final. This was a shot at redemption against defensive Steelhearts, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
- Bloodreaver’s run riot on the short board: If you get a short board set up against Defensive Steelhearts with this deck, it feels so nice. Saek can go in for a turn 1 kill if you have the right ploys thanks to 4 move putting at least one Stormcast model in range from the start. Karsus will certainly be able to land an attack to at least get a little bit of damage off and deny objectives for not taking any pain.
- Trap people against the back wall with Karsus’ 2 range attack: As dealing any form of damage to Steelhearts Champions can deny objectives, using Karsus to dish out 1 damage can deny sometimes up to 2 glory. Using this positioning (see below), you can trap your opponent in a way a 1 range attack couldn’t to make the damage even more reliable.
- If you don’t have Alone in the Darkness, always try to deny it: The opponent pulling two glory out of a bad turn because you forgot to have Targor and Arnulf hold hands feels really bad.
In the end I managed to grab a 2-0 victory, thanks in large part to having two short board games. Being able to start the fight from Turn 1 meant I could begin denying defensive objectives from the get go. This was huge boon which (even on short boards) is something only 4 move fighters can reliably manage. In Game 1 I managed to clear the board of Stormcast by Turn 3 thanks to a good Turn 1 pick off from Saek followed by the rest of the Bloodreavers piling in. Saek also managed to deal 7 damage to a Stormcast with both strength upgrades, Twist the Knife and Trap. Deathly Fortitude be damned! Game two my Turn 1 attacks whiffed and inspired the Stormcast, however Turn 2 saw Severin fall, and Obyrn followed in Turn 3. Angharad geared up for a charge on Karsus, who promptly equipped A Destiny to Meet and Ready for Action’ed away. Karsus had places to be.
Blood for the Blood God!
I managed to beat Oli to the first place position (we both had 3 wins and 1 tie) as I had dropped one less game than him during the tournament, leading to my first Q3 trophy! Garrek’s Bloodreavers have a slightly more unique playstyle than traditional aggro warbands in that they have a warband that inspires together and thrives as long as somebodies dying. Being squishier requires a degree of playing around, and most games revolve around deciding when it’s OK to lose models to beef up the rest of your squad. Overall I think the warband is somewhat underrated, the potential damage output is immense and is even more deadly when matched with the speed the Bloodreavers bring to the table.
The tournament itself was incredibly well run. We kept to time, got a tasty lunch included, and had more than enough space to play our games. I had an absolute blast and encountered many different approaches to the game that I hadn’t considered (4th and 5th were Sepulchural Guard decks, one of which including 40 cards). Thanks very much to Boards and Swords Hobbies for running a brilliant event! I think they have a glass trophy event every month for Q3, so keep your eyes peeled for the next one!
Next time your building a deck, remember…
There is Only Slaughter!