With all of the new cards from the Warhammer Underworlds: Nightvault core set now known, I thought I’d do a quick review of the new cards ahead of the new season’s release next week. This is going to focus on the cards themeselves rather than anything else about the new expansion, and is written from a competitive standpoint – obviously in casual games you can use whatever cards you want regardless of whether they’re “good” or not. For a more general overview of the new core set see Mike’s article here.
There’s quite a few new cards, so I’ve split this review out into a series of three articles – one for the new Stormcast warband Stormsire’s Cursebreakers, one for the Nighthaunt Thorns of the Briar Queen, and a final article covering the handful of new universal cards.
For this series of articles I’ll be rating cards using an extremely arbitrary and unscientific rating system to give an idea of how the different cards compare to each other and to existing options – don’t take this too seriously. Cards are rated from 1-5, with 1 being the worst and 5 the best, and I’ve included some reference points for each type of card in their section below.
Objectives are tricky to rate, as they don’t really do anything in a vacuum – they require your warband, power deck, and the other cards in the objective deck to really function. Still, I’ve tried to provide a rating for the new cards here – for reference, I feel that objectives that are easy to score and hard to disrupt are the “best” and have used the following baseline for rating these cards.
- 5 – Extremely easy to score objectives that fit in any deck (Alone in the Darkness, Ploymaster)
- 4 – Easy to score or highly impactful objectives that are key to a particular archetype or are decent in any deck (Escalation, Supremacy, most score immediately objectives)
- 3 – Solid objectives that work well in a particular deck type (Denial, Conquest, Hold Objective x)
- 2 – Limited use objectives that might work in particularly specialised builds (Tactical Supremacy x)
- 1 – Bad objectives that you should pretty much never take (Khorne’s Champion)
This is fine for an aggro deck, but lower priority than score immediately objectives and whatever your big end-game options of choice are (Conquest and Denial / Victory after Victory and Superior Tactician / Annihilation etc) Consider taking as an 11th or 12th objective.
Worse than Awe-Inspiring, which is already hard to justify against a preponderance of 3-4 fighter warbands with high health and good defences. Not a great option.
Fight as One
All 3 of your fighters need to be in place to attack the same enemy to score this, meaning you’ve likely spent most of your turn setting it up. No.
Harness the Storm
You want to be casting spells, so immediately getting 1 glory for doing so is really strong. Goes well with Shining Example and Heroes All.
A second copy of Geared for War, which is a fine objective but maybe not one you want 2 copies of in a warband with the minimum number of fighters to score it.
This is pretty easy to score, and another good compliment to Harness the Storm and inspiration-focused objective in a defensive or hybrid list.
Another copy of Precise use of Force for aggro decks. Doubling up on objectives that are fairly easy to score and support what your deck is trying to do is good, although this one in particular does force you to think a bit more about how you’re using your damage upgrades and inspiring your fighters.
I’m not sure this is quite good enough to include in the majority of decks. In defensive lists it’s not going to come up early in the game, and in aggro lists you’ve got better 1 glory options.
Purify the Earth
Like the Chosen Axes’ version, this requires a bit too much set-up and is too easy to disrupt to be worth including. None of your other objectives really push you towards caring about objective tokens, so it also doesn’t synergise particularly well with the rest of the deck. 2 glory objectives are nice, but there are better ones for you.
Gambits is the new category of power cards that combine the existing ploys with the new gambit spells. They’re the most powerful and impactful card type, and new ones have to face stiff competition from existing stalwarts like Great Concussion and Twist the Knife. As with objectives, I’ve included the baseline reference below:
- 5 – Best in class effects that should go in basically every deck that can take them (Great Concussion, Hidden Paths, Quick Thinker, Raptor Strike)
- 4 – Powerful or versatile effects that are extremely strong in a particular archetype or pretty good in any deck (Distraction, Forceful Denial, Twist the Knife)
- 3 – Solid effects that will find a place in many decks (Rebound, Sidestep)
- 2 – Limited effects that might be useful in some specialised decks (Earthquake, No Time)
- 1 – Just plain bad cards (Curious Inversion, Flickering Step)
+1 defence dice makes your inspired fighters extremely hard to kill, but unless your opponent absolutely has to make an attack in their next activation they can just do something else instead. Best as a response to your opponent setting up for a charge or using Hidden Paths if you don’t have a push effect or something else that stops them.
Chain Lightning (Spell)
The fact that this scatters from your hex and not an adjacent hex makes what would otherwise be a great effect kind of mediocre. You’ve got some control over the odds of hitting the initial target, based on the number of symbols on the dice, but it’s just too random to really be good. It is fun, though.
Cry of Thunder (Spell)
1 damage to any enemy anywhere is absolutely fantastic, and easily worth the casting roll – especially when boosted with Gather the Storm or Eye of the Storm. It even hits adjacent fighters too, which is great for when defensive lists are trying to get Unbroken Wall or Well Guarded and your opponent playing around this makes it easier for you to score Alone in the Darkness too.
Empathic Conduction (Spell)
The only thing good about this is that it can inspire your fighters, and as it only requires a single focus symbol it’s a way for Rastus and Ammis to inspire without needing to waste an action on Empower. In terms of effects it’s worse than Healing Potion, though, so it’s probably not worth taking
Gather the Storm
Not a bad effect, but maybe not impactful enough to include. It’s best use is as a pseudo Inspiration Strikes with a spell requiring a single channel (although you still need to spend an action or use another gambit).
These effects are fine and generally a solid option in aggressive decks. Note that this is the Tireless Assault wording, rather than the The Necromancer Commands version, so you get to make the entire attack again (good with attacks that target multiple enemies).
I’ve never seen Shadestep played, and while this is a slightly better effect (including blocked hexes as well as fighters and being usable before you get any glory) I don’t think it’s good enough to make the cut. In most cases Spectral Wings does a better job of letting you get a surprising charge off.
This is interesting, and if it works on Score Immediately objectives and things like Victorious Duel it has the possibility of being a good answer to decks that try and stack glory on a single kill. If it doesn’t then it’s pretty much a waste of space
Rating: 1 (3 if it stops objective cards too)
+1 damage effects are nice, but ones like this should be your last resort after including Trap, Twist the Knife, and damage upgrades. It’s just too easy for your opponent to neuter the effect by using one of their ploys to stop your attack.
33% chance of countering a spell isn’t quite as high as I’d like for a one use ploy (50%, like Forceful Denial), but if the power level of future spells is closer to the Cry of Thunder or Howling Vortex level then you probably need all the help you can get.
While generally less impactful than gambits, and facing less strong competition, there are still a number of solid upgrades that any new card needs to compete with. In general more specialised upgrades are less “good” as they’re more likely to do nothing, and flexible cards with a clear effect on the game have a premium. My baseline for analysing these cards is as follows:
- 5 – Extremely powerful upgrades that have a place in nearly every deck (A Destiny to Meet, Great Fortitude)
- 4 – Powerful upgrades that are very strong in particular types of deck, or are merely quite strong overall (Great Strength, Deathly Fortitude)
- 3 – Dependable middle-of-the-road upgrades that are good for filling out the power deck (Shadeglass weapons, the Keys)
- 2 – Upgrades with a very specific use case that otherwise aren’t worth including (Cursed Artifact)
- 1 – You know the deal by now (Cursed Shield, post-nerf Katophrane Relics)
Blessed Blade (Stormsire)
It’s another source of cleave, which is as important as ever, but it’s only 2 damage which is not great – you’ll need 2 activations or 2 damage boosts to reach the all-important 4 damage. It also only works on 1 of your models which reduces it’s impact. You should probably still take it if you’re going to be playing aggressively though.
Corposant Staff (Stormsire)
Being able to give any of your fighters +1 range at will is nice, but taking an activation to do it is not (although it does at least inspire Stormsire if he hasn’t been able to make a spell attack yet). If this works on spell attacks Stormsire can also give himself a range 4 attack, which is probably it’s best use, otherwise it’s probably not a huge priority.
Disarming Blow (Ammis, Rastus)
Not a huge fan of this. The trigger condition is very specific – an enemy fighter misses you with an attack when they’ve got an attack action upgrade – and it only works 50% of the time. It can get rid of some sources of cleave like Flashing Handaxe or Lethal Lunge, but then you’re relying on not getting hit by an attack that’s good at hitting you to keep you safe from future attacks.
Eye of the Storm
This should be great. It makes it a lot easier to cast powerful gambit spells (a 2 channel spell for Stormsire goes from ~44% to ~88% success, and for Ammis and Rastus from 0% to ~66%). However, the only spell you really want to use this on is Cry of Thunder – it would be so much better for the Thorns. It’s also a shame that Stormsire’s spell attack uses focus and not channel, as an innate success on what’s already a strong attack would be fantastic.
Hurricane Step (Ammis, Rastus)
Not bad. Moving 1 after you attack, no matter whether it was successful or not, is pretty nice and can be used both offensively (to set up for an extra action ploy) or defensively (to force your opponent to charge or get away from a fighter that’s already moved).
Lightning Whip (Ammis, Rastus)
This is a really interesting alternative to Great Strength and Incredible Strength as a damage boost. It’s a reaction trigger from an upgrade that takes place after the attack, so bypasses Soultrap and Tethered Spirit and essentially negates ‘Ard Head and Gory Visage which makes it a bit stronger than the standard strength upgrades in those situations. However, it’s worse for Precise Use of Force and some other score immediately objectives because of this, and also puts you at risk of your opponent using a reaction with the same trigger first (and even worse, at risk of a counter with My Turn).
Stunning Blow (Ammis, Rastus)
Putting a charge token next to an enemy fighter on a failed attack has some utility, primarily in the situations that sometimes come up where you and your opponent are slugging away at each other, unable to decisively connect, but otherwise doesn’t do enough to be worth a slot – a lot of the time your opponent is going to have engaged you by charging anyway.
This gives Stormsire Inspired the highest damage range 3 attack in the game, making him a serious threat. Unfortunately, at the moment that’s the only thing it does as you don’t have access to any other spell attacks. If there were universal upgrades that granted spell attacks this would be rated higher, but in an aggressive deck it may still be worth taking as 3 damage at range 3 is very tempting.
Warding Blast (Ammis)
Area attacks have the potential to be highly impactful, but more often than not enemy fighters just aren’t positioned right for you to make the best use of them. You also have to deal with your opponent getting support, meaning that a base accuracy of 2 fury doesn’t really cut it. This will rarely if ever be worth including.
Unstoppable Zeal (Rastus)
Reaction attacks are generally nice, even when weak (see Angharad or the 2 generic Fiends) but the trigger for this means you need to have a second enemy in range after killing the first in order to make it. For the limited damage this does, making yourself less likely to hit by giving your opponent support just isn’t worth it.
In general I think the cards for Stormsire’s Cursebreakers are just short of where they need to be for the warband to be a top tier competitive choice. They have a few good aggressive and defensive options, as well as some nice objectives (particularly the ones based on casting spells), but need a bit extra to push them over the line. It just feels like the 2 existing Stormcast warbands are a bit stronger.
In particular, I feel like they need some more impactful spells – ones using channel to make Eye of the Storm stronger and spell attacks to get more benefit from Tempest’s Might. It’s possible that we’ll get some of these as universal cards in future expansions (although I wouldn’t hold out hope based on the universal spells we’ve seen so far) or Cursebreaker-specific cards in something like the Leaders expansion, and if we do then that might allow the sacrosanct chamber warband to shine.
Check back soon for the second in this series, where we’ll be looking at the Thorns of the Briar Queen cards. Until then, good luck and have fun!