Nightvault Core Set Review: Thorns of the Briar Queen

Stormsire’s Cursebreakers | Thorns of the Briar Queen | Universal

In our second article in this review series, we’ll be looking at the new Nighthaunt warband – the Thorns of the Briar Queen. In my personal opinion this is the more exciting warband of the two in the new core set – so read on to see if their cards live up to that initial impression. See the first article in the series for details on my approach to reviewing these cards, although I’ve reproduced the reference scales for each category below.

Objectives

  • 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)

As Nagash Commands

Pretty easy to score against aggro or defensive decks, and achievable with pushes against hold objective as well. 2 glory is low for a end of game objective, but I think this potentially has a place in disruptive lists with how easy it is against the most common archetypes.

Rating: 3

Death Sentence

This rewards you for inspiring yout fighters, and with the amount of push effects you have access to it shouldn’t be difficult to pull off. It’s score immediately as well, so you don’t need to remain adjacent if you don’t want to.

Rating: 4

Drag Them Down

2 glory: good. Score immediately: good. Making 3 successful attacks: not so good. You’ve only really got 3 solid fighters, although when inspired the Chainrasps are at least fairly accurate. The best case for this is that it takes most of your round to achieve and you hit a bunch of other score immediately objectives while doing so. The worst case is that you waste an entire round chasing 2 glory.

Rating: 3.5

Execution

Exactly the same as Blessed Banishment. It’s fine, but not a top pick.

Rating: 2.5

Swarming Spirits

This is like Change of Tactics and Cover ground – a passive score immediately objective that, if it fits in with the rest of your plan, gives you extra glory that’s hard to deny while you go about the rest of your plans. As far as I can tell you can’t be pushed through enemies, just move through them, which makes this a bit less good than it would otherwise be.

Rating: 3.5

Take the City

Depending on how the objective tokens get placed, this will either be very easy to score (and thus worth it’s 1 glory) or pretty hard. I’m not sure I would run it ahead of Supremacy and Hold Objective x (for your own board) and Making a Statement (for your opponent’s), but at least it’s flexible.

Rating: 2.5

The Vengeful Dead

Not bad, but not particularly good either. Your inspire condition isn’t quite effortless enough to make this stand out, and even in a full-on aggressive build where this is at it’s best there’s probably at least 12 cards that you’d want to take ahead of it.

Rating: 2.5

Treacherous Foe

This is so easy to score it’s almost criminal. Masterstroke is already a good card, but getting a version that you can also score when your opponent isn’t engaging with you or you’re on the defensive (off of Forceful Denial, Quick Thinker, Soultrap and more) is absolutely fantastic. Put this in every Thorns of the Briar Queen deck you build.

Rating: 5

Vengeful Advance

It’s another copy of Swift Advance, which is a solid passive objective for aggressive decks. Normally this would be bad for a 7 model warband, and it’s still not exceptional, but with the amount of extra movement you can get out of Varclav’s action and your ploys I can see some aggro builds running this and Swift Advance to get glory on the way in.

Rating: 3

Gambits

  • 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)

Drifting Advance

This is a huge effect, and the limitation that you have to move closer to the nearest enemy isn’t too bad when compared to pushing up to 5 models up to 2 hexes each. Great for aggro lists, and with clever positioning it can also be an extra defense against Great Concussion for hold objective decks as well.

Rating: 4

Endless Malice

Like the Cursebreakers’ Lightning Assault this is a perfectly fine card, helps you if you’re trying to get Drag Them Down, and scores Treacherous Foe. Take it in an aggro deck if you have room for it.

Rating: 3.5

Grasping Chains

With a lot of push effects and incentives from your objectives and inspire condition to get your fighters adjacent to your opponents’, this could be a decent way to improve your accuracy. It does tell your opponent what you’re trying to do, so they can defend themselves with Illusory Fighter/Sidestep/Great Concussion/etc or similar, but if you can get your Chainrasps in place to threaten multiple enemies you should still be able to get some use most of the time. Worth considering for aggressive lists.

Rating: 3

Howling Vortex (Spell)

Better than Earthquake but not as good as Great Concussion (in most cases) – this is a really strong push effect. You’ve got a 75% chance of succeeding, which is really the only negative thing about it. It’s a risk I’m happy to take though.

Rating: 4

Maddening Cackle

I want to like this, but it’s just too situational. Yes, there are a lot of fighters that get a big boost from being inspired, and yes, this does stop your opponent using reactions like Tireless Assault, but is that worth taking up one of your 10 gambit slots? Probably not.

Rating: 2

Rending Scream (Spell)

Nice as a way for aggro lists to get additional damage our of the Briar Queen, although getting the best use out of it does involve exposing her to multiple enemies (you have teleports though, so it’s not too bad). You’ve got a ~44% chance of getting this off, so you want to be looking for opportunities to get multiple hits as otherwise it’s worse than Trap or Twist the Knife. Still good though.

Rating: 3.5

Spectral Parry

A second Change of Tactics enabler alongside Inspired Command, which will work well in aggro lists. With all your fighters being able to get to 2 defence this can also do a good job as a defensive boost, although I still wouldn’t run it without taking Change of Tactics.

Rating: 3

Spectral Touch

Single-use cleave isn’t great – Steelheart’s Champions already have a version of this that pretty much never sees play and which I frequently forget even exists. I’d rather take an extra action or re-roll ploy as an accuracy boost – especially with Trecherous Foe giving you glory for doing so.

Rating: 2

Sudden Appearance

Strictly better than Illusory Fighter, which is already a good card, and better than Hidden Paths in almost all cases as you can move afterwards and have better reach around the center of the board. This is going to force every other deck to be careful about their positioning around starting hexes and is an amazing tool against defensive and objective decks. If you aren’t playing this you are almost certainly making a mistake.

Rating: 5

Vengeful Curse

Another Final Blow or Bone Shrapnel. Gives you some extra damage, but probably too niche to be worth including in most (if not all) decks – I think Expendable is really the only good version of this effect and even that doesn’t get much use.

Rating: 1.5

Upgrades

  • 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)

Creeping Terror

A repeatable source of extra non-attack damage is pretty nice, even when it’s only 50/50. Good combo with Sadistic Strike on Varclav, or with effects like Ready for Action and Tyrant’s Command that give you additional move actions to try it again.

Rating: 3

Chill Touch (Chainrasp)

Cleave against dodge defence. With the current meta heavily favouring shield (block?) defence warbands this isn’t that good, but if the meta changes with Nightvault this makes the Ever-Hanged a good threat against Skaven, Reavers, and other Nighthaunt warbands.

Rating: 2 (current meta) / 3.5 (dodge-focused meta)

Curse of Unbinding (Briar Queen)

33% chance of stopping any spell or spell attack within 3 hexes of the Briar Queen is nice, and with all of the Nightvault warbands looking like they’ll have wizards I think this has a chance of being pretty strong.

Rating: 3.5

Driven by Hatred

This is a decent option for an accuracy-boosting ploy alongside the traditional Awakened Weapon and Helpful Whispers, and works well with the Briar Queen’s InescapableĀ  Vengeance to potentially threaten a 4 dice 3 damage attack almost anywhere on the board.

Rating: 3.5

Face of Death (Chainrasp)

Reducing an adjacent opponent’s attack rolls by an average of half a die is not a big enough effect for even an upgrade slot. I’d suggest passing this up.

Rating: 1

Grasping Thorns (Briar Queen)

Any repeatable push effect is pretty good, and even with the limitations on this it gives you some pretty flexible options – especially against objective decks or anything else that cares about positioning (stopping Alone in the Darkness or Swift Advance, etc).

Rating: 3

Inescapable Vengeance (Briar Queen)

Getting Sudden Appearance in place of normal move actions is absolutely ridiculous, especially on a charge. It’s a pity that this is Briar Queen only so you can’t use Tyrant’s Command to do it twice in a round, but it does make Ready for Action even better. Probably doesn’t let you score Cover Ground as you aren’t actually moving though, but we’ll have to wait for a FAQ on that.

Rating: 4.5

Sadistic Strike (Varclav)

Good with Shardgale, lethal hexes, and using your Chainrasps as a setup. Fantastic against Orruks. This is a nice upgrade to Varclav that is pretty easy to turn on and turns him into an offensive powerhouse.

Rating: 4

Shacklegheist Chains (Varclav)

These effects are always good as a way for aggro decks to get more glory, and if that’s the way you’re building your Nighthaunt I think this is a very solid choice.

Rating: 4

Strangling Coil (Ever-Hanged)

It’s 3 damage and 3 accuracy, giving you a good back-up attacker for Varclav and helping with Drag Them Down plans. Pretty decent.

Rating: 3.5

Conclusions

The Nighthaunt warband has some amazingly strong gambits, good objectives, and a few powerful upgrades. Put together with the fighters’ base stats and abilities you have a very flexible warband that can be built towards multiple different points on a spectrum between aggro and objective play. I think we’ll see quite a few Thorns of the Briar Queen lists doing well at events, and players experienced with Guard, Skaven, or Reavers will take to them naturally.

Next time we’ll be finishing off this series by looking at the remaining new cards from the core set – the new universal gambits and upgrades. Will they shake up the current meta and change the lists that Shadespire warbands run, or will they fail to make an impact alongside the bigger changes of the new warbands and boards (if you’ve had a chance to look at them you should already know the answer)? Until then, good luck and have fun.

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