Steel City are on the ball and reviewing all of the new content that is shaking up the Warhammer Underworlds meta. Forget everything you thought you knew about
Shadespire Nightvault and prepare for the meta to get turned on its head.
For this review i will be using the same system that eyemilligan uses in his set reviews – for reference this is a scoring system from 1 – 5 with the following criteria:
- 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 Stepwait i don’t think that Flickering Step is that bad, silly vanadis)
Note for some cards I will give 2 different ratings, as they can be amazing in specific warbands yet rubbish in others.
Acolyte of the Katophranes
This card smells of potential. Will Katophrane Tomes be the new dreaded artifacts of Nightvault? I’m not sure but if we see any more cards like this its certainly a possibility. Most likely they will be a healthy alternative deck strategy. Its hard to rate this card right now because we will certainly be seeing more tomes in the future, if you manage to get 3 tomes on one fighter then this is looking very tasty and this synergises well with Chosen Champion and Singled Out.
Relying on some very unlikely RNG going your way is the exact opposite of what you should be doing with your objective deck. Hard pass. Even if you use Power Surge.
Ok so this card is very important. Up until now most of us, myself including, have been playing the end phase of turns mildly wrong and just completing all the steps in order simultaneously with our opponent. Now that this card exists we need to go to the proper system of doing it all in turn, starting with the player who went first that turn, because if you have this objective card it makes a lot of difference. I don’t really think its worth taking though, 3 model warbands might like it as they are likely to force who gets first turn but it seems a bit too niche.
The only use that I can see for this card is in the as yet unreleased Troll warband, especially if he gets a regeneration ability built in.
Rating 1 | potentially 3 for the Troll warband
And the winner for most ambigously worded card in Warhammer Underworlds goes to… Below is a diagram showing different ways you can score this card. As it is written it is incredibly powerful, mildly better then Alone in the Dark, being an auto-include in large and defensive Warbands. Expect there to be many arguments on Facebook over this. Also there is a large chance that the game dev did not intend the card to work as they worded it, so this might become worse in an FAQ.
A solid objective for Farstriders looking to kill with ranged attacks, or for large warbands full of weak fighters that kill by weight of numbers.
Warhammer Underworlds seems to have a preponderance of incredibly reliable neutral objectives that almost every deck takes. Alone in the Darkness, Escalation, Ploymaster, Master of War and now Fired up. Scritch players are probably already rubbing their hands in glee over the free glory that this card represents. It’s incredibly solid for any other warband that reliably inspires its fighters, see Orks, and now that we have 2 universal cards with that effect that can be any warband if you build around it.
Rating 4 | 5 for Spiteclaws Swarm
If you are already winning the game win more, eh, it could be worse.
One of the most conditional effects that has ever been printed on an objective. It’s not even scoreable against the majority of Warbands and it’s only 1 glory at the end of phase? Congratulations Interdiction, you have won the award of worst objective in this set.
Keep Them Guessing
You really have to waste your whole turn in order to score this one Objective and 2 glory just isn’t good enough. Its a shame that this don’t count tokens as then the various ploys that can grant guard tokens could make this worthwhile. As is it’s borderline unplayable. Rating 2
Hard Edit from the future
When I released this article many good players spoke to me to disagree with my assessment of this card. Since then I have actually run this card at a tournament, using Cursebreakers, and have come round to their way of thinking. Keep Them Guessing is actually a very reliable objective to score in the first couple of turns if your warband has access to the ‘other action on a fighter card’ criteria that fulfils one quarter of this cards condition. With Cursebreakers I was using empower to fulfil that condition, with something like the Sepulchral Guard you could use the Wardens ability to activate and move two friendly fighters to fulfil 2 conditions on this card in one activation. So, this card is good. Its very hard for your opponent to interact with and gives out a solid 2 glory. The only other downside is that this can be tricky to score in turn 3 depending on the situation, but it really is great for turns 1 and 2 in a lot of warbands. I’m keeping the original rating above so people can see the error of my ways.
Hmmm, this one is interesting. The fact that it counts both friendly and opposing fighters is what makes this to hard to score. Towards the end of the game its certainly viable but its one glory and there are better end game objectives. Still its doable.
Just as bad as Interdiction and for exactly the same reasons. The only way these cards become good is if magic becomes so overbearingly powerful that everyone ends up taking magic Warbands. All the signs seem to point to that not being the case, so its still trash.
Master of Terrain
This card feels like GW remembered they had made lethal hexes and put a token effort into making an objective based around them. To be fair lethal hexes are a very interesting mechanic, the problem is always that your opponent will pick there own board. This only works if you expect your opponent to come to you, are playing to kill models and use the lethal hex to score the last piece of damage. Its not happening.
Nowhere to Go
Tricksy. Any score immediately card that doesn’t require a kill is always of interest. If you have a deck full to the brim with pushes then i can see this being worth it, incredibly hard to score against low model warbands though.
On a Roll
Yet another win more card. If you are playing in a Grand Clash and trying to get as much glory as possible for potential tiebreaks to get into finals then maybe you can take a couple of these cards. Its a risky plan to try and pull off though.
Ok now this card is playable. 3 glory in a round? That could be literally 1 kill with 2 score immediately cards. The Tome of Glories also works well with this. I can see this going in a lot of aggro decks, if they can find space for it.
Currently the only ways, that I am aware of, that you can score this card are by making a spell attack as a reaction through the use of cards like Ready for Action or My Turn. Both of those cards are good but the Warbands with spell attack actions only have 1 fighter each that can do it. The chain of events to score this card seem to unlikely right now. Oh wait you can also score this with Soul Drain, unfortunately thats a bad spell and not worth playing. I can see this card going up in value if we get better spell reaction cards or even another ploy that gives a reaction attack.
The superior sorcery card. The Cursebreakers almost certainly play this card and other factions who end up going hard on magic damage will want to include it as well. I expect there to be more spells that deal direct damage coming out in the future and then this becomes even more tasty.
Rating 3 | 4 for Cursebreakers
Tactical Supremacy 1-4
Another Tactical supremacy card, bringing their total to 3 now. Solid objectives for objective based decks, the existence of this card makes judging which token combinations are scary or not a tad more difficult. I have a suspicion that pure objective decks won’t see much play with all the free damage cards we are getting now but if they do then this could be a staple.
Completely unscoreable on turn 1. Only 1 glory. Thats a lot of ones. The only thing keeping this cards rating from the same number is the score immediately part.
Oh I like this. Hey Fiends would you like a card that is slightly better then score 1 glory immediately for your leader killing a fighter? Yes? Well you should take this card then. Potentially good for other warbands depending on their access to cleave.
Rating 3 | 4 For Magore’s Fiends
With our Bare Hands
A far worse version of Eternals. The only way I can see this card being played is if we get more upgrades that have the discard effect built into them. Even then it precludes you ending the game with A Destiny to Meet or The Slumbering Key on. You need a really good reason to put this card in your deck.
One channel means this spell is the easiest spell to cast that you can get – with some of the upgrades that are going around this one can very easily be 100% chance to cast. The effect is certainly powerful, it can selectively shutdown objective decks or it can make certain objectives like Making a Statement much easier to score. I think if you are taking this then you need to be going the Making a Statement route and teleporting into your opponents board then making it so you only need to sit on one objective, the Thorns of the Briar Queen and the Eyes of the Nine look like they can both abuse this strategy.
Abasoth seems to be the poster boy for easy to cast yet useful spells. This is Rapter Strike in spell form, its very powerful. The only thing keeping me from giving this a 5 is my doubt about whether this can score kill objectives. If a 4 wound fighter has 3 wounds on it and you cast this spell can you score Sorcerous Scouring? If you can then this spell gets a 5.
Rating 4/5 – depending on how it works
The effect on this card is strong. Anyone who plays with ‘Ard Head or Gory Visage can attest to the power of effects like this, especially when combined with upgrades that grant more wounds. The problem is that this spell requires two focus symbols, right now thats around a 25% chance to cast. I’m not going to bet on those odds. If we see upgrades/ploys that make focus spells easier to cast in the future, like we have with channel now, then this card might suddenly go up in value.
A spell that is only useful if your opponent is playing a magic warband? Yeh this looks pretty bad. The only way this card see’s play is if we see spells in the future that give you an immediate positive effect but then a small over time debuff, you could use this spell to get rid of the debuff.
Not only does your opponent need to be playing magic but they need to be playing scatter spells… is there a rating lower then a 1 that i can give?
There are a few nice tricks you can do with cards like this. For one it shuts down any scurry reactions from goblins. Second you give support to the defence dice of the fighter being attacked. Third you have a fighter who can not only attack back next turn but who is free for charges or moves in later turns. All of that said i don’t think that this card makes the cut in most decks. With all the extra actions that exist right now you can simply be giving your opponent another fighter to kill when they play Ready for Action in the power step.
The amount of free damage in this game is to high! Seriously though anything which gives damage in the power step, where you don’t have to rely on dice, is incredibly strong. The fact that this only works on edge hexes is what limits the potential and makes this card balanced. Wow, all those people who were saying they did one damage because they pushed you into an edge hex are actually prophets?
Regeneration is a bad card. Regeneration that has to take up a gambit slot and isn’t 100% to even get played, yeh thats even worse.
Imbue with Life
There are a couple of tricks you can do with this. If you are going in on the Making a Statement + Abasoth’s unmaking plan then this is another way to either trigger this effect or to pull off the same plan when your opponent has 3 objectives on their side of the board. Still its not as good as the aforementioned spell.
This is a really good pice of design by GW. As we will be seeing later in this article, there are now some very strong upgrades that are balanced by the fact that they have to be discarded after use. This brings you one of those back. In a pinch you can also grab any other upgrade that you had to discard earlier, for instance A Destiny to Meet in the last power step of the game. A Solid card but it requires you to build around it.
Push effects in this game are fairly strong. Push effects that can move multiple models are very strong. Irresistible Prize looks a little too limiting though, its certainly not going to counter a great concussion. Could combo well with Nowhere to Go.
The best thing about this spell is that its easy to cast. That’s also the only good thing about this spell.
Very situational. The effect on this card is strong but its limited in that you can’t pick the original fighter, to be fair it would be busted if you could do that. Counters my Turn if you remember to push your opponent back during your attack.
One Step Ahead
A 50/50 coin flip and then you have to guess what your opponent is trying to score? Potentially useful against obvious objectives, e.g. Alone in the Dark/Supremacy/Denial but in the vast majority of cases this is a wasted slot.
Ok so its time to chat about ‘extra damage’ cards. The standard for extra damage are cards like Great/Incredible strength, both of which are staples in any deck that is trying to kill fighters. Pit Trap falls into the same category as Twist the Knife and Trap, in that you don’t have to use the card in a gamble before you roll attack dice, you can wait for the attack to hit and then play the reaction. The fact that Twist the Knife, Trap and Pit Trap can all be played from the same attack (note Pit Traps trigger is AFTER an attack unlike Trap which is DURING) means that you can now 1 shot 4 hp models with a 1 damage attack. This is huge. Both Twist the Knife and Trap just got better because Pit Trap exists. Add onto this all the other cards that give damage in the power step, Raptors Strike/Shardgale/Encroaching Darkness and suddenly every fighter on the board has the potential to assassinate any other. Can you hear that? Its the sound of the meta shifting, adapt or die.
If someone crits on a dice roll they crit again. Potentially you can force 1 damage onto an enemy wizard with this but more likely you will use it to make sure you can cast a spell. Generally people aren’t rolling enough magic dice that crits are likely, so this doesn’t look likes its worth it.
This is the best card in the game, if you can reliably cast it. Imagine bringing Shardgale back from the discard pile to use again against warbands that have 2hp models? Or having 2 glory in hand and playing Ready for Action Twice? Wait with the new FAQ this means you can triple charge a model with 2 Time Traps. The potential on this card is absolutely insane. However with a level 2 wizard you have only a 25% chance to cast this. That just isn’t good enough. If we see focus support cards in the future expect this card to suddenly become a staple, right now its a pass for me.
A worse healing potion that only works in specific situations? Er I’m ok thanks.
Sphere of Azyr
Reasonably easy to cast. One damage across the map is a great effect. The fact that it only hits fighters on objectives hurts but its still playable in the right circumstances. I think you need a few push cards in your deck if your planning on running this, oh and of course a lvl 2 wizard.
Sphere of Syish
The inferior sphere. If your opponent is playing bad cards then this stops them playing some of them. Urgh.
A solid card for warbands that are looking to cast a lot of channel spells. Stacks with innate effects. Pop this on a lvl 1 wizard with innate channel 1 and they auto cast 2 channel spells. Pretty Tasty.
Its certainly unique. The bane of pure objective decks has been all the powerful push cards. Unfortunately this doesn’t counter Great Concussion, it also does nothing to stop the tide of free damage cards that are going to make mincemeat of your 2 hp models.
So if you are using all of these mad free damage cards then Chained Spite gives you a way of almost guaranteeing 1 damage against fighters next to you and potentially finishing a fighter off. Don’t be fooled by the scatter 3, this is only reliably hitting a fighter next to you. Right now i don’t think there is quite enough mad free damage to make this worth it. There might come a time though.
Jesus Christ its Faneway Crystal. An upgrade that’s better then one of the best ploys in the game, Hidden Paths. This is insane. The reason I rate this higher then Hidden Paths is that you can use it as part of a charge AND you can combo this with Infinite Riches to do the effect twice. As the Shadespire meta progressed we saw that high mobility warbands, or ones that had long threat range like Farstriders, were starting to take over the meta. Now we are in Nightvault it feels like low mobility Warbands, like Orks and Dwarves, have the potential to ‘catch up’ and make the crazy cross board plays that you usually reserve for the likes of Skaven. You can even use this with quick thinker. Best card of the set and my only unconditional 5.
I personally don’t like cards that rely on you getting crits. Fighters Ferocity does have the advantage of not caring about the range of your attack, so this can work on Farstrider ranged attacks and as the bird technically always crits its a solid +1 damage on a range 4 attacks. Sillness aside i can see this being ok if you are running Potion of Rage and/or Total Offence with your range attacks and going properly crit fishing. Not good enough unless you really build around it though.
Potentially useful in an objective deck, but with all the damage going around now i don’t see any fighter surviving one attack. Speculating on the crazy troll deck, this might see use there. Right now its a pass though.
A more situational Great/Incredibly Strength. Those cards are staples for a reason though. I can see this being solid in horde warbands like Thorns of the Briar Queen and Gurzags Gitz.
If this card was released during Shadespire i would rate it at 3.5. With Nightvault we are starting to see an increase in powerful dodge based warbands so this is dropping a tad in value. Still cleave makes an attack very reliable and completely negates the Stormcast warbands biggest Advantage. Combo’s well with the objective card What Armour?
A nice versatile upgrade. The range profile on this weapon is what has me the most interested. If you take both darts upgrades, both axe upgrades and another upgrade that i will review further down, then you can reliably turn a short ranged warband into a long range one. Not sure exactly why you would want to do that but the option is there.
This one I don’t really like. Its Shadeglass counterpart does 1 more damage and if your lucky can spike to 2 more damage. I know that the Shadeglass one gets discarded on use but you generally take that for killing an enemy fighter.
Reaction’s on attacks failing all just got a bit better. Why? Because now Pit Trap and Trap both exist you can push a fighter back for 2 damage as long as you have as many successes as your opponent (and you roll at least one success), cards like this can stop both of those reaction triggers from happening and let you hit back for some damage.
Potion of Clarity
This seems weaker then the other cards that help spell actions. However this is the only card right now that can help you cast Focus Spells. So hmmm. If we get a couple more focus type cards then this will probably be used alongside them. Right now its works for both types of spells, so if you aren’t going all in one channel symbols this effect is quite solid.
Potion of Rage
Even though cards like Faneway crystal are closing the gap, upgrades are still strictly worse then gambit cards. So when you see an upgrade that is as good as ploys that are borderline playable in top decks you should snap them up. Potion of Rage is that card. 2 extra dice not only makes your attack incredibly likely to succeed but if you already have 3 dice then you can start counting on crits happening, with all the build around shenanigans that entails. Again another great target for Infinite Riches.
At best this card rolls 2 hammers. The cleave effect only comes up about 1% of the time so its mostly irrelevant. If your level 2 wizard is reduced to hitting an enemy fighter with this weapon then something has gone horribly wrong.
A nice accurate long range attack. Especially good against dodge based warbands.
A Destiny to Meet and The Slumbering Key are absolutely fantastic upgrades that will solidly help you win games. Hero’s Mantle is the slightly less reliable but still ok version of those cards. Shifting Map is the incredible drunk version of those cards that is only reliable in confusing your opponent as to why you would play it.
After an enemy fighter has killed one of your fighters then you can potentially take away an upgrade. Or you could play defensive upgrades like Deathly Fortitude and stop your fighter from dying in the first place. This card is best in warbands with lots of models and its still bad in them.
Talking about Deathly Fortitude here is its twin brother. I already rated Deathly Fortitude as one of the best defensive upgrades, going from 4 wounds to 6 wounds suddenly means they need multiple attack actions to kill you, now that you can take 2 they both become better. Having both in your deck not only gives you reliable odds of drawing one but you can double stack them to make 8 wounds fighters. The movement restriction is also becoming less of a downside with upgrades like Faneway Crystal and ploys like Hidden Paths. I’ll be taking this in a lot of decks.
Tome of Diseases
Almost identical in effect to Chained Spite, this upgrade has the added bonus of being a tome. As already stated its hard right now to evaluate how effective tome cards will be until we see all the cards that can work with them. Right now this is ok.
Tome of Incantations
Almost identical to Arcane Familiar yet with the added benefit of being a tome. Good in any magic deck, probably great in any magic and tome deck.
With the Eyes of the Nine, Zarbags Gitz and Echoes of Glory all coming out at once we have the biggest change to the Warhammer Underworlds meta that there has ever been. Not to mention that the Nightvault core set only released a couple of weeks ago. Everything we thought we knew about the meta can change, do not expect warbands that were weak before to stay the same. Right now its to early to draw any definitive conclusions about how the game will shake out. A couple of us Steelcity players will be going to the Grand Clash down in Derby on November the 2nd, we look forward to reporting back on what we see there.