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The Eyes of The Nine
Finally a Tzeentch warband, I have been eagerly awaiting this since I started playing Shadespire(as it used to be known). Now that they are out, do they live up to the hype? Or are they a useless enigma unsolvable by even the greatest of players? In this article I will reviewing The Eyes of the Nine from a pure competitive gameplay perspective. All the Neutral cards from the expansion have already been looked at as you can see above, this leaves me room to really focus in and assess the strengths and weaknesses as well as playstyles of the warband. So without further ado, on to the warband.
The most obvious stat to notice on Vortimus is that he(?) is a level 2 wizard. Level 2 looks set to be the standard for a magic warband leader, mirroring the Gitz/Thorns/Cursebreakers. I must admit I am a tad disappointed that we didn’t get a level 3 wizard for this warband, with Cursebreakers having the addition of 2 level 1 wizards it would have felt nice that the Tzeentch warbands identity had it contesting in a different way for the most magic orientated offering. Still it is what it is and level 2 is fine. Heath at 4 is a standard for leaders, movement of 4 is certainly nice, 1 Dodge going to 2 when inspired, again nothing special here. The Melee attack options seems pretty weak and then there are 2 standout options that makes Vortimus quite interesting. He has a ranged 3 Spell attack that works on Focus and he can take an action to summon a blue horror, on any starting hex. The ranged spell attack is a direct mirror of Stormsire’s own, dealing 1 damage when uninspired and 2 when inspired. It’s a great way to finish off models that you have weakened from gambits. I’ll talk more about the blue horror below, suffice to say having the summon action elevates Vortimus above other leaders and gives him a nice alternate action option for scoring objectives like Keep Them Guessing. The only other thing to note about Vortimus is his rather uninspiring inspire condition. When comparing him to Stormsire, Vortimus really gets the bum end of the deal, only inspiring after successful spell attack action is a tricky proposition, meaning objectives like Shining Example are not fit for purpose in the Eyes of the Nine.
Saek lives again. Seriously this fighter is basically Saek with a few small differences. His inspire condition is much easier, he doesn’t gain 1 movement from inspiring and instead of gaining cleave when inspiring he gains the ability to reroll as many attack dice as he wants – so a different type of accuracy upgrade. Oh and he has a shield defence instead of dodge. Saek is actually low key the best fighter in the Reavers, so having access to a very similar fighter is certainly something nice. It’s tricky to assess how useful K’charik will actually be for our agents of change as he doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the warband. He is the only competent range 1 fighter and he dies at the drop of a hat. Still he is a big threat, as he deals 3 base damage and when inspired he is odds on to hit. Personally I think he is best used as a defensive tool to fight enemy fighters as they come to you, rather than YOLO’ing in like a crazy Reaver.
Narvia and Turosh
I am so disappointed by these fighters. My god their stats are bad. 2 wounds, count em, 1, 2 … that’s it! Ok there are a few 2 hp models in the game, it’s not the end of the world, let’s see what stats they get to make up for it. They have 4 move, just like K’charik and Vortimus, that’s nice … and they have some appalling melee attacks, some really bad ranged attacks (2 crossed swords is just not accurate enough) … and an inspire condition that you are lucky to hit once in about ten games. Cool. Cool cool cool. This pair of useless acolytes are the Achilles heel of Vortimus’s crew and you should try to keep them as far away from the fight as possible. Hopefully they can find some use sitting on objective tokens.
Blue + Brimstone Horrors
These guys can be placed on any starting hex by Vortimus with a single action. A quick glance at their stats and you can see that neither versions of this fighter are going to do much killing. A through read of the wall of text on their card reveals some interesting tricks you can pull with these guys though. The fact that they can spawn on any starting hex and that they need 2 attack actions to take out makes them a solid way to grab objectives on your opponents side of the board. The ranged attack is also good enough to actually be worth throwing an action or 2 their way as well, getting to 3 crossed swords is Farstrider territory and although the brimstone version is only as accurate as the acolytes it gets to try twice, if the dice gods go your way that can mean 2 damage from 3 hexes away. The game designer realised some of the potential for abuse these guys could have with Shadeglass weapons and so have limited upgrades on this fighter(s) to ones that do not grant extra attack actions. For my money the best upgrade you can give these guys is Total Offence, make the Blue horrors attack an almost certainty and you can make it odds on to deal 2 damage with the Brimstone version.
There are many rules questions I have regarding these fighters that I am expecting FAQ’s for, I’ll pop a few of them below and leave people who are better at interpreting the rules to argue about them:
- If The Blue horrors have been dealt enough damage to be taken out of action in an attack and the attacker chooses to push them back as part of the attack action, can Pit Trap be played to kill the Brimstone horrors instantly?
- If you use Total Offence on the Blue Horror and it is later transformed into Brimstone horrors can they use Total Offence in the same turn?
- If the Blue horrors are taken out of action by an attack can I react with My Turn and have the Brimstone horrors attack back?
The root of all of these questions is the question of whether the Brimstone Horrors count as a different fighter to the Blue Horror. If for all intents and purposes they count as just an inspired version of the Blue Horror then all these questions are rather easily answered, I’m not sure that that is the way GW actually intended them to work though.
EDIT: All of my questions have been answered
- The Blue Horror literally have on their rule text that if they are taken out then they are not driven back – hence you can’t play Pit Trap on the remaining Brimstone Horror’s
- + 3 – The Brimstone Horror’s count as the same fighter as the Blue Horror so basically act like an inspired version of the fighter – don’t quote me on this one as i am still a bit shaky on it. This means that if you have used Total Offence on the same turn then you can only use it again through extra action cards like ready for action, it also means that you can use My Turn on the Brimstone Horror’s in response to the Blue Horror being taken out of action by damage (obviously as long as it fulfils the other conditions on My Turn).
I will be using the same rating system that I used in the review of the Neutral cards found within Zarbag’s Gitz and the Eyes of the Nine article. If you are unsure then I recommend giving that article a read.
Agents of Change
2 glory is nice, 4 spells isn’t. This card is far too hard to score to see any play.
Bind the City
A copy of Our Only Way Out. This is nice, Our Only Way Out might be the smaller, less exciting version of Supremacy but it still does work. Take all 3 and give your Warband a lot of ways to score off of holding 3 objective tokens, heck with blue horror shenanigans you have the mobility for it.
Chosen by Destiny
Seems ok. The condition is tricky but not the end of the world. However its only one glory and you have to have given your opponent one glory in order to achieve this. If you are not playing with a full set of cards and really need to find another objective then you can consider this, otherwise pass.
Eyes of the Master
A copy of Divide and Conquer. Unlike Our Only Way Out, Divide and Conquer never sees any play and neither should this.
The third copycat card, this one copying Determined Defender. Personally I like Determined Defender, it has the obvious downside of not being achievable on turn 1 but unless you have lost the game hard its very reliable to score in turns 2 and 3. If you are going the objective route then this is worth considering.
Master of Magic
1 glory score immediately is arguably just as good as 2 glory in an end phase. This is basically Agents of Change but more than twice as easy to score, remember spell attacks that deal damage count as a spell being successfully cast. I think this is borderline auto include.
Hmmm it’s not bad. Your mileage with this card will vary with the quality and quantity of spells that you put in your power deck. Right now I don’t think that there are quite enough good damage spells to include this, Grand Melee is a much better option. I can see this being used in the future depending on neutral spell cards.
Another juicy 1 glory score immediately. If your opponent is ignoring your horrors then they can be scoring you other objectives and be a general nuisance with their ranged attacks. If they kill them even once then here is a free glory. Remember that this objective doesn’t care when you first summoned a Blue Horror – you could be summoning a Blue Horror for the 2nd time of the game in turn 3 and still score this.
Solid against aggro, a tad weak against defensive or objective play. I can certainly see some lists running this, personally I would steer clear though.
Blessing of Tzeencth
I don’t like using gambit slots to do what upgrade slots do even better. This is exactly that.
Bound by Fate
Re-positioning and movement skills in general are very powerful in Warhammer Underworlds. Bound by Fate is limited by the fact that you can only choose friendly fighters and the 3 hex range. I think there are better movement options available but if you want to load up on them then this is worth taking.
Speaking of better movement options, Deceitful Step is incredible. Your fighter is either going onto a starting hex or an objective token (or potentially both) that can be anywhere on the board. This is another way to grab objectives in your opponents half of the board, in addition to summoning the Blue Horror, which means you can start to really plan around grabbing 3 or more objective tokens.
Driven by Ambition
This is another copy… wait a second… this is strictly worse than Spectral Wings. Spectral Wings is a good card, Spectral Wings that limits you from charging… is not. If you want that limitation you could take sprint and go an extra 2 hexes.
A ploy that is only useful if one of your fighters is still alive? Well I guess spells fit into that category so it’s not out of the realms of possibility to take that limitation. The effect simply isn’t good enough though, if you need to attack again take Ready for Action or Timetrap, both of those cards have the added advantage of giving you a truckload more options then just attacking again as well.
I kind of love this card. The idea of using the Brimstone Horrors as some sort of bomb that you set off on your opponents fighters is not only thematic but sounds strong from a gameplay point of view as well. If you are taking this then you need ways to kill your own brimstone horror though, so you can place it for maximum effect, Shardgale certainly fits that bill.
One focus is a tricky type of spell to evaluate. It’s certainly got reasonable odds to cast for a level 2 wizard but there is enough room for doubt and no way to make it a sure thing, unlike with channel symbols. The effect also relies on a further random chance of scatter. All of that combined and I don’t think this card is reliable enough to see play but if you fancy your chances then the effect is certainly strong.
Shield of Fate
+ 1 dodge dice is not a big deal. If you really want the effect remove the randomness from the equation and take acrobatic. I suppose it could be nice to go to stupid lengths and get to 3 or 4 dodge with some other upgrades but I don’t think it achieves enough? If this spell lasted the whole game I still wouldn’t take it.
Instead of re rolling one attack dice why not take a whole extra attack with our staples of Ready for action or Timetrap? Or perhaps take 2 extra dice for an upgrade slot with Potion of Rage. So many better options, sorry Stolen Fate did not steal my heart.
HERE WE GO! This is my happy place. As a man who has played a lot of Farstriders I am very aware of the absolutely mental power that Raptors Strike has. This is Raptors Strike but it can also potentially do more damage and it triggers any spell objectives you might be running. Not only that but this spell is only one channel, so incredibly easy and often automatic to cast. If you are not taking this card then I don’t know why you are playing the Eyes of the Nine. Rating 5
EDIT: This was a silly mistake to make. When I looked at this card for some reason I missed the fact that it requires 2 channel instead of 1. Almost everything I wrote above about the card is still true but its now not quite as reliable so its dropped a tad in rating.
A solid effect, oh wait it can only be taken on one of your useless guys. Arcanite Shield gets my award for most useless faction card.
Once again I would take Acrobatic over this. Although this is a fighter specific upgrade at least it’s on a fighter that can be brought back over and over. It certainly makes popping the little gits on guard a more attractive prospect.
Drawing again from my Farstrider experience, if I can get +1 damage on a ranged 3 attack, especially just form an upgrade, then I basically always take it. Yes this card is rubbish if Vortimus dies but then so is your whole warband so you might as well go all in on the plan.
A fighter specific upgrade that gives a very marginal effect. If K’charik had a dodge defence this would be rated at a 1. As it is:
An upgrade that makes one of your acolytes go from trash to just about ok. I can see a use for it but I think its limited.
At first glance this seems pretty bad. An upgrade for an attack option that does the same damage as Vortimus’s uninspired attack, so this is a downgrade on his inspired damage, with exactly the same range. There is some juicy subtlety to this card though. Firstly it has cleave. That turns this laser of pain into a tin can opener for Stormcast. Secondly it uses the channel symbol instead of the focus symbol for successes. Using the channel symbol innately makes this spell attack more accurate, if you combine it with actual INNATE effects and/or upgrades that let you change magic dice into channel symbols it suddenly becomes A FRIGGIN LASER BEAM OF DEATH THAT NEVER MISSES. It’s still one damage though, you might want to include Trap, Pit Trap and Glory Seeker if you really want it to hurt. You really do have to build around this.
Scroll of the Dark Arts
If you combine this with Fiery Blessing then Narvia starts to become a bit dangerous. I still don’t think it’s worth it but I can start to see some potential here..
Worse than A Destiny to Meet, Slumbering Key and a Hero’s Mantle. Equal to the Formless key. It’s certainly an option but I would want to take all the better ones first and I don’t think I would ever have room for this in a deck.
Innate Channel in an upgrade, this is what I want, yeah(I may have sung that sentence out loud as I typed it). Seriously at this point I am exciting by my Piercing Bolt LASER BEAM OF DEATH, it’s happening. Oh yeah, you could also use this to cast other channel spells, or something.
Strength of Arrogance
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Incredible/Great Strength that only works on one fighter? To be fair this is the only fighter in the Eyes of the Nine that I would put those upgrades on. I can potentially see a deck focused around using K’charik as an assassin, with all the movement ploys you could put into your deck it certainly seems possible. If you are going that route then having a 3rd +1 damage upgrade gives you some nice redundancy in your deck. Alternatively you could take Glory Seeker and have an upgrade that works with your warbands other fighters.
An Example Eyes of the Nine Deck
Never one to miss a trick, I thought it would be worth offering an example of how I would go about building an Eyes of the Nine deck. I definitely did not steal this idea from John over at Can You Roll A Crit?
I actually think it is a really good idea to spend time building a deck for every warband, even if you don’t have time to play it, just so you can start to get an idea of how that warband is going to play and what objectives they are going to be trying to score.
The deck above is trying to be a hybrid of objective and aggro play, which for my money is the way to play The Eyes of the Nine. You can use the mobility of Deceitful Step/Hidden Paths/Faneway Crystal + summoning a Blue Horror on any starting hex to reliably grab an objective token on your opponents board. Mischievous Spirits can let you move objective tokens on to starting hexes, which makes the job of moving onto them even easier. Forceful denial is mostly there to try and stop Great Concussion but at a pinch you can throw it at any ploy that is going to ruin your game.
As for the aggro parts of the deck, you have some solid spells and ploys that can chip the enemy’s health down, after which you can finish them off with THE LASER BEAM OF DEATH, or just a regular Vortimus spell attack action. Alternatively K’charik can do a good job of finishing off enemy fighters as well.
I spent a reasonable amount of time trying to construct this deck but it really should not be taken as tournament ready. I have actually not had a chance to properly playtest it and I almost always find after playtesting a deck properly that I want to swap some cards in/out. If I was looking at trying to make this deck as good as it can be i would be tempted to fit some of the specific keys in their, abuse the crazy mobility that you have.
Final thoughts and Conclusion
Initially when looking at the Eyes of the Nine I was very disappointed, only 1 level 2 wizard and 2 very weak acolytes who don’t even have spell attack actions. I had wanted something much more magic focused then what we got. Based on this my impression was that Vortimus and pals were going to be reduced to the bottom of the warband pile. After looking long and hard at the options available to the blue bandits and trying to build a deck for them I started to see a lot of exciting possibilities for playing this warband. I definitely think hybrid objective/aggro is the way to go with these guys but its certainly possible to go full objective if you really want to. The strength of this warband lies in its versatility and mobility. The weakness is in how weak the base stats of the fighters overall, especially the acolytes are. I can see the Eyes of the Nine doing well into Defensive lists or into slow aggro like Ork’s/Fiends/Dwarfs. High mobility aggro like Reavers or Skaven or even the cheeky Farstriders with their long threat range will all really put the hurt onto these guys.