Great Concussion got banned! Escalation got restricted! Sepulchral Guard players are happy! The world is on it’s head!
What happened and how will affect the meta? Should cards ever have been banned or restricted? Will i stop using three short sentences in my intros?
Read on for our collective ramblings as to what we are excited, incited or just plain delighted about having checked out the new banned/restricted card lists!
Hobbit – Oh Shit Sigmar, we’re all going to die!
- The good news, objectives are back!
- The bad news, the defensive archetype takes a hit.
- The ugly news, aggressive play is cemented as the proper way to play.
First up, the banned cards: Great Concussion is dead. All hail the new dawn! Brilliant news for everyone, this card had a board-wide effect that couldn’t easily be reset. Almost all decks were running this card because it was incredible.
Quick Thinker, the loss of this card is a double edged sword. It is fantastic news for players focusing on aggression. You no longer have to play around missing a key charge. Whilst I understand that this was frustrating, it was a key enabler of defensive strategies. This card’s demise is a hammer blow to an under appreciated playstyle. It’s not a death knell, defensive decks will adapt, but it hurts non aggressive action economies.
Time Trap, in the early Shadespire meta this card was great, it allowed a double attack after a charge in a time before Ready for Action and My Turn. However, as the meta developed and the card pool grew Time Trap fell into shadow and disuse. The Nightvault FAQ dragged it back into the light as a fantastic card when it allowed for a double charge. I believe that this FAQ ruling was probably intended to provide a counter to Quick Thinker. It has not been top tier competitive long enough for its loss to sting too many people too much.
Now the Restricted List:
Ouch! John Rees, somebody really hates your deck.
These are a mix of the high scoring passives and the highly reliable aggressive instants. All three deck archetypes take a hit here, but I think Defensive decks disproportionatly so. There are other solid aggressive score immediatly cards that can take the place of the ones on here without too much heartache, but an evasive deck strategy needs cards like Alone in th Darkness and Extreme Flank to compensate for not accrewing glory from wholesale murder.
The odd ones out here are Loner and Perfect Planning, they are nice to have cards, but not auto includes in most decks. These seem to have been dealt in as an additional kicker to defensive and objective decks.
Aggressive players weep, all three of the reactive damage boosts are here. Along with the aggressive action economy cards. You can have your ploys, but it will cost you your upgrades. I like this selection, all of the movement shenanigans are still available but the gotcher damage boosts are restricted.
No real surprises here. These are all mainstays of a lot of decks. I’m a little surprised that Great Strength is unrestricted, but suppose that it is a core card. Incredible Strength will likely be replaced by Gloryseeker in most decks – in most cases it is functionally the same.
In summary, I think the list is a good idea. It adds space for people to experiment again, though I suspect that the restrictions will have to grow periodically. With a closed card pool and the limitations on deck building (12 Objectives, 20+ power cards of which no more than half gambits for those of you that came in late) the “best” deck is solvable. So whilst these restrictions will shake the meta up, and the continuing influx of cards from Nightvault will keep it mutable for a while it will stabilise, probably around August next year, so expect to tune in around this time next year for a follow up article.
Now for a rebuttal from my esteemed co-authors:
Vanadis – Questionable choices, could have been handled better
I was initially very negative about this announcement, and I’m still not sure it was needed or handled particularly well. For me the main thing is the lack of any sort of transparency or justification around why the choices were made (see this article from Wizards of the Coast justifying some bans in Magic earlier this year for a good example of explaining some fairly controversial bans).
Companies managing competitive games need to keep their players informed so that they remain confident in the abilities of the designers to understand how and make decisions based on the state of the actual state of the meta and not just the loudest voices in the community. Even the most basic details on what data was analysed and why each card was chosen would help (especially as there are some some that stand out as odd picks).
I don’t agree with any of these, although Great Concussion is borderline as it was probably the strongest card in the game. Quick Thinker stops one single charge across 12 activations and can be played around with ranged attacks, charges against multiple targets, or charging fighters that have already moved. Time Trap was fine before it allowed double charges, and changing charge tokens so that they include the restrictions of move tokens would keep it as a strong but not overwhelming card.
Great Concussion definitely kept hold objective decks in check, but it’s ability to do so hs been weakening with the additional pushes in the Leaders expansion and Nightvault (Quick Advance, Inspired Command, Centre of Attention, Irresistable Prize and so on). It also did good work stopping turn 1 charges from aggro decks, but with movement ploys like Spectral Wings and teleports like Faneway Crystal and Hidden Paths it was hardly absolute.
The Restricted List
Some of these make sense if you’re going to restrict anything. Extreme Flank and Alone in the Darkness are two of the best objectives in the game, and prior to the restricted list I’d have advocated for their inclusion in basically any list (and to be honest I probably still would?). Most of the extra action, extra damage, and Shadeglass weapon cards being restricted also makes some sense, as it was starting to feel like 4 wounds was functionaly equivalent to 2, however there’s still a lot of options for aggro lists to choose from.
Other choices make less sense, as Hobbit notes above. Perfect Planning, for example, wasn’t even that good in defensive decks as it’s way too restrictive (although you can’t take Quick Thinker anymore so I guess that’s less of an issue?), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone running Loner.
Incredible Strength being on the list and Great Strength not being is also just absolutely bizzare. What rationale can there be for a deck with 5 other restricted cards plus Incredible Strength being too powerful, while one with the same 5 cards and Great Strength isn’t? Again as Hobbit says it feels like they’re trying to avoid banning core cards, but if you’re going to have a restricted list it really needs to be based on the effects of the cards alone.
I also disagree with the glory-generating upgrades (Slumbering Key and A Destiny to Meet) being on the list. These cards created interesting deck-building decisions by making you choose between upgrades that directly improve your fighters and your ability to win the game and ones that just give you glory at the end – there’s definitely a strong argument to run them, but they’re hardly auto-includes.
In general it feels like hold objective decks got the biggest boost here (which may have been needed, although given the extra friendly pushes in Nightvault and the Leaders expansion I think they were in a place to start coming back anyway). Aggro decks stay about the same – they have to make some harder choices, and maybe run some previously sub-optimal cards, but they’ve got a lot more options to choose from – and defensive decks suffer greatly from the loss of Quick Thinker and Great Concussion.
It’s definitely true that there is a lot of variation in card quality, and that some options were over-represented in tournament decks. I’m not sure this was the right way to address the problem, though, and I’m concerned that it will make the game devolve into mid-range/aggro slugfests. I guess we’ll see, though, and at least the restricted list adds some additional deck-building challenges which could be interesting.
Going forward I’d like to see a more consistent power level across universal cards, and higher powered warband-specific cards, which would start to address this issue naturally for future expansions.
Mike – I was just about to finish writing another big article and along comes this announcement…
Seriously, I was about 80% of the way through reviewing the top 10 decks from Blood and glory Grand Clash when this bombshell dropped. I’m currently debating between just finishing the article in the same way or adding extra work and saying which of the decks will look the best after this announcement.
My initial gut reaction to the news was one of mild dismay but then I think that’s a natural response to unexpected news. Having had some time to mull over the changes I have some more constructive opinions.
What a ban/restricted list means for the game in general
Good news everyone! If it wasn’t already apparent I think it’s fair to say that Games Workshop are very happy with how the game is selling/performing and are looking to keep supporting it for at least the foreseeable future. In the past GW have launched some amazing games that have slowly died through lack of support so I am super happy that Warhammer Underworlds continues to be a main focus for them, hopefully we will see more Warhammer World grand Clashes in future as well?
Tournament organisers, especially for local stores, might find this change a bit of a headache. Before it was very rare for a TO to actually check peoples decks against the list they brought with them, many didn’t even care if you brought a list or not, but now there is a real incentive to proactively see what people are running. For people who don’t think checks need to made and that everyone will be a nice sportsman about the whole thing, every single competitive game under the sun has cheaters and as much as I would love to pretend that our scene won’t/doesn’t have any it would be naïve at best.
One very happy side effect of the list is that it is now much easier for new players to buy into Warhammer Underworlds. The fact that you can now managed your restricted cards means you can avoid a lot of expansions that were previously a must buy and the ban list only accentuates that effect. I’ve already messaged a couple of my personal friends who were wanting to play but put off by the steep price about these changes and the viability of playing on a budget now.
Did they Ban/Restrict the Right Cards?
Well the top 3 cards were banned. If the reason for the banning’s is that they think the meta is stale then they probably picked the best 3 cards. Time Trap is a mild exception but that’s only because a lot of the player base hadn’t quite adjusted to just how strong it was with the new FAQ, for any top aggro deck it had become an auto include. I have to agree with Vanadis here, I wish that GW had given more detail on why they made the list and what the reasons for their specific choices were. Was Great Concussion banned simply because it was being played too much, or did GW want to buff objective play? With regards to the restricted list, it seems like a reasonable spread, with a couple of exceptions. Loner certainly didn’t need to be restricted and Soul Trap/ Tethered spirit were already falling out of favour as opposed to Deathly fortitude/Sudden Growth, especially since they don’t protect against spells.
What will the meta be like after these changes?
The meta has just had the biggest shake up ever with the massive release of 2 expansions + the Echoes of Glory pack. Now we have another possibly even bigger change. It’s too early to say for sure what will come out on top. As has already been mentioned I think objective play got a massive buff, no Great Concussion to worry about certainly helps a lot and Keep them Guessing is a fantastic objective for a lot of those decks that wasn’t touched. Defensive and aggro decks both seem to have been hit. I think the spellcast that me and Vanadis run will probably become the go to defensive deck of choice, Steelhearts just lost a lot although having access to a 2nd distraction should not be underestimated. With regards to aggro, Skaven have probably been knocked off the top of the totem pole now, it’s going to be a lot harder to build a good aggro deck as a lot of staple passive glory is hard to come by. On the other hand all the people playing shockingly bad aggro decks are super happy because their decks haven’t been affected.
Tom – Commit to your style
Firstly, lets get the elephant in the room out of the way…
The most meta-defining card since the games inception (along with arguably the second most) has been banned. No longer will you take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. No longer will 2 push ploys be required to counter one. No longer will you spend 15 minutes every power step trying to work out if you can actually push two models closer together! Great concussion demonstrated the power of controlling your opponents position on the board, and even with it gone, that power is still worth remembering when you build your deck. Controlling where your warband is and messing with your enemy is awesome, so awesome it can get a card banned.
Quick Thinker I have mixed feeling about. On the one hand, baiting a charge with it is super satisfying. You can also target fighters that have already charged or moved to ensure you make contact with the slippery cretins. On the other hand playing around an opponents Quick Thinker carried with it an air of anxiety and resignation. You are forced to play like every deck is including it, and forced to accept that you will sooner or later end up triggering it. You will also end up not charging out of fear of Quick Thinker-ish repercussions, only to have your opponents barely concealed sigh of relief reveal they didn’t have the card to begin with. On balance i think jockeying for positioning in the power step before a charge is more satisfying. Pushes and counter pushes allow more interaction than the old charge and hope to god they don’t play Quick Thinker.
I actually miss old, not broken Time Trap. I used it. I liked that i had the opportunity to make an attack action in the power step without restriction. You could beat up whatever nerd decided to Hidden Paths next to you. Then it got broken and Blooded Saek was flying eight hexes across the board like some bizarre mix of Roadrunner and Jack Torrance. RIP
The Restrictions: I kinda like this part
So as multiple people have pointed out, objective decks are getting mighty similar. Why take cards that are hard to score? Whatever kind of deck you want to play, glory is glory, and a deck that can score easy glory is going to beat a deck that sets itself a challenge. The optimum strategy (from where I have been sitting) had become build a passively scoring objective deck with a few score immediately’s and combine this with a damage boosting and mobility boosting power card deck. Bang in A Destiny to Meet and Slumbering Key to top off your points. You sit on the board and yell come at me bro, then curb-stomp the enemy when they do. Bonus points if you Hidden Paths in, snipe a brother, then illusory fighter back out to BM your hapless opponent. The curbstomping days may be coming to an end however, as some of the best passive scoring objective cards have become restricted *collective gasp from the audience*.
So what?!? I just take 5 restricted objectives and continue to take my easy glory to the bank! Well you could do that, but now all the good ploys and upgrades are out of your reach! You now have to run a passive list knowing that without clever use of less powerful ploys to delay your opponents, you will not be able to score your free points. This is still a perfectly reasonable plan to have, it just means if you want to run top tier objectives, you will have to run second tier ploys and upgrades.
If you want to play aggro, take the damaging ploys and commit to hard but rewarding aggro objectives! If you want to play more defensive and take easy objectives, you can no longer build an aggro power deck for a strong counter attack against the chumps lugging across the long board towards you. If you want to play Hold Objectives, good for you, your life is hard enough anyway on a board full of models that want to kill you. No restrictions for you!
There are some oddball choices in the restricted cards. Perfect Planning seems like a throwaway attempt to stunt defensive decks that to my knowledge where barely running it nowadays. I’ve also rarely seen Loner perform to the standard of a restricted card, but I’ve not had much chance to play since it’s release, and its hardly a card I’m going to run on my Grotz! On the whole though, the strongest cards have been restricted, meaning deck builds will have to start mixing things up!
What does this all mean?
I don’t bloody know! I know there’s a few things i want to try though! Here are my initial thoughts…
- Low movement warbands! When the best part of a turn’s movement could be reversed by Great Concussion, you really needed a bit of treadmill training to be competitive in the old meta. 4 move was almost mandatory if you hoped to close with an enemy. Now maybe not? Who knows?!
- Less one shotting means health matters again! It never mattered if you were a gobbo or a Gurzag, the sheer abundance of damage boosts meant almost no attack went ahead without lethal intent. Apparently the Health and Safety team have removed all the carelessly placed Pit Traps from the underworlds, and knives have gotten remarkably less twisty! Higher wound counters will be more impactful again, i think.
- Faction specific equivalents of restricted cards are awesome!
- Hold objective play is now even more viable than it was.
- Spells that can ping free damage on to enemies are even stronger due to the restricted +1 damage ploys. Cards like Wracking Change, Abasoths Withering, and Rend the Earth look even more attractive now.
- Dwarves – try them in a world without Great Concussion
- Orruks – try them in a world without Great Concussion
- Fuck it try what you want we just got a bunch of new cards and threw out the strongest old ones!
I Enjoy Not Knowing the Meta!
I’m looking forward to a new top tier of cards establishing themselves. We can’t kid ourselves, not all cards are created equal, and eventually the same good cards will start cropping up in everyone’s decks again. We’re not 100% sure what those are yet though, so bang in Baffling Illusion! Make a Katophrane Tome Deck! Don’t listen to that chump who tells you Headlong Charge is a trap card (it is though please don’t take it!). Most of all enjoy being creative, there might even be something we find that’s stronger than the meta we got comfortable in!
The Game has Changed!
Games Workshop have set a precedent. They have shown that they are willing to review and balance the game after release in order to keep the competitive scene engaging. Regardless of whether you agree with the specific choices they made, I feel this level of commitment to maintaining a competitive game bodes well.
As players we can understand what makes/made these cards strong and incorporate that into our strategies in the future, whilst experimenting in a meta rocked by 5 new warbands, 3 expansions and the first card restrictions this game has ever seen!
Enjoy the mayhem, I’m sure the next few months will be Pure Carnage!!
The Steel City Team