Cold and Calculated, a guide to winning with the Sepulchral Guard

Exposition

My diabolical quest to win with every warband continued this weekend with the Sepulchral Guard being my tools of choice. I attended two separate tournaments, one at Wargames Emporium on the Saturday and another at Impact Wargaming on the Sunday. Through carefully considered play I managed to acquire the glass on Saturday but alas my frail form succame to the vestigial emotions of a past life and left me defeated on the Sunday. Below I have transcribed the stratagems that I employed during these battles, so that others my learn from my experience. This guide is merely an explanation of how I played Sepulchral Guard, I am not going to go in depth on other play-styles or the general strengths of the warband. I will assume that you know the basic stats of all their minions (if not then it might be worth looking here as a reference), so it might be tricky for freash commanders to follow.

 

Your Forces

skeletons

A quick glance at the above image will give you a good idea on how this deck functions, it is not concerned with the glory of kills, instead it looks to unlock the Nightvault by focusing on the objectives scattered around the boards.

Objectives

There is a distinct importance placed on controlling objective tokens here, with Supremacy/Our Only Way Out/Tactical Supremacy 1-2 all rewarding you big for controlling those key tokens. If that fails then Nagash still has some smaller tasks for us to perform. Keep Them Guessing/What Armour/Change of Tactics/Get Thee Hence/Escalation will all provide you with some much needed glory should you main plan go awry. Master of War/Great Gains/Solid Gains are the like the magical force holding your bones together, they animate and sustain you while you perform your dark tasks. Martyred is a trick, a trap that you spring on your opponent for foolishly thinking that any of your minions are essential to your plan, it should be noted that when facing a particularly canny or perhaps inept opponent that this objective should be cycled for something more useful, having to rely on your opposing commander to score you glory is often a risky game.

If you are arrogant enough to attempt to improve upon the perfection presented here then you might want to start by looking at replacing Tactical Supremacy 1-2, it is the least reliable objective in your deck.

Gambits

I present these battlefield affecting abilities in descending order of power:

Restless Dead – one of the most potent abilities that Nagash can grant, the power to raise the dead. The main use for this ploy is to bring a fighter back in the final power step of a turn and then use either Sidestep or an upgrade/Ready for action combination to move onto a key objective token and allow you to score based on holding it. A secondary use can be to bring back The Champion or The Prince of Dust for scoring Get Thee Hence/What Armour with their now improved accuracy.

Ready for Action – It should come as no surprise to see such a ubiquitous ploy in this deck. Ready for Action grants us either an extra move or attack out of sequence with normal play, both of which count towards the action count for Keep Them Guessing. For our purpose it is usually more important to use it as an extra move in the final power step to secure those all important objectives. If there is a particularly troublesome enemy warrior then it is sometimes worth spending this power on The Champion, allowing him 2 attacks in a row, which finishes off most opponents. In a pinch you can use this as some insurance for scoring What Armour/Get Thee Hence if either The Prince or The Champion miss their initial attack.

Last Chance – Bleached bones do not make for particularly tough or agile troops. Low wounds and only one dodge defence mean that Nagash’s servants will fall over to anything stronger then a stiff breeze. Use this ploy as a way to stem the tide, let it be the bone they choke on as they try to feast on your corpse.

Hidden Paths – Strike through the shadows and secure potent objectives. Hidden Paths should almost always only be used to secure you that key objective you need to score the big objective cards in your deck, sometimes you will have to combine it with Sidestep/Ready for Action if there is no easy target. A card that is essential when you get only 2 objective tokens on your side of the battlefield, it’s less important when you have 3 nearby. If you do have 3 then it can be fine to use it for smaller play, this can be used for any marginal advantage in those cases so that you can draw more cards at the next end step.

Transfixing Stare – The dread scrutiny of your minions can cause your opponents to lock up in fear. Use this to control their movement whenever you are concerned that they will interfere with your plans. It works especially well against Trolls.

Distraction/Terrifying Screams – Fear of your minions can also be used to subtly shift the movements of your opponents, causing their commanders to gnash their teeth in frustration as their plans begin to unravel. Use this to deny your opponents any position based objectives that they might be running, or to create space from an incoming charge as your minions secure the battlefield.

Forceful Denial – Save this for the one pathetic attempt that your opponent makes which might actually challenge your grand strategy, deny them this play and watch as their spirits wither away.

Sidestep – A sly use of magic that quickens bones, letting your minions re-position in unexpected ways. Remember that your goal is to secure the city for Nagash, Sidestep should above all be used to secure important objectives for him.

Spectral Wings – When the hidden ways remain closed to you, sometimes a potent burst of speed can allow you to grab those all important objectives from the opponents end of the battlefield.

Upgrades

As with the gambit cards I present the upgrades at our disposal in descending order of power:

The Keys – Your mission is to open the Nightvault. Nagash will reward you lavishly for achieving that goal, he provides glory for every key that triggers at the end of your battle. This is often how you pull ahead and achieve victory over an arrogant opponent who might think they are secure in their lead.

Tome of Glories – The pages of this dusty tome fill with eldritch text whenever they are close to an objective. Use this to provide a steady stream of glory throughout the game, even if it just provides a measly one glory it is often worth it.

Bag of Tricks – A curious device that always seems to hold what you most need inside it. If you are in a bind then this can provide the solution to your problems, only use it if you need to because the price is that one of your troops will be useless for a while.

Faneway Crystal – A device created by the ever cursed Katophrane’s, this crystal can transport one of your soldiers directly onto an objective anywhere on the battlefield. Sometimes this will be essential, at other’s pointless, choose your moment carefully.

Frightening Speed – Old magic that provides your most potent minions with a macabre burst of speed, use this as you would Spectral Wings, in combination they can be incredible.

 

Picking your Battlefield

The Reaction Board

Soul Refractor

The Soul Refractor is an apt choice to stand your ground on when ambushed. Its trio of blocked hexes in the middle of the board will cause anguish to some of the more aggressive warbands and there is always a free forward hex for you to place/resurrect your minions to threaten taking an objective token from their side.

Boards to pick for when you ‘win’ the roll off

In the unfortunately event that you are forced to battle outside of home territory you will be forced to concede the opponent 3 objective tokens while you will only have 2. This instantly makes the game a lot harder for you to win but don’t let your emotions get the best of you, there are still many tactics we can employ to best serve Nagash’s will.

The Animus Forge

If your opponents board is lacking starting hexes towards the bottom right (remember you can choose the orientation) then your best bet is the Animus Forge. This foul smelling board provides plenty of defensive opportunity when deployed correctly. Simply offset your board with your opponents so that only the top left 3 hexes are connected and watch as their eyes drop in realisation that they can only charge one of your fighters. Usually you should position your Champion in this spot, ready to receive their weapons with his cold fury, however if you have Get Thee Hence in hand then it can be worth putting the Prince of Dust there in order to make scoring that objective easier.

The Shattered Tower

If your opponents starting hexes do not allow an optimal Animus Forge setup then I would recommend using the Shattered Tower. Set this board up length-ways with the blocked hexes facing towards your opponent, making sure to rotate their board in a way that their starting hexes are as far away as possible.

Placing your Minions

As noted above you should always place your Champion/Prince of Dust the furthest forwards. You have to use all the starting hexes so hiding is not an option. Remember, once you resurrect either fighter they will come back stronger, invigorated by your dark magic. The Harvestor is best placed near a dangerous objective, his higher health makes him more likely to survive an attack then the lowly petitioners. The petitioners themselves are best held at the back, claiming what scraps they can. Your king piece, The Warden, should be placed somewhere towards the back but not entirely out of the way. His actions form the backbone of your forces and he should be protected at all costs, however he also spots a deadly 2 range attack that can be used to effectively dissuade opponents from claiming your treasure.

 

Imposing your will on the Battlefield

When commanding our skeletal minions you need to absolve yourself of emotion. If given the choice always choose to go second in a turn, as this allows you to move onto an objective in your last activation with less chance of interference. When you take your first activation in each turn take a step back.

You have exactly 4 activation’s in which to achieve your goals. How many is it going to take you to grab the optimal number of objectives? How close is your opponent and how likely are they to be able to disrupt your plans? Are you trying to score Keep Them Guessing or Change of Tactics, these both place activation ‘taxes’ where you have to take suboptimal actions in order to score them. After you have done the diabolical calculations in your head you should have an idea if you have any spare activation’s left. Activation’s where you can improve the resources at your disposal. Spare activations should be devoted to (in this order) Tome of Glories>Bag of Tricks> drawing a power card>cycling an objective although those last 2 can be swapped depending on the situation.

I have distilled the essence of our tactical priorities thusly:

  1. Use the Wardens ability to move 2 of your fighters onto objectives
  2. If any objectives remain unclaimed and in range then move the Harvester onto them
  3. If trying to score Change of Tactics/Keep Them Guessing you should now focus on the last 2 actions needed to achieve this (remember the Wardens ability to move 2 friendly fighters counts as both an ability on a fighter card and a move action for this objective) – generally these will be a guard and a charge action
  4. If trying to score What Armour or Get Thee Hence then use your activation now or forever hold your malice – this can often be combined with the charge part of Keep Them Guessing/Change of Tactics
  5. If the Prince of Dust or the Champion is dead the resurrect them in a place where they won’t instantly die again – skip this if no such place exists or if they are your only dead fighter and you have a plan involving the Restless dead
  6. Use your spare activation’s in the order described above

In very rare situations it can be worth trying to go for the throat and score a kill against an enemy fighter, generally I ignore the chances of a kill unless it is against 2 wound or less fighters but if an opponent has come early to disrupt your plans, via Hidden Paths/Spectral Wings then you can try to use your spare activation’s to whittle them down to nothingness.

In those horrible games where you need to secure an objective token on your opponents board you will generally do so in the final power step of a turn using cards like Hidden Paths/Sidestep so it will not impact on your activation plan for the turn. In the rare case that you lack Hidden Paths (or a Bag of Tricks to get it) and still need that token then make sure to reserve a final activation for a sprint using Spectral Wings/Faneway Crystal/Frightening speed.

This is of course simply a primer into the dark art of commanding the undead. Exceptions exist to every step that I have scrawled above, when you become more confident you might even scrap the above stratagems all together and go with your own game plan.

 

The bit where my Sanity Returns and I Stop Pretending that I am a Servent of Nagash

So the above is simply a guide for how I played the Sepulchral Guard over two tournaments. Its certainly not the only way to play them and its quite probably not the best way to play them, I only spent about a week building the deck and practicing. If you like the idea of playing something that is less dice reliant then usual then this might just fit your play-style, I certainly felt like most games I lost that I could have simply done something different and still won the game. A word of caution however, both Thorns of the Briar Queen and Mollog’s mob will hurt you, a lot. The Thorn’s have a Queen who can teleport in amongst your ranks and start one shooting your fighters out of no where as well as casting the Howling Vortex which can completely crush you.

And Mollog…

Well Mollog hurts. If he gets Tome of Glories early then you have a very upwards hill to climb. I played against two Mollog’s over both days and won one match while losing the other. I felt like every game that I got 3 objective tokens on my board then I could pull ahead on glory but when I had only 2 it was a nightmare scenario. That’s the reason I run 2 distraction effects in my deck, it helps me vs both the queens teleports and can mess up a Mollog’s day – if I wasn’t so scared of those matchups then I would swap one of those cards for Quick Advance.

Anyway I’m rambling now. The scope of this article was not to go into every possible match-up but rather to give a general primer on how I piloted the Guard to glass. I’m interested to hear feedback (email link at the bottom) from people about this article, after winning glass I get lots of requests from people for a deck list – this is meant to be a much more in depth response from that. However it’s obviously not the same scope as some of my bigger projects and its also not as generally interesting to people who might not be interested in Sepulchral Guard. Another option would be to talk in less detail about how I played them and go into a more general conversation about their good vs bad match-ups and what I think their overall power level is right now when compared to other Warbands.

For those following my side quest this now puts me at 7 different warbands that I have won glass with. I won with Mollog the weekend before but skipped releasing my article on him as it was made irrelevant by the BAR and errata/FAQ updates.

 

For those unfamiliar with the symbols, the warbands that I have won with are:

Farstriders

Magore’s Fiends

The Thorns of the Briar Queen

The Eyes of the Nine

Stormsire’s Cursebreakers

Mollog’s Mob

The Sepulchral Guard

 

With the currently released warbands that puts me at the half way point of my challenge, however 2 more expansions will be released in the future so I need to keep on my toes. John Rees over at canyourollacrit is currently sitting at 10 warbands with glass and the absolute beast that is Jay Clare is currently leading the pack at 11. Some say that Jay Clare once had a blog but that it became more popular then the Warhammer Community site so his boss asked him kindly to take it down…

 


At Steel City we would love to have your feedback. If you have something to say about a specific article then feel free to comment below, if you want to get in touch about the blog in general, or just prefer to communicate privately then you can get in touch by emailing us at team@steelcityshadespire.com

7 thoughts on “Cold and Calculated, a guide to winning with the Sepulchral Guard

Add yours

  1. Great article, Michael, and congratulations on the win! The Guard were my first warband and I’m quite fond of the janky little bonemen. My regular Shadespire games are strictly casual so your deck might be a bit OP for that (I tend to go for all the Tactical Supremacy’s and a lot more movement gambits) but your advice on board selection and activation economy are certainly food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the idea of sneaking a high damage upgrade like shadeglass dagger into my SG decks. Keep the deck much like yours, but then you have the option to be able to do big damage on a single target like Mollog

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honestly Shadeglass Dagger is a solid shout – the main reason I don’t have it in the deck is because I didn’t get much time to play it and wanted to ‘force’ myself into playing it this way – if i was better at it/more used to it then I would probably include that upgrade.

      Like

  3. Thank you for this very interesting article. I have played SC for the last couple of months and just won glass with them last week. I play them in a more hybrid fashion, notably adding some killing objectives and replacing most of the keys by +1 damage upgrades. What is your experience against very aggressive decks such as the 2 khorn warbands? I had more difficulty against magore than against the troll because controlling 1 enemy is ok, but 4 fighters that 1-shot your objective-holders are too difficult to do control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The final at the tournament I won was against a very good Magore fiend player – it was a tight game that I literally won by one glory. If I have 3 objective tokens then I find that its crucial to do over a starting objective hand that dosn’t contain your ‘big scores’ – you really want Supremacy/Our only Way Out/Keep Them Guessing – once you get that early glory you will find you slowly lose your lead as your opponent kills your fighters one by one. You can certainly still score glory but its generally downhill from your powerful start – up until the end of the game where you can burst for a bunch of glory with keys again – fingers crossed its enough to win.

      With 2 objective tokens I set up with the defensive options that I state in the article – weirdly against the Khorne warbands I actually find this preferable as although it makes scoring some objectives harder – it gives me a whole free turn before they even really get to me.

      Certainly a tough match up though and not one I enjoy. Prefer it to Mollog though lol.

      Like

      1. Thanks for the reply. I never thought about mulliganning to make sure I get a great start while denying early glory to the opponent. Food for thought.
        What about farstriders (the multi – 1 dmg build with shardgale)? How do you manage to keep the squellies alive?

        Liked by 1 person

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