Fear my mighty photoshop skills.
I attended the Warhammer Fest Grand Clash on May 11th and ended up with my best grand clash finish for a singles event (Steel City managed to get 4th as a Team at the UKTC) with a top 16 finish. The deck that I took was one that I had been honing for over a month and was designed to not only be good – but to be so good that it smashed opponents hard enough that I could carry through to the final of a grand clash. For those not in the know, most grand clashes in the UK are very well attended (the one before Warhammer Fest had 164 players) and you can get a lot of players who are undefeated after all the normal rounds are played, so you need to do very well in order to get selected for the final through the tiebreaker system.
Obviously something went wrong.
This is going to be a special two part article, part 1 will go through the creation of the deck and its various versions while part 2 will cover the actual tournament and go into details on the matches I played with some discussion of what the meta looks like right now. For regular readers of Steel City this is indeed the ‘secret’ deck that I have been mentioning in articles.
Before we start – a quick shout out to the What the Hex Podcast for having me as a guest on an episode. They got me over as a ‘subject matter expert’ on defensive play, if you are interested in having a listen then you can here.
An idea is born
Shortly after the Godsworn Hunt and Mollog’s Mob expansions came out I identified Mollog as a pretty strong warband that I could grab a quick trophy with and continue my quest for winning a trophy with every warband. I built a fairly standard Mollog deck that took advantage of his special rules and stat-line to crush opponents through mostly aggro play, the only difference between my deck and other Mollog’s was that I put a bit more empathis on mobility(hint Illusory Fighter). At this point I would normally link you to the article that I wrote detailing these exploits but I had to bin the article as the BAR/Errata/FAQ were all updated as I was in the middle of writing it and a fundamental change to how Mollog works completely undermined all of the advice I was in the process of writing (I will never stop moaning about this) so I binned it.
For those not in the know, the change I am referring to is an errata change to Mollog’s inspired side, essentially he can now completely ignore a charge or a move token once he is inspired, a big buff to the troll as before he could only charge or move after having a charge token and not do stuff like a normal attack/ go on guard etc.
Wait a minute.
That means that Mollog could activate Tome of Glories twice in one turn. That’s potentially 6 glory over the course of a game (in ideal circumstances) that your opponent will be very hard pushed to stop (if they push Mollog off the token you can simply move back on and good luck killing him) and it happens in the action phase so it makes playing upgrades from your hand very easy. The defensive player in me rubbed his hands with glee at the prospect of such a strong passive glory game, it made me think of a mini relic deck but without the extreme deck building requirements that those decks have to deal with.
The Grand Clash Looms
I had tried to learn some lessons from the January Grand Clash where I placed 42 (I went 3-1 but had bad tiebreakers). For that tournament I decided that my biggest problem was that I had practiced too much against my co-authours Tom and Vanadis, I was originally going to take Cursebreakers but Tom had gotten so good at killing them with Fiends that I panicked and changed to Thorns at the last minute. Dan Smedley from the Ready for Action podcast gave me a proper 2-0 thrashing in the first round with… Cursebreakers at that event and I realised that sometimes you have to deal with the fact that certain warbands have good odds to beat you and just hope you can beat that player on the day.
So with all that at the back of my mind I made the decision to start taking decks that I was seriously considering for the Warhammer Fest Grand Clash to various tournaments I would be attending from around one and a half months before the big date. I needed to test the field and get an idea for how my A game actually did against all the various warbands and strategies that other players employed.
A Troll is Born
So to take the silly idea I had to activate Tome of Glories twice in a turn and convert it into an actual working deck that could beat other people. This is the first deck that I built:
As you can see the deck is very defensive focused. There is a ton of passive glory that I can score without actually having to engage with my opponent. That’s not to say I can’t kill fighters, all I need to do is inspire Mollog and he has to potential to one shot over 90% of the fighters in the game, its a great strength of the deck that Mollog needs very minimal investment to be so good. Warding Scroll is in there because I expected Cursebreakers to be the most dangerous warband at the Grand Clash and it is a very strong way of shutting them down.
Its worth mentioning that I didn’t agonise over this version of the deck. It took me around 2 hours to make. I actually think that spending longer then that is a bad idea, my deck building process is to make something and then actually play it against opponents as soon as possible to see what works and what doesn’t. Its a strategy that I have slowly adapted to as I have played with different warbands and the local scene in the steel city has gotten so good for practicing (we often get 10 players just for practice nights). The important thing with this way of deck building is to be good at identifying problem cards and to constantly be on the lookout for situations where other cards would be better, this is not always easy as the dice gods can create weird situations but the more play-testing you get the better feedback you will have.
So I took this 2 hour deck build to a tournament in Birmingham, it was a five round all day event with 20 players that included the multi grand clash winning player John Rees from the canyourollacrit blog, so competition was going to be stiff but that’s exactly what I wanted. Where better to see if your ideas work then an environment where everyone is trying hard to destroy you?
I lost my first two rounds.
That’s some feedback.
Luckily I managed to pull the last 3 rounds to wins making my overall result 3-2, showing that the deck does function but it certainly has issues. The two decks I lost to were a Farstrider deck that was running lots of extra damage cards, so Trap/Pit Trap + Encroaching Shadow/Raptor’s Strike etc and a Godsworn Hunt deck that ran Tomes. With the Farstrider’s I realised that pure defensive play is almost impossible to pull off these days, warbands that have a large threat range can start charging your from turn 1 and if you don’t start killing their fighters back then Mollog will eventually die (sometimes surprisingly fast). The fact that Mollog’s warband has 3 two wound fighters is a big detriment because it gives your opponent a bunch of targets to grab some easy glory off of before taking on the big guy, good opponents will often do this. The Godsworn Hunt deck showed me that there are deck builds that can actually out score me on passive glory, namely ones running a ton of Tomes that score big in the third end phase with Acolyte of the Katophranes.
Wait a minute.
There is no reason I can’t run tomes as well…
I got excited.
Mollog Learns to Read
Did someone say passive glory?
This deck not only ran Acolyte of the Katophranes with 5 tomes but also took Superior Tactician as well. My general thinking was that I could throw away whichever of the 2 came up early and rely on the other one to give me enough glory to win at the end. Some of the Tomes are absolutely amazing on Mollog, obvious the deck was built with Glories in mind but anyone who has seen the behemoth wreck a whole warband will know the horror of how much Glory Tome of Offerings will generate. Tome of vitality is a solid extra wound, making Mollog even harder to kill. Tome of Warfare and Tome of Diseases … exist, they are pretty much only there to get me extra glory at the end of the game, in over a month of playing I have never used the action on Diseases and I have used the one on Warfare less then 5 times.
Potion of Rage was put in as a way to deal with those annoying fighters who got too close to fast, 4 smash dealing 4 damage is a solid attack that generally puts anyone in the game down.
This version of the deck existed for a couple of weeks where I got solid practice in with the Sheffield bunch. Generally the deck performed well, I was beating good players running solid decks, the games I lost were still ones with fast fighters who could start killing stuff early on, Potion of Rage on it’s own was not enough to deal with this problem.
Mollog’s Teenage Rebellion
Sometimes Mollog wants to smash. In this version of the deck I ditched Superior Tactician, I had played games where I had kept Acolyate of the Katophranes on turn 1 and still won so there was no reason to have another objective that could clog my hand up early in the game. With one restricted slot free’d up I decided it was about time to include the best card in the game, it was time to finally put Ready for Action into the deck. The potential for a second attack out of sequence is just to good to pass up on, it can make your odds of success for a specific attack much better or it can be used to kill 2 fighters in a turn. Foul Temper was added as a way to make Mollog a reliable killing machine, having your very own unrestricted Awakened Weapon is a pretty nice advantage and it puts Mollog at odds on to hit most fighters with his attack, especially if you can trap them with your range 2 tricks.
I took this version of the deck to a tournament at Element Games, a tournament that Jamie and Bryce from the Katophrane Relic blog were attending, both of those players are extremely good opponents and Bryce was particularly scary as he had won that massive January Grand Clash that I harped on about above. They are both great guys and it’s always nice to see them at an event and have a chat. It’s also important to note that I have played Bryce three times before and never lost to him.
Upon arrival Bryce informed me that he was stupendously hungover, as he is Scottish I’m not sure this would be a disadvantage but in the spirit of fair play I decided to start drinking fairly heavily (the Elements game store has a license, its brilliant), I couldn’t have him using excuses for his inevitable loss.
It was a standard 4 round event, I won 3 of the rounds pretty handily, felt a bit bad about taking a super serious deck to a small tournament but in my defence I was drinking, one of the rounds I played was against Bryce.
That one wasn’t easy.
Bryce was playing a very aggressive version of Spiteclaw’s Swarm, it was a bit of a throwback to the really powerful deck that had dominated season 1 of Warhammer Underworlds but that had been mostly destroyed by the first BAR list. Bryce had modernised the deck to deal with both the BAR list and to include some of the tasty new season 2 cards, he had also spent a solid week practicing against his partner in crime Jamie at their famous lunchspire games.
I’m not going to go into stupendous detail about the match, suffice to say there were crazy streaks of luck that went my way and crazy streaks that went Bryce’s way, after the dust had settled I won 2-1 in an incredible tight set of games. I took the trophy and thought about how I had done, I only dropped a game to Bryce all day and ended with a glory differential of +68, if this was a grand clash that would give me good odds of making a final. I had beaten a top draw opponent like Bryce on the way but I don’t think he was playing his best deck, the Spiteclaw build he had was good but I doubt he would take it to a Grand Clash.
Some tweaks needed to be made, I was still having issues with mobile fighters that could threaten my back-line early, god I hate Scritch.
Better luck next time Bryce, I’m sure you will beat me one of these days 😉
Getting a Job and Settling Down
Haymaker was the biggest change to the deck, I wanted another Potion of Rage style effect that would give me very good odds of killing a specific threat. Haymaker is pretty much the perfect card for that. If you were playing close attention to the previous deck versions I had been experimenting with Mirror Move vs Predatory Growls, I was already running Distraction and the appeal of Mirror Move was that it allows you to do tricks like moving three hexes in response to an opponent’s Commanding Stride, no doubt its a very strong card. Overall I was finding that having two Distractions was just a better choice, they always work and honestly are two of the strongest cards in the deck, every single time I had one of those in hand I found an extremely strong use for it that would either mess with my opponent’s positioning or just help score me Alone in the Darkness.
This version of Mollog had a job to do. With one Glass Trophy in the bag the big troll decided that he liked the feeling of winning, so we entered another tournament, this time at our local The Outpost.
I’ve mentioned already that we have a pretty healthy community up in Sheffield, this tournament was no exception as my partner in crime Tom was attending and also a grand clash winner in the form of Martin Collins. It was a standard 4 round event, 2 of the rounds were pretty by the numbers wins for me. One was against Tom who was rocking Magore’s Fiends, we had had a practice session earlier in the week where he destroyed my deck every time we played so I was expecting a similar drubbing.
I won 2-0.
The games were very tight, I won one by only 1 glory. Still that was a solid result and it reinforced my belief that I shouldn’t let my fear of one play-style put me off my whole plan. I played Martin in the final, he was running old school Reavers and it was a fun series of games. Once again I won 2-0 but the second game I only won because Bat Squig had Light-Footed + Tome of Vitality equipped and he could only deal 2 damage in an attack with the card Trap in hand being unable to be played because Light-Footed replaced the drive back on an attack with a push of my own. So I loaded every last tome on the sun onto Baq Squig in the last power step of the game and edged out a win. The main reason that Light-Footed is in the deck is to stop someone using a Ready for Action double attack combo to kill Mollog, letting me push away after the first attack, it was nice to see that the card had other uses.
You can guess from that last line of play that Mollog died, in fact I found that throughout the tournament Mollog would often die but I could still win a game because of all the passive glory my deck had. Even if Mollog dies with 2 tomes on him that is still 3 tomes I can put onto another fighter for a 3 glory Acolyte of the Katophranes on turn three. I was starting to get really into the deck and learn about all the small plays that would increase my chances of wining the game.
Another Trophy down and some solid practice in, I was starting to get pretty confident about my deck.
Mollog Goes On Another Life Journey That Is Relevant To This Article
This is it. The final version of the deck that I ended up taking to Warhammer Fest. For anyone interested in playing around with it then you can edit it here.
With the last two expansions of Nightvault being released I made a couple of small tweaks to the deck. Ploymaster went out (it was easily the worse objective card I had) for the incredible Calculated Risk and I took Spoils of Battle out as I decided that I now had enough easy score immediately cards that I could expect a glory to play an upgrade within turn 1. In it’s place I took No Time. No Time was in to preemptively stop an opponent playing Rebound or Last Chance on a critical Mollog attack and as a flexible option to try and make it harder for my opponent to play cards.
At this point the deck has definitely moved from the control/defensive archetype into the flex territory. Despite lacking objective’s that rely on kills I had enough power cards that enabled them and Tome of Offerings meant I could still score big from a few caved in skulls. The general playstyle is to deploy at the back in a defensive position and to only kill stuff that comes close. You will score a lot of glory from sitting at the back, especially if you can get an early Tome of Glories out and Mollog is a threat that makes people think twice about charging in.
It might seem a surprise that I include Martyred in the deck, originally I was using Bat Squig to suicide to lethal hexes in specific cases where I needed an early glory, that is until I realised that Bat Squig ignores lethal terrain.
I ended up having to use the Ruptured Seal board often with the Spite Shroom placed next to the double lethal hexes so I had a way to score Martyred if my opponent was playing cagey, or even to get an easy Calculated Risk as hurting Mollog is not always the best plan.
Legitimately having to use Spite Shroom instead of Bat Squig like this was a massive blow to how the deck ‘worked’, if my opponent won board roll off then they would often spin the Ruptured Seal around so that I had no control over that objective and a tough time with Calculated Risk.
I made the call not to take the two new Tomes, Healing and Insight because they were misprinted without the ‘Katophrane Tome’ keyword on them. Despite being 100% confident that this was a misprint that would be clarified in a future errata I am aware of GW judges and their interesting judgements (often flat out wrong) at Grand Clashes and I didn’t want to take the risk of one of them invalidating my whole deck. So I stuck with Diseases and Warfare, in all honesty it wasn’t much of a deal as the other tomes would only very occasionally be used.
It’s hard to go more in depth on how I played this deck because it was very versatile and it depends a lot on not only what my opponent is playing but also in how the cards come out. If I start a game with Inspiration Strikes + Haymaker I will often just play like an aggro deck, for example.
So with the mighty Mollog in toe I headed out to Warhammer Fest. The adventure will continue in part2…
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