At this rate of improvement with ‘photoshop’ I’ll be editing covers of magazines come July.
This is part 2 in a set of articles detailing my plan to win the Warhammer Fest Grand Clash. Part 1 goes through the decks creation and evolution as I took it to various tournaments and the gradual changes the deck went through until I settled on its final form. I highly recommend that you read part 1 before diving into this article as I will be starting up almost exactly where I left off.
General Thoughts on the Event and ‘The Night before’
The night before Warhammer Fest I was at a friend’s house till 2am. It’s a group of people I have known for over 10 years and we had organised the event around 6 months prior through a straw poll where we all said what dates we would be free, meaning it would be pretty bad of me to bail. Our little tradition for these gatherings is to make a playlist each and to bring a selection of tasty beers for everyone else to drink while our music is playing. I managed to resist drinking any of the delicious offerings (of course I still brought beer myself for others to enjoy) but the night lasted longer than expected and I didn’t get home till around 2:30am. Me, Tom and Vanadis left Sheffield at 7am the next day, giving me an approximate sleep time of fuck all.
I tell you all this not to give an excuse for poor play, I actually think I made very minimal misplays, but to give you the frame of mind I was in, i.e. tired and on edge.
Once we got into the event I was amazed at all the people I knew, it was fantastic to start chatting to the Ready for Action guys, to finally meet Aman face to face, seeing Jamie Giblin again, to get a proper chat with the other crazy guy who invented relics back in the day Sandro (I had never really spoken to him before) and absolutely tons more people who I don’t have time to mention. I think I personally knew about 20 people at the event and most of those are all good enough acquaintances that I would be very happy having a pint and chatting rubbish with them for ages. The social element in this scene is amazing and I would recommend people to go to as many events as possible so they can start joining in.
I’m going to talk in general about my matches below but I have to make a massive warning that my memory is truly appalling. I am typing this out only 3 days after the tournament and already details are starting to fuzz over, unfortunately I find that when I have gaps in my memory that my brain fills in the details with its own crazy version of events. So there is a very good chance that some of the details I remember are flat out wrong – if any of my opponents read this and remember something differently then please contact me and I will edit the article.
Ahem, Bryce might have already pointed out a correction to part one. It was two times I have beaten him and not 3. Of course that means I have to correct the mistake in this article by bringing it up again 😉
For anyone interested in the playlist that I made the night before you can have a listen here, it might give you an insight into the crazy mind of someone who builds a deck around Tome of Glories and a Troll.
Round 1 vs Farstrider’s
Embarrassingly I cannot remember the name of my opponent for the first round, something in the back of my head says that it could be Ben but it’s very iffy. For the sake of this section I will simply refer to my opponent as the Bird Commander.
Game 1 Bird Commander wins boards and sets up wide, I deploy my squigs at the back with Mollog around the middle of my board, ready to fight. Bird Commander was running every single ‘free damage’ card under the sun, so not only expected ones like Trap/Pit Trap and Encroaching Shadow but also Lethal Ward/Shardgale as well as the Farstrider card Rapid Volley to make even more attacks with. Mollog died by turn 2 having only killed a single Stormcast.
I struggled to keep my cool. I was on edge and had spent so much effort prepping for this event that losing in the first round would be soul crushing. Turn 3 saw me split the board between Batsquig and Stalagquig as Batsquig used Faneway Crystal to teleport across to the back of Bird Commanders board. I managed to equip 4 tomes to Baq Squig at the end of the turn and score enough glory to end in a tie. Escalation and Alone in the Darkness had also given me a bunch of passive glory despite Mollog being dead. Bird Commander was frustrated with himself because he could have moved onto an objective in the last activation to win the tiebreaker but had not expected me to gain so much glory.
The only Tome that I had played before that mad third end phase was Offerings onto Mollog, this is a totally standard upgrade for Mollog decks to run so Bird Commander had no idea of my Katophrane tricks. I had even realised my only chance to win half way through turn 2 and kept Tome of Warfare in hand through till turn 3 despite it having no effect in itself. The way the tournament was scoring they didn’t seem to care about ties, only game losses (we both checked this with an official afterwards) so technically this meant that either of us could still win the round 2-0.
Game 2 I won boards, inwardly I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I used the Ruptured Seal Board and offset it with my opponent as much as possible. I cannot remember exactly what board Bird Commander selected but it was one I could abuse with this setup as I rotated it in a way that gave him no close starting hexes at all. For reference I placed the two lethal hexes as far away from Bird Commanders board as possible – this is my general setup when I win boards with the deck. Unlike the first game this game went very easily for me, the Stormcast’s came in piecemeal and could only get the odd attack off onto Mollog who proceeded to kill two of their number. I managed to score big this game and get the full 5 glory from Acolyte.
Bird Commander seemed crushed, this was his first grand clash and he had obviously prepared, the deck was pretty good and he was piloting it well. The problem was that he didn’t pack Spectral Wings/Hidden Paths so if I got boards then the game was a nightmare for him.
Game 3, Bird Commander won boards. I started sweating, once again he placed them wide and I had to play the game like an aggro deck. If I try to sit back then he will inspire his entire warband at the end of turn 1 and probably kill Mollog in turn 2 just like in the first game. Unfortunately I didn’t have a Haymaker/Potion of Rage in hand. Fortunately I won 2 50/50 rolls in a row and killed 2 of the Rangers with unmodified Mollog dice (I did have Inspiration Strikes in hand). It was painful to play in such a dice dependent manner but fate pulled me through and I ended up with a massive glory total. As the tie game didn’t count as a loss I was also at 2-0. Technically this was a great start to the tournament for me, internally I was even more tense because had the dice gone a different way I could have lost.
Takeaways from this round:
- Mollog is surprisingly easy to kill if your opponent can start hitting him from turn 1
- This deck massively favours winning the board roll off
- I had previously thought that Farstriders would be bad into Mollog, turns out I was wrong and it was a very close series – in the games where I lost boards I would have done better with a full aggro Mollog build
- Acolyte of the Katophranes is absolutely insane if you build your deck around it
- The level of competition in this grand clash was going to be pretty high, I was being put to the test right from the beginning
Round 2 vs Martin Hakenesch’s Thundrick’s Profiteers
I got to cheat for remembering Martin’s name, he made a facebook comment on my last article.
Martin was running the new fancy sky dwarves, I have not had any experience playing vs them so I was a bit worried that he would surprise me with something unexpected. Game 1 I won boards, it was a pretty by the numbers win for me as Martin couldn’t close the distance.
Game 2 I got destroyed.
Martin won boards and placed wide, and as he deployed his five fighters I realised that I was in a world of pain. If I charge in and kill some of his uninspired fighters early then the rest of his warband can simply use Mollog as a pincushion and keep shooting at him until he dies. If I sit back then he can reach the distance to my squigs and get some easy glory in, which is exactly what happened. Martin prioritised the Squigs and managed to kill Mollog in the second turn. There was no magic come back for me here, Martin won very solidly, his glory difference was only 1 less than the first game where I had completely shut him down.
Going into game 3 we were both tense. Me and Martin had been chatting a bit as the games progressed and I learnt that he had won a big grand clash in Germany and had travelled just for this tournament. Oh, at least I had an excuse if I lost then. What followed is probably the tightest and most stressful game of Warhammer Underworlds I have ever played.
Martin won boards and went wide. In my head this literally put my odds of winning down by about 20%. The first turn was a cagey affair where he killed Spite Shroom from afar while putting some damage onto Mollog, in return Mollog stepped on a stunty dwarf but it wasn’t looking good. My fears were confirmed when Mollog died near the beginning of turn 2. I was left with Batsquig and Stalagsquig. Due to the amount of fighters at Martin’s disposal there was no point in me using Faneway to escape because he still had old Thundrick left on his side of the board. With nowhere to go I put inspired Batsquig on guard and secured Tome of Vitality from Bag of Tricks on Stalagsquig. I played Tome of Vitality out ASAP onto Batsquig and sat there in dread as attack after attack was sent after the flying mushroom. He survived on 1 wound. In the final power of the game I equipped all the tomes in my hand and managed to score big. Me and Martin had tied on 15 glory apiece. We both double checked our glory scores against objectives and confirmed that the scores were correct. We asked a judge to check how to score the match, they said that the tiebreaker to use was overall glory difference over all 3 games.
I won by 1 glory.
My nerves were starting to fray, lack of sleep and incredibly tight series were doing things to me. I had now definitely dropped a game and did not have a good glory difference, my chances of making the final were becoming slim but I was still in there.
Takeaway’s from this match:
- Board roll off is literally unbelievably important for me to the point where I was starting to get frustrated about how much of a difference it made. I was having to force myself not to go on tilt whenever I lost board roll off it was that bad.
- Thundricks Profiteer’s are a very power warband and I might have underestimated them previously, having 5 fighters who are all relevant is a scary thing and the amount of solid objectives that they can score is impressive.
- Martin was a great player and pushed me to my absolute limits, he also got very unlucky on dice rolls at the end of game 3 and handled it pretty well so hats off to him for remaining composed
- No Time was a borderline useless card in the deck, I had asked my opponents to try and keep track if it ever stopped a play from them and both had said that it didn’t really affect them.
Round 3 vs Richard’s Fiends
Pay no attention to the handsome Reaver in the background, this image is 100% about Magore’s Fiends.
Richard is a good acquaintance who I play regularly at tournaments up in the north. He is a quality opponent who is great to chat to and has even given me lifts back to train stations in his car before. I do generally destroy him though, I’ve never considered Rich to be a bad player but his decks just don’t seem that solid. Well today I was facing Rich and he hadn’t even dropped a game yet. He was also playing Fiends which Tom had proven were a problem for me.
Game 1 Richard won boards. I kept my chill. In turn 1 he used Rebound successfully on Mollog to stop a successful attack and get him low enough for a charge to finish him off.
My face became a rictus grin as I struggled to keep my composure.
Game 2 I won boards. I breathed an inwards sigh of relief. The Fiends came in 1 by 1 and I killed Riptooth, Magore escaped using Illusory fighter but I was pretty happy. Rich did some crazy plays with Dark Darts and managed to kill a Squig, scoring big from a combination of objectives that led into Combination Strikes. I managed to win the game 16- 12, that was the closest game I had had all tournament where I had won boards and I realised that Rich didn’t just get lucky with Rebound in game 1, his deck was actually really good now and he knew how to play against my tricks.
Game 3 Richard won boards. He managed to crit defend an early Mollog Haymaker attack in turn 1 but I won priority in turn 2 and went first to instantly kill a fighter. Riptooth had already killed a squig and Rich focused his efforts on killing my low wound squigs while ignoring Mollog, a very solid gameplan especially considering I had aggressive defence in hand. By the start of turn 3 every fighter apart from Riptooth was dead on the Fiends side but Rich was ahead by about 7 glory. I had not managed to get Tome of Offerings out so my scoring from all this fighting was pretty minimal. I needed to have a big turn 3 to win the game. Activation 1 I charged Riptooth with a Potion of Rage/Foul Temper attack and … he crit defended. I had made the setup perfectly as well, using distraction to push Riptooth next to an objective token so that after the kill I could use Tome of Glories for an extra glory. In response I think Rich drew a power card? Riptooth couldn’t escape Mollog and he had killed all the squigs, he was being very clever and not letting me use my aggressive defence. I attacked Riptooth again this time just with Foul Temper and … he crit defended. I made a charge on turn 3 so that Riptooth was trapped by my attack and … he crit defended. I should note that I had Tome of Offerings on for this turn. I managed to score some objectives at the end but Rich’s early lead pulled through and he took the round 2 -1.
Afterwards we had worked out that if either of those first 2 attacks had hit then we would of tied on glory and I would have won on the tiebreaker for wiping a warband out. I was feeling super salty but Rich is an absolute stand up bloke and he had played a pretty much perfect game. He bought me a pint after, what a gent.
Take aways form this match:
- I hate rebound. So Much. It had only gone off once over the 3 games which is statistically completely average but that one time it solo won a game. It just feels horrible when it works against you. I know we are playing a game involving RNG from attack dice and card draws but for my money Rebound is too much variance within the game, it’s literally a 1/3 to win a game.
- Trying to be objective about it I could have still won the games where I lost boards, they were tight and luck went against me but there was a lot of play in them.
- Trying to play defensively against high speed threat’s like Riptooth just doesn’t work when I lose boards, I had built enough aggro into the deck that I could play around this but it is frustrating that my main game plan relied on a 50/50 roll.
Game 4 vs Farstriders
My skills at reusing images knows no bounds.
Unfortunately I have once again forgotten the name of my opponent, for the purpose of this section I shall call him the Relic Master. The reason for this odd choice of name is that the deck was running the full set of Katophrane Relics, a scary prospect indeed. My memory of these games is at its worst because I had started drinking after my loss to Rich, I think by the end of this round I had had 3 pints?
Game 1 I won boards. I chocked Relic Master out and did the thing I expected to do.
Game 2 I lost boards. Relic Master was playing quite aggressively for a relic deck, something I was not expecting, once I saw the Relic’s start to go on one specific fighter I went all out to kill that target. Unfortunately inspired Farstriders are hard to kill and Mollog’s big club simply bounced off the armour, Mollog died before the Relic bearer and the Relic Master managed to win the game. One thing I noticed though was that he didn’t end up equipping all 6 relics in game 2, he didn’t get the stupid amount of glory you can expect for a Relic deck going off because well… he didn’t go off. If I had taken a kill and then played more defensively I could have probably won game 2
Game 3, Relic Master won boards. This game Mollog got off to a great start and killed 2 of the Stormcast very quickly. Unfortunately this activated Relic Master’s trap card and he scored Sigmar’s Finest and Dauntless. I managed to win a key roll off to go first on turn 3 and then killed the relic bearer with a Potion of Rage attack against an uninspired stormcast who could re roll his defence dice due to the relics. I got a bit lucky there. If the Relic Master had gone first he had enough relics to start pressing the win button and I probably would have lost. It was a very clever deck and I only learnt the trick in the last game but the dice gods carried me through.
At this point despite being salty about round 3 I really couldn’t be annoyed by my luck overall. All the rounds that I had won involved some pretty nice swings of luck my way.
Takeaways from this match:
- Relics exist and can be played in unexpected ways. I have already harped on about relics being viable to enough people, it’s worth mentioning that the event ruled that Spoils of Battle can indeed be used to play out a Katophrane Relic for free and the event had the lead game designer attending.
- It was nice to finally be able to drink some beer.
Final Thoughts on the deck and the day
As I mentioned in part 1 I ended up with a top 16 finish. Unfortunately I don’t know my exact place because they have not released a final standings document anywhere, I think that I was 12th but it’s a bit of a guess. I said in part 1 that this was my best solo grand clash finish, that wasn’t strictly true. I had come 9th at Blood and Glory last year but that tournament had around 40 players, this had around 90-100. Overall I consider this to be the better result.
The meta for the tournament was very interesting, we had 4 undefeated players at the end of the day, 2 Cursebreakers (one of which was Dan Smeadly form Ready for Action), 1 Thundrick Profiteer (piloted by non other then Aman from Hexesandwarbands) and 1 Ylthari’s Guardians. The Cursebreakers won the event in a final against Aman, I am looking forward to his article on how those games went. I think all 3 of those factions mentioned have potential to be at the top of the game right now. Mollog still seems strong, he can kill Stormcast eternals very well but he has a bad matchup into Thundrick’s and needs reasonable luck on the dice or he falls apart. Fiend’s are still solid but they might be losing their ground a bit, Profiteer’s might be able to out stat them and Guardian’s can pick fights against them better.
There were other people playing relics at the event, I saw at least one Thundrick relic deck piloted by a guy who shares the same first name as me, the 2nd place finisher from Blood and Glory last year. I would be interested to hear from him how he felt his deck performed, I believe he went 3-1. I didn’t see any other ‘Tome’ decks besides my own but I only had a narrow perspective on the event, that doesn’t mean no one else played them.
I realise that I have gotten all the way to the end of the article and not talked about the details of how the deck actually scores its passive glory. Tome of Glories has been mentioned and I have talked about self-scoring Martyred/Calculated Risk with the Spite Shroom but I have been reasonably light on the details. Honestly it would make a fairly boring read to go into all the different branching paths of decisions you have to make to optimise the defensive play, if you are interested the best advice I can give you is to literally build the deck and play out solo games, see how to handle difficult draws like Escalation + Acolyte on a first turn. One of the games I played at the event I had to do over a 5 upgrade hand that contained 2 tomes, that was a tough situation.
There is another UK Grand clash this month and I have to think hard about whether to take this deck again. If I knew I would be winning board roll offs every time then it would be an easy decision but that is certainly not something I can rely on. Maybe simply swapping No Time for another ploy card will give me enough extra edge to take it? Whatever I take it needs to be good against Cursebreakers and Tundrick’s Profiteers, I saw a lot of them on the top tables and I want to be ready.
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