Freya still has a lot to learn when it comes to ‘Photoshop skills’, one day she will be as good as me 😉 – Mike
Last weekend saw the first 2 day Grand Clash at Warhammer World, where 82 players (including most of the Steel City team) competed to try and make the top 16 cut for day 2. We’re working on a couple of joint articles covering our experiences at the event, but while Mike tries bravely to get 5 people to contribute on time (seriously its like herding a bunch of cats – Mike) I thought I’d put something out quickly to tide y’all over until then.
One of the benefits of the event being run using the BCP app is that there’s a lot more access to data than would normally be the case for an Underworlds event. Players have access to decklists after the event has ended, so there’s a great opportunity to have an in-depth look at the meta at all levels, not just the top few decks.
In this article I’ll try to do just that, however before we get started there’s a few caveats about the data that follows, just so we’re all on the same page.
Firstly, this is a single event with 82 players, so the sample size is tiny. None of the following analysis is anywhere near statistically significant, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt (fortunately salt is not in short supply in Underworlds…). This is just a children’s card (and miniatures) game and not serious data science, so treat the stats accordingly.
Secondly, over a third of players didn’t register a decklist through the BCP app, including a few of the top 16. This seems kind of bad to me? I’m sure the organizers had a record of their deck outside of the app, but it does make analyzing the meta a bit more difficult. This is why all the percentages are out of 52 and not 82 – that’s how many decklists I’ve got to work with.
Finally, I’m not going to go into too much detail on stats here as that’s kind of WiggleHammer‘s shtick and I don’t want to step on their toes. If you’re hungry for more stats (and who could blame you?) then they’ve already got a detailed analysis of the results from Day 1 and Day 2 of the event on their site – go and check it out (but then come back and keep reading this article, please…).
With that out of the way, lets get on with looking at some data…
One of the biggest changes to deck-building in Warhammer Underworlds has been the introduction of the Banned and Restricted List towards the end of last year. This list contains some of the most powerful universal cards in the game, as well as a few others that seem to have been picked by throwing darts at a board.
With the data from the Grand Clash, we can see how these cards are used in actual play – which are the most popular, and which are just not worth spending one of your 5 valuable restricted slots on?
Top 5 Most Popular Restricted Cards
In first place, we have Escalation with a massive 94% of decks running it. This is unsurprising given the strength of this card in light of how many easy ways there are to score glory and equip upgrades during the activation phase. Because your opponent’s likely to be running it as well you can even let them do all the work and equalize when they score it themselves.
In second place is Ready For Action, the best extra action card now that Time Trap is no longer legal, winning out over My Turn due to its broader appeal to a wider range of decks. 87% of players were ready for some action with this card in their deck.
In joint third is another pair of powerful objectives in Change of Tactics and Superior Tactician – each was run by almost half of the players in the event. Both of these are fantastic cards but tend not to fit in every deck, so this makes a lot of sense. The popularity of Acolyte of the Katophranes in particular probably affected how many people ran Superior Tactician, as these objectives both have very similar roles in a deck and you don’t want both.
In fifth is Tome of Offerings – a fantastic way to get your opponent’s fighters to offer up some extra glory. Even in decks that weren’t running Acolyte or any other tomes this was a popular choice, with 42% of players bringing along some light reading in the form of this powerful book.
Least Popular Restricted Cards
Almost every restricted card appeared in at least 1 deck, with a few exceptions. Unsurprisingly, no one registered a decklist with Loner or Perfect Planning. These just aren’t very good objectives for the vast majority of decks, and now that they compete with some of the best cards in the game you are never going to see them played. I still think they shouldn’t be restricted.
Similarly, Incredible Strength didn’t make an appearance in any decks – it turns out that just being ‘Great’ is good enough for most people. Between Great Strength (62% of decks), Gloryseeker (60%), and warband-specific cards there’s really no need to spend a restricted slot on this particular damage boost.
The final unplayed restricted card was Helpful Whispers. Again, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise – Awakened Weapon has always been the more popular restricted accuracy boost (although only a couple of decks ran it here), and there are now a ton of unrestricted ways of making sure your key attacks hit (literally, in Fjul’s case).
Finally, here’s the full list of how many people played each restricted card.
|Ready for Action||45||86.54%|
|Change of Tactics||24||46.15%|
|Tome of Offerings||22||42.31%|
|Alone in the Darkness||7||13.46%|
|Precise Use of Force||3||5.77%|
|Twist the Knife||3||5.77%|
|A Destiny to Meet||1||1.92%|
Popular Universal Cards
So, what about cards that aren’t (currently) on the restricted list? I’m sure everyone can anecdotally name a few cards that they feel (rightly or wrongly) are overplayed, but what are people actually playing in the current meta? Lets have a look…
Top 5 Non-Restricted Objectives
Predictably, Calculated Risk was the most popular non-restricted Objective, with 65% of decks running it. For most people, getting a glory for a single move action and 1 damage was a pretty easy calculation to make.
Combination Strike comes in at second place with 42% of decks. With so many easy to score immediate objectives, a lot of people chose this option to enhance their glory gains – often adding Victory after Victory (33%) as well.
What Armour? is also tied with Combination Strike at 42%, again a sensible decision when most of the popular warbands have easy access to Cleave attacks.
In 4th place is Master of War, included in 37% of decks. Like Combination Strike this is a way to get extra glory out of immediate objectives and various power cards that you were probably going to play anyway.
Finally, we have Keep them Guessing – ironically one of the most predictable objectives at 33%. With other 2 glory passive objectives restricted, this has become a popular choice for warbands that can make use of it – usually those with both fighter card actions and the movement or range to make charges more likely.
Top 5 Non-Restricted Gambits
Hidden Paths comes in first for gambits, appearing in almost 58% of decklists – maybe these paths aren’t so hidden after all… I’m pretty sure everyone expected this – it’s a great card that does a lot to help aggressive decks fight back against defensive or objective strategies, and isn’t dead in the mirror either.
The second most popular gambit is actually a spell – Sphere of Aqshy, in 40% of decks. 1 extra damage at range 4 that works nicely with a lot of the spellcasting warbands’ objectives is an attractive package, and it’s easy to cast as well.
In joint third is everyone’s favorite card, Rebound, tied with Spectral wings at 39% of decks. Rebound obviously needs no explanation, going by the amount of people that complain about it, and Spectral Wings is another way of helping close the distance with defensive warbands and pull off surprising charges.
Finally we have Last Chance in 5th place. With how easy it is to one-shot fighters these days, especially in dodge warbands, it’s no surprise that 37% of players took a chance on this card.
Top 5 Non-Restricted Upgrades
In the other half of the power deck, first place goes to Potion of Rage which appears in 71% of decks. It’s a reaction, if your warband cares about that (and an upgrade if you’re a Darkoath fan) and helps you land attacks and get crits.
Faneway Crystal is in second at 67%, continuing the trend of mobility options being popular universal cards. Despite the restrictions on its use, this has remained a solid choice since it was released and it looks like almost everyone agrees.
Third place goes to Great Strength, with 62% of people choosing to get swole. It’s a fine workhorse of a card, and important for killing Mollog, Stormsire, and the other popular 4+ health fighters.
Fourth is also a damage boost, with Gloryseeker making an appearance in 60% of decks. It’s slightly more restrictive than Great Strength, but the downside doesn’t matter against a lot of the field.
Finally, we have Well of Power, brought along in 37% of decks to boost their spellcasting. Good for spell attacks and focus spells, but I prefer the certainty of innate channel and Tome of Incantations personally.
Popular Warband Cards
Moving on, lets have a look at the most popular warband-specific cards. We got confirmation at the event that there are no plans to restrict these cards, as they’re a core part of each warband’s identity. If something’s popular here then expect to keep seeing it every time you play against that warband.
I’m only going to be looking at warbands that I have 5 or more decklists for here, as any lower and we’re getting out of ‘popular cards for this warband’ territory and into ‘popular cards for this player’, and I’m also only going to cover the top 3 card. In what I’m sure will come as a huge surprise, these are only Nightvault warbands.
Stormsire’s Cursebreakers (11 decklists)
100% of Cursebreaker decks ran Harness the Storm and 90% ran Magical Supremacy. These are both really strong objectives, with Harness the Storm probably being one of the 2 best in the game (alongside Treacherous Foe).
Joint third place goes to Hand of Sigmar and Tempest’s Might, with 9 out of 11 decks running each. This shows a preference for more aggressive Cursebreakers lists in the meta (I didn’t run either in mine), which is certainly not an indefensible position.
As a side note I’m sad to see only 6/11 (~55%) of Cursebreakers ran Cry of Thunder. People have no taste…
Thorns of the Briar Queen (5 decklists)
Three cards were in joint first place for the Nighthaunt warband, with 100% of decks including Sudden Appearance, Endless Malice, and Treacherous Foe. Illusory Fighter is very popular despite being restricted (12% of decks overall took it) so a better version that isn’t on the restricted list is a no-brainer. As mentioned above Treacherous Foe is one of the best objectives in the game, and Endless Malice combos with it while also making you more likely to hit when you need to.
4 of the 5 (80%) decklists were running Inescapable Vengeance, a great upgrade that allows the Briar Queen to threaten most of the board with ease, and 3 of 5 (60%) took Drifting Advance to help get their Chainrasps into position to score objectives.
Mollog’s Mob (7 decklists)
There seems to be less consensus on the good warband cards for Mollog’s Mob, probably because there’s 2 distinct builds for the warband – aggro or defensive/tomes. Even so, 1 card was played by 100% of decks – Foul Temper. An unrestricted awakened weapon that gives the big troggoth some much needed accuracy is obviously tempting no matter what archetype you’re playing.
After that, Predatory Growls and Blooming Spores were each taken by just over half of the Mollog lists (57% each). That suggests that having one or the other of these cards is probably a good indicator of what type of Mollog list you’re up against – if you see one or the other when your opponent does over their starting hand then you can adjust your plan accordingly.
Finally there’s a smattering of cards with 1 copy each – clearly Mollog’s strength is in the fighter card and how it interacts with some of the universal cards, not the warband’s ploys and objectives.
The Godsworn Hunt (6 decklists)
100% of Godsworn decks ran Path to Glory – unsurprising for a powerful upgrade in a warband that revolves around upgrading it’s fighters. Getting what’s basically 2 upgrades in 1 card as long as you’ve already put another upgrade on the fighter is a great deal.
What is surprising is that only 5 of 6 players were running Worthy Kill (perhaps the 6th didn’t have Power Unbound yet?). This really is a worthy objective when the key fighters in a lot of popular warbands have 4+ wounds and you can get 2 extra glory for killing them.
Outside of these worthy and glorious options, none of the other Godsworn warband cards were very popular, with only Dark Destiny making an appearance in more than 1 deck (2 decks or 33%).
Thundrick’s Profiteers (5 decklists)
Headshot was number one with a bullet for the Kharadron warband, with 100% of decks running it. With the sheer number of ranged attack dice the Profiteers can throw around, scoring this is much easier than it seems on paper.
4 cards were tied for second place at 80% of decks – Ancestral Fortitude, Rapid Reload, Seek the Skyvessel, and Toxic Gasses. Of the 2 upgrades, the former is fairly uninspiring but appreciated as a second Great Fortitude, while the latter is a good way to help score Headshot (as well as Keep them Guessing and a number of other objectives).
The 2 power cards are both very strong – Toxic Gases as a way of forcing your opponent to make a bad decision (use it near lethal hexes for a guaranteed damage), and Seek the Skyvessel for some much-needed mobility (and again, assistance scoring Keep them Guessing). These are both quality cards, and including them is definitely a good choice.
Ylthari’s Guardians (8 decklists)
For the Sylvaneth warband the winners were a pair of powerful immediate objectives – Lithe Spirits and Song of Hatred – with 100% of decks running each. As slightly weaker versions of 2 of the best objectives in the game, these are one of the Guardians’ strengths.
In second place at 88% of decks are Reclaim the Lamentiri (one of the few objective token cards making an appearance outside Nighthaunt decks) and Leech Power. There’s an obvious synergy between these cards (and Scorched Earth, another popular choice) so its unsurprising that they were frequently played.
Finally, half of the Guardians players brought Healing Amphora as a second copy of Healing Potion (all decks with Amphora ran both) to inspire their fighters and help them survive ping damage from gambit spells.
Edit: I missed Strike Swiftly, another immediate objective that appeared in 6 of 8 of the Sylvaneth decklists and the actual third place card. This seems like a risky choice as the Guardians need to do a lot more work to set up charge kills than many other warbands, given that none of their fighters have a natural damage characteristic of more than 2.
Hopefully this has been an interesting look at the current state of the meta at the last Grand Clash (or at least as interesting as stats ever are). I’ve deliberately only done fairly basic analysis here as I didn’t have the time to do anything more in depth, though.
There’s a lot more analysis that could be done with this data, although remember that the sample size means that it’s not going to be statistically significant – we need a lot more lists from a lot more events. Here’s a few questions I didn’t have the time to look at, but that would be interesting to know the answer to:
How many tomes do Acolyte decks play on average, and is a higher or lower number correlated with better placings?
How many immediate objectives do people play on average with Combination Strike and Victory after Victory, and is a higher or lower number correlated with better placings?
What cards are correlated with better or worse performance than average for a warband or archetype (e.g. Upper Hand for Mollog – almost all of the highest placing decks used it)?
If you’d like to have a look at the data and maybe do some analysis of your own (or just get the decklists), I’ve uploaded it to our Google Drive here so you can have a look (apologies in advance – I didn’t finish adding warband tags to the cards beyond the ones I looked at above). We’ll be back soon with our main tournament report – until then good luck and have fun!
Edit: the first version of the spreadsheet mixed up the standings of the 12th to 16th place players – sorry about that! No offense was intended, and I’ve updated it now to correct my mistake.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org