Dreadfane has been released (well kind of) and with it are two new Warbands that can be used with the main Warhammer Underworlds game so we thought we would give them both a review. This article is going to be a review of the Ironsoul’s Condemners, the new Stormcast Eternals, by none other than the Troll Commander himself, Mike Carlin. The other review will be written by Freya as she has in her own words ‘Played enough Stormcast for a lifetime’. Both reviews will be looking at the warbands from a competitive point of view and we will be putting our theories to the test in a third article which will pit both warbands against each other and determine objectively which one is better, or possibly who is the better player, or most likely nothing at all and just have fun.
As Dreadfane has its own set of rules that differ from the currently used set, Nightvault, we are going to be both reviewing and playing with the new rules and assuming that they will carry over to the release of Beastgrave, with the exception of 2 glory per kill as it seems reasonable that Games Workshop wouldn’t do that to poor Gitz players. We are also going to assume that all Shadespire and Nightvault cards will be valid for Beastgrave as Games Workshop hasn’t announced anything to the contrary yet.
So the context for these articles is a magical place where all our guesses have proved correct and when Beastgrave launches this content will be useful to anyone interested in these warbands. For anyone thinking of using these warbands right now you will have to contact tournament organisers on a case by case basis as Dreadfane isn’t easy for a lot of people to get hold of and the current clash with Nightvault rules could cause issues.
All of the Condemners follow the standard Stormcast template with 4 wounds, 3 move, 1 block defence that inspires to 2 block, so I’m going to focus on the factors that do differentiate the fighters while comparing them to previous offerings.
Uninspired Gwyne is basically Angharod from Steelheart’s champions, except she is the defacto leader of her respective warband. Honestly when playing as Steelheart’s I found Angharrod to be my most useful fighter, the extra accuracy of a 3 smash attack over 2 makes a big difference and becomes an attack you can rely on instead of just a 50/50 roll in the dark. Only dealing 2 damage on her attack is frustrating vs certain warbands but absolutely fine vs others, how useful you find Gwyne will depend on the matchup.
Ironsoul Inspired gains stats in exactly the place you would want it, namely an extra damage on her attack. A 3 smash 3 damage attack is a very strong statline and the knockback tricks she has at her disposal mean you can potentially kill 4 wound fighters using lethal hexes without needing support from your deck.
‘Bro’ is an early game threat and your only fighter who uninspired can deal 3 damage. Once again this is paired with knockback so lethal hexes are looking like something strong to be abused by the condemners. Blightbane inspired is where it’s really at though as he gains a ton of useful stats. The first and most subtle is the increase in movespeed from the Stormcast average of 3 to a tasty 4. Having a fighter with 4 movespeed in a warband means you can potentially run Cover Ground and use Spectral Wings as one of your triggers. The really exciting inspired improvement is a new attack with 2 smash, 2 damage, cleaving and scything. We all know how strong cleave is as a mechanic but scything is a new one for Dreadfane, its essentially Mighty Swing on a stick as it allows you to attack all adjacent enemy fighters, this is a very powerful trick to pull against larger warbands. When using attacks like this it’s worth bearing in mind that effects like Haymaker and Fuelled by Fury only apply to the first individual attack and not the whole lot, whereas upgrades like Light Armour work for all of them. Did I mention that his inspired ‘main’ attack also gains Cleave and goes from Knockback 1 to Knockback 2? Those are some seriously tasty keywords.
‘Bro’ is probably your first choice to inspire in this warband if you have such a choice.
Tavian of Sarnassus
Uninspired Tavian appears very similar to Gwyne, the only difference being an alternative attack that has much worse stats but sports the knockback keyword. Inspired Tavian does not gain the extra damage that Gwnye enjoys on the main attack – instead the knockback attack gains a damage to put it nearly on par with the main attack, it goes up to knockback 2 and it gains the ability to follow the target into the hex of the drive back. In some situations this could prove very handy as a way of push Tavian around without having to actually use move or charger tokens but remember the target of the attack has to survive the initial damage in order for you to drive them back.
‘This fighters attack roll or defence roll contains one or more crits’ – well that’s an interesting one. While you might occasionally inspire with a defence dice the most likely method is through attacking your opponents. Both Tavian and Gwyne have a 38% chance to inspire on every attack they make while Bro suffers from a measly 27%, which is a good balance choice as he gains the most from inspiring. The obvious way to rig these odds is through power cards that grant extra dice or rerolls on attacks, so Haymaker/Potion of Rage/Fuelled by Fury are all prime candidates here, those cards have the added benefit of making your attacks very reliable so it’s only a very mild deckbuilding cost to include them. Generally the condemners gain a fair bit from inspiring so I’d say it’s worth paying that cost, however cards like Inspiration Strikes and Blazing Soul might be a bit of a stretch as they don’t have any other purpose. Obviously be weary of using Haymaker too early in a turn, inspiring up to 2 block isn’t as useful when you can’t roll defence dice for the rest of the round.
The one keyword that every fighter in this warband has access to(although Gwyne has to inspire) is the often tricky knockback. Knockback allows you to control the battlefield and to use lethal hexes in unexpected ways. Honestly I’m generally not too fond of knockback as a mechanic, it suffers from the problem of your fighters having to deliberately not kill their target in order to push them further? Yes lethal hexes are a thing but good players can position in a way to deny their use, meaning all you are doing is punting someone a small distance before they charge you right back. Get Thee Hence is great for Thundricks because you have a ranged fighter who is super accurate and deals only 1 damage to trigger it, and by scoring the objective you can inspire another fighter. For 3 fighter warbands can you really afford to waste activations on attacks that won’t kill?
Instead of reviewing every single card available to the Condemners I’m going to highlight the cards that I think are competitive or interesting that people might want to build decks around. I’m also going to forgo our usual star ratings here as I don’t think it applies as well to Warband specific cards.
Two glory for an end phase card is juicy treat to aim towards, as anyone playing Keep them Guessing will tell you and the conditions on this card seem reasonably reliable, have two surviving fighters and have them be inspired. If you take Aetheric Mastery then you probably prioritise cards that help you inspire, like the ones mentioned above, only playtesting will show if those effects will be enough on their own or if you will need crutches like Inspiration Strikes/Blazing Soul. Personally I don’t feel like this objective is quite good enough to justify the latter cards.
A strictly better in faction version of Get Thee Hence. Forceful Banishment really seems to push the knockback focus of the Condemnors. I’d love to see the design space for knockback explored in Beastgrave, maybe a reaction that deals 1 damage per hex a fighter is pushed back after the first? Right now I’m on the fence with this one, it’s close enough to be good that any future support from other cards will push it into the great territory.
The more I look at this card the more I like it. Three successful attacks in one phase is a tough call, even making three separate attacks can be hard if you have even one fighter dead. However this synergises with our inspire condition, wanting to roll lots of attack dice makes our attacks more likely to succeed, and the scything mechanic on Tavian Inspired. Two glory on a score immediately is also a big pay out so it’s worth aiming your deck resourced in this direction if you can pull it off.
A solid objective that encourages aggressive play. Another card that requires you to have two fighters alive, having too many of these in your deck and you will fall apart after a loss or two early in the game. Only one glory for an end phase card is the bare minimum payment. Synergises well with Swift Advance and Conquest.
Strength in Unity
Talking about objectives that require two fighters to be alive, Strength in Unity pretty much only requires this. The other requirement on the card seems printed to ensure players are using their fighters for activations instead of drawing power cards or cycling objectives, so not the best card for defensive/control play but great for anything else as it’s so reliable.
EDIT – I have probably read this card wrong, see a comment by pwcooper down below.
A nice consistency card that allows you to take slightly more risky objectives without needing to spend activations cycling them. Also the first gambit card in the game that lets you draw a power card without any other restrictions, for that reason alone this card is very powerful as it allows you to create effectively 19 card power decks.
A copy of Distraction, which is easily one of the best ploys in the game. Having two of this effect gives you solid game into hold objective decks and gives you a lot of tricks in the power step. Do not underestimate how good this is.
A specific extra attack action, more design space that I am sure we will see spread to Beastgrave. It’s an out of sequence chance to Inspire, another way to get one damage or just a way to knock back an opponent who has suddenly Hidden Pathed next to you. It also synergises with any upgrades you have that modify attack actions like Great Strength/Gloryseeker. I think this card is very competitive and I tip my hat to whoever designed such an interesting mechanic.
Pick either ability that lets you almost entirely ignore your opponents defence dice for the next activation. Yes please. For those not aware of Dreadfane keywords, Ensnare lets you ignore dodge results on defence dice.
A friendly two push card with the restriction that your fighters have to start adjacent. I don’t quite think this one is reliable enough to make work but I’d love to be proven wrong. A two hex push is nothing to sneeze at so if you can pull it off often enough then the effect is absolutely worth it.
Aetherically charged Shield
A warband specific version of Trusted Defender. That card is often used and its best on fighters who have 2 block for defence so I can see this being run, the fact that you can run cards like Trusted Defender alongside this also really helps build around the strategy of unkillable warriers. Heck with the objectives we have that require two fighters to be alive we have a lot of incentive to make sure they don’t die.
Aetherically Charged Weapon
A more balanced but more importantly not restricted version of Awakened Weapon. This fits our plan on how to inspire fighters and helps us make three successful attacks in a turn for Martial Prowess. It’s also just a really good card on its own. Every Ironsouls player should seriously consider taking this upgrade.
The alternative route to making your fighters unkillable is to pile enough wounds on them that your enemy simply can’t whittle them down. A generic extra wound card with no downsides is a nice option to have but its not going to blow anyone’s mind.
A one shot kill to the vast majority of fighters in the game that comes with a high accuracy of 3 smash and inbuilt cleave meaning it has high odds of hitting just about any fighter as well. The balance for all these high stats is that the upgrade has to be discarded after it is used for one attack. This card is utterly amazing if you can equip it in turn 1 but loses strength over the course of the game. I think you probably always take it but cards like Great Strength/Glory Seeker do almost the same job on the Inspired version of the fighters and don’t discard after use.
Reducing damage taken by 1 is a strong effect and goes well with extra wound stacking. It seems you will have plenty of options to turn the Condemners into tanks, extra fun if you also take the defence dice re roll cards and have practically immortal fighters.
Soul Hardened Shield
Guard tokens have been given a bit of an upgrade for Dreadfane as they now stop your opponent from driving you back. Getting one for free on every action is pretty powerful but remember you lose a guard token after a charge, so it’s only really good for moves or normal attacks. Yet another way to make your fighter incredibly hard to hit.
Overall thoughts on the Warband
I’ve tried to avoid making too many comparisons to Steelheart’s in this article but at this point I have to deal with the Mollog in the room, Ironsoul’s feel like Steelheart’s version 2. Yes there are differences here and there but most of them are improvements over the Shadespire Warband. The only real way that Steelheart’s can outperform Ironsoul’s is with the full defensive/control build (as they have some solid objectives to support it) but honestly that playstyle is exceptionally hard to pull off in a world of Mollog’s and Guardians.
The two different ways to play Ironsouls are going to be either full aggro or aggro flex, for my money aggro flex is the way to go as 3 fighter warbands can suffer in a war of full on attrition. The amount of Knockback tricks that this warband has means they can potentially gain a lot of power in the future through cards that interact with the keyword. Right now I think they are solidly in the B tier of warbands – a couple of rungs below the top but able to take games off anyone.
The Steel City Condemnors
This is the deck that will destroy Lady Freya’s Mournflight
Did I say knockback was bad? Did I say that I’d rather just kill a fighter then knock them back? Well enter Lethal Ward and Encroaching Shadow, two ploys that deal a point of damage depending on where the enemy is positioned, seems like a good way to finish off a fighter that has been knocked around. This deck is designed around positioning enemy fighters with either knockback or the double Distraction cards which also double up as hold objective disrupters or helpful hands to get you into charge range.
The general game plan for this deck is to charge headlong into your opponents territory and either score knockback based objectives or to just plain kill the enemy fighters. I then stack the defensive upgrades and try to make it impossible for my fighters to die in a counterattack. Talking about defensive upgrades, I have a Mollog’s worth of wounds in my upgrades plus the ability to reduce damage taken by one. So yeah, these guys can get hard to kill.
Of course no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, check back for the battle between myself and Freya to see how the deck fairs (I promise we will write the article soon).
Tom is off for 3 months, skiving his duties of writing for the blog in Thailand. He is sending us the odd postcard back, so for anyone missing our resident Godsworn expert (without a Godsworn Trophy) here is a picture of his sexy body:
In this image Tom appears to be puzzling just how many wounds the fighter next to him has…
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