Hot on the heels of Mike’s review of Warhammer Underworlds’ hugely exciting fourth (!) Stormcast warband, here’s the official Steel City overview of the other half of the Dreadfane box (for a given definition of “hot on the heels of”, anyway…).
Dreadfane sees our third Death warband (and second Nighhaunt one) with the introduction of Lady Harrow’s Mournflight – a group of vengeful Myrmourn Banshees.
These are definitely the most appealing of the two warbands in the new intro game aesthetically (Stormcast are so last season) with some fantastic models in the new Nighthaunt style. Lets have a look at whether their game stats measure up…
All four banshees start with 4 move and 2 dodge dice and inspire to 5 move. That’s pretty decent reach and survivability, especially combined with the ability to move through blocked and occupied hexes.
They’re fairly low accuracy, with all of their attacks using Fury and most having only 2 dice before inspiring. All of them gain damage or accuracy when inspired, though, which makes up for it quite a lot.
Four fighters is also a nice number – you’ll generally be able to profitably use all of your activations and your fighters, and you’ve got more leeway to try objective token strategies that three model warbands. You lose the likelihood to go first against a couple of popular warbands (Cursebreakers, Mollog) but gain it against the increasingly common horde warbands which probably balances it out.
Nighthaunt Passive Ability
This fighter treats lethal hexes as normal hexes and can move through blocked and occupied hexes, but cannot end their move in a blocked or occupied hex.
This is pretty much unchanged from the Thorns of the Briar Queen with the exception of some updated templating. It’s mostly upside, giving you some extra flexibility when moving in to attack (or running away) – not a huge benefit, but it’s nice to have.
There’s one big downside though – you can’t use Calculated Risk. While this does free up a restricted slot, it also cuts you off from one of the best passive surge objectives in the game and one that would otherwise work pretty well with some of the warbands other objectives.
This fighter moved through a hex occupied by an enemy fighter in this activation.
The Mournflight fighters get a lot out of being inspired, so it’s not really surprising that their Inspire trigger is a bit tricky to work with. Actually pulling off the condition is fine – against all but the most defensive opponents you should have no problem reaching your opponent’s fighters in order to do it.
The problem is what happens afterwards – your fighter has moved and is now (presumably) close to an enemy ready to be counter-attacked, and you don’t even get to make use of your newly inspired profile during your attack if you inspired from a charge.
This is going to require some getting used to and some clever play to really get the most of – hopefully Beastgrave will introduce some more ways to make out of activation move actions so that the Mournflight can start to benefit from their powerful inspired statlines without putting themselves at risk (or you could just use inspiration ploys…).
Similar Models that are Easy to Confuse
Shut up, this is totally a mechanic. 😛
One of the only things I don’t like about this warband is how similar the 4 (admittedly, very nice) models are. This is fine for the generic Age of Sigmar unit they were originally created for, but a bit confusing in Underworlds where they all have very distinct stats.
For players like a certain member of our team who has historically found it hard to distinguish between Eagle-Eye (he’s got an axe…) and Swiftblade (he’s got a sword…), this is definitely going to cause some confusion and lead to awkward situations in games.
Starting at 4 health alongside your warband’s standard 2 dodge makes for a decently durable leader, and at 3 Fury she’s also the most accurate of the Mournflight banshees.
After inspiring her attack gets an extra damage and gains cleave, making it good for taking out Stormcast and other high health Block defence fighters. Her inspired reaction ability is cool as well, giving her a free push whenever an enemy fighter attacks one of the other Mournflight.
The Anguished One
3 wounds and a 2 Fury, 2 damage attack is perfectly serviceable for this fighter’s uninspired side, and going up to 4 wounds and 3 Fury when inspired is a pretty nice upgrade. She also gets the unprecedented ability to ignore crits on defense rolls with her attack when inspired, which is a bigger bonus than it might seem.
The Screaming Maiden
The Screaming Maiden is identical to the Anguished One while uninspired – a perfectly serviceable fighter. Instead of gaining the ability to ignore crits, she instead gets an extra attack die (going to a very respectable 4) and a built-in effect similar to Concealed Weapon. These obviously work together pretty well, with the high number of attack dice increasing the chances of getting crits to trigger the special ability (38.58% chance of getting at least one, in case you were wondering).
Uninspired, the Widow is the lowest health of the four banshees, although like the Anguished One she gains one health on inspiring. She also gets a very useful action that lets her teleport to any hex on the battlefield for the cost of a move token. This works well with a bunch of different strategies, from objective token control to Keep Them Guessing.
The Widow’s other strength is that she has 3 damage on both sides of her fighter card, making her a good target for buffing to go take down opposing fighters.
Both Dreadfane warbands come out of the box with a full Objective and Power deck of warband-specific cards, with no Universal cards in sight. Just at a glance, you can tell these are a lot stronger than many of the warband cards we’ve seen before – hopefully this continues on into Beastgrave.
I’ll be rating these cards using the same 5 point scale we’ve used previously that’s in no way ripped off from content producers for other popular card-based games. For reference here’s the scale, with some arbitrary examples for each point (which you may or may not agree with).
- RIP – Cards that were just too good for this world (Great Concussion, Extreme Flank, Quick Thinker)
- 5 – Best in class effects that should go in basically every deck that can take them (Hidden Paths, Calculated Risk, Ready for Action)
- 4 – Powerful or versatile effects that are extremely strong in a particular archetype or pretty good in any deck (Distraction, Faneway Crystal, Escalation)
- 3 – Solid effects that will find a place in many decks (Great Fortitude, Master of War, Sidestep)
- 2 – Limited effects that might be useful in some specialised decks (Earthquake, No Time)
- 1 – Just plain bad cards (Headlong Charge, Our Powers Combined)
A few notes on the current objective metagame before we look at these: currently, most decks are running 6-8 score immediately objectives (now called ‘Surge’ objectives in Dreadfane), backed up with 2 glory end phase objectives like Escalation, Victory After Victory, and so on.
In this meta, only the very best 1 glory end phase objectives are worth running, as they just don’t stack up when compared to a flood of objectives during the action phase followed by a few big scorers or combo cards. The best objectives are instead going to be either passive-ish surge cards, easy 2 glory end phase objectives, or end-game finishers like Superior Tactician.
Getting two glory is decent, but this doesn’t really seem like it’ll fit very nicely in most Mournflight decks – you’ll want to be making surgical strikes to take out opponents, not getting into a scrum.
One glory end phase objectives like this just aren’t worth it anymore. It might be easy to score as long as you keep your fighters alive, but the pay-off just isn’t big enough for how restrictive this is.
Dominion of Death
I’m a big fan of this card. It’s not quite as good as Superior Tactician as an end-game objective, but it’s similar enough to perform the same role and save a restricted slot. In a deck with a lot of easy to score Surge objectives it shouldn’t be too hard to score it most of the time – pro tip: remember that objectives are scored one player at a time, so if you go first in the final round you increase your chances of scoring it.
This is your alternative to Calculated Risk, and with the Mournflight’s high movement and the fact that you’re guaranteed to control the placement of at least 2 objectives it should be about as easy to score. You’ll need to plan around it a bit, but this is a fantastic Surge objective that will work well in pretty much any archetype.
Frozen in Place
I’m kind of mixed on this one. It’s a pretty decent counter to Change of Tactics and Keep Them Guessing, but not great against any warbands that don’t use either of those objectives. Even if your opponent is running one or both of those cards this is terrible if you draw it after they’ve scored them. If the buff to guard tokens from Dreadfane is included in Beastgrave this might be more useful though.
This is a nice end phase objective, assuming that the current wording is correct and won’t be errataed. Needing to have 2 of your fighters alive and any 2 fighters wounded is pretty easy to set up (Shardgale, anyone?) and while you’d probably much rather have enemy fighters dead this is a good fallback.
Another strong Surge objective in the lines of Fleeting Memories – this might be even more like Calculated Risk, as it has the same influence on your choice of boards. With your high movement it shouldn’t be to hard to set up at least one fighter in a place where they can get this on the way in (the Shyishian Stardial’s patented Wizard Hole ™ is nice for this).
Another 1 glory end phase objective and another pass from me. You’ve only got limited space in your objective deck, and this doesn’t make the cut.
Nexus of Terror
This can be an easy 2 glory if your opponent doesn’t care about objectives, but rapidly becomes less good as soon as you come up against Thorns, Gitz, Guardians and the like. With enough push support it can still be decent, though, and your mobility and Surge objectives work pretty well with it.
Similar to the Cursebreakers’ Focal Formation, this is a Surge objective that cares about objective tokens. I actually think this is pretty good, even for more aggressive builds, as you’ll usually be able to set things up to get it incidentally.
This has too many downsides to really be worth it, most of the time. Surge objectives that require attacks are less useful than ones that don’t, and this needs not just 2 attacks on the same fighter but 2 successful attacks. It’s not great against low health warbands too, and becomes less good as the game goes on and your fighters get upgraded and theirs get wounded.
Tide of Malice
I think this one’s actually pretty solid. A double Fired Up for a warband with an easy inspire condition is quite nice, although there’ll be times when you have to really push yourself to score it (e.g. against very defensive decks, or when your fighters are at risk of being taken out).
Call of the Grave
A 2 hex push is very nice and has a lot of applications. You’ll usually only be able to use this to close with your opponent, but because it’s not “the nearest friendly fighter” the moment you’ve got a fighter behind enemy lines you get a lot more flexibility with it.
This is an interesting one – it’s similar to No Time, but only lasts for the duration of the current power step not to the next one. The big upside is that it’s one-sided, so you still get to play your own cards.
To get the most value out of it you’re going to need to predict when it would be most impactful, though, which limits its use unless you’re really really good at reading the board state and the way your opponent’s playing (although there will be some obvious times – for example if they start playing ploys to set up an attack when there’s no-one currently in charge range).
Overall, it’s probably not impactful enough to make it in most decks though.
This is like a less good defensive Upper Hand. It’s fine, but ensnare (cleave for Dodge defense) exists and your opponent will often be stacking a bunch of dice and re-rolls to make sure they hit their attacks.
These re-roll cards are always good in aggressive decks, which is what you’re likely to be. Note that it’s only range 1 attacks though, so its not going to work with Dark Darts or other ranged attack upgrades.
Unless your opponent is playing their last power card, they’re usually going to discard to make sure their key ploy goes off – and when they don’t it’s because the other card is better anyway. Because of that, this just isn’t a big enough effect – I’d rather rely on the coin flip of Foreceful Denial than give my opponent this choice.
Not much to say here. An extra distraction is always great, and does solid work in pretty much any build.
This is a better version of Reflected Injury, and a nice way of doing an extra point of damage to finish off a fighter after your attack (like Ghostly Torment, it’ll work quite well with Shardgale too).
Unlike Sprint you get to activate the fighter again after this, but the extra 2-3 movement over Spectral Wings just isn’t worth not being able to use it in a charge. I don’t really see any compelling reason to run this.
This is a card that only really does anything if you’re behind, which makes it a bad choice for most decks.
Despite having charge in the name, this works on any attack. An extra damage is perfectly serviceable, and gives you an easy unrestricted way of hitting 4 damage turn 1 with the Widow (although you’re not likely to hit…).
This is an interesting card, but costing an activation is going to be too much most of the time and you’re not guaranteed multiple uses. You can maybe take a few tomes or relics off someone, or some other key upgrade, but most of the time you’ll have better uses for your activations.
This would have been a decent defensive upgrade back in Shadespire, when we had a lot fewer ranged attacks – not quite as good as an extra defense dice in most cases but with a few edge cases where it’s more useful. With the ubiquity of magic and range 2-3 attacks these days, this upgrade will struggle to find a home in most decks.
Letting Lady Harrow regenerate whenever an enemy fighter is killed (not just by her) is pretty good, and would work well in a deck using Shardgale to get Ghostly Torment. 4 wounds before and after inspiring is enough that this is meaningful too.
This is a slightly less good version of awakened weapon, but it’s not restricted and is still a strong effect. Your fighters probably won’t be making multiple attacks a turn most of the time anyway, and you get extra synergy for re-rolls from the Screaming Maiden’s special ability and having good access to 3 dice attacks for Branching Fate.
Getting an extra attack die helps trigger the Maiden Inspired’s special ability, and just generally helps to make up for having Fury and not Smash on your dice. Getting the benefit on just one attack each round can have a big impact, and if you can find a way to make some extra attacks after charging (Ready For Action etc) then it becomes even better.
Spending an upgrade slot to give one of your fighters an improved guard action (that doesn’t count as a guard action for Keep Them Guessing) doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.
A pretty unreliable source of extra damage, although it is an upgrade reaction so it bypasses a lot of defences and works with Masterstroke. Probably not worth spending an upgrade slot on, but it is very flavorful.
This a nice attack profile (basically a copy of Lady Harrow’s inspired attack) and only requires one enemy fighter to be out of action to come online. It helps counter your weaker uninspired attacks, and I’d definitely consider taking this an an aggressive deck, especially in a meta with a lot of people playing horde warbands.
+2 move upgrades are always nice, and with a lot of objectives that care about mobility (and no ranged attacks) this works nicely with the Mournflight’s general gameplan.
Veil of Grief
Another warband-specific Great Fortitude. Fine, but not too exciting (especially as everyone now has access to 2 copies with Tome of Vitality and you’ll rarely want to run 3).
Overall, Lady Harrow’s Mournflight look very solid and I can’t wait for them to be legal in UK events. They’ve got good innate fighter stats, supported by a range of powerful cards that should give them the flexibility to develop in a few different directions.
Personally, I think a ‘surgical’ aggro style will work well for them (see Mike’s previous articles for an example of this playstyle), possibly supported by some objective control as a secondary focus. My first thoughts for a deck when seeing the cards was something like this:
Stay tuned to find out how this (or a completely different deck if I change my mind before then) fares against Mike’s Condemnors when we finally get round to doing our Dreadfane battle report at some unspecified future date. Until then, good luck and have fun!
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