I’m too old to get mixed up in this stuff again.
Well well well, it seems someone at GW made a a small mistake and put all of the card’s onto the site before the information was due to go live. Thanks to the rabid fan base that makes up Warhammer Underworlds the data was scrapped of all images and we already know the warband cards for the first two factions, alongside the neutral cards from the core set. The Warhammer Community team responded by sneakily updating their article with the cards themselves, nothing to see here it was all intended.
It must have been a bit of a forehead moment for the team when they saw how the cards had leaked, not from one of the playtesters who had signed an NDA but instead from their own website. Ah well, mistakes happen. I’m honestly just happy to have all the information available. This is our first look at a full Beastgrave warband, Nightvault was honestly an evolution in warband design from Shadespire, where the designers experimented with crazy concepts like a warband focused around a single fighter or at the other end of the spectrum having a 9 fighter warband that still managed to function with only 12 activation’s. I’m very excited to see what they manage to do with Beastgrave, so without further ado, lets jump in.
The big guy, Mr Lightning Bolts.
The leader of the Despoilers screams average. Four wounds is pretty much what you want from a leader, 1 dodge is a little painful but 4 movement is certainly nice. A level one wizard that inspires to a level two seems a little risky to build your deck around, especially with that inspire condition but more on that later. I have a suspicion most people will avoid putting spells into their Despoiler deck with perhaps the exception of some of the more tasty one channel versions, see Sphere of Aqshy or the Abasoth spells. The attack is again, pretty average, 2 damage at range one and 2 smash is nothing to write home about, however you can use one of the funky ritual counters on Grashrak to make the attack more accurate.
Talking about Ritual counters, they are a fantastic resource that let you boost the accuracy of all the fighter’s in your warband. The fact that you gain one every time an enemy fighter dies encourages you to spend them early in order to try snowballing a win.
So overall Grashrak is ok, the fact that he makes all your other fighters more accurate lends him a supporting role to the warband and paints a bit of a target on his back.
So you wannu be a hero kid? Well whoopdy do.
The ‘Saek’ of the Warband. Draknar is your heavy hitter, coming out the gate with a 3 damage attack. Draknar does suffer a little from inaccuracy, 2 smash is a lot to have to rely on however if you want to make sure his attack hits we can use a ritual counter to make it odds on. Three wounds means he dies to most attacks but doesn’t quite fall over to a stiff breeze, how you position Draknar will depend on the objectives you build into your deck but he is definitely your biggest threat and savvy opponents will try to gun for him because of that.
My answer is two words. OK.
The first Hunter of the warband. Right now it’s hard to rate exactly how important the Hunter keyword will be, just like with the inspire condition I’m going to write a separate section about it later, for now suffice to say it acts as a stat multiplier on a fighter, allowing you to play more powerful gambits and possibly upgrades just because they are Hunters.
Statswise Murgoth is a bit meh but nothing to sniff at. Three wounds with the same above average movement it seems all of this warband will be getting. A two damage attack that is reasonably inaccurate until inspired means that Murgoth is either a punt in the dark or another fighter that you spend resources on to ensure the hit. The fact that he is rolling fury instead of smash means that you probably don’t want to use ritual counters on him unless you absolutely have to. So far I am reasonably unimpressed at the stat’s of the fighters but then this is a pretty big warband and you can’t expect too much when you have 6 different fighters to use.
Korsh ‘The Sneak’
Oh this is tasty. Yes the stats on Korsh are trash but that extra action gives the warband so many different tricks and objectives they can score. It makes both Keep them Guessing and Shortcut, two fantastic Nightvault objectives, pretty trivial as well as providing a nice way to grab objective tokens placed on edge hexes in your opponents half. A prime candidate to teleport forwards with Crown of Avarice, giving your opponent a tough choice to make. Being a Hunter as well is just icing on the cake.
Gnarl and Ushkor
But noooooo, I get the greenhorn.
Gnarl and Ushkor are the true danglebro’s of your warband. They are the weak chaff you use to hold objectives or just the ones that you bait your opponents to kill so that they go out of position. Honestly the difference in stats between these two is hardly worth talking about, they inspire to slightly different accurate version of their two attacks. Having inaccurate range 3 attacks does mean that you can comfortably pack Warning Shot into your deck, if you do then Gnarl might be the slightly more valuable one as his ranged attack doesn’t gain any accuracy. If you really want Warning Shot to go off you can always use a ritual counter to re roll the success side of a dice, hey for a surge card I think that’s often worth it.
The fact that both of this danglebro’s are also Hunters is very interesting. It brings the warband up to a total of 4 Hunters out of 6 and I guess it’s time I talked about the mechanic a bit.
Before I begin pontificating I’m going to put some images of cards we know will be in Beastgrave that will interact with the Hunter keyword, so that we all have the same information to work from.
Outside of Weight of Numbers (which I doubt will ever make it into a tournament deck) both of these cards have pretty powerful effects that you would expect to be restricted as soon as the next BAR comes around, except for the fact that they are limited to Hunters. It would seem that the design philosophy for Hunter’s is that they will have access to more powerful gambits and probably upgrades like these similar to how Wizard’s were with Nightvault. Unlike Nightvault Hunter’s don’t have separate dice that they need to deal with but there is the linked and interesting mechanic of quarry which the next card gives us hints at.
This card tells us a lot about Hunter’s. For one they are going to get bonuses against Quarry, I expect upgrades that give very high stats for Hunter’s specifically against Quarry, something like Helpful Whisper’s on an unrestricted stick for instance. I also expect their to be Neutral Objectives printed in the future that will give you big payout’s of glory for killing specific Quarry. The second piece of information that Predatory Instinct gives us is that Hunter won’t quite be as valuable a keyword as Wizard. There was never an upgrade printed that made a normal fighter into a Wizard let alone one that has another slight buff as well (I want my Wizards hat) so at a massive guess the Hunter keyword is probably about half way as powerful as the Wizard one, although this comparison gets hazy due to their being multiple Wizard levels.
The idea of marking specific targets and hunting them actually seems really fun and I tip my hat to the developers at Games Workshop. It also, so far, would be really balanced with the despoilers, all the Hunter’s themselves lack damage and accuracy but if they get enough incentive and buffs to kill quarry then you might want to build a deck around turning them into homing missiles.
As a Mollog player the idea of turning the big Troll into a Hunter and stomping around the battlefield to collect bounties sounds both incredibly fun and terrifyingly powerful. If we see another upgrade like Predatory Instinct then it might be something to build a deck around, especially since a lot of Mollog players already run Bag of Tricks.
There isn’t much to say here. It’s nice to see another global inspiration condition similar to the Reaver’s but honestly this one is almost strictly worse. Against 3 fighter Warband’s you only inspire when the game is pretty much already over, at which point its almost entirely useless. Against horde warbands however it’s practically trivial to get, with all the shades in-between. The high variance in the inspire condition mean’s its not something you can really plan for, it entirely depends on who your opponent for that match will be.
Luckily the Despoilers don’t actually seem to gain that much from inspiring, the notable exception being Grashrak’s increase in Wizard level. Realistically this inspire condition is one that will help you snowball against the larger warbands, a few early kills and suddenly you can really put the grindstone to their face, against everything else its an optional extra that might or might not happen.
I’m going to continue the trend that I started with my Ironsoul’s review and just talk about the cards that seem either powerful or interesting. If something isn’t included here then I personally don’t think it’s worth talking about.
Ploymaster as a surge card (for those unaware Surge means score immediately and I’m going to use the term instead as it’s much easier to type) is a very powerful effect. Ploymaster was played a lot back in Shadespire days but fell out of favour a bit with Nightvault as the introduction in magic watered down the amount of ploys in decks and other more powerful objectives came out. If we see extra draw ploys like Duel of Wit’s introduced this season then expect this to be a staple in every Despoiler deck, otherwise Bag of Trick’s might be just enough support to make it reliable.
It’s certainly always powerful to score 1 glory and cycle an objective within a round when your opponent can’t do anything to stop you. I like this.
This one is just about worth a mention. It’s basically score a glory for keeping your leader alive and the only warband card to interact with the ritual tokens. For games against control opponents this gives you some nice passive glory but against other aggro decks or against flex you probably want to be spending those ritual tokens instead of hoarding them for 1 glory.
Our Only Way Out as a Surge card.
That’s pretty insane actually.
This works exceptionally well with the ploy card Vile Invader’s and the extra action on Korsh. I actually think this is powerful enough on its own to make either pure objective play or at the very least a flex into it something everyone should expect when they see a Despoiler warband across the table from them. The fact that it is a surge card make’s it really hard for your opponent to stop as well, I have a suspicion Abasoth’s Unmaking might become even more of a staple in Beastgrave if this is a hint at the objective play to come.
A solid aggro surge card with some tricky restrictions on it. The fighter itself has to get the kill so Snare isn’t going to help you here and the fighter can’t be wounded first so you can’t weaken it with another fighter before hand. I’m not sure the Despoilers will be able to score this reliably against a Warband like the Cursebreakers but it’s amazing against Gitz and other horde warbands, although they might already be your good matchups?
Another solid aggro objective and it’s a good use of the new Dual keyword. I think this card becomes less useful against a canny opponent in a best of 3 as once they know you have this they will start going all in on your leader while protecting yours. Dosn’t mean everything will go their way of course and if you can pull this off its a decent amount of glory especially if you count the glory from the kill itself.
I don’t personally like this card, however it is hard to argue against it’s power level. A surge card for simply walking at your opponents board is going to see play in a lot of people’s decks who like to play full tilt aggro. Personally I dislike the playstyle that this objective pushes you towards and think that it acts a bit counter to how the rest of the warband is set up, these guys just don’t have the defences to survive all going in.
Survival of the Fittest
This is tasty. The first Dual condition is fairly trivial to score but ensure’s that you can’t get this from simply suiciding your entire warband. The second condition is one that will punish your opponents for going too ham on your fighters, especially if you manage to get even a couple of return kills. This objective makes me really think these guys will end up as a tasty flex warband.
Blood Offering was an incredibly strong card for the Reaver’s, this is Blood Offering with a free guard token. Now that guard tokens stop drive back that’s not trivial either. You do unfortunately lose the guard if you charge right away (at least you do by Dreadfane rules) but it’s a nice versatile option and one that gives you some accuracy which the warband really needs.
The fact both of the options on this card say up to mean’s that it is incredibly open ended in how you play it, the only restriction being that it has to be used on your Hunters, luckily you have 4 of them. As already stated this works really well with hold objective play but honestly aggro play loves re-positioning tools almost as much. For me this is an auto-include in every Despoiler deck, if you are unsure think of it like Seek the Sky Vessal for Thundricks except that the fighters don’t gain move tokens.
I did say that the warband lacks damage, well having an almost copy of Great Strength will certainly help with that. Lethal hexes will help you use this (someone correct me if I am wrong but I think you can charge through a lethal hex and get the benefit of this upgrade on the attack) and so will Blood Taunt. I except decks to taking this to also pack Ghoulish Pact and any future neutral cards we get that trade benefits for taking a damage.
Unlike a lot of the other warband upgrades I like that this one works on any fighter. Which is one of the reasons this is the only upgrade I have included in the article.
Overall Thoughts on the Warband
I actually really like these guys. They feel like a mix between Godsworn and Reaver’s but with some incredible objective game and some fun tricks between the ritual counters and teleporting fighter’s. That’s not to mention the fact that they have four hunters. Like the Cursebreakers in Nightvault I expect us to get more and more hunter support as the season progresses and that could potentially tip the Despoilers over into the people moan about them every day on Facebook level of overpowered.
They do have some glaring weaknesses though, a level 1 wizard that inspires to level 2 on a ropey inspire condition means you will probably never use spells, Godsworn had a more reliable inspire with Thredda and none of the competitive builds used spells with her. You are also a warband of 6 fighters where 5 are at less then 4 wounds, 3 of which are at 2 and your defence stat’s are all either single dodge or block. You will die, a lot. The loss of Last Chance and Rebound from Nightvault actually hurt warbands like this a fair bit as those cards didn’t care about how good your defence stat was, they were just a blanket chance of stopping an attack (or in rebounds case of having your opponent flip the table, flee the country and start a new life free of the horrors of dice). You also lack the overall damage of the Godsworn which will hurt when dealing with Warbands like the Cursebreakers.
These guys are going to be high skill floor, Godsworn were seen as trash out of the box and it took Tom and other top players quite a while to show their true potential. It’s surprising to me that these are in the core set but now that we have Dreadfane maybe the developers don’t have to worry so much about core set’s being super new player friendly?
I’m also super happy at how strong some of their warband cards are. This is something players have been haranguing GW for for ages and it looks like it has paid off. Every card that I talked about above is one I would seriously consider for tournament play with a bunch of them being autoincludes. It’s great to see this direction from GW and I think it will help make the Beastgrave warbands all feel just that bit more distinct.
Freya should have her preview of Skaeth’s Wild Hunt coming in the next couple of days, so watch this space.
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