Welcome to part 2 of Steel City’s in depth look at the newest expansion, Grymwatch. Today I will be focusing on the actual warband contained within the box, The Grymwatch themselves. If you are just looking for opinions on the neutral cards then you can check out part 1 here. As with part 1 I will be looking at everything through the eye of the ‘Nightvault meta’ that theoretically exists, mostly in my head.
I’m also going to try and change the normal structure of my warband reviews and talk about key warband related mechanics before I talk about the fighters. This way when I get to the fighters, I can give you a decent assessment of how important and easy/hard it is for them to inspire without having to either go through the whole mechanic or hand wave the information to later in the article.
This is the same inspire condition for every fighter in the warband so it’s a big deal if you can pull it off. Some warbands will find it really hard to even consider advancing that fast into enemy territory, let alone deal with risking fighter’s to potential counter charges. Chosen Axes, Sepulchral Guard and Mollog’s Mob players are all going to have a very difficult time stopping the ghouls from inspiring. For everyone else it means you are heavily incentivised to get to grips with the opponent, which some warbands or styles of play are going to have massive trouble doing, defensive Cursebreakers/Eyes of the Nine do not want to be throwing bodies at you. Hold objective warbands that have 3 objectives on their side of the field will likewise be loath to actually commit to this.
What I am trying to get at here is that there are a lot of situations where this inspiration condition essentially reads ‘Inspire all your fighters at the end of the first turn’ which is a very powerful situation to be in. The times it doesn’t work are against pure aggro, even flex aggro or ‘midrange’ decks will have difficulty in stopping this inspire condition as it effectively forces you to play turn 1 as a pure aggro deck.
So, the inspire condition is pretty strong, it means no one inspires during turn 1 but it’s fairly reliable after that with a bit of a weakness to aggro. Against aggro you are either going to want some solid pre inspiration stats to kill the fighters that come in or some strong push tech to try and shove them out of your territory, knockback could be golden here.
Ghoul Call and Muster
I’m going to write about these mechanics separate to the section on Duke Crackmarrow as I consider them more a part of the warband then an individual fighter ability, although if the Duke dies then the ability to do this does go away.
As written Muster itself always happens even without a Crypt ghoul out of action and yes that means it happens on round 1. This means that every round Crackmarrow is alive you have automatically completed the ‘action on a fighter card’ condition of Keep them Guessing. I personally expect this to be FAQ’d in future as I’m fairly sure that was not the intent, I think they only meant it to happen turns 2 and 3 and potentially if a ghoul is out of action, for now though those extra interactions are pretty powerful.
Rule abuses aside, how good is Ghoul Call itself? Well it’s a resurrection mechanic that gives you quite a lot of control over where the ghoul appears and it can appear on any empty edge hex on the boards. Muster means this happens for free on rounds 2 and 3 in the game.
Yes, that’s right, we have something very similar in power to the Skritch’s resurrection mechanic except that it also happens automatically once a turn. Sepulchral Guard and Spiteclaw swarm players are now weeping as their warbands have been rendered almost irrelevant in one mechanic. Personally, I wish they had left the season one warbands with the only methods of bringing fighters back, it would have given them something unique that always meant they could potentially be relevant, instead of just a poor man’s Grymwatch.
As for the technical details of where you place a Crypt Ghoul that is brought back, well I can’t tell you how it works right now because the text on the card doesn’t make any sense. Or rather I should say that it has multiple interpretations, each of which are equally valid. So that’s another thing we need an FAQ entry for and it’s pretty major, players who are considering these guys for the big Grand Clashes this month might be frustrated to turn up on the day and find out it works counter to how they expected.
Ok, that’s the major mechanics covered, onto the fighters themselves.
Uninspired the Duke is a solid leader. Four wounds, one dodge and 4 movement give him a decent baseline of stats and a 2 range 2 smash 2 damage attack is pretty respectable (hey it’s as good as a turn 2 Larval Lance). What really makes me hyped is just how much he gains from inspiring. An extra movement, and extra dodge defence and an extra damage on his attack which also gains cleave. That’s 4 solid upgrades all rolled into one and turns the Duke into a deadly killer. If you are unsure of how deadly he becomes think of Skritch, now think of Skritch with cleave, yup that’s the Duke.
So not only does the Duke carry the essential warband mechanics of Ghoul Call and Muster on his shoulders but he also boosts an incredible array of inspired stats for fighting.
Did I mention that he was a Hunter as well?
Well the Grymwatch are off to a pretty strong start.
Having an uninspired fighter who does 3 damage off the bat is an important tool in a warbands arsenal. It means you can deal with Stormcast/Fiends with only a little bit of help from your deck or the lethal hexes that we can now place. To get this strong an attack in a horde warband is very tasty. The downside is that uninspired Gristlewel is unlikely to hit at only 2 fury, if you are relying on this guy being a big hitter from the get go then you need to pack ways to improve his accuracy into your deck. Three wounds and one dodge mean you will have to be careful when deploying him as he will die to a lot of attacks.
Once inspired he goes to 5 move, worth mentioning that this is the standard for the ghouls, and gets a tad more accurate at 3 fury. One minor issue to Gristlewel is that he isn’t a hunter, I guess we can’t quite have our cake and eat it with this warband.
Valreek The Tracker
Here is a nice 3 wound hunter. Valreek is generally a bit of a downgrade to Gristlewel but has reasonably stats and gives you another solid fighter to play around the hunter mechanic with. Going to 2 dodge when inspired also means there are now multiple fighters in your warband that can benefit from dodge based defence upgrades like Spectral Armour or Survival Instincts.
Valreek is the type of fighter that can go unnoticed by your opponent as they try to kill the more powerful fighters like the Duke or Gristlewel and will get you solid work done; every extra threat is an extra tool.
The Crypt Ghouls
I’m lumping these three all together as they are incredibly similar. The big advantage of these fighters is that they can all be brought back by the Ghoul Call ability and with that happening for free once per round they are going to be incredible at grabbing objectives and just constantly messing up your opponent. If you get good upgrades like Crown of Avarice or Larval Lance onto one of these then they will become a nightmare thorn in your opponent’s side and honestly I expect most Grymwatch decks to have a soft focus on turning one or more of these ghouls into a late game threat.
Talon is probably the best target for aggressive upgrades as every kill that happens next to him gives him a temporary increase in wounds (when inspired), while Herald wants the Crown so he can constantly disrupt your opponent’s attacks with his -1 to dice attacks (again when inspired).
The fact that all 3 of these Ghouls are also Hunters is just icing on the delicious meaty cake.
These are the type of fighters that you use to push an intruding Mollog back behind a blocked hex to stop his sexy troll ass from constantly attacking your fighters. These are the fighters you use to push a weak enemy into a lethal hex and secure a kill that your opponent didn’t see coming because they inspire to 6 move and can move through everything but blocked hexes.
Probably the weakest fighter in the warband but in specific situations they will be just what you need.
I’m going to continue my trend of only evaluating the warband cards that I think are powerful enough to see competitive play or that are interesting enough to talk about. With this warband that might be quite a few…
I think you only include this objective if you are going for the ‘swarm’ type approach that John Rees made work with his Thorns deck Swarming Spirits. You do have some cards to support that playstyle, which I will mention below, but without Varclav’s ability to push a bunch of friendly fighters around the board I don’t think the Grymwatch will do too well with this.
2 glory for either the conditions of Denial or Conquest. With Hidden Paths going the way of the dodo Denial style conditions do look a bit more possible. While not amazingly powerful I can see this doing work in Grymwatch decks, you have the stats to fight anyone who comes in and your backup plan for being wiped out is to have either a Crypt ghoul or the Harriers pop into enemy territory to secure a sneaky 2 glory.
Defending the Hearth
Defensive strike except it’s not restricted… wait its actually legal to play at all. Considering your inspire condition requires the opponent to try and come into your territory this seems like a no brainer. The only time I wouldn’t take it is if you have decided to make an entirely pure hold objective deck with no aggro elements at all, which I don’t think is the best way to play these guys.
Another solid swarming objective for people looking to go that route.
In the Name of the King
A copy of a Despoiler warband specific card, this is an absolutely crazy level of power in an objective and on its own means that most Grymwatch decks are going to at least flex into the hold objective playstyle. In Nightvault we constantly said to GW that we wanted more powerful cards for hold objective play and that we wanted more powerful warband specific cards, well it seems like they heard us loud and clear.
A solid finisher if your deck needs one, now that Superior Tactician has gone there are not many decent neutral options that fit that bill. You don’t want to run this alongside Charnel House so it’s probably worth play testing both to see which works best for you. For the way I am likely to build and play this seems like the better choice. It worth noting that this can be scored before turn 3, if you get a starting hand without any surge cards or only one and this objective is missing you could discard the hand and power to a high glory count early.
Another copy of a powerful Despoiler warband objective. Ploymaster as a surge is really great and you can include Frenzied Search alongside a warband ploy I will talk about below to make this really reliable. I personally love this card.
Unless you draw this in turn 3 you are likely to just score it at some point in the game for holding a few random objectives. It seems really strong and gives you more incentive to care about those objective tokens.
I’ve mentioned above that the Grymwatch had some cards to help them score ‘swarm’ style objectives. Well here is candidate number 1. Not only will this get another fighter adjacent to the target but it happens before the attack, meaning you get the support on the attack roll. If you charge on your first activation of a round and react with this card then you have already fulfilled 3 of the conditions on Keep Them Guessing (provided the Duke was alive to Ghoul Call), that’s a pretty ridiculous set of circumstances to find yourself in.
A powerful way to grab an unexpected objective from deep inside your opponent’s territory. This card also score’s Longstrider and Burst of Speed so if we see more neutral ways of scoring those cards as the season progresses it could become a nice little combo to build into your decks.
Grymwatch players, play this card! You can potentially push 3 friendly fighters up to two hexes each and reorganise the whole battlefield. The wording on this card is so generous, you can choose any number of crypt ghouls to push up to and including 3 and each one can be pushed 0-2 hexes. This synergises very well with the hold objective playstyle and any swarming shenanigans you might want to partake in. Honestly this effect is so good I would play it in every deck if I could, alas it is a warband specific card. The existence of this card alone increases the overall power of the warband and makes playing against them all the harder.
With how powerful your warband cards are this is a fantastic way to double up on one of the powerful effects. It’s also the second card you can take that helps you score Pervasive Delusion. It will be tough building Grymwatch decks as with this and Frenzied search you can be effectively running only 8 gambits that actually do something but that deck will be incredibly lean and potent.
A neat way to disarm an opponent, very effective as anti Mollog tech if you are worried about him. The biggest issue I have with this card is that its competition is so good I don’t think it will make the cut in a lot of decks.
Like Spiteclaw’s Swarm and the Sepulchral Guard before them, the Grymwatch come with a method for bringing a fighter back that avoids you having to use an activation on top, well in addition to the muster mechanic. The downside to this card is that unlike the Shadespire warbands it requires your leader to be alive in order to work. The Duke is going to have a big target painted on his head wherever he deploys.
Aura of Command
The last unique ability that the Warden had left reduced to a mere upgrade… sniff. On a more serious note I don’t think most players will want to play this, as an upgrade it is likely to be played later in the game at which point you often want to use your activation’s for attacks. Can be useful for either swarming or hold objective play, potentially puts even more of your eggs in the duke basket if you go for it.
Grip of Madness
Park this fighter on an objective and the only way it goes off is if your opponent kills them. Nasty if you combine it with something like Sudden Growth. If you take this with Stoneform then you have two of the same effect in the deck with makes it seasonably reliable. It will be interesting to see if we get more cards interact with madness counters in future.
+ 1 attack dice on any fighter to any attack action (well except for Larval Lane). It’s not exciting but it’s certainly powerful.
A Valreek special. I’m not usually a fan of cards that only work on a specific fighter but the way this is worded it makes the entire enemy warband into quarry and it works for all of your fighters. Depending on how much being a quarry interacts with hunters as the set progresses that could be a big deal.
Play this on the Duke. Play Sudden Growth on the Duke.
Suddenly all the eggs in one basket don’t seem so scary when the basket is tougher than a Space Marine’s power armour. This does lose some value if you are not taking Sudden Growth or other wound boosting cards but it’s very strong for an unrestricted defensive upgrade.
If this card simply had the rules text without the attack profile, I would consider it fairly good. The fact that it comes with a solid attack profile which can upgrade the Crypt Ghouls as well makes this really strong. This warband has a lot of ways to deal damage.
Tome of Offerings but limited to only your best fighter.
Screw hold objectives.
It’s aggro time.
Honestly you might be able to play whatever way you want with this warband.
In case you needed it, here is a warband specific copy of one of the best upgrades ever printed, Great Strength.
Estimations on playstyle and Power Ranking
This is the best warband currently available if you want to win tournaments.
Those are some bold words and honestly before reviewing the warband and properly going into depth on it I would have been pretty surprised by this conclusion. Right now, though, I feel very confident in saying it. Let’s go over the main reasons I think Grymwatch are incredibly strong:
- The best resurrection mechanic in the game. Being able to Ghoul Call for free on rounds 2 and 3 is a really big deal, especially with cards like Crown of Avarice or Larval Lance in the game which can make any of the Crypt Ghouls a pain to deal with. The Muster mechanic is also brilliant at helping you score Keep Them Guessing.
- A very solid inspire condition which forces your opponent to come to you before they are prepared. So much of Warhammer Underworlds is about positioning, if your opponent has to commit multiple fighters forward in order to try and stop you inspiring then they can just be feeding you kills, the problem is if they don’t do this then your entire warband inspires on turn 2. If a Grymwatch player wins boards they can either set them up long or fully offset to make this even harder, the alternative is a strong objective faction gets 3 objective tokens.
- Absolutely incredibly warband specific cards. All the Beastgrave warbands seem to come with better warband cards then previous seasons (I’m really happy GW have gone in this direction honestly) but the Grymwatch’s have to take the cake (I must have been hungry when writing this because I keep talking about cake).
- A really good set of fighter stats. You have a fighter with 3 damage off the bat. You have a leader who is better than Skritch. For your resurrecting chumps 2 of them have really nasty abilities on inspire. The Harriers will give you some extra options in games. And you have a third threat who can pack a bit of a punch. Oh and 5 of your fighters are hunters. The only warband that comes close to this powerful a set of fighters that also has large numbers is Thorns and they trade this amazing resurrection mechanic for a Varclav push.
- You can play the Grymwatch in many different ways. Full hold objective, flex, full aggro or crazy swarming. Mix and match any of those types to get the playstyle you prefer, this warband supports it all. Your opponent is going to have a hard time every time they start a match vs you trying to guess what type of Grymwatch you are playing, the mind games will be strong here.
As I mentioned in point 5, I legitimately think the Grymwatch can be played pretty much any way. The only playstyle that doesn’t suit them is full defensive control, having 7 fighters generally rules that out. Even the Fester and Hunger style deck that people have been having varied success with could find a home with the Grymwatch, they are that versatile. Personally, I would build them as a flex between hold objective and aggro play. Make sure you can score a lot of glory off of controlling 3 objective tokens, with Supremacy and In the Name of the King while packing lots of threat into you power deck so you can fight anyone who comes close.
For an example of how I would build a Grymwatch deck, take a gander at this:
If you want to play with this deck then you can here
This is a very rough effort at a deck and I would certainly not recommend taking it to a tournament without your own playtesting etc however it gives you an idea of how they can be played and of just how many warband specific cards I want to include in their deck.
It’s going to be interesting getting used to having just one expansion released at a time. As a content creator it’s a nice change as it gives me an excuse to go much more in depth on what is released while giving me a more regular schedule of topics to talk about. This expansion contains a whole bunch of power, we are starting to see more powerful hunter specific effects in Trophy Belt and cards like Larval Lance might define a whole season of play. The warband themselves are the real star here though, I can easily see the Grymwatch becoming the ‘Cursebreakers’ of Beastgrave. For those of you on Facebook, invest in Grymwatch memes now and get ahead of the pack.
Thank you to everyone who made it this far through both articles, I hope you found it a useful and enjoyable read.
Tom is off for 3 months, skiving his duties of writing for the blog in South East Asia. He is sending us the odd postcard back, so for anyone missing our resident Godsworn expert (without a Godsworn Trophy) here are some pictures of his sexy body:
Tom: Just over two weeks until I get my mitts on Beastgrave!!! Super hyped to try out Grashraks Despoilers, but I’ll have to hang on a little bit longer before I can beef ‘ound playing them. I know what youre thinking, how dairy I make that pun.
Good luck to everyone going to the clash at the end of the month!! I’ll be back to writing under Mikes watchful gaze very soon.
I’m going milk this cow thing for all it’s worth when I’m back.
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