Gushing Over the Result
Fuck me. (I’m good – Tom)
I actually bloody did it.
I’ve started writing this article the day after the October Warhammer World Grand Clash finished and I’m still in mild shock.
For those of you who are not familiar with the blog I’ve been attending Grand Clash’s for well over a year now and I put an enormous amount of prep into both creating crazy decks to try and surprise the meta and in drilling my play with them down to a T. Despite this all my finishes at Grand Clashes have been pretty lacklustre, lots of top 16 finishes and a couple top 8 with one top 4 at a team event is far from what I wanted or even expected.
I’ve had some good excuses in my time but after enough events it doesn’t matter how good your excuses are, you still should be performing on the day and grab a win at one of these events.
This past weekend not only did I win a Grand Clash but I won the biggest two day Grand Clash in the history of the game.
It genuinely feels like all the work myself and my co-authors, Tom and Freya (+the occasional Hobbit) put into the blog has now been vindicated, before when we were giving advice or detailed reviews on cards/warbands I worried that we lacked any position of authority to make the judgements we did. Sure I had gathered a bunch of smaller glass trophies and that is a fair achievement but I can tell you from doing both that winning a Grand Clash is the next step up in terms of accomplishments.
All right, that’s enough of that.
Let’s get into the fresh meat of the article.
If you are getting a creeping sense of dread that after every section there is going to be another picture of sweet Grand Clash loot then you are spot on the money.
As the blog has progressed I’ve drifted further away from doing the blow by blow tournament reports that John Rees and Jamie Giblin do so well on their websites, the main reason for this is that I honestly don’t have a good enough memory to remember my matches in any detail. Well thanks to the wonderful Games Workshop events team I have video’s of both my semi final and final matches played on day two. So part 1 of this article is going to go in detail on the deck I brought with some more general thoughts on the way I approach playing it.
Part 2 is going to be a super in depth analysis of my semi-final and final matches where I go through the thought processes behind my decisions. Honestly both of those matches put me utterly to the test as both Bartek and Phil are fantastic players of the game and they had very strong deck’s.
First I just want to talk a little bit about the event itself as an experience.
Grand Clash’s Level Up
Yes every section is also going to start with a G. No I don’t know why.
This was the second two day Grand Clash hosted at Warhammer World and going into it I was a bit worried. Myself and other members of the competitive scene had been clamouring for Games Workshop to move from one day Grand Clashes to two day events, especially at Warhammer World as the amount of players they pull means that you get multiple undefeated players at the end of normal play who don’t make the final. Games Workshop show once again that they are great at listening to their fans and launched the first two day Grand Clash in July which while a fantastic and well run experience had only 87 players. That’s down from 167 at the event in January.
Some people blamed the two day structure of the event, others blamed the fact that the second day had no separate event for players who didn’t make the cut. Some said that the game was dying due to the Nightvault meta around the time of the tournament.
Once again Games Workshop adapted and this latest Grand Clash had a separate Grand Skirmish on the second day, so you could plan your whole weekend around playing Warhammer Underworlds no matter what, a big improvement.
This time we got 114 players.
We are still not at the crazy numbers of the January Grand Clash but seeing so many players willing to dedicate an entire weekend to playing the game (at half term no less) is really encouraging. Nick Bayton of the events team also organised a Skirmish at Bugman’s Bar on the Friday night which had 52 players turn up so you could make a three day special out of the event if you so wanted.
This tournament also had the best coverage Warhammer Underworlds has ever experienced with the Warhammer TV Twitch channel streaming a match at each round leading all the way up till the final. I’ve had a chance to watch the vods and have to give a big shout out to John and Nick for doing such a great job at commentating. John’s ability to read the game state and judge what players might do was top notch and Nick was fantastic at breaking down some of the more basic elements of the game for less experienced viewers as well as building hype. There were some issues with the stream, most notably the commentators couldn’t see all the upgrades on both sets of fighters at any one time so occasionally an interaction would happen that would leave them baffled but these are all teething issues that can be fixed going forwards.
The first night of the tournament also had a really well organised quiz night by one of the developers of the game John Brakken. I did miss the Q and A session we got last time because it was so top quality but the quiz was fun and a good excuse to chat to all the players from around the world who had come to play at the weekend. (Genuinely just as gutted about missing the quiz as I was missing the clash – Tom)
For anyone who hasn’t been to Warhammer World before the whole place is pretty much a perfect setup to play in. You have a great pub in house with Bugman’s, you get fed each day at the staff cafeteria with some quality grub, there is plenty of space to actually game without rubbing elbows and if you have enough time in-between games and you get free entry to the exquisite exhibition on site (even as someone who doesn’t paint his models I can appreciate that level of art).
Overall I can easily say this is the best Warhammer Underworlds tournament I have attended and I am really excited to see just how good these events will get in future.
These short messages are a cry for help, Tom has me trapped in his sex dungeon. (Time to get grabbed by the ghoulies…)
Our very own Oliver Bond (The new and improved Bond) had an unfortunate ruling go against him on the day which really shouldn’t have happened at this level of event. In one of the matches Oli won he won 2 of his games while one was tied, right down to same number of fighters on objective tokens. After reporting this to the TO they decided that as they couldn’t input a tied game into BCP both players should roll off to decide who won that individual game, which Oli lost.
Just to be clear the match result was not affected by this but it gave Oli a single dropped game against his total. When we got the official rankings for all players at the end of day 1 Oli came 18th. If that game had not been recorded as a loss and instead a tie he would have made the top 16 cut.
That’s two grand clashes in a row that have been affected by ties in different ways, for anyone wondering what I am referring to feel free to have a gander at my adventures in Scotland here. As someone who has used BCP at events before (not as a TO but plenty of times as a player) the way I would have handled the situation is to simply not input the game, it only has options for a win or a loss which a tied game is neither. I do appreciate that it’s an awkward situation for the GW staff and the greater proportion of the blame has to lie with BCP here, if BCP is going to be used at tournaments going forwards then they really need to fix this issue.
As for Oli he only played about 7 games with me as practice since the last WHW grand clash where he hit top 16 after playing Guardian’s for just one week. Its kind of terrifying just how good he is and I hope this experience didn’t put him off going to Grand Clash’s in future.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies – the Deck
Here is the list in all its gory glory. You can pop onto this link if you want to play around with it yourself.
I’m going to rank the deck in order from least to most important card, talking in detail about each choice.
Keep Them Guessing – Before we started play on day 1 the events team announced that you could only muster if a ghoul was out of action. For anyone who is going to their own tournaments do not take this as an official ruling, it was a house rule for the event, ask you TO how they want to rule it. Unfortunately it meant that Keep Them Guessing was a much worse card then it otherwise would have been, I’d probably still put it in the deck under this ruling but only because there are not any better objectives. Unless you have got a dead Crypt Ghoul to trigger muster it’s a tricky card to score, you could go the weird Skaven route and start manually killing your own fighters with lethal hexes but for that you would be looking to change the whole playstyle of the deck.
If a future FAQ confirms this house ruling to be true then this card is first on the chopping block when the next expansion comes around. It wouldn’t take an amazing neutral objective to beat it out.
Swift Capture – A surge for only holding two objectives sounds too good to be true, right? Well it’s certainly strong, that’s why it’s in the deck after all, but I found that there are many situations where it is just as hard if not harder to score then In the Name of the King. For my playstyle I like to hang back in my territory and force my opponent to come to me, although I will change it up for some match ups, so I find this a tricky one to score sometimes as I set up fully offset boards to try and get a free inspire. You could potentially replace this with Martryred but there are many round 2 or round 3 situations where I want to go first and kill a priority target (hello Ironhail) making me choose Swift Capture. (Its also worth noting that in an objective meta sometimes enemy objectives get blocked very quickly, meaning that even with confusion in hand this can be very tricky to score – Tom)
Fired Up – This was a last minute swap as I was running Hoarder in my deck but found it bricking too often and wanted some more consistency in my objective deck. In many games this is a free glory that you never have to do anything about, the problem lies in the games where your opponent really tests you and stops you inspiring. Another objective that I’d happily swap out if something better came along.
Supremacy – We are in the territory of objectives that are legitimately good in the deck now. Supremacy is a solid 3 glory objective that you can score any round and with all the positional ploys I have it can be quite easy to score. The only issues I have with it are the same as with Swift Capture, when playing fully offset it can be hard to grab a cheecky third objective. We do have the tricks to do it in the deck though and I’d be hard pushed to ever cut this as 3 glory is a big deal.
Solid Gains – This card has been a staple in my decks for a long time now. With the amount of easy to score surge cards the Grymwatch have access to, let alone the fact that you will often be going for kills this ends up being an auto score pretty much every turn.
Opening Gambit – I found this very slightly more consistent then Solid Gains but they are both pretty much the same. Some easy glory that just happens from you playing your deck.
Scrum – This is a juicy one. A surge objective for simply positioning your fighters. The best way to score this is if you combo it with a simple move and Calculated Risk for a 2 glory activation that your opponent can’t stop. Other neat tricks are charging with the Harriers into enemy territory, even better if it’s onto an objective token, and scoring scrum while tempting them to waste activation’s killing said bats instead of stopping you inspiring. This can brick in the third round of games but it’s so amazingly good in the first two rounds that it more than makes up for it. (As this card becomes more prevalent, it may hit critical mass where everyone should be running it, as you can score this card even if youre opponent is the one lining up four models – Tom)
Shifting Madness – Anyone playing with or against Grymwatch now have to keep track of the number on the objective tokens strewn around the board as this is an absolutely monstrous objective. Generally speaking you will score this on an activation for just sitting on the objective tokens on your side of the board, even if you have to wait a turn its worth it. You have the tricks to try and pop onto the objectives on the other side of the board if not and combo with Swift Capture.
Path To Victory – Although the glory total on the objective says 2 you should really consider this a 3 glory objective as you will get 1 for that kill. That puts this in the same territory as Supremacy. For my money it’s much easier to grab a kill and sit on two objective tokens then it is to sit on three tokens, especially with the amount of ‘horde’ warbands people are playing right now. A very consistent way to grab a bunch of glory.
Pervasive Delusion – This one might come as a surprise to some people. It is certainly possible for it to brick in your hand and be unscorable if you have too many upgrades. For the way I play the game this is absolutely bonkers good though. I will hard mulligan any starting hand with 4 or more upgrades always with this deck, I also pack Frenzied Search which combo’s perfectly with this card and pretty much guarantees the objective being scored. For the rounds it is stuck dead in your hand, don’t stress, this is a surge objective, next round you should draw enough ploys to make it happen and you can cycle through your objective deck then. I love having blowout rounds where I am working towards another objective and just score this in passing, there were multiple times over the tournament where I would score this and draw into a solid end of phase objective and because I had so much control over when I score this I still have enough time to work towards that end of phase objective.
Calculated Risk– One glory for either charging or simply moving through a lethal hex. Now that we can place our own lethal tokens you can even use this on boards that don’t have innate lethal hexes on them. The fact that you have seven fighters and a bunch of them are semi disposable makes this even better. The best restricted card in the deck and I rate Tome of Offerings very highly.
In the Name of the King – The big daddy. This absolute powerhouse of a card is a warband defining feature. Anyone playing vs Grymwatch is going to have to be on top of their game and objective tokens unless they want to see a trivial 2 glory surge scored against them. It synergises really well with their inspire condition as well because your opponent has to choose between giving you 3 objective tokens and making this very easy to score or letting you set up with a defensive board orientation and inspiring easily.
Great Gambits – well ploys really
Mirror Move – With Distraction gone the way of rotation this is the most easily accessible push card around. The big problem it has is that it relies on your opponent triggering it. When playing against Phil in the final he was very canny at only driving my fighter’s back if he absolutely needed to and in not using the Varclav action unless it was right at the start of the game when Mirror Move wouldn’t do much. There are times where this will be an absolutely fantastic card, if your opponent is running effects like Commanding Stride or Appalling Visage then Mirror Move becomes an incredibly potent tool.
Sidestep – A solid re-positioning tool that can be useful for a whole bunch of tricks. I did try experimenting with Desperate Flight instead but I valued the consistency of this card over those scatter shenanigans, if you hadn’t already guessed consistency is king for me.
Centre of Attention – Having this card so low on my list of gambits is more a sign of the quality of the rest of the cards then a knock against this one. Now that objectives matter this is a great tool to disrupt them or to just generally reposition for something like Scrum or a Duke attack. Just make sure you don’t forget your opponent has another activation left before you use it to push someone off an objective…
Appalling Visage – The main use for this card is to either push an opponent off an objective token or to push them out of your territory to help you inspire. The fact that it is a 2 hex push makes it very unlikely your opponent can counter it with another power card so they will have to use either an activation to deal with what you have done or cry because you did it in the last power step of the round. Also combo’s incredibly well with Transfixing Stare as a set of tools for shutting down your opponent’s best fighter.
Haymaker – The best neutral accuracy card in the game right now. On the first round this is your way of making that Gristlewel attack hit and kill a key enemy fighter. Later in the game it’s great to use with whoever has Tome of Offerings/Trophy Belt and ensure that you get multiple glory for a kill. The downside can hurt but I’ll always take it to grab a kill.
Restless Prize – There is a good case to be made that this card should be in everyone’s deck now regardless of what playstyle or warband they are playing. With objectives being important again this is easily the best way to disrupt their play. If you care about objectives yourself it is also a fantastic way to grab one from under your opponents thumb.
Confusion – I literally won games at this tournament because my opponent was also playing around objectives and didn’t run Confusion. Every time I used it on them they would just be like – well that’s literally my game ruined now. If you get second activation in a round and use this in the last power step to swap your fighter onto an objective the only counter is Restless Prize or having multiple positional cards. I even used this in my semi final vs Bartek to get an extra hex distance on my charge with Valreek which gave me a kill and won me the game. So many tricks with this card.
Frenzied Search – When I reviewed this card in my Grymwatch expansion article I gave it a 3 but you might have noticed from how I talked about it that I was excited about it. The only reason I didn’t give it a 4 is that card drawing effects have always sounded amazing on paper in Warhammer Underworlds and then just been ok to ‘good’ in reality. Well if I was to rate it now it would be a 4 bordering on 5. The downside to this card is you basically lose an upgrade from your hand, the upside is your deck is functionally smaller then everyone else’s so you get your powerful cards much more reliably. All of my practice partners disagreed with my choice on this one, until they played with it themselves. (Mike’s right, this card feels so much better than it reads and is 100% worth having a go with – Tom)
To anyone on the fence I highly recommend putting it in your deck and trying it out. You have to be strict about discarding decent upgrades which can take some getting used to but just see what happens to your round when you do.
Pack Advance – The only Grymwatch specific warband card to be included in my deck. I did flirt with Combat Drill for a bit, it helps with Keep Them guessing and gives you an accuracy boost but it didn’t quite make the cut. Pack Advance on the other hand upends the biggest weakness of your warband, namely the fact that you have to use multiple activation’s in getting onto objective tokens. It’s also just a fantastic repositioning tool in general, against opponents who don’t get onto their objectives early it can be a great way to push a sneaky crypt ghoul forwards and then charge to get Swift Capture/In the Name of the King. Obviously also works well with Scrum.
I love this card, its really nice to see powerful Warband cards like this in Beastgrave.
Transfixing Stare – I honestly did not expect this to be that good but it’s easily the best card in the deck. Hands down. A week before the Grand Clash I took it out for some practice games as I found it was dead in my hand a couple of times. I then had a practice cam game against Davy from What The Hex where he was running Reavers and got run over while thinking to myself, you know what card would be good here? After that I realised that what Transfixing Stare is good for is stopping an aggressive opponent in their tracks. You literally shut down their key fighter for a whole round. Even if they have a range two attack you have so many positional tricks that you can use to move your fighters out of attack range . So yes sometimes it can be a dead card but that’s usually only because you have pretty much won the game. This is super glue you use to bind the wound aggro is trying to cause in your game plan (I hope that metaphor worked). (This card is like carrying an epi-pen in case you find yourself up against a deck you’re allergic too – I got you Mike)
There is no way I would have won in the final against Phil if this card wasn’t in my deck. In previous decks/warbands where I have used Transfixing Stare it’s never really been that good. The reason it works so well in this Grymwatch deck is because we have 7 different fighters to play it from and we have a plethora of repositioning ploys to make it all potentially happen in the power step.
I think the most evil use of it was against Dan Smedley where I charged Valreek onto his board (it was set up fully offset) to grab an objective, I then played Transfixing stare onto an inspired Ammis and pushed her two hexes away with Appalling Visage. Ammis was out of the entire game with her only target next round being Valreek who I had just played Sudden Growth onto.
Heroic Delusion – We don’t have much accuracy in the deck. It’s just this, Potion of Rage and Haymaker. The reason this card is low on the list is because it’s only a single dice. Yes it can be used again and again which certainly comes up if you manage to turn the Duke into a powerhouse but often times it is a specific kill you want against a key fighter that will turn the course of the whole game and one dice is not the best for that situation. Unfortunately I found it to be the best option currently available, with Prized Vendetta only working to reroll all or none of the dice it doesn’t quite cut it either. Hoping for more accuracy neutral cards soon.
Impervious Delusion – I’m going to be honest with you, pretty much every upgrade from here on out is gold so don’t worry too much about the stuff that is lower down in priority. Impervious Delusion is a fantastic defensive upgrade that can go on any of your fighters. In a best of three if your opponent isn’t running Pit Trap or Snare then this is great on any of your 3 wound fighters not adjacent to a lethal hex. Generally though this one goes on the Duke to make it incredibly hard to ‘one shot’ him. He is such a key fighter to your warband and your opponent will often do everything they can to kill him. Combine this with Sudden Growth for maximum effect.
Sudden Growth – The biggest issue I have with Sudden Growth is that it takes up a precious restricted slot and with only 3 of those now every single one is super important. It also reduces your movement by 2 which can severely limit the main target for this upgrade, good ole Crackmarrow himself. I’ve debated putting Great Fortitude in instead of this card for a while but the other use that Sudden Growth has is to make a fighter like Valreek or the Harriers very hard to kill after they have camped on an opponent’s objective, forcing them to either give up on the objective or waste multiple activations. For that case Great Fortitude just doesn’t cut the mustard so despite my misgivings about this card it has come in clutch on too many occasions.
Larval Lance – The only attack action upgrade in the entire deck. It’s an absolute powerhouse in round 3 and reasonable in round 2. The problem is that it’s a dead card on round 1 and weirdly because I have such good basic attacks with a bunch of Grymwatch fighters (once inspired) I’d often just want a straight increase in damage on something like the Butcher or Valreek instead of a completely replaced attack profile. To reiterate though, if you get this on turn 3 and the game is tight it can turn it around drastically.
Crown of Avarice – With so many different fighters in the Grymwatch it can sometimes be hard to pick the best target to put this upgrade on. Again its best used on a sacrificial fighter that is sprinting onto an opponent’s objective. Outside of that pop it on Gristlewel or the Duke and you either guarantee a glory or one of your biggest threats survives to the end of the game. Considering how many of my games were tight on glory or won by tiebreakers that’s very valuable to me.
Trophy Belt – The noticeably weaker version of Tome of Offerings is fortunately not restricted. The glory you gain being spent is honestly not a noticeable downside, what is a big issue is that you have to be adjacent to the fighter you kill in order to gain said glory. This really doesn’t gel with the Dukes ranged two attack and sometimes forces you to position an attack badly just to get the extra glory. Still if you are committing for a kill you better get paid for it and this provides a nice bounty.
Well Motivated/Great Strength – The more observant amongst you might have noticed that I don’t run Pit Trap or Snare in my deck, this means that unless I get to abuse lethal hexes my only way to kill 4 wounds fighters is with either the Duke or Gristlewel equipped with one of these bad boys. In certain situations they also act as ways for the Harriers or Valreek to get unexpected kills. Every single kill not only nets you a glory but removes a weapon from your opponent’s arsenal, I know this is basic stuff but its so important to give your deck the teeth it needs to punish your opponent and to potentially run them over if things go well. If the Grymwatch didn’t have an in faction Great Strength I may have found myself forced to take Snare which I really didn’t want to do.
Tome of Offerings – This one works at range 2. If you get this on the Duke early you can legitimately earn 2/3 glory from this one upgrade. Honestly I don’t think I need to say any more about how good this card is. It’s nuts.
Potion of Rage – There are many points in the game where you really need to land a hit. The most important being when an aggro player is pushing you on the first round. Considering how many easy surge objectives we have in the deck you can usually rely on being able to equip an upgrade before the end of round 1. Yes this is effectively only as good as Haymaker, the card I had in the middle of my gambit list but on the other hand this card is as good as Haymaker! Ploys have consistently been at a higher power level then upgrades for the lifespan of Warhammer Underworlds with the exception of being able to Voltron up a specific fighter. To get an upgrade that’s just as good as a great ploy is a really rare and powerful effect.
If you don’t see me at the next Grand Clash you need to send help…
The deck is very flexible, you have a focus on sitting on objective tokens but you also have a surprising amount of passive glory. The upgrades Trophy Belt/Tome of Offerings can help you switch into full aggro mode as well. So with all of these different ways of playing what should you prioritise? The answer as always is; it depends.
The biggest factor in determining how to play stems from the very first choice made in a game of Warhammer Underworlds, tokens or boards? If your opponent has the choice then you react to them, with tokens you are going to try and score as much of your deck as fast as possible, using all of your activation’s to either get onto objectives or to delay/disrupt their aggression. With boards I personally default to a passive playstyle, its fine if you only score 2-3 glory in round 1 as long as you also inspire, you can then tool up your fighters and use your enhanced movement stats to take the fight to your opponent on rounds 2 /3 while grabbing a spare objective token or two in their territory.
Playing aggro is generally a switch that I flip once I have tooled up the Duke. If you can get 2/3 key upgrades on him + one of the glory generators then suddenly your entire deck can focus on farming kills for Crackmarrow. All those positional ploys that you pack into your deck to help you inspire or to cheat onto objectives can instead be used to push the Duke or enemy fighters around without you having to waste a charge on your leader, generally only charge with him at the end of the activation if you are doing this.
Speaking of inspiring, it’s an incredibly important force multiplier for your whole warband but its also a potential trap for opponents who are not careful. If you get a nasty fully offset board position then your opponent will have to commit fighters in a haphazard way where they are not supporting each other and they expose themselves to counter charges. Any kill you get can lead into Path to Victory or another upgrade which makes the next kill more likely.
This is the general broad strokes on how the deck plays, in part 2 of the article I’m going to go really in depth on both my semi final game vs Bartek and the Final vs the legendary Phil Kelly. It’s very nice to be able to review videos like this because my memory is just not good enough to go over the play by play in my head. When I talk about these games I’m going to go over my thought processes for most of the decisions that I made which should give you some good insights into how to play.
Grasping at Conclusions
Tom has said that he’ll allow me to have continued access to this computer if we get enough views on the article. Please for the love of god share it with everyone you know. (Let go of the laptop Mike!)
Hopefully you have a good enough general idea of how the deck works and how to play it. There is a tremendous amount of nuance into different matchups that I can in no way cover in a single article. As a random example, vs the mirror match when your opponent has tokens I usually play full hard core aggro and spend 3/4 activation’s on round 1 charging fighters into my opponents territory.
In part 2 of the article I’m going to talk in depth about my semi final and final games, if you want to watch the videos yourself (as well as a bunch of other quality matches from the tournament) then you should pop over to the Warhammer TV Twitch Channel and subscribe. As a head’s up I apologise for the times where I forgot I had a certain upgrade on or got the rules slightly wrong, by the time of playing both those matches you can get quite mentally fatigued, my opponent’s also had occasional issues with this but its just what happens when you’ve played 2 gruelling days of a very mentally intense game.
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