The Call of the Beastgrave
Returning to Underworlds after 3 months away has seen me miss one of the most intense transformations the game has ever experienced. Every spawn hex is regularly filled with horde warbands, the hexes that aren’t filled hurt me, and for some reason people aren’t putting objective hexes in enemy territory for Faneway Crystal anymore! After playing Michael (my man) Aman (a man) and Nick (an Italiman), I’ve been suddenly upended into a meta where I don’t need to roll 7 dice and deal 7 damage against Mollog to win the game…where did he go anyway?
Join me as I explore this new meta, look at how it came to be, and try to speculate as to how we might evolve it further.
Beastgrave: Objectively Better
The first and most obvious change to the game is how suddenly the placement of objectives had begun taking twice as long. To understand why people now would rather run a model into harms way rather than keeping it safe at the back of the board, we have to look at why objective style decks struggled beforehand.
- It takes multiple activations to move onto objectives to score. This is why Zarbags Gitz and Thorns of the Briar queen were more successful at objective play, they didn’t have to use as many activations as other warbands to get onto the right hexes. This gave them a couple of spare activations to prod the enemy with pointy objects, draw cards, or pick their noses discreetly.
- Delayed Gratification. Whilst you were busy working out how exactly to get Keep Them Guessing and be on three objectives and construct a replica of the Eiffel Tower out of dice, your opponent was running at every model you moved. They were also scoring glory for doing it. At the end of a bad turn an objective player would have nothing to show for their efforts at moving around the board cleverly, as it was much easier for the opponent to disrupt plans before objective decks could score their glory.
- Bleeding Glory: Perhaps the biggest weakness of objective decks was that they couldn’t outpace the glory that an opponent got for killing their models consistently. Not getting 3 objective tokens, or having the wrong combination of tokens within reach could cause objective decks to brick before battle had been joined.
Its worth noting that even in this game state Zarbags Gitz and Thorns of the Briar Queen had a decent objective game, with Thorns especially doing well because they have incredible action efficiency, good
score immediately surge objectives and good fighters to harass the enemy with.
So what’s changed to allow more warbands to join in the fun??
Surge hold objective cards.
Holy moly we can keep up in glory now!
Suddenly objective decks have a way of scoring glory mid round without compromising their ability to score their end phase objective objectives (I’m just gonna call these holding objectives now). They can spend that glory to tool up a counter attacking threat to help defend their territory. Objective players can also use an upgraded threat encroach on an enemy without having to wait until turn two, when the glory train arrives at the station (hopefully…mine is often late). It also means that when facing a hold objective deck, you cant afford to let them get close to having three objectives, as they’ll cash in on the achievement instantly. This puts the pressure on their opponents to remove models from objective hexes quickly, rather than waiting for the end of the round for a cheeky distraction.
In addition to this aggro play, traditionally the counter to objective play, suffers from losing some accuracy gambits. Missed attacks can cost a game, and currently Haymaker, Sitting Target and potentially Keen Avarice are the main options you have to make your attacks land. Fuelled by Fury has left the building. Until recently the lack of mobility gambit also held aggro back. Fortunately Spectral Wings made a return on the mobility front to at least help the more choppily inclined Underworlds players to close the gap with objective based warbands.
However the main reason aggro play has been struggling more recently is because keeping pace with an objective’s deck disgusting glory snowball can often prove an impossible task. Ghouls you kill start nibbling on your heels as they loot objectives you left behind. Sneaky hipster Beastmen do their best Hidden Paths impressions to dodge your frontal assault. Spoopy ghosts continue to spoop, scoring Temporary Victory before you can even charge a Chainrasp.
All of the above has led to Duke Crackmarrow becoming a very
cannibal honourable aristocrat.
But hang on, I thought objective decks were just running onto objectives and scoring, why is our beautiful Duke feeding on the blood of his enemies?
Whilst Objective and Gambit decks are primarily built to help secure feature tokens and score easy passive glory (Scrum anyone?), the Upgrade deck is a little freer to play around with. When a veritable flood of glory comes your way because Master Talon remembered how much he loves Objective 2 at the start of a round, you need something fun to spend your money on. Trophy Belt, Tome of Offerings and Great Strength are equipped and suddenly the Duke is farming Supremacy off of every kill. Sudden Growth and Spectral Armour (as well as the warband specific Impervious Delusion) can also make attacking him a hopeless cause. The Briar Queen is also very adept at becoming a monster to deal with.
(Incidentally, the biggest problem the Gitz have is that the fanatic is much harder to “tool up” and they don’t have the same control over their counter threat. Many Zarbags Gitz players would retort that lack of control is absolutely not a problem).
Anyway, meta decks currently spend Turn 1 trying to get enough glory to make the Turn 2 counter-attack devastating. Cards like Scrum and Calculated Risk on top of warband specific objectives and Surge holding objectives help generate the early pool of glory without engaging with the enemy. The upgrade deck provides the glory for fighting once your chosen hero has been suitably bedecked in belts, books and biceps.
Surely then, the best thing to do is to make Turn 1 a living hell for these warbands…
All your board are belong to us
Turn 1 is where Objective based warbands seek to farm glory from their side of the board, and turn one is where you have to force the fight before they are ready. Flood the board, charge the enemy, and make Ghartok floss himself silly on Objective 1 as your opponent tries to dislodge him. Its easy to get waylaid trying to score cards like Path to Victory en route, but every activation not spent disrupting an objective deck is an activation they have free to start to extend an insurmountable lead. You won’t have as high a glory potential as the enemy, however you can stomp their glory into the ground if you hit hard enough.
If it were as simple as just charging the enemy though, why hasn’t anyone done it?
As I alluded to earlier, the objective deck for a lot of warbands currently rewards positioning, and dabbles in holding objectives too. Scrum and Path to Victory are becoming increasingly prevalent, and cards like Swift Capture and Frenzied Search further incentivise moving onto objectives rather than into your opponent. If you want to take the fight to the enemy, you really have to build for it, and honestly that’s not the easiest thing to do right now.
Snarlfangs currently have the best game into objective warband in my humble opinion, as their warband specific objectives are very strong, and their status as Hunters (took a while for that mechanic to crop up) allows them access to some solid objectives that other aggro warbands can’t take. Brought to Bay is great, Tracking is also much better with hunters, and Snare is reliable to proc. Trophy Belt is also a great card for Rippa and the crew. These Grotz can easily start to kebab ghouls and give them a taste of their own
Beastmen have objectives which require no dice rolls and reward you for getting in the enemies face as well. Stampede and Raiders just require you to have a pop at the enemy, and Survival of the Fittest rewards you for any attempt at bloodshed. The Despoilers also have some of the best accuracy gambits right now with Blood Taunt and Bull Charge, as well as an innate re-roll mechanic with the ritual counters. This warband can really snowball out of control as long as the attacks keep landing (hint: they won’t 😦 ).
It’s a race to the finish. Did you hit them hard enough, have you stemmed the objective glory tide? Or did you your warband have a shared pacifist epiphany and decide to feed the hungry ghouls rather than gut them? I do quite like the meta that’s developing, but i think the aggro objective deck especially needs more non-Hunter options to allow old favourite warbands (Godsworn please) to start to join the fray.
One archetype that hasn’t been mentioned at all is control. That’s because control decks, or even control decks flexing into aggro or objective, just don’t work in this meta. The game feels a little like throwing coal into the engine of a runaway train, whichever warband gets theirs going faster wins, unless some rogue aggro player decides to careen their train straight into the opponent cackling madly. Control decks have always been about scoring little but ensuring your opponent scores less, and currently control is only delaying the glory train, it always gets going eventually.
Stormsires Cursebreakers, probably the most infamous user of the control archetype in recent memory, are now played much more aggro flexed into control. The tricky thing for the magical sigmarites is that Turn 1 is the Empower casting turn. Turn 1 is also the Varclavs insta-score Temporary Victory turn. It’s difficult to play a warband that inherently wants to ignore your opponent’s biggest weakness (that’s not to say you have to). Fortunately, Cursebreakers scale super well into Turns 2 and 3, however the glory train may have picked up too much speed by the time they are ready to fight.
Its not all doom and gloom though, every deck should include some cards based on denying your opponent. Distraction is the most prevalent, and Mischievous Spirits will no doubt see play in order to disrupt the machinations of objective players. Control has become a class of card now, rather than a playstyle archetype.
We must nod our heads to the 200 IQ Gambit combos that frustrated an opponent’s plans at every turn. Salute the glory trickle that some clever decks achieved whilst damming the flow of an opponent. However now we must march bravely on into Beastgrave without these decks. You are Aggro or Objective now, flex your control muscles sparingly but efficiently in your deck.
Deny your opponent by bashing their face in.
Weird Flex but OK?
With many players picking up similar warbands with the aim of grabbing every objective hex on the board, everyone is having to consider mirror matchups. How do I play if I come across another objective deck. What do I do if I get board choice, how do I disrupt an opponent without expending my own glory?
The degree of flex into aggro is a difficult blend to achieve successfully. You need to be able to reliably get on your objectives, but you also need to get in your opponents face to ruin their day. Cards like Path to Victory and Swift Capture epitomise this flex approach of getting stuck in a little bit without compromising your own glory gain.
In general the more aggro objective deck in the matchup seems to come out on top, however that compromises your ability to reliably push yourself onto objectives when you face aggro decks you really don’t want to be charging into. Your hand might include Haymaker, Trophy Belt and Pit Trap, but even if you take advantage of your cards and kill an enemy aggro fighter, you haven’t spent time getting on objectives. You can also be sure the aggro deck will hit back and score more from it. Every decision, every card inclusion, needs to be considered. Each card you flex aggro will cost you reliability in scoring objectives, and you need to be sure that your flex doesn’t leave your deck without clear direction.
Objective play flexed into aggro to some degree is the playstyle to beat right now.
This is just a few musings from my experience in the current meta, and I have been surprised so many times over the past few weeks that I have no doubt I have more surprises ahead. All of this could be wrong. Someone will make control Eyes of the Nine meta…
Jokes aside I hope this article covers why I think the meta is how it is, in order to inspire someone to break it. I have recently attempted to many weird and wonderful decks in order to do so, Magore’s Fiends, The Godsworn Hunt and Grashrak’s Despoilers have all been out to play. Maybe someone reading this has already discovered the flaws in my meta arguments and is ready to shock the world at the next clash with a whole new style of deck!
In other news I’ve got a few projects in the pipeline with Steel City currently. They have been slow coming to fruition as I have accepted seven weeks worth of night shifts, a decision as popular as the re-introduction of Rebound (I had to mention it once). Keep your eyes open for more Steel City news soon!
Finally one article out in Beastgrave, Ill go and inform Mike of my Temporary Victory.