In new ultra high resolution!
A new year brings a new update to the underworlds FaR list, and perhaps a welcome one to shake up the fairly engrained objective style meta that is currently ‘controlling’ (heh) the game. With noteworthy additions to both the Forsaken and Restricted sides it’s pretty certain that the changes below are going to cause a stir. Without further ado let’s get into the meat of the changes.
This article is mostly written by our very own mascot, and Tom’s brother, Oli. I’ll butt in from time to time, if you are unsure which bits are mine look for the bolded text – Mike
Extreme Flank (NIghtvault #317)
Aggressive Defence (Nightvault #391)
Keep Them Guessing (Nightvault #340)
Upper Hand (Power Unbound #48)
Acolyte of the Katophranes (Nightvault #291)
Calculated Risk (Nightvault #302)
Loner (Nightvault #342)
Longstrider (Nightvault #343)
Sorcerous Scouring (Nightvault #371)
Pit Trap (Nightvault #436)
Sphere of Aqshy (Nightvault #451)
Transfixing Stare (Nightvault #467)
Archer’s Focus (Nightvault #476)
Slumbering Key (Nightvault #539)
Sudden Growth (Nightvault #543)
Tome of Offerings (Nightvault #550)
Tome of Vitality Nightvault #551)
Well of Power (Nightvault #557)
Burst of Speed (Power Unbound #25)
Warning Shot (Power Unbound #36)
Sorcerous Flourish (Power Unbound #46)
Spiritbond (Power Unbound #57)
Scrum (Beastgrave #299)
Temporary Victory (Beastgrave #308)
Rebound (Shadespire Gift Pack #21)
Cards in bold are new additions.
Bit out of left field not sure what its doing here. I don’t really agree with this being forsaken from a power level (x)
The first of the cards to be put into the Forsaken list is Aggressive Defense. This card is one of the few ways left to make an attack action outside of your own activation, and forsaking it will mark the end of universal surprise bonus attack actions. As far as power goes, Aggressive Defence was a strong card. It was most commonly used towards the end of Night Vault, during the reign of King Mollog, however it has recently fallen out of favour.
With the advent of Beastgrave the meta of hard hitting fighters has been replaced with objective control and swarming masses. With the lack of good models to swing back with, as well as the general decrease in being attacked in the first place, Aggressive Defense has been cut in favour of pushes and ping damage. Even during Aggressive Defense’s hay day, it was never thought of as overpowered. Generally speaking the heavy price of forfeiting your defence dice made the timing of activating this trap card a skill, and even after you had been clobbered, you weren’t guaranteed to hit back (just ask Mike).
Overall I think the ban on this card is fairly unjustified from a balance perspective. Given the changes made to the game with this FaR update, it would have been interesting to see if the recently improved aggro builds would have run it. I think the main reason for this ban is more down to rules and gameplay issues. This will not be the first or last time a card has been removed from the game due to multiple FAQs leading to the card being just too complicated to properly use. With 6 FAQ entries I think Aggressive Defence has just become a card that’s too difficult to work with.
I was very surprised to see this card banned but after thinking about it I actually wholeheartedly agree with the decision. Aggressive defence has always been a mini nightmare to work out timing windows for and with Rippa’s having their own in faction reaction attack I expect that 95% of players would have to pour over the FAQ’s in order to understand how all the timings work, not a situation any of us want to happen at tournaments. Like Oli I’m sad to see this go from a purely balance perspective, it’s a fun effect, but from a rules perspective this makes a lot of sense – Mike
Keep Them Guessing
Powerful but well designed, will be missed. I understand the decision, but wish they went for restricted (x)
The other card to be forsaken is Keep Them Guessing. If you listen carefully you can hear screaming. That is the sound of warbands with actions printed on their fighter cards crying. No longer will Varclav be able to boogey his entire warband into temporary victory and scrum, all while making this juicy objective possible. A staple card in Thorns, Cursebreakers and Grymwatch decks, Keep Them Guessing will be missed in a lot of tournament topping lists.
But does mean it should have been Forsaken? I don’t really think so. I would say that Keep Them Guessing is actually very well balanced. It’s a great design that forces you to have to play in a very specific way in order to score 2 glory. The sacrifice required is substantial, often leading to multiple sub optimal activations, where you move rather than charge (or vice versa) or even just straight up wasted activations where you go on guard in the very last activation of the turn! Sometimes even after you dedicated a whole turn to ‘keeping your opponent guessing’, they figure you out and deny you the last piece, leaving you having wasted a turn, and perhaps even swinging the game. Either that or they will take advantage of you having already charged to make a risky play. On top of this in the last turn, Keep Them Guessing is often a wasted card as you have too much else to play around to easily satisfy it. This can also be true of drawing into Keep Them Guessing in the current surge meta. If you draw into Keep Them Guessing in your third activation of a round and you have already charged twice, you’re going to have to decide whether you can hold onto it for next round.
Overall I think Keep them Guessing is upsetting to let go of. It is a very powerful card, but also a situational card. I don’t think I would have been too annoyed to see it restricted, however for it to be banned seems a little heavy handed. Like Aggressive defence however I think the cause is the FAQs. With 5 clarifications onto the FAQ list, one of which is quite hefty, Keep Them Guessing keeps players guessing about how to score it, leading to it being shown the door. Honestly I hope to see a reworked version of this card in the future, as I think it is an excellent design and fun to play around.
I’m a bit on the fence with this one. I love the design of Keep them Guessing, it feels like you have some sort of mini side quest to try and fulfill during your turn, but the way it is worded has led to much confusion about the specifics of how it works, hence its multiple FAQ entries. Despite all the FAQ entries I think that the card works in a mostly common sense way and while it can be confusing for new players it can also be a good learning experience to show them some of the deeper mechanics in the game – Mike
With Keep Them Guessing and Change of Tactics gone, going On Guard becomes truly suspicious… – Tom
Strong ploy, fair restriction. However its current strength is heavily influenced by the current meta. (✓)
Transfixing stare is definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest, ploy in the current meta. It works so well at shutting down aggression, both for objective lists and other aggro warbands. Transfixing Stare can effectively shut down an opposing fighter for a turn. Having the freedom to remove key enemies from the game allows you to make moves up the board at low risk, or keep control of a vital objective for one more turn. When combined with push cards like Appalling Visage, Transfixing Stare can be an effective combo piece for de-escalating an unwanted combat.
In the current meta of objective control, Transfixing Stare is one of the major factors that are holding back new aggro factions such as Snarlfang’s and Wild hunt. Having an activation denied for their strongest fighters can slow down aggressive warbands enough for objective factions to build a glory difference. With factions like Grymwatch and Thorns that can tool up their leaders into bigger threats than Rippa can handle, this can lead to objective warbands having the edge in all parts of the game. On the other hand, in some matchups, notably objective versus objective, Transfixing Stare can be a little bit dead, as you don’t really have much to use it on. On top of this it is a Transfixing Stare is a card that often requires good timing to be effective, this means that sometimes you can end up holding it, when you don’t really want to be. Similarly Transfixing Stare can be a tricky card to draw into (having said that it’s sometimes a perfect draw) if the opposition has already made key moves.
I thinkTransfixing Stare is a card in an odd spot. I don’t think on its own the card is too powerful, however in this current meta transfixing stare does a lot to stifle opposition. I definitely don’t disagree with the idea of restricting it, however i’m a little sad to see it done. I think if a different meta were prevalent at the moment, no one would think of it as an issue, and I would have been interested to see if the other changes to the FaR list were enough. Maybe it’s a restriction that could be lifted if the meta substantially shifts.
I’m actually super happy that this card has been restricted as it now means Rippa’s and the Wild Hunt are actually playable – Mike.
Tome of Vitality
This hurts as I just finished making my new shiny Tome deck. Disagree with this restriction as I think tomes are in a good place right now (x)
I don’t want to talk about it. Can someone else do this one?
Serious now. This is probably the final nail in the already weary Tome coffin. After the previous two restrictions of Tome of Offerings and Acolyte of Katophanes, I think losing their extra wound on the bearer is the death knell. There has been only a single top 10 deck that uses the tome package in a major tournament since Acolyte of the Katophranes and Tome of Offerings were restricted in the advent of beastgrave. I think this speaks to the balance of Tomes in the current meta, this is due to the high cost of running Acolyte in your deck. Before you had to spend at least one restricted slot, and half your upgrades. If you want to run Tomes now you have two real choices: sack all of your restricted slots for Acolyte of Katophranes and the Tomes of Offerings, and Vitality, or just take Acolyte and sack half of your upgrade deck on some of the worst cards in the game (except glories which is actually OK, but is not nearly as effective if you can’t use it twice a turn on mollog).
I think the reason for the change is as Games Workshop does not want glory multiplying effects in the game. Relics have been previously gutted for being powerful (which to be fair they were). Now Tomes are being lead down a similar road, despite them being in a balanced state right now (there not winning), and the cards not being individually powerful (there’s 9 other unique +1 wound cards in the game right now). I don’t believe there is an issue with not wanting this playstyle in the game, as it can be very strong while fairly uninteractive. Having said that I personally very much enjoy the style of play that revolves around investing glory. I am a little upset that strategies you have to wait the whole year for all the pieces to be released over multiple sets, get removed from the game fairly quickly after they are usable. Hopefully in the future these type of ‘card set’ archetypes will not make use of glory farming in the future, so we don’t have to worry whether people find a playstyle too ‘unfun’ to keep in the game. (I don’t mean this a criticism to people, I wholeheartedly understand why you don’t like playing into control decks, I just like playing them).
I’m of the opinion that glory generating cards are something that a lot of people do not enjoy having in the game, and the devs have listened, which I understand but personally find disappointing. I hope in the future unique play styles will not fall foul of this, or the cards are just not made if this is going to be the result.
Having said all this, I’m now sure a Tomes deck is going to win the Grand Clash in January just to prove me wrong. Just as a final note at the end of the article I will give an example of how the changes affect some meta decks, one of which will be the ‘anti meta’ Acolyte I was planning on using in the clash.
Its worth noting that GW are consistent with their removal of glory multiplication from the game. The 6 surge limit helped prevent aggro warbands from running cards like Combination Strike with impunity, limiting the reliability of “glory scoring more glory” effects in the game – Tom
Like Oli I am really sad to see the Tomes treated this way, it’s the only card on the list that I am disappointed to see. Tome decks are a fun and interestingly different play style that had its hay day when the big troll had access to different cards, now with the troll being forced off the books it seems GW have extended their anti literacy campaign to everyone else – Mike
Fun idea, but just too free. Easily comparable to calculated risk (✓)
Scrum has been a recent staple to warbands that have enough models to complete it themselves (and it’s still strong even if you need some enemy help). With some smart board set up (or Varclav) this is 1 glory the activation after you draw it as you can normally fill a gap on the field. As far as surge goes it’s top tier.
This card had to find its way into the restricted list, as it falls in line with criteria of a card that requires zero interactivity, and has next to no counterplay against. If your opponent draws this in their first hand, they may as well have just started the game with a glory. It feels bad for you to feel like you have been handicapped by either not being able to effectively run this card in the warband you are playing, or even just have it lurk at the bottom of your objective deck uselessly.
Overall I think it is very difficult to argue with the decision to restrict the card. It comparable to the already restricted Calculated Risk in that it is glory for very little effort (even less effort without the 1 damage toll of running through a lethal). It also helps to define the meta further into the high model count objective style warbands that score this objective so easily. I’m happy to see this change and firmly believe it is still strong enough to be seen despite the restricted price tag.
This is a really good choice to see on the list. Scrum is a super reliably glory for some warbands to score and just like Calculated Risk before it, you should have to pay a restricted slot for that effect – Mike
It needed to happen. As mentioned on Chatting Crit it was probably designed with restriction in mind (✓)
Next on the restricted list is Temporary Victory. When Despoilers were released with a surge supremacy people were interested, but the warband itself seemed to be balanced with weaker fighter cards to account for this strong objective. When the same card got released with Grymwatch, a faction that looked like it would be able to play a strong objective playstyle and also wasn’t forced to deploy a bunch of farmyard rejects onto the board, it became meta defining. Then Rippas were announced and spoilt in the article was this little gem of a universal version. Temporary Victory took the already very powerful Thorns and Grymwatch decks and amplified them to a new level.
The question is not really if Temporary Victory should have been restricted, but if it should ever have been printed in the first place. As said above rather than shaking up the meta with a fast aggro warband that theoretically should play well into hold playstyles, the Rippas release reaffirmed the dominance of two of the top tier deck lists in tournament rotation. Warbands having easy ways of scoring high amounts of glory for doing very little pushes a lot of factions out of relevance. Temporary Victory is a prime example of a card that allows what should be a high scoring slower playstyle to be able to farm up glory faster than factions that aim to snowball early leads from kills.
The restriction of Temporary Victory forces factions to have to choose between being able to score fast easy glory, and lose access to the late game ploys and upgrades like sudden growth and tome of offerings, meaning factions quickly lose strength after their initial burst. The other option is to keep their late game strength, but have to slog through a long and strategic game to be able to activate them. Not having the best of both worlds should allow other archetypes factions to be relevant.
I’m glad this card exists, I am also glad it is restricted. Objective play is still very strong, it just now has more of a cost – Tom
This was a no brainer. I’m actually happy this card still exists in a restricted format, it gives the hold objective playstyle an incredibly powerful objective that they can choose, if they are willing to sacrifice other strong cards. It does make flex decks in particular less dominant as it’s hard to fight as much without all those tasty upgrades – Mike
Not broken, but not a particularly fun card to play into. Glad to see it restricted (✓)
Perhaps my least favourite card to ever be printed, its rotation out of the game with Shadespire was the cherry on the top of the breath of fresh air Beastgrave brought to the game. Rebound is a 1 in 3 chance to turn your opponents game winning play into a game losing one. This would be fine, but when your playing best of 3’s, it normally goes off at least once. It’s a horrible way to lose a game, and not a particularly satisfying way to win one either, but the truth was that its potential to turn at least one game in a series was too strong to ignore, and so it found its way into our lists.
I was very surprised to see such a controversial card be resurrected by the Shadespire gift set, and I am very glad to see it swiftly put onto the restricted list. I think with the restricted tag on the card Rebound is quite an interesting card now. It’s a very strong and useful card to have in your arsenal, however with only 3 restricted slots available, and high competition for the real estate it would be a brave choice to stick with it.
Overall I think the restricted list was a smart place to put Rebound, especially with the current competition in the slots. Rebound is a solid choice however you lose out on a lot of reliable power by taking it. I think the restriction will lead to Rebound falling out of favour, however I do see some people still running it, and that surprise factor may make it even more effective than it already is.
I hate Rebound with a burning passion. I know there are some players who like it for the big swing it can provide. In casual and even a single competitive match this is a fairly balanced card that goes off 1/3 times and offsets its strong effect by being dead most of the time. In a tournament setting where this is meta, good players can be knocked out because one of their matches Rebound went off against them twice. It’s too high variance for a single card and it doesn’t allow the attack to interact with it’s mechanics at all. I do feel like the game is lacking neutral cards to potentially stymie an attack right now though, hopefully we will get something like the Harrow card Dissipate in future for everyone to use, that’s a better designed card – Mike
Effects on Meta Decks
Here I just want to give a brief overview on how these changes will actually affect current meta decks. Below are going to be four decks for the Thorns of the Briar Queen, two from before the changes and two after. I choose Thorns because they can very easily be used to illustrate the magnitude of the changes. The first pair of decks that we will look at is the 3rd placing deck from the 2019 German Grand Skirmish, and an idea of an edit to bring it in line with the new FaR list. Second we shall look at an adapted version of a Thorns deck I made using the Tome package, and see how that has fared.
Underlined in red are four cards on the list, that have now been moved to the FaR list, meaning that in total this tournament deck that is running a hefty 7 restricted cards. We will start in the objectives. This deck is potentially losing two surge objectives in Scrum and Temporary Victory. This is a big deal for the Briar Queen, as Varclav was able to score both of these instantly. This is a potential 3 easy glory lost to this list without other changes. On top of this Thorns don’t have all that many good surges to replace them with, we can see that demonstrated with the use of Shortcut in this deck, despite there being only two triggers in Sudden Appearance and Confusion.
We then move into the other two changes with Transfixing Stare and Rebound. These are slightly less impactful, but still major hits. These two cards are really the defensive gambits that this list has against aggro warbands. Without Transfixing Stare to shut down Rippa, the Snarlfangs are going to have a field day chewing through your chainrasps, and building easy glory while doing so. Rebound can be a game swinging move as well, interrupting enemy kills and returning them to sender. Just as importantly Rebound is one of the decks 3 reactions to trigger Treacherous Foe, meaning its removal will also affect the reliability of objectives.
Moving on to the 3 Restricted cards already in the list, Sudden Growth, Tome of Offerings and Spirit Bond. These are the late game insurance, and the way to get more glory in the mirror match. After getting your easy glory from Temporary Victory and Scrum, equipping these bad boys will allow the Queen to become a chaff farming machine, scoring 2 glory a pop at 2 range while being nearly impossible to bring her down. Sacrificing Sudden Growth, Tome of Offerings and Spirit Bond would make the warband far easier to kill, with much less threat of a counter punch.
Here is an edit to reflect a post FaR update version. Here I have kept the objective deck the same as this is the spirit of the deck. It has a heavy hold objective focus. This means that the defensive tools from the ploy side have been lost. I have chosen to replace them with some additional push in the form of Centre of Attention, as well as some anti meta control in Abasoth’s Unmaking to hit hard against other Thorns, as well as Grymwatch. Finally the upgrade pool has also been gutted, losing Spiritbond and Sudden Growth for Great Fortitude and Eldritch Ward. This tries to maintain the survivability of the queen as well as her ability to farm glory, but the queen sacrifices the accuracy Spiritbond provided her.
I feel like this deck does have (in a vacuum) a high glory cap and plenty of solid ways to attain that glory. The problem however is with the loss of a lot of top shelf defensive tools, aggro decks like Rippa’s or Skaeth’s can just run over this deck. As you can see the trade for keeping the glory coming, is to sacrifice combat-relevant cards, which means you become very weak to factions that can happily pick off your chaff. Playing this style of deck now is going to require very particular positioning, as well as incredibly well thought out moves in order to block as much of the threat to objective holders as possible.
To give a quick overview to start with, this deck was designed to counter the current objective style. Running a heavy surge packet, plus some snowball from Combination Strike and reliability from Keep Them Guessing, this deck was built to keep pace with other objective decks and then finish with a burst of 4 or 5 glory from Tomes to take the game. From practice the deck worked very effectively, scoring enough points to keep aggro factions lagging far behind, while also normally managing to edge out other objective decks.
With the new changes this deck suffers from the same issues as the Grand Skirmish deck, however it has the added problem of also having to worry about all the restricted Tomes. With this deck already sinking two of its restricted slots into Acolyte and Tome of Offerings, it really hurts to see Vitality get hit too. On top of this losing Transfixing Stare really hurt this deck in the aggro matchups.
So this is what the revised decklist looks like. With the need to be able to score the quick glory both Scrum and Temporary Victory remained in the deck. This is needed as Acolyte of Katophranes only muliplies glory, and we need a reliable way to get glory in the first place. Losing Rebound and Transfixing Stare is big blow too as it really hurts against Rippas Snarlfangs. Before this deck had game in the matchup, afterwards the deck got rolled over. This is further punished losing Sudden Growth and Tome of Vitality. Not having the extra health needed to keep the Tome bearer alive means often you don’t get your boost at the end due to an early death in the family. On top of this it really hurts the mirror match you are supposed to counter, as now the Queen or the Duke will run you down, while you don’t have the upgrade slots to fight back. Before the power of the upgrades you could take made up for the missing 5 slots, but you can no longer fit them in.
Conclusion – Unlike Tom on a night out, I think we made it out without getting barred
Tom – Fake news.
There were a lot of changes made to the game with the new revised bar list. Some answered my prayers, whilst others leave a bad taste in the mouth. Overall though, the new changes are overwhelmingly positive. Smart changes that limit the power of the current hold objective playstyles hit just right to leave the door open for fast aggressive warbands. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rippa’s and Wild Hunt see more success, or even the start of a minor Khornate revival.
One thing to note however is with the exception of Keep Them Guessing how much Cursebreakers have been left unscathed by the change. Losing Keep Them Guessing is annoying, but honestly quite easy to replace, and for such a consistently high tier warband to have such an easy time with changes, would suggest that Cursebreakers might be the current faction to watch. It can be argued that a lot of the current Cursebreaker strength comes from being able to ping hordes off of objectives at long range to keep pace, or deny the current meta by destroying objectives with spells. As Cursebreakers are currently strong into the current meta, nerfing the current meta could act as an indirect Cursebreakers nerf. I’m not sure how much difference the changes make, but should be interesting to see how powerful they are in the coming year.
Obviously there are some changes I’m less happy to see, most notably Tome of Vitality. However this doesn’t really have a massive effect on the overall positive quality of changes. To everyone practicing with Tome deck right now, I can only sympathize and say ‘you could try Tome of Warfare or Insight’, however I feel that this advice is hollow, and the lack of +1 wound hits harder than you would expect.
As a final note, I think it would have been nice to see Loner removed from the restricted list. Currently it’s sitting there with very little reason. It’s a fairly strong objective, however not to the same level as its peers. It’s fairly easy to play against, and I can’t see Loner making any real difference if released back to the game.
This is honestly a really good list. It’s hit objective decks in the right way, they can still play a strong hold objective game if they want but now they can’t take all the upgrades that let them be better at aggro then actual decks focused on aggro. I’m hyped to see what meta we get out of this, I just hope everyone has time to properly test/practice their decks for the next big GC – Mike
Note Michael Carlin is credited with writing this article but that’s only because we don’t allow Oliver Bond on the site with a login, I just stole his content and popped it on here.
At Steel City we would love to have your feedback. If you have something to say about a specific article then feel free to comment below, if you want to get in touch about the blog in general, or just prefer to communicate privately then you can get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org