The Neutral Cards from Hrthgorn’s Mantrappes and the Wurmspat Expansions

Early Bird Words

The wonderful folks over on the games workshop community team revealed all of the cards contained in the two new expansions via Facebook earlier this week, meaning that we at Steel City can actually review stuff on time… provided I write like the wind. This article will continue the Steel City tradition of reviewing all the neutral cards and giving them a rating on a 5-point scale. 

After going through all the cards I’m going to talk a little bit about how I feel they affect the game as a whole, while trying to save my Hrthgorn hype for his specific article…I’m hoping that we can see ways to break the current hold objective meta in here.

For anyone new to our factually correct and not in anyway biased system here is the boilerplate explanation:

Rating System

  • 5 – Best in class effects that should go in basically every deck that can take them (Calculated Risk, Temporary Victory)
  • 4 – Powerful or versatile effects that are extremely strong in a particular archetype or pretty good in any deck (Tome of Offerings, Great Strength, Potion of Rage)
  • 3 – Solid effects that will find a place in many decks (Great Fortitude, Supremacy, Sidestep)
  • 2 – Limited effects that might be useful in some specialised decks (Imbue with Life, Regal Vision)
  • 1 – Just plain bad cards (Headlong Charge, Our Powers Combined)

All right, that’s all the boring stuff out of the way, let’s dive into the cards themselves.

Objectives

Adaptive Strategy

So, in order to properly evaluate this card, I loaded up the objectively best deck builder (underworldsdb.com) and searched for all the universal objectives that had hybrid in their name. The lacklustre list I was presented with did not look very appealing. This card might become good, even very good in the future when we have more hybrid objectives, especially since I suspect season 4 will be littered with them, but right now it’s unfortunately a hard pass.

Rating 1

Addicted to Power

Overpower is a good card. Overpower that requires two crit’s isn’t. 

Rating 1

Against the Wall

A fairly solid surge card that can work if you pack enough ping damage and push cards into your deck. Before these expansions I would say there wasn’t enough of that in the game but we have enough new toys to play around with now that feel like this will do the job. Remember that this can work off a lethal hex as well, your warband doesn’t have to do the damage, so a Distraction into a lethal hex is totally a legitimate way to score this.

Rating 2

Aggressive Strategy

Upon initial inspection this card feels pretty good, like Combination Strikes but less feast or famine. Then I remember that the Grymwatch have an in-faction version of this called Mordent Triumph that I experimented with back in the day. I found Mordent Triumph was a really hard to score objective in Grymwatch, a warband that scores surges like they are going out of business, and so cut it. If you are playing this then you should consider it a 3rd end phase card, at which point is 2 glory worth it?

Rating 2

Arcane Arrest

Here is a juicy one. In the current hunter heavy meta this is practically a surge that you score simply for casting a spell. The fact that it counts quarry’s as well is a really nice touch as so many people are packing Survival Instincts and there is another quarry card later in the set that I think is an auto include as well. The most popular warband that this might brick against is Thorns, if you draw this objective early vs them it could be dead in hand. 

Rating 3

Arcane Expertise

More magic related surge fun. If you want to pack your deck full of spell slinging damage then this looks super solid. This works on Spell Attack actions as well, which we see a great universal one of down below. The only time I can see this being bad for a magic deck is if you are going all out on control, which before these expansions was a mostly dead archetype but right now might actually be a consideration again.

Rating 3

Awesome Resilience

Similar to an old Shadespire staple, Bloodless. Pure control decks will love this, an ultra-reliable 1 glory end phase card if you manage to keep your opponents from the gates, other playstyles need not apply.

Rating 3

Blaze a Trail

This is a nice surge for aggro that you only take in small elite fighter decks, like Rippas. The biggest issue with this card is trying to score it if your opponent has fully offset boards vs you. In the current meta, fully offsetting boards does make it hard for your opponent to get to your tokens…you can see that there are a lot of moving factors in trying to asses how good this card is. One potential issue is that hold objective decks by their very nature take a lot of push cards and they could just Sidestep next to one of your fighters if you have already gotten 2 in. I’m going to try testing this in my Rippa deck and see if it can pay off.

If anyone is looking at this and is unsure why I’m excited, it’s because passive surges that you can score without having to roll dice are very strong in this game, there is a good reason that Calculated Risk is restricted. In fact I have a mini-rant about why aggro needs cards like this in our latest Chatting Crit podcast episode, #smooth.

Rating 3

Frantic Exchange

Despite my initial excitement over this card, the more I look at it, the more I realise that it isn’t actually very good. In a best of three when your opponent knows you have this, they will stop playing into it, which forces you to play 4 of these cards yourself. That means playing cards very sub optimally which is just not worth it for the pay-out.

Rating 2

Master of Many Paths

Oooooh er, another 1 glory end phase that is fairly reliable if you build around it. I’m not entirely sure that it’s worth building around a single glory end phase card but if you do and you have a leader wizard then this is pretty easy. A lot of those cards that make you a hunter also give you a benefit vs quarry, if we see an upgrade that turns all enemy fighter’s into quarry in future then the synergy for this card goes right up.

Rating 2

Perfect Match

Superior Tactician was too pure to exist in this world, in its place Games Workshop have given us perfection. This is an incredibly strong card in the right deck, you run 11 easy to score low glory objectives then pack this as your game-ender. On its own this gives control players a desperate gasp of air that lets them compete again, together with some of the other cards in this set we might see a perfect storm where control becomes meta.

Outside of control decks this can still find a place, surgical aggro or honestly some of the silly Grymwatch decks might pop this in. Obviously, this has to be tested fully before I can be sure it is as strong as I think it is but right now, I’m convinced it’s crazy, please community don’t make me eat my words in the future.

Rating 4

Rising Power

I initially looked at this and thought that Well of Power was the only way you could score it. Then I realised (ahem read someone else’s comment) that this works with Haymaker/Potion of Rage on Spell attack actions like Stormsire or Vortimus. If you are happy to take all three of those cards in a spell heavy deck then this seems like a solid choice. I always consider upgrade triggers better for objectives as you can play them long before you see the objective and then still score said objective in later rounds.

Rating 3

Skilled Duellist

There are just barely enough combo cards in the game now that you can take this objective. Even then this requires you to hit two attacks in a row, it feels like taking this card is pushing the dice gods favour a bit much. 

Rating 2

Sorcerous Volley

With cards like Stand and Shoot/Jealous Defence existing I think we just got another surge card that’s great for wizards. The attacks don’t even have to be successful in order for this to work. When I took Steady Assault in my Rippa’s deck it basically worked the same way this would in an aggressive Cursebreaker or Wurmspat deck and it was fantastic in that. This is a card that control players might sniff at but the aggro magic players will love. Oh yeh, it also works with Lightning Assault as well…

Rating 3

Team Effort

YES!

I literally love this card.

A reliable aggro card or even a control one if you are willing to sacrifice activations not drawing cards. Single glory end of phase cards should be ultra-reliable, it’s the weakest way to score objectives currently so it should be damn near guaranteed to score if you do take it. Only small 3 fighter warbands will like this card but for those I heavily recommend it. The only ones who might give it a miss are the Cursebreakers as they are spoilt for objectives.

Rating 4

Triumphant Hunt

On the flip side to Team Effort we see an end phase aggro card that is less reliable but worth double the glory. The Quarry requirement means that it’s probably only worth taking with the Mantrappers (the big boi makes everyone his quarry, its great) and the three fighters dead requirement means that it’s a bit of a meta call that’s great against hordes but bad into Cursebreakers/Rippa type warbands.

Rating 2

Uncontested

Talking about meta calls, this card is amazing for hold objective players… if everyone else is playing aggro. If you are playing the mirror then this is essentially a dead card unless you have pretty much already won the game. I’m fascinated to see if anyone can make this work but in the current state of the game I just don’t think its worth the risk.

Rating 2

Unexpected Pitfall

Another card that is tricky to rate. Full ping damage Cursebreakers or Wurmspat might find this fairly reliable, however the Cursebreakers can already take a ton of even better surge cards… so maybe this is just for the Wurmspat? 

Rating 2

Gambits

Beast Armour

My initial impression of this is that it was trash but for Stormsire and Fecula, re rolling a block is quite nice, especially for Fecula. This won’t break meta’s or dominate top level play but it’s a fairly decent effect that can be the difference between your wizard surviving or dying. 

Rating 2

Blindside

This one is very similar to Counter Charge but it works on both your attack and your opponent’s. I know a lot of people are arguing if you can push a fighter that is already supporting with this card, for my money you can but we probably need an FAQ to clarify it. A 2-hex push is a very strong effect in this game, while the limits on this card make it tricky, I can see some people playing it.

Rating 2

Buried Instinct

A very very tasty ploy for two dodge warbands, particularly the horde ones where people will throw a lot of attacks your way, instead of powering up a big Haymaker style one. I think the Gitz definitely take this and maybe the Thorns, especially as this triggers Treacherous Foe. Remember that being on guard stops a drive back, so if you have a fighter on an objective token that won’t be killed by an attack then this is golden.

Rating 3

Chain Attack

If you are building your deck with a ton of combo cards then maybe just maybe this is worth taking. I’m tempted to try building a more modern Festering and Hungering style deck as the upgrades on those fighters don’t go to waste if they are killed. Seems fun but not super strong.

Rating 2

Collapse

This card is basically Encroaching Shadow 90% of the time, if you do manage to hit multiple fighters with it it’s bonkers. Encroaching Shadow on its own is a fairly good card, having one that is sometimes better is nice, being able to double up on the effect is nice, having this card come in an expansion where we get a copy of Distraction (spoilers), I’m excited. I think you need a dedicated ping damage deck if you are going down this route but I’m super glad those decks can exist and it’s nice to see good options for it that aren’t tied to magic.

Rating 3

Crushing Charge

The virgin Crushing Charge vs the chad Collapse. Crushing Charge forces you to make a charge, Crushing Charge forces you to roll a dice and might fail. Don’t take Crushing Charge, take Collapse instead.

Rating 1 

Dragged into Darkness

This one’s a bit of a head scratcher. Games Workshop are doing a good job at making unique cards that we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately, this one seems bad? I have a suspicion that the original version didn’t have the requirement of needing to take the target out of action, was found to be too good and was then nerfed into its current state. I want to say someone has a use for this, but if I build a full ping damage Wurmspat or Cursebreaker deck then this stays far off the list.

Rating 1

Flash of Foresight

It’s nice to see Games Workshop exploring this design space and I’m glad that they were cautious with it as knowing your opponent’s objectives can be a big deal, especially in game 1. Unfortunately, I’d never use a gambit slot on this effect, it’s just not quite good enough.

Rating 1

Irresistible Vision

I’ve said this in previous articles and I will repeat it here; if I’m going to be trying to cast a two-focus spell it had better win me the game. Irresistible Vision does not win you the game.

Rating 1

Leadbone Dust

Transfixing Stare but you have to be adjacent with the added upside of ensnare vs the target. 

You son of a bitch.

I’m in.

Seriously, Transfixing Stare won me a Grand Clash, then for some mysterious but totally unrelated reason the folks at GW decided to restrict it. Even restricted, Transfixing Stare is still really good. Having the consistency to take two of the same effect in a deck is also really nice, Spiteclaw’s swarm and Eyes of the Nine players will enjoy summoning fighters next to juicy targets and disabling them for a whole round. It’s a great way of locking down your opponent’s best fighter.

Rating 3

Leave Nothing to chance

Objective destruction Cursebreakers and Ythlari’s players will love the consistency this brings to their decks and might now find a slot for the surge objective Scorched Earth. The fact that this card isn’t amazing on its own is secondary to it being a great trigger and facilitating the type of deck that can fight the meta horror of hold objective play.

Rating 3

Lucky Escape

If the ping damage decks I have been rambling on about do become popular then this is a fantastic counter card. Even better that it works against lethal hexes so it’s not dead in other matchups. Even even better that it can combine with damage reduction effects like Eldritch Ward and Toughened Hide to completely negate a two-damage attack. If this works with Potion of Constitution and Narrow Escape then I am super hype, however until we get an FAQ I’ll play safe and assume it doesn’t.

Rating 3

Nightmare in the Shadows

I am going to self-plagiarise a bit here and inset my comments on Distraction from my Rippa article:

“You know this might be the best unrestricted ploy card in the game right now. The list of things you can do with Distraction include:

  • Push an enemy fighter into a lethal hex for 1 wound
  • Push an enemy fighter off an objective token to deny objectives like Supremacy or Path to Victory
  • Push an enemy fighter in range of a charge
  • Push an enemy fighter in range of an attack so you don’t have to charge
  • Push an enemy fighter out of their charge range to keep yourself safe – bonus points if you do this after they waste a power card like Potion of Rage

If you aren’t taking Distraction in your deck then you really need to reassess what you are doing with your life.”

Well now we have a copy so we can run two in our decks. I can already hear Lady Harrow’s excitement at the possibility of running 4 types of Distraction-esk card’s. I legitimately think that everyone should be taking both this and Distraction in their deck no matter what their playstyle is. Call me crazy but I’m giving this baby full marks.

Rating 5

Rocksnake Toxin

I’m still hyped at the idea of some sort of card that ties all the poison cards together, something like deal 1 damage to an enemy fighter for each poison affecting them. Until then I have to rate each poison card individually and this one is barely ok. It’s quite nice into high wound fighters if you draw it early in the game but dead if you draw it late.

Rating 2

Sudden Scarcity

This is a really cool card for control. It’s a way of limiting your opponents’ access to upgrades, while you try and deny their glory. It’s much better earlier in the game as most opponents will have access to some glory later, absolutely brutal against Rippa’s and Godsworn as they both need early upgrades to inspire fighters. I somehow doubt control decks will find space for this but if they do it will cause their opponents much frustration.

Rating 2

Unnatural Truce

Being able to draw two cards at any time with no trigger requirements at all is pretty strong. If you give a card to your opponent though then the net card gain is 0 because you have had to spend a card to do this. The only upside here then is if you have specific cards in a deck, like a certain Scattered Tome I will discuss later, they are much easier to get. Otherwise you are essentially taking a 9 gambit card and 10 upgrade card deck, which I would not recommend.

Rating 2

Vicious Beast

I know I’ve said this time and time again, but I really hate unreliable cards. I build decks for Grand Clashes and to win a big one I need to go multiple rounds undefeated, if I take cards in my deck that sometimes do nothing then I could potentially drop a round due to that and with it my chances of winning the whole event. Scatter as a mechanic is very difficult to control, it only really works if you can ignore one of the dice, like Snirk or Desperate Flight. This is a bit of a pass for me but I can certainly see it being fun to play with at a more casual level.

Rating 2

Wildform

Be Ammis.

Have an innate channel upgrade.

Go to 4 damage and movement 4 from this one spell.

Screw Stormsire.

Sisters are doing it for themselves.

Rating 3

Upgrades

Amberbone Dagger

I said on our recent podcast episode (have I plugged it enough yet Tom?) that I didn’t like the Amberbone weapons because they were both inaccurate and low damage. If we get a weapon that solves just one of those issues then I’m all in. Amberbone Dagger is close, three fury is a reasonably decent attack, but it’s still not quite there for me.

Rating 2

Amberbone Spear

The range 2 Amberbone weapon seems wasted because the biggest factor in a range two attack is how you can keep attacking again and again without having to use a charge, while this weapon is discarded as soon as it works. On the other hand range 2 weapons are much better at trapping enemy fighter’s and that really boosts their accuracy. I think this is the first Amberbone weapon that just crosses the threshold of ‘properly decent’ for me. I want that extra glory.

Rating 3

Barb-Laden Net

If Hrthgorn becomes meta then this seems like a very solid way of dealing with him. The accuracy is an issue (do I sound like a broken record yet?) but the effect is incredibly strong, a step beyond the lock down that Transfixing Stare and Leadbone Dust provide, the only fighter in the game that doesn’t lose an entire round to this is my beloved troll. The fact that this is limited to hunters really does narrow the field of those potentially taking it, you generally want to put it on a dangle bro as a punt, which if we look at warbands with dangle bros it looks like Grymwatch are our warband.

Despite the potentially massive upside of this card, I have a suspicion it won’t see play. People will test with it for a bit and then go back to upgrades that either kill enemies or stop their own fighters dying.

Rating 2

Binding Chain

ITS NOT ACCURATE ENOUGH!

Maybe the point of combo upgrades is that you also need an accuracy upgrade on your fighter… which honestly seems reasonable. Getting a monster fighter kitted out with the possibility of making two attacks in a round is potentially very strong but its the type of thing you only see towards the end of a game, why not pack Larval Lance instead for a much simpler investment? Where combo can potentially shine, as I briefly mentioned above, is with warbands that can resurrect fighters, so Skaven, Sepulcral Guard and Grymwatch could all go down the route of loading up a terrifying two wound fighter.

Wait.

If you have Black Hunger on Hungering Skaven then both of the attacks in a combo hit all adjacent enemies…. I have a cunning plan.

Rating 2

Cryptic Companion

Oh boy.

Formless key is a pretty solid upgrade that competitive decks sometimes take. This is formless key all grown up, with a swanky job, married with a couple of kids and an investment portfolio. If you draw this early in a game as a hold objective player then the game practically becomes a war over who has the most pushes in order to stop that one fighter providing a constant source of glory all game long. So besides potentially gaining you a bunch of glory it puts a massive target onto the back of another fighter while your other threats, hello Gristlwell, might be ignored.

Upgrades like Stone Form that stop your opponent pushing your fighter completely might actually be useful just because of this one upgrade. Hell if you want deck redundancy take Tome of Glories as well and generate a potential 6 glory a game from sitting on a token.

The hold objective meta has some threats in these expansions but it has also received help from an unlikely quarter, in the form of a Cryptic Companion.

Rating 5

Finishing Blow

ITS NOT ACCURATE EN- FUCK ME 4 DAMAGE!

Another way to kill scary targets comes in the form of an attack that if it reacts to combo can cause a mighty 4 damage.

I want Black Hunger.

Binding Chain.

Finishing Blow.

Challenge Seeker.

A bucket to catch my opponent’s tears in.

So as said above, the setup for these combo shenanigans is big and it can mean playing sub optimal upgrades out onto a fighter that only really work when they are all assembled together. Once you do assemble your glass cannon voltron though you can seriously deal an insane amount of damage. I am honestly really excited to play silly decks with all this stuff in. It might not be ultra competitive but it is fun and I’m really happy that the GW team are injecting some crazy fun into the game.

Rating 2

Hunter’s Caution

With the way Hunter and Quarry is right now these essentially reads; ‘If you are an Ogor then re-roll your defence dice’. I honestly don’t think you fit this into a Hrthgorn as he has better defensive options. The Hunter Quarry dynamic is certainly getting better support as the season progresses but its still not quite there for most of us.

Rating 1

Hunting Companion

In order to get the extra damage from Hunting Companion you need your attack to succeed and to roll a double support in that same roll, a seemingly unlikely set of circumstances. If this wasn’t limited to range 1 and range 2 attacks I might consider it on the big daddy, for my Rippa’s it seems too dicey.

Rating 2

Jared’s Spirited Sphere

This seems like a neat little trick for level 2 wizards that don’t have access to a spell attack, Thredda I’m looking at your ugly mug. Like almost all magic in the game though, Spirited Sphere is best on the Cursebreakers. Pop this and a combination of Well of Power/Arcane Savant onto Rastus/Ammis and you have a second Stormsire turret to build around. This is incredibly good for aggro Cursebreakers and I honestly think they will play it, for everyone else it might be a bit of a miss though.

Rating 2

Mandibles of the Ur-Grub

My poor boy Mollog really wishes that these Ur-Grub upgrades worked on range 2 by default, to be fair this effect is so good for the big lug that he might take it just to use on his scything attack. Reusable healing is an incredible way of keeping high wound fighters alive and this honestly seems like a much better option then Soothing Companion as it rewards you for doing what you already want to be doing, namely killing.

Rating 2

Prey’s Cunning

Huh, this actually seems insanely good for both Mollog and Hrthgorn (hence-force this category of fighter shall be known as “Big Boi’s”), it basically says that any ping damage your opponent takes, which is very popular in most decks, is only usable against the chaff fighters in your warband. Outside of the BIG BOI’s I don’t think this is quite worth it for other warbands as the upgrade slot is so contested these days.

Rating 2

QuinTok’s Combative Cantrip

Honestly the spell action on this card seems pretty bad, however this upgrade has a magic keyword on it that becomes very relevant in the right build (very soon I will reveal why). So it’s definitely got a place in those weird decks.

Rating 2

Sprinting Charm

There are so many interestingly different cards in these expansions that I keep struggling to evaluate. I don’t think Sprinting Charm is good? You don’t really control when you draw cards so there is a reasonable chance that this becomes dead if you draw it in round 3. It’s certainly an interesting idea, just probably not worth taking.

Rating 1

Substance Siphon

Read the card text on inspired Ammis and Rastus, look back at this card.

Yes, they count both blocks and dodge as successes, yes until this is FAQ’d or errata’d that means that you effectively get 3 guard dice in round 3 for either of those fighters. As we have seen with larval lance, upgrades that get better as the game progresses seem to be reasonable strong, so for the Cursebreakers this seems like a solid option. Outside of that broken interaction it feels a tad on the weak side though, you maybe take it with a warband that is doing the ‘combo bomb’ onto a resurrecting fighter to make them very hard to kill back, or you maybe just pop it onto a dangle bro that is holding an objective to make them harder to kill. The Herald inspired with this on is disgusting.

Rating 2

Terrifying Aura

An incredibly powerful tech card that can stop Hrthgorn and his multiple ways of getting re-rolls in his tracks but like so many tech cards in this game its dead in so many matchups, which makes it a hard pass unfortunately.

Rating 1

The Scattered Tome

Oh how I miss tome decks. This is essentially Acolyte of the Katophranes but only for wizards. I think it’s worth going over the subtle differences in the way both cards seem to work though:

  • Acolyte requires a third end phase card which means it can brick your objective hand
  • The Scattered Tome requires one specific upgrade to work so you either want to reliably get through your entire deck or to pack a Bag of Tricks
  • The tome strategy has three restricted cards – no current restrictions on Lost Pages
  • Only wizards can use the lost pages

That about sums up the differences, the biggest factor for me is that the lost pages have no restricted cards. Control Cursebreaker decks will absolutely see a comeback just because of this upgrade which has me pretty excited. Whether they can outscore the crazy glory that Hold Objective decks can currently pile on remains to be seen but I am super happy that we have different viable playstyles to try.

Rating 3

Victor’s Experience

If Escalation/Master of War objectives still existed within the Championship format then I think that upgrades like this would have a specific niche use. As is I mostly want to upgrade my fighter before making an attack unless it was a defensive upgrade, this is not a defensive upgrade.

Rating 1

Victor’s Speed

Pretty much exactly the same issue as Victor’s Experience, +1 move is definitely better then just being a Hunter but I’m still not really interested in popping that onto my fighter that now has a charge token on it.

Rating 1

How these Expansions hit the Meta

The biggest winner from these neutral cards has to be the Cursebreakers. We have a bunch of ploys that help them deal ping damage, we have objectives that help them score off of dealing ping damage and we have control build options in the form of the Lost Pages and Perfect Match. Hold objective decks got another incredibly powerful tool in the form of Cryptic Companion but is this enough to cement their place at the top, or will magic Cursebreakers and one of the two new warbands break their stranglehold on the meta?

I’m honestly really excited to see what players do with the new tools Games Workshop have given us here. From combo cards to Team Effort, we have crazy fun build around cards and reliable top level competitive objectives. As always their are some duds but that’s the nature of these things, if something is going to be good then by it’s very nature something else has to be bad.

We should have our Steel City reviews of both the Wurmspat and Hrthgorn’s Mantrapper’s coming out within the next week, with Tom leading the bloated Nurgle charge.

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 team@steelcityshadespire.com

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