January 2020 Warhammer World Grand Clash Metagame 1 – Universal Cards

Introduction

Last month saw 141 determined Warhammer Underworlds players descend on Nottingham for the January 2020 Warhammer World Grand Clash. This was the third Grand Clash held at Warhammer World in the new 2 day format, and the largest yet with almost a third more players than the last event in October.

With tickets to the Warhammer Underworlds Grand Masters event at this year’s NOVA Open up for grabs, the competition at this event was some of the hottest yet. Unfortunately, the Steel City team ourselves didn’t do so well this time although we did win the prestigious Bugman’s Grand Clash pub quiz, and our boy Martin took down the Grand Skirmish on Sunday so it wasn’t all bad.

Pictured: a bunch of idiots who mostly went 2-2. Not pictured: Tom, who was busy regretting not playing Godsworn

Anyway, while we may not have much to show in terms of results, what we do have is data. As now seems to be tradition for Warhammer World Grand Clashes, the event used BCP for pairings and decklist submission meaning that we have the full decklists for every player (theoretically) and can have a look at what the current Warhammer Underworlds metagame looks like – assuming someone was crazy enough to transcribe all the decklists into a useable format (it was me. I was crazy enough to do that…).

Like the last time we did this (the July 2019 Grand Clash) looking at this data gives a good idea of what people are currently playing. What warbands are popular, which cards are being used, and which… aren’t. This can be useful when building decks and when trying to get an idea of what you’re likely to face at a given event.

There’s a lot of data to go through, so this will probably end up being 2-3 articles in total. I’m going to start by going through universal card choices in this one, then move on to warband-specific choices (and universal card choices per warband) in the next. This’ll be a long one, so buckle up and get ready for some Serious Data™.

The Data

As mentioned above, 141 players registered for the January 2020 Warhammer World Grand Clash. Of these, 11 didn’t register a decklist in BCP – much better than the July Grand Clash last year, where only 52 of 82 players submitted their lists.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to access 22 of the lists that were submitted – either because they were a file upload I couldn’t open in the BCP Player app, or because they were an image that was cropped or too low resolution to make out the full list.

This leaves us with a grand of 108 decklists to analyse, broken down as follows (see WiggleFish’s article on Well of Power here for a breakdown of the tournament as a whole).

Players not submitting deck lists to a grand clash where the event pack specifically states that they have to is a problem, personally I take a very firm line on this type of stuff, I think they should be banned from attending the next Warhammer World Grand Clash – Mike. I think that’s a bit harsh?

Breakdown of Available Decklists by Warband
Available DecklistsCountPercent
All10876.60%
Garrek’s Reavers00.00%
Steelheart’s Champions10.93%
Sepulchral Guard10.93%
Ironskull’s Boyz10.93%
The Chosen Axes00.00%
Spiteclaw’s Swarm43.70%
Magore’s Fiends32.78%
The Farstriders21.85%
Stormsire’s Cursebreakers109.26%
Thorns of the Briar Queen1412.96%
The Eyes of the Nine00.00%
Zarbag’s Gitz65.56%
Godsworn Hunt00.00%
Mollog’s Mob10.93%
Thundrik’s Profiteers98.33%
Ylthari’s Guardians21.85%
Grashrak’s Despoilers76.48%
Skaeth’s Wild Hunt87.41%
The Grymwatch1412.96%
Rippa’s Snarlfangs98.33%
Lady Harrow’s Mournflight1513.89%
Ironsoul’s Condemners10.93%

Just from this we can see that we’re currently in a very Death-focused meta, with the 3 good Death warbands (RIP Sepulchral Guard) making up almost 40% of decklists (and the field as a whole).

These decks tend to play somewhere on a spectrum between objective control and surgical aggression, with Thorns furthest towards ‘pure’ objective play and the Mournflight furthest towards aggro. This has a huge effect on the cards being played in the current meta, as we’ll see below.

There was also very low representation of the Shadespire warbands, and most of the Nightvault ones too. With the gradual increase in warband power throughout the life of Warhammer Underworlds so far, it seems like some of the earlier warbands really just can’t compete at a competitive level these days.

Personally I think the old warbands still have strong stats and mechanics, they just lack the strong faction cards that newer warbands have access to, it’s very possible we will see some of them do well at the end of the season when we have more neutral cards available – Mike

When we look at warband stats in more detail in the second (and third?) article in this series I’m only going to be looking at warbands with 5 or more decklists submitted just so there’s more data to go off – sorry Shadespire warband fans!

Restricted Cards

The first thing we’re going to look at is what restricted cards people chose to play in their decklists for the Grand Clash. This is one of the most interesting aspects of deckbuilding, with a widely debated update to the Forsaken and Restricted List shortly before the event (Tome of Vitality, really?) shaking up people’s decklists.

Pretty much every deck included the maximum of 3 restricted cards (with a couple only running 2) with a few cards standing out as especially popular as we’ll see below.

Objectives

Wow, Temporary Victory is the most commonly played restricted objective (and restricted card full stop). Who would have thought that what might be one of the best objectives currently in the game would be so widely played?

The only surprising thing is that it was only in 50% of decks (we’ll see how that breaks down across warbands next time, but as you’ve probably guessed it’s in a much higher percentage of decks for the objective control warbands).

Being able to get 2 glory during the action phase by spending as little as a single activation (for Thorns) is just so powerful that it’s worth giving up pretty much any other restricted card for (and Grymwatch get to do it twice!).

Calculated Risk remains popular as a way for aggressive warbands to get the glory they need to start playing upgrades, and Scrum is a very good card for most of the objective control warbands – especially Thorns (is Varclav officially ‘too much’?).

Outside of these three the other restricted objectives were essentially unplayed, outside of Thundrik’s players (and some Snarlfangs) liking Warning Shot.

Sorcerous Scouring is unnecessary when you can already run Death from Afar and Strange Demise, Loner is just a bad card, and Burst of Speed and Longstrider are essentially Mollog warband objectives that cost restricted slots.

Acolyte of the Katophranes in particular is just too bad to run when you have to take a load of weak Tome upgrades to turn it on, and spend restricted slots if you want either of the broadly useful ones. How the mighty have fallen…

Power

Tome of Offerings was the most popular restricted power card by an overwhelming amount. In a meta full of 2 wound fighters in warbands that score a large amount of glory, anything that lets more aggressive lists turn kills into extra glory is extremely useful.

For warbands that can run trophy belt (or have their own version) this can mean getting the equivalent of a Supremacy for each kill, which can then be boosted further by surge objectives.

The next most popular restricted power cards are also no surprise – Sudden Growth remains one of the best ways of keeping key fighters alive, especially with the popularity of warbands with high movement fighters, and Pit Trap is as solid way of boosting 3 damage fighters up to one-shot important 4 wound targets.

Surprising probably no-one, Tome of Vitality was not particularly popular. When compared against Sudden Growth it’s rarely a better choice outside of Tome decks which are essentially unrepresented in the current meta now that both their payoff objective and the actually good Tomes (other than Incantations) are restricted.

Universal Cards

Obviously, restricted cards are only part of the story – you’re not going to get very far with just a 3 card deck after all. Putting aside warband cards, which we’ll look at next time, universals are the bulk of most decks and have historically tended to be more powerful than most warbands’ own options. Let’s have a look at the standout cards from the January Grand Clash.

Objectives

Portrait of an Objective Meta. 2020. Freya Milligan.

The 20 most popular universal objectives from the January Grand Clash basically all fall into one of three categories: hold objective cards (Path to Victory, Supremacy, Coveted Spoils, Dug In), passive surge cards (Shortcut, Overpower, Cover Ground), and end phase combo payoffs (Fired Up, Combination Strike, Great Gains).

What more can really be said about this data? We all anecdotally know what the current meta looks like, and the statistics just confirm it – the single statistic that best sums up the change in the meta over the last half a year is this:

At the July 2019 Warhammer World Grand Clash, Supremacy appeared in 17.31% of decklists. At the January 2020 Grand Clash, it was in 43.52% of them – a 150% increase.

Keep Chopping is really the only card that stands out as different, but that’s probably just a symptom of the same thing. If everyone’s running 7+ fighter objective control decks then warbands like the Profiteers and Wild Hunt can just keep bullying Chainrasps and Crypt Ghouls with each activation without as much risk as there would be against aggro lists.

Power

Here’s another statistic that aptly describes the current meta – Restless Prize (a card that only interacts with objective control) appears in over 60% of decks, beaten only by the eternally popular Great Strength. Interestingly, it was the other way around in the top 32 decks suggesting that both hold objective strategies and decks teched to (try and) beat them overperformed.

Also, just as a quick aside, Mischievous Spirits has also gone up from less than 2% of decks in the July 2019 Grand Clash to more than 28% of decks in January 2020 – that’s almost 15 times as many…

Other than these standouts this is just a list of very good cards – versatile effects that are good in or against objective decks like Sidestep and Distraction, the normal aggro buffs like Potion of Rage and Haymaker, and defensive tools like Spectral Armour and new(er) arrival Survival Instincts.

Warband Cards

Before looking at the most popular cards played in each warband in the next article(s) in the series, we’re going to have a brief look at the ratio of warband to universal cards in players’ decklists.

This is a good way of looking at how powerful a warbands’s unique cards are, or at least how well suited they are to its’ most common playstyles. If a warband has more powerful cards then players are more likely to include them, if it has weaker cards then they will lean more heavily on universals.

At a glance, Dreadfane and Beastgrave warbands seem to have stronger and more useful cards than Shadespire and Nightvault ones. Whether this is the result of accidental power creep or a deliberate design decision, the newer warbands just seem to have more good (or even playable) cards.

If this is true, then we should see a higher percentage of warband cards played for the newer warbands – let’s see what the data shows.

As mentioned above, I’m only going to be looking at warbands where there were 5 or more submitted decklists for me to analyse.

Objectives

On average, warband objectives made up just over 30% of player’s decklists. The 4 most-represented Nightvault warbands were all below this (significantly so for the Thorns of the Briar Queen) while most of the Beastgrave and Dreadfane warbands were a lot higher.

Interestingly, Grymwatch decks also included a lower number of warband objectives than average, despite having fairly strong objectives – we’ll look at which ones made the cut in the next part of the series.

Power

The average percentage of warband power cards tells a similar story, although a lot less pronounced. Nightvault warbands run a below average amout of warband cards, while most of the Dreadfane and Beastgrave ones run an amount closer to the average or above.

The real standouts here are Rippa’s Snarlfangs, who on average take warband cards for almost half of their power deck – higher even than the Mournflight who notoriously have a very good card pool. I’m not familiar enough with the warband to say why exactly this is (check Mike’s article out for a more experienced overview) but I imagine this is a case of an aggro-focused warband having a good selection of aggro-focused cards.

Summary

So, for those of you who are still with us, that was the first part of our look at the January 2020 Warhammer World Grand Clash data. Hopefully the above was at least slightly interesting or thought-provoking, and helps you out with your deckbuilding by giving an idea of what cards you’re likely to face and what cards are good to run yourself.

Next time we’ll go into more detail in the cards being played by each warband – both their specific cards and their most popular universal cards. This might end up being two more articles because that’s a lot to get through, so check in later if you’re interested in that. Until then, good luck and have fun!

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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