Welcome to the second part of our series of articles covering the January 2020 Grand Clash metagame. In the first article we went through the universal cards played across all warbands, and now we’re going to go continue our analysis by going into more detail on the most popular cards for each individual warband, starting with the Nightvault ones.
For each warband, we’re going to look at 4 things: the top warband-specific objectives, the top warband-specific power, the top universal objectives, and the top universal power. This should hopefully give a decent overview of what players are putting in their decklists for each of the most popular warbands.
Just as a reminder, we’re only going to be looking at warbands that had 5 or more decklists submitted (this is also why we’re starting with Nightvault and not Shadespire – not enough people played the older warbands). For Nightvault, this was half of the warbands: the Cursebreakers, Thorns, Gitz, and Profiteers.
The Sacrosanct Chamber warband has remained popular since it was originally released, with consistently solid results throughout the Nightvault season. As the best magic-using warband, the Cursebreakers’ power level is dependent on the availability of good universal gambit spells and spell-boosting upgrades as we’ll see below.
In Beastgrave, Cursebreakers decks seem to have coalesced into a single mostly aggressive archetype, using the warband’s spellcasting prowess to increase it’s damage potential and ability to generate passive glory before and while attacking.
Much of the objective deck is pretty standard across decklists – a bunch of surge objectives for casting spells and using them to kill enemy fighters, supported by passive end phase objectives like Fired Up and Magical Storm that are easy to score when you’re casting a lot of spells.
The Cursebreakers don’t have particularly great warband cards but fortunately every gambit spell and wizard upgrade is kind of a warband card for them. Eye of the Storm makes sure your key spells go off, Cry of Thunder does damage at range (with occasional upside in a meta with a lot of 7+ fighter warbands), and then everything else is just okay at best. Even Hand of Sigmar, which is a really powerful effect, doesn’t synergise that well with your gameplan of vomiting lightning everywhere.
Unsurprisingly, most of the popular Universal cards are gambit spells. The others are a range of utility upgrades with most focusing on keeping Stormsire alive long enough to cast them. Iara’s Instant Shield is actually really good, and it’s good to see that most of the other Cursebreakers players saw it too – from personal experience I can say that it is a lot better in play than it might seem at first glance.
Thorns of the Briar Queen
Thorns decks tend to be very focused on a hold objective playstyle, although more aggressive builds have been successful in the past. Even in the current meta, the Queen is a very powerful counter-aggro threat that can make opponents think twice before engaging your fragile Chainrasps.
The Nighthaunt warband has exactly 1 good objective (in fairness it is really good), and it wasn’t even played in 100% of decks. I guess with Last Chance rotated and Rebound restricted there are fewer good reactions, and the increased amount of good surge objectives that work with a hold objective playstyle make it less of an auto-include?
As we’ll see for a lot of warbands, the most popular universal objectives in Thorns decks were the big hold objective cards – Temporary victory for an easy 2 glory after one Varclav activation, and Supremacy and Path to Victory to score even more in the end phase. With the high numbers and movement tricks of the ghosts, Scrum and Swift Capture are also unsurprising inclusions.
With Hidden Paths and Illusory Fighter gone, Sudden Appearance is the best teleport effect in the game (admittedly, it was probably the best before they’d gone too…) and Inescapable Vengeance gives the same effect to the Queen’s regular move actions. Both work well with Restless Prize and push effects to score Swift Capture (or 3-token objectives when your opponent picked the first board).
The other 3 popular warband cards offer a variety of tricks to the Thorns: Endless Malice is a solid accuracy boost (and a reaction for Treacherous Foe), Howling Vortex is a really powerful card when it goes off, and Maddening Cackle has high variance but can be exceptionally rude.
There’s a lot of consistency here, with 8 cards appearing in more than half of decklists. Restless Prize was the second most-played power card at the Grand Clash, and as we can see here it was heavily overrepresented in hold objective decks.
Frenzied Search is also very powerful in this archetype, and with easy access to fighters with 2 dodge dice, Survival Instincts and Spectral Armour do a great job of keeping ghosts alive (and stopping them being driven back in the former case).
The Gitz are another hold objective warband, with access to their own suite of movement tricks and a unique counter-aggro threat in Snirk and his enormous ball-and-chain. They’re not as popular now as they used to be, but greenskins seem to have an undying appeal for some people so it’s not surprising to see them among the more widely played older warbands.
Mad Scurry was the only warband objective that saw much play, with every decklist including it. It’s easy to score with the Gloomspite warband’s reaction abilities, and can still be scored with almost half your fighters dead. Malicious Kill and Obliterated offer ways to score glory immediately off your counter attacks, but don’t really synergise with most of what you’re doing.
The Gitz’ large numbers of fighters, easy inspire conditions, and focus on hold objective play are reflected in the most frequently played universal objectives. These are very similar across warbands, with 8 cards appearing in at least 65% of all Gitz decks.
Like with their objectives, there was only one popular Gitz power card – and it was only included in half of the submitted decks. For what the warband wants to do, there are just too many universal cards that are better than the warbands’ own options.
Moving on to those cards, Frenzied Search is a must-have for hold objective lists, letting you find the cards you need at minimal cost. Great Strength, Inspired Attack, and Larval Lance help with your counter-attacks while Confusion and Sidestep provide flexible utility. Restless Prize is Restless Prize.
Thundrik’s Profiteers have remained fairly popular since release – the tiny steampunk capitalists have a unique playstyle that takes advantage of their high number of ranged attacks to put a lot of pressure on opponents.
The most popular objectives in Profiteers decks support a single gameplan: keep shooting the enemy until they’re dead, and score a bunch of surge objectives along the way in order to inspire your fighters and build up glory.
What Armour?, Warning Shot, Death from Afar, and Headshot are all good surge cards for this strategy, and Keep Chopping, Sound Finances, Path to Victory and other end-phase cards serve as the pay-offs.
The warband’s own objectives are mostly unnecessary when compared to the universal objectives that support this playstyle – outside of the top 3 the others didn’t see much play.
The most played Profiteers warband cards are some solid upgrades and ploys, Seek the Skyvessel is an amazingly strong gambit that does a lot to make up for the Duardin’s low movement and Ancestral Fortitude gives you an unrestricted second wound upgrade.
Toxic Gasses is an extremely fun card that forces opponents to make bad decisions, and Rapid Reload works well to make more ranged attacks and help score your surge objectives.
The universal cards chosen by Thundrik’s players focus on increasing accuracy (Potion of Rage and Archer’s Focus), making additional attacks (Stand and Shoot and Jealous Defence) and improving the warband’s mobility (Faneway Crystal, Two Steps Forward). Unsurprisingly new all-star gambit Restless Prize also makes an appearance.
The Profiteers decklists have very similar power decks, with the top 10 universal cards all appearing in more than 60% of lists – in fact, between universal and warband cards there were 15 power cards that appeared in more than 60% of decks.
That’s it for our first more detailed look at the January Grand Clash meta. Hopefully this review of the cards played by the Nightvault warbands helps you in building your own decks or planning how to play against likely opponents.
Next time we’ll be finishing this series by looking at the Beastgrave and Dreadfane warbands, including the other 2 most popular warbands alongside the Thorns of the Briar Queen. Until then, good luck and have fun!
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