Thanks to discord user jibbi for assembling this meme image for me
Look I have a confession to make.
I like big boi’s.
There I said it.
Up until now there hasn’t been a warband that I have loved more then Mollog the Mighty. It is incredibly satisfying to really drill down all the complexity of the game to a single fighter, whether he is reading books or bashing in skulls. My love for the magnificent mushroom knows no limits… up until now. Now we have a new big boi on the block and I’m pretty excited to get my mitts on him. Will he ‘break the game’ like so many of Mollog’s detractors accuse him of? Well I can tell you I’m going to bloody see if he can #rulesabuser.
This article is a fairly in-depth initial impression of Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers, the warband. I’ve had about a fortnight to really pour over his cards and I have gotten around 30 practice games using proxies and the assembled models under my belt. So, I have a decent idea of his general power level. Unfortunately, I have not spent enough time to really push any extreme tactics with him yet, so you won’t find any unique, dare I say Tomes builds here. The next UK Grand Clash is all the way off in May, when we likely will have another 2 expansions worth of content out, so there is plenty of time for myself and the community at large to explore this big boi to his full potential.
Hunting for Mechanics
With Hrothgorn’s release we can finally see where a lot of the hunter/quarry dynamic in the season rests, it’s focused around this warband. While other Beastgrave warbands have Hunters (although not all) the Mantrapper’s are the first with a default way of making all enemy fighters into quarry. This ability not only opens up a host of specific objectives but suddenly upgrades that felt too weak/unreliable before are absolute staples for the big boi. I’ll go into more details on the specific cards later in the article but suffice to say that these extra options are a big boon to the warband as a whole, essentially giving them a bigger card pool then other warbands.
Trapping for the Meta
The Hunter/Quarry dynamic is not the only unique part of this motley mob, we also have the first trap in Warhammer Underworlds and boy is it a doozy. Two damage is enough to kill quite a lot of fighters in Warhammer Underworlds, particularly for the warbands at the top of the current meta, Grymwatch and Thorns. If you pack enough push tech, namely Distraction type effects, into your deck, then you don’t even have to be subtle about it. Just move Bushwakka two hexes away from an enemy fighter, deploy the trap, play Distraction, get paid. Of course, the downside to this is that you now have a two wound fighter exposed that your opponent can use to get some free glory off.
I honestly think that use of the trap is where the real high level play of the Mantrappers will come in, putting it onto a lethal and dealing 3 damage, combining it with ping damage to secure a kill against a high wound fighter or simply doing the obvious and killing an easy 2 wound target. The options are high and it’s all practically guaranteed because there is no dice rolling involved. I cannot overstate just how good this mechanic is.
The inspire condition for the whole warband is centred around Hrothgorn, quite literally, allowing all of your fighters to power up if an enemy fighter dies while adjacent to your hulking brute. So in order to inspire Hrothgorn needs to be playing in an aggro fashion, any control versions of the Mantrappers are going to have to rely on other means for inspiration. It isn’t actually necessary that Hrothgorn himself kills the enemy fighter, just that they die next to him, presumably so he can take a big bite out of the fresh corpse. Bushwakka and Thrafnir are reasonable ways of triggering this condition if you leader is stuck in the thick of it.
Reliability wise this inspire condition is probably about average, having to kill an enemy fighter in a specific spot is not always an easy task, especially when faced with a warband that has only 4 wound fighters, however we have a whole host of tools to make the job easier so it should happen reasonably often.
I’m making an official Steel City announcement now, six wounds or above is big boi territory. I’m sorry Gurzag/Thundrick/Fjul, you just don’t quite make the cut. Six is a tall order for any deck/warband to take down round 1, they will need multiple attacks connecting in order to take you down early but each charge made against Hrothgorn is just another potential meal that he can hit back against. A move speed of 4 is also very respectable, making him quite agile for a big brute and allowing you more leeway in where to position him. One block is … respectable but nothing to write home about.
The Trap Launcher is fantastic and we can see that Hrothgorn is like a half way house between Thundrick and Mollog. We have a solid range 3 attack that deals 2 damage, but we also have an up-close attack that spikes to 3 damage. Neither are particularly accurate, 2 fury vs 2 smash, but one has the unique ability to pull enemies closer to you and the other lets your whole warband inspire if it kills. If Hrothgorn himself does inspire then his defence goes to 2 block, very tasty, and both his attacks gain an additional dice of accuracy, making the Trap Launcher fairly solid and the Hunting Knife pretty damn accurate. So inspiring Hrothgorn is a big deal, otherwise he is innately pretty inaccurate and with so much of the warband’s power tied up in one fighter, if he misses a charge it’s a big deal.
This big cat is like a half way house between Grawl and Riptooth. A solid set of stats that can munch though low wound fighters or soften up a big target for a Trap Launcher, Trap or ping damage cards to finish off. The 5 movement off the bat is really tasty and makes Gathered Momentum a solid objective for this warband. Two dodge to start with is also nice, your opponents will think twice about attacking him unless they can really stack the dice.
When inspired Thafnir gets better at what he does, specifically his attack gets a whole bunch more accurate with cleave and an in built re roll. The fact that Thafnir is a hunter means that you can take a bunch of cards like Tracking and Snare and not have to rely on Hrothgorn always being in the perfect spot to use them, which is nice for deck building consistency.
Bushwakka deploys the trap.
The trap is love.
The trap is life.
Bushwakka himself is fairly rubbish but that’s ok because he deploys THE TRAP!
Legit he is a two wound 1 dodge floating glory pinata for your opponent, be very careful how you place him. That 3 move makes it really tricky to both use the trap effectively and not just have the little Gnoblar die to a passing breeze.
Luggit and Twack
The fact that they will always push an enemy fighter one hex after an attack no matter what, unless its Ghartok… well sometimes, makes this pair of rascals very situationally useful. Their main use is that they have one more wound then Quiv and Bushwakka so they are better at scoring Calculated Risk without dying to Stormsire’s raised eyebrow afterwards, or simply deploying in slightly easier to reach spot for your opponent, while you hide the lower wound Gnoblars at the back. If you plan to charge recklessly at the enemy with these fighters, then I wish you luck and also hope I face you at the next Grand Clash.
Ninja Edit – Steven Painter over on Facebook pointed out that if both Luggit and Thwak roll 0 successes and the target of their attack rolls 0 then they don’t get a push, so you actually can’t 100% rely on them to push a fighter, although it is still very likely
Quiv’s ability to give the Trap Launcher on Hrothgorn a re-roll is a trap. Don’t do it. You’ll be tempted to deploy him up front with the big guy, trying to make that 2 fury range 3 attack work early on. When a stray Batsquig decides it wants a free meal and chomps down for a free glory. Quiv’s purpose in life is to die, horribly. If you are playing the mantrappers put him at the back and hope that his death happens later rather then sooner.
You know the drill by now, I’m just going to talk about the good or interesting cards here. So if you don’t see a card then it’s because I don’t think its worth talking about.
Arm of Everwinter
A neat build around surge that the Mantrapper’s can pull off pretty reliably. This is probably best in a control version where you can afford to take triggers that don’t rely on you fighting, if you go down that route then you probably take Scorched Earth as well and really double down on the efficency.
Flush Them Out
Here we have an incredibly good surge for an aggro version of the warband. If your leader is up close and personal with the enemy then you either need to pull someone in with your Trap Launcher or with a card like Distraction. In the trap section I already discussed that Distraction effects are good for this deck, well if you are playing with this objective then you just found a reason to pack a ton of those cards.
I’m honestly not the biggest fan of this one. I brought it up because it is absolutely great into big warbands with 7+ fighters where you can pop a bunch of targets at range. If you play into Cursebreakers though then this basically says ‘Score this if you have already won the game’, which makes it hard to justify taking.
Ok this card also isn’t that good.
It made me giggle and I’m happy for a card that exists mostly for that purpose.
Move over Harness the Storm, we have a new best surge in the game. This objective is like Ploymaster on Steroids. It’s a surge and it works off upgrades as well as ploys. This card is an incredible tool for Hrothgorn and means that however you play him you will always have one autoinclude amazing surge objective.
Here we see our first trigger for Arm of Everwinter and it’s really really easy to play. The fact that your leader can be adjacent to the objective means you are almost always going to be able to play this card. We can also trigger Scorched Earth off of this objective so if you are going all the way down that route then its great. Outside of simply scoring objectives this is also a fantastic tool for dealing with the current dominance of the hold objective meta. There is currently no way to bring objective tokens that have been removed from the game back, so once this has happened to a token your opponent wanted then they are really going to have to work at moving onto another. RIP the Tactical Supremacy cards.
I really wish this card was called ‘Gnoblar Wobble’ instead, if that suggestion isn’t enough to get me hired by Games Workshop then I don’t know what is.
Oh this single card also means you can run hold objective cards like Path to Victory or Frenzied Search, so at this point I think the mantrappers can be legitimately played any way you want to?
The much weaker version of Frozen Earth that you only take if you really want to double down on the effect. The fact that it is tied to a 2 wound fighter instead of a 6 wound one makes it a super risky card, the fact that it only flips a token means it doesn’t trigger Scorched Earth and that your opponent can potentially flip it back. Still decks live or die by consistency and this can help a control version of the deck achieve that, just try to hide Bushwakka at the back until you draw this.
This is one of those Distraction type effects that I was talking about. You only take this if you already have Nightmare in the Shadows, Distraction and probably Centre of Attention. It means that when you make a Trap Launcher attack you can guarantee you push your opponent off a token and potentially score Flush Them Out. All of that said, this is still a super situation card and it’s tough to see how this will make the cut for most people.
Considering the inspire condition for your warband revolves around an enemy fighter dying when it’s adjacent to your leader, making sure the big daddy hits with his knife seems like a good idea. This is an utterly fantastic accuracy ploy for an aggro version of the warband. Outside of inspiring its quite nice to kill your opponents fighters, this helps you do that. Take it.
An in faction Awakened Weapon that is honestly even better for your leader because it works on both his Trap Launcher and Hunting Knife attacks. If you are ever planning on attacking with your leader then you should take this card.
This is going to sound mad but this might be the only warband that I wouldn’t take Great Strength with even if I was playing it in an aggro style. I think I prefer Glory Seeker and Fighters Ferocity as they work on the Trap Launcher attack as well. Still, it’s a solid upgrade if you think you need the damage on the Hunting Knife attack.
In faction unrestricted Sudden Growth, sign me the fuck up. Going to 8 wounds is a big deal, your leader goes from really hard to kill into, I’d rather go shopping with my girlfriend then attack it territory. The loss of two movement is a legitimate downside and I think that if you take this then you don’t also take Sudden Growth as 0 move is not a territory you want to put your only real threat into. Oh no, that means not having to take a restricted card. My heart bleeds for the tough choices Hrothgorn players will have to make.
If 6 wounds is hard to kill.
8 wounds is don’t even bother territory.
8 wounds where you take 1 less damage from all sources (to a minimum of 1) is actually a meme that I lack the words to describe.
You can build Hrothgorn into the most tanky creature in the game and it’s not even particularly hard. Unlike Massive Bulk this upgrade has no downsides. If you take this and some extra wound upgrades then unless your opponent kills him in the first round your leader is not dying.
Oh and don’t forget, when inspired he goes to two block.
Control players are rubbing their hands in glee at this upgrade. Take an action to draw two cards from your deck? Well control players are all about using their cards and much less about using their fighters so this is right up their street. Probably not worth if playing aggro as every activation there should be an attack, but if you like sitting at the back and not rolling dice then you will love this upgrade.
Universal Cards that the Mantrapper’s can abuse
The fact that Hrothgorn is both a hunter and by default makes all of his opponents quarry, opens up a slew of cards and upgrades that other warbands would not consider. Here are my picks of the best ones that you might consider when building a deck for this warband.
Pop this on the big Ogor and he always get to re roll one of his defence dice. Considering he uses block defence dice that’s a pretty nice buff, when inspired you can be rolling 2 block dice with one re roll, making it incredibly hard for an opponent to hit you. No matter how you play the Mantrapper’s keeping Hrothgorn alive is of the utmost importance. Personally I prefer stacking wound upgrades onto the giant leader but if you are playing an aggressive build where you intend to inspire early then this is a great option as a one off, that not only makes you far harder to hit but can dissuade your opponent from even trying.
Almost every single time an opposing fighter makes an activation you can push your leader one hex towards them. The only time this doesn’t work is if said fighter is already adjacent to your leader. With the ‘normal’ restrictions of only being able to charge once a turn it is imperative in an aggro build that you can attack as often as possible, this unique option is the best possible way to do that. It’s is a perfect card into control builds that want to try and hide from you, you will probably find your mileage varies against other aggro opponents as they will be closing with you anyway. So a fantastic tool but one for a specific job.
Just like Famed Hunter, this is a re-roll that works on any type of attack your leader wants to make. A perfect card if you are making lots of attacks, which I suspect most people playing this warband will want to do. If you combine this with Famed Hunter then even uninspired your Trap Launcher becomes fairly accurate and your Hunting Knife even more so. Once inspired with both of these upgrades on you can seriously start expecting that every attack you makes hits.
The Beast is Slain
A surge for killing an enemy fighter sounds pretty good. The only downside to this objective is that you have to secure the kill with your attack action, it won’t work if you are using ping damage like Snare or Lethal Ward to finish off an opponent. For that reason it’s not in my aggro deck but I still think it is a good option that people should consider.
Presenting the Steel City’s Aggressive Mantrapper build ‘The walking Turret’
If you want to have a play around with this yourself, you can do here
Insert boilerplate warning that this is not a super polished deck and that you should really use it as a base for ideas, take it to a tournament at your own risk. That said, if anyone does take a version of this to a full tournament I would love to get feedback on how it did.
The focus of this deck is on trying to attack 3 times per round with the Trap Launcher and then leave the last to a charge with your Hunting Knife. We have a whole bunch of positional ploys to help you do just that and we can really stack glory from kills with both Tome of Offerings and Trophy Belt. I am really happy with the surges in this deck, I think you will reliably get early glory from them and be able to play upgrades even in the first round. The big issue I have had when building and playing this deck is in trying to find decent end phase aggressive cards. I didn’t want to take options like Great Gains or Keep Chopping as I don’t find either super reliable but they are the best of a bad crop. When playing you should focus on scoring your surges but honestly not fuss overly about the end phase objectives, try to secure your glory from kills as much as possible and deny your opponent the chance to score their own cards.
In playtesting this has done… ok. The two biggest issue that I found was in reliably inspiring early or with Hrothgorn being killed before I draw/play the big defensive upgrades. It works very well into Grymwatch and Thorns which is nice but against other aggressive warbands it can really struggle.
Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers are not Mollog’s Mob.
Games Workshop are honestly getting a lot better at designing warbands, you can really see the progression from the big troll to the big ogor. Less of the warbands power is focused onto one specific fighter (although he is still a beast) with a reasonably powerful secondary fighter in Thrafnir and a whole host of tricks with Bushwakka’s trap. The fact that you can’t charge twice means that you have to build around Hrothgorn’s Trap Launcher if you want to play an aggressive build and your opponent has much more room to play around you, with a bunch of low wound gnoblers that act as glory chests for them to open.
The challenges facing aggro Hrothgorn players are many, you need positioning tools in order to get the most out of your main fighter and you need to pack as much accuracy as possible if you want to hit your uninspired attacks, which you pretty much need to do if you want to inspire. The fact that you stay at 3 damage on your Hunting Knife even when inspired means you have a tough time dealing with 4+ wound fighters and there are a lot of those in the game.
I haven’t talked much about control version of the Mantrapper’s, I have been trying to build a deck for him using Acolyte of the Katophranes as my big scorer at the end but I’m honestly finding it really hard to build a reliable deck that does the job. Control builds by their nature lack early glory and you need that glory to equip upgrades that stop you dying and to get the essential Tomes on. If you win boards then you can offset and mostly auto win vs aggro but if you lose boards then they simply charge you round 1 with spectral wings and then finish you off in the first activation of round 2. With hold objective decks scoring so much glory these days if you offset boards vs Grymwatch or Thorns you are basically giving them a free game, probably not a good move.
I think for either build Hrothgorn is on the cusp of being incredibly powerful, I just don’t think he is quite there yet. We need a couple more accuracy cards or solid objectives for him to play around that will make him truly top tier. You can 100% build a deck that beats the meta of Grymwatch and Thorns here, you don’t even need to take the objective destruction cards to do it, just the aggro version I posted is perfectly fine for it. Unfortunately while you do that you also lose to the test of the field.
Cursebreakers gained a lot from these expansions, I’m going to point you to the all round build that I think has the real potential of taking the crown from Grymwatch and Thorns (written by great player and friend of the blog Aman) here. Hrothgorn isn’t at that level… yet.
We have two more expansions to come this season and I hope we get another powerful hunter into quarry card that he can use. If we do then the Mantrappers can contest with the best at the very top, if not then they will still be a solid choice for anyone who enjoys playing them.
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