If you’ve missed our previous coverage on Warhammer Underworlds, check out an overview on why you should be playing it and our review of Beastgrave, the new Starter Set. This article builds on our Deck Building 101 article. Check that out first!
In the first deck building article, we stepped through my process for building a deck for an untested warband. We took a good hard look at the fighters, knowing that their strengths and abilities would be our primary focus. We then leaned heavily into the unique faction cards to get a feel for what makes the warband unique. This helped develop a primary theme of Spell Casting, backed by some board control and healing. You can check out that deck and follow along over on UnderworldsDB.com.
No Deck Survives Contact With the Enemy
You can add and remove cards all day, but it won’t mean anything until you actually go and play with it. Ideally, you’ll play a deck a few times against multiple warbands before making any major changes. Sometimes a deck will work great but it will only be because you draw cards in the perfect order and all your combos materialized. Other times, cards might feel like they were great because you were getting lucky with rolls. Identifying what works and doesn’t work takes some time, but it’s worth the investment.
In playing our Goonhammer Tree People Deck – the new official name – I noticed a few things:
- A few objectives work at odds to each other. Triggering reactions requires this warband to be in combat; being in combat risks dying and often means not being near objectives.
- Way too dependent on 1 fighter: Ylthari. I was concerned that this would be the case while building and it bore out.
- Healing is difficult in the post-Shadespire world as we’ve lost access to some great healing cards.
- Reactions didn’t trigger as often as I’d expected.
This is the difficult part of building good decks. It can be easy to identify the problems, but it can be much more difficult to decide where to go. This is especially true with “Flex” warbands. Broadly speaking, there are three major archetypes in Warhammer Undeworlds:
- Aggro – these aggressive warbands are tuned to get into combat quickly and smash people apart. Objectives are secondary at best, and often aggro strategies will ignore them completely.
- Objective – an Objective strategy is the other end of the spectrum. These warbands are often tuned to be defensive with high movement options. Combat is only done out of necessity; the goal is to stand on Objectives and score glory through them.
- Flex – Flex strategies try to land somewhere in the middle. They’re harder to disrupt because you have more options, but they’re harder to play and design. What happens if you’re in a position to fight and you have all your Objective cards, or vice versa?
As a Flex Warband, the Guardians can be built to control the board and play the Objective game or they can be built to fight. The catch is that you can’t do both things extremely well. Our original deck tried to have it both ways; we wanted to play defensive by jumping on Objectives and surviving all the way to the end while triggering combat-based reactions. For this article, let’s move away from Combat and make a better deck focused on Objective play.
Cut, Cut, Cut
Glade’s Last Hope and Glade’s Pride are the first to go. It’s way too hard to heal these days to depend on getting 3 in a single action phase, and trying to get all 4 of our fighters to live until the end just isn’t going to work especially if we’re planning to sacrifice some combat abilities. Removing Lithe Spirits takes care of our reliance on Reactions. Arcane Torrent is also out; rolling two crits is not dependable and it depends on Ylthari. She will still be key to our strategy but we can’t put too many eggs in that basket. Finally, we’ll remove Magical Storm and Strange Demise. They didn’t test well.
Over in our Gambits, we need to start cutting as well. Since we aren’t trying to flood the board with spells anymore, most of those can go. Curse of the Dwindling is difficult to cast, Magical Dampening was too situational (what happens if your opponent isn’t using wizards?), and Bitter Vengeance…well let’s just say that was an example of a bad addition to the deck. It was useless until we had friendly fighters out of action which was something we were trying to avoid.
Unflinching Guardian, Warding Stance, Arcane Focus, and Arcane Savant are leaving in the first round of upgrade cuts. Hopefully by now you can see why. Guardian required some very specific situations that we’re going to try and minimize. Warding Stance wasn’t super useful, and the Arcane cards were designed to bolster Ylthari. Again, she’ll still be a part of our strategy but we don’t need to overload.
My process for rebuilding a deck is similar to the way I build decks in the first place. I focus on Objectives first, followed by Gambits and Upgrades. The difference this time around is that I have a better idea for how my warband plays and a much clearer focus for what I want to do. For this iteration of the deck I want to focus more on controlling the board, so I want to score via movement and holding Objectives.
The first card going in is Calculated Risk. This is a very popular card – for good reason – and is the first Restricted Card we’re adding to our deck. As a reminder, in Championship format competitive play you can only have 3 Restricted Cards across both decks.
This Objective is fairly easy to score, especially now that players will be placing additional Lethal Hexes anywhere they want during setup. Ideally this card is in your opening hand and you can score it quickly.
It’s really important to try and get 6 Surge objectives into your deck. They do two important things. The first is that they allow you to draw deeper into your Objective deck, maximizing your scoring potential. Unless you mulligan or spend actions to draw Objective Cards, there’s no way to see all 12 cards in your Objective deck without scoring Surge cards. The 2nd important thing is that they’re a source of mid-round Glory you can use to upgrade your fighters. Our last 2 Surge objectives are Swift Capture and Warning Shot.
Swift Capture requires 2 criteria to be met, but they should be pretty easy to accomplish. Warning Shot may seem like a weird one. It doesn’t match our new deck focus and you never really want to fail an attack. However, sometimes you just need to put cards in your deck that are easy to score. Ahnslaine and Ylthari both have Range 3 attack actions; this should be a dependable score.
Before we add any more objectives, I want to point out how we’ve accomplished two things in making this deck better. Not only do we have a clearer more manageable focus, we’ve also got some great synergies where we can score multiple objectives.
It’s possible to score all three of the objectives we’ve just added at the same time. It requires having a friendly fighter on an objective in your territory or your opponent’s (which you want to do anyway). Then you Charge with Ylthari or Ahnslaine. If your move action takes you through a Lethal Hex and onto an Objective that satisfies the rest of Swift Capture and you fail the attack on the charge, you’ve just scored 3 Surge objectives at once! This can even go further; play Leech Power or Abasoth’s Unmaking (more on that later) in the power step and remove the Objective that Ylthari just landed on and you can score Scorched Earth as well!
Now, obviously this amazing moment isn’t likely to happen. It requires a number of specific cards in hand. However, this should illustrate the power of building tight synergies into your deck. All of these cards can be chained together but they don’t require being chained together. They’re independently useful but become more powerful if you happen to draw them together.
We need three more Objectives. Supremacy will replace Glade’s Pride as a 3-point card, and should be easier for us to score since we’re already planning to control Objectives and it can be scored in any End Phase, not just the third. Combat is impossible to avoid completely in Underworlds so Path to Victory is a way to make inevitable combat a little more fruitful for us. Finally, Loner is easy to engineer. Place an Objective in the back of your board and plan to have Ahnslaine stand on it. It helps score a number of our objectives, and you don’t have to remove her from the fight to manage it because of her range. Ylthari could do this duty as well and have a great chance to still be on that objective in the following round where she can destroy it. If you place your Lethal Hex so that they move through it on their way over you’ve empowered your potential without sacrificing anything.
Again, we’ve built combos that are also redundant. If you don’t have cards that destroy Objectives you can take the time to score Supremacy, Swift Capture,Path to Victory, Loner, and Reclaim the Lamentiri. If you do have cards that destroy Objectives you can score Swift Capture, Scorched Earth, and Reclaim the Lamentiri (made easier by destroying Objectives). Ideally you have the first situation and then draw into the 2nd for the next round, but we’ve now built an Objective deck that should always give you options with the potential for powerful situations.
Support the Objectives
With a more focused Objective deck, it should now be even easier to rebuild our Gambits. We only need 4. The first will be Abasoth’s Unmaking. A few readers pointed out to me that we had an Objective (Scorched Earth) with only 1 way to score it (Leech Power). Adding Abasoth’s Unmaking gives us another avenue to score that, but it also supports Domain Denied (destroy the objective an enemy is standing on), Reclaim the Lamentiri (only have 2 objectives on your side? destroy one and now it’s super easy to score this!), and Song of Hatred and Overpower (because spells). That’s incredible synergy because again, playing Abasoth’s Unmaking is useful for any one of these but even better if you have multiple in your hand.
With all this desire to move around the board and end on Objectives, we need to be as mobile as we can. The last three gambits chosen all accomplish this. Sidestep is a simple 1-hex push. Springseed Step will let you piggy-back one of your fighters forward along with another one or bring them in to support an attack. Countercharge will give you just a bit more survivability and can quickly move you up the board without having to use a Move Action. All three of these cards may be overkill, but you didn’t think you’d get away without more testing did you? I also heavily considered Restless Prize as it reinforces a few Objectives. Try it out and let me know what you think!
Finally, more Upgrades. Faneway Crystal is phenomenal and hopefully by now I shouldn’t need to explain why. Free movement from anywhere to any objective and it triggers Springseed Step? Brilliant! Tome of Glories is free Glory from that fighter you left in the back to score Loner. It’s hard not to include Crown of Avarice because it’s great and annoys your opponent, but it’d probably be first on the chopping block after testing again as it doesn’t necessarily support our strategy. Finally Great Speed helps get us around and is always useful. In searching through the cards, I rediscovered Survival Instincts. This will help keep your fighters from getting pushed off of objectives and – as of right now – the Quarry label shouldn’t hurt too much.
Whew. Here’s a link to the final deck. Rebuilding your deck after testing is almost as much work as building it in the first place. Hopefully, the work is a little easier because your focus is clearer. The more you build and play, the easier it is to build decks as well. You’ll get familiar with cards that are always a decent option (Calculated Risk or Crown of Avarice) and find your own favorites. As before, it’s important to test, test, test, this deck. Tweaking almost never ends.
In a future article, I’ll shift from deck building over towards board placement and Objective Layout. Just like Gambits and Upgrades, you can make intelligent decisions in that part of the game to further support your Objective scoring strategy. This is especially true for a deck like this one. For now, focus on refining your deck and testing it out.