On the 24th of August I attended the Grand Clash at Tabletop Scotland in Perth. I had spent quite some time preparing for this tournament and working on an extra devious deck with a gentleman known by the name of Madskullz to the community. Madskullz, with help from other members of the community, had created the now infamous Fester and Hunger deck that had been doing the rounds at a few tournaments. In preparation for this tournament I had been working on my own Skaven deck, mine was an ultra abusive Tome deck where it was next to impossible to kill the tome bearer. What made me switch was when someone took their own version of F+H to a tournament with a rather unique objective card; Killing Ground.
What madman would build a deck around this card?
The deck I was running had many ways to kill my own fighters and get glory from it, sometimes through Crown of Avarice abuse and sometimes through objectives like Martyred/Lives are Cheap or even gambit cards like Sacrificial Pawn, so I had many ‘triggers’ with which to kill my own fighters. Killing Ground was good enough to pivot my whole deck around and to sack off the tomes in order to take some upgrades that would allow me to kill my opponents fighters, after all Killing Ground doesn’t care who’s fighters actually die in order to fulfil its conditions. I got in touch with Madskullz via the secret Warhammer Underworlds black market and we helped each other make the deck the best version that it could be. If you want to see Madskullz version then I highly recommend reading his article on it here. About two weeks before Tabletop Scotland I forked off a bit from Madskullz version into my own personal preference for the deck, which I’ll go into a bit of detail on below.
If you want to play around with this deck yourself you can here.
For those familiar with F+H the biggest surprise will probably be the lack of both Festering Blades and Black Hunger. Both of those upgrades are very powerful on their respective fighters but I personally found it very restrictive to play with upgrades that only worked on specific fighters, they might not be in the right place at the right time for the upgrades to be useful and also both of those upgrades generally only work when combined with other upgrades, I want something that has an impact from turn 1 onwards.
The general idea of the deck is to score based off of both your own fighters dying and your opponents (sounds a bit Khornish to me), against aggro you want to play back as much as possible because you take a bit longer then them to power up and you can score more passive glory. Against hold objective you have incredible game with cards like Confusion/Shardgale/Lethal Ward to just destroy them with power cards. You can also resurrect/move a fighter with Crown/Expendable next to an objective token and just keep attacking, bonus points if it has Shadeglass Darts and can threaten multiple objective tokens. Against defensive decks we can both outscore them and put a lot of pressure on very early – the ability to resurrect in any starting hex means it is very hard to hide from us.
The objectives are made to be as reliable to score as possible, Shortcut has 3 separate triggers, I have a lot of upgrades to make sure I roll 3 dice for Branching Fate etc. I also have a pretty high glory ceiling, 18 glory for a deck that is happy to play aggro ish is crazy, let alone the fact that you can self trigger Crown of Avarice to get even more glory. For Crown I had 3 seperate triggers, Shardgale, Lethal Ward and Ghoulish Pact. The great thing about the deck though is that all of those cards also serve other purposes, Shardgale/Lethal Ward are ways to deal unexpected damage which is something you lack in the Warband while Ghoulish Pact can give you turn 1 access to upgrades if your objectives come out rough.
One thing I will say about the deck, it has a very high skill floor. I built it to be very versatile and in doing so the way it plays can overwhelm you with options, I would not recommend this deck to new players but for experienced players who want to try something different (well before the cards rotate out) then its certainly fun to play with. Nothing will beat the look on your opponents face when they see you score Killing Ground for the first time in a match, as one of my practice partners put it “It’s like every single one of your fighters has Crown of Avarice on, oh and one of them also has Crown of Avarice on.” – there may have been some swearing in there.
I’m not going to go into super detail about all the intricacies of what boards I select and how I approach certain match-ups, with news of the rotation this deck is only legal for another fortnight, so I’ll leave out all the gory details.
Travelling up to the Tournament
For those not in the UK, Perth is quite a trek from Sheffield, I was also constrained on my travel options because I was going to Portugal later that month with my long suffering girlfriend. So I braved the horror that is known as Megabus.
I was due to arrive in Perth at 9pm, I arrived at 1am.
The only reason I wasn’t out on the street all night is because my AirBnb host was amazing and left the door unlocked so I could get in. Seriously they saved my bacon. Stumbling into my room I managed to make a mistake almost as bad as travelling with Megabus, I set my alarm for the next day without checking the time was still right. Somehow while travelling the controls on my dumb alarm clock had set the time to something different.
Don’t fret though, I woke up in time for the tournament, the problem was that it was a tad too much time.
The alarm woke me up and I stumbled out of bed and showered/dressed etc. After getting fully ready I checked my phone and saw that it was now 7am. The alarm had woken me up just past 6am.
So that’s my excuses out of the way, lets see how I performed on the day.
Round 1 – vs Scott McKellar’s Godsworn
As many of you may know – Godsworn are a warband that I have lots of practice against, having Tom as a practice partner will do that. Scott won boards and positioned his key pieces aggressively and used most of his activation’s in the first turn to charge my fighters. With Scritch safely tucked away at the back I was happy to trade fighters but my objectives were coming out in a painful order so I wasn’t scoring big. This trend continued over the whole game as almost all fighters died but neither of us scored high, I believe I only had Scritch alive at the end while Scott had Ollo and Grawl. Since Scott included the 2 Godsworn objectives for killing fighters with 4 or more wounds his objectives had been horrible to him as well and I edged out the win by a couple of glory.
Me looking my usual professional self.
A pretty tense start to the day.
Game 2 was pretty much the opposite. My objectives came out perfectly and I took the Godsworn apart, can’t remember the exact total but I think I scored around 20 that game. It’s worth noting that my dice were pretty ‘hot’ this game as well and Scott was on the receiving end of a few defence crits rolled by myself that really hurt his early game.
You want to know whats horrible? Playing Godsworn into this setup where half the kills you get give your opponent as much glory as you and your opponent can strike from anywhere.
Scott started the trend of incredibly personable opponents who were an absolute pleasure to chat to. Despite the dice being horrible to him on game 2 he took it all in stride and was incredibly chill about the whole situation.
Round 2 – vs Dave’s Thundricks
Thundrick’s are another warband that I have plenty of practice against, Martin in Sheffield was playing them for a long time and I’ve managed to play some cam games against the incredible Aman from Hexes and Warbands. The trick against Thundricks is to be very careful when you engage, if you don’t give them targets to constantly shoot at then they not only have issues doing damage but also in scoring their objective decks which messes up their inspire condition.
Game 1 was pretty much a perfect game from me, I deployed back and had space to score an objective deck that came out exactly how I wanted it to. Dave, like Scott before him did a double take when he saw Killing Ground. There was a mild panic towards the end when Dave played Shardgale and killed a couple of rats that had been wounded by my previous Shardgale. When two players are both running Shardgale you know its going to be a bloody game.
Game 2 was a much tighter affair. I had to do over an objective hand consisting of Killing ground, Master of War and Escalation cutting my glory ceiling down drastically. This meant I had to rely much more on kills for glory so I switched into ‘aggro mode’ and started cutting up some dwarves. By the end of the game only Thundrick was left standing and I was sitting pretty with Superior Tactician in hand about to get a nice surge of glory at the end. That was when Dave played One Step Ahead and named Superior Tactician. He rolled a hammer (or smash for the purists amongst you). I was only ahead by 1 glory. I tensed every muscle in my body to see what Dave had scored. Lucky for me none of the objectives in his hand had triggered so I ended up wining by that 1 glory. Phew.
One Step Ahead is starting to be run by more and more players and it is a very powerful card, in game 2 it was a 50/50 to deny me 3 glory and it nearly won Dave the game when it went off.
Not even close, ahem ahem. Is it me or is it getting hot in here?
Round 3 – vs Paul Lumsden’s Mollog
Continuing the trend of warbands that I have a lot of experience with, Paul was playing the warband that I had taken to the last two grand clashes. Unfortunately this had me very scared as the biggest weakness of my deck, an early Scritch kill, is quite possible with an aggro Mollog.
For game 1 Paul won boards and placed them long, this might surprise many people who expect a short board from Mollog but aggro Mollog loves the control that a tight corridor gives him, it makes trapping fighter’s easier with his range 2 attack and makes it very hard for you to split the board which is the main way to combat Mollog. You basically end up playing against an unstoppable wall of Troll that you can’t hide or run away from. So I was a bit scared as the game started, this Paul chap obviously knew what he was doing, luckily I had Calculated Risk in hand for a strong opener and ran my closest fighter away while scoring myself 1 glory. Turn 1 went badly for Paul as he didn’t draw any Inspire cards for Mollog so only managed to kill one of my rats. Still he had closed the distance and was getting scarily close to Scritch. Turn 2 saw Paul winning the roll off and deciding to go first, he made a beeline for Scritch and attacked with him trapped in the corner… and missed. He used Ready for Action to go again… and missed. To rub salt into the wound of those horrible results I then used Hidden Path’s to run Scritch to the other side of the board. The game played out with Paul Mopping up the rats on my board while I killed the squigs on his, this worked out very well for me as my objectives scored much better then him.
Game 2 saw me win boards and place fully offset, I wanted to delay the time it would take Paul to come and try to kill Scritch. The game was going well as once again Paul didn’t inspire quickly and I had an early Hidden Paths to get Scritch to safety and into the squig killing zone. Unfortunately this game Paul drew an upgrade that could have potentially turned the whole of game 1 had it been drawn, namely Tome of Offerings. This one upgrade completely upends the way my deck plays as I’m happy have my fighters die as they usually give me at least as much glory as my opponent. Tome of Offerings tips this balance back the other way and I bled glory. Still I was keeping it close and would have won if it weren’t for a massive misplay on my part. In the final activation of the game I charged lurking skaven at Stalagsquig, I knew I had no chance of killing it as it was at this point on 5 or so wounds but I needed a charge for Keep Them Guessing and I had Nullstone Sword equipped and was fishing for Branching Fate. I had been fishing for Branching Fate earlier in the turn by throwing some Shadeglass darts from Scritch at the immovable Squig but alas it hadn’t triggered then. I rolled three dice. They all came up different results.
‘I score Branching Fate’ I exclaimed happily.
‘No you don’t, you only roll two dice’
My face dropped. Nullstone Sword was sitting in my hand, I had forgot to equip it in the previous powerstep.
I scored Keep Them Guessing and managed to equal Paul on glory, Paul proceeded to not score anything at the end leaving us tied on glory. Taking us to game 3.
Game 3 is reasonably easy to sum up. Finally Paul got an early inspiration card, he also got an early Tome of Offerings. It wasn’t pretty. I did manage to put up somewhat of a fight and score a bunch of glory but Paul won the game fairly handily. I can’t remember exact numbers but he didn’t win game 3 by as as much as I won game 1 which leads us to a fun situation.
Grand Clashes are supposed to be able to award tied results, the event pack that is the standard boiler plate they all use explicitly states that any game where a winner isn’t necessary, i.e. not a final, can result in a tie. However I don’t think there has been a single Grand Clash run in the UK where all of the specifics of the event pack were followed, including officially run GW events. Paul was not aware of the fact that an official tie could occur and shook my hand saying I had won on glory diff over the match.
I said no, this could legit be a tie, its totally up to the TO. The only fair way to do it is to report the result and then let him say what he wants to do without trying to bias him. Which is what we did.
John Harper was the TO for the event and he was doing a fantastic job, especially considering he was helping a bunch of other events run as well. When we told him the outcome he initially said, ok that’s a tie then I’ll give you both one point. I felt pretty bad but resisted the urge to tell him about the overall glory difference, it wouldn’t have been fair. A moment later and he said that his tournament software needed a winner, at which point me and Paul told him about the glory diff and the match ended up being awarded to me 2-1.
Talk about skin of your teeth.
That was an incredibly close set against a very well played Mollog, hats off to Paul, sorry it didn’t go your way.
With regards to ties in tournaments, personally I dislike them in events that don’t have many rounds to decide a winner, you end up in a situation where a tie can mean both players are out of the running instead of just one. However for events with a lot of rounds then it’s a totally legitimate result and a good way of separating players.
Round 4 – Vs John Rees and the Swarming Spirit’s
I got drawn vs John Rees.
Urgh, my heart did a few flip flops.
I’m sure John doesn’t need an introduction, he runs what I am fairly confident is the most popular Warhammer Underworlds blog, making him our main competitor and has two grand Clash Trophies to his name, which is quite a bit better then our total of 0. Still I was confident in my deck and I know he was on Thorns, which was the meta I had built to face(I was expecting Thorns/Gitz objective play to be dominant), I steeled my nerves and set about my game.
Game 1: John won boards, I’m pretty happy with this result as I expect John to be running at minimum Supremacy and most likely Our Only Way out so having control over 3 objective tokens is a very strong tool. I picked my standard reaction board, The Arcane Nexus, as it would give me plenty of opportunity for killing my own rats no matter what way round John orientated the boards. I deployed as far back as I could with the closest target to John being Lurking with his sexy 2 dodge defence. My objectives came out beautifully with Calculated Risk and Shortcut + a trigger, my power cards were even nicer as I had Shardgale in hand. Shardgale is absolutely massive in this match-up and its even better when your opponent doesn’t have it, they will be committing to attacks that completely finish your fighters off whereas you can put all their fighters on one wound left and then cackle manically when you drop Shardgale later in a turn. Which is exactly what I did, sans cackling (I did it in my head). John swarmed his ghosts towards my board and was setting up to control as many objective tokens as possible. So I used pretty much every activation I had on charges, knowing that even if Lurking or Hungering got a hit in I could combo it with Shardgale for a kill. To get maximum value I held Shardgale until my third activation when two ghosts would die, where one was holding an objective, this did kill one of my own fighters to give John a glory but I put my glory to good use and equipped Nullstone Sword before making another attack. My last activation for the turn I used Shadowed Step to score Shortcut and made an attack with Scritch.
John had lost a bunch of ghosts and in no way could hold 3 objective tokens. It was a brutal opening to a game and honestly I held the snowball to win through the last 2 turns. The only highlight of the last two turns was when John killed a fighter in no mans land and then found out about the Killing Ground trap. I managed to score big this game and I was feeling more confident then ever.
Game 2: I won boards, oh no, not an ideal situation but its totally reasonable after losing them game 1. I set up the Penitents Throne in my usual configuration of one hex offset which was probably my only misplay of the match. There is no need to offset the Penitents Throne against thorns as they can just drift over the blocked hexes. I kept a hand with Superior Tactician (far from ideal) because it also had Change of Tactics which is a very easy score immediately for me. I won the roll for turn 1 and made John go first, he used Varclav to drift some ghosts in my direction. In my turn I put Lurking on guard and passed power. John then proceeded to drift ghosts into the two hexes next to Lurking, blocking any future charges he could make and scoring him one of the many ‘ganging up’ objectives he had in his deck. I had never actually seen anyone make that kind of play before and it really put me on the back foot.
At this point its worth talking about John’s deck, I hadn’t actually seen much of it in game 1, for those interested here is his article on it. My take on it is that it is legit the best deck John has built and its a really fascinating flex between all the ‘ganging up’ objectives that Thorns can use, alongside the hold objectives of Supremacy and Our Only Way out. What makes it so smart is that the same cards that allow John to constantly position onto objectives are also the ones that let him swarm my fighters and score his other objectives. As I had won game 1 so hard I hadn’t actually seen how Johns deck worked and I was about to get a lesson first hand.
I spent the rest of turn 1 charging my fighters into John’s to try and get some glory for upgrades, I managed to push a bed-sheet into charge range of lurking and eventually scored Change of Tactics but John churned through score immediates while also scoring Escalation. This game was almost an inverted mirror of the first and I had no way of coming back from the strong start John made in turn 1, John even managed to score Our Only Way out and Supremacy in the last turn of the game, winning by 1 glory more then I won game 1.
Confidence back into the shaky territory I went into game 3.
I won boards, ouch, one of us had to but it’s honestly such a massive disadvantage in this match-up that it hurt. Hoping that I could deny his hold objective game I set up the Animus Forge fully offset to restrict his ability to swarm. Unfortunately I had both Calculated Risk and Keep Them Guessing in my opening hand. That isn’t a hand I could bin but it meant I would be forced to send a fighter at John so he would have a target to swarm. Which is pretty much what happened. I made John play first and held the charge as long as I could, scoring Calculated Risk in the back of my board.
Keep Them Guessing can actually be tricky to score in the early stages of a game like this with the two warbands spread so far apart, after lurking charged in the third activation I killed the fighter who had moved/scored Calculated risk with Ghoulish pact (giving John a glory) and then used Scritch’s action to resurrect a fighter. I had held this resurrection till the 4th activation as I had Confusion in hand and it completely stops any Supremacy/Our Only Way out play from John. Unfortunately for me those were not the objectives John had early in the game and he swarmed around Lurking and started scoring all his ‘ganging up objectives’.
I aggressively binned every power card left in hand at the end of turn 1, yes even Confusion, as I was desperately looking for Shardgale/Lethal Ward/Crown of Avarice. Any combination of those cards would be incredibly strong at giving me glory to break the deadlock.
I didn’t draw them.
My memory is fairly vague here but I think that I went first and triggered Martyred myself by running a rat through lethal hexes, the glory ends up being equal but scoring an objective helps me get Superior Tactician and it denies any chance of John scoring the objective for the turn – I’d made a mental note that he had it in one of the previous games. I did manage to use Hidden Path’s to put Krrk into Johns territory with Shadeglass Dart’s and start fishing for Branching Fate, which proved elusive despite the use of Fuelled by Fury. John backed his fighters up and started looking like he was going for a Supremacy type play, I can’t remember exactly how I stopped it but I think it was with a Nullstone Sword from a basic rat onto one of the ghosts, having some dead rats is actually a fantastic resource in this type of match as I can spawn them on any starting hex and start tooling them up to kill stuff.
After scoring objectives I came out with more glory then John, I also had more objectives scored at 5 to 4. Knowing John ran Superior Tactician himself this gave me a massive edge, on the other hand he already had Formless key equipped on Varclav and if I let slip for a moment he could score massively from sitting on 3 objective tokens.
I did not draw Shardgale/Lethal Ward. I did get Crown of Avarice on one of the forward rats, might have been Krrk, but I had no triggers and was missing my strongest cards to fight the Thorns with.
Turn 3 was incredibly tense, it was like a Mexican standoff with neither one of us blinking. I put 90% odds of John having Martyred in hand and with him being on 4 objectives scored I didn’t want to give him anything that could get him towards Superior Tactician. He knew about Killing Ground, an objective that I hadn’t scored yet, so he was desperate not to kill any of my rats that I had strategically positioned in no mans land.
I had a lot of outs though, both Shardgale and Lethal Ward were still in my deck and a way for me to make my forward rats attacks convert into kills. I spent the first few turns of the deadlock desperately looking for those cards.
John broke the deadlock by equipping Tome of Offerings to the Everhanged before his 3rd activation. God how I hated that upgrade, my response was to use Ready for Action to move a rat that was adjacent to the Everhanged into another position in no mans land, I could force Killing Ground if I had to. John then equipped Potion of Rage onto the Everhanged, oh no, he had played Heroslayer a turn earlier, without any options left I passed power. The Everhanged charged and one shot Scritch, scoring 2 glory +1 for Precise use of Force.
John was now at a 2 glory lead with 5 objectives scored, I had Sup Tac in hand and was going to edge him by 1 glory, but he had formless key equipped on a Varclav that was clever positioned in a corner so I couldn’t knock him off. My last activation was spent trying to kill a ghost with Swordbreaker, Last Chance saved it.
We both scored and counted glory. I had successfully stopped John scoring any of his big objectives including Sup Tac. We were tied, John won on the tiebreaker of objectives held.
Shardgale and Lethal Ward were all in the last 4 cards of my power deck.
With that I crashed out of the Scotland Grand Clash.
I’d lost in an incredibly close set to John, arguably the best player of the game, and that was the only match I had dropped all day. So despite being knocked out I was feeling pretty good. I stayed around to watch the final but ended up chatting to the TO about whiskey, I was very tired by this point and I found it hard to focus on anything.
John won the final 2-0 over Derek Traquair’s Cursebreakers in another display of skill, here is his specific article on the event – which includes his match against me. Afterwards me, John and Derek all had some drinks and chatted about the event and the game in general. Something that is not talked about enough is how good the social aspect of this game is, Derek had travelled from Canada and was a fan of the blog! He particularly enjoyed Freya’s articles on defensive play from last year.
We unfortunately didn’t get our prizes given out straight away as Games Workshop had only sent the Grand Clash Kit one day before and to no ones surprise this had meant that the kit had not made it up to Perth in time (maybe they should have used Megabus). This meant that the TO hadn’t given out the final standings on the day.
So the main reason this article is late isn’t because I’m lazy it’s because I didn’t know how I had finished. The ‘results’ were posted to Table Top Scotlands Facebook page yesterday and I got pretty much where I expected:
This was the standings after round 4 – John actually won the tournament in the final but that was obviously a cut to top 2.
Pretty happy with that, my best individual Grand Clash finish to date (came 4th at the UKTC but that was a team event) and another shiny card to put in my collection. Obviously I’d have preferred to win but given the condition I was in I’m extremely happy with the result.
Then came an email directly from Tabletop Scotland.
It’s been brought to our attention that there was an error related to the recording of Draws in the Tabletop.To app.
I’ve now re-run the numbers using Excel based on this new information and there are some changes to the ranking which I’ll post about across social media later.
From your perspective it’s a bad news story as you’ve dropped from 4th to 9th. The app had recorded your Round 3 result as a Win but it was in fact a Draw hence the change in Points. This has an impact on your eligible prizes which I’ll update before sending them out.”
I responded to the email making my case, which is fairly easy because by most logical interpretations I should come 4th, unfortunately my cries of protest fell on deaf ears. The result stands and I came 9th.
So just to reiterate the situation that occurred. In round 3 I had a ‘tied’ game with my opponent, the software the TO was using for pairings (which incidentally was not pairing people by the methods stated in the event pack) needed a win at which point I was the clear winner by the glory difference tie breaker. I was then paired in round 4 based on 3 wins into the best player of the tournament and eventual winner John Rees. If I had been given a tie in round 3 I would have faced a different opponent in round 4 and would still have even had a chance at the final. In fact one could say I would have had a much better chance because I wouldn’t have faced John.
So I was given a win for the purpose of pairings and then retroactively given a tie for the purpose of final standings, that’s an interesting sequence of decisions.
I don’t want to turn this into just a rant, I don’t want to just moan about how I feel hard done by (I do) but I do want to use this as an example of how Grand Clashes need to have a consistent method for pairing and placing people at events. Even Games Workshop run Grand Clashes don’t always follow their own event packs meaning that you end up in a situation where you can spend a month preparing for a big event only to get screwed over by different rules on the day.
At the end of the day I’ll keep playing this game as long as it is enjoyable to me and it is very enjoyable but I would be lying if I said that results at these tournaments didn’t affect that. Yes I had a fantastic time at Tabletop Scotland. I met some great people and played some great games. But I have a sour taste in my mouth from this result that’s difficult to wash out.
All right enough of that – lets end on a high note.
Me with second place player Derek Traquair.
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