With the Grymwatch expansion finally revealed in all its gory glory we at Steel City have gone over all the content with a fine tooth comb in order to bring our crazy conclusions to you, our dear reader. As ever we are probably the only content creators who are both willing and happy to play all aspects of the game, even the forbidden defensive lists, so you might find that we have a slightly different take on some of the cards to the rest of the pack. Before diving into the new shiny stuff I’m going to pop a segment on how I feel the Shadespire cards rotating out will affect the game and what meta that might lead us to expect, then I will review the Grymwatch content against this backdrop.
Shadespire Is Dead, Long Live Shadespire
With the rotation coming into effect we have now lost almost half of all neutral cards that were available to us. This is a pretty massive deal and changes the fundamentals of how everyone plays the game. Let’s dig into the specifics of what was lost and how it will influence different warbands and styles of play:
Ready for Action: The big daddy. The only restricted power card that everyone ran in their decks, this was a way to cheat out a 13th activation in a game where every single activation is a desperately important resource. The warband most obviously hit by this is Mollog, being able to activate a specific fighter one more time is pretty good when your specific fighter hits like a truck and has range 2. However I actually think players of the troll should be happy to see this card go, one of the best ways to kill Mollog was via a Ready for Action ‘combo’ and now that fear is gone it’s a lot harder to actually kill the murderous mushroom.
(Tom: I really feel Mollog misses Ready for Action the least! He is now the only model that can attack after charging, and as Mike said he no longer needs to fear the instant kill from a Ready for Action combo)
All aggro players in general will feel the loss of this card keenly, it was a way to potentially kill 2 fighters in one activation or it could be used as a way to make sure a super important attack actually hit, surely you can’t miss twice? Objective and defensive play will be happy to see this card go, yes both types of decks ran it but it wasn’t nearly as good for them as it was for aggro.
Hidden Paths: The greatest mobility card in the game and scorer of what was probably the most abusable objective towards the end of Nightvault, namely Shortcut. The loss of this one actually hurts aggro a lot, suddenly defensive players are crying out in joy because positioning means something again and it becomes inordinately harder to close the gap with fighters who hide in a huddle at the back of either a long or fully offset board setup. I cannot overstate just how much this helps defensive play, spell singing Cursebreakers could see a comeback simply because of this change.
Outside of defensive play the loss of Hidden Paths suddenly means that the movement stat on fighter cards is a lot more important. So Chosen Axes can cry into their beards while scurrying Skaven can cackle manically to themselves. With the biggest neutral ‘teleport’ going Thorns also get a bit of a boost due to having by far the best in faction movement shenanigans.
Escalation: The objective that should be in everyone’s deck. During season 1 this card was harder to score and thus an interesting deck choice for people but by the end of Nightvault there were so many easy surge objectives that reaching 3 upgrades between you and your opponent was almost trivial. I don’t think its loss hurt any particular playstyle or warband more than others, I’m personally happy to see it go as I can now stop playing around it for the first time in almost 2 years.
Rebound/Last Chance: The desperate last line of defence for large dodge based warbands. This duo of cards were massive tempo swings against aggro and didn’t care just how many Haymaker type cards you played to force an attack, there was always going to be a set chance it would fail (providing you had these cards in hand of course). The loss of both of these is going to hurt hold objective play a fair bit, that play style can’t hide at the back like defensive decks and is going to be in engage range of aggro players. This honestly balances out the loss of Ready for Action on the aggro side so overall I don’t see it affecting the game massively. Also worth mentioning that losing two strong reaction cards hurts both Thorns and Guardians as it makes their best objectives harder to score.
Personally I am very happy to see Rebound go, it is a 1/3 chance to win the game most of the time and I am not a fan of such high variance. This game got a lot better with Rebounds loss.
Superior Tactician: The best third end phase objective in the game had a good time in the sun. It was a strong if not overpowered choice for most of the time it was legal but with the massive amount of easy to score objectives we had towards the end of Nightvault it was getting kind of silly. Games were decided on whether or not you had to do over a hand with this and that’s just not good gameplay. Its loss probably affects most warbands and styles equally with maybe Thundricks being hurt the most.
Change of Tactics: Keep them Guessing’s best friend and a stalwart easy to score surge objective. Warbands that had high ‘danger distance’ like the Guardians and Farstrider’s will feel the loss of this but I don’t think it will really affect the meta too much.
Cover Ground: Another surge objective that didn’t require you to interact with your opponent or to roll dice, therefore very strong for anyone who devoted the deck costs to it. It’s rotation hurts high mobility warbands a little, with both this and Change of Tactics gone the Godsworn might find themselves in a tough place trying to inspire on turn 1, unless we see good replacements this season that is. Thorns of the Briar Queen definitely don’t like this one going.
Spectral Wings: The second best mobility card in the game, the loss of this card simply accentuates all of the factors that Hidden Path’s loss will cause. Defensive decks rejoice.
Distraction: The thinking man’s ploy, Distraction had always been a fantastic way of disrupting hold objective play and/or re-position enemy fighters to either secure your own charge or to deny theirs. I think that until we get more good neutral cards with future expansions that warbands with faction specific Distractions are all going to have a bit of an advantage.
Lethal Strike/Concealed Weapon/Frozen in Time/Cruel Taunt: A lot of the anti Mollog tech that most people only put one of in a deck has now gone. The big Troll might even crack a smile at this, well until he sees one of the new cards that I will talk about later.
The Keys: The real difference between decks that simply flexed into the hold objective playstyle and those that fully embraced it was in how many keys they took. If you managed to trigger even one of these it could be game turning and the loss of this as an option hurts hold objective play massively.
Finally it’s worth mentioning that we now have a limit of 6 surge cards per deck. This specifically limits Thundricks (one of if not the most powerful warband at the end of Nightvault) and also means that no matter how crazy Beastgrave surge cards get we will never quite have the days of scoring surge after surge card and combing them into Victory after Victory, Combination Strikes and Superior Tactician, a strategy that felt like you either snowballed turn 1 or just lost.
Phew, this was supposed to be a short segment but once I started with some cards I found that I couldn’t ignore others. A lot of good ones made it off the list but I think I have covered all the big ‘meta defining’ ones. So overall what playstyle do I think is the strongest with just the Nightvault universals? Honestly I think defensive Cursebreakers have a lot going for them, with Hidden Paths/Spectral Wings going it’s much harder to reach a defensive deployment and Ready for Action’s loss makes it harder to ensure any attack that is made gets through. Between hold objective and aggro I don’t think either lost more than the other, I think they are in a similar boat.
Of course I couldn’t talk about powerful Shadespire cards without one last special mention.
Katophrane Relics: At one point relics dominated the top tables at Grand Clashes to such an extent that Facebook almost exploded with players rage (yes I realise that happens every other week but this case was particularly brutal). Oh how I loved their salt. For those not in the know Steel City originally invented this playstyle alongside Sandro Antunes (who beat our player Lee in the final of a Warhammer World Grand Clash) and it kickstarted our love for defensive play. Games Workshop made them all cost 2 glory with an errata update but that wasn’t enough to keep relics down for the duration of Nightvault and they then adjusted Spoils of Battle and Ghoulish Pact to no longer work with the relics in an FAQ update late in the season. I have no idea why they didn’t just ban the cards outright, they obviously didn’t want people playing them.
Such a thing of beauty as the Katophrane Relic’s will never exist again, so raise your glass one last time as we usher in a new era.
(Tom: The greatest card lost to rotation was undoubtedly Sprinter. RIP you sexy bastard.)
I’ll be rating these cards using our incredibly original and not nicked off certain Magic celebrities rating system. For the regular readers you might note that I have adjusted this list to only include cards that are now legal, as well as the fact that I constantly tinker with what and where I place key cards (hey I can change my mind every so often).
- 5 – Best in class effects that should go in basically every deck that can take them (Crown of Avarice, Calculated Risk)
- 4 – Powerful or versatile effects that are extremely strong in a particular archetype or pretty good in any deck (Tome of Offerings, Upper Hand, Potion of Rage)
- 3 – Solid effects that will find a place in many decks (Great Fortitude, Supremacy, Sidestep)
- 2 – Limited effects that might be useful in some specialised decks (Imbue with Life, Regal Vision)
- 1 – Just plain bad cards (Headlong Charge, Our Powers Combined)
Escalation but instead of being for upgrades it’s for objective tokens? I honestly don’t think this is very good. Having the upgrades played during a turn is something that happens though natural gameplay and was what made Escalation so strong but holding 5 objectives’ is something I almost never see. If hold objective play becomes meta then maybe people take this for the mirror match but otherwise I think it will be an ignored card.
I personally love the design of this card. This is something you take if you are really doubling down on hold objective gameplay which is great to see with all push towards flex we seem to be getting in the newer sets. It can only be scored on turns 2 or 3 which hurts and it requires a very strong hold on the game for two turns of play so it is at least partially relying on your opponent having a bad game. I think only warbands with strong resurrection mechanics can consider this card and even then it might be too big of a risk. It could have probably been printed at 5 glory and still been balanced, as is I think it’s a niche choice.
Many more warbands are packing 2 defence dice on their fighters these days but even so I still think this card is too much of a gamble. If you play this into Cursebreakers then you can only score it from inspired Stormsire and you generally want to focus all in on killing him early, if you do that and draw this late in the game its totally useless. So far the Beastgrave warbands haven’t gone crazy with defence dice, limiting its options further.
Path To Victory
Now here is a strong flex card. Dabble with aggro by killing on fighter check. Dabble with hold objective by holding two tokens check. Get a nice pay out of 2 glory, mmm I’m in. Any warband that is planning to flex between hold objective and aggro should take this card, it’s a very reliable one to score and makes holding just two objective tokens much more dangerous.
Thorn’s of the Briar Queen players can dry their tears over the loss of Cover Ground with an even easier to score surge objective and this is one that Gitz and Sepulchral Guard players can join in with. For all of those warbands this is not only an autoinclude but it genuinely raises their viability quite a lot. For other horde warbands the setup is a tad tricky but surge objectives that can be scored without your opponent having much say are always very strong. Remember that this can work off your opponent’s fighters as well.
A pretty tasty card for the hold objective playstyle, swift capture rewards not only sitting on the tokens in your territory but being proactive and grabbing them from your opponents. Thorn’s and the new Grymwatch will absolutely love this as they have a lot of tricks to make scoring it a piece of cake. Mileage may vary for other hold objective warbands but it’s certainly worth consideration.
The Beast is Slain
It’s almost impossible to rate this card right now. We just don’t have enough ways to make fighters into quarry or cards that reward fighters for being hunters. My absolute punt in the dark guess is that this will end up being a staple of hunter decks as the season progresses, right now it’s barely playable.
The Great Hunt
A more flexible version of Singled Out that only really works if your warband has a lot of hunters. Nothing amazing but could do work.
To the End
With Improvisation, Duel of Wits and Trust to Luck now all going the way of the bin this objective seems pretty hard to score. We do have one new card that helps a bit (which is reviewed down below) but right now it’s not worth planning around. You would have to commit to always doing over your initial draw of power cards and that’s just not something I want to do. At 2 glory we really need to see a bunch more strong draw cards for this to be considered worth running.
Cloaked in Shadow
More cards that turn opponents into a quarry. Right now that doesn’t actually give us enough benefits to invest in, as with magic in Nightvault, cards like this might suddenly shoot up in value once we have the critical mass of other cards that interact with it. Right now it’s pretty rubbish.
Here is something powerful. An out of sequence ‘move’ where the move is basically a Snirk action minus the damage. Positioning in this game is incredibly important and this card can help you to grab objective tokens or to land/evade attacks that otherwise wouldn’t be in reach, the fact that it doesn’t actually count as a move and thus doesn’t give a move token is just icing on the cake.
This is kind of like the Toxic Gases card for Thundricks but much more limited. Your opponent really has to have a very specific fighter that they want to activate, hello Mollog, and even then it’s a delayed single point of damage. If you have plans for a deck entirely based around ping damage then maybe this works.
This card would be a decent way to deal with Last Chance and rebound if they er… still existed. Even then though I’d rather have taken Forceful Denial as it has the same odds but works against players not running those two cards. Well now Forceful Denial is gone as well this card might see some potential in the future if we get a bunch of gambits that depend on dice rolls, right now it’s pretty much worthless.
This is the card that can help us score To the End. On its own the effect is reasonable but not super strong, you essentially get a net gain of a single card, however for people who like to include combo’s in their decks this card effectively makes your deck smaller and makes hitting those all-important combinations much easier. It does mean effectively cutting your Gambit options down to 9 cards that actually do things which can be hard to do but I definitely think it’s a strong option to play around with, our own Tom Bond would swear by Improvisation in his Godsworn.
(Tom: Unfortunately this card is strictly worse than Improvisation. The requirement of discarding a power card means you cannot play this card when your hand is empty. That was always the ideal time to play Improvisation and get 2 activation’s worth of draw for free (as you had to play Improvisation to get the three new cards, you essentially only gained two. Draw power is still good when the card you need is not in your hand. In clutch moments when you need a crucial Gambit that is helpfully lurking underneath all ten of your upgrades, this card might just save the day. I’d say test this card if you’re interested, but the jury’s still out. I miss Improvisation.)
Here is our brand spanking new anti Mollog tech. A strong way that isn’t dependent on a dice roll to permanently reduce his accuracy by a reasonable chunk. Against the big troll this is incredible if you draw it early in a game but its power reduces drastically the more accuracy upgrades and ploys that a Mollog player gets access to, if you are running this in a deck you might also want to run Bag of Tricks. There is currently some debate about whether this works on Spell Attack Actions, Aman over at Hexes and warbands has made a strong case that since both types of attack have separate keywords that Madness Dart only affects the keyword it is referencing on the card and not spell attack actions. Under Nightvault rules this would definitely stop Spell Attack Actions, personally I’m on the fence with how the interaction works and would like to see an updated FAQ (one that is designed for the Beastgrave rules) released before the two grand clashes happening later this month. If this does work against Spell Attack Actions then it is really strong, a piece of anti Mollog tech that also totally shuts down Stormsire, Vortimus and Ylthari while being bad to middling against the rest of the field. If this doesn’t work on Spell Attack Actions then I don’t think this is quite worth taking, generally speaking if you are adjacent to an enemy fighter you can take ploys that would have helped you kill them in a charge, I’d rather do that myself.
Don’t think we at Steel City have missed the unassuming poison keyword on the card either, to my knowledge this is the first ploy we have had with a keyword and I am hyped for what poison interactions we will get in the future. Maybe a card that deals 1 damage per poison affecting an enemy fighter?
For now I am going to rate the card conservatively and presume that Aman is correct.
A 2 focus spell that after you cast it is gated by more dice rolls? Nope. Unless the effect is literally ‘win the game’ I don’t want to play this card.
Imbue with life except you don’t have to be a wizard and you don’t need that wizard to be near the target. This is incredible. I expect this to be a staple in full hold objective and anything even remotely flexing into hold objective play. Even aggro can enjoy the benefit of shoving a token around to disrupt their opponents play or to make a better Faneway Portal.
So this is basically Determined Effort with ensnare where the subsequent attack can only be used on fighters without move or charge tokens. Now that Fuelled by Fury is out of rotation this might be taken in aggro decks looking for another accuracy boost after popping Haymaker into their decks. Ensnare certainly seems very powerful at this point in Beastgrave as all the new warbands are very dodge defence focused, it’s almost always true that people play new warbands a lot at tournaments so right now I think this is pretty powerful.
In Shadespire we had Shadeglass weapons, in Nightvault we had Nullstone and now in Beastgrave we have Amberbone. If the mechanic linking all of the Amberbone weapons is to gain an extra glory on kill then sign me up. We have seen time and time again that glory gained from upgrades is an incredibly powerful mechanic that top players will abuse as much as possible until GW frantically restrict the cards. This doesn’t scream overpowered to me though, the two damage is the real kicker as it does very little against some of the higher wound warbands. This does act as a check of sorts on horde warbands, making harvesting kills from low wound fighters worth even more, if Beastgrave continues to give us warbands like the first 3 then this might go up in value.
Pretty much the same as Amberbone Axe except swap the extra glory for heal 2. Er… no thanks? The only warband I can think that values healing that much is Mollog and going to 2 damage seems a bit rubbish even for the big Troll, for Guardians I don’t rate inspiring enough to be worth equipping this upgrade and using an activation an attacking.
The second ‘this fighter is a Hunter card’ so early in the set heavily implies that we are going to get a whole bunch of these cards as the season progresses, making the Hunter keyword accessible not only to Beastgrave Warbands but to anyone who wants to build it into their decks. The effect on the card seems a nice added bonus, a free push is nothing to sniff at, remember it’s a reaction so you choose whether to do it (players at the ETC might want to remember the rules on this one) meaning your opponent can’t bait you into an unfavourable push. Right now I think we still need more Hunter focused benefits and more ways to make enemy fighters quarry before this stuff takes off but I would bet my few remaining teeth that it will.
On turn 2 this upgrade is a 2 range, 2 smash and 2 damage attack. That’s a very solid set of stats that could be considered for any decks wanting attack action upgrades. By turn 3 the stats are bonkers. The only thing keeping this in check is that you can’t modify the stats on this weapon so Great Strength for instance doesn’t bring this to 4 damage. Every horde warband should take this, especially if you have Hunters and can use Snare, 4 wound fighters beware Larval Lance is coming to get you.
Mazzig’s Many Legs
The effect on this spell is complete trash, so I’m not even going to talk about it. The fact that it is a repeatable spell action at only one channel is potentially tasty for anyone wanting to build a spell focused deck around Eyes of the Nine. I think a deck like that probably wants another card like this to make it reliable enough, I feel like I am saying that a lot in this article but that’s just the way it is so early into a season.
Oh and just like Madness Dart don’t think we missed the keyword ‘Lost Page’, could these be the new tomes of Beastgrave?
An upgrade and an activation to inspire a guardian? It seems a bit of a push, likewise with the other warband that cares about healing Mollog generally wants to be attacking every single turn he can. Not the biggest fan of this right now.
A card that turns your fighter into a Quarry for a very mild upside. Being unable to push an enemy fighter is only really relevant for effects like Snare or Distraction, oh wait that’s now gone. If your opponent needs to push someone off an objective in order to stop you scoring Supremacy they could just pick another fighter.
In specific cases this actually has some legitimate upsides. Unfortunately the best target for this, Snirk, can never go on guard so gitz players can stop salivating. Any warband with important fighter’s that have a multitude of dodge defence should look at this, I know Thorns players who stack dodge dice upgrades on the Queen, well this card just made that strategy a whole lot better, same for Scritch. Definitely pass if you have just 1 defence dice. The Quarry downside hasn’t really come into effect much yet, it remains to be seen how bad it will get.
Ah here it is. The best card was saved till last. This is the designers attempt to make a more balanced and fingers crossed not restricted version of Tome of Offerings. Tome of Offerings is itself the best upgrade card printed (well unless you count the original relics as a single card) and is one of the only restricted upgrades to actually see play in tournament decks. Who knew that doubling the amount of glory you get from kills, albeit with a specific fighter, was a strong effect?
Trophy Belt does come with some big restrictions though. First off your fighter needs to be a Hunter in order to use it. That means you are either playing one of the new Beastgrave warbands or heavily committing your deck just so you can take this and Snare (currently the other good Hunter card) while risking not drawing the cards that make you a Hunter. It also requires the fighter that dies to be adjacent, a big downside for any Mollog’s thinking of abusing it, and if the fighter killed isn’t a quarry then the glory gained is spent. That’s a hefty set of downsides.
On the plus side you can take this alongside Tome of Offerings, who doesn’t want to score a Supremacy’s worth of glory per kill?
Phew, that’s enough for now. Tune in tomorrow when I go in depth on the warband contained within the expansion, the gory Grymwatch.
They are broken.
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Do t forget that Cloaked In Shadow can be played on your own fighters, essentially making them immune to enemy gambits that choose a fighter or do damage. It’s probably not the smartest play, but if the meta shakes out a certain way, that added flexibility might prove useful.
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You’re the second person to have mentioned that to me – I didn’t include the effect in my write up simply because I didn’t think it did enough to be worth talking about – it’s like a very limited version of Time Stop – you are right though that there are cases that could be useful.