Why is this review so late?
After winning the October Grand Clash with the Grymwatch I was looking for a totally different playstyle and warband to master for the next (January) one, I had put so much practice into the Grymwatch that the idea of playing them anymore was incredibly off putting. With the release of Rippa’s I saw a really unique warband that leant heavily into the aggro playstyle, more specifically surgical aggro, which is one I have dabbled with back in my Mollog days. So I set my eyes on the mounted gitz and put a lot of time into honing them into the best version they could be.
Unfortunately, being the evil troll that I am, I also didn’t want to share the specific tech and tricks that I was developing with the wider community, so if I was to write a review article I would be deliberately obfuscating/hiding information from my avid readers. The compromise I settled on was to release the review after the January Grand Clash (hopefully) with a good result to show for it, giving all of my tips and tricks out for everyone to see.
Some of you may be aware that I didn’t actually take the Rippa’s to the Grand Clash, I had the deck packed and ready with three days to go when me and Tom Bond both realised that the practice Grymwatch deck I had thrown together was actually doing better than both of our super honed and practiced options. So I made a last minute switch back to the Grymwatch and ended up with a fairly underwhelming result of 2-2 on the day.
The thing is that I still think the last minute switch was correct, not a single Rippa player made the top 16 so it was unlikely that I would have either, alas the field was super strong at this grand clash and my last minute Grymwatch just couldn’t beat the quality of players I was up against.
So this review has two months of honing behind it with easily over 100 games played, I’m not just going to tell you how the warband plays but also go into detail on the deck list that I so nearly took to the Grand Clash as well as talking about the overall strengths and weaknesses of the warband.
An Inspiring Start
Rippa – This fighter has two or more upgrades.
Your leaders inspire condition is absolutely crucial to the whole warband, which I’ll get into more when I talk about the fighter stats. If he hasn’t died in the first round then it’s pretty much free but the real trick is trying to get the boss to inspire before his first charge. To do that you need some combination of kills or surge objectives that can score early in the game. This leads us down the road of surge objectives that are incredibly reliable, when we get to my deck list below you can see how I specifically tackled the issue.
Stabbit and Mean Eye – your Leader is the target of an attack.
Just like Rippa, inspiring is a big deal for the rest of your warband but in the case of your two sidekicks it’s not an effect you have control over. What this inspire condition does do is make Rippa much more survivable in the first round of a game. Most opponents don’t want to inspire your other two fighters for free, especially if they don’t have the accuracy or damage to ensure Rippa does die. Experienced Snarlfang players can use this to push Rippa into enemy territory for an early (activation 2) charge and present their opponent with a tough dilemma to deal with, bonus points if you do this into Grymwatch and potentially deny their inspire condition.
Of course playing Rippa like this is a risky play, it can lead to your best fighter dying, and it also means that the first time you leader charges he will not be inspired, making his attacks much more likely to miss. If you aren’t specifically playing around this inspire condition you will still be surprised how often it happens through normal play, it is a very rare game where Stabbit and Mean Eye do not inspire.
So right from the get go we can see a lot of subtlety in how this warband plays, there are some mildly conflicting strengths which could mean it either flounders in the wrong hands or is an incredibly versatile tool in the right ones.
Warband Mechanics – Snarlfang’s Jaws
The really unique part of this warband is the ‘free’ attack they get after every activation, allowing you to either double down on trying to kill one low wound fighter, position in such a way that if you get lucky you can kill two low wound fighters or go for a real Hail Mary and try to stack both attacks to kill one high wound fighter. The fact that the jaw’s attack cannot be modified means it doesn’t benefit from the vast majority of accuracy upgrades that exist in the game and that it definitely doesn’t benefit from any of the damage ones.
You might think that either one smash or two fury (the inspired version) are just super unreliable and not worth talking about but if you are making a bunch of them in a game you are very likely to hit at least one (two fury into one dodge is 44%) which really adds to your killing power. There are also a couple of ways that you can stack the odds in your favour. Any upgrade that grants you blanket re rolls, say Prized Vendetta, will also let you re roll all of your Jaw attacks and any support symbols that you can add, say from Bonded or Spirit Bond, still count as extra successes on those attack dice.
With the uninspired attacks of the warband being so inaccurate the extra attacks afforded by the jaws act as a very solid way of increasing your chances to kill that single two wound fighter in the first round, if you want to look at the exact maths behind this then Jonathon over at wellofpower wrote this great article for you.
The Main Event – Fighter Stats
I think from a pure fighter card perspective that the Rippa’s are the most balanced and nuanced warband that Games Workshop have made to date. There are so many options packed into these three fighters yet they didn’t have to rely on the wall of text like other less sophisticated gitz (see Snirk).
Rippa himself is the leader of the warband and we can see the general template for all the fighters from his stats. They all have a base move of 4, a 1 block defence, 4 wounds and a Snarlfang’s Jaws reaction, which as discussed above is basically a free extra attack. They are also all Hunters, allowing them to use some of the powerful Hunter specific cards like Tracking, Snare and Trophy Belt. When inspired these stats increase to 5 move and 2 dodge, making them a highly mobile and hard to hit warband.
Boss Loppa is the only main two damage attack in your whole warband and it’s also your most accurate one, replacing the other fighter’s fury with smash dice for both the inspired and uninspired sides. Once you hit that magic three smash number you can really start relying on this attack to hit, especially if you have another boost like Bonded on.
The Grot Bow is easy to overlook, why use a 2 fury one damage attack when you have a 3 smash 2 damage attack, but the fact that it mirrors the bow on Mean Eye does let you build a bit around ranged attacks, letting you take objectives like Warning shot into the deck.
Stabbit, the power behind the throne, is your ultra anti horde fighter. Once inspired and with a juicy damage upgrade like Great Strength he will rip through horde warbands like nobody’s business. The knockback on his range 2 attack is also super useful for securing extra damage with lethal hexes as well. Remember that the Sycthing attack on his inspired side is range 1, so you have another fighter in the warband to use range 1 boosts with e.g. Sting of the Ur-Grub.
Mean Eye… exists. He is definitely the runt of the bunch with a sub-par range attack that isn’t worth building around too much. Best used for scoring specific objectives like Warning Shot or Versatile Fighter while fishing for attacks that can combo into a kill with ping damage like Snare or Lethal ward. Remember, he has a wolf and it can bite so you will sometimes see him get up close and personal.
Warband Specific Cards
I’m going to continue my trend of warband articles of only reviewing the cards that I think are strong or interesting enough to warrant the attention. Let’s get stuck in:
I actually think this card is pretty bad, it’s a trap that in a best of three match gives a canny opponent even less incentive to attack Rippa. However, this cards mere existence can affect the game, in the first game when facing off against someone new they might avoid a kill onto Rippa just because you could be playing this card which is a pretty nice situation to be in as a Snarlfang player.
This is the type of objective that aggro needs right now to be viable, a solid two glory end phase that isn’t ridiculously hard to score and doesn’t require you to also be holding objectives. The fact that Rippa’s get this in faction really gives them a boost over other aggro warbands. Admittedly it’s not great into other small elite aggro factions but the only ones of those really being played right now is Cursebreakers and Lady Harrows, this card isn’t dead into them but you might find yourself cycling it more often than not.
Leading the Charge
I had this in an earlier version of my Rippa deck for a long time and it is pretty reliable, on rounds 2 and 3. If you want to make this reliable on turn 1 as well then you need to take both Haymaker and Vindictive Attack which honestly is fine but just not the way I ended up building my deck. A solid option if you do go down that route though, remember the attack only has to hit not kill in order to score this.
Loaded With Plunder
Singled Out but warband specific, oh and worth double the glory. Singled Out is a solid objective card already, making it two glory really pushes it over the edge and makes it super viable. Yes this card is usually dead in round 1 but it’s two glory and its free any other round, just keep it and score it later. Note at the Grand Clash this was ruled not to work on fighters that are out of action despite the wording changes from Singled Out.
An incredibly reliable round 1 objective that swiftly falls off later in the game. You should always plan your objective deck around things going wrong and it’s fair to expect one fighter to die as the game progresses, at which point you can no longer score this objective. For one glory that means it’s not quite worth it for me.
Oh how I both love and hate this card. Aggressive Defence combined with Fuelled by Fury should be an effect that I always take in every deck ever but this card is subtly weaker because it doesn’t stop you being driven back. If you have Rippa loaded up with Great Strength and Sting of the Ur-Grub with this sitting in hand when you get hit, it just takes one drive back to reduce your four damage counterpunch to a measly one damage trifle. Another card that the threat of having in your deck makes your opponents play differently which is nice. Tricks that do work with this card include having a fighter be on guard so they cannot be driven back and using the Snarlfang Jaws as your attack back as it’s still an attack on your fighter card and sometimes you want that two damage.
This is the crown jewel in Rippa’s warband cards. With all of your fighters sitting at a tasty 4 wounds it can be hard for your opponent to find enough damage to kill one, having a sneaky extra wound that you can seemingly summon out of thin air is absolutely massive and will swing games in your favour. The mind games are strong as well with this card, opponents will find it hard to commit to a four wound attack if it leaves a fighter exposed, this is absolutely brilliant.
I initially dismissed this card as it read like Sidestep but with some really limited use cases where it might be better, then I remembered that Sidestep is broken and fell in love with the card. Seriously, positioning is king in this game and Sidestep can give you a free attack without having to pop a charge token on or let you dodge out of the way of an enemies attack, when your warband is elite fighters those friendly pushes are big.
Haymaker without the downside. An absolute powerhouse of a card that is amazing early in the game. I personally cut it from my deck as I found that later on I stacked enough accuracy upgrades in my deck that I didn’t need the extra dice but it still comes highly recommended. The reason that this card is balanced for the Snarlfangs is that it doesn’t affect your jaws attack, even so it’s still often worth it.
The best way to give both your main attack and your jaws accuracy is this tasty upgrade, even better it stacks your defence dice as well. This is absolutely an auto include in any Rippa deck, just remember that it only works on adjacent attacks.
If the boss has snuffed it then this is a good upgrade on Stabbit, unfortunately half of its effect is wasted on Mean Eye making it a pretty unreliable card. Certainly fun if you do get use out of it though.
Remember Circling Hunter blocks your jaws if you use it after your main attack as they both share a reaction window. I honestly didn’t experiment enough with this to say for sure if it’s worth a slot or not but the more I played the wolf riders the more I found positioning to be super important so maybe this would find a way into my main list if I tried it.
If you are taking Gathered Momentum/Cover ground in your deck (which you should) this is another trigger to help make them both work. It’s also really nice to get the movement stat on its own, bonus points for cancelling out the negative effects of Sudden Growth.
The Wolf Pack
If you want to play around with this deck yourself you can here
Time to stop beating about the bush, here is the deck that I spent two months honing. Lets talk about my general plan for each round in a game with this deck:
Round 1: Secure early glory from surge objectives or a cheeky kill. In the last activation of the round charge Rippa at the biggest threat in range and try to kill it, load him with accuracy upgrades first if you can.
Round 2: Voltron Rippa with as many upgrades as possible and use your positioning tools to grab as many kills as you can. If you can secure glory from objectives here as well do so but prioritise killing opponents fighters as that’s how you win. Mean Eye and Stabbit can charge in for the occasional extra kill if it’s odds on, but if they don’t have an upgrade or are not inspired then you might not want to risk them.
Round 3: If Rippa is still alive kill kill kill. If he is dead then look at glory totals, run away if you think you have enough of a lead or yolo with your surviving fighters if you are behind.
That’s a very basic overview of how the deck functions, next I’m going to go over each card in the deck and how it functions.
Being able to pick the terms of engagement is an incredible powerful tool, Cover Ground comes as part of a ‘speed’ package alongside Gathered Momentum, Spectral Wings, Tracking and Loping Strides. This package lets you deploy your fighters out of range of your opponent’s threats and strike at the end of a round when they have limited response options. Another option this package gives is the ability to strike at your opponent’s back line, for instance if a Thundricks player is Hiding Alenson or Ironhail behind their high wound targets.
Specifically for Cover Ground we have three separate cards that can trigger it where one is an upgrade that you can play anytime, knowing you can get Cover Ground later, so the objective is pretty damn reliable. If you have a trigger in hand or equipped to a fighter then you can choose the passive option and just run in a circle to score the objective, it’s generally only worth doing this if you want to get the glory before upgrading Rippa and are confident you can still get a charge without the speed card.
The first restricted slot in the deck is taken up by the most reliable objective currently in the game. If you want early glory guaranteed then this is your card, yes it legit hurts to put a wound onto any of your fighters but do you really care if Mean Eye or Stabbit are a bit easier to kill? One downside is that this does push you in the direction of picking boards with lethal hexes or forgo an aggressive lethal hex deployment. Considering those lethal hexes are a free source of damage that can be a big deal.
The cursed card. This is either the easiest objective in your deck or an impossible to score nightmare. Every time I am tempted to cut it I play a game where I win by 1 glory and it’s because this card was in the deck. Definitely be willing to do over starting hands that brick with this in or even spend an activation cycling it later in the game if its safe to do so.
Can be tricky to get this round 1, its completely free with no effort in rounds 2 and 3.
Due to the highly reliable nature of the surge cards in this deck this is basically a free glory multiplier for scoring a surge during the round, super consistent, love it.
The least reliable surge card in the deck, this requires an enemy fighter to die during the round. Luciky it doesn’t require an attack action so any lethal hex, Snare or Lethal Ward tricks you can pull all count for this. It’s super solid vs horde warbands with their low wound fighters but against other elite warbands like Cursebreaker’s this can be a bit dead.
This card basically reads, score this if Mean Eye has made a charge. Your backup plan if Mean Eye dies early is to use the bow attack on inspired Rippa. Absolutely trivially easy to score.
The second restricted slot in this deck is another reliable surge objective. Unfortunately you will often find that Warning Shot is the best accuracy card in the game as you hit attack after attack with a 2 fury Grot Bow. I have been known to use Prized Vendetta to re roll my successful dice with this just in order to guarantee it scores. Sometimes you can end up in an ideal situation where Mean Eye hitting can combo with Snare/Lethal Ward for a kill and missing means you score this objective, glory either way the dice go which is a very happy time.
I’ll avoid repeating myself here, everything I wrote above in the warband card section applies. It’s often dead in round 1 but at two glory you are happy to hold it for a nice payout later in the game.
Loaded With Plunder
Again, another great warband card that I reviewed above. This works perfectly with our plan of voltroning up Rippa, or Stabbit if Rippa is dead.
Another card from the ‘speed’ package, Gathered Momentum is completely free to score if you have inspired any fighters, otherwise just use any of the plus movement triggers in the deck. The restriction of having to end up five or more hexes away can be a bit tricky to play around late in the game and encourages you to keep a fighter at the back, to enable this objective later in the game.
The main way I score this objective is by placing Mean Eye as forward as possible, shooting anything in range once and then charging with him later in the round. The positioning ploys Sidestep,Pack Advance and Desperate Flight all help you set this up. It also synergises very well with Warning Shot and Versatile Fighter. Just make sure that when you charge Mean Eye that if his Grot Bow attack hits you still have a Wolf Bite attack target, otherwise you can prematurely kill an enemy fighter and let this objective flounder. Stabbit inspired is also a nice backup plan to score this with his Scything tricks.
You know this might be the best unrestricted ploy card in the game right now. The list of things you can do with Distraction include:
- Push an enemy fighter into a lethal hex for 1 wound
- Push an enemy fighter off an objective token to deny objectives like Supremacy or Path to Victory
- Push an enemy fighter in range of a charge
- Push an enemy fighter in range of an attack so you don’t have to charge
- Push an enemy fighter out of their charge range to keep yourself safe – bonus points if you do this after they waste a power card like Potion of Rage
If you aren’t taking Distraction in your deck then you really need to reassess what you are doing with your life.
Not quite as ridiculous as Distraction, Sidestep basically does everything on the above list except for the first two points. In my book that’s still an incredibly good card.
I mostly talked about this when I covered the ‘Speed’ package in Cover Ground. Absolutely love effects like this.
One of the big issues that Rippa’s face is the lack of damage (well unless you expect all of your attacks to hit). I originally had Pit Trap in the deck but wanted the restricted slot for other cards and so tried out Lethal Ward. In the current hold objective meta I actually think Lethal Ward is better then Pit Trap, you can cycle it at the end of a round by sticking damage onto someone if you want, you can also combo it with Distraction if the objective is next to a lethal hex and kill a fighter without having to roll any dice. Against warbands like Cursebreakers that don’t care about objective tokens, make sure to place them almost like lethal hexes as you want to be able to push enemies onto the tokens to use this card.
An old favourite was a late addition to the deck when I realised that I really needed more damage against Cursebreakers. Inspired Attack gives you both damage and accuracy at the slight cost of sometimes being dead on round 1. Remember that this works with Stabbit’s Scything attack but only for the first attack if hitting multiple targets.
Everything I wrote about this card above holds true here, it’s so good that I’m happy to keep it over from round 1 and not discard it, waiting for that moment that will ruin my opponents day.
Sidestep but very very occasionally its better. Doubling up on these positional effects not only means that you can rely on scoring them but that the odd Distraction or Sidestep that your opponent might play can be instantly countered, love it.
Hopefully by this point you will start to appreciate that I went a bit crazy with deck building here, taking cards that I don’t think anyone else is really playing with. Desperate Flight has three main uses in the deck:
- To push Mean Eye into a position to make a free bow attack for objectives like Warning Shot/Steady Assault
- To escape an opponent’s charge/attack
- To push any of your fighters a couple of hexes towards an opponent who fully offsets boards so you can secure an early charge
The random nature of this card means it will sometimes fail but on the flip side sometimes you absolutely need a three hex push and you can ride your luck with this card. Outside of silly dice it’s pretty reliable at pushing you two hexes in a rough direction, its just bad at precise positioning.
Pit Trap but without the restriction cost. Take advantage of the fact that all your fighters are hunter’s by taking super powerful cards like this. Your fighters are low on reliable damage, here is some that works off any attack, get in.
Have I mentioned that all your fighters are Hunters? Well they are, so you get to take a double up of Spectral Wings. Enjoy. It’s great.
The best damage increasing upgrade in the game is definitely going to go into a deck for a warband that lacks damage.
This is a tricksie upgrade that can turn Mean Eye into a legitimate threat. It also means that if everything goes wrong and Rippa + Stabbit die early then you have the back up back up plan of voltroning your least exciting fighter. It also lets Mean Eye use Inspired Attack and Sting of the Ur-Grub if you so want. Don’t forget about the juicy re-roll vs wizards, it comes up quite a bit. In an emergency Round 1 you can sometimes put this on Rippa or Stabbit uninspired just to increase their odds of hitting.
Potion of Rage
This is upgrade is almost an auto include in all my decks but for Rippa’s I only just fit it in. I generally prefer the accuracy upgrades that are permanent in this deck, or that effect both your main attack and your Jaws. Still if you need your that one main attack to hit then this usually does the job and it’s hard to argue with that.
Rippa will often find himself stuck inside enemy lines trying to fight the entire horde while your other fighters sit at the back doing nothing. Having an extra two wounds really makes the job of killing him harder and can secure that investment of all the other upgrades that we put on him. The loss of movement hurts but it’s absolutely worth the trade off in survivability.
I’ve mentioned that this works on both your main attack and your Jaws already yes? Well then take it then. Admittedly it only affects on enemy but it’s a bigger accuracy boost then Potion of Rage and that’s a one shot as well.
The second of our defensive upgrades comes in the form of a bonus defence dice. Again you have to be inspired to use this but if you are playing a defensive upgrade onto Rippa then he is almost certainly inspired already. Three dodge is hard for most warbands to hit, when combined with some of the upgrades down below it becomes an almost impossible task.
For adjacent attacks you are always supported, that counts for both defence and offence. So inspired this gives you two more success results on your main attack, two on your Jaws and on your defence that two extra success sides base going to three with Spectral Armour. You really start stacking the dice odds when you get this bad boy on and I can’t recommend it enough, don’t forget that it can work with your Grot Bow as long as you are adjacent to the target, if you want to use it like that for some reason.
This is Spectral Wings or Tracking in Upgrade form, which makes it even better as it only goes away once that fighter is dead. This is one of the super powerful cards that helps define your warband, abuse it as much as you can.
Sting of the Ur-Grub
I’ve already mentioned all the ways we have of making range 1 attacks that this can effect. It’s not quite as versatile as Great Strength in the deck but it’s close enough. The extra damage is always needed and you will be happy to see this in any hand.
If you have Spectral Armour and Bonded equipped then against an adjacent attack the only side of your defence dice that can fail is a double support symbol. That practically means you have three automatic success already. That’s silly. Apologise to your opponents for using such cheese. Just make sure you do use it.
If you spent so long on the deck and you love it so much then why didn’t you play it at the grand clash?
Wait that’s two words, damn.
To be clear this deck actually does decently into Grymwatch, the problem is that (as I said at the beginning of this super long article) in our practice games me and Tom found that the Grymwatch practice deck I made was much more reliable while my Rippa’s needed dice to work in order to win. In order to win a two day grand clash you need to win 8 rounds (you can be lucky and make it if you drop one on day 1 but its hard to rely on that) and I didn’t think my luck would hold that long.
If we get some more reliable surge objectives later on in Beastgrave then I might pick up the wolf pack again, swapping out Warning Shot for Spiritbond to really stack the odds (then we truly get three auto successes on defence lol) and experimenting more with Trophy Belt or Circling Hunter.
I will say I honestly really enjoyed playing Rippa’s in a way that I haven’t enjoyed in the game before, and that I think they are probably the best ‘surgical’ aggro warband around right now. I could go on forever about different tactics for different match-ups but this article is already long enough and I don’t want to share everything I have learnt, hopefully other players will pick up the Wolf Pack. If you are looking for a warband that’s good but not meta defining and a bit different then three gitz riding big dogs really is the way to go.
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