The first hint that it wasn’t me playing the Mournflight were the painted models…
Guest Article Fun – mike bit
This article was not written by one of the usual stable of Steel City authors, instead Andrew Wilson (friend of Mike) has stepped up to provide some content to our ravenous readers. It’s an old school style tournament report written from the perspective of someone attending their very first Shadeglass event. We usually focus on high level play on the blog so it’s nice to get a fresh perspective and see how the game plays with the semi-serious crowd who still enjoy playing it but probably don’t devote quite sacrifice the same stupid number of hours that we do. It’s worth noting that this tournament was played on the day of the Mantrapper and Wurmspat release, so cards from those expansions were not allowed. This opening bit and the closing words are written by me (your favourite troll). At various points in the article I will chime in with some comments, using bolded text and signing off each comment with a ‘– mike’ so you know which bits are from me, just like this – mike
This tournament was held at Leodis games in Leeds, with 8 players attending and this diverse spread of warbands:
2 Lady Harrows Mournflight
1 Rippas Snarlfangs
1 Sepulchral guard
1 Thundricks Profiteers
1 Sakeths Wild hunt
The weekend before I played at a tournament at the Outpost in Sheffield with 10 players where no warband was repeated at all. It can get easy to fixate on what is best at grand clashes while also forgetting that most people playing this game just pick a warband they enjoy and go with it – mike
Warband and Deck
For my first tournament I went with a warband that I had only picked up the other week mostly as all my casual decks where in various states of disassembly. Normally I align my warband choices fairly closely to my Age of Sigmar armies (Stormcast, Ironjawz and Daughter of Khaine for those interested) but having dismantled my Stormsires to make a dubious Zarbag deck of magic spamming fun, Ironskulls Boyz sadly being relegated to not fun to play and the daughters not yet with us I had been drawn to the fairly recently released (unless you happened to be outside the UK) Mournflight Banshees.
Combining a good fighter count of 4, reasonable attacks with acceptable damage, a warband trait that allows them to move through lethal and blocked hexes as well as enemy fighters (Ala Thorns of the Briar Queen) and a controllable and reliable inspire mechanic was topped by the exceptional native defence roll of 2 even when uninspired (its on dodges true but rolling 2 dice in a game where a crit trumps anything else is a serious deal for me). And then we have the state of the game itself – Beastgrave introduced the ability for each player to put down a lethal hex token. This is insane for a warband that has no penalty for lethal hexes! These dangerous hexes can be placed strategically to help funnel your opponent into specific areas and when your deck can push and pull enemy fighters there is the real possibility of fighters just being pushed/knocked back into a killable health range, or worse yet, killed out right! (and I certainly did this over the course of the 3 games!). Finally each Banshee gets a unique inspire mechanic, (in no particular order) a free push if not the target of the attack, a boost to damage on a crit roll, crits not counting as anything on an opponent’s defence roll and a teleport to anywhere on the board.
I had built the core of the decks before having a feedback session with Mike Carlin the weekend before and he made some suggestions about a few cards in the power deck that I had overlooked or not considered, the 4 of which that I ended up using were Restless Prize, Survival Instincts, Spiritbond and Two Steps Forward. Two Steps was a really late decision – more or less the Thursday before as I had Echoing Spite in the deck to try and make shore up the somewhat unreliable banshee attacks as a repeat attack is always a welcome thing. Ultimately the 2 pushes from Two Steps Forward won out (and I am glad they did, even with a more than a few rolls where I would have killed to have Echoing Spite in hand!). The power deck looked to maximise the manoeuvrability of the warband and help in getting them to objectives while also being able to mess around with enemy fighters by pushing them off objectives or pulling them into lethal hexes.
The objective deck was an interesting build for me as I have not really found any warband where their in faction cards made up 50% of the objective deck out of the door. Seriously, the surge objectives in particular are perfect in terms of fluff and character while more importantly being really good and reliable to score.
The deck was design mostly around objective holding play – Supremacy was a debated objective between Mike and myself but I cant think of any other card that I would have put in its place and I scored it more often then I didn’t. Alongside that I ran Temporary Victory, Swift Capture, One Will and Nexus of Terror which all focused on objective holding in one shape or another.
One card that I didn’t have to consider is Calculated risk as the banshees can never score it. This is really helpful as it freed up a restricted slot right off the bat (does anyone not run it?).
I ran the following 3 restricted cards
- Slumbering Key
- Spirit bond
- Temporary Victory
Temporary victory was the easy pick for objectives – in my opinion it’s a really great mind game with Supremacy, especially in early rounds – “did he score Temporary Victory? Damage done, don’t have to knock them off objectives…oh, he scores Supremacy in the end phase” or “is he going for Supremacy? – well I can wait until the last power step and not worry about it now. Oh he scored Temporary Victory (then also see step 1 if Supremacy hasn’t been scored…).
Spirit Bond was one of the cards Mike recommended and what else is there to say? It’s a huge reliability boost especially to a warband that looks for fury on offense and dodges (with 2 dice again!) on defence. It didn’t make a huge difference in a lot of the games but when people have to considered the odds it makes a big difference.
Slumbering key – I am not often a fan of the keys unless I am building explicitly for that (gits, Skaven and Skellies have all done well casually running all the keys at various times) but this one is the generic if you have survived key and given the movement speed and terrain shenanigans the banshees can pull off I was confident that there would always be 1 ghost at the end of the game (And indeed there was) and a glory for surviving is always a bonus.
Here is the deck in all its gory glory, if you want to play with this yourself at home then you can using this link – mike
I had a sit down and think about which boards I would like to use the Tuesday before the tournament while having a few practice games with my brother to knock the worst of the rust off my playing. This being my first tournament I had to get used to the rule of not being able to use the same board twice in a match so I settled on 5 that I thought would give sufficient flexibility while eliminating the worst of any analysis paralysis if I took the whole bunch.
I think this is a really good tip for most people who aren’t spending all day and night playing this game. Pre pick some boards that you are happy to place first or second and practice on them, don’t let the massive possibilities of all the board configurations overwhelm you – mike
I settled on
- Penitents Throne
- Molten Shardpit
- Soul Refractor
- Shattered Refactor
- Shyishan Stardial
This is also the order they roughly got used in terms of most picks, just some quick comments on the ones I remember using.
Penitents throne – This is a dream for the Mournflight – Two blocked hexes to manoeuvre around and score and objective and two lethal hexes for positioning and chip damage? Yes please! I am pretty sure it was my first set board and I won every first set I played, coincidence?
Soul refractor – I think this ended up being my clutch board getting the nod in the tight final games in round 2 and 3. The Mournflight can dance around the 3 blocked hexes and a placed lethal hex can make the triangle of manoeuvring into the triangle of doom.
Molten Shardpit – I think this was the board where I lost my 2nd set games, not entirely blaming the board as these were also the games where my deck whiffed. On paper it’s a solid pick with the blocked hex and a cluster of lethal hexes that can really be awful for enemy warbands to be bounced around in but I don’t think I ever played it when it would have been at its most brutal as a long board deployment.
Round 1 vs the Sepulchral Guard
I played against a lovely chap from Hull called Che, who had travelled down with a friend also taking part in the tournament, who was playing with the Sepulchral Guard. An interesting pick given from my understanding that that they have been considered one of the weaker (if being unkind) or very swingy (if being more diplomatic) warbands for some time. The first set saw me lose the roll for boards and set up with a slight offset with 3 objectives being in Che’s territory and 2 in mine although one of the 3 was a little closer to no mans land.
Drawing power and objective cards gave me a solid opening hand and we started the first game. Truth be told I couldn’t have asked for a better opening round with the first set going to me in a convincing fashion with 20+ glory to 4 and setting my nerves at ease. Objectives arrived in the right order and my power deck did its job of feeding me an excellent combination of cards to keep the Skeletons firmly off balance and unable to score the inevitable Supremacy. A call of the grave (ironic considering the warbands involved) pulled the unfortunate Warden through a lethal hex and into the path of a suitably upgraded Lady Harrow early in the 2nd round and from there the 1st set was never in doubt.
The 2nd set saw me lose board pick again and decidedly better set of objectives saw Che keep a much closer gap to my Banshees including a clever Shifting Reflection to get his Harvester, with key no less, onto the respective objective. Fortunately, my objective deck didn’t stall out and I took a much closer 2nd set.
Round 2 vs Rippa’s Snarlfangs
The inevitable situation that I really didn’t want was drawing Mike in the 2nd round. Guess what happened?
Mike has pestered me to attend a tournament for ages and I know full well how much he plays this game (his trophy shelf is suitably impressive) and his recent exploits in winning the Warhammer World Grand Clash. Fortunately, he was playing Rippas Snarlfangs and not the Grymwatch. Our best of 1 round practice game the night before had ended In a tight win to my Banshees, which was reassuring in so far as I could go toe to toe with Mike but this was also after a meal out and some drinks and was definitely not a true reflection of the competitive game. Honestly, I played the practice game as if it was a tournament setting. I never find it useful to put kid gloves on for practice because it can give you a false sense of optimism that gets crushed when you play in real tournaments. I always find it more useful to give people my all but to provide useful feedback on what plays or card choices they could change for next time. Of course, I actually lost our practice game so maybe I should have taken some advice from Andy – mike
I lost board roll again (this may be something of a recurring theme) but the upswing of this was that Mike was not in any way interest in playing a long board game so let me pick board and have 1st Objective placement.
The first game went well, a few narrow misses for both us but my Banshees hung on to take a slender win. One of the key decisions was to force Mike into either sending a wolf back to deal with a speedily moved banshee (Soaring Spite gives them a huge 8 move uninspired) who was now holding a 4th objective in his territory or to try and deal with the other 3 who were cackling madly in my backfield. The early glory didn’t quite arrive quickly enough for Rippa to turn into the tin can opener he can be and some hard thought and tricky plays from me saw me through.
Set 2 I lost board roll but again Mike didn’t want the long deployment option on the table so I got another standard board and 3 objectives. However I saw the worst possible start with a 4 upgrade power hand and an objective hand containing Opening Gambit, Combination Strike and Dominion of Death which was an immediate sack of both and represented 6 glory and some of my best upgrades that I would not be getting in this game. This time Mike got Rippa up and running (that wolf is fast when he gets the upgrades) and a liberal application of Sudden Growth left me with a snarling backfield threat I just couldn’t deal with (both mike and myself burnt 3 or 4 cards in a push/pull war trying to get Rippa out of/into charge range of the Widow Cathia who was capping an objective, a trade I eventually lost) and without the ability to score high on objectives (Ghostly Torment and Supremacy both arrived when I didn’t have the fighter count to complete them, largely thanks to the aforementioned Rippa).
This took us to the deciding and final game and once again I had to dump a 4 upgrade power hand but the objective gods where kind to me and I managed to get early glory going to the point that Harrow and the Anguished One were sufficiently buffed to take a few hits. The wolves of Mean Eye and Stabitt finally got in on the act and started gulping down banshee ectoplasm in the late game which made for a very tight finish. Mikes final activation failed to kill the Anguished one and let me take the 3rd set 18-14 with Mike having 2 glory’s worth of objectives denied by this (and the actual glory for taking out a fighter) would have had it as a 1-point game. To emphasises how little I could influence the end game I actually had to take a pass action in the final activation, I was all out of tricks.
As it was we totalled up the glory and over 3 rounds came out at 47-47. I needed to go and have a walk/find a dark room after this match because it really was that tense. But Mike is a great friend and competitor and I wouldn’t have had it any other way (except a complete pasting where I trounced him completely…bragging rights and all that).
This match is a perfect example of why I really love Warhammer Underworlds. It was incredibly close with a lot of back and forth and over its course we both adapted to each other’s decks, trying to deny our opponents their objectives as much as possible – mike
Round 3 Final vs Thundrik’s Profiteers
So, I managed to land in the final of my first tournament and got to play against Alex and his Thundricks Profiters. This represents the first ‘real’ game I have had against this warband and while I knew roughly what to expect from the warband and I had seen tiny bits of Alex’s games I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of playstyle or objectives.
The first game saw me lose board roll but Alex chose to pick board and take objectives, so I decided to get the little Duardin legs moving and opted for a long deployment. As it was this turned out to be the first round where the Crits decided to really favour me with their presence and I rolled a couple of double defence rolls that kept some of banshees around for longer than they should have been. Alex also had the misfortune of drawing a tough opening objective hand that he decided to stick with which eventually backfired – the profiteers never got the inspirations they needed and just couldn’t keep up with the free scoring Banshees. Alex was playing what seemed to be a pretty aggressive objective holding style of play but had put one of his 3 objectives in his territory a little too close to no man’s land which I took full advantage of with some rapid movement and ploys which helped immensely in the early glory swing.
Game 2. I think I actually won board for this one and went for objectives to avoid Alex learning form the first game and denying me access to a third objective. The objective and power hands whiffed again in a similar fashion to the 2nd set against Mike and I couldn’t get the early start from the previous game going. This time the Duardin did score and inspire and the game took a nasty turn with my banshees getting pummelled at range and unable to score. I traded away lady Harrow in what I thought was an acceptable manoeuvre – it was not in the long run as the remaining Banshees just couldn’t deal out the hurt to make it work. I also made my only real misplay here and miscounted my remaining activations which left a bigger gap then there otherwise might have been. The round ended in a pretty healthy win for Alex which left me despairing on how I was going to pull a 3rd game win out of the hat.
Game 3. Arguably more tense then the 2nd Match final set again Mike – we ended up with another standard deployment and a heavily contested objective placement. My decks clicked again and I was able to keep my momentum going but so did Alex as we traded objectives through the first round. Some timely upgrades kept some key Banshees alive as they dodged and darted around some blocked hexes trying to lure some low wound dwarfs into lethal hexes and otherwise chip them away. Alex suffered from a few bad rolls where even 4/5 dice were not giving him enough successes to overcome the ghostly defences (another double crit defence also appeared) although in fairness my attacks also managed to go wide of the mark with similar numbers of dice. Finally the duardin stumbled and were not able to shift me off the objectives I needed – I also lucked out in going first in the final round and was able to guarantee Dominion of Death being scored which was another 3 glory swing – and the victory for me!
Totalling up the glory again across the 3 sets we found to our absolute shock that we had actually scored 47-47. That’s twice in one tournament for me! If anything, I think it’s a great demonstration of how tight the game was and how well Alex played. I really enjoyed myself and the tournament was well hosted by the good people at Leodis Games. I don’t think I have been bitten in quite the same way as Mike for Tournaments but now that I have a trophy, I cant help but think it looks a little lonely on the mantelpiece…
Closing Words – mike bit
The big takeaway for me from this whole event isn’t that Andy won his first event, although god damn is that impressive, but it’s in the incredible quality of games played and the general nice social atmosphere. These tournaments are really fun and I highly recommend going to some just for the experience. If you can get some practice in before hand then I think it’s a solid shout to do so, it will not only help your chances of winning but the game is much more enjoyable the higher a level you play it at. That match I had against Andy doesn’t happen if he didn’t spend some time preparing so you really owe it to yourself to get into the best shape you can. On the other hand, if you find it hard to get practice games with people then you can treat the tournament itself as one big practice session, just go in with the mindset of learning and don’t stress if you don’t get those wins.
I was attending tournaments for 6 months before I got my first glass, now I need to get the Windex out every couple of months or so. Hopefully Andy doesn’t go to too many of the same tournaments as me in future as I’d like to keeping adding to that collection 😉
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