Welcome Back Trophy Hunters!
Firstly, apologies for the click-bait-esque title. I want to discuss the state of the game today. As it’s been outlined by myself, other blogs, and the Game Developer there are three archetypes of warband; Objective, Defensive and Aggressive. All the warbands lean into a certain style of play though many with straddle two of these and become ‘hybrid’.
It’s easy to know which way the warband your playing was intended to play based off of their in-faction Gambits, Upgrades, and Objectives. The ‘poster boys’ for each archetype are simple to spot due to their inherent model counts, inspire conditions and starting stats.
Defensive Warbands: Steelheart’s Champions, Stormsire’s Cursebreakers, Sanson’s Farstriders. These warbands excel at avoiding the opponent due to their low model count, good health pools and strong defensive Gambits & Upgrades. They could be simplified as the Rock in rock-paper-scissors.
Aggressive Warbands: Ironskull’s Boyz, Magore’s Fiends, Garrek’s Reavers. These warbands tend to start off a little slower but very quickly ramp up their killing potential and score big glory when they land that fatal blow. These would be simplified as the Scissors, beaten by the Rock who doesn’t want to play the same game.
Objective Warbands: Zarbag’s Gitz, Spiteclaw’s Swarm, Sepulchral Guard. These warbands have a high model count and can spread themselves over the board to take control of the objectives. Spiteclaw and the SG have the ability to resurrect their fighters to ensure their are always more bodies to stand on those juicy hexes. These would be simplified as Paper. They’re predictable in their playstyle so Scissors know where they’re going to stand and can take advantage. But where this simple analogy ends is that Hold Objective struggles to defeat Defensive warbands too, since the same tactics employed against the Aggressive warbands also work well to disrupt Objective warbands.
Now this list is by no means exhaustive and many warbands can be played in any way you wish. I have had good success with Spiteclaw’s Swarm as both Objective (before Wave 4) and Aggressive after. Similarly, not all the warbands have been included as some seem designed to fit in the gaps between the Archetypes – The Chosen Axes excel as an Objective & Defensive warband.
Why has Objective Play Disappeared?
The last big hurrah for Objective play in the UK was right before Wave 4 of Season 1, and in particular the arrival of Great Concussion. We woed the game state when you would suffer an Earthquake and didn’t have your own to counter it and reset the board state, putting your fighters back onto those objectives you spent the turn moving on to. That simply isn’t possible with Great Concussion, and as such Objective play has all but vanished from the competitive meta.
The problem with Great Concussion was that it a) straight up invalidated Earthquake and b) remained around after the Objective playstyle vanished. It is so pivitol in disengaging a scrum, separating a fighter, and scoring Alone in the Darkness. If you were to search through the wonderful resource of Underworldsdb.com only one of twelve Grand Clashes across the world has been won by a deck without Great Concussion (It was the Southern Hemisphere Grand Clash, and the player reportedly held on to Forceful Denial & Quick Advance to prevent Great Concussion). One clash in twelve since the arrival of Great Concussion has been won by a Hold Objective build. That is a damning fact.
Passive Objective Scoring.
With the immense number of cards out there now we have a glut of easy-to-score non-interactive cards that don’t require our fighters to go and stand on a specific Hex. For example Extreme Flank (2), Alone in the Darkness (2), Ploymaster (1), Well Guarded (1), Bloodless (1) to name but a few of the common objective cards all do not require your fighters to be in danger to score.
These simple cards that can be scored in Turn One have removed the Hold Objective 1-5 cards, as they get the ‘glory-engine’ running smoother and quicker, and with less potential for disruption from your opponent. This passive scoring playstyle fits nicely into ANY archetype as it gives you a bit of an ‘insurance’ policy against non-scoring turns.
Board & Objective Hex Placement.
In a best of three format it becomes clear to your opponent after game one that you are playing an objective deck, and if you managed to win with the objective play then you are going to have a much tougher time in the remaining games. Aggressive warbands will likely push the objectives further up the board so that you have to be near them to score your glory, but you’re their glory and you have to just sit there and take the punches. Whilst defensive warbands will still be scoring similar amounts in turns one and two but be saving up their Push ploys to ruin your turn three.
In a similar vein, Objective play works well when you can place three objective hexes but you cannot guarantee this and in a best of three format the dice can be fickle and leave you with just two hexes on your board half. Which results in a mad dash onto the opponent’s board and into their threat ranges.
This is a bit of an odd one, and may be more of a personal view point than grounded in fact…so take it with a pinch of salt. IF you load up on Key Upgrades and take all six then you have just four upgrade spaces in your deck, upgrades should push your playstyle to the next level. For example Incredible Strength and Weapon Upgrades make Aggressive Play stronger, whilst Deathly Fortitude and Trusted Defender aid the Defensive warbands.
Keys on the other hand reward you for your playstyle, but don’t help you stay on objectives, keep you alive and have no impact until the end of the game. Drawing the Keys in turn one can be a true headache – do you discard them and play on or try and hold onto them? You’re unlikely to score multiple keys and other more reliable Upgrades, Slumbering Key, A Destiny to Meet and Heroe’s Mantle can all provide this end-game uplift whilst only requiring a fighter to be alive rather than stood in a very specific hex. All of which can be disrupted by…Great Concussion, Distraction, Earthquake, Confusion, Attacks etc.
It’s too Predictable.
Whilst Hold Objective play isn’t the most predictable playstyle (that accolade goes to unadulterated Aggro warbands) it is predictable by it’s very nature as you will be scoring your glory from five hexes exclusively. If your opponent has their wits about them they can comfortably predict what you’re going to try and score and run interference on them, whilst still scoring their own objectives.
How can Objective Play Remain Valid?
Load up on Push Gambits.
Objective play still has a valid part in the game. Games Workshop are releasing more cards that benefit the playstyle. We’ve had Quick Advance that pushes two fighters one hex – very useful for keeping the fighters on Objectives. Centre of Attention and Irresistible Prize can both pull fighters back to Objective hexes as well as staples like Sidestep and Inspired Command.
Your opponent is going to try and dislodge you from your Objective hex as soon as they realise your game plan. You need to react with your own Push Gambits to get back on the objective, similarly Forceful Denial can be useful for preventing Great Concussion, I’m not a fan of 50-50 cards but this genuinely seems like one of the best uses for it.
Let the Keys go.
I genuinely believe that the Upgrade slots are becoming increasingly valuable and loading out on Key Upgrades prevents you from getting some of the upgrades that push your victory condition. The Faneway Crystal is an excellent example of an Upgrade that can get you onto a specific Objective hex. Whilst your end game Glory should begin coming from A Destiny to Meet, Slumbering Key and Formless Key – not being tied to specific objective makes it far easier to score the Formless Key.
Choosing more upgrades that keep your fighters alive and kicking is also a better option given the popularity of Aggressive Warbands. Soultrap, Tethered Spirit, Dealthy Fortitude, Sudden Growth etc. are all fantastic deterrents to being attacked, similarly a Shadeglass Weapon can be a similar deterrent.
Honestly, I find it very difficult to imagine a meta where Hold Objective becomes strong again. The list below to me seems like one that existed in the UK before Great Concussion obviously it went the distance and won a Grand Clash but I honestly find it so hard to wrap my head around as facing Sepulchral Guard feels like a dream come true to most of the players in the UK.
From the Horse’s Mouth
I reached out to the Warhammer Underworlds Community about the perception of Hold Objective Warbands and the response was, almost unanimously, that they were still around but nobody was worried about facing them. Then the Southern Hemisphere Grand Clash winner, Ryan Buck, reached out to give his thoughts on the matter. I snapped up the opportunity to get an interview with him:
Q. Congratulations on winning the Southern Hemisphere Grand Clash! Which warband were you using and what was your playstyle archetype? Aggressive, Defensive, Hold Objective?
A. I was using a hybrid objective/Aggro Sepulchral Guard. I held objectives with the petitioners and used the prince, harvester and champion to rush forward and attack targets of opportunity and be the bait to keep the opponent out of my territory. Just for the record it was a 33 player Grand Clash. I didn’t drop a game with 10 straight wins. My opponents were, Aggro Chosen Axes, Aggro Ironskull’s Boyz, Aggro Magore’s Fiends, Defensive Sanson’s Farstriders, and Hybrid Steelheart’s Champions.
Q. How did you combat the dreaded Great Concussion?
A. My deck was based on mitigation, I knew that pretty much every other deck has great concussion. So I would try and bait the opponent into using it when I may or may not have objectives that I need to score. I then used forceful denial and quick advance to get back to where I needed to be after I got knocked off.
Q. When you ‘won’ the roll for deployment how did you cope only having two Objective hexes in your territory?
A. I think I only ‘won’ the roll a couple of times but when I did I would place the board so that only 3 complete hexes were in no mans land and the smallest number of starting hexes are close to my board. If I can funnel an Aggro warband and make them spend an action phase with moving then I’ve mitigated their effectiveness by a third. That mixed with keys can still get a healthy amount of glory racked up.
Q. Do you think the Key Upgrades will be dropped in favour of new Upgrades that aid Objective play? Such as Faneway Crystal, Binding Shard, Tome of Glories etc.
A. Keys are way too good, the new cards that require you to take actions to get glory and things of the like are just not efficient when action economy is such a vital part of the game. Sepulchral Guard got a massive buff in Nightvault; the way tokens work now can make the Champion an absolute missile.
Q. What do you think could be done to aid Objective Play? Any new card ideas etc?
A. I personally don’t think banning cards is a good move. Releasing counters is a better avenue for balance. That said if it [Great Concussion] was banned people would probably fall back to Earthquake although they would miss the utility that Great Concussion had and would drop it for something else I think. I’ve since hung up my bones and picked up some Aggro bedsheets, the gambit spell Howling Vortex is better than Great Concussion.