State of the Metagame 2010: Underdark
The 2010 Qualifier season is almost starting. While we are waiting for the official announcement to go live, we have some time to start considering which warband to bring! Wizards of the Coast and us, the DDM Guild have released quite a few new sets since last GenCon: the sets Aberrations through Harbinger and (of course) Drow’s Fortune item cards! To help you select your warband, we’ve asked the reigning champion Shayne (Brig) Lindeman to give his opinion on the main warbands to look out for. He agreed and today we show you the first installment of this four-part series. Each warband comes with a map, how to play, variations and, very important, how to beat them. Brig, the floor is yours!
During the last 2 qualifier seasons Borderlands was the dominant faction, even though they did not perform as well or show up as much when it came to the D&D Miniatures championship tournament at GenCon. The Eternal Blade, one of their main weapons, was banned from tournament play after last qualifier season. This left a void in the faction as nearly all Borderlands warbands were designed with her as their champion. The faction is not as dominant as before, but still has some potent options.
1st Turn Nuke Band
Borderlands, along with Underdark, have the most prolific options when it comes to blasting an opponent’s start area. This is done to gain an early advantage in both damage output and activations. This warband and its alternatives dominated last qualifier season and helped shape the warbands that were brought to GenCon 2009. Conventional wisdom going into GenCon was that you needed a way to counter the first turn nuke.
Set-Up: Map initiative is very important to this band. Being able to play on Flooded Ruins is a huge advantage, but if you lose map you are still in decent shape for a lot of other maps allow for first turn nukes as well. If you win map, your opponent will most likely split his warband pretty evenly between the two start areas. You may want to split your Stormrage and Solamith between the 2 start areas allowing you to cover both start areas with area attacks. Sometimes you will want them together in order clear out bodyguards with the Stormrage and follow up on key pieces with the Solamith.
Key Pieces: This warband is very straight forward. Your goal is to get as much damage done in the first round as you can. In this opening round you are trying to eliminate as many (support) pieces as possible, while dealing large amounts of damage to key and support pieces. This will allow you to dictate the game to your opponent. By eliminating a large portion of his warband early on you will have an advantage in activations forcing him to move all of his key pieces first so you know where to direct your most potent attacks. After your initial salvos from your Solamith and Stormrage you can fly your Air Archon in for clean up duty. This piece just seems to fit right in since it gains a +10 to damage with melee attacks while it is alone and you want to keep your other pieces back. Against a ranged band you may need to be more careful while moving this piece into position, but if you’re up against a melee band, feel free to throw him in there after your opponent is out of activations. Be sure to target pieces that can be taken down in 1 or 2 shots. After this piece falls your opponent should be pretty battered with the continued pelting from the Solamith and the Stormrage. Now is the time to move in with your Stormrage to finish off stragglers.
Support Pieces: The Merchant Guards are there to protect the Solamith and the Stormrage from your opponents ranged threats and any speedy melee beaters that you cannot intercept with the Air Archon. The Goblin Runner should be in position to jump into a victory area once you are able to clear the way making it safe for him to sit there. Lidda and the Kenkus will be instrumental in picking off those straggling support pieces from a safe distance.
Map: Flooded Ruins is perfect for this type of warband: it offers start areas which are easy to target with area attacks and it is difficult to retaliate quick enough with land based melee units.
Other Options: There are other options to use in this band that can be effective. The Lyrander Skyfire Captain can be used to change the Solamith’s damage from fire to cold making it more effective against creatures that are resistant to fire. Other possible blasters to include in the warband are the Tiefling Surestrike and the Soulrider Devil. These have radius 2 effects where the Stormrage is radius 1. There are many options to use as your beater, but I think the Air Archon has a distinct advantage on Flooded Ruins but the others have their own strengths. Skullcleave Warrior, Oni, and the Maug are all good options in the same point range as the Air Archon.
How to Counter: Aside from winning map there are numbers ways to combat the 1st turn nuke. First is the Eversmoking Bottle for 11 points, but this item must be attached to an arcane creature.
If you lack one in your warband, you can look at the 6 points Bat Familiar, available to all factions. ed: the Bat Familiar is too low level to handle the Bottle. There are numerous creatures that have powers that can manipulate set-up like the Black Dragon, have powers that can block line of sight like the Air Genasi Paladin, can limit the damage that they can do like the Gold Dragon or that can cause the power to miss all targets if they miss just one like the Cleric of Garl Glittergold. Every faction has some way of mitigating the damage that this band can do on the first round.
Warpriest of Hextor Bands
Key Pieces: The Warpriest of Hextor is the engine behind this band. He is a decent beater, has great champion effects, and has some useful tech that he brings to the table. His champion effect allows your beaters to make another attack of the same type after a successful attack. His Lockdown ability prevents enemies within 5 squares from shifting will be useful in keeping enemy units with ranged attacks from disengaging with your beaters. Borderlands has numerous beaters that can benefit from the Warpriest. I chose the Cyclops Crusher for his massive amount of hit points for his cost and the Galeb Duhr for its Stone Transformation defensive ability which gives it Resist 30 All. It will take a lot of concentrated fire to get through these two beaters.
Support Pieces: The Worg is one of your most important support pieces. It not only boosts the attack bonus of adjacent allies (which your Cyclops will need), but also lowers adjacent enemies attack bonuses. The Merchant Guards are there to protect your Warpriest and the Cyclops. The Goblin Runner is still one of the most effective victory grabbers in the game and it sees action in nearly every Borderlands or Civilization warband. The Kenku will provide a small amount of ranged support but should mainly be used to pick off fodder. The Sellsword adds a cheap and capable beater.
Map: The smoke on Hellspike protects your beaters against ranged and area attacks while you close with your beaters. Your Cyclops has an extra advantage: it sees through the smoke with his blindsight.
Other Options: There are other beaters to use in this band one other popular alternative is to use Wulfgar and the Hill Giant Barbarian. This option leaves you with fewer points to fill out your warband but you could give the Hill Giant 3 straight attacks with the Warpriest and Wulfgar’s champ effects.
How to Counter: The best way to counter melee bands is to delay them from engaging your pieces. A band like this with a low number of threats is especially susceptible to status effects. So pieces that daze, stun or confuse work great against this type of warband.
While I believe they have the lowest variety of top notch warbands, borderlands can field some very potent and competitive pieces that you should be ready to face this qualifier season. I am sure other powerful options will arise throughout the qualifier season that I did not consider. Tune in next time when we examine two warbands for Civilization. One you know well and another that is relatively new.