State of the Metagame 2010: Wild
And so we come to the end of this years miniseries of the 2010 State of the Metagame for D&D Miniatures. Has 2009 Constructed Champion Shayne “Brig ” Lindemann opened your eyes to some new warbands in the Borderlands, Civilization or Underdark articles? If he didn’t do that already, he has one final shot in this Wild article.
Prior to GenCon 2009 Wild was considered the weakest of the factions. They were rarely played in major D&D Miniatures tournaments and when they were it was with very little success. Its biggest weakness was its inability to protect its pieces. They had low defenses and no access to bodyguards. Wilds position at the back of the pack changed at the GenCon 2009 D&D Miniatures Constructed Championships. With five warbands in the top 10 and the first and second place finishes, Wild produced a very dominant performance. Today we look at one of many Ambush Drake bands and, finally, the championship winning warband from last year.
Everyone who has played ‘regular’ D&D knows how difficult it can be to fend off a succesful Ambush. And in D&D Miniatures, it is possible to suddenly have something in your face too: the Ambush Drake and its companions.
Key Pieces: The Adult Brown Dragon gives you a solid champion for your band. The dragon is a very competent hitter as well. It has above average defenses and good attack options. The dragon also has the Ambush ability which synergizes well with his Sand Spray ability (this is a burst that allows the dragon to become invisible until the end of its next turn). Even better, his champion power allows him to distribute the Ambush ability to an ally, which increases that ally’s damage by 10 for against one creature. Rounding out this piece is its Sand Cloud power that allows it to shift up to its speed dealing 10 auto-damage to one enemy. The Ambush Drake is a tough piece to crack as well, it has very high defenses and it does not grant combat advantage. It also has a Paralytic Cloud breath weapon that causes the daze (save ends) effect in a blast 3. Those factors make this piece a force, but its bread and butter is its Ambush Strike. This power allows it to move up to 12 squares (minimum six from its starting point) and make an attack for 40 damage. This power also recharges when it starts its turn and no enemy can see it. The final piece in this warband core’s trio is the Thrall of Blackrazor. This piece is a bargain for 43 points. Aside from the Merchant Guard it may have been the most popular D&D Miniature in the past two GenCon championships. It has an accurate attack and when it kills a living enemy it gains 20 hit points and recharges its haste ability. Haste allows it to take one extra attack action once per turn. Oh and make sure you don’t kill the Thrall with a melee attack from a living creature or you just might lose it to the New Thrall Power.
Support Pieces: The Deathrattle Viper is a perfect complement for the high defense of the Ambush Drake and Adult Brown Dragon. It has a aura 5 that gives enemies a -2 penalty to attack, and it has the Hide ability to prevent it from being picked off by enemy ranged attacks. Mialee is always 6 points well spent. She can put 10 damage on any piece in sight one time automatically with her Unavoidable Shot. Aside from that she has a good attack bonus for her cost with her Magic Missile attack. The Catfolk gives you another ranged attack at sight. It doesn’t have an autohit, but the Catfolk can shift one square after making an attack, allowing it to stay out of danger. With Speed 9 the Hyena should be able to reach the victory area on most maps easily. The Gnolls and the Kobold Warrior function as extra activations and some keyword diversity. These could easily be upgraded to another utility piece.
Map: Evermelt’s smoke offers an easy way to block line of sight allowing you to take advantage of your Ambush Strike and Ambush champion power. You can place your hitters in the smoke and then launch your attacks from there and then retreat back to the smoke in order to ambush again.
Other Options: There are a lot of options that can fill this band out. A couple of these options are another Ambush Drake, Cleric of Garl Glittergold for his champion powers, and the Air Genasi Paladin for some more smoke.
How to Counter: Double Skullcleave Warriors with Merchant guards will cause a lot of problems for the Ambush Drake. Creatures with blindsight will prevent smoke from recharging the Ambush Strike. If you do not have those pieces, make sure you base the Ambush Drake or try and make sure that all of its targets are closer than six squares away from it preventing it from using Ambush Strike.
2009 GenCon Constructed Championship Band
For the last band we will look at my GenCon warband from 2009. With all of the Solamiths, Foulspawn Seer 1st turn nukes, and Witchknives this band is still potent and serves as a counter to some of the most feared and annoying warbands to be seen in competitive play.
Cleric of Garl Glittergold, 2x Catfolk Wilder, Free League Ranger, 2x Xen’Drik Champion, Unicorn (Dangerous Delves), Celestial Dire Badger, 2x Kenku Sneak, 200 Points, 10 Acts, Champ 2, Map: Dragondown Grotto
Key Pieces: The Cleric of Garl Glittergold has a little of everything. He has utility with his Sanctuary power preventing attacks on himself or an ally or his Ring of Blades dealing 10 damage to an enemy that activates adjacent to him. His main function is to help stop 1st turn nukes with his champion power. This effect causes a close or area attack to miss all targets, if it misses just one of the targets. His other Champion power is quite useful too. It is effectively a form of stun. If an enemy misses a ranged or melee attack then they are not able to make any attacks until the end of their next turn. Adding the Xen’Drik Champion to a warband with the cleric in it gives you some guaranteed uses of his champion powers. The Xen’Driks are simply cost efficient mobile ranged or melee pieces. But they also have a built in auto miss in their Blaze of Instinct power. The Free League Ranger adds another use of the cleric’s potent champion powers and he is a solid ranged threat as well. With the popularity of Civilization and Evil pieces you will be getting his +5 damage bonus quite often. Last but not least the Catfolk Wilders round out this warband. These will be your heavy hitters for this band with an easily rechargeable 30 damage attack that Stuns (save ends) as well. Keep them near the Unicorn so it can remove the stun, so your Catfolks can keep on moving and shooting.
Support Pieces: The Unicorn provides numerous benefits to this band. It offers up to three 5 hit point heals a round, it can counter the Witchknife’s Mindstorm (among other conditions imposed by your opponent), because they need to target the Unicorn with it or risk wasting it. And, most important of all, it can remove the Daze condition caused by the Catfolk Wilder’s Overload power. The Celestial Dire Badger is a fantastic victory grabber. With its burrow ability it can access your victory areas on most maps on the first round. And after it is killed, its Persistent ability lets it stick around to give you victory points for one more round. This ability also prevents the Thrall of Blackrazor from gaining hit points for dealing the killing the blow. The Kenkus as mentioned in the Borderlands article are fantastic for picking off victory grabbers and forcing Wand Experts to use their Fey Step early.
Map: Dragondown Grotto is the perfect map choice for this band. With most of your ranged units at speed 7 you should have little trouble moving them into position to cover the entire field. Melee units need to expose themselves to cross the map to get into position.
Other Options: Frostfell Rift is another map when you can pick off enemy units while setting up a defensive position. In place of the Free League Ranger and a Kenku you can use the Greycloak Ranger, Healer and an Elf Warrior to increase your activations to 11 and offer a bit more healing.
How to Counter: This is a difficult band to counter because it doesn’t rely on just a few pieces. With 5-6 threats you need to really consider where to attack this warband. Something that will make it easier to counter is the inclusion of constructs and/or undead pieces. This will really slow the Catfolk down since their attacks target the nearest living enemy only. These pieces cannot be the cheap ones with just a few hit points unless you run a lot of them. They need to have good hit points and defenses to survive the barrage of shots that will come its way from the Xen’Driks, Kenkus and Free League Ranger. This band does not suffer with the loss of one or two threats/support pieces, but taking out the Unicorn and the Cleric of Garl Glittergold early can really slow this band down.
Wild has come a long way since the game was revised. Formerly one of the weaker factions it has now risen to the top and can be argued as the strongest. Some of the other options you may consider when building a warband for Wild are the Elf Arcane Archers, Arcane Archer, Djinn Stormsword, Moon Elf Fighter, Clawfoot Rider and Heirophant of the Seventh Wind to name a few.
I am honored to have been asked to write this series of articles and I hope that I have brought some insight into what you might expect to find in upcoming qualifiers and maybe opened your eyes to some pieces that you may not have considered yet. In this series I could not cover the full spectrum of warbands and pieces you could face when playing at qualifiers. And like in years past this season will have innovative surprises that will shape future qualifiers. Some advice to keep in mind is that practice and knowledge of your warband as well as playing a band that suits your play style is far more important than bringing one of the more powerful bands.
And so we come to the end of this years miniseries of the 2010 State of the Metagame for D&D Miniatures.