Ten Years of DDM: The Decade in Retrospect. Part II
Our retrospective on DDM continues with the golden age of development for the original game, from 2005 to 2006.
Product Releases for 2005
Deathknell was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). There were a total of 60 figures in the set, including a total of 16 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 20 Rares. A highly sought after figure in the set was the Beholder. One of the controversies that emerged in this time and remained for years was about the issue of "cherry picking" booster packs. Since the Beholder was larger and heavier than most miniatures in the boosters it could be identified above chance levels as being in a package by its weight (although buyers who did this risked accumulating large numbers of Dire Bears or Thaskors from this set). The controversy continued for years after, especially for some sets in which specific miniatures could be identified in some way.
Angelfire was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). There were a total of 60 figures in the set, including a total of 16 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 20 Rares.
Underdark was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). There were a total of 60 figures in the set, including a total of 16 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 20 Rares. From this set, the Balor was one of the most sought after collectable figures.
The second World Championship was by invitation only. A player could be invited based on having a high enough DCI ranking (top 25), or by placing in the top 4 at a qualifying event, placing in the top 8 in the Championship Series Open (the Grinder) or by winning the previous year's Championship. Around 60 players participated. This was the first Championship to be played on pre-printed maps. Everyone played all rounds on the Fane of Lolth map which was officially released shortly thereafter in the Fantastic Locations line of products. Players in the Championship received advance copies (which could be differentiated from the commercially released copies because they were not creased because they weren't ever folded).
The first place warband was run by Jason Lioi (aka Fenris). The warband featured 3 Chraals and was unusual (at the time) because the warband featured the medium Green Dragon (from Aberrations) which was used effectively to acquire victory points, given the Dragon's high speed. The winner was invited to be involved in the creation of a mini for later release. In this case, the mini was the Thrall of Blackrazor which later appeared in the Unhallowed set (it was based off of the sword Blackrazor which appeared in the classic DnD module White Plume Mountain).
Personally I played a warband with the Human Blackguard, Chain Devil, Efreet, Gauth, Dark Moon Monk, Wolf Skeleton, and a Duergar Warrior.
The Metagame for 2005
By late 2005 the standard format for play changed from using tile placements to using fixed maps. By eliminating tile placement as an early part of the game, players had more rounds of actual combat. This change also offset turtling strategies somewhat, but did not eliminate them. The first maps were released in groups of 4 (2 double-sided maps) in the Fane of the Drow, which was part of a series of products to be released by WotC as the Fantastic Locations line. Other major rules changes from this year involved the elimination of the "Speed 2" rule. This rule had previously been a stiff penalty to the mobility of creatures that were out of command, making the use of difficult creatures almost impossible. There were also changes to the way summoning worked (summoned creatures now counted for Victory points, where previously they did not).
Inspired Frenzy was the dominant warband type for much of the year, although other warbands were starting to emerge as more sets were released. Justice Archon warbands had a short run as good counters versus the Berserkers. A fun tier two warband had Lord Soth paired with the Beholder and lots of goblins.
Competitive creatures to emerge from the sets this year were the Efreeti, Archmage, multiple Chraals tied to a Commander like the Human Blackguard, Rakshasa, or Mind Flayer, (though the California players also tied to the Orog, and those band finished 5th and 6th). Githzerai Monks (which had a greater impact into 2006), Goliath Barbarian, Greenfang Druid, Timbre Wolf (as a second option for the Graycloak's minion), Thaskor, Ulmo Lightbringer, Xeph Warriors (as fast victory point grabbers), Steel Predator, Marut, Aspect of Kord, Rikka, Angelic Avenger, Helmed Horror, Duergar Champion and many others whose potential would appear in combination with creatures released later.
Product Releases for 2006
Wardrums was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). Wardrums was also released in Starter boxes. The Starter boxes contained two double sided maps for use in the skirmish game. The starter boxes also contained a mixture of random figures as well as two fixed commons (the Orc Mauler and the Wood Elf Ranger). There were a total of 60 figures in the set, including a total of 16 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 20 Rares.
War of the Dragon Queen was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). War of the Dragon Queen was the second set to contain Huge figures, and the first set to feature some miniatures made from clear plastic. There were a total of 60 figures in the set, including a total of 14 Commons, 22 Uncommons 6 of which were huge and 24 Rares 6 of which were huge. A couple of the most sought after figures were the Aspect of Bahamut and the Aspect of Tiamat.
Mid August to Mid September
The Gargantuan Black Dragon was released as the first in the line of Icons in August, followed a month later by the second in the line of Icons; The Colossal Red Dragon (Still the largest 'miniature' released for DDM).
Blood War was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). There were a total of 60 figures in the set, and the rarity distribution was shifted to include a total of 12 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 24 Rares. The Pit Fiend was published in this expansion set.
The third World Championship was by invitation only. A player could be invited based on being in the top 25 players in DCI ranking, or by placing in the top 4 at a qualifier, by placing in the top 8 in the Championship Series Open qualifier at GenCon (the Grinder) or by winning the previous year's Championship. 81 players participated. Maps were fixed through the first 7 rounds of Swiss play (Forest Cliff Lair on rounds 1, 4, and 7, Dragon Shrine on rounds 2 and 5, and Teleport Temple on rounds 3 and 6), but then the top eight players went on to play on Caves of Chaos which was not released until December of 2006 in the Fantastic Locations product Frostfell Rift.
The winner was Micheal Derry (aka Derry) who played a popular warband in the metagame which featured a Young Master, 4 Githzerai Monks, Standardbearer, Azer Raider, and a Timbre Wolf.
Personally I played Tiefling Captain, Ogre Ravager x2, Orc Champion x2, Orc Wardrummer, Orc Warrior x2, which had done very well for me through the qualifiers and was a good counter against the Firebelcher bands of the time.
The Metagame for 2006
There were quite a few popular and competitive warbands from this year. The first featured the Redspawn Firebelcher, usually in multiples, and usually supporting other Chaotic Evil melee creatures like the Ogre Ravager or the Orc Champion. The second popular warband became possible by using the Young Master and either 3 or 4 Githzerai Monks as a combination (named with the acronym "GAS" for "Githzerai Assassin Squad"). Many of these monk warbands used the Standardbearer to extend to Young Master's Command area, and some used the Couatl to offset the energy damage from creatures like the Firebelchers.
In addition to these two, other popular warbands included: multiple Helmed Horrors (frequently without a Commander), warbands with multiple Chraals, "Korducopia" which used the Aspect of Kord, the Couatl, and a high value Commander like the Cleric of Order, Sword of Heironeous, or Cleric of Doh Arrah, Marut-based warbands, warbands with multiple Duergar Champions ("Phonebooth"), usually used with Shuluth, Archvillain in order to take advantage of the Commander effect, or warbands with multiple Sacred Watchers and a Sword Archon Commander ("Swarm"). Strong Trifecta or Quad warbands in the Chaotic Evil faction became even better this year with the addition of the Orc Wardrummer. In Chaotic Good, Frenzied Berserkers continued to make appearances.
DDM was becoming very popular this year, as the variety of warbands in the metagame increased. After GenCon, when Blood War was released, the metagame expanded even more with the addition of stong competitive creatures like: Shadowdancers, Storm Silverhand, Kolyarut, Maug, Firegiant Forgepriest, Bralani Eladrin, Valenar Nomad Chargers and others. Starting into 2007, Chaotic Good warbands and Lawful Evil warbands were definitely on the rise. In fact, the Firebelchers were considered a revitalizing of Chaotic Evil, which had generally fallen out of favor in 2005.
This finishes part II. In Part III, we will touch on our first and only DDM world champion who did not have english as a first language, and make the transition to the current edition game.