Ten Years of DDM The Decade in Retrospect: Part III, Transition
We continue with the third in our series of DDM retrospectives.
Product Releases for 2007
The Gargantuan Blue Dragon was released as the third in the line of Icons. This was greeted as one one of the most dynamic gargantuan sculpts to date.
Unhallowed 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 12 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 24 Rares.
Night Below 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 12 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 24 Rares. The poster for the set had a reprinted map for the Drow Outpost on the back. Drow Outpost was previously only available from issue #337 of Dragon Magazine (November, 2005). Maps continued to be printed on the reverse side of the set posters for the next 4 sets.
The Legends of Drizz't Scenario Pack was released. It contained the gargantuan White Dragon (Icingdeath) and the figures Drizz't Do'Urden (with a different sculpt than the Archfiends release figure) and Wulfgar (with the same sculpt as the Night Below release figure, but a different paint scheme). All were DDM legal, and the dragon continued the legacy of increased detail and dynamism in the icons line.
Desert of Desolation 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 12 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 24 Rares. This was the last set to be printed with cards compatible with the 3.5 edition of DnD. The back of the poster for the set was a reprint of the Blue Dragon Lair which originally appeared in the Blue Dragon Icons line release.
The Orcus Iconic figure was previewed at the WotC booth, but would not actually be released for commercial sale until years later in 2010.
The fourth World Championship was by invitation only. A player could be invited based on having a high enough DCI ranking (top 25 in the world), by placing in the top 4 at a qualifier, by placing in the top 8 in the Championship Series Open (the Grinder) or by winning the previous year's Championship. Right at 110 players participated. There were so many players that they were broken down into 2 "flights" and the top 4 from each flight then advanced into the finals. Everyone played on a map rotation of three maps (Market Square, Blue Dragons Lair then Fields of Ruin, then the same maps in reversed order, through 6 rounds), and then the top eight players went on to play on the Evermelt map which was not released until months later in a the Legends of Drizz't Icons line. Warbands were limited to a base of 8 activations.
The winning band was by Eddie Wehrenberg, Jr. and included the Werewolf Lord, Large Black Dragon, Large Shadow Dragon, Thrall of Blackrazor, and four Orc Warriors. Eddie was the youngest person to ever win the Championship. He was 14 at the time. For winning the championship, Eddie was invited to help create a miniature. That mini later appeared as Farris Nightbringer, Elf Ranger which was released as part of the Player's Handbook Heroes I set.
Popular figures that were played in 2007 Championship included: Large Shadow Dragons, Large Black Dragons, Fire Giant Forgepriests, Storm Silverhand, Shadowdancers, Noble Salamanders, Ultraloths, and Sacred Watcher swarms.
I played one of the rogue bands built around Xen'driks which included the Warpriest of Vandria, Bat Familiar, five Xen'drik Champions, Halfling Tombseeker, and Wild Elf Warchanter
It was at GenCon 2007 that Wizards of the Coast announced the change from DnD 3.5 to the 4th edition. This change in turn was accompanied by a shift in the DnD Miniatures game from the Original Edition (OE) to the Revised/Current Edition (CE), which was more in line with the rule set from 4th ed DnD. The soon-to-be-released Desert of Desolation set was the last set to contain card information compatible with the 3.5 version of the DnD rpg.
The Metagame for 2007
For the OE of the game, 2007 was the peak year in terms of the popularity of the game. Just before Desert of Desolation was released, there were two dominant warbands. The first was Chaotic Evil and featured some combination of Large Black Dragons and Large Shadow Dragons, usually commanded by a Tiefling Captain (or Ryld Argith), and occasionally including one of the earlier Chaotic Evil hitters and possibly an Orc Wadrummer. The second major warband was essentially a titan build around the Fire Giant Forgepriest, usually commanded by an Ultraloth. In addition to these, Chaotic Good continued to have a strong presence in the metagame, especially with Storm Silverhand and some combination of the high 30 point or low 40 point hitters (like the Virtuous Charger or Valenar Nomad Charger) and m ore technical creatures like the Cormyrean War Wizard brought into CG by Storm's Warband building. Another Lawful Evil build featured dual Noble Salamanders. The earlier Chaotic Evil trifecta and "Quad" builds continued to appear.
The year 2007 marked a turning point in the Skirmish game environment as the game itself shifted from OE to the newer RE. In the transition, WotC decided to update the most recent expansions to the newer rules, along with 60 previously released creatures as an "All-Star" set. In later years, the DDM Guild would eventually update all creatures to the RE rules, as well as add additional creatures to the potential pool for warbands.
This marked the transition year to the current edition of DDM.
Product Releases for 2008
Dungeons of Dread 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 12 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 24 Rares. This was the first set to have the cards printed using the DDM Skirmish statistics for the RE game on them. The set poster had the map Caves of Chaos printed on the reverse side. It was pre-released a month earlier at D&D XP, in Washington DC.
The only CE Starter Set to be published was released. It contained 5 visible miniatures and their cards (the Dwarf Battlemaster, Human Sellsword, Elf Warlock, Yuan-ti Swiftscale, and Young Green Dragon), the rulebook, a 20-sided die and 2 doubled sided maps. Most notably for competitive play, the Human Sellsword was in this release. He was costed at 14
July 12th (WotC has this date listed as July 1st)
Against the Giants was released in booster packs which contained 8 figures (4 Commons, 3 Uncommons, and 1 Rare). This set contained Huge figures. There were a total of 60 figures in the set, including a total of 9 Commons, 27 Uncommons including 6 huge Uncommons and 24 Rares including 6 huge Rares. The map on the back of the set poster was The King's Road.
November 7th (WotC has this date listed as Nov 1st)
Demonweb 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 12 Commons, 24 Uncommons and 24 Rares. This was the last set to be released using the commercial format of completely random packaging until Lords of Madness. This was also the last set to have the WotC-produced CE cards printed with DDM skirmish statistics. The set poster had the smaller maps of The High Road/Spiderhaunt Vale on the reverse, and remains difficult to find.
This was the first year using the DDM version 2 rules and cards after the WotC switch to DnD 4th edition. This format has come to be known as the Current (or, Revised) Edition (CE/RE).
The fifth World Championship was by invitation only. A player could be invited based on having a high enough DCI ranking (top 25 in the "Vintage" ratings or top 100 in the "Standard" ratings), by winning or placing second at a qualifier, by placing in the top 4 in the Grinder, or by winning the previous year's Championship or the early 2008 Limited Championship. This year, there were 112 players who participated in a single bracket.
There were only 6 expansion sets available for use in this World Championships: Night Below, Unhallowed, Desert of Desolation, Dungeons of Dread, Against the Giants and the All Star set of cards (as well as the RE Starter creatures).
The Championship was played on a map rotation of Dwarven Outpost (rounds 1, 4 and 7), Jungle Temple (rounds 2 and 5), and Flooded Ruins (rounds 3 and 6). All three of these maps were slightly larger (longer) than most of the other maps available at the time.
The original version of the Eternal Blade was available, but was shortly thereafter removed from play and then revised into its current version. The winning warband was in the Civilization faction. This was the only GenCon win to date by a non-American; Guillaume Garant-Rousseau of Quebec, Canada. His band and included the Thrall of Blackrazor, Mercenary General, Skullcleave Warrior, Raistlin Majere, Warhorse, Human Sellsword x2, Merchant Guard x2, and a Goblin Runner.
Some of the more popular figures which were played included the Tomebound Arcanist, Skullcleave Warrior, Oni, Thrall of Blackrazor, Efreeti Flamestrider, Eternal Blade, Mercenary General, Human Sellsword, Merchant Guard, and Goblin Runner
Personally, I played a warband which had the Dwarf Battlemaster, Tomebound Arcanist, two Skullcleave Warriors, two Merchant Guards, Elf Archer, Goblin Runner and a Farmer.
(yes, believe it or not, the metagame was such that a farmer was a strong addition).
The Metagame for 2008
When the environment shifted from OE to RE, there was initially only a narrow group of highly competitive creatures. Most of them could be found in the Civilization faction and are listed above. The Eternal Blade lost some playability with its revision, but was easily still playable. The Tomebound Arcanist was immensely popular (and also increased the use of the Confusion resistant Thrall), but dropped off in use when the Confusion rules were revised.
Likewise, any creature which could be used to move the position of enemy creatures was very popular early in the RE rule set based on the way pit terrain was initially used. When the pit terrain was revised to only Daze (instead of Kill), a number of creatures that had briefly seen popularity dropped back out of the metagame.
While not part of the metagame, it is definitely worth noting that the DDM Guild was formed this year and went online in late 2008 in order to take over the administrative role for the game. On October 23rd, WoTc announced that they would discontinue support of the miniatures game, and that Demonweb would be the last supported product. By November 11th, WoTC had arranged for the auspices of the competitive minis game to be taken over by the DDM Guild. The founding Guildmasters were Jim Ansaldo, D. Garry Stupack and Hordelings founder Kevin Tatroe. The latter two had previously managed the DDM oracle, which was a clearing house of rulings on how to interpret rules text for each legal figure, loosely based on the MtG tool of the same name. All three had been recruited (among others) in the project to re-stat many of the prior miniatures, thus increasing the pool of miniatures available for competitive play.
These re-stats for the older sets would continue to trickle out throughout the year, and into the next.
However, we'll review 2009 in the next installment.