Analysis: Aggro Warband Comparison
Updated: Feb 24, 2019
Greetings fellow Underworlds enthusiasts! I hope you all had a lovely start to your year and are chipping away at those resolutions (read: playing more games of Underworlds). Unfortunately, the day after New Years I got sick (not praying to the toilet gods sick, actually had to see a doctor sick) and spent the rest of week recuperating and more importantly, writing articles.
As my I mentioned in my end of year post, my goal is to pump out some quality content and differentiate this site from its wonderful competitors. Today, we will be focusing on warbands that excel at aggressive play. I'll start with a general overview of each warband, then compare their leaders, single out the best fighter in each warband, and lastly suggest a couple cards I think go best with them.
I hope you enjoy the (long) read!
First off, I think its prudent to define aggro. Aggro, according to Google's built in dictionary, means aggressive and violent. In Underworlds, this translates to aggressively moving up the board and taking out enemy fighters quickly. Not only are you scoring glory for removing enemy fighters from the board, ideally you are also running objectives that reward your for this particular style. This, coupled with the right set of gambits and upgrades can maximize the carnage you hope to bring down on your opponent.
The benefits of playing a warband in this manner are quite attractive. Your game plan is simple: run in and smash things. Now while some find this style of play one dimensional and predictable, I believe that to be untrue. While it may be easy for a newer player to get in and do some damage, it takes a high skill ceiling to master your warband and truly make every activation count. Furthermore, choosing the correct boards and drawing the right cards is paramount. Don't be afraid to throw away one good card to ensure you get a better overall hand.
Conversely, your strengths also can be exploited as weaknesses. Because your opponent has a decent inkling of what you are trying to accomplish, they'll probably end up 'turtleing' on their end of the board to avoid first turn charges. They'll probably also spend some time setting up some counter charges to punish your aggressive behavior. Proactively, I find it important to run gambit cards that can manipulate movement. Whether its giving your fighters increased movement capabilities or pushing enemy fighters closer to you, its necessary to run those cards. Also, running upgrade cards that can increase your odds of landing hits can maximize those moments when you do indeed have the opportunity to strike. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, its pertinent to run a few objectives that don't necessarily coincide with removing enemy fighters off the board. Cards like Extreme Flank and Escalation are easy enough to score and give you the ability to upgrade your fighters to make those hits count.
Finally, do keep in mind that as in any game you are reliant on good dice rolls. While positive rolls help out all warbands, getting those attacks to hit can and often will make or break your game more so than others.
So what warbands fit this particular style of play you ask? Great question. Although any warband can be played aggressively, I find the following are not only (mostly) designed for this line of attack, but also pretty good at it as well. It may come to no surprise that neither of the warbands include wizards. The god of battle would not approve!
First up, we have Steelheart's Champions, probably one of the first warbands you encountered when you entered the deadly Shadespire. Because of their inclusion in the original starter set, the warband was designed to be pretty forgiving, at least to the less experienced player.
What the warband has going for them is that all fighters have four health. That's huge in a post BAR (banned and restricted) list meta! Its going to be a lot harder for your opponent to one shot your fighters. This offers your warband some innate protection and survivability which is important when they're going to be in the thick of it. But wait, there's more! When your fighters successfully roll a block (shield icon) they inspire and get a second defense dice. In short these guys are walking tanks.
But enough about defense, what about their attack - do they hit hard? Yes, they hit quite hard indeed. All of your fighters hit on smashes (hammers) and two of them start with three damage on their attack characteristic while Britghtshield deals two damage.
In terms of weaknesses, the warband suffers from a slight identity crisis. Many of their faction cards reward a defensive style deck. This doesn't mean that aggro isn't viable, you just have to use more neutral cards. Second, the warband only has three models which means each loss is felt quite keenly. This makes them harder to pilot in highly competitive scenes as one misstep can derail your gameplan significantly.
Ah, the original Khorne boys, Garrek's Reavers are aggro personified. Again, another warband included in the starter set, the warband was designed to be straightforward and can be summed up with the following quote: "Khorne cares not from where the blood flows."
The health pools in this warband vary with two sporting two wounds, two with three, and the leader, Garrek, boasting four. These wound statistics almost directly translate to how good the fighter is on the battlefield with the higher wound models being significantly better. Where they shine though is their movement. Each fighter can move 4 hexes!
These guys inspire when ANY three fighters are removed from action. More often than not, at least one of those fighters will be one of yours. However, when they do inspire they all gain an increased movement stat which boosts them to five. That's huge. Your threat range is massive, especially on a battlefield set up wide.
The reavers ironically suffer from the fact that for an aggro warband, they don't hit very hard. To make matters worse, three out of the five hit on fury (swords). To put things in perspective, a fighter hitting on two fury will only hit 40% of the time against a fighter with block and 44% chance on a fighter with a single dodge. You start hitting over 50% when you start rolling 3 fury but that isn't ideal, especially when you have a less than 36% chance to roll a critical. Imagine what happens to those percentages when your foes boast more than one defensive dice.
Pre-inspiration, all of your fighters are doing one to two damage. Only one fighter does three off the bat. That coupled with a single dodge for defense makes them glass cannons, albeit weak ones. Planning your charges out is paramount because once the blood starts flowing, its hard to stem the flow.
The orruks who roam the streets of Shadespire are quite the rowdy bunch. Ironskull's Boyz are a thematic warband that require a bit of steam to get the ball rolling, but when they do they can truly devastate their opposition.
At first glance these guys look solid and during the first couple months of the game, they were arguably the best. Three models with four health and one with five? That's awesome right? Well, kind of - the orruks inspire when they take damage. That effectively means in order for your warband to operate at peak efficiency, they'll be rocking three and four wounds respectively. Conversely, a board with lethal hexes can help inspire a fighter while charging which can offset the damage a bit.
Furthermore, Hakka and Basha feel underwhelming. Half the warband hits on fury which again, pre-inspiration, gives you less than a 50% chance to hit your enemies. That combined with an average stat of three movement means that the boyz are slow and will likely miss a lot.
Unlike most warbands, this one relies heavily on its leader. If Gurzag goes down early, its hard to pull off the win. Still, if you can start piling the upgrades, the boyz can scrap for a long time and even end being the last orruks standing.
Magore's Fiends are perhaps the quintessential aggro warband in today's meta. A popular warband, they are designed to be in the thick of it. Once they get in range, the warband is quite adept at collecting skulls for the Skull Throne.
The human warriors all have four wounds, three movement, and hit on smashes. That means you have a 54% chance to hit an opponent with a single block, a 59% chance on a single dodge, and a 26% chance to roll a critical. Right off the bat, you have a greater chance than most opponents to successfully role in combat. When inspired, their movement and damage go up by one. Two of the fighters also have a defensive reaction which allows them to make an attack action when an opponent misses an attack. It only has a range of one, rolls on a fury, and deals a single point of damage - its not reliable. However, its nice when it does hit, although your chances are in the 20% range.
Your favorite daemon dog also boasts four wound with four movement, and hits on fury. He rolls three fury though which gives him greater than a 55% chance to hit against single defense models. He also gains cleave when he rolls a critical meaning he is carving through armor 36% of the time. Upon inspiring, he too gets the damage and movement boost while also receiving an additional dodge die.
The warband suffers from typical aggro play in that they are predictable and heavily rely on their rolls to get going. Defensively, other than Riptooth, they all have a single block so are very susceptible to cleave and a high volume of attack dice too.
So now that you have a general idea of how each warband operates, lets take a closer look at the fighters that lead these warbands into battle. Leaders are always a player favorite in that they aesthetically tend to looks the coolest while also sport some unique abilities or stats to set them apart from their followers. I'll start with the worst (comparatively) and end with whom I think is the best pound for pound fighter.
The original bad guy, Gorebeard is durable and agile commander who, with upgrades, can be be a terror on the battlefield. Unfortunately, he holds the bottom rank on the list because of his lackluster defensive dice and offensive capability. Furthermore, it takes way too long to reliably inspire him and the process in which that happens usually hinders your overall gameplan.
Potential upgrades: Bloodslick, Grisly Trophy, Great Fortitude and Acrobatic
Steelheart is a hybrid combatant that can deal big damage when he needs to and survive well into the late game. The reason he ranks third on the list is because he just isn't as good as the rest of his troupe. He is often out-shined by Brightshield and Obryn. Furthermore, his upgrades just aren't that good compared to his peers.
Potential Upgrades: Fatal Riposte, Champion's Fortitude, Heroic Might, and Blessed by Sigmar
Redhand is a capable fighter who can really tussle with the best of them. With an innate cleave and solid damage output post inspiration, he can reliably take down some of the best fighters in the game. Once you start tacking on the upgrades, he can be a glory churning machine. He can even heal himself by eating his opponent should you take the upgrade!
Potential Upgrades: Gloryseeker, Gory Visage, Trophy Hunter, and Hidden Paths
Unsurprisingly, your favorite boss marks the tops of the list. Boasting five (four after inspiring) wounds and an innate re-roll on attack activations makes him a fairly consistent beast in the halls of the Nightvault. A well protected and upgraded Gurzag can annihilate enemy warbands and can single highhandedly win games. Truly, he excels in a good 'ole scrap!
Possible Upgrades: Unkillable, Great Speed, Great Strength, and Hidden Paths
Now that we've ranked the warband leaders, let's take a closer look at each warbands secret weapon. The MVP's of each warband that truly make the difference when you need them to be clutch.
Brightshield is a femme fatale and the heart of her warband. She's extremely consistent offensively and defensively and her reaction, Furious Parry, makes any fighter think twice before striking her. With some additional defensive upgrades, shes very hard to take down.
Possible Upgrades: Blessed by Sigmar, Champion's Fortitude, Trusted Defender, and Great Strength
Saek is a personal favorite and can boost some incredible damage output with a large threat range. Notorious for his turn one suicidal charges, the big man can take reliably take out 4 health fighters with cards such as Ready for Action and Twist the Knife.
Possible Upgrades: Great Strength, Unstoppable Charge, Awakened Weapon, and Potion of Rage
This guy is the LeBron James of his team. Scroll up to see why.
Riptooth, our favorite good boy, is a terrifying, vicious hound. Boasting four health, three damage with a potential for cleave, and five movement is nuts. On defense, he's got two dodge so he's somewhat survivable and forces an answer from your opponent.
Possible Upgrades: Acrobatic, Great Strength, Gloryseeker, and Potion of Rage
Top 3 Faction Objective Cards:
So hopefully, you've gotten a better understanding of these aforementioned warbands. Now, let's talk about some of their better faction objectives that help you score glory and win the game. Keep in mind, you don't have to take any of the cards, they just seem to be the best options.
Awe-Inspiring and Lightning Strikes are both score immediatley cards that reward you for your natural gameplan: eliminating enemy fighters. They help get the glory going early and cycle through your objectives. Consecrated Area is an easy to score Alone in the Darkness that can be scored early on with minimal effort.
Blood for the Blood God! is a fairly easy to score objective. The best part is that it doesn't require you to hit, so even if you miss you can still score and cycle. It Begins and Khorne Cares Not both reward the fact that fighters have been eliminated. The latter can be scored entirely by you if you are really having a rough time.
Get Da Boss and Biggest An' Da Best reward you for eliminating enemy fighters, again this is doing what you want to do. Both can be reliably scored by Gurzag. Call of the Waagh! rewards you for getting aggressive, something you need to do to to win the scrap!
Keeping in theme, Show of Strength and No Escape reward you for getting in to the thick of it and putting on the hurt. These cards follow your natural gameplan. Rivers of Blood is super easy to score, especially with Shardgale.
Now while other objectives might be better suited for each individual warband, I have found that these work well with all them. Extreme Flank is easy to score early, even later too with Hidden Paths, and helps with starting the glory to get upgrades going. Speaking of upgrades, Escalation is almost mandatory. You are going to upgrade your fighters to make them last longer and hit harder, might as well benefit from it. Keep in mind that your opponent's upgrades help you score this too. Change of Tactics is fairly easy to score too, perhaps too easy and can be read by your opponent so be mindful to have multiple options.
Top 3 Gambit Cards:
Now let's take a look at the at the top faction gambit cards and see how they can help with those critical attack activations. Again, keep in mind that you don't have to take any of the cards, they just seem to be the best options.
Sigmarite Wall is great for keeping your fighters alive longer, especially with two defensive dice. It combos quite nicely with Change of Tactics as well. Peal of Thunder is solid in that it increases your threat range by allowing you to bring an enemy fighter closer to you and can push an enemy off an objective, denying them opportunities to score glory and even help you win the game, in case of tied glory. Tireless Assault gives you a redo and aids in ensuring a successful attack swing.
Fuelled by Slaughter aids with ensuring you get those out-of-activation activations to ensure you can eliminate a fighter. Insensate helps protect your fighters while Final Blow punishes a fighter for attacking you and can even take them out of action.
Gorkamorka's Blesing aids with getting higher damage output on Hakka and Basha which is sorely needed, especially when you can't use Gurzag and Bonekutta. Kunnin' but Brutal is great in turns two and three as your fighters are usually in the thick of it and extra attacks are always beneficial. Deafening Blow, again uses movement manipulation to create favorable opportunities for your orruks.
Daemonic Resilience pretty much shuts your opponent's offensive capablities for a turn and brings some much needed stamina to your warriors. Again, movement manipulation is key in order to mximize your damage and Horrifying Howl does just that. Lastly, Furious Inspiration is fantastic. Making your warriors better before the fight is always a boon.
Ready for Action, arguably the best card in the game is mandatory in every warband. Being able to attack after charging and an upgrade is huge. Inspiration Strikes is great in that it you are making your fighters better without having to fulfill their inspirational requirements. Twist the Knife helps ensure that the attacks that hit, count.
Top 3 Upgrades:
Now let's take a look at the at the top faction upgrade cards. Again, keep in mind that you don't have to take any of the cards, they just seem to be the best options.
Fatal Riposte potentially punishes your opponent for attacking you and extra attack activations are always nice. Blessed by Sigmar helps with survivability while Heroic Might helps give you the edge against heavily armored opponents. Works great with What Armour? too.
Frenzy helps with increasing your odds of successfully hitting an enemy fighter, which is crucial with this warband. Beserk Charge helps Saek with his key charges, ensuring you can take out those high health fighters. Bloodslick helps keep Garrek alive which is important as he and Saek are your primary damage dealers.
WAAGH! provides a damage boost that is needed, especially with your weaker fighters. Unkillable helps Gurzag stay in the fight longer if you can roll right. That's key because he is your MVP. Crush and Cleave bring cleave which is nice and combos well with What Armour?.
No Respite punishes your opponent for eliminating your fighter and more attack actions are always nice. Trophy Hunter can start piling up the glory and Magore is bound to eliminate a fighter or two. Brutal Charge is useful in that it helps with getting an attack to go through which can make the difference, especially if the enemy fighter has more than one defense dice.
Great Strength is a staple in every deck and its benefits are quite clear - extra damage is always useful. Potion of Rage helps ensure those attack activations that you need to go through, really do. Gloryseeker is fantastic in that it punishes high health models, and most enemy leaders, with an extra bit of damage which is sometimes all you need.
Phew! If you made it this far, thank you - it means a lot. Its time to see, who the best aggro warband is in the current meta?!
I think it safe to eliminate Garrek's Reavers from the running. Although they are capable and a skilled player can win with them, its often an uphill battle. Other warbands just have better stats and cards that truly elevate them above this blood thirsty lot.
Steelheart's Champions, while stat wise are great, lack the endurance required for the blood bath you intend to sow. Losing a fighter early hurts really bad, especially when its Brightshield early in the game.
So that leaves us with Ironskull's Boyz and Magore's Fiends. The former has one of the best leaders in the game, certainly so when compared to his fellow aggro buddies. The latter has superior stats, cards, and potentially more consistency. Unsurprisingly, its clear that Magore's Fiends are just top dog in this current aggro meta niche. Riptooth and Magore are a deadly combo and the other two are no slouches either.
So there you have it, Magore's Fiends reign supreme! Now this doesn't mean you can't win with the other warbands. In fact, I firmly believe that with some skill and little bit of luck, you can win with any warband. I certainly plan on it.
As always, I would love some feedback on the article. Did you like the format? Was it too long? Did I not dig deep enough? Please do let me know.
Up next, I'll be taking a gander at some of the objective/control based warbands!