FAR List Update - Jan. 2020
Updated: Jan 10
Hi everyone, Happy New Years! I hope everyone is enjoying their weeks so far. Today, we've finally been blessed with an overdue Forsaken and Restricted List (FAR) so let's dive in!
Joining this dubious list, in regards to Championship and Alliance format, are two cards with a history of rules confusion and frustration. I can't really say that I am surprised as we have seen these cards already banned in the Relic format.
Aggressive Defence has had quite the effect on the meta. Since its inception, the card provided high wound fighters the ability to sneak in an extra attack outside of a player's normal activation sequence - usually in their opponent's activation. That effect cannot be understated. Not only did your big and scary fighter get an extra attack in the game, you also ended up damaging your opponent's fighter during their own activation!
In a vacuum, I believe the card was strong but not something that needed to be banned, let alone restricted. There is a clear downside to the card - you cannot make a defensive roll.
The challenge with this card was that it made reactions sequences a nightmare. I cannot tell you how many Reddit and Facebook posts I have seen regarding sequencing and general questions about this card. In fact, this card was probably the reason that the reaction sequence was explained in the rules.
Personally, I am not sad to see this card go. I'm looking forward to less headaches when discussing this card and, truthfully, I am looking forward to less surprises when charging Mollog as well. 😉
I've got mixed feelings when it comes to Keep Them Guessing. On one hand, I enjoyed the idea of having to work towards an end phase objective with specific goals and tasks. It felt structured and if you opponent was paying attention, they could try to stop you from scoring it. I can't tell you how many creative ways in which I have tried to score this card. It always felt rewarding when you pulled it off but it also devastating when you didn't - you'd probably have to cycle the card.
On the other hand, this card was a hurricane of rules conundrums. When reading the card, I really believe the intentions were/are quite clear. Sure, some warbands had fighters with innate actions that made it easier to score it for some but it still felt pretty good in general. What made this card an issue was when, for some peculiar reason, the card counted fighter card reactions as actions that count towards it. Then everyone started using (read: abusing) this card. A couple months later, the card was then FAQ'ed to not count reactions which was met with general approval and for a time, the card was fine.
However that all changed when the Fire Nation att.... err, I mean that all changed when the Grymwatch were released. (shoutout to my fellow Avatar: The Last Airbender fans)
Due to the Ghoul Call action, this card became a busted, auto-include. The criticism for this card reached newfound levels. Additionally I think the card, in general, also limits what you can do with fighter card actions as well. I think that's probably the main reason why it was banned in the Relic format as it was probably limiting from a design perspective.
From a player perspective, I really don't think this card needed to get banned but I can see how this card can be limiting for future design. For that reason, I think it is probably best for the health of the game, future and current, that we see this card go.
So the cards on this list are a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are a bit obvious while others, not so much. Generally, most of the cards selected have proper reasons for being on the list and will probably shape the meta to a greater sense of equilibrium and health.
Rebound. It's truly hard to properly articulate the feelings this card invokes in me. At the very least, I can say that during the first two seasons of Underworlds, this card brought me a lot of highs and many, many more low's. When Shadespire universals rotated out, I was truly happy that this card left the game. It felt right - like saying goodbye to that one friend who really had your back from time to time but was generally a pain in your back side.
That all changed when the Fire Nation atta...umm yeah - they brought the card back with the Gift Pack. I'm not really sure who's idea it was or why it was even approved but it was and the community went into an uproar. I'd say 95% of it was negative with a random 5% of the community was saying, "I really don't think it's that bad of a card. I genuinely like it." I respect those people's opinions. I also think they are sadists.
Joke aside, at the very least, placing this card on the restricted list seems like "fan service." I know lately that phrase has had negative connotations (thanks Star Wars) but in this case, I think it is a good thing. This change will make a lot of people happy - I am one of them. I believe the real reason this card is on the list though is because of the negative play experience associated with it.
We probably won't see this card very often anymore, if at all. The 3 restricted spots are already very tight and most of them are more consistent and generally better. The nice thing is that it's restricted so if you really want to play it, you can.
When I first saw Scrum, I knew it would be strong but I didn't think the card would be as trivial as it was to score as it had become. It's really interesting. On paper, this card looks like it uses sub-optimal actions and unnecessary use of cards to score. In practice, it became the most scored card at the tail end of 2019.
Most cards included on the restricted list are generally included for two reasons: they are either extremely popular (auto-includes) or are too powerful (too easy to score, too consistent, etc.). Scrum fits in both of those categories quite soundly. Additionally, it's inclusion on the list seems at a deliberate attempt to curve the power level of objective warbands.
Thorns of the Briar Queen found scoring this card trivial due to their potent action economy via Varclav. Grymwatch also found this card quite easy to score and every deck I have either played or encountered included the card. Even aggro warbands were taking the card because their opponents would often score it for them! Sure, Zarbag's Gitz and Sepulchral Guard were taking it too but the pros for them don't outweigh the cons for everyone else. Such is the cost of doing business, I'm afraid. I am happy to see this card on the list.
Unlike the aforementioned card, when I saw Temporary Victory, like most of you, I knew it was freaking busted. We knew the power level of the card when we saw Despoilers and In the Name of the King but we figured it was somewhat manageable against both Grashrak's Despoilers and the Grymwatch. However, when a universal version of the card joined the scene, the power level of objective based warbands went through the ceiling.
The biggest offender here are the Thorns of the Briar Queen. In one activation, they can hop on three feature tokens and score this card. The game could literally start, and if they draw it, they can gain two glory after the first activation. Nutty. Oh, and let's not forget that the Grymwatch now have access to two of these. Honorable mention goes to Grashrak's Despoilers, Zarbag's Gitz, and even Sepulchral Guard.
Now of course, there were some benefits provided by this card as well. It also provided a power boost to certain factions who were struggling with their glory totals after the 6/6 objective rule. Thundrik's Profiteers, Eyes of the Nine, Magore's Fiends, and most 4+ fighter warbands were taking this card. Not only did it provide a nice glory boost but it also rewarded them for fighting over the feature tokens anyways.
At the end of the day, the card is very strong. I think everyone saw this card going on the list and although some warbands will suffer from it gettin restricted, as I mentioned earlier - it is the cost of doing business. Thorns of the Briar Queen and Grymwatch were simply too strong.
Out of all the cards on this list, this card is perhaps the one that I think needed to be on the list, the least. In fact, I don't think it should have been on the list at all. Tome strategies have already been a bit weak since Acolyte of the Katophranes went on the restricted list. That play style got even weaker when the restricted list was cut down to 3 cards.
Sure, there were some warbands that could take more advantage of the tomes than others but it was never oppressive enough, after the aforementioned changes. Dave's reasoning was that he wanted people to have to either fully commit to tomes, if they wanted to play it. While I think the reasoning is fair, I don't think it works in practice. Putting Tome of Vitality on this list pretty much kills tome builds. There aren't enough solid universal objectives that allow players to get the glory they need, and quickly so that they can keep up with Thorns and Grymwatch, to stack the tomes.
This addition is also a "nerf" to warbands who do not have access to an innate/faction specific version Great Fortitude. I really don't think this card needed to be on the list. It just seems like this is a deliberate neutering of "control" style builds.
Now this card - I am happy to see. Transfixing Stare is probably one of the strongest cards in the game right now. Period. It literally won Michael Carlin a Grand Clash final.
Being able to shut down a single fighter in any turn of the game is ridiculous, especially if they were an integral part of your opponent's strategy. This effect is exacerbated when used against an aggro warband. Shutting down Skaeth, Rippa, Riptooth, Magore, or Ammis for potentially 8 activations is absurd.
This card also really helped defensive and objective style warbands tremendously. Two major culprits were Grymwatch and Thorns of the Briar Queen. Not only were they already dominating the game for other reasons, they were also utilizing the strongest anti-aggro card in the game.
With this card joining the list, we will see a rise in aggro play and I think that is awesome for the game.
Overall I think the additions to the FAR list are warranted and quite welcome. Aggressive Defense and Keep Them Guessing were two cards that really caused a headache. The former had a nightmare of a reaction window while the latter had the longest entry in the FAQ documents. Temporary Victory and Scrum temper the strength of objective based warbands, namely the Thorns of the Briar Queen and Grymwatch. Rebound and Transfixing Stare were two cards that did hurt aggro warbands. In general, aggro was having a hard time due to a lack of worthwhile two glory, end phase objectives. With those two gone, I can think we'll see more Rippa's Snarlfangs, Magore's Fiends, and even Skaeth's Wild Hunt in the field. In regards to Tome of Vitality, I still disagree with its inclusion but it does effectively push Tomes out of the meta. If someone, on the off chance, does try to play it - they'll have to commit to it fully which doesn't seem to viable in my opinion. It's the only card I don't think deserves a spot.
So who are the winners? Well as I mentioned I think warbands with aggro play styles become a bit more relevant. Here are a couple that I think really got a boost:
Skaeth's Wild Hunt
And here are the warbands I think that lost the most (which in two cases, isn't much 😅):
Thorns of the Briar Queen
Eyes of the Nine
I still think Thorns of the Briar Queen and Grymwatch are the top two warbands in the game but their power level has been toned down a bit. Hopefully it's enough to see some other warbands contend with them at the top. Still, they're the ones to beat in the upcoming Grand Clash events!
Speaking of Grand Clashes - I think the timing of this FAR update is a bit unfortunate. The Warhammer World Grand Clash is next weekend and the Las Vegas Open is the weekend after that. Players have to rearrange their decks and practice new strategies in a very short window. This issue is worse for those who are traveling from outside the country to compete as I am sure there are noteworthy travel costs.
With that being said, I think the players worth their salt will be able to adapt, improvise, and overcome this challenge. I look forward to seeing community members find ways to fine tune their decks - who knows, certain decks might become even better. 😉
You can find the full article and FAQ here.