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State of the Hexes - June 2020

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Hi everyone, welcome to the first article in my new, 'State of the Hexes' series! The purpose of these articles is to highlight the top decks in the current meta, and the different styles in which you could potentially play them.

In this article I will summarize the current meta, share the top 5 decks, look at the top 5 universal objectives, gambits, and upgrades, take a stab at creating a tier list, as well as share my closing thoughts.

I'll be using a lot of the event data compiled on Well of Power as well as recent tournament results to supplement why I believe certain warband strategies are more dominant than the others. If you haven't seen Jonathan's work, definitely do check it out - it's quite fascinating.

Keep in mind, these are just my opinions. While I do believe I have a pretty good grasp on the game, and the current meta, I am simply sharing my personal opinions.


Current Meta: Post HM/WM

TL;DR: Hrothgorn and The Wurmspat came in like some wrecking balls and have been consistently dominating the competitive scene. Objective based warbands, like Thorns of the Briar Queen and The Grymwatch are also holding their own and have found innovative ways to keep the glory train pumping. Some older warbands, like Zarbag's Gitz and The Farstriders, have come back looking better than ever. The meta is quite diverse and a lot of factions like Skaeth's Wild Hunt, Stormsire's Cursebreakers, Rippa's Snarlfangs, and Thundrik's Profiteers, to name but a few, are doing well. As always, there are clearly some warbands that are just simply "better" than others which is why you rarely see some of them.

With the release of Hrothgorn's Mantrappers and The Wurmspat, we've seen quite a bit of flux in the competitive scene. Prior to their release, we were seeing a competitive scene dominated by the Grymwatch and the Thorns of the Briar Queen. Due to cards like Temporary Victory, Swift Capture, Restless Prize, and Frenzied Search we were experiencing a renaissance of Objective based play.

Once the two warbands came out, we immediately saw Hrothgorn put his massive bulk to good use. The warband had some strong Mollog vibes but was very unique in the fact that he had two sets of attacks (melee and range) post inspiration. While we did see early attempts at an Aggro version for Hrothgorn, we were quickly introduced to Control variants which were superior in all aspects. The Wurmspat, while off to a slow start, proved that slow and steady truly do win the race. These guys have been a surprise hit in the meta and rely on Flex style builds that gain glory through passive glory and by doubling down on the warband's heavy hitter, Sepsimus. When tooled up, he can single handedly demolish entire warbands. Plus, the warband's natural (or unnatural) resiliency helps it last much longer than most 3-man warbands generally do.

While no longer the top dogs, the Thorns of the Briar Queen and Grymwatch are still quite formidable foes. As we've seen previously, Varclav's ability allows the Thorns the most efficient way possible to traverse the board and control those objective tokens. Once the glory starts rolling in, the warband relies on the Briar Queen, The Everhanged, and recently even Varclav to put down some serious hurt. The Grymwatch, while perhaps have been "figured out," still can have some crazy turns if their cards come out in the right order. Furthermore, their post-Inspiration stat gains are insane and it can allow them to mob their opponents with heavy hitting fighters. I think a major reason for their slight decline comes in form of the fact that almost everyone takes Distraction, Nightmare in the Shadows, Restless Prize and/or Mischievous Spirits.

Zarbag's Gitz have found a bit of resurgence as they to benefit from all the popular cards that provide synergy with Objective play. The most popular build relies on sticking as many accuracy and Amberbone weapon upgrades in the deck to ensure half your warband smashes your opponent to bits while the other half scurries onto objectives. Another older warband performing reasonably well is The Farstriders. With all that ping damage flying about, they're able to burn their opponents down quickly and efficiently.

Lady Harrow's are another objective based warband that has continued to stay in the upper echelons of the competitive scene. The warbands access to easy surges and movement enhancing upgrades allow players to cycle through their deck at astonishing rates. Plus, those femme fatales are killer in combat too. Stormsire's Cursebreakers have taken a bit of dip in the meta. Their recent tournament performances have been lackluster but I still think they are pretty good. Stormsire is still the best spell caster in the game and Ammis hits like a truck. The ability to create redundancy via a "second Stormsire" is also quite potent as well.

The rest of the meta is largely made up of Thundrik's Profiteers, Rippa's Snarlfangs, and Skaeth's Wild Hunt. All three of those warbands play quite well and can hold their on against any of the aforementioned factions above. Piloting them is perhaps a bit harder as they don't have as many built in tools/stats as their competitors. Still, we should always keep in mind that all warbands are playable and can do well when built and piloted correctly. I'll go ahead and give a shoutout to Mollog's Mob and Sepulchral Guard as both of them placed top 5 in the most recent online event as well. Again, this goes to show that any warband can do well provided you put in the time and the practice.


Top 5 Decks:

1: Hrothgorn's Mantrappers Control/Flex Build

This deck is absolute filth and is without a doubt the most powerful deck in the game right now. It's extremely consistent and takes advantage of all the things that make Hrothgorn great - objective destruction, card draw, and survivability. The neat thing about this deck is that every single objective in this build can be scored without Hrothgorn. Just let that sink in for a moment. That's right, the warband that was designed around relying on a single powerful fighter doesn't even need that fighter to score any of their cards...

If you want to give it a go, check out Duncan's Bilz's deck. He is the pioneer behind this build and used it to win the first ever online community event. I haven't seen a better version of it out there, yet.

2: Hrothgorn's Mantrappers Acolyte of the Katophranes Build

Yep, we've got another Hrothgorn build in the second spot. No, I'm not surprised either. Like Mollog, Hrothgorn makes an excellent Tome caddy due to his high wound characteristic. Additionally, he has access to some of the best defensive upgrades in the game like Massive Bulk and Toughened Hide which allow him to stay around much longer than he's welcome.

Derek Traquiar's version of this deck debuted at the first online community event and ended up placing second overall. Benny Monahan took a more refined version of the deck and ended up winning the second online community event which had more than double the participants of the first one. Check his deck out here.

3: The Wurmspat Midrange Flex Build

The Wurmspat have a lot of options when it comes to deck-building, but they've really taken a liking to a Midrange style build that involves scoring some early, passive glory, inspiring, and then taking the fight to the enemy. The warband also plays a great denial game which can infuriate Objective based play. Furthermore, the warband plays great into Aggro due to their damage reduction mechanic.

If you're interested, check out Zack Newcome's build which got third at the first online community event. Tom Bond, from Steel City Underworlds, also placed third in the second online community event and shared some insight into how he piloted the deck. You can find all that in his article, here.

4: Lady Harrow's Objective Control Build

Lady Harrow's Mournflight are notorious for their high movement and easy Surges hence why they've been so popular and seen consistently at the top. As they are a relatively "newer" warband, they also benefit from some unique fighter abilities. Widow Caitha's ability allows you to all but guarantee scoring Shortcut, The Screaming Maiden can consistently burn through opposing fighters, and The Anguished one functions as a great brawler, especially post inspiration. Most decks stack up on movement, score a bunch of trivial, passive Surges, and only commit fighters when they have to. If a player happens to "draws the nuts", it's very hard to keep up. Veteran players will know how to combat them and as such by denying cards like Ghostly Torment but still, it's harder than it looks.

If you're interested in trying them out, check out Gerard the Professor's build. He managed to place second in the online community league with the spooky ladies.

5. Zarbag's Gitz Amberbone Build

It's quite pleasant to see an "older" warband make a come back and compete at upper echelons of the competitive environment. This particular style focuses on the fact that the warband has a bunch of fighters with pretty decent attack profiles. If you think about it Zarbag, Drizgit, Bonekrakka, and Gobbaluk have almost identical offensive stats when compared to Magore's Fiends, the textbook Aggro warband. By taking advantage of those fighters and slapping some Amberbone weapons on their others fighters, those diminutive goblin-kin became pretty damn scary. Of course you can also flex into objective play as well as the Scurry mechanic can help get your fighters on those Objective tokens quickly and efficiently.

If you want to try them out, look no further than Jimmy Molini's deck. He's terrorized our online practice group and placed in the top 15 at the most recent online community event. I've also built a version of the deck but I'll be sharing that in a future article - the core is the same though.


Hrothgorn's Mantrappers:

Since the big guy is dominating the competitive scene, it only makes sense to understand why he has done so well. Hrothgorn builds tend to rely on taking advantage of the powerful factions cards that support the warband. Let's take a look at some of these combos below.

Their first set of tools come in the form of objective destruction. Arm of the Everwinter, coupled with Scorched Earth, provide some easy passive glory via Frozen Earth and Leave Nothing to Chance. These cards allow Hrothgorn and his gnoblar servants to blow up objectives quite reliably. Interestingly, this combination actually allows the big man to also overcome a natural weakness to control builds: objective play.

This, coupled with his powerful offensive stats and natural toughness, allow Hrothgorn to play quite well into Thorns of the Briar Queen and the Grymwatch - the two previous top warbands. Denying your opponent the ability to score their objective based Surges and End Phase cards really put a thorn in their plans. In recent events, we've actually seen players drop Supremacy, a card that has always been a staple in objective play, for more reliable options as the card has become too slow.

The second set of tools, and perhaps the reason why the warband is so good at controlling the board, is because of some upgrades that work really well for the ogre. Massive Bulk and Toughened Hide make the task of taking Hrothgorn down a herculean effort. In many cases, it is simply just not possible. Hunter's Reflexes gives the warband leader unparalleled maneuverability due to his built in mechanic which automatically makes all enemy fighters gain the Quarry keyword. Additionally, that mechanic also gives Hrothgorn some great options in his objective deck with cards like The Beast is Slain.

The last set of tools, but certainly not the least, are the warband's ability to consistently and reliably draw through their entire power deck via tools like Veteran Hunter, Frenzied Search, and Unnatural Truce to score cards like Digging Deep and To the End. It's another passive strategy that really tips Hrothgorn's power level over the top. In fact, these aforementioned strategies have been so effective that the ogre is currently dominating the meta totem pole. If you combine these tools with Tomes and Acolyte of the Katophranes, the passive Control strategy goes through the roof!

As you can surmise, Hrothgorn's Mantrappers takes advantage of the faction cards that align really well with the current universal pool. It's no surprise he's done so well as of late.


Top 5 Universal Objectives:

The information below is based off the last two online community clashes which can be seen on Well of Power. I am using these sources as they are the only metric available to a scene attempting to stay competitive during a global pandemic.

Coming in at number one, we have Calculated Risk. It's probably one of the easiest Surges in the game and as such, most tournament decks include this card. The main reason that it doesn't require enemy interaction and with the ability to place a Lethal hex anywhere, it's almost a guaranteed score.

In a meta where we are starved for reliable two-cost End Phase cards, it makes sense for players to rely on Combination Strike to give them a much needed boost to their glory ceiling. While it is draw dependent, so is the meta and as such it's still pretty solid. Plus, getting more glory for scoring other glory is a pretty efficient strategy.

Again, we see another glory multiplier. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll avoid explaining why these kinds of cards are so good. One thing to note is that these cards are so prevalent because other End Phase cards aren't as consistent or easy.

I got trolled for taking this card with Cursebreaker's deck at Adepticon 2019. While back then it was ultimately a risky play, in the current meta it's super reliable. This is because of the universal gambit Leave Nothing to Chance. Warbands who have faction cards that do the same thing, as well as any Wizard due to Abasoth's Unmaking love taking this card. Being able to burn an objective token is great passive glory and it puts the hurt on Objective play warbands which are still quite popular.

Fired Up has made a strong return since it was removed from the Forsaken and Restricted (FaR) list. It's super reliable, especially with cards like Regal Vision and Blazing Soul floating about. Inspiring should be a part of your natural game plan and being rewarded for it by a sorely needed and reliable End Phase card is great.


Top 5 Universal Gambits:

The information below is based off the last two online community clashes which can be seen on Well of Power. I am using these sources as they are the only metric available to a scene attempting to stay competitive during a global pandemic.

Are any of you surprised to see this card here? I didn't think so. It's easily the best Universal in the current meta, and is probably in contention for being one of the best cards ever printed. This card will help you move enemy fighters in to charge range, push them off objectives, and perhaps even send them to their doom via lethals. Great versatility.

Two is always better than one. Being able to have a second copy of this card is insane. Again, probably why Objective play has suffered as of late. Please see above for further details.

Draw engines have always been popular in card games. Having a card advantage (more cards than your opponent) gives you more options and more consistency when trying to execute your game plan. For Objective based warband this is a no brainer - it's always been a favorite for them, despite the "cost.". With Objective destruction seeing a rise in popularity as of late, it makes sense to draw some cards before removing those tokens from the board. Plus, To the End, while not in the top 5 universal Objectives, is definitely in the top 10.

Another draw engine that provides players with quicker access to their other cards in their power deck. It's great for all the reasons above, despite the apparent drawback. Aside from providing card advantage, it's also absolutely necessary when trying to score To The End.

Being able to counter Objective style play has become very popular after how the Thorns of the Briar Queen and The Grymwatch dominated the meta for 5 months. As I mentioned during the entry for Scorched Earth it pairs really well with the aforementioned card as it is a consistent way to score reliable, passive glory.


Top 5 Universal Upgrades:

The information below is based off the last two online community clashes which can be seen on Well of Power. I am using these sources as they are the only metric available to a scene attempting to stay competitive during a global pandemic.

This is one of my favorite cards and it's probably because it's so freaking good at helping you stack up that glory. At the end of the day, this is an arena combat game and getting additional glory tokens for eliminating enemy fighters is very powerful. This card also helps warbands who have lower glory ceilings and help them stay in the game. It provides a great comeback mechanic and can be abused by fighters like Mollog, Hrothgorn, the Briar Queen, etc.

The changes to Guard in Beastgrave, while objectively better, still didn't see much increased use. However, with the introduction of this card, having a fighter always on Guard is fantastic as a fighter's survivability increases dramatically. Any fighter with two or more defence dice will probably want this upgrade as it's mathematically so much better for them especially when "VOLTRON-ing" (stacking a bunch of upgrades on a single fighter) the fighter of your choice.

This card is probably here because of the popularity of Hrothgorn. With the being said, it's still a great card, especially for warbands with trickier Inspirations. Being able to circumvent a core part of a game, and the balance the Inspiration mechanic should be inducing, is game breaking. Again, this card is fantastic for Hrothgorn and other fighters who do most of the heavy lifting like Mollog, The Briar Queen, Lady Harrow, and Sepsimus.

This card has been a staple since the introduction of the Underworlds. Being able solidify an elimination when you hit is a boon and as such, you'll see this in almost every single deck out there. It's just super reliable and really that good.

Since combat is such an essential part of the game and requires major investment, it's nice to be able to maximize key charges/attacks in order to hit fighters. Whether it's for trying to score key Objectives or just eliminating a threat - this helps you do that. It's why it's in almost every deck ever.


Tier List:

Now I now I have said numerous times in the past that I don't believe in Tier lists. To be fair, that was during a time in which the game was fairly young and the total number of warbands wasn't so high. Now, with 24 warbands in the mix and with 2 more on the horizon, it makes more sense to rank the warbands in groups. As I said earlier, we should always keep in mind that all warbands are playable and can do well when built and piloted correctly. Any warband can do well provided a player put in the time and the practice.

Still, I am going to take a stab at it. Plus, it is kind of fun! I'd like to give a shoutout to Jonathan Davis, Michael Carlin, Nick Ramone, and Bartosz Kratochwil for providing some key feedback. We went through three revisions but the list feels solid now.

Note: I made this list on Tier Maker. Here's a link to the template I used.

I could go into a lot of detail here but I feel like a lot of the information would be redundant. I will say, this list is based on the current competitive environment. Things can always change. Furthermore, great players can do amazing things with any faction, especially the "lower tier" factions.

I am interested in your feedback though so feel free to shoot it my way. Again, these are my personal opinions. You may disagree and that is totally okay!


Final Thoughts:

As the data has demonstrated, Hrothgorn's Mantrappers currently reign supreme with having two very powerful builds that, when piloted correctly, can dominate their opponents quite consistently.

I will admit, the data here is probably skewed due to the ogre's popularity and prevalence. Still, it is an accurate representation of the meta as he is going to be everywhere.

Despite that, the meta feels pretty solid - well as solid as it can be given the most commonly used strategies. Passive Surges are popular because they provide players with all but guaranteed glory, which enables them to start stacking those upgrades. Draw order is super important too and as such games have been quite swingy as of late, especially with all those glory multipliers stuffed into decks.

Warband variety is also the highest we've seen in quite some time. While there are plenty of old faces, the Beastgrave warbands are really flexing their muscles.

Overall, the current competitive scene feels good. While you can play anything you want, I'd recommend playing warbands in the A- tier and up. All of them can hold their own and perform quite admirably.

In order to succeed, focus on executing your game plan while mitigating your opponent's. If you are playing Hrothgorn, focus on those passive glory strategies and understand that every deck will have tricks up their sleeve to take you down. If you aren't piloting him, make sure you have the damage and movement to exploit his weaker companions should you not be able to take him down. Also, keep in mind that you shouldn't focus too hard into the big guy. Make sure you have enough tools to fight off Objective and Aggro strategies as they're still decently popular.


I hope you found this article useful. I plan on releasing these during every major meta shift. If you have any feedback, constructive or critical, I would love to hear it. These articles are designed for you, and as such, should include aspects you would enjoy reading about. Again, I have to stress that these are my personal opinions. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. In fact, that's where the best conversations stem from!




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