The Grymwatch Problem
Updated: Mar 14, 2020
In today's article I will be dissecting The Grymwatch, their power, effect on the meta, and recent tournament results. The intent here is to demonstrate why they've been so effective in the competitive scene.
Here's my take: The Grymwatch are not just a very powerful warband, they are also bad for the game. Their dominance has been unheralded and they probably need to be nerfed in some fashion. This article, although somewhat critical, is not intended to spread negativity. I will NOT be discussing Games Workshop, their design team, the design process, or playtesters. I will also not tolerate any derogatory comments towards any of the aforementioned parties. Again, the goal here is to simply articulate my thoughts in written form.
Thank you for understanding in advance. Let's dig into it!
Entering the Beastgrave:
So before we dig into the current meta, I think it makes sense to set the stage and discuss the reasoning as to how The Grymwatch came to power. When Beastgrave launched, it brought along with major changes to how we play the game of Underworlds. We were introduced to 3 new formats: Championship, Alliance, and Relic, the 6 surge objective limit was placed, and perhaps most importantly, we lost access to universals cards from the Shadespire set for the Championship and Alliance formats - the two most popular formats at this time.
The 6 surge objective limit was implemented, per my understanding, to curb the insane pace of how fast warbands could score glory in a game. In fact, Nightvault was infamously known for this happening all too often. Decks quickly shifted towards 7+ objectives with the remaining cards used as glory multipliers. It often felt like whoever could score their surges first, usually snowballed to too large of a lead. The 6 surge objective limit effectively stopped that strategy from taking place. However, as a couple more universals cards were released, we saw that draw order became very important in deciding games. Players who drew their surges early generally performed better (upgrades, psychological effect), while players who drew their end phase cards first found their games to be a bit more challenging.
I still believe the 6 surge objective limit was the right thing to do, I just find the change to present unique challenges.
The exit of the Shadespire universals was also a big shift in how the game is now played. The community had two years to understand the best strategies and came to rely on them quite heavily. This created a void in which players came to rely more on the warband fighters and their specific cards rather than the universals. The Beastgrave warbands have also had more warbands specific cards than their older counterparts. Couple this with the fact that the overall power level of these cards seems to be higher than the universal pool thus far further exacerbates the reliance on warband fighters and their factions specific cards. As the universals have continued to be released, we've seen a higher adoption rate of universals in successful deck builds. Still, powerful faction cards, and fighter stats, have been a defining factor when determining warband success.
Again, I think cycling out the Shadespire universals was the correct move. It made the game accessible for newer players while also changing the game up to such an extent that current players found it refreshing and sparked continued interest as newer strategies could be found, evolved, and implemented.
A Challenger Approaches:
With the aforementioned changes in full swing, Underworlds was thriving. There was an influx of players, new and returning. Skaeth's Wild Hunt and Grashrak's Despoilers were well received, particularly their models. The Kurnothi models were something never seen before and the Beastmen had been long awaited. Both warbands, at least initially, were found challenging to play but players quickly found success with them. In particular I found both warbands a lot of fun and, after a lot of trial and error, really enjoyed finding success with the Despoilers. The Wild Hunt have also quickly become my favorite warband in Beastgrave as I'm quite fond of their rapid assault, no-nonsense play style.
As always, the community is never truly sated though and we were all eagerly awaiting the release of the new warbands. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we only received one warband in the first wave of releases. The reasons for this are not quite clear but many on the social media channels mentioned production issues. Regardless, despite getting a preview of Rippa's Snarlfangs we instead got The Grymwatch. Both warbands received a lot of buzz and players were particularly excited about a Flesh Eater Court warband. As always the models were beautiful and not only were they particularly gruesome, they also had the first visibly female ghoul!
Once The Grymwatch released, players were very excited in regards to their potential. Not only did their fighter stats look good, they had some powerful faction specific cards. Furthermore, their inspire condition was particularly strong due to the fact that it demanded an immediate response from your opponent in order to prevent it. It was the first inspire condition like that in the game and its effects were immediately felt.
Now, I won't get into the nitty-gritty in regards to the warband's specifics. The assumption I am taking is that you are familiar with The Grymwatch. If you are not, or would like a refresher, please check out this article I wrote earlier about them.
I will however be highlighting a couple key factors that I believe lead to their powerful consistency and performance:
The Grymwatch's inspire condition is extremely powerful: "There are fewer than two enemy fighters in your territory at the end of the action phase." This forces a line of play from an opponent, regardless of their strategy. For aggro warbands, that seems fine but for non-aggressive, control, or even passive strategies this required response is game defining. Essentially, you have to decide on whether or not you want your opponent to inspire or not.
Speaking of inspiring, you really don't want The Grymwatch to inspire because they've got some pretty nutty fighter stats post inspiration. Even prior to inspiring, they've got some solid fighters. The Duke hits on 2 smash, has a range 2 weapon, and deals 2 damage. Gristlewel hits for 3 damage. Every fighter moves 4 and the Duke's Harriers are movement 5. In regards to the bats, they can score Gathered Momentum off the bat. That's extremely powerful. Once inspired, The Duke becomes turns into a better version of Skritch, who was arguably one of the best fighters in the entire set of Shadespire. He does 3 damage on 2 smash. The rest of the warband gets more accurate, bumps to movement 5 (the bats go to 6) and 2 of the fighters, including the Duke, bump to 2 dodge. Additionally, all the "little" ghouls get fighter specific abilities including an ability that lowers the number of attack dice on fighters adjacent to him. Lastly, the Duke also automatically brings back a ghoul back from the dead at the start of every action phase.
The faction cards from The Grymwatch are also very strong. To name a few, we've got In the Name of the King, Shifting Madness, Pervasive Delusions, Pack Advance!, Double Time, Heroic Vision, Impervious Delusion, Seized Weapon, Well Motivated, and Severed Trophy. 3 cards in particular stand out the most: In the Name of the King, Shifting Madness, and Pack Advance!.
In the Name of the King and Shifting Madness were the first time we saw surge hold objectives cards in a warband designed to flex very well into hold objectives. Sure we had seen Despoilers before but the Grashrak's Despoilers are a flex warband through in through. This constant passive glory generation is potent because it allows The Grymwatch player to benefit regardless of board set up. If they have 3+ feature tokens on their side of the board then they can sit back and rack up glory. If they don't, then they can offset boards to all but guarantee an inspire. The latter card is particularly powerful in that you can score it regardless of board setup, sometimes even in the first activation if you have objective 1 on their side of the board. Don't forget you can score both of them at the same time too - which allows the player to cycle through their deck. Pack Advance! enables The Grymwatch player to efficiently get their fighters onto objectives fairly quickly which nullifies the point of spending activations to physically move the fighters on objectives. A well versed Grymwatch player will set their board up as optimally as possible to take advantage of all that.
As you can see, The Grymwatch are uniquely capable of doing things in the game that no other warband has been able to do so effectively since Warhammer Underworlds has existed. The faction has overlapping objective synergy, a divisive inspire condition, a resurrection mechanic, great fighter stats, and great factions cards.
They've really just got it all. They can play passive and outscore their opponents or, if necessary, they can inspire and then offensively take down their opponents in combat. It's really a win-win.
In the Name of the King, Indeed:
Now, let's talk a look at the current meta. As of now, I see the following trends in the current state of the game:
Surge objectives are very strong and the objective variant is meta-defining. At this time, decks can be fully built to score all of their objectives without interacting with their opponents.
Deck draw order is extremely powerful. Players who draw into their surges first are at a straight advantage. This allows players to cycle through their decks quicker and, as a result, likely to score more glory while augmenting their fighters via upgrades. There is also a strong psychological effect present as well.
With all that being said, these aforementioned trends actually create the perfectly environment for the The Grymwatch to thrive. Here's how:
The Grymwatch have access to some of the most powerful surge objectives in the name. A typical Grymwatch deck contains the following cards: In the Name of the King, Temporary Victory, Shifting Madness, Pervasive Delusions, Gathered Momentum, and Swift Capture. Every single one of these cards can be scored without interacting with an opponent. Sure, Gathered Momentum requires a charge but you really don't care if the attack hits or no since you are getting a guaranteed glory. Remember, the Duke's Harriers can score this without inspiring. The rest of the deck is filled with end phase cards that either reward the deck for scoring so many surges in quick succession or reward the player for holding objectives, which they are already doing in order to score a majority of those surges.
Additionally, as has been mentioned numerous times now, The Grymwatch have the best pool of cards to pick from. This means their chances of drawing a card easily scorable are very high. Once the glory engine gets going, it gets out of hand very quickly. I've seen Grymwatch score their entire deck by the end of the second action phase. I've actually done it a couple times myself. In fact, a friend overseas recently shared that the Grymwatch scored 16 glory in the first action phase. That glory total is higher than some objective decks in total!
This kind of passive glory generation is previously unheard of and provides a powerful advantage to The Grymwatch. It's really no surprise that The Grymwatch have won ever major Grand Clash since the beginning of Beastgrave. That's never been done by any warband, ever.
A Reign of Terror:
When The Grymwatch were first introduced into the meta, I knew they were going to be strong. I think a lot of people did. However, I don't think anyone expected them to be so meta defining. They've ruled the meta for months and it's showing very few signs of slowing down.
Michael Carlin was the first one to demonstrate the power of the warband at the Ocotober 19 Warhammer World Grand Clash - a 140+ man event. He has often credited his win to the Grymwatch's ability to score glory so quickly and passively. That power in combination with a pilot of Mike's caliber was bound to yield such a strong performance.
After that, we saw the release of Rippa's Snarlfangs - a strong aggro warband that excelled at taking down 2-3 health fighters. Unfortunately, even they weren't equipped enough to put a dent in The Grymwatch due to the fact that Temporary Victory came out. It is a universal version of In the Name of the King and catapulted the Grymwatch to even newer heights. Even Grashrak's Despoilers, Thundrik's Profiteers, Zarbag's Gitz, and the Sepulchral Guard, who also benefited from the introduction of the card, couldn’t utilize it as effectively as The Grymwatch. Thorns of the Briar Queen is perhaps the only exception there and is part of the reason why that warband is also often seen at the top.
Then, Sandro Antunes took The Grymwatch to the January 2020 Warhammer World Grand Clash and was able to secure a win there as well despite all the anti-objective tech present. Thorns of the Briar Queen, Rippa's Snarlfangs, and Stormsire's Cursebreakers all play “well“ into The Grymwatch. Despite all the opposition and teched opponents, Sandro took the top spot. Again, this is a display of a top level player taking the warband to the event and winning decisively.
At the Las Vegas Open, Peter Rivera and I played in the final for the trophy. Despite playing the Thorns of the Briar Queen, a widely considered counter to The Grymwatch, The Grymwatch took the top spot. From a personal perspective, it was probably one of the most infuriating games I have ever played. I've never get tilted at an event but I did because I just couldn't counter Peter's deck. It scored glory regardless of what happened. This example, probably the most defining, shows the warband winning an event by a previously unknown player who never played outside his local meta - which consisted of just a handful of players.
Note: I think this part of the article has been taken quite negatively by some and I'd like to clarify. Peter played very well - I said so on an episode of Path to Glory. I don't necessarily think players have to have "kudos" to win an event. The part of the article was to just explain that Grymwatch are very strong warband and I didn't really have an answer to Peter's strategy. It was a well built deck and he made some great decisions. At the end of the day, this is an opinion article and I am sharing my experiences. I am in no way downplaying Peter's win. He deserved it. I personally have just never had a game feel so helpless for me and I attribute that largely to the way the Grymwatch play. Text is sometimes a hard medium when it comes to expressing tone and expression. I have nothing negative to say towards Peter. I hope that clarifies my intent behind those words.
As you can see, the Grymwatch in combination with a good pilot can pretty much win any event. This trend is seen at the local and semi-competitive levels as well. Grymwatch have dominated numerous store events and have won the last two Bugman's Underworlds Clash events.
It's actually quite a curious phenomena. I've seen local players who have regularly placed last at local events start winning local events by switching to The Grymwatch. The glory engine is just so smooth and powerful that even less skilled players are piloting the warband to regular success. Of course, this isn't to take away from anyone who has won a large event from. I truly believe it requires a proper combination of player skill, matchup knowledge, and luck.
Personally, I have found The Grymwatch tiresome. They aren't fun to play against and I've found them a bit boring to play as well. Despite updates to the Forsaken and Restricted list, which were all awesome changes, the warband continues to overcome any challenge thrown at them. It's incredible honestly. To be candid, I think they are busted. If 2 players of equal skill are playing a game, I would still give the advantage of the Grymwatch every single time.
Now let's take a look at some of the other warbands who dominated the scene in prior stages of the meta. We'll take a look at Steelheart's Champions, Mollog's Mob, and Stormsire's Cursebreakers.
In the early days of Underworlds, during the Shadespire, there was a deck that terrorized local metas. Steelheart’s Champions went from being a middle of the pack warband to the top dog due to a series of upgrades defined as Relics. The strategy was pretty simple: sit back, don’t move, score passive glory, stack relic upgrades, and win the game. The deck was quite genius in principle but the reality was that it wasn’t very fun to play with and it especially was not fun to play against. In fact it was so oppressive that it turned a lot of people off from the game.
Fun Fact: Two players met in the final of a Grand Clash with the exact same deck. The games were so passive that both players tied all of their games. The victor was decided by a roll off...
So what happened? Games Workshop realized the power level was too strong and errata’d Relic upgrades to where they costed 2 glory tokens instead of the usual 1. This effectively cripped the deck and the play style. To ensure this deck, and this play style didn’t creep back up, they restricted Loner as well when the first Banned and Restricted list (BaR) was introduced. As you can see, this is an excellent example of curbing the power of a particular playstyle so that the game state could be more varied and enjoyable.
When Mollog entered the meta, he came in like a wrecking ball. In fact, he was so dominant that players were spamming the social media platforms seeking advice and help against the Troggoth. Content creators dropped a bunch of articles and videos in order to arm the player base with the tools needed to succeed. However despite all the help, Mollog continued to dominate. So much so that he was nicknamed the “noob stomper.” Ironically, he also elevated less skilled pilots’ game as well as if you rolled well with him, you won more often than not. I distinctly remember talking to Tony Field at Adepticon 2019 and said, “Spoke to a couple of the Mollog players and their feedback was kind of funny. Those who rolled well made it to the next round. Those who didn’t lost.”
Although the response was delayed, the BaR came in and hit Tome of Offerings which was one of Mollog’s primary tools. Despite that, Mollog was still finding tons of success but could never win an event. Then, Mollog went on to win two major events back-to-back. Neil Snowball-Hill won a UK Grand Clash while Davy Calkins was a part of the winning team, alongside Jonathan’s Davis’ Ylthari’s Guardians and my Thundrik’s Profiteers, at the ATC Grand Battle. Both of those decks focused on stacking a bunch of Tome upgrades on Mollog. It was a build reminiscent of the Relic Steelheart’s. It abused easy surges and passive glory to take the top spot.
These fantastic performances were responded to in kind with a series BaR lists that targeted Mollog heavily. Burst of Speed, Longstrider, and Acolyte of the Katophranes were restricted. Upperhand was banned. Again we saw a proper response to a play style that was powerful and “not fun” to play against.
Magic Spam Cursebreakers:
Halfway through the Nightvault season, we saw a Stormsire’s Cursebreakers deck that focused heavily on spamming as many magical spells as they could. The big end game cards were Magical Strom and Magical Mastery as you could, at the time, reliably score both of them in every game. What made this possible was that Ammis and Rastus could use their Empower ability as many times as they wanted to. Not only did this ability inspire each fighter, it also was a spell. With one die, it’s a 66% chance to roll a channel. To make this roll even more efficient, the fighters were usually equipped with an upgrade that either provided them an innate channel or changed the roll to a channel which effectively guaranteed the roll.
In May of 2019, at the Warhammer Fest Grand Clash, there were a handful of players who took the devious list. Jamie Giblin and eventual tournament winner, Volomir were the two that stood out. I had the privilege of playing Volomir in the final of the event and it was a tough set of games for me. My opponent spammed spells and once he got his glory train rolling, would come in to finish my fighters off. Cards like Well of Power and Sphere of Aqshy contributed heavily to the offensive capability of the deck as well. Plus, they both helped with the spells.
Soon after the event a BaR list dropped that heavily targeted this build and magic as a whole. The warband was errata’d to state that the Empower action could only be successfully cast once - that neutered the strategy. Sphere of Aqshy and Well of Power would join the restricted list eventually as well. This last change also hurt Ylthari’s Guardians who had been performing quite well and had won their fair share of events.
As you can clearly see, there is a precedent for Games Workshop to step in and adjust the meta when they see something either dominating the meta, creating a negative player experience, and/or especially so when something does both. Even the 6/6 rule was implemented to curb the excess of score immediate strategies that had plagued the end of Nightvault.
A Wider Perspective:
To ensure that I wasn't the only one feeling this way in regards to the Grymwatch, I reached out to some community veterans in order to get their take. I respect all of them and have often consulted them for advice when playing the game. Also, I was genuinely curious on their opinion.
I sent the following prompt: "What is your personal opinion on The Grymwatch warband and how do you think they have affected the Beastgrave meta?"
Here's what they said:
"The Grymwatch's inspire condition and amazing inspired stats force their opponents to play more aggressively they might want to in order to stop their inspire, and their easy surge and end phase objectives overlap in ways that make it very hard difficult to slow down their glory train, and lets them follow the pretty much the same game plan regardless of who their opponent is. I do not believe they are quite as consistent as some of the other top warbands, but are still a problem because they have the highest highs when it comes to explosive glory scoring, are fairly easy to play once you understand them, and when their cards come out in the right order they can seem impossible to stop, even when most of the meta is specifically teching against them."
-Jonathan Davis, USA
"The Grymwatch have redefined the hold objective style of play by combining incredible in faction surge hold objective cards with the new universal ones. There is no other warband in the game that can compete with the sheer amount of glory they generate. This coupled with a global inspire condition that automatically happens in a passive game means that every beastgrave player not only needs to know how the Grymwatch work but to have a detailed plan on how to beat them. They are the high bar by which every other warband is judged right now, if you don't reach that high then you aren't winning a Grand Clash."
-Michael Carlin, UK
"I'd say they're strong. They flex very well and they force the opponent to play a particular way due to their inspire mechanic. Hard aggro seems to be their counterplay, but aggro isn't in a great spot right now so they shine very bright. Hopefully the next two Beastgrave warbands help in dethroning these guys from the top."
-Jason Standen, Australia
“The Grymwatch brought objective play back to Underworlds in a way that we’d never seen before. It was a great and refreshing development with new objective holding surge tech. But what was refreshing quickly became repressive to other warbands and their dominance has sent ripples through the meta that might take awhile to settle.”
-Geoff Osborne, Canada
"I don’t think it’s a secret that both Thorns and Grymwatch are very powerful right now. While overall I believe Thorns are more consistent, a concern with Grymwatch is the explosive nature of the surge objectives they can take. This is a combination of (a) the quantity of good faction / universals surges they can easily score and (b) how many of them can stack and be scored off of the same type of action - moving onto objectives. If those surges happen to sit in the correct order in a Grymwatch objective deck, the game can feel defined by card draw rather than strategy or player skill."
-Jimmy M, USA
"Hold objective play relies on positioning rather than dice rolls. You expose fighters to enemy attacks by moving onto objectives and rely on timing and gambits to hold your position. Surge hold objective objectives shortened the window an opponent had to disrupt your positioning, making the archetype not just viable but top tier. It’s important to understand that hold objective play has never been this consistently strong before. Beastgrave’s neutral cards support hold objective play in a way that has never been seen before. This means a lot of people are having to learn to play into a new style that previously never needed taking this seriously. Playing into hold objective decks that work this well is a new challenge. The Grymwatch score glory faster and more reliably than any other warband, and they can do it completely independently of their opponent and completely independent of dice. The meta has shifted to accommodate this. Cards which disrupt objective play are a must. Warbands which cannot take the fight to The Grymwatch reliably are relegated to lower tiers of the meta. The warband is certainly not unstoppable, but it is unquestionable that it must be stopped. You cannot attend a tournament intending to do well without investing significantly in a plan for this warband. Warbands have waxed and waned throughout Underworlds, once upon a time Mollog was a terror. Thorns of the Briar Queen, Stormsire's Cursebreakers and Steelheart's Champions have all had periods of power. Grymwatch is the first objective holding warband to attempt to put a stranglehold on the meta when played by skilled members of the community. The hold objective meta was created by Beastgrave and cemented by the Grymwatch. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts."
-Tom Bond, UK
"The Grymwatch have become the king of Underworlds. Easily score-able Objectives, the capability to hold objective tokens, access to hard-hitting models and a speed to match, they’ve successfully manipulated a competitive Underworlds meta around their gravity. They’re a top tier warband for sure. But dreaming of beating the king is what makes this game great."
-Ivan Cho, USA
“It’s quite apparent that the Grymwatch are oppressively powerful when compared to other warbands. They’re much like Mollog when he first came out, just with 3 Grand Clash wins already. Ultimately, If you don’t tech for them, your chances of winning an event plummet.”
-Justin Ki, Canada
"Their passive glory score is incredible just by existing. They don't have to interact with their opponent. Most times it rolling a defense and then just going about their business scoring"
-Duncan Bilz, USA
"Grymwatch is a warband that can currently score its entire objective deck without the need to roll any dice, in my opinion they need to receive "Mollog" treatment of having their favorite versatile cards restricted."
-Wictor Szafranski, USA
"I love grymwatch. The overall aggressive objective play style is needed in Underworlds. I also love playing against them! They are a challenge to beat and that is the problem. The Grymwatch are not only blessed with some very solid easy score objectives that can easily be supplemented by additional solid universal objectives. They also have in faction power cards that counter anything their opponent tries to do to them. They have pushes to counter movement, they have defensive or damage mitigation, they also have awesome Agro upgrades. Again you combine all of this with your standard powerful universal cards and it feels like you are always fighting up hill against them. But wait there is more. They have some really solid fighter cards as well. An inspire that already pressures the opposing war-band. The Duke pound for pound maybe the best leader in the game. Solid health, good accuracy, solid defense and a ranged high damage attack. Combine all that with the ability to bring back fighters for free!!! Oh yeah and he is a hunter so you could tech into that as well. Grymwatch are not unbeatable but they sure have multiple ways to win and put the pressure on the opposing player in all fundamentals of the game."
-Jason Murray, USA
"I think that the Grymwatch are definitely strong. Never has a single warband won 3 grand clashes in a row. A lot of this seems to be due to the availability of easier to score objectives (faction and universal) that do not rely on die rolls AND are viable regardless of card draw order. This is in combination with fighters that have strong stat lines offensively (when inspired), the ability to bring back fighters (with no activation!), and the availability of power cards (again faction and universal) to assist in scoring their objective cards. That said, while they present a challenge for players at any level, they aren't unbeatable and still require a skilled player to be consistently successful."
-Jerod Johnson, USA
"Grymwatch are probably the most powerful warband that have been released for the game since its inception. Strong in faction objectives and access to easy to score universal objectives coupled with a large warband and access to abilities that mitigate risks due to lost fighters, creates a “like you but better” feeling around the warband. You could take sepulchral guard but, grymwatch arguably do it better. You could take Thorns but, grymwatch likely do it better. I also think it’s a lack of strong contenders with regards to aggro objectives or a very strong aggro warband built to consistently counter grymwatch. In a game that feels very paper, rock, scissors right know... grymwatch seem to be 2 of the 3 options consistently."
-Tres Hyde, USA
"The existence of Grymwatch in the game pushes many of the previously released factions out of competitive viability. The rate at which they can score glory during a game combined with their inspire condition is often too much for lesser equipped warbands. Grymwatch will be difficult to adjust for balance in the future if the developers continue with the policy of never banning or restricting in-faction cards. Any restrictions or bans of universal cards preferred by Grymwatch will likely end up weakening other warbands more than the Grymwatch themselves. I think it may be time to at least experiment with targeted adjustments to specific warband faction cards. In The Name of the King, Shifting Madness, Seized Weapon and Heroic Vision should all be reviewed."
-Randall Slate, USA
"Their inspiration mechanic requires an opponent to make a fundamental choice at the beginning of the game over whether or not they are ok with the GW inspiring. How much does a non-aggro or low-model count warband want to commit to preventing this? What cost to their own game plan will this require? They have far too many tools at their disposal in regards to base stats, deck building options (faction specific and universal), and on top of that they can bring back 3 of the fighters with a decent amount of control in most cases without spending an activation. Grymwatch are always in the game, even when they're behind, which they often aren't."
-Max Bernstein, USA
"I often find myself thinking "Wait, why are they (Grymwatch) that fast/strong/accurate/in possession of such great cards?". They're beatable, but you have to have a very specific, practiced plan, execute with very few mistakes and they can still run away with the game if they get the right draw."
-Davy Calkins, USA
With the release of Hrothgorn's Mantrappers and The Wurmspat, Underworlds has seen an interesting meta shift. There has been a large influx of universal cards that have not only augmented existing strategies but also created new ones as well.
A lot of people are viewing Hrothgorn's Mantrappers as a rival contender to The Grymwatch. While I believe it is still too early to tell, I think the point does have legs. The warband's ability to get aggressive early and burn feature tokens is pretty exciting. Hrothgorn in particular poses a threat as he is pretty tough to takedown meaning if he gets into enemy territory early, he's not going anywhere for a while.
Stormsire's Cursebreakers have also seen a boost to their offensive capabilities. Maybe the wizard triumvirate can now regularly beat The Grymwatch?
An interesting data point to consider as well is the Prague Open. While not an official Underworlds event, the tournament consisted of some top players in the Czech Republic. There were no Grymwatch seen in the top 8, which was the cut. Rippa's Snarlfangs won the event with Hrothgorn's Mantrappers, Thorns of the Briar Queen, and Thundrik's Profiteers close behind. While I am not entirely convinced this event is the turning point we've been hoping for, it certainly is a welcome sight. I think everyone having access to Distraction and Nightmare in the Shadows definitely helped a lot. I also think, since there was no office prize support, perhaps maybe the players took warbands they actually wanted to play. Of course, I believe everyone went their to win but I think there were also less Grymwatch present due to warband fatigue and an interest in playing newer warbands.
Furthermore, we haven't seen an FAQ in a while. While I doubt many changes will happen to The Grymwatch, there is a possibility other warbands and card interactions will see the appropriate nerfs and buffs. This could make it possible for other warbands to better compete when facing The Grymwatch.
Additionally, there is always another Forsaken and Restricted list on the horizon. This is the perfect opportunity for the Grymwatch to be taken down a few pegs which, inadvertently, also means other warbands can get a better game into them. Some of my fellow players have mentioned above that maybe faction specific cards should be restricted as well. While I am hesitant to see that door open, I think it might be warranted in regards to the Grymwatch. If just In the Name of King was to be restricted, that means the Grymwatch can't take Sudden Growth, Tome of Offerings, Transfixing Stare, and Temporary Victory in the same deck. That just might be enough.
Although, I still think a potential heavier hand is needed. As previously mentioned Games Workshop has stepped in when a warband has consistently dominated a meta and when it creates a negative player experience. In this case, I think The Grymwatch does both and I am confident that many of you agree with me.
If I had my way, I would like to see In the Name of the King and Shifting Madness restricted. In addition to that, I would like to see the most commonly used universal cards get restricted as well. To name a couple, I’d like to see Survival Instincts, Frenzied Search, and even Cryptic Companion on there.
This way, people who enjoy playing The Grywatch can still play their game but this way, it is a bit more balanced. The goal here would be to weaken the Grymwatch in order for other warbands to improve their chances into them.
Time Will Tell:
As you can see, The Grymwatch have dominated the current meta for a plethora of reasons. The focus on feature tokens presented with Beastgrave, powerful fighters and faction cards, access to synergy inducing universals, and a powerful inspire mechanic have all contributed to the warband's overwhelming success.
If the article has seemed a bit doom and gloom, I apologize. I do think there are existing strategies that exist at the moment that can give the Grymwatch a hard time, I just don't think they are consistent enough. The Prague Open does give me hope that we may potentially be trending in the right direction. I have full confidence in the community, and Games Workshop, in order to recognize this power imbalance and adapt accordingly.
I look forward to seeing the day The Grymwatch get the nerf-hammer. I think we can all agree they've enjoyed their time in the spotlight and have more than made their mark in the Underworlds. I look forward to seeing a new warband taking the top spot. Hopefully that day will come soon. However, as we are fickle bunch, I hope their reign is not as long as The Grymwatch's has been. 😉
This has been a tough article for me to write and I actually delayed it two weeks to make sure I could get it to where I wanted it to. Thank you to Jonathan Davis, my partner in crime, for proofreading the article and challenging my viewpoints. I don't think it would have been as well put together without him.
Thanks for reading, I look forward to your feedback.