Once upon a time, 134 fighters met the player of their dreams. Unfortunately, they all met him on the same night. And in the end, there will only be one rose.
I thought that it would be fun to go through some of my favourite fighters in all of Underworlds! This game shows a good deal of player expression and a big part of that is picking your warband and getting to know your fighters. And at the end of the day, we all end up with some preferences and things we are looking for in an arena combat partner. I was really surprised that in the end I had a very distinct type and my fighters all shared some commonalities, which I will cover at the end. My opening caveat is that I didn’t want to pick more than one fighter from each warband, because I wanted a wider scope. Without further ado, let’s get to the eligible combatants!
#5: Skritch Spiteclaw
When we first met, you were the greatest, yes yes. I remember giving you Incredible Strength and you charging across the board to kill Fjul or Gurzag. I cherished the moments we had when you charged a Petitioner and then used Illusory Fighter to escape to safety. Your double dodge was such an alluring defensive feature. And you were so easy to inspire, all it took was a Sidestep or some Confusion. You were also so coy, keeping me at Arm’s Length.
Skritch was an easy fifth pick for this list. Spiteclaw’s Swarm was the first warband we purchased and therefore I’ve had a ton of games with them and against them. He was the fastest elite fighter in the game uninspired until Skaeth arrived in Beastgrave. Going to double dodge as well was a massive boon, especially in Shadespire. Two range, three damage and cleave on crit is still a very good attack profile. And his resurrection ability taught me the issue with making a charge action before I wanted to resurrect.
In the current meta, he’s still an excellent fighter. His attack profiles have been mostly aped by newer leaders. Morgwaeth and Vassilac come to mind. He’s still faster, and Gathered Momentum is trivial. He’s more defensible than each of them because Skritch inspires so easily. His resurrection allows for some fun with Combo and Black Hunger, allowing an easy stack of upgrades on a key Skaven. He’s a good candidate to give a strength upgrade and score Surge of Agression. I think playing with Skritch is always a ton of fun. Just don’t put him in a ton of danger early.
Oh great lady of trees. You sure cast a spell on me. Your reactions were critical and healing to me. You were one of the Lithe Spirits in my life. However, your Song of Hatred would Show No Mercy on my heart. We had a great time but unfortunately the magic faded (and rotated) away.
I’ve got a love for Ylthari for certain. Funny fact, without this model (and my #3) I would’ve never gotten into this game. When Nightvault was announced, I was able to sell my wife on the concept by letting her know that an amazing Sylvaneth warband was coming out. With the anticipation of the eventual release of the Guardians, I preordered Nightvault and went down the amazing rabbit hole of this game.
In a lot of ways, she presents a hybrid between Skritch and a wizard. Inspired, she’s got that 5 move. Permanently on two dodge with a similar attack profile (albeit range one and without a damage boost). But what makes me enjoy her so much has to be her magic attack, The Reaping. Yes, it’s the standard two focus roll for the wizard/leader archetype in Nightvault (sorry Theddra), which goes from one to two damage. But it’s very much the reaction on this card that makes me excited about this spell. She heals a damage whenever she succeeds on a spell with a crit. It’s a really neat reaction that can do some lifting. Imagine taking a hit (for arguments sake two damage although we all know she’s the first target from damage three fighters). So Gristlewel misses but Valreek hits her. She can then ideally cast two spells in the power phase and be back up to full health. Now it does require some lucky dice, but that’s part of the fun for me.
In Direchasm, I don’t think there’s a compelling reason to play Guardians, other than affection. I’d say Myari’s is just plainly better right now. Although, there are some neat interactions you can pull off. I really like Iara’s Instant Shield with her. React to roll for the spell. React to the crit you roll to heal. Two reactions; score Lithe Spirits. But other than that, Guardians have good surges but lack some core stats to be super relevant. Oh well, I’ll dream of the days of Well of Power and Gloryseeker helping her to blast enemies off the board.
#3: The Briar Queen
Ahh, the bad girl of the group. Your Endless Malice always kept me trapped within your Inescapable Vengeance. How many times did you become Acrobatic or don your Spectral Armour? Your Sudden Appearance into the enemy’s field always resulted in swift Execution. And in the end, you missed three major attacks in a row, perished, and left me with zero glory. Ouch.
As per my comments above, without the Briar Queen, I also wouldn’t be playing this game. I was interested in the Shadespire box when it came out (because I love Stormcast) but couldn’t sell my wife on Reavers. When this was announced, it was perfect. Magical Stormcast for me, beautiful ghosts for her (anyone seen Cats?).
It’s a pretty standard fighter profile. Pretty slow when uninspired (you easily forget her three move sometimes), but with range two. Double dodge and four wounds. But I’d say the thing that sets her apart is once again the ease of inspiration. Imagine this scenario. Duke Crakmarrow is sitting far back of a fully offset board. You play Great Strength on the Queen. You then play Sudden Appearance. You are now inspired and have the damage to kill any enemy fighter. Where Varclav is important to the overall strategy, the Queen is there to run a screen against the opponent, taking the focus away from the tokens that are scoring you a ton of glory.
With Primacy abound, Thorns have fallen off right now. I could see a resurgence based on cards such as Underdog and mitigating the effects of the rule. But overall, they do bleed a decent amount of glory and the scoring isn’t as consistent as it was during Beastgrave. Which is probably a good thing, considering they were the top of the meta for so long. I also think a contributing factor right now is the lack of Two Steps Forward and the amount of Distraction style cards has made it harder for Thorns to stay put. However, with their action economy and the sheer strength of the Queen, I think a good player will be able to do well still, so don’t count them out.
Khamyss, together we were like a one-two combo. I was your Devoted Disciple and you were my Death Dancer. With your Whirling Whip, I witness your Fanatical Faith. I loved the moments where you charged away, dealing massive damage to one target or slaughtering two weaker fighters. It was always sad to me that whenever I took you out, you could not be driven back and I had to head home alone.
I really wish that the Combo mechanism had been more fleshed out in Beastgrave. It was always sad to me that you needed two upgrades to make it work. Then along came Khamyss. The only current fighter in the game to have it innately. As well, the buckler attack doesn’t require a successful first attack. She is a massive priority to get inspired, and there are a lot of games that she will just die quickly due to her low wound pool. But if she gets online, she can be a very deadly fighter. I love that you can throw Great Strength on her and have two three damage attacks in a row. Strength of Terror makes her attacks very consistent. She can score Master of Battle in one charge. And Zealot’s Rage allows you to miss the buckler attack and then start back at the whip attack, for a potential four attacks. Before rotation, I used to love making my initial charge, and then putting Sudden Growth on her, ensuring she’d be around in the second round.
The Blade Coven haven’t been very popular right now. With three two wound fighters and an aggro flair, they aren’t really good in the current Primacy meta. I’d say any build I’d look at would focus on bringing the opponent to you and then ripping them to shreds one by one in your territory. But there’s enough movement right now that I think the enemy will get to your squishy fighters quick enough.
And with that, fighters, there is one rose left.
The winner of the competition should come as no surprise; Stabbit and I have been seen hand in hand many a night. Wandering the beaches of Hysh, the forests of Ghyran and climbing the mountain of Beastgrave. This Cruel Hunter has Laid Waste to my heart. And truly, I would say that we Bonded. I have a ton of clear memories of the things we’ve done together. Your Steady Assault of scything attacks have killed many a Chainrasp. You’ve also been so protective of me, knocking back threats with your Stabbin’ Stikka.
Anyone who knows my play at all would guess that one of the Snarlfangs would be at the top of this list. I’ve spent the most time at the table with these wolf-riders. I think if I hadn’t put the limitation of one fighter per warband, Rippa would’ve been in the second position on this list too. But honestly, I’ve got the most affection for Stabbit. A big part of this comes from his extreme versatility. Inspired, he’s got three different attack profiles that are all super interesting. The Snarlfang’s Jaws attack is the steaz of the whole warband so I’ll cover it quickly. The ability for a bonus attack each activation is a massive thing. It’s a second chance if you miss, it’s a damage multiplier and it’s frankly annoying when you crit on a one die attack.
Stabbin’ Stikka being a one damage attack isn’t the best, but with knockback allows you great repositioning of the enemy. Combine it with Snare and a lethal hex and you’ve killed a three wound fighter before you’ve even done the Snarlfang reaction. It’s a great way to knock an enemy off a token too, even if they weren’t the main target. Whirlin’ Stikka is great. If Stabbit charges adjacent to two fighters, he can use the attack to hit both targets and then react, scoring Steady Assault on one charge. The only weakness to his spear attacks are they’re at damage one, so he needs a strength upgrade to be very effective. Unlike Rippa, where Distraction would mean that he needs to charge, Stabbit gets to stay in range with his stikka.
Other than that, going to two dodge, five movement and four wounds makes him great for reasons I’ve explained above. Some of the games I’ve had the most fun in are the ones where he gets very powerful. I have recollections of baiting someone to kill Rippa so that I can make Stabbit a beast. I enjoy playing with this warband so much, and it’s all about the fighters honestly. When these were announced, I was so excited (even though it’s not usually a faction I would consider). And when I played them, I realized how fun and exciting their playstyle was. Stabbit, you win the ultimate prize; my heart.
So, after going through the list I looked at the similarities to my top fighters and they’re pretty resounding: two dodge, five movement, four wounds, two range attacks, and the ability to make multiple attacks. These are things that make me drawn to a fighter. I like fast fighters for their ability to position the way I need them to (the Queen with Inescapable Vengeance/Sudden Appearance counts). The range two attack profiles also allow better positioning, ways to trap the opponent or the ability to attack without charging. And for me, making multiple attacks is a very fun part of this game. I don’t ever really care if I’m rolling a bunch of odds off attacks, because with the sheer volume of attacks you can get it, it can be expected that some hit.
In Direchasm, I’ve enjoyed the change of the mold. Vassilac and Bahannar offer interesting variations on my favourite style of fighters. Honestly, so does Glissete. Seeing the previews of the next few warbands, I’m not sure I’ll have a rival fighter come out in the Starblood Stalkers, Crimson Court or Hedkrakka’s Madmob. I’m hoping that a new contender will be coming in the Bonereapers or the Idoneth. I’d say the Bonereapers have a good chance to have multiple attacks with the number of arms they’ve got. And I am holding out hope for an eel rider with five movement, two dodge and a spear. And I will be getting some Wraithcreepers which I know are two range with two dodge. Only a few months more and we shall see!
Some Last Thoughts
Last weekend, I got a chance to play the Straight Outta Shadespire XIII webcam tournament. It was a really cool format. We had 29 players, each with a different warband! I was asked to join in the Wednesday before the event and got my deck and setup ready. I ended up 3-1 with Harrows in a best of one format. I played against Ravagers (shout out to nobeefjustparty, who has a nice YouTube channel of his vlogs about Underworlds), Mollog (my one loss), Chosen Axes and Eyes of the Nine. If you want footage of the event, Can You Roll a Crit! was streaming (link here) and ended up commentating my game against Mollog. If you’d like other footage, you can watch Jonathan from Path to Glory (link here), who placed 3rd with his Grymwatch. Cheers to Aman from Path to Glory for his win with Magores!
Who is your favourite fighter and why? Thanks as always for reading. I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to read. If you have any suggestions for future articles, please send them my way! Let me know your thoughts at email@example.com or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!