I was thinking the other day about granularity in how we characterize playstyles. Specifically, I was considering what makes different Aggro warbands work. I realized that while we would call a number of decks and playstyles Aggro, that there are significant differences in how a variety of warbands would play. As a companion piece to my article on the Aggro playstyle, I’d like to explore a few different Aggro archetypes, go over the warbands that would be able to play the style, and the pros/cons to each of them.
My other intro note is that some warbands technically fall into a couple of these categories, which I think really is a big part of having warbands feel and play differently. I’m going to bucket warbands the way that I see them, but there could be other archetypes that they may be thrown into.
The first group that I want to take a look at I have dubbed Brawlers. To me, this is the stereotypical Aggro warband. The warband that people expect when you say you’re playing agressively. I’d spec these out as a three or four fighter warband, around four wounds each, movement three and primarily range one attacks. I’m talking Magore’s, Ironskull’s, Chosen Axes, Wumspat, Krushas, Madmob, and Crimson Court.
The generally strategy here is to lumber forward into the enemy territory, corner them and smash them to bits! Usually, I’d think of these as being able to take a hit without dying and then hitting back with some good force. Usually, the inspiration is tied to combat as well. Getting to 4 damage tends to be pretty easy on most of these warbands, but consistent two damage from each model is another key to the style. Think of it as, we’re going to fight and we’ll both get some shots in, but I’ll be standing when it’s over.
Key Cards: Membranous Wings, Outrun Death, Great Strength, Ferocious Blow, Sidestep.
Counter-punching Aggro is mainy for warbands that are good at sitting back and hitting hard when the opponent comes at them. I think about this style of play as part of the Shadespire style of Control. Steelhearts to me are a large embodiment of this playstyle, with two fighters on damage three right out the gate. You can charge at them, you won’t kill them in one shot (well, maybe one of them), but then you’ll have two or three strong fighters hitting back. Condemnors are pretty similar to Steelhearts in that playstyle. And Harrows are good at this, due to their inspiration condition.
While the original style involved a number of strong, stout fighters, a newer style evolved over the years. This was one using two wound fighters to lure your opponent in and then smash them to bits. Sepulchral Guard, Thorns, Grymwatch, Starblood and Reapers all excel at this style in my opinion. Sure you may kill a couple of small fighters, but when you miss you’ve got one or two three damage fighters that are now counter-charging with support.
Key Cards: Countercharge, Strength of the Swarm, Buried Instinct, Blindside, Dominant Defender.
Well, we all had to see this one coming. I mean, they’re big enough. A big boi is generally defined as a 6+ wound fighter (which innately is only three fighters in the game). So, this playstyle is only for Mollog, Hrothgorn and Kainan. Now, I’m going to extend this to Morgok’s Krushas due to there being three 5 wound fighters with two of them on three damage.
The playstyle is generally using your superior wounds to take some hits and smash back. All of these fighters start on three damage (with a few going to four when inspired) and an initial charge on the last activation of round one can be devastating. Accuracy isn’t the name of the game here (two hammers is pretty standard), it’s sheer strength and staying power. Healing the fighter and piling on upgrades are common ways to ensure your important fighter stays alive.
Key Cards: Spiritcomb, Savage Soldier, Commanding Stride, Intimidating Display, Deserved Confidence.
This was the style that popped into my mind first. I was ruminating on the way I generally play and enjoy Aggro, which is what built this definition. Line-breakers are fast, mobile fighters that will get where they want to go. It’s not enough to put your fighters on the back line of your board, full offset or long-board. They will get to the choice targets and attempt assassination.
Skaven were the first warband to play this way. We saw a lot of success with them as an Aggro warband in season one because their innate five movement meant they could move much faster than each other warband. And with a range two, three damage attack on Skritch, there weren’t any safe fighters. This is the style in which I’ve played Rippa throughout my career. I’ve described this in the past as “positional Aggro”, but it’s more about ensuring you’ve got the speed to be in the best place when you need to be there.
I think in the Direchasm season, we’ve seen two other warbands that can do this effectively. Soulraid with their double move ability, speed and fish. And the Wraithcreepers with their incessant push, range two attacks and ability to move through blocked and occupied hexes. Both can be unrelenting at getting to your fighters and are nearly impossible to run away from.
Key Cards: Membranous Wings, Proud Runner, Blessing of Behemat, Winged Death, Keen Avarice, Hungry Advance.
Firing Squad (AKA Ping and Sting)
Ranged warbands really didn’t start making a splash until Farstriders came out at the end of Shadespire. They were then followed up by one of the most infamous turret warbands in the Cursebreakers. These warbands are the firing squads: they will kill you at range. Dig into your territory and blast your warband to bits. And whether it’s attack actions or ping damage ploys or spells, your fighters will never be safe.
Profiteers tend to be the most commonly thought of one, due to having five fighters with range three attacks, but Storm of Celestus, Ylthari and the Wurmspat (the ultimate ping damage warband) all have the potential to effortlessly kill a fighter that’s nowhere near their fighter with one attack or a couple cards.
Key Cards: Collapse, Jealous Defence, Lethal Ward, Fighter’s Ferocity, Duelist’s Speed, Eagle-Eye.
The last style for today is a glass cannon style where you’re going to do big damage but you can also consider the fighter dead once you’ve charged. You’re not expecting to live but get big scores off your kills. Garrek’s Reavers were the first that really touched into this style. They capitalized specifically on this with cards like Khorne Cares Not.
Over the years, there have been other warbands that have been able to build up a fighter to be very accurate and damaging (usually with gambits) and slam into a key target. Gitz, Godsworn Hunt, Despoilers, Wild Hunt and Blade Coven are good examples of this. When effective, they can easily destroy enemy fighters but they are all super squishy, with generally poor defence. It’s always going to be an interesting game.
Key Cards: Pure Carnage, Bloodscent, Victimise, Ferocious Blow, Punching Up, Inspired Attack, Savage Strength, Berserker Rage.
The Final Kill
Aggro simply isn’t just Aggro, it’s got a ton of nuance. I think it’s really interesting to think in these very granular terms, because it can give us a big sense of insight as to how to play into a variety of warbands. Playing into Madmob is very different than playing into Reapers which is still different than Wraithcreepers. Knowing exactly how the opponent plans to destroy your warband means that you have more of an ability to disrupt their plans. And if you get lucky, you can keep a fighter or two alive.
What’s your favourite sub-type of Aggro? Did I miss any? Have you played against each of these? If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Underworlds Discord channels as Matt ~ Set The Tempo. Take care and set your own tempo!