Sometimes I love being wrong. When you think you’ve figured out the meta and top warbands and then you see someone figure out how to take on the top playstyles with an unexpected pick. It’s great and the reason I started this series.
I personally didn’t think that Lady Harrow’s Mournflight could still make it to the top tables. Don’t get me wrong, I know they have really solid stats and amazing faction cards, but for a warband that, historically, enjoys sitting back, they just didn’t feel like the right meta call when objectives are centralised and there is a lot of aggro about. I thought Dread Pageant could do their playstyle better. However, this past Adepticon Gerard Padro took Lady Harrow’s all the way to the top 4 with an updated take on our ghostly ladies.
Here is his deck below, and you can also view the top 8 decks on underworldsdb. I’ve put his actual, gorgeous, model as the feature image and it was painted by Gerard’s friend who you can check out on his Instagram account here.
The meta adapts
I think the meta prior to Adepticon was very much “Invading Aggro”. I first saw this term used by Davy from What the Hex and I think it describes the main current playstyle perfectly. The presence of cards such as Fearless Seekers, Bold Deeds, Horrors in the Dark, Lengthening Shadows, Cruel Hunters, Speed of the Flood Tide and even Making a Statement, are causing a lot of warbands to move into your territory. The obvious combination with this is aggressive play so they run in and try to hit you while landing on feature tokens. That’s why I would put Morgok’s, Rippas, and Soulraid in the upper tiers.
However, it seems that everyone is getting wise to this plan and I’d say all of the top 4 decks had some way to counter invading aggro. I previously wrote about being counter to the meta and I think it’s a smart approach to take. I’m also happy to see the meta evolve in this way – all-out invading aggro can be a bit dull. What we’re seeing now though is a lot more thought going into positioning, standing on gloom tokens, and when to delve them. There were a lot of pushes in each of the top decks and I think that reflects the increasing importance of positioning.
Overall I do think there are a lot of warbands capable of winning a tournament. That’s a good sign for sure. I do think Soulraid are the strongest, but they still require a fair bit of skill to play and I don’t find them abusive. I would like to see some of the healing get restricted because it can be a pain on the big boys, but for all our talk about Morgoks they never seem to win many tournaments. I do wish there was a place for hordes in the meta, but I’m also willing to accept that not all warbands can be good all the time and I hope they do become at least playable in the future.
Looking at the current meta, Gerard says “I really love where the meta is now. There are a lot of warbands within an equivalency class of one another. While it is true the Elathain and Vampires may be a tad above, the distance is not enormous by any means. Skaven, Rippa, Krushaz, Drepur, Hrothgorn, Dread Pageant, Miyari, Kainan, Hedkrakka, Kunnin Krew… all these have something to say in this meta, I think, and I may be forgetting a few.”
Ok let’s get into the deck
How it plays
I asked Gerard for his input on how to play this deck and he summed up the key points to a tee. So I’ll be quoting him a lot but it’s clear that the overall idea is still primarily a hold objective style. It’s what Harrows are good at because they start with two dodge, have two faction pushes, their own Dominant Position in the form of Nexus of Terror, and One Will. Lady Harrow’s free push when inspired can be very helpful too. There is a lot of glory in this deck (19!) because of the glorius end phases. Considering the banshees are generally quite good at denying glory, I suspect this deck has a fair bit of flexbility in choosing which objectives to go for in each matchup and how to get there.
Just a note on the value of two dodge for hold objective play – often I like to convert the Underworlds symbols on dice to a number system because my brain can understand it much better. The crit obviously changes the math, but it’s still helpful. A dodge symbol is the equivalent of a 5+ on a dice (because there is one dodge on the 6 sides of the dice, plus the crit). When you are on a gloom token it becomes a 4+. When you go on guard you increase it by two, and why going on guard is so much better for dodge warbands (it only increases by one for fighter with block). Therefore, a banshee that is on a gloom token and on guard goes to a 2+ save – they’re pretty hard to budge unless you have Ensnare or Cleave (oh hi there Soulraid). Adding Silent Helm makes it really nasty. Did I mention Debilitating Aura yet?
Key points for the deck (directly quoted from Gerard):
- This is mostly a hold objective deck that leverages two other great end-phase objectives in Ghostly Torment and Tide of Malice
- It is crucial for the deck (and most obviously for these two objectives as well as Lost in Shadow) to keep two banshees alive at all costs. This explains most of the upgrades. 3 different +1 wounds and 4 defensive tech cards (Shadow Keeper, Debilitating Aura, Silent Helm, Illusory Form)
- A burst of mobility is key to move two banshees (and typically inspire them) across the board to enemy territory. Hence why Outrun Death and Soaring Spite, and perhaps the Widow if you get her inspired early
- You want to spread out your banshees to force difficult choices on your opponent. Send one all the way into their territory on a feature token to threaten Making a Statement. Keep two on feature tokens in your territory. Now they have to chose, particularly if they are aggro. Do they fully commit to your territory to score their Fearless Seekers, Lengthening Shadows, Bold Deeds, etc. or do they try to charge back to avoid the painful Making a Statement? Typically, the Lady that sits on an objective in enemy territory would be on guard, to add insult to injury.
- Typically keep your disruption tech (two enemy pushes, confusion) and your own pushes (symbiote’s call, heeded instinct) to make sure that you score your end phase objectives: the two DP, Making a Statement, Lost in Shadow
- Lost in Shadow deserves a special mention: in this meta where everyone and their mother is trying to score Horrors in the Dark and Fearless Seekers, I scored it surprisingly often (I never ran into anyone with Darkening Stone… it would have been hilarious)
- Special tech card: phantom darts. I love this card. You plop it down for free. It allows ping damage which is good for Ghostly Torment. It has just the range to shoot into a feature token from another feature token, so often you get to push people off stuff. It helps score Branching Fate and Prize Beyond Measure. A really nice card to have here. I had never considered this for Lady Harrow’s, an inspired choice – GS
- With previous rule sets I would have never run this warband: I find keep-away play oppressive to an opponent that isn’t ready and then it is not fun for anyone. Or at least not to me. But the current ruleset with the inability of putting objectives in edge hexes, the 4 hex offset and the most horrible boards out of commission (looking at you, effing Shardpit) makes playing this surprisingly challenging and interacting. You are constantly weighing which banshee to leave exposed, which feature tokens to go for, etc. With the current ruleset, most opponents will be able to get at least two charges a phase on you. So it is a nice game of betting on your defence rolls and trying to bait charges on the banshee you actually do not mind too much if she croaks
As I wrote before, these points give excellent insight into the deck. I also wanted to add that there is decent counter-punch ability with the two +1 damage upgrades, inspired attack and Echoing Spite (this also helping with Branching Fate on occasion I’m sure).
It’s worth noting that Echoing Spite is after the inspire step, so you can try again with an inspired Lady Harrow (3 damage and Cleave) I’m an idiot – with all the hullabaloo about the change in the inspire step I should’ve remembered that this is no longer the case. I always like when you can flex a bit and give your opponent more to think about. Lady Harrow can also combine very well with Debilitating Aura as she pushes closer to enemy fighters who want to attack anyone but her (although in the current meta you’re more likely to leave her on a gloom token).
You’ll always want blocked hexes (as you’ll see from Gerard’s choices) to score Inescapable Hunger, but also to leverage the fact that you can move right through them and create barriers for your opponent. I think all his options make sense, although I would also consider Chamber of Genesis for offsetting or as a reaction board (when you get 3 objectives). More direct quotes from Gerard here:
On boards: basically 3 boards I used throughout Adepticon
Ambertrap Nest for when I want to offset to my right
Shyishian Stardial for when I want to offset to my left
Soul Refraction (aka the banshee special) when I get 3 objectives
Since I never went to 3 games, these really cover all I used
I think the Adepticon meta is very promising and I’m delighted to see Lady Harrows in the mix and played in this interactive fashion. I was also impressed to find out how late he left creating this deck:
“It is funny how I put together the deck around 9 days before Adepticon. Practised it in the Community Thursday on March 17 (those guys should be thanked), practised a little bit more over the weekend with with Chad, Heretech, SilverSabbath and Alesor (also, I want to thank those guys). This helped me hone in on the plan and just stick to it through the long tournament.”
I think the key part there was getting good practice against good opponents, but also of course having a good understanding of the game to start with.
So as I’ve pointed out before – don’t just give up with whatever meta you are facing. Go be innovative!