Defend and Deny
Stormcast Eternals decks are usually known for their hybrid style of play, balancing powerful attacks with some solid defence. What if there was a different way, though? Nick Bayton of the Warhammer Community team took a very unusual deck indeed to Blood & Glory, managing to rank as the best Stormcast Eternals player in the event – we caught up with him to find out how:
Nick: I love the Stormcast Eternals in Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. They combine rock hard defence with all-out hitting power, and well, they’re the good guys, right?! The last few months have been all about trying to perfect the art of denial; that is to say, I play to stop the enemy from scoring glory points or even getting into combat, all the while scoring glory points for holding back, staying alive, avoiding the fight and taking objectives.
Sounds bizarre, right? Well, I was lucky enough to finish as the top Stormcast Eternals player at the first ever Grand Clash at the Blood & Glory even (finishing 4th overall), so I must have done something right! Allow me to explain, starting with the exact deck build I used:
40 Peal of Thunder
45 Tireless Assault
315 Daylight Robbery
330 Healing Potion
359 Shifting Shards
49 Blessed by Sigmar
387 Flickering Image
389 Great Fortitude
390 Great Speed
391 Great Strength
402 Legendary Swiftness
411 Shadeglass Darts
426 The Dazzling Key
430 The Shadowed Key32 Consecrated Area
34 Immovable Object
37 Sigmar’s Bulwark
254 Determined Defender
263 Hold Objective 1
264 Hold Objective 2
265 Hold Objective 3
266 Hold Objective 4
267 Hold Objective 5
296 Tactical Supremacy 1-2
297 Tactical Supremacy 3-4
Using this deck relies on a few basic principles, which you’ll need to keep in mind to make it work:
Be as far from the enemy as possible. Do not allow them to charge.
That means choosing the right board tile, deploying correctly and retreating into corners to give the enemy little to no chance of making it to you. Never enter enemy territory!
Make the objective markers yours.
Controlling the objectives is how you will win. Deploy those you control close to you. Use your upgrades and ploys to move your fighters into position, and to move the objectives themselves into position.
Charge only as a last resort.
Getting embroiled in combat risks you losing a model and handing glory to your opponent. Fewer models means fewer objectives being held.
Make safe choices.
There will be times when you are presented with the choice between safe glory points (like holding an objective) or the risky, big-money, cinematic play. Make the sensible choice; take the safe point and win.
Remember these principles and the game is yours.
The key to this deck is that you will score your glory points, not through combat and the slaying of the enemy, but rather through standing back, holding your ground and not rushing into any fights. There are some key groups of objective cards:
The Hold Objective 1-5 and Tactical Supremacy cards are your vital lines to gathering glory points from the objective markers set up in your territory. The key here is that you don’t have to move anywhere near the enemy to score points.
The Bloodless, Sigmar’s Bulwark and Consecrated Area cards directly reward you for taking no damage in a turn and not having the enemy anywhere near you. You’ll want these in your opening hand if you can. If none of these are in the first hand you draw, strongly consider a re-draw, as they are supremely easy first turn glory points.
The Determined Defender and Immovable Object cards reward one of your fighters for holding an objective for two consecutive turns. Perfect when you plan on holding your ground.
The ploy cards in this deck are all about pulling off cheeky little tricks to help you achieve your aim of total denial:
Distraction, Peal of Thunder, Sidestep and Confusion help you either move away from enemy models or move enemy models away from you. It might only be one hex here or there, but it can make all the difference at the right moment.
Shifting Shards lets you move an objective towards you, which is incredibly useful for this deck (imagine moving an objective even further into your corner), while Shardfall can let you block that vital square for a turn, halting an enemy charge just when they really needed it.
Duel of Wits is a great card for cycling through your deck faster, which is crucial when you need that certain upgrade to arrive (see the Keys and Shardcaller later). Daylight Robbery is automatically included in most of my decks, but especially this one. Steal one of your opponent’s hard-earned glory points by doing nothing at all? Perfect.
Just in Case
Sometimes, getting in a fight is inevitable, especially against Garrek’s Reavers, who are going to hit you in turn 3 at the latest due to their high movement value. If you make a charge, you want that enemy model dead in one hit. Tireless Assault makes sure they are by doubling your chances of successfully dealing damage, while the Healing Potion ensures that, should you get hit, you can bounce back easily.
The upgrade cards on this list are where the real power comes in, plugging potential gaps and reinforcing the theme of the deck.
Great Speed, Legendary Swiftness and Flickering Image help you get around the board quicker if you need to (namely away from the enemy).
Take it on the Chin
Blessed by Sigmar and Great Fortitude help your warriors take more damage and survive longer, just in case the enemy does get to you. Having a Liberator on 5 or even 6 wounds is pretty intimidating to an enemy model who can only put out 2-3 damage and, should they fail, risk being killed in return. If you can persuade the opponent that there is no point to charging in, your battle is half won…
Shadeglass Darts is incredible in this deck, not for the fact you can actually do much damage, but rather for the fact you can stand 3 hexes away and make an attack which pushes the target further away from you. It’s also great to put on the fighter you are trying to get Determined Defender or Immovable Object with, as they can stand rooted to the spot and dish out ranged damage to nearby enemies without having to charge. Great Strength is always useful for so many reasons. Turn a potential two-hit kill into a one-hit kill, and watch your enemy really have to think about whether they risk a charge or not.
Shardcaller is the unsung hero of this deck. If you haven’t got the right objective markers in your territory to suit the objective cards in your hand, then you can mix it up! Swapping the objective markers around to have objectives 1 and 2 or objectives 3 and 4 in your territory to help score Tactical Supremacy is a favourite of mine.
But the two Keys are the showstoppers. Place one of these upgrades on one of your fighters while they’re on the relevant objective in the last power step of the game and watch the opponent shed a tear of woe. 2 glory points for being on an objective marker… and it doesn’t take up a card in your objective deck. Use Shardcaller to make sure the right objective is in your territory and this is an easy 2 glory.
Playing with this deck in a game of Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire requires you to play in a strange way; that is, you are wholly and unequivocally trying to avoid combat at all costs. None of my objective cards focus on killing enemy models… so there is no need to get anywhere near them.
The way you deploy your territory tile, your miniatures and the objectives will depend entirely on that first roll to decide who determines the layout of the battlefield.
Scenario 1: You control the placement of the tiles
Place the boards lengthways as shown. This provides the maximum possible distance from the nearest enemy deployment hex to yours.
You only have two objectives to deploy, and the narrow board means one of them must go relatively far forwards (in order to obey the objective deployment rules).
Place your fighters in the three hexes furthest from enemy territory. The foremost objective is still within 3 hexes of your front miniatures, should you need to grab it in the first turn.
Scenario 2: You don’t control the placement of the tiles
You can only hope your opponent uses the long set up… but chances are they simply won’t. Most likely, you will be met with a standard long-fronted flat set up like that below. No worries – you’ve still got this.
And here’s the kicker – you get to place the most objectives, including that cheeky last one which breaks the normal deployment rules. Seeing as your objective deck is based almost solely on capturing the objective markers, this is great. See if you can match something like this for objective markers – all as far from the enemy as possible. That objective in either the bottom left or right? Yup.. that one went down last. The enemy is NEVER getting to that. Oh, and it’s dead easy to place a fighter on and simply leave them there untouched to score Hold Objective X, Determined Defender and Immovable Object. That’s some easy glory, that.
As you won’t have the choice which way round your board is, you can’t guarantee it will be this way around, but either way, deploy as far back as possible. Option 1 is best for you, with the enemy furthest away. Option 2 is OK too, but by Sigmar’s beard that foremost model needs to move back as your first activation…
Turn One: Castling Up
You want to spend the first turn moving as far from the enemy as possible while claiming any objectives you possibly can (depending on, of course, the objective cards in your hand). The three boards below show the options based on the board set up in use.
You won’t want to move too far from these positions in turns 2 and 3. In fact, you will likely find yourself using your activations to draw new power cards or (even better), to discard and re-draw objective cards. This is ideal, as it means you can burn through your objective deck to get the cards you can definitely score.
The Shardcaller card is key to scoring lots of glory points (something crucial if you want to finish high in a Grand Clash). Using this upgrade to manipulate the objective markers on the table can spell doom for the enemy, but be sure to use it to its best effect, bearing the other cards in your objective and power decks in mind.
Ideally, you will play it during turn 1, meaning one of your models has it at the start of turn 2, when it can be used. Play it on the model which is on an objective marker (and preferably an objective marker you have no further use for). Then, before the turn begins, you can swap the objective marker that model is standing on for any other objective marker on the board.
This will mean you can manipulate the objectives in your territory for more glory. You should look for these combinations in particular
|Objective markers in your territory||Glory points available from|
|1 & 2||Hold Objective 1, Hold Objective 2, Tactical Supremacy 1-2, The Shadowed Key|
|3 & 4||Hold Objective 3, Hold Objective 4, Tactical Supremacy 3-4, The Dazzling Key|
The earlier you can ensure these combinations of objective markers in your territory, the better!
Moving an objective out from under a fighter and swapping it with another one will affect your potential to score glory from the Determined Defender and Immovable Object cards. As such, you need to be very wily about which objectives you move, and who you give the Shardcaller upgrade to.
I have been experimenting with this deck since Blood & Glory. Looking at the objective table above, it became obvious that objective marker number 5 is not all that useful in comparison to the other ones. As such, I have since removed the Hold Objective 5 card and replaced it with the Eternals card (3 glory points in the third end phase if all your fighters are alive). So far, I have scored this in every game I have included it in, as playing in this way means that the enemy will really struggle to kill your fighters.
Nick’s warband were converted using the Tempest Lords Upgrade Sprue, with shoulder pads swapped out and a big shield added to Severin Steelheart.
Well, there we go! This is certainly a different way to play Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire, and it will take some practice… but you’ll soon be reaping all the glory points, which is really what Sigmar wants, right?
Pick up your Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire expansion packs here.
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