UKTC 2018 Deck Analysis

Statistics and crits meet in a mathematical showdown.

As some of you may have known, I’ve been collecting the decklists of players who went to the UKTC 2018 Team Tournament earlier in October. The reasoning behind this was that I wanted a clearer picture of the current meta and competitive scene. Winning decklists are seen all the time but never any analysis of what was used by every player at the event. This was last done on a different blog after the 1st Warhammer World Grand Clash where the top decks for each faction were looked at but nothing has been done since then way back in March.

There’s a common belief that Quick Thinker and Great Concussion are used by every player, however no one really thinks about all the other common cards we regularly see which was my main driving force behind this. My hypothesis for the sample was simple, Great Concussion would be in every deck as well as Escalation, Alone in the Darkness, Ploymaster, Time Trap (thanks to the FAQ change), Twist the Knife and Trap.

Looking at the number of players, the event had 15 teams which broke down into 45 players. After my posts on Facebook, I was able to get 22 decklists in total. A special thanks goes to all those who were kind enough to submit their work. A lot of people didn’t bother but getting about half is a decent size to me. Without futher-a-do, let’s look at some numbers!

Factions and Deck Sizes

Total Lists: 22
20 cards: 12
22 cards: 5
24 cards: 4
26 cards: 1

I expected nearly everyone to only be running 20 card power decks. It was surprising to see a lot of players running 22 and 24 card decks, especially 26.

Spiteclaw’s Swarm: 3
Garek’s Reavers: 4
Magore’s Fiends: 3
Steelheart’s Champions: 2
Farstriders: 6
Chosen Axes: 1
Sepulchral Guard: 1
Ironskull’s Boyz: 1
Stormsire’s Cursebreakers: 1
Thorns of the Briar Queen: 1

Farstriders came out most popular faction which wasn’t surprising as almost every team ran them apart from my own. Next was Garek’s Reavers with Spiteclaw’s Swarm and Magore’s Fiends tied for 3rd.

The common thing all 4 warbands share is their ability to control the board via movement or range. Fiends have always been common but it’s because they hit hard and go up to movement 4 when inspiring while also having the movement 5 inspired Riptooth. Farstriders are able to easily exert control via their ranged attacks and tough bodies whereas the last 2 warbands are fast and deadly.

Top 5 Objectives

  1. Escalation (21/22)
  2. Alone in the Darkness (20/22)
  3. Ploymaster (19/22)
  4. Master of War (18/22)
  5. Change of Tactics and Superior Tactician (both 16/22)

While I expected the top 2 to be in every deck, I was surprised to see the common occurrence of Master of War. A lot of decks ran it even without Change of Tactics which the 2 combo off of really well together. Ploymaster was also commonly seen although less so in decks with more than 20 cards or with magic users.

Top 5 Gambits

  1. Quick Thinker (22/22)
  2. Great Concussion (21/22)
  3. Ready for Action (18/22)
  4. Hidden Paths (16/22)
  5. Trap (15/22)

Quick Thinker was in every single deck while Great Concussion was left out of a single Hold Objective heavy deck. Ready for Action was interesting to see in 3rd place whereas I was shocked with Hidden Paths being so popular. Trap crept up in 5.

Time Trap was next with Twist the knife only in 11 out of 22 decks. The reasoning for this is simple, Farstriders were the common force and benefit more from Trap than Twist. I didn’t get many aggro lists but people mostly ran both cards together.

Top 5 Upgrades

  1. A Destiny to Meet (20/22)
  2. Tethered Spirit (19/22)
  3. Great Strength and Awakened Weapon (both 17/22)
  4. Deathly Fortitude (16/22)
  5. Soul Trap (15/22)

A Destiny to Meet somehow claimed top spot. While a great card in itself, I haven’t seen it being played as much as I expected it to be. Tethered Spirit was also more common than Soul Trap who took 5th but is once again expected when most lists are about ranged harassment although, once again, both were usually ran in tandem.

Great Strength, Awakened Weapon and Deathly Fortitude filled up the remaining spots. Great Strength needs no real explanation with the same going for Awakened Weapon due to re-rolls being so powerful. Deathly Fortitude was another shock to see so popular as even low movement warbands were running it.

Additional Stats

Interestingly enough, only 3 out 6 Farstriders ran their best card: Raptor Strike whereas 5 out 6 took Swiftstride. 3 out of 4 Reaver players all took It Begins, Khorne Cares Not and There is Only Slaughter. All 3 Skaven players ran Skritch is the Greatest, Yes-Yes however I was the only Skaven player to use Honed Survival instincts.

Outside of faction trends, ploys had minor variances outside of Quick Thinker and Great Concussion. Upgrades followed a similar pattern, with people usually running both Soul Trap and Tethered Spirit. Yet Objectives had the most similarities between all 22 players.

Advancing Strike: 15

Defensive Strike: 9

Alone in the Darkness: 20

Change of Tactics: 16

Escalation: 21

Master of War: 18

Ploymaster: 19

Precise Use of Force: 14

Superior Tactician: 16

Shining Example: 13

Hardly any player used many of their faction-specific cards at all with only both Stormcast factions having a high ratio of faction cards compared to the other teams.

Conclusions

My hypothesis was mostly correct but I wasn’t right when it came to Time Trap, Twist the Knife and Trap. This can be explained, as mentioned earlier, by the high ratio of Farstrider players as well as warbands who prefer Trap such as Skaven and Reavers. Plus as I only had 22 players out of 45 I did miss a lot of the pure aggro players.

I was still thrown off to see the popularity of A Destiny to Meet but free glory outside of objectives is very strong. I did also not expect people to run both Tethered Spirit and Soul Trap, let alone the former being more popular than the latter. Tethered Spirit is good but I feel it has different uses when compared to Soul Trap.

Outside of stats, I can already feel the meta beginning to stale in regards to deck format. All decks are running near identical neutrals which will only worsen due to the inclusion of cards like Fired Up and Extreme Flanks. Only a single player was running Hold Objectives. Everyone had Quick thinker with only 1 person out of 22 not using Great Concussion. The only time I never see those 2 cards used is when someone is new to the game and has no idea they exist. Upgrades are where there is a little less similarity but Great Strength appears in almost every deck with Incredible Strength being in 14 out of 22.

With the additions of Fired Up and Extreme Flanks, I feel the situation will only get worse. Decks are becoming far too similar due the nature of extremely strong neutral cards while faction cards lack the utility that the former offer. While people are still playing differently, such similarities with cards make everything almost feel the same. As someone who plays at least every week all over the UK, the only time I’m really surprised by opponents is when they are new to the game or using Nightvault only cards.

What’s the solution? I’d like to see a ban list of some kind as people are wholly against seasonal rotation of neutral cards. Now it’s not a ban list because of broken cards but more of a limited/restricted list which limits the usage of cards at Underworlds tournaments. I’d hit Great Concussion, Quick Thinker, Twist the Knife, Trap, Pit Trap, Time Trap (due to the recent FAQ), Skirting Danger and Perfect Planning. Additions could be Shadeglass Dagger and Hammer, Escalation, Alone in the Darkness as well as Extreme Flanks.

My suggested list hits aggro and gets ride of the current ease of 1-hit kills. I included passive objectives too. The most complaints I get from people everywhere is turtle/control play as well as the easy of killing 4 wound fighters in a single list and I feel my main suggested list hits both equally. None of the cards can be replaced easily. Earthquake is no Great Concussion and counters itself while Traps and Twist cannot be replaced because they are guaranteed damage. Same goes for Quick Thinker.

Those are just my suggestions though but I feel it’s an issue that needs to be addressed so the game doesn’t become stale or fall into power creep. Nightvault has some really nice and well-balanced cards but will hardly see the light of day due to the amazing neutral cards we have already. I could be right but I could be wrong. Either way I still eagerly await to see how the future of Underworlds develops and hope it encourages some decent discussions, just as long as my precious crits remain untouched.

17 thoughts on “UKTC 2018 Deck Analysis

  1. Awesome Bro! About cards getting banned I think we need to wait, there are more cards, warbands with a huge number of warrior doesn’t run now Alone in the darkness, new cards for holdings objectives, definitely more strategies. I think the big problem is only Great concussion. Without traps, twist the knife or shadeglass weapons aggro decks won’t exist. Maybe old orruks or something like that.

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    1. Thanks. With the 182 cards we just got, I think I made a fair assessment. Great Concussion and Quick Thinker are huge problems for the game. Shadeglass weapons were only optional but Trap and Twist the Knife invalidate soooo many cards, especially faction cards. Aggro would still work without those crutches. My Skaven does. Trap is just in there as insurance.

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  2. These are some great data points. Thanks for compiling these. A few things jumped out to me, I think as a US player but I’m not sure if it’s just a local preference for Defensive play.

    Tethered Spirits being higher than Deathly Fortitude is wild to me. Are any other of the other dice roll cards being played, or do you feel this is a unique case of the benefit of a dice roll from a huge attack outweighs the drawback of dice rolling, the single point from Trap/Pit Trap or being pushed into Lethal Hex making it irrelevant? Gaining the extra wounds to always soak an extra attack seems like a no brainer in comparison.

    Master of War is also somewhat surprising to me as being that frequently taken. It can go into any deck I suppose so I guess it makes sense as a commonly taken 11th or 12th objective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries, glad you found it useful!

      Defensive play has taken America by storm but I feel you guys are a bit behind on the meta (same for EU etc). In the UK (especially London), we deal with defensive/control warbands fairly easily.

      There were a few Rebounds and Forceful Denials in there but not many. Tethered Spirit is so good because it pulls you out of a bad position. Deathly Fortitude just has the problem of -2 move. My Skaven and fast warbands don’t care but all the movement 3 warbands do. Fighters still only barely survive with Deathly Fortitude too. Skritch still only gets to tank a single hit as it stands currently.

      Yeah I’m still confused as to why Master of War was so popular. It makes sense if running Change of Tactics but a lot of people weren’t.

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  3. I very much agree with what is mentioned in this blog.
    I can not get to repeat that they repeat cards like the two +2 lives and -2 to the movement, nor because the universal arts are much better than those of band scrums. for sample I am playing orkos and I do not take any letter from them

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the blog and this article.
    Card distribution is similar to my expectations with some interesting suprises.
    Shaking up deck construction by tweaking cards is better solution in the long run than outright bans (or power creep via new sets)
    I hope developers will consider adding glory “cost” effect to some of THE most played cards as a way to encourage diversity. (Great concussion now is a no-brainer in deck construction, but – do you run it if playing that card immediately scores 1 glory for your opponent? how about 2? That’s one way to weaken some cards without outright banning them)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks dude, glad you’re enjoying it.

      Oooh that’s a great idea. I would love eratta’d in costs like with the Katophrane relics.

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  5. It seems like a shame to totally ban cards that have neat concepts, but end up overpowered. I reckon Great Concussion could be nerfed into line with the new releases Centre of Attention and Irresistible Prize. Choose the hex and it pushes fighters within two hexes.

    Great article by the way. Appreciate all your analyses.

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    1. The problem with that is it’s basically an entirely new card at that point. It either needs to be banned or completely re-written and I know which is the easier option. GC is just too busted in its current form along with Quick Thinker.

      No worries, glad you enjoyed it!

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  6. Thank you for a very interesting read.
    Me and a friend of mine have been toying with idea of making stuff like concussion faction specific to what we perceive as the worst factions, or less mobile ones. Ofc I’m not saying that should be adopted for tournament play but more then banning, even if it is needed, I think part of the solution could go through more faction specific cards that fleshed out factions difference in gameplay while being pushed enough to be competitive.
    Kinda what the Leaders expansion could have done.

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    1. Great Concussion is so strong that it’s too good as a faction only card. I agree cards like Fired Up and Extreme Flanks should have been faction only cards however.

      More faction specific cards could help but only if they were strong than cards we have already, which is just power creep and something I wouldn’t want to see.

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  7. I don’t share your pessimism about Quick Thinker. There are at least five ways to play around this card, which is a necessity if everyone is running it:

    1. Target a fighter who has already taken a Move action.

    2. Target a less valuable fighter.

    3. “Fork” targets—that is, intentionally charge into a spot where your fighter is adjacent to two fighters. This forces your opponent to choose between using Quick Thinker (but NOT saving himself from getting charged) and taking the defensive assist instead. (And since defensive assists rarely matter, your opponent may mistakenly let you take the swing rather than play the card.)

    4. Use push ploys to get the target into range.

    5. Carry Time Trap.

    6. Carry No Time. (This card isn’t popular, but it completely nerfs Quick Thinker if it’s in hand, which is the only scenario we care about.)

    Hm! Better make that six ways to play around it 🙂

    If the card needs a nerf, there’s an easy one available: introduce a beta rule that gives a Charge token to a fighter who uses Quick Thinker. This will make the card roughly on par with what it’s canceling: it wastes an enemy fighter’s activation, but it removes the ability to activate a friendly fighter, too. If there’s a problem, this solution is more likely to solve it than an outright ban is.

    Great Concussion is extremely strong, but I still wouldn’t ban it. Many cards have been introduced to counter some of the most powerful cards in the current meta, and I think we’d be better off waiting to see what season 2 has in store before deciding that things have become so stale that we need a ban list whose only guaranteed effect would be driving competitive players to whichever remaining cards are highest atop the new mountain.

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    1. 1) Which is doable but not when it is the start of a round or both players hold off from moving until someone else does.

      2) Smart players will let you charge their less valuable ones and save Quick Thinker.

      3) I do this with my Skritch and Farstriders all the time but range 1 fighters can hardly ever do this. I space my fighters out so my opponent rarely has a chance to do this to me and the same goes for the other people I play against in tournaments.

      4) Then they play Great Concussion. Not there is no real way to push yourself all across the board in phase 1.

      5) Time Trap is not a counter to Quick Thinker, Time Trap just breaks the game now. Time Trap is also useless if your opponent holds on to Quick Thinker for when you Time Trap.

      6) No Time is useless at the start of rounds where Quick Thinker is most popular. You also have to assume (guess right) that your opponent has it in-hand but now you can’t use damage ploys like Trap and Twist. It’s too situational.

      But that’s completely re-writing a card. I’d rather Quick Thinker not make your opponent count as charging but it seems that ruling won’t be going into effect.

      I disagree as no single card can counter Great Concussion. You generally need 2 to 3 cards to compensate for GC which is just insane. It’s too versatile and too good. After 8 months of continual QT and GC, the game would be better off without those cards and this coming from someone who continually uses and abuses said cards.

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      1. Look, those are all fine points except the sixth, since No Time can be played after the final activation of a round and extend through the first activation of the following round. Sure, you’re guessing that you’ll need to play it, but (1) that’s always true of No Time and (2) if your opponent didn’t play it in the previous round, the odds that he’ll draw it or is saving it for the next round go up considerably. So this card has an express counter, and part of the reason that the card is so powerful is that no one packs said counter, which is somewhat difficult to use.

        Not exactly sure how my opponent is supposed to hold on to QT to cancel Time Trap in the majority of cases, since the sequence will almost always go like this:

        1. I charge the value target.
        2. You play Quick Thinker.
        3. I play Time Trap and charge the target again, giving me what I wanted in step 1.

        The card CAN be played around; in fact, since it’s in almost every deck, it HAS to be played around. You’re clearly playing it around it yourself and doing a good job with it. The only real question is whether it breaks the game or doesn’t. Some warbands will have an easier time with it than others, and some benefit more than others. (I think a Super Skritch build with Sneakt Stab-stab benefits most because of that card and a range 2 weapon, which is one reason I would suggest a beta rule that changes the use condition. I disagree strongly that this would be “completely rewriting a card.”)

        I won’t argue that GC has an incredibly strong effect, like many other cards that are considered near auto-includes. It’s quite possible that many of these cards were *designed* to see widespread use, which has the added benefit of giving players some staples they can expect to see from game to game. If too many of those cards are identical, of course, the game runs the risk of falling into a rut, but let’s see what season 2 does to address this. (In the meantime, anyone who is tired of having their Supremacy wrecked by GC should just start packing Forceful Denial and save themselves half a headache.)

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      2. But No Time doesn’t otherwise you can’t play Upgrades in the Upgrade Phase. No Time is not consistent and requires you out-guessing your opponent which is just luck at that point as it’s so easy to fake having Quick Thinker.

        Yes but I play Time Trap because I want to charge twice, not to counter Quick Thinker as that’s just a bonus. Sure Quick Thinker is easy to play around if you run Skaven or Farstriders but a lot of people don’t and I can’t encourage players to do that just because I have no real issues with Quick Thinker most of the time.

        The meta has been static since the full Shadespire cards have been released and waiting another 10 months is too long of a solution. Great Concussion and Quick Thinker will only disappear via bans or if they get power crept out, which is a far worse proposition.

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      3. Edit: No Time works half the time if you play it at the end of the previous round, of course. Personally, I’d rather hang on to it between rounds, but in a pinch, playing it late can do the job.

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  8. If played at the end of a round, No atone prevents both players from playing upgrades during the end phase. It’s in the latest FAQ, which has been renamed the “Designer’s Commentary.” If you haven’t seen it yet, look over here:
    https://whc-cdn.games-workshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/warhammer-underworlds-designers-commentary-en-1.pdf
    There’s also a separate errata:
    https://whc-cdn.games-workshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/warhammer-underworlds-errata-en-1.pdf

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