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
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
- Escalation (21/22)
- Alone in the Darkness (20/22)
- Ploymaster (19/22)
- Master of War (18/22)
- 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
- Quick Thinker (22/22)
- Great Concussion (21/22)
- Ready for Action (18/22)
- Hidden Paths (16/22)
- 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
- A Destiny to Meet (20/22)
- Tethered Spirit (19/22)
- Great Strength and Awakened Weapon (both 17/22)
- Deathly Fortitude (16/22)
- 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.
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
Master of War: 18
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.
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.