A guest article guide to tempo; denial; and learning who the “Beatdown” is.
Welcome to another special guest article, this time by UK Reading player Jack. He’s a very strong Warhammer Underworlds player situated in the infamous Reading area. A longtime player with regular competitive success, Jack recently placed in the top 16 of the January 2020 UK Grand Clash which had over 160 players. Today Jack is here to talk about when you should play the exceedingly common cards: Restless Prize and Mischievous Spirits.
38% of people in the Underworlds Community use Restless Prize in their decks, while 13% of people use Mischievous Spirits (according to https://www.underworlds-deckers.com/en/cards-library/). The reason these cards are regarded as powerful in the community, is because the current meta heavily revolves around objective play, mainly focused around cards which reward holding objectives while being easy to score. This article will discuss these two cards, and how best to play them, and some examples of when this wisdom hasn’t been followed.
To answer the question in the headline, it’s important to provide context for why I’ve decided to write an article about this subject. I was recently watching a game between two people online, where one of the players was playing as the Grymwatch, and one was playing as the Despoilers. Of these two warbands, I think most would agree that the Grymwatch are the better objective based warband, while the Despoilers are better at flexing into an aggressive warband. Within Underworlds there is a rock-paper-scissors metagame where an aggressive deck will beat an objective focussed deck, while a deck built around holding objectives will generally outscore control and denial based warbands, who themselves beat aggressive decks by not interacting with them, and scoring glory “passively”.
Knowing this, it’s important to understand your deck, and what you’re trying to achieve. Once you’ve got this knowledge down, the next step is to understand what you’re opponent is trying to do (either through intuition or through understanding of where each warband falls on the spectrum of Objectives/Aggressive/Controlling warbands). Once you understand your role in the game, you must adapt your gameplan to frustrate your opponent and better position yourself to win the game, with the tools you have to-hand.
(For further reading on this, I recommend reading the article “Who’s The Beatdown”, which deals with similar concepts in the game of Magic: The Gathering https://articles.starcitygames.com/premium/whos-the-beatdown/)
Understandably, you may be wondering what this rambling has to do with Restless Prize and Mischievous Spirits, if you’ll indulge me, I will get there…
To go back to the game mentioned earlier: The Despoilers player drew his first 5 cards and drew both Mischievous Spirits and Restless Prize. With good game knowledge and knowing what I’ve mentioned earlier, this would be a great first hand to assist you in denying the Grymwatch access to the early glory from holding objectives, that cards like “Temporary Victory” and “In The Name Of The King” can provide.
The game starts, and the Grymwatch go first, taking one of the objectives. The Grymwatch player passes on power cards, and the Despoiler player plays Mischievous Spirits. He then takes an objective under his model to start the objective pushes. The Grymwatch player then takes 2 objectives while the Despoilers player takes the remaining 2 in turn. In his next turn, he scores Despoilers for 2 glory, but he has provided his opponent with a large tempo swing in their favour. This is because one of the main weaknesses of the Grymwatch is that they need to use all of their activations to get onto objectives to score cards such as Temporary Victory, as they don’t have the good “activation economy” of the rest of the horde warbands which allow them to make multiple moves/pushes around their warband in one activation. While 2 early glory would be good at getting the aggressive deck’s gameplan moving into action, the tempo gain it provides to the Grymwatch player quickly goes against the Despoilers, and the game is lost from this moment on.
In the next power step, the Grymwatch player plays Restless Prize and wrests control of an objective away from the Despoilers player. The sensible play here in my opinion would be to take it back with the Restless Prize in your hand, as the Grymwatch player is about to go into their activation with two objectives held, and 1 objective within range of multiple fighters, which means a very easy score of Temporary Victory is possible in the next turn.
The Despoilers player then plays “Frenzied Search”, discarding the Restless Prize! Predictably, the Grymwatch player moves onto the objective, and scores In The Name Of The King. This begins an escalation of the Grymwatch’s objective cards which proves impossible to come back from, and the game is won handily by the Grymwatch player.
So, when to play Mischievous Spirits and Restless Prize?
What you’ve seen above is a great example of when not to play them, as you do not want to sacrifice tempo in this situation, especially as the Despoilers player should’ve been the Beatdown, racing to aggressively disrupt the strategies of the Grymwatch player, while denying glory by using the disruptive ploys held in his power hand.
If you’re playing against an objective warband (such as Zarbag’s Gits and Thorns of the Briar Queen), you want to ensure you play ploys which disrupt their scoring as late as possible, but before they can score cards from it. Against Grymwatch, this means you want to use Mischievous Spirits when they are on two or more objectives, and it would deny either a “Path to Victory”, a “Supremacy”, or a “Tactical Supremacy” in the end-phase. When playing against warbands such as Sepulchral Guard, who can move two fighters but they are very slow, it may be worth sacrificing the 2 glory which they will get for being on 3 objectives for Temporary Victory, to deny the much higher glory they can score in an end phase through the aforementioned cards.
It’s also worth mentioning that cards like Restless Prize can be used to deny cards like “Tactical Supremacy 1-2” if you know the opponent has these (in game 2 of a 3-game set, for example). If the opponent is holding Objectives 1, 2 and 4, using game knowledge you can assume they have some combination of the following cards in hand: Supremacy, Tactical Supremacy 1-2, Tactical Supremacy 1-4, Tactical Supremacy 3-4, Path to Victory.
Which objective should you relocate with Restless Prize, to ensure they can’t score as many of these objectives as possible?
There are two answers which deny the same number, and that’s either 1 or 4. If you move one of those two, you can deny 3 of the 5 objectives listed above. If you were to move objective 2, you would only deny 2 of them. Unfortunately Restless Prize couldn’t deny Path to Victory in this scenario.
So to summarise for the TL;DR types out there:
Play Mischievous Spirits to deny your opponent when you suspect they’re one activation away from scoring large amounts of glory, either before an end-phase, or if you suspect there’s a surge card which they will get lots of glory for scoring.
Play Restless Prize in a similar way, but you can be more flexible in which objective you take. Alternatively you can use it as a counter to your opponent’s Restless Prize, to reset the game state to how it was before your opponent played their card, to reset the tempo back.
Hopefully this article provides some good insight into how the game is played competitively and shows that there is more to consider in a game of Underworlds than just trying to score your own objective cards and kill your opponent’s fighters.
So there you have it, some deep diving into the tactics behind when to play Restless Prize and Mischievous Spirits alongside some extra hold objective knowledge/tech. It’s very in-depth and despite our inability to play at tournaments currently, the article provides lots of knowledge you can use to learn and improve your game. Once again it’s forbidden tech that doesn’t mind too much when you can’t roll crits.