Welcome to the overview of my first Underworlds UK Masters tournament!
Greetings, it has been a while I’m afraid. I meant to cover this back in December but it got delayed until now. Today I’ll be reviewing my own event: the Underworlds UK Masters 2020! In case you missed it, here are the previous articles (here and here) that I’ve made about the tournament. If you were unaware, this was first (of hopefully many) yearly tournaments where I showcase the best of Warhammer Underworlds UK talent. It’s an invite-only tournament which is based upon general tournament and competitive Warhammer Underworlds performance, as is tradition for all Masters-level tournaments no matter the game/format (Tennis, Snooker, Age of Sigmar, etc). For this article I’ll be going through the summary of the event with final placings as well as a brief summary of each player’s decks.
The Underworlds UK Masters 2020 was a webcam event. As stated previously, I had originally planned to host the event in-person during August 2020…but the global pandemic happened. Instead of postponing it indefinitely, I decided to go ahead with the event I had been planning for years with the power of webcams and the internet! The tournament had a detailed rules pack for the event due to the nature of not playing face-to-face in order to prevent easy cheating. I also had my own custom Forsaken and Restricted (FAR) list for this event because it had been over 5 months without a new FAR list and the game desperately needed some balance. I go over the FAR additions in both Underworlds UK Masters 2020 articles but it basically hit 95% of the cards Games Workshop ended up hitting themselves in the December 2020 FAR.
Thus, the event was a slight twist on the Beastgrave meta. While the decks are now no longer legal (as the Underworlds UK Masters 2020 ended up being the last tournament for the Beastgrave meta), the tactics and choices of players remains valid. Even then, it’s an interesting look at all of their choices.
The tournament was 8 players with best of 3 format. Each round was 2 hours to allow for the extra time needed for webcam play. Finally people were awarded points based upon their results, so it was: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. Ranking would go on points, then least number of losses, glory differential and finally glory scored.
The tournament was live-stream on my Twitch Channel, which ended after 7 hours at over 800 total views! It was a blast to commentate and a deep thanks goes to my good friend Rob (here’s his painting Instagram). I’ve saved the VOD and will be uploading each best of 3 game onto my YouTube channel soon.
From the chart, we can see that Thorns of the Briar Queen were the most popular choice. The ghosts were picked partly due to their overall strength at the end of the season as well as many players perceiving that the custom FAR additions made them even stronger. Still, with the addition of Hidden Purpose, the Thorns of the Briar Queen became incredibly more powerful and consistent.
Next popular was the Beastgrave menace: the Grymwatch. They were interesting picks. Since they had 3 faction cards restricted, Gymwatch had to push more into the aggro playstyle. The Grymwatch also do historically bad in the Thorns of the Briar Queen matchup as they must be more aggressive and generally don’t get to inspire against the ghosts.
For the 3 lone warriors we have: the Wurmspat, Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers and Rippa’s Snarlfangs. Each warband has been very strong during Beastgrave, which each being good against Thorns of the Briar Queen on paper. They are all basically aggro warbands too, making them less consistent against the more hold objective playstyle of the popular warbands but can burst up higher depending on their kills.
Notable absences are the Shadespire warbands and basically all the Nightvault warbands. This shouldn’t really be a shock considering it was an 8 player tournament but also those warbands are generally lacking in power when compared to their Beastgrave brethren. My real surprise was no Lady Harrow’s Mournflight! But, they are basically my favourite warband at this point and the Thorns of the Briar Queen matchup is not ideal for them either.
Instead of leaving this for last, here are what the final scores ended up as!
After 2 rounds of 2 hour best of 3 games, The final saw Tommy Conboy with his Thorns of the Briar Queen face-off against Jay Clare with his Wurmspat. It was a surprising final to be sure as no one expected the Wurmspat to make it so far considering the spread of warbands. Tommy had faced off against Rippa’s Snarlfangs, which are a solid counter to the Thorns of the Briar Queen and even won in the mirror match. The final was tense as ever. Jay and Tommy had last played each other in the final of the UK Games Expo 2019 Grand Clash where both players were using Ylthari’s Guardians and Tommy proved triumphant. This wasn’t only a game for the Championship but also a grudge match! After 2 gruelling games, the 3rd game was narrowly won by 2 glory…by Jay! It was such a tense game and both players played out of their minds. Such an excellent display of high-level Warhammer Underworlds play from the duo.
After deciding who came first, the next result was for best painted. This was won by David Smee and his Grymwatch. He went the extra mile by not only painting the Grymwatch warband but by then making an inspired version of how the warband imagines themselves as noble
Bretonians humans! Good quality painting while also going the extra mile for narrative effort ensure him the win.
Finally there was most sporting player. This was a tough one as it was a tie between Martin Collins and Rob Howard! Damn those friendly gamers! In the end, Rob narrowly pulled off the win. Next tournament for sure will see these 2 players duke it out to be the friendliest opponent of all.
Players and Decks
I’ve already done a Meet the Players article but let’s look at their decks now! As before, these are no longer legal for Championship play but offer an interesting look at what the players built for the tournament.
Rob Howard (8th) – Rippa’s Snarlfangs
Rob went with a traditional aggro build for Rippa’s Snalrfangs. His Surge objectives focus on the innate speed of the warband as well as their repeated attack output due to the Snarlfang’s Jaws attack action. An interesting note is the inclusion of Calculated Risk as the warband is an elite one featuring only 3 models. The end phase objectives are mostly passive objectives which can be scored while doing what the warband wants to do, e.g. moving up and attacking. The issue is the deck’s low glory total but it is aggro and banking off of getting more glory via kills. However, at this point in the game hold objective decks can massively outscore that, reaching averages of around 24 glory for the extremely consistent decks.
Gambits and upgrades focus mostly on speed and attack action buffs. Countercharge is a great pick to get the wolves quickly into combat and Snare offers some great extra damage. Mischievous Spirits is also solely there for the hold objective matchup. An interesting note is Soulsurge, basically a 50/50 for another attack upon a kill, making Rob going deep into relying on the dice. Upgrades focus on damage modifiers and attack action upgrades for Mean-Eye and Stabbit to make them more efficient. Trophy Belt and Tome of Offerings help gain more glory on kills, which makes sense for an aggro and Hunter warband. They also close out the last 2 of Rob’s available 3 restricted cards.
Dan Smedley (7th) – Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers
Dan is always Ready 4 Action. He also took an interesting take on Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers. His objectives seem to be built around scoring Set the Tempo (push the tempo) as most of his objectives are Hybrid and Dual objectives. There are still a lot of aggro-based cards but cards like Meticulous Strategy, The Great Hunt and Triumphant Hunt are very easy to brick with during Round 1. Despite the brickyness of the deck, it does have a good glory total of 17.
Gambits and upgrades focus on a mix of buffing up Hrothgorn and to play around the objective tokens instead of the usual Hrothgorn removal/flipping of objective tokens. Jealous Defence is an interesting choice, especially when combined with Regal Vision on Hrothgorn, although it would require Sidestep to pull-off. Hrothgorn will become a monster when he gets all the upgrades but once he’s out of action, the warband kinda falls apart, but this is typical of pretty much all Hrothgorn builds. Restricted cards were: Unexpected Cunning, Tome of Offerings and Toughened Hide, which all make sense. One grants easy Surge glory, the other gives you more glory for killing and the last makes Hrothgorn even more of a pain to try and kill.
Michael Carlin (6th) – Grymwatch
Playstyle: Flex (Hold Objectives, Aggro and Control)
Mike, of Steel City Underworlds fame, took the Grymwatch and not Mollog (to which most people expected). Instead of going with a more standard build of Flex (Aggro and Hold Objectives), Mike went with a more control orientated build. The objectives focus mainly on holding objectives while also passively scoring glory via playing gambits or when on the move such as with Frantic Exchange, Gathered Momentum and Press the Advantage. The deck does have Path to Victory but that’s the only objective related to killing. The deck has lowest total glory seen so far at 13 but that does make sense when your aim is trying to slow down/stop your opponent’s scoring ability. However, if you fail to do that then you run the risk of your opponent running away with glory. This is the main weakness of most pure flex decks at the time of Beastgrave.
Gambits focus primarily on control, either by locking an enemy fighter in-place with Transfixing Stare and Leadbone Dust. Then the multitude of push cards help to disrupt the opponent while keeping yourself on objectives too. Haymaker is great for trying to get key attacks off along with Shattering Howl to remove a key objective from the opponent. Upgrades are more aggro orientated with modifiers for damage output and durability. Gauntlet of Dominant also provides even more disruption options. Restricted cards are Calculated Risk, Hidden Purpose and Transfixing Stare. The first 2 are consistent 1 glory scorers for you and Transfixing Stare helps the control game.
David Smee (5th) – Grymwatch
Playstyle: Flex (Aggro and Hold Objectives)
David, the master of maths, went with his Grymwatch that he had been practicing with for a good few months. His build was a Flex playstyle of Aggro and Hold Objectives, as he feels they are the biggest strengths of the warband. His objectives centre around mostly holding objectives with Path to Victory and Keep Chopping being his only aggro objectives. The rest generally focus on holding 3 objectives while also keeping the opponent off of most of them. His objective deck also has a whopping total of 25, huge and absolutely doable. Even then, he can generally miss 1 to 2 objectives a game and still result in scoring around 20 glory.
Gambits focus more on staying on objectives as David has taken a ton of push cards, both friendly and for disrupting the opponent. Haymaker appears once again, mainly for Gristlewell but also for when an attack is needed to go off, such as with Path to Victory. Spectral Wings and Tracking help with Cover Ground but also to get onto distant objectives as well as hiding enemy fighters. Upgrades have some push cards for objective play but the majority are aggro-based. Only 1 Amberbone weapon but there are enough modifiers in there to make Gristlewell or Crakkmarrow combat monsters. Restricted cards are In the Name of the King, Temporary Victory and Restless Prize. The first 2 are 4 Surge glory whereas the last is the most powerful objective push card in the game, flexible in either disruption or ensuring you stay on an objective.
Mike Arnold (4th) – Thorns of the Briar Queen
Playstyle: Hold Objectives
Mike is the first of the Thorns of the Briar Queen players and already made it into the top cut! His objectives solely focus on holding objectives, with Treacherous Foe and Martyred granting reliable Surge glory. It is very defensive, with cards like Steadfast Defender requiring your opponent to engage but with the rise of Amberbone weapons and the fighting for objective tokens, makes it surprisingly viable. Absolute Stillness is really easy due to Varclav’s push and Uncontested is very reliable thanks to Howling Vortex. Also extra points for Dug In. His glory total is 24 and the same points as David’s deck apply here.
Gambits are once again focused on objectives. As mentioned earlier, Howling Vortex can basically win games with the mash pushes. Sudden Appearance helps with mobility and inspiring. Mischievous Spirits doubles up on objective holding as well as disruption. Shadow Step and Spectral Wings help with added mobility again, especially Shadow Step on a Chainrasp due to Varclav’s push. Upgrades reinforce the hold objective playstyle with a lot of Quarry cards because they’re incredibly good and help score Absolute Stillness. There’s a few aggro related upgrades such as Strength of Terror and Potion of Rage to allow Mike to go on the push to clear out objectives for himself or to send the Briar Queen on a killing spree. Restricted cards for Mike were: Temporary Victory, Sudden Appearance and Cryptic Companion, all related to strong glory generation as well as mobility boosting.
Martin Collins (3rd) – Thorns of the Briar Queen
Playstyle: Hold Objectives
Martin and his 3rd place Thorns of the Briar Queen deck is another Hold Objectives build. His objectives focus mostly on strong Hold Objective Surge cards with reliable end phase cards your opponent can’t stop such as with Solid Gains and Ahead of the Hunt. Absolute Stillness and Test of Courage grant 2 end phase glory reliably thanks to the innate strengths of the Thorns of the Briar Queen warband, which is rare to come across. His objective deck is only 18 glory total but turns this around by looking very consistent on paper.
Gambits help bolster his playstyle via helping to ensure objective supremacy while also offering a slight tech into aggro with Endless Malice and Sitting Target when you need to clear an objective token. Unnatural Truce helps with card advantage, albeit at the cost of granting your opponent and extra card too. Upgrades function similarly to Mike’s deck with them focusing on staying on objectives while granting the Quarry keyword. Amberone Spear appears again as it has in previous decks due to its great ability at clearing 2 wound fighters for extra glory. Restrict cards are: Hidden Purpose, Temporary Victory and Sudden Appearance which make complete sense for a Thorns of the Briar Queen deck.
Tommy Conboy (2nd) – Thorns of the Briar Queen
Playstyle: Hold Objectives
Instead of doing my own take, here’s Tommy’s own words!
So I chose thorns because of their consistency and their ability to overcome the anti-objectives plays that have come into force with Arena Mortis, namely Gauntlet of Dominance. Their ability to change the board state with the last action of the round using Varclav then combo it with No Time leaves zero counterplay when used effectively.
They also have access to some very strong anti-elite tech with Shattering Howl and Maddening Cackle. Shattering Howl is amazing as you will definitely lose a fighter at some point and you can remove that key tome of offerings before it even triggers, or the deadly Hunter’s Talisman from Hrothgorn to give the rest of your ghosts a chance to survive. The addition of Shifting Reflection [such an awesome card for Hold Objective play, RIP] alongside Sudden Appearance is also a potential killer for catching a key fighter off guard allowing you to either teleport it in for an assassination or teleport a big boi like Mollog or Hrothgorn away from your Chainrasps by swapping it back into its own territory!
The objectives are fairly straight forward. I avoided numbered objectives and tried to keep the whole deck solely reliant on holding 2 objectives (Supremacy being the exception to this) so that I could focus more on board placement and positioning rather than just sucking it up and taking a full frontal assault from aggro players. Branching Fate seems to bring the most controversy. It can brick if you’re incredibly unlucky but with a 44% success rate on 3 dice you really should see this working every other attack. Considering I run Strength of Terror, Amberbone Sword and Spectral Armour (it works on defence too) I very, very, rarely ever have trouble scoring this and it feels like more of a passive scorer than anything since I don’t need to change my playstyle to suit it. I chose Uncontested over Coveted Spoils as it is easier to score vs aggro and because it can still work against other hold objective play when you have cards like Mischievous Spirits, Howling Vortex and No Time. Gauntlet of Dominance also helps.
My upgrade choices try to make up for the warbands main weakness: accuracy and damage output with the Briar Queen. The Ever-Hanged and Varclav are solid fighters but 2 smash is very unreliable in a meta so rife with Guard and 2+ defence fighters. For that reason, I chose Amberbone weapons for added glory/accuracy and damage. Especially when equipped on the Chainrasps. Great strength and Mortis Relics also fall into this category. Then there’s doubling down on the Thorns already strong access to defensive characteristics. Going on Guard is incredibly strong and the more dice the merrier. That’s why buried instinct, Tight Defence and Spectral Armour are all chosen.
Overall, the deck can put up a fight against almost any deck style. Its biggest weakness is probably ping damage/spells (as can be observed in the final), but the ability to smoothly combine aggro and objective play means it has a fighting chance against absolutely any warband.
Jay Clare (1st) – Wurmspat
Playstyle: Flex (Aggro, Control, Magic)
When the dust settled from the UK Underworlds Master, it was the Wurmspat that emerged victorious, piloted by the Jay Clare. On their path to victory, the Wurmspat took on Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers, and two very different Thorns of the Briar Queen decks. But what did Jay’s deck contain and how does it work? Two words: Chip Damage.
This deck is built around dealing extra damage wherever it can. Stood on an edge hex? Well here’s a Collapse, Encroaching Shadow or Closing Jaws. On that objective? Bam, Lethal Ward. Up close and personal with Fecula? Here’s a Sphere of Aqshy and a Hunting Bolt. This deck can dish out loads of damage without making an attack, which is great for helping the Wurmspat inspire – something that is absolutely vital for their survival and scoring the likes of Fired Up and Faithful Reward. It’s also got 22 Power Cards, which some people see as a strange choice, but one that makes a lot of sense so long as every card is useful and is something I always stood by (all my major-winning decks had 22 power cards). Jay is usually known for his 24 card decks but even he has been forced to change by the Beastgrave.
Aside from the sheer amount of chip damage, this deck is primarily focussed around powering up Fecula with an abundance of upgrades, keeping her safe and able to score objectives such as Rotbringers or Sorcerous Volley. The Retchling is a great upgrade, allowing Fecula to auto-cast Sphere of Aqshy or getting a guaranteed success on her Stream of Corruption when inspired. Unstoppable Tread is another key upgrade, allowing Fecula to push herself around the board after each activation – great for jumping on objectives to score Spread his Blessings.
Although she only has 1 Block when inspired, there are a number of upgrades that Fecula can use to make her far more durable – Tight Defence, Great Fortitude, Champion’s Fortitude and Substance Siphon. In the third round this means that Fecula has three defence dice, on guard, re-rolling one, and reducing damage for each Block – good luck getting through that! This will also play into scoring Blessings Three.
This deck is primarily an aggro-control deck, and Jay used it to stifle the opposition’s glory gain before going in for the kill. Though it is quite risky in that it relies on getting a number of kills during the game to score the likes of Strong Start, and there are no dice boosting cards at all. Nurgle’s Garden Grows is a great third end phase objective as it has two ways to score it, making it very versatile and hard to counter. Catch your opponent by surprise with it in game 1 then play around with its Hybrid nature in games 2/3.
Sepsimus and Ghulgoch are both great fighters, but it is really all about Fecula in this deck. The others can be used as great distraction pieces as if an opponent doesn’t deal with them then they can cause some serious damage but taking out Fecula has to be priority number one – without her half of the deck is practically useless. We saw this in action in the final when in game 2 Tommy was able to assassinate Fecula early on, which essentially won him that game there and then.
As an extra point, Jay was able to provide me with the scores for each of his games for those interested in seeing how his Wurmspat fared throughout the tournament.
Game 1 vs Hrothgorn’s Mantrapper (Dan Smedley)
Round 1: 10-1
Round 2: 15-10
Game 2 vs Thorns of the Briar Queen (Mike Arnold)
Round 1: 18-8
Round 2: 15-10
Game 3 vs Thorns of the Briar Queen (Tommy Conboy)
Round 1: 14-10
Round 2: 3-19
Round 3: 17-15
So after an incredibly long delay, there was my Underworlds UK Masters 2020 event review! I hope you enjoyed this deep look at the decks used for the event. Once again I apologise for the wait, this was due out back in December but personal stuff got in the way. Still, it’s a great look at what all these top players took and gives you an insight at how a lot of high-level players approach Warhammer Underworlds and tournaments in general. I’m still surprised Thorns of the Briar Queen didn’t win overall, but so was everyone else. Sometimes the meta pick isn’t always the guaranteed winner.
Big thanks go to all the players who took part in the process. Some couldn’t make it due to scheduling issues but there is always a next time! Also thank you for everyone who watched along live and provided support along the way, it made the event feel that much more awesome. Also special shoutout goes to my friend Rob who co-commentated the tournament with me. His colour commentary and tactical insight helped to keep everything feel much more engaging. He’s also a fairly talented painter and you can follow him via his Instagram, again, here. Another thanks goes to Underworlds DB for hosting all the tournament decks, such an awesome website that we couldn’t live without.
As always, the tournament was streamed on my Twitch channel. I regularly stream Warhammer Underworlds tournaments and general Underworlds content so check it out. As mentioned earlier, all 3 rounds I streamed will be uploaded onto my YouTube channel shortly. This is again a delayed release due to me but soon some exceedingly high-level play will be available to watch soon!
As for the future of the Underworlds UK Masters, I definitely plan on holding it again. The issue is it will not be webcam format. While functional, best of 3 format with webcams is surprisingly draining and incredibly difficult to manage as a TO. With that regard, I feel it’s best to only continue holding the event physically in-person when it is safe to do so. This likely means the Underworlds UK Masters 2021 won’t happen but there’s always 2022 and even 2023! Yes, there are other formats I could host the tournament on but I feel it works best when done in-person. It would also be a lot easier for me to stream and present.
So, until next time, keep rolling crits and soon even you could make it into the Underworlds UK Masters!