It’s time to spin out the past
Today is a topic I generally never had the time to talk about and I may be jumping the gun a bit but I still feel this is a valid topic as ever. Today I’ll be going over the Beastgrave season of Warhammer Underworlds, from the effects it had on the game and how its rotation will effect Warhammer Underworlds as a whole.
If you prefer video format, here’s my YouTube version:
What is Rotation?
Rotation is the effect introduced at the start of Beastgrave by Games Workshop (here’s my article that originally covered rotation). What rotation does is cycle out the universal cards from the next oldest season at the start of a new season. For example, when Beastgrave started, Shadespire universal cards were rotated out but Nightvault cards remained legal for play. With the start of Direchasm, Nightvault universal cards rotated out and Beastgrave remained legal. This is expected to continue whenever we get a season 5. Rotation is also only for the main competitive formats, so has no effect on casual play.
Rotation was implemented to minimise card bloat and broken combinations in competitive play. It cycles out older universal cards but keeps faction cards and warbands from older seasons legal. If we didn’t have rotation, the current card pool would be close to 2,000 cards instead of the around 1,000 we have now. This does make Warhammer Underworlds sort of detrimental to casual players as they will eventually have their collections unusable in competitive play (Championship Format) unless they keep buying new product.
While this really isn’t great for casual players, especially as Relic Format is a mess, it does help to keep the competitive side of the game healthy and relatively balanced. For example, could you imagine the chaos if cards like Ready for Action still saw play? The Forsaken and Restricted list would become colossal in size and scope.
Note, I do really feel for the people who have been unable to play and use their cards since lockdown started as that is around the time just after the Wurmspat and Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers dropped. If we get a new season in the old slot of late September, it really does just suck sadly.
In addition, this applies to game boards too. Love it or hate it, rotation has wide reaching effects. While losing boards does suck, it does help to keep board collections down and reduce a player flipping through 10+ double-sided game boards. Plus rotation means we saw the loss of Molten Shardpit and should only ever be celebrated.
Beastgrave as a whole really shook the foundations of Warhammer Underworlds. Quite quickly from the start with the launch of the Grymwatch warband expansion, the game saw the power of Surge objectives (and namely hold objective Surges) quickly rise to prominence. The Hold Objective playstyle didn’t just rise in power to become the dominant playstyle, it knocked everyone away while aggro fell to the weakest it had ever been in the history of Warhammer Underworlds.
Beastgrave warbands also affected the game a lot. The core set warbands were seemingly quite balanced when it came to power levels but warbands like the Grymwatch, Rippa’s Snarlfangs, Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers and Morgok’s Krushas combined amazing stats, rules and abilities with borderline broken power cards and objectives. Even today these warbands still rock it out well in Direchasm. These warbands were so powerful that Games Workshop even begun restricting faction cards to try and tone them down. Special mention goes to Lady Harrow’s Mournflight, who while not being part of the Beastgrave season, were still released in it and also rocked the game’s balance.
It can be argued that Games Workshop really did push the power of warbands and faction cards but probably by too big a margin. The Grymwatch had amazing inspired fighters with crazy strong Surge objectives and power cards making them the scariest hold objective warband to play against until they got faction restricted cards, Rippa’s Snarlfangs have the potentially best aggro output thanks to their Snarlfang’s Jaws reaction attack along with strong faction cards, Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers showed the power of big bois again and had an obnoxious turtle control build that took faction restrictions to tone down, then you have Morgok’s Krushas who combine all being 5 wounds with great damage output and crazy damage negation cards while also having easy Surge objectives too!
In comparison, the Direchasm warbands are still strong but not on a level that the Beastgrave warbands are. So, at least we can see Games Workshop did see the error of their ways. Although Drepur’s Wraithcreepers are an obnoxiously broken blip in an otherwise very balanced 4th season.
The 3rd season of Warhammer Underworlds also started the trend of counter/token mechanics which has taken hold with Direchasm. While not broken or obnoxious, the counter/token mechanics in Beastgrave just felt odd. Sadly their evolution in Direchasm was not good.
Along with faction restricted cards, Beastgrave required mass Nightvault restrictions to keep Warhammer Underworlds balanced. Although, the lack of good and reliable end phase objectives in Beastgrave did see cards like Fired Up become unrestricted in a weird twist of fate.
Then there is Arena Mortis. This multiplayer only game mode not only added new rules and updated faction cards for the Sepulchral Guard, it also added a bunch of broken upgrades that have all been pretty much restricted. While those upgrades functioned fine in games of Arena Mortis, they were broken in the main Warhammer Underworlds game and continued the tradition of Power Unbound with an after season expansion adding a bunch of broken cards to the main game.
Beastgrave wasn’t all bad though, the game grew competitively a lot with tournaments (at least in the UK) regularly attracting large crowds. Pretty much all UK Grand Clashes attracted 100+ players. Not only that, the new Forsaken and Restricted lists did help balance the game when they dropped, even if the FAR updates were more sporadic than preferred. There was also the announcement of the Warhammer Underworlds Masters for 2020 at Nova but I’m trying to keep this bit positive. Let’s just say, raffling off invites to your premier competitive end-of-year event wasn’t the best of ideas.
Rotated Beastgrave Cards with the Biggest Impact
With that brief Beastgrave history covered, I’ll now go over my favourite part, the Beastgrave cards which will have the biggest impact on the game once rotated! Some players will miss these, others can’t wait to see them go. Let me know in the comments with your thoughts!
Temporary Victory and Hidden Purpose. These Surges had to be mentioned as they caused the biggest impact to Warhammer Underworlds. Score immediately for holding 3 or 2 objectives for 2 or 1 glory respectively. Even while restricted they’re still too good. Imagine seeing someone miss an attack and then the opponent scores both of these objectives, it was just soul destroying.
Gathered Momentum is probably going to be missed the most. This Surge which should have been restricted a long time ago and still hasn’t, is too easy to score and pretty much unstoppable by your opponent. Score it as an aggro player or even just off of scoring more Surge objectives! Personally, I can’t wait to see this objective disappear.
Swift Capture is probably the best designed Surge hold objective card. It will really be sad to see it go. 1 glory for holding at least 1 objective in each player’s territory forced engagement and made it still risky to score as you could potentially be sacrificing a friendly fighter to get that glory.
Bold Conquest from the Beastgrave Gift Pack is a Surge and Dual objective which just needs your leader to charge onto an objective. This is great for any leaders with range 2 or 3 attack actions like the Briar Queen and was super reliable for aggro players seeing as you just need to charge and not make a successful attack. Bold Conquest still has risks but it is an easy and reliable Surge objective that aggro players will miss.
Feed the Beastgrave is 5 glory for having no objectives on the battlefield. It is currently the main reason why flip decks are so obnoxious due to all the flip tech in Direchasm. Will flip decks even be relevant anymore with that no 5 glory potential post rotation?
Coveted Spoils is 3 glory for having all objectives held. Was super relevant in Beastgrave due to the prominence of Hold Objective play but has seen little play with Direchasm, although it has tied into Feed the Beastgrave decks. Still, it will be a shame to see it go as Coveted Spoils is still a fairly easy 3 glory objective as you and your opponent can score it for you.
Set the Tempo (push the tempo) is a 3 glory Dual objective you score for scoring 6 or more objectives with 2 of each being Hybrid and Dual objectives. While lacking in Beastgrave, this objective has seen much more play in Direchasm due to the increase in good Hybrid and Dual objectives. It is a key objective for Hedkrakka’s Madmob decks too who will dearly miss the loss of such a reliable 3 glory end phase card.
Show of Force, even while restricted, is still a really good card you score immediately for either having a friendly fighter with 3 or more upgrades or having 3 or more fighters in enemy territory. Once again another aggro staple but also for most decks due to the upgrade stacking condition. Just another consistent Surge objective that will be lost to the spin of rotation.
Team Effort is a staple end phase objective for any 3 to 4 fighter warbands. It is a Dual objective that you score for having 2 or more friendly surviving fighters and each of them has been activated. Beastgrave and Direchasm struggle heavily in decent end phase objectives, losing Team Effort hits a lot of warbands, irrespective of their playstyle. Direchasm warbands are especially worried as the season has 5 warbands with 4 fighters.
Uncontested is a Dual objective and the bane of aggro players. It is 3 glory if you hold 2 or more objectives and no enemy fighters hold objectives. With mass push cards, it makes Uncontested incredibly consistent, even today. Hold objective players will deeply miss this card, aggro and control players will rejoice.
Cover Ground, while not technically being a Beastgrave card, was released in the Gift Pack and thus will rotate. Even restricting this Surge objective has done little to curtail its power. Score for moving 6 or more hexes, in any direction! Even a circle! Losing it will hurt the speed package along with Gathered Momentum. Winged Death will likely take its place but Cover Ground probably should have never been reprinted.
Distraction and Nightmare in the Shadows. Push a fighter 1 hex. Probably the biggest losses for gambits with rotation. While they sort of kept hold objective players in check, warbands with faction Distraction cards abused these to death. I still think a single Distraction card is healthy but 2 have been problematic. With both gone, however, the severely limited Hypnotic Buzz or Centre of Attention will try and fill the void.
Buried Instinct is a reaction that gives your fighter a guard token when attacked. Amazing reaction window? Check. Free surprise guard? Check. I’m surprised it never got restricted. Just such an amazing card thanks to the power of guard. Multiple defence fighter warbands will dearly miss its loss.
Collapse, while not as prominent as it was when Nightvault universal cards were still in play, allowed mass reliable damage for fighters hugging edge hexes. Collapse rotating kinda pretty much kills ping damage decks. Wurmspat, I’m so sorry.
The draw cards. Frenzied Search, Quick Search and Unnatural Truce. 2 of these cards have been restricted. Why? I think Warhammer Underworlds generally needs 1 draw card per season. Having 3 with such good and easy draw effects is insane. Players regularly ended action phase 2 with their entire decks drawn out. Who will miss their loss the most? Players who rely on their cards to win games. Can’t wait to see these draw cards disappear.
Restless Prize. The ultimate objective stealing and denial card. That 2 hex objective push is just too good and almost impossible to counter without another Restless Prize. Should have been a 1 hex push but either way, it’s a big loss to hold objective players.
Mischievous Spirits, the gambit that ruins the end phase for hold objective players. While it got restricted a little too late, seeing it go completely is nice. It was too strong for aggro players and too disruptive against hold objective players.
Rebound. I mean, it was already dead by being restricted but now it will go completely. The rage it produced on reveal was beyond compare as it almost killed aggro in Beastgrave where it was already near-death.
Spectral Wings. It’s weird, +2 move is great but Direchasm is so full of movement cards that Spectral Wings will go from being a big loss to slightly missed. Hurts the “speed package” of cards overall but I think its loss is probably for the better. Aggro players will miss being Sonic on all their main fighters.
The Amberbone Weapons are attack action upgrades that all have the main effect of discarding them on a kill to gain 1 glory with sometimes other additional effects. These upgrades, mainly due to the fact that their damage could be modified, allowed for explosive glory gain in many decks. They were commonly used by both hold objective and aggro players. Their loss may be a sad one but it will open up the usage of more varied attack action upgrades.
The Lost Pages were only really useful because of the Scattered Tome. These Lost Page upgrades could only be equipped to wizards and while they had varying effects, you mainly took them for the Scattered Tome which gave you 1 glory for each Lost Page upgrade you had equipped. Never really game breaking as Katophrane Tomes but just helped reinforced turtle control builds like with the Crimson Court.
Cryptic Companion, ah so broken. Makes you a Quarry and you gain 1 glory and the end of each action phase while holding an objective. While I loved abusing it, Cryptic Companion going helps Warhammer Underworlds’ balance as a whole.
Trophy Belt is the last of the universal extra glory on kill upgrades. While not as powerful as Tome of Offerings, it’s still another loss which Hunter aggro players will miss. Especially Rippa’s Snarlfangs and Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers players.
Strength of Terror, the best +1 dice upgrade we’ve seen in Warhammer Underworlds. Only works on range 1 and 2 attacks as well as making you a Quarry. Even while restricted, it’s still taken. Only range 3 fighters miss out on it. At least with Strength of Terror gone, we don’t have to worry about stuff like 3 smash Mollog and so on.
Survival Instincts and Tight Defence. Both amazing upgrades that basically put you on permanent guard. Both restricted too. Thankfully, we can see with Direchasm that Games Workshop has learned of how powerful it can be to give any fighter permanent guard.
Sting of the Ur-Grub, an Ur-Grub Aspect card grants +1 strength to range 1 attack actions and changes your equipped fighter into the Avatar of the Ur-Grub if they have all 3 Ur-Grub Aspect cards. Even restricted, it is still a strong upgrade. While I’ll miss it, Sting of the Ur-Grub going helps tone down the power and ease of access Aggro has when it comes to extra damage thanks to Direchasm.
Vision of Glory. Reaction to spend a glory after an activation to remove a charge token then discard the upgrade. So, so broken. Oddly should have had a 3 glory cost. Everyone should be glad to see this go. Blocked reaction windows and allowed powerful fighters to keep charging such as Mollog, Morgok, Rippa and so on.
The Mortis Relics all had varying effects of spending glory to either push fighters or draw cards, as reactions. In theory they are balanced but glory is gained so fast and easily since Beastgrave that their costs never really felt like costs at all. They should have stayed in Arena Mortis only and are now all restricted. Don’t even forget they had passive buffs for stacking Mortis Relics too! Crazy!
Now while I covered A LOT of cards, these are just specific mentions for cards that particular warbands and/or playstyles will miss. Basically not that meta-shattering but enough to kill already weak/low powered builds.
Hunting Bolt, you amazingly balanced gambit spell you. Ping damage that can do 2 damage against a Hunter or Quarry. It will be missed by magic users as it is basically their only good ping spell. Across both Beastgrave and Direchasm. Just sucks if you like playing magic.
Poison gambits. The good ones so only just: Leadbone Dust, Rocksnake Toxin and Spinetoad Toxin. Now these were some good and interesting gambits but Poison gambits never really took off until Elathain’s Soulraid. Honestly, abuse the Poison cards with the Spinefin while you still can. The future looks incredibly rough for the Idoneth warband once those Posion gambits rotate.
Combo now. This mechanic allowed you to attack with a special reaction attack action upgrade if the first attack made had the Combo keyword. We barely saw any of this in Beastgrave but saw much more in Arena Mortis. As they all rotate, only a single warband will really miss it. Morgwaeth’s Blade-Coven. They’re currently not in a great spot but still have a fun Combo build that works now and again. With all the good Combo stuff going, they’re just gonna keep tumbling down.
Should You Prepare for Rotation?
So a common thing I see and get asked is should you prepare for rotation? As in, should you start playing with decks that don’t use any Beastgrave cards (or cards from a season that is about to be rotated out). While I get the theory behind that, to basically get a head start and practice for the future, it won’t really make any difference and I always advise against it. Unless you’re a playtester, you don’t know what future rules and cards the next season may bring and core rules you thought safe could potentially change in a big way.
For example, Nightvault had no Surge objective limit while Beastgrave introduced a 6 Surge limit. Direchasm introduced a rules change of Diagonal Board Configuration changing from a 3 hex gap to a 4 hex gap. Small changes like that have big ripples on Warhammer Underworlds and you can’t really anticipate alterations like those.
My advice is just enjoy what you have now. Remember it has a finite lifespan but just have fun anyway. Sure, rotation will change everything but then you get to enjoy trying to adapt along with the whole Warhammer Underworlds community.
Where will the Meta Shift?
With each season of Warhammer Underworlds, you can identify the dominant gameplay style. For example, Shadespire was basically Aggro, Nightvault Control, Beastgrave Hold Objectives and Direchasm was back to Aggro. For prediction of whether the meta will shift, who knows?
As linked back to if you should prepare for rotation, we can’t really predict where the meta will shift with the loss of Beastgrave universal cards on rotation. While Aggro loses some key cards, they have tons of good Direchasm universal cards to access. Hold Objectives takes a bigger hit but the Essential Card Pack keeps their power up. Control, however, takes the biggest hit with loss of mass draw cards and also Lost Pages for certain turtle builds. Unless Direchasm universal cards get hit more, I can’t really see aggro losing power. Especially with Primacy.
Stock Up on Beastgrave Warbands
My biggest advice is to INVEST IN BEASTGRAVE NOW. MAXIMUM STONKS. By that I mean buy the powerful Beastgrave warbands now before they rotate as they will become unavailable to buy. Plus they’re super strong, even with faction card restrictions. For example, with Morgok’s Krushas you can’t really nerf them all being 5 wounds each. Or the continual attack action output from Rippa’s Snarflangs. Even then you have Hrothgorn’s Quarry effects.
With the rotation of Nightvault we saw new players upset over being unable to buy Mollog as Games Workshop refuses to reprint older warbands or do them as made to order service. So my advice is if you’re a new player and want to be competitive but don’t want to fully invest into Beastgrave, buy the following warbands: Grymwatch, Rippa’s Snarlfangs, Hrothgorn’s Mantrappers and Morgok’s Krushas. Technically you should grab Lady Harrow’s Mournflight too as they are a part of the Champions of Dreadfane set but will still be rotated.
Now you could wait for the inaugural start of new season exodus where old players try to flog their Warhammer Underworlds collections to new players as they leave but the problem with that is you can end up buying more as people generally sell their collections as a whole and not individually. Just buy via Games Workshop or your Friendly Local Gaming Store while they’re still basically new.
Beastgrave Rotation Overview
So, in conclusion the rotation of Beastgrave is going to have a huge impact on Warhammer Underworlds. I feel the biggest change will be to the consistency of objective decks. Beastgrave has a lot of easy and powerful Surge objectives. Warbands are going to struggle in the future unless they have really good faction objectives to fall back on.
Beastgrave warbands also going out of production will generally mean that they are likely to be seen less based upon the idea that new players influx into the game and are unable to buy them, which is better for the health of Warhammer Underworlds in general, even if that is kinda messed up.
Losing so many powerful universal cards should also make the game a little less deadly when being on the receiving end of an Aggro player. Hold Objectives will miss out on Hidden Purpose and Temporary Victory but that’s not really a bad thing.
My biggest (and only real) complaint when it comes to Beastgrave rotation is that it’s probably happening at the worst time possible. If a new season drops in September, there will be people who have been unable to use their physical cards since the drop of the last 2 Beastgrave warbands. Then they become unusable. I expect a lot of angry backlash, and to be fair, it’s justified. I would have liked Direchasm to be spread out over 12 to 18 months instead of the basically 6 months we got instead. Or maybe even relax rotation for a year. I just really feel for the players who have been unable to use their cards since June 2020 and have still being buying into the game.
To be clear, Games Workshop is in a tight spot. No matter what they do with rotation, people will be upset on either side so I do feel bad for them on that front.
So that’s pretty much it when it comes to Beastgrave rotation. I’m looking forwards to it personally but what about you? What cards will you miss? Are you eagerly counting the days down to say goodbye to Beastgrave? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps we can even reminisce about the silly Beastgrave moments and interactions we all experienced.
At the end of the day, rotation is coming, so be prepared. Bon voyage Surge-Grave. There’s nothing that can stand up to the power of infinite and inevitable rotation. Not even crits!