Selecting a Tournament Warband

Andrew Galea

Posted on May 21 2018

Selecting a Tournament Warband

The impending wave 2 release, increasing the hero pool to 28, will mean selecting a Warband for competitive play will take a lot more thought. The no-faction selection system provides a huge number of hero permutations and, for new players, selecting a tournament level Warband can be daunting. To kick off my new blog, I thought I would share my thought processes when putting together a Warband capable of winning a tournament, which I actually did today with heat 2 of the King of the Grove Tournament Series.

Tournament Format

To help frame this discussion, this particular heat was 3 rounds, the first two being 3v3 and the final round 5v5. All rounds included pick & ban and the 5 heroes you used in the 3v3 games had to be a subset of the 7 you used in the 5v5. Each player was allowed a single wave 2 hero "paper doll" in their 7, however I decided to not do this, and stick to wave 1 for this heat. The main reason for this was simply because I wanted to play with physical models rather than a tactical thing.

Where to Start?

My standard Warband selection method incorporates a bottom up approach. So in this case, I started with the 3 heroes I would want to field if there was no pick & ban, the 3 heroes that I would take every single time if given the opportunity. In this article I am not going to go into the tactics around which heroes I picked too much, because really, anything can work if you have a strategy, are able to stick to it, and know your heroes inside out. However the 3 heroes I wanted to base my Warband around were Skoll Bonestorm, Bastian Oriel and Thorgar, so these 3 were locked in.

Skoll, Bastian and Thorgar - foundation of my Warband

Pick & Ban Strategy

From this point I think about the heroes I would include if each of them was banned. The obvious pattern players often fall into is to pick heroes that can fill a similar role, however I don't necessarily do that. No 2 heroes in the game are like-for-like, so instead of trying to replace a hero with something similar, I usually look for opportunities to move the Warband into another direction, if possible, while still taking advantage of its strengths. 

Skoll Banned

The Skoll/Bastian synergy is legendary, and was identified from the very early days of Judgement and opponents will normally ban one of them whenever they appear together. As mentioned earlier, the temptation is to replace Skoll with another defender, Doenrakkar or Thrommel perhaps, however neither of them provide any real synergy with Bastian. Doenrakkar rarely attacks 3 times in an activation, often wanting to use Stone Form, and Thrommel only attacks once each activation, so neither gets much benefit from Bastian's Heroic Ballad aura. Marcus has better synergy with him but still not great. Fielding Bastian in 3v3 battles results in a dramatic drop in damage output, so you really need the two other heroes to benefit from his Heroic Ballad to make him worth taking.

If you take a step back however, other than Skoll, the other hero that has a wonderful synergy with Bastian is actually Piper. The combination of 3" reach and Heroic Ballad means that the two of them together are an incredible fighting force, raising Piper to an effective MEL of 8 and a 3/4/5 damage grid via Back Stab. I typically equip Piper with the Vorpal Blade artefact, making those statistics even better, and lets not forget Bastian's Enhance Magic. So that means Piper is in, leaving one more spot to fill.

Piper, Elf Illusionist/Thief

Bastian Banned

This is perhaps the most common ban, in fact in the King of the Grove tournament I only got to use him in round 1, and he was banned for both rounds 2 & 3. Without Bastian, Skoll drops off a fair bit, however he is still a very handy hero.  Bulwark is immense at level 1 and the sheer number of attacks he puts out, even when attacking with a single dice, can result in decent damage. Thorgar is similar as he can still operate ok without Bastian, and normally means I will give the Vorpal Blade to him when Bastian is not around.

This is where I pivot my strategy in terms of hero selection. Without Bastian I still have two high health melee heroes with decent damage output, however dealing enough damage can be an issue. In this case I opted to slot in Istariel. Quite obviously she plays nothing like Bastian, however Istariel gives me a great ranged option with high damage output and fantastic mobility. Her inclusion means there is less pressure on Skoll to do damage, and she provides a fantastic target for Bulwark. So that rounds out my 5 heroes, and gives me a clear strategy to implement if Skoll or Bastian are banned.

Istariel

Thorgar Banned

Finally, I have to consider if Thorgar is banned, and he also does draw out a lot of bans. However this actually opens me up for arguably an even stronger combination of Skoll, Bastian and Piper. In fact, in round 1 against Evan Ferris, he banned Thorgar and mentioned after the game how surprised he was in the damage output from the Bastian/Piper combination. With those three heroes I sit Bastian behind Skoll and Piper and let those two go nuts. All Bastian has to do is remove conditions, heal and provide his aura.

The Play Book

I now have a solid play book which lists the Warband I will field depending on the hero my opponent bans.

  • Skoll banned -> Bastian Thorgar Piper
  • Bastian banned -> Skoll Thorgar Istariel
  • Thorgar banned -> Skoll Bastian Piper

Expanding to 5v5

The 1st thing to understand is that 5v5 is a very different game to 3v3, and heroes have different power levels in each format. It is at this point that I look at the 5 heroes I have already, and considering whether they can be decent as a 5 strong Warband in their own right. Let's have a look at them again.

  • Skoll, Bastian, Thorgar, Piper, Istariel

It just so happens that this is a very solid Warband in 5v5s, in fact I would be happy to field this every game if given the chance, which is a fantastic start. If, when you consider your 5 heroes in the context of a 5v5 game, you find it lacking, then you will be forced to pick heroes that fix the problems you perceive it to have. In my case, I simply wanted to fill any holes that my opponent's ban would create. 

Skoll Banned

In the 5v5 game there are already 2 heroes, in Thorgar and Piper, that benefit from Bastian's Heroic Ballad so if Skoll is banned, slotting in another defender is viable strategy. In this tournament I chose Doenrakkar. I pretty much want to use him to protect Istariel, context objectives and generally be a pain in the butt for my opponent. 

Bastian Banned

Bastian getting banned is another pivot opportunity. The loss of his aura will drop my damage output down, and the lack of healing will mean I won't be able to compete so well in prolonged battles. To maintain my damage output, and potentially shorten the game length I actually replaced Bastian with Rakkir. A high damage dealer with a lot of mobility, Rakkir is a great addition and provides multiple threat vectors on every turn.

That means my Warband is now complete and includes:

  • Skoll, Bastian, Thorgar, Istariel, Piper, Doenrakkar, Rakkir

Thorgar, Istariel or Piper Banned 

In all three cases, the ban will have a negative affect on my damage output, so it is a no brainer to slot in Rakkir to bring that damage level back up and maintain my threat vectors. All the different combinations of Warbands look very strong and will be fun to play, which is always a good feeling when going to a tournament.

The Play Book

Here is the play book for the 5v5 version of my Warband.

  • Skoll banned -> Doenrakkar Bastian Thorgar Piper Istariel
  • Bastian banned -> Skoll Thorgar Istariel Rakkir Piper
  • Thorgar banned -> Skoll Bastian Piper Rakkir Istariel
  • Istariel banned -> Skoll Bastian Thorgar Piper Rakkir
  • Piper banned -> Skoll Bastian Thorgar Istariel Rakkir

No Soulgazers?

I am by no means anti-soulgazer, in fact in the past I have had great success with them, however in this particular instance, whenever I tried to put one in, it seemed to upset the balance of the Warband. I actually successfully soul gazed in all my games at King of the Grove II. Bastian has a Soul Harvest of 5 and Skoll is 4, and both of them can grab souls in a pinch. In fact, I won 2 of my games with Istariel soul harvesting the final soul to win, she has a Soul Harvest of 3 so with 1 or 2 friends around it is definitely doable.

Wave 2?

At the very beginning of this blog post I mentioned how putting Warbands together will become more challenging once wave 2 ships, however you can put together very strong Warbands evening limiting your hero pool to wave 1. I was the only player in the tournament to not take a wave 2 hero and I won my 3 games, however even with a hero pool of 28, you can use the same techniques I described in this article and focus yourself to a strong Warband.

Next Steps

The Judgement meta is still very new and, while growing, the tournament scene is small. It will be so exciting to see how the meta develops once we get more players involved and have much bigger tournaments. I am planning on publishing blog posts on a regular basis from this point forward, so if you have a topic you would like me to talk about, please reach out and suggest it. I would be only too happy to.

Cheers,

Guns

 

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1 comment

  • Georg 'M4gnetic' Buscha: May 26, 2018

    Very interesting article!

    As always, I will structure my comment in a ‘top-heroes’ list format whereby i arrange my thoughts on a per-hero basis.

    Wave 1 top dogs:
    AGGRESSORS
    Thorgar: King of the hill (still). High damage, crowd control and great hitboxes for an aggy still make him your easiest pick. Preferably paired with a defender who can activate first & face-tank a charge so Thor can go second and get those nice 10-damage + throw + knockdown activations from downtown.
    Rakkir: Probably scales better with skill than almost any other hero (except Xyvera and Styx). A potential for massive spikes of damage when combined with a cautious long-term soul-game strategy for getting sneaky kills and banking regularly can make this one of the most impactful heroes.

    DEFENDERS
    Skoll: With his new increased utility from bulwark, his massive hitpoint pool and potentially overwhelming damage output (6 crits = max 24 damage a turn is possible (with KD and gang bonuses)) he makes for a pretty reliable pick.
    Thrommel: An absolute monster in 5v5 format. Once he reaches level 2 he is worth his weight in gold. Needs fate only when creating situations to get a kill (and thus earn your fate back) and has pretty meaningful activations when doing his job and provides a huge amount of passive action drain from your enemy.
    Doenrakkar: A fantastic piece designed for one thing: Holding the board. If you have a high amount of squishies or 2nd-line fighters the Don is in a better situation than all other defenders to sort you out. If you plan on only playing one defender in your warbands because you ‘just need a guy to stand here and get hit in the face’ then the Don is for you.

    SUPPORTERS
    Piper: For warband selection he is in my eyes 30% aggressor 50% defender 20 % soulgazer. Based on the bans, the map and you picks he can fill in (suprisingly well) any of these roles. He’s one of the heroes who have never disappointed me yet. Also I feel like any failure to perform would not be on his part, it would have been my fault as a player to properly utilise all the different powerful abilities he has.
    Kvarto: He’s THE enabler. If you like setting up kills, K-dog will cover you from head to toe. Telekinesis is just such a powerful mechanic. No dice rolls necessary, just put an opponent where you want to kill him and go (and all this without Styx’s massive drawback of giving your opponent a free model to kill). Don’t count on the poison or fire, it’s a nice bonus, but not worth basing your warband’s pick strategy on.

    SOULGAZERS
    Kruul: if you only have space for one soulgazer, I would take special K all day. He provides maximum soul-game in a package that also has the ability to spiral in damage output to reward you for early gains. harvesting souls? check. Having some mechanism to safe-guard your possession of those souls? check. Making it harder for your opponent to harvest souls? check. Being able to take your enemies souls after they have succesfully harvested? check.
    Zaron:
    He’s one of my personal favorites because I like to pick heroes that I feel reward player skill and practice. He has a fantastic threat range on his soul-gazing and also has the ability to spiral completely out of control for your enemy. Having to spend precious activations doing nothing but hitting or avoiding skeletons just frees up a lot of the board for you to be able to win the game in piece. I just appreciate it as an extremely powerfull game mechanic.

    Wave 2 up-and-comers:
    AGGRESSORS
    Zhonyja: Probably the best aggy for 3v3’s. She hits hard, against everyone your opponent can bring. This is especially powerful in 3v3 where individual heroes need to do a lot of heavy lifting and raw stats are more significant in skewing matchups. Zhonyja says ‘no matter who you bring i can kill them with axe-to-face, I’m not scared of your defender picks’
    Viktor: Underplayed, underrated and undersized he has such massive potential. He brings to the table his uniqueness which will scale exceptionally well with experience and practiced players. Taunt is potentially one of the most debilitating spells in this game, and to combine that with an istariel-like gun platform with greater reach and table-prescence is pretty astonishing. His soul-based interaction can sometimes (He’s hugely powerful in maps with double soul-pits) be exploited for a massive and dramatic advantage.
    DEFENDERS
    Skye is going to be a thing. He skews match-ups and he survives by ‘being too big a pain in the ass to try and kill’ just like the Don. The fate heaviness will have to be adjusted for in a more defensive, shrine-clearing kind of play-style. Will definitely be an auto-ban for warbands without easy access to KD or massive dice pools (ie: zhonyja ;) )
    SUPPORTERS
    Haksa:
    In my eyes, potentially the best supporter in the game and maybe even one of the top-3 heroes overall. Experience will bear this out but he has the ability to create huge swings of hit points and dice over a single turn. His bastian-style big-pokey-stick aura of melee bonuses and parting blows really helps out melee-heavy warbands. His totems give you some great defensive capability to help hold positions and heal allies. Having an auto-hitting fate ability to trade hitpoints even more efficiently just tops it all off. Also don’t forget he has longest range supporter gun.
    Gendris:
    She fixes so many things that she can literally make or break your warband. If someone bring Gendris he’s probably bringing her to fix some kind of fatal flaw in his warband (like no-one has pathfinder) and he hopes I don’t realize. Her forest ability can be utterly game breaking in an experienced players hands and thats why she deserves a shout-out and an auto-ban.
    SOULGAZERS
    -Mjeh. Since Xyvera lost her lvl 2 soul-link I think the wave 1 gazers have it.

    The Orphan children of the in-between:
    Loribella & Barnascus: Both of these heroes are actually REALLY good. The fact that they synergise with each other makes it even better. Both are disruptive, have a suprisingly high damage-potential and have a lot to offer a warband selection.

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