We've started an internal Angelfire league here at Wizards of the Coast. It began officially on August 4 and ends on September 2.
(Like most internal Wizards leagues, this one has some unusual features that are being playtested. We can't reveal those features just yet. If odd things are described in this or a later article, bear with me. There may be method to the madness that you're just not aware of yet. At least, that's my excuse.)
The basic format is 200-point Limited. That is, each of the 40+ players gets three Angelfire boosters. From those boosters, each player builds a 200-point warband. Faction restrictions don't apply, and the Commander 0 rule is in effect.
We set up our own matches, playing as many or as few as we like (though you must play at least five to qualify for advanced placement). Warbands can evolve or be changed entirely during the course of play, so fine tuning is allowed and encouraged.
Over the next several weeks, we'll follow a few people's experiences in the league -- starting with my own attempt to build a warband.
Here are the 24 figures I drew in my three boosters:
Abyssal Skulker (7 pts.)
Barbed Devil (89 pts.)
Caravan Guard x2 (5 pts.)
Celestial Pegasus (32 pts.)
Cleric of Dol Arrah (45 pts.)
Direguard x2 (24 pts.)
Dwarf Raider x2 (21 pts.)
Hobgoblin Impaler (9 pts.)
Imp (17 pts.)
Longstrider Ranger (34 pts.)
Ophidian (5 pts.)
Orc Wolf Shaman (47 pts.)
Scorpion Clan Drow Fighter (33 pts.)
Spiker Champion (34 pts.)
Talenta Halfling (17 pts.)
Troll Slasher (28 pts.)
Village Priest (21 pts.)
Wand Expert (33 pts.)
Wild Elf Raider (6 pts.)
Wrackspawn (19 pts.)
Xeph Warrior (3 pts.)
In a situation like this, I prefer to start my warbands with the commander. I have four to choose from (a veritable plethora!): Cleric of Dol Arrah, Orc Wolf Shaman, Scorpion Clan Drow Fighter, and Village Priest.
The Cleric of Dol Arrah is an excellent figure -- one of the best commanders in Angelfire, for my money. Sadly, the Cleric's Commander Effect ("Followers whose names contain Fighter or Soldier gain Fearless") has barely any synergy with my other pulls, so I have to set aside my sentiments along with the Cleric.
The Orc Wolf Shaman is another powerful figure with an interesting CE -- "Animal and Magical beast followers gain Hunter +5." Within a strictly Angelfire environment, it's not going to reach its full potential (although it would be fun seeing the Orc Wolf Shaman teamed with the Celestial Pegasus -- file that thought for potential later use).
The Scorpion Clan Drow Fighter has the same synergy problem as the Cleric of Dol Arrah and the Orc Wolf Shaman with none of their inherent appeal (for me).
That brings me to the rather mundane Village Priest. Normally, this is a figure without much sex appeal to me. In the immediate circumstances, however, the VP gets a huge boost. That's because my figure pulls include four minis that can benefit from the VP's Commander Effect -- two Direguards and two Caravan Guards. In a Limited format, it's a real plus to get useful commander synergy. I now have the core of my warband --
Village Priest (21 pts.)
Direguard x2 (48 pts.)
Caravan Guard x2 (10 pts.)
Total (79 pts.)
The Village Priest provides some buffing, some healing, and a nifty Commander Effect for as long as he survives. Direguards have two magic missiles apiece, enough to give the enemy something to think about as we close in. Once buffed, they'll have a +13 melee attack that deals 10 damage, Conceal 11, and 40 Fearless hit points. I expect good things from them. The Caravan Guards are nothing special, and doubly so at Speed 4, but getting a 20-HP figure with a (post buffing) +10 melee attack for 5, maybe 10, damage that costs only 5 points is too sweet to pass up.
What's missing are some heavy hitters capable of taking the fight to the enemy and a fast mover to grab early tile points.
In looking at what's left to choose from, there are many figures that dish out 10 or 15 points of damage fairly reliably. I need something with staying power, however, especially because our games will be played to a conclusion, not to a time limit. I also need something to give the warband a focus.
The only real option in that regard is the Barbed Devil. He's a whopping 89 points but worth every one of them in my opinion, with a very good AC (23), great HPs (125), and a melee attack that almost never misses (+18/15 dmg). Best of all, he gets unlimited uses of a paralyzing hold person spell (sight range, DC 16). It only works on humanoids, but there should be plenty of them to choose from on the battle grid. Anything that gets paralyzed will fall quickly to Direguards and Caravan Guards.
That leaves 32 points to play with, just one point shy of all those sweet-spot, mid-range figures costing 33 and 34 points. My options are the Celestial Pegasus (decent attacks and very fast, guarantees first-turn tile points), the Imp plus fodder (quick, flying, Conceal 11, and I'm itching to try out that Respawning ability), or the Troll Slasher (fair attacks, good staying power, and Melee Reach 2).
In the end, I decide to go with the Troll Slasher and a Xeph Warrior, making my warband
Village Priest (21 pts)
Barbed Devil (89 pts)
Troll Slasher (28 pts)
Direguard x2 (48 pts)
Caravan Guard x2 (10 pts)
Xeph Warrior (3 pts)
That's eight activations, 340 hit points, nine melee attacks, and 20 points worth of magic missiles for 199 points.
For tiles, I chose the Rubble assembly tile, Ancient Temple, Burial Chamber, and Mushroom Tangle.
My strengths, as I see them, are synergy between the Village Priest and four guards, the Barbed Devil's overall potency as both a ranged and melee threat, and the Troll's potential to rip things up and regenerate. My weaknesses are unimpressive saves, the fragility of my only commander (though I expect that by the time the Village Priest dies, I won't need him much anymore), the fact that I have only the Xeph Warrior as a fast tile-grabber, and the recent clarification of the Troll's Bloodthirsty special ability stating that being adjacent to wounded allies prevents the Troll from attacking nonwounded, adjacent enemies. I may find myself wishing I'd gone with the Celestial Pegasus.
Here's the plan --
On turn 1, the Village Priest casts bless, the Guards move up to screen and cast magic missiles, the Xeph Warrior does his best to grab an enemy tile, the Troll stays close to the VP, and the Barbed Devil looks for someone to paralyze.
On turn 2, the Village Priest casts magic weapon on either the Barbed Devil or the Troll, the Guards screen and cast magic missiles, the Xeph Warrior makes sure I get tile points, and the Barbed Devil and the Troll look for charge positions and someone to paralyze.
On turn 3, the battle gets ugly. With luck, the Guards will have paralyzed victims to slaughter and the Devil/Troll partnership will have an enemy beatstick to team up on. Positioning will be crucial because of the Troll's Bloodthirsty handicap. The Priest will stick close to cure moderate wounds on the Devil or Troll.
From that point on, it's flail and wail.
All that remains now is to arrange some matches and see how I fare.
About the Author
Steve Winter has enjoyed a long and lustrous career in the hobby gaming industry, beginning at TSR in 1981. He is currently a web producer and writer living in Seattle.