D&D Miniatures03/09/2006

Orc Wardrummer
Commander's Notebook
By Jason Lioi, Bill Baldwin, Michael Derry, and Guy Fullerton

We've assembled a team of four talented warband builders, and each will get the chance to challenge his compatriots to build their best warband around a particular miniature or theme.

Bear in mind that what you're reading is not a primer on how to win tournaments. It's an intellectual puzzle in which the contributors may not always be given the best material to work with. The challenge is to make the most of the starting conditions.

This week's topic was chosen by Michael Derry.

Orc WardrummerThe Orc Wardrummer is one of the most significant creatures in the new set. It will have a major impact on competitive play.

Warband designers look for creatures that efficiently fill a role in the warband they design. Creatures that can fulfill multiple roles or complement key creatures in the warband are highly valued. Finding the right mix of flexibility, multiple roles, and efficiency makes warband building an interesting part of Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures.

A common word for the situation where multiple creatures mesh well and amplify each others' abilities is synergy. The Orc Wardrummer will find a place in many Chaotic Evil warbands because of its synergy with the creatures and design goals of many CE warbands.

Countersong is used mainly to prevent opposing commander effects from working within range. This can be decisive when fighting Young Master + Githzerai Monk warbands, for example. Countersong also provides protection against opposing Harpies. The Orc Wardrummer is the first creature offering Countersong to a Chaotic Evil warband.

A common design goal in CE warbands is to have beaters who can be relied on to pass a morale check. Investing 19 points in the Orc Wardrummer to give the warband Resistance Drumbeat (+4 save) can be an efficient way to maximize the staying power of the warband's heavy hitters.

Intimidating Drumbeat (-4 morale save for enemies) significantly reduces an opposing figure's chance to survive a morale check. It's usually possible to anticipate when a heavy hitter (friendly or opposing) will need to make a morale check, allowing you to choose between Resistance Drumbeat (when you'll be checking morale) and Intimidating Drumbeat (when your opponent will be checking morale). Intimidating Drumbeat stacks with Stench, Curse Aura, and Aura of Fear 2 for a possible -10 to morale checks! Against fearless warbands, of course, you should use one of the other two Drumbeats.

For a moderate cost, the Orc Wardrummer strengthens most Chaotic Evil warbands while also countering some of the opponent's capabilities.

Jason Lioi

Eye of Gruumsh (44 pts)
Orc Champion x2 (78 pts)
Orc Druid (27 pts)
Orc Wardrummer (19 pts)
Orc Raider x2 (24 pts)
Orc Brute (8 pts)
Total = 200 pts, 8 activations

Orc lovers, rejoice! For the first time in the history of the game, here is a pure "theme band" that needs make no apologies. I would feel comfortable piloting this theme band in any serious tournament; every creature in the band is an orc, and yet this is a solid, tier-1 concept made possible by the Orc Wardrummer.

Orcs have always had blinding speed, tremendous damage, and respectable hit points. But no competitive band could stomach the low morale saves on hitters such as the Orc Champion, so typically a Tiefling Captain was added to give an additional +4 to these crucial saves. Now, with the Orc Wardrummer, this dilution of the theme is no longer necessary. The Wardrummer's Resistance Drumbeat provides the same bonus to morale, stacks with the Orc Druid's command rating, and doesn't even require the Wardrummer to have line of sight to the units making their saves. Better yet, the Resistance Drumbeat helps the band pass their saves against breath weapons, stunning attacks, and other staple abilities popular on the tournament scene.

The Wardrummer's Intimidating Drumbeat is just as useful. Facing fast, high-damage orcs backed up by Snake's Swiftness, enemy units will be making morale checks very quickly –- thanks to Intimidating Drumbeat, those saves are more likely to fail. This is particularly deadly because failing a morale save when based by creatures with Cleave (such as the Orc Champion) can set off a chain reaction of more attacks and more failed morale saves. Somewhere, Gruumsh is smiling.

Bill Baldwin

Eye of Gruumsh (44 pts)
Orc Champion x2 (78 pts)
Orc Savage x2 (14 pts)
Orc Wardrummer (19 pts)
Red Samurai (40 pts)
Timber Wolf (5 pts)
Total = 200 pts, 8 activations

One of the strengths of the Orc Wardrummer is its ability to compensate for a traditional CE weakness, i.e., low saves. This allows the Wardrummer to work well with many traditional CE Warbands. Teaming him with a standard quad-beater warband was natural. With the removal of the Speed 2 rule for out-of-command creatures in War Drums, the Wardrummer can be a superior choice to the long-loved Tiefling Captain. Resistance Drumbeat isn't a commander effect, so it has unlimited range, allowing the Wardrummer to stay safely out of combat. It stacks with the Eye of Gruumsh to give a +5 on Morale saves. It even benefits the OOC Timber Wolf. You do lose out on initiative, but careful timing can allow you to charge in with your Speed 8+ warband to cause morale checks effected by Intimidating Drumbeat, then switch to Resistance Drumbeat before your opponent can do the same to you.

Guy Fullerton

Ryld Argith (55 pts)
Orc Champion x3 (117 pts)
Orc Wardrummer (19 pts)
Orc Warrior x3 (9 pts)
Total = 200 pts, 8 activations

Compared to earlier Chaotic Evil quad-hitter warbands, new Orc Wardrummer versions of those warbands need to downgrade either hitting power, number of activations, or initiative bonus. Using Ryld as the commander sacrifices a little bit of offense, but his huge initiative bonus helps make up for it. Against many opposing warbands, Ryld's initiative bonus will give this warband four consecutive activations in the first two rounds of melee. When those four activations are Orc Champion attacks followed by full attacks and all-important cleaves, your opponent is in a world of hurt.

Because Ryld's commander rating and the Resistance Drumbeat allow Orc Champions to make morale saves at +15, a flukish loss on a key initiative roll is often survivable. Ryld helps this warband dictate which battle map the battle takes place on; I recommend using the Dragon Shrine, because this warband doesn't have any energy resistance of its own. In addition, the Dragon Shrine has magic circles to aid the Orcs' attack bonuses against high-AC Lawful Good warbands, and the open middle area lets Ryld keep the Orc Champions under command despite his slower speed.

If you don't have access to three Orc Champions, you can get close to the same hitting power by using a combination of Blood Ghost Berserkers, Ogre Ravagers, Orc Champions, and Red Samurai. A Hill Giant Barbarian is also a fair replacement for two of the Orc Champions. But beware: Every replacement means fewer cleave attacks, which this warband relies on.

About the Authors

Jason Lioi is the 2005 D&D Miniatures champion. Bill Baldwin is a regular contributor to the website via his Art of Warbands articles. Guy Fullerton is well known as "the rules guy" on the miniatures forums, and Michael Derry is a Wizards delegate, tournament organizer, and D&D Miniatures judge.

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