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 Guy Fullerton.
This Week's Challenge
The Warband Building commander effect allows you to include creatures in your warband that, because of faction restrictions, you usually wouldn't be able to. Even though there are many commanders with this ability (including a few that are used frequently), Warband Building overall isn't taken advantage of by many players. This Commander's Notebook article is about exploring the possibilities of the Warband Building commander effect.
My challenge to the team is to build a 200 point warband that includes at least 30 points of out-of-faction creatures brought in via Warband Building. There's one exception -- Outsiders brought in via the Couatl's Warband Building don't count toward the requirement. Warbands are free to include one or more Couatls and take advantage of a Couatl's Warband Building, but they must also make use of some other commander's Warband Building ability in order to meet the challenge. (The Couatl is too easy and obvious a choice. I want our team to dig deep into their well of warband ideas.)
Drizzt, Drow Ranger (CR 3, 87 pts)
Tordek, Dwarf Champion (59 pts)
Rikka, Angelic Avenger (31 pts)
Devis, Half-Elf Bard (6 pts)
Mialee, Elf Wizard (6 pts)
Jozan, Cleric of Pelor (4 pts)
Lidda, Halfling Rogue (4 pts)
Xeph Warrior (3 pts)
Total = 200 pts, 8 activations
Drizzt was released some time ago in the Archfiends set yet has never become popular on the tournament scene. His point cost is very high, and to be worth that investment, he must be paired with units that take full advantage of his command effect and special abilities. Such units were in short supply until the release of Rikka in Underdark and Tordek in War of the Dragon Queen. With these additions, it's now possible to build a Drizzt band that is both fun and competitive.
Using Drizzt's Warband Building to pull Tordek across from Lawful Good provides the band with a fearsome hitter. Tordek attacks at +22/+17 (20 magic + 5 electricity) when within range of Drizzt's command effect. Likewise, Rikka's attack is improved to +18 (25 magic). These reliable, high-damage attacks can quickly bring down an opposing titan, low-hp Maruts especially. While this band is less happy to face a quad-band with multiple threats, Tordek's Cleave provides some help in this area as well.
Drizzt himself has a respectable damage output when using a full attack, though care must be taken not to engage with him too early. If he is killed, the rest of the band's attack and damage ratings suffer, as do the all-important morale saves. Remember that Drizzt's command effect also boosts the save of Unique followers by +3, giving him an effective command rating of 6 for the morale saves of Tordek and Rikka.
Because both Drizzt and Tordek depend partially on elemental damage, an opposing Couatl can be a problem. This is where Devis shines. His Countersong ability can suppress the Couatl's energy resistance, as well as other potentially troublesome opposing command effects such as the Young Master's Stunning Attack bonus.
Mialee's magic weapon is not strictly necessary in this band, though it can help Drizzt's third attack land more often. Jozan can attempt a low-percentage stun or heal a critical unit of 5 hp as needed. Lidda's ranged attack should not be overlooked. If she is hidden, she can fire at +9 (10), which isn't bad for a 4-point unit. The Xeph, as the only non-unique in the band, should be marched off to collect victory points while the rest of the band engages the enemy.
I chose Mithral Mines for this warband because it provides cover against opposing ranged attacks while allowing this warband to stay close together to benefit from Drizzt's command effect.
Urthok the Vicious (CR 5, 34 pts)
Snig the Axe (CR 0, 20 pts)
Cadaver Collector (103 pts)
Blood Ghost Berserker (37 pts)
Timber Wolf (5 pts)
Goblin Skirmisher x 3 (minions)
Total = 200 points, 8 activations
Urthok remains a great commander for building a competitive warband. His warband building allows Goblinoids of any faction in your warband. Not only does he bring them over, his commander effect gives them a big boost -- followers gain melee attack +2, or Goblinoid followers gain melee attack +4. Combined with Snig's commander effect (Small followers gain melee damage +5), the Goblin Skirmishers become a threat.
One challenge facing titan warbands is lacking the ability to deliver competitive amounts of damage. The Cadaver Collector can move and swing once for 30 damage. Even Marut/Couatl warbands can get two swings for 30 each, even after moving. The Bloodghost Berserker provides another high attack hitter, also swinging for 30 damage. Against multiple beaters, even this level of damage is inadequate. Against multiple low-AC, high-damage beater warbands, the Goblin Skirmishers, Snig, and Urthok all help provide enough damage capability to be competitive. Because the Bloodghost Berserker is Fearless, loss of Urthok is usually not catastrophic. This allows the entire warband to be fully committed (within the limitations of Urthok's low speed) without the usual risks of commander loss.
In the competitive environment that's emerging with War of the Dragon Queen creatures, this warband provides a reasonable mix of high attacks with high damage and numerous lower attacks for modest damage. The Cadaver Collector's DC 18 Paralysis cone may not be devastating in a competitive environment filled with paralysis immune creatures such as constructs, but it provides leverage against the heavy beater warbands that are commonly used to counter construct warbands.
Dragon Totem Hero (CR 3, 58 pts)
Devis, Half-Elf Bard (6 pts)
Large Green Dragon (51 pts)
Large Fang Dragon (42 pts)
Mialee, Elf Wizard (6 pts)
Small Copper Dragon x2 (30 pts)
Wild Elf Raider (6 pts)
Broken Demongate map
Total = 199 pts, 7 activations
When challenged to come up with a warband that used Warband Building, I couldn't resist following the theme of the latest set, as well as the theme of the entire year, so dragons it was. The Dragon Totem Hero is fast, durable, makes a descent beater, and his commander effect is a great boon to traditional dragons. The Large Green Dragon is here to clear away fodder with its breath and give the entire Warband an attack boost. The Large Fang Dragon can really dish out damage but doesn't hit or save well. Getting it flanking attacks and magic weapon is a must -- this makes the Fang Dragon's attacks a much more respectable +15/+13/+13. It is also important to prevent the Fang Dragon from needing to make a morale check early in the battle, because it routs 45% of the time.
The Small Copper Dragons are very versatile tools. They can be used as VP grabbers, as hunters of other VP grabbers, as tech hunters, and as flankers. A slow breath of DC 13 isn't difficult to save against, but two well-placed cones can force enough saves that the law of averages becomes your friend. If so much as one enemy beater fails a save against slow, you've gained a major advantage.
Mialee is here to give the Fang Dragon a much-needed magic weapon. Cost-effective Devis can mess up many commanders and especially helps this band against the Couatl.
The Broken Demongate map gives this band several benefits. Strategically placed difficult terrain is an advantage for your flying dragons while the narrow choke points channel your opponent into nice breath weapon patterns. A single large creature can block access to your warband while Flight deprives your opponent of the same.
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.