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 Bill Baldwin.
This Week's Challenge
With the constructed championships out of the way and limited and epic on the horizon, I thought we should turn our attention toward these areas with the latest set. With that in mind, here is this week's challenge --
Build an Epic warband from any two adjoining factions using only War of the Dragon Queen creatures. That is, a warband can be Lawful (LG and LE), Chaotic (CG and CE), Good (LG and CG), or Evil (LE and CE). This is essentially the same as the Wardrums exclusive we did previously but with the new set and epic rules.
I expected to see the Aspects, Tordek, Godslayers, and Large Green Dragons when I issued this challenge, and I wasn't disappointed. What I found really interesting, however, was that even though each warband was different, all three chose to use the same map -- the Tomb of Queen Peregrine. Maneuverability is obviously a key factor in many epic builds.
Cleric of Syreth (47 pts)
The War of the Dragon Queen sealed format is dominated by the Aspect of Bahamut, the Aspect of Tiamat, and the Epic version of Tordek, Dwarf Champion. Recent Epic constructed results show that both the Aspect of Bahamut and the Epic Tordek can compete in the constructed arena, too. Similar warbands will surely do well in the format Bill chose for this article, so I built my warband to be able to compete with all three of those other significant threats.
I started with the Epic version of Tordek, Dwarf Champion because he is extremely solid and because there are fewer viable "hate pieces" in this set that can neuter his abilities. To complement him, I added a big, beefy (and blue) blocker -- The Bluespawn Godslayer. Together, this pair has enough damage output to quickly destroy the other big melee threats in the set. Because of the Bluespawn Godslayer's Dragon Slayer and Outsider Slayer abilities, he's a menace against enemy aspects.
Because I'm building a Lawful warband, and I have less than a hundred points left to spend, there are only three possible commander choices -- The Blackguard on Nightmare, the Hobgoblin Talon of Tiamat, and the Cleric of Syreth. The best one for my purpose is the Cleric of Syreth. He has a respectable commander rating, and although he is a prime candidate for a quick assassination, his legion's shield of faith spell will continue to provide a benefit even if he meets an early demise. If my opponent can't eliminate him quickly, his commander effect might even become useful. It's hard to hit an AC 33 Tordek, even in Epic.
Meepo can serve two roles in this warband. Because Meepo is slow, he will probably end up near the commander most of the time, which means his Dragonlord ability can help protect the Cleric of Syreth from assassination by an enemy breath weapon. Unfortunately, this isn't comprehensive protection. Dragonlord only hinders enemy dragons that are within six squares of Meepo, and several effects in this set can be used to damage the commander from beyond that range. If commander assassination isn't a threat, Meepo's second possible role is to move out in front of Tordek and the Godslayer, providing similar protection for those two as well as adding a bit of melee support. Additionally, Meepo's Mob Morale ability helps mitigate the numerous Aura of Fear abilities in the set. This extra measure of safety is worth 31 points.
I wanted to fit two Diseased Dire Rats in the warband, but I had room for only one. In typical situations, he's my victory area grabber. With a speed of 8, he's the fastest creature in my warband, and he'll have to do. Once my victory area can be occupied by one of my other creatures, the Diseased Dire Rat can move to my opponent's victory area, where its Distracting Presence ability can prevent my opponent from scoring victory area points.
I included a Dragonwrought Kobold specifically to set up flank attacks, which let my other creatures benefit from the Cleric of Syreth's commander effect. The Poison Dusk Lizardfolk and Aasimar Fighter were the most cost-effective ways to round out the warband to 8 activations, but they are little more than roadkill-to-be on the Epic highway.
Map choice was tough, and ultimately came down to a process of elimination. The Teleport Temple is a bad choice for my warband, because it's such a good choice for enemy Aspect of Bahamut warbands. Dragondown Grotto is also a bad choice, because my warband lacks significant flying creatures. In the end, I settled on the Tomb of Queen Peregrine because it's open enough for Tordek and the Bluespawn Godslayer to move around, it gives me a few sneaky places to hide my commander so that assassination becomes inconvenient, and because it has some sacred circles that my meager Poison Dusk Lizardfolk can benefit from.
Aspect of Tiamat (352 pts)
* Tiamat activates twice per round.
The Aspect of Tiamat is both extremely powerful and fun to use, so I've chosen to build my band around her. Her large assortment of breath weapons, high hit points, strong melee attacks, multiple resistances, and especially dual activation make her a great centerpiece for a warband. Her flexibility in using lines or cones for a breath weapon combined with a deceptively long threat range for a Speed 4 mini (thanks to dual activation) allow her many different tactical choices which you can use to surprise your opponent.
Tiamat's command effect bolsters dragons in her warband, so I've included three dragon followers for her to command. Each brings different capabilities to the warband. The two Large Green Dragons add speed, allowing for devastating early breath weapon attacks in the opponent's backfield to eliminate tech pieces or squishy commanders. After exhausting their breath weapons, the Greens can close in to flank for Tiamat, increasing the reliability of her attacks by granting +4 through their Devious Strategy ability. This also assists the Greens as well and stacks with Tiamat's command effect to bring them up to a respectable +18/+16/+16 (15 magic) in close combat.
The Redspawn Firebelcher also benefits from Tiamat's command effect and the Green's Devious Strategy abilities, but most often it will use its belches instead. With 20 damage, these aren't as impressive in Epic as they are in 200-point play, but it's still automatic damage. Inflictin damage on your opponent without the risk of a die roll is always an advantage. Depending on the composition of your opponent's band, the Firebelcher might also be called upon to quickly eliminate a victory-area grabber or finish off a wounded commander who survived the Green Dragons' (or Tiamat's) breath weapons.
Tomb of Queen Peregrine is the map of choice because its wide-open terrain offers few places for an opponent to hide from the many breath weapons in this band.
Aspect of Bahamut (318 pts)
The Aspect of Bahamut makes a great centerpiece to epic warbands, and the looser restrictoins of a Lawful warband (it can include both Lawful Good and Lawful Evil) means impressive options are available. Because of the Aspect of Bahamut's warband building, CG dragons such as the Spellscale Sorcerer and Small Copper Dragon can join in. More impressive, though, is bringing in two Large Green Dragons and the Dragonwrought Kobolds.
Bahamut's commander effect of attack +2 and damage +5 while an allied dragon is adjacent, combined with the Large Green Dragon special ability of +4 for flanking, results in impressive attacks for the all-dragons warband. When flanking and adjacent to another warband member, the Large Green Dragons have attacks of +18/+16/+16 for 15 magic damage each. Even fodder such as the lowly Dragonwrought Kobold gets +13 for 15 damage when flanking and adjacent. This threat encourages opponents to concentrate against the easier-to-kill fodder instead of focusing attacks on the Aspect of Bahamut -- and it's the real threat. Every swing against a fodder piece is a swing not directed against Bahamut. Remember that Bahamut gets +4 for flanking as long as the Large Green Dragons are alive, because that's a special ability, not a commander effect.
I chose the Spellscale Sorcerer over Meepo, Dragonlord for several reasons. I feel that the counterspells are key for beating any Epic Tordek, Dwarf Champion warbands that include snake's swiftness from one or more War Weavers. The ray of enfeeblement provides extra leverage against key creatures in the enemy warband. But the real value of the Spellscale Sorcerer is its blur spell, which can be a significant advantage for Bahamut -- leaving the enemy uncertain of hitting, even with high attack bonuses, can be extremely beneficial.
As for how to fight this battle, Bahamut and the breath weapons are critical against most warbands. Opponents without the Aspect of Bahamut or Tiamat will be hurt badly during morale checks if their commanders are lost. The line or cone breath attacks are flexible means to kill enemy commanders and possibly take out some opposing fodder at the same time. With high-damage breath weapons, you any fodder covered by the effect is likely to disappear. In any event, make sure you don't get distracted by the little stuff. Most Epic warbands these days have only a few key pieces -- focus your efforts against them.
In Assault format, dedicate the Small Copper Dragon or a Dragonwrought Kobold to seizing a VP area. Even in a short game, the points they gain can be enough to tip the win.
The final consideration when playing this warband is keeping the Aspect of Bahamut at least a double move from the exit, so if a morale check fails (yes, it's possible even at +23), you have a chance to recover.
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 2006 D&D Miniatures champion.
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