We've assembled a team of four talented warband builders, and each gets 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 Steve Winter.
This installment of Commander's Notebook is a pre-release Unhallowed treat. Our four warriors each selected a different faction and built a 200-point warband around it. The sweet part -- at least 100 points must be from the soon-to-be-released Unhallowed expansion. It's soul-sucking, blood-sucking spookfest. Keep your sharpened stake handy.
Lawful Evil -- Bill Baldwin
Inspired Lieutenant (45 pts)
Bat Familiar x5 (30 pts)
Inspired Shocktrooper x3 (33 pts)
Soulknife Infiltrator (24 pts)
Tsucora Quori (67 pts)
Dragon Shrine map
Total = 199 pts, 11 activations
Unhallowed's stock of LE pieces didn't have anything that stood out to me the way the Firegiant Forgepriest did in Blood War, but it didn't have anything that impressed me as especially bad. either. The current set lends itself toward themed bands, so I decided to do something different. The main strength of this warband is the ability to disrupt just about any plan the enemy is likely to come up with.
The Bat Familiars are a key element in this warband. Not only do they give initiative control by getting the number of activations up to 11, but a Speed of F8 is difficult to stop (beware the Couatl). With a bat tied to each of the Inspired Shocktroopers and one to the Inspired Lieutenant, you can deliver dissipating touch and hostile empathic transfer just about anywhere on the battlefield. You still have a spare bat tied to either the Tsucora Quori or Soulknife Infiltrator to grab victory areas and set up easy flanks. The bats can use dissipating touch to force morale checks on weak support creatures and finish the last bits of damage on bigger ones.
The Inspired Lieutenant's Commander Effect greatly increases the effectiveness of this band's melee figures. Her recall agony can soften up the enemy at range. Smite is good for inflicting damage on the first round of melee. While she must be wounded to do it, using hostile empathic transfer through her Bat Familiar can be very effective.
The Tsucora Quori is your main beater. Defense-wise it's not bad, it's very maneuverable, and hits well. The Quori's main weakness is damage, and that's where the other elements of this warband come into play. It can also help weaken opponents at range with recall agony. His Terrifying Sting can easily turn the tide of battle.
The Inspired Shocktroopers are another staple of this band. They allow three bats to deliver 10 damage through dissipating touch just about anywhere. On top of that, when bolstered by the Inspired Lieutenant, their dissolving weapon can inflict serious harm.
Finally, the Soulknife Infiltrator is a deceptive source of damage. When combining Smite and Sneak Attack, it can deal 50 points of damage in a single round.
The Dragon Shrine allows this band to gain some energy resistance, cover for the advance, bonuses to hit and magic damage from the magic circles, and it can force enemy troops off the battlefield quickly with strategic use of well-placed abilities.
All told, this band strikes hard and fast, but it has little durability. If it doesn't win quickly, it isn't likely to win at all.
Chaotic Good -- Guy Fullerton
Storm Silverhand (57 pts)
Virtuous Charger x2 (80 pts)
Cormyrean War Wizard (29 pts)
Lantern Bearer (12 pts)
Wild Elf Warsinger (9 pts)
Bat Familiar (6 pts)
Tavern Brawler (4 pts)
Xeph Warrior (3 pts)
Dungeon of Blood map
Total = 200 pts, 9 activations
Storm Silverhand has proven herself a very worthy commander for Chaotic Good. My warband updates the fast-and-flexible Storm Silverhand warband archetype with some of the new Unhallowed creatures and also experiments with several new pieces of tech. Speaking of tech, I'll start with the creature that doubles as the new set's symbol …
The Bat Familiar provides two important benefits -- activation control (nine activations vs. the typical eight) and tactical flexibility for Storm. Normally, Storm spends at least one round casting fly or cure serious wounds. The Bat Familiar can cast one of those spells for Storm, allowing her to contribute more direct offense.
The Virtuous Chargers are good companions for Storm, because they are speedy, hit hard, and become Fearless under her commander effect. They are also respectable recipients for her fly spells. The combination of Enhanced Mobility 12 and Skirmish Attack +10 give these two creatures a tremendous engagement threshold. Each one has reasonable odds of putting 45 damage on an enemy who is up to 12 squares away! Their defensive perks are solid, too. Cure moderate wounds gives them the ability to mitigate any ranged damage they take if they are forced to move forward conservatively under the protection of the Lantern Bearer. Whereas some other factions' hitters do nothing more than move 12 squares in the first round, the Virtuous Chargers can move 12 and still cast their spells.
The Cormyrean War Wizard (brought in via Warband Building) serves several roles in this warband. Mainly, he's another hitter, although he does his "hitting" with spells. Because the three other primary combatants in this warband are spellcasters, his damage-dealing spells can easily get a +10 damage bonus from his Phalanx Spellcaster ability. His 30 damage lightning bolt spells can rip through enemies and heal Storm at the same time. After the melee has started, the Cormyrean War Wizard is responsible for getting the Virtuous Chargers temporarily out of combat with his slide spells, allowing them to benefit from Skirmish Attack without provoking attacks of opportunity. Unlike other pure spellcasters near his point cost, he is tremendously survivable, especially when he is Fearless from Storm's commander effect. He can afford to provoke attacks of opportunity in order to cast a devastating spell.
Although this warband isn't designed to get top-of-the-line payoff from the Wild Elf Warsinger's charge-amplifying ability, there are still some solid synergies here. Storm can charge into an engagement for a 25-point hti, the Virtuous Chargers can charge from up to 24 squares away for 35 damage, and the Cormyrean War Wizard is a credible 20-damage charge threat. The Tavern Brawler's Stagger ability gives you a way to surprise unwary opponents with a non-obvious 15-damage charge. Even the Bat Familiar can position itself for sneaky 15-damage charges, thanks to Flight.
Because this warband includes only one creature with Blindsight (the Bat Familiar) and would otherwise be pretty susceptible to Sneak Attack, a Lantern Bearer is included to help mitigate the threat of invisible Shadowdancers and Lawful Evil invisible titan warbands.
I chose the Dungeon of Blood map because the wide-open central area gives room for charges as well as room for the Virtuous Chargers to exploit their speed. The pit gives you an additional way to leverage the Cormyrean War Wizard's slide spells. There are some sneaky lines of sight to the starting areas -- these can allow Storm to cast an early confusion spell. Although multiple large creatures are sometimes a liability on this map because of starting area exposure, the Virtuous Chargers are fast enough to set up in the safe spots and still get into good positions in the first round.
Chaotic Evil -- Jason Lioi
Bugbear Champion of Erythnul (34 pts)
Large Black Dragon x 2 (88 pts)
Thrall of Blackrazor (42 pts)
Orc Wardrummer (19 pts)
Cursed Spirit (11 pts)
Timber Wolf (5 pts)
Dungeon of Blood map
Total = 199 pts, 7 activations
I couldn't resist the opportunity to use the Thrall of Blackrazor, even though I think the best Blackrazor bands will end up using fewer than 50% Unhallowed pieces (and are thus ineligible for this challenge). However, I still feel this band is a solid choice against many of the currently popular warbands.
There's a lot to like about the Large Black Dragon -- great speed, good breath weapon, solid HP and damage. The main problem lies with its low attack bonuses and non-magic damage. Magic weapon helps here, and with four potential castings, the Bugbear Champ has more than enough to go around. If flanking with each other (or the durable Cursed Spirit), these dragons can reach +13/+11/+11 (20 magic), which is respectable.
All but the most powerful commanders will have trouble dealing with two F10 dragons who possess 25-damage, DC18 breath weapons -- commander assassination is a real threat from this warband. because the breath weapons are line effects, it should even be possible to kill some weaker commanders without advancing the dragons much further than the rest of the band. Careful placement of the Cursed Spirit could effectively boost the DC of the dragons' breath weapons to DC20 on a key enemy unit.
Morale saves are very good. With the dragons benefiting from each other's Enforcer ability and the Wardrummer's Resistance Drumbeat, they fail morale only on a 1. Even the lowly Cursed Spirit has a decent chance of resisting a Turn Undead attempt with +11 on the roll.
Care must be taken to protect the fragile Bugbear commander, or the benefit of Enforcer is lost. If your opponent has a potential commander assassin in the band, try to keep the Thrall within 8 squares of your commander -- Haste allows Blackrazor to move back and make two attacks, potentially dropping 40 magic damage on the would-be assassin.
Dungeon of Blood is a map that plays to this band's strengths -- a large, open central area where the dragons can set up devastating breath weapons and plenty of blood rock to help turn 20-damage attacks into devastating 40-damage criticals.
Lawful Good -- Michael Derry
High Inquisitor (49 pts)
Stone Giant Runecarver (91 pts)
Village Priest (23 pts)
Arcanix Guard x 4 (36 pts)
Dragon Shrine map
Total = 199 pts, 7 activations
This warband is built around the clarification that Arcanix Guards cause a morale check on every hit when under the commander effect of the High Inquisitor. With the boosts to attacks and morale that the Village Priest provides, the Arcanix Guards are huge threats to most warbands, even those with Fearless constructs, because SR means the Arcanix Guards do more damage.
With many warbands now often having nine activations (thanks to the Bat Familiar), I had concern about building a seven-activation titan warband (a warband with one or two costly creatures). With the Stone Giant's ranged attacks (especially the shards) and the High Inquisitor's order's wrath, it should be possible to whittle down their numbers before contact.
Deciding whether to lead with the Arcanix Guards or the Stone Giant presents the most difficult choice in achieving success with this warband. This decision hangs on many factors, including the opponent's warband, their recognition of the threat of the Arcanix Guards, their play style, the map, and other concerns.
Because the Arcanix Guards probably need the leadership of both the Village Priest and the High Inquisitor, positioning will be challenging against opponents with multiple area-effect weapons. The vulnerability of the Village Priest makes protecting it impossible against some warbands, but remember that both commanders have healing. On the flip side, the vulnerability of the Village Priest and the certainty of losing him against certain warbands mean that you can often use him as bait to disperse the opposing warband or its specialized hitters.
If order's wrath is cast early, be careful to not get the warband spread too far apart -- although with speed 4 creatures, it would be hard to do. The energy protection on the Dragon Shrine can be useful, but more important are the sacred circles, because everyone in this warband, especially the Arcanix Guards, need the bonuses to hit. Round 2 victory area points with speed 4 creatures are possible on this map, too.
Variation: Drop the Village Priest for another Arcanix Guard and the Cleric of Moradin (14 pts) and play this as a titan warband -- both the Giant and the Inquisitor have their ACs boosted to 24! This works best against opponents who realize the power of the Arcanix Guard and react by focusing too much attention on destroying them even when they are not supported by the Village Priest.
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.