Both of these players are top competitors. Jason was the Constructed World Champion in 2005. Paul is the Limited World Champion from 2006.
Their booster draws and warband construction strategy are outlined in the previous article. Their warbands are summarized again here.
Lyrandar Skyfire Captain (55 pts, Cmdr 3)
Large Astral Construct (43 pts)
Blessed Hunter (47 pts)
Marid (46 pts)
Wild Elf Warsinger (9 pts)
Tomb of Queen Peregrine
Total = 200 pts, 5 activations
Duergar Slaver (26 pts, Cmdr 2)
Gorgon (70 pts)
Bone Naga (62 pts)
Canoloth (24 pts)
Dwarf Battlerager (17 pts)
Total = 199 pts, 5 activations
Paul won map initiative, placing the match on the Hailstorm Tower map.
Paul: Jason had an impressive warband. It looked balanced enough to be a big threat on any map, but its most dangerous trick would be the Blessed Hunter charging into battle with the potential for 80 damage if all three attacks connected. My plan was to use the Duergar's invisibility spell on the Gorgon and put it in front to block charges. I really wanted to see Jason's warband in a nice, tight cluster when the Gorgon used its breath weapon, and Hailstorm Tower is a good map for that. Its sacred circle would be useful, because two of Jason's creatures had damage reduction.
Jason: Paul's initiative win foiled my attempt to have us fight on the wide-open Tomb of Queen Peregrine. Paul's choice, Hailstorm Tower, is more obstructed and has shorter lines of sight. Still, there are some good charge lanes on that map, so I was optimistic about my chances.
I won side initiative, picking Side B. There's less difficult terrain on that side, and I had two large-base, speed 6 creatures -- I didn't want them slogging through difficult terrain just to get off the start area. After seeing Paul's band and the map, I chose "Flight and Speed +4" for the construct, reasoning that in these choked corridors, Flight would be very useful. Also, I used the Skyfire Captain's Prepared for Battle ability to cast fiery weapon augmentation on the Construct and speed weapon augmentation on the Blessed Hunter. I hoped that bumping up the damage on the Construct would make Paul reluctant to take attacks of opportunity from it. Coupled with its new speed F10, he might be forced into fighting it first. The Blessed Hunter got the extra attack because of the crazy Rend/Pounce/Powerful Charge combo discussed last week.
Paul: On side A, I fit my whole warband into the start area near the back of the tower. I wanted to keep all my creatures together and get them into my victory area as soon as possible.
Round 1 -- Initiative Jason, first move Paul
Paul: As planned, I used the Duergar Slaver's spell on the Gorgon, dubbing it the "Invisibull." All my creatures moved as far forward as possible. In the last phase, I had an interesting decision to make. My Canoloth was fast enough to reach my victory area, but it would be a bit overextended. Jason's Astral Construct was too far away to reach its own victory area, but it would be able to threaten the Canoloth. With the rest of my warband following reasonably close behind, I decided to risk it. The Canoloth jumped ahead and claimed 10 victory points.
Jason: I advanced all my units along the snowy path. The back entrance to the tower has so much difficult terrain that I didn't think it was worthwhile to send anyone in that direction. I moved the Construct last, after Paul had placed his Canoloth, such that I could get off a powerful charge on it if I won initiative.
Score -- Paul 10, Jason 0
Round 2 -- initiative and first move Jason
Jason: I couldn't resist going first and charging the Canoloth. I had an excellent chance of hitting, and thanks to the Construct getting powerful charge from the Warsinger and +5 fire damage from the Captain's spell, I'd do exactly 25 damage after DR -- just enough to force morale on the out-of-command Canoloth. I charged and hit. Paul needed a 14 or better to pass morale, and he got it! Bummer. I shuffled my Marid forward onto the magic circle victory area and passed the turn.
Paul: Wow, my little Canoloth really lucked out. If I had taken the time to realize that the Astral Construct could force a morale check with one hit, I would have been more cautious. After the lucky morale save, my position looked fine. Now it was Jason who was overextended. My whole warband could team up on his 43-point Astral Construct, possibly eliminating it before the rest of his creatures could join the fray.
The Dwarf Battlerager was close enough to move in and attack right away. Unless I could do some damage to the Battlerager, it would attack at a measly +4 for 10 damage. Jason would just ignore it in favor of finishing off the wounded Canoloth. This was a job for the Bone Naga. I implemented the "cone your own" policy, putting cone of cold on the Battlerager and the Astral Construct, dealing 15 damage to each. The dwarf shrugged off the cold and flew into a rage, then swung at the Construct at +11 after the flanking bonus from the Canoloth. Alas, the dwarf's anger was not strong enough, and he missed.
Jason: Because I'd gone first, Paul would get to move his Invisibull after I finished activating. For some reason, I didn't grasp the seriousness of that fact, and rather stupidly put my Blessed Hunter within 6 squares of the Marid. Paul finished Round 2 by advancing his Gorgon to a spot where, very clearly, it was going to use its great breath weapon if he won initiative. Oops. If I won initiative round 3, I could cover for this mistake … .
Score -- Paul 20, Jason 10
Round 3 -- initiative and first move Paul
Paul: But he didn't. Seizing the initiative, the Gorgon stomped into the tower, trampling over the Wild Elf Warsinger on the way. The Elf rolled aside, taking only 5 damage. Then the Gorgon unleashed its breath weapon, catching the Marid, Blessed Hunter, and Wild Elf in the area of effect. The Marid was removed from the map and replaced by a statue, but the Blessed Hunter and Wild Elf resisted and remained.
The new Marid statue in the middle of the tower looked great, but I still had some redecorating to do. If there's one thing that gives a tower some real gravitas, it's having a big statue of a lion right out front by the mailbox. So next I activated the Bone Naga and moved it around the outside of the tower, where it cast flesh to stone on the Blessed Hunter. Jason rolled another successful save, and the spell had no effect.
Jason: Having gotten luckier than I really deserved to, given my poor choices the previous round, I considered my options. With the Marid turned to stone, I should have brought back either the Blessed Hunter or the Construct to block for my commander. My thinking at the time was that the Construct should kill the Battlerager before it activated, eliminating a major source of damage, and the Captain should fire at the Gorgon while there was no cover and no melee bonus to AC. So, the Constuct attacked and killed the Battlerager, hitting the Canoloth with its second attack, and the Skyfire Captain put some damage on the Gorgon.
Paul: I had been so eager to petrify the Blessed Hunter that I ignored my own Dwarf Battlerager. I should have activated the Battlerager first so he could get in some good damage before being pounded into the ground by the Astral Construct's weird hammer-hand. It worked out all right eventually, because the Construct spent its turn attacking instead of breaking off to block for its commander.
The Canoloth hit the Astral Construct for 5 damage, using the Tongue Grab to slurp its enemy over one square just for fun. At this point, I was planning to deal with the Astral Construct by eliminating the Lyrandar Skyfire Captain.
I moved the Duergar Slaver into the tower. He has a reasonable melee attack, and it looked as if I would need to do some serious damage to destroy the rest of Jason's warband the old-fashioned way. I was fresh out of save-or-die effects.
Jason: And none too soon, either! The only way the Blessed Hunter was going to get off an attack this round was by basing the Naga. I could have double-moved it to block for the Captain, which in retrospect would have been the right choice, but I was gambling on winning initiative -- I could then do quite a bit of damage to the Naga with three attacks and a Rend. With that in mind, I stepped the Hunter forward and used my Smite attack on the Naga instead of withdrawing. Another questionable choice, given that I needed to keep the commander alive or lose the Construct.
The elf continued vying for MVP, charging and hitting the Gorgon for 10. Too bad she doesn't benefit from the powerful charge ability she grants to allies!
Score -- Paul 76, Jason 37
Round 4 -- initiative and first move Paul
Paul: My top priority was to KO Jason's commander. Because the new Marid statue was in the way, the Gorgon needed to double move to get next to the Skyfire Captain. On the way, it trampled the Wild Elf Warsinger for 15 damage, finishing her off.
I activated the Bone Naga next. It backed away from the Blessed Hunter, risking 10 points of damage from the attack of opportunity, which missed. The Naga was in the safe zone one square away -- too far away to attack, too close to charge. The Blessed Hunter had 90 hit points, so I could force a morale check by hitting it with a cone of cold for 30 and an empowered magic missile for 15. I used the magic missile first, hoping to catch multiple enemies in the cone on the next round.
Jason: With the Gorgon now in base-to-base contact with my commander, I did what I should have done a round earlier -- I moved the Construct back to defend the Captain. Likewise, the Hunter came in to hit the Gorgon. It's a piece that has Rend, Pounce, and Powerful Charge, but Paul kept out-maneuvering me, so I could only use it to single-move and attack once for 10.
Paul: The Canoloth used its impressive threat range this turn. It moved from the edge of the map all the way to the middle of the tower and attacked the Blessed Hunter with Melee Reach. Alas, it proved to be all range and no threat when it missed its attack. Then the Duergar moved close enough to have his pick of targets next turn.
Jason: I needed to bring down the Gorgon fast to stay in this game, but the Captain missed both melee attacks on the bull, which didn't help at all. With the Elf dead and the Marid a statue, I was running out of options.
Score -- Paul 95, Jason 37
Round 5 -- initiative and first move Paul
Paul: Great! I won initiative for the third turn in a row. I needed to figure out how to eliminate Jason's commander, because the Astral Construct would then go away, too. If I activated the Gorgon first, I could attack the Skyfire Captain for 25 and force a morale check -- but if he failed, he would run safely away from my other three creatures, leaving me in a fair fight with the Blessed Hunter and the Astral Construct. I wasn't looking for a fair fight. If I could use a different member of my warband to force the morale check, I could then finish off the Captain with an attack of opportunity from the Gorgon.
Once again, the trusty Bone Naga came through with a "cone your own" play. Its cone of cold would catch all three of Jason's remaining creatures, but also my Gorgon. The Gorgon saw this coming, of course, so it gored the Blessed Hunter for 25 damage before the spell hit.
The Naga's spell was quite cool indeed. The Gorgon took only 15 damage from the spell but promptly failed its morale check and routed back through the tower, taking more damage along the way from attacks of opportunity. The Blessed Hunter took the full 30 damage from the spell, but made its morale check. The Large Astral Construct took 15 damage, dropping to 30 hit points remaining. The Lyrandar Skyfire Captain failed both saves, taking the full 30 damage and then routing.
Jason: With a routing commander, it was cold comfort to see a routing Gorgon. My Blessed Hunter tried to continue his tradition of single-moving and hitting for 10 -- only he missed this time. With the Naga blocked and the Canoloth at 5hp, I sent the Construct to kill the Gorgon, rolling a crit for good measure.
Paul: I abandoned the victory area and sent the Duergar and the Canoloth after Jason's commander. If the Skyfire Captain managed to rally on his turn, I wanted to get as many attacks on him as possible at the beginning of the next round. My warband still had some important mopping up to do, and Jason would need only a few good die rolls to regain the upper hand.
Jason: Even with the bull dead, the commander needed to rally himself or he'd be off the board and this game would be all but over. It was not to be, and as the Captain ran away, the Construct returned to the Astral Plane.
Score -- Paul 193, Jason 107
Round 6 -- No initiative roll
Paul: Needing only 7 more points to win, I declared that I would move my Canaloth back to its favorite victory area at the edge of the map. The Blessed Hunter was too far away to affect it, so I was certain to score 10 more victory points, ending the game with 203.
Jason: Overall, I made several bad mistakes in this game. Allowing Paul's Gorgon to breathe on both the Marid and the Blessed Hunter was very poor play. I followed that up by being too aggressive with my commander, when the better choice was to withdraw him until I could regroup my other hitters. Finally, I spent too much time using the Construct to attack Paul's lesser units, allowing the Naga freedom to maneuver, which in turn minimized the effectiveness of my Blessed Hunter. Losing three consecutive initiatives really hurt my ability to recover from these mistakes, but had I not been in such a bad position because of my poor choices, initiative would not have been the back-breaker it was.
Paul: I discovered that my warband would work best on a map with longer, unobstructed lines of sight to make early use of the Bone Naga's spells. This was a pretty casual game, and we focused on having a good time and reveling in our unfamiliarity with the new creatures from Unhallowed. It ended up being very close, and we each had plenty of tough decisions to make. I'm eager to try some of these creatures in constructed warbands.
About the Authors
Jason Lioi is the 2005 Constructed DDM Champion and a frequent contributor to the Wizards website. Paul Grasshoff is an avid gamer who grew up with Avalon Hill rulebooks as bedtime stories. He's also the 2005 Limited D&D Miniatures Champion.