Editor's Note: This game takes us back to Steven's first game in the Blood War league. If you've been keeping up with the recaps, this one may seem out of place. That's because it is.
The Blood Wars League is a bit different from past leagues in that it will only run for three weeks and, so far as I know, there will be no finals. The rules are similar to an event that was run at the last GenCon -- each player gets two boosters from which to build a warband, and bands may be modified between matches. We need to play at least three matches (one per week), and we need to play three different people before we can play the same person twice. After each match, we get to roll against a matrix of figures and add whatever figure we rolled to our sideboard.
Building the Warband
When it comes to Sealed matches, I run very hot or cold with my pulls. Underdark League -- cold. Wardrums Release -- cold. Wardrums Internal League -- hot. War of the Dragon Queen Release -- hot. Blood War Release -- frozen. But this time out, I have to admit that I got a pretty decent draw. In fact, one could argue it's almost too good.
The pulls from both boosters resulted in this --
Wow. There's actually enough for a couple of different warbands there and at least two distinct ideas I'd like to try.
The Red Hand of Doom
A very simple and direct Titan band with an even simpler strategy -- SMASH! The Forgepriest scores critical hits on 18-20, while the Maug acts as a solid backup beater (dishing out magic damage thanks to the Giant). The reliable Greenspawns provide flanks and Assault points, the Orc Wizard keeps powerful figures from basing the Giant or my commander with three castings of battering ram (and blasts them with fireburst when they get too close). Finally, with the Red Hand lashing out with lighting bolts from behind the Giant, this could be a difficult band to face. It suffers from a fairly squishy commander and lack of long-distance threats, but with any luck, the Hellspike map will help mitigate things somewhat. It's 5 points short of 200 ... maybe I'll be able to grab a Fiendish Snake or a Kobold Monk at some point to push it up to seven activations.
Fire & Ice
This is more of a Spoiler band. It could do extremely well or very horribly, depending on the matchup. Twin Titans often survive longer than lone Titans in sealed play, and the area effects of the Ice Devil are almost guaranteed to clear out enemy activations quickly. The absolute most horrific matchup for this band would be Vlaakith, whose immunity to cold would render much of the "BOOM!" aspect of this warband moot and whose disintegrate spell can be ruin for even the Forgepriest with an unlucky Save. But it'd still be worth a shot.
Of the two, I think the first band is more solid, but the second band looks like a lot of fun. We'll see which one I try, and what else I pull to make either or both bands work a little bit better, as I start getting into some skirmishes.
After much deliberation, I decided to go ahead with the first version of my warband, thinking it was probably the most solid choice. In retrospect, I still think it is, but it'll take another match and some better dice luck on my part to determine whether that's really the case.
Red Hand War Sorcerer (34 pts)
My first opponent was Mike Dunlap of Direct Sales, a very capable opponent who has schooled me plenty of times in the past (it had finally been my chance to school him during the War Drums League, but I should've known that things would be different this time). Like me, Mike got a pretty decent pull, and his warband made me more than a little nervous --
Doomguard (26 pts)
Great. Not only did Mike have the one figure that could inflict serious injury on my Fire Giant, but he also had the Marilith, whose immunity to both fire and electricity was going to severely impact my ability to deal damage.
Things were further compounded when I lost map initiative (indicative of how my rolls would go -- in spite of possessing a +2 initiative bonus, I only managed to win Set-Up and Round 4 initiative). Mike set up his forces in the upper left corner (save the lone Skeletal Reaper in the lower left and his Greenspawn in the upper victory area). I spread my Spawn into both victory areas and clustered in the upper right to avoid first turn line of sight.
Things started off OK, with the Orc Wizard casting dolorous blow on the Giant, my Spawns trading ineffective blows with Mike's Skeletal Reaper and Greenspawn, and general maneuvering. With my speed and the amount of difficult terrain, it was impossible for me to protect everyone from the inevitable ice storm that would come on round 2 ... unless I won initiative.
Naturally, I didn't. The Fire Giant took 40 points of painful damage, and the fodder all continued to wail on each other without any success. The Maug and Fire Giant both based the Ice Devil, and the Marilith moved to where she would be able to do some serious damage next round. But hey, if I win initiative ...
No such luck. Mike took initiative. The Marilith moved in, and my Fire Giant failed his morale check and made for the exit. The Maug and Red Hand managed to put considerable damage onto the Ice Devil, while my Orc Wizard moved to a prime position to deal with the Doomguard. Meanwhile, the Fire Giant failed his +13 rally attempt with a roll of 4 and moved off the board without so much as swinging his hammer once. I knew right there that the game was done. The only high point was that one of my Greenspawn forced a failed MC on Mike's own Greenspawn, who ran off the board, as well.
I managed to win the next initiative, but it hardly mattered. The Maug missed both of its attacks on the Ice Devil, and Mike's Doomguard made her save against fireburst, ensuring she'd stick around. The Red Hand nailed the Ice Devil with another lightning bolt, forcing a +11 morale check, which Mike made precisely with a roll of 9. To add insult to that injury, even as my Greenspawn landed 20 points of damage on the Doomguard with a flank attack, she made her own puny +6 MC with flying colors. Sometimes, the dice just aren't fair (to me) ...
Needless to say, the Marilith turned the Maug into a cinder block on her next activation, and I conceded.
In retrospect, I made some positioning errors, though I feel I did my best in light of a very non-Fire Giant friendly map. I do feel that I played well despite a matchup and a map that both worked against me. Mike, however, made no important mistakes, which is a big part of excellent play right there. That and our lopsided dice are what really sealed my fate. Oh, well ...
The final insult came from the new fig I acquired -- a third Soldier of Bytopia. WOOT! ;)
Hopefully the next match would go better ...
About the Authors
Steven Montano's body has been taken over by a psionic entity from the Far Realms. This nameless presence, which we dare not identify for fear of our readers' sanity, will soon control every drive-through espresso stand in the Western Hemisphere. Beware the power we yield, mortals!!!
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