D&D Miniatures
State of the Metagame
A Primer for the 2007 Tournament Season
By Michael Derry

Welcome to part two of the State of the Metagame 2007 series. This article presents warband information for the Lawful Goodfaction. The purpose of these articles is to present the most promising warbands for each faction, covering the following areas for each warband -- variations and alternatives, suggested map, how to play them, how to beat them, and a matchup comparison.

Complete Warband List

A full listing of all the warbands in this series can be found on the D&D Miniatures forum.

Lawful Good Warbands

During the 2005 Qualifier season, Large Silver Dragon (LSD) warbands seemed to be the only LG option. Between 2005 and 2006, expansions provided many competitive creatures and warband concepts for Lawful Good that showed up in the 2006 Qualifiers and Championship. Since then, however, Lawful Good's competitive options have once again shrunk when compared to the robust and flexible warbands of other factions.

Ballista

Arcane Ballista, Couatl, War Weaver x2, Sword of Heironeous, Bat Familiar x2, Man-at-Arms
(200, Cmd 7, 8 acts)
Map: Dragondown Grotto

Variant: Aspect of Kord, Arcane Ballista, Couatl, Sword of Heironeous, Bat Familiar, Hill Dwarf Warrior, Man-at-Arms x2 (200, Cmd 7, 8 acts); Map: Dragondown Grotto.

Alternatives: Replace Hill Dwarf Warrior with Jozan Cleric of Pelor -- adds another spellcaster at the cost of some melee power.

With the arrival of the Arcane Ballista in War Drums, Lawful Good gained a creature with ranged attacks that can work in competitive warbands. At the Second California Open in April 2006, the Arcane Ballista proved its competitiveness and it has won tournaments since. Because of Dragondown Grotto, slow warbands are rarely played these days, mainly because of the possibility (however small) of facing Arcane Ballista or other ranged-focused warbands. When the Arcane Ballista gets map initiative, most warbands have significantly diminished chances to win.

How to Play: Arcane Ballista plus dual War Weavers is called the Gatling warband because of its number of ranged shots each round. The most important element of success with this warband is getting the maximum number of ranged shots with the ballista over the course of the match, especially if those shots are concentrated on important enemy targets and not fodder. Optimal placement of the Arcane Ballista is crucial so that it does not need to waste time relocating -- each move costs you shots. Because the number of snake's swiftness spells from the War Weavers is limited, using the Bat Familiar (tied to a War Weaver) to dimension hop the Arcane Ballista (only the Ballista if the Bat cast the spell, because the bat does not have Eldritch Tapestry) into an optimum spot allows the Ballista to shoot the whole match because it never needs to move itself.

Optimal placement usually means having the Arcane Ballista in forest -- with forest cover, the ballista can keep shooting even when it's based, and adjacent spellcasters in forest can also cast snake's swiftness when enemies are adjacent. The rooftops of the Thieves Quarter and special locations on other maps can have the same effect. Set up your warband to get into these positions rapidly, and stay there as long as possible.

Look for ways to kill multiple enemy fodder creatures with the Lightning Sphere. Use dimension hop, if needed, because the Ballista cannot move and use that special ability. Pre-position one of your own fodder creatures to act as the target for the Lightning Sphere -- that lets you dimension hop to a spot where you can see only your fodder target and get multiple enemy creatures under the template. Remember that you do not need to have an adjacent spellcaster when using Lightning Sphere, because it is not a ranged attack. Although a first-round ranged shot courtesy of a War Weaver's snake's swiftness is often a good idea, but getting optimal Ballista position and effective engagement of enemy fodder are both more important.

Against warbands with flying creatures, make sure to use legion's undeniable gravity, possibly twice, even against high save creatures such as the Large Black Dragon. Non-flying creatures have a hard time getting at and attacking your vulnerable support creatures. If your creatures are not in forest, use dimension hop once melee is engaged to get the ballista and other caster out of contact so they can still shoot or cast snake's swiftness.

The Aspect of Kord (Kord) variant emerged at the 2006 California Open and proved itself as a capable warband. This hybrid ranged and melee warband handles the challenges of invisibility much better, although facing an invisible warband is still very challenging. This hybrid warband also handles the challenges of different maps better than the Gatling version. Unless targets have really high AC, Kord can engage the same creatures that the Ballista targets. Use his speed to avoid providing cover to the target.

How to Beat: By sloppily positioning your fodder creatures, you can lose more than one at once from a Lightning Sphere, and that alone can result in a loss. Be very careful with placement. If you expect that you'll need to pack your creatures closely in order to gang up on enemy creatures, making them lucrative targets for Lightning Sphere, try to lure your opponent into using the Lightning Sphere early by offering tempting, two-creature targets of relatively low value. It's best, of course, to expose none of your warband until you must, and then expose fodder creatures out front. If there is no way to avoid exposing non-fodder creatures to Ballista attacks, then leap-frog them forward turn by turn and round by round so the hits are spread out between them. Having all your beaters damaged a bit is better than having the lead beater or two killed or routed.

When you attack the Ballista warband, your target depends on whether any snake's swiftness spells can still be cast on the Ballista. If so, then give priority to killing or routing those casters. If not, focus on taking down the Ballista and any melee creatures threatening you. Keep an eye on the clock at this point and make sure to keep the rounds moving quickly, because you probably will be behind on points until the Ballista warband is nearly wiped out.

Invisibility is the bane of Arcane Ballista warbands, because targeting options are very limited against invisible creatures. The Kord variant has solid melee capability, and Kord makes a great target for the Couatl's snake's swiftness once it's in melee. Having invisibility allows you to more easily move in on the Ballista. About the only thing a Ballista can do against invisible targets is use its Lightning Sphere. If your entire warband is invisible, however, you can actually become more vulnerable to the Lightning Sphere, so be careful with your placements and remain spread out on the approach.

Specific Matchups: These are coming -- check back later.

TGB (Titan Guardian Bodyguard)

Solar, Shield Guardian, Dragonmark Heir of Deneith, Mialee Elf Wizard, Timber Wolf, Man-at-Arms x3
(200, Cmd 5, 8 acts)
Map: Dragonshrine

Alternatives: King's Road

Variant: Aspect of Moradin, Shield Guardian, Dragonmark Heir of Deneith, Cleric of Moradin, Mialee Elf Wizard, Hill Dwarf Warrior x3 (200, Cmd 4, 8 acts); Map: Dragonshrine

How to Play: The Shield Guardian and Dragonmark Heir of Deneith allow the fragile Solar a chance to survive against other competitive warbands. Unlike the Dragonmark Heir, the Shield Guardian can take half damage off the Solar even when not adjacent to the Solar, but with the Solar's limited AC, the +2 AC boost from the Shield Guardian means the Guardian should normally be adjacent anyway. The Solar's commander effect (Followers get +2 AC against evil enemies and gain immunity to enemy spells of 2nd level or lower) allows followers to further screen the Solar in most situations.

The Shield Guardian can store a spell. Against energy damage warbands, this should be the Dragonmarked Heir's protection from energy. Combined with the Solar's immunity to acid, Large Black Dragon warbands will have limited use for their breath weapons. When facing warbands against which protection from energy is not useful, the Shield Guardian should usually store Mialee's magic weapon, although the Cleric of Moradin's shield of faith is another possibility for the AoM version.

By using terrain to limit line of sight, the Solar can often avoid the fodder out front and pick a more valuable target to use Slaying Arrow against. The Solar should make sure to get at least the Slaying Arrow shot, hopefully against a target without the benefits of cover or melee. Killing an enemy beater with Slaying Arrow significantly increases the chance of a win for a warband like this one, with limited expected damage once the engagement occurs.

The Timber Wolf will get early assault victory points, so the Solar warband should maneuver very carefully during the first few turns. The Solar should also look for ways to focus on eliminating enemy beaters one at a time, hopefully while not being engaged by the entire enemy warband. Because of the high damage but low attack bonuses of the Solar's attacks, it is important to have flank and/or other bonuses (with a Man-at-Arms or from a sacred circle, for example) before activating the Solar.

Although the Solar is fragile and does not want to give non-reach opponents multiple attacks, carefully choose whether to base enemy beaters. Few beaters will be willing to risk an attack of opportunity to move away from the Solar, so moving adjacent probably locks them down until they're destroyed. Forcing your opponent to attack the Solar while you spread the damage around means you're giving up few casualty points until late in the match. That's much better than letting your opponent focus on just the Dragonmark Heir, for example.

The Dragonmarked Heir can do a significant amount of damage when using Sneak Attack. Because this warband has relatively low per-round damage output, it is critical to ensure that the Dragonmark Heir helps out. Because she is fragile, wants to be next to the Solar, and needs flanking help to do sneak attack damage, she will require very careful positioning. Her Sidestep gives her maneuverability -- use it to keep her alive. Remember that she can Sidestep before or after attacking but not between attacks.

Substituting the Aspect of Moradin (AoM) for the Solar gives you a tougher leader with the potential for higher damage (though it often doesn't work out that way) against Fire Giant Forgepriest warbands. Like most titan builds, Aspect of Moradin (AoM) warbands tend to be less predictable, especially with only a +14 base morale check instead of the +16 of the Solar. It's a significant setback if the Aspect of Moradin fails his morale check. Even if he rallies immediately, the loss of position, momentum, and a round's attacks can be too much to overcome. The main problem with the AoM is his modest attack bonus. When facing other titan warbands, especially those with armor class 25 or more, the AoM cannot deliver damage reliably.

How to Beat: Neither the Solar nor the Aspect of Moradin are super titans, so most power warbands can out-melee them, even with Guardian and Bodyguard assistance. Usually only the titan and one other creature (via the stored spell) will benefit from protection from energy, leaving the rest of the warband vulnerable to elemental damage warbands. Focusing on support creatures with multiple template weapons should ensure enough leverage to reliably beat this warband. Ranged warbands can outshoot TGB but will have trouble finding secure, multi-round sniping locations. Melee warbands that avoid attacking piecemeal can usually out-melee this warband, if they avoid attacking into a narrow area where TGB has an advantage. Non-Fearless warbands should try to fight more than one rout move from their exit -- the Solar, with a +16 morale check, has no problem fighting close to an exit.

Specific Matchups: These are coming -- check back later.

Korducopia

Aspect of Kord, Cleric of Dol Arrah, Couatl, Dragonmark Heir of Deneith, Bat Familiar, Timber Wolf, Man-at-Arms
(200, Cmd 7, 7 acts)
Map: Dragonshrine

Alternatives: Replace the Aspect of Kord with a Marut. Downgrading the Cleric of Dol Arrah (CODA) to a Cleric of Order often accompanies that change.

Korducopia derived from Marut Couatl Bodyguard (MCB) warbands. At the 2006 Championship, Korducopia was played by several top players, and most of them did well. Since then, warbands have emerged that make winning with a Korducopia warband much more difficult. This is especially true of warbands with non-typed template damage from Bralani Eladrin and Storm Silverhand.

How to Play: Korducopia warbands derive their competitive advantage from the great speed of the Aspect of Kord (Kord), allowing attacks at great ranges when combined with a snake's swiftness from the Couatl. The Melee Reach of Kord means creatures without Reach cannot get full attacks on Kord if he does not base them. A beater based by Kord will think twice before risking an attack of opportunity to go fight the 'soft underbelly' of the Korducopia warband. The exceptional healing capability of the CODA, combined with the Bodyguard ability of the Dragonmarked Heir of Deneith (DHD), and sometimes combined with the Healing of the Couatl, all make Kord (and other creatures in the warband) really hard to destroy.

Loss of Kord does not mean the match is over. Often Kord can destroy more points than he costs, and if the rest of the warband Heals and withdraws, it can be quite difficult for what's left of the opposing warband to swing the victory point count in their favor. An interesting element to keep in mind is that a missed morale check by the Couatl or DHD can ensure a win late in the game (they will rout to a location too far away to be engaged). Be careful with the CODA in these end game situations, and remember that you may want to miss some of these late morale checks -- especially since rallying (when needed) is so reliable with the CODA.

As usual with titan warbands, look for narrow areas where multiple enemy beaters can be channeled and defeated one at a time. With ACs all about the same, Bodyguard, and Healing, it usually matters less which creature of yours gets attacked.

Matches against creatures with non-typed template damage (such as Bralani Eladrin and Storm Silverhand) are very challenging. You don't want to cluster and get the entire warband hit by each template. Instead, seek out targets and be an active predator. While this strategy shift may be hard to do, it is essential against the types of warbands you will see in this era.

Many maps will work for Korducopia, but Dragonshrine potentially provides more energy protection and allows Korducopia to fight in narrow areas or from cover while still keeping opposing creatures within rout distance of the exit. Dragonshrine also works as a map for skilled players who have not played in a while and who may not be as familiar as they need to be with all the new maps.

How to Beat: As stated above, warbands with non-typed template damage thanks to Bralani Eladrin and Storm Silverhand can put a lot of damage on Korducopia and make assassination of the most-wounded support creatures quite easy. Baiting Kord and the Couatl away from your all-out attack on the rest of the warband will also produce enough leverage for a win. Flying and high speed warbands are a big problem for Korducopia, because it is difficult for Kord to sweep out and attack enemy creatures without getting the warband split up and spread out. Anything you can use to reduce Kord's morale check (Aura of Fear, Stench, etc.) means there is some chance for him to fail his MC. If Kord routs, the offensive potential of Korducopia plummets.

Specific Matchups: These are coming -- check back later.

Swarm

Sword Archon, Sacred Watcher x6, Standardbearer
(200, Cmd 4, 8 acts)
Map: Dragonshrine

Alternative: Swap Standardbearer for Warforged Scout.

How to Play: A key challenge when playing Swarm is the difficulty of protecting the Sword Archon. Since fewer warbands these days have melee reach, and the Sacred Watchers can prevent multiple Large creatures from attacking the Sword Archon, it is easier to play Swarm in the current metagame. With fewer creatures doing 30 damage in the metagame, the fact that Sacred Watchers take multiple hits to kill can easily turn a match.

Remember that although the odds of damaging Incorporeal creatures is 50-50 once a hit is made, rarely will actual matches have the hits and misses from Incorporeal evenly split, especially on the most important first few rolls. Since the impact of Incorporeal varies so much from match to match, you can make riskier moves later in a match if you are losing. Accept attacks of opportunity and move away as needed if you get way behind. No other warband rewards daring as much as Swarm does. Play to win, especially if you are behind, because the Incorporeal Sacred Watchers can put you back in the game.

Dragonshrine not only offers energy protection for the warband but also offers plenty of opportunity for the Sacred Watchers to charge enemy creatures through the many columns while not being vulnerable to preemptive charges (provided they have line of sight, of course). Remember to avoid basing columns when fighting a warband with Melee Reach. The sacred circles of Dragonshrine provide not just hit bonuses but magic damage, which is crucial against the many creatures with Damage Reduction in the metagame right now.

Each Sacred Watcher has limited offensive potential, even with the damage boost of the Sword Archon, so make sure to gang up on targets and eliminate them quickly instead of distributing damage across several enemies. With the Sacred Watchers, modest attack bonuses, have each one get every advantage possible, such as flanking, sacred circle, charge, etc. On Dragonshrine, it's possible for a Sacred Watcher to get charge, flank, and sacred circle bonuses -- an additional +6 to hit -- all on the same attack.

How to Beat: Effective use of template weapons, even though they are unreliable against Incorporeal creatures, can still do enough damage overall to leave multiple Sacred Watchers just one hit away from destruction. The quick loss of several Sacred Watchers makes the warband fall apart. If you do not have template weapons, the Sword Archon represents the easiest way to get enough points to win a match, so your main effort should focus on eliminating him, especially if you can avoid the Sacred Watchers and keep the bulk of your warband out of the engagement for a bit.

Matchups: to be inserted later.

In Conclusion

Regardless of what warband you take to a tournament, a key element of your success will be your experience with that warband. Decide early and practice as much as you can with it. Be sure to attend one (or more) qualifiers -- not only are they great fun, but they're also an opportunity to meet other members of the community. See the 2007 Constructed Qualifier Factsheet and good luck at your qualifier.

Treat this information as the conventional wisdom, heavily slanted by my viewpoint, and definitely not the full spectrum of competitive possibilities. This article series may skew what you see at the qualifier, but each qualifier will have a different mix of warbands, and you will definitely see some interesting new ideas not covered here. Make your own choices, and use this information to assist the development of your warband and strategy, not to provide the final answers.

This series discusses the state of the game prior to the start of the 2007 qualifier season. Important new warbands will emerge during the qualifiers as everyone's understanding of the current state of the game improves over time. After the release of Night Below and by the time of the 2007 constructed championship, many of these warbands will no longer be the best. Some of the information and methodology should remain relevant.

Now go read Brian Mackey's (Kiddoc) article, Planning for Victory: Dungeons & Dragons Tournament Preparation.

Endnotes

We highly recommend that you read the other articles in this series, from this year and past years.

About the Author

Michael Derry (board name: derry) is the 2006 DDM Constructed Champion. He is also a Wizards delegate, tournament organizer, and D&D Miniatures Senior Judge. He helped start the California DDM Open. While seemingly a competitive player, he does a great job of earning DCI points at championships for his local players to farm. In his copious amounts of free time, he designs a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game focusing on social interaction within a complex, multi-layered society. In his real-world life he is a senior project and program manager in the high tech field.


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