Welcome to part three of the State of the Metagame 2007 series. This article presents warband information for the Lawful Evil factions. 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 Wizards of the Coast forum.
Lawful Evil Warbands
How to Play: While Ultroforge may appear at first glance to be a warband with modest overall damage potential, Cleave and the damage capabilities of the Ultroloth and the Dragonmark Heir of Deneith (DHD) combine with the very high attack bonuses of the Fire Giant Forgepriest (FGFP) to deliver quite a bit of damage each round. With the high armor class and high hit points of the FGFP, and with the DHD bodyguarding, most opposing warbands will have their offensive potential diminished before the FGFP even checks morale.
Play the FGFP as a predator, especially against warbands using beaters with 90, 60, or fewer hit points. Many currently popular warbands in the metagame rely on shooting or using line attacks from range and then withdrawing to limit exposure. Disrupt their plan by aggressively engaging opposing beaters -- but not too early in a round, as they may later poorly position a beater within move and attack range. With Melee Reach, you may not need to base the target, but consider whether that might be best. A based target can get full attacks against you and might not move away. That's an advantage to you, because the FGFP does so much damage so fast, especially in combination with the Ultroloth.
With unlimted scorching ray, the Ultroloth deals automatic damage every round when not based. When based, its attacks are good enough to often deliver more damage than it would with scorching ray. Using Quick Cast to cast two scorching rays usually is the best tactic, because it allows the Ultroloth to deal 30 damage at range. Try to cause morale checks against figures in base-to-base contact with the FGFP or that must rout past it. If the Fire Giant's attack of opportunity destroys the routing creature, it can Cleave another creature. Remember that Cleave can be used multiple times per round -- once on the FGFP's turn and again on any other creatures turn when it's triggered. The trickiest part of using the Ultroloth is deciding between using scorching ray, ray of enfeeblement, or engaging in melee. Unless fighting another titan warband, heightened ray of exhaustion is rarely a good choice because it has a save and ray of enfeeblement does not.
Just like other titan warbands with the Dragonmark Heir of Deneith, make sure the DHD helps out. With her Sneak Attack, she dish out a significant amount of damage. Because she is fragile, needs to be next to the FGFP, and requires flanking help to use Sneak Attack damage, she requires careful positioning. Sidestep makes her very maneuverable -- use it to keep her alive. Remember that she can Sidestep either before or after both attacks (but not between attacks).
Although most Ultroforge warbands will not have very important fodder, Forge Blessing from the FGFP does give them magic damage, which makes them capable of damaging creatures with DR. Rarely does this matter, since the fodder are better used to block access to the FGFP and to fight opposing fodder creatures for control of the assault victory point areas.
How to Beat: Melee warbands that can have all their creatures attack at once can still get out-meleed by Ultroforge because of the high armor class of the FGFP, especially if you let the Dragonmark Heir absorb damage for the FGFP. Avoid attacking into narrow areas that titan warbands use to their advantage.
Even if you focus on the DHD and the Ultroloth first and than withdraw, your warband may still have difficulty keeping away from the Fire Giant. Focusing on fodder and winning the assault victory point area battles may allow you to force the Ultroforge warband to come out to meet you. You should have more activations at that point, enabling you to attack the Ultroforge warband on your terms, which means focusing first on either the FGFP and/or the DHD and the Ultroloth.
Alternatives: Use the Dragonshrine map. Swap out a Duergar Champion for a Zakya Rhakshasa. Drop one Duergar Champion for Snig and his minions, a Greenspawn Sneak, and some filler. Replace one DC with a different beater or tech piece to get specialized leverage -- see the list of options at the end of the Lawful Evil warbands.
Duergar Champions (DCs) exemplify what an efficient creature is. Their efficiency made them the backbone of many specialized warbands in Lawful Evil. They have long been a staple of Lawful Evil but are now significantly affected by the prevalance of the Bralani Eladrin, Storm Silverhand, and Large Black Dragon. Duergar Champions are good enough to slug it out with almost every creature in the game, and their Conceal 6 provides enough uncertainty that they often prevail.
How to Play: King's Road works as a map for this warband in a metagame that has few Archmages and few creatures with AC 23 or higher. King's Road works because of the relative advantage the forest provides the Duergar Champions. Their high armor class, Conceal 6, and high attacks mean they usually gain more benefit from forest than other warbands do. The alternative Dragonshrine map is in many ways a better map, especially if the metagame is filled with energy damage warbands. Ultrochamp is not as competitive against a metagame heavy with energy damage, however, so the primary map is King's Road. Stated another way, you should probably not play Ultrochamp when the mix of warbands in the metagame means Dragonshrine is a better map. Another downside of Dragonshrine is the nearby exit. The Duergar Champion's +15 morale check is good but not so good that you want the exit area within a single rout move.
As a melee warband, Ultrochamp focuses on ganging up all the beaters on one enemy creature at a time. Enemies with Blind-fight or Blindsight are priority targets, because they can damage the DCs more reliably. The Ultroloth provides a way to neuter enemy beaters, a way to inflict automatic damage, and melee capability when you need to cause even more damage (and are willing to accept the higher risk of having the Ultraloth on the front line).
The Triple-DC alternative build with Snig provides more than just extra activations and ways to deal with low armor class warbands like those with the Frenzied Berserker. Extra activations help mitigate the problems the DCs have against high-damage beaters such as those in CE Quad warbands. By moving last, you can limit your exposure and gang up on enemy beaters, potentially routing or killing them before they cause too much damage. The Greenspawn Sneak provides flexibility for grabbing assault victory points, and that allows you more time to engage carefully and not attack too early.
How to Beat: Basing the Ultroloth means it can attack twice but cannot cast any of its spells -- although it can still use Dark Suggestion, so be careful who is nearby. Once the Ultroloth is gone, Duergar Champions are far more likely to rout when they take morale checks. The Duergar Champion's Cleave means fodder can be eliminated easily. Unless your fodder provides a crucial advantage by being near the DCs, don't give away easy points. Look for ways to outmaneuver four beaters without reach (like the DCs) by using narrow areas, greater speed, or similar tactics.
The 65 hit points of the DCs mean creatures causing 10, 15, 20, or 30 damage usually get the Duergar to 60 damage and then still need another hit to kill it. If you have creatures that cause different amounts of damage, make sure that those capable of adding that extra damage can deliver needed, early killing blows (remember that your opponent will be trying to kill your higher-damage creatures first). Even a single damage-causing area effect inflicts enough damage to make each affected DC take at least one less hit to kill. Optimal placement of each template provides significant leverage to win a match. With two to four templates covering four to ten beaters total, the Ultrochamp warband has little chance to prevail, even with the great saves of the Duergar.
Specific Matchups: These are coming -- check back later.
LE Currently Unproven
Alternatives: Replace the Kobold Monk with an Azer Raider. Replace the Aspect of Hextor and Warrior Skeleton with two Zakya Rakshasas and a Bat Familiar.
How to Play: While the Pit Fiend may appear less formidable than the Forge Giant Firepriest, the Pit Fiend's Flight provides significant tactical flexibility in this era, and the Aspect of Hextor synergizes well with the Pit Fiend, providing flank all the time. Multiple attacks from the Aspect of Hextor represent interesting challenges for this warband. The usual strategy against creatures with three or more attacks is to move away after attacking them (sometimes even before attacking). With both the Aspect of Hextor and the Pit Fiend basing a creature, it will still want to move away, and you get a chance to do more damage when it does.
The Pit Fiend's two fireballs represent a very important damage capability. Optimal use of them should make up for the overall modest damage output of this warband compared to some of the current power warbands. By putting your own creature in the optimal target location, you can target it and maximize a fireball's coverage. The Thieves Quarter map enables you to target your own nearest creature much more flexibly than most maps allow, since the Pit Fiend can use Flight to reach spots where he cannot see anyone in the warband except the intended target.
Chaotic Good warbands are all the rage these days. If you think there will be enough at your tournament (even if no Lawful Good warbands show up), this can be a very effective warband to play. Against good warbands, the Pit Fiend's blasphemy provides game-winning advantage. The paralysis and stun effects synergize well with the Aspect of Hextor. Make sure the Aspect is in place and ready to put multiple attacks on those affected by blasphemy, because even the stun effect provides a bonus to hit.
Against Large Black Dragon (LBD) and other power warbands, the Aspect of Hextor must get multiple attacks over multiple rounds. If opposing LBD (or Bralani Eladrin) can breathe and move away, your melee advantage will not be enough to prevail. Use the acid immunity of the Pit Fiend and the high speed of the Aspect of Hextor to get the Aspect into melee with a couple of opposing beaters, ideally without taking automatic damage from line attacks. A based LBD probably will just attack and not move away or use its breath weapon (unless you give it too many tempting targets). Balancing how vulnerable you make the Aspect and the Fiend with how much opportunity they get for their attacks is very tricky against even intermediate-skill opponents.
Many maps work well for this warband, and against some that can be expected to show up at tournaments, Thieves Quarter might not be the optimal pick. It does, however, allow optimal use of both of the Pit Fiend's fireballs without exposing it to counterattack. Thieves' Quarter also allows the Aspect of Hextor to get locked in combat with non-flying opponents, especially with the help of the Pit Fiend. Make sure the Aspect of Hextor is within range of the Pit Fiend when you make the attacks, because +5 damage per attack adds up fast.
Using two Zakya Rakshasas instead of the Aspect of Hextor allows a lot more tactical flexibility, and it's far easier to maximize their attacks. The downside to using them is that, once one Zakya is dead, your combat power is halved. A similar amount of damage to the Aspect of Hextor would mean he has checked morale, but (assuming he passed) still has full offensive capability. Most titans do not have twice the combat power for twice the cost the way the Aspect of Hextor does compared to the Zakyas.
How to Beat: As mentioned above, the Aspect of Hextor does competitive amounts of damage only if it can make full attacks. Warbands without a lot of melee power can damage this warband from a distance or attack and move away. With blasphemy and fireball, most warbands need to be careful about what parts of their warband they present to the Pit Fiend. Pit Fiends prefer maps with tricky lines of sight, so be careful when placing what you hope to be the closest target for the enemy. The Pit Fiend is maneuverable enough to find tricky lines of sight that avoid the target you're offering. If you do expose your warband to a fireball, try to have your creatures close enough to the Pit Fiend so they can attack it the same round it casts the fireball. Pit Fiends are ruthless and will target their own nearest creature if you position yourself poorly. Consider the enemy's options carefully when placing your creatures in positions that would allow several of them to be covered by a fireball template.
Specific Matchups: These are coming -- check back later.
LE Large Black Dragons
Some players see the Large Black Dragon (LBD) as so compelling that it's viable in any warband that can hold it. Mina Dark Cleric and three LBDs is one such LE warband. The real question in this case should probably be, why play LBD in LE, rather than why not. Mina has some interesting capabilities that increase the DCs of the Large Black Dragon's breath weapons. Just as Ryld is a vulnerable leader in a Ryld Triple LBD warband, however, Mina is even more vulnerable than Ryld and may not make the best leader for most players, play styles, and strategies. If you feel this is a compelling option, more ideas on controlling Large Black Dragons can be found in the Chaotic Evil analysis.
Additional LE Options
Although the warbands above have specific leaders and beaters already chosen, the Lawful Evil faction has a number of interchangeable choices for each category. You can fine tune your warband to match your expected metagame, play style, and piece familiarity. Each commander and beater has its own role and strengths which should be considered when deciding whether and why to use them.
The efficient commanders in the same cost range include the Dark Naga, Rakshasa, Human Blackguard, High Inquisitor, Inspiring Lieutenant, Mind Flayer, Urthok the Vicious, Red Hand War Sorcerer.
The efficient beaters in the same cost range include the Duergar Champion, Zakya Rakshasa, Dragonmark Heir of Deneith, Greenspawn, Razorfiend, Gauth, Helmed Horror, and Mezzoloth. Beaters that are not as efficient include the Efreeti, Chraal, Blood Ghost Berserker, Large Green Dragon, Large Water Elemental, and Ogre Executioner.
Interesting tech pieces in this range include the Half-Elf Hexblade, Mind Flayer Telepath, and Witchknife.
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.
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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