[Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Skaven enthusiast "MadSkullz," the original author of the infamous Festering and Hungering Skaven deck towards the end of the Nightvault season, with some predictions on how the rats will fare in Beastgrave. Festering and Hungering may be gone, but Madskullz hasn't given up on the Skaven quite yet. --WiggleFish]
[SCENE: ruined Helmgart]
TUMBLE WEED BLOWS PAST
SLOW PAN TO WHITE HAIRED RAT SITTING ON ROCKING CHAIR, CLAN ESHIN FLAG DRAPED ACROSS KNEES
ELDERLY SKAVEN: Well y'all, I remember when Skaven were relevant. No, no, not the first time, the second time. And we shall rise again!
ELDERLY SKAVEN STOPS TO COUGH, BRINGING UP LUMP OF WARPSTONE AND WHAT IS PROBABLY LUNG
ELDERLY SKAVEN: Yes sirree, we'll rise again!
ELDERLY SKAVEN COUGHS SELF TO DEATH NOISILY
MadSkullz here again*, with a little thought exercise for you all. In fact it's more of a prediction, one of those "nail your colours to the mast early" in the hopes of being lauded as a very clever chap in 6 months time. Of course, this could all backfire spectacularly in which case feel free to drop by the discord channel and throw shameful emoji at me!
So Skaven, at the end of the last season, got a bit of a shot in the arm from a few cards and objectives and a new approach to playing them. Crown of Avarice, the self-damage ploys as well as all the lovely sword (i.e. 3 hammers, 2 damage) attack action upgrades put them back on the map. Heck, a few good folks realized even certain unused S1 cards were quite good - Shattering Terrain and Killing Ground in particular. It'd been a while since Skaven were relevant, since the "throw all upgrades on Skritch and hope you roll well" took a hit with the removal of Quick Thinker, Time Trap, Great Concussion etc etc.
Then the Beastgrave card rotation happened, and boy howdy did the warpstone hit the air relocation device. The Festering and Hungering deck, or variants thereof, relied heavily on a great deal of S1 universal cards. Indeed, the S2 universals, while handy, were nothing like good enough for Skaven to work with. This is because, like many S1-2 warbands, barring between 2 and 6 cards, Skaven have some *awful* faction specific cards, relatively speaking. Like really really bad.
Don't get me wrong, they've got a couple of the absolute best cards in the game (Expendable, There are Always More & Black Hunger, maybe Festering Blades & Scratching in the Shadows, arguably Momentary Boldness & Skaven Courage), but their objectives are shocking, and so are many of their upgrades and ploys.
This led to a serious power dip for my beloved rodential (is that a word?) buddies. Bad times.
Then however, something wonderful happened - we got new upgrades and objectives and ploys which play very much to the strengths of Spiteclaw's posse.
You see, my prediction is this: Skaven are doomed to start each season at or near the bottom of the pile. As the end of the season approaches, they will gain efficacy more rapidly than any S1-2 warband, perhaps finishing in S-Tier.
This is because of a few reasons:
Skaven are pretty good at scoring most objectives. This means as universal objectives are added, they have a great deal more to choose from than say Sepulchral Guard (can't do Gathered Momentum, are slow, and have a worse rez mechanic) or Ironskull's Boyz (can't realistically do Scrum or Gathered Momentum). They are also quite adept at scoring the new Surge objective holding cards due to their speed.
Skaven synergize strongly with new ploys, as anything that "chooses" them inspires them. This means cards like Two Steps Forward or Jealous Defence do double duty - inspiring rats as well as re-positioning or allowing an attack
Skaven don't lose upgrades on death.
Skaven have absurd mobility, especially when we factor in summoned rats.
Now these are all contributory factors, but point 3 is the real source of this waxing/waning. Put simply, upgrades are a major area of season 2 and 3 power growth (if I don't actually say "power creep" I won't get try-hard defences of Crown of Avarice (S2 version) sent my way), Trophy Belt, Sting of the Ur-Grub, or Survival Instincts, which are all best in slot upgrades (allowing for warband context) and Skaven don't lose them when they die.
Throwing Nullstone Sword onto a grunt and going for a YOLO charge is all very well, but it's more effective if the grunt is already carrying Tome of Offerings or Sting of the Ur-Grub. That is exponentially less worth doing in warbands that can't bring back their minions given how likely they are to simply die afterwards.
So, we're looking at a warband that can not only upgrade without fear of losing the upgrade, but which can build gross combinations as a result of upgraded fighters being immortal, and then on top of that are mobile enough (through speed 5 or There Are Always More) to deliver those upgrades and ploys wherever they'll reap the most harm. And we have power growth providing ever more powerful upgrades to combine.
We're already seeing the start of this process - Sting of the Ur-Grub and Survival Instincts in particular are proving very effective. It's only going to get more pronounced as the season wears on - currently there's only one pair of "combo" attack upgrades, but if a second set is released can you imagine the horrors Black Hunger will visit upon hordes? Each successful combo scything attack triggers another reaction scything attack? Then add in Sting of the Ur-Grub? I can't wait.
As an example of how things are currently heading, try playing this deck.
Fun, right? Now, it might get blown out of the water by GW restricting cards like Temporary Victory and Scrum, but the essence of the deck will survive that, I think.
Anyway, that's my prediction. Apologies for rambling on about nothing, and I hope I'm not eating humble pie at the end of Season 3.
* You may remember me from such decks as Festering and Hungering, such concepts as "kill your own rats before someone else does", and tournaments where I won precisely f*ck all.