Chosen Axes - Tomes
Tabletop - BG Pre-Season
Beastgrave has shaken the meta as few would have expected. Cycling out Shadespire has been extremely positive for deck variety, while rule changes have seriously hindered surge based approaches and given a buff to Guard action, which helps a lot to both hold objective play and slow, non-ranged warbands. Is this enough to bring Fyreslayers back to viability? I think so, as the kinder current meta coupled with their always best-in-class ploys give them enough room to become relevant again.
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deck building guide
Power Deck - Core
I typically build my decks from the objective deck onwards: setting first my overall style –what is going to give me glory- and then building my power deck around it has always felt the way to go. With Fyreslayers, though, I think it is somewhat the other way round. At this point in time they are quite a handicapped warband, with no major strength –there are better warbands aggro-wise, and they are far from the best at passive glory generation- and significant weaknesses –especially, they are never going to initiate combat without help, they are quite bland pre-inspiration, and they are very hard to inspire-. As a result, the first I want when creating a Chosen Axes deck is to help my shorties to overcome their limitations. This boils down to the following:
- Add a strong suit of push ploys. This is what is going to give the warband the flexibility it desperately needs. My rationale in choosing them is the following:
o Treasure-lust is one of the best mobility cards in the game, and an auto-include. With this, it is crucial that you set your feature tokens thinking in this card –more on this later-.
o The Earth Shakes. It is the most flexible push in the game, more so now that distraction is not available anymore. A must.
o Countercharge. Any card allowing you to push a fighter 3 hexes is worth of attention. Countercharge does that, and the requirement it imposes is generaly trivial to accomplish. A bit trickier against ranged warbands, but also very doable then. Just take into account that the opponent declares the target of his attack after you make your move, so don’t advance with a fighter which could be one-shoted by the charging unit.
o Living Wall. Two sidesteps in one, at the cost of forcing your units to remain together. This is typically in line with Fyreslayers playstyle, so in general won’t be an issue. This is the reason for choosing this over Sidestep. Despite so, is undeniable that Sidestep is more reliable (useful in any game you draw it), so a case could be made of using it instead of Living Wall.
o Restless Prize. Not a traditional push ploy, but it fills a similar role. Helps a lot in getting a crucial inspiration and in scoring hold objective oriented objectives in the deck (Path to Victory, Swift Capture). As a bonus, it combos flawlessly with Treasure Lust. Finally, it also synergizes with Shifting Reflection, and coupled with it makes A Claim Retaken viable.
- Add as many inspiration tools as possible. This means that Regal Vision and Blazing Soul are in.
- As a pure melee warband, Chosen Axes are quite unforgiving: If your attacks do not land your fighters will typically end up dead. Unfortunately, pre-inspired Chosen Axes are not accurate. Even after inspiration, Fjul and Vol can use some help when trying to strike. This forces you to pick accuracy ploys. In this regard:
o Oathsworn is an extremely useful accuracy ploy. A 50% attack backed up with Oathsworn becomes a 75% attack, with the added bonus that you only use the ploy when needed, which puts it a notch over Determined Effort.
o Upper hand is the best accuracy ploy in the game, again with the bonus on not forcing you to commit before seeing the result of your initial attack.
This is the core of the power deck. With these 8 ploys and 1 upgrade Fyreslayers become an incredibly flexible warband which can attack reliably and constantly. At this point, we can put the focus on the objective deck.
The core of our power deck is flexible enough to allow for a variety of playstyles, from aggro to more control oriented. As a result, we build our objective deck trying to not constrain us to any specific path. With this in mind, we need at least some objectives versatile enough to prevent the opponent from denying them. As a result, the following is chosen:
- Fired Up: Essentially an autoscore, even with the hard to inspire dwarves.
- Calculated Risk: Not a favourite of dwarves, as brings your fighter to one-shot levels. However, Beastgrave rules allow your opponent to put a lethal hex wherever they want, which means that you will typically face the con of this card regardless of if you bring it. Therefore, the least you can do is to benefit from the easy glory it generates.
- United: You are slow and not extremely resilient, which means that you will tend to keep your units close to help them supporting each other and maximize the impact of your mobility ploys. As a result, you will be typically able to score United. The obvious synergy with Living Wall is just the cherry at the top.
- Catching Up/Neck and Neck: Press the Advantage could go for Neck and Neck, although I typically prefer the latter as it helps you more when you are behind. These cards reward you for controlling the tempo of the game, which you should be able to do given the flexibility of your dwarves. Bear the scoring order in mind, as scoring first or second is generally relevant to score these cards. If you have Press the Advantage you should prioritize going first (as you will score first in the end phase, making scoring it significantly easier), and the opposite holds if you draw Catching Up.
- Scrum: Same pros than United even if with harsher requirements, plus it is a Surge and is also fulfillable by enemy models. A must.
- Swift Conquest: Being a Surge, there is generally nothing you opponent can do to prevent you from scoring it. Makes even more relevant how you position objectives at the beginning of the game. Ideally, you should make sure one of your models can begin the game at no more than 3 hexes away of an objective in enemy territory –with this, you have various ploys which can help you bringing your model there in Round 1 if needed-.
With these 7 score cards you can be reasonably sure that your opponent won’t be able to deny you getting some glory. With this covered, it is time to take the objectives which should give you glory when the game flows smoothly:
- Scion of Grimnir: Your push and accuracy ploys mean that Fjul will be able to hit somebody at some point. With his extreme damage output, in general hitting is equivalent to killing, so this is an autoinclude.
- Ferocious Charge: If you don’t kill anyone with a charge at any point in the game, this means that the game is most probably lost. In general, you will score this card for doing what you would most likely be doing anyway, which again makes this an autoinclude.
- Path to Victory: Fyreslayers inspiration mechanic means that you will have a strong presence on objectives along the game. In addition, your push ploys plus Beastgrave new Guard buff will make easy for you to hold your position if you really want so. Hence, with some planning, this objective boils down to kill one enemy model, which is a very good task to focus if it yields 2 glory.
- A Claim Retaken: With Beastgrave nobody can ignore objectives anymore. Moreover, with Shifting Reflections, Restless Prize, and all your push ploys, A Claim Retaken becomes viable. Moreover, it has strong synergy with other objectives in your deck -Path to Victory, Swift Conquest-.
All we have until now is worth just 14 glory, which means that some big scorer is needed. In this sense:
- Acolyte of the Katophranes: The big scorer. It should grant you from 2 to 4 glory points every game. See below for the tomes chosen to go with it and the rationale behind them.
With the objective deck set, it is time to finalize our power deck.
Power Deck – Rest
We really want the flexibility that the core of the deck is giving us, which means that we need to keep the power deck at 20 cards, or introduce additional drawing power. We make the choice based on the remaining ploys that we definitely want to use in the deck. In particular, there are 4 of them which deserve our consideration:
- Aggressive Defence: Very strong card by its own, it synergizes extremely well with Countercharge. Its not uncommon that your opponent changes the target of their attack after you push your fighter to drive him back and avoid your counterattack next turn. Aggresive Defence can then kill the original attacker even before your next turn (and if the original charge was at melee range, you will even have a support for it).
- Piercing Stare: Extremely good defensive ploy. Can shut a key attack after you opponent plays Determined Effort or any battle enhancing ploy, and has even more subtle applications, such denying Magore the last charge he needs to score No Escape.
- Shifting Reflection: In Beastgrave Objectives value is rising a lot. Indeed, now even Aggro Warbands have strong motivations (Path to Victory, Swift Conquest, Frenzied Search) to go for them. Coupled with the fact that your game plan involves holding objectives at some point, this means that Shifting Reflection will typically be usable in any matchup. Its main pro, though, is that it is the strongest tool in the current card pool to counter hold objective play. For this alone it deserves our consideration.
- One Step Ahead: With No Time out of the competitive scene, maybe this is the card with highest skill ceiling of the game. Quite useful in general for telegraphed plays, such Supremacy, Keep them Guessing or Keep them Chopping. Just be aware that its 50% nature means that you should only use it to block 2-glory or higher objectives. Doing so means that, on average, this card will block a bit more than one glory per game, which is exceptional value.
My personal choice is to go with the first three ploys above, as I think Aggressive Defence gives us too much to be left aside, Piercing Stare is a card you are always happy to draw, and Shifting Reflection destroys Hold Objective play. This means, though, that we have a 11-ploy power deck, which forces us to get some drawing power to compensate. For this reason, I also add Frenzied Search. Unfortunately, this means that One Step Ahead is out.
Our upgrades will be a combination of alleviating Chosen Axes weaknesses even more, and Tomes. Specifically:
- Great Strength and Gloryseeker: Turn inspired Teft in one of the most dangerous units in the game. Usable also by Vol, and in some matchups it can help Maegrim becoming an unexpected terrifying unit.
- Awakened Runes: This is for Fjul. Vol could also make use of it, but honestly, Fjul with this upgrade becomes a killing machine.
- Shifting Map: Our Glory deck has a low max glory. Fortunately, this means that 9 out of the 12 cards forming it trigger Shifting Map, making it quite close to Destiny to Meet, which was restricted for a reason.
- Faneway Crystal: Apart from the general utility it provides, it synergizes extremely well with Swift Conquest, Path to Victory, and A Claim Retaken. It also negates Denial in those matches when you are forced to play safe.
- Tome of Offerings: It helps with the reduced glory in your Glory deck. Rare is the game when it does not net you +1 glory, with 2 being doable, even if not usual.
- Tome of Glory: Extremely good in helping to keep pace with strong passive glory generator warbands. Also helps with the reduced glory in your Glory deck.
- Tome of Insight: Knowing the hand of your opponent at a critical moment can be the difference between a victory and a loss. Extremely strong ability.
- Tome of Disease: One guaranteed damage can sometimes be the only thing separating you from a crucial kill. This tome could be replaced with the Tome of Vitality, even if I tend to prefer the Tome of Disease, as when it impacts a game the impact tends to be huge.
- Amberbone Axe: A one-off Tome of Offerings. Its ranged attack could be handy in some situations, but this card is here to net you one extra glory. Your less useful upgrade, could be replaced by Tome of Vitality.
- Larval Lance: Very good from second round onwards, and just epic at the endgame. Range 2 is a huge luxury, and 3 hammers / 3 damage attack are wonderful figures. Why having just a Teft in your team when you can have 2?
There is one major factor which will determine how you deal with the game: The range attack prowess of your opponent. Indeed, you simply won’t survive a face-to-face fight against your fellow Kharadron or, to a lesser extent, Fastriders. Against these two warbands you need a board with as many blocking hexes as you can muster. There are three possible boards which stand out. In order of effectiveness: Shattered Refractor, Living Rock, and the Shrine of Silent People. Below examples of warband placement (grey hexes stand for objectives you place, while red hexes stand for lethal hexes) can be found. Relevant observations:
- Objectives should be set protecting your 3 wound units. This is, your opponent cannot put a lethal hex where you have placed an objective. Use this to your advantage. As an example, Mad is fully protected from lethal hexes in the first illustration below, while Teft is fully protected in the third.
- Typically you cannot fully protect everyone from the lethal hex which your opponent will place. When this is the case, try using your own lethal hex to your advantage. Indeed:
o In the second illustration, your opponent could place a lethal hex at the left of Teft and attack him from the right end of no one’s territory to drive him back into it. By placing your own lethal there, your opponent can only do so by damaging his own unit, or entering deeper in your territory, allowing Vol’s counterattack.
o In the last illustration, attacking Fjul, the only dwarf vulnerable to be driven back into a lethal hex placed by your opponent without possible retaliation, would most likely end up with the attacker stepping over the lethal hex at the above end of your board.
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The plan against this kind of warbands needs to be reactive. Your passive glory generation should be strong enough to outscore them if they do not engage, and their styles typically make them willing to go to you anyway (Fastriders inspire condition sort of forces them to do so, and Kharadron generally rely on score immediately objectives which only trigger by attacking). Once they engage, you have ample tricks to control the pace of the game in your territory:
- Be sure to have your fighters at three hexes or less from objectives, and try to have one objective close to their territory and one deeper in yours. This allows for the use of Treasure Lust both offensively and defensively.
- Have all fighters covering each other. Plan for Countercharge while allowing you to score Scrum or United in no more than 2 moves
- In these matchups your attacks must be conclusive, as otherwise the most common scenario is that your charging units end up dead. Try to charge only at the end of the round, and do so only with an inspired Teft or if you have a combination of ploys/upgrades which give you a 75% odds of hitting. The only situation in which charging is a no-brainer is when this holds and your hit will kill the enemy unit. If this is not the case, consider other options.
- You need a clear understanding on line of sight and use blocking hexes to your advantage. Your first priority in these matchups should be to prevent your opponent from doing attack actions. If they can only attack via charging, you have basically evened the odds.
- Each enemy attack should enable you to countercharge in your next activation. You can achieve this by going on guard with your frontline fighters.
- Keep somebody –preferably Vol or Maegrim- in an objective at all times. This allows to get the maximum benefit from Tome of Glories and Shifting Reflection, while synergizing well with Path to Glory and Swift Conquest.
- Try to save Faneway Crystal for the last activation, in order to prevent your opponent from scoring Denial.
- If you win the roll-off, go for Boards. When you lose Boards, give Soul Refractor first, Living Rock second, and Shrine of the Silent people third. If you win Boards, go:
o Shrine of the Silent People first, oriented as follows (your opponents board to be placed above yours, most likely shifted to the right):
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o Living Rock second, oriented as follows (your opponents board to be placed above yours, most likely shifted to the left):
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o Soul Refractor third, oriented as follows (your opponents board to be placed above yours):
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Hold Objective oriented warbands
E.g. Sepulchral Guard, Gitz, Thorns, Grymwatch, Snarlfangs
Needless to say, if you win the roll-off go for objectives. You should place two of them quite defensively, while the third should be put closer to No One’s Territory. Given you are giving boards to your opponent, you should choose neutral boards, this is, with a strong presence in the middle –. In order of effectiveness: The Cursed Oubliette, Abandoned Lair, Wyrmgrave-.
In this case, your aim is to deploy in a way which forces the opponent to come to you, while making easy supporting any unit when attacked and allowing scoring United in as few moves as possible. Your lethal hex should be placed thinking on scoring Calculated Risk. Possible positioning examples are given below:
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When you are given a vertical setup it is specially relevant to avoid positioning your first objective in a way which will allow your opponent to force you to put your second one in a disadvantageous position. Typically this means avoiding the central vertical line of your board (in the picture, your second objective could only be placed on the light-green hexes):
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When the opponent wins the roll-off you need to go a bit more on the offense. In this case, you should favour aggro boards. There is a wide range which can fill the role, but I like to favour vertical configuration, as you can ensure that one of the objectives set in enemy territory will be close to No One’s Territory. With this in mind, Shrine of Silent People, Shyshian Stardial, and Katophrane’s Reliquary are good fits. Below deployment examples with all three are provided –general principles apply: Try to get United/Scrum scorable in few move actions, set for Calculated risk. Above all else, position you offensively oriented objective with Treasure Lust in mind-:
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The first two deployments are standard when you are facing weak hold objective warbands. The last one is a bit special, and should be observed when your opponent can do 2 damage reliably from the get go. Note that all your frontline fighters are protected from the lethal hex that your opponent can place (Teft only has a starting hex behind, while Mad can only be pushed into an objective. Fjul is the exception, but he already starts with 4 wounds so he should not be one-shotable).
There are two additional things of note is that in these matchups:
- Maegrim is better than Vol against 2-wound enemies, so scoring Calculated Risk with the latter is an option.
- Triggering Shifting reflection will be super-easy. Take advantage of this by placing two fighters adjacent, one of them in an objective. With this, if you get the card, you will be in a position to break havok immediately.
Aggro oriented warbands
E.g. Garrek, Magore, Mollog, Skaeth’s Wild Hunt.
The plan here is forcing them to come to you. You will typically score more passive glory, and these warbands generally rely on engaging, so this should not be a major problem. Given that they generally do not have Supremacy like cards, focus on boards if you win the roll-off. Again, I prefer setting long boards, as this helps a lot in letting your dwarves supporting each other and sort of limits the relevance of speed once the blood begins to flow. In this sense, our preferred boards will be the Shrine of the Silent People, the Shattered Refractor, and the Shyshian Stardial. Note that blocking hexes are specially relevant against Mollog –the Shattered Refractor specifically almost limits his attack range to 1 by itself-. Examples of deployment can be seen below:
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Left-most: United/Scrum Easy scorable, no-one is at risk. The lethal hex is placed to generate two narrow bottlenecks which are extremely easy to defend, even if it is at the cost of not having an easy calculated risk trigger.
Middle: Your first priority is to bring Mad out of trouble if possible. In any case, he is relatively safe from the get-go: immune to encroaching shadows, and if the enemy wants to trap him he will suffer one damage from your lethal hex.
Right-most: Mad is fully protected from your opponent’s lethal hex, while still able to score Calculated Risk. The rest are totally safe and close enough to protect each other and score United/Scrum.
When you lose boards you should give the opponent a neutral board. The Shattered Refractor stands as your best bet –see Ranged Warbands section for deployment details-, while The Cursed Oubliette and Abandoned Lair are also able to get the job done –see Hold Objectives section for deployment details-.
In any case, your overall gameplan against Aggro warbands should be:
- Focus on passive glory generation. Ideally, you avoid engaging Round 1. If unfeasible, at least force them to engage in a way that you can hit back, regardless of if the targeted dwarf survives.
- One action becomes crucial in this matchup: Guard. You need to avoid getting driven back from objectives, and for some Aggro warbands Caltrops will become a Staple.
- Try to avoid edge hexes, as aggro warbands typically go with Encroaching Shadows.
- You should save your pushes for Round 2, when engaging will be inevitable. At that point, your superior flexibility should allow you to attack without charging, which should translate to various attacks with your big hitter, Fjul or Teft. This should give you the advantage.
- Piercing Stare is gold. Save it for when you can prevent an attack which would kill a unit.
Control oriented warbands
E.g. Cursebreakers, Godsworn Hunt, Guardians
Treat Cursebreakers like a Ranged warband in terms of deployment and general playstyle. The only exception is Shifting Reflection. Your odds of triggering it are significant, as Cursebreakers have attractive specific hold-objective cards. This should be a priority, as Ammis and Rastus are easy to deal with alone, and with some planning you can take them both out –just try to send inspired Fjul to their territory-. Stormsire alone is just not enough to turn the tables.
Godsworn Hunt is a very, very difficult matchup, as they are one of the most flexible warbands available and have some terrific objectives -2 glory surge for taking a 4-wound model out!?- and Upgrades -Path to Glory-. The most scary part is that they can essentially inspire whoever they want almost at will. In this sense, Theddra and Gundam are just frightening, as inspired are able to one-shot any single dwarf except Fjul. In a nutshell, treat Godsworn as an Aggro Warband, and learn to consider that all their models are inspired at all times –as in general your opponent will inspire the unit they plan to use just before activation-.
- Your star model in this matchup should be Teft, as inspired he one-shots everyone and is by far your most accurate fighter. Prioritize inspiring him over Fjul.
- Fjul value is high at the beginning of the game (he one shots everyone and is not one-shotable by anyone) and fastly declines as game goes by (he does not gain a lot from inspiration from this match-up perspective, and as Godsworn get things going he will become one-shotable). As a result, he should be used as bait. Let him buy time for Teft and get a swing. He will die, but most likely will take one worthy Godsworn with him (Gundam should be your first priority, Theddra your second, and Shond a distant third).
- In this matchup, Vol is basically equal to Fjul in terms of offense –Fjul Cleave and extra damage has almost no impact here-, so he should be your second inspired dwarf. Also, save Awakened Runes for him.
- Accuracy ploys are crucial here, as otherwise your hit with Fjul will only have around 50% chances of connecting. Consider a mulligan if you don’t get neither any of them nor Frenzied Search.
The remaining control warbands will be typically weaker than you in terms of aggression, and stronger than you in terms of passive glory generation. As a result, your strategy against them should follow similar patterns than those described in the Hold Objective section, with certain variations. In a nutshell:
- Choose Boards if possible. Deploy aggressively (see Hold Objective section).
- If forced to get objectives, give a neutral board and deploy as aggressively as possible. In this case, your objectives should be also deployed aggressively -one of them in enemy territory-, thinking in an offensive use of Treasure Lust.
- Plan for the use of Shifting Reflection, as it should be easily triggerable. If you have it in your first hand, plan to send Teft. Otherwise, plan to send Vol, as you cannot take the risk of having Teft waiting for the whole game.
Fyreslayers are a challenging warband to play, but a warband with enough flexibility to deal with any challenge they face. Beastgrave has given Chosen Axes a needed indirect buff, limiting the score immediately meta and cycling out various cards which were nefarious to the dwarves –Last Chance, Rebound, and even Superior Tactician-. The buff to Guard action should also not been overlooked, as it makes inspiring easier and prevents ranged warbands from having a wild card when attacking.
The deck presented in this article -Flex between Aggro and Control- gives Chosen Axes a chance against any warband. What is more, the deck is suited for manipulation, as its core is formed by just 9 cards –one upgrade and 8 ploys- giving the user ample freedom to personalize it at will.
I you reached this point, I thank you for your patience and hope you found the read interesting. Any feedback on the deck or the article itself is more than welcome ;)
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