The Chosen Axes Hammer (Amber Edition)
Tabletop - Post HM/Wurmspat
Greetings again, fellow dwarf player !
Some time ago, I shared with you my original Chosen Axes Hammer deck, the one I played during the Shadespire & Nightvault era. It was called the Hammer because of its tendency to constantly crush its various enemies. This first deck ended its casual carreer when the Season 1 Rotation occurred, with something like a 85 % win-rate. Rather unexpected, as I am clearly not a top player.
Naturally, since the release of Beastgrave and the start of the 3rd Season, I've tried to continue this improbable journey...
Here, fear not, I won't say that Chosen Axes are the new S tier warband.
However, in a new Season that focuses a lot more on Objectives and that added some very helpful mechanics, more than ever, it seems that this finesse warband can work pretty well with a bit of training, a good deck and some very simple strategic guidelines.
So here it is : an updated version of the original Chosen Axes Hammer !
NEW CARDS, SAME RESULTS, SAME PHILOSOPHY - Dwarves love gold and don't want to share it
Playing the previous version of this deck was a great experience, mainly because it was efficient, fluid and simple. However, and this has been said many times, I must admit that I had only been testing it in my casual games. For a very simple reason : where I live, there's no competitive scene at all.
Now, with this new version (we can call it the Amber Hammer if you want), that I've been keeping polishing since the beginning of this 3rd Season, on this side, fortunately, things have change a bit. Thanks to the great Vassal of the Underworlds community, I have had the opportunity to attend a tournament... Not only once. But twice. By Grimnir, I never could have dreamed better.
If I briefly mention this, it's because, much to my surprise, my Chosen Axes record was above my expectations both times :
- 2019 FALL VASSAL LEAGUE : 6 Wins - 2 Losses, which saw me reaching quarterfinals and ending at the 5th position out of 64 players,
- 2020 WINTER VASSAL LEAGUE (current) : 4 Wins - 2 Losses, which means that the Grimnir boys made the cut again (even beating Thorns of the Briar Queen on that occasion), this time in a 54 players tournament.
So, at that time, in a more competitive context, that's a total of 10 Wins and 4 Losses. Of course, there aren't enough games to prove anything, but a 72% win-rate for a warband that's supposed to be low-tier is already something... Finally, with all the successive occurences of this new deck, in both casual and competitive environments, I've played about 30 games, and its overall win-rate remains at the same level (around 75 %).
Clearly, something seems to be working here.
Let's find how !
(you can click the image for a deck builder link)
deck building guide
GENERAL STRATEGY - Fear the dwarven landslide
For me, this deck is the one that best incarnates the qualities I've been praising in my various posts on Reddit and TGA : fluidity, reliability, unpredictability.
It is designed to quickly give you 4 mobile and unpredictable threats who will be agressively moving-forward into your opponent's territory. See it as kind of dwarven landslide if you want, slowly but surely rushing towards the enemy, and delivering uppercuts and axe blows on its way. A thing that I don't see as a forced strategy, but rather as an extension of the natural Chosen Axes playstyle.
With this general game plan in mind, your Chosen Axes warband will be like a powerful and reliable war hammer, very predictable for you, and very unpredictable for your opponent... hence the name of the deck : the Hammer.
OBJECTIVES - It seems that strange things are happening here
You'll immediatly notice that the deck has a low glory ceiling. But what you lose in total glory, you compensate with the freedom of putting a lot of pressure on your opponent... I'd say almost instantly, which can be very surpriseful for someone facing dwarves. You'll also save time to play strong moves and impose him great mind games, which is where Warhammer Underworlds becomes so unique.
So let's face it... what we have here is a Glory Grand Total of 14 (!).
That's a first way to put yourself under positive pressure, which is great : you can't expect to outscore your opponent by just staying focused on your own objectives - you'll also need to cleverly kill his fighters and to prevent him from scoring his own objectives. And you can do this because the whole deck helps you to be free of doing whatever you want.
This first part of the deck is focused on balance between surge objectives rewarding you for fighting (6) and more passive objectives (6) - which are :
- very easy to score,
- almost impossible to counter - provided you use the right strategy,
- scorable any Round - with the exception of two of them, that you will only score after Round 1,
- scorable by any of your fighters - with the exception of one of them, which is Fjul-Grimnir-dependant, and of two others that can only be scored by him and Tefk one a one hand, by Maegrim and Tefk on the other hand,
- perfectly coherent with your general strategy.
You'll also notice another strange thing : here, you'll find (almost) no trace of cards rewarding you for Holding Objectives. Which mean no Temporary Victory, no Swift Capture, no Path to Victory, no Supremacy... Don't get me wrong, these are great cards, but my conviction is that Chosen Axes can't afford to use them.
Many players tend to think this way : as Chosen Axes need to sit on Objectives in order to inspire, why not get some Glory at the same time ? I'm a firm believer that this idea is a trap, and one of the reasons people tend to be quickly disappointed by fyreslayers when they try to play with them...
Unless you face a new player or a very kind opponent (we all know some), scoring these Objectives will always be difficult with (at best) 4 slow fighters. And if you manage do to it, it has a great chance to be detrimental in a way or another : as it will force you to make sub-optimal moves, as it will tend to isolate some of your fighters, as you won't pressure your opponent enough...
One last thing, in this deck, there's no Restricted Card at all. I've found that the deck works better with this precise balance, and no cards like Calculated Risk, Transfixing Stare, Tomes of Offerings, Sudden Growth or Spiritbond (yes, even this one). Imho, all these cards have drawbacks or simpler alternatives. Maybe it's only something about me and my own playstyle though... By Grimnir, who knows ?
Anyways, here's the list :
SURGE OBJECTIVES (6) :
Ferocious Charge / Scion of Grimnir - Super classic faction-specific aggro objectives - no need to add anything here.
Strong Start - If you manage to get them inspired early, your dwarves are more durable than the average fighter - so if you play well, you'll score it in almost all your games.
What Armour ? / Branching Fate - Classic aggro objectives that don't require you to kill enemy fighters - very easy to score in general, and even more when you have 3 possible dice manipulation tools (see below).
Gathered Momentum - To many readers, this one may seem rather strange. But it's here for a lot of reasons. In general, what Chosen Axes lack is a good Surge Objective that does not rely on combat.
Even if it does work quite well, I have come to the conclusion that the classic Shortcut / Confusion / Shifting Reflexion / Shadowed Step path is too slow and too situational in the current meta.
Because this deck is built around consistency, the Hybrid condition #2 of Gathered Momentum (having scored 2 Surge Objective in the same phase) is really easy to meet. And the Hybrid condition #1 (charging 5 hex away) is doable with 3 Chosen Axes staple tools : Spectral Wings, Grimnir's Speed and Faneway Crystal... Of course, this is also a gamble, but it's a more direct one. And this way, there's a much better synergy between the deck and the overall strategy.
PASSIVE OBJECTIVES (4) :
Fired Up - This one is rewarding you for doing your full-time job - inspiring dwarves.
Opening Gambit / Solid Gains - Easy passive glory and classic Season 2 staples. The latter will reward you for playing boldly... which is great.
Catching Up - Before you raise any of your eyebrows again, please remember the following things : A/ Chosen Axes lack good passive objectives. B/ Very often, you'll score less early Glory than anyone else. C/ You'll (almost) always want to go 2nd Round 1... Of course, here a card like Team Effort could be a nice possible alternative, but to me, it's a bit too constraining, especially Round 1.
CONQUEST-LIKE OBJECTIVES (1) :
Unstoppable Advance - Unless your warband is annihilated, you will score this one in all your games, and very often in Round 2. Also great to punish defensive warbands from Round 1.
HOLDING OBJECTIVES (1) :
A Claim Retaken - Our only Hold-Objective card and a very decent End Phase Objective. Unscorable Round 1, but very easy later in most of your match-ups. And if you face Aggro warbands, you'll crush them anyways !
PLOYS - Seek early Inspiration & move without moving
In this deck, the Ploy selection focuses on 3 simple things : getting your dwarves inspired as soon as possible, increasing their unpredictability, messing up with your enemy's plans.
One word about accuracy boosts : I only use one Ploy for that purpose. All the rest are Upgrades, because I love the idea of my warband gathering power and being more and more dreadful as activations pass... Most of the time, Uninspired Vol or Fjul with Oathsworn, Inspired Fjul with Cleave or Inspired Tefk will be accurate enough to launch your glory machine successfully. Then everyone will join the party.
INSPIRING PLOYS (1)
Regal Vision - Since Season 1 Universal Cards Rotation, this Ploy is your main inspiration tool. It synergises very well with a lot of other things and will help you to set up a lot of combos and unexpected moves... Don't leave the Lodge without it !
MOVE/PUSH PLOYS (5)
The Earth Shakes - A lot has already been said about the best push Ploy in the game... that became even better this Season, because you'll need to push your opponent's fighters from objectives all the time.
Treasure Lust - Pushing a fighter 3 hexes is almost unique out there - Treasure Lust is a great Ploy that will help you to do so many things, from inspiration to attack.
Sidestep - If you love simplicity as much I do, just take Sidestep. A summary and an archetype of the deep aesthetic qualities of this game.
Distraction - If you love simplicity as much I do (and if you want to win games in the current meta), also take Distraction. Of utmost importance to disrupt your opponent formation, to push him away from Objectives...
Spectral Wings - Wipe the smile on your opponent's face in an instant. With Chosen Axes strike force, a +2 move can be game changer. No, Tefk was not sleeping on the other side of the board... And also here to score Gathered Momentum.
OBJECTIVE MANIPULATION PLOYS (2)
Restless Prize - Never leave the Lodge without it : for Chosen Axes, this one is gold. Giving you the ability to move an Objective token up to 2 hexes is huge, and synergises well with tons of other things (inspiration, push-ploys...).
Mischievous Spirits - With this Ploy, you'll have to think well. But it's so powerful... Very often, if you set up well, you'll be able to make "two birds, one stone" moves, denying scoring to your opponent and helping your fighters in their quest for Inspiration. Also note that a defensive use can be very useful, in particular end game to shut down Keys.
ACCURACY PLOYS (1)
Oathsworn - Your number one insurance policy - very useful Round 1 to make sure you achieve that so important first kill. Very nice synergy with Potion of Rage (see below).
SPECIAL PLOYS (1)
Frenzied Search - Sit on an Objective, discard 1 power card, draw 3. A great tool to achieve many things : avoiding deck-bricking, adapting to your opponent, giving you an early boost Round 1...
UPGRADES - Increase your threat range, strike fast, hit hard
In a Chosen Axes deck, when it comes to Upgrades, I'm a firm believier that the simpler is the better. In other words, every single card has to be useful regardless of which round it is played, or of which dwarf it is I used on. Again, here we'll seek some kind of balance - this time between speed, accuracy and damage - in order to turn each of the 4 fighters into deadly threats.
INSPIRING UPGRADES (1)
Blazing Soul - For your opponent, a sleeping dwarf that suddenly awakens Round 2 or 3 is scary... Also great Round 1 if you score early Glory.
MOVE/PUSH UPGRADES (4)
Great Speed - Very often, with slow & strong warbands, increasing threat range can be decivise.
Grimnir's Speed - The one and only exception to my nothing-situational principle... but this Upgrade moves the needle so much... Also helps with Gathered Momentum. And sometimes, I just use it to frighten my opponent. And it works.
Faneway Crystal - A great mobility card to increase your threat range and to help you to be even more unpredictable. A bit less useful this season because very often, Objectives Token won't be free, but with all the others tools you have (The Earth Shakes, Distraction, Restless Prize, Mischievous Spirits), it won't be a problem. Chosen Axes need speed anyway. And you can use it to score Gathered Momentum.
Quickening Greaves - Early game, if you set up well, it's equivalent to another Inspiration tool. You'll just need one Glory, and no one will be able deny you the push. Also very useful for repositioning purposes, to get in attack / charge / support range. Also note that you can move twice in a row, for a 2 hex push, if you use it at the end of a given Round and at the start of the next one.
ACCURACY UPGRADES (3)
Activated Runes - Having one dice re-roll is great. For obvious purposes - securing kills and helping you score Branching Fate and What Armour ?
Potion of Rage - Unleash Grimnir's boys wrath. Then play Oathsworn - as everyone knows, the more dice you throw, the less crits you score...
Prized Vendetta - Most of the time, this one will be like a Potion of Range bis, but will also help you to secure Branching Fate if needed. And if you face Troggoths or Trolls... well played.
DAMAGE BOOST UPGRADES (2)
Great Strenght - With this one in hand, 3 of your inspired dwarves can now kill 4-wound fighters... And Fjul can shut down 5-wounds tanks. So many possibilities.
Sting of the Ur-grub - See above. This is the prize to pay to reach a high level of versatility. With it, you'll eat Stormcast for breakfast. And Trolls. And Ogors*. And you'll never be sad again when you need to mulligan a hand that contains Great Strenght.
* Don't eat Nurgle boys.
This deck's playstyle and strategy have already been exposed many times here and there**, so for this last part, we'll have a much simpler time :
SETTING-UP - The right distance for the right strategy
- First of all, and this could be my most important advice, don't systematically chose to go 1st on boards. Imho, this is another trap. Indeed, very often, you won't really need 3 Objectives on your side in order to inspire your key fighters, and, as you're slow, you will benefit more from chosing the boards orientation. In particular when you face things like Aggro warbands, The Grymwatch, Cursebreakers, Profiteers, Mantrappers or Lady Harrow's Mournflight.
- Be very careful about distances when you chose the Board itself : in order to set up multiple inspirations, use one that allow you to group your dwarves as much as possible. It's very helpful if you can reach at least 2 objectives with each fighter, and it's even better if it can be achieved by a single push... For instance, the Mirror Well, the Kathophrane Reliquary, the Cursed Oubliette and Abandoned Lair are nice Boards to achieve this.
- Then, don't lose too much time : with this deck, put your Objectives in front of you and play as aggressivley as you think you can, the precise degree of agressiveness you'll show depending on your match-up.
- If you face Hold-Objective horde warbands such as Thorns of the Briar Queen, The Grymwatch, The Sepulchral Guard or Grashrak's Despoilers, go straight forward and deliver your uppercuts as quickly as you can. And always try to read and to disrupt their nasty scoring-passive-glory-plans. Here, remember that you can use your some of your fabulous ploys to achieve this, and that killing a fighter sitting on a Objective is worth twice the Glory... Against Zarbag's Gitz, the same advice apply, but everything will depend on Snirk's position : don't feed him - kill him while he's uninspired if you can or ignore him all game.
- If you face Control / Flex warbands, magical bastards such as Cursebreakers or Eyes of the Nine, trouble masters such as Spiteclaw's Swarm, or ranged traitors such as Thundrik's Profiteers – most of the time, agress them as fast you can... and don't let them dictate your path. But at the same time, don't give them too early / too many free targets for their ranged attacks if they have some... A fairly complex equation.
- Don't be affraid when you face Aggro warbands, as you will have some great advantage over your enemies : unlike them, your Inspiration condition will not rely on fights, which means that you will have a chance to be inspired before them. In that case, you can be (a bit) more defensive and let your enemy come to you.
- All the rest is a kind of grey zone. This game is great, isn't it ?
EARLY GAME - Get in motion and find Inspiration
- Round 1, try to inspire as many dwarves as you can, using every single tool available to you : Regal Vision, Blazing Soul, moves, your various push-ploys... For that reason, mulligan your first power cards hand if you don't have at least : Regal Vision, Blazing Soul or several good push-ploys. Even if your first hand is good, consider drawing one card if your opponent does'nt threat you too much Round 1, in order to get momentum as early as possible.
- In general, unless you believe that your opponent will rush on the Obectives that are on your side, use mid-late Round 1 move actions to reach the nearest Objectives tokens with 2 or 3 of your dwarves and save your own push-ploys in order to counter your his tricks. If your opponent doesn't do anything to ruin your plans, you can use these Ploys to inspire additional fighters in last power phase of the round, or/and save the remaining ones to help you in the coming fights. When you play Chosen Axes, because inspiring your fighters is so important, it's very easy to feel upset when your opponent counters some of your Round 1 moves. Here, the key is to never be surprised or destabilized by anything. Don't be afraid : good things are coming.
- Of course, from time to time and depending on your match-up, it can be relevant to make Round 1 attacks, to get the first kill, score early glory and lure your opponent while you inspire your fighters.
- In general, you'll end your 1st Round with 1 or 2 Inspired fighters and a total between 1 and 5 Glory points, which should be enough to launch your dwarven landslide successfully.
MID/LATE GAME - Go get that gold
- This leads us to one of the most important questions : timing. If you want to improve your odds of winning your Chosen Axes games, you need to use your fighters and their respective qualities (Fjul's damage output or Cleave ability for instance, or Tefk's accuracy) at the right time and in the best possible order. In order to achieve this myself, I use key concepts such as "Bait", "Early hitter", "Late hitter","Specific Counter" or "Objective Scorer". Very often, winning games will requiere a lot of patience. Unless you gain a decisive advantage, deny your opponent an important move or score tons of glory, never use your key fghters too early in a given round.
- Because relying on Fjul only is risky (because he can die early, because he can't be everywhere at the same time, and because using him only is also a kind of telegraphed strategy), also use your other dwarves, especially Tefk (very strong and very reliable) and Maegrim (against low wounds warbands)... In general, as he lacks accuracy, Vol is very unlikely to become your MVP, but can be quite useful right from the bat (use him as a bait, or for early attacks against low wound / defense fighters if needed, if the odds are good enough). Also note that his Driving Back ability when he's inspired can be useful sometimes (in particular in a Season where there are Lethal Hexes everywhere !).
- For your opponent, multiple threats are harder to counter - in your games, always remember that the deck is also built around this idea : use your 4 dwarves as a pack, hunting in concert within a 2-3 hexes range, and moving forward together.
- When you finally reach the enemy, do not be misled by your own agressiveness. In particular, learn when to stop, and when to make strong and calm moves : very often, those are the hardest to counter for your opponent... Be that strong dwarven Hammer.
- Morale now. Of paramount importance in this game, as it is short and brutal. You have to be prepared for anything - and when this anything happens, you have to keep your fighting spirit... With Chosen Axes, that's not the hardest thing to do. Always remember that your warband is rock solid and that you have 4 good fighters : even if you lose two of them early, and even if Fjul or Tefk are one of them, don't panic, you still can win games.
- One last advice : as always, be sure to know your deck by heart. Every single card and every effect... The Hammer deck is quite simple so that surely won't be a problem.
** If you want to know more about Chosen Axes - feel free to takea look at my reddit posts here !
Chosen Axes are often seen as a kind of hard-mode warband... which is absolutely true.
Many people have said it before : with Chosen Axes, your warband will be strong but slow, and can be a bit fragile until your dwarves are Inspired – which takes time and can be quite difficult to achieve ; however, with a good deck and some very simple strategic guidelines in mind, it's also quite easy to make them work and to turn them into a very solid warband.
This list may not have the potential to beat everyone - but it's solid, balanced and very fun to play. With it's low glory ceiling, it will also help you to make new friends. And this, even if you win most of the time !
Have a nice time with your new Chosen Axes Amber Hammer.
And of course, as always : have a nice week in Beastgrave !
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