Welcome back! It is time for another, hopefully indepth look at the Butchers Guild, and today I will be focusing on the very difficult task of choosing an 8 man roster for a tournament.
I love playing in tournaments, the atmosphere, the excitement, and the camraderie that is present at any event is amazing. I am yet to play a Guild Ball tournament, but I have my very first one coming up this weekend. It is an event called Jingle Balls, held here in Brisbane! (Some tickets are still available, check out the Irresistible Force website!) One of my most favourite things about playing in a tournament is the list design stage. In the leadup to a Warmachine event I would spend hours and hours tinkering with the last few points and exactly how I would use them. Most events I would go into with very limited practice, but each of those little changes were heavily considered and weighted based on situations I expected to encounter. Guild Ball has an element of that same sort of list design philosophy when playing at a tournament, but how deeply can you go into it?
Pretty deeply, is the answer. At the moment, there is a finite number of players in each faction, and only one captain to consider. Incidentally, I am VERY excited for Season 2 captains, because that will add a whole new layer of complexity onto this process… I digress. With each team having a very distinct playstyle, and things you can expect from them, ideally you should be able to look at what players within your own guild are effective vs them. That is the first thing we will begin with!
There are a number of things to consider when looking at facing Masons. Generally speaking they are a lower DEF team, with the highest ARM available of any Guild. They work as a combined arms force, capable of doing a decent amount of damage, but also having multiple excellent goal scoring threats. They have zero ranged character plays, outside of Marked Target, Goad and Thousand Cuts. Honour has her Responsive Play, Harmony can automatically activate after her, and Brick has his Counter Charge. That is a lot of out of activation manipulation. Reach is vital, especially if your plan involves taking out Honour, to prevent her from getting the benefits of her Responsive Play. Anatomical Precision is exceptionally handy, because it increases the value of each attack, and when combined with Get Em Lads you can remove the majority of the Masons ARM from the table. Momentum generation is important, to stand up from KD which Brick/ Mallet can deliver quite easily. Finally, Charmed Male should always at least be deliberated on, as it can change the maths quite significantly.
Ideal Team: Ox, Princess, Boiler, Decimate, Shank, Gutter. This team has excellent speed across the pitch. It has three models with Anatomical Precision, two models with Reach. The ability for Shank to Where’d They Go into range to deny the Counter Charge/ Responsive is also crucial, and Gutter can reposition with her Chain Grab and Push result to also engage those models. You will likely have a goal scored against you, maybe two. Controlling the ball after that and relying on the strong takeout game is the ideal playstyle. There is still some decent goal scoring threat in this team, but with no Brisket it is not a specialist team.
Alchemists play a very condition heavy game. Often times you will be Blind, Burning, Heavy Burdened and occasionally Poisoned as well. That is a net -10 SPD… LOL. They have a number of great goal scoring players, Vitriol at the top of the list, and a player who many consider the best in the game leading the team, in Midas, who will steal your best Character Play, as well as having Unpredictable Movement.. They have naturally high DEF and limited ARM, but with lots of long range character plays. Although they usually wont focus on dealing a lot of damage, they do have some potentially big hitters in Vitriol and Midas, if the circumstances are ideal (Target in Cover for Vitriol, Heroic Play used for Damage on Midas). Again, Reach is handy to getting around Midas with his Unpredictable Movement. Due to the high number of Character Plays and the potential for a model with Blind to be one of the first activations done, high DEF and mobile models are important. It is important not to let Midas gain access to any exceptional damage dealing plays, like Scything Blow, as he will quickly rack up damage with his huge INF pool. Momentum is at a premium, as you will need to spend a lot of it clearing conditions, or healing. Expect a goal to be scored.
Ideal Team: Ox, Princess, Boiler, Shank, Decimate, Brisket. This team does not include Gutter, although I have been working on a strategy including Gutter in my teams vs Alchemists and it has been very successful so far. Again, Shank is crucial with his mobility and good damage results to get where he needs to, even with Blind/ Fire he will still hopefully be able to have some impact. This is a game where you will not be able to stay as bunkered up as normal, you will need to spread and that is one of the reasons Brisket comes in. Although she gets limited benefit from Charmed Male vs Alchemists (Hemlocke, Vitriol and Calculus all female), she is a solid counter for Midas himself, and often Alchemists are vulnerable to their own bread and butter, conditions. Getting a few Poisons out from Dirty Knives, and projecting a decent goal threat is very handy. Boiler can give you the extra DEF but will usually be activating after the Blind has already gone out, so instead focusing on causing Bleed.
The Morticians are one of the most difficult teams to play against and plan for. They have two generic styles of play, and both of them require a different sort of team to counter. Firstly the “scoring” Morticians will usually run Mist, and with access to Puppet Master they have two incredible goal scoring threats. It is exceptionally hard to defend from Obulus creating a passing chain for Mist to have a Snap Shot to score two goals in a turn. The “fighting” Morticians will usually play Rage, Cosset and Casket, alongside Ghast. Ghast creates a nightmare proposition for opponents, by attacking him you give the opponent Momentum, but not attacking him allows for easy KD especially with initiaitive and his Reach and potential Unmasking. Cosset with Dirge nearby is pretty devastating for damage, but when you consider Rage tooling her up, or even Obulus himself with his 8 INF and short playbook, him getting wraps will easily take players out. Worse is the Casket Time, when they are able to Lure you in, soften you up with Rage/ Obulus and then pop a player in the Casket. It creates a massive attrittional advantage that is very difficult to come back from. The difficult thing to deal with is they can do this with the same team, and shift gears at a moments notice. Also making it hard is knowing that you will not win Momentum vs them, as if you get too big a lead, they can steal it back with Obulus, and killing Dirge removes 4 as well. This is not considering Silence who can stuff around with the timing of your players, forcing Ox to go last, and reducing the impact of his aura. They will steal or force you to spend more INF, steal or reduce your Momentum and generally stuff around with your resources in frustrating ways.
Ideal Team: Ox, Princess, Gutter, Shank, Rage, Boiler. One of the most important things to remember when playing against Morticians, is even if you have possession of the ball, you dont actually want a player to have it snapped. That just creates Pupper Master passing opportunities. Unsnap it, leave it on the ground. Force Obulus or Mist to come in and try and pick it up. Shank with his Where’d They Go again becomes critical, as the one player on the team you should be trying to take out is the captain. If you pick up Obulus, even after he has activated, its a crushing blow as he is not the fastest player out there without spending a lot of INF. Ghast is actually another player you want to try and take out, if you can, but if at all possible you want to KD him. Allowing him to Counter Attack and KD you is again, just an inefficient use of resources, having already spent extra INF to even attack him. Gutter is one of the best answers for Obulus, as she can get around Unpredictable with her Chain Grab, and Obulus is only DEF4, making it a pretty decent chance of dragging him in. Rage to Tool up and distribute some Bleed, to maximise the value of the attacks. And Boiler, although he will not be able to easily attack Obulus, he can rack up a lot of damage vs a Thousand Cuts big guy.
Brewers are very similar to Butcher’s in that they will usually be attempting to control the ball, and looking to take players out as well. Where they differ is the amount of Reach and access to KD on their playbooks. Stave is always a major consideration, as he will constantly KD your players, and drive them away from the fight. If you dont have the ball this will be a difficult prospect, as it will be challenging to generate momentum to clear the KD to allow your players to actually get into the fight. They have a lower DEF and generally not a lot of ARM, but with Tough Hide they can negate a lot of the damage you are throwing their way. With the Owner you are back down to doing a normal amount of damage. Tapper and Hooper are both capable of taking a player out in the right circumstances, but they are not the quickest players and if you can isolate them they can struggle. Winning the momentum race is crucial, allowing you to activate before Stave can knock players back will allow you both the momentum to recover from it, and potentially shut him down. Much like Butchers with Brisket, Friday is a crazy goal threat in a damage dealing team, and she can always slot a quick goal which can make it hard to recover from. To counter the Brewers you need speed, and a way to try and avoid the Barrel. Brisket with her DEF5 is a chance of avoiding the KD, and Shank even if Knocked Down can still make forward progress without Momentum. Gutter is crucial because she can drag Stave in after he presses forward, and isolate him away from the rest of the team. Once there he is a vending machine for plays, and will go down very quickly to the concentrated Butcher onslaught.
Ideal Team: Ox, Princess, Brisket, Rage, Shank, Gutter. Brisket provides you a goal threat, reducing the amount of takeouts you need to get to win the game. Shank is incredibly fast, and using Thousand Cuts on a Brewer can actually be key to taking players out. Getting wraps means you double down on damage, and when you reduce a DEF to 1 you get an extra dice, and start rolling for 2+. It can make a big difference. Brisket is actually a pretty good player for getting takeouts in this way also, because she will be rolling 7 or more dice with Princess nearby, and can easily score wraps that are worth 3 damage each. Conditions is a strong way of building up damage, and with Dirty Knives, and Bleed available from Rage, and you create a lot of early damage that cannot be ignored by Tough Hide. The most important piece is Gutter, however. Because of Commanding Aura, the Brewers will bunker together, and using Thousand Cuts on a model with take their DEF down low enough that she will usually be able to roll 5 dice, ignoring ARM, and trigger that Scything Blow. If you position it correctly, and have everything worked properly, you can do 5 damage per swing on every model in her melee range. That will rack some damage up pretty quickly.
In the second part of the article, we will go through the remaining four teams, and then look at which players have made the “optimal” list. It is probably pretty clear already that two of them make the list, but who will make up the last two spots, and the eventual six man roster?