Hey guys, as part of OzBall’s continuing commitment to giving you the best Guild Ball articles from the best players in the world, I’m sorry to say you’ve drawn the short straw and gotten me because it seems my faction is underrepresented in the international meta by people willing to write articles. But that’s ok, because I’ve captained the Masons to victories in a few tournaments now, and hopefully in this article I’m going to try to elucidate how that happened and what common tactics and strategies I utilised during those games.
Back to Basics
To begin with, let’s go back to those expertly written articles on momentum (Momentum & You: Masons) and have a close look at what the playbook reveals about the guild. May I first direct you towards the part where it says we have 8 momentous tackles spread throughout our playbooks. Every single player has a momentous tackle, including Marbles. On your key players it’s in the first column (Honour, Marbles, Harmony, Flint), on your light beaters it’s in the second column (Tower, Chisel), and in your heavy beaters it’s in the third (Mallet, Brick). But every single player is able to tackle the ball momentously and pass it off if they so choose. I think the value of this ability is underrated, as it’s massive in a game where one goal nets you 33% of your victory condition.
The second thing that stands out is the ability to deal out massive amounts of damage thanks to the placement of 3 and 4 damage options high in the playbooks. Honestly I don’t really use these often because often I prefer to sprint in and hit, because then your opponent can’t defensive stance and most Mason momentous 2 damage results are rather low. But when you’ve got a lot of crowding with Singled Out on a player and Tooled Up with Marbles crowding, Honour can turn 4 hits into 5 damage or 6 hits into 6 damage, not including if you’re lucky enough to wrap and do even more damage. It’s not Butchers level of damage output, but it comes close.
Finally I think it’s important to note that our momentous results are often all on the lower end of the playbooks, and I think it’s here that most people will be choosing their tackle results. Often all I want to do with a player is hit the second column (often which is 2 momentous damage before buffs), or maybe the third at a stretch (like for KD with Mallet and Brick).
I think in this game it’s important to understand what your team is good at, and how to maximise your ability to use that to your advantage. One of the best (and actually sometimes the worst) things about the Masons is that they are not specialists in this game, rather they are a very versatile team who are able to switch their strategy mid-game to accommodate for their opponent. This can be an issue as if you fail to switch tactics at the right time you can find yourself playing a beating game against the Butchers or a scoring game against the Fish, and you will inevitably lose those battles. I think this versatility begins at player selection, so quickly I’ll go through my current 8 and why I choose them.
Honour: An amazing Captain who I’m going to be very hesitant to ever drop. I use her very aggressively on the table and she is often the reason I win games. Her only drawback is that her influence stat is 3/6, and most turns I’m giving her 6.
Marbles: You have to take him, but he brings 1 influence and most turns will use it for a critical Goad or to Tool Up your beater.
Mallet: My #1 choice. Don’t ever leave home without him. First turn Superior Strategy and Tooled Up means you’re likely to kill a 12 or less health character as long as you can get to them. Singled out is amazing. Football Legend is amazing. 3” melee is amazing. Just take him. Always.
Brick: My new #2 choice. I didn’t previously like him because I mistakenly thought Counter Charge wasn’t as good in a game where you can premeasure, but him just being on the board denies your opponent basically a 13” bubble where they can’t advance unless they’re engaging him. Also he brings 2 influence which he never uses, and I feed it to Honour all game.
Flint: This guy is arguably the best striker in the game, and I’ve lost track of the number of matches where I’ve had a 6/11” shot on goal from basically the centre of the field. Close control is also situationally good, as is Charmed [Male]. Also a good target for Superior Strategy first turn if there’s nothing to hit with Mallet.
Chisel: What isn’t to like about this chick? She’s a bit squishy but don’t use her as your front line and she’s golden. Once she’s under 5 health she’s rolling 9 dice and doing two damage on a single hit, or three if you Tool her up. She enjoys being close to Brick.
Mist: The other argument for best Striker in the game, he always makes my top 8 because there are a number of teams where the 5+ defence is immense plus he can also have a good whack at goal from 9” away with Football Legend.
The 8th Man: This is where I have some difficulty. The team above plays so well that you never really need the 8th player to round out your team, and often this player is just a backup. Notable mentions include Decimate for her speed and consistent damage output with Anatomical Precision (plus good character plays), Snakeskin for her evasiveness and scoring ability, and Tower because he’s alright. Never Harmony. If you ever take Harmony in this spot for any reason other than placating your friends (like I did at Capital Cup), your choice was bad and you should feel bad.
So I was joking with Sean Benson the other day that I have two strategies in Guild Ball, depending on the turn. Despite being completely tongue in cheek, there is a reality to this.
Turn 1: Give 4 to Honour, 4 to Mallet, 1 to Marbles, and 3 to your Striker (often Flint). Do your unneeded activations first (Chisel walks, Brick walks, Marbles does Tool Up on Mallet, Mallet walks, Striker walks/WtG, Honour uses Superior Strategy on Mallet, 5 influence Mallet charges and flattens someone (An average of 14 damage and 4 momentum against most players).
Turn 2: Honour gets 6, uses her legendary to go to 7, and finishes off whomever Mallet began to wail on last turn, dispense the rest of the influence as per who’s doing work that turn.
This essentially is the key to my strategy; Honour with 6 influence does an average of 12 momentous damage against basically anyone in the game without tough hide, which of course varies depending on crowding and character plays on the table. I basically always activate Honour first, because there is little risk of her being killed outright with 3+/2ARM and 17 health before she can activate. She also can force your opponent to burn Don’t Touch the Hair which she can essentially negate with Quick Time. She is also a 4/6” kick which with Mallet up the front (which he should be after charging first turn) turns into 5/7”, plus she has a momentous double dodge on two hits which should often easily get you into position to score a goal if the opportunity presents itself. This is why I love using her aggressively, as she is good at both scoring and beating, plus she’s especially resilient. If Marbles gets to go first (which sometimes I do to try and bait activations to move away from him), she can also get Tooled Up or extra TAC and damage against crowded opponents. Also Responsive Play is just bonkers. Out of activation attack and momentum generation, in addition to being essentially immune to 1” melee players? Yes please!
Marbles is a very interesting mascot in that he has a friendly buff in Tooled Up and an offensive debuff in Goad. He also crowds well with Honour to give her +2 TAC and +1 damage. So my general strategy with him is to walk him up behind the front line (Honour and Mallet usually) and use Tooled Up for the early part of the game, then switch to using Goad towards the end. The only issue with Goad is that it’s on a single dice, and the majority of the time you will want to Bonus Time it as it can save a player from KO if used correctly. The best way to use it is to Goad an opposing player who is behind one of their players who has already activated, so they can’t move save for passing them the ball. The problem with being this aggressive with Marbles is that often he’s in the path of danger, and at 4+/1ARM with 8 health he isn’t hard to kill. And don’t forget that if your opponent kills him after all of your players have activated, the Loved Creature bonus is wasted (save for the 2 momentum).
Mallet I already covered above in the first turn; give him 4 influence and Superior Strategy for 5 influence and a base 13” threat (15 if you sprint him on the first activation instead of jogging). Later in the game I find he only really needs 1 or 2 influence to hit/charge something and trigger Singled Out to help Honour or Chisel kill the thing he’s engaging. He’s also really good against anyone with Unpredictable Movement, as he is able to completely negate it with his 3” melee. He’s also a 3/7” kicker, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Brick: Walk him up behind the front line with Marbles and Chisel next to him and you’ll be sweet. Watch opponents freak out about how to tie him down, then clear him off with Tooled Up Chisel. He basically just gives Honour his 2 influence every turn, but is still relevant thanks to 2” melee and Counter Charge. Best place for him is 3” behind the thing your opponent wants to kill.
Chisel: Second line beater because if you put her up front she’ll die. 3+/1A and 13 health are rubbish defensive stats, and cutting for 3 every turn doesn’t help that. As I like to get her Painful Rage in action ASAP, I often make her go Crazy in the first two turns and don’t heal it so turn 3 she can get in there and do some serious damage.
Flint/Mist: What is there to say about these boys? Keep them on the wings and let the beaters generate the momentum for their scoring opportunity later in the turn. Mist is great with 2 influence most turns just for crowding and being a general pain in the arse, whereas you need to be a little more careful with Flint. Strategy remains the same, get them near the goal and score score score! If your opponent scores on you that’s fine; kick the ball out to your Striker on the wing and prepare to do the same to them next turn (or even this one).
The above covers general tactics and influence allocation, but I would like to finish off this section with a comment on using momentum with Masons. Since you usually only have 12 influence on a non-Legendary Play turn, the most momentum you should be generating a turn is 11 (as Marbles often gets one to do something non-momentous with). In reality, you’ll probably only be getting 4-6 and generally will be on par with your opponents for winning initiative the next turn. Remember that Honour’s Legendary Play is also plays a big part for momentum generation on that turn, and if you’re not winning initiative the turn after you use Topping Out, you’re probably not putting it to best use.
I am a big advocate of winning initiative, as then Honour can get 6 without hesitation and can KO basically any player in the game without breaking a sweat. However, using momentum to Bonus Time a Goad from Marbles is important, or using momentum to Bonus Time and have a shot on goal can be crucial. In addition to this you should be healing your players (especially the front line ones like Honour and Mallet) as much as you can in a turn, because they’re going to be your momentum generators and you need to keep them alive to play their part. In a nutshell, if you’re not going winning initiative it’s not a big deal; but planning ahead to later activations and the subsequent turns is.
I hope this article is of assistance to the Masons players out there as a primer for how I play. I don’t expect everyone to agree with the things I’ve written as there are so many different ways to play this incredibly versatile guild, probably none of which are 100% correct, but if you have learned something from my rambling then I’d consider this a success.
This primer is very light on the tactics but I aim to delve deeper into the individual strategies I employ against the various guilds and for individual players in later articles. For now, I hope you enjoyed the read and I’ll see you next time for another Masons Guild article! You can bug me on twitter @EpicSaviour or comment here to talk Masons.