Building a warband.
This is going to be a long ride and it's probably going to get ramble-y.
I've still not worked out how to put in pictures so it's going to be a bit of a wall of text, but that's ok, that's how I roll anyway.
Working out which models to buy is a different conversation in a lot of ways and one that I might tackle in another article. Learning how to build a warband is, I think, the precursor to working out what hero you should buy next.
Hopefully you get something out of this regardless of whether you're a new or experienced player, please feel free to comment/respond, I'm always happy to talk through the bits that are .... explained poorly?
I havent done a lot of editing because it takes forever to write this stuff, so again this is a forum not an article, live with it and write some of your own!!
There are probably a hundred different ways to approach building a warband and I certainly don’t believe any one is “correct”.
It should be first noted that you need to really think about what you’re looking for out of the game and who you’re likely to be playing with, so first a quick list of some ‘other considerations’ and how they might impact how you choose a warband:
- You’re in a new meta and you’re trying to build it
If this is you, then I suggest you actually consider what models other new-starters in your meta have and think about avoiding duplicates (unless you absolutely love a model and want to own it!). The more different models you have in your bunch of friends/players, the more options there are for you to experiment and build different warbands.
- You’re a hobbyist and you’re in it for the models
Then go for your life on the models you think look the best or offer you the best chance to convert/paint. Once you’ve got the ones you absolutely love, maybe come back to this article and you can read on to work out what other models might complement them and make your games as pleasurable as your painting experience!
- You like a particular theme or background
Maybe you love Orcs. Maybe you hate Orcs. If you want an all-lady warband and that’s what’s important to you, then go ahead. I’d still suggest that this article will have plenty of things to help you build the best all-lady warband you can, since there are 8 female characters to choose from (nine shortly) and for a 3 v 3 warband you’re only picking 5.
- You got the starter box, or specifically a couple of models from wave 1 or 2
You’ll find the first step in this article is identifying constraints. Congratulations, you’ve already done that!
The first thing to consider, and I guess I’d think of it as “step one”, is to work out what constraints you have.
For casual games with friends, I’d encourage you not to think of the models you own as a hard constraint. The print-and-play section of the Judgement website is your friend, use it!
If you are building a warband and you think “gee what would go really well here is Xyvera, but I guess Zaron will do since he’s the one I own…” the you should definitely think about trying it with Xyvera as a paper doll. At the very least you’ll learn a bit more about a character you don’t own which will be very helpful when you’re against her!
That said, a lot of people don’t like playing with paper dolls and leaving their beautiful models on the shelf, so if you’ve got a specific pool of characters available to you, that pool is obviously the first step in building your warband.
Once you’ve worked out your constraints though, its time to brain storm.
Any good warband needs a couple of core concepts or core synergies to help you build it and make sure it functions on the table.
A simple example is Bastian’s heroic ballad. This ability is well known for synergy with models that want to make a lot of melee attacks and particularly those with lower MEL stats. It’s benefit is perhaps highest for Brok since he sees a massive increase in damage potential from critical strikes due to backswing, so the difference between a solid (3) and a crit (5-8) is enormous. For other melee characters such as Zhonyja the effect may not be as pronounced simply because she is already MEL 9 when she charges (though she is also extremely eager to get crits).
There are hundreds of different synergies available between the 30-odd characters currently available, so if you have any particular theme you like, there is almost certainly something there to work with if you look.
Generally I will start the conception of a warband with one of two things:
- A specific synergy or interaction that I want to try and take advantage of as heavily as possible
- A specific model or models that I really want to build a warband around
They are effectively the same case, just at different stages, since if you start with a model or two chosen, then the next step is work out what synergies are available for those models to work with.
Once I’ve picked a “starting concept”, I will generally grab everything I can find that feeds into that concept. This will usually result in a warband of 4ish characters that all feed that single synergy. If I can’t find any others that feed that synergy, then I normally go looking for a second (or third) concept and find models that feed that one until I have a batch of 5-9 models that all feel loosely linked together by 1-3 concepts.
As an example:
I start with Bastian’s heroic ballad and models that REALLY want that bonus. I pull in Brok, Nephenee and Skoll because they all have multiple attacks per action and benefit extremely heavily from ballad. That’s not enough characters, so I go looking for a second point of possible synergy and I identify buff stacking. Skoll brings bulwark, Brok can savagery, Bastian can amplify magic items…..what else could I add?
I add Marcus for protective stance, Saiyin for holy shield and augury, Gendris for Root (her forest also synergises with multiple-attacks) and pathfinder, loribela for elixir and inspiring words ….
So now I’ve got eight characters:
Bastian, Brok, Skoll, Saiyin, Nephenee, Gendris, Loribela, Marcus
Now I recommend you run down a checklist of things that a warband needs, and things that a warband has to be able to deal with. As you play you’ll obviously come up with a bunch of things to put on this list, particularly if your local meta has some common choices you always have to deal with.
For me the general list is:
Counter to high res:
If my opponent brings multiple characters with 1-2 res and the possibility of getting higher (protective stance, the glyph purchase, bastian doubling the glyph) then I need a way to kill a model that has res 2 or higher. True damage is the easiest answer here and comes on a variety of characters.
In my example warband, Brok’s molten metal ability at level three is anathema to high res characters, effectively destroying anyone that puts res 3 on the table. Nephenee provides a second source of true damage through laser storm and I guess Lori can put out a spread of true damage with her explosive keg if the opponent brings a bunch of res models. Not too bad, though a ban on Brok would leave me very dependent on an armour shredder Nephenee.
Counter to high agi:
If my opponent brings multiple characters with 5 res, I need the ability to still put damage on them.
Knockdown is perhaps the easiest answer here, Auto-hitting abilities are another option, with Haaksa’s equilibrium and Xyvera’s corrupted bond being easy examples. A third option is extremely accurate attacks which Zhonyja can bring on her own and Bastian can help facilitate for those less well endowed in the MEL department.
In my example warband Marcus brings a knockdown (Skoll can also if required), I can generate very high MEL from Bastian with Neph and Brok, but I’m definitely short on direct true damage unless another trigger is available.
Counter to movement shenanigans:
This one’s a bit trickier and also less common. Kvarto and Styx are the most common examples that an opponent can use to place your models out of position, but almost any character can be used to move your models out of position via combat manoeuvres if nothing else (Thorgar’s mancatcher is another common one).
While I like to have the option of a stopper in this regard, I don’t consider it to be a hard requirement. Thrommel level 2 is a pretty solid stopper, as is root from Gendris and stoneform for Doenrakker. Having your own Styx or Kvarto can also provide an option to neutralise (or more likely threaten to neutralise) the opponent’s option.
This is one of the few that you can often effectively mitigate with a well placed ban, but you can also attempt to mitigate using a variety of other *auxiliary* abilities. For example, Nephenee can ignore parting blows, which will often let her recover from being put out of position and tied up by enemy models. Marcus’ wall can be used to restrict the directions an opponent can move your models if needed and can even be used to block the likely locations they would like to place you.
In my warband’s case I don’t currently have much here outside of Gendris. Marcus’ wall is ok in a pinch (though expensive for this purpose) and Neph’s immunity to parting blows should allow her to be a little safer from this sort of manipulation.
So in my mind the answer to this problem for my warband is more likely to reside in the buff stacking. If I can reduce the useful targets for the opponent then I can really restrict the impact of a telekinesis or position swap ability. If Nephenee has protective stance, holy shield and bulwark on her, then being able to drag her into the enemy team is not anywhere near as big a threat, since she almost certainly cant be one-rounded once she’s pulled in and that gives me time to try and execute a response.
If I can buff one character to the point where they aren’t a good target and then present only targets that are very hard to kill (like skoll or Marcus), then that really takes the teeth out of this approach.
The other consideration here for my money is whether or not to go first. If my opponent is running Styx or Kvarto, I’m very likely to give them a ban and if possible, to go second.
Terrain and pathfinder:
Terrain plays a large part in the game and on top of that there are a variety of characters that can exacerbate the lack of pathfinder on your team. Marcus and Gendris are two obvious ones, but any character that can impact your mobility (Jaegar for example) can combine with the effects of terrain to trap one of your characters out of the game.
Pathfinder is inherent on nine characters, ten if you count zhonyja who gets it on charges from level 2, so there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got one or two in any 7+ characters you choose.
That said, I don’t think it’s a requirement to have pathfinder in your warband, but if you are going to go forward without it, you should at least put some thought into how to mitigate the impact of terrain. Placement effects bypass the requirement entirely, so Styx can allow the warband to work around terrain to an extent and characters with placement effects like Istariel can generally look after themselves.
You can always buy boots on one character to give them pathfinder, but it’s a good idea to think about which character really needs it. Do you want your aggressor to have it and likely end up extended beyond the rest of your team, or is it better on a tank that you want to get into the middle of the board and tying up enemy models?
In my example case, there are a couple of things that help here:
- Nephenee has pathfinder inherently
- Bastian can teleport using planes walker
- Gendris can offer pathfinder to anyone
So it looks to me like we’re ok here given that the boots are also available.
This one is rarely an issue because the majority of players I’ve seen include at least 3 aggressors in their warband and rarely choose less than two in their final five for a game.
I’m quite often an exception to that rule, since I’ll commonly choose only two “true” aggressors (that have the tag) and one or two other characters that I consider to be aggressors in terms of damage output under the right circumstances.
Most of the hybrid characters are, in my opinion, really aggressors, but with a conditional requirement for their damage and in return a slight buff to their defensive stats or some other neat utility. An example would be Barnascus, he is an aggressor really, but he has very short range and ideally wants two targets in that range (and within 2” of each other) in order to hit his optimal damage output. In return for that condition, he gained mobility over a typical dwarf (pathfinder and +1 mov).
Supports are a tricky one because their damage output varies pretty wildly and a lot of it is very conditional.
My assessment criteria here are pretty weird. Maybe they’ll make sense to you or maybe they’ll inspire you to think more about how you could assess your warbands.
- “Aggressors” as 1
- “Defenders” as 0.33
- “Soul Gazers” as 0.25
- “Hybrids” as 1 as long as the condition requirement can be met using the other members, if not then 0.75
- “Support” as 0.33
Along with the above, supports are considered (in my mind) as multipliers. I generally add 0.25 to each aggressor on my team if there’s a relevant support in the warband. I also generally increase my defender from 0.33 to 0.5 if there’s a relevant support.
This is to try and account for the effect of:
- Supports that create a favourable positioning, allowing better attacks
- Supports that give crowd out (due to 3” reach often) and thereby increase MEL
There are plenty of other exceptions, the most relevant being Skoll, who I treat as a hybrid rather than a defender for this calculation. Generally though the numbers above seem to pan out ok.
My target for any five man warband on the table is to keep the number above 3.
Below that and you are at risk of losing a single character and not having enough damage on the table to kill a target. Above that and you should have enough to deal with most games. If you get too far above it, you are heading into (generally) territory where I’d expect to see significant deficiencies in other categories.
Here’s a few examples:
Istariel, Bastian, Haaksa, Allandir, Marcus
So here, we’ve got a base value of 1+0.33+0.33+1+0.33 giving us a total of 3, Bastian upgrades Marcus to a 0.5 (as does haaksa, but no double dipping), but does NOT give benefit to Allandir or Istariel since neither he nor Haaksa are relevant to the damage output of those two. This is probably below the target in my mind.
Marcus, Thrommel, Brok, Zaron, Bastian
Base value: 0.33+0.33+1+0.25+0.33 = 2.25
Upgrades from bastian get us 0.5+0.5+1.25+.25+0.33 = 2.83
Still below the curve and I think that checks out, in this example, if Brok is dead, you don’t have any damage on table.
Marcus, Rakkir, Nephenee, Haaksa, Barnascus
Base value: 0.33+1+1+0.33+0.75 = 3.43
Upgrades from Haaksa get us 0.5+1.25+1.25+0.33+0.75(haaksa not helpful for barnascus)=4.08
This is definitely A OK for damage output, which you’d expect because it’s missing a soul gazer.
In my warband thus far, there’s a lot of combinations, the two weakest are likely to be with Bastian banned, or either Neph/Brok banned.
Bastian banned gives us:
Skoll, Brok, Neph, Saiyin, Gendris as the likely optimal build from those eight or so.
0.75+1+1+0.25+0.33 = 3.33 which gets in over the hurdle and might be conservative since I haven’t given Gendris the credit as a support she probably deserves in this build.
A ban on Brok gives us:
Skoll, Neph, Bastian, Saiyin, Marcus
1+1.25+0.33+0.25+0.5 = 3.33 which is also over the hurdle and shows the huge effect that Bastian has on this sort of composition (without him here you drop to below 3 unless the replacement is an aggressor).
Those two examples indicate to me that the warband at the moment is probably pretty decent damage-wise.
Having a soul gazer isn’t a requirement and I know a lot of people are very comfortable playing without one in 5v5. I personally find that I rarely write warbands that don’t include soul gazers and I rarely drop them if I’m picking a 5.
That said, you can compensate for the lack of a true soul gazer, generally by using support characters with a soul gaze of 5, or in a pinch using defenders with a soul gaze of 4. This can be combined with someone like Victor that provides soul control and lets you mitigate the effectiveness of the opponents soul gazer (if they have one).
I personally think that if you play without a soul gazer you leave yourself very open to being beaten by characters that can strip souls off models (Kruul, Saiyin, Jaegar) and you definitely need to bring some way to get to your opponent’s soul gazer early in the game if you want to avoid a game where their gazer slowly shuts you out.
The biggest problem here is that if you want to be sure of playing a soul gazer, you really have to bring two. The ban component of Judgement means you simply cant be sure you’ll get your soul gazer at all if you only bring one, so if you do only bring one, you need to think carefully.
Some options if you want to bring a single soul gazer:
- Bring something that baits the ban extremely strongly. Common example is Bastian, but Kvarto/Styx (if you only have one of them) or bringing a single defender can also work
- Bring extremely strong soul control in the form of Victor or Jaeger
- Be prepared to play very You will need to get characters deep into the opponents side of the board and keep them there if you want to force their soul gazer away from soul pits and keep them honest. As such you’re going to want highly mobile models and the ability to keep them alive when they are in enemy lines
- Bring at least one character with soul gaze of five. At least that person gives you a functional option
My preference is always to bring two and in the example I’ve been working with, I’ve only got Saiyin unfortunately.
So, from the checklist we can say:
- We could use an extra soul gazer if possible
- There’s enough damage as long as we keep brok/neph/skoll/bastian
- Probably ok on pathfinder
- High res is ok, though a touch weak if Brok is banned out
- High agi is probably ok, though a touch weak if Bastian is banned out
If we’re looking at the remaining soul gazers as possible additions:
- Xyvera brings true damage which would help into High Agi and probably synergises with healing from Bastian
- Zaron brings a pseudo melee buff (skeleton gang bonus) and a tiny bit of assistance into high AGI due to explosion. Also brings a buff to stack (which is a decent one for Brok/Neph)
- Svetlana doesn’t bring anything to the current synergies
- Kruul brings frenzy but we only have Skoll to take advantage
Of those, the two obvious candidates are Zaron and Xyvera, either of which would work.
If we throw both in the pool we’ve now got ten characters:
Brok, Nephenee, Marcus, Skoll, Bastian, Xyvera, Saiyin, Zaron, Loribela, Gendris
Of those, in order to meet the damage requirement and primary synergy we’re locking in brok/neph/bastian/skoll.
So the remaining three are up for grabs.
At this stage I also like to start thinking about how to manage the opponents bans. We’ve already identified that Bastian is a pretty likely ban and there isn’t much we can do about that so it would be good to have a solid plan for it.
Brok/Neph/Skoll is a big chunk of the character pool and includes our two aggressors, so we’re almost certainly keeping all three in order to meet the damage requirements. I figure if I’m playing two soul gazers then one of those two is the fourth and that only leaves one slot to deal with.
In that case I think you could use Gendris as a pseudo bastian (3” stick) and Zaron’s skeletons for similar reason and that would give you brok/neph/skoll/gendris/zaron which I think is pretty solid.
You could also look instead at firming up around a more defensive strategy and focus on the buff stacking secondary synergy when they ban out Bastian, perhaps letting saiyin set up for souls and then solidify a defence with Nephenee as cleanup. To do that, I’d favour Marcus as the extra slot giving you brok/neph/skoll/Marcus/saiyin which I think is also pretty solid.
So Brok/Neph/Skoll/Bastian/Saiyin/Zaron with either Gendris or Marcus as the final member seems good, with the option to swap either soul gazer for Xyvera if you prefer.
I prefer Marcus for his buffs rather than Gendris for the pathfinder and additional support, so I ended up with Marcus/Skoll/Brok/Neph/Saiyin/Bastian and then either Zaron or Xyvera (last tournament I played Zaron, but I think in the future I’d use Xyvera in that slot).
So there you go, there’s a brain-dump and if you made it this far…..I’m impressed.
Please feel free to comment with “hey, you should use pictures” and “TLDR”.
But this is forums, this is possibly why they died, but it’s also why I like them so….suck it up, there’s going to be lots of long, randomly divergent think-pieces about things that don’t need this much thought.
If the God’s do truly sit in Judgement, may they give me leniency.