Much like I did for the league itself, I'm going to write up a quick analysis of the warbands, matchups and playoffs themselves for the Vassal League 3 Playoffs.

Warbands and Round Quarterfinal Matchups:

Guns - Sharn / Saiyin / Kvarto / Thorgar / Doenrakkar / Istariel / Loribela
mad_dasher - Jaegar / Skoll / Skye / Zhonyja / Thorgar / Istariel / Kruul

LOS_Jaden - Allandir / Viktor / Thorgar / Fazeal / Kvarto / Skye / Sharn
Nightflier - Nephenee / Thorgar / Jaegar / Marcus / Sharn / Svetlana / Kruul

TheGuardDog - Doenrakkar / Xyvera / Thorgar / Gendris / Kogan / Loribela / Marcus
Wankekong - Doenrakkar / Skoll / Xyvera / Nephenee / Kvarto / Zaffen / Thorgar

M4gnetic - Allandir / Viktor / Thorgar / Fazeal / Kvarto / Skye / Sharn
Tirrith - Istariel / Zaron / Saiyin / Thorgar / Zhonyja / Skye / Piper

I'm going to do a post for each matchup below so that I can analyze the warbands and matchups more directly. Before going into that, here's a run-down on hero selections:

Thorgar 8
Sharn 4
Kvarto 4
Skye 4
Doenrakkar 3
Istariel 3
Saiyin 2
Skoll 2
Zhonyja 2
Allandir 2
Jaegar 2
Fazeal 2
Marcus 2
Viktor 2
Nephenee 2
Loribela 2
Xyvera 2
Kruul 2
Svetlana 1
Kogan 1
Gendris 1
Piper 1
Zaffen 1
Zaron 1
Styx 0
Haksa 0
Brok 0
Bastian 0
Thrommel 0
Rakkir 0
Barnascus 0
Bale & Sarna 0

Definitely some interesting analysis to see there, especially when taking into account the differences from the main league warbands. First, starting at the bottom we definitely see that some picks that were VERY high last time have now fallen completely out of favor. The two coming to mind there are Styx and Haksa. Specifically on Styx it seems that folks are relying a lot more on Sharn and Kvarto for movement since those heroes are a bit more survivable/forgiving to play than Styx who has a lower hp pool and no real defensive tech of his own. I'm a bit surprised on Haksa though, even if you're not feeding fate to him he does have a ton of utility and is pretty tough to deal with at times. Just one of those quirks when you get only 8 players.

The other two notable fallouts that have 0 entries are Bastian and Rakkir. Both of them were more middle of the pack in the regular games, but it is still interesting to see them not being taken. Bastian has seemed to be falling ever more out of favor as players have been going with more and more ranged heroes in their warbands. Something there that I think is definitely a trend to keep an eye on as far as the balance of the game. Rakkir I think is more just a victim of choice, he's well known as Gun's favorite, but he did want to switch it up.

Now, lets talk about the top of this list. Thorgar. Everyone brought Thorgar. Why? Well, first, when designing a warband you sort of want elements of it that just do their thing and don't require a lot of support. Thorgar fits that bill probably the best out of anyone in the game, I would put Fazeal close behind on this as well.  The other aspect here is that Thorgar also brings you an aggressor who has access to a Knockdown with his Gore Thrust combat maneuver, which is a powerful setup for ranged aggressors or some of the melee aggressors like Nephenee or Brok. As something of an aside, I do hope that the design space for the game can work to give us a few more options in this vein. I don't particularly think that Thorgar is too good as an individual option, but I would say that I would very much prefer that a trend of seeing him in so many lists continues.

The other three heroes towards the top: Skye, Sharn and Kvarto are not too surprising. First, we have to remember that two of those warbands are completely identical, so there's going to be a bunch of overlap and that's also going to contribute to some aspects to some heroes numbers being lower. With the emphasis in a lot of cases on more ranged game and more Aggressors in general, there's no surprise that Sharn and Kvarto are up there. Both of them help you to keep your models engaged or disengaged as you need them to be. Skye is just a great Defender, no surprise to see him up there. In fact, every Defender was taken 2+ times except for Thrommel who was not taken at all. Unfortunately I feel like this is a bit of Thrommel's fate often because of just how hard he is to use due to being slower and the 2A attack.

On to the matchup/warband discussions!
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Guns - Sharn / Doenrakkar / Saiyin / Thorgar / Istariel / Loribela / Kvarto
mad_dasher - Skoll / Skye / Kruul / Zhonyja / Thorgar / Istariel / Jaegar

First, I re-arranged the lists slightly so that I could group things up a bit better to analyze, so if you start looking and its a bit off, that's why.

To start off with the analysis here, Gun's has a warband that was submitted to him by Jerick and he liked it enough to go ahead and play it. First thing that sticks out about it is that it has a singular melee aggressor of Thorgar. If you go above you'll see why Thorgar is pretty good in that role, but it will of course open him to a potential ban of the only real DPS from a melee hero that he has. What I would say about this warband though is that it has a bit of everything. We've got the double Defender setup that essentially everyone brought for the playoffs. Saiyin continues to be an incredibly strong soulgazer and all-around pick. Kvarto I talked about above a ton, but he can help to setup Loribella or Istariel to do a lot of damage. Mind Control on Thorgar is pretty strong, and its not weak on a few of these other options either. He's particularly helpful with Istariel as well since he can also put a model on fire.

Dasher's warband takes a few of the same queues here by bringing a single soul gazer, double defender and then the overlap of Thorgar and Istariel should prove interesting. I'm not going to go into detail about Thorgar again, I think we've covered that. His Defender setup is much more intriguing though, we have Skoll and Skye. There's a lot of temporary HP that those two can put out and generally the way it works that is enough to negate at least 1 attack from the enemy, often making it such that someone won't even try. Kruul with the small tweak that he got in the interim patch I think is going to be a very big deal as doing 3/4/5 for damage is definitely no joke, and getting a soul on him is generally not too hard to accomplish, additionally so when you have Jaeger to also help you strip souls.

How will these two matchup? Well the ban phase is going to be pretty interesting I think because there are a lot of layers of things to consider. Both have Istariel, who sort of cancel each other out due to Fire condition immunity, but then Saiyin can also stop fire, so do you have to consider that? Skye is generally pretty strong into ranged heroes since they're getting one die generally is all, but then true damage from Sharn and Loribella can make a big difference there too. I think I give the edge with the warband slightly to Dasher here because if it were me I would just ban Gun's Thorgar and then get in his face with my warband to make Sharn, Kvarto and/or Loribella have to spend a ton of actions/fate if they want the ranged heroes to do anything at all. Boots of AGI on Zhonyja, Blood Sucker on Thorgar, Vorpal on Skoll or Kruul and just make him deal with it. That said, Gun's did create this game, so I'm definitely not willing to count him out!
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LOS_Jaden - Skye / Sharn / Allandir / Viktor / Thorgar / Fazeal / Kvarto 
Nightflier - Marcus / Sharn / Nephenee / Thorgar / Jaegar / Svetlana / Kruul

Here we have the first instance of "The Greatest Warband Evar" piloted by Jaden into Nightflier with his own unique approach.

First, lets talk about the Jaden warband. The brain child of Jaden and M4gnetic and dubbed as the greatest warband (by them). Definitely has an aggressive approach with four aggressors, two defenders and then rounding it out with Kvarto. Talked a bunch about some of these, but Kvarto and Sharn help you keep your ranged heroes disengaged when you need it, or keep them in range so they're getting 3 actions worth of attacks when they need it. Allandir and Viktor are bringing a lot of DPS from the ranged side of things, with Viktor being particularly interesting since he can bring out Dor'gokkan for either more ranged oppression or he can get in there in melee and wreck face.  That is then backed up by Fazeal and Thorgar doing the melee work, as discussed above, neither of them are typically too reliant on needing to spend fate which is great. Fazeal also helps in the sense that without a soul gazer here that sometimes his job is just going to be to eat a soul to prevent the opponent from getting it and keeping his HP up.

Nightflier has a mostly different approach. Much more melee-centric, bringing one of my favorite heroes in Nephenee as well as some good options to make sure that she can get a lot more dice in the form of Thorgar and Marcus (and Sharn if you're lucky) for knockdown and Jaeger for Retarius. The other interesting approach here, coming out of the interim patch is that we have our first instance of double soulgazer, utilizing the package of Svetlana and Kruul. Svetlana can be a pretty strong inclusion since she is RES 2 vs melee and you can even buff that higher if you need to. Kruul with his change can also mix it up in melee now, having a RES and more damage to put out there with melee (which goes well with all the things that work well with Nephenee too). Further Jaeger and Kruul generally are going to make it hard to keep souls on the enemy models.

So, how does this matchup look then after analyzing the warbands? Well, as described, Jaden certainly has the ability to bring a lot more pain to the game with his warband, but is he going to be able to keep souls on any of them between Jaeger and Kruul? On Scorched Earth in particular, Svetlana's ability to shove a Dor'gokkan into Jaden's warband can definitely be troublesome too. Kruul in particular has some potential to rain on Jaden's parade because he has no one with a soul harvest above a 4, so a level 2 Kruul positioned well could be pretty devastating, but no matter the pick, Nightflier is going to have to do his best to mitigate the damage coming his way and that's not going to be easy at all. In all honesty, the matchup feels pretty even and then its just going to depend some on the table and how these players approach the game. 
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TheGuardDog - Doenrakkar / Xyvera / Thorgar / Gendris / Kogan / Loribela / Marcus
Wankekong - Doenrakkar / Skoll / Xyvera / Kvarto / Nephenee / Zaffen / Thorgar

Our beefiest matchup in the entire playoffs! We're looking at 8 cows out of a potential 10!

Ok, lets look at it. Well, with TGD you could just about go all the way back to the regular league analysis and read what I put t here because he brought much the same warband. The changes to the non-Cow models are very interesting. Loribella feels like a much more synergistic addition to the herd than Haksa did, she has a couple of compelling buffs for them in her kit, as well as just all around providing a ton of different options turn over turn. Generally the herd doesn't use a lot of fate either, so she should generally have access to her Ale to throw at them when she needs to. Marcus is a fine include, the easy knockdown as well as being able to throw 1 RES on the likes of Gendris or Loribella can be pretty solid. The big change here that will apply for both warbands actually is Xyvera! Will her buffs prove to be enough to bring her into prominence? I think what she's doing actually does go pretty well with Loribela to be honest, as well as spreading damage to the herd is generally better than some because of their Regeneration

Now, we come to what I'd say was a warband built when Wanke thought to himself "can I make a warband I like with Xyvera?" I think he did an alright job here. You have the combo of Skoll / Xyvera, you also have the Kvarto / Zaffen combo, and through the bans you can really only break up one of the two which should give him some options at that part of the game. Of course we still see trusty Thorgar in there and then rounded it out with Nephenee who doesn't have a lot of synergies here, but the other two aggressors do bring some Knockdown potential and also she's just amazing. Regarding Nephenee, if you see a level 3 Xyvera hit and throw Soul Link on her I'm not too sure what can really be done about it. Very interesting warband for sure. I do think that it needed a bit more access to healing for Xyvera personally, but I don't think that means it can't work.

So, how do things match up here? Well, as mentioned in the second section, TGD is going to have to decide how he feels about the combos that Wanke brought and which one (if any) he doesn't want to deal with. Neither warband brought any fire and both have a lot of healing options. I do think that the way that TGD structured his warband due to reliance on Minotaurs that the Thorgar ban is incredibly strong since that leaves him really with Kogan to do a lot of work. From a warband perspective I think I give this one to Wanke, though I have been surprised that TGD has over come the on-paper weaknesses of his herd to be victorious.
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M4gnetic - Skye / Sharn / Allandir / Viktor / Thorgar / Fazeal / Kvarto 
Tirrith - Skye / Piper / Zaron / Saiyin / Thorgar / Zhonyja / Istariel

Second instance of "The Greatest Warband Evar", honestly, just scroll up and read what I said about Jaden's warband and then assume I said the same thing here. I'll talk about how it matches up differently down below though.

So then, lets talk about Tirrith's comp. He's the only person in the playoffs not to bring a second Defender, instead opting to go with double soul gazer, triple aggressor and then filling in the last spot with Piper. We of course still see trusty Thorgar in there, doing Thorgar things. Zaron / Saiyin is an interesting double soul gazer, first it means that opponents can't ban him off of having a true soul gazer, which I think is something not to be discounted. Additionally, both of these actually can put down a lot more damage than it would seem. With Zaron going to range 8" on his Eldritch Blast, being 2/3/4 as well as the Explode on the Skeletons and their ability to do a bit more damage too can really make him put out some damage. Saiyin can also do 2/3/4 on damage to START, and if you get a soul she will bring the pain. Zhonyja and Istariel to round things out definitely insures that RES isn't going to be a huge issue and that damage in general is always there. Maybe slightly concerned at the number of heroes who probably would like to have the Ring of Power, but its nothing that can't be worked around. Funny enough, I think the best hero for the Vorpal Blade in this mix is actually Skye (though Piper is another likely one).

So how does this matchup? Well we talked some about it with the Jaden vs Nightflier matchup on what M4gnetic is bringing, but he's going up against a very different arrangement. First of all, one of the things that Tirrith has access to here is a lot more AGI, which generally speaking is not something that ranged heroes like, and it even makes  it pretty dicey for Fazeal or Thorgar to get much damage in. Piper is another interesting one since he can entirely shrug off an attack basically every turn, and again have the potential for being AGI 6 before we even factor in the terrain. I'm not too certain how the bans are going to come down, but looking at this one on paper feels like Tirrith has the edge. That said, it IS "The Greatest Warband Evar" so maybe I shouldn't count it out just yet either.
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Nice write up. 🙂
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Semi-Finals Time!

Guns vs Jaden
GuardDog vs Tirrith

Guns - Sharn / Doenrakkar / Saiyin / Thorgar / Istariel / Loribela / Kvarto
LOS_Jaden - Skye / Sharn / Allandir / Viktor / Thorgar / Fazeal / Kvarto 

One instance of "The Greatest Warband Evar" survived the quarterfinals to make it into the semifinals to face off against the creator of the game! Definitely an interesting matchup I think! There are a handful of characters shared between the warbands: Sharn, Thorgar, Kvarto, which is interesting. As reviewed above, Jaden's warband definitely is bringing a lot of DPS into the mix with four aggressors that he has the option to take, while Guns technically has only 2 aggressors, we all know that Loribella can put down some damage as well. Saiyin could prove to be the difference maker here though, she was absolutely the reason that Tirrith was able to defeat the other instance of this warband. Doenrakkar is another difference maker here as neither Allandir nor Viktor want to be tied up by him, though Sharn definitely can help out in that regard since her fate ability does do a place. Jaden on the other hand if he can keep his ranged aggressor free is going to just be putting constant damage only Gun's warband in one regard or the other

This is tough as I look at it. For Jaden I can definitely see Doenrakker being a target because of not having really a ton of options for dealing with RES 3, as well as not wanting to deal with Stone Grasp the entire time. However, I think that Thorgar or Istariel are also reasonable ban targets since it guarantees that he's just going to be doing more damage. And finally, Saiyin, I don't think that this ban would be a bad idea in the slightest, as it would level the playing field on loose souls. Number of soul pits in play might actually make that swing.

Guns on the other hand has a very tricky set of choices. I don't think I've ever felt that a Skye ban wasn't a good idea, so that option is always there. I could also see going for an Allandir ban, he's the more consistent damage at range between himself and Viktor, and Guns has a few characters he'd rather not have on fire the entire game, though, Saiyin can help with that too. Thorgar is the most consistent melee threat there, and that proved to be a successful ban in the game that Tirrith played. Looking at this one I feel like its going to be very reactive actually. Will be interesting to see how this one plays.

TheGuardDog - Doenrakkar / Xyvera / Thorgar / Gendris / Kogan / Loribela / Marcus
Tirrith - Skye / Piper / Zaron / Saiyin / Thorgar / Zhonyja / Istariel 

Here we are again Minotaurs vs Elves basically. GuardDog and Tirrith seem to have something of a rivalry going, with Tirrith getting the edge in the regular games. They both find themselves here though, and GuardDog is definitely looking for redemption. Certainly an interesting matchup, Istariel does love applying fire to those Minos, and there is absolutely no banning Tirrith off of a soulgazer. Loribela has definitely found herself getting quite a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. I definitely think she's a significant improvement to the 5-cow line-up than Haksa was. We again see that Tirrith only has a single Defender in Skye though, and found himself in a situation in his earlier playoff game where that was concerning as far as his ability to keep his warband alive. Thing here is, there just aren't a lot of tricks in these warbands. Minotaurs grind you down while Tirrith basically brought DPS+Soulgazing. There are almost no movement shenanigans between these warbands even.

Not sure what direction GuardDog takes things, but Skye being the only Defender definitely feels like its asking to be banned. That said, Istariel is pretty unkind to the game plan of Minotaurs so I think that it would not be unlikely to see that happen either. Again, with these warbands there isn't a whole lot that is flashy, so I don't expect the bans to be either

Tirrith might see Loribela as the auto-ban here, especially given how much the other Galea has drawn attention to the fact that her healing and movement tricks with that many Minotaurs is pretty substantial. She's definitely a good choice, she's also one of the other main sources of damage in the warband. That said, you could also look at a Thorgar ban as the only real melee aggressor or possibly at getting Xyvera out of there so that you know for sure that you have the best game for harvesting souls. Ban order might matter a bit on this.

Overall, looks to be a compelling semi-finals for the vassal league!
Bold Prediction: Final is Tirrith vs Jaden
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