A Shadespire Primer: Part the First: What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Play in a Tournament)

I just finished a tournament at my FLGS (I came in second, thanks for asking. Yes, I did lose to Relics. Yes, we were using the Beta rules. No they didn’t help. Yes my Orruks tried to run the length of a long setup and failed). We had a couple of newish players – one who started playing last week. And I watched a couple of times as he “learned” about a card like “Quick Thinker.”

And thus, the Shadespire Primer! This is a set of articles primarily intended for the new player. If you’ve read the forums, listened to Claim the City, and played 20+ games, you probably won’t find much in here (except my charming prose). But if you’ve got new players – point them this way!

Part the First will cover the Gotchas! It’s a general rundown of “Stuff you might not know about that people will do to you.” Parts two through thirty-seven (number subject to change) will cover things like “Cards that seem good but aren’t” and “things your opponent is trying to score.” But I wanted to start with this set, because these are the ones that just make you feel bad the first

time you see them. This article is focused on Ploys, because hopefully you won’t be surprised by someone using an Upgrade they played last turn….  I’m going to start with the universal Ploys, because they’re going to show up everywhere, and in a ton of decks (It’s like they’re universally useful or something).  Many of these cards don’t even have counter-play, for the most part.  But simply knowing they’re out there can save you frustration, and keep you from just throwing up your hands at the game.

Quick Thinker.

Think fast!

Let’s start with the reason I’m writing this: Quick Thinker.  After you move (but before you attack, if you’re charging), your opponent can move a fighter.  And yes, they can move the fighter you just charged.  This is the card that is most likely to make someone rage-quit a game.  The most frustrating usage is also the most straight-forward.  You play a +1 dice card.  You play a +1 damage card.  You charge someone with your fully upgraded Gurzag – you’re going to explode this stupid little Skaven, get a glory, score Advancing Strike, play Leadin’ By Example and win!  And then your opponent smiles, and plays this card.  And suddenly the dead Skaven is 5 squares away, sitting on an objective, and Gurzag can’t act.


The only counters to this card are to charge to a spot where you have multiple targets or to charge someone that’s already moved.  So before you send Gurzag off on his mission of death, ask yourself “What if my target goes scampering away?”


It’s a…nevermind.

Twist the Knife/Trap

These are both effectively the same card, and they’re pretty straight forward.  When you’re calculating whether or not Gurzag can survive charging Skritch if you somehow don’t kill him, these are the cards to remember.  They are nothing but +1 damage.  But unlike some other ploys, these aren’t declared in advance.  These are played after the attack succeeds.  So always be aware that your opponent just might pull out more extra damage on any attack they make!


Most of the “I’m not gonna die” cards are upgrades.  So you know that when you go to try to kill the 1 health Fjul, there’s a 50% chance you’re wasting your time, and you’re gonna get an axe to the face for your trouble.  Not Rebound!  While it is only a 1/3 chance to succeed (each die has 1 crit and 1 swoop (that’s the official name, yes)), many people feel that a 1 in 3 chance to win the game is a worthwhile goal.  And remember when I said Quick Thinker was the most likely to


make someone rage quit?  I lied.  This is that card.  Because not only does the thing you’re attacking not die 1 time out of 3, but you take the damage!  Skaven you charged before?  Now it didn’t dodge.  It just took the hit.  And then rolled a crit.


And now Gurzag takes 5 damage to the face, and he’s dead.  Not exactly what you expected, eh?

Ready for Action/My Turn/’Aving a Good Time

I know.  I already broke my “Universal cards” rule.  But all of these are cards that have one thing in common – they let you make an attack that breaks all kinds of rules.  They’re free attacks (no activation required!) that happen outside of the normal phase (How did I die during the power cards step?) and let cards that have charged (“You said after someone had charged they can’t do anything else!”) get another attack.  They have different conditions, but overall, be aware that sometimes your opponent is just going to up and murder you on your turn!

It’s not right.  And it’s especially frustrating when you’ve saved your actions for the last activation because you know your opponent would charge and knock you off your objective, but now you’ve got 1 and 2 and 3, and you’re going to score Tactical Supremacy and regular Supremacy and it feels so good and now you’re dead.

Oh, and speaking of getting screwed out of objective points during the last power step of the turn when you knew you had everything under control:

I mean, it’s okay

Earthquake/Great Concussion

These cards are just the worst for a new player, because of the feeling of helplessness.  Great Concussion is probably the worse of the two, but both will just say “Oh, those objectives?  Yeah, no.”  I would be surprised to see a tournament deck that doesn’t run one or both of these.  The only real counters are running your own versions, to undo the damage they did, or running Forceful Denial.  And speaking of….


Forceful Denial/Distraction

Forceful Denial is a 50% chance that whatever cool card you just played is simply not going to happen.  It’s like you’re playing Magic against a blue draw go annoyance deck.  But they only have one counter spell.  And it only works half…. Okay, ignore that analogy.  This card wasn’t very common until the great Relic Scourge of 2018.  Now it’s in a lot of defensive decks that have hard counters.  So occasionally, expect to do something awesome and have your opponent just say “You know what?  Don’t do that.” Distraction redirects a Ploy to another target.  It always works, but you still get the effect (just not always where you wanted it), so it’s a different kind of “Dammit!”

Hidden Paths/Sidestep/Confusion/Flickering Step/tons of other stuff.

Look – just know that  there are any number of cards that mean your opponent is going to move people around when it’s not their turn.  Some of them will move them all the way across the board (Hidden Paths).  Some will just move them (or you!) one step.  Some do other weird things.  But be aware that the places people start the power step and the places they end them may be different.

Death Throes/Bone Shrapnel/Last Lunge/Final Blow/….

These are all various sorts of cards that do a point of damage when you hit or kill something.  A point isn’t usually that bad, but again, be aware that, sometimes, when you hit or kill something, you might take a damage for your trouble.

It’s a headache just to read

Confused Priorities/Mischievous Spirits/Shifting Shards

These are all cards that move or swap Objectives in some way.  Basically, all of these cards mean that the Stormcasts you put on Objectives 1 and 2 to score may not end up on Objectives 1 and 2 at the end of the round.  Like Earthquake and friends, these will frustrate you if you’re trying to get points without hitting things (although why anyone would try that….), just in a different way – because what you thought was happening isn’t any more.  These cards are also often good counters for Earthquake and friends, though, so you may want to pick a few of them up!

Daylight Robbery

Seriously.  Screw this card.  A 50% shot for someone to just take one of your Glory for themselves.  This card doesn’t see as much play as it used to, I think.  But it’s still out there.  If you suspect (or know) your opponent’s got it, make sure that the first thing you do after getting a Glory is spend it on an upgrade!

The less annoying version is Spoils of Battle – that card lets your opponent play an upgrade without having any glory.  You’re much less likely to be surprised by it to the point of annoyance, but know that sometimes you’ll be looking at a 4 damage Gurzag 2 minutes in to the game.

Frozen in Time

Okay, I take it back.  Screw this card.  50% chance that one of your fighters is just unusable for the turn.  Playing Skeletons?  Guess what?

Just let it go.

No Warden!  Playing Stormcasts?  You just lost 1/3 of your crew this turn!  Playing Orruks (good for you!)?  No Gurzag.  I’m never a fan of cards that say “You can’t play the game” and this is literally that.  Good luck scoring Supremacy when you can’t move, sucka!

There are certainly other surprises out there – the entire point of Ploys is stuff that isn’t just move and roll.  But the above list should cover most things that you’re going to see in good decks.

Practical Applications:

I want to take a moment to call out one particularly amazing/disheartening series of events that my Orruks can do (and, in fact, I did a version of tonight, to no avail):

Imagine this:

Gurzag exists.  He charges Blooded Saek.  He kills Blooded Saek.  Yay! 1 glory!  And then the Orruk player smiles wickedly.

“I play ‘Leadin’ by Example.’  When my leader kills something, another Orruk can charge.  Bonekutta charges 3 and kills Karsus.”  “I use a glory to play Shadeglass Darts on Gurzag.  Then I play Ready for Action.  He gets a free attack when I play an upgrade.  He attacks Arnulf 3 squares away for one damage.  Now I play Shardgale – everyone takes a damage.  Arnulf dies, right?  Okay – and all my Orruks are inspired.  And in reaction to Gurzag taking a damage, I play My Turn – I push Gurzag one square next to Garruk, and attack.  Garruk dies.  Okay that’s the end of my first power step.  It’s your first activation.”

I don’t write that just to illustrate how awesome Orruks are, but to point out just how much ploys can influence the game, especially if you’re thinking this is mostly a “You go, you hit, I go, I hit” kind of game.

Stay tuned for part 2: “Objectives you should always be thinking about” coming soon!

Ergonomic Cat

Father of 3, husband of 1, gamer of all stripes (rarely an author), geek, X-Wing (Imperial and Scum), Warmahorders (and Warmahoarder), reluctant Magic Player.

1 Response

  1. Mat says:

    A good enjoyable read!

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