Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep – Fishermen’s Guild in Season 4

Since Season 1, the Fishermen’s Guild has been one of the stronger and most popular Guilds in the game of Guild Ball, with their complete devotion to scoring goals allowing for an aggressive, fun playstyle, which attracts players to them at the same level aggressive, fun soccer attracts real life fans.

However, the best and most consistent form of Fishermen play was, bizarrely, to make a big scrum around their Season 2 Captain, Corsair, and slowly beat the hell out of your opponent with sheer numbers and ball-freezing tech, consistently denying your opponent an opportunity to score goals while also making it difficult for them to kill you due to crowd outs. This pointed Fish into a gameplan of slow, grinding, Mourinho-like tactics which were effective but boring: the type of tactics that made Fishermen’s Guild fans everywhere cry out in anguish: “To Dare is to Do!”

Enter Season 4, where Steamforged has promised us via copypasta that they have evaluated every model and guild, to ensure that they play as intended. How’d they do? Well – Scoring Goals is in vogue in season 4, and the Fish are still better at it than everybody else!

Captain – Shark

The Fishermen’s goal-scoring game always starts with Shark, who is still the best and most reliable striker in the game – sorry Brisk3t. His card is unchanged since the mid-season 3 errata, with good reason – he’s in a great spot, blending the Fishermen’s Guild’s control elements with their reliable striking in harmony on one body. Your opponent either has a plan to deal with Shark, or else Shark can win you a game all by himself.

And in a pinch, of course, he can return to his season 1 self, and beat down a winger or striker non-momentously. But the Fishermen’s two new Navigator friends greatly improve Shark’s matchups into a few teams – Horizon, a second useful squaddie who only returns 1 VP when he’s taken out slows down your opponent’s takeout play against Shark, and Fathom is a phenomenal Winger on the other side, capable of threatening almost as much space, ball, and goal threat as Shark does. Either brings more to Shark than any of the Fish’s old Union selections did.

Also buffing Shark is the increased reliability of the passing game in Season 4 – tap-in target numbers now apply to passes, though some (Greyscales) of Shark’s buddies (Salt) will need to be within 3″ (or 2″) of their friends to benefit from this updated rule. There will be far fewer missed Fishermen turn 1 passes in Shark’s gameplan!

Captain – Corsair

Which brings us to the other Captain; the problem Captain; the “Damn it, that’s now Fish play!” Captain. Corsair, the one-legged pirate. Obviously, his card is very different, though the stat-line is almost the same (Corsair now has a 4/8″ kick just like Shark!). Gone from his playbook are momentous damage results. Gone from the back of his card is Close Control. Drag triggers a column earlier, and brings alongside it a double push for those pesky counter attacks against people who want to fight with the Big Fish. He also now longer has Stand Firm, so the Fish won’t be able to leave knock down bots like Hearth, Anvil, any Brewer, or half of the Farmers by just jogging away any longer.

Another big change to his card is a complete reworking of his Legendary play. ‘One Legged Stance,’ which made a bubble of Super Shot and Close Control for Corsair’s friends, is gone, replaced by ‘Hook, Line, and Sinker,” which causes every enemy model within 6″ of Corsair to be pushed 6″ directly towards him. Yes, that’s a diceless multi-drag, y’all. I have played many games where One Legged Stance never came into play – I will definitely use HLS every single game with Corsair.

The other significant change to Corsair is what he gained to replace his momentous damage results – an aura called coup de grace, in which once per turn, if an enemy is taken out within 6″ of Corsair, his team will gain +3 MP (to a total of 4 MP) – a perfectly fine compromise for who Corsair was, and the influence investment Fish players will be making if they take a model out in Season 4.

It feels like the changes to Corsair were painted as a nerf, but they are undoubtedly a buff to his overall gameplan, particularly in light of the changes to his new best friend, Kraken. He doesn’t need Close Control, and he rarely used One Legged Stance. 4 Momentum for his takeout isn’t that much worse than 7 (and of course that assumes that you didn’t wrap his TAC 6, 5 column playbook thanks to his pals Ganging Up on the enemy to make some momentum while also killing punks). But Hook, Line, and Sinker is outstanding – no more will a key Corsair turn be interrupted due to a missed Drag. Just Legendary them in and commence with a 6 attack beatdown.

Captain – Veteran Captain Salt

Just Kidding!

 Mascot – Salt

Neither mascot for the Fishermen’s Guild changed much: in fact, on his card, Salt did not change at all. His “Come over Here!” relationship changed from Jac to Angel, but that change is, again, not based on his card at all. What did affect him is the new tap-in rule, since he still only has a 4″ kick. Somehow, a mascot who most people didn’t play very often anyway in favor of Tentacles was actually slightly nerfed.

Mascot – Tentacles

So, if Salt got nerfed, what about Tentacles? He, too, is mostly the same. Only the overall change to his Blind Character play is different from his Season 3 card to his Season 4 card – it now has a 6″ range, rather than an 8″ range. Mostly, he should still be the Mascot you’re picking, and rarely giving influence to if you’re hoping to rip off a bonus-timed blind on an opponent’s key model (Hammer).

The Team

The Fishermen have a large team, and I’m going to focus quickly on those models who haven’t changed by listing them:  Hag, vSakana, Fathom, Horizon. All of these models do exactly the same plays, have the same traits, have the same stats, and also have the same playbooks.

 

Then there are the small changes to the Fishermen. Sakana mostly does

exactly the same thing, losing his sole momentous damage re

sult and gaining the same damage progression on his playbook as the

Veteran version, with a non-momentous 2 on 3 and a non-

momentous 3 on 5. Siren, too, only receives a small change, losing 2 hit points and Seduced (the best character play in the game), now has a 4″ range instead of a 6″ range. Greyscales can hit ‘Ball’s Gone!’ a column earlier.

Next up in terms of minor changes comes Jac – a niche pick already for his ability to push with the best of them, Jac has lost Get Over Here [Salt] to Angel and his ‘Ramming Speed’ character play is now the trait ‘Battering Ram,’ as previously seen on the Blacksmiths’ Apprentice Iron. He also has a greatly reworked playbook, with his tackle double push moving from the 5th column to the 3rd column (what a counter-attack this man packs, now, with this result and ‘Resolute’), and his non-momentous 3 damage moving from the 4th column to the 5th column. He’s also an inch faster on the jog. But given the sum total of those changes . . . he’s still a hard model to see a good matchup for. He’s got a great non-momentous tackle, and the tackle double push is great, as well, but all he does is push and goad, now – and Fishermen already have a lot of options to do those types of control. If you have ideas for when you’ll want Jac, I’m all ears!

Of course, another of the fringe Fishermen squaddies received some minor changes. Angel, who, like many of the 1″ melee zone strikers in other guilds, is now the proud owner of a momentous tackle dodge on her first column. She also is now the holder of Fishermen’s ‘Get Over Here!’ with Salt while also being able to this ability while playing with the Navigators and

their mascot, Wander. In exchange for these new tricks, she has lost her ‘Tactical Advice [Shark]’ ability. She is now slightly, slightly better as a striker, as it will be easier for her to get the ball off of opponents, particularly on the charge, or if she’s able to pull her mascot friend along for the gang-up/crowd out. But this is a Guild where ‘decent’ rarely will find a home when it comes to strikers – not with Greyscales, Sakana, vSakana, and Fathom in the team. Nothing here is a big change to Angel’s playability – you’ll still play her into the same teams you used to play her into (or won’t at all), though she’s slightly more tempting into teams who are based on ranged character plays and have lots of 1″ ranged models (Looking at you, Falconers, Engineers,  Ratcatchers, and Hunters).

Which brings us to the two big Fish changes, Veteran Siren and Kraken. Vet Siren was previewed and discussed at length by

Steamforged, and brings a very different style of control piece to the Fish. Ranged knockdowns are great, and her brand new Fair Wind ability comes in handy to teams who prefer to kill the ball on the ground against the Fish. In order to get use out of this new Play, be sure to give them a reason to leave the ball on the ground, and pair her with Greyscales, vSakana, and/or Corsair! She also is a very fast goal-scoring threat in her own right, with Shadowlike, a 9″ sprint, and a tackle-dodge on 1. There are actually quite a few matchups where vSiren is very useful – and honestly, she’s more useful than Angel is in those matchups and will almost certainly force Angel out of the 12, accordingly.

 

Do you see that beauty?! Kraken, previously unplayable, is now a must include with Corsair (and possibly even in some matchups with Shark!), with a grand rework of his statline, playbook, character plays, and traits alike, Kraken now actually does his job of protecting his teammates. He’s an inch faster in both jog and sprint, gained an additional dice in his kicking stat, gained a point of armor, and generates another influence for the team.

For his playbook, his momentous double push has moved down to his 2nd column, and he’s gained a momentous knockdown double push on his fifth column. He also is the only Fisherman with 3 damage on his 4th column. Gone entirely from his playbook and plays sheet is ‘Release the . . . ‘ because he never needs to be released now, thanks to a pair of traits on the back of his card.

Tough Hide is still present, but is now joined by Gravity Well (previously only on Locus of the Engineer’s Guild), and Protective Instinct (previously only on Fallow of the Farmer’s Guild) – meaning that Kraken pulls anybody who engages him into his range, where they have to fight him before they can get to his squishy Fish friends. And when they fight him, he brings his great counter attack to bear, knocking them down or pushing them out of range of any targets to end their turn. Kraken and Corsair are now the joint boss and miniboss of the scrum, as anyone who’s faced the Brewers will tell you a 3+/1 ARM model with tough hide is tough enough rowing when you’re not also being crowded out (by Corsair, Tentacles, and possibly even Hag). The one drawback is you can’t lure models into Kraken’s gravity well.

Guild Strategy

Corsair nerf? Forgetaboutit! The incredible buff to Kraken and his new Legendary mean that Corsair is better than ever at the slow grind Fish gameplan, while also being able to play into the secondary control aspect of the Fishermen’s Guild. That said, 4 take outs probably is not the ideal like it was in season 3. Expect a 2 and 2 to be Corsair’s plan A1, though a plan of taking a problem model (Obulus, Fillet, Theron, Piper . . .) away and scoring 3 goals with the three not Kraken squaddies is also a strong plan A2.

Obviously, Corsair players will have to adjust and expect to play without initiative more often, but this isn’t as big of a blow as you’d expect in most match-ups – and in those match-ups, Shark is still a perfectly fine drop if you’d rather go first. 3 goals on 3 shots in 3 or fewer turns is the Fishermen Way, after all.

Early impressions leave my Fish Twelve as follows: Corsair, Shark, Tentacles, Kraken, Siren, vSiren, Sakana, vSakana, Hag, Greyscales, Fathom, Horizon. Shark, in my opinion, doesn’t care at all who his mascot is, and Horizon brings another angle and another area of the pitch where your opponent cannot hide the ball from Shark, so he takes Salt’s spot, while being a way more useful second mascot (and the rare blind from Tentacles also can really help keep Shark out of the binds he’s liable to put himself in).

Alex Vian

A reformed Warhammer Fantasy player based in the Twin Cities, Alex plays Malifaux, Guild Ball, X-Wing, and Armada. He also is the host of the Malifaux Tactics podcast here at Midwest Wargaming: Lecture Notes from the Breach

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