A Gravedigger’s Handbook, #1: What to Do With Rigor Mortis
by Alex Botts · Published · Updated
This articles series is meant to provide tips and tricks for intermediate Guild Ball Morticians players who have a grasp on the basics of their faction but want to take their play to a higher level.
A lot is made of the innate pressure Obulus’s Legendary Play, Rigor Mortis (RM), exerts on your opponent in how they manage their momentum. And, indeed, holding on to it drastically increases your chance of taking a strong momentum advantage over your opponent in consecutive turns and on that all-important initiative roll. But remember: your opponent does not fail to generate momentum because of the passive existence of RM, they simply choose to spend what they make. Only an actual use of RM can deny the enemy momentum, for spending or initiative rolls, which is why failing to use RM at all, and relying on its pressure exclusively, will leave you feeling without a Legendary Play at all. This article aims to cover play strategies for the Morticians based around Rigor Mortis, both before it is used and when it is used, so that you’re getting the most out of this subtle, vicious Legendary.
Before It’s Popped.
After a single game of getting 11 momentum stolen by a Morticians player, resulting in an effective 22-momentum swing in the game, most players know to spend their momentum essentially as soon as they get it while facing the Morticians running Obulus. Unfortunately for us dustmen, these other guilds insist on actually getting things out of their momentum anyway, and if an enemy is quickly healing their team, putting down devastating counter-attacks, and Defensive Stance-ing every charge, winning an initiative roll won’t feel like much of a bonus compared to all that attrition not going our way. Below are some tips to shape your play before you’ve popped RM to make sure you’re getting real work out of the mythical “pressure.”
- Generate an early momentum lead, then spend the rest.
Since you know the enemy will likely be spending their momentum and floating around at 0-2 momentum for the first few turns, exert yourself to get up to around 3-5 momentum early in each turn if possible. Ghast, of course, is great for this, both because of his excellent Momentous Knock-Down and Momentous Unmasking results and because of Rising Anger. After you’ve hit that threshold, start spending anything else you get: your stack will look insurmountable to the enemy, so they won’t even bother trying to keep up after Obulus activates (see second tip), and you can start spending anything else to keep up with your opponent while they splurge on heals and counter-attacks.
- Never activate Obulus early unless it will net you a huge points lead.
Enemy players will feel safe in generating momentum once Obulus has activated, since you are no longer threatening RM for that turn. This sacrifices the pressure, and without that pressure Morticians only generate a middling amount of momentum (nowhere near as easily as, for instance, Butchers). You should only sacrifice this threat if Obulus is about to take out players (scoring an activation advantage, which is itself a huge help for the momentum race) or is going to wrap up the game (in which case, of course, all this doesn’t matter). Even an early goal might not be worth the resulting disadvantage in momentum, and Obulus usually has enough tools and tricks to sit on the ball for a turn and score near the end. Wait until after the enemy’s biggest momentum generators have activated, then it’s safe to get Obulus going (and maybe pop RM!).
- If you can take out a player, do it before they activate; if you can’t, damage players that have already activated.
The first part of this tip is extremely basic: Taking out a player before they’ve activated is a huge swing no matter who you’re playing. But the second part is key: If you can’t take out a player in one go, target players that have already gone. The reason for this is momentum efficiency: If you damage players that have already activated, it takes 2 momentum to heal them this turn, rather than 1 momentum if they can do it themselves, and it stops players from being healed for 8 HP in a turn through doubling up. Since you know your opponent is going to be dropping momentum on healing constantly anyway, at least make them pay the premium price for it. You’ll also occasionally catch opponents out in being stingy with their momentum: they might not want to spend 2 to heal somebody, but if they don’t, that’s an easy take-out early next turn for you.
- Play aggressive with the ball.
Only the best scorers want to go for goal with no momentum for Bonus Time. Never hand your opponent 4 points, of course, but when the opponent is intentionally stopping themselves from keeping momentum, your goal threat is generally going to be stronger (and more economical) than your opponent’s, and you should take advantage to push for early goals.
- Play defensive with Dirge.
When the enemy is sitting on 0 momentum, and trying to keep it that way, Dirge’s Dark Doubts ability is not much of a penalty for the enemy, and he’s an easy 2 points. Only after RM is popped should Dirge be used as the frustrating pest he was always destined to be. An argument could be made that, after Obulus activates in a turn, Dark Doubts gains potency again as the enemy begins to try to catch up to you in momentum, but the worry here is that a canny opponent could simply leave Dirge at 1 hp for the start of next turn (or, worse, to die to conditions between turns), which would again invalidate Dark Doubt’s usefulness.
Everybody who runs Obulus dreams of that big double-digit momentum pull, but after one or two games with new players you simply won’t have that chance again. But, as covered above, that does not mean you should just sit on your RM. Sometimes even taking 1-2 momentum is worth it—sometimes that wins the game! Simply always be aware of the opportunity cost of the points covered above. Below are a couple ideas for knowing when to pop it.
- Use it when it will 100% secure initiative for next round.
This is definitely an obvious one, but if Obulus is last or second-to-last activation in a turn, and there’s no way your opponent can recoup the difference in momentum that RM will bring, pop it for a guaranteed first activation.
- Use it if you see a big pile of momentum, and know the enemy can use it well.
When I say “big,” I mean 3-5. You won’t see much more before Obulus pops RM. If it’s clear that some weakened enemies are about to get healed, or if the opponent is set up for a goal next activation, deny them that ability. If you were already winning the momentum race, you just bought yourself a couple heals and counter attacks; if you were losing, now you’re winning!
- Use it to hamper mobility for a scorer or grade-A beatstick.
This is a sub-section of the preceding point, but denying the opponent an ability to clear KD or Glide at a crucial momentum (when, say, Boar needs to stand up, or a Superior Strategy’d Mallet is separated from your force by some rough ground) can be enough to deny a crucial score/take-out.
- Use it to deny counter-attacks/defensive stances for Obulus.
You’ll often be in a situation where Obulus can net you 4-6 points as long as key players can’t defend themselves. This is particularly useful when grabbing the ball from somebody, who now can’t counter-tackle versus Obulus’s tolerable-but-not-great ball-taking abilities.
- Start looking for big momentum stacks, but compromise for smaller, game-winning stacks as the game goes on.
Sitting at 0-2 VPs and sitting at 10-10 VPs are two very different situations. In the first one, pressure might be helping you out more, but by the second situation, if you’re still sitting on RM, then load Obulus up and make those last 2 points happen. He can do it.
And those are the general guidelines I play with! Hope this has been helpful. Rigor Mortis is an incredibly powerful tool, and the Morticians’ whole momentum game revolves around pushing your opponent to bad decisions and unsavory compromises in their play. As I’ll cover in a future article, 2 or 3 turns of Morticians having first activation has an incredible suffocating effect on the enemy’s team and is close to impossible to rebound from. Rigor Mortis is what gets that pain train going.
Alex Botts is a tabletop gaming enthusiast who mostly plays Guild Ball (Morticians) and Warmachine/Hordes (Protectorate). He likes miniatures, strategy games, and long campaigns on the beach. He's also Head Editor for Chicago Megagames and would love to talk to you about any of the above!
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