by Ergonomic Cat · Published · Updated
Shadespire: The game that’s getting more and more popular and making more and more people say “Wait, Games Workshop made this? For real?”
If you haven’t experienced Shadespire, you should really just go give it a try. It’s a weird LCG/board game/mini game hybrid that shares a retail model with X-Wing. The base set is $60 and is basically a two player board game. You get two armies (Stormcast Eternals vs Khorne Reavers, of course because it’s a GW minis game). You also get the two boards you need to play two player games (Look, a board game!), the tokens for two players, starter decks for each warband, and some extras to upgrade so you can do deck construction (Found the LCG!).
And, of course, there’s more! You can also buy 6 (at this time) additional warbands for $30 each – The Chosen Axes (Dorfs), Ironskull’s Boyz (Orcs), Sepulchral Guard (Skellies), Spiteclaw’s Swarm (Rat-things (aka Skaven)), Farstriders (More Stormcast, these with guns) and Magore’s Fiends (Khorne, but the ones that didn’t die).
Each warband box includes a new warband, cards for that warband, and cards for *all* warbands (Found X-Wing!).
Competitive players will buy all the expansions, obviously (just one copy, though! Take that FFG!). But people who are basically buying a board game might get the base set, and then whatever warband catches their fancy.
GW helpfully provides starter decks in the base set. They then, rather unhelpfully, don’t provide any more. So new players have 100+ cards to build 2 decks of 12 and 20-30 cards. Which can be a little daunting.
BUT FEAR NOT, OH NOOBS! I am here for you! “Helpfully” I went ahead and made starter decks for each warband! These are built using the base set (you gotta have a base set) and individual warband boxes.
They aren’t top-tier. They have obvious weaknesses. Some of them go all in on things that can be disrupted. But they’re decks. And I think they’re reasonably well-built. I’m no Shadespire expert, but I’ve done a lot of thinking.
So, without further ado! THE DECKS!
The variations on the starter decks aren’t super exciting – you take out a few cards, you put in a few cards. Mostly, you focus in on one idea or the other.
This is a style of SCE (Stormcast Eternal, aka the blue folks) that is somewhat out of favor now, I think, but I still like it – it’s an in your face sort of SCE deck. The objectives are focused on getting in to your opponent’s territory, getting on their objectives, and then killing the heck out of some things. Ploys and upgrades do the same – do some killing, do some surviving.
Also not rocket science – this deck wants to get in your opponent’s face and make them not alive any more. However, Khorne isn’t necessarily the best warband for that, despite obvious lore. So this deck also includes a fair amount of objective love. Hold Objective 2, 3 and 4 (feel free to swap numbers if you like 1 or 5 better) are there to let pieces like Arnulf have a value. To steal a term from the great Claim the City Podcast, to give your Dangle-bros something to do. Put Arnulf on objective 2 first turn, and let your opponent decide if they’re going to waste an action going after him or not. Conquest and Denial (a pretty common package in all my starter aggressive decks) are there so you can get going and get killing. Supremacy is there in case you find yourself surviving – take some objectives, score some glory!
The ploys are mostly focused on killing. Bonuses to hit, bonuses to damage, a couple of ways to stay alive to kill more. Upgrades are the same – get in faster, hit harder, get more glory!
This one is also pretty straight forward (a theme among the limited card pool decks) – get on objectives. Get your Dangle-bros on objectives. Get Harvester on objectives and then kill. Get the Champion killing to clear objectives. Get things dead, bring them back.
Ploys focus on movement and killing. Guard are *slow*. Ploys make them a bit faster. With 7 dudes (yes, dudes. There’s one female Shadespire model total. Let’s not get in to that here), you want supports all over the place. Get them stuck in, hope they live a turn, revive if not. Upgrades help you keep your key pieces alive, and buff them up, so that your Petitioners (not parishioners!) can rack up glory without being glory sieves.
Again, not very subtle. Orruks kill. It’s what they do. I’d argue they do it the best in the game, even with Magore’s Fiends about. This deck is weaker than the normal Orruk Aggro deck because it lacks some of the best cards, but the orruks have a very nice suite of warband specific cards, so it makes do!
Most objectives are focused on killing, or positioning. Keep them in mind – get your orruks where you want them, and your opponent where you want *them* and go to town. There’s a single Hold Objective for spicy fun, since you’re going to be all over the board. You might as well step on someone’s point and get a glory if you can. Some of the objectives have conflicting priorities, but I like to see that as multiple options!
12 ploys, 12 upgrades – I’m firmly in the “it doesn’t have to be 20” camp. Aggressively mulligan your first hands, use Duel of Wits, play a lot of ploys. Ploys are there to kill. Orruk have a lot of that in their faction specific cards. Free attacks, bonus damage, screwing with objectives – that’s the Orruk Way(tm). Upgrades are for killing, with Shadeglass Darts thrown in to let Basha do a quick disruption and knock a dwarf off an objective from 6+ hexes away. Daemonic Weapon is my favorite orruk card – put it on an orruk, charge, get inspired, hit for 3. You can’t do it too many times, but if Hakka can get one kill out of it, you’re definitely better off!
This deck is intended to allow you to go two ways – you can Voltron Gurzag, making him a huge and undefeatable threat, or you can buff up all the orruks, making every one of them an effective bruiser, leaving your opponent with no real safety. Depending on who you’re facing, and what they’re going for, it should be pretty easy to choose your path.
Dorfs do what dorfs do. Turn one, get inspired. Turn two, kill things. Leave Magrim behind to score points, or die, or whatever. Who cares. Stupid Magrim.
Ideally, you’ll get two inspired Fyreslayers first turn (one of them Fjul). If you can get three, game is yours. If you only get one, then you’ll need to play more defensively. This deck has a lot of free movements, a 3 range attack, and some ways to keep dwarves alive. It’s basically a mid-range deck, in that it can do a number of things. It’s not going to be the best at any one, but it’ll likely have a counter against any very focused deck that allows it to do well.
Skritch is the Greatest, Yes-Yes. I love skaven. But they are murder on new players, so I built them a more mid-range deck, like the dwarves. This deck wants to hold objectives, obviously. It’s what skaven are good at. But it’s also viable to put a couple of upgrades on the Hungering Skaven, charge him in to die, pop him up in the back line turn two, and whirlwind everyone to death turn 3. And even if you don’t, as soon as he gets an upgrade or two, people will *expect* that to happen, and play around it.
Ploys are focused on Inspiring and disrupting your opponent’s plans. You need 2+ skaven on objectives every turn, even if you don’t have any scoring cards, just so your opponent has to spend actions to deal with them. Cover Ground is basically “If you get Sprint, get a glory,” and sprinting a skaven 10 hexes across the map on turn 3, then putting The Fractured Key on them can be a 3 glory swing no one saw coming.
Fiends are usually built to run in and kill. I’ve found them much more useful when they are running in to kill in service of Objective Control. But their core deck doesn’t really support that. So this deck is built to run in and kill! Get in to your opponent’s half right away, and start killing before they have built up or scored. You want to get ahead, and stay ahead. Supremacy is for situations where you can kill from objectives. Everything else is for getting in their face and making things die! I mean, there’s literally an objective card called “Kill! Kill again!” Use Riptooth to throw people around and finish off leaders. Use everyone else as beaters. Rinse, repeat. Basically a tougher and slower version of the Khorne Reavers.
Somehow these ugly blue bastards are becoming my favorite warband. They have a very different play style, and they can take advantage of their range amazingly. This deck can do a lot of that – take objectives in your opponent’s space. Hold them. Shoot anyone that comes near to drive them back. Murder things with an electric hand-ax. Native range 3 attacks are amazing – you aren’t going to kill anything, but your opponent is never going to end up where they wanted to be. Plink skellies 1 square away. Knock a dwarf off an objective. Shoot a skaven on to the spawn point his buddy was about to use.
Always consider where you can move people with your attacks and where you need to be. Remember that you can use a range 3 attack on a charge to get to lots of places! Also, Change of Tactics is fantastic (and the card that taught me how to play Farstriders). Put someone on guard activation 1. Hold an objective until activation 4. Charge to another objective activation 4, getting a glory, knocking someone away, and ideally getting another glory from a Hold Objective card. It’s fantastic, and emblematic of how these dudes play – flexible, annoying, good.
And there they are! As I said, these decks aren’t tier 1 – they’re likely barely tier 2. But they’re a good starting place and, I think, a good introduction to the factions. As you add more warbands, you’ll find things that you don’t like, and things you can swap out. And eventually, you’ll get to the point of building your own. And then dominating the tournament scene! You’re welcome.
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.
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