Who will shed their role of Apprentice & bear the mantle of Master?
by Chad Hufkins ·
After the Hunters Guild came out, I was asked by my 1st assistant coach (shout-out to Jesse Seese, a brutal Butchers Guild coach in Oakdale, MN!) what Guild I would want to come out next if Steam Forged were to make any more. Without hesitation I responded, “BLACKSMITHS!” No joke, his answer was Farmers. Jesse has always been a little ahead of the curve compared to me as the Farmers Guild came out 1st. But at least it’s good to know that we both were thinking in line with Steam Forged!
Hello again coaches! Chad Hufkins back again & this time to talk about my favorite Guild in all of Guild Ball, the Blacksmiths! I’m honored to continue sharing my thoughts on Midwest Wargaming about this great game. It’s with immense pleasure that I hope to be of some help bringing to light my perspective of this unique team. I’m going to organize this a little different from my last article on the Masons. Rather than talk about the differences from last Season, I’ll rather speak directly about my perspective of the Guild as a whole & because of that this has turned out to be a pretty long article (just a heads up). With that, enter Apprentice…
Time was the Blacksmith’s Guild made a fortune in outfitting the armies of the Century Wars. But then, that was years past, and they were hit hard in the aftermath. A lot came out of the unification of the Empire of the Free Cities, but one of the sanctions which doesn’t get talked about? A law limiting the sale of weaponry by the Blacksmith’s Guild to an exclusive contract.
And who can they sell weapons to under this law? That’s it, you guessed it. The other Guilds, and not a soul else.
Sounds unfair, doesn’t it? It should! Came directly from the other Guilds, when they saw how rich the Smithy’s were getting.
You’ve probably never seen their like. No captain, oh no… instead, they invite Masters from all over to come and play for the Guild. The actual captain for each game is chosen behind the scenes. Makes for a varied playstyle, that’s for sure. Clever way of keeping your opponents guessing, I reckon. But I don’t know that it’s not their worst enemy too. Must be hard to figure out a game plan when you have no idea who your captain will be…
—Tapper, Brewer’s Guild Team Captain
The Blacksmith’s Guild is a faction split into 2 distinct groups: Masters & Apprentices. The squad on the Pitch has to have 3 of each type with 1 Master being your Captain. A important note is that currently the Blacksmiths are the only Guild to not have a Mascot. Instead of showing which Captain & Mascot is selected, the coach picks which Master is Captain & 1 other Squaddie model (Master or Apprentice) when drafting.
This means that on any given turn there isn’t necessarily any dud Models that don’t do much. Now clearly this means that all their Models are worth 2 VP which is quite the point of Mascots to make the enemy waste resources for not much reward. However, every one of their Models within the Guild can directly contribute to the plan that the coach is trying to accomplish in every given turn from every given position on the Pitch. Though it is a double-edged sword in some cases (especially with how squishy most of the Apprentices are), a coach that can plan well & get great use out of the Blacksmiths can also have an edge up then over the opponent.
Also, the Guild always generates 12 INF as each Master gives 3 & each Apprentice gives 1. For the most part, each Master is paired with a corresponding Apprentice. Arguably, it could be viewed that a 12-man roster is 6 pairs of Master & Apprentices with 3 pairs selected for the game. Of course this is overly-simplistic but is a good starting point for getting into the right mindset when trying to understand the Guild.
The Masters half are the most durable on the team & boast the most HP & ARM in the Guild. Though they also have the lowest DEF as well and mostly the worst options for DMG. Their role is all about setting up their Apprentices for success. In general, the Masters want to Activate early & apply all their buffs as well as influence the control & state of the Pitch. Only one Master directly has rules to any one Apprentice (though this isn’t true at all the other way). Still, all Masters in theory support all Apprentices no matter who they are. They also typically have great Counter Attacks for disengaging the enemy via Pushes & KDs. Those KDs also make their Parting Blows quite scary. The last thing is that all Masters have their Playbook 1 shorter than their TAC which gives them a better chance to wrap on Charges & if they go later in a turn where they can receive Crowd Outs. Lastly, all the Masters can only be Allocated 3 INF unless they’re selected as the Captain.
When selecting a Captain, the said Master is able to be Allocated 5 INF rather than 3. This is an important note as this means that any of their 6 choices for Captain changes their level of effectiveness & power if they’re selected as Captain. This is further emphasized by another unique aspect. Every Master has a Legendary Play. The 1st part is the general activity of their Legendary Play if their selected as a Squaddie. The 2nd part applies if they’re selected as the Captain. This is usually in the same vein but much stronger in some sort of way, usually a 6” Aura affecting all Friendlies within it. This aspect of being able to produce 6 potential Captain selections for any given match-up is an incredible boon for the Guild. This lets them much better arrange a better advantage with selecting which Master’s Legendary Play is most useful for the Guild they’re playing against. This tactical flexibility of the Guild shouldn’t be overlooked as more choices provides more versatility.
To start off, Anvil is the tankiest Master available to the Blacksmiths Guild. With 3 ARM, 22 HP, & Tough Hide he’s sure to endure damn-near anything short of a fully-INF-loaded Butchers or Brewers Captain boasting all the buffs. His Playbook is great for helping shape the Pitch in favor for his team with KD, Pushes, & a Momentous Guild Ball result. While he’s not the fastest player, he does bring a speed buff to all Friendlies within 6’’.
But the real reason he shines is that Singled Out Character Play. With some other buffs available to the Guild, this is where the Take-Out plan really turns on along with his trusted Apprentice Sledge. Singled Out is one of the best buffs in the game for Take Outs as the more dice you have means more chances to wrap & do loads of DMG per Attack. With the Blacksmiths having the highest possible DMG in Playbook options, you really want to spike & if possible wrap.
Anvil also falls into a subcategory of Masters who make up half of their number. For simplicity sake I’ll be covering the other 2 Masters who also fall into this group after Anvil. This group is the, “TAC 6 & Sentinel Masters”. TAC 6 is the highest TAC in the Guild shared with 3 Masters & 2 Apprentices. Though this number is slightly above average in terms of all of Guild Ball, Blacksmith Apprentices have lots of ways to augment this to a much higher number. But this is also the reason why Singled Out is so strong on Anvil as even the other Masters can take advantage of this, which greatly enhances their effectiveness on the Pitch.
Sentinel gives all Apprentices +1 ARM while they’re within 1’’ of a Master with this Trait. The normally squishy 12-13 HP with typically 1 ARM can quickly become much more of a nuisance to get rid of while gaining the benefit of Sentinel. Put them in Cover as well & watch as dedicated DMG dealers have a hard time removing them if they aren’t a Captain. Add to the fact as well with declaring a Defensive Stance… you get the picture. Sentinel is a Guild defining Trait that most of the time a Blacksmith coach will have at least 1 Master with this Trait on the Pitch. Keep in mind that then this also makes this closely-packed group more susceptible to AOEs.
Anvil’s Legendary Play Tested Mettle is quite unique & needed in Season 4. Stoic in some match-ups may be needed to have him be the Captain for instance in a potential Corsair game in order to try & stop his Legendary Play from pulling multiple Blacksmiths in to the pirate Captain. There are now lots of other Models that can Push others around & this can help keep the team together. The fact that it also grants Tough Hide is another boon especially for Apprentices as they don’t survive too long in a dedicated scrum. Anvil provides stability to his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
The exact opposite of Anvil is the offense-oriented Furnace. With a 2’’ Melee Zone, TAC 6, virtually providing a small Aura of Rowdy on any given Friendly, Tooled Up, Searing Strike, & his Legendary Play enables Furnace to help put the opposing Guild on a stretcher back to the sidelines. Couple that with 3/2 DEF/ARM, 20 HP, & Sentinel you have a pretty well-rounded Master. Before I move on, I want to highlight both his 3/8’’ KICK as well as his T on 1 hit. This means that no matter the game plan, Furnace can contribute.
In different ways then Hearth later on in the article, Furnace helps change the dice odds for any & all players not just Apprentices like Hearth does. With Searing Strike & DMG on 1 hit along with a pseudo-Rowdy that lets all Friendlies ignore Crowding Out Penalties within 2’’ of Target Friendly & his Legendary Play Tempered Steel to give all Friendlies Searing Strike & +1 TAC, Furnace provides the highest potential for the Guild in terms of fighting & DMG. Also, he’s the only player in the Guild capable for a “natural” TAC of 7. Remember, his Playbook is only 5 long. This again shows that making him Captain he could get quite a bit of work done with being able to be Allocated 5 INF.
I would argue that if Furnace is a model planned on being taken though the coach is unsure with who to select as Captain, with no other known models planned to be taken I’d say you can’t go wrong picking Furnace for this exact reason. Other Masters have ways to provide versatility as well as we have already seen in Anvil & later on with the others, but none can help the Guild in offense, defense, football, & Conditions all at once like he can. Furnace provides flexibility to his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
If Furnace is well-rounded, Farris is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades Master. While being the 2nd of 2 Masters that boast 3 ARM along with 18 HP, she’s fairly durable. Also, she has the longest MOV capability in Guild as well as the longest KICK due to her Legendary Play & a trait that lets her kick a dropped ball that’s within her 2’’ Melee Zone, she can either reach out & touch an opposing Model and/or threaten the enemy’s Goal from a surprising distance. That 10’’ Sprint/Charge along with a MOV buff means she’s one of the fastest models in Guild Ball & being fast always gives you more options in this game.
Getting the most value out of Farris is all about planning & practice as she has lots of available ways to burn through INF. Like Furnace, she can offer lots of options when selected as Captain as she can easily make use of 5 INF. Give 2 players a MOV boost, have her Sprint, drop the ball within 1’’, pop Ride Off, & then shoot on Goal for free can be quite an Activation. This can arguably be disguised as a more offensive Activation as well with TAC 6 & a far threat range. The Blacksmiths can fall into some static strategies & tactics sometimes with buffing up a model & then Activating said model to go & do something cool. But with the polo-esque Master, she can change how the Ball is controlled as well as buffing MOV on Friendlies along with Attacking & debuffing the enemy.
This is one of the qualities Farris brings to the Pitch that’s unique to her. She might boost MOV & go for a crazy Goal-run operating as a backup Striker, she might just make some attacks on somebody while still using her Legendary to pass the Ball around for free as well, or go into cover with natural 3 ARM only to hold the ball while making Attacks or boosting other Models’ MOV, maybe not even popping Ride Off until a later turn & paying for a Kick, & maybe even something else. Long story short, when Farris has INF, especially 3+, the opponent really has to guess & maybe take a chance at trying to stop something crazy that’s about to happen when in reality the Blacksmith coach has something different in mind all along. Farris provides unpredictability to her team & this is why a coach would want to take her.
Now that the “TAC 6 & Sentinel Masters” are done, we move to the other subcategory of Masters: the “TAC 5 with a 4-long Playbook: group. The following 3 Masters are incredibly reliable to wrap on their Playbooks when charging (and/or taking advantage of Anvil’s Singled Out/Crowd Outs). As all of them offer a Momentous result on 1 Hit should they wrap gaining 2 Momentum for spending 2 INF for a Charge is a good trade & efficient. These Masters support the Guild in much different ways than the previous group & provide quality Character Plays & Traits that very specifically benefit the squad on the Pitch.
Ferrite offers an interesting twist as a Striker for a Master in that like all the others, Masters can offer lots of choices typically in how they want to spend their INF & Ferrite has a very unique role of debuffing the enemy like no one else in the Blacksmiths. With a very stable statline, the best natural Master Kick in Guild (being 1 of 3 Models with 4 dice Kick), as 2 different ways to speed herself up, she’s clearly a capable Striker. Add to the fact that she can pull Iron along to have a armored buddy who is also a odd secondary Striker/DMG-dealer gives the pair some nice threat angles & options. This is a great part of the strength of Iron which I’ll get to later in the article.
But the real money here is the Momentous Guild Ball on 1 hit. Having the ability to gain Momentum off of 1 Hit twice is a very good & reliable result. In particular, Disarm is just plain fantastic & incredibly strong. Making virtually the whole Blacksmith squad gain 2 more ARM against that specific enemy Model is golden. The 1 Attack that Disarmed some nasty DMG-dealer could literally save at least 1 model in that Activation. It could stop a goal run where an enemy Striker is looking to “bounce- off” a Blacksmith Model or them trying to Tackle the ball as well. Combine this with Cover & watch very little work get done on whoever Ferrite Disarms. The fact that Ferrite can Disarm someone on a Counter-Attack is also awesome & makes her Counter Attacks something to fear.
With how fragile Apprentices are especially when trying to get into scoring range, Ferrite adds a harder to Take-Out model that’s deep into enemy lines. With a Tackle on 2 as well as access to a KD makes her Parting Blows also threatening. She’s just plain an annoying Model that if left unchecked, could mean a cute Goal-run and/or stripping the DMG potential of the enemy team (especially if they only have 1 main attacking model). Add to this that she can speed herself up (& others if taken as Captain), has Acrobatic, a Double-Dodge on 2 Hits, & a 4/8’’ Kick makes Ferrite a fantastic secondary plan that can seriously change the position of both teams with opportunity plays. Ferrite provides balance to her team & this is why a coach would want to take her.
Likely the most unique Master in the Guild, Burnish is a defensive control model in a Guild of brawlers & Goal-scorers. With the typical robust defensive statline of all Masters, Burnish isn’t easily Taken-Out. His Tackle is a little high on the 3rd column to call it reliable, but with a KD on 2 Hits as well as a host of Pushes means he’s quite at home in a scrum. Burnish is the most likely one within this subgroup to actually do DMG with his Playbook compared to both Ferrite & Hearth. Lastly, he’s the only Master not directly linked to an Apprentice which lets him be the only real “filler” Master in a long list of obvious pairs which can be very useful in certain situations.
The only Master with a ranged Character Play that also applies the Fire Condition can be quite good at limiting enemy movement as well as having the potential to cause a bit of DMG once a scrum develops. Combine this with Furnace’s Tooled Up for some good DMG to multiple Models. Remember with his Legendary Play he can use a Character Play for free which means 2 Flame Belches or 3 if he’s the Captain! Kill the Ball offers Burnish a very important way to deal with a Free Ball in case other Friendlies can’t reach it or the opponent is trying to hide/ignore the Ball so that the Blacksmiths can’t Tackle the Ball back. With all the KDs the Blacksmiths have access to, Burnish has a real role to fill should the enemy carrying the Ball become KD & the Ball Scatters away from his team.
Burnish’s Traits adds ways to deal with enemy Character Plays & removing Conditions. Being able to remove the KD Condition from a Friendly so that they don’t have to use Momentum or sacrifice their Movement could be very important if not having someone’s Activation be sub-par. Though do note that using Reduction will cause the Target to gain the Fire Condition & thus will have their Movement reduced by -2’’/-2’’. Reinforced Plating can be very strong against certain Guilds & this is where the true decision of whether or not to put Burnish on the Pitch comes down to. The main part of interest here is that it ignores an enemy Character Play even if applied through a Playbook result from an Attack. This could simply neuter the very reason why the opponent Activated a Model entirely , especially if the Character Play is Once-per-Turn. This cannot be overlooked as this is a defining Trait that could single-handedly protect valuable Friendlies, the Ball, and/or the state of the Pitch.
I would argue that of all the Masters, Burnish is on the lower end of the totem pole when looking to select a Master. Not to say he’s a bad player, but when a coach has to pick which 3 Masters to take, Burnish has a very niche role as to when you would want him over another Master. However, when those match-ups happen where the enemy has very powerful Character Plays then Burnish can be a life-saver. Most of the Guilds have gained a number of very powerful Character Plays so knowing which ones in particular cause the Blacksmiths the most grief & thus warrant including him will help that decision to be made as nothing is more expensive than regret. Burnish provides safety to his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
Alas we arrive at the last Master, & truth be told…I did save best for last. The Guild defining pissed-off grandma: Hearth! With a rather average stat line truth be told of a slow & easily hit Model, but boasting more HP than even Anvil, Hearth is a true support Master. This is proven in her Playbook with a wonderful Momentous KD on 1 Hit along with Momentous Pushes as well as a 2’’ Melee Zone that can go up to 3’’ with her Legendary Play. With a laughable Trait of Sturdy, this Master dominates the middle of the Pitch. Of all the Masters, Hearth is the lynchpin of the Blacksmiths.
The reason for this is her Character Play Instruction. Simply gaining +2 Net Hits to anyone’s Playbook is REALLY strong. How many times have you rolled dice & they’ve simply crapped the bed? How many times do you wish you just had 1-2 more Hits? Seriously, take some time & consider those 2 questions. Sometimes you NEED to hit a certain result no matter the DEF/ARM or whatnot. Hearth can provide that answer to all 3 Apprentices on the team. At least half of the Apprentices can boast some truly ridiculous DMG numbers, some of them are the highest in the whole game in fact. This lets the Blacksmith coach not only hit those numbers but on a charge with other buffs and/or Crowd-Outs can let those Apprentices wrap their Playbook. Heinous DMG and/or auto Tackles along with Dodges is very common. Instruction is a Guild defining Character Play that is a force multiplier that helps Apprentices reach their true potential & power.
Giving any model a 2’’ Melee Zone can obviously be useful so again another nice option for a Character Play & not much is needed to be said more about that. Match Experience is a Trait that is also very powerful & useful. Blacksmiths aren’t an incredibly fast Guild & since Hearth will likely be in the middle of the Pitch anyway means that the coach can double-dip Dodging models forward after successful Kicks. This can reliably happen especially with Tap-In Kicks due to the naturally good Kicking stats across the Guild as well. Armoury gives Hearth a 3’’ Melee Zone & if she’s the Captain then all Friendlies within 6’’ of her gain a 2’’ Melee Zone & she can use Instruction 3 times for free! I will go into Captain ideas later in the article but it should come as no surprise on how strong the idea of Hearth being the Captain can be. Hearth provides reliability to her team & this is why a coach would want to take her.
Apprentices have the highest DEF in the Guild & in general the highest DMG potential not just in-faction but in the game! One of the hallmarks of the whole Guild is the introduction of some truly ridiculous DMG numbers. With support from their Masters, Apprentices get a lot of work done during their activation & they’re the ones that typically generate VPs on the team. To somewhat compensate for this, Apprentices have a little less HP compared to most other Squaddies of other Guilds. On top of this, the majority of Apprentices have Playbooks 1 greater than their TAC, opposite of the Masters. The only 2 Apprentices that don’t have Playbooks greater than their TAC are ones that are more oriented to Goal scoring.
Most Apprentices have some sort of bonus they get when activating near their matched Master. It depends on the pair for what type of bonus, but this helps again shape the idea of multiple pairs working together on the Pitch. An Apprentice wants to be around their specific Master or at least a Master in general in order to more fully unlock their potential. Though these Squaddies need to be protected more-so than the Masters as they typically have the most INF on them & are easier to kill, most of them do possess defensive Traits and/or disengaging Playbook results for themselves when Counter Attacking.
These mostly are also more specialized players in the functionality & role compared to the Masters. The 2 primary groupings are either goal-scorers or DMG dealers. Control & mobility are sub-groups that are more shared between the groups as well but not nearly as enforced. The buffs they receive from the Masters either help make them well-rounded or further specialize them to new levels of their craft. Layering these multitude of varying buffs can lead to some late turn brutal Apprentice Activations. In a Guild where all the Apprentices have a big target on their head, it’s imperative to get as many of them in threatening positions asap. The reason for this is if only 1 Apprentice is in a threatening position on the Pitch, they’re the most likely to get Attacked & the most likely result will be that they get Taken Out. However, when all 3 Apprentices are threatening either Take-Outs and/or Goals all at once, it’s potentially harder for the opponent to prioritize which Apprentice is the one to focus on.
Since I started with Anvil, I’ll be following the same order with Apprentices that are “assigned” to their particular Master. To tee it off will be the mighty Sledge. The majority of Apprentices share Sledge’s DEF/ARM as well as 13 HP. Only 1 other Apprentice has a 2’’ Melee Zone natively on their card so that’s pretty significant for him. He’s also 1 of 2 Apprentices with the Trait Tutelage which lets him use a Character Play for free as long as he starts his Activation within 6’’ of Anvil. This already starts to show off the relationship Apprentices have with Masters as most of them want to stay within 6’’ of their Master for some type of bonus when Activating. Tutelage is such a useful Trait especially with how the Blacksmiths only ever have 12 INF since their 3 Masters will each generate 3 & each Apprentice generates 1. This lets them break this cap & thus be more efficient than they already are.
His Playbook is absolutely beautiful. He’s going to want to Charge as often as possible as you have to remember that every DMG option also KD his Target. Sledge can & will Take-Out most Models without Tough Hide in 2 Attacks especially if he Charged when 1 or 2 buffs are on him, the enemy is KD, and/or some Crowd Outs. With some softening up, he could (& has for me multiple times) Taken-Out 2 Models in a single Activation. Sledge is beyond lethal & he alone can get the Blacksmiths 2 Take Outs so that all the rest of the team has to do is focus on Goals. This is the true strength of the Blacksmiths as they have very good DMG so that when they hit, they do it hard enough so that if that Model isn’t healed at least once they most assuredly will die next Turn/Activation. With Ferrite or some of the other Apprentices 2 Goals can be very achievable. On the note of Goals, Sledge has Long Bomb which can be a nice backup plan should he need to get the Ball as well as it not being able to be Intercepted.
Piledriver is crazy. If I dedicated a whole paragraph to how good Instruction is from Hearth, you then clearly know that Piledriver is just plain nuts. The fact that it can be combined with Instruction is ridiculous & on top of that is ISN’T Once-per-Turn! It can be used on a Counter Attack to gain more hits or actually used on one in case another Model is coming in to use on them. Choosing this for a Counter Attack from an enemy that just wants to “bounce-off” could be useful if another enemy plans to then Attack Sledge later in the Turn. The fact that if Sledge isn’t KD from the 1st Attack, Sledge might just kill the enemy Model if they’re Damaged enough. The same goes for Parting Blows, an enemy has to worry not about KD or Tackles, but that again Sledge might just kill the Model leaving his Melee Zone. Sledge provides lethality to his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
O Cinder is not even close in mimicking her Master Furnace in function. Where he is a frontline aggressive brawler, she is instead all about Ball control & being on the edges of the scrum to take pot-shots at the enemy while looking for an opportunity to get the Ball. She’s the squishiest Apprentice there is, but has access to Decoy at least. She’s a 6’’/8’’ MOV, is 1 of 2 Apprentices that have an 8’’ Kick, & has Unpredictable Movement to help her skirt the wings of the Pitch. One thing to keep in mind about her Unpredictable Movement is that if she gets a 2’’ Melee Zone from Hearth this then does a pretty good job at protecting her. She has the “least” useful Trait when Activating near her Master Furnace since she won’t typically be looking to do DMG but at least she can slow someone down if needed.
A potent combo with O Cinder is Instruction from Hearth. With Cinder’s Hot Shot to Attack someone from 6’’ away, it’s possible to have an automatic Tackle at range due to the 2 Net Hits from Instruction & O Cinder having a Tackle on 2 Hits. The fact that this can happen 100% of the time regardless of what is rolled can be a huge deal. This fact is one of the main reasons to bring O Cinder. The other is Kill the Ball which removes the Ball from the Pitch & then the Blacksmiths resolve a Goal-Kick. The ability to move the Ball is very important in Guild Ball. The fact that the Blacksmith coach can recover a free Ball & virtually choose who gets it or at least where it goes is strong. When Kicking Off or receiving, O Cinder can safely move the Ball if the enemy doesn’t or can’t do something about it.
She might not be picked every game, but O Cinder is almost necessary in certain Guild matchups, certain enemy models, and/or certain tactics that come against the Blacksmiths. If there’s likely a hard time to get the Ball from either Guilds that don’t want to engage, kill the Ball in a corner or an unfavorable position, and/or are hard to get the Ball off of or back against she will prove invaluable. She isn’t flashy like some of the other Apprentices but instead provides some much needed tech for those that wish to try & keep the Ball away from the very good Goal scoring potential of the Blacksmiths. O Cinder provides security to her team & this is why a coach would want to take her.
So far as the only Veteran Model available to the Blacksmiths, V Cinder has become much more aligned with her Master Furnace & less of a Ball controlling/Scoring piece to the Guild. She’s traded 2’’ off her kick along with 1 HP for 2’’ Melee Zone, +1 TAC, & DEF 4+. Her Playbook has also increased in length as well as DMG as befitting an attacking Apprentice. She also no longer gains an bonus when she Activates near Furnace nor any other Master meaning that she can be taken freely with any team compositions as well as being able to operate on her own, skulking on the wings of the scrum & the Pitch if needed. There’s only 1 other Apprentice that doesn’t gain a bonus from Activating near a Master so though you don’t gain anything, it can’t be understated about being able to select her for freedom of movement & Activation order.
With Searing Strike natively, V Cinder’s Impale but even more so her Charges can be particularly nasty. Charging into a large scrum will reap a reckoning of DMG as well as reduced ARM & MOV from all enemies Damaged by her. She is virtually the opposite of Sledge where he wants to surgically eliminate almost any single Model via Charging, V Cinder wants to Charge into a large group to wreak havoc. This is almost begging Furnace’s One at a Time Lads to be put on her. Though her DMG is a little lower than some of the other DMG-dealers in the Guild even if a horrendous Charge can’t ever be developed from her, she also is doesn’t always need a full stack of INF to be effective where most other Apprentices tend to get topped off pretty consistently. Saving 1-2 INF when Allocating can truly open up more options for other Models on the Pitch if there was more INF to spare.
V Cinder also enjoys the title of most versatile Apprentice due to being able to do DMG, being fast enough to make Shots on Goal with a decent Kick, having a ranged Character Play so that INF isn’t wasted on her if she can’t reach someone, 2’’ Melee Zone for Crowding Out purposes, options for when to Activate her due to multi-role/purpose, & not needing to position herself near a Master when Activating. The Blacksmiths tend to require some set-up to fuel up nasty later Apprentice Activations in Turns, add to the fact that also the plan being developed is not only fairly obvious by not only which Models were selected but also which buffs are being applied to who, it’s good to have some Models in the Guild where the opponent might not be quite as sure what they’ll be doing compared to for instance Sledge. V Cinder provides versatility to her team & this is why a coach would want to take her.
With an decent Playbook having some DMG but focusing on Dodges & an average statline except seemingly slow MOV until you read the back of his card for double-dipping MOV buff-shenanigans, Bolt’s claim to fame is his less-linear speed & a natural 4 dice Kick. Him & Sledge are the only Apprentices that can only be Allocated 3 INF. Also like Sledge, he’s also the only other Apprentice with Tutelage, this time with Farris. In fact, Bolt is essentially the exact opposite of Sledge but yet very similar. With some DMG options & a little sprinkling of control but a focus on Passing & Scoring, Bolt brings a strong & different football game to the Blacksmiths. Sneaking along the edges of the Pitch while someone else initially holds the Ball for him, he can suddenly rocket-ship up the side of the Pitch with even a single MOV buff (which Farris so conveniently has), receive a Pass from the Ball holder for free, & take that accurate Shot.
After the 1st Turn Bolt has the potential to do quite a lot during his Activation if he is Allocated 3 INF, starts that Activation within 6’’ of Farris, doesn’t need to Sprint (this is the big one here), & uses both his Character Plays since 1 is free, might likely have to Dodge 4’’ forward, & then Score. Kudos here is if he receives that Pass while within 4’’ of Hearth to have both him & the Kicking Model both able to Dodge 4’’. Of course with I’m Open! Both doesn’t have to be the Model to Score & can instead be used as the lynchpin to make the Ball quite literally go from 1 side of the Pitch to the other & have another Blacksmith able to make a Snapshot (or at the least be ready to make a Shot next Activation) who previously was nowhere near the Ball thus not even looking like they were able to Score. While he’s not as simple to use as Sledge, Bolt allows crazy things to be done with the Ball that isn’t otherwise possible. On that note, being able to double-dip on both MOV buffs as well as being able to use Pass & Move twice in 1 Activation. Hearth deserves special mention here as effectively with her Match Experience Trait there’s a possibility to quadruple-dip Pass & Move…
While any & all Apprentices appreciate virtually all the Masters in 1-way-shape-or-form, Bolt really benefits specifically from his Master Farris. As that seems obvious from Tutelage, he also loses more than most from not being near her & if she uses Quick Foot on someone else or the Ball isn’t able to get to either of them. Not to say Bolt does little without Farris, but it shows more when he doesn’t have that MOV buff as he’s not much if any faster than the rest of the Apprentices. This then would feel like a slow Model that Stamina’s forward, KD someone with Shoemerang, then Jogs back to safety (kind of like the Second Wind Character Play from other Guilds). Of course Ferrite has the capability to also speed Bolt up with her Legendary Play but only if she’s the Captain so that isn’t going to be a shoe-in decision, especially with how the other Masters are also so good as Captain picks. Some planning will have to be done as what Bolt wants to accomplish. Is it a crazy Goal run? Is it making the Ball completely change location on the Pitch? Is it a quick move up, KD someone down, & move back? Bolt provides possibilities to his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
Iron’s statline is quite different from the other Apprentices who tend to be very similar. 3+/2 for DEF/ARM & sporting Tough Hide makes that 13 HP last longer than expected. Add to that Cover, Sentinel, and/or Burnish’s Trait Reinforced Plating & Iron could be more tanky then most of the Masters! He’s also the other more DMG-oriented Apprentice with a Playbook that tops with a spicy MOM 7 DMG. He’s the only Apprentice with TAC 6 which means with Instruction from Hearth, a Crowd-Out or 2, and/or any other of the multitude of buffs from the Guild means that he’s capable of some serious DMG should he be chosen for that role.
With Ferrite he’s capable of truly mitigating his only real downside of speed. Having to use Impetus means he makes 1 less Attack, so her being able to Dodge him forward means that he can save that INF possibly. However, using Impetus & then running from Cover to Cover holding onto the Ball along with Close Control means that Iron can act as a mobile bunker that evades true DMG-dealers or Models with lower KD as Strikers with have a hard time getting the Ball off of Iron. He’s a brawly running-back (I know he’s based on rugby but this seems to fit my image of him more) that looks for a hole, punches through literally if needed & then penetrates into the backlines to Score.
Besides Close Control, the fact that he has Battering Ram in tandem with Impetus means that Iron has something quite useful to do on the 1st Turn of the Game. Having plenty of MOV to Push Friendlies 2’’ Forward to increase threat or just to simply project more threat is great. This along with several other Models can truly open up a quicker Blacksmith squad on the Pitch. The Guild typically looks average at best for mobility & speed until one notices almost half the team has options for Moving models around or . Add to the fact that there’s several different ways this happens (aka not just a flat buff in all cases) & then you have actually quite a quick Guild potentially. Iron provides toolboxing for his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
Cast has a great statline, 1st & foremost. Tied for highest Jog in the Guild along with being one of the 4 dick Kickers. Her Playbook has a lot of options within the 1st 3 results. The fact that she on even 1 Hit has the possibility of 2 DMG if the Target is Burning along with a Double-Dodge from Swift Strikes, or 3 MOM DMG on 2 Hits with the Double-Dodge makes her an effective fighty Apprentice not exactly needing Instruction from Hearth but instead wanting at least 1 Crowd Out or even more wanting the Target having their DEF debuffed (KD being the easiest one in Guild). Cast has a little more specified selection in the squad she’s fielded with but offers a mobile attacker that wants to sneak around enemy Models & Shield Throw the Ball carrier.
Just like V Cinder, Cast doesn’t have any benefit technically from any Master let alone Burnish who in the fluff is her Master. However, Burnish can set the enemy on Fire along with Furnace, & both Cinders. Even without caring if the enemy is on Fire, Cast is just all around a very good Apprentice & Squaddie. An exceptional jack-of-all-trades if you will, if she has INF on her she’ll be able to use that if nothing else to do some DMG & Dodge around quite a bit. This means that if she’s already Engaged before having to use her MOV, she can easily Dodge out within 1-2 Attacks & then possibly Charge a different Model. Movement outside of actually having to move a Model is very useful & strong. This is likely the greatest strength of Cast.
Add on top of that that she has the ability to at range make an enemy lose Possession of the Ball, then those Dodges before using her Movement could mean a chance of a Goal run. At least the option is there for some jank. Also, Shield Glare is a spicy combination of minuses. Applying this via a Counter-Attack could immediately set that Model up for being Taken-Out. This is another strong use of Cast as even without INF she offers strong Counter-Attacks. Even 1 Hit doing at least 1 DMG (2 if they’re on Fire) & hopefully Double-Dodging away (at least if they’re 1’’ Melee Zone). Getting 2’’ Melee Zone from Hearth is strangely more useful than Instruction for Cast specifically to then make even enemy 2’’ Melee Zone Models have trouble Attacking her without having to Move somehow back into Melee with her. Cast provides utility to her team & this is why a coach would want to take her.
Another Apprentice with a great statline, Alloy has everything a awesome striker wants. With a 7’’/9’’ MOV, an 8’’ Kick, a Playbook with early Dodges (not to mention that sexy Momentous Tackle & Double-Dodge on 5 Hits), access to Acrobatic, & ability to get to 4 dice Kick if he starts his Activation within 6’’ of his Master: Hearth. He may not be the best Striker in the game since there’s plenty of great Strikers now, but he’s very reliable to knock it in the Goal should he get the Ball. With all his Dodging potential he can also do it by bouncing around & off the enemy. However, what he does have is quite a versatile toolbox of also being able to do DMG, has Dirty Knives, & Back to the Shadows. Alloy is a very capable Striker that helps apply a Condition, debuffs DEF, & Dodges around. Likely he is one of the most useful Strikers in the game.
He comes from a strong foundation, that is in his Master Hearth. As it’s likely clear from earlier in this article, Hearth is so good & such an awesome Master & Model in general. The fact that he’s her Apprentice & in the Blacksmith Guild shows how good Alloy is. With Instruction from Hearth, Alloy can very feasibly hit that 5th column Momentous Tackle & Double Dodge. This makes his Kicking-Off threat very strong. Since his Tackle in on 2 Hits & also is Momentous, this means that with Instruction he automatically hits that no matter a Defensive Stance, a dice whiff, or whatnot. 2 INF to charge, auto Tackle with Momentum, 1 INF to Acrobatic away within 8’’ of the enemy Goal, & 1 INF to Kick while having 1 MOM to shoot. Likely because of this, Alloy will likely tend to get 4 INF a lot of the time if there’s even a hint of him able to Charge someone with the Ball during the Turn.
Besides being great at stripping the Ball & Scoring, Alloy also has a unique toolkit if not being able to Score or if for some reason he won’t be the one trying for a Goal run. Having Momentous Dirty Knives on 3 Hits is very spicy. How many times has it been said in this article with almost every model & especially almost every Apprentice that if their Target to Attack is suffering any debuff or whatnot, the said Blacksmith Model gets nastier & nastier? Dirty Knives helps make that happen quite a bit. The reason for that is that there’s no way to remove the -1 DEF penalty unlike KD that can be removed. Crowd Outs aren’t always reliable as well due to Friendlies can get Pushed away or a myriad other ways to remove those bonuses. The other interesting aspect of Alloy is Back to the Shadows. This alone can save MOM to not have to Dodge after Scoring a Goal or can even be combined with that to allow an amazing 8’’ worth of Dodges to likely even escape any retribution. Alloy provides consistency to his team & this is why a coach would want to take him.
Now that the whole Guild has been covered I’ll quickly share my thoughts on Captain selection. I wanted to give a full description of the Guild first to understand the correlation between all the Masters & Apprentices. This won’t be nearly as in depth as the previous analysis of the individual Models. When a “slash” (/) separates Models, they’re listed in the likely order of preference. The most likely Models are listed with the choices I believe fit the best. Of course this isn’t cookie-cutter as sometimes a certain match-up or whatnot might change this so don’t just blindly follow this please as this is just a suggestion.
#1 Choice: Furnace
Most Likely Accompanied Masters: Hearth & Anvil/Ferrite
Most Likely Accompanied Apprentices: Alloy, V Cinder, & Sledge/Iron
Furnace is my go-to Captain as previously stated in his section of the article. Since he was my #1 that’s why I needed to make a paragraph for him there. Everyone benefits from his Legendary with no loss of overlap except V Cinder since she already has Searing Strike natively. But that’s a small price to pay as most other Masters have more Models not gaining even more than this. +1 TAC per Attack for everybody means a very strong beat-down Turn with likely 2+ Take-Outs. The only real concern here is to not get too carried away with this idea & to think you can simply walk this squad into Brewers, Butchers, Masons, or other Blacksmiths without a clear plan as those teams will be more than happy you’re planning on coming to them since they also can fight well. Furnace himself can also do quite a bit with a full stack of 5 INF.
#2 Choice: Hearth
Most Likely Accompanied Masters: Ferrite & Anvil/Burnish
Most Likely Accompanied Apprentices: Alloy, Iron, & Sledge/O Cinder/Cast
Hearth is a very close #2 & will likely be the sub-out most often. She’s a very safe option as her with 5 INF can get a lot of work done with KD enemies, even making Kicks, or doing DMG to add to the mix. The only real issue here is that a fair bit of Models don’t need the 2’’ Melee Zone so the selection is less powerful than say Furnace where virtually no one loses anything. Regardless, giving all the Apprentices on the Pitch Instruction for free is simply mind-boggling awesome & leads to a very strong Legendary Play Turn. Since she’s trudging up the Pitch every turn anyway, she can seriously think of getting a Goal herself while KD loads of peeps on the way. It’s hit-or-miss however in that Hearth isn’t very efficient of trying to use 5 INF to do DMG or the like so while situationally she can use that extra cap, sometimes she just receives less & allows more INF to be given to the Apprentices as she takes advantage of the free Instructions.
#3 Choice: Anvil
Most Likely Accompanied Masters: Hearth & Farris/Furnace/Ferrite
Most Likely Accompanied Apprentices: Alloy, Bolt/O or V Cinder/Iron
Anvil can play out a couple of different ways as since he’s more defensive orientated than the rest, virtually all Models appreciate Tough Hide except Iron as he already has it. But Stoic here can also be a strong ability especially in certain matchups. Anvil himself has quite a bit of options for using his full potential of 5 INF as well. There’s nothing quite wrong with using While the Iron is Hot, then Charging him forward, applying Singled Out to at least 1 enemy, & KD at least 1 enemy. He sets the team up arguably as well as Furnace under different circumstances but the KD game can be mitigated by the opponent using MOM. Of course applying Singled Out to multiple Models is likely even with Furnace’s Legendary & a little under Hearth’s, the problem is now the opponent knows which of their Models will now be the focus of the Blacksmith’s Attacks. This enables the enemy coach to try & defend them better as they are certain of the Blacksmith’s intentions. This is why I rate Anvil lower than Furnace & Hearth. This doesn’t mean he’s worse but it does mean Anvil’s coach has to play better.
Captains Farris, Ferrite, & Burnish
These don’t stand out as strong as the other 3. I’d love to add Farris to the top 3 as theoretically making 6 free Pases with an extra dice & +2’’ sounds great. The only issue is getting all the Blacksmith’s in the 6’’ Aura seems too risky against certain Guilds & you really aren’t threatening different angles of the enemy Goal. I do understand getting 2+ Models to gain this bonus or using it on the 1st Turn to gain 6+ MOM. I’m sure with practice this might work out quite well but the other Masters likely closer fit to my style.
Ferrite last Season was the go-to Captain. She’s lost quite a bit of the bonuses she gave out so simply giving +2’’/+2’’ MOV is great & all but Anvil can do the same thing every Turn without having to be Captain. Also, Alloy is such a great Striker that I feel I would want another 4+ INF on another Striker besides Alloy as that only leaves 4 left for the rest of the squad to play with without actually Damaging the enemy when the Blacksmiths can do so much DMG. Again, she was good before & the Guild is quite good at Scoring so if another coach wants to run them this way, more power to them!
I’m very intrigued by Burnish as Captain. I feel that he doesn’t do enough with the 5 INF cap but that Legendary might just shut down quite a bit of plans from the enemy. I feel that in all but the most controlling of enemy Guilds I wouldn’t try this & even then I can simply take him & block the worst Character Play on the 1 Model I need it to not apply to. Like the previously listed 2 Masters, I like them all personally better as Squaddies & feel they are strong in those roles. I have heard of others that are very excited for Burnish as more of a main role & likely in their top 3 as Captain but alas, not exactly my playstyle maybe. But kudos to those who wish to run it more & succeed with it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this VERY long article. Clearly I’m more than excited about the changes to the Blacksmith’s Guild & how they’ve turned out for Season 4. They make a very strong claim for a 2-2 game (2 Goals & 2 Take-Outs) but have access to 3 Goals if allowed (likely rare I’ll admit but possible) or built that way as well as 4+ Take-Outs as the top-end DMG of their Apprentices is incredible. They have so many wonderful Character Plays, Traits, & Legendaries that they’re able to toolbox. With so many buffs that seem to me as some of the strongest in the game while being so varied as well. With such a unique style of Guild from Captain/draft selection & Master/Apprentice pairings, they’re truly versatile. Should a Blacksmith’s coach decide to forge their path, shielding themselves with practice, & become armed with experience; they could very well smash their way through any & all opposition as Master.
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