Requizen takes a look at the first Shadespire Warband from the core set! For more Shadespire tactics, check the Tactics Corner!
Shadespire currently has six unique warbands, with at least two more to come in the future. Each one has a unique fighters, cards, and playstyles, making each matchup slightly different and allowing you to pick the Warband that fits your personal style. I’ll try to break down each one so you get an idea of what they’re about.
Stormcast are the face of Age of Sigmar, so it should be no surprise that they were featured in the starter set. Much like their larger Age of Sigmar counterparts, the Shadespire Stormcast (Steelheart’s Champions) are hulking, armored men and women wielding massive weapons in gleaming plate. Of the current Warbands, they have some of the best statlines, each boasting 4 Health and Shields for defense, multi damage weapons that hit on Hammers off the bat, and very strong Inspired abilities. To balance this, they have the lowest number of Fighters currently, so while they can win even fights, they will often be outnumbered, especially by the Sepulchral Guard, Spiteclaw’s Swarm, or Garrek’s Reavers. They’re also on the slow side, with 3 move being average, but coupled with their low numbers, means they have trouble controlling large spaces.
Severin Steelheart is the Leader of the Warband, and has a statline that is worthy of a Liberator-Prime. His weapon starts out with 3 Damage, and once he Inspires, he can also make a multi-target attack that deals 2 damage to each enemy nearby. Steelheart is a great beatstick. He may lack the single-target effects of Obyron (more on him below), but he can easily crush his way through most Warbands almost by himself. 3 Damage unbuffed means that he can one-shot most Fighters in the game, and with Great Strength, he can even quickly slice through other Stormcast or Orruks.
Severin is a great generalist piece. You can place him centrally – once he inspires, he’s hard to take down since he’s rolling 2 Defence Dice, and he has strong attacks against both single targets or multiple. Use caution though, since some decks gain extra Glory for killing a Leader.
Angharad Brightshield is the next member of the the Champions. She is the weakest Liberator offensively, only dealing 2 Damage initially, but her strength comes in other ways. Her damage is more reliable, since she rolls 3 Attack Dice on Hammers, so you have a much higher chance for a crit or just a successful attack. Her Inspired ability is to swing back against failed attacks. It only does 1 Damage, but can be really useful to get an opponent out of position or create breathing room for the rest of your Warband.
Of the three Stormcast, many consider Brightshield to be the most “expendable”, since the higher damage on Obyron or Steelheart is tempting, but with the right upgrades, Angharad is extremely reliable, and can be used to hold down a single area of the board while repelling enemies.
Obyron the Bold is the final Fighter, and he boasts an impressive offensive statline. He starts with a 3 Damage weapon with Knockback 1, meaning if 3 Damage isn’t enough to finish off an opponent, he can blast them away 2 Hexes and make the counterattack much more difficult. What’s better is that once Inspired, he has an alternate attack that trades Knockback 1 for Cleave, so you can choose between pushing around or cutting through Stormcast, Orruk, and Fyreslayer armor.
Obyron is the “assassin” of the Stormcast Warband. While he has the same base profile as Steelheart, Cleave and Knockback means he’s often in a position where he can set up favorable trades and attack in a position of strength.
While the strength of their profiles might encourage a player to play aggressively and take advantage of their power, Steelheart’s Champions can actually be played in a variety of ways.
You definitely can build your decks around fighting, but there are a couple ways to do so. You can load up on offensive cards (+1 Damage, reroll attacks, etc), or you can utilize lots of defensive cards (+1 Wound, Cursed Armor to roll extra Defense Dice, Guard Ploys) and lean on the built-in offensive power of the Stormcast.
You can, of course, make a deck that splits the difference, but I find that it is much more reliable to have a deck that leans more heavily in one direction or the other. Remember that this is a card game at least partially, so building your deck to reliably do one thing means that you can draw confidently, if you put in too much of a mish-mash, you could end up drawing a defensive card when you’re planning on charging in, or an offensive card when your gameplan requires you to back up to a better position.
Personally, I find the defensive setup to be a bit stronger, with a couple peppered in offensive cards that are good all arounders. Great Strength and Tireless Assault are both cards that you will always find a use for, while more niche offensive cards like Lightning Blast are potentially extremely powerful, but can be dead cards in some games. Building your Warband around being the hardest to kill allows you to wade into combats or move into risky positions while still feeling confident.
When playing this type of style, you will often want to be in the thick of battle. A nice pick for your Objective Deck would be to include the card Seize Ground, and then use one of your Objective Token placements to put one right over the line. This gives you a good spot to fight around, gaining Glory and forcing the opponent into a single space where you can often pick the right battles.
In certain matchups, particularly Garrek’s Reavers or Sepulchral Guard, you can create a bottleneck with the boards, since you only need to place them with 3 Hexes aligned. By setting up this way, you can shove your fighters into the bottleneck, preventing your opponents from getting through, which is great if your deck is running Contained and/or Denial. Against the aforementioned Warbands, their numbers will mean very little in the confined space and you can easily force them back or into poor fights.
The other way the Champions are being played is a very “fortress” style, as it’s been called on certain sites. Focusing on Objectives and avoiding fights, it’s a very passive style of play that can be extremely frustrating for aggressive enemies. Taking Objective Cards such as Consecrated Area and Sigmar’s Bulwark will reward you for staying away, or at least keeping opponents at bay. With those and Hold Objective X cards, you can build a deck very much around dodging from enemies, staying safe, and avoiding combat.
Cards that are good in the Power deck for this style of play are the Keys and Shardcaller, so you can get the right Objectives for late game Glory swings, and any card that makes it hard for the opponent to get to you. Shardfall is nice, since it can really clog up pathways that would otherwise be open and prevent enemies from getting to you.
While this deck type doesn’t particularly want to engage, fighting is probably necessary at some point. Splashing in a Greater Strength to one-shot any Orruks charging your back line is a great investment, as are cards like Total Offence, which lets you double the number of attack dice at the expense of not being able to activate later. Often, you will already be where you want to be and that big swing with Obyron or Steelheart can be the winning blow.
So there’s a quick rundown! Steelheart’s Champions are not the most popular warband right now, and I think that’s because you have to be a little more deliberate in your actions than most people would expect. Just charging in headfirst can put you in a really bad position, so you always have to think your moves out a couple turns in advance. But, with careful movement and Ploy usage, you can lean on their innately powerful defensive and offensive statlines to break through opponent’s lines and throw them onto the back foot!
Hopefully this rundown was useful and interesting for any players getting interested in Shadespire, I hope to do coverage of more of the game! If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend at least going into a store and trying a test game if one is available, or going to a club night.
If you want to pick up Steelheart’s Champions or anything else Shadespire related, remember that Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!