A Warhammer Underworlds Blog & Podcast

Card Review: Essential Pack

Hello, Gloryseekers!

Jonathan here with a review of the upcoming Essential Cards Pack, which goes up for pre-order today here, and will release on April 17th.

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What’s in the box?

Games Workshop has marketed this card pack as an easy way for new players to get an infusion of universal cards, and I think it works very well for this. The box comes with 60 Universal cards found in the previous three seasons of the game with a few tweaks to the way the cards are worded, and some very cool new artwork for these cards. It also comes with handy instructions on how to build decks for new players, and some solid tips for anyone.

For existing players, it contains a number of cards they may already have from previous seasons, so it may be possible to skip this pack if you already have all of the previous season. If you don’t own the previous seasons, or just want all of the fancy new artwork, then I think it’s a solid value from a card/money perspective.

Either way, I think this card pack is a big improvement over the previous season’s Gift Pack, and am excited to go over the contents!

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Card Review:

This card set comes with 60 universal cards from the previous seasons of underworlds, making it the largest group of universals found in one place so far. This should have a large impact on the meta, and be a great way for new players to gain a large number of very playable cards for their games.

I think it is worth noting that this set contains all of the “core” cards that were previously found in the starter sets for Shadespire, Nightvault, and Beastgrave, but were not found in Direchasm. This means that these cards will no longer be in danger of cycling out with Beastgrave, and answers any questions we may have for why the Direchasm starter set was designed with unique universals this season. Overall I think it is a solid change to the system.

Also, Games Workshop has said that these cards will not be rotated in future seasons, making them the new “core” set of cards for the game. I think this is a good move, though it will be interesting to have some of these cards around forever.

The set contains 20 Objectives, 20 Gambits, and 20 Upgrades. I will review and rate each of these cards based on how useful I think they will be in your games.

As always, I’ll be using the following rating system.

  • A score of “A” means that the card is very powerful and should almost always be included in your deck builds.
  • A score of “B” means that the card is strong and will be commonly included in decks for a particular playstyle, but is a bit more situational than the A tier.
  • A score of “C” means that card can be good in certain situations but will usually require extra support, or a very specific deck to work well in.
  • Lastly, a score of “D” means the card is on the weaker side of things. It doesn’t mean that it is inherently bad but perhaps can be considered hard to use or counter intuitive to most game plans.

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Objectives:

Annihilation – We have seen this card so far in every starter set for each season of the game so far other than Direchasm, and I’m not a big fan of it. It tends to be a bit of a “win more” card due to how rarely you lose a game where you wipe the other player out, and I don’t like taking what is usually a 3rd end phase card very much at all in the current Meta. It’s playable in that you may sometimes score it, but I’d generally skip it for more reliable cards.

Rating: D

Branching Fate – A very reliable card for warbands with at least 2+ ways to get three dice attacks in the first round. The math says that if you make a 3 dice attack with no re-rolls, you have about a 45% chance to score this card, and if you make 4 of these attacks in a round, you have about a 95% chance of scoring it. Re-rolls help make this card very reliable as well. I think we will see a lot of this card, and I am happy to have it back!

Rating: B

Conquest – Another classic core card from the first three seasons of the games. I have not usually been a big fan of this card, as I don’t feel 2 glory is worth waiting three rounds to score, and there tend to be better options. The only reason to consider this card at the moment that I can think of is if you are trying to create a lot of synergy for being in the opponent’s territory, perhaps combining it with cards like Bold Deeds.

Rating: C

Denial – The 3rd in the trio of classic big 3rd end phase (Annihilation may as well be one) cards reprinted in this set. I like that this card exists in the game, especially if the meta shifts towards cards like Bold Deeds being more common, as it does exist as a bit of counter play to that playstyle, but in the end I feel like it won’t make the cut in most of my decks due to the how long you have to wait to score it, and how it can be hard to score in best of three matches if your opponent knows you have it.

Rating: C

Great Gains – Oh boy, Great Gains is back! A bit of a classic passive “win more” card from Nightvault, but not in a bad way like Annihilation. Due to the number of strong 2 glory end phase cards in the current meta, this card is fairly likely to be scored in the first round, and I think we will see a lot of this one (perhaps until it gets restricted lol).

Rating: A

Hold Objective 1 – The classic Hold X card that I suppose has to exist, but aren’t really worth taking because of how hard it can be to hold a specific objective at a given time.

Rating: D

Hold Objective 2 – See above

Rating: D

Hold Objective 3 – See above

Rating: D

Hold Objective 4 – See above

Rating: D

Hold Objective 5 – See above

Rating: D

Making a Statement – A very cool card that never saw a ton of play that I know of, but may be fun to try and make work in the current meta for some warbands. It has some interesting synergy with Treasure Hunter, may work well for objective removal decks, and might make for some fun “surprise” style decks, but I would not take it without some kind of plan.

Rating: C

No Remorse – A very solid 1 glory aggro surge! I like the inclusion of this card because it is generally useful for most warbands, but also requires some thought and target selection in many situations. A welcome addition.

Rating: B

Path to Victory – A favorite of mine from the Beastgrave season that I will be happy to have around for the future. A staple of current objective play.

Rating: B

Plant a Standard – This one is a bit too hard to score for most warbands, and probably not any better than the alternative 1 glory end phase cards available to ones that might be good at it (Hrothgorn and Mollog, perhaps), so I don’t think we’ll see a lot of this one.

Rating: C

Pure Carnage – Oh my, this card is an interesting one. Having used this card quite a bit in the second season, I think this card is one of the few 3rd end phase cards that I would consider putting in specific decks. You basically only want to take it when you know it will be impossible to not kill seven or more fighters, so warbands like Gitz, Godsworn Hunt, and so on tend to be the best candidates, and it does prefer metas with lots of killable fighters. The power behind this card is that it either helps make up for losing your own fighters, or adds to the glory gained from killing enemy fighters, depending on how you want to look at it, and it makes larger warbands more reliable at the cost of having to wait for the 3rd round to cash it in. It also makes for some interesting games in a best of 3 format, where the other player may actually try not to kill your fighters in order to stop you from scoring it. A very interesting counter for large warbands in a Primacy meta. I like this card a lot, but I’m not sure what I think about it sticking around forever.

Rating: B

Strong Start – Another great card from Nightvault! I like this card a lot because it is fairly reliable for smaller warbands to score, but can sometimes be dead if you draw it in the middle of the round, which sort of balances it out.

Rating: B

Supremacy – The classic hold objective card! I think this card will always be worth keeping in mind depending on the state of objective play, but in the current meta with so many pushes and ways to move objectives around I think there are better options for holding 2 objectives, so I wouldn’t take this one unless I was very confident I have the tricks to pull it off.

Rating: C

Tactical Supremacy 1-2 – These cards are interesting because they only need you to hold 2 objectives for 2 glory, but can be sort of tricky to pull off depending on where the objectives are, and really don’t like objective removal strategies. I think if they were 3 glory I would think more highly of them, but right now probably wouldn’t mess with them unless I really wanted to play some kind of “pure” hold objective deck.

Rating: C

Tactical Supremacy 3-4 – See above.

Rating: C

Victorious Duel – A flavorful classic from Shadespire that also made the cut into the Beastgrave Gift Pack. I think this is a card that should probably always exist, and can be very fun to play for aggro warbands where the leader gets most or all of the kills. It may not see a lot of play competitively as it can sometimes brick if a leader dies too early, or you can’t kill their leader with yours, but I still think it’s a lot of fun to try it.

Rating: C

Objective card thoughts:

Overall I think this is a decent selection of Objective cards. I do feel like a lot of room was taken up by the “core” cards in this section, but most of the other cards are probably worth their spot, and give solid options to both aggro and hold objective play-styles.

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Gambits:

Centre of Attention – In case anyone thought we didn’t have enough Distraction type cards…Centre of Attention is back! Jokes aside, this card is a favorite of mine, and I am glad to see it in the game again, I just wish they would get rid of Distraction if they are going to make this card again. At least Distraction will be gone once Beastgrave rotates.

Rating: B

Commanding Stride – This card is another cool card from Nightvault, and a favorite of Mollog, Hrothgorn, and other Leader-centric warbands.

Rating: B

Confusion – Another core card that can create some very fun moments, and is another of those cards that should probably always exist for when you need it.

Rating: C

Countercharge – A fun and powerful card from Nightvault that should be a lot of fun in the current meta, and is great for sliding your fighters around in both aggro and objective holding playstyles.

Rating: B

Daylight Robbery – A curious addition since it was recently restricted, but a decent way to both infuriate your opponent and gain some extra glory half the time. Particularly useful for warbands that have a tough time getting glory in the early rounds.

Rating: C

Determined Effort – The white bread of Underworlds cards, in that no one has ever been very excited about it, but it’s not bad, per se. It competes a bit with Victimise and Sitting Target in the current card pool, but taking all three doesn’t seem bad to me, and it’s a nice include for new players.

Rating: C

Duel of Wits – This card coming back is likely a big deal in the current meta with so much other card draw already available, even though it wasn’t that popular during Shadespire and Nightvault (because gambit power was it’s maximum back then). It is a definite upgrade over Unnatural Truce, and probably about as good as Quick Search, so I think we’ll be seeing a lot of this one.

Rating: A

Flickering Step – A very cool “B tier” version of Sidestep. You’d never take this over sidestep, but you might take both. This is the sort of card design I like (vs simply printing 2 Distractions!), and I’m happy this one is back.

Rating: C

Grievous Riposte – A sort of balanced version of Rebound, this card is a fun one that might not see a lot of play, but can be good in some deck builds for warbands with a lot of defence dice (I’m looking at you, Gitz).

Rating: C

Healing Potion – The classic healing card! This is a decent card with cool design. I think it would probably see play if Ferocious Resistance didn’t exist, and is still probably worth considering for the smaller warbands that really need to keep specific fighters around.

Rating: C

Inspired Attack – Another favorite of mine from the Nightvault season! This card is very powerful for warbands with easy inspire conditions, and really lets you pack a punch. This one makes me want to play Godsworn Hunt again.

Rating: B

Inspired Command – Move over Flickering Step! This one has a very cool card design that will likely see a lot of play in the current meta, when there is a shortage of Sidestep and guard is pretty amazing to have around.

Rating: A

Keen Avarice – An interesting card from Nightvault’s Power Unbound set that very saw a lot of play due to there being better options (oh Haymaker, how I miss you), but might see some play now as an alternative to Sitting Target.

Rating: C

Lethal Ward – Another fun Nightvault card, and a very welcome source of ping damage that seems to have been missing from the Direchasm season.

Rating: B

Mighty Swing – Wow this card is going to shake things up. Krushas, Hrothgorn, and any other hard hitting range 1 fighter is going to LOVE this card, and everyone else is going to hate that they have it. It is also a very silly card to combine with…you guessed it, Combo weapons! One of the few cards in this set I think may deserve a spot on the R list if it is going to be around forever.

Rating: B

Mirror Move – A very fun card when it was printed in Nightvault, and probably quite good now as well. The main reason not to take it is the already high number of Distraction type cards available, but I am sure some people will want 4 ways to push people so why not, lol.

Rating: B

Misdirection – A very cool card from Shadespire that was also reprinted in the gift pack. It isn’t likely to see a lot of play outside of the smallest warbands with very important fighters that don’t want Energy Drain targeting them, and so on. Glad to have it in the game, though.

Rating: C

No Time – Another card that made the first pack and is back for another season or two! A fun card to have in the game, and quite powerful when used correctly. This card has been called the card that takes the most skill to use, and it’s cool to have it in the game for good.

Rating: C

Shifting Shards – Sort of a Sidestep alternative for Objective warbands, this one will be generally useful for that architype after taking Sidestep and Inspired Command.

Rating: C

Sidestep – A classic. It should probably always be in the game.

Rating: A

Gambit thoughts: These are some very good cards! They provide a great selection to new players without too many cards already, and compete with many existing cards for current players. I don’t think I’m sad to see any of them, although Mighty Swing and all of the pushes are probably the ones to watch.

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Upgrades:

Army of One – A very fun card from Shadespire! I’m not sure how much we will see of this, but I think it may be worth considering for the 3 fighter warbands.

Rating: C

Bag of Tricks – A very neat card that acts as an interesting form of card draw. I have used this card in the past (won my grand clash with it, actually!) and found it fun and balanced due to requiring the cost of a glory to equip and an activation to use, so I think it will be an interesting addition to the meta.

Rating: C

Champions Fortitude – A classic defence card that seems like it should probably be in the game. Decent for single block fighters, particularly Wurmspat. A welcome addition.

Rating: C

Dark Darts – Another dose of nostalgia from Shadespire! This one is not as good as it was in the days of What Amour?, and I don’t think low damage ranged weapons are that great in the current meta, but it’s nice to have the option.

Rating: C

Duellist’s Speed – Another card that to me just sort of belongs in the game, so I’m happy to have it back. Very useful for ranged fighters, and for charging at fighters holding an objective in order to push them off and then steal it.

Rating: B

Earthing Stone – A very interesting tech card from Nightvault that never saw much play, but I always wanted to make it work. I guess I have the rest of the game now to try it. Also I’m not really sure what a Metalith is, but this is one now!

Rating: D

Fighter’s Ferocity – Crit fishing is back! Importantly, this upgrade works on any range attack, so it’s great for the ranged 3 warbands, and perhaps even worth considering for range 2 fighters that don’t want to lose defense dice from Savage Strength.

Rating: B

Gloryseeker – Speaking of ranged attacks! Gloryseeker is the key card that allows ranged fighters to gain a reliable source of +1 damage, and was the 2nd source of damage in most decks during the Nightvault and Beastgrave Seasons. This one is very likely to have a sizable impact in the meta.

Rating: A

Great Fortitude – Yup, this makes sense. The classic +1 wound card that should stick around for a while.

Rating: A

Great Speed – I’m not a big fan of this card, but it makes sense.

Rating: C

Great Strength – Yup.

Rating: A

Guardian Glaive – A Beastgrave Gift Pack exclusive! I don’t think this one makes the cut for me in the current meta, but I like the design of it and have seen people make good use of it before.

Rating: C

Horrifying Armour – A cool way to gain +1 defense at the cost of a wound. I usually haven’t thought this was worth it, but it’s nice to have the option.

Rating: C

Leech Stone – Oh, hello Ferocious Resistance! I still don’t think FR should exist, but this might see play just to mess with it. Either way it’s kinda bad. Another Metalith!

Rating: D

Mutating Maul – A very fun upgrade that saw a lot of play in Nightvault as a way to score What Armour?. I’m not sure how much we’ll see it now, but it’s neat that it’s back.

Rating: C

Potion of Grace – This is a very neat card that may be useful for warbands like Hrothgorn if the meta becomes very full of cards like Energy Drain to negate the effects. Otherwise it’s only sort of useful, but it’s an interesting option to have in the game.

Rating: C

Quickening Greaves – A very powerful card for any playstyle, and a welcome addition in my mind due to the amount of fighter and objective pushing in the game right now.

Rating: A

Regenerative Charm – I’m not a big fan of this card, but it might be useful for high wound fighters like Krushas that want to avoid stacking wounds? I guess we’ll see.

Rating: D

Shardcaller – An interesting upgrade that might make the Tactical Supremacy objective cards a bit more playable.

Rating: C

Swordbreaker – A generally solid weapon upgrade with 3 smash. The crit effect is very situational, but doesn’t hurt anything. It’s obviously not as good as Amberbone Sword, but it’s probably the next best non-restricted weapon option if you mainly want accuracy.

Rating: B

Upgrade thoughts: I find these upgrades to be solid additions to the card pool, and most are quite playable, but I don’t know how much they will shake up the meta. Quickening Greaves and Gloryseeker are probably the two to watch here.

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Closing Thoughts:

I think this set of cards is an interesting move for Games Workshop, and in general I am happy that it exists. If the main goal of the set is to give new players a solid pack of cards that they will want to use in their games, and to stop reprinting cards in the season boxes, I think this set does the job quite well.

Many of the cards may not be particularly exciting for existing players, but if anything this is probably a plus for new players, and there are plenty of complicated cards in the other sets (hello Labyrinth Boots) if that’s your thing. Overall I think most of the cards here are good, basic cards that it makes sense are in the game, and in many ways I think I’d rather they just print the same card vs make slightly different versions of old cards, or find slightly different ways to word cards to do basically the same thing as before, so it seems fine to me.

If you are an existing player, you may not even need to buy this set! If you’ve kept up since the first season, you should already have these cards, so pull out your season one and two binders and shoeboxes and get them out again!

Meta wise, I am a little concerned with the number of enemy pushes in the meta at the moment, but at least they are now countered by a few more friendly pushes. Either way I know I plan to play the crap out of Mighty Swing, Pure Carnage, and Quickening Greaves, so it should be a fun time in the upcoming meta.

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Thanks for Reading!

I am very grateful to Games Workshop for allowing me to review this product. If you would like to pre-order this product, head on down to your local Warhammer Store or gaming store. If you prefer to shop online, check them out here.

As always, best of luck on YOUR Path to Glory.

Jonathan

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Aman

Blogger, Podcast Host

Competitive player who loves to attend events and theory craft. Always chasing the next piece of shade glass. 

Favorite Warband: skaeth's WIld Hunt

Jonathan

Blogger, Podcast Host

Loves to discuss all aspects of the game, especially events. Enjoys the data behind the game and is also competitively focused.

Favorite Warband: Spiteclaw's Swarm

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