Zach: It’s a new season of Underworlds, and that means my favorite thing – a new Death Warband! This time around, rather than a horde Warband like Sepulchral Guard, Thorns of the Briar Queen, Grymwatch, or Kainan’s Reapers, we get a semi-elite team of Grave Guard led by a Wight King (and their father!), the cursed king Morlak Velmorn. They play very differently from previous Death Warbands, but they’re very cool both aesthetically and in flavor, so let’s jump into it!
If you’d like to check out all the cards in the deck for an unfiltered, initial experience then you view the entire deck here. Once you’re done with your first read through, be sure to join us back here to get some additional insight.
Also a big shout out to Games Workshop for providing us this free, preview copy.
Morlak Velmorn is the leader of the Warband, a Wight King cursed by his crown to stalk the Roothalls of the Gnarlwood, ever in defense of this long forgotten kingdom. In the game, he’s got a fairly good stat-line – 4 Wounds on Block to start isn’t shabby, and his Sword is 2 Smash on 2 Damage with Grievous, meaning he can pop very solid damage early on with good dice. This solid statline becomes even better when he inspires, giving him an extra Block Dice and an extra point of Damage on his weapon.
His inspire condition, like everyone else in the Warband, is to have an Attack Action Crit while he’s performing or supporting it. This is pretty unreliable, as you’ll be fishing on mostly 2 dice attacks, but it is helped along by his unique mechanic, Deadly Command.
Deadly Command allows Velmorn to put a Command Counter on his Card after any of his Activations, after which he is counted as Supporting every Grave Guard on the board! This is really nice for making their somewhat inaccurate Attacks more reliable, and means he can get Inspired from almost anywhere. These Counters only last until the end of the Phase, so you’ll have to be smart about applying them early without wasting actions.
Velmorn is a bit torn as a Fighter. He wants to be up front, being your most reliable early game fighter and fairly durable with his statline, but he’s also a major support piece that you can’t really afford to lose until you gain some value and Inspiration out of his Deadly Command. This means his use will vary from game to game – some games you can put him safely out front, using him both as a beatstick and as a supporter, while other games he’ll want to sit behind his Sons and hand out Support until it’s time for him to move in for the killing blow.
Having both Grievous and an Inspiration that requires Crits means you’ll be relying on dice a bit more than you otherwise might, so it might be nice to pack some Accuracy cards in your deck. His sons are also really happy to have them as well!
Next we have 2 elder sons: Helmar the Hewer and Marshal Faulk. Both of these are very similar fighters, so I’ll discuss them together. Both have a realatively ok defensive profile with 3 Wounds on a Block, keeping them safer from many early game attacks, while their attacks at 2 Fury 1 Damage Grievous leave a bit to be desired. They both really want Velmorn to be inspired, as they have the Grave Guard keyword and will benefit both offensively and defensively from his Support. They both inspire to an extra Dice and Damage on their attacks, and gain a Crit effect that puts them on Guard. Helmar also gains Cleave on his weapon, cementing his position as slightly better than his brother.
These two aren’t exactly the most aggressively statted fighters in the game, though with Guard from Sheild Up and Deadly Command, they can pretty reliably save against many attacks, meaning they’re looking to play a very grindy, midboard combat style, attempting to take hits and wear down opponents.
Finally, they have the Sibling Rivalry Ability which they share with Thain (more on him later), which means one Grave Guard can automatically Inspire at the end of each round, making their rather unreliable Inspiration condition a bit less troublesome.
Ultimately these are your two worst fighters, despite being the eldest sons, but that doesn’t mean they’re without a use in the grand scheme. They will be your front line, fishing for Crits to Inspire both themselves and Velmorn, and hopefully sticking around long enough to help score some Objectives.
Sir Jedran Falseborn is the next fighter. As Velmorn’s illegitimate son, he was never in line for the crown, but he’s a very important part of the Warband nonetheless. Unlike his elder brothers, he boasts a very impressive 5 Wounds and his weapon rocks 3 damage baseline, though it is somewhat hampered by being 2 Fury. Unfortunately, he does not have the Grave Guard keyword, so he doesn’t receive the Deadly Command bonus that his brothers enjoy, meaning his Inspiration is quite a bit harder. However, if you do end up Inspiring him, his Attack gets much more reliable and he gives out Supports to his family very easily, becoming both a melee threat and a support piece just like his father.
Jedran has a pretty solid profile, but he desperately needs some accuracy on his attacks. +Dice, rerolls, or even a weapon might not be amiss to get him Inspired, where he becomes much better. Still, even with his attacks being somewhat mediocre, his defensive profile makes him an excellent frontline piece to eat a couple early hits and attempt to swing back, or to support an ally charging forward. But be careful not to let him take too much free damage! Starting as a Large fighter means he’s worth extra Glory to your opponent, so don’t let him take damage for free.
Finally we have the final son, Thain Fourth-and-Last. He also is a Grave Guard like his older brothers, so he’ll benefit from Deadly Command, and his attack is a bit better. Rather than having Grievous, he starts at 2 Damage and can Trip opponents on Crits to Stagger them. Otherwise he’s identical to Helmar and Faulk, except that he doesn’t get Guard on Crits (keeping Trip) and picks up a Scything Attack when he inspires. Thain is likely the underrated star of the team. His damage is more reliable, he can deal with hordes easier, and he can set up for better accuracy on your other fighters.
I think it’s worth using Sibling Rivalry on Thain in Turn 1 every time, since he’s got the better profile and can help the others Inspire.
Overall, the fighters struggle with accuracy and early game damage, but their relatively solid Defence and Wound characteristics should let them grind out fights and move into the mid-game with most of their fighters alive. Or at least, Undead…
If this is your first time, we follow a pretty basic review system.
- A: the card is very powerful and should almost always be included in your deck builds.
- B: means that the card is strong and will usually be included, but not always.
- C: the card can be good in certain situations but will usually require extra support.
- 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 prevalent strategies.
- S: insane. Clear candidate for the FaR list.
Absolute Monarch: This is a bit much for 1 Glory. You generally do want to kill enemy Leaders, and yours is quite durable, but Velmorn and his sons aren’t exactly swift and reliable in the killing department, so this isn’t reliable enough early on to consider most of the time.
Clinical Efficiency: This is amazing as the first Surge we see. You have a lot of damage profiles and are fishing for Crits anyways, so you’ll often score this just while killing enemies in the normal way. As long as you’re playing an Aggro or Flex playstyle, you should probably be running this card.
Dispassionate Slaughter: This type of Objective is really matchup dependent and not reliable enough through the game, so I’m not crazy about it. In some matchups it would be solid, though.
Hereditary Claims: Excellent and flexible. While the Sons of Velmorn don’t have any innate pushes or high mobility, this is still a fairly solid 2 Glory that plays into how you want to play – grinding combat in the middle of the board on both sides of no man’s land. It could be a little difficult with low speed and Range 1, but it’s still solid.
House Eternal: You only have two cards that give Raise counters (three with Partial Resurrection, at time of writing), so this isn’t terribly reliable.
Inevitability Itself: This is too much of a win-more card to be really worthwhile in most constructed decks. If you’re scoring this, you’ve likely already won and other cards have helped you win in more effective ways.
Martial Lord: Velmorn is one of the best fighters on your team, and you want to hit enemies with him. The only downside is that this can be negated if your leader dies, and also that you need to keep Velmorn relatively safe to get good use out of Deadly Command.
Morbid Majesty: On one hand, 2 Glory for something you’re going to be trying to do anyways is nice. On the other, the Inspiration condition here is so very unreliable that getting this on Turn 1 or 2 could be iffy in a lot of games. So it’s good, but you might be chucking it out a lot, so keep that in mind.
Protected Inheritance: This is awesome in a lot of matchups. It’ll likely be hard to score on Turn 1, but from Turn 2 and 3, it should relatively be a gimme… unless you’re going into durable 3 Fighter teams. So, try to read the meta and think if you want to take that matchup risk.
Regal Riposte: Kill someone that’s charged? Kill without Charging via weapon or pushes or just standing still? Excellent. Very few downsides here, top tier.
Relentless Unity: This is what you want to be doing anyways. It gets harder when your leader dies, but pushes and Jedran can make it easier if that happens too.
Vying for Favor: I really dislike how hard this is to do in Turn 1 unless you lose a fighter early on a starting hex, but later in the game it should be a free score. But still, sometimes you want to activate a fighter multiple times and ignore other fighters… so it’s not amazing.
Deadly Manoeuvre: Excellently flexible push card. Can use it to reposition, or to get support, or to get a surprise massive 3 Hex Push when needed. I think this is an auto-include.
Decapitating Blow: Cleave is great… until you go into a Dodge enemy warband. +1 Glory is amazing… unless you don’t roll a Crit. I think this is really hard to take over other Accuracy cards.
Father’s Pride: Generally you want to get Command Counters out before making attacks, though sometimes there’s value to having more than one Counter (such as Deadly Manoeuvre), and the push is nice. Still, I think there are better pushes that don’t become bricks if your Leader dies.
Imperious Will: Not having to take an Action to get a Command Counter and getting a Guard Token on top of it? This is excellent and lets your faction perform much smoother. It’s not a massive power spike but you will love seeing it regardless.
Redoubled Fervour: Remaking attacks is great, and you can sometimes make it better as well. It does hurt a bit you can’t use this on Jedran or Velmorn, but you can’t have everything.
Rise Again: The Universal card that shares the same text with this was so strong it got Restricted in short order. However, there’s not particularly a great target this until later in the game – you don’t want to resurrect Jedran since he’s Large and will give up 2 Glory again easily when he’s Vulnerable, and the Grave Guard aren’t great until they get some Upgrades rolling. I think this is not something you’ll play early in the game, but when it’s good, it’s potentially game-winning.
Shyishian Infusion: Heal(2) is a really powerful ability, but it’s on your worst fighters only. It’s only really good if you throw a lot of upgrades on a Fighter, or if you’ve just brought them back with Rise Again, but then it’s really good. I think it’s less good than Rise Again, but still worthy of consideration.
Spike of Terror: Every effect on here is good, and it will put a lot of mind games on your opponent. I think the main downside is that you will never get the singular effect you want most out of the card, but as long as you can use 2 or more of them effectively, it should be useful.
Surprising Swiftness: Movement is good, especially since this team is entirely Movement 3. Can’t use it on Jedran, again, but getting Thain into good Scything position or your Leader into a powerful Hex is really good.
Velmorn’s Curse: 1 Damage reaction ping is very interesting. It’s either amazing and wins you games, or it’s useless because the thing that killed you is too powerful for one damage to make a difference. Still, ping is ping, and it can help even out kills. It’s much better in Nemesis than it is in Championship, depending on your preferred format.
Rating: B for Nemesis, C for Championship
Experience of Ages: Ensnare is great, until you go into an all Block team. Rerolling Successes is really odd, since it helps you fish for Crits but it can also backfire horribly. I think there’s better Accuracy cards.
Familial Bond: It’s like Duellist’s Speed, but more restrictive. I think this would be better if the faction had any Range 2+ attacks, but as is, mobility is excellent.
Favored Son: Making Thain more survivable is great. Helmar and Faulk can get to 2 dice on Guard if they Crit, which is also cool. 2 Block is just good in general, so yeah this is a good card.
Fearless Lunge: This is a really solid attack, though the downside is… disappointing. In Nemesis, where you might not have access to many weapons, this is great, but there will be better weapons in Championship.
Rating: B in Nemesis, C in Championship
Fell Enchantments: The debuff on this is very, very powerful, but it does have some downsides. First, it requires your opponent to fail the attack, which is very reliant on dice going your way. Second, the debuff clears at the end of the round, so it can be often wasted if the opponent only gets Cursed in Action 3 or 4. Still, it’s a nice deterrent and can be excellent on a good fighter like Velmorn or Jedran.
Heirloom Weapon: Not much to say. It’s Great Strength, so awesome, and while it’s restricted away from your best fighters, it’s really the Grave Guard who need the boost in damage. So yeah, good.
Lord of Bones: Amazing card, so flexible in use and potentially can give you massive positional advantage depending on the board state. It does go away when Velmorn does, which can suck, but it’s still good.
Praetorian: Makes one of your best fighters even better, and can set up some crazy counterattacks. It’s telegraphed, of course, but that deterrent can be a power all by itself.
Proud Son: Making your fighters more reliable is great. It’s nice especially on Thain Inspired, getting rerolls on that Scything Grievous attack can be devastating.
The Crown’s Curse: This is a really odd card. The Rez is nice, but also somewhat limited. The buff is very limiting, as you really want to be Inspired for 2 Block and the extra damage, but Accuracy is also very powerful. I think this is a card that will really rely on your personal playstyle, but for me, I’m not crazy about it.
My impression of the Sons of Velmorn is that the subpar, somewhat disappointing stats are offset by a pretty strong, well rounded Rivals Deck. You are forced into playing a fairly specific way – these family members really want to play around the midboard and focus on getting their Command Counters up for support and accuracy.
The main downside of the faction is their stats. Move 3, Range 1, and low Accuracy can be devastating, so you really need to build your deck around mitigating that. I think weapons, pushes, and +Dice or reroll cards are key here.
I really like how different they are from every other Death Warband in the game. They’ll be playing a grinder aggro with a bit of focus on Holding 2 Feature Tokens for some Objectives. I think that this faction will be a good challenge for aggro and flex players looking for something new to try in the new season!
Check out our Gnarlwood main article to check out our other reviews.
Best of luck on your [Path to Glory]!
If you think this warband would make an excellent addition to your collection, be sure to head on down to your local Warhammer Store or FLGS to order yourself a copy of the Gnarlwood box set. If you prefer to shop online, check them out here this Saturday (later today at time of posting).
Thank you again to Games Workshop for this free, preview copy.