And then there was one! We’ve made it to the end of Direchasm as we see the release of the final warband of season 4: Elthain’s Soulraid. The Idoneth Deepkin have been long awaited as a faction in the game and they are certainly a welcome addition. They’ve got a unique look which also translates to their play style as well which many players might find refreshing.
I’ll be covering the fighter cards and rate all the faction specific objectives, gambits, and upgrades. If you are interested in hearing our take on the Universal cards that come in this expansion, check out the site tomorrow. Thank you to Games Workshop for providing me a free copy to preview and review. While I can’t get into the physical contents just yet, I can go over all the cards previewed over at Warhammer Community.
Note: As per my previous articles, 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.
- “B” means that the card is strong and will usually be included, but not always.
- A score of “C” means that card can be good in certain situations but will usually require extra support.
- 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 your game plan.
If you are interested in listening to this instead, check us out over on our podcast. You can also watch us on our YouTube channel.
Your soul is mine!
Faction Mechanics and Inspire:
As befitting of aelves, this warband has a bunch of faction mechanics which allow it to operate uniquely on the battlefield. The first special rule I want to cover is Flood Tide which works for Elathain, Fuirann, and Tammael. When activating one of those fighters, they can make a move or charge action even if they already have a move token. It’s function is identical to Mollog’s un-inspired side and gives this warband some insane manuerabilty.
The second mechanic to point out is their inspire. At the start of the second round, the entire warband inspires. This ability is intertwined with the rule Ebb Tide which is on their inspired side. It states that at the start if the third round, this fighter is un-inspired. All of the fighters have both aforementioned rules. This is pretty cool as it allows directly aligns with how they function in Age of Sigmar, as well as their nautical theme. Think of it a wave crashing down – there’s a surge, a peak, and then it ebbs back into the ocean.
Guaranteeing an inspire at the start of the second round seems pretty good to me – it functions similarly to the way the Wild Hunt play as they all inspire at the end of the first round. Furthermore, the second round is where most of the action begins, and also ends. This works for this warband as you can gain some passive glory, stack upgrades, and then try to unleash as much carnage as you can. When your fighters revert back to their un-inspired side, you still gain the benefits from the upgrades they’ve equipped previously as well as the extra mobility via Flood Tide.
Our morose leader has 2 keywords: Hunter (which is always nice to see) and Idoneth. He’s got a melee attack which hits on 3 smash and deals 2 damage. That’s pretty accurate. His second attack is range 3, 2 fury, and deals 1 damage. Both of these weapons have the Soul-Harvest special rule. Essentially, if Elathain takes an enemy down, and Tammael is out of action, he can react and bring Tammael back on a starting hex in your territory. I love this ability as not only is it unique but it also makes a lot of thematic sense. Round out his stats, he’s got 4 move, 1 block, and 4 wounds – the latter is excellent for an aelf.
Upon inspiring, Elathain’s melee attack becomes extremely hard to defend against as it gains Cleave and Ensnare. His ranged attack also gets Ensnare. Aside from that, he bumps up to move 5.
Elathain is the lynchpin of your warband. Keep him alive, stack upgrades on him (prioritize damage), and watch how he develops into a powerful threat on the board. He’s also essential for maximizing Tammael’s effectiveness since he is the only fighter who can bring his companion back.
Fuirann, an Idoneth and Hunter, is the muscle of the warband and is rocking some pretty decent stats to boot. Her melee attack hits on 3 fury and deals 2 damage. Her bottom stat-line is 4 move, 2 dodge, and 3 wounds. She also has access to the Flood Tide rule.
When inspired, Fuirann becomes more accurate as her weapon goes to 3 smash and her durability jumps up as well to 2 block. She reminds me of a Sheoch from Wild Hunt. While they aren’t the best fighters out there, they’re dependable and have a penchant for hitting above their weight class. The range 1 attack does feel like a limitation but moving twice or moving and then charging makes up for it.
Funny thing to note is that she has fluff text on her inspired side which is odd considering how packed the fighter cards have been this season.
Tammael is the final fighter in the warband who has access to the Idoneth and Hinter keywords. He’s got a range 2, 2 damage, 2 smash attack which has the Riptide special rule – instead of driving his opponents back, he can push them instead 1 hex. It functions exactly like Hadzu’s special ability from the Dread Pageant. His second attack has a range of 3, 3 fury, and 1 damage. It also has the Riptide special rule and deals an extra damage on the charge with his ranged attack thanks to Impact. He can also use Flood Tide and has 4 move, 1 dodge, and 3 wounds.
When he inspires, he gains Ensnare on his both his attack actions, bumps up to movement 5, and gains an extra dice on defense. Keep in mind, this fighter is the one who can be brought back by Elathain during the course of the game – there is no limit as long as the requirements are met.
It is hard not to make comparisons when thinking about other fighters who have a penchant for coming back on the board – Blue Horror, Skaven, Ghouls. Stat-wise, he seems better than all of them and the range 2 is pretty nice as well. I would advise caution when activating this fighter. While he can come back – he probably has the hardest mechanic to create that eventuality. It is also really matchup dependent so there maybe some games in which he only comes back once, if at all.
The star of the show, Duinclaw has taken the internet by storm. He’s got a range 1, 2 fury, 2 damage attack with a movement of 3, 2 block, and 3 wounds. He has two special abilities. Beast makes it to where he can’t use attack action upgrades nor hold objectives which does keep him in line with other “beasts’ from previous releases. He also has a reaction titled Scuttle which allows him to push himself a single hex closer to a friendly fighter that just activated. In theory, that should allow him to provide supports to your fighters given proper positioning.
When inspired, he gains Cleave and bumps up to 3 fury.
So does he live up to the hype? Probably not. The 2 block makes him quite tanky though which means you don’t have to worry about him too much. Interesting thing to note is that Scuttle shares the same reaction window as Elathain’s Soul-Harvest so keep that in mind.
Duinclaw is either going to be charging into enemy ranks alongside your warband or be used as bait. Either way, he might pleasantly surprise you though I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Perhaps the most interesting fighter in the game to date, the Spinefin, in a way, isn’t even really a fighter at all. It has a movement of 0, 1 dodge, and 1 wound. Also, due to the Small Fry rule, cannot be equipped with upgrades, cannot hold objectives, and cannot take any actions. Furthermore, this fighter cannot be taken of out action, instead it is simply removed from the battlefield. This is important as it means it does not give up glory to your opponent or provide them with counters/tokens that trigger on eliminations.
This fighter also doesn’t have to be set up during deployment which mans you can operate as a 4 fighter warband during that phase of the game – which could lend you that extra crit in the roll off. Candidly, I don’t think you’ll ever want to deploy it anyways as it can’t move.
This fighter intrinsically revolves around the shoal counter. After an opponent’s power step, you can either place a shoal counter in an empty hex, move the shoal counter to another hex, or place this fighter in an empty hex that contains a friendly shoal counter. If you do the latter, you remove the shoal counter. The coolest bit is that you can make this reaction even if this fighter is out of action. From a fluff perspective, I find this to be pretty neat as it imitates the plethora of sea critters that tend to hitch a ride on the ethersea when the Deepkin leave the water.
The Spinefish is essentially a support piece. It will be either be providing support, count as a friendly fighter when looking to score cards that involve where your fighters are (think in enemy territory), and act as a gambit delivery piece. There are some faction gambits that utilize poisons which the Spinefin can use. Cards like Centre of Attention are also offer great synergy with it as well.
Also, there really is no incentive for your opponent to attack this fighter outside of some very limited scenarios. Treat this fighter as a free mechanic in the game and try to figure out how to best utilize its existence. If you manage to pull it off, it will be extremely satisfying.
Also, Jonathan (Wigglefish) finally made it into the game!
Cold-Eyed Killers: We just saw this exact card in Kainan’s Reapers as well. I like this card better for this warband due to the Flood Tide ability and the propensity for Tammael to revive. It is highly meta dependent though but for 2 glory, it may be worth trying.
Dead or Doomed: I think Annihilation style cards are bad. I like the idea of being able to manipulate a big score via positioning and pushes but this card will slow down your hand and potentially lead to a hand brick.
Guardians of the Deep: There are a lot of warbands that want to be in your territory and this warband, despite being hyper mobile and aggressive, doesn’t seem to be able to stop that from happening consistently due to their lower damage output.
Merciless Raiders: This is a faction Brought to Bay in a way, so you could build a surge deck that helps you score multiple cards in a single activation. The warband looks to be designed aggressively as well so it lines up.
Smothered Memories: There are some faction cards that work with this but I’m not sure if your opponent will ever discard cards which could deny you this score, and potentially brick your hand. However, if To the End continues to be popular then its supporting pieces (Frenzied Search, Crown of the Dead, etc.) can also trigger this effect as they require cards to be discarded. Honestly, I am not sure on how effective this will be.
Soul Raiders: There would be some metas where this could be great but in this meta, not too great. Certainly doable if you commit to it though.
Speed of the Flood Tide: Not a bad card as you can score this quite reliably, especially with the help of gambits. Because the Spinefish can count towards this, it seems more likely despite the low wound count.
Surging Tide: Faction reprint of Longstrider and Burst of Speed; a great card due to the Flood Tide ability. It cannot be scored in the second round outside of upgrades which balances it out.
Taker of Souls: So I generally avoid cards that rely on your leader to get eliminations, like Run Down with Skaeth, but with this warband I like it. Elathain is your most powerful fighter and is essential to bringing Tammael back. Keep in mind, there will be games in which Elathain goes down early so there is risk.
Tides of Death: Pretty easy to do but the low wound count could be concerning. Flood Tide does help you overcome poor board setups, too. A doable objective, but not one that excites me.
Unseen Malice: this is an easier version of Unafraid – though you also get half the glory for it. It is limited to Idoneth, and Fuirann and Tammael are only at 3 wounds. Tammael can come back though so this could be reliable enough. I find it to be scorable and okay but nothing to write home about.
Utter Isolation: I love this card, this is Alone if the Darkness reborn which ended up getting restricted back in the day. This is an auto-include for this warband because more often than not, you’ll score this quite easily. Pushes also help to score it.
Brain Barnacles: If someone is 3 hexes away, I am not sure if I care if they are -1 move. The other effect isn’t worth it on a card alone.
Chill Mist: If this was the whole round, or at least persisting, I would consider it. That being said, I am not a fan of this one.
Cloud of Midnight: This is pretty good, seems pretty solid to me. For an activation, a friendly fighter is invincible and could potentially counter some buffs your opponent might be using in the power step.
Crushing Pressure: This is interesting, I feel like it begs the question: “Is it worth taking a card in your deck that takes up a slot that does something but then your opponent can give up any gambit or upgrade they want to deny it?” Personally, I am not sure if it is worth taking. I suppose taking Smothered Memories makes you consider this. It is also matchup dependent as it can lock down big and powerful fighters. I also feel like in that situation, your opponent would discard a card if the timing was important.
Forgotten Nightmares: This is one of those cards that can be a bit more of a win if you have the Spinefish online, especially against ranged enemies. The weakness of it is they setup denies the option of a second target. Obviously the best redirect is to the Spinefish, but Tammael can be a decent back up given the fact that he can come back. Even Duinclaw isn’t a bad option, thanks to Scuttle, as he is 2 block. Also, if your opponent thinks your are trying to score Smothered Memories, then they might not discard anything so this makes it more of a guarantee to save someone, in theory.
Fury of the Storm: Because you have to wait till the third round, and your opponent can potentially stop it, I’m not sure if you take this. If you draw it early, you probably toss it too. I guess potentially making an opponent throw away 2 cards is detrimental to them, possibly. Your opponent also might think that inspiring your fighters is less powerful (as your warband becomes less mobile and outside of Elathain and Fuirann, you don’t gain much) to potentially deny you a score via Smothered Memories. I think Jonathan and I pretty split on it but I feel like some opponents will happily drop two cards to deny you a surge score and potentially brick your hand.
Phantasmal Forms: This is pretty neat as it can boost a friendly fighter’s defense through the roof. Pop this at the end of the first round which helps your fighter make it to round 2 – then they go off with their inspired profile. Or just save try to save a fighter in a pinch if you have a feeling they might go down soon.
Shifting Currents: If you are trying to score via holding surge objectives or trying to get the Spinefin online quickly, this could be a good card. You can play this in your opponent’s power step, play this, then you have your fish online which then allows you to use the gambits of your choice – poisons, etc.
Spinefin Toxin: A faction poison card! Dealing a damage and prohibiting an enemy fighter from holding objectives is pretty powerful. The anti-guard and anti-range stuff is also situationally neat. Solid card and one that you’ll get off often especially since 90% of the time, opponents will ignore your fish. Takes a bit of planning though.
Terrornight Venom: I think the question with this card is how early in the round can you apply it. You could do some nifty setup with the Spinefin, but I am also not sure if it is better than Determined Effort. Unless you are trying to score Master of Poisons, not sure if you’ll take this one. It really isn’t a bad card though.
Armour of the Cythati: -1 dice from adjacent fighters is pretty solid. This helps Elathain and Tammael’s survivability go through the roof. I’m a fan.
Born from Agony: Very good card. +1 wounds on any of your Idoneth fighters is always welcome. Ignoring damage from lethals is icing on the cake.
Ethersea Predator: It is a super cool design. You could probably put Duinclaw in positions where this might trigger but it being only restricted to our crustacean friend makes it hard to use. I see the additional incentive via Ensnare as well but unfortunately it is not enough.
Hunter of Souls: Having the wounded fighter requisite does limit this card to the point where I think Great Strength, Sting of the Ur-Grub, Feral Symbiote, and Gloryseeker are probably better. If those aren’t available for whatever reason or you are playing Vanguard, then I think this could be worth it. The thing is, these guys need the damage so you’re going to be taking it in droves.
Lurelight: Very cool card, very cool design. Even if you aren’t planning to score Smothered Memories, this card is probably an auto-include. I am sure at some point this has diminishing returns in terms of the discarded power cards but having the option is pretty neat. Win-win either way, right? The adjacent limitation holds this back though but not by much. This probably goes on Elathain anyways.
Martial Excellence: From an effect perspective, this isn’t a bad card. If anything, you’ll be either charging with Fuirann or she will be out of action. Personally, I am not sure if I want to invest into her much as I view Tammael and Elathain to provide a better return.
Sanguine Pearl: Great card, you’ll probably pop this on your leader. Important thing to note is that this reduces damage from adjacent enemy attack actions – the range of the weapon doesn’t matter. Plus, a lot of the Direchasm warbands tend to be range 1 centric.
Soulbond: I like this card because supports are nice. You probably only take it if you are planning to heavily invest in both Elathain and Tammael. Elathain is going to be your opponent’s primary target though, so it might not be worth it if he goes down early. This also helps towards scoring Unseen Menace.
Unstoppable Fury: Seems pretty good. Any warband that has this kind of card generally includes it in. You are going to charge a lot with these guys and accuracy is nice.
Voltane Eel: The attack action isn’t much different from Elathain’s own ranged attack action. Technically it is “better” but it is not worth an upgrade slot. Redundant.
One thing about this warband is that there is no clear cut answer on how to play them correctly. With that being said, I think they do play quite similarly to Wild Hunt. You start things off a but slow, score some glory, and then go into a strong round 2. I think these guys probably have a better round 2 than most warbands since they become so accurate. The speed package seems like a nice option for them too. You will need damage though, so pack as many ping damage and strength inducing cards as you can.
In terms of cards, there are 3 objectives that really stand out to me: Utter Isolation, Merciless Raiders, and Surging Tide. Aside from those, I do think there are a couple more that are worth considering but their inclusion definitely relies on personal preference and meta.
For gambits, I feel like this is where things get tricky. The cards aren’t bad per say, they just require deliberate inclusion. What I mean by that is that their gambits will help you accomplish specific tasks but might struggle if taken just generally. Again this is where that finesse comes in – mess with the opponent via discards, however unlikely, and cool defensive tech. Interestingly, I find this is a warband where you might not take any faction gambits and I don’t think thats a bad thing.
Touching on upgrades, I think they’ve got a solid pool. Born from Agony, Armor of Cythai, Sanguine Pearl, and Lurelight seem like great cards and will probably be seen often as you’ll probably want to stack them on Elathain or Tammael.
Overall, I think Elathain is a great fighter, Tammael has a neat come back mechanic which could be potentially quite powerful, Flood Tide is awesome, Fuirann can be an early threat, Duinclaw is a respectable fighter and quite tanky, and the Spinefish allows for a lot of technical options.
Again, I do have to stress that these guys are definitely better than what first impressions are dictating. Some people are quite literally judging this warband by their cover and quickly assuming that they aren’t good. While in the past players may have been right about Morgwaeth’s Blade-Coven, they’ve been wrong about The Wurmspat, Grashrak’s Despoilers, Eyes of the Nine, and the Dread Pageant.
I think a lack of obvious play style doesn’t mean they aren’t good. What that means instead is that this warband requires finesse and will be hard to play. You’ll probably need a lot of practice, lose a couple games at the start, and change your deck a bunch of times. Even then, you might struggle. However, you will eventually figure it out if you commit the time and energy.
Furthermore, nothing really competes with the bonkers Mollog and Krushas decks right now. Remove them from the equation and these guys can potentially go toe-to-toe with the rest of the warbands. Again, I find them to be quite comparable to the Wild Hunt in terms of composition and potential intended play style. In this meta, I’m not going to say they’ll make the biggest splash but dedicated pilots will find success with them and take their opponents by surprise.
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 set. If you prefer to shop online, check this out here on Saturday. I hope you enjoy your getting some games in with this warband.
As always, best of luck on YOUR Path to Glory.