Happy product release, data fans! Who’s ready for some QuEsTiOnAbLe OpInIoNs??? I got um so let’s fire off some hot and spicy takes! These have been ready for you for a bit, but I wanted to give everyone a minute to consume the podcast avalanche.
First I will say I really enjoy the design of all 4 of these captains. I think gamers often find themselves caught up in self-imposed restrictions like color pie, design space, etc. For better for worse we like rules and the things which follow them. The reason I enjoy these designs isn’t because they break the rules, but rather they show us design space we didn’t even know existed. Most of these captains don’t fall on the existing binary spectrum. Rather they create their own third axis in a way I find refreshing. The fact we’ve transcended a linear choice is really encouraging and shows me Jamie and crew have so much space left to explore. So yeah, I hope you’re enjoying them as much as I am. Let’s go!
Alright. This might be the hardest captain to evaluate in the history of guild ball. Aside from an average MOV her stats are abysmal, which isn’t particularly unusual for a mortician, but the game plan to victory feels initially unclear to me.
Her positional tag of Coach shows us she really leaves most of the work to the squaddies which is absolutely reflected in her rules. Morn is certainly not going to be the one to get you a ton of output personally. Even if she throws Malice on herself she’s only up to a tac 5 with 3 remaining swings. That doesn’t even reliably hit the momentous 2 damage against most stat lines. Quick time puts her up to an independent 16” goal threat, which isn’t too bad for a mortician, but don’t count on her generating her own momentum.
Ultimately it’s all about the team support. Placing Malice on a model like Pelage or Graves really amps up those model’s playbook choices. Ghast is going to nail the 2 damage knock down against most stat lines. Graves is much more likely to hit his scything blow, and Errata’d Pelage becomes an absolute monster under Mourn. Plus you’ve got a free Confidence within 6” so when you miss that crucial KD on the first pass, you’re going to hit it on the second roll most likely. Just as an example – A charging Ghast is going to wrap to a double momentous KD / Unmaking 64% of the time here.
On the defensive side Mourn really poses a lot of interesting questions. First, the main showstopper Grave Candle, makes sure the offensive buffs stay put as you won’t be able to remove a model from the pitch. This might be one of the wackiest new GB rules we’ve seen in some time. It’s hard to predict how this is going to work, but imagine your Pelages in this aura. Yeah you can come in on them, but you’re not going to nullify their influence. They’re gonna swing back buffed. You’re really going to have to calculate it if is worth the trade. Even if you tie on VPs the non-mortician is down on board state. Hollowed, granting empathy, means fighting these guys might be an entirely futile effort. Honour and Rage players will certainly appreciate Quick time’s ability to make on the fly positional corrections/extractions. So what do you do here? Kill Mourn? Welp… Grave Candle works on her too so I am not sure what that accomplishes. In fact I’m really surprised to see that ability not read “other friendly” because it seems like there’s not a great way to answer Mourn’s defense bubble outside of extreme repositions like Drag or Howzat.
I suppose the opportunity cost to Mourn is losing the explosive game plans brought by the other captains. You’re going to have to rely on squaddie set up, and sometimes, you just don’t have the luxury to active a support model first. Even though Obulus is not exactly proactive, he still creates massive tempo swings once or twice a game. While mid-table players will be able to wield Scalpel, I really doubt anyone without a high degree of positional wherewithal will gravitate towards success with Mourn. Scalpel is still incredibly strong and I believe, overall, Guild Ball favors the proactive. That said I think Grave Candle is such an over-forgiving ability it might allow for less skilled players’ mistakes to go unpunished.
List Idea: Mourn, Dirge, Pelage, Graves, Casket, Ghast. Punch things and never die.
Let’s hop to the Trap Queen for a second here. Disclaimer, I am even less of a hunter player than I am a Mortician player, but I still think I can provide some insight.
So kinda like Mourn Steeljaw highlights a third axis we didn’t even know was there. Theron brings solid control along with a respectable ranged game. Skatha takes the team to breakneck speeds with a splash of goal scoring. Steeljaw obviously cranks the Trap game to 11. I’m glad to see it too because I felt like with the general exit of Jaecar from lists, as well as the slight retool, traps were becoming kind of secondary to the Hunter’s game plan. I’m not sure we see much of Chaska anymore, but I expect traps may compete heavily with Theron for those running a control game.
Based on stats alone Steeljaw does not feel immediately powerful. Basically her stat line is right at average all the way around. Her playbook isn’t really screaming damage at first glance either. Her KD isn’t exactly accessible. Jogging and hitting the Bait on the second column doesn’t feel particularly great due to risk of counterattacks on 1” reach. I suppose it grants you a bit of extra threat since you don’t necessarily have to base to base your enemy. You’ll engage at 1” away then push them towards you into the trap. Basically just watch out for anyone with a 2” disengage.
So what about these traps huh? Well She is affected by her own ‘Bring them Down’ so she’s getting a freebie. Bait gives her an extra 2 as well, one of which is almost certainly consumed immediately. Expert Trapper is really the name of the game here. Not only are her own traps super, but everyone on the whole team gets crazy traps. Unless a model is already suffering weak point, or is near death, I expect weak point to be the selection the majority of the time. These traps are pretty debilitating… Hitting -1 DEF from snared in addition to -1 ARM from weak point is serious. Math time:
Seenah throwing 3 vanilla swings at a 4+/1 under normal conditions yields about 7 or 8 damage on average. Seenah throwing 3 vanilla swings at a 4+/1 hit by a Steeljaw trap yields three maulings or 18 single target damage…
Yeah, she and the bear super get along. It seems to me a post-nerf bear under Steeljaw should be just about as effective as a pre-nerf bear under Theron. Hey at least there’s no bleed. Oh wait, you got it from one of the million traps on the field.
She’s got some other toolbox stuff as well like Disarm. I’m not sold Steeljaw is going to use this that much. Maybe good for a counterattack, but she’s got a solid Push/Dodge on 2 anyway. I think the legendary will really throw people for a loop, cutting off lanes they may have previously planned to use.
For all her neat tech though, I am not convinced she sees more, or even equal, play as Theron and Skatha. Skatha loses some power in her squaddies, but as of posting she’s at 58% win rate. She’s even thumping Scalpel 65% of the time. Theron isn’t too shabby either. I still think you will want Skatha’s pressure. Steeljaw probably gives Theron a run for his money, but I’m not sold cutting off lanes with crazy traps is better than Straight up dictating straight line movement.
List Idea: Steeljaw, Fahad, Zarola, Seenah, Vet Minx, Minerva. 100 acre woods.
This one might take a minute. You might want to take this opportunity to rest your eyes, grab a refill on your coffee. Maybe use the restroom. Ok? Ok.
Let me paint you a picture. It’s January 2018. The world champion was just crowned using models he painted literal days beforehand. People wanted a nerf before he even hit the shelf. The farmer’s second box just hit retail release unleashing Thresher and Crew on the world. About one in seven Guild Ballers were dropping him at his peak and we experienced the, still unmatched, highest monthly win rate in the history of longshanks by SEVERAL percentage points.
Welp, buckle up, because here we go again.
This time though we’re introducing an incredibly powerful captain to the faction which is already one of the most popular most played guilds in the game. Mark it down. I fully anticipate the victory index is going to see a 20%+ slice for butchers in coming months. This season is going to be about either playing or solving Vet Boar. Most solvers will fail.
Let’s take a look at why I feel this way. First, what do I think is strong but ok?
Skipping to the back of the card we see the Boar mainstays of Berserk and Furious. We’re looking at up to six TAC 8 attacks. Standard Boar stuff so far right? Well… He is a captain on the butchers so of course he has some dope auras. Blood Lust allows for a squaddie to achieve captain level output. Specifically this is going to be someone like Shank or maybe Vet Gutter. Blood lust is a pretty ludicrous ability and his legendary is obviously strong as well. To compare to Ox I think Boar’s auras are stronger situationally, but less general. Chop Chop is probably only better than get um lads if you can pull off more than one, maybe more than two, furious charges. Basically you’re trading a few strong attacks versus +1 DMG -1 ARM on your entire team’s turn. Same goes with Blood Lust. For example, Shank is taking presumably 6 attacks instead of 4. Each of those attacks is likely granting you 2 or 3 damage along with the momentum that comes with it. I think we can reasonably call Blood Lust worth 6 damage and 2 momentum. So compare that to Ox. You’re missing out of the extra Momentum, but if you can benefit from owner about 6 times you come out reasonably equal.
That said, Blood Lust is point and click where Ox requires strong fundamental positional play. Boar’s team support, simply put, is less skill intensive. Boar, along with the new cooks, also open up a new playstyle for Butchers – The Missile. Imagine you’ve got a Tooled up & Hot plated, Baked Shank with 4 influence. He spends his 1 for the blood lust. He now threatens 12”and is coming in for roughly 19 damage on a 4+/1. If he’s gotta WDTG he’s still gonna pump in a tidy 13 while reaching 16” away. That’s touching the enemy deployment, plus if he’s kicking off he’ll go way past that. I am predicting this will be the new widely seen butcher opener.
I don’t particularly have a problem with any of the back of Vboar’s card. It’s really good, but I don’t think it is so much crazier than things which already exist. Where I get concerned is the front, more specifically, his personal damage capacity and it’s connected efficiency. Rather than type this all out I’ll throw in a chart. Here are boar’s likely outcomes when he gets to Charge against common stat lines:
I won’t get into the super nitty gritty here, but basically Vet Boar is going to take the KD if you counter attack. If you def stance or not he is looking for his first swing to be the 4 damage GB result. If he can’t hit that he is absolutely going to hit the 1 damage GB result. He’ll usually take the stagger with damage, then the singled out with damage. From there it’s all aboard momentous 5s and 6s regardless of your stat line. The real problem is the easily accessible combined damage results which making the follow up attacks even stronger. Honestly, I thought we would have learned our lesson on that:
Ok fine. So he does a billion damage. That’s what butchers are supposed to do right? At least his defense is weak and he only threatens 9 right? I’ve heard some early talk of “he’s not that bad, you just control/kill him”. I believe herein lies the second part of the problem. Vet boar is an unprecedented 4/2 stat line. He will usually take his max 2, but he’s certainly still reasonable even at 0 influence. Kill or Control the big man? Well you’ve still got a bunch of fully loaded murder-babies to deal with. Listen, I’ve gotten really good at overexposing Ox in my last 4 months of Butcher training. Even when the captain is dead Butchers are still strong stand alone squaddies.
Anywho, Welcome to Ball vs Boar of Education. If I had to make a hot-tweak-call early I would drop the 4 damage GB result, or at least move it up above the last column. I just feel like that result is too reliable and it all cascades down from there. I’d also like to see him on par with Vet Rage’s influence generation, granted he gets so much for free. Simply put I think he just makes things EZ mode. You can’t throw out highest in game damage with great team support with great efficiency. Something’s gotta give.
List Idea: Vet Boar, Princess, Shank, Vox, Meathook, Cinnamon. Shank Missile.
First just let me say – yay for diversity! It’s really awesome the dev team is showing some love for the non-binary folks out there. Let’s be frank, the majority of us in the war gaming community are straight white guys, so maybe it doesn’t matter to you that this exists, but it matters to someone. Personal note: My family is multiracial so I can attest to the fact it can mean the world for an individual in a minority group to see representation in their favorite franchises. Great job Steamforged. On the other side of the coin this is a new, or at least novel, concept to many people. So as long as they aren’t being an ass, be gentle with others on the corrections on the pronouns. I know I will probably make a mistake here and there. General rule of thumb: Just no one make anyone feel junky? Good!
Ok social commentary aside let’s have a gander at our new fishy!
I feel like Yukai is what happens when all the supporting fish Voltron themselves into a captain. You’ve got Hag dodges. You’ve got Vsiren ball retrieval. You’ve got sharky/corsairy movement shenanigans. Yukai really is something incredibly new and I didn’t even know that was possible in fish. I love it.
Starting with the back of the card we see how SFG actually made a model like Angel worth playing. Yukai, like Shark, will want to win fast. A slow drawn out game will invite only death at the hands of the more patient guilds. They do it almost entirely with team support though. Last Catch might be one of the most fundamentally broken things in the game, but it is possible it is being over estimated. I still think a player with good positional fundamentals is going to understand how to prevent this from being used effectively. Yukai kind of becomes a victim to their own success in this way. It’s like an arms race. Crazy ball play only drives more people to learn how to kill the ball in new creative manners. Good players will already be competent here, but Yukai is going to certainly punish people for a while. Without the legendary, though, I think Last catch falls apart a little bit. Cormorant is really what ties it together. It allows Yukai to make these wacky plays inside their own activation, uninterrupted, which is what I believe is Yukai’s true power. Honestly I think you’ll find Cormorant going off turn 1 more often than not.
When I saw Yukai a few weeks ago this was my first instinct of how to abuse their powers:
I am going to reveal my Turn 1 secret sauce that I am sure many people have already thought of. Non-Fish players feel free just to skip this and go back and re-read me crying about boar 😉
- Be Receiving. Get at least 1 Momentum from a pass.
- End with Angel going 2nd to last and possessing the ball.
- Angel throws up supershot and maybe nimble if you can spare the influence. She then passes the ball to Yukai who makes a 4” or so dodge up field. Try to make sure the enemy cannot threaten Yukai.
- <<enemy activates>>
- Yukai activates, Cormorant Angel 10” from the enemy goal
- Pass to Angel who Snapshots, scoring 81.3% of the time.
- <<<enemy kicks the ball out>>>
- if it scatters anywhere in the bubbles surrounding yukai (pretty likely) you’re in business.
- Yukai Sprints and using swirling waters on their self if needed
- Yukai uses Break the surface on the ball
- If they didn’t need swirling waters Yukai can use break the surface on an enemy ball holder in the dark red and then try to tackle them on 1.
- Pass Angel the ball and snapshot again!
I’m sure there is even crazier jank than this, and I believe the name of the game for high level Yukai play is going to entail using squaddies like Vsiren on the flanks to cover the areas Yukai can’t access.
Yukai’s own output, while serviceable, is not particularly impressive for a Fish. They’ve got an ok amount of movement, 10” with 2” reach for 2 influence. They’ve got an ok 4/6” kick. Def 5 is nice but 14 boxes is certainly on the weak side. The playbook is kinda sad at Tac 5. The tackle is good, and swirling waters is a nifty counter attack, but it’s not exactly reliable against most stat lines. They’re an ok threat on goal but nothing to write home about.
Personally, and call me old school, I think I will prefer Shark for this reason. While ol Shark’s card might be showing it’s age a little I think I simply prefer a more proactive captain. Actually, if Shark was released today I am pretty sure people would lose their shit. One thing I think some folks are underselling is Shark still has the ability to straight nullify influence with Caught in the net. Yukai’s counter attack is kinda junk and they have next to no defensive tech. Ultimately it’s all about staying back, out of the way, letting the squaddies do the work.
Initially I thought Yukai would appreciate some of the more greedy squaddies on the team. They really don’t need a ton of influence personally. You simply cannot drop Angel and Fathom here. After that I think the list building can be more or less to your personal taste. I think Vsiren and Yukai together go a long way towards keeping balls out of weird spots, each covering once side of the pitch. Here’s my initial thoughts at a basic 6.
List Idea: Yukai, Tentacles, Fathom, Angel, Vsiren, Greyscales. That’s my ball.
Overall I am very impressed by the steamforged’s design team’s ability to push the envelope of what the captains can be, while also retaining their guild character. I believe these captains are already a huge hit, and while I am a little worried Boar might be a little too nutty, I think some tools exist to keep him in check. I also think Yukai has about a 10% chance to outright break the game if someone can crack a play or two.
This are my tier rankings for how I envision the Season 4.1 win rates will shake out. This has been a long article, so I won’t get into the whys of this right now, but come May/June we’ll take a look back and see how we’re doing.
Anyways, thanks as always for reading. Sometimes I wonder if Long form opinion is better left to the audio folks, but maybe reading is nice occasionally. I hope you thought it was valuable. Let me know what you’re excited about! What do you think will be strong in Season 4.1? Happy captaining!