Hello, and welcome to a primer based on my experience with Elathain’s Soulraid so far. The discussion below is based on the experience I have had with the warband thusfar – this includes a Vanguard event over the weekend which I won, as well as a significant number of games in the Championship format since the release of the warband. My hope with this article is to go over some interesting ideas you can consider when building decks for both the Vanguard and Championship format. I’m not saying that this is the only way to play the Deepkin – in fact I think there may be some unique decks that could take advantage of their movement mechanics even more. However, this deck rationale is what I arrived at, and it served me well in both the Vanguard event and within my Championship games. It leverages simple, easy to score surges while minimising reliance on either killing enemy fighters or reacting to specific actions by your opponent.
First, a bit about me. I’m a Shadespire/Nightvault player who returned to Underworlds with the release of Direchasm. Since then, and due to some favourable conditions in our city and country which have helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19, we’ve been able to hold double digit in-person practice sessions weekly as well as regular tournaments in multiple formats, to which I’ve attended as many as possible. When I’m not playing in events, you may find me playing on the Tabletop Sydney channel.
Approach in Vanguard
The deck that I piloted to the win over the weekend can be found here.
Why does this approach work?
Simply put, this approach to the Soulraid works because it combines consistent, easy to score glory that isn’t super reliant on your opponent, with a solid upgrade package aimed at shoring up some of the weaknesses in the fighter cards.
The objective package here combines easy to score surges with some consistent end phase scoring cards that leverage the fighter numbers and mobility of the Soulraid. For the surges, we take [Speed of the Flood Tide], [Surging Tide], [Everything to Prove], [Moment of Glory], [Surge of Aggression] and [Winged Death].
The two faction surges, Speed of the Flood Tide and Surging Tide, are absolute staples for the warband. Speed of the Flood Tide is faction [Show of Force], and due to the deployment of the fish and the push of the crab, can be fairly consistently scored by the end of your or your opponent’s second activation depending on fish positioning. Surging Tide is easy to score in Round 1 and 3. It can be a little awkward when you hit it during Round 2, but you can usually afford to hold onto it to score it immediately in activations 1 and 2 of Round 3.
Everything to Prove and Surge of Aggression leverage the ability to gain Primacy in the deck from More Muscle, Claim to Domination and Proud Runner as well as providing some contingency for when Tammael is inevitably killed. Being able to pick up a glory at surge speed when an opponent gains the primacy is huge, and I can see this card going in a lot of decks to score both conditions. As we’ll see in the championship deck, I rate this higher than Surge of Aggression in a lot of warbands.
Finally, Moment of Glory and Winged Death are both solid surges for the Soulraid. Moment of Glory is guaranteed to be scored Round 2. It can be uncomfortable drawing this in Round 3, especially as your opponent is unlikely to let you re-inspire via [Fury of the Storm] (more on that later), but generally you can expect to either score this Round 2 or hold it from Round 1. Winged Death is achievable with Proud Runner on a fighter in Round 2, or on any fighter except the crab and fish via [Membranous Wings] or [Outrun Death].
Unseen Menace is a fairly standard 1 glory end phase card that you can usually score with a little bit of positioning. Often you’ll score this off of Fuirann or Elathain supporting one another, but it can be possible to use Tammael’s Riptide ability to push them back within 2, following up with a charge or move with another Idoneth to score this. It is still positioning reliant, so you do need to consider it more explicitly when activating your fighters.
Intimidating Display, Bold Deeds and Dominant Display are all related to moving into enemy territory. Intimidating Display has no additional conditions, and as such is the simplest to score. Bold Deeds can be harder to score depending on the match up you are playing, as it’s unlikely that you will kill two of the more survivable fighters in warbands such as Crimson Court within one round, but usually you can score this from Round 2 onwards. In some matchups such as Kainan’s Reapers and Starblood Stalkers, you may end up scoring this Round 1. In the Vanguard event, in my games against Kyle’s Starblood Stalkers, I scored Bold Deeds in my first game in Round 1 and would have scored it Round 1 in the second game had I not been pushed out of his territory in the last activation. Dominant Display’s first condition is easy enough with the Soulraid, but we need to take some additional cards to ensure we can guarantee the second condition, so you need to be mindful of that. Again, in some matchups, you may get primacy natively for killing some fighters, which makes this a little easier.
Finally, we have Proud Commander and Underdog. Proud Commander, despite being third end phase, is a very consistently scoring card. I scored this in every game I played over the weekend, on either condition. Because you have 6 very scoreable surges, the likelihood of you scoring the 7 objective condition is extremely high. In a lot of games, once you get your upgrades going on Elathain, he will be one of the few fighters remaining, and will almost certainly be in enemy territory, meaning you can score this condition as well. As it is third end phase, you do need to be mindful of when you draw it, and as such when you need to discard it depending on the speed and aggression of the match up you’re playing. Underdog is a great card for most warbands, but because several of the Soulraid fighters start at 3 wounds, they can feasibly be one shot by some fighters – even in Vanguard (such as [Khagra] or [Klaq-trok]), so it makes it a good contingency objective to have.
The gambits here are all supporting our various objectives, with a few additional pieces of disruption. One thing to note is that while I did include [Shifting Currents] in the deck for the event, I would likely replace this with another utility gambit. While the effect of getting the fish down one round earlier can be useful in some contexts (it can accelerate Speed of the Flood Tide by a turn, for example), I don’t think it’s worth the gambit slot. I think that [Cloud of Midnight] will generally be a better use of that gambit slot, as it is very good in the early game for ensuring that Elathain survives to inspire.
In terms of faction gambits, we take [Fury of the Storm], [Phantasmal Forms] and [Shifting Currents]. The consensus on Fury of the Storm online is generally more contentious, but I felt that it was worth the inclusion in the deck. I will preface this with the fact no one allowed me stay inspired in Round 3 during the Vanguard event. However in several games, I took the first activation, played Fury of the Storm, and immediately caused my opponent to discard multiple upgrades that they were waiting to spend glory on. In this way, I think that the potential card/power advantage by denying upgrades is generally worth the slot. Phantasmal Forms is a great gambit that gives an opponent no good choices in terms of defensive profiles. Obviously it’s less helpful on the crab or inspired Fuirann but is fantastic at keeping Elathain alive or allowing Tammael to overstay his welcome in early rounds.
In terms of movement gambits, we take [Membranous Wings], [Outrun Death], [Heeded Instinct] and [Swarming Advance]. Membranous Wings and Outrun Death help support scoring Winged Death and ensuring you make it into enemy territory. Additionally, Outrun Death can give you a little extra value out of Heeded Instinct. It’s also worth noting that as Outrun Death is persistent for the round, if you have Flood Tide active, you can make two 6 hex moves, increasing its value further. Swarming Advance is great because we can leverage the fish’s positioning, usually deep in enemy territory, to push two fighters in the general direction of enemy territory.
In terms of primacy gambits, we take [More Muscle] and [Claim to Domination]. More Muscle may be harder to score in some matchups than others (I can see games against Kainan’s Reapers making this very hard to score, for example), but generally with the fish and the crab, you can turn this on more often than not. Claim to Domination is a delayed effect, but you can generally ensure you get this off with correct timing. Again, against Kainan’s Reapers it may be more difficult.
Finally, we have [Hypnotic Buzz] as a little bit of push tech. This is obviously much worse than [Distraction] or [Nightmare in the Shadows], but is the only real push card in Vanguard currently. You can usually get this off on most fighters due to the fish’s positioning or moving your other fighters.
The upgrade package here attempts to make up for the lower base damage on the Soulraid fighters, as well as providing some additional survivability. Damage is harder to come by in Vanguard, and it’s usually conditional, so we have to dip into a couple of subpar choices to ensure we have enough.
For wound upgrades, we have [Born From Agony] and [Scavenged Armour]. Born From Agony is a fantastic upgrade, as it allows you to be aggressive with lethal placements in enemy territory to take advantage of Tammael’s Riptide, but prevents that coming back to bite Elathain late game. Scavenged Armour is a slam dunk as you’ll spend the majority of the game in enemy territory, and the guard token is very useful especially on Elathain with his one defence.
For damage upgrades, we have [Hunter of Souls], [Feral Symbiote] and [Savage Strength]. Savage Strength is generally pretty rough with the warband, because even though Elathain is one defence normally, if you do play Phantasmal Forms, you go from the 3 Dodge given by Phantasmal Forms to 2 dodge. Hunter of Souls is a little inefficient but you can usually do one or two damage via lethals, damage from Tammael or even damage inflicted by Savage Agility to turn this on in later rounds. The likelihood of attacking significantly more than 3 times in a game after equipping Feral Symbiote is pretty low so the damage after 3 hunger counters isn’t too hard to work around, but if you are coming up against Crimson Court in a Bo3 and they are either deliberately or incidentally giving you hunger tokens, you may want to hold on this one (or give it to someone who won’t attack as much such as the crab).
For defensive upgrades, we have [Armour of the Cythai], [Sanguine Pearl] and [Savage Agility]. I classify Savage Agility as a defensive upgrade because when slapped on Fuirann or even Tammael, it does modify the equation when an opponent is deciding whether to attack you – this is especially true if Phantasmal Forms is active. Armour of the Cythai and Sanguine Pearl are both solid defensive upgrades, particularly in Vanguard as most significant damage is Range 1 anyway, so both of these will often be turned on.
Finally we have [Augmented Limbs], and [Proud Runner]. Augmented Limbs can be given to either Fuirann or Elathain (or the crab in a pinch), and makes them even more accurate. Particularly on Fuirann when uninspired, this helps take the 3 fury profile and make it a little more reliable. Proud Runner is there to turn on Winged Death in Round 2, but primarily to get primacy for Surge of Aggression and Dominant Display. It’s worth noting that Proud Runner can get you the primacy multiple times in Rounds 1 and 3 thanks to Flood Tide, something that your opponents may forget – they did in my games.
How the deck plays
As alluded to in the introduction, the primary goal and way of scoring for this deck is to get in enemy territory and stay there. Your early activations will usually involve charging Tammael, going for either an early kill or a good amount of damage on a key fighter. You can also overextend him if you can get away with it, This will usually be followed up by a secondary fighter like Fuirann. By that time, the crab should be close by thanks to his reaction. I usually deploy the crab close to the front of the board, ensuring you can get him into enemy territory without being forced to use an activation to move him – Swarming Advance can really help here. You should be deploying the fish as soon as possible. If you can do it in a way that provides additional supports then you can, but you want to make sure that it’s inefficient for your opponent to block the deployment of the fish. This will usually be the case, but its better to go to a further / less important hex to guarantee it than putting the fish in a fighter-dense area to try for the support. The quicker you deploy the fish, the quicker you can score surges such as Speed of the Flood Tide. At this point, you’re trying to ensure additional conditions for some of your end phase cards, such as Dominant Display or Bold Deeds. During Round 1, you need to be a little bit more cagey with Elathain, but you do need to move him up. Your early glory can fuel upgrades on Elathain, both damage and defensive to prepare him for Round 2.
Round 2 is where you want to make the most of your inspiration bonuses. If Tammael survived Round 1, you’re looking at several attacks with ensnare from both Elathain and Tammael. Combined with Elathain’s cleave, these dramatically increase your odds of getting kills. If Tammael has died, it’s usually here that Elathain can guarantee a kill to bring him back. You do need to be mindful of bringing back Tammael in your last activation, as he has to be brought back in a starting hex in your territory, which can brick some of your objectives. I usually try to make my attacks earlier with Elathain to ensure I can both bring Tammael back and get him into enemy territory before scoring.
Heading into Round 3, several fighters are likely down, and its really about holding on. Scoring any remaining surges you may have if possible, and waiting it out to score cards like Proud Commander. At this point, you’re more likely to be trying to deny the opponent’s scoring than doing anything more to guarantee your own.
An example hand
Let’s take the following simulated draw of the deck and talk through it.
This hand shows off a little bit of everything, and emphasises how you need to play to your hand. As you have Dominant Display, you will want to use your fighters’ abilities (such as the crab’s push) to guarantee that you can fire off More Muscle to grab the primacy, ideally in the last power step. You should be guaranteed to score Intimidating Display. With Speed of the Flood Tide, as you have Shifting Currents, you’re likely scoring this after second activation. Let’s draw another card and see what it is:
So we can’t score this till Round 2. But we’re hopefully going into end phase with 5 glory (1 spent from the primacy, 1 from the surge, and 3 from the end phases). That’s a good start, and holding up Moment of Glory means a guaranteed glory after the first activation in Round 2.
Obviously this is an academic exercise and doesn’t accurately reflect how games of Underworlds play out, but the point is to illustrate that while the deck’s glory is easy, you do still need to play to your draw and adjust your approach to your activations accordingly. The general theme of “get in the enemy territory” usually holds true, but you may have to play with a little finesse to ensure your objectives can be scored.
Approach in Championship – Levelling Up
In taking the lessons learnt in the Vanguard event and the options available in deckbuilding by moving to Championship, we can create a powered up version of the same approach that we used in the Vanguard deck.
The Championship version of this deck essentially levels up the card selection highlighted in the Vanguard deck, and replaces the only kill-reliant end phase objective, Bold Deeds, with the consistently scoreable [Aggressive Strategy] . Because the surge package is consistent, doesn’t rely on dice rolls and also doesn’t rely on your opponent, you can score this in most of your games, provided your objective deck’s ordering is kind. In addition, we replace [Unseen Menace] with [Master of Battle]. Master of Battle is extremely scoreable with the Soulraid, particularly Round 1 and 3, as superactions such as charges count as two actions for this purpose. So moving and charging any of the Idoneth will fulfill the conditions for Master of Battle. Alternatively in Round 2, with good positioning, you’ll be hoping to get at least 2 attacks (an attack and a charge) with Elathain to maximise his damage output while inspired, so this will likely be scoreable then also.
In terms of surges, we’ve replaced Surge of Aggression and Winged Death with [Show of Force] and [Gathered Momentum]. Replacing Surge of Aggression seems odd with how the deck plays, but it is probably the hardest surge to score out of the 6 we now have, and we do have Everything to Prove which can pull double duty as Surge thanks to Outrun Death and [Strength of Terror] (more on that shortly). If you are finding that Moment of Glory is too inconsistent for you, I think that Surge of Aggression would be the first thing you sub in to the surge package.
The only other change to the objective deck is replacing Proud Commander with [Conquest]. The same logic applies as Proud Commander – this is a guaranteed 2 glory that may slow your hand down. If you find it too awkward to manage drawing/keeping this, then I would recommend potentially reintroducing [Bold Deeds]. However, this is a card that you can always score with the fish, even when tabled, making it extremely consistent.
The gambits are largely the same, with the inefficient Vanguard only cards replaced with higher powered alternatives. Membranous Wings is replaced with [Spectral Wings], and Hypnotic Buzz is replaced with [Distraction]. We sub in [Cloud of Midnight], replacing Shifting Currents. This is particularly useful in aggressive matchups such as Mollog where they will usually beeline to Elathain. Finally, we drop More Muscle for [Buried Instinct]. This is more of a personal preference – I like to put Buried Instinct in almost every deck due to the prevalence of quarry upgrades, and in this case the Soulraid having a lot of 2 defence fighters. As we don’t have Surge of Aggression we’re less beholden to getting Primacy outside of Dominant Display, which Claim to Domination and Proud Runner should be able to handle.
Finally, the upgrades are again just replacing Vanguard cards with better Championship cards. Augmented Limbs becomes [Strength of Terror], Feral Symbiote and Hunter of Souls are replaced with [Gloryseeker] and [Great Strength]. Savage Agility is replaced with [Great Fortitude], but you could easily keep Savage Agility if you prefer the additional ancillary damage.
And that’s the Championship deck. As said earlier, this is an evolution rather than a revolution. The objectives are tightened up to be easier to score without interaction with the opponent, and the gambits and upgrades are improved to be less conditional and more flexible.
As I said in the introduction, this is definitely not the only way to play this warband. While I think the shell of objectives is close to optimal considering the fighters’ attributes and abilities, there may be some other cards that you can consider – I know that many people like [Utter Isolation] for the warband. Additionally, I think the gambits and upgrades are very flexible – you could swap out almost any of them and still have the deck operate in a similar fashion. A fellow Tabletop Sydney player, Kent, modified this shell and introduced more poison gambits, such as [Leadbone Dust], and has seen some good success with it. While I don’t think the Spinefish poisons are worth taking due to their restrictions, other poisons may definitely be worthwhile, as both the fish and your other fighters (such as the crab after his reaction) can be good delivery mechanisms.
Despite some initial criticism of the power level of this warband, I think the Soulraid have a very strong game plan, particularly in light of a kill-heavy meta. The easy to score surges combined with good fighter card rules such as Flood Tide allow for some interesting strategies that aren’t dependent on your opponent to complete. As a result, you can approach each game with more consistency in your approach, as it isn’t as kill or dice reliant as some other aggressive warbands. The increased damage in Championship is something to look out for, but good usage of your defensive gambits and effective use of your upgrades should allow you to stay alive through Round 3.