Elathain's Soulraid - by Craig

Elathain’s Soulraid – An Early Primer

Introduction

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.

Objectives

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 [whu card type image iconSpeed of the Flood Tide]Speed of the Flood Tide card image - hover, [whu card type image iconSurging Tide]Surging Tide card image - hover, [whu card type image iconEverything to Prove]Everything to Prove card image - hover, [whu card type image iconMoment of Glory]Moment of Glory card image - hover, [whu card type image iconSurge of Aggression]Surge of Aggression card image - hover and [whu card type image iconWinged Death]Winged Death card image - hover.

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 [whu card type image iconShow of Force]Show of Force card image - hover, 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 [whu card type image iconFury of the Storm]Fury of the Storm card image - hover (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 [whu card type image iconMembranous Wings]Membranous Wings card image - hover or [whu card type image iconOutrun Death]Outrun Death card image - hover.

For the end phase objectives, we take [whu card type image iconUnseen Menace]Unseen Menace card image - hover, [whu card type image iconBold Deeds]Bold Deeds card image - hover, [whu card type image iconDominant Display]Dominant Display card image - hover, [whu card type image iconIntimidating Display]Intimidating Display card image - hover, [whu card type image iconProud Commander]Proud Commander card image - hover and [whu card type image iconUnderdog]Underdog card image - hover.

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]khagras-ravagers-1 card image - hover or [Klaq-trok]the-starblood-stalkers-2 card image - hover), so it makes it a good contingency objective to have.

Gambits

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 [whu card type image iconShifting Currents]Shifting Currents card image - hover 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 [whu card type image iconCloud of Midnight]Cloud of Midnight card image - hover 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 [whu card type image iconFury of the Storm]Fury of the Storm card image - hover, [whu card type image iconPhantasmal Forms]Phantasmal Forms card image - hover and [whu card type image iconShifting Currents]Shifting Currents card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconMembranous Wings]Membranous Wings card image - hover, [whu card type image iconOutrun Death]Outrun Death card image - hover, [whu card type image iconHeeded Instinct]Heeded Instinct card image - hover and [whu card type image iconSwarming Advance]Swarming Advance card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconMore Muscle]More Muscle card image - hover and [whu card type image iconClaim to Domination]Claim to Domination card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconHypnotic Buzz]Hypnotic Buzz card image - hover as a little bit of push tech. This is obviously much worse than [whu card type image iconDistraction]Distraction card image - hover or [whu card type image iconNightmare in the Shadows]Nightmare in the Shadows card image - hover, 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.

Upgrades

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 [whu card type image iconBorn From Agony]Born From Agony card image - hover and [whu card type image iconScavenged Armour]Scavenged Armour card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconHunter of Souls]Hunter of Souls card image - hover, [whu card type image iconFeral Symbiote]Feral Symbiote card image - hover and [whu card type image iconSavage Strength]Savage Strength card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconArmour of the Cythai]Armour of the Cythai card image - hover, [whu card type image iconSanguine Pearl]Sanguine Pearl card image - hover and [whu card type image iconSavage Agility]Savage Agility card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconAugmented Limbs]Augmented Limbs card image - hover, and [whu card type image iconProud Runner]Proud Runner card image - hover. 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.

Dominant Display card image
Speed of the Flood Tide card image
Intimidating Display card image
Shifting Currents card image
More Muscle card image
Hunter of Souls card image
Scavenged Armor card image
Born from Agony card image

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:

Moment of Glory card image

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 [whu card type image iconAggressive Strategy]Aggressive Strategy card image - hover . 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 [whu card type image iconUnseen Menace]Unseen Menace card image - hover with [whu card type image iconMaster of Battle]Master of Battle card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconShow of Force]Show of Force card image - hover and [whu card type image iconGathered Momentum]Gathered Momentum card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconStrength of Terror]Strength of Terror card image - hover (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 [whu card type image iconConquest]Conquest card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconBold Deeds]Bold Deeds card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconSpectral Wings]Spectral Wings card image - hover, and Hypnotic Buzz is replaced with [whu card type image iconDistraction]Distraction card image - hover. We sub in [whu card type image iconCloud of Midnight]Cloud of Midnight card image - hover, 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 [whu card type image iconBuried Instinct]Buried Instinct card image - hover. 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 [whu card type image iconStrength of Terror]Strength of Terror card image - hover, Feral Symbiote and Hunter of Souls are replaced with [whu card type image iconGloryseeker]Gloryseeker card image - hover and [whu card type image iconGreat Strength]Great Strength card image - hover. Savage Agility is replaced with [whu card type image iconGreat Fortitude]Great Fortitude card image - hover, 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.

Other Options

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 [whu card type image iconUtter Isolation]Utter Isolation card image - hover 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 [whu card type image iconLeadbone Dust]Leadbone Dust card image - hover, 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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

2 Replies to “Elathain’s Soulraid – An Early Primer”

  1. i really want to see Craig play this or championship Elathain Soulraid in tabletop sydney channel <3

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