We’re back with another Building on a Budget, this time focusing on the sultry swingers of Direchasm, the [Dread Pageant]. If you’re not familiar with this series, we look at making competitive Warhammer Underworlds Championship decks for a variety of warbands without requiring every expansion or breaking your budget. Note that we aren’t trying to make a T1 tournament deck, but rather a deck that can compete and take games off of such tournament decks if possible, and give you a good start in the competitive arena of Underworlds.
While the last article in the series focused on an all-out aggressive warband, the Dread Pageant is capable of being built in a number of ways. Their faction cards support a number of playstyles, including holding objectives as well as getting into enemy territory and killing enemy fighters. While the second strategy can be viable with strong card support, we’re going to be focusing on the first avenue – holding objectives and scoring easy glory where possible, which fuels strong upgrades to power up [Vasillac] and [Slakeslash].
Out of the box
Taking all of the faction cards provided within the Direchasm starter, we’re presented with the following decklist:
As with all our articles, we’re going to assume you are starting your deckbuilding journey with the following items:
- Direchasm core set
- Essentials card pack (skip this if you are a returning Shadespire / Nightvault player as you will own most of the cards already)
To add to our shopping list, we’re going to add two expansions that were already mentioned in the first article: Morgwaeth’s Blade-coven and Khagra’s Ravagers. If you’ve followed along with the series thusfar, you should know the main reason for the Blade-coven here – and that’s [Hidden Purpose], but unlike Myari’s, there’s a couple of other key cards here that are very useful for the Dread Pageant. Finally, we’re going to add one new Direchasm warband – Elathain’s Soulraid.
A note on the Championship format rotation
As of the writing of this article (mid July 2021), we’re heading towards the twilight months of the current Beastgrave/Direchasm season of the Championship format. What does this mean? It means that at the end of the season (heralded by the release of the starter set for the new season), all Beastgrave universal cards will rotate out of play, and will no longer be legal in the Championship format. As such, the universal cards we’re recommending below from the Morgwaeth’s Blade-coven expansion will only be useable until that rotation date (which was December for the release of Direchasm, but historically has been around late September). Note that all Beastgrave warbands, and indeed every warband that has been released since the very first Warhammer Underworlds boxed set, will always be legal (and that includes their faction-specific cards, unless banned or restricted in the future).
As a result, where we have recommended universal cards from a warband expansion that will rotate out (both here and in the “potential purchases” section), it’s important you understand that you will only get a limited amount of playtime with those universal cards, and they will not be useable in the Championship format again unless they are reprinted in a future set. If you are a fan of the playstyle, aesthetics or models of any of the previous Warhammer Underworlds warbands, and are interested in them despite their universal cards rotating, then I highly recommend you pick up a copy before they exit widespread circulation.
Let’s take a look at the faction objectives, looking at our five available surges:
- [Endless Revel] – An excellent surge – doable from round one, but gets even easier the longer the game goes on. Being able to move or charge to score this is great for enabling fighters to move on to objectives or charge enemy fighters. We’ll be keeping this one.
- [Replace] [Excess of Carnality] – While this surge is definitely scoreable (and in some decks, pairs nicely with [Impending Doom]), it requires us to commit positionally with our fighters, which may not work for us given our need to hold usually two objectives. So we’ll replace this with a more flexible surge.
- [Replace] [Excess of Gluttony] – The inverse of Excess of Carnality, the same issues apply here – we need to commit positionally (or rely on our opponent being gracious enough to set this up for us) to score. Still too situational for our deck’s gameplan, so we’ll replace it.
- [Replace] [Excess of Vainglory] – While a good surge, this relies on us killing a fighter with two or more upgrades, or our fighter having three upgrades when they make an attack action. While mid to late game you will likely get enough upgrades going on Vasillac or Slakeslash to make this happen, it does require you to commit to an attack, so for now we’ll replace it.
- [Replace] [Grisly Tableau] – A running theme here, but this is a very situational kill surge. Not only do you have to kill a fighter, but they have to be holding an objective. While against some warbands such as [the Starblood Stalkers] you may consistently score it, against a lot of other warbands it will simply be a dead card. Replace.
So we’ve been pretty brutal with the surges here. Out of five possible candidates, only one, [Endless Revel], has made the cut for us. That’s okay though. Let’s look at the alternatives we’re going to include to make up for it:
- [Hidden Purpose] – As said before, an absolute slam dunk for the hold two playstyle. Easy and consistent glory.
- [Branching Fate] – Love it or hate it, this is a more consistent card than most of the candidates above. From the first activation of the game, both [Slakeslash] and [Hadzu] can score this for you. In the late game, Slakeslash will likely still be alive, and if you manage to inspire, [Glissette] will also be able to help with this.
- [Everything to Prove] – This is another great card for Dread Pageant. On the one hand, it’s surge-speed [Underdog] for one less glory, feeling a lot like a functional reprint of [Martyred]; on the other hand, due to Slakeslash being an innate Quarry, it’s an unrestricted [Surge of Aggression]. Windmill slam it in.
- [Prize Beyond Measure] – While this is a bit slower and a little bit harder to score than our previous surges, it is quite consistent as you approach the midgame. Either Vasillac and/or Slakeslash will be racking up upgrades, and this surge leverages that with our need to hold objectives for our end phase glory. You could consider [Excess of Vainglory] instead for this slot if you see yourself attacking more often.
- [Winged Death] – Our final surge, this can’t be reliably scored without card support, such as from [Malkyn Grace] (or if Hadzu gets lucky with ping damage), but it is more reliable than our other options. Alternatives in this slot could include [Savage Exemplar], [Surge of Aggression] or [Turned Tables]. The first two rely on Vasillac, either killing someone or making a damage 4 attack respectively, or Slakeslash getting a kill. Otherwise, you could still consider [Excess of Vainglory] here.
All in all, a balance between consistent and situational surges. Not bad for a budget deck.
End Phase Objectives
We’ve got seven available faction end phase objectives:
- [Replace] [Beautiful Deaths] – Wow, what a way to start the list. This objective is nigh impossible in this warband unless you build specifically for it. While you might get lucky and wipe three fighters, keeping three fighters alive from this warband can be very tricky. In any case, we’re not going full on aggression with this deck, so it’s a hard pass.
- [Replace] [Cavalcade of Madness] – This is a solid objective in terms of glory, but it’s just not consistent enough. The Dread Pageant’s inspiration condition can easily not happen in a game (even when winning), causing this to brick, and you still need to have three fighters alive. Pass.
- [Excess of Avidity] – Now we’re talking. Faction reprint of [Dominant Position] (which, spoiler alert, we’ll also be putting in this deck) means it’s perfectly placed for us.
- [Excess of Idolency] – Another great hold objective, this has the added flexibility of having a second condition. While 99% of the time you will score this for holding two, there are rare occasions where you may score the other condition. Great for our game plan.
- [Replace] [Excess of Paramountcy] – Too onerous for one glory. It also requires you to put Vasillac in enemy territory, which is not worth it going into a new round, where he could easily be killed if you lose priority. Pass.
- [Replace] [Godseekers] – This is a nice two glory end phase card, but it unfortunately does not mesh with the direction of this deck. If you were playing a more aggressive variant of the warband, you would absolutely take this as it’s a really solid card.
- [Replace] [Scintillating Sadism] – Too hard to ensure, especially without ping damage support in your deck. Hard pass.
Out of our seven faction end phase cards, we’re keeping two. While that’s a low ratio, the ones we are keeping are absolutely vital to our playstyle. Let’s supplement that with some of our other cards:
- [Dominant Position] – No surprise after seeing Excess of Avidity. Perfect for us.
- [Ahead of the Hunt] – While it’s only one glory, it is almost guaranteed to be scored thanks to Slakeslash. Solid and reliable glory.
- [Underdog] – A fantastic card for us. The continued popularity of Primacy cards such as [Haughty Resistance] and [Proud Runner] (even after restriction), along with the tendency for Hadzu to die due to his low wounds and defence means that we’ll often give up Primacy. In addition, if you’re falling behind on objectives due to your opponent’s tempo, you can score this on the other condition.
- [Path to Victory] – a flex warband staple. Easier to score against some warbands than others, it’s still worth it in the context of the game currently. Alternatively, you could consider [Absolute Stillness], but this does require you to pilot Slakeslash in a particular way, which may limit your flexibility.
That rounds out the objectives. Let’s take a look at the end result:
17 glory is a little low for an objective warband, so we’ll need to ensure we have enough disruption and enabler gambits to ensure we score them. Let’s take a look at our options.
Let’s take a look at our faction gambits and see what makes the cut.
- [Replace] [Bonded Bodyguard] – This is an interesting card, but it isn’t quite flexible enough for what we need in this deck. While you can do some shenanigans where you use this as a functional push two to get Slakeslash on an objective or adjacent to an enemy fighter for an attack, it does rely on specific positioning from Vasillac to pull off. This might have more consideration if you opted to take Absolute Stillness, as you may need additional push tech to keep Slakeslash on an objective without moving. However, we’ll pass on it for now.
- [Cruel Pangs] – This is a nice gambit for helping to further the possibility of inspiring, as well as chipping a wound off of objective holders. While we’re not fully committing to the “inspire at all costs” game plan, faction [Lethal Ward] is still nice.
- [Dark Desires] – While this is decided by your opponent, when played correctly it can result in a “no-win” scenario for your opponent. For example, where you may push them into a lethal to inspire your warband, they may opt to give their fighter a move token, potentially giving you some breathing room. This card is good enough to stay.
- [Replace] [Deadly Embrace] – This is too situational for not enough payoff. Early on, you won’t have the damage to make this worthwhile, and late game, the random nature of this effect means that there’s a good chance it won’t go off when you need it to. Pass.
- [Replace] [Enervating Perfume] – While -1 damage effects are great in upgrades, having them in a ploy severely limits their usefulness. There are better cards for this slot.
- [Replace] [Fuelled by Sensation] – The usefulness of this card is limited by the fact that it can only be used on your fighters. While this allows you to manipulate (and potentially counteract after the fact) your inspiration condition, it has very little usage otherwise. Pass.
- [Lure of Slaanesh] – One of the best push cards in the game. a minimum 1 hex combination of [Sidestep] and [Distraction], which can potentially go to 4 in the best case scenario. Insanely flexible, and close to mandatory.
- [Replace] [Rush of Sensation] – Too situational. If it allowed the move action after any successful attack action, it would be something to consider, but the limitation on taking an enemy out of action hampers the utility.
- [Shared Pain] – The lynchpin gambit for this warband. It enables so many interactions, such as saving your leader by redirecting damage to a nearby Hadzu, or moving damage on to Slakeslash to ensure you inspire. A fantastic card.
- [Replace] [Vicious Barbs] – While there might be occasions where un-inspiring a fighter is pivotal enough to make this worthwhile (such as in Round 3), the immediate re-inspiration after the effect ends makes this a non starter. If it was closer to [Horrible Grin] it would be a lot more enticing. Skip.
Out of 10 gambits, we’re keeping four. Not a bad ratio considering, and the cards we are keeping are some of the strongest gambits in the game. With that in mind, let’s consider our replacements:
- [Victimise] – Range 2 accuracy is getting harder to find in the Championship format, and this ploy is still one of the best. The additional clause of re-rolling everything against fighters with Quarry is significant, as so many upgrades and other gambits (such as [Eternal Chase]) now make you a Quarry.
- [Duel of Wits] – Unrestricted card draw at reaction speed. Perfect in almost any deck.
- [Slickrock] – An essential piece of tech for you to ensure you can hold more when playing against hold objective warbands. It is restricted, but we have the available slots to fit it in. As an alternative, you may consider [Misdirection].
- [Sidestep] – With that in mind, another push is never a bad thing.
- [Inspired Command] – Another flexible card, we’ve got two modes, both of which can be helpful for our hold gameplan.
- [Malkyn Grace] – While not a great speed card when compared to other alternatives such as [Outrun Death], [Spectral Wings] or even [Membranous Wings], it does give us the needed movement for Winged Death. If you have access to any of these other alternatives, including them instead would be a big step up. If you’re not taking Winged Death in your surges, consider either additional ping damage in the form of [Lethal Ward], or more push tech in the form of [Mirror Move].
Now that we’ve got our objectives and gambits, let’s round it out by evaluating our upgrades.
- [Distracting Ostentation] – This is a great defensive upgrade, and is made better by the fact that the equipped fighter doesn’t need to be the target of the attack action, making it a strictly better version of a card such as [Armor of the Cythai].
- [Replace] [Sadistic Goad] – This attack action is too weak to be considered relative to the warband’s default attack actions. If you’re looking for an effect like this that is potentially more powerful, consider [Wicked Lash].
- [Sickening Resilience] – An amazing upgrade. Reducing damage to 1 33% of the time is a nightmare for your opponent’s attack math, and helps keep both Vasillac and Slakeslash alive longer than they probably should. Great card.
- [Replace] [Soporific Musk] – This effect doesn’t advance your gameplan, and frankly doesn’t have enough power to justify an upgrade slot. The 2 hex requirements minimises the chances of this effect shutting down “speed package” cards. Pass.
- [Replace] [Strength from Pain] – The conditional nature of the damage makes it harder to turn on, and there’s enough damage in Championship upgrades that conditional damage upgrades aren’t quite worth it.
- [Replace] [Swift as Desire] – Again, too conditional. There’s enough speed upgrades which give you either +2 move constantly, or +1 move and another benefit. Pass.
- [Replace] [Cruel Volley] – As much as I love [Hadzu], he is not worth a fighter restricted upgrade, especially for such a low damage effect. There’s a good chance that Hadzu dies before you even get the chance to equip this. Skip.
- [Replace] [Dance Without End] – While this does have its uses, it’s too situational and is restricted to Glissette. Replace.
- [Replace] [Mark of the Dark Prince] – While on-demand Cleave and Ensnare is nice, fighter restricted upgrades need to be on another level to justify their slot.
- [Replace] [Sword-shatterer] – Way too situational. Pass.
So we’re only keeping two faction upgrades. Time to add some more.
- [Great Strength] – This needs no introduction. Unconditional extra damage. Perfect.
- [Great Fortitude] – Another auto-include. Be mindful that giving this to Slakeslash means he’s worth two glory to your opponent if killed.
- [Dominant Defender] – Mainly used for the first condition. Occasionally getting the Primacy may happen, either allowing you to score Everything to Prove quicker, or bricking Underdog for you (if it’s the last activation, for instance), which can be awkward, but it’s worth it here.
- [Savage Strength] – Slakeslash and Vasillac will be your primary damage dealers, so the negative condition means nothing as they’re both already a single Block. Perfect for extra damage.
- [Experienced Eye] – Range 2 accuracy is hard to get in Championship, and Quarry upgrades are common enough that this will be on more often than not. In addition, most Quarry upgrades include at least two mentions of the keyword, meaning Vasillac will get full rerolls.
- [Savage Speed] – Another card to help turn on Winged Death. If you replaced Winged Death with a different surge, consider either a utility upgrade or additional defence (such as [Formidable Defence]) to make Glissette almost unkillable or keep Hadzu around longer.
- [Hunter’s Talisman] – Slakeslash can equip this natively, and Vasillac can equip this once he gets any of the other three upgrades above. More accuracy is never bad.
- [Gloryseeker] – More damage is never bad.
Putting it all together
With our selections above, the deck looks like this:
This is a good hand to highlight some potential lines of play in the warband. We’ve got one almost guaranteed glory in Ahead of the Hunt, and then our faction hold more for end phase. Luckily we have a couple of cards in our hand that can support us with this. The big one is Slickrock, which enables us to throw off an objective holder who attempts to move on to block our end phase scoring. We’ve also got Duel of Wits, which is likely to be played at some point during the phase. Let’s draw two more cards and see what we have access to:
Inspired Command is helpful for keeping us on objectives, by either pushing on to one or giving a guard token to Slakeslash or Hadzu to ensure they can’t be driven back off of one they’re already on. Great Strength will help fuel either Slakeslash or our leader going into Round 2.
Finally, our one surge in hand, Endless Revel. It’s likely that unless you lose a fighter early, you’ll be scoring this on your fourth activation of the phase. Let’s draw another objective card and see where we land:
Great. While we may not be able to guarantee holding more than our opponent (thanks to them either holding three or equaling us with holding two), we may be able to score this for simply holding two objectives. Alternatively, if playing against aggro, we might not be able to hold two, but we may be able to simply hold more than them due to how they’ve positioned their fighters. So going into end phase, we’re looking at 4-6 glory depending on how the round went. Not a bad first round, and sets us up well with our in-hand upgrades to allow Slakeslash or Vasillac to start killing some enemy fighters in the next round. As I said in my previous article, these sample hands are simply indicative of potential lines of play, and real games can of course play out very differently.
Potential purchases and next upgrades
There’s a couple of warbands you could consider purchasing to enhance your experience with this warband. These are of course not the only cards that could enhance this deck, as almost every warband in Warhammer Underworlds offers at least one interesting or strong universal card that can enhance or modify the way you play your decks – but these are some warbands that offer more than one card that supplement the style of play we’ve developed above. First up is a Beastgrave warband, [Rippa's Snarlfangs]:
- [Gathered Momentum] – A fantastic surge that has usage in almost every deck, whether it’s aggro or hold objective. You only need one move to boost an uninspired fighter to score this, and often you can score the second condition of this as well. A great card to add to your collection.
- [Temporary Victory] – Contentious, but a very strong surge. While your mileage in your meta may vary, overall it’s a great objective for upping your glory ceiling, especially in the early game.
- [Hidden Presence] – This is an upgrade I’ve been using in my Dread Pageant deck for a while now, and it’s become a staple for me. Not only does it make the equipped fighter a Quarry (which is relevant for cards such as Ahead of the Hunt, and as we’ll discuss further down, objectives like [Lie in Wait]), it prevents the fighter from being targeted by gambits. This can be huge for a number of reasons. One, it means that taking Glissette off an objective is almost impossible without investing multiple attacks (or getting lucky). Two, it enhances the survivability of Vasillac or Slakeslash even further.
Next, we’ll look at [Hedkrakka's Madmob]:
- [Lie in Wait] – As alluded to above, this is a great end phase card that requires you to hold a set number of objectives (as opposed to holding more). While out of the box you only have one Quarry in Slakeslash, you can supplement your ability to apply Quarry to your fighters with some of the cards mentioned here, making this a fairly consistent card.
- [Heeded Instinct] – A very strong push card for this warband, thanks to the innate Quarry. At its worst, is another [Sidestep], which is never bad, and being able to push two is great for counteracting cards such as [Restless Prize].
- [Soultooth Net] – This is an upgrade that tends towards a more “control” approach, and is a little bit weaker overall than [Barb-laden Net] due to the fact it always discards after using it once. However, it does not have a Hunter requirement, meaning you can give this to any of your fighters to allow them to potentially lock a fighter down for a round.
Finally, the [Starblood Stalkers]:
- [Living Land] – This is a great gambit for ensuring you can stand on your objectives as needed to score your end phase cards. In addition, when facing another objective based warband, you may get some opportunities to flip their objectives, giving you an edge when scoring end phase cards that require you to hold more.
- [Outrun Death] – The current premier speed card. +2 move that persists, allowing you to potentially make multiple 6+ hex moves (if you have cards that enable you to move twice). In addition, it gives the fighter Quarry, turning on Lie in Wait and Ahead of the Hunt.
- [Proud Runner] – Despite being recently restricted, this is a great card for enabling you to get Primacy. Not only does this allow you to score the other condition of [Everything to Prove], it also gives you +1 move, pushing you over the threshold for cards such as Gathered Momentum. If you can afford the restricted slot, this is well worth considering.
Taking a step back, you can look at this shell as something that can move towards more aggression or more control elements (such as the cards outlined above). While some cards within the deck are simply underpowered for what they do (such as [Malkyn Grace]), the overall gameplan is solid. As you grow your collection, you may find surges that are more consistent for how you play the warband, and those are something to consider as well.
In any case, I hope that this guide has been helpful in giving you potential ideas on how to play the Dread Pageant without breaking the bank. If you have any other ideas about how to play this warband, or ideas on what warband you’d like us to tackle next, sign off in the comments below!