I’ve had a long love affair with The Farstriders, since I started playing Warhammer Underworlds in season 2. They’ve always held a unique place in the game as one of only 2 predominantly ranged warbands, with simple mechanics (no reactions or special rules), and a small model count.
Farstriders through the ages
When they were released in season 1 they were briefly at the top of the game. Utilising their terrifying 3 range and a whole 1 shield defence stat, to avoid their opponents and abuse Katophrane Relics for piles of glory. Then the relics got banned and come season 2 they struggled more, but a suite of good movement based objectives and a few teleport cards meant they could run around the board loosing bolts at enemies and score glory regardless of their attack rolls.
With the dawn of Beastgrave however things started to go downhill fast. Their stats are pretty low for a modern 3 fighter warband, and with 1 damage attacks they were unlikely to ever compete for primacy. They couldn’t go toe to toe with the likes of Morgoks Krushas and with their movement and teleport cards rotated out of Championship glory was hard to come by but easy to give up.
With Direchasm things got a little better. The game was still very aggressive and primacy was still important, but a few packages of universal cards (most notably Silent Relics) meant there was a glimmer of the Katophrane Relic glory days for The Farstriders. By making them hunters and their opponents quarry the silent relics meant they could finally use some payoffs from Beastgrave and modify their ranged attacks (not an easy thing to do), making them more accurate and do more damage. Rolls had to go your way, you couldn’t even try to inspire, but there was enough passive glory to get the ball rolling and if you could slow your opponent down enough you could scrape some very close and very low glory wins.
Then we got into Harrowdeep. The Farstriders have finally been made hunters, just in time for all the Beastgrave cards that care about hunters to rotate out. One of the main benefits of the Silent Relics was to make The Farstriders hunters and quarry so without the Beastgrave cards the Relics also lost a lot of appeal. Meanwhile the stats and mechanical complexity of new warbands are starting to make The Farstriders look like a team of chequers trying to play chess. If you’re somehow unlucky enough to have only 3 fighters now you better do more than 1 damage an attack, and have a lot more health to boot.
What an excellent time to be a Farstriders player.
Why The Farstriders?
It may look dire for Sanson and the boys but I find that to be the sweet spot when it comes to deckbuilding in Underworlds. The game is never more interesting than when you look at a bunch of the top decks and really good cards, and realise with a grim certainty, they’re not going to work for you at all. Then you start digging around in the murky depths of your card library to scrape together some unintuitive synergy or convoluted game plan from cards that everyone forgot existed, to make something, anything, score you any amount of glory. Winning the game is fine, but winning with cards your opponent didn’t even realize exists is divine.
So what can they do in Nethermaze? Well The Farstriders still have a few advantages that I think are unique to them as a warband and that means there still might be angles they can play.
- They’re all ranged. This makes positioning for attacks easy and lets them abuse gloom easier than most.
- They roll a lot of 3 dice attacks. This is great for branching fates but also makes them good grievous users.
- All three fighters are almost identical, so there’s no key pieces to lose. Contingency is key.
- They have an inspired defence of 2 shields. This isn’t earth shattering these days but it’s still pretty good.
- They’re now all hunters. There’s not many pay offs for this but there might be something. They even have an assassin.
- They have easy access to cleave. Alright, I’m clutching at straws a bit here but Elias Swiftblade gets cleave upon inspiring and they have 3 upgrades that give cleave. If the meta is right maybe that’s important.
They also have a game plan that I think is well supported in this season. Their inspire condition has often been a bit of a weakness, forcing them to move into their opponent when really they want to keep their distance, but now there’s a lot of cards that make moving forward more appealing. [Bold Deeds], [Treasure Hunter], [Fearless Seekers], and [Horrors in the Dark] all ask you to get into your opponents territory. This traditionally dangerous endeavour has been made ever so slightly safer with the advent of gloom hexes. If you can cross boards and hunker down in a gloom hex the chances of surviving long enough to inspire are better than ever. Not good, but better.
With that in mind here’s my current deck list. (This deck was made just after the Nethermaze box release)
Now we’re in the Nethermaze it’s the start of a new-ish season, and that means it’s time to experiment. A lot of these card choices are, at best, optimistic but you shouldn’t knock it till you’ve tried it, so let’s try it.
[Ordered Defence] is the first card in a guard package that I’m hoping will make these 4 health fighters a little more resilient, since they’re going to be moving aggressively. I was looking for ways to leverage The Farstriders’ new hunter keyword and [Elite Advance] stood out. It’s even got Sanson himself in the card art so it must be good. This is [Rangers, Advance] that also puts the fighters on guard. It won’t help get into enemy territory but it’ll help keep fighters out of harm’s way, get onto objectives once they’ve crossed the board, and hold onto the objectives once they’re there. Additional guard tokens can be found in [Scavenged Armour] and [Desperate Caution] to increase the chances of scoring [Ordered Defence] without ever using an activation to put a fighter on guard.
Almost all the other objectives require getting fighters into enemy territory and onto features, objectives, or into cover. [Fearless Seekers] and [Horrors in the Dark] are both great cards and these, as well as The Farstriders’ inspiration requirement, are the main reason to try and cross the board. [Sudden Revelation] and [Shadow Elimination] both reward flipping the feature tokens to objectives, and if you’re doing it anyway [Treasure Hunter] and [Extraordinary Revelation] both give 3 glory for holding 2 objectives in enemy territory.
With the exception of [Branching Fate] and [Contest of Equals], which are both just great surge objectives, it’s a very “all or nothing” objective decks. If it works the glory should flood in but there’s an awful lot of potential to score nothing at all.
Grand alliance cards are starting to reach a critical mass, where there’s enough of them providing support for that grand alliances strategy it might justify including them in your decks. I’d say none of them are particularly stand out but if [Brigade Strength] works for anyone surely it’ll be The Farstriders? Almost every attack they make is going to be 3 dice and with a low model count support is unlikely to come from anywhere else so the bonus won’t go to waste. It’s a shame they can’t make use of the brawler text but I’m hoping the card is serviceable without it. I also expect [Cautious Manoeuvre] to be a useful option for newly keywords hunters who want to get across the board quickly. Set up properly it’ll let someone make a double move, or let 2 hunters regroup away from the enemy after being charged. You could even use it to make an aggressive charge of your own, pulling a friend in for support when you need the damage from a melee attack. Hopefully it’s flexible enough that I can find a use for it when I draw it.
One of the most promising cards they’ve printed for The Farstriders in a long time has to be [Step Between Shadows]. The Farstriders used to be considered quite fast but they’ve always struggled to safely cross the board and inspire. When I first started playing them they benefited greatly from [Hidden Paths], and while I don’t think we’ll ever see a card like that again it looks like conditional teleportation is on the cards. I’ll have to think about this card at every stage of setup and during every activation to make sure it’ll work but I think the payoff is worth the objective placement and push cards I’ll have to include. If nothing else I can move a fighter onto gloom in my territory in the first round to set this up for the second.
Another problem for The Farstriders these days is that range 3 attacks are very hard to modify due to most cards that give extra damage, dice, or re-rolls are limited to range 1 or 2 attacks. The search for any cards without a range limit brought me to [Shadow Seeker], [Brigade Strength], and [Abyssal Summoner].
Finally I’ve included a small number of illusions. [Phantom Darts] and [Phantom Fists] are both quite good, while [Terrifying Shadow] and [Phantom Shield] are mostly to help scoring [Shock Troops]. I like [Shock Troops] since it’s a surge that doesn’t require any dice rolls and it aligns with what we hope to do anyway. Scoring it early in the game requires jumping through a lot of hoops though. This is probably the first package on the chopping block but I’m willing to see how they do in a few games before deciding.
I’m not expecting to build an incredibly competitive deck but these cards might be too specific even for me.
And that’s how I’m hoping to win with The Farstriders. There’s a lot of weird cards that require complicated set up, and a fair amount of text on cards that The Farstriders can’t actually benefit from but are included to try and support other weird things. I’m not expecting to build an incredibly competitive deck but these cards might be too specific even for me. Time will tell.
I’ll catch up with you in a week or two after I’ve played a few games with the deck and see if I can’t streamline the game plan a bit more. I hope you’ll join me for the journey and hopefully we can make it to the glory at the centre of this maze. If The Farstriders aren’t for you then check out our article on How to Pick a Warhammer Underworlds Warband.
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