In this post, we break from our standard Rivals and Rivals+ focused content to address the Force Dynamic-powered elephant in the room, the Exiled Dead. Love them or hate them, this warband is creating some strong reactions across the community. We wanted to address the issue as quickly as we could, but with some actual experience and not only theory-crafting. Jerod has been playing the warband a fair amount lately and Jason has been playing against them (vs. Jerod and vs. other opponents). Once we get into the meat, we'll break down the key strengths of the warband and offer our tips and tricks for dealing with them.
If you want the podcast version of this content, you can find it here: https://podcast.battle-mallet.com/e/episode-39-hex-ed-are-the-exiled-dead-your-appalling-end/
What Makes the Exiled Dead so Meta-Defining?
There are several factors that go into making the Exiled Dead a gatekeeper warband at minimum, but likely a meta-defining warband.
Stagger + Overload
First, the Combination of Deintalos's accurate range 3 attack applying Stagger and the Overload ability on the Inspired Conductive minions (Overload means that attacks gain +1 Damage when the target has a Stagger token). The Stagger token means that a historically inaccurate 2 Dice for Furies (swords) attack is deceptively accurate, thanks to the re-roll that Stagger applies. When combined with the warband's ability (and desire) to surround and gain support on attacks means that you likely have 2 Dice each with a 50% chance of success (single support), if not a 66% chance (double support), with a re-roll. And that (more) accurate attack does more damage than suggested by the raw fighter card.
Danse Dynamic and Puppeteer
We talked in a previous blog (episode) about Deintalos's Danse action and Markov's Puppeteer action providing incredible action economy (being able to move or attack with up to 5 fighters with a single activation is huge). But one thing we didn't call out was the fact that reactions cannot be used during either of the actions. This lack of reactions might hurt the Exiled Dead, but it prevents all defensive gambits and upgrade reactions from being used. This includes damage mitigation cards, attack-back cards, and so much more.
Another point we made previously but that bears repeating is that with the Puppeteer action, Regulus can use the Charge action multiple times. Thanks to the action being on a fighter card (and not a gambit), the fact that you can take an action with Regulus overrides any activation rules (thanks to the "But my Card Says" section of the rulebook.
And on top of all of this amazing action economy, each of these actions allows you to bring back an out-of-action fighter as well!
The Objective Pool
With the release of Nethermaze, there are so many surge objectives available for standing on and/or delving cover hexes and feature tokens (Ever Downwards and Sudden Revalation, Horrors in the Dark). Additionally, the Exiled Dead can make use of positioning-based surges like Impending Doom and can easily make use of Alternating Strikes. In this paragraph, we've listed 5 surges that this warband could easily score and that don't require you to take a fighter out or even have a successful attack. This easy surge pool can make it easy to get the ball rolling and start applying upgrades early.
And it's not just the surge objectives that they can play into. Deintalos and his pals can make easy use of any objective that requires you to be on cover/feature hexes and/or be in enemy territory. Five quick examples include Meat Locker, Lengthening Shadows, Lurking Death, Master the Abyss, and Path of Death. With their ability to move multiple times, this warband will get where it wants to go.
Teching Against the Exiled Dead
There's a lot that goes into playing against the Exiled Dead. We've said it before, but this warband just feels like a zombie hoard slowly, but inexorably, advancing towards you. The key to dealing with them is how you respond to what they're trying to do. Inevitably, this means that we start with board placement.
Opposing Board Placement
It's tough to call out specific boards without foreknowledge of what warband anyone might be playing into the Exiled Dead. One that we will call out is the Soul Refractor. The centered (ish) blocked hexes would likely give you and your warband a way to hide from the horde, if not mitigate their ability to surround you.
Beyond that, you really want to look at maximizing how many actions they'll need to use to begin attacking. For example, if you (or your opponent) opts for a "wide" setup, then you will likely be able to split your forces and make the zombies commit to one side of the boards, while the rest of your warband is invading their territory (invalidating End Phase cards like Meat Locker). Additionally, it seems like the Exiled Dead would rather be offset than longboarded. The offset makes the middle of the board more enticing and makes it easier for the horde to block off their own territory.
Opposing Feature Token Placement
The first thing to call out here is that if you need feature hexes, cover hexes, or objective hexes to be in specific places, you should stick to that plan. Beyond that, placing that first objective somewhere just across no-man's land (in their territory) and in the center of the board. This will force other feature tokens to be placed on the edges and further away in your territory, spreading the Exiled Dead out and preventing the surround. It's also worth noting that there may be a trend for seeing objective-based Objectives (Path to Victory, Dominant Position, Supremacy, etc.)
The Exiled Dead love the current Gambit pool. Any card that can push the Exiled Dead is great for them. It allows them to get even more action economy and set up multiple attacks on a single opponent. Cards to keep an eye out for include: Sparking Shuffle, Center of Attention, and Hypnotic Buzz.
The counter to pushes is obviously more pushes, so if you're going up against the Exiled Dead, you'll likely want Confusion, Hypnotic Buzz, Mirror-Move, Sidestep, and any in-faction cards. And the hardest thing to do will be waiting to use these pushes to save your fighters (i.e. leading into their activation) instead of the usual usage to position your own fighters for a charge or shooting attack action.
The biggest thing we can say here is to bring Range 2 weapons. The zombies do not like to play against Range 2 attack actions, since it will likely force another Danse activation to get the zombies back into position. We really like Phantom Spear since it has Cleave (helps a lot since all the fighters except Markov are on Block defense). Dark Darts is another great ranged upgrade with Cleave.
Beyond Range 2 attack actions, we think you'll want to include after activation pushes like Duellist's Spad and Soundless Step. These upgrades will allow you to push away from the horde even after taking risky actions like Charging or Attacking with Range 1 weapons.
General strategy when fighting the Exiled Dead includes the advice above, plus a few other morsels:
- Note that the Conductive minions cannot charge after they take the Move action. Once they Danse to Move, they're stuck Danse-ing to Move.
- When you can, attack the flanks of the Zombie horde. This keeps you safer from getting mobbed/surrounded.
- Think about including cards that give Guard tokens (removes Stagger).
- Include some Cleave (whether that's baked into your fighters or an option via an upgrade).
- Jason's favorite card, Acidic Strike - use this to strip key upgrades from Deintalos or conductive fighters.
- Painful Brilliance adds primacy to your deck and inherently reduces the accuracy of Deintalos's Draining Coil (Magic Attack action).
- (Order Only) Perfect Stance - this fighter cannot be Staggered
First and foremost, we want you to pick the warband that you provides you some measure of joy/satisfaction. Beyond that, you'll want to look for warbands that have a lot of the features we brought up earlier:
- Fighters with Range 2+ attack actions
- Warbands with Damage mitigation
- Warbands that can "teleport"
- Warbands with Flying (to jump into the backfield)
In closing, we want to acknowledge that we think that the warband is strong in Championship format. They have excellent action economy, some good in-faction cards, and are able to make good use of other cards. That said, we don't believe that they're unbeatable. Will they at least gate-keep larger events? Yes, so be ready. Are they meta-defining? Also yes, because we've already seen it happen.
As usual, if you have any feedback, please let us know!
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