Deck Guide: Derek's 1st Place Ephilim's Pandaemonium from LVO '24

When Kaptain Murder Came to Vegas and made a Frostian Bargain…

Thanks to the boys at Battle Mallet, there is an amazing repository of Nemesis builds available for anyone looking to start almost any team. I start any idea I have by reviewing their deck library and so when the opportunity came along that we could write up some synopsis, I really valued the chance to put my thoughts down. Thanks gents.

Going into the Las Vegas Open, I put a lot of pressure on myself to win the event. This was because I had not placed very well at the World Championships, and so didn’t have an automatic return ticket to the event. It made me question how I was playing (lots of aggro) what the meta was playing (counters to aggro) and what had done well at Worlds. As the top four were Domitan/Ephilim/Ephilim/Gorechosen it gave me a great place to start. I also had the chance to watch a couple of Cyril’s games in the finals and felt that Ephilim with Force of Frost was the best “catch all” team out there. Along with this, the North American Meta has a lot of buzz surrounding Headsman’s Curse and Hexbane’s Hunters, so I knew I needed to tech and meet that matchup. 

The other aspect is that Cyril’s Pandemonium was very aggro focused, and I felt that I wanted to be more passive and counter-punch, as such, even before the latest errata before LVO, I had already decided I would not take Avalanche. It’s a great spell, but I didn’t want to send Ephilim across the line right away to do some damage, then likely lose her in the first round. This Pandemonium build would be designed more for the 2nd and 3rd round scoring instead of a first round score and kill.

[Not familiar with Derek's deck? You can see it on Underworlds DB. - Jerod]

Do I Mulligan?

With that said, one of the biggest things you need to account for is your initial seed glory. There are a lot of flexible ways to do this, and so you need to adapt your game play for what you are going to be doing. It makes your choices easier if your opponent is playing something aggressive and you can adapt your opening hand accordingly. The Mulligan becomes very important here, and almost puts your opening hand decision making into a kind-of-not-really-best-i-can-explain-it Flow Chart

Key Objectives

Otherwise for objectives, there are a lot of good end phase options for the Pandemonium, even in the first round. Look for Scornful Stance and Ineffable Capering. One of my other favorites in the first round is Frozen Fate, as you can use various tricks (like ApoTrax!) to get an unsuspecting mook from the other team into a spot for some easy end glory and have them out of position at the start of next round. 

Key Gambits

In terms of Gambits, Time Freeze is one of my favorites first round. The guard it gives will counteract the first changer that gets staggered, and you get those two actions at the end of the round after your opponent has -hopefully- over extended themselves and gotten into range for some spells or a range 1 attack from Spawnmaw/Apo’Trax. I also look for Field of Change for that extra defense in the first round or Bolt of Tzeentch for the stagger and ping damage. Both being 1 channel make scoring those “cast x number of spell” objectives easier. Finally, if you are playing against a major beatstick team -think Headsman's, Gorechosen, Kainan or others- I can’t say enough about Iara’s Frozen Bonds. Having that to prevent a first round alpha strike that can one-shot Ephilim or even just do significant early damage will swing the game as it buys you that extra bit of time to deal with the major threat.

Key Upgrades

For opening Upgrades, I care more about what can be done in that first round. Many of the upgrades that are offered in through Ephilim or Force of Frost are top tier. It’s more important in the first round that you have the solid gambit ploys and spells. As you will get use of the Upgrades throughout the game, making sure you have a strong start will be more important. The main thing to remember is you need a way to get those Ice Counters on. Then make sure you can get Ephilim’s defenses up and casting support. Because all the upgrades are good, there are just too many ways to move forward, and so your seed glory and ploys will take more importance.

Game Play Tips

For game play – the main flavor of this team and it’s build is the change sequence. This means you want to get as many reps as possible so that you can adapt to which changer your opponent chooses to stagger, and also be ready to inspire the changer you need. Because the change sequence happens AFTER the roll-off winner’s choice on who goes first, you can choose to inspire a changer that you don’t want to be staggered, potentially saving a more useful tiny monster, and forcing your opponent to stagger a less valuable kill.

There is also a large duality in this build, and that is the balancing act of Ephilim or the Changers as your main damage dealers. You are likely to either lose 2-3 Changers by the end of round two or lose Ephilim to a well-planned charge. You need to expect this and be prepared either way to deal with this. If you are losing Changers, remember that Inspired Ephilim allows you to draw a power card each time one goes out of action. Likely this means you get 2-5 extra cards throughout the game which will get you an extra spell or two, some defense, or the casting support that she needs. If Ephilim goes down, then SALVAGE SALVAGE SALVAGE! Get rid of all those spells and restricted wizard cards and be amazed at home much work the rest of your team can do. 4 wound Spawnmaw with defensive upgrades and other chicanery is a terribly beautiful sight to behold.

As an aside, a Changer using the Barge action to stagger an opposing piece on guard and scoring Callus Manipulator (since the barge will stagger the Changer in question) is both hilarious and adorable game play. 

These scions of Tzeentch are not indomitable, however. Two things can beat this team that I have run into periodically. The first is fast, high damage aggro (Arenai, Gorechosen, Khagra's, Crimson Court, Headsmen, Hexbanes, Gnarlspirit) are all dangers. They all have the tools to take down this team and with a few good rolls they will. The second are teams that score a lot of passive glory and are hard to hit (Gorechosen again, Stormcoven, Discord, Razors). A lot of your casting has 3-4 range and in the case of Freeze-Thaw Finish and Iara’s Frozen Bonds, you may need Ephilim to be In a bad position so that you have line of sight past the blocked hex. In either case, keep your cool. Tzeentch is the great manipulator, so don’t let your opponent psych you out by a good play or a well executed win. Learn, adapt, overcome, and most of all: continue to be flexible and be ready to CHAAAANGE it up.

New Player Rating

Finally, for new players: The stats and cards are a huge bonus that are going to carry you a fair bit, but it takes a lot of reps and some setbacks before you are going to be ready to tear up your local meta. There are a lot of moving parts that you must account for. As such, I rate Ephilim with Force of Frost a Gold Minus. It’s probably not the best warband for your first game, but it will be great for your first tournament after you have a couple games under your belt.