It’s an exciting time for Warhammer Underworlds players. Beastgrave is mere weeks away from release, which brings with it new warbands and cards for everyone. But while this is good news for everyone, some players out there are instead focused on another big announcement we got relating to the game (that being when Beastgrave is released). All the Shadespire Universal cards will be due for rotation and not be legal for competitive play.
This news understandably got everyone in the community talking. Some players were very excited about the announcement, seeing it as a chance to shake up the meta and reinvigorate the competitive scene. Others had… well, let’s say more of a negative view on the subject. Scrolling through the forums and group chats it was very clear to see that a good few players were angered by the upcoming rotation.
Some were annoyed that the money they had spent on previous sets was, in their mind, wasted, as they wouldn’t be able to use them in upcoming events. Others saw it as a cash grab by Games Workshop, eager to get players to spend even more money on the game. Some just didn’t see the point in getting rid of a huge sweep of cards, instead proposing that we keep every Universal card tournament legal.
I found this very interesting because, as well as being a long time Warhammer/40k player, I am also a seasoned Magic the Gathering aficionado. This give me a unique perspective on the subject, as the concept of a yearly rotation is something I already have to deal with on an annual basis. So today I thought I would talk about the upcoming rotation and why I believe it is not only a good thing for the game, but also an inevitable part of the future of Warhammer Underworlds moving forward.
Now I can feel some of you out there reaching for your pitchforks and flaming torches at the mere thought of this being a positive change, but give me until the end of this article to explain my views – you might find yourself agreeing with some of my points. If by the end you still disagree with me, you can let us know in the comments below your feeling on the subject. Even if you do agree with me, I would love to hear your thoughts – just remember to keep all disagreements civil. With all that being said, let us begin.
First off, lets have a look at the argument that rotations make previously released sets worthless. If you picked up any season one warband in the last couple of months, you might indeed feel a little miffed that a good portion of those cards are now unusable. Yes, we have all seen the Chosen Axes meme regarding Ready for Action, and how if you wanted to be competitive you needed to optimise your Power and Objective decks. But we have got to remember that, while the old Universal cards might be rotating, the warbands and their personal cards are not.
The fact is that there is quite a lot of power in these warband-specific cards, and sometimes events can be taken down by someone running a couple of decks that don’t conform to the community’s preconceived notion of what makes a good Power and Objective deck. Sure, your Universal cards from your Farstriders might not be playable in this current format (more on that later), but the Warband itself and the cards that accompany them will continue to be viable. There is also the possibility that new cards coming into the format from Beastgrave could actually help push some of the previous season’s warbands up a notch in the competitive meta.
It is also worth noting that, as the game grows and evolves, some cards and mechanics will naturally lose power as new and more interesting cards are designed for the upcoming sets. While we might be sad to see cards like Advancing Strike leave the game due to rotation, the fact is that as the game progresses and advances, these cards would either naturally fall out of favour due to the addition of newer and better-designed replacements, or would potentially become omnipresent in the meta and eventually be featured in a banned and restricted announcement.
Let’s not forget that sometimes older cards are just too good and can lead to some terrible competitive seasons in which everyone just runs the same copy and pasted decks in order to have the “best” builds. The fact is that, in this digital age, competitive players are eager to gain any advantage they can in pursuit of glory and trophies, and decklists are readily available online for players to see. This is great if you are new and need some help working out what to put in your deck, but it does little to encourage innovation. But still, some of you will disagree and be of the opinion if it isn’t broke, why fix it?
Except, if everyone is running the same two decks with Mollog, the Mighty and this leads to a day of competitive play where no-one is having fun, then the game is broken. This is why rotations are an inevitable part of any card game (yes, despite the miniatures, Underworlds is still a card game). Rotations help keep the game healthy, allowing brewers to craft new and exciting decks while also keeping the more competitive players on their toes.
It also allows newer players to have an easier time getting started. Sure, you have been playing since Shadespire and have all the warbands and corresponding cards. But imagine you were a new player wanting to help grow the hobby and play some games. Imagine not only having to get all the season one and two Warbands, but all the additional card sets that are not available anymore as well. That is one steep barrier to entry, let me tell you.
This is also why rotations are likely not a cash grab by Games Workshop. If GW really wanted to maximise its profits, they would keep all the season one warbands available, maybe via on-demand mail orders. That way, any new player would have to not only get the core set and all the season two Warbands, but also drop a mail order of around £100 just to get hold of a bunch of rare cards (some of which are banned anyway).
That is why we call them seasons and not editions. A new season is a new start, where everyone is knocked back to square one. Imagine if, at the end of the football season, the champions got to keep all their points in the league while the newly promoted club had to start at zero! That would hardly be fair now, would it? And sure, it might feel bad when you’re the one losing all the cards. But look at the alternative. You and your friends have access to all the cards since you are all Shadespire veterans, and as you enter season 4 and 5 the only people who attend the competitive events are you and those that can afford to drop a few hundred quid to play catch up. At that point, you are playing gatekeeper and actively discouraging people from joining the hobby.
The simple fact is that if new players aren’t encouraged to play the game then it will not grow, and if that happens then Games Workshop will think it isn’t worth investing in new expansions. At that point, you have a dead game unsupported by the company with no new events hosted other that the ones you are willing to pay to run yourself. But what if you are ok with the rotation and new players joining the scene, but still want to play your classic cards from previous seasons. Well, remember what I said about formats?
Formats (for those of you who don’t play Magic the Gathering) are different ways of playing the game that subtly change the standard rules of play. This can be the addition of new mechanics, or more often the expansion of the available card pool. This could easily be implemented in Warhammer Underworlds, where an eternal format could exist alongside the “standard” rotating format. This eternal format would allow the use of all the cards from Underworlds’ history during deck construction. Provided that both formats receive equal tournament support, players would have even more choice when it comes to which competitive events they wish to attend. Will this come to pass? Only time will tell.
All in all, I’m excited for the rotation and what it will do for the game. Beastgrave is looking sweet, and you can bet I’m hyped for the wolf-riding goblins to enter the fray. I’ll be ordering my copy this Saturday, and I’ll probably be doing some more content regarding the new core set in the next couple of weeks. So, keep your eyes peeled for that.
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