When players talk about the control aspect of the Guild Ball game, the Morticians team will most certainly be one of their topics. A team that has models with very strong effects high on their playbooks, so need some sort of TAC buffs to get there. A team that inspires to do so by taking control of their opponent’s positioning. A team that constantly tries to say ‘NO’ to their opponent’s plans.
Season 4 has seen the rise of Scalpel, which has propelled the Morticians to be one of the top tier teams in the League. Since the start of the new season, they’ve been at a strong 52.9% with a 2.1% standard deviation. Scalpel is at a huge 57.0%, Obulus stays at around 46.9% and their new captain, Mourn, is lingering behind at 44.7%. But we’ll have to look at where these numbers are coming from, as we have patch 4.1 and the coming of Mourn to attest for. Let’s see what the numbers are.
When looking at the pre-4.1 era, Morticians were at 53.1%. Scalpel at 57.1%, Obulus at 43.6%. Not much seems to have changed, other than Obulus’ percentage going up slightly. After the 4.1 patch, Morticians are at fourth place at 52.3%, trailing Miners, Butchers and Farmers. Scalpel is STILL at 57.0%, so it seems that the change to her heroic and Midnight Offering hasn’t affected her too much. Obulus is at a nice 49.2%.
Post-4.1 GhostDeer index for Captains. While Scalpel could be considered as a tad too strong, Obulus seems to be the penultimate balanced champion, being positioned almost perfectly in the center.
As befits a reactionary control team, they prey on their opponent’s mistakes, which makes them a strongly opportunistic team, which is what you seem to agree on. They don’t have a clear game plan in mind, as usually they’ll switch between 3-0, 2-2 and 1-4 within the game itself.
Obulus has largely been viewed as ‘the Mortician’s scoring captain’, while Scalpel is chosen as the killer queen, so I understand the votes to this answer, but in my opinion the game plan is usually largely affected by the squaddies, not the captains.
Obviously, the 57% captain which is constantly hitting the top tables will be chosen as the most valuable captain, but why is she so strong? And why is the new captain, Mourn, basically receiving no votes at all?
Scalpel is fast, deadly, and can disrupt your opponent’s plans through repositionings. With her 10” threat range, TAC 7 with Anatomical Precision and her excellent playbook, she is a force to be reckoned with. Add to that, that she’s quite slippery as she can buy Second Wind through her Heroic, and you have the makings of a good take-out captain. But that’s not all… Having that 9” sprint together with a 3/6” KICK gives her a native 15” goal threat, which can be increased by dodges on her playbook, so she has the ability to go on goal runs as well. But the real strength lies in her Voodoo Strings trait. Every time Scalpel deals damage, she may (once per model) push any model within 6” of her position for 2”, friend or foe, including herself. This trait can push people off the pitch, break up scrums, add 2” to goal runs, give loads of crowd outs, push people out of cover, decrease the distance between other models for 4”, etc. Add in her Spirit Bomb, which is a 3” AoE that also hands out 2” pushes for every target hit, and she’s able to push multiple models for 4” without even attacking them directly.
Obulus on the other hand seems quite slow with his 4”/6” movement and only 2/6” kick, but that is deceiving. Shadow Like adds another 2”, and he has a 2” melee zone, so he can threaten the same 10” as Scalpel can. Only, Obulus doesn’t really want to attack, unless he has good reason to. At 4+/1 and 14 health points, Obulus feels quite easy to take out, but you’ll have to get around his Unpredictable Movement first. Still, fast 2” melee models that can get into base-to-base (i.e. Shank, Azimuth) are very scary for the big boss. He can handout rerolls through Confidence, which can be very handy in getting those high playbook effects. He can change the net amount of influence for both teams via Misdirection. But his real strength lies in Puppet Master. Puppet Master allows you to make a model perform a jog, pass or attack. Again, just as with Scalpel’s Voodoo Strings, the possibilities are virtually limitless. Let an opposing model walk right into your squad, make an enemy model pass towards your striker who is within snapshot range, extend your own goal runs, move an opposing model towards the edge of the pitch to shove them off, etc.
While Scalpel and Obulus require quite some brain power to fully grasp what they are capable of, Mourn feels somewhat simpler. She’s a coach, and therefore only has a TAC of 3, so you’re mostly going to depend on her character plays and traits. First off, her character plays can add +2 TAC to a single model (Malice), and can give someone the Empathy trait (Hollowed). Think of a TAC 8 Ghast with Empathy; that sounds quite scary, right? How about TAC 7 Bonesaw or Pelage? TAC 8 Cosset with Empathy? Basically, Mourn wants her squaddies to do her dirty work. She also has a once per turn 6” reroll aura for anything (attacks, kicks, plays). Lastly, she has the Candle aura, which means that her squad is virtually immortal. Taking them out within 6” of Mourn gives out 2 VP, but they’ll stand in place and recover their HP back to their recovery level. Sounds quite nice, right? Well, here’s the thing. Scoring teams don’t care about this aura, as they’re not going to take you out anyways. Killing teams actually really like this aura, as suddenly they have a 50% health model (that kept all of its conditions and debuffs) for another 2 VP. Using this aura to your advantage is going to require a lot of practice. Add to that, that Mourn wants her squaddies to do the dirty work for her, so she has to go before any of her squaddies, which means that you’ll have tempo loss EVERY turn. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the idea of her as a captain, but something has to change. The Malice buff isn’t strong enough to make your squaddies suddenly do captain-level damage. My main gripe with Mourn, however: whereas the first two captains can say ‘NO’ to the opponent’s game plan and stop them from getting VPs while they themselves do, Mourn’s idea is saying ‘YES’ to her own team but still handing out VPs to the opponent.
It might be that I have not yet unlocked how to play with Mourn, but I am very much struggling to see how she has any way of competing with the other captains at this moment. Due to my inexperience, I also feel that I am in no position to propose any ‘fixes’. Do you guys have any idea?
The reason why this isn’t a 50/50 is mostly because of diversity in roles, in my opinion.
Vileswarm has a very linear role; furiously charge into the enemy ranks to deal damage, and then get taken out to blow up and deal even more damage. They’re not easy to pin down through their Scatter character play, and their influence efficiency through Veteran Graves is quite nice, but besides damage and maybe stopping charge lanes due to their 40mm base size, this is basically what Vileswarm will do.
Dirge, on the other hand, has a multitude of roles to perform. With its 10” sprint and Flying trait, it’s a very decent ball retriever, and can even quite reliably kick the ball through its 2/4” kick. Add to that, that it can hand out Singled Out on a charge, virtually making a 2 influence investment on the bird a +3 TAC buff on that particular model. But its main strength lies in its Tag Along trait. Being able to follow one of your models for 8” means that they’ll usually have a +1 TAC buff. Add another +1 TAC and +1 DMG for Cosset through Assist. It requires some decent positioning, as the bird’s movement is directly towards your other model, but the payoff is very powerful. +1 TAC to your attacks, -1 TAC for the opposing model’s possible counter, for free. Oh, and did you know Silence turns into a 4/7” kick with the bird around?
I’m actually quite happy to see such a heavy spread between votes. It seems the absolute winner of the team is Casket, but afterwards there’s a three-way tie between Ghast, Graves and Bonesaw, with Veteran Graves hot on their heels. Other votes are for Cosset, Silence and Pelage. No votes for Veteran Hemlocke, Brainpan & Memory and Skulk.
Casket is iconic within the Mortician’s Guild for one rule: Casket Time. The ability to add 2 VP to a take-out speeds up the Mortician game plan. This gives rise to 2-1 or 1-3 plans; something that other teams are unable to do. Add to that, that it’s very hard to take Casket out quickly (unless you’re Sledge or a Butcher), and that he can slow the opponent down A LOT. Heavy Burden is a -4”/-4” movement debuff, which he can cast through his playbook, and he has a Foul Odour, which makes an area of 3” around him Rough Terrain for opposing models. And Ghostly Visage is a 3” AoE which gives any opposing model that tries to charge one of your models within this AoE a -0”/-4” charge range. This is a -10” movement debuff in total; 2” of those are removable via Gliding, and 4” of that is removed by just sprinting and attacking, but this means that the opposing models are paying a heavy toll to get into your lines. His playbook is also quite nice, as he has momentous 2 damage on column 2, and momentous Heavy Burden on that same column. The one problem he brings? His influence stat is 1/4, so you’ll have to work with an influence less.
The three-way tie is quite interesting, as it includes Bonesaw, who is usually a heavily discussed model; you either hate him or love him. Bonesaw is a striker with Stamina, which means that he can go the distance; he has a native 20” goal threat. Usually, you’ll say that his 50mm base greatly reduces his goal run effectivity, but he has the Slippery and Swift Wind traits. Bonesaw can basically ‘walk through’ enemy models, and he’s a 6+ on Parting Blows, which should protect him from any playbook results above the first or second column. (I say ‘should’, as it’s still a matter of dice RNG). His ability to run straight through models also means that he can set up take-outs for your squad, while goal on his goal run. When he charges into a model, he might have enough hits to hit his Unexpected Arrival, pushing the enemy models 4” away from him. At TAC 5 and UA being at his fourth column, you usually need a bit of help getting there, but Obulus’ Confidence or Mourn’s Malice helps a great deal. Also, he can buy himself rerolls on his first kick through Meditation. This means that Bonesaw can also just put himself in snapshot range, cast Meditation, and then just wait for the pass. Still, for being a 50mm base 5+ with 12 health points and only a 1” melee zone, if Bonesaw gets knocked down, it’s usually the end of him. Be careful with him, as he’ll hand out 2 VP quickly when caught out.
Graves and Ghast are basically two sides of the same coin. Whereas Graves is usually seen as a Tooled Up bot, and Ghast as a KD-bot that people actually don’t want to attack, they both can deal MASSIVE amounts of AoE damage when set up properly. Graves can buy momentous Scything Blow on his fifth column, and has the Crucial Artery trait. Even a single cast of this ability means either 3 or 6 damage to anyone in a 2” circle around him, with a maximum of 12 or 15. Ghast can buy The Unmasking momentous at his fifth column as well, which means 3 damage to every model within 3” of his position, for a total of 9 damage if every attack hit. Usually, Mourn teams are based around setting one of them up for a massive kill activation, but it’s also possible to do so with Scalpel through Voodoo Strings.
Lastly, there are quite a number of votes for Veteran Graves, which is understandable. Veteran Graves is a 2” melee, 2 armor model with Close Control, which means that he’s quite strong at keeping the ball secure. Especially when also in cover. A momentous tackle on 1 result, and a knockdown + guild ball token on his second column mean that his attacks will also be very influential in setting up your team. With his Guild Ball token, he can buy two plays: Exhaustion, which means any opponent within 4” has to spend an additional point of momentum to counterattack, and They Ain’t Tough, which shreds 1 armour point off of a model within 6”. This means that Veteran Graves can set up for -1 DEF and -1 ARM on a single hit. Exhaustion means that Veteran Graves is also an excellent first activation, as no one can counter him. As a nice bonus, he can convert 1 momentum into 2 influence on Vileswarm through his heroic for some nice influence efficiency. A pretty straightforward way of choosing between both Graves’: do you need Tooled Up? Pick Graves. Can you set up loads of ganging up bonuses? Pick Graves. Any other time, pick Veteran Graves.
Looking at this graph, the clear losers in the draft are Mourn, Brainpan & Memory and Skulk. After that, it’s a fight between Dirge, Vileswarm, Cosset, Silence and Pelage for the last spot, showing that the Mortician squad has loads of potential, and that it’s quite hard to go for a static 12.
Absolute winners are Obulus, Scalpel, Bonesaw, Ghast, Casket, both iterations of Graves and Veteran Hemlocke. I’m expecting none of these to have votes in the following section.
Absolute losers for this section are Brainpan & Memory, followed by Skulk and Mourn, which is what I suspected from the tournament 12 roster averages. Other votes go towards Vileswarm and Silence, and there are singular votes for Veteran Hemlocke (*), Veteran Graves (*), Ghast (*) and Cosset. (*it seems I was wrong on any ~90+% pick rate models getting votes for this section)
As I’ve already discussed Mourn in the captain section, I’ll talk about B&M and Skulk here.
The problem for the Morticians is that they actually have no real ‘bad’ models. Skulk in itself is a very decent model, with excellent methods of making it harder for the opponent to score a goal. While Horrific Odour, Pest Control, Lightning Reflexes, Poised and Follow Up shout ‘anti-striker’, his playbook and kick stats show that he himself can also go be a cheeky ball holder. That’s because his traits and plays not only discourage strikers, but also ball retrievers. Also, he has a momentous T<< on his fourth column, which means that on a charge, he has a 15” goal threat, if the model holding the ball is close enough to the opposing goal post. He’ll not add any fighting ability to your team however, except for maybe ganging up on someone, but the stress he puts on the ball might still be worth enough to play him. I don’t think he needs something at this moment, he’s perfectly fine as is.
Brainpan and Memory might be one of the weirdest model sets within the game. Having a puppet dodge around on every one of your activations can give your opponent headaches, as Memory is excellent in blocking charge lanes or abilities to pull models in (i.e. Drag, Chain Grab). Memory also has a fully momentous playbook with Brewer TAC; set him up and he’ll deal nice amounts of damage. Memory’s main problem is getting knocked down. Memory himself is not a model with an activation, which means that he can only get healed once through Encourage, which means that a second KD results in Memory not doing anything for the entire round. Luckily, if Memory is put on his bum, Brainpan isn’t fully useless, as he has I’m Open. This means that the Morticians should never have a ‘dead ball’; a ball stuck on a model that has already activated. Besides being a damage threat, Memory can also be used for very fun, non-linear goal runs together with Brainpan. Brainpan gets a +2/+2” addition to his kick stats when kicking to Memory, and Memory can then Pass’n’Move or Snap Shot for 1 less MP. Add in I’m Open, and the following is possible: Memory dodges 2” through Control Strings, Brainpan passes to Memory, Memory dodges up 4”, Memory passes to Brainpan via I’m Open, Memory dodges up another 4”, Brainpan passes back to Memory who is now in Snap Shot range. Because Memory needs to spend 1 less MP for teamwork actions, this means that this whole interaction pays for itself momentum-wise. But again, a single KD on Memory can stop this from happening. I feel that if something is done to address this weakness, that B&M might see loads of play. Maybe something along the lines of: Encourage can be used once on Memory, but Brainpan has a trait so he can always clear conditions from the puppet, which means that Memory has to KD’d thrice for him to be taken out of the equation. Or making the Puppet Sturdy, although I feel that this might be a tad too strong. Do you guys have any ideas?
After this data analysis, I feel that the Morticians are in a decent enough place. Their strength lies in the strength of a single captain and their interaction with their team, which is the same for some other top-tier teams (Veteran Boar for Butchers, Thresher for Farmers, Corbelli for Masons), but this means that they have some counter-play. Take away said captain, hamstring the squad.
I feel that the Morticians actually don’t really need anything in the upcoming errata, except for a buff/rework of Mourn. It’s quite sad to see that the Mortician’s new toy hasn’t really impacted the Guild at all; they’re still doing the same thing as they did at the start of season 4. In a way, they’re in the same spot as the Fishermen, who have the same problem with Yukai.
I myself can’t wait for the FCD Rookie to arrive for Morticians, by the way. Whisper tokens that add +2 TAC to attacks on the targeted model until they are taken out? Yes please.