When Guild Ball was founded, the Union was coined as the ‘mercenary faction’. Other teams could basically pick up their players to fill out their rosters. This meant that the team was based on having no real synergy with one another; they were all strong, individual players. In season 2, Veteran Rage was added to the team; a very strong and versatile captain, seen as one of the strongest in the game at the time. In season 3 the Minor Guilds were announced, which would result in the Union not having to be balanced around the other Major Guilds anymore. The Union even got their third captain as first of the bunch, and got a third mascot! Very quickly, the team had a huge roster of 20 (!) models, which allowed them to start topping the charts on Longshanks. They were thé team to beat.
And then season 4 came along; some minor buffs to Coin, Harry, Mist and Rage; minor reworks to Fangtooth and Snakeskin, as they were almost never picked in competitive play; 4 models left the roster to make their own Minor Guild: captain Seasoned Brisket, mascot Pride, Seasoned Spigot and Veteran Fangtooth. But the most important part? All other Guilds received major amounts of threat extension – especially turn 1 – while the Union was left behind, which meant that the team would almost always be left on the back foot. Also, damage numbers and mobility were enhanced for most teams, but (nearly) nothing happened with the Union playbooks. It was like Steamforged didn’t want to rework the Union just yet…
Which is actually quite obvious, if you think about it. The Minor Guilds are being released, which means that the Union models are being phased out of the other Major Guilds. But until that this phasing out has been completed, Steamforged will most likely not touch the Union. Luckily, the only teams who still have access to Union are the Alchemists, Masons and Brewers. Only three more Minor Guild releases to go, and I’m expecting to see a major overhaul to the Union squad afterwards.
At this moment in time, the Union are the last placed Major Guild, at a measly 43.6% with a standard deviation of 3.5%. Veteran Rage sits at a low, but still respectable 46.6%, while Blackheart resides at the absolute bottom of the pile at 41.1%, only keeping Wellington, Piper, Grange and Honour behind him.
Captain dependency is a huge deal for this squad, as Blackheart is more goal oriented and Veteran Rage more take-out oriented. But I’d like to see this changed into ‘model dependency’, as the squad is a team full of one-offs. Veteran Rage can build a full 6 take-out squad, but can also go for a 2-2 game at the end of the day, when playing the right models. Blackheart is mostly a 2-2 captain, but can also go 3-0 or 1-4. It’s all about who is picked for the 6.
This means that the team can be quite opportunistic; the squaddies can alter the team for their required play style. This means that the team can be quite unpredictable.
Still, the Union are more a take-out focused Guild, as they don’t have many actual strikers in the team, barring from Mist. They have some wingers, but they are mostly allround, utility or setup pieces (Decimate, Minx, Snakeskin, Grace), nothing based on scoring like i.e. Veteran Calculus, Salvo, or Fathom.
While Veteran Rage has been the absolute boss in season 3, the changes to the likes of Coin, Fangtooth, Rage and Harry ‘the Hat’ have been quite positive for Blackheart, who seems to be the pick of choice for this season. Also, if we can believe mister Mountain, Blackheart is THE captain. 😉
Blackheart is an ‘I can do anything’ type of captain, as his ability to make his squad move from scoring to take-outs is quite amazing. He himself is quite hard to pin down; 3+/2 defensive stats, with a 2” melee zone and a 2” dodge on 2 successes with TAC 6. He also has Shadow Like, giving him a 2” dodge at the start of his activation, making him threat 10”. But his real strength lies in being able to trigger some of his character plays, namely Butchery and On My Mark, from his playbook. Blackheart is able to move the ball around via On My Mark, while still hammering out damage on an enemy model, and as these are passes, he not only moves the ball, but his squad as well! How’s that for mobility, Fishies? Also, with Harry now having access to Singled Out, Fangtooth having an in-built damage buff, and Rage being able to hand out Tooled Up, Blackheart is now able to give Fangers a +3 DMG buff at +2 TAC – and maybe more through ganging up bonuses. Who’d like to see 5 damage Unmaskings or just 7 damage bombshells? So yeah, this all sounds nice, but the problem is that other captains/teams provide the same damage or mobility buffs, but quicker and more effective (i.e. Yukai, Corbelli, Rivet, Veteran Rage to name some).
When someone plays Veteran Rage, there’s only 1 thing important: Red Fury. Being able to make a squaddie attack 8 times, while also being able to charge Rage himself into the fray is quite nice, but it requires loads of setup. Most of the times, the person being set up is Gutter; Scything Blow means that she can hit multiple people, and Chain Grab means that she can pull more people to hit in, and both are momentous. Usually, the Gutter target is knocked down and Singled Out, and the Bloody Coin heroic is placed onto Gutter. Being able to hit a 3+/1 as a 2+/0 with TAC 8-9 means that any other enemy model with 6” of Gutter is going to die. But again, loads of setup. Kill either Veteran Rage or Gutter, and the power play is gone. And with the power creep of season 4, more and more models have been able to perform such feats, leaving Rage quite sad.
Coin receiving a 2” melee zone and a 2/4” KICK, while still being able to hand out Bag of Coffers and have great mobility through Follow Up, means that Coin is now super versatile. Nothing more really has to be said.
Strongbox had received no big changes, meaning he is still the slow 3”/5” 1” melee turtle with a 4” aura TAC bonus aura. Strongbox wants to opponent to come into you, but the Union have not received any real increased in damage or toughness, so teams like the Blacksmiths, Brewers and Butchers can just easily slice their way through them, so playing Strongbox feels counter-intuitive.
For the most valuable squaddie, we have an almost 4-way tie. Harry the Hat and Fangtooth seem the real winners here, but Mist, Decimate and Gutter follow shortly, with also some votes for Hemlocke. Missing squaddies are A&G, Minx, Rage, Snakeskin and both Order members, Benediction and Grace.
Harry has received major buffs for season 4. Easy pushes on his playbook, 2” melee, Singled Out, being able to hamper charge lanes with Molotovs, and generating momentum through Rising Anger. Add in Blackheart’s passing shenanigans with Harry’s Inspiring Hat aura, and you’re set. I don’t think much more has to be said about him.
Fangtooth also received quite some buffs. Foul Odour only affects enemy models, Fangtooth Unleashed doesn’t hurt his team mates anymore, Gluttonous Mass was buffed to Resilience, his Playbook has improved greatly, and he now also brings 2 influence to the team! Fangtooth is a model that requires some effort to take down, but can’t easily be forgotten about. People have to deal with him, one way or another (except when you’re very mobile and just run in circles around him).
Mist is one of the strongest strikers in the game. 10” native ball retrieval threat, 12” with Acrobatics, 14” with Cover of Darkness (which he can trigger himself through Smoke Bomb), and an 8” kick gives him a native 20” threat on goal. Momentous tackle on 1 and only having a 4-column long playbook makes for very strong wraps. He’s quite linear in his role, but he performs it very well.
Decimate must be one of the most allround models in the game. 10” threat range with her 9” sprint, TAC 6 with Anatomical Precision, dodges almost everywhere on her playbook, easily accessible momentous 2 + 1” dodge, easily accessible momentous tackle, 3/6” kick, and also being a utility or setup piece with Second Wind or Thousand Cuts. It doesn’t matter what gameplan you’re going for; Decimate will be useful.
With a choice of 16 models, 4 have to be dropped, and you guys seem quite sure of yourselves which 4 these are.
Strongbox, A&G, Benediction and Grace are the drops, which I am also expecting to see in the last section of the breakdown.
Minx and Snakeskin feel like niche picks, while the rest seem to be ‘must-have’ models.
Wow. Just… Wow.
The duo of Avarisse and Greede and the Order member Grace are coined as the absolute least valuable players of the squad with over 50% of the votes for Grace and near 45% for A&G.
Grace seems quite okay at a quick first glance. 6”/8” MOV, TAC 4 on a 4-column playbook, dodges, tackles, even 2 momentous damage on column 3. 8” KICK, 4+/1 defensive statline with 14 health points… Wait, 1/5 influence? What is that all about? Grace has the Blessed trait, which means that Grace will always receive 2 influence at the start of her turn, which technically makes her a 3/5 influence model… only she’s not. Those 2 influence HAVE to be placed on Grace, so she only brings 1 influence for the rest of the squad. This doesn’t sound thát problematic, but you’ll have to remember that this is the Union; there are only influence-greedy models in this team. There’ll be turns where you don’t want Grace to have any influence; you’d rather place that influence on models like i.e. your captain, Gutter, Decimate, Fangtooth. So what will she do with those two influence, you ask? Most likely give someone Quick Foot, or position a healing AoE, whose ranges can be increased greatly through her Impart Faith aura, but that means that you’ll basically be playing 5v6, and the opponent will be able to bring more influence to the actual fight. Also, what is up with that influence cap of 5? What is Grace going to do with 5 influence? Her playbook isn’t good. At most, she’ll Quick Foot herself, charge into someone for the non-momentous T< – and hope that the opposing model isn’t a 2” melee – and kick the ball back towards her team- with only 2 dice. Goals? She didn’t make any momentum with those 5 influence. Not needing to Quick Foot and momentous dodging before shooting? She’s a 4+/1, so she’s bound to get knocked down or get the ball tackled away from her, and she’ll not easily recover it back with her tackle on 2 with only TAC 4. Grace is a mess at the moment. I think the way to go should be making sure that she can actually do something with her playbook. If she’s able to put those 5 influence to good use without it being a huge liability, I think she’ll she more play.
And now for the duo of Avarisse and Greede. Their damage output is quite large, but you’ll have to get them there first, and it requires a huge influence investment. Avarisse is a 5”/7” with a 1” melee zone and an influence cap of 3. This means that he doesn’t like to need to sprint to get to his opponent. He’s also a 3+/0, which means he’s a huge target for momentum farming, especially since he also has Tough Hide to keep him alive for longer. Avarisse will receive a free knockdown result and +1 DMG to playbook damage on his attacks, when Greede is standing next to the model he’s attacking. Greede has Singled Out on 1 result, so suddenly Avarisse is TAC 8 with a 5-column long playbook. This all sounds nice, right? But here’s the kicker. Setting Greede down is an action, so Avarisse can’t charge and put Greede down before attacking. Greede himself is a 5+ defense model with only 7 health boxes, but killing Greede still nets you 2 VP, so you’ll want to pick him back up… which costs 1 influence. This means that, if you want to make use of Greede, he’ll have to always have 2 influence; one for Singled Out (which could miss…), and one for being picked back up. And if your opponent is able to stay out of Avarisse’s threat, that’s 2 influence gone down the drain. The mechanic is super clunky to say the least, and not influence effective in any way. For one, I’d say give A&G a shared influence pool of 2/5. Give Greede Unpredictable Movement, so he’s less of a problem to protect, and change Singled Out to Eye Spy. The Guild already has access to Singled Out through Harry, and it’s way more thematic for Greede to be on the lookout and shouting to Avarisse “KILL HIM, OVER THERE, GET HIM!”. Also, make dropping down and picking up Greede free, but only OPT. Lastly, give Avarisse his 2” melee. Have you seen this guy’s club?
In short, the Union could need some help. The Guild balance by itself at the moment is fine, but the Guild balance within the game needs work. But that will take some time, as Steamforged will most likely first release all of the remaining Minor Guilds. I’m sure they’ll do the Union right in the end. Let’s just have some patience.