Y'all Are Sleeping On Mourneblade
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Mourneblade is very good, and you should play him
For some reason, people are sleeping on Mourneblade. As of this writing, he’s got the lowest winning percentage on BattleLadder and the 5th lowest number of logged games. This suggests that folks may not realize how amazing he is. He is among my favorite champions to play.
In the most recent tournament I played, both players in the final round used Mourneblade. He was also the clear MVP of that particular game. I’ve already written about it in a previous post. The fact that both players in the final were using him should suggest that he has a place in competitive play. He was also 7-5 in tournament games when active over the last two online tournaments. His relatively good record in competitive play contrasts with his abysmal overall record, suggesting that there might be some folks out there not getting the most out of him.
Mourneblade wants to chill out between two objectives and maximize his incredible ranges to affect both objectives throughout the game. He is not flashy, but he can really change the dynamic of a turn in subtle ways.
Consider the scenarios below:
Here's a pretty typical board state for the end of the turn 1 plot phase. Notice that Moruneblade is the only one with a banner down. That tends to happen with him on Turn 1. Anyhow, let's suppose that the Mourneblade player is going first. Going first is pretty crucial for Mourneblade. This whole thing may seem kind of normal, but Keera is actually in trouble.
Usually, a turn 1 ultimate is not the best idea. Mourneblade can be an exception. The dragons are now totally locked down. Yes, Keera can spend her turn munching skellingtons, but at armor 3, she may not get them all. Even worse, she'll likely have to burn her personal actions which means she can't advance. Mourneblade can now shut her out of that side objective next turn. Yes, she will eventually break out and kill him, but that's only worth one point.
Usually, you will want to do something like this in the top half of the Turn 2 plot phase. I know a very good Mourneblade player who intentionally loses turn 1 to ensure going first on turn 2. I personally wouldn't go that far, but it gives you an idea of how good it is to go first as Mourneblade. In this case, we're throwing the Knightshades downrange on turn 1 because the dragons are so darn fast.
Later on, Keera's dragons have removed some Knightshades and been sprung from zombie jail by Roar of Battle. The two follower units have done their work and cleared the way. The Knightshades have also already activated, so they can't stop her. She can now squish Mourneblade's banner. Or CAN she?
Mourneblade's Range 3 attack has a hit effect that lets the Knightshades make a recruit action. All Moruneblade has to do is is smack that dragon (dodge 2) with 5 dice and he can drop another stupid skeleton next to poor, frustrated Keera. The banner is safe.
In this scenario, Titus has just done some elf murder. He has knocked out Lorsann (6 wounds) and two of her rangers. To make matters worse, poor Lorsann has to rally, so she cannot get to Titus's banner.
Fortunately, Mourneblade to the rescue! He can move one hex closer and use Raise Dead to Rally Lorsann on his activation. Lorsann is then free to shoot n' scoot a dragon (easy target) before moving three more hexes to squish the banner.
Let's Explain Why He's Good
- He does not care about dying.
This is a huge deal. Feel free to put Mourneblade into the meanest slayer your opponent has because killing him will likely not be an efficient use of the high value attacks slayers usually bring. With armor 4, he won’t be trivial to kill without an auto-wound. If a slayer takes him out, they score only two steps, and this is the same as what that slayer would achieve by killing two followers instead. Moreover, Mourneblade’s action economy does not really suffer much either because he can rally the next time any enemy model is KO’d anywhere on the board. As long as you wait to activate him until after this happens, he will still get his two actions. Yes, when KO’d, our favorite fire skeleton gets repositioned, but that is also less of a big deal because…
- He can do lots fo things from far away.
Mourneblade can attack and place banners at range 3. Range 3 is a big deal in this game. The only other models with Range 3 attacks are Lorsann, the Red Bandits, and (depending on your definition), Keera. While attacking at range 3 is very good, placing banners at range 3 is absolutely bananas. This means that our boy can usually be in position to place a banner in a safe place whilst also remaining relevant in a completely different part of the board.
- His followers can be oppressive.
The Knightshades have the ability to wreck your opponent’s day. This is highly conditional, but when it works, it really works. The Death Grip ability means that when opponents start an advance action adjacent to a Knightshade, they have speed zero. This only applies if they start adjacent, so fast models can run past them if they start free. Death Grip reduces speed to completely to zero, though, so the speed boon will not help. It applies only to advance actions, so other movement effects (march, shoot ’n scoot, current, etc.) will ignore this. Still, Death Grip can, if properly used, be massive. It can protect banners, shield vulnerable models, jam up otherwise fast models, and pose a constant headache for opponents. The Knightshades are slow on their own, so they need some help from Mourneblade’s Forward Minions and Grasping Dead actions to get where they need to go. Mourneblade’s ultimate is one of the rare ones that you may want to use on turn 1 (see above), as getting the Knightshades in position early can pay off throughout subsequent turns.
- He makes Shayle very sad.
Consider this scenario:
Shaye is actually screwed for multiple turns if Mourneblade has his ultimate. Here's why:
By using his ultimate to put Knightshades into Shayle and moving out of Earthquake range, Mourneblade has effectively removed Shayle and landslide from the game until someone can rescue Shayle. Shayle cannot move and has no attacks to use against the Knightshades. Landslide is more than 3 hexes away from Shayle, so he cannot re-position. Mourneblade can now gleefully drop banners in front of Shayle and take sniper shots at enemy models in other parts of the board. The Moruneblade player is now effectively playing 3 on 2. The mere threat of this forces the Shayle player to keep Landslide close at all times, which substantially reduces Shayle's flexibility throughout the game.
Let’s address some complaints about Mourneblade
Complaint: He dies from auto-wounds.
Response: Yes, but who cares? Small followers also die from auto wounds and are worth one step also. As covered above, Mourneblade’s action economy is not harmed that much by KOs.
Complaint: He’s slow
Response: Not really. He has a move of 2 in each phase, but his followers can also move him 2 in the plot phase. Yes, this will prevent the followers from handing out a boon or two, but it’s not a big deal. Moving 6 hexes in a turn is pretty fast.
Complaint: His followers are slow
Response: I agree. This is not as bad as it seems, though, if you get a feel for when and how to use Grasping Dead. Don’t worry about using it early once the dynamics of the game start to become clear. Identify who needs to take advance actions and fling zombies at them. Mourneblade can also move the Knightshades 2 hexes in the clash phase, which is useful because he can also usually claim without having to move.
Complaint: He is not great at killing things
Response: True. He’s a Guardian. He does not need to be great at killing things. He is really good at preventing other models from scoring, though. Think of him as KO gratification denial. That said, he does have some offensive capability. A range 3 5/5 is decent, and the Knightshades will often recruit and attack (since they like to be near models which are strongly incentivized to kill them), which makes their attack usually a decent 5/5. Those are not champion killing numbers, but they are follower killing numbers.
Complaint: His followers don’t stop Raith’Marid
Response: Mostly true. They can prevent Raith from advancing after a kersploosh if they are perfectly positioned, but I agree. That said, this does not mean that Mourneblade is bad overall, just that he can’t solve the Soggy Dragon for you. Lots of champions struggle with this. If you want to stop Raith, I have written elsewhere about how to do so.