A Mad Meta Skaven Deck: Fester and Hunger

This is a guest article from MadSkullz, a player known on the /r/WarhammerUnderworlds Discord Server for building, playing, and having success with off meta decks for lesser used factions like Eyes of the Nine and Skaven. He put this deck guide together, and it seemed like too much fun not to share. ~ WiggleFish

Fester and Hunger

Has their even been a more iconic duo?

F&H was borne from three things–a fondness for my old season 1 warband, noticing a detail on a faction specific upgrade, and wanting to make something off-meta but still aggressively competitive. F&H requires a mindset which deviates quite sharply from the current approach–it can and often will involve the tactical suicide of your own fighters, as well as gently abusing certain mechanics and cards.

So why play F&H? Well, it’s been designed to:

  1. Be as awkward as possible to win points against.
  2. Counter the emerging ranged/magic meta as far as is possible.
  3. Alleviate some of the stress of using a Skritch-centric deck where a dead Skritch would mean game over.
  4. Leverage the (almost) unique Skaven ability to retrieve upgraded fighters from beyond the veil and keep upgrading and reusing them.

The List:

Fester and Hunger

Deck Link

Now the astute observer will notice that some of these card names are in bold. This is because I believe those cards to be fundamental to the success of F&H’s play style. I think that if you’re looking to cut cards or muck about with this deck, those are the ones you should probably change out last.

Countercharge and Shattering Terrain are player preference. A discord user “themiro” has suggested Shattering Terrain, and it’s explained at the end. Haymaker and Upper Hand are player preference and depend on the definition of “tied.” If Upper Hand can be scored on a nil-nil roll (ask your opponent or tournament organizer before use) then it is better. Arm’s Length and Spike are player preference.

The Playstyle

So, F&H derives its name from Festering Skaven and Hungering Skaven, both of whom are really quite ferocious when upgraded. Why them? What’s special about them? It’s in the upgrades.

Hungering gets Black Hunger. This card is his key upgrade, and it is one of the most powerful in the game. It grants him an area of affect attack, as well as scoring an extra point of damage. Think of it as Great Strength except massively better. It’s a bit unfortunate that it also targets skaven, but we’ll cover that later. Black Hunger should be paired with Nullstone Sword and concealed weapon.

Fester gets Festering Blades. It was when idly reading the text of Festering Blades that F&H as a concept started to take form – most folks will write it off as a restricted version of Concealed Weapon, but I noticed an interesting detail… it works for range 2 attacks. This means Fester should be given Festering Blades and Nullstone Spear.

That’s the basics – unless circumstances are beyond dire, Fester gets blades and spear, Hungering gets black hunger, concealed weapon and nullstone sword.

Then we’re onto the next most important upgrades in the game – Expendable and Crown of Avarice. This is how we poison the well and start to vex our opponent.

Expendable wins my award for being the most annoying upgrade in the game, bar none. A rat with expendable, when an attack is going to deal damage to it, can be removed from the battlefield by you and a point of damage is done to the attacker. So, what’s the significance of this? Well:

  • A) Your opponent did not take the rat out of action. You did. This means they can’t claim a glory for killing the rat. This also means they can’t score the majority of objectives, such as Advancing Strike or Precise use of Force.
  • B) The attack did no damage, which means the attack failed. This blocks Headshot, while simultaneously scoring Miraculous Escape.
  • C) Your opponent did not take the rat out of action, and so they cannot claim additional glory for Tome of Offerings or Shacklegeist Chains.

Expendable is to be applied to whichever rat is has the most upgrades. Be aware though that it has counterplay – lethal hex damage will kill this rat normally, as well as gambit or reaction damage that isn’t administered via an additional attack. Also note that the rat still counts towards objectives like Pure Carnage and Martyred.

Crown of Avarice is less vexing, but more wide-spectrum. The recent FAQstates that you can claim the glory that your opponent claimed by killing your rodent – and this works for attacks, gambits and at any range – just not lethal hex damage. Be aware that you have several ways to suicide a rat (Whip Into a Frenzy, Black Hunger, Ghoulish Pact), and Crown of Avarice will work with those to score you a glory. This is a huge deal – it means that when YOUR guy dies, YOU get a VP. That’s a 2VP shift, which is equivalent to scoring escalation.

Well yes, this is all very lovely, but how do you score seed glory?

Two approaches. The ever-present passive objectives which don’t require taking skulls for the rat god, but also… suicide.

Let’s look at Lurking Skaven. He’s nice and all, 3 swords on an inspired attack, 2 dodge pre-inspire… not bad. He’s not got any upgrades in our deck, and well, he’s a liability. Let’s do some very quick maths, which applies to every rodent in this warband.

Lurking is worth 1 VP to our opponent if he dies. He’s also worth another VP if he’s the victim of an Advancing Strike, and maybe another if that was a Precise Use of Force. Furthermore, our opponent might have the very popular Tome of Offerings. So he’s worth between 1 and 4 VP, realistically speaking, and completed objectives count towards the ever popular Superior Tactician, Combination Strike, Victory After Victory etc etc.

This isn’t news to any seasoned players. But what’s he worth to us if we off him ourselves?

Well, he starts at being worth nothing. However, if we play Sacrificial Pawn on him, he’s worth 1. At this point it’s a break even by the way – suicide the little sod if you want seed glory. However, we don’t just have Sacrificial Pawn. We have Martyred, and Calculated Risk. That brings his value to 3 VP. IF you can equip Crown of Avarice and suicide him with a ploy or Black Hunger, which is a big ask, that’s another potential VP.

I call this the Suicidal Four. You see enough of these cards in AP1, and one of your rats is suddenly gonna get all sad and start thinking about the big cheese factory in the sky.

Jeez that’s depressing

Sorry. In chess often a pawn is worth more dead than alive, and that sadly is the case here too. However it’s not just Lurky that you should be suiciding – suicide can also be a very effective teleport. If one of Fester or Hunger are out of position, you can suicide for points and summon them somewhere more useful. Likewise you can slay them with a ploy/Black Hunger to clear charge/move tokens, but do so carefully.

Still though, I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do?

Well, you’re unlikely to have more than one or two sources of suicide glory in hand, and scoring 2VP for the loss of a fighter might seem like a rough deal, but bear this in mind: once your less useful rat(s) is/are dead in a manner which does not disadvantage you from a score point of view, what rats are left?

Why, the ones which are worth less (Crown of Avarice) or nothing (Expendable) or who are at the very back of the field ready to Hidden Paths to safety (Skritch). Once the upgrades are in place and the less useful rat(s) are dead, the well is poisoned.

But what if I don’t pull the desired combination(s) at the right time?

Calm down – nobody’s gonna pull a hand with Expendable, Nullstone Spear and Festering Blades and the ideal objectives. Every upgrade in this deck is included on the basis of being significant and worthwhile in its own right. Fester with his Blades and Great Strength is still the nearly the same as a re-usable Shadeglass Dagger; Hungering with Nullstone is still putting out the damage of one of Magore’s bros, Fester with Nullstone Spear is knocking out 2 points of damage from relative safety. Hell, Concealed Weapon and Black Hunger is 2-4 HP hits.

Alright, I’ll give it a go. Any more comments?

Why yes narrator, let me give you a few thoughts on cards and why they’re included over other picks.

Branching Fate – 44% chance to score on a 3 dice attack, 16% on a 4 dice attack. An inspired Fester will roll 3 dice. A Hungering with Nullstone or Challenge Seeker will roll 3 dice. A fester with spear and challenge seeker will roll 3 dice. It’s pretty easy to score.

Nullstone Spear – Combines with Festering Blades to make a serious threat. With Sneaky Stab Stab will allow a 3 hex threat range without moving. All that AND a re-roll against filthy magic users? Super. Nullstone Spear with Great Strength or Whip into a Frenzy will dispatch the Guardian caster in one hit. It’s also really significant that it has a 2 hex range, because it removes supporting fighters from the equation and means targets must move to attack you. This costs them actions!

Calculated Risk, Sacrificial Pawn, Martyred, Crown of Avarice – these should have you lookin sideways at your least favourite disposable rodent. Your least favourite rodent should be pretty nervous at this point. The Suicidal Four.

Challenge Seeker – this is where a 2HP rodent is suddenly decidedly better at reliably hitting stuff than Skritch will ever be.

Concealed Weapon, Festering Blades – these need to go on the right rats. IT’s tempting to create a superrat doing +4 damage on crit, but it rarely works out.

Crown of Avarice – amazed I don’t already see this in more tournament builds. It’s a solid pick for any warband which can predict which fighter is about to eat it, or any warband which can bring back fighters which the enemy are likely to try and kill a second time, because either of their threat profile or their scoring potential (Offerings or Glory). Love it.

Escalation – love it or hate it, it’s in the game. Here’s something though – if you suicide a rat for 1VP, and score 1 or 2 VP, then Escalation is basically scored in AP1. Some people might consider Escalation in AP1 a disadvantage, but if you’ve got one or more of the Suicidal Four, you can score it. With any luck your opponent mulliganed their Escalation! Also Ghoulish Pact means your required glory to score Escalation is lower than you think.

At Arm’s Length – requires Skritch or Nullstone Spear to score. Use your judgement regards Skritch. You can afford to lose him, but it’s still best not to as he’s your rodent retrieval rascal.

Countercharge – A seriously underestimated toolkit card. When a charge is declared, you can:

  1. Move another rat to support the first rat, while inspiring the supporting rat
  2. Move the charged rat to another hex still adjacent to the charger – this may get out out of pins or away from supports or lethal hexes etc – and inspire the charged rat.
  3. Move the charged rat adjacent to the charger to counter ranged advantage. This breaks Death From Afar as well as inspiring the rat.

Be aware that the charger does not need to declare the target of the charge until after you have played Countercharge, but even so this is a heck of a card to slip out.

Shattering Terrain (credit to themiro) – Can be combined with Black Hunger to AoE damage on pushback, or can be used to suicide. When it is active with Sacrificial Pawn, a rat can move through a lethal hex (Calculated Risk) and then die to the ploy, scoring Martyred and claiming the glory with Crown of Avarice. This is a potential 3 direct glory, 2 objectives scored and the death glory stolen from the enemy for a total of 4 glory in ideal circumstances. This may not make you friends – familiarize yourself with the FAQ entries for Crown of Avarice and Shattering Terrain before attempting.

Musk of Fear – Synergises well with Change of Tactics, as well as inspiring and putting a rat on guard. Great way to reduce bleed or save Skritch. Be aware that it does not count as “Guard” for the purposes of Keep Them Guessing.

Hidden Paths – remember this counts as a Move for Keep Them Guessing, and also use it to save Skritch from ganks or to position rats.

Ghoulish Pact and Whip Into a Frenzy – be aware it does a point of damage. This isn’t a deal-breaker, in fact it often helps control where and how your rats will die, but bear in mind you can’t score Calculated Risk with a rat that has 1HP left. Obviously inspires rats, so it’s great for a fairly murderous surprise upgrade or charge.

There Are Always More – it’s a free action, and an inspire, and a teleport all rolled into one. Seeing this in your hand should make you giggle a bit – you can go ham.

Black Hunger – You can use this to suicide a rat with Crown of Avarice and score Martyred into the process. When using it offensively, bear in mind the last target you attack is the one you’re most likely to hit, provided you opt to drive back or manage to kill the earlier targets.

Nullstone Sword – Hot damn, 3 hammers is like 70% success against one shield. A re-roll is basically the same as a 4th dice, which means against mages with 1 shield or similar you’re looking at 70-80% chance to succeed. Manage to throw on Concealed Weapon and Black Hunger and suddenly you’ve got a Cursebreaker-breaker.

And that’s it folks.

So, if you want to use this deck, feel free. I don’t consider it “my” deck, as it was co-created, rules checked and edited by the awesome people in the Underworlds discord. If you have a particularly amusing experience with it, or want to suggest something we’ve missed, or have questions, please feel free to pop by on the discord.

MadSkullz is a retired hitman who attempts to drown out memories of past kills and pleas for mercy by playing skirmish scale wargames.


Thanks, MadSkullz!

If anyone else feels like writing a post about the game in general or a deck they’ve been having success with, please feel free to reach out to me. The more you write, the less I have to 😉

~ WiggleFish

6 thoughts on “A Mad Meta Skaven Deck: Fester and Hunger

  1. “Be aware that the charger does not need to declare the target of the charge until after you have played Countercharge, but even so this is a heck of a card to slip out.”

    Does this mean that the charger can declare the countercharger instead of the one they intended to charge initially?


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