Tales from the Pitch

Dice Intensity and the Miners

Hey folks! I'm Alex Botts, co-host of Strictly the Worst Guild Ball Podcast. The Miner's Guild are a hot topic on pretty much every form of Guild Ball social media you can find, and while thinking about what makes them so frustrating to so many people (myself included) I came up with a term I'd like to tentatively add to the Guild Ball lexicon. This rough concept is something I've had in my head for a while and I'm going to attempt to define it here. First I'll describe dice intensity in general terms, then outline why it's relevant to the conversation about the Miners.

What is dice intensity? How does it work on the pitch?

By dice intensity I roughly mean "a measure of how many dice/net hits one team has access to in a location on the pitch." Dice intensity is a heat map overlaid on the pitch, or rather two heat maps, one for each player. A location on the pitch has a high dice intensity for you when many of your models are engaging a single enemy model in that location, or when you've applied things liked Singled Out and Eye Spy to a specific model. Conversely, your team has a low dice intensity in locations where enemy models are crowded together or in cover, and you only have one model in melee with them. Models like Sledge with Piledriver might "apply" dice intensity to whatever model they're hitting. Abilities like Season Three Dread Gaze might reduce the opponent's dice intensity in a wide swath around Veteran Siren.

What's interesting and, in my opinion, useful about this concept is how it elucidates a great deal about how guilds win games in Guild Ball, particularly fighting guilds. The near-ubiquity of Gutter in most guilds in which she has been a legal tournament choice is a clear example. Gutter is one of the best models in the game at taking dice intensity and spreading its impact around. Gutter threatens to stand in any location on the pitch where her team has dice intensity and apply that intensity to enemies in a huge area around her. Not only is the obvious Scything Blow a huge impact upon models within her melee zone, but Gutter can pull enemies that are 6" away into her melee zone given enough successes on a set of four attacks. If you picture the dice intensity heat map, Gutter spreads any particularly deep color on the pitch in a huge area around her, washing out that entire region with a huge impact of damage and positional control.

Abilities like Scything Blow, Unmasking, Chain Grab, Mauling, Dirty Knives, and so on have been the cornerstones of the majority of hugely successful or overbearing fighting teams' strategies for the entire history of Guild Ball. Even models like Thresher and Ox, which do not literally have ranged damage, use tools like They Ain't Tough to both amp up dice intensity in a small area (making more successes more likely on the specific target they're hitting) and spread said peak of intensity around with ranged applications. I'd make the claim that the vast majority of top players who have had successful tournament runs with fighting guilds did so under a general strategy of maximizing the impact of peaks of dice intensity on the pitch while minimizing the dice intensity their opponents have access to. To put it in a simpler way, pretty much every successful fighting team I'm aware of both is/was good at stacking up lots of dice/successes on a set of attacks and is/was good at making sure those super-powered attacks affected a large amount of the playing field (measured both in literal area and in number of models impacted), not simply the single model they literally targeted.

What's this got to do with Miners?

The reason I think this idea is worth talking about now is because of how Miners interact with the concept, but first a summary of how the concept typically works with the more scoring-oriented guilds.

In general, scoring teams get less for dice intensity that they manage to manufacture. There's no question that getting higher playbook results or wraps is better than not for your Sharks, Midases, and so on, but in general that type of benefit will only result in more movement and momentum for their team. With the sole exception of Yukai, a given activation can only result in one goal, so no amount of gang-up bonuses can result in multiple VP-generating actions like they can with Rundaas, Gutter, or Seenah. If anything, an accidental or intentional high dice intensity for a scoring team usually results in an audible towards take-outs, since consistent wraps are the only time these guilds can really commit to kill stuff other than mascots.

Scoring teams are also typically the ones most victimized by a game plan based on dice intensity. The fairly common Blacksmiths strategy of bunkering Iron up with Sentinel, Cover, possibly Use This, and maybe even Anvil's LP for Stoic is an example of going to extremities to ensure that the location where the ball sits is a trough of dice intensity for the team that wants to score. This type of thing is both easy for killing teams to manufacture (inasmuch as they have pushes more often than dodges and, if they have the ball, get to choose where it is) and positionally beneficial since even an attempt on the ball requires a scoring team to get closer to a majority of the fighting team's models.

Finally, this is where Miners come in. Miners have a unique relationship to the dice-intensity heat map not only for a scoring guild, but for a guild, full stop. Secret Tunnel not only makes the team fast and hard to pin down, but it means that plans based around manufacturing and executing on dice intensity are ineffective in a relatively unprecedented way. In addition to that, various rules like Clear!, Sinkhole, We're Going Underground, and You're Coming With Me (as well as more common rules like Weak Point, Singled Out, and the guild's wealth of knockdowns) mean that Miners generate dice intensity for themselves better than, arguably, any other guild in the game. This is particularly unusual for scoring guilds; Windfinder's LP is the only example I can think of that comes close to it in a scoring team, but that's a once-per-game effect, and the Navigators' unique playbook/probability design means their take-out game never gets particularly egregious. Miners do not benefit from dice intensity to the level that models like Gutter and so on do, by any means. But they're the best at generating that dice intensity, and that means the aforementioned "audible to take-outs" would be on the table even without Mule and Shafts' momentous damage results.

What this all comes down to is that Miners turned out to be a scoring team that a) plays incredibly well to strengths that almost every top player has already cultivated and b) counters those same learned habits in other top players playing other guilds. If there are winning strategies against the Miners, they exist well outside the tendencies of most top players currently playing Guild Ball, and they also exist outside the well-tread doctrine of how to play against scoring guilds.

I don't want to leave this article on the impression that I think Miners need to be nerfed into the ground or something like that. I'm personally in favor of some small nerfs to the guild, but I'm comfortable letting one or two large tournaments around the world go by before I'll commit to what and how much I think needs to change. Hopefully, though, this article is helpful in contextualizing what makes the guild strong, as well as an illuminating framing of how and why a lot of top-level play works. Thanks for reading!

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