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Cardiology: Larval Lance

Decision: Should You Play Larval Lance?


Mollog should pass.  Rippa's should definitely be playing it.  As for the other bands, most aggro strategies will benefit from packing Larval Lance, especially in larger warbands. 

Factor: The Basics

With each new season of Shadespire, it seems that there is destined to be an attack upgrade that stands out among its peers.  Sometimes (as with Shadeglass Dagger), the acclaim is well warranted and the card goes on to become a staple in almost every deck.  Other times (looking at you, Fated Blade), the hype is quite overblown, and the card disappears back into relative obscurity.  Six warbands into Season 3, the Belle of the Ball certainly seems to be Larval Lance.  But will it go on to win Prom Queen?  Or like Fated Blade, will it be consigned to standing near the exit, staring into a cup of unspiked punch, wondering if the cheeto stains on its cheap rented tuxedo are going to affect its deposit?

On first glance, Larval Lance appears to have a pretty simple progression of power.  It's bad in the first round, solid in the second, and very good in the third.  This is a perfectly acceptable way to think about Lance, but it doesn't give us very good guidance on whether we should be playing it or notCards that only matter in the third round range from good enough to be restricted (Slumbering Key) to keeps your drinks from leaving a ring on the dining room table (Total Dominance).  So how do we determine where on the spectrum Larval Lance falls?  Math, of course, silly!

In the next few sections, we'll be breaking down how Larval Lance compares to other options by round.  It's important to keep in mind that the longer you have to wait for Lance to be good, the less likely it is that you should play it.

Factor: Accuracy

Let's start by looking at accuracy.  As mentioned above, Larval Lance starts out very weak in this department, and grows progressively into one of the most accurate attacks in the game.  One way to try to parse this would be to compare the accuracy on Lance to the basic attacks you've already got access to.  The table below summarizes how Larval Lance compares to the base attacks on your models in each round.  The numbers in the box show you how many models in your warband (uninspired/inspired) have no attacks that are as accurate or more accurate than lance - so high numbers indicate a time when it would be worth it to upgrade with lance, from an accuracy only standpoint.  The final line compares Lance to the currently available universal upgrades in the same way.

A couple of notes: Models that can't have attack action upgrades have been excluded.  4-sword attacks and 3 hammer attacks are considered equivalent for this section (sometimes one is more accurate, sometimes the other is); the same thing applies to 2 hammer/3sword attacks.  Ritual Dagger and Wall of Force haven't been considered, for various reasons, leaving us with 23 other universal attack action upgrades.  Finally, abilities like cleave and ensnaring were left out of this calculation - Larval Lance has neither, and we're looking for places where it is a clear improvement over the model's base attacks.

AccuracyRound 1Round 2Round 3
Garrek's Reavers (5)0/02/05/5
Steelheart's Champions (3)0/00/02/2
Sepulchral Guard (7)0/04/07/4
Ironskull's Boyz (4)0/02/04/4
Chosen Axes (4)0/00/03/3
Spiteclaw's Swarm (5)0/03/05/5
Magore's Fiends (3)0/00/03/2
Farstriders (3)0/00/03/3
Stormsire's Cursebreakers (3)0/00/03/1
Thorns of the Briar Queen (7)2/04/27/7
Eyes of the Nine (4)0/02/04/4
Zarbag's Gitz (7/6)1/04/37/4
Godsworn Hunt (5)0/02/05/5
Mollog's Mob (1)0/00/01/1
Thundrik's Profiteers (5)0/00/05/4
Ylthari's Guardians (4)0/00/04/3
Ironsoul's Condemnors (3)0/00/01/1
Lady Harrow's Mournflight (4)0/03/14/3
Grashrak's Despoilers (6)0/04/06/6
Skaeth's Wildhunt (4)0/00/04/2
Grymwatch (6)0/05/06/5
Rippa's Snarlfangs (3)0/02/03/2
Universal Upgrades (23)0/x2/x24/x

In terms of accuracy, most warbands will get a significant accuracy boost from Larval Lance in the third round, but not really before that.  It also outperforms all of the other weapon upgrades, with the exception of Swordbreaker and Nullstone Sword, by the third round.  But we kind of already knew that.  What new information have we discovered?

If they are looking for more accuracy, Mollog, Cursebreakers, and Condemnors can probably pass on Larval Lance.  We also found some warbands that benefit from Lance before the third round, which is really what we are looking for.  All of the 6/7/9-model warbands could stand to pack Lance in the early rounds of the game, along with a handful of Season 1 warbands.  Finally, Mournflight, Eyes, and Snarlfangs (!?) can also get significant boosts before round 3, if all we're looking to do is hit more often.

Lastly, it's worth noting that nasty little line in Larval Lance's text about not being able to modify the attack.  While this means your opponent will have a hard time dropping you down to fewer dice than the base level or nerfing your attack to hit on swords instead of hammers, it also means staples like Haymaker, Determined Effort, and Potion of Rage won't benefit you.  Rerolls and cards that give support still work, so if you're banking on Larval Lance to hit, you may want to invest in some of those.

Factor: Damage

The other stat on Larval Lance that changes over time is damage.  Once again, we will compare it to the various base attacks in our warbands (uninspired/inspired) and other available universal attack action upgrades.  Once again, we won't be counting models who can't equip these kinds of upgrades.  This time, we will compare with Ritual Dagger, but we'll be leaving out Wall of Force and Fated Blade, still leaving us with 23 upgrades.  We won't be able to factor in attacks that do extra damage in certain circumstances, but it shouldn't skew our results too much, as we're still looking for cases where Larval Lance is clearly better than the other options.

DamageRound 1Round 2Round 3
Garrek's Reavers (5)0/02/14/3
Steelheart's Champions (3)0/00/01/1
Sepulchral Guard (7)0/04/37/6
Ironskull's Boyz (4)0/02/03/2
Chosen Axes (4)0/01/03/1
Spiteclaw's Swarm (5)0/03/35/4
Magore's Fiends (3)0/00/03/2
Farstriders (3)0/00/03/2
Stormsire's Cursebreakers (3)0/00/03/2
Thorns of the Briar Queen (7)0/02/27/5
Eyes of the Nine (4)0/01/14/3
Zarbag's Gitz (7/6)0/04/46/6
Godsworn Hunt (5)0/02/25/3
Mollog's Mob (1)0/00/00/0
Thundrik's Profiteers (5)0/04/15/4
Ylthari's Guardians (4)0/01/14/4
Ironsoul's Condemnors (3)0/00/02/1
Lady Harrow's Mournflight (4)0/00/03/2
Grashrak's Despoilers (6)0/03/35/5
Skaeth's Wildhunt (4)0/01/14/3
Grymwatch (6)0/03/35/4
Rippa's Snarlfangs (3)0/00/03/3
Universal Upgrades (23)0/x6/x22/x

What can we glean from this chart?  Well, we already knew that having a 3 damage attack upgrade is good (Larval Lance is currently the only one that non-wizards can use).  So in the third round it's a great upgrade, damage-wise, for everyone but the big dumb troll.  Again, the larger warbands tend to benefit from it quite a bit in the second round, as do a few 1st Season warbands and uninspired Thundriks.  It's worth noting that most attack upgrades will stand up equally in the 2nd round as far as damage goes though.  Finally, nobody benefits from Larval Lance purely in terms of damage enough to justify playing it in the first round.  If you've got it in your hand and have extra glory, you might put it down anyway, but it's definitely going to mark that model out to be killed before round 3.

Once again, keep in mind that it's hard to boost Larval's damage.  Staples like Great Strength, Gloryseeker, and Fighter's Ferocity won't do a thing for you here.  Pit Trap and Snare still work, as do a very few other tricks, but don't count on doing more (or less, usually) than the round-count in damage with Larval.

Factor: Range

So far we've been looking at the parts of Larval Lance that change; let's take a gander now at the one part of the card that doesn't change with round count - its attack range.  This is where a lot of models can pick up some extra strength from upgrading with Lance.  While many models will pack attacks that compare favorably with Larval Lance in terms of accuracy and damage, only very rarely will they be able to say the same at range 2.  Let's see just how many folks can benefit from the addition of a range 2 attack.

The chart below will show how many models don't have any attack that hits at range 2 or greater (uninspired/inspired).  We're going to let Jagartha and Skaeth sneak in with their Javelins, but keep in mind that they are one-use only.  As for other upgrades, we'll once again be ignoring Wall of Force, but we'll check out all the rest, leaving us with 24 alternatives to Lance.

Garrek's Reavers (5)4/4
Steelheart's Champions (3)3/3
Sepulchral Guard (7)6/6
Ironskull's Boyz (4)4/4
Chosen Axes (4)4/4
Spiteclaw's Swarm (5)4/4
Magore's Fiends (3)3/3
Farstriders (3)0/0
Stormsire's Cursebreakers (3)2/2
Thorns of the Briar Queen (7)6/6
Eyes of the Nine (4)1/1
Zarbag's Gitz (7/6)4/3
Godsworn Hunt (5)3/3
Mollog's Mob (1)0/0
Thundrik's Profiteers (5)0/0
Ylthari's Guardians (4)1/1
Ironsoul's Condemnors (3)3/3
Lady Harrow's Mournflight (4)4/4
Grashrak's Despoilers (6)4/4
Skaeth's Wildhunt (4)2/2
Grymwatch (6)5/5
Rippa's Snarlfangs (3)1/0
Universal Upgrades (24)17/x

 Now we are seeing some clear benefits across all the rounds.  All of the Season 1 warbands except for Farstriders are seriously lacking in ranged attacks.  While Season 2 had ranged attacks everywhere you looked, it would appear that Season 3 may be moving back toward close combat.  Larval Lance's range 2 may make it useful even during round 1 for some warbands - swinging a bad attack for 1 damage is sometimes better than not attacking at all.

Factor: Putting It All Together

So far, we've been looking at each part of Larval Lance separately.  Now let's look at the weapon as a whole.  Once again, in round 3, Larval Lance is a beast.  Only the Inspired Warden packs an attack that matches Larval on all axes.  Every other model in the game who can upgrade with Larval would gain something from putting it on in the third round.  Conversely, almost no models gain anything but range from equipping it in the first round.  So the second round seems to be the deciding factor.  We won't go over all the options here, but if a bunch of your models' attacks would be outshone by a 2-range/2-hammer/2-damage attack, you should probably be playing a card that grants one of those attacks.

Now before you throw Larval Lance into every deck, we should clarify: Lance isn't the only upgrade that can give you a 2-range/2-hammer/2-damage attack.  Guardian Glaive and Nullstone Spear will also give you the same attack, only with a chance to reroll dice occasionally.   A couple of other upgrades (Nullstone and Amberbone Axe) also stack up well, as they can provide 2 damage close up or 1 damage farther out than Lance can reach. 

So how should you decide which to play?  Well, there are a lot of factors to consider, more than we're prepared to delve into, in all honesty.  But there's one that you should really give some thought to.  As we showed above, to get your money's worth out of Larval Lance, you really want to be able to benefit from it in the second and third rounds.  So one thing that's worth considering is how likely your model is to survive the second round.  This is where benefit for large warbands drops off steeply.  If you put a Larval Lance on Pokehorn the Goatboy in round 2, you can bet your opponent will ignore your other Beastmen and try to murder the guy with the spear before he can level up in round 3.  The other upgrade options we've spoken of don't offer the same kind of extra incentive for killing the upgraded model, and you should probably think about that before you put Larval Lance in your deck.

Factor: A Very Special Episode

There is one more thing we'd like to address, and it really only applies to one warband: Rippa's Snarlfangs.  The Snarlfang's Jaws attack on each of your fighters shares the same restriction about modifying the attack as Larval Lance does.  So, many of the work-arounds that you might be playing in order to buff your Snarlfang's Jaws attack will also improve the Larval Lance.  Cards like Prized Vendetta, Pit Trap, and Bonded can all do double duty for your fighters if they happen to be carrying Larval Lance. Combine that with the fact that your primary attacks are somewhat lacking in damage (and that Rippa has no ranged attack on his uninspired side) and you've got several good reasons to be considering Larval Lance as one of your upgrades.


Larval Lance has the potential to be very powerful in the late game, balanced by the fact that it's kind of a dud early on.  Is it powerful enough to risk clogging your hand at the start of the game?  For most warbands: probably.  Almost everyone gains something from Larval Lance; just make sure you consider some of the other good attack upgrade options before you throw it into any old deck.  Even if Larval Lance's powers may have been overstated by some initially (*cough* Fated Blade *cough*), it's still very good. It might not be Superman, but Clark Kent is still a pretty good catch, with or without the x-ray vision.


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