Mighty Model Spotlight – Monk of High River

With Yokai, Thunder Brothers and Charm Warders, the five-stone slot is hyper-competitive in Ten Thunders. The Monk of High River has stiff competition, but with a solid (0) action, some great model/master synergies and a couple of key abilities, the monk has plenty of play.

The Monk of High River (especially with certain masters) should always be considered. He is both a solid anti-scheming model and a cheap aggression piece.

Douse the Flames

The Monk of High River is a case of “the best defense is a good offense”. Defensively he is nothing to write home about and is tied with 10T Brothers on the stat lines (with an extra 1” to their charge – a wash because their melee range is 1” less). The short engagement can be good for locking opposing models in tighter. The monk is Ruthless which helps his aggression.
I like to look at my model’s survivability based on the number of AP needed to remove them. It takes 3AP from a min 2 and 2AP from a min 3 to get the monk off the table. This dictates your positioning – don’t let them get axed from a charge. He is in the sweet spot for snipers, so be mindful.

Seven of our nine 5ss options die to the same number of AP. Only Rail Workers and Komainu take more AP then that (due to armor/Hard to Kill). Monk of High River is tied with Oiran and 10T Brothers for best raw-defensive capabilities within the 5ss slot. There are a couple of models that (with triggers or abilities) have better chances, but if it’s a 5ss model, it’s probably dying to a min3 charge. Be smart with his positioning and watch for the threats!


One of the best abilities on Monk of High River is the Wander the Earth ability. It’s a (0) to push 2” in any direction. There are cool tricks with this like adding a couple of inches to your threat range or to disengage and get off a charge (something the High River wants). With a Wk of 5, Cg 6, 1” melee and a 2” push, you have a total of 14” of non-linear movement to get engaged.
This is when I prefer the 1” engagement range. You lose some of the “threat” potential a 2” grants, but the more range you threaten, the more wiggle room your opponent’s model has to get in better position. 1” keeps them locked in, requiring a push out or to take a disengaging strike. Other than the Komainu, High River is also the only 5ss model we have at stat 6 for hitting. Add in the burning +2 he passes out on succeeding when he lays a disengage strike and Scheme runners don’t like him. As with any aggressive model with a 1” engagement, beware of black blood.
It can be hard to lock him down with a 2” melee range. The enemy model must get in base-to-base (or pin him somewhere) to prevent the monk from pushing out and going where he pleases. This can be good for scheming as he can swing, push out and then drop a scheme marker. Or Ply and then push out and walk away.

Raging Inferno

The Monk should be focused on a single action – charging. His damage track is uninspiring (1/2/4), but it’s mitigated somewhat by two things; he gets 3 attacks on the charge (if you pitch a card) and he has a built-in trigger to pass out burning based on the number of tomes in the final duel total.

If you flip a tome, he’s min1 plus burning 2. This isn’t as good as min 3 because the damage applies at the end of the round, but there are situations where it’s as good (if not better – think Hard to Kill or Take one for the Team). Often though, he will be effectively min 2 (passing out burning 1).

So where does the Monk fit? Yokai have 2/3/4 with a plethora of triggers and positives on the charge. They put out way more hurt than they should. Base damage is better than burning because you can deny activations by just killing something. With burning they get a chance to do something before dying at end of turn.

The answer is target priority. Monk of High River should be going after low to mid-wound models that have min damage 2 and can’t stone. Sounds like a lot of restrictions but most scheme runners and utility models fall into this category. The benefit of being melee 6 cannot be overstated; the average def is 5-6 so if you want to hit you will. Often your opponent isn’t going to waste a high card to stop a 1/2/4 track. Your mid-range tomes are going to get value as a result. I’ve loaded up 4-5 burning after plinking 3 points of damage. That removes a good number of the models (if they don’t have Hard to Kill). 7-8 points of damage on a single activation from a 5ss model is nothing to sneeze at.

When matters as much as who. You want to hit models after they activate to mitigate the downside of burning. If you stack enough damage and burning on a model, you leave your enemy with bad choices. Should they retaliate against the monk? Do they abandon the burning model or waste AP removing the condition? The more decisions you force your opponent to make, the better chance they will make a bad one.

Because of his low damage track, defensive tech like armor, impossible to wound, or hard to wound are less of a factor. He is focused on stacking burning. Higher armor helps, but your enemy’s models at Armor 1 will still take 5 damage if he hits three times on a charge.

The last few waves brought more Manipulative models to the table. If you are facing Resurrectionists, Horror Duels may be everywhere. Luckily the monk is Ruthless! High River cares not for these defensive abilities.

Playing With Fire

Ten Thunders is a faction defined by synergy and the Monks of High River are no exception. The monk can see play with several of the masters.

Lynch – Lynch loves models that discard. Pitching an ace for Call unto the Flame to get a third attack is great. Lynch likes having a few low-cost models with him and the aggression the High River brings is welcome. Cheating Bastard makes monks more efficient. Nobody wants to cheat first against a 1/2/4 giving your mid-tomes even more value.

McCabe – McCabe’s access to minion shenanigans is wonderful. Often there are better picks for Black Flash but High River is a solid one. Tossing the monk a Glowing Saber is nasty when you can reactivate him. Charging in, reactivating then pushing out to charge again for 6 attacks at 2/4/5 (potentially 3/5/6) ignoring everything but impossible to wound is as good as it sounds. Giving him armor makes him more survivable for more frenzied slashes.

Shenlong – Take advantage of the second 0 when you don’t need the push for more focus (Reading the Wind). High River can do the card-draw tricks with the Emissary normally relegated to the Low River Monk. The High River, unlike the Low River, can shift to dishing out damage when it is time. High River can load up Shen with burning to hand out later when he dives in.

Mei Fang – One of Mei’s problems is she needs burning to get the damage out. Enter Monk of High River! Mei is happy when he swings, pushes to engage another model, swings again leaving two models with burning. The monk likes her defensive buffs (armor, Vent Steam, etc.)

High River Monks pair nicely with Obsidian Oni and Shadow Emissary. The Obsidian has a 1/4/5 ranged Ca (not a projectile) that gets a positive on damage if the model is burning. The Shadow Emissary has Aspect of the Dragon – the Claw has burning models reduce their defense. This makes disengaging strikes (or the attacks of the monk) scarier at DF 3 or 4.

Lure of the Flames

The Monk of High river deserves respect and consideration with appropriate toughness (for his cost), good synergies and some synergistic abilities. I’ve had fun running two with Lynch and McCabe. I’ve yet to regret taking one in any game. He is cheap (5 stones) so mind your positioning, choose your targets well, and incinerate all those foolish enough to discount their strength.

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One comment

  1. I feel like for McCabe, the Rail Worker is usually the better build-a-beater choice. As you’ve mentioned, he’s more durable (especially with the healing a LRM can provide), his slowness is mitigated by McCabe’s pushes, and most important of all, he amplifies the Sabre best by gaining a + to damage using his 0 action.

    I wish they had gotten a damage increase instead of a cost decrease. As it stands, the 5ss slot is amongst the most competitive along with the 8ss slot, and the poor HRM will almost never make the cut.

    The Oni/Emissary interaction is cute, but the bubble is likely too small for it to matter much.

    Alas my poor HRM. Your model is awesome, and I’ll use you as Warrior Monks in my Nippon Blood Bowl Roster

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