Maelstrom Thunderhead Build and Gameplay

Maelstrom Thunderhead Build and Gameplay 1 -
Maelstrom Thunderhead Build and Gameplay 1 -

Get ready to feel the thunder.


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Thunderhead is a really fun ship to play. It’s the bear of all the ships. Strong, durable, versatile, and a devastating slap.

From the “Getting Started” guide:

Thunderhead delivers punishing blows, harder than any other Dwarf. The frigate has exemplary armor, able to take a beating as it plows through the enemy. However, faster ships can be difficult to chase, and crew is a lethal vulnerability.

  • Cannons on all quadrants
  • Cannonballs knock ships back
  • Tier X: Return Fire (upon taking damage from an enemy, will fire a free cannonball directly at it)
  • Pros and cons:

    + Great armor

    + Great firepower

    – Slow; bad for chasing enemies

    – Mediocre range; stay away from open waters

    – Poor crew–the reduced reload speed alone could kill you

We’ll look at a couple builds here.

The Brawler Build

Thunderhead is an unparalleled brawler. With some of the highest DPS of any ship, it can be hard to find sure-fire counters for this frigate.

Captain: Brick Saltspine, Ledd Gravelbarr


Bosun–Resist; Donk

Master Gunner–Legendary; Shrapnel Barden

Surgeon–Legendary; Hellam the Auger

Level 5 Traits: Guarded, Zephyr, Dominion, Sneaky, Stealthy


Cannons: Bowbreaker

Utility: Slipshifter Gearing

Defense: Granitehull Plating

Offense: Tumblegun Deck

(Honestly I’ve used these on every Thunderhead build, they’re just great hardpoints.)

Donk and Shrapnel Barden return to bring 40% armor damage resist to the Thunderhead. Granitehull Plating (despite being much better than the other hardpoint) allows you to maximize the benefit with a LOT of armor. It’s not as much as Stormanchor–except this time, Shrapnel Barden shines even more. The accuracy buffs weren’t as important on Stormanchor, where cannons aren’t emphasized and furthermore they’re Graniteheart.

Not here. Shrapnel Barden gives -45% cannonball spread and -20% firing delay, at the cost of 10% crewman health. Percent changes make a big difference when you’re dealing with big numbers (i.e. Bowbreaker stats, or Dwarf crew health [THICC]). Stanchor’s got passable crew, but Thunderhead does not–why don’t we stick a surgeon on there?

Hellam the Auger, enter stage right. This surgeon was MADE for dwarves. +50% crewman health easily reverses Barden’s penalty and then some. What’s more? Crewman strength, healing, sure…

32% firing delay. Mmm.

When all of this stacks, you end up with Bowbreaker cannons more accurate than Graniteheart. You read that right. The buffs are enough to lower Bowbreakers’ firing delay to less than base Granithearts.

Synched Gunports might be nice for a full shotgun effect, but really they’re redundant. A much better choice is Tumblegun deck to cut that 13 second reload down to 10. This way you almost always have a quadrant loaded as you spin and smash your way to victory.

On to weaknesses and matchups. This build has a hard crunchy outside but a soft nougaty center. 595 hull leaves you susceptible to some of the heavy hull damage builds around. Boarding? Hellam will do a good job of keeping your crew in shape. They’ve got a lot more health with him on board, and you’ve got some regeneration and strength to fend off such aggressors. Bowbreakers will handle the rest. Really you’ve got to worry about other direct hull damage such as burning or bone harpoons. With no regeneration, you have a limited amount of time against these damage modes.

I’d say either use Brick Saltspine for extra reliable damage output in tandem with hull damage resistance, or opt for full defense with Ledd Gravelbarr. Brick gives an offensive protection against long- and close-range builds, controlling where the enemy must go. You can retreat to a fog bank and force them to hit stun mines to stop them for a broadside, or simply high-tail it out of there. Ledd goes full turtle, letting you soak up even more damage and giving much needed healing if and when you want it. Long range attacks are simply blocked, instead of avoided. He may be more viable in a PvP sense, but you could run into trouble from taking too long to secure kills, so stay vigilant.

The reason why I wouldn’t pick Anvil on this build is because of how he forces a directional bias on Dwarves. If and when fore armor goes out, you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s great on Thunderhead to make up for lost range, but this build should really focus on the “spin it to win it” strategy. Since turn rate isn’t the best, you should spend most of the time doing it, not aiming for torpedoes. Homing mines or an omnidirectional shield are better suited to this.

Get smashing.

The Crit Build

Crits and range might not first come to mind when thinking of this ship, but man does it look good.

Captain: Brick Saltspine, Ledd Gravelbarr


Bosun–Bulk; Grungin

Powder Monkey–Legendary; Powderburns Mickle

Lookout–Legendary; Tyber Squintlid

Level 5 Traits: Guarded, Zephyr, Dominion, Sneaky, Stealthy


Cannons: Bowbreaker

Utility: Slipshifter Gearing

Defense: Granitehull Plating

Offense: Tumblegun Deck

Powderburns Mickle gives a hefty boost to straight-up damage with a boost to crit chance, and has the nice addition of added range. The reload penalty is canceled out perfectly by Tyber Squintlid, who further boosts range and crit chance. The pickup range is nice icing on the cake, especially after a close-range kill. Finally, armor damage resist is fixed by Grungin (I suppose I could go for Donk, but haven’t made up my mind on that quite yet).

Pair it with Brick’s lefthand tree, and you’ve got a lethal combo.

First, that adds an additional 5% crit chance and 10% range, meaning that even with Bowbreakers, I have 23% crit chance. Crit damage is only 150%, but it’s still quite a punch when you’re doing 120 damage per ball.

Secondly, at level 70 you’re able to fill in the second, fourth, and fifth talents, adding more mine damage, activation range, and 6 second stun. That last one makes them a fully sitting duck while you can pump in a broadside, which is huge.

You could opt for Ledd, as defense is a concern. The sacrificed 5% crit chance might well be worth it. Try and calibrate!

To point out weaknesses, it doesn’t have a ton of hull, nor is the crew any better. But Bowbreaker chain shot together with mine stun is more than enough to escape a boarding build. It could use some more testing, but it’s quite a blast so far.

Written by Lawless Cajones

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