Monster Analysis: The Duergar Throne Room

Thanks to basiliskart for this art piece!

Let’s turn the clock back to Vox Machina’s second on-air big boss battle: The Duergar Throne Room. At the time of the encounter, most of the party was level 9, with only Vex confirmed at level 10. Though the battle itself took place during Episode 7, Vox Machina had no fewer than 5 scuffles and battles earlier that same day between Episodes 5 and 7. The party faced two ogres, two hook horrors, and a black pudding, then took a short rest before breaching the Emberhold. They then took out 12 duergar guards within the stronghold, withstood a poisonous trap room and an illithid ambush, and ended their encounter spree with killing six duergar outside the throne room by three spells (call lightning, watery sphere, and vicious mockery). Prior to entering the throne room, Vox Machina picked up Lady Kima of Vord, their original reason for delving into the Underdark in the first place.

King Murghol

First Appearance: 07 The Throne Room
Armor Class: ≥ 17 (16 missed, the only other announced attacks were 20+)
Speed: 30 ft
79 damage, 8 HDYWTDT by Scanlan

Queen Ulara

First Appearance: 07 The Throne Room
Armor Class: At most 18 after casting Shield (3:14:31)
Speed: 30 ft
Cast or Attempted to Cast: Blur, Chain Lightning, Shield, Dominate Person, Dimension Door, and Disintegrate
Took 132 Damage before Dimension Dooring-ing out

10 Duergar Soldiers

First Appearance: 02 Into the Greyspine Mines
Armor Class: 16
Speed: 25 ft
Average, Max HP: 26, 40
Advantage on saves against poison, spells, illusions, charmed, or paralyzed
Each took an average of 33 Damage

1 Mind Flayer

Armor Class <18
Speed: 30 ft
Average, Max HP: 71, 117
Took 97 Damage between the Great Hall scuffle and the Throne Room battle before escaping

2 Basilisks

Armor Class: 16
Speed: 20 ft
Average, Max HP: 52, 80
Basilisk 1 took 37+ damage, Unknown damage on final blow by Kima
Basilisk 2 took 50 damage, 11 damage on final blow by Vax’ildan

Vox Machina’s Strategy

Vox Machina’s initial strategy was to get a surprise attack on the inhabitants of the throne room. Their scuffle in the Great Hall prior to that, where the mind flayer participant shifted away before it could be killed, certainly did their plan no favors. Furthermore, Vox Machina came upon a series of guards outside the throne room, whom they readily dispatched, though their spells created enough noise to spoil a true surprise attack.

Tiberius, who made a point to study the statue of the duergar’s god, Laduguer, earlier, came up with a plan to make use of the party’s abilities. He transformed into Laduguer and rode into the throne room on scorpioin!Keyleth’s back, and provided a means of distraction so that they could hold the room’s attention, allowing the rest of Vox Machina to sneak into the room through another door, while not drawing the duergar’s immediate attacks. However, Vox Machina still drew first blood, as ‘Laduguer’ grew impatient and sent a fireball at the pack of soldiers.

From there, Vox Machina went to work. Vax’ildan focused on the mind flayer, knowing how dangerous they can be if allowed to attack. Percy, Kima, and Vax took out the basilisks, though their Petrifying Gaze would still take hold of Kima and Tiberius. The soldiers were taken out by area-of-effect spells: Tiberius’ fireballs and Vex’s Conjure Barrage. In typical fashion, VM set about attempting to kill Murghol and Ulara by throwing everything they could at them (metaphorically). Murghol learned the hard way that he should have stood on his head when commanded by Scanlan, though Ulara lived to see another day. Precisely one other day.

Murghol and Ulara

Murghol’s game plan was pretty straight forward: Use his sword to deal as much damage as possible. He started off the battle by taking a strength potion, then set to work slashing at Scanlan until he was unconscious, then Kima after that. It would be the bard that took him down, though, after being healed by Pike, earning him the title of Kingslayer.

Ulara was arguably the tougher combatant. She opened the battle with a sixth level Chain Lightning spell, dealing 107 damage in one turn. Once her soldiers were all dead, she used Dominate Person to bring Vox Machina’s heavy hitter to her side. Then, once Murghol was dead, and it was clear that she couldn’t take on VM with just a dominated Grog to aid her, she disintegrated part of the Emberhold and used a Dimension Door to shift Grog with her to escape.

Don’t Step in the Lava

With Grog kidnapped (Grognapped? We’ll go with that.) and the Emberhold collapsing around them, Vox Machina began their escape. They initially tried to cool some of the lava with a Create Water spell and an ice shot from The List, but they quickly realized that their best option was getting out as soon as possible. After running the lava gauntlet, Vox Machina nearly escaped from the Emberhold before Vax failed his final check against the lava, rendering him unconscious. If you haven’t caught up on the Underdark episodes yet, and wondered what the players were talking about when referencing Vax’s terrible foot, this is it. The smallest two toes on one of his feet were burned badly by the lava, requiring Pike’s aid over the next eight episodes to fully heal it. That aside, Percy brought Vax back to consciousness with a healing potion, and they all made their way to safety, two petrified friends in tow.