Monday, May 28, 2012

Army Comparison: Daemons of Chaos vs. Warriors of Chaos


This Fantasy Battles Army Comparison pits the forces of the Chaos Gods against each other in a battle royale.  Each of these armies fared rather well in 7th Edition, where Daemons were widely considered one of the top tier armies.  In 8th the Daemons have fallen from the top of the pedestal but are still considered quite strong.  The Warriors have had a rougher transition to 8th Edition, as the units that were considered powerful or weak respectively are almost completely reversed.  This change took a while for players to understand, but it appears that Warriors of Chaos are also quite competitive.

Warriors of Chaos’ Advantages

The Warriors chief strength in this edition are their infantry.  The heavily armored warriors are as hard as any infantry in the game, while the Marauders may not be tough to kill, but on a point for point basis, few units in the game can match them for offensive potential.  Add into the mix the possibility of a Chosen unit that can easily be configured to become a near unstoppable deathstar, and you have some of the strongest infantry contingents available.  Unless you count throwing axes, the WoC don’t have any shooting to speak of.  They will primarily close out games in bloody close combat.

Unfortunately, there is no much to support this infantry with.  The Chaos Knights, in 7th Edition on of the most powerful units on the battlefield, are relegated to nearly unplayable thanks to Steadfast.  Being unable to break ranked infantry and costing a ton of points means that their practical applications are far and few between.  Chaos chariots are fine items, but rather expensive, nothing to be especially excited about.  Chosen are fine choices, but they basically do what the Core infantry already does, but slight better and for slightly more points.  The most compelling reason to take Chosen is crafting a deathstar, but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

In the Rares, the Warriors have two lines.  The Hellcannon packs a huge punch and packs serious firepower.  Hellcannons do enough damage that they are usually priority number one for the opposing army.  Alternatively, you can bring Warshrines, which are essential for the Chosen, but not terribly bad with normal Warriors.  Warshrines are definitely an “all in” infantry approach, and could lead to blowout games one way or the other.

Magic was such a huge part of Warriors in 7th Edition.  A Tzeentch sorcerer lord could generate more power dice than almost anybody, and Gateway was the most powerful spell in the edition.  Now, Gateway is merely average among powerful spells in each Lore, and the Sorcerer Lord doesn’t generate enough extra dice to dominate the magic phase.  A further knock, Sorcerer Lords are the fightiest wizard in the game, and you pay points for that.  What that means is, you are forced to waste points on a trait you aren’t going to take a great advantage of.  Lastly, if you want to take a rulebook Lore, you have to play unmarked, which means that you lose access to several of Tzeentch based buffs that give the Lord a chance during the magic phase.  That said, Gateway might not be quite as powerful as Purple Sun, or Dwellers, but it is still quite a threat.

It kinda sounds like I listed the disadvantages of Warriors, and to an extent that is true.  While their cavalry got the shaft, and their wizards are no longer the kings of the battlefield, their infantry are so much stronger than most opposition that it makes up for these disadvantages.

Daemonic Advantages

Foremost, the Daemons have a very strong magic phase that the Warriors have to be jealous of.  Pink Horrors are a rock solid core unit that also doubles as a wizard.  Tzeentch magic, thanks to Master of Sorcery, means that the Daemons don’t have to even bring a Level 4 to dominate the phase.  Master of Sorcery grants Loremaster to the Herald of Tzeentch, so with two Heralds you can construct an array of spell choices that give you “must-dispel” threats against nearly any opponent.  This also gives access to Lore of Life which…

…makes Bloodletters absolutely insane.  A large unit of Bloodletters lead by a Herald for Hatred and buffed with Life spells, or with opponents debuffed from Shadow means they can beat nearly anyone in close combat.  The Bloodletters high strength and high weapon skill plus Hatred mean that they should be able to beat down on Warriors in close combat.  Only units of truly cheap hordes can really stand up to them in close combat.

Daemons don’t have terrific cavalry, as Juggernauts are insanely expensive and Fleshhounds suffer from the same nerf as Chaos Knights.  However, Flamers of Tzeentch are golden.  They are expensive, but they have absolutely withering firepower.  That and a 4++ ward save means they can outshoot even the shootiest enemy units.  Plus being Skirmishers, they are hard to pin down in close combat.  They are probably the best flank protectors available.  They chew up and spit out units like fast cavalry or war eagles. 

The characters are extreme.  The Tzeentch Heralds are super powerful casters who can dominate the magic phase from the Hero choice slot.  Khorne Heralds are among the fighiest characters at the Hero level.  Not too many Lord level fighy character can hand a Herald of Khorne, so on a point for point basis they are nearly unbeatable.


This match clearly advantages the Daemons.  Their choppy infantry is cheaper than the Warriors and has high enough strength to make the armor advantage rather inconsequential.  Additionally, the Daemon magic phase has more potential to dominate the game than does the Warriors’.  The Warrior’s main trump card is the ability of the Hellcannons to inflict enough casualties to the Bloodletters to make the inevitable infantry combat winnable.  The Daemons lack of long range threats outside of Magic means that the Hellcannon should be able to do their thing, and could have a strong influence on the outcome. 

Additionally, the Warriors can bring more close combat potential to the field than the Daemons.  Multiple large warrior units, alongside multiple large Marauder units put the Daemons who will have at most two units of Bloodletters in a quandry: without significant magic support, the ‘Letters will lose through attrition eventually. 

The bottom line is these armies facing each other will come down to how effective the Daemons magic is vs. the Hellcannon’s ability to wither the Bloodletters.  Whichever side asserts their dominance in these respective areas should be able to parlay that into a win.  That said, my conclusion is that Daemons have a far easier time enacting their gameplan than the Warriors will with theirs.

Comments, questions, thoughts?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Magical Comeback: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings, and Conclusions

This weekend I played in the SCG Legacy Open in Orlando.  In short, I didn’t do well.  0-2 drop.  That is pretty much the definition of scrubbing out if I’m not going to mince words.

Dark Clouds

In round one, I played Eric Gustafson, who was piloting RUG Delver.  I absolutely crushed him in game one.  Not the nut draw, but a turn 3 Geist followed by Unstable Mutation gets there against a deck whose only removal is burn spells.  In Game Two, I kept a one land hand, because it two accelerators, Geist, and a pump aura.  Essentially, I would have two draw steps to find a land, and if I didn’t get one on the second turn I had a Ponder in hand to get me there, albeit a turn late.  Unfortunately, I drew blanks, and Ponder failed to find the land I needed.  Once he realized I was light, he threw fire at my accelerators.  That, combined with a fast start for him (Delver, Delver, Gofy) left me dead before I could drop any creature of value.  Game three was very close.  We raced each other, and he killed me on 2 life.  Had I top decked any one of sixteen possible outs on my last turn I would have landed enough damage to win. 

It was a close game, and in retrospect I only made one critical mistake.  He only had two lands out (and this was turn 5 or 6) and I Wastedland-ed he Volcanic Island to cut him off Blue mana.  I then cast my Geist, which would have been game over had it resolved.  Unfortunately, he had the Daze.  Had I not used the Wasteland, the Wasteland could have blanked his Daze and I would have won with relative ease the next turn.  Why did I make this mistake?  First, I am still very rusty when it comes to technical plays at a high level.  Also, it is “common knowledge” that people sideboard out their Dazes when they are on the draw.  Except, apparently, when they don’t.  I assumed that he sided them out on the draw like any one would expect him to, and stopped playing around them.  Unfortunately, he either next leveled me, or I next leveled myself because he kept them in. 

In Round 2, I played Dakota Mitchell who was piloting Maverick.  Game One I mulliganed away a hand that was keepable, but I didn’t think it would be able to win the game against a good draw from a reasonable opponent.  My second hand was also keepable, but worse.  I probably should have gone to five, but I kept and got stomped rather quickly without casting a spell.  Since all he saw from me was 3 lands, he had no idea how to sideboard against me.  In Game Two, I came out of the gates with a turn 2 Geist.  Turn 3 Spectral Flight, attack for 9.  He cast a Knight of the Reliquary, and on my turn I cast an Unstable Mutation on my Geist and attacked for lethal.  In Game three my draw was slower, but still good.  I got in with a Geist in the air for 10 thanks to two Exalted triggers, and could have won next turn but he Green Sun-ed for a sideboard card that actually had good game against me: the Protection from Blue fairy.   The fairy meant my Geist wouldn’t be landing any more hits, but I could still get in with the Angel, and then Psionic Blast for the win.  Unfortunately for me, he also top decked a Maze of Ith to stop the Angel.  From that point on I had no outs except a Troll Ascetic with Spectral Flight.  Before I could draw that unlikely combination, he was able to get 3 8/8 Knights of the Reliquary on the board and kill me.

All in all, it was a close match, and I don’t think I made any technical play mistakes.  My big mistake was in mulliganing or not mulliganing in the first game.  There is a good chance that I would have lost had I kept the first 7 or mulled to 5, so either way I probably would have lost anyway.  But clearly I had no idea which play was more optimal, except to say that of my three choices, an initial marginal 7, a worse 6 or an unknown 5, I picked the worst of the three options, and I paid for it.

So yeah, that was a quicker than anticipated end to my tournament. 

Silver Linings

So what did I salvage from this abortion?  First, Eric ended up in 25th place, and Dakota ended up in 12th, both well into the money.  So I didn’t lose to scrubs, I lost to a guy who had a very solid finish, and another who almost made top 8.  And I didn’t roll over to either of them, and especially with Eric in the first match had I not played into getting blown out by his Daze I would have won.  So while my record was as bad as possible, I played competitively with two clearly good opponents.  This might sound like I’m reaching in order to make myself feel better, and maybe it is.  But losing two people who finished highly is still better than losing to two terrible players.

I also learned a lot about my deck.  First it is way high variance.  It is more than capable of beating any deck in a total blow out if I get the right draw.  And that draw isn’t exactly tough to get, since so many of the cards are redundant.  The problem is, like any tempo based deck, when you don’t get the fast start the deck cannot play catch up.  I should probably mulligan more aggressively in order to make sure I get hands that could potentially win, especially when I’m on the draw.  On the play a turn 3 threat is OK, but on the draw it isn’t.  So on the draw I have to just muck any hand that can’t stick a turn 2 three drop.  I’m not sure I would play this deck again, though.  It’s not my playstyle.  I’m an agro-control player, and all my best tournament finishes in my career were with mid-range agro-control decks.  Stoneforge Mystic Bant is still too slow for my liking, but I think a NO-Bant deck is definitely feasible right now.

The most important thing I learned was where I stand on the competitive ladder.  My opponents were both strong, and I didn’t feel overmatched by either.  I hope they wouldn’t take offense to this, but based on raw talent I would say that I’m better than they are.  But from a technical standpoint, and practice makes perfect, they were better than I am by a significant margin. 

That said, I have no doubt that if I played a few hours everyday against good players, in 6 months I would be good enough to finish in the money in a tournament like that every time.  When I was in high school and playing a professional level, I was playing in online tournaments every day after school for several hours a day.  And then I would play in a paper tournament every weekend.  30 hours a week is a lot of practice time and it really is probably approaching what you’d need to be these days to be consistently competitive in big events assuming you are an intelligent person as a base.

Unfortunately, I can’t and won’t commit that time to Magic anymore.  I bike around 14 hours a week, and that eats up most of my leisure time.  So even if I stopped cycling, I wouldn’t get to play Magic enough to be truly competitive again. 


What I take away from it all is where my limits are and how to move forward.  I will definitely play in any Orlando/Tampa Legacy events as they come around, and since I’m extremely time crunched my only way to competitive is to play one deck and get good at that deck.  I don’t have the hours to be good at a variety of Legacy decks, good at Draft, and also good at a variety of Standard decks; but I do have the time to be good at one Legacy deck if I play it exclusively and learn it inside out.  Since there isn’t a big local Legacy scene, I’ll have to sharpen my technical play in Limited, which is definitely possible.  So that’s it.  I probably won’t write about Magic unless something comes up again, but I’m not going to give it up, and hopefully next big event I can throw down.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Army Comparison: Brettonia vs. Wood Elves

A little re-spun content I posted on 3++ in case you missed it there...

You wanted it, you got it: by popular request we have a comparison between two of the Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition whipping boys going toe to toe in the pillow fight of the year.  Do the heavily armored knights have what it takes, or do the Athel Loren All Stars crush them under the weight of their tree branches?  Let’s see.

Brettonia’s Advantages

Brettonia’s goal in every match up is to win the game through a devastating charge, or series of charges, by their Core units of Knights of the Realm.  Brettonian knights are unique in 8th Edition in that they are heavy cavalry that fight in deep ranks.  This allows them to (somewhat) take down ranked infantry and win combats with combat resolution.  Empire’s knights can only dream of that advantage.  Simply put, the Wood Elves do not have a unit, especially in Core, that can handle a charge from a unit of KotR.  If the Brettonians can make their charges land they can manhandle the toughness 3 Elves with their Strength 5 lances.  In return, the Strength 3 Elves will have trouble killing the Knights; even a heavy weight of Strength 3 attacks will have difficulty killing barded warhorses.

The second of the major advantage the Brettonians have are Trebuchets.  These warmachines are pretty amazing.  Strength 5 stones can kill Elf and Treekin alike.  The Dryads rely on their toughness to defend them, and Eternal Guard need big units to give them the weight of attacks needed to win.  Trebs trump both of these plans pretty well.  Most competitive Brettonian forces bring two Trebs depending on the points value of the game, and they should inflict heavy losses on the key Wood Elf units.  But they need to be defended, because Wood Elves have fast units, scouts, and etc. that can silence a poorly defended Treb.

Pegasus Knights are insanely expensive, but insanely powerful.  Most fast skirmisher type units aren’t heavily armored and aren’t hard hitting.  These guys are both.  They are frightening to Wood Elves, because they trump the WE skirmisher units and can threaten charges all over the field.  Whether to use them defensively or offensively requires a good general, but their ability to do either is a major advantage over the Wood Elves

Brettonian characters also present several challenges to Wood Elves.  Generally, Wood Elves bring some big, tough monsters (or turn their wizards into big tough monsters) to give them close combat punch.  Brettonian fighty characters often have Epic Killing Blow.  Having your Treeman one-shotted by a dude on a horse is highly demoralizing, and the ability to do so is huge in the favor of the Brettonians.

Wood Elf Advantages

The Wood Elves primary advantage over the Brettonians is magic.  The Lore of Beasts that Spellweavers bring have amazing synergy with the rest of the army.  The buffs of this Lore gives their WE units what they take to stand up to the Brettonians in close combat.  An Eternal Guard unit with Wyssan’s Wildform can survive a knight charge, and then kill them over the next subsequent turns.  The Beasts buffs allow the normally low strength, but high Attacks, Wood Elf units to inflict heavier casualties.  Casting Curse of Anraheir on a Knight unit will drastically reduce the number of casualties they can inflict in combat.  By using these spells critically, a Wood Elf general can mitigate the brute force of the knights and inflict serious harm back at them.

The character buffs like Savage Beast can also make the Knights think twice about charging in, by turning a cheap Hero into a knight-slayer.  With +3 attacks, and +3 Strength, a cheap hero with the Sword of Swift Slaying will mow Knights down.  6 attacks with re-rolls to hit, at Strength 7?  What unit of Knights want to charge into that?  None, because he will single handed kill 4 Knights before they get to attack.  Knights are expensive, and they can’t be thrown away willy-nilly.  A cheap Wood Elf noble on a great eagle, buffed by Savage Beast who charges into the easily exposed flanks of the Knights and crush them.

Transformation of Kadon is more of an anti-magic spell than offensive.  Successfully casting it means that the Brettonians will have to spend their entire magic phase dispelling it, which will neuter their offensive magic that turn.  And if they don’t dispel it…

Glade Guard are another strength for the Wood Elves.  More and more Brettonian generals are picking up on the virtues of lot’s of peasant bowmen in their armies, and GG completely outclass them.  Longer range, better accuracy, and higher strength shots.  The implication is that the Peasant Bowmen will not be able to perform their normal battlefield role easily at all, and will be wasted points.  Depending on the commitment, invalidating a large swath of Bowmen for a small investment of Glade Guard is very night.  Additionally, they can put out rather withering firepower.  Granted, Strength 3, sometimes 4, is not going to hurt Knights too badly as I mentioned above, but the game plan has to be to have your combat units survive the charge.  A big part of surviving the charge is inflicting as many casualties as possible outside of combat.  If you can use your fast cavalry to cause failed charges by the knights for one or more turns while you pepper them with your GG shots, the handful of kills you inflict might be sufficient to give your Eternal Guard the edge they need in the inevitable close combat, or allow your Savage Beasted Noble to wipe the unit when he charges.

Your last major advantage is a Treeman.  While the Epic Killing Blow is something to worry about, if you use the Treeman as a countercharge unit you are in business.  If the Treeman gets into a situation where he is charging in after the first round of combat, or into the knight’s flanks he will be unkillable outside of the Epic Killing Blow.  Strength 3 or 4 doesn’t scare toughness 6 with 6 wounds.  Additionally, the Treeman is Stubborn.  With a nearby BSB he will be able to tarpit a unit of knights until he either kills them, or the rest of your army jumps into help out.  The key is keeping him set back in a way where the Brettonian general either has to try to get off a long charge against him (where they will possibly fail) and thus opening their flank to a charge from the Eternal Guard.  Or they have to charge the EG and get flanked by the Treeman who they will never kill.  Not an easy choice to make.


So who generally wins this pillow fight?  To win the Wood Elves need a couple of good magic phases in their favor AND good generalship.  The WE general needs to be skilled enough at maneuver and deployment to arrange it so that the Brets can only charge the units he wants them to charge, and then he needs his magic phase to go well in order to win the resulting combat.  For the Wood Elves to pull it out they need both luck AND skill. 

Alternatively, since the Brettonians have the more powerful units, they don’t need hot dice in the magic phase to even the odds.  What they do need, however, is to ensure that their charges hit home when and where they want them to.  As the Wood Elf general is going to actively oppose this, it will be easier said than done.   But again we come back to the fact that the individual Brettonian units are more dangerous than the Wood Elves; a big mistake by the Brettonian general is painful.  A big mistake by the Wood Elf general is game-breaking.  This being the case, I would give the slight edge to the Brettonians in this match up assuming two players of equal skill and experience with their armies.  That said, it isn’t such a blow out that the Wood Elves have no chance.  One good magic phase can easily swing the game back in Athel Loren’s favor. 

Comments, questions, thoughts?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Magical Comeback: Sideboard

Last article I showed the deck I am going to play at the SCG Open in Orlando this weekend.  For reference here it is…

4x Noble Hierarch
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Troll Ascetic
4x Geist of St. Traft
4x Quasali Pridemage
4x Daze
3x Spell Pierce
3x Unstable Mutation
2x Spectral Flight
4x Brainstorm
3x Psionic Blast
4x Wasteland
2x Forest
1x Island
1x Savannah
4x Tundra
4x Tropical Island
3x Windswept Heath
3x Misty Rainforest

I got a chance to get a handful of matches in against real Legacy decks.  Nothing at all like a real gauntlet, and I wasn’t able to get matches in against all the decks I would want to test against.  But time being an issue (and playtesting partners being another issue even if time wasn’t) I felt it was more important learn my own deck.  I feel like after getting these test matches in I have a better idea of how the deck plays, so that’s good.

What I learned was the deck is fast.  The nut draw when goldfishing is Turn 4.  The slowest is turn 6.  You might ask what the value of goldfishing is.  Goldfishing is useful because it helps you learn about how an aggressive deck mulligans.  If you know an aggressive deck has a 80% chance to goldfish by turn 6, and your opening hand does not look like it will be able to do that, you need to mulligan.  You don’t need to actually be able to win by turn 4 every game in order to win matches, but you need to have early pressure/disruption otherwise your opponent will just goldfish you while you sit around waiting to do something.

I also learned the deck mulligans very well.  The nut draw is a Hierarch, Geist, Spectral Flight, and two lands.  That means I can mulligan down to five and potentially have a hand that can win by turn 4.  And since many of the cards (like the Hierarch and Geist) have redundancy I can feel confidant mulliganing a hand of 7 cards that doesn’t look good at all.

So my sideboard philosophy is based around a couple of concepts.  First, I never want to lose to Dredge.  Dredge is just dumb and I would hate to lose to it.  Surgical Extraction would be enough to beat Dredge usually if I can get my normal early pressure, but Surgical Extraction doesn’t have a tremendous amount of game against Reanimator.  Reanimator has counterspells and redundancy, so Extracting one reanimation target is not likely to be a game ender.  With that in mind, Leyline of the Void is how I want to roll.  Since the deck mulligans so well, I don’t mind mulliganing aggressively to get it in my opening hand.

Next, I fear losing to combo decks in general, because it feels cheap.  So I’m packing 3 copies of Force of Will.  FoW plus the counters I main deck should help a bunch against most combo decks.

Against Maverick, I will side in Sword of Feast and Famine, as well as a Jitte.  Since I don’t have any equipment game 1, most people will side out whatever artifact hate they have, so bringing these in could steal me a game here and there.  These will probably come in against any “fair” deck game 2 for that reason.  Feast and Famine was chosen for it’s Pro-Green ability mostly.  Jitte was chosen because it dominates creature match ups, and has good game against Burn or RUG Delver decks.  I also pack Path to Exiles in this match up.

Against said RUG Delver decks, the Jitte is key, especially since they won’t be siding in Ancient Grudge until game 3.  This deck does fairly well against them since it has enough mana dudes to not be intimidated by Wastelands, and the main threats can’t be killed by Lightning Bolt.  Path to Exile also comes in to deal with Delvers.

So right now my Sideboard is…

4x Leyline of the Void
3x Force of Will
2x Path to Exile
1x Sword of Feast and Famine
1x Jitte

That leaves me 4 slots left.  I kinda want to add another Path to Exile, which still leaves me 3 slots.  Another Spell Pierce would be fairly strong.  And I was thinking of Threads of Disloyalty which seems very strong.  But I’m open to suggestions of what would be good and what match ups it would be good in.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Today in Awful Warseer Tactics Part 20

Hello and welcome to the 20th edition of my ongoing look into the abyss that are web forums for Warhammer. Two types of people post on these forums: complete newbs who are confused and in search of good advice to help them get better and then you have the man-babies who are completely awful at these games but get off on the power trip of being the 'smartest guy on the forum.'  Since they are usually terrible at the game, the advice they give is generally poor.  This series exists to spotlight the horrible answers to innocent questions.  

This particular article is based on a thread I've been monitoring for a while.  Teclis is the boogeyman of Warhammer Fantasy.  No other single model attracts more hate and fear than the High Elf Bad Boy, and with good reason: Teclis is more than capable of single-handedly destroying an unprepared opponent.  I've seen Teclis all by himself wipe out 2/3rds of the opposing army by the end of turn 2.  Scary stuff for a guy who costs under 500 points.  Unfortunately, being under 500 points means that you can play him in 2,000 point games.  This is 25% of your list, but is often worth it.  Unfortunately, a seasoned opponent who knows how to handle it (still tough to do, but definitely doable) will be able to take advantage of the fact that your army is much smaller than his.  If he is able to mitigate Teclis' damage for a turn or two, you can usually win.

So in this thread the OP asks how to beat Teclis with his VC army.  This is tough, because Teclis dropping Purple Suns or Dwellers can kill Undead faster than you can re-raise them.  And Undead are usually slow which means getting to Teclis' magic bunk can be problematic.  Beating Teclis with VC means bringing good units that are capable of getting across the board.  Luckily, VC have no shortage of flying units that can harass Teclis and also harass warmachines in other match ups.  Thus, the answer is as usual, "bring a balanced list with fast/flying units and/or scouts/vanguard units and/or outflanking troops."  This is good advice for all Fantasy players and very applicable here.  Unfortunately, this is not the advice he gets...

Madival: I have an opponent fielding teclis, 40 sword masters in horde with bsb , 20 seaguard and 25 seaguard with noble that makes all the 25 guys attacks magical. I am only worried about teclis as vampire counts. I am fielding a 30 man GG unit banner of barrows , 2x30 zombies, 30 skeletons, 2x5 dire wolves, hemmler, o2 necro with rod of flaming death, 2x5 hex wraiths and a black coach. What should I do ?

This set up is fairly good, you need to get across the board and kill Teclis in hand to hand with your fast units.  Also Hemmler is pretty bad, you need a better magic phase to compete.  But just heed my advice from above.

Look at this pimp, ruining British noobs fun since 8th Edition launched

Icedcrow:  I'm also a fan of dropping every cannonball and mortar shot and sniper shot at him. He's bound to fail a look out sir roll when you use weight of numbers. I'm not sure of your army but if you have access to any of the above, let er rip.

Yeah, because VC have tons of Cannons and mortars.  Goddamn I hate you.  Even if they DID have cannons and mortars you think that him failing a 6++ ward save is the best way to deal with him?  What horrible, horrible advice.

Frankly: Set up a some magic defence, look at all the anti magic items and get a few that either hurt him or shut down a spell or two.

Explain to me what magic defensive items exist that shut down a guy who gets irresistable force on his spells, and is immune to the miscast?  Because I'd love to know.  Do you even play this game or know what Teclis is?

BigbyWolf: One of my clubs has come up with a novel way of dealing with Teclis.

If anyone ends up playing against someone using Teclis, they themselves get a free Teclis to use for the game. We even have a club Teclis model for people to use should the situation arise.

Should the club Teclis already be in use and someone else puts out a Teclis army, they must then give their Teclis to the opposing army, and play the game without Teclis, and the opposing army uses that Teclis as a bonus Teclis.

Any further people trying to use Teclis on the same night are forced to sit in the corner holding up a sign with "I must learn to play tactically..." written on it.

They also aren't allowed any of the club donuts.

Most people tend to stop bringing him unless they have specifically agreed to use him with their prospective opponents the previous week.

Wow.  Let me add: wow.  This is an example of why American players believe that Brits are non-competitive players.  I know that stereotype isn't true, but this... just isn't good.  If all Brits think Americans are Stelek, this guy is what people here think of Brits.  Could you imagine moving to a town where these fucking jokes are the only people you have to play with?  I would be so sad if the only games I could get were against people like this, because I'd have to quit the game.  These are the people who love comped tournaments.  These are also people whose idea of cutting edge tactics is anything other than moving your army forward as quickly as possible.  This guy is officially the king of this thread.

Warplock:  I wouldnt play against him at 2000 points. Ask the opponent to desist.

I wouldn't want to play against you at any point level, just in case you were wondering.

In reply to BigbyWolf...

Graxy: thats possibly the greatest thing I ever heard

Morkash: I fully approve of this

I can't tell who is dumber, the original genius, or the borderline morons who agree with him?

Calnen:  Unless it's an agreed competitive game (conga lines etc included), then a gent just wouldn't take him. The rules for him are clearly not as intended.

More people who understand GW's 'intentions.'  GW did a couple of revisions of the High Elves FAQ since 8th Edition came out, if the rules were not operating as intended, they have had plenty of opportunity to rectify it.  But they didn't.  So even if I agree the unit is powerful, I have to disagree with you about GW's intentions.  

wbarobinson: High elves suck, Teclis is the only thing that makes them playable. Just fly a kitted ghoul king over and kill him. Or vargheists and kill him. Or a vargulf and kill him. Or a terrogheist and kill him.

Congrats on injecting sanity into this thread.  You seem to have a head on your shoulders.  That said, you need to get out of Warseer as quickly as possible before you get contaminated.

With that said, now I am the one who has to get out of this thread, before I'm becoming contaminated.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Concerns?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Magical Comeback: Building The Deck

This article is going to be kinda technical in Magic the Gathering and won’t really have any appeal to 40k people.  Not much I can or want to do about that.  More Games Workshop articles next week.

As I mentioned, my ‘comeback’ with be at the SCG Legacy Open in Orlando on May 20.  Legacy is a fantastic Magic format, with an unfortunately high barrier to entry for most people, especially new players.  Luckily for me, most of the incredibly expensive cards were not super expensive when I was playing, and I still have them because I wisely never sold my collection when I stopped playing competitively.  So money was not an obstacle to keep me away from Legacy.

To stay on topic, Legacy is great because of the variety of viable decks.  In Standard right now, there are about 2 tier 1 decks and probably 3-5 tier 2 decks that are bit further down the ladder whose viability waxes and wanes based on which of the tier 1 decks is more popular at the moment.  In Legacy there are a handful of popular decks (Esper Stoneblade, RUG Delver, Maverick) but there are at least a dozen other decks that are more than capable of beating them and winning a tournament.  In fact, there are so many viable decks that there are no tiers in Legacy.  There is simply “viable” and “not viable.”   The card pool is so large that the potential for viable decks is huge, and as many competitive players will say of Legacy, “you can play anything, within reason.”  The wide variety of decks at a large Legacy tournament makes following the tournament quite enjoyable.

Additionally, while some deck are more popular than others that does not mean they are better.  If you play tested exclusively against the popular decks you’d still only be prepared for less than 50% of the metagame.  The format is so large and diverse that you simply cannot playtest every possible match up.  So the key to the format is not simply playtesting against a gauntlet until you learn all the match ups, it’s playtesting against as many different decks as possible.  2 matches against 10 decks are more valuable than 4 matches against 5 decks, generally speaking.   That said, you need to know the major 12-16 decks in the format so that you can know what your opponent is playing by no later than turn 2.  The format is rather fast, and making the right play early is key.  Making the right play early is tough if you can’t determine what your opponent is playing.

So the wide variety of Legacy attracted me t the format.  After watching dozens of Legacy tournaments, and reading all the Legacy columnists on the web I had a pretty good idea of what decks were out there.  My play style usually gravitates to mid-range control decks, like The Rock.  I also tend to gravitate to Bant colors.  Based on this, the first deck I put together was a Bantblade deck that looked like so…

4x Knight of the Reliquary
4x Stoneforge Mystic
4x Noble Hierarch
3x Vendillion Clique
1x Scavenging Ooze
1x Qasali Pridemage
4x Force of will
4x Brain Storm
1x Ponder
1x Sylvan Library
1x Sword of Feast or Famine
1x Umizawa’s Jitte
1x Batterskull
2x Jace the Mind Sculptor
1x Elspeth Knight Errant
4x Swords to Plowshares
1x Forest
1x Island
1x Flooded Strand
4x Misty Rainforest
1x Savannah
4x Tropical Island
3x Tundra
4x Wasteland
3x Windswept Heath
1x Karakas

I really liked the deck, and I still do.  It has all the tricks and is basically the all the best cards in the respective colors.  Unfortunately, the metagame is faster and more tempo based.  Stoneforge Mystic is insanely powerful, but it doesn’t come down until turn 2 at the earliest, doesn’t put a Batterskull into play until Turn 3, and it can’t attack until Turn 4.  Turn 4 is simply a turn too late to start attacking.  The deck can also go Hierarch -> Knight -> Knight and bash for a lot of fast damage.  But what I found is, unless you get a Hierarch in your opening hand, the deck is too slow to beat the combo decks, and is too fragile to beat the control decks.  It doesn’t have a favorable match up against Maverick or Esper Stoneblade, which is a real problem as those are two of the most popular decks.  This deck is ideal in a format where decks like Countertop or Hymn to Tourach are more popular, but that isn’t right now.

Add to this, there are a lot of decisions to be made in this deck.  “Do I play Stoneforge turn 2 and try to win with Batterskull, or play my Knight turn 2 and try to take that line?” or “what should I do with my Jace this turn?” or “what equipment should I grab with my first Stoneforge Mystic?”  A lot of decisions and interactions.  At this point, I don’t trust myself to make the correct play enough to the time.

So I decided I need to play a more aggressive plan.  My next idea was to play a Maverick type of deck with blue for Brainstorm and go more aggressive with more attacking Green creatures and no Stoneforge package.  Unfortunately, this idea didn’t make it past the brainstorming stage, because I kept thinking, “just play Maverick, it will be better than cluttering your deck with unnecessary Blue cards.”  Then inspiration struck!  In March, Phillip Contreras won the Legacy Open in Sacramento with a bizarre aggressive Bant deck featuring lot’s of mana acceleration, hexproof creatures, creature Auras to buff them, and tempo based counterspells like Daze and Spell Pierce.  This was the exact style of deck I wanted!  You can find his list here.

Strange, eh?  Spectral Flight and Psionic Blast in Legacy is odd indeed.  But what works is what works.  I rushed to throw this together and play a bunch of games.  The first thing I learned from the games I got to play is that I want 4 Wastelands.  I almost always want my third turn to be to put Spectral Flight on a Gheist, drop a Wasteland, kill a land, and attack for 9.  So I cut down on one the basic Islands and a Spell Pierce to pick up two more Wastelands.  And I arrived at the following deck…

4x Noble Hierarch
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Troll Ascetic
4x Geist of St. Traft
4x Quasali Pridemage
4x Daze
3x Spell Pierce
3x Unstable Mutation
2x Spectral Flight
4x Brainstorm
3x Psionic Blast
4x Wasteland
2x Forest
1x Island
1x Savannah
4x Tundra
4x Tropical Island
3x Windswept Heath
3x Misty Rainforest

It’s fast and beaty.  Best of all it has a rather linear game plan: drop a powerful threat turn 2, attack for a bunch turn 3, protect my advantage with the disruption, and win turn 4 or 5 before the slower decks can react.  This deck is powerful in the current environment because the threats are difficult for the midrange decks that rely on Swords to Plowshares to interact with and the threats are bigger and just as fast as the Delver decks.  Lastly, it has fast enough threats to force combo decks to try to go off before they are ready and has enough countermagic to keep them honest. 

So that’s where I am at with the deck.  I’ll discuss my sideboard choices next and my tournament preparation.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Email In: Dark Elf 2,000pt List Advice

Underworld writes,

“Hello Nike,

After stumbling across your blog as i debate getting back into WFB with a dark elf army, having not played properly since 6th, i have been impressed and amused with your articles and unit break downs and was wondering if you could possibly provide some input on my sketched out list for a 2000pt army.

While i dont really play at competitive events, falling more into the beer and pretzels category, my regular opponents and i all have a competitive edge amongst ourselves and the prospects of a campaign and tournament are being discussed so a an unfocused list is likely to get stomped without much more than a whimper.

Play style wise while i like the imagery of your chariot lists i have always been more an elite infantry man (also, chariots appear to be increasingly hard to get a hold of) although adding mounted sections to my armies when i was playing 6th was one of the things i kept debating on. I also have a tendency to be hesitant in sinking a lot of points into characters as i tend to prefer more elite boots on the ground.

I will be buying from scratch with a reasonably large budget so i have the advantage of being able to focus build from the start. That said the flexibility to field more generic lists would be welcome for when we are just having a fun game.

My current list looks like this on paper.

Supreme Sorceress @ lvl 3 w/ sacrifical dagger + lifetaker 280
Sorceress @ lvl 2 w/ tome of furion 150
Master w/ halberd, armour of eternal servitude shield and sea dragon cloak, dragonbane gem 155

28 spear men w/shields and full command 211

20 Repeater Crossbow w/shields and musician 225

6 Harpies 66

20 Blackguard w full command and banner of murder 320

6 shades w/ additional hand weapon 102

8 Cold one knights 216

War hydra 175

Repeater bolt thrower 100

Over your articles ive seen you really hammering the points home on the hydra and i was debating fitting another into the list, probably at the expense of the knights with the left over points snagging a ward save for the supreme sorceress or bumping her to level 4 or adding a few models to the shades/harpies. Like wise i have been debating the efficency and usefullness of the bolt thrower which i fear is 100 points 'could be spent elsewhere, namely towards a hydra'.

The general idea is to anchor my line with the black guard who, again i stress my time out from the game, on paper look capable of holding their own against most other infantry outside of the real heavy weights. They can move forward aggressively should i need to close distance against gun-line armies (where my shades and harpies will hopefully deal with the most devastating war-machines at the earliest opportunity should they be present, although im sadly awear that there will probably be a lot of dead elves either way) if im facing an army that will be coming towards me they can form the anvil to take the charge while my crossbow rounds and magic whittle numbers down.

In either case my knights and hydra have a tag team combo smash as the armies hammer units.
Magically i was thinking shadows and metal/fire as my lores depending on what i get stuck against across the board. The big spear man unit is a bunker for one or both of the sorceresses, certainly the supreme with the dagger, the other can go with the black guard/crossbows if i deem putting all my magical eggs in 1 basket a terrible idea (looking at the miscast table it certainly appears that way...)

Any input or criticism would be much appreciated if you could spare the time.


Reply: It’s not a horrible base, but it’s a bit battle-forcey.  Luckily, there are some very simple tweaks we can do to get it competitive.

First, Lords and Heroes.  You need to make your Level 3 into a Level 4.  Would you pay 35 points for a magic item that gave you an extra spell and added +1 to all casting and dispel rolls?  Ofcourse, so it’s a not brainer here.  Also, drop the Level 2.  It’s not going to be that great at 2k.  Also drop Lifetaker from the SS and add an Iron Curse Icon.

Also, there is no point to that Master as you have him built since he is a defensive tank with no offensive capability who doesn’t have any army or unit buffs.  For 25 points, make him a BSB and put him in with the Spearmen.  Remember, there will be times when you need Sac Dagger to kill a guy and killing that guy will lead to a Panic test.  You need a BSB around for that to keep your Level 4 from running off the table.  Having a BSB will also help in Blood and Glory scenarios to keep your breaking point high.

Second, Core.  Harpies do not count towards your Core requirement, so your list is illegal as written.  You need 500 points of legit Core, so dump the Harpies, add more RXB.  Next, split the 26 RXB into two units of 13 and buy them each standard bearers.  Spearmen are fine, except you need to dump the unit champ.  Waste of points, the extra attack he adds is more than worthless.

Third, Specials.  Blackguard are perfecto.   Drop the Knights.  Use the points from Knights and Level 2 to buy another unit of Black Guard with Razor Standard.  Drop the AHW from the Shades and drop them to 5 guys; you don’t want them in close combat except against warmachine crew.  The idea with them is to deploy them on the enemy back lines and shoot at warmachines or harass big units.

Lastly Rares.  Lose the Reaper.  Add a second Hydra.  If you’re lucky, the Reaper will kill 5-10 guys per game.  If you’re lucky, your Hydra will kill several whole units per game.  The only time I favor Reapers over Hydra is when your army has tons of CC ability elsewhere (Witch Elves, or triple Black Guard lists) and you need ranged ability more than you need more CC ability.

And done.  This army will be a lot more aggressive.  Two units of BG and two Hydra will pack a ton more close combat punch than you had before.  You’re lighter on magic, but you need CC ability and a BSB much more than you need a Level 2 who might cast a Metal buff a couple times per game.  You’ll want to move everything forward as quickly as possible across the board except the RXB who should defend the flanks of your magic bunker.

Remember a big thing about Dark Elves: they are Elves.  They hit hard, but aren’t usually tough.  You can’t win battles of attrition usually, therefore you’re looking for knockout blows.  Your magic phase should support that, by casting Shadow debuffs/buffs and Pits of Shades that will take out huge chunks of the enemy.  Trying to use your magic phase to help your army win battles of attrition is usually a bad move because it doesn’t compliment the goal of how you’re going to win the game.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rekindling the Competitive Fire

I haven’t made much secret of the fact that I’ve lost all competitive fire for Warhammer 40,000.  The local scene is hopelessly non-competitive, and the national scene provides no reward for competition.  The best reason to go to a GT is to see friends and have a laid back good time.  Unfortunately, I only know a small handful of national players as ‘friends’ and having a laid back good time doesn’t exactly mesh with competitive play.

I’m not saying that being competitive means being a dick and having unfun games at all.  What I am saying is, if my intent is to be competitive with winning as the goal, my games will be high-stress by definition.  Anytime you are emotionally invested in the outcome of the game, your games will be stressful.  And stressful games are the antithesis of having a “laid back good time.” 

So why not just go and be competitive?  Simply put, the rewards aren’t there.  Winning best general at a GT doesn’t come with a large cash payout that would be an incentive to emotionally invest in the outcome.  The only real incentive to winning is bragging rights, which I don’t value because unlike some bloggers out there, I don’t pretend I’m the best player.  So clearly the only point to a 40k GT is the people and the culture of a national GT, neither of which are particularly enticing.

As far as Warhammer Fantasy goes, there never was a healthy local tournament scene and there is no competitive GT scene.  As big a revolution as the NOVA 40k format is, Fantasy GT’s are still in the Stone Age.  There is even less reason to go to a national GT for Fantasy.

But I am a competitive person by nature!  I enjoy the endorphin rush of competition, winning a close game/race or even losing a close game/race.  Competition and adrenaline are a fantastic feeling.  Luckily, I have road bike racing as a competitive outlet; but as great and primal as physical competition is, I like having a mental competitive outlet. 

Once upon a time, I was a competitive Magic the Gathering player.  I was at every Florida Pro Tour Qualifier tournament, and quite often drove out of state for them.  My accomplishments were relatively modest, I made a few PTQ top 8’s, and won one.  I Top 8’ed the Junior Super Series (and took home a very large scholarship prize) and top 8’ed the Florida State Championships.  My ‘career’ peaked when I played in the Pro Tour in 1999.  I’m especially proud considering my local Magic scene was below average and card availability to make decks was always a problem.  In those days before Magic Online, people played using the Apprentice and Netdraft programs and found tournaments and games on mIRC.

The point is, I didn’t have a large team to playtest with and the tools to do it online were primitive and not widely used.  So in that respect, I’m lucky to be as good a player as I was.
I stopped playing when I went to college, because I had way less money and far different priorities.  After college, I got back into 40k rather than Magic, because I was working full time and wanted to play a game that wasn’t hyper-competitive and allowed me to be a weekend warrior of sorts.  But I always kept my toes in Magic.  I never sold off my collection when I stopped playing, and when a new set would come out I’d check out the cards and read the reviews on strategy sites.

Magic in the last 5 years or so has undergone a bit of a renaissance.  The amount of players has exploded and the number of tournaments has greatly expanded.  In addition to the Pro Tour Circuit, the Star City Open tournament circuit has exploded.  So literally 46 of 52 weekends a year there is a large national tournament happening somewhere in the U.S. attracting competitive players.  Additionally, the matches at the big tournaments are all covered very well on live streams with good commentary.  Despite the fact I hadn’t played in anything resembling a tournament in 8 years, I found myself browsing the web with the Magic tournament streaming in the background. 

The more I watched, the more entertained I was.  Watching a cool deck or a great game made me want to play myself.  So about two months ago, I went to one of the local booster draft tournaments in order to see how it felt to play again.  Despite a new group of local players I didn’t know, who turned out to be fairly decent, I managed to win the first tournament.  I was definitely very, very rusty.  I made stupid mistakes I know that I wouldn’t have made back in my heyday.  Looking critically at my game, I sucked.  My technical play was still strong, though, even if my decisions weren’t great. 

I have played in several local booster draft tournaments since then, and I’ve continued to do well.  I’m still very rusty, but I’m seeing the improvement.  I’m still so far from where I was: I currently make the right decision most times, but only after consideration.  I don’t have the ability to trust my gut and make the right call instinctually yet, but I’m getting there.

As it turns out, there is a Star City Open tournament in my area in two weeks.  I have a deck for the Legacy format put together that I believe has a reasonable chance to win games, so I think I’m going to play.  Sure it’s a lark, and I’ll probably get crushed in most of my games, but it will be a good experience.  Either I’ll play and realize that I no longer have the desire or the ability to get to a competitive level, or I’ll love it and my inner fire will be rekindled.  I don’t see myself ever being a Pro Tour player or even a PTQ grinder like I used to be, but I could easily see myself playing in the 2 or 3 Star City tournaments that comes through Florida every year.  Heck, I have enough friends in Atlanta to make a road trip up there worth doing. 

I’m going to get as many games in between now and the SCG: Orlando tournament on the 20th and hopefully get as much rust off as possible.  While I’m sure most of you don’t care a great deal (or at all) I will discuss my tournament preparation over the next week, and I’ll discuss my results afterward.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?