Blood of Champion: An Interview with Richard Siegler, Champion of the Atlanta Pro Tabletop Open

An article by    Gaming Interview Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

The Atlanta Pro Tabletop Open wrapped up on Sunday night and after nine rounds of knock-down, drag-out, white-knuckle dice rolling, a champion was crowned. Goonhammer sat down with tournament champion, one of the top 40k players in the ITC, and winner of the 2019 NOVA and Warzone: Atlanta events Richard Siegler to talk about his experience and thoughts on playing T’au.

Before we hop into the interview proper, here’s Richard’s winning T’au list:

Richard’s T’au army. Photo Credit: Pro TableTop

+++ Richard’s Atlanta Open List – 10 CP, 2,000 pts +++

Battalion Detachment (393 pts, +5 CP)
T’au Sept

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit w/Advanced Targeting System, 3x Cyclic Ion Blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
HQ: Ethereal w/Honour Blade, Hover drone, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

Troops: Breacher Team (x5) 2x MV4 Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team (x5) w/Guardian Drone, Shield Drone
Troops: Breacher Team (x5) w/Guardian Drone, Shield Drone

Outrider Detachment (617 pts, +1 CP)
T’au Sept

HQ: Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit w/Drone Controller, 3x Fusion blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone

FA: Pathfinder Team (x5) w/MV31 Pulse Accelerator Drone, MV33 Grav-Inhibitor Drone, MB3 Recon Drone, 2x MV4 Shield Drone
FA: Tactical Drones – 8x MV4 Shield Drone, 4x MV7 Marker Drone
FA: Tactical Drones – 8x MV4 Shield Drone, 4x MV7 Marker Drone
FA: Tactical Drones – 8x MV4 Shield Drone, 4x MV7 Marker Drone

Vanguard Detachment (990 pts, +1 CP)
T’au Sept

HQ: Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit w/Advanced Targeting System, 3x Cyclic Ion Blaster, 2x MV4 Shield Drone, Warlord

EL: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit w/2x Smart Missile System, Advanced targeting System, heavy burst cannon, velocity tracker
EL: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit w/2x Smart Missile System, Advanced targeting System, heavy burst cannon, velocity tracker
EL: XV104 Riptide Battlesuit w/2x Smart Missile System, Advanced targeting System, heavy burst cannon, velocity tracker

++++++

 

The Basics

Q: Richard, thanks for joining us, and congratulations on your win at the Atlanta Pro Tabletop Open. We’ll start with the basics: Who are you, how long have you been playing, and how would you describe your play style for 40k? 

A:  Thank you! I’m a doctoral candidate and instructor at Florida State University.  I started playing 40k during 3rd edition, but mostly small games with my brother and cousin. I took a break during 6th and 7th, but returned for 8th while doing research in France. I played my first RTT in August of last year and have been traveling and competing in the ITC circuit since then. My play style tends to be conservative in the early turns as I am much more focused on retaining key parts of my army and using durability to outlast my opponent. I prefer armies that can dominate the board later in the match.

Q: What drew you to T’au? Was it the Gundams? (It was probably the Gundams).

A: T’au was my brother’s favorite army and when I started playing competitively last year, both of my favorite armies (Blood Angels and Grey Knights) were struggling a bit so I decided to try out T’au.

To successfully play Tau you really need to be thinking several turns ahead as to target priority and how you will position your army.

Q: It’s been a great year for you and the ITC standings show it. What kind of preparation normally goes into an event like this for you?

A: My preparation tends to revolve around regular practice matches with my Brohammer teammates, theory and list discussions, and determining the event meta by looking at the players who will be there and their current lists.  Breaking down how to deploy against them on the different maps and what secondaries to select so that I already have a game plan going into the match. To successfully play Tau you really need to be thinking several turns ahead as to target priority and how you will position your army.

Q: You’ve had something of a meteoric rise over the past year, jumping from the lower levels of the ITC ranks to becoming one of the top-ranked players in the world this year. How has that success changed things for you?

A:  I played a handful of RTTs, one GT, and one Major at the tail end of last year and ended up finishing 383 in the ITC, which isn’t too bad for a late start.  This year I was committed to participating in as many tournaments as possible, especially the largest tournaments in the U.S. Due to the new scoring formula introduced this year, traveling to super majors and doing well at such events is the best way to progress up the ladder.  My success has really been driven by being part of a superb team environment and playing in a meta full of quality opponents.  

 

The final round comes down to the wire. Photo Credit: Axis of Entropy

The List and This Event

Q: We’ve seen your lists change a little since NOVA and Warzone: Atlanta. How have you adapted your strategies and lists to the new Marine rules?

A: My list has mostly remained the same for much of the season.  For Marines, I decided to return to the battalion rather than the 6 command point version because of the utility of the Focused Fire and Multi-spectrum Sensor Suit stratagems against lists such as those piloted by Nick Nanavati.  I also wanted more objective secured bodies for the Pro Tabletop format, which has much more centrally located objectives.  

Q: What worked well this time around? What’s probably coming out of your list for the next event? (mostly, we’re interested in the switch from Pathfinders and Strike Teams to Breachers).

A: Instead of Fire Warriors I ended taking Breachers due to their greater durability with Guardian Drones and the pulse blaster being much more effective against Marines, especially Centurions with the extra AP. For future events and with Chapter Approved in mind, I will probably add a second fusion Coldstar for that added mobility and late game objective grabbing. Forcing your opponent to continuously screen their characters or risk losing them is incredibly powerful and taxing on their time spent making decisions.  My Tau list offers a lot of difficult target priority and split fire decisions already due to the strength of two-man drone units, so Coldstars add another element of this.

Q: Let’s talk about that final match against Nick Nanavati. Instant classic (if you missed it, you can watch it here, starting at the 8-hour mark or so). Can you break down that round 9 for us? What was your plan going into the game?

A: Nick and I had played against each other with similar lists at Warzone Atlanta back in October and that was also a nail-biter with me winning thanks to the game ending on turn 5. Going into this game I decided a more defensive strategy (keeping the Riptides on 3++ [invulnerable saves] for as long as possible) would be my best bet as I sacrifice drones and infantry to grab objectives and board control secondaries.  

 

Richard’s Riptides press the center of the table. Photo Credit: Axis of Entropy

Q: You took an aggressive strategy early on, picking King of the Hill as a secondary and moving your Riptides to the middle of the table. Talk about that move – would you do it again? What was your thought process there?

A: Because Nick has no real melee threats outside of a single smash captain, I was always going to take the center of the board against him (King of the Hill, Recon, hold more), and needed to limit the speed at which he removed pieces of my army as he has more reliable shooting than I do.  I also saved my once per game Master of War ability until turn 3 when Nick dropped his grav pod as that was going to be his strongest turn and if I could return a similar amount of damage I felt I would be in a good spot.  

Q: The game came down to the wire. Was there anything you’d have done differently, thinking back? What should Nick have done?

A: I had a three point advantage going into turn 6 so I knew that if Nick only killed a single 3++ Riptide that I would have enough pieces left on my turn to take him off at least one Ground Control objective.  Nick got hold and kill in his turn and took four of the six objectives in order to try to get those Ground Control points. I could have sent the Coldstar to contest the objective with the Redemptor and possibly get another Kingslayer point, but I felt killing the Librarian for kill more was more reliable.  I needed to win the game outright as Nick would have won the game if we tied due to points destroyed. The key was whether I could kill the 3 Intercessors on the middle objective that was both a kill point for me and a denial of a Ground Control point for Nick (moving the Riptide to attempt to get the bonus would have meant it only hit on 6s and I didn’t want the game to come down to whether the cibmander [editor’s note: A cyclic ion blaster Crisis suit Commander] could finish off the last 3 Intercessors).  Because of this, I think Nick should have used the 5+++ strat on his Intercessors since they were potentially two points (Ground Control and hold more) rather than the Librarian (which earned me a kill), otherwise I think he played a brilliant game and if we played this matchup another ten times I think it would very likely be an even 5-5.

I want to win games because of the decisions I made throughout the game and my overall strategy and tactics.  That is what this game is about. It’s not about your opponent forgetting to move a unit that was tucked into a ruin on the other side of the board, or forgetting to actually roll a charge after saying that they planned to charge with it at the beginning of the phase. 

Q: We loved the sportsmanship in that final match against Nick and we loved your post-match interview. How important is it to be chill about rules when you’re playing on a stage that big?

A: I think sportsmanship is essential to the top table mentality.  It’s about treating the game and your opponent with respect. I want to win games because of the decisions I made throughout the game and my overall strategy and tactics.  That is what this game is about. It’s not about your opponent forgetting to move a unit that was tucked into a ruin on the other side of the board, or forgetting to actually roll a charge after saying that they planned to charge with it at the beginning of the phase.  Top players already plan for those things to happen based on the game state and do not need to leverage forgotten rules or small mistakes to win matches. I think this mentality is at the core of how most of the top players actually play 40k from my experience.

I think the Atlanta Open was a perfect demonstration of this as even with the largest cash prize pool 40k has seen this season there was excellent sportsmanship on display throughout the event and especially in the top 8 bracket.  

Q: The Atlanta Open came under some early fire but it seems like things worked out pretty well. How did you feel about the event overall? Would you attend again next year?

A:  The event was outstanding.  Brad and the PTT team put on a hell of a show.  From the venue itself (Axis Replay) to the broadcast, commentary, and interview teams, this was a real treat for a first time event.  The sheer amount and quality of judges was also superb and I really appreciate them sacrificing their ability to compete this year in order to ensure the games were played at the highest level.  I will absolutely be attending next year and I highly recommend the event to those who did not make it this year.  

 

Photo Credit: Axis of Entropy

 

What’s Next

Q: Now that you’re at the top of the mountain, what’s next? What’s your plan for 2020, and do you expect the fortune and fame change you?

A:  I, along with Nick Nanavati and Mark Perry, are being sponsored by the esports team Obey Alliance to produce live streamed matched play content on Twitch and YouTube next year.  So if you are interested in seeing more games like the Atlanta Open final please stay tuned for our full announcement that will be coming soon.

Q: If you could change one thing about Warhammer 40k right now, what would it be?

A: I would change two things.  1) I would redo most of the original codexes (Tau, Grey Knights, Chaos Daemons, Necrons, etc.) in order to offer them the same list and strategic diversity that Space Marines currently possess.  I would love to run more of the units in the Tau Codex, but they offer very little for their cost and have limited stratagem or rules support, unlike most Marine units.

2) I would convince the executives at Games Workshop to switch to electronic rules that are regularly updated whether through a subscription model or other means.  There should not be over six months of lag time in the writing and balancing of competitive rules.

The best way to improve with Tau is to really practice how you want to deploy your army, spending enough time in your movement phases to carefully think through not only where the army should be this turn but also where it needs to be next turn, how to best use terrain to your advantage, and utilizing the assault phase to prevent more fragile parts of your army from being destroyed or reducing incoming fire by tagging and wrapping non-FLY units.

Q: What advice would you give to all of the aspiring T’au players out there, huddled in their castles, cursing combat doctrines and wondering how they can improve?

A:  Tau is one of the most difficult factions in the game to play a high level due to in-built limitations: lack of psychic defense, no powerful counter assault, largely mid-range shooting on BS4+ platforms, the reliance on multiple overlapping auras, the expensive and lackluster nature of markerlights. The best way to improve with Tau is to really practice how you want to deploy your army, spending enough time in your movement phases to carefully think through not only where the army should be this turn but also where it needs to be next turn, how to best use terrain to your advantage, and utilizing the assault phase to prevent more fragile parts of your army from being destroyed or reducing incoming fire by tagging and wrapping non-FLY units.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck at LVO!

A: Thank you again for interviewing me, I am a big fan of the work you guys do! Goonhammer has quickly become an essential resource for competitive 40k players.

 

More to Come

If you’re interested in reading more about the Atlanta Pro Tabletop Open, you’re in luck–we’ll have write-ups from two Goonhammer authors who attended the event over the next week. And as always, if you have any questions, notes, or feedback, feel free to drop them in the comments below, or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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