Goonhammer Interviews the Top 3 Kill Team players at the US Open: Tacoma

Hi everyone! This week we’re catching up with Kill Team at the US Open series: Tacoma, during which another Golden Ticket winner was crowned. The Tacoma event was huge, seeing 62 players battling it out over six rounds. And as usual, we’ve got coverage of the event and interviews with the participants. That said, Games Workshop keeps a tight lid on their tournament organizers, so rather than interview the TO this time around we spoke to the winner of the the Best Painted award.

Zack W, Best Painted

Painted by @denofimagination

Zack’s miniatures were painted by Den of Imagination (link)

What was Tacoma like as a player?

  • I loved my first kill team tournament! I made it to the semifinals and lost by just one victory point to Greg, who was awesome. Check out my YouTube video (link) on how I prepared as a newbie here.
  • All my opponents were kind and fun to play with. It was amazing to see our gaming communities connect at this event. I think this is the beginning of something special in Washington.

How did you enjoy the tournament format?

  • I had a blast at my first tournament! Everything was amazing: the event quality, the map setup, the tournament organizing. I want to run some tournaments in Seattle inspired by this one. Kudos to the event staff and the awesome community!
  • Some details: strength of schedule was a smart pairing method, playing each mission twice was incredibly fair, randomizing maps between rounds was cool. And the quality of the painting on 32 sets of terrain was incredible!

Favorite moment?

  • There are just so many I’ve re-written this a few times over, but being able to see everyone else’s models and talk hobby and strategy with friendly folks was awesome. You can a few of the teams from the tournament on my blog here (link).
  • All the moments of encouragement between opponents, shared excitement and compliments exchanged for all the amazing paint jobs is what I’ll take away from this weekend.

Thanks, Zack! Now it’s time to get into the thick of the competitive spirit. With 1 loss to the tournament winner, Fabriel took the better half of Soulshackle to a solid third place finish. With Hand of the Archon representation being fairly low as of late in the US, lets see what dastardly tricks let Fabriel draw power from pain.

Fabriel N, 3rd

Fabriel N, and his teammates

How long have you been playing Hand of the Archon? What went into your decision to bring their tools to Tacoma’s boards?

  • So I was fortunate to be able to buy HotA off another community member maybe a few weeks after the box was released. Before that, I had been mainly playing Corsairs as I love the idea of Space Elf Pirates and the models + specialists are just absolutely stunning and flavorful. I really enjoy playing Corsairs, and they are an amazing team for teaching you how to be objective-minded; no matter how hard I tried though, I found out I just couldn’t resist killing models. The insatiable bloodlust lives in me. When the team was announced, I was sort of neutral on them because I believed, and still do to an extent, that Corsairs can have more consistent game plans to execute but that they just don’t really do well into the later half of a game.
  • I’d say that I had 15 games with HotA total, so I was still very nervous and not sure what to expect of my run at the GT. The ultimate decision that came down to me bringing HotA was very simple: I took them because they are the most fun team I have ever played, and there’s a level of confidence that comes with playing a team that you genuinely enjoy every moment with. I didn’t really think about or care much for the meta and matchups because I figure that if I love my team and understand it enough, I will have the confidence and ability to turn any match into a victory or at least put up a hell of a fight trying.

Were you worried about the Chaos Cults, or the Fellgor Ravagers? How did your experiences go against those teams? Are the fears of melee dominance overblown by the wider killteam community?

  • I would say I was most worried about Chaos Cults because I did not have any actual experience against them up to this point. As for Fellgors, I already had a decent amount of experience against the team as I’d played against a friend from our LGS who picked them up and let me test three different teams against them to practice. As HotA, I only played the matchup once at our LGS but all the prior experience made me feel very good about the matchup because I felt familiar with the synergies and tricks Fellgors can pull off, which I think is important in understanding how to dismantle that team. Aside from that, I think HotA is a really great hybrid team who, through ploys and equipment, can make their melee extremely reliable, especially with rolling crits to take out frenzied models.
  • Through all the various factors of tournament pairing and probably luck, I did not actually run into Cults or Fellgors at all during my 6 rounds, though I definitely had solid gameplans ready for any Fellgor players. Overall, I don’t fault anyone for shying away from or gravitating towards Fellgors – they are such a fun looking melee team who definitely take some finesse to pull off.I think Fellgors are OK after all that – they defy a normal game mechanic and that can feel really annoying and especially frustrating to newer players, but it’s also another avenue of play that adds to the exciting variance of KT matches. As for Cults, I don’t really have any experience against them and so I can’t formulate a good opinion, but I will definitely keep reminding my friend Chris that he should be ashamed for even building those models.
  • The meta is always changing in such interesting ways that part of map design nowadays is built off the meta that Pathfinders broke, so it’s the summer of melee but I do think the addition of new teams and terrain will greatly impact all these melee teams; after all, Kommandos have been resurrected from the grave because of these new teams!

Fabriel’s Digits

Which operative from the Hand of the Archon did you find the most useful throughout your 6 rounds? Were there operatives that opponents seemed particularly unhappy to deal with?

  • It seems pretty vanilla to say but my Gunner with Blaster put in a lot of work. I always put the Skysplinter Assassin’s Omen buff on him rather than debuffing an enemy because an AP2 5/6 damage gun that hits on 3+ and gets to reroll 1s is so consistently good. Against most elite matchups, you just need all 4 hits to land to guarantee a dead elite model and anything squishier than that is very much also going to die to an omened Gunner. If there’s any obstacle in the way to HotA scoring primaries, the Gunner is the Tonka construction vehicle who pulverizes that obstacle down to the molecular level and clears the way for ya.
  • As for the operatives opponent’s DIDN’T like, I’ll actually tell you, to all our surprise, the Disciple of Yaelindra was not one of them. Most opponents were already well aware of what the torment grenade did and had come to accept that it was a fact of life. I think the good board layouts combined with opponents being well aware of her grenade didn’t really lead to any unhappy moments because most opponents spaced models out and positioned themselves quite well around her. The boards also didn’t really make it possible for her to get a really nasty and stupid alpha strike torment grenade off. I’ll tell you who probably caused the most pain: the Flayer. One of HotA’s greatest objective grabbers. He took many shots and melee hits only for him to shrug it off and continue sitting there, taunting opponents. His, Insensible to Pain, damage reduction certainly made him much more difficult to deal with than opponents had expected from an elf.

What was your experience like at Tacoma compared to other larger tournaments?

  • Prior to Tacoma, all the tournaments I’ve been to have been hosted by KTC at Shiv Games in Keizer, OR. The tournaments have varied between 16 to 32 players. Going to the same store for every tourney, you meet a few new people here and there each time but I was largely familiar with everyone who came to these tournaments at this point. Every scene sort of has its own local meta going on, and I’m glad that ours had a wide variety of teams but there were still some teams I had never played before like Starstriders or Hunter Clade; I had no clue what I was going to encounter at Tacoma.
  • You’ll meet people from all across at a GT. Everyone’s got their own cool little team and team uniforms and it’s sort of exciting to think of how differently all these other folks will approach the game based on wherever they’ve been playing and what sort of competition they bring. I got to play and meet a lot of people I would’ve never had the chance to before and it’s really cool to hear about their local scenes, how KT is going over there and what inspired each of them to get into the game. You’ll be sitting at a table next to someone who’s killing it with Kommandos and be like “Huh, I’ve never seen anyone in my local scene go this hard with that team!”, or you finish a match early and end up talking to a brave soul who brought Warpcoven and what their match was like. So many different, cool encounters can happen at a large tournament like this! I would love to continue going to large tournaments just for the social aspect alone.

Anything else you want to shout out to our fellow readers?

  • Shout out to KTC (Kill Team Cascadia link) for being one of the biggest and supportive groups around the PNW, building such a large and dedicated KT community in the area, hosting so many tournaments, and introducing me to vast amounts of new and great people who all share joy in this hobby and elevate my love for it!
  • Shout out to Red Castle Games(link) in Portland. We’ve got such a dedicated and amazing Event Coordinator, who happens to love KT too :o), and an awesome community of players who fill up the place every Wednesday and bring a great spirit to the game and hobby. I’m really glad that Warhammer and LGS’s have allowed me to meet and make new friends after feeling quite isolated graduating college in the middle of the pandemic!
  • Enjoy the hobbies you do, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet new people who also enjoy these things!

Phobos have truly hit a headwind as far as killteam balance goes. Now at the vanguard of the top tables, let’s see which operatives Greg used. With only 1 loss to his chunkier brethren, and tournament champion Matt, who knows what tools came into play the most?


Greg M, Second, Phobos Strike Team

When did you hop on the Phobos hype train? Were you a die hard fan, or a new recruit?

  • I have been playing Phobos on and off since they were first released. Although I love their playstyle, the team struggled for a long time in a competitive setting though and I had not really been playing them seriously until they received their most recent round of buffs. Between the reduced cost for mission actions from Vanguard and the nerf to team-wide damage reduction, I decided they were worth giving a fair shake for the GT.

How did you feel about the terrain and format at Tacoma, did your operative selections change much throughout the day?

  • I felt the terrain layouts really allowed me to maximize non-reciprocal shooting from Incursors, which allowed me to threaten large areas of the board. As for operative selection, my go-to list is a Reiver Sergeant, Reiver Warrior, Incursor Marksman, Incursor Minelayer, and Infiltrator Veteran. With either Infiltrator Commsman or Helix Adept, depending on mission, layout, and opponent. There are some niche picks into certain matchups that deviate from the normal list, but these were my regular choices.

Greg’s Team!

Out of the three special rules afforded to Phobos Strike Teams, Omni-Scramblers, Terror, and Multi-Spectrum Array. Which ones came into the play the most, and how did you use them best?

  • Omni-Scramblers and Multi-Spectrum Array are two of the most powerful tools in all of Kill Team and I tried to use them to maximum effect. Being able to delay an operative’s activation each turning point can set up huge swings especially when you win initiative. Likewise, Multi-Spectrum Array allowed my Incursor Marksman to threaten so much of the board while staying in relative safety. In most of my games, those abilities allowed me to eliminate a key enemy operative in the first turning point without taking any damage in return.

You missed very few points across the tournament, which tac op archetypes did you end up playing? Did you feel like you learned anything about tac op play during a large tournament?

  • For all six rounds I picked Seek and Destroy(S&D) as my archetype. Recon was probably a better choice for the final round’s Capture mission against Intercession Squad, but I was much more comfortable playing S&D and felt I needed to go with what I knew best.
  • Since it was a major event and every point mattered, there were several instances where I picked a tac op knowing that I may not score both points but was almost guaranteed to score one rather than take a tac op where I would be more likely to score either two points or zero. Since two of my games were decided by only one point, I felt that was a good choice.

What was your hardest game? Did it come down to one big die roll?

  • Every game I played was a challenge, but hands down, my hardest game was the final round against Matt W’s Intercesion Squad. Since the mission was Capture, the durability advantage of Intercessors really came into play, and lack of mission actions to score Primary VP eliminated one of the Phobos Strike Team’s biggest strengths, Vanguard. I think we both played our absolute best and it was a great game that I will always remember.
  • I can’t say the game came down to a single big die roll, although there was one key moment that really set me back. I won initiative turning point two and had an opportunity to eliminate Matt’s already wounded leader on the first activation, but after a Command Re-roll of a miss into a miss, he was able to save all the damage. I don’t believe that roll cost me the game, but it certainly didn’t help! Matt was a heck of an opponent though; he played up Intercession Squad’s strengths masterfully and he deserved the win 100%.

There are quite a few CATS players dotted across the Tacoma rankings that tell us a little about your home team!

  • For those who aren’t familiar, C.A.T.S. is the (semi-)competitive team for Pacific Northwest Kill Team players. We had over a dozen members attend the Tacoma event and I couldn’t be happier with that turnout, especially since we snagged two of the top three spots (shout out to Fabby for getting 3rd!). C.A.T.S. was born out of the larger Kill Team Cascadia group (link) who came together after the 2022 Tacoma Kill Team GT to build a friendly, inclusive community of players and to host events for Kill Team. For anyone in the area who is interested, most of our events have been held at Shiv Games in Keizer (link), OR. Additionally, Reality Break Games (link) in Wilsonville, OR were our gracious hosts for a GT-preparation event and Portland, OR folks should be on the lookout for a KTC event at Guardian Games (link) in the near future.
  • As the head judge for KTC events, I have the privilege of seeing all our members grow as they push themselves to play better and better. I am truly blown away by how great the KTC community is and I was so happy to see such a strong showing of C.A.T.S. at the Tacoma GT. I would never have made the podium without the KTC community and I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who shows up for practice games, to all the players that have attended our events, to all the wonderful folks that have made our community so successful, and most importantly, to my wonderful wife Morgan who supports my hobby of playing with little plastic soldiers!

Man oh man, when was the last time we had a big tournament with Intercession cleaning house. Not only did Matt come out undefeated, but they only dropped 26 points in 6 rounds! Definitely showing that in the Pacific Northwest the Astartes can still put up a fight! What was Matt’s secret sauce?

Matt W, 1st, Intercession Squad

Did Matt’s Intercessors just earn their Crux Terminatus?

What went into your team selection? Were you worried about the melee teams that have come to dominate much of the online Killteam competitive discussion?

  • I’m a slow player, so I deeply considered the meta that there was no other team I could reasonably pilot in a 2 day tournament setting. Last September I brought Pathfinders to my first competitive event, pushed each game over time, had total brain drain and wasn’t able to play effectively in the final. Not wanting a repeat of that I turned to Intercession with their straightforward game plan and my already painted Space Wolves.
  • As big media does, the major Kill Team networks instilled the fears of Chaos Cults and Felgor Ravagers running rampant. I read through their rules and wasn’t optimistic. What the meta didn’t anticipate was that I had the luck to skip the beastmen and play against Cults on Loot, the worst mission for that team. Intercession feels equal across all 3 options.

Did you have a strategic plan that you were able to consistently execute, or was it mostly adaptation of tactics on the fly?

  • Intercessors keep it easy, focusing on playing the fundamentals. As in any board game, all your moves should give something you need or take something from your opponent. It could be soldiers, victory points, controlling space or swaying the Martian congress to your self interest. Ideally all of the above.
  • Ultimately it’s about making the right decisions, so good sleep and finding ways to decompress between games is critical to playing your best. Another key factor is the support of my wife, who volunteered to solo parent an indomitable toddler for the weekend so “daddy could play game at friend’s house.”
  • My quick tips:
    • Deploy safely, with a few threats to keep your opponent honest.
    • An Intercessor Gunner with Auspex needs to be respected and even then, can usually get a shot off in round 1.
    • The threat of the Sergeant, with a plasma pistol or otherwise, is more valuable than most early trades.
    • If the enemy has the gall to kill one of my models, the killer likely has had its last activation. It’s better to spend activations elsewhere, so fire back at the assailant using overwatch or Wrath of Vengeance (Though shooting into another enemy model that hasn’t activated is a great trick)

How do you feel the balance of the game is looking? Which match throughout the weekend was the most challenging for you and did it feel like you were missing tools to approach the match up?

  • It’s hard to say. I still haven’t played against meta teams like Felgor, Gellerpox or Inquisition yet. In total, I probably had 40 games under my belt, many from local tournaments. I do wonder if intercession over performs in tournaments vs one-off games because the player is less mentally taxed with fewer models and less complex interactions to manage.
  • GW seem to be relatively attentive in fixing outlier teams, but it would be great if they could also address internal balance inside a team’s list. For example with the nerfs to the top Intercession chapter tactics, they could boost a few underperformers. Looking at my games with Votan, they could use 2 more wounds. I’m a still Pathfinders player outside of event pressures, for ITD I’ll throw out that Orbital Up-Link should cost 4 ep, but only 1 ap.

For aspiring Intercession players, which Chapter Tactics did you use, and did you ever use Adaptive Tactics? If you did, why and when did you use it?

  • I ran Durable and Rapid. I used to go Methodical and Durable, but after the nerf I (correctly) anticipated it wouldn’t have a significant impact in the all open-style games at the GT. I haven’t used Adaptive Tactics in a game yet.
  • I seriously considered Accurate or Sharpshooters. Either could swing an attack into a kill. But Durable and Rapid gives opportunities to attack or score you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Matt’s Space Wolf Intercession Squad

Were there any opponents you wanted to call out for sportsmanship, or insane plays?

  • There’s a great kill team community in the Pacific Northwest. Special callout to Silver Trophy holder, Greg M. Despite the pressure, our championship match was clean, well communicated and very hard fought.

Was there a game that didn’t play out as well as the score would imply? It looks like you had a strong run throughout, but we all know there are games that feel much sketchier than the scores show. Tell us about it!

  • The final 19-13 match had a much closer margin in reality. I got lucky spending my last CP to re-roll a failed save into a Critical Save on an Assault Intercessor Warrior that let him survive, and swing 3 more points onto the scoreboard. We also had dramatically opposite results from our Krak Grenade throws early in the game.
  • I had a very narrow win against Jason Discord Jaspoon’s (Jason L) phobos in round 3, I had two mistakes that thankfully didn’t cost me the game. That match prepared me to face Phobos again in the final.

Any other final words for the Goonhammer readers? Shoutouts to your gaming club?

  • Waystone Wargaming Speakeasy (link) is the best place to play and talk all things Warhammer. Even if you’re just visiting Seattle, check it out! Stefan and Dustin have done amazing work to bring their dream to life.

Thanks again for making it to the end of the article! If you’re in the New York area Nov 04-05 come to the New York Open (link), hosted by the Author! And if you’re up for a trip to Baltimore, Travis will be running the Kill Team event at the 2023 Goonhammer Open – tickets are still available

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or shoot us an email at