Interviewing the Top 3 Kill Team Players from the Kill Team Open

The end of the 2022 ITC season has just wrapped up with the conclusion of the Kill Team Open hosted by Kill Team Jawn, Plasma Spam, and Basement War Gamers (to name a few) in Baltimore on February 18th. It was a terrific event marked with strong competition and today we’re talking to the competitors and organizers from the East Coast’s largest Kill Team event to date.

David Smeresky, TO

Authors Note: I did a small interview with Dave on Just Another Killteam Podcast(link) give it a listen if you want to hear his thoughts!

Dave and the KTO crew

How was the experience running the second annual Kill Team Open?

  • Kill Team Open is always such a blast to organize. The event is huge, messy, and exhausting in all the best ways as I am sure other attendees and volunteers can attest. KTO is our way of getting as many people as possible together for some great food, great socializing, and community building.
  • Most TOs have to go it alone for their events. But this is one event where a team of some of the very best advocates of the Kill Team community have come together to build a single vision. I can focus entirely on the day-of planning because there’s an entire team contributing in other areas of the event. It’s also great to have on-demand support and multiple line judges to help wrangle so many players.

Were there any common rules questions that came up in an all In the Dark tournament?

  • I’d say the most common questions that come up in any tournament, KTO being no exception, are determining line-of-site and untangling interactions between two rules. Most players really just want that neutral party call to quicken the pace of the game instead of getting stuck on “can I shoot that guy?”.
  • Honorable mention here would go to the rosters. While they’re super basic and simple for most teams (here, take these specialists and a leader), we had to go back to warp coven, intercession, and legionary players fairly often. Sometimes it was an error like missing boons, sometimes it was asking if they wanted to take more than the 6 marine models to fill up their slots.
  • Our volunteer TOs worked hard over the weekend, and we appreciate their time and dedication to the community. Thanks guys!

You’ve run quite a few of the large East Coast tournaments, what makes the Kill Team Open special?

  • It is a pure celebration of Kill Team and its community. You can go to a bunch of other events and be the 3rd, 4th, 5th relevant system there. It’s easy to get lost in the mix and feel like you’re just another cow to get milked for someone else’s profit.
  • Kill Team Open marks the only event where the Kill Team community gets its own space for attendees to express the game in the way they want: competitive, narrative, open play, hobby. When Steve, Sheldon, Rion, and I came together the first time, we wanted to make sure the players felt pampered – great swag, lots of prizes and sponsors, food, value on their tickets. All of our work is to further that idea.
  • Having been a part of the broader system where Kill Team gets put in the corner, KTO is an absolute breath of fresh air. Every attendee we meet is there for the love of Kill Team – making the trip out from multiple countries to attend. KTO would be impossible without the dedication of the founders, staff, sponsors, and community who believe in its vision. We are grateful for the support.

What are the team’s plans for 2023?

  • For the next few weeks: REST. KTO has a lot of moving parts and we’re all looking forward to relaxing a bit before getting back to our individual efforts. In a few weeks, when we’ve decompressed, we’ll go back to the team for a follow up to see how we can do even better. A lot of this is trial by fire, but we do make sure to remain communicative with each other and the community. Obviously, we’re always looking forward to what’s next!

Mike Cortes – Third, Imperial Navy Breachers

Mike was the third-place finisher in the top cut pod of players. With a 3-0-1 run on day 1, into a 3-1 finish on day 2. He was the runner up of last year’s Nova, and was the final 3-0 going into the fourth round!

Mike pictured with his amazing local community

You’ve played Pathfinders, Void Dancers, Hunter Clade and now Navy Breachers. What drew you towards this team?

  • The things that drew me to the Breachers were mainly the dice manipulation and the strong combo potential.  Both of those are exactly what I look for in a Kill Team. I really enjoy learning a team’s strengths and weaknesses by playing them myself, and I think the best way to really see if something is overpowered or broken is just to try it out yourself.  Doing so is essentially crowdsourcing how best to deal with a particular matchup, while also learning that the grass may not be as green as you think.  That said, I will admit that I am a bit of a meta chaser as I very much enjoy playing with and playing against the strongest teams.

There were quite a few scores with players in the double digits, how have the new In the Dark missions affected your tournament experiences?

  • After playing in several Into the Dark events and a couple with the new missions, I have noticed that I enjoy them less the more that I play them.  Between being able to pre-measure, as well as prep for all of the missions, it makes for a very static play experience.  Over the course of the KTO event, the amount of times that I heard some variation of  “I know that I can do this because I pre-measured it at home…” was pretty significant.
  • While the new Critical Mission pack is great, it seems that the primary and secondaries are a bit too easy to score and it leads to a lot of ties.  Out of my eight games at KTO, three of them ended up as either a tie or going to tiebreakers, which seems a bit too frequent to me. I personally can’t wait until we get to go back into the light. It will be a breath of fresh air.

What was your hardest match up? Did you have any opponents you really enjoyed playing against?

  • My hardest matchup was definitely my last game, which was against Shane.  Shane was an amazing player and piloted his Legionaries like an absolute champion. Going into the tournament I learnt that the Breachers worked best for me when I played with more of a defensive and counterpunching mindset.
  • I definitely enjoyed all of my KTO games, but the opponent that stood out most for being the one I enjoyed playing against the most would have to be Nick Craven.  Nick was an absolute pleasure to share a KT table with, and I look forward to playing with him again.  Not only was the game with him enjoyable, but it had the craziest outcome I experienced at that tournament.  Basically the game ended with both of us being tied all the way down to the 4th tiebreaker. We had the same Primaries, Secondaries, Objectives controlled AND APL on the board.  Day 2 couldn’t have any ties and at this point the TOs were not sure what to do next, so they left it to us.  Neither Nick nor I wanted to just take the win, so we ultimately decided to let the dice gods decide the dice game… a roll off! After 2 sets of tied roll offs, I won with a 3, taking the W.

Are there any secrets to the Breachers you don’t hear talked about all that much?

  • I think a lot of players underestimate how powerful the Breacher’s System Override Device can be.  As I mentioned earlier, too many players have a set game plan that they want to execute; measuring and planning exactly what they will do for Turn 1 and Turn 2 before an event even begins.  Anything a player can do to disrupt their opponent’s gameplan can make the difference between winning and losing, and for the relatively cheap cost of two equipment points, the Override Device does exactly that.  Being able to open any door in the killzone won’t always get you a spicy Turn 1 alpha strike, but just making your opponent have to change their gameplan to respect that threat is a massive strategic advantage.  Worst case, after disrupting your opponent’s deployment, you can open a door on your side of the map and set up easier for a future turn.  I think I used that to great effect in most of my games at KTO

What stood out from the Kill Team Open experience compared to other large tournaments?

  • The amazing community! I have enjoyed myself playing other games at other large tournaments/events, but the Kill Team community has stuck out as being one of the best that I have experienced. Everyone has been so nice and it has been a real pleasure to go to the events. I am really looking forward to the next large tournament and would recommend everyone try attending one themselves!

Shane C Smith, Second, Nurgle Legionary, Command Point

Coming in second was half of Command Point and fellow Kroot enjoyer, Shane C Smith, who revealed his true colors at the event as a Nurgle faithful, shrugging off wounds from all comers. Lets see what kind of filth was found on his run to second.

As a loud proponent of Kroot on the internet what made you turn from the bird boys?

  • I was very much on the Farstalker Kinband train even before their recent buffs. The sculpts and the flexibility of that team is super appealing to me, and I really do want to revisit them sometime pretty soon in the future. It was initially my plan to run them at KTO, but I shifted after finding out that the event was going to be 100% Into the Dark terrain. As much as I love the bird boys, they struggle on close confines boards. Many of their strengths are easier to push on open boards. Definitely going to bring them out soon! As far as why I switched to Legionnaires, I’ve always been a fan of elite teams but never personally gave them a fair shake this edition. When I was prepping against Ryan’s Intercession, I was getting really frustrated with the matchup, and since it was a safe assumption that KTO would have a lot of Intercession, I wanted to bring a team that both had a very good matchup into them and didn’t have glaring blind spots in other matchups. The more I practiced with them the better I felt.

Command point is one of the homes of Tabletop Simulator tournaments, was the program important to your preparation?

  • Yes, actually! My local scene isn’t as cutthroat competitive these days so I have less opportunities to get high level games in person. So, while about half of my prep was just against Ryan, the other half was against whoever I could find in our TTS community (discord link). There’s a ton of amazing players from all over the world that play there, and that experience was vital to helping me feel ready for KTO.

There are a few Slaanesh operatives on your roster, did they see play?

  • Unfortunately not. I got this tech from Orion Wilfong, actually, so I can’t take credit for it, but the only Slaanesh operative I was reasonably going to take was the Slaanesh Shrivetalon. I was super ready to take this operative against Gellerpox, but I never ran into the matchup. Between his Horrifying Dismemberment ability and the Slaanesh Tactical Ploy ‘Sickening Captivation’, it is really easy for the Slaanesh Shrivetalon to stun multiple models every turn after TP1, and Gellerpox hate stun more than just about any other team. They were one of the big scaries for this tournament, so I wanted a plan into them. Wish I got to see it hit the table.

Did you have any opponents you wanted to shout out?

  • Oh yeah. I played with some awesome people at KTO. Mike Cortes who I played in the final game on stream was a total gem. Shoutout to the Brooklyn folks I played, Leila and Rami, and another shoutout to Nick Craven who is just the coolest guy and an amazing player. There’s others who are awesome but those were the most special ones.

How did you like the pod format for Kill Team Open?

  • I personally was a huge fan of the format. I believe they borrowed it from NOVA, which I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to last year, but I love the concept. Last year KTO, if you didn’t make top pods, there were basically no competitive games to play after day 1. This year, though, it was amazing to see every player get an opportunity to keep playing competitive games after the first day regardless of how they did.

Anything else you want to add, maybe a plug to your channel, Command Point?

  • Thanks to everyone for running this event! Was an amazing time, it’s always so cool to see these people I talk to from all over the country. Can’t wait for the next one. And, oh yeah! I have a Youtube channel called Command Point that I run with my friend and co-host Ryan Clancy, who also had a great run at KTO, going 5-2-1 on the weekend. We’ve been around since the old days of last edition, and still going strong! It’s very competitive-focused and we’ll be talking about our tournament runs on the channel.

Jimmy Kelly – First, Talons of the Emperor

Last but not least we have Jimmy Kelly, leader of the Kell team, and King of the Compendium. Let’s hear from the mouth of the Emperor himself how he struck down the unfaithful in the halls of the space hulks!

Authors Note: I did a small interview with Jimmy on Just Another Killteam Podcast(link) give it a listen if you want to hear his thoughts!

1st place! Jimmy and the KTO organizers!

Was taking Talons a comfort pick or a brave pick? What strengths made you pick them over other elite teams?

  • Kind of a little bit of both. When thinking about into the dark I really felt elites and teams that were good at melee would be strong and one of my practice partners, Robert Nichols, is a big fan of compendium and has had success with several compendium teams. I felt like the math seemed good for Talons, I liked they had an extra activation over other elite teams, and the first couple practice games went good. I just decided to give them a try and not tell anyone of my choice because I was worried they’d talk me out of it. So I thought they were strong but because of the overwhelming consensus on them, assumed I had missed something and would find out they couldn’t hold up to stiff competition.

How was your experience this year compared to last year’s Kill Team Open? Were the opponents more competitive, or you more ready to take down the competition?

  • I loved both KTO events but they were so different.  Both were amazing, and I faced a few really tough opponents both years. Liam Garrett, Shane Smith, Nick Craven and Chris Bacchi were all opponents both years. Neither year had anything I’d call an easy matchup, but this year felt like it was even tougher. Everyone has had more time and practice under their belt to really get to their best level.

Were there any crazy moments of luck, great opponents, or great plays you wanted to talk about?

  • I had so many good opponents, from Liam’s Gellerpox who I beat only by points while his hulks crushed me. Bacchi’s infamous Blooded who I barely held off by denying his secondaries with my last remaining sisters cowardly running away. Shane’s Nurgly Legionary that put the hurt on me from the very beginning of the game and who almost beat me by a literal millimeter. Ultimately one of the opponents who I met for the first time this year, Mike Cortes, was a powerful Breachers player who executed an amazing plan and came back and shrank my large lead to end with a 19-19 tie which he took on tie breakers. Honorable mention goes to Nick Craven for being my first match of KTO 2022 and my last match of KTO 2023.

How did you practice for Kill Team Open, any tips for budding competitive players?

  • I have some local players, part of Kell Team (the team I started with my sons), that I play with, Robert Nicholes, Kevin Burton and Kellen Foster, as well as my many children!  I actually took the last couple weeks to get a lot of games in teaching my son, Malachi, the game as this KTO was his first tournament.  It is also a valuable tool to bring in and teach new players so keep recruiting and growing the community!

Are you planning to stick with Talons for the competitive season, or are you planning to move onto a new team?

  • I’m really not sure.  I’m not sure if Talons are really viable on Open in a large tournament AND I’m a little infamous for constantly taking new teams.  Kill Team has too many great choices so it can be fun to try new things.  Additionally, I’ve heard that after this tournament there are a few people hoping GW will let their nerf hammer fall on the golden boys … so we will have to see how they look going forward.  But I’m not ruling out a return of the Talons.

Anything you want to shout out to the Goonhammer readers??

  • To those of you who make it to these competitive tournaments and events, I want to thank you for making these experiences so amazing for me, my kids and my friends. The community is really incredible and I’m blown away by the wonderful people. I always look forward to seeing both familiar and new faces when I show up to these events. If you don’t make it to the events because it seems overwhelming or too competitive, I’d love to encourage you to try to make it happen. It’s amazing to see new players show up, from the player who just got his first models and is playing one of his first matches, to the player who has been playing for years with his friends and finally decided to make it to big event. It’s always great to see people’s painting schemes, their kit bashes, learn the backstory to their team or just feel their eagerness to get in a competitive game and see how they do. I encourage you, take the leap and give it a shot, win or lose I bet you will have a great time. Oh, and when possible, bring a friend!

That wraps up our interviews! We’d like to thank the players and TO again for speaking with us and congratulate them on a great event. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at