Krootcon Down Under – Am I getting good at this?

Back in July, after Gonghammer, I was a tired old man. My first 40k event in years, and I was exhausted. With a sigh of relief and a grunt of effort, I freed a finger from my bags of tournament supplies to pry open the door to my suburban home. Round by round, I had flailed my way to success at the Gonghammer GT in Wollongong, Australia. Well… I beat Daveydweeb anyway. Most people had, including the mildly spicy Thai food we had the night before.

Dropping the lightest of my bags, I took the stairs to the second floor. First on the left. Unpry the child- and cat-proof tabs that firmly sealed the door against intruders. This ritual completed, I passed through the portal into my chambers. I placed my display board on my work bench, and set about returning pieces to their homes on the shelves. My beautiful robot children were finally home.

But instead of contentment, my thoughts were drawn back to the events of the weekend that had just passed. What if I had rolled just a little better? What if I played a little better to the mission? What if…? The thoughts sloshed around my head like so much hoarded Nuln Oil Gloss bought in the twilight hours of its product life. A thirst was rising within me.

Somewhere over the horizon, a tournament was being announced. And it was being given a really silly name.

The event – Krootcon 2022

Krootcon came about because Alex Englezos, the TO, has zero ability to resist peer pressure and caved under community coercion to run an event in about thirteen seconds and, due to reasons none but the four-armed Emperor can comprehend, decided to make it one of the largest ITC events the Australian state of New South Wales had ever held. 

Krootcon Sockbert
The TO, Alex, and Magos Sockbert, also an Alex. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Yes, there was a costume competition. No, I for some reason did not win it.

Krootcon was also to be my first six-round event since the heady days of Warhammer Fantasy Battles seventh edition. I drove up to Sydney with good and noble Patreon Daveydweeb with the best of intentions, resolving to strangle the man only after the fifth or sixth time he talked about how many enemy models he could make run away with Chaos Knight shenanigans. With so many negatives to morale, they were beginning to make the Russians look brave.

Six rounds isn’t a common format in Australia, aside from the annual Adelaide Uprising championship event held over the Australia Day long weekend (also known as LVO weekend for adherents of that faith), and I was a little nervous about exhaustion by the end – a fear that would turn out prescient. Ending up with 72 players before drops, the Padstow RSL turned out to be a wonderfully spacious venue yet again, having previously hosted me for a range of Age of Sigmar events. The Australian 40k community has moved away in recent years from the ‘pack them butt to butt’ approach to how many players should attend an event (although this didn’t stop Daveydweeb “accidentally” handling both of assistant TO Sam’s delicious cheeks in the first round), and every table had more than enough space for players to (in some cases literally) dance around after a few beers, keeping the models safe.

The list

For Gonghammer, I ran exactly what Wings had drafted for the  Imperial Knight codex review as a neat little shooting heavy Taranis list looking to exploit Calculated Targeting with the sod-off big guns of a Castellan. With fear in my heart, I decided this time to explore that strange and foreign place called “list building”. Over the weeks I’d come to realise that Calculated Targeting just… isn’t very fun, for either player. Cool, I rolled some dice and you removed some models. There was nothing tactical, there was just feel bad of them removing whatever unit I looked at funny, and me feeling kinda guilty for it (we’ll come back to competitive guilt later…). So, I put on the Finkin’ Cap I had leftover from an abandoned ork project, and got to work.

House Taranis Super Heavy Detachment

Oaths: Defend the Realm, Lay Low the Tyrants

LOW: Knight Gallant, Character (Knight Lance), Exalted Court: Master of Lore, Heirloom: Sanctuary, Knightly Teaching: The Folly of Mercy, Meltagun, Warlord, Warlord Trait: Knight Seneschal – 440pts

LOW: Knight Paladin, Exalted Court: Master Tactician, Ironstorm Missile Pod, Knight Baron, Martial Tradition: Machine Focus, Meltagun, Warlord Trait: Revered Knight, Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon – 480pts

LOW: 2x Warglaives, meltaguns – 300pts

LOW: 2x Warglaives, meltaguns – 300pts

LOW: 3x Helverins, meltaguns, one with Heirlooms of the House: Bastard’s Helm – 480pts

2000pts, 2CP

Krootcon in full swing.
Krootcon in full swing. Look at all that wonderful space! Credit: Magos Sockbert

This is the first list I’ve come up with by myself for 40k for maybe a decade, so I wasn’t feeling too confident about my odds of success. I wanted more Helverins, because that offensive profile is just *chefs kiss*, and I wanted the blender that comes with stacking buffs onto the already nasty Gallant, but after that I felt a little lost. I wanted to experiment a little more with Renew the Oaths, including letting an Armiger complete the action via Folly of Mercy, but that was about all the tech I could come up with. The Paladin’s main role was mostly to act as bait, striking first with Revered Knight before some Warglaives or the Gallant could come charging in.

I spoke in my Gonghammer article about the confusion I felt learning new rules, and I hadn’t played many real games in the meantime (no, Davey, yet another knight-on-knight mirror match does not count as “practicing”), so I was a tad worried about trying too many new things. While the Imperial Knight codex doesn’t have a lot of options in it, even just a few changes can double the number of weapon profiles you need to remember, and I winced every time I made an opponent wait for me to look up what an Ironstorm Missile Pod did yet again. By round six, Davey was briefing his opponents that Storm of Darkness allows him to “enspookenate” an objective, causing units within spooky range to be spooked. We all have our ways of handling change.

You may also notice that this is not a list built to take advantage of Calculated Targeting. The Paladin has some dakka, and I can still get one use of the stratagem for free thanks to Master Tactician, but it wasn’t a core principle. Honestly, mostly I just wanted to slam the Gallant into something and wail away at it with up to 24 Reaper Chainsword attacks, my inner dice gremlin coming once again to the fore.

I walked into the event morning of the first day with hope in my heart, ready to win some, lose some, and try to bring joy and balanced gameplay to all my lovely opponents.

Game One – Data Scry Salvage

Sean Baumann (final placing: 36th)

Win 96 – 31

Secondaries: No Prisoners (14/15), Renew the Oaths (15/15), Yield No Ground (12/15)

As a result, I opened Krootcon by absolutely dumpstering a Covens-heavy Drukhari list with the broadest points spread I’ve ever experienced.

Krootkon Knights Drukhari
An Armiger with a silly hat against Incubi, moments before disaster. Credit: Magos Sockbert

This wasn’t peak Drukhari, fortunately, and Sean had taken a slightly off-meta list, leaning heavily into Grotesques. My Armigers swiftly learned to fear that -2AP Damage 2 weapon, but my larger knights could take the hit, pause for a moment to allow the monsters a moment to consider their mortality, then snuff out their spikey little lives.

This was a wild game for me, and I… did not expect this. Normally, only Daveydweeb suffers this hard against me, and not even Drazhar, a model I think I’ve acquired a real phobia of, could resist the inexorable tide of “now I roll a lot of dice at single wound elves. No, you don’t get a save.” Who needs Judgment tokens?

Game Two – Abandoned Sanctuaries

Tyson Deeks (final placing: 16th)

Loss 92 – 91

Secondaries: Yield No Ground (15/15), Renew the Oaths (11/15), Assassination (10/15)

Tyson is a lovely dude, snuggling with his suspiciously Slaanesh-heavy army into a draw with Daveydweeb in the final round of Gonghammer just weeks earlier. An eccentric sort, I was lured into a false sense of security by the offer of hugs, lollies, and my own contempt for Bloodthirsters – I once lost one in melee combat to T’au Broadsides back when both models were made of metal.

Never respect the Bloodthirster. Not in any game, not in any edition.

This game was tight. I thought I’d lost the game round one after discovering that, oh, by the way, Be’lakor ignores invulnerable saves, so goodbye Gallant. 

Krootcon Be'lakor Knights
I’m sure my Gallant will be fine. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Which was fine! Because then Tyson thought he’d lost when I blew Be’lakor off the table. Then he wiped my other knight. Then he lost 30 Bloodletters in a turn. My God this game was swingy. This was also the first game I learned the hilarious value of Noble Sacrifice, entirely by accident. As we lamented and commiserated about the multiple models on a single wound standing around the smoking crater where my Paladin had been, a stray noospheric connection uttered into my mind the immortal words: Hang on, I think I have a stratagem for this. Thus began a five game streak of gleefully exploding my own models. Was it always strictly necessary, to waste 2 CP in order to go big boom? Absolutely fucking not. It’s about sending a message.

Game Three – Tide of Conviction

Carl Buttsworth – Craftworlds (final placing: 56th)

Win 99 – 42

Secondaries: Yield No Ground (14/15), Renew the Oaths (15/15), Grind Them Down (15/15)

Votann were the talk of the town at Krootcon, being jokingly referred to as the “Knights balance patch”, and after Davey’s last encounter with Emperor’s Chosen Custodes, we’d come to the conclusion that auto-wounding attacks were Quite Good, Actually, especially against giant stompy robots. So, naturally, I rolled straight into Hail of Doom Eldar. Carl was the analytical type of player, measuring out models to get them precisely where they were needed, maximising buffs and auras while minimising who I could strike. His army was a scalpel, poised to excise the heart of the enemy with brutal, elf-bullshit based efficiency.

It did not deal well with Armiger Autocannons.

Krootcon Knights Eldar
Carl’s beautifully measured out and positioned Eldar, and the robots about to ruin their day. Credit: Magos Sockbert

My second elf encounter of the event, and I was starting to learn that there isn’t a lot in any elf arsenal that deals well with S7, AP-2, D3 weaponry which was most of my ranged attacks by volume. That bike squad? Boom, gone. Oh, you’re holding an objective with a Scorpion exarch? Not anymore. It was, uh. Not the most fun game on my end, if I’ll be honest. Running into Carl’s army felt roughly like running a Knights list in 7th – nice army, shame if it runs into a superheavy. 

Game Four – Tear Down Their Icons

Fabien Ringot – Harlequins (final placing: 42nd)

Win 96 – 41

Secondaries: Yield No Ground (14/15), Renew The Oaths (15/15), Grind Them Down (12/15)

Yet. More. Elves. I’d never played any of the Eldar factions before, so it was pretty neat getting to take a crack at all three in one event, but I was itching to face something new. Fabien’s army was Light Saedath Harlequins, and looked like it might have been a tad stronger list before the Dark Times back in April. Almost universal -1 to hit, a bunch of -1 to wound, and omni-prevalent 4+ invulnerable saves were frustrating, to say the least, but I managed to muddle through by the power of “get Fabien to fail just so, so many saves”, starting with the brilliant tactical move of getting him to lose six Skyweavers on six saves. Again, that Damage 3 really started to bite.

Krootcon Knights Harlequins
“See those clowns?” Yes milord. “I don’t want to anymore.” Yes milord. Credit: Magos Sockbert

This is where I started to learn about the power of holding the middle, but, even more than that, the power of “don’t let your opponent do what they want”. In some games (especially Necrons…) it’s just more important to… stop them. In this case, though I lost my Paladin super early (forever in our hearts), plonking my Gallant in the middle of the field made it really hard for Fabien to move where he wanted without the (realised) threat of a giant murder robot chopping his pointy ears off. In a way, this was easier than with the Castellan at Gonghammer – while it wanted to play keepaway from anything that could threaten it, I may have uttered the phrase “come at me bro” at least once this game…

Game Five – Secure Missing Artifacts

Joshua Brodie – Creations of Bile (final placing: 9th)

Loss 92 – 93

Secondaries: Yield No Ground (12/15), Renew The Oaths (15/15), No Prisoners (12/15)

Warhammer 40,000 is, at its core, a dice game – the key to being good at it is how little can you make it a dice game. Is your army reliable, or swingy? Do you need that stratagem to go off on a 4+ for your plan to succeed? In my case, a lot of my success at this event seemed to be predicated on the idea that I could rely on high toughness models to mitigate any mistakes I made. This wasn’t perfect, of course, I still had to score and deny my opponent scoring, but games almost never come down to a single die roll.

This game came down to a single die roll.

I made some mistakes throughout the game, and Josh, as is his wont, made very few, but a single 3+ on a D6 for damaging a possessed marine at the end of the game would have tipped this into a tie thanks to No Prisoners. Sure, I could have made some better decisions earlier on, like “don’t target the immortal Lord Discordant”, but that was an early game issue, and I strongly believe you can’t really look at an action made turn one and go “there but for the grace of the Emperor goes my win”.

Krootcon Knights Gal Vorbak Word Bearers
Josh responded… poorly… to my suggestion his Gal Vorbak could piss right back off to the 31st millenium. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Josh is a former NSW team captain and, in an “off year”, the 9th ranked ITC player in Australia. I, a bit unfairly, walked into this match expecting to lose. It probably wasn’t my most honourable start to a game; I was admittedly a bit salty that my accidental (to me) success in the first four rounds had brought me to face such a talented player. I was sure my demise would be swift and brutal, and while it was swift (seriously, who can roll that many dice that fast), Josh taught me so much just by osmosis. Aside from the obvious (kill things for points if you’ve got No Prisoners, don’t waste your time on the immortal freakin’ Disco Lord, yes I’m still mad), his attitude and tight play meant that while I wasn’t laughing all the way to the bank, I was absorbing every iota of competitive violence I could from the man.

Game Six – Conversion

Joshua Hynes – Necrons (final placing: 26th)

Win 90 – 83 

Secondaries: Yield No Ground (13/15), Renew The Oaths (14/15), No Prisoners (8/15)

One more game. Just one more game until I can go home and sleep. Sweet Omnissiah, six games is a lot. Am I out of practice at big events, or is six in two days just a bit too much? Not sure, but we were both feeling it, so this game was… rough. Josh was lovely, but clearly just as exhausted as I was. We both had a few moments of “dammit, game over, no way I can claw my way back from this”, and 90-83, though tight, doesn’t really show how close the game was, or how panicked I was leaping from point to point trying to prevent robots being robots. Joshua (Davey’s round one opponent, rip Davey) deliberately took a slightly off-meta version of the popular Necron netlist because he wanted to have fun and, more importantly, wanted his opponents to have fun. He did well – 26th place at 3-3, with his lowest score being 82 points. 

I’d run into Necrons with my previous, dakka based list, and Necrons could be an intense pain, hiding just out of line of sight to make me have to stomp forward and be ambushed. Unfortunately for Joshua, this list almost wants to be ambushed – a kind of “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me” vibe. No Prisoners was… interesting, because while a lot of Necron units could come back to life (feeding me tasty kill points multiple times), I never really managed to milk that for all it was worth – this may have been a trap, but I still struggle to decide that all important third secondary.

Krootcon C'Tan
The approximate exchange rate for one Gallant, apparently. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Final shout out to the Silent King – the damn model took an age to die, and double shout out to Joshua for not taking that “guaranteed menhir resurrection every bloody turn” build that took Gonghammer by storm.

Key takeaways from the event

You are not the game result. I didn’t touch on this much running through the games, but I felt bad during some of those wins. A 50 points plus score differential is a pretty good indicator of a very lopsided game, and I had to work hard to try and maintain positivity when it was starting to become clear that my opponents were not having a great time, to at least try and make things a little more cheerful for my opponent. The maintaining positivity regardless of result? Great attitude. Highly recommend. The feeling bad, hell, guilty about doing well at a competitive game at a competitive event? Incredibly unhelpful for everyone involved. This is not a “you knew what you were getting into, now suffer” type take, but you should respect your opponent’s autonomy. Its important (except at the very highest end of competitive play, I guess) to think about Warhammer as playtime – because it is. There’s almost always a winner, but you can both enjoy yourselves, and that’s only supported by feeling comfortable with the outcome no matter what it happens to be. And on a related note…

Foregone conclusions, arent. I had more than one game where I was convinced I was about to lose, and just… didn’t. Keeping an open mind can really help you maintain a healthy sodium level, and also support your opponent’s joy in the game. A certain Patron of ours (you’ll never guess who) kind of turned into the “Ah, fuck, Knights into Leviathan again”, running into three at Krootcon, but ended up winning his final game; staying approachable to different outcomes helps you tactically, but also helps prevent you feeling quite as terrible as he did about the salt he poured on his poor opponents.

Knowing is half the battle. Hey, so turns out? Knowing your army more helps you do better at this game. This isn’t just “oh god I can’t remember what this gun is” – I found that just knowing stratagems and secondaries better helped take a lot of the mental load off, to allow me to better focus on the little things like “winning the game”. I still didn’t discover Noble Sacrifice until game two, but you can get into a real sense of flow when you’re only checking the book to go, yes, sorry, that is 24 attacks from a giant robot. Also, that Knight has tea-making facilities in the back.

Victory not violence. Warhammer is not, it turns out, a game about murdering your opponent’s dudes. I shocked myself with my restraint at times – my Gallant in particular had a lot of fun just marching into the centre of the field, Renewing her Oaths, and daring the bad guys to come and take her on. But what really won me games was restraint. All three games on day two had turns where my exclusively melee Knight just stomped her feet on an objective, refusing to take the bait and instead scoring Renew the Oaths. The passive scoring Imperial Knights can take to a game can really do work, so you’re only really left with one secondary that your opponent can influence. I acknowledge that my choices here probably weren’t optimal, but leaning into the “score points” part of the game had me playing wildly differently than when I build the Murder Robot List.

Daveydweeb getting bodied by Leviathan once again. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Daveydweeb getting bodied by Leviathan once again. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Wrapping up

I came eighth. Eighth. I walked in wanting to go 3-3, and walked out with five hundred and sixty four victory points, 27 more than Chris Wright who won the event. I never scored a game under 90, and you know what kinda sucks? I don’t know how I did it. That isn’t a flex, that’s a worry; I’m clearly (somehow) getting better at this game, but I’m in that sort of “stupid enough to be dangerous” field where I’m doing something right, but I haven’t practiced enough to know what. A lot of my success can probably be chalked up to running into three elf armies, none of which dealt well with the profiles I brought to town, but the takeaway here is that if you don’t keep swapping systems and armies, and just practice the damn book, you will improve. What does that mean for me next? I honestly don’t know. Horus Heresy’s launch has dragged me back down that historical quagmire, and I’m no longer able to go to the national championships in January. Will this lead to a resurgence in 10th, or just mark my high point in 40k?

Six rounds of an event was exhausting. Finishing an event at 8pm? Rough. A four and a half hour drive home afterwards? Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but dear God it was fun. In my sleep deprived state, parked somewhere along a highway to allow us to recaffeinate, I considered the event, and wrote perhaps the most concise summary of an event I ever will:

Big robot go boom. Friendship with Calculated Targeting ended, now Noble Sacrifice is new best friend.

Krootcon trophy Sockbert
No, I didn’t win this, but isn’t it a pretty trophy? Credit: Magos Sockbert

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