Las Vegas Nopen Match 7: Art of War pt. 2

The Las Vegas Nopen, taking place on 29th-31st January 2021, is going to bring together some of 40K’s biggest names in a unique tournament to entertain the community and raise some money for charity in these dark times. 16 players will enter the first round of this knockout event, but rather than the winners themselves advancing, the triumphant lists will be passed on to another pair of streamers to clash in the following round. After a blowout weekend of gaming, one list will emerge triumphant from a gauntlet put together by some of the finest minds in 40K – so what will it be?

All of this week, we’re going to be introducing the sixteen first round competitors and taking a look at the creations they’re about to unleash, covering a first round pairing every day. James “One_Wing” Grover will take you through the lists and what makes them tick, then a guest panel from our competitive team will make their predictions about which army they think is going to triumph.

With such a strong stable of players among their ranks, you weren’t expecting that we’d see only one table from the Art of War team were you? We’re staying in Florida today to take a look at another big name showdown, today looking at the lists that TJ Lanigan and Brad Chester have thrown into the mix for the Nopen.

If you’ve been enjoying these previews and our panel’s verdicts, and want to take a stab at a bracket prediction of your own, go to the website to take your stab at how you think things will play out over the event. While you’re there, take a look at the schedule to plan your viewing for what promises to be a blowout weekend of 40K.

With all that out the way, on to today’s lists.

How This Works

If you’ve already had the lowdown from the introduction, you can skip straight onto the lists, otherwise click below to expand the details.

Details - Click to Expand

For each of these previews we’re going to be looking at the lists in the same style as the Competitive Innovations series, breaking down what the big highlights are of each list are and then digging in to some of the things they can do on the table. For this special event, I’m also going to take things a bit further – having studied all 16 lists, I’ve rated each out of five on the following criteria:

  • Ranged Power: how much damage the army can do while the opponent is still at arm’s length.
  • Close Quarters: how much damage the army inflicts up close, either via short ranged firepower or melee attacks.
  • Mobility: How effectively the army can manoeuvre around the table.
  • Durability: How much punishment the army can soak up.
  • Tricks: How many tricks and clutch options the army has up its sleeve to turn the game to its advantage.

Bear in mind when looking at these ratings that I’ve done them in the context of the lists in the event, not the wider 40K world – because with the power that our 16 top players are bringing to bear, I’d mostly just be handing out fives otherwise, and there wouldn’t be a one in sight!

Once we’ve been through the two lists, I’ve assembled a panel of Goonhammer’s finest tournament minds to vote on the outcome of each matchup and tell me why. We’ll pick out who we think is going into each game with the upper hand, then come the event itself find out whether they manage to cruise to victory or if we have an upset on the cards.

The panel are:

  • Cyle “Naramyth” Thompson: All-round Imperium fan and currently ranked 7th in the ITC.
  • James “Boon” Kelling: Aeldari mastermind and winner of the Mid-MO Maelstrom GT, currently ranked 13th in the ITC.
  • Shane Watts: Multi-faction mastermind with multiple 9th Edition top-fours. You might have seen his Ork list featured over on Metawatch!
  • Chase “Gunum” Garber: Creator of our “Hear Me Out” series, and a big fan of more unusual lists.
  • Liam “Corrode” Royle: Goonhammer’s editor in chief and TO at Black Heart Wargaming.

Matchup 7 – TJ Lanigan vs Brad Chester

TJ Lanigan – Chaos

The Player

Although an Avid Competive Try hard and Self proclaimed ” Lord of Chaos” , TJ is most notably known for wearing a shirt and tie to literally every event he attends.
After a year of driving around the area and going to any event that actually manage to take off, what better way to end the year then with a bang. He will be piloting a list with some of his favorite models in from this year and hopefully some new options models that will soon be among his favorites. What we’re trying to say is that he couldn’t decide what Daemon Primarch to take so…

The List

++ Battalion Detachment -3CP (Chaos – Daemons) [46 PL, -3CP, 995pts] ++
+ Chaos Allegiance: Chaos Undivided Detachment
Command Cost [-3CP]
-1 Cp Exalted Random
-1 Cp Relic Impossible Robe

+ HQ +
Exalted Lord of Change [14 PL, 270pts]: Bolt of Change, Boon of Change, Infernal Gateway, Smite, Staff of Tzeentch, Impossible Robe

Poxbringer [4 PL, 75pts]: Balesword, Smite, Virulent Blessing

The Changeling [6 PL, 105pts]: Gaze of Fate, Smite, The Trickster’s Staff

+ Troops +
Horrors [12 PL, 215pts]: Daemonic Icon, Smite . 25x Pink Horror: 25x Coruscating flames Nurglings [2 PL, 66pts] . 3x Nurgling Swarms: 3x Diseased claws and teeth
Nurglings [2 PL, 66pts] . 3x Nurgling Swarms: 3x Diseased claws and teeth
Nurglings [2 PL, 66pts] . 3x Nurgling Swarms: 3x Diseased claws and teeth
Nurglings [2 PL, 66pts] . 3x Nurgling Swarms: 3x Diseased claws and teeth
Nurglings [2 PL, 66pts] . 3x Nurgling Swarms: 3x Diseased claws and teeth

++ Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment -3CP (Chaos – Death Guard) [25 PL, 490pts] ++

  • Lord of War +
    Mortarion [25 PL, 490pts]:Gloaming Bloat 1. Miasma of Pestilence, 2. Gift of plagues, Attendant’s claws and teeth, Phosphex bombs, Silence, Smite, The Lantern, Warlord

++ Supreme Command Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [24 PL, 465pts] ++
+ Primarch | Daemon Primarch | Supreme Commander +
Magnus the Red [24 PL, 465pts]: Doombolt, Smite, The Blade of Magnus, Warptime, Weaver of Fates

++ Total: [95 PL, 4CP, 1,950pts] 50 points reinforcement

Note: Because both the Supreme Command detachment and the Daemon Primarch rule tell you that you must select a given model as your warlord, the event has ruled that TJ can pick which gets nominated, and for obvious reasons has picked Mortarion. 

The Highlights

  • The new hotness of Mortarion joins the classic combo of Magnus and the Lord of Change to produce a truly horrifying combination.
  • Nurglings provide great early board control for the attrition damage pieces to hide behind.
  • All major threats are incredibly difficult to take out at range.
  • Mortarion provides a powerful new angle by being both durable and a hammer unit.

The Details

Today’s matchup is a real clash of the titans, and in the Chaos corner we have TJ Lannigan sporting an eye-catchup update to the list that took him to a first place finish at the YHP Fall Brawl. The core principle remains the same – the list throws down some terrifying threats that are extremely difficult to take out at range, hit hard against their preferred targets, and gradually grind the opponent down at range with mortal wound firepower. The driving principle behind the list is that none of its damage dealers are easy to meaningfully remove (even the horrors are a real pain to kill) and it just existing racks up considerable damage to the opposing army over time, allowing it to go for the throat mid/late game when the opponent can no longer deal with it. It’s also extremely proficient at making use of the While We Stand, We Fight secondary, massively punishing the enemy if they don’t properly engage with it.

What has changed is that new superstar Mortarion now has a starring role. Replacing Ahriman, a Daemon Prince and some hangers on, the Daemon Primarch of the Death Guard substantially ups the melee threat this list presents, and amplifies its already considerable durability with one of the hardest models in the game to remove. There are some things that will pop him at range (mostly Retributors if we’re honest) but in melee he’s astoundingly hard to stop – lots of powerful melee units rely on D2 weaponry to rack up the pain, and between Disgustingly Resilient and shutting off re-roll auras via Living Plague, there are very few units that can get into a fight with him and win. Even the Nightbringer, definite superstar of taking out the old Mortarion statline, struggles way more now that he’s naturally T8 and has the new version of DR to meaningfully reduce the impact of the incoming scythe swings.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What’s worse for opponents that don’t have a good way of eliminating him is that Mortarion is, most of the time, going to be sporting a massive bubble of The Droning, vastly reducing the ability of the opponent to maneuvre while he’s still alive and buying more time for the psychic onslaught that Magnus and the Lord of Change provide to reap its terrible toll. Bringing Mortarion along as the Warlord does impact on the LoC’s toughness by denying him access to the Incorporeal Form warlord trait, but he still puts up an impressive invulnerable save thanks to the Impossible Robe, which still makes removing him a steep task for many lists. Given what TJ is going up against out the gate it could still just about prove a singular weak spot in an otherwise near impregnable force, but even then the outrageous capacity Mortarion brings to dictate the pace of the game might prove worth it.

The three big nasties are clearly the star of this particular show, but the supporting cast still needs a mention. Nurglings caught a (if we’re honest) much-needed price hike in the recent FAQ, but they’re still more than competitive in lists that have a plan for how they’re using them. Here they bog down the opponent and push for objectives out of the gate, giving the big threats time to lock the game down and start grinding the opponent out. Alongside them for Daemon troops we have the big Horror squad, and these are very much dedicated to shoring up the horde matchup. Serious hordes like Aron Green’s Skarboyz list are one of the things the big beasts in this list deal with less well (though it is another area where Mortarion soups it up), but a massive volley of Flickering Flames-boosted shooting from this lot will level the playing field in no time. With Mortarion able to control the table, the ability to thorougly evaporate any unit that sneaks through his net (perhaps using something like Da Jump) is more valuable than ever, and it shouldn’t be underestimated how much this squad adds to the list. They can also make use of the 50 Reinforcement points the list has to throw off opposing calculations in a pinch, or sneakily manipulate positioning at a key moment.

Finally, filling things out, we have a couple of Daemon characters. Virulent Blessing out of the Poxbringer is pretty self-explanatory, as it can be cast on Mortarion to make his damage output even more stupid, while Gaze of Fate from the Changeling will rack up big value over the game. These also provide another vector to spend the last 50pts the list has banked on summoning, either able to bring in a unit of Furies on demand and having options on a unit of Brimstones or a Beast of Nurgle in specific circumstances that require it. One of the few weaknesses this list has is that once the Nurglings start dying off it has limited units to contest the table with, so being able to bring in something new at a key point is very valuable.

This list is pretty unique in the challenges it poses to opponents, and combined with the threat it can muster that makes it a daunting foe. Let’s see what “lucky” army gets to try and take it down.

Brad Chester – Salamanders

The Player

Born in a time before time, to see time written, by writing it himself. Brad Chester is the number one geriatric 40k player to ever play the game. Some say he started in first edition others say he is the single surviving play tester for 1st edition. Perhaps we will never know as all other were lost in a freak down hill extreme bobsledding accident. On his off time he bench pressed tigers. When he’s working he’s bench pressing lions. His opponents describe his signature look as scarily erotic yet dangerously enraged. One time he tabled his opponent with a single pinky finger. If you’ve never heard of him before it’s by design and he is hunting you.

The List

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Salamanders) [99 PL, 10CP, 1,995pts] ++
Chapter Selection: Salamanders

+ HQ [19 PL, -1CP, 360pts] +
Adrax Agatone [8 PL, 145pts]

Primaris Lieutenant [4 PL, -1CP, 75pts]: Bolt pistol, Master-crafted power sword, Rites of War, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP]

Primaris Chaplain on Bike [7 PL, 140pts]: Chapter Command: Master of Sanctity [1 PL, 25pts], Forge Master, Litany of Hate, Mantra of Strength, Recitation of Focus, The Salamander’s Mantle, Warlord

+ Troops [17 PL, 335pts] +
Assault Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 95pts]: 4x Assault Intercessor [76pts]: 4x Astartes Chainsword, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Heavy Bolt Pistol, Assault Intercessor Sgt [19pts]: Astartes Chainsword, Heavy Bolt Pistol

Infiltrator Squad [6 PL, 120pts]: 4x Infiltrator [96pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Marksman bolt carbine, Infiltrator Sergeant [24pts]

Infiltrator Squad [6 PL, 120pts]: 4x Infiltrator [96pts]: 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades, 4x Marksman bolt carbine, Infiltrator Sergeant [24pts]

+ Elites [29 PL, -1CP, 505pts] +
Aggressor Squad [12 PL, 240pts]: 2x Flamestorm Gauntlets, 5x Aggressor [200pts], Aggressor Sergeant [40pts]

Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 140pts]: 3x Bladeguard Veteran [105pts]: 3x Frag & Krak grenades, 3x Heavy Bolt Pistol, 3x Master-crafted power sword, 3x Storm Shield, Bladeguard Sergeant [35pts]

Primaris Apothecary [5 PL, -1CP, 95pts]: Chapter Command: Chief Apothecary [1 PL, 15pts], Selfless Healer, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP]

Servitors [2 PL, 30pts]: 4x Servo-arm

+ Fast Attack [27 PL, 660pts] +
Attack Bike Squad [6 PL, 165pts]: 3x Attack Bike [6 PL, 135pts]: Multi-melta [30pts]

Inceptor Squad [14 PL, 330pts]: 5x Inceptor [225pts], Inceptor Sergeant [45pts], Plasma Exterminator x2 [60pts]

Inceptor Squad [7 PL, 165pts]: 2x Inceptor [90pts], Inceptor Sergeant [45pts], Plasma Exterminator x2 [30pts]

+ Heavy Support [7 PL, 135pts] +
Eradicator Squad [7 PL, 135pts]: 3x Eradicator [135pts]: 3x Bolt pistol , 3x Melta rifle

The Highlights

  • Salamanders play all the hits to bring us one of the nastiest shooting lists in the event.
  • Bladeguard and flamestorm Aggressors shore up the list at close range.
  • Adrax and the buff characters bring the whole thing together with force multipliers galore.

The Details

They may have ebbed a bit in popularity since the Codex hit, but no true celebration of the 9th Edition we’ve played thus far would be complete without a Salamanders list! They couldn’t be in better hands too – Brad has put in the reps with these Green-clad heroes, and under his guidance they’re sure to unleash some vicious volleys of plasma and flame.

Salamanders have been succeeding this edition on the back of the strong synergies their Supplement provides for melta and flame weaponry, and generally excellent support for running a roving battle pile of Large Gravis Sons. The Crucible of Battle is one of the most brutally efficient stratagems out there, allowing Plasmaceptors to unleash absolutely nightmarish levels of damage on anything that’s upset them, and with Recitation of Focus and auras from Adrax and an Lt. on top of it they’re capable of wasting almost anything. They’re backed up by Attack Bikes and Eradicators to go after crunchy targets plus a block of Flamestorm Aggressors that can pop out of deep strike and delete hordes like nobody’s business.  All of those, of course, just get +1 to wound all the time across turns two and three thanks to the Doctrine, and one unit can have it on turn one as well via Adaptive Strategy (which may prove worthwhile on the Attack Bikes if Crucible is needed elsewhere). While the firepower this list puts out is concentrated in a few squads, it’s easily some of the nastiest in the whole event, which is going to make this matchup interesting because if any list in the event can smoke one of the big three from TJ’s army at range, it’s this one.

Salamanders Primaris Chaplain on Bike. Credit: Rockfish
Salamanders Primaris Chaplain on Bike. Credit: Rockfish

Of course ranged warfare alone does not win you games of 9th Edition, but one of the big boons Salamanders bring to the table is that they have plenty of ways to punch above their weight up close. Adrax is the allstar here, letting the CORE units just straight up pretend they’re Blood Angels on the turn they charge via Unto the Anvil. Crucible remains an option in a fight as well, while Strength of the Primarch can let the Aggressors or Bladeguard turbo-dunk something that really needs to die (and here could be vital for cracking through Mortarion’s defences if it comes to it). The Aggressors also create headaches for opponents that want to charge with hordes, as the option to use Born Protectors to unleash a flame volley and then heroic straight into the fray is pretty spooky for many opponents.

Other than those charge phase shenanigans this list isn’t particularly subtle – but it is exceptionally powerful across multiple phases, sufficient that this should be a great game as TJ will have to play a bit more cautiously than against a lot of the lists in the event. Who will win when this tremendously firey force hits three at least somewhat immovable objects? Let’s ask the panel.

The Panel’s Verdict

For our penultimate first-round game, once again using the Overrun mission, what conclusions has our team come to?

The Panel's Verdict - Click to Expand

Unlike yesterday, this one’s a big swing – the panel unanimously favour the Chaos list for this game. Enough of the damage the Salamanders have is tied up in the Plasma Inceptors, which are notably terrible against Mortarion, that the battle feels pretty uphill for them – though there are ways out. Firstly, if they can get a round of shooting onto the Lord of Change things can change fast, as without Ephemeral Form they still edge close to killing the Big Bird with a fully buffed round of shooting through the 3++. The melta attack bikes are also a real wildcard – if they decide to spectacularly overperform on an early turn, things change fast. Finally, while the big threats from the Chaos list will grind through the Salamanders list if left unchecked, focusing on just bodying every other unit out of the game on the double then trying to score big on the Primary. Do Chaos still have the edge? Yes – but like a few games here, there’s probably more wiggle room in it than a 5-0 pick would suggest.

Wrap Up

Don’t miss our final preview tomorrow when we’ll be taking a look at the lists from Hellstorm Wargaming. In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the Las Vegas Nopen website and the gleam contest, and if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, let me know at