Pathways to Victory: Evan Tomchin’s 8-1 3rd Place Finish at LVO

At this year’s LVO, Evan Tomchin exploded onto the wider competitive scene with a fantastic 3rd place finish at LVO. In this post, he takes us through his experiences, going from local RTTs to playing on the biggest stage in Warhammer 40,000!

After an amazing run at my first Las Vegas Open last month, I wanted to write about just how I found myself playing Richard Siegler in the semi-finals on Day 3, and my overall thoughts on the event. The nonfiction version of this story involves me letting victory slip from my grasp on the final turn of a nail biter, and while I do wish that I could write a revisionist history of this story’s ending, I’ll keep it as straight as possible (with a small margin of error I’ll blame on jet lag, no sleep and adrenaline-induced blackout). 

First, a brief intro about me – I’ve been playing 40k since I was in middle school and loved the models, lore and hobby but only became intrigued with higher level play right before the pandemic (poor timing, huh). Fortunately I was able to get some competitive reps in to learn the game, and I even managed to win my first tournament. This current ITC season saw a slow start due to COVID so I played mostly RTTs and found myself 3-0ing frequently, in a meta with no shortage of steep competition like Anthony Vanella, Sean Nayden and others. There was even a weekend where I was 3rd overall in the ITC, although that didn’t last long – the only GT I went to was right after the Drukhari book dropped, and I wasn’t playing Drukhari, so naturally that went poorly. Fortunately my buddy Nick De Veaux did end up winning that GT and we started a YouTube channel for competitive Battle Reports – The Competitive Standard 40k. Partly due to a breakup, new job and apartment, and partly because I was waiting out the dominance of our Archon Overlords, I took a 6 months break which functionally killed any momentum I had built in what was my first ITC season. Despite no longer chasing ITC rankings, I decided LVO would be a great time to roll dice with friends and see just what the Custodes book had to offer. 

My hiatus from Warhammer ended a month ago with 2 RTTs where I played Grey Knights and went 3-0; turns out 5 Dreadknights are pretty strong! After my converted Grandmasters were rejected by the FLG judge team, I pivoted to a low model count army – Custodes. Big shout to FLG for helping me come to the right conclusion on that one. I copy-pasted Jack Harpster’s diluted Goonhammer list, played 3 casual games so I could try to commit the sentinel blade’s stats to memory (S+1, -1 D2, I think?) and packed my bags. 

I get off a flight on Friday morning, cruise over to the Rio with no army tray, and meet up with the guys from Carcosa Club. Side note: having a group of people at an event like this is a massive game changer. Someone makes a coffee run, someone gets trays and the camaraderie is palpable. 

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Custodes) [100 PL, 9CP, 1,998pts] ++

+ Configuration [12CP] +

Battle Size [12CP]: 3. Strike Force (101-200 Total PL / 1001-2000 Points) [12CP]

Detachment Command Cost

Detachment Type / Shield Host: Adeptus Custodes, Emperor’s Chosen

+ HQ [19 PL, -1CP, 365pts] +

Shield-Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike [10 PL, -2CP, 195pts]: (Emperor’s Chosen): Auric Exemplar, 3. Superior Creation, Castellan’s Mark, Interceptor Lance, Misericordia [5pts], Salvo Launcher [5pts], Stratagem: The Emperor’s Heroes [-1CP], Stratagem: Victor of the Blood Games [-1CP], Tip of the Spear [1 PL, 15pts]

Trajann Valoris [9 PL, 1CP, 170pts]: Misericordia, Watcher’s Axe
. Warlord: 1. Master of Martial Strategy, 2. Champion of the Imperium

+ Troops [17 PL, 345pts] +

Custodian Guard Squad [7 PL, 150pts]
. 3x Custodian w/ Sentinel Blade & Praesidium Shield [150pts]: 3x Praesidium Shield [15pts], 3x Sentinel Blade

Custodian Guard Squad [7 PL, 135pts]
. 3x Custodian w/ Guardian Spear [135pts]: 3x Guardian Spear

Prosecutors [3 PL, 60pts]
. 4x Prosecutor [48pts]: 4x Boltgun
. Prosecutor Sister Superior [12pts]: Boltgun

+ Elites [40 PL, -2CP, 745pts] +

Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnought [9 PL, 160pts]: Achillus Dreadspear, 2x Lastrum Storm Bolter

Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnought [9 PL, 160pts]: Achillus Dreadspear, 2x Lastrum Storm Bolter

Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought [9 PL, -1CP, 170pts]: Galatus Warblade, Stratagem: Eternal Penitent [-1CP]

Custodian Wardens [7 PL, 150pts]
. 3x Warden w/ Guardian Spear [150pts]: 3x Guardian Spear

Vexilus Praetor [6 PL, -1CP, 105pts]: 4. Impregnable Mind, Guardian Spear, Stratagem: The Emperor’s Heroes [-1CP], Vexilla Magnifica

+ Fast Attack [24 PL, 543pts] +

Vertus Praetors [12 PL, 273pts]
. 2x Praetor w/ Salvo Launcher [8 PL, 180pts]: 2x Interceptor Lance, 2x Salvo Launcher [10pts]
. Praetor w/ Salvo Launcher & Misericordia [4 PL, 93pts]: Interceptor Lance, Misericordia [3pts], Salvo Launcher [5pts]

Vertus Praetors [12 PL, 270pts]
. 3x Praetor w/ Salvo Launcher [12 PL, 270pts]: 3x Interceptor Lance, 3x Salvo Launcher [15pts]

++ Total: [100 PL, 9CP, 1,998pts] ++

Round 1: Death Guard (Alax Henderson) 100-26

Mission 11

My Secondaries: Minimize Losses, TTL, Banners 

My opponent Alax was a very laid back guy who just wanted to play 6 games. He brought 15 Terminators, Morty, and no PBCs. Because he has no shooting and the warptime + Morty combo is dead, I can just outrange him with missile shots until he starts failing invulnerable saves. My army really does not want to take TTL but because of his inability to interact with me until my choosing, I figure Minimize and TTL will stack nicely while I rack up a perfect Banners score. T2 he loses a bunch of stuff to shooting and I pounce into melee. The most hilarious moment of the game is his Lord of Contagion trying to spread the sickness but dying to the mortal wounds. 

Round 2: Orks (Seth the Mad Doc) 100-42

Mission 12

My Secondaries: Assassinate, Banners, Stranglehold

I’m paired into another friendly opponent, Seth the Mad Doc and his triple Killrig Ork list. His Killrigs are easily targetable characters that my meltas will make short work of and two of his other characters are melee focused so I expect to achieve Assassination easily (which generally is a secondary I avoid at all costs as it gives too much leeway to your opponent). This is another mission where I can guarantee a 10 on banners and a healthy score on Stranglehold where I will be either pushing or shooting units off of the midfield objectives. My meltas put in work and my defenses survive the Ork charges enough for me to table my opponent. 

Round 3: DA (Christopher Morris) 97-72

Mission 13

My Secondaries: Banners, Data Intercept, Engage

My opponent Christopher is playing 20 Deathwing and 6 Blade Guard as TTL targets to combine with the Stubborn Defiance secondary that rewards him for having ObSec on an objective of his choosing (backfield, no surprise). He also has tools for ROD which means his secondary scores are likely to be 15-15-12. Going in on Banners and Data means that I assume I will be dominating primary and at a minimum holding my North-West triangle of 3 objectives. Engage gets a nod over Strangle because the deployment ensures I can score at least 2 a turn without much effort whereas Strangle could be difficult if he firmly secures his triangle with durable ObSec. I go first, put units on every midboard objective, and then use the Rendax katah (killing his pile-ins and consolidates) and bikes to keep him busy in his deployment zone. I end up maxing Banners and Data, missing only a point (which I think in hindsight we miscalculated and wound up giving me a lower score than we should have) on Engage, as a result of my massive primary dominance. Our primary differential of 45-15 tells the entire story. 

I wind up in first place overall going into Day 2. I’ve now played as many tournament games as I have total practice games; turns out Custodes are good! Day 2 will bring the real tests.

Round 4: Thicc Village (Nick De Veaux)  77-72

Mission 21

My Secondaries: Banners, Stranglehold, Bring It Down

The pairings go up the night before and I’m paired into my fellow Carcosa member and closest friend Nick (which makes for really comfortable dinner conversations). I’ve tested exactly 0 times into thicc city (he is running his version, thicc village, which is slightly less thick but has more mission playing tools). It’s unfortunate, but only one of us can go through. 

Secondaries wise, my weakest pick is Banners – while some missions are easy banner points, certain matchups can dissuade the pick due to fast moving ObSec. I often found I would be winning games by smashing with Custodes and then Banners became an afterthought. This is an interesting consideration to revisit in list building, as I am keen to avoid win-more secondaries. I possibly should have baked ROD into the list via solo Allarus Terminators but that is dead in the new season anyway and TTL is often a trap for Custodes as well. On the other hand, Bring it Down rewards me for chewing through the Talos and Cronos which is functionally a win condition, and Stranglehold is achievable as I can usually swing the objectives by the end of my turn. 

This game ends up being probably the closest with the exception of my Siegler matchup as I manage to pull it out via a series of critical rolls on the final turn. Our primary and secondary scores are much aligned, our brawlers have functionally traded out and what remains at the end is 2 5 man troops for Nick and 3 models for me: a bike captain, a shield guard and a single biker. On this final turn, if I can hold 3 objectives and score Stranglehold with 3 models then I edge out the win. I manage to kill the few models I need to and survive the remaining punch back to score those points. In the last roll of the game, Nick has 3 5++ invulnerable saves to make, and if he passes two out of three he wins; he rolls them out one at a time, makes the first, and fails the second and third. Spectacular game against an amazing guy and opponent. 

Round 5: Custodes (Steve Trimble) 81-41

Mission 22

My Secondaries: Stranglehold, Banners, No Prisoners

First and only mirror matchup of the event sees me paired into a great Custodes player (turns out the #1 ITC ranked Custodes player) bringing 11 bikes + a Captain + Sagittarum. I’m outgunned at range, but my Dreadnoughts are pretty solid in the matchup. Custodes on Custodes violence generally comes down to who more consistently rolls average 4++ saves, which 100% swung my way. Brief secondary breakdown – I’ll score 8 or 9 points on No Prisoners which is actively rewarding me for killing his units (therefore not a win-more secondary), Stranglehold is relatively achievable on this mission although will come down to a brawl, and Banners is absolutely a win-more as it would only score me 5 points if I’m not tabling my opponent. Recurring theme here on the less-than useful nature of Banners. 

He takes Auric Mortalis, the Custodes secondary that rewards him for killing my most expensive unit (bike squad), Grind Them Down (which feels very risky) and Stranglehold (which makes sense). I adjust my strategy based on his secondaries and recognize that I will be easily able to deny him points if I play cagey, which I do, placing my most expensive bike unit in the back of my deployment zone – if they live, it denies him 15pts right there.

He commits everything T1, but I roll well or above average on invulnerable saves; when I punch back saves don’t go so well for him. His shooting accounts for 6 wounds on a Dreadnought and maybe a single biker, while with much less shooting I pick up 3 Saggitarum Guard and 3 bikes before I even get into melee. It’s an unfortunate swing against him that makes it difficult for him to recover, but I do feel like I had a more solid secondary game plan even if I didn’t have such a big opening turn. Dice are average enough the rest of the game, but I’m far enough ahead to be able to close it out.

Round 6: Drukhari Wracks (Boris Michev) 64-47

Mission 23

My Secondaries: Assassination, Stranglehold, No Prisoners

While I notoriously hate the Scouring and espouse its deficiencies to anyone who will listen, Custodes are not hampered by the low primary scoring that often occurs. I make a last minute adjustment to Assassination from the mission specific (which slightly trumps Banners) and I immediately regret it. My gut 100% of the time says leave Assassinate at home and it becomes apparent that despite a melee Succubus and Drazhar on the table, getting to them especially on my terms will be very difficult. This was probably my biggest single pregame mistake of the event as due to the agency players have in terrain placement, I would have likely Scoured 3 objectives for the mission specific for 10 points. Picking Assassination was in the hopes it would deter aggressive melee character usage, but it cedes too much control to my opponent, who then revealed his pick of TTL (which includes Drazhar) further making my life difficult. 

On turn 1 I don’t have enough space to hide all my Dreadnoughts so I lose one to the many dark lances of my opponent’s army. If we get stuck in a standstill, Boris will win on secondaries due to the unfortunate combination of TTL and Assassination, so I need to make something happen. I collapse a flank with bikes and wait for his response. By the end of my opponent’s third turn, we’ve met in the middle and I’m actually in a better position than I would have expected. 

However, the game takes an unfortunate turn at this point. We played on stream so there was a judge present for the entire game. The judge and Boris had already had a few chippy discussions at this point about some micro measurements/movements. On his next pass by, the judge recognizes a discrepancy between our time remaining on both our clocks and the overall round time. He claims that when Boris set the clock up he must have erroneously put too much time. We also lost time moving to the stream table which Boon mentions in his Round 6 stream game as well. The issue at our table is there’s a 30-35 minute differential between Boris’ and my clock (Boris has played that much more Warhammer than I have). With 30 minutes remaining in the round, the judge rules that Boris has been playing too slow and is clocked out which leads to more bitter interactions between the two of them. The judge rules that Boris cannot play T4 and I can only play T4, giving me one more turn to score than Boris will have. My bottom T3 began with a hold more which meant the game was over at this point. It absolutely was a feels-bad for Boris, who was playing with the assumption he had more time on the clock than he had. My victory did feel cheapened but the judge was explicit I was not to “give” him any time and quite frankly as the bystander to their interactions I didn’t feel obliged to get involved. I do feel that the end of my T3 put me in a good position to win. Our hampered scores from not completing the game meant I’d now be playing in the shadow round. 

Shadow Round: Crusher Stampede (Ben Cherwien)

Mission 22

My Secondaries: Strangle, BID, Banners

Everyone loves to hate Battle Lines but it’s fine! Just split your army in half and hope for the best. I need to kill some big bugs, put ObSec on the middle two objectives and enjoy my win-more banner secondary. Maximising points doesn’t, matter since this is strictly about winning for elimination.

I go first, aggressively redeploy my bikes and zoom them up the board to draw angles on his Hive Guard. 6 melta hits, 6 melta wounds, he saves them all. Uh oh. He flies his Hive Tyrant out who is making 5+ 2D3 4D attacks, ignoring invulnerable saves. The bikes get pretty much murdered but one is left alive who can fall back and properly tag the Hive Guard, meaning they likely won’t be shooting the rest of the game. My dreadnought and meltas are just so good into big creatures that despite my bikers’ stumbling out of the gate, the writing is on the wall pretty quickly. Somehow I am 7-0 undefeated and I need to reschedule my flight! Also, 4 games/12 hours of Warhammer later, I ask “what is my life” before trying to get some sleep.

Day 3, Round 7: Grey Knights (Ben Neal)  97-53

Mission 31

My Secondaries: Banners, Engage, Abhor

So, Grey Knights. I’m playing Emperor’s Chosen and have a 4+++ against mortal wounds which is pretty cheeky. Secondaries wise, Abhor is an auto take against GK. Banners is a comfortable 10-15 points on this mission despite the mobility of his interceptors because my ObSec holding my objectives aren’t really shootable and are relatively durable. Engage gets the nod over Stranglehold because there are no middle objectives to push. My dreadnoughts will be moving their 9”s and my bikes will follow up when it’s safe for them to do so. 

I make some terrible plays T1 and T2 which result in me losing a bike squad, Dreadnought, and Trajann, but after 2 turns of melta shots and Dread spear shots, I manage to get enough damage through to pop all 4 Dreadknights. Despite a slow start, I completely collapsed a flank, took down banners and shut down primary. The resources he has remaining are not enough to push me back and the writing is on the wall.

Round 8: Ad Mech (Richard Siegler the Robot) 82-92 (L)

Mission 32

My Secondaries: Direct Assault, Stranglehold, No Prisoners

Well folks, my story comes to an end here. I’m in my highest profile appearance fighting in the Top 4 against the Fabricator General himself, Richard Siegler. I’m playing against a guy whose games I’ve watched online countless times on stream with onlookers and bright lights. How did I even get here?

Siegler and I have the exact same game plan except he has ROD instead of No Prisoners. He is forced to go first which functionally means we’ll be trading pieces in the middle until the final turn. He is frustrated that he “lost” this roll off because it means that I have bottom of turn scoring for a crucial T5 hold more. If the game goes as we plan it to, I will have 8 points on No Prisoners to his 12 on ROD, meaning my extra 5 on primary will give me a 1 point victory. The game plays out exactly as we talk about, trading pieces in the middle. T3 he tells me straight up that there is no way he wins this game. We both see the writing on the wall. And then – I basically take my foot off the gas. We’re already talking about what my next matchup in Custodes looks like. And I lose sight of the game in front of me.

I misplayed my bottom T4 and gave him an opportunity T5 to remove all my ObSec. Basically I didn’t keep an extra ObSec unit hidden from his shooting which rolled well and I didn’t use any of my 2CP to try to mitigate the incoming fire (assuming that I was still coasting to victory). All of a sudden, my bottom T5 play sees me with no easy way to flip the middle objective which would have won me the game by one point. I go for a hail mary with the bikers and the game is over.

Siegler was a class act the whole time and our game honestly felt as open and gentlemanly as possible – way more than some of my games that took place below the top tables. Stream noticed we had a clock issue where he had left his clock on and was ostensibly timed out, but our sportsmanship and etiquette of gameplay (exemplified by the fact that at no point were either of us policing or utilizing the clock as weapon) had been prevalent from the start so when the judge raised the issue with us, there was no hesitation that we would be playing the game to its natural conclusion on whoever’s time. While I do think how open we played ultimately did lead me to play more loosely than I should have, particularly after it seemed the writing was on the wall, I do deeply appreciate the level of camaraderie and good etiquette that was maintained the whole game. My biggest takeaway was to never take your foot off the gas – sometimes in casual games when your opponent gets bad rolls or terrible luck, you may instinctually lighten up a bit. In an event of this caliber, I’ll never make this sort of mistake again. 

Anyways, Custodes: good, Siegler: great, clock issues: bad. Vegas: fun, Rio: super smokey. Red eye flights: rough, but 1200 Warhammer nerds from across the country gathered in a room: an amazing time. 

All I can do is look forward to the next season and seeing more of the same faces again! P.S. Thank you Jack Harpster for the list – please write more Goonhammer articles soon. Also shout out to all the AoW guys – I previously did some coaching with Nick Nanavati and he helped me level up when I was first getting started. Big shout out to Carcosa club in NYC where I’m located – the support from the extended family was nuts. To the ever growing competitive scene in New York with a lot of promising new faces. And lastly an honorable plug to the YouTube channel I run with Nick De Veaux called The Competitive Standard 40k which was on hiatus but is returning soon! Thanks for reading!