PierreTheMime’s Tournament Report: Goonhammer Open GT 2021

As some of you may be aware, the folks at Goonhammer held an event recently: the Goonhammer Open. Determined to help out and slam some hams in person, I dusted off my recent Death Guard list and made the lengthy journey north to the lovely area of Rockville, Maryland to participate in the Grand Tournament. While I wasn’t necessarily determined to win, I intended to put up a good fight and give Mortarion a post-Enriched Rounds-nerf outing. Funnily enough, I managed to somehow miss matching with the many AdMech lists around but I did get a great variety of factions and players which made for a fantastic time.


The Event

The Goonhammer Open GT was a 50-person six-round event, using predetermined terrain and missions. Matchups were performed using the Path to Victory method (win/loss record).

My Army

Credit: PierreTheMime

If you’re a current Death Guard player, something that may immediately pop out at you is the glaring lack of Blightlord and/or Deathshroud Terminators. While I have these models, I wanted to highlight the standard Plague Marine, which is pretty damn versatile in its own right and leave points open for more daemons.

My list, click to expand

++ Battalion Detachment -0CP (Chaos – Death Guard) [74 PL, 7CP, 1,403pts] ++

Plague Company: Mortarion’s Anvil

Gifts of Decay [-1CP]: Additional Relics

HQ: Lord of Contagion [6 PL, -1CP, 120pts]: 5. Rotten Constitution, Plaguechosen, Plaguereaper, Warp Insect Hive
HQ: Malignant Plaguecaster [5 PL, 95pts]: 1. Miasma of Pestilence, 4. Putrescent Vitality

Troops: Plague Marines [12 PL, 208pts]: Plague Champion: Plague knife, Plasma gun, Power fist, 5x Plague Marine w/ boltgun: 5x Blight grenades, 5x Boltgun, 5x Krak grenades, 5x Plague knife, Plague Marine w/ sigil: Sigil of decay. Plague Marine w/ special weapon: Plasma gun
Troops: Plague Marines [6 PL, 105pts]: Plague Champion: Boltgun, Daemonic plague blade, 4x Plague Marine w/ boltgun: 4x Blight grenades, 4x Boltgun, 4x Krak grenades, 4x Plague knife
Troops: Poxwalkers [2 PL, 50pts]: 10x Poxwalker: 10x Improvised weapon
Troops: Poxwalkers [2 PL, 50pts]: 10x Poxwalker: 10x Improvised weapon

EL: Foul Blightspawn [5 PL, 85pts]: Revolting Stench-vats, Viscous Death
EL: Tallyman [4 PL, 70pts]

FA: Foetid Bloat-drone [7 PL, 135pts]: Fleshmower
FA: Foetid Bloat-drone [7 PL, 135pts]: Fleshmower

HS: Plagueburst Crawler [9 PL, 175pts]: 2x Entropy cannon, Heavy slugger
HS: Plagueburst Crawler [9 PL, 175pts]: 2x Entropy cannon, Heavy slugger

++ Supreme Command Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Death Guard) [25 PL, 0CP, 490pts] ++

LoW: Mortarion [25 PL, 490pts]: 1. Miasma of Pestilence, 3. Plague Wind, Gloaming Bloat, Warlord

++ Total: [99 PL, 10CP, 1,893pts] ++


The Game Plan

Depending on the matchup, my army had enough firepower to provide some solid anti-tank against important targets while the core of the army advances and captures/performs objectives. Mortarion acted as the obvious focus of attention for many opponents, out to tie up or wreck vulnerable elements. Thankfully the terrain maps made good use of tall Ls, giving the daemon-Primarch opportunities to at least partially hide himself from enemy fire on the approach. Foetid Bloat-drones acted as solid distraction/blockers and are great for mulching infantry. Using Epidemius to super-power my daemons, the goal was to knock out choice low-model units after the tallyman had been summoned to the field to ramp up the tally. The Plagueburst Crawlers and Foetid Bloat-drones greatly benefit from rerolling hit rolls of 1, which only needs two units destroyed so that’s often the first goal. Past that, a tally of five is when things get really fun(ny).

For secondaries, the majority of the missions selected had a high number of objective markers meaning Spread the Sickness was going to be a solid pick. High unit-count armies meant Grind Them Down was simple enough to score and against armies with limited anti-tank While They Stand We Fight worked well. Although a good amount of the army is slow, the Foetid Bloat-drones and Mortarion provided good opportunities to score early Engage on All Fronts as other units got into position.

The Games

Round 1: Versus Samuel Kenney’s Tyranids

Start of the match versus the Tyranid threat

Mission: Sweep and Clear
Turn order: Second

Ah, Hive Fleet Kraken/Kronos. Depending on your playstyle, it’s arguably the best Tyranid combination you can squeeze out of the ol’ 8th edition codex. Samuel’s list made great use of the speed of Kraken to encircle my army and leave himself room for scoring objectives with small units of Genestealers, a Lictor, and Raveners (which I have not seen on the table in a long time). I will admit out of the gate that I deployed too aggressively here. It was a big gamble; if I went first it would allow me the distance I need to score early objectives and get a strong board position. Unfortunately for me, I rolled to go second and some absolutely stellar shooting and miserable rolls on my part saw this game go downhill for me quickly. The Tyranid Warriors shooting removed my Poxwalkers with ease, a full Plague Marine unit died to Pathogenic Slime‘d Exocrine shooting, the Foetid Bloat-drone was murdered by Hive Guard fire, and a second round of shooting thanks to Single-Minded Annihilation killed off my now-exposed Foul Blightspawn. Samuel’s Murderous Size Flyrant swooped into my foremost Bloat-drone, easily ripped it apart, and then consolidated into the PBC.

At the end of the first turn I was crippled enough that I basically was just playing catch up for the rest of the match. Mortarion was able to cleave through the Flyrant and then the Swarmlord and the Lord of Contagion singlehandedly murdered all nine Tyranid Warriors in melee but it was too little too late. I scrambled to make up what points I could but the writing was on the wall the end of round one. Chalk it up to over-eager deployment and just an incredible imbalance of rolls between players. Samuel was a great opponent (and went on to do very well in the tournament–go bugs!) and we both had fun laughing at my terrible luck.

Result: Loss 64-94


Round 2: Versus Greg Chiasson’s Dark Angels

Mission: Battle Lines
Turn order: First

The first of my two Goonhammer member matchups, Greg’s mixed Dark Angels list was basically an ideal matchup for my list–a lot of W2-3 infantry and not enough speed to out-maneuver me. I deployed most of my forces opposite Mortarion to grab solid cover from the enemy shooting and allow for a quick advance to the middle of the table to score the Vital Ground secondary. During my movement both Foetid Bloat-drones advanced, one making it far enough to score me 2 points for Engage On All Fronts first turn. Some initial shooting took out some assault intercessors but otherwise it was mostly positioning. As the center of the field did not offer any protection, Mortarion flew forward as an advance to give myself the opportunity for choice assaults on my next turn and offer a general challenge.

Heavy Hellblasters stepped forward and let loose an impressive barrage of plasma that–after invulnerable saves and FNP–inflicted 1W on the daemon-Primarch. Needless to say, this was not ideal for the Dark Angels. Elsewhere a unit of Bladeguard Veterans we able to assault my advanced Bloat-drone through a wall, but its rubbery hide proved difficult to cut and it was left with about half-health and a full half of my army a single movement away in response.

The Bladeguard Veterans reevaluate life choices

The battle for the center was enough to spring-board most of the infantry models into place, charging into the pre-existing battle and pulling the BGV down before they took a swing. Mortarion and an accompanying Bloat-drone made their way into the front line, the FBD charging the remnants of the Hellblasters (who had taken a pounding from PBC bombardment) while Mortarion charged the forward Captain and Apothecary on Bike.

Mortarion advances on the stalwart Dark Angels

After this turn, it was pretty evident that a win was not in the cards for the Dark Angels. Instead they became fixated on the destruction of Mortarion and began to chase him from place to place and pile on in an effort to deal enough single wound damage to take him down. Frustrated and bullied, the diminished daemon-Primarch finally met his end in close combat with BGV and Deathwing Terminators that had dropped in to provide additional support. A solid Dark Angel pyrrhic victory.

Pictured: A murder in progress

Result: Win 95-27

Round 3: Versus Kal Sprigg’s Drukhari

Mission: Overrun
Turn order: Second

This was a map/mission where we each wanted to go second, as we were both comfortably deployed behind buildings and didn’t want to be the first exposed. Kal smartly used his Helions and Reavers to attack my army on its weakest flank and used heat lances to blast the hapless Bloat-drone apart before it could react, looking to rip through my MSU squad of Plague Marines and consolidate into my Plagueburst Crawler. On the other side, all three Raiders moved immediately near my deployment zone and tried to take some lance pot-shots at Mortarion but were unfortunately unsuccessful. The Raider furthest back decided this would be the perfect time to retreat using Never Stationary and leave their leadership to die so they could claim the throne later (a perfect plan!). In close combat, to the surprise of both of us the Plague Marines held their ground–they only lost a single model to all 12 Reavers and inflicted five wounds in return. This epic slugfest was to go on for a few turns and it took the combined effort of both the Helions and Reavers to finally take them down. I had mentally resigned myself to having lost that objective the moment they charged in, but having an ObSec model defiantly holding for an extra three turns of combat was a fantastic bonus. This also left my PBC to awkwardly back away from the battle and wander off to nuke some other units.

The fully Jokerfied Drukhari take to the field

In response to the aggression of the Drukhari, Mortarion, the remaining Foetid Bloat-drone, the Lord of Contagion, and the eight-man squad of Plague Marines all lurched forward to deal with the threat. The combined shooting of the two PBCs spilled the contents of one Raider out onto the field: a Succubus and accompanying Witches. Solid invulnerable saves spared the other raiders from shooting, which meant that cracking them open would have to be dealt with in the Fight phase. Mortarion barreled into the Succubus and infantry, putting in enough attacks to clear both. The LoC neatly sliced the lead Raider, revealing Drazhar, the Warlord Archon, and a team of Incubi.

With most of his shooting platforms destroyed, Kal was forced to commit to melee combat. Drazhar multi-charged the Plague Marines and Lord of Contagion, the Archon charged the FBD, and Incubi ran into my line of Poxwalkers that were being supported by my Foul Blightspawn. This turned out to be the critical moment of the battle, as the Archon was selected to fight first and only inflicted minor damage on the relatively tough Bloat-drone. Using Counter-Offensive, the Tallyman-emboldened and Trench Fighters-buffed Plague Marines (rerolling 1s from the nearby LoC) were able to inflict nineteen wounds on the powerful space elf and Drazhar prompted became a red mist. This really took the wind out of the Drukharis aethersails, and it was not helped by the FBS making the Incubi fight last and get murdered by Mutant Strain‘d Poxwalkers immediately afterward.

A battle for my backline

Determined to make it a fight, Helions continued to disrupt my deployment zone and cleared out my objective-holding Poxwalkers. In response, my Drazhar-coated Plague Marines pulled back in defense of Epidemius and proceeded to reclaim my objective which they had so rudely stolen. The Cronos and Talos were met with the daemon-Primarch himself and after failing to wound him with lance weapons were quickly cut down, leaving a single Talos to flee for safety. The main threat broken, the rest of the battle was mostly cleanup and scoring additional Spread the Sickness points.

Result: Win 91-35

Round 4: Versus Scott Horras’ Astra Militarum

Mission: Vital Intelligence
Turn order: Second

That’s a lot of tank

The first game of day two found me battling another Goonhammer member, Scott Horras “Heresy” and his mighty Astra Militarum parking lot list. I had the chance to play against Scott with a near-identical list a while ago and came into the game expecting a good deal of pain. Not wanting to disappoint, Scott managed first turn and began bombing the hell out of me. As shown in the image below, the deployment allowed us both to make good use of the terrain and we each had to maneuver quite a bit to line up good shots. Apparently his psykers were not feeling well that day, as Coteaz rerolled a 4 into a 4 and then his Imperial Psyker perils on a 2 and took 3W for the trouble. His Manticores decided to cheer him up by annihilating my hiding Foetid Bloat-drone and heavily damaging the other nearest him, leaving his Taurox to rumble forward and shred the daemon with hotshot las-fire. I should point out that targeting the FBDs over the PBCs is a good move, as they could have easily disrupted him guardsmen moving onto objectives and made things difficult. He also moved his guardsmen into place to screen for Mortarion’s approach (a good plan).

In response, having taken Assassinate and eager to score a quick win I used my Plagueburst Crawlers to bombard the Manticore nearest his Imperial Psyker with Disgusting Force, dealing heavy damage to the tank and killing the poor psyker with splash damage. Both PBCs also tried to line up good shots for their entropy cannons, but failed to wound the hearty Imperial chassis. Both Plague Marine units lumbered forward in cover and took aim at his guardsmen, inflicting heavy damage on the unit.

Immediately after this photo was taken, both PBCs mysteriously vanished

In response, the combined effort of two Tank Commanders and the Manticores (and really good rolls) saw both Plagueburst Crawlers destroyed. This was not ideal, and I was definitely dealt a blow that made me feel like I was playing catch up. A unit of Tempestus Scions dropped into my table quarter 9″ from Epidemius and the poxwalkers to score Retrieve Octarius Data and then quickly die. Through a combination of Plague Wind and boltgun fire I was able to clear enough space for Mortarion to land in front of two Taurox and a Tank Commander and make a successful charge into the Taurox. Quickly dispatched, Morty consolidated into the TC to keep it from firing next round.

The next round Scott had a bit less to work with, so he backed out his Tank Commander to try to defend the objective (and positioned Coteaz in a nook so I couldn’t charge both to clear it completely). What fire was available starting coming down on the Plague Marines who were posting up to hold the other objective on his table edge. He managed to knock off the five-man Plague Marine unit, forcing my FBS to post up in cover for the next turn. This is where I made a pretty big error, as he also dropped another unit of Tempestus Scions behind the wall near FBS but I somehow completely forgot about them during my Movement phase, and instead moved the conveniently-located large PM unit to hang out in the middle of the table and do minimal damage. This allowed Scott to scoop up the objective and comfortably score Stranglehold. There wasn’t really coming back from it, though I was able to hold his score down a bit and put in a decent amount in the end. Mortarion and the Lord of Contagion hunted down the final Tank Commander characters while he paraded his Taurox through my backline and hollowed out my Poxwalkers. Unforced error-aside, having started the game on my backfoot I felt I put in a good effort and made it a close game.

Result: Loss 72-58


Round 5: Versus Craig Valvano’s Chaos Knights

Mission: Retrieval Mission
Turn order: First

Knights. I don’t why, but Knights always terrify me. Listening to Craig rattle off all the various relics and bonuses that each Chaos Knight had and could use to murder everything I love and hold dear just made it sound like I was in for a shit-kicking. Who knows? Maybe I was. If it was going to happen, I may as well go down swinging.

Having so few units to deploy, especially as the Moirax came in deployments of two, allowed me to drop my smaller units first and then shift Mortarion to the side of the table the melee-centric Slaaneshi daemon-Knight wasn’t. Yes, this put him on a collision course with a Magaera but out the the two I found that somewhat more palatable. I was able to pull first turn, which allowed me to get a decent central position set up in the dense crater (although the green avenger/thermal Knight ignored hit penalties) with a cast of Putrescent Vitality to bump the Plague Marine up to T6, which was actually meaningful versus the Moirax’s S6 Lightning Locks. The Plagueburst Crawlers put in some heavy damage: the mortar caused 11W to the red Moirax in cover, while the white Knight and the Magaera took an entropy shot a piece. Mortarion and a unit of Plague Marines set up shop in the big L by the craters, taking an objective and giving the daemon-Primarch a base from which to strike out. On their turn the Knights advanced up, the Magaera and the teal Despoiler moved straight toward Mortarion and the Plague Marines, keen to knock them off the objective and tangle with them in close combat if necessary. Some lackluster shooting and some good saves saw only a handful of PMs killed and Mortarion unfazed. The Moirax shifted forward and laid into the Plague Marines in the crater, putting a ton of wounds onto the unit and dropping it to two remaining models which removed the protection to nearby characters. Critically, the Magaera failed its charge into Mortarion, lining it up for a countercharge in response.

Back to the lava world, but at least it’s Knight time

Additional bombardments by PBCs damaged another Moirax and finally killed the one with a single wound remaining. Foetid Bloat-drones moved up and assaulted the injured Moirax, hoping to secure the objective for the turn to keep the Knights struggling for primary. Mortarion charged into the Magaera and put in a “healthy” 31 damage, causing a cataclysmic explosion as a result. Rolling a 12″ range for the blast, everything in a large swath caught a d6 mortal wounds which injured Morty, both FBDs, and took out their Moirax target which they had yet to swing against. Ouch.

The Slaaneshi Knight Despoiler appears to wreck some serious shit

Realizing it was now or never, the Slaaneshi Knight sprang from its hiding position and made a beeline for Morty, looking to clear the FBDs out on the way. The Green Knight fired everything it had at Mortarion, but Nurgle smiled down on the winged monster and he refused to die (or take much of any damage at all). Wanting to go out on its own terms, the teal Despoiler charged into the remaining FBD to stomp it to death but it clung tenaciously to its gross-life with a single wound remaining. Apparently “flesh” is more a suggestion than a rule for the fleshmower, as it proceeded to land the fatal shredding blows to the Despoiler which collapsed before it, too, exploded. Thankfully this wasn’t as wide a blast as the last one, but it was still enough to clear the other FBD and further injure the charbroiled daemon-Primarch.

More titanic explosions? Don’t mind if I do!

With two Knights down and last one already damaged, the Death Guard were breathing a greasy sigh of relief. The next turn basically saw cleanup of the remaining enemy forces, as the Slaaneshi Despoiler went down to the combined shooting and the Moirax were cleaned up. A fun game that I managed to run away with; Craig was a great opponent regardless of the outcome.

Result: Win 97-25


Round 6: Versus Josh Putz’s Dark Angels

Mission: Surround and Destroy
Turn order: Second

Another game where both players were comfortable sitting in their respective buildings and didn’t want to go first. The Ravenwing pulled initiative and sped forward, melta Attack Bikes and Talonmasters firing their heavy weapons into the exposed Plague Marines and Foetid Bloat-drone on my left flank, destroying the drone and heavily wounding the marines. Josh’s list relied on some sneaky use of Command Squad bodyguards to deny shooting into his Talonmasters so long as they were within 3″. The hard cover provided him with a great fire platform on both sides of the table, as the Command Squad models were sitting pretty with a 0+ save (2+ minus 1 for stormshield and 1 for light cover) which made them a major pain to dig out. The Plagueburst Crawlers were able to clear most of the Attack Bikes using good entropy cannon hits, and some lucky shots with both mortars took out one CS model and left the other with 1W remaining on my right-side (this would be vaguely important later). The Plague Marines and Poxwalkers advanced to the righthand crater, and the remaining FBD and Mortarion flew forward to secure an objective and challenge any pesky grav-ships nearby.

Dawn of the final game

A lot of this game was both of us trying to press the attack for the center from the safety of our sides. As successful as the bodyguard play was, it meant that the Talonmasters could not venture very far and in no universe was Josh going to let the Command Squad leave their safe area because I’d gun them down immediately. Land Speeder Storms (which I have not seen in a long while) came forward to deposit their scouts on my table quarters for Retrieve Ocatarius Data. The scouts on the righthand side scored their objective and then were quickly murdered, but the ones of the left were far more successful when they came in the next turn as I had less available there to address them. After scoring ROD they went on to charge and attempt to overrun my Poxwalkers, but thankfully Mutant Strain allowed me to keep them in the game by killing 3 scouts and completely surrounding the other two (one offed himself to morale).

From hells heart I stab at thee

With Mortarion running wild in his backline, Josh decided that it was time for Ezekiel and the two TH/SS Command Squad models to charge into combat. To his credit, Ezekiel managed to do a decent amount of damage but he faced an overwhelming number of invulnerable saves to make in return and was promptly scythed in two. Unfortunately for the daemon-Primarch, these Dark Angels all had Inner Circle which is probably the best defense in the game a unit can have against him. This meant he had to spend his turn finishing off the Terminators and not threatening their last refuge in the corner where they were continuing to ramp up Stubborn Defiance. My Lord of Corruption did attempt to breach this area, but having taken 3W from an explosion earlier the TH/SS Command Squad was able to intercept him and do enough wounds to take him out. RIP

In a last-ditch effort to kick me off one of my home objectives the last remaining Talonmaster (which itself had Objective Secured) made for my Poxwalkers, angling to assault them, kill them, and consolidate into my PBC. In the final crushing blow–and just incredibly powerful luck–my seven remaining Poxwalkers managed to put enough Mutant Strain mortal wounds onto the Talonmaster to take it out. As I went second, I would have *probably* been able to kick him off the objective and take it back before the end of my final turn but this was a much more dramatic and funny ending to a great game. We both scored relatively high thanks for each getting tons of primary points but Josh’s Secret Agenda pick of While We Stand We Fight did him in, as all three of his Talonmasters had hit the floor and swung the game in my favor.

Result: Win 94-82


Final Thoughts

As the GHO GT came to a close, I took stock of my 4-2 record and felt pretty satisfied. Definitely some lessons learned about the few major missteps that I had made along the way, which I intend to not repeat in future matches. Having been the only Death Guard player to bring the model, my primary goal of putting a healthy fear of Mortarion in players was accomplished. I strongly suspect that I’ll be shifting my future list around as things progress; I don’t expect that Epidemius is going to be to boost DG units once their next codex drops. Personally I don’t travel very far for GTs usually, but in GHOs case I was willing to make an exception and I’m damn glad I did. Had a great time with great players and looking forward to doing it all again next time.

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