Seeking a Saga: An Interview with Jon Kilcullen

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Although Goonhammer’s own Cyle “Naramyth” Thompson won the 2020 Wheat City Open last week, players around the internet were (justifiably) less interested in hearing the tale of how Cyle heroically won by switching to Iron Hands and more interested in the 5-1 Space Wolves list that only lost to Cyle’s. In an act of well-deserved contrition, we had Cyle interview this bold Space Wolves player about his list and experience. Meet Jon Kilcullen.

Cyle: Hi Jon, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s start with your list. What made you decide to play Space Wolves, and what went into building this list?

If I’m being honest, Mitch Pelham gave me the idea to delve into wolves originally and helped me along the way when I was looking to mix them in with guard and knights.  It wasn’t until marines showed up that I had to put the guard on the shelf. I’m not Brandon Grant, so I can’t make that work. So I went off to find some answer to this meta. I found it in the oddest place. The space wolves book. 

Months of work went into making this list. I’ve thought about this book and this list since October. I do a list building exercise every night. I share my lists with my team and anyone that will really listen including Cyle here. I get feedback and then I adjust based on what I’m seeing. This went on for months until I hit on this concept of characters behind ultra durable fast moving screens. 

The small changes that ended up netting big results was forsure the change from stalker rifles to the basic bolt rifle. The rapid fire weapon was an all star for me and no question about it helped me win my game vs orks. 

Jon’s Space Wolves List

Space Wolves Battalion

HQ: Wolf Lord w/Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer, Warlord: Saga of the Beastslayer
HQ: Wolf Lord w/Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer, Relic: The Wulfen Stone

Troops: 5x Intercessors, Power Fist on Sgt.
Troops: 5x Intercessors, Power Fist on Sgt.
Troops: 5x Intercessors, Power Fist on Sgt.

DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome, Ironhail heavy stubber
DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome, Ironhail heavy stubber
DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome, Ironhail heavy stubber

Space Wolves Battalion

HQ: Rune Priest w/Jump Pack, psychic hood, runic armour, runic staff
HQ: Wolf Guard Battle Leader w/Jump Pack, Thunder hammer, storm shield

Troops: 6x Blood Claws w/Chainsword, Wolf Guard Pack Leader w/Storm Shield
Troops: 5x Intercessors, Power Fist on Sgt.
Troops: 5x Intercessors, Power Fist on Sgt.

Elites: 10x Wolf Gurd w/Jump pack, thunder hammer, storm shield
Smash Wolf Guard Battle Leader

DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome, Ironhail heavy stubber
DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome, Ironhail heavy stubber

Jon Kilcullen’s Space Wolves

 

Cyle: The question we get from everyone is “How does this play?” What’s your strategy with this list, and how did you get to five wins? What are the Stratagems you’re using in a typical game?

This is a loaded question. There’s a lot to unpack here so I will try my best to not ramble. (Editor’s Note: At Goonhammer, we encourage rambling)

This list is basically a modern day rhino rush. It suits my style of play almost perfectly. On paper It doesn’t look like it would be challenging at all. It’s when you start to try and pick secondaries against it that it starts to come together. I’ve found that a lot of my opponents struggle with the third secondary choice vs me.  

The list is dynamic and every unit at some point will need to fill multiple rolls if I’m going to go deep into an event. When playing a book like this I needed to squeeze as much efficiency as possible out of every single model. This was clear in my final game vs blood angels. Which I’m sure we will get to later. 

The list depending on my opponent, the terrain, the mission and the secondaries we chose, will function differently.  Sometimes it’s a denial list that will just sit mid and not really do much for a couple turns until I’m ready to pull the trigger on an opening i see my opponent gave me.  Sometimes the list is fully aggressive and advances across the table turn 1 to get in position to charge.  

This list completely relies on getting as much as possible out of the movement phase and charge phase/ combat phase. Deployment is critical with this list. Typically you will null deploy all the infantry and only have 5 impulsors and the characters on the table. The deployment is an impulsor castle. Every one of them is usually trying to touch terrain and be obscured by an L or a building. Having a woods or crater in your deployment is a trolly way to mess with combat armies. You deploy the entire army on it and are now -4 to charge. The idea is to have your impulsors circle the characters and still leave room so that they can jump out and heroically intervene if necessary. 

A lot of people have asked me why I don’t use an inquisitor to deny Overwatch or to stay in combat but to be honest, I tried Hector Rex since he can Deep Strike for free and get into the correct positions when needed to use this ability, but at the end of the day I can’t have dead weight in combat in this list. [Taking Hector Rex] pushes me up to 5 characters, making it easier to take Head Hunter against me and so my impulsors are actually the deny Overwatch tool. They are always charging and always double or tri-pointing units. 

The impulsor is my Swiss Army knife. It does it all. 

How did I get to 5 wins?

It was by far the hardest route I have had so far in my 2 years playing this game. Tho I am playing space wolves so every game always feels like a struggle. It’s part of why I like the army. I love intense tight games. 

 

Game 1: Lawrence Hill’s Asuryani

It was a list style I’ve had a lot of experience with so this helped me a lot pregame and during deployment. 

Lawrence's Eldar - click to expand

Alaitoc Battalion

HQ: Farseer
HQ: Farseer
HQ: Warlock

Troops: 5x Dire Avengers, Exarch Power: Bladestorm
Troops: 5x Dire Avengers, Exarch Power: Bladestorm
Troops: 5x Rangers

HS: Fire Prism w/Spirit stones, twin shuriken catapults
HS: Fire Prism w/Spirit stones, twin shuriken catapults

Flyer: Hemlock Wraithfighter w/Spirit Stones
Flyer: Hemlock Wraithfighter w/Spirit Stones

DT: Wave Serpent w/Twin Shuriken Cannon, Vectored Engines

Craftworlds Spearhead Detachment
Custom Craftworld: Diviners of Fate, Expert Crafters

HQ: Wraithseer w/Bright Lance, Warlord, The Phoenix Gem

HS: Dark Reapers x7, Exarch Power: Rapid Shot
HS: Night Spinner w/Twin Shuriken Catapult
HS: Night Spinner w/Twin Shuriken Catapult
HS: Wraithlord w/Ghostglaive, Shuriken Catapult, 2x Starcannon

 

I went first which is not actually what I wanted but I basically moved my entire army mid and set a trap hoping he would bring his wraith units up to get and get some easy big game points. He did just that and I jumped out and made one of them fight last and killed both of them. The game basically went pretty smoothly from there I charged his entire army with my wolf guard and impulsors and constantly charged impulsors into his reapers. Turn 3 we shook hands and I was off to a great start. 

Final Score: 34-17

 

This list was one match-up I did not want to see.

Game 2: Ed Ratcliffe playing Adeptus Custodes with Guard 

This list was one match-up I did not want to see. Before the game started I was talking with my co-captain Darren Jac and had told him if I go second I auto-lose. I did not think I could survive the amount of shooting this list put out nor could I get into combat due to the -2 charge and the -2 from the woods, now add the tangle foot in and it’s a seemingly insurmountable task to actually get into combat. 

Ed's Imperium Army - click to expand

Adeptus Custodes Spearhead Detachment

HQ: Trajann

Troops: 4x Sagittarum Custodians w/Adrastus Bolt Caliver, Misericordia

Elites: Vexillus Praetor in Allarus Terminator Armor w/Vexilla Magnifica, Misericordia

HS: Caladius Grav-Tank w/Twin Illastus Accelerator Cannon, Twin Lastrum Bolt Cannon
HS: Caladius Grav-Tank w/Twin Illastus Accelerator Cannon, Twin Lastrum Bolt Cannon
HS: Caladius Grav-Tank w/Twin Illastus Accelerator Cannon, Twin Lastrum Bolt Cannon

Flyer: Ares Gunship w/2x Arachnus Heavy Blaze Cannon

Astra Miliarum Catachan Battalion Detachment
Stratagem: Operative Requisition Sanctioned (-2 CP)
Specialist Detachment: Emperor’s Fist Tank Company

HQ: Company Commander, Warlord, Old Grudges
HQ: Tank Commander w/Battle Cannon, Emperor’s Fist, Heavy Bolter, Relic: Hammer of Sunderance

Troops: 10x Infantry Squad
Troops: 10x Infantry Squad
Troops: 10x Infantry Squad

Elites: Astropath w/Telepathica Stave

 

I “won” the roll to choose side. He deployed first and went first. Not my ideal start on front line assault.  His first turn was very underwhelming. He tried his best to kill a couple impulsors. I believe I only lost 1. Trouble for him. 

I chose recon. Behind enemy lines and engineer.  I chose to deep strike my wolf guard so he wouldn’t whittle my unit down before it hit him. Turn one I advanced up the table. And hit the clock back to him. Turn 2 was the true test. I lost almost every impulsor and most of my infantry inside them. I had characters hiding and I think 1 of my 5 impulsors left. I dropped my wolf guard down and charged his flyer. Made the charge using a reroll and was in business. The wolf guard easily killed the flyer. Consolidated into a guard squad just to be annoying and was hidden mostly behind a hill from his grav tanks. 

Turn 3 saw him kill my final impulsor. He fired all of his guns into my wolf guard but only managed to kill 9. I auto passed morale and used the lone wolf strategy to make him a character. This denied him a kill and one of his marked for death points. 

From this point on I wrapped his relic commander and killed all his guard. Which happened to be on the bonus point. It allowed me to score a couple critical points. He couldn’t get his custodes over to me in time to do what needed to be done. The game ended with all his custodes besides the flyer Alive and only 4 or 5 of my models left on the table. The models were all marked for death points. Huge win for me. I felt I played the mission as hard as I’ve ever played it. 

Final Score: 27-23

 

Game 3: Dustin Hein’s Tyranids 

Dustin is a teammate of mine and he’s been working on a strange list for some time now. Neither of us wanted this matchup. My list had never been tested into such a heavy smite spam list. I really didn’t know how it would go. I just knew I wanted to go first. 

Dustin's Assorted Floating Testicle Characters - click to expand

Tyranids Battalion Detachment
Custom Hive Fleet: Cranial Channeling, Membranous Mobility

HQ: Malanthrope, Warlord
HQ: Neurothrope

Troops: Ripper Swarms x3
Troops: Ripper Swarms x3
Troops: Ripper Swarms x3

Elites: Maleceptor w/Massive Scything Talons
Elites: Zoanthropes x6
Elites: Zoanthropes x6
Elites: Zoanthropes x6

Hive Fleet Kronos Battalion

HQ: Manathrope
HQ: Neurothrope

Troops: Ripper Swarms x3
Troops: Ripper Swarms x3
Troops: Termagants x10 w/Fleshborers

Elites: Hive Guard x6 w/Impaler Cannon

HS: Biovore
HS: Biovore
HS: Exocrine, Adaptive Physiology: Dermic Symbiosis

 

I managed to get first turn. I deployed extremely aggressively with my WG and claws in DS and moved up the table. Shot into the gaunts and killed the squad giving me a key first turn kill which is a mistake on his part in deployment.  He hit me back. Really hard. I was a bit worried with how hard the smites hit and the shooting from the list was actually savage. I lost an impulsor through armour of contempt and the guys inside. Another impulsor was down to 1 wound.  

Turn 2 I pulled the trigger brought everything in and charged everything into his zoanthropes and hive guard.  We spent 2 turns in combat but the game was basically over after turn 3 when I cleared all his zoanthropes. 

Final Score: 36-15

 

Day 1 is complete and I’m 3-0 in second place. Half way to my goal. 1 step from my ultimate goal of making the Twip with wolves. 

Deployment before the fateful encounter. Photo credit: Cyle “Naramyth” Thompson

Game 4: Cyle “Naramyth” Thompson with Iron Hands

Unfortunately for me. Cyle Thompson was my round 4 opponent. 

No need to describe his list. I’m sure he’s doing that for another article (Editor’s Note: He is!) but I’ll say it was a strange take on Iron Hands with a drill instead of a drop pod. (Editor’s Note: This is entirely because Cyle already owns drills).

Cyle's Sellout List - click to expand

Adeptus Astartes Brigade
Iron Hams: Master Artisans, Stealthy, Iron Hands Successor

HQ
Captain, Thunderhammer, Storm shield, Jump Pack
Librarian
Techmarine, Warlord

Troops
5 Intercessors w/Stalker Bolt Rifles
5 Intercessors w/Stalker Bolt Rifles
5 Intercessors w/Stalker Bolt Rifles
5 Intercessors w/Stalker Bolt Rifles
5 Intercessors w/Stalker Bolt Rifles
5 Scouts w/Bolters

Elites
Dreadnought w/Lascannons, Fist/Stormbolter
Relic Contemptor Dread w/Lascannons, Fist/Stormbolter, Typhoon missiles
Company Champion

Fast Attack
Landspeeder w/Heavy Bolter, Typhoon missiles
Suppressors
Suppressors

Heavy Support
5 devastators w/4 grav cannons, cherub
Thunderfire Cannon
Eliminators x3
Eliminators x3
Eliminators x3

Dedicated Transport
Terrax Drill w/Volkite

 

I had thought about this game all night and morning and I had come to the conclusion that in search and destroy I have to go first or I’ll lose a slow game and score maybe 18 points.  Cyle “won” the roll to chose deployment and I was excited. I HAVE A CHANCE. I deploy as aggressively as possible. Every single unit on the table. On the line. 

The other side of the table as Cyle is about to crush Jon’s dreams.

Cyle sees this. Deploys all his stuff touching table edges and as far as possible from me. Oh boy. Won’t be hitting his lines turn 1. It’ll be turn 2 where this game is decided. 

Little did I know Cyle was just going to casually roll a 6 to seize and that was the game. Lost a crushing game. Not a lot to speak about here. He shot stuff at me until I was dead. Top of 3 I was tabled.  

Final Score: 12-32

 

Game 5: Anthony Richardson’s Orks

Another teammate and another game neither of us wanted. My list was not tested vs a horde like this. 

Anthony's Orks - click to expand

Evil Sunz Battalion

HQ: Warboss on Warbike w/Attack Squig, Power Klaw, Shoota
HQ: Weirdboy

Troops: Boyz x30 w/3x Tankbusta bombs, Big choppa
Troops: Boyz x30 w/3x Tankbusta bombs, Big choppa
Troops: Boyz x30 w/3x Tankbusta bombs, Big choppa
Troops: Gretchin x10

FA: Deffkopta w/Twin Big Shoota

Deathskulls Battalion
Specialist Detachment: Dread Waaagh!

HQ: Big Mek w/Shokk Attack Gun, Grot Oiler, Choppa, Warlord: Big Killa Boss
HQ: Big Mek w/Shokk Attack Gun, Grot Oiler, Choppa
HQ: Big Mek w/Shokk Attack Gun, Grot Oiler, Choppa

Troops: Gretchin x10
Troops: Gretchin x10
Troops: Gretchin x10

Bad Moons Spearhead Detachment

HQ: Big Mek w/Kustom Force Field, Choppa, Grot Oiler

Elites: Tankbustas x10 w/Rokkit Launchas
Elites: Tankbustas x10 w/Rokkit Launchas

HS: Smasha Gunz x2
HS: Smasha Gunz x2
HS: Smasha Gunz x2

DT: Trukk w/big Shoota
DT: Trukk w/big Shoota

 

With our table and dawn of war I really wanted to go first because mech guns will do horrible things to me as well will the Shokk Attack guns. 

He won the roll and we were off.  His first turn of shooting was extremely devastating. I believe I lost 2 impulsors and some of the guys inside. Another impulsor was down to 3 wounds and another was at 8. 

He moved some infantry up to do it though which meant I was able to get into charge range with my army. I rolled double 6s for my wolf guard and was able to tag his tank busters, 60 boys and some grots. After double fighting I cleared 57 boys, all the tank busters. The grots and a character. It was a solid first turn punch. 

He brought the unit back and got into my backfield on the bonus point. There was literally nothing I could do about it. Good play. By turn 2 I had no impulsors alive, my wolf guard were finally put down by more boys and some of my ints were now dead. 

I saw 1 way to win and it was to wrap 3 mech guns which I managed to do. It allowed me to sit there for 2 turns and negate all of his powerful shooting for the next few turns while my characters hopped in and out of an enclosed ruin assassinating his characters. 

It was a tight game all the way but in the end I managed to shut down his shooting for just long enough. Very close game. I was exhausted. 

Final Score: 34-28 

 

Final game: Byron Livingstone with Blood Angels (Editor’s Note: THUNDERDOME)

'I mean, this is basically the correct BA list' - Click to Expand

Bood Angels Battalion
HQ: Captain w/Jump pack, Storm shield, thunder hammer, Relic: The Angel’s Wing, Warlord
HQ: Lemartes

Troops: 5x Intercessors
Troops: 5x Intercessors
Troops: 5x Intercessors

Bood Angels Battalion
HQ: Astrorath
HQ: Mephiston

Troops: 5x Incursors
Troops: 5x Incursors
Troops: 5x Infiltrators

Elites: 15x Death Company w/3 thunder hammers

Blood Angels Vanguard Detachment

HQ: Sang Priest w/Jump Pack

Elites: Relic Whirlwind Scorpius
Elites: Sanguinary Ancient
Elites: 10x  Sanguinary Guard w/6x sword, 4x axe

 

The game was extremely cagey and one of my more enjoyable games. There were a lot of tactics and strategy used here. 

I knew going in that Space Wolves were a unique hard counter to Blood Angels so this match-up, despite the fact that he had access to amazing stratagems and litanies with doctrines, would be an uphill battle for him. I knew he had just beaten Brenden Chrustie, a multiple GT winner, so I had my hands full For sure. I was excited to play against another combat army with a player who knows combat well like myself. 

This was basically a game of playing chicken. I wanted to wait out his Death Company deep strike before I really committed to any plan and he was perfectly happy letting me since his whirlwind was going to pound on my impulsors until I did something about it. 

The first 2 turns were over in maybe 10 minutes. It saw me hold more and no one killed anything. 

Turn 3 he dropped his Death Company in his backfield since I marked them and I was sitting on a forest for -4 to charge distances. He didn’t have good places to really drop them. At this point I started firing impulsors into them to just get the numbers down. Turn 4 I pulled the trigger and fired my wolf guard into his lines because he had put his Engineers beside each other with Mephiston and the Death Company in range. I charged them all and – swinging twice – picked them all up including the relic tank. 

From this point on I realized that I was going to win if I just ran away and held more so that’s what occurred. I got a single kill on turn 6 to kill and kill more and we shook hands. I had done it. I went 5-1 with wolves. I was relieved and so braindead by this point. 

Final Score: 26-17

Event Record: 5-1

 

What are the stratagems I’m using typically?

Well the book’s stratagems are really costly so I often don’t use too many of them besides Cloaked by the Storm which is a strat to get a -1 to hit aura up around a Rune Priest after he casts a power successfully. Most of the strats I’m using are combat related. Fight on death. Fight twice. Interrupt. Seeking a saga almost always comes into play which allows you to re-roll failed wound rolls in combat with a character vs a target with higher power level. 

The lone wolf is a neat strat to really deny that critical kill which definitely came into play. 

 

I love [The Blood Claws]. It’s always been useful for me. Everyone asks me why and it’s a unit I’m not dropping anytime soon. 

Cyle: What’s up with the Blood Claws? How do they fit in, and how are they being used? And why the Storm Shield on the squad’s Wolf Guard Pack Leader?

Well, it didn’t make much sense to me to add another unit of ints since there is  no impulsor to protect them. They don’t have access to an invulnerable save so this to me was not appealing. 

Blood claws are a blender. They are pretty cheap and most importantly they have access to a wolf guard pack leader which can take a storm shield. Now I’m able to have them on the table and be just annoying enough that people most of the time don’t want to bother shooting at them. If they do. I can tank a lot of the damage on the shield.  I got surprising value out of this unit. They are typically my engineer unit or a unit I set on the hunt. To get behind enemy lines or recon. 

I love this unit. It’s always been useful for me. Everyone asks me why and it’s a unit I’m not dropping anytime soon. 

 

Cyle: Likewise, what’s your plan with the Rune Priest? How does he fit into the strategy?

The priest has pretty useful powers like fury of the wolf spirit which gets you to an absurd amount of attacks. Tempest wrath which stacks -1 to hit. There’s a lot of situationally good powers here. I really like this tree. 

Once a power has been cast I’m using 3 CP and I’m making everything -1 to hit around the priest. Every little bit of durability is crucial with this list. 

 

AP -4 Thunder hammers will make me so happy. So much will change with the access to +2 charge litany alone.

Cyle: Something I think we can bank on is Space Wolves getting access to Combat Doctrines in the next few months when Saga of the Beast comes out. How does your list/strategy change with access to the extra AP bonus?

AP -4 Thunder hammers will make me so happy. So much will change with the access to +2 charge litany alone. [Transhuman Physiology] will also be a huge gain for me. Blood claws become even more ridiculous with AP. This can both be good and bad for me tho. A lot of times I’m trying not to kill a unit and this is going to make it difficult at times. half the time I wish we didn’t get doctrines and just got the strats. AP on my impulsors will be amazing.  

The list remains the same basically, the strategy remains the same. The list just isn’t being played on hard mode anymore. I now get the cheat codes like everyone else. 

 

Cyle: Other than doctrines, what are you hoping to see happen for Space Wolves in Saga of the Beast?

I would love some way to make a unit untargetable unless it’s the closest target. This would make so many of the wolves unique units viable now. Such as thunder wolf cavalry or wulfen. The issue with these units is a Thunder fire cannon just says no you don’t get to play this game. This would help. 

Other than that. I’m looking for a way to advance and charge. Ignore over watch. Combat focused changes. Right now space wolves are a combat army with no access to combat tricks really. 

 

I’ve committed to this faction for the season. I set my goal to win best in faction this year for wolves.

Cyle: What’s next for you? Sticking with Space Wolves, or planning to change it up? And if you’re sticking with the Wolves, are there any changes you’re planning to test with the list?

I’ve committed to this faction for the season. I set my goal to win best in faction this year for wolves. It’s the saga I’m seeking endlessly. I will however play Dark Angels off and on at RTTs because I love them 

 

Cyle: Thanks again for speaking with us, and congrats on your success at the Wheat City Open! 

Thanks for talking with me. I love the content you guys put out. Keep it up. A big thanks to Cyle and the war hogs for coming up this year. 

I just want to say thanks to my team Northern Front for showing up in force for our first event of the year. It’s a long season but it certainly helps to have a team around you to bounce ideas off of and get match up advice. 

I will have a stream soon. Look for it under the title “Seeking a Saga.” Coming soon. 

Thanks for crushing my dreams, Cyle.

 

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