Team Scotland at the 2023 World Team Championships

The 2023 World Team Championships may have concluded in August but we thought it was still worthwhile to speak to two of our crew about their unique experiences playing for Team Scotland in this year’s event. Today we’re joined by Innes Wilson and Ben Jurek, who finally had time to sit down and write about the event.

Innes: The World Team Championships are a huge team event held every year with countries from all across the globe in attendance. I had the privilege of being the captain for the Scottish National Team this year, and with one of our best performances yet under our belt, as well as some fun (and not so fun) extenuating circumstances, Goonhammer asked us if we’d like to share some of that story.

Preparation for Team Scotland is a finely tuned affair that we’ve been working on for over a decade of international 40k competition now. Which is to say that it changes every year as we try to find out what works. The constants for us are a series of events that we work alongside other national teams at, like Home Nations with the other British Isles teams, and Pyra Cup where we got to work with Poland and a bunch of other European teams to develop our rosters in the wake of 10th Edition dropping. Brian and I got to fly our to Poland a week in advance, take part in a Polish event and then test with their players for a week before running our “proposed WTC roster” into 5 other teams doing the same. We came away with some really great ideas about the meta and what other teams were doing, as well as a lack of confidence in a few of the lists we had theorised (such as our Chaos Space Marines and my Deathwatch). Having this opportunity in July, just weeks before list submission gave us a massive boost in morale as we had the chance to fix these problems before they bit us at the main event.

On top of this, we had our standard practice weekends and scrim sessions where we broke down our lists as much as we could, ramming them into the toughest matchups possible to try and find every edge and angle on what we could expect from our lists at the event. A major component of good results at the WTC is Matrixing, which is where we try to predict how well a certain matchup will go in order to inform the pairings process where we determine whether we should take or decline certain options during that stage. The more information you have going into that spreadsheet, the more we can rely on what it suggests we do for results during the event. One hallmark of every year we’ve done better or worse at the WTC is how prepared our players are on their lists, and as such how good their matrices are.

Ben: The US process for WTC was basically an entire year’s worth of practice and grind being condensed into the shortest time span possible. With 10th edition dropping less than 2 months before the event, we put in quite a bit of internal work on TTS and in person. As a non-starting player my role was to provide as much information as possible on matchups and grind lists. I’m quite proud of the work myself, Lukas and Sean put into that Ork list. It was truly a thing of beauty to come out of that workshop.

Our in person team practices involve some hefty cross country Travel and spending 3+ days straight grinding 40k lists, ideas, pairings and matchups. I often refer to it as the time I got locked in Sean Nayden’s basement and told not to come out until we figured out the edition. That was certainly the aimed goal and being in the NDA vacuum not knowing exactly what everyone else is doing in a new rule set was nerve wracking. 

This is my first year but Sean said himself that this is the absolute most prepared , and hardest working team the US has ever fielded. I really think that showed. 

In the US there was no 8 man event to practice at and the only team event any of our members attended was ATC just a few weeks before the event a bit after we’ve already made some critical decisions. Some members did get to test their lists in the fires of 10th teams. At that point any info was good info even if we did show some of our hand early. 

Innes: In addition to the 40k Teams Event, there’s also the Warmasters Singles which is a near-300 player super major. As a perennial rankings lover, I can’t turn down the chance to try and earn some more internet points, and I wanted more practice with the Deathwing Knights Dark Angels list, after having basically Yolo-Swapped to them a few days before list submission after my misgivings with the Deathwatch at Pyra Cup (a move Poland would also mirror, which filled me with unearned confidence). I managed to scrape myself to 5-0-1 in the Singles, dodging Eldar all the way. This put me firmly in the path of Ben’s Teammate Quinton (who I posit could have beaten me with the Yncarne, a Nightspinner and a squad of rangers; but sadly got a lot more than that in his 2000pts), where I finally fell, leaving me to have one last night of relaxation before the main event kicked off on Thursday Night.

Ben: I went into Warmasters with a go wide Eldar list that I had taken 1st with at a LSO just a few weeks beforehand. One not too dissimilar from the US teams list. I managed a 4-1-1 record through the event. Drawing Skari from Team Canada and losing to my teammate Quinton Johnson who went on to beat Innes strangely enough. I was not as lucky as Innes and played the Eldar mirror twice. At this point it was time to prep and assist the team in the team meetings. I cleaned up, went back to my hotel ready for the next day of not playing….or so I thought. 

Innes: All the while that I was playing the Warmasters, trouble had brewed. Unfortunately one of my players had taken ill and was unable to attend the event (shoutout to Ryan for letting us know quickly, and I can’t wait to see you crush the event next year). As we’re a smaller community and only had one person on our Coaching staff (who we wanted to keep as coach), it fell to our wider networks to find a replacement player. Anthony Vanella and Jeremy Atkinson from America and Canada respectively were both quick to offer their support, and after some deliberation, Ben Jurek agreed to help us out for the weekend, with the permission of the referee team.

Anthony tells Ben of his new Nation

Ben: I was winding down from a long night when I saw the team discord light up with Scotland’s situation. We were told it was a great opportunity and what the expectations were. With guard being the army, I was a little worried. As a team we didn’t practice guard and as a player I didn’t know a single datasheet. I enlisted. Innes gave me some reassurance while reinforcing the fact guard is easy to pilot along with his realistic expectations of my performance.

Everyone on team Scotland wears a kilt during the event. With no spare kilts available from the team and any online ordered kilt being days out. I did some searching in the morning and I somehow found a costume shop in town that rents out costumes. In that shop that had a full Scottish guard outfit. I asked if I could just rent the kilt and the shopkeeper agreed. I aspired to be the most Scottish Scotsman that ever Scotted.

With this MacJurek was born:

Ben MacJurek is Born
The hall opens in the afternoon and we rack up a game with the army 3 hours before round 1, with me writing down on a note card what everything does and what in the hell is gaunt’s ghosts. (Spoiler: my favorite unit). I am able to drop a 20-0 in the practice game and proceed to play guard like an ork player. I am now ready to start for team Scotland in the WTC. 

The WTC itself is 7 Rounds. The first 3 rounds are played in Groups, where we had Iceland, UN Slovakia and France. After that we launch into Swiss, where you play a team on a similar win record to yourself.

Iceland Round 1 was a super interesting affair. We’d agreed to an open book policy with Iceland prior to the event and had done all of our testing together, to the degree that we had some of their players over in Scotland on the 10th Edition Launch weekend working with us. When we pulled them R1 it was a bit of a blow, but also a soft introduction to the event in the sense that we knew it would be a fun round with a bunch of players we got on with. In this round, we paired super close on paper, but generally we had the upper side of a few matchups. Our Dark Angels being a GSC answer came to fruition a little bit here, and started the trend of that army generally not having the best time vs the team. Overall we finished 102-58 with 86 needed for a win, and moved on.

Round 2 we played UN Slovakia, and had a super close affair also. Our Thousand Sons had been tentatively brought as a list that could play into Aeldari and this just proved to not be the case, while the Guard vs Thousand Sons matchup that generally felt positive swung away from us. With good information on how these games were going however, and a couple of blowouts from our Aeldari and Genestealer Cults back, we scraped this over the line into an 87-73 win. Super tight, and not what we were necessarily hoping for going into what was ostensibly the weakest team in our pod.

After this, we played France who were the highest rated team in our Group. One theory you can lean into when you’re the “weaker” team is to pair for as many close matchups and coin flips as possible, and hope that some of them flip in your favour. Unfortunately on the day it didn’t quite pan out (despite the heroics of one Ben Jurek) and we dropped this round 66-94. Certainly a round that felt winnable going into it, but across the board we just didn’t quite have the successes we needed to convert it all the way. 

This put us then on a respectable 2W/1L coming out of groups. Given that in 2022 we ended on 2 Wins after 7 Rounds, this felt like a reasonable improvement. We had the good fortune then of pulling Ireland, a team we’ve been at Home Nations with a number of times and managed to take down back in May. Ireland were the best performing (non-English) Home Nations team last year, a moniker we wanted back, so these rounds are always good naturedly very competitive. Setting aside our Thousand Sons vs Aeldari plan continuing to prove overly optimistic, this round came together well, getting a draw out of the GSC Mirror, 20 off of our Aeldari and consistent wins almost everywhere else, we put 93 on the board here. This round never felt particularly close to a loss, but there were moments where a draw was looking very on the table. Shout out to the Coaching Staff for keeping everyone laser focussed on the results and getting the points we needed.

Round 5 saw us playing on the *pair down* into last year’s winners Australia, which is definitely not a thing I ever saw coming, as they were sat at 2-1-1 compared to our 3-1 (but lowest tiebreakers). This is one of those rounds that sometimes just happens when you’re on the come up and the team that just lost is out for blood. We misread a pairings situation here and gave their Necrons the Custodes matchup that it was preying on as we hadn’t done enough preparation on Australia over the lunch break to catch that snare, and from there the rest of the pairings ended up being just a little too awkward. With Brian’s Aeldari getting bogged down for a low-scoring win (14-6) vs Horde Tyranids, and a slip away in the Necrons vs Imperial Knights game, we came away with a 66-94 Loss here, 9 points off of the draw. Looking back at this round, that draw was definitely available and well within our reach, and given Australia finished in 3rd Place this year, it’s a positive sign for us all going forward.

New Zealand had been on a tear themselves, also sitting at 3-2 in their first year at WTC, but we resolved to put a stop to that as we drew them in round 6. We felt very happy with our pairings, but so did they which usually means one of you is in for a rude awakening when results start flowing. We had a very strange scenario here where the first 3 results flowed in (20-0, 18-2, 4-16) for 42-18 in our favour within maybe 90 minutes of the round starting. And then nothing for hours. We sat there and waited as 5 incredibly close and tense games rolled on around us, powerless to interact. At about 4 separate points, our Coach Nick told me that he didn’t see a win available and that we were going to get a high draw, but this just highlights the importance of communication. As coaches and captains we can’t offer tactical advice during a game, but we can make recommendations as to whether to push for points or play for safety. By keeping careful track of how each game was ebbing and flowing, we were able to keep everyone on the right side of where they needed to be and bring in a 91-69 win, but every point mattered all the way through. We didn’t lock up the win until the last score of the last game, and every single person on the team put points on the docket toward getting us a tie for the most wins we’ve ever had at WTC.

The last round then saw us playing a team we’ve played more than any other in Denmark. Every year that I personally can remember attending the event we’ve played Denmark and they’re all good friends of ours. It’s wonderful to get to close out the event on a team you know and have good relations with because we’ve all just played 6 of the most stressful games of Warhammer of our lives over four days. We paired fairly even here, our matrix tells us we have a small win, theirs tells them they have a winning draw. As always, only one team can be right. Unfortunately a turn one swing in the Thousand Sons v Knights game, and a clever “deploy on the line and hope to go first” from their Deathwatch gave Denmark enough points to claw past the 80 mark, but our Custodes holding Genestealer Cults close, and Brian (who was the second high scorer at the event) putting on a clinic vs CSM meant that it was no more than that, as we locked a 76-84 Draw. 

This got us 12th Place at 9 Round Points (4-2-1) and tied us on that all the way up through Germany in 6th (so I’ll be telling myself joint 6th for the next year). It’s not the best Scotland has ever done, but it’s a hell of an improvement from 2 Wins, 3 Losses and 2 Draw Last year.

A massive shout out to Goonhammer, Stat Check, and Saltire Games for supporting team Scotland this year, and to all the players, coaches and community who helped support us all the way through. Special shoutouts to Chris, Matty, Simon, Allan, Ryan, Ricky, Brian, Nick, Tom C, Ben, Paul and Tom B who all put on the Team Scotland shirts in some capacity this year and made the event and the team what it is. Next Year, we’re coming back for everything.

Ben's new ink

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