The Road to the LVO: Top of the Mornin’ from the Top of the Curve, Pt 2

Good day everyone and welcome to part 2 of our coverage of the Las Vegas Open. We are less than a week away from the event, the finale of the 2022 ITC season, and I have been spending hours chatting with attendees and the production team, pouring over lists and generally consuming as much knowledge as I can in advance of the show so that I can regurgitate it back into your beaky maws like some kind of bird or something. First up in our series was a bit of a round table interviewing 8 of the current top 15 players in the ITC. Given the length of the responses we split the article into 2 for the sake of brevity. You can find part 1 of our interviews, here. Please note the questions are the same, the answers ae different, and still, not a single one of these souls will take me to a $100 buffet on their dime.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

You’re all currently sitting at or near the top of the ITC heading into the LVO. First off, congratulations on an incredible season so far. Combined, the 8 of you have had 39 first place spots and a further 43 top 5 finishes at GTs and Majors this year. In what has had to be a year of highlights for you, what’s been the pinnacle moment of 40k for you this year?

Jack: Going to the WTC as part of Team America 40k was far and away my favorite event I’ve ever been to.  Team events are the best way to play 40k but I won’t soon forget the experience of planning and preparing for an event as high stakes as the WTC and then traveling and playing against the best 40k players Europe has to offer.  We’ll be back this year to do our best to take it all the way.  Also Mechelen is a beautiful place, that sure didn’t hurt.

John: The highlight of this year has easily been my trip to Belgium for the WTC, as part of Team USA. This was my first time in Europe, and getting to experience a whole new community and event was easily the best part of year. Even though we fell just short of the podium, being part of Team USA was an incredible experience, and is already the part of next year I am most excited for.

Ben: Thank you! Well this year has been a wild ride tournament scene wise as you know Games Workshop themselves put out 4 more super majors in the US almost doubling our normal number of events. Having this amount of competition available made for a exciting season and plenty of opportunities to do well. As any good player will attest winning a super major takes luck along with skill especially in the current meta with lots of “rock, paper, scissors” matchup potential. Personally, the US Open in Chicago was a highlight for me. Not only did I get some great games vs some of the best talent in 40k but I was able to garner a 2nd place finish behind Jack Harpster who is having one of the best seasons I’ve seen in the ITC. On top of all that I also got a golden ticket to the GW finals in New Mexico and spent a wonderful weekend celebrating Warhammer in a beautiful resort.

Anthony: It’s hard to pick just one, the WTC in general was the best experience I’ve had in 40K so far by a considerable margin. The best, close competitive game I’ve played this year was at UKTC Coventry against Mike Porter down to a 1 point loss. The best, less close game was against Liam Hackett in the teams, narrowly squeaking out a single teams point. Both amazing opponents against some of the absolute best players in the world.

There was a period of time there where the competitive community was a bit on edge as to what ruleset the LVO would be using; with Ark of Omens, a Munitorum Field Manual, and Balance Dataslate all being released right under the rules deadline wire. FLG has since announced we’ll be using the older ruleset for the event and adjusted the rules deadline to compensate. Do you think that was the right move? What would have been your preference?

Jack: LVO was put in a bind with how close to their rules cut-off the changes were released.  However, the rules were released about a week and a half before their cut-off date and I think they should have used them.  I understand people not wanting a huge shakeup that soon before the event, I just hate prepping for the old meta that doesn’t exist past a week from now.  I want to get excited about new armies and builds and I feel like I can’t until LVO is over.

John: While the timing was unfortunate, I do think that Nephilim is the best way to wrap up the season. Let’s get these bugs on the table one last time! It was definitely my preference, so that players could close out the year on the armies they’ve been playing up to this point.

Ben: Ideally, I would rather play current rule sets as close as one week prior. However, this tournament is for everyone and assuming everyone has the proper amount of time to prepare for such a shockwave as the Arks of Omen book, dataslate, and field manual all at once would lead to a lot of confusion and what I call “feels bad” where people misunderstand something or misread something leading to a misplay. I believe FLG’s call to play older ruleset is correct even if I prefer new rules.

Anthony: I 1000% think what was done was the right move. I think that LVO should represent the end of the season and provide players a chance to showcase their execution of what they’ve learned up to this point, rather than a race to find the interaction Games Workshop’s FAQ’s missed. I’m looking forward to seeing who can do the best with all the cards on the table.

Emperor’s Children Noise Marines. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Many of you are faction wanderers, having achieved great success with a myriad of codexes this edition, while others have run the gauntlet with just 1-2 codexes. What do you plan on bringing to the LVO now that you know we’re finishing the season with Nephilim? I understand some people wish to keep that info close to chest for as long as possible so feel free to keep your secrets, just understand I will be very disappointed in you and will judge you until the end of days.

Jack: I’m going back to a comfort pick, I’m taking the Blood Angels to LVO.  Thousand Sons with Flamers is the consensus best army in the game but I just don’t feel like getting good with an archetype that doesn’t exist in a week.  I’m incredibly comfortable with Blood Angels and that will give me an edge in tough matchups.  I could tell you I picked BA because the army is amazing on the day two missions, and that is true.  I could tell you it’s because I wanted to counter Thousand Sons plus Flamers and that’s also true (The triple Infiltrator units were certainly designed to send a pointed message about how much nonsense I’m willing to put up with).  But the real reason is that you can’t control all of the variables at an event as random as LVO, I could and have driven myself insane trying to analyze and solve for all of the what-ifs of what could happen.  I’m taking Blood Angels as sort of a Jesus take the wheel kind of moment.  Whatever will happen at LVO will happen and I’ll just have to play the best 40k I can and figure it out from there.

John: I’ve really enjoyed spending a lot of time on one army this year, so I’m looking forward to closing out the season on Kraken Tyranids.

Ben: Well honestly the meta is so healthy in Nephilim there won’t really be a big bad as past LVOs like Crusher stampede/custodes so while bad matchups exist there isn’t a faction that sticks out to me as a must take. I’ll be taking my Emperor’s Children to LVO as I put the most hobby time into them as well.

Anthony: I’m playing something very similar to what I played at Coventry, minus my loyal spawn friend Terry and a unit of noise marines for a unit of possessed to heroically….stand in front of my terminators and soak smites.  It’ll be fun and I’m looking forward to seeing how well I can do with an army I have tons of reps on.

Credit: Ben Hampshire

What factions do you expect to rise to the top LVO weekend? Are there any dark horse factions or players you think we should be paying closer attention to?

Jack: The top three factions right now seem pretty clearly to be Thousand Sons with Flamers, Harlequins and Tyranids.  Tau has decent play into the top armies and is probably the fourth best army.  As far as underrated armies for LVO, I’d have to say Blood Angels, Daemons and Orks are all great off-meta picks if you know how to play them.  I’m excited to see Nick back competing but as far as players people may not have heard of Quinton “Rampage” Johnson, Brian Jones and Kyle McCord are definitely names to look out for this event.

John: I think that we know the armies that will be on top, with TSons, harlequins, tau and Tyranids feeling like the strongest choices in the meta. But, I bet there’s at least one exciting unexpected army that sneaks in, like orks or chaos knights. My bet is on 1 Ork in the shadow round!

Ben: I expect that Tyranids on their last hoorah will take top spot more specifically Kraken spore mine farm. For factions, Votann have some teeth and if the general can get by the set movement/no advance and shoot I think they will have a very good weekend. As for players, I’ve got to stay close to home here and go with Charlie Andre. Charlie is playing phenomenal 40k right now and I expect to see crazy good thing from him at LVO

Anthony: I think Tzeentch soup and Kraken will broadly do well. I expect the dark horse of the event to be Blood Angels as they match really, really well into Tzeentch and Leagues which are popular and very powerful.

Iron Hands Infiltrators
Credit: head58

Let’s go back a step, had FLG elected to choose chaos and take on all the new rule changes to 40k. What kind of list do you think you would have pivoted to in the ark of omens, free gear for everyone (except you, Tyranids) kind of world? What do you think rises to the top in this new world order and why?

Jack: I’m not sure what I would have taken if chaos had reigned, I haven’t really had a chance to test the new meta in a rigorous way.  It seems like the meta would have been defined by heavy vehicle shooting armies such as Iron Hands and Guard and I would not have wanted to get caught up in the coin flips that the first turn roll-off would devolve into.  Ravenwing is very fast and a bike heavy build can hit hard going first but might be able to avoid the shooting going second.  I don’t know, I haven’t put it on the board yet.  I considered running Custodes or Genestealer Cults, they seem much better with the balance changes but more testing is required.

John: If the meta had flipped upside down at the last minute, I’d likely be playing either the Imperial Guard codex or space marines, depending on how much new they were allowing. I have a lot of experience with white scars, iron hands, ultramarines and Dark Angels so one of those (likely ravenwing) would be a strong choice with the meta in disarray.

Ben: Marines got such a boost more specifically Iron hands (again), Dark Angels, and Black Templars. These particularly benefited from free war gear/drop in points and their ruleset lean into these builds the best. Iron hands with Devastator doctrine all game with vehicles, Dark Angels Ravenwing with the same, and Black Templars with all the free meltas on tanks with a vow to give them and invulnerable kind of a mix of durability and killing power instead of DA/IH. Iron Hand or Dark Angels are on top if they can handle Guard. Guard is the new gatekeeper due to cheap Leman Russ, lots of buffs from orders, and speed to make angles that would otherwise be hard to get.

Anthony: I think Marines broadly become extremely powerful. Unfortunately, I probably would’ve just played my current army, but worse, as I’m trying to chase that ever-relevant Best in Faction.

Is this your first FLG event? What thoughts, if any, go through your brain when building or playing a list on PPT? What changes do you make over lists that you would run on more static placements like the UKTC or GW?

Jack: This is pretty far from my first go at the ITC rodeo but I am very excited to play on some of the new tables that FLG has put out for this event.  Tables with the bottom floor LoS blocked and overall just denser terrain feel much nicer to play on.  ITC player placed felt very open and shooting army focused in the past so we’ll see how it feels with some more, better terrain.

John: This is my first FLG event this season, but I got plenty of practice placing terrain last year. I haven’t changed my list much to account for that, as I really just wanted to play what I was comfortable with and had painted. I think that the format skews heavily in favor of shooting armies, but those are often volatile and first turn reliant so I don’t love to play them at large events. Instead, I’ve just been focused on hiding as much as possible and trying to play around the high damage shooting that certain armies can bring.

Ben: I attend LVO at the minimum every year and maybe two more FLG events in addition. Player placed terrain is kind of a secondary game, once learned is very nice addition to the game. It keeps the boards more fluid and allows players to have a more rounded game depending on the style whether its melee oriented or shooting oriented. Both of these other styles of terrain help melee armies as the shooting lanes are smaller, with UKTC having basically no LOS deployment zone to deployment zone and GW having incredible melee potential with the giant block ruins. So, if the new rules are in place with these terrain sets you best believe I’ll be rolling in black in white possibly yelling crusade.

Anthony: Sure isn’t! I’ve been to LVO last year and a number of others in my short time in the scene. It’s pretty rare for thoughts to go through my brain, but when they do normally I’m just sad the round takes longer. Jokes aside, I take less guns than UKTC but slightly more guns than GW, the flex in Emperor’s Children usually being how many Noise Marines I take vs Possessed.

Ork Goff Rocker by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms
Ork Goff Rocker by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

I know you’re no doubt gunning for the top spot at the event, but what is your minimum goal going in? What do you want to accomplish at the very least in Vegas? Will you take me to the Bacchanal to celebrate your LVO victory?

Jack: I don’t like to set myself minimum goals for events, it ends with me focused on avoiding failure instead of enjoying myself and playing the best I can.  I would like to make top eight and I’d love to place high enough to guarantee ITC #1, but I think my ideal outcome would be having a friend win the event while I get enough ITC points to take #1 for the year.  We’ll see though, LVO is a weird and random event and no one can predict what’ll happen.

John: After last year, I’ll settle for winning round 1 and just work my way forward from there. In an ideal world, I’d take home best in faction Tyranids, but I’m certainly looking to move up the rankings as well. If I manage to run the ten round gauntlet, I expect I’ll be too tired to eat out and settle for a nice, tall chocolate milk at the airport instead.

Ben: My minimum goal going in is to play my absolute best possible on all aspects of interactive play. I want my opponent and I to have the best time possible while still competing but if I were to come up with a record I would at least want to be 5 and 1. I would very much like to make the shadow round or top 8 but as stated earlier it takes a bit of luck for these things. As for eating afterwards, professionally I am a Chef so even as extravagant as Bachanal is I will probably do something like Joel Robuchon, Restaurant Guy Savoy, or Picasso. All of which have Michelin stars and aren’t a buffet, lol. (Falcon: Ouch…I need to up my food game.)

Anthony: Ironically, as much as I’d love to win the event, it’s far from my expectation or even my goal. I’d like to finish at least 5-1 and would love to have an opportunity to play in the Shadow round again. Mostly I’m excited to see some people I don’t see often and play the game. My focus is just on one round at a time, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out. I don’t know what the Bachanal is. If I win the ITC I’ll be eating well for sure though.

Falcon: I just want to once again thank all of the players that took the time to chat with me and answer my questions this week. Something I will always appreciate is just how kind and sharing the greater competitive scene is. I can’t wait to see them all in person in Vegas.

What’s next?

We’ve got tons more coverage planned – later today tune in as we chat with Val Hefflefinger and highlight some of the large production crew heading to the LVO this year as they attempt to really push the viewing experience of a Warhammer event. And after that? The nitty gritty good stuff as we highlight some of the big lists and general statistics from the event.

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