TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2021, Part 13: Practicing Against Drukhari

Credit: Robert "TheChirurgeon" Jones

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to my ongoing quest to achieve some level of competitive respectability in Warhammer 40,000. Last week I waxed philosophical about traveling with minis, played an Incursion game, then eked out a narrow win against the Deathwatch AoR. This week I invited Swiftblade over again for some more practice games. You may remember Swiftblade (“Dan”) as the player I tend to crush often and who I bunked with at the GW New Orleans event. He played Age of Sigmar then, but he’s planning to bring his Drukhari to Austin, and so we resolved to get in some practice games.

Dan’s not a great player (yet), but he’s been steadily improving with his list and, more worringly, getting better at playing against my Death Guard. We had a plan to play a couple of games, re-racking as soon as the first was decided. We’re still going with day 1 layouts – if I have to pick, this is the more important for me, since winning games 1-3 is much more important than winning games 4-6; if I can start 2-0 or 3-0 that’ll guarantee I make the top group cut.

Game 1: The Scouring

You’ve seen it many times if you’ve been following along, but as always, here’s the list I’m bringing. I haven’t changed it since the last time, and I’m pretty locked in with it right now. I don’t think there are many changes I’d make based on the current meta here, though I may look into swapping the Chaos Lord for a second Plaguecaster at some point. For now I like where I’m at and I want to improve on improving how I play rather than trying to get better by improving the list.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

My List

Before we dive in, we should do a quick recap of my list. This is the same list I took to New Orleans.

My Death Guard - Click to Expand

+++ Death Guard Battalion Detachment (-3 CP, 2,000 points) +++

Plague Company: The Inexorable
Extra Relic (-1 CP)

Extra WL Trait (-1 CP)

HQ: Death Guard Chaos Lord w/Power Sword, Bolt Pistol, WARLORD: Ferric Blight, RELIC: Plaguebringer
HQ: Malignant plaguecaster, POWERS: Miasma of Pestilence, Curse of the Leper

TP: Plague marines x5: Flail, Champion: Bolter and Plague Knife
TP: Plague marines x5: Flail, Champion: Bolter and Plague Knife
TP: Poxwalkers x10
TP: Poxwalkers x10

EL: Blightlord Terminators x10: 2x flail, 2x reaper autocannon + Combi-bolter, 5x axe + combi-bolter, Champion: Combi-bolter + Bubotic Axe, Plague Skull of Glothila (-1 CP)
EL: Deathshroud Terminators x3
EL: Foul Blightspawn: Relic: Revolting stench-vats, Plaguechosen: Arch-Contaminator
EL: Biologus Putrifier
EL: Tallyman, Relic: Tollkeeper

HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon
HS: PBC w/2x entropy cannon

FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Fleshmower
FA: Foetid Bloat-Drone w/Heavy Blight Launcher

DT: Chaos Rhino

+++ 2,000 points, 9 CP +++

 

As always, the plan is to use the Blightlords as a kind of Deathstar with character support, walk them forward and hold the middle of the table and make opponents regret coming to them. The other half of the force can do similar nasty things, but how I split them and use them will depend on the mission, objectives placement, and terrain layout.

Dan’s List

Dan's Drukhari - Click to Expand

++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Aeldari – Drukhari) [55 PL, 870pts, -2CP] ++

Obsession: Kabal of the Black Heart: Thirst for Power
Raiding Forces – CP Refund
Stratagem: Prizes from the Dark City [-1CP]

+ No Force Org Slot +
Court of the Archon [10 PL, 100pts]: As Detachment (Kabal)
. Sslyth
. Sslyth
. Ur-Ghul: As Detachment (Kabal)
. Ur-Ghul: As Detachment (Kabal)
. Ur-Ghul: As Detachment (Kabal)
. Ur-Ghul: As Detachment (Kabal)

+ HQ +
Archon [5 PL, 85pts, -1CP]: Hatred Eternal, Huskblade, Kabal of the Black Heart, Overlord, Splinter Pistol, Stratagem: Tolerated Ambition
. Splintered Genius (Black Heart): Splintered Genius

+ Troops +
Kabalite Trueborn [8 PL, 145pts]: As Detachment (Kabal)
. 6x Kabalite Trueborn: 6x Splinter Rifle
. Kabalite Trueborn w/ Heavy Weapon: Dark Lance
. Kabalite Trueborn w/ Special Weapon: Blaster
. Kabalite Trueborn w/ Special Weapon: Blaster
. Trueborn Sybarite: Blast Pistol, Power sword

+ Elites +
Incubi [4 PL, 80pts] . 4x Incubi: 4x Klaive
. Klaivex: Klaive

Incubi [4 PL, 80pts] . 4x Incubi: 4x Klaive
. Klaivex: Klaive

+ Dedicated Transport +
Raider [6 PL, 95pts]: As Detachment, Dark Lance
Raider [6 PL, 95pts]: As Detachment, Dark Lance
Raider [6 PL, 95pts]: As Detachment, Dark Lance
Raider [6 PL, 95pts]: As Detachment, Dark Lance

++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Aeldari – Drukhari) [40 PL, 760pts, 12CP] ++

Obsession
. Custom Coven: Dark Technomancers (All-Consuming)
Raiding Forces – CP Refund

+ HQ +
Drazhar [8 PL, 145pts]

+ Troops +
Wracks [3 PL, 40pts]: As Detachment (Coven)
. Acothyst: Wrack Blade
. 4x Wracks: 4x Wrack Blade
Wracks [3 PL, 45pts]: As Detachment (Coven)
. Acothyst: Electrocorrosive Whip
. 4x Wracks: 4x Wrack Blade
Wracks [3 PL, 45pts]: As Detachment (Coven)
. Acothyst: Electrocorrosive Whip
. 4x Wracks: 4x Wrack Blade

+ Elites +
Incubi [4 PL, 80pts] . 4x Incubi: 4x Klaive
. Klaivex: Klaive
Mandrakes [3 PL, 75pts] . 4x Mandrake: 4x Baleblast, 4x Glimmersteel Blade
. Nightfiend

+ Heavy Support +
Cronos [8 PL, 165pts]: As Detachment (Coven)
. Cronos: Spirit Probe, Spirit Vortex
. Cronos: Spirit Vortex
Cronos [8 PL, 165pts]: As Detachment (Coven)
. Cronos: Spirit Probe, Spirit Vortex
. Cronos: Spirit Vortex

++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Aeldari – Drukhari) [19 PL, 370pts, -1CP] ++

Obsession: Cult of Strife: The Spectacle of Murder (Restricted)
Raiding Forces – CP Refund

+ HQ +
Succubus [4 PL, 75pts]: 3 – Hypex (Combat Drug), As Detachment (Wych Cult), Competitive Edge, The Triptych Whip, Warlord
. Agoniser & Archite Glaive
. Show Stealer (Strife): Show Stealer

+ Troops +
Hekatrix Bloodbrides [8 PL, 125pts, -1CP]: 2 – Grave Lotus (Combat Drug), As Detachment (Wych Cult)
. Hekatrix: Agoniser, Morvaine’s Agoniser, Splinter Pistol, Stratagem: Hekatrix of the Crucibael
. 9x Hekatrix Bloodbride: 9x Hekatarii Blade, 9x Plasma Grenades, 9x Splinter Pistol

+ Fast Attack +
Hellions [7 PL, 170pts]: Random x 2 (Combat Drug), As Detachment (Wych Cult)
. Helliarch: Hellglaive
. 9x Hellion: 9x Hellglaive, 9x Splinter Pods

++ Total: [114 PL, 2,000pts, 9CP] ++

 

Dan’s list has changed a few times as we’ve played. This time he’s bringing Cronoses and Scourges to the table, neither of which scares me that much. As always, the bigger challenge I have is avoiding bad trades, not spreading out too much, and keeping him from stealing objectives from me mid-game. Some maps are better for this matchup than others, and we’ll test out an OK one and a not-so-OK one for me today.

The Mission: Scorched Earth

Scorched Earth again. This is probably the last time I’ll play it before Austin – I’ve got to test some other missions and layouts.

My Secondaries:

  • Spread the Sickness
  • Grind them Down
  • Stranglehold

I’m pretty comfortable with Spread on this map. 3 Objectives is pretty easy to hit, and if I’m doing well I can make that four if an opponent ignores my blightlords and lets them walk to a fourth. I’ve done that enough times to be comfortable with it. Stranglehold also works here as a way to force opponents to deal with my blightlords, and Grind generally works OK for me against Drukhari, since trading one expensive unit for 2 cheap ones will still net me 3 VP.

Dan’s Secondaries:

  • Herd the Prey
  • Assassination
  • Raise the Banners

Herd is a no-brainer against Death Guard, and just generally. Assassination isn’t great against me but it can be nasty if I don’t play it super safe with my characters – and I usually don’t, mostly because I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to them. Banners here is OK but hard for Dan to commit to with anything but Wracks and if I can dislodge a unit it’ll throw off his whole plan.

Dan puts his raider full of trueborn with the Archon into deep strike, for a later turn.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

I deploy conservatively but then I win first turn and spend it being a little aggressive. I split my characters a bit different this time, putting the Chaos Lord and the Plaguecaster and Putrifier with the Deathshroud. I know Dan wants to ignore my Blightlords, so the idea is to have a second hard target for him to deal with. This only works out OK for me – I probably should have kept the Blightspawn over here, but I get too aggressive later on anyways and that’s a bigger issue. More on that in a moment. I advance both Bloat-drones and use them to score Stranglehold.

Not great

On his turn Dan’s able to wipe out my Fleshmower despite it being -1 to be hit and presses forward onto the objective, but I’m able to clear him off the following turn to score Stranglehold again. At this point he’s shifting to my weaker left flank. I make the decision to press my plague marine rhino up to his backfield, and force him to respond. If he wants to mess around in my DZ, it’s going to cost him.

Blightlords walking

The blightlords have a ways to go but I’m stymied a bit on the right side by Dan’s Court of the Archon, which keeps passing 6+ saves to hang on. It’ll take me three turns to finish them off. But I’m able to wipe out the Cronos and Wracks and control the right side of the board, while eventually scoring Spread on all three objectives.

As Dan advances I need to keep taking the left objective back to keep up on Stranglehold and also stop Dan from scoring more than 5 for primary, which means I need to be a bit more aggressive. Unfortunately I overextend in doing this. The Deathshrouds easily clear a space, but get killed on the following turn after some bad save rolls – I had a chance to keep 1-2 alive, but it wasn’t meant to be.

who will win: a bunch of drukhari or three nurgley bois?

On the following turns I’m able to whittle down some of Dan’s presence and hold him as I remove him from the right side of the table. He gets some good kills off on me and makes up 10 points on Assassination but as we end turn 4 it’s clear I’ve got this one on lock. I’m only going to score 9 on Grind, but with 12 each on Spread and Stranglehold, plus 40 on primary to his 30 – overextending was a fine play, since it kept Dan on 5 for primary two turns in a row. We call it there and move on to the next game.

The final state. I’m in a pretty good position here.

What Went Right: The Blightlords put in a decent amount of work despite Dan doing his best to ignore them, and scoring 12 on Spread is usually a good game for me. Splitting out units from the Blightlords so they have less support isn’t a bad idea when I know Dan willa void them – it tricks him into thinking the other side is weaker than it is.

What Went Wrong: I didn’t have quite enough support for the Deathshrouds and that’s because I took the Rhino full of plague marines up the middle to avoid all that. This meant losing them early and leaving characters unprotected. On the whole this wasn’t necessarily awful as it kept me on Stranglehold points for another turn but I probably should leave my Blightspawn with the Deathshrouds if I’m doing this – he gives more shooting support and if he’d stuck around it woudl have made charging my characters very dangerous.

Result: 83-68, Victory

This was the only real victory of the day. Any other victories you read about after this, possibly from other players, are just bullshit moral victories from talking out results and come from a purely hypothetical realm.

 

Game 2: Retrieval Mission

We re-rack. Retrieval mission uses almost the same objective layout, but has hammer and anvil deployment. At the New Orleans event, it also used the same terrain layout, creating a weird longways map with long, open lanes to fire down while making the cover not actually protective. It’s not great, particularly for my army. Additionally, the long deployment zones make it difficult to maneuver around if I start in cover and will make it tough for me to get multiple units into the opposing table quarters to prevent Herd the Prey scoring.

The Mission: Retrieval Mission

Retrieval Mission. The secondary here can be OK for me but against Drukhari it’s not ideal. The longways (hammer-and-anvil) deployment is also not great since it means I have a much longer distance to travel to hit some of the further objectives and this terrain actually gives me very little line of sight protection in this layout.

My Secondaries:

  • Spread the Sickness
  • To the Last (the two PBCs and the Blightlords)
  • Minimise Losses

I don’t like Spread here nearly as much – it’s much too easy to blank me on it with this little lateral room and Minimise Losses is iffy but Dan’s list offers very few good kill secondaries and Stranglehold is much harder on this configuration. I’m taking To the Last here over Grind to force Dan to interact with my Blightlords, but Dan’s going to go after the PBCs immediately and as hard as he can. I’m going to try to keep them in Dense Terrain to mitigate this, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping to score 10 off it.

Dan’s Secondaries:

  • Herd the Prey
  • Assassination
  • Raise the Banners

Herd is much better on this map for Dan; so is Raise the Banners, which essentially gives him three “home” flags to throw up and a longer distance for me to go to remove them. Assassination here will become an issue if I have to spread myself too wide.

Deployment. As soon as anything moves up it’ll be visible.
My view of Deployment. Terminators and characters on the right, everything else on the left, some Poxwalkers in the middle.

Dan gets the first turn and it’s all downhill from there. The dice are absolutely on his side this game. My PBCs whiff early and then Dan starts rolling 6s like there’s no tomorrow to make saves. First keeping his Scourges around an extra turn when he hits 3 6s on 3D6 to save from my Fleshmower, then again when the fleshmower attempts to kill his raider and force him off an objective. The resulting saves are a big swing in his favor on what’s a very close game.

Dan’s first turn is pretty aggressive pushing up to put his Raider noses just out far enough to see my PBCs, but he’s only able to shoot 5 wounds off it. This is because he only hits once – he’ll never roll less than 6 damage with his dark lances during the game. As mentioned earlier, his scourges survive combat miraculously to hang on, then roll a 1 on morale. This also happened three more times during the game when Dan was facing “roll a 1 or fail” situations. It was pretty bullshit, actually.

Let’s talk about Spread the Sickness priority here – any time you go up against Drukhari, you need to be mindful of the fact that spread can be “turned off” by units getting too close. So you need to be aggressive and spread to objectives your opponent will attempt to contest early. In this case, that meant corrupting the leftside close objective first, then the middle “home” objective second with the poxwalkers, since that was the next likely target. Then I’d use the Tallyman to corrupt the right side objective and anyone left to get objectives further downfield.

Fighting continues

My next move is to push the Bloat-Drone back behind his raider as he pulls his army forward and I end up dropping it to 1 wound in the ensuing combat when it makes a couple of 6+ saves, again ruining my day. The plague marines hold their own OK against the first set of incubi but eventually get mulched by Drazhar. This is mostly an issue as Dan has put his whole army on this side of the table, away from my Blightlords. I made the mistake of not committing my deathshrouds to this side to protect my characters and now they’re too far away to help – something I need to fix in the future.

Things get pretty rough on turn 3 as Dan disembarks his Wyches and sends them at my Poxwalkers, hoping to clear off my home objective and drop me to 5 points on primary, something I did to him the turn before. This is a long shot but as luck would have it, he rolls 6s on every one of his advance rolls and plows ahead, then beats the extra charge distance from Ferric Miasma to close the gap and wipe them out. I’ll clear them off the following turn with the Deathshrouds and the other PBC, but moving those away from the characters is likely a mistake.

Pressing forward at the end of the game

At this point Dan needs to leave for a Halloween party so we talk out the rest of the game. I’m in a good position to clear him off two other objectives but he can set up two other banners, giving him 2 more at the end of the game. Herd the Prey scores at the end of his turn because it’s bullshit so he’s on 14 points for that, and we think he’ll manage 9 on Assassination after we do some quick rolls and he’s unable to kill the Plaguecaster but able to take out the Blightspawn and the Tallyman after the Wych manages to survive their attacks with 1 wound remaining. This primarily happened because I charged off with the Blightlords to kill Dan’s other Cronos and left my characters behind, in cover but unprotected. I should have used the Deathshrouds to protect them but I spread out too much and in the end it cost me 6 VP that I couldn’t afford to lose in a very tight game.

Dan takes out a single PBC and I’m able to get 4 objectives for Spread the Sickness. The final total looks to be 77-80 in Dan’s favor.

So, talking things out, on a map that’s terrible for me, going second, with some insane luck on Dan’s part, if we ignore the battle-ready 10 point bonus, it looks like he’s managed his first win since last summer. This is bullshit. My vengeance will be swift and terrible, Dan.

What Went Right: Very little, to be honest. The Blightlords managed to get some work in, and cleared a path up the right side of the table en route to some easy Spread the Sickness points (12), and survived to be worth 5 VP – Dan never even attempted to get those.

What Went Wrong: I should have split the Deathshrouds and put them on the other side of the table where they could punish Dan for coming after my “weak” side. Putting them with the Blightlords was just too much. Late in the game I kept a PBC around on the dense cover to shoot at wyches and I should have moved it closer to the characters to protect them. Leaving them exposed in our “talk it out” turns was basically what cost me the game, since the 6 points Dan hypothetically scored rushing raiders over to dark lance my Blightspawn was worth 3 points that took the game from a tie to a loss. The dice were also just real rough on this one, with Dan pulling out every bullshit save he needed to keep one model around. Ultimately, my exposure on the characters was the key reason I lost – I got too aggressive and greedy with the Blightlords and needed to protect my characters instead, and the PBC could have done that if I’d been smart enough to move it.

Result: 77-80, Loss

Dan’s Thoughts

After playing both of these games, I’m really satisfied with this list. I think it gives me a lot of fast board control options and a lot of hard hitting pieces, like any Drukhari Goodstuff list would. At Rob’s own recommendation, I am gonna buckle down and get my reps in with this list before Austin and resist the urge for tweaks.

With this solid list in mind, I need to hone in on my bad habits when I play. Namely, my brain loves to make big greedy plays to kill big things in spectacular ways. Time after time, even when these power plays work, I lose the game because I’m not playing a careful objective game. I need to stop thinking ‘How do I kill this big thing” and think ‘How do I get as many points as possible this battle round’. Since my brain craves Evil Space Elf violence, it’s gonna be a hard habit to kick.

Until then, I’m going to go be the most insufferable friend possible for a win with a huge asterisk next to it, and hope Rob doesn’t kick me in the teeth too hard next time we play…

 

Next Time: An RTT

I won’t be playing any games this weekend but next weekend I’ll be hitting up an RTT in Houston to snag another round of ITC points to pad out my score. And as always, I’ll be writing about that. I’ll also likely cover some more hobby progress in a future article – I’ve been sloooooowly working on my Thousand Sons. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop a note in the comments below or email me at contact@goonhammer.com.