TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2021, Part 8: Practicing Against Grey Knights and Trying out Crisis Protocol

Credit: Robert "TheChirurgeon" Jones

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to my meandering progress blog detailing my competitive play progress through the 2021 ITC season. It’s been a good year so far, with reasonably OK 4-2 and 3-3 finishes at the Lone Star Open and Goonhammer Open, respectively. This past weekend should have been the third in a series of larger events with Warzone Houston, but the event’s lackluster COVID policies pushed me, along with several other local friends who take vaccination status and masks seriously, to decide not to attend the event and ask for a refund. What we decided to do instead was have a small get-together at my place on Saturday, with multiple 40k tables set up, in order to get some practice for the upcoming GW event in New Orleans. Additionally, Alfredo “Bonds’ Ramirez was in town – he’d also planned to attend Warzone Houston for the Marvel Crisis Protocol event, only to also drop for similar reasons. So I had him and Condit over as well and we did some Crisis Protocol as well.

Let’s start with the part people are here to read: The 40k games. Last time around I was testing a new list, and doing so on a mission I normally struggle with. This week I wanted to do the same, trying out the new list on some missions I’d struggled with and at the same time getting in some additional games against the new Grey Knights, who represent another major challenge for me. Grey Knights don’t have a ton of different competitive builds but they’ve been crushing it on the competitive scene and they match up well against my Death Guard – able to bypass my toughness with mortal wounds, shut down my psykers, and zip around the table with teleporting units and Gate of Inifinity. Garrett, a local player in our group, has been building Grey Knights and was able to come over and play last weekend, so we got in a couple of games playing the Battle Lines mission.

 

The Mission: Battle Lines

In my last article I tested on Retrieval Mission. This is a mission with Hammer + Anvil deployment, but one that isn’t quite as bad for me – with 6 objectives I can still run Spread the Sickness and the mission objective, Minimise Losses, works well for me. That is not the case on battle lines, which drops the number of objectives to four, making Spread a real bad choice since it realistically can’t get me 12 points and it’s easy to “turn off” by putting an enemy unit within 3″ of an objective. It also puts the objectives far apart from each other at midfield – 28″ between them, and 12″ from the deployment zone – which is very bad for my slow army. It makes reaching them with Poxwalkers a problem, and the single rear objective is hard to protect, making it easy for fast opponents to shoot over there and contest it for a turn. I’ve tried several games with Engage on All Fronts now and it just doesn’t work out most of the time on these Hammer-and-Anvil missions, in part because trying to force my army across the table with large units is tougher than I’d like, making scoring 2 on turn 1 near impossible and usually means having units sitting by themselves deep in enemy territory. Similarly the mission objective – Vital Ground – isn’t great for me unless I think I can control both midfield objectives. Though that said, it’s easier than both Engage and Stranglehold for me, so may be something I look at in future games since getting 8 points is better than the shit I’m usually getting from weak games on this map.

Anyways this is probably my weakest mission and so it’s worth testing in today’s games. This is as big an uphill battle as you can get – the mission is bad for me, the opponent is not ideal, and the secondaries I can choose from aren’t ideal.

 

My Death Guard List

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Last time around, this was the version of the list I’d ended up with and tested against Swiftblade:

+++ 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 x10: 2x 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

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 +++

I removed most of my unit upgrades and swapped out the Daemon Prince for a Chaos Lord and a Heavy Blight Launcher Bloat drone. The bloat-drone gives me added speed and some real stopping power against marines and light vehicles, plus a second target for Flash Outbreak. I’ve also changed up the Plague Company to the Inexorable, which gives me the ability to stymie incoming charges against my PBCs and use Ferric Blight to improve my AP against key targets. The list also does To the Last a bit better now that I’m not throwing a Daemon Prince at my opponents to lose 5 VP every game. It tested well against Swiftblade, where during our game I was able to split the army a bit easier and the extra speed from the second Bloat-drone gave me a bit more responsiveness.

 

Garrett’s Grey Knights

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Grey Knights) [114 PL, -2CP, 1,997pts] ++

Brotherhood: Rapiers

  • HQ +

Brotherhood Chaplain [8 PL, -1CP, 140pts]: 1. Words of Power, 1: Gate of Infinity, 3: Unyielding Anvil, Foretelling of Locus, Shield of Humanity

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight [11 PL, -1CP, 235pts]: 2: Empyric Amplification, 2: Hammer of Righteousness, 4: First to the Fray, 4: Vortex of Doom, Dreadfist, Dreadknight teleporter, Exemplar of the Silver Host, Gatling Psilencer, Heavy Psycannon, Nemesis Greatsword, Servant of the Throne, Sigil of Exigence, Warlord

Kaldor Draigo [9 PL, 180pts]: 1: Gate of Infinity, 3: Sanctuary, 5: Warp Shaping

  • Troops +

Strike Squad [12 PL, 137pts] . 4x Grey Knight (Halberd): 4x Nemesis Force Halberd, 4x Storm Bolter
. Grey Knight (Psycannon): Psycannon
. Grey Knight Justicar
. . Nemesis Force Sword

Strike Squad [6 PL, 110pts] . 4x Grey Knight (Halberd): 4x Nemesis Force Halberd, 4x Storm Bolter
. Grey Knight Justicar
. . Nemesis Force Sword

Strike Squad [6 PL, 110pts] . 4x Grey Knight (Halberd): 4x Nemesis Force Halberd, 4x Storm Bolter
. Grey Knight Justicar
. . Nemesis Force Sword

  • Elites +

Purifier Squad [7 PL, 115pts] . Knight of the Flame
. . Nemesis Force Sword
. 4x Purifier (Sword): 4x Nemesis Force Sword, 4x Storm Bolter

Servitors [2 PL, 30pts] . 4x Servitor: 4x Servo-Arm

Venerable Dreadnought [8 PL, 150pts]: Multi-melta
. Dreadnought Combat Weapon
. . Storm Bolter

  • Fast Attack +

Interceptor Squad [14 PL, 240pts] . 7x Interceptor (Sword): 7x Nemesis Force Sword, 7x Storm Bolter
. 2x Interceptor (Warding Stave): 2x Nemesis Warding Stave, 2x Storm Bolter
. Interceptor Justicar
. . Nemesis Force Sword

Interceptor Squad [14 PL, 240pts] . 7x Interceptor (Halberd): 7x Nemesis Force Halberd, 7x Storm Bolter
. 2x Interceptor (Warding Stave): 2x Nemesis Warding Stave, 2x Storm Bolter
. Interceptor Justicar
. . Nemesis Force Halberd
Interceptor Squad [7 PL, 120pts] . 4x Interceptor (Falchions): 8x Nemesis Falchion, 4x Storm Bolter
. Interceptor Justicar
. . Nemesis Falchions

  • Heavy Support +

Purgation Squad [6 PL, 110pts] . 4x Purgator (Incinerator): 4x Incinerator
. Purgator Justicar
. . Nemesis Force Sword

  • Dedicated Transport +

Rhino [4 PL, 80pts]

++ Total: [114 PL, -2CP, 1,997pts] ++

Garrett: I’m about 5 games in to playing grey knights and some stuff it beginning to click for me. Since my last game I have simplified my list, only taking one detachment with a single brotherhood, and that has helped me start to nail down how the army works. I think in the long run I will expand outside of just rapiers, but for now they are a solid combat choice, and can turn their punching up to 11.

I am still feeling limited in my lists by what I can buy. I think a few dreadknights will round out the list, and while the single dreadnought is pretty decent, it requires too much support. The Purgation squad with flamers will probably be dropped too, but they are also putting a lot of work in for me with clearing screens. The good news about grey knights is they have very few flat bad options.

 

 

Game 1

We ended up playing two test games; the first one we played to completion; the second was more of a half-game “re-rack” to test out some alternative deployments and try things a second time with less uh, insane luck (more on that in a bit).

Battle Lines, game 1 vs. Grey Knights. We’re playing as though the center ruins are flat, and trying as best we can to mimic the GW terrain layout.

My Secondary Objectives

  • Grind Them Down – I think I can try and get more kills per turn if I play it safe, though GK can hit pretty hard. I’ll need to choose my shots carefully.
  • Retrieve Octarius Data – in lieu of Spread I’m going to try this. If I can get this done three times I’ll be in a good position.
  • Despoiled Ground – Because there are fewer objectives, this might not be a mistake?

Garrett hasn’t left me with may good options, given that he doesn’t have enough characters or vehicles for Assassionation or Bring it Down. My alternatives aren’t good, but I’m going to try some different things here and see how it goes. The Deathshrouds should make good T1 RoD units, and hopefully I can camp both midfield objectives at the game’s end to make Despoiled Ground work.

Garrett’s Secondary Objectives

  • Engage on All Fronts – No big surprise here; Garrett’s Grey Knights can zoom around the board at will, so this is easy for them.
  • Retrieve Octarius Data – Another good one, where a unit can drop onto any quarter late-game and score this.
  • Destroy the Daemon – With four daemon engines in my list, Garrett can score 12 points off this, and it’s a reward for doing something he already wants to do anyways.

This is immediately a visible secondary mismatch. My list is not good at scoring RoD and Despoiled Ground sucks every time I take it. Both of these secondaries are a mistake, though I wasn’t too far off on RoD – things just didn’t work out.

I get the first turn.

This is what I wanted, theoretically. Garrett’s got too much mobility to zip around the table if he’s going first and this helps me prevent him trapping me in my deployment zone. Also, he’s got a ton of power in reserves and it’s important I take out as much of his army as possible before that other third shows up, crippling his ability to mass effects.

My turn 1 movement. Decent positioning that amounted to little in the shooting phase.

Execution-wise, Turn 1 doesn’t go that well for me. I have a good opportunity to get into position with my army and I use the Deathshrouds to drop my first RoD while positioning my Rhino on the objective but in Dense cover to hopefully save it against the Venerable Dreadnought’s multi-melta shots. I’m far enough away it won’t get the +2 damage and that gives me good odds of surviving the volley. I likewise protect my HBL bloat drone by casting Miasma of Pestilence on it. I can’t really get line of sight on much from here, so I take the shots I can, hoping to destroy the Garrett’s Rhino full of Grey Knights. Unfortunately I whiff almost all of my shots and only end up putting 2 damage on it. I end the turn with 0 units destroyed, which ensures I’ll blank on Grind this turn. Not great, and Garrett follows things up on his turn by waddling his dreadnought forward and just dropping the HBL bloat drone with shooting while a squad of Interceptors plow forward and destroy the Rhino in melee. I lose two models in the process, but I’m able to pop them out on the objective and into dense cover that’s difficult terrain. They’re a bit stymied in their advance here however, and need to step back and consolidate position while the support behind them can help them hold the objective a turn, plus they need to kill those Interceptors. My goal is to push the deathshrouds up there, then have the plague marines walk over and drop Octarius data again on turn 3 or 4.

Stepping into the bottom of T2

On my turn I push the Deathshrouds up and use them and the Plague Marines to kill the Interceptors. This doesn’t go as smoothly as planned however and the Interceptors survive with 1 model between fights and manage to kill a Deathshroud. I put the remaining PMs onto the dense/difficult terrain while on the other side of the table my Blightlords take out a unit of Interceptors that flew too close to the sun. My PBCs finally manage to finish off that rhino, and in the process Garrett loses 5 models, taking them 3 and 2 from each squad. He blunders on the disembark however, and ends up off the objective trying to stay out of line of sight from my other PBC. The Dreadnought again survives thanks to some bad shooting from the PBCs but fortunatlely between the fleshmower and blightlord shooting I’m able to wipe out the large squad of Interceptors pushing forward at mid-table. This isn’t nearly as much as I needed to kill turn 1, and Garrett’s already scored 6 points for Engage and destory the Daemon, but I am blanking him on turn 2 primary, which is huge on this map. If I can hold him to 5 points next turn I’ll be in great position.

Grey Knights off the objective. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Unfortunately everything goes wrong from here. Bad PBC shooting is one thing; what happened next is something else entirely. The Grandmaster Dreadknight drops in more than 9″ away from the Plague Marines at mid-table along with another unit of Purifiers, while Garrett drops a Purgation Squad in my backfield and proceeds to use it to burn up a unit of Poxwalkers. The GMDK and purifiers drop 2 more plague marines in shooting, allowing me to prune back the unit a bit, then he preps for the charge. This is an 11″ charge for the GMDK and so I pop the Inexorable Stratagem Ferric Miasma to turn it into a 13″ charge. No big deal, apparently – The GMDK has +1 to its charge rolls and Garrett rolls a 12, just shoving his Dreadknight across the table where it will kill my plague marines, consolidate into my deathshrouds, take me off the objective, and then clear a path through my entire flank on the following two turns. The entire game hinged on what should have been an impossible roll and it kind of sucks – it’s hard to take away meaningful lessons from a game that hinged on such an improbable event. On top of that, my luck would only get worse from there – I made numerous attempts to use Ferric Miasma to stop charges that day and every single one of them failed in spectacular fashion.

Are you fuckin kidding me Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

After that demoralizing occurrence the game was basically over. My PBCs continued to whiff until the Dreadknight could kill them in melee, the Plaguecaster never got off another spell, and it won’t surprise you to find out that a unit of 10 poxwalkers can’t kill a Nemesis Dreadknight. On the other side of the table my Blightlords lived but weren’t able to affect the core of his army. I still ended up with 40 on primary but with no gas on that half of the table I was SOL. The charge also cost me Grind for another turn, turning a single roll of 12 into an immediate 8-VP loss for me and a 15-point swing overall. I’d end up dropping one more Octarius data and killing more of Garrett’s units but from there he slowly ground out the rest of my army, leading to an 83-61 loss on my end.

Result: 61-83, Loss

Thoughts on the Game

Games like this in practice are terrible. On the one hand sure, I can get some practice being in the situation of “being completely screwed” but on the other hand, I can’t really plan around the idea that opponents are just gonna make 13″ charges. I learned a valuable lesson about what Grey Knights can do that’s helpful, but ultimately I’m also stuck looking at the stark reality that without 15 points from the Abhor the Witch secondary – which I’d have easily scored – I’m going to be stuck playing perfect games against Grey Knights if I want even a chance at winning. Garrett’s a good opponent, and he’s improving, but his list isn’t even the “good” version of Grey Knights and it’s becoming more and more clear to me that if I play either Grey Knights or Thousand Sons at New Orleans with this list, I’m screwed.

Garrett: This game I made some really dumb mistakes, like not getting out on to the primary, but I felt that it was all going pretty well. However, this particular game swung hard on very good shooting phase followed by a 12″ charge by the grandmaster dreadknight both on Rob’s weaker, non Blightlord flank, and at that point it just sort of tipped. Without that I think it would have been a much closer game, and I don’t know if I could have recovered from my early mistakes on primary.

All in all, a super fun game. Had some crazy luck across the entire day, which of course you can never bank on, so hard to say where I would have landed without that. GK are a blast to play though, and I look forward to one day being able to purchase the models I need to round it out.

 

Game 2: Battle Lines, Again

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

We still had some time before Garrett had to leave so we re-racked on my other table for the same mission and set-up, with a plan to play as many turns as possible until Garrett had to leave and I had to fire up the grill to cook some dinner for people. This time I won the roll-off and decided to reverse strategy a bit on turn 1, pushing my Blightlords up from the shorter table side (thanks to terrain placement), where they could advance turn 1 and get to the objective. I decided that 6-9 points on Spread was as good as anything I was getting on RoD so this time I went with To the Last, Engage on All Fronts, and Spread the Sickness. Garrett took the same objectives as before.

I played things a little more conservative on turn 1 this time, got some OK shooting, and advanced my Blightlords. To his credit, Garrett hid much better this time around, denying me most shooting. I held back a bit to stop deep strikers, and managed to block Garrett out on turns 1 and 2. My biggest mistake would occur on the bottom of Turn 1; Garrett blew up my Rhino and I forgot about his double-blessed 10-man Interceptor Squad being more dangerous than they looked; I put my disembarking PMs in front of the Rhino instead of behind, and as a result Garrett was able to easily make the 10″ charge they needed to reach my Plague Marines despite, again, using Ferric Miasma to try and keep them from reaching. Cool!

Bottom of Turn 1 movement Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Despite that early gaff – which really hurt and cost me 5 points – I was still in an OK position, though luck was also not on my side here – the Interceptors would manage to survive an insane number of mortal wounds and wounds from the Deathshrouds and kill them in return before i could remove them – but I still had some reasonable coverage on the table. Of course, Garrett continued to just roll insane. On the top of turn 2 I scored two casts of 11 in a row with my Plaguecaster – once for Miasma on the Fleshmower, and once for Smite on the Dreadknight – only to watch Garrett deny fucking both of them by rolling a 12 and an 11, respectively. At that point it was almost time to start cooking anyways so I told him to get the fuck out of my house, which he agreed “was a fair and reasonable response.”

On the whole I was doing ok this game – I’d scored 15 on primary so far to Garrett’s likely 10 going into turn 3, plus I had 4 points for Engage and two objectives on spread – but it wasn’t a great position for me. Again, hard to tell if this is just how I should expect things to go or if this is insanely bad luck, but it’s not giving me a good feeling about my matchups against two armies that are rapidly becoming more common.

 

What to Do About This List

So that begs the question: What the hell do I do about this? The most logical solution here is to remove the Plaguecaster and open myself up to scoring Abhor, which is a free 15 points against Grey Knights and Thousand Sons. That’d be very solid to have, but it comes with one massive problem, which is that the Death Guard cannot build a Battalion Detachment without a psyker. The Lord of the Deathguard rule means I can’t do this without dropping to a Patrol, and I currently have more than 2 Elites choices, so in order to make this work I’d need to take another Patrol detachment, costing me 2 more CP that I don’t really have to spend. And if I’m going that route, why force myself to have 3 Troops choices? I’d be better off dropping the Poxwalkers and taking a second unit of Plague Marines at that point, or dropping the Plague Marines entirely and adding more Deathshrouds. But then all of that radically changes a list I’ve become very comfortable with in ways I’m not so comfortable playing. And if there’s one thing I say over and over, it’s that “you’re better off playing a bad list you are familiar with than a good list you don’t know.” So for me New Orleans is going to be a “dance with the one who brung ya” type affair.

That said, there’s one big change I can make here, and that’s to split the unit of Plague Marines into two units of five models. Doing this has a downside – it makes Trench Fighters much less deadly and means I don’t have a second 2-flail unit, but it gives me a ton of upsides:

  • Gives me two units that can do actions like RoD and Raise the Banners
  • Lets me further split up the army’s forces as needed
  • Gives me a second champion free
  • Gives me more flexibility with the Rhino and the Foetid Virion
  • Changes the To the Last units to be both PBCs and the Blightlords, which is even better from a “difficult to kill” standpoint

These are significant upsides, and at the end of the day, worth the small downside of less efficiency against having one large unit. Additionally, I’m going to remove the Plague Skull – it’s neat, but I’m just not getting enough use out of it when people choose to ignore the Blightlords. I can trade it out for the Tollkeeper relic on the Tallyman, which will give me extra hits on unmodified rolls of 6 to hit, or the Putrid Periapt, which will give me an extra power on the Plaguecaster – Miasma just isn’t working enough for me, and one the times where I go second it isn’t working for me at all, so I’m going to swap it out for Gift of Plagues, which will give me a nastier offensive punch, especially when combined with the Chaos Lord’s Ferric Blight. Ultimately the Skull may be too good to remove, and the Tollkeeper isn’t going to do as much for me if I’m not taking Volkite Contemptors, so I’ll leave it in.

+++ 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 +++

I could swap some more things here but I like where this is at. Now let’s see how it goes.

 

Also: I Played Some Crisis Protocol

Playing the “Separation Anxiety” event mission

In addition to my practice games of 40k, I played a few games of Crisis Protocol, and learned the rules there. It’s a very fun game, and you can tell that the new Kill Team owes a lot of its inspiration and rules to Crisis Protocol. I spent most of the week painting and assembling terrain and models for us to have ready, and we ended up playing quite a bit on different scenarios and with different matchups. In particular I’ve been working on playing the foes of Spider-Man – mostly because I wanted to play with Venom and Carnage. Carnage is an absolute blender on the tabletop, and any activation in which he can double-attack is likely to end with someone getting knocked out. Venom on the other hand is more of a bruiser but also very deadly, and his ability to hit back every time he’s attacked means he can do some nasty tricks hanging around your more vulnerable models. I rounded out my team with Mysterio and either Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus, depending on the mission.

Crystal, Venom, and Carnage take on the Hulk. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

I ended up playing four games: Two one-on-one against Garrett (I won both), an event 2v1 with Garrett against Alfredo’s Hulk that we lost, and a four player free-for-all Separation Anxiety event that I ended up winning. All said I had a blast and I’m looking forward to playing more games of Crisis Protocol in the future. There are a ton of great models in that range (though Carnage is a bit hateful to assemble and paint and transport), and the game itself is both very fun and tactically deep. Plus the terrain is great and I love those kits.

 

Next Time: New Orleans

That wraps up my hand-wringing for this week’s episode. This weekend is the Games Workshop New Orleans event and I’ll follow that up with a full write-up next week, hopefully talking about a 4-2 finish but I’ll be happy with another 3-3 if I’m honest. Hopefully I can get some decent match-ups and just average luck. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.