TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2022, Part 22: Prep for Kansas City

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to the log of my ongoing Warhammer 40,000 journey through 2022. Last time around I was taking it a bit easier following Warzone Houston and mostly thinking about the rest of my year, competitively speaking. Over the past three weeks I’ve been mostly taking it easy and working on models for the Narrative Finale Event in Albuquerque. Well, kind of – after chilling out for a few weeks that included a week of business travel, I decided to queue up some more practice games and muster the energy for one last real try.

Prepping for the GW Open Kansas City

I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader: An entire year of competitive play with zero event wins to show for it have weighed on me. Yes, over the last two years I’ve gone from being a 2-4 player (see: NOVA 2019) to being reliably a 4-2 player at 6-round events, and that feels pretty good – my best moment is likely still going 6-2 and winning my bracket with Death Guard at the New Orleans Open last year. But I’m also interested in cracking 5-1 at least once, and that means putting in a bit more work.

Before I could do any meaningful study however I had to wait to see what the new Q4 Balance Dataslate held. And unfortunately for me, it was basically a wet fart, delivering minor nerfs to Tyranids and Harlequins and leaving Necrons and Sisters untouched. The good news is nothing about my list changed.

So I decided it was time to take some extra steps to try and improve. I was going to need some coaching. Fortunately, we have a pretty solid relationship with the folks over at Art of War and John Lennon has been asking me for a custom avatar for a while. This seemed like a good opportunity, so I decided to offer him a deal:

Taking a big gamble assuming John actually wants Harpster back, tbh

That’s right, my goal is to crack the top 16 at the KC event, and that likely means going 4-0 in my first four games. If I can do that, I like my odds of getting Best Overall. My army isn’t quite as good as some of the prettiest ones I’ve seen win, but then again some of those guys have already won best overall this year so I like my odds of snagging the prize. I don’t even know if I want it – I’d rather play in the narrative – but it’d be cool to win.

John Lennon’s Coaching Advice

John agreed to hop on a phone call with me on Saturday, after two of the practice games I’m going to talk about later, but before my third and final practice game. I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to coaching – not because I don’t think it can be helpful but because I’m not sure how much it can help me, specifically. The reality is that I’ll have an easier time taking the next step if I switch to a better army. But I’m open to hearing some advice and I want help taking on Tyranids, so we talk for a bit. I’m not going to relay everything – it’s not all general info and also, this is his business – but I’m going to share a few key notes.

John and I talk for about an hour about the first four missions at KC and what I need to do on those. He’s not an expert on Thousand Sons by any stretch but he’s a great player and he knows Tyranids and Sisters, my two biggest concerns. We discuss my list and what it needs, and John suggests either going back to War Dogs for a long range threat or swapping out the Chaos Spawn for a Rhino to give me some extra mobility and the ability to be a little more aggressive in deployment. I can use the Rhino as a threat pinata and use it for move blocking and eating overwatch from more dangerous units like Flamers of Tzeentch.

John gives me some advice on Tyranids – things to be aware of and watch for. He thinks that post-nerf I’m less likely to come across two harpy lists and more likely to go up against Ravener-heavy harpy lists that try to use speed to control the board and efficient statlines to turn the tide. Against these lists I’ll need to hang back and fortify my objectives and take advantage of having better secondaries.

This is, generally, the plan I need in most games – I need to play more conservatively, hang back, and let my secondaries do the work unless I’m up against one of the two armies that does it better – Sisters and Necrons. Most games I’ll be on Raise the Banners, Psychic Interrogation, and Wrath of Magnus if they have a psyker, and if they don’t my options will either be a kill secondary or, against Sisters, Grind Them Down.

When it comes to general advice, John suggests that I start each turn by asking myself: “What will my opponent score if I do nothing?” and figuring out what I can do about that and what it will cost me, then asking “What will I score if I do nothing?” and answering the same questions. This is pretty great advice for planning out turns, and I think a better way of thinking about things than “how can I have a 20-point turn?”

On the whole, I felt a lot better after talking to John and it was good advice. I tweak my list a bit by adding a Rhino – the Spawn rarely did much for me – and I think I’m in a good place for the event. I make some final tweaks to the list, play a practice game the following Sunday, and I like where I’m at.

If you’re interested in getting similar coaching advice or just joining another cool community, consider heading over to The Art of War and joining theirs as well. They’re business associates of ours, so I’m going to plug them here with a link. If you’re looking for help building lists and advice on winning games beyond our written content, it’s worth checking them out.


My List For KC

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

After making tweaks, this is what I ended up with for my Kansas City list:

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [106 PL, 4CP, 21 Cabal Points, 2,000pts] ++

Cults of the Legion: Cult of Duplicity

+ No Force Org Slot [7 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 115pts] +

Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [7 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 115pts]: 11. Gaze of Hate, 31. Empyric Guidance, Force stave, Inferno combi-bolter, Loyal Thrall [1 PL, 10pts]

+ HQ [20 PL, -2CP, 8 Cabal Points, 370pts] +

Ahriman [9 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 180pts]: 11. Tzeentch’s Firestorm, 12. Twist of Fate, 21. Presage, Disc of Tzeentch [1 PL, 20pts]

Exalted Sorcerer [6 PL, -1CP, 3 Cabal Points, 100pts]: 12. Glamour of Tzeentch, 13. Doombolt, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Master Misinformator, Stratagem: Warlord Trait [-1CP], Warlord

Infernal Master [5 PL, -1CP, 2 Cabal Points, 90pts]: 31. Empyric Guidance, 5. Glimpse of Eternity, 6. Malefic Maelstrom, Stratagem: Relic [-1CP], Umbralefic Crystal

+ Troops [30 PL, 8 Cabal Points, 490pts] +

Rubric Marines [12 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 165pts]: Icon of Flame [1 Cabal Points]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 21pts]: 32. Pyric Flux, Warpflame pistol
. 6x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer [144pts]: 6x Warpflamer [18pts]

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 105pts]: Icon of Flame [1 Cabal Points]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 21pts]: 21. Temporal Manipulation, Warpflame pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun [84pts]: 4x Inferno boltgun

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 110pts]: Icon of Flame [1 Cabal Points]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 21pts]: 31. Empyric Guidance, Warpflame pistol
. 3x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun [63pts]: 3x Inferno boltgun
. Rubric Marine w/ soulreaper cannon [26pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 110pts]: Icon of Flame [1 Cabal Points]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 21pts]: 22. Weaver of Fates, Warpflame pistol
. 3x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun [63pts]: 3x Inferno boltgun
. Rubric Marine w/ soulreaper cannon [26pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]

+ Elites [45 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 945pts] +

Scarab Occult Terminators [21 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 445pts]: 2x Hellfyre missile rack [20pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer [1 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 55pts]: 23. Temporal Surge, Ardent Automata [1 PL, 15pts], Inferno combi-bolter
. 7x Terminator [280pts]: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]

Scarab Occult Terminators [20 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 430pts]: 2x Hellfyre missile rack [20pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 40pts]: 23. Temporal Surge, Inferno combi-bolter
. 7x Terminator [280pts]: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]

Tzaangor Shaman [4 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 70pts]: 31. Cacodaemonic Curse

+ Dedicated Transport [4 PL, 80pts] +

Chaos Rhino [4 PL, 80pts]


The Spawn > Rhino swap was easy; the spawn are fast but little else and have been disappointing in most of my games, so swapping them out wasn’t a tough call. I went back and forth for a while on whether I wanted to keep both the Tzaangor Shaman and the Terminator Sorcerer but in the end decided I liked the shaman’s speed and low cost and the redundancy this gave me for Psychic Interrogation. I gave every aspiring sorcerer a warpflame pistol, as those are free and significantly better than inferno bolt pistols. Finally I moved some things around, putting Empiric Guidance on two units and the Umbralefic Crystal back on the Infernal Master – I didn’t like how it felt to have the crystal on the Terminator Sorcerer and I wanted to be able to use Malefic Maelstrom and teleport a unit of Warpflamers if that was the play, and having the ability to pump them up to S6 is an added bonus. I decided I wanted an extra cast of Empiric Guidance as well; it’s too useful a spell to have early on and the Terminator Sorcerer usually isn’t casting Gaze of Hate early on.


The Practice Games

I played three practice games following the release of the Q4 balance dataslate – two on the Thursday immediately following, and one after my coaching call with John. There were important things to learn in each of these as well as just shaking off some of the cobwebs and getting in some practice on the first few missions of KC. I won’t go into full detail here but I will talk about what went well/didn’t in each game and what I learned.

Game 1: vs. T’s Chaos Daemons

Be’lakor lines up with his forces

First up is my buddy T, who was previously on Chaos Knights and has risen through our local competitive ranks in a flash, and he had a solid showing at the most recent Houston GT (Dragon’s Lair) just a week prior. I haven’t played against pure daemons yet so it was good timing to test out what I was bringing. Thousand Sons should match into him well – my ability to do mortal wounds is good against daemon saves and I’ve got a much stronger secondary game since Wrath of Magnus will be live. He can keep me off 15 if he’s diligent, but even at 12-13 it’s a solid pick.

The Mission: Tide of Conviction

How it Went: I make an early game point of taking one of T’s units of daemonettes off the table with a teleporting warpflamer unit and get things off to a decent start but I make a huge mistake when I get too aggressive too early and move to mid-table. This gives T the positioning he needs to charge the shit out of me on turn 2, and the results are pretty devastating – between flamers and charges I lose an entire Scarab unit and that’s pretty much game. I should have just kept my cool, held back, and forced him to come to me as I scored banners, Wrath, and Interrogate and then counter-charged.

Not a good situation at all

My impatience costs me dearly as Be’lakor slides forward and uses Locus to bring in a bunch of bloodletters. They wipe out the other Scarab unit and that’s pretty much all she wrote for this game. T mops up from here and I just don’t have the ability to hit back where I need it. I can take out a unit of Flamers and a War Dog and Be’lakor falls but the rest is too much.

Game 2: vs. Dan’s Creations of Bile

Next up is a practice game against Dan, my longtime sparring partner. Having come fresh off my lesson against T, I’m playing more cautiously this time – Creations of Bile don’t have a great secondary game, even if it’s better than most CSM. I take Wrath, Banners, and Interrogation.

The Mission: Recover the Relics

How it Went: Much better. This time I hold back, deploying well back from the edge of my deployment zone. I’ve got no interest in fighting CoB and can afford to let them run to me and take wounds in the process as I score points and get ahead on scoring. This works well the first two turns, and I manage to wipe a unit of possessed with warpflamer overwatch while the terminators moved up that side of the table. By the time Dan actually reached my lines it was too late – his Terminators and Abaddon put in work but I was way ahead on secondary. It’s recover the relics so we finish 45-40 on primary in my favor but I snag 15 each for Interrogation and Wrath while getting 13 on Banners.

Final score: 99-72

Game 3: vs. Garrett’s Grey Knights

It’s been a long time since I’ve played against Garrett, whose Grey Knights wrecked my Death Guard on three separate occasions. This time around I like my odds more, as even though Grey Knights can cause issues for Thousand Sons their secondary game sucks. We’re on Abandoned Sanctuaries for this game, which stinks but I’ve gotta practice it for the GW event. I try taking Burn Empires as my third secondary, though I don’t like the pick very much. After that I take No Prisoners and Psychic Interrogation.

The Mission: Abandoned Sanctuaries

How it Went: This was a weird game. I went second, which was preferable here with Burn Empires, but the secondary didn’t end up working out well. Neither of us rolled more than a couple of denies all game, and while Garrett whiffed almost all of his 5+++ rolls to shrug mortals I also mostly rolled 1s for my smites and other psychic powers so while he wasn’t ignoring anything, he wasn’t taking many mortals, either.

What ended up killing Garrett were secondary objectives. Grey Knights don’t really have a stellar set and he ended up with Banners (horrible on sanctuaries), Purifying Ritual, and Engage on All Fronts. I took Psychic Interrogation, No Prisoners, and to try something new, Burn Empires. No Prisoners worked out fine – I ended up maxing it – but likely was still worse than Wrath of Magnus, given most turns I could have still gotten 3 points by dumping out lots of blessings and the witchfire/malediction points were basically free anyways. Burn Empires was interesting; going second it’s pretty neat since you can action a bunch with it on the final turn and score when the game ends but going first it’s not good and by game’s end I only had two non-character INFANTRY units left to do the action.

Garrett’s Paladins string out across two objectives late-game

My biggest challenge this game are the Paladins, who can out-hit my Scarabs pound-for-pound and still shrug off some of the mortals, but by the time they’re really hitting me I’ve killed all of Garrett’s Troops and his teleporting goobers. I manage to get ahead on primary a little but I clean him out on Secondary even with only 8 on Burn Empires thanks to going second.


With my Thousand Sons done and ready to go to KC I’ve turned my attention to the Black Legion army I’m bringing to the Narrative Finale in Albuquerque. Something I mentioned last time is that I’m planning to do one of each god-aligned unit for the army, meaning one unit each of Berserkers, Rubric Marines, Noise Marines, and Plague Marines for the army. And in order to save time and because I have them already, I’m going to use my Ezekarion models as the squad champions. They look good anyways and it adds some great character to the army.

Since my last article I’ve finished the squad of Rubrics with Warpflamers:

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

I’m very very happy with them, including the flame effects on the Icon.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Next up are the plague marines, and I’ve already got two of those done. Here are some WIP of them. Plague Marines look surprisingly good in black armor, which is something I knew but hadn’t tried myself.

credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Next Time: The Kansas City Open

That’s it for this episode. On Friday I start the GW US Open in Kansas City. My goal is to make the top 16 but, failing that, go 3-1 and then win the 3-1 bracket, which seems harder now that I think about it. Look, I’ve got lots of fairly disappointing options to choose from. Anyways, wish me luck.

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