TheChirurgeon’s Road Through 2023, Part 13: Return to Tacoma (Day 1)

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to my ongoing chronicle of misadventures through competitive Warhammer 40,000. Last time around I was busy getting ready for 10th edition games at the GW US Open Tacoma event – playing practice games, painting models, figuring out accommodations. So let’s run through the event and the games. But first:

Super Last-Minute Hobby Prep

really want to win Best Overall at one of these fuckin events. Besides just being a more realistic goal for me given my painting and play ability, it’s also the cooler award in my opinion – more representative of a total level of hobby achievement than just winning all your games. And right now, with my Thousand Sons, I’ve never had a better combination of “good army” and “well painted” to compete with.

Of course, there are challenges to that. The first being that I also want to win Best Painted and I know that my fellow Goonhammer authors Jack Hunter and Campbell McLaughlin will be at the event and they are extremely good painters. I love them, and I want them to do well, but also I hate them because there’s a very real chance I will lose on paint score to both of them. That said, I have some options – I can literally always add more paint to some of these models, and so during the two weeks prior to the I spend my time adding more OSL, adding freehand to models (shoulderpads, and freehand on my rhino), adding a second, lighter color to edge highlights to make them stand out, cleaning up the trim on models, and so on.

Of course this plan would get completely destroyed on Monday night when I realized I’d done my model math wrong and still needed to paint four Rubrics, including two I’d need to assemble. That is not good, and limits my ability to do all the touch-up work I want. That said, I’m able to knock out a few key projects:

  • Add freehand to the Rhino to make it a little less plain
  • Add OSL to Magnus to make him stand out and fit in visually a bit better with the rest of the army
  • Paint 3 warpflamer Rubrics
  • Paint 4 bolter Rubrics
  • Update the Exalted Sorcerer with better OSL
  • Paint symbols of Tzeentch on every blank shoulder pad for models in the army
  • Fix all of the bases where the Agrellan Earth chunks have come off

I still have some touch-up work to do, and there’s quite a bit of work I can do past this, but I run out of time right as I finish my final bolter Rubric. On the whole I’m happy with the army and it looks great. I don’t know if it’s great enough to beat Campbell and Jack but I like my odds a lot better. And I’m at least a little OK with the idea that there’s still more I can do to improve it – worth taking another pass before Warzone Houston, at the very least.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

And the best part is that the entire thing fits into a small Citadel minis case, making it incredibly easy to transport. I can put this case into a carry-on rollerbag and then stuff the rest with clothes and still have my backpack and laptop as my under-the-seat bag. That’s a huge boon because checking bags sucks shit and I don’t want to do it.

The Journey

The flight to Tacoma runs about four and a half hours and while my flight isn’t delayed it’s also pretty uncomfortable – following the traditions of 2023 and reducing flights for no reason it’s completely packed and I don’t get the upgrade to first I was hoping for. It’s not terrible but I’m glad to get off it and take the half-hour ride to Tacoma from SeaTac. It’s pleasantly cool in Tacoma in the evenings – cooling down to 70ish degrees is a welcome change from Houston’s 90-degrees-at-midnight humidity.

Once I’m in I grab the roomkey Campbell left for me and head over to another local hotel where GW’s hosting a small influencer/community shindig. Mostly a chance to hang out and grab drinks and talk to the TOs and the folks running the event, but also a great spot to meet up with the rest of the Goonhammer crew. We have a solid bunch of people who don’t normally interact – Liam “Corrode” Royle and James “One_Wing” Grover are here as they had travel vouchers they had to use. Campbell McLaughlin, Jack Hunter, and Andrew “Pendulin” Haywood are all pretty local, and they’re here too. Plus we have more than a few Patrons in the area who will be hanging out and some GH contributors like Jeremy Atkinson and Ben Jurek. It’s a good group of people to be hanging out with and they’re the primary reason I’m going – all the games are just a bonus.

Day 1: Friday

Of course, I sleep like shit. I won’t get a good night of sleep the entire event, getting to bed a little to late and waking up multiple times most nights and dealing with jet lag. Thursday night is the worst of these nights, and I think I get maybe 4 hours of sleep. That’s OK, though – I’m ready to play some fucking Warhammer. Campbell and I drop off our stuff, grab breakfast, do check in, and wait for the event to start.

The hall itself is pretty full, but nowhere near as loud and crowded as it will be on Saturday. That’s because only the 40k GT is running on Friday – Age of Sigmar and the Narrative won’t start until Saturday. There are a few bells and whistles like the Terminator statue they rolled out at Warhammer Fest, plus the GW store.

GW events are weird. They’re not really 8-round events but rather a pair of connected 4-round events where the first event serves as a qualifier to sort you into the second. Here’s how it works:

  • During the first four rounds you are paired based on win paths > random, through various opponents.
  • At the end of round 4 they do a top cut of 16 players and then put everyone else into a bracket of players with similar records, so after the top cut you’ll have a 3-1 bracket, a 2-2 bracket, a 1-3 bracket, and an 0-4 bracket. Tiebreakers for the top cut are done with Opponent Game Win Percentage (OGW).
  • The tournament winner – Best General – is the player who goes 4-0 in that top cut bracket.
  • The Best Overall player is the player in the top bracket who has the best combined paint/comp score. It may be possible for someone outside the top cut to get it, but I haven’t seen it happen yet. EDIT: Apparently a few events have had players start 3-1, get into the second bracket, then win out and end up with Best Overall. So it’s possible if you start off strong enough.
  • Each bracket has its own winners – if you go 4-0 in your bracket, you get a prize. Basically think of the first four rounds as selecting you into a 4-round RTT with players roughly on your level.
  • On a related note, you can’t finish above your bracket. So if you end up in the 2-2 bracket and end up going 6-2, you’ll still finish below someone who started 3-1, made that bracket, and then ended up 3-5.

One thing to note is that, because of the size of this event, GW introduced a s h a d o w  r o u n d. This is less interesting than it sounds – basically, because they had so many players in the Tacoma 40k event, they did a 32-player top cut. But you can’t resolve 32 players to a single undefeated in four rounds, so they added an extra “shadow” round after round 6 to pare down to the final 4. This round isn’t reflected in Best Coast Pairings and it runs from like 8pm to 11pm on Saturday night. As much as I want Best Overall, I want no part in the cursed Shadow Round.

Alright, with the format notes out of the way, let’s talk about the games.


Round 1: vs. Ben Williams, Warhound Guy

Ben’s entire army. King shit

Every event has one of these guys – some weird yabbo who brings a warhound titan or some other bonkers Forge World shit with a plan of going 0-8 but being the talk of the town. And I’ll admit, as soon as I saw Ben’s list, I figured that 1. I’d have an easy win, and 2. Ben was going to go 0-8 and tank my OGW scoring.

But here’s the thing: Ben is a national treasure and pretty good at the game.

The Mission: L (Scorched Earth, Chilling Rain, Dawn of War)


Ben’s list is very simple: He’s running a Warhound Titan, three Vindicators (with hunter-killer missiles), a squad of tactical marines, and a space marine captain with a power fist. It’s got some solid anti-tank firepower but very little ability to hold multiple objectives and poor mobility.

The Plan

The warhound can see the whole table thanks to TOWERING, so I want to go first and hit it with Magnus and a bunch of shooting. That said, my big goal is to just try and keep it occupied while I score other objectives and win on primary/secondary. If I go second there’s a good chance I lose Magnus but I think I can win without him.

Magnus stares down the Warhound

The Game

I lose the roll-off for first turn and almost have a little panic attack: What if Magnus dies here and I lose this game to the goddamn Warhound? I might literally die of shame. Then I calmed down a bit and got to it. Ben popped off some shots on Magnus and dropped him to 8 wounds, allowing Magnus to live – I had him on -1 damage and I zero’d out one of his unsaved wounds to prevent a big hit. On my turn I pressed forward and did about 20 wounds to the Warhound… leaving it with 20 wounds. This thing was a real bastard to kill. Magnus died the next turn but I was able to pull the rest of the wounds off the Warhound with a number of Doombolts and shooting. It then exploded and did 9 wounds to the Vindicator next to it. After that I was able to mop up and we finished early.

Mopping up after the Warhound died

The Result

Things I Learned(?)

Ben and I talked for a bit after the game about strategy. After the game I have come to the conclusion that warhound lists can be surprisingly viable. Ben mentioned that if he really wanted to be bastard, his pre-nerf list was 30 desolators and a warhound, plus characters, which sounds incredibly brutal. Neat as the vindicators are, they’re the boat anchor here – he needs cheaper options and his list could really benefit from 1-2 Assassins to disrupt opponents and score action secondaries. On that topic, I suggest to Ben that because many objective scondaries aren’t ever going to be things he can score, he should look at just taking Bring it Down and Assassination every game as fixed so he can just score for killing things and try and win on primary.

On my end I didn’t learn a ton, but there’d be lots to learn from later games. As far as first games go, this is the best you can hope for: A relatively chill game against a great opponent that doesn’t exhaustively test your rules knowledge of a new edition. Good stuff.


Interlude: Lunch

Getting food in Tacoma around the event is kind of a big hassle. Unlike last time, when the event ran into Mother’s Day Weekend, this time it’s the middle of the summer and there are multiple Business Conventions in town, plus a few weddings at the Marriott. This means every restaurant nearby is booked up and packed. We end up walking a few blocks to a nearby Thai/Asian Fusion joint and I grab some crispy chicken and rice. It takes forever but it tastes good. I wolf it down and then pairings go up. I’m up against Necrons round 2 and immediately turn to my teammate, Wings, and ask him how to beat them.


Round 2: vs. Nicholas Fromme’s Necrons

Deployment vs. Nick

The Mission: B – (Priority Targets, Hidden Supplies, Search and Destroy)

Nicholas' List - Click to Expand

Awakened Dynasty
Strike Force (2000 Points)


C’tan Shard of the Void Dragon (270 Points)
• 1x Canoptek tail blades
1x Spear of the Void Dragon
1x Voltaic storm

Lord (65 Points)
• 1x Lord’s blade
1x Resurrection Orb

Lord (65 Points)
• 1x Lord’s blade
1x Resurrection Orb

Orikan the Diviner (80 Points)
• 1x Staff of Tomorrow

Overlord (110 Points)
• 1x Resurrection Orb
1x Voidscythe
• Enhancements: Hypermaterial Ablator

Technomancer (60 Points)
• 1x Canoptek Cloak
1x Staff of light

Technomancer (60 Points)
• Warlord
• 1x Canoptek Cloak
1x Staff of light


Necron Warriors (240 Points)
• 20x Close combat weapon
20x Gauss reaper


Ghost Ark (125 Points)
• 1x Armoured bulk
2x Gauss flayer array


Canoptek Reanimator (95 Points)
• 2x Atomiser beam
1x Reanimator’s claws

Cryptothralls (40 Points)
• 2x Scouring eye
2x Scythed limbs

Deathmarks (65 Points)
• 5x Close combat weapon
5x Synaptic disintegrator

Flayed Ones (70 Points)
• 5x Flayer claws

Lokhust Heavy Destroyers (135 Points)
• 3x Close combat weapon
3x Enmitic exterminator

Lokhust Heavy Destroyers (135 Points)
• 3x Close combat weapon
3x Enmitic exterminator

Lychguard (190 Points)
• 10x Dispersion Shield
10x Hyperphase sword

Lychguard (190 Points)
• 10x Dispersion Shield
10x Hyperphase sword

Wings tells me that Nick’s got a decent list – close to the meta pick – but it’s missing a few key pieces. Specifically, he’s not running the Gauss heavy destroyers, nor any doomsday arks. That means that, outside of Orikan – who can use a once-per-game ability to reliably drop about 8-12 mortal wounds in a single Fight phase – he doesn’t have anything which can really hurt Magnus. This means I can drop Magnus on the middle of the table and bully him around as long as I can keep away from Orikan. He also doesn’t have a Tomb Spyder, and that means no invuln against my psychic attacks.

The Plan

Wings’ advice is just to get aggressive at midtable with Magnu and watch out for Orikan. And that’s what I intend to do. The Warrior blob is also a problem – the ability to reanimate big chunks of it after every attack make it hard to assault, so my general plan is to nibble around the edges and disable the Lychguard with a mix of Doombolts and shooting.

The Game

My turn 1, teleporting the Terminators north while the Rubrics wipe out the Flayed Ones.

I win the roll-off and pull No Prisoners and A Tempting Target turn 1. Nick nominates the objective in the upper left corner, and I use the opportunity to teleport my Terminators up that way. They capture the objective and then pick up 7 Lychguard, forcing Nick to fall back on that front the following turn and focus on healing up his squad instead of pushing them forward. Meanwhile on the southern flank I have the movement to push a unit of bolter marines forward out of the rhino and use the Psychic attack on the Infernal Master to delete his unit of Flayed Ones for a quick 2 on No Prisoners. I’m basically trapping him in here.

The Rubrics focus their energy on the Lychguard, but that leaves the Void Dragon to deal with

I sweep Ahriman and his rubrics around that way while Magnus moves around the top to support the Scarabs as they double-move across the top half of the board. I pick up his other unit of Lychguard with warpflamers and finish off the former with my Scarabs. The Void Dragon puts up a bit of a stand at midtable but goes down the following turn to a number of Doombolts while I use the rhino to charge and bully the Lokhust destroyers. I end up mostly ignoring his warrior blob, which does some very annoying renaimation to steal the middle objective from me, but I’ve eliminated the support for it and basically have free reign over the rest of the table.

The rubrics on mid get outmaneuvered by reanimating Warriors

I’ll end up maxing my score on this one – Nicholas does his best to fight his way out but can’t really recover from my alpha strike penning him in and the Overwatch that followed.

The Result

Things I Learned

A few key lessons here to take away from the game, and between rounds I talk to “Warboss” Ben Jurek a bit more about playing the faction and how to get the most out of them. So here are a few things I learn between the game and talking to him:

  • Ignoring the warrior blob was the right call. Orikan never went off and while they were a pain, they weren’t ever a threat. 
  • That said, the reanimation was a problem – it was easy to roll poorly and do negative wounds to a unit (especially the big unit of warriors) and that could mean shooting 1-2 warriors and losing the objective as 4 more appeared and took it away.
  • Big note here: Warriors can’t reanimate after a Doombolt, as it’s an ability, not an attack. Huge tool for Thousand Sons.
  • I needed to be slightly more aggressive on the Scarab teleport. I put them a little too far back from the Lychguard, which was a safer play but ultimately meant they didn’t kill the unit right away and also had to walk further to be relevant. I think if I push them forward more and put a few models within 12″ I could have gotten the entire unit.
  • I should stop taking Devastating Wounds all the time with the army. Yes, it’s good, but when you’re dropping saves all the time on your targets Sustained hits is a better play, since each extra hit can functionally be a mortal wound if your target doesn’t have an invulnerable save. Plus a lot of psychic attacks already have it.
  • Devastating Wounds has its place – mostly on getting the mortals for Magnus and the Infernal Master – but those are spots I need to pick.


There isn’t a lot of time between rounds 2 and 3 so I get to my table. Nick Nanavati walks by and asks if we want to do the stream game. I always want that level of attention so I agree, and so does my opponent. This is obviously a mistake as my record on stream games is garbage and I’m up against the toughest opponent I’ll play all weekend.


Round 3: vs. Hank Adams’ Custodes


The Mission: M – (Crucible of Battle, Chilling Rain, Purge the Foe)

Hank is known locally as a very, very good player and that’s a problem because I’m pretty mediocre. Also, he’s playing Adeptus Custodes, a faction that is perpetually designed with fucking over Thousand Sons. Hank’s list is also doubling up on Calladius Tanks, which are woefully undercosted and more than capable of just killing Magnus turn 1.

Hank's List - Click to Expand

Shiny Bois (2000 points)
Adeptus Custodes
Strike Force (2000 points)
Shield Host


Blade Champion (100 points)
• 1x Vaultswords

Shield-Captain (120 points)
• Warlord
• 1x Guardian spear

Shield-Captain in Allarus Terminator Armour (120 points)
• 1x Balistus grenade launcher
1x Guardian spear


Custodian Guard (405 points)
• 5x Guardian spear
1x Misericordia
3x Praesidium Shield
1x Praesidium Shield
3x Sentinel blade
1x Vexilla


Allarus Custodians (325 points)
• 5x Balistus grenade launcher
5x Guardian spear

Caladius Grav-tank (215 points)
• 1x Armoured hull
1x Twin arachnus heavy blaze cannon
1x Twin lastrum bolt cannon

Caladius Grav-tank (215 points)
• 1x Armoured hull
1x Twin arachnus heavy blaze cannon
1x Twin lastrum bolt cannon

Custodian Wardens (300 points)
• 6x Guardian spear
1x Vexilla

Witchseekers (75 points)
• 1x Witchseeker Sister Superior
• 1x Close combat weapon
1x Witchseeker flamer
• 4x Witchseeker
• 4x Close combat weapon
4x Witchseeker flamer


Inquisitor (55 points)
• 1x Combi-weapon
1x Force weapon
1x Psychic Gifts
1x Psychic Shock Wave

Inquisitorial Henchmen (70 points)
• 4x Inquisitorial Acolyte
• 4x Acolyte firearm
4x Acolyte melee weapon
• 1x Gun Servitor
• 1x Acolyte melee weapon
1x Heavy bolter
• 1x Mystic
• 1x Acolyte firearm
1x Acolyte melee weapon
• 1x Daemonhost
• 1x Unholy Gaze
1x Warp grasp

And to add insult to injury, this mission massively benefits Hank. Purge the foe awards tons of VP for killing one/more than the opponent, which is exactly the kind of secondary you want if your army is going to be 5-6 very difficult to kill units. And while Hank does have some squishier units, those Inquisitorial Henchmen are going to sit in the backfield all game scoring passively, plus they have a free 12″ no deep strike screening ability just to make sure you can’t stop them from sitting back there undisturbed. Man Imperial allies rules are bullshit lol.

Hank’s not running Trajan so my biggest concern with his list is the Blade Champion squad and the big squad of Allarus. The Blade Champion gives his unit Advance + Charge and a burst of speed that will absolutely kill me, while the Allarus are just really hard to kill and can teleport all over the place.

The Plan

The plan is to hide Magnus as best I can so he only gets shot by one tank turn 1 while not putting him so far back he can’t operate – I need him to move forward and help kill things turn 1 if I want to have a chance. Then I need to stay out of combat for as long as possible. I’ll be using Twist of Fate to drop units to their 4+ invulnerable save and trying to down them with volume of fire.

The Game

You can watch the stream of the game here:

I lose the roll-off and basically lose the game as a result. This is in part because I massively misjudged the lines of sight Hank could get and Magnus gets shot by both Calladius Tanks – and he does well enough with that shooting to take me off the board as I fail 6/8 saves with the big idiot. Then Magnus explodes and kills a few of my guys, setting the tone for this game moving forward. My dice will be absolute dogshit from here and Hank’s will be on fire.

Love when people shoot the very tips of Magnus’ wing feathers

Once Magnus is dead, my game changes quite a bit but it’s not over – the Calladius tanks are good but they don’t have that much to do without Magnus as a target, giving me some ability to out-maneuver them a bit. I spend my first turn killing the sisters of silence for the free kill points and taking the northern objective. That’s at least a battlefield I can hold.

The backbreaker is on turn 3: I pull my Terminators to mid-table and take out 5 of the 9 Custodians across the objective, dropping them to four models left after I take away their saves and throw the terminators at them in totality. Then I get off the 9″ charge – I need to finish this unit off now to have any chance of winning this game. Hank pops his -1 damage strat but I can still kill 2-3 of these guys on sheer volume. Of course, I don’t – the rolls are absolutely heinous. With all ten going in there I end up only causing 8 wounds and Hank saves 7 of them, taking a single damage. Then he hits back and kills five of the Terminators effortlessly. That’s it, that’s the game. He’ll get a Custodian back next turn for free and then I’ll fail to kill any more before he drops me down to just the champion and character.

Things only get worse

I teleport those away on my turn to the corner, using them to support the rubrics killing the Allarus terminators. That’ll just leave the Calladius tank up there, and thanks to me failing a shitload of 4+ saves when the Custodians shoot them I’ll lose the entire squad except for Ahriman. Ahriman himself can save the game if I get a good charge with him and some lucky rolls against the wounded Calladius – I only need one of his 3-damage staff attacks to connect. Of course he doesn’t, and also this is where I find out the fucking tanks can do karate and give you -1 to hit in melee for some stupid reason. Christ I hate this army and the people who write rules for it.

Believe it or not, the game isn’t lost at this point – I’m up on secondaries thanks to some careful play and a successful Orbital Strike Gambit can still win me the game or at least get us to a tie if Hank doesn’t pull good secondaries. Of course, he draws Capture Enemy Outpost, the only 8 VP secondary in the game and rolls boxcars on his charge against my unit on the home objective to basically seal the game. I don’t roll an 11, but the game was out of reach by then anyways.

The Result

Things I Learned

  • I really needed to go first. I also probably needed to just hide Magnus up top but thanks to Hank winning the roll-off for Attacker/Defender he had the opportunity to drop his second Calladius last. I definitely misjudged what he’d be able to do with LoS but the flipside is that I could have put Magnus in a spot where he couldn’t actually help me on turn 1. Possibly preferable, but it’s unlikely I could put Magnus somewhere he could help before getting shot. I mostly needed to roll hot on my saves if I was going second and not uh *checks notes* fail all of them.
  • I probably needed to pull back from the southern objective and just focus my efforts up top, forcing the Custodes to chase me around the board. I didn’t have a ton of movement, but having that bottom unit of rubrics move out and help the Terminators might have been the extra push I needed. And they died anyways so sacrificing them wasn’t exactly a problem.
  • Honestly, that’s most of it. The dice situation was pretty miserable, and it makes even good moves look bad in retrospect. Not a ton you can do when Custodes make their 4+ rolls.


I finish the day 2-1 and while that’s worse than I wanted I lost to a very good opponent in a matchup tilted against me. I can still win my first game on day 2 and make the top bracket with some good scoring and OGW luck. As it turns out, Ben won his third game, beating an Aeldari player, which is absolutely fucking incredible. He stopped by the stream game to tell me. What an absolute Chad.


We grab dinner at a Thai place about a mile down the street after several other options require waits we aren’t willing to undertake. It’s pretty great and we absolutely crush the spring rolls and crab rangoons before heading back to the hotel. It’s already 11 at this point and I’m exhausted so we just head back up to the room for another night of bad sleep.

Next Time: Day 2

That wraps up my recap of Day 1 but check back later this week when I’ll be recapping day two of the event. And if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at