TheChirurgeon’s Road to NoVA, Part 1: Planning a Spiky 17

Hi everyone. I’m Robert “TheChirugeon” Jones and this is the first of several posts chronicling my road to NoVA 2019. If you missed the big intro rollout to this series, you can find the overview by clicking this link, and also see who else is participating in the series.

Last year was my first time attending NoVA, my first time playing in the Warhammer 40,000 GT, and my first major 8th edition tournament. This went reasonably well. I brought an army that I would consider to be borderline competitive, and piloted it to a 3-3 finish, going 0-3 on day 1 and then shoring up to go 3-0 on day 2. There are a few reasons for that, the first being that my list wasn’t amazing, and the second being that I wasn’t really accustomed to playing NoVA missions or against knights.

Previously on “Rob Goes to NoVA…”

I took my Black Legion to NoVA last year, and ran a decidedly marine-heavy list that got me lots of “oh cool, you never see marines” praise, but ultimately didn’t really do me any favors competitively. The marines worked out well as engineers on most of the missions I played, but probably cost me elsewhere. I also took my Chaos Knight, and painted up a Sector Imperialis tile to put stuff on.

The list, as best I can remember it was:

Black Legion Battalion (+7 CP)
Abaddon the Despoiler (Warlord, +2 CP)
Sorcerer w/MoS
10 Khorne Berserkers
1 Chaos Rhino
30 cultists w/MoS
10 cultists w/MoS
5 chaos space marines w/2x plasma gun and MoS

Black Legion Battalion (+5 CP)
Sorcerer w/MoS
Sorcerer w/MoS
5 chaos space marines w/2x plasma gun and MoS
5 chaos space marines w/MoS
5 chaos space marines w/MoS

Super-Heavy Detachment (+3 CP)
1 Renegade Helverin w/Heavy Stubber
1 Renegade Helverin w/Heavy Stubber
1 Renegade Knight w/Rapid Fire Battle Cannon and Reaper Chainsword

Last year the Renegade Helverins had just become available for NoVA, having been released on the GW website, and their autocannons were a godsend to my army. I converted up a pair of them in the weeks prior to NoVA and I’m really happy with how they turned out:

Lessons I learned from last year’s Grand Tournament:

  • Play more practice games leading into the event. I had a couple of practice games last year before NoVA, but not nearly enough. I didn’t have any games with my final army, and that led to some bad mis-plays on my part, such as deep striking Abaddon when I should have just kept him on the table from the start and not realizing that Helverins got 4D3 shots instead of 2D3, something that probably cost me a game on Day 1 (I corrected for Day 2, but the damage was done). Another couple of practice games would have helped me better understand how to work with the army, and also better prepare me for how to select Secondary missions that wouldn’t handicap me (I now suspect that “Old School” is kind of a trap option and I’m 50/50 on whether I’ll want to do progressive or endgame scoring this year).
  • Also, practice against some top lists. Because none of my friends owned a castellan last year, I also had no real experience playing against them going into NoVA, which led to some rough times dealing with them on day 1. It also meant I wasn’t really familiar with the Noble Sacrifice stratagem, which completely wrecked my shit in game 2. So this year my plan is to have some of those same friends proxy better models/lists to play against.
  • Berserkers are rad as hell, but probably not good enough. That’s a shame because I enjoyed playing with them a lot, and have been converting some up this year to replace my old ones, but they may get put on the backburner as I prepare for NoVA.


The 2019 Strategy

This year, things are different. We’ve got two FAQs, Chapter Approved, Beta Bolters, Assassins, Ynnari Index, a new Chaos Codex, and the Vigilus Specialist detachments and between them they’ve radically shifted the meta for NoVA 2019. Here’s what I expect to see/deal with this year at NoVA:

  • Tau bullshit will be in full force. You may recall from the review of the FAQ 3 that One_Wing and I did that we think Tau are poised to start hitting the top podium spots at tournaments this year after the big FAQ 3 nerfed a lot of their competition. I fully expect to see some bullshit Tau castles running wild this year, and that means having a way to effectively break them up while moving around the table capturing objectives. The upside is, I have a buddy who plays Tau that I can train against.
  • Dark Eldar and Eldar will still be a force to reckon with. I’m more worried about Dark Eldar at this point, if only because I have less experience dealing with them and I think 9-Talos lists are a touch scarier for my army than wave serpent/flyer lists.
  • Chaos lists are gonna be everywhere. Daemons are already top tier and insanely good with multiple builds, and I think we’ll see some Slaanesh ladies/dudes/things running around post-release. Plus I know Chaos marines are going to see a lot more love this time around, which means people will be ready for a lot of my bullshit.


This Year’s Army

For my 2019 army, I’m still putting together what I want to bring, but I’m definitely fully ready to take advantage of the new bullshit going on in the Codex. I’m strongly leaning toward a Kytan Daemon Engine and Lord Discordant combo, and I’m pretty likely to bring Abaddon and go Black Legion. That means I’ll need a Sorcerer and a Dark Apostle to give Warlord traits to fill out my Council of Traitors. Taking a Kytan means I need either an Auxiliary Superheavy detachment (boo) or a Supreme Command (getin), so it looks more like the latter. Put that together and my main bullshit is likely going to be Abaddon + Cultists, a superheavy with a lord discordant, an apostle, and a kytan, and then some kind of third trick, plus some chaff to round it out.

Current Rough List plan:

Black Legion Battalion (+7 CP)
Abaddon (Warlord, +2 CP)
Sorcerer (Also Warlord trait)

Black Legion Supreme Command (+1 CP)
Lord Discordant
Dark Apostle
Warpsmith or Dark Apostle
Kytan Daemon Engine

Second Battalion (+5 CP)
?? – Insert units here

After deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that even if I don’t go with the Kytan Supreme Command bullshit strategy, my final list is almost certainly going to require a battalion of Red Corsairs to take advantage of their new Legion trait that allows me to stack 3 chaos marine squads for a +3 CP bonus. So I think it’s in my best interests to build a “Spiky 17” for my army. Being a hobby nerd in addition to a tournament gamer, this isn’t as simple as painting up some marines. No, I’ve gotta hobby the shit out of these bad boys.

The first step is figuring out what the HQs are going to be. Huron is almost a no-brainer, as even when he’s not the warlord he’s still an efficiently-costed psyker who boosts the units around him. The second HQ should be a sorcerer. Even though they’re more expensive than warpsmiths, they have no auras to worry about and the Heretic Astartes psychic powers aren’t legion-locked (only mark-locked), so he’ll still be just as useful running around with Black Legion mans as a Black Legion sorcerer would have been.


Converting the Spiky 17

So my Spiky 17 battalion is going to consist of Huron, a Sorcerer (possibly with Jump Pack), and three squads of 5 chaos marines with bolters. I may potentially look at expanding one squad later to have a more useful target for the More Where They Came From stratagem, but for now I think I’m better off focusing on bringing them as a CP battery and not a cost center.

Huron Blackheart

The biggest problem with Huron is that the current model sucks and it’s Finecast, so it’s also made of poor materials. Hard pass. That means I’m stuck converting one up from what I’ve already got. Great, cause that saves on shipping time. I saw a cool Huron conversion on the Eternal Hunt blog a while back that gave me some good inspiration for how to build my own Huron. I decided to use the same base – the Dark Vengeance Chosen with Power Fist. These guys have the bulk and size to fit in with the modern chaos marine sculpts and although they’re kind of a pain in the ass to cut up, I’ve got enough of them that it doesn’t really matter if I fuck one up.

The next step was doing his wargear — I used the DV Chosen power axe arm to do his axe, and cut up and glued a Raptor flamer to his Power Fist to make the custom weapon. A Chaos Warrior icon over his backpack completed the principle look that I was going for, and I used green stuff to fill some remaining gaps.

Not too bad, though I wasn’t happy with how he looked yet. His head wasn’t suitably messed-up, and there wasn’t anything connecting the fist and the flamer. Looking to do a bit more, I dug up some guitar string I had in my bitz box and cut that up to make some piping that would connect the flamer tank on his backpack to the heavy flamer, and also added some to his head to make him look more fucked up and machine-like. I still need to file down a bit of the green stuff, but between the wires and some final bits I added, I really like how he turned out.

For his familiar, I’m just going to use the familiar that comes with the Chaos Terminator Lord model, cause I have a few of those and have never used them for anything anyways.


Red Corsairs Sorcerer

The sorcerer was another area where I wanted to save on models by not buying a new sorcerer, and anyways it’s not like there’s an undivided plastic chaos sorcerer to work with anyways. So instead I took another dive into my bitz box and dug out a pair of Dark Angel legs (with torso back) and combined them with a new chaos marine torso front (using green stuff to fill in the gaps). I had a leftover finecast sorcerer sword hand and helmet that worked just fine on the model. Finally, I magnetized his backpack in case I don’t want to do the jump pack moving forward. And because he’s a Red Corsair, I made sure his jump pack was a modern one.

The Other Red Corsairs

That just left 15 Red Corsairs marines. I knew a couple of things going into this project:

  1. I wasn’t going to use any old, smol chaos space marines models for the army, and
  2. I wasn’t going to buy more than one box of chaos space marines to turn into Red Corsairs

That meant I was going to have to find another way to do some of these guys. Fortunately, I have a shitload of Dark Vengeance Chosen. I figured I could use the walking bolter Chosen to make squad champions, which would then take up 3 out of the 15 spots to fill. Add that to 10 bolter marines and I only had to figure out how to get the other two. I was able to cobble these guys together using bitz I had lying around. I used classic berserker running legs as a base, which stand considerably taller than most older marines and effectively let me fudge the height difference. For torsos, I used the old aspiring champion torsos and filled them out with Green stuff to increase their width and height (and I filled in the butt plates in the rear with green stuff as well). Finally, I used the extra belt bags and holsters to beef up their legs and bring them more aesthetically in-line with the modern chaos marines. Combined with the new helmets, the look is pretty convincing, I think.

During this process I discovered an unfortunate aspect of the Chaos Space Marines squad box: It only comes with 8 boltguns. For whatever reason, Games Workshop seems to think it’s impossible you’d give all 10 guys in the squad bolters, and so I was also going to need to get two bolters from somewhere. The good news is, I don’t care as much about red corsairs, and I have a shitload of old plastic chaos arms and bolters, so I could just use those for these guys and then keep the good, new bolter arms for doing legions I care more about. I also really loved the idea I saw on Warhammer Community recently about using loyalist backpacks for Red Corsairs to reflect their being more recent converts. Overall I think the effect worked just fine.

Put all of that together and I’ve got a spiky 17 ready to get primed and painted… now I just need it to stop raining every other day so I can actually prime the bastards.

Finally, you may notice that guy in back is fully-painted. He’s the concept model for how I want to paint my Red Corsairs. I’m pretty happy with how he turned out, but the rest will probably be a little less-detailed to save time, and also have more steel trim (only the champions get to go full gold). I’m going to do Gray on the tabards for the most part, and go heavier on red for the main armor parts with either black, silver, or gold trim. I’m really not a fan of the harlequin-like look of the Red Corsairs as I see them painted most of the time so I doubt I’ll do much black-armor-with-red-trim, and I’m especially not a fan of the old 3rd edition “loyalists, but with red Xs painted over their insignias” look they rolled out in the Eye of Terror campaign book.


Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now. Hopefully by the next time I’m due to post about the army, I’ll have painted most or all of these bois and be working on the Black Legion mans I desperately need to paint up.

Fuck, 15 weeks is not going to be enough time…