It seems like Autumn Tides was only last week, but then in defence of that sentiment, Autumn Tides was only last week.
Welcome to the continuation of the frankly probably a little over the top tournament schedule I’ve got booked for the next few months. On 20th/21st October I’ll be attending the Glasshammer open, the first major event hosted by Glasshammer Gaming, a relatively new venture set up by members of the English ETC team. The event promises to be fairly hardcore competition wise, and I’m very excited.
The format for these previews from last time seemed to be well received, so we’re going to stick with that. As a reminder, that means that in this article I’ll be covering:
- The tournament format and style
- Details of my list
- Any exciting tricks or considerations for playing the army.
…followed by a write-up of what actually happened the week following the event (probably split into two parts given this is a two dayer with five matches). Without further ado…
The Glasshammer open is a five-round two day event using ETC missions (and the ETC FAQ) and 2K point army lists following ETC rules. The big FAQ is live, and duplicate detachments are allowed. That has a number of implications on both army lists and mission structure:
ETC Missions use the combination of Eternal War and Maelstrom missions that is very popular in European events. Corrode has written about this style in detail before, but the ETC makes a few additional alterations to the mission rules over and above this:
1.) All ETC missions make use of differential kill points. At the end of the game, each player counts up how many kill points they’ve scored, and the player with more scores points equal to the difference up to a maximum of six (i.e. at game end if you’ve killed 10 of my units and I’ve killed 7 of yours you score 3 points).
2.)The ETC makes some actual changes to some of the written mission parameters. As an example, for the mission “Secure and Control”, rather than different values for objectives being randomised, the players secretly select them as they put them down.
In addition to this, tournament scoring is ETC style, i.e. the bigger the VP margin of your win the more points you get. For a narrow victory, you might only get 11TP while your opponent gets 9TP, whereas if you win by 20Vp or more you will get 20TP to their 0TP.
In general, I’m happy with all of these changes from the norm. I’m a big fan of incremental improvements to Maelstrom missions, and having read up on the ETC changes to the ones in use, all of them seem fine.
The kill points thing is probably a disadvantage to my style of list – as we’ll see shortly, my army contains 19 units, and I’d reasonably expect to lost a significant number of them even in a game that’s going well, but the fact that it’s capped at 6 means that it doesn’t out and out discourage me from playing an army I think is good because it has lots of drops. It probably does advantage armies like pure knights that have very low unit counts, meaning that when they win they’re likely to win hard – pure knights is an army that’s aiming to table, and in this format if they pull it off they’re near guaranteed the full six kill points outside a mirror match.
The scoring based on VP difference can also impact a tournament heavily in a way that I like but is certainly a little controversial. More than any other scoring format, it means that one narrow loss really doesn’t take you out of contention for a high placing at the end of the weekend – this scoring format was in use at the LGT, and I went into the final round in contention for a top 10 placing out of 350+ because my only loss had been by a few points and all three of my wins had been hugely in my favour. For the five round events without any sort of finals cut that are the norm in the UK, I think this is highly beneficial, as it opens the field up more and keeps you motivated to play hard once you fall out of the all-wins bracket. Vocal American commentators that are used to events with cuts tend to be fairly down on it, but I feel that until the UK gets American-style 3-day cons with bracket cuts (which we won’t because terrifyingly huge hotels don’t randomly grow outside every bastion of civilisation) this is the best tool available to us.
The main things coming in here are:
- No Forge World units.
- No index options on units that have a codex entry
As far as I’m concerned, these are cool and good options. There aren’t too many things left in Forgeworld that are out-and-out “overpowered” any more (the Artemia Hellhound being the main holdout) but there are certainly plenty of things where their design feels like it’s at right angles to normal 40K design, tending to result in units that are either a bit of a damp squib or horrendously broken on a matchup by matchup basis. The Tau Y’havara battlesuit is a great example of this – my army will largely shrug and laugh at how many more points it costs than a Riptide, but armies relying either on assault or powerful units of 3 wound models will struggle to ever beat one, let alone multiples. It is worth calling out that I can be relatively sanguine about this, because Eldar have pretty much no good FW options, whereas some armies (Space Marines, Necrons) heavily rely on them to be competitive in the current environment. I would expect to see less Space Marines in particular as a result of this – Leviathan Dreadnoughts are by far their best unit, and taking them away seriously weakens them. Necrons are so bad even with Forge World units that I wouldn’t expect to see them at an event where I expect the level of competition I do at Glasshammer.
Index options on units with codex options generally give you ways to take things that are just not that balanced.My beloved Craftworld Eldar have pretty much the best example of this – thanks to the infamous Index Option Flowchart, all Autarchs can technically take a banshee mask for 0 points on top of any of their codex builds. Banshee masks make you immune to overwatch. “Immune to overwatch” is also a whole warlord trait in the craftworld codex. Autarchs are clearly not balanced around “are also always immune to overwatch”, but the terrible broken flowchart means that if you want to push it they are. Happily, with these options removed that’s no longer possible, and entirely selfishly I no longer have to waver about whether to run my Autarch with a Banshee mask without being WYSIWYG. Unlike the Forge world thing, there’s no army this especially screws – Eldar and Dark Eldar were the most prolific users of index equipment, and mostly used it for “nice to haves” rather than anything critical to a strategy.
Glasshammer are also deviation from ETC list rules in one area, namely that all psychic powers, free relics and warlord traits are “fixed” – you write them on your list and that’s your lot for the event. At the ETC, you have to put them down on your list, but that’s just there as a “default” if you forget to declare them pre-game. This is a bit of a shame for me – there’s arguably two psychic power configurations I’d like to be able to switch between game-to-game depending on matchup, but this means I have to pick the one I think is more generally applicable. I’m not totally clear on why this is the call that’s been made, but I guess you can certainly argue that free switching does advantage some armies (like mine) much more than others, so locking it in is a bit fairer. However, pre-game strategems are not locked in, so armies that have heavily configurable sets of those such as Knights do get a bit of a bump.
Duplicate detachments is the final thing worth calling out – I’ll mostly cover this in my list, but being able to run dual battalions specifically is a decent buff to armies that can’t really put together a decent brigade, but can do two good battalions, often because “troops in transports” are among their best options (yes…ha-ha…yessss). Most US tournaments do allow duplicate Battalions, not letting people use them seems to be a weirdly UK specific thing,
but it’s worth saying that this wasn’t allowed at Battlefield Birmingham, so from my point of view feels like a change I’m apparently just wrong about this and it was allowed, ignore me, I must have been thinking of a different event.
The ETC has their own FAQ, which was designed to supplement the GW FAQs that were available at the time of the ETC and close loopholes and edge cases. Don’t feel you have to read the whole thing – mostly it’s fairly sensible changed to close out things that aren’t even necessarily obvious loopholes, but are places where a determined rules lawyer can place a wedge and try and push a stupid interpretation of RAW onto the table. There are a few issues in that, given the ETC happens in August, no one has updated this since the big FAQ dropped, so there are some places where prior to the big FAQ the ETC swerved to the metaphorical left and the big FAQ has swerved right. Impressions appear to be that big FAQ takes precedence, and hopefully most of the things where that might come up are esoteric enough that it shouldn’t affect games.
The only one relevant to me is that (booooo, hisssss) they slightly nerf the Wave Serpent’s shield discharge from RAW – as written there’s no reason you can’t do the shield discharge “out of sequence”, which gives you the ability to put a final few MWs on something at the most optimal time, but in the ETC you have to declare doing the shield discharge alongside the other shooting attacks of the WS for the turn. This isn’t too bad as long as I remember it, but I think there’s a decent chance I’ll fuck myself over at least once. C’est la vie.
Fundamentally, I’m expecting this to be an event that’s run for tryhards, by tryhards. As previously mentioned, Glasshammer is run by the England ETC team, and it appears that members of at least one other ETC team are travelling over to play, so I expect a tough field and merciless army lists. From my end, that means my list is a Wraithknight free zone, and I’m bringing my A game.
In terms of terrain, I’m not 100% sure what to expect (given it’s Glasshammer’s first event) but I’m cautiously optimistic it will be pretty good – from some shots they’ve showed, it looks like they’re using the same supplier as this year’s ETC did, who appear to supply buildings and LOS blocking ruins made out of nicely printed plasticard. I’m expecting it to thus be pretty similar to the LGT (hopefully with a bit more area terrain), where the presence of serious LOS blockers on every table did make a good and positive difference to the games (and will probably make an even more positive difference if they’re not unpainted white foam). I’ll be interested to see the stuff they’ve put shots up of in person – obviously playing on tables of beautifully painted GW plastic terrain is great, but affordable stuff that provides a decent experience and can flat pack down would be a great tool for TOs.
Final point of business – for the first time other than the LGT I’m not driving to the event each day. On the Saturday, I can drink beer. Beer that doesn’t cost >£5 for a 330ml bottle (thanks LGT). I have no idea if I’m any good at 40K when cheap beer is available. This could undo all my plans. Let’s hope not.
On to the list.
As we discussed in the Tides preview, my suspicion is that the FAQ made mechanised Eldar quite a bit better. For Tides, thanks to foolish suboptimal promises I was locked into playing an army that didn’t really take advantage of this. Here, I’m bringing something that builds on my experience at Battlefield Birmingham and tailors towards the operational realities of the new environment:
ARMY FACTIONS: Aeldari, Alaitoc, Kabal of the Black Heart TOTAL COMMAND POINTS: 14 TOTAL ARMY POINTS: 1999pts Battalion Detachment, Alaitoc [419pts] +5CP HQ1: Warlock Skyrunner (65pts), Twin Shuriken Catapults (5pts), Singing Spear (5pts), WARLORD Seer of the Shifting Vector, POWERS Protect/Jinx - [75pts] HQ2: Spiritseer (65pts), POWERS Conceal/Reveal - [65pts] Troop1: 5 Dire Avengers (40pts), Exarch (0pts), 5 Avenger Shuriken catapults (20pts) - [60pts] Troop2: 18 Guardian Defenders (144pts), Guardian Heavy Weapon platform (5pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts) - [159pts] Troop3: 5 Rangers (60pts) - [60pts] Battalion Detachment, Alaitoc [1228pts] +5CP HQ1: Autarch Skyrunner (95pts), Laser Lance (8pts), Twin Shuriken Catapult (5pts) [108pts] HQ2: Farseer (110pts), Witchblade (0pts), POWERS Guide, Doom, RELIC Faolchu’s Wing [110pts] Troop1: 5 Dire Avengers (40pts), Exarch (0pts), 5 Avenger Shuriken catapults (20pts), Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (Exarch) (4pts) - [64pts] Troop2: 5 Dire Avengers (40pts), Exarch (0pts), 5 Avenger Shuriken catapults (20pts), Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (Exarch) (4pts) - [64pts] Troop3: 5 Dire Avengers (40pts), Exarch (0pts), 5 Avenger Shuriken catapults (20pts), Additional Avenger Shuriken Catapult (Exarch) (4pts) - [64pts] HS1: Fire Prism (155pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts), Crystal Targeting Matrix (5pts) - [170pts] HS2: Fire Prism (155pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts), Crystal Targeting Matrix (5pts) - [170pts] Flyer1: Hemlock Wraithfighter (200pts), Spirit Stones (10pts), POWER - Jinx - [210pts] DT1: Wave Serpent (107pts), Twin Shuriken Cannon (17pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts) - [134pts] DT2: Wave Serpent (107pts), Twin Shuriken Cannon (17pts), Shuriken Cannon (10pts) - [134pts] Outrider Detachment, Kabal of the Black Heart [352pts] +1CP HQ1:Archon (70pts) - Husk Blade (6pts), Splinter pistol (0pts) - [76pts] FA1: 5 Scourges (60pts), Solarite (0pts), 4 Haywire Blaster (32pts), 1 Shardcarbine (Solarite) (0pts) - [92pts] FA2: 5 Scourges (60pts), Solarite (0pts), 4 Haywire Blaster (32pts), 1 Shardcarbine (Solarite) (0pts) - [92pts] FA3: 5 Scourges (60pts), Solarite (0pts), 4 Haywire Blaster (32pts), 1 Shardcarbine (Solarite) (0pts) - [92pts]
After mulling over my run at BB, my takeaway was that my list just didn’t quite have enough bodies to put down on the board, and the various lists I’d been kicking around leading up to the FAQ were designed to address that. However:
- The main change I’d been planning to make was bringing back some of the dark eldar infantry in a raider I ran at the LGT and PN to quite a bit of success. The big FAQ makes that less of a good idea – the Raider was already the “correct” target for canny opponents on turn 1, and the new FAQ would make that even more obviously the case. Playing Alaitoc Eldar post FAQ, you definitely want to be exploiting the ability to choose, in relevant matchups, to deploy exclusively Alaitoc vehicles with a 3+ save on the battlefield.
- The new lists had only 9CP. With the tactical restraint rule, and the hike in cost for Agents of Vect you can’t rely on the Black Heart warlord trait to keep the supply up. I’m also recently burned by the fact that in my last BB game, the warlord trait decided to refund me precisely 0 over about 14 spent between both players, contributing to my turbo-dunking by a clutch failed Vect.
Luckily, I spotted that dual Battalions was allowed at Glasshammer, put together the above and haven’t really looked back. 14CP, tonnes of bodies, and while I’ll be sad to not bring my beautiful red murder plane, I get to bring all of my favourite blue bois instead.
The first things I should cover in tactics are the ones which are directly dictated by the choices on the list above.
The Guardian Bomb
I fully expect to deep strike the large guardian unit in almost every game (via the Webway Strike strategem). The only place I’d ever not would be against something like Nurgle Daemons, where the shooting threat is almost non-existent, and there’s a good chance to get a round of shooting then fire and fade away on turn 1 if I end up going second.
Normally, I expect to put the guardians in from deep strike and then stack a whole bunch of buffs on them. I plan to add:
On them the turn they come in. At that point, once you blow the “Celestial shield” strategem, you have a unit that can absolutely trash any infantry, threaten knights once they’re doomed, and are protected by -1/-2 to hit and have a 3++. To contextualise just how tough that makes them to shift, at that point “endless fury”, the knight relic gatling gun, kills a mighty two guardians a turn. As long as I can keep them out of melee, they become a sticky threat that can dominate the board. This does mean that, against something like knights, what I will need to do is put a wave serpent between where I’m going to drop the guardians and a knight, because getting stepped on is their only real vulnerability.
Powers, Traits and Relics
Hopefully the above covers the reason for most of the psychic power choices. Conceal/Reveal is on a Spiritseer, a deliberate choice as they can always just do a full smite if there’s no useful target for Reveal on turn 1 – but remember that if I’m going first, using Reveal to strip cover off a priority target that’s used the Prepared Positions strategem can be very potent. Protect/Jinx is on my bike warlock because I expect to cast one of those every turn (usually Jinx turn 1, protect on the guardians turn 2) and it combos well with the warlord trait. Seer of the Shifting Vector gives the warlord one re-roll on a battle round, which can be used on a number of things, importantly including a psychic test. In some matchups, landing Jinx is so important that casting it from a model with a choice between using a CP reroll if, say, you roll a 1 and a 5 or a full re-roll if you roll a double 1 is incredibly valuable. When it’s less relevant I can launch the Jinx from the Hemlock and use protect on a character turn 1. The choice I’m least sure about is Guide on the Farseer – guiding the guardian bomb is certainly great, but there are some matchups where I’d really rather have Mind War. My expectation is that Guide will be more consistently useful, and in the matchups would be better using Doom and Smite will be adequate, but having access to more MWs in the form of Doom/Executioner would certainly sometimes have value.
The Eldar relic list is a bit of a disappointment, with Faolchu’s Wing being one of few standouts. Landing a precision Doom is, again, terribly important in some matchups, and having a fly speed of 12 is very good to help with that. The fact that it doesn’t add the “Jump Pack” keyword to a model is just gravy, as it allows the Farseer to set up in a Wave Serpent, effectively adding an additional 3″ to their strike range, and lowering your drop count by 1.
Beyond that, I do probably expect to spend 1CP on an additional craftworld relic in most matchups. Basically:
- Against any Dominus Class Knight, add the “Phoenix Gem” to my warlord.
- Against anyone else, add the Shimmerplume of Achiriel to my Autarch.
The Shimmerplume is relatively simple – it just adds -1 to hit for all attacks against the model, increasing the Autarch’s already relatively high resilience, and giving him a chance to survive if he ends up out of position (which he frequently does). Of the lackluster list available to the Eldar, it’s the main remaining one after the Wing that’s just “worth it” by default.
The Phoenix Gem on the warlord is a trick I’m relatively pleased to have come up with. What this does is that the first time the model is slain by an attack, you roll a D6 for every model nearby, and on a 2+ deal them D3 mortals. Then, if any mortals were inflicted, the bearer lives on one wound. This is specifically here to protect my warlord against an Oathbreaker Guidance System’ed shieldbreaker missile. With only 3W and relying on an invuln save, a warlock skyrunner is a very vulnerable target for one of these. By adding the Phoenix Gem, as long as I set up within 3″ of, say, a Wave Serpent, if my opponent wants to blow 3CP to fire the missile, and lands the <50% chance of hit to wound to kill on my warlock, on a 2+ I can shunt that to being D3 wounds to a wave serpent. Wasting my opponents (now much more) precious CP like this is obviously great, and I’m dearly hoping to catch at least one person out with that over the course of the event.
In a limited selection of matchups, I might also chuck a relic on my Archon. Against Tyranids or Custodes I’d almost certainly buy him the Parasite’s kiss, as it has a great chance of sticking a couple of wounds on one of their monsters or a dawneagle. If for some reason I was really sure he was going to end up in melee I might buy him the Djin Blade, but I can’t immediately think of any matchups where this is so likely that it’s worth committing a CP.
In almost all matchups, I expect to put everything that can into deep strike, put the guardians in with a CP and load up the transports. That leaves the four tanks, the Hemlock and three characters visible on the board, and cuts me down to 13 drops.
In some matchups I’d expect to vary this up. Against other vehicle heavy Eldar armies, there’s a decent chance that I put the Scourges on the board. Eldar tend to excel at wasting a few high-priority targets, and are a bit shorter on “incidental” firepower to waste something like the Scourges. Depending on the exact configuration, I could decide that I want them on the board to add to my alpha strike if I go first more than I’m worried about them getting killed. If there’s good LOS blocking terrain, I’ll often choose to put one unit behind it on the board in other matchups too – especially after the FAQ, with DS units you have to balance wanting to shield them with not wanting to reduce your T1 output too much.
Specifically against Knight Gallants I’m likely to try something a bit funky – it’s plausible to assume that most Gallants will be accompanying a Castellan, and I’m likely to slam the Vect button on “Order of Companions” in that case T1. I can then also slam it on “Full Tilt” in the charge phase if I want to, but that will use up a lot of my CP. To try and work around this, my plan is to deploy my army largely behind the hemlock and a thin green line of rangers. Both of these units are a pain to shift with shooting thanks to the inbuilt -2 they have, and while a Castellan can gamble and throw everything at a Hemlock, that’s very high risk – I’ll pop lightning fast, and at that point unless one of the volcano shots comes up 6, the Hemlock ain’t dying (also the Castellan punches itself in the face for an average 4-5MWs with Cawl’s Wrath). Meanwhile, the rangers are sneaky enough that dedicated firepower will be needed to move them. This is slightly where I think I’ve made a mistake with my list – the revelation that “Prepared Positions” means that you can freely use rangers for space control in your own deployment zone and still have cover T1 came to me quite late in the day, and means they have a lot of value in some matchups. The bare bones 4th DA squad should thus probably be a second ranger squad instead.
As with my Tides army, my deployment profile on the board is again relatively small, meaning that Phantasm could have some applications. Mostly, I imagine that on realtively open boards it could be profitably used to whisk my Fire Prisms as far away from any Knight Gallants as possible.
This army is designed to have game against pretty much anything – it can muster 80+ shuriken shots against any sort of horde list, which aided and abetted by doom and a cycle of bully charging wave serpents is enough to challenge even extremely body-intensive armies. Meanwhile, the Doom/Jinx and Shuriken/Scourge package threatens armies that rely on a few powerful vehicles such as knights to function.
Realistically the Castellan/Dual Gallant list is probably the hardest matchup for this army. It can pretty reliably put down one knight a turn, but more than any other that list is best answered by an army that can threaten to do two. Losing the Crimson Hunter and reapers from my BB list does cut down my T1 alpha strike potential a bit too – though DAs are mobile enough that four units of those shooting at a doomed target will go a whole bunch of the way towards filling that gap, and really “I have gone first” is not the problem case for this army. The list is tailored at least partially to address this too – the buffed guardian bomb is really only vulnerable to Gallants in the mathcup, so between these and the beta strike of the Scourges, I feel able to focus on dropping Gallants first and move on to the Castellan.
Ynnari and Tyranids both have the potential to be hard games too, though hopefully, surely I’m finally owed some games against ‘Nids where the Hive Tyrants roll at best average on their invulns. Ynnari is another place where the guardian bomb can potentially shine – they’re often loaded for hunting high value targets, a sticky large infantry squad can cause them some problems.
The nice thing is though that none of these games should be unwinnable – I really do think this is one of the better lists I’ve ever put together, and it has the tools to shine in pretty much any situation.
That’s the hope anyway – I’m sure I’ll find some terrible weakness I haven’t thought of once I start playing.
I am extremely excited to see how this event plays out – I have a list I’m very happy with, and am keen to see what changes the new FAQ has wrought on the landscape. Wish me luck and check in the week after the event to see how things have gone.