…and now my cunning plan comes together. Welcome to my tournament report for Autumn Tides of War 2018.
If you would like to read about the event format or my army, please go and have a look at the preview article I wrote last week. Nothing about my list or plans changed prior to the event, so everything in that area remains true, the only thing I got wrong is that the policy on tabling has changed so that it’s no longer as heavily discouraged – you get to finish your current turn and count up the points at the end of that rather than being capped at a set number, which means you will get a few more if you blow people off the board than you otherwise might.
Before we jump into the battle reports, a quick word on the new format I’m going to be following. Instead of trying to do a full blow by blow for each round, I’m instead going to split each into:
- The mission. This is likely to be short this time because they’re all straight Maelstrom missions.
- My opponent’s army.
- My plan at the start of the game – this will cover things like deployment strategy and what I roughly expect my target priority to be over the first few turns, plus how I saw the overall game plan at the time
- Game Summary – an extremely condensed overall flow of the game.
- Points of Interest – anything unusual I think I should draw attention to, or thoughts on good/bad plays I made.
- Final Score
Some individual reports (including the first one today, doh) are going to involve small deviations from the structure, but that’s what we’re going to aim for. Let me know if people find it more useful or have any feedback afterwards.
I’ve unfortunately cursed myself by mocking Corrode for forgetting to take photos last time by forgetting to take photos myself after round 1 this time. By happy coincidence I played both games 2 and three on the same board, so I’ve drawn a quick map to use for the game summaries instead.
That’s it for the preamble – read on to discover the fate of my largest robot son and his obviously villainous collar.
Round 1 – Tau
Race to victory – 3 cards a turn, game ends at the end of the battle round if one player scores 10 cards, with that player getting some bonus VPs. My experience of this has been that getting to 10 is a tall order unless one player runs good on the cards and is heavily dominating from turn 1, so this often ends up just being another version of Cleanse and Capture. No particular impact on my strategy as a result of this.
Tau Sept Brigade with:
Coldstar Commander with 3x Burst + ATS
6×5 Fire warriors
Riptide with HBC (Target Lock + ATS)
2x Shield Drone squads
3x Ion Hammerheads
That’s a pretty nasty list all together – hammerhead spam is a bit more of a gamble than Riptide spam because they’re much, much easier to alpha strike off the board (thanks to no invuln/saviour protocols), but has the significant upside that they’re a lot harder to work around deployment wise – for the key turn 1 Kau’yon alpha strike, if you’re running Riptides it’s often possible for your opponent to set up key units out of range of them, meaning Kau’yon can’t be used and giving your opponent a chance to unpick your army a bit before the hammer drops. They’re also quite likely beneficiaries of the new FAQ, as an extra point of armour probably helps them more than it does the Riptide in an Alpha strike scenario. It’s also significantly better against my split army Phantasm plan, as that’s designed to exploit this exact weakness of the Riptide.
Other than that, it has horde clearance in the form of Fire Warriors and plenty of markerlight support – all in all, definitely a list that do what Tau do best – alpha strike like a champion, then clean the enemy up. Opponent was a cheerful guy who clearly knew what he was doing (in general there was a noticeable hike in the level of competition this time round), and had cool 3d printed markerlight tokens, definitely the sign of a Tau player ready to do terrible crimes.
While my army splitting plan was less good against this list than it would be against Triptides, I calculated that it was still worth doing. I knew I was picking deployment zones, so I put one objective down behind some terrain in a corner, then set up my Wraithknight first opposite his objective at the far end of the board. He took the bait and built his castle there (as you can see above). I ended up set up so that if I went first I could phantasm into a rush towards his castle, with appropriate firing positions and autarch in a bubble, if I went second i could phantasm and force at least the riptide to move,and get everything out of range of the markerlights mounted on the hammerheads and some of his foot characters.
With first turn, and an average round of rolls I could reasonably expect to take two Hammerheads off the board, which would quite likely remove his ability to take the Wraithknight off the board turn on his turn 1 without an outrageous run of luck, especially with fortune up. The plan would then be to rush his firebase turn 2, shoot out the last Hammerhead, put my Autarch into his Riptide (as he has the “no overwatch” warlord trait, and yes I know I could technically have a banshee mask for free but it feels low in this tier of event) then stomp the rest of his army with the wraithknight. Adding in bully charges from Serpents, the only thing that should really get to effectively shoot for the rest of the game is the riptide, which by itself will never chew through my vehicles.
My strategy for going second was to a.) Really hope not to and b.) hope that he runs super bad on remaining markerlights (i.e. misses lot and rolls a 1 for the strategem) after the phantasm and doesn’t hit five on the Wraithknight and cross my fingers that it lives. There really wasn’t anywhere on the board I could get it out of LOS (the central blocker on the board was good, but not really big enough to hide it) and the hemlock was already occupying the small part of the board that wasn’t in 60 of the hammerheads (plus putting it there would have meant it couldn’t go after them). Assuming it did survive, I’d planned out its position so that it would be able to move into range to start shooting back at hammerheads, and if it had hugged the central blocker it could plausibly have hid from a few of them while sniping at the last one.
My opponent went first and…well:
The full Tau Sept bomb went off on my knight – he Kau’yonned the Hammerheads, stuck a markerlight in and rolled a 3 for the strat, found the one more he needed, tapped a wound in from a fire warrior, blew the Tau sept strategem and then demolished it – he got some good high rolls on his first two Ionheads for shots and did loads of damage, taking the knight down low enough that the last Ionhead and the Riptide could finish it off. This is why no one runs Wraithknights. To add insult to injury, Orbital Ion beam chucked three mortal wounds on my autarch and a Wave Serpent, an extreme high roll.
Structure Deviation 1 – The New Plan
With that, I can no longer afford to go hard on one flank, as without the Wraithknight as the core that’s just a little bit too much of a risk of the attack collapsing – plus I can’t afford to let him control one flank with his infantry and score lots of points if I’m no longer reliably convinced that I’m going to heavily degrade his capabilities quickly.
The new plan is for the Hemlock and Lance serpent to go left and hunt Hammerheads, while the Cannon serpent plus guardian cargo go and try to take out the infantry on the right flank, with the Autarch coming to do mischief in close combat. If I can kill a Hammerhead then survive his second turn then I’m still in with a shot, and the good news is that all my remaining units are relatively poor targets for Ionheads and Riptides, the Serpent Shield being premium level anti-Riptide defence and the Hemlock being sufficiently dodgy that Tau struggle to hit it. I have to just leave the Riptide for last – not worth going for it till I crack the drones, and it’s way too tough to be worth engaging till it’s the last real threat in this version of the plan.
Him having lots of small units also raises the prospect of the Hemlock’s morale aura doing some work – if I can snipe a few people here and there then unlucky morale rolls can plausibly take a few out. I don’t feel great about this plan, but I’m not going to give up completely out of the gates.
Game Summary Contd’
Surprisingly, the plan went off pretty much exactly as outlined there. I moved the serpents up and put some avengers in cover to snipe at some drones, and the hemlock and lance serpent popped a hammerhead between them (even forcing him to re-roll a six on an explosion) while the cannon serpent shredded some fire warriors. Hemlock’s aura ate a drone. His turn 2 was much less potent than his turn 1 – I’d put Fortune on the lance serpent, and between that, the Alaitoc buff and Lightning fast it only took 5 wounds from a truly heroic amount of shooting, even after being full markered. The only problem with T2 was that his commander advanced and managed to shred my autarch with some lucky dice and bad saves from me (stupid 3 wounds from Ion beam). However, on my turn 2 the plan continued well – the lance serpent was apparently really pissed off at the Ionheads and hammered an outrageous 11 wounds into 1 with a hit and wound from both its lances (stupidly I’d shot the Hemlock first, I could have started on the third if I’d known!), and the guardians plus the cannon serpent chewed through getting on half of his infantry in a turn, then locked up some more with charges.
The game stayed tense and live all the way through, with some units on both sides dying way harder than they should. On his end, once I’d finished the Ionheads I moved on to trying to kill the drones around the Riptide and they just wouldn’t die – I doomed them and put in loads of shuriken fire and they just shrugged it all off. Equally, my Serpents tanked like absolute champions, with the cannon serpent at one point surviving a burst from the HBC having started on 3 wounds after blowing its shield in an unlucky roll from his end.
As much to my surprise as his, my strategy of boxing him in and withering him away paid off, the game ending with a victory for me on turn 6 with him having only a scattering of characters left. I’d had a slow start on the scoring thanks to a bad opening draw, but had effectively contained his ability to get points after the first few turns (and the jammy serpent survival cost him Big Game Hunter on that turn), and making the key call to go for points on a turn where I had enough viable targets to make the D3 version of overwhelming firepower rather than going for the Riptide plus linebreaker just got me over the line.
Points of Interest
I’m delighted that I managed to win this game after the disastrous start, as it’s always an uphill struggle to play a game down a 3rd of your army. I can’t think of any major errors I made after the start – I came up with the best plan I could and pulled it off.
I did make a couple of mistakes with the defensive play on turn 1 though:
- I could probably have put the Wraithknight out of strike range of at least some of the Markerlights that got him, or at the very least forced them to move, while still being able to move to engage a hammerhead afterwards. That might have stopped him getting to the full 5 (though he rolled well, so probably not).
- I should have rerolled the failed save the first time a fire warrior got one through to see if i could force him to fire a “good” unit without the Tau strategem up. The first Ionhead notably high rolled, doing nine of the damage that went in, and if that had been unbuffed it could plausibly have been very different (I can’t remember what his dice came up as, but it’s plausible).
I got very focused on the Riptide as the thing that mattered – paying a little bit more attention to infantry might have given me the marginal edge to win the game.
11-9 to me
Round 2 – Deathwatch
Tactical Gambit – you bid for how many cards you think you will score in your turn (out of the four you hold), gaining that many points if you’re right, giving your opponent that many if you’re wrong. Fun in principle but you can get screwed bad if you’re unlucky – in particular, you have to make your gambit on your turn, which means any defend you draw can’t be done that turn. In general, you pick “1” on turn one, then N for future turns, where N is the number of cards you’re holding you know you can score, or N+1 if you’re holding 1 card, you know you can score it and have three to draw.
From here on in I have committed the most terrible battle report crime of all – forgetting to take photos. Therefore, the best I can do is draw some maps of the terrain setup and deployments, and offer my sincere apologies. Helpfully, I played games 2 and 3 on the same table from the same edge, so my recollection is at least moderately good, and I can reuse the map. This is what the table looked like:
3x Veteran Squads (10, 7, 6, all with Storm Bolters, chainswords and Frag Cannons where possible).
2x rapier carriers with Heavy Bolters
Leviathan Dread with Storm Cannons
He put the Dread, the big Veteran Squad and the Watch Master in Deep Strike
This…is not a good matchup for my opponent. He is desperately short of anything other than the Leviathan that threatens my non-knight vehicles, and even that isn’t in a great place against Serpents. Hilariously, his big Veteran Squads are actually fantastic against the Wraithknight, as because it isn’t a vehicle they can wound it on 2s. It should still have enough wounds to tank that for a turn, but could get killed if I’m unlucky.
That doesn’t help him that much though – that ain’t happening turn 1, which means even if I go second i can likely blow away his Rapiers with the knight. The Hemlock, meanwhile, is going to put some serious hurt on either the on-board veterans or aggressors – between smite, guns and leadership aura it can plausibly kill a squad a turn. Finally, if I pin my farseer to my Wraithknight then it can have a round of shooting at the Leviathan when it comes in.
Really, if I go first here an honest description of my plan is “mercilessly eliminate my opponent’s army and take him off the board in a few turns”.
Deployment was as follows:I did, in fact, go first and take my opponent’s army off the board in a few turns. On turn 1 the Hemlock wiped out the 7x vets (they used the anti-eldar strat to plink a few wounds off it as it moved in, but all that really served to do was warn me not to go within 12″ of the Aggressors the next turn) and the rest of my shooting took out all of the Rapiers except one crewman. On his turn the crewman ran away, the Librarian buffed the Aggressors to be immune morale and FNP mortal wounds, and that was it. The hemlock flew over and deleted 5 Aggressors with its guns and my tanks hunted down the last crewman.
On his turn 2 he put the punch in as best he could – most of my force was in the gap between the crates on the right, and I’d made sure to put my characters behind vehicles in the two directions he could usefully drop in (the avengers behind cover would bubble the last angle), so he came in with everything to the right. The Leviathan got hit for 6W from Forewarned wraithknight fire, then everything opened up on the Wraithknight, but between Fortune and its 3+ it clung to life on 2W (top marks to the watch master for hitting it for 5 with the guardian spear shooting thanks to a +1 damage warlord trait and me failing both saves and only making 1 FNP). In my turn, hails of Shurikens shredded everything except the master, two veterans and the Dread on two wounds. My Autarch went into everything to deny overwatch, and the Wraithknight went into the vets. This turned out not to matter – my Autarch killed the dread, which took out the Wraithknight, the vets and (thanks to three sixes in a row including a re-roll) both our warlords. Given he then had a Librarian and an Aggressor on the board against a fully operational Hemlock, 2 Wave Serpents and a bunch of infantry, we called it.
Points of Interest
Wow can some marine armies just not beat Eldar. The fact that Leviathans are so bad against Wave Serpents, but are the marines best answer to literally everyone else, means that you can end up with games like this where I really don’t think my opponent could ever have won outside some truly spectacular dice.
It did reveal that “a complete inability to screen” was yet another of my army’s weaknesses, which would be important in the next game.
14-1 to me
Round 3 – Tzeentch
Sealed Orders. In this one, you start with 6 hidden cards. Once you’ve scored or discarded them all, you can then draw five on your next turn, then four once you clear those etc. There’s an extra strategem to discard up to 3 additional cards. I’ll be honest, I don’t like this one (or at least not in a Tournament setting). First of all, a whole bunch of cards don’t really work when they’re hidden – Priority Orders and Mission Critical from the core deck, and a bunch of ones that require tracking of “state” in individual codices. It’s also probably the mission where you can most thoroughly get screwed by the cards in Chapter Approved. If you draw a hand of six cards and can only score one of them (as has happened to me playing this before), you won’t get to see any more till your third turn – and you better hope you’re opponent is in the same boat or you’re in a lot of trouble. Still, Eldar tend to do OK at it because a.) they potentially have the best set of Faction Objectives in the game and b.) they’re fast.
Mixed Tzeentch Daemons and Thousand Sons:
3x Exalted Flamers
Prince with Wings
Some sort of weird Daemon character on a floaty thing I don’t fucking know.
Small-ish cultist screen
6 of the ppear Tzaangors on discs
Some Rubrics (more than a min squad, possibly even 10)
This is a weird matchup and I wasn’t sure whether it was a good one. I thought it probably was – his army has a plan but is a little unfocused – the predator in particular stands out as something that clearly doesn’t fit with the rest and is a glaringly vulnerable target, and that was always going to be the first thing I went after. Credit to him, he carefully deployed it out of sight of the Wraithknight on the (correct) assumption that if I went first I’d be highly likely to bring something into LOS. He certainly has one big advantage over me as well – the Dark Crystal Tzaangor bomb is something I can do very little about, threatening to put a massive, resilient blob in my lines and tie things up. In addition, the Exalted Flamers (which I’ve never seen before) having character screening means that after I’ve wasted the Predator good targets for the Wraithknight are few and far between.
In the end, the deployment ended up as follows:
I think in hindsight I messed up a bit here. Having a flanking unit was a good plan, but I should have used one of the dire avengers squads in that WS instead, and just accepted that I was deploying the farseer on the board. I don’t think I’d quite brained how tough the Tzaangors would be to clear out if they hit my lines, and would have benefited from having them at my core. Equally, I was expecting the cultists to die relatively hard, and wanted to have the Guardians able to engage them. I underestimated the Tzaangors basically (I need to get better at reviewing relics on people’s lists and planning for them).
Beyond that, the plan is murder the Predator, then get the Wraithknight and Autarch into his line, stopping his overwatch with the Autarch’s trait and kicking the hell out of stuff.
I got the first turn, and my army behaved a bit weirdly. On the one hand, the Predator sucked up the attempts by the Hemlock and Lance Serpent to pop it, getting profiled but not dying. on the other, Shuriken cannon fire and a few other things hammered the cultists bad, and once morale in the Hemlock bubble was accounted for actually removed the unit on an unlucky 6. Finally, some of the spear guys died.
He responded by teleporting his Tzaangors into my lines. Annoyingly, GW have only gone and bloody moved where the clarification in the FAQ that you can intercept a teleporting unit, so we played it that I couldn’t (I have since located the rule). That meant that probably ~4 more Tzaangors than expected got to charge into my stuff, while at the other end of the board various shooting plinked some wounds off my Knight. Finally, my opponent had drawn Priority Orders, and didn’t do a great job of concealing that, sending his Daemon Prince over to try and kill the Cannon Serpent. The Tzaangors made it into the avengers and my Autarch, at least losing a decent number on overwatch, and wiped the Avengers, while the Prince overperformed but didn’t kill the Serpent. My second turn was a little disappointing – the Predator ate dirt, as did a few Tzaangors, but the Hemlock, guardians and cannon serpent failed to kill the Prince, leaving Priority almost certain to go off next turn. This was largely down to my Psychic phase being a deep disappointment – both Doom and Jinx on the Prince failed/got denied. The wraithknight also missed the charge on the Tzaangors, though at least I’d positioned him to multi charge into the spear guys, who got thoroughly killed.
His turn was pretty good – the Prince junked the serpent on psychic, then warptimed right next to the guardians, while deep striking Flamers hurt the Hemlock quite a bit. The Exalted Flamers continued to plink my Wraithknight and the Hemlock only just clung on. The Tzaangors mostly wiped the second Avenger squad and things honestly looked a bit dicey, but there was a silver lining – thanks to some good saves from a heroic grav platform, the Prince’s combat against the guardians was less than stellar, and even better, overwatch stripped it down to 2W.
My turn three was then fantastic – I drew a phenomenal new hand, including Combined Strike (1 point for killing any unit in psychic, shooting or fight, D3 if you hit 2/3, D3+3 if you manage all 3) and managed to score it – my Hemlock started the turn badly by blowing itself up with a perils (after a re-roll of the six), but luckily I’d made sure my Farseer was closest to the Prince, and wasted him with a smite. Then my Autarch apparently drank some sort of a hero potion, killing an exalted flamer in each of the shooting and fight phases, while the rest of my army did some damage as well, the Wraithknight stomping some Tzaangors and the Serpent bully charged the Rubrics.
He conceded after his turn 3 – he pulled everything he had left in to surround my wraithknight to try and kill it, which he did – and it promptly collapsed, neatly only rolling a 4 on the radius to chuck a huge pile of MWs into all of the rest of his army while leaving the rest of mine untouched. That meant he had no remaining chance to take me out, and we called it there. I was considerably ahead on points, and my guardians were largely untouched and at the far end of the board, while a mostly operational serpent was still chilling in his lines and my characters were alive, so i think there’s a strong chance that I’d have won over the next few turns without the knight collapse, but that ended things early.
Points of Interest
As I mentioned earlier, I really need to read relics on my opponent’s list more, and my list really can’t screen itself. Exalted flamers are honestly kind of cool, and if you could take more of them they’d probably be quite good, as S9 high damage shooting you can screen with chaff is obviously great in the knight meta. Add a few more things like that in place of the predator and his list starts looking really cool. I need to continue working on planning around failing to land doom – I’m not sure there’s much I could have done in this case, but I should always be aware of it. Letting the Autach get charged turn 1 was also just a flat mistake – I didn’t have much screening, but that at least could have been avoided. The game has also reminded me that I need to print a bunch of FAQs for Glasshammer, because needing a printed copy of the Space Marine FAQ and a shot of one of their strategem cards to prove a point about one of mine is cool and normal.
Finally, this game does showcase some of the problems with Maelstrom, and were I writing an event pack I flat wouldn’t have included Sealed Orders – it’s one of the ones that can really go bad. In addition to my massive swing from Combined Strike, I also got a cool free D3 points turn 1 because I drew “area denial” at the start. Honestly that should probably have the same “not on your first turn” rider that “hold the line” has, but then that also causes problems in missions where you’re motivated to churn through cards quickly. I enjoy Maelstrom and think that it can be turned into an effective format with minimal tweaking, but “don’t play sealed orders” is probably one of those tweaks.
17-10 to me
With that score I placed 4th overall, narrowly missing out a podium place. Initially I was announced as third but that turned out to be due to a maths mistake (which wasn’t a huge surprise as the players on 3-0 had all conferred and we were pretty sure we knew the order beforehand), the relatively low score from the first game due to the Wraithknight eating dirt probably costing me, along with tabling my opponent so hard I didn’t have time to farm in game 2.
Honestly I don’t really mind about that – I was thrilled to manage 3-0 with a list containing a terrible albatross, and while game two was quite easy, game one was a very tough match and game three my opponent had some good counters to me.
All the expected problems with the list were adequately showcased, and the major one I hadn’t anticipated (no good screening) reared its ugly head in games 2 and 3. Worse, I never even got to use the turbo-stomp combo on the knight, because I was so starved of CP/an active knight that it never made strategic sense.
Happily, I’m comfortable that my list for my next major event, the Glasshammer open a.) definitely doesn’t have any Wraithknights in it (I double checked) and b.) addresses pretty much all of the problems here. More on that next week, because I have a frankly absurd event schedule this month – it’ll probably be up Monday/Tuesday.
Finally, it was great to see Corrode and Artum (plus some of the rest of the Bristol lot), who both had good days, with Corrode taking third (apparently he had more of these so-called victory points than I did, which I think sounds unlikely) and Artum getting best painted (judged by a Golden Daemon winner who was on-site running a painting course). BIG remains a great place to play 40k, and the Tides events are great fun, and accessible even to people who don’t normally play tournaments.