Two in a Row: Jack Harpster Recaps His Win at the GW Chicago Open

Winning at NOVA in September wasn’t enough – today we’re joined by Jack Harpster from the Art of War, recapping his victory at the GW US Open Major in Chicago, once again picking up an army with zero practice games.

The US Open series is probably my favorite set of 40k GTs during the year.  They’re always well run, have excellent terrain with a great terrain format, and they always bring out a large crowd of competitors. Last year’s US Open series took place in the American South; easy to travel to for the Art of War team, but this year’s events have been more geographically spread out. The most recent US Open event was located in Chicago, deep in the heart of the Death or Glory club’s territory. And so heading into this event [the Art of War team] knew we’d be heading deep into “enemy” (I love hanging with the DoG guys) territory. Attendance-wise, the Chicago Open looked to be an unusually stacked event; I’d have to beat out a series of extremely good players for first place in addition to my own teammates, John Lennon, Anthony Vanella, and Quinton “Rampage” Johnson. It was set to be a very fun weekend.

The Army

The first step was deciding what army to play. I’d just won the NOVA Open a few weeks back with Necrons and the army hadn’t become any less of the best list in the game but I wanted to try something different. I came up with a mech Eldar list I quite liked in theory and I decided to take it to Crucible in Orlando a week before the open. This was where boredom struck. Due to Hurricane Ian, we headed down to Orlando early, stayed at Quinton’s house and worked remotely. Since we’re all 40k addicts, we also brought a table with us and got several games in before Crucible started (Homemade margaritas help make random nonsense 40k games with friends a lot of fun), and the mech Eldar worked but wasn’t really fun for me.

I was in a weird spot where I was excited for 40k but not really excited for any particular army so while I was marged up, I was convinced by Q and Joh to switch to Drukhari and just mess around at Crucible. It wasn’t going to be an ITC contributing score* and I came up with a cool variant of a Nick special list that I wanted to run. That event turned out to be an incredible time – I ended up losing in the finals to John’s tournament ready Kraken build and getting third. I decided that I wanted to run a more competitive variant of elf transport spam than Drukhari for the Chicago event and I settled on Harlequins.

On our return, I retreated to the stream house porch with the Eldar codex and re-entered an hour later convinced that Twilight ‘Quins was the way to go. I shared my ideas with Quinton, who also wanted to run Quins, and together we designed and refined the list. I’ll save you the unnecessarily long saga of back-and-forth waffling between a Harlequins list I named “Clown Mode” in Battlescribe and a Necron list named “If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em,” but I will note that Quinton convinced me at the eleventh hour to switch back to Twilight ‘Quins and after that I was ready to rock. Part of my decision was an ongoing “joke” in Art of War that I cannot lose if I YOLO a list to an event with no practice. I’ve won three supermajors in the last year with lists where my first game ever with the codex was round one of the event and Chicago could be number four. I never get sick of telling my opponents “this is my sixth game with this army” and watching them realize that we’re playing in round six of the event.

*Rob: While the event did award ITC points, it was not large enough to meaningfully improve Jack’s scores by being among his 6 highest, even if he had finished 1st.

Credit: Ben Hampshire

The List

Twilight Battalion Detachment

HQ: Shadowseer: Twilight Pathways, Mirror of Minds, Agent of Pandemonium – 130

HQ: Troupe Master: Warlord, A Foot in the Future, Fusion Pistol, Twilight Fang, Veiled King – 105

Troops: 12 Troupes – 9x Harlequin Blades, 1x Caress, Embrace and Kiss – 171
Troops: 12 Troupes – 2x Harlequin Blades, 5x Kiss, 3x Embrace, 2x Caress – 206
Troops: 12 Troupes – 2x Harlequin Blades, 5x Kiss, 3x Embrace, 2x Caress – 206
Troops: 5 Troupes – 2x Harlequin Blade, 1x Caress, Embrace and Kiss, 2x Fusion Pistols, 2x Neuro Disruptors – 100
Troops: 5 Troupes – 2x Harlequin Blade, 1x Caress, Embrace and Kiss, 2x Fusion Pistols, 2x Neuro Disruptors – 100
Troops: 5 Troupes – 2x Harlequin Blade, 1x Caress, Embrace and Kiss, 2x Fusion Pistols, 2x Neuro Disruptors – 100

EL: Solitaire – 110

DT: Starweaver – 95
DT: Starweaver – 95
DT: Starweaver – 95
DT: Starweaver – 95
DT: Starweaver – 95

Twilight Patrol Detachment

HQ: Shadowseer – Fog of Dreams, Webway Dance, Mirror Architect, Player of Twilight, Laughing God’s Eye – 125

Troops: 5 Troupes – 2x Harlequin Blade, 1x Caress, Embrace and Kiss, 2x Fusion Pistols, 2x Neuro Disruptors – 100
Troops: 5 Troupes – 4x Harlequin Blade, 1x Kiss – 70

It’s a fun list. I’m convinced at this point that Twilight Harlequins are better than Light. When I played against Light, my game plan was to bully them around the board but Twilight hits hard enough that that’s a less appetizing option for opponents. Many opponents attempted to bully me off the center of the board only to find out that a twelve-man Troupe unit hits ungodly hard when kitted out with my choice of Malicious Frenzy, Murderous Spectacle, War Dancers, Kiss of Death, Oblivion’s Caress and A Deadly Embrace. Player of Twilight helped fuel this CP engine of death and the Solitaire and Troupe Master with Twilight Fang, Veiled King, and Foot in the Future act as hyper-fast problem-solving missiles. Finally, Agent of Pandemonium protects the Troupe units from combat (most combat units do next to no damage with -1 attack, hit and wound) while the absolutely hilarious combo of Mirror Architect and Fog of Dreams kept large units safe on objectives, unable to be shot. Finally, GW ruled that Twilight makes the consolidation move from Cegorach’s Jest when an opponent tries to run away 8” instead of 6” thanks to the +2″ consolidate bonus from Twlight. Good luck escaping combat once large Twilight Troupe units are engaged with you.

Day 1

Day one of Chicago was tough, round one I played Robert Sochia’s beautifully painted Black Templars but I got hard pairings round two and three into Matt Estrada’s Light Harlequins and Dylan Matousek’s World Eaters, both of which are better players than I’d usually expect to face at those rounds of an event. I beat out my Light brethren with sheer aggression and lost to Dylan’s World Eaters by a point for about five minutes after the game went sideways horribly partway through. Luckily we remembered an end of game Raise the Banners point we hadn’t scored and the game actually ended up being a draw. Both of us made top bracket but unfortunately, I never got to run that game back. I’ll get you next time, Dylan.

All three games were fantastic games with equally great opponents but I was drained at the end of the day. There are only so many GTs you can go to in a row before attending them back-to-back-to-back starts catching up to you. Quinton had rough luck round one and got paired into Tom Ogden’s Tau on terrain that was turned the wrong way and got shot clean off the board. On a positive note, that would end up being the only loss our Twilight list would take the whole event; true to his name Q would rampage his way through the 3-1 bracket and end the event in 20th place.

That night, we hung out with the approximately thousand of my friends who showed up to the event and got dinner at the hotel bar. I made John pinky promise that we would get Chicago-style deep dish pizza the next night though. I wasn’t about to miss out.

Day 2

Every day of the Open, I’d wake up and briefly ask myself where I was before remembering that I was still in Chicago and day two was no different. Like my Troupe Master, I had a foot in the future being from the east coast and got to enjoy a lazy morning with my internal clock being an hour ahead. In Round four I had an enjoyable and violence-filled game into Ryan Myers’ Freeblade Lance and winning that one put me into the (rather stacked) top 16, along with my teammates Anthony and John.

Rob: At GW Open events, players are seeded into different 16-player pods after the first four rounds of the event. The top 16 players (usually 4-0) are seeded into the top pod to play for the grand prize. Each pod awards prizes for players going 4-0 in the final four rounds of the event. You cannot place higher than your pod will allow, so if you’re in pod 2, you can, at best, finish in 17th place, unless someone who would have been in the top 16 doesn’t finish all 8 games.

From there on out there would be no easy games – I could count on each round being a challenge. In Round five I was paired into Derek Glassman, a lovely human being with a great Death Guard list. This game ended up being on stream and was quite difficult. The highlight of the game was making a plan based around using A Deadly Embrace to kill a Foul Blightspawn that was protecting his army from charges so a twelve man Troupe unit could be free to wail on his army. This plan fell apart in my charge phase after moving multiple units out and absorbing an Overwatch with my Solitaire only to have a member of the stream team come over to inform me that the Blightspawn’s Revolting Stench Vats doesn’t just prevent me from fighting before his army but also prevents any Stratagem which triggers on a charge move, which A Deadly Embrace does (Rob: That’s right – the units within 6″ of the Stench-Vats Blightspawn never count as charging). Neither I nor my opponent knew this (he was sad that he’d taken charge mortals in the past off of Tyranid’s Horned Chitin), but after the table judge called the head judge to confirm that was correct, I was put in a very rough position. Derek was incredibly nice about it and apologized to me profusely about the position we were in, given I had based my plan around it and it was currently crashing down around me (<3 you Derek) but there was nothing he or I could do about it; we were too deep into my turn to go back.

I sat down to think for a couple minutes and came up with a plan. I reordered the charges I had been planning to make and used a couple nearby units I hadn’t been planning to charge with to base multiple models out of the Plague Marine units so that when Derek swung before my twelve man, he would only be able to make attacks with one model out of each of the two squads I was attacking. My Troupe unit killed fifteen Plague Marines and retook the center objective. This is probably the moment I was most proud of during the event; it would have been easy to declare my plan dead and lose the game on the spot but I took my time, focused in, and came up with a way to carry my attack out with the resources I had.  Derek was a fantastic opponent and it ended up being a nailbiter finish but in the end I managed to secure victory with a few units taking key objectives on the last turn.

Round six was against Florida local and generally cool dude, Marc Parker and his Leviathan Carnifex rush list. This was a round where the extra damage Twilight provides came in handy as a unit of twelve Troupes was able to flatten a unit of Warriors and his Flying Hive Tyrant in the same turn. A follow-up surgical strike by the Solitaire using Oblivion’s Caress to ignore Invulnerable saves to assassinate his Neurothrope locked Marc’s Warp Ritual to a zero and took away most of his buffs. Marc was still able to run down most of my army by the end of the game and nearly tabled me but the points total ended up in my favor. And with that, I was in the top four!

John managed an incredibly close win on stream against Marshall Peterson’s Necrons to keep the best army out of the top four and lock his spot in the semis. Anthony had a darkly funny day two where he lost to Tom Ogden’s Tau in round four, then made the top sixteen as the sixteenth seed only to pair into Tom again the next round. Anthony had removed his anti-Tau tech from his army to test for team events and so lost to Ogden again that round as well, and then had to play into Oliver Smith’s Tau the following round and lost there too.  After that game, I listened to his recounting of the list that he switched off for the event that would have given Tau a really hard time and I nodded in agreement; his normal list would have done much better (<3 you too, Anthony).

Day 3

You can find the streams of the Finals games here.

Day three started off against Tom Ogden’s Tau and I resolved to get vengeance for Quinton. Tom won the first turn roll-off and flew both Sun Sharks forward to bomb me and kill one of my shadowseers. Twilight’s damage capability meant he was frozen out with the rest of his army and his turn one attack had no follow up. Tom’s list runs on a knife’s edge as he takes no defense and relies on his overwhelming aggression to kill his opponent and win the game. If he tried to stage an attack, I would hit him first and would end up killing most of his army. After I killed the Sun Sharks, he had no way to push into me and I scored my amazing Harlequin secondaries over and over until the game ended. We both played at light speed, moving one unit out each turn and our game wrapped up less than an hour into the round. I got to watch most of John’s game into Ben Cherwein’s Emperor’s Children and rest up in anticipation of the finals.

Ultimately John ended up losing a very close game and so I sat down with Anthony during lunch and had him teach me the tricks Emperor’s Children were capable of. They have a lot of combat manipulation and I’d have to be careful while planning my attacks to not run afoul of any of the Fights Last or Fights-on-Death abilities that they can throw around.

I wound up going first in my Finals match against Ben and after an agonizingly long first turn spent trying to figure out how to score Deadly Performance I managed to sneak a Solitaire into Ben’s deployment zone after killing a Noise Marine unit. The following turn Ben made a plan to score a five on Adorn the Canvas Eclectic only for the Solitaire’s fight on death to even up both the character and melee kills, giving him only a single VP instead. He failed his cast attempt of Delightful Agonies on his ten man Possessed unit with a re-roll and so I decided to throw a large Troupe unit at it. I forgot I was wounding him on sixes thanks to The Black Rune of Damnation and didn’t save CP to make sixes to hit auto-wound, which would have clean wiped out the squad. Luckily, with just damage 3 and the ability to re-roll hits and wounds against Slaanesh units (what a strat, my god), I was able to kill a Noise Marine unit and six out of the ten Possessed who were only able to kill five of my Troupes by fighting on death. We both failed morale and his Possessed went down to two models while my troupes went to six.

I ground away Ben’s army with hammer blow after hammer blow of large twelve-man units in what was a very technical melee game. In the end my Troupe Master cleared his side and home objectives before dying to Ben’s last model, the Daemon Prince. Then the Troupe Master fought on death and killed the Prince in return, ending the game and netting me the win for the GW Chicago event!

I’m excited to run the game back in New Mexico at the GW finale; I already had a Golden Ticket to the event from my NOVA win and so Ben received the ticket I would have otherwise won. It was a well earned ticket; Ben knocked several fantastic players out on his way to the final game and played some great 40k. I earned a beautiful solid metal trophy that made the TSA agent have to check with her supervisor to determine whether I was allowed to carry it on the flight (I was jealous of Richard’s three and John’s one).

Final Thoughts

The Games Workshop Chicago Open was an amazing event and a trophy I’m proud to lean gingerly up against my wall (Rob: Seriously, those iron trophies weigh like 15 pounds). I won’t be able to attend the Kansas City event so this was my last chance to win one this year and I’m glad I was able to seize my chance to have my name engraved on the winners’ plaque. Ultimately it was a fun event filled with both new and old friends and great games of 40k on the way to the top and I’m looking forward to next year’s US Open Series. I’ll see you all on stream in the GW Finals!

If you’re interested in learning more about my process for building and refining lists, head over to our site. Become a part of our awesome community and enjoy your hobby even more!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at