One thing that has really touched me is people telling me my articles encouraged them to go out and attend tournaments. A consistent theme throughout my tournament reports has been how great the opponents were, how varied the lists I faced are, and how much fun I had. And on a Chaos note, it makes me really happy to hear that my enthusiasm and success with Chaos Space Marines has encouraged some people to get their own minis off the shelf and on to the table. Death To The False Emperor!
But if I’m being honest with people about when I’m enjoying tournaments, I need to be honest about when I’m not. And right now, I really can’t recommend large tournaments to anyone. Competitive 40K is in the worst place it has been all edition if you’re not running one of the top factions.
I recently attended a five round GT with my Emperor’s Children. Here were my five games:
- Bye Round
- Contentious game that was a complete headache
- 3 games against Orks
- ZERO games were remotely in doubt past turn 2
Who wants to pay money for this experience?
In contrast, here was my previous GT a couple months ago:
- Custodes: W
- AdMech: L
- White Scars: W
- Chaos Knight and Daemon soup: W
- Iron Hands Dread spam: W
5 different factions, very different playstyles. I walked away from that event thinking “That was a blast, I need to keep tweaking against AdMech but every game was interesting”. I’m just not feeling that these days.
Here’s my biggest issue with the current “meta”: It’s not that some armies are too good. That’s just a feature of 40K. I also knew as someone who was 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 to start, I was going to face better factions every game. Bring it on. My list and skillset has the tools to beat them.
It’s that the win/loss record at a large tournament increasingly feels like a slot machine of matchups and first turn rolls. The best lists are also as un-interactive as can be. While I think it’s great Tyranids are getting new things to get excited about, the new Hive Guard are just insane and going to make things even worse. I ostensibly finished 3-2, but it was very close to being much lower or higher. If I go second against Chuck, I plummet down the standings. He had 2 Kill Rigs, 6 Squigbuggies, and 2 Wazbom Blastajets worth of firepower that didn’t care about the flat terrain pieces I deployed behind. I have a ~5% chance of winning going second. If I go first against Devin, I do oppressive damage on my Remnant turn and start damaging Ghaz a phase earlier and have an ~80% chance of winning going first. All 4 games were decided in terms of scoring by turn 2, even if the remaining models on the board were equal.
For people who live in areas with lots of access to GT’s or fly around their country to tournies all the time, this isn’t as much of an issue. Bring a coin flip list, spin the slot machine, and just go to another event if you lose a few games. And what’s also frustrating about these Ork lists is that they’re all played basically the same. Drukhari, Admech, and Grey Knights are all undercosted across the board… but when you play a great player from those factions, their skill really shines through. Drukhari especially require excellent Fight phase movement and planning to get the most value out of. Buggy lists basically play themselves. There’s no real difference between a bad buggy spam player and a great buggy spam player. If I see a tournament and I see one buggy spam player finished higher than the other, I don’t assume they played better. I assume they went first in the coin flip matchups that the other buggy spam player went second. This is very different from Drukhari or AdMech or Grey Knights, where the best player within that faction generally ends up on top within that faction at the end of the tournament.
One point I want to address before going into the details: Chase Congdon and the rest of the organizers did a great job running the tournament. I will definitely attend another event he runs in the future. The TO’s were fair and friendly, and the terrain was solid. Hats off to Chase and everyone else involved for setting up and hosting the event. Let’s dive into the games.
Game One: Little Creek Casino’s Poker (W, +$160)
Bluffing with small sizes into checked ranges continues to be completely OP in the live low stakes meta. Someone has to nerf that play.
Game Two: Chuck Arnett’s Orkz (W, 89-46)
Chuck’s army was gorgeous. There were some great conversions throughout his list. Seeing other people’s armies is one of the best part of attending tournies, and that factor will remain there regardless of rules.
Chuck played a really solid game overall, but made a few small mistakes that I was able to take advantage of in terms of positioning. Once the melta Terminators dropped down and started double shooting melta into the Kill Rigs and planes, the game started turning. Chuck tagged my Noise Marines with 10 Beastie Boyz at the bottom of turn one, but the Noise Marines killed 7 of his 10 models and Lucius shooting into combat/Dreadclaw movement phase mortals freed them up to shoot next turn. Chuck also rolled super cold on his Wazzbom and Kill Rig shooting, and both my Contemptors survived.
Lucius killed a Kill Rig in shooting, so that was neat. The other Kill Rig fighting when it died in melee was not neat. It was my first time facing Kill Rigs since they had only come out recently, and they weren’t as scary as I had expected them to be.
I think Chuck ended up winning the painting award at the end of the tournament. Hats off to him for all the work that he has put into this army.
Game Three: Anonymous Space Wolves (W, 91-50)
This game become very contentious, and we were both relieved when it was over. I don’t believe in mentioning their name in a forum where they can’t defend themselves, so I’ll keep it brief and then ask to move on because it’s not a big deal.
I will just say, as a 40K player attending tournies, you will run into players that seem chill at the start of the game… especially when you show up to the table with a bottom tier faction. And then once they realize they’re losing, they will become very difficult to deal with.
The TO agreed with me on the one issue we needed a ruling on. Everything else he took issue with was played correctly and I have literally never seen someone take issue with before. The irony of it all was that turn one before things turned sour, he had forgotten to use a stratagem in his Psychic Phase and asked at the end of his Fight Phase whether he could still use it. I immediately told him it’s fine and he could still use it. I really didn’t want the last game of the day to be stressful.
We were both really tired coming into the game, and I have no reason to think he’s a bad guy outside of this game. I wish him good luck with his Space Wolves going forward.
Game 4: Nicholas Ohlsen-Johnson’s Freebooterz (L, 53-80)
Nicholas was a fantastic player and opponent, and this was my favorite game of the tournament. We are both technical players and were in sync on every rules interaction and pre-measuring everything relevant for both sides. And that is what’s so frustrating about these buggy lists! I would have loved to face him when he was running White Scars or Drukhari or a skill intensive list. I’m sure he would have made clever plays and we would have battled for 5 tough rounds. Instead, once I went first and failed to shoot down any planes and only killed one buggy, I knew it was over. There’s little difference between a bad and great buggy/plane spam player, which is a shame because I think Nicholas was a great buggy/plane spam player.
I do think I should have gone even more aggressive turn 1. I didn’t think of it like this at the time, but Nicholas made a tiny mistake forward deploying a second unit. I could have deepstruck my Noise Marines within buff range of my Characters while being 9″ away from that unit, Honour The Prince’d the Noise Marines after shooting into the scouts, and then move blocked the Scrapjets from shooting my Contemptors. I forgot Scrapjets have only a 24″ range on their main gun. Live and learn! I was almost bailed out by randomly spiking a ton of invuln saves on my Contemptor, but I did end up losing one. If I had some Dense Cover in my deployment zone to tag a bunch of stuff into, I really think this game is close. We played this game basically equal on Primary. He was able to slam dunk 12 Retrieve Data points down since I ran out of units way too quickly to screen my table quarters, as well as farm Engage with Stormboyz and planes.
The Noise Marines really underwhelmed this game. Ramshackle is just brutal for our high volume of S5 2D guns. I almost think I might have made a mistake double shooting them, as I spent 2 CP to whiff on my Blastmasters and have the Sonic Blasters barely finish off a single wounded buggy. Most -1 Damage things like Dreadnoughts, the Noise Marines are still solid into just because the volume of firepower is so high. But the -1 to Hit from Cloud of Smoke and the fact Buggy wounds are pretty cheap just really blunted their efficiency. On the other hand, the melta Terminators continued to do real work into these buggy lists. Double shooting melta guns are still good, who knew?
Game Five: Devin’s Goffs (L, 32-65)
I enjoyed playing Devin. He clearly loved his Orkz, and I got a laugh out of his custom Squigbuggy converted to look like a food truck. By comparison to the last few lists, this Orks list was practically a Highlander list. There were only 2 Squigbuggies, 2 Scrapjets, and 1 Kill Rig. He threw Ghaz in there along with some Deffkoptas and Squighog Boyz along with the usual Kommandos/Stormboyz. He went first, and got so much board control that I was never really back in the game. I have to give Devin credit for keeping his foot on the gas, and not making any big mistakes to let me back into the game.
I made a mistake when I charged my Master of Executions into his Squighog Boyz. He had a unit of 6, and I thought popping Vets would be enough to kill them. He then popped their version of transhuman on them. I should have asked if the strat could be used on them first. I would then have spent another CP for Excess of Violence to make sure they die even if he pops transhuman. I killed 5 out of 6, and then the single remaining Squighog Boy killed my Master of Executions and denied me my Stranglehold and scored him 15 on Primary. Live and learn!
The Noise Marines underwhelmed yet again. I spent the usual 4 CP combo to have them kill his Kill Rig, which just wasn’t worth it. I’m basically seeing that if I want to keep running Noise Marines, the rest of my list has to be tailored super hard versus killing Orks to make up for how useless they are.
At one point, I tagged a single Squigbuggy with a unit of 4 Terminators to stop it from shooting them. That one Squigbuggy immediately killed 3 of my Terminators in combat. My kingdom for an extra wound!
I will say, funny enough, I was asked to pull out and show my codex twice during this tourney. Both times were for the exact same issue–people couldn’t believe how good Lucius’s shooting was! I love my little 25mm base wrecking ball. Lucius, Kharn, and Abaddon are all just so damn good. Chaos Space Marines got lucky with their named characters.
I had dropped my Sorceror with Prescience/Delightful Agonies so I could take Abhor against Grey Knights and Thousand Sons. Obviously, this was a failed gamble because I didn’t face either of those armies all tournament. I still believe in that decision, mostly because of how amazing the replacement Master of Executions was. The Master of Executions with Flames of Spite/Raiment Repulsive is an absolute wrecking ball. He’s such an amazing beatstick and keeps my deployment zone clean. I still believe in running Emperor’s Children without a Sorceror for the time being. I’ve since dropped my unit of bolter Terminators for a 3rd Contemptor with Volkite and Missiles. I don’t enjoy this. I don’t want to play Emperor’s Children as just an alternate version of Black Legion/Iron Warriors. Unfortunately, they’re just so good with the Remnant of the Maraviglia.
I don’t want to completely discourage people from attending tournaments. There’s always value in catching up with friends, seeing other armies, and getting to spend a day rolling dice. That’ll never change. But as long as GW continues to sit on their hands and let 9th Edition’s balance and playstyle collapse, PLEASE know what you’re getting into. If you’re someone who has a skill level to reliably move up the standings early despite a bad faction, you’re going to have some headache-inducing games as you inevitably pair into one of the problematic factions later on. Hopefully the Dark Gods protect you and bless your rolls for first turn.
Sorry to be a downer! I love this game, and I’m going to keep experimenting and finding ways to win with our awesome but suboptimal Chaos factions. I’m working on my own spin on an Epidimius/Nurgle Daemon Engine list, and look forward to getting some reps in with that at some upcoming local tournies.
Note: I’d love to work with you on making your fun or weird Chaos idea into a competitive list. If you’re interested in supporting the growth of Warphammer and quality 40K writing, feel free to check out Patreon.com/Warphammer and join the team. Additional benefits and coaching are available.
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Published: October 26th, 2021. Last Updated: October 26th, 2021.