Mike and I headed down to Chesterfield last weekend for a Shadeglass Trophy event at Geeks Headquarters. The venue was great, with a ton of space (they were even running tournaments for 2 other games at the same time!) and the staff were friendly and helpful – worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Fourteen people ended up registered for the tournament – a good number for a local event – and they ranged from beginners to seasoned veterans (or as seasoned as you can get for a game that’s been out less than a year). As with pretty much every event I’ve been to everyone was really nice and there were a lot of good discussions between rounds and after the event.
The one bad thing was that there was a bit of confusion about the event format, which is probably understandable given that GW’s event materials aren’t exactly the best. Rounds were 45 minutes, and started out as best of three.
During the first round it became apparent that this didn’t really work out. While some of us had managed to get a conclusive best of 3 result in the 45 minutes, most hadn’t, and a number of players ended up having to decide the results of their match with roll-offs. After some discussion the event switched to best of 1s, which worked out better but did mean that tiebreakers were a bit weird at the end – more on this later.
Anyway, on to the matches. I was playing a tweaked, slightly more defensive, version of the hybrid / midrange Steelheart’s Champion list I’d been running since the relic nerf, adding in some of the new Leaders expansion cards. It had done pretty well in testing, so I was hoping it would serve me well in the tournament.
Round 1 vs The Farstriders (2-0)
My first opponent was playing a fairly aggressive Farstriders list, and trying out one of the new Shattered City boards. I’d seen his excellently converted Tzeentch Farstriders on Facebook previously and it was cool to see them in person.
Farstriders are generally one of the worst matchups for defensive decks, as their mobility and reach make it easy for them to disrupt a lot of the passive objectives as well as helping them get in to start attacking. They’re also very versatile, so it was hard to guess what kind of list my opponent was running.
Everything went pretty much according to plan in game 1. I was able to avoid being attacked turn 1 and get my no damage objectives out of the way, then to win by a solid 11 glory lead.
The second game was closer, mostly thanks to some excellent turn 1 play from my opponent that – combined with a missed attack from Obryn – managed to deny my entire objective hand. Fortunately he wasn’t able to capitalize on this early lead and I managed to claw my way back to a narrow victory.
Round 2 vs Magore’s Fiends (1-0)
Aggro Fiends are probably the best pure aggressive warband against defensive lists, but unless they have movement ploys and strong passive objectives with supporting ploys (e.g. Shardgale + Rivers of Blood) they still have a tough match-up.
My opponent didn’t seem to have access to any of these options, and so I was able to get ahead in turn 1 and maintain my advantage through to a 13-5 victory. There’s not really much to say about this game – I drew well, he didn’t, and with the matchup in my favour there wasn’t much he could do about it.
We did manage to get a second game in for fun before the end of the round, and while it was a lot closer I still managed to scrape a win 7-6.
Round 3 vs Magore’s Fiends (1-0)
Round 3 was another Fiends player, who seemed to be running more of an aggro/objective hybrid list with Supremacy and some other hold objective cards. Unfortunately this ended up being his undoing as he misread me as being on aggressive Champions and deployed conservatively, aiming to make use of his 3 objective tokens to get an early lead with Supremacy.
This enabled me to score my turn 1 objectives uncontested, and combined with some good draws giving me the pushes I needed to keep him off his objectives, lead to a solid victory at 13-7.
Round 4 vs The Farstriders (0-1)
Round 4 saw me paired once again with my friend, testing partner, and co-author Mike running his traditional Farstriders. As always, I was dreading this as not only are the Farstriders a bad matchup in general, Mike plays them exceptionally well and I generally lose practice games against them.
The stakes were high as I was the only player at 3-0 so if I won I was guaranteed the trophy, whereas if I lost there wouldn’t be a clear winner and it could go to any of the players who’d then be on 3-1 – without visibility of the standings and with the change in format between rounds 1 and 2 it was impossible to say who.
It was a very close and very tense match, and in the end it really came down to a series of bad dice rolls and my choice to take Invisible Walls over No Time when building my deck.
The game started poorly for me, with Shardgale and Raptor Strike denying Sigmar’s Bulwark and a flurry of movement ploys back and forth ending up with me unable to score Alone in the Darkness. On the plus side this also meant only 1 of the Farstriders inspired and Mike wasn’t able to score much glory himself, so the single point I managed to get from Perfect Planning didn’t seem too shabby.
In turn 2 I had an opportunity to charge an inspired Hawkeye (who’d already moved, so no Quick Thinker) with Severin, supported by Heroic Might and Tireless Assault. Even with only 2 dice against 2 defense, having cleave and the ability to redo the attack if it failed gave me above average odds to hit.
If I did I’d kill Hawkeye and score Lightning Strikes and Defensive Strike, swinging the game back towards me and letting me dig further into my objective deck for more cards to help me score Superior Tactician for a big finish.
Of course I failed both attacks, not even rolling a single success on either of them. Going in to turn 3 Hawkeye had moved away, and my remaining push cards were only enough to get an un-upgraded Obryn next to him. This meant that I had to choose between trying to succeed on an attack with Obryn so I could knock Hawkeye over to Severin, or trying for the charge with Severin knowing that by this point Mike almost certainly had Quick Thinker.
I ended up making 2 attacks with Obryn, neither of which managed to hit, before trying the charge only to be met with Quick Thinker as expected. I had Invisible Walls in hand the whole time, but even 1 move is enough to foil a charge – if I’d gone with No Time I would have been fine.
A crit with Farstrider’s bird in the final activation then took out Severin and put the final nail in my coffin by denying Eternals, with my failure to score my aggressive objectives earlier meaning that I had also been left without enough objectives to get Superior Tactician either. The final result was 9-5 in a close game that could have swung in either of our favour based on the 2nd and 3rd turn.
Overall Results and Thoughts
After the tiebreakers were eventually worked out I ended up finishing second overall, with Mike coming in third and my round 3 opponent surprisingly taking the trophy – well done to him. The venue was very generous with promo prize support, giving out their spare copies of most of the quarter 1 cards alongside the quarter 2 kit.
I was more than a little bit annoyed by the results (although a lot more annoyed with myself for being so pissed off). I would have been fine if Mike had ended up winning the trophy, as our match would then have been a normal final, but as it was we ended up in some sort of reverse prisoner’s dilemma scenario where playing out the game meant neither of us won. Still, I can’t really complain too much , seeing how I’d been on the other side of a surprise first place when winning my first trophy.
This was in fact the third tournament in a row I’d been to where there had been a confusing situation with pairings and tiebreakers in the final round – It would be great if GW could provide software to make it easier for TOs at small events to manage pairings and results (like WotC do for Magic), especially if it was also part of a more structured organized play program. GW are investing a lot more in digital these days, so it doesn’t seem out of the question – maybe we’ll see something alongside wave 2?
As with other local events I’ve been to the meta was very aggro-focused, with most players on Magore’s Fiends or Ironskull’s Boyz (although I think all warbands except the Chosen Axes were represented). The aggro decks were pretty much all-in on aggression, full of extra damage and extra action ploys and aggressive objectives, which meant that they were disadvantaged against defensive or hybrid decks.
If you are an aggro player you would do well to give some thought to what you do in this kind of match-up – do you have any way of closing early or scoring glory on the way in so that you aren’t fighting an uphill battle when you do reach the enemy? My co-author Tom is writing a great series of articles on how to play against defensive decks which are well worth a read to get some more advice on this.