Thursday, 30 January 2014

Invitational Tournament Report

Throughout last year I've been going to as many tournaments as possible. Be they Masters style or little local events. A few of the results were uploaded to Rankings HQ and as a result I was fairly high up in the rankings. My second place at Blood & Oil tipped me into the top 16 though and as a result I got to go to the Invitational again.

This time around the tournament needed four lists to be used at least once over six games. The first day involved a group stage of four players and three games, the top two go through to the top eight on the second day the bottom two to the bottom eight. After that it was a fairly simple Steamroller (ish). I knew I would be taking Gaspy3 and Deneghra1 as those lists are running smoothly. After a lot of thought I changed Skarre1 to remove the support solos and the kraken. Instead she ran with Mechanithralls, lots of mechanithralls and brute thralls. I did this because of Dan Cunningham (the Menoth player from Blood & Oil). We chatted after the game there and I realised that though that list had some good points, against a great player they can scalpel out the right pieces and leave Skarre1 vulnerable. So I decided to go for brute force and thus had 71 models in that list. I bounced around that fourth list a lot but decided to go for Mortenebra's theme force. I played her a lot before Colossals came out but she can't crack armour like other Cryx casters so she's been sat on the shelf awhile now.

The Lists:

Asphyxious the Hellbringer
- Deathjack
- Erebus
Mechanithralls (min)
Necrosurgeon x2
Ogrun Bokur
Satyxis Blood Witches (max) + UA
Satyxis Raiders (max) + UA
Raider Captain x2

Warwitch Deneghra
- Nightwretch x2
- Skarlock Thrall
Boomhowler (max)
Mechanithralls (min)
Necrosurgeon x2
Nyss Hunters (max)
Satyxis Raiders (max) + UA
Withershadow Combine
Lord Rockbottom
Dougal MacNaile

Master Necrotech Mortenebra
- Harrower x2
- Leviathan
- Reaper
- Scavenger x2
- Stalker x2
Necrotech x2
Warwitch Siren x2

Pirate Queen Skarre
- Helldiver x2
- Skarlock Thrall
Bane Knights (max) x2
Mechanithralls (max) x3
- Brute Thralls x7
Necrosurgeon x2
Saxon Orrik

On the day the draw for the group stages happened and though they split the top four players into a group each, none of the opponents were going to be an easy game. At the end of the draw I was going to be facing Paul Watson (Cryx), Jamie Perkins (Khador) & Dan Cunningham (Menoth). Oh dear.

Game 1, Destruction, vs Dan Cunningham, The Protectorate of Menoth

Was I worried about this game? Oh yes. Dan had a very good shot to defeat me the first time we'd faced and I knew this would be a very difficult game. But that's why I go to tournaments. Anyways, Dan had Harbinger, Feora2, Kreoss1 and High Reclaimer to choose from. I wasn't exactly sure which he would go for but I was going to put down Skarre1 or Deneghra1 for preference. With the prescience of the judicator I didn't fancy the chances of Nyss so Skarre1 threat saturation it was. Dan picked Kreoss1 while I went first to gain ground on Dan.

You'll see from the photos I was kinda bottle-necked by the building on my left but I spread out as much as I could and interspersed the bane knights to make judicator shots slightly more risky to trigger vengeance. On Dan's first turn he moved up slightly with errants and zealots taking a couple of shots with the judicator to remove a couple of the right-hand mechanithralls from the table.

Dan is very good at judging distances it seems. Everything was 12" from the nearest mechanithralls and the knights didn't have vengeance to help close the distance. So I ran pretty much everything forward, just not at full speed so I could spread out more and save some of my models from the terrible shooting sure to come down on my head. Skarre then moved up and with her feat attempted to protect as much as I could from Dan's shooting.

Here Dan carefully kills those outside Skarre's feat, including a brute thrall from my right. That mechanithralls unit over there is getting battered by Dan's shooting. The judicator and the errants didn't advance and the zealots used their mini-feat to stop anything I could do to them and protected the left side of the board. My feat protected me from the worst of the shooting that turn, it won't happen again.

My turn and I still can't get to Dan with most of my force. All I can do now is reduce the effectiveness of Kreoss' feat which is definitely happening this turn. My helldivers move up again, and are now very close to his front lines. My front lines attack him, firstly by removing the right-hand objective, then a couple of knights remove an errant from the table. The zealots become engaged by a couple of the left-hand knights and a mechanithrall or two while the rest of my force is there waiting to be shot as they can't get any closer.

Dan feats and down the front half of my army goes. Zealots move up and damage an objective but fail to remove it. Errants have a slightly bad turn as though they can hit my knocked down stuff with their swords, Quick Work failed to hit two or three times into my other models relaxing on the ground. The Judicator kills some Knights and Mechanithralls and by the end of the turn I'm not left with much inside 14" of Kreoss.

However, a helldiver pops up right next to Kreoss. He immediately gets three focus and Skarre casts Dark Guidance to help the little guy hit. Dan had put Defender's Ward on Kreoss and was camping a fair amount but that didn't seem to matter to the helldiver as he left Kreoss with 4 health after hitting with both attacks and boosting damage both times. A couple of bane knights then remove the other enemy objective and a few brute thralls run up to engage or block line of sight to Skarre who was camping a little bit but not enough to be totally safe.

Dan gets battle up on his jacks and using the devout he kills the nearby helldiver. Kreoss moves to the back of the board to get away from what is left of my troops and everything else tries to kill as much as possible. My right flank totally collapses and I'm left with four bane knights from the left-hand unit. So I decide it is time to end the game, one way or another. Skarre gives three focus to the remaining helldiver, moves up to be behind a wall and casts Backlash on the judicator. A boosted Hellfire comes next and does one point to Kreoss. The helldiver does two more thanks to boosted damage. Finally three bane knights get the angle thanks to vengeance and Kreoss goes down.

Things learnt:

That Skarre list is powerful, but again, against an opponent who can stay at range and pick off certain pieces as the game progresses it doesn't do so well. I don't see myself using it again anytime soon. So I've got to come up with a better list for a Masters event.

Game 2, Close Quarters, vs Paul Watson, Cryx

Since the 2012 Welsh Open Paul has played Menoth, Legion and brought Cryx to this tournament whereas I'm still on Cryx. Even with the faction switching I was still worried as Paul had to be a good player to get into the Invitational.

Paul had brought along Terminus, Skarre1, Goreshade2 (theme list) and Deneghra1. Terminus doesn't really play well in the mirror match, nor does Goreshade2. I glanced over Skarre's list and Deneghra's and decided that Paul was going to pick Denny. What's the best answer I had to the control spells she'd be casting? Deneghra1 with the Withershadow Combine. And yep, it was a Deneghra1 mirror match. I lost the starting roll so I picked the side which slightly protected my flag with a wall.

His first turn everything ran. But the raiders didn't come screaming across the table, Paul held them back to hit at a similar time as the rest of his force. So I did something similar while running an arc node to get Crippling Grasp on Paul's raiders. My Boomhowlers went left towards his flag (thanks to Ghost Walk) and my raiders went centre-right around my flag with Nyss on the right to fight against Paul's blood witches. (Anybody confused yet? Because I am)

Paul gives a charge order to the blood witches and most of them run forward and go incorporeal as the blood hag kills one of Paul's raiders to dispel Crippling Grasp (I'd forgotten that trick). Raiders then come in and destroy my front most arc node whilst engaging a few of the raiders. Nyss come up my left flank and do a fairly good job of killing a few Boomhowlers. Paul's left arc node runs in and engages two Boomhowlers whilst the right one moves behind his raiders to enable Crippling Grasp to be cast on my raiders.

I decide to ignore the blood witches for now and my Deneghra moves up to feat and cast Ghost Walk on the raiders. With her feat I covered all but one of Paul's bile thralls so my Nyss moved up slightly and with help from Master Gunner MacNaile shot all but one off the table. My Raiders move up and engage a fair amount of Paul’s stuff on my right flank and kill a few of his raiders whilst they were at it. Boomhowlers move up further and have another turn of super-tough. Meanwhile my necrosurgeons are filling up the Mechanithralls as things are starting to die. One control point goes to Paul though as I fail to contest his flag.

Right, I'd better get the scenario under control then. A couple of raiders run into contest his flag as I get Crippling Grasp onto the Nyss and reduce the raiders and blood witches to a couple of models each. My raiders are pretty much half strength at this point and the Boomhowlers are taking a heavy beating from Paul's Nyss. My Nyss though take care of the right flank and are full strength over there.

Paul is under pressure and he decides that assassination is the way to go. A warwitch siren clears the mechanithralls engaging his centre arc node and it moves into a clear area. His Deneghra then gets Scourge onto a nearby Withershadow Combine member to knock Deneghra down. A boosted Venom from his Deneghra and an unboosted one from his second warwitch siren leaves my Deneghra low on health. Paul then moves up his raider captain to behind the wall and takes a hand cannon shot. From more than 5" away. I remind him about stealth and he realises that it was an unlikely assassination. So he kills all my mechanithralls instead. Ouch. Three control points to Paul.

With no mechanithralls to refill I keep all my focus and the necrosurgeons heal Deneghra quite successfully, getting her almost to full health. Crippling Grasp was upkept for free as Admonia was still on the board. This point I try to kill as much as I can to ensure no further assassinations could come my way. Nyss heavily damage the bone jack, taking out it's arc node and my raiders charge in to Paul's skarlock and Deneghra. I manage to get a lucky double and knock her down thankfully. So Rockbottom moved up and sprayed Deneghra and a Nyss or two. The Nyss died and Deneghra went down to a couple of health while being on fire.

The fire goes out though and Paul makes a few attack here and there to forestall the incoming Nyss from my right but it's not enough as only a couple of my troops go down. It's around this time that I realise that Paul hasn't kept on top of his clock. I don't remember the exact times but I was around the 15 minute mark for time left but Paul ended this turn with a minute and a half on his. He also hasn't managed to clear off his flag so the control points were still three to nothing.

So I take down heavily damaged arc node, the blood witches and the raiders whilst running my necrosurgeons and stitch thralls into contest Paul's flag. The game ends with Paul attacking with Deneghra but running out of time.

Things learnt:

I should protect my mechanithralls slightly better. I used them slightly too aggressively and Paul took them down easily, especially with warwitch siren sprays.

Game 3, Into the Breach, vs Jamie Perkins, Khador

Slightly odd situation here as we had both won two games and therefore were through to the top eight on the second day. I asked Jamie if he had a fourth list he wasn't confident with and we ended up with Mortenebra vs Irusk1. No idea how Irusk1 becomes a "use once" caster but as Jamie said, "oh how the mighty have fallen".

Anyways, I won the starting roll and took first turn to take full advantage of first round stealth. Against an army full of Black Dragons :) I'm in a fairly central location and send each of my stalkers on a flanking mission while the scavengers move up behind the crab jacks. Jamie moves up the black dragons in shield wall and the conquest up through the forest in his centre. Widowmakers take a couple of shots here and there but I don't think much happened.

I keep my left harrower back at the edge of the zone with the scavengers slightly further back. I did think about sending in the Spectral Steel scavenger but the distance probably was too far and I didn't want to risk it this early. I also try to kill as many widowmakers as possible but they are slightly hard to hit in the woods so not much happens. Jamie's black dragons use their Iron Zeal ability and shield wall to become armour 22. Irusk feats to save as many of them as possible and the conquest moves up again. Whilst this is happening the widowmakers take down Deryliss.

Time to do some damage. Mortenebra sends in the harrowers under Terminal Velocity to kill as many black dragons as possible. I forgot to get Overrun on one of them though and only killed the local pikemen rather than moving on to another group. The Spectral Steel scavenger moves up to threaten Irusk as the other one moves to engage some pikemen. Jamie responds with Battle Lust being cast on both units and a mass of attacks hit my harrowers. Both survive due to limited space to charge but only one kept it's melee arm fully active. My reaper is killed by the conquest as various flanking forces fight amongst themselves. Harlan Versh popped out to take a shot at the scavenger (Purgation, it's a thing) but the first attack missed.

That conquest is getting closer and I don't like it. I decide to end the game as fast as I could and after allocating a focus to the scavenger and upkeeping Spectral Steel Mortenebra casts Terminal Velocity and feats. She then charges the leviathan to get extra distance on the feat and misses her attack. The final part of the plan is casting Overrun on the working harrower who does his duty and kills a black dragon or two. The scavenger moves up and then charges Irusk. Two attacks later and Irusk is damaged but still living. Conquest then gets a full load of focus and with one hit kills Mortenebra.

Things learnt:

Keep the support staff alive. With Deryliss on the table I could have given the scavenger three focus and more than likely killed Irusk. It was stupid of me to move him up that close to the front lines and I paid the price.

I've also looked over the photos I took of the game and realised that I was in a much better position than I thought I was. The black dragons were mostly dead and that left Jamie with a conquest and a dragoon to damage me. Perhaps I should have hung on a turn to cement my position. But it was the last game of the day, it was less important game given that we both qualified by that point and it was a good fun game.

Game 4, Process of Elimination, vs Matt Oakley, Legion of Everblight

The draw for the second day was done Saturday evening so I had all night to panic over my list selection. MOak had Lylyth2, Saeryn, Vayl2 and Vayl1 to choose from, all of which are nasty casters. Knowing that most Legion casters prefer Saeryn as an anti-Cryx caster I was happy choosing Gaspy3. Yes, he is mostly melee based but the feat and Ashen Veil do some wrong things to beast heavy lists. Lylyth2 was a possibility but ARM 24 when camping isn't bad, plus I can remove one shot with the Bokur. Turns out I was right and MOak choose Saeryn to face me.

I take the first turn and Deathjack and Gaspy move up the centre to respond to anything. Erebus and the raiders go right and the blood witches move left. MOak has done well and set up his hex hunters vs my blood witches and the deathstalkers vs my raiders, i.e. the best targets for both those units. But he moves up very cautiously as well. Nothing comes into the zone and the deathstalkers even move backwards from the photo I took.

Oh well, MOak will get the first chance to score so I'd better make the zones be under my control. Blood witches move into the centre of the left zone with Deathjack putting his toe in behind them. Raiders do the same on the right with Erebus right in the centre of the zone. Other than that I wanted to let MOak come to me and have to feat first to stay safe.

Which he does do. I can't remember the exact order of the things but hex hunters take out a couple of witches. A harrier uses its animus and charges my raider captain on the left, then sprints to tie up a couple of witches. Saeryn feats and an angelius attacks the left objective but some bad dice leaves it standing. So the other angelius shoots the objective and takes it down. The scythean engages a few of my raiders but no attacks were successful.

So I can't attack MOak's beasts and a couple of armour piecing attacks will do some damage to Gaspy. I decide to put Deathjack out front and let him take the brunt of the attacks. Ashen veil goes on Gaspy from the Deathjack as Gaspy moves up behind him to feat. My raiders and Erebus take down the right objective while fully surrounding the scythean at reach to prevent Blight Bringer killing them. The blood witches go incorporeal but can't do much damage to the hex hunters and just prepare for the attacks to come in.

MOak takes the bait and comes in to destroy the Deathjack as Gaspy was sitting there at DEF 17 thanks to Ashen Veil. Two anglius come in but after all the attacks he still stands due to some poor dice on attack and damage. So the scythean moves across and takes a free strike from a raider. No damage was caused but a double two comes up and the scythean falls over stopping the Deathjack from being destroyed. Hex hunters come into the blood witches and do some damage as a harrier or shredder runs in to be a Blight Bringer target and remove a few more blood witches and mechanithralls. Over on the right a raek jumps into a couple of raiders but not much happens over there.

Time to destroy the heavies as they are all in one place now. Deathjack and Erebus get a full focus load (Deathjack had lost both arms though, so only three focus). The Deathjack goes first and though he takes a free strike from an angelius it has one box of cortex left which is enough to kill the scythian by his tusks. Gaspy moves across and kills the lesser to get Carnage up and running, then kills one of the angelius. Mechanithralls attempt to kill the last angelius but fail and I send in Erebus. Unfortunately I decided to walk him and leave the angelius .6" away from him. Bugger. My raiders damage the raek but also leave it alive and the blood witches continue their battle with the hex hunters.

MOak uses the angelius to destroy the Deathjack and damage Erebus. The raek takes out a few of the raiders and the blood witches are finished off by the hex hunters but not much else happens as we have both lost a load of our armies.

Gaspy moves into the left zone to get away from Saeryn and the angelius while attempting to clear it out and dominate. I fail thanks to the pot toeing in but the mechanithralls and Erebus deal with the angelius to keep Gaspy safe. The ogrun bokur deals with the raek as well and leaves that zone only defended by a shepherd and another solo. At this point MOak concedes.

Things learnt:

If it looks really close why risk it? Erebus should have charged just to ensure he got there. Better to do some damage than none at all.

Game 5, Incursion, vs Matt Goligher, Legion of Everblight

Matt had been relying heavily on Vayl2 throughout the tournament it seems and was left having to either play Vayl1 or Lylyth2 vs me. I stuck to the idea of Gaspy3 and expected Lylyth2 to be chosen. Turns out Matt went for Vayl1, somebody I wish I had more practice against. But it will be fine. Won't it?

I take first turn again and send the raiders through the forest on the left, blood witches up the right and everything else up the centre. Matt sends a couple of hex hunters to the right of the centre flag but hangs everything else around the hill on his side of the board. Then the right-hand flag disappears.

At this point I could have ran my raiders into his army to jam up and attempt to score scenario points that way. I decided not to as I'd be wasting their corpses and they are still a major threat if they hang around the left flag waiting for the right moment to strike. The blood witches go incorporeal, not that it'll save them, and take out the two hex hunters while claiming the area behind the centre flag. My heavies and Gaspy move into the nearby forest and wait to see how it goes.

Now after his first turn I knew I was in trouble, Matt moved his models confidently and with purpose. This turn showed me how badly I'd messed my turn up. Hex hunters came in and took down all but the blood hag from her unit. Due to misplacement of my stitch thralls though I only got a couple of corpses from this massacre. Vayl moves up, gets my jacks under the influence of Incite and feats. Her beasts then come in and with ranged attacks they do some damage to my warjacks then a scythean comes in and wrecks both Deathjack and Erebus. One turn and both my heavies are gone and I didn't feat to at least get a little bonus out of this. Crap. Then the worst thing of all happens, Matt retreats with his army out of most of my threat ranges. Oh and scores a control point from the middle flag.

Time to get some value out of this charlie foxtrot. Mechanithralls kill a couple of things around the centre flag but are mostly there to contest that flag. The raiders do the same and charge in from the left to the centre. I can't quite concentrate the damage on one beast so their targets live. Gaspy then casts Mobility and charges to base the left flag. The harrier that had gotten there died to his sword and I used Blood Boon to get Ashen Veil on Gaspy while he also feated for that little bit extra protection.

With Matt's beast heavy list and the placing of the beasts on the left side I was assured to get a little bit of extra focus next turn. Typhon was used to clear off the centre flag as the scythian and ravagore moved into contest the left flag. The Seraph also helped out by killing a couple of raiders. Some other stuff happened but the most important thing was Vayl moved to base the centre flag and scored two more control points for Matt. 3-2 CPs to Matt.

I'm buggered now. I can't get to Vayl for an assassination run and she's camping around 4 fury so even if I could get there I wouldn't get past the transfers. I also don't have enough heavy stuff to contest the flag with any sort of certainty, so I try the next best thing, get control points. With the focus Gaspy moves around the flag and destroys the ravagore. He can't quite reach the scythean though and so the bokur goes for a slam to get the last contesting model out of the way. But even with the client bonus he misses and the scythean stays there. So I just run mechanithralls in to contest the centre flag and pass the turn over.

After all that Mat calmly clears off the centre flag to score the five control points and win the game.

Things learnt:

Practice against as many different casters as possible. It's difficult at times but worth it. My major mistakes that game where underestimating Vayl's threat range extenders and thus misplacing my heavies so they could both die in one turn. I also failed with the placements of the stitch thralls meant to collect the blood witches' corpses. Would it have been enough for a win, probably not. Would it have gone better for me, most definitely. Matt knew what his army could do and applied it in the best way possible.

Game 6, Outflank, vs Lewis Johnson, Cygnar

Lewis seemed to feel bad about our last game and wanted a little more of a fun game this time around, given that in this tournament it was pretty much first or nothing. After a bit of discussion we ended up with a Haley2 vs Gaspy3 match up. Let's see how this turns out.

I've got a forest in the centre of my side so the Deathjack and Gaspy move up that way thanks to Mobility. Raiders go left and blood witches right, backed up by Erebus. Lewis sends the stormwall to the left, gun mages in the centre and the storm lances on the right. But he doesn't move up that far so I have to come to him.

I do come forward slightly, raiders spread out in the left zone and the blood witches do something similar on the right as they go incorporeal for the turn. Deathjack and Gaspy cower in the forest afraid of the major threat range of the stormwall under Haley's control. Erebus puts his toe in the right zone to support the blood witches and I pass the turn fully expecting Lewis to feat.

But he doesn't. Aiyanna gives the storm lances magical weapons who attack the blood witches but only kill a couple of them. Arcane Shield also gets cast on the storm lances to help protect them. The gun mages are given Deadeye and shoot a couple of raiders at range while the stormwall lays down covering fire to prevent raider charges. The hunter shoots at Erebus and hits both times to remove its movement.

And at this point I realise I've got very little chance at winning this game. As it doesn't matter (only first place matters in this tournament) I chat through a few options with Lewis but with his feat still in reserve I can get to his lines but I have very little chance at surviving his attacks for two turns. I try to assassinate via a couple of Boneshakers at Haley but the first didn't do much damage and the second one missed. The blood witches took down two of the storm lances though, with some good rolls. Erebus walked into the right zone, Deathjack towards the left with Mechanithralls gathered in-front to prevent a Stormwall charge (great time bomb target though Lewis noted).

Lewis then goes and with Deadeyed gun mages he knocks Gaspy down so the hunter got an easy shot to end Gaspy.

Things learnt:

The game was very one sided, but that's what happens when you play against one of the best Cygnar players around. I do know that Lewis was worried about my Deneghra1 and Skarre1 lists, so I had that going for me.

Cygnar gun lines are some of the best at destroying Cryx infantry based lists. Lewis thinks that Deneghra2 would be best to combat this and I'll probably give her a go.

Overall it was a great weekend and I got to play against some of the best Warmachine players in the country. I came seventh when the results came in and against that crowd I was very happy. Hopefully I'll get the chance to go again next year but with my plans to play Skorne this coming year I don't know how successful that'll be.

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