2019 Year End Review: Looking Back at a Year of Competitive Hobbying

Just like that, 2019 is over and the dawn of a new decade is in full swing. As you get older, time starts to feel different, a decade doesn’t really seem like it should matter, but then you think about how 10 years ago you were graduating college, and you feel like you have to run to the mirror to check for bald spots. But I digress…

This year I made the decision not to travel outside of the greater Chicago area for events so I could spend more time at home with my 2 young kids and my wife after spending a lot of time in 2018 playing in events across the midwest. Ultimately that meant that I only made it out to 3 40k RTTs, 1 40k GT, and a single AoS RTT. 

But that didn’t stop me from trying to get better and learn more about my evolving playstyle and the types of lists my collection lets me employ on the tabletop!

So what did I play, who were my opponents, what were my key takeaways? Let’s dive into what I learned in 2019!

(Note: all photo/models shown are mine – feel free to check out @deep_dish_painting for more!)

Event 1: AoS RTT. 2-1 (vs Stormcasts, Nurgle, Legions of Nagash)

Confession – this was my first AoS event ever. I was a massive WHFB fan, and really enjoyed the models GW was producing for AoS, but didn’t dive into the game fully until the Nighthaunt release. There aren’t a ton of AoS events in my area, but there are plenty of pickup games to be had and I’m very excited to test myself in the Adepticon AoS Champs in 2020.

Nighthaunt was the first AoS Specific faction that really grabbed my attention, so that’s what I took to the event. They are characterful, have a lot of toolboxy units, solid spells, good defense, board control, and some hard hitting units and combos – and beyond easy to paint quickly, which was huge!

How does this not grab your attention?

The List (2000 point standard pitched battle):

  • Dreadblade Harrow – Sword of Judgement (100)
  • Guardian of Souls – Nightmare Lantern, Shademist (140)
  • Knight of Shourds on Steed – General, Ruler of the Spirit Hosts, Miasmatic Blade (140)
  • Lady Olynder (240)
  • Spirit Torment (120)
  • 2×10 Bladegheists (360)
  • 40 Chainrasps (280)
  • 2×10 Chainrasps (160)
  • Black Coach (280)
  • Battalion: Shroudguard (110)
  • Endless Spell: Aethervoid Pendulum (40)
  • Realm of Origin: Ulgu
Seasons don’t fear the Reaper…

Toughest Matchup:

Legions of Nagash, by far. This was back in Q1 2019, when LoN and Nagash reigned supreme in the meta. Luckily my opponent didn’t bring Nagash, but double mounted Terrorgheists, tons of Wolves, and Blood Knights controlled the board with first turn, and never gave it back. We played the mission where only characters could control objectives, and I couldn’t move his mounted Terrorgheists off of his 2 to take the lead.

Highlight Moment:

Game 1 vs a very skilled local Stormcast player, I gambled late game and teleported my Dreadblade within 9” of his general, made the charge, rolled hot on his Sword of Judgement, killed him, and took an objective out from under him for the win.

Sword of Judgment for the win!

Key Takeaways: Horde Hammer is still alive and well in AoS just as it was in WHFB – biggest flaw in my list was only taking one max blob of Chainrasps. The 2 losses I suffered came as a direct result of running more MSU than big blobs for objective and board control. In my games with the new adjusted points values from the recent AOS update, the points savings on Olynder and the Black Coach have meant I can fit a lot more bodies into the list, which has been crucial for controlling the mid board.

Event 2: 40k Gallant RTT, Adepticon. 3-0 (vs Astra Militarum, Orks, Tyranids)

I missed the signups for the 40k Singles (signups were the same weekend my daughter was born … #priorities), but I settled for 2 events I had played before and thoroughly enjoyed.

Both the Gentlemen GT and the Friendly are geared towards more balanced lists and a more casual player, however the lists people bring still have teeth and the players know how to pilot them. Less cheese, but just as much spice, if that makes sense. 

For both events, I wanted to test out some different Necron lists outside of the usual triple Doomsday Arks (DDAs) and triple Doom Scythes (Croissants). In a more casual setting, it worked really well (despite my Warriors’ best attempts to be useless) as I went 5-1 across the 2 events, both of which ran pretty similar mission formats with progressive scoring and bonus points for holding objectives at the end of the game. 

Part of the Dynasty ready for Adepticon!

The List (75 PL limit):

Nihilakh Battalion

  •              Overlord – Warlord, Sempiternal Weave, Res Orb
  •              Cryptek – Chronometron
  •              10x Warriors
  •              10x Warriors
  •              10x Immortals – Tesla
  •              4x Destroyers

Nihilakh Super Heavy Aux

  •              Seraptek – 2x Synaptic Obliterators/Transdimensional Projectors

Toughest Matchup:

Orks – this list struggles vs hordes thanks to my choice to use Warriors instead of more Tesla Immortals, and facing off against 60 Boys (not even the 90-120 that a lot of people ran at the time) was tough. My opponent also had all the new-ish (at the time) Speed Freaks vehicles, so his list had a lot of speed and he was pushing into my lines turn 1 pretty hard with one squad being Da Jump’d right into my face.

I sacrificed my Warriors squads to keep his Boys out of the meat of my army for 2 turns, while my Destroyers and Immortals whittled them down and forced him to use green tide early and my heavy construct cleared the vehicles.

I did end up winning the game by tabling him on turn 6, but it was a bloodbath. 

This guy loves blood baths

Highlight Moment:

My Heavy Construct was able to kill 6 vehicles on turn 1 vs the ork player – 4 by splitting fire and rolling really hot (risky, I know), and 2 by charging in and using my pile in strategically (the vehicles were like 8” apart…but the Seraptek is ginormous. 8” is basically base to base as far as he’s concerned).

Key Takeaways:

2 of my games were vs horde armies – orks and guard – and both times my army struggled to clear enough models early. Versus Guard it wasn’t a huge deal, they wanted to just sit back and shoot and couldn’t clear me faster than my Immortals and Destroyers could clear them, but vs the Orks, it almost cost me the game as they hurtled towards me and started picking up units in combat where I’m decidedly worse off.

Really just cemented for me (along with the next event) that competitive necrons have to follow a pretty specific blueprint to be effective (DDAs and Doom Scythes are just too points efficient to pass up), and the cutesy stuff like spider cop and warriors are more for casual and narrative events. 

 Event 3: 40k Friendly GT, Adepticon. 2-1 (vs Salamanders, Ultramarines, Necrons)

Every year the friendly does a theme and each mission plays into that theme with their objectives, and some games even include NPCs that effect the armies on the board.

This year’s theme was Bill and Ted, which was excellent (bwanna bwananna bwanouuun *air guitar riff*). For this event, the point limit was 1500 and you only get 1 detachment, and no LoW allowed. 

This event focuses less on individual record and instead arbitrarily groups players into teams of about a dozen. What matters is the teams combined W-L record – so in that sense the individual record counts for the team, but there is no individual prize other than pride. 

The List:

Huggg meeee

Novokh Battalion

  •              Catacomb Command Barge – Tesla Cannon, Warscythe
  •              Cryptek – Canoptek Cloak
  •              Destroyer Lord – Warlord, Phylactery, Warscythe, Nanoscarab Casket
  •              10x Tesla Immortals
  •              10x Warriors
  •              10x Warriors
  •              10x Lychguard, Warscythes
  •              1x Canoptek Tomb Stalker – Gloom Prism
  •              6x Canoptek Wraiths – Whip Coils

Toughest Matchup:

Ultramarines – my one loss from the 2 days I was at adepticon. This was just after the release of Vigilus, so marneus in his Mark X Gravis armor was the new hotness. My opponent had an absolutely beautiful army, but the Hellblaster castle with all the rerolls and banner auras for shooting when you die were too much for my combat focused list to overcome.

The table didn’t have any line of sight blocking terrain I could use to shield myself from overwatch or really protect my list from shooting on the first turn. I pushed forward too aggressively, paid 1CP for the veil of darkness on my Cryptek and teleported my Lychguard up board turn 1 mostly unsupported, but I lost half of them on overwatch and they didn’t land the punch I needed them to.

Hint: this guy does not love combat

Ended up losing the game by only 2 or 3 VPs, so it was closer than it felt looking at the death toll, and my opponent was a very gracious winner and good sport from across the pond, so it was still a very enjoyable game.

Highlight Moment:

I played a Necron list that was also running Warriors and Lychguard and a Catacomb Command Barge (CCB), only he had DDAs instead of Wraiths or the Stalker, which scared the hell out of me. But I was able to hide from them turn 1, and turn 2 I managed to get my Stalker into one from reserves, my Destroyer Lord and Wraiths into the 2nd, and my Lychguard into the 3rd from the Veil of Darkness (1cp well spent). 

It just always feels good when your combat army hits with all your units at once, into the targets you wanted them to hit. 2 of the DDAs died, the 3rd one (Stalker hits like a wet noodle) died turn 3 from Lychguard after the -1 to hit from moving caused his wounded DDA to whiff entirely.

Damage 2 is insanely good vs quantum shielding

Key Takeaways:

Combat is so so so satisfying when it works, but I didn’t lean into it hard enough – I discovered the world killer + Nephrek combo with Lychguard shortly after Adepticon, and that style of list is much better suited to what I was trying to do here.

Again, it was cemented that Warriors are just always worse than more Immortals. Other than screen out deep strikers, they weren’t really doing anything for me in either event I ran them. Warriors feel like something you need to lean into hard, and run blobs of 20 with ghost ark support for regen, but that’s too expensive of a list points wise to make competitive imho, since it leaves so few points for your toolkit units and real damage dealers.

Event 4: 40k RTT, CA 2018 format. 1-2 (vs Orks, Necrons, Tau)

Local RTT at Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo, using CA 2018 missions. 14 total players. This was just after the release of the Chaos Knight codex so I gave it a whirl as support for my Thousand Sons in a Chaos Soup list. Overall I think the list performed well, I just happend to run into 2 hard counter lists on the day, but c’est la vie. 

The List:

1kSons Battalion

  •              Ahriman
  •              DP of Tzeentch – Wings, Talons, Warlord
  •              10 Cultists
  •              5 Rubrics
  •              30 Tzaangor – Brayhorn, Twistbray, Tzaangor Blades
  •              Tzaangor Shaman
  •              8 Tzaangor Enlightened – Fatecaster Greatbows

Chaos Knight Super Heavy

  •              Knight Despoiler – Iconoclast, Character (Traitor Lance), Dreadblade, 2x AGCs/2x Heavy Flamers
  •              Wardog – Iconoclast, Dreadblade, 2x Wardog Autocannons
  •              Wardog – Iconoclast, Dreadblade, 2x Wardog Autocannons

Toughest Matchup:

Orks, game 1 of the day. My buddy Dustin ran a 17 Smasha Guns and 90 Boyz list (30,30, 10 10 10 IIRC), SAG mek, double Weirdboyz, Bike Warboss, and the usual grot shields. We were playing on planet bowling ball in Hammer and Anvil deployment, so we both kind of knew how the game was going to go.

“Wait how many Smasha guns did you say?”

I couldn’t chew through enough of his Smasha Guns to save my Knight, and it was downhill from there as my ability to return fire and take bits out of his army was diminished exponentially turn after turn. 

He’s a great opponent, knows his army well, and understands the game better than most in our local meta – I knew looking at the lists for the event ahead of time that his and a Tau list that was present would give me the most trouble, and luckily I got to play against (and lose to) both that day!

Highlight Moment:

Against a pretty decent Necron player I was able to Dark Matter Crystal my Tzaangor into his lines turn 1 and touch all of his Immortals in a bad way and wrap Imotekh. Meanwhile my Armigers and Despoiler took out all 3 of his planes using the Helm of Warpsight and the skyfire strat to keep him from using amalgamated targeting data to nuke Ahriman and my DP early.

Avian Heads for the Avian Head God

Key Takeaways:

Proper terrain is super important to a balanced game. Everyone knows that, but still, its super key. 

Tzaangor just aren’t that great anymore as the meta has developed. They don’t have the staying power you want out of a screening unit, unless you hit them with the buffs that should really be going on your other characters like Ahriman and your DP(s) to keep them around. 

Especially with the points increase from CA2019, its going to take a lot in PA:4 to make them viable enough to not just bring a nurgle detachment with plaguebearers to perform that role (ala TJ Lannigan’s style of list).

Event 5: 40k ITC RTT. 2-1 (vs World Eaters, Aeldari Soup, Alpha Legion)

Another local RTT at Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo, this time using the ITC format (LVO practice event, basically). 14 total players. 2000 points, ITC format, Missions 2, 4, 6 (the ones where you deploy all at once, and if you deploy first you go first).

I had a Shadowspear set sitting around for most of the year, and with the release of the SM codex, the call was too much to ignore. I built up a White Scar force as a challenge to myself to paint white, but after starting to hobby and actually reading the supplement, I was struck by just how tool boxy the army was, which was super interesting to me.

There is a LOT of flavor in the book, and a lot of options for relics, traits, and spells (and Faith and Fury content) that can help you adjust your list game to game to tackle different opponents.

The List:

White Scar Battalion

  •              Chaplain – Jump Pack, Bolt Pistol
  •              Librarian – Jump Pack, Force Sword
  •              5 Intercessors – Stalker Bolt Rifles        
  •              5 Intercessors – Stalker Bolt Rifles
  •          5 Scouts – Bolters

White Scar Battalion

  •              Captain – Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield, Warlord
  •              Captain on Bike – Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield
  •              5 Infiltrators
  •              5 Infiltrators
  •              5 Scouts – Bolters
  •              6 Aggressors – bolt storm gauntlets, frag launchers
  •              5 Assault Centurions – hurricane bolters, 2x flamers

White Scar Successor Spearhead – Stealthy, Master Artisans

  •              Captain – Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield
  •              Eliminators
  •              Eliminators
  •              Eliminators
  •              Thunder Fire Cannon

Toughest Matchup:

Aeldari Airwing/Artillery using the Expert Crafters trait. My opponent had a battalion of Alaitoc Rangers to hold objectives, an airwing of 3 Razorwings and a Voidraven, and a spearhead of triple Fire Prisms and 9 Vibrocannon artillery pieces with the reroll hit/wound trait that is all the rage in any faction that can take advantage.

I took big game hunter, recon, and butcher’s bill. He took engineers on his Rangers, recon, and old school.

Turn 1 his planes all fly forward and start picking up Eliminators. I forgot that the void mine doesn’t need line of sight, it’s just “pick a unit you move over”, so my Aggressors in a magic box still got targeted – luckily only 1 of them got turned into star dust. His Vibrocannons helped pick up Eliminators and Scouts, and killed 1 or 2 Intercessors and Infiltrators as well.

You are what you eat, in this case, Eldar planes

My turn 1, I realize he left his planes only 6-7” apart in the mid-board, so I basically decide to CP dump to try to make my beta strike as impactful as possible. I spend 2 CP to fire my Thunderfire twice, but failed to kill 10 rangers off of an objective. I spend 1 CP to reroll my Canticle of Hate, in order to get the +3” pile in…and 5 CP to have my successor smash captain roll 3D6 pick 2 for his charge and to fight twice.

My Aggressors pick up one of the planes, my warlord with MC Thunder Hammer kills the Voidraven, and my successor smash captain kills the other 2 planes with his intense CP expenditure. This maxed big game hunter for me all in one fell swoop (spoiler – the only secondary I maxed).  

After that it was a matter of my guys trying to hold the center objectives while his Vibro Cannons and Fire Prisms took pot shots moving around the board to peek behind terrain I was trying to hide in. We traded units back and forth, neither of us trying to really expose ourselves unless we had to. 

In the end he got kill more 3 times, I got kill more twice, and I got the only hold more of the game on turn 1 before we tied every turn ater. He maxed two of his secondaries while I only maxed one, so he won 27-26. 

Highlight Moment:

In my 3rd game, I played against an Alpha Legion list with Leviathan, Deredeo, and 2 Contemptors with Butcher Cannons, 2 Lords Discordant, and a DP and Plaguebearer battalion for screening.

I took the Cyber Eagle helm on my bike captain, and Chapter Master as well. He sat behind my Aggressors and Centurions in the midboard, using ruins to block line of sight from his dreads in the corners, knowing my opponent was going to come to me and try to charge in.

Bike base = bigger auras, pro tip

He pushed aggressively with his Daemon Princes and Plaguebearers, and when he charged into my Cents and Aggressors … 222 shots later, hitting on 5s with full rerolls, there were no more DPs or Plaguebearers. Unrelated question – anyone know a good dice app for android? Asking for a friend…

Key Takeaways:

The Stalker bolt rifles weren’t as useful as I thought they’d be. I found myself having to move my Intercessors around the board too frequently to make the weapon worthwhile. 

One Thunderfire is not enough. Spending 2CP every turn to fire it twice just tells me I need at least one more in the list, if not 2. It’s just such an efficient source of anti infantry shooting, and it proved invaluable in 2 of my 3 games to kill units of cultists or brimstone horrors off objectives.

Eliminators are not that scary, but most opponents still think they are, which is half the battle. My Eliminators did next to nothing each game, other than draw a TON of fire – multiple turns of a Leviathan with double Butcher Cannons shooting at them in cover with a 1+ save drove my opponents nuts in round 1 and 3.

Centurions are disgusting. I like Aggressors, but Centurions with the 2+ save, S5, 4W, and flat 4 damage on their weapons (without the -1 to hit!) just makes them all around better at nearly everything the Aggressors want to be doing.

Toolkit lists are expensive. I found myself spending so much CP each game deciding pregame traits, relics, extra warlord traits, etc – and found myself regularly dumping 4-5CP into a unit to soup it up and do cool tricks in the early turns of the game. I was usually out of CP by turn 3 at the latest, and I need to do a better job of budgeting that for a 6 turn game.

I also intend to try a few variations on the list, including one with 2×5 Intercessors with Thunder Hammers on the sarges, riding around in this chunky boy:

White Scar Tanks also get to advance and charge – tank shock is back on the menu boys

Despite the smaller scale of the events, and the infrequency, it was a massive year as far as upping my skill as a player using a variety of playstyles and armies at my disposal. I feel my ability as a player is 2 or 3 times higher today than it was at the beginning of the year, in terms of how I view the game state turn to turn, how I build lists, how I evaluate units and their utility, and the types of plays I am able to make.

All this to say, you don’t have to be vying for the ITC title or attend a dozen GTs and Majors in order to learn to play this game better – which I think is a bit of a misnomer for a lot of players. There’s nothing wrong with playing more relaxed events like Friendlies or RTTs, and there’s still a ton that can be learned about your list and how to play it effectively. 

That does it for my recap of 2019 – if you made it this far, your legs are likely numb from sitting on the toilet for so long. Welcome to 2020 – grab your dice, play more games, and have a great year you filthy casuals! 

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