Interview: Mike Stewart – AoS World Number 1

This week I had the pleasure of talking to Mike Stewart the current UK and World number 1 according to the TSN Player Rankings.

In the last year alone Mike has gone 5-0 at Bloodshed in the Shires, BOBO Heat 2, Leicester City AoS GT and War in the Heartlands with his Seraphon lists. This on top of a large number of 4-1 results has seen Mike climb to the top of the TSN Player Rankings.

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For those unaware, Mike will be invited to two tournaments organised by the Honest Wargamer, the UK top 16 and the World top 16.

I interviewed Mike asking him what he thought about this along with this thoughts on how he approaches a tournament and his thoughts on the meta as it stands.

Peter: When did you start wargaming and what drew you in?

Mike: First started when I was about 12 years old. A friend should me Warhammer 40k and got hooked. Played it for a couple of years until I went college and uni. Then once I finished uni and started my first job I met a couple of guys that played, which got me back into it. Mainly 40k at first but started playing fantasy as well. Started AoS about a year or 2 into it, once points were back in, and then started playing it much more competitively and left 40k behind. Found AoS to be a much for fun, enjoyable and all round better game to play. Plus I’ve always liked the old world fantasy setting, with big armies fighting on the battlefield.

Peter: So will Old World be enticing you back then once that gets released?

Mike: Not currently, I like AoS and enjoy the lore of it as well so there’s plenty there still.

Peter: You’re well known for playing Seraphon, but are there any other armies you have a soft spot for or own?

Mike: Throughout 2nd edition I mostly played Fyreslayers. I’ve always been a fan of dwarf armies but usually stick to Order armies in general. When I played fantasy, I had both a Tomb Kings and a Bretonnian Knights army so would probably do an OBR army too.

Some of Mike’s Bastiladon’s

Peter: So you’re currently ranked number 1 worldwide and in UK! Congratulations! That’s got to feel great! Are you planning on attending the Masters?

Mike: Thank you and it does! At the start of this season I just wanted to get my 5-0 at a big event. To have managed 4 of them at events with 70+ players is way more than I could have hoped. Yes, really hyped about them and I plan to get to both the UK and the World event.

Peter: Having scanned through the other players in both the top 16 Worldwide and the UK, a lot of them seem to switch between armies. Are there any faction matchups you’d prefer to avoid? Declan has mentioned in the past that Seraphon has a great ‘toolkit’ which can deal with virtually anything.

Mike: Seraphon do have the tools to take on most armies but their main weakness is probably Mortal Wounds. Thunder Lizards is currently really strong in the meta, with army-wide -1 damage being the main reason but the others have play too. The heavy Pusgoyle Blightlords list is probably one of the tougher match-ups, given that they can pin you in, deal MWs and do a lot of 1 damage attacks.

Mike following his victory at War in the Heartlands

Peter: Do you plan out your battles with the opponent’s list in mind before you begin?

Mike: In a tournament, I’ll try to have a look at the opponents list first and have a game plan. Best way to learn is to play games against different armies so that when you go into an event then you already know how to play best against an army if you face them.

Peter: How do you approach a Sunday where you’re going into it 3-0 after the first day?

Mike: In most cases you’ll know your opponent the night before so do a little read up on their list but it does often change so can’t rely on the pairings being right. Mainly just take the next game as it comes and know that it’ll be a tough match-up, whoever it is.

Peter: Is there any particular Battleplan you prefer in a tournament? And any you’d rather avoid?

Mike: Generally prefer battleplans with fewer objectives, particularly when playing armies like Seraphon where you castle up and move forward in a strong defensive block. There’s a few less favourable missions, such as the ones with 6 objectives, but none that I really want to avoid.

Peter: What do you consider Seraphon’s best unit? Are there any hidden gems in the Battletome?

Mike: Very difficult to say, they are so many that have great utility and work well on synergy with the others. The Skink Priest is probably up there at just 80pts. The amount you get from them at that cost is too good. The Bastiladon is great too and can be used as a tank to hold up tough enemies. As for hidden gems, I think most have been found out now. I found combat skinks to fall into that category but now a lot of people are running them as a good substitute for the Salamanders since the Battlescroll was released.

Mike’s Yndrasta

Peter: Yes, many lists I’ve seen run perhaps two or three Starpriests and Bastiladons. Any tips for those who have to fight against Seraphon?

Mike: Try to take out the support characters early on if you have the tools to do so. If you’re playing against Thunder Lizards then bravery is low so can look to target multiple units to make them battleshock. Having access to MWs is always useful against them, as only really have the 6+ Ward from mystical.

Peter: What is the one most important thing you should do every game?

Mike: Play the mission and keep scoring points where you can. You can still be in the game until the end if you manage to keep securing objectives and completing those battle tactics.

Peter: If you could change one thing about AoS 3rd edition what would it be?

Mike: Currently, I would change Battle Regiment to try to get rid of the 1 drop or make it a roll off for who gets the choice.

Peter: An awful lot seem to be unhappy with the state of the meta at present and that armies like StD or Gloomspite can’t get near the top tables. What’s your opinion on the meta at the moment? I would point out that in my opinion AoS seems a lot more balanced than 40k. But it does need some work to allow all armies a fair shot.

Mike’s Celestial Hurricanum for his Dwarf army

Mike: I think the meta has been fairly solid in AoS3. There’s been a few armies that see more win ratio than others but I don’t think it’s in a bad place. They’ll always be some armies that aren’t quite as good as others but it will change. I’m sure the new GHB will change it up slightly too.

Peter: What would your advice be for someone looking to go to their first tournament?

Mike: Have fun and don’t be upset/frustrated if you don’t win many games. Tournament AoS is a lot different from games down your local club but they’re the best way to learn and get better at the game. And as I said before, just play the mission.

Peter: Thanks for your time Mike and good luck for the Masters! We’ll be routing for you!

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