On May 14, I attended my first ever Warhammer grand tournament. This is the story of how I won two games, almost won a third, and had a damn good time meeting a lot of really cool people.
The place? Detroit, Michigan. The field? 34 players. The event? Motor City Mayhem. The battleground? A faded Best Western hotel just off the highway, where the lobby floor was always wet but the staff were always accommodating.
I arrived a day early in order to take in the sights of Detroit. While I won’t go into too much detail, if you ever find yourself in that part of the world make sure to check out Belle Isle Aquarium (America’s oldest aquarium!) and John K. King Books (America’s second-largest bookstore!). And for the love of god, try the local rectangular pizza.
Then Saturday rolled around and it was time for the games to begin.
Now here’s where I admit something embarrassing: I had only played two games with my army list prior to this. Why would I do something so stupid? Well, I have a small toddler who dictates what I do with my free time. Also, I thought I was playing a different list until a week before the tournament.
Long story short: I submitted a list that centered around a Krondspine Incarnate. Then the tournament organizers updated the event packet to disallow a certain unit. I’ll give you one guess what that unit was.
So the Incarnate was out. But as the Girl Scouts say: improvise, adapt, overcome. I peered inside my Ikea Detolfs to see what other models were painted and ready to go. Here’s what I came up with:
Quite the mixed bag. You’ve got two flavors of eels, two styles of Namarti, a couple of sharks, two support heroes, an Eidolon of the Sea and a fully tricked-out Akhelian King (a.k.a. the Slap-King).
Why Dhom-Hain for my enclave?
I thought their ability for Namarti Thralls to charge and fight again after killing an enemy unity sounded extremely cool… if I could pull it off. (Spoiler alert: I did not pull it off once during the entire weekend.)
Why these battleline troops?
I was curious to see how the eels performed. The Thralls and Reavers, however, were a calculated decision. The new Idoneth Deepkin battletome relies on a strong core of Namarti, and I had identified the block of 20 Thralls as one of my biggest sources of reliable damage.
Why these heroes?
Well, it’s hard to say no to the Slap-King. While a little tricky to use, he’s more than capable of earning double his points back with a well-timed charge. How does 7 attacks, hitting on 2s, wounding on 2s, rend -3 and damage 4 sound to you? And that’s just his first weapon (he has four).
The Eidolon of the Sea (hereafter to be known as the “Seadolon”) is a major winner from the new battletome. While useless at melee and shooting, he’s a wildly efficient spellcaster and unbinder of enemy spells. One of his warscroll spells, Tsunami of Terror, can strip the armor from your opponent’s toughest units, and with his surprising durability (12 wounds, a 5+ ward and reliable self-healing) he can even be used as a sacrificial lamb to tie up an enemy unit or absorb an Unleash Hell.
Match 1 versus Maggotkin of Nurgle – Drowned Men
Opponent’s list: Great Unclean One, Horticulus Slimux, Orghotts Daemonspew, Beasts of Nurgle, Plaguebearers
They say battles are won or lost in the mind before a single shot is ever fired. They might be onto something there.
My first opponent of the tournament, Jeremy, was playing a Maggotkin list. I’d never played against Maggotkin but I’d heard rumors about the new battletome – specifically about all the tournaments they’ve been winning. I was keen to see how my fishy aelves would fare against them.
I out-dropped my opponent and gave him the first turn, hoping he’d move into a position where I could charge with my King and eels – and even, fingers crossed, take a double turn.
He simply moved everything onto the mid-board and ended his turn, daring me to come closer. I took the bait, charging with my eels, King, sharks and Thralls. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very clean or well-positioned charge, as I could only get my King onto his Great Unclean One and not the eels.
Meanwhile, I had misplaced my Thralls so the only thing they were able to charge was the Plaguebearers. Turns out, Plaguebearers are tanky. I thought my Thralls could chew through them but it didn’t work out that way.
On the other side of the board, my Slap-King did a mighty 20 damage to the GUO. However, he rolled an improbable amount of ward saves and stayed standing. My eels and sharks managed to kill a few Beasts of Nurgle, but his center held.
My opponent then took a double turn and used it to go on a rampage with Orghotts and the GUO. After that, what was left of my army was worn down by the weight of Disease points.
In the end, I think I may have been a little intimidated by facing Nurgle for the first time, causing me to under-think my deployment. If I’d placed a few units differently, my first turn would have been much more effective and the game might have been a lot closer.
RESULT: Loss, 12-39
Match 2 versus Sylvaneth – Gnarlroot
Opponent’s list: Warsong Revenant, Treelord Ancient, Spirit of Durthu, Arch-revenant, Branchwraith, Tree-revenants, Kurnoth Hunters with bows, Dryads
Ah, the classic Warsong Bomb list. Soon to be replaced by the new Sylvaneth battletome, the Warsong Bomb – in which a Warsong Revenant powers up their spellcasting while unleashing magic blasts through an Umbral Spellportal – was one of the only competitive lists available to Sylvaneth in third edition.
Unfortunately, it only works if you cast your spells. This would prove to be a major problem for my opponent, Matt, as my Seadolon just would not stop unbinding his spells. Matt, however, was very nice about this. His enthusiasm and positive attitude made for a really fun match.
I gave Matt turn one. He split his forces and moved up to the mid-board. In my counter-attack, I was able to completely take out one flank of Dryads and a Treelord Ancient with my King, while pinning the other flank (Durthu and the Kurnoth Hunters) in place with the Ishlaen Guard.
Although Durthu hits hard (he wiped out all 20 Thralls in a single round!), my King was able to cut him down. With the Warsong Revenant having failed to set up his spell-bomb, I went on to clean up the board.
The result wasn’t close, but this game was a blast thanks to Matt being a really fun opponent.
RESULT: Victory, 31-13
Match 3 versus Soulblight Gravelords – Kastelai Dynasty
Opponent’s list: 20 Blood Knights, Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, Necromancer, Coven Throne, Dire Wolves
My opponent in this game, Austin, seemed a bit unsure of his army going into this match. And there was a good reason for that: The battleplan was Tooth and Nail, a weird scenario which you don’t often see at tournaments.
In Tooth and Nail, you can’t set up any units in reserve. Which sucked for Austin, because setting up Blood Knights in reserve and then bringing them on from the board edge is the entire gimmick of Kastelai Dynasty. His summoned units also couldn’t charge after summoning, which is another blow for a Soulblight army.
To make matters worse, the board for our game was covered in large pieces of blocking terrain. Most of my units could simply fly over it, but his knights would have to go around. This would allow me to pick my battles and take out his units of five knights one at a time.
After setting up, he gave me first turn and waited for my army to come to him. I moved up but stayed just out of engagement range. Once it was my turn again, the Slap-King was able to assassinate the Vampire Lord on zombie dragon before it could really do anything.
Realizing he was out of position, Austin actually gave away a double turn on Turn 3 (never seen anyone do that before!) so that he could pull back his army and remove one of my objectives.
But it wasn’t enough, and the Slap-King continued on to remove the Coven Throne and Necromancer, handing me the game.
RESULT: Victory, 24-9
Match 4 versus Daughters of Khaine – Khailebron
Opponent’s list: Morathi-Khaine, Bloodwrack Medusa, 15 Bow-snakes, 10 Spear-snakes, Witch Aelves, Shadowstalkers
My opponent for this match, Paul, was a younger guy who was at the tournament with his dad. Which is adorable, and total Parenting Goals. Paul was also an awesome opponent who basically apologized for taking the classic “Morathi and the Bow Snakes” meme list. He told me he was looking forward to the new Daughters of Khaine battletome so he could run literally anything else.
After winning priority, Paul gave me first turn. From here on out, we would trade double turns back and forth for almost the entire match!
My Reavers shot apart a unit of Witch Aelves, killing all but one (that lone aelf would come back to haunt me later). He then got the double turn and pushed up the left flank with the Shadow Queen. My plan was to pull back and try to ignore her while pushing the other flank where his bow-snakes and support characters were hanging out.
That plan did not go so well. The Shadow Queen ate every single one of my Reavers and Thralls, while the bow-snakes rained down fire on my other flank, almost killing both my sharks. Things looked bad. But I wasn’t down and out just yet.
Taking a double turn, I rolled my Slap-King and eels through a screen of Witch Aelves and right into his bow-snakes, wiping them out. My King went on to kill his General, the Medusa, and get stuck into Morathi herself.
On Turn 4, he wheeled the Shadow Queen around and aimed her at my remaining units. She killed my eels, but my King was able to finally slay the rampaging god.
At the end of all five rounds, we were completely even on points. We had both taken Hold the Line as our Grand Strategy, and all my battleline units were dead. So were his… except for that one pesky Witch Aelf that was hiding in the corner of the battlefield! This gave him an extra three points and the victory.
In the end, this game was an absolute blast, full of twists and turns and high drama. It was probably the highlight of the entire weekend. My opponent played a great game and fully deserved the win, even though I can’t help but wishing I’d rolled one more hit on that unit of Witch Aelves!
RESULT: Loss, 21-24
Match 5 versus Soulblight Gravelords – Vyrkos Dynasty
Opponent’s list: 60 Zombies, Prince Vhordrai, Lauka Vai, Necromancer, Vampire Lord, Dire Wolves, Skeletons, Corpse Carts
I’ll be completely honest: This wasn’t a fun game. After two straight days of Warhammer, I was getting tired and losing focus. And after the thrills and spills of the previous game against Daughters of Khaine, facing 60 zombies felt like a brutal slog.
Zombies, man. They have so much going on. Double piling in, returning slain units, buffing auras, piling in different directions until they’re stretched across the board like a weird misshapen Katamari of bodies. Zombies are a lot.
It didn’t help that my opponent, Rob, played a slow game, with his double turns feeling like an eternity. I don’t blame him for this. He was micro-managing his tiny dead dudes and explaining his army mechanics as he did so, as any good opponent should. It just took soooo loooong.
You know, maybe this says more about me and my own impatience. I may have to do some soul-searching here.
Anyway, I flubbed this match. I deployed my Gloomtide Shipwreck and Namarti units completely wrong. Then I decided to send my King and eels after his support characters in the back, when I should have tried to end the double threat of Vhordrai and Lauka early in the game. The final result was an ignominous defeat, but at least now I know how zombies work (and I know to ask for a chess clock next time).
RESULT: Loss, 12-32
If you’re just starting your Warhammer journey and thinking of taking the plunge into events, I am here to tell you: competitive Age of Sigmar is incredibly fun. It was a pleasure to play against passionate, experienced opponents at a well-organized event. Everyone should try going to a GT at least once, if only for the wealth of knowledge you can glean from your fellow players.
Plus, I got to meet Tyler Mengel and he complimented my painting. That was almost worth the entry fee alone.
What’s next? I’m working on an article about list-building using the new Idoneth Deepkin battletome, to help you get the most out of your own Slap-King and friends. And I can’t wait to attend my next GT, probably with a different list this time. Although the Incarnate is tempting, chatting with fellow Deepkin players at the event has convinced me I need to paint up an Akhelian Leviadon…
Have you recently attended your first GT? Planning to go to one? Drop us a comment below and let us know what you think.