General Speaking – Phil Marshall

Following on from our conversations with Randal Brasher, Baz Norman Jr and Jeremy Veysseire we’re back in the UK again and talking to Phil Marshall.

Phil Marshall – The Stats

Events: 7
Wins: 31.5*
Losses: 5.5*
Win Rate: 85.1%
Current World Woehammer Ranking: 6th
Current UK & Ireland Woehammer Ranking: 1st

*In our Woehammer stats we count all draws as 0.5 wins and losses

Phil, thank you for talking to me and firstly a massive congratulations on your Age of Sigmar (Best Overall) win! That seemed pretty wild, heading out to the US to compete in a such a prestigious competition! How did you find it?

Thanks! It was all pretty surreal to be perfectly honest with you, there wasn’t much communication that there was a way for any of us in the UK for qualifying for the US Open so it came as a massive surprise when I got the email come through. To be invited is one thing, but to be informed that Games Workshop were covering my flights and accommodation was equally unexpected. The resort that they hired out in Santa Ana Albuquerque was simply amazing, the views, the amenities were all second to none. With that being said I wasn’t there to soak in the joys of what the resort had to offer and I certainly didn’t help myself by having to play 7 games of Warhammer in 2 days! I really enjoyed the structure of the event with the 2 loss knockout system, meaning you were still in with a chance of taking out the event until you suffered your second loss. What was interesting was the rankings were done on ITC seedings, in the UK we don’t really follow the ITC so I was the lowest ranked seed in my category. This meant my game 1 I had to play against the number 1 ranked seed in my category which was Team Americas Matt Beasley. We had a great game which I ended up losing by 1VP, which meant if I was to win the event I would need to win all of my remaining games. As a result on the Saturday I was now scheduled to play 8.00am to midnight. Thankfully, I managed to get the wins required in my remaining 3 games to see me through to the Sunday and a rematch with Matt in the morning. I managed to take out the rematch winning by 7Vps. This led me to taking on the legendary Scooter Walters who was still unbeaten meaning I had to take him out twice in a row. Game 1 I managed a big win in Realmstone Cache (26-2), we then played a much more even scenario in the Nidus Paths and we had a great game of warhammer which could have closer resembled a chess game. The game ended 28-20 to me, meaning I was crowned Best Overall for 2022 which is a pretty cool achievement to do considering I didn’t start playing competitively until September last year. It was also amazing to meet all the other AoS players that were at the event that I have been following and interacting with on Twitter and was great to put names and faces and build better relationships with these people in the hobby. Finally, a massive shout out to Mike and Zach who put the event on deserve massive credit for the way the event was organised and ran. We all got some call memorabilia to remember our trip. As they said during the event, it doesn’t matter how we did, we had already won by being invited (obviously I didn’t spend 27 hours traveling not to go out there without the intent of bringing it home). They have great plans to expand this in future years so hopefully we will see more people from the UK heading over and making sure the crown remains in British hands. Fingers crossed I will manage to qualify to either retain it myself or try and take out best general.

Where Phil ‘slummed’ it

Wow, that’s incredible! You never know, you may be doing this every year!

Seven games over two days is a tough shout. We heard from Jeremy Veysseire on his methods for maintaining focus over a gaming weekend, but what are your methods. How do you keep yourself mentally focused on what you need to do?

I am quite different to most wargamers, I don’t drink any alcohol at events (boring I know), I like to feel very fresh each day and keep myself hydrated. I always tend to find, I like to get to the event nice and early, being the first player to the table and get it all set up. I don’t like the feeling of being rushed so I do all these little things to alleviate that prior to the game. The next things is whilst playing is that I try to only focus on the elements of the game that I can control, you have to take the dice out of it. By focusing on you and your game, it will allow you to think a few turns ahead and have a game plan for when priority either goes your way or against you. I think the most important thing I have learnt which I believe to be the biggest by-product of my consistency on the table top is the ability to know your opponents army as well as your own or at least have a very clear understanding of how that army likes to play and what they need to do to win, I have been very fortunate to play at a lot of top tables over the last 15 months and learnt a lot about a lot of armies from top tier players. This all helps with the pre game focus for me, it helps give me a clear mind set and plan of action that I need to execute.

There’s a rumour among the Woehammer team that you’re an accountant? Do you use your spreadsheet skills and organisation from this in Age of Sigmar, and how do you approach list building?

Haha yes, the rumours are true. If you don’t find me at a Warhammer table you will most likely find me in excel. This season I took the time to make myself a tracker for age of sigmar, I played a lot of games last year and wish I had kept a record of how many. With that being said, I have managed to play 134 games this year, with 120 wins, 12 losses and 2 draws. Whilst its nice to be able to breakdown what I have played against and the scenarios I have played, it doesn’t really offer much benefit from a singles point of view as there is so much variety at a singles event from potential scenarios and match ups. However, for teams Warhammer it enables me to provide an informed opinion based on personal statistics when completing the matrix for match ups and scenarios. For example I know based on playing realmstone cache 9 times this year, with 5 of those at events I have a 100% win rate in this scenario with an average differential of 20VPs with my Slaves to Darkness. On the flip side of this, I know based on my statistics that I have a 0% win rate against Sylvaneth in Close to the Chest and Silksteel nests, this allows us to know that these scenarios aren’t great for me, even if I believe the list to be beatable as they can win by just playing the primary better than I can. I love pivot tables I so use these and pivot graphs to slice and dice my data in a far more readable format, otherwise its just a sheet of data. There are some things I want to add to this next year, including a small synopsis of what the bulk of the list was, any key take aways from the game (things I thought were strong in opponents army, where I won the game and where I lost the game).

I also use excel in my list building to work out damage out put against units with varying saves and probabilities of getting plays off etc. With this information it allows me to build lists that I deem to be strong and then test them on the table top to make sure that they suit the way I play and that I feel the output is mirrored to what the numbers tell me.

One of Phil’s spreadsheets

So using spreadsheets and analysing the damage outputs, is this the main way you construct your lists?

Yeah, I essentially use it after I have worked out what models I want to use and then work out the ROI essentially. Then there are other factors such as movement etc that need to factored in afterwards. I dont tend to use models that I dont like, as an example, I never used marauders despite actaully making the list better, with an 83% chance of casting mask of darkness with master of magic and a 99% liklihood of sucessfully charging gave the list a much bigger threat turn 1. However, despite the numbers stating this unit was better for the way in which I like to play, I refused to paint the models as I didnt like them and I also felt that Varanguard benefited my playstyle more than the maraduers.

That’s awesome, I suspect you and I could talk spreadsheets for hours, so probably best to move on haha.

A lot of other players have spoken to have mentioned how practice is a key factor to success. Has there been a certain point after so many games where you thought ‘I’ve got this sorted now and I feel pretty confident’?

Obviously the best way to learn the minutia of the way in which you and your army like to play is by getting a lot of reps in with it and that’s the thing i would most likely put down to my success on the tabletop over the last 12 months. I got to the point probably after 3/4 months of playing Archaon religiously that I didn’t feel I need to practice with him anymore at club etc. I played an obscene amount of games and tournaments with him and was extremely consistent with the way in which I deployed, counter deployed and the plays I had against both good and bad match ups. This then allowed me to play with other armies during the week and learn how they like to be played which ultimately gave me a much better understanding when playing against them at events. Despite playing lots of varying armies, I was still taking Archaon to events and being very consistent with my results with him.

I feel that despite not having played with Archaon since LGT, I could pick up my list, go to an event tomorrow and would feel I could play it to a level where I have a chance of taking out the event.

Looking forward to the end of the year and new year, what are your plans AoS wise? Will you be sticking with the Slaves for now or do you fancy playing any other factions?

I’ve got a very busy year planned already to be honest with you! Starting off with going to LVO in January which I’m super excited for and can’t wait to meet all the Americans, Canadians and other nationalities of people I interact with on Twitter a lot. After that I have two tournaments a month in the build up to worlds which im buzzing to be representing England for.

The plan is to play as much slaves to darkness as possible. It’s my happy place, where I call home in this wonderful world. I have lots of lists that I’m wanting to get on the table top from both a teams and singles perspective. There are so many options in the new book which I think will keep playing with the fresh and exciting! My mates may not think so when I continuously run my next idea of filth into them for testing.

With all this being said, I have little interest in playing the old book now, so for a lot of events I need the new book to come out and a FAQ for the book to be legal for competitive play. If events don’t allow the new book I think I might have some fun and play some FEC gristlegore or maybe 11 dragons.

Our own Randal Brasher states the other day that he though all the top 3 lists at the Leicester GT would get beaten 10 times put of 10 by the Ogor 4x Ironblaster list.

Have you had to face them yet, and if you haven’t, how would you go about beating them?

The Ogre Iron Blaster list is a great list now that will be sure to shake things up. The KOTET list I ran at Leicester I would back to beat it to be honest, but I would need to make 1 change and go into a 2 drop. Would still look to give turn 1 away, hide my key pieces with terrain from the long range shooting of the ironblasters. I am then looking to save stake 1 unit and get all the rerolls up. Depending on mission this would either be the general if I can realistically get into grots turn 1 or if I am relying on teleporting it will be my other unit. Once there and the very real threat of VG in their deployement, turn priority can go 1 of 2 ways – I would look to give away as I know with plus 4 to save re-rolling 1s the chances of taking any damage is minimal, not likely to kill a single varanguard. If I have the turn, with finest hour, warshrine potential buff I belive the maths states that being on a 3+ re-rolling 1s against 40 shots at rend 2 damage 2 and the other option of 8 shots at rend 3 damage d3+3 I am looking at taking 10 damage, so 9 with ward from warshrine. Which kills 1 varanguard. Most Blasters tend to be lobbied together and with a double fight I would expect two blasters to be gone as a minimum.

With all this being said, its a much different story for the new slaves to darkness due to the save stacking. However, there are some tricks if shooting really becomes the meta. We have the Tzeentch banner which gives a 4+ ward against shooting to a unit, whoch for me would be a unit of 10 knights. You still play for the double and look to outdrop. 10 Knights will clear the gnoblar screens and have decent reliability with getting into combat. with demonic speed allowing to charge 3d6 changing the lowest dice to a 4, that combined with leviatate, you could bypass the screen in its entirety and just lift a chunk of ironblasters. Be interesting to see how common the list is in the UK and its something I am wanting to play test against as much as possible.

Great stuff Phil, thank you for your time and agreeing to speak to us again. Hopefully we’ll meet at some point in the future

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