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So I Went to DieCon…

die_con_imageLife has finally settled to the point where I can actually get back to blogging!

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to go to DieCon 13 in Collinsville, IL (in the greater St. Louis area) to attend the Gateway Grand Tournament there. I’d gone two years ago, so I was looking forward to going back and playing in a large event. Well, I didn’t quite get a large event. Apparently, there’d been some cock-ups with marketing and getting the word out, and they only managed to get 14 players, mostly locals. I think I was one of the few people who’d traveled more than an hour to get there. A bit disheartening, to be sure, especially considering that they had around 20 tables worth of terrain set up, but I still managed to get 5 good games in over two days, so I won’t complain too much.

Once again, I brought my Tau. Unlike 2011, when I was pretty much playing with a handicap by taking Tau, this time I was playing one of the stronger codexes in the game. My list was a 2000-point variation of the list I’d made with my fellow hosts on Preferred Enemies. The main changes were changing one mounted 6-man Fire Warrior squad for a 12-man squad on foot, and adding a trio of dual missile pod Crisis Suits with a Puretide Engram Chip on the squad leader. It (and smaller versions) had proven solid in testing, so I felt confident that I would be able to handle most of what was thrown at me. The list was specifically made to handle AirCron, but with enough shooting versatility that it wasn’t limited to just being anti-air.

The tournament itself followed the Bay Area Open model – all three book missions from 5th edition on the table simultaneously, each worth 8 victory points if won and 4 if tied. 2 points were awarded for each of the normal secondary objectives. A couple of missions also used alternate scoring units (Fast Attack and Heavy Support) like 6th Edition’s Scouring and Big Guns missions. Deployment was always Dawn of War or Vanguard Strike – the tables were set up in such a way that Hammer and Anvil wouldn’t work terribly well.

My matches went as follows:

  1. Imperial Guard: We don’t have many IG players in our immediate area, so this was a bit of a great unknown. He was running a mix of foot platoons and mounted melta vets, with one Medusa, one Manticore, and one Leman Russ Executioner for heavy firepower, and a Vendetta for air support. He also had a set of Sabre Platforms thrown into the mix as well. His deployment was surprisingly piecemeal – he left the Manticore and Leman Russ off the board – and that gave me the time to pick apart his armor. The Sabres didn’t give me too much trouble in this game, either, so I downplayed them in my mind. By the end, I had him down to just one or two units remaining and won a solid win.
  2. Imperial Guard/Space Marines: Another IG list, but this one couldn’t have been more different. He went very heavy on the Forge World artillery, with 3 units of 4 twin-linked lascannon Sabre Platforms and 3 units of 3 Heavy Quad Cannons (or, for the old-schoolers out there, Thudd Guns). His command squad was in a Chimera, as was a unit of Veterans. He rounded out the list with a Vulture with its 20-shot cannon, and an allied contingent of thunder hammer/storm shield Terminators led by a Librarian (along with a few Sniper Scouts). He managed to get the first turn and pounded me into the dust. My infantry, even in cover, couldn’t stand up to the cannon barrage (especially with his orders that forced me to re-roll successful cover saves), and the Sabres picked apart anything heavier. He even managed to kill a Riptide with a nova-charged shield by catching it just inside the Librarian’s Null Zone, forcing me to re-roll the invulnerable saves, whereupon I proceeded to roll 5 ones. The Artillery rules just made it all but impossible to wound his gunner crews, and my lack of useful assault capability meant I couldn’t rush them off the board. I was all but tabled in this game, and he went on to go undefeated and take 1st place.
  3. Eldar/Dark Eldar: This game was interesting, because he was fielding something I hadn’t yet seen used in games – Beastmasters. He had a large pack of them and their beasts, along with two Eldar Farseers on jetbikes and Baron Sathonyx, as a massive fast-rushing assault unit. He charged at my Ethereal and his entourage of Fire Warriors, but thanks to being Stubborn and having 4+ armor, I was able to hold him for 3 rounds of combat. He won on his turn, leaving me free to pick apart his force with firepower. Eventually, only Razorwing Flocks were left (due to their high number of wounds), and their low leadership caused them to run away. The rest of his army – Wyches in a venom, and Dire Avengers in (pre-update) Wave Serpents – were easy pickings. The only unit that was otherwise an issue was his Fire Dragons, located behind an Aegis Line and with the Exarch manning the quad gun. With his Crack Shot ability, he was ignoring cover, but he wasn’t able to do a lot of damage before I started pressing in on all sides with my Riptides and Kroot. Again, a solid win in this round for me.
  4. Necrons/Tau: This list was the acid test for my list: 4 Night Scythes with 5 Warriors each, 3 Annihilation Barges, and a Destroyer Lord accompanied by 2 units of 6 Wraiths – a standard AirCron-style tournament list. He tried mixing it up with a bit of Tau – a Cadre Fireblade, 12 Fire Warriors, a Sky Ray, and a Riptide. However, between dice, deployment, and delivery, I had the upper hand for most of the game. The Sky Ray died first turn. The Riptide never managed to do much of anything – he failed the Nova Charge 3 times in the game, and his large blast from the Ion Accelerator got hot at least twice. Even the Wraiths didn’t perform as well as he needed – I managed to funnel them into a kill zone with enough overlapping bubbles of Supporting Fire that they only managed one round of assault against the Riptide I’d thrown in the way to delay them. The Riptide died, but by their next assault phase only 3 Wraiths were left between 2 units, neither of which survived Overwatch when they next tried assaulting. The flyers were trickier, but even being down one Riptide I had the tools to deal with them, and by the end I had him down to just a handful of models on the table while half of my army was still standing.
  5. Tau: The final match, and it was against nearly a mirror match – but the differences between the lists defined the game. Instead of tanks, he’d thrown his points into an über-Commander, equipped much like The Guide concept I’d been playing with. Iridium Armor, a Drone Controller, a Puretide Engram Chip, a Command and Control Node, and a Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite made him a tough, successful helper – that he then dropped into a unit of Broadsides and Missile Drones. He would just sit back and make all of them twin-linked and ignore cover. We both knew that whoever got the first turn would take the day, and that’s just how it played out. The alpha strike he put out crippled my army, and it never recovered. By the end, I was tabled on turn 6, and the win propelled him into 2nd place.

In the end, I went 3-2. Considering that I lost to the top two players, I don’t consider that a bad result at all. If I’d managed to get first turn in game 5, it’s very possible that I might have made 2nd place. In the end, I took fifth, missing fourth place by one victory point. Hopefully, next year they can get the word out to more players, because I’m definitely interested in going back for a third go at the event!


Slaanesh: Observations from the Weekend

Played at a small tournament – well, ran a small tournament, and played to fill in the odd number spot – with my Slaanesh CSM/Daemons army, and I’m pretty satisfied with the results. I ended up going 2-1, with wins against Khorne CSM and Nurgle CSM, and a loss against my friend (and cohost) Dennis and his Eldar. This is not surprising; he can never beat my Tau with Eldar, and I’ve yet to beat his Eldar with my Chaos armies. After three games with the new force, I feel like I’m in the right direction for the most part. Here’s what I took:

HQ: Chaos Lord w/Mark of Slaanesh, Sigil of Corruption, Power Sword, Chaos Bike, Gift of Mutation, Veterans of the Long War – 155
Troops: 9 Noise Marines w/8 Sonic Blasters, 1 Blastmaster; Noise Champion – 234
Troops: 9 Noise Marines w/8 Sonic Blasters, 1 Blastmaster; Noise Champion – 234
Troops: 19 Cultists w/17 Autoguns, 2 Flamers, Mark of Slaanesh; Cultist Champion – 137
Fast Attack:
 4 Chaos Bikers w/Mark of Slaanesh, Icon of Excess, 2 Meltaguns,Veterans of the Long War; Biker Champion w/Combi-Melta, Meltabombs – 195
Heavy Support: 4 Chaos Havocs w/4 Autocannons, Mark of Slaanesh, Veterans of the Long War; Aspiring Champion – 130
Fortification: Aegis Defense Line w/Quad Gun – 100
HQ: Herald of Slaanesh w/Transfixing Gaze, Soporific Musk, Pavane of Slaanesh – 90
Troops: 16 Daemonettes of Slaanesh – 224

Here are my take-aways from the weekend.

  • Bikes work as a Lord delivery system, but… Being on a bike ensures that the Lord will get somewhere quickly, and it keeps him alive due to the increased toughness. The rest of the bikes provide melta for cracking open vehicles and act as ablative wounds. They don’t bring a whole lot else, though, besides someone carrying an Icon of Excess. They just don’t have enough attacks to make a sizable dent in an enemy unit when assaulting. Still, the speed and toughness are really nice. I’m going to keep trying these guys for a bit longer and get used to them before I decide their fate. Putting the Lord on a Steed of Slaanesh is tempting to give the whole unit Outflank, but then I lose the extra toughness.
  • Shooty Noise Marine units are great. Fearless. Power armor. Cranks out tons of shots. Ignore cover. High Initiative if they get assaulted. What’s not to like? Also, the Blastmaster is fantastic now, because of two reasons: ignoring cover and being able to keep it stationary while the rest of the squad moves. It’s totally worth the points now, especially when you consider how easy it is for vehicles to get cover now. If I can see you, I can kill you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Also awesome for killing other power armor units.
  • Shooty Cultists are good. Okay, their guns aren’t great, but with so many shots you can manage a lot of mischief. I actually managed to have them shoot a Bloodthirster to death (results not typical). They’re risky to assault, especially with the flamers, and with the Mark of Slaanesh they’ve got a good chance to attack in kind once you close. In combination with a decent piece of cover, like an Aegis Defense Line, you can keep them nice and safe. Out in the open, though, they’ll take wounds and likely run off the board, so use them wisely if you don’t want to babysit them with a Lord.
  • Havocs are great. Especially with autocannons. A lot of strong shots for a low cost. Sure, they won’t scratch AV14, but that’s what the bikers are for. Setting the champ at the defense line’s Quad Gun almost doubles your firepower and gives you access to a Skyfire Interceptor weapon. I had faith that they would serve me well, and they delivered.
  • Daemonettes worked! The Daemonettes did exactly what I’d chosen them for – a fast assault unit that I could drop into my opponent’s back lines to cause havoc and assault scoring units camping in the rear. They’re fragile, but with the sheer volume of attacks they can put out makes up for their deficiencies. I never did use Hit and Run, so the Herald’s Musk might be on the chopping block, but Gaze and Pavane are staying. The only game where they didn’t directly contribute was against the Eldar (ironic, that), but they still pulled Dennis’s entire army’s attention for that one turn, leaving the rest to act without being bothered for a turn. Even against a tarpit unit like Plague Zombies, they managed to just out-wound their opponents. They don’t stand up to shooting, but I knew they wouldn’t. If nothing else, though, they forced my opponent to make bad decisions: keep pressing forward and ignore the blender I just dropped in your lines, or turn around and deal with it and let me stall out your momentum. I wouldn’t run them much smaller than I have them in this list; they need the bodies to get where you want them.

I will say it’s odd to run an army devoid of vehicles, but at higher point levels (1750-2000), I might figure out a way to pad out that involves metal boxes of one form or another, or maybe pick up a Heldrake and fit it into the list. Also, possibly more Daemons; they’re just fun to play around with.

Midwest Massacre Part 3: The Lessons Learned

So, what lessons did I take away from the Midwest Massacre, especially as regards my Tau?

Aegis Defense Lines are a must-have right now: Easily one-third of all armies at the tournament were running Aegis Defense Lines, and I can’t say I blame them. Between the extra cover available, the ability to lay a speed bump across a section of open board, and being able to take a twin-linked double autocannon with Skyfire and Interceptor, the ADL fills several gaps that armies can use to their advantage. Even the Tyranid player that took third place took a defense line (although without taking the gun emplacement) just to get the extra cover. I personally had a lot of trouble dealing with enemy fliers, so having the gun available would make a huge difference, and at only 100 points, it’s not horribly hard to shift things around to afford one.

Prescience is totally worth it: Being able to grant re-rolls to any friendly unit within 12″ of the psyker is fantastic; between that and Markerlights, I was able to make my shooting very reliable. Well, the hitting, anyway; making wounds stick was something completely different, but that’s neither here nor there. I have no regrets taking a Farseer in my army. However…

Eldrad might not be totally worth it: Eldrad’s a huge chunk of points, and if that chunk of points runs off the board or dies (which happened more often than not), I’m screwed in any scenario that uses Victory Points. While he brings a nice array of powers, I only ever used two with any frequency – Prescience and Misfortune. I also like Scrier’s Gaze, but the timing on that power is wonky, since it conflicts with the rules as written and doesn’t appear to actually be usable for Reserve and Outflank rolls. If I’m only using the Primaris power regularly and reliably, having all the extra powers doesn’t really help me. Taking a Farseer instead with both Runes and one power costs just under half as much and gets me most of the same utility. I would lack the ability to use a power twice, but I can cope with that. The points saved can go into buying that Aegis Defense Line. I’ll play around with lists both with and without Eldrad, and see how the power difference plays out.

Rethink War Walkers: I like the concept of War Walkers, but they’re kind of a 6th Edition solution to a 5th Edition problem. Sure, it’s easy to glance vehicles to death, but if there aren’t that many vehicles on the board, they’re less useful. Not useless, just not as useful. More often than not, they end up as a suicide unit, and without Scrier’s Gaze or Acute Senses, it’s a bit harder to guarantee they’ll be on the side of the board where they’ll do the most harm to the enemy before dying. I can’t help but think that those extra 120 points would be better spent somewhere else. Also, with Interceptor guns on the table, they tend to disappear as soon as they appear. That makes starting them on the table the better option, and at that point I might as well buy a better unit. I’ll still give them some more runs on the table, though, to see how they do; they do bring a nice volume of fire, especially against hordes.

Tau Pathfinders are awesome (I finally admit it): I’ve hemmed and hawed about whether or not I like Tau Pathfinders, but in 6th Edition I finally have to admit that they’re the best Fast Attack choice we have, as well as the best way to get Markerlights in volume. In 6th Ed’s vehicle-light environment, making your shots more reliable is better than having a pair of suicide melta speeders. I still wish there was a way to take them without the Devilfish, but even then they’re still worth the points. Also, they’re still helpful with flyers; even though they can’t raise BS on snapfire shots, they can still eliminate cover saves, and that includes those Jink saves from flyer evasion.

DieCon Day 2 Coverage

The second half of my DieCon 11 audio battle report is now up on the Preferred Enemies website. Click here to listen.  Again, it’s about 20 minutes long, and it covers rounds 4 and 5, as well as my overall feelings about the event.

The short version – firmly in the bottom of the pack thanks to going 0-3 before, I managed to get both wins on day 2. I still didn’t face anything but Marines, though – vanilla Marines in round 4, and another Space Wolves player in round 5. Day 2 had interesting objectives and unusual deployments, and I managed to use both to my advantage. Would I go back to DieCon 12 for next year’s GT? I think I would, and I’d still be playing Tau whether they get a new codex or not in the interim.

DieCon Day 1 Coverage

Rather than write out a battle report for today’s performance, I recorded some bonus content for the Preferred Enemies podcast. Click here to give it a listen; it’s about 20 minutes long, and covers all three games played today.

For those with shorter attention spans, here’s the summary – faced off against three different flavors of marines (Raven Guard, Black Templars, and Space Wolves), and went 0-3. I’m already noting the tactical errors made and determining ways to correct them. Games 2 and 3 both turned on one event that changed the momentum of the game. Hoping for a better day tomorrow win-wise, but I still had a great time.