Tournament report: Learning from my own bad example

The last time I wrote a post, I was busy preparing my Vayl1 list for a tournament in Trier. This is the story of how the tournament went. Spoiler: not very good. But as I am still getting to grips with the complexities of Warmachine, this might be a good thing and so I have decided to reflect on my mistakes and how they led to the results I got.

Mistake 1: Playing lists I was not familiar with.

A couple of days before the event, I had a change of heart. I was looking at the list of registered players and as I know most people from the local meta, I was more or less aware of what I could face in terms of lists. One thing that struck me was that there were two Cryx players amongst the 6 players on the list, both of which would play Asphyxious 3, who has a very good matchup against Hordes due to his feat being so good, healing damage each time a beast forces to boost and gain a soul token as well. This would mean that I shot him with a Ravagore, boosting to hit and wound, he would regain 2d3 wounds, so every shot after the first one (where he could not yet heal as the damage is applied after my rolls) would not really deal more than a few points of damage and give him two souls that would turn into focus the next turn. With the Vayls, I could try to bypass his feat by backing off and not doing much on the feat turn, but that would give him a virtual time walk and time walks usually win games. But then I realised that he only had a 14-inch control zone and that Ravagores also shot 14 inches normally, but 18 inches in Lylyth2’s feat turn. So if I could use Lylyth2, I could use her 12-inch bow (16 under the feat) and those of the Deathstalkers in her list to ‘pre-measure’ 14.1 inches away from Asphyxious, my Ravagores and Bolt Thrower should be able to fire at him without giving him a feat bonus. As Lylyth’s feat would also give them a second shot each, that would mean that I could rain death down on him and have a good counter for the Hordes counter. As the event was 3 rounds and we were 6 in total, odds were good that I would face one, perhaps even both Cryx players. So I decided to go Vayl1 for the other match-ups and Lylyth2 for Cryx.

Trouble is, I haven’t played Lylyth 2 in months and I had in fact never played her with Zuriel in the list. Now Zuriel is a great addition for hordes clearing, as it has 2 (3 on feat) sprays with an animus that gives an additional dice to all to hit rolls against non-warlock/caster warrior models and also enabling Lylyth to copy that animus for an extra die on her 4-6 shots per round, but it changes the list to a large degree. In addition, not having played the list for so long meant that I didn’t have a good feeling for the numbers I needed to roll.

So long story short, only one Cryx player played as we were only 5 in the end and the other one dropped to avoid having to hand out byes, so we had a 4-player ‘Everyone plays a game against other player’ mini-tournament. Which meant of course that I was guaranteed my game against Cryx, so the plan should work, right? Well, we faced each other in round 3 where I was list-locked into Lylyth (still good), but he was list-locked into Body and Soul, the Deneghra2 theme force. So no Asphyxious, but instead 50 odd infantry models. Still, given that I had all those AOE 3 templates and Zuriel’s sprays, I should be good. Well, not if you don’t know your list it seems. In turn 2, he had advanced most of his army as a living wall of infantry towards the centre line, aiming for a turn 3 feat that would give all my models in 14 inches of Deneghra -3 DEF and leave the affected models unable to advance for a turn, which would mean that he could easily win on scenario that turn or at least get a commanding lead. But Deneghra was located close to my lines, behind a wall and camping 7, making her an ARM21 caster with 14 boxes, which is rather easily killable for my Ravagores and other models. Just one teensy wee problem, the wall gave her DEF20, which required 13s or better for my beasts to hit. So in this situation, what I should have done was stay put with Lylyth, call feat and then use my Ravagores to drop 4 Scather templates into his frontlines. This would have made it impossible for his mass of infantry to move as they would take an automatic wound when moving through the templates. So either they would have died when the Ravagore shot them, the next turn when making their roll for being on fire or be unable to advance due to the clouds. That would have enabled me to ignore his feat or force him to wait with it for another turn, thus giving me more chances of hitting Deneghra with a Bolt Thrower to push her into the open where her DEF would be easily manageable for my Ravagores. But instead of murdering half his army in a hail of blight, blows and arrows, I decided to concentrate all my fire on Deneghra and continued even when I saw that I would need 13s to hit. Admittedly, a low scatter roll would still have clipped her and set her on fire, but it was a rubbish plan. If I had had more experience with Lylyth, I would have seen that attrition would be the better option here and I could have easily shifted the pressure over to his side as he would have to deal with losing his front line and having his rear line pinned behind blight clouds. In the end, he feated on me and Lylyth somehow survived the assassination attempt, but as Lylyth has no melee weapon, she could not disengage and thus was unable to do anything relevant the following turn. I managed to drop Deneghra to 4 wounds and set her on fire, but the fire went out before dealing damage, for the second time on her that game as a matter of fact. If it had continued, I would have needed a 6 on 2d6 to kill her, but it would not have been a deserved victory.

So lesson one: PLAY THE CASTERS YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH, NOT THE ONES YOU HAVE A CRAZY THEORY WITH!

Mistake 2: Don’t get penisy!

In my first game, I dropped Vayl1 into Butcher3 and the game was going rather well on my feat turn. I had blunted his first wave, killing nearly all the Doom Reavers in his two units, as well as Butcher’s two Argus hounds, which would give him a 3” movement, but nothing would be close enough to him to let him use it to kill models of mine. Also, as both dogs were dead, he could not use them to jam me and force me to kill them later on, which would give him a Vengeance movement at a better point of the game. So I was down to the Ravagore and I could either try a shot into the Butcher, needing an 11 to hit and an 6+ to wound or drop it into a pack of Iron Fang Pikemen, likely hitting and killing three and blocking a couple more behind a blight cloud. Of course I aimed at the Butcher, actually hit and dealt 10 wounds on a spiked 16 on 3d6. Great! So when it came to my feat movements at the end of the turn, I had the choice between ramming my beasts down his throat to pin him into his deployment zone or pull back to limit his retribution to a few Pikemen charging into a waiting counterattack force. Guess which one I took? Yup, I went full aggro and as a result, I lost a significant part of my army to his counterattack. The next two turns, I dealt some damage to him, including wiping out a complete unit of Kayazy Assassins with a Forsaken Blight Shroud attack, but the Pikemen and his solos rolled over me whilst Ruin and the Butcher kept me from meaningfully counterattacking. I had a hail mary assassination attempt available when the fire actually dropped the Butcher to 6 damage boxes and ARM21, but the Ravagore missed the boosted 11 this time. If I had instead fired at the Pikemen and fallen back, I would not have lost two heavy warbeasts and a Raek and could have dictated the pace of the game, taking out the Kayazy and Pikemen the turn after and then engaging Ruin and Butcher on my terms instead of his.

Lesson 2: DON’T TRY TO ONESHOT THE BUTCHER JUST BECAUSE THERE IS A SMALL CHANCE TO DO IT.

Lesson 3: STRIKE AND FADE! THIS IS LEGION, NOT SKORNE!

Mistake 3: Don’t be hasty!

In the second game (yes, we are non-chronological today), I faced off against one of the best regional players, who was playing Skorne. He dropped Rasheth’s Chain-Gang into my Vayl1 and it looked like I had a good chance at the start of turn 3. My Raek had managed to annoy a whole unit of Slingers by being just out of 5” and thus making them miss their shots due to being Stealthy, his three Titans were in the middle of the table, the Sentry on the left flank, the Gladiator hanging slightly back and the Bronzeback on a hill, whilst his Gatormen were advancing on a flank, far from my beasts. Only one Gatorman had split from his unit and stood in front of the Gladiator and an Agonizer was close enough to them and giving my beast -2 STR.  The plan was easy. Have Vayl move forward and cast Incite, then Rampager on the Gladiator to have it move past the Gatorman, whallop it and stand with its back to my Carnivean and Seraph. My two Scytheans could easily reach the Sentry and finish it, then the Ravagore could take a shot at the Gladiator or the second Agoniser or even a Gatorman, who knows? So I advance Vayl, call feat, cast Incite, then notice that the Raek had been shot by his Basilisk Drake and lost its Mind and Body to a lucky 15 damage hit. So I heal it for 2 to bring all its aspects back to operational, then immediately activate it. Notice something? Yes, I forgot the Rampager on the Bronzeback. No matter, the Raek was in Vayl’s Incite Range, so it would get +2 to damage from her and -2 from the Agonizer, so they would cancel each other out. But then it missed twice and only dealt 8 damage on the other 3 attacks, leaving the Agonizer alive. Hmmm. At least the Scytheans managed to kill the Sentry, so one down, two to go. The Carnivean would be able to reach the Bronzeback and it was out of the Agoniser range but in Vayl’s, so it would hit with POW18-19 against ARM19 with a potential 7 attacks. I only needed to kill that Gator. So I charge in the Seraph and it oneshots the Gator, but I stupidly placed it too quickly and now the Carnivean was without a charge lane! So I could not kill the Bronzeback or at least cripple it and instead killed some Gatormen with my Carnivean before casting Spiny Growth. As you might have guessed, that did not work out that well and the Gladiator killed both Scytheans over the next two turns before dying itself. The Bronzeback died too, but it killed the Carnivean in the process. Finally, the last two Gatormen killed the Seraph and the Basilisk Drake teamed up with his Krea mate to finish off the Ravagore and leaving me with nothing but Vayl.

Lesson 4: ALWAYS CHECK WHAT YOU ARE DOING OR WRITE DOWN THE KEY TURN AND TICK IT OFF ONE BY ONE.

So in the end I got thoroughly trounced 3 times, but I can honestly say that I have nobody to blame for that but myself. My dice were not above or below average, neither were my opponents, I think I managed to avoid falling for any traps or tricks and I had a fighting chance to win every single game before I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory each time.

I will write the lessons learnt on a piece of paper and laminate it to remind me of not falling for those mistakes again.

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