2: Markus, the competitor


The real Markus is someone I’ve seen before at local tournaments. Mainly because he wins them. He won Best General at DBD (narrowly, in the final turn of the final game) with a list which is exactly the sort of list I tried to discourage when I wrote my rulespack… "Imperial Soup"

You can see his list here if you’re into that sort of thing.

Note that my army comp meant he started with 12 Command Points which dropped to 10 after pregame stratagems.  In regular 40k he would have started with 16.

He had a Guard Brigade to give him plenty of command points to work with, command point regeneration and good board presence, then a Castellan and some other knights to spend the CPs for massive damage output.

He saw that he could still operate within the restrictive army comp and took the most "meta" list possible. It bears a very strong resemblance to the list run by Brandon Grant at the 2019 Las Vegas Open which won the entire tournament. This type of list is incredibly good - if you have the skill and game knowledge as well, of course.

And this is what people don't get about the Markus-type.

 Let me be extremely clear… apart from discussing his list above I am not talking about real Markus, I’m talking about “Markus, the competitor”, one of my 4 example tournament audiences that I defined in the first post.

A strange characteristic of Warhammer is that only competitive players seem to give other competitive players the credit for their wins.  I’m writing on the 12th of Feb 2019, 2 days after the LVO - and if you read the Warhammer-focused internet right now you will see huge discussions on nerfing soup and nerfing Castellans, as if anyone can buy the models in Brandon Grant's list and win the LVO. 

I honestly think if many Warhammer players were into tennis they'd want Andy Murray's racket to be nerfed, because it's clearly OP.

Brandon and Alex Harrison and Nick Nanavati and Matt Root and Andrew Gonyo and Josh Death and so on must be incredibly lucky people because I see them at the top of all the tournament lists.  Other people have access to the same units and and stratagems but don't win everything - so I guess these guys just roll more 6s?

Clearly nonsense. Although Warhammer is objectively kind of a terrible game (I’ll come back to that in the future) it does have a lot of nuance, knowledge and strategic depth. The kind of depth that unveils itself very slowly to some people, and not at all to others who struggle to disconnect the models and rules used from the player using them.

 People can be harsh and judgmental to the Markus types - and yesterday I casually threw out the term "WAAC" which raised the ire of the competitive community who have perhaps had it levied at them unfairly.

I feel that although I wanted a tournament which brought in people who did not attend because of "the big bad WAAC gamer", the Markus-type are some of the most critical people to have involved in this kind of event. They see the game in a different way to most people.

To the competitive players, models are game pieces which perform different functions for different prices.  Not being a true Markus-type myself makes it impossible to give any top level commentary but part of the skill of list building comes in being able to identify efficient units, which either:

  • Perform the exact role the player’s list needs for the minimum points outlay, or

  • Perform the role they need to fulfil “well enough” for a bargain basement points cost, or

  • Perform multiple roles at a price that means they are better than choosing two units which specialise in those roles

 As an example consider the various "chaff" units that fall in and out of favour in 8th edition - conscripts, cultists, plaguebearers and so on.   These perform a few jobs, which make them immensely useful.

  • Firstly, they fill the mandatory Troop slots in your detachments, which unlock command points

  • Secondly, they give "board control", which is the ability to hold objectives (which wins the game) and prevent your opponent from moving freely about the board to achieve their objectives.

  • Thirdly they are a "screen".  This means they create impassable space between your high value units and the enemy.  Particularly useful if the enemy has the ability to move fast, fly or appear anywhere on the board via deep strike.

  • Fourthly, some chaff units give immense resilience to the entire army - the better screens can be buffed to be genuinely hard to remove... Trying to kill a unit of 20 or 30 models who are -1 to hit, have a 5++ invulnerable save and a 5+++ disgustingly resilient roll is painful.  And the more dice your opponent throws trying to grind your chaff away, the fewer they have to throw at Abaddon or Ahriman, giving that expensive model time to swing the game their way.

  • Finally... Sometimes a very distant finally... they can kill other models. This usually isn't their forte but even 40 terrible guns will scrub a few wounds off something.  40 autoguns hitting on 5's, wounding on 5’s against a 2+ armour save still does 1.5 wounds on average. You don’t have to be too lucky to kill an Adeptus Custodes. How many of your cultists did that one model cost? 

Its’s all about value.

So the massive range of benefits to taking strong screens makes them an ideal choice for almost all competitive scenarios.

To a subset of the Phil-type players taking these units in “spam” seems unfair:  How can I fight that with my mono codex Dark Angels?  You can't.  You lose.

To another subset of the Phil-type it seems aspirational:  I will buy those models and bring them and I WILL WIN!  You won't. Unless you play it again and again and again and understand why it wins and how it loses.

And if you’re prepared to do that you probably weren’t a Phil in the first place.

To the Andy-type this is heresy: How well are those 80 cultists painted?  Not very.  Barely.

The truth is that there's no benefit to Markus-types investing hours in painting.  There are almost only downsides.

I personally bought a Shadowsword about a year ago and it took me 9 months to get around to building, painting and finishing it to a good enough standard for me to put it on the tabletop. I know I am slow and fussy, but...

  • When I bought it, it could arrive in my opponent's deployment zone turn 1 to wreak Volcano Cannon and Adamantium Tracked havoc.  Bang Bang you're dead.

  • By the time it was built and basecoated, it could only arrive in my own deployment zone turn 1… but at least it was safe from getting shot off the board.

  • By the time I first used it in a game it can't even do that. The 2 rounds of FAQs and rule changes have massively decreased it's effectiveness.

It looks pretty cool on the table though, right?

Markus can't operate like that and be competitive. 

He needs to win the tournament that's happening in 3 weeks and the Genestealer Cults codex just came out! He needs to react to it... Either by jumping on board and creating a Cults army, pivoting to integrate some GSC models into his guard army, or simply anticipating the effect the new rules and models will have on him and reacting in some way. More mobility? Additional deep strike? Tougher screen?

Is it any wonder his models aren't fully painted? He might not even be using Imperium in 6 months if the meta swings far enough. Chuck them on eBay - some Phil somewhere will snap them up.

You can't be expected to lavish such time on individual models unless you have some sort of connection to playing them in the long term.   Sam-types can have that connection and Andy-types live for it...  but Markus doesn't. 

Markus-types want to win the game and I was proud to have such a good player as the real, actual not-a-WAAC-player-don’t-lynch-me Markus there. But much of the feedback on the day and in the survey says I didn’t go far enough with the army comp - “it should be mono codex!” is the cry.

So - does his brutal meta list and competitive nature make 90% of tournament players feel like they can’t compete? But if we're not trying to win... why is it even a tournament?

We need to look at some of the other player types to circle back to Markus.  Bear in mind that even if I did want to try tone down his type of play - if I executed it badly, my tournament becomes "easy mode" for him and it will have the opposite effect.

So you're telling me there's a tournament with great prizes and cool trophies stacked full of noobs with crap-tier lists?  "HOLD MY BEER I'M GOING IN!", says Markus.

Tell me how right or wrong I am in the comments!

Tomorrow, the Sam-type.