Smogon Masters: Winners Report

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Smogcon was incredible. For anyone in Europe who didn’t head along to it, it’s a wonderful experience, and you should go. Major kudos and thanks to the organizers and staff who made it happen. I’ve been going to games conventions for over a decade, but this was genuinely one of the best.

Day 0: The Road

At some point, we decided that ferrying/driving from Maynooth to Surrey was an absolutely excellent plan. “Easier to bring all those cases” we said. “Picnics in the valleys of Wales” we said. “Sure it’ll be deadly” we almost definitely actually said.

And so, at 6am on Thursday we packed the car and began a drive that would end at 9pm (for most of us) and in the wee hours of Friday (for our tireless driver, who had one more pickup to do). And so began many an injoke that will alienate people in conversation for years to come. And several picnics, which we were shockingly well prepared for.

Nonetheless, we stoically made our way to the venue, where I proceeded to play no games whatsoever and have a pint with the rest of the invading Irish, who had sensibly traveled by winged steel tube.

Day 1: Invasion

(Anto is a Warmachine Player, he’s a pretty good Warmachine Player, till he hits a crisis of confidence)

My goal for the weekend was to qualify for Masters, so I arrived on Friday morning ready to bring my A game. However, I’d obviously left it in the car. In the interests of keeping this report short(ish), I won’t go into details. I finished 1-3, with poor tie breaks. However, despite being irked at my own performance overall, all of the games were highly enjoyable, and my opponents were excellent folks and great fun to play against. I was in high spirits at the end of the tournament, so thanks to each of my opponents for that!

I did, however, manage to have the first pint of the convention…

(but a beautiful lady  dinner talks him into being a better Warmachine Player)

We then retired to the Three Pigeons, where we had excellent beer, and a mighty fine burger. I resolved to play in Midnight Madness and have a bit of a laugh. Before midnight madness, we went to Scoff and Banter where Conor and I shared a platter and a beautiful food based (b)romance.

Day 1.5 Midnight Madness

For this event (Highlander format) I brought Skarre2, Deathjack, Nightmare, Reaper, Min Bane Thralls + UA, and Tartarus. This list passed one of my most important tests: Eoin/VagrantPoet made a vague vomiting noise after I described it. Also important was that Skarre2’s feat allows you to make ill considered aggressive plays and then get away with it, which I felt was going to be pretty important when 3am rolled around. When everyone’s tired, forcing your opponent to react rather than the other way around seemed like the best plan. Plus she was my first competitive caster in Cryx, so I got to indulge some nostalgia there.

A couple of highlights:

Skarre and Butch3 circling around a square of rough terrain, with most of both armies dead, each trying to avoid the others threat range. Admonition triggers to get me 5.25 inches away (inside Skarre’s charge range but outside Impending) and Skarre goes for it, and the dice favour me, finishing Butcher with 0 focus and 1 health left.

The final game against Liam Jordan, in which I perdition/feated to launch Nightmare all the way across the board to place a ghostly claw on Doomshaper’s head, forcing Liam to back off. This allowed me to rack up the first several control points on the way to an eventual scenario win.

Again, the quality of opponents was fantastic, and I had a great time. And I’d achieved my goal for the weekend – qualifying for masters. So I happily returned to the B&B (DAHMOND!) and got the requisite 3 hours sleep and 1 shower.

Day 2: Onslaught

Or at least, that’s what I was supposed to be doing. Instead, I dropped to hang out and play some watchmachine.

Day 3: Masters

And now, the bit you guys probably actually wanted to read. Or maybe I’m just indulging my ego. Which is totally uninflated by the events of the weekend. Promise.

The three lists I brought are up on endgame [Ed.’s Note: Endgame!? Thems the big leagues! You really are a big deal!]- though there’s a min unit of Bane Thralls missing from the Terminus list. For people who are curious about the logic behind the Terminus list, I talk about it here, here and here (in chronological order).

Game 1 (vs Ben, Legion of Everblight.) [Destruction]

Looking at Ben’s three lists, it seemed likely that he’d drop Bethayne against me, and so I opted to play Skarre1. I was hoping that Bane Knight armour on the feat turn would help me weather the worst of his infantry clearing, and leave enough to chew through.

Ben won the roll for first, and moved up very aggressively. This left me little choice but to charge headlong into the killing field or give up way too much board position. So charge forward I did. I feated defensively, mini-feated with the Blood Witches, and got stuck right in. Feating defensively was an easy call here, as I didn’t really need the offensive output to kill legion heavies. It was just about getting enough guys alive to the fight to keep the pressure on.

Ben responded with his own feat, but with Arm 21 even boosted magic rolls weren’t enough to clear the numbers he needed to to prevent a big hit the next turn. Also, the intermingling of Bane Knight units meant that the Eruptions that did kill guys often triggered a vengeance while not depleting the unit enough. The next turn, a Dark Guidance was cast and my army made short work of Ben’s Hex Hunters and Striders and pushed into the zone. Ben killed some models in return, but most importantly set Skarre on fire with a Ravagore. Ruh roh…

Luckily, his fire damage rolls weren’t stellar, and my necrosurgeon had healed Skarre back up to full after the feat. My overwhelming numbers were winning the attrition war, and now that the infantry were dead I didn’t need to Dark Guidance, so Skarre bailed to the back and started healing herself with focus. The fire stayed on until the end, but she was safe enough from any other attacks that she kept herself afloat. The momentum stayed in my favour, and I ground out his army to just Bethayne and some support before she went out in a blaze of glory.

Game 2 (vs Viktor, Khador) [Balance of Power, I think?]

Sharon Bolgar (The Irishman In The Hat) proved to be amongst the best people ever, bringing a pint to my table for this game (He also brought me lunch after the game, as we only had 20 minutes. The man is a hero, if you forgive the crotch thrusting.) [Ed.’s Note: Many of us don’t.] One pint is the perfect amount for the middle of a Masters, encouraging me to slow down and think/drink, and thus avoiding my worst trait in high stakes games – rushing for a win when slowing down is better.

I dropped Deneghra1 and Viktor dropped Sorscha2. It looked like we were in for a grind, and indeed we were. On the left flank, his Nyss spent the game Crippling Grasped and Iron Fleshed, while mine were camped out on a hill with two Eliminators bothering them, resulting in them slowly wittling one another down but not making any great progress. In the centre, a couple of tough-rolling-hero Boomhowlers anchored my line against Viktor’s push into the zone, while my Blood witches bothered his Winterguard and stayed as far away as possible for Aiyana and Holt. The early to midgame was a slow attrition grind, but in a game of infantry vs. infantry my feat pushed me slightly ahead, and the Mechanithrall factory did sterling work building a min unit up into an 18 steam-powered-robot-zombie blob that pushed through to give me the advantage. In the end, Viktor had a go at a run with Sorscha that failed, leaving her stranded in the middle of my army.

Game 3: Pat Dunford, Cygnar  [Two Fronts]

In the third game, I was paired against Cork’s own Pat Dunford. While this pairing meant an all-Irish final was off the cards, it did at least mean that one of would make it. Pat dropped Seige while I dropped Terminus. Terminus’ main job is dealing with anti-Cryx tech like Seige.

I came forward on my first turn, trying to avoid the worst of the fire and fury of the Cygnar army while still aggressively positioning. Pat dropped a few models, and made it very hard to me to start scoring on scenario. In spread out scenarios like this, that’s usually Terminus’ plan – start to dominate something out wide, and force the enemy to come to him. Bully casters are great when you don’t have to do the chasing.

I was going throw my army removing the tokens for round long effect, and then I saw it. A ranger… in Madelyn range…? Indeed he was. Terminus hopped forward, and measuring control to Seige. About 1/2 an inch out of threat, even with Death Ride.

But… the Kraken could push him. I spent a solid five minutes thinking about it. As I said in the last game, I have a tendency to rush for a win when slowing down would be better. Going for it and missing at this early stage of the game would be game over.

But… but… this is what Terminus does, right? I nearly talked myself out of it, but in the end I allocated one to the Kraken, pushed Terminus forward, and charged into a TAC dwarf. A few swings later and the game was over. It was a small mistake on Pat’s part, but I felt like he probably wouldn’t make any more like it in the game, so I had to seize on it.

Also, since Martin vs. Robin was an epic battle (and a hell of a game to watch) I had an hour to chill out and collect myself.

Game 4: vs Martin Hornacek [Close Quarters]

Martin and I had been exchanging banter for the whole weekend… with Martin coming out on top most of the time, in true sports move villain style. And as the reigning, defending Irish Master, there was a bit of a national grudge to avenge. If nothing else, the final would have some narrative appeal!

The game is recorded and posted here, so I won’t give you a play-by-play in detail.

Martin was locked into Mordikaar (his favoured Cryx drop), but I had the freedom to play any of my lists. Most of the preceding hour was spent debating the merits of Skarre1 vs. Terminus as my choice. The reasons I went for Terminus in the end were:

1)  Weirdness factor. Most people’s standard plan vs Cryx doesn’t handle the Terminus list. Anything I could do to make Martin think harder was good.
2) The Kraken vs Cetrati. With its chain weapons, the Kraken could easily kill 2-3 Cetrati in a turn, remove them from play, then empty itself of Corpses to do it again. This would prevent him from getting the most out of Revive.
3) Admonia could remove the Hollow, as could the Blood Hag. Two ways to prevent him denying me souls/interfere with his fury generation.
4) It being a killbox scenario clinched it. Only the Bronzeback could threaten Terminus reliably, and with a predictable threat range and eventually it would have to come into the Kraken, meaning Terminus could take it out in trade and chase Mordikaar down.
5) Daragh Wrathe is just plain evil against Skorne when you can keep Hollow off the board.

A vital moment in the game came when Admonia survived a puppet strings spray, allowing her to escape to safetly and keep the threat of hollow removal alive. This allowed me to press the above advantages, and forced Martin to formulate alternate plans, costing him time and pushing him towards looking for a scenario victory. While I think I still had the pieces necessary to win the game if she had died, it would have been much more difficult, and there wasn’t much wiggle room in the game at that point. You’ve got to get lucky to win a close game, and I did here.

That Agonizer did sterling work. I’d thought I’d kept it juuust far back enough that I’d get one turn fully fueled of eating Cetrati (along with a boosted killshot into the wailing elephant to get rid of him), but he stopped allocation earlier than I’d hoped, and I missed the unboosted killshot, which took the teeth out of my “eat all the Cetrati over two turns” plan.

At the end of the game, I moved Terminus across to threaten the flag, hoping to buy myself another turn by forcing Mordikaar to back up, allowing me to kill the Bronzeback that was almost certainly going to kill my Kraken that turn. But Martin was behind on the clock at this point, and pushed to keep scoring, allowing me an assassination run.

Hitting on 5s and doing dice + 2 damage seemed good to me, but in a moment of forgetfulness I blanked on Poltergeist (despite it triggering moments before) and failed to position a WSC member to prevent the push. I autopiloted to not boosting attacks (because hitting on 5s with Puppet Strings up), but I really should have boosted those rolls – I had enough focus to boost to hit 4 attacks and buy 3, which was plenty with only one transfer (and with Mordikaar already damaged). But nonetheless, the dice didn’t betray me and Terminus put Lanterns down.

And then there was Conor, with a pint for me. What a beautiful glorious man.

That final game was one of the best games of Warmachine I’ve ever been part of – close, precise, and utterly uncontentious. Martin’s a real pleasure to play against, and he forces the best game possible out of you.

I’m looking forward to a rematch this weekend at the Irish Masters.

Bring it, Sharky.

Finally, a shout out to the excellent judges who really helped the game run smoothly, and again to everyone involved in running a spectacular event. And again to all of my opponents, who were all excellent people. The Warmachine community’s something special, and I’m loving how the European community is starting to travel more and more often. Next year, the Irish invasion will be ever bigger!


Day 4-5: The Long Drive Home

#tahnyrhyno #idontwanttodriveavandad #massiveconquistadors #alwaysgofulldiva  #toomanyhashtagrelatedinjokes #BADGERS! #alsoducks

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