London GT Results Breakdown

This past weekend was the London GT, the largest 40k event in all of Europe. Over 450 players from across the world traveled to London to participate. This was set to be one of the premier events in the 40k tournament series. I’m sure as many of you are aware, the terrain left a bit (a lot) to be desired, and logistically it was very poorly run (from what I’ve heard: I was not in attendance). But, I don’t want to derail this article with any of that. There are plenty of places all over the internet for you guys to discuss the shortcomings of the LGT. This article will be focused solely on the competitive aspect of the LGT.

-What won

-What placed well

-What are the takeaways from the GT from a meta perspective

-And what it all means

Before I get into all that, I want to first congratulate my good friend and teammate, Mike Brandt, for winning Best Overall! Fantastic job Mike! Very well played and much deserved. I’d also like to congratulate fellow American, Geoff Robinson, on winning the invitational. Really beautiful job guys, and the most amazing representation of America imaginable. Way to make lady liberty proud!

So now for the good parts!


LGT was a 450 person, 5 round- battle point tournament. This will skew results a ton. Naturally, it will favor lop sided armies designed to just completely smash their opponents for maximum points (like Custodes) over armies that will consistently put up small point wins (Nurgle Daemons).  There was even a person who placed 46th on the competitive track but won all of his games. In other tournament formats such as ITC or NOVA, where tournament record comes first and smashing opponents comes second, armies like Nurgle daemons might be favorable, but here it was definitely the more top heavy lists. This goes back to my 7 Steps to Win a Tournament article, and how you should pick your army for the tournament.

Here’s a mathematical breakdown of the top 10% of the field:

Primary Faction Number % of Top 
Guard 5 13.9
Dark Eldar 5 13.9
Eldar 4 11.1
Daemons 3 8.3
Custodes 2 5.6
Space Marines 2 5.6
Tau 2 5.6
Ad Mech 2 5.6
Tyranids 2 5.6
Orks 2 5.6
CSM 2 5.6
Thousand Sons 2 5.6
Necrons 1 2.8
Harlequins 1 2.8

This is by far the most diverse top 10% I’ve seen in my life. 14 different factions! What’s even more impressive, is that when you get into the lists with the same faction they are very different as well. 8th edition is looking healthier than ever!

– 2 lists were catachan combat hordes with shield captains for extra counter punch. 2 lists were shooty lists with multiple tank commanders, other fire support, and the classic shield captain supreme command. Finally, the 3rd list was 3 shadowswords.

Dark Eldar- 2 lists were coven based taking lots of grotesques and talos. 1 was a kabal and wych cult hyrbid, and finally the last was pure kabal, hyper MSU shooty. Every list featured 3 ravagers.

Eldar- 2 Eldar lists were very vehicle-centric, featuring multiple fliers and wave serpents; one brought in a spearhead from DE with 3 ravagers and 2 razorwings whilst the other opted for 3 fire prisms.  The other two eldar lists were more like my LVO list in that they were balanced, both lists featured spears and reapers in varying numbers and one also ran a ravager spearhead.


Daemons- The Daemon lists were all nurgle based, however all 3 were dramatically different. One list featured 81 (yes 81) Nurglings, another was a mix of plague drones and plaguebearers (one of my own personal lists!) and the last featured 7 Daemon Princes.

Custodes- Both Custodes armies featured the same basic template: an outrider full of bikes, a minimal Guard Battalion and a sprinkling of assassins.

Space Marines- Even Space Marines made an appearance with 2 different builds, 1 being a classic Guilliman gunline with lots of razorbacks and a leviathin dread, whilst the other was ravenguard with 18 infiltrating aggressors and 3 shield captains for counter charge.

Tau- 1 Tau list was relatively balanced, consisting of 55 Fire warriors, 4 hammerheads, 2 riptides and some character support. The other was very lopsided though, as it was centered around 3 storm surges.

 Ad Mech- Ad Mech, made not 1, but 2 appearances in the top 10%! Both lists were stygies. One was very top heavy centered around a billion electropriests going first and charging turn 1 to become nigh unkillable. The other was based around 3 units of chicken walkers (2 combat 1 shooty) with some sisters and custodes support.


Tyranids- The first Tyranid list was one based around a bunch of stealers running around and charging things, with GSC stealers coming in as well. The other Tyranid list was vastly different, running 9 carnifexes and 3 (walking!) tyrants. This army also featured some GSC stealers for combat support, but fundamentally played vastly different.

Orks- Even the Ork armies weren’t what you’d expect. The first was the classic horde of 90 boyz and 90 storm boyz, while the other featured 30 mek cannons!

CSM- Both CSM lists were fairly balanced alpha legion lists which both took different elements from lists I’ve personally run before. Both featured some psychic support from TS and 1 alpha legion cultist blob. Where things differ is that one featured khorne berzerker rhinos and the other featured an outrider of bloat drones.

Thousand Sons- These two armies start out fairly similarly with the classic TS characters, a tzangor blob and some enlightened. One flushed it out with more enlightened and psychers and then finally added a bloodletter bomb, while the other opted for Magnus and a moderately heavy tzeentch detachment with 3 burning chariots.

Necrons- Only 1 Necron made it in, my good friend Daniel. And he was running the boogey man: 3 Tesseract Vaults.

Harlequins- I can’t believe it, but index Harlequins cracked the top too! Not even a splash of harlequins in an eldar or DE army. This was a real harlequin army. What a time to be alive!


Well, with a scatter plot of data that big it’s actually really difficult to form some takeaways from that. In essence, to adequately prepare for a GT you’re going to have to prepare for… literally everything.

There are some things that you can learn from though!

Nearly all the Imperial armies took 3 Shield Captains on bikes- This supreme command detachment seemed very popular, so make sure you have tools to adequately deal with that. Similarly, nearly every DE and Eldar army inserted 3 ravagers to it, so if you were planning on running a horde of 2 wound decent save infantry *cough death watch cough*, now might not be the best time.

For me personally, Magnus, Tau, and Tyranids weren’t as prevalent as I expected, and Chaos armies weren’t the typical Abaddon Cultist horde I expected them to be. So, as I personally start making lists in the upcoming weeks, I’ll try and limit the amount of influence those armies have on how I build lists, and put more emphasis on Guard and DE.

Ultimately, I think now more than ever, the game hinges on play skill, and understanding of the game more so than list building. It’s clear from these results that nearly anything can be competitively viable in 8th, and it’s about how you use it more than what you use.


***Caveat*** It’s easy for more casual players to also look at the smattering of results and discern that play skill, nor list matters, and the game is based on luck. This is still empirically incorrect. I recognize nearly 80% of the names associated with the armies in the top 10% as GT winners, consistently high placers, ETC team members etc… Consistent winners coupled with a strong diversity in army representation directly correlates with play skill being the determining factor in 40k.

While the results of any one event are only so meaningful due to small sample size, this is an event that is especially important from a data standpoint  given its timing in the competitive 40k circuit. Now, go run some numbers, think on the meta, and try to come up with your own takeaways from the LGT! That’s all for now folks!



Charging For Dummys

Hello fellow nerds! I’m here today to teach you about one of the most important phases in the game, the second Movement Phase! I mean the Charge Phase… The Charge and Fight phases are easily some of the most intricate in all of 40k, and games are certainly won and lost in them, so learning how to be good at them is imperative to your success. Even for you Tau and Guard players that think you get a pass and get to ignore the hard parts of the game, it’s important that you understand how to keep your opponent from putting you in his pocket.

brown neckerchief
Photo by Tookapic on

So let’s get right into it, here’s basically what the rulebook says in regards to how to charge things.

  1. Pick your unit you want to charge with
  2. Declare all your charge targets
  3. Eat lots of overwatch
  4. Roll 2d6 for charge distance
  5. Move your first model so that it is within 1″ of an enemy you declared as a charge target
  6. Move the rest of your squad so that it finishes it’s move in coherency and not within 1″ of an enemy you did you not declare as a charge target.

So why did I just recite the rulebook to you? Because believe it or not there are a lot of nuances to find in there.

Step 1: Pick your unit you want to charge with- Ok there aren’t many nuances to this, you pick a unit and you charge with it. However, there is one thing: knowing which order to charge in. Before charging in with your genestealers into a wall of flamers, maybe charge your trygon in to soak the overwatch. This will eat most of the damage as shooting flamers at a trygon is a lot better for you than those same flamers roasting your genestealers. On the flipside, if you’re charging a unit with a bunch of plasma and las cannons maybe lead with your genestealers so you don’t accidentally lose your trygon to some lucky 6’s. Moral of the story is charge in an order that saves you the most damage from the overwatch.

That’s not all though, imagine charging a unit in a tight spot where only a few of your models or units will actually be able to swing or fight. Be sure, to charge in such a way where your damage dealing units actually get to attack. Charging a trygon into a wall of flamers sounds great, but remember his base is huge, so there may not be any room left for the stealers after he moves in there. Be sure to respect what the position will look like after each model moves, and try to use foresight to charge optimally.


Step 2: Declare all your charge targets- This is actually super important to get right for two reasons. 1- You can’t come within 1″ of an enemy you did not declare as your charge target during your charge move. 2- You cannot attack a unit you did not declare as a charge target.  So how does this matter? Well let’s say you have your sneaky assassin the solitaire who wants to blitz through a cultist blob to get to the nice juicy Ahriman in the back. You declare Ahriman as the charge target, roll 2d6 and roll enough to reach him! But you can’t place yourself within 1″ of Ahriman without being within an inch of the cultists you didn’t declare- guess you failed your charge. So the easy solution here is also charge the cultists! Well the problem with that is when the solitaire eats 80 overwatch shots with rerolls to hit he might have a bad day. But remember what I said about 1 paragraph ago about charging in correct orders to minimize overwatch damage? Step 1- charge a wave serpent into the cultist blob to eat the overwatch, step 2 charge solitaire into cultists that can no longer overwatch and Ahriman, step 3- kill Ahriman, step 4- win game.

Now, remember how you can only attack things that you declare as a charge target? When playing something where overwatch doesn’t matter for one reason or another (inconsequential amount of damage, the guys don’t have guns, etc…) you might as well just charge everything you can! That way you can go wherever you want when it comes time to move your models and you’re not restricted like in the above scenario.

But wait there’s more!

Here’s a theoretical scenario which demonstrates one of the things I like to do a lot. Let’s say I want to charge a unit 8″ away but I don’t want to just do nothing if I fail my charge, and there’s a unit right in front of me, even in the opposite direction occasionally. I declare both! If I roll the 8 I just go into the squad I want to, if I roll a 3 I just take my consolation prize, and if I roll a 7 I can go towards the unit I wanted with most of my squad while getting within 1″ of the nearby unit with 1 guy to make it legal, then use my lovely 3″ pile in to get closer to the squad I wanted to fight in the first place. That being said I’ll go into more depth about the proper way to pile in and consolidate in the assault phase in my next article. If you think charging is complicated just wait.

Well back to the charge phase

Step 3: Eat lots of overwatch- Believe it or not there are actually more tactics here than simply using things like rhinos to make your life easier. Imagine a scenario where you want to charge a unit of flamers with your genestealers but don’t have your handy dandy trygon nearby. Flamers have a measily range of 8″ so to shoot overwatch they actually have to be in range. Remember that whole trick I literally just described a minute ago? Do that. Finish your movement phase 8.1″ away from the flamer mans, and as close as possible to something inconsequential. Declare a charge on both. You’ve negated the flamer overwatch and if you roll high you can still just charge them. If you roll average just charge the other unit and then pile into the flamers to steal their jeans. Remember, you declared them as a charge target and even though you initially failed to make it to them you can still pile in and swing at them. A very similar trick you can do here is hide behind a wall or infamous Nova “L” to make your charge. The other guy can’t overwatch you if he can’t see you and then you can use your magical infantry powers to kool-aid man through the wall and charge everything.

Brown magic.

Step 4. Roll 2d6- OK there’s only 1 tactic here and it’s easily the most important tactic in all of 40k. Roll Better.

Moving on

Step 5. Move your first model so that it’s within 1″ of an enemy you declared as a charge target. Not much to this actually, basically just following rules. There are some tactics here that revolve around how you pile in, but that’s an article for another day. For now just follow this rule.

Step 6. Move the rest of your squad so that it finishes it’s move in coherency and not within 1″ of an enemy you did not declare as a charge target- A common misconception is that you have to move everyone closer to the stuff you’re charging. This is very untrue. You can move backwards, sideways, up, down, and in circles if you want. There are basically no rules here. You can actually get like 2 movement phases out of the assault phase if you’re crafty about it. Sometimes I like to leave little bits of squads alive just so I can charge them. Here’s an example, some guy gets all up in your face with a unit of drop plasma. Instead of shooting them away, get them down to a couple guys. Then charge them, engage them with a few of your models so you can ensure they die, but have the rest of your squad go towards an objective or piece of terrain or something. Then kill them. Then use your pile in at the end of that fight round to move even further towards the objective. If you do this right you can totally get like a free 12″ of movement.

There’s soooo much more to go into about the entire assault process, but that’s the basics of how to get the most out of the charge phase. Depending on how you guys respond to this article, I can continue with this article series and go into the the nuances of the fight phase, or I can pick a different topic to discuss next week.

Until next time mis amigos!


Nick Nanavati vs Jack Harpster- Imperial Tomato Bisque vs Imperial Chicken Noodle- Live Stream 5/16 at 1:30pm EST

Tomorrow, Wednesday May 16th at 1:30pm EST I’ll be battling my buddy Jack and his Imperial Soup with my Imperial Soup!

Now wait! Before I bore you to death with 300 guardsmen and 11 factions, my list will be featuring the new Death Watch! Not only that, but both my army and Jack’s army have a lot of unorthodox unit choices which will certainly make the game really tactically engaging and interesting.  While many may scratch their heads at our lists, allow me to reassure you our lists are actually hyper competitive. Jack is running his own personal tournament list and I’m using something I’m strongly considering more seriously as well.

To watch the game check it out live on twitch

And as always, for even more tactical insights and even more highly competitive games of 40k subscribe to The Brown Magic Premium to unlock a whole wealth of 40k knowledge!

For those interested, here are our lists!

Nick Nanavati Jack Harpster
Catachan Brigade Stygies Battalion
Stracken 75 Tech Priest Dominus- volkite blaster, phosphor serpenta 127
Company Commander- power fist 38 Enginseer 47
Primaris Psycher 46 9 Rangers 63
Platoon Commander (WL) 20 9 Rangers 63
Platoon Commander- power fist 28 9 Rangers 63
Platoon Commander- power sword 24 9 Rangers 63
Priest 35 9 Rangers 63
Ogryn Bodyguard- bullgryn plate, slab shield, maul 67
10 Infantry- mortar 45 Catachan Battalion
10 Infantry- mortar 45 Tank Commander- executioner, heavy bolter 195
10 Infantry- mortar 45 Tank Commander- executioner, heavy bolter 195
10 Infantry- mortar 45 Tank Commander- battle cannon, heavy bolter 197
10 Infantry- mortar 45 10 infantry 40
10 Infantry- mortar 45 10 infantry 40
10 Infantry- mortar 45 10 infantry 40
10 Infantry- mortar 45 Astropath 30
Sentinel- multi laser 45 Astropath 30
Sentinel- multi laser 45 Priest- condemor boltgun 36
Sentinel- multi laser 45 9 bullgryn, slab shields, mauls 378
3 Mortars 33
3 Mortars 33 Adeptus Astartes Supreme Command
3 Mortars 33 Njal the Paulcaller 138
Dark Angel Librarian 96
Lucius Battalion Ultramarines Librarian (WL) 96
Enginseer 47
Enginseer 47
9 Rangers- omnispex 70
9 Ranger- omnispex 70
10 Rangers- enhanced data tether, 3 plasma 121
10 Rangers- enhanced data tether, 3 plasma 121
Deathwatch Patrol
Watch Master 130
Vet Squad- 4 vets w/ storm bolter/chain sword, 2 vets w/ storm bolter/storm shield, 2 vets w/ frag cannons, 1 termie w/ storm bolter/power sword, 1 vanguard vet w/ 2 chain swords 270
Intercessor squad- 8 intercessors, 1 inceptor 197

Black is the New Black: A Deathwatch Codex Review

Hellllllo, I’ve missed you all so much. It’s been so long since our last chat.  Doctor Root has had you guys all to himself for the past 3 articles with his excellent series on How to Win the ITC, but now I’m back! And boy do I have a lovely codex to talk to you about. Deathwatch is actually the first Space Marine type army that actually has me excited! That said, Death watch is unfortunately not a full standalone army. I mean, legally it can be, but competitively speaking it’s missing a ton of tools to function properly (most notably screens) and that will really hold it back.

Not having screens means your 20-50 point marines will be the ones catching smites all game. Not even against just classic smite spam armies, but things like a pair of librarians or a couple farseers smiting every turn can very quickly add up for you. Furthermore, without screens you’re vulnerable to enemy deep striking units. Even if the enemy can’t deep strike turn 1, they can still very much deliver drop plasma on your door step turn 2, and without screens, I guess your 25 point guys have to be the ones to eat the rapid fire. Really, the lack of screen issue just goes on and on. I mean, there’s a reason so many imperial lists start with “Guard Battalion”


For this codex review I’m going to first go through what I think the stand out units are, and a few ways I could see using them, since the army is so naturally flexible. After that I’m going to break down some of the potential pit falls and traps I see in the codex. And in conclusion, I’ll give a sample detachment (not list) that I think would fair strongly as part of a larger army.

Watch Master- This guy is sweet, 2+/4++, 6 wounds, decent in melee, full reroll to hit aura for 130? Sign me up! I think you’re going to want to pay the premium for this guy simply because the real power of the death watch army comes from shooting, and he amplifies your shooting capability tremendously.

That brings us to the shooting units I was just talking about.


Vets- Vets have a niche role in Deathwatch. They cost about the same as a primaris marine, which makes it really hard to justify. I mean who wants to pay the same points for half as manywounds? Well they have 1 key advantage over their primaris brothers. Every vet can take a storm bolter. Coupled with the deep strike stratagem and a watch master, that’s 40 shots hitting on 3’s, rerolling, and then depending on which type of ammo and mission tactics you use, either wounding anything in the game on 2’s, rerolling 1s, or wounding tougher targets with AP-1, on 3’s/4’s rerolling 1s. That’s pretty insane really. These guys are basically what GK wish they were.

Here’s what I think an ideal vet loadout should be.

Vet Squad- 8 veterans w/ 6 storm bolter/chainswords, 2 storm bolter/storm shield, 1 termie w/ storm bolter/power fist, 1 vanguard vet w/ 2 chainswords for 236 points.

This unit comes down with 36 shots as we just talked about, then defensively it boasts a model with 2 wounds and 2+ saves to tank against enemy attrition fire power which can wear down 3+ save marines. It also boasts a pair of storm shields for tanking any really scary stuff that they may try to muscle through the termie. Finally, it has a vanguard vet so you can fall back and shoot which is very important for ensuring your opponent can’t just deal with you by driving a serpent into you. In combat it’s not too shabby either as every vet has 3 attacks each too. I could see giving a few models in the unit (like 2) lightning claws to further help combat or a couple models frag cannons (again 2), but in this case I opted for cheapness.


Intercessor units- Unlike the vets who are kind of like a bomb just waiting to go off,these guys play the long game. They benefits from 3 different kinds of ammo, to either rapid fire at 18″ at -2, just pummel something with ap -3 or do the whole wound on 2s thing with ap-1. Their range gives them a lot more flexibility and their wounds provide a lot more durability.

And here’s my ideal loadout for intercessors:

Intercessor Unit- 9 Intercessors w/ auto bolt rifles, 1 inceptor w/ assault bolters for 207 points.

This unit, much like the vet squad is just interested in taking the most cost effective model possible as many times as it can and then the minimum number of models necessary to exponentially elevate its effectiveness. This unit likes to be very flexible (unlike the vets who are a nuke waiting to be dropped) and can serve many different roles.

For both vets and Intercessors, any squad size is good, but taking them in max sized units will, as always, allow you to make more effective use of strats and such. It also further reduces the need for you to include other types of models such as inceptors, vanguard vets, or termies.


Now that I’ve covered the all-star units in the codex, allow me to go over the pitfalls of deathwatch, because boy are there many.

First and foremost, don’t get lost in flexibility. Just because you have the ultimate tool box doesn’t mean you need to use every tool you have! How many of you guys have a multi-tool? How many of you use the same 2-3 bits of your multi-tool over and over, and rarely if ever use the other 8 features it has? Same idea with deatchwatch. Just because you can take a unit of 6 different model types that can do 13 different things does not make it good. You’re going to end up unfocussed and all over the place.

To be specific- a common thing I’ve seen people doing is taking a perfectly good unit like my example intercessor unit above and adding in a pair of aggressors with flamers to deter people from charging them with their powerful overwatch. While you are accomplishing that goal, you’re also spending 80 points to deter people from overwatch. What if you’re playing against Tau, or a BA captain with angels wing, or smite spam TS etc…? Those are just wasted points.


The type of flexibility you attain by mixing in “useful” things like that are not free, and will typically not be helpful. Instead of approaching the book with care free optimism and thinking of all the creative uses you can come up with for having a random bike in your unit of vets or adding a reiver to your intercessors, be objective about it, and think of all the not-so-corner-case scenarios where you’re going to wish you just had another normal dude in its place.

There are tons of ways to build these squads, and I don’t want to go through all of them, but keep this advice in mind: keep it simple and effective.

Moving on from that, I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed by options and take a billion heavy weapons in your vets, things like frag storm cannons and inferno heavy bolters sound cool for sure. But, think about the strengths of deathwatch and the rules you have (special ammo most notably) and think of how you’re not making use of that. I’m not saying that heavy weapons for deathwatch are pointless, but keep in mind other codices can get you access to heavy weapons (for cheaper too) and don’t detract from making use of the things that make your death watch cool.

So, I’ve covered the strengths of death watch and what really makes them tick, now allow me to give a sample detachment for you.

Deathwatch Battalion
Watch Master 130
Librarian with Jump pack 120
Vets- 4 Vets w/ Strom bolter/chain sword, 2 vets with storm bolter/storm shield, 2 vets with frag cannons, 1 termie w/ storm bolter fist, 1 vanguard vet w/ 2 chain swords 278
Vets- 4 Vets w/ Strom bolter/chain sword, 2 vets with storm bolter/storm shield, 2 vets with frag cannons, 1 termie w/ storm bolter fist, 1 vanguard vet w/ 2 chain swords 278
Intercessors- 9 Intercessors, 1 inceptor 207

That detachment totals to 1013, so you can be DW primary for all you ITC faction hunters.

You can deep strike both vet units, the libby, and the watch master. Turn 1 you can hang back with intercessors in cover and enjoy lovely 2+ save 2 wound models. As the game progresses you can bring in the vet bombs, and potentially even teleport the intercessors around the board with the beacon angels. The librarian also provides a bit of psychic defense and potential anti-smite in the form of psychic fortress.

Deathwatch is certainly powerful, and will definitely splash into competitive lists very well. Just be weary of going overboard with your deathwatch squads, and try to be open to the idea of allies.

Stay tuned for Thursday’s article, and always stay in school and don’t do drugs.



The Brown Magic Goes to an RTT

Tomorrow I’ll be going to an RTT at The Only Game in Town in Somerville NJ. Classic 2k, ITC format with solid terrain. I’ve been going back and forth all week about what to play.

I could play Eldar for ETC practice, which would probably be the smart move, but also the boring one.

I could play Chaos because I miss them. They’re strong, but I don’t need to really practice Chaos for anything.

I could play pure Ad Mech, but the odds of me doing well are much lower and I do like winning.

I could go on a rampant borrowing spree and come up with something out of left field overnight, but that requires a lot of work acquiring models.

Decisions, decisions…

So I did what all great 40k players do in moments of critical decision making. I rolled a die! And the winner was…. Chaos!

Thousand Sons Supreme command
Ahriman 131
Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons (WL) 180
Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons 180
Magnus 445
Alpha Legion Battalion
Chaos Lord- combi bolter, <slanesh> 76
Sorcerer- slanesh, force sword, 98
9 Noise Marines- 9 Sonic Blasters 171
9 Khorne Berzerkers- chain axes, chain swords 153
38 Shooty Cultists- slanesh 152
10 Cultists <slanesh> 40
10 Cultists <slanesh> 40
Rhino- 2 Combi Bolters <slanesh> 74
Rhino- 2 Combi Bolters <slanesh> 74
Helldrake- baleflamer <slanesh> 185

I’ll be doing some facebook live streaming on the brown magic facebook page, so be sure to check it out throughout the day!



Live Debate Nick Nanavati vs Matt Root 5/13 4:00pm EST

This Sunday Nick Nanavati will be debating Matt Root LIVE on The Brown Magic Premium!

The debate will be held over facebook live for premium subscribers to watch live, so they can interact with us as we debate, and it will be saved onto the premium page for future your future viewing pleasure!

It will be held Sunday, May 13th at 4:00pm EST.

The topic(s) of the debate will be chosen by Brown Magic Premium Subscribers! That’s right, premium subscribers can actively post over the next couple of days what they would like us to debate upon, and we will pick the most interesting or controversial topics to debate upon.

But wait, there’s more! Premium subscribers can also vote upon who they think won the debate! Premium subscribers can literally determine the topic of the debate and the winner!

This idea was inspired by the fact that Matt and I have vastly different views of what works and why in competitive 40k at times, and clearly both of our ideas have legitimacy. Let’s find out what makes each of us tick, and how we think!

To subscribe to The Brown Magic Premium and take part in the first ever live streamed competitive 40k debate please visit the services page!

How to Win the ITC Part 3

A How To Guide: Winning The ITCs Part 3

The Thoughts and the Thinkings of a Matt Root

Buckle up kids, this is going to be the most contentious part of the series.

Up until now, my articles on tournaments and how-to-do-that-thing-they-call-winning has all been pre-tournament, but it’s time to focus on a few aspects that occur during the tournament. This is not (by any stretch of the imagination) a comprehensive guide on how to succeed on the day of the tournament. That being said, there are two particular areas I want to talk about today: Bravery in Combat and winning with pessimism.

#5: Bravery in Combat


Warhammer 40k, at its core, is a social contract. When you walk up to the table to shake your opponent’s hand, you are stating the following:

  1. I am here to play a game of Warhammer 40k at some number of points using specific missions.
  2. I agree to follow the rules.
  3. I agree to communicate my intentions clearly.

Without this unspoken agreement, the game falls apart. You cannot take an Age of Sigmar army to a warhammer 40k tournament with 4000 points instead of 2000, make up special rules as you go, and roll dice without telling your opponent what you are doing.

Or – at least – you would think this is the agreement.

Sadly, in the competitive scene, Warhammer 40k attracts all types of competitors: those who play for fun and want to roll dice. Those who are there to fight hard and try and win. Those who wish to show off their hundreds of hours put into conversions and painting.

And yes, those who will do anything – including cheating – to win.


This is where I am going to upset some people. Warhammer 40k, like all other competitions on the planet, has its fair share of cheaters. They are rare, but they do exist, and they do play in tournaments all across the world. Chances are, even if you didn’t realize it, you have played against one. However, the cheating I am speaking of is rarely in so obvious a form as drilled dice or an illegal list. Instead, the type of cheating I am here to speak about is in breaking the social contract.

Take a look at what I stated a moment before. How many times have you played someone where you felt like either:

  1. A person was making up rules or, at the very least, misleading you about what certain units did or
  2. Rolled dice without telling you what for, and then before you can see the dice, telling you that you owe them X number of armor saves – way above the average.


These are two examples which break the social contract: following the rules and communicating clearly. These are often grey areas: did your opponent honestly think that the Autocannon was strength 8, when it was in fact strength 7, or was he trying to get an advantage? Did that opponent move too far with his unit by accident because he was in a hurry, or is he hoping that you won’t notice? Did he accidentally roll 16 shots with his flyrant because he was tired and wasn’t thinking straight, or does he think you don’t know that it’s actually 12 shots?

This is where it gets tricky. Rarely, if ever, is cheating obvious, and 99% of the time, it’s an honest mistake.  However, that 1% can and absolutely will happen to you, and how you respond to it is important.

This is what I mean by Bravery in Combat: you need to be willing to stand up for yourself in a game of Warhammer 40k.

If you think your opponent is misquoting you rules, you need to ask to see the codex. If you think your opponent is measuring too far for units, you need to be willing to double check the actual movement yourself. If you think that a person is rolling too many dice, you need to tell them to slow down so that you can see what they are doing, and if necessary, correct them. You need to be willing to tell your opponent to stop, and if necessary, get a judge.


This doesn’t mean that you are suddenly a jerk. There are polite ways to do this. If I feel like my opponent is misplaying something, rather than bothering them about it, I look it up in my own book and then, if necessary, correct them. If I feel the need to request a judge, I will ask my opponent to try and play a little cleaner before telling them I feel uncomfortable with the situation and that I would like a professional ruling. You need to be willing to do the same.

Let’s use an example.

Let’s say your opponent has been rolling dice too quickly for you to see the throughout the game, despite you asking for them to slow down. It has been an extremely close game so far, and it’s come down to the wire. At the end of the game, he needs to make a 10” charge on one of your units. If he succeeds, he wins. If he fails, you win instead.

Your opponent then proceeds to roll the charge dice behind a piece of terrain where you can’t see them, and before you can look for yourself, he quickly picks up the dice and says he rolled a 10”.


How do you respond?

Option A: You accept that the opponent rolled a 10” and let him make the charge.

Option B: You politely contest the charge, saying that because he rolled it behind the terrain where you can’t see it and picked up the dice, that you cannot verify he did so.

Option C: You refuse to accept that he rolled a 10”, call him a cheater, and tell him that he’s been cheating you the whole game and that he only rolled it behind terrain so you wouldn’t see it.

Option A is the passive response. It is polite, but it will cost you the game because you were not willing to stand up for yourself. This is often the option that 40k players pick because 40k is a social game and in a perfect world, no one would lie to you.

Option C is the jackass response. It is inappropriate, rude, and makes a great deal of assumptions (that your opponent is cheating, rolled behind the terrain on purpose, etc). It solves nothing and only invites further arguments and tempers.

Option B is standing up for yourself. You are asserting a valid complaint: you have asked your opponent to roll slower multiple times, and on a pivotal roll, he rolled in a place you cannot see without letting you see the result. You are not accusing your opponent of cheating, but you are telling them that without any way to verify the result that it would not be fair to accept the roll.


I want to make a couple notes about this. First of all, 99% of the time, Option A is fine – you are playing an opponent you trust, who has been friendly, who has not given you any reason to doubt them. It is perfectly acceptable to let them have the 10” charge.

However, if you feel like the situation is unjustified, you need to communicate that to your opponent, and if necessary, call a judge to rectify to the situation. It is not your fault that the opponent didn’t follow social protocol in letting you see the dice, but it will be your fault if you let it slide and then complain about the loss to your friends afterwards without having done anything about it.

It is a sad fact in Warhammer 40k that there are a number of competitive, skilled Warhammer 40k players who will try to take advantage of this situation. These are infamous players that many know, but proving that someone is actually cheating you is nearly impossible, which is why if you feel like the social contract is being broken, you need to stand up for yourself. You need to be brave in combat.

Remember that standing up for yourself doesn’t make you a jerk, it just means you are assertive enough to try and prevent people from taking advantage of you. You don’t have to be a dick to be successful in Warhammer 40k, but you do need to be willing to enforce the social contract when necessary on your own behalf.

Otherwise, people can – and will – take advantage of that. I wish this wasn’t true, but it is.


#6 Winning with Pessimism

Now for a slightly less unpleasant topic!

It is my opinion that optimism is a giant trap in competitive 40k. I don’t mean optimism about winning the game (this is a good thing) or optimism that you will do well in general (also good), but rather, optimism about your army’s actions and the results you expect to see.

How many times have you shot a unit and said “Man – that thing should be dead”? That’s the kind of optimism I’m talking about. In effect, you want to plan for the worst on the tabletop.

Mathematically speaking, it takes about 18 shots from Dark Reapers to kill a single Flyrant. You may know this as you start your turn, and you reaaaally need that Flyrant dead or it could really wreck up your lines. So, you plan on killing the flyrant by shooting 18 reapers at it. Meanwhile, you drop your guardian blob next to that scary genestealer squad headed your way, and smite a carnifex to death.

Unfortunately, the Flyrant lives anyways when your opponent rolls well. Uh oh.


You’ve just suffered from a critical case of optimism. Now your opponent can take advantage of your inability to kill his flyrant and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. You’ve already executed the other parts of your plan with the assumption that the flyrant would be dead, including smiting the carnifex before starting shooting, and dropping the guardians over near the genestealers instead of near the flyrant. Now, you’re going to pay for that mistake, quite possibly costing you the game.

You need to be pessimistic on the tabletop. If you had assumed the worst about your reapers shooting the Flyrant (that they won’t kill him), you can adjust accordingly by modifying your screens to slow the flyrant down and by dropping the guardians and smites on him instead.

I cannot tell you how many times I have played someone and they split their firepower between my big scary Flyrants hoping that they would kill 3 or 4 of the stupid things, only to find out that they’ve done 4 or 5 wounds to those flyrants instead. If my opponent had been pessimistic and assumed the worst in terms of shooting effectiveness, he would have killed two whole flyrants rather then ineffectually wounding a couple more.


Do you need to make a charge really badly on that unit on the objective? Be pessimistic and assume you won’t. Maybe you can make up for it by putting a second charging unit in place or by shooting them dead instead.

Do you need to do a single mortal wound to that tank with your smite? Be pessimistic and assume you won’t. Set up a second smite to go off, and save a reroll specifically for that psychic cast.

Do you expect your guardian blob to live through combat with those grotesques? Be pessimistic and assume they won’t. Now, if those Grotesques make it out of combat where are they going to go next? Can you set up a ranger squad to screen them? Can you otherwise slow them down somehow?

Assume nothing in 40k. Any time you can mitigate odds by being pessimistic and assuming the worst, you should be doing so. Winning with pessimism has been a huge key to my success in the past. Embrace the idea of redundancy, of planning for things going wrong, of assuming that your opponent will roll amazingly, and you’ll be amazed at how much difference it makes in your actual gameplay.


Final Conclusions and Finishing Thoughts:

I hope you have enjoyed what has been, no doubt, a myriad tour through the twistings and turnings of my brain. The tips in these articles are things I personally 100% practice myself. There are hundreds of blogs and pages on the interwebs that talk about things like a unit’s effectiveness, an army’s combos, and other strategies, all of which are useful. However, these articles are meant to discuss ideas and considerations that aren’t always necessarily obvious but that are undoubtedly important to your tournament success.

Best of luck to you in your future tournaments, and remember that if you need me, the List Doctor is Always In! Let me know if you found these articles helpful and what you hope to see from me again in the future!


Matt Root (The List Doctor)

Nick Nanavati vs John Parsons Live Stream Thursday 5/10

Tomorrow I’ll be live streaming a game with John Parsons on my twitch channel John is actually using my own personal tournament tested CSM/TS list against me, while I’m trying out something new. While our (my) lists have some similarities, most notably the TS detachment, they are fairly different in their own rights, and they both play extremely differently.

Check it out tomorrow, May 10th, on twitch at 6:30pm EST!

Here are our lists

Nick Nanavati   John Parsons
Daemon Battalion Thousand Sons Supreme command
Slanesh Daemon Prince- wings, talons 180 Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons (WL) 180
Changecaster 78 Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons 180
3 Nurglings 54 Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons 180
3 Nurglings 54 Magnus 445
11 Pink Horrors 77
11 Pink Horrors 77 Alpha Legion Battalion
Chaos Lord- combi bolter 76
Thousand Sons Flier Wing Sorcerer- slanesh, force sword, combi bolter 100
Helldrake- bale flamer 180 9 Noise Marines- 9 Sonic Blasters 171
Helldrake- bale flamer 180 9 Khorne Berzerkers- chain axes, chain swords 153
Helldrake- bale flamer 180 40 Cultists- combat <khorne> 160
40 Cultists- guns <slanesh> 160
Thousand Sons Supreme Command 10 Cultists 40
Ahriman 131 Rhino- 2 Combi Bolters 74
Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons 180 Rhino- 2 Combi Bolters 74
Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons 180
Magnus 445

How to Win the ITC Part 2

A How To Guide: Winning The ITCs Part 2

The Thoughts and the Thinkings of a Matt Root

You’ve returned? Come now, children. Sit with me by the fire. Let me speak of ancient riddles and terrible challenges, those that await those who venture into the tournament realm. Perhaps you have heard of the tale of the Gatekeepers? No legend are they. Indeed, every tournament has them, even though you may not realize it.

What’s that now, child? You know not of what a gatekeeper is? Come then, enjoy my tale.

#3: Gatekeepers


Gatekeepers are the tried and true armies of Warhammer 40k Tournament Play. They are popular, diverse, and most of all, ubiquitous. Essentially, they are the classic armies you see throughout tournament play that you are almost guaranteed to see across from you on the table. The term of Gatekeeper represents what they are: if you cannot beat these armies, you won’t make it far into the realm of competitive 40k.

Let me give an example. How many times in the last year have you come across Dark Reaper spam, at least prior to the FAQ? No one in the history in 8ed walks up to a table with an Eldar player and is shocked to see they have 10-20 of the stupid emo shooter jerks. How many times did you play against Grey Knights in 5ed when the codex came out? How many times did you play against Daemon summoning spam in 6ed? How many times did you play against a Barkstar in 7ed? These are all examples of Gatekeepers: Common armies to see across you on the table that you need to be successful at beating if you want to win a tournament. If you can’t beat a Ynnari list in the current meta of 40k, then your list just isn’t going to cut it.

Every list you build should be prepared to face against Gatekeepers. Thus, when you are preparing for a tournament, you need to actively take into account what the current gatekeeper armies are and prepare accordingly.


Let’s talk about the current Gatekeeper Armies:

Tyranids: When you walk up against a Tyranid player, you should almost always expect to see some variant of the following: 3x Flyrants, some Hive Guard, and likely some genestealers.

Ynnari: Dark Reapers are still good, even after the nerf – they won’t be going away anytime soon. Beyond that, you will likely see rangers, Wave Serpents to hide the reapers in, and maybe some Dark Eldar allies with a lot of psykers.

Death Guard and Nurgle: Plagueburst Crawlers are still insanely priced for how obnoxiously hard they are to kill. Throw in some Plague Drones, a nurgle tree or two, and you have an incredibly tough time killing these guys.

Astra Militarum: Gunline guard. Manticores, Taurox Primes, Heavy Weapon Teams with Mortars, maybe a Shadowsword.

You’ll notice a theme with these armies: you’ve almost certainly played against these lists several times before at a tournament. The chances of you playing in a 6 round GT without running up against a couple of these is slim to none. As such, if your list can’t cut it against every single one of these lists, then you need to rewrite your list so it can.


It is important to note that Gatekeepers do not represent the only dangerous armies in 40k.  Rather, they represent the most common armies you’ll see at a tournament. Dark Eldar are a great example of this – they are an incredibly competitive army, but at the moment, there just aren’t that many Dark Eldar players, so your chances of playing against one isn’t super high. However, the same can’t be said of Gatekeeper armies.

Gatekeeper armies are constantly shifting – it is important to try and keep your finger on the pulse of 40k to know what armies to expect at a local tournament. Moreover, the gatekeeper armies you see at a place like LVO are going to be vastly different from the gatekeeper armies you see at Warzone Atlanta. These are two different parts of the country, so it always helps to do a little bit of homework before heading to a big event so you know what to expect.

This leads me into my second topic….
#4: Building for the Tournament, not for the game 

*Note this also falls right in line with Nick’s article 7 Steps to Win a Tournament

This is a heavily undervalued aspect of warhammer 40k that a lot of players don’t necessarily appreciate. Let’s talk about an example.

Many people can recall the insane cheesiness that was my 7x Flyrant list that I brought to Adepticon. It was something like this:

7 Flyrants, 8 meotic spores, 4 mawlocs, bunch of rippers.

Even though it’s not legal anymore due to the FAQ, it seems a fairly straightforward list, right? It has just about all elements: movement, shooting, assault, and psychic powers. The list has mobility, board control, and can beta strike.


So let me ask you this: why didn’t it win at LVO 2018, where Ynnari was king? Moreover, why didn’t Ynnari (who ruled over LVO) not crush all contenders at Adepticon?

To put it tersely: because of the tournament.

To understand this, you need to understand the differences between the Adepticon format and the Las Vegas Open format.


Adepticon Format Las Vegas Format
  • Spare Terrain with little LOS block
  • Heavy Terrain with lots of LOS block
  • Missions favor objective control and tabling your opponent
  • Missions favor ongoing board control and killing your opponent slowly
  • Tertiary Objectives are fairly generic
  • Tertiary Objectives punish spam
  • Missions give very little incentive to go second
  • Missions incentivize going second

Let’s talk about these in more detail.

At Adepticon, there isn’t anywhere to hide from Flyrants. With very little in the way of LOS block, infantry suffer heavily because they just can’t get away from the stupid flying monsters. Moreover, because you get  a huge amount BONUS points when you table your opponent, you want to play aggressively to wipe your opponent out. The objectives are generic things like “kill something on turn one”, or “Be in your opponent’s deployment zone” – things nearly any army can pull off. Furthermore, because there is little in the way of terrain, you want an alpha strike army which can blow your opponent away before they have a chance to react since they literally can’t hide from it.

At Adepticon, you want to go first, hit your opponent fast and hard, and rely on shooting to crush your opponent. 7x Flyrants are perfect for this job.

At the Las Vegas Open, the opposite is true. There are lots of areas with LOS block, and moreover due to the way ruins work there, Flyrants often can’t even charge things inside the terrain which gives infantry a HUGE advantage. The objectives require you to not only kill things every turn but also to hold objectives, so you can’t rely on outliving your opponent: you actively have to outplay them on every turn. The Tertiary Objectives really play against you and your 7 Flyrants: If your opponent picks Big Game Hunter, HeadHunter, and Kingslayer, all they have to do is kill 4 Flyrants (including your warlord) to max out for a total of 12 freakin’ points.  


At the Las Vegas Open, you often want to go second, retain control over the whole board while whittling away at your opponent, and infantry reign supreme due to terrain rules. 7 Flyrants aren’t gonna cut it.

This is what I mean by Building for the Tournament: you need to be aware of the tournament format and how your list can be designed to be stronger or weaker for it. Prior to Adepticon, I NEVER took 7 flyrants because I knew it was a garbage list in other formats. Instead, I played a lot of ITC games where I took things like Genestealers and Hive Guard (which can hide behind ruins) and Carnifexes (which give up precisely zero points in ITC format).

If you want to be successful at tournament play in Warhammer 40k, you need to read the tournament format and adjust your list accordingly. Does every mission rely on end of game objectives? Build a resilient army of Death Guard. Does every mission require killpoints? Take 1x Squad of ten reapers instead of 2x squads of five. These are examples of adjustments you need to make to adapt for a format.

Let’s use the following example: I want you to look at the following list and tell me how you should adjust it for ITC format. Don’t worry about points or how to make the list more killy, just think of adjustments you could make to the list which would make it better for that particular format, paying careful attention to ITC’s Tertiary Objectives.

Astra Milatarum Brigade
Company Commander
Company Commander
Company Commander
Pask- Battle Cannon (Warlord)
10 Infantry- melta gun
10 Infantry- melta gun
10 Infantry- melta gun
10 Infantry- melta gun
10 Infantry- melta gun
10 Infantry- melta gun
Platoon Commander
Platoon Commander
Platoon Commander
10 Rough Riders

What’s wrong with this list? How can we make it better?

To understand this, we have to look at the ITC Tertiary Mission Objectives. If you need a refresher, look here at this link. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

ITC Mission Format:

Let’s go through this bit by bit, and look at each Tertiary:

Headhunter: This list is begging to give this to your opponent. You have 7 (SEVEN!) characters – 3x Company Commanders, 3x Platoon Commanders, and Pask. 6x of these characters are ridiculously easy to kill. If we drop the 3x Platoon Commanders (who aren’t really doing anything besides filling a slot), then we are now down to 4x characters total, making this tertiary much harder to achieve for your opponent.

Kingslayer: This list is begging to give this to your opponent. Pask being your warlord is a HUGE mistake. Because he’s the warlord AND a character, if your opponent kills him (and only him!) that’s automatically 4 points. Boom. Instead, give the warlord trait to one of the random company commanders – now Pask is worth only a max of 3 points (you could also just drop him from the list entirely!) For this same reason, I NEVER make my Flyrant a Warlord in ITC format and give it to a Neurothrope instead.


The Reaper: This list is begging to give this to your opponent. You have 6x guardsmen squads begging to die. If your opponent kills four of them, he’s just maxed out on this Tertiary. Instead, let’s give a mortar team to each of the infantry squads, making them nine models each. That means your opponent won’t be getting ANY reaper points from your infantry squads now.

Big Game Hunter: This list is begging to give this to your opponent. You have 7 freakin’ tanks with 10+ wounds on the board. If your opponent kills four, he’s just maxed out on this tertiary. Instead of having vehicles, why not add mortar teams or quad launchers? If you can decrease the number of 10+ wound models without losing effectiveness, you will make this tertiary harder for your opponent.

So now, after making the adjustments to the list, you just saved yourself from giving up potentially 16 free points to your opponent by making small tweaks. This is what I mean when I say it is important to build for the tournament, not for the game. The list above is fine – competitive, even – but it will suffer without the changes we discussed because the tournament format wasn’t taken into account. Never build your list without reading over the missions and recognizing how you can adjust for them – it will often make the difference between victory and defeat.

Next Up In this Article Series:

Part III: Bravery in Combat and Winning with Pessimism

Nick Nanavati Vs Tubby Eldar/Ynari vs Tyranids Sunday 5/6 3pm EST

This Sunday I’ll be playing Dallas Raptor aka Tubby, with my Eldar/Ynari list vs his Tyranids. Dallas has been a die hard Tyranid player for years and has literally only played them through 8th edition. . Dallas has top 16’d Nova multiple times, and has one done very well at LVO and the Nova Invitational in years past as well. In fact, I’ve actually lost to him the last 3-4 times we’ve played. He knows his Nids like the back of his hand, so this is sure to be a great game

Check it out on The Brown Magic Premium Sunday May 6th at 3pm EST. For more information on The Brown Magic Premium and how to become a member click here

Watch how Tyrands and Eldar fair in the post-FAQ world, when two consistently high placing tournament players duke it out! We will be playing  a randomly determined ITC mission with ITC terrain.

Stay tuned for more information, and in the meantime here are our lists!

Nick Nanavati Tubby Tyranids
Aliatoc Battalion Kraken Battalion
Warlock 55 Hive Tyrant- wings, 2 devourers 218
Warlock 55 Hive Tyrant- wings, 2 devourers 218
5 Rangers 60 19 Genestealers- 4 acid maws 228
5 Rangers 60 19 Genestealers- 4 acid maws 228
5 Rangers 60 28 Hormigaunts 33
Wave Serpent- cannons 129
Wave Serpent- cannons 129 Kraken Vanguard
Swarmlord 300
Mixed Supreme Command 6 Hive Guard 288
Farseer <aliatoc> 110 6 Hive Guard 288
Farseer <aliatoc> 110 3 Venomthropes 90
Spiritseer <biel tan> 65
Ynari Outrider
Cat Lady 132
5 Hawks <biel tan> 60
5 Hawks <biel tan> 60
5 Hawks <biel tan> 60
9 Shining Spears- star lance <biel tan> 281
9 Shining Spears- star lance <saim hann> 281
8 Dark Reapers- tempest launcher <aliatoc> 277

Brown Magic Premium Value Addition!

The Brown Magic is a constantly evolving platform for competitive 40k strategies and content, and to that end we’re always looking for ways to improve your competitive 40k learning experience. We take your feedback to heart, and really do what we can to improve where possible. At the end of the day, our goal is to improve the competitive 40k community and to help it grow.

Recently, Evan from Facing the Grey Tide made the suggestion to me that I should do a monthly segment on the top 3-5 “meta” lists for people to see. I thought this was a fantastic idea! It’s really hard to keep your finger on the pulse of the competitive 40k meta, especially for those of you who can’t go to tournament after tournament to see the meta take shape in real life.

A good amount of time was spent debating whether I should make this a separate service, or if I should make it an addition to the services offered in The Brown Magic Premium. In the end, I decided that I should reward my patrons, by including it into the Premium Subscription Package.

So, the long and short of it is that starting this month (probably within the next few days) I will make a monthly post outlining the top 3-5 meta lists at the moment for any premium subscription members to see! This will help you guys understand what the tournament meta is, in real time, and help you understand what you need to prepare for and expect when going to tournaments yourself!

For more information on how to subscribe to The Brown Magic Premium please visit my services page!

If you have any other suggestions on how to improve The Brown Magic please feel free to post them here, on the facebook page, or contact me directly!

How to Win the ITC Part 1

A How To Guide: Winning The ITCs

The Thoughts and the Thinkings of a Matt Root

Ladies and Germs! Welcome to my humble article. In this guide I will be writing about some often maligned advice that is easily missed when trying to win a tournament. Everyone can agree there are some basics that need to be completed if you want to win a GT, a Major, or even the ITC. This includes stuff like building a balanced list, practicing in a playtest, and knowing rules. However, there are some important aspects of preparing (and playing) that are often missed that can make the difference between going 3-3 and winning a 100+ person tournament.

As such, I’ve written this guide in the hopes of taking you through my own personal process of how I try to win events. This will be a multiple-part article that I hope will make you as excellent (but not as sexy) as me. For now, let’s start with some pre-tournament preparation, and how it can make the difference for you.


#1: Choosing the list that’s right for you

This is a more complicated topic than people give it credit for. No one can argue that Eldar aren’t competitive, or that poxwalker spam couldn’t cut it at a GT, or that 7 flyrants can’t kick ass. So, here’s the million dollar question:

Why do some players go 2-2 with a list while others can go 8-0 with it?

The prime example is Adepticon. I was far from the only player who took 7 flyrants. However, out of dozens of players with almost the EXACT same list, why didn’t more make it into the Top 16? Why wasn’t the top 16 literally nothing but Flyrant lists if it’s so strong? Some would say player skill, some would say luck, some would say random chance – and they’d all be right. However, there is an important aspect of this formula that people are missing: playing what you’re good at.


If I had taken Nick Nanavati’s exact list (Poxwalker spam) to Adepticon, I guarantee I wouldn’t have made it to the top table. Similarly, if Nick took my 7 Flyrant list, I guarantee he wouldn’t have made top table either. This is because we understand our own strengths: I am good at playing aggressive, hard hitting armies, whereas Nick’s skill comes to finesse and tricksy armies (being a stupid pansy Elf player).

This is an extremely important part of becoming a successful 40k general: recognizing your own strengths. It is why Nick can take Flying Daemons for years on end and win Adepticon. It is why I can take War Convocation and succeed at multiple GTs whilst others had difficulty with it. It’s in our nature to play the way the army needs to be played.

So first you need to do some self-assessment: What kind of player are you? I generally divide armies into the following types:

  1. Maximum Threat Overload (MTO): These are armies that are fast, hard hitting and overwhelm your opponent with threats, where everything in your list is scary. Examples include Tyranids, certain types of Chaos Space marine lists, and prior to the nerf, Fire Raptor lists.
  1. Finesse: These are armies that rely on tricks to catch your opponent off guard and to dictate the flow of the game. Examples of this include Eldar/Ynnari, Poxwalker Spam (yes, really), and Tau.
  1. Grindstones: These are resilient, redundant armies that typically run slow but are impossible to put down quickly, and can grind you down. Examples include Gunline Guard, Custodes lists, and Death Guard.
  1. Combinations: As the name implies, these are armies that typically combine two of the different types into one list to a lesser degree. An example would be a Guard Gunline with Blood Angel Smash Captains and Dawneagle Captains, which would be an example of a “MTO Grindstone” list.



This is perhaps the most important part of being a successful general: deciding which type fits your playstyle. Anyone can take a netlist and play it, but you won’t enjoy playing that army unless it’s your type of army. You can be skilled at multiple types of lists, but everyone has a personality that fits the best with a playstyle. Figure out what yours is and build a list around it. Not only will you have more fun, but it will make you more engaged with your army – when a player gets bored, they stop caring. When you stop caring, you suck.

#2 Playing to Lose

Playtesting and recognizing your army’s weaknesses is a vital part of the process, but some people forget the entire point of playtesting: you aren’t there to win, you are there to lose. Failure is the greatest teacher, and if you aren’t failing, you’re not learning. Some people have trouble accepting this. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you’re playing Gunline Guilliman- with loads of shooting behind him (which is a fine army), and you deploy normally. You put a squad of scouts out in front of him (infiltrating in the middle of the board), put Guilliman up front so he can get to combat sooner, and a pile of shooting all the way around him. You’re playing against some Dark Eldar with deep striking ravagers, a squad of reavers, and some venoms. No psychic phase to deal with, so all you have to endure is some shooting on your scouts and your nearby Razorbacks, which are tough to kill at a 3+ armor and T7.

Your opponent then proceeds to seize, uses the advance stratagem on his Reavers to kill your front line of scouts in the movement phase, and then proceeds to blow Guilliman away in the shooting phase because he is now the closest character. Whoops.


There are two kinds of reactions to this. One goes like this:

Dark Eldar Player: Okay, that’s 4 more failed saves, and Guilliman dies.

Ultramarine Player: I can’t believe I rolled a 1 and rerolled a command roll into another 1 on Bobby G! This is such bullhonkey farts, I can’t believe how lucky you rolled. Your dice were on FIRE and mine SUCK. Man, feth this game, this always happens to me.

Here’s the second type of reaction:

Dark Eldar Player: Okay, that’s 4 more failed saves, and Guilliman dies.

Ultramarine Player: Well….that sucks. Won’t let that happen again.

Do you see the difference here? In the first example, the player blamed everything on something outside of his control. It was the dice. The opponent had good luck. That wasn’t supposed to happen!

In the second example, the player recognized that he screwed up by deploying Guilliman where he could get shot, accepted his mistakes, and moved on with the game.

I cannot stress enough how important this is: you need to be okay with losing and having bad things happen. This is a dice game; even though the chance of Bobby G dying to shooting is extremely small, it can still happen. If this were a playtest, then Player #1 would likely have given up and started over. Player #2 would have kept going. That means that at the tournament scene, weeks later, when both players have the same thing happen again 30 games later, Player #2 is going to know how to keep going and try to pull out a win, whereas Player #1 is going to have no clue because previously, he just gave up. So, in that situation, who do you think has better odds of winning the tournament?

ITC Beast Coast Pic

This is what I mean by playing to lose. In a playtest, you need to have bad things happen to you, and in some cases, FORCE them to happen. You want to test at a disadvantage.

Let your opponent seize for free. Give your opponent that 5″ charge, even though they only rolled a 4. Assume Celestine made her 2+ roll to get back up after dying the first time, and so on. Sure, it will happen that your opponent at a tournament will be this unlucky, but you can’t rely on that for a win.  

Note that this doesn’t mean letting your opponent have stuff for free. You aren’t going to let them make every single hit roll or wound roll without even trying. You are still going to deny psychic powers. You are still going to try and force opponents in a playtest to fail armor saves. But if something egregious happens in a playtest that is way outside the norm in your favor, you might want to assume it didn’t happen. In the examples above, if your opponent rolled an 11 to smite and you denied it on a roll of 12, you might want to let it go through anyways because in reality that would almost never happen. Play to lose.


Accept mistakes in all of your games. Even in a game that literally came down to nothing but bad luck, you should be looking for things you could have played better. If you say things like “I lost because of dice”, you are doing yourself a serious disservice.

So, play to lose, let bad things happen to you, own your mistakes and learn from them in the playtesting stage – because if you do it there during a practice game, you’ll know exactly how to compensate when it comes up on the top table at a GT, which will make the difference between a shiny trophy or coming home with nothing at all.

Next Up In this Article Series: Gatekeepers and Playing the Tournament, not the Game