A Good Clown Will Turn That Frown Upside Down

It’s been roughly 40,000 years since Harlequins got a fully functional codex that was tournament legal with HQ’s and troops, but our Games Workshop overlords have finally delivered! For all you competitive 40k clown lovers out there I have good news and bad news for you.

Good News: Your codex is full of flavor, trickery, and strong units which really make it feel like Harlequins. Once again the new GW is showing their responsiveness and really delivering on their codices to make sure the armies have a lot uniqueness to them whilst being competitively viable.

Bad News: The harlequin army is one made of small unit selection. A codex of 2 HQ’s, 2 elites, 1 troop, 1 fast, 1 heavy, and 1 transport an army does not make. Furthermore, a lot of the awesome tricks to the harlequins really get enhanced by Eldar or Dark Eldar which will help elevate a Harlequin primary force achieve new heights in competitiveness. Finally, a lot of the small things that make Harlequins fantastic (like multiple ways to ignore overwatch, assassinate characters, and debuff ld) fall into more of a support role rather than a main strategy.

The jury has still yet to reach a verdict, but in my opinion, competitively speaking, Codex Harlequins should be retitled Codex Harlequins: An Aeldari Supplement.

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With all that said, let’s go over some of the unique tricks that Harlequins do have up their sleeve. (I’m having a lot of fun with these puns if you couldn’t tell)

One of the overarching themes you’ll see me going over with Harlequins is leadership debuffs. One concept that’s always existed throughout the Aeldari has been leadership shenanigans (hemlocks, horrify, phastasm grenade launchers, etc…), however this gimmick has always been unreliable and too out of the way to really pull off consistently. I personally believe that Harlequins now provide the missing tool for that arch-type of army build. They have a lot of subtle leadership modifers which fit in naturally with how the army wants to play, and better yet, synergize with the already pre-existent leadership shenanigans in their sister codicies.

Needless to say my favorite <masque> is Silent Shroud. The leadership interactions they provide is very natural given that harlequins already want to be up close and personal, and it stacks really well with the other leadership modifiers available. Not to mention, it also unlocks one of the best strats in the whole book: The Silent Knife!

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Shadowseers– These guys went from zero to hero really quickly in the new book. They now know two different powers from the newly flushed out Harlequin spell list, as opposed to the one they knew before.  They also have a lot of built in synergy with the way the army plays. And they got cheaper! It’s very easy to stack a -2 leadership modifier on a unit, then cast shards of light, which is effectively a smite that deals an additional -1 leadership. After dealing the d3 mortals from silent shroud, feel free to cast a smite normally onto the unit. Then shoot your Hallucigen Grenade Launcher at said unit, which requires you to roll 2d6 to match or beat the opponents now -3 ld characteristic. Assuming you match or beat it, it inflicts a further d3 mortals. All added together a lowly shadowseer can reliably get off 6 mortal wounds onto an enemy unit then effectively make them take their morale test at -3 before any casualties. Very subtle. Very nasty.

Death Jesters- Nothing too crazy happened to these guys, but they got cheap enough to not just scoff at in disgust. They also synergize very well with that whole leadership shtick I’ve been rambling about. The shrieker mode of fire on their weapon can very reliably kill something like a singular guardsmen, which will then cause d3 mortals. It also comes with a lovely bonus of causing an additional -2 ld to a unit if it caused a casualty. Followed up by the super easy to deliver -2 ld mod from Silent Knife+The Mask of Secrets or shards of light, or a hemlock etc… And you can quickly see how a single bullet can easily wipe most of a 10 man infantry. Another added bonus to these guys is if they attack a unit at all with their weapon (regardless of causing any damage), they will allow you to choose which model flees as a result of morale. Often times this is irrelevant, but certainly has its niche uses against squads with upgrades, or even more sneakily, pulling a specific model on an objective or something along those lines. Like I said, Harlequins are super subtle!

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Solitaire- This sneaky little guy got cheaper… again… Also, being not a special character he makes for the perfect recipient for some of the really cool relics. Some standout ones are the already mentioned Mask of Secrets to further the ld nonsense, and Cegorach’s Rose, which is a Kiss that rerolls to wound natually and does flat 3 damage against infantry. This guy is the ultimate character slayer with Blitz coupled with the Rose. He’s also very good against things like Hive Guard, Groteques, and other obnoxious multi wound infantry.

Skyweavers– On a first glance I don’t think these guys are that great for their cost. They don’t hit that hard in combat, especially in comparison to a Troupe who has twice as many attacks, and they certainly don’t shoot enough to warrant their cost. When compared to a shining spear it’s almost laughable how bad these guys are. But, what they do offer is a pretty tough, mobile, anti tank platform. -1 to hit which can easily be combined with lightning fast reflexes for -2 coupled with 3 wounds and a 4++ is actually really difficult to shoot. And when each one pumps out D6 haywire shots it can make a tanks very sad very fast. Also, did I hear someone mention haywire + Doom? Sounds like synergy to me!

Other units such as Troupes in Starweavers and Troupe Masters are also pretty strong, however they remain mostly unchanged since the index so I left them out of the review, in order to really focus on the “winners” of the new codex.

Finally, here’s a sample list which utilizes Eldar for support powers, screens, and leadership shenanigans.

Silent Shroud Battalion
Shadowseer (WL) 125
Troupe Master- fusion pistol, embrace 85
Solitaire 98
5 Troupes- embrace 95
5 Troupes- embrace 95
5 Troupes- embrace 95
6 Skyweavers- haywire cannons, zephyrgalives 306
Starweaver 99
Starweaver 99
Starweaver 99
Alaitoc Battalion
Farseer Skyrunner 130
Warlock Skyrunner 65
5 Rangers 60
5 Rangers 60
5 Rangers 60
Hemlock 210
Hemlock 210

This is army is very deceptive in its speed, power and resiliency. The whole thing is -1 to hit and often times -2. It has multiple different deployment options with 3 abilities to deep strike and 2 abilities to redeploy. It hits like a ton of bricks in both shooting and assault, especially when you combine powers like doom and the harlequin shooting.  The hemlocks also synergize extra well thanks to their leadership debuff aura. Pretty much the only thing this army doesn’t want to fight would be a large fearless horde like Tyranids.

Overall, Harlequins add a fantastic set of tools to the Aeldari armies, and I think they’ll make an excellent detachment for other armies!

Also, all this talk of clown people has gotten me really excited about the assault phase. Stay tuned for Thursday’s article where I talk about some sneaky pile in tricks!

Cheater No Cheating!

Hey everybody—my name is Justin Curtis. I’ve been rather heavily involved in the 40k tournament scene for the past 5+ years; my team has won the American Team Championships for 3 consecutive years, I was on the USA ETC 2016 team, and I had the misfortune of losing the roll to go first against Nick’s Warp Hunter list in the NOVA Invitational Finals a couple years ago. But if you know me at all, you’re more likely to know me as a judge than a player—I’ve been involved in top-table judging at the
Adepticon Championships and Team Tournament, the NOVA Open, and numerous regional tournaments as well as having a hand in writing prior-edition FAQs for events like ETC and NOVA.

40k’s competitive environment has been growing quickly as of late—this is, generally speaking, good news for all of us—but it’s come with a downside as well. Recent events (most specifically at Vegas and London GT) have sparked some controversy over how play is handled at top tables, with events and even specific players coming under harsh scrutiny by the wider community.

It’s time to have a discussion about the realities of play at that level, reasonable expectations for both events and players, and how to handle it when it seems those expectations have not been met. Nick’s been kind enough to let me share my thoughts here on his page.

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I feel qualified to weigh in on this as I feel I’ve had a direct hand—either as a player, a judge, or an organizer—in about as many high-end, top-table, GT-level games as all but a small handful of people in our community. And the reality is, there’s an extremely large portion of our community who haven’t ever had that experience, or even directly witnessed a top-table GT finals game, and the disconnect between those two groups is growing wider as the competitive hobby gains more traction.

So, let’s shed some light on the realities of how these games and events actually work in practice.

The first conversation you need to have in regard to controversies over top-level gameplay is regarding responsibility. Whose fault is it when something goes wrong? What if somebody “cheats”? This one has a very short answer (one many of you probably won’t like) but comes with a much longer explanation.

As a quick side note, you’ll want to notice “cheating” is covered in sarcastic quotes. What is frequently described as “cheating” in secondary discussions is, vastly more often than not, more accurately described as “playing incorrectly.” This is a very important distinction, as actual cheating is incredibly rare in tournament 40k, at least at the level we’re discussing here.

The short answer: If a rule is misplayed in your game to your detriment, it is your fault.


A more neutral phrasing (and the one I prefer) goes more like this: The primary onus of ensuring your opponent plays the game correctly is on you.

Now, we can do the much longer explanation.

First off, you are absolutely the person best suited to enforcing the rules in your own game. You’re the only person with any motivation to do so, in fact. You want to win your game, nobody else (at least from an organizational standpoint) should really care who wins. You’re the one with the most information available—as you’re directly involved in the game—and anyone else who arrives to adjudicate the situation after the fact is usually working on opinions and a possibly-altered board state. If your opponent were to “cheat,” you’re the only person directly affected in a negative manner. So, it is obviously in your best interests to “police” your own game, as it were.

Now this all sounds a bit draconian—telling people it’s their own fault they got cheated and all—but let me assure you, it’s not by design, it’s by necessity.

The realities of the tournament 40k landscape do not allow for any other mechanism to exist. Sure, in a perfect world, the Las Vegas Open would have 250 highly-trained judges standing at 250 tables enforcing strict-rules game play on all attendees.

This is not a perfect world. Such a system is impossible for any number of reasons, but for now it’s worth stopping at “impossible” and continuing on. Table side “active judging” is not a viable option for 40k on a widespread level.

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Time for another quick vocabulary lesson—what is “active judging”? Active judging is the concept of a judge actively intervening on the table any time they observe the game being played incorrectly, to any degree.

That sounds like a good thing, right?

While this is sometimes an open conversation at an organizational or judging-staff level, the prevailing thought at most large 40k events is that active judging is not desirable. I’m absolutely in that camp as well, and have always been an advocate of passive judging (or to steal a term from the Adepticon judging staff of old, “vampire judging”—we’re not allowed to go in unless we’re invited).

This means a judge only intervenes on a table if their intervention is specifically requested by a player (outside of obvious larger issues like physical/dice cheating, verbal abuse, etc etc) and, in a similar vein, agreements between the players on the table are the highest law of the event.

The primary reason for this stance is another “perfect world” issue—there just aren’t enough qualified judges to maintain an “active judging” situation on more than a table or two at any given event. I’ve always been very vocal in my opinion that there’s probably about 10 people in the entire world I’d consider qualified to actively judge a top-table GT game.

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And even those 10 people would make mistakes. I certainly would.

Which brings us to the more dangerous aspect of “active judging”—what happens, especially in this age of streamed and recorded games, when the judge catches the incorrect play by Player A, but misses the incorrect play by Player B? What if Player B wins because of that incorrect play? The accusations and perception of bias and negative impact on the event would be enormous.

On top of that, you’ve shifted the blame away from Player A—who had equal opportunity to call Player B out on their incorrect play—and onto a judge. A volunteer judge who gave up their opportunity to play in the event to help others out, and likely paid airfare/hotel/etc fees for the privilege.

The realities of the complexity of the game and the availability of qualified judges lead us back to the original statement—the responsibility of ensuring your opponent plays correctly is on you.

Now, it’s important to point out that it’s not all doom and gloom—if we’ve established that the primary responsibility for accurate play is on the players, what is the responsibility of the event? They aren’t without a role here, and there is certainly blame to be put on them when certain things are handled poorly.

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The event (in my opinion) is responsible for providing you the means to confirm and enforce the rules. Primarily, this means judges, but also an accurate rules packet, well-written missions, and in previous editions even things like event-FAQs.

If you say “hey, I think you’re playing that rule wrong” and the other guy says “no I’m not,” you’ve reached the point where you need intervention from the event. That’s what judges are for. By notifying a judge, the players have met their burden of responsibility—this is where the line ends for them.

The event will, hopefully, have at least a small handful of qualified judges available to assist in coming to a correct ruling. Again, this is not always a perfect process, and incorrect rulings are sometimes given—if given frequently, the event absolutely should be held accountable for the quality of those rulings. We all hear horror stories of local/regional tournaments where some guy said Space Marines all have Fly and can move 18” and a judge agreed with him, but luckily those sorts of things are relatively
rare at the large tournaments—the judging staffs at the big 3 event teams (FLG, NOVA, Adepticon) are pretty seasoned veterans at this point and have core groups of people who are incredibly knowledgeable in the rules, and are always immediately available on the floor for rulings as necessary.

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There’s a secondary element worth discussing here, which is speed. The judges aren’t just responsible for attempting to get you a correct ruling, they’re responsible for doing so in a time frame that is not overly harmful to the gameplay experience. If you’ve ever had an actual hard-rules conversation with citations and precedent and the inherent vagueness of the 40k ruleset, you know these things aren’t always a speedy process. But a tournament game can actually be harmed far more by a lengthy ruling than by an incorrect one—if the judges take so long to get you an answer that you only get to play 2
turns, it wasn’t worth the effort. With that in mind, floor rulings do sometimes have to sacrifice accuracy for brevity, and is a possible source of incorrect rulings.

The overarching theme of what I’m explaining here is that 40k is an incredibly complicated game, especially when you start trying to dissect it down to the level necessary for competitive play, and everybody is going to make mistakes in their games. I hold the opinion that a full-length, rules-perfect game of tournament 40k has never been played.

What I’m attempting to give insight to is the problems involved in dealing with that complexity, from both an organizational and player standpoint. There are no perfect solutions, and mistakes will continue to be made—what’s been outlined above is our best shot at trying to handle those mistakes as they occur.

With that, there must also come some level of acceptance for those mistakes. Until we find the means to police away all possibly misplay from our games, the two concepts go hand in hand.


This is what we have been losing recently, for various reasons, and it’s what needs to be addressed as much as anything.

Suddenly—with the rise of streamed and recorded games, and an anonymous internet to consume them—every mistake made by every player is “cheating,” and every seemingly minor infraction is evidence of a grand conspiracy. There’s a situation currently unfolding with Alex Harrison’s game at the London GT which reeks of these issues.

[As a disclaimer, it’s worth pointing out that I do not know Alex well—I’ve met him once or twice at larger GTs, and never been directly involved in his games as far as I’m aware.]

The first issue is a rules mistake—a misplay regarding For the Greater Good and Hammerheads. Again, to describe this as “cheating” is both disrespectful to Alex and incredibly presumptuous on the part of anyone pretending they’ve never made a similar mistake (which is incredibly easy to do on Twitch chat or in the comments of a Facebook post).

What amazed me as a judge is they were actually presented with the opportunity to correct this mistake directly—an incredibly rare luxury, as under normal circumstances, the game would have progressed beyond the ability to do anything beyond playing the rule correctly in the remaining turns. But due to a scheduling issue with the venue, the game was stopped shortly afterwards and finished at a later time, which allowed them to actually roll back the misplay and resolve the rule correctly. This cannot be expected under normal tournament conditions, but was an interesting given the situation.

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The remaining issues—a bumped water bottle, a misplaced wound counter, and an erroneous measurement—are borderline absurd, from the perspective of someone who’s seen dozens and dozens of these games. These issues are only being made notable due to the relatively new capability of 40k to have a “spectator” class, watching and armchair judging from home, with no stake in the event and no expectation of civility or reasonable discourse.

This is the downside, mentioned earlier, of the sudden growth of 40k’s competitive hobby. Suddenly, everything is held under a microscope by people who either do not have (or choose to ignore) the context for the scenarios they are choosing to pass judgment on, and with no compulsion not to do so, as they’re simply that—spectators.

This is sometimes discussed in professional sports as “the right of the fan,” the right to boo the players and harass the umpire because you paid for your seat and they’re professionals and they should be held to a higher standard, right?

Except these aren’t professionals. You didn’t pay for your seat. You’re not booing the umpire at the World Series, you’re the slightly-too-involved uncle making a scene at a Little League baseball game

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You’re expecting 40k tournament players to be held to a standard that the other players don’t even hold them to. As noted, if Geoff had issues with Alex’s play during the game, he would have notified the staff—as is his responsibility. In the cases of mechanical misplays, this is how the situations were resolved, apparently to both players’ satisfaction.

Why is it, then, that anonymous internet onlookers should be outraged if the opposing player was not? And the fact is, top-level 40k tournament players know this to be the truth, because they know that they themselves make these same mistakes, so it would be hypocritical to jump all over someone else for doing so. As a judge, I don’t have top-level players come up to me after an event and tell me they lost because someone “cheated.” They tell me they lost because they forgot how a rule worked. They understand where the responsibility for these matters lay, and they act accordingly.

Now, for those out there shaking their head thinking I’m coming off as a hand-waving apologist, I’d like to put out the following:

Find an absolute stranger, who is approximately equivalent to your skill level in 40k. Bet them a reasonably large sum of money on a single game. Agree to play on a strict time limit, in a crowded venue, surrounded by noise and people.

Then, record video of you playing this game. Put it on the internet for all to judge. To frame-by-frame dissect every move you make, every rules assumption, every measurement and mechanic.

If your game does not have 90% of the same problems as Alex and Geoff’s game, then congratulations, you’re playing at a much higher level than the rest of us.

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Until then, I want you to consider every tournament game you’ve ever played. Think about every time you and your opponent disagreed on whether that knocked-over wound counter was on a 6 or a 4. Think about every time a model fell off a ruin and was put back in a slightly different spot. Think about the rule you misplayed, and didn’t realize until you were reading the Codex again two weeks later. Every time you didn’t play perfect 40k.

Then think about how different things would be if there was a recording, and it turns the wound counter was a 4. And that there are pictures to prove that model wasn’t at that spot on the ruin. And the guy at home with the Codex on his lap knows you played that rule wrong immediately.

The purpose of all this isn’t to label anyone as a cheater or abolish them of any misdoings, it was just to shed some light and give some real perspective on an aspect of the hobby which ~90% of people understand almost nothing about.

But remember, the real take away from all this is to do your homework before watching TV and always eat your vegetables.

-Justin Curtis- The 2nd Best Daemon Player

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.

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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 https://www.twitch.tv/brownmagicnick

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 https://www.twitch.tv/brownmagicnick. 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