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!

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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!

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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

Live Stream Ad Mech vs Eldar

Gooood morning ladies and gentlemen! I’ve recently come into possession of a beautifully converted Dark Mechanicus themed Ad Mech army, so of course I have to play it. But, because playing Ad mech wasn’t enough of a challenge, I decided to try them out against my own post-FAQ Eldar list.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 5/2 at 6:30pm EST I will be playing Amir Golpoor, the noob slayer. this will be on The Brown Magic facebook page and will be free to watch, so be sure to check it out!

Here are the lists we will be using!

Nick Nanavati Amir Golpoor
Stygies Battalion Aliatoc Battalion
Enginseer 47 Farseer 110
Enginseer 47 Farseer 110
5 Rangers 35 5 Rangers 60
5 Rangers 35 5 Rangers 60
5 Rangers 35 5 Rangers 60
5 Rangers 35 Wave Serpent 129
5 Rangers 35 Wave Serpent 129
5 Rangers 35
6 Shooty chickens- 5 twin las, 1 twin autp 550 Mixed Supreme Command
6 Combat Chickens- taser goads 408 Spiritseer <biel tan> 65
Spiritseer <aliatoc> 65
Assassin Vanguard Warlock <aliatoc> 55
Cullexus 85
Cullexus 85 Ynari Outrider
Cullexus 85 Cat Lady (WL) 132
Maugan Ra 140
Custodes Supreme Command 20 Guardians- 2 shuriken cannons <Ultwe> 190
Shield Captain on Bike 160 9 Shining Spears- star lance <biel tan> 281
Shield Captain on Bike 160 5 Swooping Hawks- Talon <biel tan> 68
Shield Captain on Bike 160 5 Swooping Hawks- Talon <biel tan> 68
8 Reapers- Tempest 277

Nick Nanavati vs Mike Brant /Finale

Today’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for! After ~96 hours of waiting your patience is finally being rewarded! You can see how the epic clash of titans comes to a close in my third and final part of this epic tale. If you missed parts 1 or 2, or just want to reread them because they’re amazing, I even linked them here for your convenience.

Nick Nanavati Vs Mike Brandt: Part 1

Nick Nanavati vs Mike Brandt: Part 2

But wait there’s more! At  the end of this lovely article, I go onto highlight the key takeaways of the game and how you should analyze your own games after the fact!

A quick recap for those of you keeping up, my berzerkers just got out and cleaned up most of Mike’s character’s. Mike then responded by unloading the last of his guardsmen in my face, killing the berzerkers and trying to reclaim the left flank.

On the other side of the board, I killed Mike’s tertiary unit early and then quickly abandoned that side of the board so I could concentrate my efforts on the left side. Here’s a picture of how the game looked at the end of turn 3.


And now onto the good stuff.


Here’s a look at the game after bottom of 4.

-I charged my exalted champion into the little combat with guardsmen vs Dark Apostle, and turned them into mince meat.

-The bloat drones evaporated the last 10 man floating about and charged into a bunch of characters and a taurox to keep them under control.

-The psychic phase was a bit less forgiving. In my last turn I spent my last CP to keep ahriman alive from the world’s fastest bike captain, only to have him perils and kill himself on his first power this turn. Another prince also perilsed for the second time this game.

-Collectively, both princes charging, smiting and a bloat drone shooting brought down the shield captain and the BA jump captain that were in my deployment zone.

I did what I needed to this turn, but took a lot of silly wounds to perils doing it. And in the end game stages of a grindy game like this, little wounds add up.

-Mike’s portion of the turn saw him scoring another recon point, and 2 points towards his primary, slowly bringing himself back into the game score wise.

-He started positioning his remaining 2 shield caps near the action

-Mephiston, Lord of the Butt Kicking, decided to go Super Saiyan and chop a bloat drone in half. That was really sad.

-Ahriman killing himself and Mephiston killing a bloat drone was also enough to give mike another moment of bloodshed to close the point gap even further.

This was mostly a turn of positioning for Mike and setting himself up to really score on turns 5 and 6. Mike’s 2 remaining shield captains are about to pounce and I’m running out of physical models to keep up on the objective front, as I’m down to essentially 2 princes, 2 bloat drones and 2 rhinos.

Here’s the score after 4:

Nick Mike
End Game Objectives Progressive objectives 3
Moment of Bloodshed 3 Recon 4
Cull the Hordes 4 Old School 1
Head Hunter 4 Moment of Bloodshed 3
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 10 infantry 1
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 5 Scouts 2
Total 15 Total 14


Here’s a picture after my turn 5.


-Mikes sentinel and shield captain (not pictured in turn 4) were camping my top right objective, so I was working on removing them, but it wasn’t happening quickly enough, and on top of that the shield captain was ob sec-ing my objective.

-My two princes and bloat drone went to work on the last bit of Mike’s characters, finishing Mephiston, the priest, and his last commander.

The left half of the board is well under control as it’s basically 2 princes, dark apostle, exalted champ, a rhino and a bloat drone vs a shield captain and 3 Tauroxes. The issue is that I’m really low on killing power and model count, and Mike only has hard targets left over there and bottom of turn. The game is coming to a close to finishing  it out from there with a lot of objectives may prove to be difficult.

Mike’s bottom of 5:


-Given the abandonment of the right side of the table, Mike was finally able to rack up a lot of points on his primary, which unfortunately pulled him ahead. Though, I still have yet to account for my end game objectives.

-Mike drove his tauroxes and sentinel to the top left and bottom left objectives. Putting 2 models on each, basically ensures that one of them is held through the turn.

-His ob sec shield captain boltered away my wounded exalted champion and then charged in and killed a weakened prince (the prince who perilsed twice throughout the game already). He then finished on the middle objective, with ob sec, making my life even more difficult.

Mike was in a great spot, he wrestled back board control and is now scoring progressively on the bottom of 5. Unfortunately, I have one turn left to finish Mike off and secure some objectives, but he seems to have too many obnoxious things like Tauroxes left, and I’m running out of offensive potential.

Nick Mike
End Game Objectives Progressive objectives 9
Moment of Bloodshed 4 Recon 4
Cull the Hordes 4 Old School 1
Head Hunter 4 Moment of Bloodshed 4
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 10 infantry 1
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 5 Scouts 2
Total 16 Total 21

Nick’s turn 6:


I saw the opening. It was a hail mary but it was all I had. I abandoned the objective with the ob sec bike captain. The prince went over to the top left objective. He needed to finish the sentinel with 3 wounds left with smite, then charge and kill the taurox. On the bottom left I needed my bloat drone and dark apostle to kill a taurox with 6 wounds left.

None of that was “average” but that’s why they call in a hail mary!

-The prince went in and landed the smite on the sentinel. He then charged the Taurox and rolled 3 6’s on his hit rolls, giving me a total of 10 attacks! There was a chance! And then I followed up the 10 3+ to wound rolls with 7 1’s/2’s. And then the Taurox lived. On the bottom left of the board the bloat drone and apostle managed a whole 1 wound onto the Taurox.

And thus the hail mary failed, and we called it there. Victory to Mike and his little green plastic army men.

I wanted to give such a highly detailed and tactical report of this battle because it really highlighted some of the excellent macro-40k skills necessary to win. There were multiple times where Mike had an abundance of options, and I set out a lot of traps and bait for him to fall for, but he stuck to his plan and ignored them all. Furthermore, Mike was in a very down and losing position for most of the game, and most players would have gotten overly aggressive in order to compensate, where Mike didn’t.


Now, let’s cover what the takeaways were.

The first thing you should look at when you review your game is what you could have done better or differently. In my opinion the biggest thing I screwed up was my berzerkers. I got them out on turns 2 and 3, with the intent of gaining tempo, denying points, establishing board control, and removing Mike’s ability to score tertiaries. All of these things fell in line with my overall plan, which was to establish a points lead and force Mike into becoming overly aggressive, which I could then capitalize on. This plan had a fundamental flaw: it was contingent on Mike making a mistake. Any plan that relies on your opponent screwing up is not a good plan.

The game devolved into a grindy character and vehicle mosh towards the end, which I very well could have won, but that left the game to mercy of the dice ie. the few perils and prince whiffs costing me dearly. Now, I personally preach to never blame dice, so instead of looking at the game from the perspective of I lost to some dice because my prince whiffed some saves or Ahriman perilsed, I looked at what I did wrong, and reached the conclusion of the berzerkers.

Finally, I’m sure you’re curious how I could used the berzerkers differently to reach a different end game scenario. The only other option I had for them was to just sit in the rhinos and hang out in mid field thank’s to Mike’s lack of shooting, but that could have created a situation where Mike was able to nickel and dime me for points in the early turns and reverse the situation, since I wouldn’t be killing anything due to my lack of shooting as well. So, the real remedy to this situation would have been to alter my list a bit to have more options. If I could do it again, I’d try to work in a unit of Noise marines (probably by dropping a prince). That way I could interact with my opponent without committing a significant portion of my force to combat.

The point of all this was to convey how to critically think about your games and list choices to really make improvements moving forward. Next time you lose, or even win, try to be really critical, self reflective, and objective about how everything played out and what could have gone differently.

Stay tuned for Thursday’s article. It’ll be part one of a new 3 part series written by the newest list doctor, Matt Root, on playing to lose!



Nick Nanavati vs Sean Nayden live stream

Tonight at 6pm EST Nick Nanavati vs Sean Nayden on The Brown Magic Premium! Sean is the Captain of the Team America ETC team, multi GT winner, previous LVO winner, and all around excellent player. I will be playing Eldar, and I don’t know what Sean will be using, though I expect it to be Dark Eldar?

To subscribe to The Brown Magic Premium just follow the directions on the website

Be sure to subscribe and check it out!

Nick Nanavati vs Mike Brandt: Part 2

Back for more I see? In today’s retold story of the epic struggle between red plastic army men vs green plastic army men I cover turns 2 and 3 of my game with Mike. If you missed all the pregame nonsense and turn 1, please go back catch that here so this game makes sense contextually. Turns 2 and 3 are when the game really started to heat up and things got interesting, so without further ado…

Turn 2 saw me try to create a points disparity between me and Mike.

I felt pressure to act because Mike’s mortars were going to slowly chip my nurglings away to deny my tertiaries and I couldn’t keep pace in the fire fight. Additionally, Mike’s sentinels were going to continue getting him recon points, while my secondaries were all centered around killing things, so I had to make a move.


-My nurglings secured 2 more tertiary points for me

-The berzerkers on the right got out and moved towards the guard on the hill. I then cast prescience and warp time on them from Ahriman (who stayed out of deny range of Mephy) to make the charge automatic, and more importantly, get them within 12″ of the red objective secured unit on the board edge so I could declare them as a charge target.

-I brought their rhino back to help screen my back field from the Smash Captain. Again,the pic doesn’t accurately represent my screening, but the back field was properly screened from Mr. Hammerpants.

-I started making more of a push onto the left side of the field, because I figured once the berzerkers do their thing on the right, that half of the board can be ignored for the remainder of the game, as I’d be better off completely dominating the left half after removing Mike’s potential for a tertiary point and leveraging the fact he already missed a potential secondary in the form of first strike.

-My general strategy after seeing how Mike played first turn quickly turned into nickel and diming him for a small but significant point lead. This would in turn pressure him into making overly aggressive moves to close the gap, which I could then further capitalize upon.

-In the assault phase I charged the 10 guardsmen right in front of me, 3 mortars, and the 10 red guardsmen in the back. I was also very deliberate to keep them out of 12″ of the shield captains during my initial charge move, because getting counter charged by them is a one way trip to sadsville. I split my attacks so that 3 guys swung onto the mortars and 5 swung on the 10 guard for the initial fight. The plan was, that would be enough to kill them, then on the second fight activation I’d be able to pile into the 10 objective secured guardsmen in the back and kill them, locking Mike out of scoring that tertiary anymore. Well, as all plans in 40k go, it didn’t work. Mike showed the true skill in 40k and passed 6/11 6+ saves for his mortar team to survive with one wound left. Consequentially, I had to use my entire second fight activation to put 300 wounds on the one remaining mortar, then spend 3CP to fight again to kill 10 whole guardsmen because they were objective secured and my entire turn hinged on them dying.


-Mike’s turn 2, he didn’t actually score any progressive points because my berzerkers cleared him off the objective which he was previously holding. He was also only able to capture 1 objective with his scouts.

-Similarly, since I tossed my zerkers into one of his ob sec units he was only able to capture 1 tertiary point.

-He swung 2 shield captains over to dismantle my berzerkers on the right hand side, and he brought his 3rd to the middle to be reactive as needed.

-On the left he started to finally make the push with his tauroxes (the picture is a little generous to how far they could move, but you get the idea).

-Mike almost disembarked the 30 guardsmen from the tauroxes to better defend that portion of the board, but ultimately decided against it, because they would’ve just been vaporized. Mike’s plan was to wait me out and try get me to overextend with my offensive potential so he could capitalize on that, which is why he was considering disembarking. He also felt a lot of pressure to act because he knew he was falling behind the points race. But with sine excellent generalship, he decided to stick to his guns and just hang tight for another turn.

Remember how my plan was to get him to be overly aggressive by creating a points disparity, so I could further dig him into a hole? This was him not falling for it.

-Mike also finished up my cutlists, since I decided not to tide them last turn, and thanks to some very hot mortars he was able to blow away both nurgling units- locking me out of my tertiary for the rest of the game.

Here’s the score after turn 2

Nick Mike
End Game Objectives Progressive objectives 0
Moment of Bloodshed 1 Recon 2
Cull the Hordes 1 Old School 0
Head Hunter 0 Moment of Bloodshed 1
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 10 infantry 1
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 5 Scouts 2
Total 6 Total 6


-Turn 3 is when I went for Mike’s throat, and tried to seal the deal.

-In the back field I ran out of screening units so I gave one prince (the ont on the hill) a 3++ and through him out to the smash captain. On average he shouldn’t die so I felt like it was more bait than anything else.

-The berzerkers disembarked from the rhino and into the building. Ahriman then cast warp time on them again and prescience to make the charge automatic, and to get within 12″ of all of Mike’s characters. The plan here was to demolish the ob sec scout unit and the 1 infantry unit out in front, then use my second and third fight activation to gut all the squishy guard characters. More on that later.

-The rhino that the zerkers disembarked from did the classic shuffle and bumped into 3 different Tauroxes to keep them from shooting in the following turn.

-The bloat drones just went to work on crowd control.

-In the fight phase, I was able to quickly dispatch the guard unit and scout unit. Then in my second fight activation I engaged stracken and 1 commander. I put 6 dudes on straken and 3 dudes on the commander. To be clear this was 4 attacks each, hitting on 2s, triggering exploding 5s, and I vets them so they’d wound on 2s. Stracken had to take like 21 5+ saves or something. And of course, he lived. So that was lovely. I then had to use my 3rd fight to finish stracken and kill 2more commanders. So in total it wasn’t terrible, I killed stracken, and 3 commanders, leaving Mike with a priest and 2 more commanders. But, if I managed to kill all of them, the whole flank would’ve been far less of a pain to manage in the future.



So, despite some god-tier saves from Mike, I was still commanding the game. We had both traded our tertiary units, but I was able to get 1 more point out of mine than Mike was from his. I also denied Mike first strike, so that’s a secondary he could just never achieve. On the progressive objective front, I’ve been dominating the board, so Mike was only able to score 1 point this turn.

-Mike disembarked the Guardsmen, and tried to take shots on my berzerkers, and princes as he could. Every wound counts I guess. Then he charged them into my Dark Apostle to try and trap me in combat to survive the oncoming bloat drones. One unit failed its charge, while the other made it, but lost 3 guys to the apostle in combat.

-The Tauroxes all fell back into different directions to ensure I couldn’t rhino slide them again, and for good measure, a sentinel charged my rhino too.

-Mephiston went to town on the berzerkers with smite and blood boil (who even takes that) then charged in with him and the commanders, but finally he had a turn of whiff city and somehow 3 berzerkers survived and chopped up the 2 remaining commanders. Unfortunately, the brave zerkers who could ran away after all that and died.

-The world’s fastest shield captain raced across the table and made a 9″ charge into Ahriman. I used my last CP to reroll a save for Ahriman to keep him alive with 1 wound left. Ahriman, being the smite factory he is, seemed really important to me at this juncture of the game as Mike just had tough targets left for the most part.

-The shield captain who could went for the charge on the 3++ prince. He made me take 4 invuls, of which I failed 3 and promptly died. Yeah, that was average…. Also he was my Warlord so Mike got a free point there.

-On the other half of the board, Mike just moved his captains about and stood on objectives.

Here’s the score after Mike’s turn 3.

Nick Mike
End Game Objectives Progressive objectives 1
Moment of Bloodshed 2 Recon 3
Cull the Hordes 3 Old School 1
Head Hunter 4 Moment of Bloodshed 2
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 10 infantry 1
Tertiary Nurglings 2 Tertiary 5 Scouts 2
Total 13 Total 10

As you can see, my plan is still working, as I’ve successfully nickeled and dimed Mike for a lead in points. Not only that, but all my objectives are to be scored at the end of the game, whereas Mike has already missed some of his opportunities to rack up points on his primary.

The game is entering the grindy phase, Were’ both almost down to vehicles and characters. Check back in on Tuesday to see if Mike can make a comeback from this one!

Nick Nanavati Vs Mike Brandt: Part 1

About a week and a half ago I played Mike Brandt in a featured challenge match to the death! The game was streamed live with commentary and technical support from Werner Born and Brad Nichols (who I definitely still owe beer to for that). But sadly, it was lost to the internet as I didn’t properly understand how twitch worked.  BUT, the game was simply too good to forget. Honestly, in 14 years of playing 40k, I can’t recall many games I’ve played that were so tactically engaging, deep, and evenly matched. So, with the help of Mike Brandt, who recreated pictures for me to use from vassal, I’ve been able to reconstruct the game for anyone who may have missed it live.

To be completely honest, when I envisioned writing this article I expected it to be able to fit it into one article. Whilst writing the first turn, I realized that it would need to be broken up into 2 parts. Then, as I got into writing turn 2 and was at 1500 words, I realized this would need to become a 3-part series to truly capture the tactical depth of this game.

The link above has our lists, and it was a classic struggle of Chaos vs Imperium for those too lazy to click it. The mission was NOVA mission 1 with the classic Dawn of War Deployment Style.

*insert shameless plug here* NOVA is a fantastic convention held every Labor Day in the DC area. It features 4-5 different 40k tournaments ranging from an invitational with a $1000 cash prize, a 256 person open GT, and a narrative tournament where players battle in a Washington DC-esque world. Thousands of gamers travel from all over each year to attend, and personally, it’s one of my favorite conventions every year!

Now, returning to our regularly scheduled battle report after that short commercial break.

Nova format requires players to choose 1 of 2 primary goals. These typically involve capturing objectives, either progressively throughout the game, or at the end of the game. They also require players to choose 3 secondary’s which you achieve throughout the game as well (much like ITC), and finally, for the tertiary, they require that you nominate 2 units at the start of the battle to be objective secured. These units score points during your turn by capturing an objective, but if they do this they cannot shoot or charge. Note that if these units die, you just can’t score any more points towards this tertiary objective.

For the actual packet click here

With all that in mind, here are the missions we each chose:

Nick Mike
End Game Objectives Progressive objectives
Moment of Bloodshed Recon
Cull the Hordes Old School
Head Hunter  Moment of Bloodshed
Tertiary Nurglings Tertiary 10 infantry
Tertiary Nurglings Tertiary 5 Scouts

Let’s take a look at our deployments:

-The 6 objectives are the 6 little circles scattered in a hexagon shape around the table.

-Mike had waaaaay more drops than me, so I had to deploy my army centrally to mitigate the impact of Mike’s reactive deployment. If I were to choose one side to concentrate on, Mike could deploy on the completely opposite side of the board, because he had enough drops to completely wait me out.

-Mike recognized that deploying in the middle would enable me to leverage the strength of my assault oriented/short ranged army so he wisely deployed in the corners to try and tempt me into spreading my forces out to fight his vastly larger army on two fronts.

-Mike placed his sentinels at the edges of his deployment zone on the sides, they scouted up before the game began and worked their way up the very edges of the table. This ensured that my tide of traitors would be far less valuable until they were dealt with.

*Note the only thing in reserve was Mike’s jump captain.

I won the roll for first and Mike failed to seize.


This was my first turn. As you can see here, Mike’s sentinels wisely scouted up the sides as I explained before to prevent me from tiding the cultists turn one, warp timing (this game was pre-FAQ) and charging his army off the board.

-I walked my nurglings up to secure the two secondary objectives with them.

-I basically just advanced everything forward. I smited most of one guard unit away and shot 4 out of 5 scouts in one unit. This was mostly a move to establish board control. -Mike’s picture doesn’t accurately capture this, but I did have my backfield completely screened so his sneaky JP captain couldn’t come in behind me and surprise kill a character.


-This was Mike’s first turn. His sentinels started sprinting up the field to snag his recon point, and continue the tide blocking.

-He moved his scouts on the left up to secure their objective, and he moved his red guard unit to secure the other on the right. He then used Move Move Move! on them to run them back to safety (That’s what the green arrows represent).

-Mike didn’t get aggressive at all because running towards an army of berzerkers and bloat drones seems suicidal. I recognized that as a weakness to Mike’s plan though, because he chose progressive scoring and not moving doesn’t really help you score progressively.

-Mike did have one advantage here: time. My secondaries all centered around killing him, so despite him choosing progressive scoring forcing him into moving to score points, I also chose active secondaries, forcing me to kill him to score points. This created a very interesting dynamic as both of our armies were perfectly content trying to wait out the other person, but neither could wait long.

-Mike shot a billion mortars and auto cannons at one of my objective secured nurgling units and left it alive with 2 wounds left. This meant I could get another turn of scoring out of that little guy.

-Mike wisely shot just enough cultists that I would have to spend CP to keep them alive from morale, and then more CP if I wanted to tide them back to full strength, but the tide would only really be able to come back into my own deployment zone, because of the Sentinels.

-I chose to spend the CP to keep the cutlists alive, to deny Mike First strike on his Old School secondary.

Score at end of 2:

Nick Mike
End Game Objectives Progressive objectives 0
Moment of Bloodshed 0 Recon 1
Cull the Hordes 0 Old School 0
Head Hunter 0 Moment of Bloodshed 0
Tertiary Nurglings 1 Tertiary 10 infantry 1
Tertiary Nurglings 1 Tertiary 5 Scouts 1

As of now the game is pretty even, but things really heat up in turns 2 and 3 which will be the focus of Thursday’s article, so be sure to check that out too!


Live Stream Eldar/Ynari vs DG/Daemons

Hello ladies and gentlemen! I have exciting news for you all! Tomorrow (Monday 4/23) at 6:30pm EST I will be playing against John Parsons in a live stream battle! This game will be streamed on The Brown Magic Premium, which is a members only facebook group. To learn more about the exclusive group, or to join click here! The battle will also be saved and recorded on the Premium member site for anyone who can’t watch it live but wants to watch it later!

We will playing with the new FAQ rules in a Nova style mission. Become a member and see if the newly nerfed Eldar can stand up to the newly buffed DG/Daemons! It should be a great game!

Just to add another teaser to it, here are our lists:

Nick Nanavati John Parsons
Aliatoc Battalion Deathguard Battalion
Farseer 110 Daemon Prince- wings, talons (WL) 180
Farseer 110 Necrosius 120
5 Rangers 60 Foul Blightspawn 77
5 Rangers 60 Biology Professor 74
5 Rangers 60 7 Plague Marines- 2 blight launchers, lots of knives 139
Wave Serpent 129 11 Cultists 44
Wave Serpent 129 11 Cultists 44
Bloat Drone- flamey flames 158
Mixed Supreme Command Bloat Drone- flamey flames 158
Spiritseer <biel tan> 65 Plagueburst Crawler- flamey flames 140
Spiritseer <aliatoc> 65 Plagueburst Crawler- flamey flames 140
Warlock <aliatoc> 55 Rhino- 2 CB


Chaos Daemon Supreme Command
Ynari Outrider Spoilpoc Scrivener 75
Cat Lady (WL) 132 Daemon Prince- Wings, Talons 180
Maugan Ra 140 Poxbringer 70
20 Guardians- 2 shuriken cannons <Ultwe> 190
9 Shining Spears- star lance <biel tan> 281 Daemon Auxillary
5 Swooping Hawks- Talon <biel tan> 68 9 Plaguedrones- icon, instrument 321
5 Swooping Hawks- Talon <biel tan> 68
8 Reapers- Tempest 277