Southern Ontario Open 2019 recap

So, I went to the Southern Ontario Open for the third year in a row this past weekend. The SOO, which takes place in Hamilton every year around the beginning of May, is undoubtedly Canada’s premiere Warmachine event. Drawing 100-plus players in their Masters tournament, having a six or seven round Masters, as well as featuring Iron Arena, IKRPG, MonPoc, and hobby content over three full days, it’s kind of a big deal.

Champions

I chose to participate in Champions this year and forgo Masters as I did the previous year. I knew that going to both tournaments would be just too much Warmachine for me, and I wanted to focus on hobby lounge and iron arena. I ended up choosing Champions because I really didn’t want to pack three lists, and I thought it would be nice to get all the hardcore gaming out of the way early on then just chill the rest of the con.

My biggest apprehension about Champions, aside from the distinct possibility that I would be getting my face kicked in by Iona all day, was the lack of a painting requirement. Since I’m not a hardcore competitive player and there is about a zero chance of me qualifying for either the WTC or the Iron Gauntlet finals, the SOO for the past few years has been my one opportunity to attend a fully painted event. As someone who appreciates the aesthetic aspect of wargaming, that made it a particular highlight for my year in Warmachine and made whichever tournament had the painting requirement a can’t-miss event.

I know a lot of people disagree with me and have a serious problem with the above opinion, so if you are one of those, please direct all your hate mail to podcast@chain-attack.com.

Anyways, that all changed this year, with PP changing their official tournament packet in such a way that if a tournament organizer wants to have an official Masters or Champions event that counts towards their Iron Gauntlet qualifiers, they can’t have a painting requirement. As those Iron Gauntlet points are a big deal for top-tier competitive players and Warmachine celebrities, that basically precluded the organizers from doing a fully painted event, whether they wanted to or not.

However, it turned out to actually be less of an issue than I was anticipating. I was worried that with no painting requirements, it would open the door to a swarm of grey hordes. But when I walked around the tables, I was pleasantly surprised to see that at least half of the armies were fully painted and a lot of the others were clearly on their way there. Three of my four games were against fully painted opponents, so that was actually a pleasant surprise.

Regarding my army lists, I knew I wanted to do Sorscha3 with plenty of Man-O-War models, and I had those painted up and ready to go. Due to the ADR restrictions, the other list had to be in Wolves of Winter, which meant a few things. First, it meant that Vlad2, which is the only model in my collection painted by my sister and not by me, would be the ideal choice. Second, it meant I had to get a lot of models painted to make a coherent list. Third, my list wouldn’t be very good because I didn’t have enough Doom Reavers painted up to really swarm my opponent with them. Finally, it meant that since I hadn’t ever actually played Wolves of Winter and trying to follow the CID made my brain hurt, my plan was to put the Vlad2 army on my tray and make a show of thinking about which list to play, but actually just play Sorscha3 every game.

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I went 1-3 in the tournament, losing to Old Witch 2, Zaal2, and Ossyan. My one victory came against someone playing Deneghra in Slaughter Fleet Raiders. He had little opportunity to take advantage of drag, as my Shocktroopers were granted Sturdy from the unit attachment and I had a shield guard in the list just in case. I ended up catching Ragman with a spray from a Suppression Tanker early on, and from there on out, I pretty much just watched his army bounce off the heavy armour of my Man-O-Wars, smacking them around with retaliatory strike as they came in. I actually started feeling a little bad for him because once Ragman was dead and his alpha strike was denied by my clouds, he just didn’t have the armour cracking to effectively deal with my army.

Now, I’m not one of those people who loses one game in a tournament and drops out because there is no point to playing unless you’re winning. I typically stay in throughout the whole thing, outside of extreme circumstances. However, I hadn’t been to a tournament in a while and after four games, my brain was hurting and I had done enough Warmachine for a weekend, never mind a day.

However, in spite of going 1-3 and dropping, I still managed to win Champions, or at least the most important part, the best painted army award.

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Painting

While the main attractions for most people are the competitive tournaments and the Iron Arena, the SOO does have some excellent hobby programming, and I feel like everyone who attends the SOO should at the very least pop into the hobby lounge for a few minutes and check out the contest entries or see what they can pick up from their fellow hobbyists.

I managed to squeeze in a couple classes. I took one on polychromatic shading with Ben at Primal Poodle, where I learned some more about colour theory. While I may have been a slightly difficult student by asking questions like “is grey a colour” when told to basecoat a part of a model in a colour that interested me, I did take a lot away from the class. I also got the chance to show off some of my work with Ben and Faust and get some valuable feedback on what I’m doing right and where I can improve.

But even outside of formal classes, you can pick up a lot from just getting the chance to talk shop with your fellow painters. There was a fellow hobbyist who was having difficulty with a resin pour, and I was able to offer up a couple pointers on doing the formwork as I had gone through that pain a little while ago. And I did have to chuckle a little when someone said that she should look up some guy who did a Swamp Siren and read up how he did it.

I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time in the hobby lounge. Part of this was because I didn’t have a huge based model completed before the event, and was inspired to finish painting my Siege Chariot conversion and get it into the contest. Which meant that I stayed up until 6 am on Friday night working on it, then got up again at 9 and got back to work, eventually getting it banged out with a few hours to spare.

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Why did I leave this until the last minute?

However, my valiant effort was all for naught when a very nicely done Sea King, which is one of the coolest models in PP’s entire range, edged me out in that particular category. That said, I came away with victories in two of the four categories – small and medium model – with Sorscha0 and my Sorscha bust, respectively. And the Sorscha bust also won the best in show award, not to mention that it was Sorscha3 running my best painted army, so… Sorscha OP, plz nerf?

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Patrick Miller’s Sea King

In some ways, this was coming full circle. My first year at the SOO, I entered into the painting competition but came away empty-handed, and to be honest, I felt a few pangs of disappointment. By the time the next year rolled around, I had improved my painting skills and had some display only models to enter, and while I did win one category, the top prize remained elusive. Now, I know it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others as a painter and get too competitive about it, but I decided I would make it a goal to win the painting competition this year. I upped my game with the skills I picked up over the past year and the classes I attended, and focused on getting that Sorscha bust looking good, and it really paid off. And, since Sorscha was my first warcaster and is my favourite character from the Iron Kingdoms, the fact that I was able to do so with her was a little poetic.

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In the categories I didn’t win, I got some good feedback from the judges, and to be honest, I can’t really argue with what they said. For the Siege Strider, they liked the conversion and a lot of the painting, however the main issue was that I had overweathered the upper half of it, which wasn’t super realistic and worked against the highlights I put in. This probably had a little to do with the fact that instead of putting it all together and then painting it, I painted and weathered the model in sub-assemblies, starting with the legs and working up to the gun and the driver. As such, instead of following a logical weathering progression tapering the weathering off as I went up which would have been much more effective, I just did a default amount of weathering on each part. While I did add some additional dirt and mud stains on the feet afterwards, it wasn’t enough to truly get across the story behind the weathering – that of a big walker stomping around the battlefield, with its legs getting beaten up as it grinds the filthy Cygnarans to dust beneath its feet.

Also, having stayed up until 6 am the night before working on the model probably didn’t help much with my ability to pull off a coherent weathering scheme while running on three hours sleep and three cups of coffee.

As for the group category, I debated whether to enter my Man-O-Wars or my Cygnar. I went with Cygnar because it was some more recent work, but then I ended up getting too hung up on what made a tournament-legal list, and included some models which were from when I was still working out the finer details of the scheme. This meant that Maddox, who was my first Cygnar infantry model, kind of brought the entry as a whole down a little with her mediocrity, as did my first Cygnar jack or two. And since consistency is important in group categories, that knocked me down a few notches. Had I not included Maddox in my entry and perhaps thrown in a couple of my more recent stormdudes instead, I think I would have been a little more competitive.

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Group winner – Vincent Beaulieu’s Dreamer

I also want to give a big shout-out to the competition. There were some real top-shelf entries this year, and in particular, I want to recognize Vincent Beaulieu’s Captain Ahab bust from Scale75. It was pretty awesome and I feel like it really gave my Sorscha bust a run for her money; in fact, I would say there are some aspects where it outshone my entry. However the nature of winner-take-all or ranked judging systems means that sometimes, amazing models that get edged out by other amazing models don’t quite get the recognition they deserve.

The Final Word

The SOO is always a great show, and is kind of a highlight of my year in Warmachine. Even as someone who isn’t a hardcore competitive player, you have to appreciate the passion for the game we all love that is on display in that room. This year in particular, I was feeling some frustration with the game and the community and the SOO kind of reinvigorated my love for this game. If you are a Warmachine player and can possibly make it to the SOO, circle the calendar and make sure you go. And, while you’re there, pop by the hobby lounge for a few minutes and say hi.

I’ll be the one still painting at 3 am.

Painting as first tiebreaker in Warmachine?

A little while ago, I came up with a joke. It was that for Warmachine, the Steamroller document should have percent of models painted as first tiebreaker. The joke was that this was such a silly suggestion, so absurd on face value and so unlikely to be actually implemented that it was humourous.

I know, my sense of humour leaves something to be desired. But the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that having some sort of metric based on proportion of army painted as the first tiebreaker really isn’t such a terrible idea.

The problem of tiebreaks

Right now, in Warmachine, it’s generally easy to determine who won the tournament. The way matchmaking is done, assuming you play enough rounds, by the end of the day there will be one guy who won all his games and didn’t lose any. He’s the winner. But from there, it gets a little messy – with multiple people going away with win/loss records like 3-1 and 2-2, it’s not as straightforward to determine placings below first.

There are two ways that can be used to determine tiebreakers. First, as the Steamroller packet suggests, you can use Strength of Schedule as the first tiebreaker, which basically scores you based on how well your opponents did. If your opponents won a lot of games, that implies that you got your 3-1 record against stronger players, and you get credit for that in the form of a higher SoS score. The other option, which is currently the second tiebreaker for people who have the same W/L record and SoS, is to use an in-game measure such as most control points scored to rank players.

Both of these have their issues. Strength of Schedule can be frustrating for a lot of players because in a lot of ways, it’s beyond their control. If their first round opponent goes on to win all the rest of his games, you’ll get a high SoS, while if he drops from the tournament and waters his sorrows at a bar, your SoS will tank. As such, it seems odd and can be frustrating to have second place be determined by something like how many of your opponents stick around and win some more games and how many drop from the tournament. In-game methods like using total control points have their disadvantages as well, in that they can reward unsportsmanlike behaviour such as dragging a game out to farm control points long after the opponent has any hope of winning, or colluding with an opponent to maximize your control points.

But what if there were some sort of method that is 100% within a player’s control, and doesn’t reward players who engage in questionable behaviour on the day of the event in order to cheese the system? Hmmmmm… perhaps we might be on to something here with this painting thing?

How to encourage painting anyways?

Another issue is the question of how we encourage and reward painting in Warmachine. It’s been something that has been on my mind for a while, and something that I’ve talked about a fair bit lately, possibly to the consternation of others.

There are a number of things that can be incorporated into tournaments to promote painting. Soft scores, best painted awards, painting requirements, in-game bonuses for painted armies, and so on are all possibilities. Unfortunately, one thing I’ve seen on internet discussions of this topic is that none of these possibilities please everyone.

Soft scores are basically heresy in the WMH community, and given the response that I got when I suggested that painted armies could get +1 on the roll to go first on the old PP forums, so is in-game bonuses. Some people argue against painting requirements in the name of inclusivity, and some people don’t like best painted awards because it’s possible for the best painters to always win. Finally, some people object to any system where the highly skilled competitive players have to share the prize pool with filthy casuals and hobbyists.

Regardless, I feel like it’s more important to do something to celebrate and reward painting and encourage people to get armies painted up than it is to find the perfect solution that no one would object to, because that solution doesn’t exist. This may not be the perfect solution, but it has some advantages. People who don’t have or don’t play fully painted armies aren’t turned away, and it can be effectively implemented regardless of the size of the tournament or the prize pool. Further, it encourages people at all skill levels to at least get their armies painted to whatever level satisfies them, instead of being a prize that only the James Wappels of the local meta are in contention for.

Cut to top X

One more reason for implementing painting as a tiebreaker is that a lot of big tournaments end up being streamed online. When games are being streamed, it’s good to have painted models on the table in order to make for a better looking stream and promote the game online. Many large tournaments also end up with a cut to top X, whereby people end up playing a few rounds to start, and then at the end of those rounds, they take the top 4 or 8 or 16 players and put them into a playoff bracket.

You can see where this is going. While the people who go undefeated are guaranteed to make the playoffs, there are a lot of people who end up with an X and 1 win/loss record. Some of them make the playoffs and some don’t. By using painting as first tiebreaker, this means that there will be more painted armies in the finals which is good if the games are being watched or streamed.

But what about competitive players who hate painting?

I’m sure there are going to be objections to this idea. After all, it’s basically heresy in certain segments of the Warmachine community that painting should have anything to do with competitive play. However, there are some simple ways that individuals who wish to be competitive players can tackle that issue. First, people who want to be competitive under such a regime would have an incentive to get their armies painted up. Best case scenario, everyone gets fully painted, in which case it would still go to a second tiebreaker such as strength of schedule or control points. Failing that, people who are that competitive could just win every game and not need to deal with tiebreakers. Simple, right?

Conclusion

I don’t think this idea will ever replace strength of schedule as the default first tiebreak method in standard Warmachine tournaments. However, I think does have its advantages and is worth considering — perhaps not for all tournaments, but for some; I do think there is some advantage when there is a diversity of formats. At the end of the day, it may not be perfect but it’s better than doing nothing to promote the hobby aspect and at the very least, I hope this will provoke some thought and positive discussion regarding the question of how to encourage and reward painting at tournaments.

Hot Takes: Champions and Khador ADR

Privateer Press recently spoiled some of their changes to the champions format, including the Active Duty Roster. And, like any Privateer Press release, that means there will be a deluge of hot takes, questionable analyses, and not-fully-thought-through opinions. Remember how all the Cryx players thought Ghost Fleet was unplayable trash and their faction was uncompetitive about a year ago? Anyways, I couldn’t let this go by without offering my unsolicited and uninformed opinions on the new format and the new ADR roster for Khador.

Format changes

There are a few format changes for the Masters and Champions tournament formats. First, Divide and Conquer, the requirement that everyone must play all of their lists at least once, is no longer a thing. This is something that may have been necessary in the past when one could just rock something like old-school Haley2 to victory on the strength of one extremely overpowered list, however now that balance is a bit tighter, character restrictions on lists are gone, and outliers are typically addressed through errata rather than being allowed to linger for years, there really is no reason for it to continue to exist and I don’t think it will be missed.

Masters also no longer uses ADR, which means that Specialists are gone from the format. Specialists are basically a sideboard that you are allowed if you bring casters on the ADR list. I like the idea of a format with a sideboard, and feel that there are a lot of underplayed, niche units which are good sideboard choices (hello, Assault Kommandos and Kossites!), however the economy of free points in themes meant it never really worked out. Either you had to create various legal permutations and combinations of your lists with whatever specialists you were afforded, or you had to spend ten minutes futzing around on War Room to get your lists to work out before the game started because you changed out a model which in turn changed the number of free solos from your theme.

They also made a lot of changes to the Active Duty Roster, the most notable being that themes are now a part of it. In addition to being limited to certain casters, you must choose your theme force from a list, and you aren’t allowed to play the same theme force for both your lists. This is an interesting idea, because it makes the ADR a truly limited format by disallowing more than 10% of the models in a faction, and I kind of like it. Further, they are increasing the number of casters available to most factions from four to five, and decreasing the number available to CoC and Grymkin to three, because ADR restrictions didn’t really do much to already limited factions and that helps balance out the big advantage that the limited factions got in the format.

They also discussed in CID the removal of the 15 second minimum turn, which is something that I am agnostic on. I don’t think the 15 second turn is as necessary given the hard turn limit in the game, but I still am not sure it’s a good experience when you’re that low on time and people are just throwing down focus and slapping the clock as fast as they can. However, it’s not something that has affected me greatly; I don’t usually have a lot of clock management issues, and when I do, I’m usually already screwed in other ways and on the way to a loss anyways.

Finally, they didn’t come out and make it official yet, but it’s been said during the CID process that PP is going to remove the painting requirement from Champions. This is probably a controversial statement, but I think it is good for Privateer Press to have a painting requirement on at least one of their tournament formats. It not only encourages painting, but it also means that people who like fully painted armies but aren’t good enough players to qualify for (and/or aren’t willing or able to travel to) huge national conventions like the WTC or Adepticon are more likely to have a chance at having a fully painted experience at smaller, more local conventions. The painting requirement was one reason why I chose to do Champions instead of Masters at the SOO, because it’s refreshing to have a whole day of fully painted games. However, I also think that a painting requirement and a limited format aren’t a great combination, as you could end up in a situation where players aren’t allowed to play their painted models due to the restrictions of the format. I think it would be a good idea to flip the painting requirement from Champions to Masters, or introduce a new format, or something so that painting requirements in Warmachine don’t go the way of the dodo. Dallas and the team at PP do a lot of work to promote the hobby aspect, and it would be sad to undermine that effort by eliminating all painting requirements from every official format and signal to the player base that it’s not important to at least aspire to play it painted.

Our Roster

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Anyways, onto the Khador ADR roster. Our caster choices consist of Kozlov, Sorscha3, Irusk2, Butcher1, and Zerkova1, and we are limited to two themes: Armoured Corps, and Jaws of the Wolf. Of course, I only play one of these casters and Armoured Corps has a lot of new models that I haven’t fully examined yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t spew my uninformed opinions out onto the Warmachine internet.

Kozlov

Ironically, for a caster who is supposed to be an Iron Fang, Kozlov is probably best in Armoured Corps. Fury and Tactical Supremacy are both excellent support spells for Man-O-War, particularly Shocktroopers, and I’ve been running him in Armoured Corps already with my patented “just take two of all the good models in the theme” list. Double Shocktroopers, double Drakhun, double Kovnik, and double Forge Seer, then season your battlegroup to taste. Once our new releases come out, I think that will open up a lot of new tactics and list builds with models that have previously been not that great such as the Demolition Corps and Bombardiers. Also, Atanas is going to unlock a lot, because the ability to move through your own models allows for a lot of options on the battlefield.

Jaws could potentially be interesting. Kozlov has some battlegroup support spells and his feat affects all models, including warjacks. The problem is that after spending three focus on upkeeps, and without any free charges or other forms of focus efficiency on the feat, he doesn’t have the focus to support a large battlegroup. However, PP has proposed allowing journeyman warcasters in Jaws of the Wolf, so bringing Andy1 and Sorscha0 and throwing a jack on each of them, plus perhaps one on a Forge Seer could solve some of those focus inefficiency issues.

Sorscha3

Sorscha3 is the latest iteration of Sorscha to be released in June, and she is my most anticipated model in a long time because it’s Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit and that is awesome. She grants Flank [Man-O-War] to her battlegroup, has a cost 1 jack support spell, Iron Flesh, and a cloudwall feat with clouds that hurt. I think there are a lot of tools here that could potentially be unlocked, but it’s pretty clear here that she’s a Man-O-War caster, so for my money, it’s Armoured Corps for her.

Also, she can take Beast 09 and Forge Seers can now cast Winter’s Wind on Beast. You’re welcome.

Irusk2:

At first glance, Irusk2 seems like he doesn’t really synergize with the themes available. He’s an infantry support caster, but his tools don’t seem to support Man-O-War as good as some others — I mean, how many Man-O-War can you fit in an Artifice of Deviation anyways? And with almost none of his kit doing anything to support warjacks, Jaws seems like a bad choice.

That is, until you remember that there is more to Jaws than just spamming warjacks. Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and there are some interesting infantry choices in the theme. If you stack Battle Lust on top of the Kayazy Assassins’ minifeat, they can do a lot of damage with those little knives. Between Stealth, Tough, and Artifice of Deviation, they’re going to be difficult to remove on the way in. And just to add on an additional level of obnoxiousness, throw on Alexia1 so when they do finally kill one of your dudes, they come back as a zombie.

Butcher1:

I also think Butcher1 could be interesting in a combined arms Jaws list, if only because stacking Gang, Fury, mini-feat and Butcher’s feat on a unit of Kayazy Assassins allows for some truly hilarious damage potential on those tiny daggers.

I’m probably the only Khador player who has never actually played any of the Butchers (because I’m on Team Sorscha), but over at Avatar of Slaughter, Robert McCormick has been making some noise about Butcher1 in Armoured Corps, so… I dunno, go over there and read something from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Zerkova1:

I don’t know, she… has a cloudwall, I guess? To be honest, I’ve only played Zerkova1 a couple of times, and I haven’t done particularly well with her. She doesn’t really help warjacks or help infantry hit hard, and she seems to lean more towards either Legion of Steel or Wolves of Winter as she would want to use the cloudwall to deliver something that packs a bit more of a punch and has a higher volume of attacks than Man-O-Wars.

On the other hand, countercharging Drakhuns through a unit of Shocktroopers behind a cloudwall seems legit, Ghost Walk could be fun combined with Demo Corps or Drakhuns, Hex Blast can more or less risk free take an enemy upkeep off a unit of Man-O-Wars, and Frost Hammer can be used to spray down single wound infantry jamming your Man-O-Wars without being so powerful that it can actually hurt the guys in the big metal suits.

Okay, I take it back, try her out in Armoured Corps.

My Pairings:

So, what am I going to run? First off, I’m definitely running Sorscha3 in Armoured Corps when she comes out, just because Sorscha is an old favourite of mine and Sorscha in a Man-O-War suit is straight up awesome. For a second list, since I’m restricted to Jaws, the smart thing to do would probably be a combined arms Jaws with two units of Kayazy Assassins and either Butcher1 or Irusk2. However, I don’t own any Kayazy Assassins and probably won’t want to paint 20 of them, and I’m also not particularly smart. Which means I’m going to wait for Sorscha0 to release and then make some sort of weird Kozlov Superfriends list, taking Kozlov and both Juniors and relying on his feat and the ability to stack speed buffs to hit hard and fast and be ARM 22 against melee. Because screw it, Cygnar shouldn’t be the only ones who are allowed to have fun with their juniors.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am intrigued by the new format as I think it will be nice to have a truly limited format, especially for people who can’t be bothered to remember what all 1,200 or so models in the game do or are sick of worrying about the OP boogeyman of the week. For Khador, I think there are going to be two challenges. First is going to be our usual Khador issues with incorporeal and recursion. Fortunately, however, Ghost Fleet isn’t on the ADR so we don’t have to worry about basically autolosing if we didn’t bring mass RFP and mass magic weapons or because our opponent brought a Wraith Engine, so this may be less of an issue than it is in unlimited formats.

Second is the fact that we are restricted to two themes which are generally comprised of heavily armoured, low defense, SPD 4 models. This means that it’s very easy to end up in a situation where you have two similar lists that share similar weaknesses, which is not a good position to be in in a two list pairing. Further, these bricks of slow models could struggle into some of the very live scenarios that exist in a post-SR2017 world.

While this looks like it could be a problem and the first reaction might be to complain about being dealt a bad ADR following on an underwhelming CID because PP doesn’t like us as much as they like Cryx and Cygnar, I think this ADR could be an opportunity to force some exploration and creativity in list building. We could see some more experimentation with combined arms Jaws lists, as well as the use of mercenaries to supplement the weaknesses of Armoured Corps. Already, the wheels are turning for me regarding things like combining Kayazy Assassins with Butcher1 or Irusk2, or finding some mercenaries that may be useful as flanking pieces for Armoured Corps lists.

Now, to sit and wait until my next big order of plasticrack comes in…

Southern Ontario Open 2018 – Recap

I alluded to this in my last post, but a couple weekends ago, I attended the Southern Ontario Open in Hamilton. For those that don’t know, the Southern Ontario Open is a three day con and probably the biggest Warmachine convention in Canada, and it features both a Masters and Champions tournament, Iron Arena, hobby programming, IKRPG, and some other events like Steamroller scrambles and Company of Iron. It’s attended by a lot of big names in the Warmachine community, and is getting more and more popular among Americans, in part due to the high caliber of competitive play and in part because the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar makes it a relatively inexpensive con.

I headed out on Thursday, and I decided that this year, I would moderate my goals. Last year, I went with high hopes, only to be crushed repeatedly by bad dice as well as my own suckitude. Protip: never say “All right, I need a six, so I’m going to boost to make sure.” I went 1-4 in Champions, lost a good chunk of my Iron Arena games, and lost every single game where I played a caster other than Harkevich. Knowing that the SOO has a very high caliber of player, I decided that I would just try to equal my previous record, and try not to get frustrated over silly things like dice.

Champions

Champions is an interesting limited format in Warmachine. The two big differences between Champions and other tournaments are that players are restricted to warcasters who are on the Active Duty Roster list, and official Champions tournaments have a painting requirement. I enjoy Champions, because the limited meta means that you don’t have to worry about some of the boogeymen out there and you have to worry less about tailoring your list to defeat the Mad Dogs, Una2, Denny1 Ghost Fleet/Coven Dark Host, Gaspy3 Nine Slayers, Nemo3, or whatever list is running roughshod over the meta at any given time. You get to see some casters and lists that you don’t usually see in other formats, and ironically, you might even have a little more freedom beacuse you don’t have to worry as much about whether you can deal with that boogeyman list out there. To quote Tim Banky from this year’s State of the Game address, one could say that the format is very Hegelian.

I know this is probably a controversial statement, but I also like that Champions is a fully painted format. The painting requirement is one of the big reasons why, when I decided that I would do one of the two tournaments and spend the rest of the time in the Iron Arena or hobby lounge, I settled on Champions instead of Masters. There is something about two fully painted armies duking it out that makes the whole experience a little more enjoyable, and it was nice that seven out of my nine games at the SOO (six Champions, and one Iron Arena) were against fully painted armies.

I know there is talk about removing the painting requirement from Champions, and I do kind of see an argument for it. After all, it can get awkward when you combine a limited format and a painting requirement because it is possible for players to end up in the unfortunate situation where they are limited to models they don’t have painted yet and aren’t allowed to play their painted stuff due to the restrictions in the format. However, I hope that PP keeps the painting requirement in at least one of their official tournament formats, both to encourage painting and to make it so that events with painting requirements are run once in a while. Even if they don’t, I hope people who run big events like the SOO will consider retaining it for part of their official programming. It’s nice to have the occasional fully painted brawl and a convention where there is plenty of other programming going on like Iron Arena and hobby classes is the perfect place to implement a painting requirement for one of the two big tournaments.

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Top secret tech; do not steal

Anyways, getting back to list construction, my choices were two of Sorscha1, Kozlov, Old Witch2, and Vlad3. Since I don’t have the model for OW2, and didn’t feel like acquiring and painting enough cavalry to make a Vlad3 list, my pairing was basically made for me. For Sorscha1, I went with a Winter Guard Kommand list, featuring a Grolar and a Demolisher in her battlegroup and a Juggernaut on Andy, as well as Aiyana & Holt because magic weapons are a thing these days. The battlegroup is a little unusual, however with this list, I was gunning hard for a pop and drop assassination so between the d3+2 POW 12 shots on the Grolar, and the two POW 15 shots on the Demolisher (as well as Bulldoze, Girded, and ARM 23), I figured I would have plenty of additional guns to finish off any enemy caster who survived Sorscha’s assassination run.

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Also, these lists barely fit on one tray, so that’s a bonus

When it came to Kozlov, my list build was relatively simple. Go in Armoured Corps, and take two of all the good models. Double Shocktroopers, Double Drakhuns, Double Kovniks, and Double Forge Seers. Fill out the battlegroup with cheap jacks, and take Saxon Orrik for Pathfinder and a unit of Kayazy Eliminators as my second merc choice because they are Friendly Faction and good. Kozlov is usually not considered a competitive caster, but I feel that the toolbox available to her basically gives an Armoured Corps list pretty much everything they need to get up the table, hit hard, and be obnoxious to remove.

I ended up going 3-3 in Masters, losing to Denny2, Heretic, and Vlad3, and defeating Borka2, Kozlov, and Rhyas. While going into the tournament, my theorymachine told me that my Kozlov list was probably kind of meh, I actually really enjoyed playing it and ended up dropping it five times, playing my Sorscha1 list only into Heretic. I went 3-2 with Kozlov, and I’m happy with my 3-3 overall record. It’s probably better than I excpected, and definitely exceeds my goals for the tournament.

In my Vlad3 game, I was cursed with bad dice, but I also had good dice in the Kozlov mirror match and my opponent’s dice in the Rhyas match absolutely went out the window and his Blightbringer couldn’t kill anything. I also had two games go down to tough rolls – Kozlov failed his tough roll against Deathjack, but had he survived, Denny2 was about to get POW 22 Juggernaut to the face, but next game, Borka2 failed his tough roll after almost facetanking an entire unit of MoW Shocktroopers and a Juggernaut, both with Fury cast on them.

I’m not going to do a play-by-play of all my games, because quite frankly, I don’t think those are all that interesting and the details are starting to fade from memory, but I have five general things to take away from my experience in Masters.

1.   Warmachine is a lot more fun when you aren’t getting frustrated over things like dice. Last year, I didn’t have the best time because after getting my face kicked in four times in a row, I was starting to get a little frustrated. This year, I resolved not to get salty and to try to stay positive no matter how bad the game was going, and while I got frustrated my first game over losing Saxon early to an arced spell, I was able to recognize that and get myself back into the proper state of mind to enjoy the game by the end of that game.

2.   Dice happen, but while I had individual games where they didn’t do what I wanted them to, in the long run, it all averaged out. It’s important to not get frustrated over them, and try not to get yourself into situations where you really really need to make any single roll. It’s easy to say you lost because of dice, as in my game against Vlad3 when there were a couple important rolls that I didn’t make. It’s more productive, if you want to get better at Warmachine, to ask yourself what you could have done differently to not have your game hinge on a single die roll, no matter how good the odds. In that game, I missed some critical die rolls and flubbed some damage rolls, however, I could have been a bit better at playing the scenario and then I wouldn’t have been so far behind on points that I needed everything to go right on my turn to not lose.

 

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Kozlov mirror match? Only in Champions…

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My Kozlov. Yes, the axe is unrealistically large, but this is Khador.

3.   Kozlov might be better than everyone thinks she is. Yeah, she is your average, kind of dull, straightforward battlebox caster, but she can give an Armoured Corps list a lot of what they need to pose a serious threat. Under her feat, Shocktroopers can charge with a threat range of 13” which isn’t bad for a slow unit. Unyielding is great on Shocktroopers, as it can give you a turn of ARM 23 against melee in shield wall. Fury makes them hit harder, and Tactical Supremacy can help them get up the board without running and lets them stay in shield wall. No-knockdown and pathfinder on your battlegroup is legit, and a no-knockdown tough warcaster is just icing on the cake. Pending soon-to-be-released CID changes, something like this list might actually make it into my competitive pairing for unrestricted formats.

4.   Especially on Spread The Net, you need to consider the scenario starting on deployment. In my game against Vlad3, I managed to win the list chicken and get a favoured matchup and also take a commanding lead on attrition, but I still lost in scenario. No doubt part of this was due to dice (see what I said above about not saying “I need a six, so I’ll boost to make sure” – it’s hard to win any game when you roll multiple triple ones in a turn), but had I managed to position my solos a bit better from deployment and either score one more point or contest the opposing flag one more time, I wouldn’t have lost on scenario and then with a massive attrition advantage, I would have likely been able to come back and win.

5.   Models with 2” reach are really good at denying countercharges. In my game against Borka2, I managed to only take one countercharge the entire game, and I had factored that in when I moved my unit in. Part of this was because of experience playing into Karchev, but part of it was the fact that I had a lot of models with 2” reach. It gets easy to prevent enemy models from being able to countercharge by engaging them when you can take advantage of long reach to engage multiple models at a time, particularly if you have fast models like Drakhuns who can get to the sweet spot they need to tie up multiple beasts.

Iron Arena

I managed to get three Iron Arena games in this year, playing Kozlov twice and my old Strakhov1 list once. I mentioned in my previous article how my Strakhov1 game was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a game of warmachine, but the other two games were pretty good as well. The first was playing the brick of MoW into Circle, where I managed to win by scenario via attrition. Finally, the last game was also without a doubt the drunkest opponent I’ve ever played against in Warmachine. He could barely move models or do math, but since it was on Spread The Net, I figured that accurate math or measurements didn’t really matter because he was also too drunk to effectively play scenario, so I won 5-0.

By the time I went to trade in my Iron Arena points, the prize table was pretty picked over with a most of the stuff there being for factions that I don’t play, so I picked up something for a friend I thought he could use and which I know he will enjoy painting.

Hobby Lounge

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WIP: My Fenris conversion. This is going to be fun to transport…

I spent a good chunk of my time at the SOO in the hobby lounge, working on my Fenris conversion and trying to pick up what I could from the more talented painters in there. The hobby lounge at the SOO is a little out of the way so there are a lot of people who don’t set foot in there the entire weekend, but it’s a great place to have a seat between rounds and paint some models to unwind from an intense game, or just to hang out and learn from the masters. It’s almost criminally under-utilized by the mass of attendees, and I think more people should at least pop in check it out over the weekend. Personally, I got a lot of progress in on Fenris, probably getting the mounted version at least half-finished there alone. Which is good for me because I don’t paint mounted models very often and tend to get frustrated when painting horses.

Painting competition

I also entered in the painting competition again this year, entering Nancy Steelpunch in the small models category, Mary Read in large, one of my Man-O-Wars in Medium, and a whole pile of Man-O-Wars in the group category. The competition this year was more intense than last year, but I managed to eke out a victory in the small models category, and win a Bradigan Pitt model, which I will probably convert into a Kayazy Assassin Underboss because I’m not a huge fan of the movie Fight Club. Will from Moosemachine won best overall with his Borka bust, and there was an amazing Cyclone in the medium category. More importantly, I got some really good feedback, particularly on Mary Read to help me get the bird right and on doing eyeballs. The only suggestion I might have for the painting competition is that since it takes place in the out-of-the-way hobby lounge, it might drum up more interest in the hobby aspect of the game to have a display case in a higher-traffic area for entries.

Overall

The SOO was a blast, and I would say that if you are anywhere remotely near Southern Ontario and vaguely interested in Warmachine, you should really consider going. With Masters, Champions, Iron Arena, and the Hobby Lounge, the SOO has a little bit of something for everyone. I had a lot of fun, and in terms of my win/loss record, I exceeded all my goals and had a lot of fun and got some experience with a new list. The event definitely re-ignited some passion for Warmachine that had been fading as of late, and I would definitely give it five Hegels out of five.

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You don’t even know who I am, do you?