Event Review: 2nd at Adepticon 2019
Recently got back from Adepticon 2019 (it's been a couple weeks😅) and man, what an awesome event! It was my first time traveling to a convention, especially for a large scale competition and I cannot be happier with my experience.
I had the pleasure of meeting loads of new people from all over the world and it reinforced the fact that the Underworlds community is perhaps the best wargaming community out there. Everyone there was kind and shared an obvious passion for the game.
Special shoutout to Tony Field, the Canadian group Hexaholics Anonymous, Randall Slate and Robert Meade from the 'Battle for Salvation' podcast, Davy Calkins from the 'What the Hex' podcast, Jesse from Silver Crow Painting, and Pete Foley from the Games Workshop Studio Design Team.
As some of you where aware, I got second overall in the Warhammer Underworlds Grand Clash. Throughout the event, I played some amazing players and one hell of a final against Dean Bilz and his Thorns of the Briar Queen. As Pete Foley said, "the game was worthy of the name: final."
In this article, I will be sharing my experience at the Grand Clash. You can expect my deck list, why I chose certain cards, brief game summaries, and other musings.
To learn more about Stormsire's Cursebreakers and some general tactics on how to play them, visit one of my previous articles here.
Thank you to the team behind UnderworldDB for posting my deck list on their website. It's surreal to see my deck there.
I opted to bring Stormsire's Cursebreakers to the event for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I feel that they are a strong, competitive warband that can tussle with the best in the game and secondly, I am quite comfortable with them as well. I've piloted them for well over a hundred games and understand their strengths and weaknesses quite keenly.
At first glance, you can see that this deck contains the 'core' Cursebreakers package with cards such as Harness the Storm, Magical Supremacy, Measured Strike, Sorcerous Scouring, Abasoth's Unmaking, Abasoth's Withering, and Tempest's Might.
In addition, I focused on an objective deck that rewarded me multiple times for eliminating enemy fighters and/or casting spells. There are a total of six score immediate cards which not only aid with card cycling but also become force multipliers with Victory After Victory and Superior Tactician.
The deck is teched heavily against Mollog's Mob and Magore's Fiends, two warbands that I anticipated would be quite popular and have the ability to snowball if they get early takedowns. Aside from some must take cards, the deck focuses on isolating powerful fighters while also playing to my warbands strengths.
In terms of upgrades, the cards were fairly standard. I wanted cards that would allow my warband to hit hard, ensuring I eliminated when I did hit, and cards that allowed me to survive multiple hits as well.
The three of these cards are fairly straightforward and reward me for following my intended game plan. Superior Tactician does take up a restricted slot but unless I drew it in my opening hand, and even then, I almost always scored it.
Victory After Victory is a card that really helps snowball your glory. Since half of my objective deck consisted of score immediately cards, it acted as a fantastic force multiplier and could really pull me ahead on glory, especially early in the game. Shining Example is pretty easy to score with Stormsire, especially with the addition of two gambit spells in my power deck. Harness the Storm is perhaps one of the easiest cards to score in the game and helps with getting those early upgrades.
Magical Supremacy is another easy to score card - you can cast Empower with Rastus or Ammis, shoot multiple times with Stormsire, and even cast gambit spells in the power deck. Measured Strike is a faction version of the restricted card, Precise Use of Force, and is also fairly easy to score, especially with Rastus as many fighters have two health. Scorched Earth was an interesting choice but one that I found useful throughout the tournament. It can only be scored when I successfully cast Abasoth's Unmaking which allows me to remove an objective for the battle field. It was more of a 'nice to have' card in that if I had both cards in my hand, I would inspire Stormsire, derail my opponent's game plan, and get a glory which also stacks towards Victory After Victory and Superior Tactician. If I didn't have the combo after one turn, I'd usually toss it unless I felt like my chances of drawing Abasoth's Unmaking were high. Scoring this card actually helped me win a couple of the games I played during the day.
These last three rewarded me with taking down opponents. Sorcerous Scouring is fairly consistent with an inspired Stormsire. What Armour? can only be scored by Rastus but since it was so easy to inspire him, it went off fairly consistently.
Ploys and Gambits:
As I mentioned earlier, I teched the deck heavily against Mollog and Magore and so I have both Forceful Denial and Frozen in Time in the deck. The former allows me to stop cards such as Hidden Paths, My Turn, Rebound and Aggressive Defense while the latter aided me in shutting down key enemy fighters like Magore, Mollog, and even the Briar Queen. Hidden Paths is a great card that allows you to take your opponent by surprise and easily access their fighters that are out of reach or even 'hiding.' It also works as an escape card as well should you find yourself in a perilous situation.
My Turn and Ready for Action allow me to get two additional attacks during the game which is just brutal. My warriors are fairly accurate and hit hard - it works well. Rebound is another card that fell into my anti-Mollog/Magore strategy and also worked well against other warbands as well. Its only a 33% to succeed but when it does, it pretty much wins you games.
Abasoth's Unmaking is a great card against objective based warbands and can win you the game in certain instances. It also can deny your opponent charges/moves via Faneway Crystal. Also, if your opponent could care less about objectives, it's an easy way to inspire Stormsire early. Abasoth's Withering is great for weakening enemy fighters as well as finishing off an enemy that is teetering on the edge. Commanding Stride is amazing with Stormsire. I use my commander heavily and this card can get him into favorable offensive and defensive positions. Furthermore, if I really wanted to get a spell of with Stormsire without compromising his position, I would charge in and then commanding stride him back to safety. Davy Calkin coined it as the "yo-yo maneuver" and I find the name quite apt. Lastly, Transfixing Stare can shut down an enemy fighter for a turn. It was also also part of my anti-Mollog/Magore tech.
Lightning Whip and Tempest's Might allow my fighters to hit harder when they successfully strike their opponents. The former also provides some consistency with damage increasing upgrades alongside Great Strength. Again, I wanted to make sure that when I was matched up with warbands with tougher fighters (read: Mollog and Magore), I eliminated their fighters. The latter also makes Stormsire a machine gun turret who is capable of taking out most fighters in the game. Archer's Focus provides Stormsire with some greater consistency which again, is important and key to my game plan.
Faneway Crystal serves two purposes: I am either charging onto an objective to take out hard to reach fighters or using it to escape with a key fighter. You can also use it to make it harder for your opponent to nab certain objectives. Gloryseeker, another anti-Mollog/Magore tech card just makes my fighters hit harder. If you put it on a Stormsire who is also upgraded with Tempest's Might, you have a ranged attack that can potentially one shot four health fighters. Great Fortitude gives me an extra wound which is important when you only have three fighters who are doing a lot of heavy lifting.
Great Strength helps me with taking down tough fighters or at the very least, severely hurt an opposing Mollog. Potion of Rage provides is a nice accuracy boost that exponentially increases the likelihood of a key attack going through. My last restricted card, Sudden Growth, was taken to ensure that Stormsire lives through the game, even when taking hits from, you guessed it, Mollog and the Fiends. It also isn’t as much of a detriment to him due to his ranged capabilities. Lastly, Tome of Offerings is a very strong card that allows me to capitalize on taking down fighters, especially against warbands with a high model count. If you get enough kills with it on, its uncommon for you to lose the game.
TL;DR: The deck is designed to reward me multiple times over for eliminating enemy fighters while also providing me with plenty of cards to make my harder matchups, like Mollog and Magore, more manageable.
The Grand Clash itself was a well managed and executed event. We were in the largest hall of the convention and there was enough room for an Age of Sigmar tournament as well as other events featuring other GW and non-GW games.
There were a bunch of tables set up and each spot in which players would play was marked with a number ensuring that when pairings went up, it was easy to find where you were playing.
The format was fairly standard. There were four rounds of games with a cut to top two afterwards. There have a been a lot of players vocalizing their thoughts on the format so I will avoid commenting on the controversial topic for now.
Speaking of pairings, the tournament used Best Coast Pairings to run the tournament and calculate scorings. I think that was an awesome decision and made the event run quite smoothly. It was also nice to see where you ended up after each round which personally, continually motivated me while also keeping an eye out for who I might play next.
In total, there were 100 players when the event started. After the first round, six players dropped which resulted in 94 players for the next three rounds.
I will do my best to summarize the games I played each round. Due to the event being highly competitive, I was not allowed to record my usual play by plays for obvious reasons. Again, I apologize in advance for the lack of detail - I am working off pure memory here.
Also, I didn't take any pictures of the games either. I don't why but I guess I didn't even think about it. My phone was in my backpack though in order to avoid distractions so that's perhaps why it didn't cross my mind.
Round 1: Thorns of the Briar Queen
I've always said that I have bad luck in the initial stages of tournaments and that streak continued when I found out who my first opponent was. It was none other than Robert Meade from the 'Battle for Salvation' podcast. Rob and I had spoke prior to the event beginning and I knew he was a good player. I would also like to mentioned that he is a very polite individual who was pleasant to play with. It was going to be a tough, albeit fun round one...
The first game started with me winning the board. This was good because I got to place three objectives on my side of the board and force Rob to come to me. During deployment, Rob placed his Briar Queen on the last row of hexes on his board so I knew I had to watch out for Hidden Paths. My opening power hand wasn't anything special but it did contain Forceful Denial which led me to keep the hand in order to deny an alpha strike from the Briar Queen.
Turn one consisted of me inspiring my warband while Varlcav was pushing the chain rasps about. Rob did indeed play Hidden Paths which was successfully stopped by my Forceful Denial. I was very glad I kept my hand. I ended the turn with eliminating a chain rasp with Rastus which helped me score What Armour? and Strong Start.
Turn two, things got a bit bloody. Chain rasps came flying in and I started taking some chip damage. Thankfully, My Turn helped stem the tide and allow me to eliminate multiple fighters during the round. Rebound also went off against The Everhanged which finished him off since he had taken a single point of damage from an uninspired Stormsire earlier.
At that point, I had a bunch of glory and didn't really feel the need to continue my aggression. Rob attempted to score some objective based cards but I stopped him with a well timed Abasoth's Unmaking which solidified my win by a strong margin. Game one ended with me winning 19-10.
In game two, Rob lost boards which was something I was worried about. I had to start off quite aggressive in order to ensure I didn't fall behind early on. I set the board up slightly offset in hopes of controlling my engagements. Similarly to the previous game, I started off with inspiring my fighters and trudging up the board. Luckily, I had Harness the Storm off the bat which helped get Tome of Offering on Rastus fairly early. Rastus ended the turn with taking down a chain rasp which gave me two glory for the takedown, and helped me pile on some upgrades to the squad. In the end phase, Rob scored Supremacy while I scored, Magical Supremacy, Escalation, and Victory after Victory.
At the start of turn two, the Briar Queen got off an alpha strike on Stormsire, taking him out. I responded with playing Transfixing Stare on her and then advanced my two remaining fighters into the hoard of ghostly specters. My Turn, Ready for Action, and Hidden Paths came in clutch. I was able to take down multiple fighters and score a bunch of immediate objectives as well. By the time turn two ended, only the Briar Queen and two chain rasps were still standing.
Turn three, I pretty much played clean up and did my best to avoid the now fully upgraded Briar Queen. I believe she did end up taking out Rastus but by then, I was way too ahead on glory. The game ended 18-9 in my favor.
I won the round 37-19 which gave me a +18 glory differential.
Phew, that was stressful. Rob was a fantastic opponent and piloted the Thorns very well. He ended up finishing 8th in the tournament as he didn't lose a single game the rest of the event. Aside from the final, Rob was the toughest opponent I had to play all day.
Round 2: Steelheart's Champions
My second game was against Sean O'Hara who was piloting a very strong Steelheart's Champions list. Sean was a fantastic sportsman and I really enjoyed our bouts.
Game 1, Sean won board and placed things straight up. Thankfully, he was the aggressor so I placed my fighters as far as possible while ensuring Stormsire was not next to an edge hex. Turn 1 started with Sean advancing his Champions up while I stayed put and inspired my fighters. Abasoth's Unmaking took out an objective adjacent to Rastus ensuring that Faneway Crystal wouldn't be an issue while also inspiring Stormsire. For my final activation, I charged Rastus into Dawnguard which scored me What Armour?. Sean then used his final activation to strike back dealing two, I played My Turn and finished her off scoring Strong Start and Measured Strike. That helped me draw into Victory After Victory which catapulted my glory count. In the end phase, I put Lightning Whip on Rastus as he was my best bet at carving through that mighty defense and armor the Champions are known for.
Round 2, I won initiative and charged Rastus into Obryn but it was blocked with a crit. I played Gloryseeker onto Rastus and followed up with Ready for Action. This time, Obryn could't stop the attack and he went down. Severin then charged Ammis but I got Rebound off. Ammis eliminated him the next activation. The rest of the round and the following round, I cycled objectives. I won the game 15-4.
In game 2, Sean won the board again and played a bit more reserved. My goal was the same as last round, let him come to me and let Rastus do the heavy lifting. I scored Harness the Storm, Magical Supremacy, Master of War, and Shining Example in the first phase.
Round 2 started poorly for me. Unfortunately, Rastus was the first fighter to go down thanks to a key charge from Obryn plus Twist the Knife. On the back foot now, I powered up Stormsire and Ammis in anticipation of the onslaught to follow. Severin charged Ammis and missed and in my activation I struck back only to take three damage myself due to Rebound. Fortunately, I played Great Strength on Ammis and with Ready for Action took down the opposing enemy leader scoring me Measured Strike. Knowing that he had to come to me in order to score objectives, I played both Sudden Growth and Great Fortitude on Ammis. She was my best bet at eliminating both his fighters.
In the final round of the game, I won initiative and charged Ammis into Dawnguard and was able to land two crits thanks to Potion of Rage. Dawnguard went down. Obryn then charged into Ammis and landed a hit, taking her down to a single wound. Thankfully My Turn made short work of my opponent. The rest of the activations were spent cycling objectives. I won the game 12-7 with a glory differential of +16.
Round 3: Ironskull's Boyz
In the third round, I played against nice gentleman by the name of Jeffrey Kroesch.
Game 1 kicked things off with Jeffrey winning boards and deploying in a diagonal set up. My opponent deployed the his fighters roughly mid way through his board so I immediately was concerned that he might be playing a defensive/objective based list. This was all but confirmed during the opening activations of the game as he barely moved up while I was empowering my fighters and inspiring Stormsire via Abasoth's Unmaking. Luckily, all my fighters were inspired by the start of my third activation so I started trudging up the board. Geoff ended the phase by positioning Bonekutta and Gurzag in favorable counter charge positions. Since he was playing so conservatively, I decided to move Ammis in as bait. Geoff bit and charged in Bonekutta but missed. At that point I piled in on Bonekutta and eventually Gurzag, eliminated them both and waited for the remaining to Orruks to pile in. During the final phase of the game, I played very aggressively and managed to take out both of the remaining fighters quickly. Throughout this process, I scored a bunch of my objectives and cycled into Victory After Victory and Escalation which eventually led me to score Superior Tactician. I won game 1, 16-0.
Game 2 pretty much went the same way. Jeffrey deployed even more reserved but now that I knew his deck relied on eliminating my fighters to win, I pretty much followed the same order of operations to win me the second game. Gurzag did manage to take down one of my fighters, either Rastus or Ammis - I'm not sure. Still, I comfortably won the game 16-5.
I ended up winning the round 32-5.
Round 4: Magore's Fiends
My final game of the swiss rounds was against a great Fiend's player by the name of Paul Steiner.
First game, I won boards and set up the board slightly offset. Predictably, Paul set up his fighters fairly aggressively. Winning activation, Paul decided to go second and I started things off in proper Cursebreaker faction - I inspired Rastus. Paul played Spectral Wings and got a massive charge on Stormsire with Riptooth, thankfully he missed. I spent the rest of the turn slaying Riptooth while the rest of the Fiends rolled up the board. I scored a bunch of my score immediate cards and in the end phase, put Great Strength on Ammis and Lightning Whip on Rastus.
The rest of the game was spent inspiring Rastus and Stormsire and countercharging the Fiends. Getting those strength inducing upgrades early was fantastic and really helped me one shot his four health fighters. Magore did end up hitting Rastus but with a bit of help with Stormsire, my cleaving fighter finished off Magore. I won game one, 14-2.
In the second game, Paul won board, set it straight up, and deployed his fighters less aggressively. The game repeated the core concepts of the first game in that I inspired my fighters while the Fiends came to me. Fortunately, I got Great Strength early on again and went to town with Ammis. By the end of the second round, I had lost Ammis while only Ghartok was standing on my opponent's side. I played hyper aggressively in the end and finished Ghartok off with a Faneway Crystal charge followed by Ready for Action with Stormsire. I won the second game, 15-7.
So by this point, I was second in total glory. My games finished fairly quickly so I spent the remainder of the 20+ minutes pacing as I wasn't sure if I would make it into the final. Luckily, the player in first place, Kyle Dalton and his Mollog's Mob, lost to Geoff Osborne and his Spiteclaw's Swarm. After the round was set and done, Dean Bilz ended up placing first with a total glory count of 143 with a glory differential of +89. I ended up second with a total of 125 glory scored and a differential of +81.
The Final: Thorns of the Briar Queen
At this point, we had a small award ceremony. Shoutout to Kyle Dalton to winning Best Painted with his beautifully painted Mollog's Mob.
As we made our way to the final table, Pete Foley, the judge and head of the Games Workshop Design Studio, plopped the Grand Clash trophy on one end of the table and said, "You both are playing for that." Thanks Pete, no pressure! 😅
We had a solid crowd and the game began with Dean winning the board. He ended up going with one of the new boards - the amber colored one that has three lethal hexes. He placed the board offset with the lethal hexes touching my board. I went with the Mirror Well.
Deployment was fairly standard, my fighters were in the back while Dean's chainrasps were in the front alongside The Everhanged while the Briar Queen was placed middle of the board. Varclav was in the back right corner, furthest away from me.
As usual, I spent my first couple activations inspiring Rastus and Ammis as Varclav started shoving his buddies around. I went in for a charge towards the end and eliminated a chainrasp getting three glory off the takedown.The Everhanged charged Rastus and did two damage. I ended up taking him out with Ammis.
So far the game was going well. In the second turn, the Briar Queen started creeping up. I ignored her and went in on the chainrasps. The Briar Queen did end up taking out Ammis. However, by the end of the second game, I had eliminated every enemy fighter except Varclav, two chainrasps, and the Briar Queen.
Going into the third phase, I finished off the chainrasps and I was just too ahead on glory for Dean to catch up. Scoring Superior Tactician in the third end phase secured my win by a fairly healthy margin.
In game two, Dean won the board roll off again and set the board up in the exact same fashion. The only difference is I went with The Shattered Tower.
The game started off in similar fashion and took out a chainrasp after inspiring my fighters. I did fail to cast Abasoth's Withering which stopped me from not only inspiring Stormsire but also failing to score Scorched Earth. When The Everhanged came in again, I did indeed manage to deal two damage with Rastus but I took two in return. I had Sorcerous Scouring and Measured Strike in my hand. So, I decided to charge The Everhanged with Stormsire as he was only doing one damage. I figured Potion of Rage would help as well. I ended up only rolling a single success and unfortunately, my opponent rolled a crit, denying me a 3 glory takedown while he scored Miraculous Escape. In the end phase, The Everhanged got Sudden Growth.
In the following turn, The Everhanged mopped up Rastus and from there it went down hill. With strength inducing upgrades and help from the Briar Queen, I lost Ammis too. Stormsire did manage to take down a handful of chainrasps but by the end of the third phase, Dean has stacked his keys and scored a ton glory by the end of the game. On to game three!
With the pressure at an all time high, game three kicked off with Dean winning the board yet again and we went to an exact same setup of game one. I went back to The Mirror Well.
The game started in typical faction. Towards the end of the round, I managed to take out a chainrasp yet again which gave me two glory. After a slow start, The Everhanged decided to get in the mix but missed. I heavily focused him and managed to eliminate him, two more chainrasps (thanks to My Turn), and even the Briar Queen via a three damage hit with Ammis followed by Abasoth's Withering from Stormsire. Things were looking great.
By the time the third round started, my opponent only had Varclav and two chainrasps while I had all three of my fighters primed and ready to go. Going for that third objective, Varlcav went for the one objective on my board using Faneway Crystal. I tried to use Abasoth's Unmaking but failed it again for the second game in a row (the only two times during the event). I shot off a Fulmination with Stormsire and we tied on dice. I didn't push Varclav off the hex because I had Ready for Action. I went in again and rolled two successes which meant Varclav was out unless he rolled a crit... He rolled a crit. After that, Varclav got both Sudden Growth and Deathly Fortitude on him. I did my best to take him out but I couldn't get through those wounds and him being on guard made things only harder.
In the end phase, Dean had the exact set of keys to give him a heaping serving of glory in the final end phase. I lost by three glory and my hopes of winning that trophy came crashing down.
I will say that Dean is a great player who fully deserved that win. Congratulations man, it was great playing against you. Next time!
Overall Adepticon was a fantastic experience. It was my first time playing in a major event and I performed beyond my expectations. The goal going in was top 8 and I am beyond elated that I was able to place second.
In terms of my deck, I wouldn't really change much. Maybe switch out Scorched Earth but then again, it performed relatively well throughout the event.
As you can imagine, I have replayed the final match quite often in my head. I keep focusing on any misplays I made but at the end of the day, it is what it is. When two evenly matched players are playing a highly competitive game, the uncontrollable factors often tip the scales in the favor of one player. We both benefited from dice rolls and draws but it was crazy that I failed to cast Abasoth's Unmaking twice, especially when they were sorely needed. Also, I got overly confident in the second game and Dean took advantage of my aggressive tactics to great effect.
I also feel like I wasn't prepared for the pressure. The crowd and micro-events that took place outside of the game definitely negatively impacted my performance. Moving forward, that is definitely something I am going to be working on.
My opponent also used the boards to great effect. Winning the board every single time hampered my ability to engage quickly and early. It also gave my opponent enough time to position his chainrasps out of harm's way. Despite the loss, it was perhaps one of my favorite games to play during tenure in the hobby. I am looking forward to a rematch should we ever match up again.
Well played Dean, you deserved the win! Congratulations, again!
I learned a lot over the weekend and met some fantastic people along the way. I am looking forward to playing in more large scale events and eventually winning the ever coveted Grand Clash Trophy.
Till then, it's back to the drawing board and playing in local events. I will also be prepping for Warhammer Fest in Coventry, England. Crossing the pond will be fun and I am looking forward to meeting many more wonderful people and playing some great games!