Leeds GT Tournament Report: For the Church
Before we begin...
I originally wasn't going to do a write up for this event. I wasn't going to do anything for it. If I'm honest with myself I didn't even want to go. Nephilim as a tournament pack has taken a lot of my enjoyment out of the game and has created a Prince and Pauper format (this with playable secondaries and those without) which has results in two approaches to the game. Firstly, if the faction you are playing has good secondaries, you try to play passively and just outscore your opponent. Secondly, if you don't have good secondaries, you try to alpha/beta strike your opponent so hard that they can't score their secondaries. This results in three possible combinations of games;
Passive v Passive: Fairly boring with limited interaction and no risk/reward (see game 5) often determined by who goes second and can score 12 primary on the last turn.
Passive v Aggressive: Fairly boring as if the passive player survives the aggression they will probably win. Comes down to a coin flip first/second turn and then dice rolling (see game 1).
Aggressive v Aggressive: Comes down to a coin flip first/second turn and who can strike harder and faster to get ahead.
None of these are particularly interesting matches to play as they're either over on turn 1 or 2, decided by turn 1 or 2, or are a three hour marathon. Combine these with some of the most egregious second turn scoring benefits (Tide of Conviction and Abandoned Sanctuaries) or some counter intuitive mission primaries (Abandoned Sanctuaries and Death and Zeal both actively encouraging you to not walk onto a point) and the madness of Priority Target which allows you score 45 primary without ever holding more than 2 objectives, and subsequently encouraging non-interaction or primary contesting plays; you end up with a fairly predictable but boring set of missions (in my limited and inexperienced opinion).
The lack of CP has also prevented much nuance within list building. There's so little CP that you can't reasonably build unique characters with warlord traits and relics which in turn homogenises lists resulting in lower in-faction diversity. Not being able to easily take multiple detachments to gain additional slots hurts a lot and again, lowering creativity and diversity. I appreciate the attempt to change things, but I am now of the opinion that Nachmund was an alright mission pack just the relative power of factions was out, whereas now the factions are closer together but their secondaries determine their strength which in some ways feels worse!
I was not in the best headspace going into this event.
I decided to return to the place that I call home and to seek guidance from the Church. For the uninitiated, this is the Sisters-of-Battle channel on the Tabletop Titans discord. When I wrote up my piece for the Goonhammer Open there was a lot of support and love for what I wrote so I posted the following late on Friday before the event started on Saturday morning,
Needless to say the response was a resounding 'yes' from the community and our wonderful community leader Sister Melody.
At the same time over in another discord, the following happened:
I'm a firm believer in building and supporting communities across everything I do, so I wanted to do what I could to help a new tournament player feel welcome and try to build a more inclusive wargaming community.
And so this blog/vlog hybrid came to be and I'm now sat waiting for 14 YouTube videos to upload to insert into this document! I am not well versed or skilled at any of this. I have no experience. I am doing all of this for the love of the communities I am within and want to see grow and flourish.
I will try to keep things short as these have a tendency to drag on a bit, but hopefully with the videos inserted along the way it'll break up my monotone voice! As a warning, I have not checked any of these videos and probably never will. I apologise for getting more and more gross as the weekend progressed. It was 33C and there was 200 people in the room.
Before we go into my experience, I just want to say a huge thank you to the UK Warhammer Tournaments team! I believe there was only two or three people looking after 200 players. It was incredibly well run, kept to time and was managed exceptionally well given the heat. The venue at The Edge was amazing (I remember attending archery tournaments here and coming second)!. The facilities were fantastic. A special thank you for walking round offering us ice lollies. It was far from necessary but was such a welcome treat mid way through the Saturday!
I will definitely be attending more events run by this organisation and I highly recommend anyone else to do the same. It was a welcoming environment for new and veteran tournament goers.
The Night Before...
I didn't really plan what I was going to record and when. I had just agreed to do a vlog so was a little lost as to what people would care about so I just pulled together some shorts on what I was taking to the event and what my army list was.
Basically my army list hasn't changed for six months since Goonhammer. The points changes allowed me to take some additional Zephyrim (going up to 8 from 6) and I dropped the Seraphim down to 5 as I was unlikely to take RND. I lost Beacon of Faith and Litanies of Faith due to the CP changes. I knew I wanted to start the game on 2CP (and preferably 3CP) for 1CP of potential outflanking affording me 2CP on turn 1 for a Fight on Death / Interrupt as needed.
I'll review the list at the end, but I have been happy with it. Depending how the metagame shakes out I'll need to change it going forward so expect a few changes here and there to be discussed.
Game 1 Abandoned Sanctuaries v Orks (second)
I briefly discussed this matchup with an Ork player and we agreed that my best secondaries on this mission and matchup were Defend the Shrine, Leap of Faith and Assassinate. My opponent had 7 characters and 6 of which were designed for combat, so if he was utilising them, he'd be giving me points back.
I deployed defensively, nominated my shrine on the right flank where he was weakest and screened my assets with Repentia in case of turn 1 charges (see below).
My opponent deployed 4 characters on my left flank and 2 on my right flank. I nominated the shrine on the right as it had less to fight against.
I crushed the right flank in two turns of combat with Zephyrim and Retributors shooting and then when the flank was no longer at risk I just started walking my Retributors into the middle of the board to score and shoot onto my right flank.
I mad some decent plays and move blocked characters with Novitiates, Rhinos and Repentia and just started outscoring my opponent. I actively tried to kill the warlord and the grots to limit his secondary scoring as much as possible.
Fairly textbook Sisters game.
One of my favourite moments of the weekend was at the start of my opponent's turn two, they said quite quietly,
I'm going to call a Waaagh. I'm not one of those Ork players.
By the way, these books were amazing! Thank you so much for preparing them!
Game 2 Data Scry Salvage v Thousand Suns (second)
My word this army was beautiful. I felt so bad putting my poorly painted models on the table across from this gorgeous army. The photos don't really do it justice as everything was so bright and beautiful!
I'm lucky to be able to play against Thousand Suns quite regularly so I know how they play and to watch out for. Previously I used to take the 5+ Deny against them and forgo Exploding 6s, but I've learned that just damage is better. Likewise, even though I have the "Immune to Psychic" litany, I never used it as I just wanted to delete the 30 Scarab Occult Terminators as fast as possible.
I played the game very cagey, knowing that I could take Defend the Shrine, Leap of Faith and Banners and just score a 97 without every interacting with my opponent (this should not be possible and needs to be fixed!). Abhor the Witch is often a trap and I stuck to my defensive playstyle and just waited.
My deployment was time consuming as I wanted to meticulously screen out his 9" teleports to prevent shooting turn 1. It meant I needed to CFtF a rhino into a weird spot to just stop him getting an angle, but it was well worth it as it just meant he played safe and stayed away from me.
My miracle dice were truly disgusting this game allowing me to make several 24" moves with Repentia. I had never done this before, but I Vahl buffed 8 Repentia and War Hymned them and used Savage Twist then sent them into 10 Scarab Occult Terminators. They died before rolling the 20 two damage saves. I felt pretty bad about my c100pt unit deleting his c400pt unit but that is the power of Sisters trading. We only have a 24" threat range but if you step into it then you're in trouble!
Midway through this game I had a random player walk up to me and say something along the follow lines,
Were you at Goonhammer? (yes) I heard about the "Spooky Sisters" and wanted to see them but I missed you there so I'm glad I could come see the army!
This absolutely made my day. The fact my poorly painted and averagely played army is gaining notoriety because I decided to so something a little different with the design is amazing.
This hobby is just amazing at times!
Speaking of amazing...
Game 3 Death and Zeal v Adepta Sororitas (second)
The third game on day 1 (and 2) is always a mess for time as it's the one where you have the least time to set up your terrain and get your army ready. It also means I didn't have time to record a video beforehand so did a recording at the end.
I have never played the mirror and my army was significantly worse in the mirror as I had 2x10 Retributors to my opponent's 2x5. I also had a Castigator. My opponent on the other hand had around 300 more points of just efficiency trading pieces such as Sacrescants and Zephyrim. I was not favoured in this matchup (although I had more experience with the army).
I chose Banners to my opponent choosing RND. We debated the logic behind it. He said me choosing Banners means all he has to do is deny me Banners and he wins. However when we scored it up, I scored 7 on Banners to his 8 on RND (which I could have potentially kept to a 4 with more planning). The upside on Banners is higher and if I had played better I could have easily scored 10. outscoring RND (on average).
This game came down going second and also two huge dice rolls that went against me (I lost).
I went second which meant my opponent needed to be aggressive (and he was). I also played too passively which hurt me. The dice rolls that went against me we 8 bolt pistols from Zephyrim with Vahl Rerolls (8 wounds) going into 5 Repentia. My opponent rolled 3 6++'s to save and then 3 5+++ FNP leaving 3 alive meaning I had to charge them and then die to Fight on Death on my shrine. I think any fewer than 3 alive and it isn't worth FoD. Dice were against me and it hurt. The second dice roll was my Seraphim double shooting into 9 Zephyrim not on cover. On average I should 28 flamer hits and then about 16 wounds and then about 5 should die, add in the bolt pistols I maybe get 5 to 6 dead severely neutering the unit. This didn't happen and I think 1 died total. Sometimes dice rolls hurt.
I should have done 2 things differently and I think I could have easily won the game.
Tiredness got the better of me.
Firstly, I respected hit shooting when I shouldn't have. I should have walked all my Repentia units and characters from behind the middle ruin and just flooded my shrine so he couldn't deny me banners or stand on it without facing a Fight on Death. This would have scored me 3 extra points from banners and not allow him to 4 me on secondary for 3 turns so we would have both been scoring 8s. Then I walk onto the middle, score a 12 at bottom of turn, winning by 7 points (with one turn of primary leeway in case he breaks through once). If I position my Castigator exactly 30.1" away from my opponent's Retributors then he can never shoot anything by T3 1W models so gains no value.
Secondly, I should have take +1 Advance and +1 Charge as my sacred rite. Movement is so important in this matchup and it can make or break your plays. Everything we have deletes Sisters just as easy as it deletes Space Marines (if not easier because we're 1W instead of 2W) so Exploding 6s doesn't add much whereas getting more distance is huge.
I learned a lot from this game and credit to my opponent, he outplayed me and deserved the win a lot more than I did. It was my game to lose and I did!
Finally, here's the insanity of this mission, neither of us ever walked out onto the centre objective the entire game. It held no value and just exposed assets and could be needed elsewhere. I don't think much needs to be changes, but it's just so weird not seeing anything go into the middle.
Pika clearly missed me and wanted some affection... until a point!
Game 4 Tide of Conviction v Custodes (first)
This mission (along with Abandoned Sanctuaries) can fuck right off. The bonus for going second is massive (potentially 8 for this mission and 5 for AS) and going first forces you to play an incredibly aggressive game to try and make up for that factor. I've played this mission a fair bit so know how to play it as Sisters. It doesn't mean I like it or enjoy it, but I have a clear strategy that seems to work and worked here once again! Also, this mission being a hold 2 hold 3 whilst also rewarding your opponent 2 for holding your objectives create several huge swing on primary that can make it unwinnable very quickly!
I wish my army could fit on a tray like this instead of needing two really useful boxes!
Custodes have pretty poor secondaries so he was forced to take Assassinate which is often a trap into Sisters. I gave him 3 on it but it scored me 2 at the end of the game and denied him 4 primary so it was a net swing in my favour.
I pushed hard on my left flank and just tried to keep his forces from being able to get near my home objectives. After a while his left flank (my right flank) crumpled and I was able to push his other home objective (see above Castigator).
I don't care what the lore says, but Morvenn Vahl had the first 3 damage Custodian Spear in the game and this time decided to use it to handily defeat Trajann (sp?). A fitting final dual only slightly impacted by my Fight Last Cannoness fighting before Trajann and giving me lost of extra chance to get damage through. A risky play but a worthwhile one.
Game 5 Priority Target (It has a real name but...) v Imperial Knights (first)
We're going to start with the insanity of this mission. If I stand on the two objectives near my deployment zone, I score 8 for 4 turns (32 total). If I hold my priority target I score 3 a turn (15 total). Overall I have scored 47 (caps at 45) and maxed primary without ever needing to walk anywhere else. I can let my opponent score 12s and it doesn't matter. I knew this going in and my intention was to take Shrine, Leap and Bring It Down allowing me to score 97 (the assumption being I was going to kill knights which just never seemed to happen...). I play a passive game, kill what is exposed and then just score points.
This relied on two things!
Firstly I needed to win the roll off to move my Priority Target (and likely "Shrine") objective into relatively safety to hold behind a ruin. This happened and I moved this objective first. Achievement unlocked, probably scoring maximum this game. Below I'll explain why this is so insanely good for Sisters. The astute among you will notice my Repentia Superior happily holding point 2 and completely visible to all the Knights. Classic Sisters nonsense at work!
What I hadn't appreciated was how insanely good the Imperial Knights secondaries are and that they would score a maximum of 98 passively, beating me by 1. I've never played the matchup, it's probably something I should have asked or checked, but I wasn't in contention to win or do well, so the pressure was off and I was just wanting to learn and have fun.
So I was losing by default and I hadn't done my correct score projection. If I had I would have played more aggressively to try and table the knights much quicker than I did. A fault on my part and something that I will try to fix going forward. I just need to become more disciplined and have a bit more stamina for the 2nd and 3rd games on long days.
I employed some classic Sisters nonsense in this game and it felt great. I should have done this in my game 3 as well but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I had a Repentia Superior stood on my objective (which was moved into the open). She was being granted 'Look Out Sir' by a couple of units that were behind terrain and a rhino. Similar was happening with MV and the Castigator. I has those 2 Crusaders you can see (and the swarm of Repentia you can't see) in the picture above closer to my opponent so my characters couldn't be shot at (feels weird, but that's Look Out Sir for you!). If somehow my opponent manages to kill all the units that grant Look Out Sir and then kills the character in shooting, I can then use Divine Intervention to stand them back up (hopefully not getting charged) and score my primary. It basically meant the whole ploy of "move the objective into the open" did nothing for them all game.
I won't lie though, the dice absolutely hated me this game!
My opponent shot with his lightning locks (with double exploding 6s) and rolled 7 6s from 10 dice or something. My Retributors were almost vaporised, but a pulling behind obscuring and a miracle kept them in the game.
My Repentia (buffed), my Retributors (buffed) and my Zephyrim (fully buffed) failed to kill an Armiger numerous times. The 4++ save combined with the -1Damage is absolutely brutal. Even when I only needed to roll a 5 on 2 MM damage dice to kill a Knight, I rolled a 4. As a result I only scored 10 on Bring It Down over the course of the game.
In hindsight, knowing what I know now, I should have played much more aggressively and flooded the middle of the board to stop him doing the action secondary which would have brought us closer in line. Similarly now that I know the scoring mechanisms for some of the knight secondaries, I'd play around them and try to deny points much harder than I did.
Someone was very happy to have me home after two days of being out. She clearly missed me as she just sat with me on the sofa for most of the evening. Although I did get a little bit of love and affection (whilst watching Prey)...
This is going to sound really stupid but everything did exactly what I wanted and performed exactly how I wanted. There was nothing that underperformed or that I felt didn't suit the list. There way nothing that I felt dramatically needed the change.
So why review the list?
Well my list (of note the 2x10 Retributors and the Castigator) are better into the wider field than the MSU lists. Being able to shoot 4 to 8 Multi Meltas for 3 to 5 times and activate 4 cherubs over the course of a game feels absolutely dirty. However, if there are to be more Sisters mirrors in the future then going MSU will likely yield better results. I am tempted to drop the Castigator down to a Rhino and a unit of Sacrescants for a cheeky CFtF play turn 1. I think just having more units could be better in certain metagames than in others. As we stand I'm not looking to change things, although might mix it up at a couple of RTTs I will attend over the next couple of months before my next big GT at Warhammer World in November.
Do Sisters need a nerf?
I don't think Sister's need a nerf, but I do think the faction secondaries pushed them from a decent faction to a Top 8 faction. I believe Necrons, Tyranids, Harlequins and Tau are at least on part if not better. I believe their raw data sheets and layered buffs are fine. Yes they can trade up, but they crumple like paper and have a fairly high skill requirement to pilot well.
What I'd like to see before GW drops the mighty hammer onto the faction I play is an attempt to rebalance the secondaries across all factions. Someone from the Tabletop Titan discord suggested something where if you take 1, it caps at 15, 2 at 12 each and 3 at 10 each, so the more you double down on faction secondaries the worse they become. I thought this was an elegant way to address the haves/have nots problem without needing to rewrite secondaries etc. I also think capping at 1 or 2 faction secondaries would help a bit as well.
What I do think needs to happen is there be more generic secondaries. There's a trend across the faction secondaries where there are a few that seem to be similar in design i.e. Long War and Shock Tactics which is also a mirror of 2 Abandoned Sanctuaries and Death and Zeal mission primary. Turn this into a generic secondary. Similarly there's like 3 different variants of Sacred Grounds. Some score 3, 4 or 5 and some can be actioned once or multiple times in a turn. Turn this into a generic one to compete with Banners. Banners is your "hold the line, stay safe" variant, RND is your "drop in and score" and you pay for it in list construction and <this one> is your "slow and methodical move forward" that scores the points immediately and then moves on to the next.
I'd also like to see an alternative to the Warpcraft secondary section that is now centred around characters doing actions or heroic things (as seem to be pushed by lots of faction secondaries). Make them mutually exclusive so you can't just have Psyker Characters do both. Have one about characters killing units and being heroic. Have another about them doing an action on a point. Have another about being in a table quarter or something. This would reward people who want to play hero hammer yet have a hard time doing so at present because almost everything else needs to non-characters.
I reckon if GW can get the secondaries a bit closer between the factions and then do some small tweaks to outliers (there aren't many, but I would suggest dropping Core from the Silent King as a start!) and give us back our free warlord trait and relic, the game would be in a pretty healthy spot. I'd really like to see some innovation in the missions that come in the January update as even though they changed a bit, it feels like we've been playing the same 9 missions for about two years now.
I finished 3-2. That was what I wanted to finished. I went 4-2 at Goonhammer and I think I'm at a place in the game where 2 losses is reasonable. Over the next year I'd like to work towards going to 1 loss per event, but given the nature of the metagame and the missions, sometimes you just get back matchups. I think if I played against almost any other faction than Imperial Knights/Necrons/Sisters round 5 (basically anyone without good secondaries) I could have gone 4-1 as I played the game tight, just couldn't outscore them.
I'm overall happy with my performance and the list. I might try a more MSU approach going forward to just get more assets and transports into the army. I would like to play with Celestine again but that's 200pts that could be something else(s). If you enjoy these write ups or vlogs, please reach out and let me know either through one of the discords or a comments section somewhere. It'll allow me to know it's worthwhile doing these for everyone!
Once again, a huge thank you to the Warhammer Tournaments. It was an incredible event and I look forward to going to more!