After Action Report: Smite, Gors, and Plasma Oh My!

posted in: ATC, Dernicus | 1

Dernicus back in the seat after yet another awesome American Team Championship(ATC). For those unfamiliar, this is the largest annual team tournament in the US, where groups of 5 players pair off against one another as they vie for dominance in Cha-cha-Chattanooga Tennessee in early July. Each team can only have a single instance of any one codex and the pairing system puts “Defenders” down to choose from two opposing “Attackers” (lesser of two evils anyone?). In this way each team then breaks off to play five 1v1 games, the culmination of which leads to a win/loss/draw based on the overall points across the team. But enough of all those technicalities, lets talk about how yours truly faired in my six matches.

The Tools of War

This year I was fortunate enough to be at the head of The Men Who Stare At Ones, in so much that I got to do all the pairings and they had all the fun!

We’d already elected to bring a Drukhari list (which placed 38th out of some 400 competitors!), a Guard list, an Eldar list (which fought for best painted seen >>here<<), and a CSM/Daemons list, which left me looking at an interesting spread of possible lists. In the end we all agreed that The Thousand Son’s taking advantage of the recent “Big FAQ” and it’s alteration of Smite would be a great compliment to our current composition. To that effect I brewed until we made this monstrosity:

1k Son List

It breaks down to ten smites per turn. This is via as many characters ranging from Daemon Princes to humble Tzaangor Shaman. Just let that sink in if you will for a moment. If I could manage to roll a 5+ 10 times it would throw down 10d3-10d6 Mortal Wounds at 24″ range. Oh, and seven of the casters had another power available. Also don’t forget the 62 Tzaangors on the table with 2-3 Str 4, AP -1 attacks as well. Did I mention the THREE Daemon Princes yet? Yeah, they were there too. The list had a lot of drops, but with everything being either a squad of single wound troops (most with 5++ and T4) or characters most opponents had limited early targets. Later on they would have to deal with the concentrated Mortal Wounds coming their way, not to mention the waves of angry bird-beast-men.

Going into the event our intent was to use my list as a counter to hard hitting, but limited shots lists such as Shadowswords or Lascannon Devastators. Alternatively, elite armies that relied on high armor saves were my radar as well given the stupid amount of Mortal Wound damage output. Lastly, we considered my list a fall-guy as it could hide the majority of it’s damage for the first turn reliably. Lets take a look at how our plan panned out with a breakdown of each game/day.

Day 1

Round 1 vs Drukhari (Win)

In my first match up I found myself face to face with a swarm of Venoms, Ravagers, and Mandrakes. Add in several Razorwing Jet Fighters and a smattering of troops and you have the force I had to face. We played ITC Scenario 1, with 6 objectives pre-placed evenly over the board. Our bonus objective was to hold 5+ objectives at the end of a turn. I chose Death By A Thousand (HA!) Cuts, Recon, and Old School. My reasoning was, with his army full of small units/light transports I would be able to kill enough and still position around the board for Recon and perhaps the Bonus point (and Old School is a safety blanket). Against me the Dark Kin took Head Hunter, Reaper, and Recon; all of which made sense (and common against me at ATC).

He won the roll to both deploy 1st and go first. We played on my /favorite/*sarcasm* deployment: Vanguard Strike.

A quick aside, this is the only game where my psychic powers (all 18 of them) were not pre-generated due to a mistake on my part. Normally, I’d been pre-marking my powers to expedite pre-game/deployment, but it would play a major part in this game because of the time it took.

Back to the Breakdown

In his first turn Will screamed across the board, his Venoms and fliers part of the Kabal of the Flayed Skull Obsession. This gave him +3″ to movement and reroll 1s on poison weapons. To give myself credit I did deploy using terrain to minimize his target availability some. Regardless, the volley of splinter rifles that fired into my lines was staggering. Three troop units fell in the opening salvo, nearly leaving my forward characters exposed. However my retort was equally vicious. I launched my 30 man “Gor-bomb” into position at the end of his line of Venoms, threatening mid-board. My characters moved, with the remains of my troop screens, to unleash the powers of the warp on the demented space elves. When the dust cleared I had my Gor’s amidst the wreckage of 2 Venoms, the Jets either dead or nearly so, and more objectives in my control.

Another quick aside, I’ll simply say that had he not had a Kabal of the Black Heart detachment, giving access to Agents of Vect, this turn would have been much more bloody. I won’t spend much more time on this beyond saying he used it to stop Cycle of Slaughter. Check out our breakdown of the Stratagem to see exactly how it works. (note: for ATC it was ruled a Kabal of the Black Heart detachment was required to use the Stratagem).

We were only able to finish the following turn due to time running out (so many dice rolled in that first turn). To his credit, my opponent made to cripple my forces but the dice rolled heavily in my favor. In that single remaining turn he was not able to do quite enough. My turn was simply positioning for the end of our game (always play the mission) and what points i could manage. As early as the game ended as far as turns goes, I still eeked out a win, 11-10. Neither of us were particularly happy, but it is what it is. Had the game gone longer (hmm, seems I’ve heard that at ATC before) it would have been a different outcome.

Round 2 vs Thousand Sons/Tzeentch Daemons (Loss)

After many technical delays in pairings, we stood across the table from our sister team The Lords of War! We’d tested against one another for several weeks now and talked for hours on pairings and strategies. Our team had lamented playing our friends so early. Especially since we couldn’t deny their composition had an advantage over ours. Pairings were everything and I fell on the sword as it where. By taking out the other Thousand Son’s general in hopes that we could match up favorably elsewhere. His list differed from mine with Magnus the Red and a large contingent of Pink Horrors, though less characters. We played Scenario 2 (3 objectives, bonus holding opponents and the center), with a Spearhead deployment. I did win the roll to deploy first but failed to get first turn.

I took Reaper, Headhunter, and Kingslayer (naming Magnus) vs his Headhunter, Reaper, and Old School (sound familiar?).

Both of our first two turns were nearly identical, with only movement and nothing else. Each of us had the same threat range and neither wanted to step into the killing field to soon. I was the first to make a misplay when I held back my Gor-bomb instead of hurling it into one flank or another of his advancing Horrors. Without that pressure he was galvanized into sending Magnus directly into my lines to do what a Primarch does. The damn broke after that point when I was unable to clear the Red Daemon from my lines. My final unit fell at the bottom of turn 5, ending with a score of 12-32.

End of Day 1 recap

With a 1-1 record at the end of Day 1 I had a lot of room to improve for sure. The team score was 0-1-1 as the first round ended in a draw due to our mere 11 point lead. We rallied with some Tex-Mex and resolved to crush our day 2 and recoup our losses.

Day 2 : A Marathon Both Mental and Physical

Round 3 vs Guilliman Gunline + Sisters of Silence (Loss)

The first game of Day 2 pit me against a Guilliman Gunline using Whirlwinds and Relic Leviathan Dreadnoughts along with half a dozen squads of Sisters of Silence. One might assume that I wouldn’t want anything to do with the Emperor’s Handmaiden’s, and they’re correct. Or the thought would be I would avoid them had I not had the force of Tzaangors to deal with them. We squared off in Scenario 3 (4 objectives, holding all for the bonus), Hammer and Anvil Deployment. I took Big Game Hunter, Kingslayer (Guilliman), and Recon to his Old School, Reaper, and Death by a Thousand Cuts. I’m still not convinced on his choice of DBaTC over Head Hunter, but I wasn’t going to argue. I managed to take the first turn despite the Imperial’s +1 to the roll.

Now, I was able to soup up the Gor-bomb, rolling it against the lines of Null-maidens with the full fury of bestial savagery. However, not much else could happen thanks to those same Sisters. My first 3 turns were rather powerful, earning nearly all of my points in bloody combat. However, the sisters held, keeping the minions of Tzeentch at bay and allowing the Whirlwinds to rain fire on my midfield screens. On turn 4 my characters were forced to advance, in hopes that they could circumvent the Silent Sisterhood and Smite. While it worked to a point, it was not enough to bring low the rerolling Storm Cannons and Whirlwind Batteries. I was able to deny what points I could, but the game ended 21-22. It really was a great game, with plenty of back and forth all game.

Round 4 vs Triple Shadowswords (Win)

Quite a bit of controversy arose between round’s 3 and 4, which has been discussed to the ends of the internet. Along with that, technical delays continued from the day prior. However, despite all that, once the round began, paired with “Least Coast” out of VA, I was able to shine. One of the lists we’d looked at countering was a triple Shadowsword list of some variant. Our own version was used as a sledge hammer given the resilience of the super heavy tanks. My list brought no good targets and a lot of Mortal Wounds to ignore their toughness and armor. Ironically, the opposing team chose me over our Shadowsword list. I was able to chose the table and took full advantage of ITC’s LoS rules.

This was the repeat of Scenario 1 from the 1st day, on an Arrowhead Deployment. I deployed 1st but went 2nd thanks to the +1 he received for finishing well ahead of me. For Secondaries I took Big Game Hunter, Titan Slayer, and Recon vs Head Hunter, Old School, and Death By a Thousand Cuts. Afterwards, he confessed he was a bit ambitious as he’d been on a winning streak vs his Thousand Sons player. In my deployment I nearly lost the game as I failed to announce intent. Several of the buildings had crude openings, which I did not check beforehand. My opponent was able to target those units as they broke the plane of the buildings. It was a technicality, and I did argue at first. However, I saw my mistake and resolved to not let it happen again. Also, seeing this playstyle, I was going to give no ground to my opponent.

His opening salvo brought my Gor-bomb from 30 to a mere 9 models (saved by Insane Bravery) and another wiped out. My retort, was to never allow him to fire any of the tanks (save in Overwatch and once more due to a technicality) again. The now 9 man squad was moved forward into a building near two of the Titans, the rest well placed in buildings ahead of characters. From there it was an exercise in futility as Mortal Wounds tore through his tanks one after another. By turn 4 all that remained was a wounded Trojan in combat with a Daemon Prince when we shook hands. It ended with a resounding 32-10.

Round 5 vs Hellforged Dreads and Magnus (Loss)

This matchup was more than a little interesting, if frustrating after the fact. My opponent brought 2 Hellforged Daerodeo’s(sp?), 3 Hellforged Leviathan’s, and Magnus the Red. Basically everything had T8 and a 3+ save with multi-damage weapons abound. The low model-count made up for itself in some staggering firepower thanks to Butcher Cannon’s on every Dreadnought. Yet again I was able to choose the table and immediately took one with a large line of sight blocking piece. Our mission was a second play at Scenario 2 (3 objectives) along with Hammer and Anvil. He chose Headhunter, Reaper, and Old School to my Big Game Hunter, Recon, and Kingslayer (Magnus). He deployed first but I seized first turn.

My mission was to touch as many dreadnoughts for as long as possible. If I could bring my Smite’s to bear I had a solid chance to table this matchup. Early on we traded blows, with little to no unit’s lost on either side thanks to saves galore. I wrapped two dreads with my Gor-bomb; used the center LoS terrain to block out most return fire; trying to position as best as I could. All was going well until turn 3 when Magnus, who’d surged forward to break my lines, failed to die. I’d made the error in trying to both finish a wounded Dread and strike down Magnus, thinking 5-6 Smite and 2 Princes in CC would suffice. With 6 wounds remaining, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons showed me how wrong I was. Two turns later my last unit fell, ending in an 18-34 score.

Could I go back, I would have poured everything into Magnus and then broke out like a cancer of the Warp. Change goes both ways I suppose.

Day 2 conclusions

At the end of Day 2 “The Men Who Stare At Ones” sat at a score of 1-3-1. Spirits waxed and waned, but overall we all were having a good time. Ironically, the drama at the event gave us a diversion from the games themselves, though it did sap our stamina. Plans to go out on the town were abandoned for a good dinner and relaxing as much as we were able. With one more game to play we were as ready as could be expected.

Day 3, The Final Showdown

Round 6 vs Space Wolves Armor

For the last round, I squared up against a grizzled Space Wolf player out of Atlanta who brought two Sicarian variants, a Landraider, a Relic Leviathan, and Logan Grimnar. He was less than pleased, as his list suffered from Index rules. He was in good spirits for a game regardless, despite his record that weekend. Scenario 3 (4 objectives) on Vanguard Strike (again!) put us with a fair amount of LoS blocking terrain, but firelanes galore. I was not overly concerned, as my list was built to fight high toughness targets with limited shots. He took Headhunter, Reaper, and Old School to my Recon, Big Game Hunter, and Kingslayer(Logan). John both deployed first and went first, using his scouts to screen initially. He split his Sicarans to try and flank the terrain on me, while moving his screens forward against Deepstrike. To his doom, he did not account for the powers of Tzeentch and left his Sicaran exposed in it’s hunt for targets.

My first turn saw his long board edge pressured by a horde of Gors, while characters moved behind screens of cultists to unleash their powers into the wolves. I was able to wrap his Sicaran with the Gors, tearing it down to 3 wounds in the two fight phases (Cycle of Slaughter). With layers of screens before my characters and a large assault unit in his lines John dug in like any good Wolf player would. It did little good, and was mostly to keep the game going for us both. An almost untouched Gor-bomb was able to rip apart the Sicaran as well as wound the Landraider severely. The subsequent waves of Smite crippled what was left, eventually ending with a tabling on Turn 5. Overall the score ended 36-14.

Final Conclusions

Overall my score showed 3-3, with a player ranking 203. Our team finished 1-3-2, but only one of the 3 losses was particularly bad and the 2 draws could have been wins. I played 5 players I’d never met, which is always a small goal of mine as it’s a great thing about these events. While the list didn’t dominate, I feel a fair amount was due to my lack of practice. Had I practiced for a couple of weeks/months more I would have held a stronger game. As is, I did get quite a few compliments on the paint scheme. It was a ball to paint everything in the list as I don’t play such organic models typically. The army pushed me in both adaptation of play as well as the hobby aspect. I’m working to round out the list with a previously planned display board to match.

Concept Check:

Did the list work: short answer, Yes. I was a two pronged threat to nearly all of my opponents with psychics both buffing units and directly damaging my foes. I don’t see that more Cultists would have made my list better as the 5++ (or 4++ with a power) on the Gors was pivotal. Their damage output was also crucial in nearly every game. Plus who can argue with angry blue bird-beastmen? Smite-spam is not dead, but certainly isn’t as plug-and-chug as earlier in the edition. With layered threats and solid positioning, this list could do well in even a regular RTT/GT environment. In fact, I’ll be testing that statement at the Barnyard Brawl 2 in Greenville, SC. But the forces of Change are fickle and flow unpredictably.


A special shoutout to Shane, Chris, and all of the staff at ATC for managing to hold together another top notch event. Despite the difficulties, this is an event I look forward to every year and will continue to do so. Also, my fellow Men Who Stare at Ones, awesome showing and lets bring the pain next year!