Why even go to a tournament, if you don’t aim to win?

“Good luck on the weekend, I hope you win”

“Oh I won’t be winning, I haven’t taken that kind of list”

“So why are you even going to the tournament then?”

When my wife asked me that, I genuinely didn’t know how to answer.

Like a lot these things, I obviously had my reasons for it, but I hadn’t really thought them through explicitly. This post explores the question of why someone would knowingly take an underpowered army to a competitive event, and seeks to articulate the reasons for that in the context of the army I will be taking to BBBB this weekend.

First Things First

Before we launch into it, let’s get something straight:

If you take an underpowered list to a competitive event, that’s on you

There’s no sense or logic in list-shaming. It’s a competitive event. People are perfectly entitled to try and win as many games as they can, and to take the armies that give them the best chance of doing that.

Moaning about someone taking an OP list to a competitive event is just as bad as bringing the filth to a Saturday night beerhammer smash-up. A GT is an appropriate time and place for stretching what you can get out of a book. That’s not to say it’s the only type of list that is suitable for a GT – this article aims to explore exactly that subject in more detail – but it most certainly is fair game.

What are you looking to achieve?

So if you’re not going to a tournament to try and win it, why are you going at all? There are a few different potential motivations:

The social aspect

This is the thing I personally enjoy most about Age of Sigmar. AOS rightly has a reputation for having a great community, and I’m pretty much at the stage in life where my Warhammer friends are my friends.

I’m lucky enough to have a great group locally, and just as importantly, Doom and Darkness once made the point that the great thing about playing tournaments regularly is that he can turn up pretty much anywhere in Australia, and he has friends locally that he can engage with. That’s huge.

The social aspect alone has kept me in the hobby through times when I’ve been down on the direction of the game itself, and I know a lot of other people for whom this is the case.

Masters rankings points

For anyone chasing a Masters slot, they will have a rankings points target in mind, and an idea of what kind of result they need to achieve that. It may be the case that they are more interested in locking in a 4-1 result than shooting for the 5-0, because that will give them the points they need. So an army like Idoneth Deepkin, which is a consistent 4-1 army, might be prefereable over something riskier but with a higher chance of winning the thing.

In my own case I’m currently sitting in 15th spot in the rankings, and the top 16 qualify for an invitation to Masters. My current total includes one smaller score from an undersized event ready to drop out, so it wouldn’t be hard to bludgeon my way to a 4-1 result with a Kunnin Rukk and lock in a Masters invite. However I’m not available the weekend that Masters takes place, so it’s not a consideration for me – otherwise that may well have been my primary goal this weekend, and I’m sure it will be for some attendees. The race to Masters is a great motivation and sub-plot in the tournament year.

However I do currently hold the Bonesplitterz and Mixed Destruction icons in the rankings, and it would be a nice little goal to choose one of those armies, and hang on to that icon. So that’s a consideration in army selection too – it’s obviously not as big as winning a GT, but it can be a nice little achievement in its own right.

Your own mission statement

What do you actually want out of Warhammer? For some people, it is to win as many games as they can. If you’re not a regular tournament-goer, it might surprise you to know that these are a small sub-group of even competitive players.

I’ve really got no problem with that, as long as people are honest about it. Own the filth! Just spare me the old “I’ve always loved the models, no but I really have” bullshit. It’s really not a good look.

Let me give you a positive example. Tristan Smith recently won Badgacon with a DOK netlist, and he slapped down any attempts at list shaming by simply stating his goal: to win the majority of his games consistently. Taking a high-powered army and practicing with it relentlessly gives him the best chance of achieving that, and he has achieved his goals, so fair play to him.

Other players want the underdog win, and to explore how far they can take an off-meta army. They want the buzz of knowing that every victory is due to their own smart play and not leaning on the rules of their army.

These are the people I really admire: for me, Mike Wendel winning a GT with Gutbusters or Rob winning SCGT with Spiderfang will echo through history, long after another goober pushing FEC forward is forgotten.

Or to put it another way: I personally respect people who are honest about just wanting to win, but I admire people who find a way to win against the odds.

There is also a contrarian strain of thought, that seeks to analyze the meta and take the tools to break it. When everyone else steps left, they step right. With a fair tailwind and the right matchups their list can go far, but their primary goal is to take on a filth-chaser and piss on their bonfire.

My own mission statement is: To do as well as I can, with the armies I love.

I’m an orc guy, first and foremost, and I always run Destruction armies.

Not a lot of the time. Not most of the time. Always.

Competitively, I win over 70% of my games with armies that generally run at 40% to 50%, so in that sense I’m achieving my own goal. Having said that, I’d also be more than happy for Destruction to be back in the position of GH16 where they were right up there alongside Order and Chaos – if the new books are top tier, I’ll be delighted for the “To do as well as I can” part to mean regularly competing for podiums.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

People might run an army because it is going out of circulation: either completely deleted from the range, or gone in its current form and replaced by a new book. One more spin, for old times’ sake!

With the new Orruk Warclans book imminent, this would be my final chance to get a tournament out of the current rules for Bonesplitterz and Ironjawz.

I was expecting the Kunnin Rukk to disappear in its current form, so that was a factor, but also keen to run one of the Ironjawz big batallions before I expected them to become “free rules” with Clans. Either way, it ruled out Gloomspite or Ogors for this one.

What kind of games you like

The games I always look back on and remember are tactical games with ebb and flow, lots of movement, retreating onto objectives, big decisions and swings in momentum.

Lists that are designed to win as many games as possible can give you that. They can also give you complete non-events. Let me give you a couple of examples.

At SAGT in Adelaide this March, I took my Kunnin Rukk as an anti-meta choice: FEC and Skaven were all the rage. I played Mick Creighton from the Failed Charge podcast with his FEC, and we had an absolutely epic match. I held him to 8-8 on the scenario, he got the Minor on Kill points on his way to a 5-0 result, and we were both reeling after an absolute rollercoaster of emotion.

At the same event on Day 2, I played Andreas and his Skaven. Now Andreas is no scrub: he won a 60+ player event in Melbourne with his rats a couple of months later, and he was running a top tier army. I utterly annihilated him and he conceded at the end of the first Battleround.

Not because I played well, not because he played badly, but purely because these two armies created such a wild mismatch that what we played could scarcely be described as a game.

So if your goal is to enjoy a series of tactical games, bringing top tier armies to an event can give you amazing matches, or it can give you an utterly broken experience.

So let’s all bring fun armies! Yeah…it’s not as simple as that either. If you think you’re going to have fun getting smashed again and again and again, to the extent that you can barely interact in 3 or 4 out of your 5 games, by all means go ahead. But in my experience, there is nothing as bleak as bringing a “fun” army to a competitive AOS tournament.

The rules are ratcheted up to 11 and it is utterly punishing if you are off the pace. You might get lucky and have some great games against similar armies – especially by Day Two when the pairings have done their work – but you certainly can’t bank on it.

Whatever army you take, from hardcore to beerhammer, there will be a band of matchups that are close to auto win, and a band that are close to auto lose. Then you have that band in the middle where you have interesting, tactical games.

At some events in the past, my goal has been to make that first band as wide as possible and give myself the best chance possible of winning the most games I could. I won’t apologise for that because it’s a competitive event – but at this event coming up, that was not my goal.

A “fun” army makes that band at the bottom far too wide: best to save that for Friday night games with your mates, where you can both plan your armies in advance. My goal for this event was to make that middle band as wide as possible, so I could engage with as many opponents as possible, on as many Battleplans as possible, in a meaningful way.

I want to have the best chance possible of having five great games – bringing a soft army will not achieve that, and the army I have brought is not soft. It is a balanced army, not cutting edge but with a diverse toolkit, and I will be aiming to actually win games of Warhammer rather than choke the life out of them.

The List

So there ya go, 12 Big Stabbas! They will rip monsters to shreds, especially with the buffs stacked on them. In the Batallion and with the Wurggog Prophet’s Command Ability, I can get them piling in up to three times per turn, all fully buffed. They also contribute to Activation Wars in their own little way, through the Mutually Assured Destruction of Da Final Fling.

Boarboy Maniaks are another unit who can do a bit when buffed up, and whereas Savage Big Stabbas bring the heavy rend and mortal wounds, these guys bring the mobility and volume of attacks. Plus they look fucking hench on the table.

And to avoid the negative play experience of trying to fight a combat army when you have little foothold in Activation Wars, the Arrow Boys can bring the Dakka if needed. It’s not the full face-melting insanity of a Kunnin Rukk, but it is a useful tool within the army, and the Arrow Boys can also carry the buffs if required.

Probably the only bit of sneaky tech in the list is the Kunnin Beast Spirits spell. I think this one has largely flown under the radar, but it is dynamite in the current meta: it forces your opponents to reroll 6s to hit a given unit. Fling a unit out there, and just switch off all the crazy shit that happens on exploding 6s these days. Love it.

And that’s it! That’s Da Final Fling. Hopefully this army will give me and my opponents 5 good games, lock in the Bonesplitterz icon in the Australian Matched Play rankings, and give Battletome: Bonesplitterz the send-off it deserves.

Let me know your thoughts, and tell me if I’ve got it all wrong, either here on the Comments or hit me up on Twitter @PlasticCraic. Excelsior!

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