The culmination of another great year on the Aussie tournament scene, Masters brings together the best players in the country for an annual celebration to crown the king. Only 10 people are in attendance, but the quality of the field is sky-high so it will be a bloody good achievement for whoever goes on to win it.
Masters is based on the Australian Matched Play Rankings, which are maintained and hosted by Heralds of War: check it out here.
Realm Rules have largely been dropped by most events these days, so there’s no great surprise to see that they do not make the cut; Ardfist has been house-ruled to allow only one attempt, which I don’t personally agree with, but there you have it.
Masters this year will be playing random Scenarios, rolled for on the day, the exception being the first round which has been pre-drawn (after list submission).
A lot of people in attendance are personal friends, but I’ve made an honest effort to call it as I see it. We have 10 good players with 10 good lists; there is nowhere to hide and every victory will be earned the hard way.
The stage is set for a cracking event in Melbourne this weekend, and there are some really intriguing first round matchups, so let’s get into it!
Ash McEwan vs Tyler McDonald
Ash is coming at you hard with an anti-meta Devoted of Sigmar list. These guys are utterly punishing to Chaos, who make up 6 of the 9 opponents Ash will face, including Tyler.
Take a look at the War Altar warscroll if you’re not already familiar with it, and shed a tear for Tyler’s Bloodthirsters!
Tyler has a hyper-aggro Tyrants of Blood list, designed to quadruple-bang the Bloodthirsters one after the other, and leave you looking at the smoking ruins of what used to be your army.
The Ragged Cloak is a nice pick: this under-used artefact will protect his crucial D-Thirster from being shot at for a turn.
How it plays out
That’s the sound of a War Altar frying a Bloodthirster from 30” away.
Ash has built a really smart list that is high drop, but doesn’t care; he has plenty of chaff to screen from the Alpha strike if you go first, and the reach to punish you if you put him in the driving seat.
Between the Bridge, the Comet and the religious artillery, Ash can apply pressure to any part of your army from Turn 1 onwards.
He has predicted the meta down to a “T” and fair play to him: this one looks like a rough old matchup for Tyler on paper unfortunately.
I’m surely not the only one who would find it hilarious if Tyler blows up the Incantor with Mage Eater – but he’ll have to pull out something special to win here.
Dave Kerr vs Sam Morgan
Dave is the reigning back-to-back Master and has nothing left to prove. Running Ogors in a hyper-competitive field like this is a bold move, given the amount of Depravity you would bleed out to Slaanesh; however it looks like it has paid off, with only one such army to avoid.
This list is super-aggressive, ramming two Stonehorns down your throat and backing it up with a fucking devastating unit of 8 Ironguts. He’s even doubled down on this with aggro Mount Traits and Artefacts on both Stonehorns (Ethereal is for wimps!).
Sam has pulled out another one of his trademark, high-drop Order lists that grabs disparate units and puts them together into what looks like a “collection of models” army at first glance…until you see the name at the top of the PDF, and realise you should look again, because he’ll almost certainly podium with it!
There are a lot of strong units here, such as 10x Heathguard backed up by a Runelord and Runesmiter, Khinerai to steal your objectives and break your heart, Skinks to piss you right off and the classic Tenebrael Shard / Sword of Justice combo to assassinate your General. Unit after unit after unit either starts off the board or has movement jank, which makes it an absolute nightmare to deal with. And Gyrocopters are fucking busted and make anything similar in the game look shit for its points, so why not grab a couple of those too?
With reach, shooting, durability, chaff and loads of movement shenanigans, Sam has given himself all the tools he needs.
How it plays out
Dave is the aiming for the Three-Peat; who’d bet against him? At some point, you just know Sam will bring down his Khinerai, redeploy the Tree Revs and retreat the Skinks that just charged up to steal Dave’s home objective.
With the Hearthguard camped on one middle Objective, I can see Dave just ignoring that side, ploughing down the other flank and onto Sam’s home, and then it’s going to be really interesting to see what the Hearthguard do next.
Basic Ogors counting as two models for scoring is huge in this one, because it means 5 Khinerai can’t steal an Objective cheaply; they’ll effectively be outnumbered 6 to 5 by a basic unit, and they’re not winning that fight if they do engage.
This will be an absolute rollercoaster, but I’m backing The Master to edge a classic.
Joel McGrath vs Charles Black
Joel is bringing a slightly unusual Slaanesh build, in that he has taken multiple Chariots and 5x Battleline units. Those lawnmowers are a force to be reckoned with, and could play a huge part in the matchup.
Joel took Slaanesh to Masters last year in what was a true renegade move at the time: as a long-term disciple of the Dark Prince, he’s entitled to his moment in the sun, and with an expected nerf inbound in the next Big FAQ, this could be perfect timing for a strong tilt at the ultimate prize.
Chuck has had great success with his rats this year, most recently winning BBBB in Bendigo, and he is 2-0 up in the head to head with Joel.
Nobody wants to look across the table and see 80 Plague Monks standing there, and the suite of Endless Spells could have a huge impact on the game. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say again: Geminids is still a frikkin steal at 60 points!
How it plays out
Joel has the drop on him, so I’m tipping Joel to give Charles first turn and use the middle Objectives as bait. Those chariots and the Keeper will plough into whatever steps up to claim them, then push their way through, backed up by wave after wave of summoned units.
Being on for the double turn is super important for Slaanesh, so they don’t end up with their Heroes surrounded and a heap of Depravity left on the table; for that reason Charles can plan confidently around being given the first turn, but then his challenges are just beginning.
Those extra chaff units that Joel is starting with could come into their own as Gnawhole blockers early on, and casting the Bridge ain’t easy with the Epitome around. Charles may have to make his way past the middle the hard way, whereas Joel will constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to chain summon 30 Daemonettes into the backfield, and for that reason I’m backing Joel to get revenge on Charles in this one.
Jordan Burgess vs Mat Tyrrell
They’ve been around for all of five minutes, but we already know what OBR are all about! Matt is leaning into the abysmal internal balance in this book by running multiple blocks of Mortek Guard in Petrifex Elite, and who could blame him?
20-blocks of the foot troops are almost impossible to grind off, and therefore exponentially better than minimum-sized 10s. Mat has also resisted temptation to cut the Endless Spells, which is smart, because they are dramatically undercosted for their impact on the game.
Personally I’d have been a lot more afraid of this army if I was looking across the table at 2x Trebuchets rather than the Stalkers, but if there’s one thing Matt knows, it’s Death armies.
Jordan has been a Nurgle loyalist this year, and his army is visually fantastic: I’m not sure if there’s a Best Painted award at this event, but if there is, Jordan has to be bang in contention.
If you’ve played against 30x Plaguebearers before, you’ll know they take a bit of shifting! With a healthy body count, and a Blightcyst to do the heavy lifting, Jordan has built a really well-rounded army.
How it plays out
OBR does Nurgle better than Nurgle…WAY better than Nurgle. I have to give this one to Mat based on the relative power level of these two armies alone.
This is how I see it going down: Mat can’t get in front of the centre objectives to screen them off, so he lets Jordan go first, then steps forward to engage with them.
One unit of Mortek and the Stalkers clean up whatever side the Plague Monks are on, with the Stalkers positioned towards the middle so they can step across and clean up the Plaguebearers on the other side next.
At this point we’re coming up to the mid-point in the game and about level on the scenario, but Jordan is down to low model-count units who can’t score the objectives as they get slowly ground down, so Mat runs away with it on VPs from there.
Matt Campbell vs Rhys McGlinn
Matt is Khorne’s Chosen on the Australian scene, putting together a string of stunning successes with a Battletome that some lesser players have written off as uncompetitive.
Matt knows this army top to bottom and back to front, and he leans heavily into the Blood Tithe table as a finesse tool, putting units into unexpected positions and keeping his opponent on the back foot.
Thirsters for the killin’
Flesh Hounds for the cappin’
There is a theme in these list reviews that the top players in Australia got there by really knowing their army and getting the most out of it, rather than lurching from one flavour-of-the-month netlist to the next. Rhys is another shining example of that, having played the Dawi Zharr solidly for two seasons now.
This is a really balanced list, with Mortal Wounds at range from both his Battleline and the Magma Cannons, and a couple of solid anvils in the K’Daai and Skullcracker. And let me tell you, you underestimate the Bull Centaur at your peril, because that thing hits like a fucking train.
How it plays out
Of all the matchups, this is perhaps the one I’ve found hardest to call. If Rhys can get the Bridge past Khorne’s anti-magic, he can put his shooting units right where they need to be, and punch a fucking massive hole in Matt’s army. It could honestly come down to a few key dice rolls, specifically those casting rolls and the wildly variable Magma Cannon shooting.
If things go Matt’s way, I could see Rhys running out of bodies as the game progresses and Matt summons on chaff.
There’s a real chance Rhys blows Matt out of the water and wins in good style, but there is a fairly narrow pathway to walk for that to happen; more likely in my opinion is that Matt wins an absolute nail-biter, with some great stories coming out of it. Batreps please, gents!
Prediction: Matt to edge it
So there you have it! Let’s see how many I’ve called correctly, but more importantly, good luck and safe travels to all concerned.