Tzeentch, and the Current State of AOS

In their first set of events with their new book, Disciples of Tzeentch came blasting out the traps and won both Cancon and Heat 1 on the same weekend. A lot of high profile players have had the courage to stick their heads above the parapet and share their honest thoughts on that, including the writer of today’s guest article, Mike Wendel.

Michael Wendel – Republic of Ireland

Michael is one of Ireland’s most renowned and accomplished wargamers, and TO of the Irish GT. As well as being a regular on the Hero Phase podcast, Mike shot to global AOS fame by winning a GT with Gutbusters, an achievement that will echo through history. Not only did Gutbusters not have a Battletome, they didn’t even have a General’s Handbook allegiance kit!

There have been a lot of strong feelings circulating on social media regarding the game state of Age of Sigmar thanks to the release of Tzeentch, and its apparent power level. As a Tzeentch player myself, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this and Twitter wasn’t the right place to talk about it with the level of nuance it deserves.

I started a Tzeentch daemon force back during the inception of AoS, after having rage quit Warhammer entirely. I wanted to get back in but wasn’t sure about AoS, so I went with a force that could be played in both systems. After realising I wasn’t gelling with 40k, I focused on AoS: this is where me and the Changehost Battalion met and it was love at first sight.

We didn’t have the Split rule back then, so I played with a mixed bag of Screamers, Flamers, Horrors and characters. This was a lot of fun for a few months until other armies began to drop, and we got the first GHB, rendering that particular version of the army fairly useless.

Since then we got a new book and new GHBs, but in all that time my Screamers and Flamers have sat on the shelf, waiting for their time to shine. Then we got the most recent iteration of the book.

Excited and disappointed

At a high level I am both excited and disappointed about the book.

I was/am excited because the new book came back with a lot of diversity, something which I value highly in a book. There wasn’t a lone obvious subfaction pick, and units that have been sub-par performers for years have now surfaced as viable competitive options. As a man who owns every Warscroll in the Tzeentch book, this excited me.

I am also disappointed due to the glaring issue that is the power level of this book. Changehost is a big issue for a lot of players and I can understand why. It is a pity because I love this battalion so much. So the first issue is that the list I want to run regardless of rules has floated to the top and has gotten some less than desirable reactions from the community. The other reason is that the book has been written quite badly in that it needs a lot of clarification and FAQ clearing up. I am worried the book I paid money for will be nearly obsolete by the time the FAQ drops.

On one hand I love the book and on the other hand I don’t really want to play it at the moment. This is not the first time a book has dropped and completely shook up the meta (DoK, LoN, Skaven, FEC, HoS and OBR all spring to mind), but it’s seems that Tzeentch is getting the worst backlash. Personally I would like the book to be on level with the majority of other books that are out there (I would be happy with lower) or at least somewhere close, but the knee-jerk reactions people have on initial release need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

How to react to new books: a recipe for life

The first thing that needs to happen is for people to wait for the FAQ for this book before trying all the very janky combos and rules in the book. Some are obviously oversights and some are not, but what’s the point in taking advantage of these rules? The second (as much as it pains me to say this) is to allow some time for the meta to adapt (if it can). If the book is still an issue, then that is when change (pun intended) is required. That’s when we need constructive inputs emailed to the correct sources in a polite manner. Angry tweets are not going to get us any closer to what we need.

As a player of the army I would advocate for the book to be changed immediately and all the issues fixed, but even I know that’s an impossible task. A quick fix in the coming FAQ based on what people are calling for could lead to other issues that we aren’t aware of. We have to remember the butterfly effect when thinking of updates.

We also have to consider people outside of the competitive scene. Tournaments may be the leading source of information for these books, but the player base is far larger than that. That’s why suggestions like “remove Changehost”, “no teleports” or “don’t let Flamers in Changehost” are not the greatest of ideas.

Remembering why we’re here

I can appreciate that this is a hobby and people invest a lot of time in it. It’s not good to see people at events unhappy because of certain matchups that make the game not enjoyable. I know I am not fond of being the player of an army that people do not want to play against because it turns them off the game.

When I go to an event I go for the tactical gameplay, the back and forth with an opponent and the tension in the game. Yes, I want to win, but the journey is just as important to me as the destination.

This is why under the current rules the Tzeentch book doesn’t appeal to me. The lists I am coming out with land on either end of the spectrum. Changehost / Eternal Conflagration / Host Duplicitous is too powerful and doesn’t make for a game I would enjoy, while the Arcanite armies I want to play seem too weak and equally make for a game I won’t enjoy.

So I will probably end up using my Ogor Mawtribes or my Idoneth Deepkin at most events, to create enjoyable games for both me and my opponent. With that I want to highlight another problem though. People shouldn’t feel bad about taking certain armies to events. My opinion is if it’s available, you are well within your rights to take it, and nobody has the right to shame you for it.

Take whatever you want and be happy about it. Endeavor to play the best games of Warhammer you can, and forget about the negativity. Nobody can tell you how to do your hobby (just try be a good sport in every way).

Don’t get me wrong, when I go to a team event all bets are off, as it’s not just about me any more: it’s about my team, and I will play the filthiest of filth at my disposal with no hesitation and no regrets. This is what I would expect from most players at a team event. Having said that, team events are different by nature, as you can dictate matchups and mitigate some of these issues.

AOS as a growing system

Another perspective is that we have to consider the maturity of Age of Sigmar. If you think about it, the game is still in its infancy, and you could probably consider this system still in beta testing. We have had a massive string of releases over the past few years. The game has expanded beyond anyone’s belief. There has to be a point where these releases slow down, and maybe then there can be a real focus on balance.

Once we have all the pieces of the puzzle, only then can it be solved. We have Seraphon and Lumineth Realm Lords on the horizon, as well as the new Wrath of the Everchosen book about to be released, and we have no idea how these will shake up the meta.

The game currently runs on a bit of a Rock Paper Scissors engine. Some armies counter other armies and some are good against all-comers. Depending on the list you build will also decide how good a matchup is between two books. There are so many variables. At a certain point, after things have settled down, we could end up with an even spread of armies with good or bad matchups. A roster of armies that are mostly viable, and players need to account for the bad matchups when list writing, which may take the edge off their good matchups. With such a wide selection of Battletomes I would be surprised if this wasn’t the case a year from now, but I can’t predict the future.

Final thoughts

Whatever you may think of the game right now, just remember: the guys who create the rules, and everyone that helps; they’re only human. They are allowed to make mistakes. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have this amazing community built up the way it is today. So don’t be so quick to jump down someone’s throat about something. There are also much more important things going on in people’s lives these days such as family, work, illness etc. Let’s not lose sight of what’s truly important.

Thanks for reading.

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