ROAD TRIP! Summer Smash 2020 was hosted by the Throw The Dice team in Geelong, less than a 2 hour drive and in the great State of Victoria. Rich and the guys have done a great job building up their scene over the last couple of years, so it was fantastic to see a really solid turnout of 38 on the day – no mean feat for a regional city.
There were a lot of sharks swimming around the top tables: by my count, you had at least five separate players who went 5-1 at Cancon 2020 last month; two members of the ETC team; and a host of other Masters-level players such as Joel McGrath and Pat Nevan from the Bush Radio podcast, and Smorgan from The Dwellers Below.
The pack included two instant win missions (Knife to the Heart and Blood and Glory) to separate the field, the tie breakers were bespoke Secondaries and Kill Points, and one quirk in the pack was that you could choose your spells each round, giving a welcome boost to those plucky underdogs Tzeentch.
My list was one of four Big Waaaghs at the event: I was originally looking at Rogue Idol builds along the lines of the “New Toys: Refined and Reloaded” list I featured in my Big Waaagh review, or the one that Dalton Copeland took to 4th overall at Cancon 2020.
The list I settled on contained some core elements of that style of army, but with a hard left turn to the redonkulous: you haven’t lived until you’ve ran 8 Big Stabbas backed up with a Waaagh Banner.
A lot of the familiar elements are there: the Megaboss on Foot with Brutish Cunning for access to Mighty Destroyers, 30 Arrow Boys for more output outside of the combat phase, and a block of 6 pigs as a mobile hammer. I’ve learned from the experience of Frank and Dalton by putting in a block of 30 Savage Orruks as a shield wall with a large volume of attacks – and even moreso with the Warboss.
Ahhh, the Warboss. You know what he buffs? Orruks. All of em. So that would be the entire army, then.
Gore Gruntas with an extra attack on both profiles and the Warchanter buff, doing 10x Damage 2 attacks per model. 30x Savage Orruks hitting on 2s with 4 attacks each at 2″ range. Big Stabbas with 4 attacks each…or more, if you hit that big red button and call the Big Waaagh too.
All with amazing core stats: hitting on 2s, wounding on 2s, rerolling 1s (thank you, Waaagh Banner!). Part of me just wanted to see what it would be like to run Big Stabbas under these circumstances, but after a couple of practice games, I fell hard.
The list does have some major flaws. Relative to the Rogue Idol build, you are losing a lot of durability in your key hammer unit: whereas Pebbles can tank out most shooting, facing a gunline with expensive models on a 6+ save and low bravery is absolutely chronic. After the smoke has cleared, Pebbles is still standing and has two chances to heal right back up from the Warchanter and Wardokk, but your Big Stabbas will run for the fucking hills as you shed a little green tear.
The list has less output in the Hero phase without a jacked up Wurggog Prophet, and you will miss that third lore spell and +1 to cast army wide from Pebbles. You are also chronically lacking in CPs without the Prophet crapping one out every other turn (hence the Brooch). My standard play with this army is to pump up the Waaagh points in Turn 1, then switch to calling Waaaghs from Turn 2 onwards since you should have already hit that crucial 20 Waaagh. That does leave you praying for a 5+ from the Brooch or Commanding terrain if you hit Battleshock troubles early on, however, which can necessitate holding back on the Waaagh at times.
But the list does have its upsides; it’s not strictly worse. Big Stabbas already put out a surreal volume of damage, and every Waaagh called gives them an extra 8 attacks at full strength. Their 3″ range is clutch for setting traps and hitting over screens: I know from experience that they can blast a unit of 20 Hearthguard off the board with one swing.
By setting the Ladz 2.5″ back from your frontline, you can sit in that pocket where you can hit your enemy, but they can’t hit back (aka “The Glory Hole”). This can allow you to actually get your attacks in against ASF units like Hermdar, giving you a tool that can turn a bad matchup good.
Similarly against Tzeentch, your Stabbas can be set back out of danger early on, but can quickly get back into the fray to start dishing out the pain. The sheer volume of damage output gives you a fighting chance to punch through 300 wounds of blocking Horrors. And if people are used to thinking that their Ethereal Big Thing is unkillable, they are in for a rude awakening when these guys swing. Even without their Rend -2, they are rolling tons of dice with superb hit and wound rolls, and D6 damage a pop.
All in all, I do think that Rogue Idol builds are probably still more powerful; but this army does have some good matchups that are very strong in the meta (potentially including the mirror). If you don’t face too many gunlines, you’ll be fine, but you have to acknowledge that that’s a big “if” the way the meta is currently moving.
The Games: Day One
Game 1: Michael Clarke, Hallowheart
Battleplan: Total Conquest
Michael is a fellow member of the Australian AOS ETC team, fresh from a 5-1 performance at Cancon and a 4-1 at BBBB before that. Michael has a highly mobile and aggressive Cities list, with a punishing magic phase, underpinned by two solid anvils in 30 Phoenix Guard and 30 Eternal Guard.
We were both 9 drops, and super keen to win that first roll off; neither of us wanted to get double turned by the other, so whoever won it was always going to put their opponent in first. I rolled a 5, Michael rolled a 6 and from that point on I needed to win every priority roll to have a good chance.
Spoiler alert: I did not win every priority roll.
Michael doubled me Turn 2 into Turn 3 and at that point, I was well and truly on the back foot. My mentality and strategy had to switch from trying to win the game and contest his Objectives, to standing firm on my own, and keeping it to a Minor.
Michael wins priority again Turn 3 into 4. By this stage we had one side that was heavily defended and under siege, while the opposite flank was more lightly defended but under less direct threat. My opponent needs to grab just one of them for one turn to seize the Major, but I’m not going down without a fight. Michael gets the Bridge up, ready to step across it and claim one of my two Objectives. Uh oh.
He follows it up with a chain lightening spell that kicks out Mortal Wounds to my main defensive block, and those Mortal Wounds then jump onto any other unit within 6” on a 4+, hopefully (from his point of view) to splash a few mortals onto my support Heroes. It does so, but also tags a unit of Ladz who are strung out, and you know what means don’t you? D6” move at the end of the phase, baby!
I push them laterally, directly towards my side of the Bridge, and manage to shut down any 9” bubbles that get within 6” of the Objective. Denied! I’m slowly getting my ass kicked on the other side of the table, but we’re still in it. Just.
My turn now, at the bottom of 4. Those boyz are too valuable to just leave nursing that Bridge, so I move them back towards the fray…but I also can’t leave the Bridge wide open. Time for a switcheroo. The Maniak Weirdnob casts Breath of Gorkamorka on himself, so he has a 24” flying move, and zips right across the other side to take their place blocking the teleport across the Bridge.
With an eye on the secondaries, I run my Megaboss out towards his lines, knowing that if I win a priority I can plough forward and smoke his Hurricanum to secure a good chunk of Kill Points and my secondary Objective.
Do I win a priority?
I do not win a priority.
But now is not the time to panic, for Mork has not forsaken us. Michael dispels his Bridge to get a better vector on my Objective…and flubs the cast! Praise be to Mork! So it’s all coming down to that last, final push on my home Objective. Brave, bold Megaboss Bamm Bamm, who was making a break for the Hurricanum, is swamped by Phoenix Guard and breathes his last.
After another round of magic and shooting chip away, we’re down to the last few Greenskinz. The Phoenix Guard can’t get there, but all Michael needs is a half-decent charge from his cavalry to nick my Objective…and he gets it. Done and dusted in the 5th Battleround.
Although it was clear from quite early on that Michael would win the game, everything else was up for grabs all the way through: it went right down to the wire in terms of a Major or Minor, and likewise for Kill Points and Secondaries, so it was a very engaging and exciting match. Michael is an absolute gentleman to play against, and it ended up as a well-deserved win for him.
Key learning point: I deployed very cautiously to zone out the Shadow Warriors, but that was disproportionate to their output. A single unit of Shadow Warriors isn’t actually that scary, especially if you can get your small Heroes in cover, so it’s probably not worth wasting your own output to counter them. Don’t let them get inside your head!
Big Stabbas scalps: White Battlemage on Luminark of Hysh
Game 2: Kyle Ward, Mawtribes
Battleplan: Knife to the Heart
What a sight this was to see on the tabletop! Kyle has an amazing army of Beastclaw Orcs, using heads from 40K Nobz. I know that Kyle beat my clubmate Joel McGrath at Cancon last month, so he’s nobody’s fool; both of our armies are mobile and hard-hitting, so this didn’t shape up to be a KTTH bore-draw.
Kyle’s list included 3 Stonehorns and an Eurlbad, but with an unusual twist: he also had two Scraplaunchers in their Battalion. Although they are usually not considered to be a strong competitive pick, their niche window of usefulness is against big units with bad armour saves. Guess what I was running? Big units with bad armour saves.
Kyle had built his army to generate a bucket load of CPs, so he was rerolling 1s for everything, all the time: his Ethereal Frostlord is saving on 3s rerolling 1s, and hitting on 3s rerolling 1s. I can confirm that the poor bugger is the King of Rolling Twos.
I deployed with my Savage Orruks tanking my home Objective, and the bulk of my army off to the side ready to move forward. Kyle had split his force to push forward with two Stonehorns and the Mournfang on the side where my fighting units were, and a lone Stonehorn heading for my Objective on the other flank. His home Objective was protected by a ring of 20 Gnoblars encircling the two artillery pieces.
Kyle’s artillery are pumping out 8 shots a turn hitting on 2s, but they only wound on 4s, which is proving difficult for the King of Rolling Twos. In fact, everything was going swimmingly for me: I had quite a nice moment where my Big Stabbas put 55 damage (55 fucking damage, mind you!) on an Ethereal Frostlord. The Arrow Boys were pinging away at his Mournfang who went down under the weight of dice, leaving my pigs clear to push on towards his base. They’ll get there next turn and blow up his Gnoblars, so all I need to do is win the priority for Round 3 and that’s game.
I do not win the priority for Round 3. Kyle’s lone Huskard on Stonehorn is making a push towards my lines, but that’s ok, right? I’ve got 60 wounds of Savage Orruks there.
Yeah…about that. His artillery finally decided to go mental, and did 14 wounds of damage in the shooting phase.
Suddenly, if his Stonehorn gets into my lines, he can blow up a big chunk of the unit and leave me with fewer than 10 models on the Objective, sealing the instant win. Now, it’s “only” a Huskard and not a Frostlord, so it’s probably going to come down to how Kyle rolls on those 6 big attacks hitting on 4s; but I’m in major fucking trouble here, don’t doubt it.
He needs to make a 6” charge, and he’s got about 7 CP in the bank…but as we all know, he can only reroll it once. He rolls a 4.
That’s ok, here comes the reroll.
Would you like to have a wild guess what the King of Rolling Twos rolled?
Two Twos, 2 and 2, 22.
Honestly, as exhilarating as it was for me, I was fucking crushed for the guy. He took it so, so well but it must have been absolutely debilitating. I looked it up afterwards and the chances of failing a 6” rerollable charge are about 8%, and for it to come up specifically with two 2s after the way he’d been rolling all day was such a fucking a slap in the face for him. Kudos to Kyle because he took it like a man.
So bottom of turn 3, my pigs stroll up the board, backhand his grots off the Objective and sealed the win.
I’m not gonna lie, I got away with one there.
Key learning point: I’m one of those people who generally needs to lose to an army to understand it. Even though I’m building a Stonehorn army myself, I hadn’t really trained myself yet to look at the table and see them as 10 models. I saw one big monster on one side, 60 wounds of green delight on the other, and thought I was fine. Yeah nah.
So repeat after me: Stonehorns count as 10 models. Stonehorns count as 10 models. STONEHORNS COUNT AS 10 MODELS!
Big Stabbas scalps: Frostlord on Stonehorn, Stonehorn Beastriders
Game 3: Pat Nevan, Mawtribes
Battleplan: Focal Points
This was more like it. Pat is a top player but he has been struggling to win games with his Ogors, labouring to a 2-4 record at Cancon. His mission to prove that Ironblasters are good has been aborted, so I didn’t get the pleasure of playing against his novelty gunline, but I was confident that my army could handle his. I took the +1 to Save spell in this one, and set up a classic phalanx: a big line of Savage Orruks for him to crash into, with shooting perched behind ready to bang away while my hammer units wait for their moment to pounce.
With the Savage Orruks potentially on a 3+ 6++ save, it was hard to see how Pat could come out on top in a “push your armies into the middle” encounter, and so it proved.
Pat did pull one nice move where he seemed to have his Ironguts blocked in by his Gnoblars; he’d left a full 1” (25.4mm) gap between the Ogors, and his 25mm bases slipped back between them to let that hammer unit progress forward untramelled.
The Savage Orruks soaked up whatever the fat lads could throw at them, then the Big Stabbas got around and in to them on my turn. Once the Ironguts had been ripped to shreds the game was beyond Pat’s reach. I rolled pretty hot throughout this game, and when I rolled these two armour saves against Pat’s rend -2 Tyrant attacks, that’s when he chucked in the towel:
Key learning point: Gluttons depend way too much on their buffs, which are themselves highly dicey. My own Mawtribes army will be more Stonehorn-focussed so it’s not an issue for me personally, but if you’re planning on playing Gutbusters you need to be ok with that swinginess, otherwise you’re in for a very frustrating time.
Big Stabbas scalps: 4 Ironguts, 4 Ironguts and 2 Leadbelchers all killed with one swing in combat (split attacks).
The Piss Up: Saturday night
I’d cracked open a few with Pat before, during and after our game, so I was relaxed and getting into the groove nice and early.
Michael Clarke generously hosted a barbecue / piss up at his (amazing) joint, open to all-comers: I’d say that at least 30 people rocked up, and mistakes were made.
The Games: Day Two
Game 4: Daniel Trotter, Hallowheart
Battleplan: Relocation Orb
Up against another Hallowheart army, but this time guest starring Gotrek! It was my first time lining up against the Wee Man, which was pretty exciting.
Dan outdropped me. To give Dan something extra to worry about, I deployed my pigs aggressively forward and outside of the phalanx so they could make a beeline for Dan’s lines. He put me in first.
I guessed that Dan’s intention was to use the Objective as bait, luring me forward only to brutalise me with magic and shooting. His army was stacked with damage spells, including a Hurricanum and both of the chain lightening style options, plus the usual dakka with bonuses to hit and wound. So I’m sure he’d be delighted if I could wander up into the centre and stand there obligingly in his shooting range, just a short stroll away from Gotrek who’s ready to step forward and smack me upsides the head.
Ok, let’s go. Warchanter buff on the pigs, Brutish Cunning move, normal move, BAM!
6 buffed pigs smash into his shield wall of 40 Freeguild Guard at the top of 1. 22 damage from the Orruks, 18 from the Gruntas and that is exactly 40 wounds delivered to his main scoring unit. See ya later! And now he has a dilemma: does he send Gotrek across to deal with them, which means his subsequent turn will be devoted to running him back into a relevant position? Or does he send Gotrek forward to fight for the objective and start blowing up my army, at the cost of leaving 30 wounds of angry bacon up in his face?
Daniel also has a secondary dilemma in that his 20 Crossbowmen are locked in combat with the pigs: he really wasn’t expecting me to one-shot his shield wall, so they were deployed right behind, meaning that I brought them into 3” when I charged. Does he stay in combat and shoot me up, or retreat and waste a round of shooting?
Dan sends Gotrek up the middle, and shoots up the pigs.
His magic is pretty effective and does what it does, but my army is one that can soak up a lot of D3 MWs. Dan focussed significant effort and resources into killing my two wizards, so the core Bonesplitterz troops will be almost completely unbuffed. Smart move.
When the smoke has cleared, there are three pigs left standing, who proceed to merrily slaughter the 20 crossbowmen in his combat phase; that’s 60 wounds of slaughter in the first Battleround alone, go pig wigs!
Dan wins the priority and takes it. His strategy is obviously to murderfuck me with Gotrek and worry about scoring 3 points per turn later. Another round of magic kills a pig or two, and is starting to chip into the Savage Orruks. Gotrek goes barrelling up the middle and proceeds to Fuck. Shit. Up. He smashes a heap of Savage Orruks off the table and that’s my shield wall gone. And although he can’t reach them to fight, his second pile in brings the Arrow Boys within 3”. Hmmm.
So now I’m the one with the dilemma. Do I stand and shoot with my unbuffed Arrow Boys, betting that I’ll kill him? If I leave the little bastard on one wound he will wipe a big chunk of the unit on my turn. Or do I retreat, and gamble on killing him with the Big Stabbas?
A quick mental calculation tells me to throw the kitchen sink at him. Arrow Boys will chip a few off purely with weight of dice, and the Big Stabbas are good against him even with their damage counting as 1. You’re still getting a lot of juice out them with a large volume of good hit roll, good wound roll attacks that puncture his first 4+ armour save quite effectively. You end up with a solid weight of dice going into that 3+ ignore.
And so it plays out. Gotrek already had 2 wounds on him from the Savage Orruks who fought in between his two swings; after the Arrow Boys attack, he’s up to 5 wounds taken; and the Big Stabbas put another 5 on him. That’s 10 wounds, which is more than enough to send him back to Grimnir.
I win the next priority, and now it’s my turn to take it despite the 3 points on offer for deferring. It’s well worth it though, because I am already ahead on Objectives, and in a position to step forward and delete the remnants of Dan’s army. It looked like a pretty emphatic win at that point, with most of my army still on the table, but if Gotrek had survived my onslaught I could have been in strife.
Key learning point: I really should have set up my Arrow Boys further back from the front line. The volume of Savage Orruks that went down to a double magic and shooting phase, and most of all to Gotrek, caught me out and let him tag the Arrow Boys with his second pile in. But there really was no reason for them to be close enough for that to happen; I should have perched them further back, and dared Gotrek to step forward and fight my Savage Orruks in the shade – and then forced him to charge away from the Objective if he wants to deal with my Dakka, instead of having the luxury of fighting on it.
Big Stabbas scalps: Gotrek, baby!
Game 5: Lachlan Clark, Archaon
Battleplan: Blood and Glory
Lachlan is a friend of mine and we’ve chatted Grots a fair bit over the last 12 months, but we’ve never actually rolled dice before. Our group from Kyneton took 4 people to the event, as did Lachie’s group from Ballarat (which is about 1 hour away from where we live), so we’ve been talking about having a clash of teams at some point in the near future. But for today, there was a podium at stake.
Lachlan is a gentleman and talked me through his list before the game with great clarity. Archaon in that build is pure filth, putting out a surreal amount of damage and near-impossible to kill. Can’t deal with him, can’t ignore him. Hmmm.
My strategy here was to play cautiously, feed Archie my Savage Orruks as slowly as possible, and run away from him whenever I can. Meanwhile shooting off whichever unit has the retributive damage buff, and wheeling my Gore Gruntas around as a mobile hammer, constantly skirmishing with Not Archaon and picking up Objectives.
That way I can engineer a good chance of holding 3 Objectives to secure the Minor, and if Lachlan fails to get his maximum buffs onto Archaon, it’s fucking showtime. Then and only then will I pounce and go for the jugular with my Stabbas.
Lachlan has Be’lakor because of course he does, so I know he’s writing down “Big Stabbas” on that little piece of paper, most likely in capital letters and underlined twice. I deploy with them tucked in the Glory Hole behind my front lines, so that if Archaon comes in turn 1, they get to swing back into him; they can’t be Be’lakored until my first Hero Phase. But by the same token, because they are positioned so prominently, it will draw out the Be’lakor shaft nice and early.
Lachlan goes for it, it’s on baby! Archie gets buffed out the wahzoo and teleports 9” away from me. Rolls his charge. Fails it. Rolls again. Fails again. Now a 9” rerollable charge is close to a coin flip, so it’s not unlucky as such that he failed it, but it’s also not a dumb move because Archaon is under no real threat when he’s exposed like that – not with Be’lakor around. The whole army ran forward, so there’s a good chance that Lachy already knows he has the priority for Turn 2.
In my Turn 1, Lachy is forced to apply Be’lakor to the Big Stabbas, otherwise they are ready to fly over the top of my screen and mulch Archie, buffs or no buffs. I ping my arrows into Archaon and do a few wounds, put a defensive buff on the Savage Orruks, develop the Ironjawz contingent out sideways, and clench. From his hyper aggressive move up the table, we both know Lachlan has the next priority.
And that’s when Mork intervenes. In Turn 2, he fails his buffs – all of them. Archaon is running on his naked warsrcoll.
“Erm…this has never happened before”.
Well it has now, lad.
Lachlan hits reverse gear and runs everything backwards. Presumably he knows I’m getting the double next turn….either that, or he’s trying to lure me forward with the biggest trap ever. If I bring the Stabbas out now, they will be on a long charge, and vulnerable to getting wrecked by the Varanguard if Lachlan has the next turn. So instead I move my wizards backwards out of unbind range, and move my army forward behind the screen ready to strike.
Lachlan lifts up the cup, and it’s a 1. Time for action. Let’s go Boyz!
I spend some Waaagh points to ram +2 to cast on both Wizards, and get the casts off with room to spare. The Pigs take the Warchanter buff, and double move down the table towards the heart of his army. The Stabbas make a beeline for the big fella, with a flying 10” move over my screen accompanied by run + charge. There’s nowhere to hide when the Green Tide is in full flow!
Watching 8 Big Stabbas put well over 40 wounds on Archaon (when we stopped counting) was sheer fucking poetry. The pigs smashed up Be’lakor, which was also wild overkill, but crucial in clinching the match because he was the one with the teleport spell. That shut down any avenue Lachlan might have had to stealing an instant win, so from that point onwards it was a matter of cleaning up his army and securing the Major.
Key Learning Point: As a major fan of the Priority Roll, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Archaon knowing who goes next and removing the excitement of the big roll off. In practice it was actually really interesting, knowing that he knows, and having that 1% doubt about whether he’s bluffing you with his actions. I wouldn’t want it to replace the Priority Roll entirely, but for a bit of variety, I certainly found it engaging to play against.
Big Stabbas scalps: Archaon, baby!
At this point we had Joel Graham’s Big Waaagh vs BOC on Table 1; Dalton Copeland’s Big Waaagh vs Changehost on Table 2; and my own Big Waaagh vs Archaon in this matchup on Table 3. Destruction vs Chaos right across the top tables and when all three of us won, it felt so fucking good!
Joel grabbed first overall and scooped Best Sports too, which is an amazing achievement. Dalton came second, and I joined him on the podium in 3rd place.
I was rapt for Joel and Dalton, and rapt to be a part of a real breakthrough tournament for Orruk Warclans. Come On You Boyz in Green!
I like Blood Angels, I like Space Wolves, and I really like Imperial Fists.
But you know what’s my favourite kind of Marine? A submarine.
I built this army to have a fighting chance against some of the big bads in the current meta: on paper, I believe it has tools to give a good account of itself against each of Tzeentch, OBR and Fyreslayers. I never ended up playing any of those armies (and got Hallowheart twice instead!), so I’m tempted to take the exact same build to my next event (SAGT in Adelaide) in a couple of weeks, and demonstrate whether it has the potential I believe it to have.
Thanks to Tricky Dicky and the TTD crew for a fantastic event. They are hosting a doubles event later in the year which should be good fun, so anyone who fancies the trip to Geelong for a friendly event in a licensed venue, I’d love to see you there.
I’m pencilling in a cheeky Stonehorns list for that one: Frostlord, Beastriders, Beastriders, done.
1 Hero, 2 Battleline and 1000 points on the nose!
Coming up next on the blog will be interviews with both Joel and Dalton, who finished first and second at this event, to round off the Summer Smash coverage.
I’d also love to do a “Power Picks and Coolest Lists” analysis for SAGT, but that will depend on the timing of lists being released for that one – so watch this space.
Until then – May Gork bring you strength, May Mork bring you wisdom.