So here's the final list I took to the Battle for Salvation, packet form I gave to my opponents:
And here's my psychic power and spawn tracker:
Here's the tournament packet, if you want to keep up w/ what the specific missions were:
As a general rule, my power rolling was to go all Biomancy on the Swarmlord and 3 Tervigons, then roll Telekinesis on the Zoanthropes until I got 2 iterations of Telekine Dome, and then immediately finish off with Biomancy on remaining Zoanthropes.
This worked out really well, and in every game I was able to get at least one telekine dome (2 in all but one game), and had plenty of instances of Endurance. Also, Swarmlord got Iron Arm in every single game, which was huge (but also more likely than not to happen over a small sample set), and the Tervigons GENERALLY got Iron Arm and/or Warp Speed, both of which were helpful.
I made a late change to the list to get Crushing Claws on the Tervigons, and this was one of the best things I could have done, turning them from Gaunt spawners and tarpits into genuine killing machines. There were a couple of times where I combined Warp Speed with Crushing Claws to throw 8-10 attacks on the charge w/ the Tervigons, and would often give Warp Speeded Tervis Preferred Enemy from Swarmlord.
Onto the quick recaps (very quick, sorry, some hazy and all that).
Round 1, against Tyranids:
His list was
2 x Dakka Flyrants
2 x 2-power Tervigons
2 x 20 Hormagaunts w/ Furious, Poison
2 x 10 Termagants
Doom of Malantai in a Pod
2 x 3 Hive Guard
This was actually a pretty bad match for me to start with, and would begin a theme for the event. It was also the kill point round, and my Zoanthropes were a prime target for this.
My opponent went first (this would be a theme for the event), and immediately started swooping up his Flyrants to get dakka on me. He shot at the unshielded Gargoyles where possible and killed a handful.
I started powering up, putting feel no pain and telekine dome on the Gargoyles, and Iron Arm'ing my Tervigons and Swarmlord in order to discourage him from putting key wounds on them early. I also was able to make babies without burning out anywhere. The Gargoyles ran forward, and I got off some shots on one of the Hive Tyrants, who I also Enfeebled a couple of times. He didn't drop, which was sad. Enfeebled to T4, if a Hive Tyrant is grounded and suffers a wound, he dies instantly (S9 grounded hit vs. T4).
I put Feel No Pain and Dome up on the gargoyles, and ran them forward. Their job was to bait forward the majority of his charges, and also put early threat on the Flyrants. I put Parasite in the middle of 30 gargoyles in the middle of the board, hoping he'd charge in with Hormagaunts/Termagants. I was not disappointed.
My opponent elected to send his Hive Tyrants swooping into my backfield to shoot Zoanthropes and put Shadow on my psychic choir. He also deep struck his Trygon Prime near one of my Tervigons. These were, IMO, both mistakes - he could have "hid" his swooprants in my Gargoyles, and been a real pain in the butt for me to properly dig out. He also could have dropped his Trygon Prime a fair bit back, and brought him up to support wherever I started making breaks in his line. He charged one of his Hormagaunt squads and one of his Termagant squads into my center Gargoyles w/ Parasite, but charged through cover to do it.
The Flyrants ganked one Zoanthrope squad entirely, and killed half another. The Trygon Prime wounded a Tervigon (Iron Arm kept me from suffering more than the one). The middle combat was messy for both of us ... the Gargoyles killed a lot of Termagants (working toward a kill point), while throwing a token # of attacks into the Hormagaunts and suffering the pain they were going to bring either way. Feel no pain kept my losses to about 10 models. Telekine Dome doesn't work in CC. Parasite killed 3 Termagants, and 2 failed their T tests. Unfortunately I didn't quite go gangbusters on the spawn roll, so I only generated about 6 Rippers outside the combat. Plenty to start with, but each Ripper squad is also a kill point, so that was a bit of a concern.
In my turn 2, I capitalized on his mistakes and surrounded each of the Swooping Tyrants with several spawned and starting Termagant squads, so that I would maximize my # of chances for him to fail a grounding test. I left both of them un-enfeebled, b/c I had shadow on my army. I spent the enfeeble casts I was able to get off on the Trygon Prime until he dropped to T5, which was sufficient for my purposes.
Both Flyrants took a few hits from each Terma unit and Tervigon that shot at them, and eventually both grounded. This left one with only a wound left by the time saves and grounding tests were taken into account, and the other with 3 wounds left, but near Swarmlord. I pushed forward with the unengaged Gargoyle squad to create an issue in his backfield and draw the attention of the other Hormagaunts, shot a few Termagants with them, and then focused on combat. One Tervigon charged the Trygon and one-shot him with Smash ... Enfeeble to T5 made him vulnerable to a single wound from the Tervigon. Since it had Iron Arm, his Trygon wasn't able to do any wounds to it either way, and Crushing Claws gave me +2, for 5 total attacks on the charge. I had poison and S10, so all I really needed was to get one hit through, and I got several through. Goodbye Trygon Prime.
Swarmlord poked his marginally wounded Flyrant to death, and a bunch of termagants near a Toxin Sacs tervigon took down his other Flyrant. The game was mop-up from here, with extended combats but no real doubt about the outcome. Eventually Swarmlord would maul a Hive Guard squad and both his Tervigons, though the Tervigons in part was b/c he saw the end of the game and just threw them forward for glory and lolz. One of my Tervigons also burned through the other Hive Guard Squad, which had been forced to throw itself into rippers to keep them from bludgeoning through the central Hormagaunt/Gargoyle combat (they throw a lot of attacks, those rippers do).
Game ended with a near-tabling; he had some hormagaunts stuck in a big combat, and 10 termagants that were off to a far side of the board.
Round 2, against Space Wolves:
His list was
Rune Priest w/ Jaws, Lightning
6 Squads of Drop Pod Wolf Guard w/ Cyclone Chainfirst terminator and double-tap meltas; a couple squads were larger, 7-8 man, and 4 of them were 5-model
1 Squad of Drop Pod Multi-Melta Long Fangs w/ a naked wolf guard attached as a buffer ... Logan went in this rather predictably
This game was odd. Both of us played a little slow, and we only went a couple of turns, but I scored close to 1900 points of his army. Gargoyles and Termagants pinned down and started punching his regular dudes to death; gargoyles and termagants also crossed board at the 3 squads he deployed regularly far away, and got into them / tore them down (telekine dome also helped gank several models from one squad by reflecting fire from other squads). Monstrous creatures including Swarmlord spent most of their time tearing through the Drop Pod wall. This was a major and quick victory ... he shut down basically all my powers with Njal, but my army excels at tearing infantry forces to pieces, especially small model count ones.
Round 3, against Eldar (my Loss):
His list was
2 x 9 Rangers
20 Dark Eldar Warriors w/ 2 Blasters, 2 Cannons, the Duke (3+ poison guy)
Aegis w/ Quad Gun
2 x 3 Guardian Jetbikes
5 Swooping Hawks w/ skyleap and grenade pack
10 warlocks on jetbikes w/ 7 destructor, enhance, embolden
4 power stones seer who swapped to Invisibility
2 power stones seer with fortune and doom
He deployed in a corner, and I promptly rushed up and pinned down 9 of his Rangers and his Jetbikes with Gargoyles and Termagants. On turn 1 I sent half the gargoyles on THAT mission, and the other half to go secure a quarter / objective. It was only after Turn 2 was underway that I realized I'd accidentally moved Parasite up with the objective/quarter grabbing squad. This was incredibly dumb of me, b/c it left the synapse I had controlling and maintaining the "pin" able to be shot down, which he promptly did. Parasite hiding in the combat would have secured it long enough, and would have cost me less synapse. I also should have thrown the other gargs over, and just secured objectives with Termagants, using the Gargs to go behind the screening jetseers once they were pile-in pulled to the other gargs. I simply was tired at this point, and my opponent did what you would expect ... rolled dice until he cleared the Gargs / Synapse, and then jetbiked around to control quarters/objectives. There wasn't a lot of tactical display by either of us, b/c it was just "you're pinned" coupled with "I'm shooting your monsters and zoanthropes with venom and snipers." My opponent, Matt DeFranza, is a rising player and excellent guy ... there's no taking away from either of us that the mission and match-up didn't engender itself toward a lot of skillful play. Runes of Warding kept me from really casting any powers, I did something monumentally absent-minded, and he did exactly what he had to when my mistake led to his list clearing out of "pinned" on Turn5.
I wound up as the top seed of Bracket 2 for Day 2, in a bracket that included 3 very capable Cold Steel Mercs - including US and former UK ETC member Alex Fennell (and NOVA 2012 Renaissance Man, NOVA invitational 2nd-to-one and Renaissance Man, yada yada), equally skilled Cold Steel teammate Sean Nayden.
Round 4, against Necron:
His list was
Destroyer Lord w/ scythe/sempiternal and Mindshackle
Court w/ Abyssal Staff, Veil, Lord w/ Mindshackle x 2
Deathmarks x 5
3 x Solo Tomb Spyders w/ Gloom Prisms
3 x Scarabs
2 x 6 Wraiths w/ various kit (read: some whips)
2 x 18 Warriors (lord went into each, and the veil went into one along with Zandrekh while Obyron went into the other)
This was kind of an odd ball game. It's one of the only games I found time to take a picture of, and I kinda just had to. His plan was rather obvious from the list comparison - shoot me shoot me, tie me down if he can with wraiths/scarabs, and then veil across the board to control my objectives / stay away from combat.
I pushed upfield with Swarmlord, Parasite, and the 2 Gargoyle Squads. I kept zoanthropes moving but out of much firepower range, just so I could keep dome and endurance up on the Gargoyle squads. The Gargs weathered several turns of fire from each warrior squad, but the 5++/5+ kept them alive. Eventually he charged in with Scarabs, Wraiths, Destroyer Lord against each squad in turn, but a combination of volume of attacks, Enfeeble, and eventually Swarmlord led to them all getting smacked down ... same for the Tomb Spyders (Swarmlord annihilates opposing monstrous creatures and mullti-wound critters of various sorts).
In my backfield, I covered almost every conceivable teleportation location with gaunts, leaving him nowhere to go.
He eventually did try to veil some warriors near to his other warriors, to try and clear at least one section of the board, but it was so congested that he ended up mis-happing there anyway. I promptly stuck him in the one open area I'd left (you can see it in the area of the picture slightly up and to the left from center), and Enfeebled the squad to T1 before shooting it and then charging it with a billion gaunts. This killed literally everything.
Game ended with the board controlled and everything well in hand. Up next, Sean Nayden, who'd just beaten up my buddy James' Orks. Ruh roh!
Round 5, against Sean Nayden's Dark Eldar/Eldar Circus of Pain or w/e the heck:
Sean's list is interesting, and is VERY good in his hands ... deceptively so in fact. Well, almost ... I kinda knew I was going to have to take it seriously, b/c Sean's a known force in NE and has beaten some serious competition using the list. After facing Shadows, Njal, Runes of Warding, Gloom Prisms ... I didn't want to face more psychic defense. But of course he had Eldrad, so more psychic defense here we go!
The HQ special character Haemonculus guy
8 Harlequins w/ Deathjester, Shadowseer, 5 or so kisses
7 Harlequins w/ Deathjester, Shadowseer, 5 or so kisses
2 squads of 5 Wracks w/ liquefiers
2 squads of 8 Wracks w/ liquefiers
2 squads of 3 Guardian Jetbikes
5 Razorwing Flocks and 3 Beastmasters
5 Razorwing Flocks and 3 Beastmasters
Eldrad took Telepathy and Divination, yielding Invisibility and Prescience, plus some other powers he didn't ever use.
This is a hard game to properly summarize. Effectively it was punch/counter-punch. Sean would reach out and smack one of my units with one of his, then I'd overwhelm it in return with one or several of mine. Almost all of his units were vulnerable to me throwing poison-buffed gaunts at them coupled w/ desperate casts of Enfeeble through Runes of Warding. This helped me largely blunt his attack on one flank with Invisible beastmaster squads and wracks / talos / etc. The gaunts kept his Talos from fully engaging (I assume), and I blunted the full impact of his Razorwings early by enfeebling a squad and subsequently forcing it to go to ground to avoid ID from termagant shots.
Gaunts also were able to shoot / charge to kill a couple of his big advancing wrack squads (the two smaller squads went to take backfield objectives).
He pummeled parasite's squad w/ a pair of guardian jetbike units and one of his Harlie units, and made a mistake early in not properly hiding his other Harlie unit at midfield. This resulted in using my second gargoyle squad to clear it, and late game I was able to mass-spam down his jetbikes and the harlies that beat up Parasite with termagant fire and the like.
Twenty four gargoyles at midfield coupled with a MAJOR mental error on Sean's part to force his big Grotesque/Eldrad/Haemoncudude squad to chase it down in midfield. This brought his unit into the "dead zone" and meant his last big surviving Quarters controller was stuck in an area where it didn't give any points, punching Gargoyles to death.
I found out on the bottom of my last turn why he did this - he mixed up missions. He'd beaten his previous opponent on the secondary - Quarters - and so made the mistaken assumption that Objectives (which he had won at this point, as I wasn't playing for it ... and as he simply had it won lol) was now the mission he had to win (you can understand how a tired brain would make this logic step). With time called and the last turn wrapping up, it was a simple matter of shuffling points for me to control the game.
This game also showed the issue I discovered with running my Tyranid army in a tournament setting - it takes too long. Combat is very lengthy in this game, with multiple pile-in moves and lots of rolling by both players. Sean and I both had combat armies full of models, so the game was very exhausting and time-consuming.
AT the end of 3, he had 4 harlies, 5 razorwings w/ 2 beastmasters, a wounded chronos and 2 Talos, plus the Grotesque/Eldrad unit. I had around 80 total termagants, Swarmlord, 3 Tervigons, and 6 Zoanthropes. It woulid have been a big ole messy battle if it kept going, though I have a hunch the nature of termagants vs. non-vehicle targets would have pushed things in my direction eventually (with Eldrad's invisible unit punching things all game and me trying to pin it down, simultaneously gaunts and tervigons clearing up taloses and razorwings and such and controlling objectives/ quarters). I didn't have an easy way to outright kill his grotesque unit, but I had a lot of models to pin it down with.
Either way, this one became an impossible game to figure out - I'd been playing for Quarters, and so wasn't overly worried about Objectives. Sean had been playing for Objectives, and so wasn't overly worried about Quarters. It was like we were both playing a totally different tournament, and both of us won the thing we were playing for. I just happened to be the one who remembered the mission correctly among two mentally exhausted opponents. Pre-game we had a fun stare-down, and until we got tired the game itself was a hoot full of hilarious commentary. My hat's off to Sean, and I was glad to sneak by him ... pre-game I said and meant - I really, really want to play you ... I don't want to play your army! I was sick and tired by then of not getting to cast any powers for 4/5 games, and having my offensive powers canceled on 4+'s in the last :)
Round 6, against Alex Fennell's Pink Necrons/Grey Knights:
Alex's list was:
Zandrekh, Catacomb Command Barge (that Obyron would steal)
Mindshackle Lord, Pulse Cryptek, Abyssal Staff Veiltek
Inquisitor w/ Psycannon/Terminator Armor
5 Immortals w/ Tesla Carbines, Nighit Scythe (Abyssal Staff veiltek went here)
5 Warriors (Pulestek went here and shot from a back objective)
10 Immortals w/ Gauss Blasters (Zandrekh, Obyron, Mindshackle Lord all went here)
5 Grey Knights w/ Psycannon
6 Wraiths w/ several Whips
2 Tomb Spyders w/ 1 Prism
2 Tomb Spyders w/ 1 Prism
Dreadknight w/ Heavy Incinerator
This game was a little wonky. I was exhausted, and made a lot of forgetful things that Alex generally let me correct (i.e., I just moved that unit here but kinda want this one model here, is that ok?) I did not go back phases or anything, but was a little embarrassed. Alex also forgot a thing or three (i.e., moving Obyron into position to attack the wrong unit), and we both were considerate about letting us takeback pretty much across the board.
Alex's list doesn't look as good as it is to passersby ... it's very effective, and he uses it correctly. My gameplan was to force him to commit his Dreadknight, Scarabs and Wraiths into my Gargoyles, and kill them via tarpitting and Enfeeble, freeing up gaunts and Tervigons and Swarmlord to cross the field and control the board. This ... more or less worked, though a little more painfully and close call than I really wanted. I also again made a mistake about which squad I put Parasite in, leaving him stuck dodging challenges in the squad that got assaulted by the Dreadknight.
Basically, Alex shot me when and where he could ... I protected myself with buffs ... I wound up stuck in the middle of the board in half-mindshackled, half-lord-challenged combat with Swarmlord vs. the 10 Gauss Blaster squad w/ Zandrekh and co unit. Iron Arm kept Swarmlord from instant deathing himself w/ the Bonesabres. If he hadn't rolled that power, it would have been a very quick game over I think.
Several things happened that were long odds late for both of us. At one point, gaunts charged Enfeebled Wraiths that were reduced to T2. They inflicted 12 wounds at S4. He made all 12 saves, and mowed down most of the gaunts in return (even reduced Wraiths are still S3 or S4).
At another point, a Tervigon made a 9" charge through cover to punch a Catacomb Command Barge to death. This was simultaneous with 9 gaunts barely making a charge into the Blaster Immortals that yanked Obyron out of the barge and back across the board. This was doubly useful, b/c it took a major threat to my backfield out of play for the time.
I also made a key charge to "hold up" the combat w/ the wraiths and scarabs with a unit of gaunts that got something like an 8 or 9 needed through cover. Not getting that charge off would have left a key backfield objective of mine contested at a very bad time.
I killed Obyron when he late-game charged into some gaunts simply with counter-attack / wounds, before he could swing. 8 gaunts managed to get him to fail 3 saves out of 5 or 6 tries (thank you poison aura from Tervigon buddy), preventing him from t hrowing 9 attacks back at them (cleaving counterblow), and punching thruogh combat at just the right time. Nevertheless, Obyron himself promptly stood back up several times.
At the end of the game, Alex perfectly blocked off an objective I NEEDED to contest, forcing a situation where a squad of gaunts basically needed to run 5" to contest it. They ran 5".
This was a close, interesting game ... when the game ended, there were a handful of gargoyles stuck in combat with two tomb spyders and the wounded Dreadknight near midfield. Swarmlord was locked in his eternal challenge/mindshackle-extended combat at the middle of the board with the blaster warrior squad, but a Crushing Claw Tervigon was getting ready to charge into the back, which probably would have led to the squad breaking (Iron Arm makes it hard for Necron to do anything to Swarmlord or Tervigons). I had one of his home objectives contested by a few gaunts, but those gaunts and nearby Zoanthropes were vulnerable to 5 immortals/abyssal + 5 knights/inquisitor.
Surviving models at game end in total =
10 Immortals w/ Blasters
Zandrekh, Shackle Lord
5 Immortals w/ Tesla
5 Grey Knights
Maybe 35-40 total gaunts
This was another game that didn't go its natural length due to a lot of models, a lot of combat, and two experienced players.
I feel very good overall about the Tyranids, and I feel great about Battle for Salvation. I wound up scoring well on painting all things considered, finished 2nd in Competitive Score and won Silver Bracket, and placed 3rd/4th Overall (Andrew would be 1st but he won for generalship).
I do feel the Tyranids are a little too combat and movement / run phase heavy to work for their size in a tournament setting. This is a little unfortunate, because I certainly stress-tested the build ... going up against some form of psychic defense in every game, and against the very BEST psychic defense in 4 of my games (Fast Shadows, Njal and 2 Runes of Warding).
I strongly disagree, quite provably, with accusations of Tyranids not being competitive. I also believe infantry deathstars are very questionable at high points investments.
Battle for Salvation was again a well run event. My heartfelt thanks go out to Ed, Danny, Bob, and all the guys who run the show up there for putting on an annually worthwhile adventure. I do feel I miss out on a lot of the socializing and fun I'd like when I play in these things, and always come out of an event wondering if I will move away from tournament play and more toward organizing / helping out as my preferred activity. I might have enjoyed judging / helping them out more than playing a backbreaking series of games with an army that moves and runs and combats far too much! :)
I will say the combination of the NOVA and BFS this year have me evaluating the notion of paint rubrics and scoring, and how to go about working with them in such a way that consistency is easier to achieve. Paint scoring is incredibly difficult as a subject, and I think it's also a subject not well addressed by those of us "in the trenches."
My biggest question orients around stepping back and asking ... what ARE you evaluating about an ARMY ... and what SHOULD you be evaluating? More on these sorts of things in future posts.
Thank you again, BFS ... and thanks to all the great opponents I faced, and the very cool people I got to once again hang out with.