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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

40k Master Series Interview #3 - West Coast Gamers Reecius & jy2

Hi all !!!

Black Blow Fly here with another very exciting interview.

This is the third in a series of five interviews I'm conducting to show case some of the top tournament gamers. I want to cover a really wide spectrum.

My second interview is a real treat as I am simultaneously covering two great gamers from northern California - Reecius and jy2. Both gamers have made some significant contributions to sixth edition and they both seem to have a knack for breaking new codices with the noted exception of Chaos Space Marines (in my opinion). We will have to wait and see what they come up for the new Dark Angels.

Here is some information regarding Reecius' store in case you'd like to check it out...

Frontline Gaming

Phone: (888) 781-5120 / (925) 231-0440
Fax: 866-571-5120 
700 Alhambra Ave Ste 704
Martinez, CA 94553

I have added some new questions to keep it interesting so this will be an extra long interview (obviously :p). This also marks my first interview that does not feature fellow members of my club and I think that's very important to keep this series heterogeneous. Finally I have added a couple of my own comments following their answers in regards to Chaos Space Marines (CSM).

I am a big fan of both their batreps - Reecius and crew at Frontline Gaming have come up with lots and lots of awesome video batreps while jy2 has really raised the standard for written batreps. I always look forward to each one and really appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating them.

Reecius and jy2 both have excellent online communication skills and are very positive while still very honest... Pure gold !

So let's go ahead and get started !

1) I'd first like to get your take on sixth edition and what it takes to win consistently with the new rules. Sixth edition has proved to be a big change in many ways - we've got allies, flyers, the double Force Organization and Forge World seems to finally be gaining some universal acceptance now. What is your take on this edition?

I hated it at first as I, like a lot of people, knee jerked at the changes. However, having played a LOT of games I can honestly say it is my favorite edition of the game yet. I genuinely enjoy this edition and while some of it I still dislike (random charge length, is so LAME!!!) but I can take the bad for all the good.

The key to winning in 6th is the same as it was for 5th.  You need balance in your army to be able to win consistently.  And when I say balance, I mean that your army needs to be able to handle all three phases of the game – Movement, Shooting and Assault.  It needs the mobility to reach objectives, to out-maneuver your opponent or to react to your opponent’s tactics.  It needs shooting because 6th is primarily a shooting edition.  And finally, you need some type of way to handle assault armies, whether it be assault elements of your own or what I refer to as anti-assault elements – screening units, tarpits, expendable units, troops in flyers, anything to trip up/delay enemy assault units. 

Now you don’t necessarily have to be good in all three phases in order to win games and honestly, most armies won’t be.  Purely shooty armies or pure assault armies can still have some success in this edition.  However, these “intentionally unbalanced” armies are more prone to the rock-paper-scissors syndrome.  They are more likely to beat face in certain matchups but lose badly in others.  In other words, they are more inconsistent and matchup-prone than a more balanced Take-All-Comer’s list.

Then you have the other elements that every balanced army should have – enough scoring units, redundancy, anti-tank/horde, a way to deal with flyers and the resiliency to survive an enemy alpha-strike.  If your list cannot handle any these elements, then it is not truly balanced and will have problems when it goes up against those types of lists (what we call its hard-counters).

To me, allies, double-FOC and Forgeworld are just secondary concerns.  If your army is balanced, then it should be able to take on the newer elements of 6th.  Allies do help some armies, but I’ve been running purely homogenous armies (sans allies) with much success.  Other than my Epidemius-Chaos Space Marines army, all my other armies do not use allies and they have been doing quite well.  My goal for doing this, besides the fact that I prefer pure armies, was to show that you can still succeed without having to rely on allies. 

- How do you feel about the use of double FOC and the inclusion of Forge World at major events?

I am fine with both!

As for Forgeworld, to me they are just like any other codex.  Yeah, they may have a few very good units but then again, what codex doesn’t?  My motto is - deal with it.  To me, running FW in your army is no different from an IG army running 3 Vendettas or the Grey Knights running 3 Dreadknights or a daemon army running 3 units of Flamers and 3 units of Screamers.

As for double-FOC’s, again I’ve got no problems with it.  If you use it to spam units, then you are just unbalancing your army.  Say for instance, you take 6 Annihilation Barges in a Necron army, then what happens when you go up against AV13-14 heavy armies like land raider-spam or Necron/Blood Angels AV13-spam?  If you run 6 Vendettas, then have fun playing against an Ork green tide list or a Typhus-Zombie build.  Double-FOC’s add some flexibility to your army but if you overdo it, you will actually be unbalancing your army.

- In regards to Forge World how do you go about properly preparing for these units?

We play with FW a lot, and always read the new books as we gobble up every bit of 40k we can get our hands on! So we typically are prepared for it when anything new comes out.

For me personally, I have most of the FW books and so have some type of familiarity with them.  However, I understand that the regular John probably doesn’t have access and perhaps even exposure to FW units.  That is definitely a bigger problem for them than it would be for me.  However, the underlying problem isn’t really their unfamiliarity with FW.  Rather, it is that their list isn’t really balanced.  Thus they are more likely to encounter a FW unit that is a hard-counter to their list.  For example, a list like a Necron pure flyer army may have problems against an IG army with 9 Sabre platforms.  However, if you were balance out that Necron army with a solid ground force as well (i.e. Wraiths and/or Scarab-farm), then you are hurt less when they take out some of your flyers.  Moreover, the army will have to focus on your ground forces as well, thus giving your flyers better survivability.

Personally, I’ve got no problems with them.  I actually encourage FW because I would like to see them more integrated into mainstream 40k – those models are just beautiful.  For FW, I do feel that you need to show your opponent their rules before each game.  Of course I have never played against anyone who has abused double-FOC yet, but my philosophy is that a balanced TAC army should be able to handle all opponents, FW or not.

But really, each TO should get a feel for the local meta.  Perhaps do “market research” to see how local players feel about it.  Because you need the participation of the locals in order to have a successful tournament, and running an event that turns them off is a recipe for failure.  On a national level – the bigger GT’s – you can perhaps post online in the various forums to gauge how people feel about them before deciding whether you want to integrate them into your tournament.  I suspect double-FOC’s won’t be as much of an issue because most tournaments currently are 1850 or below for logistical reasons.

2) Now let's talk about building a competitive army list... What's your criteria for selecting a race and how do you go about designing a new list?

I play armies I like aesthetically, or that Internet wisdom says are "bad." When designing a list I ask myself the following questions:

• How will this list deal with scoring lots of objectives?
• How will this list take on hordes of infantry, heavy infantry, fliers, AV14, light mech spam and deathstars?

If a list can do all of those things I feel like it is ready for tournament play. Outside of that I make lists that may be gimmicky or extreme (such as maximized firepower, or model count, etc.) but I find those armies get boring to play after awhile.

Honestly, don’t select your army based on what units they have or how powerful they are.  Select your army based on what type of army or play-style you like.  I think that is the best way of getting the most enjoyment out of this hobby.  Now it may well be that you enjoy a powerful army, but if you like a swarm list or if you like an army composed mainly of gretchin, whether it be competitive or not, then go for it.  To me, fun is #1.  The viability of the list in a competitive setting is secondary.  My Chaos army isn’t very balanced and I don’t think it will be winning any of the major tournaments, but personally to me, I find it very fun to play.  

When designing a list, nowadays I go for balance, especially in my competitive lists (though not necessarily so in my “fun” lists).  You need your army to be able to handle all 3 phases of the game, or at least 2 out of the 3 phases.  Your army needs to be able to deal with both mech and foot-lists.  It needs to be able to handle flyers - either with enough anti-air offense or the resiliency to survive a flyer army.  And it needs enough scoring units in the objective-heavy 6th Ed.

- What are your thoughts on  Internet meta lists versus lists specifically designed to beat them? Also how do you think sixth edition has affected the current meta?

6th edition blew the meta up in a big way... The game is an order of magnitude more complex than it was due to allies, double FOC, etc. As for the so called "net lists" and such that people make such a big huff about, it's 99% hype.

If you follow tournaments closely like we do, you see patterns. Good players win with lists they develop themselves over time and with practice. These lists then may BECOME "net lists" (which, ironically net pundits will look back on retrospectively and falsely say that the creator of the list only won because they used a net list, which amuses me to no end).

The point being, if you want a powerful army, trust your own ideas, build a list you like, that works in your local area and practice with it against a wide variety of armies - experience and knowledge is worth more than any list.

I  don’t like list-tailoring, however, there are anti-meta lists out there as well.  These are lists that anticipate the changing meta and take advantage of that.  An example would be a BBF’s army running dual Land Raiders.  This type of list exploits the fact that many players are running more foot lists and switching out their meltas for plasmas.  Another anti-meta list is my very own Typhus-zombie list.  That list composes primarily of either tough-to-kill T5/2+ models or cheap-expendable zombies.  This type of list laughs at most heavy weapons/special weapons or even assault armies.  Is it balanced?  No, but it usually throws off conventional lists because I don’t care about your high strength firepower and my resilient units will shrug off your small-arms fire.

Usually the Internet meta lists are really good because they are an amalgamation of ideals of what good lists should be from a lot of players, many who are seasoned players.  However, having a good list and using it properly are 2 things.  You could be like Jimmie Johnson behind the wheels of a Ferrari or you can be like grandmamma behind those same wheels.  Using an Internet meta list doesn’t mean you will auto-win your games.  It still takes skill to use them properly.

6th Edition has definitely shifted the meta back to infantry-based armies.  Consequently, most players are shifting their lists to be able to better deal with foot-lists as well.  People are swapping out their meltas for plasmas.  Leman Russes and Soul Grinders are coming back en vogue and Heldrakes are the new terrors in the skies.  The old meta used to be anti-tank.  The new meta currently is anti-infantry.

3) I'd like to hear your opinions regarding the new Chaos Space Marine codex... What do you like and what don't you like?

I was really let down with the book. I felt that Phil Kelly could have done so much more with it. Legion rules, moving the FOC around, etc. to really make the book so much more flexible and fun. What we got was an improvement over the last book (IMO) but not by much.

We have a lot of units that really lag behind, and some that are so incredibly good as to outshine everything else - Heldrakes, Oblits, Havocs, etc.

The troops are what really kill me as they are either too expensive for what you get, or too vulnerable to leadership. The troops also dictate your HQ choices, which is not fun either.

I think it is a good book from the point of view of being balanced and well crafted, but falls flat in the excitement zone for me. I read it and feel flat, with no desire to make an army. I think it can compete but that the competitive builds will largely look like every other competitive Chaos list.

I like the new CSM codex.  It may not be the most balanced codex, however, I feel that there is a lot of flavor to it.  There are a lot of useless units in the book but there are also many units that shine.  I admit that I’ve only been playing around with one build and haven’t taken the time to familiarize myself with the other cult builds, but I like the fact that there are many different play-styles and builds that can come from this codex.  

Stuff that I like:

•Some of the special characters
•Chaos Lords/Sorcerers
•Nurgle zombies and regular cultists
•Plague Marines
•Noise Marines
•Regular Chaos Marines
•Chaos Spawns
•Chaos Bikers

Stuff that I don’t like - daemon princes and most of the units not mentioned above.

I really like the new CSM codex and think it is one of Phil Kelly's better books. It's very balanced and there is nothing other than possibly the Heldrake that is broken. I hope this is a new trend that GW will stick as they release future codices. I think it will remain competitive over time which is very important since building a new army is a considerable investment in time, effort and money.

I am surprised not to see more people fielding squads of Chaos Space Marines as opposed to zombies and cultists, which for many seems to be the only troop choice they will field now. Chaos Space Marines are very good in many ways and have some considerable advantages compared to their Imperial counterparts. I suppose people don't want to field pricy units that can be swept in an assault but this can be addressed with good list building skills. Zombies and cultists are okay for holding objectives and controlling board space but they also can die quickly.

Finally I am also surprised more players aren't taking advantage of Chaos daemons as an ally - or using CSM as an ally for daemons. It seems like Imperial Guard are the go to choice as an ally for many armies. IG is really good but I think there are a lot of builds that have yet to be explored and can prove to actually be more competitive.

- What do you think is the strongest build?

Double or triple Dragon, MoN Oblits, Auto-Cannon Havocs, MoN Spawn, Typhus and Zombies.

Nurgle list with multiple Heldrakes (no more than 2).

- Can this codex take best general or overall at a major event?

Yes. But I think ANY Codex can in the right hands. Chaos lags behind a bit in firepower, and has limited build options for good troops, but they are powerful in what they do... Plus the Hell Turkey is just incredibly good.

Maybe on a very good day, but overall, it lacks the balance to beat a very good Necron army.  Then again, there are probably very good builds and allies with other armies (i.e. necrons or daemons) still waiting to be discovered.

4) So back to the new edition again... What do you feel has had the biggest impact on the game so far?

Allies was a stroke of genius. It opens the game up SO much for creative builds, themed armies and all kinds of fun. I love allies!

The changes to the shooting rules and the changes to the vehicle rules in my opinion have had the biggest impact in the game so far.  Not far behind that is the ability to take allies.

5) What are the armies you currently consider the top three tiered armies now and why do you think so?

i) Dark Eldar/Eldar - Right now, they have everything you need to win. I don't mean Harliestar specifically (although that is a powerful build, easily good enough to win a tournament), but the combo in general. You have incredibly good psychic powers that are reliable, tons of firepower, mobility, premiere assault, incredible psyker defense, protection from morale effects, great troops options, and a literal ton of combos in the book that open up the potential for flexibility in the face of differing conditions, and for cranking up the power of your units when and where you need it.

ii) Orks/Necrons - A great, highly synergistic combo. You have Orks that are amazing objective holders, board controllers, and good fighters while Necron units are really, really killy, mobile and resilient. This combo has been doing very well in tournaments and I think will consistently be performing well.

iii) Space Wolves/IG - All of the Marine/IG combos are solid, but this one works really well as Space Wolves get double HQs and more access to the psychic powers that mulitply unit effectiveness.

My top 3 are:

i)  Necrons – they have the best flyers and also a very solid ground game.  

ii) Orks – I really like orks in this edition, especially orks with allies.  Orks still give my competitive armies a lot of problems.  They may not be able to handle flyers well… But with 200+ orks, who cares.  Flyers won’t be able to do jack to them.

iii) Daemons – the new Flamers and Screamers have made this army ridiculously good.  They basically went from middle tier to tournament winners overnight.  They are the new standard and any quality tournament army better have the tools to deal with them.

- Also do you think there is a number one army? If so then which one and why?

No, player skill is more important.

Necrons.  They are just the most balanced army currently.  Being able to have troops on supersonic flying transports is just icing to the cake.

6) What are your opinions on the new Dark Angels codex? How would compare it to Chaos Space Marines?

Besides the rampant typos and errors, this is a great book! It gets me excited to play it, and that is what matters to me, most. I see a lot of different viable builds in it, and a lot of options for cool themed lists. Win. Plus, we've already seen it performing well at tournaments which is a good sign. I feel that it is a better book than Chaos because it allows for more flexibility and strong builds without shoe-horning you into a very narrow selection of units.

Honestly, I am not all too familiar with the new Dark Angels.  From a cursory glance, I would say it is a decent codex more on the level of Chaos Space Marines.  Only time will tell how good they really can be.

7) What is your favorite large event you attended and why was it?

I have to say the Bay Area Open as it is our flagship event! Hahaha, but I love Adepticon, too. There are so many good ones though, Comikaze is crazy as it is in a 40,000 person pop culture event, WargamesCon is awesome, too. It's hard to choose.  

I’ve only been to 1 large event so far – the Golden Throne GT.  I liked it a lot, though they could really improve on their terrain, which was pretty bad.  However, I plan to go to my 2nd large tournament in March – the Bay Area Open GT.  I am really looking forwards to this tournament and playing against some of the best players in the West Coast.

8) It's time to start wrapping it up now. What do you consider to be the most competitive format for tournaments and why do you think so?

Again, I have to say our event format (BAO style) as it is what we use. =) I would be a bit hypocritical to say anything else as then the next question would naturally be 'Why don't you use it as your events?' But as to why, it is simple (basically use 2 book missions at the same time), fair, balanced and easy for people to learn. We have a LOT of feedback on the format and it is nearly uniformly positive.

I really like a format with a Primary and Secondary objectives like the Bay Area Open.  It opens up multiple paths to victory and yet is very simple to understand and play.  I really don’t like some of the funky, custom missions that some of the other tournaments run.  Sometimes those missions are somewhat unbalancing.  One example is in a tournament where one of the mission objectives was to get your HQ to within 6” of the center of the table.  Well, between a company command squad and the Swarmlord with 2 guards, guess who has the better chance of winning that objective?

With regards to scoring, I prefer the straight Win-Loss with tiebreaker method over Battle Points.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense to me why an army with 2 massacres and 1 loss can rank higher than an army with 3 minor victories.  You’re talking about a 2-1 army placing higher than a 3-0 army?  Moreover, I think battle points encourages tabling your opponent to maximize points.  Yeah, why don’t you kick dirt in his face while he’s already down.  You’re already beating him pretty badly.  No need to humiliate him by wiping him off the board.

9) Finally what is the one most important thing to you in regards to 40k?

Have fun hanging out with your friends and playing the game we all love!

Have fun and as with all things, do it with a good attitude.  The thing that hurts the hobby the most is a player who is a sore loser or who just argues too much in a game.  He may be 1 in 100 but it’s that 1 bad apple that gives the hobby a negative vibe.  Losing isn’t the end of the world.  This hobby isn’t about getting stressed out.  Relax and have fun and the best way to do that is to have a good attitude.

If there is anything else you'd like to discuss then please feel free to talk about it now. Thanks so much for your time.

Be open minded in regards to the way other people play the game, enjoy the game the way you like to play it, and in general 40k isn't such serious business. =)

You’re very welcome!

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