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Monday, January 07, 2013

40k Masters Series Interview #1 • Paul Murphy, the Man of Iron

Hi all !!! Black Blow Fly here.

This is a series of five interviews I'll conduct show casing some of the top tournament gamers. I want to cover a wide spectrum and it's not all about army lists and tactics when you reach one of the top tables in a big tournament - sportsmanship and sincerity can be just as important.

My first interview is with Paul Murphy who is a fellow member of the 40k Wrecking Crew. Paul and I are both big fans of Blood Angels and I think that it one of the cornerstones of our friendship. Paul has won with Blood Angels at a GW GT and is on the 40kWC BoLS team that has won the American Team Championsip (ATC)  twice in a row which is no small feat. He is also a member of the 40kWC team that won the Adepticon team tournament which is another big feather in his cap. Note that Paul is the captain of both these teams.

Paul lives in the Atlanta area where 40k is in full swing.

So let's go ahead and get started!

1) Hi Paul. I hope you're enjoying your holiday break with family and friends. I'd first like to get your take on sixth edition and what it takes to win with the new rules. Sixth edition has proved to be a big change - we've got allies, flyers, the double Force Organization and Forgeworld seems to finally be gaining some universal acceptance now. What is your take on this edition? How do you feel about the use of double FOC and the inclusion of Forgeworld at major events? In regards to Forgeworld how do you go about properly preparing for these units?

6th edition as a whole is pretty good.  I do not think it is the ‘best’ edition but it certainly has a lot of elements from other great editions of the game all rolled into one system.  I don’t like allies but I do use them.  I think that the inclusion of allies will likely lead to a bit of lazy codex writing in the future.

I have a love hate relationship with Forge World.  I really like the detail of a lot of the models and I love playing with the extra vehicles and accessories.  My problems in the past with Forge World are that they seem to release rules for a lot of their more popular items too frequently.  For a while it was difficult to know if you were playing with the right version, the most up to date book or the most up to date update.  With the internet being what it is now maybe it won’t be so difficult but with the lack of availability of these books and updates to the general average player (meaning they can not casually walk into a game store and purchase the books and they are more expensive than an average book for the game so someone will likely have to want it for more than a casual read) it gives the guy who brings this stuff an even bigger advantage on tournament day.

Does that mean we shouldn’t use it?  No, but I do think GW needs to make a better effort to sell these books on game store shelves, their website and at least the larger mass media retailers.

Double Force Org is not the boogie man of this edition like everyone thinks it is.  You do have to worry about a small selection of people going way way over the top with spammy undercosted units but a lot of those combinations are cost and hobby time prohibitive.  It will take some time for the shell shock of DFO to wear off but we’ll see more of it in the future.  Do I personally like it?  Eh… maybe.  GW needs to do a better job of making the troop sections in every codex competitive and fun to take.  If this were the case there would be less of a need for Force Org Chart manipulation in general.

2) Okay so now let's talk about building a competitive army list... What's your criteria for selecting a race and how do you design a list? What are your thoughts on  Internet meta lists versus lists specifically designed to beat them?

I do spend a lot of time considering what is going on in the ‘meta.’  I have a good sense of what people play locally and I talk to a lot of my tournament circuit buddies on a regular basis to see what they are playing and other armies they face.  I try to prepare for what I might actually see on the table top and at the moment this does not always include Forge World.  To be honest anything with hull points or an AV of 13 or less is rarely an issue.

The internet forums are a dangerous place when it comes to designing lists.  There are many pitfalls.  If I were to give advice to anyone who looks to them for information on how to build armies it would be this:

Find an element of someone else’s list that you like playing with and then create something of your own around it.

Several of the army lists that I have posted over the years have been eaten alive on blogs or forums by ‘internet super geniuses’ and then I take these lists to major tournaments and do extremely well.  Is this because I am such a super awesome player that I can take a crappy list and win or am I a pretty good player with a pretty good list?  It is probably somewhere in the middle but the take away is that the trick with a lot of army lists is being so familiar with them through thinking about them, playing with them and modeling them that it almost becomes a part of you.  Being ultimately familiar with your lists prevents so many sloppy play mistakes like forgetting a special rule or an AP value or whatever.  That is critical to winning tournaments.

For me personally selecting a race comes down to a few things.  Do I like their established fluff?  Do they have cool looking figures?  Can they win on the table top?

It is basically in that order.  I collect several armies and my ‘pet project’ has always been Eldar.  Just because I collect armies does not mean that I will bring them out on tournament day.  At tournaments I am there to try and win and that is not always possible with a ‘hobby’ army when you are playing with 20+ other people who are also there to win.

The internet lists are fine.  People just need to be careful on who they take their advice from when it can lead to them spending hundreds of dollars on toys that won’t do what they expect them to do (IE: Win).  It is my experience that some of people who take these lists don’t put the time and effort into them that they should to actually win on any given Sunday.  If people find that it is easier to let someone like me do some of the exhaustive work or finding a list that works then I am 100% cool with it.  I love it when people come up to me and tell me that they are using some version of a list that I have posted or won with it.  Those people normally buy me a beer and that is doubly cool.

I am really good at designing take all comers list and I think that is where people should spend their time.  Trying to beat a specific list is a waste of time – to me – unless you are just playing one guy most of the time that takes that list.  If you are going to a tournament there are so many other factors to consider than just running up against the guys that brought the venom spam list – for example.

I don’t do my brewing in a vacuum either.  I come up with a list and then run it through the ringer with my buddies to get ideas for improvements to it.  There is no shame in that and being able to take advice is something everyone should be able to do.

3) Let's shift gears for a bit and discuss situations where you encounter a sticky situation regarding the rules... What's your advice on how to handle these types of awkward instances - what has worked best for you over the many years on the circuit?

Oh man.  This is a hard one.  Just call a judge and when you do already have the page open in the book that references what you are having the issue with.  I find that most people at tournaments are good people.  They are there for the same reason I am – they want to have fun and they want to try and win.  They are there because they care about the hobby and they have some sort of passion for the whole game in general.  They are not there to try and be jerks so when sticky situations arise they also want to try and find some middle ground that does not violate the principles of trying to have a good time.

Then there are a select few who do want to be jerks.  They are jerks in their daily life and they feel like sitting around playing toy soldiers gives them the avenue they need to unleash their jerky behaviors on the world.  This is terrible but thankfully these people are few and far between.  In my entire career of playing in national tournaments I have only encountered three or four people that I would ever consider seriously zeroing out their sportsmanship.  It is very important to mention again that these people are in the serious minority and that 99% of the people at these large events are there to just have a good time.

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

The obvious answer here is Flyers.  People have to at least consider them every single time they make a list even if their consideration is to consciously ignore them.  Allies would be a close second.  I think that a lot of thinking went into deciding who can ally with whom.  Unfortunately all codices are not created equal so we see a lot of redundant ally choices on the top tables.

5) What are the armies you currently consider the top three tiered armies now and why do you think so? Also do you think there is a number one army - if so then which one and why?

Imperial Guard is the best game winning army at the moment. This edition of the game made it even more complicated to win in assaults (with the disorderly charges, no ‘no retreat saves’ and being able to allocate all wounds to 2+ savers if they are in base) so shooting is stronger than it has ever been.  Guard have easy access to every single weapon type in the game in spades.  The problem?  It’s guard and not a lot of people like playing against them and to be honest once you have played 20 or 30 games with them they become less fun to play as well because most of your games are formulaic.  The only ‘joy’ from playing them on tournament day is winning the tournament and if you don’t win then you just had to grind it playing guard.

I love my IG though and I had a great time modeling and painting them.  I play Catachan and I did all the way back in 3rd edition when I got the figs because they were cheap and I used to try and take lower powered lists to tournaments and win.

The Daemon update gave them quite a bit of power so that immediately shot them back up near the top.

Other than that Necrons are near the top with their abundance of cheap flyers.

Forge World being allowed in more and more tournaments will help some lists hang tight with competent generals.

With allies and Forge World in the mix there really are no more ‘totally pants’ armies and that is a good thing.

6) What is your advice to players newer to the game that want to win big? We have talked about being totally committed to 40k - what does that mean to you?

For most people this is just a game and when you start giving them unsolicited advice they tune you out and dismiss your efforts because people just don’t like to be told how to play a game.  So step one – admit you would like some help.  Don’t think that the only reason you are not on table one is that the dice just didn’t go your way or that if so and so did not bring the ‘cheesy’ list that you wouldn’t have been knocked out of contention.  Good players find a way to compensate for both of these things in the grand scheme of things.

Guys love to talk about their hobbies.  If you really want to get better find someone who you think is better than you and just ask them what’s up. Dollars to doughnuts they will talk your ear off and never think negatively about you for it.  I love to sit around and talk 40k at events or through email or txt or whatever.

In most things he who is most committed wins.  I have found this to be categorically true.  If there is something you are passionate about and you ‘breath’ it on a daily basis you’re going to get better at it.  Will you always win or always achieve X goal? No – but you certainly will more often than if you didn’t immerse yourself in whatever it is you are shooting for.

7) How do you feel about the American ETC team? I am interested in your take on how players are selected and their most recent performance.

I think the guys that put together the ETC event itself are all about the spirit of competition and that is a good thing.  As far as the selection of how the American ETC team is put together I think that the goal of the selection process is noble.  It needs to appear fair and organized.

Ultimately this is not going to lead to a win for America due to the ‘random’ nature of a lot of the tournaments and what is required for the style of tournament that the ETC is.

To be completely honest there is such a small subsection of players here in the US who have the skill needed to win a large team tournament, that have the desire to go to the EU and that have the ability to get themselves there due to the cost.  I understand this has led to forming a small ‘core’ of ETC participants from the US and then allowing players to compete for a couple of other spots.  Is this fair?  Sure. They are operating on the same rules that all the other participating countries are.  The organization that puts together the ETC allows for the home country to decide how they select their teams.  The problem is that they allow the first guy who registers a team for a country complete control over that selection and apparently ‘who’ they can also select as their successor.  Why is this a problem?  America is just too big.  We can support multiple teams out of our small subsection of players willing and able to try to win the competition.

With that in mind there are several people who are completely capable and qualified to lead an ETC team and if the ETC commission is going to continue to hold such a tight control on the US participating then we as a country and team should start to rotate who the captain is for our (the US) team – allowing the captain to use whatever method he/she wants to select their team.

We have at least 3-5 people who are capable and have the desire to lead an international team to victory. (Yes, I am saying I am one of them. Yes, I think both captains to date are capable as well.)

About the teams most recent performance?  Eh, no one (and no team) will do well all of the time and since this is a dice game anything can happen.  Do I personally think the team was positioned to win this year? No, I do not, but that is just one man’s opinion.  The team historically does well and all my suggestions for how to improve have less to do with the current makeup of the team and more to do with what *I* think is needed to pull down win.

Leading a team like this is not easy and does require a large commitment.  My team has won the sister event, The ATC, twice in a row and members of my team have also won the Adepticon Team Tournament.  I have had the honor of being the captain of the teams for both events so I have a lot of respect for people who can corral the personality types of those who do have the ability to win these types of things.  It is not about managing anyone at all.  It is about making it easier for them to do their thing and being super stars on the tabletop. It also has to do with picking the right people who mesh with each other to overcome a lot of the little ticky-tacky things that come up when strong personalities get together.

8) It's time to wrap it up now. My last question touches on another subject we've discussed in length... What do you consider to be the most competitive format for tournaments and why do you think so?

We play a game with a lot of random factors like dice, missions written by fallible humans, matchups and other things.  For tournaments I have found that the most competitive events are the more traditional battle point style events. It allows for a more fair shake of the dips and dives that one can endure over the course of a six or more round tournament.

Do I hate win/loss style tournaments?  No.  I’ll play in any sort of tournament and I have historically done well in tournaments that use this style but I find it a lot less interesting. There is a huge difference in playing to win and playing not to lose.

Finally 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 and happy holidays this special time of the year.

Nah. I’m good.. Thanks for asking me to participate.

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