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Category: Predictions

A Priori

Philosophers have a fancy term for when something is so goddamn obvious that you can grasp it without actually experiencing it: a priori.  That the rules for allies contained in 6th edition 40k are incompatible with tournament play is knowledge that can be acquired without actually running tournaments with these rules.  It is a priori knowledge.  Allow me to make a few observations before I proceed. [Editor’s Note: Please note that this article is speculative in nature, and as such might not make as much sense once the new Edition arrives, which will bring with it some more balanced coverage as well. There are some additional editorial comments included in the rest of the article after the jump. Also remember, there should be a number of Errata and FAQ documents coming out that aren’t reflected in this article.]

[Grand High InquisiEditor Newbreed’s Note: I did not write the above editor’s note and do not agree with its views. I believe all 5th edition players should prepare for the imminent apocalyptic cluster-f*ck that awaits us. Those who claim otherwise are ardent GW loyalists whose views must be ignored by all right-thinking folk. Doom, I say, doom.]

1.  Competitive tournament gaming must, by definition, reward skill before luck and list.  This is called “balance.”  The extent to which balance was achieved in 5th edition was questionable–Tyranids were weak and Grey Knights were strong.  GW cares very little about competitive tournament gaming and we should not expect the rules to be written with this type of gaming in mind.  In other words, it is conceivable that GW would produce a rules set that is not conducive to tournament gaming. [Ed: GW have themselves said this before.] [Ed: The swine.]
2.  Fluff supports allies.  Haven’t we all read Warrior Coven by C.S. Goto?  No?  Then we simply aren’t operating on the level of mutual respect I assumed.

The Death Watch ally with the Eldar to defeat the Dark Eldar.  In a particularly touching scene the Eldar pay grudging respect to the psychic abilities of the Death Watch Librarian. There are many other examples of factions allying or, as the Eldar have done with orks, manipulating each other.  However, it’s not fluff that concerns us here, but if it did we would certainly point out that the Ally rules do not allow for the construction of a Genestealer cult Imperial Guard army–a sloppy, inexcusable omission.
3.  This is bald-faced money grab by Games Workshop.  Allies are a lazy, ill-conceived addition.  The expectation is that everyone will run out and buy a mini-army to use as allies.  Eldrad models will fly off the shelves.  It’s important to understand that from the rules writer’s perspective allies were included to sell stuff.  This was the imperative that spawned the rules for allies, not fluff, balance, or “cinematic” feel. [Ed: Do note that this does allow players to expand their collection with allies without the need to buy an entire new army, which is nice for your pocket, and from a customer relations view.] [Ed: He hits me because he loves me.] 
In theory each codex was written with game balance in mind.  [Ed: There is a comment from GW out there stating that each Codex is only meant to be internally balanced. Cookies if you can find it.] [Ed: Internally balanced is a meaningless term. The idea of balance suggests other codexes and an overarching game enviroment in which balance is judged.] This is a basic premise of game design.  Although it is Games Workshop and Mat Ward we’re talking about.  Nevertheless, there was some thought of it, however little and however lacking in play-testing.  The most obvious examples of this are the weaknesses of  specific codices vis-à-vis psychic powers: Tau, Orks, Dark Eldar, and Necrons.  Orks, of course, have no access to melta and limited long range anti-tank assets.  Imperial Guard have limited close-combat options but excel at dealing damage at range.  Yes allies will strengthen weak codices (e.g., Vulkan added to Sisters of Battle), but already strong codices will get stronger still.  Everything scales up but the strong codices scale higher.  The use of allies magnifies imbalances it does not redress them.  Tournament players (haters will call them WAAC) are already thinking up with the most potent combos.  What makes a potent combo?  Simply it is an addition that removes a structural weakness from a codex.  In the words of our very own Floody, he’ll be adding Mephiston to his Grey Knights army “because Meph is the bane of all the crap that hurts GKs.” [Ed: An important question here is: What is he removing from his list to make this room? He can’t simply be adding on the guts of 400 points to his existing list.] [Ed: It’s  literally the very next thing he writes. Just keep reading. He also has to add those just oh-so-awful and not at all buffed jump infantry.]
Let’s consider the objection, “Allied additions aren’t free–you gain something but at the cost of something else.”  This is a weak argument and we don’t need to let it detain us for very long.  When our Grey Knight players adds Mephiston for 250 points what does he gain and what does he lose?  He loses, roughly, a psyfleman and two strike squads.  What does he gain?  A Blood Angels troop unit and Mephiston: a psychic hood on an eternal warrior HQ that flies around the table killing things.  This leaves the psycannons to do what they do best: remain stationary in the center of the table churning out mass amounts of 24″ range shooting. 
Contrary to popular belief the use of allies will not increase the diversity of armies at tournaments.  Armies with limited options for allies will be completely absent unless the fickle finger of fate grants them some type of super-combo.  And Tyranids?  Don’t worry about them, they left the building when they heard cover-saves are now 5+.  The most competitive combos will be mandatory.  I suspect it will shake down to about six to eight combos.  Now it’s early days yet and the GK/Mephiston combo may not be the most broken synergy out there (but I’m inclined to trust young Floody’s intuition).  I’m even willing to grant that the combination of allies and new rules may put an older codex out on top.  This is an important point.  Rest assured, however, that whichever codices benefit most, will do so in a spectacular way. 
Significantly, those who don’t take allies will be punished the most on the tournament table.  Perhaps your ideas of allies is to have an ork army with Blood Axes and the Bad Suns working together in a grand waaagh!  Sure you’ll get an expanded FOC, but you better avail your sorry ass of some obliterators instead or else expect to go 0 and 5 over the weekend.
Allies will see use in a few tournaments this year, but when the ETC bans their use Irish tournament organizers will follow.  Pure 6th edition being played on a tournament table in Ireland will be a rarer sight than a corncrake.  
Now, let’s discuss the new terrain rules.  Mysterious Forest anyone?
[Ed: And that’s a very pessimistic look at the new Edition folks. Stay tuned to get some more balanced coverage this weekend when the product actually launches.]
[Grand High InquisiEditor Newbreed’s Note: All is doomed. Warhammer Fantasy levels of doomed.]

ETC Army Predictions

The Irish 40k team for the Border Shield and Six Nations teams have been announced. It’s exactly the team I would have chosen and represents the absolute best available. I assume the Nordies are suitably terrified by this year’s dream team.

1. Mike Tangney
2. Paul Quigley
3. Richard Flood
4. Jannick Rottgen
5. Alec Cornelius
6. Dan Ahern
7. Philip Johnston
8. Peter Scott

It is said that one should prepare to fight the next war, not the last war. Bollix to that. 
By looking carefully at the last war, you see how to win the next one. So, what should they bring? It’s pretty easy. Let’s look at the highest scoring lists from last year’s ETC.

Army Games Points/army AVG points/battle
Grey Knights 119 1329 11.1681
Witch Hunters 30 335 11.1667
Tau 6 66 11.0000
Dark Eldar 70 730 10.4286
Black Templars 46 473 10.2826
Eldar 83 842 10.1446
Blood Angels 130 1315 10.1154
Space Wolves 142 1436 10.1127
Chaos Space Marines 95 957 10.0737
Orks 131 1295 9.8855
Chaos Daemons 30 290 9.6667
Imperial Guard 130 1196 9.2000
Tyranids 66 590 8.9394
Space Marines 52 456 8.7692
Necrons 6 52 8.6667

Immediately, I strip out the Tau and Witch-hunters. The former are too small a sample, the latter no longer exist. This gives us seven codexes running ahead of the win-loss curve. I pick all of them.

There are five power armoured armies, Grey Knights, Black Templars, Blood Angels, Space Wolves and Chaos Space Marines. Both types of Eldar are in, Dark and Regular. That leaves one space which we all know has to be given to the Necrons.

With that list, we turn to the players. We’ve got six codexes which have obvious matches. Each of the below is the best in the country with their army and their armies are on the list. Let’s divide them out.

Necrons: Paul
Grey Knights: Floody
Eldar: Jannick
Dark Eldar: Alec
Space Wolves: Phil
Chaos: Peter

That leaves two players without armies and two armies to assign. Both Dan and Mike are strong players who have successfully played several codexes so this isn’t likely to prove difficult. I’d give Mike the Templars and Dan the Angels. No real reason for it apart from a sneaking suspicion that Dan has access to a Blood Angels army in Cork and the DGG have at least two or three Templar armies knocking about the club.

Black Templars: Mike
Blood Angels: Dan

We won’t be going into any detail as to the likely composition of those armies. But I suspect that the tournament veterans amongst us already have a few ideas. They might also wonder at the inclusion of the Dark Eldar, a codex which is proving a mite vulnerable of late. I’m including it on the assumption that it’s used as an early attacking list.

The team will also need Imperial Guard (Leafblower) and Eldar (Footdar) counter lists. Dark Eldar can deal with the latter, very well. I also suspect that we can find a Necron build that would make the Guard cry.

(Credit to http://etc2011-results.iis.cz/index.php for the stats.)

Who’s Who: ETC Wild Card Predictions

(Click on images for larger versions of charts.)

With the season approaching its end, all WAAC eyes turn to the ETC selection process. This year’s captain faces the prospect of choosing four players from the tournament scene to join the three automatic qualifiers. As noted in our ETC review last summer, in-tournament pairings, overall list choices and player skill are the three key elements of a strong ETC performance. We cannot yet shed light on the first two factors but I think we can examine the latter. Can we identity the strongest contenders for wildcard slots, when considering only their results in the run-up to selection?

Before I continue, a disclaimer, there’s always a danger when you comment on a process that is still underway. I should state that I’m not involved in team selection for the 40k ETC team in any way, this post is merely an off-shoot of all my previous posts on documenting actual (as opposed to rumoured) trends in the tournament scene. The initial two charts are drawn solely from the fully ranking 1750/1850 point, ETC style tournaments in this season. I have not included results from the last season as I believe that we’re better served looking at recent form. I’ve excluded BannerCon from the initial charts, simply due to the small number of attendees. However, both Bannercon and all the Highlander style tournaments are covered in the charts in the second half of the post. The actual analysis excludes Northern Irish players but they have been included in the charts if anyone is curious to see the full picture.
We’ll be starting with the first tournament of the 2011 qualification period, Q-Con and the charts are competely up to date. As of the time of writing, Itzacon and Retcon are the only remaining large tournaments. We could see some late changes to the following.

Top Threes

When we look at the number of top three finishes achieved this year, there is a single player who is, without question, the strongest performing player in Ireland. This is Paul Quigley with six trips to the podium in ETC-style events. Richard Flood and Alec Cornelius follow with four high placings apiece. These players look likely to take the automatic qualifying spots. With almost half of all 2012 podium spots held by this elite group, the rest of us are clearly well behind.

Our actul interest lies further down. We must look to the remaining top table players to see who’s likely to make the team. Jan Karnowski, Philip Johnston and Jannik Rottgen are the other three best performing players on the tournament scene. Two of these players are ineligible for the Irish team (one has played for the Northern Irish team, one has played for the German team) but Phil is eligible and in a strong position.

When Team Northern Ireland-declared players and the captain, Mike Tangney, are stripped out, we are left with Dan Ahern, Brian McKenzie, Philip Johnston, Tristram Hills and Peter Scott as the only other players to finish in the top three in an ETC tournament this year. I find the notion of these five players competing four open slots rather appealing. But how to separate them?

Top Fives

When we widen the net to include all top 5 finishes, the same players continue to lead the table but we get some additional chasers and some division within the initial chasing six. The captain Mike, Brian, Dan and Philip all slip a little ahead, with Phil maintaining his lead over the others. Tristram and Peter fall a bit behind.

Widening the net also introduces Ivan Sheehan, Jay McKeown, Darren Kerwick, Brian Leonard and Eoin O’Mahony to the list of potential inductees, as all have have turned in at least one top table performances during the season but have not finished in the top three.

Other Top Threes

Now, some of you will be muttering that you’ve done rather well in other tournaments, so if I include BannerCon and the Highlander tournaments, do we get more contenders? Yes, we do. Admittedly, it’s of wildly varying quality with Encore winner, Sam Santijirakun, being forced to line up alongside Warpcon/Gaelcon not-winner, Joseph Cullen. Joining them are Dave Coleman, Luke Osborne, Mervyn Murphy, Ulick O’Sullivan, Caolan Gibbons, Gary Griffith and Jason Clark.

Other Top Fives 

If we stretch our net to breaking point and include all top five finishers from every tournament regardless of format or numbers, Merlin Goss, Donal Carroll and Paul O’Donoghue slip into the tables as contenders.

We see that the pool of available talent could vary from a high-performing but severely limited pool of five players to a more open pool of twenty-three players, all of whom can point to some form of tournament success.

Alphabetical Grading System

There’s a distinct pecking order appearing and I’ve tried to document it below. The players are listed in no particular order within their grades. Northern players are, again, cruelly excluded. I’ve also stripped out Brian, Joe and Ulick who have defected to the Irish Flames of War team.

Grade A- Almost Dead-Cert Qualified
Mike Tangney (Auto-qualifies,otherwise would have been Grade B)
Richard Flood
Paul Quigley
Alec Cornelius

We see that the three best players have, barring a major upset, secured their places alongside the captain. This isn’t really a surprise and bodes well for the team. The fact that the auto-qualifying captain would most likely have grabbed a wildcard slot regardless is also good news. It’s likely that we’ll see Grey Knights, Necrons, Dark Eldar, Eldar/Tyranids come from here.

Grade B- Very Probable Wildcards
Dan Ahern
Philip Johnston

There are two players who are close behind the auto-qualifiers, omitting either of these would be difficult to justify, as things stand. Phil, certainly, would grab the Space Wolves slot and Dan has a strong track record with a range of codexes.

Grade C- Strong Contenders
Tristram Hills
Peter Scott

There are also two stragglers who fall only slightly behind the six mentioned above, it’s probable that one will make the team. The armies fit well with both Imperial Guard and Chaos being unlocked for the overall team.

Grade D- Also in the Running
Eoin O’Mahony
Ivan Sheehan
Brian Leonard
Jay McKeown
Darran Kerwick

There’s an additional group of five players whose performances haven’t been to the same standard but have had some success in ETC style tournaments. If some of the above are passed over, we might see these players recruited to provide specific builds/codexes. The issue for most of these players is that their codex of choice is likely to have been claimed by someone higher in the pecking order. Jay’s Grey Knights and Ivan’s Guard, I suspect, would appear to be likely victims.

Grade E- The Herd of Hopefuls
Dave Coleman
Luke Osborne
Ralph Risk
Mervyn Murphy
Caolan Gibbons
Gary Griffith
Sam Santijirakun
Colin Murray

When we stretch the criteria further, there are an additional eight players with tournament success outside the ETC format. They may not be able to point to any top five finishes within the format but there are other factors at play in team selection. It may prove that a uncommon build is needed and someone within this group is suited to the role. From reports on the Highlander format, that would be something involving Stormravens.

Grade F- Chasing down the Pack
Merlin Goss
Paul O’Donoghue
Donal Carroll

And a further three with smaller successes. I’d be very surprised if the wildcards came from this far down but if a Daemons player is called for, it is possible that Merlin is called on. The rest of us have nothing to do but reflect on our failings and try for a few top level finishes next year.

Just for the sake of giving ye a chance to call me on it later (and because the title of the post demands it), I’ll attempt some predictions. I’m betting that three of the wildcards will be Dan, Peter and Phil. I suspect that Dan might be handed the Guard list, which he has experience with. That bounces Tristram out of the race and leaves the last slot free. At a wild guess, Eoin with a Highlander FunBus-inspired Blood Angels list.

EDIT: I’m informed that Luke Osborne is captaining the South African team and that Jannik has declared for the Irish team. If so, then I’d predict that he’d certainly grab the fourth wildcard slot.

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