Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nova Open Recap: Hardcore

Where I spent my long, long, loooooooong weekend. 
Starting at the beginning of the Open may not be the best idea as my recollection gets hazier the further back I go, but I am no more capable of reporting outside chronological order than I am setting up non-symmetrical terrain.  We all have crosses to bear in life.

To really start at the beginning, I arrived Thursday night.  There weren't any events scheduled and Iron Arena wasn't running yet, so it was pretty quiet.  There were a pair of games running when I poked my head in for the first time.  After taking a lap of the 40k hall and future vendor area I returned to the Warmahordes room and got in a friendly with James, who I hear is a PG in training over at Huzzah. A very relaxed start to the chaos that would follow.

Anyone who has read this blog with a semblance of regularity over the past month or two will know that Hardcore has been my overwhelming obsession leading up to the Open.  Hardcore was the first event on the schedule, which I assume was for Master qualification purposes.  In a perfect world I'd have liked something else first as a warmup, and for the more competitive events to be held in the afternoon rather than the morning, but such was not the case.  Thus my first real experience with the Open was at the highest competitive level (outside of Masters), and it set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

My list underwent a number of changes before I finally settled on this:

Saeryn, Omen of Everblight  +5 points
* 2x Angelius  9 points each
* Scythean  9 points
* Seraph  8 points
* Shredder  2 points

Blackfrost Shard  5 points
10 Blighted Swordsmen  8 points
2x Shepherd  1 point each
1 Spell Martyr  1 point
The Forsaken  2 points

It's the same basic idea as the last one, namely feat turn Angels, but with some alterations.  For the beasts I felt like I didn't have enough punch with the Angels and Ravagores, so I ended up dropping the Ravagores for more melee punch (Scythean) and movement shenanigans (Seraph, also an infantry chewer).  On the infantry front I took out the Legionnaires and Spawning Vessel to add more melee punch with Swordsmen (Weapon Masters) and the Blackfrost Shard (Ice Cage, Harm, also Weapon Masters). 

This is the only game shot I have, so savor it.
Round one was against Chris, one of a swarm of players who descended from NY/NJ.  He ran a Harbinger list that eventually beat out Gary (of bearded kryptonite fame) for best painted.  This was an ugly game for me.  Like many character jacks, I've had an easy time with the Avatar.  I send a heavy or three at it and it folds like any other jack.  This time, not so much.  Among other highlights, the Avatar wrecked an Angel and the Scythean in a single turn, both of which were at full health (or close enough).  Chris outplayed me at every turn this game, including a particularly frustrating bit of positioning.  The Avatar and a Reckoner were toeing the zone turn 2 and I thought I had enough range to get an Angel in for an Armor Pierce and Repulsion.  I came up about an inch short, which let Chris eat that Angel (which was overextended and had Respawn stripped off via Purification) as well as the previously mentioned Avatar chopping spree.  Saeryn got cut down by something, probably a jack, starting my event off on the wrong foot.  In the post game analysis Chris pointed out that with the Harbinger's mega control zone it was trivial for him to position his pieces outside of my threat range, but close enough to tempt me in.  This game also started the trend of forgetting to pop Saeryn's feat, which has been a growing issue recently.

Round two I played Brandon, also from NY/J, who ran eSorscha with a bonded Conquest, Kayazy, WGI Deathstar, and the Merc All-Stars (Eiryss, Aiyana & Holt, Gorman).  I'm not sure how, but this one got away from me early.  I think my Respawned Angel ended up on the same side as eEiryss, which is unfortunate, and was killed early on.  This being my first game against a Colossal I wanted to see how they held up, so I rocketed the Scythean into it.  My beast scratched the paint some but did no real damage and was promptly frozen from the bond I'd forgotten about.  It was around this time that I realized I didn't have a Spell Martyr on the table and that I'd played my first game without one (not that it would have helped).  The eSorscha feat crippled my army and Brandon went for the assassination despite being way up in material advantage.  Sorscha went in herself and didn't get the job done, ending base to base with Saeryn and camping no Focus.  Normally this would make me very happy, but my joy was fleeting as I realized Saeryn doesn't have the punch to kill a caster by herself either in melee or at range.  I still had a play that looked decent enough, so I got Breath Stealer on Sorscha and pumped a Hellfire into her, though it did little or no damage.  The real hitters were the two surviving Blackfrost Shard, who charged in with their Weapon Masterness.  One hit, but the other missed, which ended my turn and shortly thereafter the game.  At least I got to take a run at a Colossal and found out that it'll take more than a charging Scythean to make an impression.

A little something to break up the text.
In the third round I played Aramis, who I believe is a DMV local.  I'm not sure what he ran, though I want to say Cygnar.  As an aside, there was a lot of Cygnar at the Open.  This game went according to plan for me, meaning I got the feat turn Angel assassination off.  I hustled over to the PG table to get my Mage Hunter time of about 29 minutes.  The record at the time was about 8 and a half, which was the eventual winner.  Aramis didn't have a good idea of what Saeryn's feat did, so this one wasn't down to superb generalship, but a win is a win.

My round four opponent was Lee, another NY/J traveler, who ran some flavor of trolls.  Lee was my most frequent opponent in the Open (we played three times) and the games have run together a bit.  We got to talking after the second round when I was checking up on locals.  He played Gary that round, who made some uncharacteristic mistakes and was pretty mad (at himself) about it.  Gary is typically a gaming machine who advances relentlessly with no emotion, so this news was interesting.  Back to my game though.  I think Lee ran some flavor of Doomshaper with the usual accompaniments (Janissa, Mulg, Krielstone).  About all I recall from this game is that it was close and that Lee won, probably via Mulg to the face.

By the time I got to the last round I was somewhat disheartened.  My Hardcore experience was not going as hoped, being 1-3 going into the last round, and staring down my first fifth round wasn't helping much.  The prospect of another 4-6 tournaments over the next 48 hours was similarly deflating.  I pushed on regardless and faced off against Mansoor, who is a full-time commission painter, and his Vlad3 tier list featuring another Conquest and lots of cavalry.  I wasn't sure what to expect from this game as I haven't dug too deeply into Vlad3.  Whatever I would have expected came nowhere close to what actually happened.  Mansoor didn't seem to play the scenario much, allowing me to score an early point without much fuss.  After a bit more work Repulsion gave me a second point and the win.  Glad to have finished my first tournament of the weekend, I turned in the sheets, remarked on the improbability of winning Hardcore by scenario, and sat down to regroup.

Almost, but not quite.
Then I learned Close Quarters takes three points to win, not two.

Fortunately none of the models had moved and it was easy enough to resume the game.  Mansoor popped feat and took a run at Searyn, coming up a bit short.  My return volley was also insufficient (by 2-3 boxes, which would also become a trend) and I couldn't score the last point as Conquest was now occupying a zone.  I didn't escape two runs at my caster and lost a game I thought I had won twice.

This has been a big block of text which I apologize for (maybe I'll dig some more pictures out), so I'll keep the debrief short.  Going 1-4 was well short of what I'd hoped to do.  At the time I was very unhappy with my performance, but in retrospect it was better than I thought.  The first round was a complete wash and a game I deserved to lose, but the other three were better in hindsight.  I think I had a chance in all of them, especially the last.  My play improved as the rounds piled up so it was unfortunate that Hardcore was the lead event, but I knew the schedule going in.

My list worked out well enough, though I wish I'd had more (read:any) practice with it.  The Swordsmen were a clear improvement over the Legionnaires, while the Scythean was also a good addition.  I never really used the Blackfrost Shard right throughout the weekend, and certainly not in Hardcore, but I think I'm going to like them as well.  That said there's a whole lot of infantry in the list and I'd look there first when making cuts.  The Seraph performed well enough, but Slipstream wasn't as much of a factor as I thought it would be.  It was very nice having one around again, but in the future I'll be investigating swapping it out for another Scythean or a pair of Bolt Throwers, which seem like they'd fit very well.  My biggest issue was forgetting Saeryn's feat, typically remembering it right after I'd activated the next model.  I don't know that it cost me any games in Hardcore, but it certainly didn't help.  It also set a bad precedent for the rest of the weekend.  Despite my various shortcomings and the unfortunate results, I had a good time.  It was impressive to see all the fully painted armies going at it, everyone was very nice, and I don't think I heard anyone getting bent out of shape.

One recap down, four to go.  Maybe five.  Plus a general run-down.  End of the week was a bit optimistic...

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