torsdag 25. august 2016

Iron Moot: Post-Tournament Analysis

Iron Moot was an absolute blast. One of the reasons I love this hobby so much is so that I can travel around the world (or at least Europe), meet new people, play amazing games and have a great time. Iron Moot had all of the above and more and I can't recommend it enough. In three days I managed to play 14 games and I had a lot of fun with every single one of them.

As I told a friend earlier today I like to think that I spend more time analyzing my games and mistakes than most. I can't help it and it's a large part of why I find this game so interesting. Being able to improve my skills without necessarily playing allows me to spend my focus (no pun intended) whenever I have the time, regardless of where I am. This blog is a big part of that and I frequently revisit my own reports. Some of them I've read over a dozen times. I go back, look for openings, evaluate moves, shake my head over mistakes I make and reminisce about great games.

Don't eat? Whoever wrote this never saw me order burgers...
My last tripe to Sweden completely blew my mind in terms of expectations. The poster above was posted throughout the tournament venue and I must say that such a statement, even though it's not from me, creates pressure and expectations. I try to get away from it, as I've elaborated on previously I respect my opponent and his ability to exploit my mistakes and find amazing plays. I don't care if he's a no-name or a known player, I try and see every situation as it is and find the best plays available. Always one game at a time, never my game to lose. It's a fun concept to have big guys to take down, but I try not to think of it that way whether I am one of them or facing them.

What are my thoughts on what I saw and experienced at Iron Moot? I definitely consider the meta to have changed significantly since Mk. 2 and people are finally catching up and realizing what works and what doesn't. A couple of factions still have a long way to go to realize that they have really powerful builds, but by and large we are seeing some really strong powerhouses out there.

The top dogs in my opinion right now are Khador, Retribution and Circle. Khador simply got buffed across the table, they have a ton of viable choices now spanning a wide range of playstyles and strengths. We also saw multiple Khador players at the podium in various events at Iron Moot, with the dreaded Mad Dogs list making an appearance in both the Iron Gauntlet finals and the Invitationals semi-finals. Retribution was not a big deal at Iron Moot but I believe it came down to a combination of lists at the event and player skill. In my opinion too many Retribution lists that we see now are too focused on skews and end up having too many weaknesses against the other powerhouses. Lastly Circle deserves a mention of its own. Rarely do we see a caster as overarching and meta-bending as Wurmwood is. This caster seriously needs a nerf because he single-handedly brings to the table an advantage against multiple factions which you can't deal with even if you tailor for him. I argued in Mk. 2 that Haley2 was too strong. While she is still an incredibly strong caster, she no longer brings lists which autowin against a number of matchups (with a notable exception or two), unlike said Wurmwood. Wurmwood is a control caster and the primary weakness of control casters is superior ranged presence on the other side of the table. Krueger2 was incredibly strong in Mk. 2 because he largely eliminated this aspect while he had an amazing feat. Haley2 still struggled despite her broken nature in Mk. 2 (Legion and Retribution were her worst matchups), but Wurmwood has an incredibly potent LoS-denial play through Sentry Stones, Cassius (fertilizer) and 10 souls.

I could go on all day about proposed balance changes but only Privateer Press can do anything about it. The rest of us have to adapt as best as we can. I can't speak for all factions but then again I don't really need to either, so let's focus on the Swans.

Haley2 feels really solid into Khador. Most variants are playable and the wide range of lists they bring can quickly turn other situations into a game of list chicken. Haley2 might not always be up, but she at least has game. Even the Mad Dogs proved to be a playable matchup and I think it's downright favourable for me with the tweaks I had in the IGQ finals. Retribution still seems to be skewing too much as I noted about but from my experience with them Haley2 is still fine into most of their builds. Ossyan is a noteworthy exception. If he becomes a thing for real with double strike force we have another headache. Speaking of headaches I think the amount of headaches we have on a matchup level is why Cygnar isn't top dog now. We can't create pairs which has game into all the other factions, let alone powerhouses, certainly not compared to the top 3 above. This bring me to the last top dog: Circle. The more I play Haley2 vs Wurmwood the worse I think this matchup is for us. I am still learning new things and I still think it's playable but I used to be of the opinion that we were slightly up, to now believing that we are unfortunately significantly down (i.e. it's an uphill fight). I'm starting to think that maybe our secondary list is the one which has to try and handle Wurmwood. The problem is accomplishing this without giving up significant coverage of other matchups.

Olov Winroth won the Invitationals at Iron Moot. He faced Tom Guan's Wurmwood and won the game with Haley3 on The Pit. I only caught bits and pieces of the game, but if Haley3 really has game into Wurmwood she is a highly interesting choice and should be looked further into. Haley1 is also interesting here because of how well Arcane Vortex and Storm Lances (which are great with her feat) + Stormwall play into Wurmwood. I know this sounds like all Haley all the time and it sure feels like we're back in Mk. 2 almost. It's too early to tell yet but I know for a fact that neither Sloan nor Caine2 has better game than Haley2 so if Wurmwood is indeed a solid counter to Haley2 we might have to consider the fact that our pairing needs to tech against him.

I've had multiple people ask me if Mad Dog spam will be a thing. Frankly I don't know, but neither do I care too much either. I simply believe that it's playable for us with Haley2, at least with the build I have in mind to play in the time to come. Maybe people will flesh out the money for a 14-15 heavy spam list, maybe not. In any case I don't think it's the worst list for us to face. All we can reasonably ask for is to have game, in my opinion.

To round off this piece I'd like to take a look at some memorable moments from Iron Moot: The top 3 biggest mistakes I made, the top 3 "aha moments" I had and the top 3 plays I am the most proud of.

:: Biggest Mistakes :: 

1. In my first game in the IGQ I played against Skarre2. I felt I had a massive advantage and when my opponent decided -not- to feat once the Kraken was exposed I literally thought I had the game in the bag. I then proceeded to move Lanyssa up for a Hunter's Mark on said Kraken, only to have her counter-charged and killed by Barathrum. Derp. Plan fell apart rather quickly, fortunately I was able to salvage a win. I am happy I found a way out because this game was as clutch as they come, down to the very last point it was just super close. I could however have tied up Barathrum earlier with Lances which would have allowed the Stormwall to go into the Kraken, assuming Lanyssa had hit the Hunter's Mark of course. Report link.

2. Exposing Sloan to a Cassius angle vs Wurmwood. I consider this an uncharacteristic mistake. I am usually good at taking care of crucial angles and positions (it's a habit from having lost Haley2 too many times) but this technical mistake is really, really bad. Nothing to do but to try and focus! Report link.

3. In my very last game at Iron Moot I chose not to deploy my list for a scenario heavy play. That ultimately cost me the biggest shot at taking the game home, reducing my chances of winning to quite the long-shot assassination run. There is no excuse for this as I played the list the day before and I won on Close Quarters vs Rickard's Minions on scenario so I should've gone for this. Report link.

:: Biggest "Aha Moments" ::

1. In my very first game I played Madrak2. Did I feel stupid when I tried to assassinate him and dealt 1 box of damage to him? Yes, yes I did. I had heard a lot about this caster and how hard he is to take down. However a fully loaded Stormwall, fully loaded Ironclad, 3 Lances, Minuteman shooting boosted shots... I thought I had enough. The aha moment came when I realized I should've TK'd away the Stones unit leader as he single-handedly kept Madrak alive. Report link.

2. In the Invitationals I had my second game against Wurmwood I got next to nothing out of Thorn and I kept asking myself why I had such a hard time getting work out of him. I didn't realize until I sat down to write the report that I concluded in a previous game quite a while ago that Thorn needs to flank around from my strong flank. A bit of an aha moment as I keep trying new strategies against Wurmwood and sometimes I do stuff that's so wacky that I effectively "re-learn" forgotten lessons. Report link.

3. For game 3 of the IGQ I met the Protectorate of Menoth. I usually consider this a fairly straight-forward matchup for Haley2, indeed our best matchup (possibly) in Mk. 3. This game was, despite Gustav's best efforts, continuously massively in my favour. He simply never caught a break or found an opening, eventually sending in his last beatstick to take out Thorn and even that failed. Reviewing the report it's surprising how one-sided this matchup really is. I hope Privateer Press does something to fix this because at the moment I really don't see what PoM are supposed to do vs Cygnar. Report link.

Lastly, the plays that I am most proud of and found the most rewarding.

:: Best Plays ::

1. The Sloan vs Wurmwood game opened up by a massive mistake by my opponent. I didn't really know for sure how I could transition this early lead into a win. I decided in the end to go for an extremely unconventional gambit: Put all of the Storm Lances in harm's way so as to taunt him to go all in for them. Granted there may have been other ways for this to play out in my favour but when this all came through and I realized the gambit paid off I was super happy and relieved. It looks seriously stupid but it did exactly what I needed it to do: Provide me with the space and time to move ahead on scenario and eventually win the game. Report link.

2. The Minuteman was anti-Wurmwood tech I brought onboard a while ago because I believed in his ability to shut down Sentries and threaten Cassius, both of which I consider highly valuable in this matchup. In my match against Michael in the Invitationals I got a big opening on a Sentry with him, even setting up a trap if he went for it and feated defensively. A seemingly harmless move. However the trap came together and the Minuteman gambit basically broke the game on its own and gave me the win. If I had played Thorn correctly here the Stormwall would've gotten away unscathed as well (but then again with Thorn in the correct position he might not have gone for the trap in the first place). Report link.

3. Lastly, the play I am the most happy with and proud of throughout the entire event. I did initially fuck up in the initial engagement turn when my Firefly blocked my Ironclad from killing a Mad Dog, but my decision to go for maximum efficiency with the Stormwall and keeping my cool to let the multiple Mad Dogs live really came together. In the IGQ finals, I went in with the Stormwall and my army combined killed like 1 or 2 Mad Dogs. It wasn't for a lack of dice or something, I simply kept hitting new targets with the Stormwall whenever one got low. The thing is that when you are hitting something at dice +4 and you will have to grind for multiple turns, it's a big waste of potential to hit a target with like 5-6 boxes left. It was unnerving to leave so many heavies alive but in the post-feat turn I was able to clear up all of these jacks with secondary elements in my list, leaving the Stormwall to turn its power fully on new, healthy Mad Dogs. It basically enabled my plan from the previous turn to come together and it was crazy how obvious it was that I just completely broke the game and how it actually happened the turn before. Johan had to commit Karchev and even with insane dice and camping multiple focus he would need some luck from out of this world to survive and win, there was just so much power stacked against him. Report link.

Tons of great experiences, lots of learning points and food for thought, a new and improved understanding of the meta and one tournament win richer. I look forward to keep improving my lists, my play and my analytical skills.

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