Tournament Report: Ultimate Commander X (UK) – 20 Custodes Jetbikes, 9 Carnifexes, Magnus, Morty and more!
Last weekend I attended the tenth competitive Ultimate Commander tournament run at 4tk Gaming in Colchester, Essex UK. This event was compact at around 30 players but was surprisingly hard fought. Several capable players attended (ETC, England team backgrounds) with locals bringing out their strongest lists (20 Custodes Jetbikes and Morty/Skarbrand/Magnus super-friends to give you a feel!).
Andy (the store owner) and Rich (TO) had worked really hard to come up with a novel tournament pack. They leant on maelstrom missions (4 from chapter approved and 2 from the rule book). They were played exactly as they were written, which meant high drop armies in two of the games would be going second unless they seized the initiative. This gave elite armies a good chance to go first for two games, which I am sure they appreciated in a Meta that favours high model count.
The deployment zones were kept secret and only rolled for once everyone had placed their objectives. Despite concerns about people taking longer to set up their markers, everyone actually got the hang of this and placed markers quickly. Keeping the deployment maps secret was a shrewd move as it meant people couldn't "game" objective placement for specific deployment maps.
Perhaps the most original elements were the “NFL playoff” style knockout to determine the winner from a top 8 (generated from the first days results) and the decision to introduce "board effects". Those outside the top 8 would go into a plate competition and fight for that bracket (known as Battle Captain). Andy was trying to cater for the very competitive and more casual attendee, and I feel he achieved his aim using this system.
The board effects ranged from reducing area effect areas down by half, making powers harder to cast by a few points or reducing movement by a couple of inches. They were tied to specific maps and terrain boards; Andy and the store had worked hard to reflect a muddy battlefield or "anti-psyker" alien crystal planet by way of example. The effort that had gone in to make these effects fun (but not game breaking) and have them reflected in the actual terrain was impressive to say the least.
My focus remains the May 2018 series of tournaments coming up (London GT and GW Grand Final). This meant several key units were on corks getting finished to try and vie for best painted in those events. So what I took wasn't optimised. Never the less, I had a lot of objective secured and wanted to really test the Intercessors properly in a competitive scene. Spoiler – they will be finished and kept for more casual games only I am sorry to say...
1. Ultramarines Battalion
- Chief Librarian Tigurius
- Primaris Librarian
- 10 man Intercessor Squad (Bolt Rifles and 2 x Aux Grenade Launcher)
- 5 man Scout Squad (Shotguns and H Bolter)
- 5 man Scout Squad (Shotguns and H Bolter)
- 5 man Scout Squad (Shotguns)
- Primaris Ancient: Relic – Standard of the Emperor Ascendant
- 10 Hellblasters: Assault Plasma Incinerators
2. Ultramarines Super-heavy Aux Detachment
- Roboute Guilliman
3. Cadian Spearhead Detachment
- Primaris Psyker
- 3x Manticore
1. Mission: Tactical Gambit. Opponent: Death Guard/Nurgle Daemons: Morty, 3 Plague Crawlers, Typhus, Terminators and Plague Marines.
I deployed my scout screen to keep his smites off my key units and ended up going second. In a bold move he pushed Morty forward. My entire army, helped in the end by Guilliman in close combat, gunned him down. But this cost me Guilliman as his army fired everything back at him. This did mean however that the bulk of my Hellblasters were intact, along with the Manticores and they wore everything down over the next two turns.
In this mission you have to bet on how many objects you will score to gain a bonus equal to that amount. I always bet 2 and always got an extra 2 points. On one round my opponent failed to achieve his declared 2 objectives, handing me 2 additional points. The additional +2 to cast (board effect) was fun to play, without being too ridiculous. The end result was a significant victory for me.
2. Mission: Cleanse and Capture Opponent: Tyranids (Kronos), Exocrines, Winged Hive Tyrants, Genestealers, Broodlord, loads of Zoanthropes.
Again the scouts proved invaluable in pushing back the inevitable deep strike charges. The Hellblasters got to go first; all his stuff was on deployment line. As a result he lost most of his six Zoanthropes immediately. The Exocrines are outrageous in terms of damage output. He killed a lot with these but Guilliman mopped up his forward units at my end of the board. A marginal win in my favor.
3. Mission: Race to Victory Opponent: Astra Militarum (Chadians). Pask, Creed, Forgeworld 5-shot Lascannon Leman Russ', Deep striking plasma Scions, Basilisks and a Manticore.
This game was against a local guy (Tom) that always plays consistently well. It was effectively the deciding round, and make or break to get into the top 8. If I won this game I couldn't do worse than 8th place overall. The Lascannon Leman Russ is no joke. The cards though were against him, and with me going first I knew I had a good chance in beating him to 10 points (needed to win the mission and end the game immediately). Despite him killing Guilliman I won by getting to 10 points first. Going first is huge in this mission as you effectively get a free turn to get the last few points needed to hit 10. A narrow win and onto the NFL style knock out bracket to determine the overall tournament winner.
The atmosphere was good throughout the weekend; the free tea and coffee and time betweens rounds gave everyone a chance to talk lists and ideas. I met some new people and we went for a beer and food in Colchester, which was nice. It wasn't too hectic, but a few pints before turning in was great.
4. Mission: Targets of Opportunity Opponent: 20 Custodes Jetbikes! including two Shield Captains.
This is the game I think most people will be interested in. Joey (a friend and good player who attended Heat 2 of the GW GT) was running the list and I was really looking forward to learning how this army would shape up. A lot has been said and written in the new Custodes jetbikes. I set up in my now fairly standard area denial shape and his bikes were all on the line, bar three he cheekily stuck in deep strike reserve using a stratagem (despite asking him in deployment if he had any deep-striking units! – a good tactic on his part to be fair).
I went first thanks to a seize roll. I failed in achieving first blood despite my reasonable level of firepower. He then moved up and charged my gun line with Guilliman in the centre. Both of us went back and forth, making what I thought were the right plays on both sides. He kept his warlord well hidden toward the end due to Guilliman and smite chewing through almost all his bikes single handedly. Guillman must have dispatched well over half of his army. I made careful use of the three-inch consolidation move each time Guilliman became free from combat and this helped him bounce up and down my deployment zone dealing with the bikes.
In the end Joey won due to him achieving more objectives - but he had one bike left. I took some satisfaction from learning that a more optimised list would have been able to deal with the new "boogy-man" list. A significant loss never the less.
5. Mission: Tactical Escalation Opponent: Tau. Guns with fly keyword. This was a bit a non-event. The Tau player had more guns than I had bodies to deliver Guilliman safely into his lines. With very little terrain I wilted and died on the vine pretty quickly. Big win to the Tau player who had a good, well-understood, rounded list that he played well. (Full disclosure – I hate Tau…still scared from 7th edition!)
6. Mission: Kill Confirmed Opponent: Tyranids (re-roll charge?). 9(?!) Carnifexes, Winged Hive Tyrant, Old one-eye, Rippers.
The two losses meant I was fighting for 7th place. I set my line with my deep strike screen out in front and braced for the charge. I managed to seize the initiative again, which ultimately swung the game. Guilliman and the guns dispatched 3-4 Carnifexes a turn and we called it early with only a few Rippers and a Zoanthrope left to really deal with. A good game never the less. My opponent plans to increase his Carnifex numbers even further, which I think could be really strong.
The tournament was really well run (thanks Rich!) and successfully delivered a unique event primarily due to the two-tier bracket system after day one. Those not in the top 8 were still fighting for Battle Captain (a hard fought plate competition), so everyone had something to fight for throughout the weekend which worked well. The NFL style knock out rounds and seeding of games was novel and really good fun.
Knockout is a fast a furious way to play; if you build a good lead early, the end score doesn’t really matter – you just need to win. This helped keep games to time (a hot topic in the podcast/40k world) because once it became obvious where the result was going most people had a sensible discussion and called it to go and get a coffee. This resulted in some very competitive games but still left time remaining to chill out between rounds and watch other games to see what could be learnt.
7th place and best painted with more work to do on some of the models, and unit swaps to make, was a good result in my eyes.
A great weekend, in a well equipped, well stocked, well laid out store with some very smart, varied tables.