Rawdogger here to talk about top level Warhammer 40k top tournament players and what it takes to be a champion.
I want to let you in on a little secret of mine, dear readers. I’m not very good at Warhammer 40k. I know, you may want to have a seat after reading that bomb shell. Oh, I can name off special rules and stats like a champ, but when it comes to the actual skills it takes to be a top table tournament player I tend to be more of a chump. I constantly find myself making the same mistakes over and over again. I also write subpar lists and even when I take a “net” list I still make mistakes that have me at the mid-low tables consistently. A lot of forum trolls will write off 40k tournaments as a battle of the new hot list, and while there may be some merit in newer codices dominating top tables, there is one constant that keeps me believing there is semblance of skill required to compete at that game level. That constant being the same players turning up time and time again on the top tables of major 40k tournaments. Names like Tony Kopac, Alan Baramaramvich, Bill Kim, Alex Fennel, etc. It’s actually more of a surprise when the winning player of a major tournament is NOT one of the regulars. So what makes these players turn up at the top table on such a regular basis?
- Knowledge – These guys not only know their army inside and out but they know YOUR army inside and out. This goes the same with rules knowledge from the main rulebook. Knowledge of your opponent’s capabilities will keep you from making that ‘oh shit’ face when a Tau army intercepts your whole damn Deathwing army on Turn 1 (yes this happened to me). If you know what your opponent is going to do and is capable of before you even deploy you’ll be in a much better position from the get go.
- Practice – I am constantly changing my list. Constantly. I have one bad game and its into the bin for the list and I start on a new one before the ink’s dry on the score sheet. Guys like Kopac and the other top tournament players will play the same list over and over and over again. Any loss is studied and replayed until they understand how to overcome the obstacle. By the time a tournament comes around, these players have played their list so many times and against such a wide range of opponents they won’t be surprised by anything they see on the tabletop.
- Details – How many times have you won the roll to pick deployment and have simply said ‘ fuck it I’ll take the side I’m standing on’ or felt bad making your opponent move their models to a different side of the table? You know who doesn’t do that? CHAMPIONS. Good players will take the time to analyze the battlefield and choose the deployment that will give them the biggest advantage in the game.
- Levelheadedness – When things start to go bad, I panic. I start to get down on myself and blame the dice. We’ve all been there when things start to go south. Instead of really buckling down and thinking on how to play to the missions in order snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, I tend to make rushed actions that tend to make things go from bad to worse. Good players will analyze the best way to overcome their disadvantages and get back into the fight.
- Clearheadedness – A lot of tournaments include copious amounts of adult beverages. Nothing wrong with grown ass men wanting to sip on a cold one while moving army men around a tabletop. However, most top players will refrain from imbibing too heavily during tournament play. Now, there are certainly exceptions to the rule, as Alan Baramanitz is well know to be ‘loose’ during tournament play and he is constantly winning over sober jabronies.
- Taking Dice out of the Game – A wise drunk once told me that the way to become a 40k champion was to take the dice out of the game. It was funny at the time but he was absolutely right. It’s easy to say ‘oh if I hadn’t of rolled a 1 on the bottom of turn 5 I would have won the game’ but let’s face it if your entire victory hinged on that one die roll than you really didn’t play that well in the game. Yes, a large amount of luck in the die rolls takes place in a game of 40k but there is a lot that good players do to mitigate the fallout from a batch of bad dice rolls.
So what do you think it takes to be a top 40k tournament player? Is it really just the lists that get them to the top so consistently or do these names we see time and time again really have a skill level that is so unattainable by the majority of players?