Age of Sigmar has been seeing a lot of growth in various communities, helped along by the ever wonderful General’s Handbook and GW’s new, generally positive direction.
And so, people have been trying it out and wanting to get into it. And that’s great! It’s easy to get into, and I would say that nearly every available army and unit option is at least viable (though perhaps not top table worthy). But, obviously the competitive scene is a bit different from just some pickup games – so maybe you’re going to want to know how to get to the top tables, and what to expect to see there.
A couple weeks back, there was a big tournament in the UK called Blood and Glory. Noteworthy due to the coverage of GW and their streaming team, which is quite exciting in its own way. They recently released the top 5 lists of the tournament, which can be found here https://www.warhammer-community.com/2016/11/29/top-5-lists-from-blood-glory/
Today, I’ll go through these five lists and discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and what to expect when you see them in a game.
Fifth Place: Darran Palmer’s Destruction
The first thing you should notice about this list is that this is a lot of Grots. 152 little models on the table and 2 big dudes. Now, I’ll go into the Beastclaw monsters a bit when we get to the third place list, but suffice to say that they hit hard. But, 40-60 buffed up Grots actually hit pretty hard when it comes down to it – they get better to-hit rolls when they have high numbers of models, and their saves can get buffed as well.
Unless you’re a shooting heavy army, it’s going to take a considerable amount of time to chew through that many dudes – and they’ll also be moving at a reasonable clip with the Destruction trait pushing them an extra d6 per turn. With the Thundertusk and Shamans, it also can deal a reasonable amount of ranged damage.
The Fanatics are a very powerful addition to any Grot army – they hide inside a Moonclan Grot unit (in this case, only the 60 Grot blob) and then can pop out and charge in any charge phase. Yes, that means your opponents. This means that if you try to charge the big blob or anything within charge range, they can attempt to charge you first and lock down your charging unit. This basically necessitates that you charge with multiple units or that you have to be durable enough to eat the charge and then sit there for a turn. The Fanatics will likely die – they have 1 wound and no save – but if your Brutes or Retributors can’t charge, that’s generally bad.
A list like this will force you to play around the massive blob. Which can be difficult, seeing as it will take up a huge chunk of the board and will likely be around the monsters most of the time. You’ll likely want to try and whittle down the Moonclan Grots from a range and then engage the smaller units. The Grots don’t hit particularly hard (though it is an enormous amount of dice), so you can also attempt to tie them up with cheap units until they consolidate into a smaller space. Guns designed to deal with mass models (such as Plague Catapults) will have a field day with this army, but that’s very meta dependent.
As for the tournament scene at large – Grots are one of the few armies we’ve seen doing blob style at top tables. There are other armies out there that can also bring masses of cheap bodies – Death can do so with Zombies, Ghouls, and Skeletons. Chaos have some options, notably Bloodreavers, Clanrats, Bloodletters, and Gors. Order blob armies will likely be more from Free Peoples and include a lot of shooting, which I wager we’ll see more of as the scene develops. Blob armies are not that weak, they just require a very different style of play and can be caught out by counter lists.
Fourth Place: Craig Namvar’s Sylvaneth
This is an interesting list to me. Many Sylvaneth players swear by their Battalions – whether it’s creating more Wyldwoods or gaining more magic power, it’s not often that you see the tree people without a battalion of some sort.
At first glance, this list is extremely straightforward. 3 big monsters that can buff each other, just running around stomping on things that have the audacity to be in the way. However, a few big models don’t win games. They’re quite good, and will wipe units quite easily, but playing to objectives will saturate their target selection, and once you whittle down monsters they lose their effectiveness.
To that, the mix of other units helps to mitigate those weaknesses. Dryads are cheap and can screen the Kurnoth Hunters, who can plink down important units from a range. The Tree-Revenants are pretty meh in the stat department, but the fact that they can pop up around the board to distract back line units or contest objectives makes them a very tactical choice. With a very small amount of units, you have enough threats that your Dryads and Revenants can play the objective game relatively untargeted, or if they do get targeted, it allows your monsters to get in place and your Hunters to hit the opponents they need. Well balanced overall, no gimmick other than the monsters forming a massive punch squad.
These sorts of Monster Mash lists are common across multiple armies, and we’ll see another one at third place. They’re low model count, relatively simple, and can counter certain opponents super hard. Plus, beautiful centerpiece models can make anybody happy. There are plenty of monster hunting units out there, though – from Bonesplittaz to Protectors, if you expect to see this sort of thing, load up on multiple-damage weapons and Mortal Wounds.
Third Place: Maxime Julian’s Destruction
The source of much frustration among many players. Four Behemoths (the max allowed) and 60 Grots to bubble wrap them. This is an incredibly frustrating force to face – the Grots will keep your anti-monster units from engaging while the Thundertusks blast them with ranged MWs. Unless you can wipe out the Grots enough to open a hole, you won’t get a good charge off against these guys, and once they’re in position, the Beastclaw units will pop out to crush through what they want.
That said, it’s not the end of the world. Once you cut down a Thundertusk or two, the power of the army drops considerably, and the Grots are not in large enough numbers to be super effective. If you can target one that doesn’t have Inspiring Presence, they should go down like punks.
As above, this is another Monster Mash list. A handful of incredibly strong, incredibly tough models that will win most engagements. The key to fighting an army like this is redundancy. The Thundertusks have an average MW range of 30″ (d6″ Destruction trait, 8″ move, d6″ and can still shoot), so even your dudes on the backline might not be safe – taking lots of chaff to soak charges and layering heavy hitters to strike back is the first step to countering this army.
Also note that with the low model count and the monsters wanting to stick together, they’re not particularly good at playing most missions (Three Places of Power being the obvious exception), so go for points and just accept that you may end up losing way more models than your opponent does.
Second Place: Terry Pike’s Chaos
I love, love, love this army. I’m not crazy about the Stormfiend slingshot, but I love how overall balanced it is. Yes, it has the one gimmick with the Warpfire Projectors and Sayl, but the rest of the army is incredibly solid without it. You have a solid, hard to kill middleline with the Nurgle units (of whom the Great Unclean One is an absolute beatstick), Fateweaver being a great support and damage threat, and the Warp Lightning Cannons being long ranged fire that will average out very good damage if ignored. This is a threat overload list – there is no one good thing that you can focus down to bring the whole army to its knees, there will always be something else there that can potentially ruin your day.
Well rounded armies always tickle my fancy. While it’s interesting to see something like Maxime’s list above or a Deathstar in 40k, they feel a bit… one dimensional. Which isn’t bad, but this sort of list just makes me smile to see. And in second place!
The real power of this army will come out in turn 2 or 3. Nurgle’s boys will walk up the table, forcing a reponse and soaking damage – even though he’s slow, if a Great Unclean One gets to you, you’ll be hurt. The Stormfiends will hang out behind them, and then once range is reached, Sayl will pop his spell (possibly supported by Kairos’s dice manipulation) and fly them forward to cut down basically anything with their 12d3 Mortal Wounds. That’s an average of 24 MWs! Few things can take that and keep kicking. Even Nagash has a reasonable chance of dying to one round of that.
You can deal a lot of damage to this army by bopping off Sayl. The Nurgle units are slow and the Warpfire guns are very short ranged, so if you can pop off the wizard, you can try to kite around and engage on your terms. Monster Hunters will make short work of Fatey, and the Stormfiends are extremely strong, but only Bravery 6. If you can pop one or two, they can potentially Battleshock 6 wound models, which is a big deal.
Fighting an army like this is a thinking man’s battle, and I expect this sort of well-rounded force to take even the cheesiest lists to their knees.
First Place: Ben Johnson’s Stormcast Eternals
Distilled essence of Lightning. This is the power list for Stormcast right here – or at least one of them. You see, foot Stormcast units are slow and can die easily to ranged attacks or being engaged properly. However, the Warrior Brotherhood and Skyborne Slayers Battalions allow them to come in via essentially deep strike, giving them the advantage in positioning. This list is also entirely one Battalion, allowing it to “deploy” in one move, nearly always giving the Stormcast player the ability to decide turn order.
Individually, the Stormcast units are not that powerful. The Judicators can take some decent pot-shots, but overall the Liberators don’t hit that hard and the Knights-Azyros are only middling damage as far as Heroes go. Even the double unit of Prosecutors isn’t that killy – they mostly are strong because of their mobility. The real hitting power comes from the Retributors and Prosecutors. If they don’t reach their targets, this army is killing a whole lot of nothing.
This may seem like one of the strongest armies in the game right now – and it is, clearly. The ability to drop anywhere on the board (with restrictions) and charge is extremely powerful, and the Paladin squads can smash face when they arrive. However, the army does suffer from low model count and a relative weakness once their surprise round is over – if they land and then the next turn get charged by some Ironjawz Brutes, they’ll get wiped.
Note that units coming out of this sort of deep strike have to be 9″ away (they get to ignore this restriction with the Azyros, but the Knights themselves have to obey it). Spreading your army out and putting your chaff far in front of your important units (since this army is relatively low on ranged damage) will go a good way towards combating Sigmar’s Finest.
I’ve repeated a few things throughout this review, and for good reason. The strongest basics to learn are these, in my opinion:
- Screening units: they don’t have to be blobs of 20 Grots, even 5 Liberators can screen an important unit with proper positioning and planning
- Target priority: since Heroes can’t attach to units and are often the Lynchpins of strategies, identifying and destroying important units like Knights-Azyros, Sayl, and Thundertusks is achievable and important.
- Positioning: In a game that is very melee focused like Age of Sigmar, proper engagement is key. Running forward and hitting the first unit you see might work for some armies (cough cough Ironjawz), but if you want to win you’ll have to be in the right place all the time, hitting the right units and avoiding others. This is all about experience, and requires good games and practice partners to master.
This is a pretty decent mix of lists. We have one alpha strike list, a well-rounded Chaos list, two Monster Mash lists, and a blob army with more models than you really want to see on the table. However, there are some strong meta lists I expect to see in the future. Extreme shooting armies like Free Peoples and Skaven will likely see a surge in future events, and as more armies get their own Spell Lores, I’ll expect to see more wizard heavy armies (in particular, I’m expecting to see the Sylvaneth Gnarlgrove be a major contender in the future). I think there is also room in the meta for some Summoning armies as people learn to use them – I think it won’t be uncommon to see people bring massive boxes of backup models and take the ones they need. Death and Seraphon have a wide variety of summoning models to choose from, and Chaos are no slouches either.
Hopefully this was insightful to you all, and I’m hoping to bring more AoS discussions to FLG in the future.
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