A Scrub’s Journey to Greatness: A look at the Mastery Curve

This week we’ll look at assessing oneself as a player, and identifying ways to improve.

BigVik here, this week I’ll be looking at some basic assessment tools on play style, along with tools to help in mindful practice (that word again). I’ll be looking at the mastery curve, and finish by taking a look at myself through the looking glass, to show you guys how to assess yourselves for future improvement.


The Mastery Curve

This is a term used by many a people to discuss the difficulty of playing with different factions, lists, and mission packets.

The learning curve can be discussed in several different manners, I’m going to use a mastery model, which is probably worth a revisit in the future.

For our discussion today, the mastery levels I’ll be using are novice, apprentice, journeyman, expert, master. Let’s start with a brief look at what these levels mean.

Novice: A person who is still learning the rules, this person may not know much about the game, and will likely not know what your, or quite frankly what their army does. This stage is highly vulnerable to burn out, and dropping out of the game, as Warhammer can be a very gotcha kind of game at the competitive levels, and we’ll probably be coming back to Novices as a whole article in their own right at a later point.

Apprentice: A person who has learned the basic rules, but is just scratching the surface of their faction. This person will not quite know everything their faction does, will still be asking pretty basic questions about how the game works from time to time.

Journeyman: A journeyman knows what his or her faction does, and has a mental inventory of not just what their faction does, but the most popular combos being used in the game as a whole. These guys are beginning to become dangerous, as a journeyman is at the skill level to take a net list and field it to some ability so long as the list isn’t too complex (if you’ve ever seen some of Sean Nayden’s lists, trust me those lists are a great example of a something that will just not work for Journeymen).

Expert: This is the blasted plateau of most competitive players. This player has played several factions, and is fluent in not just what pretty much all models do, but first and some second order combos, at least in the factions they play. These players will often be the best player in the local meta but not be winning events in the con meta. (This sounds bad, but these guys are still the top 20%, if that low, in most metas. I hit this in MTG, and 40k, but I have massive respect for those who achieve this in WarmaHordes, as it’s a much harder game to reach this stage in my opinion)

Master: This is the top of the curve, those with the burden of heavy crowns. These guys know not just their faction in and out, but often know the second, and even third level interactions in their opponent’s faction. These guys have played enough games that they know what you think your army does, what it actually does, what you perceive their army does, and even may be able to predict how you will play as many as 2 turns out.

Now I’m not saying these guys are psychic, they’ve just been there and done it a thousand times. These guys show up to local steam rollers and take it with a list they’ve never played, or something ridiculous like that. There are very few of these guys, but their names roll around from podcast to podcast, winning events like most people collect stamps, or Pokemon cards


A Self-Assessment

Now let’s take a look at myself on this spectrum, making a simplification that every 10 points is ABOUT a mastery level.

Game Rules Fluency: 6/10

I am a rules nerd, I read rules questions online, and am eternally looking at strange rules interactions on the table. Granted, I still forget the order of phases every once in a while…

Model Fluency: 5/10

I know pretty much all of 40k, but am noticeably weaker with non Eldar Xenos factions… I just don’t get to play against them that much…

Scenario Fluency: 6/10

I just haven’t gotten enough games in, I always play ITC champions packet when I play, and know what secondaries my lists can and can’t win, but that’s not my biggest weakness…

General Competency: 3/10

I’m gonna be harsh on my rating here as the other areas are where my strengths are. I’ve gotten something like 50 games in  the last year, but I still primarily lose based on slightly bad placement for deep strikes, or assaults past my lines. As of such I’ve put a lot of my effort into mitigating this in the last few months.

My final self-assessment grade: 20/40 (High Apprentice to low Journeyman).

I mostly need more reps with good players, as I’ve found that I can pick an apprentice level player appart over the game, but will still get wrecked by the best players every time.

Risultati immagini per spongebob git gud

Where do you guys feel you fall in this spectrum? And what do you feel will help you to improve as time goes on?

Quote of the week

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” – John Wooden

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells gaming goodies at a discount, every day!

Frontline Gaming will buy your used models for cash or store credit!



About BigVik

A gaming magpie, BigVik currently maintains perpetual noob status, playing Menoth and Khador in Warmachine, and Imperial Guard in 40k. He works as a professional coach and process consultant in his professional life, and loves bringing this into his gaming and writing.

12 Responses to “A Scrub’s Journey to Greatness: A look at the Mastery Curve”

  1. Avatar
    Kraggy May 28, 2018 3:23 am #

    This was an interesting read, thanks for posting! I Come out around the same high apprentice to low Journeyman, and like you I need more games to really look at increasing my rating as knowledge of other armies is a big let down for me!

    • BigVik
      BigVik May 29, 2018 6:14 am #

      Thanks for reading! And yea, that’s the biggest plateau for getting to the higher levels of mastery, you just need to play games, as no matter how much theory you know, in the end you just need to play more games against good players and list designers to get real competitive experience.

  2. Avatar
    Visitor May 28, 2018 5:07 am #

    It’s funny that (according to your description) skill improvement up to expert level just translates to “knowing more rules”. It’s only the master level that requires a little more than just knowing rules and their interaction and that little something is mainly experience.

    Not sure if this was your intention but you just described warhammer as a hard to learn, easy to master game, which is the exact opposite of what a competitive game should be.

    • BigVik
      BigVik May 29, 2018 6:19 am #

      Hey man, thanks for reading!
      That was not my intention, however, I feel a semantic change is in order to get my intention across. 40k is EXTREMELY difficult to learn, and SIMPLE to master. All you need to do is play 10 games into each of the best meta lists, and know them inside and out… simple right?
      My current steps to master 40k
      1) learn your rules
      2) learn everyone else’s rules
      3) learn the shooting, movement, and assault phases for your army (yes this is dependent on their rules)
      4) play every meta list 10x (so… about 70 games with a particular list?)

  3. Avatar
    Cavalier May 28, 2018 7:36 am #

    Really enjoying this article series. I do hope you include some in-game examples as you try and grow as a player. I may have missed the article, but I’d love to know what faction you are focused on, list etc. Some highlights of successes and botched moves would be great to read!

    • BigVik
      BigVik May 29, 2018 6:23 am #

      Hey man, thanks for reading!

      I’ve been bogged down with school, so games are in short supply right now.
      I’m primarily a guard player, meaning I play a brigade of my guard with assault splashed in as needed in the current meta (death company right now, going to be switching over to custodes bikes when budget permits)

      As of right now, the only in game examples are in my first article where I was top table at a local tourney, I decided to stop playing competitively until chess clocks were instituted after that event. However as ITC is beginning the use of chess clocks, I’m back in, and will be grinding MANY different iterations of my list in the future!

      • Avatar
        Cavalier May 29, 2018 9:18 am #

        Sounds great man. Guard are really damn good. I play against them with my Eldar all the time and its always a good challenge. Good luck with school and I’m looking forward to following along. Always great seeing how players grow, one of my favorite aspects of watching bat-reps and reading articles.

  4. Avatar
    WestRider May 28, 2018 2:53 pm #

    A couple of years ago, I would have put myself at the lower end of Expert, but I haven’t been able to play nearly as much lately, and the volume of material coming out has been kind of overwhelming to try to keep up with (especially without actual play experience with it to solidify it in my mind), so I’ve slid down, probably to somewhere on the lower edge of Journeyman, but maybe still mid-Journeyman.

    • BigVik
      BigVik May 29, 2018 6:26 am #

      I feel you man!
      6th was my height, I placed in almost every event I played, especially when I traveled and could be a spoiler to the local meta. 7th pushed me entirely over to Warmachine, and the beginning of 8th pulled me in then pushed me back out when Guard was getting nerfed so many times in quick succession (I agreed with the nerfs, mind you!). Now that the nerf bat is on other factions, I can finally buy and play a list and pretty much know it won’t change too much in the coming year.

  5. Avatar
    Dakkath May 29, 2018 7:29 am #

    I’d put myself at an upper apprentice, low journeymen at best.

  6. Reecius
    Reecius May 29, 2018 9:29 am #

    I certainly was a master of the game but these days as I am more of a promoter of the hobby and with my duties as a play-tester don’t get to focus on any one list enough to truly master it like I used to be able to, I think I have dropped down a tier, honestly.

    Getting to the top of the curve isn’t a permanent achievement, you have to work just as hard to stay there as you did to get there.

    It’s all good though as that is what opens the door to new players to rise to the top of the mountain.

  7. Avatar
    GeekmasterK May 29, 2018 1:32 pm #

    Nice article! At this point, I’d consider myself very high apprentice to low journeyman. I haven’t been playing competitively for as long as a lot of people have, but I recently set a new personal record for tournament wins by going 2-4 at a GT. I’m seeing noticeable improvement, but the one thing hindering me, I think, is not knowing what every army in the game does. I always think I’ll at least get the digital versions of every codex in the game, but that does add up in cost. And understanding all the armies in the game, even on paper, doesn’t happen overnight, either. I always make sure to ask for specifics when I’m unfamiliar with my opponent’s army, at least. This usually prevents “gotchas” from being pulled on me. No substitute for advance research, though.

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