ArabViking recently attended the European Team Championship (ETC) for the first time as a member of Team Norway and wishes to share his own experiences and thoughts about the event as a player in this light-hearted article.
The road to joining the Norwegian ETC team
The Norwegian ETC-team was founded in 2011 by Jonas Lepsøy and has since then been managed and kept alive by Espen Roligheten (the most senior ETC player on the team). There have been numerous captains over the years, as well as over 30 different players that have played on the team the last nine years. Team Norway has been quite the diverse team, with only around five people having four or more years of ETC experience under their belt. Historically, the team has never achieved the top half of the rankings at the ETC, however, the individual players themselves have placed on top of the rankings with their individual results. 2017 being the highest, where one of our players achieved 34th place on the rankings!
The ETC is something I have always looked upon as that strange team tournament usually held in southern-eastern Europe with its own meta, weird FAQ rulings (7th edition: Thunderwolf cavalry with a hammer = s10, character on a Thunderwolf = s9) and isn’t broadcasted or talked about by most 40k players at all. Try googling “Warhammer 40k ETC 2018», The most one would find prior to the event were a handful of Facebook pages and the odd forum post here and there.
Prior to the 2018 event, you could barely find any info about the event itself, and still to this day, the FAQ, mission pack and instructions on how to join the ETC event is weirdly hard to find compared to other events that are on the same size/level. As Glasshammer Gaming seemed to have the full coverage, streaming and sharing info about the event, a potential solution would be to share information about the event to even more outlets, as well as having a dedicated and visible website that everyone can check out.
Yet it was this obscurity, and the constant positive encouragement from former team members to join the team itself that grabbed my interest – and I just had to try out this exclusive and different experience that is a part of Warhammer 40k.
The very first step to trying to make into the team was the January 2018 “ETC boot camp” event held at Outland Oslo, where former members and current potential candidates had to show their skills in different matchups. We all had to submit our lists beforehand, and we were given about a week to make a “matchup pairing rating” of 1-5 onto all the lists that we could potentially face. 1 being “I would table my opponent”, a 3 being a draw matchup and a 5 being you would most likely get tabled by your opponent. The short summary of the event was that I missed a bit on the “meta”, and got quite crushed, but I did show some potential of player skill to the team. After three long, but fun matches, we all gathered around at a local pub and discussed what armies people wished to play. After some friendly banter and discussion, my friend and I was invited to join the team for ETC 2018 by Adam Keith Solumsmo (captain and player) and Geirr Berthinsen (vice-captain and player) I would like to think that it was my positive vibe and willingness to play, practise and buy any army to the team composition’s benefit – that got me the spot on the team.
All packed up for ETC!
The time period before the event itself can be summarized into two main parts:
1) Picking an army, guessing the meta of the event and practising as much as I could which was not an easy job at all. Keep in mind, this was January 2018, another 8 codexes got released before the list submission deadline was due –
2) submitting my army lists properly (or risk giving my team a penalty on tiebreakers), reading the gigantic pdf of 256 army lists that will be used at the ETC and learning what combos and strategies might be used – and how to play well against them.
The first part entailed a back and forth choice between Chaos Daemons and Thousand Sons/CSM, and the latter involving about dozens of hours of research and rating of 256 lists. I got to practise a lot with different Tzaangors lists, the spamming of smite and Daemon princes of T. Eventually we as a team figured that CSM was not very viable at the time and that we wanted both PB and Smite spam lists. After observing lists used at several big singles and team tournaments, we ended up with a Plaguebearer spam list with the Feculent Gnarlmaw (Nurgle tree). With the last addition of 90 pink horrors to give me anti-horde/screen options, as the Plaguebearers proved to be unable to kill anything effectively, even with all the buffs available to them.
Pairings, matches… and broken chairs!
Zagreb Arena was the official venue of the event, and it was an excellent choice on many levels. It had high ceilings – making it possible for players to actually hear each other while playing, plenty of space between the players and the tables, cheap food and drinks where readily available and there were enough toilets to go around without people having to wait in line to go to the bathroom. A big timer showing how much time we had left each round, as well as judges being readily available and willing to help out any dispute that might come up.
(The major of Zagreb welcomed us with a speech at the start of the event)
Each table was supplied with two plastic garden chairs, which broke a lot during the event. Luckily, no one seemed to have gotten really hurt, which is nice considering how everyone in the arena cheered and clapped whenever a chair broke (and a total of 85 of them broke during the event!).
Game number 1: The mighty Polish!
(First pairing in process between captains!)
As it is tradition in the ETC, all teams knew who they would face in game number one of the event, and we drew the same first opponent as last year, the mighty and extremely competitive Polish. We discussed several pairings matchups the day before the game, and feared that the pairings would not go our way as their lists were better than ours – so we took some risks in the pairings to try to gain as many points as we could and fight for a draw. A couple of games went our way, our knights player being able to 20-0 the Ynnari, but we underestimated the 120 something Genestealers list, as well as getting unlucky with the game going all the way to turn 7 (Custodes vs Knights). The polish were at one point, worried that it would be a draw.
(Beginning of round 3)
I was matched against a friendly but very good and competitive Drukhari player. My teammate warned me that I would most likely get tabled as he is a famous Drukhari player in Poland. With that in mind, I gambled on a first turn charge with a buffed up Plaguebearer squad to hold the Talos (with FLAILS) in check. I got lucky on turn 1, only losing one PB, but in the following fight phase on his turn, he killed 15 models from each of two individual units. And this was the precursor for the rest of the game, I kept losing a lot of models and lost even more to morale. My opponent won 20-0, gave me a firm handshake, followed by gifting me with a team Polish die. The overall results between the teams were 103-57 in the favour of Poland. Pretty decent considering they’ve won the tournament multiple times in the past, and more than any other team.
Game number 2: The Irish!
(deployment phase done)
With our first game done, we eagerly looked towards our next opponent! Seeing that we would be facing the Irish, we had a lot more confidence in winning this round. Their lists were on par with ours we felt, and so the only thing that remained was good pairings and that we the players would play well! I faced the Adeptus Mechanicus/BA player, and he had a list that could handle Plaguebearers quite well. He confused me by placing his scouts away from my army, as well as putting a unit of Balistarii in infiltrate – so that put me off my original game plan. I lost by penalizing myself with a bad deployment. He played the rest of the game well by tying off my units away from objectives and killing loads of models over the five rounds with the Dragoons. The highlight of the game, however, for myself, was my Poxbringer killing his Blood Angels Captain! Thanks again team Ireland for a nice match!
All-in-all, we had, for the most part, good pairings. A couple of our teammates didn’t achieve the results they thought they would in the given matchups, and I count myself as one of them. So we ended up losing the round by 66-94. Truly a friendly bunch, and I was offered to trade shirts with the IK player (the only guy I shared same shirt size with!). I Look forward to meeting this team again next year!
Game number 3: Argentina, the newest addition to the ETC scene!
With two losses on record and being near the bottom of the rankings, we were now facing off the newest addition to the ETC, the Argentinians (with four Spanish mercenaries).
Their lists had, for the most part, a solid baseline but lacked some refined touches to make them truly the best they could be. We went in confident that we could secure the win. After the friendly, but long pairing process, I finally got to greet my opponent: the Catachan, Custodes captains and Blood Angels combo player! A list I did not wish to face, as I didn’t have enough killing power to win this game of attrition against Custodes captains and lots of marines with a 3+ save. My opponent was a good, methodical and friendly opponent, he did all he could to hinder my horde from being too many places on the table. I was forced to deep strike my 90 pink horrors in an awkward and unprotected spot, thus only killing about 30 guardsmen, and for the rest game, they got tied up with the captains. With the game almost running out of time, I was able to get 4 out of 6 objectives in the end (!), and thus able to secure a loss with some points for my team at 09-11, a decent result for a bad matchup. I wished my opponent good luck and gave him a Norwegian flag jersey to bring back home – to which he responded with “I will put it on my wall!”.
(End of game turn 1)
(end of game turn 2)
In the end, we won 116-44 and felt motivated that top 20, at least, could still be within reach. We finalized the matchup with a team photo.
Game number 4: Our northern neighbour, Finland!
Finland has a small competitive scene (comparable to that of Norway), but the few competitive players that could make it to the ETC, are VERY good players indeed. We knew we were in for a tough fight as they usually do much better than us. After the due process that is the pairing system, we knew that we all as individual players had to get as many points as we could to be able to win against this team. We had a decent pairing, but both teams felt the other team had good lists and the advantage. I faced the Drukhari-player, a friendly and fast opponent. He admitted early on that he felt this was a bad matchup FOR HIM. That threw him off a little bit, as I recounted the beating I got from game 1. With not getting tabled as my game plan, I deployed very defensively, making sure that no close combat would happen turn 1, or even turn 2.
(end of game turn 2)
Again, I made a mistake in the deployment phase. His Talos did not have the anti-horde weapon in close combat, which means I probably would have scored a lot more points by being aggressive. My opponent offered the suggestion after game turn 3, that I should have placed 90 pink horrors in my deployment zone, surrounded by PBs, and just slowly walk towards him and shoot every turn with 270 shots. Despite surviving with a lot of models on the table, I lost handily by his monstrous amount of maelstrom points scored. I took the loss in stride, shook my opponent’s hand and told him good game. We were both happy with our intended game plan, I just personally picked the wrong one.
With all the results finalized, team Norway lost 44-116 in the final game of day 2.
Game number 5: The home team of Croatia (with French mercenaries)
(Team captain of Croatia on the right)
Day three of the event, we knew had to start the day doing well, or we would soon see ourselves at the very bottom of the rankings again… With team Croatia being our next opponent, we did our best during the pairings and told ourselves we had to do our very best against this group of competitive French and Croatian players.
(Match made in heaven of my Feculent Gnarlmaw and my opponent’s “company commander”)
(round 1 just started)
I ended up facing the grandfather of 40k in Croatia, Mr. Mitrovic, who has family members in the USA playing competive 40k. His list consisted of a mighty four ASM superheavies, with loads of heavy bolters and too many wounds for me to ever kill a single tank – I was not confident in this matchup, despite it being The Relic mission which favoured fast, horde armies such as mine. I was even more disparaged when I saw my opponent blocking a path to the relic with two superheavies, making a V – shape on the left and right flank of the main objective. After several rounds of heavy bolter shots, and tremor shells slowing my army down, we ended the game on turn 5. After counting all the Eternal war-, maelstrom -, kill – and secondary points, I found out I got a win of 13-7! Excited that I got points for my team, I went straight for them and gave a mini-battle report.
(beginning of turn 3, still holding the relic!)
Shortly after the results were given, a couple of my teammates noticed an error (an honest error) in how we played one of the rules for the superheavies, an honest error which a lot of teammates, including myself felt had affected the entire game. As this rule was read out loud for both me and my opponent during the game, we were sure that it would just be ruled as a misplayed on both parts (results would stay the same). But after much deliberations and discussion between the two captains, they had to call on a head judge to make a final ruling. After going through all the points that were scored, it was ruled in the end that I would still have the relic, meaning I would gain 5 VP, and my opponent would lose 5 VP from the initial results. For my team, that meant going from a minor loss to a draw (barely) . I was immediately met with a huge hug from my teammate for securing the draw in the end!
With such situations, especially post- game rules disputes, tension can easily be built up and the blues set in. In this instance, however, Team Croatia as a whole, the captain of the team, and my opponent showed excellent sportsmanship during the ruling process and after the result was finalized. I shook the opponent’s captain’s hand and gave my opponent a huge hug for being a true sportsman and for understanding and accepting the final ruling that was given.
Game number 6: Booze. And Romania!
With one game left for the event, and about 80 broken chairs so far, the final opponent would be Romania! With lots of laughs and too many drinks (the main source being from the booze we got), the pairings ended with about 3 hours and 40 min left for the round (partially to due to the previous rounds rules dispute). Confident in the pairings, all that was left was for us players to play well and get a lot of points, this is our last chance to do well for Norway!
I got paired up by an energetic and methodical “five knights” player (2 crusaders, 1 warden, 1 dominus and a single grey knights interceptor) – who I told early I was worried about the time use, being I have 220 models to move and interact with. He assured me several times that we would be able to finish five turns, no matter what, with that assurance, we started game turn 1 rolling at 2:40 on the clock. In this matchup, I decided to play extremely conservatively, only deploying the bare minimum of units on the table and putting the rest in deep strike. This forced my opponent to only be able to shoot at either one or two Plaguebearer units, which I could boost with psychic powers or strategems, minimizing the casualties early in the game. With him leading on maelstrom, and being about equal on eternal war, I deep struck 5 units in front of his knights on turn 3. With some clever placing and charges, I was able to grab a lot of EW objectives on game turn 3-5. My opponent secured “Slay the warlord” with a Shieldbreaker missile and scoring tons of maelstrom points as well as kicking my butt in kill points, the game ended with a 13-7 to my opponent. At the last roll, we shouted cheers of joy, we finished the game on time and had a lot of fun!
(Game at the end of turn 3)
The sixth and final round of the ETC ended with us winning 96-64 against the friendly and excellent team Romania. In the end, we placed as the 24th best team out of the 32 teams that joined the event – with us being only 1 point (a draw) away from placing 15th! We did better on battle points this year, but worse on the rankings.
What’s next for Team Norway?
(I am the one squatting over the pairing cards over there)
With the ETC being done for 2018, it is time to prepare for the ETC 2019 event held in Serbia. We wish to improve our routines in the pairing matrix we made, as-well as all players should read even more about potential comboes, so that we are able to achieve even better results in our pairings. With renewed energy and motivation to do better, our first step will be to vote for a new captain. Former members, current members, as well potential new members now look onto the several tournaments being held in Norway to prove their player skill once again. The very first one being Invasion held in Kristiansand (my hometown), who is close to capping at 70 players, an all-time record for the Norwegian 40k tournament scene! We will also most likely have a team assembled by the end of January of next year, and hopefully, the meta will be slightly more stable and easier to predict next time.
“Fanboying” over meeting famous 40k players
The last highlight of the event was me having the utmost pleasure of meeting, greeting and even talking to a couple of famous 40k players and personalities during day three of the event.
The first encounter was the eccentric and energetic Val Heffelfinger, who has given me “ear pleasure” through my favourite 40k podcast “Chapter Tactics” for dozens of hours. He didn’t seem very happy with his own performance at the ETC and joked that his poor showing would affect his spot at the Chapter Tactics podcast. Hopefully the FLG crew will give him a break.
Shortly after, I got to greet the giant and list-builder-god that is Sean Nayden, as well as the living legend himself, Nick Brown. With fear of fanboying too much, I wished them both a safe trip home and congratulated them on a well-earned victory on European soil.
Last, but surely not least, I found the (in)famous Alex Harrison busy keeping the Glasshammer gaming stream going at the event – and I finally had the opportunity to buy him the beer I promised him months ago. With two legs well planted on the ground, and with about 5% body fat, he shook my hand and wished me good luck for the rest of the event. I did, however, notice a peculiar lack of any water bottles near his desktop during this encounter. (Sorry Alex, I just had to.)
Thanks for reading, have a good one!
(Me and a handsome Norwegian 9th age player)
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