Dissecting the LVO Format

Hello friends, Nick Nanavati here to show you exactly how to break down a tournament format and put yourself in the best position to win before the tournament even starts.

In a previous article I wrote 7 Steps to Win a Tournament, and my second step is to “Read the Rules”,  in this case I’m referring to the most recent rules updates put out by Frontline Gaming. In short the top 100 tables at the event will have the same terrain set, and its layout will change every game based on what deployment you’re playing. This is a great idea and helps balance out the tables a lot to insure gunlines don’t just turn 1 win. However, as with any change to rules it can have unforeseen consequences, and it can also usually warrant a shift in “power” for what’s good and bad. In this article I’m going to break down the 6 different missions and what has gotten stealth buffed and nerfed at the 11th hour before LVO list submission.

Please excuse my poor photo editing skills.

Pointy Hammer


As you can see here this deployment has a large L shaped ruin at the very tip of the deployment zones (a common theme). This means you can start a large majority of your army out of line of sight of your opponent and only 18” away from his side. That’s an enormous buff for fast assault ‘‘death star” units, such as Possessed, Centurions, and Shining Spears/Seer Council. On the flipside, this format is also a huge boon for artillery. The red smear above represents a prime spot to put some artillery. Your standard 48” gun can shoot into your opponents building from that spot, whilst being safe from your opponent’s artillery should he do the same on his side. For shorter range artillery like hive guard, or in scenarios where you actually want to shoot behind your opponent’s hill you can deploy your artillery in the ruin for optimal range, but this does put your artillery in the danger zone for getting charged.



Vanguard is similar to pointy hammer (above) in that the ruin is at the tip of your zone and there’s a prime artillery hill behind as well. The main differences here are that the ruins are 24” apart so it’s a bit far for something like centurions or possessed to traverse in one turn (although with the pregame move from alpha legion’s forward operatives stratagem they can still do it), and that there are two more hills in no mans land. These hills can make an excellent “rest stop” for an assault unit trying to close the game mid field, however they are especially brutal for units without fly because they will need to go around them as opposed to through or over. Spears and Seer council absolutely love this terrain, though possessed can benefit too. It’s very realistic to hide nurglings or even a plagueburst crawler behind the hills in mid field, then stick a beefy character like a daemon prince behind them but clearly in the open, and then use the conceal stratagem on the possessed to traverse the table impunity.

Search and Destroy


Table Quarters deployment is oddly more similar to pointy hammer than vanguard. The midfield hills are pretty much as useless as they are in pointy hammer, whereas in Vanguard they are integral to that deployment’s game play. Additionally, your ruins start 18” away and the corner hills have the same dichotomy of being able to shoot into the opponent’s ruin, but not behind their hill.

Hammer and Anvil


Hammer and Anvil is surprisingly unique compared to pointy hammer (as these are often considered one in the same). The distance between the ruins is 24” in this one, and there isn’t a good pit stop are for assault units like in Vanguard. The backfield hills have the same interaction as the above deployments as far as reach down table, but you may be able to get away with deploying artillery in your forward ruin a bit more liberally due to the increased distance between the ruins and no rest area. I think Hammer and Anvil games will lend themselves to be being much cagier and point denial based due to the safety blanket of the ruins and the enormous no man’s land to traverse. Armies with lots of artillery will really shine in this deployment. Just what we needed amiright?

Pointy Dawn of War


Pointy dawn of war, which is historically a competitive player’s least favorite deployment is one of the most interesting in LVO’s terrain setup. As depicted by the rainbow I drew on it. This is another deployment that has the ruins 18” apart, but also has 2 hills in mid field for making a pit stop. This is a fast assault armies wet dream, and is absolutely horrendous for an artillery based list going second. (Which is rather interesting when you consider how heavily Hammer and Anvil favors artillery) . The hill ruin dichotomy I’ve covered in literally every other deployment also doesn’t exist here. Instead there are functionally 2 spots you can put your artillery. The first is dead center. This will likely be most common. It has the strength of being able to hit the far corners of the table, as demonstrated by the black line above. However, the area behind your ruin might start to get crowded if everything tries to go here, and prime real estate for deployment is already an exaggerated problem in pointy dawn of war. Not only this but from the far corners of the table long ranged shooting can see behind the middle ruin and actually draw a bead on the artillery. Of course, you can put your artillery further up to circumvent this problem, but again real estate is an issue, and that puts the artillery in easy turn 1 charge range from the opponent’s ruin. The other spot which is feasible is the red smear behind the hill on the side. This solves your real estate issue but not the line of sight one. The green line diagonally cut through the table represents a clear fire line from behind a hill to behind a hill. Winner of this round goes to fast assault armies by a land slide.

Dawn of War


And here we have the most unique deployment. The old classic, dawn of war. This is the only deployment where the ruins aren’t in a deployment zone but instead make he classic NOVA L formation. For line of sight blocking you have 2 hills on opposite ends of your deployment zones. The prime spot for deployment for both shooty and assault armies is marked by the blue smear. Assault armies will be able to hop into the L which faces them, bringing them even closer to the enemy. Conversely, (from the perspective of the shooty army player) an opposing assault army will need to stay on the far side of the L ruin before trying to close the gap. The issue here is that the hill is only so big. Real estate again becomes a big issue and players will need to choose between deploying in the open with some units or splitting the army and deploying in the red zone. Splitting your army in conventionally unwise for most lists, so this is a pretty difficult decision if you’re playing against a shooting based list.

Personally, I’ve been to a lot of tournaments around the world, and most commonly they use a terrain layout that most closely resembles that seen in Dawn of War. This format really rewards durable, angular, direct line of sight shooing. Armies that historically do well in these formats have been eldar planes, iron hands, and triple caladius’s. This is not the case for 5/6 of the deployment maps at LVO. I really believe that the armies which will see the most success in the LVO meta are the polar opposites of each other: fast assault based armies (possessed, spears, seer council, and white scars), and indirect heavy armies like Imperial fists. Armies designed for a different layout (like my traditional Iron Hands Brigade or Ad Mech) will likely take the back seat in this event at the higher levels of play.

For every event I go to, and for my coaching clients I strive to analyze all the information possible to make educated decisions on what will and won’t work and then act accordingly. If you’d like to learn how to analyze different tournament formats and then adapt accordingly to give yourself the best shot at winning check us out at the Art of War!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



8 Responses to “Dissecting the LVO Format”

  1. sultansean January 17, 2020 10:34 am #

    Thank for writing this Nick! I’m not going to LVO this year, but I always appreciate information on how to analyze boards pre-game.

    Interesting to hear that you feel most of the boards favour assault armies over gun lines.

  2. Zweischneid January 17, 2020 11:25 am #

    I like LVO comping the game even more towards assault than their previous terrain-rules.

    At the same time, I hope GW rules-people at the event are aware that the top tables of the 40K champs are skewed in ways that isn’t representative of the game and their balance reviews should not assume L-shaped ruins and first-floor-LoS-blocking when they tweak or re-cost shooting and assault units in Codexes and FAQs of the future.

    • Reecius January 17, 2020 11:29 am #

      Oh you! Always coming out with your tinfoil hat, which looks quite stylish I might add!

      • Zweischneid January 17, 2020 11:41 pm #

        Why tinfoil hat?

        I thought it was pretty accepted that the cascade of “fly”-keyword tinkering started with Smash-Captain charges at NOVA 2 years ago, no?

        GSC Aberrant nerf seems in no small part to be down to NOVA last year, when Nick Nanavati won the invitational, no? Despite GSC having around a 15% lower win rate in non-Nova, non-ITC tournaments (presumably) without Ls or LoS-blocking?

        Hell, GW themselves explicitly said they moved the spring FAQ back from March to April to account for Adepticon. Why would it be unreasonable to assume they watch big tournaments for balancing ideas?

        • Reecius January 18, 2020 7:28 am #

          When you put it like that it sounds much more reasonable, haha.

          We just get people thinking we secretly pull the strings in the background or whatever and it’s not true. GW staff will be at LVO and they will be observing/playing games but no, there’s no plan to test anything specifically as a part of what we’re building or planning for the event. So much of what we do is actually rooted in simple logistics. However, if they spot trends and such it is plausible they make choices based off of what they see.

    • JVail January 17, 2020 12:03 pm #

      OR, GW could come out with a guide, advanced terrain rules, or dare I say it, REAL terrain rules, instead of “this gives cover, this doesn’t, true LoS, seeing a persons finger is the same as seeing their entire torso”

      • Marakari February 1, 2020 9:07 am #

        Yeah, i totally hate whipping out my sydonian dragoons just to have some goon shoot them dead by the tips of their lances.
        The dont model well other than up in the air, and so thats how they went, in a more chivalrous time long long ago..

  3. JVail January 17, 2020 12:01 pm #

    Great article Nick!

    I’m glad you are sharing some of the more advanced tips that apply to everyone, and not just certain armies. It takes away from the “I deployed wrong so I lose” that affects so many games, and some people are not aware of. Of course there are always exceptions / rules interactions that will change the above (how certain units interact with cover, fly, etc.) , but general tips are good for everyone.

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