Rookie of the Year

As years go, Richard Siegler has had a pretty good one.

This time last year, Brandon Grant had just emerged victorious from LVO 2019 with the Astra Militarum/Castellan Knight combo that was so popular at the time, and Richard Siegler really wasn’t anywhere to be seen.

That he has emerged this season and charged his way up to the top of the ITC rankings, with a first place finish at LVO to seal the deal, is a testament not only to his immense skill as a 40k player but also to the speed of changing meta that we’re in at the moment.

How did he do it? Most competitive players know the answer to that question. I think there are two elements that did it: the first reason, but by no means the most important, is the list. Remember, Siegler got most of his ITC points before the new Marines. Recall that it was only a few short months ago that the Marines were nowhere to be seen in competitive play. How times have changed. And Siegler’s list performed really well in that meta. Don’t get me wrong: the trip-tide, trip-Commander Drone spam list is still strong, and good players will continue to use it to great effect in tournaments. But the Marines are just a step above right now.

The second reason is that Siegler really is something of a super computer when it comes to 40k. As anyone who has played him or has watched him on stream will know, Siegler has an uncanny ability to know just the right time to make a particular play. Of course, it’s not uncanny at all. It’s the result of lots of practice. But people at the top of their game tend to make the game look easy. They seem to do things just right. And we mere mortals try to unpick the results. We’ll try to look for patterns. But there are seldom any patterns. There is never a secret sauce. In fact, it’s much like the secret to playing guitar really well. What’s the secret to playing guitar really well? Practice. Lots of practice. What’s the secret to winning the LVO and coming first in the ITC rankings? Practice. Lots of practice.

Indeed, up until about ten minutes ago, Siegler was playing T’au. In fact, you could say that Siegler set the standard for competitive T’au lists in the current scene. Well, it was either Siegler or Bryan Pullen. Both of these guys have a pretty good claim to the trip-tide Drone spam list.

Whatever the case, Siegler had been playing T’au all season until the LVO. But for the tournament itself, Siegler turned from the Ethereals’ wisdom, playing instead with the current kings of the meta: the Iron Hands.

It’s easy to speculate on why Siegler made this decision. Some points are fairly obvious; others less so. But let’s hear straight from the horse’s mouth as to why he switched. Siegler recently did an interview with Goonhammer, in which he talks about the stacked minuses on non-fly keyword units combined with the 5+++ on Iron Hands making things very difficult for T’au. He also says that, after designing Iron Hands lists for teammates, “within several iterations we found a variant that I didn’t believe I could beat with T’au.”

I find that last point particularly interesting. Generally speaking, T’au are one of the few winners when it comes to the new Marines. Stacked minuses to armor saves don’t have any effect on a Shield Drone’s 4+ invulnerable save, and the Riptide’s Heavy Burst Cannon remains an effective weapon at killing Primaris Marines. Perhaps winners is the wrong word. The Space Marines still have a lot of tools to be able to deal with the T’au, but we’re no slouches when it comes to killing Primaris armor.

It’s all the more interesting, then, when the best T’au player in the world comes up with a Marines list that he thinks he wouldn’t be able to beat. I do wonder how Brian Pullen would deal with Siegler’s Iron Hands. Pullen runs a pretty similar list to Siegler, so Siegler would know exactly what he would be up against, but I think Pullen would give him a damn good run for his money, but then again that’s easy for me to say: I’m not playing in the LVO. Maybe next year.

I really would’ve liked to have seen Siegler go all the way with the T’au, but I entirely understand why he would want to jump ship. Marines are just a step above all other factions at the moment. And when the Iron Hands shoot as accurately as T’au with a full stack of Markerlights — more accurately in some cases — it’s difficult not to see the appeal of switching to the Marines.

It’ll be more interesting, I think, to see what Siegler does in the coming couple of months. The T’au will get an update in Psychic Awakening. We know that the latest supplement, The Greater Good, will be released in a few short weeks. Could this new book contain something to tempt Siegler back to the light side? We already know that T’au players will be able to take Shadowsun with an army of any Sept, not just the ever-popular T’au Sept. While this is a welcome addition, I can’t imagine it’ll make Shadowsun viable in competitive builds, but that’s a topic for another article.

There is a lot that the developers could do with the T’au codex. I’ve written previously about how the T’au codex isn’t a particularly well-balanced book at the moment. But overall, I’m pretty hopeful that the Psychic Awakening supplement will be good. And I really hope that whatever we get rekindles Siegler’s love for the T’au. Goodness knows we need variety at the top tables at the moment. Marines are great. Everyone loves Marines. But the game needs variety. A few more Crisis Battlesuits zipping around the top tables would do just the trick.

So, all things considered, Richard Siegler has had a pretty good year. But I’ll bet that next year we’ll have someone else at the top of the rankings. If we’re lucky, it’ll be someone whom no one has heard of yet, playing an army that no one is even considering right now.

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About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

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