This Week in the ITC: Templars and an Interview with James Kelling

40k Warhammer Competitive players! SaltyJohn from TFG Radio and Pod Save the Imperium here to talk to you about this week in the ITC once again!

This past week at Gen Con Games Workshop unveiled some more stuff for the upcoming Black Templars release, including the High Marshall of the Templars himself!

He has crossed the Rubicon Primaris!
Like any good Feudal Knight he has serfs.

Helbrecht is looking mighty fine in all that gold armor and his nice 60mm base to give off some rather large Auras to his fellow Crusading Space Marines. As a connoisseur of memes however my favorite part has been the little servitor cleaning the sword.

He’s a pretty versatile tool to have in the old meme toolkit. This past weekend also saw the end of the Iron Halo. Fellow LVO Judge Jason Horne decided it was time to hang up his hat as the TO of the Iron Halo and this was the last year. It was a great success and hats off to Jason for having run one of the best events in the midwest United States for many years now. Before we jump into my interview with James Kelling here is a look at the current top 10 in the ITC.

James Kelling is a phenomenal player who has been tearing it up playing more events in a year than I’ve played in probably the last 3 seasons!* (*2020 season is an asterisk season, not counting that one*) You can often find quality content from James over at Goonhammer!

  • What got you into the hobby originally?
    • I started, like I think a lot of people did, by being introduced as a kid. A friend’s older brother introduced some friends and I when we were in middle school and I was enamored right off the bat. I got my parents to drive me to the nearest Hobbytown USA and I found a cool blister pack with “Dark Reaper with Web of Skulls,” a book with some really cool space elves on the cover, and some paints. Before long a couple of buddies and I were buying way too much of our chosen addiction, an elf in my case, and playing in my parent’s basement after school like cool kids do.
  • What is your favorite part about playing 40k competitively? example: do you enjoy list theory, math hammer, the competition, the camaraderie, your team etc
    • There are a few things here: the competition, the people, and then simply self-improvement. I’ve always been someone who wants to win, I think that’s fundamental to all competitive players. But as I’ve gotten older the nature of what it means to win has changed – it’s much less about whether or not I won a game, but how I won or lost. If I won a game I shouldn’t because I’ve made poor decisions but got lucky despite myself then that doesn’t really satisfy me. Similarly, winning or losing a game where my opponent feels like they couldn’t enjoy it because of my demeanor feels like a real missed opportunity to build something more than just a random meeting with a stranger over a game of dolls and dice. In that vein, I’m reminded of something Dan Boyd once mentioned on the 40k Badcast, which I’ll paraphrase as “Warhammer 40k has taught me how to be a better loser.” And I think there’s really something to that and I think it translates beyond 40k. A little self-reflection after a game or event can go a long way, and I’ll never be perfect but playing competitively provides a lens with which to learn about myself at and beyond the table.
  • How did the pandemic affect your career playing Competitive 40k? Did you do anything during the various periods of closure that you found particularly helpful in preparing to play 40k competitively this season?
    • I had to pause a bit on this, it’s a bit funny to think of 40k in terms of a career. Mostly there was a gap that needed filling – it’s sort of easy to lose track of just how much time you dedicate to a creative and strategic outlet like 40k until it’s suddenly gone. In my case it was mostly filled with building a cool display board, catching up on paint backlogs, or organizing a Battlefleet Gothic campaign. The resumption of events in the US has more or less killed that last one which is a shame because it was a ton of fun. But I don’t think there was any special prep – I’ve never been one for homework, more of a kool-aid man through the wall and then figure out what went wrong after kind of guy. 
  • For those who might not know you’re involved with Goonhammer, could you tell us a little about how that began and what keeps you motivated to continue to put out quality content?
    • I appreciate you saying so – Goonhammer was founded a few years back by members of another online community who saw an opportunity for quality written content diving deep into the games they loved. Enough can’t be said for the work that our core team has done and the effort they, our members, and our contributors all put into the site each day. It’s a true labor of love – everyone is motivated by what excites them personally and then wanting to drive those quality conversations within the community and have them be as energized and excited as we are. I don’t publish a regular series personally, but I have a ton of respect for those who do – yourself included – because in some ways it’s thankless and you’re often setting a high bar that becomes actual work to maintain. For my articles, I try my best to highlight others beyond just me, so I’m motivated to make sure that my writing is accessible and portrays the subjects appropriately with the spotlight they deserve.
  • What do you attribute your success so far this season to the most?
    • I say this half-jokingly, but Drukhari. I consider myself to be a very good player,  but I think it’d be absurd to look at this year and not acknowledge that GW is letting me play with a handicap. Same as it ever was I suppose, but it’s disappointing that this is the nature of our game. I do have to credit our strong scene here in the Twin Cities – with current top-ten players like Ben Cherwien and Charlie Andre as well as a whole slew of high-caliber players from around the cities and down from the Dakotas, the local events can be very humbling.
  • How do you prepare for events, big and small? Do you have a routine or regimen?
    • This is an area where I have struggled. Outside of events, I really don’t play very much. In the Twin Cities, we run two leagues in parallel which means that I get a game about once a week and that’s usually what I leverage prior to an event. I think that’s probably more than many people get but it’s nowhere near many of my peers who I find are just better practiced. I remember playing Jack Harpster at Dallas and he casually mentioned that the AoW crew had played almost 30 games with Drukhari before the event – I think I had played 3 at that same point. In some ways, it’s just part of the fun and challenge, but it certainly leads to sloppy or forgetful play at times so I try to limit the variation in my army event to event.
  • What are your impressions, and opinion, so far of the new Frontline Gaming events and the Games Workshop events that debuted this year?
    • I think anyone who’s met me online knows I’m not shy about my opinions. But I really do like what both FLG and GW are doing to expand the competitive community. Hosting multiple flagship events across the country (possibly the world?) can only make the community better as more people are exposed to marquee events. I do wonder at whether the structure of the ITC supports these, generally. The nature of both FLG and GW events makes them a must-attend for top players, under our current system, due to the scaling nature of the scoring. In a lot of ways, it’s a continuation of the historical problem in 40k and the competitive community generally, where it is largely a system of access. Whether that’s actually a problem is perhaps subject to debate – but it does make me think.
  • What events are you still planning to attend this season?
    • Been a busy year, but still planning on a number of events including both FLG and GW. LVTT is next, then GW: New Orleans edition, Mid-Mo Maelstrom, my hometown Renegade, and then LVO to cap the season.
  • You’ve played Aeldari and Drukhari exclusively this season, which is your favorite? Why?
    • Oh my, Aeldari and it isn’t even close. As evidenced by my first ever purchase my heart lies with the Craftworlds but my collection of elves is like good investments – well diversified for protection.
  • You’ve played Aeldari and Drukhari exclusively this season, which do you think is the best? Why?
    • I think it goes without saying that Drukhari is the better all-around faction right now, Sean Nayden notwithstanding. There are a million reasons for this but it’s hard to want to talk about Drukhari and why they’re good by this point. I’m sure it’s even harder for a reader to care about it. They just are and it’s been all over the news since April.
Matt Root (left) and James Kelling showing off some nice trophies.
  • Which event so far this season are you most proud of your record at? Why?
    • It’s hard to say, my favorite events are the ones where I play the toughest string of opponents – Dallas Open was a good one, but I think my favorite is probably Bugeater GT. Not only does Tim Royers run an excellent event, but it brings out a lot of strong players from around the Midwest. Every game was into strong opponents and although I fell short at 5-1, the loss was to Matt Root in a barn burner that kicked off the start of his whirlwind tour back into the competitive scene. He hadn’t skipped a beat.

Thanks to James for sitting down and answering my questions. Good luck with the rest of your season! If you enjoy the lore of Warhammer 40k/30k as much as you do the gaming and hobby aspect then give our new lore podcast Pod Save the Imperium a listen, we’re now on iTunes as well! Our most recent episode discusses the betrayal of the Necrons by the C’tan.

As always, let me know what you thought in the comments!

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

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About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

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