JBW: Hey Raymond, this is your third year attending the Final. What experience from the past two years are you using this year?
Mostly, I’ve decided to use the best codex I have available, and I’ve moved away from gimmicks with hard counters. With so many goals to cover each mission and 5 games to play, you can expect a bad match-up in at least one game if you go that route. Having had a lot of practice with the mission has helped a lot too, since it hasn’t changed much from last year.
JBW: What differences do you expect to see this year in the armies than last year?
Last year only 2 codices had been updated to 6th Edition for the event, with Daemons using their 4th Edition version for one last hurrah with the interrim screamer/flamer rules. Necron fliers and Heldrakes were really scary in that environment. Now with Tau and Eldar having a ton of quality shots, that isn’t so much the case, so we’ll very likely see a lot of those. Daemons still have a crazy-good screamer-based list too, but it relies on a gimmick to be at its top form. I expect to see it, but I don’t expect it to take the whole event.
Mostly I’d expect to see a little bit less from Space Marines. 6th Edition has been very kind to some of the xenos books.
JBW: Being a go-to-guy in the northern community what core rules do you see new players confusing?
Definitely confusion with Weapon Emplacements vs Emplaced Weapons, with more newer players and more people taking fortifications due to Stronghold Assault. The modularity of the new rules actually seems to be backfiring for our local community too; rules that are built upon other rules seem to be ripe for confusing players since everything is not in the same location in the rulebook. Perhaps some better cross-referencing could be used in the books.
JBW: What events have you been hosting lately at your local store?
We’ve been running 1500-point local events about once a month to encourage players to come out, have fun, and not have to deal with some of the big lists that are really hard to play against at 2000 points when they have all their bells & whistles going. You can still find some unbalanced or unfun lists at 1500 too, but they tend to also be more vulnerable or lack scoring.
JBW: In your opinion what do you think makes a good tournament?
A good tournament is one that tries to be impartial on the ruleset and gives the best player that day the best chance at coming out on top, and doesn’t penalize someone for beating a tough opponent by a small margin. Outside of scoring, a good tournament will be one that caters to the majority of its players without alienating the minority. Most people just want to have a good time and socialize, so cater to the middle-ground and not the list experts, but shy away from extra rulings as much as possible. This makes the game more accessible to newer players, leads to less confusion, and the more competitive types will adapt to whatever tweaks you make anyway.
JBW: What excites you about this particular tournament?
The Rivalry between Huntsville and Birmingham has been pretty strong the past coupe of years. It’s great to play against the more competitive mindset of the southern AL players. Norther AL is currently a mostly casual environment. I always love putting myself to the test against other great opponents.
JBW: How are you planning or prepping for this event?
Mostly just playing a lot of games. I’m borrowing some fully painted minis for most of my troops so I didn’t have to be in a rush getting ready this year. I feel like not worrying myself with a deadline is giving me a better opportunity to get prepared game-wise.
JBW: Who do you think is the player to beat out of the southern AL players?
You’ve heard this from others I’m sure, but it’s definitely gonna be Shawn Williams. He’s been on fire this year and plays a great game. I look forward to a rematch on our game last year where his Dark Angels beat out mine like they were traitorus fallen. Definitely look out for him!
JBW: Say there was someone reading this who wants to try and qualify for the 2015 Cage Match at their local store. What advice would you give them?
Find a codex/army with a playstyle that works well for you, even if it’s not the absolute top codex, but try to stay away from armies that are clearly handicapped due to age/rules updates (Don’t make my mistakes!). After that, just play a ton of games. You’d be surprised how much difference an understanding of the mission and basic rules can get you. For all of 4th and 5th Edition I played Deathwing-based Dark Angels, and mastering things like movement, tank shock, deployment, charge placement made a huge difference in making an underwhelming army actually perform with the top dogs. That’s just a few examples of things to utilize, but the point is learning all the obscure rules interactions really helps out.