The Road to Masters 2018

It’s that time of the year and Middle Earth Masters in Melbourne fast approaches once more.

Let’s have a look back at how the past 12 months since the last Masters have gone. For anyone that I’ve played or spoken to you’ll know that I made a resolution after last year that my feet would not be soiled by touching the ground again and I would play where my heart lies, in all cavalry armies. I’ve been sticking to that resolution!

At a rough count, I’ve painted 152 models in that time across 4 armies. Painting mounted armies inevitably doubles your workload with a foot dismount added to every model you want to take, on top of the fact that mounted models in my own experience take between 3 and 4 times as long to paint as an infantry model from start to finish. It has the marvelous benefit of significantly reducing the backlog however, and I’ve made some substantial strides in reducing it to a manageable level, whilst keep new purchases to a minimum until it gets thinned out. The standard of my painting is now at a level much higher than it was a few years ago and has started to get some notice for painting votes and awards which is most gratifying.

Tournament wise, it has gone exceedingly well. Seemingly everything I touch turns to gold, with a win at every event I’ve attended. Good strategy with some luck when I need it has given me a considerable run of form. Many an army has been trampled underfoot by the glory of a cavalry charge.

Courage of Numenor (Campbelltown, Sydney) (3-0) Mounted Gondor

Wrath and Ruin (Castle Hill, Sydney) (3-1) Morgul Knights

Clash of the Titans (Cherrybrook, Sydney) (6-0) Rohan (Good) / Warg Riders (Evil)

Warhammer Wollongong (Wollongong) (3-0) Morgul Knights

Sail onto Brighter Shores (Castle Hill, Sydney) (4-1) Rivendell Knights

Courage of Numenor (Campbelltown, Sydney) (4-0) Mounted Harad

An overall record of 23-2 in games played translating to 6 consecutive tournament wins on the trot! The cabinet is getting a little full! I am delighted with my resolution to become the Horselord, playing cavalry is so much fun and gives you so much empowerment when it comes to decision making and seizing control of a game. With this kind of form in the run up I am undoubtedly setting myself up for massive failure in which I will crash and burn horrendously!

As a result of all this, it will thus come as no surprise that I will be not just flying south for Masters 2018, but riding.

I had at this point actually succeeded, with exception of a few extras and hero models, in painting up almost every mounted model I own. For the first time in over a year I was in unexplored territory again, as up until then I’d simply drafted the lists based on what was next on the painting list and drawn from that. I was free to dip into the spoils of tournament wins and redeem them on something that I had foot models for, but no mounted equivalents. Games Workshop had a bargain deal a while back for 3 Mumaks, shaving roughly $100 AUD off the price, which I purchased on what was admittedly something of an impulse (and looking back, was the last thing I grabbed before I introduced the no new toys until you paint what you’ve got rule! In hindsight, might have been correlated). They came with 36 Haradrim, and looking around at some of the increasing difficulty and expense of the OOP alternatives I was eyeing like Khand and Mahud, it was the most logical choice.

So I’ve ventured south into the desert for this one:

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The Knight of Umbar – Fellbeast
3 Serpent Riders
2 Haradrim Raiders – Bow, Warspear
1 Haradrim Raider – Bow, Banner

The Betrayer – Fellbeast
3 Serpent Riders
3 Haradrim Raiders – Bow, Warspear

Suladan the Serpent Lord – Horse, Bow
2 Serpent Riders
3 Haradrim Raiders – Bow, Warspear

Haradrim Chieftan – Horse, Warspear
2 Serpent Riders
2 Haradrim Raiders – Bow

36087169_10155670202415838_413976933995380736_n.jpgI debuted half of this list at Courage of Numenor. Hits hard, can’t take the hits back.

It’s a very hard hitting list, with some dangerous shooting power because they can manoeuvre for shots with the punch of the Betrayer supporting, and heavy close combat output with 2 fell beasts, a 3 attack character and lances with enhanced poison across the board. It is not however, very durable. The army is Defence 4. Cloth and wicker armour is not the greatest of protections! Half of it is also Fight 3, which is not great for a cavalry force that wants to get quick guaranteed combat wins and move on. The army appropriately needs to embody the serpent; hit hard, hard fast, let the poison flow before their prey has a chance to respond.

It has some dangerous matchups in F4 S4 armies – Iron Hills and Isengard present a serious threat that can match them in fights, kill them exceedingly rapidly and die relatively slowly. Elves are also a real nuisance in shutting down the Fellbeasts and stalling out the cavalry charges.

I know some people don’t like double Fellbeasts, which is fair enough, but aside from the competitive strength (which still needs to be executed well) it purely just cuts down on the volume of models I have to paint, which is a real Godsend. The excellent Joshua Colman has generously agreed to lend me a second one for the weekend.

I’ve painted half the required models for Courage of Numenor last weekend. I’ve opted for a black and beige-white colour scheme for the raiders, swapping out the black for turquoise on the Serpent elites to give them a bit more pop. Serpent guard and riders are OOP, so I’ve been converting them with Numenorean heads and making them the only models with the back banners, which is enough combined with the colour scheme to distinguish them on the table.  It’s been an enjoyable departure of the greens, greys and browns of the past few forces that preceded it. It was also nice to get a few comments and messages about them after the event. I now need to seriously get cracking on the other half!

 

Predictions:

Last years winner, Locky Rigg, won’t be in attendance, so that frees up some space on the podium, and improves the home state of Victoria’s chances of claiming a big interstate title, which despite being always in contention on the podium they surprisingly actually have not done since Masters 2015. That being said, my predictions are remarkably similar to last years:

My top 3 are:

  1. David Leonard – Believe it or not, he was equal first before tiebreakers last year and won all 6 games the year before, but came out in 2nd place on both occasions. Third time in a row I’m tipping him to take it, third times the charm right?
  2. Jeremy Shannon – We will undoubtedly narrowly miss playing each other once again, though playing me probably won’t hurt his chances of winning from everything I’ve seen and heard via the Green Dragon Podcast.
  3. Matthew Todd – Really consistent player and someone that’s beaten me solidly in our last two encounters, whilst nipping at my heels in the events that I did not play him.

A full local podium on this occasion, if ever there was a chance to bring home the bacon this is it for the Melbournians! I put David and Matthew in the same positions last year, and they ended up 2nd and 3rd respectively and I correctly identified all 3 podium members so there’s some kind of track record there.

I am of course doing a disservice to all the other excellent players who will be there and consequently wipe the table against me for not mentioning them, but there are only so many spaces on a podium and you don’t have the burden of expectation to weigh you down!

I’d like to conclude by promoting Hobbitcon, now in its 2nd year! 11th and 12th of August, escalation, one and two day options, interesting goodies,  and since I’m helping run it, you don’t have to play me! Come and play!

Thanks for reading!
Andrew C

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