What is it that separates certain tiers of players? We’ve all seen it before where a group of players just dominates a scene. In your head, no matter how hard you may try, the end result seems the same: you lose. So what can you do to counter that? Moreover what is it that they have that you don’t? The answer is really quite simple; it’s knowledge.
Once you have it, it seems obvious, but when you don’t, it seems impossible, which is what I imagine life was like before the wheel or fire. From our perspective it seems obvious, if not entirely natural, to have these things. Back then it was a huge obstacle to overcome. I ‘ve observed a lot of games as well as played them; and the one thing that is consistent among upper level players is that they saw something that the opponent did not.
Take for example my game against Will Pagni; from my perspective I was camping 5 Focus, on a Hill, in a Cloud with some models in front of me. In most regards, that is nigh impenetrable. The problem was that I did not see the game from his perspective. I was missing the full depth knowledge of what he could accomplish. I mean, everyone roughly knows what Shifting Stones do, at the very least would have seen the opponent’s caster card to see what Warpath did, and they probably have seen some variation of Wild Aggression. On the other hand, not everyone would see the non-linear movements and figure out that I was just in range.
So what does this mean to the average player? Well, the take away from this is what I mentioned in my earlier article; post game analysis. There are quite a few players who play their game win or lose then just pack it up and are done. What I do, on the other hand, is after the match, go over it with my opponent and see what things we both could have done differently. Not necessarily always best, mind you. What we do here is break down the interactions that lead to the end of the game and how they could have been different.
To cycle back to my earlier example, Will himself told me that his entire plan would have fallen apart had I used Rhoven to give Menoth’s Sight to my Reckoner and had just Assaulted / walked and shot the closest Shifting Stone. I clearly had the Focus. So why didn’t I? Simple, I didn’t think I needed to. I instead wanted to run my Reckoner to give him a better position the following turn. I could have instead just kept Thyra back a few more inches and been fine as well. Again I didn’t think I’d need to as the Hill gave me a better defensive position against other elements in his army. In this instance, making that decision would have wildly affected the rest of the game.
Another match that comes to mind is when playing Retribution, using Rahn to Telekinesis pButcher around and away from a wall so that 2 Mage Hutner Assassin’s could Charge him. What I didn’t know was that the Wardog gave pButcher immunity to Backstrikes. I ended up losing the match to that critical mistake. To anyone who plays Khador, that fact would have been obvious. Though to someone who isn’t as intimately familiar with the models; I did not recognize that fact.
Another take away lesson: the earlier a mistake made, the larger of an impact it has. Everyone has lost a support model of their cornerstone piece much earlier than they expect due to some interaction they hadn’t known about previously. During the 3rd round of Blood Sweat and Tiers at Lock and Load I made a decision that could have easily lost me the game. Instead of firing AoE’s and hoping to clear off models with Blast Damage, I instead choose to use the Storm Fall’s Starfire shot to set multiple models on Fire. As anyone who has played a list that revolves around setting models on Fire. You learn that it can be extremely fickle. For me at least it either tends to go really well or fall completely flat. In this case only 1-2 Fires went out, out of 15ish, and all of the models on Fire died. In this case I got lucky. Would it have been better to go with regular shots and hope for solid Blast Damage rolls? Who knows? What I do know is that I had enough knowledge of the situation to weigh my options and choose what I decided would be the better choice. After the match I asked my opponent why he had his models so close together. He responded with the fact that he had never seen anyone use the Starfire ability for Stormfall archers. This early mistake, which I believe, was during top of Round 2, pretty much cost him the game as it was that much harder for him to come back.
In essence what I am trying to say is to beat someone, you have to create a somewhat even playing field. A major blocker to that thought is again the lack of knowledge. It’s rare when someone will just dumb luck into a win, and usually when you see those blowouts it’s due to some fundamental lack of understanding. For the short term the winning player does get the gratification of winning, but they aren’t learning anything new. They learn that if they can surprise someone with the gimmick that they can pull a win. At high-level play, that situation will rarely happen. So the person will come to a wall and not understand why they are having a hard time when it has worked in the past. This is where the post game review process comes into play; it helps you critically think about the situation; and should cover what happens when someone does know exactly what your lists does. Then the game is about the level of skill involved in executing your plan and countering your opponents.