Platinum Vanguard Tactics Academy Student Philip Cohen recently attended his first event after a 6 year hiatus – and won! We caught up with Philip recently to find out how he got on, how the Vanguard Tactics Academy helped him on his journey and to find out what the winning recipe was.
Not only did Philip win the event, he won best painted too. Check out his awesome, vibrant Tyranid army:
Congratulations on winning your first event after a six-year break from competitive gaming! What inspired you to return to playing Warhammer 40K competitively?
I first got into 40k when I was in my early teens because some friends were getting into it. I stopped around Year 11-12 (last two years of High School in Australia) and then didn’t get back into it for years. I was cleaning out my room from my parents place about 6 years later and I thought, “wow, I really enjoyed that game” and got back into it. Once again I played for a few years and then had to move, put all the models in storage and no one around where I moved to play, so they stayed in storage.
A few years after that, one of my friends said, “Hey Philip, I’m getting into Warhammer 40k, it’s a game with miniature soldiers, I think you’d like it!”. Little did he know! I eventually got my stuff out of storage and about 4000 points of Tyranids, I think he was a bit surprised by that!
In terms of getting into things competitively, part of my personality is that if I do something I want to do it the best that I possibly can. So when I got back into the game, I found VT online. I liked their ethos and the idea of training and learning how the game works and building on that really appealed.
How did you prepare for this tournament, both in terms of your gameplay strategy and painting your Tyranids army?
In terms of Gameplay strategy, the academy that VT does provides a really great baseline to work from. It explains how the game works, how the game is won and how to approach it to do well. From that I made a list. I caught up for some one on one coaching with Mike Costello, one of the coaches and discussed strategy and how I envisioned the list working, further refining it. After that it was practice, practice, practice.
That actually showed me that the first list I tried after the big points update that GW released was simply not viable, or at least not by me. I changed the list up, repeated the process of planning, discussing with Mike, practising the list and seeing what worked and what didn’t. And then it was time for the tournament.
In terms of painting, I had a colour scheme that I already loved and some of the army already painted. The thing that really helped with that was the community Discord. Some time around February, Steve put up a post encouraging people to do weekly painting goals and show hobby progress. I found that to be really helpful, I set a weekly goal, put up my work and got people’s feedback. The community offered the accountability and encouragement that I needed and I worked at it week at a time until it was completed.
In your experience, how has the support of the Vanguard Tactics community contributed to your journey back to competitive play?
As I’ve mentioned above, the community has been great. A place to ask rules questions and get feedback from experienced people. A great place to get games over TTS (tabletop simulator) because my local group isn’t quite there yet, the tournament they ran over TTS was a particular favourite. A place of encouraging people who help maintain motivation for hobby progress. Generally just a pleasant place for encouragement and gaming spirit.
I’ve also found some of the mid-week lessons to be very helpful. A special shout out to the Pick-your-secondaries and Quiz the coach lessons. It provided personalised feedback and discussion of armies and was uploaded online so I could listen back. I am in a different timezone and it is rare that I can catch them live but it still provides a heap of use.
As a Tyranids player, what do you think are the key strengths of your army, and how did you leverage these strengths in your games?
The strengths of Tyranids have actually changed a lot over the time since I came back to the hobby in 9th. Their biggest strength I guess though is the variety of units that achieve certain roles very efficiently. What I mean is that if I need a fast objective grabber – hormagaunts – they can’t hit very hard but they do their role very well. There is a bug to be a good screen and it accomplishes that role very effectively. There are different bugs to do damage, and they do that well too. Every part synergises well with all the other parts of the army so that they can protect each other’s weaknesses and leverage their strengths. Add to that that we now have our adaptive trait back so we can change our army rules ever so slightly to cover our weaknesses.
In terms of how to leverage these strengths, I’d say know your army and what it can accomplish and know what your weaknesses are. Know what your opponent can do and find ways to mitigate their efficacy. So against Orks, lots of AP-1 and very good in combat. So I used an army trait to ignore the AP and put big screens of little bugs to prevent them from charging into the units that could actually hurt them.
Winning both the event and the best-painted award is an impressive accomplishment! Can you share some tips or techniques you used to achieve such a high level of painting quality?
Doing the same scheme for everything and getting into a routine made a big difference. The main problem with that is that it took a LONG time. So setting weekly goals, as I was saying before, was essential. You can’t rush a good paint job so if you want to play with your army you need to prepare in advance and put the time in. Practising a technique over and over makes you faster at it and batch painting is your friend. But mostly it is just time
What are your thoughts on the sportsmanship aspect of competitive play, and how do you ensure that both you and your opponent have an enjoyable experience during a game?
The focus on sportsmanship was actually one of the things that drew me to VT. I am by nature a very competitive person and it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are all just playing a game with toy soldiers and we are doing it to have fun. What I do is mostly what I’ve been taught here on VT. I make sure I tell my opponent at the beginning of the game what the important rules I have are, what the sneaky stratagems I could use are and that sort of thing. It’s up to them to think of the interactions, which is where the sneaky plays come in, but I make sure they know that I am able to do these things. I make sure I state my intention when moving especially and I let my opponent know that if they tell me their intent and it’s possible before they move I will honour that, if they don’t say as they do it, it didn’t happen. If I forget something or I forget to announce something I take it on the chin, that is my mistake.
If my opponent is about to make a move or a charge and how they do it is important I will tell them that I would like them to carefully announce their intent, that means that if I then do a strange charge, heroic intervention or movement trick, they can’t say their intent was something else.
Basically I try to ensure that the moves I make are obvious and clear, but not the plans behind them and I try to assist my opponent in making their actions obvious also
Can you share any specific examples of how your one-to-one coaching sessions have positively impacted your gameplay strategy or army composition?
Absolutely. One of the more obvious ones would be the use of the Parasite of Mortrex. There is a specific warlord trait / relic combination which makes the Parasite a very useful and sneaky technical piece. It isn’t used commonly in “meta” lists but it has made a difference in almost every game I’ve played.
I also went through a period of doing quite poorly in my training matchups and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Mike went through my gameplay strategy, deployment, secondary picking and was able to recommend changes in deployment and first turn strategy that made me much more successful.
More broadly speaking I’d say that having someone who is intimately familiar with the army and the units I have available is really valuable. When I am struggling into a specific archetype (shooting /indirect meta) Mike has been able to share how he would approach that army and what tools I have available (consider different Hive Fleet). It gave me the ability to run ideas past someone who has a vast amount more experience than myself and can pick up things that as a relatively inexperienced player I just haven’t come across.
Looking back at the tournament, what were some of the most memorable or exciting moments you experienced throughout the event?
Most memorable: Not getting to the end of Turn 3 because I didn’t ask for a chess clock game 1. Asked for a chess clock every game after that and I got to finish my turn 5 every time afterwards. Always use a chess clock. Always.
More seriously now it’s a pretty easy thing to ask. “Hey I didn’t get past turn 3 in my other game, I just want to make sure I don’t use up all the time. Do you mind if we use a clock?” Never had anyone have a problem with it since.
Most exciting: Going into World Eaters and making him fight last or be unable to use stratagems in every single combat. It was so satisfying being able to mitigate such a powerful army’s major strengths through clever use of units and model placement.
Based on your experience in this tournament, are there any changes or improvements you’re considering for your Tyranids army or gameplay strategy in future events?
I’m planning on changing my Hive Fleet to Jormungander. The change there will give me Dense cover at range. It makes me slightly weaker in combat but much more survivable against the meta armies of guard and desolation marines. It was an idea that I got from Mike in one of our catch ups and I’m keen to give it a go.
In terms of Strategy I am going to be much more careful in my deployment against some of these shooting armies, I spread out too much in my last game and it caused me some pretty big problems.
With your recent success and continued involvement with Vanguard Tactics, what are your goals and aspirations within the Warhammer 40K community moving forward?
I have a big tournament planned – Terracon – a 6 tournament, 2 day tournament in the small country town I grew up in (5000 people in the town, 3.5 hours drive from the nearest city, but somehow one of the largest 40k tournaments outside of the city!). It will be great to catch up with friends from my childhood and play some 40k. I also hope to play a couple of tourneys a year when I can make it into my local city.
But more importantly I am looking forward to 10th, partly because of the rules shake up, but more importantly it is a chance to wipe the slate clean so I can grow my local group. There is a good group of friends who are all starting out and 10th is a good opportunity for us all to start and learn together with a new ruleset. My aspirations are to learn the rules quickly and well so I can teach them in my local group.
I’m also looking forward to sticking around with the VT discord, keeping up with the state of the game and hopefully getting some more TTS games and tournaments in!
How did you and your teammates coordinate and strategize together during the event? Were there any specific synergies or tactics you employed as a team?
Our team was……..disorganised.
It was a group of guys who had never met playing a three man team tournament. One of the guys was very hard to get in touch with before the event and he had to drop out 3 days before the tournament and we got a completely new player.
We made discussions of what we thought our opponents would choose. We were wrong every time. But we did discuss what our armies were strong into and we were reasonably accurate in picking that. During the event we went back to our matrix excel sheet and just said whether we still agreed with it.
Overall it was great fun, but mostly because I got to meet some new 40k players and had a great time.
What was your experience with the team tournament format, and how did it compare to your expectations going into the event after such a long break from competitive gaming?
I didn’t mind the team tournament format, it was fun but mostly because of the camaraderie of it being in a team. It so happened that I ended up playing the same army three times in a row because that was the most effective match up for our team. That was a bit of a pity, I like the variety you get in singles events, but you can get runs of the same opponents in that format too. Fortunately, just before I went into the tournament VT did a series of videos on team tournaments and how they work, how to prepare for them, etc… They made a big difference. I think I would have felt much less comfortable and confident without that preparation because it is a very different setting then what I remembered.