Finding Success Outside the Norm: An Alternative Daemon List


Herald of Tzeentch by Zargooran

Finally attending a major GT such as NOVA was great. What it does for me is show the diversification of the Daemons book. By far the most favorable list, one made extremely popular due to the success of three-time Adepticon champ Nick Nanavati, contains a Drone Star, Fateweaver, and at least one Screamer unit compiled with two Heralds of Tzeentch on disc and two Heralds of Nurgle thrown into the Drones.

Today I’ll shed a little light onto why my list has worked for me. The list is composed of LoC LvL3, two Great & one Lesser Reward, two Heralds of Tzeentch on foot, both with Locus of Conjuration, plus one Exalted Gift, more often taking Grim. (However, at Templecon GT 2014, I took the Portal due to only having two scoring units, according to 6th edition rules.) Then, IMO, one of the most powerful non-named ICs in the game, a Herald of Slaanesh on a Steed, LvL 1, Locus of Beguilement, Greater and Lesser Rewards. My two big units are Seekers and Flesh Hounds, 15+ each in most cases, backed by three units of Pink Horrors, Nurglings and Bel’Akor (Dual-CAD). Or beef up the Hounds unit, ally in CSM for Bel’Akor, and Cultist, dropping one unit of Horrors and Nurgling Swarms.

For over two years now, I have heard plenty of times that my list could not work. It is almost guaranteed I will be reminded that Fateweaver is better than LoC, and that I need Screamers instead of Seekers, at nearly any new tourney I show up to. Even when I find victory, my opponent will still suggest I drop LoC for Fatey. At Templecon 2014, the man himself, Nick N., and I met and after sharing a few drinks talked about our lists. Nick thought I was crazy, but luckily my first GT was favorable, as I pulled out Best Overall (but did not face Nick himself). This was the same weekend my sparring partner Alex Fennell was winning LVO with his Seer Star + Serpents galore list. Alex and I played 6-7 games a month preparing for our GT appearances. The best part was that his list, on top of the share size of LVO, kept Alex in the spotlight all over the Internet, and my success flew under the radar.

Having more success in New England tourneys throughout the year, I found myself at Templecon 2015 using almost the same list, except this time I had dropped Bel’Akor for a GDP of Nurgle instead. I wanted to test myself by bringing no formations, no named, no FW, and using only one source book, so I took Dual-CAD Daemons and found success once again. This time I had the pleasure of playing Alex Fennell in the finals. I would like to say it was bittersweet due to my overall skill level being raised since I had started practicing with Alex two years prior. But hey, even Vader killed Kenobi eventually … winning Templecon for the second year in a row felt great. However, it seems the list I ran was able to remain under the radar. As Templecon was wrapping up, all eyes were focused on Adepticon being right around the corner and the prospect of a Nick Nanavati three-peat.

NOVA 2015: I decided to finally attend. I have said for years now I would be coming down but have not shown for whatever reason, earning the nickname “The Axl Rose of 40k.”

I really wanted to play three people who I thought were in the top tier of players. As luck would have it, my win path brought me face to face with two of the three, finding success both times. I was then set up to face my third and most sought-after opponent, Nick. My LoC, Seekers and Hounds vs. his Fatey, Drones and Screamers. I hold Nick in the highest regard and respect him, but it was a showdown I really wanted. I am not by any means saying I thought I would win; I just wanted to face the man whose Daemon list I continuously get compared to.

The only thing was, we both had to win our semifinal matchups to meet in the end, and we both lost. Instead of playing for 3rd place, we both dropped out and went and had some drinks (I got outplayed and lost; Nick lost due to a tank shock–a fair loss nonetheless, but a tank shock hit him pretty hard, no pun intended …) Rest assured we are going to play, and the results will be made public. There is even a wager of units/models being handed over when a unit is wiped out. One day…

How I have found success
(Solely in my opinion, based on games and tourneys I have attended; take it for what it’s worth)

1) LoC instead of Fatey. Fatey is a gimp in combat, and while it is nearly improbable he will ever be in combat, we have all seen our fair share of one or two grounding checks, followed by a reroll of 1 or 2. I also have found that when someone loses Fateweaver, the demeanor changes. Not all the time, but I have witnessed the tipping of the King when Fatey is lost early. And while the reroll is great, and Warlord trait is probably the best available to Daemons, it is not a fair trade for what the LoC brings. I run my LoC with Divination; while three of the spells are all but useless, the chance of Precognition is worth it. Forewarning also works well with my particular list, as well as Misfortune and Prescience.

The two rolls on the Greater chart make LoC a King. 1 (+1 wound and IWND), 2 (4+FNP) and 6 (3+ save) are your best. Reroll Invuls on a 3 is not bad, if you didn’t get Precog as a spell. 5 is situational for AB/FB, since in most cases you will wound on a 2+ because your Lesser Reward is always defaulted to the +2 str ap4 staff, which turns into ap2 due to an MC wielding it. 4 is a shooting attack, which is the least favorable. In either case, I know by turn one whether the LoC is a flying support and Flicker Fire machine or a ground-hopper who will be a hard-to-kill juggernaut in combat. (Remember my list has Bel’akor; if your opponent does not have a truckload of Ignores Covers, Shrouding Spell with these two hopping around on the ground and jinking for a 2+ cover is key).

2) Seekers and the Herald of Slaanesh. First off, they are fast, moving 12″ a turn and running another d6 + 6″, with Fleet. They get three attacks each, four on the charge, rerolling hits every round of combat. Rending is a powerful unit; it’s got WS5 and I5, making it better than most of what they fight against. The Herald herself being mounted comes stock with 5 WS7, I7, Rending attacks.

Your pre-rolls for the Herald are looking for 5s. You are looking for Invisibility on Telepathy and AB/FB for your Greater Reward. If you get the 5 on your Greater Reward, you are going to have 5 attacks wounding on 2s; my Lesser Reward will always default to the Lesser E blade for ap2, if I have AB/FB. If my Greater Reward is anything but a 5, I default to the Greater E blade, +1 Str, ap2. You also get Master Crafted, which plays no part due to Locust of Beguilement. The Lesser roll defaults to a weapon also in most cases to produce two specialist weapons; depending on who I am playing I may take the Whit Stealer sword. In most cases she now has six attacks, seven on the charge, str 5, ap2, with a Locust of Beguilement allowing her and her unit to reroll hits every round of combat as long as she is alive.

However, the best part comes from the further benefits of the Locust of Beguilement: The Herald can summon someone to accept a challenge, and the controlling player has no decision and cannot refuse a challenge. Ravenwing-command Apothecaries, Tau or Ethereals making Broadsides stubborn, and even the Baron when he was around, or Baharroth (who gives a pesky unit Hit and Run) are all great targets for her. But I would say the best unit to take out with the Herald and her Seekers would have to be Screamers with a Herald of Tz hiding with the Grimoire in it. Plenty of times, I have used my Grimoire to target an opponent’s Screamer unit. Now, he would still have a decent save due to probably already being Grimmed by its own side combined with Forewarning. But the model carrying the Grim does not benefit from it, so that Herald who now has a 5+ Invul (if Forewarned) is about to be summoned to a challenge.

Using the Seekers + Herald does take some thought. Be careful who she fights (Baharroth is I 7 for instance; you need Invis to survive). Beware too of both your opponent’s initiative and, if going through cover, the possibility of dying prior to swinging. And make sure you have the support of a spells like Invis or Grim if you’re not busy grimming your opponent’s Daemon units. The best part is, with all her challenging shenanigans, she herself does not have to accept a challenge. So sit out a round if you find yourself charging into cover, if it’s a challenge that you absolutely need to go first on.

3) Hounds. Fast, furious charge, WS 5. In my list, not only do I have my LoC rolling on Divination, I have one of my LvL3 Heralds rolling on it also, and if I still do not get Misfortune, I would roll the second LvL 3 on Div. Voluminous STR 5 attacks + Rending + Prescience is a very effective formula.

4) Pink Horrors units. Much like the Hounds’ str 5 volume of attacks. Two of my horror units will have STR 6 Flicker Fire due to Heralds of Tz with Locust of Conjuration. Combine that with Prescience and Misfortune, be conscious of your 30″ threat range, and you effectively have tools to deal with mostly anything your opponent fields.

5) Bel’Akor. For me, he dies all the time, in most cases due to me throwing seven or eight dice at an Invis spell, and taking Perils each turn. But his spells make him far too worth it with the list I run and my play style. Plus for some reason everyone loves to shoot at Bel’Akor, leaving my fast attack running wild, all to get rid of my Invis spell.

6) 2-3 units of Horrors. Almost always, the Horrors will start on the board with a Herald in each unit. And nearly always, each unit makes its one roll on Demonology, since the ruling at most tourneys states they get Spell focus and Daemon focus. I am usually looking for Incursion or Cursed Earth. Three free Plague Drones can really help out your cause if you’re in a jam, but Cursed Earth is great. In the end, each Horror unit ends up with X Demonology spell, Summoning, and Flicker Fire. And while I usually keep summoning to a minimum, as my list has the tools on the board already to achieve success, sometimes having five Hounds or 10 Plague Bearers drop in is not a bad idea.

7) Prepare for the worst, identify, overcome and move on. Be prepared for a bad Warp Storm, or a failed Grim. Work around it, and move on from it. Some think a failed Grim is the end of the world. But with spells like Invis or Forewarning to back you up, you really can counter that failed Grim roll. You will lose a caster to the Warp, or possibly weaken a unit so badly that it has no effect. Keep moving forward, bounce back from it. Not having used Fateweaver, I am not accustomed to having his bailout reroll on a d6 or Warp Storm. So I expect to lose some rolls or units due to Daemon shenanigans.

8) Have no plan. Be versatile. You have so much opportunity prior to the game to achieve what you are looking for. Above, I touched base on my pre-game goals as far as spells and gifts. In most cases those goals do not change (obviously you are not looking for misfortune if you are going against a Daemon army). After spells and gifts are rolled I try not to formulate any plan; I’d rather just be spontaneous and take it one turn at a time. The best thing is being able to recognize traps or carrots being dangled by your opponents and simply avoid them. I think if nothing else, I have achieved success by doing things outside the norm, or being very unorthodox. The more a list is in the limelight, the more people can practice and formulate a method to counter that list. There are people who make lists solely to take out cookie cutter/net lists.

9) Execution. Let’s face it, having a powerful list is great, but the execution and skill of play will ultimately decide your success. And sometimes you may even surprise people. Playing a list that has survived under the radar for a while, or least has not been given the same respect as Nick Nanavati’s list, has helped out. Having gone to NOVA and playing some of the big names finds me now writing about my list as I am moving on from it. A Templecon victory two years in a row and a semifinals appearance at my first NOVA has fulfilled all my desires to play Daemons the way I do on the tourney scene. However, I have one big game left, and that’s against Nick.

In closing, I have found success with this list, practicing against superior players every chance I got. And having made something outside the norm stick through a trial of execution, I hope you all find the same success in the lists you formulate. If I may share my absolute favorite moment in all the years of playing this list: It was at NOVA this year, when a well-respected and top tier player said to me, “People are wondering who the F this guy is, and how does he keep winning without Fatey or Screamers?”

For the record, three of my wins at NOVA were against opponents 유흥알바 who had Fatey and at least one Screamer unit with a Herald on disc + Grim. The irony is, my semifinals loss was to a very unorthodox Eldar/Tau list I had never seen before, manned by a solid player with great execution, and with all due respect, whom I had never really heard of before.