The Road to ITC Champion
What better way to help you guys become better at 40k than by sharing my real life success story! Grab some beer and popcorn, sit back and relax as I tell you the tale of how I became the ITC 2017 circuit winner.
Before I get too deep into it, let me give you guys a little history lesson for those of you who know nothing about my 40k career. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I started playing Warhammer in 2004 at the wee young age of 10. Soon thereafter I started playing at my local game store The Only Game in Town (Togit), where I made many friends who shared the same passions I did.
Around 2008 I attended my first GT, Grand Tournament Baltimore, and placed pretty poorly. This was back when GW ran tournaments and dinosaurs roamed the streets. Even though I did really poorly, I fell in love with the competitive aspect of the game and couldn’t get enough. I started to travel to tournaments more and more frequently and got better as time went on. Eventually, I started to place highly at events consistently and develop a name for myself.
Fast forward a few years and I was knee deep in the 40k tournament scene. I attended Adepticon in 2013 and really solidified myself within our community there. I played some European Team Championship (ETC) members from both Team America and other countries across the small pond known as the Atlantic, and was able to best all of them. Eventually I found myself in the finals against none other than my lover Tony Kopach who was dominating 5th edition like it was his job. I rose above and managed to claim victory, winning Adepticon 2013. This was not only a huge accomplishment since it was my first major GT win, but it also secured me a spot on Team America for the ETC.
From there I started to make many connections abroad, and I continued thriving in the US 40k tournament scene. With four Adepticon Championship titles, two Nova Invitational wins, six years straight of qualifying for Team America and representing New Jersey, the greatest country in the world, and even a best sportsmanship award here and there I’ve secured my place as a dominant force in 40k.
But enough about me, if you guys wanted a history lesson you would have just paid attention in high school.
Towards the end of the ITC 2016 season I realized I was nowhere near contention for winning the whole thing. That seemed silly considering I already attend a lot of the major high point events and there was a very enticing cash prize at the end of the tunnel (not to mention the accolades). But upon about 30 seconds of self reflection I realized it was because I didn’t take it seriously. I would drop from events as soon as I lost, or I would bring silly armies to potential high point tournaments because I felt like messing around. While those may have seemed like good ideas at the time (I mean who doesn’t want to sleep in through round 4 of a GT after losing round 3) at the end of the year when all your friends are competing for the championship title and you’re sitting at 364th calculating if there’s any way to win a faction award it feels bad. So I made the conscious decision to take the 2017 ITC circuit seriously.
Fast forward a few months and we’re at Adepticon 2017, the first major points opportunity of the year. I brought some prime 7th ed BS in the form of splitting obsec horrors everywhere. Honestly this was one of my most unfair and poorly balanced things to ever exist in 40k and I just broke the game all the way through the finals where I eventually won. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of a 7th ed army because that seems like a bigger waste of time than me trying to enter a Crystal Brush contest. So with that I was able to take a commanding lead on the circuit early on.
I attended another local GT in Delaware with about 50 people shortly thereafter, and in an effort to solidify my lead I played some more 7th ed BS. At this point my split spam horrors were nerfed into irrelevancy (for the better), but with no morals holding me back I found a new source of cheese. 45 Warp Spiders and Screamer star. Again I won’t bother you with 7th ed details but just know that this army was a true abomination. I ended up losing to Andrew Gonyo the eventual winner of the event, so sadly all my efforts to gain a significant amount of points were in vain.
For the next few months and as 8th released I took all kinds of nonsense to RTT’s trying to refine builds so I could be as prepared as possible for GT’s. RTT’s were much more about practicing for bigger events than winning. If you’re trying to win the ITC this is the mentality you need to have. Often this meant sacrificing my ability to win the RTT in order to practice an army I’d plan on using in the future.
As time went on my ATC team and I made the trek to Tennessee where we nearly won the whole thing, but alas, an early draw kept us from first. We ended up in second which thankfully was still a high enough score to positively impact my personal score.
Then came Nova and the Nova Invitational, two tournaments in one weekend with the possibility to swing ITC hugely. Had I won these events I would’ve been near uncatchable in the circuit, but sadly Andrew Goyno beat me in both of them; not only keeping me from gaining any meaningful points there, but also sweeping his way into first place just ahead of me.
About one month after Nova was a GT in New York called BFS, a 64 person major which I knew Gonyo would be attending. Thankfully Andrew was tired of pushing around 120+ guardsmen between ATC/ETC/Nova and took a weaker army of all tanks which ended up costing him dearly as he ended up losing in round 2. I had no such limitations and just continued onward with my normal chaos list claiming second place and reclaiming first place in the circuit.
Towards the ending months of the circuit I didn’t really attend many events, but others across the country were diligently trying to play catch up. The once enormous lead I held fell to just merely single points and eventually out of nowhere Tony Grippando and Andrew Gonyo were able to jump me.
Going into LVO we had a very tight race in which Tony was in first, Gonyo second, me third, Brandon Grant 4th, and I believe but don’t quote me Aaron Aleong in 5th. Sadly (/thankfully) Gonyo has been working on becoming a billionaire in his professional life and was unable to attend LVO due to work. Something about commuting from Virginia to Texas every day took a toll on his free time. If you ask me though, he was just afraid.
So in the weeks leading up to LVO as you can imagine I was trying to come up with the best possible list. And sadly that meant tossing all my morals out the window yet again and giving up on best chaos/daemon player to play everyone’s favorite: Eldar. And what better way to prepare for the biggest event in the history of 40k than to set up a practice weekend Tony Grippando, Brad Chester, and Sean Nayden (some huge names in the 40k scene for those unaware). We all made the trek to Sean’s very hospitable in-law’s house where we nerded out for a weekend. Just to give you guys an idea of how that weekend went. The first night Chester and I were up until 5:30am guiding wraithlords (yes wraithlords) and the second night involved a 6 hour game with Tony Grippando using over 200 pox walkers…
Well let’s fast forward again to the actual LVO. All I had to do was place better than everyone in immediate contention range of me to win the entire ITC. Didn’t seem too hard right? Well Tony Grippando (the only guy ahead of me) made top 8 with me. I swear after every round I went and asked him if he won and every time he responded yes my heart sank more and more.
To build suspense we found ourselves on opposite sides of our bracket. And every game drew us closer and closer. Eventually we were set to play in the finals for all the marbles. LVO and ITC champion all riding on the outcome of one game.
To quote Eminem
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti.”
That basically sums up the pressure there.
We both played a really good game (with nearly identical lists) thanks to Mr. Copycat Grippando audibling to Eldar after weekend at Bernie’s… I mean Sean’s. But in the end I was able to edge it out and prove that I was not only the better Eldar player, not only the LVO champion, but also the ITC Champion. It was truly a euphoric moment for me.
But to be honest all that pales in comparison to the ultimate prize I won. Best Daemon Player in ITC 2017. After not playing daemons for 8 months of the year I was STILL able to retain that title. Fateweaver knows his true place in my heart.
And that kids, is how I met your mother. I mean became ITC champion.