We are the Champions
The new ITC Champion’s missions have been out for a few weeks now and it’s time we took a long look at them in a competitive context. It’s quite an exciting development in the competitive circuit, allowing tournaments a set of alternatives in favor of more traditional ITC missions. I’m going to break down the new missions into their key elements for competitive play, both making the most of your tactics as well as getting the most out of list construction.
The first thing to note is that the Champion’s missions feel and act more like Nova & Renegade missions rather than a mixture of book & maelstrom (7th edition or the initial ITC missions), using a combination of progressive scoring, a running tally of “kill points,” and a choose your own adventure list of secondaries for each mission. With each having a primary goal of hold an objective on your turn (1 pt), kill an enemy unit (1 pt), hold more objectives at the end of the battle round (1 pt), and kill more units in a battle round than your opponent (1 pt), the missions heavily favor resiliency, killing power, efficiency, and going 2nd for the battle rounds. But the most interesting change in my opinion is the fact that games have a set limit of 6 battle rounds, something unheard of in the 6th & 7th tournament scene. Gone are the days of a single unit of eldar jetbikes turbo-boosting 48” to steal a win in the supposed last turn. Gone are the days of unkillable units that wade through fire without a scratch. Yes indeed, it’s only the mechanics of 8th that really allow us to move forward with a set round limit, effectively giving players a choice: the power of having first activation or the final say in who holds objectives & what units need to die. So how does this shake out for our main archetypical forces?
Previously, armies were constructed with an extreme in mind. Be it hordes, MAGNARION, multiple flyers, or characters galore, the early 8th edition meta has been more like 7th edition unbound. The key to a good mission, however, is allowing multiple styles of armies to flourish and in different ways. Nova missions are probably the earliest example of this idea (such as a Harlequin army doing well), but I feel the Champion’s missions will revive the idea across the ITC. Any army can fulfill the primary mission. Any army can hold an objective and kill at least one unit a turn. They can probably hold multiple objectives and kill multiple units, also fulfilling our primary missions. Given that we can score up to 5 points a battle round on Primary mission alone, we have up to 30 points of a possible 42 tied up in “simple” concepts. Where it really diverges from standard missions is the choices of secondary missions.
Let’s backtrack for a second here. In a tournament, we’ll walk up to our table, shake our opponent’s hand, and start some pregame rolls. First we’ll roll off to determine who randomly generates our deployment from the 6 standard maps. That winner of that roll will also pick their deployment zone, but the loser will start deploying their army first. HOWEVER! It’s after deployment zones are picked but before deployment that we’ll pause and secretly pick 3 of the 8 secondary missions to attempt during the game, then reveal our choices simultaneously. This is an important step that’s easy to miss, for knowing your deployment beforehand can really influence our choices. Each of these secondaries is worth up to 4 points added to our overall score. While these missions “can be scored at any time unless the timing is specified,” there definitely are some standouts and some traps. ITC has said that it’s almost impossible to have a max score (42 points), you certainly want to pick realistic and viable missions. With that said, some of these are designed to be focused on your army and some are focused on what your opponent has brought. I’m going to go through them and discuss when we should or shouldn’t pick them. For sake of not jumping around multiple tabs or devices, here are the secondary missions (at the time of this article):
- Headhunter: Score 1 point for killing an enemy character.
- Kingslayer: Choose an enemy character. Score 1 point for every 2 wounds done, or 1 point for every 3 wounds done if the character is also a vehicle or monster. This is cumulative for anything that revives (like Celestine) or can heal (like Cawl).
- Reaper: Score 1 point for killing a unit that started with 10+ models. Score 2 points for killing a unit that started with 20+ models instead.
- Recon: Have a unit at least partially within all four table quarters to score 1 point that turn.
- Big Game: Score 1 point for killing a model that has 10+ wounds.
- Titan Slayers: Score 1 point per 8 wounds dealt to a Titanic unit. These wounds are cumulative and can be spread across multiple units.
- Behind Enemy Lines: Score 1 point per unit that is at least partially within 12” of the enemy’s deployment board edge at the end of the game.
- Death by a Thousand Cuts: Score 1 point each time you destroy 3 or more enemy units in a single Battle Round.
Evaluating this list with a critical eye, in reality we have four missions that are highly situational and match up dependent – Thousand Cuts, Reaper, Big Game, and Titan Slayers. Headhunter and Kingslayer are not included in the aforementioned list because any army you face will either have a few characters or will be hyper specialized that these two can be swapped with Big Game (Flyer & Tank heavy) or Titan Slayer (multiple iKnights) instead. This means that we essentially have 2(!) missions that we can depend upon during list building – Recon and Lines. Both favor fast and durable units that can survive over multiple turns, either through sheer attrition in Lines’ case or through multiple units hanging out across the board in Recon’s case. Since we established that primary points can be scored by any army, the beauty of the Champion’s missions are the secondary missions and how we get to adapt to our opponent’s list, really changing the way the game is played.
So what’s so special about these situational missions? All of them are based on your opponent’s list and the choices they made going into the event. Titan Slayers is the most obvious, either you have a Titanic unit or not. But even then, most Titanic units are 24 wounds, which will get you 3 points if you kill it and if they only have 1 Titan. Reaper and Big Game are designed around common meta choices – hordes & tanks/flyers. 60+ conscripts, 40+ cultists, 4 storm ravens, rhinos & razorbacks, or heavy artillery are common choices (though not so much the conscripts anymore…). If your opponent has some of these in their list and you’re confident you can score them, they’re easy picks. The trickiest mission and the one that many players will fall for the trap is Death by a Thousand Cuts. Ideally, this mission would be great to pick against a MSU style army, one where we can kill 3 units in one turn. Nova had a secondary like this (Moment of Bloodshed), but it was a once per game mission that gave you a set amount of points. In Champion, you need to reliably score 3 kills across 4 turns to maximize your score. My most recent GT saw every one of my 5 opponents pick the mission against my list, yet only 1 of them scored more than 1 point. All of them got their 1 point turn 1. That’s not a good return for such critical points. If Thousand Cuts was changed to be score 1 point for every 3 units you kill (possibly every 4 or 5 units instead), it would be a much more feasible mission. As it stands, it’s the trap you should almost never take; you want to be killing your opponent’s units so they have less resources to devote to objective holding and/or recon, not spacing out your kills.
Before we dive into how these shape list building, it would be wrong not to mention how to choose secondaries effectively. The biggest thing I look for is can I reliably score at least 3 points if I choose secondary X. That mission will be the most readily identifiable mission and the “easy” choice against an army. You have 20 assassins? Headhunter. 6 units of 10 cultists? Reaper. Following that, I look for units that I absolutely must kill or take care of in order to win, then pick a secondary based on that. The thought process behind this is these units are so crucial to my opponent’s strategy that I’m going to lose unless they are gone, so I might as well earn points for my efforts. You have 3+ storm ravens that will wipe me off the table? Big Game Hunter, they need to die. Third, I look for a mission that will at least break even with my opponent. Celestine is your main melee threat? Might as well take Kingslayer or put her out of the game in fear of them losing points for engaging with her. Finally, if I have enough units, Recon is always a safe choice, especially for melee focused armies that love board control or hanging out mid-table. 4 units in the center of the board can have one in each quarter and rack up points while also denying ground.
Intelligent list design can shape the way the secondaries are played, both enhancing our chances at maximizing our score and hurting our opponent’s shot at winning. Let’s take a new Eldar army for example:
Autarch – Jetbike
Farseer – Jetbike
2 Fire Prisms
2×5 Dark Reapers
1×5 Shining Spears
1×5 Fire Dragons
3 War walkers
I’m guessing on the points values here, but what we have is a well-balanced army that is amazing in Champion’s Missions. First, it’s a list that wants to go second. Between -1 to hit (Alaitoc, of course) and having 3 units of Rangers to really spread out beyond the deployment zone, we effectively block any drop strikes, so we can safely take bottom of turn to try and hold more objectives and kill more units. Next, we don’t really have good choices that our opponents want to pick against us. Big Game is only 2 points from the prisms, while headhunter is a max of 3 on models that move up to 22” (29” if you want to stratagem them to move in the shooting phase). Literally no unit is large enough for Reaper, and we don’t have a Titan, which forces our opponent into bad choices already. Thousand Cuts? Maybe, but our -1 to be hit and alternate deployments from Hawks and stratagems make that a bad prospect.
On the flipside, we have enough units to reliably get Recon, anti-tank punch in Prisms, Dragons, and Reapers to get Big Game Hunter (if applicable), and speed in the jetbikes, Hawks, and Spiders to grab Behind Enemy Lines as an option. All in all, an all comers army that can play the mission very well and act as a point denial army at the same time.
A final note – each Champion’s Mission has a 5th bonus point that can be scored typically at the end of the player turn. It ranges from holding all objectives on the field, holding them with characters, to holding a specific objective, etc. It’s a point that is extremely hard to get until the later battle rounds (turns 4+). In your list building, aim for a list that can put pressure as needed, but is able to have a unit or two that can move fast enough to grab that extra objective or point where needed. It’s not something to build around, but it would be remiss to not have that ace up your sleeve to be opportunistic.