Should you take Mortarion in ITC format tournaments.
Well I’m far from an expert. Aside from playing the army for quite a while, and on and off for several editions, I really don’t play ITC format a ton. In fact, if I’m completely honest, I can only run ITC in small doses, and then I’m good for a while.
With that said if you’ve been following my trials and tribulations lately you know that I tried wedging him into my most recent 1750 point Death Guard army list for an ITC GT.
Long story short I did surprisingly ‘okay’ for the tournament; I definitely could have done better if I wasn’t goofing off at the end of games, but quite frankly I never, ever would have guessed I’d get that close to top 3 and finish 6th overall. That’s not false modesty, in fact I took Mortarion because I did -not- want to be on the super competitive side of the room, especially with all the controversy following ITC, the London GT, and the 2018 LVO. (At my event they were streaming games in both days and I wanted to avoid that like the plague. (pun intended!))
Any one that knows me in real life, follows me here, or on the BnC forum knows I love the full spectrum of this game, and can play competitive or a ridiculous throw down scenario with no chance to win on the line! (See my performance at GW’s Konor Campaign for the proof on that one!)
Towards the end of my testing, and going into the tournament people started asking me more and more if I felt Mortarion was really worth it in my list, or worth it in competitive play and that is the motivation behind this article.
Without further ado let me share what I’ve learned with you….
Part 1: Testing with Mortarion vs. Competitive Play with Mortarion
So what’s the difference? It’s huge actually and if you want to take Mortarion to any competitive event. Firstly I found opponents that I knew could make -rock hard- , ITC style lists. We are all aware of the meta here and know what’s winning in the bigger events.
When you test Mortarion I recommend you do what I did, and match up against your worst nightmare, as many times as you can stand it. I did this to the point that I was sure Mortarion was a wretched idea and I would hate myself by Day 2.
It may go without saying, but it was said to me as well; you have to play these games like your worst match up is going down, and nothing is going to work for you. Some people go so far as to skip a Psychic phase just to experience the true ‘worst case scenario’.
I never had to go that far. Honestly, I didn’t. I simply have and had games where very early I got nothing off in the Psychic phase that helped me, and yes I had those turns at crucial points during the tournament. (One of them was against World Eaters? True story!)
What I’m going to recommend is you find a strong Dark Eldar, Astra Militarum, and Tau player, and let them beat you with a rubber hose until you start to enjoy it. (Figuratively speaking.) Those are horrible match ups for us in general as I write this.
If you do this, you’re setting yourself up for stronger showings against your nemesis match ups, and you’re going to do much better against your lesser capable foes!
Part 2: Death is inevitable but Turn 1 or 2 REALLY sucks
If you try step 1, I assure you won’t have to mimic step 2. The reality is, and this is what could be considered the linchpin of the conversation, the ability for you to make 4+ invulnerable save is so severe, it will flat out cause you to win or lose strong match ups.
This is where I think the cautious, competitive player gets off the Mort bus. The reality is you will have a bad first turn during a tournament where you lose Mortarion in Turn 1. It could be bad luck, bad terrain, or a bad match up.
The big question is: How do you handle it when he’s dead? This is army composition and play style. I think my opponents sometimes took a deep sigh of relief and thought it was over for me. What I think you should do a this point is make sure you have a decent secondary damage dealer (for me it was the Daemon Prince), and enough ObSec scoring units to make a presence on the board that still rewards you some points. Knowing your limitations here is huge.
Part 3: Sometimes it’s not when Mortarion dies, but how he dies.
This is probably obvious but I still found takes practice. What I mean by this is measure your opponent’s main guns. Make them move an inch to get in range of him. You know they ALL want Mortarion dead yesterday. Make them pay for him. Make them adjust in uncomfortable ways. Make them put tanks in really crappy shooting lanes. Make them come out of cozy spots to get a bead on him.
Also I recommend keeping in mind your counter punch. If you know he’s going down, make sure you drew the opponent out, or sucked them into an area where your secondary damage can really hit hard.
Let me give you an example if this:
In game 3, I knew I was out matched, out gunned, and far out maneuvered. My only hope was some dumb luck, and driving Mortarion into a fire lane that would draw out my opponent so that I could counter with one of two units.
So above I have a terrible deployment (Hammer and Anvil) on top of a less that stellar match up. What I did in deployment was put Mortarion back just a few inches from 3 Ravager gun boats, so he’d forgo first turn shooting, or move up a little. Also if he wanted to get his Dark Reapers in, he’d have to move them a bit too.
What am I really doing here? Am I threatening him with Mortarion? Hell no. Mortarion will be at the local dumpster looking for old cigarette butts to chew on before Turn 3.
What (I hope you can see) is I’m coming in both flanks hoping for the counter charge. Above Mortarion (mostly hidden) is my Blight Grenade Rhino. The Rhino is lined up for 3 Ravagers. Below Mortarion (far left of the picture you can barely make out his wing) is my Daemon Prince. He is lined up with the Dark Reaper gunline.
So the above picture is the result. Mortarion is gone. The Blight Grenade squad and some friends kill 2 boats. The Daemon Prince collects some Soulstones from Dark Reapers, and my Plagueburst Crawler is going to be charging his Warlord soon.
Heck even his flyer came back just to light Mortarion’s bum on fire with Mortal wound fire! (I hear Mort’s gassy demeanor is quite flammable.)
That’s about as granular as I will get on actually using Mortarion. I’m in no way an expert, at all. I got lucky, and just learned a bit as I went. But keep in mind you have to assess your opponent’s abilities really quickly. Sometimes it really is best to throw Mortarion in the front row and let him be free!
Part 4: Rounding out your list.
This was a 1750 point ITC tournament. Fitting Mortarion in this list was brutal. With my playtesting I found Poison and Astra (that includes Tau really) are just way too capable of taking him down in a turn.
My preference is to take his Deathshroud bodyguard, but two things turned me off of that: 1. Games Workshop’s current FAQ on killing Deep Strike in T1 (outside of your deployment) hurts this. 2. At 1750 points I had lethargic damage in the list without Mortarion alive. (Deathshroud run to the tune of 180 points!)
That said I did practice with them a lot, and almost kept them, but instead I assumed Mort’s death to be in T1-2 every game, and planned around it.
Aside from secondary damage, boots on the ground is a problem. Hence my Poxwalkers, cultists, and Nurgle Daemon detachment. I don’t think I had to have the daemon detachment. It was unbelievably rare that I remembered to heal Mortarion (I guess he’s a glutton for punishment). I also felt the synergy between Poxbringers and Daemon (Nurgle) engines was good, but quite complicated with multiple Aura’s. I also had to explain to every opponent how it worked.
However, the Nurglings got me much needed feet on the ground, and 5 more Command Points! There are other ways to do this though. Take your preference and give it a shot.
Part 4: Conclusion: Are you risk adverse?
A lot of competitive players do not like the idea of the amount of risk this list, or Mortarion presents. They want sure things (as sure as they can get). They want absolutes, and the weight of math behind their decisions. Sometimes these players simply thrive on numbers (either in bodies or in shots) and just let the law of averages bring it together.
This type of army doesn’t do that. There is a serious risk factor. I think that’s what it boils down to. You can be experienced with Mortarion, and really know your stuff far better than I, but if you start second every game and your first three match ups are: Tau, Eldar, Astra, or Dark Eldar, it could be a VERY long weekend for you.
I got lucky. Very lucky. I had fair opponents. And in every game I somehow felt I had a chance, and sometimes that simply meant just playing the mission, and only the mission and skipping the stuff people make heroic stories out of. I think that’s what you have to ask yourself before building the list: Are you risk adverse in competitive play?
I think most people are. The meta is full of massed quantities of low end models that fling a lot of poop at the wall. You rarely see Mortarion at all in the serious circles of high end players. In fact I see him more with Magnus than Death Guard. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you’re okay with that level of risk.
I hope this article left you with some food for thought. As usual, thank you for reading it!