D&D Miniatures08/30/2007

2007 D&D Miniatures Championship
Or "What I Did on Summer Vacation"

My name is Eddie Wehrenberg, and this is my report for the 2007 D&D Miniatures Championship. I am very surprised to have made it to the Championship Match, and I still can't believe I won it!

Before anything else, I want to offer thanks to a lot of very good friends and family who made my trip and Championship possible --

  • To all my opponents for the great matches and great competition -- They were all class acts, very friendly, and I consider them all new friends.
  • To the Norcal DDM Community -- The excellent group at Great Escape Games in my Monday Night League and the Bay Area DDM guys too. I've played with and against a lot of them and they are always very helpful, friendly and instructive.
  • To my Aunt Nora and Uncle Marty, Stefan Alford, Jim Casady, Jim Tadlock, and George White for their sponsorship donations.
  • Extra-special thanks to Gary Lane from Great Escape Games and George Pappas, a family friend, for their generous help in getting me to Gencon.
  • Finally, and most specially, thanks to my Dad, who has supported and encouraged my gaming since I can remember. From getting my first Chess set at 4, to sitting with him playing Baldur's Gate at 6 (and getting my D&D intro then), to video games (TMNT!), card games (Pokemon) and board games (Axis & Allies!) all along the way. I am lucky to have a good Dad.

My Warband

I chose my band based on my experience and confidence with it more than any other reason. I know it's a good band.

For a while, I used Werewolf Lord, dual Black Dragons, and the Thrall of Blackrazor. That was a very good warband. When the Large Shadow Dragon became available, I felt it added flexibility and tech to my band while still keeping the punch.

I haven't jumped around using different warbands in the months leading up to the Qualifier and Gencon. I think using the same band helped me a lot, because I knew how to deal with the current Meta.

I was surprised to see so many Salamanders (but not in my Flight), and I wasn't prepared for the multiple X'endriks (glad I didn't play them). Otherwise, the bands that showed up were pretty much what I expected.

Werewolf Lord

I picked the Werewolf Lord because he is one of the most solid commander/beaters in Chaotic Evil. In the final warband decisions, it came down to a choice between Ryld Argith and the Werewolf Lord. I chose the Werewolf Lord over Ryld mainly because of the beater options. He played out really well against the Shadow Dragons as well, thanks to having Blindfight.

Large Black Dragon

This is one of the best pieces in the game right now. I don't think it has any weaknesses. I used Triple Black Dragons for a little while, so I am familiar with them and what to do against them.

Large Shadow Dragon

Another great piece. When Night Below came out, I wanted to use the Shadow Dragon and decided to add one into my warband. It's powerful, flexible, hits hard, and techy -- that's hard to beat. Its Conceal was significant for me on more than one occasion.

Thrall of Blackrazor

My secret weapon. Well, it wasn't really secret, but it was one of my most effective pieces -- my MVP. I consider the Thrall to be a very reliable piece for killing fodder and acting as a spell/special ability meat shield. Those two things can really mess with people's plans. No matter what warband you bring, you need to plan for what you'll do if you see the Thrall across the battlemat. If you don't, you'll turn around and I'll have 185 hp.

Orc Warriors x4

I think these are some of the best fodder in the whole game. For 3 points, an Orc Warrior can gets +4 to attack and does 10 damage. They are my favorite 3-point Chaotic Evil fodder, and I put four of them in my warband.

Swiss Rounds

I don't remember every detail from the first day. These are my opponents and their warbands along with things that stand out from the matches.

Match 1 -- Gary Ploog

CE, 200 pts, 8 acts: Ryld Argith, Large Black Dragon x3, Hyena, Orc Warrior x3

My first match against Gary was a loss. This was one of the main reasons why I was so baffled to even get into the Top 8. Gary played a very tough match against me. A good string of rolls for him and a bad string on the other end for me didn't help, but that wasn't what decided the match. Gary made some well-played moves with his Large Black Dragons which really wiped me out. Between the dice and his skill, I lost the match terribly, dampening my hopes of even making Top 8.

Match 2 -- David Paul (Vrecknidj)

CG, 200 pts, 8 acts: Storm Silverhand, Virtuous Charger x2, Slayer of Domiel, Bat Familiar, Timber Wolf, Xeph Warrior x2

My second match was against David Paul. This was a better match in terms of dice rolls for me. Neither of us was greatly affected by rolls, though I may have gotten a small lead on David. His Slayer killed my Werewolf Lord, giving him a big lead on points, but soon afterward, I was doing the killing and got into the lead.

Match 3 -- John E. Corbett

CE, 200 pts, 8 acts: Tiefling Blademaster, Marilith, Large Black Dragon x2, Orc Warrior x4

This match was definitely a a surprise to me. I have never gotten the chance to play against a Marilith. We played on Field of Ruin, which also may have put me at a disadvantage. One thing that John did that certainly helped me, however, was trying to rout my Shadow Dragon from a distance early in the match. By doing that, he used both his breath weapons against the dragon, leaving my Thrall a lucky duck. When he failed the New Thrall save with his final Black dragon, it gave me the win.

Match 4 -- Aron Reif

LE, 200 pts, 8 acts: Ultroloth, Fire Giant Forgepriest, Dragonmark Heir of Deneith, Greenspawn Sneak, Blue, Goblin Skirmisher x3

This was my only match against lawful evil. I had practiced several times against UltroForge, so it wasn't really a new thing for me. This match was just a big, long, slug-it-out brawl. It came down to a couple of initiative rolls -- which I happened to win, so I was able to secure the victory.

Match 5 -- Gregory Hupf

CG, 200 pts, 8 acts: Moon Elf Fighter, Shadowdancer x4, Gnome Trickster, Wild Elf Warsinger, Xeph Warrior

This was another bit of a surprise -- a CG band without Storm Silverhand. Gregory started the match with a round of placement, and in the next round, he sent all his Shadowdancers to kill my Shadow Dragon. When he missed one of his Conceal checks, that gave my Dragon a good two rounds for attacking. Gregory also brought his Moon Elf Fighter in too close, and that may have been a mistake. It took a long time to get through his Shadowdancers, though, making it a long, interesting match. It wasn't an overmatch for either side. After the fourth Shadowdancer fell, I still had my Werewolf Lord and Thrall of Blackrazor.

Match 6 -- Shayne Lindeman (Brig)

LG, 200 pts, 8 acts: Cleric of Dol Arrah, Champion of Dol Dorn x3, Sacred Watcher, Timber Wolf, Man-at-Arms x2

OK, I admit it -- the luck in this match was way too much in my favor. Shayne may have mentioned to others at Gencon that I rolled six natural 20s in this one game! I doubt I have ever been that lucky in any other match in my life. Afterward, Shayne asked the very good question, "how do you recover after six natural 20s?" Worst of all, five of them were critical hits by my main hitters -- the Shadow Dragon, Werewolf Lord, and Large Black Dragon. It was really just a lucky match, and all those 20s gave me a huge advantage even against his massive number of hit points.

Match 7 -- Paul Kitter (PDK)

CG, 200 pts, 8 acts: Storm Silverhand, Shadowdancer x2, Cormyrean War Wizard, Gnome Trickster, Half-Ogre Barbarian, Xeph Warrior x2

My final match of the day was against Paul. In an odd way, this match foreshadowed my final match when it came to the positioning of Storm. I didn't expect Paul to push her out into the middle of the field the way he did, as a setup for the Silverfire. If he won initiative, he would have been able to do some serious damage to me. It was an all-or-nothing risk. Luck must have been on my side, because I won the initiative, and that was the edge I needed to kill Storm in that round. That -- and a very lucky Shadow Dragon Conceal roll -- gave me the victory and put me in the top 8.

All in all, I went 6:1 for the day. After the big disappointment of losing my first match, I was surprised by the outcome. Luck might have been on my side that day, and maybe a second burst of confidence, too. That aside, I had to focus on my Top 8 matches.

The Final Eight

Quarter Final -- Kevin Cleveland (Kevizoid)

Eddie and Kevin shake hands before their quarter-final match.

CE, 200 pts, 9 acts: Cleric of Gruumsh, Large Shadow Dragon x3, Bat Familiar, Orc War Drummer, Hyena, Orc Warrior x2

My first match was against Kevin. I felt relieved and a bit frightened going into my first match. I was a bit relieved because Kevin and I had talked about strategies for the new map the day before and again Sunday morning. I was a bit frightened because I realized that I would be facing the most seemingly prepared guy who knew exactly how he would defeat me.

Our first round we focused on positioning. Kevin placed his dragons mostly in the forest while still basing a wall. Even that was a bit intimidating. Kevin didn't seem to have any doubts or hesitation during his first-round moves -- he knew exactly what he was doing and why.

The second round, I noticed a small opening against one of his Shadow Dragons -- but it was a very high-risk move. It would require me to double-move my Thrall behind his Dragon, Swift/haste his attack, and make the Conceal check! Then I would need to Shadow Jump my Shadow Dragon to get the flank bonus and hit with all three attacks!

It was a very risky move, but if I pulled it off, it would take away one of his main hitters before he could even activate it. Surprisingly (to me as much as everyone else), it worked! Kevin told me later that there was less than a 20% chance of everything working, but I got a good string of rolls. That was the main gamble I took to defeat Kevin in our match. Later, my Dad and his friends called it "The Thrall's Gambit."

Taking such a huge risk usually wouldn't be a good move. My reasoning was that, if we played out the game normally, Kevin would have the upper hand because of his experience and great skill. In this situation, the risk was worth the huge reward.

Even with the Thrall's Gambit, it was a very close match, and Kevin almost beat me. It was an incredible feeling after the match, knowing I was advancing to the Top 4. My Dad kept telling me to take a deep breath …

Semifinal -- Neil McLellen (Neilassaurus)

A crowd gathers round the final match.

CE, 200 pts, 8 acts: Large Shadow Dragon x3, Tiefling Blademaster, Orc War Drummer, Orc Warrior x3

More Shadow Dragons! It's no wonder that there were several bands on the floor with these figs -- they are very powerful.

Other than the match that I actually lost, this was probably the closest I came to losing again, thanks to some early bad luck and Neil's excellent play. From the start, I watched in horror as he made five out of five breath weapon saves; made four out of four Conceal rolls against my Shadow Dragon; and made his New Thrall save. Things were not looking good.

I managed to kill one of Neil's Shadow Dragons and routed another, but only temporarily -- it rallied before getting off the board. He placed his pieces perfectly, getting all the damage in all the right spots. Neil ended up destroying my Large Black Dragon, Large Shadow Dragon, and Thrall of Blackrazor. Things were not looking good at all.

In the last round, I had my Werewolf Lord (with 35 hit points left) in the Victory Area, plus two Orc Warriors. Neil, on the other hand, had two Large Shadow Dragons, one with 15 hps and the other with 5 hps left; plus his Wardrummer, Tiefling Blademaster, and Orc Warrior. The stronger of the two Shadow Dragons was basing my Werewolf Lord, and the other was within reach. I thought it was all over.

I won this one big initiative, though, and that gave me a spark of hope for a victory. I moved the Werewolf Lord two spaces toward Neil's second wounded Shadow Dragon -- the one with only 5 hps. The attack of opportunity knocked my Werewolf Lord down to 20 hit points. But then I attacked the weaker Shadow Dragon, killed it, and used the Werewolf Lord's Cleave to hit the other Shadow Dragon, killing it as well. That gave me 96 points in a single turn!

I held on for the final round of Victory Points, and when the match ended, I was in the lead.

It was an incredible turnaround in a game that I thought was lost only minutes earlier. But I didn't give up and played my hardest right to the end, and the reward was turning what looked like defeat into victory.

Final Round -- Maxime Archetto (Teratologue)

Eddie and Maxime get ready for the final match.

CG, 200 pts, 7 acts: Storm Silverhand, Shadowdancer x3, Cormyrean War Wizard, Gnome Trickster, Xeph Warrior

Maxime brought another CG band that I have faced on several occasions. Storm made a big showing at the tournament in several different warbands. I've had a lot of practice against Storm bands (many games against Mike Domezio) and felt confident.

And yet, this match was my closest of the tournament in terms of points. Maxime is a very skilled player. He was undefeated in the tournament up to that point, and it scared me to consider facing an entirely invisible warband in his hands. I knew that he was a great player with a great warband.

In the first round, he positioned Storm at the top of the map's forests and his Xeph Warrior at the victory area. I did basically the same thing with my Werewolf Lord and Thrall of Blackrazor.

Maxime won initiative for the second round and let me go first. I attacked his Xeph Warrior (in the middle of the victory area) with my Werewolf Lord. The kill made the Werewolf Fearless. Then I positioned an Orc Warrior toward the top of the map.

Maxime moved the Gnome Trickster near the smoke on the left side of the map, then used Storm's Silver Fire to blast my Thrall of Blackrazor, Large Black Dragon, and Werewolf Lord. I took some real damage from it, but …

Storm was no longer invisible. I was a bit baffled by the move, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. I moved my Thrall to attack and Swift/haste attack, putting 40 damage on Storm. Then I Shadow Jumped my Large Shadow Dragon to triple-attack Storm for the kill.

For Maxime's next move, he based two of his three Shadowdancers against my Werewolf Lord and hit him for 40 damage. I wasn't too concerned at that point, because the Werewolf was Fearless. I responded by basing Maxime's Gnome Trickster with one of my Orc Warriors and basing and attacking another with my Large Black Dragon.

I was concerned when, on Maxime's next move, he attacked the Werewolf Lord with his third Shadowdancer and destroyed it with a 25-damage scorching ray from the Cormyrean War Wizard. With my final two Orc Warriors, I based his Shadowdancers and hit one of them for 10.

During the next round, without Storm on the field, I began getting an upper hand and felt I had an edge in the match-up. I was able to force morale checks on the Cormyrean War Wizard and Gnome Trickster (both ran), and I also managed to destroy one Shadowdancer. By then, Maxime had only one Shadowdancer left on the board, and I won on victory points.

That pretty much wrapped it up. I couldn't believe it, but I had won the Championship!

Finally, "thank you" to Ian Richards, the judges, and everybody at Wizards of the Coast for the great game and the great tournament. The paint job by Peter Lee on the Icingdeath trophy is incredible, and I'm honored to have it. The whole trip was an awesome ride, and I look forward to defending my title next year.

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