Interview with Adepticon champion, Zach Gray

Congratulations on your recent tournament win at the 2018 Adepticon Championship. Winning a five round tournament is impressive in it of itself but winning in Chicago and beating the world champion in the finals makes your victory a colossal accomplishment.


1.) What was your tournament ten that you played on Friday?

Hey, thanks, Dan.  It was definitely a fun weekend.  On Friday I played Honour, Hammer, Marbles, Brick, Flint, Mallet, Tower, Harmony, vet Harmony, and Lucky.  My standard tournament 10 usually plays Mist instead of vet Harmony to be able to skew to a high ball threat team.  Vet Harmony had been in my 10 with Granite on Thursday, and I kept her in to see if I could get some more experience with her.  Didn’t end up playing her that day, though.


2.) Is that a Granite I see?! Please Zach, tell me and the world when to use her, how to use her and why you like her in your ten.

Haha, I did bring Granite in my 10 on Thursday, though I opted not to bring her on Friday.  She’s by far my favorite sculpt in the Masons, and Gut & String is such an incredible play. I’ve long wished she could make my 10.  There was some revived discussion over on the Mason forums about both her and Chisel recently, which sparked my thinking about her again.  The new gameplan cards hit at the same time, which I think is enough of a change to reevaluate the strengths of different models.

So do any of them help her to better shine?  The main complaint about her is her plodding speed.  Midfield General and Get Back In There both go a good ways toward improving that and letting her get where you need her.  Her greatest strength is the incredible playbook and TAC. Kick ‘Em When They’re Down amplifies her setup role–that KD on 2 and Gut & String on 3 is a lot scarier when Mallet or Lucky or Tower or Brick or even vet Harmony is coming in next with Shove the Boot In.  So, low end and high end, I think the gameplan cards do work to bring her up.

I’m still not certain she makes my 10, as the Masons have some really tough competition for that 10th spot.  I don’t feel like I have enough games in with her yet to speak with any certainty. However, if she is on my roster right now, I’m looking to play her with Hammer against other teams that want to close and brawl–particularly if I was able to select a gameplan card or two that pull her up.  Butchers, Brewers, maybe Blacksmiths. She really needs the fight to be on the Masons’ side of midfield so she can get back in if they focus on taking her out.

She plays really well with vet Harmony due to the interaction between Team Player and Between a Rock….  Vet Harmony basically extends the aura for triggering Granite’s extra jog, which is key to make up for her embarrassing speed.  The really neat bit, however, is that vet Harmony can take damage from Granite to trigger Granite’s jog. So if a model takes a damage result against Granite, she can just jog 3” and leave their melee.  Or if you’re feeling really cheeky and they engage her from 2”, you can declare a counterattack. If they take damage, she can jog in and then make her counterattack.

Be careful with Brick and Marbles, though.  She wants to be positioned fairly central to the fight to maintain options despite her speed, and another 40mm base trudging around in that region can become awkward with keeping countercharge lanes and line of sight open if you’re not careful.


3.) On Thursday you leaned heavily on Hammer (3 out of 4 games) but on Friday you leaned heavily on Harmony(4 out of 5 games), can you explain why you flip-flopped captains and also list some matchups in which you still prefer Hammer over Harmony?

Sure.  The main reason Thursday was just wanting to get some more reps with Hammer, and to get some Granite games in, too.  I’m more of an Honour player by default. I also drew some matchups where it makes sense to play Hammer, facing Engineers, Brewers, and Butchers in the first three rounds.  Alex gave me a pretty good drubbing in round 3, putting up 11 points from takeouts before hitting a goal to end the game 12-4. Then I got to face Hunters in round 4, and decided to bring Honour to get one game with her.  That was my first game playing her since switching back to Masons, and I remembered how much I enjoy playing her.

Kick/receive is another factor.  I think Hammer really wants to receive, and I lost every roll except the two games with Mike, so spent most of the weekend kicking.  My one Hammer game Friday was that game against Mike’s Brewers in round 3, when he had to kick.

I definitely prefer Hammer either way into Engineers, because his Stoic and easy access to damage buffs to deal with tough hide shine there.  I also like him into Fish, and receiving from other brawling teams like Butchers and Brewers.


4.) On Friday you managed to beat the World Champion, Alex Botts 12-11 with Harmony vs Ox. Can you share any opening sequences or tactical maneuvers you used to secure victory?

The kick off was actually the most important opening maneuver in that game.  Alex had Meathook positioned on one wing, and I was able to kickoff with Flint far enough to that side that she had to get well out of position to retrieve the ball.  This kept her out of the action for the first two turns, which let me take an early lead in the fight. Alex is brilliant at navigating a scrum, though, and fought his way back into the lead.  The game came down to some good fortune on my side and a payoff from ‘playing to my outs.’ I’m not sure if that phrase is used in miniatures gaming, but the concept applies. When you’re behind and need some things to break your way to win, play to position yourself to take advantage of their breaking that way.  

We were at I think 6-6, but the fight had started to turn Alex’s direction, and he still had the ball since he received.  At this point, the ball has become the most important thing for me to win this game, and he gave me a small window to get Mallet onto Brisket to try and retrieve the ball.  Mallet had 4 on him, so I bonus time the first attack, hoping to just hit the Singled Out, and then take two swings at tackling the ball. Bonus timing an attack at Brisket after she’s Singled Out, he’s still only 26% to hit the tackle, but this was my best out to swing the game back my way.  Mallet spikes and just hits the tackle on the first attack, and is able to pass it back to Lucky, who delivers it over to Flint who is safely away from the fight. Break number one. Later that turn Alex kills Honour to go up 8-6, and I’m going to struggle to get my other two points to be able to take the winning goal, but when the turn ends, I am up an unlikely +1 on momentum.  I’m out of high initiative cards and play Get Back In There so Honour can at least get back into the fight. Alex was also out of high initiative cards and played Won’t Touch The Hair, which is also a 3 initiative value, so I win the initiative. Break number two. Honour is just able to walk to Boar and kill him on my first activation, healing herself and others as much as possible, and bringing the score to 8-8, with Flint safely holding the ball out of range of any Butchers models.  Ox is able to kill Marbles and a squaddie to go to 11, and then Flint runs up and puts in the goal to end the game. If Alex wins that initiative, the game goes the other way.


5.) In addition to smashing shins with Masons, you’ve also been known to shoot an arrow to the knee with Hunters. What’s your thoughts on Veteran Minx?

I think vet Minx looks incredible!  I haven’t had the opportunity to get her on the pitch since her card was revealed, but I suspect she’ll likely be a staple in both my Theron and Skatha teams.  The guild has really needed another good 2” melee model. While I’d like her to hand out snared, everything else about her is excellent and should really hum with the influence efficiency theme of the guild.  She also improves the team’s ball-playing ability, just being a fast 2” with a reasonable tackle and standard kick. I’m really excited to get some games in with her, and will likely be moving back to Hunters soon between her and the upcoming Falconers Guild.


6.) Despite making US Nationals and competing at Worlds you are still a relatively unknown coach. Are you active in any forums, facebook groups or discord channels? What is the best way for other coaches to follow your Guild Ball thoughts?

I post occasionally on the Guild Ball Zone discord channel, where my screenname is the highly mysterious ‘zgray’.  I’ve also recently started a YouTube channel doing accelerated gameplay analysis called Breaking Play. ( My first video is available there, featuring a Hammer vs Ballista game between myself and Pat Van Value. These will be sort of in the vein of Run the Length or Don’t Touch the Beard, both of which I highly recommend.  I’m on the Steamforged forums as Breaking_Play (formerly Coach_Z) and on Twitter under the same:  


7.) Lastly, I want to talk about your new Longshanks badge. You are now the bearer of the torch (a Longshanks award that can only be obtained by beating the world champion or whoever is currently holding the torch in a tournament). Knowing that this award can be taken away, will this change the way you approach tournaments moving forward? What’s the next big tournament people can expect to see you at?

Hmm, that’s a good question I haven’t really thought much about. The torch is a fun little bonus Sam included in Longshanks, and I enjoy seeing how it has passed around the world. It’s a neat emblem of how this community spans the globe and makes an opportunity for international friendships with people and places we’d never encounter otherwise.  I actually had it briefly for one round of US Nationals last year, when I took it off of Christian Metz, then immediately passed it on to Mike Klein before I even knew I had it. I’m glad to get it back and have a moment to enjoy having it this time around! I don’t think it will change my approach much, though.

We’re a pretty competitive bunch here, so I definitely feel a little pressure to keep the torch home in Chicago.  Thinking about winning and losing is poor psychology for a competitive player, though. Guild Ball is a great competitive game, and the joy of it is in the richness and depth of the gameplay and tactical decisions.  I really believe in focusing on excellence of execution within the game. Play each moment of each game as best you can, with good focus, and let bad breaks go except to reevaluate your best options in light of them.  I find when I can keep my head in that space and enjoy playing the game well for its own beauty, I’ve got more energy for the day. Let the results take care of themselves.

I’ll be flying out to San Diego for KingdomCon and the US West National Championship April 19-22, hoping to win a spot at Worlds in November.  I’ll also be going up to Montreal for the Canada East National Championship on June 2. Should be a great event with maybe the best custom ball yet, and I think there are still a few tickets available if any readers are thinking about going.


Thanks again Zach and good luck at KingdomCon!


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