Interview with Henry Kay, Steamcon UK LCQ winner

This past weekend was one of the most exciting weekends for Guild Ball fans ever! SteamCon UK dropped a lot of exciting news on us: new players, new guilds, new leagues, new roster sizes and so much more. (if you missed the keynote you can listen to a recap here) In addition to excellent news we also got to watch some excellent games of Guild Ball played thanks to their constant streaming. The premiere tournament to watch was definitely the Steamcon UK World Championship Qualifier. The world championship tournament is just two weeks away and it is the essentially the Super Bowl of Guild Ball (or for our friend’s across the pond we can call it the World Cup equivalent).

Only eight people get to participate in the world championships, seven earn their spot by winning their respective national championship tournament and the eighth earned their spot from this recent SteamCon UK qualifier. The winner of that qualifier was Henry Kay and he won with Union.

For those who know Henry, it’s not a big surprise that he won. In the relatively brief amount of time Guild Ball has been around, Henry Kay has already built up an impressive resume. In addition to this recent win Henry was the 2017 British Nationals finalist, the 2016 Irish Nationals winner and he is also currently the 3rd highest ranked player in the world.

Longshanks rankings as of 11/21/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, due to logistical reasons, Henry will not be able to make it Chicago to compete at worlds. However, despite this setback he has been gracious enough to permit an interview and share his experiences. But first, here’s a look at Henry Kay’s roster and his match reports:

 

Henry Kay’s Tournament Ten

 

 

VRage

SBrisket

Strongbox

Gutter

Decimate

Mist

Minx

Benediction

Grace

Hemlocke

 

 

Henry Kay’s matches

 

 

Interview with Henry Kay

 

DAN: What made you choose Union for the LCQ?

HK: I’ve been playing them for a while and I consider them to be one of the stronger ~5 teams available right now. They have a lot of good niche tech options for specific matchups and a deep stable of players which are individually solid, so you don’t depend on synergy to get anything done. This means you are less vulnerable to your plans being disrupted than most other teams because your models are usually reasonably useful even when the best case scenario isn’t available

DAN: I see you leaned heavily on Vet Rage for this tournament. Can you explain why Vet Rage is your go-to-captain?

HK: He’s very hard to control and puts a lot of pressure on the opponent to respect him. He has potential for very big payoff activations while only needing 4 influence, so the rest of the team gets to do things too. He has a linear plan which is very effective but there are lots of clever tricks you can do – primarily with Red Fury – which can catch people off guard. 

DAN: Did you have any Red Fury examples from this weekend that you can share or just a favorite strategy or play that you like to set up with Vet Rage?

 

HK: Using Red Fury to push models around – such as via Benediction’s playbook or with Chain Grab from Gutter – is really important. It lets you disengage Rage so he can charge, or get more engagement zones onto people.
Thousand Cuts is another effect you can trigger via Red Fury which hugely increases your players’ damage output

DAN: Has that ever happened? I don’t see Thousand Cuts trigger very often from Decimates non-charge attacks because it is on the end of her playbook.

HK: It happens pretty frequently. If Decimate has a single crowd out and Bloody Coin, she has reasonable odds of triggering Thousand Cuts against a 3+/1 or a knocked down 4+/1 model, needing six threes on eight dice or just under 50%. Decimate is also often a recipient of Wingback which often sets up Thousand Cuts after she returns from being taken out.

 

DAN: If Vet Rage is your go-to-captain, who are your go-to players that make most your starting six lineups? And can give a brief explanation as to their inclusion.

 

HK: Mascot: Strongbox is great into anyone who scrums, and helps Mist to wrap his playbook which is very useful when kicking off with him. He is a bit unimpressive into footballing teams and could probably be swapped for Coin, but I don’t think mascot choice is important enough for Union to dedicate two slots to it. 

 

Benediction goes in almost every line up. He’s a durable model with 2″ melee, which is very relevant because he can go into an opposing team and put melee zones on people for Rage to beat down without being taken out in the activation in between. His early pushes are also very useful for Red Fury, and Impart Wisdom helps with Red Fury’s range a lot. He doesn’t need much influence which is great in a roster with a lot of influence hungry models.

 

Gutter is best friends with Rage. 2″ melee are very useful to him, as is momentous damage, particularly early in the playbook. Scything Blow is a great piece of payoff for stacking up the debuffs and crowd outs on a single target, but she still does things if you haven’t spent resources setting her up. She’s also quite fast and has good kick stats, which is nice for getting a goal to end the game with once you have murdered the enemy team.
 
Mist comes in when kicking. He’s the best option for kicking off with, and has pretty good ball pressure. He gains a lot from Benediction giving him Shadow Like and Sturdy, and Confidence from Strongbox. He also contributes another 2″ melee zone which is handy for crowding out – when kicking off. [Also], scoring with Mist and then dodging to engage someone Rage threatens on the first activation of next turn is a great plan if you can get it set up.
 
Hemlocke is great at shutting down super solo captains, particularly footballing ones like Shark and Brisket. Noxious Blast is also great against low defense teams that want to group up, like Blacksmiths, Brewers and Masons.
Grace comes in against Smoke. Rage doesn’t particularly like controlling attrition teams which score goals well. Smoke is pretty good at that, and Grace drastically improves my Smoke matchup because she generally only brings a single Fire AOE so Grace can shut that down quite effectively without spending any influence.
 
Decimate and and Minx are fillers. Minx goes in when the team is influence hungry already, Decimate when the team is in need of an additional payoff / inf hungry model.
Brisket is for Farmers.

 

DAN: I think a lot of people are excited to see Seasoned Brisket in your lineup. She’s definitely not the most popular Union captain, can you share what your six player roster was in round 4 vs Charles Tamplin’s Farmers? And how you utilized this underdog captain to 12-6 Thresher, who is considered by many to be the best captain in the game right now.

 

HK: I took Brisket, Strongbox, Mist, Decimate, Benediction and Hemlocke. 
 
Basically, Thresher is great at killing people who bunch up, but otherwise the team only really kills one player each turn because Thresher is the only player who actually does much. Combine that with Farmers’ lack of tools for killing the ball, and you’re left with a vulnerability to teams which completely ignore trying to brawl and just go for three goals and spread out.
I ended up kicking, which isn’t optimal, but Mist is still fine at it. My kick ended up where Millstone could get it. Unfortunately, I would have had to take a parting blow from Millstone to reach the ball carrier initially, which meant Mist needed Stand Firm from Benny before he went in. By the time I could reach their team without dying, the ball was at the other side of the pitch. That left me with not much to do, so I backed off with everyone outside Thresher’s threat and waited for turn two. Fortunately, by hiding the ball Chris hadn’t made much momentum, so I generated some with Mist and went first on turn two.
I had Mist on one side of the pitch and Decimate on the other fully stacked, and put 5 on Brisket to score with. Brisket scoring was more dependent on hitting Route One than on having a full stack. I needed to hit a two die Route One on Jackstraw to get to the ball. If I miss (45%), I’m stranded in front of Thresher with no way out, but I have no other options since tackling Jack with Decimate is pretty bad (her tackle is on her third column)
I hit the Route one, so I tackle Jack and score. I Knee Slider back out onto the fast ground.

4-0

DAN: No guts no glory! Was he playing Tater? I have to imagine a countercharge model behind whichever Farmer he chooses to kill the ball with would make life hard for you if you’re trying to win quickly with three goals.

 

HK: Tater was engaged by engaging Mist on the other side of the pitch
This is where the farmers’ weaknesses show up – he has nowhere he can put the ball that isn’t threatened by either Mist or Decimate. He puts it right in the middle near Thresher, which is probably his best bet. He sets up a KD on Mist with Tater – I think he might have been able to straight up take him out with Thresher, but I can’t remember offhand. Anyway, I clear conditions with my one momentum with mist, and take an attack to dodge away from Tater’s melee zone.
At this point I can get to the ball, but to get into goal range I’d need to be right on top of Thresher and Buckwheat and wouldn’t have the momentum to Bonus Time. I also wouldn’t be able to get a followup goal this turn anyway, since he [can] just kick to the side that Decimate (my only inf) isn’t on. Since I only can score once either way, I may as well take the higher odds and pass to Decimate, since nobody can really stop her right now.
He beats up Mist a bit and I take the second goal with Decimate. I leave her near the goal to force him to deal with either Decimate or Mist with Thresher, not both.

8-0

He kills Decimate, and puts the ball away from everyone. He wins initiative, but at this point I am not too worried because I need one more goal to win and still have Brisket’s legendary.

8-2

He kills Mist to give me nobody to initially bounce off, but I am able to get the ball with Hemlocke eventually and boot it over towards Brisket. It ends up on Harrow, who’s already activated, so I don’t need to worry about it being moved around or protected and Brisket is able to collect it and put it in the net.

12-6

*Decimate had been taken out a 2nd time*

Basically a single countercharge and maybe a DEF5 model is all farmers have to prevent goals from being scored into them, which combines with their preference for grouping up to make goalscoring the best option against them. I’m not saying it’s much better than 50-50, but I think it’s signficantly better than Vet Rage into them, who isn’t as good in a brawl as they are in my opinion.

 

DAN: Sounds like you had a plan for success vs Farmers—3 goals, and you executed that plan very effectively. However, even with your success, I think some will still be hesitant to take Seasoned Brisket and not include Blackheart in their lineup. After all, you only played her into one match. If you could make an additional argument for Union players to include Seasoned Brisket in thier tournament ten over Blackheart, what would it be?

 

HK: Blackheart is also definitely a solid pick, and I won’t say he is not also a reasonable plan. I took SBrisket because if I’m going to be taking a captain solely as a Farmers drop, I’d also like it to be solid into Grange as well as Thresher, and Brisket is very resistant to Fallow (one of Grange’s main damage dealers) because of Unpredictable Movement.

 

DAN: I know Alex Botts (cohost of Strictly the Worst, #1 ranked Union player) prefers Blackheart into Farmers because he finds him more defensive. Have you tested the Blackheart game into farmers much?

 

HK: BH into Farmers is also fine. BH is a bit better defensively but Thresher can still one round him – I did it myself in the Brit Champs Qualifier on Saturday. His Legendary does help if you get the opportunity, though. I haven’t tested Blackheart much into Farmers because quite frankly I’m not particularly good at Blackheart, and I didn’t have time to learn him to the extent I’d want to. He also tempts you to play a more 2-2 fighting heavy game which I do think is a trap into Farmers – they aren’t like Engineers or Brewers where some of them are super tough but there are a few flimsy models you can prey on, everyone is reasonably durable so getting those takeouts can be a real issue when you need to [because you have] to be careful not to stack up INF on one model or it gets deleted by Thresher.

 

I think being proactive is the best answer to farmers. I think an experienced BH player can probably do fine in the matchup – I’m planning to play him more myself.
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BONUS QUESTION

DAN: Is there any situation where you would actually consider bringing Fangtooth? I’m a sucker for the model so I’m sad to see him unused.

HK: I don’t think there is right now. In a Rage lineup, his 1 inf contribution is a big issue because Rage’s team is already quite influence hungry. Gutter does what Fangers does better, right now. The only advantage he has is possibly being somewhere to kill the ball, but his 1″ melee and DEF2+ means he’s never going to do so very well. If you wanted a reliably hide the ball against Shark etc, Snakeskin probably would be the model to add to the lineup. He just isn’t good enough for the Union lineup right now – the roster is already quite deep and every model does something, so his high points / matchups he does well in would need to be more prevalent than they are currently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Elmo November 22, 2017 Reply
    • midwestwargaming November 22, 2017 Reply

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