Interview with Thomas Byrd after LVO 2020


The Worthiest Adversary attended LVO 2020, the season finale of 2019 and largest Warhammer 40K tournament to date. The Adversary attended alongside the champions of the ITC, testament to their accomplishments all year long, and the venue and staff did an amazing job hosting all of us. One of those was Thomas Byrd, who almost made it to the top tables at Adepticon 2019, and then went 5-1 at LVO, his first time attending. Fortunately, Thomas was able to take a little of his time to share his experience.

THOMAS BYRD: Space Marines <IRON HANDS> at LVO 2020

143 HQ1 Captain w/Jump Pack + TH/SS
110 HQ2 Iron Father Feirros
98 HQ3 Primaris Librarian
60 HQ4 Lieutenant
85 TROOP1 Intercessors (5) – stalker, sgt w/chainsword
85 TROOP2 Intercessors (5) – stalker, sgt w/chainsword
85 TROOP3 Intercessors (5) – stalker, sgt w/chainsword
85 TROOP4 Intercessors (5) – stalker, sgt w/chainsword
85 TROOP5 Intercessors (5) – stalker, sgt w/chainsword
65 TROOP6 Scouts (5) – sniper rifles
156 ELITE1 Assault Centurions (3) w/Hurricane + flamer
60 ELITE2 Primaris Apothecary
214 ELITE3 Relic Contemptor: CML, TL-las, chainfist <WARLORD>
90 FAST1 Suppressors (3)
90 FAST2 Suppressors (3)
90 FAST3 Suppressors (3)
92 HEAVY1 Thunderfire cannon
92 HEAVY2 Thunderfire cannon
150 HEAVY3 Devastators w/grav (4) + cherub
65 DT Drop pod w/SB

2000 15CP


TWA: Quick introduction:

TB: Hello! I am Thomas Byrd and I got into hobby just after college in 2000. I did not play my actual first game until 2 years later. It was such a terrible experience, I guess I put it my mind that I did not want anyone I played to have that sort of game ever if I could help it.

My first love was Ultramarines and I still am well known in my area for running those boys in blue even when the rules were not as hot as they are now. I do have an extensive collection and own fully painted armies of every imperial faction including many different marine factions. I am a bit of a purist when it comes to that. I am the guy with 15 different colored drop pods to match all the armies. There are no ‘counts as’ here. When I first started the hobby, I was interested in the gaming only and could care less about painting. But now, I enjoy all aspects and it really has become one of the biggest takers of my free time.

Nowadays, the social piece is one of my favorite aspects. Trying to weave the competitive component of the game into a game that is fun not only for me but also for my opponent is one those really rewarding things that is hard to explain. If you have ever had your opponent tell you that was the best game of 40k they ever had even though they may have lost, you will know what I am talking about.

TWA: Short- and long-term goals for 40k?

TB: My short-term goal is to get this Tau commander painted up for my People’s Champion bet from the Atlanta Open! With my last-minute switch to Iron Hands for LVO, he got bumped down on my painting projects.

Longer term, I am working with the ProTabletop team to really bring some new and exciting things to 40k this year. We have made some acquisitions and are in talks about coming to some big events near you soon. Hopefully more exciting news to come soon!

TWA: How was your most recent GT/Major? Anything stand out? 

TB: My most recent Major event in this new year was Las Vegas Open. This was the first year I was able to make it out to attend LVO and overall, it was great! Not only did I have high drama switching my list from Ultramarines to Iron Hands at the 11th hour (literally at time of list submission), I had to live with that decision that by switching to Iron hands, I now had a 2000pt army to paint in 8 days! Many sleepless nights later, I got the army done to a high standard and went out to compete.

The thing that stood out at the event was the size and scale of the singles event. I make it out to Adepticon, and I am part of the crew that runs Warzone Atlanta, so I am not new to big tourneys, but having a singles event that large is quite a task! Many thanks to all those involved who set it up, run it and break it down afterward!


TWA: Break down your list, how does it work and function in general?

TB: Usually, I spend a lot of time crafting a unique list that I have iterated, and play tested over hundreds of games. In this case, it was quite the opposite. With the new iron hands and imperial fists, I really struggled to tweak my Ultramarine list to be all comers in the ITC format. A few other people were pushing me to go to Iron Hands and I finally relented. The list itself is a Brigade. The core of it revolve around a single dreadnought (not a leviathan!) and a bunch of intercessors castling up and being difficult to give up secondaries. The list functions primarily by being passive in early turns forcing the opponent to attack me. That leaves openings for the grav drop pod and suppressors to drop in the flanks and cause havoc. The army has a lot of counterattack built in with a chain fist equipped relic contemptor, a smash captain, and a unit of fighty centurions. If the opponent wants to castle up themselves, this army has range and durability to push up and engage if it has too. It is a fun list to play since it has so many tools and options to deal with every scenario.

TWA: What were you preparing for going into the event? Expectations regarding missions and opposing lists?

TB: Up until the last few weeks before the event, I was madly tweaking my Ultramarine list to face Iron hands, Imperial Fists, Eldar and Chaos as I knew those were the primary lists I expected to face. I ran a ton of practice games vs most of the lists trying to work through the marine problem. The problem I saw, was while I was able to win most of the games, those games were uphill the entire game and really put me in difficult positions from the outset. The more I would tweak my list vs one weakness against say imperial fists, the more I would see the hole I just opened up vs Iron Hands. It was a vicious circle. I played a proxy game with the Iron Hands brigade to see if I could change my perspective. It was an eye-opening experience and prompted me to finally consider swapping even at that late juncture.

I fully expected to see Iron Hands leviathans and intercessors, Iron Hands planes, Imperial Fist artillery bombs, ravenguard and/or white scars centurions, Eldar seer councils with night spinner artillery and/or DE grotesques. I expected to see chaos possessed bombs. LVO did not disappoint in that regard. Those armies were there in force. We always do some predictions amongst our group on how we think we are going to do and how we think all our friends are going to fair. Going in, I would be happy with 4-2 but I put in an aspirational goal of 5-1. I did not think I could go undefeated with as few reps I had with my new list. This Iron Hands list plays completely differently than my old tried and true Ultramarines list and I was making too many micro mistakes in my limited practice sessions to really feel comfortable playing error free the entire tournament, especially one as large and as stacked as LVO.

TWA: Anything come up that you had not anticipated?

TB: I would not say there was anything unexpected from a faction perspective, but it was interesting to see how others built their Iron Hands, Ultramarines, or Imperial Fist lists. As the marine guy around my parts and more specifically THE Ultramarine guy, I took great interest in seeing what others took and I had a chance to play vs Ultramarines in my round 4 matchup.

TWA: First match up, against who and what army? Who won and what was the score? Who went first? How did the game play out in general? Anything specific stand out?

TB: My first matchup was vs a Death Guard army piloted by Luc Jessik. It had Mortarion, a big unit of Blight lord Terminators, a large unit of Death shroud terminators to look wounds out, some support characters, 3x Plague burst crawlers and 4 units of pox walkers. We have a few death guard players in our area, so I was very well versed in how to manage Morty. Luc was an absolute gentleman and a great opponent for the first round.

I went first vs Luc and tremor shelled his death shroud terminators and forced his hand on whether he wanted to move Morty up on his own or hang back with his meat shield. He elected to stay back, and I repeated this until he decided he was moving up turn 3 without them and would rely on his deep striking terminators to give him support. Unfortunately, the terminators failed their 9″ charge and Morty came in on his own. With my screening and liberal hitting of 5+ FNPs, he was only able to kill one squad of intercessors and died the next turn from shooting and combat. It is rare you can say your army is more durable than death guard, but the Iron Hands won that round with a final score of 35 – 9.

TWA: Second match up?

TB: My second-round opponent was Jay Jones running Eldar. He had a seer council backed up by 3xnight spinners and 3×3 Vibro cannon artillery.

I had played exactly one game vs the seer council and had a plan for them. Unfortunately for me, I was so caught up in what secondaries to take that I totally forgot to implement that plan! I spent 5minutes precisely measuring my librarian to be out of range of Jay’s farseer, yet in range of his seer council so I could cast Null Zone and effectively (in my mind anyway) finish the game. I proudly announced my intent and Jay politely reminds me that I did not take Null Zone as one of my powers! Hahaha talk about the laughs and the groans that ensued. Between that and botching the secondaries… (I had picked gangbusters on the bikes! and not butcher’s bill on the vibro cannons?!), I was between a rock and a hard place! The dice really turned on for me and at one point, I think I had Jay pulling out his hair when I forced him to shoot at a unit of scouts that simply would not die. I think by the end of it, Jay was forced to spend seven of his nine vibro cannons AND both night spinners to pick up five devastators and five scouts. He ignores cover, and he is rolling 3 shots for every d3 on those vibro cannons. My scout simply was not having it. This scout was seen making three (Yes THREE in a row) box car 6+ FNP rolls on damage 2 weapons. This forced Jay to fire yet another weapon at him to get kill more. It took nearly his entire army of artillery to finish him quite literally on the on the last volley. Cannot beat those dragons attacking! (If you have not played vs me, I use dice with dragon symbols for the 6). Jay went first, but I was able to prevail and pull out a come from behind victory of 20-17 on the bottom of turn 4 before time ran out. I had to charge that seer council 3 times before some finally died! This was my only game to not finish. Jay was a great opponent and placed higher than me overall with the same record so congratulations to him! I would play that game again, this time I would remember to take Null Zone and pick some different secondaries!

dragon dice

TWA: Third match up?

TB: Round 3 was against Matthew Bodnarchuk. He was running a nasty Imperial Fist list. It had thunder fires, 2xwhirlwinds, a lascannon predator, a leviathan, 2xHeavy Bolter Rapier batteries, a sicaran punisher, and a fire raptor.

We were running late on the final game due to some pairing issues at the event, so we were both pretty exhausted going into round 3. His list is super alpha strike heavy and his previous two matches did not get past round 2. He had a fire raptor popping the double explode strat! That front gun is a ‘bolt’ weapon! Man, that is a lot of shots!! I knew I had to go first, or I may just auto lose. Well… I did not go first, and Matt laid it on strong and left me reeling. After turn 1, I had lost both thunder fire cannons, the unit of centurions, 2 units intercessors, and 4 more split across 2 squads. Quite honestly, it was looking bleak, but I did not want to give Matt a boring game, so I started formulating a plan to try and claw a few points. Even now, I could recount the whole game here as it was one of my favorites of the tourney. “Ok, here are the 12 things I need to go right this turn for me to be in… yippee, all 12 achieved!!” Rinse and repeat. Between making an unbelievable amount of FNPs and hitting all three of my 9″ charges from deep strike on my T1 and T2, I was able to not only claw a few points back, I was able to turn the table and come from behind. Matt was also a great opponent and he really put me to the test in that game. Final score was a win for me, 30-21.

TWA: How did you feel at the end of day one, given your positioning? Anything specific you had planned out for your next opponent that morning? 

TB: At the end of day 1, I was riding high retelling my improbable win vs Matt’s vicious Imperial Fist list. With the way pairings went down and some game 3s being played in the morning, I was not certain which opponent I was going to play. I looked over 5 or so lists within striking distance from me, but was so exhausted, I just wanted to eat something and go to sleep. I was excited about being 3-0, still on track for my prediction, but knew the real challenge lay ahead.

TWA: Day two, fourth match up?

TB: Out of all the lists I looked at, I did not expect to get the Ultramarine list in round 4! Talk about excited! I love me some Ultramarines! Also, it let me take somewhat of a relaxed approach to the army since I know exactly how that army functions to a T. You would think, marines are marines, but I could spend an hour telling you how you are both right and wrong. My opponent was Allen Marshall. The thing that caught my eye was Allen was running Calgar! Oh, how I have tried and tried to take out Guilliman for budget Calgar and I can tell you, that never lasted long. I was excited to see how he would run it, but after facing this Iron Hands list against my Ultra list, I felt like I had a big advantage going into this round. Allen had 2x Invictus war suits, a leviathan, 2x relic contemptors with double las, 2xeliminator squads, Cassius, Tigurius, a lieutenant, a thunder fire, one big unit of 5 or 6 fighty centurions, one intercessor squad and 2 units of scouts.

This was a full deploy mission and Allen ‘lost the roll’ so got to set up and go first. He deployed his Invictus suits very aggressively forcing me to really hide and castle t1 to cause him to think about how he used those suits. I did not seize, and he opted to move back, and shoot vs run up and assault. I was able to withstand his shooting and did not lose a single unit denying him both Kill one and Kill more as well as Old School secondary first strike. I used my drop pod devastators and suppressors to advantageous effect in early turns to pick off small pieces of his army while tremor shelling and blocking out his leviathan and centurions before finally charging in later turns to finish him off. Allen was another great and fun opponent and I was honored to play against some Ultramarines and face a lot of heckling from my friends for not running Ultras myself! Final score for Iron Hands was 37-11.

Nowadays, the social piece is one of my favorite aspects. Trying to weave the competitive component of the game into a game that is fun not only for me but also for my opponent is one those really rewarding things that is hard to explain. If you have ever had your opponent tell you that was the best game of 40k they ever had even though they may have lost, you will know what I am talking about.

TWA: Fifth match up?

TB: Round 5 was vs Elliot Levy. I have seen him many times, but this was my first time officially meeting him. At this point, we are both 4-0 and sitting high in the standings. He is playing Raven Guard centurions. I was very aware what this list could do, but I did not have a practice game vs them. Centurions attacking your face, got it. Or… so I thought. My only advice pre-game, was Raven Guard centurions? Go first. Ok, well, I will get right on that! Elliot was running 2 big units of fighty cents and 1 big unit of grav cents backed up by 3 units of eliminators, Issadon, a smash captain and chaplain, an apothecary, one thunder fire cannon and 3 or 4 units of scouts, some with snipers.

I spent an inordinate amount of time screening and hoorah, I got to go first! I used my suppressors to screen thinking with FLY, they would not make an inviting target for his centurions to wrap and trap when he came in from reserve since they could jump out and expose him. What that did was make him hold back in his deployment zone hiding while chipping away with eliminators and his thunder fire cannon. He debated each turn arriving from reserves whether he should commit to the assault and ultimately, it became clear to both of us on t3, that if he just deployed all of his centurions back behind his wall in his deployment zone, he would deny me kills and the gangbusters secondary and win the game. With me deployed so defensively, I did not have much play at the end to come back. It was a very tactical game with little real shooting that really came down to deployment mistakes. I needed those suppressors to be in reserve to threaten his backfield and to present a more inviting option for his charge with my intercessors. A game I think that would have been much better had I played it even a single time prior to the tourney. A great win for Elliot. Final score in the loss was 13-21.

TWA: Last round, final match up?

TB: Round 6 was vs Tim Royers playing another Imperial Fist list. He had a whirlwind scorpius, a regular whirlwind, a leviathan, a thunder fire cannon, a smash captain, a regular captain upgraded to chapter master, a chaplain dread, and a mortis contemptor with double heavy bolters, a grav drop pod and several squads of intercessors and a couple of scout squads.

I went first against Tim and took out some screening scouts. He deployed well enough to screen my pod, so I opted to hold it out T1. He dropped it center board to grab an objective to snag hold more, but it allowed me an easy option for my centurions to charge and touch for a late turn 3 charge into his castle. My centurions did make it into combat but between losing one to overwatch and splitting my attacks, they flubbed and killed nothing. It did shut down his artillery shooting from both the scorpius and the thunder fire cannon for one turn, but I failed to kill either one. Late game it because a grab for the center, could his leviathan do work, and could his characters thin do some damage and I was able to fend off the attack. Iron Hands are so durable! Tim was a great opponent for my last game rounding out the whole show, 6 for 6 with great people playing great games. I think I was delirious and exhausted in that last round and I know I quite literally could not add up my final score. Simple math was beyond me. Tim, if you read this, sorry about that and thanks for the game! Final score was 29-20.

TWA: Final roll up and placing? Having rehashed everything, what are your thoughts now?

TB: Whew! Final roll up, 5-1! I played 4 of 6 marines but no mirror iron hands match. I faced:

  1. Death Guard
    2. Eldar
    3. Imperial Fists
    4. Ultramarines
    5. Ravenguard
    6. Imperial Fists

I achieved my goal of 5-1 and feel like if I was better prepared, I could have played that one loss a heck of a lot better. Cannot feel bad about that! I learned a lot and got to meet a ton of nice people. It was a long long weekend, but I certainly look forward to next time. I finished 60th overall. I was in the running for top ITC Space marine player for most of the season, but with the new marines out and me missing some of the last big majors of the year, I was not able to hold on. I did, however, snag best ITC Hobby Track for Adeptus Astartes and as a big hobby guy, which is a great one to win! Next time, I will say no to painting an entirely new army one week before LVO even if it is better, but I guess I cannot argue with the results!

TWA: What were some of the best tactics and combos that you saw at the event?

TB: Matt’s fire raptor combo was monstrous. It’s not exactly an auto include as it’s a lot of eggs in that basket, but the 2 for 1 exploding 6 strat for imperial fists combined with its 1 million ignore cover high AP shots is a heinous first turn alpha strike from just that one unit! Obviously, a big shout out goes to Elliot running his ravenguard. It went against everything he wanted to do but deciding NOT to come out of his ruin with all 17 centurions won him the game. I think the only thing he shot with his grav cents was my drop pod and occupants on turn 2. I do not think it occurred to either of us that could be an option that wins, much to my chagrin! Kudos to my opponent for the cagey tactical match!

TWA: What did you think of the mission sets?

Certainly, if you are playing 40k these days, you must know about ITC and their missions. I live in Warzone country so am partial to those missions, but ITC seems to be the defacto standard these days and they are fun. The design of ITC missions certainly has an impact on list choices and in game target priority. That is an interesting thread to pull on and adapt to when you are used to other things. It can wear on you a bit having the missions be so similar and repetitive after a while and I think with all the new meta and updates we are seeing, the missions could probably do with a little tweaking to keep up.

TWA: What are you planning to change in your list?

TB: Ha, ever the list tinkerer, I have already singled out some mild tweaks. Everyone is waiting anxiously to see if Iron Hands or marines in general get hit with a nerf bat or if ForgeWorld units take a bath. Also, with 9th edition looming, who can say where this great game of ours is going, but with that said, I have already tweaked a minor 10points in my list. 10points you say?!! That is huge in Thomas Byrd land, let any of my friends tell you. Hahaha, I can spend an hour agonizing over the last 10 points. The change: In most of my games, the Smash Captain (Jump Pack Captain with Thunder hammer and storm shield) almost never needs his 3++ storm shield. He usually is safely hidden by screening units or he is all in on combat and wants to die so he can swing again in death. If I drop that 10 points for the shield, I can do two things. 1) I can give him a chains word instead which gives him an extra attack and optionally allows him to take the teeth of terra relic in certain matchups where that is a better weapon vs the thunder hammer. HELLO Possessed! The freed-up points allow me to upgrade my normal lieutenant to a primaris lieutenant and give him a master-crafted stalker rifle. An extra shot at -3, 3 damage is better than nothing, so I think it is a double win. Minor stuff to be sure, but I do like those little options when you need them.

TWA: What major events are you attending in the future?

TB: With my work with ProTableTop, it is a real question if I will be showing up as Thomas the player, or Thomas the shout caster. I do think we have a few events locally here in February that I am going to try to attend including the 2-day Alpha Strike GT which is at the end of the month at our awesome local gaming store Gigabytes.

TWA: What are some of your thoughts on the 40k meta? What are some things you like and do not like currently?

TB: As a marine player, it is hard for me to complain about marines since it is the faction I am using. Especially after playing them for 2+ years when they were at or near the bottom of armies played competitively. However, I do see a lot of what is going on for marines, specifically Iron Hands and Imperial Fists, which really make it hard to have fun games. Those are challenging times indeed as a player when you are either end of that match-up. How do you make it fun? How do you keep your opponent engaged? What if by rules alone, your opponent has little or no chance despite player skill based on army selection or deployment? No one likes those one-sided games and I hope with all the psychic awakenings or 9th edition updates, we will get to a state where it is more even across the board.

I think you need to look at your mindset when you go into these types of games because it can absolutely color your perspective and your own personal engagement when playing. When I face a ‘broken combo’ or an ‘unbeatable’ list, my first reaction is game on! I embrace the challenge of adapting and evolving my chosen faction’s list options, because what greater sweetness is beating the superpowers with an inferior list. I try to avoid the negativity associated with complaining about the problem and focus all my energy on finding that magical combo, that super tactic, or that just one in game moment that can turn the game. Sometimes it works out great and sometimes not so much, but you always end up with a remarkable story to tell afterward. Be sure to ask Jay Jones about how some scout made triple box cars to stay alive. I am sure he will remember!

TWA: Any preferences on tournament format (mission sets, point limits, etc.)?

TB: Warzone missions are still my fave. I will not be caught dead playing 1500pts, give me 2K all day long.

TWA: Any advice or suggestions for other 40k players?

TB: My biggest advice for 40k players, whether you play at a high level or just for fun in your basement (I do both!), is to make sure you remember that this is a game and we play that game to have fun! If you can make it fun for your opponent, you cannot help but have fun along the way and that is what it is all about. It IS possible to do this and still play competitively. I think you do yourself a disservice if you forget that! Good luck my fellow gamers and may your dice always come up dragons!

Iron Hands


Author: The Worthiest Adversary

Expressed views, opinions, and material are my own and not associated with any organization or other entity.

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