40K Op-ed: The Madness of LVO’s Best List

LVO 2018 has come and gone again, lets take a look at the Best List From LVO.

The Las Vegas Open or LVO is one of the premier North American wargamming events. It’s hosts a massive 40K tournament with around 460 players and caps off the ITC season. As such it acts as gathering place for many of the best players and is a bellweather for the North American meta. This year LVO witnessed some of the highs, and lows, of wargaming. From the lists, to the players, to the outcomes it was a mad mad event. Some of the outcomes were shocking and surprising. Others surprising only in how well they matched predictions of meta-watchers. One of the most surprising things to come out of was what I consider by far the best list to be used in the event.


The Madness of The Best List

Looking at the LVO lists one of them really stood out to me. Out of all the lists I saw the Death Blossom list run by Joshua Death is the best. While this list did not take first place in the event, it was one of the top lists, and by far the most inventive of the top lists. To me this is the best list from LVO. Lets take a quick look at it.

At first glace this list does really seem mad. Between the fortification and reinforcement points it had only about 1000 pts of “real” troops on the table. Moreover aside from the 3 characters it’s not clear at first glace what really kills things in this army. However looking closely at it, reveals a genius use of a number of Chaos units and stratagems.

Months ago I wroth about the idea of using an endless poxwalker horde to win games. The basic idea is to take a bunch of cruddy troops who when they die become Poxwalkers. Through the use of powers and stratagems you can not only make it next to impossible for the Poxwalkers to get shot, but you can also buff them into some pretty scary combatants.

Let us descend into the dark creativity of the list.

The Core Of the List

The Death Blossom lists seems to be an amazing variant of that idea. Instead of using hordes of cultists the list mostly uses a large unit of Pink Horrors. The amazing thing is just how the list grows. Basically each time a Pink Horror dies it will turn into two Blue Horrors AND a poxwalker. When each Blue Horror dies it will turn into a Brimstone Horror, and a Poxwalker. That unit of of 30 Pink Horrors is ultimately 150 potentail Poxwalkers. The list starts with 30 Pink Horrors and 19 poxwalkers, (49 models) but could end up with 60 Brims and 109 Poxwalkers (169 models) just from those two units! Thats the Blossom. That is also where all those reinforcement points go.

I’ve got to give crazy props to Joshua for this list. Pink Horrors are a very efficient unit for growing your Poxwalkers. Since “The Dead Walk Again” stratagem only allowed models killed within 7″ of the Poxwalkers to be added to unit it can be hard to fit masses of cultists close to them.  It’s far easier to fit one big unit of Horrors within that range, and its a great two for one growth bonus. In addition the Pink Horrors at least least can put out a lot of shooting, 90 shots at full strength. While they lose an extra shot per model if there are less than 20 Pink Horrors in the unit due to the way they work you’ll have to kill 50 models before they are reduced to less than 20.

Aside from those two big units you’ve also got a few smaller units to spread out and take objectives/turn into more Poxwalkers.


The list makes some great use of characters to buff the two main units in the army.  Typhus and the Deamon Prince are able to throw some major buffs onto the Poxwalkers. In addition, both of these guys can smite and are no slouches in combat. You can check out my more in-depth look at the Poxwalker combo (linked above) to see what all it can do.

Aside from maybe casting smite both the Changling and Changecaster are there to buff the the Horrors. Base the Pink Horrors just get 2 S3 shots each. However if there are 20 or more they go up to 3 shots each. The Changecaster makes them S4 and the Chnagling gives them a 6+ FNP. Given that the Changecaster is the warlord I’m guessing he was run with the Deamonspark trait, letting the Horrors re-roll ones to wound with shooting. One of the two can then throw Flickering Flames on the Horrors, giving them +1 to wound with shooting. You could also cast Boon Of Change on them, potentially making them S5. 90 S5 shots, with +1 to wound and rerolling 1s is a soild shooting turn.

The Vortex… of DEATH

Of course to most people the oddest thing in the list is the Vortex Aqulia Strongpoint. Taking a 430 pts fortification is a gutsy move, that I salute. It’s also an amazing part of the army. Now normally I wouldn’t feel the unit is really worth it. It’s gun is crazy good, no doubt. D6 shots that don’t need LOS and each hit does D6 Mortal Wounds? RAD! However, due to its low BS and randomness, the average result will be you getting one hit and doing D6 Mortal wounds. Not bad, but not woth 430 pts. However a couple of things make it a really great choice in the list.

Firstly the attack is really pretty good given the current meta. Between blasting away Dark Reapers that can hide out of LoS and Primarchs with a ton of wounds and high inv save being about to reach out and shoot any non character unit of the table is great. Hidden Dark Reapers have a lot to fear from taking d6 mortal wounds. Moreover between stratagems and Gaze of Fate this list can get rerolls to try and maximize its shots. This thing CAN potentially one shot just about anything in the game.

More than offensive power, the Vortex Strongpoint also lets the list pull some pretty dirty tricks. One of the big weakness of the Poxwalker plan is the risk that an enemy Alpha Strike will kill the Poxwalkers before they can start using stratagems to prevent that. The strong point really negates that risk. Depending on who you are fighting you can just put the Poxwalkers in the strongpoint. Most armies will find it hard to kill both a W:30 T:10 unit and the 19 Poxwalkers on turn one. You can also hide units, maybe the Poxwalkers even, behind the strong point, as again it’s a massive LOS blocking unit. Again, depending on what you are facing, you could also hide your Horrors in the strongpoint, or in the warp, to prevent an Alpha Strike.

The List Ain’t Going To Give Up Points

Once the list gets going the enemy is only going to have two real targets. They can either shoot the big unit of Horrors, or the Strongpoint. Both of these are really hard units to kill. The handfull of small weaker units are going to be hidden and don’t give up many points and the characters should be hard to get to as well. In combat the Poxwalkers also become a target, but they should be a big one by then. Getting any points for kills off this army is going to be super hard.

Final Thoughts: An Original List We Need More Of

As a player seeing several nearly identical Craftworld/Yannari lists at the top of the results has got me feeling like I’m facing off with Thurlsa Doom:

Lists like this however are a breath of fresh air in a dank cavern of netlists. This is a meta bucking, unique list that puts a great spin on existing ideas. This kind of thinking outside of the box is what we need more of. It’s why going to large events is amazing, to see these crazy new ideas. The thought of taking a huge fortification, and tons of points of reinforcements, is madness. And yet the list works. It did amazingly well, and proved its concept. It was also pretty much the only non-Imperium or Eldar list to do well. This is the kind of list that embodies the inventiveness of top players and earns them my respect.

LVO had a lot of drama this year. I’m sure some people were even turned off from the competitive scene by what they saw. Lists like this however rise above it all. This kind of inventiveness and pushing the envelope are what make tournaments and comparative play great.

Joshua I salute you for this list and hope to one day face you across a table.

Tell us your thoughts on this awesome list and LVO in general, down in the comments! 

  • Sir Postalot

    Do you need to pay reinforcements points for those pox walkers ?

    • Simon Chatterley

      No, they grow from the use of a stratagem so it needs turn 1 to really pop.

      Then it makes it so the poxwalkers can’t be targetted and the list starts to really hum.

      I saw it when I was there and thanks to booze and jetlag I really didn’t get for a day or 2.

      I can’t remember what beat it in the end but I have a feeling it was Eldar with it’s tricksey -2 to hit when the stronghold fired. Nullify the gun completely

    • Kifunk

      Nope because it’s not a new unit, you just add new models in the existing unit.

      • Sir Postalot

        Thats interesting so it could also work with plague bearers do you have a rules wording to back up the difference between adding and creating ?

        • Haxor

          Death Guard FAQ

          • Sir Postalot

            Thx I will read into it

          • Simon Chatterley

            Same with the Tervigon.

            Creating a new units costs the points…adding to an existing one does not

  • grimsmite

    I think the article is misleading. The list is powerful but it is not the best. It is horrible to play against and one dimensional for the user. Ok, it works as a competitive list but do we want to see list like this on the leaderboard at every event?

    • Simon Chatterley

      Competitive play at the very top level is about winning the game. This being the best list was the authors opinion and it’s a clever list. Uses a lot of cross synergy and rightly as you put it, horrible to play against.

      Not a list I’d play but I respect the thought that has gone into it.

      Whether it is one dimensional to the player is speculative. There may be a number of ways to play depending on what you are against.

      • marxlives

        From what I have heard and seen, if GW is sponsoring an event they really need to enforce a behavior policy and a painting requirement. I can see how seeing some of this stuff on live stream and a guy without a painted army tableling another play with a fully painted army while talking trash can hurt the competitive scene if it goes uncheck. Imbalance and list rock, paper, scissors has been a part of the game for a long time but I think the other stuff is more concerning.






        • Someone

          GW doesn’t sponsor events outside their stores and Warhammer world. They ATTENDED the event and provid d coverage of it. Any ass-hattery is purely the r sponsibility of the Participants and LVO organisers to control

          • AmorousBadger

            So, basically, they’re happy to be associated with this behaviour by lending their tacit approval to it by attending and publicising it then?

          • eMtoN

            How could you possibly say that? The behavior of the participants wasn’t GW’s fault. It was the fault of the players exhibiting that behavior. That’s it.

    • orionburn III

      Thing is every list can have a proper counter built to defeat it. There’s a lot of builds that crumble easily because they’re basing it on one or two key linchpins. Take those out and the rest falls quickly.

    • Its a tournament list. Working as intended. One dimensional lists are a staple of tournament play and always have been.

      • ZeeLobby

        Because your path to victory is simple and everything in the list reinforces that path. Makes sense.

    • Em Gee

      I’d rather see a list like this than yet another Ynnari/DR spam list. You can’t tell me that’s not 1 dimensional, too. At least this guy tried to shake things up a bit.

      • Steven Walter

        I play Craftworlds and I am already sick or Reapers.

        They outshine the rest of the army so severly that they make me feel clastrophobic with the idea that there is nothing that is contesting with the choice.
        There is no headscratch between what I should be taking when considering them against any other unit we can use. Simply they are the best at both fighing tanks, elites and hoards of nearly every variety.

        Imperial forces have 6 units+ for every battlefield role. Multiple infantry and vehicles that do the same thing with varied accessory abilities to alter the optimal conditions for the units deployment.

        Dark Reapers simply always do good.

        You place them on the table out of view and with confidence can assume they will carry you to victory better than the rest of your army combined in damage.

  • Anders Lang

    Something something fluff, Nurgle, Tzeentch, something. :p

    • Muninwing

      came here to say exactly this…

      boy do i wish that they put in penalties to combine chaos gods in lists, since they are supposed to be enemies.

      then again, if they didn’t do it in the cheez of 6th, they won’t now. just nobody at GW who really remembers what Chaos was anymore…

      • Lebowski1111111111

        so your ok with imperial soup lists but not ok when chaos does basically the same thing?

        • Muninwing

          when did i say i was ok with imperial soup?

          are you putting words in my mouth?

          no… i think that there should be huge limitations on these kinds of cheez builds, and on the multi-detachment shenanigans that are so common today. it’s not about “play for fun” with so many min/maxxing anti-fluff builds being so prevalent.

          • Lebowski1111111111

            i asked you a question because of the way you worded your statement, im not “putting anything in your mouth”. If you dont like people reading your posts and engaging you on them, maybe you shouldnt post.

  • Tshiva keln

    I like the authors insistence on calling it the death blossom, even though it clearly says plague blossom in large letters. I propose we instead call it the”rainbow kittens snuggle factory” list.

  • Brother Eldrian

    So now GW has to clarify that a demon leaves no body behind and thus no poxwalker is added? Can’t wait for that faq to drop.

    • Luca Lacchini

      Me too. It’s obviously perfectly legal RAW, but fluff-wise makes little sense.
      Poxwalkers of Nurgle springing from daemons of Tzeentch. Argh.

      • euansmith

        They are spawned by the death of the dreams, and the tears, of fluff-bunnies.

        • Erich Schoenholtz

          Once again sir, you win the internet.

    • Apocryphus

      Can we also get a clarification that Necrons don’t produce poxwalkers? And Tyranids, since the poxwalker models are humanoid, or orks? It’s already been said in a faq the poxwalkers can kill Necrons, get more poxwalkers, and Necrons still get Reanimation Protocols, I don’t think Horrors creating poxwalkers is the weirdest or un-fluffiest interaction in the game.

      • both are equally stupid

        How does a soulless robot become diseased exactly?

        • Apocryphus

          Good question, only GW seems to know the answer to that, and they’re not telling.

        • Spade McTrowel

          The same way they can be poisoned.

      • Muninwing

        umm… nurgle and tzeentch. by definition opposites. no more opposite that that save Khorne and Slaanesh.

        sure, tyranids are an insatiable force of evouring, an unstoppable need to consume… but they are not (unless the lore changes) the actual physical embodiment of the concept of hunger.

        Nurgle is the actual physical embodiment of the concept of Despair. and Tzeentch of Hope.

        it’s probably the least fluffy interaction possible in the game.

        • Apocryphus

          And who says that the gods couldn’t march together and try to pull one over on each other the entire battle? There’s a short blurb in the 5th ed daemon codex about Khorne sending his legions to war and in the middle of the battle a Slaanesh host shows up and starts stealing kills away from Khorne. They both slaughter the enemy, but they’re trying to outdo each other. Additionally, while opposites, hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. Hope inevitably decays into despair over time, so Nurgle using the energy released from daemons of “hope” to create agents of “despair” feels very in character and entirely fluffy. Nobody said they were allying, they just both have the same goal in sight and are competing to reach it first.

          • Muninwing

            i’ll give you the first one — that’s a decent example.

            but for every one where it crates competition, there’s another where the opposing goals would create friction or the lack of an overall battle plan from being executed.

            as for the second point… no. hope does not inevitably decay into despair. if this is something you believe, then either i’ve lived a far easier life than you, or you’re incredibly jaded.

            it’s much easier to justify something after the fact than it is to actually follow it through. i’m calling shenanigans on this one. especially since it’s using the energy and form of daemons to create more daemons of a completely different (and opposing) form. not even followers, which i could give you… the actual daemons.

            this is as unfluffy as you can get.

          • Apocryphus

            I likely am jaded and I wouldn’t say I’ve had the smoothest life, so that’s a possible disparity of view points. I can see where you’re coming from, but I see Chaos as far more mutable, it’s all made of the same warp stuff after all. I could even see Tzeentch allowing Nurgle to change and shift his energies, mocking Nurgle for furthering his goals of constant change and flux. I just don’t think it’s that unfluffy, no more sovthan Necrons being converted to poxwalkers and still being allowed Reanimation Protocols. I’m not saying it’s super fluffy, but we’re also playing in a setting where xenos are allowed to tamper with a Primarch’s body and altering of geneseed isn’t heresy, the fluff isn’t exactly water tight atcthe moment.

          • LankTank
          • Muninwing

            i’ll give you that the rules are often counterintuitive crap… like this. and i’ll give you that necron warriors in general are not supposed to be more than mindless killing automatons, not warp-reactive/sentient anything…

            but hey, when we were asking for a game without all sorts of extra crap added in from every new codex, somehow we were really asking them to cut half the rules and a quarter of the logic, then cram twice that in rules into the datasheets where we wouldn’t notice it…

          • LankTank

            Ummm the literal fluff in the daemons codex talks about how Nurgle embodies how all things eventually die, everything withers and all hope then turns to despair. That is the FLUFF, not his personal bleak outlook on life.
            I personally would never tie Tzentch and my Nurgle together due to rivalries between my god and the fact that I hate my friends 1k sons, but there CAN be an explanation.

          • Muninwing

            are you going to tell me that every time you have hoped for something, you have not gotten it and it has in turn caused you to have an existential crisis?

            i mean, perhaps in the 40k grimdark that’s a truth, but…

          • LankTank

            Yes. In 40k that is the truth, especially according to Nurgle lore. That is LITERALLY the point. You argued that it makes no sense that a daemon of change/hope would somehow turn into a daemon of loss/despair. And we are saying that according to the lore it VERY much makes sense. Not that somehow Apoc or myself are consumed with an overpowering dread and hopelessness.

          • LankTank
        • LankTank

          Or is it the energy created from the fracturing of the corporeal body that holds the horror, splitting it creates enough turbulence that the Plague God summons another undead guardian to rise from the earth through the veil of warp space?

  • fenrisful2

    This kind of list has been around since 6th ed. It has capitalized on TO’s giving killpoints to much focus, because you simply won’t get any killpoints against lists like this.

  • Chaoscharlie Ya

    And now everyone will try 2 run this

    • orionburn III

      Until Adepticon gets here and then there’s a new list people start to chase…lol

    • euansmith

      Today’s original gimmick list is tomorrow’s Netlist. 😉

      • LankTank

        This gimmick is old though, been talked about since DG codex. The fortification is new

  • swanson4969

    I have played Joshua before he always interesting and inventive lists. Also always been a good sport and fun to play against.

  • Moonsaves

    The best counter is to laugh and set up your models on a table you can have fun playing on instead.

  • Not to fear… Adepticon is in a few weeks and we’ll have the newest busted to all go out and buy and netlist with.

    • Erich Schoenholtz

      Hopefully with less crap sportsmanship and half built, crap painted armies…LOL.

      • Yeah the LVO’s biggest downfall IMO is the cash prize. That really brings out the worst in people.

  • LordKrungharr

    Is the key to defeating this blossom to not kill anything then? Or Is it to kill the poxwalkers first somehow?

    • Erich Schoenholtz

      Or just not play it. LOL.

    • LankTank

      Kill the poxwalkers first if you can otherwise ignore them. But in all honesty I have something similar for my Apostles of Contagion using Cultists and renegades and summoning Plaguebearers/Plague Hulk from a Alpha Sorceror as opposed to Horror chain. The poxwalkers, especially as there is no Blightbringer to speed them up, will struggle to get anywhere in the first 3-4 turns so you can just try and punish the horrors. No idea how to dance against that fortress though as never played against one.

  • Stormwolf

    Do you have a tip for a Dark Eldar player on how to beat this list?

    • Phil Turner

      Don’t play against it. Play narrative.

    • Warrior24_7

      C’mon really? All you need is psychic help here (and you know where to go get it) and everything else you own! You own movement, shooting, and CC (for the most part). Splinter weapons wound on a 4+ right? So “why”fear that fortification? Concentrate on that, the horrors, and stay in the frickin’ vehicles and attack at range (they’re open topped so EVERYBODY can shoot) and there is very little that they can do to you!


      Add a Skathach Wraithknight if you have a Wraithknight model. It’ll be damn near unstoppable against this. You’ll be at a point deficit when comparing big unit to big unit, but you’ll get faaaar more utility out of him and he may win you the game! It can shoot, fight, fall back, hit automatically, appeare where you want and disappear again. It’s a baby Titan and the “must” concentrate on it or possibly lose the game. Don’t take the coward’s way out and run.

    • LankTank

      Might be hard for Dark Eldar, you need alot of low damage, low ap shots or attacks to just mulch the horrors at a very high rate. He will need 2 CP per turn min to keep the zombie growth and at least another 1 to get a re-roll on the stronghold. That gives him only 3 turns with 9CP. In that time it would only be smites and Horrors putting out damage as the stronghold is either going to do next to nothing OR wipe a unit. I suppose if you have alot of dark lances you could flank and try take the fortress out??
      Even if he grows the zombie horde to 130 models (my record is 64) they are slow and on avg will only be moving 7-8″ a turn if advancing. One assaulting unit, preferably a raider so hard to wound, charging in a back corner of the horde will slow it right down as the player either has to stay and fight, try consolidate more models towards that unit to fight or fall back preventing the 2D6″ charge towards another unit.

  • Andy Wise

    Really nice to see such a positive, enthusiastic bit of work – thanks for that, really enjoyable read.

    I might note that the list appears to be title plague blossom rather than death blossom though. Seems lame to pick nits but thought you might like to know.

  • marxlives

    What is the drama that happened? I know someone from my area bowed out of a game due to rule mishap but he is a pretty classy guy.

  • mrbleak

    “To me this is the best list from LVO” Please, did you see Alex’s (3rd) list? That’s what we need more off; Inventive, unique and fun for both players while still being strongly competitive (proved by him making it to semifinals)

  • Nathaniel Wright

    Letter to the Editor: What the hell? Do your job.

  • Warrior24_7

    There is a lot of hate here for this list (what else is new?), but you can’t argue with results. Good job!

  • Matt

    Is this the 5th Place “Death Guard” list?

  • DaveTycho

    If this wasn’t a netlist before, it probably will be now.