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40k Interview Val Heffelfinger: The Waaagh Was Already Great

13 Minute Read
Nov 17 2017

Hi everyone – BBF here with an interview with Val Heffelfinger who took 2nd Best Overall at the Atlanta Warzone 40k GT this past weekend.

This interview is a follow-up to my last article on the current tournament scene.

The overall category at Warzone includes your total score including hobbycentric categories, not just Battle Points alone. Val made a big positive impact bringing an index army that has been tarred and feathered as non-competitive… yes I’m talking about Orks. I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for the Boyz – any game versus Space Marines is a classic match pitting two archetypal races against each other. I’ve always loved the feral theme as well because of classic space opera campaigns such as Armageddon. The spore cannot be completely eliminated leading to yet even more entropy !

So let’s get on with the interview !


Q1. First be so kind as to introduce yourself and tell us about your hobby background. What more than anything else drew you into Warhammer 40k and why do you play Orks ?

Thanks for having me BBF!

I’ve been playing pretty intensely since around the start of 7th, just after the Space Marines codex came out I think. Prior to that I hadn’t played since 3rd edition, and had managed to repress my intense feelings for miniature based gaming for around 14 years.

My wife was pretty confused when I revealed that this was something I’d be getting back into, so I told her not to worry: I wouldn’t be “one of those convention guys.”


About a year later I was in Las Vegas playing on Warhammer TV vs a member of the American ETC team.

To say the least, sh!t got pretty real, pretty fast.

Orks were my first love from way back when. I’ve always loved the idea of Bloodaxes in particular, but at this point my collection spans a number of different clans.

Unfortunately to stay sane I almost immediately switched to Tau for competition during 7th edition. With 8th dropping though I’ve been going as hard as I can with Orks, and even picked up a couple RTT wins before going on a pretty hilarious miracle run at Warzone Atlanta recently.

Q2. Would you show us your army list you brought to Atlanta ? How did you go about designing the list and what are your basic tactics versus the current top tier armies ?

I tend to let the internet do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. You can pretty quickly find out what the “meta” choices are, and there’s generally wisdom there to be found. In any facebook group or forum, you can usually spot the folks who take building efficient lists seriously, so I try to pay attention to them and what they’re thinking.


Outside of that, I like to try and build lists that don’t purely spam. I like to have different tools, and more often than not this leads to lists that are a bit too cute. In general I like to make sure I can screen, deal mortal wounds, take out infantry at range, take big chunks out of big models. Oh and be mobile. And keep drops below 7 or 8. +1 to go first is still a big deal.

With Orks I think a lot of the competitive scene just went straight to Stormboyz/ Weirdboyz/ Boyz. Hell you could probably build a winning list with the first two alone. Pay for BCP and have a look at the winning list for the Wet Coast GT in Western Canada. That was won by an Ork player essentially running weirdboyz and boyz.

Weirdboyz are devastating – so vs big meaty hitters like Magnus and Morty, my hope is that they’re gonna come to me, and that I can hold them up with a screen of boyz for a turn. After that, I’m smiting them and counter charging with my big squig Peachez. That’s a lot of mortal wounds usually, and it works very well.

Ironically playing Orks super cagey is something they’re excellent at. “Da Jump” is often thought of as a way to first turn charge, but more often than not I’m using it for redeploying or screening off a vulnerable part of the board. I use reserved min squads of Kommandos to stay off the table and grab objectives when needed. Just sneaky git stuff.

It’s pretty hard to be cagey with a Gargantuan Squiggoth though… and one of the biggest liabilities of my list design is that anything tuned up to kill a knight titan at range will take a huge bite out of my list too. Luckily this wasn’t anything I wound up needing to deal with at Warzone Atlanta.

Like I said it was a miracle run.

Q3. Could you give us a rundown of each round, describing each opponent’s army and each game ? Also which game was your favorite and why was it ?

Warzone Atlanta Rundown

My first round was vs a guy named Mike. He was a super nice guy, but looking across I was immediately worried. I had only gotten one game of practice in with the big squig and I was looking out at Magnus, Fateweaver, Be’lakor, and three flying daemon princes. Oddly enough this wasn’t even considered an “optimized” list, and I knew that, but I was still concerned about how well my list would work.


Turn one and Magnus is well up in my business. However he doesn’t quite engage enough of my units and I’m able to execute the Weirdboyz smite /Squig counter charge I described earlier. Magnus wound up the squig’s breakfast pretty quickly but Fatey rolled like a champ on his invulns. This tied up the squig a bit longer than I would have liked, and eventually he succumbed to a few daemon princes that came over to support. Elsewhere however, I was able to use the big trakks and kommandos to outflank and grab/contest backfield objectives from brimstones – and that is ultimately what allowed me to narrowly win the game.

As Warzone used battlepoints, that narrow win probably was the most important thing that happened to me all weekend. As my next two rounds I faced opponents that were playing well but not TOO well, knowwhatimsayin?

Second round I got to play against this gorgeous pure Khorne list. We were playing a version of the relic called red rover where you had to run up to three relics across the table into your opponents deployment zone. I shaded the squig over to one side of the board and basically used Da Jump and the speed of the Big trakks to redeploy to the opposite side along with the squig. This basically left half his army out of position and allowed my squig to run up and nom nom nom on bezerkers. He even got a blood thirster down to one wound before needing to take a well earned nap for the rest of the game.

In the third round the theme of the dark gods continued – but this time it was a sexy slaneesh army that decided to show up. Essentially the same thing happens as with the first round, except this time it’s the Forge World Greater daemon of Slaneesh that rushes my lines as quickly as possible. She actually advanced up too, so was essentially just standing there as she got slammed by about 3d6 worth of super smite. With one wound remaining she ends up dying to an errant bolter shot or something else ignoble as I invest my firepower elsewhere. My opponent was a bit shocked at how this all went down, and so my squig followed it up by eating the keeper of secrets for good measure. It was a fun game, but ultimately the purple ones got rolled up pretty good.

So that’s the end of day one. I’m 3-0 and really can’t believe it. I have literally never done that before and it was a big personal goal of mine. I figure even though I hadn’t been maxing battle points, I was sitting on a near perfect paint score, and three really amicable games. I could probably stay in contention for best overall – I just had to deal with something pretty serious first:

Round four: Mike Twitchell and his endless poxwalkers.

I go up to my room order a steak and a peach cobbler (because, Georgia) and get down to business. After reading his list I immediately recalled an article on BoLS describing the core list concept. I reach out to the best players I know and spitball some strategies. I draft and redraft a few different deployment plans. Walking up to the table the next day might have been one of the top 5 most prepared for moments in my life.

Twitchell’s army basically revolved around a stratagem that allowed his poxwalkers to add to their unit for every infantry model that dies within 7″. Furthermore, Alpha legion cultists are no slouches, and both “chaff” units can be improved to be better than ork boyz via other stratagems, psychic powers, and buffing characters. Backing this up was a unit of 10 combiplas blightlord termies, and a unit of 20 noisemarines. It was a great balanced list with a ton of tricks.


We were playing a mission that was primary kill points and secondary relic. So here’s the life lesson: I got so obsessed with countering Mike’s army that I forgot there were more important things to do.

Mike thought I was setting up to play the mission and so he correctly assessed that it should be a cagey game. He had a tremendous advantage on kill points – his units were much harder for me to kill and were large and resilient. On the other hand, I had tons of units on the board that could give easy points if I let him.

However I was obsessed with getting to him before he could get his stratagems off – so in turn one I jumped up a unit of boyz to charge his front lines. I had also given them +1 attack with warpath, and so they could easily eat through 40 cultists and a good chunk of the unit of pox walkers behind.

The problem is I needed a 9″ charge to make this work. I rolled a 6 and a 1. I then re-rolled to a 2. Within 20 minutes all 28 boyz had joined the walking dead, and although we kept playing I was pretty much toast on primary.

Later on I cost myself secondary when again I got cute with a charge – and spread out too thin when I should have been focused on clearing out the relic.

Meanwhile, Mike made excellent choices with target priority and played a clean mission focused game. He was a great opponent, and even though my preparation didn’t pay off it was really enjoyable. Maybe next time I’ll not only remember the scouting report, but stay focused on the mission too.

At the LVO last year I lost a game on Warhammer TV in pretty resounding fashion vs an excellent player. I rolled up to my final matchup burnt out, bummed out and not really up for the challenge. I tried to remember that and dig deep enough to rally. I could still win my last game and have a personal best finish at a GT.

Round five: And who could be better to finish against than none other than the Best General himself: Adam Abramowicz?

As described and developed on his podcast – he was running three units of devs with heavy bolters and a lascannon surrounding the fancy Space Marine banner. Guilliman and the Saint, naturally, two storm ravens, conscripts, a couple primaris psykers, some ratlings, and enough reinforcement points to party twice with dead guardsmen.

So I did what I learned in the previous game – I set up to play the mission.

Actually no. That’s not what I did at all – I set up to long bomb charge my Squig Peachez into Guilliman’s precious face.

We roll up spearhead deployment. That put me 18″ from the front line of conscripts. Robby G looks to be a bit tight to his screen, but is still quite a distance away.

I move the squig a full ten, have a pretty solid round of shooting, and then roll up the charge – a 5 and a 1. I command point re-roll to a 5. This is massive.

I get the squig to within an inch of the poor conscript in front of Bobby. In my turn I then use my pile in so that my tusk is closer to the conscript, but now within 1″ of Guilliman.

In my turn I roll up the squig’s wounds – he deals 4 wounds at d6 damage. Adam fails 3 3++ including a re-roll. I then proceed to throw down 14 points of damage.

Down Goes Guilliman!

He rolls to get up. He re-rolls to get up. He does not get up.

The Primarch of the Ultramarines, and important all around dude of the imperium just got eaten by a squig.

Adam then proceeds to earn my favorite opponent of the day vote by taking this whole horrifying chain of events in stride. He gamely plays the whole thing out, like a Best General would – trying to get as many secondary and tertiary points as he can. At the end of it all though I wind up with max points and a 4-1 record.

Beating down one of your favorite podcast personalities (and now less than anonymous facebook friend) to go to your best GT finish ever may seem bittersweet – but I’ll tell you it isn’t. It was just super sweet.

And then – insanity happened.

32/33 in paint. 4/5 favorite opponent votes. 22nd in Battlepoints at 113.

This was good enough to win “Best Sports,” which blew my mind – but was also good for second overall and missed the top spot by some hilariously small margin.

It was easily the best showing I’ve ever had at a GT (even the BP placing) and I did it with Orks.

And yes I’m aware that a lot had to go right, but hey it did. So here I am talking about it on BoLS for some reason.

Q4. You traveled all the way from Canada to play. What were the major factors regarding Warzone that enticed you to go ?

Warzone Atlanta is hyped endlessly on Forge the Narrative. It just happened this year that I was going to be driving through to Florida in November, so I just made sure it was on Warzone weekend.

It was a great atmosphere, exceptionally well run and organized – and they’ll be looking to expand next year. Definitely try to get a ticket if there’s a chance you could go!

Q5. How do you feel about eighth edition and where would you rank it versus the other editions you’ve played ? Where do you see this edition going in terms of the meta ?

I mean I just enjoy playing toys, so I didn’t despise 7th like some did. But I’d say 8th is far superior in many ways. As an Ork player there is no comparison. The 7th edition codex was not only boring, but it was almost uniformly terrible. Index Orks are light years better, and Chapter Approved will hopefully be a great stop gap until the codex drops next year. I think really the most pressing issue for the orks is simply a matter of reducing points, and I expect that to be addressed in Chapter Approved.

I honestly don’t get all the hand wringing about this by the way. Ork players on the internet are universally pessimistic about what a codex will bring, if it comes at all. There’s some PTSD out there amongst the greenskins. I hope they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Q6. Please share any opinions and ideas you have how to improve the current tournament scene.

Honestly? Improve your attitude! Set your goals for yourself. If you’re not going with the goal to play the “meta” list – make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Keep the bar where you can reach it and you’ll always have a good time.

Also – get comfortable losing. I think the biggest problem most people on the internet have is that they actually don’t like to lose and aren’t open to figuring out why it happens. It’s not because _______ is o.p. It’s because you didn’t deal with it correctly. 9 times out of 10, there’s something you could have done better. Stop blaming the dice. Stop blaming your opponent. Start blaming yourself and learning – you’ll get better almost immediately.

And hey – I was fully prepared to get rocked last weekend. But I gave myself a chance to win every game. And sometimes miracles happen.

Q7. Tell us about anything you’d like to talk about I haven’t already asked.

RE: Illegal lists.

Anyone around my facebook page would see that I’m of a few minds on this. At nearly every major lately there’s been some sort of list discrepancy at the top table. Only recently at SoCal was the person fully disqualified. Now at Warzone the original winner will not be given ITC points, but will be allowed to retain his title and prizes. I think that’s a fair compromise given the event.

Warzone Atlanta has a rather collegial atmosphere, and because most of the field is comprised of returning players – I think many were willing to be forgiving of the mistake, including myself.

What is so frustrating is that these list errors are all clerical in nature. All of them – whether it was a 1 point bolt pistol, or an incorrectly labeled detachment – could have been easily corrected if caught in advance. Some could even be reasonably fixed on the fly with little material change to the list. Basically these specific errors are widely agreed to have a limited material impact on the game, and are so innocuous that they seem to rule out malicious intent.

Furthermore – there are tons of things that happen in the course of a tournament, either rules forgotten or remembered incorrectly that do have a massive impact. But these things aren’t generally caught because they happen in the flow of the game, and there’s no way to prove that your opponent isn’t actually ignorant of a fact that you think he or she should know.

At the end of the day though, list construction is fundamental to the game and doing it correctly at this point – especially if you think you have any chance of competing – is a must. Disqualifications and/or loss of ITC points seem like the way to go. But it really sucks. So please – check your list. Have someone else check it. Submit it to the ITC List Checking Group on Facebook. Add it up on the bus to work. Sleep with it under your pillow. Whatever it takes – just make sure it’s right!

Finally – thanks for your time. And if anyone found this entertaining great! If you didn’t? Well, I’m looking forward to some BoLS lovingly placed on my chin in the comments

See y’all at the LVO!

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