Right up front it is worth acknowledging that the tournaments I played these two armies in were structured very differently. Blisterskin was played in an Escalation based tournament that started at 1K and went to 2K in 250 pt increments. Guild of Summoners was played in a three match tournament where you had a fixed 1.25K list and got an extra 250 points to customize to the battleplan and match up. That said I think there were some key takeaways regarding what works and what doesn’t when playing games via streaming.
1) Balance is Better FEC may not have many models, and with the exception of 1.75K when Crypt Ghouls made a cameo, I was playing an even narrower set of the range. But FEC is very balanced across the phases of the game. You’ve got some magic and, via a battalion, an extra pile-in in the Hero Phase. You’ve got decent Movement that can change the board dynamics. You’ll have some Shooting from Crypt Flayers and Terrorgheists. You’re not combat averse so chances are you’ve got a few Charges to make. And in Combat you’ve got a reasonable, but rarely ever overwhelming, number of dice to roll.
In contrast the Guild of Summoners list was very heavily weighted towards casting in the Hero Phase plus some Shooting as I was trying as much as possible to avoid combat except with a couple units. While I got pretty proficient in my casting it is largely a time in the game when my opponent is sitting there twiddling their thumbs. If this isn’t exactly fun in person it is even more boring when you’re just staring at a screen where not much is happening. Or at least there’s not much you can do. Against Ironjawz with Mighty Destroyers there was some similar sentiment that you were just having to sit it out (at most roll some saves).
The argument isn’t that you should ignore the strength of your list, just again, the recognition that some lists work better over Zoom than others. I really want to further explore Tzeentch’s options but this doesn’t look like the right format for it.
2) Dice Drama Stronger w/Fewer High Probability Rolls than Massive Quantities of Low Probability Ones At one point I got all 40x Crypt Ghouls into combat against a Mawkrusha and some Gore Gruntas buffed with the Abhorrant Archregent’s Ferocious Hunger spell so I was rolling 160 attacks. In person based on Shootas and Stabbas I know there can be some drama to this but in a variation of the above the time it toook to roll all of the attacks, reroll is the 1s, and then reroll all of the wounds, only for the low probabilities to radically reduce the number of Saves that needed to be made and then, especially with the Mawkrusha’s Save in a Defensive build, only see a few wounds actually go through, is pretty anticlimactic. In contrast, Crypt Flayers were never rolling nearly as many dice but with MWs on unmodified 6s to Hit every roll felt like it meant something.
Again, in person the stuff that matters is always more fun and interesting than the stuff that doesn’t. Over Zoom inconsequential stuff is a momentum killer. For context as half of us have kids we’re not starting these games until 8:30 PM and we mainly play on week nights with some of us having early starts. So while the Crypt Ghouls were a very effective chaff screen, especially backed up by mustering and the Chalice of Ushoran, I didn’t bring them back at 2K in order to preserve the pacing and not drag games past midnight.
3) Battleplans Make a Huge Difference Over Zoom there can be a tendency to want to just line your units up across the deployment zone and rush forward to try and Smash your opponent. Anything that simplifies the Zoom dynamic of course makes some sense and then the format pushing you towards elite lists such as Triple Frostlord on Stonehorn Boulderhead or Double Cabbage Ironjawz where such tactics align well with what they do best only. While these types of matches can be fun Zoom League would quickly lose its appeal if that was all it was.
Blisterskin and Guild of Summoners are clearly NOT designed to play like that. With Blisterskin I was often castled up to begin with and then relying on my edge Summons, Lord of the Skies teleport, and overall good mobility to maneuver around the board. None of which would matter if Battleplans didn’t make such tactics a virtue. Blades Edge has been the best Zoom League option as it forces a more dynamic play style. Battleplans where holding an objective for multiple turns have also proven their worth in keeping games fresh and allowing for a slightly broader set of factions to be played.
Keeping games fun AND competitive is something AoS struggles with under normal circumstances. Under current socially distant conditions we are clearly leaning towards the fun but we still want wins to be based on meaningful interactive aspects of the game. So as we continue to play and tweak our approach maximizing meaningful interactive moments is a focus. As a result again I will be moving on from Tzeentch for now as the play style too often minimizes player interaction. FEC is coming back, albeit via a new player who is looking to go full Monster Mash v Gristelgore.
Me? I’ll be switching over to Stormcast Eternals. Partially because I have a bunch of SCE models from when it looked like my kids might get interested in the game that could use a turn on the table to knock the dust off. But also because I think they may offer a lot of what I got out of Blisterskin without ever needing to bring a Horde unit a la Crypt Ghouls onto the table due to a wider variety of battle line options. We’ll see...