Making a Run at the Top Tables: An Interview with Adam Abramowicz

Mediocrity has a place near and dear to my heart. I wrote a (successful) college admissions essay about it. And my personal list design and playing skill in 40K falls into the “middling-okay” category. In the last edition, that meant placing usually in the top 50% at a tournament I went to – but only just, and 100% of the time as the worst scoring Eldar player there.

And in my heart, I’m content with that. I might flirt with the idea of being at the top tables, but with the exception of a single unlikely tournament in Dublin, Ireland with 3rd Edition Sisters of Battle, I know I don’t belong there. More importantly, I’m not willing to do the things that one would have to do to be that person.

Which is why I’m so interested in Adam Abramowicz’s new podcast, The Best General, wherein he tries to do exactly that.

Adam’s a great guy. I first “met” him sending the occasional message about things he said as one of the folks involved in Forge the Narrative. Most memorably about his expression of absolute horror as Paul Murphy essentially described his airbrush having a stroke. He was kind enough to agree to answer some questions about his new podcast, and the motivations behind it. As a disclaimer, I am one of his early Patreon backers, but I would have been interested anyway. The cover photo of him rocking a Union-style uniform and a goofball expression is just that good.

 

Alright Adam – first could you give us a little bit of background about yourself? Who you are, when you started playing Warhammer, etc.?

Hi Eric, of course. First of all, you know that I’m a huge fan of Variance Hammer. You’re able to explain the statistics of the game in a way even a plebian like me can understand. And that’s not an easy thing to accomplish! My name is Adam Abramowicz. I was born and raised in Philly before moving to Ohio, then California, then the Carolinas and now I reside outside of New Orleans. I’ve been around as they say.

On the first episode of the show, I kind of did an origin story and even brought in my cousin to help. I found Warhammer in 1996, or 1997, with my cousins. They lived a state away so we would get some models whenever we’d see each other and try to have them painted up before the next visit. The goal was always to show off how “well” we painted our toys with craft paints and crappy brushes. My cousin Jason was actually a pretty decent painter back then, which is impressive because he was super young.

Fast forward to 2013-2014, I hadn’t touched a model in nearly a decade and there I was playing in my first GT. The funniest part is that I somehow managed to hide 40K from my wife throughout the courting process, engagement and first year of marriage. So when I had to sit her down and break it to her, she was very confused. It was as if she was looking at a different person while I explained to her that I used to paint tiny toy space soldiers.

 

What made you decide you wanted to become a GT Best General level player? Did you just wake up one morning and decide you wanted the trophy, or has this been a gradual progression?

It’s not like it was a light bulb that went off in my head or anything like that. Look, I’m a competitive person. Up until my daughter was born, 3 days before in fact, I was competing in bike races pretty frequently. Being a work-at-home dad with two businesses, I can’t train and ride like I used to. So, I guess part of it is filling that gap in my life but I also think it’s much more than that. You see, when I go to ATC or Warzone or any other tournaments and I get to shoot the shit with Alan Pajamapants, Sean Nayden and Andrew Gonyo, I realize that while they are insanely talented 40K players, they are normal people at the end of the day. They are just like me. Unlike in cycling, where I can’t compete directly against the most elite athletes in the sport because they are licensed professionals. And they would ride me right off their wheels!

Being close with The General Staff club, I’m very close with some of the most talented, lesser-known players in the country. I get to be a fly on the wall as they chat list design and work through problems and find solutions through design or tactics. So I live in that space, but I’ve just never taken it to its furthest potential. Like Andrew said on the show, I have the network to do this. And, truly, I think I can do this. There aren’t many people who will describe me as intelligent. I’m not a pseudo mathematician or statiticion like some of the more elite players are. It’s as if to say, I’m not a natural born 40K player. I’m not Lebron James or Tom Brady. I’m someone who has to work at it although I’ve had moments of absolute brilliance in games. They are just few and far between. If I can close the gaps, and put the pieces all together, I truly believe that I can win a Grant Tournament. But it’s been a gradual progression.

This wasn’t me waking up in the morning and writing a manifesto about how I am going to be the greatest 40K player in the world, overnight. This was moments in games, things clicking in my head that I didn’t understand before, it’s all about putting the pieces together. The piece that I’m seeing scattered on the hypothetical floor are what lead me to set this challenge for myself.

 

So it’s one thing to do that, and another thing entirely to decide you want to make a podcast about it – what made you decide you wanted to start The Best General?

First, I’ve been asked (begged, guilted into, threatened) by my friends Twitch and Horton to do this for a long time. Going back at least a year. I’d joke about it with The General Staff crew, and they’d usually agree with Twitch and Horton. So I’ve had some time to think on it, obviously. I was a radio DJ in high school, I used to host TV shows in college and produce videos for former employers, so production is in my wheel house. So I figured, why the hell not!? If there’s anything I should be doing now, a podcast is it. I also think that there are a lot of players out there who want to improve their abilities in the game just like I do but don’t know how. The barrier to entry, so to speak, to understanding and becoming a good 40K player is actually quite high to overcome. So my hope is that this show is a very relatable and approachable way for players to improve their game, or even motivate them to take a chance at something, maybe step out of their comfort zone a little. If you think about it, I’m setting myself up for embarrassment by doing this. Maybe I should reconsider? [Jokes].

 

Listening to your first episode (http://thebestgeneral.libsyn.com/), you seem to have a style that’s somewhat unique among 40K podcasts. It’s got a very narrative style, with interspersed recordings and then higher level narration, faintly reminiscent of something I’d expect to hear on NPR. Was that intentional? Is that the format you’re sticking with?

I listen to a lot of NPR and many docu-focused podcasts like Tanis, Serial, Up & Vanished, Lore and S-Town. I also really really love the conversational stylings of Sawbones. I definitely wanted the interviews to be more conversational (Sawbones) as it would help to guide the more structured narration (Serial, S-Town, etc). So yes, it was totally intentional. You have good ears! I do listen to quite a few 40K shows and was on one for over two-years, but the concept of this show in particular was unique in this community and I felt the structure of the show deserved to be unique as well. As I said in the first episode, if you’re looking for us to chase new releases and leaks, this isn’t the show for you. This is a journey and my hope is that the structure of the show allows listeners to feel as if they are a part of the journey to, because at the end of the day, they are.

 

You’re probably best known in the 40K community as a painter – and rightly so, having taken several Best Painted awards and running a commission studio. Are you planning on touching on that at all over the course of the series? Do you think you’ll still have the time to devote attention to that aspect of the hobby with your drive to Best General?

Great question! We will definitely discuss painting on the show, and especially in Special Features. For sure. And it’s bound to be a point of conflict for me as it always has been when discussing lists with Andrew and others. “No, I can’t play that because it won’t look good in an army composition.” Or, “I can’t play that because it’s not painted yet.” It’s a huge part of why I never played Allies back in the day. With that said, I’m learning to be a little more lax with my standards. This is a work in progress after all, so if I show up to a local RTT or game night with unpainted models, I’m not so hard on myself for putting them on the table when they may not make the cut, or ever be played again. I won Best Painted at the final Forge The Narrative Seasonal (my first serious GT) and then at the first Warzone: Atlanta a year later. While I lost, deservedly, to a fantastic Nurgle army from Luke Slowthower last year (VH: I was there, and it was fantastic), there is a part of me that wants vengeance at Warzone 2017. We will see! At this point, I have no idea what I’m bringing!

 

Following up on that, why Best General, instead of something like Best Overall (Not On A Technicality)?

Haha, you picked up on my Overall Win On A Technicality! That was a huge, HUGE surprise. I was told by my friends that I was not going to win Best Painted at the event that they were running. They did tell me I was doing really well in Sports scores, that I had earned 5 votes, but I had only won 2-3 games. My Battle Points average however, combined with my max paint and sports scores meant that I, much to the disbelief of the TOs and everyone at the event, won Best Overall. It was actually quite hilarious, and I’m not going to lie, I almost cried. It was such a shock and a huge honor.

That’s why this was actually a huge point of contention for me internally. Personally, I think Best Overall is the greatest achievement that we have in the game. It means that you were good enough of a player, painter and person to best the rest. A true renaissance player. And, I’ve always gone to tournaments hoping to win Best Painted, first; Overall, second. I never really thought that I had, or have, what it takes to win Best General. So this is a huge step for me. I don’t want to say, “out of my comfort zone,” necessarily. Moreso, this is something that I never believed was in the realm of possibility and I think that’s what makes this journey so interesting. I’m not a cut-throat player, but I’m going to have to learn to be. Becoming Best General will take focus and discipline and forethought, things I’m not known for.

 

So one way I see people trying to win tournaments is what I affectionately refer to as “Chasing the Dragon” – take whatever is hot in the meta right now, and two weeks later you’ve got 1850 points of it rocking the three color minimum, with “Primer Grey” being one of those colors. You seem to be taking a different approach, and have staked out a place as a Blood Angels player – are you going to try to stick to your guns on that?

So, first and foremost, whatever I bring to any tournament will be painted to a high enough standard that I am proud to display it at the event. It’s just not something that’s in my nature to show up with a grey primed model with three different colored dots on it. It’s disrespectful to the game, the hobby and your opponents in my opinion. That said, I am playing Blood Angels at the moment, though they are painted as Lamenters (I’m a masochist). And, I’ve collected models in a way that I can use my Cursed Founding chapter as Blood Angels, or Forge World: Lamenters or Codex: Space Marines. I even did a slight conversion on Guilliman and painted him yellow with checkers a while back, because AWESOME! I really love the Lamenters fluff and as I mentioned, I’m a glutton for punishment. Who wants to paint yellow, and checkers? I DO!

Before I committed to becoming The Best General, I set out to become Best Blood Angels in the ITC. I’m not sure that goal will survive, especially considering we aren’t rumored to get a Codex until the opening morning of Warzone: Atlanta 2017. (COME ON GW!!!) Last night, I actually experimented a little and played a very strong Ultramarines list and also, what I believe to be the best list I’ve ever designed by way of a Death Guard/Nurgle list with Mortarion. Both games showed promise, being my first games of 8th playing Marines and Chaos, I walked away with turn two and turn three tablings of my opponents. So, we will see where that rabbit hole takes me.

 

Does that mean the other Blood Angels fanatics on Forge the Narrative are all mysteriously going to find themselves with flat tires come the morning of Warzone Atlanta 2018?

Do those guys actually play in tournaments? Kidding, of course. From what I understand Paul has been playing a lot of Chaos, and Chris is playing Blood Angels of course. Andrew, on the other hand, has a very, very nasty Guard army that I love. I know you’re joking, but I will not be cutting tires. In fact, I’d be stoked to see more people playing Blood Angels! I firmly believe that once their Codex drops, they will become competitive within the meta. Not just, “Five Blood Angels Stormravens with Dante and Acolytes” playable.

 

I’m not trying to psyche you out of anything, but…there’s substantial evidence that there’s some armies that just don’t have top-tier potential, no matter what they do. Like in 7th Edition, if you had announced you were going to win a GT playing an all Sisters of Battle army, I’m pretty sure I would have patted you on the shoulder, said “Good luck buddy” and that would have been that. What if the Blood Angels fall in that heap this go-around?

So, I actually think there were very, very good lists in the Sisters book in 7th. Especially early on in 7th when there was a lot of armor. Sisters backed up by Guard with Coteaz…oof, vey strong. But those days are long gone. You are absolutely right, until all Factions have a Codex, there is a platonic shift in the power meta. In my eyes, the factions to beat are 1) Astra Militarum, 2) Magnus [Chaos], 3) Ultramarines, and 4) Genestealer Cult. I’m fairly certain we will see a lot of Death Guard armies soon. I promise that there will be many unholy alliances of Mortarion and Magnus, I’m deeming them the, “Thunder Buddies.” Going back to my original point, the writing is on the wall and I think that we can understand and predict Games Workshop’s intent for the future of the game: power, and ultimately balance, will come by way of the Codex. Unless you play Guard, the Eldar of 8th. Like I said in my previous response, I truly believe that Games Workshop will “Make Blood Angels Great Again” come the Codex release.

 

Do you want to talk a little bit about your Patreon campaign, what you’re hoping to do, and how people can support you doing it?

Of course, and thank you for providing me a platform to do so! The Patreon campaign is committed to providing the best possible production for my listeners. Podcasts take money and time to produce. Storage costs money, hosting costs money, production value costs money too. As my campaign grows, I will be able to purchase better recoding equipment and software to do just that. Also, I run two businesses. My other company is very young and while it’s growing I don’t take a paycheck from it (gotta feed my employees first!), so I paint to pay the bills and while I love doing it, it’s not a business anyone is getting rich at. Well, maybe some are? But I’m not.

It takes a lot of time and effort to produce quality work, be it painting or podcasting and if I can pay my bills at the end of the month because people are willing to pay me to do what I’m decent at, than that’s pretty cool. Right? At this point in time, there are no plans for me to take a “paycheck” from the podcast. All proceeds will go towards covering the production costs, improving them and maybe helping me to get to some of the big events across the country where I can record great content at say LVO, NOVA or Adepticon. I’d love to be able to do audio and video recordings of my games at these events and provide play-by-plays and post-game interviews for my listeners. I’d really love for people who can’t attend these events to feel like they are there with me. How awesome would it be if we figured out a way to live stream the event and games from a GoPro strapped to my chest!?!

If that’s something y’all want to see and hear, you can back my campaign for as little as $1 a month! There are rewards for Patrons at different levels, some of them are pretty silly, I’ll be honest. But heck, if someone wants to donate a grand for me to fly out to wherever they live and play a practice game with them, I’m all for it. Let’s go! Why wouldn’t I do that, right? Haha. If I could grow this show to have several thousand listeners and if half of them decide to back the show for $1 a month, I could realistically produce two episodes a week! Maybe at that point I could step into video battle reports, and maybe after that I could do a painting tutorial once a week? Who knows? The sky is truly the limit. I’ll reevaluate down the road, but right now it’s all about producing the best product for my Patrons and listeners. That’s most important to me and it’s my commitment to each and every one of my Patrons.

So there you have it – a new podcast to listen to, still 40K related but with a pretty unique spin on the usual “A few dudes talking about their hobby” format. I wish Adam all the best in his quest…and if you’d like to support him on Patreon, you can find his campaign here.

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