Thursday, 2 January 2014

How to play high elves (AKA winning with the clock)

Disclaimer - I'm not holding myself out as a great high elf coach here. I have my own way of playing them which is based on the running game and short passing. You will not find long bombs here (unless the shit has hit the fan!). This is just how I like to do it. I'm sure there are better ways. 

The key to my way of playing high elves was clock management. I rarely put together the big scores of the other high elf coaches and would normally look to win via a 2-1 grind.

I normally like to receive on turn 1. This is good for two reasons – firstly you get a go at hurting their dudes on the LOS, and secondly you only need to win the first half and will likely have most of your players available to do that. That is critical – if you win the first half then you very rarely lose the game. To win the first half you have to score on turn 5 or 6 and then defend like mad. This first half defence is where the game is won or lost and you need to throw all you can at it.

The game therefore breaks down into four drives – you receive and go first, then two offensive drives for your opponent, then you receive last.

Your first drive

The most important thing is that you should not score a 2 turner! (except against elves sometimes where you might go for a 3-2 grind – see my report of the game against Hawca in tier 1 where we exchanged 2 turners as I faked the shootout then switched to a grinding style, scoring on turns 2, 8 and 16 – I only drew because he rolled a quick snap on turn 8 allowing his MV9 sprint catcher to pull a 1 turner).

The plan for your drive would be to knock over his LOS and then make a gap to run a receiver (usually a rookie lineman) into his half through the gap. A receiver will probably eat his blitz from whatever tackle MB horror he has and possibly a foul too (which is why you want the AV8 rookie). He may choose to just mark up the receiver, but will probably do so with 2 players and the more players he diverts to dealing with that rookie the fewer he will have for the fight at the LOS. Keep the ball deep, which may tempt him to run players into your half to chase your thrower – more players that will not be available to him for the key fight to come.

I usually like to put my thrower in a space which allows the opponent to put a TZ on him if he makes two GFIs. My thrower can easily dodge away, and I want my opponent to roll unnecessary dice for the GFIs and possibly burn a reroll or even take an armour roll on a failed GFI. It also encourages an overcommitment to chasing the thrower which will help me stall later. All the time the goal you have is to stay strong in the centre of the pitch while doing all you can to disrupt his defensive line – making him pull players back to deal with your potential receivers and push players forward to menace your thrower. You don't want to be facing an upright LOS with high strength players and then columns alongside of that, you want his team spread out around the length of the pitch.

Once his team are pulled out of position, make your move – pass the ball short to a receiver in the centre and dash forwards with all of your central players making a cage deep in his half – keep a loose cage against a bash team and a tight cage against elves. This should leave him badly out of position – his players in your half chasing the thrower can’t get back to defend and again the players marking your receiver(s) should find it hard to get back to keep you from the line. Once you have strong field position for the cage he will find it hard to keep you out – stall as long as you can but a TD on turns 5-6 is fine. 7-8 is perfect.

You now must prevent your opponent from scoring in response before half time. If you do this then you probably win.

Make sure your setup covers the full width of the pitch with columns or chevrons and put your sidestep players in the vulnerable areas. Clobber your opponent’s receivers as a priority over other players and make sure you count squares as to which of them can get to your line. Do everything you can to delay – now is the time to mark up those orc blitzers and black orcs by the LOS and take the hard hits to stop them supporting the push for the line. Make sure you get columns in front of his cage and force him to take risks.

The second half

OK, so hopefully you delayed your score and then defended until half time. In the second half the important thing to remember is that you do not need to stop your opponent from scoring – you need to either force them to score on or before turn 15, or hold out for the full 16 turns. He can only get a draw by beating you up so badly that you can’t score on your drive, or by scoring on turn 16. The key here therefore is to stay out of contact.

Give him only the blitz every turn, and make it hard for him to get fouls off by pairing up your players into columns. You can hurry him up by splitting up his team – if a necro coach gets his ball carrier isolated from his flesh golems and zombies because you have used your blitz to put a screen between them, then he will find it hard to break that screen and reunite his team. Be patient and wait for him to overextend – always keep a strong presence in the centre of the field and don’t worry too much about the wide zones, wait for him to pick a flank, and then strike to isolate the ball carrier and his cage from the rest of the team. Your mobility makes you excellent at moving to cover flanks as long as you maintain a "square" of players in the middle.

Another good way of forcing the score is to suddenly flood the cage. Again the key is not to rush. Don’t flood it straight away, but wait until he overextends with his tackle pieces or his killers and they are away from the cage. Then charge in and force him to make a decision. Sometimes it’s worth leaving a receiver unmarked in order to entice your opponent to take the easy TD and give you the ball back for your superior offence to score the winning TD.

Judging the moment is a really important skill, and one that I was only starting to develop but a good rule of thumb is that if your opponent gives you 2 turns to score the winning TD and your team is still in reasonable shape then you have played the clock to perfection and probably deserve a win on the balance of your good play.

Another important issue to understand when to switch tactics and go for the shutout. You must, at all costs, avoid conceding on turn 16 because a 1 turn TD is a risky business and hard to pull off, and if by turn 13 or 14 your opponent has not made much progress into your half, then now may be the time to throw down the columns in front of him and get all your players behind the ball. Just in general watch out getting too many players on the wrong side of the ball – it can make defence much more difficult if you need to switch tactics.

If you kick first

This is not ideal, but basically the reverse is true of my advice above.

His first drive is all about keeping your team safe and either forcing the score on turn 7 or earlier, or shutting him out. Anything other than (i) your team getting smashed off the pitch, and (ii) you conceding on turn 8, is a good result. 

You then look to score a 2 turner before half time and then do a 5 turn drive to win.

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