Monday, June 13, 2011

Balance, Flexibility, and Meta

I don't usually reference or address other blogs in mine, but some things in the blogosphere have been bothering me lately. It was articles on BoLS that got under my skin recently on competitive list trends.  I was further inflamed by articles and comments on other blogs I follow through the day.

There are a lot of people out there that believe in codex "tiers", codex creep, and a changing balance in 40k. People talk about "the big 3" being wolves, angels, and guard.  I've read numerous articles on how these are hard to beat and how GK and future releases will break the game or prove to be impossible to beat with tyranids.

In my opinion, this is all poppycock and it's one of the primary reasons I started this blog.  Now, I've been playing the game for just over a year and I'm still learning daily.  To illustrate my points, I will instead use an ATC teammate.

As you all know, 5 of us went to Tennessee last month for the American Team Championships (ATC).  Our team took: Horde Orks, Eldar, Tyranids, Salamanders, and Grey Knights.  Notice there were no wolves, angels, or guard.  In fact, we were the only team with none of those armies.  Our lists were not tailored to beat wolves, angels, or guard either.  In fact, every one of the 13 other teams had a wolf player and just about every team also had angels or guard.  Despite all of this (and all my losses), we still took 3rd overall.

I specifically want to apply Chris (Courtney) and his Eldar to the aforementioned articles from BoLS and other blogs.  Chris took "Best General" with the most battlepoints over 70 players which included 7 of America's ETC team and prominent bloggers.  His list:

Banshees + Wave Serpent
Fire Dragons
Dire Avengers
Guardians + starcannon
Guardians + scatter laser
Wraithlord + lance/missile
Reapers + exarch/tempest launcher

So with that list he had 0 losses.  It's not mechdar, it's not footdar, and there's no spam.  It goes against everything the internet tells you to use.  People will say "yeah, but the pairings" or "yeah, but the terrain" or "yeah but (whatever)".  The reality of the tournament scene is there are players with different skill levels, different preferences in models aesthetically over functionally, and "rock" armies where yours may be "paper" or "scissors".  The truth is Chris did request to not play horde orks or mech guard with that list, just like I requested no wolves with jaws and Jay didn't want to face mech guard if possible.  That's how the format worked.  However, we still put up Chris first against the "X-Men" (Greg Spark's team that took 2nd overall).  They got to pair him against anyone on their team, so they chose Bill Kim with his Skarbrand list with loads of fiends and Chris still didn't lose.

The highlights for me were round #4, where Chris played TPM's BA which included meph and termies with a chaplain and furioso in a stormraven, and round #6 against a dual lash prince chaos list with 3 dreads, 3 defilers, and 4 rhinos loaded with berzerkers and plague marines.  He was also able to come away with major victories in both games.

Anyways, what I'm getting at here is you don't have to play what the internet tells you is competitive.  Everyone's advice is just opinion based on their local meta or whatever tournament circuit they frequent.  This includes my own advice when solicited.  A skilled general with an unconventional list can still trump an unskilled general with a potent netlist.  You can make units like lictors and harpies work if you believe in yourself, design a well-rounded and balanced list, and practice a ton with it.  Let me emphasize that practice is key.

I'm going to let the cat out of the bag here and tell y'all that I'm building a grey knight army.  Someone requested that I build a new army from scratch and document it for DaBoyz GT 2011.  I won't leak my list or concept yet, but I will tell you there won't be any duplicated units or transports.  Don't worry, tyranids will still get plenty of love and all my backlogged batreps are still coming.

The reason I mention this now is that I took this new gk army to the 1250pt RTT at Millennium this weekend and took 1st with it.  No special characters, no spam.  Just a balanced list with a lot of diversity and tactical opportunities.

"Yeah, but pairings and terrain and blah blah blah."

I had to play Jay's tyranids in game #3 and Chris's eldar in game #4.  Anyways, I'm not trying to say anything more than you don't need special characters, spam, or netlists to be competitive.  You do need the tools to deal with mech spam, hordes, and everything in between.  You need practice and a level of comfort to deal with various situations as they arise.  You need to know your options such as reserve, deep strike, outflank, and scout, and know the best way to apply these options when DoW and spearhead deployments come up.  These were my first real games with gk, but I did play out a dozen games against myself last week just to get a handle on the army and mechanics.

If anyone else has success stories with unconventional "comp" or "fluffy" lists, feel free to share them here.


  1. A shame your blog isn't about taking Eldar, or GK's to the top, eh? ; )

    If ATC is anything like ETC, it's about builds that can tie, not necessarily win. And in most games, like you point out, you can dodge the rock to your scissors. Unlike conventional tournaments, which the internet speaks about.

    In the big picture I agree with you - take the army that you love and make it work by knowing it like your own pocket.

    By the way, how do you play games against yourself? Vassal?

  2. Nope on my table running around and moving all the dudes myself.

    ATC was more about winning then drawing like ETC. The ETC teams have 8 players whereas ATC was 5 players, so we still needed big wins to stay ahead. Drawing became a priority when things started looking bad.

  3. Chris Courtney is a top player. I got to watch him play his eldar versus Pete DeFlorio of the Warmongers one year at Adepticon. I would like to think I'm like minded when it comes to designing an army. I am also against using net lists. I have just written two articles on my blog about the pitfalls that come with playing a net list - you might want to check them out.

    I do believe there is a meta... You can't get around the fact that many people play the same armies and often they are copied verbatim from the Internet. Most people it seems would rather just copy a successful list rather than develop their own. It is what it is. Personally I abhor net lists and have no desire to play them. My dark eldar are a good example - whenever I post it on the Internet people don't know how to class it and it throws them for a loop.

    There are tiers as well - the top are those armies that win the most often over some given period of time. Changes to the rules and the introduction of new codices impact both the meta and tiers.

    In my opinion if you strive to be a guru of 40k then you'll look beyond the meta and tiers. Remember that if you're successful and write about it on the interwebs then some people will copy you in hopes of emulating your success. I think only a few are bold enough to step onto this path and then it takes terminity to see it through to fruition. When I started playing Blood Angels with the new codex I played as many games possible versus IG and SW versus good opponents. I lost lots of games in the beginning but then I learned how to beat both armies consistently and was able to develop a list that can take on army - not just IG or SW.