Wednesday, September 21, 2011

40k - Summer 2011

There are 100 titles I could give this article and none would cover all the bases with just a few words.  I'm writing this all down for several reasons.

The first is that a lot has happened in the 40k community this summer.  People are figuring out Grey Knights and tournament representation has peaked as the "flavor of the month" army.  'Ardboyz and NOVA featured this new codex performing quite well in the competitive community and the aftermath has seen many forums and blogs inundated with heated debates, bitter whining, flame wars, and drama.

The second reason is with 4 weeks left until DaBoyz GT 2011 (click it!), I've switched over from painting individual models to batch painting, and I won't have many new pictures to share of my work on the new army.  No new pictures and no new content gives me big time lazy blogger guilt.  I do appreciate those that still stop by to check the blog in this content drought, and this article has applications to both Tyranid and Grey Knight armies.

I'm going to try and cover a lot of bases here and I tend to go off on tangents, so I apologize in advance if this article is hard to follow.

I'm going to start with Grey Knights.  We all know marine codexes are more popular in the hobby community than xenos.  Not only are they popular amongst hobbyists, but also with competitive gamers as they tend to be more forgiving and balanced then most xeno codexes.  NOVA featured 30+ (more or less, sorry for not going back and pulling exact numbers) Grey Knight players out of their 200ish participants.  A couple made it to the 4-0 bracket for day 2 and one even finished second overall (Alan/blackmoor).  'Ardboyz 2011 also featured many GK armies qualifying both in the preliminary and semi-final rounds.

Shortly after these major events, blogs and forums around the world started depicting Grey Knights in a negative manner.  It doesn't take much looking to find the complaints and criticisms on blogs like Bell of Lost Souls and Yes, the Truth Hurts.  Forums such as DakkaDakka are also swimming in negative comments about GK lists and players.

I mention this for two purposes; to help bring perspective and transition into my next two topics.  I believe we, as a community, need to step back and take a deep breath for a minute.  Just as people are throwing around terms like "bandwagon" when referring to GK players, let's not jump on a "bandwagon" of our own by bashing, flaming, and trolling them.

It wasn't long after the release of the newest Imperial Guard codex and subsequent sweeping of 'Ardboyz by the infamous "Leaflower" that the tournament circuit was swamped with fresh guard armies.  Last year was largely dominated by Space Wolves in the tournament circuit with similar numbers representing that codex as did IG the year before and GK now.  People saw the potency of the respective army builds, built a collection of their own, won some tournaments, and now many have moved on.  It's the repeating cycle of new codex releases and the consequent swell in representation and results.

In the same manner, didn't we hear moaning and groaning about IG in the past?  What about SW and all their "ridiculous" units and strengths?  Now people are all upset about GK.  It's highly possible (though there are doubters) that 2012 will be the year of the Xenos, with Necrons, Tau, and possibly Chaos Legions receiving new books and the associated swell in representation and results.

Now, some people love the word "meta" and some hate it.  From here on, I'll just call it the "gaming environment" for simplicity's sake.  A vast majority of 40k players in the USA stick to local events, and are only accustomed to their local gaming environment.  Some are fluffy, some are more competitive.  I am blessed with a good mix of both with a large annual GT that always has and always will feature heavy emphasis on composition.  I am also very lucky in that two of America's ETC team members (Jay W. and Shaun K.) live just a few miles away and are usually willing to stomp my army into the dirt when I get too stuck in the comp mindset and forget what it's like to play against more optimized lists.

Another aspect of our gaming environment is a lack of "bandwagon" players.  In my 18 months of playing local 40k tournaments, I've never seen more than 3 SW, 3 IG, 3 DE, or 3 BA players at any one of our smaller RTT's (smaller meaning 12-32 players on a monthly basis).  I've never had the opportunity or misfortune of playing against a true leafblower, razorspam, or similar popular netlist.  Another side effect is there's only 2-3 serious GK players, nobody is running really abusive lists, and the complaining about the GK codex is almost non-existent in our gaming environment.  My experiences are subjective, but aren't those of the loudest complainers also?  Just as we don't have many "powergamers" around here rocking 10 razorbacks, wouldn't those complaining about GK's the most have a different experience if they played outside their region?

Let me built on the "meta" or gaming environment perceptions as they relate to more specific complaints.  My favorite one right now relates to Draigowing and sounds something like this:

"Most armies aren't equipped to deal with Draigo and a Librarian attached to 10 Paladins."

Does that make the codex or unit broken?  Does that make it unfair or warrant the complants?  How about back in the day when people started using diversified Nob bikers.  How effective are they today?  Is the change due to "codex creep" or people adapting their armies to handle that build?  What about Fatecrusher, Leafblower, and Dual Lash lists?  Did codex creep kill them or did players learn, grow, and adapt?

GK have been out since April and tournament legal since May.  Who do you think learns the new codex best, those who use it exclusively 2-3 times a week or those who get to play against it once or twice a month?  Is 5 months enough time for the average gamer to figure out how to combat a new codex in the tournament circuit?

The point I'm trying to get at here is that there is in fact a "meta" or quantifiable gaming environment.  It is fluid and changes regularly to reflect the armies, lists, and play styles of the participating players.  Is Draigowing broken because "most armies aren't equipped to deal with Draigo and a Librarian attached to 10 Paladins", or are most armies not equipped to deal with it because the codex is relatively new and players haven't played against it or adjusted their lists to incorporate the right tools?

Army lists must change and adapt to compete within a gaming environment.  Many outspoken competitive gamers and bloggers consider Land Raiders to be an uncompetitive unit due to its cost and vulnerability to melta weapons.  Two weeks ago, I played in the DaBoyz GT primer tournament which features a comp matrix with required minimum score to play.  It just so happens that the matrix allows for lists with two Land Raiders (one as a dedicated transport, one as a heavy support selection) to score max comp points.  People being smart and competitive by nature figured this out and 3 people out of 11 showed up with dual raider lists.  My army being GK had only one melta weapon.  I was paired against two dual raider lists and lost both games because I didn't have enough countermeasures.  Those two players also placed first and second.

Do I think land raiders are overpowered now?  No.  Did I go home and change my list to include more melta weapons and psycannons?  Yes.  I fully expect several dual raider lists, they were successful at the primer so why not expect them to be successful at the main event.

Nob bikers, fatecrusher, and leafblower haven't passed out of popularity because newer codexes are disproportionately strong, it's because people figured out the tools and tactics they need to defeat them and changed their collection and play style accordingly.  As such, you can't take an army you've played since before the GK codex was released to a current tournament with a large amount of GK players, and expect that list to perform as well as it used to.

New codexes change the game environment by introducing new units and game mechanics.  Without this, there would be no point in writing them.  GW needs to maintain interest in their system by introducing change in the form of new rules editions, new armies, and new models.

The people complaining about GK just haven't learned how to beat them yet.  They expect their pre-GK armies to perform just as well against a new army with new mechanics, and gt upset when this doesn't happen.  That is my opinion and what the previous 3,000 words were building up to.

GK are shiny and new with units and mechanics people haven't yet become accustomed to.  If GW can write the Necron, Tau, and whatever other codexes that are on the way as well, next year people will be complaining about those armies.  I encourage everyone to step back, take a deep breath, and focus on changing their own game and adapt instead of wasting energy complaining.

I intended to transition this article into some Tyranid based content for what few Nid enthusiasts I have remaining, but my pregnant wife is giving me the evil eye and getting cranky, so this will have to be a 2 part article.  Again, thanks for staying with me while I finish preparations for the GT and I promise to provide more regular content after the event.


  1. This article gets +1 against the ignorance table. I really think that you hit the nail on the head.

  2. What Kirby said. Also looking forward to the Tyranid Part 2.

  3. great stuff here. good to see a balanced and sensible opinion!

  4. I'd really like to keep reading, so please keep putting out tyranid stuff. All the blogs (including my own) in my tyranid folder are doing power armor stuff. Also its mid-September dude, not summer anymore ;)

  5. Thanks guys.

    @ Muggins ~ The title was chosen as a reflection of how things went this past summer. It was the most neutral title I could think of without using words like "meta" or being insulting with a title like "whiners".

    I will have some tyranid lists and tactics to help combat GK, but I don't have a magic bullet. I think everyone believes at this point that they are a handicapped codex compared to others released in 2010-2011.

    The main problem I have right now is adapting like I mentioned in the main article. I have ~4,500pts in bugs now and my new concepts would require several hundreds more in investment.

    GK hurts MC's bad, and nids as a result as we rely more on multi-wound models than any other army. My standard go-to over the past year has been genestealers and I've typically fit 40ish in each list.

    While I still love my stealers, 14/17pts is becoming too expensive to use them as hordes and hope they survive the torrent and assaulting into cover.

    I'm starting to lean more towards gants and gargoyles in true horde formations. I'm not thinking so much as hard hitting units, but giant cheap tarpits to help control opponents' movement and shooting.

    Anyways, thanks again for reading and I'll try to squeeze out a part 2 next week and possibly some tactics articles with pictures next month.

  6. I second everything that everybody else said. Great article, glad to hear from you, and looking forward to more gribbly goodness.

    I know personally that I'll be sticking with my Tyranids at least until we get a decent Chaos book, then I'll probably split my attention mostly equally between the two. Death to the corpse emperor! Wait... if he's already a corpse... how do you kill that which has no life? /ponder