Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Play Your Game

Play Your Game

Or, how to win without knowing every possible matchup.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with a friend who told me he doesn’t like competitive 40K because there are too many special rules and he can’t keep track of them all. While this is a valid complaint, this struck me as odd because he’s a good player who’s done well at our local tournaments. He said that was only true because he plays armies he’s comfortable with and has played a lot. This got me thinking that that’s probably all you need, and I wanted to share my thoughts on list building and practice with you guys.

As the title says, the most important thing to do when trying to win is to play your game. Even when playing against an army or formation you’ve never seen before, if your army has a clear win condition and you know what it does, you can take on any army. This applies to both casual and competitive games, but especially at big GT’s where there’s no way you’ll be prepared for everything you’ll see. In my opinion, the things you need to consider when list building, in order of importance, are:

Missions you will be playing

What your army does

What your opponents might field

That first one is probably the most overlooked, especially by new players. If your army doesn’t have a clear way to score points, you won’t be able to win most games, because it’s very rare that you will just table a good opponent. As a quick thought exercise, take the NOVA format. Can your army score by turn or at the end reliably? If not, you can stop there and write a new list. Are there 1 or 2 secondary goals you can always pick, and another 2-3 you can probably score depending on the matchup? If you can do both of those, you probably have a good start to a solid army list for NOVA format games.

The second consideration is a little abstract, but ultimately you need to think about what tools your army has. If you’re running 5 flyrants you have a skew list, and you should only consider what things will threaten your flyrants. If you’re taking a WarCon you need to make sure you’ll have redundant units for each role so you can afford to lose one or two. I think most players skip to this step when list building, which leads to a lot of gimmicky lists that in theory could table their opponent but can’t score any points if they don’t. Good players don’t fall for gimmicks, and the first time the dice screw you over you’ll wish you brought a list with a clear win condition.

Before I address the last point, I want to be clear that someone who knows very little about the competitive meta, but carefully considered those first two points, built a good list, and practiced with it, could probably show up at a tournament and put up some good results, even with no idea about what kind of armies he might see. That being said, the best armies and players will need to consider that last point if your goal is winning a GT.

Any list that isn’t a top-tier list should be able to beat or break even with a couple of the top-tier lists. My NOVA list could match up ok against Eldar and most death stars, while it struggles with white scars battle company and daemonic incursion. That’s ok because there will be plenty of lists that aren’t those, and plenty of top-tier lists piloted by poor players who you can beat anyways. Considering the meta and the matchups is the least important part of list building, because the meta is fluid and an ok list you’re comfortable with is probably better than a netlist you’ve never played before. Still, it’s good to make sure you can beat some of the lists you can expect to see at every tournament if your goal is placing high at a GT.

My bottom line is that knowing what every potential enemy army can do and every matchup isn’t necessary for your army, so long as you have a clear win condition and structure for your army. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box as long as you’re confident about your ability to play the missions.

I hope that insight helps some casual and competitive players alike. Let me know if you’d like more of these opinion articles or you’d rather I go back to tactics or army list reviews.

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