Wednesday, October 19, 2016

List Building Strategy: Analyzing Your Units and Avoiding Pitfalls

List Building Strategy: Analyzing Your Units and Avoiding Pitfalls

This is essentially a follow-up to Play Your Game, and I’m going to discuss how to analyze different units when list-building.

I’ve had a few requests to expand on the list-building advice in Play Your Game, so I thought I could do a breakdown on different roles units fill. If you haven’t, you should definitely go and read that first. Think of these as guidelines for analyzing the units in your codex and figuring out if you want them in your list. A lot of this advice requires good self-analysis, and as always the best way to make a list is to build it and then ask for feedback, but this should help you get an idea of what units do when constructing the list in the first place.

Generalist units are any unit capable of threatening multiple enemy unit types, and are a surprisingly difficult unit to include in a list. Usually, the more targets a unit is capable of threatening, the higher a premium you pay for the unit. When including a unit that should be able to threaten several different targets, make sure that unit is serving an actual purpose in your army, and you’re ok with the usually steep price associated. Scatterbikes are a powerful generalist unit because they have weapons that can threaten anything, are fast, durable, and fill a troops slot. Sternguard veterans are an example of a bad generalist because their guns aren’t particularly good at killing anything (even though they can threaten a lot of targets), they’re slow (drop pod is pretty much required), and take up either an elites slot or require one of several very chunky formations. The middle ground would be Deathwatch veteran teams. They’re still slow and just a squishy marine statline like sternguard, but are troops choices and can take frag cannons which don’t just threaten a lot of targets, they can also reliably kill most enemy units.

When deciding whether or not to include a generalist unit, you need to ask yourself if you actually need it. Unless they’re incredibly powerful and utilitarian (like scatterbikes), you’ll usually be better served by a more niche unit. In the example of deathwatch, they’ll work well if you’re running a death star and want a unit you can drop into your opponent’s deployment zone to remove backline units that your star can’t touch. Those backline units may be anything from riptides to thunderfire cannons to pink horrors, so a generalist unit is a good pick.

Niche units are ones that fill a specific role, and/or threaten only a single enemy unit type, usually without any form of support. Marker drones are an example of a good niche unit. Marker drones are only as useful as the army they support, but the markerlights they throw down are a core part of almost every tau army. Assault centurions are an example of a terrible niche unit. They’re expensive, slow, don’t have many attacks, lack an invulnerable save, and have ranged weapons that won’t hurt the things they want to charge. For an ok niche unit example, we’ll use grotz. Grotz don’t do anything and die to a stiff breeze (or their own runtherd when they fail morale), but they’re cheap as chips and fill a troops tax, making them perfectly acceptable backfield objective holders.

When deciding to include a niche unit in your army, you need to ask yourself two questions. First, how good is this unit at doing its job? Grotz are great at hiding on backfield objectives, so if you need a troops tax that can do that, you’ve got your answer. Second, is this job even needed? Do you really need a space marine command squad in a drop pod with meltaguns when your local meta includes no heavy vehicles? Marker drones are in every tau list because every tau list needs markerlights, but not every army needs to be able to threaten every potential enemy unit.

Lastly, I’m going to touch on a slightly obscure topic, gimmick units. Gimmick units can act like a generalist or niche unit and require support from the rest of your army. The most important trait of a gimmick unit is the chance of it crashing and burning. A good gimmick unit is most popular deathstars. They usually rely on psychic powers and/or the unholy conglomeration of a dozen special characters, but they find their way into many top-tier lists. A bad gimmick unit is assault units in a flying transport (we’ve all at least thought about it). They rely on reserve rolls, at the absolute best won’t be in combat until turn 3, and will take a lot of damage if the flyer gets destroyed. Finally, a decent gimmick unit that can serve a purpose is a skyhammer annihilation force. With proper support, dropping eight grav cannons on your opponent turn one is amazing and threatens most enemy units. When used poorly or not properly supported, the assault marines will manage to be even more useless than they already were and the devastators won’t kill enough to make back their points.

There aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules to gimmick units when list-making. Usually you should start getting wary as soon as a single unit is sucking up a large amount of points or you’re bringing a lot of other units just to support it. Make sure it can give you a high enough return on investment for the points and resources it sucks up. If you can’t decide, more than anything else you should try the list out. If the gimmick consistently fails, go back to the drawing board.

I hope this was a good follow-up to the original post. If there’s any topics you guys would like discussed, you have a list you’d like me to review, or you have questions or comments, feel free to let me know. Also if you haven’t already, please switch off ad-block on this site to help support the blog!

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