Thursday, December 1, 2016

All Lists Do Not Have to be "All-Comers"

All Lists Do Not Have to be "All-Comers"

There’s a lot of common misconceptions about tournament lists that I’d like to take some time to talk about.

I have a lot of people who ask me for tournament advice get upset when I tell them about their list’s bad matchups. People seem to be holding onto this notion that just about any list can and should be capable of taking on any potential list you will play at a tournament. I’d like to talk about why this is impossible, impractical, and not a bad thing. Before I continue, I’d like to include a disclaimer: There is no unwinnable game. Even the worst matchups can be won if you’re just a flat out better player than the other guy, but a lot of what I say is going to be based around the assumption the players are close to the same skill level, unless otherwise specified.

First, there are “all-comers” lists in the current competitive meta. Lists that still have a decent chance to win in their worst matchups. These are the S-tier lists, Eldar Scatterbikes, Battle Company, and Incursion. There’s some variations on these but the ones you see sweeping a lot of tournaments are all lists that have pretty much entirely good to bad matchups, with no terrible ones.

If that’s true, why ever play another army? Shouldn’t we all just play those lists until something comes in to smash up the meta (hello, 5th edition). No, we shouldn’t. One thing about those S-tier lists is that they are pretty hard to pilot. Plenty of people have seen their local powergamer running one of those “netlists” and crushing some hapless newbie, but a lot of those guys don’t put up good (or consistent) results in tournaments. The reason you see those kinds of lists dominating tournaments is because those are the top players playing the top lists. S-Tier lists have an incredibly high skill ceiling, and when combined with no truly bad matchups, in the hands of a great player they will win.

This isn’t to say less-skilled players can’t do good things with those lists, but they will need practice and will find themselves struggling to max out their wins. So if you don’t want to run an S-Tier list, or are new to the tournament scene and don’t want to try to get your feet wet with an army that’s hard to pilot, you want what I usually call a Spoiler List. While these lists are ideal for newer or less skilled players, there have been great examples of spoiler lists performing well and even winning large events, such as Sean Nayden’s infamous Tyranids list.

Spoiler lists operate on the principle of “win big, or not at all”. Instead of trying to make these lists capable of taking on any enemy army, you make them very good against certain armies, while understanding that your bad matchups are pretty much always going to be a loss (barring amazing dice or a bad opponent). These lists often operate on the concept of taking a lot of a very good unit, or bringing only one type of unit to deny a lot of your opponent’s threats. Two good examples are my NOVA list and the list I played against last tournament with 5 riptides and 2 knights. My ravenwing list was incredibly resilient to shooting attacks that didn’t ignore cover meaning a lot of my opponent’s shooting would be wasted on them. However, the low model count meant I had a weakness to being drowned in bodies, so armies like Incursion or Battle Company gave me a hard time. Meanwhile, that riptide/knight list obviously shrugged off most shooting, and was capable of quickly removing units that threatened the knights and riptides, but was susceptible to being bogged down and swept by many smaller melee units, like my Orks.

Spoiler lists are great if you have a good idea of what kind of armies you will be facing going into a tournament, and also let you get into tournaments with a list that has a solid “comfort zone” of armies they will beat reliably. If you want to try a spoiler list, either pick a certain type of army you’d like to beat (probably one of those S-Tier lists) or pick a type of unit you’d like to take a lot of. Vehicles may not be the best, but an all-tank Imperial Guard army would certainly give some armies a hard time, or building a dark eldar list specifically designed to mess up daemons (usually with some eldar/corsairs allied in). I’ve seen both of these armies used well and put up good tournament results thanks to maxing out their wins.

I hope this gives you guys a little insight on list building and why it’s ok to bring lists that aren’t S-Tier. Painting Competition closes December 6th by the way. Send me those entries on reddit or by email!

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