What Makes a Winning List?

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What Makes a Winning List?

Post#1 » Jan 17 2018 06:54

This is a discussion I've been meaning to start for a while now. What makes a winning list? To beat your opponent in Warhammer 40k, there are two very, very broad ways to go about it.

First, you can bring a list that has an effective counter to every conceivable threat on the battlefield. usually these lists are huge and varied, with a large number of units capable of engaging everything from a mob of Cultists to a Primarch. Here is an example from the 2017 Nova Open:
http://bloodofkittens.com/wp-content/up ... n-2017.pdf
As we cans see this list brings a huge amount of tech, with 120 Conscripts, 10 Smite-casting psykers, and 5 Tauroxes.

Second, you can bring a list against which there is no effective counter. These lists are specialized and heavily skewed toward one type of unit. By skewing the list, you can "invalidate" enemy weapons that are designed to damage units which you did not bring. Here is an example from the 2017 SoCal Open:
http://bloodofkittens.com/wp-content/up ... n-2017.pdf
This is 15 Obliterators and the Changeling, which buffs them with its -1 to-hit aura. Good luck blasting through all of that. Other examples in the current meta include Mortarion+Magnus, Imperial Knight spam, Infinite Poxwalkers, etc.

At any rate, the current Tau meta is very much about bringing answers, not unanswerable threats. We bring Fusion Commanders to counter vehicles, Gun Drones to kill infantry, and Y'vahras to hammer the enemy at close range.

Can Tau make a list like the second, which tries to bring an "unanswerable" threat? Or do you think that kind of build is impossible in the current Index?

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Re: What Makes a Winning List?

Post#2 » Jan 17 2018 07:31

Impossible, unfortunately :sad:

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Re: What Makes a Winning List?

Post#3 » Jan 18 2018 02:59

These are terms that are usually applied to the context card gaming, but I think they have a lot of applicability in the context of tabletop games for setting basic criteria for what defines a ‘good’ build. Most play styles fall under some combination of three primary archetypes: agro, control, and combo. Agro is the most fundamental, present threats, and try to attack as efficiently and quickly as possible. Control does just that, control the board state by identifying and removing the key threats. By contrast to the other two strategies control is a ‘slow’ game, relying on blunting your opponents ability to win and taking advantage of compounding advantages. Combo, relies on a specific combination of elements to create a win condition that is usually unanswerable without specific tools. Here’s a shortlist of optimal criteria for each archetype:

High threat density – In a good agro build everything is a threat on some level and left unanswered will become a problem. In this way an agro build can overwhelm a control based strategy by simply having more threats then answers, which provides continued board pressure.
‘Clustering’ – The synergies good agro builds tend to function well in multiple combinations that reduce the liability of loss of any single element.
Resilience – Lack dependency on a specific threat, good builds tend to play well and account for disruption while continuing to function. This is interrelated to the other two points. While all of your units are probably not going to be the same, good agro builds tend to have multiple threats that are equally threatening creating a situation where there’s little advantage to attacking one target over another.
Speed – Good agro builds attempt to win before the other army has time to interact/remove threats or otherwise establish a position and control the game. This also means trying to win before you ‘run out of steam’ where slower strategies will start to ramp.

‘Narrowness’ – the specific win condition or threat is difficult to answer or requires highly specific answers to invalidate. By focusing on a narrow threat you can effectively avoid interacting with the other players threats.
Speed, resilience, and to some extent clustering are also relevant to this strategy.

Flexibility – your answers are multi-purpose and can address a range of threats and situations effectively. Control benefits from being able to get to the right ‘answer’ at the right time, and being able to interact with a range of strategies.
Efficiency – I mean this in different context then pure points efficiency, but ‘answering’ threats, at best creates parity. A good build will have ways of answering multiple threats with a single answer to move beyond parity, by matching threats asymmetrically.

Strong core synergies - Whatever the strategy, do the parts work together? Is the combined effect powerful enough justify building around it?
Efficiency – The units you run are cost efficient relative to damage
Ease of piloting - this is more a practical concern. Having a list that has choices that are easy to adapt, don't require excessive analysis to play correctly, and forgive minor play errors are really relevant in a tournament environment. This is a bonus, but really makes a difference.

As it stands I think the tau play style is somewhere between agro and control. We’re great at answering specific threats and neutralizing them then transitioning to an offensive strategy. In our deep-strike heavy army these strategies go hand-in-hand. Generally, I don’t think we have the resources to play a combination/control-based strategy in that we lack strong specific ‘win-cons’. Our backline units are generally underwhelming (hammerheads/broadsides), or not durable enough (stormsurge), with the possible exceptions being the Ta'unar, and the R’Varna. The Ta'unar is too expensive to really be viable, and the R’Varna has largely been ignored from the discourse. I think there’s actually a strong case for the R’Varna potentially opening up another line of play, but I lack data to really back that up. I think the codex has a reasonable chance of addressing those two universal concerns of strong core synergies, and efficiency, but it’s hard to imagine any of our big threats getting an overhaul to enable a line of play outside of agro control.
All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; Unto the place whither the rivers go, Thither they go again.

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