Thursday, July 7, 2011

40k-metrics: The Anatomy of Non-Competitive Lists Conclusion

Thank you all again for bearing with me for how long it took to crank out those 0-4 lists and get them published.  Before we close the book on this series I’d like to sum up some observations about how to build a non-competitive list.  These are definite pitfalls that we can see most of those lists falling into, and even competitive minded players can make similar mistakes.

1.  Grossly inefficient units.  Godhammer Landraiders are the epitome of this pitfall.  They cost over 250 points and have very weak offensive scores.  Simply put, take the scores the Godhammer makes divided by the points and you’ll see it simply isn’t an efficient way to kill… anything.  You might argue that its offensive scores aren’t what we buy it for; players remark all the time they are more scared of what’s inside the Raider than the Raider.  This only has some validity if what is inside is really a rock unit that can win games.  9 Thousand Sons are not such a unit.  Heck, even 5 Khornate DLC terminators aren’t a good rock since they can’t really take out every unit reliably like TH/SS can.

Simply put, if you tie up too many of your points into too many units that do too little offensively, you won’t be able to shift your opponent or kill vital units when necessary.  Everyone already knew this, I suppose, but now that we have real world competitive tournament proof that this is so.  This is no longer 40k theory, it’s 40k fact.

2.  HQ insanity.  One thing all of these lists had in common: they spent tons of points on HQ units that did relatively little for their list.  Marneus Calgar, random Daemon Princes, and Ahriman are just not good uses of points.  Fluffy perhaps, but not competitive.  Look at the scores for the HQ units in these lists.  Not bad individually, but not good for the points.  This touches on #1 again, but Marneus Calgar does not kill models by the bucketful.  He is the Land Raider Godhammer of HQ choices.

HQ units, to be efficient, have to do one or more of the following things to be a good use of the points:

  • Provide a meaningful FoC change.  SM Captain on Bike, Belial, Master of the Forge, Coteaz, Ork Warboss/Big Mek, Logan, and so on.  These are all HQ units that open up the FoC in a way that allows you to get more offensive potency out of other slots of your FoC.  The extra offensive mileage you can squeeze out of your FoC is measurable, as we now know, and the points efficiency of these HQs are measurable as a result.

  • Provide an army-wide buff.  Vulkan is the prime example.  Emperor’s Champion is also good at this.  Even a Librarian with a ‘hood qualifies.  Essentially, their point is not to be killy themselves, it’s to make the rest of your army more killy.  If you total up the extra offensive scores Vulkan generates for a well built list, you would see that he provides significant points efficiency.

  • Killy and/or cheap.  Haemonculi are dirt cheap and are killy and can make specific units extra killy.  Guard CCS are relatively cheap, killy and can buff the army.  You CAN bring a dedicated killy HQ is cheap enough to be efficient.  Tyranid Primes are excellent for this very reason.  They don’t do much for you other than kill stuff in CC real well, but they don’t cost you an arm and a leg either.

There is a reason most competitive 2k armies bring only 1 HQ, and it’s simple points efficiency.  You get more killing power point for point out of your Elites and Heavy support than you get from your HQ.  There are exceptions, and those exceptions are the HQ choices people actually take in competitive lists.

3.  Non-covered flaws.  It would probably be a disaster to bring a list that was equally suited to shooting infantry, killing infantry in CC, killing light mech, and killing heavy mech all at the same time.  Based on all the analysis I’ve seen, you can’t win consistently that way.  You have to have an edge and use it.  This is a Moneyball concept.  In baseball, a general manager might say this guy can hit well, but he is slow.  Speed doesn’t matter if you play the game in a way that doesn’t require good foot speed to win!  The general manager would be able to hire a player who hits well for cheaper than his faster, but equally good hitting counterpart.  And if foot speed is irrelevant, that GM just scored majorly.

The concept works well in 40k.  You don’t need every unit to smash AV14.  You can tune your list so that you have just enough to deal with AV14 and the points you save by skimping on AV14 can go directly to being stronger in more important areas.  The Tau are the absolute masters of this.  They don’t have access to units that can kick ass in close combat.  Rather than try to bring CC units and fail, they build lists that win without CC.  You don’t need to fight in CC if you can kill transports at range, and so they don’t because they do.  What you see in the unsuccessful lists a lot of times is an inability to cover their weaknesses.  Sure, you CAN get away with skimping on infantry shooting ability.  But you have to cover that weakness by killing infantry in close combat and/or being really good at killing light mech.  The failure of the non-competitive lists isn’t that they are particularly weak at any particular thing; it’s that they don’t compensate for that weakness with other strengths. 

4.  Light mech.  This is the one area you can’t skimp on.  You can be weak at killing heavy mech and compensate in other places.  You can suck at shooting infantry or CCing infantry as long as you do other things well which hide that weakness.  But there are no examples of a list which struggles mightily against light mech and still can dominate a tournament.  Even Tyranids, probably the 5th Edition codex which has the most innate difficulty against light mech, does everything it can to kill light mech, even taking units that in a vacuum are pretty bad just to be better at that one, crucial ability.  If you take away any lesson from the less competitive list analysis it is make sure your list can kill light light mech like a champ and the game will get a lot easier for you.  Or ignore that advice and struggle to pull out wins even against poor generals.


  1. Thanks for the work putting this together; although there will always be room for argument about the relative variables, in the end, at least in my opinion, you've come up with an excellent yardstick. "You must be this tall to play in this tournament" =)

  2. It's interesting that you mention Tau, I just posted the stats for my Tau army on my blog here. I think it's closer to 0-4 than to 4-0.

  3. Speaking of Tau, I'm going to post a breakdown of Stelek's Best Of Tau list soon.

  4. Love it. Of course, you haven't "discovered" any new Theoryhammer here, but you do have some Mathhammer that is supporting the Theoryhammer.

    I'd have agreed with your four points before this series, especially the comment on dealing with AV14. I get tired of hearing "you need more melta" when 95%+ of what I see is AV13 or less.

    Is there a place online where we can get a copy of all of the lists in the tournament with their standings?

  5. Hey - well done on this whole measurement effort. I've run it against my army and I think it's been really helpful in pointing out where I could tweak things.

    The main thing I don't think the scores properly reflect at the moment is the difference between shooting and cc for popping both types of armour. I'd propose allowing 5 turns of shooting and 3 turns of cc towards the totals, as managing to keep most models in cc for a full five turns and keep them alive is much harder than shooting from a good position for most of the game - the cap of 15 doesn't properly represent how risky relying on cc to open up land raiders is and it tends to distort the scores.

  6. @kamatu The 4-0 lists are available on Bald and Screaming, and the 0-4 lists were sent to me by MVB and not really available anywhere but here.