Friday, February 17, 2012

40k Theory: Historical Perspective

Abuse Puppy says, The lists you mentioned "going away" went away because they were bad, not because they were somehow trumped by SW. SM, BA, GK, IG, Tyranids, SoB, Tau, DE, Necrons, and BT all smash those lists easily as well.

SW may be prototypical for a Marine army in some ways (though not in others), but they are hardly the defining factor for armies these days."

Long Fangs before there were Long Fangs

I have to disagree with this analysis, because it’s looking at lists of the past based on current understanding of the game.  You have to remember what the game environment looked like prior to the SW Codex, and I’ll sum it up with my next sentence…

Plague Marines were the best troop choice in the game, bar none. 

Plague Marines in a Rhino with 2 Meltaguns and a champ with a Power Fist were Grey Hunters before Grey Hunters.  Even at that time, Dual Lash Sorcerers were probably better choices than Daemon Princes, but the strength of Plague Marines was so overpowering relative to what other codices of the day could play that it they could compensate for the inefficiency of people taking Princes instead of Sorcerers. 

Compared to Long Fangs and Psyflemen, Obliterators pretty much suck.  But what was the other best shooty Heavy Support choice before Space Wolves that people actually played?  Broadsides?  Fire Prisms?!  Nobody played Devastators.  Nobody played Riflemen dreads.  Nobody played Dakka Preds.  Long Fangs didn’t exist.  The IG codex and the “Leafblower-enabling” heavy support choices didn’t exist, either.  So prior to Wolves and IG, Obliterators were the bees’ knees of Heavy Support choices.

By today’s standards, Chaos’ troops are good but overpriced, have expensive and bad HQ choices, and their other slots have poor synergy.  But back then every other codex also had the same problems

Remember before Space Wolves, GK, and BA psychic defense was more or less non-existent.  That had a huge effect on Eldar.  In 2008 and 2009, with Eldrad and another Farseer, you could plan your entire gameplan around Fortune and Doom every turn.  And relative to the prevailing strategies of the day, that was a big deal.  Jet Councils and Nob Bikers went away as people caught onto the fact that new (or previously under-utilized) units could trump them at a fraction of the price, not because they were weak at the time. 

In a world where the best units in the game are Plague Marines and Obliterators, Nob Bikers are pretty great.  In a world no one could shut down Fortune, and no one brought Autocannons or missiles en masse, Jet Councils are actually pretty good.

The final thing I want to touch on is that before Space Wolves, your troops choices sucked (except Plague Marines) and 5th Edition was a balancing act of bring enough Troops not to get blown out of objective missions put against actually having effective units.  This is the result of 4th Edition codex design, ofcourse, and the fact that 5th Edition Tactical Squads weren’t good enough to change the paradigm.  But Grey Hunters changed all that.  They were effective, cheap, and had synergy with the rest of the army.  Suddenly all the old codices using the old lists couldn’t win objective matches at all.  That, more than anything else, is what forced out the old lists.  When it was 3 shitty troops against 3 shitty troops in an objective mission, the old lists were actually good.  When it became 3 shitty troops against 6 good troops, the old lists were pretty bad.

You can disagree if you like, but I strongly feel that if for some reason were were forced to turn back the clock and play 5th Edition with only the 4th Edition books, those same “bad” lists would win again.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?


  1. IG came out before the SW, I think most people would agree that Vets were a better troop choice than PM even at the time. Oh, I started using Riflemen about 4 months before the SW codex came out. So there, refuted:).

    On a more serious note, I think it's not that the SW codex came out and suddenly changed everything. It just took this long for people to catch up. Double Lash would have been completely invalidated the moment the 5th ed. rulebook came out if people realized on the spot, just how good and important mech is in 5th. Basically, it's a matter of perception, not reality. There were good to great lists even in the first years of 5th, it's just that very few people used them, and knew how to use them well. People still don't know how to build proper Tau, advocate angry carp or whatever that tactic is called etc., even though they are one the most powerful armies in 40k and that army has been around for donkey's years. Was SoB Immolator Spam not possible in the beginning of 5th? Or SM bikers, or {fill in preferred army that was available at the time}?

  2. I play Tau and because Fire Warriors and Devilfish suck for their points its rather hard to win in tournaments. Foot slogging Fire Warriors don't survive for long. In friendly games where there's some leeway to say no to 5 objectives, then yes Tau can be good but still not amazing.

  3. Easy fix, play the mandatory 5 man FW squad on foot and then use Kroot for the rest of your troop slot needs. Seriously, there is plenty of great Tau advice around, if you know where to look, Kirby's 3++ and YTTH would be a great start.

  4. I do work around the issue and use 3 kroot squads and two min fw in devilfish reserved (kroot run away a lot). I have a good success rate against everything but SW and BA DoA lists. is another good site for discussions on Tau.

    I was just pointing out that Tau are not one of the most powerful armies, and one of the main reasons.

    I play BT and nids as well and the difference between Tau and BT is huge. BT are a powerhouse. No need to mention nids and the sadness they invoke.

  5. ATT is exactly the kind of website you want to avoid.

  6. I still think you're drastically overestimating the effect of SW. As others pointed out, IG and other books brought "good" Troop choices into the game- obviously SW (and later books) continued to push this theme, but SW were in no way special in this regard, they were simply one more step along the path.

    >Nobody played Riflemen dreads. Nobody played Dakka Preds. Long Fangs didn’t exist. The IG codex and the “Leafblower-enabling” heavy support choices didn’t exist, either.
    People didn't commonly play Dakka Preds and Riflemen because knowledge of the game and dissemination of that knowledge was inferior, not because of any change of environment. And, as noted, IG were around before SW were.

    >In a world where the best units in the game are Plague Marines and Obliterators, Nob Bikers are pretty great. In a world no one could shut down Fortune, and no one brought Autocannons or missiles en masse, Jet Councils are actually pretty good.
    I would certainly disagree on both counts. Nob Bikers weren't killed by missile spam, although that sure didn't help them; they were killed by being a one-dimensional army with a poor plan and no backup. Jetseer Council had a very limited ability to kill things (because it didn't ignore armor) despite its high survivability and even ignoring that, plenty of guns could punch through its defenses and kill models. Tyranids could do it. Tau could do it. Marines could do it. IG could do it. Orks could do it. For all the whining they brought on, Seer Councils were never actually all that strong, merely annoying to get rid of.

    During 4th edition was, of course, a different matter- "good lists" and "bad lists" were radically different then, even if they weren't generally what most people seem to remember them as, primarily because (as stated earlier) knowledge about the game and what was/wasn't good was drastically lesser then. CSM, Orks, and Daemons were all very powerful lists during the ending days of 4th Edition but quickly started to fall apart as soon as the transition to 5E was made and people realized that tanks were good.

    Looking at early-5E lists from a modern perspective makes more sense than doing so under the assumptions that still held sway during that time- many of them were later proved to be grossly incorrect. Even when you ignore the presence of later releases (BA, Tyranids, etc) many of the "dominant" lists like Leafblower and Dual Lash were objectively quite bad because they failed to have solutions to major aspects of the game. The fact that such failures went unrecognized tells us more about the internet's alarmism and poor play skills than it does about any world-shaking advances that some codex or other may have made in the game.

  7. My vanilla marines have gone largely unchanged for the past four years.