I wanted to take a look at how we as gamers tend to evolve as list builders. I once heard something similar to this by Reecius from Frontline Gaming, so I started to watch closely at how members of our gaming group and me build lists. Interestingly enough, it is scary how true it is.
As competitive list builders we go through three stages of list building. The first stage is when we are starting out with a new army or entirely new to the game. We take units that look fun on paper or are models we love. Our first lists are very limited by the models we own for the army. I remember building flash gitz for my orks just to have the insanity of them. One game they worked well and killed every space marine that came into range of them. They proceeded to fail at life for the next 6 games.
Eventually if we want to stay competitive and win some games we start to learn what are good and bad choices within a codex. This comes with a lot of experimentation, running new units or old units in new combinations. Eventually we hit on a unit combo we like.
The next level of evolution (I make is sound like pokemon) is the spam lists. We have figured out what units are strong or we do well with. If one is good, then two is better, and three is best. This is when we see a lot of triple lists. Three heldrakes, three riptides, three wraithknights, ect. When learning my orks I started to run three dakka jets for a time. If I could get all three in on the same turn and waaagh, that turned into 54 BS3 twinlinked strength 6 ap 4 shots.
Eventually through the release of new books or clever players, these spam lists will run into something they can’t handle. By taking three of one unit type you start to make your army one dimensional. Once people start learning how to counter these spam armies, there success quickly can stop. For instance, three dakka jets are great, but if an army has any decent sky fire, they go down in flames often before I can get my shots off.
This is where we enter our last phase. It’s when we realize the limitations and flaws within a spam list. We start to take less of these strong units, limiting them to only 1 or 2 at most. With the points we freed up we start taking units that will balance out the lists. These list are commonly known as take all comers lists.
I have stepped away from spam lists and started to work on take all comers type lists. My orks run at most 2 dakka jets. Granted, the ork codex isn’t the most competitive, and I feel that pain every time I try to write a TAC list with them. My tau run one riptide and one unit of broadsides.
I am not the only person to go through this evolution in our group. Take a minute and think back to some of the lists you and your opponents have ran. You can see this theme repeated again and again.
I point this out not so we can look down on less “evolved” gamers, but so we can understand each other. A guy running a spam list my not be a worse gamer than one running a TAC list. He may not have run up against a hard counter yet. Of course all of this should be taken with the golden rule, and has nothing to do with narrative/fluffy list writing.