Episode 74.6: What (This) Competitive Player Wants from Missions

Once again I've fallen into the Battle Report black hole, it seems to be cyclical. I have been playing but I'm still down a fair few models for the list I want to run and showing off empty bases (at best) or other models which are visually confusing (at worst) isn't very appealing. I'm also trying to get back into painting as I'll be traveling to Las Vegas for a GT next month which does have a minimum painting requirement. Fortunately pretty much all my "Guardsmen" are done and that's the bulk of the army.

Moving on, I've been doing a lot of tournament preparation lately as the season is really kicking up locally. While testing I've been noticing just how much I'm starting to dislike the ITC Missions as that's what nearly everyone in my state plays with. Originally I was quite a big fan of the ITC Packet but I feel like the more you play with it the more the cracks show. With that in mind I thought I'd run down some thoughts on them as well as the other Missions offerings as well as what I think would be better.


What The ITC Does and Does Not Do Well

I think before diving in that it's worth noting the ITC is an organization that rose out of necessity. 40K has never been known for good Missions, during the time I played you only scored at the end of the game which gave rise to extreme gunline armies and games being decided on Turn 2-3. This was also during a time when Codex creep was a huge issue and the game was almost unplayable from a balance perspective. The ITC tried to curb some of this, as well as GW's then infamous lack of community interaction, by publishing rulings, FAQs, restrictions, and so on. I can't speak to their level of success as I got out of 40K when the ITC was ascending in the scene but I get the impression they were community favorites among the competitive player-base.

When 8th Edition dropped the Missions in the Core Rulebook were sadly as bad as ever, featuring horrible imbalances and boring objectives. The initial draft of the ITC Packet corrected some of these issues so people could play in a more level setting while waiting on a better alternative. Then came the Champion's Missions which have become probably the most played Missions in 40K with the ITC's popularity in the US (a huge market) and a growing influence in other countries. When compared to even the Chapter Approved Missions, the Champion's Packet is pretty clearly the best of what was available.

Champion's Missions are based around "Progressive Scoring" which means both players accumulate points as the game is played. Each Mission has a Primary Objective, which is always to hold points on the battlefield that players setup within certain boundaries as well as kill units, a Bonus Objective, which is usually to hold even more specific points, and Secondary Objectives which are tailored based on your opponent's army composition. At first glance this works pretty well, everything is pretty easy to track and both players know what the goals of the game are. It also offers somewhat of a rebuttal to gunlines as in most missions they cannot go and take ground which puts them at a deficit on the score.

The objective of the Missions seem to be rewarding armies that are interactive and play in all phases. Gunline armies, even if they win, won't score as many points as an army that goes out and takes ground. This means even shooting armies that win tend to have lower scores and thus won't place as highly, especially in events with 5-6 rounds. I see this as a very good idea because shooting armies are already heavily rewarded by the base rules of the game and can be subjectively boring to play against/with. Having configurable Secondary Objectives also puts some emphasis on player skill and knowing what you can/can't achieve.

What has become problematic, in my eyes, within the ITC Missions is that there's still way too much emphasis on killing enemy units. Nearly every Secondary is "Kill/Damage a unit of a specific type" with only two Secondaries being focused on positional play. Worst still one of the positional Secondaries is practically impossible to score four times while playing seriously (Behind Enemy Lines) as it comes at a huge opportunity cost while also forcing very specific compositions. So the game often boils down to a murder-fest where you get a lesser reward for actually taking and holding ground.

Another, perhaps unintended, consequence of the ITC Missions are that they massively inform the meta. Alpha/Beta Strike lists are MORE powerful with these Missions because you get rewarded for killing but also remove your opponent's ability to damage you back, then limiting their opportunity to score things like "Kill More" and their own Secondaries. In many of the Core Rulebook Missions you don't get that as positioning at the end of the game is what matters which emphasis resilience and rewards ObSec abilities.

Overall the Champion's Missions reward too much of what the game already wants you to do. This focuses the game into having the most efficient options to remove enemy units, pushing other units by the wayside. For example Orks have continued to do well in Rulebook Events while they're awful within the ITC, this is because right now they can't shoot/fight as well as other armies but they can hold Objectives better than almost anyone.


What's Missing?

While I've written about this before, quite some time ago, 40K has always missed what I think the point of a Mission should be. Playing with Objectives is a way to exert pressure on your opponent, it forces people to jockey for space and make tough decisions. I always go back to Warmachine when I think of great Missions, it's the elegance of design that I admire. For those who don't know Missions in Warmachine are one of three ways to win the game with the others being killing a specific model and timing your opponent out.

Most armies would build to do one of these things as focal point (except time outs, that didn't really work). In most Missions if you got to 5 Points the game automatically ended and that player won. This created a sort of rock, paper, scissors within every game. For example let's say my army is very attrition based, I want to kill as much stuff as I can and then win the game from there. My opponent is a heavily Objective focused army, they can move my models, they're fast, etc. Well I'm not going to have enough time to shoot everything off of the Objectives before I lose so I have to contest various spaces on the board. This likely means taking a hit before I can deliver one because if I try to just toe in or be cheeky I could get removed in turn.

That's the kind of pressure I want to see in 40K. You want to sit back and shoot? Fine. I hope you can kill my army before I rack up a huge score because you get nothing for removing my models. The point of every wargame is already to destroy the other person's army but when that's all there is to do the game gets boring. Right now you get almost no benefit from building an army that pushes hard on Objectives. Compare this to even Age of Sigmar where you can win games by taking ground and holding it. I'd say that's probably the norm in most games as Infinity also uses a similar system as does Legion and a good portion of the smaller market share games.


Would This Even Work in 40K?

When I discuss this topic with people they always express some hesitancy towards it. Part of this is likely that many players have ONLY involved themselves with 40K so if it hasn't been done in that game it's probably bad. Some also say that 40K isn't built for that kind of movement but I would argue that's looking at things through the prism of the existing game and meta.

40K has a lot of great units that can move efficiently and pay points to do so, you might not know about them because no one uses them right now. Stuff like Bikes, durable Deep Strikers, and Transports would likely see a lot more play if getting to the center of the table was a bigger point of emphasis.

While any massive change like this would have to be tested I think various progressive scoring templates have a place within Warhammer. I'm partial to "First player to x wins" but you can also do something along the lines of Objectives become worth more the longer they're held by one player (not as the game goes on, the rewards passive play) or Objectives being more valuable the more you hold. This is kind of similar to a lot of video games where holding more points pumps your score up faster as a reward for it being hard to control so much territory.

Running these kinds of Missions seems more viable in 40K than most other games because every army has so much access to every playstyle. I can't think of a Faction that can't get around when it wants to, or can't stay back and shoot, or can't take a punch. In Warmachine players had to run multiple lists for events because one list couldn't accomplish all of that which led to huge skews and a very swingy game. With a more even spread of what you can do I think there'd be more room for tactical play. "Do I try and shut down his Scenario game first, or do I worry about his offense? What space on the board can I let him have without losing while I execute my game plan?" These are things you ask yourself then the game isn't just about blowing stuff up.


What Is Likely to Happen?

While there's a lot of could be's and maybe's out there I prefer to focus on what's likely to happen. I have seen no indication that the ITC Missions will change, they've only made small tweaks to wording since their inception and with such a big slice of the pie I doubt improvements are on their radar.

The most likely fix is for Games Workshop to keep showing that they care about the competitive community and change Dawn of War Missions to be something along the lines of what I've discussed. Maelstrom of War can remain for those looking for a casual experience, the card deck does a good job of keeping things interesting for casual play but injecting more RNG into the game detracts from player skill. Simply have Dawn of War be progressive scoring on even footing (No First Blood crap) and keep them extremely simple. This would act as a unifying move for the competitive meta and would give players an easy gateway into competitive play, they don't have to go search out this random organization that they'd have no way of knowing about except word of mouth.

This is actually the only thing I'm looking forward to in the next Chapter Approved. Right now the game needs very few points adjustments, it needs meta adjustments. Games Workshop has shown they can write great Missions in Age of Sigmar, it's not a huge ask to move that to their flagship game. I had my hopes up for the first Chapter Approved but I think they might have still been testing the 8th Edition waters, we now see the FAQs making BIG changes, so why not Missions next?

Episode 74.2: List Iteration, Creation and How to Obtain More Valuable Data

I'm taking a break from games until later this week as I wait for models to come in and some conversion work to finish up. Shout out to the FLG Store and their absurd 5 Day handling time on orders, because who wants things in a reasonable amount of time?

While working on my models I've also been working on my list. Frequent readers of my Battle Reports will note that my lists tend to change over time, my previous Chaos army went through many iterations before I settled into something that I liked. As I've transitioned into an Imperium army I thought it might be a good idea to speak about my thoughts on list iteration, creation, and a the misconceptions of that process. I'm a fairly active poster on the Warhammer Competitive sub-Reddit which is where I really started to notice that many players don't do themselves any favors when it comes to trying to improve their army. With that in mind I'd like to break down how I approach list creation, iteration, and the steps beyond in the hopes that it might help someone out there and/or improve my own process.

This is going to be a long article with no TL;DR. I don't think this is a topic that can be abridged and when I've read posts where people try to do so the article ends up a muddled, useless mess. So excuse my long-winded explanation, hopefully it's of some use.



Genesis

 Lists for any wargame begin in many different ways. Some people will copy an army they see online that looks like fun to them or that did well at a prestigious event, others start with an idea and expand from there, while yet others will mix the two styles and put their own spin on something that is known to have teeth. For the competitive community it's been my experience that the most common path chosen is to copy a powerful idea, or what I call a shell, and then sculpt it into something that's more personal to that player. We saw this in action at the highest level at the 2018 Las Vegas Open where the top two players had very similar armies but each had made some decisions they felt added that little bit of extra spice.

I'll say off the bat that there's no wrong way to make an army but I'm going to be approaching this topic, as I do most topics, from a competitive point of view. With that said I think the most effective beginning to an army is to start with something that is a known effective shell while also matching that to your playstyle.

So what is a shell? A shell is the bullet point idea of the army, it's usually very simple and very obvious. I'm going to use my Imperium army as the real-world example for this article but most any player can probably conjure up their own version. My shell was simply "Blood Angel Melee Units and Command Points". That's it. You can boil down many powerful lists this way e.g. Dark Reapers and Buffs, Venoms and Blasters, Epidemius and Nurgle Vehicles, the list goes on and on. The purpose of the shell is to give you a clear objective when actually composing an army, it allows you to focus on something and bend the list towards meeting that goal.

To start the list you usually want to fill the shell first. For me I had two very plain goals to meet, I needed Blood Angel Melee Units and I needed Command Points. This doesn't paint me into a corner right away, instead it gives me some creative freedom while focusing my attention. There are many ways to obtain Command Points within an Imperium army, there are also many fine choices for Blood Angels that love to get into combat. I'm stressing this point because I think right off the bat players tend to focus on the specific units in an army rather than what they want the army to do. Looking at my shell I just want a hard hitting melee army that I can enable via Stratagems, that's all. Getting past that point cuts off paths for you and that serves no useful purpose.

Alright so we have our shell and we have an idea of what we want our army to do. This is where you start looking at units to fill the shell. In my case I looked over the Blood Angels Codex first, after all I'm trying to enable Blood Angels units so they're the primary focus. After I had a good grasp on what each unit could do I looked at lists online, what are some of the popular units within armies that use Blood Angels? What was the goal of the lists they were in, how did a unit further those goals? Note that I'm not looking at extremely specific entries at this point, I'm only dabbling in units.

Poking around online showed that Death Company were the most popular unit with Captains, Librarians, Chaplains, and Sanguine Guard as other common sightings. Within these entries was a huge variety of armament and unit size/numbers taken. I'll keep hammering it home, this is why you don't get into the nitty-gritty of what people are using, it doesn't matter yet and it's going to confuse things. I've seen people say "I have to take x amount of this unit or this model has to have y wargear" but when I ask why they have no answer.

At this point it was easy for me to see why the units I mentioned were popular because I'd read through the Codex and understood the possibilities. I'll spare you from reading all the mental rundown of that but let's focus on Death Company. This is a very flexible melee unit in that it can change its delivery system and armament as needed, allowing it to fill roles in many different types of armies. It's also not an unnecessarily multi-role unit, there's no real shooting options and all the special rules are either focused on melee or survival, which mesh nicely. Most people would say "Well no duh they're good" but that requires you to mentally shortcut the information I just presented which means it can be lost sight of. It's important to know why something is good, not just that it is.

Ultimately I decided that I wanted Captains with Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields as well as Death Company with Jump Packs to fill my shell. Note some vagueness here, I don't yet know what kind of Captains I want, I only know their armament and I don't know anything about the Death Company besides their method of delivery. Jump Pack Death Company and Captains work with my shell, I want to use Stratagems. Jump Packs and Characters both get a lot of options from Blood Angel Stratagems so that's what I favored. At this point I didn't consider further entries as they would be buffs for other units and I don't know if I need those yet.

Using much the same method I decided that the best way to get Command Points, the other part of my shell, was to go with Imperial Guard. I know that I can fill a Battalion/Brigade with Guard very easily and with a lot of different options. Comparing that to Blood Angels, or other Imperium armies, I'd have to dedicate much more of my list to the same endeavor and couldn't find other Troops that made a good fit for 6+ entries. Once again I'm doing some short-cutting here but I hope the point and methodology comes through.

So where did I end up? I know I want to start with a few specific units of Blood Angels and I know I want to make Battalions/Brigades out of Imperial Guard. Now what?



Coming Out of Your Shell

So we have our shell, our central idea, and we've chosen some units to make that dream a reality. Now comes some actual decision making or as I like to think of it, following one of the many paths that you've created for yourself. What quantity do you want of the units you've chosen, how does that quantity meet your objectives for the army? What wargear yet furthers those goals? It's a lot to go over.

What I generally remind myself of is that you can always go back. I see a lot of armies where I ask myself, why wasn't this unit trimmed or this weapon downgraded/upgraded? The more fleshed out a list becomes the more that someone generally seems to get attached to the nitty gritty of it.

Going back to my army as an example I started with a very generic template of 10 Infantry Squads with Mortars and a Supreme Command Detachment of Captains with a 10 man Death Company unit. Since I knew what I wanted the Captain to wield that was a very easy decision and I chose to try out three Jump Packs, two Bikes. I plug this into BattleScribe and see what I'm working with in terms of points. At this point I have my shell, which is not fully-realized because I don't know what I want on the Death Company or the Guardsmen, if anything.

At this point I return to my mission statement: Blood Angels with a lot of Command Points. I have some Blood Angels so I need to focus on crafting what I have into Command Points. By running a Supreme Command Detachment I'm gimping myself in that respect in order to get a lot of fighty Characters, I have to make up for that. To that end I started working on a Battalion and Brigade.

From here it's easy to see how I filled in the list, I followed the Detachments I'd chosen and worked within that. Since I already have the Troops for both Detachments I left those alone for the moment but I also need other things. Again I went to the well of "what's popular" and gravitated towards Sentinels, Mortar Heavy Weapon Teams, and Company Commanders/Primaris Psykers for the HQs. I'm now filling in the list and rapidly moving towards something I can start testing with. I now have a much closer to 2000 Point list and I'm only missing Elites from having something I could put on the table.

This is when I had to make a further choice and decide on a Regiment for my Guardsmen. Looking over my list which so far was comprised of very mobile, very hard-hitting Characters and blobs of anti-Infantry units I wanted to reinforce my melee prowess and get some additional help against Vehicles/Monsters. To that end I chose Catachans for the S4 and opted for the Priest + Straken combo. Picking Catachans also gave me access to Harker, a no-brainer as I needed Elites anyways, and I rounded it off with an Astropath as what appeared to be a synergistic choice.

I've now arrived at a list I can test and I've made several decisions along the way. I chose a Regiment and then picked a more melee heavy army based on that Regiment. I could have just as easily included some tanks or kept the Guardsmen as more of a counter-attack portion of the army but those weren't the paths I chose. In testing it's important to keep in mind where your list began so if something isn't working you know how to go back. That's why I literally imagine making an army like a maze, I take this fork in the road but if it doesn't lead to where I want to end up I have to be able to remember my way back.

I also never sacrificed my core idea, the list I ended up with indeed used Blood Angels with a lot of Command Points. By not being overly specific I left myself room to grow the list and even re-tool it as needed. While the core idea of the list is powerful there are so many ways to arrive at that destination that it's not my job to find the most efficient means of doing that.



If At First You Don't Succeed, Label It v0.1

So we have a list, we know how we arrived at that list, and we know what the list is supposed to do. Now comes the most time consuming part, putting it on the table. While I have written in some depth about how I arrive at an army that process is actually very short, I built my initial list in only a few hours. Some of this comes with a lot of game experience, you build up a knowledge base of what works, what doesn't, why, and so on. But the other part is I start with an idea and expand from there, it's much easier to create an army when you have more than a vague direction of what you'd like to do.

Were now at what most people call the iteration phase. This is where you seek to continually improve the list by playing with it, getting feedback, and in general opening yourself up to new ideas. Everyone has their own methodology for doing this, even if you don't know it, so I'll highlight and discuss those instead of just providing my way. Please note that there's very few wrong answers when it comes to iteration so do what you have access to and what you find useful.


Getting Feedback

This is a very popular way to improve a list these days, I think of it like crowd-sourcing. If you read my blog you're likely familiar with DakkaDakka, Reddit, Bolter and Chainsword, and many more sites where you can post a list and have people critique it. I find this to be extremely valuable all throughout the iterative process although there are diminishing returns.

When posting a list online you never want to post the list in a vacuum. 40K, somewhat regrettably, has numerous metas in the form of what Missions you play. It's very hard to give targeted advice to an army when the critic isn't sure where you're coming from in that respect. It's also very hard to give accurate criticism without understanding the posters mental process, how did you arrive at this list? Why did you pick this unit, what is that unit's role? Very few armies just stand on their own in terms of "this is what it is" and with Games Workshop making changes that continually lower the power level of the game that's only going to become more of an issue.

Another way to get feedback is to discuss your army with local players, I find this to be easier in that you can show and explain the army in more depth but you don't get as many eyes looking to help you out. Getting local feedback also has the advantage of knowing where someone is coming from, if you post online you can get advice that might be really bad. Of course good players can still give bad advice, it happens to everyone, but you get to hedge your bets a bit more.

My only real advice for opening a list to criticism is to know how you got there and take everything with a grain of salt. I assume most criticism of a list is bad and therefore shouldn't be listened to but that's my personal philosophy as a very experienced player. There's a fine line between standing up for what you've built and being arrogant. Even poor critique can be used to solidify your thought process by making you think "Why DON'T I want that unit someone recommended? Can I explain that to them or do I not actually have a reason?"


Table Time

While critique is optional, table time is not. You cannot improve a list you've made without playing it and I would say that even critique is useless until you understand how an army works in an actual game. I also strongly believe that playing an army leads to the most rapid improvement as I'll explain below.

Testing a list and playing a list are very different experiences that I don't think everyone fully considers. When you play a list your primary goal is to win, you combine your knowledge of the army, game, your opponent, etc. all together to make the best decisions in order to come out on top. When testing a list winning and losing are irrelevant, it's about how you arrived at the outcome. Did you smash your opponent's horde army but lose to his tank army? Did you smash his tank army but lose on Objectives? Was it hard to get up the table, was it hard to hold your Deployment Zone, was it hard to get into melee or shooing range?

Asking yourself questions is a great way to constantly poke at a list when playing it, even if they seem overly pedantic. Yes I killed that Rhino but did I overkill it? Maybe there's points to be recouped there depending on what I used. How much did that re-roll 1's to Hit Aura help me, would I have killed that Tactical Squad even without it? How many more offensive resources would that have taken?

Never count your opponent out of the equation either. I will always ask for feedback after a game on what they thought was threatening, what they could ignore, why, where the game swung, the list goes on. As is probably obvious testing yields the best results when you approach it like a science project. Knowing what happens when two chemicals mix is not as important as knowing why that outcome is achieved. Otherwise you're left thinking "I keep winning my test games, this list is unbeatable!" until someone beats you down and you don't know what happened.


My Continued Journey

A lot of my testing has been documented on this very blog, although not all of it. The behind the scenes stuff I haven't spoken much about though. My initial game I just wanted to play the first person I could find, I have some experience with melee armies in 8th Edition but not in the same way as the list I'd built. My first game was against a Dreadnought heavy list which I smashed to bits, the army didn't have nearly enough attacks to deal with my Guardsmen and each Captain was good for beating one to death at worst. Unfortunately this game taught me very little because it was such an extreme skew, my Blood Angels worked out as I expected and I got to feel the speed the list can have but I wanted more.

From there I got a bit more picky about what I played against, aiming for take on all comers lists piloted by people I was familiar with that also wanted a competitive game. This led to some better testing as it became apparent over more table time that the Catachan Doctrine was doing me little to no good. I wanted to be up the board but not necessarily in melee punching people, it was more important to move around at will.

Some of this came to a head when I had to work very hard for a draw against a Chaos gunline, which is not a powerful build. While a lot of dice rolls did not go my way in the game it was obvious I couldn't move up fast enough to help out my Blood Angels while also actually doing anything. This lead to Tanks/Dreadnoughts having free aim against me until I could get something over to them that was punchy but when all that died I had few options left. I'd been hesitant to Advance because I needed the Guardsmen to kill Cultists and open up the better units for Charges but in the end they didn't have the necessary firepower and I had to use the Death Company.

This is what I consider a breakthrough game. Prior to this I'd gotten somewhat comfortable wins and made small changes here and there as I learned the list but this game made me rethink a lot of my choices. I retraced my paths from earlier and realized the Brigade wasn't working. I was being forced to take too much support and to use it I had to Advance all the Guardsmen early on in a game which meant I did nothing over Turns 1-2. My Death Company were also dying every game after they Charged and I had too many eggs in one basket to allow that.

Through subsequent games I instead tried Tallarns, which has proved to be very successful as my Guardsmen could suddenly keep up with my Blood Angels while still contributing. My Brigade degraded into two Battalions but the Supreme Command Detachment was elevated to a Battalion so as to continue my central goal for the list. This resulted in less Characters but more, small units of Death Company that made better use of Stratagems, another core idea of the list. I can see where the list began and I can see where every change happened, and why it happened. All throughout the process I'd post the list online and take less and less advice, which pissed some people off, but I knew they didn't understand where I was coming from or what the army was supposed to do like I did. Even still it challenged my view of the list and got me to work on a few alternate builds that can also be tested.


Summation of Iteration

If I was to give specific advice to someone iterating on a list it would be to challenge everything. Accept no absolutes and question as many interactions as you can. It's not enough to know if you can kill a specific kind of target, you have to know how much you overkill it by, what are the odds you don't kill it, how hard is it to deliver your solution, what can an opponent do to prevent that delivery, is that worth further mitigation or not? These are the things that make wargaming so wonderful and so strategic, it's also incredibly rewarding when you keep asking those questions and finally settle on some answers. Army lists are a puzzle, if you don't try a different piece you'll never get a good fit.

I would also say that while it's important to listen you should always assume you're correct. That doesn't mean you don't think about or even try out someone else's solution but having the confidence in the work you did prior to even finishing a list helps to keep an army focused. If you think you're wrong, prove it, and do the same when you think you're right.

Finally, don't be afraid to document things. I keep every revision of a list that I play, for as long as I can, and also try to note why I made changes between versions. This creates sort of a patch history for the gamers/IT folks out there, if you have a good memory this might not be necessary. I write everything down because my memory lies to me at times.



It's Done When It's Done

We've laid out a roadmap, we followed through, and we did everything in our power to fix the holes in the army as we found them. So are we done? Well in truth an army is never truly done. Eventually there comes a point where no more changes are needed and the list is as ready as you can make it for competitive play. But as we all know, change is inevitable.

While it's not possible to future-proof an army it is pretty easy to be vigilant. Keep an eye on tournaments big and small to see what people are running out there, do you think you can deal with it? Go back into the lab for a bit and do a thought experiment, have a friend proxy an army that you aren't sure what to do against. If you have to make a change well you now have the tools to do it quickly and efficiently. At this point buying/painting new models is usually the biggest obstacle to getting something on the board.

Usually when a list is more or less done you'll transition to thinking about how it plays versus other things, how to handle specific situations that you have the tools to handle, and generally just improving your play. But that big shakeup is always around the corner, whether it be a month of a year, and if you truly understand your army then it's easy to adapt.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That's all I have this time, sorry for the super lengthy post. Understanding the nuts and bolts of an army list is very near and dear to my love for miniature wargames so I have a lot to say on the subject. Even with this I had to edit myself quite a bit which is obviously not my strength. Hopefully the ideas I presented made some sense and were of help to someone out there. I know they've served me well thus far.

Episode 74: You Know What's Fun to Play Against? Anything but Space Marines

Missed my previous posts? Check them out below!


--------------------------------------------

Once again I have neglected my Battle Report duties as I've been testing my new list. I did play two games prior to this one, one was a complete stomp in my favor and one was a tie. I really wanted to write up the tie but I didn't take enough pictures as we played on a weekday and my FLGS closes pretty early outside of summer hours. The game should have been an easy win for me but I made a lot of mistakes with positioning, target selection, and so on which led to a draw, very close to a loss for me. On a positive note it is fun to see myself getting better with this new style of list and I think it's opening my eyes more to the game as a whole.

Sometime soon I'm going to push out an article on list iteration as I think that's something that doesn't get talked about enough. List building is a big part of 40K, same as any wargame, but generally someone will make a list and then I don't see them know where to go from there. That's where various forums come into play so people can get feedback but I see a lot of misunderstanding on how to both give and receive feedback about armies. Hopefully that's something that will be useful, I'll be using my own Imperium list as an example.

For the game today I was against someone I haven't played before, Matt, and his Eldar/Ynaari hybrid. I was very excited to play against the new Ynaari because they're a bit of a mystery after the FAQ, taking some of the heavier nerfs that Games Workshop dished out. Matt will also be attending the upcoming GT that's happening in my area, which I would love to go to but unfortunately will likely be unable to get the models for. It seems like every time there's a local major event I'm either already stuck into some other event or there was a major shakeup in the game and I'm trying to get my army back together. Ugh. Anyways onto the lists!



Imperium

Battalion - Blood Angels

 Captain w/ Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield (The Angel's Wings)
Captain on Bike w/ Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield
Captain on Bike w/ Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield

7 Vanguard Veterans Jump Packs, 2 Plasma Pistols (Each) [Proxied]
5 Death Company w/ Jump Packs, 4 Power Fists, 5 Chainswords, 1 Boltgun
5 Death Company w/ Jump Packs, 4 Power Fists, 5 Chainswords, 1 Boltgun

5 Primaris Intercessors w/ Auxillary Grenade Launcher, Sergeant w/ Chainsword [Proxied]
5 Scouts w/ Bolt Pistol and Combat Knife, Sergeant w/ Boltgun and Chainsword [Proxied]
5 Scouts w/ Bolt Pistol and Combat Knife, Sergeant w/ Boltgun and Chainsword [Proxied]


Battalion - Catachans

Colonel "Iron Claw" Straken
Primaris Psyker w/ Psychic Maelstrom, Terrifying Visions

Astropath w/ Laspistol, Psychic Maelstrom

Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword


Battalion - Catachans

Company Commander w/ Boltgun, Power Sword
Company Commander w/ Boltgun, Power Sword, Karov's Aquila [Warlord w/ Grand Strategist]

Sergeant Harker
Ministorum Priest w/ Boltgun, Chainsword

Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword
Infantry Squad w/ Mortar, Sergeant w/ Chainsword


Aeldari

Battalion - Ynaari

Yvraine w/ Word of the Phoenix, Gaze of Ynnead [Warlord w/ Tenacious Survivor]
Autarch Skyrunner w/ Banshee Mask, Laser Lance [Alaitoc]
Warlock w/ Jinx [Alaitoc]

20 Guardians w/ 2 Scatter Lasers [Alaitoc]
5 Rangers [Alaitoc]
5 Rangers [Alaitoc]

9 Shining Spears (Exarch w/ Star Lance) [Saim-Hann]


Battalion - Alaitoc

Farseer w/ Guide and Doom
Warlock w/ Quicken
Warlock w/ Protect

10 Guardian Defenders
10 Guardian Defenders
10 Guardian Defenders

Wave Serpent w/ Vectored Engines, Spirit Stones
Wave Serpent w/ Vectored Engines
Wave Serpent w/ Vectored Engines
Wave Serpent w/ Vectored Engines

Auxillary Support Detachment - Cabal of the Black Heart

Ravager w/ 3 Disintegrator Cannon

NOTE
The Auxillary Support Detachment is in because Matt thought it unlocked Stratagems and he hadn't been told otherwise when posting the list around. We found that this is not the case and he will be revising the list.



Mission and Deployment
ITC Mission #1
Vanguard Strike

Imperium Secondary Objectives
Recon, Big Game Hunter, The Reaper

Aeldari Secondary Objectives
Recon, Headhunter, Old School


As is very typical with my tables I placed two sizeable pieces that break up LoS in the center with a further medium piece in each quarter and two small pieces along the center-line. I'll say it over and over that it's important to break up LoS as much as you can for more interesting games and it's good to have some Cover available as models move up. This incentivizes movement which makes for a much more entertaining and balanced game experience.

Seeing Matt's list he had very easy Secondaries to pick and honestly was giving me a lot of choice. My army isn't very good at Old School in a lot of matchups so I decided to leave that one alone, I also wanted to forego Headhunter and focus on getting better at Recon. Normally Headhunter would be the better pick in this game because there's not a lot to stand between me and the Characters but I'm still learning and getting down muscle memory.

Matt played into what I changed the list to do which is make Death By a Thousand Cuts less of an automatic selection while not leaving much else. Headhunter will be popular against me but I think in most games I can keep the Guard Characters safe while something like Recon plays into what my army wants to do, fight and use Rapid Fire.

Deployment went pretty much as I expected with me deploying all the Guardsmen on the line (as much as I could at least) with the Bike Captains also forward. My Warlord hid in some ruins on my home Objective along with the Psykers and Primaris Marines. I didn't want any exposure to Rangers until I can thin them out as Guard Characters are very squishy, this does prevent me from getting into Deny the Witch rang but since there are no Dark Reapers it's not that big of a deal. All the rest of the Blood Angels went into Reserves although I should have kept the Jump Pack Captain on the table for Turn 1 shenanigans.

Matt deployed a bit back from the line with all the Characters and small Guardian units in Wave Serpents, leaving one empty. The big Guardian unit went into Deep Strike via Stratagem while the Ravager hid in the back. Once I'd see all of Matt's Deployments I put my Scouts in the top-left Objective (my perspective) and the center-right. Finally the Rangers went on the extreme right flank (my perspective) and the top-center.

I ended up winning the roll to go first and took it since Matt's list is not far off what I expect from Ynaari in Tournaments and I want to see what damage I can do. Matt was unable to Seize and away we went!








Pre-Game Thoughts

 With the emphasis in Matt's list being speed I think this is a very positive matchup for me, high movement models are horribly countered by Deep Strike. He's also going with the non-Reserve Shining Spear package, which I don't think is worth running, but it will Charge me on Turn 1 if it wants to and there's not much I can do about that. Fortunately Shining Spears are extremely squishy even with Protect so removing them should be no problem.

The Rangers are a higher priority for me this game than they usually are because of all my Guard Characters, unfortunately Matt wasn't too brazen with them so I can't go for an early Advance and shoot with the Guardsmen or something along those lines. Top priority are the Wave Serpents because of their Mortal Wound output (very bad for the Captains) and getting them down opens up the Guardians to my Guardsmen. Overall I don't much care about the Psykers, they don't have many powerful units to synergize with once the game gets going.

Going first is certainly a big boon as my army is almost unstoppable compared to Matt's on Objectives within this Mission. That means I can get Turn 2 earlier for my Deep Strike and also move up the board before I start taking some shots.

As for mistakes I did make a few which I chalk up to still learning the army. I should have used Death Visions of Sanguinius on all three Captains as this is a very Vehicle heavy list and the extra attack on the Charge is huge for being able to drop Wave Serpents. I also should have deployed the Jump Pack Captain as I stated, worst case he just moves up but I can gauge if I need to suicide him in to take out a Wave Serpent. I think if there were Reapers in the list I would do that but in this game there isn't a juicy enough target.



Turn 1 - Imperium

 True to my plan I Advanced with nearly everything, moving all the Guardsmen and support Characters up except the Psykers and Warlord. My Bike Captains moved up a bit so as not to expose themselves to shooting and early Serpent Shield assassinations. The Primaris Marines and left Scouts moved onto the Objectives a bit more but otherwise stayed back.

In the Shooting Phase I used Move, Move, Move on four units in the front to push forward more, giving me Recon and control over the center of the board. My left Bike Captain sniped out a Ranger but otherwise everyone had Advanced or had no range/line of sight to anything. With that I passed the turn, scoring for holding an Objective but not for killing anything. I also picked up a Recon point.

Score
2-0 for Imperium






Aeldari - Turn 1

 Matt was quick to Advance all his Wave Serpents, getting in my face just as much as I was getting in his. The right unit of Rangers also Advanced, moving away from my Guardsmen and more towards the top-right. All of the Psykers had disembarked and moved forward a bit, Yvraine also Advanced up but held the rear of the army. The Shining Spears also Advanced, using Warriors of the Raging Winds to be able to Charge later. As I remarked to Matt, that was an LVO winning move. Finally the big Guardian unit came down, getting as much line of sight on my forward Scouts as possible.

The Psychic Phase saw Protect and Quicken used on the Shining Spears, running them on top of the leftmost large building. Word of the Phoenix went onto the large Guardian unit (via a Command Re-roll), allowing them to kill a few Scouts and Guardsmen. Matt then put Guide on the same unit, calling out his order of operations error as he did so.

Shooting saw the Scouts get leveled by the Guardians shooting normally while the Shining Spears sniped a few shots down from the building, although most of them couldn't see anything. I also lost two Guard units to the Wave Serpents/Ravager and some miscellaneous Guardian shots, overall I took about the damage I expected to take.

A Charge goes out from the Shining Spears, having multiple targets to declare that they can't fail thanks to the FAQ clarification. I shot one down with Overwatch but the Spears get into melee with Harker, my Company Commander, the Priest, and three Guardsmen units. In Combat I lose all the Characters as Matt focuses them down and I don't really make any Invulnerable Saves to try for a Command/Grand Strategist re-roll. Straken punches one of the Shining Spears off his bike while the Guardsmen all bounce off the 2+ Saves.

Matt scores for Kill, Kill More, and Hold but I get Hold More. He also netted three Characters which makes maxing out Headhunter all but certain, Recon also goes up on the board thanks to the Shining Spears and Rangers.

End of Round Thoughts

 Well I got sloppy with my positioning of the Characters which allowed Matt to go in and nab a bunch of them. In a way this benefited me as they're now far from him and all but certain to die next turn, Matt only went for that Charge because of how many Characters he could grab. If I was going for a bait I think I'd offer up the Commander and the Priest but I just made an error and left them open. Certainly something to keep an eye out for in the future!

Overall the turn went as I expected. The Wave Serpents did minimal damage, as they should, although Matt could have positioned the Autarch to give out re-rolls. I was also puzzled by the Ranger movement, the Guardsmen that were threatening them got removed as I expected and they could have contributed onto Straken or something. I did think it was a smart play to move the Wave Serpents up, obviously Matt pays for Vectored Engines but if they stayed back I can Charge them pretty easily with Death Company still and then pile into all kinds of stuff. This way he preserves the backfield at worst.

Score
8-3 for Aeldari









Imperium - Turn 2

 Once again all the Guardsmen moved up but didn't Advance this time, hoping to act as Overwatch buffers. My left Bike Captain zoomed up on the Rangers while his counter-part cushioned himself between two Wave Serpents. The Primaris Marines and Psykers left the comfort of their ruins as I expect the Rangers to be less of an issue after this turn and I need some Mortal Wounds on the Shining Spears. After some consideration I Fall Back with everything that the Shining Spears are tying up. Finally I bring all the Reserves in with the Vanguard Veterans and Captain dropping near the Shining Spears, one Death Company unit on the building in the right-center and another Death Company unit along the bottom-right.

In the Psychic Phase I cast Psychic Maelstrom on the Shining Spears, only doing one wound even after a Command re-roll to cast it and a Grand Strategist re-roll for damage. (This is illegal but I didn't know until I looked it up later). Smite finished off the damage Spear, leaving me a bit nervous about my damage output.

For Shooting I forgot to do Orders but didn't take it back despite Matt allowing me to do so, I try to never take back mistakes as it builds bad habits. All the Vanguard Veterans unloaded, Overcharged, into the Shining Spears which killed all of them except the Exarch (through a Command re-roll on Saves) while I suffered no losses thanks to the Captain. Shots from the Primaris Marines, Captain, and Straken brought the Exarch down to one wound. Lasguns and Mortars killed 8 Guardians through some poor rolls, no Harker, and no Orders.

For Charges I put a Guardsmen unit into two Wave Serpents, losing a guy from Overwatch. I failed Charges with the Vanguard Vets, the Captain, and the Primaris Marines into the Exarch but lost nothing from Overwatch. Each Death Company unit got onto a Wave Serpent while avoiding Overwatch due to being on top of the building and getting into something that was already tied up. Finally both Bike Captains Charge into Rangers and a Wave Serpent respectively.

In Combat I managed to kill only 2 Rangers with the Captain while the Guardsmen bounced off. My other Captain used Red Rampage to remove his Wave Serpent while the one near the bottom of the board took 6 Wounds. Finally between first attacks (which were not in Captain range) and Honor the Chapter I was able to blow up the other Wave Serpent. Three Guardians across two units died from falling out and I was able to tie up both units with the Captain and the Death Company. My Guardsmen also managed to tag the large Guardian unit via Pile In but I only lost two from their attacks.

In Morale the Exarch fled ever after a Command re-roll as did four Guardians from the larger unit. For scoring I picked up two Big Game Hunters, Recon, and Kill/Hold.

Score
8-8 Tied













Aledari - Turn 2

 Working with a lot fewer models now Matt started the Fall Back train, getting out with all the Guardians who are tied up except with the Guardsmen while the Rangers moved out as well. Both Wave Serpents moved away didn't/couldn't Advance after the last Guardian unit hopped out. The Ravager came forward a bit along with the Character contingent, the Autarch staying on the right side.

Smite range out from all the Characters, bringing my left Bike Captain to two wounds and killing a few Death Company. Guide also went on the undamaged Guardians but Doom failed through a Ghosthelm re-roll. Shooting went by pretty fast as the Bike Captain died to the Wave Serpent and Guardians while all the Death Company went down to the Ravager and some miscellaneous shots as well as Serpent Shields.

The Autarch Charged my Guardsmen while everyone else stayed put. In Combat I lost all but the Sergeant from the Guardsmen unit but did nothing back. I then used Insane Bravery on the Sergeant to keep him around as this gave me Kill More.

For scoring I got Kill More and Hold More while Matt picked up Kill, Hold, and maxed out Headhunter.

End of Round Thoughts

 So far my plan is working perfectly and next turn I should be able to start nailing down some of the last threats such as the Ravager and Wave Serpents. With all the Guardians out and my Guardsmen so close I can negate a lot of the Alaitoc Trait and should be able to get rid of those units as well.

Matt made a mistake not using Insane Bravery on the Spear Exarch during my turn, which he noted, as that would have allowed it to run and hide. I also should have done a better job with Pile In/Consolidation for my Death Company, I often forget they get to do both again with Honor the Chapter. While I don't think I could have surrounded any Guardians to preserve the unit it's still a good habit to get into and makes it difficult to prevent a unit being tied up in certain situations.

Score
11-10 for Aeldari






Imperium - Turn 3

 Once again all my Guardsmen moved up while the Psykers Advanced. The Primaris Marines also moved up, leaving one guy on my Objective, while the Scouts held still. The remaining Bike Captain zoomed into the thick of things and the Jump Pack Captain used Upon Wings of Fire, ultimately redeploying in the backfield to threaten Yvraine and the Farseer. My Vanguard Veterans also moved left to finish off the damaged Wave Serpent.

Psychic Maelstrom went very hot, doing 5 wounds to the Wave Serpent while a Smite left it with one left. For Shooting I did First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire on my front units via Straken, removing almost all the Guardians when the Guardsmen had finished. The Wave Serpent then got finished off with normal Plasma shots.

For Charges my Bike Captain made it into the Ravager undamaged while the other Captain got into Yvraine. At this point Matt conceded the game.





Post-Game Thoughts

 I think I made a few errors at the end of the game as Matt had been talking about calling it. I should have put both Captains into Vehicles in order to limit the amount of running away that the Eldar can do, although with Upon Wings of Fire my Vanguard Veterans could have likely brought the Wave Serpent down on Turn 4, or at least damaged it. Yvraine was of no use to me as her powers are now useless and she's basically a Smite bot, I've just always wanted to kill her!

Looking the game over I don't know much of what Matt could have done differently on a macro level. Getting stuck in with the Shining Spears was probably the only big mistake, he did get points out of it but those could have been better used to hunt the Vanguard Veterans or something. If that's what it came down to I can easily block for them though, Matt just didn't have the firepower to chew through my Guardsmen.

I played pretty well, definitely made some positioning mistakes that cost me here and there with the Shining Spear Charge being the big one. Overall my army movement and target selection was on point and I knew what I had to do to win. This was the first game I moved the Guardsmen up as aggressively as I could and I think that's going to be the usual playstyle, it's very hard to most armies to deal with that many bodies running at them and tying things up. Absorbing Overwatch and denying shooting also really helps my Blood Angels live longer.

As far as lists go, I'm not sure what to do with Ynaari. Dark Reapers are VERY expensive now, you're looking over 500 Points for a max unit and two mins which doesn't even factor in Yvraine, a Farseer, 1-3 Warlocks, and two Wave Serpents, most of which is mandatory. That's well into 1100-1200 Points just for that! I really don't like the Guardians, they just die too easily and don't do enough work, I'd probably stick with Rangers as they live through a good amount of attacks and can be placed on Objectives. Running one big unit of Reapers and one big unit of Shining Spears seems very viable, I'd probably go with ~6 though. Ynaari is feeling a bit dead though, they just meltdown if almost any Psychic Power doesn't go through when you look at the cost of their big units. They'll certainly be around but I'd be surprised to see them at the top tables regularly, at least for the moment.

My list performed very well now that I started playing it correctly, imagine that. I really like the smaller Death Company units compared to one big one, it lets me hit in more areas which is what the army needs. Giving them all Chainswords also makes the units multi-purpose so I'll never be left out in the cold. The Vanguard Veterans were a surprise hit, I took them because when you do the math versus points they're better against standard Vehicle/Monster profiles than anything Guard can buy, including Lascannon Heavy Weapon Teams (which are awful). They work so incredibly well with Blood Angels because you can re-deploy them to negate their 12" range, it's easy to get Captains around them (in my list) and they get Chapter Tactics which makes them viable in melee.

For revisions I'm still considering if the Priest is worth it and also looking at the Blood Angel Battalion. Having +1/+2 Attacks matters in some matchups for the Guardsmen but I don't know if those are common enough to warrant the cost and the extra Character/Deployment. I was testing a unit of Bullgryn, who are amazing but don't work well in my list, which made him a lot better but now he might get side-lined. For Troops the Primaris Marines are supposed to be durable backline Objective holders that can also melee it up when they need to, Scouts on the other hand are for getting on the hard to grab Objectives while also being able to get into melee when needed. I don't think I'd ever put them as close as I could to my opponent, it's too risky, but the option is nice. So far I think the split I have works well.

I have another game on Friday this week so I'm hoping to get a few less proxies and get another test game in. I'm getting near a finished product at this point and I honestly think this type of build is Tier 1 as far as competition goes, the only known thing that I feel bad against is triple Necron Vault. However anyone who thinks that list isn't getting nerfed in November and wants to spend the money on it can be my guest. Anyways thanks for reading and I will be back soon with another game.
 

Episode 73.2: A Breakdown of Competitive Chaos in the Post-FAQ Meta

Since I'm started testing my Imperium list, posting it around online and also tossing up my Battle Reports, I've gotten a lot of people who seem to be disappointed that I wasn't carrying the banner for Chaos anymore. This seems strange to me because I wasn't the most successful Chaos player out there but perhaps I was one of the most vocal. Perhaps I also played off-beat armies as my Cultists builds never followed what people assumed were good (because I disagreed with those builds) and I did what I could to get more lime-light on the Plagueburst Crawler list and how dumb it was.

In any case, I'm not abandoning Chaos entirely. One of the reasons I went with Imperium is because I like armies with a lot of models which isn't something Chaos can do while being competitive at this point in time. I also didn't want to buy what would amount to an entirely new army, most of my currently owned models are invalidated by the FAQ. I'm not bitter about these changes, it was just a bit of a financial issue to hit the ground running with Chaos right away. Finally I'm someone who really like to prove the 40K Internet Hivemind wrong, for better or worse when it comes to my competitive performance. Day 1 of the FAQ I saw people saying how over Blood Angels were and how gunlines are now unstoppable, well I wanted to disprove that.

With that out of the way I have been thinking about what works in Chaos inside of the new meta that's still to be explored. To that effect I'm going to lay out how I see the meta changing, the nerfs that Chaos took in the FAQ, both direct and indirect, and finally present some builds that might get people thinking about what Chaos can do. So let's start!


This Is Not The Meta You're Looking For

One major thing that people need to grasp for this discussion is that in terms of unexplored territory we are as close to the launch of 8th Edition as we have been since that actually took place. Some units are known to be good which gives people a leg up in building armies but not one successful tournament list made it through the FAQ untouched. Not a single one. In light of this many players are trying to squeeze old lists into the new meta that Games Workshop has created, you'll see a lot of armies with three Flyrants, three units of Dark Reapers, etc. if you poke around any of the online haunts. It's easy to cling to the familiar, but it's not always optimal.
Let's start with where I think the meta will go. For purposes of this one way discussion I'd like to lay out my exact opinion of the Warhammer 40K Meta and how it's formed. The first step is whatever the Internet thinks is good will see a major pickup in play. When there are no tournament results to base "opinions" on people will just shout that anything is the next top tier army and those who shout the loudest get the most attention. We can see this at work right now all over the place when it comes to gunlines, popular opinion says they're the top of the hill right now.

The next step in forming the meta are going to be the first few major events and what does well at them. Having published lists with weight behind them allows players to start picking up those armies or at least say they're good in order to make it seem like they have an educated opinion on the game. Sometimes this is without really understanding why the list did well, which I have a perfect example of. At the Las Vegas Open several months back a Blood Angels Primaris army did very well, made Top 8 in fact. People took this as Primaris are good but in reality that player just had an absurdly easy road to the Top 8, playing against no Eldar/Ynaari and no real gunlines. How do I know this? The pilot of that army plays in my area and it's widely discussed.

The final step is when the meta actually settles. This happens when certain armies have done well at numerous large events and have also trickled down into individual groups so that people actually learn the list, why it's good or not good, and opinion starts giving away to tested fact. Prior to the Spring FAQ that's where we were, there were multiple armies that had been through the fire and proven themselves. Now we're back to square one.

 As of typing this right now the Internet group-think is shouting that gunlines are king, Deep Strike is dying, and everything is up for grabs. This is an extremely simplistic view of the game right now based on almost nothing but the change to how Reserves work. It's true that not being able to drop models, unmolested, into an opponent's lines on Turn 1 is a boon to gunlines. This lets them shoot at the non-Reserves at least once, maybe twice, before they have to defend themselves. Similarly it feels like a hammer blow to armies that relied on these strategies such as Demons and Blood Angels because their army might get shot up before they can try to even the odds. Spend some time on DakkaDakka or Reddit and you'll see a lot of armies built with all that in mind.

So where do I think the meta is actually headed? Well to answer that question I do have to say that I only exist within the ITC, Progressive Scoring sphere of influence. I do not play Core Rulebook Missions as they're not suitable for competitive games or events. This colors my perception a bit but with the ITC being so popular in North America I think I'm on pretty common ground with many other players.

In actuality I expect very little to change. Gunline armies are going to rise up and start cutting screens/chaff to keep up with a perceived arms race against other gunlines. Competent assault armies will retain, or add, elements to strip screens away within 1-2 Turns and then continue charging the gunlines and wreaking havoc. Once that happens enough times we'll go back to more balanced lists, offensively, which is where we were prior to the FAQ.

The fact of the matter is gunlines don't work in this Edition and are going to get worse if Games Workshop can throw together competent, progressive scoring missions and remove the multi-mission issue we have right now. By definition gunlines stand around and shoot, they don't take ground and they can't hold ground when they try. The shooting armies that do work are much more mid-ranged focused, this is stuff like Dark Eldar, Tyranids, and correctly built Tau. If you're looking to combat gunlines all you need is cheap shooting that can mathematically kill three units of Scouts or four units of Imperial Guard infantry. Bake that into your list, make sure it can survive a turn of shooting, and you're golden.


Chaos Rising, or Falling?

 Now that I wasted many paragraphs detailing why I don't think the game is going to change from a macro perspective, what actually happened to Chaos? Well beyond the obvious things like The Rule of Three, Cultists and Poxwalkers being nerfed, and the blanket change to Reserves there's a few others things. A big one for Chaos is that you cannot Warptime units coming from Reserves, this shuts down strategies that may have come to the forefront like Drop Pods with Berserkers. These types of builds were kicked around before but now that the power level of the game has dropped with new restrictions I think there would have been strong viability there.

A very indirect nerf is that Chaos does not have access to the types of models I touched on above, that can remove screens efficiently from range. There are solutions but the goal is to get this done on the cheap and not as a main points of the list. Things like the Pink Horror Bomb were hit hard by the inability to come down on Turn 1 while units like Obliterators are simply overkill. This will lead to Chaos paying more for something other Factions can do on the cheap.

One more kick in the shins comes with the clarification of how FLY and Charging interact, along with being able to keep models out of melee by filling up multi-level terrain. Chaos has very poor models with FLY, both Raptors and Warp-Talons are overpriced and frankly unappealing. Chaos Lords with Jump Packs are not as good in a fight as their loyalist counter-parts (no Thunder Hammers, Storm Shields, and wonky Relics) which leaves some Demons and Heldrakes as the remainder. This means it's going to be easier to bubble out Charges from Chaos than other armies.

All this combines to limit the few units Chaos was leaning heavily on while outright removing Cultists which were the main cog in most of the powerful Chaos lists. Not being able to clog up the board leaves the Faction in a hole compared to Imperium as Imperial Guard was not touched. While you can still use Cultists they require a much higher tax than Guardsmen do both to deal with Morale as well as getting offense out of them. Comparatively Guard just picks up two Company Commanders, a Regiment, and away they go.


Oh Where Do We Go Now?

While it seems bleak for Chaos right now, I think there's some gold to be mined yet still. I'm going to detail very loose builds that I've been kicking around and focus on why I think they work but not dive into too much detail as these are templates, not fleshed out armies.
Nurgle Demon Vehicles

Anyone who's seen my Plagueburst Crawler games knows the effectiveness of Epidemius and Vehicles/Obliterators. With the still under-priced Crawlers being limited to a three of that list has lost power but remember most others have as well. What still works is the basic idea of the army, take resilient units and power them up with Epidemius to snowball the game.
Crawlers obviously still work in this but I love a unit of Blight-Haulers as well. They're an amazing Prescience, Warptime, and Miasma target which helps keep them around for the late game. Since they're a squad you can even get nine of them in a list, if you wanted to. Like Crawlers they benefit from everything Epidemius gives out and they shore up the weakness of Plagueburst Crawlers as they bring long-range, anti-tank shooting to the table. Defilers are another possible inclusion, while they aren't as strong defensively their offense and flexibility is under-appreciated. Sadly Obliterators have taken a backseat with the odd points increase to the Feculent Gnarlmaw pushing that model out of viability.

Other great additions to this type of build are Ahriman, Demon Princes, Nurglings, and Plaguebearers. You want to keep most of the offense focused on Nurgle Demons to get the Tally up but some peppering of other things here and there won't hurt. Vehicles also don't care about being a Death Guard Detachment, their only good Stratagem is the auto-explosion, so you can soup it up if you like.


Alpha Legion "Gunline-Bomb"

I've long railed against the Alpha Legion armies which relied on going first to win by swarming an opponent with Berzerkers and Cultists. That style list is just too swingy but a unit who makes great use of Alpha Legion is Noise Marines. While pricey when equipped with Sonic Blasters the ability to start them at mid-range is very strong and they don't mind hiding out a bit further away if you wind up going second. Even if they get killed they get to shoot which will help them take out screens no matter what and they love all the common buffs Chaos likes to bring. Even better you can shoot twice with them using the newly upgraded Battalion that Chaos can easily fill with minimum Cultist units.

This enables the beloved Bloodletter Bomb to ride again, have the Noise Marines gun down those pesky Charge blockers and then get into Combat with the Bloodletters. While they don't have FLY they do Charge quite far. Noise Marines also help clear space for them as they ignore Cover which should kill off the few models you need to climb up those ruins and into Combat.

Such a build would probably want as much as three Battalions with all the fun it can have through Command Points. It would also need anti-tank which can be obtained from a lot of places although Obliterators are probably taking a backseat in an already Command Point thirsty build. You could likely run this without Alpha Legion if needed but I think the -1 to Hit on the Noise Marines and the ability to put them where you want them is quite a big deal. They can even tie stuff up if you do get Turn 1!


Tide-o-Plague

With a lot of the too good models now being restricted and/or nerfed I think the the almost all Plaguebearer army finally has room to shine. Putting down around 120 Plaguebearers with Epidemius and the other Support Characters is nothing to sneeze at and is pretty resilient to a lot of the shooting out there. Speeding the Plaguebearers up with a Scrivener and their Instrument means you can get Charges going on Turn 2 while heavily controlling the board, take some Demon Princes along for the ride in case there's any big models that try to slow you down.

This is the type of list I think Obliterators would work well in as they can come down to get the Tally up to three as quickly as possible, speeding you up, and Deep Striking in the deployment zone is no issue with their 24" range. This build is pretty blatant with what it wants to do but by stuffing in some Characters and as many Plaguebearers as you can it will overwhelm a lot of fancier armies. If you're a true badass just run 180 Plaguebearers and let come what may.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So what are you looking at to keep the forces of Chaos among the top tables at your next event? I'd like to see what more committed players out there are thinking. I quite like the Noise Marines and Bloodletters, might be something to that...