Match Up Makes Winners – A Story of Meta-Lists by Dave Symcox

13 Sep

Is there such a thing as the perfect army list in a tournament?

Some would say of course, that certain codex’s are overpowered and you can sit deep down in your laboratory to create the perfect concoction of death that will beat all comers.

I on the other hand think differently: there is no such thing as the perfect army list – it is skill, luck and match ups over a six game tournament that determines a winner. You can indeed create a perfect army list to play a game against a specific opponent; however I wonder whether the tournament winner is the one that has predicted his most likely matches and tailored his list to suit that gamble.

A couple of years ago there was an imperial guard outbreak, 25% of army lists at a tournament were IG and more importantly (or should I say dangerously) Leafblower IG. Essentially the closest to a perfect concoction of death you could hope to get. An army list that had the best chance to take on all comers; high volume of shots, manoeuvrable, versatile and an alpha strike from Zeus himself.

The introduction of the Blood Angels codex (an awesome codex in its own right) only helped the IG cause. Some of the Blood Angels main strengths; feel no pain, large points in death star terminators, Mephiston and fearsome close combat dreadnaughts could be defeated by an IG player with the right tactics far easier than other codex’s were able to. A year ago, as much as half of some tournaments were made up of Blood Angel players… playing right into the IG’s hands.

And yet, as dominant as IG were, and as many tournaments as they were winning they did not have it completely there own way – a new threat was born: Daemons. Daemons could be on the IG’s doorstep turn 1, suck up the barrage of shooting and then counter attack, using fast cavalry units like Fiends into the IG’s lines the following turn. It was for these reasons that many players began to take Daemons to tournaments. Daemon players were secure in the knowledge that they were a threat against all armies, but in particular for the ever popular IG which they were almost guaranteed to play. Using this knowledge, Daemon players in the UK, spearheaded by top tournament goers such as Neil Kerr (the Scottish ETC Captain) or our own Rob ‘Showbiz’ Madely began to deep strike more aggressively: closer than was ever deemed safe before and IG found themselves being hunted.

Daemons were not the only army winning tournaments, Tyranids were too. The now famous Genestealer list popularised at the 2010 European Team Championships by the Polish team spread across the British Isles as an answer to Imperial Guard. The lists ability (which we covered in episode 6 in our meta-list segment) enabled 50+ Genestealers to infiltrate 18” from the IG lines, therefore allowing less time to be shot at while the Tervigon cast feel no pain on them: another fearsome menace that IG could not cope with.

Other armies were popping up, moulded into IG killers, such as our own Gary ‘The Voice’ Percival’s Blood Angels descent list. A list that had the potential to place awfully at a tournament if unlucky with matchups, but Gary was happy to make the risky gamble; knowing if his army could get past the first round he would be playing IG on the higher tables from that point on.

Suddenly, and from nowhere there was a question mark over Leafblower guard’s invincibility. There were players who were not using IG, yet winning tournaments; they had developed a list which was not the perfect concoction of death against all armies, instead a perfect concoction of death against IG.

IG wasn’t just a point and click army anymore, (in fact it never had been), some real planning was needed to ensure a victory let alone a tournament win against those that hunted it. As such, the popularity, (not effectiveness) of the IG army began to die and thus the  amount of IG armies at a tournament.

Then came Dark Eldar, and the excitement that had initially accompanied the release of the Blood Angels Codex was transferred onto the chicks of the 40K universe. Initially heralded as a weak codex, impossible to win with, they had a very stunted start at tournaments – its problem (surprise, surprise) was IG.  Dark Eldar’s reliance on first turn, a heavily covered board and glass hammer vehicles meant IG could be their worst match up. Ironically, it was the Dark Eldars release that acted as the catalyst for the 2nd demise in IG’s popularity.

The Blood Angel boom began to wane and any enthusiasm that was left was re-assigned to Dark Eldar. IG players found that Blood Angels, their most popular choice of food were starting to deplete, forcing them to move onto harder game such as Space Wolves. Any Blood Angels that did remain started to become hardened to IG’s tactics and set up a resistance to fight back. As the buffet decreased and the constant worry that Daemons would catch up with them continued to nag, tournaments saw a further decrease in the amount of IG players; opening the door for Dark Eldar.

Dark Eldar players suddenly found that they were free to pillage tournaments at will. IG were nowhere to be seen and certainly nowhere near the 25% of its heyday. In a 50 man tournament there would be perhaps 4 IG players, only 2 of which that were the leafblower variant. Players such as Mike Marlow (ranked 5th in the UK and whose army we covered in episode 10) began to win tournaments with his Dark Eldar, no longer even needing to worry about IG, instead could tailor his list to kill everything else.

Something unexpected then took place…Blood Angels who had been the hunted popped their heads above the parapet and found that their old enemy IG had left.  They too began to retrace their steps and win at tournaments. Our own Sharan ‘The Conservative’ Reddy won the Brighton Warlords tournament with his Blood Angel list and in episode 14 when describing the tournament said ‘I don’t even worry about IG’. This is not because Sharan doesn’t fear IG, on the contrary Sharan is aware they are a bad match up in many cases for him. He is merely playing the averages, hoping that due to IG’s dwindling numbers he will dodge them on his way to victory.

Time went on and finally rumblings were heard of a new threat: Grey Knights. A list which can throw down a torrent of fire to match IG, versatile like IG, manoeuvrable like IG; yet unlike IG, is tailored for Daemons and can pump out enough firepower and cleansing flame to clear a board of Genestealers within a single combat phase. Grey Knights hit the scene and they were scary; fortitude dreadnaughts, death dealing assassins, cheap henchmen, psycannons, cheap offensive transports  and enough psychic powers to impress Elderad himself. The Meta had changed again and all those tournament players that had tailored their lists to deal specifically with IG found the same lists could not deal with Grey Knights. Players such as our own Josh ‘The Master Debater’ Roberts (Current Masters Champion and UK no1) picked up the Grey Knights codex, immediately winning his first tournament; ‘Toy Soldier’ with them. In the hands of such an experienced player what could be done to beat them? Surely other players would follow and anyone that wasn’t using Grey Knights would be forced to scurry back into hiding.

Staggering numbers of players have begun to take Grey Knights to tournaments. At the recent Ribble Rumble it was very near that old golden 25% that IG used to enjoy. Many thinking, just like IG that Grey Knights are a near perfect army list, able to take on all comers; especially IG’s bane from the past Daemons, Genestealers and Blood Angel Descent lists. Because they are a very new codex, top tournament players have only just begun to find the winning formula with them, let alone an antidote against them. And then one player; Chris ‘The Accountant’ Green (UK’s no 2 ranked player), who coincidentally has been playing with Grey Knights himself all year came up with the most unlikely answer: Tau.

No one has seen Tau since 4th edition and they were probably at their best in 3rd. If a person finishes in the top half at a tournament with Tau these days it is seen as a very good placing. Yet, at the recent Ribble Rumble, Chris not only finished in the top half, he won the whole thing. Chris had assessed the main strengths of the Grey Knights and realised that Broadsides would smash the dreadnaughts making their fortitude power null and void, missile pods would shred their razorbacks – reducing their manoeuvrability and firepower, shield drones would scupper their rate of fire and, as is the rule with Tau, never allow those assassins or psychic buffer powers to even come near, (Chris goes through his full thinking in our most recent episode 21).

Strangely, the fact that Grey Knights are so good and popular, therefore changing the Meta meant that Chris could return to an old codex and design a list tailored for Grey Knights. Chris knew he was sure to meet at least 3 in a 2 day tournament and he had a plan: do the best he could against other armies that weren’t Grey Knights, play as many Grey Knight armies as possible and hope to avoid the really bad matches, and thus win The Ribble Rumble.

And so it wasn’t that Chris had the best army list at the tournament, the best units, firepower or indeed tactics. Instead, Chris had a plan… it was the age old plan which has been used for years by the best tournament players: design a list that would flip the current Meta on its head.



19 Responses to “Match Up Makes Winners – A Story of Meta-Lists by Dave Symcox”

  1. Franco September 13, 2011 at 14:46 #

    *ahem* Chris might not have been the only one to come up with that particular theory *ahem*

    • 40KUK September 13, 2011 at 20:25 #

      I know Mr Marrufo… I know, but I couldn’t get everyone in from around the UK. I’ll get ya in next time xx

      • Franco September 14, 2011 at 01:46 #

        Everyone? I think you’ll find ‘everyone from around the UK’ when regarding Tau players is about 3 men and a dog dude. Despite Chris’ victory I don’t think we’ll see a resurgence unfortunately, not until the new codex comes out.

      • 40KUK September 16, 2011 at 11:59 #

        Yep, you msy be right there…many will be holding out for the new codex, but we may see a few inspired players dust their Tau off from the back shelf and see what they ca do.

  2. Mike Collins September 13, 2011 at 20:45 #

    Franco – your now considered ‘ahead of your time’ just like Brunel or Jeff capes.

    Great read Dave – I can sense the poker player in you. Maybe you should have some poker at the UKGT! I’m sure that we (if im right) cant be the only ones!

    • 40KUK September 16, 2011 at 12:00 #

      Now you may have stumbled onto something there sir! A good idea which I will obviously claim as my own if we do it 😉

  3. Israel Del Rio September 17, 2011 at 01:04 #

    awesome read sir! Gonna share this with some american buddies and see how they react to tau being a legitimate answer to grey knights!

    • 40KUK September 18, 2011 at 16:21 #

      Awesome mate, in fact I wonder whether the fact that we are only seeing a handful of Tau players that are doing this that Grey Knights won’t bother to change and thus Tau will remain the answer in the next couple of months.

  4. Imperial Vox Cast September 17, 2011 at 07:55 #

    A great plan, assuming you run into Grey Knights early and often and it appears that he did. Luckily the meta is mostly centered around vehicles, so the same things he built for with grey knights should work well against them. I think it is a great idea to play against the meta. I am glad to see an army like the Tau pull some publicity and success.

    • 40KUK September 18, 2011 at 16:22 #

      Yep, the same principle would apply to dealing with imperial guard, especially if the Tau got first turn. With that Ethreal safely tucked in the Broadside unit there is very little the guard could do to mess with the Tau’s poor leadership.

      • Neil Gilstrap September 22, 2011 at 18:30 #

        well, except 9 twin-linked lascannons and as many heavy bolters into that unit. 🙂

  5. Mike Marlow September 20, 2011 at 14:00 #

    Hooray i got a mention!!!!

    • 40KUK September 21, 2011 at 11:29 #

      Of course you did sir… and I didn’t even use use a line like ‘the scourge of the south’ 😉

      • Mike Marlow September 27, 2011 at 18:44 #

        ill have u know im the fluffy bunny of the south!

      • 40KUK September 30, 2011 at 01:15 #

        Mmmmmmm – not what I’m hearing.

  6. Joby Davis October 2, 2011 at 16:29 #

    Just read this, very interesting – Nice to see the Tau getting some love finally! Normally when a new Codex comes out I read through it thinking “Ouch, nasty for my Tau”, when the Greyknights came out I thought they were awesome, but Tau could take them. The same plays with Dark Eldar, love the list but Tau have a serious Hex on them (mainly thanks to the trusty Missile Pod).

    Will see if the Tau go up in Numbers at next years 40KGT! I took mine to this years and I think there were 3 Tau Players in total (which is pretty much the maximum I have seen at any Tourney) it would be nice to see them well represented again!

    Got my Ticket for 2012 so I will be fielding them again anyway! (But without an Ethereal – cant bring myself to join that Bandwagon!)

    • 40KUK October 2, 2011 at 18:20 #

      Great that you got the ticket and we will see ya there… I don’t whether the numbers will go up, but if the amount of Grey Knights stay the same, certain Tau builds will def be very effective.

  7. Zane Dufour February 12, 2012 at 22:22 #

    What was his list, is there anywhere I can find it?

  8. 40KUK February 12, 2012 at 22:48 #

    Dude, I can’t remember it exactly, but Chris speaks about it in the Ribble Rumble Episode and in the Tau Special. If you click on episodes and scroll down you will see it.


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