Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So What Is Tier one anyway?

I got in a game recently with Old School Terminator, leader and founder of the Dark Future Games crew, at the FLGS. Adepticon fever is sweeping the shop as we get to the finalization of our lists and begin the process of getting the models to paint. Some of us are more ready than others both in terms of lists and paint. I find myself in a dilemma as I am faced with painting an entire 1850 point Dark Eldar force or paint a couple unfinished models and bring the Craftworlders to the show. I digress though from the point of this entry.
OST brought a Blood Angels list that is apparently pretty common on the forums and it considered by many to be a “Tier 1” list. It was a mech list that brought razorbacks and Baal predators. He told me though he had modified the list in the weapons department. Rather than the bevy of heavy flamers he had assault cannons on the razorbacks. After the first turn I was a bit worried, but as soon as I got the wychs into the fray his list and the lists primary strategy fell apart.

I am no Space Marine player, ask anybody and they will tell you how much I loathe them. I saw a list that seemed pretty strong in concept. He had several troop choices and lots of fire power. He had a Librarian to wreak some havoc and a very strong initial push. After dismantling his army and a cry of uncle in the 5th turn we really started to wonder why this was considered a “Tier 1” list.

This got me contemplating about what really makes up a “Tier 1” list and who really decides its the cream of the crop. Maybe we just play differently than a majority of people on the net, but I have played against several opponents using armies and lists that were considered bush league and tier 2, 3 or even 4.
We have several players who play Daemons and according to many famous and semi famous, sometimes in their own minds, web personalities this army is crap and totally non competitive. They rank Tyranids as “Tier 3”. I know this really annoys OST as he is a nid player and his bugs are always a major contender. Last time I looked I was tied in a win loss record with OST and his bugs.

I have looked at many lists the web at large considers tournament contenders and “Tier 1”. Although they are pretty tough they have so many exploitable weaknesses an experienced player will walk right through them as I did against the Blood Angels Mech list. It's almost as if math hammer is taking priority over common sense and basic list building strategies. Basically people are putting way to much thought into it and forgetting this is a two player game. If it looks good on paper it doesn’t mean its going to do what you want it to do. Having 5 man tactical squads in razorbacks is one of the easiest ways to get all your objective grabbing units killed. I had one Wych squad wipe out most of the 5 man squads while the other tied up and killed one of the daka dreads he had in the list. The wychs even took the predators out of commission while killing the tactical squads. The tanks would have died quicker if old school had not swapped out the heavy flamers for assault cannons. That was the work of two Wych squads, granted one had Lelith in it, and two ravagers. Lady Malys and her Incubi were to busy hunting the librarian to even get involved in the rest of the battle.
I think the game would have ended quicker if it had been a Seer Council and not wychs in the mix.

SO you have to be saying by now SeerK do you have a point? I do in fact and I apologize for the long seemingly incoherent rambling. My point is build your own lists. Don't use lists off the internet that promise killer tournament wins. Don't pay money for a list that is toted as being top tier and is actually a dud. Build your own list and don't listen to the haters and trolls saying its uncompetitive or will never win. Build it, develop it and make it your own. Learn it inside and out. Constantly changing armies or lists in the name of victory is why we have so many people playing space marines and making the tournament circuits the monsters they are today. Just because somebody wins a tournament does not mean you should copy their list. Then we have a bunch of tournaments filled with cookie cutter slap fights between boring uninspired lists. Its like watching grass grow or sea urchins mating. Just plain not fun. This is one of the big reasons I don't publish lists. I don't want to run into my own army at a tournament and play solitaire. Ok rant over. I had to vent, it happens form time to time. So I know I may get trolled and this may generate some comments good and bad. SO chime in I want to discuss this whole “Tier 1” shenanigans.

Next time I hope to have a battle report in using Mandrakes. I am looking forward to seeing what these guys can do.

Until then....................

Blood Runs, Anger Rises, Death Wakes, War Calls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. I come from a background in CCGs where a lot of this terminology and mindset seem to originate. I think one thing to note is that a lot of the 'tier 1' lists people see on the internet rarely get played properly when picked up by someone else. Those who build them do so around a specific mindset and playstyle, and it is often very hard to describe proper use in a very concise manner for internet viewers to digest.

    Very often, I find these lists are the best place for new players to start for a couple of reasons. The biggest is that almost all of these lists have the variety and quantity of tools necessary to face off against a lot of lists. This makes them 'decent' for almost anyone to pick up.

    The second is that, by learning the appropriate deployment, movement, and battle strategies for the army, you grow as a player by being able to adapt them to other armies. Basically you have to learn how the list 'works'. Even the simplest-looking list isn't really a point-and-shoot affair.

    Once the general knows how the properly run the list, the list becomes a force multiplier for his skill level. You see great players running very efficient lists at a lot of major events because they rely on that efficiency to keep the odds up. When your army is efficient, you can make calculated risks and still have the means to make up for flukes in dice. It also means that when things go right that you have more tools to leverage the now weakened parts of your opponents' armies.

    I'd say that while all 5th edition codices are truly competitive, many lists get labeled 'tier 1' that aren't truly so. A tier 1 list should be extremely efficient and ALSO relatively easy to teach to a new player. The more rules interactions and scenarios that need to be explained, I think that pushes the power level down a bit. In 40k, Tier 2 is still really good. In CCGs a much more limited set of decks are created, so you have very few 'tiers'. I think 40k has this expanded out and a lot of people still use the CCG scale. I think what most people see are lists that are maybe tier 1.25 or 1.5 on their scale and labeling them tier 1. They are still extremely competitive, but require knowledge of tons of interactions to really be played well.

    I hope that makes sense. I think 'net lists' get a bad rap due to players not fully understanding the mechanics involved. To be truthful though, there are also some lists that just don't live up the the hype.

  2. You make some very good points and you make a very good arguement. I have to agree that net lists can get a bad rap. I have not thought about the aspect you bring up about net lists tough. They can teach a new player how things work together and the mechanics of the game.

    They can give a new player a spring board into the hobby if they don't know where to start with list building.

    I also believe in efficiency and it is hard for new players to run a list when they don't know the mechanics as well as the person who built the list. This can give a bad rap to a list.

    that said I find many lists deemed tier one rather inefficient and not to well thought out. Maybe my playing style is different, but this highly toted blood angels list I beat like a red headed step child rolled over pretty easily. OST is a very experienced player who has been in the hobby for years and he could not believe the beating this list took.

    I just wonder why some of the rather influential people in the blog sphere and forums are putting up these lists and calling them good.

  3. It may have been a number of reasons why you rolled the BA list so easily.

    DE love av11, particularly pred side armour. Also BA pay a lot for having fast vehicles, but it's not worth a lot when they face a faster army. Finally Lady M making her squad immune to magic powers was a hard counter to the libby. It may have been that your list (and maybe DE in general) is a good counter to the BA mech list.

    Maybe the BA mech list does better against other armies. Maybe your friend wasn't use to the way the mech BA list should be used. Has he played much with MSU mech lists ?

    Although sometimes boring net lists are normally efficient when in comes to upgrades.

    I completely agree with you in that a player should make sure he has a list that he develops and most importantly plays the way the player enjoys. However net lists are good to compare you list against; how could my list fair against that ?, is that unit more effective at the same role I give one of the units I've picked.


  4. A strong list is certainly useful, but I think the number 1 factor in victory is a general's familiarity with his list and what it can do. When you've played a list long enough, you don't even have to consider it conciously anymore, you've just got all it's tricks and quirks bubbling around in your subconcious affecting your decisions. It's an enourmous synergistic boost to combat effectiveness.

    Frankly, this is one reason I think that you and I did so well at the team tourney last month. Both of us are so familiar with each other (from beating each other down over and over) that we were enormously confident in what both sides of our force could do. Players that just threw lists together, or even came up with new "Synergized" lists, weren't running with the same familiar confidence in what everything could do.

  5. Excellent points. Vogrin you make a good point from the team aspect. When you are so familiar with another army and the player using said army you have a level of synergy that is beyond list synergy. You know what you are going to do and you do it with extreme confidence.

    Rathstar, I think there was a bit of lack of familiarity with the way the list and codex worked. DE do love AV 11, but I was haywireing most everything so armor was a non issue. I see what you are getting at though.

  6. Taking a less efficient army that you are reasonably successful with and enjoy playing is fine. It's great even. I think you do need a very good list to win consistently but events like NOVA reward all levels of play equally. This is great as you can come with any list and expect to play lists of equivalent power.

    We all have favourite armies or units, sometimes knowing that the other unit is better and more efficient just isn't enough to convince you to switch.

    Great article.

  7. What Vogrin said.People think tankbusta's suck compared to Lootas in an ork list...but I use them almsot every game, especially in tournaments, and they suite my play style well. It's all about taking things you're comfortable with or suite your tactics. Play the way you want,and avoid units you don't like using.Of course, homework is vital. The guy at the Hard Boys semi-finals was using camo-netting to give his guys a save even after he moved them. I found out later this was not so. Do your homework, and you've probably got a 50/50 if he plays as well as you.