Monday, April 23, 2012

Adapt to Survive!

There's been a lot of talk about Space Wolves going off the boil recently. Not as many people are taking them to tournaments anymore since there's (literally) shinier stuff out there in the form of GK and Necrons. Don't get me wrong I can see why people are attracted to these books. It's no secret that GK are incredibly powerful and Necrons can be tough to beat. However, I think part of the problem is that people aren't evolving their lists. There are three types of gamers at tournaments. Those who write a fun list with units they enjoy using, those who come up with an innovative list and play it to its best and finally those who just copy the second group but don't have the tactical acumen to pull it off.

Personally I probably have qualities of all three of those. I try and do something different with fun units but I'm not that great tactically. I have some inspired moments but the people who win tournaments are pretty solid throughout the entire battle. Here's how I see the general tournament scene at the moment. Well before I start let me say that these are sweeping generalisations for which I make no apology! Anyway here goes.

In my, somewhat limited, experience the tournament scene flows in a cycle. A new codex is released and internet forum dwellers sit down and try to figure out how to put together the most horrible list they can with it. Let's take a look at Grey Knights for an example that people will be familiar with. So the book came out and everyone was taking strike squads in razorbacks with support from psyfleman dreads. Essentially ignoring all the fun stuff and focusing on the real workhorses. The principle here is that "it works for SW and BA so why not GK too?". These lists work fine for a while until someone figures out a simple counter. Essentially if you can pile enough transport killing stuff into a list then you're onto a winner.

So the GK players eventually come up with something new. Elements like the psyfleman remain but they are now joined by massive blobs of  paladins with every upgrade under the sun and people are crying about their effectiveness in KP games. That is, of course, until someone takes Fear of Darkness/IG-thing-I-can't-remember-the-name-of and makes the big blog of paladins run from the board. Back to the drawing board and someone spots that "hey if I take Coteaz I can buy a 12pt squad to just sit in a razorback and pump out S6 shots from the turret". Let's not talk about how broken that is but the point is that they have more points to spend on shiny things like purifiers.

At every step of the journey there are people who are still trying to make the older list work. These are the people who just copy lists from the net without understanding how to use them. GK have probably been the worst for this since the razorspam thing doesn't really take much thought to be deadly. With a little bit of tactical knowledge it can be deadly with a real understanding of the game it can be devastating. So anyway, we're now presented with a range of different builds that can all be pretty fun until along comes the Necrons and ruins the party. Shooting is king right? WRONG. Here's 2+ turns of night fighting and 15pt models that can eat tanks!

The people who've just copied a netlist will repeatedly lose to these armies because basically they've just gotten used to rolling dice and stuff dying without putting much thought into it. The people who really understand the game go one of two ways either a) adapt their list to compensate e.g. throw in searchlights or more deepstriking or b) switch to using Necrons! Their ability to manipulate Night Fighting and terrain are the perfect counter to Grey Knights.

Necrons have undergone a similar evolution where a couple of builds now stand out. Lists with dual command barges, 3 annihilation barges and troops supported by royal courts. The alternative being scarab farms with Imotekh in tow. Sweeping generalisation I know but you do see a lot of both. Undoubtedly the next codex (who knows when or what that will be!) will change things up again. For me this is the joy of tournament play. The fact that a list you took to a tournament a month ago and did well with is suddenly impotent or vice versa. Now some lists stand the test of time but gimmicky things will always need to evolve.

All of this evolution requires a lot of cash. In order to keep your list up-to-date you need to have most of the decent stuff in a codex at your disposal. This may be why we see some people use the same old stuff but personally I think it's laziness.

So applying this to Space Wolves. That generic list with grey hunters in rhinos joined by rune priests with long fangs and speeders in support just can't cut it anymore. That list was fantastic against other lists of the same type since Grey Hunters are, in my opinion, still the best troops in the game and long fangs are cheaper than most heavy weapon teams. However, put that list against a Grey Knight gun-line and you'll lose unless your opponent is a total moron.

What's the solution? Evolution! Look at the codex again and see if all those units you discounted as "un-competitive" are now something that could work. If you pit your wall of advancing rhinos against a GK wall of razorbacks you know who'll win. Those speeders won't last long to S6 fire so throw in a couple of wolf scout packs and those much needed psyfleman dreads will have something to worry about. Drop a squad of grey hunters in behind their lines in a drop pod (assuming we're talking henchmen not strike squads with warp quake) and start ripping into things. Make the most of the new TWC models and distract them with a deathstar they can't ignore whilst you bring up the grey hunters.

Ultimately what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't stick to the same list and expect to do just as well tomorrow as you will this time next year. Don't let the internet tell you what should be in your list (yes I appreciate the irony here). The reason people have such success with the "flavour of the month" lists is because they designed it to beat last month's flavour which every other sucker is still using!!

Finally, when you're planning a tournament list you have to think about what you want to achieve. Do you have that killer instinct needed to win or are you just going to play some different people regardless of the outcome? Personally I want to use something that will be fun but might still win a couple of games if I play well. The list maketh not the man!

1 comment:

  1. I was talking to Bradius Prime at the GT about taking Wolves forwards in tournaments dominated by shiney silver men and I brought up Blood Claws, and "horde' SW.

    Hear me out!

    Vs Necrons they are as scary as Grey Hunters in combat (sans banner) and vs GK they are just another Marine . But unlike any other Marine unit (except Death Company and BT Crusader Squads) they can be taken above 10. So they can take a few more hits but still hang around with that MEQ stat line.

    Also Fenrisian Wolves - cheap, but hit like Marines (except armour save and LD) which again vs Necrons is nasty, but vs GK is irrelevant as they have power weapons. As they are beasts so they pin a unit down earlier.

    In addition Gk and Necrons are so good at killing AV11 perhaps that 35 points we spend on a Rhino might better spent on a few more Marines?

    Also I beat Draigo wing a few weeks ago in my first game against them with IG.
    http://blood-claw.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/open-war-game-3-draigoooooo.html

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