As the new edition approaches just around the corner, I have started to feel that 5th edition is a lame duck. I won't say I hate 5th, or even dislike it; 5th edition was great (though, melta/tank spam is getting old). But this isn't intended to be a trip down memory lane. I'm writting this to share what the lame duck phase has taught me.
Definition of EXPLORE
a : to investigate, study, or analyze : look into b : to become familiar with by testing or experimenting
: to travel over (new territory) for adventure or discovery
: to examine especially for diagnostic purposes
Exploration. That's the gist of what this has taught me.
With as much humility as the internet allows me to convey, I don't need tournament practice. The flash point for me was when Titan games had their tournament in December. I had just bought the contemptor (I was a dreadnought hater). I modeled it and painted it and really wanted to show it off. The best place to show something off at is a game store you've never been to but I really didn't want a drop pod melta dread in a 1500 point list. On top of that I wanted to show off the thunder wolves too. Though Twolves are awesome, in 1500 they're a bit much.
I went to my go-to about 40k, OST, and presented the dilemma. At first we went back and forth trying to justify it and talking about meta and all the usual things him and I go over when talking about tournament play. Then he said "You know....it really doesn't matter. You can make it work whatever you bring."
5th edition has been around for so long that if you haven't bandwagon'd every new codex that has come out, you should be a PHD in whatever your army is. And that's the case with me and wolves. I have the standard list down (I'm not invincible with it, and certainly can and will get beat with it) so why do I need to bring that list? I don't. And that's when I started looking into the fringe choices in the book.
As opposed to what most people think, there are a few more unit choices aside from rune priests, grey hunters, thunder wolves and long fangs. (I know right?) I started looking around the book and figuring out what I wanted to do for fun, and I ran with it.
I started playing anything I wanted. Wolf priest with blood claws all on bikes, lone wolf with just mark of the wulfen, foot slogging assault cannon dreads, 15 blood claws in a land raider, land speeders, fenrisian wolves, heavy bolter long fangs ( 10 heavy bolters for 230 points is A LOT of dakka).
Pushing boundaries of the codex refreshed what most consider a good but boring codex. I got so wrapped up in my set 'core' list that I never gave units a chance. Yeah fenrisian wolves just get slaughtered. Who cares? How exciting is that one game where they show up and beat up blood crushers? You'll never have that experience if you never play them.
I can only imagine that if we did a scan of a gamblers brain and 40k players brain, we'd see the same christmas tree map of activation. I'm not going to speak for everyone, but I love the gamble. I'm afraid to go to the casino because I know I'd have to come home and tell the wife I sold everything we have and we're lucky the house is in her name. I love the rush when something unlikely happens.
The only complication with wanting to explore your codex is your fellow gamers. I would quickly have abandoned this mentality if every time I wanted to bring an exploratory/fun list I had to face someone as the store "practicing their tournament list". OST and I have a gentlemen agreement for this play style. For the past 2 months whenever him and I play we bring something just for fun that we don't usually bring, even if it's just a single unit.
Then something unexpected happen, like the grinch's heart growing three times its size, my game got better! The premise is simple, but one I didn't see: If you bring baller stuff, it doesn't take as much skill and effort to win. If you bring subpar units, you fight for everything you get. The simple outcome is that you tighten up your play. You remember what your units do, you apply strong strategy, you think out side of the box.
I can't say that when 6th comes out I'll still run the weird, 2nd string units, but I hope to quickly get back to this place. I'm actually happy playing 40k. Its a hobby again. Once you get to your comfort level, stop saying "I want to practice my tournament list." You don't need to practice with your tournament list, after 4 or 5 games, you know what your list is and you know what it can do. Go outside, get out of your comfort zone and feel the wind in your hair...metaphorically.