Wednesday, November 13, 2013

OLB - Obsessive List Builder

My name is Fly and I have a problem. I am an obsessive list builder. I hope that I am not alone.
Today I sit in a courthouse in Lansing.
No, the jig isn't up and they finally haven't found me. I'm not a renegade. I'm just a possible juror. Luckily for me, in the "potential juror instructions" portion of the automated "Juror's Hotline," they informed me that I could bring my laptop and access their free WiFi to "work while waiting." I appreciate their sincere attempt to ensure that I don't lose productivity for my workplace.

Instead, I plan to take those allowances by our gracious county to GOOF OFF! WAHOOOO! Internet, here I come! And being on the internet for me typically falls into a pattern.
Usually, I'll meander around the normal blogs, read about competitive gaming, check on some hobby progress blogs, read some battle reports, drool over completed models. After I get up to speed on that, something else will catch my attention, then I'm reading about the Lions or checking on funny memes, or reading about conspiracy theories (put on your tin foil hats!). Eventually, I realize I'm now wasting time (which is what the internet is all about), I take a deep breath and I close my browser. When you have unfretted access to the internet, nothing good will ever happen. Ever. You need enormous will power to be able to turn that thing off.

And when I do finally turn off the internet, I can indulge in a different compulsion: List building. Warhammer 40k has so many variables in an individual game. There are differences in players, differences in codices, differences in what models you and your opponent own, randomness in dice and list building choices. Just looking at list building choices, there are literally millions of variations that can occur to get to that around 1850 point list from your potential books. You've been there, I'm sure, at 1855 points, trying to cut five points to get your legal list. Do you drop meltabombs? Do you drop a powerfist and add a power weapon? Do you take off Night Shields and swap a blaster?
When I list build, I use Microsoft Excel. Even though I have access to Army Builder, I generally don't use it. I know its supposed to be easier, but I think it has a critical flaw: It allows you to not read your books. You need to read them. You need to look over the boxes and special rules so you can explore new ideas and inspire yourself. On top of that, you get to know your book so well that you don't need to read it as often to look up points costs. You know them now, bonus.
Excel is great because it does the tedious adding for you and keeps your stuff in nice little columns. I suggest trying it out, because you really only need to know how to type and use the auto-sum feature.

And this is why I do it. I work on building lists over and over again. I start with a concept and a book, I look through the book and figure what in that book helps accomplish that concept best, put the pieces together in different configurations and then click save.
Then I do it again.
Then again.
And again.
But I could type all day long. I'm going to walk through the process with my favorite book: Chaos Space Marines.

It is list building time.

Well, I'm firing up Excel. Before I get to putting in units, I want to start with an idea. Before I even get to that, lets review the current style of competitive Chaos. Hrmmm, "competitive chaos" doesn't seem to work that well, unless you work Daemons in there somewhere. I don't want to do that. Chaos Marines are pretty popular though, just not pulling in top 3's at GT's and large events.
Either way, this is what the most competitive lists are using some or all of these components in no particular order:

Plague Marines
The goal of those lists seems to involve quick assaults, early board control and easy removal of enemy scoring units. I can get behind those concepts.
There's things that I think can really work for Chaos. Chaos has speed and the ability to win nearly any combat it gets involved with. Pairing them together, we can see why Spawn and Bikers are good. But, as been discussed on the internet via dead-horse-beating, Heldrakes compete in the Fast Attack spot, and dang, Heldrake is just too damn good.
I'm going to make a statement that will get some peoples' pulses pounding: You only need one Heldrake.
I have a decent amount of experience running with two Heldrakes and with one. My games go better when I use one. This is going to come into play shortly.
I want to focus on speed, assaults and the ability to score objectives to win the game. The units that can accomplish the speed and assaults are in that Fast Attack slot and if we're playing below 2k, we only have 3 of those spots to work with. So we're going to have to look elsewhere to make an idea like this come to fruition. Bikers and Spawn have very similar pros and cons. Their pros: very fast, very tough and a bargain. Their cons: they want to be in assault generally, extremely weak versus flyers. Particulars, the Spawn lack an armor save and don't have guns but have an ocean of wounds. Bikes only have one wound but get a jink and armor save. I enjoy them both and can see times in which I would want one or the other. Why not take both?

The Elite section is a drag. It has some alternative deployment in the form of Terminators (my NCU), and has our Cult Troops that aren't really troops. Possessed are a hard sell. Mutilators are like, er, a, uh, how to put this politely... they are a subpar choice. I'm sure someone could make a case for them and I would gladly hear them out... but it needs to be compelling. Chosen suffer in the sense that they are more expensive 3+ T4 bodies that don't score. Hum. Helbrute is a walking tank. Walking isn't fast.  I might not use anything out of this slot.

The Heavy section might be the pick-me-up I'm looking for. They have a couple of very interesting options that would further our goal of fast assault. The Land Raider is one. It is expensive and can carry an assault unit right into the heart of the enemy. It has an added bonus that not many armies can reliably knock down AV 14 before you can be amidst the enemy, hacking and slashing with glee. The downside for it though it's price and lack of decent firepower. It is a very expensive platform for the "assault vehicle" special rule.
The next unit that would further our goal is the Defiler. I enjoy the model (bonus) but sadly this addition left this unit lacking. Again, like the Helbrute, it just isn't fast. It got an unexplainable price increase, it's main gun is ordnance, making the assault version probably the best one to take. Fleet helps but doesn't get you right out of the gates on turn 1. On top of that, AV12 on the ground will find itself slagged pretty quickly after turn 1, even with a 5+ invulnerable save. A defense against this could be the ol' MAXIMUM THREAT OVERLOAD idea, as in, putting so many threats out there that your opponent will have to pick their poison. Why this doesn't want to work is because if everyone else is thumping up 13" to 18" on the first turn, and these guys are going 7" to 12". Makes it an easy choice on what to shoot first; the stuff that will get to you first. You do the hard thinking for them to your disadvantage.
Then the answer presents itself.
The Maulerfiend. That Maulerfiend! This guy seems to exude the list ideal: fast assault. Plus, its a wicked cool model. This guy is the speed he needs to be. 12" move plus a run, he is startlingly fast. On top of that, he should be able to demolish anything in combat that isn't dedicated to stomping walkers. We probably don't want him getting smashed by a Wraithknight or a Daemon Prince, but anything else is really fair game. His AV 12 can be overlooked in a way because he will be hitting whatever lines he needs to hit rather quickly. Twice as fast as the Dreadnaught or Defiler. He is also cheap as chips.

As far as Troops go, logic would dictate that I need to take something from the troops section. That's true, somewhat. But we live in 2013 and there are other ways to get troops aside from the "old fashioned" troops section. I probably will take a squad of token cultists to attempt to score my backfield objective (if there is one), but otherwise they will exist to make my opponents shoot at them to try to deny me an objective. I want my troops to be up front, controlling the middle of the board, shooting scoring units and not dying. When they are done not dying and shooting scoring units, I hope to have them on an objective. I want my troops to be part of the battle. My choices are Chaos Marines, Cultists and CULT TROOPS! Boom shakalakalaka. I love me some Plague Marines and I have to admit I am biased towards them. I usually put up blinders to any negatives when it comes to units that I love, but in this case it doesn't matter. They are great and I think you'd really be on shaky ground if you try to pick them apart. Fairly (or even under) priced, tough as nails, scoring, special weapon toting, great in assault death machines. I compare them to Terminators (comparable survivability against almost everything), where they come in at 40pts, a Plague Marine comes in at 24pts. They are similarly armed in shooting, with Plague Marines getting special weapons while terminators have to pay a hefty fee for a heavy. Plague Marines CAN score. Terminators CAN score too, also requiring a special list or character to unlock. On top of that, Plague Marines don't need to pay for a Land Raider to get a transport.
And the transport is the lynchpin. Why they are working here. Plague Marines in a Rhino are going to be my fire support scoring unit that are going to follow my maximum threat overload train into combat, even leading providing cover in some games with their boxes.
Lastly, there's the HQ section, and like the Troops section, we must select something from here. Luckily, Chaos Marines have the luxury of having a few good choices. I've modeled and painted quite a few units from here so I can run them how I want them. I love Terminator Lords, I love jump pack lords, I love biker lords, I love sorcerers and their versions, I love Daemon Princes... a nice problem to have, too many options. A Chaos Lord, when compared to things like Cannonesses (?), Space Marine Captians and Chapter Masters, is incredibly cheap and customizable for just how good he is. I really only fear a few specific independent characters with my unnamed Chaos Lords: obviously named beasts like Draigo, Lysander, Abbadon, Typhus and the like, or Necron HQ's which are just silly. Everything else should be looking to avoid getting punched by your Lord.
Sorcerers are slightly weaker in combat but crazy cheap for a level three.
Daemon Princes are the premier close combat unit in the game. When the Chaos dex first hit, Princes were poo-poo'd by large sections of the community because they appeared to get weaker and get a price increase. But, as we've learned through experience, they needed the price increase and to lose Eternal Warrior, otherwise there would be no drawback to this incredibly powerful unit. They brutally kill everything in close combat short of a Blood Thirster, and depending on the powers you roll, even those will die. They are extremely durable now that they are flying MC's instead of jump MC's like Dread Knights. They needed a drawback.
Of the choices that I have, I want assault-y speed. Biker Lord, Biker Sorcerer or Daemon Prince?
So again, I have this great problem but might have something that will make the decision a little easier. If I want to play with Plague Marines, I need a Nurgle Lord. Simple enough. Additionally, I'm going to be in a points crunch soon when I start getting down to the nitty-gritty. My Daemon Prince is going to stay home because he is pricey when you start tacking on options. If I have the points, I'm going to add a Sorcerer on a bike, to get some psychic support.

Now onto the list. I usually start plugging stuff in as I want it and then total it and seeing what I have. Sometimes, I plug everything in and total it up and am shocked that I'm around 500 points over. That's a ton of points.
Other times I get a surprise and see that I'm a few hundred short!
Either way, then its time to start adding/subtracting.
After hacking and slashing down from my wish list, this is what I came up with. My tough choices were the Biker squad size, the Spawn squad size, the Plague Marines size and what load outs to take with my HQs.

180 Chaos Lord
Bike, Nurgle, PF, PC, Blight, Gift, Sigil, VotLW
165 Sorcerer
Bike, Level 3, Burning Brand, Meltabombs
108 Bikes x 3
Melta x 2, Mark of Nurgle
180 Spawn x 5
Mark of Nurgle
170 Heldrake
178 Plague Marines x 7
Flamer x 2
35 Rhino
188 Plague Marines x 7
Meltagun x 2
35 Rhino
50 Cultists
125 Maulerfiend
125 Maulerfiend
125 Maulerfiend
150 Plague Marines x 5
Plasmagun x 2
35 Rhino


  1. Don't forget to put a spell familiar on the sorcerer. Being able to reroll psychic test can be invaluable. I am building the same list but like two sorcerers and use regular cams for my troops. An iron armed invisible sorcerer can crush just about anything ...

  2. I'm different. I build with an hq and troops first. Then build everything off of these two like branches. Everything should have a bramch to multiple orher units. .:-)

  3. Mutilators eh...I think I can take the challenge to make them sound worthwhile!

    So, caveat, I would only take them in a Nurgle list, with Mark of Nurgle, in a Land Raider. With those conditions established, my case is this:

    -2 wound T5 terminators are brutal, it takes 2 wounds to drop your unit's damage output, and they all have the same equipment so you don't have to worry about sacrificing your AP2 weapons. Are they expensive? Yeah, sure, but you get 2 wounds and 1.5 attacks vs an SM terminator
    -The most possible wounds of bubble wrap you can give a terminator lord (generally Typhus) in a Land Raider is 4. Mutis give you 6!
    -On the charge, 3 mutilators have 4 Attacks each (2 base, 1 for 2 CCW, 1 for charging) for a total of 12 attacks. 4 terminators on the charge also have 3 attacks, so the damage output is the same, right? Not necessarily. The mutilators can choose from Chainfist, Power Axe, Lightning Claw, Power Sword, or Power Maul, so no matter what weapon they used last turn, they have an AP value available that will ignore their opponent's armor save. However when facing lighter armored opponents they can choose to use faster weapons. Comparatively, going beyond the power weapon options for Chaos Terminators is going to cost you, 3 points for a single lightning claw, 7 for a pair, or for a power fist, and 12 for a chainfist. Now a pair of lightning claws does up the damage output of a CSM termie squad, but you are sacrificing shooting (the only real benefit of the termies over the mutis) in order to gain it, and paying a pretty penny for it. Mutilators are more flexible, which is really nice as they are not a unitasking unit in terms of what they hunt.
    -Price! (whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat) That's right, Mutilators are a steal when taken as a retinue. They take up an otherwise worthless slot, and with mark of nurgle are only 183 points. 4 CSM Termies with a chainfist, 2 combi weapons, and mark of nurgle are 172 points. You can get them for 162 if you drop the combi weapons, 150 if you drop the chainfist (I wouldn't, but I like the option to pop armor if I need to), but for the difference (around 10-20 points) you get 2 extra wounds, and more combat flexibility.

    Simply put, Mutilators are good at one thing, bubble wrapping a tough HQ. Actually, they are good at 2 things. The second thing is being taken as single model units, and either footslogging behind your alpha strike to mess with your opponent's target priority, or deepstriking to eat a round of shooting and maybe make a charge. I prefer footslogging because it gives them cover options.

    So, there, I made a case for my precious Mutis. Plus, 3 of them in a unit. Typhus. Deathshround anybody? I'll close with a picture of my mutis, because I refused to spend my money on their existing sculpt lol: