The packaging for those tools

The second type of tools you need to be aware of is the composition of your army. There are a lot of factors that go into this but I’ll touch on some of the basics: 

1) Troops: This is a very very fundamental issue that it took me a very long while to grasp. when I started I just played Kill point missions. While interesting in the beginning, this is a very limited form of 40k. KP missions are 1/6 of book missions and usually less prominent than that even in the tournament scene. That means that troops are NEEDED in order to win objective games. If you can’t hold objectives because you have no more troops left, that puts a lot of pressure on you to not only have gotten first blood, but Warlord and line breaker, while destroying ALL of your opponents troops, or contesting his objectives. Point is it makes the game harder on you. given the layout of Objectives, I find that it is best to be able to have some troops that are ABLE to wind up on my opponents starting zone should I CHOOSE for that to be my course of action. You should not limit yourself by the mobility of your troops. this does not mean all of your troops have to be mobile, but having 2 troops that can take deep objectives or end the game where you need them to is incredibly strategic and critical at a high level of play. 

2) Model Count: you will have models and units die in a game of 40k. if you only have 6 models, no matter if they are all land raiders, or all daemon princes, you will lose. Maybe not to every list, but there is one person you will fight in a tournament or just randomly that will have brought a metric F-ton of meltas either purposely or inadvertently. There is no specific number that I go for personally, but you should be very aware of how your model count stacks up to not just your one opponents list, but most lists. If you are playing a low model count list, it might be because you have 5 daemon princes taking up over 1K points. But that still means you only have maybe 25 models on the table. compare that to a marine army (lets say averaging 60~ models depending on chapter/tactics). Even if you lose a (lets say) 3 of your 10 point troop models in an assualt to kill the 5-man marine squad with a Missile Launcher, you lost about 1/8th of your models and he only lost on average 1/12th of his. He might have spent more on his so in that way it was a good move, but he has the ability to lose more points because of the number of other models/squads he has to accomplish objectives. This is also why Greentide/horde armies, are perfectly fine losing 30-60+ orks on turn 1 and still winning They can have over 200+ models so even if they lose half them getting to you, your 60ish marines are still outnumbered 2 to 1 vs not necessarily better assault units but not bad ones either. 

3) Mobility: There are really only two things you do in 40K: hurt things to keep them from killing you too fast to get done what you need to, or avoid things so that you aren’t killed as fast so you can get done what you need to. This falls into the second category. If you aren’t mobile, that is okay, but you do need to be aware of it, and take that into account, vs say eldar or DE. Have a methodology of dealing with not just your own mobility or lack of, but also your opponents. If you are IG running a list that Tau can outshoot, but you can survive an assaulty Blood Angels list, that is great, but you’re still losing at your own game of being shooty gunline. If you are bringing one type of list, make sure that if someone is playing with a similar strategy, you should make sure that you won’t lose to them, while still being able to deal with people who are bringing a strategy that in theory would counter your strategy. 

4) Being Where you need to be: this is kind of an offshoot of mobility, but important enough that it warrants its own section. If you have a melta vet squad (or say a Fire Dragon squad) not in a transport, you better have a very good reason.for this, because for the most part these need to be in a very specific spot to be effective in their job. Make sure you set up each unit that specializes in something to be able to be where they need to be to get that job done. This also extends to the troop thing above. You need to be able to take objectives. even if you can take a very far forward objective, but your 2 squads of 5 Dire Avengers get shot off the 2 home objectives tehy’re sitting on, and you have no way of taking those, you might as well have not even had them there at all, because you aren’t getting them anyway. You need to make sure you can have what you need in the right spot at the right time. 

5) Type of models: You need to consider what type of list you are running (and as such what will destroy you for that). The few broad types that come to my mind are: Mech (lots of vehicles/transports in the av 10-12 range or well in orks case they can use Trukks (av 14 front with much weaker sides)), Infantry (can be in the form of gunline, horde, assualt, outflanking/deepstriking, mobile, etc.), Flying Circus (meaning lots of flying MCs), Nidzilla (usually referring to having a lot of MCs usually not many flying but still a lot of heavy hitters), Biker, Air force, Deathstar, and Balanced. This is not a complete list, but covers most of the general broad categories that you see most lists fall into. Each of these are good for different reasons and are bad in other circumstances. Be aware of which one you are running and how people anticipate you using it, and what their fears/worries are along with their hopes/dreams (by this i mean things like: “oh man I hope he doesn’t move there to charge that one unit” or “oh please let him not notice that, so that i can turbo boost -> torrent flamer with my Nightspinner with a Crystal Targeting Matrix” You need to know not only what you want to happen inside of your strategy and list type, but also your opponents. 

6) Toughness and Armor: Low Toughness, Bad Armor = lots of dead guys even if throwing paper ninja stars or flashlights will wreck these. Make sure you have a way of either getting them into or keeping them in cover to be effective. Usually this means an Aegis. ORKS IGNORE THIS. Low Toughness, good armor: Stay in cover as much as you can. You are more surviveable, but there are lots of things that can hurt 3+ or 2+ armor, and they will do a lot of wounds since you are low Toughness. High Toughness, Bad Save: for some reason certain Daemons seem to fall into this category, This just gives you more options of what you can essentially ignore, even if you have bad saves. If you’re toughness 5 or greater and you’re fighting guard, their str 3 guns even if they HIT 20 times are only making you roll 3-4 saves. High Toughness, Good Save, single wound: These are expensive, but also fragile in a sense. a good starcannon volley or plasma can really wreck your day, so make sure not too much of this can be brought to bear on this unit, since usually these squads are 200+ points for like 5 models and each wound loses you 40+ points. High risk, but can also be very effective for certain situations. Multiwound: These are the best. The reason Nobz are so good is because of this. They aren’t “better” than Terminators, but if you only get 3 wounds through them, as opposed to 2 on TH/SS Termies, the damage output of the Nobz squad is only lessened by 1 attacking model, vs the 2 model damage output of the Termies. you are paying in lots of points for those extra wounds, so make them count. 
NOTE: if something has an invul save, cover isn’t nearly as useful unless its an aegis or you’re planning on going to ground. 

7) Hull Points/AV: the reason why people say Dark eldar are made of paper is twofold: 1) open topped and low AV. 2) two hull points on venoms. The open topped used to be a much greater hinderance in 5th when everyone relied on vehicles exploding to kill them, and you couldn’t “glance to death” vehicles. Mainly now though its the lack of Hull points coupled with AV 10 on all sides. This was the same for War Walkers had in the previous eldar codex, until they got cheaper weapons and 5+ invul. This made them able to survive a little better, and also given that they’re in a squad and usually very long range can make them deceptively hard to kill. These are things you need to not only take into account with your own forces, but also in terms of your target priority vs your opponent. For example: there is no point in shooting 20 str 4 shots at a Chimera with full hull points, if your 10 man marine squad is the only thing left to shoot, or is the only thing that can hit that. You are only going to average 2 glances. Sure maybe you’ll be lucky and get more but you should always plan on getting less, unless you’re desperate. But most of the time, you need to have a rough feel of whether your vehicle can survive a turn wherever you move it. If it cannot, but you know that if they would have to spend most of their shooting to do so, because of cover or something, that is a good move if you have other threats that you want to bring in. If you have a Land Raider on the table, you should know exactly where every single melta, lance, rocket, and lascannon is on the table every turn before and after you move, and where they can get to that turn. You guys get it. if not message me. 

These are most of the facotors i take into consideration when building a list. 

I generally choose a unit that interests me, and think about its capabilities and what roles it covers out of these. Then I fill in the gaps with the rest of my list. always checking back versus that. The key is synergy though. You can’t rely on that one unit you like, so synergy needs to be between the other units too. Do not leave anything in your list that can be ignored. If you look at your list, you should be terrified, thinking of facing it. You’ll know how to beat it generally, but you should know its going to be tough. The way you do that is you look unit by unit and go: would i be stoked to have someone bring that unit against me? Also ask “which part of that unit scares me the most?” (this meaning like it can soak fire and tear apart things in Assault, or the amount of shots that can be put out, etc.) if you have any points invested in not doing those particular things that make that unit scary or more survivable to be scary, drop those things immediately, unless you have a really really good justification that you have run by an experienced 40k player (the one guy in the group/store that always wins or people don’t ask to play as much because they win a lot. There’s a reason they win so much and its not because of their codex. Its because they know the ins and outs of not only their particular units in their army, but their codex ,and not just that but other codexes too. There is something that you just don’t want to face in every codex, no matter which army you’re using. They know not just those units but the not as obviously game changing units/abilities that those codexes have. If they give you the seal of approval on your choice that doesn’t fit those guidelines, then you can TRY it. If it doesn’t work that well, change it, but give it a few games so that you know you’re used to using it right. 

As far as your core list, that you build everything around. Do not get too attatched to the particulars of it. You can be attatched to the strategy, but not the specifics. For example: baron beastpack with farseer is excellent, but there are other mini-deathstar beatsticks that you can bring as DE/Eldar allies, that if you are going that route, you can CONSIDER if you find that particular one to be ineffective.


What you gotta think about killing in 40k

There are many articles out there on winning at 40k. 

The way I think about things when creating a list is: 

Make sure I pack not only the right tools, but also enough of them. Redundancy is valuable up to a point, but don’t overdo it. 

By right tools I mainly mean in terms of firepower. You should have a consistent way of dealing with: 

1) Elite High Armor units: Terminators (particularly paladins for when you happen to see them, or TH/SS termies) and certain tau suits, meaning you need medium – high strength low AP weapons that you can either drop pie plates of or dakka a lot with. The new eldar “rending” means if you are playing eldar, you can mostly ignore this with enough shuriken and monofiliment. 

2) Mech lists: av 10-12 transport spam (expect 5-10). This means lots of dakka that can blow things up before it gets close either through variety of units having medium STR (5-7) weapons, since those tend to put out more shots than higher str weapons. You need volume of the 5-7 str stuff to reliably pop those vehicles. Essentially if you look at it: for +5 points per weapon on a War Walker you get either 8 str 6 shots or 2 str 8 shots (ap 2 for str 8). Those are essentially equivelent options points wise but given the way 6th plays out, penetration rolls aren’t the most efficient way to blast vehicles. It is about stripping the hull points, although those lucky explodes are always nice. *NOTE* that was for demonstration purposes only. For my lists it works better for me to take 2x bright lances on my walkers, given what else i have in my army. 

3) Heavy Vehicles: this is 2 parts: 
i. av 13 you can’t really spam so it kind of falls into the heavy category, but a lot of stuff is now at str 7 meaning it can deal with av 13 as if it were in the av 10-12 spam range. You still need to deal with this, but take those points into consideration. 
ii. av 14: mainly by this I mean Land Raiders and Monoliths. Everything else you just hit from the side and treat as lower armor, although this requires manueverability. However given that monoliths and land raiders do have 4 hull points, you do need a method of dealing with them. If that method dies though, you are sunk. So make sure it is either super survivable, or has a backup (even an inefficient or not perfect one. Best example was when i would use haywire grenades on wyches in venoms. I would take 2 of these mainly for the 12 bs 4 poison shots per venom, and the ability to score. If needed though, I would turbo boost up the board and next turn they’d assault that monolith and blow it up, if my Walkers weren’t gettting the job done) 

4.) Flying Monstrous Creatures: you need a method of grounding MCs that are flying. Given that they only take 1 grounding check per squad shooting at them (and only on a HIT *NOT* on a wound), make sure you bring a lot of different squads with decent range (or alternatively maneuverability) so that you can shoot 3-5 units at a MC just to ground it (you’ll take off a few wounds in the process). If you have split fire this is even easier, as you just portion out 1 guy shooting him out of each squad until you ground him while the rest of the squad still kills other stuff. Using cheap, small, low value units to do this is ideal (for example: say you have 3 squads of 3 Windrider Jetbikes just hanging around your backline, and you’re struggling vs the last daemon prince in a monster mash list at turn 4 (you will be hurting a lot and in a very precarious position if you don’t kill it this turn), but you have enough firepower to kill it if it were on the ground. send your 3 jetbike squads out and have them all shoot first, hoping they ground him (doubly effective since their catapult is TL, and probably least killy unit in your army, so their guns aren’t wasted that turn). 

5) Monstrous Creatures: You need a way to deal with MCs period, especially after you ground them. This usually means high number of medium str low ap weapons (or buckets of rending or pseudo rending since those auto wound). You want to minimize the number of units you need to shoot at one to kill it. There are a few reasons for this: 

i. Highly dangerous to elite units usually. The greatest threats to your opponent are usually in the form of Tanks/other long range gun platforms, or really tough to kill units. MCs can generally fair at minimum fairly adequetly vs these threats (in the form of either smash attacks to vehicles, tar pitting and eventually routing “stronger” units by shrugging off wounds with iron arms/it will not die, Kiting you in the case of riptide and WK, and just destroying you better as a mobile gun platform) 
ii. Horde units are generally ineffective vs them, leaving you with much fewer options of protecting yourself. 
iii. Points wise, while expensive MCs can take a greater punishment ratio than equivalent point value squad of MEQs, 
iv.most importantly though, the biggest danger of MCs is that they can seamlessly slip into any of these roles from one turn to the next. They are versatile and can usually do great damage to your plans either in the form of destroying or tying up units that you really really need in order to win. 

6) Flyers: the reality is they are not usually as dangerous as everyone made them out to be towards the beginning of 6th. That is not to say they are not dangerous, simply that they are not always the most efficient killers, so overusing them can be detrimental, so you’ll rarely see Lists featuring more than 3 flyers. This is even more true now because of the Tau codex, which just hands out not only skyfire, but interceptor like candy. You cannot ignore this though, so have some plans for dealing with that heldrake that someone brings (or even 2 or 3 of them). This does not mean you have to kill all of them, but you need to have a way to at least threaten them and should be 100% sure you can deal with 1 flyer (maybe even 2) no matter which flyer it is. Some of them are there for Anti Vehicle, and if you are running mostly a maneuverable foot list, you really aren’t hurt by it.. Conversely if you’re running mech and someone brings a heldrake, if you have people inside transports, you really are not going to care too much about losing 1 transport a turn out of 7-9 from that heldrake from turn 3-6. that just means he’s not burninating your precious troops. 

7) Hordes: you can very very easily get overwhelmed by a greentide or even ig foot gunline, if you aren’t prepared for it. Bring high volume shots and templates. Flamers are a universal favorite for killing weakly protected low toughness units that rely on cover. 

8) Deep strikers: If your opponent has them, you need to be conscious of it, especially if it is a drop pod list. This doesn’t mean you need interceptor, but it does mean be wary of how you move and deploy. 

9) Barrage weapons/artillery: These usually hang back and can ber very deadly, usually hiding in cover or out of LOS with decently high toughness/armor or AV. You need a reliable way to deal with these threats from long range if need be. I personally love wave Serpents for this role. That is pretty much their perfect role: killing “light” vehicles in cover. 

10) Snipers/other units that rely purely on cover saves: Lots of things ignore cover saves. Assaulting, flamers, tau, wave serpents, barrage/ordinance blasts (I forget which, I don’t have rules on me right now). Point is though, that some of these like pathfinders need to die not just on that turn but like before the game even started, if you know what i mean. That’s what these weapons are for. Bring them. You may not use them every game, but you will want to have them available. 

11) MEQs: Marines got a lot less expensive. You can put out a lot of them on the table with a T4 3+ armor save, not counting the cover. these aren’t hard to kill, but if you don’t check your list to see if what you’re bringing covers this range, you are asking to get your teeth kicked in. 

12) Fast Assaulting or even harassing units (usually have hit and run/etc): These things move fast, and hit hard. You need to either be able to avoid them to focus on the things that are supporting them or you need to be able to sufficiently weaken them first turn that they are ineffective in their turn 2 assault and usually negligible by the end of turn 2. 

13) That one thing that needs to die first or second turn or you lose: the nature of lists is that you have a weakness, due to composition of weapons or model types. Point is though there is usually at least one thing that the opponent brings that really fits that niche of being perfect for killing your type of list. After all it is a TAC list and you cannot rely on your opponent not bringing enough of the right tools. This is probably the most important thing to check for: ARE YOU ABLE TO HOLD OUT FOR THE TIME IT TAKESTO KILL THAT ONE THING? If you cannot, you need to change things until you can. This means either adding a unit that can rapidly and efficiently demolish that one threat, no matter what form, or having so many tough to kill or expendable redundant units, that you have the luxury of taking till turn 3 to kill it. This last scenario is not the case over 90% of the time. 

Those are the tools you pack for offense. I’m going to do the second post on defense.