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.