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.