01 December 2011

Baka's Tournament List Building - Part 1

In my last blog I mentioned that I planned to attend quite a few competitive tournament events in 2012 including both the UK Masters and if all goes to plan Lock and Load way over there in the States.  Thankfully due to the new business model that PP is using where its 1 book per system per year I can be sure that there is highly unlikely to be any unexpected releases that would turn my head from the tools currently at my disposal when it comes to list building.

That was Then...
As mentioned in my other blog, last year I made the decision (which surprised many over here as I am known as a hardcore Trollblood player) to take my Retribution instead of Trollbloods to the UK Masters.  This was largely down to a handful of reasons (speaking in the present tense as of June 2011):

Firstly Trollbloods generally lack that ability to pull off a move out of nowhere that you didn't anticipate, tricksy is what can let you pull a victory out of the hat when your army is getting mashed.  Trollbloods are renowned for being tough, but also for being a relatively straightforward point and click faction.

Secondly Trollbloods suffer badly against top tier gunline forces (such as eLylyth and Ravyn) who have the range and firepower to cripple your force early doors ensuring that when you do get to finally close the gap that you lack the presence to be able to make it count.  They also struggle against combined arms lists who have the ability to combine that amazing ranged game with melee units every bit the equal to our own high quality melee infantry.

Thirdly (and slightly related to the second point) Trollbloods as a general faction lack the speed to cross the battlefield before most ranged focused lists can get a full two rounds of shooting against you.  When your entire army is pretty much SPD5 or SPD6 and lacking built in pathfinder, you will often find that clever use of terrain by the opponent can leave you struggling.  The only warlock we have that mitigates this is pGrissel and for the army as a whole to benefit you need to use her feat, which can be a heavy price to pay just to get an army moving quickly across the board.

And finally, at least in the UK competitive meta the most popular lists are always the ones who take a lot of ultra high DEF infantry, especially with either some way to mitigate blast damage (Satyxis) or cheap enough that they can afford a few losses (WGI).  This is especially not helped when many of these ultra high DEF infantry units are melee oriented, and very much the equal of all but our very best heavy infantry.

...and this is Now
So what has changed in the six months between June 2011 and December 2011?  For Trollbloods a great many things have changed, I can't help chuckling inside every time I see the "Did we really 'lose' Domination?" thread on the main Trollbloods forum because for me the Trollbloods releases in Domination were not about changing up our playstyle and offering new directions like what we saw with some of the other factions.  No, what Domination has done for our beloved faction in my eyes is to take our weaknesses and mitigate them, offering us better solutions to some of the glaring weaknesses I pointed out above.

Does it provide us an answer to every scenario?  No, if it did that then everyone would be playing Trollbloods as they didn't have any more weaknesses.  However what it did do was provide us with the strategic tools to make a proper fist of any matchup.  I will not go overly into what each new release does for us as a faction, because in the majority of these models' cases I have done so already in my Domination Reaction Corner series.

This series is instead intended to tell the tale of me preparing my lists for the coming year's competitive tournament scene, the lists I have chosen, the reasons behind my choices, some battle reports from playtest games along the way, painting progress and ultimately a review after Lock and Load next year of how I feel the lists and our faction as a whole have evolved sinced Domination came out.

List Building Philosophy
Given the overall competitive scene's general direction toward Tri-list formats and character restrictions, I feel that there are three primary concerns that need to be dealt with by at least one of your lists, and preferably each list should be able to deal with at least two of these three:

First and foremost is scenario play, it is entirely possible to wipe the floor with your opponent and still lose purely because he played the scenario and you didn't (or couldn't depending on your list).  There are several things that scenario lists require to be effective:
* Speed - whoever can reach objectives first will always have the advantage, especially if you also have...
* Staying power - this could be high DEF, high ARM or a bunch of special rules that make you difficult to remove
* Killing power - related to the other two primary concerns, a list needs to be able to effectively deal with high DEF or high ARM (or preferably both) in order to push enemies off the objectives

The second primary concern is denial, this could be denying your opponent assassination opportunities, the ability to score on objectives or even just the ability to kill your infantry.  Once again there are numerous aspects here that can be taken into account with denial:
* Assassination denial - how well protected is your caster? Will he often be at risk? How hard is he to kill? Since assassination instantly ends the game, a caster in a list who cannot be protected will always be less likely to perform well in a tournament
* Infantry denial- how tough (no pun intended) are the beasts and infantry in the list?  Are they easily mown down by the dozen or are they nightmarishly difficult to eliminate?  Any point where an opponent is forced to divert a disproportionate amount of resources to deal with your list is an opportunity you should attempt to capitalise upon
* Strategic denial - how much of a board footprint does the list have? Does it force the enemy to react in certain ways? The best lists always put pressure on the opponent in some fashion, this could be long ranged units with combined ranged attack, a stealthed melee unit closing the distance, or a unit of burrowers about to pop in charge range of his jacks/beasts

The final primary concern for a list is its ability to overcome the above aspects of your opponent's lists.  If you are making lists optimised for denial, attrition, assassination, scenario play, etc then it is only common sense to assume that the opposition is also doing the same.  Subsequently you need to have unit choices who are capable of standing up to and overcoming the denial and scenario strategies of your opponent, and once again there are several angles of this to look at:
* Surprise factor - a truly great list will always have more than one angle of approach, especially if it has tricks and combos that the opponent doesn't anticipate.  This becomes more and more difficult to achieve the higher the caliber of opponent, as they have often been round the block often enough to have seen every trick before and developed counters for it.
* Synergy - admittedly a naturally strength for Trollbloods, the game is all about combos and not just offensively but defensively as well.  How well can you deal with DEF19 Iron Fleshed Kayazy in melee combat?  How well can you deal with that ARM24 Arcane Shielded Centurion bearing down on you?  A list with no synergy will always struggle against buffed units of this caliber based on their standalone stats.  A list that compliments each aspect will always be greater than the sum of its parts.
* Assassination - I will admit that Trollbloods are not the best assassination army out there, not because we are no good at killing but because we often lack the multiple vectors to make prevention of the assassination difficult.  When writing a list, do you take this into account and try to always have more than one obvious threat?

Putting it all together
Talking about all of this like some kind of University Science Professor is all well and good, but its no good without actually taking it all on board and coming up with the lists that can take into consideration the above, mitigate weaknesses and build on strengths.  Next time I will talk about my three lists and the reasons behind each selection as well as how I would overcome various issues.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds a lot like a couple articles I wrote on List Building recently. It's good to see that I'm not alone in my ideas of list-building, and it's good to see you looking at those same ideas through the lens of Trolls.