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This week’s episode of Reply Briefs isn’t a rules question. It is, however, a question we’ve been asked more than a few times now. We therefore felt it’s probably worth responding to in an article of its own. So, in true lawyer fashion, we will answer the question without actually answering the question. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Enjoy!
The Question: What’s the best list in 6th edition?
The Answer: It depends.
As we mentioned before the break, this is a question that’s come up a number of times since we started doing articles analyzing tournament lists. We picked this particular email to respond to because it’s quite complimentary and we’re terribly, terribly vain.
Email in from anonymous:
“Hey ruleslawyers. I’ve been reading your site for a while now and love it, but never asked questions before, and I really like that you’re talking more about writing good lists and I love the new reviews of lists that are winning tournaments. I have no idea where you find all this stuff out but I’m glad you do. I really like the notes part especially, thats really helpful and I hope you keep them coming. But my question is of all the lists you’v posted, which list do you guys think is the strongest in sixth edition so far and why?”
So really, the question is, which netlist should a netlister netlist if a netlister’s going to netlist a list?
Well, here’s the big (non)answer you (and several others) have been waiting for – it depends. It depends on a lot of things. It depends on the player. His skill. His knowledge of the rules (shameless plug). His experience with the list. His experience against various armies. It depends on the tournament. The missions. The terrain. The competition. The other armies present. The presence or absence of comp scores.
The tournament-winning lists we’ve posted here are fantastic archetypes to learn from, and they incorporate concepts that are necessary to do well in 6th edition. But going out and buying any one of them up with your Christmas money doesn’t mean you’re a shoe-in to win the next big tournament in your area.
Netlisting isn’t cruise control for tournament wins.
As I’ve said before, netlisting is not going to win you tournaments. We post these lists, and talk about these lists, not so people can copy and paste them and rampage through the nearest GT, but so people can understand the key principles involved in building competitive lists. Building a list from the ground up to suit your playstyle, perhaps integrating themes and concepts from other successful lists, and then going out and playtesting and tuning your list until you know its capabilities and weaknesses inside and out – that’s how you win tournaments.
Now, I’m not here to bash netlisting. Netlisting can be a great learning tool. And here’s what I mean by “fantastic archetypes to learn from” – by analyzing the lists that have done well so far in 6th edition (arguably a form of netlisting), we’ve been able to identify some very key list building concepts for competitive 6th edition play. And if this isn’t the first article you’ve read on the rules lawyers, you’ve probably heard us harping on these before: mobility and durable scoring units. They’re concepts showcased in every list that’s done well in major 6th edition tournaments, and they’re present in every list we write for ourselves. Of course, that doesn’t answer the question at issue here, because again, those elements are present in one way or another in virtually all of the lists we’ve posted. So no, netlisting isn’t a bad thing. It’s not some four-letter word. It can actually be something very positive, as long as you’re learning from the lists and not just blindly copying them and throwing them down on the tabletop with no idea why they do what they do so well.
But learning from netlists isn’t the only good thing about netlisting – it also encourages players to step outside their comfort zone.
The comfort zone.
Whether they know it or not, every 40k player has what we’ll call a “comfort zone” – a preference for how they like their armies to play. This could be something as general as an affinity for legions of foot infantry or loads of vehicles, or a preference for bashing face in CC, or it could be something as specific as never leaving home without a certain number of lascannons, or refusing to play anything but orks ‘cuz green iz best. We strongly encourage everyone to step out of your comfort zone and try new armies and new styles of play, and if netlisting helps with that, great. Try out new armies and new lists. In many cases the best way to learn about these lists (and how to beat them) is by playing them. Borrow your friends’ models, proxy, play on vassal, whatever.
But you can’t expect to pick up a new army that’s vastly different from those you prefer and start steamrolling the competition immediately. It takes dozens upon dozens of games with an army before you really know it, especially if it’s something well outside your comfort zone. If you’re outside your comfort zone, using an army you’re not familiar with, it’s going to be that much harder to make the right decisions, especially in a high-pressure situation like turn 5 of the tournament finals. And if you change armies every time a new list wins a big tournament, you’ll likely never reach that level of proficiency required to be successful in tournaments.
So netlisting is both good and bad. Where the hell are you going with this, GK?
So how do we put all of this together and come up with a sufficient non-answer to the original question? It’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to listbuilding, especially when we’re so early on in a new edition’s cycle. I strongly encourage you to step outside your comfort zone whenever possible (which means it’s a good idea to give some thought to what your comfort zone really is) and try new lists to find the one that works best for you. But don’t just copy a list because it won a tournament. Look at it critically, with an eye toward understanding why it won, why it worked for the player who ran it, how it might work for you (given your play style and preferences), and how it might stack up against other popular lists you’re likely to face in tournaments, be they local or national.
Just answer the damn question.
So which list that we’ve posted here on The Rules Lawyers is the strongest? The variety of lists and armies that have been showing up on the top tables in major tournaments so far in 6th edition suggests that there’s no right answer to that question. It could be any of them, depending on the situation and what fits you best as a player. So run them through the wringer and find out what works best for you. Proxy like a madman and play tons of games. That’s worth repeating. Play tons of games. Try new lists and new ideas. Try them out against a variety of opponents, in a variety of mission types, and against a variety of armies. But don’t be hasty to abandon a well-built list you know like the back of your hand just because some website claims a new and different list is the greatest thing to ever happen to 40k.