So the WTC is over… but today Eoin/Vagrant_Poet, our new captain (What have we done?) asked for interested parties to state their interest for playing on next year’s team. And the competition is going to be fierce. Our humble meta is growing fast, and lots of players are proving that they’ve got the chops to win tournaments. It’s still a small pond, but there’s fewer and fewer dominant fish. Anyone who wants a spot on the team is going to have to have a good year, and so the testing cycle begins anew!
On top of the fact that the Grand Scrutators of the WTC team will be watching closely, there is a big event (Gaelcon) running in but two weeks, and Warpcon, Smogcon and the Irish Masters will be happening early in 2014. In the past two years (particularly the last) I feel that I’ve developed into one of the contenders for major tournaments, but I’ve yet to win a Big One. So that’s the goal for the next six months – win one of the three Irish events I’ve listed, and qualify for Masters at Smogcon. On a good day, I know I can do it. It’s just getting two good days in a row that seems to be the problem.
So that leads me to looking closely at new lists and ideas. I’m pretty happy with the lists I ran at the WTC, but I don’t want to lock myself into them without playing around with new things. Furthermore, the Irish Masters/Smogcon Masters will need a third list.
So for this article, I’m going to talk about my general process for testing new lists.
Step One is Dojo. In which I spam Eoin (and anyone else who happens to have a green dot next to their name on Facebook when I have the idea) with lists as and when they occur to me. This generates plenty of back and forth idea exchange and exposes any glaring flaws in my reasoning.
Step Two is taking the list to its most extreme version. Generally, when I throw together a list it’s the most extreme version of the concept. If there are guns, there are all of the guns. If it’s Bane Knights, there are 30 of them.
This is the version of the list I test first. I find it’s better to start crazy and tack back towards balanced. Psychologically, for me, it’s easier to do it in that direction. The crazy end of things is more fun (so it scratches the itch to be a bit crazy and not just play the “accepted wisdom” models), and then you let the sensible side of your brain that understands how the game works get louder. If I start in the middle, I find it harder to cut utility/balance pieces to go more extreme, because I started from a place of caution and put myself in that mindset.
Third is Proof of Concept games – you try and play against your good matchups first. If the list can’t do what it’s designed to do against opponents that should be vulnerable to it, then there’s no point in continuing. Back to the drawing board I go.
If you pass Proof-of-Concept, then you start exploring the middle ground matchups, to see if any of them are unexpectedly bad. Finally, you go to the matchups you predicted would be bad. A list having bad matchups isn’t disastrous, especially for a third list. But you want that third list to be very good against a few likely opponents, and solid for most of the middle. You don’t need as much breadth as your mainstays, but you don’t want to risk getting locked in – it should be flexible enough (or brutally effective against some likely matchups) that you’ll get it dropped.
After that, it’s all practice. The last 5 – 10 points of any list is highly fluid most of the time, but they also have a lot of influence on how the list handles specific matchups. Your previous testing should have identified a spread of good/bad matchups, so you can start really drilling down towards what you need those points to do – either shore up some bad, or focus like a laser on stomping the good (I like the latter for a third list).
I love the testing cycle at its outset. I’m playing a Bloat Thrall. When I took it out of storage on Friday it had dust on it. I don’t think it’s been on the table since 2010, when I bought it to fill 2pts on the day of a tournament because the shop didn’t have Necrotechs for my Mortenebra Theme force. And… it’s doing pretty okay. It probably won’t make it to the final cut, but it’s surprising the hell out of me.
Know yourself, and go in swinging