The Sky is Falling 1: List Chicken is Here

There has always been list chicken in the game. There have always been skew lists and counters, high Arm and high Def, Madrak2 trollblood swarms and Runes of War, and the list goes on. People have always complained about list chicken. That is not the purpose of this article. I find that for most people the issue is tied to list-building. Their plan is to cover certain Factions with one list a piece. It is often my own.

I’m not sure it makes sense anymore.

Today I’m going to outline my experiences with it recently, and where I think it all began.

List Choice isn’t What It Used to Be

Sitting down to a 64-player tournament, the Irish masters, I had Kromac, Krueger2 and Morvahna2 as my lists. My first opponenet was a Cryx player, so I started reaching for Kromac. Kromac is one of the hardest whole Faction counters in the game. He even plays well against slightly odd builds of Cryx. My opponent, an excellent and pleasant swede had one list that jumped off the page at me however. A Skarre2 list, with Deathjack, Daragh, Soulhunters, Satyxis Raiders, etc. This was a Kromac counter. Not just a Skarre2 list which would be good against Kromac, I could tell it was built to play Kromac. What was I to do?

Play Morvahna2. He had little rfp, and serious issues threatening the woldwrath as long as he didn’t get to charge it with DJ and feat within one turn.

Next round, I’m drawn up against Trolls, where I usually drop Kromac to play against Runes of War. He had Grissel1, Grim2 and of course Dommy1 theme. There were 5 walls on the table. Two on one side, three on the other! No other table in the 32 present has such a layout. Swearing under my breath I prepared to have Kromac play a miserable game against Trolls.

He dropped Grim2, with a terrifying gunline. The swearing got over my breath.

The lesson here is not that I’m a list savant, it’s that increasingly people can and will build lists with a lot of variety within each and every Faction. Combine this with the last batch of casters who add some new, and extremely potent, problems to be solved. Not only new problems and options some Factions never had before, but truly new problems to solve in both play and list building. Butcher3, Morvahna2 and Father Lucant all clank, bleat, and howl to mind.

It All Began with a Stormwall

This guy, amirite?

In 2012 what Cygnar lists looked like in competitive play drastically and rapidly changed. Before they had been lists of infantry with low Pow shooting but serious Arm issues that didn’t involve pushing models out of zones. Mercenaries where maligned, a single stormclad considered a dedicated Arm counter.

Stormwall was released, replacing that one stormclad in old fashioned Cygnar lists. This immediately gave those lists a core, and made it nearly impossible to kill the center of the list with infantry, while forcing you to need a certain amount of heavy hitting to make it to the end of the game. You needed to start considering dedicated Arm cracking to use against Cygnar. At the same time Caine and Siege lists with lots of Mercs, which were dedicated to killing the kind of multiple heavy lists that countered stormwall lists, began to show up. Lists like the ever-popular Yes, We Caine list. Cygnar went from a fairly solved problem, to a very serious game of list chicken.

This all happened while 2012 was the most gunline friendly year in the scenarios, also seeing a huge rise in Protecterate. The changes to the meta affected some Factions more than others, Khador for example.

Adaptation Through Variety

It’s been nearly two years since the release of the first few colossals, in the interim we’ve had two more books released, Gargantuans and Vengeance. In this time what you’re assumptions about Khador, and Circle have change enormously. This paired with the rounding out of Ret, the release of convergence, some Cryx players (a rapid increasing number) opting for Cryx Differently as opposed to Cryx harder means that most 2 list, and certainly 3 list pairings include radically different problems for you to solve.

You will often see skews in radically different directions, and departures from the ‘typical’ lists of a Faction. Circle lists aren’t all wapwolves and bloodtrackers running away anymore, Khador lists aren’t all high def, Arm 11 troops, you need some Arm cracking to get through Terminus and Butcher3 in an otherwise infantry list, or worse things like Arm skew in Cryx, etc. So what the hell do we do?

The first step is to not plan a Cryx drop that is a 30 banes counter, and only ever drop that list blindly against Cryx. You’ll hit Goreshade1 with jacks, or Butcher3 won’t care that you kill his Iron Fang if your list starts unable to kill him on full camp, etc. We may just have to bite the bullet and do something that I personally find unappealing, we might just have to figure out a game-plan to beat the extreme skews with more balanced lists.

And that’s the core of my message. Don’t build for every skew, if you have two balanced lists you aren’t forced to play a losing list chicken game, you will confuse your skewing opponent, and even when the choices go against you you’ll usually still have a game on your hands. You won’t be able to walk over as many games for free, you’re going to have to work for most victories with a balanced list. Find non-caster options to help against skew lists, pieces like Orin Midwinter to use against B3, and then protect that mo’ fo’ like he was solid gold.
How do we build these balanced pairs? Will they still totally answer all of the strange and powerful stuff I’ll see? Is this definitely a better plan than waiting for someone to ‘solve’ a new list pairing that covers the meta again?

I don’t know.

I can’t say.

And I can only hope so.

I’d love to hear what people are building and playing, what they don’t say, what they are trying to counter, and what success they are having.

Stay Classy,
-Eoin, aka VagrantPoet

  • Krueger Counter [ 0 ]

5 thoughts on “The Sky is Falling 1: List Chicken is Here

  1. I agree. When I was first getting into the game a few years ago, it was described as being a lot of paper, rock, scissors, where you could make a choice and lose before the game started. I’m not sure I ever saw that, but there was definitely that feeling in discussions with people.

    As I’m looking back, though, I wonder if it was anything more than an attitude holdover from Mk I, with people looking for P/R/S and thus finding it. I don’t know that I’ve ever played a game where I legitimately was hard countered by my opponent’s list, though I didn’t always realize it until reviewing the game later. I agree that new releases are changing the way matchups work, but I’m not sure that Mk II has ever been as P/R/S as “they” say. The discussion has the feel of a shared perception, an echo chamber conclusion – Cygnar couldn’t crack armor, Cryx was moar banez, Khador high-def ftw.

    I think there are increasingly players on the competitive scene who never played Mk I, who would not have stayed with the game in that version, and are starting to make their own choices about what is viable.

    Then again, maybe that’s just my hope. I’m always waiting for the day when I stop hearing about how good or bad a model is, and instead hear only about its utility in game situations. If I never see or hear another grade, I’ll be a happy Skorne player.

    • As an immediate reply to myself about grades, I tip my hat to Team ATL (well, mostly it’s just Walter these days) and this insanely long faction reviews. The measuring stick of “how many lists is this model in” is one of the better ones.

      • Despite having recently released a serious of grading articles, I can’t but agree with that sentiment.

        I think everyone was very closed minded about how to play there Faction 2 years ago, everyone was playing to their Factions obvious strengths. Skorne makes for elephants smash, Cygnar kills everything that dies to Pow 10s by turn 2, etc. It became easy to counter those archetypes.

        That’s more or less non-existent nowadays, at least when expecting to play against clever and excellent opponents.

  2. I’ve taken a particular love of my Darius Field Tests lists (and am always evangelizing it upon the cygnar forums)…It IS a little bit skewy in the armor department (I mean, a stormwall and two centurions? Just a little bit of armor there.) but it gets the job done effectively. Great for zones, great for dealing with BANES AND BANES and even Sataxys.

    Then there’s my new favorite, The Trencher Party, aka, I Get Knocked Down. Avenger on one side being run by some gun mages, trenchers down wherever, a centurion (I like them a lot, okay?), lancer and pHaley sitting there making things more fun. Add in Ayanna and Holt and Rhupert and a squire for flavor, and you’ve got an army list that can tear chunks out of a colossal for fun. For extra flavor, replace Haley with Stryker, and instead of rapid fire trenchers, they can start sniping the colossal. Or sniped thunderbolt aoes from the Avenger, for that matter….

    Now the difficulty is list three, that is, eHaley. (I picked her because Meg just finished painting her for me, and I want to show off the pretty ladies.)
    Sadly, that list I’ll end up having to go Cygnar Standard: Stormwall, Boomies, lamentations of my opponents and for a twist, Blazers.
    We’ll see how that works out.

  3. I agree, too. And I’m amazed at the fact that balanced lists may be on a rise, just because there’s too many different skews.

    Doesn’t that, however, incite more skews, and hope to prey on the balanced lists?

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