Thanks to our most prolific of commentors, Josh Simpson, I have a focus for this weeks’ article – The fact that it’s often very easy to identify “The Cryx Drop” in someone’s list pairing, and the implications that has for List Chicken and List Building.
Hordes factions, in particular Trolls and Skorne, have a notoriously tough time with Cryx. Their all comers lists tend to rely on high armour, high value models – commonly referred to as “breakfast” in the Scharde isles. Skarre1, Deneghra1, and Lich1 produce armour swings of 5+ points very easily, and the old boogie man Lich2 has parasite and a Bane Knight Cannon for a feat. Other Hordes factions traditionally have a tough time due to their reliance on heavy warbeasts, and on top of that, many players have a huge mental block about playing against Cryx, even in factions that have more obvious anti-Cryx tools.
But wait, there’s more – Cryx are a low skill floor faction, and the most basic Cryx Hard build is extremely solid and relatively straightforward to play. While a skilled opponent who brings the right tools can dismantle this simple approach in the hands of a less skilled player, a player who begins by Cryxing hard will win a lot of his games, especially in a local meta that hasn’t learned to fight against Cryxian tactices yet. This means that there’s always going to be a lot of Cryx Hard knocking about in the mid tables.
This creates a perfect storm whereby most players will enter a tournament with an anti-Cryx list as part of their pair or triad. Not merely a list that covers Cryx, but one built specifically to take down Cryx. You know the one – control feat, high volume of attacks, particularly guns, and some RFP knocking around. And the Cryx player can see it a mile away. Grim in trolls, Hexeris in Skorne, Old Witch in Khador, and so on, and so on.
Cryx players seem to be adapting quite well to this tendency. Lich2, often the target of these anti-Cryx lists (the maxim being “if it can beat Lich2, it’s probably good into most other Cryx Hard casters”) is being seen less and less. Unusual Cryx builds are rearing their heads at top tables – Tom Guan’s Mortenebra, my Terminus, Will Pagaini’s Goreshade1, Brian White’s Lich1, various shades of Goreshade3 (I was so, so wrong about that guy. Which delights me.).
Krakens, and Helljacks, and Cavalry, oh my.
These lists are designed with the traditional anti-Cryx list in mind, bringing models that high volumes of low pow attacks just don’t deal with efficiently. Which places the non-Cryx player in a nasty list chicken situation, whereby the Cryx player has the lion’s share of Best Possible Matchup Combinations. Most people autopilot into their anti-Cryx list, allowing the Cryx player to get the drop on them.
So what’s an anti-Cryx player to do?
Well, the obvious thing is to try to avoid telegraphing your Cryx drop. Martin’s Mordikaar list and Chad’s Grissel1 are good examples – while they have excellent game against Cryx, they don’t lack in tools outside of that matchup. They’re not screaming “I drop this into Cryx” at your opponent. But on the table, they do surprising things, stalling the Cryx advance and killing way more that expected. These lists are much harder to play than Anti-Cryx Harder Control Gunlines. If they find themselves facing Cryx Hard, you’ve got to know your capabilities and the opponent’s inside out. Knowing when and how to trade is huge – not just in terms of unit for unit, but model for model. You need to be putting pressure on the opposing caster to drive them out of the game.
It’s challenging, for sure. It takes a lot of practice. But I don’t fear the pure control builds half as much as the ones that are non-obvious. The latter are flexible, and scale with player skill. Ultimately, I think the solution to “the cryx drop” problem doesn’t lie in the list build/selection phase of the game, but rather on the table. In fact, the crux of all my current thinking about the Current Meta comes down to that – You’ll do best with unusual, non-obvious list builds packed with tools and options. You’ll do best by focusing on how to approach the game on the table, by making every move count. You’ll do best by building 2-3 mostly balanced lists and playing them better than the opponent.
This isn’t exactly revolutionary wisdom, but it bears repeating. The evil of the Skew is in it’s power to keep your locked up in the listbuilding phase of the game, constantly worrying about “how I beat X other skew”. Balanced lists might not swing the anti-skew pendulum into your favour, but they sure as hell make list chicken hurt less. But they demand that you change your search for answers from the army list to the table.
Still one of the games I remember best is facing Gerry’s 60 man Kallus list with Skarre1 30 Banes. I would normally have dropped my anti-swarm Deneghra2 list, but I was as tired as hell and didn’t want to unpack it. What the hell, I thought, let’s give it a go. It was an educational game, because I had to pick and choose every single attack, and protect my two symmetry breaking models (Gerlack and Tartarus) like they were made of glass, but while also getting them in there. Every single model mattered. On paper, I had 7pts of tools for that matchup. But it was winnable on the table, and I’m incredibly proud of how I played that game – it may have been the best game I ever played, on a “keeping your mistakes to a minimum” level. And it happened because I wasn’t leaning on an anti-swarm build.
Know yourself, and go in swinging,