What happens when your Warmachine and Hordes lists hit a stalemate matchup at a tourney? Here’s what you do.
Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, talking today about a common enough happenstance in Warmachine and Hordes that doesn’t always get as much discussion: list chicken situations. And despite the cover photo, I’m not talking about the Grymkin Clockatrice.
I’m talking about the situation where you have a list pairing that you’ve brought to a tournament that matches up oddly against your opponent’s. It’s a “list chicken” situation when you have one list that beats one of theirs, but is weak to their other list. And your other list is strong against that first weakness, but is weak to the thing that your other list beats. Confused yet?
Thankfully there are other examples that most of us are familiar with. Rock, Paper, Scissors is a game where each choice is strong against one choice but weak against another. So the dilemma is which to go with. Likewise, you can think of a recent political example. Both Democrats and Republicans had a list chicken situation of sorts in the 2016 Presidential Primary. Hilary could beat Jeb, but Jeb could beat Bernie, but Bernie could beat Trump, but Trump could beat Hilary.
I’m pretty sure that a Haley3 Gravediggers list beats all of these options.
So what do we do when we get stuck in a situation like this? First we’ll take a look at why this comes up in this game, and where it’s most likely to happen. Then we’ll address some strategies to help with this problem. This isn’t advice for how to build pairings that trump others (pun intended). Rather it’s about a situation where each option has an advantage and disadvantage move the other person can make.
Warmachine and List Pairings
List chicken happens for two reasons in Warmachine, one structural and one strategic. Structurally, the game has long been played in two-list format for tournaments. Some Warlocks and Warcasters simply hard-counter others. Privateer Press made the right decision about making two lists a formal part of their tournament rules. While all-comers lists can be an okay way to play, sometimes there are lists that simply shut down certain types of options. Hitting one can be like a brick wall.
Again, Haley3: if you don’t have an option that can handle it, you’re going to have a bad day.
That’s the structural reason that list chicken happens. But there’s also a strategic one. Players build their pairs to cover the other list’s weaknesses. Say I have a troop-heavy list that I really like. I’ve practiced it and played it more than a few times, and know what it can handle. It makes perfect sense to build my off-list to be something that rejects anti-infantry attacks or control. It’s likely Battlegroup-heavy, with lots of models that can shake effects, take small amounts of damage and remain functional, or rely on high armor values to shrug off volume attacks.
The problem is that all our opponents are doing the same thing. So they know they’re fielding a list that mulches infantry. Which means their off-list is going to be a list to punch armor. Which likely is a great list into your armor, but would really struggle to handle your infantry list. And thus the circle is born.
Strategies to Solve the Problem
There are three main ways to cut the Gordian knot that is a list chicken situation. I’ll address each briefly in turn. If you find yourself in a list chicken situation, where each list beats only one other list in your estimation, these can help with the choice.
- Go with your most practiced list
- Check your opponent’s preference
- Think about the meta (but don’t over-think)
Go with your most practiced list
Warmachine can be an odd game. Dice happens. Opponents forget to activate a key ability, or choose to put an upkeep on the wrong choice. The thing that you felt might be a silver bullet for your list may not turn out that way on the table. And sometimes a player just messes up what would have been a sure advantage.
We all have our “Bad Luck Brian” moments in this game
By choosing your most practiced list in list chicken situation, you still increase your chances of success if the opponent picks the counter to your force. With the practiced list, you’ll hopefully know how to pace yourself and maximize the synergies of your force. You’ll often get an advantage on clock if nothing else, because you know how the list works and unfolds.
It boosts your confidence to play the practiced list, and keeps your chances most open to exploit a weakness if one happens. So if you think you’re in a list chicken situation, drop the list that you’re comfortable with. If you’re lucky–you’ll get the good match-up. If unlucky, you’ve still got something to work with.
Check Your Opponent’s Preference
Sometimes our opponent gives us clues about which list they’re going to bring. So if you’re in a list chicken situation, it can be worth simply searching for those indicators. Are there signs about which list they’re favoring that are right in front of you?
Hmmm. Call Sherlock Holmes. There’s a mystery afoot!
The list played block on their roster sheet isn’t the only spot where their preference might be telegraphed. Take a look at their models. Is one list lovingly painted, and the other a hodgepodge of unpainted models? That could be an indicator of where their effort is going (but of course, be careful–it could be that their new interest is signaled with the assembling force). Is one of the two casters an “easier” caster? Butcher3 or Gaspy3 might be a default choice in a situation simply because they’ll know how the game will go down. Do you know them from your meta? Do they have a preference? Are they sporting a tattoo of their preferred warcaster that includes the text “Always Choose Caine2”?
Of course that last one is a joke, but it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to these factors. Your opponent may be sending you a signal about the move they’ll make in a list chicken situation. Be ready to listen.
Think about the meta (but don’t over-think)
Finally, and quickly, don’t forget the meta in this. If you’re playing a faction that has a clear darling or renowned boogeyman in the meta, that’s worth considering too. If the word on the street is “this list is strong”, consider that your opponent will likely have that information. Whether it be Gaspy3 Slayer Spam, Anamag Primal Terrors, or Double Turtles in Skorne–what people are saying may affect your opponent’s pre-judgment of your action. One of the real strengths of including a meta-recognized list in a pair, is that opponents may sway toward expecting that one. If you know that, it’s all the more powerful to choose the other list in a list chicken situation. Of course, don’t put all your faith in that notion, but it’s one more thing that might give you an edge in choosing the advantaged list.
~ What is your strategy for a “list chicken” situation? Is there another type of strategy that you use and recommend? Are there ways to duck this trap at the strategic stage? Let us know in the comments section below!
To see consistent choosing of the wrong list in a pair check out Chalkboard’s Warmachine and Hordes blog at: