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40K EDITORIAL: The Pitfalls of 40k Net Lists

4 Minute Read
Jun 17 2011

Last week there was a thought provoking post by my new buddy HERO right here on BoLS. There was a lot of comments there and it spilled over to other blogs and forums. To me the main gists of the article were as follows:

* People play popular lists circulating on the Internet because they are proven and it requires little if any time to playtest.

* Net lists are for competitive play.

* If you play a net list then most likely your army doesn’t have much flavor.

* Many players don’t play their armies as intended.

I think the majority of the responses were either posted to chime in agreeing with HERO or to justify playing a net list. Definitely this article touched on a few nerves. I don’t play net lists. If a new codex is released and I find that it might be fun for me to play I’ll study the codex thoroughly and read what people whom I respect are saying on the Internet. I like to play armies outside the proverbial box. I enjoy being unique. Often I see players struggling with their armies to produce a winning list… They can’t figure it out for themselves so they fall back using an Internet list. I always design my armies such that they can handle the net lists and if you’re a competitive player I think this is a good technique too. A big part of the fun is figuring out what makes any given codex work. If you opt to play a net list you’re probably going to miss out on this aspect of the hobby… Sure it can be challenging but if you stick with it you’ll eventually crack that codex. The designers don’t specifically tell you what is powerful and what is there for flavor – figure it out for yourself.

Weaknesses of Net Lists and Why They Don’t Help You Evolve as a Competitive Gamer
Net lists are typically min|maxed and feature heavily spammed units|options. The problem with this approach from a competitive gaming experience is that these lists will have some holes that can be exploited. Sure leafblower IG and TWC/Grey Hunter/Long Fang spam were very tough – people had lots of problems beating these two lists on a consistent basis. They were tough for me to beat as well… some armies seem to have no real chance at success against them such as Tyranids versus Space Wolves. My approach to beating these lists were to play as many games possible against them versus good opponents. I was playing BA DoA at the time and eventually I figured out how to beat both of these net lists on a consistent basis. I’ve written many articles on my own 40k blog ( that go into great detail how to beat them.

The Test of Time and Not Withstanding
I’ve found that net lists don’t stand the test of time well. For example I’ve found it’s relatively easy to beat Space Wolves with my Dark Eldar and Draigowing is very effective versus Imperial Guard. So you might spend a lot of time and money building an army only to have it slip a tier or two on the power rating after a couple of years. Maybe that is okay for you but wouldn’t it be better to design an army that can stay at the top throughout one edition of the game (e.g., 5th edition)? Net lists are designed as quickly as possible to dominate the current meta and take advantage of the most broken combinations. Changes to the rules and newly released codices eventually spell their doom though. I’ve found that Phil Kelly’s codices fall into this bracket – just look at Eldar – the release of 5th edition immediately dropped them from the top tier. Same thing with Orks… Every day they slip down a notch. I’m not saying that Eldar or Orks aren’t competitive but I think you’ll agree they are not at the same level where they once started… They have both been played out to a large extent. Only with the new release of Dark Eldar did I finally see Phil take a step in the new direction. I’ll go so far as to say that the newer codices (starting with Blood Angels) are all extremely balanced – it’s not possible to break these codices so as a result we see a return of older armies such as lash spam and it’s kind of funny in a dark way.

What You Play and Why You Play It
So here we come to the conclusion. Irregardless of everything I said above my philosophy is you should play what you enjoy the most. Richard Petty never drove a Volkswagen Beetle in a race because his fellow race car drivers were envious of all his wins. Play what you enjoy and don’t let others convince you to play anything less. I’ve tried to give you some enlightening tips how to go about designing a competitive army and warned you of the pitfalls that come from playing a net list. 40k cannot be boiled to a deck of cards like MtG – it just doesn’t work that way. You’ll have to find a group of gamers that have a similar set of philosophies as your own… If you do then you can flourish and reap the rewards that come from that – a tight circle of good friends!

Have at it…


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