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Warhammer 40K: What Matters More – The List or the Player?

4 Minute Read
Feb 05

Adam here again this week to talk shop about what really matters more in Warhammer 40K – A rock hard list, or a top-tier player.

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance when someone wins a big tournament. People start looking at the winning list or talk about the winner themselves. Talking heads have the winners on their show and many people look at what the players in the final match should have done differently to maybe show how the other player could have won that final game.

Also at this time, depending on the event, is when you see a rush to buy the models used in the winning list, or even the runner-up list, by those chasing the meta and hoping to replicate the success of the list in their own local tournaments. This brings about a question that occurs after almost every tournament, “What won the event?” Was it the skill of the player or was it the list, or codex in some cases, that allowed the player to win the event?

It’s the List

If you you believe in codex creep, which I described last week, or just think that some books are overpowered, then many times you will say that the list, or book, is what won the tournament. There is some truth to this. Anyone that remembers the Iron Hands codex will agree with this.  In the past, we would actually suggest new players start with space marines because they were very user friendly. That old codex was one that allowed a player to survive making a mistake and still have a chance at winning. The Space Marine and Iron Hands codex did more than that. To be blunt, those books elevated the winning percentages of a lot of players that would otherwise not do so well normally.

The lords of late 8th Edition

I remember being frustrated in one game against that army because even though I made the moves I was supposed to and did a fair amount of damage as a result, I  still lost the game. I lost the game not because of some amazing tactical move on my opponent’s part but because of all the special rules the army had. My opponent really didn’t have to make any moves at all, just read the rules. Another way is the list wins for you is when the formula on how to win has been solved so you just need to build the list and it practically runs itself. This usually happens with a book that only has one or two viable builds. Although successful, this actually highlights the shortcomings of the book instead of it’s strengths. Sometimes it seems like nothing can stop a well made list.


It’s the Pilot

All this being said, there can be something said about the pilot of the list. There have been times when a list makes the finals or wins an event and when other people try the list it never achieves the same success. The best example of this is Sean Nayden. Sean has been in the top 8 of every Las Vegas Open and he seems to do it with a list that no one can figure out why it works. He can explain it and even show us but not very many people can pilot the same lists that he builds because they are not him. Most people don’t think the way he does and that is why we can build the army but we can’t pilot it the same way.

It is the same reason why we see a lot of the same people vying for the top spot at major tournaments over the years. These pilots have the insight and thinking that allows them to adjust any army they are piloting no matter the edition, codex, or tournament rules. This also shows us that there are books that even the 40k gods cannot help. If the best players are not using certain units or books, there must be a reason why, and they are usually willing to tell you why. So yes, watching a high end player using Vespids to win his stream or local game may seem like Vespids are better than people think. Try to keep in mind that the caliber of this player is much higher than your normal tournament player so just maybe they are better able to utilize that unit more not because of the list he is using but because they are operating on a higher level.

Army List Challenge Rating: DIETY

~That’s all for this week. I hope you enjoyed the article. Let me know what you think, and whether it’s the player, the list or a combination of the two to win a tournament, in the comments section below.


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