Tuesday, 20 March 2012

History Lesson - Just play Grey Knights ...

Atreides is probably rolling his eye's right now.

(To skip to the Grey Knight section, just CTRL+F "APPLYING THIS TO GK's" and this will skip you to the list section)

Its funny that when I came back to this hobby (after a 6 month break), I did it with the intent to change my approach to the game. To be more serious about play testing, make better evaluations of my list choices and approach tournament play with more gaming professionalism.Yet I am pretty much on the verge of making the same mistake I made near enough this time last year.

The mistake was (and is) playing a list that gives me satisfaction in playing and accomplishing with, but knowing that the main reason of the satisfaction is that the army is not top tier and its an up hill struggle from the get go.

Sounds weird right?

However, never in my time as a competitive gamer, when it came to "business", would I let myself play a weaker team (in FPS's) or set-up (in WOW arena) just because it was more "fun" or given the satisfaction of winning with an inferior set up or self imposed handicap. The eye was always on the prize. In those times I recognised there was two modes of play - serious and casual and had clear boundaries for those.

It was easy in an FPS game to split serious/casual. In IRC we had an "elite" pick up channel where we would sign up and use a private server and be sure to have a high level pick up game. Then there was of course Jolt3 public server and RTCW.se servers that were good for fun play. But come serious time, it was tag up, get serious on voice coms and your going hard at the games,and this was "only" for the practice games. The goal was being as prepared as possible for the tournaments and leagues. Watching demo's, breaking the game down with your team mates, and, quite often, screaming at each other and getting complaints from your neighbour of "does he have to use that sort of language". Maybe, just maybe, the odd keyboard toss.

In WOW it was much the same. PVE aside, in PVP you had battlegrounds for "casual" play, again pick up groups, rank or item grinds, you would just see it as fun and warm up play. In arena I'd have times in the season for "fun setups" but come gladiator time we made sure our team was  ready and we practised hard and put in the right amount of games to ensure our 0.5% ranking - come tournament time, it was all business.

In both styles of games I always had fun playing the game, I had the casual part of the activity clearly set out, which was just for the joy of the game, then I had a distinct other part, the competitive side, where I enjoyed it (competing and being rewarded for it is fun after all) clearly marked out.

Yet when I approached 40K I merged both. Then I wondered why I was frustrated when I didn't get the results I felt I could achieve.

In FPS's or WOW I'd never approach "serious time" with a suboptimal set up. Yet I routinely did this all of last year with 40K, and this year, despite telling myself I'd approach the game with more intent that saw me having years of professional "e-Sports", I didn't. I picked an army that I would have fun with, but will almost certainly hand myself some default number of automatic losses at a tournament before the event has even started (like my Deathwing).

While no army is impervious to all, there is obviously a clear power difference between playing a well tuned GK list and a good Deathwing list. Sisters probably fall somewhere between the middle, leaning closer to the DWing. This is fine, but if your telling yourself one thing (be serious), you can't turn around and blame or be surprised for lack of success post event.

There is also a subtle thing that happens here. When I played deathwing, I always wanted to get that success I yearned for, yet if I played GK's, you'd be more open to playing the "pet" list at a down tournament, such as blog wars. Much the same way I'd play "fun" setups on my second priest, knowing my main character had gladiator locked up and that was just a source of income, I could play the set up's with friends (and family) that I'd never let go near my main character(s) come the business end of the seasons'.

That's all a bit long winded right?

Funnily enough there's an entire article coming up dedicated to comparisons between gaming and 40K that was spurred on by my thought process for this article! Essentially, I am wanting to channel some of my experience into 40K and see if it has any application. The team I play with online has dominated since early Counter Strike days, over a series of games over 15 years, and mostly its just our experience that lets us get head starts in half of these games. Why shouldn't it work for 40K?

The long and the short of it, in my mind right now, if I want to be remotely serious come tournament play, and actually be satisfied with myself (or have no one to blame except my play, which is the way it should be), I need to be playing what I feel is the strongest army and list. Its what I am used to doing in gaming, and what I should be doing. 

Adeptus Custodes - just pure awesome on a stick.


Hopefully this still makes sense if you just skipped to this section. If not, there's still a GK list shortly!

Essentially I've said for a long time I feel GK's are the strongest book. They have a mixture of overpowered rules (fortitude, coteaz) and just pure balance (troop diversity, psycannons being the best weapon in the game, dreads etc..) and diversity (draigowing, coteaz spam, purifier spam, razor spam, spam spam).

You'll have to go quite far to find someone that won't say GK's aren't top of the food chain.

One problem with picking up GK's though at this point, is that often the players still playing them will be both more experienced in the field, but more importantly in the mirror match (thank god for Atreides play testing group!)

But I'd rather be going into the field at this stage with a powerful list and working up to experience in the mirror, than attacking the powerful lists with a "oh I've not played against X" but underpowered army (like Sisters or Deathwing).


I've been tinkering with where I want to start from. There are a lot of good lists out there, but I also do have an idea of what I want in there.


10x Purifiers - 4x PsyC 4x Halb 1x DH - Rhino
5x Purifiers - 2x PsyC 2x Halb 1xDH - Rhino
5x Purifiers - 2x PsyC 2x Halb 1xDH - Rhino

5x GK Strike Squad - PsyC - Psyback
3x Acolytes - Psyback
3x Acolytes - Psyback
5x DCA - Psyback
5x DCA - Psyback


Purifiers and DCA just do so much heavy lifting its unreal. I really like having the large purifier unit, it gives a huge deal of versatility as they are just harder to shift, or you create another threat vector an have 4 MSU purifier units supported by 2x DCA units in the midfield.

I can't stand Aco's, but they are nothing but 24 points worth of scorers. The GKSS are there to sure up the scoring, being able to push into midfield and help with their durability or sit back and be harder to kill with a tank, cover and 3+ save.

The rest of the list is academic. I am missing the venerable dread that is common in many lists these days, which could be taken at the cost of a purifier unit, or rejigging the troops to only use a single DCA unit and run two 10x man units of purifiers.


With this I've established better parameters for my gaming. Much like I'd go to a public server during FPS days, or battlegrounds in WOW, or play under aliases, in 40K I know that if I am preparing for tournaments I am to be using my top end list OR playing our gauntlet lists. However, if I am playing casually I am looking at my Sisters of Battle force.

While I am not saying Sisters are by any means a poor army, they aren't, but they are what would be classified "tier 2" in any other competitive game. I enjoy using them.

I do know people are going to comment "stop being silly just use what you enjoy", but unfortunately I don't think thats how 40K should be if your truly looking to hammer down a win. If your not playing what you think is best for YOU to take down a tournament, then your just doing it wrong.

However, going down to the local store to have some pick up games, especially with our local "talent" - then its the best time to just bust out a fun army with great units and be damned to net lists, meta and worrying.


  1. oh goody, someone else packing out a GK army, wonderful

    I'm soo bringing my DE counts-as GK army to the next tournament.

    Splintercannons = psycannons , Incubi = Purifiers etc ....

  2. exactly the conclusions i have come to mate. now i have some time again to devote to 40k, i intend to start playing every week, even if very casually. my lack of practice seriously showed at Jolly Toys outing, and even against scrubs, you can still practice your unit placemenmt and target priority etc. I will not be taking A lists to local GW's, because it is not fun for anyone, but i'll sure as hell be using them on you! :)

  3. Good article Bull...to kick off some discussion..

    I am not sure there is such a need for this differentiation in your play and armies.
    Whilst I agree that this is a very....professional....approach, I would argue that this level of play is not really needed to get consistent and positive results..
    On a basic level, I whole heartedly agree that there is little point in playing hardcore armies against someone who is neither a tournament player (and by that I am not saying that all tournament players are inherently 'good', but there is an experience of and expectance of high level play) nor 'wielding' an optimised list...there is little enjoyment (although arguably some satisfaction) to be had there for either player.

    On the otherhand, I think that it is perfectly acceptable to play those guys with your tough army as long as they go in to the game 'eyes wide open' and that you are attempting to try out a variety of strategems or a playstyle that you are unfamiliar with..

    Practice is key to success, sure. But the level of work that has apparently gone into computer game success (see: South Park WoW episode) does not need to be replicated in 40k dude..

    or at least in my opinion..play regularly with tough armies (they don't even have to be the same!) and your play will improve.. simple imho.. ;)

  4. Oh for sure, I maybe didn't make it clear. GK's would be for tournament play (and subsequent practice, maybe the odd LGS game). Casual games will be buisness as normal (Sisters, Deathwing, Blood Angel Deathstars and the likes).

    @sorrowshard. Yup pretty much. Though I have been playing Grey Knights since Rogue Trader, and had played them throughout 5th Edition with their 3rd Ed book and 5th Ed, I actually dropped playing them with the new book because of the exact reason (mistakes) I stated above. I don't know any player in any game that knowingly would go into a tournament with a list he knows in his/her heart of hearts isn't going to be the best to win it, yet I repeatedly do that in 40K. In CS/RTCW and WOW I never did it, and thats why I won lots and lots of tournaments and lots and lots of money.

    Basically, it removes any form of excuse. Why do I go to tournaments? To compete and try to win. What do I take? A list that can't win and can just about compete. Thats a mistake. I have GK's. I've owned them for years, why do I activily choose not to play them, because I don't want to be a sheep? Guess what, that is utter bullshit. You play what you feel is best equipped for you to play the way you want to play.

    Coincidently if I still had my Dark Eldar, I'd have more than likely played DE as I consider them top 3/4, though they are likely to fold to GK's.

    I also accept I am going to be stuck in mirror game hell. But hey, I am used to that :P

    But yeah Ven, practice is super important. In one of my next posts I'll talk about it a bit more, but needless to say in my FPS days we would play multiple competitive games a day 5 or 6 days a week, on top of playing on public servers/pick up games just to keep your "skill" up. In wow? Yeah, I logged about 12 hours of PVP a day. 40K is much harder to do that, but its a much more level playing field as well, everyone is in the same boat.

  5. There are different approaches to tournaments too.

    I personally go to have challenging games and prove myself, so I always go with suboptimal lists (I dont like jumping on the bandwagon as well). Personally I dont give a toss about the final result as long as the games are competitive and enjoyable.


  6. Damn it phone lost the entire of my post.

    Yeah I did the same thing last year with Deathwing. It was a challenge, it was fun at times, but also deeply frustrating. I dislike the idea of bandwagonning, but in honesty this is probably the first time I've ever done it, and I think its actually not that big an issue. 40K has such a finite amount of armies anyway, and unlike any other game, its actually a cost at every stage (buy the army, paint the army, transport you and the army, get into events and stay at events. I once flew to Dallas for a major LAN event, I didn't spend a single penny of my own money the entire trip). So fuck it, I'll play what gives me the best chance lol.

    I'll have fun at events if I play with a paper bag or get to hit people with a baseball bat if they ever roll better than a 2 in the games - I've always enjoyed, but separated the social aspect of gaming from that of the actual game. Once I am in the game I am in my own world of working out the route to victory (more satisfying than actually winning it has to be said). Pre and post game I am the same person, win or lose, but I am certainly disappointed when it was my list that let me down rather than my play (one of my pet peeves is when I play very well and just get let down by something out of my control).

    However, it's also a table top game, and people do play it just for fun, and have no concept of wanting to win events and if they do, its just a nice bonus. I went to an event where the winners got 50k, and one of the teams there only turned up because they had qualified and had some issues with practice, knew full well they would get battered, but thought fuck it, why not? (Unlike my team, they actually had to fork out their own cash to get there. Gotta love sponsors).

    There are many levels, this article is not me telling people what to do, but me telling myself to learn from my own history of gaming. In 15 years I'd never willingly/knowingly enter an event with a less than optimal setup/tactics. Sure we would get it wrong, mis read the meta game / opponent / not play well - but we always would try and be as prepared as we could go in. To me that is what I want from a tournament - preparation and execution, if I/we win, then great, if we don't then theres the next one. I don't like the idea of selling myself short when my goal is to win the event.

    Social side of the game is entirely different, I don't see how me playing a good or bad list should effect my personality being cast onto somebody. If I play a softer list than someone else I am apparently nice, but if I play a better one I am an asshole? I know your not saying that at all, but I sometimes get the feeling people mean this when they talk about bandwagon jumpers.

    I could ramble on about this, but I won't lol, I am boring myself!