Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tournament Competitiveness - Part 1

Okay so today’s the first of a three parter looking at how competitive armies are in terms of winning a tournament. My caveat here is that GW has done a good job with 8th Edition, balancing the field far more than in previous editions. Player skill is very important in any comparison and I believe is the defining factor in why on any day, one army can beat any other. Having said that, I think that some of the armies are less likely to be able to put together the required 5-6 wins to take out a tournament.

So here are my “Least Tournament Competitive” armies:

1. Wood Elves

The key problem with Wood Elves is functioning in a world of ranks and steadfast. The Wild Riders are no longer the rank breaking threat they were and that is a massive change.

Certainly you can win games with Wood Elves but I don’t think consistently enough to win a tournament. The strongest build is a Level 4 with Life, a Noble with Hail of Doom in big unit of Archers with flaming banner, 2-3 other archer units and perhaps Treekin.

Thankfully for Woodies a new book is on the horizon – probably early 2012

2. Ogres

Probably stronger in 8th than in 7th but there they were really roadkill. I believe they suffer from the ranks and steadfast problem that afflicts the Wood Elves. This has led to the formation of Deathstar units but a canny player will divert or feed you chaff to make sure you never get anything meaningful.

One upside of 8th is the ability to take more rare choices meaning a couple of Gorgers are almost mandatory.

Ogres really struggle against Magic with a lot of spells removing models in the new world.

Generally expected to be the next book off the block, late 2011.

3. Beastmen

The last of the 7th Edition books and at the time of release a lot of people believed it signalled the new 8th Edition world. Unfortunately, for Beastmen, it didn’t.

Very poor magic lore, little or no shooting means that they really struggle to harvest points in anything but an extreme build. The two “successful” builds are a flying Doombull or the Level 1 Herdstone spam. I suspect the success comes from the skill of the player and the element of surprise as much as any inherent list strength.

It is going to be a long few years in the Drakenwald.

4. Bretonnians

Any list that requires two stonethrowers to be competitive is obviously struggling. As always, multiple charges are the key but a smart player will ensure your attack is broken up. The Lord with Heroic Killing Blow to deal with monsters. The problem remains though if you can’t break ranked infantry on the charge it is going to be a very hard struggle. No partial rules for templates hurts them a lot.

New book out soon and I’m sure that the comparative power level will be upped.

5. Dwarfs

People may be surprised that I have the Stunties here but this comes down to the evaluation criteria. I believe that it is very difficult for Dwarfs to win the necessary number of games by the necessary margin to take out tournaments.

That said, they are very hard to lose with if you don’t want to. They have best magic defense in game (sans Puppet), combat troops that seem to bristle with Great Weapons and warmachines to hit at range.

That said they are hamstrung by requiring the enemy to commit. If they push too far forward other armies can exploit the space between the frontline and the warmachines. That can be fatal.

So there are my five least tournament competitive armies. The good thing is they should also be in all but the Beastmen case, the next books off the rank. The way GW has been levelling the field I can see all of the new books improving their prospects.

So what do you think? Have I got it right?


  1. I would have thought Vampire counts were a bit weaker now with the "outnumbered by a fear causer" rule going under 8th. This was a big winner for them, that and rolls of 1 & 2 on a dice causing any casting roll to fail makes it harder for them to 1d6 spam raise dead and invok.

    Still with cheap infantry options they, like Skaven slaves, are going to be steadfast constantly.

    Your right about Dwarfs steadfast etc has improved the army but lack of mobility and cost of core/special choices compared to other armies i.e., we cant spam out hordes of 4-6pt infantry models really hurt Dwarfs.

  2. I agree with you about Dwarves being in this tier, and that's not just the grumbles of a typical Dwarf player.....

    Reasons why we're here;

    1. Lack of magic. We lose the chance to smash our opponent with Dwellers, Purple Sun etc, or to alter key combats with hexs/augments. The ability that all other armies have to shift the decisive point around the battlefied using a mage is something we sorely lack.

    2. Poor movement. Not just the M3, but the lack of most of the troop types in the book (Cavalry, Chariots, Monsters, Skirmishers) which can close fast, avoid combat and influence your opponent's moves. As Pete pointed out, we need our opponents to commit, and Miners/Rangers/MRoChallenge/Anvil notwithstanding, most of our army and our key combat units are very slow. Almost every other unit in the game is faster and more maneovreable than a unit of 30 Hammerers after all.

    Poor movement and no magic leads to the third problem;

    3. Reliance on shooting. Our war machines are great, but expensive. If they don't roll well, or if you have the tools to deal with them (Skaven....) or if you close too fast for them to have a decisive effect (Warriors of Chaos) then the Dwarves are in trouble. Especially when we look at our fourth problem.

    4. Less than great combat ability. GW troops are awesome, as is universal T4 and high WS. State Troops, Clanrats, Elf Spears etc, Dwarves will carve through. But the real killers aren't your S3, T3 rank and file, it's the Chaos Warriors, Abominations, Black Guard, White Lions etc. Against those, point for point, we lack attacks, we lack the rerolls to make our attacks stick and we're always striking last. Our units have to be big to absorb the casualties, which means that they're few in number, and these days, a 5+ armour save from Heavy Armour isn't worth much against anyone who counts.

    5. Special Rules. We get the Relentless rule, always marching within 8" of an opponent, which is nice, but the Resolute rule is a killer. -1" on your pursue means you have much less of a chance catching and finally destroying enemy units (and getting the points). -1 on your Flee means your expensive unit is most likely to be caught and killed.

    6. High model cost versus value. Dwarves are an elite army, and should cost a lot. I just don't think we have the stats, equipment and rules to justify these in most cases. Only by a point or two, but these add up quickly across an army.

    With poor movement and no magic, Dwarves really need to compete well in the other two phases. We do have awesome shooting (when it works) but our combat ability is too mediocre to cancel out our magic and movement limitations. Anti-magic is all well and good, but it won't win a game for us, only stop it being lost (which is not the same thing).

    Having said all this, Dwarves do have some strengths, and I'm guessing that many Dwarf players like the background and imagery, so we persevere with what we have. And when the artillery rolls hot, then our opponents are in trouble. Still, a new army book that mitigates the shortcomings and makes us more competitive (not Daemon or Dark Elf competitive mind) will be most welcome.

  3. I would agree with everything except the Beastmen.

    With the primal fury rule I reckon Beastmen are a very underrated army. Hatred plus a stat buffing spell can be pretty brutal.

    Against a heavy shooting army though I guess they would struggle, so based on your criteria of 5 or 6 wins to take out a tournament army I suppose I can see where you're coming from (maybe...)

  4. I think the woodies need to be here, but not because they can no longer isolate enemy units through treesinging re: new terrain rules. This means hordes are still hordes coming at you, when in 7th it could mean only 1 unit could realistically threaten you.

    However, the 4 key tenants (Glade Guard, Dryads, Treekin, Treeman) will win any game in the right situations. Dwarfs will walk over the woodies with forests no longer blocking the flaming cannons.

    Will they win 5 or 6 games? no, but they could win 4/6 if they don't constantly come up against the panzer division haha.

    + their real issue is fitting TMA and lvl4 in list at the same time. Lore of Beasts makes this a particularly nasty combo-but need 2500 points minimum to fit as effective (ie with lvl 4 to have better chance of getting spell 5).

  5. I find it funny that the two tournaments I have attended this year have been won by Beastmen and Wood Elves - lists in your bottom tier. I think this comes down to 2 things:

    1. The players who were using these lists are very capable and know how to use what they've got.

    2. The difference between the "strongest" and "weakest" lists in 8th ed is nowhere near as pronounced as it was under 7th ed.

    I don't disagree with your assessments. Vampire Counts are not much fun under 8th ed, but when you do take the "competitive" build (there really only seems to be 1), they are still up there. Hard to know where to put them.

  6. Very much a personal opinion based on my experience playing against various armies.

    I think Dwarfs are the strongest of this group but doubt they have enough "finishing" power to win an event.