Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't believe the hype!

If you're reading this, and new to the Eldar or to Warhammer in general, you've probably been trolling around for advice on how to build your Eldar army; what models to buy, what units to use, what works, what doesn't, what to look out for.

Are you overwhelmed with opinions yet?

You've probably dredged up and pored over a thousand articles on "mechdar" or "foot slogging lists" or "mobile tank vs. jetbike armies". And you've probably found equal numbers of opinions arguing for either side of any argument, particularly when it comes to "The Only Viable Build for Eldar in Fifth Edition."

Relax: it's all crap. Everyone has opinions which, through the miracle of the internet, take on the tone of hard, actionable data. Don't believe any of it. It's all hype. While it true that there are some types of army lists that lend themselves toward the current metagame, that doesn't mean they are the only thing going.

From a personal example, when I had the temerity to publicly propose running a group of warp spiders accompanied by an Autarch at an upcoming tournament, everyone but everyone told me it was a terrible choice. "Warp Spiders aren't killy enough, they have no AP" "They're too expensive," "Autarch's suck and you won't have enough points left over for Eldrad." The criticisms went on and on and no matter which forum I went to the answer was "that's useless; use X instead."

I chose to ignore internet wisdom (besides the tournament date was too close and this was all I had painted!) and in the end this unit wound up as my MVP in 5 out of 6 games. In the 1st game the spiders were wiped out by an outflanking unit, the Autarch ended up joining a nearby squad of scorpions, and the combined unit mopped up the infiltrating unit, it's transport and some deep striking heavies nearby in the response.In the other 5 games this unit rampaged across the table taking out critical threats and targets of opportunity left and right.

Netlist wisdom tells me that the unit shouldn't have worked that well. The only logical conclusion you can make , therefore, is to ignore netlist wisdom.

There are three factors that drive hype: local metagame, mathhammer and trends in opinion.
Don't let someone else's metagame influence your list choices.

Local metagame is one of the biggest factors for listbuilding. What armies are being played around you will strongly shape your experience and will influence how your army and its constituent units perform. It will also influence your responsive list-building. It will also feed into what you blab about online and thus influence trends in opinion.
I play in an area where it seems like absolutely everyone plays space marines. I know four Blood Angels players. And yet, when it comes to my tournament experience, I've only ever faced off against Space Marine armies twice (three times if you count chaos marines). I have played a lot of friendly games against Blood Angels armies, however, and more than a few other Marine lists. I tend to build armies that don't necessarily
do that well against Marines because of that experience. In fact, if memory serves me well, I've played against more Ork armies in the last 4 years of tournaments than anything else. Hmmm, maybe I should pay attention to that trend...

The minor lesson here? I knew I could make the unit work for me, and experience proved that out.

Don't let Mathhammer alone make your army list choices.
Mathhammer, if you are unfamiliar with the term, plays an inordinately strong role in online opinion. Mathhammer is the art of applying statistical probabilites to hypothetical dice rolls in a given situation. The problem with Mathhammer is that it doesn't take anything into account but unit A directly involved with unit B in a particular way. For example: "My 10 dire avengers bladestorm into the onrushing ork mob of 30 boyz." Sounds like an epic moment in the game where you will mow down the entire unit of boys. Piece of cake, right? Well that doesn't take into account the fact that your dire avengers may have already taken casualties, or that the boyz are in terrain, or if they've been hit with Doom, or are enjoying the benefits of a Kustom Force Field, or yadda yadda yadda.

Many units look great on paper when you apply Mathhammer. Shining Spears are a great example. Fast, tougher than regular Eldar infantry, with a 3+ armor save and a Strength 6 power weapon on the charge, they can take a short range p
ot-shot with a lance weapon before they charge. Give them an exarch to confer Hit and Run to the squad and let them rip! Of course, EVERY gun on the table is going to turn towards them the moment they appear...
Don't let trends in opinion deter you from bringing a unit that you think will work for you.

I mention this point last of all because the first two points feed into this one. If you think that a unit will work for you, try it out in your local group. It may actually work! Sometimes a plan will work no matter how badly your dice try to screw it up. If you've read ten thousand forum posts stating "wraithguard are useless", you will be inclined to agree; after all, they can't all be wrong, can they? Yes, actually, they can!
The lesson here is: do NOT let yourself be swayed by what appears to be the consensus of other players. If you have an idea for a unit or army list, try it out for yourself. There's a good chance that if you came up with it yourself, have worked out a plan how to use it, that unit will fit your style of play and work for you. And if not, well at least you tried... and now you know! Your experience is going to prove a lot more valuable to your playing than listening to some faceless crowd.

Go forth and fail no more!

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