Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WHFB: Army tiers and hypothesis

The lost art of dominating with an outdated book.

Now, I will talk about uncomped and very slight comp based off the WHFB 8th system (2400 and 2500 games).  I will rate the armies based on tiers from what I've experienced. Here is what I think of the tiers in respects to the armies under them.

Tiers Explained
  • Tier 1 - This tier represents the pinnacle of army power in the current metagame.  There are a lot of viable, competitive choices and they're all strong vs. netlists and cookie-cutters from other armies.  This level also indicates that regardless of build, the army is able to minimize on the number of bad matchups it will most likely encounter in a tournament setting.  Most of these armies have flexible magic, multiple viable builds, and strong options all over the book with some major power units that just soars above the rest.
  • Tier 2 - This tier demonstrates a solid book with many competitive choices. Whether it is due to good internal balance or a few stand-out units, the army preforms fluidly on the table.  While certain builds are strong vs. netlists and can compete on equal footing with other armies out there, there are not as many as Tier 1 armies.  There will be more bad matchups that exist in this army tier, but not much since the majority of the book has the answers it needs.
  • Tier 3 - This tier demonstrates workable unit choices with few competitive options. While some of these options are strong, the rest of the book suffers from not enough viable choices for a tournament setting. Whether it is due to subpar internal balance, or just that the units are not powerful enough compared to the other armies, there are noticeable weaknesses.  As a result, the number of bad matchups increases.
Tier 1
Warriors of Chaos
Dark Elves

Tier 2
High Elves
Undead Legions*
Daemons of Chaos
Ogre Kingdoms
Chaos Dwarfs
Wood Elves*
Vampire Counts

Tier 3
Orcs and Goblins
Tomb Kings

*Represents fairly new armies that I'm not sure about yet.

Here is what I have to say about some of the armies, not all of them.

Warriors of Chaos - Have some of the most BS builds in the game. While a lot of the book has a lot of uncompetitive options, the bulk of the book are competitive and very competitive at that. You have some of the best lord/hero build options in the game, from Chaos Lords to flying DPS to 3++ BSBs, with some of the best magic, the toughest core in the entire book that rivals other book's elites, and can take multiple monsters and Hellcannons. I would say this book has the highest amount of competitive options, which results in the largest degree of raw face beating. This is an example of a book that has too many over the top elements.

Skaven - An archaic book in terms of age, since the book literally came out forever ago. However, because it's an old book, it retains a lot of flat out BS elements from another edition. This is the one book that benefited the most from 8th Ed. changes, and from a raw price to power ratio, there's no other army that can pay so little for such devastating results. Sure, the results vary, but when your entire army is virtually unbreakable, ignore armor saves and cause D6 wounds, and for dirt cheap, that doesn't matter. This is an example of an older book that just benefited too much with new rules.

Dark Elves - Has multiple builds that can utilize fast cav characters, strong/flexible magic presence, multiple Executioner and Witch blocks, with powerful supporting Warlocks. You can construct the army around avoidance, flying circus, combat blocks, and take either an infantry heavy or cavalry heavy force, built from core. All of which circulate around mobility and superior shooting for chaff solutions. This is an example of a book that can just about do anything.

Empire - Can take arguably the strongest shooting force in the entire game. It has the damage, the range, and most importantly, the points efficacy to invalidate a lot netlist and metagame threats. Cheap wizards allow you to utilize light councils while the rest of the army builds allow for multiple Stubborn blocks, armored knights, Demigryphs and Steam Tanks. This is an example of a book that is just geared at fighting the current metagame.

Lizardmen - Can take an all skink core that gives you multiple, accurate poisoned shots while providing you with deployment advantage. Saurus Warriors are above average troops in terms of bang for your buck, Slann's magic ability, multiple mounted characters with strong saves and damage, with the ability to go monster-heavy, character buses, Slaan magic + Temple Guard, or avoidance. This is an example of a book that has all the right tools in all phases.

High Elves - A lot of people say that High Elves are the leader of the mid-tier and I think that's very accurate. Although this list isn't in order of power or whatnot, I think that High Elves has one of the best internally balanced books in the entire game. You can build flexible shooty avoidance core, or armored core, or infantry core. Then you have Phoenix Guard which are ridiculously good, White Lions with Stubborn, and some of the best magic items in the game via the BotWD and Book of Hoeth. Not to mention the flexibility of knowing all lores, having one of the best monsters in the game via the Phoenix, and having multiple playstyles to the army itself. You can either take monster bash, infantry, mixed balanced, cavalry-heavy, or very shooty. The only thing that keeps this book in check is the pricing, which is priced very well, which is also its reason why it's kept in the middle. There's simply not enough High Elves to go around in terms of body count. Why not top tier? Power to price ratio.

Undead Legions - This is basically built off of VC with a few star units from the TK book, and by default, this just means more options for the VC player. You gain access to the TK movement spells, can march within the general and no longer crumble. Tag on the fact that nothing changes except for your player options and you have a good solid army. Why not top tier? Because at the end of the day, you're just VC, so yeah, bad matchups.

Demons of Chaos - Despite having what I consider to be a trainwreck of the book, this book exemplifies what it means to be highly competitive with poor internal balance. While Khorne and Tzeentch are pissed off to all hell at the options it offers players, Slaanesh and Nurgle units are rolling around in wins. It goes without saying that Nurgle is questionably one of the most overpowered elements to ever grace the table, Slaanesh magic is out of control, the Eternal Blade as a default option is hell on wheels, Soul Grinders are closet OP sleepers that everyone comps low and ignore, Beasts of Nurgle are way over the top, and Khorne cannons humble the Ironblaster in game balance. Why not top tier?  You see the same units over and over again.  Predictability, although different in playstyle.

Ogre Kingdoms - This is a prime example of solid, competitive choices, but cookie cutter builds. While this army book has strong elements that work in its favor, there is limited build variation. You can take a bruiser wall, but most builds default on 2x Ironblaster, 3x Sabers, a big block of Ironguts and Mournfangs. If not Mournfangs, then you see Maneaters, and you hardly ever see a Tyrant over the default SM. If you Gutstar, you Runemaw, but if you don't, then you see more characters. You basically take the same shell of a list and then change a few things here and there for the metagame and that's all you see. The other rare choices are subpar, and there's not a lot of choices to begin with. Its simple, straight to the point, cookie-cutter, and brutally effective. Predictability with very little variation in playstyle is what keeps it from top tier.

Chaos Dwarfs - You are a better version of Dwarfs with more over the top elements like the K'daai Destroyer, Ashstorm and Hellcannons. The entire army pretty much shoots and everyone is very well-armored and has a lot of powerful abilities. Unlike the Empire, you lack diversity in army builds and tunnel vision into specific cookie-cutter lists that yields the same maximum damage output. This cookie-cutter means you're susceptible to the same weaknesses and this is what keeps you in this tier. Why not top tier? Predictability and completely linear playstyle.

Vampire Counts - This book is capable of two very strong playstyles, and although very powerful, are very predictable. This is also the book with the largest variance of bad matchups to any given army because of the gimmicky nature of screams and ethereal. You roll up in an event and everyone is running Ogres with no magic missiles? You have a field day with large units of Hexwraiths. You fight a lot of WEs? You might as well get tabled. The same goes with Terrorgheists and their susceptibility to Cannons and Light councils. You either win big or lose big with this army, and while it can Blenderbus and meatwall magic players to death, it has gimmicky options that are either stellar, or terrible depending on the matchup. Why not top tier?  Because most VC builds either work great, or completely flop vs. certain matchups.

The rest of the armies are just missing some things that make them truly competitive.  I would say Dwarfs and OnG lead the pack of the semi-bad books, but the rest of the books are just subpar and need an update really badly.  For example, I can't think of a reason to take TK as a standalone army now that Undead Legions is a thing, but I can see people just taking VC.

Why is Undead Legions not Tier 1?

There a very few things that I would add to my existing VC army from the TK arsenal. Magic is the big one because you have the most amount of combinations from the interactions there. Because this is centralized around magic, and magic as we all know is fickle, you can't rely on it with absolute certainty. The only thing that is a must-take for me from TK is the Casket of Souls.

Undead Legions does make things a little bit easier for us, but the fact of the matter is that TK just offers us very little. All of those options that you listed are fairly mild in terms of power or overpriced for what they do. Boosting of magic is already a boon, but not from the Hierotitan because I don't like the cost associated with a +D3 to cast. The thing costs a lot, is not terribly effective in combat, and has nowhere close to the flexibility of the Terrorgheist. Remember, when you take this thing, you're literally sacking Mortis Engine/TG points. The same goes for duders like Horse Archers or normal Horseman, both of which are Core, sure, but lack the lovely price tag that is the Dire Wolves, which IMO should be considered one of the best chaffs in the game for the price (and in Core!). I would never take a Tomb Price over a Wight King because I find his stats to be subpar, magic items from the TK book to be disgraceful, and he has no options to be mounted with you in a knight-bus. Remember that thing I wrote a while ago about the playstyles of VC? When you look at the TK book, it doesn't really fit into either playstyle as well as you would think.

TK characters cannot travel with us in a bus, and only by themselves via the Chariots, which IMO is a tax to deliver them into battle in a fast list. The only TK realistically adds to the VC army is magical flexibility, via the Casket of Souls and with the Lore of Nehekhara. These are the only 2. Undead Legion gives us no crumble (yay), the ability to multi-lore (another yay), and the ability to take TK allies (meh). As you can see, this is still primarily a VC army because in a competitive setting, our options are flat out stronger in all areas.

We are blessed that we have such a nice book. It really is one of the top3 best internally balanced book in WHFB right now, and I've done a lot of research/design work on figuring out the armies. While some options are there: Necrotect adding Hatred to Ghouls, WS5/6 Grave Guard + Banner of Barrows, and being able to take High Liche + Master Necro in the same list, it all comes down to bang for your buck. Is your list truly stronger with TK elements? If so, which elements are you taking and how does it increase your army's power level compared to your previous list with just VC? I really am interested because outside of the Casket, and maybe a Lv.1 Liche Priest scroll caddy, the rest are really subpar. Next up would probably be the Necrotect though.. the Hatred on Ghouls is out of control.

Lastly, the reason why I don't put the new VC+ in the top tier is because we run into pretty abysmal matchups. Terrorgheists/Hex-heavy armies just get eaten alive by Allerielle/Empire gunlines, but can be super good in other draws. I think that degree of RPS (rock paper scissors) is what's keeping us out of the top tables in all areas (ETC, uncomped, slight comp, and definitely not hard comp), and that won't change with the addition to TK. Unless you roll a baller magic phase and then IF both movement spells to close into light councils gunlines, you're just going to have a bad day.

Alright, I'm finally done.  Bring on the comments!


archied said...

Interesting read as usual.
Particularly the undead legions evaluation (as its pretty relevant to me as a TK player).

I'm just curious as to how you'd approach the undead legions list coming from the TK angle, what should be VC units im looking at to improve my tomb kings? Or is this exercise simply going to end up being 'replace all the TK with VC stuff' if you take it to the logical conclusion?

klunc said...

I feel that even the addition of marching and the lack of crumble helps TK out a lot. There's still holes in the army, but those two go a long way to alleviating their shortcomings.

archied said...

fair point that. i've yet to actually get around to trying my current TK list as an 'undead legions' list to see what marching feels like.
mainly because i cant get hold of the damn book.

HERO said...

I would immediately look at better chaff options in core, Ghouls for poisoned melee, Black Knights for specials, all the armored knights and characters associated with it, the Vampiric powers and items like Black Peripat + Casket, every ethereal and scream option that you can.

MIKE M said...

I really like this take on the armies. Very well done.

I agree after reading through undead legions and letting the hype die a bit i really only see one point to it. Vets getting the undead army book back. I am very happy for that.
I always wanted a 20000 point army but there just wasnt enough core variation. But now i can add horsemen, archers, and chariots back in. I know its a lot of black and white paint but im sick of painting zombies.

But if you add undead legions to the list, should u also add the all chaos list from tamurkhan? I know when they get around to end times: chaos, it will be the same thing. Im just curious on ur take

Yrellian said...

Just going to weigh in here. Everyone seems to think you go base VC and cherry pick tomb kings. Thats not how our meta works up here in Naggaroth. The usual build 40-80 skeletal archers for core. 3 spirit hosts, 2 screaming skull catapults and a casket of souls. Then you fill out rest to flavor. My buddy takes Nagash in one build. Or do black knight deathstar with crazy blender lord. Its a non-stop kill fest. Its pretty much my high elf list, but skeletons lol.

Yrellian said...

The combined army of chaos is going to be devastating. Heavy nurgle blocks, nurgle gorebeast chariots, and then filled with massed cheap infantry with gors/bestigors, or backed up by nurgle daemons or khorne cannons.

HERO said...

Yup, it's going to be ridiculous. You take the WoC codex because it's on the forefront of being better (armor/damage), and then you put in all the insane options from the DoC army book such as the Soul Grinder, Skullcannon, Fiends of Slaanesh, and Beasts of Nurgle.

HERO said...

I don't think it's as black and white as that either. It comes down to if you want a shooty list, or a combat list. VC supplies the Ghouls in core and TK supplies the Skeleton Archers.

Alexander Charles Jennings said...

This whole comment may be nullified with the argument "it can happen to any army" but I never like to include Skaven or O and G in tier discussions. I've seen Skaven just implode many times on the table top and then I've seen Orcs and Goblins just be unstoppable when everything goes right.

HERO said...

Oh here's a familiar face! I agree that the randomness factor is strong with those armies, but the pricing around some of those power units are just insane. I never feel that you're wasting points by taking something like a WLC.

Mike m said...

Am I the only person left playing may chariots with beastmen?

Post a Comment