Monday, May 3, 2010

Thoughts on List-Building: Optimization vs. Expression of Self

There's a lot of talk about listbuilding around the internet lately ... some places like Yes the Truth Hurts have been talking about it since their beginning, and places like Bell of Lost Souls does so periodically, to random degrees. Most blogs get around to it, and they advocate different levels of it.

When my buddies ask me for input on lists, I tend to take the stance of suggesting optimization. Why, though, do I do this?

I've never run a fully optimized list myself. I always run one with something different about it, and tend not to buy into "Net Lists." More often than not I find that net lists from various websites touting their own tactical worth match my first scribblings on paper when I'm first going through a dex, trying to see what can be squeezed out of it. Regardless, I rarely go with that actual build.

So ... what causes me to suggest optimization to friends who ask for list advice? Should you optimize your lists as much as possible?

Take my most recent Mech Guard build that I've been using:
Straken + Kell Command Squad
Lord Comissar w/ Plasma Pistol + Fist
6 Vet Squads w/ Fists and Trips Melta (one with trips flamers)
2 Vendettas
2 Demolishers
6 Chimeras

Is this optimal? HECK NO.

If my friends came up to me, I'd probably suggest changes and tweaks that ended it up looking more like this if they took every single suggestion:

Company Command Squad in Chimera w/ 3 Meltas, Banner, Chimera
Lord Comissar w/ Plasma Pistol
6 Vet Squads, all in Chimeras, one with 2 melta + flamer, the rest with trips melta
2 Vendettas
3 Demolishers
(7 Chimeras)

If the advice was taken, more optimization suggestions would be made ... eventually the list wouldn't look like this at all anymore.

OK, so what am I getting at.

I think that I win more games with my Straken guard than I would with a more optimized list that had more units / more power. Why? Well, Straken suits me ... the way the list plays is far more in line with what I consider to be both fun and challenging than a more "optimal" list would be, and I routinely kick the teeth in of more optimal players. You need to figure out what works for you ... what motivates you ... and what gets you to play better and more intelligently with your units. This isn't about "best of." This is about the reality of gameplay in a tournament, and on an actual game field. It's never the "best" list that wins, not by anybody's standard. It's the best run list, by the best player.

The purpose of my optimization advice when given to friends is I hang out with self-realized, independently thinking and intelligent human beings. They aren't going to write down my advice and copy it word for word. Instead, their lists will be improved in areas that MAKE SENSE TO THEM - the optimizations that fit in with the way their own brains work, and they'll keep their own signatures. The results are more in line with a "successful" version of what they really WANT, instead of a force-fed "best of" list where I berate them when they don't copy my every optimization perfectly.

Couch your advice, when YOU give it to your buddies, in kinder terms ... give it without expectation of them following it, and let them develop into players that THEY are happy with being, themselves. At the same time, don't be a hater from the other front. As the rash of people on the internet who demand you only play their idea of a "best of" rises, so too does the rash of whiney, critical, asshat douches who call anyone running a competitive list a "WAAC asshole" or who try their best to tear down the competitive establishment. Extremism is fail, my friends ... and that's why extremist "best of" lists are as bad as extremist bloggers constantly whining about the competitive establishment.

Get off your podiums, help your friends enjoy the game the way THEY want to better, and think hard about what will best accomplish that (it's not always simply "agreeing" with them). I have. Have you, really?

- Mike


  1. Win At All Costs if my google search is correct :)

    I've recently become a convert to making lists that don't suck myself... I think I'm doing OK... And I completely agree with you about extremism.

  2. Every extremist, ever, is 100% right about everything. Until they can't hear you...

    Ahem. Article is good, MVB. Makes sense, and I think it's something we all do, IRL.

  3. Definitely good stuff and something I've learned myself as I've gone along. Everybody is wired differently, everybody likes different things. There is no one-size-fits all for list building, strats, and so on.

  4. I used to sell clothes once upon a time. If you put a man into a thousand dollar suit and he isn't comfortable, no amount of tailoring will make it look good. If he finds a hundred dollar suit that he really likes, he'll stand straighter and feel better in it. same with women and dresses. It doesn't matter if --you-- like it. If she hasn't got the confidence or frame of mind for strapless or deep back or cleavage or whatever else you're trying to get her to wear, it won't look right. She'll slouch or self-conciously cross her arms all the time, etc.

    The most mathematically correct list in the world is useless to a player that can't wrap his brain around it or make himself love it. I've known guys who could play a list of virtually nothing but troops, even post the list on the wall for a month so everyone could study it, and still clobber all comers. He --was-- a great player, I'll give. But he was comfortable with basic troop armies. Big expensive units and characters made him feel like had an army full of targets, and he didn't play as well then.

    So I guess I mean to say that I think there's "optimized," and then there's "optimal."