Sep 11, 2011

Competitive vs. Optimized

Alright, rather than a list or a unit to talk about, I’m going to try something different.

If a list is good, should we suggest fundamental changes to it even if those changes would improve the list? Now, this is something I’ve struggled with from time to time, especially with Gunlines. I know that the best Gunline begins with three Typhoons and three Autolas Predators, has two CML Terminator Squads or three shooty Dreadnoughts, and has at least four Crusader Squads with either Lascannons or Multi-Meltas, and a Marshal if points allow. But how should I give advice on a forum? In the past I’ve made some long posts and advised changes that would drastically alter the list but make it virtually the Gunline I just described, mostly because I thought (and to a great extent still think) that the standard Gunline, if the correct choices are made, is the best list (excluding Drop Pod lists for the most part since they are very different and hard to compare) and why would I ever give advise other than the best?

If someone puts up a Black Tide list, you shouldn’t specify changes until it’s a Gunline, but at what point is it not too far to suggest changes? This depends on what the list writer wants. Does he want ways to improve his list or does he simply want opinions? Did he write the list attempting to make something (such as a particular unit) work or did he have a starting point and is trying to optimize the list?

And that’s the key word. Optimize. At a certain point, you are no longer improving the list, you are optimizing it. There is nothing wrong with optimization, but it does away with excess, it overrules certain basic builds, units and upgrades because they are simply bad. But you have to be careful and show discretion when you give advice as to whether the list writer wants an ‘optimized’ list, or just a good list.

A good example is a list I’m going to be writing soon, a Foot-Gunline. The idea is simple; maximize shooting output without taking any vehicles. Now, what if some random stranger comes on and says to drop a few things and put my guys in transports, maybe even buy a few Predators? Even though that is good advice, it changes the list. Rather than being almost unique, I will end up with a regular Gunline. Improved? Yes. Best advice? Not in this case.

So what is the point where a list starts to turn from simply ‘Competitive’ to ‘Optimized’? More importantly, in which cases do you need to give advice towards which one? Hypothetically (though probably not realistically) you could make a Competitive Black Tide list. When should you give ‘Optimizing’ advice and when should you just congratulate the author on making Black Tide almost work? That is subjective and I don’t have the answer, but I can at least help to keep it in the minds of anyone who reads this.

Now, remember that this is meant to be an exercise for myself (see first large paragraph) and is not directed at anybody except maybe the hypothetical stranger from the last paragraph. Marshal Learoth’s Comments on the last post sparked this idea, but it has been brewing for a little while now.


Alright, that’s enough for now. I’m not completely sure what I’ll do next, probably either that Foot list or a Battle Report (against myself) on Vassal with one of my lists (well, two of them, but one from here).


  1. Very interesting post. I think I'm going to have to think a little bit on how I want to comment on it! :D

  2. So I spent a few days trying to come up with a way to articulate clearly when you've left the realm of improving a list and becoming optimization. Unfortunately, I wasn't really successful.

    I agree with pretty much everything you said here and is definitely thought provoking. It is the reason I don't comment on a lot of the Army List requests on B&C. Not only would it take vast amounts of time, I cannot know exactly what the writer wants done with their list unless they explicitly say (not common). When someone emails me, I already know that chances are they want a competitive list. They are also giving me the information needed to give them the proper advice. So at that point, I can do both: improve on their list and optimize it. Even if it means putting their infantry in Rhinos.

    As you mentioned, its not quite the same for everyone else. For example, some people don't like Typhoons. How can I give advice on how to fully optimize a list if I'm not allowed to use the most underrated unit in the codex? I might be able to improve on the existing units, but I won't be able to get the maximum potential.

    Which is where I think my definition fits: You are giving improvement advice when you're taking a player's list and creating a marked upgrade in competitiveness while maintaining their restrictions on the list itself. You optimize a list when you ignore those restrictions and squeeze the very highest potential out of a list archetype. That could be via point reductions, using units you don't want to, or even maximizing a "theme" (i.e. shooting, MSU, mobility, etc) within the list.

    And by the way, I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to steal this for reposting. I will, of course, give you credit for the article. :)

  3. Well, you seemed pretty clear, so I have no idea what level of clarity you were trying to achieve, but whatever. ;)

    Just two things. First, I'm not absolutely sure that the Typhoon is the most underrated, it depends on how you use that term. Yes, it is underrated; yes, it is the best (except in the assault, but who counts that anyway?); but is it the most? Most as in fewest people who appreciate it or most as in greatest difference between how it is and the general consensus of it? Either one might be compared to a Crusader Squad, which isn't really good at anything but is still a solid choice for the Troop Slot (compare to Codex: Space Marines, Chaos Marines, Necrons, and anything else I can't think of with worse troops).

    Two, I ask only two things before you re-post this article. One is that you wait until at least afternoon Saturday in order to give me time to make some minor edits and improve the wording. The other is if you might be able to provide a link to the original article. Last time you did that you quadrupled the traffic on here or something, and I would love for that to happen again (maybe even get some more followers, less than half a dozen doesn't sound like as much when they've been here for a month).

  4. Ack. Hmmm...maybe I should have waited before reposting it. Cause I did it pretty much right away. Oops. Sorry. :(

    I'll make the necessary corrections, however. I did have a link to this blog already, though. ;)

  5. Nah, don't worry about it. I forgot to make the changes anyway, and it wasn't anything important so I might as well put the effort into the next post.

    Once again, thanks for re-posting, I've already gotten another follower. :)

  6. Hey Devjon heres another! Lucion here.

  7. Well, unless there is a "theme" list to it, certain basics can be mentioned. For example, if there are any Fast Attack slots left open, then at 70 points a pop, LS-Typhoon is worth the points...unless they are needed elsewhere to fit the "theme". (Note: I'm actually neutral on any "theme", so putting the ""s around it isn't a putdown.)

    For the same reason, in a C:SM list with open FA slots, even a 90 point LS-Typhoon is IMO well worth the cost...again, unless the points are needed elsewhere.

    Thought though for a foot gunline. See if you get get someone to let you "steal" the Master of the Forge from C:SM. I'd love to see Elite Terminators with the option for Heavy Support Dreadnoughts or even a six Dreadnought list. Ummm, assuming you don't consider Dreadnoughts as vehicles for your purposes.

  8. Posting up that list now, though if I were stealing things from C:SM the first thing I would take are Devastator Squads, the Terminators are expensive and we can only take so many. :)