The List Building Cycle: Volume 2

It’s time to take lamb chops off the menu

The first part of this series can be found here:

This series is, unapologetically, a description of how I go about list-building, I think it’s a pretty decent ‘general method’ for all players, if you’re looking for a place to start, the basics of this method will at least grant you some lists that are fun to play, while also starting you down the path of analyzing how the game works and how it interacts with list-building.
Everything written here is my opinion only, of a process that I use. It is not intended to be authoritative, nor is it intended to be something that other people must (or even should) use in order to be ‘good’, it works for me, I think it roughly lines up with what others are doing, though they’d probably explain it in less words. Bad luck, you want it in less words, read the cliffnotes19 or use someone elses method30.

I have a penchant for footnotes, the best way for other people1 to deal with it is to open a second browser window of this article, scroll it to the bottom then tab between them for ease of reading.

In this article I aim to cover the basics of list building for a single game and to do that I’m going to run through my entire process of building a list, and use an example list from start to finish. I was originally hoping to also do an example of list building for something that I guess most people wouldnt consider serious list-building for, but that’s been put on hold since this got waaaay too long27.

The Three Rules

My three rules of list building are as follows:
Rule Number 1: Have an aim with the list
Rule Number 2: Make lists you want to play
Rule Number 3: Dont accept, without testing, the advice of other players15.

They are, I would suggest, pretty simple rules, though lots of people I see manage to skip rule 1, ignore rule 3 and thereby create lists that are in breach of rule 2.

To me the most important one is number 2. This game is not a job, there is no “real” prize for being the best, for winning a tournament, aside from e-fame and an expenditure that raises your partner’s eyebrows or causes you to not have a partner.16
So if I’m going to play this game and spend more money than the average impoverished family sees in a year on little toy soldiers, I’d better damn well be having fun!

As for the third rule, that one I think you can go easy on when you’re a very new player, but you should try to start obeying it as soon as you feel comfortable. It’s fair to say that the bulk of ‘conventional wisdom’, particularly that dispensed by your more experienced players is pretty safe to run with until you at least have a solid grasp of the game for yourself, but rule three really becomes important to my mind once you have a good understanding of the game and it’s for a very simple reason:
There is a LOT to be gained from knowing WHY something doesnt work, not just accepting that it doesnt.
This is primarily because most of the advice you’ll receive is actually a very short summation of a whole bundle of different factors. Those factors are, commonly, important in a whole bunch of other situations. An example would be tharn ravagers.
Common wisdom in my area holds that they are ‘bad’. New players will probably be told that buying them is a bad idea. The reasons behind it, if you sit and talk it out, are that they are very expensive (point and money wise), perform a role that most people end up using something else for (They kill living infantry and threaten heavies), and are very hard to deliver due to their low defensive stats.
There are situations and lists that can use them very well, where they may well even be “good”. But to give that detailed a response to a new player is a waste of time, they are not in a position to process it. So it gets shortened to “bad”. The same thing happens on most forums, the problem being that forums also feature a bunch of people that are at least as inexperienced as the person asking the question and they may not even know the reason for the answer that they are giving (Other than “some other people once told me this”).

When you develop far enough in your understanding of the game though, there are important things to learn from playing with Tharn Ravagers (I think), things about survivability (and the reverse), jamming, the differences between living and undead models. These things are useful things to know:
-Knowing how likely your ravagers are to get shot off the table also gives you a feel for how likely your opponents medium base infantry is to get shot off the table.
-Playing with them and seeing what that many medium size bases does to your charge lanes, ability to unpack your list and ability to apply ‘power at a point’, will give you ideas about how to jam up opponents that are using medium based infantry, how to stop them from getting the charge lanes that will allow them to beat you.
-Experiencing how your opponents choice of troops can limit the “heart eater” rule and thereby limit the effectiveness of your ravagers gives you insight into why the gatorman witchdoctor might be useful if you’re looking to counter abilities in the game.

So you can learn from playing with things you are advised against playing with, even if the advice IS correct. Then there is also the possibility that the advice is actually wrong, or at least not complete. There are plenty of combinations in this game that noone has really tried to make work in a competitive environment, there will always be more coming. Maybe you are the person to find a new one. 23

When building a list I use a series of steps, this seems like (particularly in an article) a really long process. In reality it’s normally about 10 minutes once you get to the point of writing it down. The real work is done mentally beforehand. Once you’ve got it written (A first pass at least) then from there it’s just iterations once you start playing with it.

That said, a lot of the speed with which I can now construct a list comes from the time spent previously reading the books/cards on every damn model/unit that’s in the game and thinking. So if you’re new to the game and you dont have a lot of your brain currently dedicated to storing completely useless and esoteric information such as the mini-feat for idrian skirmishers, then it’s probably going to take you substantially longer at first.

As a new player you’re also not likely to have as many random concepts/ideas in your head that you want to try out, dont worry, the more you play this game, the more those sorts of ideas will come to dominate your waking thoughts to the point that your partner will find you staring off into the distance at inappropriate times with a considering look on your face….

That isnt my sex face, I’m just thinking about boomhowlers under deceleration with arcane shield14

THAT moment is when you’ve started list building.25

10 Simple Steps to Building a List

You cant follow the steps without visiting the dojo

Step 1: Identify what the list is for
This is a direct tie to rule number 1, you should have an aim with your list.
– Is the aim to show-case your painting and sweet minis with this list?
– Is the aim to be “true to the fluff” and make a list that matches a ‘caster/’lock’s storyline and is thematic?
– Is the aim purely to try out a new gimmick/trick?
– Is the aim to beat a specific opponent in a one-off game?
– Is the aim to give a newer opponent (or a friend) a fun game?
– Is the aim to take on any random opponent and win?

Obviously your aim with the list is important. If you’re aiming to give a new opponent, or a friend of yours, a game when it’s his/her first game and they’ve got the battlebox for their faction….then whipping out the strongest competitive list you can put together at that point level is likely to create an “Unenjoyable play experience for one or both parties”11.

That does not mean you cant ‘play to win’, or build a good list, even in those circumstances. It just means that you need to adjust what your aim is while constructing the list and perhaps adjust how you play the list during the game. You can, for example, deliberately build a 35 point list with only one trick in it that interests you, purely for the purpose of testing that trick and play a fun game with a new opponent, where one turn your trick murders half their force and the rest of the game the remainder of your force (largely ineffectual) durdles around letting the other player enjoy rolling dice and removing models.

Lots of players get to this step and answer either “check out my minis”, “this is totally fluffy” or “Whatever, this is what i’ve got”.

And you know what, if you can complete your entire aim simply by putting a specific group of models on the table-top, then I guess you are done. Obviously if it’s all the models you own you are done….unless you are in an environment that will let you proxy. Which is every friendly environment I’ve ever been in.
I’d never stop at this step.
Not because I’m a super-competitive asshat17, simply because even if all I was trying to do was show-case minis (which I never do since I cant paint to save my life unfortunately4. ), I would still want the list to play in a way I could enjoy, I would still want it to be a list I wanted to play, which means I want to feel like it’s at least got a few tricks it can use to maybe even pull a win (while still looking awesome or fitting the theme of the caster. After all, if you’re making a list to match fluff, hopefully the character WON in the fluff.)

If you’re one of those who has, historically, stopped at that point, then I’d strongly encourage you to consider going the extra few steps, even if it means you have to borrow some stuff or proxy some stuff, you’re probably a lot closer than you think to making a list that still fits all the things you have or want to showcase, but also gives you a decent game!

Once you’ve determined what you’re playing for (hopefully it’s to win….under one definition or another24 OR 18) you can work out what list you’d like to bring to the table!

For the purpose of my first example, I’m going to hypothetically place myself back in time to about three or four months ago when I was looking to put pKaya on the table for the first time.

I’d never played her, but I’d done a bit of thinking about how she worked and what options she had. I’d done a bit of reading online as well as spent a fair bit of time recently looking into methods of blocking line of sight in order to combat a ranged heavy local meta. I wanted to write a list to try a few ideas in random games against random opponents that I knew would be good players, probably playing competitive lists (I’m blessed with a local gaming store well stocked with competitive players).
So I had in my mind what I’m looking to build for. Winning.

Step 2: Identify the core of your list

The core is, for me, the thing that drew you to start building this particular list in the first place. It might be a really awesome spell, feat or model, it might be a specific tactic you read about on the internet that sounds super-powerful or super-fun.
Now, if you are all about the mini’s, then maybe you were drawn to a model simply because it looks freaking awesome (the mountain king) or maybe you had this zany themed conversion idea and it needed you to use five of one particular model.
Maybe you love the fluff around a specific caster.
Whatever the reason, this generally means that you have a certain part of your list already selected for you, that becomes effectively your ‘core’. So now the task becomes identifying what those models can actually do in the game.
I generally refer to that “thing” as the core “trick” to a list. This isnt for any particular reason, I just needed a word and gimmick sounded too fancy.

In your particular case you might actually end up with a bunch of seemingly random models that you really liked the aesthetic of as your core “trick”, the beauty of this game is that, despite looking, I’ve not yet found anything in it that is 100% useless, or so iredeemably terrible in game-play that, even with a list built for it, it is impossible to win with.
That said, particularly if you’re new to the game, the things that work with it might not be immediately apparent, which would lead you to the next step in our29 process.

For the purpose of our example, I had one specific core mechanic that I wanted to try with pKaya: Occultation on druids of orboros.
Druids can make clouds and clouds obstruct line of sight (in most cases26) so a line of druids making clouds can completely and utterly obscure your army from shooting.
The only problem is that the opponent can of course still shoot the druids. Who cost a lot of points.
Kaya comes with occultation, granting stealth and thereby making the druids very difficult to shoot directly, which I figured would make for a very annoying cloud screen. On paper at least.

Step 3: Identify the type of game you want the list to play

Generally I base initial list design on one or two simple concepts/strengths.
Some simple concepts can include:
-Anti-shooting: A list that, for whichever reason, is strong against enemy shooting
-Anti-melee: A list that, for whichever reason, is strong against melee
-Anti-faction: A list that is designed to combat a specific faction (or even a specific caster)
-Melee domination: A list designed to dominate melee regardless of opposition
-Ranged domination: A list designed to dominate the opponent from range regardles of their list
-Assassination: A list designed to bait an opponent to a position from which you can kill their caster and with the wherewithall to carry out the assassination once you get him there7
-Scenario: A list designed to control the positioning of friendly and enemy models and win the game by scenario victory

Often this is heavily influenced by step 2, however most tricks dont completely restrict a list.
Shadowpack is a simple example. It is mostly used to reduce the opponents capacity for ranged retaliation. If you are playing Lylyth, you will probably want to focus on a ranged game, probably with an emphasis on assassination threat. If you are playing eKaya though, you will probably want to focus on a melee hit-and-run style list that aims to win by predominately attrition of heavies8. The two lists use the same core “trick”, but play a very different style of game.

It’s worth noting that there is recirculation between this step and the next. As additional tricks are identified/added, the abilities of the list will change. It’s an iterative process, but in general once you’ve got in your mind how you want your list to play, that will quickly narrow down what sorts of tricks and abilities you need in order to make it tick.

In the case of the example, I decided that if I was going to have a static cloud line (or slowly advancing cloud line) to hide behind then by definition I had an “anti-shooting” list and it was really a question of whether my list’s strength would be melee, shooting, assassination or scenario.
I figured that, given the nature of the cloud wall, I really wanted to project threat from behind the cloud. Kaya comes with “pack-hunters” which grants +2 MAT to all her beasts, which combined with Circle’s general lack of a heavy ranged game probably meant I would be more focussed on melee rather than range. I figured that the cloud wall wasnt going to be super-mobile and so scenario was probably not going to be my strong-suit, but hopefully I could keep a reasonable assassination game.

So I aimed for an anti-ranged, melee and assassination focussed list.

Step 4: Identify what other tricks/units/models could function strongly within the list

Options we probably SHOULD think about

Options most people DO think about

So, you’ve got a core concept, you know what you really want the list to do, now you need to think about what other cool things you know of that would also complement the existing trick(s).
A common example for Circle Orboros is shifting stones. If they are not the primary trick of the list, they can very easily become a secondary trick in almost any list due to the number of options they bring to the table.
Within Circle there are also several units and beasts that synergise well with some casters and less well with others.
At this point I’m looking for things that should synergise specifically with the list concept/caster. Throwing things into a list just because they work in other lists is a good way to waste a lot of points.
That said, if you can see in your mind a way for a trick you’ve used before to work in the new list, put it in by all means. If it doesnt work, then you should learn something in the process of seeing it fail.
I generally aim to identify 3-4 tricks for a list, some are almost self-evident and dont feel like ‘tricks’ at all, some are quite quirky.
If you’re a new player, then this is often the best step to seek the advice of your local players and….gasp….the internet.
The internet has a lot of thoughts on almost every single caster/combination you could possibly want to look into, the difficulty is almost always in sifting out the good from the bad.
I’d recommend that your first stop be people that you know, that you know play well, the second stop would probably be the advise of anyone you have reason to trust that you can find on whichever forums you follow. Generally most people will respond nicely (if they respond at all) on forums if approached nicely and with some sort of structure to your question.

A good example would be:
“I’m trying to put together a list using Vayl and I really want to try and use her feat and movement shenanigans to give me lots of mobility and play a hit-and-run style of game. So far I’ve got the following and I was wondering if you had any suggestions for stuff that might work in that list?”

A bad example would be:
“I want to play circle, what should I put in a list?”

Either way, by hook or by crook, compile a list of things in your mind that you really want to try and make work in the list.
This is the hardest part if you’re one of the players who started with a collection of models you really like the look of (or the fluff of). Chances are that you didnt have any idea what those models were really going to do on the table, so finding things that synergise with them is going to be tough. So start by reading all of the rules of the things that you are sure you’re going to include.
Look at what those models do well, or at least what they look like they were intended to do:
– If they are good at hitting things up close (High MAT score, High POW+S, more than one melee weapon), then start thinking of ways to get them there without them dying.
-If they are good at shooting things from far away (High RAT score, High POW ranged weapon, more than one ranged attack, rules like hunter, swift hunter, snap fire) then start thinking of ways to stop the enemy from shooting them in return. Could you include a unit/model that grants them safety from retaliation?

Outside of that, are there things that you could include that will draw the opponents attention away from your core? Are there things that you know of that your opponent will be forced to concentrate on first, allowing your core to do whatever it is designed to do?
This is the essence of what is referred to as “jam”. The intent of “jamming” and the reason for the inclusion of “jam infantry” in a list, is generally to allow the actual core of the list to function unhindered by the opponent.

This is a horribly complex stage of list building, it’s where the meat of the mental work is done. There are thousands of things in this game that you could include in a list (well perhaps not thousands10) and many of them can operate in multiple different ways within a list. If you’re new to the game this can be bewildering and again I’d suggest you consult with other players and then….go with your head.
A good place to start is with the caster/lock. If your core trick is based on the caster (so the caster is already selected) then you should definately look for things that can work with the caster’s feat and the caster’s other spells. Start there.
If your core trick is completely caster independant, then you have even MORE options, because now you need to work your way through your list of possible casters, looking for the one with the best combination of feat/spell list to make your core trick work.
If you REALLY want to make Idrians work for example, (I’m going to do a list-build for them later on in this series) then you need to work your way through the Menoth casters, thinking about which ones offer any value specifically to the Idrians. Once you’ve found your pick for “best idrian caster”, then you can look for what other things could take advantage of what that caster brings.

All I would ask is that you have some reason that you believe in for including each thing. If the reasoning turns out to be wrong, that’s fine, that’s part of the process. But if you include random things simply because you had points and no idea what to use, then you learn nothing when that unit/model does nothing useful. Your aim should be to learn as much as you can in each game, since the more you learn the quicker, easier, more satisfying and more effective your list building becomes.

For our example, I’ll give you as much of my thinking as I can recall:
Core “trick”: pKaya, using occultation on druids to create a cloud wall behind which my list can stay unmolested. Opponents cant shoot or charge through the clouds.
List Playstyle: Stand-back, behind clouds, forcing opponent to come into me and give me the alpha strike with a melee centered force. Threaten assassination.

So, first step is to analyse what other abilities Kaya has available. First the spell list:
Occultation: I already have a planned use for this spell in this list.
Spirit fang: Situational nuke at POW 12 with an attached debuff (on damage) of -2SPD, -2DEF
Spirit Door: Three cost spell that allows kaya to pull back a beast from anywhere in her control to anywhere within 2″ of her. In this context can allow a beast to come out from behind the clouds, do damage and be pulled back to complete safety.
Soothing song: one cost spell to reduce fury on all her beasts by one. Should allow her to run more beasts than you’d expect for a 6 fury caster.

Of those spells the obvious one that jumps out as suiting the list perfectly is spirit door. I figure that it could either be used to allow a melee beast to charge out, kill something and be returned, or used to allow a ranged beast to move out, shoot and return.
It would be nice to have both options.

In order to get the beast forward of the cloud line though, it needs to either be able to move through models, or there needs to be a break in the clouds, since otherwise there isnt a large enough gap between two druids to allow a large base passage.

The other option of course would be to teleport out over the clouds. Shifting stones give that option and therefore seem like a very good fit.

I can see that her nuke is useable by “geomancy” (an ability on one of the circle construct warbeasts), but it doesnt seem like that would fit particularly well with this list so far and it also doesnt fit well with the other unique (relatively) ability that she has:

Pack hunters: Grants living warbeasts in her battlegroup +2 on melee attack rolls.
That ability should work wonderfully with the berserk ability of warpwolf stalkers since one of their weaknesses is their relatively low MAT of 6.

So now I’m thinking the melee threat beast (for the spiritdoor threat) is probably a warpwolf stalker (possibly two)
The ranged threat beast is really between:
-Pureblood warpwolf (10″ spray at POW 14, RAT 5, 4 fury)
-Woldwyrd (10″ range, ROF 3 gun with POW 10 and “purgation” that gives it bonuses against models with upkeeps on them)
-Woldwarden and/or megalith (Geomancy, letting them fire “spirit fang” spell as a gun effectively)

The pureblood is living, so pack hunters will affect it (though hopefully it’s not doing a lot of melee attacking)
The pureblood’s animus is also very helpful since it gives a way to work around enemy defensive buffs.
The woldwyrd is certainly a respectable ranged threat against anything with an upkeep on it, but if they dont have an upkeep spell, it becomes substantially less scary. It’s a construct so it cant benefit from pack hunters, and it’s animus is really only useful if you can get it right into an opponents face, which is counter to the “pull it back to me” plan.
Geomancy is an option, again the constructs wont benefit from pack hunter and again the woldwarden animus is pretty pointless if it’s going to spend it’s time behind a cloud wall. Additionally it’s a single target shot, so it’s not likely to really scare anyone, it’s more likely to be annoying in it’s ability to stop their heavy from charging (-2 speed)…which the cloud wall already does.

So the pureblood comes into the list, with an effective ranged threat of 20″ on a POW 14 spray (that can ignore defensive buffs if needed) and a cloud wall to prevent it’s low ARM from getting it killed (hopefully).

I also looked at my druids. Since so much of the plan revolves around them, is there any way to improve their survivability?
Well their UA adds the ability to be immune to all the elements, which might save them from some attacks (Ravagores that set them on fire for example) though I cant see any easy way to make them directly more survivable.
I could incorporate a Gatorman witch doctor to make them tough, which should, on average, save 3 of them accross a game in which they all die. That would mean the witch doctor paid for his points, so he’s possibly a worthwhile inclusion.

Since the plan is to be able to charge out from behind this cloud wall (when the oppurtunity presents itself), I need to look at the logistics. The clouds are 3″ in diameter and my beasts cant be touching the cloud (or else they can be shot at), so they are going to be a minimum of 2″ behind the front of the druids. That means without anything to help them the enemy will need to be within 9″ of the druids for a stalker to be able to reach them.

That seems awfully close, so if possible I’d like to include something to increase the threat range of my stalker(s). There are a couple of options for circle:
1. The druids using force bolt to pull in the enemy model
2. The “bounding” animus from the Gnarlhorn Satyr
3. “Hunters mark” from either Lanyssa Ryssyl or the Blackclad wayfarer.

For the moment lets throw all three in and see how we go:
pKaya -6
Warpwolf Stalker 10
Pureblood Warpwolf 9
Gnarlhorn Satyr 8
Druids of Orboros 7
Druid overseer 2
Shifting stones 2
Stone Keeper 1
Shifting stones 2
Blackclad Wayfarer 2

That gives me 3 or so core ‘tricks’ to work with. Enough to move on for the moment I think.

Step 5: Identify what support is required to make your tricks function

The aim here is to identify any extra support pieces the list needs to make the planned tricks work.
These are the extra points that you really have to spend just to make what you’ve already planned work properly.

This can vary widely accross the factions. A common example in hordes is fury management. If you have a trick that involves a bunch of beasts being able to shoot the living bejesus out of your opponent while remaining 18″ away, to pull an example out of the air…..then you are probably going to also want some way to strip fury off them such that they dont spend the next turn ripping your pretty little helmet off your pretty little head.
Hence, Lylyth will probably want to include shepherds in her list.

Many low fury/focus casters need to use their fury/focus during the turn to make your tricks work. Those same casters quite often have an upkeep spell that they also would like to keep out there. Sometimes you dont have the focus/fury to do both… that’s when you add a model such as Sylyss or the succubus, who can upkeep that spell for free and give you more options to spend your focus/fury on what you REALLY want to spend it on.

In the case of my example the list wants to use spirit door to bring back the pureblood or stalker. To do that Kaya herself needs to activate AFTER the beast.
She also has to spend 4 fury a turn in order to upkeep occultation and cast spirit door. Which means that she cant cast animi or other spells without running herself empty…on a DEF16/ARM13 statline. To me that seems likely to get her killed by random scattering AoE’s which are fairly likely to be bouncing around since the opponent is unlikely to be able to directly target much.

So, if I want the pureblood to be able to have it’s own animus, or if I want the stalker to be able to use bounding, I’m going to want a druid wilder.
I’ve already got the shifting stones in the list, they commonly get added at this point to a Circle list for fury management, even if they havent been added at step 4

pKaya -6
Warpwolf Stalker 10
Pureblood Warpwolf 9
Gnarlhorn Satyr 8
Druid Wilder 2
Druids of Orboros 7
Druid overseer 2
Shifting stones 2
Stone Keeper 1
Shifting stones 2
Blackclad Wilder 2

Other options:
Lanyssa Ryssyl
Second Blackclad?

Step 6: Identify the lists weaknesses

At this point I tally up all the points I’ve spent on my tricks and my support and work out what I’ve got left to work with.
Often you can see (particularly as you play the game more and get more familiar with it) weaknesses just on paper or by thinking about it and this is a perfect time to think about things that might mitigate those weaknesses with your extra points.
If you can find ways to deal with those weaknesses that are, in themselves, extra strengths for the list, then that’s obviously ideal!

A quick and dirty way to look for weaknesses is to consider a ‘checklist’ of things your list might have to deal with. This checklist will get more and more complicated (but also faster to run through) as you play more and more opponents, but a good starting point might be:

1. Can this list deal with massed, high defence (16+) infantry?
2. Can this list deal with massed, high arm (18-20+) infantry?
3. Can this list compete against a control feat? (Is it mobile?)
4. Can this list compete against a gunline?
5. Can this list deal with a colossal? How about two?
6. Can this list deal with long threat range opponents?
7. Can this list deal with a camping opposing caster?

If you’re interested, I’ve written two previous articles that tie in at this point nicely:
The casters discussed in those articles often present one or more of the questions above.
Not many lists will tick all the boxes, which is where the art of list pairing comes into play for competitive play….but that’s further down the track.
For the moment you are looking to identify weaknesses in the list in order to (hopefully) find ways to shore up those weaknesses as cheaply (points-wise) as you can.

In the case of pKaya, I would say:
1. Can this list deal with massed, high defence (16+) infantry?
-A stalker with berserk, MAT 8 and access to blessed weapons should be ok.

2. Can this list deal with massed, high arm (18-20+) infantry?
-Again a stalker warped for strength is POW 18, which should be sufficient.

3. Can this list compete against a control feat? (Is it mobile?)
-Relatively. The list is compressed behind a cloud wall and doesnt really want to send anything out, it doesnt currently have anything that is really ‘throw-away’.

4. Can this list compete against a gunline?
-Yes. Unless the gunline can see through clouds with a large portion of it’s models.

5. Can this list deal with a colossal? How about two?
-Single colossal….maybe. A single stalker is not going to one-round a colossal, particularly without primal… but it could conceivably put damage on it and be spirit doored back to do it again…..but I’d say this is currently a weak spot.

6. Can this list deal with long threat range opponents?
-Charging threats are mitigated by the cloudwall which restricts line of sight and stops the charges. Walking threats are a problem, though not particularly common. Molik Karn would not be a fun match.

7. Can this list deal with a camping opposing caster?
-Hmmm. Maybe. I’d suggest not. Certainly if the stalker dies there is a very serious problem. Anyone capable of camping ARM 22+ is probably unreachable for the gnarlhorn or pureblood without primal in the list.

So, from that it looks like the list is VERY heavily reliant on the single stalker to save it from multiple possible threats.

I figure one way to shore that up would be to have a second stalker:
pKaya -6
Warpwolf Stalker 10
Warpwolf Stalker 10
Pureblood Warpwolf 9
Gnarlhorn Satyr 8
Druid Wilder 2
Druids of Orboros 7
Druid overseer 2
Shifting stones 2
Stone Keeper 1
Shifting stones 2
Blackclad Wilder 2

Which fits pretty neatly with a single point spare.
Ok, I’m still not sure we can deal with a camping caster too well, but the two stalkers together are definately a legitimate threat to a colossal and are also a legitimate threat to any infantry.

Step 7: Identify what ‘ideal’ support abilities could be used

So at this step I identify all the “nice to have” things that a list could use. Things that you like to use, want to try out, can see a possible trick with etc.

This is treated as ‘junk time’ by most new players if they get this far, they let any good work they’ve done up until this point slide by throwing points at…whatever.

This is the time to sit and think. If you’ve still got a LOT of points left (more than 5 in a 50 point list), then perhaps you should instead be going back to the earlier steps and looking for more tricks to add to the list, or more ways to shore up the weaknesses.

This is where you add redundancy and things such as the Heirophant for Menoth. Pieces that you will definately get some value out of, but that you dont really need if things go well. This is also where situational solos generally get put into lists.

I try to limit this to a maximum of 2-3 points in a 50 point list. If I’ve got more than that left over at this point, it’s time to try and find something else that you really want in the list, maybe something that cost more than the points you have left.
I’d rather cut something that I want marginally more, in order to have ALL of my points spent on things I definately want, than have the thing I want marginally more and 4 points spent on junk that I dont really want.

At this point, if you’re building for a one-off game, you can stop. Fill out the rest of the points (If you have any left over) and play your game.
If you’re building for a competitive list, the journey is really only half done.

In the case of the pKaya list we have 1 point spare.
Not enough to throw in the redundancy that I would probably choose, which would be either lanyssa or another blackclad.

With that 1 point I would probably add a feralgheist or swamp gobbers. The gobbers can add another cloud, without the risk to a druid. The gheist can make my beasts marginally more annoying.

Both can act as “throw-away” contesting pieces in scenarios, which is definately nice.

pKaya -6
Warpwolf Stalker 10
Warpwolf Stalker 10
Pureblood Warpwolf 9
Gnarlhorn Satyr 8
Druid Wilder 2
Druids of Orboros 7
Druid overseer 2
Shifting stones 2
Stone Keeper 1
Shifting stones 2
Blackclad Wilder 2
Swamp Gobbers 1

And that’s my first pass done. This list is ready to be played and see how it goes on the table!

Step 8: Playtest

So these last three steps I’ve included, but they arent truly relevant to a ‘single game’ list build. I’ve got them in here for the sake of completeness since I dont want to have to add them to a later article.

Often you can see (particularly as you play the game more and get more familiar with it) weaknesses just on paper or by thinking about it, but they are almost always glaringly obvious when you hit the tabletop.
Playtesting is probably the most important stage in list development, but it’s almost completely useless if you havent already put serious thought into your list.
If you go into a game with a plan and a list built to execute that plan, then when things go wrong you can often clearly see what caused the problem and where it went wrong.
If you go into a game with a random collection of models and ideas and you lose the game, it’s very difficult to take anything useful as a lesson from the game.

Step 9: Iterate!

So, you’ve playtested, now’s when you put that experience to use.
Most players will first think “Was there anything that would have helped in that particular game?” The answer to this question is always yes.
It’s also almost always irrelevant.
So stop6 and think. It’s very easy to get stuck in a loop of adding things that would have helped in your last game, but after the next game you’ll realise are actually only really helpful in fairly specific cases.
There may be a call to use things that are only helpful in specific cases (particularly if you are building just to counter that case, or to cover a weakness of another list), but generally for a “one-off” type list (or an “all comers” list) specific answers are not the best expenditure of points.
After the game you need to instead consider what things in your list didnt work
Again, there will be multiple things in any given game, so before you say “heave ho, out you go” to half your list after every game, you should again stop12 and consider why the section of your list failed to perform. There are three general possibilities:
1. This was a particularly bad matchup for that unit/jack/model, the opponent had a specific counter to that piece and the counter took it out of the game.
2. You didnt use the model/unit in the way you had intended when you designed the list.
3. You used the model/unit as you thought it would work, but it simply doesnt perform as well on the table as you expected it to.

If the answer is (1), then you need to learn from that game. Next time you face that counter, you need to ensure that either you take the counter out of the game with something else of yours, of that you at least keep their counter from making it to the unit/piece that it is intended to counter
If the answer is (2), then cutting the model/unit at this stage is not warranted. You need to at least see it in action before you judge whether or not it deserves the axe.
If the answer is (3), then the model/unit is prime cutting material. Sometimes things dont work out how theory-machine says they should. I will normally give something more than one chance before I give up on it, but sometimes you can clearly see after one attempt to use something, that it’s simply not good enough or reliable enough or it requires way too much by way of resources (fury, focus, attention/time) to be of use.

Step 10: Identify the final lists strong matchups and weak matchups

This step is really a finalisation.
When you’ve done all the evolution of a list, you’re happy with the final product, then you need to categorise in your head what that list is good against and what it’s weak against.

This is critical mainly for the later development of list pairs and triples. Which I’m going to try and cover in a completely different article.


Well, I hope that someone made it through this far, in retrospect putting in the example as I went along was a good way of putting in another 3000 words….which the article obviously needed.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone that’s managing to read this whether this was, in fact, too long. I generally read articles on the net and find that (within reason) the longer they are the better, but I appreciate that a lot of people dont want to make it through something this long. I’d normally try to break it up with more images, but to be honest the material here is pretty difficult to find relevant pictures for, so it’s taking longer to do that side of things than I’d like. I’m happy to divide the future ones into shorter articles, if that’s what those interested in reading would prefer, so let me know. I’m also pretty sure that the longer the article is, the more rambling there is. The problem being that it’s so damn long that I simply cant edit it effectively in the time available.

There were, believe it or not, a bunch of other “example lists” that I originally intended to also put into this article….
I’d be interested in doing them in a separate article if there is any interest in an article purely following the above process to make lists for specific things.

The ones I had in mind (that I was going to use, but I’m not sure how to fit them in) are:
Idrian skirmishers
Gun-mage marshalled grenadiers

All of the above examples give a pretty decent (I think) example of how the process can be used to make a list for pretty much anything and they kind of exemplify the intent of the system, which isnt to make the best list in the world, it’s to make a list that functions to optimise your chosen tricks, without wasting points in the rest of the list and in such a way that you can then accurately assess whether it works.

I dont know whether there would be interest in articles purely on list builds though so please let me know in the comments here or in the forum thread:

I’m perfectly happy to hear suggestions, comments, feedback, insults, criticism, propositions, prepositions and even split infinitives.

At the very least let me know someone made it to the end.

1. Those among you who DONT get a personal gratification out of scrolling backwards and forwards seemingly at random and thereby consuming additional sweet sweet minutes of work time to no useful effect.
2. and tries to not come accross as a complete jerk….most of the time
3. Still over thinking it. In fact it will be difficult to convey in less than 10 pages exactly how much I overthink list building. 5
4. Fortunately as far as I know there are no real-life supervillains that get their rocks off by setting up saw-esque self-kill murders where if I dont manage to completely paint Grayle in the ten minutes allowed to a tabletop standard a rusty blade cuts my appendages off one by one. 20.
5. Which would make them a fairly specific subset of women, one which in my observation is rarely present at the gaming table. Though I suppose I cant be sure without asking13..
6. Collaborate and/or listen
7. This is actually extremely important and relevant to Circle in particular. It is no good having a super 17″ assassination threat if all you can deliver at the end of it is boosted POW 15’s on MAT 6.
8. Incidentally this is the reason I no longer play eKaya much. She REALLY wants to play a very specific attrition game, which is very hard to beat if the opponent has multiple heavies or at least high value targets. Unfortunately if the opponent does NOT have multiple heavies and instead has their points spread on troops or even multiple light beast/jacks, she struggles horribly. Colossals are obviously something she definately likes to see, so she might come back into rotation depending on how the other casters play out in that meta.
9. Although technically as an asshat, it would have at least one eye-hole, reverting me to cyclopean vision and reducing me to merely being able to see the future.
10. At least two of them are sentry stones with mannikins.
11. Read: discourage said person from ever playing you again, playing the game again, being your friend and/or showering you with sexual favours. Outside chance of hospital visit for one or both participants.
12. In the name of love.
13. This line of reasoning could potentially end really badly for me at the next convention I attend. Actually I cant see any possible way in which it could end well.
14. What? Now you’re not in the mood? Imagine how I feel? Seriously baby, DEF 14 and ARM 21 is disgusting!
15. This is important: If a local player is genuinely really good and holds a well-founded belief that a certain piece is terrible, for example the pureblood warpwolf….then it should be your mission to use that piece in as many lists as possible and explain why it is “situationally excellent” and/or “Suits your playstyle” while maintaining a straight face22.
16. But….the e-fame…the sweet, sweet e-fame
17. Though depending on your definition that may well be true, I’m not sure I’m in a good position to judge. My hat is obscuring my vision.21.
18. The “Art is the real winner here” approach, both players get something from the game, you learn something about the game….and yourself….31.
19. Spoiler alert: There arent any. If there were, I’d make them longer. And they wouldnt explain anything.
20. If there were such a person, he’d not get a lot of mileage out of me. I’ve been trying to finish painting grayle for about two months now. He’s still half undercoat and half terrible detail obscured/”bought out” by wash. Cutting limbs off me would probably have marginally improved the overall paint-job.
21. There’s no eyeholes, so it grants me eyeless sight, which is nice9.
22. You’ll break eventually Pagani. If the purebloods dont get you the FA:2 on the sentry stone and mannikins will. They truly do suit my playstyle, I find them to be situationally excellent.
23. Captains Log, Day 37: Sentry stones and mannikins still not worth points. I am now far more sure than most other people. Will continue research. If only they were FA 3. Or good.
24. To crush your enemies — See them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women28.
25.Actually that moment is generally stage 2 for me. I then have to go back to stage 1 to work out whether I actually want to use this idea in a ‘real’ list or just in a list for fun.
26. Notably not if your opponent has rhoven. Also: Vlad 2 has wind blast. Sigh.
27. Ok, so it hit nearly 8000 by the time I came back to edit this….yeesh.
28. Unless they are women. In which case I guess you either hear the lamentation of their men, or the lamentation of their women still.5. Now that I think about it, they could just as easily be men with men lamenting their being driven before you. Dependant on phrasing that could make quite a lot more sense. And be a considerably different version of Conan the barbarian.
29. Feel free to ignore the inclusive use of ‘our’ in this context. It’s mine. You are welcome to make it yours also, though it will probably never be ‘ours’ unless you actually know me, which would be kind of awkward.
30. The shorter list-building method I’ve seen used to good effect is:
-Ask someone else to write lists for you for your next convention
-borrow the models for the list from people at the convention
-play lists. Profit.
-claim lists as own
I believe it’s called the Crumping method.
31. You’re unlikely to learn much about yourself that you didnt, deep down, already know. Generally it’s “I dont actually like losing”.

Author: bobliness

I'm an Australian living in Houston, Texas, I started playing Warmachine/Hordes in March 2012 and I consider myself to be on a continuous learning curve that I'm not sure will ever end. I play for strategy and combinations, I am in no way a qualified hobbyist or painter though I admire those that are. No, I dont know Chunky, but the other five people that live in Australia tell me he's really swell.

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