Netdecking: Necessary or Negative

Netdecking by definition is taking a list of cards or models for a game that has been doing well in a tourney or convention and using it point for point for yourself in order to achieve a competitive level of play.

To start off with, some people might feel that netdecking is simply ripping off the ideas of another player and destroys creativity, and I would argue that those people are not only wrong, but that netdecking is necessary and positive. Netdecking a list to play competitively is perfectly acceptable for a few reasons which I will talk about in this article, but in reality a “netdeck” does not kill innovation or creativity, you can still be creative at the later stages of netdecking but when it begins netdecking is usually a way to make a decent player better or allow a new player a chance to walk a mile in a good players shoes. Netdecking is not only good but also necessary for newer and veteran players. The reason for this is if a new player wants to go to their first convention and only have his local meta to play against and that local meta has no ranged armies and thus he doesn’t practice against it he may not see the value of stealth, for example, but in the list that player would have netdecked there is a unit of possible mediocre models offensively but that will survive a lot longer because of their built in ability to ignore range. Being a newer player they might not think of those things if they never play against them. On the other hand a weathered player who has been to many conventions and countless local events should be netdecking for a couple reasons one of which is so that he knows what he is going to see from either certain players or factions so that if something “new” comes up he won’t be caught of guard. Case and point for that would be Vayl2, I had never played against her until yesterday, and as most of the warmachine community knows there is a very good player named VanMeter who has recently won a major convention using Vayl2. The list was point for point the same and I was excited to play against that list because I knew it would be flat out brutal and I wanted to see what it has in store. If netdecking did not exist I would have never seen that list and if I ever did play it I would probably not have a chance due to my lack of experience.

New players should be netdecking because if they want to be better at the game they need to have a feel for competitive play. You as a newer player do not already have 10 con wins under your belt so maybe you should find someone who is weathered and take their ideas out for a spin. Playing a casual list or a list of your own ideas is not necessarily bad, but netdecks only become netdecks when they are proven to be consistent and good. Yes, everything involves dice and match ups but when two different tourneys by two different players are won with the same list a month apart you can pretty well assume that list is solid in its core and have no bad feelings taking it for a spin.

A netdeck can teach a newer player simple fundamentals to a game like tempo, order of activation, model placement, time restraints, scenario play, problem priority, successful retreating, synergy, list bloat (or what parts of your list are weighted, like having 35 points in beasts in a 50 point list. A list that wins gencon masters can teach you why a good player decided to only take one warwitch siren and not take the combine in order to take another unit of mechanithralls and necrosurgeon, for example. There are typically reasons for models being in a list or more so models not being in a list. I have not played the withshadow combine regardless of power in almost seven months in a tourney simply because I have found that for one more point the blood hag does more for my play than the combine. Each faction has things like that, weather it be a second vassal for menoth, or whatever, but there are reasons for things and its good to find them early as a newer player than play under wrong assumptions for years and forcing yourself into a bad style of play. Lists that win conventions are tried and true, use them! You cannot learn these things from poorly built lists, and you won’t be able to build a good list without fundamentals.

The next reason I would suggest a net deck is players who may not be new might want to not have to buy a thousand dollars in models switching around in the faction in order to play competitively. I constantly see posts in the tactica forum on the privateer boards about “new to the game, what should I buy” and typically I see that as “I want to win, what’s good?”. If you are on a budget, don’t buy models/units that are good in niche cases only if you are wanting to win. If you want to buy a model because it looks good, buy it, paint it, play it. But if your goal is to become a better player please do not put revenant crew in your list. Yes, you may be thinking, “okay but every khador list has winterguard + Joe in it and I’m going to be original and not take them”. My response to that would be you are making a terrible decision. There is nothing wrong with being competitive, and it is 100% impossible to be completely original. In warmachine and hordes there is a set number of models, 120 warcasters/warlocks is what you have. You cannot expect to play a warcaster that no one has ever played before because it just will not happen. Everyone has played your warcaster and they have probably had your idea long before you did. Like in example the first mayhem cup I went to this year I actually heard a player say “everyone started using bloodwitches + blood hag after me because I figured out they stop beasts from healing” and the only thing I could think was, “so you read the card?”. You cannot be completely original, so don’t worry about what other people say about you “standard netdeck list”, there’s nothing wrong with it.

So you’re saying to yourself, “well I saw an article or a list from a convention that no one has ever used before and that list had to come from somewhere, so you’re whole point of being original is just wrong and my rouge / dark horse list is a better way to win, right?”. No, good players with good lists are better than bad players with amazing lists. A newer or average player should not strive to make a list completely of his own volition if he is planning on winning, and that is the objective is it not? Even if you just take the fundamentals of a list and add you own spin on it that is better than taking the amount of time an extremely competitive player takes to build a brand new list. Case and point for that would be X + Pirates. Keith loves pirates, I’m almost certain he wants to marry them. The idea, however, that pirates + X is a new list that is really good because its new and not because its just a solid list simply is not true. The pirate bloat is just good period, without any buff it does what it does. When you add something to it by throwing it in a faction that can take it and giving it some of the special abilities of that faction (ala cryx + parasite) then that makes it all that much better. Yes, Deneghra1 Pirates is an uncommon list that is amazing, but that doesn’t mean it is rouge and new, that just means its not common. You can be uncommon and netdeck, there are plenty of ways to put your spin on a great list, like adding pirates.

Be careful when choosing your list though that you do not pick a list that is not of your style. Picking a list that is extremely reactive and passive if you love playing your terminus horde list may not be the list that is going to make you a better player. Sure, it will show you ua different style of play but if at the end of the day you still hate that style of play it may be good for you to pick a list that is more along the lines of terminus like list where you throw something big and hard to kill at your opponent and say “deal with it” instead of trying to put your aggressive spin on a passive list.

Put your own spin on it! Netdecking can be just as fun as making a list that is your own creation. Take a lists core that makes it work usually around 50-75% of the list and change it to make it work for you. Maybe after 20 games with the list you realize that your play testing with the list makes model / unit XYZ not worth having and you just don’t want to play with it, there is nothing wrong with that. But don’t veer too far from where the list was and attempt to remain competitive. Small changes once in a while is better than a huge change all at once.

The last suggestion I would make to someone who is netdecking is not to assume you are good because your list is good. Good play can out do good list building almost always. Good players make the game, not good lists, factions, or models. Practice is key, learn your fundamentals and keep on trucking along. Take your losses with stride and be a humble winner.

There are many stages to the process of playing a netdeck but you can stick to a few simple suggestions. First off pick your list from a large tourney pool, just because a tourney was held at a convention does not mean that it is a good list to start netdecking on. Choose from a large pool of lists, preferably a masters tourney because you have to do well in a tourney to qualify for the masters, and then you have to do well in the masters, best choice: warmachine weekend invitational qualifier. After you have found a list you like make sure that it is of the same format you plan to play in. If you are going to play in a 7 minute turn hardcore event don’t take a 3 list masters list that has 65 models, this probably won’t work out very well for you. Try to stick to the same format, if terminus wins two consecutive hardcores and that’s what you like, do that, but don’t assume that list is going to be good in SR2012 without play testing. That brings me to play testing. Test the list as is over and over before you make any changes at all. You may not understand why that guys Caine1 list has gun mages + officer in it but the real reason is that you need a way to deal with stealth and that’s how you’re going to do it. They have many other abilities but if you can’t kill occultation satysis raiders you are boned pretty hard. After testing the list you should consider small changes one at a time. Don’t drop two units and a jack for 3 different jacks that were not already in the list, that alters its play style too far from where the original list was at. If you feel you would be better off with squire than wyshnaaler than do that for five to ten games and see what the difference is before moving on to your next change. The key to that step like building any list is play test until your eyes bleed.

1) Find your list from a convention or the list, WMW, Adepticon, Templecon, L&L, UK Masters, Die Con, Etc.
2) Play the list as is against as many different types of players and lists as you can.
3) If you feel the list could use a model/unit or a model/ unit is in it that you feeldoes nothing, change it. Small changes often, not large changes all at once.
4) Repeat 2-3 as many times as needed.
5) Win a convention and feel great about it.



Discussion Thread:

That’s all folks.

Author: 2Liveis2Die

I'm Danny and I play in the Kansa City area. I have been gaming since I was about 5 and started Mini-Gaming When I was about 10 or 11 years old with Mage Knight. I got out of miniature gaming for magic for a long time and got back into miniature gaming in 2004 when I got into warmachine. That's about all there is to say.

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