There seems to be a trend forming in my local meta.
It first caught my attention when listening to one of our newer players talk about his lists. He picked up Circle at the end of February and, as with all new shiny things, picked up Morvahna2 the day she came out. He has since been mauling some of the new players–and, to be fair, myself in our most recent tournament.
The part that caught my ear was the constant need for him to explain why he purchased her, that he wasn’t aware she was going to be the powerhouse she is and that it was just a happy coincidence. I’ve heard him tell this to every opponent, in every game–casual or competitive.
Similarly, MSG’s own John Booher picked up some Cryx a short while back. He’s been playing–unsurprisingly–Denny1 and Gaspy2 during our weekly practice matches. In a similar fashion, he apologizes to everyone he plays for his lists, before popping Gaspy’s feat, every time a Bane does what Banes do, et cetera.
I can’t claim that I don’t understand him. I have a deep love for infantrymachine, so when I had the chance to faction whore my way over to Cryx last year, I went all in. A little over a month into it, I had every single model back on Bartertown. Up at our shop, I tend to win more games than I lose, but somehow wins with Cryx were tainted. Winning by using Gaspy2’s feat to assassinate their caster was substantially worse than Kreoss2’s feat turn removing an unrecoverable amount of their army from the table. Single wound, low defensive stat, tough weaponmasters with stealth were somehow completely broken compared to the multiwound, high ARM, multiple attack ones I typically brought in my Troll lists.
I’ve silently felt stupid about tossing my Cryx for a while now, but seeing these other players treat their model choices like something to be ashamed of has driven me to make something very clear: there are no off limit models in Warmachine.
I think a big part of this stems from the fact that a lot of us have strong Warhammer backgrounds. I mean this as no insult to anyone who enjoys playing the game, but inter-faction balance does not exist in Warhammer. After every new codex or wave of model releases, someone on BOLS will distill the new hotness down to a points efficient, creativity limited ideal that will then see play in game stores across the country. This is why Warhammer tournaments are ripe with soft scores, character limitations and other restrictions designed to flatten an uneven playing field.
Warmachine lives in a world of reasonable balance. In the time I’ve been playing, I have never once felt that there was a model or unit that was simply invincible. I’ve never felt that the faction I was playing at the time was incapable of building a list to defeat one of the other factions. There are bad matchups, but a combination of the multilist format and scenario play alleviate most of the pains these cause. There are models at the top and bottom of the power curve, but that curve is minuscule compared to the potential difference in player skill.
There is no need for players to restrict themselves to maintain this balance. That’s Privateer Press’s job, and their unspoken promise by having a strong focus on competitive play. With this in mind, it’s clear to me that there is never a reason to apologize for your list choices.
Let me be clear and say that I’m not encouraging everyone to play only the power casters in their faction. I believe Warmachine’s greatest strength is in its potential for variety. If you don’t enjoy playing Haley2, there’s nothing wrong with choosing not to. You can win games without her. However, if you’re making this decision based on how other people will react to seeing your list, then you’re doing it wrong. Your opponent’s have every opportunity to strengthen their lists against what you can bring. If they’ve chosen not to do so, that isn’t your fault. Asking questions your opponent’s might not be able to answer is an essential part of list building. Don’t feel bad for succeeding.
The flip side of this coin is equally important.
We perpetuate this idea that players are only doing well because of their faction or caster choices every time we act like a bunch of titty babies when we see top tier casters across the table. I’ve never gone off on anyone about it, but there have been times when I’ve silently been a huge throw-in-the-towel cry baby after seeing my opponent’s lists. I’m done with that, and I’m encouraging you to be done with it too.