Do tiers really exist in 40K, or are they player created?
It is a commonly held truism in this game that there are tiers in 40K. The tier system is meant to stratify armies based on what is perceived to be more or less powerful.
The question I am posing here is: do tiers really exist or do we have a case of life imitating the hype?
I am sure most of you reading this are familiar with the idea of a self fulfilling prophecy. The notion that if enough people believe something to be true, that it becomes so. Preconceived notions lead to expectations that are fulfilled, sometimes subconsciously by the participants.
Is that what we have in 40K? The reason I propose this idea is that as a regular tournament player, I very commonly see people coming with “net lists.” A net list, for those unfamiliar with the term, is when a player takes a list that is commonly believed to be optimized and copies it.
Often, when another player sees this army across the table from them, they will jump to several conclusions about what is to come: that the army they are facing is very powerful, and that the player commanding it is out to win, probably has a high level of skill as well. This will often intimidate the other player which may affect their play.
In short, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In my experience, “net-lists” are good, but not in any way unbeatable. Smart, creative play can often overcome these lists. Building lists to counter the current meta can often, easily overcome these lists. However, when the majority of people are bringing the armies and lists that are “the best” we see predictable results as the environment people are playing in is the exact environment that the net lists are designed to flourish in.
Tournament results often turn conventional results on their head. We often time see “weak” lists or armies coming out ahead of where they should, according to commonly held internet wisdom. Good players win with any armies. Keith, a member of Team Zero Comp, had winning records at some of the most competitive events in the country with old Crons, commonly believed to be the worst armies in the game. Janthkin often wins events with Nids, what is believed to be the weakest book in the game now, by many.
So what do you all think? Are tiers largely a figment of our collective imaginations? Or are there certain limitations that just can’t be overcome by smart play?