Is the TAC List Dead?


Hey everyone, your bestest pal Reecius here to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart: the TAC (Take All Comers) list in 40k.

Word on the street is that the TAC list is dead and buried in the chaotic landscape of 7th ed. Many folks take the position that you simply cannot fit all the tools you need to build a truly well rounded list, anymore. Many have the opinion that you are better off going with an extreme list that maxes out one or two strengths and then hoping you don’t pull a hard counter during an event.

Well, fair enough, that is a valid strategy. However, I find that when you play lists like that, in time you end up with a list that almost plays itself. Log enough games with a list like this and eventually you get to the point where you can predict fairly accurately the outcome of a game just looking at your opponent’s list, the mission, terrain and who goes first or second. That gets boring, IMO. That is why I prefer the TAC list as while it doesn’t have the top end power of an extreme list, it has flexibility and if built right, rewards smart play and gives you the ability to win games against any opponent in any mission, going first or second…in theory, anyway!

So what do you need to build a solid, well rounded TAC list, these days? Let’s discuss just that!

In today’s rapidly evolving meta, there are a few constants: you need mobility, scoring power, and the ability to deal with certain key unit and list archetypes.

Land Speeder

Land Speeder

Mobility is critical this edition more than ever before as you need to be able to rapidly alter your field position to deal with enemy units, and to grab objectives. This ties in with scoring power. In 7th ed, you can win games even if you are getting beat up on the table top. Knowing how to protect and position your scoring units is critical to success. Mobility here helps achieve both of those goals. A notorious example of this is the Eldar Jetbike squad, which is fast, cheap, and incredibly mobile. Space Marine Scouts are another excellent example as they are cheap, have ATSKNF, and come with grenades, and both infiltrate and scouts, making them ultra flexible. Necron troops in Night Scythes are also a great example as they can stay safe in the transport, and then reach nearly anywhere on the table to grab objectives and steal a victory. You can find examples of these in almost any book, and remember, a unit does not have to be ObSec to fall into this category.

Learning how to use these critically important units is the key to defeating extreme lists with a TAC list. While you may not be able to go blow for blow with a powerhouse list, you can contain them and then use superior positioning and asset management with your scoring units to win the day. I can’t tell you how many times I have stolen victory from an opponent simply because I was thinking: mission, while they were thinking: destroy!

Investing those points into units that win you the game is critical this edition but so is fighting or managing those units that you simply can’t ignore. In 7th ed we’ve seen a rise of these “all or nothing” units, as I see them. For me, these are units that are so overwhelming in some way, that you must have a plan for dealing with them as traditional tactics fail against them. Missilesides, Grav Centurions, Imperial Knights, many super heavies, etc. These are units that hit so ridiculously hard, and/or are so durable, that they typically destroy what they target while remaining impervious. Therefore, when planning for them you need to accept this fact and either have a way to avoid them (mobility, hiding, defense against their attack, etc.), destroy them directly, or contain them (tar pitting them, reducing their offense in some way, etc.).


Often what these specific units are in your area will vary according to your local meta, but in the tournament meta at large, these will often be the following: Wraithknights, Riptides, Missilesides, Centurions, Imperial Knights, certain super heavies, and FMCs.

Those are generally the units you see that you must be able to deal with due to their potency and popularity. Build some way to deal with these into your list. And as stated above, remember that you don’t always have to be able to destroy them. Sometimes containment is enough. I often use Scouts in suicide squeeze plays to pin down the above units, even if only for a turn, as with ATSKNF if even one of them lives, it is usually enough to take a key unit out of play. Use your imagination to find ways to use your units like this to take a disproportionate amount of enemy units out of play.

There are also certain types of lists that you want to be prepared for. A TAC list vs. another TAC list is really fun, but, when you find yourself against an extreme list that really maxes out on one aspect of the game, it can be a challenge to play around it. Lists like FMC spam, or an Air Force list fall into this category. Serpent Spam is another that can present some tough challenges for players. Hordes to a lesser extent, MC spam and AV13 or 14 spam also can gunk up a TAC list.


Again, the answer here is tactics and planning. Knowing which of your tools to apply when and where is the answer. Knowing when to fight and when to hide and preserve your assets is also critical. That may sound a bit vague, but, it really is a fine touch that comes with experience. It is very rewarding once you get the hang of it as you start winning games no one thinks you can.

There are also a few tools that I find to be extremely valuable for a TAC list.

  • AA. You have to be able to put up a fight against aerial units or be durable to just ignore them.
  • Defeating heavy infantry/2+ saves. Centurions, Riptides, Wraithknights, Broadsides, etc. can be a bear. You need a means to plow through that tough defense.
  • Defeating heavy armor. With Imperial Knights all the rage at present, you also really need a means to dealing with heavy armor or get caught with your pants down.
  • Ignoring cover. With Nurgle Daemon Princes getting a 2+ cover save anywhere just for doing a little shimmy where they stand, Tyranid 2+ cover all over the place, 3+ save Serpents, etc. having a way to bypass cover is really important.
  • Barrage/reaching out and touching someone. You need a way to be able to strike nearly anywhere on the table. If your opponent has a critical unit in a hard to reach place, you need the ability to at least attempt to destroy or contain it. Barrage weapons are great for this, but very fast units can also get this done.
  • Assault/counter-assault. No, assault is not dead in 7th. Having a good, mobile, reliable assault unit is a fantastic tool. The classic example of this currently is the Chapter Master on a bike with Shield Eternal. He can be aggressive, defensive, hits hard and is mobile, plus has a nice shooting attack, too. A unit like this or a unit to contain these units (cannon fodder, bubble wrap, etc.) is invaluable. These units are also one of the best ways for dealing with the other tough units out there. Serpents, for example, fold to assault like no one’s business.

Well, I hope that helped to illustrate that the TAC list is not dead, but still lives on. Remember, tactics>list, and practice gives you those tactics. So pick a nice, well rounded list and practice it against a wide variety of opponents and lists to learn your strengths and weaknesses and before long you will be enjoying your TAC list as much as you ever did!

Also, I wanted to just leave this little tidbit right here for everyone about something new coming out for our F.A.T. Mat line =)

TableWar Display Case and Unit Trays


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

49 Responses to “Is the TAC List Dead?”

  1. Avatar
    xTHExCLINCHERx November 5, 2014 3:01 am #

    Do I see a highly detailed printed building maybe!?!?

    On the point of the article, that’s why I play Red Hunters Space Marines as my TAC list; they are able to adapt (albeit for one major turn) to fit the “anti-whatever” role fairly well. I also think that Legion of the Damned should be making a strong appearance in TAC lists because they give you a lot of tools you need as a TAC list player.. They can reach out thanks to their fairly accurate deep striking, and can ignore cover with AP2/1 weapons.

    Great article!

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 5, 2014 9:58 am #

      Look under the buildings =)

      And yeah, Red hunters are clutch. Glad you liked the article!

  2. Avatar
    Cavalier November 5, 2014 3:59 am #

    I totally agree with you Reece. In the campaign I’m currently playing in I’m trapped between extreme builds and with the gaming mechanic that the winner cannot change his list (and I need wins!) TAC is my only choice because I can’t build an army that can take out Guard Airforce one game and than take that same list and expect to do well against Imperial Walker List with Knight Titans, Dreadknight and Dakka-Dreadnoughts, and then TAC after that. I gotta have flexibility when facing one extreme after the next.

  3. Avatar
    colin sherlow November 5, 2014 4:11 am #

    Just signed up for the LVO 40k championship. Yesssss!

    Question about the 40k champ tourney.

    I bought two tickets. One for myself and one for a friend.

    Am I to receive an email asking for our player info? Names, armies etc..?

  4. Avatar
    rexscarlet November 5, 2014 4:53 am #

    40k should always be TAC list, always, but alas it is not, nor has it ever been.
    One of the reasons 40K has always had issues is “list tailoring.” (and there is no way to stop it, except Tournaments)
    Old skool way;
    A) Hi, you want to play 40k 1850 points?
    B) Sure, what army do you play?
    A) SM.
    B) “Pulls army list out of SHIRT pocket.”
    later on…
    C) Hi, you want to play 40k 1850 points?
    B) Sure, what army do you play?
    C) IG.
    B) “Pulls army list out of BACK pocket.”
    This has always existed, but with aftermarket army building programs, it is even easier than it used to be.
    So, YES, the TAC list is dead, and has been dead since the dawn of 40K.

    • Avatar
      AbusePuppy November 5, 2014 4:52 pm #

      That’s interesting, because most of the armies I have taken to most tournaments are TAC lists. because, you know, I’m not sure what armies I’ll be facing and it’s good to be prepared.

      • Avatar
        Jural November 5, 2014 5:11 pm #

        I always try this too. But I just go prepared knowing that some lists I can’t really deal with (typically fully ranged Tau with short table edges in a Kill Point mission or heavy knights.)

        If you can avoid those lists and let the paper to their rock knock them out, you are in good shape!

        On the other hand, nothing is more frustrating than getting down to a low table and facing the Stompa list which was outplayed the first two rounds… and you don’t have anything to reliably damage it!

        • Avatar
          AbusePuppy November 5, 2014 10:32 pm #

          I think that no matter what kind of army list you bring, you’ll have strong matchups and weak matchups. The point of writing a good list is to try and get the best overall percentages you can for your different matchups, dependent on how likely you expect them to be. Managing the tools your list brings against the field is just as important as putting scoring units in your army or keeping to a single core strategy with a list.

    • Avatar
      WarlordEXE November 7, 2014 1:32 am #

      sounds like your issue is the people you’re playing. I personally don’t like list tailoring myself so before I go to the club I make sure I have a list made for the typical points levels played (some people can do high points, others smaller games). I’ve never done a “oh you’re playing SM well let me see here i’m going to use…this list.” Takes the fun out of the game, and honestly you don’t have to be playing 40k for this to happen exclusively. I do suppose though that certain aspects allow for this in 40k. At the end of the day its pretty clear when some one list tailors, and then wins because of it. I just pass it off, and then get them back when there’s a tournament or some kind of event that requires submitted armies before hand. Does feel good though when you beat some one who tailors. The army is your weapon, but it still requires a descent general to wield it.

  5. Avatar
    Adam "Loopy" Fasoldt November 5, 2014 8:11 am #

    I would guess this is why bikes are such a go-to choice. There are many options to make them Objective Secured and get some great, durable, mobile units on the table.

    • Avatar
      DCannon4Life November 5, 2014 11:28 am #

      I agree: White Scars with Space Wolf allies will be a thing, right? Or really, any Space Marine chapter + Space Wolves. It’s all about that Drop Pod.

  6. Avatar
    CaptainA November 5, 2014 8:30 am #

    I love the concept of the TAC list, I just don’t know if I’m good enough to play it, or at least want to take the time to really learn it. My hobby ADHD pushes me all over when it comes to armies and I have a hard time sticking with one. That is one reason why I’m taking an OP list to the LVO. I tried a more TAC list at the BAO and didn’t do very well. Granted all my losses were close, but I just couldn’t keep up with the 2 wraithknight/serpent spam, seer council, and other op lists out there.

  7. Avatar
    z3n1st November 5, 2014 8:57 am #

    I think TAC lists are alive and well, I try to focus my lists towards that and they seem to do fairly well. Having the tools to play a smart game is going to work better for you then using a point and click force ESPECIALLY when the target of that point and click is the Achilles heel of your army.

  8. Avatar November 5, 2014 9:00 am #

    There are definetly TAC list still out there.

    1) ad lance backed with allies
    2) wave Serpant spam
    3) assaults summoning daemons
    4) drop pod/ deep striking marines (though tripple hell turkey still makes his cry)
    5) white scars primary

    Every one of those armies has a lingers chance against anything they face IMO.

    • Avatar
      DCannon4Life November 5, 2014 10:56 am #

      The AdLance (with the appropriate complementary allies) is the only true TAC list at the moment. While lists 2-5 certainly can ‘take’ each other depending on the day, The AdLance can take them all the majority of the time. This disparity in power levels is exaggerated when the missions played do not emphasize the things TAC lists can be good at….

      • Reecius
        Reecius November 5, 2014 11:38 am #

        I actually don’t agree that the AdLance is really TAC. It is ultra vulnerable to Drop Pod lists, or anything like that. Having played it at NOVA, I honestly wouldn’t take it to another tournament. It is really one dimensional.

        Also, I think Marines, Eldar, Daemons are all really easy to play as TAC, and any book can do it with some practice and patience.

        • Avatar
          Jural November 5, 2014 12:19 pm #

          Not ‘Nids. Not without the new models or Barbed anyway. Just not enough to deal with heavy armor, unfortunately. And not particularly mobile to go grab objectives.

          … but i’m hopeful the tyrannocytes may reward a more balanced ‘Nid approach. Certainly you can better afford to have Zoanthropes to deal with armor… they may actually get near the objective at some point.

          • Reecius
            Reecius November 5, 2014 4:39 pm

            You can kill armor in melee, too, don’t forget. Plus, Flyrants with electroshock are brutal.

          • Avatar
            Jural November 5, 2014 4:45 pm

            Kill Armor in melee? If you have crushing claws or Carnifexes yes! If you are relying on smashing…. errm, not so much. But it certainly is better than nothing.

            Electroshock Grubs are great, I agree with that!

        • Avatar
          DCannon4Life November 5, 2014 12:28 pm #

          Did the Melta-Drop list make it to the top at NOVA? Or was it skewed so far toward anti-armor that it failed to measure up as a TAC list? NOVA’s terrain certainly worked against knights (or at least didn’t help knights), while increasing the utility and survivability of other (anti-armor) units.

          Locally, the IKnight players are just putting their knights in reserves…can’t melta what’s not there.

          • Reecius
            Reecius November 5, 2014 4:38 pm

            A Drop list did make finals, yes. It was Wolves and Marines.

            And yeah, that is a good tactic for fighting Pods. Do the Knight players never get tabled before showing up?

          • Avatar
            DCannon4Life November 5, 2014 5:53 pm

            We usually play with a decent amount of terrain, including LoS blocking pieces where you can hide a small unit or two.

            In my last game vs. AdLance, I was winning on Turn 5 (had the relic) in part because only the warlord knight came on on turn 3. Still lost when the game went to turn 6 (D-Stomps ftw).

        • Avatar
          AbusePuppy November 5, 2014 10:35 pm #

          Yeah, Adamantine Lance is practically the definition of an “unbalanced” list. It relies heavily on forcing a single strategy (“I have big stompy robots”) and forcing it on the enemy in hopes that they can’t handle it. If that plan fails, the list falls apart very quickly.

          Are Drop Pods really that much of a problem for it? I would think with rerolling saves and the ability to set Ion Shields after Pods have come down it would have a pretty good defense against that sort of thing.

          • Reecius
            Reecius November 6, 2014 10:12 am

            You drop pods around the Knights and then try to place your heavy weapons straddling muktiple arcs, so that no matter where they put their shields, they have some arcs that are uncovered.

  9. Avatar
    z3n1st November 5, 2014 9:03 am #

    Another note that I would like to add is: practice, practice, practice! Find your list and play the shit out of it. If you keep waffling between builds, units etc without seeing their impact against a varied meta you could be missing out on some gems. I give any unit at least three games before I determine their usefulness to the synergy of the force, if they don’t make the cut by then, they get swapped out for something that I felt was missing. Then I practice some more. Evaluate one unit at a time, look for creative ways to use them and play to the mission.

    • Avatar
      fluger November 5, 2014 9:19 am #

      This is great advice. When I was at my zenith as a tournament player, I hadn’t changed my Ork list for over a year. I played the same list over and over and over again and was REALLY good with it. This is one of the advantages of TAC lists is that if you can make one that is functionally TAC, you don’t have to monkey with it and you can learn how to use it. The drawback is that you have to have a lot of gaming time to get good with it. Again, when I was doing a local tournament every other weekend and cramming in 4 pickup games every week, it was easy to get the reps in. As a dad of 3 in a rural area with only garage gaming, I don’t have those opportunities.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 5, 2014 4:41 pm #

      Practice makes the master, no doubt.

  10. Avatar
    Adam O'Shovah November 5, 2014 10:28 am #

    To those that say they can’t win with a TAC list, I suggest you re-read what z3n1st said : “…practice, practice, practice!” I know there are a lot of people that own multiple armies and chase the meta when it comes to the new hotness that’s on top tables at tournaments. That’s all well and good, you know, but there’s nothing I despise more than someone showing up to a tournament with Serpent Spam or IK Formations, etc but they have no idea how to play them. Great for me, because I know the one army that I’ve ever owned and player very, very well and chances are I’ll piecemeal your recent purchase. But the thing is, any general can be a good general if he or she knows their army well and plays to it’s strengths and limits it’s weaknesses. I know a guy who plays a TAC Marines list. On occasion he’ll ally GK or Guard or White Scars but he’s a pretty devout BA and Ravenguard player… and I can beat him on a good day, with my best lists but more often than not he creams me. He plays to the objectives. He knows my weaknesses and if I let up at all… he exposes them.

    Learn your armies friends. Learn them inside and out. Sure, there are bad match up out there but if you know how to play to your strengths and limit your weaknesses… you’ll make it tough for the net list all stars to sweep the table against you.

  11. Avatar
    DCannon4Life November 5, 2014 11:25 am #

    I’ve seen a Revenant Titan LoL D-smack an AdLance list, then played against that Titan list and beat it, then played against that AdLance list and lost…. That’s not TAC, that’s Ro-sham-bo, right?

    TAC is dead or alive relative to: Codex creep (or just broken codexes >.>), missions, local terrain philosophies/practices, and tournament-imposed restrictions on list writing. Codexes are imbalanced, that’s a given, but those differences are exacerbated by missions, terrain, and list writing restrictions (see: NOVA and, if my predictions are correct, also see: Renegade).

  12. Avatar
    austonwithano November 5, 2014 11:48 am #

    I’ve recently picked up Orks and one of the things I’ve been struggling with is their lack of ignores cover in the codex. It’s kind of ironic too given how good ignores cover is against Orks, and how easy it is to obtain with most other armies. I don’t really know how to shore up this weakness in a TAC list, but I’m welcome to suggestions…

    • Avatar
      fluger November 5, 2014 1:10 pm #


    • Reecius
      Reecius November 5, 2014 4:40 pm #

      Orks do struggle this edition, no doubt about it. However, I think one of the real gems in that book are Tank Busta Boyz. They are so good and in melee will destroy any vehicle, including knights. They host MCs, too with all those melta bombs.

      • Avatar
        AbusePuppy November 5, 2014 4:55 pm #

        If it’s an option for the list, Tankbustas in a Looted Wagon with Killkannon and max Rokkits is a surprisingly-terrifying unit for a decent price.

  13. Avatar
    Eldarain November 5, 2014 11:52 am #

    Why not skip B? I’d rather have a more broad exchange Ie. points LoW Y/N Mission type etc.

  14. Avatar
    TinBane November 5, 2014 2:58 pm #

    Weird question, I know. But where did you get your Einstein photo? It’s a mash-up of a different blackboard, with Einstein put in front. But it tripped me out for a few minutes, because the notes are on genetics, and aren’t from his time.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 5, 2014 4:37 pm #

      Haha, yeah, it’s a nice photoshop job. But, I got it on Google Images, don’t know where it originated.

      • Avatar
        TinBane November 5, 2014 9:41 pm #

        It freaked me out for a second. I was stuck in that loop of “can’t see where it’s ‘shopped’, but I also don’t believe in time travel”.

        • Avatar
          AbusePuppy November 5, 2014 10:36 pm #

          It’s a pretty common internet photo thinger. been around for… a decade, at the very least.

        • Reecius
          Reecius November 6, 2014 10:15 am #

          I believe in time travel! I am traveling through time right now, going into the future….in real time! =P

  15. Avatar
    Wit November 5, 2014 3:03 pm #

    Reecius, you really need to start giving practical examples with these kinds of articles; otherwise they come of with a pretentious tone and leave folks with a “You lost be cause you suck,” vibe.

    You glibly say that “You only need…” and then list 6 specific items, many of which most armies can’t easily supply, or can’t supply period. You need to give folks ideas of HOW they can provide those things.

    I know that’s not your intention, and that you’re just trying to promote better playing and more varied lists, but by saying you need A, B,and C, but not giving any examples, you’re basically just promoting the boring, WAAC net-builds.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 5, 2014 4:36 pm #

      Ah, you got that the tone is “you lost because you suck?” I’m sorry but I don’t see that. The article was specifically about NOT playing net lists. You may have read some of what I wrote as glib but it certainly wasn’t delivered in that tone. I suppose I could have made an exhaustive list for every army, but there are only so many words in an article and hours in a day, you know? I was hoping players would take that info and apply it to their own armies.

      However, if you would like to add some specific examples, we’d be happy to have them.

      • Avatar
        Wit November 5, 2014 7:36 pm #

        Hey, I know you meant it as an encouragement; didn’t mean to sound accusatory.

        Just passing along that that was literally the first comment a buddy had after reading it, and I could definitely see his point. I’m not saying provide all the options, but throw in an atypical-example (ie, not a net-list) that illustrates your comments.

    • Avatar
      Jural November 5, 2014 5:07 pm #

      Reecius’s gave some real practical examples with Scouts, Jetbikes, and the Chaptermaster.

      For ‘Nids, I think people underestimate the utility of quite a few units… the problem is if you stock up on utility you eventually get tabled 😉 But I love my hive guard, Zoanthropes, and (to a lesser degree) Mawlocs and Genestealers… which I have been told are not typically used in any good lists. But mostly the best units are heavily taken in any list, TAC or not (namely Flyrant, Malanthrope, Deep Striking Ripper Swarms and Carnifexes.)

      • Avatar
        Wit November 5, 2014 7:42 pm #

        The problem is that the examples given are the common-place building blocks of the netlists we’re trying to get away from, and they don’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

        Every knows that Eldar are amazing and jetbikes are wonderful.

        Everyone knows that Scouts are the better troop choice and CMs should always have the Shield Eternal.

        Instead mention how a Chaos player can include barrage. How a Tyranid player can find some ignores-cover options. How Necrons get solid AP2, or how Orks deal with heavy armor.

  16. Avatar
    Jural November 5, 2014 5:17 pm #

    One change which could bring lists more towards TAC is sideboards. You are forced to be less polarized if your opponent is able to bring to bear the key which unlocks your army. At the least, all flier lists, reserve heavy lists, and all heavy armor lists would be in certain amounts of trouble, as most lists are vulnerable to one of these, and you could put the counter on the sideboard.

    Or does a sideboard lead to more massacres from the best lists? Having multiple side board options to bring in via WWP depending upon the army you are up against may be too good…

    • Avatar
      Wit November 5, 2014 7:44 pm #

      Side boards can be alot of fun, and can certainly help. However what usually happens is that the basic component of the army gives the appearance of a TAC list, and then the side-board hides the sucker-punch Imperial Knight or something similar.

  17. Avatar
    Vendra November 5, 2014 5:51 pm #

    The TAC list is simple. Guardsmen, nothing but blob after blob of guardsmen. All spread out to their 2″ coherency. You just stop your opponent from moving at all.

    • Avatar
      Wit November 5, 2014 7:46 pm #

      If you’ve got it, rock it. I played against one person who fielded 6 full infantry platoons and 6 full conscript platoons once (5 ed with the old guard book). I eventually got smothered in bodies but it was still one of the single most fun, silly games I’ve ever had.

  18. Avatar
    Bdub November 5, 2014 6:30 pm #

    I dunno, I think orks might actually be one of the best armies TAC-wise. Anything that traktor kannons don’t counter is countered by blobs of boyz and lots of pk’s. I’ve been waiting to bust out my tac ork army, but have yet to get the chance. 🙁

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