In Pursuit of the TAC List!


Do you have a dream? Yes I do, Mr. king, yes I do.

While his dream was at least a little grander in scale, and certainly more eloquently put, mine is no less meaningful!! Well, no, that’s total crap, mine is infinitely less meaningful, lol, But a dream it is, none the less.

The idea: to build the true TAC (Take All Comers) list in competitive 40k. What that means varies from individual to individual, but for me it means a list that is balanced and has the tool to take on any other list with at least a 50/50 chance of victory. To me, it is the opposite of taking a list that wins or loses based on the list itself, it is a tool-set that allows a player to win based on their skill and luck. It allows creative tactics, layered combos and flexibility. The ultimate TAC list is my White Whale. I may never achieve it, but I will always seek it!

So what do you need to take all comers in this crazy landscape that is 40K at present? A lot! That is the major hurdle facing a TAC list in this edition: you run out of points before you’ve built your Swiss army knife of a TAC list. now please bear in mind, this list below is written assuming you use a combination of progressive and static win conditions (Maelstrom and Dawn of War style) and that you are not playing Unbound.

  1. You need mobility: This is huge, you really need to be able to reach out and grab objectives to increase your odds of earning those points as they arise. MSU helps a ton here, but it is a double edged sword as MSU armies give up Kill Points easier which are often also win conditions.
  2. You need a plan to deal with AA: Flyers and FMCs were always rock solid but are making a comeback in the meta. Be prepared to either combat them, avoid them, or in some way deal with them or be prepared to have a very bad day.
  3. You must be able to deal with armor: Armor is back in a big way in 7th ed, and you must have a plan for dealing with it. Knights especially, and Wave Serpents top this list but are not the only offenders. You must have a way to take these heavy hitting units out or suffer.
  4. You need to be able to bypass extreme defense: A lot of powerful lists in the game revolve around ultra-durability, whether it be very high cover saves, high toughness, 2+ saves, psychic buffs, or similar style game mechanics, you have to have a plan to deal with armies that utilize these types of defenses or find yourself unable to hurt your opponent.
  5. Assault is not dead! This is a perpetuated myth on the interwebs and a part of me can only question what type of terrain folks that make this claim are playing with. However, even with light terrain, there are a plethora of assault units in the game that can get across the table reliably and then smash your face. Assault still has the highest potential for damage output in the game as you get two assault phases for each shooting phase, and, typically more attacks when there. If you are unable to deal with a fast, heavy hitting assault unit you may find your best units simply getting gobbled up by them.
  6. The D Slap! There are a handful of ranged D units in common play now, the Lynx primary among them, and of course, the D Slappers we see in combat and the Stomp which functions in the same way: removes from play attacks. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are a part of the game at present and you must be prepared for them. A means to either mitigate these attacks if possible, or to quickly destroy the offensive D Slanger in question is critical to success in 7th ed.

Those are the basic dilemmas you should seek to solve with your list. There are a lot of ways to do this, almost limitless ways, actually, but think about them when writing your list. Look at what you have critically and ask yourself how you plan to deal with the above issues. Can you handle multiple Knights? Can you tackle Multiple Wave Serpents or Flyers? Do you have any way of stopping an assault Deathstar or Shootinstar? If your opponent rolls up a killer combo of psychic powers, can you deal with it? Can your list withstand a D blast from a super heavy? Can you grab objectives reliably and win a game by playing to the mission even if you find yourself outgunned?

If you can say, yes, my list can deal with these things or I at least have a plan for how to deal with them should I see them across the table from me, then you are well on your way to achieving the TAC dream!

What are all of you doing to solve these quandaries with your lists?


About Reecius

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

41 Responses to “In Pursuit of the TAC List!”

  1. Remcoow January 6, 2015 12:31 am #

    I personally like to play lists like this aswell. I’m not a skilled player, but it forces me to play tactfully and use my troops in unexpected ways. In essence, it forces you to play the game, instead of relying on powerful guns or combo’s to win the game for you.

    My current list might lack some punch, but I love playing it:

    Codex Space Marines

    Chapter Master, Term Armour, Shield Eternal, Thunder Hammer
    Tac Squad, melta, combi-melta, meltabombs, droppod
    Tac Squad, plasma, combi-plasma, meltabombs, rhino, dozer blade
    Tac Squad, flame, combi-flamer, meltabombs, rhino, dozer blade
    Scouts, CC weapons, combi-flamer, meltabombs, speeder, heavy flamer
    Stern Vets, rhino, dozer blade
    Attack Bike, Multi Melta
    Attack Bike, Multi Melta
    Assault Squad, 10 men, 2 flamers, meltabombs
    Devastators, 4 lascannons
    Devastators, 4 missiles + flakk
    Centurion Devs, grav, omniscope
    Ordos Xenos Inq, liber heresius, psycho grenades

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:04 pm #

      I agree with you 100%. Playing the game well is more fun (IMO) than smashing someone with a powerful list.

      I think your list actually looks really solid. You have a lot of tools, just a lack of AA, really.

  2. Cilithan January 6, 2015 12:52 am #

    Hey Reece, thanks for your Blog and post.

    Our gaminggroup shares a common goal. What I do is to playtest ideas a lot and finetune after each battle. This means I often play with one different unit each time to see how it functions, what it contributes and if it fills a gap or critically synergises with the other units in the list.

    About assault being valid still, my best TAC list looks like this:
    Sorcerer, Bike, ML3, SF, MB
    10 Cultists
    10 Cultists
    5 Spawn, MoN
    Maulerfiend, Lasher Tendrils
    11 Pink Horrors
    15 Fleshhounds
    Soulgrinder, DoS, BT

    We do often debate whether a TAC list can compete with a hard spamtype list however. Extreme lists may have hard counters, but against others than their nemesis have a tendency to beat face rather convincingly. That being said, since a varied TAC list is much more fun to play, I can’t be bothered to spam.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:06 pm #

      I do the same thing with the fine-tuning. It takes me about 6+ games to really master a list, sometimes more. I like doing the one unit swap, too, that way you get a more objective feel for how they perform.

      And I am with you. The extreme lists can be hard to face with a TAC list as you have weaknesses to their strengths, you can often outplay them and achieve victory even if getting beat up in a fight.

  3. Fagerlund January 6, 2015 1:39 am #

    Nice article, but I would also add: 7. Hordes, especially Fearless Hordes. Typically these are a bit easier to deal with since it’s infantry, but even so if you specialise too much in the other areas Hordes might become a big (pun…) problem for you.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:01 pm #

      That is actually a good point. They aren’t as common of a list but Horde AM and Orks are quite good.

  4. Knight of Infinite Resignation January 6, 2015 2:50 am #

    I think this is really an impossible quest. Now all FOC limitation are removed it is easy to build an army that exploits a single aspect of the game (ie flight, armour, summoning etc) to the degree that it will overwhelm that small part of the TAC list that is designed to counter that aspect.

    When a TAC list meets one of these lists it is already at a disadvantage. When two skewed lists meet then one will most likely overwhelm the other quickly.

    In a nutshell this is the problem with 40K right now and why the last two editions have been 40rock-paper-scissorsK, and why so many players have left. A game which is decided during the list building phase isn’t fun, bad matchups aren’t fun for either player.

    When two TAC lists meet though you can have a good close game.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:13 pm #

      Your analysis is pretty accurate I think. In a head to head contest, the extreme list should beat the TAC list as it overpowers in key areas. However, a good TAC list should provide intangible benefit that allow a highly skilled player to win by playing to mission parameters. It can be an uphill battle but the trade-off is the TAC list doesn’t have the hard-counters.

      • llamafist January 6, 2015 9:56 pm #

        Enjoyed the article. I would call this pseudo-doable, if you are willing to spam to a certain degree as well. If this is what we are trying to avoid please disregard.

        An example of what I mean is devoting 50-65% of your army’s points to something ‘unfair’ then use the rest of the list to shoring up the gaps to give you some tactical options in a bad matchup. While you lose some of the potential devastation going all in can produce, you add some flexibility against your hard counters. Additionally a lot of spam lists go a bit morewin IMO, and should probably keep in mind you can only table an army once a match.

        The only other option is to play the meta and hope you guess correctly what weakness most armies are not exploiting, but now we don’t have a true TAC list.

  5. Aldaris January 6, 2015 4:39 am #

    Additional challenge: build this white whale using only one faction.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:01 pm #

      Eldar can do it quite easily =)

  6. Arrias January 6, 2015 5:52 am #

    Currently, I think the TAC list is a nigh unachievable feat. Too many choices exist across the gamescape that require rather specific tools to bring down. Additionally, the chance to bring more than 2-3 of these units through detachment or formation shenanigans can too easily create situations where you only have one hammer for 15 nails. The Overlords put it quite succinctly in a recent podcast, that in these situations you are essentially playing their 800~ points of a specialized unit against your 200~ points of counter unit.

    That said, I while I think attempting to create a TAC list is to dream the (near) impossible dream, what we are going to see is the rise of the TAC general. The player who can rapidly recognize their own mismatches and play to mitigate them.

    • Red Inquisition January 6, 2015 10:07 am #

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the TAC general statement. A spam list can overwhelm a TAC list with one element. But a TAC general can overwhelm with multiple strategies.

      Most spam lists are one dimensional. A TAC list is not. Both styles of list and general have their strengths and weaknesses. So many people just look at the lists though. If you only look at the strength of the list a spam list will appear to be stronger. Whereas the TAC list shines on the table.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:14 pm #

      Well put. The skill factor is what allows TAC lists to function in a competitive environment which, is one of the more appealing elements of them, IMO.

  7. Adam O'Shovah January 6, 2015 7:40 am #

    I’m attempting to bring a TAC list to the FTN Invitational next month. There will be C’tans, there will be summoning Daemons (most likely with a Brass Scorpion), there well be Cent’Star and Serpent Spam and of course AdLance. This is what I’m toying around with at the moment. Reece, I’d love your feedback…

    Buff’mander : target lock, drone controller, CCN, PEN Chip, MSS, NWSJ, Onager Gauntlet, marker drone x2

    Riptide : Ion Accelerator, TL-fusion blaster

    Fire Warriors x6 : Devilfish, SMS
    Fire Warriors x6 : Devilfish, SMS

    Fusion Commander : target lock, drone controller, velocity tracker, Fusion Blades, marker drone x2

    Crisis Team x3 : missile pods x6
    Crisis Team x3 : TL-missile pod x3
    Crisis Monat : fusion blaster x2
    Crisis Monat : fusion blaster x2

    Riptide : heavy burst cannon, velocity tracker, TL-fusion blaster

    Broadside Team x3 : HYMP, SMS, advanced targeting system x2
    Broadside Team x3 : HYMP, SMS, advanced targeting system x2

    1845 points

    I would love to bring like 2 or 3 Razorsharks just for giggles but I don’t believe they will help me deal with high AV and AdLance.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:16 pm #

      I think you have an excellent list that provides you with the tools you need to take on damn near anything. Tau are very well rounded and you have all the elements needed to do quite well.

      • Adam O'Shovah January 7, 2015 6:22 am #

        Thanks sir. I will be play testing a bit tonight. It’s a funny thing, in 6th I felt like Tau (specifically FSE) were great at 1850 and 2250 points but struggled at 2000. In this edition, I feel like we are stronger at 2K and weaker at 1850 and 2250. Weird.

        • Reecius January 7, 2015 4:40 pm #

          Yeah, subtle changes in the game do make those changes apparent when you really get a feel for an army. I notice that kind of thing, too.

  8. nimrod451 January 6, 2015 8:31 am #

    Most of my lists involve the TAC concept mostly because that what I find fun though – not out of a sense of competitiveness.

    ..the idea of making a competitive TAC list makes my head smoke.

    The one thing that stands out to me is the idea that assault isn’t dead – I argue in my meta that this is true as well, but within a small meta its hard to find examples – maybe a future article we could review some of the premium assault units.. It might be interesting as a counter to the current assault is dead wailings.

    Good article!

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:18 pm #

      Glad you liked the article. And agreed 100%, assault is not at all dead. Might have to illustrate that point in an article, for sure.

  9. colinsherlow January 6, 2015 9:00 am #

    I am running a null deploy Dark Eldar/Eldar army.
    I might bring this to the LVO.
    One thing I am on the fence about in this list is do I want my unit of two talos with twin splinter cannons or a stock wraith knight? The talos are more durable and better in combat and mowing infantry down. The knight give me more AT and is more agile for maybe better support?

    CAD (strategic trait)

    Archon w/ wwp, blaster.

    5 trueborn w/ 4blasters.
    Venom w/ 2 splinter cannons.

    5 kabalites warriors w/ splinter rifles.
    Venom w/ 2 splinter cannons.

    5 kabalites warriors w/ splinter rifles.
    Venom w/ 2 splinter cannons.

    Razorwing jet fighter w/ 2 dark lances

    Razorwings jet fighter w/ 2 dark lances

    5 scourges w/ 4 haywire blasters.

    Ravager w/ 3 dark lances

    Ravager w/ 3 dark lances

    2 Talos w/ twin splinter cannons?
    Wraith knight?

    Eldar allies.

    Autarch w/ fusion gun

    5 fire dragons.
    Wave serpent w/twin scatter laser.

    3 guardian jet bikes

    5 warp spiders

    Iove this list as it has lots of options for what I can do in terms of deployment and movement.
    The autarchs +1/-1 to reserve rolls make all the difference in this lost most games.

    In tough match ups i tend to put the army into full reserve/deep strike except the 2 Talos or wraith knight pending on which I take. And maybe a few other units like maybe the scourges or ravagers if there is proper cover.

    Deep striking/reserving most of the army allows this Army to pick its fights when and where I want them to happen. Overwhelm them in one area and move on. Sometimes deep striking ravagers is a better since 3 st8 lances tends to be much more effective shooting rear armour and often avoiding cover then heavier front armour with cover.

    The fire dragons deep striking with the archon/autarch with out scattering is amazing for popping knights and heavy armour. Sometimes the archon, autarch and dragons all split apart after jumping out of the serpent to have more target options. Sometimes without the serpent if that is preferred.

    This list had great AI, Good AT and AA. Counter assault in the way of my MCs. Is mobile enough to get objectives and keep my opponent at an arms length.

    I fought a 3knight/guard list the other week in crushed is face playing the LVO missions.

    What do you think.
    Wraith knight or 2 talos?

    • Dash2021 January 6, 2015 9:36 am #

      Have you tested it against a pod list? It’s really the only scenario I see you having issues null deploying against, but it’s common enough to be a threat. DE null deploy is a heavy hitter, but you do need to plan for that match. Actually, for that reason I’d go with the Talos over the WK. Same number of wounds, but much more durable. A WK will die in one round of shooting to stern guard (been there, done that). The FnP would allow the Talos to squeak by till the next turn and maybe even take a squad with them on turn 2.

      Other than that, the list looks solid.

      • colinsherlow January 6, 2015 10:52 am #

        I have not yet tested it against a pod list, but hope to soon. Against a pod list I would probably start with a few other units on the board to help trump their chances of tabling my army. The serpent with the dragons could be useful for that. What I deploy will depends on the terrain/scenario/deployment/enemy list. I don’t always have to use null deployment, but having the option is always great.

        One thing I really like about null deployment is that my games tend to go much faster as I am able to skip most of the deployment phase. Almost all of my games have come to a natural conclusion with this type of list. And for an avid tournament player that is great.

        Thanks for you feedback

        • colinsherlow January 6, 2015 10:53 am #

          I ment to say serpent without the dragons

  10. Red Inquisition January 6, 2015 9:51 am #

    I think a well built and played TAC list can still do well in the current edition. You hit all the major points on building s TAC list but not playing them.

    For a TAC list to have chance of beating a spam list you have to play to your strengths and find their weakness and exploit it. If I go up against a list like ad lance I am really going to struggle to kill all those knights. But that does not mean I cannot win. By using my anti-av stuff do attack his knights and also using my fast moving elements to cap those secondaries I can try for the win.

    Beating a spam list is more about how you use your TAC list and less about killing all the opponents stuff. Playing to the mission often gets overlooked when facing a spam list. People think ” how am I going to kill all those serpents”. Don’t try. Kill the ones you need to and score the points you can while mitigating the return fire as much as possible.

    This is where having a TAC list with layers of strategy becomes strength a spam list will never have and will struggle to overcome.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:27 pm #

      You said it. I agree, totally. So much more to the game than just killing the other guy’s stuff.

  11. DarkLink January 6, 2015 10:14 am #

    WTF is the Lynx allowed when a bunch of other comparable superheavies with the D are disallowed? That thing is obscenely cheap for multiple str d blasts.

    • DCannon4Life January 6, 2015 10:19 am #

      Pish. It’s AV11 with…6HP? Big deal. And if by multiple you mean 2, then sure, obscenely cheap for 2 strength D (large) blasts. I’ve faced Lynx lists and prefer fighting them to fighting Imperial Knights.

      • z3n1st January 6, 2015 12:23 pm #

        yep AV11, 6HP, its a paper tiger. It’ll surprise you the first time then drop like an adult film stars underpants if you have the right tools next time.

        • DCannon4Life January 6, 2015 12:47 pm #

          ‘right tools’ /snicker

  12. iNcontroL January 6, 2015 10:33 am #

    I think the idea of a “true” TAC list in a game as imbalanced as WH40k is a dream. That said the idea behind a TAC list is extremely doable. Like anything else in WH40k it’s a numbers game. Does my list take on MOST of what the meta offers? Sure. Can I face that one guy that found a way to get a 4+ seize with a disgusting alpha strike that if it fails he auto-loses? Yes. And that kind of stuff will forever exist and forever make a “true” TAC list impossible. The game has too much variance. Someone out there has 8+ fliers.. how can your list take that into account AND the guy that has 40 wolves and 9 powerfists that scout move? Pursue the TAC list as a means to give you the best chance at besting a large field of players but accept the fact that this game has dozens of races/factions and the variables are such that you can have an answer for MOST things but never ALL.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:31 pm #

      Good points. I think the true TAC list is a combination of the actual units you use and the skill you apply in using them by thinking outside of the box and coming up with creative tactics as the player. It is sort of a combination of list and player.

  13. DCannon4Life January 6, 2015 12:53 pm #

    The idea, or basic philosophy, of a TAC list needs to continue to be articulated and kept alive. Sure, it’s hard to really nail down what a TAC list is (might be easier to nail down what it’s not?), but spending time thinking about what TAC means serves to highlight the extremes (and imbalances). If 40K players forget what a TAC list would even look like, then they’ll lose one of the perspectives that can help them tell the difference between WAAC, Fluffy, Deathstar, Spam, etc. lists.

  14. bogalubov January 6, 2015 2:09 pm #

    I think people use TAC to mean two things that are not necessarily the same. At its core it is an army list that can take on any other list with a descent chance of winning. But that can be accomplished by horrible spam. Serpent spam is TAC list. Last edition beast pack and the council were TAC lists. Riptides are TAC units.

    People confuse it with army box lists that take a little bit of everything. But low power level does not mean the list is TAC.

    • Reecius January 6, 2015 3:29 pm #

      Yeah, how you define it changes a lot. For me, it is a balanced list with a tool for everything. An extreme list is one that maximizes one aspect of list building to an extreme. TAC has lower top end power but a better average performance. Extreme has more power but larger weaknesses and so can result in very streaky performances of big wins and big losses.

  15. Kuragh January 7, 2015 2:11 pm #

    I think, funnily enough, that Nids are a great candidate for a list like this.

    Hands down one of the best FMCs on the game with the flyrants with 2 TL devourers with brain leech. These not only handle enemy flyers and absolutely shatter most infantry in te game but they are also highly manouvreable and so cover your requirement for objective grabbing. Two of these have so many roles covered already.

    Zoanthropes with the new neurothropes are amazing now, and a solid answer for both anti vehicle and anti MEQ.

    You can dump 20 terms in a tyrannocyte, for a 75 shot combo that wipes out most backfield defence (for a measly 250 pts, take 2!) and linking them up with synapse through those beautiful flyrants has you some solid ob sec options in the opponents table side.

    Just those 4-5 units I’ve mentioned already only take up 1k-1250, leaving you 500-600 pts (depending on your point limit ) to fine tune to your play style. Can add more swarms for more wounds to deal with. Hormas are a solid little combat unit (100pts for 20wounds, 60 atks on the charge at I5 is great!) or you could spend it on some big gribblies to give you some more punch. Some venomthropes for shroud also doesn’t hurt.

    Loving nids ATM.

  16. Bonzai January 7, 2015 9:02 pm #

    Yeah, I think Nids are in a great place right now. This is the list that I am planning to take to the Rail Head Rumble in March.

    Hive Fleet Detatchment
    Hive Tyrant w/ wings, 2 devourers, grubs
    Hive Tyrant w/ wings, 2 devourers, grubs
    Hive Tyrant w/ wings, 2 devourers, grubs

    3 Rippers w/ deep strike
    3 Rippers w/ deep strike


    Skyblight Formation
    Hive Tyrant w/ wings, devourer
    Harpy w/ Hvy venom cannon
    Hive Crone
    10 gargoyles
    10 gargoyles
    10 gargoyles

    Total: 1750

    Mobility? FMCs, jump infantry, and deep strikers, are about as mobile as it gets for Nids. I have enough scoring that I should have enough objective coverage.

    AA? 4 Flyrants should take down anything in the air, plus I have the Harpys and the crones. AA is covered.

    Armor? I’m slightly weak against AV14, but I have a decent amount of haywire in the list and 8 chances for warp blast. Anything with a lower armor is not a problem.

    Insane Defense? It comes in a variety of forms, and I have a variety of solutions. 8 warp charges to counter psychic powers is decent. I have a nice amount of volume of fire, and psychic scream can hurt invisable units, and hurt things regardless of their toughness. I also have disposable fodder to block and contest with, and a large chunk of my army can just fly and ignore them.

    D Slap? Flyrants have a lot of tricks to deal with Knights. Warp blasting before shields get switched over, onslaught to switch sides, etc… Knights are manageable.

    So yeah, I feel like it’s a list that can take most things on. Unbeatable? No. But it should have a decent chance against most things.

    • Jural January 8, 2015 5:16 pm #

      Competitive, yes. But TAC? I think a 6 FMC list is almost the definition of an extreme list 😉

      • Dr.insanotron January 8, 2015 5:25 pm #

        Why are you under the assumption that a extreme list can’t be a TAC list?

  17. Granthollomew October 14, 2015 11:08 pm #

    So here’s an idea I had, not sure how much merit it actually has or if it will ever have the legs to become fully realized. Every spam list has an obvious counter, but rock/paper/scissor hammer isn’t much fun. And sure you can try to re-organize the FOC/CAD to limit spamming, but there is another option, radically change the way tournaments are organized. Hypothetical 1850 point tournament, 1250 pts of your army list is made public upon registration, giving you 600 pts to use secretly, however you see fit. There’s little to no point in taking a spam list if everyone knows what you’re spamming, thus making it far more advisable to build a tatically sound army while still having enough ‘secret’ points to drastically alter your force composition and strategy. Those are just numbers I made up on the spot but they give you a good idea of what I’m trying to convey, comments/criticisms?

Leave a Reply