Double Formations: are they really something to fear?
Hey everyone, Reecius from Frontline Gaming here to discuss a hot topic: duplicate formations. Recently in the ITC, we voted in duplicate detachments, which includes formations. As anyone whose been paying any attention to 40k over the past year and change has seen, many of the most powerful combos in the game come in the form of Formations. Therefore, it is a relatively easy conclusion to draw that allowing players to take two of the same Formation–particularly a powerful one–may imbalance the game.
Let me just say first of all, that I get it. I was in this camp a while back and advocated for restraint as I often do. I feel that putting reasonable limitations in place leads to more variety in the game. As can be seen in many unrestricted formats you can get a lot of the same thing (such as multiple Wraithknight lists having higher win ratios than any other armies, or Flying Circus Daemons running the show at the end of 6th, etc.). Not to say by any means that that is objectively a bad thing. If you value playing the game with a more RAW interpretation of 40k, then that is the meta you will get. If you value more variety in lists then excercising some restraint a little bit will accomplish that goal as we’ve seen. Just different ways of approaching the game, and both are equally valid.
That said, allowing duplicate formations seems to run counter to the goal of increasing diversity in the field, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought, too, until we sat down and really worked it out. The fact of the matter is, that you could already accomplish dang near the same things with a CAD+Formation as you could with duplicate Formations. The slight benefit you gain from the Formation bonuses is often offset by giving up a detachment slot.
For example, the big one that jumped out at us at Frontline Gaming right away was taking two Seer Councils. However, if you take a CAD+the Seer Council formation, you can essentially do the same thing and gain access to the insanely points efficient Wraithknight, Warp Spiders and ObSec Scat Packs, too. Yes, you cannot harness Warp Charge on a 3+ as you can with the Formation, but you can also split up a CAD Seer Council at end game to grab objectives, and as stated, it gives you access to other, incredible units. For me, taking a CAD and an Aspect Host provides alot more flexibility and power to a list than simply doubling down on a Seer Council Formation.
Another example is the Skyhammer Annihilation Force. Yes, you can take 2 of these now, and double down on the benefits it provides, but this is an expensive Formation that comes with the “tax” Assault Marines which from my experience, add very little (as much as I want them to be good). And while admittedly, armies that are vulnerable to this Formation’s special rules will be doubly impacted by this, you are also doubling down on your vulnerability to armies that don’t care about it and increasing the odds that you draw a bad match-up. I honestly feel a more powerful list will be on that uses other units such as Centurions, to compliment the Skyhammer.
Essentially, the more you invest into these often expensive Formations, the more top heavy you make your list. Yes, you can and will win games with extreme lists, but over the long run, a list that is more balanced will perform better on average, albeit at the cost of smaller wins compared to an extreme list that can utterly smash opponents that are vulnerable to its strengths. You also gain a more diverse and–in my experience–rewarding army to play. I think the fear of duplicate Formations is not irrational at all, but that ultimately, they won’t be the most powerful lists even if they do appear that way at first glance.