Writing an Effective List in 8th Edition 40k

Here are some thoughts on and best practices for writing an effective army list in early 8th edition Warhammer 40,000.

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Hey everyone, Reecius here to talk a bit about the fundamentals of writing a viable and powerful army list for 8th ed 40k. This is a new edition and really, a new game! You need to adapt your tactics to thrive in this new environment.

First Things First

As always, put first things first. What that means is that in order to write an effective list in this edition of the game (or any edition of the game, really) you need to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Without direction, you’ll end up with an unfocused list that does a lot of things but none of it well.

In 8th edition there are a few questions you have to keep in mind:

  1. How you will win missions?
  2. How you will inflict damage on a wide variety of unit types and build archetypes?
  3. How you will prevent your opponent from the doing the above?

Those are the basics. Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of those categories, shall we?

Wining Missions

The easiest way to become a better 40k player is to condition yourself to simply focusing on the mission. So often players lose sight of this very basic fact in the course of playing the game. You do not win games only be defeating your opponent’s army but also by achieving mission objectives. Simply reminding yourself at the beginning of every turn what you have to do to win the mission is the single best habit you can develop if you want to up your skill level and win games more consistently either in a competitive or casual setting.

End of Game Objective Missions

That said, how does one do this? Well, it depends on the type of mission you are playing. Scenarios featuring end game objectives–such as the Eternal War missions in the BRB–require less mobility and more patience. You need to be able to survive the game until the critical moment when you position yourself to score end of game objectives. This type of list strategy can involve very static units, and set piece offense and defense. An army with many long ranged shooting units, support units to increase their efficiency and layers of screen units (or bubble wrap as they are sometimes called) will perform very well in these types of mission sets as they do not have to move around the table as much. A smattering of mobile units are all you need (preferably those you can keep off of the table for as long as possible) to jump on those objectives during end game to win it for you.

An example of this type of units would be Ripper Swarms in the Tyranid faction, who are a cheap troop choice with the ability to burrow onto the tabletop late game where they can hide on an objective. They may do not damage all game, perhaps not even really move at all but when considered in the context of the mission and how they can and will win the game for you, they may very well be the most valuable unit in your army for achieving victory.

In this type of list you can focus more points on pure power and less on scoring units. Your goals with your list will be to maximize the efficiency of both your offense and defense and you can afford to sacrifice mobility to do it. An example army that performs very well in this environment would be an Astra Militarum list with many Conscripts and a Commissar to block enemy reserve tactics, assault units and short range shooting units. Behind these screens would be long ranged shooting units such as the Taurox Prime, Manticore, Basilisk, Heavy Weapon Teams, etc. These would in turn be supported by units to increase their damage output such as the Master of Ordnance or Commissar Yarrick and possibly a unit like the Enginseer to repair them and keep their vehicles operating at maximum efficiency for as long as possible. For scoring objectives this list would need only a minor investment of points in units such as Rough Riders or Scions who are cheap, fast and can stay off the board till turn 3 when they can come in and take an objective from you opponent.

Mission parameters you will want to master are objective placement if that is a part of the mission design, deployment selection, and understanding when to make your move for those all-important markers and how to protect and position your units assigned to this task.

Progressive Objective Missions

These missions feature opportunities to score points every turn of the game. I personally find these types of missions to be more enjoyable, but my thoughts aside, these mission types demand a great deal more flexibility and mobility than end of game objective missions. You cannot afford to sit back and play defense in this mission type as even if you are punishing your opponent in regards to damage output, you may be losing the mission which is ultimately what matters.

In these list archetypes, you need to be able to adapt to changing game conditions to seize scoring opportunities when they present themselves. This requires a different way of thinking about the elements of your list. While you still want to have the ability to protect your valuable units and use support units to get that all important force multiplication, you need to invest more points in to units that will go out and win you the game. You also need to think about how you will keep these units alive until such a time as you need them to perform their function.

An example of this type of list would be a Space Marine army that takes a core of firepower in the form of Devastators, Predators, etc. supported with characters to maximize their damage output such as a Captain and Lieutenant. Complimenting this would be aggressive units that would serve the function of hunting enemy scoring and damage output units such as Assault Squads, Vanguard Vets, Terminators, etc. Most importantly would be the inclusion of units whose purpose is to score objectives as they come up such as units of Scouts who can deploy out of sight nearly anywhere on the table but within striking distance of objectives and then take them as needed. Note: aggressive units are also often in position to snag objectives and will frequently switch roles to that of a scoring unit, particularly later in the game when they have sustained damage.

In this type of mission set you will want to master the skills of objective placement if that is a part of the missions as well as thinking ahead and seeing on the table where your units should be in order to capitalize on any potential opportunities that arise.

Dealing Damage

You must be able to deal with a wide variety of army types in this new edition of 40k. As armies can be pretty much whatever the other person wants them to be, you have to be prepared to fight everything from an army of Knights to a horde of Orks. This is a challenge at the list building stage and requires some forethought.

You have to ask yourself, how will my list deal with these two extremes? Can I take down 3 Imperial Knights in a game, or at least manage them and focus on winning the mission? And at the same time, can I also deal with a high model count army and if not destroy them, manage them and keep them where I want them on the table?

To this end, you must find ways to use the limited tools available to you to achieve both goals. You have a few options here. You can opt for either specialized or generalized units. An example of a unit that generalizes is a Devastator squad quipped with Missile Launchers. It gives you a tool to deal with both the high Toughness, high Wound unit and the low Toughness and Wound but high model count unit. If you were to take 3 units of these in your list backed with some cheap support units, you’d find yourself well equipped to deal with a wide variety of opponents and list archetypes.

On the other side of this spectrum is the specialized unit. What they lack in ubiquity they make up for in efficiency. In keeping with the example above, the same unit of Devastators equipped with 4 Las Cannons is much better at taking out high Toughness high Wound units but far, far worse at taking on low Toughness and Wound but high model count units. In this instance, instead of 3 units of Devastators with Missile Launchers which can take on any target, you may take 1 unit with Las Cannons and 2 with Heavy Bolters. Neither is as multi-functional and forgiving tactically but are better at what their specialized task demands and less forgiving if you make a mistake such as deploying them in the wrong place, etc.

When writing your list, you must think about things like this. While the above examples focus on common shooting units, they are not the only was to handle these issues. You can for example take a unit of Genestealers in a Tyranid list to deal with large units of infantry and a Trygon to deal with high Toughness, high Wound units that may present challenges for Genestealers. Or, you could take multiple psykers that can deal Mortal Wounds to tackle tougher units in the game. There are many tools available to you, but you must decide which fit best within the context of your list.

Preventing your Opponent from Achieving their Goals

While all of the above sounds great, you need to be able to do them while your opponent is actively trying to do the same thing. In order to maximize your odds of success you must inhibit or prevent your opponent from achieving their goals. You therefore must consider how to do this. Look at your list and ask yourself, if I were going to stop my list from functioning correctly, how would I do it? What are your linchpin units? What can you afford to lose and what can you not afford to lose?

But isn’t this section about stopping your opponent from achieving their goals, you may be asking yourself? It is! It is often much easier to see the flaws in your own defense than others. By learning to look for those weaknesses you will soon see them in other lists. Does your opponent rely on a Conscript screen to protect their vulnerable artillery? What makes that unit function? The Commissar that limits the number of models that can run away? If you could neutralize that unit, you would fair much better at taking out your opponent’s screens. To that end, perhaps including some type of sniper unit in your army would be a worthwhile investment.

Does your opponent rely on a few, small, mobile units for taking objectives such as Jet Bikes? You may want to include a unit or two in your list that can easily get to grips with them and has high odds of destroying them, thereby denying your opponent their ability to score objectives and win the mission.

Does your opponent have a very powerful melee unit that can destroy nearly anything it touches? Then perhaps you want to include one or more cheap throwaway units to simply get in the way of these types of units and buy you time. You don’t have to destroy powerful enemy units to defeat them, but simply stop them from getting in to your valuable units for long enough to let you win the mission. Cultists are a great example of this type of unit. They simply get in the way or much more valuable units and prevent them from doing what your opponent paid so many points for them to do.

Does your opponent have units coming in from every threat vector and is keeping you off balance? Then you may want to include units that defend against these types of tactics such as infiltrators that deny your opponent anywhere to come in from reserves where they can actually do damage. Or, extensive bubble wrapping units that provide a physical barrier between you and the enemy. Or perhaps a counter-charge unit that is mobile and hits hard, acting as a free safety in your backfield who is able to go where needed to counter enemy assaults.

A Lot to Consider

There’s a lot to keep in mind, right? Yes, there is. However with time and repetitions it will become second nature to you. Essentially what I have found to be common to many factions and list archetypes though fulfill the above requirements. You want to be able to win the mission, deal with any list type across the table and interfere with your opponent’s ability to do the same. This often takes the form of expendable units for screening, area denial, and objective scoring; hardcore damage output units backed by support units for taking the enemy head on and lastly, aggressive list elements that can function with little to no support and go forth to hunt specific enemy units while also looking to secure those vital mission objectives.

Each army in the game has a variety of these types of units to choose from, but it is up to you to determine which is the best fit for your play-style and overall list strategy. Good luck and happy gaming!

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About Reecius

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

30 Responses to “Writing an Effective List in 8th Edition 40k”

  1. Avatar
    Helms July 2, 2017 11:13 pm #

    Dude! Great article. Thinking maybe I need to include more Scouts in my army. Speed bump, area denial and objective holders. I feel like most marine lists need some tacticals and scouts. Do you agree? Maybe a 5 man Tactical with a Missile Launcher for home points? that +2 w/ cover justifies them right? Is that their best purpose though? 10 Sniper Scouts too many?

    • Avatar
      Loofa4 July 3, 2017 4:13 am #

      Unfortunately, spam is very real this edition. The tournament winning marine lists so far have been all fliers (4 storm ravens and 2 storm talons, I think) or just spammed tactical squads in assault cannon razorbacks. While diverse lists are lots of fun, the way detachments currently work make spamming too effective.

      • Avatar
        Chandler July 3, 2017 5:22 am #

        I think people are leaning on spamming right now because they don’t know what else to do at the moment. The game is fresh and new and a meta has not developed really. The true key to building armies that will win routinely are going to include lists with varied units capable of doing many different things, just as this article mentions. A variety of tools at your disposal will often be more effective than spamming wave serpents for example.

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 3, 2017 7:39 am #

          Yeah, spam is easy to adapt to and the game is young. Spam is mathematically efficient so I don’t think it will ever be bad, per se, just that the combined arms army with lots of synergy will be better in the hands of a skilled general.

      • Avatar
        Ytook July 3, 2017 7:12 am #

        Spam armies have hard counters by their nature, once people get to grips with the game tournament winning armies won’t be able to rely on them.

      • Avatar
        Nightman July 3, 2017 7:29 am #

        I wouldt be too worried about spam yet, though it feels like Razorbacks should be 8 wounds, they are making predators look bad.

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 3, 2017 7:40 am #

          Razrobacks are a tad undercosted, I agree. However, they are not overwhelmingly good and if you are using LoS blocking terrain, they often times get difficult to manage if you are taking more than 4 of them.

          Don’t get me wrong, a great unit, but certainly not a game killer by any means.

        • Avatar
          Kingsley July 5, 2017 4:15 pm #

          Razorbacks aren’t making Predators look bad, Predators are making Predators look bad! For some reason they didn’t go to T8 like vehicles with equivalent armor did (Vindicator, Exorcist… even the Stalker/Hunter, which had worse armor, got the T8 buff!), and they’re priced as if they were a better hull.

          Just look at the humble Rhino – it can transport 10 guys and has only 1 wound less than the Predator, and it costs more than 30 points less! Sure, being able to take multiple heavy weapons is cool and all, but the Predator hull is quite overpriced relative to all sorts of options, not just the Razorback.

          • Reecius
            Reecius July 5, 2017 4:16 pm

            Predators rock in 8th =)

          • Avatar
            Kingsley July 5, 2017 4:59 pm

            Sell me on the Predator, man – you’ve played way more games than me for sure, and I’d love to like it, but I’m just not seeing it right now. I look at the Pred and I see 200+ points for four lascannons (the autocannon turret is nice but IMO overpriced relative to twin autocannons on other platforms).

            I could take four lascannons in a Devastator squad for similar points with more resilience to multi-wound weapons (plus Signum/cherub), or I could take two Razorbacks with twin lascannons for only about 20-30 points more IIRC (and get two slots instead of one for storm bolters and hunter-killer missiles!).

            That’s before even getting into FW options, where several seem to outclass the Predator even if I want to have a small footprint – a Mortis-pattern Dreadnought with four lascannons is a fair bit cheaper than a Predator with four lascannons, and while it has fewer wounds, it’s much more able to get cover and can be quite potent in assault.

            What am I missing that makes the Predator rock? I have two myself and would love to like it, but it looks very inefficient relative to similar options.

      • Reecius
        Reecius July 3, 2017 7:38 am #

        Spam does work but it is early days yet, we don’t even have a codex out at this time. As the game increases in complexity, and especially with more complex missions and ways to score objectives, I think those lists will still be effective but less appealing and powerful than combined arms armies.

        On the play-test team for example, we routinely defeat the “net-lists” with armies that have no repeating non troop units.

        Give it time.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 3, 2017 7:37 am #

      I gravitate towards Scouts, personally as the ability to Infiltrate is solid gold! And yeah, they win me games more often than any other units in my army so I agree with you 100%.

      Sniper Scouts are quite useful, especially when near a Chapter Master or Captain, etc. I usually just opt for Bolter Scouts though, personally as they for me have been the best all around units. I sometimes opt to give them a combi-weapon for some punch but typically just run them bare bones.

      • Avatar
        TrexPushups July 3, 2017 8:03 am #

        I see tons of people having written off intecessors but I have hope that they can provide decent support and objective holding. 100 points isn’t cheap for 5 models but it is lower cost than a 10 man marine squad with better range.

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 3, 2017 8:42 am #

          Yeah, they just lack options. I assume eventually we’ll get multi-part plastic kits with all kinds of options and hopefully a cheap transport option, but for now they are a challenging unit to use. Not bad at all, comparable to Sternguard (maybe even better) but I would say a little lower on the tier scale of power compared to other units available to Marines.

          • Avatar
            TrexPushups July 3, 2017 9:04 am

            Hopefully the rest of the line that we know is coming creates a good space for them.

            If the rest of the army is doing well I can see using them to finish off wounded rhinos and other t7 vehicles or double tapping and using their 2 attacks per model to finish off guard type squads.

            If they don’t work great I can always focus on making them look pretty and be prepared to be happy on the low to mid range tables with my minis that I like.

          • Reecius
            Reecius July 3, 2017 9:42 am

            I would assume that in time they will have as rich of a range as “normal” Space Marines. I would guess that in these early stages we simply don’t have everything we need.

  2. Avatar
    cavalier July 3, 2017 4:30 am #

    Great article Reece. Its so nice that this train of thought is more relevant than ever. Its more about army wide concepts than beating power-combos, since so many units are so good now.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 3, 2017 7:26 am #

      Yeah, in this edition you have roles units play in your list, and you can fill in the blank with a wide variety of choices to taste. As you noted, the parity between units is much better than in editions past.

      It’s more about conceptualizing how you will win the game than digging in to ultra crazy combos like deathstar units for example, in this edition.

  3. Avatar
    Dakkath July 3, 2017 8:06 am #

    This article helped me flesh out my T’au list by making me realize I needed a fast infantry unit. Solution: kroot hounds!

  4. Amir Hayek
    Arabviking July 3, 2017 9:03 am #

    Great article! 😁

  5. Avatar
    Dbiesto July 3, 2017 10:39 am #

    So I am barely free to play any games between painting and work. I only have time to watch some games and theory hammer some possible daemon lists.

    Any take on using 6 naked plague drones to screen heralds/ character units to get into assault and then summon more daemons? I’m thinking of using a cheap slaanesh hero to summon a squad of fiends of Slaanesh to lock units in combat turn one, charge them in hopefully turn 2? Maybe belakor, 2+ herald of slaanesh, and a khorne herald/ lord on juggernaught? Im really struggling on how to effectively summon before getting gunned down.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 4, 2017 8:26 am #

      That sounds like a solid plan to me, buddy. I think you will do well with it as you ignore morale and you have lots of scoring options.

  6. Avatar
    Wiredcurrent July 3, 2017 10:54 am #

    Hey Frontline!,

    I was told during the stream today (7/3) to put this question here so you could have a chance to take a look at the rulings in question for some advise on how to handle the topic.

    Thoughts on what to do with Rust stalkers now that they’ve lost their AP2 threat. The mortal wounds on 6’s seem like a huge nerf considering the loss of FNP and still only T3.

    Before because they could stick in combat, and every wound in the second round was AP2 they were a serious threat. Now anything T5 just runs roughshod on them, and since they’re supposed to be the “melee” unit of the skitarri there really isn’t a replacement for them.

    It feels like GW knew this would force people into running Electropriests, and what not for options in CC because frankly they’re similarly scored points wise. Which considering priests are almost 50 bucks for a box of 5 and cap in groups of 20 just feels like a cash grab. Models that were mandatory in the old War Conv that are just completely unplayable now.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 4, 2017 8:28 am #

      Ah, I highly, highly doubt GW is trying to make you buy Electro-Priests, that isn’t how they do things.

      As for the Rust Stalker try them out before jumping to conclusions that they are not good any longer. Mortal Wounds are no joke and if you have Cawl nearby they gt those magical rerolls to increase the odds of cutting through enemy defenses.

      Also, you can convert them to Infiltrators if you really don’t like the way they play. Infiltrators are crazy good.

      • Avatar
        marandamir July 5, 2017 2:33 pm #

        I have to disagree Reecius. GW has been notoriously bad about creating artificial demand for units that have poor sales. The entire last edition created the concept of taking a ‘unit tax’ to field detachments or formations that had awesome rules. Like necrons being forced to take their jetbikes or chaos warbands taking possessed. Those were plain and simple marketing strategies designed to bolster sales of what was considered crap units. Another example is them publishing loads of rules books that were amazing adds to the game, only to make them obsolete a few months later when 8th ed was out (which I’m sure was in the works for the last year at least). GW is a company and is not immune to the need to satisfy stakeholders or elevating their bottom line, and that means the chump money grab tactics are still in their wheel house.

        I will agree with you that the latest incarnation of GW appears to be alot better about those types of shinanigans. They put serious effort into making 8th ed the edition players want and I am very happy with it. However, publishing index books that are invalidated again a few months later is pretty weak. Especially, when the new codexes are hard cover only and that means a hefty mark up for rules players already paid for.

        • Avatar
          jcwalter88 July 6, 2017 8:57 am #

          The index books will be still be needed for most of us up to a year out as GW says it will take them roughly that long to get to every faction. As a Blood Angels player, I am anticipating a wait for my codex, which means I need to use the index to play now. Yes a few armies will get their codex right out the gate, but most of us will be waiting up to a year…

  7. Avatar
    Brett July 5, 2017 12:54 am #

    Wining Missions… ;P

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