There was an article on BOLS not long ago that I thought was a cut above the norm there, which discussed how people tend to impose artificial limits on themselves when they build lists, almost always unconsciously, that forces them to make lists that are not as "powerful" as they could be.
I want to evaluate how I've been limiting myself with the Daemons, and how to get around it to make the meanest Deamon list I could want to play.
I'll be up front and say I don't have all the answers to the questions I'll pose...I'm hoping to just vent my thoughts to help me get them in order myself, and maybe get a little feedback on what works and doesn't.
So what does it mean to impose artificial limits on ourselves when we build lists?
Sometimes it's on purpose and conscious...a "fluffy" player may want to build a pure Nurgle Chaos Daemon army, for example. He'll have a lot of ugly snot and puss and poop wielding meanies that will be a bit resilient to small arms fire, but will struggle with damage output and not really be able to reliable kill off enough of the enemy to win.
Sometimes it's less about "fluff", but more about a personal preference: a Dark Eldar player may REALLY like Mandrakes, so includes them. Or even a unit that's not horrible but isn't necessarily the best use of points, like the Hellions I like to run!
Or it may be something far more pragmatic: these are the models I have, I don't want to spend any more money, so this is what I'm using.
Then again, it might be less conscious, more of an "under the hood" limit in the list idea you're building. An example might be someone that includes "a few vehicles, because a marine army should have a few vehicles."
So how have I been limiting myself in my own Daemon army?
The first part of the answer comes from pragmatic "this is the models I have" combined with "I want lots of big flying meanies!" My first 6e Daemon armies were all Tzeentchy with 5 Flying Monstrous Creatures. This is by no means a soft army, but there are better things in the Codex...well, not in the Codex exactly, but in the White Dwarf that made Screamers and Flamers ridiculous.
My first step in shedding some of my own artificial restrictions came by adding more Screamers and Flamers at the expense of one of the Daemon Princes. This made for a very potent army, but still it had restrictions.
It comes down to this, I think...Screamers and Flamers are undoubtedly the most points effective units available to Daemons. Shedding all artificial limits (and perhaps all dignity), maximizing the number of them in the army is the way to go, in my opinion.
That means 3 units of 9 each of Screamers and Flamers.
Troops are, sadly, a necessary evil. 2 Troops is the minimum, but though this is an artificial limit, I'll indulge myself with this small one...I want 4 troops. Arguable the best Troop unit available to Daemons are the Plaguebearers. They're hard to shoot down with 'small-arms' fire, and really take some dedicated melee units to remove. 4 units of 5 each of them is what I aim for.
This then is the guts of the "That Guy" Daemon list that I want to build:
Just over 400 points left to spend on HQ, Heavy, and/or more Troops.
So what does this core do, what does it not, and what does it need?
Of course, it needs at least one HQ. Something Daemon players are spoiled for is decent HQ choices of all shapes and sizes. But what does that list need to make it truly redonkulous? (Free cookies if you name the movie that's from!)
Flamers give this army tremendous alpha-strike potential. Excepting Warp Quake, those flamers can drop down right next to you, and remove units from the table. Scatter and mishap is only a minor inconvenience, thanks to the 6e mishap table, so I'll drop them on top of you with no hesitation. Screamers, similarly, can drop in and fly-over you...each unit averaging 18 S4 hits with the Drive-By attacks. They don't have to drop that close to you to do it, and when they're done they have a nice 4+ cover save. The next turn, both Flamers and Screamers have the speed (Jump and Jetbike, resp.) to move on to another unit and remove it. Both Flamer and Screamer units have a ton of T4 wounds that require a lot of shooting to remove...even the shootiest army will be unable to remove them all.
Moreover, 9 Flamers can be expected to do 9 wounds in Overwatch, ignoring armor. Marine units and Monstrous Creatures implode just trying to assault them. Likewise Screamers with their mass of I4 attacks will take it on the nose but likely strike at the same I as MEQ attackers, killing 9 of them.
There is no realistic way to remove 108 wounds of models with 4+/5+ saves with shooting, assaulting unweakened units is far too risky, and combination of shooting and melee is sure to leave most of the forces unmolested.
So we know what it does, and how it kills things...using speed to get close and flame, fly-over, or melee things to death. What can we add to help this?
The common answer seems to be The Masque, as her Pavane of Slaanesh helps bunch up units for more effective flaming, and for making charges in to melee easier. Moreover, she can be used to rearrange units a bit to make 'buried' characters or special wargear-equipped models more vulnerable. She's also a bargain at 100 points. She seems a no-brainer, leaving 300 points for more toys.
Are FMC necessary? I'm torn here. I have a really hard time shedding this restriction. I really want to include some fliers, or Fateweaver, but the point-cost is extreme, and really what value is added?
For that many points, one could only realistically add one. Dropping a couple of the super-models makes adding Fateweaver doable. He is a potent force-multiplier...or is he?
If he drops in with Flamers, I'm motivated to drop them near FW to use his reroll bubble, which takes their 1/3 save up to a bit over 1/2. Nice, yes, but not super, and likely after the first turn they'll be splitting up to tackle different parts of the table.
Screamers benefit more, I think, as they can drop wherever they want and Turbo to get near Fateweaver, and now have a 3/4 save instead of their 1/2. A marked bonus, and the way I'd likely run things more oftten than not if FW were included.
But that big price tag worries me. Yes, he adds a fair amount of survivability on that first turn (IF he comes in), after that things are likely to get so spread out that he'll only be affecting a portion of the army at a time...and his damage output is not tremendous, though not horrible. No, I think I'll leave FW on the shelf for awhile.
Another possibility is dropping in a bunch of nurglings. A couple giant units of 9 Nurglings (at a wopping 117 points each) has tremendous tar-pit potential. That's 27 wounds in each unit that you have to grind through (swarms with Eternal Warrior!) I see them going in my unpreferred wave, and I drop them up close and personal so that if you don't deal with them, you'll be stuck. They could take up tremendous space, threatening giant parts of the table. They're so dirt cheap I just don't care what happens to them, and really only GK have the tools to remove them quickly.
Another possibility is a couple of Soul Grinders. I'm not real fond of them, as I think they're big targets for enemy AT weapons. Yeah, they have a decent gun with Phlegm, and for Walkers they're pretty potent in melee...AV13, 4 hull points, 5++ makes them really good walkers...but they're still just Walkers, and I don't know if they'd really pull their weight. Moreover, I've had a hard time getting them to fit in the areas I want (playing against players that know to take up real-estate vs. daemons makes SG really tricky to drop!).
And yet another might be to throw in a bunch of cheap HQ...maybe some Slaanesh stuff for more Pavane, Blue Scribes for great toolbox, Tzeentch guys on Chariots for more speed and some shootiness.
I'd be willing to drop a few Flamers/Screamers, but no more than a handful, as I think having their units at maximum is key to their success...I've found that units of 5 or less are just throw-away one-use weapons...i want more durability!
And then again there might be the possibility of adding more 'real' troops, maybe throwing in some Horrors to get some small-arms fire; or some Bloodthirsters for more melee threat (though they're really redundant with the Screamers, who do their job better, and aren't content sitting on an objective). A couple units of Horrors with Icons dropping in front and center might make for some bad choices for the enemy, as they want to kill off the silly Horrors to prevent pinpoint Flamer drops?
With all these choices, one has to think about what the power match-ups are that will be a threat.
Some MEQ choice with IG allies with a Blob and solid Psyker support is common. I think I match up well to that regardless what I bring along with the 'core'. Soul Grinders would make the IG blobs cry...they laugh at krak grenades.
Nids are, IMO, one of the strongest books at the moment, with formidable psy powers, huge numbers of T6 monsters, lots of spammy troops, Tervigons are broken (I smash...halve my A, then add another d6...Wha...?!). For me this is one of the hardest matchups, but Flamers tear thru the MC, Screamers can thin out the hordes of Gargs or Gants with just fly-overs, and finish off wounded MC in melee without much difficulty. I think the Nurglings would shine here, keeping MC tied up for a few turns while the rest of the army munches things that are loose...priceless.
Necrons, or other flyer-heavy lists, can be potent. This army has no way to deal with AV11 fliers. The only real hope is to wipe out everything on the ground and try to weather the flyer shooting and have enough left to deal with the Warriors when they come out.
So, all that being said, and my wallet is cringing at this likely cost, I think I'm settling in to this addition to the 'core' above:
The Blue Scribes
I'd have to drop one Screamer and one Flamer, and that would come to 1999 points.
The Scribes could be the Warlord, with the ability to join a unit to prevent giving up easy Warlord (as The Masque alone tends to do). I'd probably almost always choose Masque, Screamers, and Flamers to come in first. If they do, I go to work right away. If they don't, I've got the Nurglings to tie things up until I get that critical mass I need (usually turns 3-4) to start going to work with the mean stuff.
So, thoughts? If you were facing the "That Guy" daemon "core" list above, what possible 400 points added on to that would worry you the most? Fateweaver? A bunch of HQ (remember Daemons can take two Heralds for one FOC!)? Nurgling spam?
No inhibitions, no restrictions, no holding back...what's the meanest 400 points to add?