Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Where did the Daemon players go?

*Note: I wrote this a couple weeks ago, but forgot to actually post it...I suck. Sorry for that! Expect some ranting about new Daemons soon!*

I saw a post on the 11th Company Forums that asked the question, “Where did all the Daemon players go?” The Poster’s thought-process was that Daemons seemed really popular in “the meta” after their White Dwarf update and doing so well at some prominent tournaments…but looking at more recent tournament field make-ups seem to indicate that Daemons have fallen back to relative obscurity…at least as a “primary attachment”. I answered briefly there, but wanted to expand on my thoughts a bit here.

First I’ll say the contentious stuff…I think the intent of some of the posts in that thread was to imply that even Daemon players recognized that their armies were “overpowered cheese” (my words, not his!) and stopped playing them, as they have souls and morals and scruples and don’t want to be cast out of nerd-vana for being meta-chasing bandwagoners that play unfluffy and overpowered lists.

My words, not his.

I do not think this is the case. I can cite a number of examples of army books, builds, units, etc that we as a community consider “more powerful than most”, and few people that go to these competitive tournaments shy away from using them. Grey Knights, anyone? Necron Flyers + Wraiths (or hell, plus anything!)? Mech IG? Nob Bikers (if you can remember that far back)?

My point is, in my experiences with competitive 40k, people choose to bring the most powerful stuff they can; they do not shy away from things because they are powerful. Yes, I’m making a generalization. Yes, there are more than a few exceptions.

So if the Daemon players are not “disappearing” because they feel some moral obligation to not use some of the most powerful units in the game, then where are they going?

First, a short tangential trip…why do we think they’re going anywhere? I’m frankly only going by what I’ve read and heard on 11th company and a few other message boards that discuss tournament outcomes. Basically, right after 6th came out, Daemons seemed very popular and many placed quite well at prominent Tournaments (example: Nova, Feast of Blades). More recent events show far fewer Daemon players, and few place very high. This is not based on some scientifically proven fact; in fact my discussion here is really independent of whether or not that 11th Company posters assertion is even based on fact. In short, who cares…read on!

I believe there are fewer Daemon players at competitive tournaments because Daemons are simply not a good army for winning tournaments with!

“But Bob”, you say, “Flamers and Screamers are extremely powerful! When paired with Fateweaver and some troops, Daemons are UNBEATABLE.”

To which I say, “yes, if I get the drop I want and nothing scatters and I get to go first and you don’t have warp quake and you have little capacity to hide in reserve and if my opponents have minimal anti-infantry firepower and and and…and if everything goes perfectly, yeah, I’m unbeatable!”

But can’t that be said about any reasonably well thought-out competitive army?

Here’s my assertion: Daemon units are VERY powerful…but a Daemon army is so inherently random and unpredictable to use that it is extremely hard to win 5 or 6 games in a row versus comparable players with reasonably well thought-out competitive armies.

First, there’s the Wave selection. If you split up “the mean stuff” between the two waves so you have “at least something” in each wave, you’ll find that you lack an effective mass of “mean stuff” and they’ll get ripped apart piecemeal before they can dominate. Or, you pack most or all of “the mean stuff” in your preferred wave, you’ll roll a 2, get stuck with garbage on turn 1, not get the bulk of your forces in to the fight until turn 4, and have two turns in which to leverage your unit’s comparatively higher strength in to winning games.

Then there’s the actual deep strike stuff. Dropping in one or two units is pretty easy…but soon the board is covered with stuff that you’ve dropped in “safely”, and there are no more safe spots, and stuff starts misshaping, and then you’re back to that lack of “critical mass” that a Daemon player needs to leverage their units in to a game win.

Or, perhaps you’re entranced with going for that first turn alpha-strike where your flamers drop in and barbeque half the enemy army then the screamers kill the rest with slash attacks…it doesn’t take a whole lot of scatter for those Flamers to be out of Breath range, and while mass Warpfire shots can put out some wounds, it’s not a crippling blow and your Flamers will be toast (pun intended) when the enemy directs their anti-infantry fire on them.

Another thing…and I’ve talked of this before…people have learned that Daemons are by and large just a bunch of infantry dudes, and they die pretty well to massive small-arms fire…the same stuff that works well vs. Guard Blobs or MEQ spam works pretty well on Daemons too. In other words, people have learned how to kill Daemons, their mystique is gone, their myth of invulnerability is shattered, and…guess what…Daemon players lose games too! But that’s beside the point…

The point is that winning consistently in a competitive tournament requires an army that will reliably do what you want it to do. Daemons don’t. Waves, Scatters, Mishaps all compound exponentially to prevent a player from using the “overpowered” units the way he wants consistently every game.

Is it possible for a Daemon player to get the wrong wave and have bad scatters and still win? Sure it is! But it’s pretty far from the “follow the recipe” method of winning that many of the dominant armies have, so it is undeniably a less popular choice amongst those that are trying to win the tournaments they attend.

And one other effect…possibly…we Daemon players are kind of in that pre-new-book-limbo where we don’t want to commit time, money, energy, paint, or glue to “tweaking” our armies when we know that in a few months we’ll be doing it all over again with whatever new models GW has decided to make too powerful so we will buy more of them…ya know, I picture them in a room doing a cost/profit analysis of each model and deciding which units need to have their rules tweaked up a bit to ensure they sell the most of the models they make the most profit from. But I’m not bitter!

So there’s my argument: not many people use Daemons because, while their units (specifically Flamers and Screamers) are VERY VERY powerful, Daemons as an army are neither reliable nor consistent and therefore struggle to win the 5-6 games in a row that they need to win tournaments. And really, contentious as this statement may be, people for the most part want to use armies that they can win tournaments with.

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