Hunter’s Mark Article II: Play The Underdog

Play The Underdog

One of the earliest lessons I received from playing in a competitive meta was the importance of playing the underdog. What I mean by this is purposefully playing into your unfavorable match-ups as often and as regularly as you can manage in a casual setting. I’ll be upfront with the fact that I’m essentially telling you to actually try and lose games and to do it as frequently as you can. Now let’s talk about why in a little more depth.

Most of the WarmaHordes tournament scene revolves around two list pairings. It’s fairly common in all the factions to see lists that are very unique from one another; many players skew their lists in two polar opposite directions. You may see an infantry spam paired with a double colossal, a high DEF list paired with a high ARM list, a recursion list paired with a heavy gun line, and the lists (pun intended) go on. The idea with these pairings is that, if your opponent doesn’t have a direct answer to certain aspects of the list, it gives you a strong advantage in the match. For example, Butcher2’s Mad Dogs of War tier list easily brings an upwards of 5 units of Doom Reavers. The list asks the question, “can you deal with this many single wound weapon masters?”. If the answer is no, it can give the Mad Dogs player a significant advantage in the match. It is critical to realize that no two-list pairing in the game will cover all your bases, although if you’re playing ADR that might get you pretty damn close. Due to the way people often pair these very different lists, it creates a mind game before the match has started commonly referred to as “list chicken”, where each player tries to decide what they will play based on what they expect their opponent to play. There are times when a match is won or lost at this stage.

You tend to know the strengths of your own lists and what you want to play into with them. If you’re bringing a “net list” (that is a list you’ve taken from the Internet), you can often gain immediate insights from that player on their experiences on its strengths and weaknesses. I think there are a lot of boons as well as downsides to net listing, but I’ll discuss that more in-depth another time. A lot of lists are created purely as an answer to something that is expected to be seen; this design often makes it cut and dry for what its strong into and what its weak into. What I want to stress here is that, when you’re running a list, you should know what it was designed to do and how it accomplishes it. You also ideally should know what questions the list asks your opponents and what answers it can provide. If you don’t know these things I would advise you to try and determine them. Try to understand the role of each piece within the list. Once you have that information, you can start to learn how to better utilize and apply your list. There will be matches where your clearly favored; matches where you’ve designed that list as an answer and someone brings the problem you want to solve. Most matches you play likely won’t be so rock-paper-scissors. This is why I find that its more important to have a deep understanding of how your lists play into something they weren’t designed to be strong against.

Everyone Has A Plan Until They Get Punched In The Face

In my experience, playing into these “underdog” games is really the only way to accurately gauge where your list stands into those matches it wasn’t designed specifically for. Once you’re able to obtain that perspective, you’re making more informed decisions and having more information is a huge advantage in this game. To quote Sun Tzu,

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

If you’re only dropping your lists into its good match-ups, I think you’re really only getting to know one side of your list. You need to know how your lists play in an uphill fight; you need to see if they can take a hit and keep moving forward. Playing as the underdog regularly means you have an easier time answering the difficult questions in a list chicken. It’s incredibly important to understand precisely how bad some match-ups are during the list chicken because it’s not something that is a lot of fun to find out during a competitive match. Being able to appropriately assess your advantage versus disadvantage ratio into each list is critical for even local tournament settings. Sometimes minimizing even that slight 5% edge that your opponent might receive can be the difference between winning and losing.

Most of the comments above are something that will typically come along as you gain more experience and familiarity playing a list, which requires time. There really isn’t any other way that I’ve found than dedicating more time, but I’ll try to give some advice on what I’ve found to be helpful.

The first being don’t change a list each time you play it. Going back to what was said earlier, you need to understand the role of each piece in your army. If you have something that didn’t perform as you expected or couldn’t do what you felt like it was in there to do, try to figure out why. Changing out even one model can dramatically change how your list is played, so it’s important not to keep swapping models constantly if you’re looking to play better with it. You can have a list tailor designed to beat the caster you’re playing against, but if you’re not utilizing your army, the scenario, and terrain correctly you’ll still end up losing.

This ties into the second point which is talking about the game. Win or lose its important to understand that there are always things you could’ve done better in a match; nobody plays a perfect game. This can be more difficult with some people than others, but do the best you can with it. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to start a post-game conversation is with the question “was there anything I could’ve done better?”. Be open to any feedback and criticism; don’t try to defend yourself or the actions you took, just listen.

The last tip is a contradiction to the first and that is don’t be afraid to change a list. This is particularly true when net-listing. Your local meta is different than others, so while someone on the internet may have good experiences with a particular list into a faction your results may vary. It’s also important to note that some lists are built for a local meta, which is different than a regional meta, which can be the total opposite of the national meta. Gather an understanding of the meta you’re playing into and adjust your lists accordingly. I hope I’ve made a strong enough argument for you to play as the underdog and to throw your lists against the wall and see where they land.


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