Meat for Meta: Building Armies for 7th Edition


Meat for Meta is rated editorial nonsense. These articles are meant to complain about some group, somewhere, that is playing the game for all the wrong reasons or simply to just make fun of 40k nerd rage.


Choice is your friend, so don’t be scared.

Can you believe it has been barely over a year since 7th edition was unleashed on us! The probable firing of Mat Ward and disastrous 6th edition brought about a change so quick we never saw it coming. While it started in 6h edition, GW unleashed not only a torrent of content since last year, but they also opened the game like never before. Unbound being the most obvious change, but for changes that players actually use, I would have to say Super-Heavies, Formations, Detachments, and Allies are now all standard parts of the game. You can even add in Forge World, as we may soon finally see Forge World products in all GW stores.

What this all means for army building and list design is a completely open system, which for many players is too much. Funny how choice works, people like it but only in manageable quantities. If GW gave us only three options for something we could easily handle it, but with the thousands of combinations we face it seems like too much. It is easy to criticize GW for giving us too much sandbox. It is similar to games like Grand Theft Auto, but personally I like my games more like Mass Effect, where the open world has certain limits in place.

Seems like a majority of players agree, looking the other way when it comes to Unbound. So, if you can accept you won’t be using unbound lists, how do you build an army for 7th edition?

My simple mantra is what kind of player are you? Now, I don’t mean in terms of competitive vs. narrative. It is really about what type of armies do you gravitate towards? For me it is assault oriented lists, so when ever you see me make a list you will notice a good portion is dedicated to getting in close combat. Understanding this is critical. I have seen players make gunline armies, but still send them forward thinking they will get a promising result. Look at your habits and focus on making the most effective list possible, if competitive isn’t your thing, still follow this and pick whatever you think is cool, but equip them in a way that fits your overarching style.

I often get players asking for list advice wanting some mythical “best list”, but then when I give it to them I find out they don’t have the models to make it happen. You can list theory all you want, but having a grasp on the models you have and the ones you are willing to buy is critical. Once you understand your play-style, along with the models available to you can start thinking about designing a list.

This is where 7th edition open world really shines, even without using Unbound you pretty much have a smorgasbord. Progressively, GW has been doing a great job of making codexes with multiple builds all fitting very specific fluff. You might complain about the Battle Company in the Space Marine codex, but it fits fluff, other detachments and formations do the same. These choices also make it easy for you to pick detachments and formations that fit your play style. Always run Seer Council, well guess what there is a Formation specifically for you. The best part is you can also rely on going old school with a Combined Arms Force detachment; it still provides the classic army construction, along with a powerful benefit.

That above advice is the first part, because it is general enough for any type of player to use, but what if you are more competitively inclined?

First off, you have to know you local meta and what they are allowing; lucky for me being living in California means ITC, and even with some variation between events, I can pretty much take the same army and lists. If things are more fluid in your area you might have problem, but for the sake of argument let us assume you can take Super-Heavies, but leave out Forge World to be safe. I would also try making the best two detachment list possible, the multiple repeating detachment things is still not completely kosher in every area. Under these expectations you should be fine going to any event and still have a great chance at winning games.

The biggest hurdle though is an intractable problem that never seems to go away, weak codex vs. strong codex. No codex with maybe the exception of Sisters of Battle and Dark Eldar have competitive problems. That isn’t to say Sisters or Dark Eldar cannot compete, it just means the rock, paper, scissors aspect of the game often slams them in the face. Like Dark Eldar and Sisters of Battle, second tier codexes have the same problem. The problem is the weaker the army the less choice you have in making a competitive list. Take Orks for instance, they have decent book, but the only Ork lists winning are very specific. Then you have an army like Blood Angels, that is only bad because the other Space Marine codexes are just so much better.

You even see with unquestionable powerful codex like Daemons, but if you look close enough you see the same units repeated over and over again. So in the competitive scene, we always have this illusion of choice as players follow the leaders to whatever list will take them over the top. Another problem and one never talked about is the money gap. If you look at some of the formations you can see powerful combinations, but only if you spend $500 bucks to try it out. Army experimentation has certainly dropped since the end of 5th, because the cost to do it is so high. Even if it looks bad, it is important to find a group of like-minded competitive friends and just proxy the shit of out lists. Not just lists you dream of playing, but against lists you know you will be facing. If nothing else competitive or not you get to see what you do and do not like.

If you are still having trouble making a competitive list with the units or army you have, look at allies to fill in the gaps. Sisters and Dark Eldar make great allies and vice versa improved with a little help from some friends.

Now let us quickly talk meta, take a look at your local meta see what is being played and what is missing. Try to be creative and independent, fill a niche, not only will your opponents have a fun facing something different, you can be the cool guy who looks unique. Overarching, no matter where you go your army needs certain things to crush it and in no particular order.

  • Ignore Cover Weaponry.

  • Cover Save Manipulation.

  • Units with mass shooting ability.

  • Units with ways to deal with monstrous creatures.

  • Anti-alpha strike defense.

  • Objective secured units or Objective secured hunter units.

  • Resilient units.

Now all those things can come about various ways, and without going into specifics you can find it in almost every army and if not allies can usually fill in the gaps. If you cannot get everything get as much as you can and hope you miss a bad match-up. Bad match-ups happen, don’t get too discourage if it happens.

Anyway, I hope this helps navigating the confusing 7th edition universe we currently live in. I am sure the next a few months GW will throw a wrench into everything I just said, but until then keep rolling those dice.