Keeping up with the Kardashians and buying a new army every time a new book drops has you looking for kidney prices on E-Bay faster than you think. Perhaps this is not the way to go about it.
Paying to Win for the Baller on a Budget
Pay to Win is a term most commonly used in video games, in regards to loot boxes and micro-transactions in general, where a player that spends a lot of money on the game will unlock much better characters, wargear, or access to unique content.
Warhammer 40,000 is not a pay to win game in the true sense of the word.
If it was, the price of units would change based on the model’s current strength and place in the meta, à la Magic the Gathering, and half of the Space Marines units would be free.
However, playing to win and competing does require you to buy models at some point.
It’s a fool’s errand to buy a 2000 points army and think you are done and ready to take on tournaments forever.
Doing so will work for a very limited time. Or is better suited for the more casual gaming endeavors.
But when it comes to competing, you can’t expect the game to stay the same. Buying models is part of the process of playing to win.
Luckily, there is a smart way to do this, without constantly chasing the meta and buying new things. In fact, this is probably the worst way you can go at the game right now.
Because this is very abstract and theoretical, let’s illustrate this with two players in a realistic enough setting.
Max and Austin’s Journey in Competitive 40K
Our two hypothetical players, Max and Austin, embark on a journey to play competitive 40k for a year.
It’s a brand new 9th edition, and for the sake of this example, both are starting from scratch.
They both have to buy 1000 points of stuff* per month.
Player 1: Max Dubois, Meta Chaser
Max is not really into the whole bandwagoning thing. He is the conductor of the ‘new is always better’ express, and chases the meta like it’s his day job. As such, every other month, Max uses his rent money on a new 2000 points army of whatever’s good right now.
After a year, Max’s collection will be something like:
- 2000pts of Silverwall Necron
- 2000pts of Death Guard
- 2000pts of Ultramarines Successor’s 6 Dreadnoughts list
- 2000pts of Ad Mech filled with mostly Skitarii Rangers
- 2000pts of Nemesis Dreadknights
- 2000pts of Adeptus Custodes
Player 2: Austin Wingfield, Day Two-er
Like Max, he will start with 2000 points of Silverwall Necrons. And there end the similarities.
Over the next three months, he adds 3000 points to his existing Necrons: three C’Tans, a plethora of tanks, and a lot of Destroyers, because he has leftover points in his allowance.
After five months with the robots, Necrons are sitting at the table next to the bathroom – they’re in a bad place. Balance update nerfs, powerful new books and a drastically different meta… they just can’t compete anymore.
So, Austin being a Chaos lover through and through, picks up a brand new Be’Lakor and 5 large friends to play the Monster Mash in a few events.
Then, a sudden new balance update cosplays as Oprah, and gives Core to every other Necron unit.
As such, Austin uses another 1000 pts to add to his necrons.
After a year, Austin’s collection is:
- 6000 points of Necrons, almost every unit in the book in multiple copies, except Flayed Ones**
- 2000 points of Chaos Daemons
- 4000 unspent points, for either a Chaos Daemons update, or something else that he wants to paint.
Hypothetically, the year ends with both players going to Adepticon.
Max’s only ‘real’ army to compete with is the Custodes. All other lists are practically unusable. Some because they are just plain bad, some, actually unusable because of rule changes.
Austin has his pick of whatever Necrons is currently the best, because he owns them all. He hypothetically makes Top 16.
Future-proofing your collection
Adepticon is only of the tip of the iceberg for Max, as he is one balance update away from all his armies being unplayable.
Barring some incredible twist of fate, none of his other 2000 points are magically going to be the top dog of their book again.
And this is why meta chasing is called as such. You end up always chasing the next thing, and the next thing, and you are at the mercy of an ever changing game, on which you have no control.
Future-proofing your collection means you always have something to play with.
Looking back at our example, Necrons are not a top tier army. As such, Austin is truly are limited in ways he can play them. But unlike Max’s 1500 points of playable Grey Knights ( take that, NDK Grandmasters!), they still are playable.
And such is the life of weaker books.
The competitive options you have out of them are more limited. This is a tale as old as time, nothing new with the current edition of the game.
Remember the primordial rule of competitive play: the game does not care.
In my heart of heart, I really wish Mortarion was a viable option. But it’s not.
As a competitive Death Guard player, I need to accept that playing Death Guard means playing something more along the lines of 80 Pox Walkers and Terminators, in order to compete.
And if the balance update is inexplicably detrimental to the Death Guard, maybe it’s time to look into a side piece army for a little while, at least until Death Guard crawls back from the lowest tier in the game.
*Translate that into the currency of your choice – this is to simplify the example.
**For some reason, real-life Austin also only owns 5 flayed ones, despite having every necron unit maxed out in triplicate…