Novacore: The Problem with Combined Army Part 2

Why are we here again?

I saw an immense amount of awesome community feedback from my last article. It is a testament to how awesome the infinity community is because the comments were entirely civil, level headed, and respectful. We should all be proud that an article that definitely had a bit of a clickbait over-exaggerated title didn’t result in major rage.

That said, I was impressed by a ton of the feedback I got and wanted to touch on it here in a way that immortalizes it for all future generations to ignore because it’s no longer relevant.

Suggested Nerfs wont change much

So I had multiple people mention that changing the AVA, or increasing Taighas points by one will do basically nothing. This included players at the event.

I agree! That was actually the point. I am far from a professional game designer, but my objective with my suggested nerf was to take the smallest step possible to see what would happen. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that warbands in general are extremely undercosted and if I was put in charge you would see vast point increases to most of those models across every army in the game (except Panoceania I guess).

But, a deep dive comparison of all warbands in the game and what I would do to them sounds….miserable. So I made my proposed nerf to Taighas with the general power level of other warbands in mind. That basically meant that to keep them in line, there was very little that could be done to change them!

Some interesting feedback here though. Combined army has a very diverse, powerful, and useful low end. Imetrons, Ikadrons, Taighas, Gakis, Pretas, Libertos, r-drones, Motorized bounty hunters, Daturazi, Krakots, and probably some other things I am forgetting about. This Hydra of models means if you cut off Taighas you just get more of the rest of these models. This is entirely true, but I would still rather see lower AVA taighas mixed with other models. Diversity is fun!

The TLDR here is, my nerf was very small, and would likely be inconsequential to the overall power level of Combined army, and that was my intent.

META

This was just one event, at this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country, localized entirely within upside down kangaroo land!?

Would Steamed Taigha’s taste good?

Yup. Fair. I do mention in my article that if we see more tournament results like this we should become concerned. Perhaps Australia has a Combined Army problem, or perhaps this one event, or perhaps it just so happens that the best players wanted to play them this week.

yup yup yup.

But, I was alarmed by these results, just like I would be alarmed by a sudden sharp pain in my appendix area that happened two days ago and hasn’t happened since. When things like that happen you should be on heightened alert for if it happens again, and considering I am not a CB employee and don’t have easy access to data I am a victim to whatever I happen to see on Facebook.

Something worth discussing about localized issues is that table design can dramatically alter what works well and what doesn’t. USA has a reputation for being overly dense tables, possibly increasing the effectiveness of hackers, guided missile spam, and reducing the effectiveness of tags and their long range weapons. My local meta has been experimenting with “Euro” style tables, greatly reducing the density of terrain just to see how it goes. We will have a mix of tables at events to try and make the table style be a bit more varied. Something I despise about some of the TTS tournaments I have seen is people practicing for weeks on the actual maps used in the event. I would definitely recommend toying around with different table designs to see if that can reduce the impact of TAGS, but know that it will cause something else to take its place and that may be even worse…

The best result may actually be to have highly variable table design at events. This will probably lead to some grumbling but if the plan is well advertised you can always say “I warned you!” This will definitely require players better than me to test and figure out for your local meta. The goal would be not to eliminate tags but to force the second list to highly consider leaving the tag at home.

Something else I think we all need to use more often is terrain zones and saturation zones. you can build a table with a zero-g zone that is also a saturation zone. Zero visibility zones, etc. I know these are hard in a tournament setting where defined terrain zones require explanation but I think its something to consider pursuing more.

Bundling Morats, Shas, and vanilla

So, while I agree that these armies are different in play style and unit selection, I disagree that they are that different enough to not be concerned. So I am going to look at Warhammer as an example. If the top 5 of a tournament was as follows: Space Marines, Space Marines, Blood Angels, Grey Wolves, Eldar, AND if those 4 Space Marine factions were all taking large numbers of the same units (imagine 5th ed Lasplas razorback spam), I would be looking at those units as being problematic. Additionally, I don’t think anybody would feel good about the top 5 results at a tournament being Ariadna, TAK, Kosmo, Caledonia, and Nomads. Yes each army is Technically different, they sure don’t feel different when looking from outside that faction.

5th ed 40k Visualized.

Another note, I included Morats in my numbers because they actually diluted the results (For Taighas at least). If I exclude Mortas, Taighas go up to 16.4% of all models selected. I vaguely go over this in my article, and kindof lump in Gakis/Pretas into the “Gribbly Zergling warband” This is where I will make a concession though, the gaki/preta oznat fireteam is really an order battery due to their special fireteam. I didn’t really think about that in my analysis. There’s definitely some stickiness here in the math but I am not convinced it changes my conclusion: Taighas and combined army are over-represented in this event.

If you disagree still that is fine! You likely think this is all an over-reaction. I am just some random dude who started a podcast and paid some website to host his nonsense ramblings, so what do I know.

AVA vs points drop

Somebody mentioned that points changes could dramatically effect Shasvastii players. I agree! It is why I brought up AVA first, its an elegant way to nerf Vanilla without hurting the sectorial at all!

Sucks to be Pano

Ben Walker left the following comment and as a Panoceania player, I just had to share it.

“I completely agree with the ava nerf to CA’s gribblies, while leaving them alone for their respective sectorials – that’s a nice elegant balance change.”

“More generally I strongly feel vanilla rosters needs a serious overhaul: stricter ava & loss of some standout profiles (so no DA taighas in CA, for example). It still blows my mind that the weakest vanilla army in the game (Pano) was denied access to trinitarians … sure, that’s fair in a sense if and only if the same logic is applied to other vanilla armies, which it really isn’t at the moment. In fact with the recent duo buff balance is going in the opposite direction.”

As a panoceania main I feel the pain here. Morats got tons of new toys that also went to vanilla, but military orders releases didnt give Vanilla pano their new toys and that kinda feels bad. Vanilla Pan-o gives me feels but they also did quite well the the Salt Lake Showdown so I am not willing to comment further on it now.

Mission selection

Gavin Bateman was the TO of the event and had some thoughts to add as well. Basically they tried to design the mission lineup with 2 main objectives:

1. Take some of the sting out of TAGS

2. Have complex missions with a lot going on to try and have players that spend too much time killing instead of completing objectives, fail.

His thoughts:

“I kind of failed on both counts now the question is whether the missions didn’t suit my goals is up for debate I guess. But in general I think there’s a problem that can be seen in the trend of the top 5. (7 TAGS taken in the top 5 lists) and the morat lists weren’t what I’d call particularly specialist focused either.”

In his comments he also expanded on how deep Combined Army Low end was, but I think I have beat that horse enough.

Lets look at the missions

Countermeasures: Complete a heap of classifieds, Exclusion zone

Supplies: Steal boxes, protect boxes, 2 classifieds

Supremacy: Quadrants, hacking consoles (4 max 3 points), 1 classified

Rescue: “Convince” a bunch of HVTs to follow you back to base (remotes and impetuous cannot do this). 1 Classified, Exclusion Zone

Comms center (ITS X): Connect a bunch of antennas (9 available), Murder the designated target, Murder the specialists, 1 classified, Exclusion Zone.

So, I think this was a good set of missions to try and achieve the listed objectives. I am a bit surprised it went how it did. I will note, that Supplies, Supremacy, and Rescue are all reasonable missions for Tag Murder Rampage. Tags are very good at quickly moving up the table and murdering things, and all those are reasonable. Comms center (good mission! it should probably come back in a season soon!) also has an element of murder involved in it. Because antennas are swapped control you can spend your first few turns murdering specialists (which also fulfills objectives) and then turn 3 grabbing one or two antennas for the win. Of these missions Countermeasures feels like the only tag unfriendly mission, but again, murdering specialists who are awkwardly trying to complete classifieds is pretty effective sometimes.

Something that was discussed on the Loss of Lt Podcast (check it out here) was exclusion zones. Exclusion zones absolutely benefit TAGS. Midfield hackers, Jammers, and even good gunfighters are good checks to TAGS stomping up the table on a murder rampage. Additionally, infiltrating gunfighters can help fill that murder role in a cheaper way that can be more desirable. Midfield repeater nests with hackers (multiple) can greatly reduce the ability for TAGS to move up the table. having 3 exclusion zone missions with pretty different objective requirements does reduce the appeal of infiltrating models that may help check tags.

Missions I would look for to lower the incentive to take tags would be Mindwipe and maybe the Armory. Supremacy for me feels like the obvious one to remove out of this lot. Power pack could also be a good way to mix things up as it creates some weird board states.

The sky is falling!

I saw a few comments saying my article was a bit of a “sky is falling” kind of thing. The title probably made it look more like that than my suggestions. I will maintain that suggesting an AVA change to vanilla, and/or a 1 point nerf to a model is far from an extreme reaction.

Feel free to disagree though!

What I Really Missed

The solution I have was just, CB please help. While this is a solution it is not useful. So here I will give some thoughts on how to handle Taighas and combined army in general.
ARO Pieces: In general, N4 has seen less use of ARO pieces. These allow the fast gribbly warbands free reign to speed up the table. ARO pieces are difficult though, because something like the Avatar (or any tag really) will just throw a bucket of dice at them and end their day pretty quickly. The key here is to deploy them in such a way that they have limited sight lines that protect specific areas of the table. You can’t watch the whole table without being seen by the whole table.

Diggers and similar models. Diggers with their template weapons and 2 wounds, coupled with crazy low costs make them excellent at tanking Taigha attacks while dispatching them quickly. Diggers are pretty fantastic in general and more vanilla factions should probably take advantage of them.

Jammers: Wip 11 and 12 is really not great when it comes to jammers. This is mostly a temporary solution though, as they still get 2 orders a turn to run up and eat you. Definitely worth it to protect an important area

Disposable pieces: Auxbots, Puppetbots, Posthumans(Kinda), and all manner of sync model can be effective at trading enemy orders for killing a non-order generating model. Often they will still make their points back in the trade but you will often win the order duel. Additionally your own Taighas and warbands (shaolin, Morlock etc) can trade effectively enough with them.

Deployment: Null deploying can easily set yourself up for a Taigha or Gaki to get to your squishy backline bits and trade up hugely. Be careful how you deploy to minimize this risk. Easier said than done and this article is no the place for a clinic on deployment.

Combat Jumpers & parachutists: These beasties are pretty vulnerable to active turn shooting, and a good parachutist can probably go on a bit of a rampage against them if given the opportunity. I don’t know how many people took them in this tournament, and exclusion zones hurt them badly, but they may be a good check to some of the combined army cheap backline that can get gunned down. Mirage 5 can be an absolute menace to all those inexpensive models and even threaten to tie up something like the avatar in CC.

Conclusion:

We have a great community of people passionate about the game. No other community could have had such a civil and constructive conversation about game balance. Go listen to the Loss of Lt podcast to get more information on this specific tournament and hear some of the participants experiences! This was not meant to be some kind of shame fest for people that play combined army. Far from it! They are awesome and good fun to play and play against. Nobody should shame you for playing your army in a game this well balanced! My advice is to change up your missions and tables and see what happens and continue to have fun enjoying this hobby we all love.

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