Red-Headed Stepchild's Revenge!
So, I'm currently plugging along with the construction and painting of my Daemon army. I'm transitioning out of my Space Wolves, and several ideas that were previously half-formed have begun to solidify. One of the most persistent ideas was discussed by Jester last week, the fact that so many players don't know all of the rules for those codices that have drifted around the periphery for most of 5th edition. Another, and the one which I'd like to rehash today, is the concept of playing the overall meta-game. Admittedly, every area, be that city, state, region, or even nation-wide, has its own tendencies and trends of play style and list building, but, at least partially due to the internet, certain veins of thought have become more prevalent than others: Space Marines, Mech Guard, Emo Space Marines, Space Marines who refuse to wear helmets, etc. Due to this, there is an inevitability to the fact that the dominance of particular types of lists will lead to certain things becoming common.
That's where a slightly weaker codex, or rather one that has not yet gotten the 5th edition steroid shot, can find a niche. There's no doubt that you can't ignore a meltagun no matter what you're running, but when your opponent is depending on it to give him/her an advantage and all it does is wound one fiend who, along with his buddies, is about to maul an entire unit, it gives you both a tactical and a psychological advantage. It's not that the more common builds can't deal with fiend spam or a carpet of termagants, but the infrequency with which most players face these lists often puts even solid players off of their game. With varied wargear and the like, there can be wide variance between a Daemon Prince and one of his brethren, but a Manticore is always a Manticore, and Razorback Spam is never going to surprise you.
So, if you're looking to build something wacky (and avoiding the draw of the upcoming Grey Knights, who my Daemons insist are a bunch of self-righteous jerks who wouldn't know a good time if it stuck it's tongues in their ear), what do you want to do? From what I've seen, here are the keys to building a list that gives you a solid shot against the most common armies:
1. Negate high strength, long range shots: What this means is that you need to avoid vehicles as much as possible. Pretty much everyone has a fairly large portion of his/her army dedicated to taking out tanks, and while this can be turned on any unit, these tank-hunting units are no longer optimized.
2. Bob and weave: Speed seems to be the key. Several of the more dominant builds are relatively stagnant. The ability to outflank (the concept not the Rule) your opponent easily and to change the front on which the battle is taking place is invaluable. Deep Striking can do this, but you can also strand yourself. I run fiends, a Keeper of Secrets, and 2 Winged Daemon Princes. Jester runs 2 Seer Councils and no tanks. Dark Eldar can do this too, though they tend to ignore the "avoid tanks" rule due to the vehicle upgrades available to them.
3. High initiative: This doesn't really apply to fighting IG, but Marines are the kings of the hill because of their durability and killing potential. Therefore, swinging first and killing as many as possible as quickly as possible, preferably before your opponent gets to swing, can make all the difference.
4. Lastly, you're likely going to have to gamble: There are reasons why the stronger codices are considered as such. They are balanced, durable, and efficient. Point for point they are typically better than the other armies, so you will likely have to take risks. I tend to be aggressive with my deep striking, risking the loss of a unit to the occasional mishap in exchange for getting my units where I really want them to be. This can throw your opponent off and sometimes mess up his/her target priority. It's difficult to ignore something that's 3 inches away from your lines and shoot at something that's 15 inches behind it.
Well, I guess that's it. I hope at least something in that rambling series of paragraphs was useful or at least interesting.