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8th Edition Competitive Listbuilding: A Primier (Updated 2/2/19)

Howdy all,

Welcome to my (partially) in depth tip guide on 8th Edition Competitive List building.

A little about me, my name is James (AKA Zid) and I have played 40k on and off for about 9 years. I played heavily in 5th edition, securing a lot of top placings in Albuquerque New Mexico and surrounding areas, playing my Blood Angels and Demons. After 6th edition literally ruined the game, I left for Warmahordes where I became (once again) a highly competitive player. However, the scene in Omaha Nebraska was a bit... WAAC for me, causing the game to sour. Eventually I came back to my Alma Mater, 40k, and started playing competitively once again during the dawn of 8th. I am now known as a pretty competitive player who drives the Chaos Boat and I see a lot of success with some stuff others may see as "weird" or "heresy"; but its because I come to the game with a different view than some others.

So what will this guide contain? Oh... this would be a good time for a Table of Contents!

The Basics

Starting Out

Ah yes... So you heard about 40k from your local bro-friends, and decided what the hey... I'll throw some dice, have some laughs, and the models look cool! Then you come across a twitch stream online that is a competitive game of 40k, and suddenly your looking into netlists, reading blogs, and your mind reels with the awesomeness of competitive 40k!

Or something like that. Really most players whom become competitive minded players do so because their local scene is geared that way - or you love competitive games like League of Legends and this is a natural progression. Myself I started 40k as a way to get out of another competitive game, Magic the Gathering. Whatever your origin story is, its best to know the pro's and con's of competitive 40k:


  1. Players are likeminded - everyone tends to bring their "best" list - Competitive players bring what they feel is the "best" with what they play
  2. Players are very skilled - Competitive players tend to know the rules better, and thus show more skill
  3. Tend to have more painted models - Because some events require painted stuff, competitive players paint more stuff
  4. Games play quicker - Most events are time constrained, so most competitive players are faster
  5. Unique formats - Competitive formats tend to "patch" the base game to make it more balanced overall, though it is in no way perfect
  6. Camaraderie - If you find a good group you can help each other grow with the game
  7. More support - Competitive 40k has a wide support network to make the game better... plus discussions tend to be more interesting.


  1. WAAC - Win At All Cost gamers are out there... and man they suck to play. You will know when you face one.
  2. Apparent imbalances are amplified - Competitive players find ways to break the game, then abuse it
  3. Min/Maxing is normal - If you like variety, competitive 40k tends to lack it
  4. Netlisting - People love to take what others won with...
  5. No Fluff Allowed! - If your looking to play epic matches where your space marines fend off a horde of tyranids, your in the wrong format... unless you like Guilliman with 10 marines facing 10 tyranids with a horde of cultists in tanks
  6. WAAC gamers again - you will have slow play, people who complain about every perceived rules abuse, ones that think your dice are loaded, etc... especially when they are losing. Be prepared to argue at times.

If this sounds like the thing for you then keep on reading. If not, turn back now and burn your laptop from the heresy i'm about to write.


Before we get into anything else dealing with Competitive 40k we need to talk about the various formats first. The reasons behind this are numerous, but primarily not every list does well i every format. Rarely will a good ITC list do well in NOVA, or a list built for book missions work in ITC. Breaking these down is key for you to not only do well in competitive play, but to cater your list to what you play.


ITC Format https://www.frontlinegaming.org/community/frontline-gamings-independent-tournament-circuit/

This format (invented by Frontline Gaming, owned by Reecius a poster here) is the largest independent tournament format. Generally events are plan and ran through the Best Coast Pairings app (BCP app) that you can download onto any apple or android device. This format uses its own tournament packet, which can be found in the link above.

ITC events are going to be the most common you will find, especially in the USA. Some key things to know about an ITC format event:

  1. Primary Missions - each round you can score up to 5 primary points. These are earned by Killing one full unit, securing one objective, killing more units than your opponent in a round, or holding more objectives for that round. There is also a "special" bonus point for each round.
  2. Secondary missions - there are a bunch of secondary missions to choose from each game. You may pick up to three, and these should be based on what your army does and what you are facing.

There are 6 missions to choose from, and most events will announce which you will be playing (or do a good ol' d6 roll off each round). ITC armies should have a lot of mobility, and be able to draw the game out as long as possible; ending a game early hurts your score. However, tables are generally heavy on Line of Sight (LOS) blocking items, so pure gunline armies aren't generally a thing. I like to build my lists with a lot of resiliency to draw out the game and last, but also hit hard enough to score at least one kill a turn.


ETC Format https://www.etc-tabletop.com/

Chapter Approved, AKA Book Missions



You, the player

Picking an army (Competitive)




"The Meta"

Local vs National

Things to watch out for

Building the Community

Battle Reports


Training Games

Listbuilding Basics

Detachments and How they work


What is soup?

Final Thoughts


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