How to Win with a Sub-par Army

Hello, and welcome to another tactical tidbit by Skari. This article is designed to explore the top 5 things that I use to consistently do well competitively with a ‘sub-par’ Warhammer 40k army or list build. These things can also be applied to many other things in life as well, of course, taking some inspiration from the Art of War and other strategic works. So, let’s dive in! 

1 – Have a Vision : Be Passionate

To win with a sub-par army, you need to have a vision. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You have to want to do something specific, like use mandrakes and make them work within a list, or use Lictors and shame people with them, or showcase your skills with a particular faction.

Once you have an idea, you must passionately convince yourself that it can work. Being passionate means searching for how to make it work within the limitations of said ‘sub-par’ faction. For example, unit choices, war-gear choices, relic choices, etc. should all reflect the plan and also be things that you enjoy. If this fails, if you do not have passion, then the rest of the article is not for you because you will fail and fall on your face during the next step. 


2 – Haters Gonna Hate : Be Gritty

The internet can be quite the minefield when it comes to the acceptance of ideas. Let’s face it: some people can be very opinionated, especially online. If you want to win with a sub-par faction, you are going to have to learn how to be gritty. The ability to stick with something, no matter how scary or stressful it is, becomes an integral part of the whole process. 

The meta (40k term for what’s currently competitive) can drive people’s perceptions and opinions on what is good and what is not. For example, the current BroHammer Iron Hands list, or the Mani Imperial Fist artillery bombardment list are very efficient. People find them scary and rightfully so! However, you can’t let people’s fear and vocal opinions deter you from trying to succeed. Take into account the rise of more accurate metrics and statistics like win ratios, percentages, and all the other information on match-ups or unit choices, etc. (seriously though, these are great tools and Peter, the Falcon, does a remarkable job over at 

These can sometimes also be a source of doubt. However, you must look at the information and use it to better your plan and strengthen your resolve. If you know that 30% of the meta are space marines, that can influence your choice in what units or strategies to employ within the framework of your ‘sub-par’ army to be better prepared at an event or pick up game. This brings us to the next point. 


3 – Think Outside the Box : Be Flexible

“Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards… Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare, there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning may be called a heaven-born captain.” – Sun Tzu

Like the father of the Art of War himself states, you have to be flexible and must be able to shape yourself to the task at hand. Being inflexible, like dry wood (and I am paraphrasing another Sun Tzu quote), means that you will snap under the pressure of change (Yes, I take a lot of my inspiration from things like this. – Skari). In essence, when you are looking to work with a ‘sub-par’ faction, you have to think creatively. This is one of the main reasons people ask me to write lists for them. For example, sometimes you need a fresh perspective or a combination of units or rules that you just haven’t noticed that can help you achieve your goals. It could also mean you have to use the units in your list a bit differently as well. Sometimes having someone coach you or watch you play, deploy, and use units can be incredibly helpful! (Seriously though, check out the resources on the Art of War coaching team)

How do you put this into practice? I am glad you asked, as it leads to the next point.


4 – Practice As Much Possible : Be Masterful

Ten thousand hours is widely considered the amount of time you should invest in something in order to become a professional at it. If you were to play 3-hour-long games, it would take you 3,333.333 games to invest that sort of time! So, if you played one game -every- day for 9.14 years that would give you ten thousand hours. This sounds daunting, and it can be overwhelming to imagine. However, the premise remains the same: you need to practice as much as you can with your ‘sub-par’ list or army. This is a non-negotiable element of finding success. Every time you make major changes to your list or faction, you are essentially resetting the clock on the hours invested. One of the reasons that I have had so much success with the Drukhari, for example, is the amount of time I have spent playing with them. I have faced so many different opponents and army lists that it is hard to surprise me on the tabletop, and this experience is invaluable when playing with the Dark Kin. 

Another benefit of practice is that you will inevitably be at the right spot at the right time when the meta shifts. The game is continually changing, and codexes and rules come and go. Sometimes your ‘sub-par’ faction will get a really solid rule-set! When you combine your faction experience with a new, competitive rule-set, it becomes a real force to be reckoned with. Time to win a Major event! There are many things factored into that, but there is one thing that you can certainly control, and this brings me to my final point. 


5 – Have a Winning Attitude : Be Resolute

The final point is probably the most important one. Be OK with success. You have to resolve to do your best and look at both the ups downs in a positive light! Yes, even the most severe turn-one tabling beat-downs are keys to your long term success with a sub-par army. You are going to take punches, probably lots of them, before you learn how to dodge them and return the favor to your hardest opponents or match-ups. Having the right can-do positive attitude is essential for this process to work! So, take this and run with it, and I hope that these insights help you as you continue your journey towards what your gaming goals are! 

As always, you can always reach out to me for coaching or list building advice here on the Art of War. Thanks a lot for reading, and I shall see you on the next Skari Tactical Tidbit. 

Skari – out.


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