-By: Scott (PG_Sc077y)

Building a list pair is difficult, and one of the most commonly asked about processes by both veteran players and new players alike.  There is a lot to consider, especially in list selection and what casters to include, as well as what you want the list pair to do and how you want it to do it.

I have received several questions, especially recently, on how I build a list pair and what I look to include in it.  I have also received several questions from players looking to stake out into the scene of organized play about what is a list pair, and what advantages does it give me.  In an effort to answer everyone’s questions, I have taken those questions and tried to organize them into a document that, while will read a little more like a long FAQ, will hopefully get everyone their answers.

It’s a very difficult part of this game, one that deserves a lot of attention and focus, but with enough research, playtesting, and consideration, you can come up with a list pair that will guide you to reasonable success at events.

So the first thing we need to do when discussing a list pair, is to define what a list pair is.  For players, new to tournament or organized play, the idea of a list pair can be a bit of an abstract.  In short, at most steamroller or organized play events, players are given the option of bringing only one list to play with or they can bring a second list.


  • So why a second list? Well, in short, this game is massive, with multiple ways to build multiple warlocks and warcasters, and sometimes, there are just bad matchups in the game that a single warlock or warcaster might not be able to handle. A second list gives players the option of choosing between 2 lists as to which list they feel gives them the biggest advantage of winning.


  • So, what if I only want to play one list? Every tournament I can think of is listed as 2 list optional, meaning you don’t HAVE to bring a second list, it just means that you have that option. As an aside, and a tactical tip, always bring 2 lists if you can, unless you have a specific reason to play only one list.


  • Why would you ever want to play only one list at a tournament? Well, honestly, this is something I do often. There are times when I want to play a list and test it against a variety of opponents to get the best feel for how that list does into matchups, particularly the bad ones.  I have played lists I’m developing for competitive play into smaller lists just to see what they can do and where their worst matchups are at.  You would be surprised at what you learn about a list, and a caster, when you are constantly playing on the back foot.


  • So, what do you look for when building a 2 list pairing? Well, this one is going to have a long answer attached to it, so I’ll start here.  Building a list pair is complicated, and it depends on what exactly you have to cover.  As a general rule, I tend to look at what the first list I want to play covers.  For example, In a Minions list pair, It’s almost guaranteed that I will bring Helga to the table.  I like her play style, and I like the strengths she has to playing on scenario as well as assassination.  So, knowing that Helga handles scenario play acceptably well, I will then look at her deficiencies.  She doesn’t necessarily attrition exceptionally well, (though she certainly can) and her lists, as I have it designed, has trouble dealing with a lot of armor.  This creates a deficiency in my list pair.  So to compensate for that in my list pair, a pairing with Rask, who is known for breaking armor trivially, and has a feat to deliver his heavy hitters. This pairing gives the ability to handle infantry relatively well, scenario and attrition with Helga, and it gives me the ability to crack armor easily with Rask, as well as attrition against heavy armor lists sporting more than 5 or 6 warjacks.


  • So what do I need to cover in a typical 2 list pair? Well, while that can depend a lot on what you feel is necessary and what you typically play against in your area, a very generic guideline suggests that you should have one list that can handle armor, and one that can handle more infantry.  Additionally, one of those two lists needs to play aggressively towards scenarios in tournament play, and another of those lists probably needs to be prepared for a longer game, and to play to pick away at your opponent through attrition.


  • That’s a lot to cover in just two lists, how do I do it? Well, when you think of it, it might not actually be. Lists that typically can handle larger amounts or infantry based lists might be able to play to attrition very well, or might be, depending on your warlock or warcaster, able to play towards scenario as easily as it can handle infantry.  A list designed to break armor may very well allow you to play an attrition game depending on its composition.


  • What about army lists like Una 2, Wurmwood, and Haley 2? Do you build specifically to those lists? As a general rule, and for new players, I almost always say no.  If you are seeing those lists show up locally, then by all means, have a plan to deal with them, and if you want to tweak some selections in your lists to deal with those trouble spots, then by all means do so, but to go out and build a single list, just specifically designed to deal with any one caster, typically means that as a new player, you just get stuck playing a list you don’t want to into an opponent that isn’t playing your intended target.


A great example of this was at a tournament I recently attended.  In this tournament, a player approached me and said that he was super pumped to get paired up against the Cygnar player, because he has the perfect Haley 2 counter list.  I checked back in with him after the round was over and he had lost.  When I asked him what happened, he said that he dropped Kara Sloan into the matchup.  We talked about it, and I offered that instead of building a list that beat Haley 2 hands down, why not focus on a list a little more generically purposeful, and just have a good game into Haley 2, and maybe Sloan wouldn’t have been able to beat you quite so easily.  Building to specifically counter a list while you are a newer player is typically a bad idea.  Instead, I always recommend focusing in on lists that perform a role or purpose, instead of such a narrow application.

That said, when you get to the higher levels of play, absolutely have a list pair that can deal with intended bad matchups or the “Boogey Men” of the national meta.  If you go to Muse on Con and don’t have a plan to deal with Una 2 you are likely to loose to her.  But if you aren’t at that stage yet, build a 2 list pair, cover the basic bases, and then get experience, because after all that is the best way to get better at this game.
So there it is, building a list pair as narrated by many of you who have PM’d me with questions about what to look for and what do do.  As always, if you have any questions, please let me know, post in the Facebook group, follow us on Twitter, or email us at wmhforbeginners@gmail.com


Good luck out there