Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What does "Netlist" even mean anymore?

Playground to the battleground

Adults go from physically aggressive to passive aggressive as they get older and realize that punching people in the mouth isn't nearly as effective a punishment for insolence as ostracizing them is.  So we perfect the art and the internet has spawned a whole generation of people who know how to go about it very well.

"Net Lists"

A favorite way to express this is in referring to peoples armies as a "net list".  I've used the term loosely to describe tournament winning armies that people copy.  Generally winners will post their lists and if its a big enough event they get noticed and emulated.  Clearly the list has less to do with winning than you do, but it's fair to say as I have pointed out before, that people with limited time or limited resources (or both) will gravitate to the most effective single build because they just don't have the time or money to experiment as freely.  And where can they possibly learn that less expensively than the Internet?  That's not a recrimination, just a simple observation of fact.  Some people MUST utilize other peoples experience and mistakes to form their lists.  Some would argue that it shows wisdom to do just that!

What has happened now is that the inevitable slide towards sardonic humor begins and people now refer to net lists in a less positive way:  as lists that only "That fucking guy" (TFG) would play.  In other words it's no longer a term that describes a successful list, its become a term that is derisive and refers more to the player playing it.

Keyboard Courage

As usual online, people act ten times as rude and twenty times as bold as they would be were they in your presence because lets face it, punching someone in the mouth while not as good a punishment, certainly IS still an option in person.  Grown men who play with little plastic toys who don't like to lose will attack the personality of their opponent by suggesting that they "only" won because they played a Net list (as if a list could ever guarantee you a win).  They assassinate the character of a person, which is a harder slap to the face than any open hand can deliver.

Others proudly claim that their list is NOT a net list.  I know I have done it (and again, I see it as a term that reflects successful armies, not a person who is a dick for taking it, so my usage is a little different).  I think most would agree that my lists are in fact here, on the Internet, and that it has had success.  So by MY definition my lists are Net lists!  Yet if shown to someone who is super swayed by the Internet gestalt opinion on lists, I think they might argue that vociferously if they didn't know the source.  Proudly proclaiming your list as NOT a net list (on the Internet) is ironic, but it sort of points to how much the meaning of that term has changed!  You're not REALLY saying that it's not a net list.  You're suggesting that the list you are using isn't the ones "those TFG''s use" in the same way.  it's a sort of attempt at attaining moral high ground.

So on the offensive or defensive side we've twisted the meaning of this term into something it isn't.  

My Take

"Net Listing" (I define this as using lists that you find on the Internet because of widespread acceptance that it is good) is pretty much what you need to do when resources and time are not your friend.  Paying to be frustrated seems a bad policy, and losing can be frustrating even if you're a tinker gnome like me so if you just can't experiment like i can you need to learn from someone who can.  I think it should be worn as a badge of pride when you can avoid using those lists, as it allows you to exhibit your skill and creativity more than your reading ability, but I don't think less of someone for using a successful list!  It literally makes no sense to dislike someone for doing what makes sense, especially in competition.  Even the banner of my own blog has proclaimed since its inception that "What works, works.  Arguing otherwise is a fools errand".

My problem has always been with the unimaginative sort that claims the net lists and their small variations are the  only way to win, or those who resist any temptation to actually think outside that box and allow for other things to also be true in their small minds.  Those people are the problem.  Folks who are always trying to make themselves feel better about losing by pointing out that someone used a net list?  Come on.  Isn't it just possible that the General could have done better?  Isn't it a dice game where not everything goes to plan?  I think so.  

Do you reaaaaly need one?

I think some generals sell themselves short by using a net list.  After all it was designed for a person who thinks a certain way and plays a certain way.  It's so specific to them that it will take a little learning curve for some people to adopt its strategic realities.  Some Generals who "net list" might be a lot prouder of their own wins without the net list.  There are nigh infinite amounts of possibilities (many of which we talk about here) available to the creative and savvy general, and they get to take credit for being the author of a whole new "net list" if it works out!  There is something to be said for THAT!  Having said all that, one doesn't ignore good advice or good sense while doing it.  It also doesn't mean you didn't earn those wins when using a net list which I think is intimated by some people when they use the term against you.  You did.  Until a Wraith Knight isn't the best thing in the game, Eldar will bring it.  Why wouldn't they?  Riptide Wings are a thing.  You're going to see them.  Is it any shock that an excellent formation gets used?  It shouldn't be!  But the question is, do you need it to win?  Or is it just low hanging fruit?  Well if you haven't got money or time, low hanging fruit is probably what you need.  When you have the collection and time to experiment, maybe not.

I think a larger dose of kindness would do us all good.  I am not immune to the human wish to justify my losses.  But at the end of the day, the scoreboard never lies and I think it's better to improve your skill, so that a net list isn't the end of you at tournaments.  And maybe...just open to learning from the one who gave you a beating.  You might get smarter.  Wouldn't that be cool?

To view another philosophy lesson:  More philosophy link!


  1. I agree with most of the article, but, I have a different viewpoint than most. The game isn't if you win or lose, you should always play to have a great experience both ways, that's what sharing a hobby is about. You want Rivals, not bickering petty enemies that you meet at your local game-store. I'm not saying you shouldn't celebrate your victories. I'm saying that you should also celebrate your defeats because they are someone else's victories, be happy for them, but playfully promise revenge, that's what the hobby is about.

    Net-listing is another aspect. We pool information. Just like in technology, we have people who pave the way and other's follow. We don't look down on each other for using a operating system someone else made, do we? Net listing offers a way for people to invest in "safe" things so they can play more and tinker less. Those that pave the way should be recognized, but, it's not something to be ashamed of to follow.

    I think guys being guys tend to be competitive to each other on levels that are personal, even when the competition isn't, and that's something that is both natural and healthy to some extents. However, if you want to just bring down another player or be petty and attack their character, you're not only making yourself look like an ass but you hurt the hobby.

    In short, be excellent to each other, do your best, play the game to have fun, and if you value not net listing, tinker and experiment without beating other people over the head with it.

    1. That sounded a lot like agreement! Here here.

    2. I play an infantry heavy Valhalla themed list and it isn't always effective, but 99% of the time I'm having fun because I'm watching a story unfold on the board. I realize that's not the way everyone thinks but it ensures my opponent has fun too. So here's another agreement to your article!

    3. Great article.

      I do feel that alot of people immediately blame the other person's list when they lose. In some cases it can be partly true if someone has taken an optimised (not necessarily a Netlist) from Eldar, Tau, Necrons or Marines and is playing a fluffy list from one of the weaker codexes, however that is no reason to insult someone, or assume they are TFG, which unfortunately I see all too often :(

      The biggest problem I see comes in pick-up games where players may have completely different expectations for the game, where people should remember more that this a social game, and I shouldn't bring an top tier army with only the top units at an unsuspecting opponent unless that the type of game they are expecting.


    4. It does require a certain amount of communication though I will say that the other side of that coin is you cant expect a guy showing up for a game to bring his entire collection with him either, so I don't think people necessarily carry around lists other than the ones they are practicing for tournaments with unless of course there's been some communication. Some local groups are better at talking before the game than others. I know I used to go to the game store and just wait for a gamer to come by and play me and I DID bring all my stuff, but that would literally be impossible now with what I own. Some places, like where I play, have forums now that allow people to set up games ahead of time and we generally say "Hey, Im bringing my BAO practice list" or what have you. Other times, it will be "Hey, I am looking to pull my orks outta moth balls" and neither of us has any idea howi will do! The optimal solution is for someone to bring two variants of a list, so they aren't trucking so much stuff around. So that is a tough one to adjudicate really. I so often don't bring anything but my practice army (which admittedly could be any faction on any given day given my eclectic tastes) because its just easier. what to do, what to do? i suppose play a smaller game which allows you to reduce the sillyness without carrying more? That could be one answer. 1500 is just as fun as 1850 in my book.

  2. I used to run into the same sort of thing playing magic with friends. One guy would make decks that were weird or fun or very themed, while another would proxy half his deck so he could play whatever won the last major tournament. There's room for both if you're clear about your expectations before the game. We would sometimes handicap the stronger decks with house rules that limited their strengths, or additional win conditions, etc. 40k specifically you could leave a key unit off the table, spot your opponent some points, constrain your deployment area, all sorts of things. As a last option, if your goals for the game don't line up at all and nobody is willing to adjust, play other people instead! Communication is key.

    1. I think having a local forum really helps so you can discuss it all in the week leading up to the game or whatever. It just helps. That way when someone says "I wanna try out my new tournament list" and everyone knows what to expect. But so many times, people are just coming to the game shop to play and theres no planning ahead of time and so can you blame a guy for looking for a game? I think the hate of losing is what tinges a lot of the negativity that comes with the title Netlist. It's probably a good list! But lists dont win games either. It's a very debate worthy subject.


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