Saturday, 3 March 2018

Balancing Epic Tournament Lists with DBAD
Establishing a healthy meta

Quite a few people, mostly from outside Aus have asked me just what DBAD (don’t be a dick) is all about since it turned up in our tournament setting about a year back. Some have asked what the criteria are and how it is enforced consistently. 

The answer is both simple and hugely complex. At its simplest DBAD has come out of a series of competitive events in Australia where our top players have frankly pushed the boundaries of Epic well into power gaming territory. DBAD is the reaction then to a situation which was poisoning our competitive system and gaming community. Essentially we started to recognise a few realities in our context.

There are probably only 5-6 players in our country who represent the top tier of possible gamers. The sort of people who invest significant time and energy researching, refining, practicing builds. Dredging the forums for top builds and obscure lists and finding ways then milk the power from those lists. The vast majority of our tournament players are likely to be far more casual than this so DBAD comes from a concern for the enjoyment of all players at our events. Our most controversial lists have all been covered in the past but I’ll give you this one as an example we recently saw from the Uk. 

Epic UK Space Marines 2018

Thunderhawk Thunderhawk Thunderhawk Thunderhawk Thunderhawk Thunderhawk Scouts Scouts Assaults Assaults Titan/Air Third Thunderbolts Thunderbolts Thunderbolts Thunderbolts Thunderbolts

Now of course this list is entirely legal to use but what DBAD is trying to recognise is the reality that our game doesn’t have the same level of fluidity and adjustment to list design that we would expect from many other systems. Those of you who have played bigger systems like Warhammer 40k or X-wing would be familiar with the inevitable process where OP lists are identified at comps and there will be an inevitable nerf bat cycle completed through errata or new builds etc and the cycle continues. In those games it works to an extent because their is an active governing body but our systems are glacial if anything. DBAD is about giving TOs more discretion to decide not just whether lists are powerful but when they cross the line between competitive and just plain not fun. 

Using the list above as an example would anyone try to argue that its in any way themey, or fun? If you are also running a hugely powerful list it might make for a super tactical game and be really challenging but thinking back to the fact that only a few players at any given comp will be running lists in that category. For the players who turn up with just a standard/balanced list reflective of a more casual gamer they will ultimately get smashed and have no real chance of even engaging with that game. DBAD is saying use lists like that at home against players of equivalent skill and list building. 

Now while some of you are no doubt reading this and getting ready to argue away about how tournaments are for competitive play and nothing else so people who don’t want to bring an air cav abomination just get what they deserve remember I’d suggest you’ve missed the point. Taking that position will just lead to a decline in the number of people bothering to play at your tournaments and a stagnation of your community. Accept the reality that Epic is so easy to break and exploit that it just isn’t the place to go if you want to be an Uber gamer. There are plenty of other systems better suited. Hell, come play Star Wars Armada with me, it’s got incredible strategic depth and nobody has ever questioned the power level of my lists at comps, no matter how hard I try to break the game. 

The best Epic tournaments are the ones which are competitive but still friendly. Where all players can walk away knowing that the best player, not just the best list won. I would encourage every community around the place to give this adaptation a go. As I said initially, there are no magic limits or criteria, the power level is determined by your own community and TOs and even here there is certainly variety. At our events I’d suggest that 10-15% of lists are initially rejected and most commonly the reason is just spamming of a single powerful unit like Vessels of Pain in Dark Eldar, or Orkeosaurus in Feral Orks. 

No system is perfect but the proof to me is in the data. In anecdotal terms all of our comps played with DBAD have had positive feedback from players which is not something I would have said before hand. For those who prefer quantitative data I’d point to our tournament attendance numbers which have been steadily growing as news of these changes spread around. To me our comps are the healthiest and most enjoyable we’ve ever seen.  

If you happen to be an Aussie sitting on the fence about attending a tournament I would encourage you to get along to one at some point. heavy Bolter is just around the corner, Castle Assault in August and of course Cancon every January which seems to be the one with the biggest representation from across the county. 

Thanks for reading, feedback is always appreciated, especially those ads for penis enhancement and other drugs that seem to pop up in the comments. And remember, Don’t Be A Dick! 


  1. terrific post! funny as hell. one day i will drag my ass down to play.

  2. Was fun to go up against killed 4 out of 6 TH and 4 TBs, there are lists to counter such gameplay