Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Railguns aren't all they're cracked up to be

I'm going to explain why the Tau Heavy Support slots are not worth taking.

We all know railguns are awesome.  Broadsides are great, Hammerheads are still pretty good and more versatile, etc. Every army fears the S10 AP1 from basically infinite range, right? I want to make the argument that both broadsides and hammerheads are inferior to other options, and that an optimized Tau list does not need any heavy support units at all - in fact, it can spend those points far more efficiently elsewhere!

I began by looking at equal costs of broadsides to crisis suits. I used the standard ASS Broadsides and compared their performance against Deathrain Crisis suits (Twin-Linked Missile Pods and Targeting Array) and Sunforge (TL Fusion Blaster and Targeting Array) Crisis suits.

At equal costs, you get 2 TL railguns from the broadsides, compared with 6 TL missiles from deathrain suits, and 3 TL melta shots from the FB suits (I assumed they were in melta range, not a difficult thing to achieve with deep strike and general crisis suit mobility).

Against av10, for both ground targets and flyers, Deathrain suits beat out Broadsides in effectiveness. Some stats: 2 Broadsides average 1.5 pens, 1.5 hp in damage, and a 63% chance of killing, each turn they shoot, against av10. 3 Deathrain suits average 2.6 pens, 3.5 hp of damage, and a 38% chance of killing, each turn, shooting at av10. Because of glancing hits, the Deathrains are very high-percentage av10 killers compared to Broadsides.

Against every higher armor value, for both flyer and ground targets, Sunforges in melta range beat out every other option including broadsides. Some stats: against av13, 2 Broadsides average 0.75 pens and a 37% chance to kill each turn. 3 Sunforge suits in melta range average 2 pens, 2 hp, and a 75% chance of killing each turn. Against av14, Sunforges are better by a 2:1 margin compared to Broadsides of equal cost.

It's also worth noting that at av12 and lower, 3 Deathrain suits performed even or better than 2 Broadsides and cause an average of 1 hp per turn against av13 (same as broadsides - but the broadsides have 0.75 pens per turn as well, adding a 37% chance of destroying the vehicle).  Broadsides are better than Deathrains against AV13, but still not as good as Sunforges in melta range, and Deathrains can still do alright.

I didn't test Hammerheads because Broadsides are considerably better against all armored targets (2 twin-linked railguns vs 1 non twin-linked railgun at the same points cost), and taking Hammerheads for an AP4 large blast isn't worth it alone, since all Tau infantry are superior at killing other infantry. (compare the Hammerhead to a Leman Russ, both have the same point cost, and you'll see how bad the hammerhead is, with the exception of its mobility and survivability with disruption pod and multitracker). Sky Rays perform worse in all aspects from the railgun or Suit options and should be avoided.

So in pure shooting power, Broadsides and hammerheads lose to crisis suits hands down in all situations vs armor. Fusion Blasters in melta range were more effective at higher armor values, while Missile Pods were roughly equivalent, better or only very slightly worse than Broadsides up to av13. Facing armor values of 13 and lower, Deathrain suits are pretty clearly superior to Broadsides and Hammerheads. And these two HS units exist to destroy armor! av14 is the main problem to concern ourselves with, and fusion blasters in melta range deal with that far better. But pure shooting power isn't the whole story, of course. So what are the other differences we need to take into account?

Railguns fire from much farther away, and are attached to more survivable units. You can't deny a 2+ save and 72'' range is going to keep broadsides alive longer. The tradeoff is clear: a broadside stays alive and keeps firing for longer than a Crisis suit (particularly the fusion blaster variety), but kills things slower. Is this a tradeoff you want? I would argue no. The longer enemy armor stays alive, the more chances it has to earn back its point cost kill your valuable units. Compare killing a riflemen dreadnought or a land raider after 1 or 2 turns, compared to after 3 or 4. Over those extra 2 turns, that vehicle is shooting, transporting, or doing other useful stuff for the enemy. Every turn it's earning back points. Anything you kill before it's had a chance to do anything is points wasted for the opponent. I don't believe the range and survivability trade off is worth the lowered firepower and point-efficiency.

An advantage Crisis suits also have is maneuverability thanks to jump-shoot-jump. Only Hammerheads are as maneuverable with a multitracker, but with firepower that isn't really close to Crisis suits.

Finally, we need to address an important point: fusion blasters require melta range to be so much more effective against av14. My response is to say that deep-striking, especially using a marker beacon to re-roll scatter, is pretty reliable. av14 vehicles are expensive and won't be very numerous in most lists you'll come across, with the exception of IG (a more balanced Tau list might include more FB teams to deal with this). Typically, deep striking a single fusion blaster team and taking out an av14 vehicle in a single turn will earn back their points and then some, and you can then let them suicide or annoy the opponent without much worry afterward. Particularly favorable circumstances will see your Crisis suits able to use a jetpack move in the assault phase to retreat behind cover or out of los, directly after deep striking.

By maxing out Crisis suits and forgoing all heavy support, you're using your points more efficiently. After some math hammer work, I believe Tau heavy support choices are all inferior uses of your points, compared to crisis teams.

So what kind of army am I advocating for, if we aren't including Hammerheads, Broadsides, or any other heavy support choice?  Essentially, lots of Crisis suits, and lots of troops, with Pathfinder support.  Both Fire Warriors and Kroot are cost-effective at killing any enemy infantry in rapid-fire shooting ranges, and each have their own unique bonuses and are slightly better at killing different things.  Focusing on a lot of troops makes holding objectives much easier, too, and objectives really are the name of the game.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for specific army lists and playtests as I examine this theory further!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

PLO Core 6-max Strategy

PLO Core 6-max Strategy

Jeff Hwang's Pot-Limit Omaha Poker: The Big Play Strategy, Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008

Starting Hand Categories:

terminology: ss = single suited; ds = double suited; r = rainbow
1. Big cards and ace high Broadway wraps
-premium: 4 cards 9 and higher, at least single suited, suited A preferred
  (examples: 9TJAss; TKQAds; TJQKss; 9TJQss)
-marginal: 3 broadways plus a dangler, at least single suited; 4 cards 9 and higher but unsuited
  (examples: 5JQKss; 9TKAr; 7AKJds)

2. Straight hands
-premium: rundowns with no gaps or a single middle or bottom gap, at least single suited
   (examples: 89TJds; 79TJss; 679Tss; 8TJQss; 5678ds)
-speculative: rundowns with two gaps, but none at the top, at least single suited
  (examples: 589Tss; 4589ss)
-marginal: offsuit rundowns of the above two criteria; top gapped rundowns
  (examples: 89TJr; 5789r; 3467r; J876ss; QT87ss)

3. Suited ace hands
-premium: premium ace high broadway wraps;  suited ace with a high pair and a broadway card; pocket aces with high connected side cards with a suited ace
  (examples: AJJT(ss to the ace); 9TKA (ss to the ace); AAQJ (ss to an ace))
-speculative: suited ace with a rundown; or with a pair (77+); or with two broadway cards (danglers ok)
  (examples: A987 (ss to the ace); A994 (ss to the ace); AKT5 (ss to the ace))
-marginal: all other suited ace hands
  (examples: A863 (ss to the ace); AQ52 (ss to the ace))

4. Pair-plus hands
-premium: at least one High pair (JJ+) with suited and connected side cards
  (examples: QQKJss; KKATss)
-speculative: at least one medium pair (77-TT) with suited and connected side cards
  (examples: 8879ss; 99TJss)
-marginal: high pairs with bad side cards
  (examples: KK72ss; JJ53r)

5. Aces
-premium: aces with high connected side cards with a suited ace; double-suited aces
  (examples:  AAJTds; AAKKds; AA78ds; AAQK (ss to the ace))
-speculative: all other aces
  (examples: AA73r; AAT6 (ss to the ace); AAKTr)


Components of Strength:
High Card value: Does my hand have high cards that will flop top pairs, top sets, and dominating nut draws?
Suited value: Can my hand flop a flush draw to go along with something else?
Connected value: Can my hand flop strong straight draws?
Paired value: Can my hand flop sets?

Premium Hands can be opened for a raise from any position, or raised after any number of limpers.  3-betting is an option in position for value, although they play well multiway as well.  Careful about building pots out of position though!

Speculative Hands can be opened for a raise in any position at 6-max, and call a raise in position.  The best speculative hands are candidates for light 3-betting in position to isolate.  Isolating single limpers is an option, with hands that have multiple strength components that play well heads-up; but overlimping is often better after several limpers, with hands that have a single nutty component like a weaker suited ace hand, or weak high pairs.  These hands hit the flop rarely, but hit hard when they do.

Marginal Hands are too weak to raise from early position.  Fold weaker marginal hands to a raise in front of us.  Call a raise with the very best marginal hands only, otherwise fold.  Overlimp unless the situation is very good for stealing.  These hands can be open-raised in position if it folds to us.

Trash Hands can only potentially be played as a very loose button steal against weak blinds.  Candidate hands must have some minimum amount of coordination.  All others are folded in all positions.

3-betting Factors:

1. Position
3-bet more hands in position than out of position.  Bluff or light 3-betting should be done in position.  3-bet out of position with mostly just premium hands, for value.

2. Number of players in the pot
3-bet more in heads-up pots than multiway pots.  The more opponents you have, the more your 3-bet range should be weighted toward premium hands.  With more than 1 player already in the pot, mostly just 3-bet for value with premium hands.

3. Raiser's range
Generally, 3-bet premium hands against tight raiser.  We can 3-bet a wider range of speculative hands against a loose raiser, especially if he plays weakly after a 3-bet.

4. Raiser's skills
Fewer speculative 3-bets against good players, and more against weak players, particularly in position.

3-betting for value: Only build a big pot preflop when you expect to often flop a hand good enough to continue past the flop, OR if you expect to often steal the pot postflop.  When we 3-bet for value, we want suited and connected high-card hands.

Speculative 3-betting: In spots where we have good steal equity, we can relax our starting hand requirements.

Dealing with 3-bets

Dry pairs and speculative Axxx hands play very poorly in 3-bet pots and should be folded.  They are in bad shape against AAxx, and they hit flops too rarely to continue much.

Call 3-bets in position more often than out of position.

Call 3-bets more often against a clearly-defined 3-betting range.  We can call with a wide range of speculative hands if villain's range is weighted toward AAxx hands.

Probability of AAxx being dealt is 2.5%, so a 3-bet range of around this amount is probably AAxx only.

Postflop Play in Big Pots

"Big Pots" mean pots with low SPR (less than 4).

"Nut Peddling" is not correct.  In big pots, you often must stack off lightly, sometimes with as little as top pair or non-nutty combo draw.  The lower the SPR, the more hands we must continue with on the flop, and the less we must worry about clashing with the nuts or being bluffed.  The higher the SPR, the more cautious we must be without the nuts, or about the risk of being bluffed.

Big pots revolve around the flop play, and is mostly math and calculation to determine whether we have enough equity to go all-in or not.

High SPR is an acceptable scenario for ANY starting hand, if we prefer to nut-peddle.  It's never a big mistake to keep SPR high.


In low-SPR situations, it's often better to take a free card with a hand that hit you somewhat, but might have hit your opponent harder, and a free card might drastically improve your hand's value.

Bet-folding is frequently good in situations where a flop hits our perceived range more than our opponents.  For example, A-high flops in 3-bet pots.  However, we're giving up if called on the flop, without a real hand.

The bare nut-flush with nothing else on a coordinated flop is not as strong as it seems.  It's usually better to check-call in a multiway pot with little steal equity.

C-betting in heads-up singly raised pots

C-bet most flops heads-up, both with your "air" hands and your strong hands

Probability of a random hand hitting top pair or a decent draw is about 40%.

Keep in mind that with high SPR, you want strong, nutty hands when getting all-in

You can let your bet sizing vary according to flop texture (but not according to your hand strength). For example, c-bet small on dry/light flops where the opposition rarely is strong (e.g. 8 5 2 , J 6 6 , or A 7 3 ). Use the same bet sizing for your bluffs and value bets

In position, check more flops with marginal hands/draws that have some outs (e.g. a nutty open-ended straight draw without anything extra) and that will benefit from a free card. This is especially important when there's a high risk of getting checkraised, and you have a hand that has decent equity with some outs, but it's not strong enough to continue after a checkraise

With marginal hands that have few outs (e.g. top + bottom two pair on a coordinated flop) it's generally better to bet-fold than to check and go for pot control. Keep in mind that you're rarely way ahead/way behind in PLO, and inducing bluffs with marginal hands has less value than in NLHE.

When you're playing against a c-bet in a heads-up pot, think about how to exploit players who c-bet too much, or who give up too easily on the turn when they get called. You can attack them with selective bluffraising/bluff-checkraising on the flop, or float with marginal hands/draws, planning to sometimes steal the pot on the turn when they check

C-betting in multiway singly raised pots

Rarely c-bet the flop as a pure bluff in a multiway pot. With 3 or more opponents, play fit-or-fold, and only c-bet for value or as a strong semibluff with your best hands

But if you have a little extra, for example presumed good fold equity, some equity, some blockers, some outs, and information from seeing your opponents check, you might take a stab at the pot also in a multiway pot

Don't try to fight back against c-betting without a hand in a multiway pot. If you are too weak to continue, based on the showdown equity of your hand, usually just give up. Don't attempt bluffraising or thin floating in a multiway pot without good reads and good reasons to think it will be profitable

Equity Quick-Reference:

Chance of flopping top pair or a good draw: about 40%.

Odds of a double-pair hand flopping a set: around 28%

Pot equity with set vs a made straight or a flush: 33% on flop, 25% on turn.

Pot equity with top trips and 3 overcards vs the underfull: 42% on  flop, 25% on turn

Pot equity with bare top pair vs an overpair: 37% on flop

Pot equity with overpair and flush draw vs a set: 40% on flop, 34% on turn

Pot equity with overpair and flush draw vs 2 pair: 54% on flop, 45% on turn

Pot equity with 2-pair vs a made straight or flush: 20% on the flop, 10% on the turn

Pot equity with top pair vs bottom pair: around 55% on flop, 61% on turn

Pot equity with a gutshot, no pair, vs top pair: 44% on flop

Pot equity with 16-out wrap vs top set: 43% on flop

Pot equity with 16-out wrap plus flush draw vs top set: 54% on flop

Pot equity with 20-out wrap vs top set: 51% on flop

Pot equity with 20-out wrap plus flush draw vs top set: 59% on flop

Pot equity with 8-out open-ended straight draw plus flush draw vs top set: 45% on flop