This post's topic is once again brought to you by Kuffeh, from The Trading Post. It's a biggie, and known to spark more than a little controversy when meta-gaming comes into it: list building.
For myself, my list revolves primarily around a narrative. I often have a back story emerging for an army when I make the list, and my choices will reflect this, within reason. I don't necessarily begin with any particular section. I'll add a character, some core, a special, go back and maybe give the character an item, and in that way slowly massage the list into shape. I do, of course, consider tactics, which will on occasion jar with my theme for the army. A good example of this is my angst about skeletons which is gone into in more detail here.
This is not the way to go when preparing for a tournament, so most of my lists would be considered 'soft' lists, but then, when the top tables reasonably consistently feature the same armies in roughly the same configurations, I think there are other problems. What I love to see is an oddball army or list winning a tourney. I find some players approach to list building a little soulless, if I am honest. They pick what is regarded as a top tier army, then calculate the list that will earn them victory regardless of theme or cheese content. (This is fine, if you like that kind of thing.) They calculate percentages for amount of hits translating into wounds yadda yadda. For me, no. I want to try to attach a little emotive connection to the army, which is hard when all they are is a bunch of probabilities.
And so, meta-gaming. You may have guessed, I'm not all that into it. Yes, you can't ignore new units and rules as they come into the game in general, but I generally design a list independent of consideration about what opponent I might be facing, and to be frank, most times I don't know anyway, as there are usually a bunch of folks to choose from. I guess, it's about your attitude to gaming. If you have a single regular opponent and you are both designing lists to overcome the other, all is well. This might even have some theme introduced into it. Dwarf miners in a list built to fight skaven in a game set underground, for example. But if you pop into a store, game-centre or dank cave with a list and your opponent builds one on the spot to counter your particular faction/list, knowing your army is a general list, I say NAY!
The question is, is it fair? I want to beat my opponent into the turf knowing we had a balanced (and also fun) game. Call me a dreamer.