Arks of Omen Faction Focus: Leagues of Votann

With a new batch of rules updates comes the need to revisit the strategies and tactics of each faction. Today Danny is talking about the changes to Votann and how those changes will affect them in the meta.

Welcome to Arks of Omen! The last few weeks have seen a ton of changes hit the meta following the release of the Q1 2023 dataslate, MFM, big FAQ and the new Chapter Approved missions. Needless to say, there’s a lot set to change going forward and we’re here to cover it all.

With every seasonal change you can count on the Goonhammer competitive crew to write a new series of Faction Focus articles and we’re doing the same for Arks as we did for Nephilim. In this article Danny will talk about Votann, covering how the faction changed, what it means for playing them, how they fare in the new meta, and offer a list with some thoughts on playing them.

The Notable Changes 

The Leagues of Votann have had a very mixed Arks of Omen. Let’s discuss the changes for the army itself but also external meta changes as these have just as big an impact on the faction’s fortunes.

The Points

Well let’s start with the annoying and unnecessary point nerfs, which honestly are a little confusing. The Votann saw points increases to the Kahl (+10), the Grimnyr (+10) and the Einhyr Champion (+10), but weirdly zero changes to the Iron master. Warriors (+1) and the fortress (+10) all saw points increases, however the bikes (which are the most points efficient unit in the book) remained unchanged. As a positive surprise the Thunderkyn did get a 5-point decrease which is going to serve us well in the upcoming meta.

The secondary Objectives

The changes to Votann secondary objectives were… frustrating? Grudges being removed rather than Prospects is one of the biggest changes Votann have to deal with, as well as the change to Psychic interrogation, as the army now has to rely on more limited secondary choices that are a little more complicated to maximize, whereas many other armies have solid 40-45vp secondaries. In a world where some armies can score 100 VP with relative ease, Votann have been pushed into the realms of “table your opponent to win”, and while Votann armies can achieve this, it actually turns passive scoring armies into a much harder match up.

It’s advised to now plan ahead and potentially build into Ancestors, Lay claim and Prospects, which adds an additional layer of difficulty to the army.

The Arks Detachment

The introduction of the new arks detachment has added some flexibility and breathing space to the army. Being able to build a detachment without spending 3CP or having to include 2-3 warrior squads or even a second HQ means there’s a lot more room for list flexibility and building around a set idea like “20-25 berserkers, 15-18 bikes” rather than a more traditional 2 of every unit approach.

Strategic Reserves

Honestly, this is the change Votann players should be most excited for. Votann have some really good units that if they get to hit first, they can really snowball your game. However, they also die quicker than most people would like to admit. One of the biggest counters to Votann was alpha strikes – the army has such little model count and a lack of defensives compared to armies of similar size like Custodes, that alpha strikes could hit Votann hard enough to cripple them for the rest of the game, like T’au. The change to free strategic reserves has meant your Thunderkyn, your big bike squads, even a fortress can survive alpha strikes and ultimately put you in a more healthy spot if you go second, and/or you’re stuck on LVO style terrain.

Leagues of Votann Kâhl. Credit: Rich Nutter

The Matchups

Despite all the negativity around the faction’s changes, I believe Votann actually sit somewhere around the bottom of the A tier, top of the B tier of armies, depending on the build. The faction plays really well into some of the armies that have risen in the meta – Space marines most notably, or any faction that lost Armour of Contempt – but some matchups have gotten harder. Votann have a really low unit count, comparable to Custodes but comparatively have a lot fewer wounds to play around with and this creates problems.

Rob: This has been borne out by very early event results – Votann have been the fourth most-played faction since LVO, and yet have managed to capture an outsized share of event wins and TiWP results.

The Positive

Ok so there is actually a big positive: Votann play well into some of the more popular meta armies thanks to its high damage output. However there’s really no “one build fits all” solution anymore. Both YMYR and GTL both have their place in the meta, whether it’s YMYR’s damage & survivability, or GTL’s efficiency and primary play. Let’s discuss some of the more favorable pairings:

  • Knights: Knights in general (Chaos or Imperial) are Votann’s all-time favorite opponents and this hasn’t changed. There’s really not much knights can do to go toe-to-toe in this pairing.
  • Chaos Daemons: The change to flamers was absolutely huge for Votann; this was one of the worse units to contend with due to the high strength and pure volume of shots they could pour out. This nerf paired with enough tech in Votann to counter daemons has turned this pairing into quite a favorable match up.
  • Space Marines: Aside from Dark Angels terminators spam, YMYR plays really well into Space Marines in general. The new “let’s spam melta and see what happens” approach with AP-5 meltas does make Votann’s AOC from Void Armour practically useless, but YMYRs invulnerable saves and the no wound re-roll provides that longevity, and the added AP to ranged weapons seals the deal for Votann. Oh, and of course the mass amount of AP-2 Damage 2 carries this pairing quite well. 
  • Chaos Space Marines: With the loss of AOC, this army just does not have the tools or tech to be able to survive Votann. Against the rising popularity of Thunderkyn, CSM just struggle to survive the high ap, damage 3 firepower.
  • Custodes: This pairing has gotten a little harder with the removal of the nerf to the Custodes’ no re-roll & transhuman Stratagems, however Votann still have plenty of ways to stack tokens fast enough on very elite armies. It’s worth noting you can no longer turn up to the table and instantly beat it.

The Negative

Unfortunately there are also negative matchups. Remember when we mentioned armies that can realistically score 95-100 VP more passively? Well, they’re in this list. Let’s talk about the armies that Votann will struggle against.

  • Genestealer Cults: GSC are on the rise in popularity thanks to the nerfs to AOC and improvements to some of their worse matchups, as well as a buff to Ambush and the adjustments to general secondaries (thanks to using troops for basically everything). They’re very good at playing the mission and denying points, but also score Secondary VP whilst doing so. The problem here is that a good GSC player can run rings around Votann; they’re able to utilize their tricks to get good positioning on key units and generally have better secondary scoring than Votann. It’s a hard counter. The only positive is their squishiness, but they do also pack quite a punch.
  • Necrons: This may actually be a surprise to people but hear me out: Necrons are the ultimate passive scoring army – they don’t really have to kill much to score quite high. Luckily they were given some important nerfs such as no pregame move (big for us) and a reduction to some of the scoring potential of their secondaries. However, don’t let this fool you! They can build lists that straight up play the mission, and thanks to a lack of survivable ObSec, and how secondaries like Prospects works, they can outscore you easier than most other armies. The only question is whether you can table them before they hit a point of no return VP-wise. One of the main problems for Votann is Ancestor’s being in the same category as No Prisoners, which makes it a very hard sell when going up against Necrons. Prospects vs a good player with a good list isn’t really scoring much and Lay claim banks on going second.
  • Astra Militarum: Kasrkins, Mobility, Kasrkins, very points efficient Leman Russes and.. Kasrkins? Remember when Votann was nerfed and auto hits no longer counted as 6s to wound because it was too strong? Well GW clearly forgot. Until AM gets toned down the match up is really difficult. Sentinels blocking bikes pregame, Kasrkin being able to immensely trade up, and all the while they can block out deep strikes but also have Russes being incredibly mobile, meaning their sheer efficiency straight up wins this match up.
  • Orks: Orks have been flying under the radar for a while now, however people are starting to wake up and choose violence. Their scoring potential is absolutely huge, thanks to secondaries like Get Da Gud Bitz and Green Tide, however their pure volume of attacks in Goffs or their ObSec on everything infantry in Deathskulls, paired with their mobility during Waaagh creates a recipe for disaster for Votann. This is one of the hardest pairings, unless you play on planet bowling ball and go first.

Brôkhyr Thunderkyn. Credit: Rockfish
Brôkhyr Thunderkyn. Credit: Rockfish

The Lists

Let’s discuss two list possibilities and how they work. I’m a lovely chap so I’m going to share with you two of my personal lists that I have and will continue to be taking to tournaments.

List 1 – Double Fortresses

== Leagues of Brokann – GTL – Arks Detach = (starts on 2CP) == 

HQ1: Uthar = [6PL, 160pts] (Warlord)
– – – Warlord Trait (-1CP) – Experienced Eye, Ancestral Bearing

HQ2: Brokhyr Forge-master [5PL, 115pts]
– – – Warlord Trait (-1CP) – Master Armourer

HQ2: Einhyr Champion [5PL, 130pts]
– – – Warlord Trait (-1CP) – Warrior Lord
– – – Relic (-1CP) – Exactor 

TR1: 10 Hearthkyn Warriors [7PL, 160pts] Magna-rail Rifle, Medipack, Scanner

EL1: 5 Cthonian Berserkers [5PL, 175pts] 5x Concussion Maul, Mole Grenade Launcher

EL1: 5 Cthonian Berserkers [5PL, 175pts] 5x Concussion Maul, Mole Grenade Launcher

FA1: 3 Hernkyn Pioneers = [5PL, 125pts] – 1x HYLas Rotary Cannon, Spectral Scanner, Rolibar Searchlight

FA2: 3 Hernkyn Pioneers = [5PL, 125pts] – 1x HYLas Rotary Cannon, Spectral Scanner, Rolibar Searchlight

HS1: Hekaton Land Fortress [13PL, 310pts] – Heavy Magna-rail Cannon, 4x Bolt Cannons

HS2: Hekaton Land Fortress [13PL, 310pts] – Heavy Magna-rail Cannon, 4x Bolt Cannons

HS3: 3 Brokhyr Thunderkyn [5PL, 105pts] Graviton Blast Cannon

HS4: 3 Brokhyr Thunderkyn [5PL, 105pts] Graviton Blast Cannon

List rundown

This list is designed for more open terrain sets like GWO, UKTC, player placed etc and it works by playing into GTLs strengths – efficiency and primary play. Being able to push the fortresses aggressively, with support from the Forge-master and Uthar, onto objectives means you have a 5 model unit forcing your opponent to have to deplete ObSec units to deny primary. Getting rid of your opponents ObSec early is a great way to max out lay claim at the end of the game, thanks to your 3 bike squad being worth 6 ObSec models, those plus your fortresses almost guarantees.

In terms of damage, you have your fortresses who can be difficult to take down, even in a melta meta, but inside are two squads of berserkers (who in GTL thanks to the extra token) will kill about anything they charge. The grenade launchers help to crowd control thanks to their fight last and half movement. The champion adds that little extra oomf but also helps deal with wound cap models or -1D such as dreads etc. 

The Thunderkyn add a final cherry on top thanks to the free strat reserve, coming on to blow anti elite or vehicles away. Their low strength is balanced by the high chance whatever they will shoot will have 2 tokens on them.

Hernkyn Pioneer. Credit: Rockfish
Hernkyn Pioneer. Credit: Rockfish

List 2 – Bikes go brrrt

== Leagues of Brokann – YMYR – Arks Detach = (0CP) == 

HQ1: High Kahl = [6PL, 130pts] (Warlord) Autach-pattern Combi-bolter, Forge Plasma Axe
– – – Warlord Trait (-1CP) – A long List
– – – Relic (-1CP) – Grudge’s End

HQ2: Grimnyr [5PL, 100pts]
– – – Psychic: Fortify, Interface Echo

EL1: 8 Einhyr Hearthguard [18PL, 360pts] Volkite & Conc Gauntlets
– – – Relic (-1CP) – Warpstryke

EL2: 5 Cthonian Berserkers [5PL, 175pts] Concussion Mauls, Mole Grenade Launcher

FA1: 6 Hernkyn Pioneers = [5PL, 245pts] – 2x HYLas Rotary Cannon, Spectral Scanner, Rolibar Searchlight, Comms

FA2: 6 Hernkyn Pioneers = [5PL, 240pts] – 2x HYLas Rotary Cannon, Spectral Scanner, Rolibar Searchlight

FA3: 3 Hernkyn Pioneers = [5PL, 125pts] – 1x HYLas Rotary Cannon, Spectral Scanner, Rolibar Searchlight

HS1: Hekaton Land Fortress [13PL, 310pts] – Heavy Beamer, 4x Bolt Cannons

HS2: 3 Brokhyr Thunderkyn [5PL, 105pts] Graviton Blast Cannon

HS3: 3 Brokhyr Thunderkyn [5PL, 105pts] Graviton Blast Cannon

HS4: 3 Brokhyr Thunderkyn [5PL, 105pts] Graviton Blast Cannon

List rundown

Ok this is my favourite list. It’s designed to play mostly on WTC terrain styles but can work on a lot of more open terrain sets if you play a slower & methodical approach and utilise strategic reserves. I’ve been team biker ever since the codex dropped, however with the rising costs on units every 2 months and bikers barely changing, along with the loss of AOC, bikes are incredible value at the moment. This list is built with the concept of full damage and aims to just blow your opponent away, off the table and spiritually.

Don’t tell anyone, but the fortress is there mostly to distract your opponent. While it doesn’t have a lot of support due to the lack of a forge-master, it’s still relatively difficult to take down thanks to its 4++, and you can use this to your advantage by forcing your opponents to have to deal with the fortress. In the fort is your crowd control in the form of 5 berserkers with a mole grenade launcher. Never underestimate the damage these can put out, but also how much they can take with their 5++, 4/5+++. Their ultimate tech is the 2CP stratagem to reduce movement speed by half and force fights last – this is going to help you score Prospects.

Alongside the fortress, you have 2 big bike squads who are one of the highest output units in the game. They’re there to do damage, but not go all into your opponent’s face straight away, their 28” range on the two main weapons means you can hang them back and provide excellent fire power, whilst your opponent pushes into the fort. The third bike squad is there to provide support fire, but mostly for prospects & objective holding.

Lastly you have your 4 aces: 8 Hearthguard and 3×3 Thunderkyn. While your opponents are forced to overcommit to reach your bikes and fortress, you can spring your trap and teleport your 8 hearthguard with full rerolls, and drop your 9 Thunderkyn from strat reserve for some serious firepower. Not many armies can survive a full commitment from this list.

Wrapping Things Up

Votann are still good and have a place in the meta though they’ve become more difficult to play in the sense that target selection and macro play skills need to be sharper, as the army is a lot less forgiving. The army is designed with a lot of tech in the form of Warlord traits, relics and stratagems, to deal with most armies. Sadly it just falls down at the secondaries section of the game. Practice Ancestors, Lay claim & Prospects and you’ll go a long way in Arks of Omen.

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