Competitive Innovations Roundtable: Fixing Tau and Custodes

It’s that time again – the meta is creaking under the weight of two oppressive Codexes, and we’re all wondering how on earth they can be fixed. On the last two occasions this happened – Drukhari, and then Ad Mech (plus a bit of Drukhari too) James took up the mantle of writing a Competitive Innovations Editorial on changes that might help balance the faction out. This time, we’ve opened up the floor to some other opinions – still James of course, but with Liam and Rob chiming in too, and also regular guest contributors Innes Wilson of Team Scotland and John Lennon of the Art of War. We tasked each person with coming up with five(ish – we’re not strict about this) changes to these two dominant factions, with a bonus square for generic rules changes that could filter out to the game beyond just those two books, and justifying why. Some (Innes) were harsher than others, but we all agree something needs to be done – and hopefully a bit sooner than May, when the next balance dataslate is due.

James “One_Wing” Grover

Top Tau Changes

  • Points changes to units:
    • Crisis Team/Bodyguards +5pts
    • Shield Drones +3pts
    • Stormsurge +40pts
  • Points changes to wargear:
    • All SMS +5pts (+10 for twin)
    • Airbursts to 10/15/20pts
    • Target Locks to 5pts
    • Homing Beacon +10pts
  • Change Precision of the Hunter to only affect one weapon each time you shoot/fight.
  • Change Exemplar of the Montka and Drop Zone Clear to only work against the closest unit (at target time).
  • No more Outer Enclaves.

Top Custodes Changes

  • Points changes to units:
    • Trajann +30pts
    • Achillus Dreads +10pts
    • Bike Captain +10pts
  • Points changes to wargear
    • Salvo launcher +10pts
  • Emperor’s Auspice to once per turn and always 2CP on non-INFANTRY.
  • Emperor’s Chosen to 5+ vs. Mortal Wounds.

General Change

  • Make Bodyguard redirect attacks to the Bodyguard unit rather than preventing shooting.

Why These Changes

My principle with these remains the same as it was for AdMech and Drukhari – for a first pass, I think you should generally aim to be as minimal as possible to sand the worst edges off the most abusive lists then see if the meta can adapt to what’s left afterwards – and that’s particularly true when there’s other builds that are at least making a decent attempt to nip at the heels of the best stuff, and a new Aeldari codex on the block where Harlequins look strong enough to pitch for a place at the top table. Having said that, it’s clear in hindsight that my first swings at Drukhari and Adeptus Mechanicus weren’t harsh enough, so these are a bit steeper, with unchanged top lists eating north of 100pts of losses on top of some rules nerfs. For those wondering, were it not for the fact that the new Tyranid Codex is next in line we probably would have some suggestions for Crusher/Leviathan too, but it’s too much of a moving target to hit.

With Tau, the must-fix problems right now are indirect, Crisis Suits and a few re-roll abilities being too strong. All are potent enough to need a look in a vacuum, but they also combine to form a nightmarish, board-sweeping voltron that needs taking down a peg as well. Tau indirect fire now mostly being AP-1 and also ignoring Light Cover makes it incredibly good, and suffocates a lot of units out of the metagame entirely, as it means once your infantry are out of transports they can be swept up pretty much incidentally. I wouldn’t be averse to a general hit on indirect in a future Balance Dataslate, but right now Tau at least need to pay more for it. One of the worst uses of it is blowing Drop Zone Clear on a large airburst Crisis Team and being able to evaporate stuff half the board away, and just in general this stratagem (plus Exemplar of the Mont’ka) is a bit over-strong when you can freely split fire to waste multiple units at once. Limiting them to closest unit takes the edge off that a bit, and fits the theme in both cases. For Drop Zone Clear, taking away Outer Enclaves (Farsight Successor World using an Ethereal) would also help, as it isn’t cheap and is currently artificially more usable than it probably should be. Finally on rules changes, Precision of the Hunter is just flatly too much on the models that can take it, and needs a change. I do like that it can set up a model that can help in melee, and I think it’s more reasonable for that, so the change here is designed to still let you go ham with the Onager Gauntlet or Thermoneutronic Projector while dialing back how busted it is in shooting. With all that applied the last tweak I’d make is a price increase on Stormsurges, because as you start tweaking other things I think there’s a genuine risk three becomes the top build, and that would be a horrendous metagame to play in.

Over in Custodes, apart from the fact that lots of stuff is just a bit too cheap now (with salvo bikes and Trajann definitely the worst offenders) the biggest issue for me feels like Emperor’s Auspice. Between this and Arcane Genetic Alchemy at 1CP on small Bike units, it’s such a nightmare to make headway against Custodes, often allowing them to just steamroller players off the board. I do, to be clear, think Custodes need some strong defensive tools to operate, and I would specifically only want to change one of these at first pass to avoid the risk of flipping things too far. Of the two, I think Auspice is by far the more problematic. That it works on Dreadnoughts for 1CP makes it much broader, it often negates committed resources that your opponent has spent CP on, and the tools that provide counterplay against (boosts to hit and wound) are rarer than those that work against Alchemy (re-rolls). The most egregious games with it are definitely the ones where Custodes players just chain use it in both the Shooting and Fight phases for several turns, and limiting it to once a turn should force a few more choices about how best to apply it, while also conveniently making the least impact on its effectiveness in the Tau matchup. It does, also, need to go up to 2CP for Bikers and Dreads – with how many CP Custodes tend to have access to thanks to Trajann, you need this so there’s an actual cost to slamming it on these powerful units. The other rules change I’d want to see is the Emperor’s Chosen’s mortal protection going to a 5+, because even on Cutsodes bodies, which tend to be relatively expensive per wound, a 4+ is just too much of a shutdown on any Mortal Wound toys your opponent has brought along. I get what they were going for with mirroring the 4+ invulnerable save, and trying to “price in” the fact that they get a 6+ on baseline, but it’s ended up being over the top. You could maybe go halfway and have it be 4+ against psychic and 5+ against everything else, but even that just feels like a gigantic middle finger against Thousand Sons. Add some point changes to the very worst offenders on top of these and I think you have a workable initial pass.

For both these sets I think you’d end up with armies which were more tractable to try and build counters for – they’d still both be very strong, but hopefully not overwhelmingly so. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably more likely that Tau would need a second pass here – as mentioned above Custodes feel to me like they could unravel pretty quickly if you went too far, whereas Tau’s unit range and list diversity are extremely high, so they might be able to pivot to something else just as unpleasant. Glancing down the page at what others have written, I think the things I’d specifically try and avoid doing are hitting Auspice and Alchemy at the same time (for the reasons outlined above) and taking CORE off Broadsides (because I think they become irrelevant and outmoded outside maybe Tau Sept if you do). Last of all, I do agree with the general consensus that Bodyguard has caused too many issues for too long, and my favoured fix for it is to make it so that when an attack is targeted at a relevant character, the player with the Bodyguard can choose for it to to target the Bodyguard unit instead, regardless of range and LoS. That’s still strong, and allows a Bodyguard unit to guarantee absorbing an overkill amount of firepower from a single unit (because the swap happens at target time) but should knock the current problems down several pegs.

Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

As I mentioned in last week’s article, T’au are a lot more difficult than Custodes, though Custodes are a much bigger problem, both in that they have higher win rates and are easier for weaker players to win with. 

Game Rule Changes

  • Add a clause in Bodyguard rules preventing them from being used to prevent VEHICLE units from being targeted

Proposed Tau Changes

  • Crisis Battlesuits +5 points
  • Crisis Bodyguards +5 points
  • Shield drones +3 points
  • Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors increased to +10/+20/+25
  • Adjust rules for Allied Worlds: Farsight Allied Worlds cannot take Ethereals
  • Commander in Coldstar Battlesuit +10 points
  • Commander in Crisis Battlesuit +10 points
  • Ethereals +15 points, Aun’Va and Aun’Shi +15 points each
  • Stormsurge +20 points
  • Change Precision Hunter to re-roll 1s to hit and wound

Proposed Custodes Changes

  • Trajann +40 points
  • Vertus Praetors – Salvo Launcher +10 points
  • Allarus Terminators +5 points
  • Emperor’s Chosen: 5+ save against mortal wounds
  • Emperor’s Auspice: Increase to flat 2 CP, change wording/timing to “Use this Stratagem at the start of your opponent’s Shooting Phase, or at the start of any Fight phase.”
  • Change the cost of The Eagle’s Strike Stratagem to 0 CP.

Why These Changes

There’s a lot to cover here. The big starting one for me is the change in the core rules to the Bodyguard special rules. Preventing those rules from affecting VEHICLE units fixes several issues, such as Crisis Bodyguards protecting Longstrike, and older issues like protecting Ravenwing Talonmasters and Iron Hands Contemptors. There’s no reason for this to be the case and it’s a loophole that’s been open too long.


The T’au have so many good units it’s hard to pick just a few for increases. But there are some common units across all the successful lists and we should focus our efforts on those first. The big ones are Crisis Suits, which are the core of the army and show up in every single competitive list. They’ve gotta go up, and with them Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors. Add in the Shield Drones that make them so difficult to crack and you can get them to a place where they’re still plenty playable, but give the army a bit less to work with when going all in on them.

In addition to Crisis Suits, Ethereals are also a big piece of the problem, buffing both Crisis and Broadside Battlesuits. Making them more expensive and closing the loophole that allows them in Farsight allied worlds will also help cut down on the problem. Finally there’s the Stormsurge, which is still playable at 350 points but less likely to show up in groups of 3.

Finally there’s the Precision Hunter Warlord Trait, which is just bonkers good, and to the point where it crowds out other options and becomes an auto-take, while also making Crisis Commanders incredibly good. Changing it to 1s to hit and wound still leaves it as a very good ability without making it so good you have to take it.


I’ve got two main goals here: First, to bring the total value of the Custodes faction down, which is primarily accomplished through point increases on Trajann, Allarus Terminators, and Vertus Praetors, the last of which showed up in every. Single. Custodes list, typically with 2 or more units. As part of this I’d also recommend moving the Emperor’s Auspice Stratagem to a flat 2 CP with an adjustment in timing. The reason for the adjustment is that right now it can be used to turn off re-rolls after an opponent spends CP to gain them, which is a real bad interaction. Moving it to start-of-phase forces the Custodes player to actually think about its use and make decisions, while preventing it from screwing over an opponent from both a power and CP standpoint. 

The second goal is to improve list diversity, which means scaling back Emperor’s Chosen and giving you a reason to consider some of the other subfactions. A 5+ ignore wounds roll against mortal wounds is standard for other factions, and goes a long way to making the Emperor’s Chosen good without being the absolute best choice all the time. And because I’m not averse to buffs where they can create interesting decisions, I’d reduce the cost of The Eagle’s Strike Stratagem to 0 CP, giving players a more compelling reason to consider the Solar Watch over other Shield Hosts. The Stratagem already does so little while having a monster hoop to jump through that it can afford to be free.

Put these together and you increase the likelihood of players taking Shadowkeepers or Emissaries Imperatus while also shaving off about 150-200 points on the average Custodes list. Salvo Launcher Praetors are still good, but there are better reasons to take other units, forcing more list diversity and hopefully scaling the faction back to a “mere” 65% win rate. 

John Lennon

Top Tau Changes

  • Indirect fire can never re-roll a hit or wound without line of sight
  • Characters within 3” of bodyguards can be targeted if they are the closest visible target. 
  • Stormsurge +40 points
  • Repulsor Impact Fields and Photon Grenades cannot stack
  • Farsight Allied Worlds may take two commanders per detachment, but not ethereals

Top Custodes Changes

  • Revert to all of the original points from the codex
  • Trajan to 200
  • Characters within 3” of bodyguards can be targeted if they are the closest visible target. 
  • Change Arcane Genetic Alchemy to 2cp
  • Change Emperor’s Auspice to 2/3 CP
  • Change Esteemed Amalgam to 2cp
  • Change Lockwarden to melee attacks
  • Change Salvo Launchers to d6 damage

Tau Empire

I’m not going to pretend to be a huge Tau fan here, I usually don’t like the way the army plays on the tabletop. But, I think several of Tau’s worst excesses can be fixed with core rules changes that will also tone down my beloved Hive Guard. The worst part of watching an endless parade of Tau smackdowns for me has been watching how many of the games have been straight up massacres, where it immediately was apparent that the Tau’s victim had no gameplan other than to pray for dice to save them. First up, make indirect and bodyguard much worse across the board. Bodyguard was abusive with Talonmasters and Celestine, and is abused now with Commanders and Shield Captains. If Tyrant Guard or Chaos Chosen have a bodyguard rule in upcoming books, I guarantee they will be auto-include units as well. Enough is enough. 

After that, I wanted to remove the most “feel bad” elements. Getting shot by commanders and indirect you can’t shoot back sucks, but the next worst thing is realizing you can’t even charge the mobile shooting army because they start stacking negatives to your charge rolls. Failing a charge in front of a Tau army should lead to some casualties, but it leads to feeling helpless when these start stacking. Finally, the stormsurge. As a knight aficionado I can’t comprehend how a 2+/4++ superheavy is this cheap. Start it at 370, and even after buying it some good weapons it’ll be sub 400 and clearly superior to any Knight variant. I’ve tried to be light with points changes because I firmly believe that overperforming armies should be tuned down with care, not hammered into oblivion all at once. If these changes go in and Tau continues to dominate, we could look at points changes in the next update. Just… please don’t wait as long as we did for Drukhari.

Adeptus Custodes

I really want to love the Custodes book, but its sins cannot be ignored. I believe that the bodyguard nerf I mentioned in Tau is just as needed here, because I am sick to death of watching a hero of the Imperium stand alone on an objective in front of several battle tanks without being at risk of damage while his cheerleaders sit behind a wall. First up, let’s just handwave the insultingly bad points drops away and go back to the points in the codex. Yes, Trajann is still too cheap at 200, but it feels weird to me to raise a unit by more than 40 points at a time. In addition to being one unit too many, it feels like Custodes’ defensive stratagems are too good and too inexpensive, and very difficult to work around. In older days, you used to try and outwait custodes armies that bled through CP quickly trying to keep expensive models alive, and on turn 3 or 4 you could punish their suddenly mortal units with rerolls. That’s completely gone now, as many lists have CP to spare on a host of incredibly strong 1cp stratagems while regaining command points. Revert the old points and adding 30 to Trajan “only” takes the current list archetypes up by about 80 to 90 points, but taking their 3 strongest stratagems up a CP should help tone down the army, and especially Emperor’s Chosen, a good amount. 

I wrote these nerfs and realized we hadn’t slowed down their offense at all, so I decided to try and make Salvo Launchers a little less reliable by changing the damage value rather than just trying to price them out of viability. Custodes will still have enough CP to weather one turn of fire, but I don’t want them to tank a turn and then table an opponent as reliably as they currently do. Let’s scale down the damage creep and tune a few d3+3 weapons into d6 again. Bikes completely remove the normal weaknesses of a massed damage 2 army, and I’d like for vehicles and monsters to feel a little more relevant into the Golden boys.

Innes Wilson

Top Tau Changes

  • Remove Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors and Cyclic Ion Blasters from the weapons list for Crisis Suits and Crisis Bodyguard, +5pts per model. If no removal, +10pts at all levels for both weapons
  • Stormsurge +70pts 
  • Precision of the Hunter to change to RR1s to hit and wound
  • Exemplar of the Mont’ka provides Reroll Wounds vs Closest Target only
  • Shield Drones +3pts
  • Repulsor Impact Field cannot be used vs VEHICLE, MONSTER or FLY units
  • Broadsides lose CORE and +10pts, SMS +10pts

Top Custodes Changes

  • Emperors Chosen to 5+ FNP vs Mortal Wounds
  • Emperor’s Auspice, Arcane Genetic Alchemy, Tanglefoot Grenades changed to once per unit per game
  • Revert Chapter Approved points updates to Custodes
  • Trajan Valoris +40pts
  • Salvo Launchers +10pts
  • Contemptor Achillus and Contemptor Galatus +10pts

Top Generic Change

  • Gut the bodyguard rule from the inside out and leave its corpse as a warning
  • Nerf indirect as a core mechanic 

Why These Changes

I always believe that it’s fundamentally more of a problem to undernerf a faction than overnerf them, so I’m aiming a little higher than most here. If these changes are too much, compensation buffs are always an option, but leaving these armies at too strong levels for another 3 months is not in my opinion.

Tau: The fundamental issue I have with this faction is that it is too easy to stack buffs on medium efficiency weapons like the AFP while still maintaining resilience both through drones and indirect fire. By hitting Exemplar of the Mont’ka and making it an “upgraded Mont’ka” it aligns more with the theming and forces the tau player to make choices rather than gaining incredibly efficient split fire.

The way I’d choose to hit Crisis Suis. would be to take the same approach many codices this edition have taken of tweaking weapons options to better fit what’s in the box. Neither Airbursting Fragmentation Projectors nor Cyclic Ion Blasters appear in that box so why are they legal options? I don’t think this will happen, but this change would limit the options of a unit that would be incredibly powerful without them. Making them slightly more expensive on top of this, or much more expensive in the instance these weapons remain, while adding a way to play around their difficulty to charge with Repulsor Impact Field will extend counterplay to these units which altogether show up far too much in competitive play.

Broadsides are also showing up an unhealthy amount and provide too much firepower while also having a Thunderfire Cannon attached. They’re extremely resilient for the cost, and have very little downside to getting tagged in combat due to being able to split fire out of said, particularly in Farsight Enclaves where the inbuilt markerlight nullifies the heavy penalty for being engaged. Removing CORE prevents the worst of the buffing shenanigans possible, while hitting both base cost and SMS cost allows other options to potentially see play while taking the edge off how many shots you can cram in a list.

Shield Drones and Stormsurges are both far too efficient for their cost and could stand to see a hit of about 20% each. Stormsurges aren’t the most popular T’au build by any means but “Better Knights with 1000 points of scoring” isn’t an archetype I think should exist for this codex.

Finally, Precision of the Hunter is just too efficient on a Commander who can pack as much ranged firepower as some mainline tanks while being untargetable and also having melee output in an army with that as its primary weakness is too much and is homogenizing the T’au codex’s list design

Custodes: Here, the issue is that Custodes are far too capable of trading their command point resources for your actual resources, while also having units that are simply too cheap for purpose and nullify their primary weakness to mortal wounds. Hitting the Emperor’s Chosen trait allows that weakness to shine through without removing the soul of its identity.

I think everyone is on board with the idea that the Chapter Approved changes to Custodes were premature and a reversion on them would go a long way to restoring their appropriate points costing barring a few problem units.

Said units that are too efficient are proving to be Trajann, who funds near unlimited command points, Salvo Armed Vertus Praetors and both variants of the Forgeworld Contemptor Chassis which have gained tremendously from the new Shield Host traits they previously did not receive, while having no rules changes and few rules losses. 

While hitting at the command point costs of the Custodes’ primary defensive stratagems would definitely slow the army down, personally I find the “counterspell” aspect of them fairly engaging and think it adds a decent amount of identity to a faction that otherwise generally lacks one. The Ka’tahs have added a proactive aspect to them but requires planning, and having a mechanic that you can use as a bit of a way to get out of jail free is appealing with a faction with limited model counts. 

Limiting each stratagem (Tanglefoot, Arcane Genetic Alchemy and Emperor’s Auspice) to once per unit per game allows you to play an aggressive piece trading game, while weakening the “all at once wave” that Custodes are capable of where you simply have too many things to deal with and they always have near perfect responses. This could also be done by making the stratagems more expensive, or start of phase, but I think this preserves the soul of the playstyle while making it less wholly offensive and requiring more forethought from the Custodes player and more punishing for them to get wrong.

Overall Game: I hate bodyguard and indirect so much. Interactivity good, not interactive bad. 

For me, I’d look at something like “bodyguard always count as 3+ models for the purposes of look out sir, and the bodyguarded models cannot be targeted by weapons that ignore look out sir unless the character is the closest target to the attacking model” leaving them a niche as small squads that can protect characters while not invalidating overwatch or allowing them to stand on objectives threatening heroics for almost no cost, and minimising snipers.

Indirect on the other hand, I’d almost advocate just removing it, but as that probably won’t fly I have some other ideas. Perhaps making it work like overwatch, only hitting on unmodified 6s unless you have LoS would be the easiest to sell, or removing its ability to use rerolls to Shots, Hits, Wounds and Damage. Hive Guard, Airburst, Manticores, hell even 8th ed Eliminators have shown time and time again that indirect cannot be trusted to be a healthy mechanic and I think its diminishing would be a net improvement to the game.

Liam “Corrode” Royle

Top Five Tau Changes

  • Crisis Team/Crisis Bodyguard weapon options restricted to what’s in the kit, and +10 to Crisis bodies generally. If you don’t restrict the weapon options, then +10 to the first two levels of each of AFP/CIB/plasma rifle (e: on reflection, +10 was too much – +5 on bodies, AFP, CIB, no change to plasmas)
  • Stormsurge to 400pts base. Broadsides to 90pts base and lose CORE
  • SMS to +10pts everywhere they appear (twin SMS to +25) (e: for clarity’s sake, that means 10pts per SMS, not +10 on top of their current cost), shield drones to 15pts per
  • Precision of the Hunter adds “once per turn, select one weapon,” Exemplar of the Mont’ka adds “so long as that unit is the closest eligible unit.” 
  • FSE Allied Worlds follow the same composition rules as proper FSE. Drop Zone Clear becomes 3CP/4CP, remove reference to Homing Beacon

Top Five Custodes Changes

  • Revert the CA points drops, Trajann to 200, salvo launchers to +15, Contemptors +10 each
  • Emperor’s Chosen to 5+ against mortals 
  • Esteemed Amalgam to once per shield host per game
  • Arcane Genetic Alchemy to 2CP/3CP 
  • Emperor’s Auspice to 2CP/3CP. Move Emperor’s Auspice to start of Shooting/Fight phase

Top Generic Change

  • Add “so long as this unit is visible to the firing model” to all Bodyguard rules, and require every model in the unit being protected to be within 3”
  • Add “When firing at models not within line of sight, attacks made with this weapon are always made at -1 to the hit roll, cannot receive positive modifiers of any kind, and hit, wound, and damage rolls cannot be re-rolled” to all weapons which are eligible to fire at targets not in line of sight
  • All -1 damage traits to add “against weapons S7 or lower”, or adjust all of them to say “to a minimum of 2”, EXCEPT Death Guard

Why These Changes

T’au Empire

In terms of the Crisis stuff, it’s pretty straightforward – we’re routinely seeing lists with between 5 and 15 Crisis Suits in different combinations, putting out ungodly amounts of firepower of all kinds. There’s some weapons you can point to as being a Big Deal, but it’s remarkable how inconsistent the weapon choices are between lists – in recent Competitive Innnovations articles we’ve featured teams with nothing but airbursting frag projectors, and armies that don’t include a single one. That suggests that even though some of the guns are a problem, the base cost of a Crisis Suit is just too cheap – putting the two types up by 10pts each addresses the core problem. Restricting the units to the weapons that are actually in the kit just makes sense; it’s happened to a number of different datasheets in 9th (check out the horror shows in the Ork and Death Guard Codexes, for example) and it’s a likely direction of travel for many more. AFPs and CIBs aren’t in the Crisis Team box, and there’s no reason they should be able to access them when Blightlords have to maintain six separate dice pools to deal with their weapon loadouts.

Stormsurges and Broadsides are also showing up a lot. Stormsurges are just far too cheap, both in general and also for their weight class. Nothing with comparable offence and defence is coming in at 330pts base, and neither should they. Broadsides are in a similar category to Ironstrider Ballistarii, where they just get far too much by being CORE – make them a little more expensive, but also drop CORE from them, so you’re at least working with their innate capabilities instead of them also being able to access buffs from across the codex.

Also hitting Broadsides (or at least the current most popular loadout) and T’au indirect generally – raise points on SMS, and raise points on Shield Drones. We’ll return to indirect as a theme in the general changes, but they’re another one of those things that is just too damn cheap for what you get, and creates negative play for opponents. Drones being in squads now is mostly better than the insane situation in 8th edition, but it has the side effect that units which can take them offer very few angles for efficient attack – Crisis and Broadside units get great offence, are reasonably tough defensively in themselves, and also can foul up opponents’ attempts to hit them back with smart drone play. They’re units with no weaknesses – especially as they can fire in melee, too – and that is never great design. I don’t actually hate the way they play, and it’s nice to see T’au armies actually featuring Crisis Teams after they spent most of the last five years being bad, but they’re not paying enough for the privileges they enjoy.

Finally some more general changes. For Precision of the Hunter I favour James’ suggestion of picking one weapon to benefit, though I’d make it per turn – in a lot of cases re-roll 1s to hit and wound is nearly the same effect as they have now, and part of the problem with the trait is that you just get so many things it applies to between the Commander having a number of high quality guns and also, in most cases where it’s being used, quality melee as well. Forcing a choice between the two things instead of having a character model that’s great at both will help make it less of an auto-pick. Exemplar of the Mont’ka I am mostly taking the lead from the rest of the team on – a general re-roll wounds effect is just incredibly strong for the targets you can hand it out to, and forcing it to the closest eligible target means an opponent actually has some form of counterplay. FSE Allied Worlds brought in line with regular FSE composition rules closes a loophole that gives you 90% of the FSE package, and Drop Zone Clear becomes both more costly and also no longer something you can utilise on turn 1. We got rid of turn 1 deep striking back in 8th edition for exactly this reason; being able to load up powerful alpha strike that is completely untouchable while also being able to use it on turn 1 for zero or near-zero cost is just awful design, and especially when it’s applied to something with the diversity of shooting and the sheer volume of stuff as Crisis Suits.

Adeptus Custodes

The Custodes changes are more straightforward, because I think their problems are simpler to address. Revert the CA points drops, which looked like a huge mistake at the time and have proven to be so ever since. Move Trajann up to 200 and make salvo launchers +15, so that they have real cost instead of being nearly free, and shift the Dreadnoughts a little – they’re just a touch undercosted compared to what they gain from the new Codex.

The remaining stuff is all about the army-level rules – reverting the points drops and upping Trajann, salvoes, and the Dreadnoughts fixes most of the basic “Custodes get too much stuff” problem, but there’s a few traits and Stratagems causing issues too. Adjusting the Emperor’s Chosen trait to be a 5+ against mortal wounds instead of 4+ is a no-brainer to me; we saw the exact same problem in the other direction from another effect that moved a 6+ to a 4+ (Skitarii Vanguard and their strat), and it’s cropping up again now. If you have something that works on a 6+ (in this case, Aegis of the Emperor) and move it to a 5+ that is a meaningful improvement which makes it “a bit better at the same job,” switching it to a 4+ is a dramatic improvement out of scale with what the original thing did. Similarly, Esteemed Amalgam is a cool idea for a Stratagem but as currently implemented it’s too much. Allowing you to use it to take advantage of a trait in a key situation is fine, but make it once per shield host per game, so the Custodes player actually has to think about where it’ll make a real impact.

Similarly the two defensive Stratagems; both of them are just too damn cheap for what they offer, especially in an army which can reliably expect to regain a CP every turn from Trajann, and for the baseline toughness of the units they’re protecting. Adjusting the timing of Emperor’s Auspice also sidesteps problems like an opponent wasting CP on re-rolls that the Custodes player just turns off, with no counterplay possible except “don’t use your stuff,” and again forces the Custodes player to actually have to think and make a bit of a risk assessment – what is the unit most likely to benefit from this each turn – and not just be able to act with perfect information every time.

Generic Changes

My suggested Bodyguard change makes sense to me because the biggest issue is that they offer no counterplay – two idiots can stand behind a wall and be immediately immune to 95% of the game’s shooting, while making the character/s they’re protecting immune to 100%. The only counterplay is running up and punching them, or indirect shooting – which we’ll turn to in a minute. Forcing the Bodyguards to be visible means that you can actually do something about them, and might mean that players take more than the absolute minimum number of models required to achieve it; the final point around all models in the CHARACTER unit specifically addresses stuff like Celestine, where you can string the unit out a tremendous distance from its “bodyguards.” 

Unlike some of the other commentary I don’t particularly want to scope VEHICLE units out of it, because I don’t see any reason that Morvenn Vahl and Talonmasters should be scoped out but Guilliman, a character in a similar weight class, should be scoped in purely based on a difference in keywords; equally I fully expect Tyrant Guard to do this for Hive Tyrants as a core part of their design, and having that be ok but the aforementioned not again feels like it’s fixing the wrong problem. I’d also keep the “super Look Out Sir” aspect to make it meaningfully different to regular units doing the same thing, but I’m not super worried about having to keep Bodyguard relevant – it’s a rule that should be a nice to have rather than the sole or central purpose of a unit, and if all a particular datasheet is good for is creating a negative experience as Bodyguards mostly do right now, then it’s not a good datasheet, and we shouldn’t continue with a bad rule just because it gives meaning to a bad unit.

Turning to indirect, I’m more on Innes’ side than the others here – indirect is in the same category as flyers, where it’s never possible for it to be powerful and fun at the same time, and I would like to see equally stringent general restrictions on it as the two-flyer limit we got in the first balance dataslate. Adjusting through datasheets alone just creates the effect we’re seeing now – Thunderfire Cannons were way too good in 8th edition, and then were nuked into oblivion accordingly, which did absolutely nothing to fix Rukkatrukks or Hive Guard or AFPs or shadow weavers or whatever the next indirect unit that’s too cheap for too much ends up being. Forcing it to be always -1 to hit, and unable to benefit from positive modifiers or re-rolls of any kind, means that it still is a relevant extra thing a model can do, but that you can no longer get top-class shooting that is also hidden away behind a wall – if you want to your units to fire at full effect, then you have to accept some risk. Similar to Bodyguard, the point is to keep indirect as a relevant capability – something that you can use to dig out hidden objective holders, or to launch early attacks when you can’t draw line of sight – but not something where you can build around stacking a half dozen buffs on a single unit with powerful indirect shooting, with none of your stuff at risk.

Not wholly related to these two armies, but addressing an issue that is likely to rear its head again if/when T’au and Custodes are brought back into line, is the suggestion around -1 damage traits. The conversation has moved on a bit, but Crusher Stampede is still the most reliable non-Taustodes army showing up in top 4s, and will likely climb again with a) nerfs to those two and b) a new Codex with new datasheets (though it may also lose out from some of the janky early-8th stuff in the current book going away). These traits are again a thing that has been addressed in a patchwork way, but they should all work the same. GW’s preferred fixed here seems to be that high-Strength weapons ignore it. I personally think that’s thinking about it the wrong way around, and that the problem is mid-Strength 2-damage weapons being neutralised; changing the language to say “to a minimum of 2” scopes that stuff back in but still provides meaningful reduction against damage 3 or better. Either way, can we please just make it consistent? Widespread -1 damage isn’t any more fun to play against when the beneficiaries are Harpies or Harridans than it was Talos or Grotesques. As mentioned in the bullets, I’d scope Death Guard out here – they’re fine, and it’s a lot easier to price in -1 damage when you can just assume they have it all the time, whereas it’s very difficult to cost such a powerful effect when it’s an optional thing.


Top Five Tau Changes

  • AFPs move from Assault d6 to Assault 4.
  • This isn’t because I think they need nerfs, I just don’t feel like rolling that many d6s.
  • Give Crisis bodyguards the fourth hardpoint that regular Crisis get. It’s not fair.
  • Fusion Blades as regular XV8 wargear. Where are my beam sabers, GW?
  • No other notes.

Top Five Custodes Changes

  • Trajann +80 points, moved to LoW.
  • Bikes are now a 0-1 choice.
  • Land Raiders are now a 1+ choice: you have to take at least one.
  • The 4+++ against Mortals is now a 5+++. This is my only somewhat serious proposal.
  • Rename Martial Katahs to Marital Karates.

Why These Changes

I’m very disappointed in all of you. I finally have an army that I can auto-pilot to wins and you absolute killjoys immediately try to take it away. Is it good for the meta, for Tau to be cruising to 5-1 finishes off of a couple of blatantly unfun mechanics? Admittedly, no, not really. But consider also that I don’t give a shit.

Where was this sky-is-falling urge to “fix” things when it was AdMech, or Drukhari, or other factions I don’t own, that were ruining everyone’s fun? We probably did write about it a bunch but I’m not going to go back and check. It’s not worth ruining a good Angry Brain just because the facts don’t line up. Nearly everyone else in this article has a giant wad of Eldar they’ve been able to run hog wild with (Rob is allowed to complain, on account of how dirty his Chaos boys have been done) for years, but when it’s my turn, you people start trying to ruin it for me before I even get started. You can’t rain on my parade fast enough. It’s shameful.

I’ll grant that Precision of the Hunter seems good at first glance – I’m not aware of anything else in the game that offers full hit and wound re-rolls on both shooting and punching – but it’s only one model. If you can’t plan around that, you need to step your game up. With a mere four guns, offering a meager maximum of 28 shots, I don’t think that’s an unreasonable buff for a character that can cost as much as 1.2 Trajanns. If you have a problem with Smart Missiles – which say smart right in the name, so what else did you expect here – simply do not come within 30” of them. Easy fix. It isn’t my problem if you happen to wander into a 60” circle of Macross jets carpet-bombing the planet. That’s on you. Crisis Suits too cheap? Look to your own house, and make more efficient choices. 30 points per model, with WS5+ and so few attacks, is almost criminal, and you want to make them worse? Frankly, this is just rude. You’re all being very mean to me right now.

There’s a giant hole in Turkmenistan, that started off as a Soviet gas mine until it caught fire. It looks like a portal to hell, and is exactly as cool as it sounds. A thousand feet wide and full of red-hot coals, it will be burning for hundreds of years. The air currents from it are so violent that helicopters and airplanes have to avoid flying too low over it, or they’ll get thrown off course and fall in. It’s like a permanent volcano. They should recall the Custodes codex and the balance data slate, load all the copies into a truck, and Thelma and Louise that bad boy directly into said hole.

Tau are fine. Custodes deserve to be thrown off a boat like an old car battery.

Wrap Up

So, that’s five different takes on how to deal with what we’re currently up against, with a pretty wide spectrum of takes about the required harshness. There are some pretty clear themes that emerge – indirect fire, Emperor’s Auspice, Bodyguards, Crisis Suits and Trajann really stand out as the things that we largely all agree need tweaking, but there’s plenty of nuance in there. Let us know what you think (or formulate elaborate conspiracy theories about which of us hates your army personally) in the comments.