This year the Las Vegas Open (LVO) had a final showdown that was completely tied based on points. When looking at tiebreakers Jeremy Lefebvre was able to win the 343 person event because he scored his grand strategy and denied do so to his opponent. Here at Goonhammer we’ve been thinking about Grand Strategies for a while and how much of an impact they’ve had on the game and win rates. Margins of victory in Age of Sigmar are pretty narrow in most games, making a six-point swing enough to turn most games.
This is data which previously wasn’t available but since we implemented Age of Sigmar game tracking in our Tabletop Battles App we’ve collected data on thousands of games. So it was past time for us to dive into that data and start looking about what we can say about AoS games and today we’re starting with Grand Strategies.
Table of Contents
For the initial data run we looked at 42,622 games that were submitted to the Tabletop Battles App between May 14, 2024 and January 7, 2023 by app users and readers just like you. I looked at small sample of data with a breakdown of points, factions, grand strategy, when the game took place and who the winner was.
- Primary Points – these are points that are scored through holding objectives and accomplishing special objectives on the battle plan (such as killing a wizard unit in Power Flux) – 54.9% of points scored in the sample were primary points
- Tactics Points – Scored by completing battle tactics during the game. The Tabletop Battles App allows players to what tactics were taken and if they were scored each round. What specific tactics are taken is not typically reported as part of event scoring in Age of Sigmar. 37.5% of points scored in the sample were Tactics Points.
- Grand Strategy Points – Scored by completing a Grand Strategy at the end of a game. Grand Strategies are picked as part of the list building process and included in every event. A Grand Strategy is worth 3 points and you either complete it for the full value or fail it for no points. These points only account for 7.7% of points scored by players of Age of Sigmar.
Our sample is a mixture of casual, local RTT games, practice games, and GT games. Basically, whatever people submitted is included in the sample so it might not look like what you’d typically in a 2-day event environment. The only adjustment we made to the data was removing games for which no Grand Strategy was entered, leaving us with a sample of 19,518 games.
Note: Prior to November 2023 we hadn’t broken out Orruk Warclans in the app as faction choices, leading to grouping Bonesplitters, Big Waaagh!, Ironjawz, and Kruleboyz players together. The majority of Orruk players picked the faction-agnostic “WAAAGH!” grand strategy making it difficult to allocate these names to the respective factions. This data is presented “as-is” and if you’ve updated your TTBA it is no longer possible to select “Orruk Warclans” as a faction.
Games of Age of Sigmar in sample are relatively tight – there were 957 ties and 52% of games had a margin of victory of six or fewer points. If each player maxed out primary and secondary points but one was successful in completing a grand strategy and the other failed the margin would be six points.
What is a Grand Strategy?
Grand Strategies are determined by players during list selection and must be selected from:
- A generic list of strategies in the battlepack.
- Faction specific Grand Strategies coming from a Battletome or other Expansion.
A unit cannot be “allied in” to allow a Grand Strategy. I, like many players, view the Grand Strategies in the 2023-2024 GHB as being more difficult to achieve compared to any other matched play ruleset. In our review of the GHB Goonhammer discussed the six generic grand strategies and noted:
So what is a “difficult” grand strategy and what does our sample look like when it comes to building a baseline success rate.
Based on the chart above players in our sample are more likely to fail a grand strategy than succeed. Additionally, winning players are both more likely to score a grand strategy and losing players are more likely to fail a grand strategy. This is the part of the article where it is revealed that this outstanding insights were funded through a ten year program and $50 million grant to tell us that, yes the sky is blue. Players are more likely to choose a grand strategy provided by a faction book than the Generals Handbook grand strategies.
Anyone can take a grand strategy from the Generals Handbook, but it seems like only three are being picked with any sort of regularity. As we can see, three of the GHB Grand Strategies are selected with any regularity and two are scored at or above the average Grand Strategy Success Rate. These contenders are:
- Spellcasting Savant requires your general to be an ANDTORIAN LOCUS, a non-unique wizard with 9 or fewer wounds. Some armies, like Seraphon or Stormcast, have relatively tanky wizards which can be protected, making this a sensible choice. Others, like Gloomspite Gitz or Skaven, have extremely frail wizards which don’t need another “KILL ME PLEASE” target. Based on the data in our sample this is the best overall GHB grand strategy but it is highly dependent on your faction.
- Slaughter of Sorcery requires there to be no wizard units alive at the end of the battle. Yes, it is possible to walk to the table and score this grand strategy if both armies armies don’t include wizards. While several armies appear built to take this strategy Khorne accounts for 55.4% of the selections of this Grand Strategy.
- Overshadow requires you to kill all your opponents battleline and have at least 1 friendly battleline unit alive from your STARTING army. Using and instead of or raises the difficulty of this Grand Strategy and this explains the low success rate. Based on the data only three armies should ever consider taking this and two of them have much better choices.
One thing I want to point out about these Grand Strategies is that the success rate follows the amount of cooperation and interaction you need from your opponent. Historically, players are trying to keep wizards with 9 or fewer wounds alive and away from your opponent making Spellcasting Savant a natural extension of the way you’re going to play the game. Slaughter of Sorcery doesn’t require you to do anything different if you don’t bring a wizard since often you’re trying to figure out how to get to those soft buffing targets. Compare those to Overshadow, which requires a lot of work on both sides as you’re attempt to clear out three (or more) battleline units and preventing one of your battleline units from dying.
Finally, I want to note that Magic Made Manifest has the lowest selection rate among Grand Strategies with a success rate that is above average. Normally this would be the time to make a hedged statement that implying that the community is overlooking a strategy. However, the total number of outcomes is less than one percent of the sample and the armies that would benefit from this strategy the most (Lumineth, Seraphon, Disciples of Tzeentch) all have stronger choices. With the release of Ionus Cryptborn and his ability to dispel an endless spell on a 2+ I think that this strategy is even weaker now than when it was released.
Often times the best Grand Strategy for a faction comes from a battletome directly. The ten most popular Grand Strategies from battletomes have four standouts with extremely high success rates relative to the general Grand Strategy success rate.
- Selfish Desire – This Hedonites of Slaanesh strategy is the highest scoring Grand Strategy in the sample, with a success rate of 80.1%. It requires you to have not summoned a daemon unit during the game, making the condition completely under a player’s control and unlike many of the Grand Strategies, you start the game scoring this by default. However, it’s only taken by Hedonites lists in 55.9% of games. If you’re not reliant on or expecting to summon units this is a top-tier choice – and in fact, it will likely be worth it to just plan on not summoning to ensure a reliable Grand Strategy. As an added bonus, this makes packing your army for an event really easy.
- Master of Destiny – The most popular Disciples of Tzeentch Grand Strategy gives us another Chaos God option which 1. Players START the game having earned and 2. Cannot be affected by your opponent’s actions. Disciples of Tzeentch players need only to make sure they get off a casting value 6 spell to replace a dice if they choose to use one. If Tzeentch wasn’t sacrificing a bound wizard to make the incarnate go wild you could almost make an argument that they may benefit from looking at another strategy and use those destiny dice more. However, they have EXTREMELY squishy wizards and score this at a high rate.
- Bloodthirsty Zealots – Finally, a strategy that your opponent can interact with! Daughters of Khaine only need to have each model fight or die during the course of the game. For an army where every single unit is able move quickly and wants to get into combat, this proves to be a very easy to accomplish strategy. Unlike the first two this requires active movement by the player and doesn’t start off in the “accomplished” state. However a mobile glass cannon army like Daughters of Khaine is going to be able to ensure they have fought with every until over the course of five rounds.
- Master of the Forge – This grand strategy requires investment in some of the most powerful and well pointed models in the game, Fyreslayer Invocations. By having a single invocation on the board a naked angry dwarf army is going to score this strategy. Unlike endless spells this strategy is extremely difficult to interact with and at least one of the innvocations (runic firewall) has an option to skill the potentially self-dispelling rolling doubles. However, with the rise of priest heavy Khorne and the recent release of Ionus Cryptborn this isn’t the gimmie that it was when released. Once on the table invocations tend to hang around unless the controller rolls doubles and gets a spectacular effect before the invocation is moved off the table. Another quirk is that Fyreslayers Invocations don’t require Fyreslayers to pray for so if there was a 400 point dragoncorpse that could be allied in he would be able to help get them on the table.
Just outside of the top ten is Empire of Corpses, taken by 48.7% by Soulblight Gravelords players but scored 61.7% of the time. Sons of Behemat score Make the Land Tremble 61.4% of the time but only take it 31.7% of the time.
When looking at the faction data some clear themes arise and I’ve created some tiers to think about how certain factions should approach grand strategies. I looked at each faction for 1) How often a strategy was selected 2) How successful they were at scoring it and 3) what was the win rate when they were taking the grand strategy. Generally we know that if you’re scoring your grand strategy you’re highly likely to win but there a few where a strategy is taken and scored but the faction has a lower winning percentage. When in doubt I’ve deferred to the win rate over the scoring and tried to figure out why. Most factions pick between one and three Grand Strategies and have a clear “correct” choice.
- Automatic Selection From GHB – This indicates that the faction is taking a GHB Grand Strategy and should continue to do so.
- Automatic Selection From Battletome – These Grand factions have a clear dominate Grand Strategy provided by their Battletome. However, a shift in the Generals Handbook could mean a change for some of them.
- Split Decision – This is the first interesting category where the faction has multiple winning strategies to choose from, or in some cases can only choose the best strategy with a certain build.
- Castoff – Sadly for these armies they lack a grand strategy that impacts winning. Most of these armies are lower winrate armies and could use a boost in other ways.
- You’re Doing it Wrong – The most interesting category, these armies are picking a grand strategy with a lower winning percentage MOST of the time.
- Irrelevant – This applies to the most recently released armies, Cities of Sigmar and Flesh Eater Courts, from where the bulk of the data set doesn’t reflect the current rules.
Automatic Selection From General’s Handbook
- Sylvaneth – Spellcasting Savant is picked 73% of the time in our sample and is scored 56.8% of the time with a win rate of 47.8%. If I close my eyes I can already see the Warsong Revent casting through a tree and completely untouchable by anything in my army. The only other strategy taken in a meaningful way is Overshadow, the bad grand strategy, with 14.8% of players choosing it. This strategy has a 24.5% success rate and wins 34.9% of the time.
- Ossiarch Bonereapers – Spellcasting Savant (65% selection rate) is scored 51.9% of the time and leads to a slightly above average faction winrate winrate of 56.8% vs. 54.9%. OBR is one of the few factions to not suffer completely when taking Overshadow (14.4% selection rate) but only score it 39.3% of the time and win 54.8% of the time. a small number of players (10.5%) take The Scaled Balanced and should switch over to Spellcasting Savant. OBR are likely helped that many of the meta lists have included an Antorian locust as an general and the ability to heal and bodyguard.
- Blades of Khorne – Spellca- No I’m joking it’s Slaughter of Sorcery. As discussed above 55.4% of ALL the selections of Slaughter of Sorcery were taken by Khorne players who have a lot of tools to remove wizards compared to other non-wizard factions. A 62.3% selection rate and a 49.5% success rate lead to a 57.5% winrate for the army. Khorne has many players (15.4%) who fall into the trap of taking Overshadow that has a 32.7% success rate and a 51.5% winrate. ‘Bring Me A Worthy Skull’ is sometimes taken (12.3%) but leads to a 47.4% winrate.
- Stormcast Eternals – Spellcasting Savant (42.4%) is once again the clear choice with a 53.4% win rate and a 53.8% success rate. Once again, a significant minority of players are picking Overshadow (27.5%) and get a win rate of 44.8% as a reward. Stormcast, with the ability to move around through a prayer and general tankiness, are built to take a wizard caster as a general. While earlier versions may have run “opps all dragons” there are not many lists running a non-wizard as a general now.
- Lumineth Realm-lords – 53.9% of players are taking Spellcasting Savant have a success rate of 45.2% and a win rate of 52.1%. LRL’s second most popular option (15.8%) is Alarith Aftershock that has a disappointing 39.7% success rate and a putrid winrate of 38.9%.
- Seraphon – While Spellcasting Savant is the clear winner from a selection rate (56.4%) winrate (52.2% vs. 47.6% faction winrate) and success rate (53.1%) The next three choices, Overshadow (again), Realmshaper Guardians, and Continuous Expansion, combine for 31.6% of selections. This may be a case where I’m so use to seeing a Slann general in competitive lists that our sample is capturing how people actually want to play their stompy dinosaur in a way that doesn’t involve cowardly saying “this spell damages everyone on the board”. However, Slann, like Bonereapers, have casters who are able to bodyguard significant amounts of damage so keeping them alive shouldn’t be too hard.
Automatic Selection From Battletome
- Disciples of Tzeentch – as discussed above they have the most consistent grand strategy selection in the game for good reason. Master of Destiny is taken 91.5% of the time, scored 74.2% of the time, hand provides a 53.9% winrate.
- Daughters of Khaine – Again, these elves are blessed to have a strong strategy that plays well into the way they want to play the game.
- Hedonites of Slaanesh – Selfish Desire has a 55.5% win rate in our sample compared to 49.8% for Glutton for Depravity. As a “Big Four” book grand strategy this is the least selected but based on our sample it is better for Slaanesh. In the end you can always choose not to summon daemons but certain matchups may not allow you to get 36 depravity points.
- Fyreslayers – Masters of the Forge is the only choice for our naked mad men. As discussed above this “Big Four” grand strategy has the best win rate in our sample (43.8%) and an extremely high success rate (70.0%). None of the other Grand Strategies have a meaningful amount of data behind them.
- Kharadron Overlords – Rule the Skies is taken by a solid 83.2% of players but only scored 54.2% of the time. Like Fyreslayers none of the other grand strategy selections have enough data to draw any conclusions. Qualitatively none of them make sense to take.
- Orruk Warclans (Includes Big Waagh!, Bonesplitters, Ironjaws, and Kruleboyz) – Four out of five (80.3%) Orruks of all allegiances pick “Waagh!” as a grand strategy. Based on our data this is only scored 47.9% of the time but none of the other strategies used by Orruk players are consistent have a higher win rate.
- Soulblight Gravelords – Empires of Corpses is taken 48.7% of the time and scored 61.7% of the time in our sample with a winrate of 58.1%. Most soulblight players I know are easily able to bring back at least 3 summonable units in a game. However, a significant group of players (34.6%) pick lust for domination, a tactic that requires you to control more gravesites at the end of the game. This tactic underperforms with a 46.0% success rate and a 54.5% winrate. If I was feeling in a different mood I could see myself moving this army down to Split Decision.
Split Decision –
This is where the fun begins, except for those armies that pick Overshadow.
- Maggotkin of Nurgle
Looking at the chart above it would be pretty easy to say “why not just tell people to pick Blessed Desecration and move on? At least they don’t pick Overshadow.” and I’d be inclined to agree. Except, Blessed Desecration requires you to have a mortal general so I’m not going to discount the entire daemon side of the book. Corrupt Arcane Nexus, where you’re pushing a wizard towards the center of the board, seems doable on certain maps and isn’t a horrible option. Finally, Spellcasting Savant seems like a good choice but has a lower win rate even if it has a high success rate. Overall Nurgle is the first army that has multiple flexible viable options depending on what army you’re taking. In an ideal state there would be more armies that have multiple strategies depending on the way you build your force. Unlike some the “Big Four” book grand strategies all of the Nurgle strategies require you to interact with the board or your opponent in some way making them harder to reliably achieve in a competitive environment. A mortal general (maybe a dude riding a fly?) should pick Blessed Desecration. Conversely, if I took a large daemon as a general making Spellcasting Savant and Blessed Desecration unusable I’d look toward Corrupt Arcane Nexus.
- Idoneth Deepkin
It would be easy to say Idoneth Deepkin should pick The Creeping Gloomtide and be done. Maybe, if a sharks hadn’t been unleashed on the mortal realms, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. However, I can’t ignore that the top three Grand Strategies are all very close to each other in success rate and winrate making it difficult to pick a dominant strategy. The Creeping Gloomtide requires you to keep enemies away from ALL of your sunken boats while Akhelian Pursuit only, requiring 3 Akhelian units to be wholly within your opponents territory, seems pretty simple to accomplish when you’ve flooded the board with sharks. As loud as I was about not picking Overshadow a Shark list might be better served to pick it, eliminate all your opponents battleline with aggressive shark attacks, and then hide one shark. I think most players should continue to pick The Creeping Gloomtide as a default choice with the other two selections reserved for shark lists.
- Gloomspite Gitz
Without looking at win rates it would be easy to look at gitz and say “Pick Chasing the Moon” and move on. As a Gitz player this data kinda confirms what I thought that we don’t have great options but scoring a grand strategy takes a lot of work. For of all, most gitz players are going to be protecting the shrine no matter what as our terrain piece is more integral to our strategy than any other army in the game. Chasing the moon requires us to not get our general killed and have him or her survive until the end of the game. One thing about having an army with a lot of recursion is that your opponents know that killing your hero units means that is one unit that won’t be coming back anytime soon. Finally, while Overshadow has a low success rate it has a winrate slightly above the total for the faction. despite having the most personal experience with gitz the information hasn’t presented any new truths to me so I guess I’ll continue to select Protect da Shrine!.
You’re Doing it Wrong
For me this is the most exciting part of this entire of this entire project – having the data show us something that feels wrong and trying to figure out why our assumptions are wrong.
- Sons of Behemat
Overshadow has been taking a beating tonight and Sons of Behemat is where it snaps back and takes out those negative feelings. What makes the sample so interesting is that Sons of Behemat players are looking at the scoresheet and picking the grand strategy that they score more often when there is basically an inverse relationship between the win rate and the success rate for Overshadow and Make the Land Tremble!. I think this has to do with the way each of these strategies are scored. Make the Land Tremble! requires you to run or charge with a unit in each turn. Sons armies typically don’t have a ton of extra units that can just run around in the back away from the battle. Additionally, you are providing your opponent with information on what you need to do and have basically added an extra battle tactic requirement to your army each turn. Overshadow, on the other hand, only requires you to kill your opponents battleline and have 1 single model remaining at the end of the battle. One of the way a lot of people play against megas is forcing them into screens and keeping bigger targets around. Often times those screens are going to be battleline units. Despite the lower success rate Sons of Behemat should be taking Overshadow every single time.
- Beasts of Chaos
What keeps Beast of Chaos from being in the “Castoff” category is that they have a correct Grand Strategy that they aren’t taking. “Protect the Herdstone” is taken the majority of time by Beats of Chaos players in the sample as it’s agnostic towards list construction. However, I’d suspect that players who are actively moving models to circles to win are at an advantage to those who are defending turf. As the Patton, noted general and possible BoC cosplayer said, said “We’re not interested in holding onto anything but the enemy -we’re going to hold onto him all the time and kick him in the ass.” That sounds like every BOC fight I’ve ever had where they ambush, charge into me, and try to kill me. Keeping the Herdstone alive and unmolested is requiring Beasts of Chaos to move against what they typically do and defend.
- Ogor Mawtribes
This one stumped me for a good bit. Every Ogor player I know picks Ready for Plunder, a grand strategy which requires you to have more friendly units wholly within enemy territory than enemy units. I was ready to through it up with the other book battle tactics that “everyone takes” prior to looking at the data. I was stumped. Win rate and success rate are both much better for Slaughter of Sorcery than Ready for Plunder. Then I spoke to a top Ogor player about what he picked and why and he really pushed back on Slaughter of Sorcery. People view Ogors as having extremely strong heroes that are difficult to kill. Compared to a 4-wound Gitz wizard hiding behind a rock, a 7-wound slaughtermaster dragging a pot of goo looks unkillable.
What I think is happening is that Ogor players are plowing through in combat, or shooting, enemy wizards while keeping a single butcher or slaughtermaster hanging around the pot. Then, in turn 4 or 5 they thrown them into an unfavorable combat and watch them get ripped to shreds with only a 5+ save to protect them. Most people try to avoid wizards getting into combats that kill them but ogors can force an opponent to attack a lightly armored wizard unit. Or they’re just running monster trucks without any spellcasters. Either way, if I were putting together an Ogor list I’d take Slaughter of Sorcery and see what happens.
I have noted that Overshadow has a higher Win Rate than Ready to Plunder in with very limited data. I’m still not ready to recommend it until we’ve tried killing all the wizards first.
Sadly, this is the least fun group. Those without a good option include:
- Slaves to Darkness – Overshadow accounts for 32.2% of of their choices and has a 33.5% success rate with a 45.2% win rate. Spellcasting Savant is only 21.0% of the sample and scores slightly higher with 35.7% success and 47.9% Win Rate. However, it requires having an Antorian Locus as a general that might not work for everyone. Finally, a book Grand Strategy, Follow the Path to Glory, requires you to roll 11 or 12 on the Eye of the Gods Table. None of these options stand out from each other.
- Skaven -Outside of Arch-corruptors of the Mortal Realms, with its 60.3% win rate and a 29.0% selection rate, none of the grand strategies that Skaven have are materially different from each other. Since this grand strategy is only being scored 49% of the time it feels like list composition is overcoming Skaven having a lack of a strong strategy.
- Nighthaunt – Nighthaunt has two popular strategies, Fight of Flight and Feed on Terror, both from the nighthaunt battletome. Unlike some of the more successful armies there isn’t a material difference in win rate even if Feed on Terror is only scored 25.2% of the time. This GHB hasn’t been kind to Nighthaunt overall and the structure of the book makes picking a caster as a general difficult for the faction.
Cities of Sigmar and Flesh Eater Courts have received battletomes and the majority of the sample no longer applies to the so drawing any conclusions on Grand Strategy selection doesn’t matter. We also don’t have enough data to example Armies of Renown and how they perform. The only way to fix this is for you to add your games to the tabletop battles app.
Grand Strategies are a key part of scoring and list building in Age of Sigmar 3.0. However, based on the data we have, it appears like only a few choices are being made that impact the game with the majority of factions having “solved”. Stop taking overshadow (unless you play giants), ignore the herdstone if you’re a beastman, and kill all wizards if you’re an ogor. Otherwise you’re doing wonderful.
We have a boatload of information that we can look at in Age of Sigmar based on a large sample of games across varied formats. In the comments below let us know what you think would interesting and informative information that we can pull.