Goonhammer Reviews the 10th Edition Launch Balance Pass

As you may have seen earlier today in Competitive Innovations, Eldar are looking pretty hot in 10th Edition, most would argue too hot, and a few other factions have been putting up fairly eye-catching performances. Luckily, the Design Team appear to have been paying attention, and today gives us (as promised in last week’s Metawatch) our first balance update for 10th Edition, primarily focused on tweaking the points of the most powerful armies and unit categories. Let’s see how it’s looking.

Thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of these changes.

What Changed?

  • Aeldari Fate Dice can now only be used once per phase
  • Most Indirect Fire gets points increases
  • Most Towering gets points increases
  • A few additional units get targeted tweaks

What Didn’t Change?

  • No Core Rules changes
  • No buffs for weaker factions (though a few had their indirect options left alone)
  • No Datasheet changes

What’s the Goal?

Wings: This looks like a fairly classic first-pass suite of changes. A lot of people have been clamoring for wholesale rules changes (delete Towering/Devastating Wounds entirely, mostly) but I don’t think that was ever realistically going to arrive this quickly. Instead, it looks like the strategy is to hit the most egregious outliers, which were pretty obvious only with a few weeks of data, and then see if the metagame can adjust. If the game still ends up looking very skewed, or Tacoma throws out some serious performance outliers, I’d expect more changes in the future, but I do think giving the rules at least some chance to air without Aeldari murdering everyone is a reasonable call. Assuming they stop doing that, which…

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What Does it Mean for the Game Overall?

Wings: To my eyes, Aeldari are still the best faction in the game, but by quite a bit less. Coupling that with the fairly sweeping changes to Imperial Knights, which although weaker than Aeldari plausibly did more to freeze some other factions out, and I think the field for high and mid tier armies is now substantially wider open, which is good. Other factions that were on the watchlist like Thousand Sons and Deathwatch (and, it has quickly become apparent, Genestealer Cults and Custodes), might sweep in and take over, but these all at least play a more interactive game than Aeldari and Knights did. In addition, while in theory this is it for balance for now, it wouldn’t totally shock me if a few things that get “clarified” in the errata pass we’re due later this month have small impacts on some of these too (I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Hornets and Shadow Spectres get a swift “whoops and them too” points pass). 

I think the news is less good for the factions at the lower end of the metagame – for all the hard work that one brave Death Guard player has put in to try and prove us wrong, they still feel a bit anemic, and along with World Eaters and AdMech they remain in a tough place, and I legitimately think you could have done a blanket 5-10% point cut across these factions (perhaps excluding their very best/Indirect units) with zero risk of them suddenly dominating. The most extreme shooty lists getting tanked has a better chance of lifting Tau and Votann up to being in an OK place, jury’s still out on that one.

Overall – it’s good that we’ve gotten some swift changes, they definitely make things better, opening up the metagame enough that it can actually develop, but if you pinned me down and made me choose I’d say not far enough, and I suspect the clamour for bigger changes will get pretty deafening if GW do choose to hold on till the next quarterly points update.

TheChirurgeon: This is a good step in the right direction, but it’s not a very big step. I think there are probably some notions internally at GW that the meta is still adjusting, but that they didn’t want to see what adjusting to Eldar and indirect in their current states might look like. The Fate Dice nerf was very necessary and it’s good to see, and the point hikes are good but to Wings’ point they definitely don’t prevent Eldar from being the game’s top faction. Though hopefully they’ll slide down to like a 60% faction from the current 65% mark they’re sitting at. 

I feel less good about the lack of buffs, and I think we’re sure to see a few of those down the road. On the whole I think a lot of this update was less about faction power level – though some of that is built in – and more about where the power for those factions comes from. The more indirect shooting players can viably play, the more winning comes down to the first turn roll-off and the 10th edition GT layouts already encourage some pretty aggressive deployment for units which want to hit objectives or play the mission on T1. I think there’s more work to be done and a lot of these likely don’t go far enough.

And then some of the stuff here is just baffling. The World Eaters Lord of Skulls going up to an eye-watering 525 points is just insane. Who lost to a Lord of Skulls and decided this was necessary? It’s literally psycho shit.


What Does it Mean for Factions?

We aren’t going to cover the factions with no significant changes here – if you’re not mentioned, assume the answer is “things get a bit better for you”.

Space Marines

Space Marines take a heavy hit on Desolation Marines (+50pts) and a modest one on Whirlwinds (+25pts). While that’s a clear hit, overall the suite of changes is probably a positive for them, because Aeldari having a reduced ability to just cleanse them off the table lets their strengths come to the fore. Expect to see people actually exploring Kill Teams in Deathwatch rather than just maxing Desolation Marines, and lots of spins on Ultramarines shooting with Guilliman.

Black Templars also get the squad size of Sword Brethren tweaked to actually match two boxes, so that’s nice.

TheChirurgeon: Even at 340 points for a unit of 10 Desolation Marines are very playable – but you’ll probably just take the one. That’s still more than enough indirect, Oaths-and-Bolter Discipline-buffed firepower to throw out from behind the safety of some wall. 


Aeldari get the following changes:

  • Wraithknights +105pts
  • Support Weapons +20pts
  • Night Spinners +30pts
  • Fire Prisms +25pts
  • Skathach Wraithknight +55pts
  • Maximum one Fate Dice used per Phase.

It seems distressingly plausible that all of these units are still viable in a vacuum, but in all cases the changes are big enough that you probably start looking at the rest of the cornucopia of horrors/delights (depending on your point of view) that the Index holds. Without being able to multi-tap on Fate Dice it’s much harder to just press an “I win” button, but there’s so much good stuff to work with that the army is still viable. Of the things that took point hits, Fire Prisms honestly seem the most likely to kick around in threes still because they aren’t as reliant on fate dice to get the job done. 

Conspicuous by their absence from any points nerfs are the Yncarne, plus recent Forge World additions the Hornet and Shadow Spectres, so you can still flood the board with a bunch of cheap hulls if you feel like it, and there’s plenty of volume/mobility tricks that people haven’t fully delved into yet. There’s also the Ynnari option, which again feels much more like something people might try now that pressure washing the enemy off the table isn’t 100% reliable. 

Astra Militarum

The Astra Militarum get the following changes:

  • Basilisks +25pts
  • Deathstrike +25pts
  • Field Ordnance Battery +20pts
  • Manticore +20pts
  • Wyvern +20pts
  • Colossus +30pts
  • Praetor +50pts
  • Earthshaker Carriage +10pts
  • Medusa Carriage +15pts

No surprises here – everything that fires good Indirect (fires Indirect good?) gets a modest point change, though honestly modest is the correct term here. The first seriously successful Guard list we’ve seen was maxed out on Basilisks and Manticores, so they clearly did need a hike, but honestly having less brutal counterfire to deal with from big Knights might smooth that out quite a bit.

Imperial Knights

Imperial Knights get the following points changes:

  • Canis Rex +85pts
  • Knight Castellan +70pts
  • Knight Crusader +60pts
  • Knight Errant +55pts
  • Knight Paladin +60pts
  • Knight Preceptor +55pts
  • Knight Valiant +75pts
  • Knight Warden +60pts
  • Acastus Knight Asterius +110pts
  • Acastus Knight Porphyrion +100pts
  • Cerastus Knight Acheron +60pts
  • Cerastus Knight Atrapos +55pts
  • Cerastus Knight Castigator +60pts
  • Cerastus Knight Lancer +65pts
  • Questoris Knight Magaera +60pts
  • Questoris Knight Styrix +65pts

No changes to Gallants or Armigers.

Nothing too complicated here, pretty much just a ~15% hike to anything with Towering and a gun, and slightly more on Canis Rex. That’s certainly going to force some decisions on Knight players – early play has seen a lot of three big Knight lists, but it seems pretty likely that two will now be the norm, and it’ll be interesting to see which ones. Mythic Hero presumably ends up as pretty much an auto-take with fewer Bondsman abilities to hand out, and at the other end of the spectrum it does seem plausible that just going in on one of the bigger threats like a Castellan gets more attractive now that each big Knight is a greater proportion of your army.

I (Wings) do think that maybe a bit more nuance could have been applied here, as outside of Canis there’s been a very strict formula applied that doesn’t seem to take much account of individual capabilities. I think 60pts on Wardens and Crusaders was probably correct, but others could maybe have gone a tad lighter. 

Chaos Knights

  • Knight Tyrant +70pts
  • Knight Abominant +60pts
  • Knight Despoiler +60pts
  • Knight Desecrator +60pts
  • Acastus Knight Asterius +110pts
  • Acastus Knight Porphyrion +95pts
  • Cerastus Knight Acheron +60pts
  • Cerastus Knight Atrapos +60pts
  • Cerastus Knight Castigator +60pts
  • Cerastus Knight Lancer +60pts
  • Questoris Knight Magaera +60pts
  • Questoris Knight Styrix +65pts

No changes to Rampagers or War Dogs.

Very similar changes to Imperial Knights, but Chaos were already a bit more inclined to run lighter on big Knights, and this isn’t going to change that (and it probably hits them correspondingly less hard). The special Armigers are still great datasheets, as is the Desecrator, and either a Desecrator & Dogs or (maybe) a Desecrator, Tyrant and Dogs still seems very potent.

TheChirurgeon: It seems like they’re valuing the Imperial Knights’ re-rolls ability at around 5-10 points per model, which seems low to me. I’d have rather seen a fix to Towering than these point hikes for non-FW stuff but it’s ultimately whatever since Chaos Knights will just run a bunch of War Dogs. The Desecrator might still be playable.


Tau take a hit on the Stormsurge (+60pts) and Ta’unar (+105pts). They are more than happy to trade this for the hits on Knights and Eldar, and if you’re the kind of monster who likes unleashing a Ta’unar, it’s probably still fine-ish, and less likely to get instagibbed by elves.


Tyranids take two nerfs, with Harpies and Biovores going up quite a bit (+60pts on the Harpy, +25pts on the Biovores). The Biovores aren’t super surprising to see a change on, though it’s a bit heavier proportionally than some similar stuff. Given the change to Harpies, this is probably aiming to ensure that spawned Spore Mines don’t end up a bit too good at double tapping on Deploy Teleport Homers and Behind Enemy Lines. You definitely still take at least one Biovore.


Any Other Business

  • TheChirurgeon: Death Guard can take seven-model Plague Marine units. Honestly, this is kind of nice for allowing them slightly more freedom to create lists and I’ll admit that sometimes 7 models is the right number (though usually it’s the number of warpflamers I want). And it does let you do the odd combo of a 5-man and a 7-man pair of units in a single Rhino with no characters, which sure is a thing you can do. Also, Plagueburst Crawlers are one of the very few sources of Indirect that don’t take a nerf, which is a nice little bit of help, though they’re also still shooting AP-1 indirect guns.
  • TheChirurgeon: In the change that’s going to make me absolutely crazy, Lords of Skulls go up in points: +60pts in CSM and a staggering +105pts in World Eaters. What in the actual hell led to that decision I will never understand. 
  • Wings: Seraptek Constructs go up (+70pts). They still seem fine if you can fit one on the table.
  • Morkanauts go up (+45pts). These could probably have been left alone.
  • Exorcists go up (+30pts). It’s in line with other Indirect, but again these could probably have gotten a softer touch.
  • Purgation squads go up (+25pts). Again, consistent, but could probably have been left alone.


It’s pretty clear some kind of balance pass was necessary after the first round of events and so it’s good to see Games Workshop taking this much-needed step. Whether it’s enough is going to be an interesting question, but we’re mostly of the mind that 10th is a pretty fun edition when you move away from some of the listbuilding extremes we’ve seen early on and anything that takes us closer to that environment is a plus.

Have any questions or feedback? Feel there’s something GW should have done but didn’t address? Feel like they went to far? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at