Yesterday morning Games Workshop dropped a bombshell on players with the surprise release of a set of FAQs that had a massive impact on the competitive meta. In today’s Round Table series, the Goonhammer crew – and guest authors Stephen Box and Richard Siegler – dig into the new changes; who the winners and losers are, what these changes mean for the competitive meta, and how things are likely to change moving forward.
If you missed the changes, we cover the basics in our FAQs hot take, published yesterday. Be sure to give it a read if you haven’t already.
- James “One_Wing” Grover
- Scott Horras “Heresy”
- Shane Watts
- Liam “Corrode” Royle
- James “Boon” Kelling
- Tyler “Coda” Moore
- Jack “Booley” Hunter
- “Primaris” Kevin Genson
- Edwin “Lupe” Moriarty
- Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
- Stephen Box (of Vanguard Tactics)
- Richard Siegler (of The Art of War 40k)
OK, what are your first impressions of the FAQ? Is it good? Bad?
After an initial review, I like the changes overall as they seem rather focused. It was clear the Devastator and/or ‘super doctrines’ needed to change somehow but I also definitely feel Jack’s frustration here. GW essentially did to Fists what they did to Craftworlds when they tried fixing Ynnari the first few times. They were killed in the crossfire.
Scott: This is definitely a step in the right direction. Although auto advancing doctrines feels… a little awkward, it’s certainly going to reduce the effectiveness of armies built to sit in Devastator Doctrine and never leave it. These definitely read as targeted nerfs at:
- Iron Hands generally
- Specifically “the” Brohammer IH Levi Dread list
- Sneaky RG Centurions
Having seen the effectiveness of these at LVO while playing my own stupid bullshit the game is going to be better with having these get smacked down with a nerf bat. I don’t think our Marine nightmare is quite over though. If I were playing “the” Brohammer list and RG Cents, I would simply do the following:
- Swap IH Stalker Intercessors for Auto Bolt Rifles
- Swap IH Levi for a Morty Dread and Thunderfires or Whirlwinds
- Swap one of your RG Centurions for a squad of Aggressors.
Aggressors are much more handle-able then Centurions on Turn 0, so that’s still an improvement… but they’re still going to be nasty. I don’t see any more changes happening to RG in the near future, so we’re probably just going to have to live with that. As far as IH are concerned, the nightmare will not be over until the Chaplain Dreadnought and Mortis Dreadnought ride off into the sunset of Warhammer 40,000: Legends. 50something Intercessors and 4 Character Dreadnoughts are still going to be rough although not nearly as bad as the Leviathan build.
Stephen: I am absolutely chuffed with the changes, they are more thematic and a lot more well balanced. I actually think this is a great change for Iron Hands players that play IH before the codex as now their opponents won’t give them the look of death and won’t need to explain that they have been playing IH since 3rd edition. Armies like Ultramarines, White Scars and Blood Angels and I’ll guess Space Wolves also just moved up the food chain. I am also really surprised and pleased that GW took my comments seriously around not allowing Intercessors to jump in front of character vehicles and pleased they didn’t just nerf the Leviathan.
Richard: I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that Games Workshop decided to publish a Space Marine errata before the spring FAQ. Big props to the design team for recognizing that the ridiculousness of Marines, especially devastator doctrine and Iron Hands damage reduction stacking, needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later. I still think the Chief Apothecary with the Father of the Future warlord trait in an Iron Hands infantry army is still too powerful, but this is certainly a big step in the right direction. This is not a total knee-capping of Marines as a faction, but bringing their power level down to be closer to the other top factions like Eldar, Chaos, Grey Knights, T’au, for example. This errata is going to open up a range of new builds that were being held down by the ridiculous offensive efficiency and obscene durability of Marine lists, which should bring us toward a much healthier meta heading into Adepticon.
Shane: My first impression is that there were some very necessary changes in this FAQ. Due to the oppression of the Marine meta, some changes have been needed, and seeing GW react in order to shore up some of these problems is good.
Coda: I was miffed until I realised that Ultramarine successors can stay in Tactical Doctrine for 2 turns, which is nice. I think the changes to duty eternal and dropping adaptive strategy is a bit OTT and hurts every supp and not just Iron Hands. I can see why they did it, while I’m not a high end competitive player, I have a fairly choppy Marine Ultra successor list. In 20+ games I can’t think of one time that I’ve switched to assault doctrine. The “step though doctrines” mechanic was not working as intended.
Jack: I hate it. I’ve always thought that forced rotation of doctrines isn’t the way to fix the problems with Iron Hands, and removing the ability to step back is even worse. If they’re willing to make changes this sweeping, then go in and adjust the problematic Iron Hands doctrine bonus, rather than hitting every other Marine army at the same time.
Liam: I don’t hate it quite as much as Jack but I still think it’s hamfisted, and the justification for why doctrines are forced to move is just laughable. “We thought people would rotate because everyone has a melee weapon?” Come on. Forced rotation is unfluffier than the previous version, since now apparently Space Marines are so dumb that they’ll just stop doing whatever Devastator doctrine was meant to represent them doing just because it’s battle round 2 now. I would have been fine with them leaving Adaptive Strategy in (if you assumed people were going to rotate anyway that’s the context you wrote the stratagem in – now that you’re forcing people to rotate, why are you taking that tool away?)
More broadly, GW has once again made a general change where a specific one would have been better. The problem army was Iron Hands, and potentially Fists artillery. The former needed the Cogitated Martyrdom change, but you could also have looked at their doctrine specifically or their Chapter trait (since we’ve now proved that we’re happy to just go and directly change how things work in books other than errata). Target specific issues with Iron Hands rather than just changing Marines generally. Fists that weren’t the artillery spam list were not oppressive and were easily fixable – I would have changed the Whirlwind Scorpius to be base AP-1 and maybe put it down to damage 1 as well, and/or made them one per army. The Relic rule doesn’t really function when you share a slot with 20pt Servitor units.
Actually I just remembered that Iron Hands can put a unit back into Devastator if they want (so their key unit gets the benefit of the doctrine anyway). Hooray.
Other than the bit I’m really mad about, I think the changes are good. Removing the ability to yeet Centurions forward turn 1 with no drawback is fine, as is the sensible set of changes to Cogitated Martyrdom. The latter is particularly important for eliminating a really unfun interaction, and cleaned up the wording around the FNP/wound pass-off to be much more sensible.
Lupe: Mixed. I think it’s definitely stripped some tactical nuance out of a theoretically balanced doctrine system, but equally that wasn’t the world we were living in. Let’s be realistic, Devastator Doctrine ruled supreme and we all knew it. Not being able to just sit in it does feel like an improvement. The best thing about this though is that the Iron Hands player in our group might get to play his fluffy army he’s actually painted again without feeling like he’s the bad guy in a casual environment.
Kevin: Overall the changes are pleasantly surprising. The changes to Duty Eternal and Cogitated Martyrdom will go a VERY long way towards making Iron Hands more vulnerable. Long time readers of Hammer of Math will be very familiar with exactly how difficult it was to kill a well protected Iron Hands unit, and these changes significantly mitigate that.
I think the changes to the doctrines are appropriate given how Iron Hands play, but I am concerned about how it impacts the less popular Chapters like Ultramarines or Salamanders. Given the units available one turn in IH Devastator still feels drastically more effective than two turns of Salamanders in Tactical. It’s a little disconcerting to see GW seem so surprised that players would build lists to exploit a particular rule; I’ve been playing 40K since 2nd Edition and maximizing efficacy at the expense of a narrative element has been part of wargaming from the beginning.
Novembermike: As a White Scars player nothing here is going to affect me. That’s probably a good sign since White Scars were on the good side but not the same level of brokenness IH or RG. IH and RG still have a lot of powerful abilities so I don’t think they go away, but I don’t expect to see Hands at the top of literally every tournament anymore. GW could have done a better job of writing the rules in the first place and this doesn’t seem like the best response but it at least removes the most broken problems and doesn’t invalidate anything.
Wings: Surprise followed shortly by joy. Raven Guard Centurions and Iron Hands shooting builds were easily the best two Marine builds and probably the best armies in the game, and hitting them with targeted nerfs to their worst excesses is good. The tournament metagame is about to get way better and more diverse, which is fantastic news for all regular players.
Did any changes surprise you?
Scott: I’m still waiting to wake up from a dream about an out of band Space Marines FAQ. The fact that Adepticon is adopting this is excellent. I understand that it’s EXTREMELY close to the event, but the meta had really been solved at that point at LVO. PA:RotD and PA:TGG might’ve shaken things up, but I think the only new mix to the game is Grey Knight Paladin bombs, outside of that I feel like PA hasn’t done anything to make previously unplayable lists playable in the Marine meta.
I’m also surprised that they just straight up removed a stratagem. Frankly, I appreciate the boldness to do it otherwise this whole endeavor would’ve just boiled down to a CP tax.
Shane: The doctrine change surprised me honestly, I always knew there was contention over the “super doctrines” that were tied to devastator doctrine being too powerful for being active all game. I am not sure this solution is the right one for the doctrine problem, but I am interested to see how it shakes out.
Richard: I am very surprised that they did not nerf the Chief Apothecary’s Father of the Future warlord trait and its interaction with the Flesh is Weakness Iron Hands trait. It is simply too powerful and will result in a greater shift toward Iron Hands infantry hordes. If I had wanted to stick with Iron Hands for Adepticon, I was already planning on dropping the chaplain dreads and leviathan for more Indomitus Crusader intercessors and some centurions.
Liam: Echoing the people who were surprised to get this at all (we found out the FAQ was released because my friend texted me “Space Marine changes look interesting” – I was not looking out for a Marine FAQ at lunchtime on a Thursday!). Surprised to see Adaptive Strategy disappear given their indications that they thought people would cycle when they originally wrote the rule – surely having it available was the plan all along?
I guess the thing that is most unusual here is that we’re back to the stage of making active changes – not errata – to recent books. After the Astra Militarum FAQs back in 2017, when they rapid-fire changed the Commissar ability because of people whining about it being broken (it wasn’t), they seemed to shy away from immediately changing things in recent books that weren’t errata-like (so cleaning up wording or adding things they forgot, like making the Renegade Chapters in Vigilus Ablaze god-specific). The Iron Hands FAQ was the first indicator that they were back to making significant changes to recent publications, but that felt like it would be exceptional because the book was absolutely busted. Now we’re back to where it seems they’re ready to just be outright changing rules again or even deleting stratagems from published books. Broadly I am in favour of them making bigger changes when issues crop up, but it hasn’t been the pattern for a while so it’s surprising, and it doesn’t help with the increasing feeling the game is getting very unwieldy – now if you have a new player pick up the Space Marines codex and they haven’t seen the FAQ, you have to explain to them that yeah actually despite what the book says they have to switch to Tactical or Assault doctrine, and then when they say “I’m gonna use Adaptive Strategy like it says in my codex,” you say “they actually deleted that stratagem entirely.”
What I’m really getting at here is – digital rules now! Preferably with changelogs built-in. Make the app, call it Astronomicon, I won’t even charge you for the name.
Stephen: I was half surprised to see the changes to combat doctrines and the changes to RG but pleased to see them, the Grav cent alpha bomb was a bit strong. But I’m sure they will just be changed with aggressors, Hellblasters and plasma interceptors. But variety is the spice of life.
Wings: This appearing at all is a big surprise and honestly hugely encouraging. We knew something like this would happen at some point, probably the Spring FAQ, but I assumed we’d have to put up with two more months of a stagnant metagame first. Good job GW.
Jack: Completely deleting the Adaptive Strategy stratagem was definitely out of left field. They wrote it with their original intent of having Marine players moving through the doctrines, so now that they’ve forced players to use their original intent why are they also deleting a strat designed around that?
Lupe: Just like Jack, I’m surprised they wiped the ability to backtrack, since with a more restrictive style that feels like it would now actually be a useful tool rather than something that mostly got ignored. It feels like a weird combo of things to have done. I’m also surprised they actually called out Cents by name for RG. That feels like a bad precedent around very very specific exceptions.
Coda: We knew this was coming. I’m not a high end competitive player by any means but I’ve seen a 500pts iron hands army hold off 750pts like it was child’s play and you can literally watch 500~700pts of Iron Hands chew through a 2000pts army like it was a walk in the park.
As someone that watches a fair bit of streaming something had to give to allow the competitive scene to keep on truckin. Iron Hands are the kids that say “I have all the powers, all the time” currently due to their combination of incredibly strong chapter tactics, relic, special character, doctrine, psykers and stratagems. This was not sustainable for the game to be interesting on top tables.
That said, I would have prefered the changes to be more targeted at Iron Hands. Removing the re-rolls of 1s to hit and changing the overwatch part of their chapter tactic to 6+ with re-rolls coupled with the stratagem changes in their new FAQ would have been a better call imho.
Who are the big winners here?
Jack: White Scars and Blood Angels are probably the biggest winners here, with all Marine armies ending up in assault doctrine being able to retain your bonuses when you get there is incredibly useful – and neither of those armies started off in a bad place.
Novembermike: I actually feel like White Scars came out pretty well. The army is all about hiding for two turns and then coming out into the sun when all of your melee is just ridiculously efficient, and this hurts the armies that were going to kill everything in the first two turns. Grey Knights are probably the bigger winner along with Blood Angels since they don’t have to wait until turn 3.
Shane: The biggest winners are anything that isn’t Marines haha. Beyond that, WS/BA/UM came out of this mostly untouched, which by comparison of their competition dropping, puts them in a good position. I also think that GK stand to benefit from the nerf, as well as Chaos and Eldar. Maybe Tau?
Coda: “The hobby is the winner” feels like a cop-out answer but honestly I think it’s true in this case. Rob from Tsport’s excellent coverage of the Renegade Open pointed out from the get-go that Iron Hands would be in the final and probably take the entire damn thing. Not a single soul doubted him and he was proven totally correct.This is not a cool and good space for the hobby to be in for the long term.
Scott: I think the biggest winners of this FAQ are Grey Knights Paladin bombs and Alpha Legion-based Chaos. In my opinion they are currently both the best positioned to do well in this meta besides Marines. With the top dogs getting taken down a notch they’re both going to rise higher in the meta.
Directly behind that is every army who felt totally bodied out of the meta by RG Cents and IH in general. I’ve certainly felt like this with my Imperial Guard. I’m in an emotional spot where I just gave up on winning GTs and higher because I didn’t want to play my Marines anymore after LVO and I didn’t want to start a new army. So before this morning, I was just going to play my Guard as best I could and hope to go X-1 in any event I went to.
Honestly though, the biggest winners here are the friends we made along the way. You know… the ones we crushed out of the hobby with our totally balanced Space Marines armies. Cheers guys; we deserve it!
Rob: The Assault Doctrine Marines definitely benefit a lot from this. They won’t even feel the changes, while their primary adversaries get weaker. I think Grey Knights and Chaos Space Marines also benefit, though if Grey Knights suddenly spike in popularity, they’ll make Possessed-heavy CSM armies unviable. Also just generally I think this change is good for everyone except Iron Hands and less hilariously, Imperial Fists.
Wings: There are so many layers to this and I have the misfortune of writing in this section after everyone else so I have to go for some deeper cuts. Beyond the obvious, abilities that let you ignore AP-1 or (sometimes) AP-2 just got a whole lot better because they’ll actually do stuff against Marines vastly more of the time (hell Salamanders probably average out to a net buff out of this because of how it improves their Chapter Tactic). Look for the Sisters of Battle Valorous Heart in particular to get a bump from their already impressive baseline – this means they often only really need to cluster around an Imagifier for the first turn, freeing up their mobility considerably.
Abilities that let you keep key units out of harm’s way in the first Battle Round also go up in value – I was already looking at using Cloudstrike with Eldar planes in any ITC game where I go second, and that’s even better now. I’ll also be a lot happier taking Reapers, because being in cover and Protected actually gets them to a 2+ against Thunderfires again once their Serpent tanks the turn 1 shooting!
Liam: On balance it’s “everyone” although I agree with Wings’ more specific commentary. I think the game overall makes a move back towards where we were in summer last year, where a wide variety of factions can put up top armies, and that’s much better for 40k than this:
Who are the big losers here?
Jack: Imperial Fists (and Crimson Fists) are absolutely the big losers here. They were winning a lot, but not as much as Iron Hands, and their entire supplement is built around being able to use bolters for everything. With the doctrine bonus gone after turn one that just doesn’t work any more. The changes are going to go one of two ways: either lists that are vastly different and built mostly around the chapter tactic and not the doctrine bonus, or lists that triple down on long range weapons that ignore line of sight to maximize that first turn doctrine bonus regardless of what terrain might be on the board.
Boon: Jack 🙁 I also want to mention that I think we as a community could have been better served here. While the FAQ itself serves as tacit acknowledgment of a mistake, I note that missing in the designer commentary is any sense that GW believes they made a mistake through playtesting, at release, or that they will seek to prevent such a misstep in the future. Instead we got fairly soft language about how they have started to see the army overperform 6 months in, as if that wasn’t evident from day one. They’re certainly under no obligation to apologize, but some sense of direct verbal acknowledgement would have gone a long way to restoring trust in the player community, and frankly, is just good marketing.
Rob: Jack and the Imperial Fists players, who had an army that was good, but not dominant. And also Greg, whose Dark Angels were at their best for all of one month, during which he never played them. I think they’re still playable, but they lose a little bit. I’d also say “Chase,” but as soon as Dark Angels became good he moved onto playing Harlequins. Maybe he’ll come back now, though.
Lupe: That guy at your local store who smugly bought up a bunch of stuff and painted it black for some reason. And Jack.
Patrick: It took you all of 5 minutes to start planning a Scars list.
Coda: I feel sorry for Liam. Also please pour one out for the Marine Start Competing that he dished out over 60k words for that will need to be rewritten. It was seriously this < > close to being finished and by all rights was insanely comprehensive.
Scott: Everyone out here feeling sorry for Imperial Fists. Frankly, I have no sympathy. The doctrine is also absolutely wild just to a lesser extent than Iron Hands, and given certain (very common) competitive terrain set ups, could result in nearly an entire army of Imperial Fists artillery sitting out of Line of Sight deleting a third of your army every turn. Imperial Fists certainly had some tougher matchups specifically sneak RG Centurions which is what was boxing them out of top tier. I’m not saying they’re not collateral damage, just that I think it’s still a good thing that their Doctrine is also getting taken down a peg.
But to answer the original question, the only losers here were everyone who endured this meta for the last six months.
Lupe: I think you’ll find I said they were losers, not that I felt sorry for them.
Shane: The biggest loser for sure is the Broviathan list. Targeted nerfs here. Followed by IH in general (the IH airforce is entirely dead now) and IF. RG took a slight hit by not being able to turn 1 fling assault cents at an opponent, but in my experience could be screened out and was reliant on going first anyway.
Kevin: This is a loss for whatever design process went into creating this mess in the first place. The developers and playtesters aren’t stupid, and they clearly want their product to be successful, but something went wrong. I hope that GW considers this as an opportunity for introspection and correction.
Novembermike: I’m with Kevin. Doctrines were a major mechanic and this is just an indictment of the entire design process that went into them. Sometimes I get the impression that GW is just a bunch of good, nice players that want a beer and pretzels game and they just end up horrified when the games go into the world and they see what we do with them.
Stephen: The meta chasers lost out here. There is no more crutch. But on the whole it will actually improve people’s game play. They should smile that they had their time in the sun rather than cry its over.
Wings: Beyond “the two best lists get significantly and obviously worse”? Imperial Fists now only getting a little Devastator Doctrine, as a treat is definitely a huge nerf to them, but I think I do come down on the side that if they hadn’t also taken a hit then the stalker bolt rifle spam lists (especially backed by Chief Apocatheries with the 5++ aura) would have risen to the top of the pile and been the next unfun thing. Arguably that’s a problem with the bolt rifles, but those lists were extremely nasty.
It does also hurt some of the newly emerging Dark Angels Ravenwing lists, as I would often expect them to spend the first two turns in Devastator. However, their extreme mobility lets them very effectively line up an alpha strike with the turn they do get, and they have access to a warlord trait to get effectively a second turn of it, so I think they’ll be fine.
Rob: There’s probably still a build for Imperial Fists anyways. They had some interesting bolter-heavy builds prior to their supplement releasing anyways. Just the sheer volume of AP-2 bolter shots they can put out in Tactical Doctrine is worth looking at. Dark Angels will be fine — their lists didn’t actually want to stay in Devastator Doctrine all game, especially if they went heavy on bikes.
Jack: While I agree with Wings that Fist armies spamming huge numbers of stalker bolt rifles would be problematic if this nerf hadn’t hit them, I think the IF artillery park and that SBR spam army could both have been easily taken care of with points changes rather than these doctrine changes that make pretty fundamental shifts to how Imperial Fists play.
Richard: The list John Lennon, Ruben Fernandez, and myself created for the LVO meta, which is perfectly fine with me. I had no affinity for Iron Hands and was jealous of the rules treatment they received since it was essentially a better T’au list with greater durability and firepower. It was absurd and I am glad that we all played a small role in highlighting just how broken some of these rules interactions were and how much of the meta simply had no answer to them.
How do you expect this to shake things up moving forward? What does this mean for Adepticon?
Boon: For Marines I expect to see a lot of Paladins and then a White Scars… maybe Blood Angel resurgence. Adepticon is not a standard format so it’s hard to seperate what is good in ‘the meta’ vs what is good for Adepticon. Given their durability and limited mobility (good enough) via deep strike and Gate, I think Grey Knights gain big for that event. In the meta overall I have to think that Tau get boosted by Marines being less oppressive.
Stephen: Some of the top players like Nick Nanavati and Nick Rose were already using White Scars at the LVO, Brad and his Raptors. I think I will still do extremely well. I don’t think anyone will be able to pick up Blood Angels that quick but Grey Knights will certainly flourish. Also I think Sisters Of Battle now will start to come through being able to ignore AP -1 and AP -2. Stalkers, assault cannons, and autocannons will all be ignored and that is an army hard to shift when it is touching cover. So that’s a top pick for me. Players like Andrew Gonyo running Sisters and Character Dreadnoughts are still a thing, so we will see more soup. Which is a slight backward step but these changes were desperately needed.
Coda: I’m terrible at this game, I will now be slightly more terrible at it in the 40k Friendly at Adepticon! If you see me come say hello! Realtalk my two Contemptor dreads do a lot of the heavy lifting for my soft-as-hell 2k Marine list, so this FAQ is going to sting.
Jack: I think there’s going to be an impulsive shift over to the more assault-focused Marines (and over to Grey Knights). Adepticon is a month out and there must be a list submission cut-off coming up soon, despite the fact that I can’t find it on their garbage website, so I think there’s going to be some very quick pivots in order to be able to get practice games in. Overall it’ll likely be a meta with more variety in GK, Tau, and Eldar armies having a solid place.
Scott: Weirdly enough, I think this is actually going to mean very little for Adepticon as far as who my predicted winner is. You might see a much more varied field as Marines may not clearly be the best faction anymore. However given the mission packet… everything except for one secondary on one of their missions is about standing in places. My money was on a GK Paladin bomb, or a pile of buffed IH Intercessors similar to, if not exactly ‘“the” Brohammer list taking the cake and I don’t think my bet has changed at all.
Shane: As far as codex Marines are concerned, I think we might see a shift into “Marine Soup” lists. Early in Marines 2.0 there were lists featuring WS Centurions and IF artillery (shout out Ruben Fernandez) and I think lists like these could very well come back. Since neither truly rely on their “super doctrine” in this doctrine land, they could do very well. In general, I think there will be a resurgence in non Marine factions, simply from the shift away from IH/IF.
In regards to Adepticon, I think the pile of 5++/5+++ intercessors will excel (Ken Knox showcased this at the Coast Wargaming / WCG Major this past weekend), since they mostly went un-nerfed. GK and the possessed bombs will more than likely do well, alongside whatever variation of Eldar is stomping around.
Novembermike: Without persistent Devastator Doctrines people are less incentivized to go all in on heavy weapons, which means that first turns shouldn’t be quite so scary. There will probably be a knee-jerk reaction away from shooty Marines, but then we’ll figure out that Marines are still good and regress back to something a bit more normal. The hyper abusive lists should go away but there’s still a lot of good shooty options.
Lupe: Well, Liam ordered some assault cents and emo goth supreme so I guess that’s a change. Also, I might actually want to play against an Iron Hands army at some point, maybe. More seriously, I think we’ll see a shake up, but not as much of one as you might think on first look. This is a big change… but something in me thinks it’s not going to shift Iron Hands from the top spot. I genuinely think we may find the pecking order doesn’t change that much.
That’s right, I’m having the hottest of takes: I think this might not have gone far enough.
Wings: Honestly this just gives everyone a bit more breathing room to experiment with stuff because one of the undersold issues with Iron Hands was just how difficult it was to beat them in a war of attrition with any kind of balanced list. I’ve had games against Hands which have started well but I just haven’t been able to keep up with their absurd consistency over the duration of the game, and this helps a tonne with that. Not having to deal with game-long +AP Whirlwinds and Thunderfires is similarly liberating – they were a huge gatekeeper for factions like GSC.
That said, there’s some degree to which those two problems were also among the few things holding back a couple of newer metagame entrants in Grey Knights and Blood Angels, especially as neither loses much from this. GK are extremely happy that Strikes coming in on T2 don’t have to worry about AP-2 Thunderfires, while the 2+ saves on Sanguinary Guard will do even more work than it already does. Expect to see both of these armies on the up.
That’s not the worst thing though, because while they’re extremely good lists they are at least way more interesting and interactive on the table and more amenable to counterplay than the Iron Hands lists. They have much more tangible weaknesses that can be targeted, and I look forward to repeatedly slamming the Vect button on both of these while cackling madly.
Finally, these changes are very well timed for the new ITC season, because taking out Master of Ambush Cents and nerfing Hands in general takes away a lot of my concerns about losing seize. I’m now extraordinarily excited about the upcoming season and frankly kind of mad that I’ve still got a few weeks till my next event!
Liam: Hopefully we get a wider variety of stuff on tables again – especially infantry hordes (although maybe they’re just playing into AP-2 bolt rifles for turns 2 and 3 onwards now, so they don’t get any better). I can’t wait for the thrill ride of 40+ Iron Hands Intercessors running around with 5++/5+++. Other than that my main hope is just that tournament top 4s start looking more like August 2019 and less like January 2020.
Richard: Adepticon’s mission format favors durable hordes of objective secured units that can survive a battle round to ensure as many primary points as possible. This format is a great boon to gaunt-heavy Tyranid lists, Orks, and you guessed it, Iron Hands Chief Apothecary infantry spam. I think an Iron Hands list with 30-40 intercessors, 2-3 units of centurions, and character support in the form of Chapter Master, Chief Apothecary, Master of Sanctity Primaris Chaplain, Lieutenant, and maybe a Mortis dread will be quite powerful in the Adepticon format and in the new ITC mission format as well (I would squeeze in eliminators over more centurions because they completely change the Chaos matchup). It has more weaknesses than the Broviathan list, but is still tremendously powerful and plays the mission with a single-minded determination like the list I brought to LVO.
Overall, the new ITC missions are encouraging mobile armies that can control the board early and generate a significant lead on mission points that can often be difficult for opponents to overcome. And these changes should play a significant role in shifting list design from denial of secondaries to armies that have resources to toss at bonus points, hold more, and the board control secondaries.
It’s a New Day, Friends
Whew, that’s a lot to process! It’s certainly an exciting time for the Warhammer 40,000 competitive meta and with Adepticon just around the corner, we’ll find out soon enough how everything is going to shake out. I’d like to extend an extra “thank you” to Stephen Box and Richard Siegler for adding their commentary on this. If you have some extra time, it’s worth your time to check out The Art of War 40k and Vanguard Tactics. And as always, if you have any feedback or questions, feel free to drop a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.