This is it folks, the endgame. The final dataslate of 9th edition has dropped, and it’s got quite a few changes in it that shake up the meta in interesting ways. We dropped our standard hot take on the dataslate last week, but this week we’re sitting down with some of our top competitive players and stat heads to talk about what changed, how it will change things, and what it means for the final events of 9th edition.
- Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
- Erik “JamesTFL” Nelson
- James “One_Wing” Grover
- Jeremy “Curie” Atkinson
- James “Boon” Kelling
- Piotr “Typhus” Zawiła-Niedźwiecki
- Nathan “Dr. Stats Dad” Henning
- Innes Wilson
Q. Let’s start with first impressions. Overall, is this good? Bad? Too much? Not enough?
JamesTFL: This dataslate is better than I expected. They hit the ultra boring version of Dark Angels with the stiff arm but left the army a cool and more dynamic build. They gave Iron Hands a small but substantial change and generally toned down the worst offenders, GSC, being known for stealth,largely snuck past their notice trade brood swarm for behind enemy lines and you’re good to go. They could possibly have helped the bottom a bit more but removing Deathwing from the game opens up the playing field to so many armies who previously just hard failed the damage check.
TheChirurgeon: There are some good changes here. Stuff that needed to happen. I’m not even upset about the Tyranid buffs. On the whole, this is a good dataslate, and addresses a number of key issues in good ways. There’s nothing here for Chaos Space Marines, Death Guard, or Thousand Sons however, and that really stinks given how popular those factions are and what a dire state they’re in. So B- overall.
Curie: Overall a decent slate, though I feel like there was some low hanging fruit that could’ve been addressed as well. Most notably Chaos Daemons escaping unscathed and no meaningful buffs to the struggling armies.
Nathan: The slate was fine in that they addressed the most abusive list archetype (DA terminators) by tossing it into the bin and they generally added a few tweaks to try and balance out the other factions. However, the downside of the slate is that aside from some tweaks to marines generally and to GSC they mostly left the rest of the top 5 factions alone and didn’t really do anything to buoy the worst performing factions for what’s left of 9th. Sorry Imperial Fist and Chaos Space Marine players you may just be out of the running until 10th drops.
Innes: Personally I think the changes at the top end were on point for some armies and almost there for others, but there’s just not as much here as I was hoping for to juice people up. We’re playing in a gardening meta right now where we all know 10th is coming – this is the chance to add in a lot of excitement to keep people going for a couple of months, and instead we see a medium breaking of the top end and almost nothing for the poor sods on the lower end of the meta.
Q. Who are the big winners here?
JamesTFL: The biggest winners are the nearly S tier armies that just got left alone. Daemons, World Eaters and Orks are whistling inconspicuously as they carry their automatic 15 point secondaries into the next meta. Not only do they keep all of their power but each one was being held down by the Deathwing and Iron Hands matchups, melee is back on the menu boys. Deathwatch is my sleeper pick to see a big jump, they probably had a really good build last dataslate but they are such a pain in the brain to build no one bothered. But now there may be enough power there to get some of the big brain Marine players to up their currently awful win rate.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah World Eaters definitely got away with one here, though I feel like they just lose 90% of the time to daemons, so they’ll be held in check just fine. On the other hand, Daemons and Orks are both going to be just fine and besides them T’au get a ton of help here with CORE Broadsides again, a thing only Greg was asking for.
Wings: I’d add Ynnari to the list of big winners, they’re been consistently performing well, just had a pretty great weekend going up against pre-nerf metagame, and are flexible enough to adapt to whatever comes out on top. I’d also flag Space Wolves as the Marine faction in the sweet spot of “best one that didn’t get targeted nerfs”, and I think Blood Angels and Deathwatch (who got an actual buff) get some boosts.
Curie: Chaos Daemons and Genestealer Cult. Both of them tend to bleed No Prisoners, so Codex Warfare getting slapped meant they don’t start against Dark Angels / Iron Hands / Other Marines with their opponents at 30 secondaries before the game begins. While the nerf to Broodswarm tones down Genestealer Cult somewhat, being able to actually kill Dark Angels terminators helps turn one of their worst matchups into an actual game. Chaos Daemons meanwhile managed to dodge the nerf bat, despite resting above the “goldilocks” zone of 45-55% for a considerably amount of time now.
Boon: I agree with Erik on Orks. That’s a faction that just auto-lost to Dark Angels previously, but now I think they’re probably about to see a resurgence for a couple of months. The one army that I think might still keep them down but is a winner it’s own right is Space Wolves.
Typhus: Welcome our new kings and overlords – Iron Hands. With DA gone as one of the only armies to reliably stop them, I expect to see them and Space Wolves win way more. Both armies have such an abundance of secondary choices, that the codex warfare nerf doesn’t impact them as much, whilst Wolves can still reliably get 12-15 points from it with Wulfen and melta spam.
Nathan: As others have mentioned you still basically have the top 5 factions intact minus Dark Angels at this point. Through Arks we’ve seen Iron Hands performing stellarly (with an over 60% win-rate hidden in their successors), Chaos Daemons are amazing (56% win-rate, 11 GT+ wins putting them in 3rd for GT wins since Arks), GSC who have seen a resurgence in Arks (58% win rate) and then you have Orks who are basically Necrons that can actually kill your opponent’s army. All of these factions will get uplifted by Dark Angels getting tossed (nearly wholesale) into the dumpster.
Innes: I’m sorry to the people I pair into with Iron Hands for the next few months. Orks, Daemons and Wolves also make out like bandits and Genestealer Cults saw one of their biggest predators get kneecapped in Dark Angels. Anyone who had a negative matchup there is laughing, which, yeah was basically everyone. As a sleeper pick, I think there are going to be a lot of Custodes players that weren’t running Warden Bricks who suddenly find a very real niche in the meta where their MSU style can work very well with fewer free 15 secondary armies running around.
Q. Who are the big losers this time around?
TheChirurgeon: Marines get the nerfs they deserved. The combination of changes to Doctrines plus Codex Warfare plus Desolators created some insanely bad play patterns that no one enjoyed playing against. I’m going to die mad about the Chaos Marine factions not getting the help they needed. The change to Abhor is a long time coming, but doesn’t actually do all that much for Thousand Sons or Grey Knights.
JamesTFL: Deathwing obviously got folded up and put in a trash can, where they belong. Imperial Fists, tragically, get caught in the splash damage of the Hands nerf. Even though Guard received the most number of downward changes the army still seems awesome so they don’t seem like losers just like less giant winners. I think the only possible answer other than Deathwing is Votann. Their best match ups get less common and all their worst matchups dodged nerfs and will probably show up more often.
Curie: My poor Deathwing Terminators. You terrorized people for… three months. While it was a harsher nerf than I was expecting, it instantly solves the problem build for the army while leaving other builds for the army relatively untouched. On the flipside, there was no practical buff to the struggling armies: Thousand Sons, Chaos Space Marines, Death Guard, or Adeptus Mechanicus. Perhaps the hope is that taking the edge off of IH/DA/GSC does the trick, but I’m not convinced this is enough.
Boon: I’m coming fresh off fighting 45 Deathwing Terminators in a finals game on the Scouring. By the end of the game I had killed 39 of those Terminators while only losing ~20% of my stuff in return. I lost 72-85 and the outcome was never really in any doubt.
Deathwing didn’t lose so much as everyone that plays them after this dataslate just gets to have their self-respect back. So congrats to Deathwing players on coming back and participating in the game again.
Nathan: Just add me to the chorus of people saying Deathwing Terminators, but also just anybody not in the top 5 performing factions (+ Orks) who didn’t really see any buffs or enough nerfs to level the competitive field .
Q. What’s not in here that needed to be addressed?
JamesTFL: GSC are still totally wild. Fortunately they are super hard to play well and quickly enough. So, if meta chasers paint up their 120 acolytes or w/e they will probably still lose. As much as it pains me to say so, they should have given CSM some buffs. That codex is recent and has lots of good rules so it may be that the only solution is points related but maybe they could have rolled back the nerfs from last dataslate.
TheChirurgeon: Once again, Chaos Space Marines. Things are dire for that faction. They don’t even put up top 4s at events right now. Death Guard keep getting buffs and none of it’s enough to overcome their lack of speed or inability to tank mortal wounds. Thousand Sons were held up almost entirely by Wrath of Magnus and Flamers. These are factions which utterly struggle without Armour of Contempt to help keep their elite models on the table.
Curie: Nah Wings you’re way off with this one. Thousand Sons have managed to win 1 event and no top 4’s pre-dataslate out of 100+ players at the GT+ level. They’re the worst of all the factions at nearly every level. Also, the weaker marine chapters get no love from this. Poor Imperial Fists 🙁
Boon: I don’t know if it was “missed” persay, but I’m nonetheless surprised World Eaters maintained their blood tithe secondary. I’m very conflicted when it comes to this army but when it comes to this secondary Khorne’s number may as well be 15.
While we’re discussing things not addressed, GW I’m begging you to embrace love rather than choosing violence. Please include a change log in 10th.
Nathan: All of the power armored chaos factions who should have gotten a buff, the daemonic one that needed a nerf. I’m still not convinced unlike the others that a faction (GSC) played well by maybe a dozen people is the biggest problem, but maybe they’ll just win a bunch of events post-slate and make me look super dumb. And yeah +1 to Curie’s quality of life suggestion, it’d be great if we had easier ways of tracking changes in the MFM and in the Slates.
Innes: I have no idea why Desolation Marines went completely unadjusted, the Codex Warfare changes limit the scoring but not the oppressive feeling of playing into them. I’d have also liked to have seen hits to Reality Rebels, Pile the Skulls and Get the Good Bits if we’re taking other people’s 15s out the back to see the rabbits. Tyranids probably wanted a bit more help than they got, a secondary buff would have been very nice wniley they were making changes.
I’m curious why they say they’re keeping an eye on World Eaters in the accompanying video to the slate also. For why? To nerf the 10th ed rules?
Finally, it’s sad to see the stats guys arguing but Thousand Sons definitely needed a boost. Playable Tzaangor units would be awesome!
Q. Which factions do you expect to see on top after this? Which marine chapters make it out of this as regular top 4 contenders?
JamesTFL: GSC of course top army with no major nerfs stays top. We’ll still see marines they simply get too many free points not to be good. Demons, Orks, World Eaters, and Guard stay very strong. I recognize this may be internal bias as I play mobility pressure armies way better than static or stat check armies so there is probably a durability skew I’m missing. For marines we’ll still see Iron Hands they just lose 3-5 point a game on secondaries, Wolves were great and lose nothing so they stay great and a ten man of desolation marines with keen senses seems great. Templars are also likely to be good, though maybe less so now that the meta doesn’t have to tech so hard into killing 0++ deathwing terminators and can take guns to clear regular marine bodies.
TheChirurgeon: Daemons. Orks. Astra Militarum still have lots of play even if they *only* get 6 mortal wounds per phase out of Kasrkin. I think there’s probably still a playable Dark Angels list using the Lion, but that may just be wishful thinking. Space Wolves are the marines to beat now as they still have great terminators and an excellent mix of shooting and melee prowess that will allow them to at least still consider Codex Warfare, plus Wulfen do their trick of just always counting assault kills as in-doctrine, which is neat.
Wings: Lots of stuff, which is obviously good. Best Marines can still easily compete, Craftworlds and Ynnari have got the chops, GSC are very strong, Daemons and World Eaters play powerful skew games, and Guard can still blow people up. I’d also flag Tau as serious contenders – they’ve already been hovering on the edges of a lot of podiums, and Coresides are no joke.
Curie: I expect we’ll continue to see much of the same – many different armies with the capacity to win events. Up until the dataslate, every army except for Imperial Knights had won at least one GT, which speaks to the state of the game. Trimming the top off of the worst armies should keep this going, with a bit less of a skew towards those really strong armies (pre-dataslate Dark Angels had won nearly 20% of all the GT’s I track).
Typhus: Iron Hands. Even though they will perform worse on certain terrain packs, they will be a menace. On shootier packs like UKTC Iron Hands will be obnoxious. On more close combat centered I expect Space Wolves to take their spot. I expect GSC to still perform well, but it struggles against Infiltrator heavy armies.
Nathan: You basically excise Dark Angels and slap Orks into the top 5 now I think, which makes the Top 5 (in order) Iron hands, Genestealer Cult, Chaos Daemons, Orks, and probably Space Wolves (whose win rate is suppressed by people playing SW instead of successors) to round it out though you could make an argument for World Eaters (who have been the bride a lot in GT+ sized events) or Astra Militarum (who are winning events but really hate desolation marines).
Innes: I’ve been preparing for this meta all my life. Iron Hands, GSC, Daemons, Orks and Space Wolves are my top 5 in no particular order, while some other armies hover around. Overall it’s been fairly balanced at the top with a lot of armies winning in Arks and maybe the small tweaks to IH and Wolves sees their winrate bottom out a bit but I need to see it happen.
Q. Time for the big questions. As we close out 9th edition, how do you feel about the evolution of comp play compared to 8th?
TheChirurgeon: We’re light years ahead of where we were at the end of 8th, with quarterly updates, free points made available online, and designers who are at least looking at some stats, even if those stats aren’t always the right ones.
Wings: Yeah, it’s been good overall. Have I loved the relatively frequent post-release spikes for factions? Obviously not – but at least knowing the development team is paying attention and going to change things helps. I also like that the entire scene is essentially unified on playing the same missions, even if some events use slightly different scoring, as it brings the community much closer to playing the same game wherever it’s happening. The escalation in what TOs are typically delivering from 8th to 9th has been massive too, with the “default” level of terrain light years ahead of where we once were. All good stuff, let’s hope tenth builds on that.
TheChirurgeon: Every book in 9th edition has felt pretty well balanced internally – almost every book has lots of viable units and multiple strategies you can play with competitively – but from Drukhari onward each one seems like it was balanced for an entirely different game – one that would have been miserable to play. I think the next big step is doing a better job of external balance and avoiding power creep with codex releases, and balancing books around the existing baseline.
Curie: I came back into competitive play mid-way through 8th edition (right before the Castellan nerf). I’ve become increasingly involved with the competitive scene and I can say it’s never been healthier (for the 5 short years I’ve followed it). The designer’s response to game balance issues has steadily improved, from the introduction of the dataslates, to the GT pack being updated twice a year, and to points being made freely available on-line. The codex creep has been a real problem, but their responsiveness to issues as they arise does somewhat counteract this.
Boon: Currently side-eying everyone on the panel here. I wanted to like 9th edition pretty much every step of the way, but if we’re comparing competitive play in 8th vs competitive play in 9th and citing processes GW put into play (which are good) or how a codex feels internally (which was good) and ignoring the absolute dumpster fire the meta has been then I’m not actually sure what we’re talking about here. James is understating the ‘spikes’ in the way only an English man could. Rob and Jeremy hit on it, but I’m going to just go ahead and lean in.
The core rules are the tightest they’ve ever been. I firmly believe that. But since March of 2021 we’ve been buffeted by wave after wave of just bad competitive releases that upended the meta for months at a time – some surviving multiple dataslates. If I recall correctly, 8th edition was one that saw the first boogeyman, Ynnari, top out at a 61% win rate with the most absurdly busted faction, Iron Hands, doing so well they very briefly exceeded 72% and even performed decent into a new edition. In between you had Castellans, Eldar Flyers, and other circus shit that felt real bad. And yet none of that would hold a candle to the cascade of Drukhari, Drukhari, Ad Mech everything, hey Drukhari again, Orks indirect + planes, Tau, Custodes (lol that release buff), TYRANIDS, Harlequins, that time Necrons decided to play their own game, Deathwing, and Imperial Guard. Hell, you could make a case for Grey Knights, and just imagine Leagues of Votann if the community hadn’t lost its collective mind over what they saw. Many of those exceeded the wildest excesses of 8th edition Iron Hands and at least three for a considerably longer time. The only difference is that few of the issues in 9th were driven by Marines (owned by almost everyone) so the impacts were felt only in smaller scales or at top tables instead everywhere all at once.
Between 8th and 9th, these editions aren’t even on the same wavelength in terms of competitive play. 8th was bad at times, but it wasn’t nearly the game of haves and have-nots that 9th has been. In my opinion, the *competitive* play of 9th edition was a half-step back. That may end up being good for 10th edition since, as the others have noted, critical processes have been put in place to address ongoing issues. Processes that if carried on consistently can mean good things for 10th. If 9th edition had a performance review you’d expect to read, “Has a lot of potential” right up front.
Typhus: I’ve seen some power creeps since 5th edition, and this edition just had the worst experience moments of them all. I loved the involvement of GW in balance dataslates and responding to the community, but I will say it – I hated the scoring system in 9th. So linear and uninteractive, especially after the faction secondaries change. Not to be sour – I think the biggest win of this edition was getting more people to play it, and seeing more engagement around the world with streamlined scoring. Hopefully this will continue.
Innes: I’m with Typhus on this one – 9th edition has the most binary and limiting scoring system we’ve seen since I started playing in 5th. There’s very little dynamism and no format differences to account for so anything that’s oppressive just gets even more so because there’s no escape. Give me back Maelstrom of War as an actually respected format to force some lists to have an actual plan that they couldn’t decide on turn 0. It’s been nice to have a lot more players and events than in 8th edition though, and the community continues to go from strength to strength on the player side. The international community is more connected and cooperative than ever before and I love that as it’s why I play the game.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah that’s a very fair point. As much as I liked the concept behind “building armies to accomplish specific secondary objectives,” the actual execution ended up looking more like “take the same objectives every game unless your opponent is playing knights or fucked up during list building and left themselves open to scoring 15 on a kill secondary.” Add to that the sheer volume of passive scoring and I won’t begrudge anyone saying they didn’t think the missions in 9th edition were good.
Q. Were dataslates a success or a failure? What should GW change in the process for 10th?
JamesTFL: Dataslates were a home run in my eyes. Sure there were periods of army dominance but I think that is basically inevitable in a game like this. Further the pandemic was quite a hurdle and despite the mad scramble to keep going during it GW kept their commitment to active balancing. By the time things began to settle down in 2022 GW had made a really excellent set of changes and a wide open and fun meta. Also if your army sucks you’ve got hope you’ll get help in 3 months. If clowns have got you down only wait a little while and they are likely to be nerfed again. As far as changes their approach to data analysis needs to get more granular. Win rates hide lots of sins. For example Guard and Ork win rates are mystifyingly low. The good folks at 40kstats and Stat Check are basically giving GW free labor to balance with they may as well take it.
TheChirurgeon: An absolute success. Having quarterly updates both helps balance issues with the codexes while also keeping things fresh. Even if you don’t think Armour of Contempt was the right call, the nine months or so in which it was live gave us a dramatically different meta to work with. That said, I think the process still has issues; GW seems to hyper-fixate on win rates and not spend enough time thinking about play patterns that are just terrible, creating game plans with no interaction, or how brutal some subfactions can be. It’s also not clear what is and is not “fair game” for their changes.
Wings: A huge success, though I certainly hope that the magnitude of changes that sometimes needs to be made is lower in 10th. From everything we’ve heard so far, it sounds like there should be fewer angles to stack up absurd numbers of buffs and break maths, which should hopefully dial back the degree to which combos can be out of line. What can I say – I’m an optimist.
Curie: Definitely a success. There were sometimes when they tread too lightly or adjusted things too severely, but it showed a willingness to tweak everything a faction had from core rules to secondaries to points. I agree with James and Rob here – more focus on other data points than just win rates will help balance the game going into the next edition.
Typhus: “The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself” – Winston Churchill. It was a great success, but at the same time I think when balancing you need to look into so many factors, as winrates don’t show the whole picture. I love how they do it in League of Legends (granted they have better data), and balance according to multiple factors. With the data we have at hand, you could go very much in-depth about win rates with some NLP methods on lists/secondaries/primaries in matchups and dig out interesting correlations.
Nathan: I think the slates were an overall huge success in that GW took a more proactive balancing approach with the only downside being that they sometimes stuck to the quarterly schedule too rigidly which has allowed a few metas to fester a bit too long. I hope that in 10th edition they continue using the slates as a regular balancing mechanism. I do wish I knew a little bit more about how some of the balance choice decision making process, but maybe I really don’t want to know how that particular sausage is made.
Innes: I think Games Workshop remain too cautious about changes. The first real actually effective power downs for Harlequins, Tyranids, and Drukhari all took almost a full year and that’s just unacceptable to me. With such a slow process, leaving unhealthy mechanics for multiple Dataslates should never happen. Crush them once and buff them back if it goes too far.
Q. What are you playing for the final months of the edition, and why?
JamesTFL: TEAMS BABY! Some local heroes and I are going to KC so we’re doing our best to learn pairings and meta games and team style list building. Learning new things is fun and doing so with friends is even better. I’m looking forward to the party van to KC and the whole weekend. Sure, we’ll get trounced by some team whose done this before but who cares. Teams formats in all circumstances rule!
TheChirurgeon: I’m at Warhammer Fest in two weeks and doing the Teams event but most of my gaming is going to be Crusade/Narrative until 10th comes out. I’ve had more than my fill of 9th and I’m pretty sick of it, to be honest. Too many of my games feel like they’re decided when I roll up to the table or shortly after the first turn, and I’m looking forward to at least a few months where that uncertainty is back. Until then I’ll be playing World Eaters primarily, but I may play Thousand Sons or Death Guard at WHF if I can fit an entire army of either into a small Citadel minis case.
Wings: Craftworlds with the Avatar, maybe Ynnari if I get bored of that, but I don’t have that many remaining events planned – I’ve got a GT this weekend as a warmup, Warhammer Fest, but not that much planned beyond that.
Curie: I’ve got a quiet send off to the edition. I’m playing in a Major this weekend out in Trois Rivières QC, and because of deadlines the dataslate isn’t in play. Naturally I’m bringing 15 desolation marines! After that though it’s prep for my final event of the season, a big teams event in Sudbury. Going to try to send off 9th edition with a bang, while trying to convince my captain that I can run the Lion there!
Boon: I still haven’t recovered from the psychic damage left by my Drukhari and Harlequins so I’ll ride- or-die my Craftworlds. The meta is a bit tough at the moment – Desolators are the end result of someone doing a SWOT analysis on Marines vs Elves and landing on the perfect solution. So I’ve been thinking, “Two Phoenix Lords seems good, why not three?” And going from there.
Nathan: I’m playing space marines right now alongside guard and kinda just getting both factions hobby’d up for 10th edition. I do have a couple events before 10th releases in June/July, but really I probably should just be saving money for this upcoming Nids range refresh.
Innes: Iron Hands and Cults, exactly the same as before! Might break out some random lists for local RTTs and such just to use some of the models and rules I enjoyed this edition again (though because of the way mechanics changes have worked this is less appealing as things like the Levi Warriors and Flyrants list just don’t exist, rather than being weaker versions of their former selves). I’ve got Warhammer Fest and then a large Scottish event to round out May before taking a back seat to crack 10th Ed for WTC in August.
Q. Got any final thoughts on the dataslate?
TheChirurgeon: B-. Got most of the way there, but needed to help out the Chaos factions to really get things settled for the last few months. Better than I was expecting, since I’m sure the game’s designers aren’t immune to the allure of looking ahead to next edition. Pretty much every change they made was a necessary one, though. I’m looking forward to the next edition, and hoping there are some bigger changes to how they think about missions and secondaries coming down the line.
JamesTFL: A- job GW. I think Arks is a step backwards from nephilim but as far as balance within Arks they hit just about everything that needed hitting if they weren’t going to get into points. Can’t get the full A if you leave a top predator untouched even if they are like 3% of the meta game.
Curie: B flat. More focus on bringing armies up. I think if GW changes anything about their approach in 10th edition, it’s to focus on this as much as nerfing problem armies. We have the data and tools now to look at knock-on effects, so don’t tip-toe around. I will say I am impressed they didn’t phone it in given the edition is going away in the coming months.
If 9th edition were a story we’re well past the climax and avoided an ending that sours everyone on the memory. All that’s left now is to roll the credits, maybe catch a post-credit preview or two, then go home, wait, and look forward to the next edition.
Buffs: D-, Tau didn’t need the help, and the Abhor change pretending to be good for TSons and GK is insulting. Nothing for underperforming Marines, Nids changes miss the point completely.
Formatting: F- See Me After Class, why is there no change log or different text colour. Why are some changes just gone with no strike through.
Overall: C-, one of the best Dataslates of the edition.
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