Hammer of Math: Win Rates are great data points to look at. They’re definitely not enough.

This week we’ve got a very special Hammer of Math, with Stat Check’s Cliff Thomas filling in for Primaris Kevin. Cliff is talking about win rates and how they’re not necessarily the final data point to look at when determining how good a faction is and whether that faction needs addressing.

Warhammer 40k’s 9th edition has ushered in a new age of game-based data sharing and analysis. The Falcon’s pioneering work in 8th Edition started us all down this road, and we’re all better for it. The weekly Meta Monday posts on r/warhammercompetitive, the Falcon’s continued work here at Goonhammer’s 40k Stats, and my team’s work on the Meta Data Dashboard at Stat Check have produced a veritable cornucopia of performance data for 40k enthusiasts to peruse. Even Games Workshop has joined the stats nerd party with their biweekly Meta videos. Faction win rates in all shapes and sizes can be found on your website of choice, using the dataset that you feel is most appropriate.

That said – we’ve got a lot of work to do. Overall Faction Win Rates – the most basic data point available to us, have become the default talking point for balance and performance discussions. Fellow 40k enthusiasts – we’re better than this. While a great start, overall faction win rates can mask performance outliers on the top and bottom ends, hide sub-factions that are either over or under-tuned, and occasionally give us data that is flatly unreliable due to low sample sizes.

Thankfully, the 40k Statsluminati has provided additional data to curb this issue. However, that data’s only useful if you, dearest reader, use it! Let’s go on a journey through the lies that Faction Win Rates occasionally tell, and the path to nuanced truth that can be discerned from other data points.

Let’s start with last month’s Metawatch post on the Warhammer Community site. The Faction win rates for events of all sizes in the period between January 30th through February 12th were displayed as follows:

Credit: Games Workshop

This doesn’t look too bad! Only Genestealer Cults, Dark Angels, and those shining paragons of all that is good in the 41st millennium, the Adeptus Custodes are operating above the “Goldilocks Zone” between 45% and 55% on the top end. On the bottom end, only the Adeptus Mechanicus and Deathwatch factions are underperforming. A strong start to the Arks of Omen meta!

And here we find the lie. While these aggregates Games Workshop’s dataset may be accurate, we know that there’s performance data missing. If we want to have a nuanced, thoughtful discussion about game balance, we still need to know at minimum:

  • Sub-faction win rates: Are any sub-factions particularly problematic (the answer to this question is yes)
  • Faction and sub-faction Player Population: Are player migrating to the problematically strong factions and away from the under-performers (the answer to this question is yes)
  • Within Event Performance: Which factions are over-represented as potential event winners? Which are over-represented as actual event winners?

There are other important data points – primary and secondary score performance, record distributions, game score distributions, etc. – but we’ll save those for future Hammer of Math articles.

Subfaction Win Rates

Going back to the last Metawatch article, we see that the Adeptus Astartes sit at a 47% win rate. That’s not the whole story. If we look at Stat Check’s Meta Data Dashboard for the same period, we see quite disparate performance among the Astartes Sub-Factions in GT+ events.*

Source: Stat Check, GT+ Events, 25+ players, 5+ rounds

We knew that Dark Angels were doing well, but Iron Hands are also over-performing! With a win-rate of 57.8%, they also have an OverRep score of 1.59, meaning that they appeared in the top 4 of events 59% more often than we would expect given their player population. They outright won 2 events in the Arks meta leading up to February 12th, and were the 10th most popular faction among GT+ event attendees. That is problematically good performance from a relatively popular faction.

Let’s go one step further down into the sub-factions contained within the Iron Hands Sub-Faction.

That is stark. The majority of the Iron Hands player population is going with the Chapter as-is, no notes, and achieving an overall win-rate of 51%. However, the 22% of players that choose the custom traits Master Artisans and Whirlwind of Rage hit a very impressive (and very problematic) 71% win rate during the same span. If we stopped looking at the Adeptus Astartes level, we would have no idea that Iron Hands were doing so well. Further, if we stopped looking at the Iron Hands level, we’d have no idea that the combination of Master Artisans and Whirlwind of Rage was leading to such outsized results among a substantial portion of their player population.

On the other end of the spectrum, the White Scars, Crimsons Fists, Imperial Fists, and Deathwatch all sat below the 40% win rate mark, with no apparent hidden gems of sub-faction performance:

With a bit more digging, we’ve gone from the understanding that the Adeptus Astartes are balanced, with a 52% overall win rate (huzzah!) to a much more accurate understanding of loyalist Astartes’s place in the Arks meta:

  1. On the top end, Iron Hands are wildly overperforming, and the Master Artisans custom trait is playing a large role in that performance.
  2. On the bottom end, quite a few Astartes factions are still struggling – White Scars, Crimsons Fists, Imperial Fists, Deathwatch (and Blood Angels) appear to need further support, even as they enjoy 200 – 400 additional points of army relative their choices in Nephilim.

As always, the devil’s in the details. You’ll soon be able to see detailed Arks of Omen performance data here at Goonhammer’s 40k Stats, with data on secondary performance, TiWP (which you’ll learn about next time!), and sub-faction performance data. Right now, you can check out Stat Check’s Meta Data Dashboard for the current state of the meta, updated every week with the most up to date results for the most competitive events in the 40k global community. Here’s to the data, and make sure to give your local Fists players a hug – they need it.

*Stat Check uses data from GT+ events, which are all events that are at least five rounds in length with at least 25 players. This data is manually cleaned and checked for maximum accuracy.

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