While I will not be attending LVO this year (look for me at Adepticon and Nova), I could not help but look and see what the field looks like right now. With two of the year’s largest Age of Sigmar events going on this weekend (LVO in Las Vegas, Nevada and Cancon in Canberra, Australia), we’ve got a prime opportunity to take a step back and look at the Age of Sigmar landscape and identify what’s working and what’s not. Since both events publish player lists ahead of the actual event, we can start by looking at the armies and units that players are bringing and use that to build a comprehensive picture of the AoS meta. In today’s article, I’ll look at what we can gleam from the submitted lists and then next week I’ll take a look back at the results once both tournaments have ended. In total, I looked at 228 lists for CanCon and more than 130 for LVO.
It’s been a busy year for AoS. The Ossiarch Bonreapers premiered in October, then in December Slaves to Darkness hit, with a big Christmas FAQ shortly after. Finally at the beginning of this month, Disciples of Tzeentch and Kharadron Overlords both got updated battletomes. That’s a lot of changes in 4 months! However, until this point there really haven’t been any major events to track what is winning. You could look at a few smaller events but this is the first time we’re getting to see a large number of people together to crunch some numbers and see whats going to come out on top.
It can’t be overstated how much Ossiarch Bonereapers exploded in such a short time, debuting at the end of October with the full model line launching in November. From the very beginning it was clear they were going to be powerful and it wasn’t hard to see why. In both events the most popular list is Petrifix Elite, a subfaction that grants +1 to saving throws across the entire army, which is a ludicrously good buff. Even without the buff, Ossiarch Bonereapers are strong, they possess access to rend, the first real ranged attacks of the faction (if one ignores Tomb Kings are technically useable in some events) and even before the buff granted by Petrifix, above-average saves. About the only downside is board control, they’re pretty slow and generally have a low model count but that’s small comfort when even their basic troops are nearly impossible to dislodge without a lot of rend.
Both Cancon and LVO have just shy of 20 Petrifix Elite lists at each event (18 and 19, respectively) and while the army doesn’t have a ton of units you do see a lot of variation in the approaches people are taking to list building. The most popular Heroes are trusty Arkhan the Black with his ability to know all 6 spells and cast 3, and the Liege-Kavalos, a horseback general. Most lists include at least one Crawler or Harvester (often both) and Necropolis Stalkers are very popular for “elite units”. On the troop front, there’s a strong lean toward Mortek Guard, which again is not surprising given how under petrifix elite they’re damn near unkillable once they’re set up.
I think we’ll see some more uniformity in lists as people figure out what works and what doesn’t. Right now we’re trying to see what sets toward the bottom, but if you want to survive in the new meta, you’re going to need to either play OBR yourself, or bring a lot of rend to cut through their defenses.
Flesh Eater Courts & Skaven
“The Survivors” of the December FAQ. FEC and Skaven were consistently top performers in the tourney circuit and managed to get out of the FAQ without being hit too badly so it’s no surprise that they’re still a popular choice here. Given they didn’t change all that much it’s equally unsurprising that people are sticking with what works. Both armies shared a similar strength in their ability to overwhelm the enemy with greater numbers than they could hope to stand up to. Flesh Eater Courts bring the obligatory Arch-Reagant hero to summon more mobs, Ghoul-King on Terrorgheist to bring some heavy hitting mob control, and as many crypt horrors and ghouls as one can fit on their list. Skaven use the Grey-Seer and Plague Priest backed up with as many Plague Monks as they can. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it is the message here and while these armies don’t have quite the same number of players as they used to, they’ve maintained a pretty steady following.
Won’t lie, this surprised me. Combined, there are 20 bloodgullet lists combined at both of these events. While I thought the Mawtribes book was solid, it didn’t seem like it was going to be very popular, as Ogre Kingdoms in fantasy were pretty niche. I seem to have been wrong and a good number of people are willing to put this book through its paces. The lists are varied, with a really wide mix of Gluttons, Leadbelchers and Ironguts. Several lists have an Icebrow Hunter hero with Frost Sabres for outflanking, while some lists have gone all in and use nothing but Frost Sabres. The one unifying unit seems to be the Frostlord on Stonehorn, for absolutely brutal charges that Ogors are all about.
Slaanesh got absolutely gutted in the December FAQ and it’s hard to say it didn’t deserve it. In almost every major tournament Slaanesh would place first, if not second or third. Their main strength was the Depravity Point system which allowed them to gain points to summon new models by dealing and receiving wounds. The general strategy was to bring as many Keeper of Secrets as one could and use the wounds they deal and take to summon more Keepers. Slaanesh was, naturally fast which meant they had practically full board control and could disrupt other armies in melee with the often frustrating Locus of Diversion helped them get to attack first more often than not. The FAQ went after both of these, raising the cost of Depravity points and making the Locus have a base proc of a 5+ instead of a 4+.
The reaction is readily apparent: LVO has only 5 Slaanesh lists, while Cancon has 6, with Godseekers remaining the most popular subfaction. Slaanesh doesn’t have a wide unit selection so the most popular units have more or less remained the same, with Godseekers relying on Chariots and Hellstriders to fill their lists with wounds. Keeper of Secrets remain popular, as they should, theyre still powerful even if you can’t summon a ton of them. Daemonettes seem to populate more lists now, in the past they were often overlooked due to being only one wound a piece. Most likely because some people have decided to forego trying to farm depravity points and just try and fit as many attacks as they can if bringing in KoS backup is no longer an option.
My personal opinion is that people may have overreacted a little to the nerf and jumped ship as soon as the nerfs hit, given it only gave them a little over a month until these events. Combined with the rise of OBR it’s understandable why some would run away from Slaanesh. I think we’ll see Slaanesh climb back up the ranks once things settle down (and OBR see a much needed nerf).
The Rest of Death
Everything that isn’t Ossiarch Bonereapers or Flesh Eater Courts has seen a slow decline over time. Legions of Nagash was a strong book when it came out, particularly papa Nagash himself. It was one of the last books of “1.0” Age of Sigmar and so it transistioned to 2.0 quite well but it’s showing its age. Arkhan the Black and Nagash, two of the best Heroes in the book can now be taken in Ossiarch Bonereapers lists which has made the Legions of Nagash book pretty irrelevant. Nagash’s gradual rise in points has seen him being played less as well, a point rise was probably warranted, but I’d argue he costs a bit too much now. It remains to be seen if Legions of Nagash will see a new book for 2.0.
Nighthaunts also struggle in the unenviable spot of “first codex syndrome”. They shared the launch of Age of Sigmar 2.0 with Stormcast in the Soul Wars box, and while stormcast have remained pretty consistent across the edition, Nighthaunts have dwindled in popularity. Being in the first codex means you’re a prototype, before the game devs have ironed out the kinks of the system and you end up missing some of the interesting design concepts that come later on, once they’ve published a few game books. It’s often even worse than having a last edition codex because there’s less motivation to publish a revised edition. While it can happen (8th ed 40k has revised codices for space marines and chaos marines), its often a last resort after all other books have been exhausted, and we still have a fair number of “last edition” battletomes to get through.
In short, Death is in a weird place and hopefully gets revised, so it’s not just bone golems and flesh eating ghouls as far as the eye can see.
Tzeentch and Kharadron Overlords
Both these battletomes have potential. Tzeentch especially is much more powerful, with Eternal Conflagration granting increased rend for ranged attacks and teleportation shenanigans from the Changehost Battalion. Horrors got a huge buff and may now be one of the best battlelines in the game. Kharadron Overlords similarly grant a strong ranged game, tons of mobility and with a lot of rend. The combination of ranged attacks, movement and rend makes them a pretty strong counter to the OBR heavy meta.
Why are they losers? The books hit just a bit too late. So we’re not going to see what they can do because not terribly many people got lists together in time to play at CanCon or LVO. Hopefully by Adepticon we’ll be able to get a better idea of what these armies can do.
Next Time: Looking at the Results
It can’t be ignored: Ossiarch Bonereapers are terrifying and their popularity is something that is going to have to be seriously worked around. I don’t think that this is as bad as what Iron Hands did for the 40k meta, OBR do have weaknesses but players looking to do well in a competitive environment are going to need to plan their lists to counter them. GW seems to have gotten smarter about acknowledging when balances are needed and responding in kind. Slaanesh saw its major nerf within 9 months of the launch of the battletome and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some major nerfs to Bonereapers as early as June alongside the General’s handbook.
Outside of the doom and gloom of the OBR over-representation, Age of Sigmar tournament meta has remained pretty healthy. Past the major glut of Bonereapers there is a lot of diversity present. Even Seraphon, the last army without an actual battletome have just as many lists at both events as Stormcast or Khorne. There’s still a lot of room for expansion as well: Kharadron Overlords and Disciples of Tzeentch came out a bit too early to make an appearance at these events but have the potential to be a strong counter to the current bonereaper powerhouses. On Thursday night the new Lumineth Realm-Lords, Teclis’ Light Elves have finally been announced which leaves a lot of room open for new battletomes to shift things yet again in the near future.
After the weekend I hope to take a look at what lists won and get a better idea of where the meta has ended up. Since we’re at a point in time where people are trying out a lot of different lists it’s hard to say what tactics will pan out in the meta.