North East Open Tournament Analysis

Good news – big changes in the metagame means that it’s exciting to write about tournament results again! Last week we previewed the North East Open, a 100-player major happening in the UK with a formidible roster of players in attendance. When writing the preview the angle was very much whether any of the new toys from various books would let any of the innovative armies we looked at challenge Marine dominance, but all that changes on Thursday with the publication of the Marine Errata, which we looked at in our round table on Friday.

Normally a big change this close to an event might leave the post-tournament analysis a bit moot, as rules cutoffs can mean they aren’t adopted, but luckily for us the organisers of the NEO (Majority T3) made the decision (with clear support from their players) to incorporate the updates, allow Marine players to change lists, relax painting requirements and redraw the pairings. That’s great news for us, as it means we get some hot-off-the-press results for the new metagame, so we’d like to thank the organisers for making what we think was a good call, and the Marine players in the event for being good sports about it.

What we’re going to do today is check in on the breakdown of the top five, the lists that went 4-1 or better and the lists we previewed, then go through some thoughts regarding what that means for the various factions, including some discussions with various players whose lists have been featured.

Huge, huge thanks to everyone who responded to my requests for their thoughts – getting in some analysis from the players with on-the-table experience of the lists being discussed really levels up what these articles offer, and getting to talk to lots of people about the game is one of my favourite things about writing for this website.

As a final note, all lists for the event are in BCP if we haven’t included them here – we’re touching on rather too many to include them all. The top four are also, of course, available on 40kstats.

Let’s take it away!


The top five finishers after five rounds of competition were as follows:

  1. Aeldari – Konrad Bartkiewicz (who we interviewed yesterday)
  2. Iron Hands goodstuff – Mike Porter
  3. Raven Guard Centurions – Bernard Lee
  4. Bloody Rose-centric Sisters of Battle – Matt Robertson
  5. Possessed Bomb/Thousand Sons – James Mackenzie

Obviously you can immediately see that the sky isn’t falling for Space Marines, as in the hands of some great players Iron Hands and Raven Guard still took podium positions, but what’s really striking is what happens when you extend out and look at the breakdown of all 4-1 or better lists, giving the following:

  • 1 Mixed Aeldari
  • 1 Craftworlds
  • 1 Iron Hands
  • 2 Raven Guard/Raptors
  • 1 Sisters
  • 2 Chaos (both Possessed Bomb)
  • 1 Dark Angels
  • 1 Orks
  • 3 Tau
  • 2 Guard/Blood Angels
  • 1 Grey Knights

First up, if that top table metagame doesn’t bring a tear to your eye after the winter we’ve had then you must be a little bit dead inside or an Iron Hands player (at which point it’s probably both). We’re yet to see whether this will hold up as the metagame evolves but it’s en encouraging sign, with the conspicuous lack of an endless wall of Iron Hands lists padding out the higher parts of the bracket being extremely welcome. While the NEO was the biggest event going down, the pattern was repeated at other events that adopted the changes like the Giga-Bites Cafe & Alpha Strike Podcast GT, so hopefully it won’t prove to just have been a fluke.

That covers the top bracket, and we should also check in on the players (other than those already covered above) whose lists we previewed ahead of time. Their results were as follows:

  • Paul Dennett – Dark Angels – 4-1
  • Adam Young – Tau – 2.5-2.5
  • Leo Kyp – Tau – 3-2
  • Feliks  Bartkiewicz – Tau – 4-1
  • Dominic Graham – Guard/Blood Angels – 3-2

Sadly it looks like Matthew Walker (Iron Hands) didn’t make the event in the end.

We’ve got plenty to talk about from that, and we’ll dive into some faction analysis and thoughts from the players in a second, but before we do that we thought it would also be nice to share some thoughts from the event’s organiser Ricci Lowe about how he thought it went.

Tournament Organiser’s Thoughts

Credit: Majority T3

Hey Ricci at Majority T3 here, Meta was as expected at NEO 2020, I think the previous article about the event really shone some light on the more interesting lists, special shout from me to Mark Walkers chaos knight build (I’m a chaos fanboy) and my main man Dom Graham, his list does wonders locally.

With the FAQ changes to Marines around 7 players changed up their army, including Innes Wilson who switched to Grey Knights, which in my opinion was smart, a player like him can pilot those lads to greatness. Marines are still good, they’re just not unbeatable. At the end Konrad jumped the top table from table 2 with a wildly high score in the last game, it could have went wildly different but he’s a genius with that army and also a lot of peoples hot ticket to win as soon as we announced we’d use the FAQ.

Final thoughts:

  • Eldar: still good,
  • Dark Reapers: making a come back
  • Haywire bikes: kill Knights
  • I’m borrowing a grey knight army for the next tournament I play in!

Event wise everyone enjoyed themselves, we inevitably had all sorts of issues in the background but I think we smashed it on the day but you’ll have to ask the players for their true feelings! (We smashed it)”

We’d like to thank Ricci for speaking to us and helping keep us up to date with list reveal times and ruling updates pre-event – and, of course, for being one of the heroic TOs who make our hobby possible!

Faction Thoughts


Credit: Corrode

We’ll start with the returning pointy-eared menace, both because they won the event and because I’m massively biased. Other than Konrad’s list (Shining Spears/Expert Crafter Reapers/Artillery), the top performing Eldar players were a flyer spam/Expert Crafters build played by Colm McCarthy at 4-1 and a Drukhari build played by Eddie Chater at 3.5-1.5.

Colm’s list packs a truly eye-watering amount of firepower, squeezing in 8 planes, 9 Vibro Cannons and three Night Spinners, with a lone warlock being the only other model in the army. This kind of list has always been able to just sweep stuff off the board given half a chance, and the substantial reduction in the number of Imperial Fists and Leviathan Dreadnoughts in the metagame is great news for it – the high-firepower Fists lists could blow it off the board, while an unkillable Leviathan presented an often insurmountable challenge. In theory the army trades the ability to play the objective game well for being able to out-kill almost anything, but both those Marine flavours could generally out-shoot it while also packing enough troops to play a ground game, leaving the flyer spam build with a very difficult path to winning the game.

I’m not thrilled to see this back but it’s a list you need to prepare for. On the way to 4-1, Colm defeated an Iron Hands Brigade (with a Leviathan, but obviously it can actually be interacted with now), a more conventional Expert Crafters Craftworld build, Blood Angels and Raven Guard Successor Centurions, while dropping a game to a second Raven Guard Successor list. The one thing worth noting is that a lot of the wins here were quite close and low-scoring, suggesting that the list could be vulnerable to a slow start, and from speaking to the Raven Guard player who took a game off Colm that was partially down to being able to secure an early wrap with some Aggressors, which I would assume followed through to a lot of dead Vibro Cannons and a lack of board presence shortly after.

Eddie’s Drukhari build has a lot of familiar elements – it’s got plenty of Venoms, a unit of three Talos and three Black Heart Ravagers. All stuff we know and love, but all looking a bit better now the firepower Marines can bring to bear diminishes after the first turn. Eddie took down Imperial Fists, Raven Guard Centurions and Death Guard, lost to Grey Knights and drew against a Crimson Fists list. That’s a vastly, vastly better set of performances against Marines than we’d probably have seen a few weeks ago, so good job to Eddie and maybe look to see this classic style of list around a bit more.

One final important thing to note is that all three of the top performing Aeldari players had access to Agents of Vect. This stratagem is tremendously powerful against a wide variety of lists at the moment, and if you can possibly squeeze a Black Heart detachment into your elf lists you absolutely should, even if you can only manage a Patrol as Konrad did.

Space Marines – Codex

Credit: Dan “SexCannon” Boyd

I mean they’re still here and they still seem to be pretty great, just not as overwhelmingly so as last week. Some changes do seem to be afoot though. Mike Porter’s 5-0 Iron Hands list still packs some distressingly familiar elements (two Chaplain Dreadnoughts, a decent number of stalker Intercessors) but also brings a few tools that we haven’t seen so frequently. He’s also running as a Master Artisans/Long Range Marksmen build, which helps to mitigate the impact of losing the super doctrine. A drop pod full of grav Devastators has been used to good effect in some of the Brigade-style lists before, but now there’s the pressure to milk value out of the super doctrine turn one I think they’ll become more common. The more unusual choices were a relic Scorpius and four-model Centurion Assault Squad. The Scorpius has been another relatively common flex choice, but again probably goes up in consideration because it hits hard turn one then doesn’t need to move from there on out. As a single unit with high output, it’s also a good target for Methodical Firepower or Wrathful Machine Spirit to up the output later in the game.

Finally, there are four Assault Centurions just chilling out. Many have long held that these need mobility strats to be worth it but apparently no, they’re still fine just on rate as a board-control element. The event was using central L-blocks, and just trundling these forward to occupy the centre of the table, counter charge push elements and decimate hordes seems to be enough of a role for them to fit into lists.

Clearly Iron Hands are still extremely powerful, but it’s good to see the lists change up a bit, and good job Mike on taking the nerf and pushing straight through it. On the way to 5-0, he beat Dark Angels/Guard, Blood Angels/Guard, Crafter Eldar, Tau and Grey Knights in a streamed table 1 game at the last.

Over in Raven Guard land, things also still look pretty rosy, with Bernard Lee taking them to 4.5-0.5 and Calum Purdie putting in a 4-1 result (both Artisans/Long Ranged Successors). Bernard’s list looks pretty similar to Raven Guard armies we’ve seen before, with the only major shift being that it’s heavier on the Eliminators than some previous versions. The list is still extremely strong, it just has to play a bit more fair now, having to hold its Centurions back in reserve for safety most of the time. A highly motivated horde list might try to screen them out – but those lists die in droves when the Assault Centurions come in with Tactical doctrine up within flamer range. Bernard defeated a more mixed Raven Guard list, a body-heavy Ork list, Dominic Graham’s Guard/Bangles, drew with Sisters and beat Imperial Fists.

Calum Purdie’s list tried out something that has been theorised as a response to the Master of Ambush change which was swapping up to including a full unit of six Aggressors (note: the version of Calum’s list in BCP seems to not have updated for the resubmission). He defeated Drukhari, Iron Hands, White Scars and Crafters Eldar, and lost the final round to Sisters.

Raven Guard Aggressors
Raven Guard Aggressors. Credit: Dan Boyd

We asked Callum whether losing access to Master of Ambush was a problem, and whether that was why the Aggressors came in:

“No problem. For me particularly, the change had no effect on how I played as I would always be deep striking my Cents. When we had the option to resubmit our lists, I upped my Aggressors from 4 to the full 6-man unit. They came in handy and was something my opponent had to deal with or at least felt like they had to deal with first turn. I only used them one game with master of ambush in order to get an early charge off and wrap a unit so they would be safe for a turn (this was Vs the Eldar flyer list).”

I think that’s an interesting bit of feedback – one of the advantages of the Centurion jump was that it gave you a lot of control over your opponent’s early choices, and the Aggressors stepping into that role even when not being jumped is definitely going to be valuable. Having the option to send something forward for a wrap when it really matters is also clearly very helpful. With hordes seeming to be slightly on the rise there’s plenty of room for Aggressors in the metagame anyway, so watch out for more people giving them a go. Thanks for talking to us Calum and well done on the 4-1 finish.

Taking the Marine results together, it looks like the killing power of Long Ranged Marksmen/Master Artisans builds from the Raven Guard/Iron Hands codices are still more than powerful enough for players to take them to the top tables, but it’s very noticeable as I pull out the brackets for players who we’re talking about that all the other mid-high table predators have much, much more realistic game plans against them. As it should be, frankly.

Grey Knights

Grey Knight Kill Team
Credit: Pendulin

One of those presumptive mid-high table predators is the new hotness Grey Knights, but they honestly had a slightly disappointing weekend, with only one player (Innes Wilson, who swapped to them from Marines) making it into the 4-1 bracket. That’s obviously slightly underselling Innes’ performance, as he played on the top table in the final round massively ahead on VP going into it, only being pushed out of the top five by high-scoring final round performances by some other players. You can see Innes own thoughts on the final game on his twitlonger. On the way to the final Innes beat vehicle-heavy Ad Mech, Eddie Chater’s Drukhari, Tau, James Mackenzie’s Possessed/Tsons. All the lists look super solid so the fact that the Grey Knights went through them is definitely encouraging for anyone who’s helped sell out Strike Squad boxes, but it may be that it takes a little while for a lot of the newer Grey Knight players to adapt to the list, which while extremely potent is also not very forgiving!

Dark Angels

Although Dark Angels are definitely hurt by the doctrine changes, their best build coming out of Ritual of the Damned seems to be Ravenwing, and they can heavily mitigate the impact through the Tactically Flexible warlord trait if necessary. A second turn of Devastator Doctrine for the plane bubble is basically all this list needed anyway and the combination of mobility, alpha strike threat and anti-infantry this army puts out still makes it formidible.

We looked at Paul Dennett’s version of the army last week, and he took this to a 4-1 finish, defeating Magnus/Mortarion, Chaos FW Spam, Grey Knights and Raven Guard, but dropping a game to Matt Robertson’s Sisters list. That particular build looks like a pretty horrific matchup for this army – it’s Repentia heavy and they’ll butcher Black Knights, while auto-charging Bloody Rose Zephyrim are a nightmare for the planes. Paul’s list was unusual in having two biiig Black Knight squads, and if the popularity of D2 melee/shooting continues I can imagine they might get swapped out for something that diversifies the target profile a bit. Still, it’s a great performance and good news for fans of the Unforgiven – good job Paul.

Sisters of Battle

Adepta Sororitas Sister Superoir
Adepta Sororitas Sister Superoir. Credit: Jack Hunter

So let’s talk about Matt Robertson’s Sisters list because it is wild (and terribly useful timing for poor, hard working website writers who’re supposed to be filling the Start Competing slot this week). Eschewing the Valourous Heart “anvil” seen in a lot of lists, this build is all hammer:

Matt Robertson's Sisters - Click to Expand

==Mixed Battalion Detachment (+5 cp)==

HQ: Celestine [160]

HQ:Cannoness (45), bolt gun and chainsword (0) [45]
WARLORD – Terrible Knowledge, RELIC – Litanies of Faith (Ebon Chalice)

HQ: Inquisitor, bolt gun and chainsword (0) [55] (Xenos – terrify)

Elite: Imagifier [45] Tale of the Warrior (Bloody Rose)

Troops: 5 Sisters of Battle, bolt gun (0 and chainsword on superior (0) [45] (Bloody Rose)

Troops: 5 Sisters of Battle, bolt gun (0 and chainsword on superior (0) [45] (Bloody Rose)

Troops: 5 Sisters of Battle, bolt gun (0 and chainsword on superior (0) [45] (Bloody Rose)

==Bloody Rose Battalion Detachment (+5 cp)==

HQ: Cannoness(45), bolt gun and chainsword(0) [45]

HQ: Missionary, shotgun and bolt pistol (0) [38]

Troops: 5 Sisters of Battle, bolt gun (0 and chainsword on superior (0) [45]

Troops: 5 Sisters of Battle, bolt gun (0 and chainsword on superior (0) [45]

Troops: 5 Sisters of Battle, bolt gun (0 and chainsword on superior (0) [45]

Fast Attack: 10 Seraphim (110), 4 inferno pistols (28), plasma pistol (5) [143]

Fast Attack: 8 Seraphim (88), 4 inferno pistols (28) [116]

Fast Attack: 8 Seraphim (88), 4 inferno pistols (28) [116]

No Slot: Repentia Superior (35), bolt pistol(0) [35]

Elite: 9 Repentia [117]

Elite: 9 Repentia [117]

Elite: 9 Repentia [117]

Elite: 9 Zephyrim (117), Zephyrim Pendant (5), 9 power swords (36) [158]

Elite: 9 Zephyrim (117), 9 power swords (36) [153]

Elite: 8 Zephyrim (104), 8 power swords (32) [136]

Transport: Sororitas Rhino (65), stormbolter (2) [67]
Transport: Sororitas Rhino (65), stormbolter (2) [67]

Matt’s list here builds on his second place finish at the Glasshammer Open a few weeks ago, doubling down even harder on the melee elements than previously by making a few tweaks to squeeze in a third Zephyrim squad, trimming models here (notably a Canoness and Dialogus) and there to find the points. It also doesn’t bother with trying to make a full detachment of Ebon Chalice, dipping in only for the Canoness loaded with the tools that make the list function.

What this army aims to do is to fire horrifically powerful melee squads into the enemy as early and often as possible. Thanks to the Terrible Knowledge warlord trait the army always starts with at least one 6 in its Miracle pool, and the Litanies of the Faith will allow them to re-roll dice they gain as well. The objective is to ensure that, whenever needed, the army can afford to blow these to max out advances and charges from the Repentia (using Holy Rage) or guarantee charges for incoming Zephyrim. Thanks to the absurd punch of either of these units once you add in Tear them Down and the Bloody Rose trait, anything that gets tagged by them is in for a really bad time, and thanks to the huge range of mobile threats (and frankly just large number of bodies that can be packing a 4++) this army puts down no opponent is ever going to feel safe. Adding the Inquisitor to shut down overwatch from enemies like Centurions is a really important touch too – Raven Guard are still here, and an unchargeable unit of Centurions could otherwise prove to be a real problem for this list.

This list seems absurdly good and continues to cement the Bloody Rose as one of the top ways to play Sisters. The only mild caveat I’d lay on it is that it does need some good central terrain to perform at its best (which both Glasshammer and NEO had) so maybe don’t go all in on this build if your local warzones include planet bowling green. Matt ended up 4.5-0.5, beating Mixed Aeldari, Skyweaver Spam, Paul Dennett’s Dark Angels, and Calum Purdie’s Raven Guard, drawing with Bernard Lee’s Raven Guard. Matt seems to have laid down the pure Sisters build to beat, and we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on his lists over the next few months.

Guard/Blood Angels

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Our final Imperium entry, and the low key story of the event for me is that this age old, long time popular flavour of Imperial Soup seems to be making a comeback. If only they hadn’t nerfed mortars in chapter approved the joke in my banner image might be relevant again. Nevertheless.

The timing of the resurgence of this old archetype isn’t too surprising – both factions have recently gotten shots in the arm, allowing their combined strength to shine once again. The big change from the older versions of these lists is that as well as Smash characters both 4-1 builds brought Sanguinary Guard along as well, with Ash Loftus’ build packing two squads and Tom Wright packing one, the latter favouring a squad of Bullgryn to provide a secondary melee threat. This makes a lot of sense – we all know jumping a deadly melee squad turn one can be powerful and this unit opens up the option to do this, with the Guard providing all the CP needed to charge up this lethal alpha strike for the games where it’s relevant.

Ash mixed up Tallarn and Vostroyan detachments in the rest of his list, and defeated two Guard lists (including Tom’s) and two Ork lists, dropping one game to Mike Porter’s Iron Hands. Tom went for a mixture of Cadian and a custom Battalion using Spotter Details and Gunnery Experts with Tank Commanders and defeated Imperial Knights, Skyweaver Spam, Blood Angels and Skyrunner Conclave w/ Covens, dropping a game to Ash.

The final Guard/Blood Angels player we wanted to take a look at was Dominic Graham, whose innovative list we looked at last week. Dominic ended up 3-2, beating White Scars, Guard and Orks and dropping games to James Mackenzie’s Possessed and Bernard Lee’s Raven Guard. We caught up with Dominic and asked how things went:

How did your list feel in general? We noticed that your wins tended to be big wins — was that down to the amount of board control?

“Board control was my entire weekend. While Smash captains do their thing and basilisks can pop a couple of things, ultimately its my guardsmen that are winning the games by manipulating control-areas, forcing inefficient deepstrikes and denying access to objectives.”

Were there any standout moments from your games?

“I had particular fun using Guard’s consolidate squads stratagem to make ridiculously large units of guardsmen in several of my games, peaking at a unit of 36 or so at one point. Conga lining across all the objectives with objective secured, tri-pinned something with low attacks and no FLY keyword and just making a nuisance of themselves.”

How did the new elements from Greater Good play? In particular, how were the Full Payload Basilisks and agile fighters?

The Greater Good gave me the last few tools to make my list flow as I initially intended. Full payload was fantastic. The fewer variables in my game the better, and knowing their potential damage output was one less thing to leave to the Dice Gods. Agile fighters is my MVP though, taking a guardsmen unit’s average movement from 18-19” a turn to 22-23” is significant (and admittedly a little ludicrous).

The not-so-obvious side effect the increased movement has apart from more consistent speed, is the fact I can hold back a little more than before. A guardsmen unit can happily chill in the middle of the board, ready to take over for the screen in front of it. Combinations of new and old stratagems make my artillery feel more impactful too. Popping Direct Onslaught, Aerial Spotter and Pounding Barrage on a Wyvern has some devastating potential on any screen or troop stood in the way. Even reliably chipping off wounds from vehicles, knights etc. I’m on the fence with the Missile Launcher / Hunter-Killer sentinel unit. Sometimes they do very well and manage to get rid of something big in the first turn, but as I said I do actively dislike variable damage weapons and the -2 AP isn’t as impactful as it might have been this time last year.

How would you change the list going forward, if at all?

“I wasn’t a fan of the hell hounds at all, I’m definitely going to be dropping them for 2 bare bones sentinels to pay my brigade tax and use the points elsewhere. Buffing out my scions into full 10 man squads, potentially with hot-shot volleys sounds like the more efficient use of the points, but I’m pretty sold on the idea of 40 more guardsmen and some platoon commanders in all honesty.

Huge thanks to Dominic for the in-depth analysis here, and that should make encouraging reading for the Guard readers in our audience – it sounds like the new options from Greater Good really add some depth to the faction.


Credit: RichyP

I imagine Ork players aren’t thrilled to hear that Raven Guard Successors don’t seem to be going away, as those lists can be extremely difficult for Orks to interact with. It is notable, however, that the most successful Ork list in the event, piloted by Tom Higginbottom, leant in on the horde aspect hard comitting the almost cardinal sin for current Ork lists of not packing three Shokk Attack guns and instead just bringing literally 160+ Boyz and another 60 Grots. That presents some serious board control and is also at least moderately difficult to score secondaries against, and will sometimes overwhelm the kind of firepower that lists like Aeldari planes bring to the table. Tom defeated Imperial Soup, a non-Centurion Raven Guard list, a mirror match and Expert Crafters Eldar, dropping a game to James Mackenzie’s Possessed.

A number of other Ork players put in 3-2 finishes, but overall it still looks like it’s a pretty tough time to be green. Given that the only top 4 Orks have put in at an event using ITC champions missions thus far this year was also a very horde-leaning build, it seems like that’s the way to go right now.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Two Chaos players made it to 4-1, both using the Possessed bomb. We looked at James Mackenzie’s build last week, while Matt Smith brought a version very close to the TJ Lannigan version, featuring Plagueburst Crawlers with plaguespitters as the space control. James defeated Grey Knights, two Ork players and Dominic Graham’s Guard/Blood Angels, losing to Innes with Grey Knights, while Matt beat Chaos Knights, Grey Knights, Feliks’ Farsight Tau and mixed Chaos, losing to Konrad’s Aeldari in the final round.

For a list that some had started to write off, two players in the 4-1 bracket at an event this size is a good showing. The question on everyone’s mind is whether the list can still perform if Grey Knights continue to rise. Some signs here are encouraging – both players managed to pull off a win against Grey Knights, but James’s only loss was also against Innes’ build. We asked James some questions about his list to get his thoughts:

How did your list feel in general? Did your enhancements to it do work?

“The list feels cagier, you have to play it less smash mouth and more board control as it has a lot more natural predators now. It is however still an incredible threat and those possessed can flip a game if left an opening.

The change ups I made with the Scarabs and jumping around were brilliant. Put in work in every game, I loved having the ability to throw a huge threat around the board and its screening whilst screen clearing was important in several games. They also put in a lot of work stealing kills to keep scoreboard pressure on during the early game posturing and board domination this list does. Just jumping up just about into range, annihilating a screening unit or two to steal a kill and potentially kill more really helped force opponents hands. In the toolbox they were the swiss army knife to the possessed sledgehammer.”

Were there any particularly notable moments? How was the game against the Guard/Blood Angels list we also previewed?

“The big one which springs to mind was game three vs Tom Higginbottom and his ork horde. I controlled the game and the board for much of the game, a sequence of tom throwing 30 boys at me to keep me back, me slaughtering them with possessed and re-establishing screens as I gradually walked up the board. He had a big counter push turn 5 with 40 boyz which would have made the game very close. Could have been a draw or single point win either way. He missed the charge and I ran away with it instead, score line flattered me in that round for sure.

The Guard/Bangles list is a very favourable game. The smash captains get one opportunity to punch something which was never going to be the Possessed, and then they get targeted smited to death. Nothing else in the army is a threat. He came up, I sniped the captains (one got a good Forlorn Fury off to kill a daemon prince I’d left exposed turn one) then the possessed just walked through his army, wrap something, slaughter 40+ guard, rinse and repeat. The bonus in that mission basically just requires you to hold the middle objective and your own two (pretty much automatic with my list against a list with little combat presence)”

Do you think any version of the list has legs in a world where Grey Knights are a big part of the meta?

“Yes, I think there’s a version which is much better than what I’m currently running, I play tested it once prior to NEO and would have flipped to it after FAQ but only marine players could resubmit lists. It’s got plays into GK, its obviously still my worst match up but its winnable if I play it perfectly. Every game I had at the weekend would have been easier with it. No, I’m not telling you what it is yet ?

Sounds to me like there’s definitely life in the list yet, even as the silver hordes grow. Thanks to James for chatting with us.


Last but not least among the factions occupying the top tables we have the Tau, with three players in the 4-1 bracket. Shane Russell put in the best performance with a Stabilisation Systems/Hardened Warheads build (featuring only one Riptide), and Kyle Grundy was only a single point behind with a pretty similar list. Feliks Bartkiewicz also managed a 4-1 with his Enclaves list. Elsewhere from the lists we previewed, Leo Kyp ended up on 3-2 with an extremely firepower heavy Stabilisation/Hardened list, while Adam Young’s mobile suit list ended up 2.5-2.5. Shane, Leo and Adam have all given us some thoughts, so lets dive in.

Shane Russell

Tau Pathfinders
Tau Pathfinders. Credit: Jack Hunter

Shane lost the Tau mirror to Kyle (but as seen from the final scores, got his revenge in the end) then beat Knights/Graia, Blaze Cannon Custodes, Iron Hands and Raven Guard Centurions.

Since it’s a bit unusual we’ve included the list, which is as follows:

Shane Russell's Tau

Batallion Detachment 5CP (Tau Empire) [ PL 28, 450 pts]
Sept: Stabilisation Systems, Hardened Warheads


Cadre Fireblade [2pl, 42pts] markerlight, pulse rifle, photon grenades
Commander in XV85 Enforcer Battlesuit [7pl, 130pts] Cyclic Ion Blaster, 2x Fusion Blaster, Shield Generator

Strike Team [3pl, 38pts] x5, shasui, markerlight, pulse rifle, photon grenades
Strike Team [3pl, 38pts] x5, shasui, markerlight, pulse rifle, photon grenades
Kroot Carnivores [3pl, 50pts] x10 kroot
Firesight marksman [1pl, 25pts] Markerlight, pulse pistol
Firesight marksman [1pl, 25pts] Markerlight, pulse pistol

-Fast Attack-
Pathfinder Team [5pl, 56pts] 6xpathfinders, Pathfinder Shas'ui
Pathfinder Team [5pl, 56pts] 6xpathfinders, Pathfinder Shas'ui

Batallion Detachment 5CP (Tau Empire) [ PL 43, 855 pts]
Sept: Stabilisation Systems, Hardened Warheads

Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit [8pl, 138pts] 3xFusion Blasters, Target Lock
Ethereal [2pl,45pts] Honour Blade, Warlord

Strike Team [3pl, 38pts] x5, shasui, markerlight, pulse rifle, photon grenades
Strike Team [3pl, 38pts] x5, shasui, markerlight, pulse rifle, photon grenades
Strike Team [3pl, 38pts] x5, shasui, markerlight, pulse rifle, photon grenades
-Fast Attack-
Tactical Drones [4pl, 60pts] x6 Shield drones
Tactical Drones [4pl, 60pts] x6 Shield drones
Tactical Drones [4pl, 60pts] x6 Shield drones

-Heavy Support-

XV88 Broadside Battlesuit [21pl, 378pts] shas'vre, x2 smart missile system, advanced targetting system, x2 high yield missile pods, x1 Seeker Missile
XV88 Broadside Battlesuit shas'ui, x2 smart missile system, advanced targetting system, x2 high yield missile pods, x1 Seeker Missile
XV88 Broadside Battlesuit shas'ui, x2 smart missile system, advanced targetting system, x2 high yield missile pods, x1 Seeker Missile

Vanguard Detachment 1CP (Tau Empire) [ PL 42, 695 pts]
Sept: Stabilisation Systems, Hardened Warheads

Commander in XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit [8pl, 146pts] 4x Fusion Blasters

XV104 Riptide Battlesuit [14pl, 278 pts] 2x Smart Missile Systems, Heavy Burst Cannon, Advanced Targeting System, Velocity Trackers

XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit [10pl, 127pts] 2xFlamer, Fusion Collider, 2xMV5 Stealth Drone, Shield Generator

XV95 Ghostkeel Battlesuit [10pl, 144pts] 2xBurst Cannon, Cyclic Ion Raker, 2xMV5 Stealth Drone, Shield Generator,Advanced Targeting System

How did the list play in general? Any standout moments from the games?

The list played okay, I’ve found it can give me a lot of hold more & the bonus, but due to a lot of small units for the first 3 turns I tend to give away a lot of kill more, which slows me down. Standout moment was in game four when 10 kroot charged an Iron Hands Dreadnought who got too close to a central building…[It] got charged from behind it and wrapped by the kroot locking him down for a turn, with the exact same thing happening the next turn with 3 Stealth Drones, stopping his big hitter shooting for two turns so I could deal with other things in his army. 

How was the custom sept tenet? Did it feel like it gave you enough value?

The custom sept was great gave me great manoeuvrability, and the increased rend in the smart missiles and high yield missile pods ensured anything in cover was mostly dying. Using the new stratagem Aerial Targeting meant units that were hiding I could [still] get re-roll ones against which massively helped. I found whenever I was being charged it mostly ignored overwatch, which would of nullified the 5+ overwatch anyhow. The only thing I missed from the Tau Sept was possibly Shadowsun for the Mont’ka/Kauyon or the double Kauyon which meant I had to pick the correct moments to use it, which in my last game was when the Assault Centurions finally showed themselves to the Broadsides.

Wings Note: using Aerial Targeting to (effectively) drop a markerlight on something hidden for smart missiles is a very smart use of the strat that I hadn’t spotted before!

You made the brave choice to only run a single Riptide, and it clearly paid off. How did you arrive at that decision?

The original list was 2 Riptides but I found I was always stuck whether to go with nova’ing the guns or the shield due to my lower than normal drone count in the list. With the one Riptide I could always branch for both choices and know he was more safe if he got isolated, while the ghostkeels can usually get me into middle objective and can be hard to shift with decent toughness and good negatives to hit.

Anything you’d change going forward?

I would more than likely add more drones and only play with one Ghostkeel instead of two and also more kroot due to the scout and fast speed can get me into some good places and they’re mostly ignored. As good as the Broadsides where when they could see things people can hide from them too easily and as they’re not the fastest units in my army so found in 3/5 of my games they couldn’t do as much as I wanted, there was always the worry they would be charged, and then locked down. I will be running 3 coldstars instead of two from now on due to the tactical flexibility they can give me.

Always a productive interview when a Tau player teaches me a new trick of how they’re going to kill my precious objective holders. Well done on the great performance Shane, and thanks for speaking to us!

Adam Young

Adam beat Necrons and a Farsight list, drew with Orks and dropped gainst against White Scars and Knights/Graia.

We asked Adam the following:

  • How did you find the mobile, suit heavy Tau list?
  • Any games that were particularly notable?
  • Would you try the same list again, or do something different?

These were his thoughts:

“I think the list is solid, especially in the way NEO ruled the gifted pilots sept tenet (editor’s note: we are pretty confident this ruling is correct)  – if it isn’t re-roll all ones to wound when moving under half distance then the list would perhaps need to change (though +4″ to assault weapons is also not too shabby given all the ionmanders, breachers, and fusion – imagine the 22″ melta!)

The biggest issue it had for ITC was the breachers not being able to engineer due to having drones with them. This made for tough choices at times for secondaries and deployment. In the future I will only take drones on one breacher squad (a 5++ is too nice to give up) and then add more shield drones to the larger drone squads.

The list worked well in that it didn’t really care whether it castles or moved out (or both) and, though nice when it counted, between the Ethereal and the stratagems I actually needed very few marker lights to be effective. To be honest at times I should have been more adventurous in moving around and sacrificed the re-roll ones to wound but that always seemed so tempting. At times I really missed the overwatch on 5’s but this list was undoubtedly more fun to play and, as much as could ever be said where Shield Drones are involved, play against.

Though it looks tempting I don’t think the prototype ion is worth it compared to the standard heavy burst canon – I’m mobile enough to get range, have lots of fusion for high damage, and at the end of the day the really tough stuff has good invuls against which more shots is going to do better work. In addition, if I lost a HBC I’d struggle even more against hordes.

Across the tournament I faced a super mobile punchy White Scars list, a tesla and flier heavy Necron list, Farsight Enclaves running a y’vhara and heavily buffed missile crisis unit, knights/admech imperium, and Orks.

Sadly I am pretty new to playing 40k and before this tournament had only played out three proper 2000pt games. The two games I lost (White Scars and a surprisingly nasty knight/admech list) were really lost due to rookie deployment mistakes and opponents skilled enough to capitalise on them.

White Scars was a tough match up due to his ability to prevent me falling back from combat and a flying motorbike dancing in my lines. My opponent was simply a better player who rightly punished my forward deployment.

The game against Necrons began incredibly slow and cagey right from deployment because in many ways this list actually scared me the most, but in the end my list was even more resilient than I though and by the end of turn three had managed to overwhelm the Necrons. Against the Y’vhara and Crisis suits I just think I had the better list, deployed well (for once) and managed to kill the Y’vhara without it getting off a single shot. The Y’vhara is cool but I really don’t see it as incredibly viable due to the points sink.

My game against knights and admech was a real learning experience against a good guy and in this match the ability to move is what gave me a relatively high score despite the loss. Losing a riptide turn one (the shame!) due to deployment errors meant I failed to kill two knights in my first turn whilst the amount of ignore LoS, the visibility of the tall knights, and annoying snipers really hurt me (well, hurt my drones)

The most fun was had in the final game against Eddie Beech’s stunning feral Ork army. It was just a huge laugh and ended the tournament on a massive high. I’m actually glad I lost the previous game because not only did I learn alot from doing so but I got this epic showdown to end the tournament on a high. The game demonstrated that I did have just about enough dakka to deal with hordes and that the ghostkeel’s advanced EM scrambler preventing things like Da Jump is huge and worth every CP in this kind of match up.

Ultimately the biggest issue with my games was just my inexperience, especially on deployment, but NEO demonstrated that this list (with some very minor changes) can do the job. Leaving my first full tournament 2-2-1 makes me really want to practice some more!”

Huge thanks to Adam for sending us this detailed writeup, and it sounds like the list has lots of strength in it and event was a great learning experience – I definitely find that writing up my games helps me to remember what I’ve got wrong and learn from it.

Leo Kyp

Tau Broadside Battlesuit with Missiles
Tau Broadside Battlesuit with Missiles. Credit: Jack Hunter

Leo beat Space Wolves, Crafters Eldar and Magnus/Mortarion, dropping games against Grey Knights and a mirror against Kyle (who is apparently the Tau player that beats other Tau players).

We sent Leo some quickfire questions as follows:

  • Did it feel like the extra output from hardened warheads was worth losing tau sept?
  • Did the list feel mobile enough for the new ITC mission?
  • Would you play it again or try something different?

We managed to get some quick answers in just before the deadline:

“I think the extra output was good, but I did miss the 5+ overwatch, I think you’re able to deploy in more formations than just a castle now though, so that might mitigate it, and as ever, if something really dangerous is charging you, they’re probably switching your overwatch off.

Extra mobility was great.I think it needs a few more passes to balance it correctly, but I’m planning on testing some Farsight lists next

The relic ion accelerator is completely ludicrous against anything without an invul save”

Our final thanks of the article to Leo for sharing his thoughts, and I’m sure the many Farsight fans will be keen to see what comes next.

Final Tau Thoughts

That’s a lot of data coming together and I think the key takeaway seems to be that the answer to the question “is trading Tau Sept for mobility worth it” seems to be trending towards a yes. With two of the players interviewed noting how often overwatch can be shut down, and the new ITC missions favouring extra mobility, the custom Sept or Farsight options look very attractive.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Anywhere we like! Having spoken to the players and analysed the lists that did well it’s clear that the metagame is wide open in a way it hasn’t been since a certain duo of supplements dropped in Q4 last year. It isn’t just the headline results – going through the specific matchups for a bunch of lists also shows factions managing convincing wins against Marine flavours that they just wouldn’t have managed a week ago.

While some factions are clearly still having a tough time of it, most major factions have some level of representation on the top tables, and several of those that don’t have new books coming up. All in all, it’s a great time to be playing 40K and a great time to be writing about it!

Wrap Up

It only remains to say a huge thanks, once again, to everyone who contributed their thoughts for this article, congratulations to the top finishers at the NEO and I’ll be back with more tournament coverage in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can reach us at