Yesterday Games Workshop released a massive balance patch for competitive Warhammer 40,000 that has immediate and massive impacts on competitive play. If you missed what’s in it, you can check out our recap and immediate thoughts here. In that article, we discussed some of our thoughts on this patch, but in order to get a broader view of how this affects the competitive meta moving forward, we sat down with some of our most prominent competitive players to discuss what this means for competitive 40k and the meta.
Today’s Round Table
- James “Boon” Kelling
- James “One_Wing” Grover
- Liam “Corrode” Royle
- Scott Horras “Heresy”
- Richard Siegler
- Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
- Shane Watts
- Innes Wilson
Let’s start off easy. Is this update a good thing?
TheChirurgeon: Broadly speaking, yes. The thing I’m most surprised by – and happy about – is the buffs to the weaker factions, and the fact that they’re finally moving away from relying purely on points as a balancing lever. For the entirety of 8th they constrained themselves in this way and it made even less sense as we moved into 9th edition and players were still working off codexes written 4 years ago. On top of that they added the app, which means they can push out digital updates to these rules for subscribers. It’s past time they made this move, and I’m glad they finally did.
And realistically, we’d seen fatigue across the competitive and casual reader bases with the current state of things. Players of all types generally want some kind of competitive parity, and casual players are just as likely to feel it if a faction is regularly putting up 70%+ win rates at events, because it’ll be worse in their games, where it’s nearly impossible to build a bad Drukhari army. Trust me, we’ve tried (more on that in a future article).
Richard Siegler: Of course, it’s a wonderful thing! The game designers paying attention to the flaws of their own game played at all levels is crucial to healthy game balance, community interaction, and overall enjoyment of people from beginners to seasoned tournament players. Right now, we have a meta in which the two most powerful tools for ignoring the game’s main defensive mechanic (terrain) are utterly dominant–aircraft and indirect fire. If your army is being destroyed in your own deployment zone with little recourse, that is something which needs to be addressed immediately. It has taken longer than I would have liked, but this goes a long way to addressing the worst parts of the meta, especially the dominance of Drukhari, Admech, and Orks, which alongside Grey Knights have largely controlled the top four placings at events regardless of regional meta. The healthiest meta in recent memory was pre-Iron Hands 8th edition where any given tournament would have a diverse top 8 with no clear superior faction. I’d love to get back to that as it opens up such an interesting space for list design and tailoring tech choices for your local meta.
TheChirurgeon: I was going to make a joke about Siegler pining for the days when he was dominating the competitive scene in late 2019 but then I realized that two years later nothing has changed. Boon, I blame you for letting this happen.
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: I fear our only answer to Siegler is to find our John Connor.
To the question, unequivocally. I’ll elaborate on that in the next answer but in terms of where I’d like to see this go, I want to see consistency.
Quarterly updates are fantastic on two fronts – they address the balance in a rapidly changing game but I think more importantly they serve as a commitment to the community. The change from 7th edition where no FAQs or official communication to 8th edition where the company was very proactive was such a welcome change and well received. But it dried up with 9th. Continuing to be engaged and participative in the conversation will be the true test and will go a long way to solidifying confidence within the community that Games Workshop truly does care about the state of their game and the health and enthusiasm of its community.
Shane Watts: Hell yes it is. It has taken a while, but now we get to bask in the sun of GW actually making an effort to balance competitive play. All these changes look great, but my favorite so far is limiting the number of Fliers. Fliers have always had a strange warping impact on the game from their inception in editions past, and setting up a way to dial it back feels real good.
Liam “Corrode” Royle: Yes, absolutely, no doubt in my mind. Both the fact of an update happening and also the structure of it is a huge win, as is the promise of these being quarterly. All I’ve wanted GW to do over the last few years is properly set expectations for updates and then follow through with real, substantive changes; this is my personal vision manifested and I love it.
Innes Wilson: I don’t think I could have asked for a better structure for upcoming changes, mostly in the form of a dedicated timeframe which is all I ever wanted. The fact that these changes are mostly comprehensive of the top end and very needed is just the cherry on top. I hesitate to say it’s a good thing because I’d prefer we never got to this state in the first place, but better late than waiting.
James “One_Wing” Grover: Yes, extremely – this lines up pretty much 100% with how I want GW to approach balance patches, and I’m over the moon.
Is the prospect of balance updates/patches for competitive play good? Where would you like to see things go from here?
TheChirurgeon: In the recent survey my feedback was that we need quarterly updates for balance for competitive play, and I’m ecstatic they’ll be committing to that. If last year’s schedule is anything to go off of, we’ll see a points/FAQ update in January, and then a new GT Missions pack in June, so if they could add updates in between those two, we’d be golden. Monthly is too often – and likely part of what hurt Warmachine – and twice a year is too sparse, as we’ve seen. Quarterly updates put 13 weeks between each update, meaning that you’re never more than a month or two away from an important change. I also applaud the concept of actually using FAQs to address frequently asked questions instead of issuing balance updates.
Liam: Yes, it’s fantastic. Like Rob I asked for quarterly updates in the survey, and well, here we are, we got it done. The worst times in the last few years of 40k have been when something is oppressive – Ynnari, Eldar flyers, Iron Hands, and lately Ad Mech, Orks, Drukhari – and the prospects of anything being done about it are “none” or “in six months, maybe, with a few points tweaks based on info that is out of date because of printing lead times.” GW doing away with all that and giving themselves a way to make sure the game never gets too bad for too long is a huge, huge win for competitive play, and for players generally – we’re tournament-focused here, but single factions having terrifying win rates is no more fun at your LGS than it is on the top tables of a supermajor. A game where the meta is never too stagnant or oppressive is a good game.
TheChirurgeon: Wiping a tear from eye We did it, Liam.
Siegler: It’s a critical facet of any competitive game. Video games have increasingly moved towards regular balance patches to fix things that are missed in playtesting and which the designers do not fully grasp. Games Workshop have an amazing IP and their re-entrance into the tournament scene with the US Open events demonstrates that they want to be involved in competitive matched play. Regular balance updates are going to be essential for keeping the community excited and engaged with these events and Warhammer as a vibrant, complex, and interesting game for players of all skill levels. I think following a regular set of bi-monthly or quarterly changes to the meta and then a twice a year look at the overall game balance will be an awesome place to begin.
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: Yes, 100%. This is what you want the company, any company, to do – actively manage their product to meet their customer’s needs.
I think we spend a lot of time on the competitive/casual divide, but balance efforts like this are ultimately a net benefit to both communities without exclusion. There were some serious flaws in the game’s balance that negatively impacted the approach to the game regardless of whether you were playing in a tournament or in the basement. When the game’s balance is off everything is affected – how you approached list building, how you want to play, what units you want to purchase, paint up, and use on the table. Casually, we want to feel free to use our stuff that we have purchased without feeling like we are creating a negative experience for our opponents – that we are mutually having fun. Competitively, we want to win because we’ve outplayed our opponent – that our army isn’t more important than we are. When the game balance is off it affects everything, so this balancing effort is an essential component to the ongoing health, and I think more importantly, the enthusiasm for the game. Both competitively and casually.
Shane Watts: Keeping up with balance changes as new rules come out is pivotal.
Innes: If you had told me 3 weeks ago that they’d announce the next balance update at all I’d have bitten your hand off. The fact we have a schedule? Insanity. I’m super happy that this is happening and I hope that GW keeps on top of it and keeps the changes relevant. For now though, I can bask in the knowledge that the next update is February-ish and I only have a few months left of a theoretical Hive Guard and Dreadknight meta.
James “One_Wing” Grover: Yes, this is fantastic, and it’s a vital step for 40K to continue to flourish and to attract competitive players used to other games. 40K isn’t the only game out there that hits balance problems sometimes, but up until now it’s been uniquely slow to fix them. The other competitive metagame I seriously follow is Hearthstone’s, and it is garbage right now thanks to the release of an extremely questionable mechanic in the latest set three months ago, just the worst it’s been for the entire ten-year lifespan of the game. Design and balance mistakes happen, especially in well established games where making new mechanics impactful requires pushing the boat out a bit. Until now, however, the difference with 40K has been how unpredictable and semi-random balance updates have been, whereas in Hearthstone we’ve already had multiple balance patches to the set in question, and can be very confident of more. With the new quarterly schedule for 40K, we’re finally getting comparable ongoing support to what you see in other competitive scenes, and that’s wonderful.
Scott Horras “Heresy”: This is amazing, and honestly I think this is a great thing for the game population at large. Think there’s a large contingent of players out there not playing in competitive settings and… frankly… glaring balance issues almost affect them more. They’re players who usually have less time and resources to dedicate to the hobby and they’re more likely to step away from the hobby if they have some oppressively bad experiences. Quarterly seems like a perfect balance between: “too frequent” and “not frequent enough”. As with everyone else, I love this.
Who are the biggest winners and losers here?
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: The list of winners is long, but let’s start with this:
The players, both casual and competitive. As I said, balance is a game problem, and correcting that means we all win. It’s a big day for the community – cannot emphasize this enough.
In terms of factions, all of them not named Drukhari, Ad Mech, or Freebooterz. I think Grey Knights stand out. They’re a weird book as they have overall, I think, some significant Marine-based handicaps. But the Nemesis Dreadknights and the lists that lean on them heavily have a lot of leeway to overcome those handicaps and as a result they have performed very well – so going unchanged is a big, relative win.
In terms of the actual addressed factions, I think Necrons players should feel good. Will it be enough? I honestly do not know. But I do know that Necron players continue to field the army competitively in large numbers and they desperately needed help. Likely I think we’re about to see some shaking out as Necron players figure out the combinations that are now possible and how it affects their play on the table – overall, combined with the hits to Ad Mech, Drukhari, and Orks, I think Necrons are a big faction that became both more flexible and more enjoyable competitively.
In terms of losers, I’m not going to say much here, but Ad Mech the most. All three of the big bads (Drukhari, Orks, and Ad Mech) were well considered and are de facto losers. But I think we need to be 100% clear when we say that they are losers only in the absolute sense – they have lost effectiveness when compared to pre-update. They are now more in line with the 9th edition books and have not in any way been perma-neutered like I think a lot of us have come to expect with abusive things (looking at you my Wraithknight children).
TheChirurgeon: It’s hard to see a bigger loser out of this than Admech. They basically took Siegler’s list from New Orleans out back and shot it in the face. I think Grey Knights are the big winners here, having lost nothing while the other top-tier armies around them get weaker. As a Death Guard player, I’m pretty happy about this, because anything that weakens three factions I’m struggling against is a good thing.
Shane Watts: The biggest winner here is GK for sure, watching the top tiers take a hit makes the field easier for them in general. As for biggest loser, I’d have to say it is a toss up for Admech/Orks. Admech took a points nerf across the majority of units seen in lists, but the main Orks comp list has basically been made unplayable with the Flier/buggy nerfs.
Liam: In terms of factions that actually changed, Orks and Ad Mech get hit hardest for sure. Plane builds being completely dead means immediate, substantial changes to the lists they’re running, as does the buggies change for Orks. Drukhari got hit less hard overall, but their very best builds took a substantial hit, and hopefully we’ll see more interesting or unusual lists from the book without losing what made it fun to play. Necrons probably got the most interesting and substantial win – they got real structural changes which should at least mean you can try more stuff, and it’s great to see a decisive break with the past where datasheets were only changed as an absolute last resort. Do Necrons immediately rocket up to top tier? Maybe, maybe not, but at least Necron players aren’t staring down a whole edition of their codex getting weaker and weaker relative to the field.
For unchanged factions, Grey Knights did best here, and probably Sisters too, the other army that was toeing the line between good and great. Tyranids probably also benefit a lot, with Hive Guard looking like they might neatly slot into the “oppressive out of LoS shooting” role that Rukkatrukks have just vacated. Craftworld and T’au do badly out of not changing at all, but every indication is that those factions are getting codexes imminently, so there’s probably a desire there not to waste time tweaking old books when new ones are right around the corner.
Siegler: Admech are the clear biggest loser here in my mind. The points increases hit nearly every critical unit to both styles–the obsec heavy skitarii and plane list and the combat and speed elements of the Veteran Cohort list. Nothing escapes the fury of the design team here. My New Orleans list went up to 2260 points and lost access to two of its aircraft. If this was in isolation, Admech would drop quite a bit in terms of usage at events and winrate. But because Drukhari and Orks both received nerfs in this same update, it is not the end of the line for Admech being a top tier faction. They are still strong and have a great set of rules, they no longer have as many units as before and that will go a long way to reducing their late game trading power and their ability to take every tool they have access to.
The biggest winner is not involved in this update, it’s Tyranids. The new Octarius Leviathan rules are outstanding and they were already sneaking up to A tier with their amazing mobility, obsec contestation plays, and their indirect fire. But now they have to deal with less stuff from the armies that were above them. Massive boon to this faction that is finally getting love!
Innes: As far as changed factions go, I think that the changes to Orks will fundamentally change how players have to interact with that book and will require a rebuild in theories of how to construct Ork lists, while AdMech and Drukhari are just the same but less, so I think they’re the big losers of the update. On the positive side, the Imperial Knights changes are primed to make that army an interesting part of the metagame in a way that isn’t just stat-checking their opponents. Knights having a way to actually interact and play the game with you means power doesn’t have to all be loaded into kill threat which will lead to better experiences for both sides of those games.
If we’re going past just the changes in the rules? Tyranids and Grey Knights are laughing, as has been pointed out above, so I’ll throw Marines into the ring too. Iron Hands and Deathwatch particularly have had the top end of their bad matchups shaved off and I think they’re ready to step up to the big leagues.
James “One_Wing” Grover: You’ve seen my list already in yesterday’s hot take, so go check out that!
How do Drukhari fare after these changes?
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: Good! The lists will change and selections will need to be more considered – especially in lists leaning heavily on Raiders.
Pre-update Drukhari list building was like winning a shopping game show and just walking down an aisle and throwing everything you could get your arms around into the cart. The post-update Drukhari will force some changes and very considered choices. In effect, the list can no longer just plan for everything because the price hikes are just enough that you can’t just take all the all-purpose units you did previously which had resulted in that feeling of “wave after wave”. You just won’t have all those waves anymore. This is a good thing, it was too much.
What I find fascinating is that the Drukhari changes were a true balancing, with both price hikes and cuts applied. The book is universally good, but there were units that were just over-costed due to their lack of enough synergy with abilities and traits – specifically in the Covens. These were also addressed, and I think that’s an exciting twist that will allow players to lean a little more into covens as a viable army choice. I also think it shows an even-handed and considered approach to game balance that we should feel good about as a community. There was an easy solution here of universal hits, but GW to their credit took the more thoughtful approach that in the end I think leaves the book in a much more balanced place.
TheChirurgeon: Some specific builds got hurt but on the whole I think this ups the cost of most lists by something like 50-75 points? And Drukhari players can claw those back by swapping out Raiders for Venoms and Wyches for Wracks, or taking more Talos. It doesn’t help them, but I think it’s relatively light and leaves them a top-tier faction moving forward. When you compare it to what they could have gotten, it’s pretty light.
Liam: 50-75 is understating it for the pure “Drukhari goodstuff” lists from the Competitive Innovations list archetypes, which are looking at more like 100-150, but I think they’re still top tier. The build I just took to Coventry went up a net 55pts thanks to being a bit off-meta, and that army can be tweaked around easily to still be very strong. I think the win rate does go down and the relative power to trade changes when cheap killers like Incubi and Wyches gain 2ppm increases, but Drukhari are still going to be a good book.
TheChirurgeon: It’s pretty rough that it took us four rounds to get here, and that’s with two other arguably superior books/factions releasing. If this doesn’t put the tired “the meta will adjust” arguments to bed, nothing will.
James “Boon” Kelling: Just lol at the idea of putting that phrase to bed. Have you heard of this game called Chess?
TheChirurgeon: I only play the 12-dimensional version, thank you very much.
Innes: As a Drukhari-opponent, I very much enjoy that the standard Waves of Elves build has lost that bit of teeth from the last wave. The squad of Incubi you forgot, the Second succubus – Drukhari players will have to be more careful with the tools they have, and they’ll have fewer of them. I don’t think this’ll move the needle much on the games they win, but it’ll make them lose a few more. Fine by me.
James “One_Wing” Grover: Better than I’d have expected if you told me this was coming, honestly. The changes hurt, certainly, but they’re definitely still top tier, and the fact that they got some discounts on tools that were far from terrible already alongside the nerfs should give them some options to try out. What I do really like is that the things hit hardest are the tools that were absurdly good at trading up, because those were the things that made the matchup borderline impossible for some weaker factions. I think the pinnacle of this is the fact that a unit of Incubi popping The Great Enemy roughly wipe out a full 10-model unit of Slaanesh Terminators on average dice, and tooled up Succubi could pay back their points several times over with ease. Both these units can still definitely do that, but at least the price of entry is a bit higher. The only big miss for my money is not hitting Hellions – they aren’t great into Grey Knights, but they’re still way too cheap into everything else.
Drukhari still end up with a whole bunch of powerful tools to use, and Talos build are now even more legit than they were, but I do think the edges have been somewhat sanded off, and that’s a good thing.
How do Admech fare after these changes?
Liam: Like Orks, which we’ll come to in a minute, they’re much more in the “re-imagine the army” camp than Drukhari are. I played against a strong Ad Mech army on Sunday with 4 planes, 30ish Sicarians, 12 Serberys, 20 Skitarii – that army now loses two planes no matter what, and finds itself touching 2k just to keep the rest of the same stuff as it had before. The book is very deep and very strong still, and they even got a minor buff in Kastelans getting a points cut, but hopefully lists will be different – and more fun to play against – going forward.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah Siegler’s list from New Orleans basically is 260 points over before he drops two planes out. And you could argue it’s still fine without those planes but realistically I think this drops Ad Mech significantly, from a tier 1 army to maybe tier 2. On the plus side, if you’re a less competitive player, this makes Ad Mech much less expensive to play from a dollars-per-points standpoint. So that’s a win, I guess?
Siegler: Ad Mech are still a very strong army after this nerf. They are no longer the complete army that gets to have their cake and eat it too though. I believe they are still one of the best books in the game because their corpus of rules covers everything you could possibly want. What they lost is the extra 200+ points of units to shore up weaknesses in the meta, and their anti-tank also took a big hit with Ironstriders having lost CORE and now going up in points as well as the Stratoraptor. However, with Drukhari and Orks receiving nerfs, Ad Mech are still in the conversation, but they will have less ability to tailor for every conceivable top table opponent by adding their vast toolkit into a list. They will have to pick and choose what to build towards, which could open up weaknesses that did not exist before.
Liam: I lean more to Richard’s side than Rob’s here – I don’t think there’s even a question of them dropping to tier 2, and the changes are more about bridging the gap between tier 1 and tier 2 which was yawning pretty wide before this.
Innes: They’ll be fine on the whole but I think you’ll have to lean heavier into the melee side of things, or the shooting side of things rather than just incidentally getting both in a standard Mars/Mars+X List. Everything’s still pretty reasonable for its rate, a horde build might still have legs like the one we’ve seen doing the rounds on some continental European top tables.
James “One_Wing” Grover: I’m in the camp that this might actually knock them out of the top tier – unlike Drukhari where there was a bit of give and take, this is pretty much all one way and very hard to dodge. There are some builds out there using 3x Skorpius Disintegrators already, and that’s got to be the baseline for the new world, but even they’re going to lose some units. I think AdMech broadly needed this level of change, but with Grey Knights not getting hit and Drukhari getting off lighter than expected, it may just about leave them appreciably outside the top bracket.
How do Orks fare after these changes?
TheChirurgeon: I can hear Shane Watts laughing maniacally from here.
Shane Watts: [Queue up WWE entrance music] I have to say, having an Ork list that basically faces no negative changes, feels real good right now. As far as Orks as a whole, this change more or less pulls the teeth from the main competitive build of Freebooters Planes and Buggies. I think it may be slightly salvageable in that you can take 2 planes still and just diversify the buggies you take, but overall still hugely nerfed.
TheChirurgeon: Realistically, I think they may not have gone far enough with Orks. Yes, it’s a big nerf to the Freebooterz list but they have other options to fill that gap – and the Kill Rig has been patiently waiting for a list it can slot into. This is a big step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether it’s enough. Orks are absolutely still a top-tier faction. If they hike up points in the next MFM, they should look at dropping boyz by 1ppm, just to mix things up.
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: I’m not going to go deep here because I don’t play Orks. But I think the changes to the Orks along with their new campaign book options has in a way ‘freed’ Ork players to actually explore their book in a way that makes them more flexible and interesting. It’s a good book with good options, now there’s actually interesting choices and directions to go rather than the previous one-true option.
Liam: Fully agreed with James, there’s scope here for Ork players to actually explore the book without consciously ignoring the best way to play it. I’m just glad to see plane spam and buggies spam dead – planes have never been good and fun at the same time, but that might actually be possible when “good plane” doesn’t immediately mean “take as many copies of the datasheet as you can fit in a list.”
Innes: Orks definitely took a hit and will play a much more interactive game plan now, but any faction with access to the speed and shooting that Orks currently have will have no problem finding a new build to compete with the best. I just hope it’s not tabling the best in a turn, and that seems to have been curtailed.
James “One_Wing” Grover: There are plenty of Ork builds out there that are entirely untouched by this, and that should do just fine in a world with substantially weaker AdMech and no Freebooterz to play into. The Freebooterz builds and Blood Axe buggy lists as previously existed are straight up dead and to that I say – good. I’m somewhat sympathetic to anyone who’s ended up holding more painted buggies that they can no longer use, but I basically think the options were to nerf them into unplayability, hit Ramshackle hard (which would have had knock-ons to other builds) or do something like this, and it feels like the least bad option.
Who are the top-tier factions going into GW’s Austin event?
TheChirurgeon: Grey Knights, Orks, and Drukhari, definitely. Grey Knights were already quietly putting up solid numbers and escaped adjustment here thanks to being too new. Orks got minor adjustments that I think still leave them in a great place to compete and I think there’s still a top-tier Drukhari build in here. I’m almost certainly missing an army or two here, and knights will probably surprise me.
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: I agree with Rob here, but I’d also add in Tyranids. I think they’re going to have some strong play behind the strength of their Impaler Hive Guard who I think get a big boost not just from the recent rules, but critically, bringing Drukhari and Ad Mech down to earth.
Liam: Grey Knights for sure, and I think Orks, Drukhari, Ad Mech are still in the conversation even if they’ll be a lot fairer to play against now. Sisters and Marines get a relative lift, Thousand Sons were already good. I think James is right about Tyranids, too, and Knights of both flavours might make a move – their worst predators have calmed down a bit, and access to ObSec lets them play the primary mission a lot better than they did.
Siegler: Orks, Drukhari, Tyranids, Grey Knights and Admech are still in the conversation, Sisters and Marines, especially White Scars will be quite strong as well (Editor’s Note: GW has announced that the new Codex Supplement: Black Templars will not be legal at the Austin event, otherwise Siegler would have listed them here as well). The meta is definitely more open than before, but expect to still see a lot of same armies at the top–newer codexes–until the lesser 9th and remaining 8th edition codexes receive real buffs.
Innes: My top 3 has probably shifted to Drukhari, AdMech, and Tyranids, with Orks and GK nipping at their heels. The terrain at Austin doesn’t seem like something I’d love to play Tyranids on though, so I could see their success being a bit lower. Wildcard of Space Marines played by some of the countries’ best abusing the new lower power of the game with their huge toolset,
James “One_Wing” Grover: Grey Knights, Drukhari and Harlequin/Craftworld mix – the latter has been doing extremely well in the UK metagame, and should excel on the GW terrain.
Do the buffs to the four lower-tier factions do enough?
TheChirurgeon: Chaos Space Marines players will pound the table and complain about their marines still only having 1 wound and it’s a fair criticism, but it’s hard to be mad about an across-the-board buff to the faction. It won’t make them super competitive, but it’s worth a percentage point or two bump, and could be very good if certain units come down in points in the next MFM update. That change to Death to the False Emperor has a massive effect on Abaddon, who now gets exploding hits on 5+, and he can push that to a 4+ with help from his friends, making him even more of a monster in melee. I can see him getting play even in soup lists.
Liam: This is probably the harder one to judge – I think CSM get a straight buff but not enough of one to suddenly lift them to the top tables, while Necrons and Knights get changes which are much more substantial and should lift them a lot. We were still seeing occasional Necron top 4s and Knights have been doing things which are interesting even if they weren’t going the distance, so maybe these tweaks will be enough to get them to a better place.
TheChirurgeon: At the very least, Veil of Darkness Skorpekh Destroyers are scary as hell as a prospect.
Liam: We can all look forward to the return of OVERLORD WINGS.
Siegler: No, they are helpful, but far from enough and do not solve fundamental issues with each of the respective factions. CSM need the extra wound; Knights need a third viable secondary to help them against top armies; Guard need reliable counter assault; and Necrons need army-wide rules that matter and are easier to access and use, in addition to points drops like the rest of these armies.
Innes: Probably not, but I think Necrons stand the highest chance of making it in the meta now. Knights have more of a game but missions like Vital Intelligence still exist and present huge problems to a faction like that.
OVERLORD WINGS: I mean I’m certainly going to try with Necrons – I strongly suspect Richard is right and they need further changes, but this definitely feels like it gets them a whole lot closer and that rules. The list I think might actually make the bigtime off the back of this is the Freeblade Lance – as pointed out they’re still short of a reliable third secondary, but that matters a bit less if Grey Knights end up as the metagame’s best army because Abhor is available there. Multiple players were already putting in good performances with this build, and the update spectacularly improves it.
Scott Horras “Heresy”: Honestly, they might be enough to take the struggling factions to upper-middle tier, but I don’t think they’re going to be top tier. I’m very excited to try out the Astra Militarum changes; it’s a sprinkling of small, easy to access, changes that can push the Guard closer to that targeted 50% win rate. ‘Splashing’ orders takes some previously marginal options and takes them to the land of reasonable choices (Mortar farms, and Special Weapons/Command Squad bombs out of Strategic Reserve), the 2+ on Leman Russ really helps provide some damage reduction against AP-2/-3 weapons, and allowing Tank Orders to effect every vehicle lets you buff your artillery on turns your Tank Commanders don’t need the orders.
What further adjustments should GW be looking to make?
TheChirurgeon: There are definitely some things I still think need to be addressed – Orks are probably still too good and Freebooterz need a nerf, and I think the Grey Knights need adjustment – but those can both be addressed now in January along with some of the other challenges. I’ve also heard a line of reasoning that this current slate of books were balanced against the yet unreleased stuff and so if say, Codex: Tau is on par with Drukhari and Admech pre-nerfs, that could be an issue, but this new update schedule leaves them with lots of flexibility to make adjustments on future books, or to just tweak older books upward – the problem is as much that Marines and Necrons were left in the dust by the 2021 books as it was 8th edition books being unable to compete.
Liam: Hard to know at this time – obviously Genestealer Cults, T’au, and Craftworlds are looking like big losers here, but we know that two of those have books in December/early 2022 and the third is heavily-rumoured, so it might be a case of waiting and seeing what they bring to the table. Looking at other factions, nothing jumps out as being screamingly urgent, although it would have been nice to have a second look at the weaker Marine supplements (Imperial Fists, Blood Angels, Raven Guard) and see if there were any tweaks that would bring them up in contention with the others.
Siegler: The 8th edition factions will eventually receive their codexes. It would be nice if they received some actual help in Chapter Approved like 9th edition warlord trait, relic, and secondary along with points drops to help them until publication of those rules. For the factions that are mid tier or below with 9th edition books like Necrons, Death Guard, and Blood Angels, they need to either provide them with relevant campaign supplements or rewrite some of their main rules because those factions either have one playstye that is dominant or they just largely lack synergy for most of their datasheets making them feel boring and mono-dimensional to play–not to mention feeling underpowered compared to most of the other 9th edition books especially from 2021.
Innes: To the changed factions? I’m inclined to say that the Drukhari, AdMech and Ork changes could have gone further than they did, and will still out compete the mid tier books just due to being normally pointed with very strong tools. To unchanged factions? I think Nemesis Dreadknights and Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight could do with being treated as the same Datasheet, and I don’t think Hive Guard are okay. Hopefully we don’t have to wait too long before they get addressed.
James “One_Wing” Grover: Largely just echoing things already said – Interceptors and Dreadknights should probably have been on the naughty list, and giving factions without a book yet access to an extra secondary in particular would have been a good move.
James ‘Boon’ Kelling: I think we should really think about the changes that were made. They are targeted, well considered, and there is some real effort into examining the problems for the factions and then identifying the possible solutions that go well beyond the easy tool of “points go up, points go down”. Moreover, there wasn’t a crippling handed out to any faction. I think that’s a marked change from prior editions and something that we should be both encouraged by, and also encourage its continuance. Consistent, measured, corrective action will make the community experience better overall and I think this release is a reason to be positive about the direction of the game. Congratulations Games Workshop, you nailed it – now keep it up!
TheChirurgeon: This is exactly the kind of update I want to see from GW on a quarterly basis, and while I’m annoyed it took this long for us to get here, I love that we’ve finally broken through. I love the idea of getting these quarterly, and it’s about time they broke free of only adjusting points values. While I think they still need to take a measured approach to adjusting books – especially the 9th edition books – having the option makes things much, much easier.
Liam: Echoing what Rob and James said, this is precisely what I want GW to be doing, and now they’ve done it. We’ll see if they stick the landing on “quarterly” and whether the next update is as far-reaching as this one, but I’m very positive about this change and what it indicates for the future. I’d also agree that it’s good to see changes that are more measured rather than the traditional GW style double-barrelled nerf; regular updates give scope for more considered “try it and see” balance adjustments which didn’t used to exist, and I think is overall better for players of all kinds – you should be much less at risk in future of a big nerf to a unit which is then never reconsidered again, so even if your current army takes a hit you’re not looking at throwing the models in the bin because they’re never going to be good again. Unless they’re Ork buggies, apparently, in which case please feel free to send them to a good home (mine).
Siegler: The biggest change is the commitment of the design team and GW to foster quarterly updates to matched play. The best part of 8th edition was the bi-yearly big faq updates. With 9th having slower FAQs and less impactful Chapter Approved, it has left the meta stale and frustrating. This commitment will go a long way towards assuaging doubts about how much GW is paying attention to the competitive meta. Games Workshop has involved itself in the tournament scene with the US Open series and have put a lot of effort into streaming those matches as a way to generate publicity for how the game is played. These events become much more interesting if the meta is constantly shifting in small ways with a variety of well balanced armies so that the games come down to the decision making on the tabletop!
Innes: The thing I found myself most missing from 8th edition was the announcements of when the big FAQ was coming, and to finally have that promise of a consistent schedule is the most exciting thing Games Workshop have offered for my enjoyment. I’ve no doubt that this will continue to grow and we’ll see the game gradually get to a much better state no matter how a book debuts on power.
Scott Horras “Heresy”: I want to give an honest, heartfelt “thank you” to the GW team for putting this out. Having stayed loyal to the Guard, it’s been really hard to stay enthusiastic about 9th Edition. I felt like help was never coming for my flagging faction. With this announcement of active, quarterly, attention being paid to the health of the game, I’m super optimistic about being able to stay engaged with Warhammer.
James “One_Wing” Grover: It rules. Send Tweet.
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