Just last week we were sitting around the Goonhammer offices, debating how we were possibly going to evaluate all of these factions and their roles in the new edition without any points. Based on rumors and information we’d seen on Warhammer-Community about points going up, we had some idea that things would get more expensive, but not by how much. We had been running our test games using 1,750 points as our baseline, hopeful that this ballpark estimate would help us get a good feel for the game’s new size.
Fortunately, the good folks at Games Workshop were gracious enough to ensure we weren’t kept in the dark long, and sent us an advance copy of the 9th edition Munitorum Field Guide to review. So after extensive research, spreadsheets, math, and gallons of midnight oil up in flames, we’re able to provide you with the definitive guide to the new points. So grab a seat and join us as we talk about what’s changed and by how much, who the big winners and losers are, and what it means for 9th edition play moving forward.
Before we dive into the data and depth here, for those who want an immediate snapshot of how their army does out of the point changes, we’ve given in to the eternal tempatation that constantly gnaws at the soul of every content creator and made a tier list. We split the factions into four tiers based on our initial analysis of the changes, and then once we’d done the work to assemble the competitive snapshot below adjusted them slightly where data based on what actually sees competitive gave us a steer. Get your outrage engines going folks, here they are:
The Big Winners
- Adeptus Custodes
- Thousand Sons
- Imperial Knights
The Moderate Winners
- Death Guard
- Adepta Sororitas
- Space Marines*
- Grey Knights
*With the adendum that Centurion spam lists are extreme Losers.
- Chaos Knights
- Chaos Space Marines
- Chaos Daemons
- Dark Angels
- Astra Militarum
- Blood Angels
- Adeptus Mechanicus
- Space Wolves
- Genestealer Cults
- Chaplain Dreadnoughts. Everyone press F. Or celebrate. Your call, really.
Wait, does that mean…?
Some out of production Forge World models, most notably the Chaplain Dreadnought, have no cost here so are presumably being shuffled off to the great Legends PDF in the sky. Don’t panic if you’ve just brought a fancy new kit from Forge World – the list is pretty short and the relevant ones are basically:
- Chaplain Dreadnoughts
- Lias Issodon
- Sororitas Repressors
- Death Rider Commissars
None of these have been in production for a while (and indeed in Issodon’s case never had a model) and the same is true of most of the other things that are gone (some of which are also just removing random Forge World variants of mainline models, where any conversion will still be fine to use as the core unit).
How the Changes Seem To Work
With all the changes digested (insofar as is possible when confronted with 50 pages of numbers) a relatively consistent algorithm emerges for how the changes were made. Our judgement, based on what we’re seeing, is that the point deltas were largely done based on formulae, with a few specific cases then being tweaked afterwards to either address notable balance concerns, help out a small number of factions or bring some units in-line with competitors. In this section, we’ll break down what appears to be the rough process that’s been used. This also helps us give you an idea of how points are changing without listing every single new value here, while also giving you an idea of how other factions fared compared to yours.
A hugely important caveat here to repeat the above and make it clear – this is our interpretation of how we think the changes were calculated based on our analysis of the data. It is not based on any official statements from Games Workshop, nor should it be treated as such.
The Really High Level Summary
This section is at least partially us showing off how clever we are and providing a baseline for people who want to crunch data to compare against. If you’re not interested, the one-thousand foot summary of the changes is as follows:
- Almost everything went up a bit.
- Characters went up less than everything else.
- Cheaper stuff went up proportionally more than more expensive stuff, but horde infantry got a partial exemption.
- A moderate number of units got targeted nerfs.
- A smaller number of units got targeted buffs.
- Equipment costs were rounded and normalised across factions.
That gives you a basic feel of how the changes shake out, either read on to get the detail or jump ahead to the competitive rundown or your faction as you want.
Up front, it’s worth noting a few things that apply across the board:
- Almost everything went up in points. even stuff that wasn’t great beforehand. If you see an increase to a unit that’s in-line with the algorithms in this section, it’s effectively a “neutral” change rather than a nerf. Consequently, units that didn’t change can be considered to have been actively buffed.
- As soon as you get to 30pts or higher (or are dealing with equipment at any cost), there’s a big drive to have things cost round numbers of points (multiples of 5), and increases are almost always in 5-point chunks (or are 5-point chunks plus whatever it takes to round their old cost up to the nearest 5).
- Equipment and unit costs have been normalised cross-faction again. That’s a bit of a shame as finally breaking free of that was a high point of CA2019, and contrives to create some weird winner/loser disparities.
- Most increases are applied via changes to the unit costs rather than equipment costs.
- Many units with unique weapons have finally had this baked into their costs, and where they have multiple options the cheapest gets baked in and the others are re-costed to be a differential from that. This can make a first read of some of the changes pretty terrifying – so make sure you check the equipment section before getting real mad about your Riptides!
- Several weapons now have split costs for INFANTRY and non-INFANTRY, likely to reflect that vehicles can now move and shoot without suffering a heavy weapons penalty and can fire in engagement range. This is most notable for Autocannons, Heavy Flamers, and Heavy Bolters, but the split only shows up in factions that have access to the weapons on both vehicle and infantry models.
With that out the way, here’s the rough outline. It isn’t perfect, and individual units have clearly had judicious tweaks both small and large made on top of this. We’ll cover those in the faction sections where relevant.
We will also state again that this is a rough outline – you don’t need to email us pointing out every example that doesn’t quite meet it!
Characters are reasonably consistently changed as follows:
- Round their cost up to nearest 5.
- Then add:
- 5pts if they’re under ~140pts
- 10pts if they’re 140pts-200pts
- 15pts if they’re more than that.
- Then add an optional 5pt “fudge factor”. Examples of why this might be added include:
- The unit is a named character
- The unit has FLY
- The unit is a MONSTER that gets to benefit from character screening.
INFANTRY and Multi-model Units
This is the most complicated section, covering basically anything where you’re dealing with a multi-model unit of 3Ws or less. Here there are clearly different rules based on your starting cost.
6pts or Less
- No model can end up with a cost less than 5 points per model (ppm)
- If your army is a faction where hordes (Tyranids, GSC, Guard) are thematic, add 1ppm.
- If your army is a faction where hordes aren’t thematic, increase cost by 50%.
The last point sounds extreme and it is, but it’s also very strongly supported by the data. We think it’s a mis-step that badly screws over a few units and in one case substantially hurts a whole faction.
- If a thematic horde unit (Necron Warriors, Ork Boyz, Daemon infantry, GSC Acolytes), add 1ppm.
- Anything else, add 15%, usually rounded up.
This mostly has a uniform affect across factions, but does have the side effect of banishing a few things like Aspect Warriors and Hybrid Metamorphs, who needed very targeted and aggressive tweaks to get them on the table at all, back out of contention.
- Add 5pts then round up to the next 5ppm.
VEHICLES and MONSTERS
Vehicle and monster units also appear to get different changes based on their starting cost.
Here there’s some fairly clear directed intent – cheaper main battle tanks get the biggest increases here, and even on top of the formula here they are some of the things that most commonly get an additional targeted hit. That seems reasonable – towards the end of 8th Guard and Craftworlds in particular could just put too damn many hulls on the table, creating a wall of steel/wraithbone that somewhat warped the metagame. Starting fresh without that is probably a good thing, though similar to the issue with mid-cost Infantry a few things that had to get aggressively pushed to reach the table probably go back in the box for 9th’s equivalent of Indexhammer.
150pts or less
- If clearly a dedicated TRANSPORT, add 10pts.
- If plausibly a main battle tank, instead add 15%, rounding up to nearest 5pts.
- Add 10%, rounding up to nearest 5pts.
200pts or more
- Add 10%, rounding down to nearest 5pts.
Lords of War
Lords of War are dealt with differently to other vehicles – and generally in a way that helps them a lot, especially Daemon Primarchs. They tend to get much smaller increases than everything else proportionate to their original cost, as long as they weren’t notably cheap before – there seems to be a feeling that 400pts should be about the minimum price of entry and that there are substantial dimininishing returns above 500. Roughly:
400pts or less
- Targeted change to pull them towards a cost of about 400pts.
400pts or more
- Add 20pts
500pts or more
- Did it ever see play before?
- Add 20pts
- No change or cost reduction
Equipment is where the largest proportion of things stay the same (excepting guns that are now being built into the cost of their units). Where changes do happen, it’s mostly because things don’t cost a multiple of five (which the vast majority of stuff does after this update). When that’s the case, the following happens:
Starting Cost 5pts or more
- Round to the nearest 5pts.
This flattens out some very small differences between some choices, and gives some small angles for optimisation – a chainfist and power fist now both cost 10pts rather than 11pts and 9pts as before.
Starting Cost <5pts
- If the item can be taken squad-wide (e.g. storm bolters, hand flamers)
- Add 1 point. This is the main source of things that still cost <5pts post update.
- If the item is a “special weapon” or equivalent
- Change cost to 5pts.
The latter does a modest amount of damage to factions that are used to slapping heavy stubbers on everything – a change from 2pts to 5pts multiplied many times adds up!
Competitive Data Snapshot
Where possible at Goonhammer we like to back up out assertions with some data. Our original plan with the changes had been to tabulate them and get a sense of percentage changes within factions, but this proved not to be a realistic way to assess the data. Weapons changing to be inline, and percentage changes being applied to unit bodies that were calculated based on the sum of the body and equipment made the raw numbers misleading, and there’s also a large amount of churn in units that aren’t really used competitively.
Once that became clear we’ve followed an alternative route to try and get a snapshot of how the changes impact things. For each faction, we’ve pulled up one list in the following priority order:
- If available, a recent pure list that made a top 4 on 40kstats.
- If no pure list available, a recent pure list from a Start Competing or PA review.
- If neither available, a recent soup list using the faction heavily from 40K stats.
We have then re-costed the lists based on 9th edition points, and tabulated the percentage changes. Where a list was soup, or keeping back summoning points, we’ve only used the part of the list that was relevant to the faction.
The lists used are linked in the collapsible section below:
Army List Sources - Click to Expand Custodes – Ryan Snyder at the Dicehead GT
Imperial Knights – my pure Knight list from the PA: Engine War review.
Thousand Sons – Adam Ryland at Battlefield Birmingham
Deathwatch – Anthony D’Amore’s list he helped us with for Start Competing: Deathwatch.
Death Guard – A 1750pt pure DG list put together by TheChirurgeon for 9th testing, notably featuring Mortarion, 2 PBCs, Plague Marines and various Terminators.
Harlequins – Chase “Gunum” Garber’s pure Harlequins from our PA review.
Sisters of Battle – Matt Robertson at Battlefield Birmingham.
Iron Hands – Cyle “Naramyth” Thomson’s at the Two Rivers GT.
Chaos Knights – Michal Kostecka at the Prague Open
Daemons – I had to search around for a representative pure list, as the only top 4 list this year was a dataset-skewing outlier. I ended up using Nick Nanavati’s list from his PA Engine War review on Art of War.
Necrons – Stephen Christopher at Hammer in the New Year
Space Wolves – the first pure list from Start Competing: Space Wolves
Grey Knights – Devin Swann at the Barrie Bash
Dark Angels – Ben Neal at GenghisCon
Craftworlds – James “Boon” Kelling at the Two Rivers GT
Chaos Space Marines – Nathan Roberts at Battlefield Birmingham
Drukhari – J.J. at the Gigabytes GT
Astra Militarum – Luke Bumpus at CAGBash XIII
Blood Angels – Jason Robertson at Scottish Takeover 7
Tyranids – Danny McDevitt at Grim Resolve
Orks – Thomas Douch at Rumble in Romford
Tau – Pekka Koskivirta at Talvisota
AdMech – Robert Lloyd at Rumble in Romford
Raven Guard – Daniel Sansone at CAGBash XIII
Genestealer Cults – Dustin Henshaw at the Barrie Bash
Custodes – Ryan Snyder at the Dicehead GT
That gave us the following results:
|Faction||Points Before||Points After||Percentage Change||Rank (percentage)||Our Rating|
|Thousand Sons||1515||1618||6.8%||3||Big Winner|
|Death Guard||1750||1916||9.5%||5||Moderate Winner|
|Adepta Sororitas||2000||2211||10.6%||7||Moderate Winner|
|Marines (Iron Hands)||2000||2212||10.6%||8||Moderate Winner|
|Grey Knights||2000||2259||13%||13||Moderate Winner|
|Chaos Space Marines||2000||2312||15.6%||16||So-so|
You can see there’s quite a hefty divergence between factions. Some of our ratings diverge from the absolute numbers, and that’s often due to the quirks of some of the specific lists or specific changes to the factions skewing the data somewhat. Some of our ratings are also moderated based on how much help we thought a faction “needed” going into this.
The important datapoint to take away is that the mean cost increase across all these lists was around 13.4%. It’s not perfect, but it’s a useful figure to have in your head once you come to process your own lists into 9th.
Wings: There are things I both like and dislike here. The things I’m favourable on are the overall reduction in game size, the clear nuance of how they’ve scaled back price increases for bigger stuff and characters, the strong support given to Custodes and Knights, and the in-lining of a bunch of weapon costs. While it was a complete pain for our analysis this time it’s something that should have been done right from the beginning of 8th, so no better time to do it than the start of 9th.
The thing I dislike, bluntly, is that too much stuff feels like it’s just been done formulaically without much thought. In many cases carefully accumulated buffs that had finally got a bunch of tier two stuff near tables in CA2019 is just immediately undone by hitting them with average increases. In my opinion, there needed to be an extra step applied much more widely before adding on any points to check “should we be increasing this unit at all?”. A few things got that treatment (Hellblasters, Terminators) but nowhere near enough stuff for my tastes, and I think quite a few factions are going to end up with a limited pool of options to draw on early in the edition.
That’s not the end of the world, and a decent clip of codexes will help, but it is slightly frustrating that outside of Marines (who I guess to be fair are getting their first full post-codex balance pass), a lot of this feels less nuanced than the points we had at the end of 8th.
It does also set up a risk that the team will need to keep an eye on. Part of the reason that 8th ended up with such huge armies was a gradual ratcheting up of buffs to various units to try and get them in line with the more efficient options. The reason that had to happen was because the initial pointing was so all over the place, leaving a lot of things needing buffs applied. Unfortunately, whenever an option then got overbuffed others would have to be buffed to keep up with it, and stuff got cheaper and cheaper till you ended up with nonsense like some of the Expert Crafters lists. While 9th’s landing is vastly, vastly better balanced than 8th’s was, some of the same elements that lead to that problem are here again, and need monitoring.
Overall, I don’t want to sound too unhappy because I’m not – working out how the points have been applied was a fun puzzle, and we have a very playable game coming out of this, but I guess I did maybe hope for just a little more than we got in terms of nuance.
TheChirurgeon: I’m a bit unhappy about this. Not because I think everything going up in cost is a bad thing – I think reducing the size of games from a unit perspective is a good idea overall (and dropping recommended play points to 1,750 or whatever isn’t going to work), and I think they’ve written themselves into a corner with units that cost fewer than 5 points per model and can’t be balanced by cutting points anymore. But because so many of these changes feel nonsensical and lazy. For every reasonable change – like splitting heavy weapon costs for vehicles and infantry or hiking the points on shield drones and Plagueburst Crawlers, there’s a completely insane one, like making Death Guard, Chaos Space Marines, and Chaos Daemons Daemon Princes cost the same as Thousand Sons Daemon Princes, which just ignores three years of work for no discernible reason. And don’t even get me started on units that had never seen play on a semi-competitive 40k table getting points hikes. That those even got an increase to begin with makes the whole thing feel like they just had to push points up across the board regardless of whether a unit needed it comparatively. If your worst-case scenario is “oops we accidentally made the Bloodthirster playable,” then I think you could have taken the risk.
Ultimately one of the big issues with 8th that I am concerned about in 9th is that costs right now aren’t all that different from how 8th started; they just spent the last three years bringing them down and slowly increasing the size of games. While I believe (or at least hope) that the new Codex cycle will fix this, the problem with that will of course be that it’s SUPER GREAT if you are one of the first 3-4 codexes but it sucks ass if you are waiting for your “real” points balancing late into 2021.
So yeah, smaller games = good. How they got there = not great. From a pure “how valuable is this book” standpoint, you pretty much either need to own this book to play 9th edition or have access to it via the app unless you’re planning to play with Power Level, so I’d recommend picking it up.
Corrode: I’m probably more negative than the other two here, likely because I’m staring down the barrel of 9pt Kabalite Warriors – there are infinite possible universes and in precisely zero of them is nine points a cost that makes sense for a Kabalite Warrior. Not to mention 11pt Wyches and 12pt Wracks.
Rob used the word “lazy” and that is, in my view, correct. Many of the changes are completely thoughtless – Wings outlined the rubric above, and you can observe it pretty easily for yourself. Sticking to the Drukhari lens here, Incubi briefly dipped down to 14pts in Chapter Approved 2019 and are now straight back to their old 16pt cost from the codex – at 14pts they were still overcosted for their in-game potential, and now they’ve climbed back up. Ravagers and Razorwings, which took a sizable hike in CA2019, have been increased again.
What this feels like is that these points are less “revised and finely tuned for the new edition, with a slight general increase to make game sizes smaller” and instead a liberally-applied general upwards swing that fails to check whether units were already overcosted for what they actually do on the table. The change is also not really enough if you’re talking about having an impact on game sizes. I put together a Marine list on the weekend which was not dissimilar in terms of unit or model count to something I might have run in 8th edition – maybe a little smaller, but not so much that you would notice. When points costs have largely gone up, but not enough so that games get appreciably smaller, the result is that we get the worst of both worlds – units that were on the edge of viability before are taken out again because they’ve had a general increase and the balance point for ‘good enough’ hasn’t really changed, and games aren’t likely to be noticeably smaller or quicker as a result. To make a real change to ‘how much stuff is on the table’ you would want a general increase of say, 50-75% – let’s say 30pt Intercessors as a baseline – and then at that point you’re looking at a game that is much more similar in size to e.g. 3rd edition. Instead we’re going to have something that feels a lot more like index 8th edition, both in terms of ‘stuff on the table’ but also ‘costs are all over the place.’
For indexhammer this kind of thing wasn’t great but it was understandable – the game had completely changed for the first time in 20 years, with thousands of new datasheets to write spread across five books, using some concepts that were brand new to 40k. Points were inevitably going to be in a state of flux as a far greater volume of ‘games played’ revealed the way the new 40k played. For the launch of 9th edition, which is different but still using the same fundamentals, it’s just not good enough. My guess would be that a crude compromise ended up happening between, say, reducing armies significantly for game design reasons, and keeping basically the same amount of stuff in a game for commercial reasons, and the end result satisfies no-one, and another chance to have a fundamental look at the balance of the game is squandered. In the old days, you’d say That’s GW and move on, but at a time when there seems to be a firm focus on matched play, on tighter rules, on hiring prominent tournament organisers to head up what surely must be a serious attempt at entry into the competitive scene, it’s a silly retrograde step.
We’ll be diving into each faction’s specific changes in a series of Faction Focus articles we’re working on, but we’ll talk about some of the biggest changes today and give some thoughts on how they impact the faction and fit into the bigger picture.
Adepta Sororitas / Sisters of Battle
Sisters get to be moderate winners simply by dint of being a relatively recent faction and thus already pretty well balanced cost-wise. Because of that, they get very predictable increases across the board, don’t take any big whacks, and benefit from their characters not getting big changes, with Imagifiers even getting the “no change” treatment. The closest thing to a “problem” change for them is an above-rate increase on Seraphim, but even that’s partially cancelled out by a discount on inferno pistols. All in all, nothing wildly unpleasant, and the faction should continue to have a lot to offer.
Adeptus Astartes / Space Marines
Space Marines get an absolute tonne of changes in here, and while we do think they still end up as moderate winners, quite a few popular units get targeted nerfs that will need adapting to. Impulsors, Centurions and Thunderfires get hefty hikes, while Eliminators get an above rate increase that might finally stop 9 of them being in every single relevant army. Scouts get an above band increase, going to 14ppm, which combined with a reduced need to fill detachments may well drive people further towards incursors. Finally, of course, Legends bites and take away the Chaplain Dreadnought and Lias Issadon, hurting both the most popular flavours of Marines. They do also take a weirdly hard hit from all their incidental heavy bolters on vehicles going up in points.
It’s far from all bad though. First up, several of the Indomitus units we have datasheets for are pushed at their current costs, with Eradicators standing out as the new unit we’re all going to love to hate seeing nine of. Terminators, who have definitely hovered on the edge of viability for some subfactions, also see a significantly below rate increase, making them quite a bit more attractive, especially in the context of 9th favouring sitting on objectives. Finally, a bunch of popular Forge World options get the kid-glove treatment, with the Leviathan and Whirlwind Skorpius staying good and the Relic Contemptor Dreadnought getting a significant decrease in cost. Its days of being one of the most efficient units in the game are certainly approaching a middle.
Space Marines, bluntly, both deserve and can afford the hits they take, and get enough upside elsewhere that they still emerge as winners.
Holy moly. Custodes are the outrageous, runaway, it-isn’t-even-really-close level winners of this update because unlike almost every other faction they barely go up in cost at all. Two of their commonly used troops choices (Custodian Guard and Sagittarum Custodians) go up by effectively only a single point each on their Misericordia, while Allarus Custodians stay level on points with their base build and dagger and go down quite a bit if you swap to spears. Bikes have picked up a frankly shrug-worthy increase of five points each, and to top it all off the Forge World vehicles all get tiny increases, and in the case of the Caladius Grav-Tank actually gets a 15pt discount on one build, though that could be an editing error, as it looks like they zeroed both gun options rather than zeroing the cheapest and re-applying the other as a differential. Even if that gets reverted the hike on the model is a paltry 5pts.
Psychic Awakening was really kind to Custodes, and when reviewing that we asked Shane to write us some lists that could be taken on to 9th. He went with a cautious estimate of 1600pts. While doing our analysis above we also mathed out his first with the actual costs and it came to 1722, and that’s a list that gets hit unusually badly because it’s bike heavy.
It’s going to be a good time to be gold in the near future. Everyone else look forward to trying to prise bikes and Terminators off objectives and failing badly.
Adeptus Mechanicus are the first faction that need a big asterisk against them because of how badly skewed their outcomes are by a single unit where the magnitude of the change might not be intended. The Skorpius Disintegrator, previously one of the best units in the game, gets dunked into oblivion with a hike from 111pts to 150pts on the basic build. Now, it was extremely good before, but not that good, and the reason we think this could be an error in finalising the book is that where all similar units have had the base cost (20pts here) for their cheapest gun in-lined, the Skorpius gets a hull rise similar to others but still pays for the weapon. If the Skorpius turns out to be meant to go to 130 that will be a lot, lot more reasonable. A few other things go up, and Admech are some of the biggest sufferers of the curse of incidental stubbers, with Cognis ones being changed to five points from two.
AdMech do get some nice things to go along with this and other cost increases. Most of the newer stuff from Engine War gets slightly below rate increases, and Kataphrons get a light touch, with Grav Destroyers being the most notable beneficiaries. Vanguard only go up a single point, making them more interesting, though arc rilfes get frustratingly slammed to 5pts. There’s clearly still an army here, especially if you use the newer stuff, but they’re also one of the factions that got demoted once we’d run the numbers on a list – even factoring the possible excess 60pts on Skorpii out, the increase on a relatively normal looking list was big.
Most of the Astra Militarum points increases are on-rate, with a few notable exceptions that unfortunately include some of the most important models the army can field. Let’s start with the big one: The Leman Russ went up 23 points before the addition of weapons and heavy bolters also went up to 15 points on vehicles, making the un-upgraded Leman Russ 30 points more expensive on the whole. The good news is that Tank Commanders only went up 13 points base, which is more in line with the average, though does mean we’re probably straight back to only those getting taken. Also getting unusually large hikes are Primaris Psykers (+12) and Astropaths (+10), but this is mitigated by their force weapons being free. Hellhounds also get major increases, at +22 for the standard model and +42 points for the Artemia pattern FW version.
In better news, Bullgryns get a marginal increase (+3) while Ogryns stay put; Basilisks only go up 10 points. On the Troops side, Conscripts and Guardsmen go up by 1 point per model each while Tempestus Scions go up 2 points. Valkyries go up 5 points, which is below rate. Pask goes up 8 points.
What’s Missing: Elysian Drop Troops are gone. Death Korps are still around, though. Several older Forge World tank variants and flyers were removed.
Eldar hit some real challenges, but with enough points of light that they should pull through. The Night Spinner gets the dubious pleasure of being lined up for a full bore targeted nerf, which I (Wings, writing this section) will accept on the grounds that I liked them before it was cool. Less explicably, the Fire Prism also gets a proper slam, Wraithlords (popular in Crafters builds) get an above-rate increase and reverting a bunch of one to two point tuning on weapons that has accumulated over the years hurts starcannons and scatter lasers a surprising amount.
Core Eldar Troops also get some pretty brutal changes. Guardian Defenders climb to 10ppm and pay more for their platform, Dire Avengers get of moderately lightly by going to 13 (but are still T3 4+ models so uh) and Storm Guardians get an absolute kicking, being subjected to the 50% rule and going to nine points each, once again consigning them to being an irrelevant joke.
It isn’t totally bleak though. Across the board twin shuriken catapults are now free, which lets bike characters get off with a below rate increase and the Wing Autarch (who is actually notably better in 9th thanks to being able to perform lots of Actions) is actually discounted by all of his equipment becoming free. Shining Spears go up by five, but they’re still Shining Spears so they’ll cope. Finally, Falcons and Wave Serpents both get slightly below rate increases, seemingly being treated as closer to transports than main battle tanks.
I can’t pretend that these changes aren’t rough, but the key requirement is being able to still build a mobile, durable force, which you definitely can. It is a real shame that a whole bunch of mid tier stuff gets thrown straight back on the scrapheap – Howling Banshees and Striking Scorpions both get inexplicably massive above-rate increases as a final screw you.
The units used by Blood Angels players that are making them their own thing, mostly Scouts and Sanguinary Guard, went up quite a bit, and that hurts them a lot as a unique faction. Guard with Encarmine Swords (frequently run as a substantial part of units to bring the cost down and help deliver heavier hitters) went up by six points each, quite a bit above rate in their weight bracket, and since the big risk to Blood Angels has always been running out of steam, that’s a blow.
The reddest, angriest of Marines can definitely still pull through – the style of list that rains one-two punches on the enemy for a few turns then sometimes runs out of steam later on naturally gets better in 9th, as taking early control of objectives is better and the games are shorter. Chapter Approved is definitely more of a hinderance than a help for them, however.
Chaos Daemons have a rough go of it with their HQ options. The change to Daemon Princes doesn’t do them any favors bumping their baseline cost by 30 points for the winged version and moving the unit from a “sometimes the guy with the axe” option to something you’re unlikely to field. The Greater Daemons each got completely unneeded points hikes as well, going up 20 points per model with the Bloodthirster of Unfettered Fury inexplicably going up 30. The Contorted Epitome goes up 15 points, but the rest of the HQ choices make out OK, typically going up only 5 points.
Troops on the other hand make out fine: Bloodletters, Plaguebearers, Pink Horrors, and Daemonettes only go up 1 point per model, with the latter being the big winners here as 7-point Daemonettes are practically a steal after this update. Plaguebearers have the downside of already having gone up 1 point in December, and Horrors get the short end of this stick with a 2-point increase on blue and brimstone horrors, with the latter being already pretty neutered by the new coherency rules. On the whole though, these are pretty reasonable changes. Also, Nurglings didn’t change at all, which is great.
The Elites and Fast Attack slots don’t fare nearly as well, though Fiends (+3), Seekers (+3), Flesh Hounds (+3), and Screamers (+3) make out OK, while Bloodcrushers (+5), Beasts of Nurgle (+5), and Plague Drones (+4) get a bit hosed. The Heavy Support slot remains a wasteland.
What’s Missing: Wave goodbye to the Plague Hulk, Giant Chaos Spawn, Plague Toads, Spined Chaos Beast, and Pox Riders of Nurgle, who are not in here and likely to move to Legends. Also Samus doesn’t have points in here, but that one seems like an oversight.
First the good: War Dogs and Wars Dog Moirax see only slight hikes (+5 and +10, respectively), while the the War Dog autocannons went up by 5 and Moirax weapons stayed the same cost, giving them only a minor increase.
Then the bad: You’re now paying a premium for dual avenger gatling cannons and dual thermal cannons on your Knights, and it’s a pretty onerous penalty. A single avenger gatling cannon will cost you 5 points more, but the pair now costs you 30 points more (200 total), making it prohibitively expensive to double up. The thermal cannon went up 20 points, putting it in-line with Imperial Knights. These are brutal changes that really hobble the triple dual thermals Chaos Knights list. Desecrators also went up slightly more than rate, and Rampagers increased at rate.
And now the ugly: Unlike Imperial Castellans, not all of the Knight Tyrant’s guns have been folded into its cost, so while Imperial Castellans enjoyed a large points drop, the Knight Tyrant is just as useless as ever and costed at 730 points. This is likely an oversight, but it’s an incredibly unfortunate one for a unit that has never so much as sniffed competitive play and if you wanted to chalk it up to GW not really caring about Chaos units, well, I wouldn’t dissuade you here.
Clearly the fact that one person managed to win an event post-Ritual of the Damned with Dark Angels has caused nothing short of panic in GW HQ, and a lot of their unique toys suffer from slightly above rate rises, largely consigning them to the mediocrity that is such a key part of their brand.
There are a couple of things for Dark Angels players to work with though, saving this from being pure doom and gloom. While Deathwing Knights get slammed pretty hard, basic Deathwing Terminators get the same light touch as regular Marine ones while being viable for use with some of the tools from RotD. Probably even more importantly, Plasma Inceptors (which were low-key extremely good in Dark Angels) are unusual in getting a substantial point cut, making them even more efficient for the faction than they already were. Expect to see people playing around with those quite a bit while trying to make this chapter work.
Death Guard do pretty well under the new points scheme – Plague Marines only went up 2 points per model, making them look better compared to some of the other troop increases, and most of the key units only went up a point or two – Blightlord Terminators went up 1 point and their combi-bolters went up 1 but a +2 points increase for one of the game’s toughest units is fine in the context of other changes. Myphitic Blight-Haulers went down 5 points per model, and with the Multi-melta increase (+3 points), their net cost went down, making the cute little buggers more attractive. And Mortarion went up only 20 points, which is a fine deal for him. And the increase to Daemon Princes doesn’t hurt Death Guard quite so much, given that their winged daemon princes were already 170 points. It’s not great, but it’s not as egregious as what happened to Chaos Space Marines.
What keeps Death Guard from being big winners are the hits to Plagueburst Crawlers – they go up 30 points per model base, and Plaguespitters go up another 3 points per model. The latter is offset by Heavy sluggers now being free, but it still hurts. Deathshroud Terminators also got a major points hike (+7ppm) for what appears to be no reason, as did Foetid Bloat-Drones (+16), so you can continue not using those.
To be brutally honest, Deathwatch were in such a very, very rough spot competitively that they needed the kind of treatment Custodes got. They didn’t get it – the good news for them is that the Primaris-heavy lists that the faction’s experts favour didn’t go up massively (and auto-bolt rifles becoming free is very good for them), but there just isn’t the kind of good news they needed to get them onto a competitive footing – and Veterans taking an above rate hit thanks to a bunch of equipment changes means there’s no help coming from that direction either. For people who were perservering with the Primaris builds they still exist, and maybe even get a little bit better, but mostly if you like this army you have to hope they weren’t kidding about them being near the front of the release queue.
Somewhat ironically, these changes leave Drukhari with nowhere to run. The triple whammy they face is:
- Kabalites going to nine points.
- Wracks, Wyches and a bunch of other stuff getting above-rate changes as well,
- Disintegrators going up by ten points, making vehicles mounting multiple disastrously more expensive.
This is extremely tough for them, and the difficulty they face is that unlike some factions that take hits to their good stuff, there’s not really any way for Drukhari to build armies that work around this – every angle they had for building strong lists is just crushed. Talos and Grotesques have it slightly less bad than everything else, and with small boards I’d bet on people having a go with the former as a way out, but they’re not going to have anything like the quality of support they’re used to and it’ll be tough going. The changes to the infantry here are one of the biggest misses to the “one size fits all” attitude they’ve taken with some things – access to cheap infantry doesn’t seem to be viewed as part of Drukhari’s “thing”, but it’s absolutely vital to holding their lists together.
Corrode: to emphasise how little care was put into the Drukhari changes, the venom blade – previously a 2pt weapon with no AP and 1 damage, with the only gimmick being that it wounds non-VEHICLE models on 2s, that you downgraded an Archon to – went UP to 5pts, now matching the revised cost of the huskblade they come with by default. If the venom blade was going to change at all, it would have made far more sense to zero it out than to make it cost 150% more, but here we are.
Not that anyone was really banking their competitive lives on unaligned fortifications before, but most of these saw the standard minor points hike, going up 5-10 points. There are four big exceptions here:
- The Fortress of Redemption went up 40 points for some reason. Maybe they forgot its weapon costs had already been folded in.
- The Aquila Strongpoint variants (Macro Cannon and Vortex Missiles Silo) went up by more than 100 points, but both gun options became free, folded into the cost. Factoring this in, they went up by 30 and 40 points, respectively.
- Likewise, the Plasma Obliterator weapon cost got folded into the model cost, so its cost went up by 20 points net.
- The Imperial Bastion got 10 points cheaper. Its heavy bolters went up 7 points however, so the net increase here is +18 points.
Grey Knights are one of the armies to beat going in to 9th, and slightly beating the spread on the average change (which they narrowly do on what’s pretty much the stock list) was really what they needed to stay good – especially because they can trim points on Strikes and keep the dual Paladin bomb now that filling a second Battalion isn’t critical. There are a couple of weird oddities that they need to watch out for – all the basic melee weapons except falchions are now free, but falchions got hit by the algorithm and went to 2pts each, so 4 for the pair. I should not need to explain to you that under no circumstances is paying 4ppm on power armoured troops for an extra attack worth it. Psycannons also take a mild hit, meaning running them incidentally on basic Strikes is probably out. Overall though, there’s nothing to super worry about, and there’s even a below-rate change on non-Paladin terminators if you want to try those out.
Genestealer Cults are probably the most 8th editiony army of all – they thrived on a bunch of complicated tricks around the fight phase and space control that left newer players feeling completely overwhelmed. 9th Edition puts them on the back foot just with the updates to the core rules and army construction, so one might have expected the changes here to be relatively gentle.
They are uh, not. The “good” news is that current advice of leaning on Acolytes, Ridgerunners and Bladed Cog Neophytes remains true, as all of these were treated relatively gently, but there’s only bad news elsewhere. Atalan Jackals, the spamming of which was one of the other viable options, get a big price increase, while Aberrants got a further increase on top of their already unjustified change in CA2019 and please stop kicking them GW please stop they’re already dead.
This, bluntly, sucks and if we had to pick a single biggest loser from this update, GSC are it.
A nice surprise out of left field (so hey, on brand) and a major thorn in the side of our “GW hates elves” conspiracy theorising is that Harlequins make out like bandits here. While the basic troupers go up by three points each, fusion pistols come down two and all the special melee weapons by one, so a fully kitted murder clown doesn’t actually change in cost, and specialised builds go up below rate. Troupe masters also end up basically unchanged since you nearly always kit them up, and the only places you really bleed points are on extra basic bodies for squads and Skyweavers, who do get hit with what appears to be a minor targeted nerf, going up ten points each. Given that all of this is capped off by the Starweaver transport being unchanged at 80pts total, and Harlequins being fresh off one of the most powerful Psychic Awakening updates, it is an extremely good time to be down with the clown.
Heretic Astartes / Chaos Space Marines
Chaos Space Marines made out OK with the points changes, but large increases for key units in the army will hurt players more than the faction’s overall points outlook. Specifically, the base costs for Winged Daemon Princes and Lords Discordant have gone up 30 points each, which is a significant increase and one that is above and beyond the standard algorithm for re-costing things. Their equipment also got more expensive, with non-INFANTRY autocannons increasing to 15 points and pairs of malefic talons going up 5 points. This means that a Winged Daemon Prince with a pair of talons now clocks in at a whopping 200 points and the Lord Discordant will clock in at 195. The marginal upside here is that baleflamers haven’t gone up and at +5 points over the autocannon there’s more reason to consider them but it’s scant consolation for units that were mainstays in a lot of Chaos Space Marine armies.
There are some other HQ units that made out OK however; Sorcerers haven’t increased much in price, especially now that force weapon costs have been baked into their profile costs, but Masters of Possession have gone up a bit. Chaos Lords and Dark Apostles only see a slight increase, and Abaddon has only gone up 10 points.
Troops also took a nasty hit: We already knew that Chaos Cultists were going up to 6 points per model, again keeping them inexplicably above Imperial Guardsmen despite numerous nerfs over the last three years. Chaos Space Marines have gone up 3 points per model, in-line with the change for Space Marines and a large enough increase that you’ll still likely take Cultists as your troops instead because 60 points for 10 Cultists to do actions is arguably better than 70 points for 5 Chaos Space Marines when you need to spend the points elsewhere. From Elites, the big winners are Chaos Terminators – combi-bolters have gone up 1 point each, but the base cost for Chaos Terminators didn’t change, so combi-bolter/chainaxe Terminators are an even better deal. Khorne Berserkers also only went up 2 points per model, making them a great deal under the new changes. On the other hand, Noise Marines are the big losers – they went up 3 points per model base, and while blastmasters dropped to 10 points, sonic blasters went up to 5, making the base cost of a sonic blaster Noise Marine 24 points per model. Possessed went up 3ppm, and they’re probably still usable at that cost, but the bigger challenge for them is the role of melee in 9th edition. More on that in our faction focus.
Oh, and Warp Talons got inexplicably hosed – they’ve gone up to 23 points per model base cost, presumably because someone forgot that they have to take lightning claws and haven’t baked that cost into their profiles. This is an incredibly dumb oversight, and immediately makes warp talons unusable, especially with the changes to Overwatch reducing the need for them.
The big winners here are the Defiler, whose cost didn’t change, the Forgefiend, Chaos Predator, and Vindicator (+5 points each), and hilariously the Lord of Skulls, whose base cost went up 35 points (not great), but with no increase on the great cleaver of Khorne, Ichor Cannon, and Hades gatling cannon while the gorestorm cannon dropped a whopping 44 points. So you can have the choice between being more expensive with the Ichor cannon – which is now a blast weapon – and being 9 points cheaper with the gorestorm cannon, which has extra utility being something you can shoot in melee. The downside is that taking more than one Lord of Skulls will cost you 6 command points, and there’s the rub. But maybe it’s worth it to try and make that work? I’ll explore later this week in our faction focus on Chaos Space Marines.
What’s Not Here
Two of the Forge World characters are gone. Lord Arkos, the Hellwright (and Dark Abeyant variant) both appear to be bound for Legends, and the Plague Hulk and Kharybdis Assault Pod are both missing as well. The former is a Defiler/Soulgrinder conversion kit that has been out of production for a while, and the latter is really surprising, given that it’s still for sale in the Forge World store. As the owner of a converted Hellwright, I’m not real happy about this change but the unit had already been completely screwed by keyword changes to Chaos Knights so it’s not a huge deal. As someone who owns a Kharybdis, I’m also not thrilled about this. I could potentially be convinced that it’s because of the model’s size making it inappropriate for games of 40k but then, the Thunderhawk and Stormbird are still listed so that can’t be it.
Imperial Knights are one of the surprise winners of this book based on just what we’re sure about, and depending which way one of the remaining ambiguities goes could be massive winners.
At a baseline, GW’s correct recognition that there’s diminishing returns on large units and they thus didn’t need to go up by that much means that Knights can still hit the table in force – the four Questoris two Armiger list we mathed out could squeeze onto the table with just the drop of an Armiger. That’s huge, because the resilience of these lists comes from overwhelming the enemy with big Knights, and so being able to keep the same number of Questoris hulls while all your predators get a bit weaker should do a lot to keep Knights as a real force in 9th edition.
The other thing we alluded to is, of course, the Castellan. According to the points in the Imperial Knight section, this no longer pays for its guns, taking it down to a very fieldable (and frankly terrifying) 620pts with the four missile build. Unfortunately, in the Chaos Knights section of the book those costs are still there, keeping it at a much higher 730. Given that almost everywhere else costs have been aggressively harmonised, it seems extremely unlikely that this is intentional, so we’ll have to wait and see which way the FAQ goes.
Even if it lands on Castellans going up, the news is still good for Imperial Knights – and better than for their Renegade cousins as there aren’t any targeted slams on specific builds.
These continue to exist and basically all got on-rate increases to their costs. If you wanted them before, you probably still want them.
While we strongly suspect the changes in this book are going to matter for a very, very limited amount of time, Necrons emerge from it as identifiable winners – basically across the board the changes they receive are just slightly kinder than they should be on rate, and they also get big benefits from their named characters not going up by much and Warriors getting the 1pt treatment. Their Indomitus additions are less exciting than what Marines picked up, with only the Skorpekh lord and improved Overlord datasheet really standing out straight away, but that doesn’t super matter – overall Necrons are closer to a level playing field with more competitive factions after Chapter Approved. The Tesseract Vault even gets a buff! The Obelisk, community voted worst unit in the entire game, naturally gets a 40-point increase on its cost – the nerf we were all calling for.
Much like AdMech, this evaluation is badly skewed by a single change that might be an error. As printed, a Big Mek with Shokk Attack Gun goes up by 40pts, and since there are three in every list, pretty much, that’s extremely bad news. Like with the Skorpius, this looks like it may be due to the gun now supposed to be inclusive but not being zeroed out – a change to 95ppm would seem more realistic, and would be enough for Orks to jump into the so-so category.
It isn’t the only hit they take – while Boyz (and, pleasingly, Kommandos, who should see a lot of play now) get the 1pt treatment, Grots go up by two which makes keeping enough around to shield stuff like lootas (especially now they no longer provide CP) a real pain. Smasha Guns finally go up a more realistic amount per model (though are honestly probably still fine) and having come down to an interesting point cost in CA2019 Flash Gitz are immediately slammed back to being an irrelevant competitor to Lootas and you do kind of have to ask – why?
Orks do still have angles to work with – putting lots of boyz on a smaller build is still powerful, and Kommandos getting the “horde” treatment is a decent help now you’re no longer so pressured to take lots of Troops. The Orktober wagons also all dodge big hikes, so putting a lot of Shokkjumps and Scrapjets on the table remains viable. Ultimately, there’s stuff you can do here but especially as “losers” from the change to army construction, Orks are identifiable losers once you put the Big Mek change on top.
Space wolves get caught in a rather unfortunate crossfire here. The nerf to the Impulsor and melee tricks in general hits them hard, while some of their most popular unique units (Wulfen, Thunderwolf Cavalry) get hit with raises that are technically on-rate but feel harsh in context.. Space Wolves are a faction that came into this book needing help and the only real glimmer of it they get is that Wolf Guard Terminators got the same light touch that a lot of others did (though do pay more for storm shields that are used on them a lot). Low rises on characters maybe help a bit, but overall this is rough, and we’ll be interested to get takes from Space Wolf players on how they’re going to adapt – the increased power of Wolf Guard is the only thing really keeping these in the So-so bracket.
So there’s really two things to talk about here. First of all, whatever else happens some Tau players are probably going to need to leave their comfort zone a bit, because Shield Drones get a 50% increase to 15pts each and that obviously hurts if hiding behind them is your only plan, especially as while Riptides are hiked up broadly on-rate, they’re expensive enough that it adds up if you have three. Outside that core hit there’s a modest amount to like – while the body on Commanders and Crisis teams goes up none of the guns do, so you end up with below rate increases on most builds. Gun drones stay at 10, which is honestly a real surprise given literally nothing else in their weight class gets through with no increase. Stealth teams take a hit as scout deploy seems to come at a cost premium across the range, but for people who want to try other kinds of board control the Devilfish gets an abnormally light touch, only gaining five points. Overall, Tau players are going to have to change things a bit, but still have tools to work with. Oh, the Stormsurge gets totallly slammed into utter, abject unplayability for some reason, but even at the arguably pushed cost it had post CA19 no one ran it, so whatever.
Sigh OK let’s address the other thing.
I guess we have to.
There seems to have been a screw up with the Tau’nar. Like a lot of units, it’s cheapest unique weapon options have been zeroed and then the others done as differentials from that. Unfortunately, what has not happened is any change to the price on the body. That means that kitted out Tau’nars start coming in at 900pts. You could take two, and like a patrol or something. They can even fall back and shoot now thanks to that being a core part of TITANIC.
This seems unlikely to be intentional – some bigger Lords of War are certainly treated gently in this book but there’s gently and then there’s 300pt discounts on what’s effectively a Titan. Hopefully this gets a swift fix.
Do let us know in the comments how if we actually understood Tau we would know that being able to take two Tau’nars in Strike Force games is good and fair, actually. We will be sure to read them. Yes.
Surprise! Thousand Sons are even better with this update. For one, the change to Daemon Princes doesn’t hurt them at all, since their Daemon Princes were already more expensive owing to being better than everyone else’s. The new hamfisted change helps them and hurts Death Guard, Daemons, and Chaos Space Marines in equal (and infuriating) measure. Ahriman goes up a perfectly reasonable 19 points on foot and only 4 on disc, and Exalted Sorcerers got significantly cheaper, going down 12 points per model on foot and disc at base cost and another 8 thanks to force staves becoming free, making them significantly more viable. Rubric marines go up only 2ppm while Tzaangors go up 1. Magnus gets off light with the standard 20-point increase for big models.
The only losers here are arguably Scarab Occult Terminators, who have gone up 5 points per model once you factor in the 1-point increase on power swords, though heavy warpflamers did go down 2 points.
Our last rating here is a bit of a whimper – nothing really gets proactively nerfed in Tyranids, they basically just hit the Drukhari problem of having no real way to work around the on-rate changes they get across the board. As a faction that come into the edition likely somewhat weakened by the core rules and not super competitive anyway, they basically just needed more than a pretty uniform increase, and very much didn’t get it.
I mean technically we could acknowledge these as a separate army, but also this is really, really long at this point. What matters here is that the Yncarne gets a below rate increase of only 10pts, so in combination with finally, definitely, officially, for real this time being able to perform a Heroic Intervention after teleporting, means they will definitely see play.
That was a ton of words about the new points values and believe it or not, we’re only getting started! We’ve got a ton more to say about 9th edition now that we have both the rules and points in hand, Next up we’ll be doing a series of faction focus articles, taking a deep dive into each faction and how these points and the new rules change the faction dynamics, so stay tuned. If you’re a patron, hit us up on Discord, where we’ll be doing live Q&A around the new points and rules this week. And as always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.