The August 2023 Kill Team Balance Dataslate

Games Workshop dropped its Q3 Balance Dataslate for Kill Team today, outlining a number of changes to the format. In this article we’ll look at what changed, what it means, and how these changes will affect the competitive meta moving forward.

You can find the PDF of the Balance Dataslate here.


Tau Pathfinders
Tau Pathfinders. Credit: Jack Hunter

Pathfinders receive improvements for Close Quarters boards

Kauyon Art of War now allows all operatives to perform a Mission or Pickup Action for one less AP, while the Guard Action can be used to perform the Markerlight Action even while under the Conceal order. 

TheArmorOfContempt: It’s no secret that Pathfinders have had one of the most drastic falls from grace in the history of Kill Team. Part of this is due to the release of the Close Quarters boards, and then exacerbated by more competitive players simply moving on to more versatile teams. These two changes are great as they not only give this team a much needed boost exactly where it was needed, but that it shows the design team has accurately gauged where the actual problem is. Don’t let the numbers fool you, Pathfinders are still a very strong team. This may also mean we will finally see Kauyon used as I had to look up exactly what it did prior to writing this article. While it has obvious uses in Close Quarters maps, players may still find themselves using it on Open Boards that have either the Loot or Secure mission type. 

HappyRaccoon: Pathfinders are definitely looking much much more interesting. Having taken the team to the New Mexico 2022 Champs, the ITD match ups were a struggle. Being able to freely open doors, and guard with High-Intensity Markerlights will go a long way to making the tp1 struggle approachable ITD. Additionally due to the additional CP from base rule changes, Determined Tactician might see some play giving either free dash, or free mission action within 6” of the leader. Overall I am looking forward to breaking the guys out of cryosleep to see how they feel.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

When things go just as planned, Warpcoven looks good!

Warpcoven continue to see massive improvements, with Rubrics now needing to be within 6 inches of the Sorcerer when activated or lose 1 APL, the change being that this is now contained on the Rubric’s datacard, not the Sorcerer’s. The biggest buff is the unlocking of Tac Op Archetypes, now being able to freely choose recon or security as the match up calls for.

HappyRaccoon: The spread of gradual buffs continues marching on for the sorcerers of change. The rubrics have gone to close combat school and when wielding Gargoyle Bayonets can boldly threaten objectives against their meat puppet brethren. Finally being able to threaten 7w models on the charge, and squaring off against 3apl marines without a babysitter. One common change many enthusiasts have asked for was the unlocking of archetypes and that dream is now reality. Letting players play Security with six Tzaangors, or Recon with Warpfire Portal’d Rubrics will let the schemes of change truly run their course. Now maybe when things go just as planned it’ll end in a win!


Gellerpox Infected: Gnasher Screamer
Gellerpox Infected: Gnasher Screamer
Credit: Pendulin

Gellerpox Infected, not forgotten

Gellerpox Infected’s Rust Emanations now only affects enemy operatives within engagement range of Nightmare Hulk operatives. 

TheArmorOfContempt: It is easy to forget that Gellerpox were still one of the most powerful teams in the game until Chaos Cultists came onto the scene, and the rules team has decided to toss another small nerf their way to show they haven’t forgotten their crimes either. As we will see later in the article this change is similar to many of the changes we will see with Chaos Cultists as it focuses on reducing the strength of the less powerful operatives on the team. 

HappyRaccoon: The changes to the big man/small man melee horde teams seem to be roughly in line with each other. Reducing the strength and annoyance of the smaller operatives makes this match up less frustrating to play. I do think this is a great nerf, in that the strength of the Hulks remains high, but the team cannot just willy-nilly spam injury bubbles now.


Exaction Squad member by Craig “MasterSlowPoke” Sniffen

Exaction Squad’s buddy cop powers got better

The wording change from “In addition, if the target is within 2” of another friendly EXACTION SQUAD operative, that ranged weapon has the P1 critical hit rule for that shooting attack.” to “Each time a friendly operative with this ability makes a shooting attack with a weapon that doesn’t have the Blast special rule or the word ‘grenade’ in its name, if the target is within 2” of another friendly EXACTION SQUAD operative, that ranged weapon has the P1 critical hit rule for that shooting attack.“. Means that the cops just need friends to get p1 on their guns.

TheArmorOfContempt: Previous Ruthless Efficiency wording meant that it was unclear whether Blast or Grenade weapons would receive the benefit of P1, but this removes any such doubts. They don’t. This does open up that all operatives get p1, while within 2” of a friend which is new.

HappyRaccoon: This one seems a touch odd, but going from “in addition”, to a new line of “Each time” does open up the long range lethal5+ shooting on the team. Giving the exaction squad more opportunities to crack power armor. With some of their best matchups, like fellgors, getting nerfed they may lose some of their silver bullet power. However the lethal 5+/P1 combo is quite nasty. The grenades and blast clearly don’t get the benefit but the Revalatum has new new life!


Elucidian Starstriders. Credit: SRM

Starstriders learn formatting

The administratum has declared typos, so balance patch wordings were reformatted.

HappyRaccoon: Starstriders had functionally the same wording, but it’s been cleaned up as two separate lines. To make sure people know to follow both.


Torment. Credit: Rockfish
Torment. Credit: Rockfish

Chaos Cults taken down multiple pegs, still remain huge threats in melee

The Iconarch’s two aura abilities now must be activated separately for a single AP, Mutants and Torments replace their 5+++ for a 6+++, Mutants lose Relentless for Ceaseless, and Sickening Aura ONLY emanates from Mutants and Torments

TheArmorOfContempt: In my opinion the most important changes within this update. I think the authors hit the sweet spot on this one. The Iconarch and Unnatural Regeneration were easily the two things that needed to be addressed the most, and in my opinion received exactly the changes they needed. As I had mentioned before there were many other ways in which this team might be changed, and I think removing Relentless from the Mutants and reducing the effectiveness of Sickening Aura are both valid. It is unclear if this will be enough as this team is still exceptionally powerful, but I do think it goes a long way in reigning them into a more manageable realm.

HappyRaccoon: To all players afraid of Cults, the focus is now entirely on the scary Torments. Giving both players more focus on keeping mutants alive. As Mutants are more vulnerable to both shooting and melee. I am glad the changes keep the Torments scary as they deserve to be a reward for good play, rather than a free win. Additionally the injury bubble spam has been brought low, giving cult opponents more models they can interact with to play around the Torments wrecking in one position on the board.


Fellgor Gnarlscar. Credit: Fowler

Guns hurt now, more Fellgor Ravager news at 11

Frenzied models no longer count towards objective control, and an unsaved critical shooting attack incapacitates a Frenzied model.

TheArmorOfContempt: The second most important change on this list, and perhaps the most contentious one. Personally, I have not viewed Felgor as much of a menace as other players, however their win rate since release can’t be denied, and much like Chaos Cultists they can be absolutely oppressive against teams that lack any sort of credible melee abilities. 

Perhaps the most significant change is that Frenzied models no longer count towards objective control. This really cuts down on the versatility of the ability, and makes the decision making process on what to do with a Frenzied model much more straightforward for both players. If nothing else this will hopefully really cut down on the time it takes to finish a game against Felgor players. The second change is a much needed breath of fresh air for teams like Pathfinders, however this change lacks the same wording for combat, where when an operative goes into Frenzy all remaining attacks are discarded. This means it is perfectly possible to now kill a Felgor in a single Shoot Action. It is unclear if this is the intent of this change, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it receives a quick revision. 

HappyRaccoon: All glory to the boring way of fellgor’s going the way of the dodo. Before fellgor were too incentivized to play the objectives by Charging, and Passing. Meaning your opponents were damned if they fought you, granting you a free melee window, or fell back losing objective control. Now frenzy is explicitly for dealing damage on the way out, and shooting teams on open have a window to execute a frenzied goat. While they still remain scary, their best strategy is no longer to play lame. Giving both players reasons to be afraid of fellgor fight actions, and putting them more in line with the teams design intent. I agree with Contempt that the wording for shooting goats is a tad muddy, and allows for critical success to execute goats on the spot RAW. 


Credit: Keewa

Inquisition Agents have forgotten how to requisition AP2 firearms

Inquisition has been brought down through 3 relatively large nerfs. Across your entire kill team selection, you can no longer have more than two AP2 guns. You cannot use Absolute Authority on the same ploy more than once or on free ploys ever. Meanwhile your activation count has been lowered through the pairing of the Tome-Skull and the Interrogator Agent for the purposes of GA2.

HappyRaccoon: Bringing the overall activation count of the team down, while trimming its access of AP2 weaponry down will go a long way to making this teams match up spread less polarizing. Which I think is a great change, as staring down the barrel of four ap2 operatives, without defensive ploys and 13 activation windows meant elites stood almost no chance. Now you still face 12-13 operatives, through 11-12 activation windows with only two AP2 weapons, and your opponent must time their Absolute Authority with pinpoint accuracy. This certainly will force inquisition players to play more carefully and honestly makes their ancillary options more interesting and less obvious.

TheArmorOfContempt: It is unclear if the current Inquisitorial Agent win rate really warrants this amount of change, while the changes to Absolute Authority were obviously needed the limitations on AP2 weapons seems like it might be a bit premature, or at the very least limit them to three. 


Leagues of Votann Hearthkyn Warriors. Credit: Rich Nutter

Hearthkyn Grudges and Knives see a small boost

First off all operatives go to either 8 or 9 wounds. While Grudges handed out by the Theyn no longer have visibility requirements, and can even put out two tokens a turning point when three plus operatives are incapacitated. Additionally Plasma Knives are more expensive, because they are Lethal 5+.

HappyRaccoon: I doubt these changes will push the Hearthkyn winrate needle all that much, and I expect they’ll get additional buffs in the future. I prefer these gradual changes to the bigger swings of 2022, like Hunter Clade, who were catapulted to new heights. For the enthusiasts I expect this change does allow the Kyn to play more freely, so long as you keep your Theyn’s safe. I do wish there was some other way to make 7w models work, but with injury working the way it does, 8w remains a much more effective breakpoint. It might’ve been cool to give the team a way to ignore injuries in specific phases but 8w does a good job of mimicking such a change.

TheArmorOfContempt: I am a little more positive on these changes than Travis. 8 Wounds is always a great break point, and the Lethal on Plasma Knives gives them much better odds going into human equivalent opponents. 

Overall Thoughts

HappyRaccoon: This patch is injecting life into the game at a current lull, and I’m all for it. If there is a new balancing team they’ve done what looks like a great job at adjusting values. Giving some teams that have fallen specific changes, and making oppressive matchups more wiggle room. With Goonhammer Open, NOVA, and the New York Open on the horizon these changes should open up the meta. Allowing for teams to have less skew match ups. I’m optimistic about the next few months of play, and looking forward to taking my pathfinders out for a spin.

TheArmorOfContempt: While I was very critical of the Q2 changes, I must say this feels like a very strong swing back towards a more balanced Meta. That being said, this was a completely avoidable situation, and a game like Kill Team that is still in the process of growing is very sensitive to imbalance. I can say that I noticed a drop in enthusiasm from my local scene as players felt that certain teams they enjoyed playing simply had no chance in certain match ups. In my opinion when it comes to writing rules for teams or armies, I’d rather the guiding philosophy be to err on the side of caution, as an underpowered team is a problem for its owner, while an overpowered team is a problem for everyone. It would be nice to see less of these kinds of mistakes going forward, which would perhaps allow future Balance Data-Slates to focus more on abilities and rules that don’t get used, much like they did with Kauyon. 

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