The first balance dataslate of 40k’s 10th edition comes screaming down from the Games Workshop Strike Cruiser and unloads a drop pod full of rules updates, accompanied by version 1.3 of the Munitorum Field Manual which incorporates a broad sweep of points changes across all of the game’s factions. In this article, the Goonhammer team takes a look at the changes and what they mean for the Xenos factions. For our thoughts on how this affects the core game you can click here; for other factions, check out our articles on Imperium and Chaos respectively.
Ok, so “xenos” isn’t a superfaction in the way Imperium or Chaos is, but it’s better than “Misc,” right? As far as the xenos armies go, by far and away the best of the bunch has been Aeldari, one of the most oppressive factions in recent editions. Necrons have held their own, and otherwise “xenos” has mostly meant “middling to bad” so far in 10th. Let’s see how things have changed for the various aliens and weirdos and hope that a few of them become a lot more viable than they have been.
Overall rating: Loser…but is it by enough?
- None, outside maybe some arguable utility from Drukhari discounts for Ynnari.
- Points increases to most units that have seen heavy play.
- Massive point increases to the Yncarne and Autarch Wayleaper.
- Phantasm is now INFANTRY only.
- Wraithknight loses out from changes to TOWERING, Overwatch and Devastating Wounds (though doesn’t increase in cost as might have been anticipated).
- Ravagers in Drukhari go up, so less useful for Ynnari.
Obviously one of the key goals for this dataslate is to bring Aeldari down to a more palatable win rate, and there are plenty of changes here targeted at doing just that. Pretty much every unit that’s been a consistent staple in lists goes up by at least a few points, usually between 10-20, and a few specific units (Voidweavers, Fire Prisms, Support Weapons again somehow) getting singled out for heavier hits. Crowning it all, the Wraithknight has been increased just enough that you can no longer Strategic Reserve it (though obviously it can at least now deploy hidden), Wayleapers take a 35pt hit, and the Yncarne gets the biggest single point hike of any unit in this update, soaring to a cool 350pts. Straight up, if you’ve been starting every Aeldari list “Wayleaper, Yncarne” you’re now down 115pts before you move onto doing anything else.
In summary, every Aeldari list is going to be down a number of units (probably two to three at the very minimum, depending on how much they pivot their selection), Phantasm gets massively reined in for some uses, and the Wraithknight is no longer an unholy terror to anywhere near the same extent.
So, Aeldari definitely take a hit, and a pretty big one, but does it do the trick? Maybe – our team are split on this, because while plenty of stuff got hit, plenty of stuff took lighter touches than was probably justified, and there’s a whole bench of units that would be top tier in many other indexes just waiting to be tried. As an example, just in the last few weeks we’ve seen more use of Falcons, Fire Dragons and Fuegan, and all those units are unchanged, while some staples like Shadow Spectres (Liam: are you fucking kidding me with these things??), Wraithguard, Illic, and Night Spinners probably didn’t go up as much as they should have.
That means there are definitely still good lists in here, and the key question is whether those still end up hovering at an unacceptably strong level once the dust clears or not. I (Wings) am at least somewhat optimistic that they’ll narrowly drop below the 55% target, particularly because I think some of the Marine and Tau lists unleashed by these changes will be pretty good into them, but I’m a bit of an outlier in that. That’s largely because it feels like all the other top or near top factions other than Necrons ended up getting hit as hard or harder than Aeldari, despite starting from much more reasonable win rates. The gigantic Aeldari range plus the fact that their Forge World units seem to be one balance cycle behind everything else is a major culprit here – the other top factions (again, other than Necrons) all have pretty small ranges that they’re using large proportions of, so all the good stuff has been noticed and addressed, whereas for Aeldari every week seems to bring some new tool people have found that’s good enough for an event-winning army.
Those were all being used in the context of the really strong stuff, of course, and we can appreciate that it’s incredibly difficult to make balance changes to units that aren’t seeing much play, but could be too potent on the sly. There has definitely been an attempt made here (and the army will definitely require more skill to use effectively), and it’s clear that there is an understanding of the scale of the problem, so we’ll now have to see how it lands, and whether any of the newly empowered factions are well placed to start challenging Aeldari for the top.
Overall rating: Minor Loser
The Drukhari get a bunch of minor point drops to their units. Many of the faction characters come down 10-15 points, such as the Archon (-10) and Drazhar (-15), while other faction units come down 5-10 points. Wyches get a particularly big drop, down to 90pts for a unit from 110 previously.
Here’s where the Drkuhari get punished for their part in Ynnari lists: Ravagers go up 15 points per model (to 115). Weirdly, 10-model Scourge units go up 20pts so that they now rise linearly from the 5-model ones being 110, but previously they didn’t cost as much for the bigger unit because they don’t get any more heavy/special weapons for doing so. The response to this is, however, who cares, because nobody has ever fielded a 10-model Scourge unit and nobody ever will.
The Ravager change is a difficult one to evaluate. They were probably too cheap, both in the context of being taken in Ynnari lists but also because of their ubiquity in mainstream Drukhari lists. That said, in the case of running them as actual Drukhari, you were taking 3 because they were the best unit in a weak codex – just making them more expensive doesn’t necessarily make them any less of an auto-take, it just makes a middling-to-weak faction a bit worse.
The more positive news is that basically every other sheet in the book went down, with the exceptions being Covens monsters, transports, and planes. Some of these changes are a bit tippy-tappy – are Reavers at 70pts suddenly so much better than they were at 75? – but they do add up to a reasonable amount of extra stuff in a list, and since both characters and units took drops the overall package for something like Wyches + Lelith has gone down from 215pts to a much more palatable 175. Wider changes may also help your fragile melee infantry to actually do their thing, too – no longer will they face the terrible prospect of being Overwatched by Desolation Marines from behind a wall, for example. Whether it’s enough to push Drukhari up from their current position slumming it in the middle of the pack is yet to be seen, but at least there’s some fresh stuff to try out now.
Overall rating: Big Loser
There’s one positive change here from a rules standpoint: The Atlan Jackals’ Outrider Gangs ability now lets you set up wholly within 9” of a battlefield edge rather than 6”, giving you quite a bit more room to set up when putting the unit on the table. That’s a good deal given how big a footprint the unit can take up at max size.
And while it’s not a buff per se, the changes to modifying CP costs and using Stratagems more than once per phase only partially hit the Genestealer Cults, for whom two of their most important Stratagems are Battle Tactics and so exempt from the rule changes, along with the Primed and Ready ability on the Reductus Saboteur, which mentions the Grenade Stratagem explicitly and so is also exempt. Likewise the change to Devastating Wounds isn’t so much a problem for GSC, who benefit more from no longer being wiped out by spillover mortal wounds.
On the points side of things, Purestrain Genestealers come down 1 point per model, to 85/170 for 5 and 10 models, respectively.
The Genestealer Cults catch one big rule nerfs before we get to the points. The first is a change to Cult Ambush: Now units only add 1 to the roll result if they’re a Battleline unit and an additional 1 if you’re rolling in the first or second battle round, while units are only added back on a 5+. This means your Battleline units will at best come back on a 3+ during the first two battle rounds and your non-Battleline Units are going to be 5+ after the first two rounds.
The point updates were equally unkind, raising the price on a number of key units. Most specifically:
- Aberrants go up to 185/370 (+20/+40)
- Achilles Ridgerunners go up +10 points per model
- Acolyte Hybrids go up +2 points per model to 85/170
- Atlan Jackals go up to 90/180 (+10/+20)
- The Biophagus, Nexos, Saboteur, and Clamavus each goes up +10, while the Locus goes up +5
- Neophyte Hybrids go up to 90/180 (+10/+20)
- The Primus goes up +20 (to 90)
These changes hurt, particularly on the Aberrants, where a 10-model block acted as the army’s main sledgehammer unit, giving them a difficult-to-remove block capable of doing real damage in melee.
The nerf to Cult Ambush is rough but it’s not necessarily the heart of the GSC power – what matters just as much (if not more) is their ability to blow you off the table when they arrive, massing effects across a large number of units with stacked modifiers to your AP and their wound rolls to crush bigger units. To that end, what hurts much more here are the points increases – GSC eat one of the biggest point hits of any army, and on average a top 4 GSC list will lose more than 250 points taking the same units with these new costs. That means taking two fewer units, giving the army a reduced output to work with and giving opponents a greater opportunity to whittle down the army’s firepower before they can deliver their alpha strike. Genestealer Cults emerge from this update alongside Deathwatch and Thousand Sons as potentially the biggest losers, and will almost certainly drop one or two tiers in terms of competitive strength.
Leagues of Votann
Overall rating: Moderate Winner
- Ruthless Efficiency now affects 4(!) units in a Strike Force battle up from 1
- Point drops across the entire range
- Zero, the ball is rolling up, maybe not as fast as some of the others but these little legs only move 5 inches at a time
Votann have been in the running for the worst performing faction in 10th week in and week out since launch. It was apparent from the preview week alone that our short kings were probably going to struggle, and struggle they have, all due to the sins of ancestors that never saw the light of competitive play.
There is hope now, though! Ruthless Efficiency marking 4 targets per game is a significant buff, boosting hit and wound rolls across what will effectively be a third of most enemy forces to start the game and providing what should be ample CP to do whatever our little hearts desire if we can just follow through (it should be noted the CP generation effect here can only be triggered once per round so we must be careful to not get carried away when applying grudges to face). While this may not be a ground-breaking a change as what Death Guard has seen in their rework, it should elevate Votann to at least a state above limp noodle.
And what of the point changes? Are Votann a horde army now? The army sees drops of upwards of 20% unit to unit. Some of the big winners here are Beserks going from 135 to 100pts, Sagitaurs going from 120 to a flat 100, Thunderkyn somehow dropping to 75pts and the baseline Hearthkyn Warrior now sitting at a cool 110 points. I can feel the power of pushing a whole bunch of sags across the board coursing through my veins already.
Overall rating: Winner (despite getting some nerfs)
- Small discount on Warriors
- Small discounts on melee units
- Big discount on Illuminor Szeras
- Big discount on the Silent King
- Big discount on Monoliths
- Big increase on Lychguard
- Big increase on Doomsday Arks
- Modest increase on Transcendent C’tan (though somehow the Sempiternal Weave combo still works).
- Small increases on Hexmarks and Lokhust Heavies
Necrons come out of this dataslate very well indeed. That might sound surprising, because the tools that are powering their best builds absolutely have taken some hits. However, they’re probably the faction in the sweet spot of getting hit least hard relative to their current position in the metagame, and get some very real buffs to other options that provide things to pivot to. Warriors, Szeras and Monoliths were all things that were already pretty good, and held back from greatness only by how badly Wraithknights owned them, so fewer of those in the metagame in concert with points drops is extremely real. Skorpekh…I mean they probably still don’t get there, but you probably won’t hate yourself as much for putting them on the table with a Lord either, especially now they won’t just get mown down by Fight First Custodes 100% of the time. Lychguard are still your staples there even at their new price, and the Custodes units capping at 5 is a specific huge deal for them, because a full Custodian brick was one of the only things with the killing power to shift Lychguard in a single activation.
Elsewhere, Imotekh goes down slightly too, and you’ll probably want him more now Overlords can’t pop your best Stratagems for free. The Silent King also moves to a price where he’s seriously worth considering again, and to top it all off the Sempiternal Super C’tan is definitely the single most bullshit rules interaction that hasn’t been nuked from the game by this update.
There probably are some new predators out there that Necrons have to worry about – I’ve had the dubious pleasure of playing into Aggressor combos with them, and let me tell you the amount that all our Marine players are salivating over those right now has me pretty worried, and massively up-gunned Tau could be an issue. It’s also slightly more challenging to get a bit of anti-tank shooting into the army efficiently, and you’re sort of pressured to either go the whole hog and take a Monolith/The Silent King or just eschew it entirely. None of that changes the fact, however, that you can put some great armies on the table still, and you emerge from this update looking very healthy indeed…
Overall rating: Winner
- Point decrease on Meganobz and Mega Armour Characters
- Point decrease on Gretchin
- Point decrease on various Epic Heroes, including Kaptin Badrukk.
- Point decrease on Smasha Squig Nobs
- Many other small, welcome drops.
- Point increase on Trukks and Big Trakks
- Point increase on Beastbosses
Orks make out like kunnin’ bandits from this update. They do get a very limited number of nerfs applied, but it fully doesn’t matter because they get tonnes of small to medium drops that should vastly outweigh any increases they incur on the transports and Beastbosses. Even better, a bunch of these are on units that were already staples – Badrukk, Smasha Nobs and Gretchin are already in most good lists, and Meganobz have also seen plenty of use. There’s a whole bunch of other flex and tech choices that get moved to more appealing price tags as well (especially notable on Bikers and Wartrikes), providing a bunch of additional options for list building.
Given Orks were firmly middle-of-the-road ahead of this, this rocks for them. They are another faction where Marines pivoting en-masse to Aggressor nonsense might be something of a problem, but it’s not going to be particularly worse for them than full Bolter Drill Desolation stacks were, so Warbosses can hopefully look forward to some months of vibin’ and krumpin’.
Overall rating: Big Winner
The T’au received a large number of points drops, some of which were pretty drastic. Given T’au were already a shooting army in a shooting edition, this means that a bunch of units were already pretty much fine, just not efficient enough for the army to function competitively. Well, good news: A bunch of units got some massive point drops!
- Riptide Battlesuit down 55 to 180
- Commander Shadowsun down 40 to 100
- Commander in Enforcer Battlesuit down 35 to 100
- Kroot Farstalkers down 35 to 70
- Commander Farsight down 30 to 90
- Longstrike down 30 to 140
- Pathfinder Team down 30 to 90
- Skyray Gunship down 30 to 130
- Breacher Team down 25 to 90
- Broadside Battlesuits down 20 to 90
- Commander in Crisis Battlesuit down 20 to 90
- Devilfish down 20 to 75
- Kroot Carnivores down 20 to 55
- Strike Team down 20 to 80
- Commander in Coldstar Battlesuit down 15 to 110
- Crisis Battlesuits down 15 to 180
- Darkstrider down 15 to 60
- Hammerhead Gunship down 15 to 130
- Stealth Battlesuits down 15 to 60
- Aunshi down 10 to 50
- Cadre Fireblade down 10 to 40
- Ghostkeel down 10 to 160
- Kroot Shaper down 10 to 40
- Stormsurge down 65 to 400
This is a massive list and if you noticed the Riptide going down 55 points and immediately thought “Triptide is back” well, yes. Yes it is.
Most T’au lists are looking at hundreds of additional points to spend, so there aren’t really any nerfs to speak of here. The closest I can think of to a nerf is that now that Hammerhead and Skyrays are both 130, it potentially makes the Hammerhead slightly less appealing. The hammerhead isn’t exactly bad, but it has a greater probability of doing 0 damage due to only being a single shot than the Skyray does with its 3. The math is worth looking at in a future article, but you’ll see more consistency from the skyray.
The impact is going to be fairly straightforward for Tau, they will have more models on the board in a big way. My own list dropped over 290 points and it has a freaking Barracuda in it. Any list with 2 Riptides in it has just gained 110 points (taking them more than halfway to adding their third). Any list with 3 Broadsides in it has gained 60 points. These are staples of the faction and they all went down in a big way. The combo of Fireblade, Devilfish, and Breachers has dropped 55 points from 260 to 205 and so many lists had at least two sets of that.
So obviously more models are going to hit the table, and that means more models are going to be around for Kauyon to turn on in Round 3. This might improve their competitive standing but I think in my experience of casual games so far this might be quite transformative, Kauyon has already had a fairly “win more” effect for me and that’s only going to be more true going forward now. As we said earlier, T’au armies are well positioned to play well in 10th edition but needed more efficiency for their point costs and now they have it. Lists which previously relied heavily on the 2-3 units in the army which were reasonably costed now have room to expand, and the army will have greater capability to focus down big targets. Even without rule changes T’au are one of the big winners of this update.
Overall rating: Mild Losers
- Hefty point decrease on Lictors.
- Medium point drops on Genestealers and Broodlords.
- Medium point drop on Winged Primes and Melee Warriors.
- Small point decrease on Deathleaper
- Small point drop on Hormagaunts.
- 5-10 point increases on many strong units.
- Big point increase on the Harpy
- Big point increase on Zoanthropes
- Big point increase on Hierodules
- Tyrannofex burnt to the ground and the earth salted where once it stood.
It’s interesting (and somewhat difficult) to evaluate how Tyranids fare in the midst of all of this because these point changes are heavily intertwined with the release of the new Codex this weekend. That said, there are a lot of point changes here which we weren’t expecting and definitely weaken the faction a bit – potentially a result of Games Workshop hedging against the faction being too good following a major Eldar nerf. As the only faction right now with six detachments to choose from – and some of those being pretty good – it’s almost certainly going to be the case that there are some competitive builds left even after these changes. It’s notable that a lot of the buffs here seem to pull towards the Vanguard Onslaught detachment, which we were already super hot on, so expect to see that tried heavily – even Genestealers and the Broodlord look pretty reasonable in there now.
That’s it for the balance dataslate – don’t forget to check out the core rules, Imperium, and Chaos articles, and as ever if you have any comments or feedback then join in the discussion below or e-mail as at firstname.lastname@example.org.