The July 2021 Warhammer 40k Meta Review

Welcome back, dear reader! It’s been a little over a month since our last analysis talking about the impact of Drukhari and the potential future of the meta. Since then we’ve had a number of major changes to Warhammer 40k, including two new codexes – Adeptus Mechanicus and Adepta Sororitas, plus a slew of FAQs and all-new missions. With 40k returning to a bit of a holding pattern over the last few weeks as we work through the Age of Sigmar 3.0 release, it made sense to revisit our analysis and see where the meta is as events really heat up for the summer.


Thanks to the wonderful efforts of tournament organizers and app developers around the world, we have access to what is essentially every meaningful piece of data around competitive games of 40k. The data in this month’s study comes from:

We also frequently check the wonderful site for some results data and to look at lists.

We’re now pretty much back to full swing with US events, so we’ve got a ton of games to look at in both BCP and ITC Battles.


What We’re Covering This Month

With a bunch of major updates in June arriving via FAQ, there’s a lot to consider here, including the changes to Drukhari, new codexes for Adeptus Mechanicus and the Adepta Sororitas, plus new mission secondaries. We’ll also talk about a few other impacts of the new FAQs as well, and revisit go-first win rates.

  • Drukhari and the impact of the FAQs
  • Admech
  • Sisters
  • The new mission secondaries
  • Go First Win Rate developments


Drukhari and the Impact of the FAQs

Drukhari were hit by a number of changes in the early June FAQs, removing some of their more egregious tricks (Dark Technomancers liquifiers) and raising the cost of Raiders by 10 points per model. The adjustments were in-line with what we’d suggested here on the site, but did they go far enough?

The short answer is “No, probably not.” 

Since the June FAQs dropped, we’ve seen little movement on the part of the Drukhari when it comes to win rate or Glicko scores, and that includes the data both in the ITC Battles App and Best Coast Pairings’ data for GT events. Win rates for Drukhari at GTs came down only 2.5%, a drop that’s not particularly statistically significant, and still leaves the faction with a 65% win rate in the month of June compared to the month of May. Comparatively the big winners in June appear to be Chaos Space Marines – who benefit from suddenly being able to get out of their Dreadclaw Drop Pods the turn they arrived on the table, Deathwatch – who players finally seem to be figuring out, and the Adeptus Mechanicus – who suddenly got a new Codex. More on them in a bit.

We can see a similar lack of movement in the faction Glicko2 scores when we look at game data from the ITC Battles app, where the Drukhari barely move downward toward the end of the month, only to rebound and stay above 1640. The faction may have lost a few points and a couple of nasty tricks but there’s still more than enough value in the book and being forced to diversify a bit hasn’t hurt them much. The Drukhari seem just as strong as they were prior based in the numbers, and tournament results have mostly borne that out, though this week did see a notable did in them claiming top four slots. A weekend of top fours is a pretty small sample size, particularly for a faction making up about 8-9% of the meta, so it’s worth continuing to monitor. Whether or not the Drukhari need a second adjustment remains to be seen but at the moment, it’s looking very similar to the first Iron Hands adjustment, which removed a couple of key issues like the Ironstone and vehicle healing, but left the faction more than capable of putting up 70%+ win rates. The biggest potential hurdle for Drukhari at this point appears to be the Adeptus Mechanicus. Speaking of which…


Welcome to AdMech Summer

The big riser here are the Adeptus Mechanicus, shown above in that brown line starting at the bottom of the chart on the left side and rising above Black Templars, Dark Angels, and White Scars during the month of June. The Adeptus Mechanicus have quickly risen in status thanks to their new codex, which offers them a number of incredibly nasty tricks and has seen them win a slew of events. It’s possible we’re at the start of a strong rise for the Adeptus Mechanicus, though it’s unlikely to be as meteoric as the rise of the Drukhari, in part because the Adeptus Mechanicus just started at a higher point, score-wise. It’s difficult to tell at this point whether the faction has plateaued or still has more room for growth, but my gut says the latter given how complex the faction’s book is, and because the good lists are harder to physically assemble than the initial Drukhari ones were.

The net result is that the Adeptus Mechanicus are now among the game’s top 5 factions and a significant force to be reckoned with, having both the strength and the speed to routinely take opponents by surprise on the first turn of the game and wipe out half their army. This has already started to have a positive effect on the faction’s representation, though it’s worth noting that it’s unlikely they’ll replicate what Drukhari were able to accomplish, showing up out of nowhere to become one of the game’s most-played factions.

While Necrons, Death Guard, and Space Marines dominate the list, you can see the green spot that marks the emergence of Drukhari as the 2021 meta bogeyman, moving from a barely perceptible green sliver to a major chunk of representation in the field. Again this is another area where the Adeptus Mechanicus are on the rise, but have less distance to go before they achieve similar composition results across the field. As faction win rates increase, we should expect to see more players adopting the faction, particularly at higher levels of play.


The Adepta Sororitas

The Adepta Sororitas were already one of the game’s top factions, posting a 54.6% win rate in GTs prior to June and that appears to have been largely unchanged. The table above shows the factions that averaged win rates over 50% at GT events in June 2021, and the change in win rates for those factions from May 2021, though it’s worth noting that these sample sizes largely mean the changes are directional rather than statistically significant. There hasn’t yet been a ton of data on play with the new Sisters book, but so far it’s likely they’ll continue to average win rates even with or better than their pre-Codex levels. So far their Glicko2 scores haven’t shown much movement, however.


Go-First Win Rate Developments

One of the more common refrains I’ve seen is that with the insane lethality of Drukhari and Adeptus Mechanicus shooting, combined with both having a level of mobility that makes it easy to get around LOS-blocking cover and find your units, it’s more important than ever to have the first turn. In light of these new armies, have go-first win rates changed?

The answer is “No,” both at the game-wide level and the more faction-specific level. At the game-wide level, the player going first wins 56% of the time following both the January adjustment to turn 5 scoring and being forced to take the first turn if you win the roll-off. This is pretty much the same as it was prior to those changes, and the same result held in June of this year. This is still higher than we’d like to see, and something that Games Workshop hasn’t adequately addressed so far.

As far as whether Drukhari and Admech exacerbate this problem? Well, that one’s a bit trickier. If we compare the percentage bump in win rate factions got from going first in June 2021 to the average (+12%), we can see that Drukhari and Adeptus Mechanicus actually fall below the expected bump. That said, they’re also winning a ton of games regardless of whether they go first or second, so going first and bumping this rate up even higher can feel brutally unfair if you’re on the receiving end of an Admech army shooting 1,400 points of your army off the table before your first turn. Though rest assured, that’s apparently just as likely to happen at the bottom of turn 1.

We’ve looked at the impact of go first win rates by tournament Round before and those results still hold up. As with those older results, we can see how first turn impacts win rates in later rounds, as players get paired up with other players with the same record in a common process called Swiss pairings, they’ll take on other players of presumably the same skill level and in those games they’re even more likely to win if they get the first turn. There’s a slight observed drop in go-first win rates in rounds 7 and 8 in our sample from BCP but it’s worth noting that these sample sizes are substantially smaller, since players tend to drop in larger numbers in later rounds and many GT events do not go past round 6.

So go-first win rates are still an issue and become an even bigger issue as player skill levels become more evenly matched. We’ve revisited this issue in nearly every Meta Review and it still hasn’t been addressed in a satisfactory fashion. And while Drukhari and Admech may not get the same bumps that other factions do from going first – look at Space Wolves! – the problem of their high win rates is only compounded when they do go first because already oppressive win rates feel even more so. This is an area that GW should look at revisiting soon.


Secondary Changes

The last major change was to the secondary objectives that players can select in the 2021 GT Missions Pack. Some secondaries were removed, while others were changed. Gone are the all-or-nothing secondaries that gave you either full points or none, replaced by secondaries that reward you more for repeated accomplishment, reducing their variance and giving you a wider possible points spread on them. In terms of raw points, the biggest change here is Deploy Teleport Homers, which dropped to being worth an average of 4.3 VP in June, making it one of the worst book secondaries to choose from.

That said, it’s still early days on the new secondaries and time may tell if these are significantly better or worse than their predecessors. For some of these a “win” isn’t so much improved or decreased average score but rather if people even take the secondary objective at all. So far we need more data to say how the secondary changes have encouraged that. It’s likely we’ll see two disparate experiences there.

When it comes to the other secondaries, it’s worth revisiting some of the faction secondaries. Since the introduction of faction secondaries in Codex: Space Marines and Codex: Necrons, they’ve been a bit controversial, creating classes of “haves” and “have-nots” when it comes to having additional options for scoring. What we’ve seen to-date is that each faction typically has one decent-to-very good secondary that can drive high average scores, while the others tend to be middling or require too much effort to consistently build around, though some factions have secondaries that appear to be flat-out superior to those in the GT Missions pack.


Here’s what you need to know: When it comes to scoring secondary objectives, anything worth over 7.5 victory points on average is likely to be very good, and doubly so if it’s not incredibly situational – consider Titan Hunter is still likely to be a no-brainer up against multiple TITANIC targets, but will not be something you take when there aren’t any across the table. With that in mind, we can see that the Drukhari secondary objective Herd the Prey is the clear winner here, worth an average of 10.9 victory points to a faction that was already advantaged in other areas. Other secondary objectives that see significant high scores are the Dark Angels’ Stubborn Defiance and Death on the Wind, though the latter of these has declined in value following the FAQ change that now requires your unit to actually physically move on the table in order to score this. At the time of this writing the June 2021 average score for Death on the Wind is 9.1 VP, and it may drop further. After that we have a series of 9-VP average secondaries, and among these are the Blood Angels’ Relentless Assault, Space Marines’ Oaths of Moment, and Necrons’ Purge the Vermin and Code of Combat.

Among the new factions, the Admech’s Uncharted Sequencing and the Adepta Sororitas’ Defend the Shrine also both account for average VP socres above 9 points, and the Admech also have Eradication of Flesh to take as an above-average option as well. These may both end up being significant contributors to these factions’ results.


Next Time: Orks, Probably

That does it for this update, which is a bit lighter touch than some of our previous entries but there’s a lot up in the air right now. As-is, it looks like Drukhari haven’t gone anywhere and are just as powerful as before, Admech are on the rise, and Sisters of Battle are likely to hold steady with their pre-codex levels of power. Next time we’ll be doing this it’ll likely be with the Book of Fire and the new Ork Codex out, giving us a ton more to look at with the new book, as well as giving us occasion to revisit Admech and Sisters and how they’re shaping up. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop them in the comments below or email us at