The March 2022 Kill Team Balance Dataslate Hot Take

Games Workshop released a new balance dataslate for Kill Team today, giving us some major changes to a number of key factions. This is great news, generally – it indicates that GW are serious about course correcting imbalances in not just very good teams, but buffing teams that are lagging behind.  These changes give us major shifts to competitive play and will hopefully shake things up over the next few months.

Today we’re recapping the changes and what they mean for your games of Kill Team.

The Core Rule Changes

There was one major change in the core rules: Some rules allow you to activate operatives in succession before your opponent. Now, regardless of those rules you can never activate more than two operatives in the same turn before your opponent has had a chance to activate one of their operatives or perform Overwatch. This is basically a direct nerf to Pathfinders, which we’ll discuss below.

Another change that wasn’t so much to the core rules as competitive play rules is the notion of Replaced Army Lists. Some factions from the Compendium are intended to be replaced by their White Dwarf counterparts, rather than supplemented. Specifically, this applies to the following:

  • Forge World teams are replaced by Hunter Clade
  • Thousand Sons are replaced by Warpcoven
  • Troupe are replaced by Void-Dancer Troupe

With a recommendation that competitive play only allow the replacements.

TheChirurgeon: This is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, no one was taking Forge World or Thousand Sons teams because the new teams are just better, so replacing them isn’t a problem. Though I don’t love that you now need copies of White Dwarf to get the official competitive kill team rules for two important factions! On the other hand, Troupe teams are very, very good – borderline problematic – and this suggests that they aren’t being nerfed because they’ll be replaced by Void-Dancer Troupes. But given that so far every Compendium replacement seems to be a flat improvement, that makes me very, very worried for how good Void-Dancer Troupe teams will be.

Also, it’s super weird that Pathfinder, Kommando, and Veteran Guardsmen teams aren’t replacements. I mean I understand why, but it’s weird.

Thundercloud: Harlequins already do very well competitively because of their incredible violence in melee and their ability to move as if they Fly. I look forward to how obnoxious they are when they get the Harlequin characters as well. 

And goodbye eight Sicarian teams, I never played you. 

T’au Empire Pathfinder Kill Team. Credit: Greg Chiasson

The Nerfs

Let’s start with the comedowns. We knew some of these were coming; since the nerf to Custodes last year it became clear that Pathfinder teams were a problem waiting in the wings and they’ve slowly risen to prominence since.

Pathfinder Kill Teams

  • Core rule changes limit the number of operatives you can activate before your opponent has activated any of theirs to two, preventing longer chains with Drone Controller Operatives and the A Worthy Cause Tactical Ploy.
  • A Worthy Cause now costs 2 CP, can only be used once per battle, and only if you don’t have the Initiative. Again, this is heavily limiting your ability to pop off with operatives before your opponent can act.
  • Assault Grenadier Pathfinders lose the ability to throw grenades with the Limited rule twice per battle.
  • The benefits of having 5+ Markerlights (treating an operative as if they have an Engage order) do not apply if the target is in cover provided by Heavy Terrain.

Thundercloud: Core rules changes mean chain activation becomes a max two before the opponent gets to activate, getting rid of something complained about regarding Pathfinders. The Grenadier loses the two of every grenade to stop you getting multiple melta grenades in the face. Your opponent regaining the ability to hide behind Heavy Cover and not have it voided by markerlights is a pleasant nerf as well. 

We’ll see if this knocks Pathfinders out of the top spot, as the only place I think GW could go after this is reducing the number of models on the team. 

TheChirurgeon: Some very necessary adjustments for a faction that just had a very unfun play experience. Sitting around while your opponent chains multiple activations together before your first to light you up and delete operatives just sucks, and the limitations seem more like the intended play experience anyways. Pathfinder teams should still be good with these changes, just not insane.


Kommando Kill Teams

  • Dynamite Equipment can only be selected once per battle.

Thundercloud: Kommandos can now only take one Dynamite equipment, stopping you facing multiple Dynamite grenadiers. Given the Dakka Dash change that you must use the gun and not Dakka Dash with Dynamite, it seems like Dynamite has been turning up a lot as a must-take item on Kommandos and GW want to limit how much Ork players can blow up the whole board. 

TheChirurgeon: Kommando Kill Teams were still a top faction and one that appeared primed to receive some kind of additional tweak, and this makes sense.


Credit: Kevin Stillman

The Buffs

It wasn’t all doom and gloom – Several ailing teams got buffs to help make them more competitive.

Space Marine and Grey Knights Kill Teams

  • Every fire team except for Scouts and Tactical Marines can take an additional warrior operative, letting them go to 6 for most squads or 5 for Heavy Intercessors.

Thundercloud: This is a huge balance change and heavily buffs the Primaris and Grey Knight teams, but especially buffs the Deathwatch, as Deathwatch can give their normal guys a variety of stuff and they are significantly more flexible than tactical marines. I think Deathwatch will take over as the standard competitive marine team, but Grey Knights will also see more table play with the extra body (most likely in the Justicar + 5 Grey Knights with Stormbolters and Relentless CC weapons so you re-roll all your attack dice all the time). 

Heavy Intercessors are still uh, there, and an extra body improves them, but 2APL still makes getting them to do anything pretty difficult and normal marines or Harlequins take objectives off them. 

TheChirurgeon: This is huuuuge for Deathwatch. I am salivating over the notion of adding a sixth operative to my deathwatch veterans kill team, where the ability to kit them out makes them just much more attractive than getting an extra couple of wounds. I agree that at 2 APL Heavy Intercessors are still pretty much garbage. 

Grey Knights also needed the boost badly to keep up with Warpcoven Kill Teams and this helps them quite a bit.

Death Guard Kill Teams

  • Plague Marine Fire teams can take 1 additional Warrior operative. The Champion operative now replaces one warrior in a Fire Team.

Thundercloud: An extra Deathguard warrior gives your opponent even more wounds to chew through and even more bolter fire to take, so this is all good and means 3 marine 8 Poxwalker teams are possibly going in the bin.

TheChirurgeon: Going to 6 Plague Marines definitely seems like the smart play here, where now you’re just getting a ton of beef to throw around the table. I was higher on Death Guard than most from the start, and I think they’d have been better contenders if not for Custodes just being bonkers. This is a big improvement but yeah I also think it kills the 3 marine 8 walker teams for most matchups since the value between the two is now disproportionate.

Craftworld Kill Teams

  • Craftworld Fire Teams get an additional operative, giving them two extra operatives per kill team

Thundercloud: Everyone complained about how terrible Craftworlds were, and now they’ve got an extra model per fireteam to be terrible with. I think what Craftworlds need is a team based around the new Guardian box led by a Warlock, but that would need a White Dwarf article and would it do anything that Corsair Voidscarred don’t potentially do better? We haven’t seen the rules for Corsair teams yet but we know they include a psyker of some sort so it’ll be interesting to see how they differentiate them.

TheChirurgeon: Yeah, Craftworlds get help from this but I strongly doubt it’s enough. I’m kind of shocked we didn’t get a new Craftworlds team with the Codex release to be honest – the Corsairs are a cool addition but they’re positioned like an entirely new faction rather than a CWE update. It seems like the right timing but maybe that’s two issues of White Dwarf away. Though if they’re basing them around new models it’s hard to picture exactly what that one’s going to look like. I agree that it’ll probably use the new Warlock kit, though.

Tomb World Kill Teams

  • Flayed Ones add +1 damage to both characteristics on their flayer claws.
  • The Reanimation Protocols Tactical Ploy now costs 0 CP.

Thundercloud: Necrons were subject to a lot of complaints saying that they sucked, with a lot of justification. They’re slow, find it very difficult to climb buildings, everyone has 2APL so struggle to get where they need to and get things done, and some of them (Flayed ones in particular) are pretty bad at what they do. 

Nothing changes on the limitations on their movement or climbing stairs, but Flayed Ones have traded their rubber gloves in for something pointier. The Reanimation Protocols Tactical Ploy becomes free which makes the team less CP hungry if you are Implacable Marching to get 6” moves. 

The faction remains not great, but it’s not as bad as it was. It does very much need a White Dwarf update and for you to be able to mix the different options more in a team. You never need five flayed ones, and four Deathmarks is a bit much as well. 

TheChirurgeon: At 4/5 damage Flayed One claws are now at least something more like reasonable melee weapons and make Flayed Ones actually worth consideration in a team given their ability to charge while under Conceal orders. Though the challenge is still that you give up half your team to take five Flayed Ones when most of the time you’d rather have one or two. The 0 CP Reanimation Protocols is neat but Necrons still very much need an update to replace this team with one that gives them access to harder-hitting units and the ability to mix things up. I think they’ve kind of worked themselves into a corner with the fire team structure here.


That wraps up our look at the changes. We expect to see Pathfinder teams cool off a bit as a result of these changes, while Deathwatch, Grey Knight, and 6-marine Death Guard teams will likely see more play now and potentially some success. Eldar and Necrons… probably still don’t get there, but these changes don’t hurt.

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