The Q1 2023 Kill Team Balance Dataslate – The Goonhammer Hot Take

Games Workshop have crunched through the data from Kill Team events for the three months since the last dataslate, received feedback from the community, and are back with buffs and nerfs to try to get everyone in the 45-55% win band that means the various teams are pretty well balanced. 

A main theme is amending the ability to reduce incoming damage. Legionaries and Intercessors are the two most popular teams, both have a way of reducing incoming damage, and this is very hard on factions where the standard model is rocking something like a lasgun, autogun or laspistol and wielding a pair of 2/3 damage safety scissors. 


The Big Change – Mission Objectives

The Critical Operations cards now let you score 16 points from the mission objective instead of 12. GW said a lot of games had the mission objective points maxed for both sides, and that this change will hopefully see more of a spread in the mission objective scores. This caps total VP at 24.

TheArmorOfContempt: An excellent change that rewards players for focusing on primaries. Think of it this way, before the change a game could score on as follows: 3-3, 3-3, 4-2, and 4-2. In this case you have 14 points to 10, however the player with 14 essentially loses 2 of their points due to the cap shortening their lead significantly and allowing the opposing player to either tie the match with superior Tac Op scoring, or perhaps even win. With the new scoring it puts much less pressure on the player with superior board control to keep up with their Tac Ops. This will be especially important on Secure and Capture missions.

The Winners

Kommandos. Credit: Rockfish
Kommandos. Credit: Rockfish

Ork Kommandos

Ork Kommandos get the Bomb Squig and Kommando Grot as a combined choice in team building, meaning if you pick one you get the other for free and get an 11 model squad instead of a 10 model one. 

Thundercloud: If you like the little guys, this is great for you. I would still have the bomb squig on Conceal and in cover for the whole of the first Turning Point at least though, and don’t put them next to any Orks. 

TheArmorOfContempt: A huge buff to an already good team. While Kommandos seem to get cut out of the number one spot in most big events I doubt anyone would consider them pushovers. This change likely means we will see people take the Grot and Squig over a single Boy due to the extra activation, and greater versatility. 

Chronomancer. Credit: Rockfish
Chronomancer. Credit: Rockfish


Hierotek Circle Kill Teams

This team needed help. Lots of it. And so it was no surprise they got a lot of help in this dataslate.This was another massive change, helping the worst kill team in the game with a ton of improvements that all feel appropriate for how the team should play – most of these revolve around increasing the team’s durability, making them a bit more elite, and making it less difficult to pull off some of their tricks. 

  • Reanimation Protocols still goes off before Living Metal, but now gives the operative D3+3 wounds and they can set back up within 3” of the reanimation token but outside Engagement Range of any enemy operatives with an order of your choice. This is a huge set of improvements, letting you get some breathing room, giving you more wounds, letting you change orders, and going off before you regain another 2 lost wounds. Huge durability buff for the faction and now means getting back up doesn’t have to mean getting put back down again before you can act.
  • The Accelerate action on the Plasmacyte Accelerator is now 0 AP and has a range of 6” (doubling what it had previously). This makes it much, much more useful, and getting a free APL is a strong reason to bring an Accelerator in your team.
  • The Reanimation Beam on the Plasmacyte Reanimator no longer costs 1 APL to use, again making it much more useful. 
  • The Despotek, and Apprentek operatives get the same improved stats Crypteks got last time around, with their WS/BS values improving by 1 and their wounds going up by 2. They’re now much harder to bring down and hit a heck of a lot harder, with the Despotek getting a pretty nasty output on the Gauss Blaster with 4 shots that hit on 2s for 4 / 5 damage at AP1.
  • The Command action for the Despotek is now also free, so both it and the Cryptek operative can order units around for free.
  • The abilities on Cryptek Operatives have had their durations changed; now instead of lasting until the end of the Turning Point, they last until the Cryptek’s next activation, until the Cryptek is incapacitated, or until another operative does the same action (i.e. your Apprentek does the action). This is a bit help, particularly when it comes to actions like Timesplinter, which give a friendly operative an invulnerable save. This incentivizes you to think strategically about when and how you want to activate your operatives to maximize the value of their Cryptek powers.

Thundercloud: I found it interesting that giving them two more operatives was considered and rejected because they don’t want to ask people to get more models. These changes together massively boost the faction, but we’ll see if they can do Legionary/Intercessor win rates and compete with the other elite teams.

TheArmorOfContempt: As someone who is not super familiar with Hierotek it is unclear just how far these will take them. The first thing one notices is that Necrons now basically come back to life uninjured, which is simply huge in of itself as all returning operatives function without penalty, and that is BEFORE Living Metal. 

The Plasmacytes essentially get the Lectro-Maester treatment with both their abilities being made free, but seems like the correct decision because these guys really don’t do much otherwise. This now allows them to at least perform Mission Actions while simultaneously conducting the support roles they’re intended for. 

Corsair Voidscarred Felarch. Credit: Corrode

Corsair Voidscarred

The Shredder gains Rending to bring it in line with the new Dark Eldar team. 

Thundercloud: A minor buff on a model competing against the Heavy Gunner with Shuriken Cannon or Wraithcannon for a space on the team, but enough to make me want to take it against anything short of marines on an Into The Dark style map, where close confines make it more likely to catch models in the Blast and Rending helps you beat defense rolls. 

TheArmorOfContempt: A small yet important change as it serves to make the Shredder a excellent alternative to the Blaster when playing against horde teams. 

Ultramarines Infiltrators. Credit: SRM

Phobos Strike Team

A change to the Vanguard Strategic Ploy allowing any model to perform a mission action for 1AP less, to a minimum of 0AP. There is also a minor change to buff the Guerilla Battle Honour, but this will have no impact on competitive play. 

Thundercloud: This is a huge help to Phobos in terms of their action economy, allowing them to perform mission actions for 1AP or for free and use those precious action points for moving, shooting and stabbing things. It also means the Vanguard strategic ploy is a must use in almost every turning point in a game where mission actions are needed. Will this get Phobos over the 50% hump and into the top performing teams? I don’t think so but it’s really nice to have. 

TheArmorOfContempt: A potentially worrisome change. Phobos have a poor track record, but the performance of some particularly skilled players has shown they can still perform in the right hands. Additionally, some of their biggest counters in the form of damage reduction on Legionnaires and Intercessors means their bolters will be even more effective. With this in mind it is odd they decided to attach this change directly to the Vanguard Ploy, a ploy that is almost chosen every Turning Point. One can assume they didn’t want to create yet another unique ploy for this team, but this means this team may become a juggernaut on Loot Missions, and Close Quarters maps. 

Kasrkin Kill Team. Credit: Jack Hunter


Kasrkin get a fairly straightforward heavy buff. Every model gains a wound, the Elite points pool gets two additional points per turn that aren’t dependent on the leader being alive, and they get access to a 1EP combat blade to give them 3/4 damage in combat. 

Thundercloud: Kasrkin, at 7 wounds, were incredibly squishy, and taking them to 8 should hopefully mean that they don’t die when sneezed at by bolters. This one point does mean that a normal hit and a crit from a 3/4 damage weapon no longer kills them stone dead. Adding an additional 2 points to the Elite pool every turn doubles the additional points you can get during a game (from 8 to 16) and doesn’t involve keeping any models alive to get those points. It gives you more points to boost 5s to 6s and 3s to 4s to get crits and hits on priority targets. Combat blades are a solid equipment choice, but really only for soaking up spare points given you’ll be spending most of your EPs on grenades and a shiny site for the long las if you are taking the sharpshooter. 

TheArmorOfContempt: Both these changes are very welcome. It is unclear if it will be enough but changes to Kill Team are best in small doses. 


The Losers

World Eaters Killteam. Credit: Jack Hunter


Mutagenic Flesh Strategic Ploy reduces damage inflicted by normal hits by one to a maximum of 3 (previously it was 2). This ploy was great against almost everything, but now is only good when facing enemies armed with something better than bolters (like 4/5 pulse carbines).

Thundercloud: I can see why they’ve done it given how much teams like Phobos struggle with Legionaries, but I can also see some Nurgle players gnashing their teeth at not being able to be dollar store plague marines anymore. 

TheArmorOfContempt: Hopefully this will break the stranglehold that Nurgle has had on this team. My only issue is that in many matchups it simply makes Nurgle a pointless Blessing to have, and due to how Legionnaire roster construction works players may avoid Nurgle entirely. A way to balance this choice might have been to change Blessing restrictions to a per Kill Team basis as opposed to a per roster basis.  

Gellerpox Infected
Gellerpox Infected
Credit: Pendulin

Gellarpox Infected

Vulgar Thrice Cursed can now only use his Lead the Infection ability once per game. 

Thundercloud: Previously with careful placement you could get 2 or even 3 extra CP from this ability, and CP is always really useful to have. Reducing it to once per game is a subtle nerf on a team that have been solid performers since their launch. 

TheArmorOfContempt: A curiously light-handed change considering that previous changes don’t seem to have really slowed these guys down much. Still, a nerf is a nerf, and much of Kill Team rides on a knife’s edge, better to make incremental changes than large ones. 

Elucidian Starstriders. Credit: SRM

Elucidian Starstriders

Arguably the strongest team in the game coming into the dataslate, the Elucidian Starstriders were pretty much able to deal with any threat and in any situation. They’ve been dialed back a bit here.

  • The VOIDSMAN’s rotor cannon loses the Relentless special rule.
  • Only the Archaeotech Beam Privateer Support Asset has its BS improved by 1. The new Dataslate calls this out specifically, meaning the BS on the Cluster Bomb and Guided Shell assets has dropped back down to 4+, making them considerably less deadly.
  • The Undaunted Explorers Strategic Ploy now has a minimum of 2 damage after halving, making it ineffective against 2-damage attacks. 

TheArmorOfContempt: Starstriders basically lose half of the buffs they received and get a minor debuff to boot. The Rotor Cannon losing Relentless seems especially harsh, and may have been better served with Ceaseless. This team is likely to still be effective, but it remains to be seen if this will be enough to keep players dedicated to them. 

Cobalt Scions combat squad. Credit: Charlie Brassley

Intercession Squad

The most popular kill team in the world, the Durable Chapter Tactic has been changed from affecting all critical hits to affecting one, and reducing it by one to a minimum of three. 

Thundercloud: Durable was previously a no brainer, as critical hits just flat inflicted one less point of damage. This was just flat great against everything, but particularly oppressive against teams running round with 2/3 weapons and rubber fists, as even if they could get a hit through the marines defence dice, they’d need to get another six hits through to actually kill one. Intercessors and Legionaries act as gatekeeper factions, as they’re individually very tough models, and intercessors are pretty simple to play in the same way Custodes are. This change should help out a lot of teams struggling to get past them and onto the top tables.

TheArmorOfContempt: An absolutely unsurprising change to the one Chapter Tactic everyone takes. I personally wished we had seen a few changes to tactics we never see taken, or restrictions that prevent certain combinations simply to encourage a greater diversity of selection. 

Credit: Dylan Gould

Imperial Navy Breachers

Breachers see three separate nerfs. First, if you use the Blitz Tactical Ploy you may not re-roll any additional dice if you do either of the options. Second, the Grenadier loses the ability to use each grenade option twice. Lastly, Brace for Counter-Attack eats the same nerf that the rest of the damage reduction ploys do, only working on damage 4 and higher.

TheArmorOfContempt: Oh boy we got a lot of hits here. The changes to Blitz do a lot to hurt Breacher ploy synergy, specifically in conjunction with Attack Order. The Grenadier is less of an obvious nerf as they are usually the main target for enemy reprisal the moment they switch to Engage, however it seems only fair considering how every other team is so limited in the number of grenade style weapons they can access. Brace for Counter-Attack is the main punch to the gut as it makes it far less effective versus the most common weapon found in the game, bolters. 


And that wraps up this quarter’s dataslate. We’re looking forward to how these changes shape up, and we expect they’ll have an immediate and significant effect on the meta. As always, we’ll be back next week with more tactical coverage. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at