The Q1 2024 40k Balance Dataslate Competitive Roundtable

Games Workshop dropped a massive update this week, giving us updates across 40k, covering everything from rules and errata to points to balance updates to entirely new detachments! As always, we’ve got a collection of top competitive players here to give their thoughts on the changes – what’s good, what’s a miss, and how these changes will affect competitive play moving forward.

Today’s Roundtable

  • Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
  • Erik “JamesTFL” Nelson
  • Goatboy
  • Norman
  • Jeremy “Curie” Atkinson
  • James “One_Wing” Grover


Alright, let’s start with the big picture. What’s your overall impression of this balance update?

JamesTFL: I think they did a great job barring the glaring exception of Necrons.  The Aeldari nerfs are tuned very nicely to put away the most egregious stuff in that index while still leaving a list that plays much more like we have grown to expect from elves. They continue to take big swings to fix balance issues that can’t be easily solved by points. They gave Drukhari a new detachment, they updated Custodes rules to actually make them resilient again, and several other rules changes that show they identify the problems.

TheChirurgeon: On the whole, I think this is good – hits a lot of areas that needed to be hit, though yeah, it misses Necrons and Admech. I think it goes alarmingly hard in spots where it didn’t need to, given how the meta was in a pretty good state – something we just wrote about a few days ago. I’m very pleasantly surprised with the Drukhari update – it’s strong but also I love that they were willing to create an entirely new Detachment for the faction. That’s exactly the kind of thing I think they needed to be doing and I wish they’d do more of – reminds me of the first Chapter Approved in 8th edition, when we got a relic and pair of Stratagems for every army to supplement indexes. That said, while I like that it doesn’t invalidate the Realspace Raid detachment, that one is now just a trap choice.

Norman: While I agree with the above in terms of it being an overall positive direction, especially establishing “Faction Rewrite” as being a lever to pull, I think there were several bad misses on the internal balancing that was done for some factions. For example, Space Marine lists likely won’t change much except that they will take less of the things they were taking already. These misses really hurt some factions that were struggling already, but enough were hit that I think we’ll see things stabilize to be close to where they were.

Curie: Sad Imperium robot noises. Happy Xenos robot noises. The meta was largely in a good spot, and they addressed the worst offenders (at least at the time this appears to have been written), so we should see a fairly healthy meta going forwards. The rise of Necrons might be a problem, but there are still quite a few armies that give them trouble. As Norman said, not being afraid to pull on the “new detachment” lever with the Drukhari update is quite refreshing to see. That army had been struggling since edition launch to inspire joy in most of their player base, now I’m seeing build after build and so much excitement in the chatter around them.

I put it in the other reviews, but I’m really pleased with the Rules Commentary update as well – it clarified / updated quite a few things that were being handled very differently across multiple event circuits. Consistent positive player experience is my goal at events, and this helps a lot in moving towards this goal.

Wings: Agree with Curie that the Rules Commentary update is extremely good, and it’s really encouraging to see them stick to their guns on that. Meta-wise, I think the Dataslate was generally pretty well targeted with a few exceptions. I do sort of get why Necrons and Adeptus Mechanicus didn’t get changed, and I think there are probably some AdMech builds that end up doing OK, but Necrons definitely needed something tuned down – even if you don’t think there’s enough data for a full balance pass, slapping 25pts on the Nightbringer and 15pts on every other C’tan would have been safe and proportionate. Elsewhere, the double taps (rules and points) on CSM and World Eaters probably could have been dialed back. CSM seem like they’re still a very playable army after the changes (and are coming up soon on a Codex anyway) but the World Eaters got hammered too much.


What did they get right this time around?

JamesTFL: They did a great job of bringing down the top of the metagame. CSM might have been a bit much but they not only touched the top factions they also touched most of the rest of the next tier. They also did a good job of getting creative about how to fix the bottom by restricting demon allies so they could do demon point drops.

Norman: Tackling Aeldari and CSM was a good move that needed to happen (maybe more in one case in not as much in another) so I’m happy to see that adjusted. Also to reiterate, adding new detachments as a way to fix stuff is a great precedent to set. I don’t expect we’ll see it often but it shows a willingness to go back to the drawing board and not just try to fix things with points and small nudges.

TheChirurgeon: Something needed to change with Chaos Space Marines and I think we could all agree that Accursed Cultists at OC 2 and healing every turn were too much. Those were both changes I’d have suggested prior to this dataslate change and I think they’re the right call. I’m also massively in favor of any nerfs to Fate dice – it’s a terrible mechanic and I wish it had never been added to the game. So much of 40k is based around some real basic variance and being able to trivially remove that variance causes real problems – see also: Sisters of Battle and the Triumph of St. Katherine. That was another nerf I’m glad they put in place. 

And as much as I hate Custodes, they did need an adjustment to be able to make a save against Devastating Wounds, as mortal wound protection just isn’t all that valuable in 10th edition 40k. 

Curie: Aeldari was a very nice adjustment – they opted for more rules changes than points changes, which is good. There were quite a few datasheets in that index that would be viable at (almost) any points cost – now they’re a bit more difficult to call an auto-take but still quite good. The Daemons ally change I really liked as it allowed them to just give Daemons players more stuff without accidentally over-buffing the armies that take them as allies. I also won’t cry over Thousand Sons players losing easy access to the Blue Scribes or the Changeling.

Wings: Once again I have played myself by filling this in last. I’ll go to bat for the internal rebalancing on Tyranids, which I think isn’t as flashy as some of the other updates, but was pretty carefully targeted and I think will help the faction up the variety in lists they can run. I also love the deployment of a whole new Detachment for Drukhari, it’s very good to see GW willing to throw their hands up and admit one of the Index detachments just sucked and replacing it (though I think there’s a reasonable possibility it ends up a bit over-dominant). Finally, continuing to hit good indirect with a big hammer is generally healthy for the game, especially Night Spinners.

C'tan Assemble!
COWER FOOLS! Credit: Wings

What did they get wrong this time around?

TheChirurgeon: The biggest miss is what’s not here – Necrons are going to be a problem and Admech needed help, and neither one got it, presumably because “it’s too soon” but everyone pretty much knows these need to be addressed and will still be waiting for an update in a few months when the next update hits. I also think Thousand Sons needed a little bit of help, and I’d have liked to see Deathwatch get anything to make them playable again.

I also think the Chaos Space Marine and World Eaters nerfs went a bit too far – CSM will definitely be much worse now, but also less interesting. I get the need to do something about World Eaters but that’s another spot where they went too far making the faction worse in ways that don’t make playing them or building lists any more interesting. 

Goatboy: Lord, why did they have to hit World Eaters so hard!?! I was just finishing up a new add on to my army.  Ugh it depresses me.  An easier fix would just have cleaning up the blood tithe reroll rule but lord.  I am very sad.

But hey my Daemons got better so maybe I just switch to them? 

CSM needed to be hit but I get the feeling the bat was heavy due to what is coming in the new Codex.  They will have some of the more egregious things fixed and hopefully get back to being something interesting instead of an Abaddon brick.

And yeah – Necrons are going to be an issue and hopefully we see something quick to temper these teleporting nonsense without completely killing a cool detachment for the army.  

Norman: I really don’t think that daemon nerf needed to happen the way it did. It hurts a lot of the chaos factions in ways their imperial counterparts just dont need to worry about with their Agents. Callidus is in every list and didn’t even get a points increase, but having a changeling is apparently a bridge too far for Thousand Sons. Also to play favorites for second, the Chaos Knights update was a huge whiff. All the slate did was remove tools and remove pieces necessary for making up for those lost tools. The army has been identical since the towering nerf and likely won’t see a lot of the newly discounted units. Please stop being so afraid of big knights, they’re not good you can make them cheaper.

TheChirurgeon: Mike said something in our Chaos review that hit the nail on the head. He said “if you nerf a faction’s very good units and make them mediocre, then improve the faction’s bad units to make them middling, you’ve still made the faction much worse.” I think that’s a spot-on assessment of a problem to avoid with these balance updates and one I’m not sure GW understands yet. Sure it’s good for internal balance but at the end of the day it still decreases the overall capabilities of the faction competitively. 

Curie: Necrons has already been discussed so I’ll just say ditto on that and move to my second point: Space Marines. Someone clearly took offense at John Lennon doing well at the World Championships of Warhammer and took a nerf bat to his entire Vanguard Spearhead list. I don’t think these kinds of adjustments were necessary to Space Marines given they’ve been struggling to keep afloat in the meta, especially when you look at what went down in their codex (Assault Intercessors?!). I expect Space Marines will continue to wallow with the occasional win from Black Templars Ironstorm (which was also virtually untouched).

Wings: I think I’m slightly more sympathetic to the Marine changes than Curie is, as Inceptors in particular just let any Marine build stash too much killing power that’s almost impossible to play around in reserves. I would have liked to see some bigger compensatory buffs though. I honestly think the biggest mistake was not just writing a whole new detachment for Aeldari as well – what remains of the Index one is such a thoroughly contorted mess of its former self that they should have just called time on it and started anew. I assume that printing a new detachment and banning the old one is a harder sell to management than providing a new one that you’ll just pick every time a-la Drukhari.

TheChirurgeon: The impression that I get is that the new Drukhari detachment is a test case for future updates – see how creating a new detachment goes over now and if it works and is well received, we’ll get more. I think that’s great and we should get more, but I also think they could have been planned in advance to give more armies more to work with earlier on.

Anyways, the new detachment is a great addition and yeah, I want to see more of them for the other armies.

Who is the biggest winner from this update?

JamesTFL: The obvious choice is Necrons.  It is also the correct choice but boring to write about again.  Instead I’ll make the case for Aeldari.  Their nerfs were not as bad as one might expect.  I was concerned that they would totally trash the faction.  Scorch and salt the earth like 9th edition Tyranids eventually got.  Instead the army still functions well and plays like an elf army, scoring via maneuverability, taking without trading and using its great suite of tools to overcome the raw power of other factions.  Plus dunking on indirect fire always helps elves even if it means elves get less of it.

Curie: Drukhari! That army looks so fun to play right now – so very dynamic with transport play being encouraged and the army moving away from Dark Lance spam to a more balanced list is very exciting.

Seeing Incubi and Drazhar on the table again might trigger some trauma memories for some folks, though…

TheChirurgeon: Yeah while I think Necrons are the stealth winners because they escaped completely unharmed, the real winner are Drukhari, who received an update even bigger than what Death Guard had last time around. The army looks super fun to play… and also very powerful. There are definitely some eye-raising combos and unit costs in there, and if you told me that we’d be having a conversation about whether Drukhari were too good in three months well, I’d readily believe you. Drukhari look scary good and their transports are just incredibly cheap… I’m not sure bringing Venoms and Raiders down was the right choice, but we’ll see how it works out.

Wings: Agree on Drukhari, and not just because I’m in full OVERLORD WINGS mode at the moment. I think all the stuff Necrons do except spamming C’tan is probably something the meta can adapt to, so although they definitely win here by being left alone, it doesn’t compare to the absolute rocket boosters that have been strapped to the metaphorical Drukhari Raider. I also think Imperial Knights and Custodes came out of it super well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both back as major metagame players.

Who’s the biggest loser?

Goatboy: Chaos Space Marines and Aeldari.  Both of those books had builds that were very easy to pilot and win with and this update hit both of them pretty hard.  Will see if they completely die off and hang out with Admech at the end of the table.

I would also say Admech was one of the biggest losers as it got nothing from this other than just staying where they are at right now.  It’s a shame an army is paying for the sins of the past as hard as Admech but here we are just waiting for something to help them out in the end.

TheChirurgeon: World Eaters. Yeah, CSM and Aeldari got hit but they have other options. World Eaters are just going to be worse as a faction and you don’t have any other real unit options you can look toward as a replacement for the ones which are now overpriced. I also think Thousand Sons lose quite a bit here – they were struggling and the nerf to allies hits them probably harder than any of the CSM factions, as they aren’t able to just shrug and go “yeah OK Nurglings it is, then.” Losing the Changeling is rough times.

JamesTFL: Why did chaplain Grimaldus go up by so many points? He was a cool tech piece that most Black Templars lists weren’t even taking.  

Just mean.


Curie: Grimaldus caught a Helbrecht stray apparently. I think that Adeptus Mechanicus are going to really suffer for lack of an update for another three or so months. Chaos Space Marines and Aeldari flew too close to the sun.


Wings: I actually think hitting Grimaldus hard was pretty spot on – as the deadliest builds get their wings clipped, the Templar Primaris Crusader spam lists creep closer to just being impossible to handle, and Grimaldus is a more essential part of that than Helbrecht. Otherwise, +1 on World Eaters being the biggest losers from me.

How do you expect this new meta to shake out? Is it going to be good or bad?

JamesTFL:  Look it’ll be bad until they bring Necrons in line. But below Necrons lurks what looks like a nice wide group of competitive armies.

So it’ll start bad but there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.


TheChirurgeon: Agreed. I think Chaos Space Marines probably hang around as a mid-tier faction while Eldar have merely been knocked down to “A” Tier. World Eaters I don’t think can hang with the new lists. I think Necrons will dominate, and Drukhari might also be top tier now with the tools they have and the ability to just rush you on turn 2 out of transports and tear through you with cheap melee units. 

Curie: Having now played five games with the new slate, I’d say it’s going to be very interesting. It certainly feels like Necrons players’ events to lose, but there exist tools to counter them in many strong books. I think Aeldari remain in the top of the game by virtue of their datasheets and detachment ability still being very strong. The surge in Necron players seen in the last few weeks is a bit troubling – I hope that it’s not a “here’s the new master, same as the old master” situation here. Tracking player migrations this edition is going to be very fun!

Wings: I’m optimistic – I think at the top we could plausibly see some of the most open metagames in a while, assuming that some solid counters for Necrons do emerge (and I don’t think they’re ever going to be as nightmarish as Aeldari even if not). 


Final Thoughts: We’re 6 months into 10th edition now. How are you feeling about it?

JamesTFL: 10th has been… Fine. Tactical secondaries are cool. The reduction in AP has been good for the feel of the game as sometimes things that can be shot get to live. The loss of actions is just bad. It leads to a narrowed design space and all kinds of wonky interactions. Many of the scenario’s primary objectives are not good. They are either wildly imbalanced or almost irrelevant. Further the game has not really become less deadly since some units still put out wild damage.  Instead of reducing deadliness they have reduced the number of units that are playable. So now you have Aggressor blobs, undivided forge fiends, Hearthkyn blobs, Wraithguard, et al point and click deleting units or units so tough to respond to these threats that regular damage is literally no threat. Additionally the melee changes have made that phase much less fun to play in and perversely much more fiddly and prone to counterintuitive plays.  In 9th once it was explained to someone the shenanigans became pretty clear.  In 10th the rules designed to make it simpler only made the tricks less intuitive to perform.  But the sky has not fallen, the game is still good, the issues I have with it are fixable, and some of the innovation has been quite good.

Curie: I have two perspectives here – as a judge and as a player. 

From an event running and judging perspective, this is the cleanest the game has ever been. Are there still some issues remaining that need discussion/clarification? Of course, it’s bound to happen when you have 21 factions and over a thousand unique datasheets. All that being said, adjudicating rules disputes and explaining things to people has gotten much easier than it was at any point in 8th or 9th edition (maybe it was better before, but I don’t hear that from others).

As a player I find the game is in a really good spot. Some of the missions could use with replacing (Sites of Power, Deploy Servo-Skulls mainly), there are definitely some tweaks to be made to the secondaries deck (playing fixed Homers/Cleanse is way too common, some armies still suffer from their opponent starting with 20 on BiD), but overall I much prefer this mission set to what we’ve had in the past. Balance has been getting progressively better as the GW team learns what works and what doesn’t, it’s nice to see they haven’t taken the scorched earth approach with anyone yet.

TheChirurgeon: I have mixed thoughts on it. 10th is the tightest ruleset we’ve seen for 40k so far, and by far the easiest to teach people. That’s good. There’s more support and interest and competitive play than ever, and that’s great. The missions we have are really good, but taking actions out of the game was a mistake. Competitively, it feels like we’d finally gotten to a good place after the Q3 dataslate.

That said, the game itself… feels a little lame. Some of this is being stuck with indexes for a number of armies, but part of it is that the game’s mechanics, while more uniform, feel kind of boring. Armies just aren’t as customizable as they used to be, and while that makes it harder to make bad lists, it also makes it harder to put your fingerprints on an army list, especially when that army has a small number of datasheets to work with. Problems like “everyone in competitive play taking the exact same World Eaters list worth 1975 points” is a direct consequence of World Eaters having too narrow a unit and strategy pool, and players don’t have the option of varying unit sizes beyond max/half size.

The result is a game that is tighter competitively but worse as a vehicle for expression and that’s a problem GW needs to figure out. Hopefully having more detachments to choose from will help with this, and hopefully future dataslates will help create more variance for armies which otherwise would have to wait two years to get their detachment.

Wings: I’m having a blast, but obviously that’s going to be somewhat skewed by the fact that my two armies are Necrons and Aeldari. Events are fun, I think the metagame has had some interesting twists and turns, and I’m excited to see what’s up next. The one thing I’m a bit bored of is the missions, and hope there’s some sort of shakeup coming sooner rather than later. New printed packs every 6 months in the back half of 9th was too often, but unfortunately the Leviathan deck, particularly with the fairly cautious uses of it in the LTC, doesn’t have enough depth to keep it feeling interesting. Even with that though, I think the game as a whole is in one of the best places it’s been for a while, and considering we’re only 6 months into an Edition that’s an extremely positive sign!

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