The Q1 40k Balance Dataslate and FAQs – Analysis and Hot Takes

As promised – and earlier than expected, if we’re being honest – Games Workshop delivered the second balance dataslate today, along with a host of FAQs. Far from the massive changes last time around, there are a lot of little, more subtle changes this time around, but changes that have some major impacts.

The only changes in the Dataslate this time around are to Drukhari; the notes about updated point costs for Drukhari and Adeptus Mechanicus have been removed as those points were reprinted in the Munitorum Field Manual packaged with the War Zone: Nachmund missions pack. The remaining changes are scattered throughout the FAQs/Errata, with more than a dozen updates.

Faction-Specific Changes

Talos & Cronos are no longer CORE

Talos and Cronos lost their CORE keyword in the new dataslate, meaning they can no longer benefit from auras and abilities like the Haemonculus’ Master of Pain aura to get +1 Toughness, or the Prey on the Weak Stratagem. It also means that the Cronos can no longer heal or return dead Cronos or Talos models to play with their Reservoir of Pain ability, making them significantly less useful. In a Realspace Raid, they can also no longer benefit from Raid Mastermind re-rolls.

Artists of the Flesh Obsession is now Ramshackle

The Artists of the Flesh Obsession now only reduces damage by 1 for incoming attacks that are Strength 7 or less, similar to the Orks’ Ramshackle ability. This is a significant nerf that, while still making Talos and Cronos a chore to kill, makes them easier to remove with meltaguns and the like. It’s still a very good ability in the same way Ramshackle is, however – and will continue to cause headaches for armies like Custodes.

Adepta Sororitas: Armorium Cherubs now only activate once per turn

The text on Armorium Cherubs has been changed – now if a unit has two Armorium Cherubs they can be used twice in a game but only one can be used in a given turn. This was something that had been ruled different ways across different tournaments, with more events seeming to land on the side of “you can pop both to triple shoot in a turn.” This errata puts that to bed. It’s another hit on Retributors, who just went up in cost in the January Munitorum Field Manual.

Adeptus Mechanicus: Skitarii power level increases and dogs go faster

Skitarii Rangers and Vanguard had 11-15 models squads increased from 6PL to 9PL and 16-20 model squads increased from 8PL to 12PL, which bumps Wrath of Mars up a tier (from 1PL to 2PL) at 16 models, and Bionic Endurance up (from 2PL to 3PL) at between 11 and 19 models. A 20 model unit of Skitarii in Veteran Cohort was previously at 10PL, so would remain unchanged for Bionic Endurance.

Hidden on the second page of the FAQ is a quick clarification on order of operations with Serberys Raiders – Aggressor Imperative can be activated at the start of the first battle round before the Serberys Raiders make their pregame move, and the increased move distance does apply to that move.

Astra Militarum: Field Promotion does nothing for Old Grudges or Gifted Commander

By the time you give a character those warlord traits mid-battle, the triggers for using them have already passed. Also, you cannot use Field Promotion to give your model a Warlord Trait that a destroyed model in your army has.

Tyranids: Gestalt Commander can only pick the basic Hive Fleet Warlord Traits

Pretty much something we already knew, you can’t use Gestalt Commander to get traits like Alien Cunning or Heightened Senses.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Adeptus Custodes: Changes to Forge World Units

The Imperial Armour Compendium has a number of changes for Custodes units to bring them up to speed with the new codex. This felt like enough to warrant a full document just for Custodes, but the list is relatively short.

  • The damage on Adrasite and Pyrithite Spears was changed to 2.
  • Custodian Guard with Adrasite/Pyrithite Spears, Sagittarum, Aquilon, Agamatus, and Venatari Custodians gained the Martial Ka’tah ability and had their Ld characteristic improved to 11.
  • Aquilon Custodians gained the TELEPORT HOMER keyword.
  • Contemptor-Galatus and Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnoughts gained the CORE keyword (which is weird since they already had it – we guess now they’re dual-CORE) and had their Ld characteristic improved to 11.
  • The Pallas Grav-attack had its Ld characteristic improved to 11.
  • The Caladius Grav-tank, Coronus Grav-Carrier, Orion Assault Dropship, and Ares Gunship gained the MACHINE SPIRIT keyword and had their Ld characteristic improved to 11.

These were all changes we expected to see for the most part, and immediately makes the Forge World infantry units worth consideration in Adeptus Custodes armies. These units add a lot of flexibility to what was already shaping up to be a powerful army.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

T’au Empire: Changes to Forge World Units

The Imperial Armour Compendium also has a number of updates to T’au units to bring them in-line with the new Codex, and it has so many of them that GW really should have just issued new datasheets for these units. We’re not going to cover them all in detail here but we’ll give you the broad strokes.

  • The rules on these units for Drones, Manta Strike, and the Markerlight abilities were updated on units to reference the rules in the new Codex. They also lost the For the Greater Good ability.
  • The XV9 Hazard suits gained the INFANTRY keyword.
  • The R’varna and Y’vahra swapped out their MONSTER keywords for VEHICLE, bringing them in-line with the Riptides, and got similar updates to their wargear options, losing the Shielded Missile Drones rules.
  • Tetras gained the MARKERLIGHT keyword  and lost the High Intensity Markerlight weapon, instead swapping it for a new ability. Each time a Tetra does the Fire Markerlights action, they roll two additional D6 – that’s pretty good!
  • Remora Stealth Drones gained the MARKERLIGHT keyword, and the second two sentences of the unit’s seeker missile text were removed. It now uses the Remora’s BS, but isn’t a regular seeker missile for stratagem/other rule purposes.
  • The AX-1-0 Tiger Shark can replace its burst cannons with Cyclic Ion blasters now.
  • The Manta’s transport capacity is <SEPT> locked, and it gained the MARKERLIGHT keyword.
  • Support System costs now come out of the Codex, referencing the costs on XV8 Crisis Battlesuits.

These are also pretty much what we expected from these, swapping out old markerlight abilities for the new keyword and bringing things in-line on the suits. The big winner here is the Tetra, which can now zip around the table and easily drop 1-2 markerlights on a unit, which is usually the number you need.

Salamanders: Burning Hands requires using the close combat weapon profile

The Burning Hands psychic profile now requires the psyker use the close combat weapon profile (aka his basic fists) instead of a melee weapon he’s equipped with in order to get the mortal wounds from this power. This clears up that you can’t use fancy weapons that increase the number of attacks your Librarian gets to throw out mortal wounds, which it probably always did, but now that’s clearer.

Various Factions: Power Level Updates

GW updated several power levels to bring them in-line with the new points costs. In some cases this doesn’t matter, but in others this will have changed where they’re at related to stratagem or strategic reserve breakpoints.

The Core Rules

A number of changes and clarifications were added to the core rules this time around, most of them addressing problems or issues with transports, which remain some of the game’s hairiest rules.

Core Rules: Redeployment no longer lets you put units into reserves/off the table

In a change that affected about half a dozen other FAQs, GW issued major change to redeployment rules – e.g. the Warlord Traits, Stratagems, and abilities that let you pick up units and redeploy them after deployment but before the battle starts. These abilities now no longer let you deploy the unit anywhere except the battlefield, unless explicitly stated by the rule itself. The big change here is that you can no longer use things like the Thousand Sons’ Master Misinformator to place a unit into Strategic Reserves or a Teleportarium. This means that your Thousand Sons Rubricae unit being deployed with Master Misinformator can’t be put into the webway with the Webway Infiltration Stratagem, but can be placed anywhere on the battlefield using the Risen Rubricae Stratagem.

Note that some Stratagems, such as the Emperor’s Children’s Tactical Perfection, explicitly let you put a unit into Strategic Reserves (but don’t allow placing the unit into a Teleportarium or low orbit or the warp, or whatever). 

Core Rules: Units that Disembark Cannot Count as Remaining Stationary

One of the longest running questions finally gets an answer – if you disembark from a transport, you cannot benefit from any rules that allow you to count as remaining stationary. This is most notably a hit to the Argent Shroud as it stands, but has implications for the Rusted Claw, Tau and the previewed Battle Focus rule too.

Core Rules: Disembarking and Rules that Allow a Transport to Count as Remaining Stationary

This one is a little odd – a small addendum has been made to point 8 of rules about Remaining Stationary, which prevented a Transport that counted as Remaining Stationary from disembarking units after it had moved, unless the units had an ability that allowed them to do so. The new addendum says “(but if a unit does so, it cannot then charge during the same turn)” and…this has caused quite a bit of panic, with many treating it as a universal prohibition on this, a massive nerf to Trukk Boyz and Harlequins. That seems like an incredibly broad-brush thing to put in parentheses in an unrelated rule – it would also make Black Templars Shock and Awe look terrible, for example. We think this is instead shutting down a very specific and extremely tenuous combo involving the Salamanders Relentless Determination stratagem to magic trick the rules into letting you charge after disembarking from an Impulsor with Assault Vehicle, in which case it doesn’t matter to 99% of players. We’d still like a bit of further clarification here, as we expect this to create more arguments than it solves.

Core Rules: Units that disembark after arriving from reserves

New Designer’s Notes now make it clear that units that disembark from a TRANSPORT model being set up as Reinforcements will themselves count as Reinforcements if they disembark the turn the transport arrives (such as from Drop Pods), but will not count as Reinforcement units if they disembark on later turns. This means you can shoot them the turn they get out of the drop pod if you have a Stratagem or ability that allows you to do so, but not if they hop out on a later turn.

Core Rules: Transport Rules – Passing Modifiers to Embarked Models

Point 9 of the Transport rules has been updated again.


9) If a Transport model is under the effects of an ability which would apply a modifier to a dice roll made when making a ranged attack (such as a modifier to its hit rolls, wound rolls, etc.), the same modifier applies each time an embarked model makes a ranged attack.

What does this actually do differently to the old version?


9) If a TRANSPORT model is under the effects of a modifier to its ranged attacks (such as a modifier to its hit rolls, wound rolls, etc.) the same modifier applies each time an embarked model makes a ranged attack.

Basically the rules now ensure that models insight 100% do not benefit from a Speed Waaagh!, whereas before that was a bit ambiguous. Trukk Boyz will still benefit from the +1 to hit that they confer to their transport, though.

Core Rules: Units with FLY can charge AIRCRAFT units

Units with the FLY keyword can now end Charge Moves within Engagement range of AIRCRAFT models. There is however no mention of being able to end Pile In or Consolidate moves, or Heroic Intervention moves within AIRCRAFT engagement range with FLY or without it, other than FLY models not being allowed to ignore AIRCRAFT when determining the closest enemy model. At the end of the day this rule is getting closer and closer to how everyone is playing it anyway without thinking too hard about the small mess that’s been here since release.

Core Rules: Paired Weapons

A helpful tidy-up here. Some weapons have rules along the lines of “if a model is equipped with two of these, make one additional attack”, but that caused some confusion where technically that ability would trigger for both the weapons carried, meaning it was +2 attacks rather than +1. This is now clarified to only ever give +1.

Note that this does not affect Lightning Claws, which each individually give +1 attack. The places where this applies are on units like Helbrutes, whose Helbrute fists give +1 attack if you have a pair of them.

Core Rules: Battlefield Quarters

Shockingly, it turns out that if a rule tells you to use battlefield quarters, you have to use the really obvious standard set of quarters, not whatever abstract artistic arrangement you can devise to your advantage. No sensible TO was letting this be ruled differently, but it’s good to have it written down.

Core Rules: Destroyed Transports

Another long-awaited confirmation – if your Transport is destroyed, and not all the models inside can fit when deploying, you only lose the models that don’t fit, not the whole unit. This is mostly how people were ruling it more recently, but this one has been a bit contentious at points, so again great to see clarified. This is great news to anyone who needed to sit down for a moment after hearing the WTC ruling on this.

Core Rules: Psychic Action ranges

Rules that modify the range of Psychic Powers cannot modify the range of a psychic action. So no, Thousand Sons can’t use the Imbued Manifestation Cabbalistic Ritual to extend the range of Psychic Interrogation to 30”. 

Commentary on these Changes

So what does all this mean for the game’s various armies, and how can we expect these changes to affect the competitive viability of those factions?

Boon’s Drukhari Hot Take Bullshit

I think this is the death knell of Thicc City as we know it – it won’t be missed. 

The cascading hits to subfaction limits, CORE loss on Talos/Cronos, and the change to Artists of the Flesh are enough to put a list leaning so heavily on Talos and Grotesques leveraging the -1D buff, with little flexibility outside of it, into a space where it can be more easily countered by list construction. Basically, the list has been limited to such a skew that it’s more easily countered outright – gone are the flexibility of Dark Technomancers sprinkled in, gone are the strat support or potential benefits of a RSR buff to Talos Gauntlets’ hit rolls, and gone are the increased survivability against S7 (a fairly common class) or S8 with high damage (no more mitigation). Will they still be around? Almost assuredly. But will they be as dominating? I don’t believe so – and that’s a good thing.

So what is next for Drukhari? Well, the king is dead, long live the king.

If you’re married to the idea of Covens, Dark Technomancers Cronos are still viable and powerful in a supporting role. The loss of the T boost from the CORE loss will certainly hurt them, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, resurrecting a Cronos or Talos was always a ‘cute’ thing to do but never really reliable or particularly impactful. If I may point the reader over to page 62 of the standard, English, Drukhari codex for a moment, the Prophets of Flesh coven have become more than just a cute way to gain the Vexator Mask. The Obsession grants Transhuman (1-3 to wound always fails) for S7 or lower and a heals wound per turn to all Monster, Grotesque, and Character units with the obsession. While this isn’t suddenly better, it’s no longer just a pure downgrade from Artists of Flesh and should be considered as an alternative. This will more likely be seen in RSR lists that leverages a wall of Grotesques and some Wrack blocks – freeing the Haemonculus to take Twisted Animator rather than Master Regenerist as the combination of auto-heal 1 wound + d3 should be sufficient to fix most Grotesque problems while also benefiting Haemoxyte or Wrack blobs. Oh. And if you’re a sadist, Mani’s Wrack list is still alive and well. If you’re the type of person that people love to hate at the party then Wrack City is still an option (you monster).

Alternatively, I think what this really does is free the player to choose alternate Drukhari builds. The subfaction limit was already going to hit Thicc City hard because the Cronos really did give it an extra bit of flexibility it needed for a long, dynamic tournament. The build was also superior in most Drukhari matches due to the bevy of 2D or limited number of D3+3 that the army has in total. However, if we assume that Talos will be sharply curbed, likely in units of 2×2 or 1×3, then I think we’ll start to see some experimentation with Realspace Raids that brings back Ravagers, Hellions, Incubi, and a core of Wyches that sees a return to a faster, hit-and-run playstyle, albeit balanced by a second, more durable wave of Grotesques. One final note, the rules surrounding disembarking from a moving transport and charging affect the use of the Murderous Descent stratagem.

I think Drukhari are in a good spot. They’ve taken yet another necessary hit and I don’t think it made them any less viable, but they’re certainly a little more vulnerable, and in any case 70% of Drukhari players are about to jump ship for their puritan cousins anyway. 

Jack’s reheated takes

I don’t really have many thoughts about the actual balance changes. Talos getting nerfed is good, disallowing units that disembark from remaining stationary seems pointless, and most of everything else is useful tidy-up. I’m very glad to see that GW are continuing with their quarterly schedule and are doing these changes in digital, and hope that it’ll continue.

I do have a big problem with how these rules changes (mainly the balance dataslate) are presented. 

First, looking at FAQs, GW still hasn’t added any signifier for when things are removed from a FAQ. There are a number of FAQs marked as “Updated” today that have no magenta/cyan text in them – so nothing was added to them. Presumably, that means something was taken out. In this case I can be fairly confident that this was about redeployment and moving errata that existed in individual FAQs into the core rulebook FAQs, but lacking a copy of the old FAQs I can’t check this to be sure. With this change it’s not too significant, someone who remembers that it’s in the FAQ will play the same as someone who knows it from the core FAQ, but if these were reverted balance changes then it becomes very easy to misplay.

Second, the balance datasheet itself is handled terribly. It’s in a different section of the Warhammer Community website to all the other rules changes (being under downloads rather than FAQs/errata), it doesn’t have any sort of change tracking, and it’s poorly signposted. If you aren’t looking at Warhammer Community when it gets posted, you have no way to know it exists, and are unlikely to randomly stumble across it when looking for FAQs. One of my friends has been building an Imperial Guard army for a few weeks now, and was very excited to see the dataslate updates to them today. They’re old changes, but he didn’t know they already existed.

Balance dataslate changes should also be reflected in individual book FAQs. It’s a document making changes to a codex, and anyone who opens the FAQ/errata document for a codex should see all the errata that applies to that book, not have it spread across multiple places. I have no idea why GW aren’t doing this already.

As another bonus, competitive players who play exclusively with points need to know to look at the updated Power Level document – Adeptus Mechanicus had PL increases for skitarii squads, which triggers increased stratagem cost (and players without stratagem cost based on PL still need to keep track for strategic reserves).

TheChirurgeon’s Chaos Thoughts

I’m with Jack on the presentation here – these need to be change logs or patch notes, so I don’t open an “updated” FAQ only to find no text in blue or magenta, leaving me to wonder what actually changed. That happened on a ton of things this time where redeploy abilities were consolidated into a single Core Rules FAQ item. Also if you’re going to make multiple changes to a datasheet, just create a new datasheet. The T’au changes for Imperial Armour units in particular are guilty of this.

On the subject of Chaos: No one was seriously arguing the +2 attacks for a two-fisted Helbrute before and if they were you could safely ignore them. This hurts Thousand Sons a little, but not much, since the Duplicity play was to use Risen Rubricae on a unit of Warpflamer Rubricae, which is still totally valid. Also Tactical Perfection just straight-up says you can drop into Strategic Reserves for free, so that’s covered. 

For Death Guard it’s worth noting that Inexorable Advance will now longer let you count as remaining stationary after you disembark from a transport, so if your plague marines disembark from a Rhino or drill, they need to be within 12” to shoot their Rapid Fire bolters twice, as they won’t count as remaining stationary. Note that this is true even if the transport didn’t move.

Otherwise, that’s pretty much it. Most of this stuff affects other armies that can do fancy things like zip around in open-topped transports, disembark after moving, or had insane rules for splitting up the battlefield. Nerfs to Drukhari are always good, and the T’au and Custodes changes were expected.

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