The Q2 2023 Kill Team Balance Dataslate – The Goonhammer Hot Take

The Second Quarter Balance Patch for 2023 has arrived, bringing with it a number of changes to Kill Team. And as with prior dataslates, Goonhammer is here to both summarize and provide context and takes. If you’re interested in downloading a copy of this dataslate, you can find it here.

The biggest surprise of the Q2 2023 Dataslate is what’s not here: In keeping with their approach on previous balance-slates the Kill Team creators have opted for a light touch here, and were decidedly restrained in making changes to the game. let’s go over the key changes.

Changes to Critical Operations 2022

Loot has been changed to where it can be performed a maximum of 4 times per objective, effectively meaning once per Turning Point. This is a good change as the previous Balance Slate raised the total primary points achievable to 16, which had zero impact on the Loot Mission, making it an outlier. 

HappyRaccoon – Nice, we’re raising the overall points in play for loot from 18 -> 24, which will make those early turn rushes that much less impactful. Coming back from a 2 point swing will be much more doable.

Improvements to Warpcoven Kill Teams

In the team’s ongoing goal to make Warpcoven competitive they have made yet another small change to Rubric Marines. First, their attacks with both their fists and bayonet have been raised to 4, bringing them in line with standard non-combat oriented Marines. Second, they’re now innately 3 APL, but suffer a -1 to APL when they activate outside of six of a Sorcerer. This basically means you no longer have to assign one Sorcerer to each Rubric which does a lot to help with their inflexibility. However, this still doesn’t mean you should ever take more than 3 Rubrics as Sorcerers are still far superior to them at the individual level.

HappyRaccoon – This change does go a long way to shoring up a Rubric’s weaknesses. As bayonet-wielding rubrics can reliably threaten 7/8-wound models. Additionally, allowing rubrics to fight over objectives properly means they have become at least an interesting option compared to Tzaangors. However the archetype restriction still hurts the team’s adaptability in an era where many teams have no restrictions.

Cobalt Scions combat squad. Credit: Charlie Brassley

Nerfs to Intercession Squads, Buffs to Exaction Squads

Rapid and Methodical have received minor nerfs. The former now only applies to Normal Move Actions, while the later only applies to Overwatch penalties. Both of these are welcome changes, but this does feel like a missed opportunity to alter some of the weaker ones to be more desirable. 

Exaction Squad – While people were excited for their initial release the Exaction Squad has had trouble making its mark in the game finding themselves in a similar space to Kasrkin upon release. With this in mind each Arbites operative now finds themself with an extra wound, while Ruthless Efficiency now grants P1 to attacks made against enemies that have another Exaction Squad model within 2 inches of them. This later rule being put in to make up for the team’s near total lack of AP, and is a somewhat more elegant method than what Phobos received in the form of the Deadly Shots ploy. The Marksman, Revelatum, and Cyber-Mastiff all received Lethal 5+ on their main weapons, giving the team more reliable sources of Mortal Wounds. Lastly, Exaction Squad players may now use Execution Order every Turning Point, but must pay an additional CP for each time they used, BUT the first time it costs zero CP. This ploy is particularly nasty against Elite teams. These are all good changes, and hopefully this will result in the team seeing more play going forward. 

HappyRaccoon – These changes will make some headway in opening up Exaction Squad against Elites. The additional wound goes a long way to making the Subductors more reliable, with them being able to tank one stray melee hit without falling to pieces, while players are able to bring their own L5+ and P1 profiles to crack the armor of elites. Additionally, Execution Order’s huge buff means they can reliably bully Marines, one of their worst match-ups, at least until Cults arrived. Still, their Strobing Phosphor-Lumens mean they have one of the strongest pieces of equipment when going up against them. 

Hearthkyn Salvagers get Faster

They’re one inch faster, that’s it. This isn’t bad, but it’s unclear if this is going to shift the needle for them at all. 

HappyRaccoon – The Votann continue to suffer in this extremely melee centric meta. Especially if forced onto Close Quarters where melee teams can close the distance before the dwarves can set up. However, in open play, the extra inch of movement will provide some much needed flexibility as the Kyn will be able to more easily reach objectives. This is a buff, and a needed one, but it won’t change too much on their place in the meta.

Euclidean Starstriders Get Relentless Back on Rotor Cannons

In a rare change we see Relentless return to the rotor cannon. This one is a bit perplexing; this change just happened in the previous update, barely giving us any time to assess if it was unwarranted or not.  Giving this weapon Ceaseless may have been the better choice.

Elucidian Starstriders, Voidsman. Credit: SRM

The Winners

Exaction Squads! Being boosted to 8 wounds is no small change, effectively making these guys Kasrkin who specialize in close range combat. While their problems against Elites aren’t going to go away this at least gives them something to work with. 

The Losers

Game balance. This update isn’t defined so much by what it has done, but what has not been done. Of the most powerful teams only Intercession saw any changes in this update. While the team can be forgiven for deciding to wait on any major changes for Chaos Cultists, a mistake in my opinion, none of the other top teams saw any sort of change to their rules despite continuing to have very high win rates. This refusal to make changes runs a strong risk of causing the competitive environment around this game to stagnant. While Chaos Cultists are not unbeatable they do stand in a category of their own, which in turn requires players to bring the teams already considered strong to have a realistic chance of beating them.

In my opinion this update is one of the first big, black marks for Kill Team in a while. It came at a time when we have seen multiple new teams really shake up the meta just after previous balance dataslates had done so much to get all the available teams to a playable state.

HappyRaccoon – I may be a touch less doom and gloom about the cults and fellgor taking everyones lunch… at least on Open Play. As long as tournament organizers don’t add mostly heavy terrain on objectives, both of the melee boogey men will have some weaknesses. On Close Quarters there are not really any solid picks against melee summer, and that is a huge weakness. However, I trust that competitive players will find ways to attack the problem, and maybe things will even out. I do wish that Chaos Cults had eaten just a little bit more of a nerf, since ignoring the Injured status, while doling it out is just not fun to play against.


A Goonhammer Open Note

A lot of players are pretty concerned about the state of competitive play for Kill Team right now and we’re inclined to agree. While we’re not fans of taking a heavy hand to doing balance, we do want to address the issue. That’s why at the 2023 Goonhammer Open we’re announcing that, after some deliberation, we will only be using Open Terrain layouts and missions during the event. While this doesn’t solve every balance problem, it does significantly reduce the level of dominance for Chaos Cults and Beastmen teams and make the field much more fun to play.

If you’re interested in grabbing tickets for the event – which also serves as both great practice for NOVA, you can find them here.