It’s finally that time again – the design studio have gazed upon the metagame, rotated it in their minds, and made some tweaks aimed at leveling the playing field. Let’s take a look at what’s changed, and what it might mean for the metagame going forward.
Conveniently, this has arrived just in time to make the cut-off we set for the Goonhammer Open UK, so if you’re attending that keep an eye on your inbox for a message about updated list submission deadlines!
With that little note out of the way, let’s take a look at what changes are afoot.
In line with the recent Metawatch, this looks like the most stats-driven dataslate yet, heavily focused on the top two and bottom two factions, with one additional tweak for Necrons on top of that. In general, that’s a great thing to see, and the designers directly engaging with the metagame on that level is very encouraging. It also means, up front, that pretty much all these changes look like good calls – every adjustment goes in the right direction, and is reasonably well focused. The flip side is that there’s not quite as much focus on some more subtle things like the repetitive or noninteractive play patterns or heavy list constraints generated by some Factions’ Secondaries, which we’ll come back to at the end.
And now, the changes, starting with the factions that have been dominating the current metagame.
Tyranids get two nerfs in this dataslate, and these are well chosen and very welcome.
First up, the Leviathan Hive Fleet’s Synaptic Control trait no longer provides any benefit to non-MONSTER Synapse units, most notably Tyranid Warriors and Zoanthropes. These two units in Leviathan have been a mainstay of a huge proportion of top-performing lists, and this change should make it much easier to challenge armies that still go heavy on them, and introduce some list diversity on the Tyranid side. Warriors are now very vulnerable to powerful melee threats unless they have Warp Shielding up, so using big blobs (or maybe more than one big blob, as Leviathan can use Hive Nexus to keep one shielded on top of Catalyst). People have been doing pretty well with other fleets too (especially number one Kraken fan John Lennon), and small units of Warriors are still great on rate, but expect to see more people trying Termagant blobs, which had already been on the uptick.
The other change targets the Reaper of Obliterax, a relic that was flatly way too good before. This now caps at only inflicting three Mortal Wounds per phase, which still leaves it as an incredibly potent relic, but mildly tunes down what it can do (and is particularly helpful for factions leaning on ways to manipulate or re-roll invulnerable saves). You could honestly probably have gone further with this, but it’s great to see this specific and correct bit of targeting.
Tyranids should still be very good after this, but this certainly will result in major changes to what we see on the table. We’re still very high on Tyranids, who can still combine the best datasheets in the game with an absurd ability to spit out mortal wounds with harpies and charges, even with a cap on the Reaper of Obliterax.
Harlequins see a much smaller change, with Light Saedath (the most dominant choice) now not allowing embarked passengers to count as having Remained Stationary for shooting purposes. That certainly does reduce the strike range of Starweavers a reasonable amount, and importantly means that they can’t get passengers in range to shoot opponents that were deployed on the line on maps where the zones are 24” apart (and means opponents have to backline 6” less on other missions). This probably does reduce the number of games against Harlequins that are total blowouts early on, but it’s probably not quite enough of a knock – their Secondaries are still a bit too easy to force through max scores in skilled hands, non-Light armies have been seen succeeding, and one of the most challenging matchups for Light (Leviathan Warrior Spam) just got heavily hit.
The change is a decent one, but it wouldn’t shock us if Harlequin win rates didn’t move much after this. We did after all just see Jack Harpster win the GW Chicago Open GT with Twilight and extolling the virtues of that Saedath. It’s likely we’ll see a shift toward that playstyle for the murderclowns.
Just a minor tweak here – CHARACTER Vehicles are no longer CORE. Good – it was very silly that they ever were, and created some weird and unintentional interactions. Notably, many events were ruling that the Silent King’s Menhirs could be reanimated by a suitable Cryptek (usually Szeras), and Catacomb Command Barges being able to perform Ancient Machineries was often relevant for some ObSec builds (though the current best lists don’t tend to use these, so less impact here).
We are 100% behind this change, but like for Harlequins, Necron secondaries are definitely too easy to force in the ObSec lists, and this makes minimal changes to that. Their win rate isn’t as far of an outlier as Harlequins or Tyranids, but they can be extremely unfun to play against, something that the next mission pack will hopefully review.
Space Marines as a whole have been struggling, though some of the more melee-oriented options have been doing OK. The buff their faction gets isn’t going to change that pattern – Shock Tactics now rewards you with 4VP each time you pull it off, rather than 3VP. This means you can actually max it if you go first, which is helpful, and makes it a pretty reliable 12VP+ in any sort of close game. This is very helpful, as in a post-Stranglehold world having a good Battlefield Supremacy pick rules, and this is now a good pick. Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Kill Team Strike Force and Templars get a decent shot in the arm from this, especially in concert with Leviathan Warrior bricks no longer stonewalling them, and that should help Marines overall. This doesn’t do much for the chapters that were behind though, and means that real stragglers like Imperial and Crimson Fists remain pretty dead until further changes arrive, which is a shame.
The sins of the Mechanicus are well known, and they have been punished for the excesses they took with the tools they were given. Having now paid penance, their reward is the restoration of those very same tools, and presumably a swift and brutal resumption of the previous crimes.
The entire Adeptus Mechanicus section has been stricken from the dataslate. It’s gone. With the previous removal of these changes from the FAQs, in favor of the previous dataslate, this means that full-power Enriched Rounds are back in stock, and selling fast. This will also see the return of Lucius units getting a 2+ save in cover, which in any other world would be a big deal, but honestly might not even be enough these days. Here I will simply copy what we said back in our coverage of the Summer 2k22 dataslate:
Mechanicus have been paying for the sins they committed on codex launch for a while now, and their win rate has concomitantly plummeted, so it’s nice to see GW do the “right” thing and roll some of that back. It’s a sign of how quickly and sharply the meta shifts that an army which deserved the insane nerfs it caught just a few months ago now needs buffs to compete, and we applaud GW for recognizing it, as much as we’d still like to see these mechanical weirdos eat dirt forever.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The one nerf sticking around is that they won’t be able to take four AIRCRAFT. The big question now will be whether their faction secondary objectives – which are some of the game’s worst – can be overcome with the power of their Codex rules and datasheets.
What’s Not Here
If you were looking for nerfs to the Adepta Sororitas, they’re not here, nor are there changes to Genestealer Cults, Orks, any of the Chaos factions, nor the Astra Militarum, who seem poised to get a new book before year’s end. Overall the changes are small and relatively subtle and if you walked away from this feeling like they didn’t do enough to bring down the game’s top factions or elevate the factions struggling, well, you won’t get much argument from us.
Wings: Please GW, I am begging you, as a humble website author, color-code the changes when you modify a document.
TheChirurgeon: I’m admittedly a bit disappointed by what’s not here – I’d have liked to see GW address Necron and Sororitas secondary objectives. And look, I see the people in our comments every week complaining that “sisters aren’t that good, really” but the rub here is that both armies are miserable to play against because of the play styles their secondaries encourage, which is to say completely non-interactive. These changes at the top boost Necrons and Sisters, who didn’t need help, and also keep around just incredibly bad play patterns that allow Necrons to trivially score 100 VP going first and Sisters to trivially score 100 VP going second.
I’d have liked to see GW make adjustments to more secondary objectives, especially since the print copy of Nephilim has been impossible to get for three months anyways. Removing Stranglehold and To the Last in Nephilim was a positive step forward, but ultimately those were replaced in many factions with other non-interactive secondaries and I want to see that philosophy carried forward more thoroughly. As-is, this balance dataslate is pretty light touch – likely too light touch, since I think Tyranids and Harlequins are still clear top-tier threats and marines and admech are still going to be in the dregs.
Ultimately I’m not upset by anything here – it’s all fine – I’m mostly upset by what’s not here. I don’t think this actually changes the top of the meta and it certainly doesn’t improve the bottom.
Greg: Give Broadsides CORE back, you cowards. Otherwise I’m basically going to agree with Rob on this one – they clearly know that Secondaries are a big part of why Nephilim win rates are what they are, which is why it’s stunning to me that their only fix was to buff a Marine secondary that nobody was taking. You can now max one of your secondary objectives in a mere 4 turns, instead of 5, assuming you ration out your bullying properly. Incredible, this is what a sub-50% codex needed, was another 2-3 points per game, assuming you weren’t taking Engage instead. They could at least have put Oaths back while they were in there.
It’s also worth noting that, with the Nephilim primary scoring down a point, and the secondary going up by one, Shock Tactics is now a 1-for-1 trade: they score 4 points for being on the point in the first place, then you score 4 for booting them off of it.
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