The State of the Meta

As the hype for 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000 reached a fever pitch we heard lots of claims that this edition would be balanced, and that there would be no bad armies.  “Everything is good!” became a rallying cry. After a month of gameplay and a good sample of tournaments I decided to start collecting data from Best Coast Parings to see, are things really balanced?


As I am talking about different factions, I am going to leave out factions with fewer than 10 total games.  It is very easy for factions with only a couple tournament appearances to look really good or really bad. For instance, Salamanders have a 0% win rate, but only have 3 games listed total. Some of this also comes down to how people have listed their faction.  For the most part, I have just left things exactly as they have been entered into Best Coast Pairings. I know that there have likely been more than three games played by Salamander armies, but only three have been listed as a faction, and many more where listed as Adeptus Astartes.

By the time this article is finished being written and published, some of the results will likely have shifted a bit.

What’s Popular?

The top five most played armies are: Adeptus Astartes, Tyranids, Astra Militarum, Orks, and Chaos Space marines.  Astra Militarum and Orks are actually tied for third place with their number of games.

Many of the armies that haven’t been good for a long time have suddenly gotten much better.  Tyranids and Orks have surged in popularity since 8th edition was released.

What’s Winning Games?

Chaos (62%), Imperial Knights (60%), Dark Eldar (59%), Imperium (58%), Chaos Daemons (57%)

For a point of reference: the overall chance to win is 47.5%, the chance to lose is 47.5%, and the chance to tie is 4.9%. As it appears, certain armies are winning games significantly more often than the average.

What’s Winning tournaments?

First the raw number of tournament wins: Astra Militarum (4), Chaos Daemons (4), Adeptus Astartes (3), Chaos Space Marines (3), Tyranids (3)

Now lets look at the tournament wins compared t0 how many games the army has played total, and they can be ranked as follows: Chaos (+10.78%), Genestealer Cults (+8.40%), Chaos Daemons (+7.02%), Thousand Sons (+6.62%), Necrons (+5.23%).  The way to interpret this is that ‘Chaos’ faction armies are winning tournaments about 10% more often than the the average army. If you are into baseball I am told that this is the same as ‘value over replacement’.  The most significant thing about these numbers is that they are so low.  No one faction is dominating the tournament scene.  For a point of comparison, I ran a similar analysis at the end of 7th edition and Eldar Coursers were winning 24.33% more tournaments than their average counterpart.

Games or Tournaments?

As you have likely noticed, most of the armies that have the best win records are not the armies that are winning the most tournaments.  Armies like Dark Eldar and Imperial Knights have a high percent of wins, but they also have a high percent of exactly one loss/tie in tournaments.  Dark Eldar have gotten exactly one loss or tie in 46% of all the tournaments so far, but have only won 7% of the tournaments.  There are many armies that fall into this category, but Dark Eldar are some of the most extreme.  This indicates one of two significant things. First, we are still on a strong learning curve. At this point, there are so many possibly builds that people haven’t figured out how to play against every possible army. Second, being able to win the majority of your games does not mean you are going to win a tournament. Chances are, winning two thirds of your games will get you in the top half. To win a tournament you need to not only win all of your games, but you are going to need to do well on secondary objectives as well. I would estimate about one in four tournaments have multiple armies that win all of their games.

Does That Mean Things Are things Balanced?

Mathematically, yes (but just barely).  Combining the information on how many games each army has played with the overall average for winning a game we would see the current number of wins and losses at least 5% of the time. (Definition for statistical significance.) Five percent may not seem like much, but think about the results of over two thousand games. The evidence suggests that if everyone were to play those games again the total number of wins and losses for each faction would come out to be exactly the same at least 5% of the time.

With tournaments, things are even more balanced. Looking at the current data, I am 99% certain that tournament wins are distributed proportionally to how often an army is played.  Translation: For the most part, the armies with the most tournament wins are the ones who are participating in the most tournaments.  The overall rate to win a tournament is about 6%, and everyone is within a reasonable range for that average. Some of you may be looking at my lists for the most popular armies and the armies with the most tournament wins and are wondering why they don’t perfectly align. Well, things are never going to align perfectly. The most extreme case of performing above the average is 10% above average, and this indicates that player skill is likely a more significant contributing factor over the army chosen.

Ok, thats a lot of numbers what does this all mean?

Right now, we are still very early in this edition. The vast majority of players have only played a handful of games, and we are all still on a learning curve. I suspect, as time progresses ( and codices are added) we are going to start seeing more imbalances pop up. Part of these imbalances will be the new rules of each codex, but  some of this will arise as people learn and master the intricacies of the game. As people learn the game, more and more people will learn to take advantage of their own armies strengths and their opponents’ weaknesses.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!


About Andrew

Andrew is a long time 40k player. Currently, he is trying to justify starting ANOTHER Chaos army, and figure out how he can write a masters thesis about 40k.

24 Responses to “The State of the Meta”

  1. The Traitor July 25, 2017 1:17 am #

    Great article! I have to say that I still haven’t won or lost a game of 8th and thought that it was because one faction was clearly worse than the other. Not every unit is balanced, but every idex has good and bad things which, at the end, means that every army is more or less at the same level. And some units are bad in some lists but good in others, depending on synergies and roles to fill. Lists are still important, but now it is not a matter of the faction you choose, but rather the combination of units you use!

  2. rvd1ofakind July 25, 2017 3:32 am #

    Would really like to see the worst armies

  3. Ytook July 25, 2017 4:21 am #

    Interesting read, thanks for the article.

    I think unit imbalance in 8th is for the most part much tighter than in 7th. There was a massive gulf in 7th between a “really good” unit and a “really bad”, while in 8th from my experience that gulf is much, much smaller, small enough that a good player with a bad list can do well against a bad player with a good list. There’s outliers of course and all this is just from my playing and observing games, but that combined with GWs speed and willingness to adjust things for balance has me pretty happy for the future. It’s never going to be perfect but I only ever wanted close enough for it to be fun 😛

  4. Sanchezsam2 July 25, 2017 6:36 am #

    Unit imbalance is much better however some armies are very hamstrung w few competitive options. I find it odd orks and tyranids are one of the most played armies and below average win percent. Orks in particular seem to have only 1 competitive option in horde boys but we will see how it all pans out.

  5. Paul McKelvey July 25, 2017 7:14 am #

    This is a really good article! I really enjoyed reading through it. Will be much more interesting to see if these trends continue as we are able to collect more data points

  6. Jimbo July 25, 2017 7:29 am #

    Could you put up a list of all of the armies and their numbers? Just cherry picking a few isn’t very useful.

    • Andrew July 25, 2017 10:36 am #

      Currently, my spreadsheet with all of the data is embarrassingly messy. I do plan on making a version suitable for public viewing, but that is a ways out.

      • Vercingatorix July 25, 2017 10:56 am #

        I know the feeling. I find that when I straiten up the data and make it pretty I end up finding some things I missed in the first pass.

  7. Venkarel July 25, 2017 7:49 am #

    Would you be willing to provide a link to your data?

  8. Wayniac July 25, 2017 8:25 am #

    I think a big problem with this approach is that you can have a list that “claims” it’s X faction, but has barely anything to make it that faction, which I know doesn’t matter a lick in tournaments but… it’s like in 7th you had a “Space Wolves” army that was all fenrisian wolves, with allied dark angels and inquisition, but it was counted as a “Space Wolves” army for purposes of “Space Wolves are doing well” (well, yes, if you only take one unit from that entire book). Similar here, how many of those “Dark Eldar” lists were razorwing spam? How many “Ynnari” lists were (pre-FAQ of course) just Harlequins using Ynnari rules? etc. etc. I think those are important things to be aware of when discussing what armies are good/bad.

    • Threllen July 25, 2017 8:34 am #

      That’s why I think it would be cool to track army “faction” by crediting that army for any faction which 100% of the models share a faction keyword.

      So if you’re playing a full Deathguard army you would qualify under Deathguard, Nurgle, Chaos, and Heretic Astartes. Whereas if you had a list like the hodge-podge you just mentioned, the only faction you get to claim is “Imperium.” I know it makes it a lot more complicated but it also eliminates stuff where you have someone claiming to be Space Wolves when the vast majority of their list isn’t space wolves at all.

      And it creates a much more dynamic system where lots of people are competing for the “Chaos” title but only very focused armies get to claim they are “Death Guard”

      • Vercingatorix July 25, 2017 10:59 am #

        Yeah, I would like this. I just think it might be too limiting to a lot of the little factions. I do think that it’s a little strange to have EVERY imperial army competing with EVERY imperial army.

        • Threllen July 25, 2017 11:58 am #

          Well that’s why under this format your army essentially hits multiple layers. Even if your sisters of battle aren’t good enough to make the top of the imperium charts, they may make the top of the sisters of battle charts. It would really give players an incentive to stick to one faction if they really want to prove they are the best general for that particular army.

          Instead of the current meta where I can load my SoB full of imperium allies and then claim my faction is SoB when really I’m including a bunch of unrelated units.

          • Beau July 25, 2017 4:45 pm

            Hmm I don’t think you really can call it SoB though right? It is imperium, because every unit in the detachment must share the keyword.

            My Death Guard + rotfly army is not DG, it is Nurgle. If I add my flesh hounds to it now it is Chaos instead. It says as much in the detachment section of the BRB.

  9. Andrew July 25, 2017 11:01 am #

    Thanks everyone for the responses. One of the reasons I only listed the top five in each category was because I was unsure of the interest level. Moving forward, I will make a spreadsheet for public viewing, so people can see the total spread of data. I certainly believe in data transparency, but peoples’ eyes have a tendency to glaze over if I talk about math for too long. Stay tuned and I can provide more detailed information.

    • Vercingatorix July 25, 2017 11:23 am #

      You’re just not talking to the right people, or using enough colors!

      If you do want some help with publishing I do data visualization for a living so I might be able to help.

      • Val Heffelfinger July 25, 2017 12:49 pm #

        So … you’re like… Neo if he chose the blue pill?

        • Vercingatorix July 26, 2017 11:06 am #

          There is no spoon

    • Subclavian Steel July 25, 2017 12:55 pm #

      I love this type of stuff. I’d be interested to see who is losing the most games as well to see if any armies are doing especially bad.

  10. scumlord July 25, 2017 2:09 pm #

    Great article! Looking at mass data really gives a better view on what’s going on rather than outliers of problem units/combos. This is approaching citable, for all those writing their thesis on tournament reports.

    • Andrew July 25, 2017 6:17 pm #

      Hopefully someday…

  11. Don July 26, 2017 6:42 am #

    Remember all those early podcasts about bringing a balanced list lololol. All of our local tournaments and even ATC and GT results seem to indicate spam is king. I mean basically the game is unbound now so I am not all that surprised that every army is more competitive when you can spam out the few over powered under costed units. Guess we will see what the codexes hold for the future.

    • Threllen July 26, 2017 6:58 am #

      The indexes are also probably the least balanced thing we’re ever going to see in 8th edition. Troops get almost no bonuses whatsoever and there is very little reason to stack up on command points. When you’re generally going to use the counter-charge ability maybe once or twice a battle and then you want a few re-rolls on top of it you don’t need much more than 4-5 command points in a lot of games. Hence why spam is king. The best strategy is to take the best units you have and include them over and over and over again because there are not enough incentives to take a balanced list.

      But just look at what we’re already seeing with the Space Marine codex. Objective Secured is back for troops and people are already complaining that they “aren’t enough command points to go around” for all the cool new stratagems (hint, hint: take a couple of batallions to get more). Additionally things like Chapter Tactics only affect infantry/bikes/dreads meaning they are getting buffed relative to flyer/super-heavy/vehicle spam. Things are already getting better even if we need to knock out a few more corner cases first.

    • Reecius July 26, 2017 9:51 am #

      Yeah, don’t forget, we still don’t even have a single Codex, yet =)

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