Chapter Tactics #103: Power Ranking the 40k Factions and Looking into their Future in the 2019 Season

Chapter Tactics is a 40k podcast which focuses on promoting better tactical play and situational awareness across all variations of the game. Today Peteypab, Sean, Val, and The Falcon discuss their picks for the best and worst factions currently in the meta, as well as talk about units that are safe investments from any GW nerfs for the 2019 season. 

Need help with a list idea? Got a rules question? Want to talk tactics? Then sign up for our Patreon where you can join our official Facebook group page, get in contact with all the show’s co-hosts, watch exclusive content, and win free prizes!

Show Notes:




About Petey Pab

Aspiring 40k analyst, tournament reporter and Ultramarines enthusiast, Petey Pab only seeks to gather more knowledge about the game of 40k and share it with as many people as he can in order to unite both hobbyists and gamers. We are, after all, two sides of the same coin.

51 Responses to “Chapter Tactics #103: Power Ranking the 40k Factions and Looking into their Future in the 2019 Season”

  1. Zweischneid February 26, 2019 1:47 am #

    Good episode and kudos for the Prague Open shout outs.

    I am one of the misguided Europeans who believes Maelstrom (or better, GW) Missions are “more tactical” (while far from being perfect) for a competitive 40K experience, precisely because of the randomized elements that force in-game choices/decisions on players that cannot be anticipated at the list-building/pre-game stage.


    First: Remember it’s not just Maelstrom. There’s often Eternal War mixed in and sometimes no Maelstrom at all. For a 5 or 6 round tournament, players would need to be prepared to win a great variety of games. One might be all progressive Maelstrom, where killing stuff is mostly irrelevant, the next might be entirely end-game EW, where progressive doesn’t matter at all, the next might be kill points, where there may not even be objectives on the board. That’s a bit exaggerated, as ETC mixes missions, but the idea is that “good generals” need to be able to command their army in vastly different types of games. With ITC Primaries always identical and Secondaries always known, at least,

    I personally feel ITC doesn’t do quite enough to force players into different game plans (and thus finding the champion who can master many of them). The bonus points are nice, but not enough to really flip people’s strategy on its head enough times, IMO.

    Second: Maelstrom or not, some randomization of objectives, especially if progressive, is IMO important for a “tactical” game precisely to force trade-offs. As all ITC objectives are always eligible for hold/hold-more, it basically always syncs with the general game-plan. Players will always try to hold the objectives (first) that are a “tactical no-brainers” from the game-plan perspective. There’s just never a situation where the Tau Castle finds that the objective their Broadsides are sitting on is suddenly not eligible for points and the player needs to decide between going for the mission vs. going for the “game plan”. Same for an assault army, that might suddenly find the “objectives worth the points” aren’t the ones mid-field, but the ones on the back line.

    Third: Same for killing. If everything is always eligible for kill/kill-more, again, I feel there aren’t enough trade-offs to force tactical choices. If you have an enemy Aberrant unit in your lines and 3 enemy Neophites holding an objectives, most ITC games would again go the “no brainer” of killing those, synching the mission points for kill/kill more with taking out main threats/opponent’s scoring. But if you have an enemy Aberrant unit in your face and 3 enemy Neophites holiding an objectives, but the killing-mission points are given for killing a vehicle and a psyker, you have a tactical decision to make.


    There seems to be the opinion in North America (or the ITC crowd at least) that random mission elements are somehow the opposite of “competitive”/”tactical”, but I think that is mistaken. It’s (IMO) precisely the random elements that separate the wheat from the chaff by having tough in-game choices forced upon the player.

    It doesn’t have to be the Maelstrom cards, but if, dunno, ITC would have some elements where, say, 2 of the 6 objectives on the board are randomly ineligible for hold/hold more each turn, and maybe 2 battlefield roles (e.g. Elites, Fast Attack, Transports, etc.) each turn are ineligible for kill/kill more each turn and maybe even 1 or 2 secondaries are randomized, so every now and again the Tau Castle gets Recon and the all-Knights army gets Ground Control, etc.. it would be a more “tactical” game in my understanding of tactical, i.e. mission points being less predictable and less “efficiently synchronized” with the game-plan you want to execute to beat your opponents army.

    Of course, every ITC player will disagree. But hey.

    I also don’t think we need to have a “uniform mission format”. I believe variety is the spice of life and hope there’re many more tournaments now and in the future doing their own thing and switching it up every so often.

    • Michael Corr February 26, 2019 3:35 am #

      Yes to this! I am sick of people saying that Maelstrom is “too random” and not suitable for tournament play. Maelstrom is the great leveller in 40k, allowing just about any army to compete in the game. If you are going to sit in your deployment zone and fire at the enemy army, of course you are not likely to win a maelstrom game.

      It simply requires you to build a different army and play the game a different way; do you forgo shooting to run onto an objective? how many faster elements do you bring to go after the objectives? Do you spend your precious CP to discard and re-draw an unfavourable maelstrom card?

      I had a recent tournament where my Deathwatch faced two rounds of three Knights (one with two Castellans). The game was decided before we even picked up a die, as it was based on kill points and end of game objectives. Had it been maelstrom, I at least would have felt like I had a chance to compete in the game.

      That being said, I’m not a big fan of ETC missions. I still feel like they favour kill points and end of game objectives, with the maelstrom almost being an afterthought that most players ignore. They go for the maelstrom missions if they are easy, but don’t generally need to go after them in most cases.

      • Victor February 26, 2019 10:47 pm #

        Problems like the one you describe with your Deathwatch against 3 Iks is a balance issue.

        Things like 3 IKs should have never been allowed to play (maximum 1 LOW per army IMO) and kill points should be the unit point value instead of 1 per unit destroyed in order to not punish armies with larger drop counts.

        But maelstrom is not a good idea. You can have cases in which you draw cards like “take the objective in your oponnet’s deployment zone” and your opponent just draws “take the objective in his backfield”, which gives him an unfair advantage because there is nothing I can do to score

        • TrollToll February 27, 2019 9:55 pm #

          Victor you just need to get good and play tactically. It’s part of Maelstrom.

    • Venrex February 26, 2019 8:33 am #

      Where en reality nearly all etc games end 20 – 0 becouse ppl ignore the mission and just table the opponent

      • Reecius February 26, 2019 8:57 am #

        I had to lol to that however, while true, that is also because of massive (intentional) mismatches in pairings.

        • Zweischneid February 26, 2019 9:06 am #

          Is it?

          Did you guys even listed to the podcast?

          Exactly 1 guy out of just shy of 100 managed to get 60:0 out of 5 tournament rounds in Prague.

          You’re definition of “nearly all games” is a curious one.

          • Reecius February 26, 2019 9:40 am

            The metric to measure isn’t how many people did it every game, lol, but how many games ended in maxed score victories.

          • Schmuvness February 26, 2019 10:57 am

            Please don’t mix up the two settings.

            ETC is a team tournament with, like reece stated, intentional mismatches created in pairings.

            The Prague Open Single Player tournament was a Tabletopmasters (TTM) Grand Tournament which has entirely different rules and scorings to the ETC Format.

          • Reecius February 26, 2019 1:08 pm

            Ah, fair enough. Good to make the distinction.

    • AllHail February 26, 2019 9:26 am #

      I see ITC secondaries as basically Maelstrom objectives without the randomness. Your opponent is always going to pick (or try to pick) the best objectives for themselves against your army and you against his.

      Random objectives just force more games to be played to see a balanced distribution of the randomness. Maelstrom is perfectly balanced over say 1000 games, but when you are trying to determine who is the better player with as few games as possible it is just a waste of both players time to add even more random elements into the system.

      Selectable objectives, especially ones that are based on your opponent’s army, also prevent people from planning around known objectives. You never truly know what your opponent will pick or what their army will be. You end up planning for the worst possible stuff, just like you would if planning for random objectives.

    • Reecius February 26, 2019 10:13 am #

      I think what you find most commonly is that players like what they’re used to. You see EU and UK players favoring Maelstrom because that’s what they’re used to playing. You see NA players favoring missions like ITC as that’s what they’re used to.

      • Shas’O February 27, 2019 4:34 am #

        Hey Reece, I love the secondary missions in ITC, but any chance you can get rid of enclosed ruins? Man do they change the game!

        You re-instituted wobbly model because having Units that were impossible to charge was bad for the game, but now you can have units that are impossible to shoot.

  2. rvd1ofakind February 26, 2019 7:47 am #

    Holy audio errors, Batman.
    23:56 for example. These are different from the ones before. Here people just get cut off

    • Petey Pab February 26, 2019 9:36 am #

      Hey Rvd! Yeah I noticed those when I listened this morning. I was up particularly late on this one and know exactly what I did wrong. Re-uploading now.

  3. Frohawk February 26, 2019 8:03 am #

    Quick comment on the onslaught power discussion. You technically can achieve the same mechanic of endless mortal wounds with harlequins with mirror of minds. Mask of secrets and a few other tricks if necessary, against a low LD unit basically removes that unit.

    Eg: poxwalkers/cultists/conscripts provided no support for the last 2 picks up that blob. Ld 4 v ld 10. The opposing roll has to beat that power not tie.

    • Zweischneid February 26, 2019 9:38 am #

      Um .. no.

      That’s precisely the difference. Mirror of Minds is just a straight-dice off without any possibility to build in a differential based on Leadership or something.

      That’s why Mirror of Minds, while theoretically infinite, only comes to an expected Mortal Wound output of about 1.4 …. only about 2/3 of a regular smite, which is the trade-off for being a targetable power.

      Mental Onslaught is targetable AND, even at a 1 or 2 point Ld difference, has a higher expected MW output than smite on top of that.

      That’s just bad game balance.

      • CWDub February 26, 2019 1:52 pm #

        The LD bomb mechanics for GSC take a TON of working parts to auto kill a LD 8 or 9 model that people seem to be freaking out about. First, you’re taking Inspiring Leader on your Patriarch (instead of the much better GSC WL traits). You’re also taking a relic slot for vial of Grandsire’s Blood to buff him to LD 12. You’re taking a Clamavus (you were anyway) for LD 13. You need a +/- difference of 7 for it to “auto-kill”. Keep in mind the Knight Castellan is LD 9, you have to get that bad boy down to LD 7 with the Patriarch at LD 13. You always have to score higher in the dice off; if you match or score less, the MWs stop.

        A Locus would require a 3 CP Perfect Ambush to get within 6″ of an unscreened unit for the Mental Onslaught power (and can still fail on a D6″ roll) for the -1 LD bubble at 6″ out. You have to take an Astropath from AM (and DS him somewhow) for Terrifying Visions or DS in a Tyranid Flyrant for the Horror (-1 LD). This requires one or two psychic powers to go off with multiple failure points and no denials (either from a pysker or strategem). Mental Onslaught is also a WC 6 power (+1 to cast with another Relic) with an 18″ range.

        So yeah, if all those moving parts somehow after the moon aligns with Saturn, Jupiter, and YourAnus to wipe a Castellan off the board Turn 2.. so what? It’s not like the Knight Castellan is “good” for game balance.

        • Petey Pab February 26, 2019 3:06 pm #

          Though, I agree with you CWdub. It does require a lot to work out perfectly. I don’t think things like that should even be possible in a game. If there is one thing i’ve learned about the 40k community its that the general masses are driven off of perspective, and not facts. Which is why I’ve worked so hard to change the stigma normal players have about competitive 40k.

          If the word gets out to the masses (via Spikey Bits, Tabletop Minions, MWG, or whatever other massively popular channel) that there is an infinite mortal wound output power in GSC, then it can negatively impact the game and peoples perception of the game.

          If you don’t believe me, go into any Age of Sigmar chat/reddit and ask everyone what the difference between 40k and AoS is. You will get your fair share of teeth gnashing “40k is too competitive and broken!” comments.

          • CWDub February 26, 2019 5:16 pm

            You actually make a really good point, Pablo, and I agree 100%. A few psychic powers going off on someone that isn’t expecting that combo has definite “FEEL BADSIES” implications.
            I’m just less likely to agree it needs to be nerfed when we have 600 pt Knight Castellans running around invalidating lists left and right.

          • Yakhunter February 26, 2019 6:18 pm

            This was what I was getting at on the podcast. I don’t think there are going to be major issues at top tables (maybe I am wrong, I agree there are a lot of moving parts but people are cunning), what WILL happen is people will have it happen on mid-low tier tables or opening rounds and the sadness will be real. Then they will cry out in anguish, it will catch on and ‘explosions’.

            It’s in the same line as why I think Imperial Knights may be too strong. It isn’t because they’re winning tournaments so much as it is because of the skew they create for newer players. Game balance is not necessarily just about the competitive community but the community as a whole.

          • CWDub February 26, 2019 6:34 pm

            Yeah, that rick rolling someone Turn 1 when they had no chance and didn’t see it coming factor was one negative thing about GSC in 7th. Roffle stomping someone because you rolled a bunch of 6’s to ambush (Re-rolling or with a formation bonus because you were able to build a Cult Insurrection Detatchment) wasn’t really fun to do to people. That’s one reason why I like the new GSC book.

          • Ujayim February 26, 2019 6:41 pm

            I see it as an Equalizer for GSC against things like, I dunno, Harrison’s 7 Plane list. GSC won’t be killing them otherwise.

            In a world where the army can only handle these, one at a time, through a one time bike Stratagem per unit or a once per turn power which can fail, or be interacted with in all sorts of ways (here’s to you, sideboard assassins), they needed something.

          • Paul Winters February 26, 2019 6:52 pm

            Imperium does have access to Inquisitors who have a “use my Ld instead” aura. Inquisitor Greyfax and 2 generic Inquisitors, as a Supreme Command is an option.

            I don’t think it is worth sinking 150-200pts, on the off chance you will play GSC who are also trying to do the mortal wound bomb.

        • abusepuppy February 26, 2019 4:32 pm #

          The thing is, you don’t need to max it out for it to have huge value- “just” combining a Clamavus (which, as you note, you are going to take anyways) and The Horror/Terrifying Visions is still likely to upwards of six mortal wounds to any target you choose, and putting all three of those together (which is a pretty small investment in the scheme of things, ~250pts including the Patriarch) your chances of vaporizing a Ld9 target instantly are very, very, very high.

          • CWDub February 26, 2019 5:21 pm

            Without allies, you have a LD 13 Patriarch going vs a LD 8 Castellan (with the Locus trick). The power stops churning out MWs if the roll-off is equalled or lost, which is a lot more possible.
            If you bring The Horror (Tyranids) that’s a detachment and if you bring Terrifying Visions that’s another detatchment (one half, rounding down because it’s AM per the GSC Brood Brothers rules). Terrifying Visions requires a delivery mechanism (Valkryie?) for the Primaris Psyker/Astropath and is a lot less likely to work while a Flying Hive Tyrant can DS in.
            The point I’m trying to make is that this is a really, really gimmicky thing that if someone dedicates a huge portion of their 2k list to (far beyond 250 pts to make it automatic) that they probably deserve to have it go off. That’s probably why it was originally nerfed at 6 wounds in the original FAQ and then unnerfed in the final FAQ.

          • Dakkath February 26, 2019 10:47 pm

            Ld13 vs Ld8 means the roll-off is never lost and only tied in the 13 rolls a 1 and the 8 rolls a 6 (both total 14).

        • WestRider February 26, 2019 10:14 pm #

          The Locus wouldn’t use Perfect Ambush, it would use Lying in Wait. Lets it get anywhere more than 3″ away from Enemies for 2CP, with no roll. It can’t Charge that Turn, but that’s not what it’s there for.

      • Frohawk February 26, 2019 6:15 pm #

        Ya know what, I mixed the wording of mirror of minds with Mind war and got a hybrid rule. Good Catch.

        • WestRider February 26, 2019 10:09 pm #

          Mirror of Minds did work like that in 7th. I made the same mistake when the new Harlequin Dex dropped.

    • WestRider February 26, 2019 10:13 pm #

      Also, Mental Onslaught targets a Model, not a Unit. You’re never killing more than one Poxwalker/Cultist/Conscript with it. It’s only a major threat to things that have individually powerful single Models.

      Don’t get me wrong, I was shocked when I saw it in the GSC Dex in that form, but it isn’t quite as hideous as some are making it out to be.

  4. sultansean February 26, 2019 9:57 am #

    Power Rankings: I think the discussion particularly around Eldar vs. Dark Eldar and Thousand Sons vs. Demons shows that power rankings really need to be discussed in terms of the “faction”. The way GW has it is set up the factions really are Imperium, Chaos, Aeldari, Various Xenos. Ranking single books when no competitive player plays out of a single book seems a bit silly to me. Don’t get me wrong I would love to see incentives to play a single Chapter/Craftworld/Hive Fleet. But as the game stands now that’s not the reality. I think a better conversation would be ranking build archetypes, Castellan/Guard, Demons Blob/Smite Spam, Ynnari, Lootas/Boyz, etc…

  5. rvd1ofakind February 26, 2019 8:41 pm #

    So you unapologetically say “oh BA only has 2 units because allies exist and you can just take something better” and then defend unrestricted allies as a concept? Yeah ok.

    • abusepuppy February 26, 2019 11:46 pm #

      We get it, dude. You hate allies because they killed your parents and ate your dog. But GW’s not gonna remove them from the game, so either run your tournaments without them or get used to the idea.

      Also, the BA codex’s problems are not allies’ fault. It just makes the issue more glaringly obvious.

      • rvd1ofakind February 27, 2019 6:50 am #

        I’m used to the idea. I just don’t support it. I don’t want games without allies – that’s dumb. I just want that to be a choice so that every anti-tank vehicle from 10+ factions doesn’t get invalidated if 1 comes out overtuned(Castellan)

        • abusepuppy February 27, 2019 7:57 am #

          Okay, great, that’s exactly what we said in the podcast, too. And in like seven other episodes as well- one might call it a consistent theme.

      • CWDub February 27, 2019 10:04 am #

        Food for thought: In the GSC book, allied IG detatchments only provide half (rounding up) CPs. Would this be a good mechanic to extend to all allies? Or would we just end up seeing less fluffy lists (ie. Space Marines with a bunch of IG Wyverns and no guardsmen, Guardsmen with 3 space marine librarians, etc).

        • rvd1ofakind February 27, 2019 10:11 am #

          Yo, was that always the case? This is something that definitelly could happen to restrict allies.

          • CWDub February 27, 2019 11:56 am

            No, it’s a new rule in the GSC book.

  6. Victor February 26, 2019 11:05 pm #

    There is always exceptions. I’m european and I hate Maelstrom, too random, is just luck that don’t favour tactical skill.

    ITC is not my ideal system but is nearer than Maelstrom. My ideal scoring system was unfortunately forgotten many editions ago: end game objectives and kill points equal to unit point value instead of one per unit destroyed

    • Schmuvness February 27, 2019 2:07 am #

      Hello Victor,

      you might like the current Tabletopmasters ruleset.

      Kill value ist calculated in the tertiary mission and you can create missions with progressive scoring and end game scoring but without maelstrom.

      Once you checked it out, i would like to know what you think about it.

  7. Victor February 27, 2019 2:23 am #

    I will look into it, thanks. Right know I have to apply to a public exam on 10th March, so I can take a few time to answer to you, but I will.

  8. Jace February 27, 2019 2:37 am #

    I liked that Sanguinius stopped rhyming with penis.

    Definite improvement

    • Petey Pab February 27, 2019 11:42 am #

      Thanks! I’ve been practicing all week. Trying to work in Sanguinius into my every day talk.

      Let me tell you, it’s been entertaining.

  9. Malfurious February 27, 2019 6:49 am #

    What can be done to bring the “C level” books in line? I would love to play Blood Angels and Chaos marines more (2 armies I have sitting on the shelf) but everyone has a hard on for Castellans, Ynnari and soon to be Druhkari and GSC once the first two get adjusted…

  10. Christian Teztor February 27, 2019 8:15 am #

    Space Wolves really got the short end of the stick in 8th IMO.

    They basically had to wait Ork/Genestealer-Cult-amount of time for their book, sitting out all those months between summer 2017 and summer 2018, when Power Armour was still somewhat viable to play and, early on, Guilliman & co. even ruled the tables.

    Now instead of getting an Ork/GSC-Codex, they basically got a late 2017 Codex a year+ late, with the weirdest conditional stratagems that you can only play when you’re in a -1 Ld bubble and a rune priest is within 12″ and you’re playing 40K after 8pm on a full moon night.

    And now that “old” codexes seem to be getting a do-over, Space Wolves get to sit it out again, because they aren’t an “old codex”.

    There’s just so much weird stuff going on there. The laughable Wulfen-pea shooters costing twice as much as storm bolters. Their Vigilus Detachment being arguably the worst in that book. Etc..

    The whole thing just screams “we didn’t give a damn and put that thing together in 5 minutes”.

  11. Paul Winters February 27, 2019 9:39 am #

    I feel that the Chaos Daemons ranking is a bit high? The strong codex foundation is supported almost entirely by Plaguebearers. Plaguebears (with support characters) are amazing chaff units no argument. Maybe the best chaff in the game for the points. That being said I don’t think a single unit can elevate the entire codex? Black Legion Cultist are also great chaff and Chaos Marines was ranked lower by the hosts. If Plaguebearers go up 1 or 2 pts, I think the codex would fall off in favor of Cultist.

    Other than the Plaguebears, there are Bloodletters, Pink Horrors, and Skullreaver Prince are situationally good units, depending on your list composition. After that, it falls off, with maybe Flamers or Plague Drones? The codex is pretty shallow in terms of the depth of overall competitive unit choices.

    I don’t Chaos Daemons are as bad off as rvd1ofakind thinks. I think they are a mid-tier army. Not GW’s best codex but not their worst either.

    There is also the Slaanesh side of Chaos Daemons, that everyone is just politely ignoring the existence of at this point.

    • Petey Pab February 27, 2019 11:44 am #

      But the same goes for Thousand sons? Tzaangors, Ahriman, and Daemon Princes can only take you so far. I don’t know. I just feel like the Chaos faction in general is being brought up by it’s troop choices and a few good HQs. Their Fast Attack, Elite, and HS slots leave a lot to be desired in general. Outside of fringe units, which occasionally get the limelight (Looking at you PBCs).

      Maybe I did rank the codex too high.

    • rvd1ofakind February 28, 2019 8:08 am #

      Excuse me? Where did I say they were a bad army? They can be a very competitive army and have a trash codex – which is what they are right now. I don’t think CD is mid tier. I think they are way better than that. Maybe not top 5 but damn close.

      However if the only units seeing competitive play are HQ choices and troops, and you are limited to ~4 non-hq units to get a sub-faction trait that aren’t good to begin wit, and you are limited to a tiny amount of boring stratagems because of the gods you take, and the psychic powers you have seem either super underwhelming or bad despite being basically the manifestation of psychic powers – yeah the codex is complete boring trash.

      Chaos in general suffers from this “bring (more or less) only troops and HQs” list that beats every other list Chaos can come up with. That’s why many people (Nick Nanavati included, who has said the best chaos list is 2000-HQs divided by cultists and tzangors) dislike the direction that chaos has been going and moved away from the army.

    • rvd1ofakind February 28, 2019 8:18 am #

      And I think that’s a more important thing to talk about than Grey Knights or Necrons doing bad. The reason is that it’s very obvious that it happens. You glance at stats “oh, these armies are doing bad”. Then you look at Chaos Daemons “oh they’re doing quite well, their book is probably pretty good”. But when you look into units stats – you can see that there isn’t a single Elite, Fast Attack or Heavy Support choice in a top 3 list since CA. And what happened in CA? Every single E, FA, HS unit (except plague drones >_>) was buffed.

      The problem is much bigger than -10%/-20% of the pts cost. I’ve seen people outraged at my suggested pts costs for them – like 7 pts flesh hounds for example. However that’s how HUGE the difference is between the chaos troops choices and the other non-character non-big monster choises. Not only are cultists/tzangors/letters/bearers/horrors superior in terms of efficiency, they are supperior in pretty much every other aspect of the game aswell due to being a troop choice. The E, FA, HS roles need to be quite a bit MORE efficient than troops, not quite a bit less as they are now.

  12. Paul Winters February 27, 2019 12:52 pm #

    Chaos as a sum of its parts is pretty good. Those parts individually I don’t think these parts are highly competitive individually. Out of 5 codices, there isn’t a lot of variety coming out of the Chaos faction that is doing well competitively. Compared to say Imperium or Eldar, which has a more varied toolbox that produces a variety of competitive builds.

Leave a Reply