Where did they go? Five units missing from competitive 40k

Hi everyone, Michael here with a look at some of the units that dominated the tournament scene in yesteryear that have now largely disappeared from the tabletop. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The 8th edition of 40k has done a lot to shake up the game that we know and love. Indeed, the release of Chapter Approved points changes and FAQ’s continues to shake up the meta on a regular basis. This has led to a lot of variety of armies at tournaments, which has been great for mixing up the forces that are winning events.

This change in the game has led to some models and units gathering dust on the gaming shelf, where in years past they barely had time to rest in their carry cases between events. I was recently packing up a bunch of my 40k stuff, and came across a number of units that used to see regular play, but have been sadly relegated to bottom tier. Today, I’ll take a look at some of the units that have seen better days on the tabletop.

5. White Scars Command Squads/Bikers

Remember when White Scars were a thing? Time was you couldn’t go near a tournament without a ton of White Scars Bikers tearing up the tabletop. I mean, none of them were actually painted White, but you can’t have everything.

The White Scars Bikers had an insane level of durability, thanks to Jink giving them a 3+ cover save. They could also Scout, hit and run, and had a huge mobility range to get across the tabletop. The White Scars Command Squad on Bikes was also a potent threat. The entire unit tended to have Storm Shields and Grav Guns or Meltaguns. This unit is now relegated to an Index option if you want to field them.

White Scars also got hit a bit with the nerf bad in 8th edition. They were so dominant in 6th and 7th that I think they were on the receiving end of one of the weaker Chapter Tactics available to Space Marine players.

Space Marines are definitely struggling in the tournament scene right now, and Bikers are rarely fielded at all. Despite numerous points drops, they are still pretty expensive for a low level of durability against a range of weapons. The Bolter Discipline has added to their firepower level at range, but you still won’t be seeing them in the numbers they were once present in.

This one hurts me, as I had about 5000 pts of White Scars painted up in 7th edition (that’s a lot of White paint to go through!).

4. Eldar Scatbikes

The Eldar Jetbikes were the thing of tournament nightmares. They had it all; great mobility, awesome firepower, access to great buffing psychic powers. These units dominated the tournament top tables for many years, joined by the awesome Wave Serpent.

No one is going to say that Aeldari are struggling in making the top tables these days, but they are doing it without the help of the scatbikes in most cases. There are simply much better choices in the codex to do similar jobs, so the players with 10’s of these have them relegated to the display cases in most armies.

3. Nob Bikers

While they were never really a top tier army in the past, any Ork army tended to include a hefty unit of Nob Bikers. This unit took advantage of the wound allocation mechanics to make a highly durable unit that could take a large number of wounds before you had to remove a single model. Add in a Big Mek with KFF and Painboy to the unit, and you had a unit that required a lot of firepower to take out and could hit incredibly hard in the combat phase.

Once more, I think this unit has been relegated to Index status, making its reappearance much more questionable.

2. Grav Cannon Devastators/Centurions

Remember when Grav was everything?!? It was rare to see a Space Marines list without a ton of Grav weaponry loaded up on it. This was the ultimate weapon for dealing with a huge range of threats to the army, as well as effectively neutering vehicles.

Grav was once again hit hard with the nerf bat in 8th edition. They are not terrible weapons, just outclassed by Plasma and Meltaguns once more in the current meta.

Centurions are making a return to many Space Marine lists thanks to the Bolter Discipline rules, but the days of only seeing Grav Cannon Centurions running around the battlefield are a thing of the past.

1. Drop Pods

Ah, the good old humble Drop Pod. It took many years and many editions of the game to finally get a model for such an iconic Space Marine vehicle. Space Marine Drop Pods were an incredible tool for the army, and forces ranged from a few containing some firepower-heavy units, to entire armies filled with the things to take advantage of “null deployment” tactics.

The Drop Pod went from ridiculously cheap and overpowered to ridiculously overpriced and underpowered. It seems that its once unique ability is shared by a huge number of units that can deploy from reserve. In fact, most armies tend to have such units in the game now.

I still think the Drop Pod has a lot of utility for a Space Marine army, but it is just too expensive to field.

 

Anyway, those are my choices for units that don’t see the battlefield much any more. As a White Scars player, it is a big Space Marine skewed as you can see.

What are some of the units that you no longer see in competitive 40k or on the table at all? Are there any you miss, or are you glad that the dark days of 7th edition are gone?

 

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

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About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

55 Responses to “Where did they go? Five units missing from competitive 40k”

  1. sultansean July 17, 2019 10:29 am #

    As someone who only really started playing in 8th edition my 8th edition specific list would be:

    5. Raven Guard- now statically one of the worst sub factions in 40kstats.com the change to their chapter stratagem hurt them hard.
    4. Cultists- a points increase and the change to alpha legion
    3. Razorbacks- almost always with their friend Guilliman
    2. Hive Tyrants- remember when it seemed like the rule of 3 was made just for these guys?
    1. Shining Spears- They were broken in Ynnari and now they are broken in Craftworlds for the opposite reason.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:14 pm #

      I would add Flyrants to that list as well. They are still popular, but rule of 3 did a lot of curtail them and make them manageable.

      • sultansean July 18, 2019 10:58 am #

        Yeah when I said “Hive Tyrant” I meant “Hive Tyrant with Wings” I have literally never seen a Hive Tyrant without wings on the table, other than Swarmlord.

        • Michael Corr
          Michael Corr July 18, 2019 2:16 pm #

          My bad, I should have realised that from the context!

  2. Yarium July 17, 2019 12:20 pm #

    Poor Grav Guns. From “ridiculous” to “chaff” in a heartbeat. They were definitely overly powerful in 7th. But let’s hope GW doesn’t swing them hard again, because the difference in their power level with some of the other standard weapons is not a lot! They’re really juuust missing out, and it wouldn’t take much to prop them back up.

    Being immobile in this edition is one of the biggest weaknesses a model can have. If Drop Pods (but not the units inside them) could come down outside 1″ of an enemy unit, then I think they’d be fine.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 17, 2019 2:46 pm #

      Grav Cannons were seeing play early edition but they’re just a bit pricey now. Weight of fire is generally better for less points.

      • Michael Corr
        Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:15 pm #

        Yeah, Grav has pretty much died a death since the release of 8th edition.

      • abusepuppy July 17, 2019 11:58 pm #

        It also suffers a lot from being a specialist weapon against a target that doesn’t really exist (i.e. MEQs.) It’s worse- and more expensive- than Melta or Plasma against vehicles or monsters, and the utility of killing infantry well doesn’t really matter.

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 18, 2019 6:47 am #

          Exactly. If there were more T5 and lower 3+ save units that were actually worrisome, Grav would come back.

  3. Kitani July 17, 2019 12:38 pm #

    Actually, I see Scatterbikes quite often in competitive play thanks to Windrider host.
    Also, grav isn’t just outclassed – it’s garbage even without considering the points.
    Also, Drop Pods now have nothing to effectively transport, even if they weren’t expensive and didn’t give the opponent an amazing hiding place from shooting.

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 17, 2019 2:45 pm #

      If Drop Pods could come in on turn 1, they’d be instantly viable again.

      • Michael Corr
        Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:15 pm #

        That would be a pretty awesome boost for Marines again.

      • CWDub July 18, 2019 6:33 am #

        It’s also a bit silly that drop pods can’t transport PRIMARIS models. FFS they were even shown coming out of pods in the 8th ed teaser video.

        There are far scarier alpha strikes than 10 hellblasters coming in Turn 1 out of a drop pod, especially since they probably won’t have character support unless you run a smaller squad.

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 18, 2019 6:48 am #

          I was running a Drop Pod in my list early 8th and it was awesome. Drop turn 1 with a 5 strong Dev squad and characters right in your opponent’s face. Loved it.

        • Reecius
          Reecius July 18, 2019 9:08 am #

          Yeah, they are clearly trying to separate Primaris Marines and Mini Marines in the lore and rules.

          It’d be cool to just get a Primaris version of the venerable Drop Pod.

      • Sean Morgan July 18, 2019 7:48 pm #

        Eh…. _maybe_. But the question would still be what are you dropping and do you really need to pay that many points to do it?

        Now, if Drop Pods could each take up 14″ of real estate on the table I bet they would be valuable…

      • Nurglitch July 22, 2019 6:36 am #

        Stuff being able to come in from reserves on turn 1, including Drop Pods, was great. Why was that taken out of the game again?

        • Michael Corr
          Michael Corr July 22, 2019 7:22 am #

          Because it was ridiculously powerful for a lot of armies. The ability to alpha-strike with reserves on turn 1 was pretty brutal in a lot of cases and effectively decided the game on turn 1 against a lot of armies.

          Plus, only a couple of armies had counters to this strategy (Space Marine Scouts and Nurglings), with many others being incredibly vulnerable to it.

          I think it is better for the game overall, it would just be nice to see Drop Pods get a boost and make them worth taking. Space Marines need some kind of power boost to make them more competitive, and this would be a nice and characterful addition, in my opinion.

        • abusepuppy July 22, 2019 7:33 am #

          It removed costs and options from the game. Imagine you are a shooting army with the ability to deep strike (e.g. many kinds of Eldar, some Tau, Hive Tyrants, Scions, etc.) Presuming you don’t go beyond the 50% limit, there is literally no reason not to put all of those shooting units into reserve, as it gives them perfect protection from the enemy’s shooting and denies the enemy information about how to deploy. And with fewer units on the board, it becomes easier to completely hide the ones that do start there, given a finite amount of terrain, further exacerbating the issue,.

          This is bad for gameplay because it gives a single, absolutely superior option- the reserving player in this case always, always wants to go second because the normal cost to doing so (leaving one’s units exposed to enemy firepower for a turn) is completely mitigated. You want to, as much as possible, avoid situations with a single objectively-superior gameplay option because that removes skill and decision-making from the equation; it’s usually a sign of a failure in game design.

          Now, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have a handful of units that could violate this rule- good game design is often about making rules and then breaking them- but as a universal option is simply was not balanced and created bad gameplay situations.

  4. marandamir July 17, 2019 5:37 pm #

    rage bloodthirsters. Their own D weapon version was pretty scary back in the day but now they just get shot off the board before they do anything. In fact, the khorne demon prince with the relic axe is actually better than any greater demon simply because you cannot shoot at them. It shows how poorly implemented the character protection rule is. Time to shoot something with a lascannon and all that is visible is the monstrous creature over there standing in the open. Wait, there is a cultist .0001 inches closer to me hiding behind that corner that I cannot see. I better not shoot….. *rolls eyes*

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:21 pm #

      I mean, I can see your point about the logic of the situation, but it’s hard trying to apply logic to 40k.

      I used to play Age of Sigmar before they introduced the character protection rules similar to 40k. It was brutal. Most characters failed to survive past turn 1 and that game has a fraction of the firepower that 40k has.

      If characters could be targeted at any point, it would be the death of a ton of armies that require buffing characters to work.

  5. WestRider July 17, 2019 7:11 pm #

    This could actually become a semi-regular thing. Kinda like VH1’s “Where Are They Now?”

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:22 pm #

      Cheers, I’ll keep it in mind.

      • WestRider July 19, 2019 12:40 pm #

        I was more thinking just about the imagery of a Wraithknight or SniperFex as washed up, strung out trailer trash, desperately trying to recapture their glory days 😉

  6. Heldericht July 17, 2019 8:59 pm #

    This seems like a poorly researched article. Scat bikes are seen regularly at top tables. All the way since LVO to as recently as 2 weeks ago they finished top 3 at big events.

    Centurions of the heavy bolter variety are also starting to be seen thanks to Vigilus. There were some well placed marine lists with them at ATC just last weekend.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:16 pm #

      Really? Scatbikes are a thing of the past over here. Different metas for different regions, I suppose.
      I do mention that Centurions are seeing a resurgence now, but they are definitely not the Grav variety.

      • Reecius
        Reecius July 18, 2019 6:49 am #

        Alex Harrison used them to good effect at LVO and went to the top table.

        They’re fairly common due to Windrider Host.

        And yeah, Dakka Cents are coming back.

  7. Hank Bell July 17, 2019 9:33 pm #

    Nob Bikers actually are in the codex, which is important as index units don’t get Dakka Dakka Dakka! or the Speed Freek keyword. The latter is important, as it is what the Kult of Speed Specialist Detachment applies to, which gives nob bikers access to a stratagem that let’s them move 28″ (33″ if Evil Sunz) in a turn. Get a Warboss on bike or Deffkilla Wartrike near them, and they can still charge afterwords.

    I’m pretty sure I’m the only person running Nob Bikers, but I do love them. They have some bad, bad match ups, but also some pretty good ones, and stand up to damage 2 or d3 pretty well.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:18 pm #

      That’s cool that you are finding a way to make them work.

  8. Zweischneid July 17, 2019 10:46 pm #

    Wraithknight!!

    Theres no reason triple Wraithknight should be any worse than, say, triple Krast Crusader or so.

    Those ETC numbers with over 100 Imperial Knights vs. a whooping zero Wraithknights was pretty disheartening.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr July 17, 2019 11:17 pm #

      I’m not too sad to see the loss of the Wraithknight. I hated these things in 7th edition, almost as much as the Riptide!

      • Zweischneid July 18, 2019 2:39 am #

        maybe. But if they dont wanna bring Wraithknights up a bit, they could at least adjust the Imperial/Chaos counterpart to be balanced against them.

        e.g. bring the pure close combat version up to near 400 points, and back to WS 3+ and 4 Attacks instead of WS 2+ and 5 attacks.

        … drop the Gatling to 2D6 shots instead of flat 12 to be comparable to the Suncannon.

        … remove the default invul and only give Knights an invul if they forgo one of their arms for it, e.g. either invul or the ability to dual wield a weapon..

        … etc..

        • abusepuppy July 18, 2019 4:20 am #

          The invuln on a Knight is roughly equivalent to the -1 to hit from Alaitoc, in terms of overall defenses, so that’s probably the least of the issues.

          But I would definitely agree that the Suncannon is hilariously bad compared to the Avenger, and doubly so because you can’t pair it up with another melee or shooting weapon.

          • Zweischneid July 18, 2019 7:33 am
            #

            Sure. But if you “equate” the native invul to a chapter tactic the Eldar get, you´re short the equivalent of something to compensate for Krast re-rolls or Hawkshroud (which would be Iyanden), etc..

            Etc..

          • Sean Morgan July 18, 2019 7:51 pm
            #

            Sure, you’re losing out there- but on the flip side, a Knight can’t get psychic buffs the way a Wraithknight can. The WK is definitely worse overall, but it has more to do with the loadout than the raw numbers in most cases.

      • Dakkath July 18, 2019 7:05 pm #

        Man, I’ve been sick of riptides since about 2 months after they debuted, and I’m a T’au main!

    • abusepuppy July 17, 2019 11:59 pm #

      The Wraithknight is pretty lackluster these days, yeah. It’s more expensive than an Imperial Knight with a similar loadout (e.g. Gallant or Errant) and with worse strat support, but also with worse overall stats.

      • Faitherun July 18, 2019 7:59 am #

        Compared to their imperium counterparts, wraithknights are complete and utter garbage.

        Love the models. But dear lord have they fallen from grace.

        I do think, as mentioned above, one of the best tells is the litterly hundreds of lists with Knights, and none with wraithknights in competitive play

        • Sean Morgan July 18, 2019 7:53 pm #

          Presence in lists doesn’t actually tell us how much better or worse a unit is, though- only that it is better or worse by some amount. A unit that is 1% worse than its counterpart will get zero play despite the fairly trivial difference simply because there’s no reason to give up that 1% without reason.

          (Also Craftworlds have a much, much better army than “I wish I was Knights” that virtually every team at ATC and ETC was running, which is the real reason you don’t see Wraithknights.)

          • Faitherun July 20, 2019 3:44 am
            #

            I will give you that on both points. Presence alone does not indicate their value. And yes, Eldar of all flavors have some nice options…

            That being said – I have run wraithknights a number of times, against a number of opponents. As nearly every trait – including Ynnari… and they disappoint every single time.

            The wraithcannon one is not terrible – probably that as Ynnari (to give it a 5++) or Altioc are the best.. but it still is vastly inferior to knights, or riptides even!

            I think the biggest issue is the number of attacks. A Knight can put out a lot of shooting, and still stomp about in CC to be a threat. A Wraithknight can not put out the same amount of shooting…

            I know the fallacy of comparing one unit to another in different codecs (is that the correct spelling for the plural of codex??) But seriously, a Wraithknight falls flat when looking at an imperial or chaos knight

          • abusepuppy July 20, 2019 7:46 am
            #

            Oh, I won’t disagree with that- I think the Wraithknight is for sure below par for what it should be. The big problem really is that all three setups are strictly worse than an Imperial Knight at doing their respective jobs- the Wraithcannon is a bad Thermal Lance, the Suncannon is a bad Avenger Gattling, and the Sword/Board hits a lot softer than the Gallant in CC. It could probably stand to come down 50ish more points, possibly even a tad beyond that, or (ideally) have the stats on its weapons bumped up to compensate.

            But it’s always worth keeping a perspective on _how much_ that difference actually makes. A Sword/Board Wraithknight, although pretty inarguably worse than a Gallant, is going to be a pretty close equivalent in most cases- the difference between seven (for the WK) and nine (for the Knight) dead infantry models is pretty trivial when it charges in and it’s only marginally more expensive. The price drops in Chapter Approved certainly helped close the gap between them, it’s just not by quite enough- and I think GW has good reason to be cautious of giving the Aeldari too many excellent toys right now, as they’re not exactly lacking for top-tier units.

            (Incidentally, the “right” way to run the WK is in a trio, as Alaitoc, with three Bonesingers and a Farseer backing them up. You can heal up to twelve wounds to a single model in one turn that way, and can consistently get 6-8.)

  9. lizard_king July 18, 2019 12:07 am #

    Tactical Squads.

    • abusepuppy July 18, 2019 1:16 am #

      Would probably be more relevant if Tactical Squads had ever been a good unit in the whole history of 40K.

      • lizard_king July 18, 2019 3:20 am #

        They were mandatory in 7th edition for making the Gladius Strike Force.

        • abusepuppy July 18, 2019 4:18 am #

          Mandatory is kind of the opposite of good. Do you think anyone would have taken them if you could take squads of Devastators instead?

        • Yarium July 18, 2019 6:04 am #

          They way I remember it, you bought a Razorback and got a Tactical Squad for free with it XD

  10. W July 18, 2019 7:13 am #

    some more units fallen from grace: Flesh Hounds, Screamers of Tzeentch, never seen them on the table in 8th but they were all over the place in 7th.

    Anything Eldar Corsair and Chaos Renegade lol

    Coteaz, Tigerius, any marine character that used to be in a death star really

    Kairos Fateweaver

    • Reecius
      Reecius July 18, 2019 7:45 am #

      Tiggy is still very common in competitive Marine lists.

    • rvd1ofakind July 18, 2019 10:59 pm #

      Flesh hounds are probably the worst daemon unit now IMO.

  11. Faitherun July 18, 2019 7:50 am #

    Ooh, for literally not seen any more….

    Vect!
    Lady Malys
    The Barron
    Kruellagh
    The Duke…

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