Adaptability is Not Imitation: Taking on the Space marine Meta

“Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

A guest editorial by Jason Sniegowski.

The world of 40k has seen its meta change and change again, but now
it seems as if it has been turned on its head as the favored son is now at the
top of the mountain and looking down on the many enemies it has laid waste to. You can not have gone to a 40k tournament in the last few weeks, or months, and not seen an overabundance of Space Marines armies running rampant with their new-found strength. As a marine player myself, I am loving the time at the top, but my true love of the game is the competition aspect and learning how to dethrone the newest thing winning events.

To take a look at the current 40k meta and what could dethrone it, I have started looking at the places we have been in 8th edition. I remember the
beginning days of smite spam with the proxied forge world chaos models,
because they didn’t exist, the dark Eldar flocks, gunship spam (even ran 5
Corvus Blackstars at ATC), but as the rules changed the meta followed. Soon
after at the top of the heap was Eldar, more specifically Ynnari.

Looking back to the original days of Ynnari we find one of the first counters to the new marine dominance. Shining Spears, a forgotten unit that has a ton of fire power and in melee does a significant amount of marine killing. The speed and flexibility of this unit does an amazing amount of work and with the usual array of psychic powers backing it you can make a resilient unit that can withstand the mediocre melee of standard marines and make short work of the front-line troops holding those objectives. Also, a throwback is Dark Reapers. These wonderful, accurate, and devastating units can deal massive amounts of damage to most of a marine army. The new abilities presented in the Psychic Awakening book now allows also for an answer to the character dreads from iron hands on top of a squad or three hanging out in wave serpents just waiting to punish most marines and other forms of armor. Don’t even get me started on how awful the wave serpents are in countering Imperial Fists!!!

Which brings me to my next army of note, Chaos. In the near beginning of 8th edition we saw a surge in smite spam lists. This list currently is in shambles but has some very interesting ideas to present moving forward. Any marine army that relies on some alpha strike or strategic deep strike has to navigate an army that controls the board, and demons have quite a few great options for that. If we look at the historically most selected units, they are also quite cost efficient to act as simple screens, Plague Bearers, Nurglings, Brimstone Horrors. All of these units represent a very resilient line, but the issue has always been what to put behind them, and against marines such a tough shell (3+ armor) is often hard to crack. Thousand Sons present an answer that was once everywhere but now mildly overlooked. With options like Ahriman, Sorcerers, Tzangor Shamans, and Demon Princes, there is a mass of cheap smite that can be brought to the fore front and will quickly be able to remove the key models to an elite army. Even a squad or two of centurions being brought down into a buffed unit of Plague Bearers will still be quickly removed by the weight of power brought in by a tested smite spam list.

Let’s look a little further back however but now with a new flavor. The Bash Brothers list was around for a while but found its home more in the team events where it could be paired into favorable match-ups. In looking at this however I saw an old favorite. Mortarion. I am not saying that he is an automatic answer for marines, as most marine armies have enough firepower to put him down, but a newer idea of Morty with Disco Lords, especially winning first turn, may be a destructive force not yet considered against the elite marine forces massed at most events. Morty’s aura ability alone counters a lot of castle based marine lists, and warp time putting him up in the mix gives an opportunity for the Disco lords to get in position to bring in the hammers such as Obliterators, particularly with their new points reduction!

I have not yet had a chance to test this next idea thoroughly, but I believe that there may be an idea here as well. The reason why marines have been so effective is through the effectiveness of their weapons. Even the intercessors have access to a two-damage gun. Which brings me to wonder how the Tyranids would fair. There was an ETC list that was running around in one of the first years of 8th edition. This list had massive amounts of Hormagaunts, I believe like 4 full squads with Biovores and hive guard backing it up. The board control fixes most of the deep strike issues, a Mlanthrope can make the screens negative one to hit and wrapping units with fearless garbage can hinder the objective claim. My thought on this with the weight of elite firepower could a massive horde army be more than what a marine list could handle. Again this idea is yet untested.

I’ll wrap up my ramblings with a current thought that has won many big events. The basis of this list is the two damage weapons. Tau has risen to the top of the lists lately because of their ability to be a defensive power house with the mass of drones and a nasty fire power castle that most armies fear to even try and assault. Tau brings an interesting answer to marines, when the big guns can be ignored (wounds given to a drone) and the weight of fire being thrown down field is amazing (always been Tau’s thing) an army that reies on an elite troop will lose mass amounts of objective claim ability early. The key here however is the two damage weapons, and I believe with some more time to research the masses of codices out there, there is likely more answers to marines than people have yet to look at.

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12 Responses to “Adaptability is Not Imitation: Taking on the Space marine Meta”

  1. Avatar
    Zweischneid December 6, 2019 2:22 am #

    A fairly disingenuous article, implying the new Marines are just part of the common ups-and-downs of meta-swings and comparable to (Space Marine!!) Stormraven spam or Maelific Lords or Ynnari or any of that.

    Data pre-8th Ed. is scarce, but within 8th Ed. there was never an army that swept the entire Top 7 of a 2-day event as Marines did at Element Games GS or something even close to that. No army in 8th Ed. ever.

    Ynnari was considered super-broken, possibly the most broken 8th Ed. army to date, with 2 majority-Ynnari and 2-minority Ynnari lists in the LVO-2017 Top 10. 4-5 Marine armies in a GT or Major Top 10 is the norm these days. Without another FAQ/intervention, it seems ludicrous to thing there would only be 2 Marine and 2 Marines-as-minor-allies lists in the coming LVO’s Top 10.

    6th/7th Ed. large tournaments likewise never had skewed results like this. 2016/2017 Adepticon both had 5 different factions in the Top 5. The 2012 Adepticon at the height of the 5th Ed. Grey Knight craze, which became the poster-child-meme for a broken army, had a shocking 4 Grey Knights in the Top 10, with Grey Knights being 22% of the field. If Marines get these numbers at the coming LVO, they’d be “underperforming”. At the Atlanta Open this weekend, Marines are already over 35% of the field.

    The current Marine-meta does not have a precedent or a comparable analogy in the last 8-10 years of Warhammer 40K, and while data for 3rd and 4th Ed. is even harder to come by (and there wasn’t really competitive 2nd and 1st Ed., I think), it’s not improbably that from a competitive point of view, we’re currently experiencing 40K-balance at the very worst it’s ever been in the history of the game.

    • Avatar
      Anggul December 6, 2019 5:02 pm #

      I’m curious how much of the numbers are due to the fact that so many people have space marine armies and they’re now bringing them out to play. Are they really that much more powerful than Ynnari were, or are there just a lot more people playing them than were playing Ynnari?

      Obviously they’re super-strong, but I think you have to base the judgement on win-rate, not ‘how many of the top X were this army?’

      • Avatar
        Jace December 6, 2019 7:50 pm #

        I agree with this, clearly they’re super strong but it’s disingenuous to compare directly in numbers playing as EVERYONE has a marine army

      • Avatar
        Zweischneid December 6, 2019 11:27 pm #

        Well, if anything, having win rates and Twips and whatever statistic is out there above and beyond Ynnari (and they do) despite every guy and his dog playing Marines only makes it worse.

        Ynnari pulled some decent numbers (though nowhere near Marines-good), but it was just a comparably small sample likely skewed that a good chunk of the people playing Ynnari competitively were the Nick Nanavatis of this world.

        If little Timmy with his Dark Imperium starter box and Mike “I-go-to-one-event-a-year” Accountant are outperforming the numbers Ynnari brought in 2 years ago when they were almost exclusively piloted by a handful of guys in the ITC Top 100, that is bad and should give you even more worry, than the raw numbers do.

      • Avatar
        Ohlmann December 7, 2019 5:41 am #

        In MtG, where there is a big tradition of number crunching, the expectation is that high representation lower win rate but increase presence in top8 and such, so Zwei took the wrong statistic. That being said, the win % of Space Marine is just as disquieting as the amount of them in top 8, and, in fact, the big representation of Space Marine mean that figure is *worse*.

        I do think that, after reading the codex space marines and the chapter suppléments, that the concept it could be a fluke or a byeffect of popularity should be discarded. Thoses rules were not written to be balanced with the rest of the game.

        • Avatar
          Beast December 7, 2019 8:37 am #

          This is what irks me the most. There’s no way you can look at what existing armies get, then look at the list of special rules you’re about to give Space Marines and think ‘yep that’s comparable.’

          Like we can pull numerous quotes of Reece saying ‘XYZ ability is sooooo powerful when used right’ for the SOLE niche abilities some armies have had to leverage up until now. Then we see Space Marines get several of these abilities and more. To be clear I do not hold anybody other than GW accountable for what happens with the game. Just trying to illustrate that the bar has been set to a certain point for everybody else so far and SM are nowhere near par for the course.

          I really, really hope the playtesters told GW how powerful Space Marines were going to be and that they were simply ignored. Whilst this leaves a bitter taste the alternative is even worse. I’d rather believe that GW threw away a fair amount of good will and hard work (by both themselves and the playstesters) for financial gain.

          I believe this is the case, as on one of their podcasts Pablo kept urging people to reach out to GW and explain why they would turn away from this game in light of the recent releases creating an unsustainable environment.

  2. Avatar
    Mike Nogle December 6, 2019 5:15 pm #

    There were tournaments in 2nd. I remember playing in one and getting a unit of warp spiders into a squat backfield. Used to be a flamer template and pass an initiative test or die. Lots of dead space dwarves

  3. Avatar
    Dakkath December 7, 2019 2:05 am #

    Do tau actually have any options outside the triptide+ion commanders+a bazzilion drones monobuild?

    • Avatar
      Victor December 7, 2019 4:40 am #

      No, I’ve won every Tau that deviated just a little bit from that monobuild. And lost every time against that monobuild

    • Avatar
      JVail December 8, 2019 7:40 am #

      There are some lists performing well that are hammerhead spams with Longstrike.

      • Avatar
        NinetyNineNo December 8, 2019 5:55 pm #

        How do those make it past turn 1 versus Imperial Fists?

        • Avatar
          JVail December 9, 2019 4:29 am #

          Haven’t seen any batreps, just the standings, I would guess that since they’re high mobility flying tanks you can hide them pretty well.

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