Chapter Tactics #159: How to Fix the 5 Worst Armies in 40k

Today the gang rates the 5 worst armies in 40k and goes into detail about how to make them more competitive both casually, and in tournaments.

Chapter Tactics is a 40k podcast which focuses on promoting better tactical play and situational awareness across all variations of the game.

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:

  • Head on over to for more faction stats for all major ITC tournaments!
  • Support us on Patreon this month and get a chance to receive random stuff from us!
  • Click here for a link for information on downloading best coast pairings app where you can find lists for most of the events I mention.
  • Check out the last episode of Chapter Tactics here. Or, click here for a link to a full archive of all of our episodes.
  • Check out Skari on Skaredcast, for excellent 40k tactics videos and Monday Meta analysis.
  • Commercial music by:
  • Intro by: Justin Mahar


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.

24 Responses to “Chapter Tactics #159: How to Fix the 5 Worst Armies in 40k”

  1. Avatar
    Robert Nathan May 19, 2020 4:52 am #

    Surprised Deathwatch weren’t on this list. I’ve only seen them used in Imperial Soup competitively. Main things I’d like to see are more anti armour options and the option of a phobos kill team (consisting of infiltrators, incursors, reivers etc). Other improvements are needed but those 2 are the 1s I’d like to see 😁

    Also regarding necrons, perhaps making their Warrior units cheaper? As that seems to be 1 problems with them at least.

  2. Avatar
    Zweischneid May 19, 2020 8:50 am #

    Nice discussion.

    Ultimately, from a game-design-perspective, continually adjusting factions that lag behind the power-creep upwards just keeps the power-creep going.

    Instead, what they really should do, is take some of those very weakest list, test-play it against the very top lists that come out of the tournament circuit, winning Adepticon, LVO, etc. .and adjust those top lists downwards by increasing points, reducing damage-output, etc.. until they match up roughly 50-50 against the weakest entries.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy May 19, 2020 7:46 pm #

      Bringing up an army from the bottom raises the floor of the game’s power level, not the ceiling. That does not affect power creep in any meaningful way unless that army itself becomes top-tier (which is very rarely the case.)

      • Avatar
        Zweischneid May 19, 2020 10:17 pm #

        Yes, but in a balanced game, ceiling and floor are identical.

        If they aren`t, the game is by definition not balanced.

        Bringing up the floor to match the ceiling, the errors in correcting the powerlevel risk overshooting the ceiling (e.g. Space Marines), creating an imbalance for all armies -1 (the one that overshot).

        By bringing down the ceiling to match the floor, the errors in correcting the powerlevel at worst overshoot the floor, which would only imbalance that one army that overshoot (which then would still need correcting of course), leaving the relative balance of all other armies in tact.

        • Avatar
          Jace May 19, 2020 11:47 pm #

          Wouldn’t that just be boring though? Everything is crappier and sucks doesn’t sound especially fun.

          I definitely agree with your premise you’ve raised before that stuff is to lethal in general, just not the proposed solution

          Although arguing for a middle ground target instead i’d agree with.

          • Avatar
            Zweischneid May 20, 2020 9:09 am

            In theory, yes, the middle ground would be preferable, especially if they had gone down that route from the beginning.

            Hell, when 8th was first released and the indexes came out, it was already noted that the game was fairly killy at that point.

            The problem is, the offensive escalation has gone basically unchecked since then for 2+ years.

            The most powerful army that ever existed, ideally, should’ve been a somewhat killy june 2017 index army, not least because everything back than had to be done quickly and mechanics were still new, with subsequent Codexes (campaign books, etc..) aiming to bring armies into the “middle ground” of what the initial index-release powerlevel.

            But that’s not what happened. Starting from Marine Codex 1.0 and CSM Codex 1.0, stuff that got a Codex generally also got more powerful, instead of “only” better balanced.

            And that type power-creep simply isn’t sustainable.

            At the very least, you’d probably need to go full reverse for 2-3 years now, before you can swing for the middle ground again.

        • Avatar
          abusepuppy May 20, 2020 9:05 pm #

          What you’re describing is a game in _perfect_ balance, which in a practical sense is impossible to achieve.

          Also, as Jace points out, perfect balance is not only impractical but also bad game design- because if all units are perfectly even with each other, list design ceases to be a part of the game. You can simply throw darts at a codex to write your army list, and it will be exactly as good as the most expertly-chosen army by a top player.

          Mechanically speaking, bringing down the ceiling and bringing up the floor have similar effects, but perceptually speaking they do not- players are more likely to perceive the nerfing of a favorite unit negatively than they are the improving of an underpowered unit. This also discounts the idea that there may be a “preferred” power level which best represents how the game should be played, which I think is an error.

    • Avatar
      Zweischneid May 19, 2020 10:30 pm #

      Also, it’s much easier to identify the ceiling(s), as that’s what thousands of tournament players do. They don’t go looking for the floor.

      If (if) you wan’t to make use of the information coming out of the tournament scene for balancing the game, that’d be the service they provide. They repeatedly identify the ceiling(s), which you as a game designer can match to the floor to ultimately balance the game long-term.

      If your approach is raising the floor, tournament lists and results don’t help you in any way.

    • Avatar
      gvcolor May 20, 2020 2:59 pm #

      Makes sense for creating a great game – but lets face it GW doesn’t want me to sit on my huge collection of models from 6 and 7th ed. They make no money on me doing so except for a codex book and a rulebook.

      They know a new model with so-so rules isn’t enough for the masses. They HAVE to make new models with even better rules so the masses will eat them up – they want as many people as possible to plunk down for that OP latest greatest, and that’s just the way it is. So many units in so many books are just junk.

  3. Avatar
    Hugh Murphy May 19, 2020 1:59 pm #

    Dark Angels don’t deserve to be on this list, I agree that they’re probably the weakest marine faction at the moment but they still have the tools to field competitive mono faction lists (see the recent AoW episode with Innes Wilson).
    For me the two factions that weren’t mentioned but definitely deserve to be regarded as two of the worst mono-faction codices right now are Druchari and Daemons. Druchari like Necrons have one or two competitive builds but overall their codex has always been lacklustre, dividing the codex into three different micro-factions significantly hamstrings it and wasn’t necessary.
    In my humble opinion as a Chaos player, the Daemons codex as a whole is the worst most broken codex in this edition, and was never competitive without allies (the closest it got was with Jim Vesal’s list, but even that heavily relied on the Thousand Sons component to deal damage), and now that marines have made plaguebearers useless, the only units worth taking are a select few Slaanesh characters, the Khorne axe prince and nurglings. Yes the Contorted Epitome is amazing, but that does not a good codex make.

    • Petey Pab
      Petey Pab May 19, 2020 6:04 pm #

      Hey Hugh! Chaos Daemons were certainly a name thrown around as well, but to be honest they are performing a little better statistically then Dark Angels, and I also feel like Dark Angels have been a poorer performing faction for longer across multiple editions. Although they could have easily made the list and might warrant a part two!

      • Avatar
        Hugh Murphy May 19, 2020 7:54 pm #

        Hi Pete, DA from my experience would also suffer from the same problems as Orks whereby although the codex has many tools and synergies to create a competitive list, as a marine codex with a very old and loyal fan base a large portion of DA players just aren’t very competitive and are happy to bring their Razorbacks and tac squads to events to throw dice in the mid-lower tables. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, it just may skew the data. By no means would I consider them a top tier marine faction, and therein may lie the problem. Most of the competitive players would just chose a slightly better marine faction and the remaining DA players may fall into the less competitive category.

        • Avatar
          Gregory Vasgerdsian May 20, 2020 2:02 pm #

          DA got some seriously good sht from Psychic Awakening – it comes down to SM players going with the “better” easy-play buffs and net hott-ness – DA have a lot of tools.

  4. Avatar
    Pyrothem May 19, 2020 7:53 pm #

    One of the central things Necrons lost with 8th edition is the unique rule for their weapons. Gauss weapons were terrifying because they were the only basic weapon that could hurt anything regardless of armor or toughness. Even a Titan could be brought down with the lowly Necron Warriors. A automatic wound on a wound roll of a 6 when tanks and such only had around 4 wounds was a thing only Necrons had.

    Loosing this plus the reworked RP means that Necrons are an army that offers nothing that an other army can do better and the only reason you would play them is you like the models.

    I love the fact that you noticed that there are a ton of HQ options but they are all terrible and considered a tax. Weird you think a glance not even play testing would tell you that 3 attacks with no rerolls to hit makes a poor choice to spend 85 to 160 points and not fun play on the table top.

    We will see what GW does with the new model rules. Whatever they end up being at least I can bet that it will look cool.

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy May 20, 2020 9:06 pm #

      They did gain improved AP compared to most other weapons in the game (with AP-1 and AP-2 on their basic guns), but sadly Marines were also given that feature on Primaris, effectively negating one of the unique features of the army.

      • Avatar
        Pyrothem May 21, 2020 8:12 am #

        At a longer range with better movement. 😛

        The one unique rule that is taken (quantum shielding) is just meh because it is mostly on T6 models so against most other armies they have plenty of 1-3 damage fire power that melt them down no problem.

        Like I said there is no reason rule wise on the tabletop to field a Necron army.

        With the amount of armies in 40k it is not an easy thing to make each one better then the rest at one or two things but they are a multi million dollar company that should have the resources to put into this. Every multiplayer video game that continues to make the company money puts serious work into balancing and patching.

  5. Avatar
    Jace May 19, 2020 11:52 pm #

    Min 2 SMH every thing, either flat, or d2+1, or d3 min 2. Don’t care which.
    All ranged weapons assault to allow increased movement through constant advancing.
    Movement 7 or 8 just cause they’re faster than marines.
    Ignore AP1 or maybe 2.
    Some other hack rules I’m making up on the spot that are clearly imbalanced.

    Extra CP was a fantastic idea and really obvious solution. Especially in the context of making improvements be stratagems that cost. Battalion = 8 or plus 2 to any detachment for mono faction.

  6. Avatar
    Rob Butcher May 20, 2020 12:35 am #

    The biggest issue has again been ignored — tournaments having different rules. There is no way that an army will be the same composition unless the tournament rules / missions / scoring systems / points played are the same.

    Currently, every tournament has it’s own set-up.

    So weak armies in one set of parameters, do well in another. Look at how pre-buff DW did at Warhammer World – two in the top 10 this year at tournaments. Look at how Orks pre-Codex won with a great painted army.

    More play-testing is pointless unless folks in tournaments use the rules/ missions/ points they were play-tested with.

    • Avatar
      Ohlmann May 20, 2020 12:43 am #

      It’s ignored because it actualy isn’t a super big issue. tournament rules slightly change values, but they aren’t anywhere that big of a deal. You just cherry pick a bunch of isolated results to make it look worse than it is.

      Also, the claim that the GW missions have been playtested forget that the tournament one are more playtested than the GW one.

    • Avatar
      gvcolor May 20, 2020 2:21 pm #

      I disagree with this. The math is the math. When my mono Dark Eldar are facing down SM much less DW, and I’m looking at units that are re-rolling failed Hits, failed Wounds, putting out 40 shots of pain, my army has ZERO that comes close to that kind of firepower – Regardless of the Mission.

      Never-mind the fluffy BSht of Psychic Awakening. GW cannot or will not keep perspective of the game as a whole, they love to break their own rules. Argue me that i need to play better, roll better dice, etc. when my opponent is rattling off ability stacks that I have nothing that is even close to it’s a zero-fun game at that point!

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy May 20, 2020 9:08 pm #

      how do you know that the testers didn’t use ITC missions? You seem to be making a lot of assertions based on essentially no evidence.

  7. Avatar
    Agent X May 20, 2020 8:12 am #

    Space Wolf Terminators will be making a comeback after the plague is over.

    Unstoppable teleport alpha strike with safe overcharged plasma hitting on 2s

    You can then combo with canticle of hate and swing everything including THs/PF/CF on 2s

    Expensive but effective delete button

    I am on a crusade to spread the word to all Wolf Lords!!!

  8. Avatar
    Ratrek May 22, 2020 12:28 pm #


    Am I just flat up missing it (which is certainly possible) or is there no direct download button for this episode? Will there be one later?

  9. Avatar
    BlacklightZero May 25, 2020 5:54 pm #

    You guys got the ranking on Death Guard correct but not the reason why they perform poorly.

    It’s a matter of pay more get less. Lots of DG units cost more than their performance would suggest. Plague Marines, although they have a couple of decent weapon options, as a platform are just terrible and are incapable of winning a war of attrition with anyone. Compare a Primaris Intercessor at 17pts vs a Plague Marine at 16pts. Or a DG cultist at 5pts vs a Guardsman at 4pts.

    The reason DG lists are spammy is because there are only a couple of units in the book that can perform in any type of competitive setting. Bloat Drones, Plagueburst Crawlers, and Blightlords are good, but the rest of the codex doesn’t pass the laugh test.

    It’s an old codex with an even older problem, GW has never point costed CSM appropriately and can’t figure out how to properly cost defensive stats like Plague Marines rely on.

Leave a Reply