We’re starting to see the first wave of points change information on different units (and factions) for 9E. But how many of them are actually relevant? Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Before we dive into the main subject, dear readers, let us paint a hypothetical picture that I think may be illustrative. Imagine that you head down to the park one day and find that a race is being held there- people from all over the city have been gathered up and are going to do a half-mile run. So, we line up all the contestants- some of whom are professional athletes, some of whom are simply fitness enthusiasts, and some of whom are folks who’ve never run a race in their lives- and when the staring gun goes off, they all get to runnin’. As each contestant passes the finish line, we note down the total time they took (i.e. an absolute measure of their speed) and their placing in the race (i.e. a relative measure compared to the other racers.)
Obviously, we are going to see a bunch of different values here dependent on how fast the runners are and how they rank up compared to each other. We could use these rankings to easily separate out the best candidates for building a running team in a competitive event like the Olympics. Bu now, let us add in a complication- imagine that we have a magical ray gun we got from aliens that allows us to shoot any runner in the race and either increase or decrease their speed (our choice). So if we wander around the finish line after everyone has completed the event, shooting various people with various settings, and then have them all run a second race that is identical to the first, we will find something very interesting- in many cases, it may not matter what settings we use on the ray gun when determining the outcome of the race.
If we zap Usain Bolt, the fastest human alive, and drop his speed by a couple of miles per hour, this might mean he no longer wins the Olympics but he still is probably going to absolutely destroy the other competitors in our fictional race. And by the same token, if we use the gun on max settings to blast Computer Desk Kyle who spends his entire life doing data entry, he might jump massively up in the rankings of the race, but there’s no real guarantee that he is going to make the trophy stand of the event, even with the bonus. In fact, for the overwhelming majority of the participants, being blasted with the ray gun doesn’t mean anything; they go from being an essentially-random place in the rankings to a different (but still essentially random) place somewhere else in the rankings.
The point of this little fiction, if you haven’t seen it already, is thus: for the vast majority of units in the codex, these price changes don’t mean anything. A lot is being made of the percentage changes for various factions, and I’ve seen some images going around showing the overall increases that various factions got, which people are using to claim various “winners” and “losers,” but I’m here to say that those images are not just meaningless, but actually actively deceptive (although not on purpose, I don’t think.)
As with our race, the changes in points on most units just don’t matter. They are largely pointless, from the perspective of competitive players. Now that’s not to say that GW shouldn’t have changed prices, or that the scaling of prices in the game as a whole had no purpose, but since what we care about most is the rankings of our different units and how they stack up against each other as mutually-exclusive options for spending points on, most units will simply remain irrelevant.
To grab some random examples: Lords of Contagion went from 95pts to 100pts, which is significantly below the ratio that most other units changed at (which was typically around a 15% increase.) Does this matter at all? No, it does not. The Lord of Contagion was not used before and he will not be used now, either, despite theoretically getting significantly better (or faster, in the context of our previous analogy.) Similarly, Howling Banshees went from 11pts to 15pts per model, which is way above the rate that most things increased at, but this change is also irrelevant. Howling Banshees were not used before and will not be used now.
In fact, there is only a very limited subclass of units that these point changes have any meaningful effect on, and those are units that either were good previously (and continue to be good or lost that status) as well as units that were on the edge of being good (and got enough of an improvement to now qualify legitimately for being so.) Outside of these units, the points changes are not really relevant for the purposes of competitive play, because they simply don’t affect which units we see on the table at all. Oh, there will be a small handful of exceptions where changes to the meta and rules bring something into viability, of course, but by and large most units from most codices will continue to not be seen in most games at tournaments. It’s simply the nature of the beast, that only the upper percentage of options will see significant play.
That is why those “overall change” charts you may have seen floating around various competitive spaces are so pointless- because what happens to most of the units in a codex is irrelevant. You could universally increase the points of 90% of the units in a book by as much as you wanted, but as long as you chose the right 90% it wouldn’t have any effect on armies at all.
Building For Tomorrow
The takeaway from all of this should be that when you are comparing points costs for your new units going forward, be on the lookout for two things: units that were okay before and got a big points drop (comparatively, of course- very few things actually went down in points) and things that were good before and how they changed. Hopefully you were aware of what was good in your faction before, and had at least a passing idea of what was middling-decent; from that and the points changes, you should be able to start to build up ideas about what is likely to work in the new edition of the game. Of course, a shifting metagame, new missions, and new tournament rules will all have a significant effect on the sorts of armies that you’ll want to build as well, but those are concerns that are still quite a ways off in the future yet- especially with social distancing and isolation orders still in place.
Right now is the time when there is going to be the most innovation in lists that the whole of 9th Edition will see- people trying out every possible idea to see what works and what doesn’t, bringing out every pet unit that they’ve ever wanted to field and every strategy they’ve ever wanted to try out. And all of that is well and good, but through it keep in mind the above- most strategies, most units, most game plans simply don’t work and will need to be discarded in favor of something else more viable. The uppermost percentage of units and builds that are viable are, by definition, quite small compared to the whole, so be open to lots of ideas, but be prepared to discard most of them in pursuit of a list that will win.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.