A little peek into the armies I’ve been working on in 9E, and some thoughts on their factions. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
9th Edition has been a blossoming of new list ideas for everyone, as we sweep away the remnants of 8th and see which ideas work and which don’t. Here are some of my thoughts and opinions on my armies so far, based on the test games I’ve run and the info from other players that I’ve come across- perhaps it will be useful to other people in putting together lists of their own.
Let’s be straight about this: the new edition is not good for Tau. The shortening of the game, the increase in BLOS terrain, the heavy emphasis on holding objectives, and the removal of kills from most primary/secondary objectives are all big strikes against the faction as a whole, and once you add in the price changes to their units (notably Shield Drones and the Tau’nar) they are left in a very poor spot. Yes, Tau can still overwatch like they used to, which is a major strength- but it is not enough to consistently stop the enemy from getting onto objectives that the Tau forces are occupying and the inability to fall back and shoot means that even with units such as Hammerheads or Riptides, the enemy can easily dictate what you are allowed to shoot at.
To make matters worse, Tau are the only faction in the game that lack a good (vehicle) transport. Rhinos, Trukks, Wave Serpents, Goliaths… all of them are worth considering and can be a solid basis for a mechanized army, but the Devilfish’s combination of poor firepower, poor range, inability to transport a good unit to “sweep” objectives, and high price tag makes them a non-starer for building an army. Worse yet, Devilfish give up 3pts on Bring It Down compared to the 2pts for most other factions’ transports (due to having more than ten wounds), which further punishes bringing them in numbers.
Put simply, Tau do not have the tools to compete effectively with their current codex. They have no melee to speak of, their shooting is not sufficient to clear the enemy off objectives, they cannot effectively hold the midfield in the face of strong, aggressive units and they can no longer rely on a game plan of “kill for three turns and then begin scoring” because that plan is completely nonviable.
There has been some talk of Stealth Suits and Ghostkeels to hold objectives early, but there is one big problem with this plan: these units aren’t objective secured. A Ghostkeel can stand on an objective, yes, and it can overwatch units that charge onto that objective- but if even a single Grot or Guardsman survives, your enemy is going to deny you those points and you are going to be trying to dig your way out of a hole as you shoot your battlesuit at their three 5pt troop models. Similarly, huge blobs of Crisis suits (using Farsight Enclaves, natch) can present some significant shooting threat, but are very vulnerable to a single anti-overwatch unit (or just a sufficiently-large blob of ObSec models) dive into them and shut them down completely.
I don’t really see a good path forward for Tau to climb into the top 50% now that the Tau’nar has been nerfed. I have no doubt that some of the better players (e.g. Rich Siegler, etc) will be able to win some events with them, but I think it is going to be a real struggle. None of the lists I’ve put together have any real legs to them, although I won’t say it’s completely impossible that these mad geniuses will come up with something that can work.
1 Commander locked in combat
3×10 troop squads that died upon disembarking
5-45 loss on the primary objectives
0x10 shield drones
The outlook for Craftworlds is a lot better, in part because they have access to allies to shore up some of their weaknesses. A lot of Craftworld units took what were probably-unnecessary hits, but many of their other units went largely unscathed, so I think it is possible for them to continue competing. Notably, most of the Craftworld vehicles and Wraith units fared relatively well in pricing, though their aspect warriors and troops did not, with a handful of exceptions. This gives Craftworlds a couple good options to pick from when it comes to builds.
One of the most obvious is the strategy that nearly every faction is going to hit on- namely, transports filled with decent troops and light-to-medium vehicles backing them up. With very competitive pricing on Wave Serpents and War Walkers as well as others and no increases at all on Missile Launchers, Craftworlds are well-positioned to spam large numbers of fairly-tough vehicles with multipurpose guns that can effectively target both infantry hordes and enemy vehicles, which is a very good place to start out at.
They also have access to several effective infantry units of their own; Dire Avengers, despite a price increase, can be surprisingly durable and have enough firepower to do a reasonable job clearing out lighter enemy units. This is especially true when paired with Asurmen, who gives them a 4++ save, and it’s very possible that 40+ Avengers will be a major component of many Craftoworlds armies. Wraithblades are also well-positioned, coming with 3-5 attacks per model (depending on if they charged, craftworld traits, etc) and the potential for a 1+/3++/5+++ save, which when combined with T6 and three wounds each is pretty nightmarish to get rid of.
They also have access to allies from Drukhari and Harlequins, both of which have some very useful tools. While Drukhari themselves are not amazingly powerful, their poisoned weaponry and multidamage attacks provide an excellent tool for getting rid of enemy infantry and their close combat potential and mobility is a good complement for Craftworlds. Harlequins, on the other hand, are extremely powerful in their own right and have access to tons of effective tricks- including mortal wound spam, massed invulns, movement tricks, cheap transports, volume of melta shots, character assassination, and more. Better yet, they can easily fit into a patrol detachment, minimizing the loss of command points- which they need to fuel a lot of their shenanigans.
Farseer Skyrunner (Doom, Executioner)
Warlock Skyrunner (Protect/Jinx)
3×10 Dire Avengers (Exarch w/Catapult)
3×1 Wave Serpent (Twin Missile, Twin Catapult)
2×1 War Walker (Twin Missile)
Death Jester (Cegorach’s Lament, Pivitol Role: Harvester of Torment)
3×5 Troupes (5 Fusion)
While Chaos may have lost a lot of its tools from the previous edition with heavy soup and specialist detachments being effectively dead, it has gained a new life in this edition with the renewed focus on midfield, melee combat, and close-range brawling. Although the builds are wildly different, Chaos Marines are well poised to field some powerful lists that combine shooting and assault to best effect.
The first thing we’ll take note of is their access to Chaos Daemon allies, most particularly Nurglings. Although Death Guard probably can do this a bit better, Chaos Marines also have access and it is well worth 2-3 CP to bring in a bunch of sneaky little goobers that can make things difficult for your opponent and hold onto objectives. There’s also some options with the larger daemons if you want, although I think those are better left to pure builds.
However, Chaos Marines do have big stompies of their own in the form of the various daemon engines, which thanks to the making of several good HQ units and some large price drops have become quite good. The Defiler in particular has become extremely dangerous now that it can more consistently charge models in terrain, can fire on the move effectively, and gains access to +1 modifiers on both hit and save rolls. Other vehicles can also take advantage of these benefits, however, and the Maulerfiend and Forgefiend both seem worth considering, as is the Hellforged Contemptor despite not gaining the same benefits. Sprinkle in some Rhinos carrying troops and you’re looking at a list that has a lot of legs, especially when run as Iron Warriors with their multitude of extra stratagems and traits.
Beyond that, Terminators are clearly a very powerful inclusion in the army, priced as low as they are with Chainaxe + combiweapon (with a few Chainfists mixed in to add some melee punch.) Taking advantage of fight twice or shoot twice effects is very key, and thankfully Chaos Marines can get either one depending how you go. Emperor’s Children gets you the latter, and also has a strat to change one charge die to a ‘6’ on arrival- which all but guarantees a successful charge against something following a bout of double-shooting. Combined with various other enhancements (reroll auras, bonuses to hit, etc) you can probably vaporize 2-3 major units the turn you touch down and then sweep an objective, which is a pretty big points swing. EC can also make good use of Noise Marines, with a block of 20 of them getting +1 to hit/wound, +1 Str/Damage and reroll hits/wounds to just absolutely vaporize something the turn they show up from strategic reserves. It’s a big investment, but since it kills an average of two Knights, ~90 Orks, or 30 Primaris with the doubleshoot, it is probably worth the effort.
You can also do World Eaters, which have Berzerkers as their obsec troops- great for piling out of a Rhino, charging across the field to fight twice and pile onto someone’s objective, then steal it out from under them. Terminators work here, also, since you can give them a pregame strat to fight twice and then use another strat to fight a third time- a pummeling which very, very few units should survive. Add in some saucy HQ options and other support and you can build an army that easily dominates midfield with suicidal supremacy long enough for you to get all the points you need.
Sorcerer (Prescience, Warptime)
Lord (Jump Pack, 2 Claws)
Dark Apostle (acolytes, Remnant of the Maravigalia)
20 Noise Marines (18 Sonic Blaster, 2 Blastmaster)
5 Chaos Marines
10 Terminators (CombiMeltas, 7 Chainaxes, 3 Chainfists)
10 Terminators (CombiPlasmas, 7 Chainaxes, 3 Chainfists)
An army I haven’t broken out in quite a long while, Tyranids definitely have their struggles- however, after listening to Best In Faction and Art of War talk about them, they have renewed my interest and forced me to break out models that haven’t seen the light of day in nearly a decade. Which is… a good thing, I guess?
Specifically, I have been enamored of the Spore Mine builds that have been getting a lot of attention- the ability to spam out obnoxious little move-blocking models that can do mortal wounds seems extremely powerful, and though the recent FAQ and its limitations on fortification placement have given me a bit of pause, it still seems like a list that has a lot of potential if heavy infantry and vehicles dominate the environment more so than hordes.
Tyranids also have some very effective multiwound troop options in the form of Rippers and Tyranid Warriors. The former is simply a very cheap and effective way to spam out troops (12pts per base, or 4pts per wound) that doesn’t fall prey to the issues with Blast weapons and has access to deep strike, while the latter are not quite as cheap (22pts per three-wound body instead) but have a 4+ save, are infantry to perform actions, and large squads have access to the ability to ignore up to AP-2 and also reduce incoming damage by one. Combined with reasonable melee prowess against enemy light units (and some shooting, for Warriors) and you have a solid objective defender that can fight off enemy hordes.
Now add in extensive moveblocking from Spores that you drop on the enemy before the game (via strat or Meiotic Spores), Spore-spawning units that start in midfield (Sporocysts), and Spores dropped on the enemy from shooting (Biovores), and you can pump out a huge number of mortal wounds that all work on an effective 2+. You also have access to Neurothropes and Zoanthropes, powerful psykers that can bomb the enemy with mortal wounds, and with a 3++ save and three wounds themselves they are not easy to get rid of (especially with Leviathan benefit or Catalyst up.)
Hive Guard, Biovores, and Sporocysts also let you take advantage of BLOS terrain to blast enemy units with impunity while remaining difficult to hurt yourself, and all of them are more than capable of shredding anything that tries to move into midfield without your permission even if they get past the Spore walls. Very few units with fly are particularly cheap, and so these mortal wound sources are exceptionally effective against them and other high-value units- and unlike psychic powers, most codices have no way to stop or resist them.
Tyranid Prime (Boneswords, Devourer)
5×3 Ripper Swarms
1×8 Tyranid Warriors
6 Hive Guard
3 Meiotic Spores
3 Meiotic Spores
3 Meiotic Spores
This is a great time for list experimentation right now- the field is wide open, and no one really knows what works and what doesn’t. By all means stay safe and avoid social contact- including big tournaments- if you are anywhere where COVID is still having an effect (which means basically everywhere in the United States, but much less so most other countries), but it isn’t unreasonable to get in games with a regular opponent provided you both take some precautions. Try out the units that you love and see what they can do, but also be ready to discard things that don’t work. The lists I’ve posted above are all the result of dozens upon dozens of iterations and ideas from other players and podcasts, so don’t be afraid to drop something and start over if it doesn’t seem right or isn’t working out. List-writing is a process of experimentation, and like all processes it takes time.
As always, remember 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.