Looking At Armies in 9th

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)

3×1 Starweaver

Chaos Marines

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 Cultists

10 Cultists

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

5 Zoanthropes

5 Zoanthropes

3 Meiotic Spores

3 Meiotic Spores

3 Meiotic Spores

3 Biovores

3 Biovores

3 Biovores


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.


About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

21 Responses to “Looking At Armies in 9th”

  1. Dakkath August 12, 2020 8:36 am #

    ‘Tis a sad day for my tau, but I do like that spore spam list.

    • abusepuppy August 12, 2020 9:01 am #

      It really caught my eye as well. Doing mortal wounds with no hit roll, psychic test, or chance for the enemy to stop it is potentially quite powerful and I have always loved Biovores.

  2. Martin August 12, 2020 8:48 am #

    A question about Star cannons versus Missile launchers for Craftworlds. The missile is a more versatile gun but I have found that especially on a Wave serpent it’s a drawback that it can’t shoot in close combat. You almost always move the serpents to objectives and there they get in combat so I think the star cannon is to prefer on serpents. What’s your thoughts?

    • abusepuppy August 12, 2020 9:00 am #

      You can fire the Krak profile on the AML in combat, which while not ideal is better than not firing at all- and against Marines or the like still works fairly well. I have gone back and forth on Starcannons vs. AML, though, and I think it will end up being a meta choice. If you don’t see many hordes, the Starcannon is fantastic for its price, especially against heavy infantry but also against light/medium vehicles with Doom up. However, when you’re killing single Guardsmen with it, it very much underperforms, and the AML really shines there with S4 AP-1. It may end up being better to run a mix of them- say, with Starcannons on the Wave Serpents and AMLs on the War Walkers, but that remains to be seen.

      • Martin August 12, 2020 9:16 am #

        I agree that it depends on the meta and right now it’s difficult to say.

        Ok if you can shoot Krak in cc that’s not bad but I thought that the “Aeldari missile launcher” was labelled as blast weapon not just the Frag shoots. Maybe I’ve missed that?

        • AlamoMelt August 12, 2020 9:58 am #

          In the header text of the BRB page detailing blast weapons is very clear about what to do with multi-profile weapons.

          • Martin August 12, 2020 10:57 am

            Thanks you’re right, I found it now.

        • Venkarel August 12, 2020 10:25 am #

          The ranged profile with random number of shots is blast per the Core rule book, appendix, blast weapons. They hid the rule in the bold section on top of the page in typical GW style.

    • AlamoMelt August 12, 2020 9:56 am #

      Wave Serpent can shoot the Krak profile and the cannon/catapult can’t it?

  3. BK August 12, 2020 1:47 pm #

    I have found with the smaller boards Chaos Space Marine Obliterators are a solid addition. The range is not as limiting as before.

    • abusepuppy August 12, 2020 5:51 pm #

      Yeah Obliterators have some potential play, although I am not a fan of their randomness- even with rerolls, it’s too easy to just roll 1 on their damage and have the unit do very little on a given turn, which is a tough sell for a tournament player. Being beefy infantry that can reserve for free is definitely nice, though.

      • BK August 12, 2020 11:48 pm #

        True, hopefully they get flat two damage, strength 8; -2 AP in next codex rather then random stats but priced at a premium! At least with the board size they often get to shoot what they want to now.

        Also if playing chaos I suggest havoc launchers on the humble rhino now for 5pts instead of an extra Combi Bolter and if points are spare, 15 points to get a terminator sorc over a normal one is a nice deal for the extra wound, 5++ and access to deep strike!

        • abusepuppy August 13, 2020 6:34 am #

          Yeah where I have the points i have been bolting a Combimelta, Havoc Launcher, or both onto my vehicles, depending on needs. Rhinos with Combimeltas are surprisingly scary and can be a rude surprise for characters.

          The Terminator Sorcerer definitely has a lot of advantages, but I like being able to ride in a transport a lot- it makes it easier to get onto an objective 1st turn to perform an action or whatnot. I think they both have their place depending on the list.

          • BK August 13, 2020 10:50 am

            I see you are also a fan of the Lord (Jump Pack, 2 Claws) = Rapacious talons which makes the lord a blender in combat. I like to use flames of spite on him for some extra err…spite? And mortal wounds. Like a discount D.Prince – solves problems.

  4. Spera August 13, 2020 12:05 am #

    Can we get more puppy and less abuse please? I’m aware that trying to make something form Tau is like trying to salvage dumpster fire level disaster, but you don’t have to rub that into open wounds on every article, podcast and comment section. Have mercy.

    Please let us have our optimistic delusions xD.

    • AngryPanda August 13, 2020 3:25 am #

      With GW having finally figured out that all it needs for positive reviews are free advance copies of books for some channels there should be no shortage of sources to tell you how great everything is. You can probably find a “Tau are soooo good” even here if you look long enough.

      • abusepuppy August 13, 2020 6:37 am #

        Check out Advanced Tau Tactica if you’re looking for some of that. I hear that if you something something way of the water warrior something something fish of fury, you can win every game.

    • abusepuppy August 13, 2020 6:36 am #

      Sorry, my mang, the brand is “brutal honesty about how bad or good things are” and I ain’t gonna steer away from that. I was pretty pissed that for the THIRD time my Tau’nar got taken off the shelf for exactly one game before someone at GW said “WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA we can’t let this thing be GOOD tack another 200pts onto it” and thus it sadly slid back into the pile of Units That Have Not Been Useful Long Enough to Get Painted.

      • Pyrothem August 13, 2020 8:22 am #

        What we can not have that!
        You know the rule: All units must be less then or cost more then Imperial units.

        Fun fact the game is actually a real fun game when you don’t play against Space Marines or Admech. The games are close and no one is getting tabled turn 2.

        (Pro Tip: don’t reserve anything against an all offensive list like Fists Arty. They will table you by turn 2 and if they went first you lose as you have no units on the table before your reserves arrive) 😛

  5. MidnightSun August 13, 2020 5:57 am #

    Great article, mang. Brings joy to my heart to see someone talking about bugs again. What loadout do you think you’d be looking at for Warriors? Would it differ on 3-man or 8/9-man units? I’ve been looking at Boneswords and Deathspitters, but they end up a little on the pricey side for something that, with all the stratagem support in the world, still doesn’t end up being genuinely resilient.

    • abusepuppy August 13, 2020 6:43 am #

      So far I’ve been looking at Warriors as a solution to enemy hordes- with three shots and three attacks apiece, they can do some significant work in theory. So far I’m sticking with the dirt-cheap Talons/Devourer setup, although I think Deathspitters are worth considering for the extra range and utility against Marines. I might even try out a Barbed Strangler, because against units of 11+ models that is potentially six shots hitting on 2s for a relatively small number of points. I don’t favor Boneswords a lot because they just don’t add _quite_ enough for their cost to your killing power, although that may be more of a meta call.

      I think the small 3man squads want to stay as cheap as possible, with no upgrades of any kind, since they are often gonna be your Action Monkeys who sit in the back and score points. 9man squads can afford to pick up a bit more since they have ablative wounds and you’ll be slapping Enhanced Resistance on them so that they ignore AP-1/2 weapons. 27 wounds of 3+ armor for 225pts is nothing to sneeze at.

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