Adapting to the FAQ: How it will affect your army

John Lennon, one of our talented coaches at the Art of War, joins us to talk about how to process the new FAQ, and what it means for the future. 

Brace for impact! The new FAQs are here, and they are bringing quite the impact to how the game is going to be played. Games Workshop has unleashed a doozie on us, with fundamental changes to the mission pack, core rulebook, and sweeping points updates for matched play! Together we will be diving into what these changes mean for you, and my predictions on what this will do to an already turbulent and unpredictable meta. 

Let’s kick it off by diving into some of the changes that have graced the main rulebook. Several of them are to more niche and uncommon interactions, but it’s still good to get clarifications on how GW wants this wonderful wargame to work. First up, Games Workshop clarified that you can’t use the Counter-Offensive stratagem to choose a unit that has been forced to fight last. Although many people already played it this way, it’s a direct departure from 8th edition and puts further emphasis on having fight last (and fight first!) abilities in a combat army. Expect to see more Space Wolf allies with the armor of Russ, while perhaps Draxus becomes the most popular Inquisitor! Tyranid players may also start taking Paroxysm as part of their psychic loadout, or allying Genestealer Cult for Mass Hypnosis. 

Just as in previous editions, there have been some weird rules interactions surrounding fliers. Although mostly absent from the meta so far, two rulings made here may actually give rise to a resurgence in aircraft! First up is the “big” change, that large aircraft that can’t fit in a deployment zone can still be deployed as normal, so long as the base is wholly in the relevant deployment zone. While this won’t come up often, there are a few large (and perhaps golden) exceptions where this will be impactful. Large flying monsters like the Harridan, Marauder and more may not ever emerge as a truly dominant army, but it’s also a lot more likely that you will see them on the table now! Second, GW ruled that a model that flies off of the battlefield can still resolve its end of movement phase abilities. Again, this won’t apply to most aircraft, but bombers will rejoice at this measure of safety while still using their powerful abilities. 

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My absolute favorite change from the big reveal, however, has to be regarding Ap modifiers. Due to a complicated and unsatisfying interaction between ap modifiers and ignoring ap, it was possible for rules like Combat doctrines to actually get around weapons that ignored ap. But now, it is much simpler and makes a lot more sense! Just look at the final ap characteristic, after all modifiers, to determine whether or not your special rule will ignore it. This is by far the most logical way to play it, so I’m very glad the GW has fixed what was a potential “feels bad” moment. There are a few more clarifications in these documents, such as an extensive list of what modifiers do and do not work on units firing out of a transport, but I thought that these were the most impactful ones to cover. 

Speaking of impactful, let’s talk about what went down regarding the Grand Tournament mission pack! Changes to primary, secondary, and even the initial rolloff are going to absolutely shake up how we play the game. If you built your army to go second, with the general understanding that most players wanted to go first and you could always choose to go second yourself, then the old style roll off meant you could actually go second quite often! But now, the first roll has been simplified into a winner takes all with no choice involved. If you win the roll off, you go first, making this a true 50/50 shot. Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of removing a decision making point from the game, but I can appreciate that this is going to shift armies into a more balanced direction where you can’t rely on going first or second. This is probably for the best, given the massive change to what going second means! 

Warhammer 40,000: Chapter Approved: Grand Tournament 2020 Mission Pack –  Common Ground Games
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I think that this one is going to be the single most important change of the whole document, honestly. If you go second, you will no longer score any primary in your command phase on turn 5. Instead, you will now score it at the end of your turn 5, the actual end of the game. Not only does this mean that you get to make moves that your opponent won’t respond to, but also it makes the fifth turn actually matter! Far too often, you ran into a situation where the final player turn couldn’t change the scoreboard in any way because the primaries had already been scored and secondaries weren’t relevant. I’m fully in favor of actually having to play all five turns! 

The combination of these two changes is massive. You now have a perfectly even chance of going first or second, and can combine that with needing to adopt a very different playstyle for both. The player who goes first is going to be incentivized to be much more aggressive, because their opponent is going to get a very strong turn 5 primary if they still have a few units left, and you don’t want the game to be close by that point. But, you have further incentive to actually preserve your units and deny the “hold more” primary bonus to your opponent, which you can give up all too easily if you end up nearly tabled when the game ends. The player going second, meanwhile, will definitely want to be more conservative and act to keep the game close, especially primary, knowing that they can easily make a push on the final turn to score a full 15 and gain an advantage. Being able to adopt these varied playstyles is going to require quite a bit of practice, and some dynamic changes to list design! 

We will also likely see some changes to the way that armies are built thanks to changes to secondaries. Both Bring It Down and Abhor the Witch have changed to award less points for killing their respective targets, making me feel much better about actually taking those units to the table! The iconic tanks of warhammer are coming back, and I couldn’t be happier. While those are harder to score now, it should also be mentioned that While We Stand, We Fight has become a little harder to build into an army as well. This secondary now chooses your three most expensive units, not just models, which makes it much harder to just preserve three characters for an easy 15 points. While I’m sure that some players will still try to make an army where this secondary is automatic, it’s going to require jumping through a lot more hoops! 

New 9th Edition 40k Tank & Monster Rules REVEALED! - Spikey Bits
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Alright, I think we’ve covered just what these changes mean for the game at large, but everyone’s favorite factions still may have gotten some specific changes! The Munitorum got an FAQ that’s actually just a full replacement, with points listed for every unit in the game, all in the new point style. Before we dive into the nitty gritty of which units changed, I do have a small bone to pick with Games Workshop. The new points format is overall much easier to use, but may take some getting used to. For almost every unit in the game, all of their “basic” included wargear is part of the initial cost, so a 70 point ridge runner doesn’t have to look up the cost of a heavy stubber or mining laser. It’s just 70 points! If you want to replace the mining laser with a missile launcher, simply add 5.

Alright, let’s talk about the actual changes now. There’s been quite a few minor changes that came through as part of the reformatting, such as every rhino going up to 80 points (an extremely minor change), but some armies got a bit more than others! I want to start with the shiny kids on the block, the Space Marines. Two of the more offensive primaris units, Eradicators and Inceptors, as well as Outriders, all saw a five point increase. I like this quite a bit in the context that the Marine codex is very new still, and GW usually doesn’t change points on recent releases. This doesn’t feel overboard at all, but I don’t think even the most fervent Space Marine apologist can say these weren’t warranted. As a fanatical champion of the Khan myself, I can safely say that Inceptors will still be a perfectly viable unit, so raising their cost a little is easy to justify. The only significant decrease I can see is actually to the classic Crusader squad. Somehow, this Black Templar staple went down by three points! That’s quite cheap for a generic marine body. 

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Sisters of Battle come out of this pretty even, with some very reasonable increases and fun decreases as well. The workhorse Repentia and Retributors went up 1 and 2 points each, while Zephyrim went down 2 points per model, and a few wargear options like the Simulacrum and Null Rod actually became free! I expect that Sisters lists in general will stay about the same as before. None of the points increases make me want less of that unit, and decreases elsewhere will help balance it all out. I imagine I will switch my standard 3 repentia, 1 Zephyrim unit list to two of each to take advantage of these changes.

Custodes may have actually been the biggest benefactor of these new rules! The classic jetbike, as well as your basic troop, got cheaper. Even better, all of the Vexilla options are now free! While the Allarus terminators did gain 5 points, they were already slightly worse than the Forge World Aquilons, which will remain the default Terminator unit. Saving ten points per jetbike may actually be enough to put them in play. They’ve already seen some success in a few cases, this seems like exactly what they needed to be mainstream competitive. 

Adeptus Custodes Preview Part 4: The Elites - Warhammer Community
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The rest of the Imperium sees relatively marginal points changes. Armigers of both flavors went down for knights, while a few Imperial Guard units actually went up. Specifically, the humble guardsman unit went from 5 per model to an odd 55 points for ten. I’m a little surprised to see Guard take any points jumps, but at least they were rewarded with cheaper bullgryn. 

The forces of chaos got some complex changes. Specifically, Death Guard got a complete revamp to their points. This seems clearly designed for their new codex, as some of these rules don’t even exist yet! We can see that Plague Marines are increasing, but that seems very reasonable when they gain their extra wound. The humble nurgling, however, gained four points per model. Will this be enough to remove the staple troops choice of the Chaos gods? It certainly seems likely.

The Sassiest Nurgling that ever lived! : Warhammer40k
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Chaos Marines are absolutely one of the biggest winners of this update! With their units not gaining a wound at the same time as their loyal opposites, it’s good to see that Terminators, Raptors, and Warp Talons are all getting significant (and needed) reductions to keep up with the meta. A slaanesh terminator with plasma costing only 33 points per model is actually quite reasonable, giving even more play for the traitor legions. Our own Mark Perry will surely rejoice to see the cheaper jump pack units, a longtime staple of competitive World Eaters! 

Alright Xenos players, I promise I didn’t forget you! But honestly, it seems like Games Workshop might have… A few armies certainly came out as winners, but we will save the best for last. Tau and Genestealer cult were regarded as two bottom end armies for the majority of the edition so far, but sadly didn’t get any obvious updates that will help here. It seems that Tactical drones and the Coldstar commander went up slightly, but most of the faction stayed the same or received minor decreases that do not address fundamental issues with Tau and 9th edition mechanics. The cults also took some small increases, with Hand Flamers and Brood Brothers increasing by a point. With brood brothers now costing the same as a Neophyte unit, I expect that Brood Brothers will simply never be taken again, as they have no unique options or rules, with access to less stratagems and keywords. Genestealer cult did, at least, see a small decrease in their unique vehicles, but it doesn’t look like either of these factions will fundamentally change much. 

Tactical Drones Tau Empire Blister Warhammer 40K NIB | eBay
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Players of the Hive Mind can rejoice still, because the Tyranids actually got a lot of love here! Hive Guard, a competitive staple due to their unique role, actually went down in points. So did the winged option on a hive tyrant, the humble Tyranid warrior, the Tyrannofex and the Termagants devourer! Dakkagants (or devilgants) were once a force to be reckoned with, and it seems that they will be once again returning to the battlefield. This is a great day for tyranids, breathing a little life into a maligned faction. While Zoanthropes did increase in points, I think that these changes are certainly enough to keep any Tyranid player satisfied overall. More bugs is more better, right? 

There are still a few more factions to cover, but neither Necrons or Orks received sweeping changes. For the Necrontyr, they received only two with the Canoptek Reanimator taking a healthy decrease in points, while the Nightbringer took a small bump upwards. This may be damning for what is now the most expensive of the various C’Tan shards, but the reanimator is at least cheap enough now to be considered in a competitive list. Orks, meanwhile, did get a decrease on the Big Mek with Kustom Force Field, but not much else changed for the faction. 

Indomitus Focus: The Canoptek Reanimator - Warhammer Community
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Alright, I did say I’d leave the best for last right? The combined forces of the Aeldari came out of this book like rockstars. While Harlequins have been absolutely dominant for the early days of the edition, they received no changes. When your win rate is that high, no news is good news! The lack of any nerfs while their kin got cheaper is an absolute win for the faction. Both Drukhari and Asuryani received some significant buffs that will help their factions compete. In each case, their troops got universally cheaper, with Wracks and Dire Avengers being the biggest winners. In the case of Wracks, an astonishing four point decrease comes at the same time as changes to the unit size, which could see hordes of Haemonculus covens taking over the battlefield! I also absolutely have to mention the Reaver jetbike went all the way down from 20 points to 10… there is some speculation that this was mistake, as the poor downtrodden Hellion managed skyrocket up to 17 points, but even if these are flipped then a decrease in points would be wonderful for both units! 

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Overall, almost every faction received some love, or was already in a good position, and the mission changes mean that every single player of the game will be making some changes to their lists and playstyles. Not only did points bring a few more units into the limelight, but also more forgiving secondaries will allow vehicles to resurface. It’s a good day to be a 40k player, and there’s always more to paint! If you want to see how the Art of War coaches are going to respond to all of these sweeping updates, check out the War Room! We have high level games and in-depth clinics every week covering a range of topics and factions every week. 

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