The Murder Elves are too Good, but it’ll Pass

The Drukhari is a problem right now. Everyone who plays 40k knows this. Hell, even if you don’t know a Space Marine from a Squig, you’ve probably heard your 40k-playing mates talk about the Drukhari.

If you’d like an in-depth look at just what is going on here, I can highly recommend this roundtable article over on Goonhammer, or check out this excellent video from Auspex Tactics over on YouTube.

But let’s all just take a breath.

The Drukhari is a very, very good faction at the moment. In fact, the Drukhari is the best faction at the moment. It’s not close. In 9th edition, the Drukhari has the all the tools to do the business.

Can the Drukhari take and hold an objective? Yes.

Does the Drukhari have effective, reliable anti-tank firepower? Yes.

Can the Drukhari reliably trade objectives? Yes.

Does the Drukhari have effective, reliable melee threats? Yes.

Can a Drukhari player deploy powerful assets virtually anywhere on the board? Yes.

All right. That’s enough of that. You get the idea. The Drukhari can play.

But we’ve been here before. Back in 8th edition, the Iron Hands was absolutely supreme for a few months. Again, this faction had all of the tools to win in the 8th edition meta.

And, to be fair, while the Drukhari’s win-rate of over 70 percent — stats courtesy of the excellent 40kstats.com — is higher than the Iron Hands at its peak, that doesn’t change the fact of the matter: the game will change.

As 9th edition has grown, we’ve seen armies with new codex books become very powerful, but, crucially, these armies are usually bested by the following codex. We’ve seen this, to one extent or another, with many of the factions that already have 9th edition codex books.

Granted, it’s not a hard and fast rule. Deathwatch and Space Wolves players can attest to that, but it’s a decent rule of thumb.

We know that the Admech is next in line, and I think that there’s a pretty good chance that this upcoming Admech codex will have some very effective tools to deal with the Drukhari.

Why do I say this? Let’s put aside the idea that the next codex that GW releases will be more powerful than the last. While, as I said, I would argue that that is true, I think that a faction like Admech, when tooled up for 9th edition, will have what it takes to mix it up with the murder elves.

For example, I would hazard a guess that Kastelan Robots will still be able to throw some powerful dakka downfield. The Robots are probably going to take a little bit of a hit — they’ve been good for a decent while now — but I can still them being effective tools.

What’s more, Admech players can put down some excellent combat threats. Those Fulgurite Electro-Priests can absolutely do the business in combat at the moment, and with means to get these boys up the board, Admech players have access to some choice 9th edition units. Will they change in the upcoming book? It’s certainly possible, but I could see them still packing a punch.

This is all speculation, of course. Games Workshop might have completely rewritten the codex — but it’s unlikely. After all, the Admech works at the moment. It needs a bit of a polish, sure, but the army plays reasonably well in 9th edition. And good players can really make the faction sing.

And can we presume that whatever follows the Admech will have tools to deal with them? Indeed, will the Admech be top of the pile for a couple of months or so until the next book is released? Again, it’s possible. I do think, however, that this trend won’t continue throughout the edition. GW will release a codex that is strong, that can play in 9th, but that isn’t a world-beater all on it’s own. And this is a good thing.

GW should keep an eye on power creep. Indeed, I think that GW does keep an eye on power creep. We don’t want each codex to be better than the last. We want each codex to be a contender in 9th edition. This is, broadly speaking, the aim of the designers. No codex is too good; no codex is too bad.

Of course, this will never happen. But that’s the thing about ideals: they aren’t meant to be attained. To strive towards something is to continually improve oneself or something that one is working on, and I think that this mindset handily sums up GW’s attempts at game balance.

As we all know, 40k will never be a balanced game. This is an impossible goal. To be balanced, 40k would have to resemble chess, a game in which both players have exactly the same pieces.

40k isn’t chess. 40k will never be balanced. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive towards it.

And that’s the thing. The Drukhari is absolutely wrecking face right now. Drukhari players are having their day in the sun. Good for them.

But it won’t last. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Or, to put it another way, this too shall pass.

Look, I know that the advice of “just wait it out” isn’t particularly comforting to a lot of people. And I get it. I play T’au. I know how you feel.

What’s more, I recently had the pleasure of playing my T’au against the Drukhari. This will surprise absolutely nobody: the game was over by turn two.

And I know how to play 40k. I’m not saying that I’m particularly good at the game or anything like that, but I will say that I’m not terrible. I had something like a game plan. But the Drukhari didn’t care. The murder elves charged everything they needed to charge in turn two and that was that.

So I get it. But the meta will change. That is what metas do. GW will bring in a FAQ or an errata or a points update — or all three — and the faction will be toned down a little bit. It’s going to happen; it’s simply a matter of when it’s going to happen.

And yet, even after GW updates the faction, it will still be a strong faction. The Drukhari isn’t going anywhere for a good while. The core of the codex is very strong and it plays 9th edition very well. As I mention above, this is where we want all the codex books to be. It’ll never happen, but this is the ideal.

I would argue, then, that we wait and see. If we give it a couple of months, the meta will have shifted yet again, and we will see fresh lists and fresh builds come to the fore in both competitive and casual play. Just wait it out.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

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About Rhys Jenkins

Software developer, T'au player.

15 Responses to “The Murder Elves are too Good, but it’ll Pass”

  1. Avatar
    Zweischneid May 3, 2021 6:55 am #

    I wonder why people weren’t so chill back in Ynnari or Maelific Lord days, etc..

    Back in the day, armies in the 60-ish% win rates freaked people out. Now we get stuff at over 70% and it’s just “wait and let it play out”?

    If people had reacted like that 2-3 years ago, we’d never have gotten rid of 4++ Brimstones spamming full smites at 5s, never would’ve introduced stuff like the rule of 3, never would’ve even had to touch Ynnari, even at unlimited soul burst in the opponent’s turn, never would’ve needed to reign in 300 Cultists turning into poxwalkers for lols?

    What’s changed that people cried for nerfs back in the day for those, in comparison, far less dominating armies in the game that never remotely touched 70+% win-percentages, but now everyone’s just shrugging their shoulders?

    • Avatar
      Rob Butcher May 3, 2021 7:31 am #

      70% ?? of what ? a couple of tournaments since a codex was released means little when so many people are still dying in places like India and others like Cambodia went into lockdown last month.

      Winning/placing in a 256 player tournament means little at the moment.

      So for most of us it’s “What a tournament?” – for us BCP means “Brits can’t play” until at least May 17th/June 21st.

      • Avatar
        Zweischneid May 3, 2021 8:31 am #

        70% of enough GT sized events and games to be statistically reasonably robust and relevant.

        Of course, it’s just a game of toy soldiers and real world tragedies and events should always give you perspective.

        During the height of the Ynnari-craze, Fukushima had just blown up and Japan was facing possible nuclear disaster. While everyone was worried about Iron Hands and Brohammer was cooking up the Broviathan, Indonesia and Java were struck by a devastating Tsunami.

        Plastic toys can and should never compare to concerns as these. But maybe especially in hard times, people also crave a little escapism too, and might be worried about their favourite little toy soldier game if tragedy currently doesn’t affect them directly.

        Thus in the context of this game of toy soldiers, it’s a 70+% win rate, which is far higher than anything seen in previous “bad” editions such as early 8th or even 7th that people commonly point to as the “bad old days of GW”, and when community reactions were far less jaded and more pro-active (including the very foundation of the ITC, it’s house-ruling of missions, terrain rules, etc..).

  2. Avatar
    Generalissimo_Fred May 3, 2021 7:42 am #

    The answer to a super powered codex is to wait for an even more super powered codex?

  3. Avatar
    Sad Rubric Spammer May 3, 2021 9:22 am #

    Hot Take, We should have been expected this.

    There are 4 codexes out right now. Necrons, Space Marines, Death Guard, and Dark Eldar.

    Under a pre-pandemic release schedule, we would have 7 more released (2x Feb, 2x March, 2x April, 1x May) Instead we have been in a marine meta for the past 6 months with Marines and Marine Supplements as the only releases.

    You take a meta that has spent half a year shifting in that direction and toss in a 1w Glass Cannon army that only has type of list build to worry about and you would have to be stupid to think they would not hard counter every other top list right now.

    Is 70% good or healthy for the game? No.
    Does it help that everyone bandwagons onto the new faction instead of trying to build against it? No

    But this is what happens when ever there is a new book that is strong, except now we have a bunch of extenuating circumstances, like only having 4 of the 20 codex’s for this edition released and the meta having been all Elite marine armies for the past 6 months.

    So they only have to build for one list type and everything else still stuck in 8th is too bad for them to bother worrying about.

    The real question is whether they can maintain this 70% win rate or if the meta stabilizes after the honeymoon phase when all the lists appear on line and people finally put 2 and 2 together and start building lists to fight Dark Eldar now that they know what they are up against.

    • Avatar
      Zweischneid May 3, 2021 10:09 am #

      Marines haven’t won anything for months.

      The top table meta has been Harlequins and Sisters, I.e. fast punchy T3 trading units out of transports supported by punchy T3 characters like Canoness-Becky and Twilight-Fang-Master.

      • Avatar
        Sad Rubric Spammer May 3, 2021 10:43 am #

        And the point is that now there is an actual 9th codex for that, we should not be surprised it is doing well or panicking that the sky is falling in the first month it is out.

        Now that all the articles are out we should be looking at how to beat them or play into their weaknesses instead of crying that they are broken and pouting until GW neuters them.

        I’ve seen this happen in MTG more times than I care for. A new deck comes along that busts open the meta; It wins for a couple weeks; People figure out how sideboard for it and suddenly it’s win rate drops off.

        We are now in the sideboard phase, where people have to look at their codex’s and see what they have that deals with DE instead of shrugging when their lists don’t work and calling for nerfs.

        If they are still 70% winrate in June, ya nerf them, but right now is the time to shake off the sucker punch out of left field, get around the round table, and ask the question “Gentlemen, How do we kill Superman.”

        • Avatar
          Zweischneid May 3, 2021 1:32 pm #

          If that is true, why did we ever need nerfs for Screamer Stars or Ynnari or 9-Hive Tyrant lists or Brimstones with 4++ and true smites that are always cast on a 5 or the Castellan or 0″ charge Blood Angel Captains or Poxblossom lists or the Jim-Vesal-Plaguebearer list or Custodes tanks or whatever.

          None of those ever came close to 70%,

          But now there’s an army that blows all of those out of the water, and it’s just “let’s wait”?

          Seems disingenuous to the last 50 armies that weren’t as bad (basically every “broken army in the history of 40K since the early 80s with the possible exception of 8th Ed. Iron Hands) and did get nerfed despite it.

          • Avatar
            Jace May 3, 2021 2:40 pm
            #

            Seems disingenuous to miss the “wait till June” sentences.
            That’s four – seven weeks at most, hardly an unbearable timeframe. Second part which I’m honestly not sure on, haven’t multiple things you’ve listed been over corrected which is often worse as it doesn’t really get dialled back after?

        • Avatar
          Jace May 3, 2021 2:36 pm #

          Definitely this, have a time of letting it sort it self to avoid over correcting, then update if necessary.

        • Avatar
          Ohlmann May 4, 2021 4:39 am #

          Outside of the fact that teching against army is vastly different and less efficient in Warhammer than MtG, there’s another problem : your hypothesis is wrong even within MtG.

          Overpowered decks in MtG aren’t all that often returned to niche status via sideboard. We just got from a stretch of having one or more card banned per month because they were overpowered, and they were 0 solutions to that. Nobody have found any tech making Oko or Uro palatable.

          So, maybe check reality and admit that “wait and see” isn’t a solution ?

          • Avatar
            Sad Rubric Spammer May 4, 2021 8:01 am
            #

            I think it’s worth noting that my experience in MTG is from the 00’s to 10’s when there were far fewer (excluding mirrodin) outright broken and format warping cards that deserved bans and flash in the pan archetypes would pop up but could be dealt with by adjusting lists.

            “Wait and See” isn’t a solution and I am not saying it is. I am saying “We’re giving it one month, if we can’t solve it by then, GW fix this garbage.” That is 4 weekends of tournaments to try and solve the problem of beating DE and without losing to the rest of the field. And I think that is a reasonable amount of time to spend on it and figure out if it really is 70% broken or we are all just stupid and forgot unit X existed.

            Calling for the nuclear option is not and should not be the first response. We should be making an honest effort to try and beat it ourselves instead of running crying to GW. And it is hard to believe we are doing that when every other comment is ‘ “wait and see” isn’t a solution.’

          • Avatar
            Ohlmann May 5, 2021 7:14 am
            #

            For bans and erratas, you should first find a good reason to explain why time would help. It’s a lot trickier than it seem.

            The first point is whether adjustment on lists are easy to do. In the current edition of W40K, it’s clearly pretty hard to add tech to a list : GW curb stomped the ability to take relics, psychic powers, and related, tailored for the current match up ; and the victory point structure mean that paying points for things who aren’t alway useful is very hard.

            The second point is how fast people will adapt. That depend on the maturity of the game ; for MtG, it take one or two days, a week at most for people to analyze lists and find answers, so letting more than two weeks for “meta to adapt” is foolish. Things are probably not that fast in W40K, but there’s strong indications in tournament results that 3 to 6 weeks is already more than what it take to find solutions when they actually exist.

            In general, and across all games, people *vastly* overestimate time before metagame settle, and *vastly* overestimate how much leeway people have to beat a problem. Peoples are clever, and they don’t take that much time to wise up to a problem.

  4. Avatar
    Matt May 3, 2021 8:23 pm #

    “40k will never be a balanced game. This is an impossible goal. To be balanced, 40k would have to resemble chess, a game in which both players have exactly the same pieces.”

    This is demonstrably incorrect. There are plenty of games with asymmetrical factions which are considered balanced and are played competitively (Starcraft, Company of Heroes are the first ones that spring to mind). Is it very hard? Yes! Impossible? No!

    GW doesn’t have an _incentive_ to make the game well balanced. While there are clearly some rules writers that are trying hard, their efforts are constantly undermined by:

    1) The need to write new rules for new models
    2) Rules writers who are definitely phoning it in (looking at you FW)
    3) GW’s painfully slow timeline for updating rules
    4) GW’s bizzare habit of re-inventing the core rules every 5 or so years, rather than trying to fix the problems with the existing system.
    5) The simple fact that their revenue comes from books and models, and that the constant churn of those things is what makes money. Not issuing FAQs, Erratas, or one digital and free set of rules which could be constantly updated and supported.

    I’m not saying that there is some grand conspiracy at GW. I’m saying that they are a model company first and a rules company second, and that their rules-writing approach is not favourable to achieving excellent game balance.

    • Avatar
      Matt May 5, 2021 11:03 am #

      Case-in-point: The new Tanith First and Only models and the associated trinkets look fantastic, but the Imperium doesn’t need more models, and the time spent writing those rules could have been spent updating/balancing say, literally any of the xenos codexes.

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