This Week in the ITC: “Balance? You’re Talking about Balance?”

Welcome to “This Week in the ITC” from myself SaltyJohn of TFG Radio “fame” coming at you with a hot take on balance in competitive 40k.

Due to the lack of major movement in the ITC standings this week and the announcement of both Genestealer Cults and Custodes as the next Codices coming down the pipe I thought I would take this chance to discuss balance in competitive 40k a little. Before we dive into that, here is the top 25 in the World according to the ITC:

That’s a good mix in the top 25. The top Custodes player is number 25 and the top GSC player is notably absent from the top 25, so hopefully, a new codex will give those faction’s players new life as we approach the end of the ITC season. Let’s take a quick snapshot of those two factions and players.

Steve Trimble, current 25th in the ITC Overall, has amassed a huge number of event scores with his Adeptus Custodes. Most notable a 3rd place finish at the Games Workshop US Open in Orlando for 235.82 points! Custodes probably have the best footing to get a boost into relevance by a new Codex. They aren’t in a completely terrible spot and with a smaller model range, and what looks like not a lot of new models for a new book, Custodes players should have most of what they need to play the best new combos from the book. If not, their model range should have stock available already. If the Custodes book is as OP out of the gate as Orks, Mechanicus, or Drukhari then Trimble is in a good spot to hammer home a high place finish this year, perhaps even a top 10.

Eric Tadt is currently leading the GSC Rankings and while he has played a lot fewer events than Trimble is more indicative of what the average ITC Participant would be. Although he has played several Majors they are still relatively local to him, it seems, Texas is huge and I am not 100% sure where he is located in the State. This is still more akin to what an average player would play in per year. His performance with a below-average codex however is anything but average, he has amassed some great placings in his limited number of events with a book most people wrote off as nigh unplayable. Although his finish at the Games Workshop US Open in New Orleans wasn’t great he did Team Texas proud at both the Clutch City GT and Dallas Open. Taking a codex in desperate need of an update all the way to 14th and 48th respectively is impressive and he definitely deserves that top GSC ranking.

So what should we expect, in terms of balance and power, from the next two codices? Well, many players are hoping for something to balance out the seemingly unstoppable and patently overpowered triple threat of Orks, Adeptus Mechanicus, and Drukhari. I wouldn’t hold out hope for that.

If you look at the historical evidence from 9th edition it is much more likely that these two codices, Genestealer Cults and Custodes, will be mid-powered to shit tier out of the gate than the new OP hotness. Looking at all the 9th ed books only 3, have been the thing of nightmares in terms of power and event dominance. The rest are middling to just the bottom of the top tier at best. Grey Knights and Thousand Sons are still being figured out by some but it seems clear they are at the bottom of the top tier. Necrons are barely worth a mention in terms of ability to win a Major. Space Marines have some tricks, mostly Contemptor Dreads with Volkite and Redemptors but those perform better in a Deathwatch list. Dark Angels and Space Wolves are in a similar boat with Dark Angels having the edge due to Deathwing/Ravenwing being a pretty powerful build. Adepta Sororitas are in the same boat as GK and 1k Sons but with the prevalence of the Freebootaz Ork list, the Sister’s stock is falling fast. Hopefully, you’re getting the picture, it is more likely these next two codices are balanced, rather than broken.

I hang out with a lot of former competitive Warmachine/Hordes players, it was very popular in our local area in the Mk1 and 2 days. They share a perspective that if everything is broken, nothing is, and there’s a balance to the game in that brokenness. I often hear this talked about every time we get a new codex announcement but we are definitely past the point where more OP/broken codices will balance the game out, there are just too many books that are lackluster in comparison to the big 3.

Last week I discussed how unless you’re a top player, competing to win an event, you’re unlikely to really be affected by the most broken things in the game. That is true, but I wasn’t saying attempting to balance the game out, or acknowledging imbalance should be abandoned. Rather, don’t allow the imbalances and issues with the big 3 to ruin the game for you when it’s unlikely to affect you in more than a game or two over the course of 6 games in a weekend. You might be able to edge out one of the more powerful lists via better play than your opponent, or you may not, but building a good list can help you achieve within a faction. Like Tadt and Trimble with GSC and Custodes so far this season, you can still do well despite imbalances within the top 8 of any given event.

Thomas Ogden, Charlie Andre, and Aaron Towler have all done very well for themselves with Dark Angels so far this season. Although Dark Angels have a 9th edition codex it still suffers from the base of the faction being Space Marines who are notable near the bottom of the mid-tier in terms of power despite having the most options in their codex of any faction in the game. This is a prime example of finding what’s good in a book, practicing with it, and then doing your best with it, regardless of what your potential matchups against the most broken things in the game are. Yes, it can be frustrating to consistently read about the same lists dominating events, but keeping things in perspective and continuing to have fun, and competing to the best of your ability is still worth striving for. Hopefully, we can get some new balance brought to Orks, Admech, and Drukhari through the next set of FAQs and Eratta from GW but looking to the next two codices to balance out the entire meta is probably a fool’s hope. Instead, look to your faction and try to find what works best, then practice and play with it.

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

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About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

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