The FAQ landed! And, with a whole day to spare too! Truly an impressive feat. Nights’ has already put up an article covering the top 5 biggest changed the the FAQ brings, so I won’t spend too much time dwelling on that. Rather, I want to help you guys how to digest the FAQ, and think about what it means for the meta.
To really understand how an FAQ impacts the meta you need to first accept the fact that even if your specific faction didn’t get changed much, does not mean it’ll remain mostly unaffected. Massive changes like the Castellan going up 100 points and Lootas not being able to mob up will have cascading effects on the meta, simply because those units were so powerful and oppressive that their existence invalidated the viability of using certain units.
Here’s the short list of all the things which I think are going to impact the meta moving forward:
- Fly works in combat again kinda
- You may now move through <aircrafts>
- Mental onslaught stops if your opponent rolls a 6
- Only boys can mob up, and you can’t mob up with units that arrive from reinforcements that turn
- Castellan up 100 points
- Max 4++ for any knight
- Deathwatch have to choose between special ammo and beta bolter rule when they fire
- Doom and jinx only benefit Asuryani
As you’ll notice some of these changes are codex specific while other are just general game rules changes. That distinction does not matter for this article, simply because even certain codex changes can have a large enough impact to effect all the other armies out there.
Let’s tackle the biggest meta shift first, the widespread nerfing of anti tank in the game. The Castellan went up 100 points, and became more able to be killed as it’s capped at a 4++. Moving forward I think you won’t see nearly as many Castellans rocking the top tables of GT’s. But that’s not all. Lootas also took the nerf bat (along with Orks in general, but more on that later). No longer being able to mob up and having to roll again for number of shots has really hampered Ork’s main form of long ranged anti vehicle. Mental Onslaught got nerfed as well to the point where it would be a statistical anomaly for it to be one-shotting vehicles. Doom and Jinx only affect the asuryani portions of armies, meaning no combining doom with triple ravagers or razorwings for some real anti vehicle potency, and no combining doom with Skyweavers to get reroll to wound haywire shots in mass. Finally, although not an FAQ change, we’ve also seen a total revamp of how Ynnari and soul burst works, this means gone are the days of soul bursting dark reapers and shining spears.
What does all this mean? As I just pointed out a HUGE amount of anti tank in the game just got nerfed out the window. You may start seeing alternative means of anti tank to compensate, such as a Krast crusader in place of a Castellan, or Smasha Guns instead of lootas however, this still greatly diminishes the amount of tank in the game relative to where it was two weeks ago. Thus, you’ll see a resurgence of vehicles in the meta. There are many quality vehicles out there which were simply invalidated competitively because things like the Castellan and fire and fading double shooting dark reapers existed. Just to list a few: Leman Russ Tank Commanders, Shadowswords, Battlewagons, Trucks, Raiders, Necron vehices, Contemptor Dreadnaughts, Daemon Engines, and Mech Tau.
Let’s look at it from another perspective now. Orks just got hit really hard, losing the ability mob up anything other than boys, and losing the ability to mob up with units that arrive as reinforcements that turn. This isn’t a nail in their coffin, but trying to run an Ork horde that doesn’t make use of any of these options it previously had is probably just not going to be strong enough to compete. That means Ork armies will have to shift direction. I know some players have had success with a type of gun-liney Ork list, so that is one option. Alternatively, I think a very underutilized build for Orks is a vehicle heavy one. Whichever path you choose with your Ork army, you just can’t get away with playing a mass horde anymore. Furthermore, Chaos as a super faction has moved away from mass cultists as their only viable build. We’re seeing a lot of opportunity for innovation there with the new codex update and vigilus detachments, none of which are horde based.
Naturally, since two horde armies are shifting away from just pure horde, anti horde will based armies will start to fall by the wayside- I’m looking at you Deathwatch. Even though Deathwatch barely got an FAQ, (mostly just some clarifying points and a slight nerf on their ability to combine bolter drill with special ammo) they are very unhappy about the FAQ as a whole. Deathwatch is just not designed to fight mass vehicles, when you consider their whole schtick is really powerful storm bolters. Poor guys.
What about other armies?
Well, mass fliers barely took a hit to be honest. The nerfs the flier build took were small and subtle, not large and sweeping; much like the last FAQ took slight indirect jabs at the Castellan without dealing with it directly by attacking CP regeneration. I think we’re experiencing a similar effect here with fliers, and they will remain in the top tier of viable armies until the next FAQ in the Fall. This means they will likely remain the army to beat. Oddly enough though, the nerfs fliers did take in this FAQ did open up some opportunity for Harlequins and Tyranids. Both genestealers and Harlequin troupes are easily fast enough to move right through the bases of fliers without thinking about it, and then be double moved with Hive commander or a shadowseer respectively to get to the squishy ground elements in a flier army. This is not a fool proof plan, because it does rely a bit on having somewhere to hide, but it is actually viable. Furthermore, if we do see an increase in vehicle heavy armies, Harlequins actually become even stronger naturally due to their mass haywire, and the fact that flip belts now work in assault again, allowing them to move right through screens to get to the tanks.
That leaves us with Tau and Necrons. Two armies which also didn’t really see much change at all in the FAQ, yet I think were affected heavily. Both armies lost some of their hard counters (Castellan, Ynnari, Lootas), and both armies have super long range, highly durable anti tank options. I think Tau has certainly shot up to top tier, and Necrons have actually circled into a position where they can really compete.
This is a lot of theoretical meta analysis, but that’s a look into where I think the meta will be headed over the next few months.
But here’s essentially a brief summary of everything I just wrote:
- Anti tank options in the game have dramatically decreases
- Vehicle heavy armies will have a resurgence
- Hordes are on the way out
- Anti horde armies will subsequently also lose their niche
- Orks, Aeldari soup, and <insert Castellan here> armies were hit the hardest and will need to change heavily to adapt
- Tau have shot up to top tier, unquestionably in my opinion
- Flier spam has been slightly nerfed, but will still remain in the top
- Necrons have sky rocketed over the past few months in viability, may actually win GT’s
- Harlequins shot up in power as well, probably in that janky tier where a very clever player with them will be a nightmare to face
- Poor Grey Knights
If you enjoyed this type of analysis I do these every week in my Meta Monday class at Nights at the Game Table PRO. You can check them out, along with getting professional help on how to adapt your army to the new meta!
Finally, this weekend I’m actually going to the Canadian Tabletop Championship in Ottawa Canada. They will be the first major GT that will use the new FAQ, so it should be a really interesting event to see the meta evolve right before our eyes. I’m planning on playing GSC, so for the most part my army has remained unchanged barring the Mental Onslaught nerf. I was on the fence with playing my Orks instead, just because I’m so familiar with them instead, however the FAQ all but confirms that I won’t be doing that. I just don’t have the time to figure out the right build and collect any additional models for Orks by this weekend. I highly recommend following this event with the BCP app so you can follow the action!