Another big step in our 8th Edition journey!!! From Stormraven and Razorback spam, to Razorwing flock spam, to Dark Reaper spam, to Flyrant spam (and to some extent, Plagueburst Crawler spam and Shield Captain on jetbike spam) in the US 40k meta. All that looks to be changing with one very small but very important change in the biggest FAQ drop we've had from GW ever. Really. Like ever.
While stated as "Guidelines", we know that the majority of tournaments (and all ITC ones as far as I know) use the above chart for their organised play events. This is the main thing that's going to shake up the meta (in a positive way) and encourage more experimentation and mid-game consideration. It's not a Matched Play rule though so those playing casual Matched Play can still bring whatever they want as long as both players agree to it. But I'm willing to bet good money that all tournament practice and play will be moving in this direction from now on.
This is me. Right now. Simply because I've always disliked spam both from a hobby point of view (when you have to paint that goddamn Flyrant for the umpteenth time) and from a strategic game play perspective. Have tried to stay away from non-troop spam as much as possible from all my tournament lists but it has felt like an uphill battle sometimes against lists that are simply more powerful on paper. Realistically, we're all aware that the people who have been doing well at events will more or less continue doing well spam or no spam (and regardless of US, UK, or here in Singapore) as they will adapt and have a better understanding of the fundamentals of the game. What the spam restriction does do is that it'll make games more fun due to more options and more visually appealing to spectate as well.
Moving forward, I'm expecting to see up to 3 of a good unit (Shield captain on jetbikes and Dark reapers will still be there) but with more troops and hopefully other units now that there might be some points to spare in some lists. Factions with good troops and/or dedicated transports will benefit from the non-troop limit. Off the top of my head, scouts (to a lesser extent, Space Marines), Daemons, Craftworlds and Dark Eldar, Tyranids, Custodes, Cultists (and by extension, Heretic Astartes), Necrons, the new T'au and their cute turrets, Tzaangors....wait... Jeez that's like almost all the codexes that have been released to date! I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming tournaments.
Major Pointage Nerfs:
Guilliman up to 400 points
Dark reapers up by 7 points per model
Farseers up 10 points
Spirit seers up 20 points (they were honestly too cheap at 45 pts for a smite)
Warlock (not conclave) up 20 points
Forgeworld Fire Raptor up 90 points (we all know why... =P)
Flyrants up 20 points (they were too cheap at the same cost as flying daemon princes)
Feculant Gnarlmaw up 35 points (slightly too cheap at 50 points as well for what they provided)
While the datasheet limit will do most of the work to negate some of the spam of these units (obviously not Guilliman), they are still solid units so I'm expecting to continue seeing them in the meta. Most Aeldari armies will probably have to cut about 170 to 240 points depending on how many dark reapers they were bringing previously, Nurgle armies are down about 70 points, Tyranid armies that use 3 flyrants will be 60 points behind now. Not too shabby...and that will aid in balancing the power levels that we see on the tables. Of course when the meta changes, expect to see more of what becomes the new META (most-effective-tools-available) but hopefully we'll hit a sweet spot for tournament play that the Hearthstone meta seems to be at right now with the release of the Witchwood expansion and rotation of Standard cards.
From Beta to Official
So the Psychic Focus and Character targeting beta rules are now official. Seems like there was a slight change from the beta version of Psychic Focus to the official version. It's now +1 to the warp charge required for subsequent attempts to cast Smite rather than the -1 casting roll it was in beta (which made denying it easier for the opponent which was sort of a double whammy). The exclusion of Brother of Psykers/Sorcerers is a good move thought they could have included Pink Horrors in that list but it's not a biggie as they have their uses compared to Grey Knights and Thousand Sons currently.
Character targeting has not changed from beta and Characters with less than 10 wounds are now unable to prevent other Characters with less than 10 wounds from being targeted in the Shooting Phase. No other changes so the "visible AND closest" rule still applies.
New Beta rules
Interesting new ideas. Bringing gameplay closer to the conceptual framework and intention of the ruleset is a good thing.
The limit to half your number of units being able to be placed in reserve is currently standard. The addition of half the power level is new and won't affect most lists that much but will restrict some of the more extreme ones that may have had 10 acolytes on the board while 10 units of grey knights sat in orbit.
With the proper exceptions (Assassins and Sisters of Silence being some of them), all Battle Brothers does is prevent soup detachments like Celestine + Infantry squads, and Tzeentch Flamers + Slaanesh Oblits from being in the same detachment. Soup Armies will still be around and continue being a mainstay of tournament and matched play if these BETA rules are used or once they come into the main ruleset. I look forward to testing out these changes if my local tournament scene decides to adopt the Beta rules.
The change to Tactical Reserves coming in, is in my opinion, the bigger change as it fundamentally alters how many armies will play. Alpha strike is somewhat of a problem but this change merely moves the meta back to a gunline (albeit a slightly better gunline with the 3 datasheet limit in place) shootout where who gets the first turn usually prevails (unless playing using ITC rules) and merely penalises short/medium ranged deepstrikers and does nothing to longer ranged ones (looking at you Dark Reapers coming out from the webway).
I feel that the better way to do it might be to limit 1 or 2 units (or a fixed Power Level worth of units) to come in anywhere on the board via deepstrike on Turn 1 instead of limiting all deepstrikers to their own deployment zone. This limits the power of alpha strikes and balances that limit across the board of long and short ranged deepstrike units.
Mostly clarifications in the rest of the FAQs (do check your factions' FAQs, the main rulebook's, AND The Big One for comprehensiveness) with some limits or tweaks to existing strategies/psychic powers.
Tide of Traitors limit to once per game - Yay
Word of the Phoenix up to Warp Charge value of 8 - Yay (the ability to replicate what most armies pay 2-3 CP for with just a casting value of 6 was too cheap in my opinion. Especially with Yvraine that had an innate +1 to cast)
Command Benefits for Battalions and Brigades up to 5 and 12 respectively from 3 and 9 previously - Yay
Feel no pain (or the current Ignore wounds equivalent) stacking was irritating to say the least so this is a Yay from me too.
All in all, as you can see from my reactions, it's pretty much a positive FAQ for me but I'm used to change and I like seeing the ruleset move to include a larger variety of armies. It goes a long way to showing Games Workshop's maturity in game design and to proving that they aren't just out to make a quick buck/profit from a flavor-of-the-month spam mentality. Having been a huge critic of GW the majority of my 20 or so years in the hobby (just ask people who've known me), I'm extremely glad to see them moving in a positive direction as a company that not only produces some of the best models in the world but also has robust ruleset for its games (like finally).
NEXT UP: Dark Eldar codex review!!!
Had it partially written and really wanted to wait for the Big FAQ to drop so I could do proper effectiveness comparisons across the available tools for Aeldari. Expect it within the next few days.