Jstove here with a question for the post-ATC dust-up. Will we see elite strike forces coming back into the meta? The clock may be the deciding factor.
Hordes are the meta in 8th edition. But could the clock from the ITC have anything to say about it? We may be coming up on a meta-shift where elite units with decent ballistic skill come back. Even though the models get fewer shots, they’re more likely to hit and it takes half the time to do it compared to horde shooting.
Let’s look at the current meta now.
It’s Cultist Day in Chaos Land
There were some steamy lists from the top team. 170 cultists Slaaneshed up to double shoot, refreshing from Tide of Traitors and made fearless by your boy Abbadoodle. Oh, they also had some smite action from a pair of Thousand Sons Daemon Princes and a whole case of beer full of teleporting Tzaangors. 120 models on the table? Nah bro, try two twenty and change.
We also had a group of Catachans with a gang of mortars. Mortars in every squad. 3 by 3 heavy weapon squads. They brought a Castellan and some Blood Angels too. Two hammer daddies with jump packs for problem-solving.
There was some Drew Carey heat with the triple ravager, Urien Rakarth and his battalion of Hellraiser homies. Another detachment of Suicide Girls as a Wych cult, an all Dark Elf list where no other kinds of Aeldari came to play.
Finally, there was your boy, the Brown Magic himself. With his textbook cat lady and friends coming at you with so many Swoopdahawks and shining spears you’d think he was single-handedly stockpiling all those old fine cast Eldar aspect Warrior sculpts. (Seriously, what’s GW gotta do to get some of these broke old shrines up to date)?
Half the Eldar community is gonna be in spirit stones by the time we see plastic Dark Reapers.
The Hordes And The Gassy Command Points
A lot of these horde-friendly lists have a real booty of a first turn that can just drop heat in your lap. A big old 40 pack of Alpha Legion Slaanesh cultists is -1 to hit and they’re gonna drop 80 dice on anything they can double tap. Burn some command points, and do it again. Because Slaanesh is apparently the chaos god of dakka. Then, after you put a dent in them with your return fire, they’ll just get recycled back with Tide of Traitors for another little bump of CP.
Guard aren’t slow to that punch either. While they lack the juice of the 40 man Cultist blob, they certainly aren’t struggling. The boss man grabs command points as they are spent on a 5+ and has orders that allow guardsmen to double tap their lasguns. Throw in mortars and you have extra cheap heat to throw wherever you want with no line of sight required.
Eldar aren’t slouches despite not being as numerous as sweaty humans. There’s plenty of hurtful things they can do to your soul with psychic powers, fight twice stratagems and shoot twice stratagems.
So what’s the jam here? Not only are most of these winning lists super fat on the table, but they’re all primed and ready to dump command points on the first turn to really clean you out and make sure you don’t get anything back. How are we supposed to deal with that?
The Clock And The Pod
The first thing that’s going to happen is that Frontline Gaming is pushing a format game changer in ITC. It’s all about the chess clocks. My personal hope is that once this timed format gets rolling and players become accountable for their turn length.
We could actually see a shift away from hordes. I don’t have a problem with hordes and even play them myself with my Tyranids. But I do have a problem with unaccountable players who either can’t manage the armies they build or even worse, are hording to sandbag the clock on purpose for game control.
Once clocks expose the sandbaggers, these dudes are going to have to find a new jam to stay relevant in the 40k scene. Fresh blood and new ideas are never a bad thing though. The only people who should be playing hordes are the people who have the preparation and respect for their opponent’s time to come correct and do it right.
So hopefully to accommodate this hot new accountability format, we’ll see some fresh lists to reflect time constraints.
This is where I think things like Trygons, Tyrannocytes, deep strike elites, and even Drop Pods will finally come off the shelf.
These models have been unpopular ever since the anti-alpha strike beta rules came into effect that curtailed models from dropping into your lap and kicking your teeth in on turn 1.
However, I personally believe that we’re about to witness the circumstances for these units to make a comeback.
Hordes need aggressive first turn movement to make their power plays.
Double tapping Guardsmen, Cultists, Devilgants, and every other single-digit point cost spammable model wants to move aggressively to spend command points and drown you in bullets. Since there is a high likelihood that these units will come up midfield in a hurry to look for something to squeeze triggers at, the fact that first turn deep strike can’t leave its own deployment zone becomes less of a gut shot.
With enough forward momentum and board control, it’s highly likely that if a horde army gets first turn, you won’t have the opportunity to leave your deployment zone anyway. so the first turn deep strike embargo is moot.
If It Ain’t on The Table, They Can’t Kill It
The biggest perk of deep strike arrival is unanswered shooting. Being able to guarantee you get one turn of pulling triggers on your opponent before he can shoot back, regardless of whether or not you take the first turn is great. Abusing the hidden nature of deep strike arrival to deny your opponent his first turn command point dump could potentially halt his momentum.
Or at least make him spend that gas on a less valuable target you’ve set up for him to be a chew toy while you wait for your pods to come in.
Low model count and high firepower
Deathwatch Vets with storm bolters, Sternguard, Noise Marines, and other similar units that can really dump out heat but are easy to manage on the table might be the answer for the player who is worried about hordes and time. These units can chew up a lot of dudes in T-shirt armor with a quick brick of dice if they get the drop in rapid fire range.
With smaller unit footprints and massive rapid fire, a delayed deep strike combined arms approach could be an effective answer for a time-conscious player that needs to put heat on hordes. Furthermore, what elite dakka lacks in volume it makes up for in quality. Guardsmen and cultists bank on volume to do work, but a space marine with a storm bolter and a 3+ BS and a 3+ wound roll will have a way easier time getting his dice out.
Fighting On The Way Out
Another point in the marine’s favor and the noise marine’s favor as well is an instant reprisal. Under the correct circumstances, these are models that aren’t afraid to die. With the correct auras from the right flag, a marine will fire again when he drops. A noise marine has that rule cooked into his DNA with no need for an aura. Aggressively deployed marines may die, but they’ll bring the pain on the way out.
Warhammer 40k: Will Podding Make a Comeback?
That’s a way better promise than any unit that doesn’t shoot you when it dies can make. A noise marine in a suicide deployment will spray shots and ignore cover. six shots if you double tap him for Slaanesh. Nine when he immediately gets shot in the face afterward. Nine shots from one model in a single round doesn’t sound bad for the points. The storm bolter marine isn’t far behind him with 8 shots per model on death from his storm bolter.