18 Feb 2013

Rumours and the Meta - Tau/Chaos Daemons

Previously, on Gundam Wing...
Rumours are rumours, so the saying goes. You shouldn't believe in them until you have tangible proof of their validity, regardless of their source. But, for a moment, let us pretend that these rumours aren't just that - let us look at how some potential rules for upcoming codices could potentially impact the meta, if they are indeed correct. Even if these rumours are completely inaccurate or only partially on the spot, they are still worthy of consideration - could they be an indication of where 6th Edition Warhammer 40,000 is heading in terms of balanced play, or just the latest in a line of codices attempting to out-do one another? You decide.....

Today, we are looking at some very recent rumours about both the Tau Empire and Chaos Daemons - for the moment, we will discuss the Tau, particularly their shiny new rumoured monster, as their codex should be at least a few months away, and these rumoured rules would likely be less accurate. Chaos Daemons, on the other hand, are seemingly only a fortnight away from release - we can only hope!

A note - this article features significant references to rumours. Please do not take the information presented in the article as gospel. 

The Tau Empire

The first major point about the Tau I want to discuss is how their codex being redone could be the fundamental equivalent to Imperial Guard in 5th Edition - the rumoured author is Robin Cruddace, they are considered a top-tier shooting army and have more long-ranged firepower than most other armies. There are obviously some major differences between the armies, such as the increased focus on mobility for the Tau and their more elite Troops, as well as a smattering of skimmers and the like, but the core principle remains the same - a codex that is nearly unmatched in ranged warfare (or they should be) in an edition that favours shooting. I'm very much afraid that the Tau codex could go one of two ways - the author may realize that making them a very strong ranged army could make them an exceedingly competitive force, especially when compared against the two current 6th Edition codices, and thus give them less than stellar rules or over-cost their units to compensate. The 5th Edition Tyranids are a prime example of this. However, it is altogether possible that they do not prepare for this, and what we are left with is a codex that adapts far better to the meta than almost any other - mobile ranged firepower is typically what leads the game now, and Tau should be the masters of this based on their background. Of course, this is simply conjecture - I've seen nothing to indicate which direction the codex may be heading, and hopefully, if Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines are any indication, it should be well balanced. Those lingering possibilities do worry me though, as all it could take - as evidenced by 5th Edition - is one over-the-top codex for the meta to break down into a tiered system of cheesy army lists yet again. Whilst such armies are present in 6th, they should all change once each of those codices is updated for 6th Edition - or we can hope so, anyway.

Now for some specific rumours - courtesy of Bell of Lost Souls.

The 'Tau Dreadknight'

the tau dread knight walker rumours you have read are 100% TRUE - I have seen the concept art/profile and from the top of my memory it is something like this.

  4    4   6 8  4  2 4  8   2+/4++

I will not share rules because they were on the next page of document of which I did not see. I did see the points which were : 210pts

This is the heavily rumoured profile of the oft-whispered 'Tau Dreadknight' - a monstrous creature that packs some serious firepower and, if the rumours are accurate, is incredibly durable too. Many will argue that it doesn't mesh with the mobile nature of other traditional Battlesuits, but I think this profile doesn't tell the full picture; according to Stickmonkey on Bell of Lost Souls, it can move as a Jump Monstrous Creature and be unable to shoot any weapons that turn. Regardless, it is obvious this is an incredibly powerful unit - an unusually high WS and BS, as well as a profile that would make even a Wraithlord blush. For those that don't know, Wraithlords are currently the only T8 (or higher) unit in a standard Warhammer 40000 codex - they rely mostly on their Toughness and decent armour save to ward off damage, as they have no invulnerable save and only a few wounds. This monster seems to have little weakness though - a 2+ armour save makes it almost immune to missile launchers, whilst a 4+ invulnerable save gives it some serious staying power. On top of four wounds a Toughness of 8, we might find the current meta struggles immensely to deal with this - plasma guns, often considered the name of the game, only wound this thing on 5s and it still has a 4+ invulnerable save. It has a low Initiative, as you would expect from Tau, which means Jaws of the World Wolf may prove more valuable than ever - but even this monster, paired with Deny the Witch, would have a significant chance of saving itself there. With a decent WS and Strength, as well as a nice amount of attacks, it can handle itself in combat too - however, from what we have seen, the suit doesn't seem to have the Fearless special rule. If that is the case, it may very well be susceptible to Sweeping Advance and the like from a lost combat, though I expect that it likely will have the Fearless special rule.

Of course, its weaponry will also prove whether we should invest in such a unit - according to Stickmonkey, it comes with a Railgun weapon system (perhaps a single twin-linked Railgun?) and can upgrade to a plasma weapon system or ion cannons - probably a pair. Given its good BS, it would add some nice firepower - though not as much as one might expect. Still, if it is indeed 210 points, given its amazing statline, I can definitely see it not having as many weapons as the equivalent in points of Broadside Battlesuits would have - its incredible durability are what make it a great anchor, but not necessarily a must-include. If the profile, cost and weaponry see few changes, opponents may find themselves forced to ignore the 'Tau Dreadknight' and focus on the other elements of the Tau army. Even Grey Knights with Nemesis Daemonhammers would struggle to kill the 'ubersuit' reliably, especially owing to a rumoured Deny the Witch bonus for Battlesuits - a trait that would also make sense given the Tau background. Whether or not these rumours turn out to be accurate, I think we can safely agree that the Tau should be getting a range of new and interesting options - a great sign for an old favourite.

Chaos Daemons

Surprisingly, for an army that is universally considered to be an impending release in the next fortnight, there have been far fewer rumours regarding rules in the new codex than for Tau or the previous releases. It definitely seems that Games Workshop has really tightened their lips regarding this release - whilst I feel this works out better for them, it also gives us little indication of what exactly we will be rushing out to be in the coming weeks. Assuming of course that Daemons are around the corner, we've heard very little of any new units - mostly, those rumours are concerned with updates to older models, such as new plastic Greater Daemons (a very welcome change!), plastic Furies and many other changes. Given how old a lot of the range is, these are positive steps in making Daemons - for both Warhammer 40000 and Warhammer Fantasy - a visual treat for collectors once more. The only new units I have seen in the rumours have been siege engines, similar to Maulerfiends and Forgefiends from Chaos Space Marines, and potentially a new daemon flyer - however, I doubt the validity of that last one as Chaos Daemons already have four flying monstrous creatures in their current codex. Of course, the ones that many have attested to are the Nurgle 'Fly-riders', essentially Plaguebearers on Jetbikes. Given the splash of new releases for each codex lately, I would be surprised if there isn't at least one new unit for Chaos Daemons - though I feel new, awesome Greater Daemon models would easily satisfy the quota and be on many hobbyists 'to buy' lists.

Here is a compilation of rumours courtesy of Bell of Lost Souls for ease of viewing.

How They Could Change

Chaos Daemons are not really an army that meshes well with 6th Edition in general. Typically, competitive Chaos Daemons armies currently revolve around one of two themes - flying monstrous creatures, particularly Fateweaver, or Flamer/Screamer spam mixed with durable Nurgle Troops. These approaches lead to 'spam' armies that usually minimize on Troops - with assault-focused Daemon armies rarely working, aside from Tzeentch armies (ironically) due to Screamers, this leads to bland army lists that require the use of a few select units to achieve victory. Khorne and Slaanesh armies are left in the cold, and the only real Nurgle units that feature often are Plaguebearers as they are tough objective sitters. Mostly, the codex is a recent tournament success story due to the recent White Dwarf update - notably, again, for the changes to Flamers and Screamers of Tzeentch. Flamers are now the ultimate alpha-strike unit, and are very quick to boot - Overwatch makes them an ungodly prospect to assault. Screamers, on the other hand, are now point-for-point the best melee unit in the game, able to deal with anything from TH/SS Terminators to Land Raiders with relative ease. It makes one wonder - could this be a preview of the codex as a whole? Certainly, it would paint a very bad image for the future of 6th Edition - Flamers and Screamers are two of the most over-powered units in the entire game, and a codex filled with other units near that level would be horrendous to deal with. This is why I imagine there will be major changes in the codex, and that those two units will be justifiably adjusted.

Generally speaking, assault armies do not work in 6th Edition. Given that almost two thirds (or more) of the Chaos Daemons codex is built around assault, I believe we might see some significant changes either to those units, or the Daemonic Assault rules, to make them more alluring. The best examples of these are Bloodletters and Daemonettes - two assault units that form the core of Khorne and Slaanesh armies, respectively. And unfortunately, both pale considerably when compared to Plaguebearers and Horrors - the former for their durability, the latter for their ranged weaponry. Both units are over-costed and rely on extremely random deployment rules to get into an assault - their lack of good saves and mediocre Toughness mean they are fodder for almost any ranged unit, even standard Tactical Marines. Not to mention, those same deep strike rules that they must follow mean they could quite easily wind up being destroyed or misplaced due to a mishap - effectively leaving the unit in the cold. Even if they do drop near an enemy unit, they will quickly be gunned down as any smart opponent knows how much of a threat these units pose once they do get into combat. Their actual abilities in combat are not in question - getting there is the main issue, as it is for many assault armies in 6th Edition. I feel the Chaos Daemons will go one of two ways to mitigate this - the first is that they will lose their Daemonic Assault rules, gain a dedicated assault transport for each god, and be able to deploy on the table normally. The other, and hopefully less likely option is that they retain the Daemonic Assault rules, but gain the ability to charge off of a deep strike. I feel the latter would lead to many units being over-costed once more, and unless the Daemonic Assault rules are tweaked heavily to be more in favour of a Daemons player, I believe the rule should be removed completely. As it is, having a random half of your army come down, and then being forced to roll for each other unit separately, is just not good enough - on any day with average dice, your opponent can take your army apart piece-meal with very little difficulty.

Another big change I can see happening is a codex-wide loss of Eternal Warrior. Now, this has not really been mentioned in any rumours that I have seen, but it is an opinion that is being circulated widely due to the Chaos Space Marines' Daemon Prince losing the special rule. There is obviously an argument to be made that a Chaos Space Marines' (or CSM) Daemon Prince could be different to a Chaos Daemons Daemon Prince, as generally speaking the CSM Daemon Prince's are represented as very newly ascended, whilst Chaos Daemons' ones would likely be far more ancient. Whatever you think, it is important to note just how much this could change the codex and how it works - it would make monstrous creatures, particularly Fateweaver, that much more prone to instant death; given their high cost already, you would think they would require severe cost-adjustments to reflect this. Most other units aren't affected too much, but it would definitely explain why Screamers and Flamers are so powerful - Battle Cannons and the like would become far more popular if those two units lost the Eternal Warrior special rule, though they would likely still be dangerous if their White Dwarf profile is anything to go by. My take on this is that Chaos Daemons will probably keep the army-wide Eternal Warrior rules - it is a big part of what makes the army unique, and given that most rumours suggest the codex will not change majorly, I simply can't see a codex author going through all the trouble to re-balance everything so significantly. Many Chaos Daemons units do need significant changes, though - all the Troops choices are too expensive for what they bring, aside from perhaps Plaguebearers, whilst many of the Greater Daemons need either major profile changes to reflect how powerful they are in the background, or a severe points reduction. Skullcrushers need to be treated as cavalry and given a boost to deal with Terminators - they are essentially the elite melee unit of the codex after all - whilst Furies, Fiends and so on need to be given some changes to make them more viable. I fully expect Daemon Princes to be brought in line with Chaos Space Marines' Daemon Princes, both in cost and potential power if upgraded appropriately.

Given how popular Fateweaver is currently, I would be remiss to mention how it might change - despite being the single most expensive HQ in the game in terms of base cost, Fateweaver is still widely coveted due to its amazing abilities. Assuming the codex keeps Eternal Warrior, I feel Fateweaver will lose the 'Leadership test or be removed' rule which, frankly, is embarrassing on a unit that costs well over 300 points. To prevent its continual abuse in armies - Fateweaver is considered the only option to make assault armies work currently - I expect it to only affect Tzeentch units from now on. Many will disagree I am sure, but I feel having a crutch unit that makes assault armies work is a sign of bad codex writing and the weaknesses of those other units. I believe it will be much cheaper to compensate, of course, though with the new flying monstrous creature rules, I may be wrong there. The other big change - and this does relate to Fateweaver - would be daemonic gifts and/or psychic powers; Deny the Witch rolls cannot be made against Chaos Daemons currently as their 'gifts' are not actually psychic powers, despite many being near identical to powers in the Chaos Space Marines codex. I am really unsure as to how this one will go, as one could argue that Daemons, being pure manifestations of the Warp itself, simply ignore the normal rules and are far more difficult to defend against. This gives them an edge in that regard, though I expect that if this does stay the same, their powers may be toned down. The other, more likely alternative is that they become psykers, much like Daemons of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy, but will still retain daemonic gifts that are more like in-codex upgrades. I would expect Fateweaver to be Mastery Level 4 - or be treated as two Mastery Level 4 psykers, ala Fantasy! - whilst Lords of Change and the like would vary between Mastery Level 2 and higher. Heralds would likely have these changes too. The psychic powers could prove to be very interesting, and hopefully the Tzeentch powers would prove to be far more useful than those found in Chaos Space Marines. I also fully expect this will give Chaos Daemons some very big advantages in terms of Deny the Witch - as it is, despite being made from the essence of the Warp, they have only the most basic defences against it.

Whatever changes Games Workshop go for, major or minor, I just hope that Chaos Daemons receive a codex full of different viable builds, encouraging balanced forces in the same way Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines have. Though the return of competitive mono-god armies for each of the ruinous powers is unlikely, I hope that assault armies in general receive some love, and that the greater daemons are adjusted to truly be the terrifying monsters they are depicted as!

I hope that you have found this article entertaining - as this is based on rumours and conjecture, I advise you to not take anything in this post as gospel. These are simply my thoughts on how two oncoming codices appear to be shaping up, and how those rumoured rules could have an impact on the 6th Edition environment. Thanks again!

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