As tournaments slowly start to open back up again, we find that the current meta is in an unprecedented state. At the time of writing there have been four new codex and four codex supplements released, all of which have yet to be truly tested in the fires of tournament play. This leaves things in an interesting state where we will see huge variations of lists and armies which is a complete 180 from what we had in 8th edition. At the end of 8th edition only a handful of armies were even worth bringing if you wanted to have a winning record, and of those armies there was usually only one list that most people were taking with slight variations from person to person. The main offenders were Ta’u with the triple Riptide and Shield Drone spam, old Dark Eldar and their triple Ravager and Venom spam, and Grey Knights Paladin bombs just to name a few. Though it seems that Games Workshop has taken a lot of the lessons learned from 8th and truly implemented them in the 9th edition codex. This really shows in the new Drukhari codex where there are at least two different builds for each of the Kabal, coven, and cults that are starting to pop up from some of the best Drukhari players around the world.
What does this mean for the competitive scene of Warhammer 40k? Well, hopefully only good things. If we look at the most recent GT Fabricators Forge there were eight different armies in the top 10, which is a far cry from the last major 8th edition tournament the 2020 LVO which was almost completely dominated by Iron Hands. This shows that so far Games Workshop has really improved with their rule writing and has done a great job at balancing the games so far in 9th with not a lot of feedback coming in from from the competitive community. Once GT’s start happening on the regular again Games Workshop will only improve going forward.
Looking toward the future things seem really bright. With codex Adeptus Mechanicus the next codex announced, and Sisters of Battle on deck, both of which have a solid player base we are going to see even further variations of armies in tournaments, which any of you that that played a few tournaments toward the end of 8th will be glad to see (I'm looking at you Iron Hands). We will of course still have it where people will netlist from the top players, but it seems that most people are more than happy to branch out and try their own lists because of how well and balanced the new codexes and codex supplements are. Only time will tell though, codex creep has always been a thing, but here's to hoping they at least mitigate it better this time around.
One last point I want to address is one of the main issues that comes with the term Competitive 40k, which is the stigma that competitive players are "win at all cost" dicks that can't make for an enjoyable game. Let’s talk about the first stigma “the win at all cost”. This is absolutely false, myself having played in over 200 tournament games there are only 2 that would meet this player stigma. 99% of games I have played have been enjoyable and fun. Of course there are heated moments at crucially times talking about a specific rule or how far a charge is, but this is what makes competitive games interesting and fun. Now let's talk about the stigma of competitive players that won't be friendly and give you a fun game. This is absolutely and completely false. Almost every game I have played my opponent has been a good sportsman and given great games. Whether it be them letting me do something I forgot, helping me move models, or even talking about the best move I can make at the time. This is the overwhelming majority of competitive players, most don't want to win by some technicality or through a "gotcha" moment; they want to beat you at your best. And finally, the stigma that competitive players cheat. This is extremely rare and the few that do are fairly well known in the community. This almost never happens intentionally but it does unfortunately happen. Luckily there is zero tolerance for cheating and it is punishable by the ITC. As recently shown, there was an instance where a top tier player was caught cheating on a streamed tournament game. After the ITC investigated, they found him guilty, banned him for 30 days, and stripped him of all of his ITC points. He was also the current number 1 ITC player at the time. This shows that while yes it does rarely happen, it is strictly punished.
In conclusion, competitive 40k is in a great state and showing no signs of slowing down. With great rule writing in the new codexes, large variations in armies and list builds, and the strict governing of rules and regulations by TO’s and the ITC, I truly believe that the competitive scene will continue to thrive and grow as we slowly come out of lockdown.
* Bonus Hype * Check out these upcoming Warhammer 40k tournaments
Dallas Open April 30th - May 2nd https://dallasopen.org/
Atlantic City Open: June 11-13th, 2021 https://www.frontlinegaming.org/2021/03/29/atlantic-city-open-2021-registration-is-open/
Lone Star Open: July 23-25th https://www.frontlinegaming.org/2021/04/14/lone-star-open-2021-registration-is-now-open/
The info on the tournaments below can be found at
Las Vegas Team Tournament: September 25-26th
SoCal Open: October 23-24th, 2021
New Orleans Open: December 9-11th
Las Vegas Open: January 28-30th, 2022