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 The State of 7th: Overview

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PostSubject: The State of 7th: Overview   Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:05 am

by AbusePuppy

So we are a little ways into 7th Edition now and we've seen a few of the larger tournaments. The nature of the game, such as it is, is becoming more clear and so are the armies that are making the cream of the crop. While the environment is hardly settled completely, I think we're reaching the point where we can make some more definite statements about things and start looking at what kind of environment we'll be playing in. There are definitely a few surprises in what's shown up so far, but also a lot of the expected players on the field.

This will be the first article in an ongoing series that aims to take a look at the major armies in 7th edition, what they are composed of, and how they function. Later articles in the series will focus on particular armies and builds; this one is intended to give a broad overview of the 7E environment and the sorts of challenges it presents.

Newer And More Different
Let's get this out of the way: 7th Edition isn't 6th Edition. They share a lot in common, but the differences are big enough that you can't just keep playing the same game you were before and do well. If you play it exactly like you did 6th, you're going to get trapped by a wide variety of small-but-important changes to the game from many, many sources. Moreover, the codices and design philosophy for the game are changing- while this hasn't been critical yet, we're three books in and we're really starting to see the way this is altering the game.

7th is a much more aggressive game than 6th, with more fights over midfield and especially more assaults happening. In my experience it is also much bloodier, as there is more contention over objectives and more sacrificial tactics. Armies in 7th need to be able to either get up close and personal themselves or have a strong strategy for dealing with armies that do- bikes, Drop Pods, mech lists, Deep Strikes, and Infiltrating are far more prevalent in the game than they were previously and if you can't handle all those things, you are going to be in a bad place. While shootouts can and will happen, rarely will you see the 6th Ed-style “one player starts with more objectives and just sits there while the other guy comes to them” battles.

Missions and Objectives
7th, as noted above, is much more dynamic in its placement of objectives, due to the order of operations during missions. With the rulebook missions largely cleaned up and quite useable- plus the increasingly-popular ITC format missions, which are fairly well made- as well as Objective Secured, more battles than ever will come down to who has the right units in the right place at the end of the game. While many different objective-capturing strategies are possible, from “hold it with big guns, blast everything that comes near to pieces” to “you can't kill ALL my Troops”, all of them will be winning the same way- by sitting on top of objectives throughout and at the end of the game.

Space Marines
Having taken top spot in several tournaments in the past couple months, Space Marines have shown themselves more than capable of swinging with the big boys despite widespread perceptions that Eldar and/or Tau are “more broken.” With strong options for bikers, mechanized, and Drop Pods as well as the best allies in the game, Space Marines are a very flexible army with access to many, many tools for virtually every situation. Their sheer resilience in the face of most kinds of firepower gives them excellent capacity to hold until the end of the game and various special weapons offer solutions to most any kind of threat that appears.

Space Marines, due to diverse builds and excellent showings in recent months, will be getting some extra focus in the coming articles, all the more so because of the combinatorial issue of their multitudes of allies.

Imperial Knights
While rather one-dimensional, Knights present an incredibly difficult problem for many armies out there- they leave little time for positioning or shots beyond the initial volleys, as they almost always will get very early assaults. Immunity to most types of firepower, a powerful formation, and several strong matchups are all big bonuses for the army, although the low model count and consequent vulnerability to poor luck are obvious downsides.

Surprisingly, Knights are making a lot more appearances as ally armies to other aggressive forces (bikes, etc) than I initially suspected. We'll see if this pattern continues or if it's more of a local spike in the data.

Imperial Guard
While the Aspara MiliwhatsumImperial Guard haven't made a lot of waves in terms of winning tournament appearances, they have ranked solidly in the middle of the top tier and have what I feel are a lot of strong components that are simply waiting for the right list to be properly utilized. Pask and Yarrick are both strong HQs that make it difficult to claim Slay the Warlord and spit out a ton of firepower either directly (Pask) or via Orders (Yarrick.) Blobs of Guardsmen are still reasonably affordable and difficult for many opponents to remove. Vendettas are still strong flyers, and the Vulture doubly so. The Manticore in both configurations is a strong solution to a lot of potential threats and the Wyvern/Thudd Gun are excellent anti-infantry tools for reasonably cheap costs. On top of all that, they get Priests and Primaris Psykers as slotless HQs with low price tags attached.

Guard, while sometimes a bit lacking as a primary, makes an incredibly ally due to the extreme flexibility of its force org. Expect to see a decent chunk of armies continuing to run IG as an allied detachment to hold their backfield and bring in good AA or blast weapons.

Oh, Eldar. While a lot of people seem to think Eldar got worse in 7E, the truth is quite the opposite- the Jink changes are essentially a wash for Wave Serpents (more survivability, but at a firepower penalty) and they are still perfectly capable of claiming cover saves normally (especially if they spend the 10pts for Ghostwalk Matrix.) With powerful psychic HQs, several different troop options, hands-down the best dedicated transport in the game, and options across virtually every slot that can be ranked as excellent, and one of the better xenos ally matrices around, Eldar continue to be in a position to be one of the most dominant armies in the game. Wave Serpents are a real “make or break” test for many armies- anything that can't win going second against five Serpents is simply not a valid tournament army and that barely eats 1000pts from the Eldar player's list, leaving plenty of room for other shenanigans.

While they can have problems with highly-aggressive armies, the ability of Eldar to bring both heavily-unbalanced lists (e.g. Seerstar) as well as excellent “toolbox” armies (via allies and aspects) means that they will remain viable for some time yet.

Tau have two main things going for them: they are a purely shooting force in an edition where shooting is king and they have easily the strongest formation in the game. Tau bring excellent mid-strength firepower via multiple different units with extreme efficiency and have access to nearly any kind of gun you could care to want. They also have the most versatile (if not quite the most prevalent) Ignores Cover access, easily attachable to any weapon profile via Multispectrum Sensor or Markerlights. With transports and especially Drop Pods on the rise, S7 Tank Hunter is especially nice to see, as is widespread Interceptor weapons of varying types. Tau troops, though not exciting, are passable and can be minimized or eliminated entirely.

Tau function quite well as a primary or as an ally/formation- the Fireblade Cadre is a fantastic addition to many other armies, although the change to their relationship with the Imperium hurts them somewhat in that regard. Still, being able to pack along some of the best units in the game with extra bonus rules is pretty huge, especially when you don't have to pay an HQ/Troop tax to do so.

Although they are one of the oldest codices left and largely leaning on a handful of units, Necrons are still inarguably a very powerful army because of the raw strength of those units. Command Barges in particular got a massive boost with the new edition, becoming some of the strongest and most resilient melee units around, but Annihilation Barges and Night Scythes are both powerful units in their own right and the codex's ability to wreck vehicles, including superheavies, is second to none.

While their fate once the update hits is uncertain (witness what happened to Grey Knights), for the time at least they remain a powerful competitive army. Their ally choices are somewhat more constrained than most (Tau and CSM only, essentially) but still not terrible even in that regard, as both armies complement them well.

Although Tyranids are rather a one-trick pony these days, that trick is pretty good and only got better with 7E's release. FMCs are essentially impossible to bring down in most cases due to the new Grounding rules and there are but a handful of viable AA platforms in the game available in total, and most of them are concentrated in an even smaller number of armies. While this means Tyranids can have some pretty horrific matchups on occasion and are incredibly vulnerable to Second Turn Syndrome, they can steamroll most forces if they manage to go first and very few opponents can hope to do much damage to them once things get rolling. Whether or not Nids are a top-tier army, they certainly will continue acting as a spoiler for many other forces.

The recent release of the Malanthrope has potentially opened up a bit of other design space for Tyranid lists, but the jury is still out on whether it's sufficient to really bring anything to the fore.

Let's be frank: pure summoning lists aren't good and never were going to be. Wholly passive armies aren't- can't be- survivable enough to completely dominate a game. The strength of Daemons is that they can invest a few hundred points into some backfield summoning units in addition to whatever else the army is doing. This is true both as a primary (where they can throw down FMCs, deasthstars, etc) and as an ally (or pseudo-ally), where Daemons can present a unique sort of threat that must be dealt with- left to its own devices, summoning shenanigans can easily blossom out of control in a very short time. As many tournaments are limiting detachments or banning CtA allies we haven't seen any egregious offenders yet, but I expect that it's only a matter of time.

The Also-Rans
Orks are a big “maybe” at this point- we haven't seen any strong performances from them yet, but they're still pretty new on the scene so that may not mean very much. With two very strong formations (for Meganobz and Battlewagons) as well as one other outlier possibility (the Green Tide) and some very useful hard counters to other armies (most especially flyers and hordes), Orks are far from out of the running at this point. On the other hand, they suffer from issues against Knights and highly-mobile armies and many builds struggle to make it into the enemy deployment zone early.

Space Wolves also remain to be proven in their effectiveness. Although Thunderwolves, Stormwolves, and Drop Pod shenanigans are all very useful, their basic troops are middling and the various power armor-spam builds that have been cropping up are largely just gimmicks. I won't dismiss them entirely at this point, as we have yet to plumb the real depths of what the codex is capable of, but I don't see anything that jumps out as a powerhouse. TWC, for all their vaunted improvements, are still just T5/3+ at the end of the day, and that falls relatively easily to all of the common torrent shooting that so many armies bring.

Chaos Space Marines simply suffer from too many issues with matchups and not enough fundamental strengths to really come in at the top; they aren't as unplayable as some people seem to think, but it will be a rare thing to see them at the top tables because other armies typically just do what they do better. They can be a useful ally and the increasing prevalence of MEQs on the table will make the Heldrake a lot more useful again, but that alone won't be enough for them to make a complete revival.

Dark Angels are simply a worse version of Space Marines most of the time. While Bolter Banner and Deathwing builds do have some unique traits, they fare amazingly poorly against the current field and they have zero solutions to enemy flyers and FMCs, Knights, Command Barges, etc, etc.

Grey Knights have a neat gimmick in Deep Striking (either via their special detachment or Draigo), but I don't think that alone is enough to save them. With very, very limited options for loadouts and weaponry I think they will simply struggle too much with many kinds of armies to realistically be successful.

Blood Angels, like Dark Angels, simply don't have enough that makes them unique to justify their use over other armies. While ASM in Drop Pods with two special weapons are decent, they lack the support units and abilities that SM Drop Pod armies can bring to the table, which ultimately is a major limiter.

Dark Eldar are a very common ally to Eldar for various shenanigans, most especially using the Baron, but on their own they are amazingly fragile. The new versions of Jink and the damage table make their transports a bit tougher, but at the cost of losing almost all of their firepower and template weapons suck extra-bad for them now. Dark Lances are also comparatively worse and DE have very little to replace them with; in short, they are an army with essentially no legs.

Sisters of Battle have exactly one plan: throw S8 AP1 at you early and hope that collapses your army. Should that fail, they have nothing else to work on, and with fragile transports and unreliable troops they are generally destined to mediocrity any time they go second.

Final Thoughts
The crop of top-tier armies is actually reasonably diverse at this point in the game- perhaps not perfect, but much better than many would believe. In the coming articles I'll try and go over each of the major contenders in some real detail, looking at common builds, strategies, and counter-strategies as well as what makes the army strong and where it falters. While I can't promise it will be absolutely comprehensive- for many books, there are simply too many variant builds to even try and look at them all- covering the major contenders should be entirely within reach.

Martial Law-Salute
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