Goatboy’s 40k: Current Top Armies & Builds


Goatboy here again – it’s that special time of year to go over the best armies in Warhammer 40,000.

Of course there isn’t a real “top” army anymore as most of the best lists have specific foils to their designs.  Its why you don’t see nearly as many – massed Army X top 8’s.  Sure you will from time to time – but I end up seeing more variety in most of the events these days.  The army faction variety is strong but the army styles are somewhat stagnant with a mix of Death Star/MSU fighting their way through the missions.  Still we can look at the top factions right now to get a better idea of the scene you might face when you decide to venture out in the competitive swamp that is 40k.

There is no order to the top section of the list.  Each “good” army can defeat the others with specific style builds having a distinct advantage in the match up.  This is more of a general feel towards the whole where a lot of match ups could also be heavily decided by a single warlord trait roll or a certain set of pre roll conditions.  With that in mind – let’s begin.



Will start with the Eldar as they still have the best set of tools.  From reserve manipulation, movement tricks, decent psychic powers, and still the best troop choice in the game – the Eldar Faction will always bring a hard game to the table top. As lists get more specifically set up they do find some foils to their plan.  They do not ignore cover so shrouding and stealth is extremely powerful versus them. The new way to fix assault troops by allowing them to deep strike out of reserves is one way to quickly catch those jet bikes. They still have access to some FW nonsense with Warp Hunters and the Flamer Wraith Knight – but that still leaves them to the mercy of cover ignoring troops, grav weapons, and even the new wave of massed rending attacks.  They still do have the best CAD army in the game with one of the best formations (Aspect Host) so while they are no longer the best they will always win a good deal of their games.

Good Lists: Bikes, Warp Hunters, Wraith Knight, Spiders – the normal good set of tools


Space Marines

The Space Marines are in an interesting place as they have probably the best army set up to win most missions.  Battle Company is still very strong – and even with the crazy death stars out there a ton of free vehicles mixed with always scoring is a potent combination.  They have access to a good set of guns as well – with everything decent except the Dirty D allowed.  The two big lists that I suspect to see is again the Battle Company list and the newest pain in the butt the dreaded Iron Hands Star.  Enough events have Kill Point heavy missions so the Battle Company can have issues breaking past that one depending on their build set up.  The Iron Hand one can quickly fall apart as well when dealing with some of the Anti Psychics out there as well as a lot of armies carrying the ultimate problem solver with the stomp ability.  Still Marines are in a great place with access to Drop Pods, free stuff, good psychic powers, and friends all over the faction map.  Dark Angels Battle Company falls into this list as it basically works the same as the others – just with a few different rules.

Good Lists: Battle Company Gladius White Scars or Ultramarines, Iron Hands Medusa Death Star, Dark Angels Battle  Company


Chaos Daemons

Daemons are the next top contender in that there can be some games where there isn’t anything your opponent can do to them. The Warp Storm can just shift the game on a 2d6.  They have lots of movement options with fast MSU (Screamers/Puppies), creating free stuff (Summoning), and great access to psychic powers.  They do not need a CAD to function as corruption is a very powerful ability too.  Their Incursion Detachment seems a bit unwieldy with lots of duplicate options in the core choice – but as a whole the army is cheap enough that they can fit in a small CAD most of the time.  They have access to the next best set of allies with Chaos Space Marines (Cyclopia), KDK, Renegade Knights, and Renegades.  They can create multiple different Stars, have access to MSU, and will just have those games where nothing goes wrong for them.  Of course they will then have a game where the Warp Storm takes a steaming pile of poop on them and everything goes bad.  That is the way with Chaos.

Good Lists: Tetrad and Friends, Dogs/Scearmers aka Bangers and Mash, Double Star with KDK allies/Cyclopia/Screamer Star



The War Convocation seems to be doing well.  It is basically a formation that gets a ton of free stuff, has good sets of rules, and can do a ton of damage.  Mix in a bit of summoning post FAQ or have drop pods bring your friends along.  Its one of those lists that put out a surprising amount of damage and can easily knock you back when all the combo pieces fall into place.  It seems to be a list that is stronger on the West Coast and that might be due to how ITC works its missions when compared to the East Coast.  I do not know how well it will do when all the Pods leave it but it is still a great army.  I suspect the Sisters of Silence formation will fit really well with the list – giving it 2 options to turn off powers and help deal with a star that has powered up.  KDK and Chaos Space Marines fall into this as they are really there as ally extras to help create a few rough set of lists.  It is the same with the Renegade Knights and Renegades from FW getting utilize either as Cheap fodder or monsters to crush your opponent with.

Good Lists: Matt Root seems to be kicking butt with his Drop Pod Heavy list and the good ole Geoff Robinson has his summoning version that kicked the crap out of me.



Tau Empire

Tau are in a weird place as the army is good – it just has some issues with the other top lists.  It doesn’t have the staying power of other lists and it seems to be regulated to an ally again with a lot of players taking 3 Riptides within the Riptide Wing Formation.  I think the Monster Mash version seems the most fun to play – as anything with that much stomping action is a great Death Star problem solver.  The one issue right now is a specific army has an excellent answer to the Storm Surges so this faction becomes less desired.  Still – the army of bullets will win a ton of games with its massed weaponry bringing the pain.

Good Lists: Tau Monster Mash, Riptide Wing + Friends, Piranha Farm



Genestealer Cults

Genestealer Cult look to be another extremely strong list on the table top.  I get the feeling they will be like the Daemon army in that there will be some games where the seize will cripple their dreams.  I think any lists that can throw out a horde that shows up anywhere, can kill anything, and has access to strong psychic potential is a winner in the competitive circle.  I think the good lists will be so big that it becomes very unwieldy to play in a lot of events so I don’t think will see a ton of army-hopping over to it.  Once a FAQ comes out will see how powerful the big Detachment is and how things are supposed to work.  I do see it shaking things up if they start to win a lot of events.

Good Lists: Massed Hordes of Hybrids mixed with a CAD to get some objective secured friends to pop up.



Space Wolves

The Space Wolves Death Star is still around and still kicking butt.  Wolves plus Dark Angels friends creates one of the few lists that I think do not really care about the upcoming Genestealer cult revolution.  Bark Bark Star is rough for a ton of lists to play and while I think it doesn’t lead to finishing games it is a good list.  There is still always a threat of someone making a ton of 4+ saves mixed with 5+ FNP to cause any opponent to shudder.  You can still do the oldy but goody death star as well so while the list has kinda of dialed down in its popularity there will always be a few showing up in any given event.

Good Lists: Bark Bark Star, Massed Hero Star



Imperial Knights

The Imperial Knights are still a decent list.  There is a few combos out there that help out the Knight list.  I think the biggest thing that is interesting is the rule that fortifications hold objectives – leaving the Knight player free reign to move forward, get involved, and not worry about holding their home objective.  Mix in some anti psychic options and you got an army that can just not give a rats butt about what your opponent is playing. Sure some things could be rough – but when you have a unit that can just erase a good deal of points from an enemy unit and you end up having a winner.  It does help that the army is small, has cool models, and overall isn’t too hard to transport with you.

Good Lists: Baronial Court and Friends, Trip Lance plus Psychic combo



Finally we end with Necrons as while the army isn’t taking the win all the time – they still kick butt.  Pylon star is a thing and something specifically set up to wreck certain lists.  The normal Decurion is still a pain in the butt with Reanimation all over the table and units that take forever to erase.  They have access to some movement tricks and really the only thing keeping them at bay a lot of the time is not having access to massed Objective Secured and Psychics getting a bit too much play.  It also doesn’t help that the Eldar book is out there and has access to massed D weapons.  They also have some of the best Special Characters in the game too.  Still if I see Ben Mohile across the table top with Necrons you know the game will be tough and most likely he is going to kick your butt with some random Flayed Ones.

Good Lists: Decurion, Ben Mohile’s Bad Touch List


Those are really the “best” factions out there.  Other lists will show up and can kick butt too – but they are not nearly as prevalent on the table top.  A lot of these lists also depend on the type of missions/format they are playing too.  Each format will cater to specific army lists and you will see those at the top performing well. Overall the environment is pretty robust as there are a lot of top factions on the table.  It will be interesting to see how 8th shifts things as I suspect some of the craziness of list building might go away if they are really serious about building a “competitive” scene.

~What armies do you think are the best of the best?

  • Fukushim

    What is this list for AdMech with the summoning? I haven’t seen it anywhere

    • Mr.Gold

      absolute minimum points for War Convecation is about 1230pts, add in a Librarius conclave as well.

  • disqus_yyglaTdo9o

    Hurrah for Meta, copy all the lists!

    Tournaments make me sad :/

    • ZeeLobby

      Eh. It’s just what happens when you play a poorly designed game competitively. Diversity would be common if books had better internal balance.

      • Karru

        That and if there were some real restrictions to the way a list can be build.

        • ZeeLobby

          True. Just another way to help balance. Hopefully we see more of these things in 8th.

          • Karru

            I highly doubt it. GW will most likely follow the way of AoS with their “anything goes” policy and thus ruin the game completely, at least for me.

          • ZeeLobby

            Eh. I think they’ll release a “General’s Handbook” on day one. Just not sure if it’ll really balance the game. Part of me feels like AoS is currently enjoying competitive diversity because a year with no structure chased competitive players to other games anyway. As more return to the new GH, I expect to see gaps open up (and as GW plays favorites).

          • I think this is exactly it. That the competitive players all abandoned AOS so the min/max meta has not grown to the extent that it would have had it been WHFB 8.

          • ZeeLobby

            Which makes for an awesome community that’s left, but excludes a fair amount of the original community that existed. While WHFB might have been suffering in community size anyway, so losing competitives and bringing in casuals was a net gain, alienating either side of 40K can only result in losses. I guess they’re continuing losing sales each year though, so it might be worth it.

          • We had a good sized WHFB community and our tournaments were pretty full. However, no one bought anything so from GW’s point of view yeah we were pretty dead.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah. They really need to tweak their release schedules if they want to keep excitement consistent. All factions should receive equal love every year. It keeps the game diverse, fun and interesting. It also makes players more likely to start more than one faction. I hope they really start these things with 8th.

          • Karru

            Are you saying that SM every month or two while giving one random faction that is decided with a D6 roll or throwing a dart to a wall while blindfolded a single release isn’t a good release schedule?

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. It is very broken record at this point, but it does make playing half the factions really boring…

          • Karru

            I remember a long time ago when GW started doing the current style release schedule, releasing something every week, someone in the design team said that it was actually made so because it would allow more “freedom” for the Design team due to getting to work with “anything they wanted”. If this was/is the case, they really need to get some more CSM, Tyranid, IG, DE and Ork players in there.

          • Karru

            It really isn’t a surprise that no one bought anything from GW since they basically “killed” WHFB. There was a massive dry season for WHFB until End Times rolled in. I’m still quite sad they killed the game, but then again my community stopped playing it soon after 8th rolled in so there was really no one to play even if I wanted to collect it.

          • Our tournament crowd abandoned WHFB for a few years when 8th came back but the last two years of its life they all had come back from Warmahordes.

      • OldHat

        No way man. Magic is one of the best designed games out there and it has very distinct metagames. This is just a phenomenon of the internet age and the use of data to find the “optimal” options. Not saying 40k isn’t in dire need of overhaul, but its not a reflection on that. Just gamers gaming.

        • ZeeLobby

          I would argue that Magic is a poorly designed game. If you haven’t played Netrunner you should give it a shot. Way more strategy, better resource management, etc. Popularity doesn’t always equate to great design (Call of Duty for example).

          But there is no denying that better internal/external balance would result in a better game. And that’s all part of good game design. Net listing would still happen, but you’d have a chance of playing non-optimal lists and still winning via skill.

          • OldHat

            Netrunner probably wouldn’t exist without Magic. Context matters – Magic is legendary and was the first of its kind. It set the bar and when I played (1995 – 2009), the design of the game was fantastic and really pushed players hard on all aspects (resource management, deckbuilding, strategy, etc). I hear the game has been heavily simplified and I can’t speak to its quality now, but Magic was a brilliant game.

            But yea, I am eagerly EAGERLY awaiting a streamlined 40k and am hoping 8th Ed is that. GW appears capable of learning now, perhaps the AoS lessons will be applied and we will see a strong edition for the first time in a while (since 5th at least).

          • ZeeLobby

            Oh, i totally agree. I’m not saying Magic wasn’t the massive hit that it was, or is. It definitely started the CCG craze. But it’s always been a very simplistic game that is honestly a very pay to win meta. The only thing that’s kept it afloat recently is the restriction of only allowing 2 previous sets at competitive events, which has also allowed them to re-release mechanics that are very close to pre-existing mechanics, but aren’t in the previous 2 sets. The core mechanics of the game are very simple, and is driven more by skill at deck building rather than skill at playing.

            That said, I do enjoy a good draft, and still enjoy playing, but there are definitely better games, mechanically, out there.

            But yeah, I hope that 8th refreshes the game. It’s honestly started to look very pay to win as well, except they’re not even intelligently milking it like they should. They’ll release two new units for a faction, one which is amazing, and the other that is horrible, haha. They’re just kind of all over the place.

          • NagaBaboon

            Card games and wargames are very different though, wargames attract people for different reasons, they can be in it for the hobby, the fluff, the thematic appearence of a game as well the game itself. Card games will probably always have the game as it’s primary attraction so it will be less off putting to the casual player because they are less likely to exist.

        • Karru

          At first when I saw my friends play it I thought it was cool, but it was something I would never enjoy since it was Cards and not miniatures. Then I tried it and dropped around 200€ within two weeks once I realised that it was quite fun quick game to play over a break or while travelling somewhere via train. I stopped as fast as I started it though. When I realised that basically every single player I ever had the chance to play with was a net-decking try-hard I found no reason to play it. On top of the fact that I personally despise buying specific cards for a deck, I really like to try out silly themes, ideas and combos just like I do in 40k, but this was all shut down fast, since I lost every game due to some broken net-deck that won by the 10th turn and I couldn’t bring anything to the table.

  • blackmoor

    Still no love for the Harlequins?

  • BartTP

    What? No orks whatsoever?

    • Atharius

      Oh you

  • wibbling

    Or… these are the armies people are taking to ‘competitive’ events. They are absolutely min maxed, break all the rules of the spirit of creating an army, ignore the fluff and are designed solely to win games because the owner has a huge ego.

    • ZeeLobby

      Yeah. Def not GW’s fault at all. Clearly if balance was added to the game it would just help these players chest more.

    • Karru

      Nope, they really are the best armies. Even if you don’t go absolute min-max, rule breaking route, they still have a massive lead in terms of rules and internal balance. For example, I could go full fluff army with Raven Guard. Angels of Death Supplement, Talon Strike Force.

      Pinion Battle Demi-Company as my Core Choice with a Chaplain, one 10-man Tactical Squad and two 5-man Tactical Squads, 10-man Assault Squad, a 5-man Devastator Squad and 4 units of Scouts. Then I take the Shadowstrike Kill Team with two units of 5 Vanguard Veterans and 2 units of 5 Scouts. To finish it off, I take the Skyhammer Annihilation Force with 2 units of 5 Devastators and 2 units of 5 Assault Marines.

      Most of the stuff is placed in reserve and on my turn 1 I bring everything in thanks to the Detachment Special Rule. I infiltrate most of my scouts, especially the two required for the Shadowstrike Kill Team as close to the enemy lines as possible. On turn 1, before my opponent can even react if I’m the one going first, I have 4 units already Assaulting him. On top of that I have two Devastators with Multi-meltas destroying his heavier vehicles and all the Missile Launchers from my back-line is firing at them as well. I don’t have the exact list and equipment, but I remember this list being 1850pts. I consider this extremely fluffy list in terms of Raven Guard. Drop Pods raining from the skies with terrifying accuracy, units guided by scouts and acting as beacons for the main force and of course a lot of jump packs.

      How would a Guard player react to these if he is supposed to follow “the spirit of the game and keep with the fluff”? How about Orks or Tyranids? Show me how Chaos Space Marines would win without taking full Nurgle army.

      Yes, the lists that people take into these tournaments are meant to be as powerful as possible with no regards to the fluff. This is the biggest reason why I avoid them like the plague. Saying that these are not “the best” armies because the only reason why this is the case is because people do this stuff is wrong. These armies are top tier for a reason and that reason is extreme favouritism from the GW design studio.

    • Fukushim

      Actually 80% of these armies are fluffy. The days of taking Tyrants+DropCenturions+ScreamerStar are over.

    • Karru

      Also, have you considered the possibility that the game is favoured towards these factions? Not only do some of them have Alternative Detachments they can bring without any downside, they also happen to be very shooty in terms of playstyle, outside deathstars. 7th edition hates Assaulting and actively tries to make it harder at every turn. On the other hand, it does everything it can to make sure that Shooting is the more viable option. RNG Charging, no charging from transports, no disembarking after moving more than 6″, Overwatch, Challenges, Power Weapon changes and Unwieldy. These are just some of the problems in terms of Assaulting.

      When you look at those armies, you also see that their save happens to be around 4+/3+ area. Cover Saves were basically removed from the game with the inclusion of so many Ignore Cover Save weapons and abilities that grant it. D-weapons, Super Heavies and Gargantuans that can bring so much firepower for a low price, Hull Points and the lack of all allies and those mentioned above also hurt certain armies a lot.

      Let’s take Orks and Tyranids for example. 6+/5+ save on majority of the models. Orks have Trukks that have 10/10/10 AV. Anyone who plays Thunder Fire Cannons squeal with joy when they see someone bring these armies to the table. They die faster than the guy removing them can do it. These armies relied on cover saves before, but they don’t have them any more thanks to the amount of Ignore Cover Saves. Also good luck trying to use that “LoS blocking terrain” when you have 100+ models on the board.

      These armies are forced to take something that is definitely not fun to play since it’s the only way they have a shot.

    • J Mad

      That kinda the point of a tournament… you know to bring your best to win….

    • Pyrrhus of Epirus

      what a ridiculous thing to say. I dont see tournament players on here ripping on non tournament players for “being scrubs who cant compete at the highest level”, but you certainly have no problem coming in here and ripping on every tournament player and painting them with the same inaccurate brush.

  • Andrew Noctem Holscher

    What is the best Tau Monster Mash list and what’s the best list overall do you think?

    • Fukushim

      Best list overall I’d say is regular Tzeentch daemon list with Belakor and a Renegade Knight. Screamers are on par with jetbikes when it comes to versatality and you can summon even more of them during the game.

      Best Tau Monster Mash? Riptide Wing with 3+1+1 Riptides and a maxed out Pirahna formation. The team that won WTC in Zagreb yesterday had one player with this list.

  • Karru


    I’m seriously not surprised about this. Necrons got extremely lucky with them being the first of the Alternative Detachments and already had a solid base for their rules. They also have one of the best internally balanced books in the game with barely any unit being utterly useless. Eldar got super popular with the insane Wraithknight and GW saw a massive spike in sales numbers thanks to that. The Eldar codex during 6th was also very good and when it got updated to 7th with a nice Alternative Detachment, Eldar made themselves one of the most hated armies in the game to the point where even mentioning that you play them makes everyone groan, even if you only play Guardians and Autarchs.

    Space Marines are never a surprise, they are the poster boys of 40k so they will always be amongst the top tier. Also to make sure it stays that way, thus making sure that the maximum profit is sucked out, they release something new for them on a monthly basis. Also, the Demi-Company was made most likely with only the $$$ in mind, since it gives so much free stuff compared to other formations/detachments as long as you have the models. Chaos Daemons are actually a surprise, since we all know what GW thinks of Chaos as a whole. Of course, it could just be CSM that GW despises and not Daemons.

    Tau are also amongst the lucky ones in terms of alternative detachment. Thanks to being one of the few that actually can play theirs without any downside, they get a nice buff in that department. Also the amount of stuff that was given to Tau by GW helps a lot.

    GSC isn’t a surprise, but I believe they won’t be amongst the high top tier for long. They still suffer from certain things like RNG and AA. People just haven’t figured out the best way to counter them that gives them a unique advantage. Other thing of course is that the current meta of MSU and hunkering down on one side of the table really helps GSC.

    • J Mad

      3 Flyrants and 1000 points of GSC is enough to win tournaments. Not all but it will do very well for awhile.

  • Austin Becht

    You know, for as defined and stringent as the meta is, it’s actually quite nice to see a good 11-12 codecies in there. And even then, there’s pyscher-spam Guard, Flyrant Bids, and Psyclopia Cabal, which didn’t make this list, adding at least another 3 codecies to the mix. While I don’t really like the min-maxing, mish-mashing of the competitive scene, it is commendable that a good 50-75% of the armies out there are at the very least represented in some way or another.

  • Sebastien Bazinet

    Ad-Mech gets Drop Pods how?

    • Commissar Molotov

      They’re apparently not using the “draft FAQ” rules released on GeeDub’s Facebook page.

  • Nyyppä

    Well, at least this all seems honest.

  • Viktor Julian

    Put some links to the affermentioned lists Goatboy. As an example you can’t even google “Ben Mohile’s Bad Touch List”.

  • Old zogwort

    Drop pod heavy admech you say….