40K Op-Ed: Ranking the Codices

Whats the best, and worst, of the new 8th Ed. Codexes?

We’re now several months into 8th Edition and have a total of 7 new codices released. With these we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a Codex and we’ve seen updated rules for a number of the major factions. Today lets take a quick moment and rank the books we’ve gotten so far. Which books are best, and which are worst? Lets take a look.

Before we get into it there are a couple of caveats:

  • Isn’t it too soon to rank them? I can pretty much guarantee some of you are saying this right now. So here is the thing. There will always be a new Codex coming out. 40K Will never be complete and it will always be possible to say “isn’t it too soon” or “but codex x hasn’t come out yet!” Well, 7 Codices seems like a good place to start to me. This is of course a list that can always be added too or adjusted, but you gotta start somewhere.
  • How I am ranking them. While I am going to making an overall ranking based on their respective power levels and how competitive each codex is, I will also be giving a sub-ranking on how useful they are as allies.

With that being said, lets get started.

7. Grey Knights


Both in terms of power level and excitement Grey Knights feel like the weakest release. While they did gain some new units none of them came with new models. In an edition that rewards large horde armies a super elite army like Grey Knights was always going to struggle. While their Codex is an improvement over the Index they lack any real tricks and don’t get cool sub-faction rules. In addition – though all their units get to be pyskers the limitation of only being able to use each power once a turn really limits them from scaling well.

Cool models and some cool units don’t make up for a small unit/model count a lack of anything really special they do. Meanwhile high costs hold them back. Taking a few as allies can always be good, but the days of them ruling the meta are long past.

Use as Allies: 1/5

6. Adeptus Mechanicus

While Admech got a lot of cool new rules with stratagems and faction rules their army still has key weakness. Unlike the Gray Knight book the Admech books does feel like a huge improvement combing a number of smaller sub-factions into a real army. In addition the army has some really powerful units. Knights, Sydonian Dragoons and Kastalan Robots are all very powerful units. However the army as a whole still has some major weaknesses. A lack of transports limits its mobility and ability to protect units. In addition, while the Codex gave the army a new HQ choice its still stuck with only two options (and Cawl) which is a serious limiter. An improved but still fiddly army, it just never quite comes together as well as some others.

Use as Allies: 3/5  

5. Death Guard

The first all new army for 8th Death Guard got a lot of cool options. With a host of new rules and models Death Guard has by far been the most exiting release of the new edition. This is a codex that has a lot of good things in it and is full of tricks and combos. It’s combos are also one of its weaknesses. The army isn’t that easy to play and to play well needs a lot of moving parts working together with characters and stratagems buffing other units. While rewarding this is not a good thing for new players.

In addition the Death Guard suffer from being slow, short ranged and expensive. It’s very easy to find yourself out of position and range, or overwhelmed by sheer numbers. While they has some serious weaknesses as an army Death Guard work amazingly well as an allied force, adding poxwalkers, Morty or some of their other tricks into a more flexible core army.

Use as Allies: 5/5 

4. Space Marines

The other exciting new release of 8th has been the Space Marine book and Primaris Marines.  Now Space Marines, as has been the case most editions, are powerful – but not that powerful. An elite jack of all trades army they tend to fail to exceed at any one thing. Solidly middle of the pack with some powerful builds they never reach the top. While Primaris Marines added new options they didn’t really fill any gaps or address any of the Space Marines weaknesses. In addition Space Marines are an elite army and suffer as all elite armies do in 8th.

They do remain a common army and one of the more exciting releases of the edition, but overall aren’t as purely powerful as some other lists. Their flexible nature makes they good at addressing various tactical situations but generally not great as allies as they rarely can addresses specific weaknesses as well as other choices. They do have some very powerful characters though so watch out for them.

Use as Allies: 2/5 (With Guilliman 5/5) 

3. Eldar

Though the Eldar codex didn’t add any new units to their list it did give them a host of new rules to play with as well as reducing the points cost of most units. Eldar have traditionally been a powerful list with a lot of tricks. The new codex adds a lot of depth and tricks back into the list with some powerful relics and stratagems as well as some major tweaking of rules. While subtle at first the codex really changed a lot of rule for the index overall giving the army a power bump. However the most important change was the massive price reduction many units saw, with some seeing up to a a 30% drop in price.

In a surprising turn of events it seems that letting a army take 33% more models than before will improve its power level a lot. Between price drops and good sub-faction rules, and a solid base, I would expect to see Eldar a lot more. How they play as allies is a bit more complicated, if Ynnari can take the prices from the codex I would expect Ynnari lists to swing heavy towards Craft World Eldar until more codices come out. If not expect no change.

Use as Ynnari: 3/5 

2. Chaos Space Marines

Chaos Space Marines got a pretty big overhaul this edition. The return of legion rules, the reworking of a lot of great unit rules and the addition of a few new units has really bumped them up. With access to an array of powerful units and abilities CSM are one of the most flexible armies in the game. Unlike loyalists, access to Cultists (and tide of traitors) allows them to build horde lists. Demons Princes remain one of the best HQ choices around, and the CSM psychic powers are some of the best. Warptime in particular stands out as possibly the best power in the game right now.

With access to the ability to build either combat or shooting armies, elite or horde and powerful physic phase there isn’t much CSM can’t do right now. In addition to some solid Legion rules they also have one of the best sets of stratagems with Tide of Traitors and Veterans of the Long war standing out. The ability to bring in Death Guard or Demons or Renegades for specialist jobs really make them incredibly powerful.

Use As Allies: 2/5 

1. Astra Militarum

What happens when you take the best Index list and make it better? The Guard are really getting their ten minutes of fame right now, and for good reason. A strong Index was made several times better by a powerful codex. Points reductions, regimental doctrines and new orders all come together to really make a solid army. While some units have taken a hit like Conscripts & Commissars, others in particular Leman Russes, got massive upgrades. Able to field powerful horde or specialist lists, and with a very killing army that benefits from many of 8ths core rules Astra Militarum are the codex to beat right now.

Use as Allies: 4/5


So what do you think BOLS fans? Is our list right? Let us know how you rank the Codices, down in the comments! 

  • Fergie0044

    I only own the Ad mech and DG codexs and while I can’t comment on which is the most powerful the Ad Mech are definitely a lot more boring!
    A general lack of interaction/synergy between units and fairly limited stratagems really puts a cap on fun possibilities for them. Want to win? Bring shooty robots and Crawl. Want to have fun? emmmm, less options there I’m afraid.
    Meanwhile the DG have lots of exciting (but not necessarily powerful) combos. Try and make that blight grenade strat work. Kit out PM for cc, buff them to high heavens and thrown them at a pile of zerkers, just to see how they’ll do. Run plagueburst tanks straight at the enemy, using that warlord trait to make their spewers killing machines and ignore the mortar. 5 elite characters to experiment with. All stuff I’m looking forward to trying.

    • ILikeToColourRed

      what is this “fun” of which you speak, wargames are about crushing your opponents

      • Fraser1191

        Variety is the spice of death!

        • ZeeLobby

          I had to do a double take and make sure you weren’t Fergie0044. Your names oddly line up XD.

      • OctopusVolcano

        This is my biggest complaint too. We got some good stuff, but if you dont want to play that stuff your options are severely limited. Either the fluff didn’t give the writers enough to create synergistic rules or they basically gave it to an intern who had no idea what any of the factions were about.

      • Jabberwokk

        Damn right! And then laughing menachialy over there burning cities, standing on a mountain of corpses, and hearing the lamentation of overly stuffed rippers being rolled into digestion pools like beach-balls. This calls for an acid bath as I sip the finest amino acids from the skull of the local regent lord. Might as well enjoy conquest before I am unceremoniously reconstituted.

        Grim Life.

    • David

      At 1000pts I’ve had more success with dragoons dune crawlers and enginseers. Mars is just not as good as some of the others. I wouldn’t run a pure admech at 2k though

    • LankTank

      My new favourite atm is the dead walk again poxwalker/cultist trickery. With Necrosius nearby its not hard to get a unit of 30-40 poxwalkers, rerolling 1 on DR, hitting on 3’s in combat. Cast putrefying blades and use vets of the long war and you will throw 10-15 mortal wounds out on top of wounds. I find it a little easier to pull off than theblight barrage.

      • LankTank

        On that style of list in 1,500 pts I had necrosius, plaguecaster, death guard lord, renegade sorceror (for warptime), exalted champ, 2 malefic lords, renegade commander (just cause), 7x nurglings, 60x renegade combat flamer cultists, 60x deathguard auto gun cultists and 60x poxwalkers. This comes across 3x battalions and a patrol for 12 command points and acess to both csm stratagems like tide of traitors and death guard ones. However storm ravens are a SIGNIFICANT weakness, but if you want to play apostles of contagion, its the price you pay

      • Fergie0044

        putrefying blades only gives mortal wounds for plague weapons which poxwalkers don’t have, so you only gain the +1 benefit from it.

        • LankTank

          Ah dammit your right. I owe a box of brews now. Still +2 to wound for the share anount of attacks still lets your horde unit throw back a good punch

  • Gorsameth

    Chaos over Space Marines when the former needs Forgeworld (for Malific Lords) or a second codex (deathguard for Morty) for its full potential?

  • I_am_Alpharius

    Codex’s are only as good as the players who use it. Granted, some are perhaps more obvious in how to best utilise them or can be more forgiving during a game – I’m looking at you powered armoured armies. One army may not fit your play style over another; for instance, I’ve always been awful at using the fragile namby Eldar, I have a feeling I’m too aggressive in my tactics…

  • Marco Marantz

    I was thinking about when we would see this article just yesterday. Stable Abe must be smoking crack. CSM is the arguably the worst codex; undoubtedly worse than LSM who are ranked 4!? I agree with DG also being ranked lowly…they have some key weaknesses.
    6/7. Chaos
    6/7. Death Guard
    5. GK
    4. Mechanicum
    3. Space Marines
    2. Eldar
    1. Imperial Guard

    • FCBullsht

      CSM being weaker than SM was a good joke xD

      • Marco Marantz

        Looks like a few SM players need to L2P. I know most players play space marines so they probably have the majority of the worst players but chaos doesnt get cheap but useful las-razorbacks, under-costed storm shields, stormravens for starters. The chaos codex of a poor imitation of the SM codex.

    • Volcifar

      LOL at Grey Knights over Chaos, Death Guard, Squats, Zoats, or anything with that travesty of a Codex they got.

      • Calgar

        Yeah, grey knights have one good unit that sees competive play. The Grandmaster in a dreadknight. In fact the only time i have seen grey knights is just all armies of them.

      • Marco Marantz

        GK arent bad, they still get the good stuff from the marine codex, but they were put 5th for a reason.

    • Fergie0044

      Is this from a tournament point of view? If not, what’s wrong with DG?

      • Marco Marantz

        moreso yes. in fluffy games DG can be good but as I said DG have some weaknesses – if you play to them they arent that scary. Mortarion is a beast but he is not invincible.

    • Zingbaby

      You’re doing it wrong. CSM can spam cheap troop fodder, bring armor, bring alpha strike, can shoot well, bring big uglies and Primarchs, can assault well, and have durability.

      I’d move them to number 1 over AM personally. I predict once the meta settles down a bit from this transitional period we’ll see CSM start to dominate.

  • JJ

    I’m just annoyed that 400 points of Astra Militarum Psykers. Throw out more smite than my entire GK army.

    • Dan

      you mean comparing the dedicated psyker smite units to the storm bolter/power armour/force weapon/good at shooting-and-also-cc-and-also-psykers-as-well-too-incase-that-wasn’t-enough units?

      • ZeeLobby

        It’s an apt comparison considering how powerful massed smite can be. Turns out the GK didn’t really need all that extra stuff. Would have been better off running into the battlefield naked and costing half the points.

        • Dennis J. Pechavar

          Sad but true.

        • Matthew Pomeroy

          I am not sure i want to see 8 ft tall naked supermen running around casting mind bullets at people 😀

  • Drpx

    Every time I see a “who’s da best” article these days I know who rank first, but I read anyway because I want to see where everyone else placed. Ditto for tournament articles.

  • Christos Black

    Ad mech codex sucks. Not only it has a sjngle option Cawl robots the design is stupid to say at least. Cant put a list without tax. Cant put different units togherher . The stratagem usage requires big units and the rax cost wont allow any synergy. Take a big unit of robots thats it. Nothing its nothing of value. They even broke the healing . You cant even heal with your enginseer unless he is same forge world. So much tax the units wont even give the simpliesr of buff if not same forge and all units can only take abilities with gems. How will this work ? Need to be big units same forge but also need many cps amd differenr forges to get skills? Its insane realy dont jnderstand who mad this crap. And on top of all if you got the index then you ger the same mstakes in codex. Copy paste shame to announce release. Trash at leasr all others can make a proper list. We seem to fight each other in every single list. Worse than worse ad mech.