ITC 2017: 40K Year in Review Statfest

Get ready to see what the meta really looked like in the past year – with actual DATA!

Hi Everyone! Uncle Heffelfinger here with the legendary Captain Sunshine aka Reecius aka Reece “don’t call me Dick” Richard Robbins with a delightful year in review*

(*now with DATA!)

Contrary to what you might have heard on Signals from the Frontline, I am neither a statistician nor mathematician. I am but a guy with B level excel spreadsheet skills. While I understand that to mere mortals this makes me appear to be some sort of numbers wizard, I promise you that this is not the case. I am but a vessel for dropping these incredible factbombs.

Furthermore, to those who’ve listened to the Chapter Tactics or the Signals episode where some of the below numbers were first reported – you may notice some differences. This is due to my having subsequently cleaned up the data some more to reduce duplication and otherwise make it an even more accurate picture of what last year looked like.

Mmmm… cleaner data.

Finally: the vast majority of the below would not be possible without the mind-bendingly awesome innovation that is Best Coast Pairings. I cannot say this enough: Best Coast Pairings is what will allow us to take a feeble step forward from vroom vroom sounds and bashing toys in the air to an actual, metrics driven, functional 40k gaming meta. Just imagine how useful these types of real world results could be to, I don’t know, the ongoing rebalancing of the matched play rules?

Please, if you have ever said “hey that’s cool – there’s an app ON MY F#*(%^$ CELL PHONE that I’m using to enter results for this ten man RTT VIA OUTER SPACE” please… buy a subscription. More subscribers means they can keep the lights on and keep innovating and provide us even more insights and actionable data to use in the future. Best Coast Pairings for President.

With that all aside, open the bomb bay doors, switch targeting to manual, and get ready for some retrospective FACTBOMBS.

2017 may well go down as the year in which it all changed – where GW found their stride and started making and supporting the game that we all wished it was. Outside of caps lock wielding internet commentators, many actual things point to this being a not insane thing to say – for example, the story of GW’s share price:


Only one year ago GW was sitting at 730 GBX per share (that’s £7.30 m8). A year later and their share has increased more than 3.5 times over. Now that may not be sexy cryptocurrency numbers, but for a humble small cap stock it qualifies as one of the top performers in Britain.

Oh and by the way – there’s about 32 million Games Workshop shares up for grabs. Doing a little math that means that all of GWs stock is worth roughly £867,682,200. Using our friends at google to convert that to freedom dollars you get:

For those overwhelmed by the decimal places – at some point in December Games Workshop became a billion dollar company in good old fashioned USD and no one noticed or cared.

So, in the era of virtual reality, a company that sells genocidal toys to grown-ups has grown into something that other companies go to Tony Robbins seminars to try and become. How could that be you ask? The answer quite simply is sales. We are eating this shit UP and GW has repeatedly beat their own and outside expectations on revenue. Will this pace continue? DO YOU LIKE PLASTIC PRIMARCHS?*

*full disclosure: the author indeed holds GW stock, and by no means do the above rambling paragraphs constitute cogent investment advice, rather, an observation of a crazy thing that happened.

But I digress…

What about our sweet, sweet Independent Tournament Circuit brought to us by the more humble purveyors of hobby product at Frontline Gaming? How did the year pan out vs 2017? For that, we have a look at the numbers again:

In contrast to my original stab at this, these numbers do not include any duplicate entries (sorry John Smith: THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE). I believe that this will provide a better snapshot of how the ITC looked in 2017.

These figures include tournaments up until the first week of December and yet there’s already a significant 12% increase in participants from last year. With a number of events yet to be put in the books it’s a guarantee that unique participation will be up even more significantly by season’s end.

On the downside, of the 5411 noble nerds that attended events last year 59% of them have only attended one event. Notably though, this number is down from 2016 where 65% of all ITC players were one-and-done. That’s a good sign! However it highlights the need for us to encourage and coach first time players. You can’t be “pwning noobs” 24/7 if there aren’t any noobs around now can ya?

So keep that in mind next time you’re at an event and it’s the first one that your opponent has played in – there’s a 60% chance it might be their last if they don’t find it to be a good experience. Only you can help prevent salty modeler syndrome – have lunch with the rookies, chat lists, high five ‘em for no reason, do whatever – just show ‘em a good time! This is supposed to be fun on some level, right? Kinda?
Ok moving on…

So who are the real “playerz” out there? Assuming that attending more than one tournament suggests that you are an “active” competitor – here’s how the meta breaks out:

While the single event set saw piddly growth of 2% since 2016 – the active tournament crowd has increased 30% since last year! That means that there are 30% more people battling for the individual faction crowns and overall ITC rankings. This is a sign to me that people are not only trying ITC tournaments more, but they’re also seeking out more ITC tournaments to play in.

That’s the whole reason for the ITC to exist in the first place, and the more these numbers grow, the better the party on this crazy train gets!

Reece was right! Exclamation points rule!

Shifting gears, I feel the need to call out a significant elephant in the room. He used to be our only friend, and well, none of us have called him since June. That’s right folks – I’m drunk dialing 7th edition.

We remember those abusive days don’t we? Formations and monobuild armies, those crazy Ynarri… seemed like there were like two lists to choose from and like a high school boyfriend both made you feel bad. So I axe a simple question: what did the 7th edition meta really look like at the end of it all?

Oooooohweeee. There you have it! Feels about right doesn’t it? Half of the meta was comprised of Space Marines, Craftworld Eldar, Chaos Space Marines, Tau and Chaos Daemons. The only real surprise to me here is that Chaos Space Marines were so prominent. However, I’d be willing to bet that it was really just one Chaos Space Marine in particular: with ripped abs and nipple horns. You know – this guy:

Rounding out the top tenish you’ve got Ad-mech (no surprise) followed by Guard (these are the real guard players) and then of course, the super friends.

So we get a text and it’s time to see the sidechick on the regular. No more blurry cell phone pics for us, it’s time to make things official. 8th edition is our bae. So how did the meta shift in the months since 8th dropped?


While this doesn’t include the soup factions of Chaos or Imperium (we’ll get to them later) on a faction to faction basis you can really see that players were ready to move on in a big way.

Sure power armoured murder monks still rule the day – but look at Orks and Tyranids! And where did Eldar go? Answer: devoured by the slaneeshi pleasure of no longer being bound to a faction you’re just not that into. Seriously – Eldar’s usage implodes with the switch to 8th edition. Combining Ynnari and Asuryani still gets you barely half of the total eldar players that were present in the meta just six months ago.

For full harshness – here’s a chart showing the swings in usage:

Sure the Ynnari seem to have really blown up, but that’s really just the desperate remains of the pointy-eared meta clinging to the only lifeboat they had. Otherwise 8th edition has been a boon to many underpowered but beloved factions.

RIP Eldar Corsairs: you were neither.

On that topic, let’s have a look at the relative strength of each faction in 8th edition. To do this I took every tournament result from each faction and simply looked at the average tournament points earned by it. Note that this does not control for sample size, so less used factions can be over-represented here (because I’m not a statistician, this will just have to do).

All factions together on average score 62 ITC points – anything more than that and there’s a chance your faction is giving you a boost. Below that suggests that playing Deathwatch is indeed, a handicap.

In the above average camp – there are certainly some outliers buoyed by small sample size here. I wouldn’t be anticipating the dark mechanicus meta, or understating the death of Genestealer Cult (they are basically extinct since NOVA). However armies with large samples and excellent results like Chaos faction, Daemons and Ynnari are either attracting skilled pilots, or are every bit deserving of the significant nerf bat that they collectively just took to the face.

Average results are interesting and all but who cares about average? This is America: what about winning? Which factions walk away with more hardware than the others?

There we have it folks: Though Astra Militarum may own first place in the first half of 8th edition, Chao Space Marines own the podium by a mile. When you lump in Daemons and the Chaos faction – it starts to feel like the “good” bad guys might be in tough vs the “bad” bad guys.

A final note about the data:

The above comes from all tournaments entered into the BCP app (including some but not all manual submission results.) This works out to 8200 tournament results from 368 tournaments in 8th edition alone. This is a tremendous wealth of information about our game, and though this article feebly gets the ball rolling – there will be more to come. In the weeks ahead we will go deeper not only on tournament results – but the even more useful realm of round by round results. That means knowing how each faction fares against each faction at the matchup level, individual player statistics, and probably a bunch of other cool shit.

However, interesting insights and actionable data is not possible without you. If you have a T.O who is either unaware or reluctant to use BCP or won’t submit scores to the ITC, remember that it’s not just about that little store tournament. It’s about being a part of a wider, quantifiable meta that now touches nearly every continent. The excitement of being a part of that bigger “thing” is why I’ve spent way too long writing this. I am super excited to share with you that there is tremendous possibility presented to us by using a silly damn app.

Ask yourself if you’d pay attention to your favorite pro sport if you didn’t know whether your favorite team was good or how many points your favorite player scored. Participating in the ITC and sharing your results through BCP is how we get to that kind of a world for competitive 40k. That is something worth supporting.

You don’t have to use someone else’s comp pack. You don’t have to swear allegiance to Frontline Gaming where you can save 15% on GW MSRP. You just need to make use of an app that makes T.Os lives easier, is way cool – and I will bet dollars to donuts – will play a role in improving this game in the future.

In Closing: Best Coast Pairings for President.

Subscribe today!

I was going to add some flavor test to this but Val did such a good job I don’t feel it is necessary beyond this: the more data we collect through active participation in the ITC and use of the BCP app, the more accurate model we can build of how our game exists in the reality of how it is played and not just in our individual opinions. So by all means, please continue to play, have fun and go to events!


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

  • fenrisful2

    Interesting how well orks and nids are doing, it’s not like that in my meta, but the rest applies quite well. 🙂

  • SacTownBrian

    Two things: Deathwatch is the new Black 😉

    And I love the statistics. This is a wonderful and well presented evaluation. Keep them coming. As a suggestion you might consider normalizing the numbers to get different comparable results. Region would be as interesting as army as well.

    • Koldan

      And the argument of small sample size for some of the above average factions is also correct for deathwatch, as they belong to the five factions with the lowest number of players. As some really good or lucky players may have pushed the points of the other small factions higher, also some bad players or just some players having a bad day may have caused Deathwatch losing points. The sample size may have been just too small to read anything into that result.

      • Val Heffelfinger

        This is an excellent point sir. Does not hold true for necrons doe.

        • SacTownBrian

          Because Necrons break statistical rules?

      • SacTownBrian

        Small sample size is only an issue if it isn’t statistically significant. Otherwise you just end up with a larger margin of error. In this case the entire dataset is used, not a sample, so we are not looking at sampling error.

        • Koldan

          Ehmm no.
          Let’s just try to estimate the absolute numbers.
          ITC 2017 participations: 5411.
          Just to have something to calculate with, i say half of this are 8th edition tournaments the other are seventh edition.

          And 0,8% of this 8th edition participations were from deathwatch player, that makes around 21 participations, and you are telling me that with this low number, there is no sampling error?
          At most the average is of 21 players, but many players join more then one tournament.
          I mean one enthusiastic, but crappy deathwatch player, who loses every
          game, but joined let’s say three tournaments, would be already almost 15% of
          the participations.
          Or signed up and did not show up, how is the itc handling this case, are they getting 0 points or are they removed from the event?

          • SacTownBrian

            What? I stated that sample size drives statistical significance, but this isn’t a sample it’s the full dataset. Your estimate is a perfect example of error based off of poor sampling and averaging on estimates.

            So many statistical sins committed…


    I do enjoy seeing Grey Knights making such a comeback. Though a little surprised by the Ynnari bump, though I understand the fall from grace of Craftworld Eldar.

    Though it pretty much confirms the two big hunchos of the game as Astra Militarum with Chaos Space Marines coming up second. Little surprised by Death Watchs low showing, I understand it but its still a little surprising, they have a few good units.

  • Koldan

    Something that suprised me alittle, there are more true kin players, then craftworld. It is not a big difference, but it seems the drukhari players are more loyal to their faction, while the asuryani seem to be playing ynnari. But i guess the changes to ynnari were too late in the year to had already an impact on the statistics.

  • Arthfael

    “RIP Eldar Corsairs: you were neither.”
    I don’t know about underpowered, I was still building the army. For fluff. But just ask Eldar players how they feel about this faction’s current treatment…

  • marlowc

    Looking at those stats seems like there are about 1000 regular tournament players – is that even 0.01% of people in the hobby?
    Nothing against tournaments, each to his own of course. But why is what happens on a tournament table given so much prominence when the design of rules, factions and all the rest is being considered?

    • Koldan

      Actually if i count the numbers together there are around 2000 people, that visited at least 2 ITC tournaments in the last year. I don’t know how big the itc really is, and how big the player base in the usa is, i think itc is still mostly the usa. But this makes 0.001% of all american citizens regular itc tournament players. 0.01% would be if the us player base would be 20 million players, and i doubt the number even scratches on the millions.

    • ZeeLobby

      Money. A frequent tournament player will possibly buy several armies in a single year. GW wishes we were all tournament buyers.

      • bobrunnicles

        Hmm, I actually think that might be the opposite, based entirely on hearsay from a guy at my club that used to work for GW (Chris McPherson, he’s in the credits for the 6th Ed General’s Compendium). Tournament players tend to favor single armies that they can hone to a razor’s edge by making the occasional purchase based on the current perceived strengths for their army. Whereas at my local club, not one of the 12 or so players we have have any interest in tournaments but at least half of which have multiple armies on the shelf and regularly buy more because ‘ooh new releases shiny’ 🙂 🙂

        • ZeeLobby

          Oh, most tournament palyers do. But then GW sees those that will go out and buy 6 stormravens, and then 12 assassins when those stormravens get nerfed, etc. And they’re like, man, if only every player was like that. In the end you’re probably right, but if GW is supporting anything, it’s for financial reasons. Which makes sense of course.

          • marxlives

            You mean businesses behave as businesses ZeeLobby, how dare you man. You are just lucky that I left my dueling glove at home!

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. Don’t worry! It doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. It just easily helps distill why GW does what it does. My issue has always been people who use “businesses do business” to try to defend a business’s action that someone else dislikes. As if there’s no other way they could have done it. I just always assume that GW always does what is best for the immediate bottom $ rather than what may be best for the game/community/etc. at large.

          • marxlives

            That is true. If someone is defending bad business practices that way, heck I would argue it’s bad for business. Paying attention to the customer and the community are part of doing good business. Each leads to the almighty dollar, but one is more effectively over the long run than the other.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, sadly GW is just tied to quarterly/yearly reviews. So if it boosts their gains in the next 3 months, it’s more important to them than where their games sit 3 years from now.

      • marxlives

        That is true, casuals are a very small amount of cash crop. This is why every skirmish game since Warmachine dips into the competitive scene. A really sexy competitive scene is what keeps a game afloat. Not the sporadic purchases of casuals who already own almost everything.

        • HeadHunter

          Take a look at GW’s revenues, then look at the relatively small number of competitive players by comparison. The data is right there for you, above.
          Unless you’re expecting me to believe that competitive players each spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on the hobby, it’s pretty clear that casuals are their bread and butter.

  • Defenestratus

    The increase in tournament players is disheartening.

    Any edition that has increased the population of this lamentable demographic is indeed the game I do not prefer.

    Probably why I’ve only played a whopping 3 games of 8th edition.

    • Koldan

      Actually the overall number of players is increasing.

      And you see here the number of itc tournament players, not the numbers of all tournaments. Nothing said about the overall number for tournaments. It just shows that itc is growing, not if this is because tournament organizers are changing to this system, or more players now playing tournaments.

    • Carey_Mahoney

      Agreed. Redesigning a core game from the ground up with competitive play in mind doesn’t quite do the job. I guess the most iconic example why that shouldn’t be the way to go is the lamentable removal of templates just for the sake of reducing play time.
      Analogy: They did the same with Street Fighter V, which was also said to be designed primarily for the competitive scene. It didn’t do the game any good, rather on the contrary…

      • marxlives

        Maybe but money talks man and numbers don’t lie.

        • Carey_Mahoney

          Don’t listen to the numbers. Listen to me. 🙂

          • marxlives

            Good comment man, that got a good Friday laugh out of me.

      • Red_Five_Standing_By

        Removing templates made the game, as a whole, better.

        • Carey_Mahoney

          Couldn’t disagree more with that opinion. To me, they were definitely among the fun parts of the game. And they added a pinch of (I dare say it) realism.

    • ZeeLobby

      Hey! I frequented tournaments and still am not a fan of 8th.

    • Drpx

      More tourney players doesn’t mean less fluff bunnies y’know.

  • Carey_Mahoney

    Glad to see Sororitas being rank 5 in average ITC points.

    (Technically, it’s even rank 4.)

    • Koldan

      Agreed, shows that the system is more healthy then i believed.

      As sisters with their metal miniatures are not really beginner friendly, and so on average a sororitas player should be more experienced.

      Also good that space marines are this low, as they are the most beginner friendly army and this way on avarage a sm player should be less experienced and so score less points. I am not talking about individual players here, if someone felt insulted, i am just saying with all the starter boxes and easy built miniatures, the ratio of new Space Marine players to experienced player is higher for sm and that is why the avarage result for space marines should be on the low side, if it is not it may be an indication, that something is quite broken.

      Some other faction placementes don’t look that good in comparision. For example drukhari have the image of a faction mostly played by experienced players, and they are a little under the overall average. So either that is not true and in truth they are a newbie faction, or their rules are subpar right now.

      • Ronin

        I think it’s more because people have been spamming Celestine. I’m not sure how much these charts take into account how much of the army is composed of Sisters because I’m betting its not mono sister armies that are doing so well.

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    stating the obvious, but that pie chart for the 7th Ed meta shows 3 big factions and a bunch of others. The 8th edition meta pie chart shows…3 big factions and a bunch of others. They look pretty similar.

    From this I conclude that 8th has failed on one count at least, it has failed to produce a balanced meta where all factions have a chance to make powerful builds.

    More on this here focussing on the Atlanta GT:

    • Koldan

      But look at the growth chart, at least the Space Marines are losing players.

      And please don’t call it meta pie chart, it sounds as if it has anything to do with the strength of the factions, it just shows which factions are played most.
      And SM has alot of newbies as expected for posterboys. They represent 15% of the players, but only 12% of the winners, the sisters are 2% of the players, but 3% of the winners, for example.
      You cannot expect a drastical change, as most factions don’t have their codex yet, most people are not investing much if they don’t know how the final version will look like, most factions have not gotten any new models, so on this front also no new reason to start collecting a new faction. Which makes it even more amazing that Space Marines are losing players, even though they are one of the rare factions that already got new toys.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        theres no drastic change because there is no real improvement in game balance. In fact the last year has seen ugly gimmick lists raise their heads like never before. Lists that manipulate failings in the core rules haven’t been as big a thing since Nob Bikers. And that is in no way an improvement.

        • Koldan

          You have your opinion, i have mine.

          I see that some smaller factions are slowly growing in the itc, even without any help like new releases, and some big ones are shrinking even with the help of new releases, like models and codexes or special on demand actions for them or some gimmick lists for them.
          It is not a revolution it is more of an evolution.

          I think it is still too early, but the direction seem to be right, i just hope Games Workshop does not break it by trying to stop the relative decline of the big factions.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            well we certainly want the same things. It would be nice if the factions played at GTs mirrored the proportion of those played in general non competitive play, and that playing a particular faction did not give you an advantage in competitive play. We seem as far from that now as we have at any point in the past though.

            I suspect the lack of restrictions in army building in both 7th and 8th work against this by allowing the spamming of any unit which is underpriced or useful in a gimmick list, and the situation will only improve if tournaments or GW introduce a more structured approach to army building.

          • Koldan

            Don’t forget AM already got hit hard with the nerfbat, so they should be lower for the next half year. Chaos may get the bat after they sold the new daemon codex. And SM may be on the top of the played factions, but pointwise they are below average, which is both correct for a faction that is sold as the main starting faction.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            there are still unresolved issues like targeting characters. The endless cycle of releases will throw up similar issues until GW do proper playtesting and write better core rules.

          • ZeeLobby

            Sadly I think they see WMH’s CID as a good example of “let the community fix the game” even though it’s not like that.

          • marxlives

            True, instead of leveraging those players who have a fixation with playtesting and created a forum to do fixes before a release, the 40k is releasing the faction then using tournament feedback to do a fix. I wish GW would just wholeheartedly “borrow” the PP model of CID and free digital properties if they want to go the living rulebook route. And it is a little rough to translate when you basically have to buy an point scale update book once a year when all the feedback is gathered.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yeah, that would be pretty awesome. But they love to sell their books.

          • marxlives

            And by the look at the sales, having people pay for a point adjustment each year may not be a bad way of doing business…wait now I get what you are saying about the whole “businesses do business”. If most of the purchases are books then it makes you wonder how much of the 2017 performance since May is hype-train and the rest the result of real sustainable business practices.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            Mantics public alpha and beta testing is a better model.

          • ZeeLobby

            I’ve honestly never gotten into Mantic games, so I’ve never had a look at it. I’m a huge proponent of alpha/beta anything though, as long as the company still tests and makes decisions when necessary. Everyone wants their stuff to be OP to some degree. The company needs to playtest because they know what’s coming, and what may break with future releases.

    • marxlives

      I noticed the same thing but with all the good feeling going around I didn’t want to bring it up. The KoIR walked into the room…

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        Sorry, bringing down the mood as usual!

        I don’t like 8th but it does have some virtues. ‘Fixing’ competitive 40k isn’t one of them though ☺

  • Ronin

    Great analysis although I hope next time there’s a way to normalize wins and losses by weight based on how much of each faction is being taken in a list. I’m pretty sure Sororitas are surprisingly higher only because of Celestine.

    • Koldan

      As imperium is a seperate entry in the list, at least for wins and average points, and it is not the sum of all imperium factions, I think the numbers there are for a list with only sororitas.

      • Ronin

        I highly doubt people are running mono armies in tournaments, much less winning with mono sisters. I’m pretty sure it’s based on how people report their lists either as having the sisters be the primary detachment or they count a win for 3 separate factions in a list with 3 detachments.

        • Koldan

          Looking at the original data, the last is obviously not true, as they can only enter one faction and imerium is an option.

          How correct they have entered the data is something we cannot see afterwards. If you want you can try to contact the people or find online some information, what they played:

          And the lists just show all players that atleast once played that faction, so no worry if for some events they are listed with an imperium army and for some with sororitas.

  • PrehistoricUF0

    I’m sort of surprised to see Orks and Nids where they are. WTF? Not a bad thing, I wouldn’t have thought they’d be doing better out of all the Xenos.

  • marxlives

    I really like that stock data. You can really see a dead tabletop game and a company being supported by digital licensing. Then in May you just see this huge bump! GW did a good job of showing how to get players excited about a release.

  • nordsturmking

    very good and interessting article. thank you.