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Goatboy’s 40k Thoughts: Best Formations

11 Minute Read
Feb 1 2016

Goatboy here again and today I want to do a quick ranking of the best formation per Army book.

It is a simple list and based on my own experiences and ideas on what makes a decent competitive list.  So much of the time our experiences and gaming situations will define the types of armies we regret throwing down against on the table top so you might not agree with my rankings.  If you have some thoughts on better options then comment away.  There are so many formations now it becomes a chore to actively play against ever little random “mini army” GW types up in their own PDF creator.

With that – let’s begin with the most popular army – The Space Marines.

Codex Space Marines 2015

Space Marines
Best Formation: Librarius Conclave

Why: This is the formation that creeps up into almost everyone’s list.  It gives you some power psychic abilities and with its “guarantee” of casting said abilities it makes it a go two for any Imperial army that can’t invest a crap ton of points into becoming a psychic power house.  Beyond the whole psychic potential it is also a way to grant out some annoying USR’s without having to invest in all those pesky troops and other options that would weigh you down.  You need some Hit and Run in some units – take a WS Sorcerer Conclave.  Do you want a decent set of protection versus the Alpha strike with massed Stealth around the table – Raven Guard Spell Slingers are great.  How about just having a ton of guys with a pain in the butt FNP roll – those Iron Hands do a great job at that too.  There is no true tax with this unit as you just get to take 3 HQ choices and kick some butt with them.  If the Dark Angel Librarius Conclave didn’t force you to take a single Special Character you might see them ranked as high as they easily grant Fearless across the table top.  Heck depending on where you play this is also one of the most abusive summoning combos you can have out there.

Honorable Mention: The Battle Company – This is part of one of the strongest Marine armies we have seen in awhile.  While it is pretty easy to counter deploy with Servo Skulls the Gladius is a pain in the butt.  Hey the Librarian Conclave can combo with the Battle Company too.  Yay I am good at making armies…


Dark Angels
Best Formation: Battle Company

Why: Normally we see Dark Angels as a combo to make your Thunder Wolf Death Star more annoying – the Battle Company for the Dark Angels is still pretty strong. They get all the sweet benefits the Marine one gets plus the added bonuses of shooting overwatch at Full BS.  This can make for a very rough game as you try and figure out how to get a hold of them.  Oh and guess what – they get Grav Cannons too so they can shoot the heck out of you.  It isn’t as good as the Marine one as the Chapter Tactics for Marines can be extremely powerful but it isn’t a “bad choice” when playing non Death Star combo Dark Angels.

Honorable Mention: Ravenwing Support Squadron – This is one of those units that if there wasn’t so much anti cover options out there would be just a pain in the butt.  They can shoot a ton, ignore most of your shooting and just give so much to a Dark Angels Battle Company list.  Heck floating behind Rhinos means they don’t even need to jink to ignore a crap ton of your firepower.


Space Wolves

Best Formation: All the ones from the Campaign books are overcosted – so will ignore the Puppies for now.  Lucky for them – they have the Detachment that activates all the Death Star stuff we love to hate.

Blood Angels Codex-cover

Blood Angels
Best Formation: Angel’s Fury Spearhead Force

Why: This started some of the initial anger at the power of formations as it allowed some First turn attack issues.  Of course if it wasn’t attached to the “bad” Blood Angels Codex this might actually see more play.  A buddy built the list and had some fun as he throw around some bigger based Marines.  Overall this is just a one shot combo that while hilarious when you drop in 8 Thunder Hammer Terminators it does lose a lot of punch as soon as some interceptor and other options knock down those sky Goldfish.

Honorable Mention: I think there are some Flesh Tearer ones and other things in the Campaign book – but overall they are just not nearly as interesting as their combo providing Flesh Tearers Detachment.



Grey Knights:

Best Formation: I don’t think they have one… yet.


Sisters of Battle:

Best Formation: I think they want a real book in print first.


Astra Miliatrium/Tempestus
Best Formation: Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company

Why: Holy crap this is gonna hurt a lot of armies out there.  Ignores cover big guns is rough for anyone to face so expect any person playing an AM list to pack this formation.  Heck we have a buddy that is gonna shame people with his Sisters/AM army and this formation just makes it sick.  I was hoping for more formations out of this Campaign book but if we get one good one that isn’t too bad.  It is sure better then what Chaos has gotten.

Honorable Mention: Most of the other ones have too many taxes and a lack of focus to make it worth wile to mention.


Adeptus Mechanicus/Skitarii
Best Formation: War Convocation

Why: Remember how we all know “free stuff” is extremely powerful in a points based game?  Well this formation gets free upgrades on every unit.  Holy cow does it get a lot of powerful options.  I know the West Coast has had a derth of War Convocation wins lately so I don’t expect to see it going anywhere soon.  Its always nice to have a Knight, lots of powerful guns, and a ton of other stuff for you to use and abuse.  The small taxes are not nearly that big of a deal as everyone gets upgraded for free.  If you see an Adeptus Mechanicus army on the table top – expect it to get a ton of free stuff and pass rules around like its everyone’s best friend at a concert.

Honorable Mention: There are some cute stuff in all the books – but right now it needs a true Decurion like set up to allow for interesting armies and formation usage.

Codex Chaos Daemons

Chaos Daemons

Best Formation:  Coming soon – in a few weeks expect people to complain about their Herald Council of X


Codex chaos space marines

Chaos Space Marines

Best Formation: Not coming soon enough as will maybe see something end of the year.  Sad pants all around.

Codex Khorne Daemonkin

Khorne Daemonkin
Best Formation: The Gore Pack

Why: This is the one of the stronger choices in the KDK book.  I wrote a review about on Frontline and think this is the special sauce to make KDK work well in most competitive environments.  I don’t know if it kills enough – but this is the pack to bring if you want KDK to work.  It brings all the stuff you need – characters to turn into Bloodthirsters, fast movement, and hard hitting troop killing options.  The ultimate form of Chaos MSU spam this is the main component of what I want to take to try and make Chaos work.

Honorable Mention: The Slaughter Cult is also not a terrible option as it gives you a free Blood Tithe per turn.  Of courser as you play KDK – getting Blood Tithe as you kill and get killed isn’t too hard so this is less of a seen option.  Most of the time I see a CAD plus a Formation or Ally.


Dark Eldar
Best Formation: Corspethief Claw

Why: This is one of those units that even works in almost every other army.  Who doesn’t love 5 MC’s that shoot ok and hit like a ton of bricks versus normal stuff.  Plus they get more VPs when killing things too – making them a great Maelstrom generator as well as a crazy strong brick to throw against your opponent.  This is one of those units I keep thinking about if I ever want to throw down with some Eldar like shenanigans.  I wish the rest of the army was good enough to hang with these guys but this is the only real “strong” choice in the book.

Honorable Mention: Scalpel Squardon – This is part of a combo that lets an Eldar army basically Null Deploy.  This army is rough as heck and a buddy plays it when he wants to do a bit of trolling with the Space Elves.


Craftworld Eldar
Best Formation: Aspect Host

Why: This formation is so strong it even showed up in other lists who just want to abuse the sweet little Warp Spider.  Every time I look at it I just wish I could take it in another army easily.  You get 3 units of bad asses without any taxes other then having to upgrade to an Exarch in each unit.  Depending on the FAQ you locally used – this could be an extremely annoying mini army to play against as you have a ton of bouncing Warp Spiders who cause you so many dang problems.

Honorable Mention: Seer Council – You need some mind magic?  This gives you a ton of good mind magic.  Just be glad the Farseers can’t just break off of the unit.



Best Formation: Converting them to Corsairs

Why: This book just doesn’t feel fleshed out enough to be useful.  Sure they have some cute things but it is just an uphill battle to play with them.  I know some people have had good luck with them – and I applaud that as obviously I am not good enough to throw down with the space clowns.  If only the one formation that gave you 1 of each special Elite Character would let them keep their IC status.



Imperial Knights
Best Formation: Baronial Court

Why: This one lets you get a 2+ front armor save knight if you want (The Green Knight plus 2 other knights).  I have used this one pretty well with a Bike MSU ally and have found the +1 to their Ion Shield save to be extremely powerful.  If you have good Objective secured options in your ally then this is the good Knight formation to take.  It also helps you could create a mean all knight army using this as it can let you take up to 5 Knights.

Honorable Mention: Admantium Lance is still a pain in the butt.  If you could take other Knights in it, it would be pretty powerful.  Thank goodness you don’t get an automatic 3+ save Knight now.



Best Formation:  They don’t have one – but maybe will get one with this whole 13th Company thing and what is most likely a 2 part Campaign?  Some GK and Inquisition love?


Best Formation: Canoptek Harvest

Why: Cuz this dang thing can be so hard to kill.  Its a tough unit and when events allowed you to take multiple Formations it was another part of a strong army list.  These guys are little out of favor as there are some issues with it – the Spyder can be very fragile and hard to protect all the time, It doesn’t automatically start with the Reanimation Protocols on, and some places need you to always stay close to the Spyder to get the benefits.  This just makes it harder to utilize what is already a strong unit.

Honorable Mention:  Reclamation Force is a pretty strong formation.  The lack of Objective Secured plus movement tricks makes it a lot harder to play with in the days of the Gladius.  Still this is a strong formation.


Best Formation: Mogrok’s Bossboyz

Why: This gives you a ton of HQ options all in one formation, a dang good Warlord Trait, and extra rules on top of it.  Plus you can customize all the characters in there as well.  The only true tax is the Weird Boy but even he can be amusing if you roll for Daemonology and try to convert him into a Lord of Change.  The only issue is you have to make Mogrok your Warlord but that is ok as you can throw on a Finkin Cap and get to town with an extra Strategic roll.  Almost every Ork list I try to think about starts with this formation as it gives me enough extra HQ bodies to start to pull off some goofy Ork combinations.

Honorable Mention: Bully Boyz from the Waagh book are another great formation.  Getting some Fearless Mega Nobz are just the perfect amount of annoyance for a lot of armies to deal with.  Those Klaws will get to work and there isn’t much to stop them from hurting all your friends.

60030113008_ENGTauEmpireCodex01 (1)

Tau Empire:
Best Formation: Riptide Wing

Why: 3 Riptides that all get Earth Caste upgrades for free as well as some extremely brutal shooting is always a bonus in my book.  I expect a lot of ally based army lists to throw in this formation as a catch all to answer just about anything.  I am kinda surprised they put this formation together as it feels rather simple in its make up an something kinda scary when trying to get them into assault.  Still if you like Robots this is the thing to take.  I hear Knights and Robots make for a great tag team.

Honorable Mention: We haven’t seen enough to really make a true thought on this.  The Piranaha Factory could be abusive but with most events limiting that potential and the fact it doesn’t score/contest objectives makes it feel less special.  The Ghostkeel formation also seems good too but I haven’t had a chance to face it to tell the tale of how it kicked the crap out of me.



Best Formation: This gets hard as the book really isn’t about formations anymore – it is about how many detachments it can use and abuse.  They initially were the starting point for army useful detachments and I have a soft spot in my heart for the Lictor Shame Detachment.  Right now Nids are just in a rough spot as so many things hurt them even with the FW upgrades.  Here is hoping we see a new release with tweaked formations to better suite their style of play.


Honorable Mention: I have played a few times versus the Endless Swarm and have found them pretty dang annoying.


I didn’t do the Assassins as they only really have one formation to judge.  These thoughts are really based on what I face from time to time.  Sure there are so many formations it just gets hard to figure out what might actually be good on the table top.  There are also a ton that will make for some really fun games.  I wish all the armies had these options as it feels kinda sad when some lists just don’t have the tools to get the job done in todays age of mini armies within the overall grand scheme of your warlord.

~How does this line up with your favorite formations?


  • GW Releases: 1-30-2016