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40K: One Type of List Is Dominating the Meta

6 Minute Read
Oct 10 2017

Since the start of 8th Edition one type of army has dominated the meta.

Every since 8th Edition came out players have been very interested in how the meta would shake out. Now meta is by its nature always in flux and many people will even say that its too early to see any real idea of what the meta will be. However, when looking at the events and major tournaments that have occurred since 8th came out, its actually clear that there is a meta to the game.  In fact looking at these events its pretty clear that in fact two types of armies have dominated the meta the beginning of the edition:

Hordes and Gimmick lists.

In addition it is clear that only hordes have any real staying powering in the meta. Not sure what I am talking about? Lets dig in.

Macro Vs Micro Meta

Wrong Macro

Before we go any deeper it’s important to clarify the type of meta I am talking about. I tend to think about meta as having two parts. On the one hand you have micro meta (or specific, or whatever you’d like to call it). This type of meta focuses on small details, what weapons, units and even codexes/races are good in the current meta. The other type you could call, generic, or macro, or archetype meta. This focuses are large issues, what archetypes or styles do we see winning tournaments. Today I want to focus on the macro meta, the large picture of what is dominating the meta. In this case I am not discussing single units, Leman Russes vs Falcons, or armies, Astra Militarum vs Chaos, but army list type, all foot vs mechanized. We are here to look at the big picture.

The King of the Meta


The Dark Eldar are big fans of the Birds 

When we look at what people have been playing, and winning with, since 8th came out there is a pretty clear pattern to what people are talking about. Yes, there have been a wide number of units/builds that people complain about. Razorwing Flocks. Brimstone Horrors. Chaos Cultists. Conscripts, conscripts, conscripts. These are all units people have had issues with in the meta, and that have had winning lists built around them. At heart however the lists that use them all do the same thing. All them present a mass of poor quality troops to gum up/slow down enemies and get kills through volume of fire. They back this mass up with a group of elite units that have a high firepower output vs cost to do the killing. They are horde lists.

Horde Lists Run the World


That’s right, and to many it’s not a surprise, but the once disposed horde lists run the meta. Just look at some recent events. Bay Area Open, Iron Halo, Nova Open, and even ATC were all dominated by horde lists of one flavor or another. Now while all these lists were different, they all essentially did the same thing. They were all horde lists and they’ve been running the meta since day one. Though there are a huge number of potential list archetypes available to play in 8th, horde lists are clearly the dominating force on the table top, in fact only one other type of list even comes closes to matching it in meta dominance.

The Gimmick

Everyone knows organic Imperial Soup is a gimmick! 


“Now wait” you might be saying at this point. Lots of other lists have done well in the meta. What about Stormraven SPAM from the early days? Or crazy soup/character heavy lists like the assassin list that won Wargames Con?  Well all these types of lists basically fall under the broad archetype of a gimmick list. These types of lists works to exploit a rules loophole, such as targeting characters or how flyers interacted with the game. Gimmick lists will pop up here and there; in previous editions we’ve had lists like the CSM Demonbombs. But these gimmick lists tend not the have the staying power of other lists. Rather than being based around the strengths or weaknesses of a particular army or army type they are based around rules loophole.

Gimmick Lists Lack Staying Power – Hordes Don’t

The Horrors! The Horrors! 

At the end of the day gimmick lists tend not to have a lot of staying power. They tend to be based on rules loopholes and therefore are subject to items that get FAQed – look at Stormraven/flyer SPAM as an example. In most cases a simple change or one rule adjustment tends to invalidate the army. It is for that reason we’ve haven’t seen Stormravens again – these types of lists aren’t based on a solid rules foundation. Instead they come and go like fads and tend not to really effect the meta much.

Bye bye birdie 

Horde lists, on the other hand, do have a solid foundation in the rules. There are in fact a number of rules interactions that come together to make hordes the dominating force in 40K right now (for more specifics you’ll have to wait for that article). Because they have a solid base, hordes can weather FAQs and erratas that change things. Though both Brimstone Horror and Razorwing Flocks got changed in erratas, hordes still remain the leading archetype. Even Brimstone Horrors still remain a major component of some horde lists. All this means that while gimmicks can come and go hordes will most likely keep dominating the meta until something significantly changes.

And All the Rest

Welcome to the future, its the same as the past. 


So at the end of the day there you have it. While there are two types of lists that dominate the macro meta, hordes and gimmick lists, only one of them, hordes, really has staying power. Though the edition is fairly new, hordes have consistently dominated the majority of tournaments and major events. Outside of a few gimmick type lists we have yet to see other archetypes, elite armies, mechanized forces, etc., make significant showings in the meta. While gimmick lists may have their fifteen minutes of fame, hordes are poised to continue their dominance for the foreseeable future.


So what do you guys think? Are horde armies the only real archetype dominating the meta or do they have challengers? Let us know what you think, down in the comments! 


Author: Abe Apfel
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