Let’s talk about what the Las Vegas Open Results can tell us about the 40K Meta and why everything is working as intended.
The Las Vegas Open (LVO) 2019 has come and gone. Some 660 players showed up and played in the LVO Championship tournament. A truly massive turn out. We saw many of the best players in the US duke it out over nine hard-fought rounds. As one of the premier events of 40K, and the first large event of both 2019 and the post Chapter Approved 2018 season, LVO helps set the tone for the 40K Meta. Let’s take a look at the winners and what the event overall can tell us about 40K’s meta.
Hour of The Castellan
Knight Castellan’s were probably the biggest winners of the event overall. From what people at the event, including the GW streaming team, were saying something like 63ish Castellans made an appearance at the event. That means roughly 10% of the armies contained the big bad knight boy. Not only was it heavily represented at the event, but Castellan lists were winning games. 3 of the top 8 players had Castellan’s in their list, and Brandon Grant, who took home the win, was one of those. I think it’s safe to say that Castellans are making a mark on 40K. Does this mean we might see a Castellan nerf coming down the pipeline soon? Maybe, but from a business standpoint, I think GW has got to be happy with Castellan’s staying a good and popular model.
The More Things Change…
Let’s talk about the top 8 for a little bit here. The top 8 lists were pretty diverse in their actual composition and a substantial departure from the Meta lists we saw last years. This is a good thing and shows that either the meta just changed on its own or that some of the changes from CA2018 and the BIG FAQs pushed things around. Last year the top table came down to a mirror match between two very similar Ynnari forces. While there was a Ynnari list at the top table this year it was a vastly different beast from what we’d seen last year. This list had no Shining Spears and no Dark Reapers. Even the Trio of Ravagers we saw at a lot of events last year was gone. Both the other Ynnari lists were pretty different from that one as well.
At the same time, the three Castellan lists were also pretty different from prior lists we’ve seen. While all feature Astra Militarium, they’ve all took significant amounts of Guard beyond just the Loyal 32, and none had a Smash Captain in sight. Justin Lois’ force had a heavy AdMech component, with 6 Sydonian Dragoons. Michael Snider and overall winner Brandon Grant had more similar lists, each an AM Brigade, but Snider also included some Custodes Shield Captains, while Brandon went just AM and Knights. Not only were the lists different from the Meta at the end of last year, but they are also had their own flavor.
The More They Stay The Same
If the lists of the top 8 were diverse, the factions weren’t. In the Top Eight, you had 3 Ynnari Lists, 3 Imperial Soup lists, 1 Chaos List and one T’au list (props to you Will Abilez). Not only is that pretty dismal diversity but it’s the same meta factions we saw last year. All of last year the meta was heavily dominated by Ynnari. After the Knight book came out, we saw Imperial soup gain a big boost and start competing with Ynnari for top dog. That still seems to be the case. Despite new codices, CA2019 and the BIGFAQs those are still the top tier factions. And it really shouldn’t surprise anyone. These are soup factions that have access to a TON of units between them. Unlike smaller factions, they can weather nerfs to certain units and adapt. That’s why we’ve seen the lists but not factions change.
Being Mean To Green
I think one of the biggest surprises to a lot of folks was the poor performance by Orks. A lot of players, including the guys from FTN, were talking beforehand about how Orks were going to be the new meta and dominate at LVO. However, at the end of the day, no Ork lists made it into the top 8. And that’s with top players, like Nick Nanavati, who won LVO last year, playing them. I haven’t gotten full reports on their games, so I don’t know what exactly happened, but its clear that Orks aren’t there yet. I don’t know if the lists need more work or if the Codex isn’t as strong as people thought, but the Greenskins got shut out of the top slots.
The Game Is Working As Intended
The thing is, as much as we can complain about the lack of faction diversity in the top 8, or the prevalence of net-lists, or Castellans, I think the LVO results show that the game is working as intended. Take a look at the top two lists for instance. Brandon Grant’s list kind of looks like how you might think an AM list should look. It’s a lot of infantry, backed up by a few tanks and a super heavy. It’s got Ogryns and Wyverns and all kinds of stuff in it. It’s only using two factions and isn’t taking cheap detachment for CP. It’s making use of the tools GW has put out, including stuff from Vigilus, which they must like, to get the most of a force.
Alex Harrison’s Ynnrai force, on the other hand, is a little less fluffy. I wouldn’t say seven flyers and a bunch of jetbikes with a few infantry isn’t the MOST unfluffy list I’ve seen, but it’s pushing it. I don’t think it’s the kind of list you’d want to see as a designer., It is not based around core units of the game, but outliers. But here is the thing — the Ynnari LOST. And if you watched the final game, which was close, they lost because they couldn’t take objectives. Brandon with his boots on the ground was able to weather punishing firepower from the Ynnari, the loss of his Knight early on, and a degraded ability to kill enemy flyers and win based on objectives. That’s how GW wants the game to be. That’s the classic counter to flyers, make it, so they have trouble with objectives, and… it worked.
At LVO we saw lots of Castellans, but they are the most powerful unit in the game, GW has to expect them to be taken a lot. We also saw solid infantry lists beats out flyer lists in objective games. We saw the meta subtly change away from minimum sized detachments like Loyal 32 and Smash Captains/Scouts. We saw Dark Reapers sidelined and ultimately we saw ground control and basic positioning win out. You may not like everything you saw there, but it seems reasonably clear to me the game is working as designed and GW’s tweaks ARE making the game more how they envision it. Heck, even the constant nerfing of Chaos worked as we didn’t see much of them on the top tables.
Looking at the winning lists, I can’t help but feel a bit of a 7th Edition vibe. 7th was pretty well known for flyer heavy lists, for lists with a single Knight supported but allies, and even for some T’au big suit lists. We saw all of that heavily represented at the top 8, a significant change from last year. I don’t know what it means, but its just something I noticed. Still, overall it looks like LVO was a massive success. This year’s tournament scene has started with a truly massive event, and the top tables seem to have been free of the kind of drama that’s marred major events in the past. I think the TO’s can be proud of this event and I think GW can be happy that right now things seem to be working (mostly) as designed.
Let us know what you think of the LVO results, down in the comments!