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Warhammer 40K: The Age of Knights Is Over

5 Minute Read
Oct 29 2019

Let’s talk about why the age of Knights, Imperial, and Chaos has come to an end in competitive 40K.

Knights have had a pretty significant impact on the game since they were first brought into regular 40K back in 7th Edition. Given their size and power, it’s unsurprising they had a… large impact on the meta. While they’ve certainly always been powerful models, their overall power level has waxed and waned over time. At the start of 8th Knights, still a pretty limited list, were not considered overly competitive.

The release of the Admech book gave them a boost, but it wasn’t until Codex Imperial Knights dropped that they really took off. With new units, powerful stratagems, and some fantastic soup options, Knight quickly shot up in the rankings, came to dominate the meta. As the star of the Ynnari waned, Knights took the top spot as the easy, go-to army, and became the list to beat.

Since last June, Knights have dominated the meta. When Imperial Knights faded a bit due to nerfs, Chaos Knights were quick to step in and take their spot. However, over the past few weeks, as Space Marine lists come into play, we’ve seen a dramatic shift, and it seems like the era of Knightly chivalry may be dead. Let’s dig in.

The Fall of Knights

As recently as August, when Goatboy took the GW GT by storm with Chaos Knights, the big robots were on top of the meta heap. Though Tau won at NOVA, it didn’t quite seem like Knights were gone or out of favor. However, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a large number of mid-big events and looking at them, it’s clear that knights are on the way out. Consider the activities of a couple weekends ago, when Iron Hands (pre-nerf) crushed the meta globally. Not only were Knights not winning events, but they were rarely showing up in top player’s lists.  Knight lists were either doing poorly or players had switched.


This last weekend so the SoCal Open, a 220 person event, attended by a very competitive crowd. Like at NOVA, T’au took the prize. And while Imperial Knights did get to the top table, none of the three undefeated lists where Knights, and it appears only one knight list made it to the top 8. Some players did a break down of some of the common major units and factions, which you can see above, and you’ll see that specific units, that once showed up a lot, have greatly dropped off in popularity. 


As an additional data point, we have the upcoming Warzone Atlanta. Folks over on Facebook, have been crunching numbers based on submitted lists. Out of a total of 163 lists that have been submitted so far, it was found that just under 15% contain a Knight, of any type, compared to some 63% that include Marines in some incarnation. It’s not that no one at all is playing Knights, but it is clear from all this data that not only are knights no longer winning events, but that players are moving away from them and that their time has passed.

So What Happened?

Knights have dropped out of the meta for a couple of reasons. First, they got some big nerfs, in particular with the point jump on the Castellan, which forced a lot of players to rethink lists. Renegade Knights did come in to mitigate the hurt, but knights were on a downward path. There is also a bit of the normal people adjusting to fighting the top dog going on. As Knights dominated the meta people had to build to fight and kill knights, more and more anti-Knight lists popped up, such as the T’au lists that have proven able to deal with Knights and resurgent Aldari flyer lists.

However, the biggest thing to take down Knights was the new Space Marine Codex. Much like guns ended the dominance of Knights in the real world, Space Marine firepower has taken down Knights in 40K. New Marines are a much deadlier force than they used to be and have a ton of tools to destroy knights, often with little option for retaliation. You’ve got some crazy firepower, units that can assault and kill, or drop in and kill knights with ease, and effective ways of taking out their invulnerable saves.

Smash Captains where always a problem for Knights, but they used to be mostly limited to Blood Angles. Now basically, any Marine lists can build a cheap single model that can kill any knight with relative ease. Or you can play Raven Guard, who have a ton of buffs against the Knights that matter. Meanwhile, Iron Hands have more accurate and durable, shooting, that can survive an alpha strike and hit back, and Imperial Fists with their extra damage to vehicles can turn even the most basic units into Knight Killers. Even Salamanders, if they can get there, will have little problem annihilating Knights. All of this means that knights just can’t hang with the times as much.


Final Thoughts

Knights, as we’ve shown, seem to have been kicked out of the meta. They’ve been unseated as event champions, and their popularity in the top circles has waned. The advent of a variety of mighty Space Marine builds, and some solid xenos ones have done them in.

For me, this is great. I’ve never been a huge fan of Knights, and going to an event only to face what amounts to five Knight lists in a row wasn’t much fun. I’ve happy to see them pushed out in favor of others, and more diverse lists. It is a bit worrying that there weren’t any major underlying changes to Knights that did this, so if the lists counter them get nerfed (in the upcoming Chapter Approved for instance), Knights could come right back. However, for now at least, the Age of Knights seems well and truly over.

Let us know if you think the Age of Knights is really over, down in the comments! 

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