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Goatboy’s 40K: Next Year’s Top Armies

7 Minute Read
Dec 23

It’s the end of the year, so it is time to look forward to what the current Meta will most likely throw out as we look towards a fun year of events, armies, and dice battles.

The Meta has had a shift as Marines are here, and they are bringing about some pain – but the other big lists are still powerful.  I would expect to see these armies show up and depending on what area of the US and the local players will determine if some lists will be worth it or if they have a world of pain to get to the winner’s circle.

Space Marines

We’ll start with the new big bad on the battlefield – Space Marines.  These guys came to the game with a mission – the mission to not suck.   I know I had some articles that complained about their power, but in reality, it’s great to see the easiest army to collect become one of the best armies.  This isn’t an army of giant robots, hordes of models or just insanely difficult units to kill.  They are an army that looks like a batch of models GW likes to sell.

Making these guys good is a win for GW as it isn’t just one army – it is 7+ different armies that are unique.  That makes the release a successful one even though it wrecks a lot of the older armies that were doing well and keeping other armies at bay (cough cough… Plaguebearers). I think the biggest weakness with Marines is that they find it hard to cover all aspects of the game and still bring enough firepower to remove opponent’s models.  Mix that in with their own weakness of still just being a 3+ model, and you start to see how a few bad turns could remove a lot of the effectiveness of the army.  Look at how Tau has come back to the front as they are really good at killing Marines – as well as surviving the firepower with Drones.

Overall I am hoping some of this power flows into the other non-Codex Marine books (Grey Knights, Space Wolves, Dark Angels).  Blood Angels seem to be interesting too, and if those others get the same treatment, we could see some very interesting events as you try to navigate through all rainbow of marine options.

Lists You Will See

  • Successor Chapter nonsense, aka Sneaky Sandwich Artists, mixed with either Iron Hands to move and fire with Heavy or Raven Guard for angry deep striking Centurions.
  • I still think a White Scars list would be viable as something fast and angry on the tabletop – especially if we see more terrain and shooting avenues reducing.
  • If they start to nerf some of the Iron Hand bonuses, then I would expect to see Ultramarines get a chance to shine.
  • There is also an awful Imperial Fist list that has no LOS guns, damage out the wazzoo, and centurions.


After Marines, I think we’ll still see a ton of Eldar coming to the tabletop.  The army is kind of boring, but flyers, no LOS shooting, tough units, and good psychics all make for a strong list. They lost some of their combo potential between the pointy-eared races – but they still work reasonably well together. Vect can be amazing still, and throwing in some flyers is always a nice bonus. Wave Serpents are still good too. Even though they went up in points – the same shell is still there.  If ITC is played in your area, this list will show up as it keeps you from killing stuff, can kill a few things a turn, and it has a counterspell or two.  This is an example list of how an environment helps push a list to the top, but it still can be good no matter what type of event your fighting in.  The biggest hit towards it is that it isn’t as exciting as it used to be and thus just not nearly as much fun as throwing a bunch of marines around the tabletop.

Lists You Will See

  • Eldar Flyers plus Dark Eldar Flyers and some troops get the CPs.  Wave Serpents to spice it up and the no LOS tank to help get stuff out of buildings.


Chaos is still viable even though Marines took a good bit of steam out of their power when they came out.  The Faith and Fury book gave them a bunch of power, and when you mix that with the Army’s overall theme – being able to Soup within all aspects of the Chaos Faction.  This is where the power is for the army, as there are so many things that just work off of each other.  There isn’t a faction in the game where you could make a detachment of just the best of stuff, and it still works.  Between Auras, rerolls based on marks, daemon keyword throughout all aspects, and only a robust set of Strats and spells mean the Chaos Faction will still be good.  They just have to shift from what they had before.  Heck, what army has a Titanic style army list that has spells, start, and legion combos all rolled into one?  The old Smite days are gone – welcome to the world of Possessed bombs, Obliterator bombs, and Warp Talons somehow showing up again.

Lists You Will See

  • Possessed bomb plus good stuff aka hidden Smites, Warp Talons, and damage potential
  • Obliterators will be coming back with a point drop and damage potential with Iron warriors – they just delete stuff
  • Lord of Skulls is good – if you told me I could play Chaos Knights that could be affected by Chaos Space Marine strats, Spells, and Auras, I would have called you daft…
  • Murder Ball lists – aka Morty, Knights, and other big stuff

Da Orks!

Orks will still be showing up as they have a good game versus big stuff, which shows up from time to time.  They also can do a lot, and while their game versus Marines can be rough – they can win it through smart play, decent terrain, and good ole Orky rolls.  Their spells, cheap bodies, useful strats, and abusive shooting all add up to a strong army.  The best Ork players seem to not like some of the Marine matchups, so we’ll see if they drop in popularity.  They also can take a while to set up, which means if you are not prepared to throw down and build your castle quickly, you end up losing out on some time.  The loss of Legend units did hurt them the most, but I think they can survive – especially if a Faith and Fury style update helps them out with some serious Waagh magic.

Lists You Will See

  • Mek Guns X 15 seems to be the common list mixed with Shokk attack guns, lootas, and rerolls.  This is the list I think will be on the table most of the time, so if you are preparing to face an Ork army, figure out how to get there and murder things.

Other Contenders

Those are the top 4 Meta armies I expect to see.  This doesn’t mean the other armies are bad – they are just not defining the Meta.  You could expect to have the same sort of game with them like the others – bar some things that can be issue providing.  Look at the Tau army.  They are showing up in the hands of powerful generals – but overall, the design stays the same.  Usage of the Drone rules mixed with high damage weaponry helps that army out.  I would consider it at the top if it weren’t for Chaos showing up now more often with updated Rules.  Of course, this can all change with the upcoming Psychic Awakening books coming out in the next few months.  Heck, I would love to be writing how broken Grey Knights are in the coming months!

The other lists you could see is the random Admech one with all the new tanks.  The tanks are decent, but the barrier to get them can be high as the kit is expensive.  But it seems to do well enough with an above-average win rate and ability to mix with other Imperium armies and not lose its effectiveness.  Knights will always be an issue with the Bad guy ones being strong and the good guy ones showing up as well.  GSC is still around even though their biker bomb has died.  I think it is over-complication mixed with Marines has hurt it – but events are big, and the new painting requirement rules that will start to show up means a lot of “netlist” stuff will show up less as getting all of that, painted decently, and ready to go is beyond just the borrow hammer stage.  Heck, I bet we’ll see a Sisters build to come out as soon as all the models rear their mean little heads in January.


40K is Looking Good!

Overall, 40k is pretty healthy when you compare it to older editions that had the Deathstar Problem or big unkillable super Primarchs.  I know it feels like some lists are overpowered, but if you look at the edition, it is defined by Shooting and tough things so an army that shoots really well seems to be overpowered when in reality, it is just the new standard for the game.  We’ll see as each army gets updated and then 9th edition roles out in the coming year.  Heck, it seems to not take long for the current top dawg to go from a hero to a zero with a single release window.

~What do you think will be hot in 2020?

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