I’m excited by the new frequent FAQ schedule published at LVO and the rapid Errata after each Battletome. The Nurgle Battletome is very good incidentally (and not a lot needs clarifying there). It's worth emphasising that the previous FAQs accompanying the GHB 2017 were excellent, with plenty of welcome changes and responsiveness to the Community. Frequent FAQs will help refresh the meta fresh and can sometimes breathe life into long forgotten Warscrolls or even whole armies.
Here are my hopes for the FAQ. Much of this is informed by recent tournament results, playing a lot of different armies at recent events and the experience and theory hammering of the South London Legion (and perhaps the occasional WhatsApp message in a mere handful of chatrooms).
Previous nerfs have hit them hard (3 Kurnoth Hunters or 14 wounds of Pusgoyles or 3 Skyfires and 20 points....); and every new faction since they emerged has been either a direct hammer blow (DoT mortal woundage) or has stolen their thunder (KO and Raptors outshooting Kurnoth Hunters with -2 rend and better buffs and now Nurgle...). Hopefully they will get a new genetic hero or new unit at some point in the next year or so, but some buffs via the FAQ could revive the trees in the interim. Their near disappearance from the tournament scene and meta is worrying.
Alarielle’s Amphorae is ambiguous as to when it functions (both players’ hero phases or just one). The summoning option would actually be useable if it works in both phases. She’s not efficient at present for her cost. Ultimately the way to beat Alarielle is to focus fire and kill her in one turn or chaff her up - extra healing would not affect this principle in a negative way.
Drycha would benefit from an FAQ allowing her to choose her weapon in the first Hero Phase irrevocably (I’ve just realised that Battlemages cannot choose spells on setup as the wording is the same as Chaos Marks - thanks Tom!).
Amend the buff providing for extra shots if the unit is 20+ models. This is the heart of the problem with “Ork Sniperz” - my pet hate as the most implausible, fun destroying* and most overpowered unit in the game (Skyfires plus Shaman having been nerfed sufficiently). This is a 50% Damage buff which would be on the high side for a melee unit, let alone a ranged unit.
The list is still overperforming at tournaments (e.g. at Heat One).
*At least when KO Table you in 40 mins, the Kharadron Code stipulates taking you to the bar for consolation. I’ve had to aggressively help my opponent roll dice (e.g. coming round to their side of the table and rolling their dice for saves when I’m entitled to make them count and use my dice) to get 5 turns done vs 90 Arrers (my opponent was great even if his army was boredom personified filth).
They are still the best army in the game (even though they are the very limited in the number of viable strategies - it's really down to preference as to more or fewer Riggers vs Skywardens). They make most Tzeentch lists into 90%-10% losses for the Tzeentch player for a start. They are frequently responsible for 40 minute tablings against a variety of armies. It's worth emphaising that the nerf to Thunderers is essentially irrelevant balance wise - the army may even have become stronger as a result as the 2 drop list is in such a sweet spot (and the 1 drop option is still there) - especially since Tzeentch armies are classically 3 drops - Changehost, Gaunt Summoner, Kairos/Skyfires for example.
It will be interesting to see whether KO are nerfed. They are a glass cannon balanced on a slender reed - even a small tweak to how Zilfin works could have big unintended consequences. Buffing other Sky Fleets (except Urbaz) would be welcome, but would not compensate for the problem that a surrounded ship turn one is usually game over (especially if the ship cannot even retreat out of the ring of death) and generally opponent going first is pretty terrible for KO in terms of zoning off or killing squishy 5+ save models with Bravery 6.
Fleetmaster might get nerfed or replaced as its main purpose seems to be to deceive and frustrate (or even troll) your opponent. I cannot see this kind of activity winning KO players many friends or garnering any sympathy.
The Tzeentch army has a bit of an image problem. It's still the most complicated army, with the most complicated rules and the most movement tricks. However, Tzeentch is emphatically not the best army any more:
It's very predictable in terms of the lists.
The armies are generally glass cannons with some critical points of failure like the Gaunt Summoner or the Lord of Change of the Changehost.
The army is generally reliant on going first, but is generally at a 3 drop minimum without making some sacrifices.
As good as the Gaunt Summoner is - he barely scratches 30 Arrerboyz or 30 Tzaangor. Sometimes units of 20 are preferable as this mitigates the Battleshock aspect (e.g. 20 Ardboyz may be less badly hurt than 30 - similar for 20 Dryads). He is dead turn one against many one drop opponents and obviously easy to kill in general.
Points increases have removed flexibility while not doing anything to make things like Flamers or Arcanite Battalions or Acolytes viable in tournaments. KO
Wisely the rules limit their allies (e.g. to prevent the Changeling casting Nurgle spells), but this doesn't bode well for their ability to respond to changes in the meta (this also hurts Sylvaneth).
This has meant that many people who don't play Tzeentch themselves haven't fully digested the page of FAQs and errata specific to Tzeentch in the previous FAQ. The nerfs are numerous and some of them are very substantial. With hindsight allowing DD to be used for D6 mortal wounds (which didn't last very long) was a mistake and made people hate Tzeentch a lot.
KO Clown Car is a 90%-10% hard counter.
The Changehost is a lot weaker than it was (you cannot cast a spell with the Changeling before he swaps or cast a spell onto the Lord of Change before he swaps, as both swaps happen in the start of the hero phase subphase), You can no longer summon a Balewind with one wizard, cast a spell with it and then swap another wizard onto it and have it cast another spell within a single turn. Furthermore, the distance to where you can swap is now limited to 9" away from the first swapped model, so that prevents 30 Brimstones from immediately getting in the way.
As predicted about a month after the DoT book came out (when people were realising that the melee damage of Skyfires was off the charts), Skyfires have poisoned peoples minds towards Tzeentch (oh look the Magic based army has the game's best melee unit by far and it moves 16" and is deceptively durable).
DD are also a mechanic that can inflame hatred as sometimes you roll a load of sixes. However, sometimes you lose the game on the DD roll, [spoilers] like I did against Craig Namvar at Heat One (not having a single 5 is devastating, in that game I would have won without a shadow of a doubt if I'd had a single 6):
Some Tzeentch players did themselves no favours in the long run by ignoring the obvious purpose of the first amendment to the Balewind (to stop monsters getting on top of the Balewind), by taking advantage of the unfortunately narrow way in which this prohibition had been drafted (that monsters didn't know the spell summon the Balewind rather than being unable to be be set up on one in any way (the new position after the last FAQ)). This also allowed Nagash and Arkhan to ride the Balewind, which clearly wasn't the intention behind the change.
Split is the lifeblood of Tzeentch, it is the best rule in the army by far. It has already been nerfed significantly (and this nerf is very poorly understood). Several other posters on TGA were unaware of the nerfs. It appears to be the case that if you wipe the unit of 10 Pinks out within a single hero, shooting or combat phase (note that it doesn't work at all in the charge phase), then the Tzeentch player has to either split immediately or not at all (whereas if you lost 4 models, you could wait until the end of said phase and then decide whether to split and create up to 8 Blues). This is a significant nerf as it means that you can clear out Horrors much more quickly as one unit can wipe the Pinks, then a second unit can wipe the Blues and another can wipe the Brimstones all within a single phase (particularly in the shooting phase for obvious reasons). This gives the Tzeentch player an interesting and challenging decision to make as to whether it's even worth splitting.
People usually lose badly to split (when they shoot a unit of Pinks that they were planning to charge and then find that they cannot charge it). They usually only make this mistake once or twice. I played against a 90 Tzaangor player at Heat One who hadn't realised the implications of Split - he did some throwaway Brimstone shooting into my Pinks (which he didn't have to do) and this should have cost him the game. He ultimately recovered and I lose two initiative rolls in a row.
Any additional nerf to Split would be be actively bad for balance. It is an iconic ability and the rule accurately represents the lore of what is happening. Not allowing splitting within 3" of the enemy is the worst balance suggestion I've heard in a year.
The top up to 10 models only FAQ was sensible and very much appreciated.
I've hated this unit since day one (the models are ace). I'm converting mine to Enlightened having never used them in an AoS game. The ludicrous melee damage (think Neo in the Matrix) is both poisonous to balance and jarring from a narrative perspective. Making them better at shooting but vastly weaker in melee would be one option.
On reflection and having seen how they underperformed in recent events, the combined nerf to the Skyfire cost and the Shaman may mean that they are reasonably balanced. On the other hand, if something in Tzeentch has to be nerfed, then make it Skyfires.
The Balewind Vortex
It has already been nerfed several times.
One of the worst possible changes would be a points increase, as this would reduce list flexibility even more and would mean that other armies like Nurgle (and even Ironjawz) would not have the option of trying their luck in using a Balewind. The Balewind would become the exclusive preserve of Tzeentch.
Removing the push away mechanic removes a tactical option (what was called Nudging the Beetle in the days when Sylvaneth were more prevalent) and has been used to good effect by Byron and others; and creates issues as to what to do with the models.
I would have no problem with units (or just flying units) being able to charge the Wizard on top of the Balewind if people are determined to nerf it. This would still preserve its offensive abilities, but would make the Wizard even more of a sitting duck.
Fundamentally spells have bad ranges in AoS compared to shooting (very few extend above 18" (= 2 x 9" for Lore reasons presumably) and many below this), which sits strangely given that in 40K you can move (very fast if you have a Jump Pack or wings) and then cast spells! This is most painful for debuff spells, which are fighting an uphill battle against buff spells and automatic buffs (Warchanter, command abilities, Lord Castellant). Debuffs should reward a player for taking them and act as a guard against Deathstars and stacked up mega heroes. The Balewind goes some way to redress the balance. Lobbing D6 mortal wound spells can result in a string of derpy 1s and 2s of damage just as Raptors occasionally roll 1s to hit. I remain convinced that shooting is the bigger danger to balance (although I'm not keen on changes to the core mechanics there - rather vigilance about new shooting units - "how about a Battleline unit with a 24" range weapon which has -2 rend - I know let's give it a buff against heroes and monsters too".
Small buffs to Tzeentch?
One nice change would be to adjust the Hosts Duplicitous requirements to keyword LORD OF CHANGE (so that Kairos can be the second Lord of Change in that Battalion) - this would provide another option. Removing the requirement that it include 3 Horror Heroes would also help. I doubt whether the Changehost itself would ever broaden out to keyword LORD OF CHANGE, but you never know.
Keyword LORD OF CHANGE would also be good for the underused Exalted Conflagration (along with removal of the huge minimum requirement of 6 Exalted Flamers (720 points) and a clarification that the rules work on the FLAMER keyword).
Another positive change would be if the Ogroid could go into the Arcanite Cabal Battalion. He is a cool model, I've only ever seen my own one in lists/events.
All of the minimum size unit requirements for the Arcanite Battalions would need to disappear. At the moment, these are narrative Battalions essentially, which is a shame - again the Acolytes are brilliant models, but rarely seen.
Bringing the Warchanter and the Command Ability of the Cabbage/Megaboss in line with other buffs that last until your next hero phase would be a small buff.
Ironsunz working on a 2+ instead of a 3+ would be great and might help push them up to the bottom end of Tier One.
Strength from Victory is discussed below. No-one objected at Heat One (which I discussed with opponents) to playing it as suggested.
Pig impact damage could be buffed of course.
Strength from Victory and Triple Headed Monstrosity
This relates to these two abilities which trigger if a particular weapon slays one or more models.
This wording sits uneasily with how melee attacks work in the game. While dice for different weapons of the same hero (e.g. the Mighty Fists, Smasha and Kunnin’ or the Heads, Slayer of Kings and Tails) are rolled sequentially, for all purposes they take place simultaneously (e.g. you measure all ranges and allocate all attacks before rolling any dice and casualties are removed only after all attacks have been resolved - so sensibly casualty removal from weapon one doesn’t pull a second weapon out of range and if the target reacts when damaged or slain, then this doesn’t happen until all the attacks have been done).
Furthermore the defending player does damage allocation after the total damage has been added up.
Hence, if multiple weapons caused damage to a target model and that model died, it’s difficult to say that a particular weapon slew the model; and so it’s hard to say whether the buff is triggered.
Having discussed this on the TGA forum and at our club, it doesn’t seem reasonable for the defending player to misallocate wounds to the target model so that (say) the Fists caused the final wound - this is artificial and would make these abilities significantly weaker. Nor is it sensible for the Gordrakk/Megaboss/Archaon player to roll one attack at a time (as it is entitled to do) to ensure that the last wound comes off from a particular weapon - this is an time sink. The practical solution we came up with is to say that if the relevant weapon (Smasha, Kunnin’ or Three Heads) contributed at least one point of damage to the model during the overall attack; and the model is slain during that overall attack, then the buff is triggered. People on TGA acknowledged the issue and seemed happy with this solution.
For Gordrakk a further point would be that only one of Smasha or Kunnin’ would get the buff (from a given slain model - not both weapons!), so if both of them contributed at least one point of damage, then roll a dice to determine which one gets the buff randomly.
For completeness, the same point arises for other Warscrolls.
Specific FAQs suggested by the South London Legion
Q: Is a unit set up using Wandering Wend does it have to deploy more than 9” from any models?
Commentary. The Wandering Wend rule modifies another rule (Realm Wanderers) so it may inherit the 9” restriction from that rule or it may be intended to be self-contained. I suspect that the more aggressive interpretations of this rule are going to be curbed in the FAQ based on recent tournament rulings.
Q: If a rule sets up a unit and says that this is its move for the movement phase or counts for its move for the movement phase is it both a setup and a move and so subject to the 3” rule?
A: No. Any set up rule is a set up and never also a move and never subject to the 3”.
Commentary. The initial FAQ (which defines set ups and moves) drew a bright line between set ups and moves, which was great as it simplified the rules for new players and was so clear. A recent FAQ that clarified that a setup is not a retreat (unless it specifies otherwise i.e. it says this counts as a retreat) was another step in the right direction.
However, in between there has been a lot of argument over whether certain rules (which are obviously set up rules in nature - i.e. models appear on the table for the first time or are taken off and set up in a completely new position) are or are not moves as well. Much of this was motivated by trying to tone down the Warrior Brotherhood (which was understandable).
However to explain to these distinctions to a someone and particularly a new player is rarely practical and could provoke more argument/discussion as the distinctions look arbitrary - there are distinctions between Lightning Chariot (not a move), Astral Compass (could be a move), Vexillor (not a move) and all Summoning spells (not a move) for example. Given that Warrior Brotherhood has been nerfed, there is a small impact on balance from making such a change. For example - Hammerstrike Force (even when given the benefit of the doubt - treated not a move) is not overpowered.
As you'll appreciate, this isn’t an issue for the Vanguard Wing - as the wording is a pure set up. I’ve previously suggested a modest nerf to this combo - just bring the unit cap back down to 20 Liberators (still a formidable 40 wounds, but fewer Grand Hammers). This is strongly preferable to rewriting the scroll or changing the mechanics of setting up models. Alternatively, just increase the cost of the Battalion by (say) 60 points.
Some combination of nerfs is on the cards for Vanguard Wing. Personally I would try to maintain the pure setup rule for this Battalion, but nerf the other aspects of it. Vanguard Wing should remain an option but not the only option!
Q: Drycha has a choice between Squirmlings and Flitterfuries. This isn’t specified as a weapon choice in Scrollbuilder, so you cannot select in on your list. Can she select this when you set her up rather than before the Battle on the list?
Commentary: Drycha is a named character - from a Lore perspective she could decide to fill herself with the respective Squirmlings or Flitterfuries with an eye to the next battle.
From a balance perspective Drycha is on the weak side without this flexibility - she is a good horde killer with Squirmlings but that ability is very weak against non-hordes - Stormcast that aren't using Vanguard Wing, most Tzeentch armies (lots of units of 10 models - maybe the odd unit of 20 Blues), KO, many Ironjawz lists, Beastclaw etc..
The buff to Flitterfuries was welcome (not affecting herself/friendly models), but it is worth nothing if Drycha can only be taken with Squirmlings for an entire tournament (which is what you would be forced to do if you took her in a list and had to pick).
Her cost of 280 is on the high side without this flexibility - bearing in mind that she is potentially costing you an artefact (as her non-named "equivalents" the TLA or Spirit of Durthu could take an artefact, Sylvaneth have spectacular artefacts that go very well on those two heroes; and Sylvaneth rarely have the points to take 3 heroes and Drycha following earlier point increases).
Disciples of Tzeentch
Page 81 Arcane Suggestion - Drop Your Weapons and Turn Around
‘Until your next hero phase, subtract 1 from hit and wound rolls for that unit.’
‘Until your next hero phase, subtract 1 from save rolls for the unit.’
I suspect this one isn’t getting changed and will remain useless (or to be generous - an incredibly situational gamble). It was a costly waste at Heat One for me - the worst thing in my list - I took it as a partial answer to Vanguard Wing. Rightly - I’ve never seen other Tzeentch players take it for competitive lists. Nurgle have a near copy of this spell, which lasts until the start of the next hero phase as normal.
In general, debuffs are at a significant disadvantage to buffs as buffs can or will be in range turn one, whereas debuffs are not. For this reason debuffs need to be stronger than buffs to make them viable. For example Festus’s -1 to armour debuff is for the rest of the game or the Daemonsmith’s debuff is a -2 to hit (so double the typical buff) and has extra range.
All other equivalent debuffs and most buffs (except the Warchanter) last until your next hero phase. A debuff to enemy hit and wound rolls for your turn only is of limited value as it is only relevant to melee attacks (in general) and you could just not charge into that unit instead or retreat out of combat. It cannot debuff shooting which is the often the key thing you need to debuff (Skyfires, Arrer Boyz, Kharadron Overlords).
Furthermore the casting value of 7 is high for a debuff (Hand of Glory is on a 5 and featured in Byron Orde’s list which has just won the GT Finals and other recent events).
Finally the spell has a random effect and so cannot be relied upon.
As a result, this spell is scarcely seen in lists even though Tzeentch are a popular choice. Tzeentch’s other debuff - Scintillating Simulacra - is very strong but extremely expensive requiring you to take a somewhat redundant second Lord of Change and an expensive second Battalion. It barely fits in 2,000 Points.
The proposed changes would bring this spell back into line with other debuff spells and it should find some use on the table.
(5) Measure to unit
Change the following rules so that they affect units within the specified distance rather than models within the specified distance.
Cauldron of Blood - Blood Shield
Chaos Warshrine - Protection of the Dark Gods
Gaunt Summoner and Chaos Familiars - Slop
Aether Khemist - Atmospheric Isolation
Grots - Netters
In addition Blood Shield no longer stacks with itself. Change to “any DAUGHTERS OF KHAINE units from your army within the range from any Cauldrons of Blood are granted protection....” The Harbinger's 5++ ward save bubble should not stack with itself either to fend off the most boring Nurgle list possible.
Commentary: The overwhelming majority of rules in AoS target units rather than models (both by default and for good reason) - only a handful of rules truly need to be measure to model (the likes of Hand of Dust, Cavernous Jaws, Stuff in Bag).
Many of the rules listed above create a problem insofar as saves/Ward saves are rolled on a unit not model-by-model basis and damage is allocated by the owning player after all attacks were made. For example if only some of the models in a unit have a ward save, then it is not clear whether you can roll at all nor is it clear whether you have to remove models that were within range. People have had to use house rules or use hand waving to resolve this. While sone of these would be buffs to the abilities, these are not unreasonable. People don't take the Khemist for Atmospheric Isolation - it's an ancillary debuff; and the Bloodshield buff is coupled to a nerf to stop it stacking (the triple 5++ Ward Save is one of the most boring lists since the invincible Settra, 4 Tomb Heralds and Heinrich Kemmler - which was (rightly) nerfed severely).
Other rules simply create a time sink in the flow of the game as players have to micromanage the positioning of models and then count models and roll hit rolls or saves separately. They also create an issue as to whether to remind a player as to the distance of the buff in question at the time or capitalise on forgetfulness/sloppiness. For example I’ve measured 3” from a model to keep mine out of range of a debuff (explaining that I was doing so) only for my opponent to tell me afterwards that it’s a 6” debuff when I started rolling hit rolls. That was not against a club mate I’m pleased to say.
Noting some recent new Warscrolls, it’s worth saying that “if all models are within X” rules are probably better than “only models within” auras.
Archaon and the Lord Celestant on Stardrake
Few people would be upset if an errata tweaked these Warscrolls to give them -2 rend on Dorghar's claws (not the Slayer of Kings) and the Stardrake's melee attack. Archaon does seem steep at 700. The LCoSD will be significantly less useful for his cost if the Vanguard Wing is nerfed. Their melee attacks (even taking into account their special rules) are pretty underwhelming for such awesome models. We know Nagash isn't getting a better melee profile, which is also a shame. Gordrakk remains the one demigod who actually lives up to his reputation in terms of melee damage. Alarielle on a good day can do good work.