The Only Two Good Codicies of 5th Edition

It just occurred to me that there are two codicies in the current edition of 40k that I’m actually happy with. Oddly enough, they’re the two armies I play most often.

Now, you might think that it’s no coincidence that I like the book for the two armies I play; in fact, you might assume that I play them because I like the books. Not so. I’ve actually been playing these two particular armies since the days of 3rd edition (or, in the case of Tyranids, 2nd), and just happen to like both of the books. But I digress…

I came to the realization that I really only like two codicies when visiting a post by Imperius Dominatus which compared Hive Tyrants & Primes. Really, I was struck by his opening sentence, which read:

“Like all monstrous creatures in the codex the Hive Tyrant is over priced in points.”

The sentence is humorous to me because it’s true. Yes, as a Tyranid player, it would seem that I should be appalled at the notion that so many of the units seem overpriced, but oddly enough I’m not upset about that, which made me wonder why.

Instantly, I was struck with the thought that the only reason those models are overpriced in the game is because last edition so many people ran nothing but MC’s which made the game unbalanced. They’re no arguing that in the days of 4th edition, Nidzilla lists were king (no, not over all of 40k, but certainly it was singularly the most powerful option available in the codex). So, I see the drastic price increase on Monstrous Creatures (and other general nerfs to include nothing over toughness 6 in the entire codex) as GW’s (or at least Robin

Alas, Nidzilla is no more...

Cruddace’s) attempt to balance the force out. In my mind, they were sick of seeing the same list over and over and wanted to inject some variety into lists, and the latest book was a solution to that.

The other codex I enjoy is the Space Marines, which I think attempted to do the same thing. They looked at the dominate strategy of 4th edition (min/max squads) and changed the options to prevent that sort of abuse. For example, in 4th edition, everyone seemed to run 6 man tactical squads with lascannons & plasma guns, because they were statistically the superior option. It allowed you to maximize the number of heavy and special weapons and give you great long range options, while keeping your extra “unnecessary” purchases (tactical marines) to a minimum, but also allowed your squad to stay at half size or above for a longer period of time than 5 man units.

GW’s answer was to restrict special and heavy weapons to 10 man squads only. While I wasn’t thrilled with the rule when it came out (I thought the special should be allowed at 5 and the heavy at 10), I understood why they did it. Changes like this made the 5th edition codex for marines different than the 4th edition variant—not better (as in “more powerful”) per se, just different. It seemed pretty clear to me that 5th edition was going to be one of balanced units.

Then they released the travesty that is the Imperial Guard. Honestly, I feel this game will be better in 6th edition when the Imperial Guard get a new codex that tones them down (though I feel the same way about many armies). With that book, GW instantly introduced the idea of the “IG Bump,” or “codex creep” (which was really just rehashed from previous editions). And 5th edition got pretty chaotic.

By the time the ‘Nid dex was released, I had thought GW had seen the error of their ways and was again trying to balance books out. Since then, they’ve proven me wrong.

Now, I have a reputation in my local gaming group of being the person that thinks everything is “overpowered.” Every time GW releases a new army, I’m the one that sighs in the ridiculousness of it all. Perhaps that’s because the books that I play? Common perception is that the current Nid codex is far from competitive, and that the marine list has only a couple of variants that make it “viable.” So maybe I’m just upset that my books aren’t as powerful as others?

But I really don’t want them to bump up the powerlevel of either codex. I’d rather them reduce the power level of others to be commensurate with those books that I feel are already balanced. Yes, I know that’s too much to ask, but there is still a shred of hope in me that prays that GW presses the reset button in 6th edition (as they did in 3rd) and will start everyone over with a clean slate.

Now that I’ve gone through this whole tirade, let me state that this was a whimsical thought that just snowballed into this post. Do I really think there are only two good ‘dexes currently? Well, I honestly have never played with (or against) Dark Eldar, and I haven’t given their book a good read. It seemed a little over-the-top, but it really could be a good book. Likewise, I think some of the 4th edition books are quite good (Chaos Daemons comes to mind, which I think is very powerful, but has big downsides as well, and CSM isn’t bad, balance wise—when considering the 3rd edition comparison, but it seems really bland and uninteresting to me. I hope they get some cool new stuff in their next book).

Anywho, thanks for listening to me blather on about nothing. If you’d care to see some of my other ideas for 6th edition (which is super trendy to do now), please check out my post on the subject: Fixes for 6th Edition Warhammer 40k.

Image Credit: “RIP” image from Kristen Nicole (unknown if she created it or just used it without posting where she got it from). “Two Finger” image taken from another blog that didnt’ credit the source…


25 comments on “The Only Two Good Codicies of 5th Edition

  1. Dark Eldar suck at anti mech , it being Mechammer 40k these days they prob fall right in the upper middle of the range on the cheese-o-meter.

    They upset Nids mightily but everything else seems pretty fair, hell I struggle to open ork trukks with my DL spam .. imagine the horror with AV12 …. always needing 5’s to penetrate more or less everything sucks where everyone else penetrates you with similar weapons on a 2+ and gets +1 to damage result ….

    Its a good book but not broken, if Ward had written it I doubt I would be playing 40k anymore.

  2. I agree that the SM codex is a really well thought out and balanced codex, which is why I love them so much. It doesn’t have some of the over the top items that many newer codices are sporting but is that because they’re the jack-of-all-trades and the codex is written appropriately or because the newer ones are just over the top?

    • I think it’s indicative of both. Codex SM really seems to be what other books should strive to be. When GW originally released 5th edition, I was super happy with the direction they appeared to be heading, but I clearly misunderstood things.

      They do well enough as jack of all trades, and the codex does a great job at letting them mix and match between army types to give it some other options. I don’t think every book needs to have that same level of flexibility though (for instance, IG don’t necessarily need options like allowing sentinels/LRBT’s/etc as troops, as space marines can with bikes, dreads, etc. The fact that they don’t have the same level of flexibility is fine for me, because they aren’t jacks of all trades.

      Other ‘dexes need balance–both against each other, and within the dex itself. I don’t blame players (too much) for using choices like IG Vets or Vendettas, because they’re just clearly the best options in those unit choices. I’m ok with units being very powerful, as long as they have a disadvantage (high points cost, maximum unit restrictions, fierce competition with other options in the same slot, etc), but most dexes don’t have these in place.

      • is SM really so balanced?  or is it that so many SM players aren’t willing to use the units that turns that codex from balanced to super powered because of fluff?

        What if SW players decided to do the same but with long fangs, or razorbacks? Expand it out to other codex’s as applicable… the point is sometimes it’s not just the codex, but the player bases willingness to abuse it’s power units, or in many cases the player bases current obsession with the new guys power units.  Perhaps the age of the codex means people just aren’t as interested in plumbing it’s depths for power builds.

        So many things contribute….  but yeah pyrovore’s are terribad.

      • Are you playing devil’s advocate here, or is this something you actually believe?

        Personally, I feel the SM ‘dex is balanced. The proof to me is that they do exist online, and there aren’t any definitive SM lists from ‘hardc0re’ players like Stelek. Yes, they try to build competitive lists, but you’ll notice that those vary wildly. Sometimes you’ll see them spam tactical squads in razorbacks, and sometimes it’s bikes, sometimes it’s terminators, and sometimes it’s that silly Salamander commander…

        In comparison, when you see IG competitive lists, they’re all pretty much the same. Yes, there are slight variations, but they seem to lean heavily on melta-vets, vendettas, and ordnance.

      • I think this is entirely based upon your perception and not upon reality. The truth is that Stelek’s original “Best of” list WAS a Space Marine list. There are other lists out there, yes, but at the same time there are MANY different Imperial Guard lists out there which vary from what you describe. And really, saying “melta-vets, vendettas and ordance” is really covering a wide swathe of what the Dex offers. But yes there are effective lists which incorporate lots of foot infantry, Leman Russes, Sentinels, Stormtroopers, etc.

        I’m just not seeing this as being true, at all really.

        But then again I don’t see codex creep as being real either in 5th. I don’t think Grey Knights are really any more powerful than BA, SW or IG. I even still think that Space Marines have their “Signature Builds” which can compete with Grey Knights just fine. I think it’s interesting that I can take Stelek’s ORIGINAL “Best of Space Marines” list and think it would still do just fine against Grey Knights. Very interesting.

        But at the end of the day your article is interesting and motivated me enough to comment, so hats off. But speaking as one from the deep (and apparently dark and EVVVVIIILLL ;D) end of the pool, I don’t think this is an accurate assessment of the edition.

        My .02.

      • First, thanks for dropping by and posting a comment. I really appreciate the discourse.

        Second, I agree with you in large part. Of course, my stance is opinionated and not a matter of fact, and yes there are some flaws in my reasoning. In response to your comments though, let me offer the following:

        I don’t consider myself a hyper-competitive player, and don’t enjoy the sort of content provided by YTTH, so I don’t frequent sites like that. With that in mind, I wonder if the fact that his first “best of” list being marines is simply because he didn’t start that sort of ongoing theme until 5th edition, and SM just happened to be the latest ‘dex at the time? Again, I’m just guessing here…

        I also agree that codex creep isn’t sequential. The concept implies that each codex is slightly more powerful than the last, but I’m sure we can both agree that this isn’t the case when you look at it granularly: The books you mentioned do seem to be fairly evenly balanced power-wise (at least when compared to each other) I do, however, believe codex creep exists between editions (so perhaps it should be referred to as “edition creep”. This version of the IG, BA, DH, and Space Wolf ‘dex are more powerful than their predecessors. Tyranid and SM; however, I think are just a rebalancing of their previous selves.

      • ahh no i believe it, and my point is even in your response!

        “that silly salamander commander…”

        You mean the character who is on his own pretty darn awesome, but then goes and makes any melta or flamer weapon in your army twin-linked, and your thunder hammers master crafted.  This throws off every single unit with these weapons point balance, how much better in every case do they become?

        Does the SM codex have every competitive advantage on every unit…well no, but like other codex’s there are powerful builds within.  The time the dex has been out means people have moved on, and/or it’s old news.  If you follow the internet trends of power builds you probably notice IG is no longer king of the hill, competitive players are often known for jumping codex’s often and so it comes as little surprise that new codex’s win alot and receive a lot of attention.

         A well played salamander list could be a very good counter to my grey knights.

      • is SM really so balanced?  or is it that so many SM players aren’t willing to use the units that turns that codex from balanced to super powered because of fluff?

        What if SW players decided to do the same but with long fangs, or razorbacks? Expand it out to other codex’s as applicable… the point is sometimes it’s not just the codex, but the player bases willingness to abuse it’s power units, or in many cases the player bases current obsession with the new guys power units.  Perhaps the age of the codex means people just aren’t as interested in plumbing it’s depths for power builds.

        So many things contribute….  but yeah pyrovore’s are terribad.

  3. The DE are not OTT or OP, they are actually really balanced, externally and internally. They struggle a little bit, but it can be overcome, and certainly not as much as nids.

    Now, for the reason I’m commenting:
    “In my mind, they were sick of seeing the same list over and over and wanted to inject some variety into lists, and the latest book was a solution to that.”

    That’s exactly why the new codex is terrible (besides relative point costs). In an attempt to nerf previous build styles, they threw off the entire internal balance of the codex. There are clear distinctions between top-tier (Hive Guard) and bottom-tier (Pyrovore) units. The sucky thing is, I LOVE the pyrovore model, but the unit is a piece of crap, and not fun to use, so I don’t run him outside of Apoc, where I’m just filling points anyway, lol. You can’t make a good themed list with nids like you can with SM or especially DE. The book simply doesn’t allow it. 

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hear what you’re saying, and definitely see what you’re getting at, but not sure I agree completely.
      I don’t think the new ‘dex sucks–I just think it’s not as powerful as the other available books (which is sort of equivicating). I think we can both agree that it’s inferior in power level to most other codecies, but I don’t think it’s bad.

      Pyrovores aside (my vote for absolutely worst unit design ever), I think the ‘dex works fairly well. Elites include options like the Doom, Zoanthropes, Ymgarls, and Hive Guard are all viable choices in elites. Venomthropes aren’t bad either, but I can’t seem to make them work out (if they could split up or join other units, I think they’d be great). The point being that they all have value and purpose. I recognize that the internet power list players have coallesced around Hive Guard as the most powerful or all-superior choice, but I honestly think that’s wrong. All of those choices bring great value to the slot.

      Likewise, troops have genestealers, gaunts (two variants), warriors, & swarms. Stealers and termagaunts are good choices (the latter even if you only use them to unlock Tervigons). Hormies are under-used, (and I believe they could use a bump), swarms I love, but the fact that they can’t score almost makes them require a point drop to be contenders. Warriors are unloved because “they can be doubled out,” and I’ll admit that I’ve fallen
      victim to that mentallity too, but I think it’s overhyped.

      In short, I think that the current Tyranid dex has options in every slot
      that make for varried lists.
      Variance doesn’t equate to “thematic” lists though, but I think many
      people use that word to refer to min/max lists. Yes, marines have biker
      lists that are very thematic, and the nids don’t have much options for
      themes. It would be nifty to have an option to buy a flyrant and unlock
      gargoyles as troops, or to be able to run more MC’s (though you can
      effectively run an almost all MC army already).

      Perhaps the intent was to make decent choices spread across the book, and
      have players take balanced forces each time though? With that in mind (and
      again, ignoring obscenities like the pyrovore), I think the book achieves
      just that.

  4. There are two main things I don’t like about the tyranid book that I think would have made it a great book.
    1. Anti tank guns. If they had given Carnifexes and Hive tyrants the option for the Hive guard gun (maybe twin linked since their Bs is lower) that would have relieved much of the stress from the elite slot. Also the fact that none of our troops can take out transports. If they had made the venom cannon on warriors more like the psycannon, then at least there would be an option for that, also making warriors a good choice.

    2. The point cost vs design of MCs. Lets take a look at the Hive tyrant, I’ll make two generalizations. You have the support tyrant; who has tyrant guard, maybe guns and some ability to boost units, then you have the combat tyrant; who has wings, and is built to get into combat. Both of these tyrants fail because of cost vs design. For the base 170 points, you are paying for 2 powers, a very high Ws and ok MC stats. In the support tyrant, you are not going to hit combat as likely, so the Ws8 and 4 attacks are wasted, and with guard, the Ws8 can’t even be used defensively all the time. Not to mention that you are paying for 2 powers, when only one is really good, and all are short range and shooting attacks that you have to hit with in the first place, on a poor Bs for something that should be the lead creature.

    In the combat version, again you are paying for powers that are shooting attacks, that you now can’t use while you’re in combat, and that is where you want to be to make use of his stats. The fact that he is only 3+ on W4 with not invulnerable save for 270 points minimum is a real pain. He has no defense against power fists and can easily die from a single missile volley given the new LOS rules.

    The tyrannofex is fine at 265 points, but the rupture cannon should replace the stinger salvo, not the acid spray.
    Other little things like the Carnifex jumping in cost so much and losing Ws, Raveners with Acute senses just make me think they didn’t put any thought into the design or the mechanics of how the game plays.

    I think it wouldn’t be so bad if things like Dreadkights didn’t completly show up TMCs. For 10 points less than the Tyrant, he is comparable in almost all ways, but has a 2+/5++, and then can move as Jump infantry for half the cost of the Tyrant’s upgrade. And then not counting the versatility of adding weapons to him as well.

    • Tyranids have had problems dealing with tanks for as long as I can remember. Their only real way to deal with them has been to move up and pop them in h2h (of course, the fact that almost nothing in the ‘dex has over STR6, this is a little more difficult when it comes to things like Land Raiders). I agree whole-heartedly that I would’ve liked them to fair better against vehicles (though I don’t think it’s required, as perhaps the intent would be to make vehicles ‘the rock’ to the Tyranid ‘scissors.” Of course, the fact that “mech is king” in this edition does make it a pretty brutal rock, but again, perhaps in 6th edition…?

      As for bumping MC costs up, I think the intent there was to nerf Nidzilla and encourage people to play other variants. My first inclination is to say that they went too far on pricing them, but when you look at the ‘dex by itself, it would seem they achieved what they wanted to do. Where it fails is that the MC costs aren’t balanced when compared across multiple codicies. Comparing them to DH is harsh though, because that book is just as screwed up, but in the opposite direction.

      You make good points though, I’m just trying to defend my position.

      • I understand that mech should be our weakness. The problem being with the current rules, assault tanks to destroy them doesn’t work well. If the rules either had it so units coming out of a wrecked vehicle went directly into combat, or were automatically pinned, then it would be fine. Since it isn’t they should have instead gave us units to sacrifice that would be good at destroying tanks. Maybe a unit like hormagaunts that functioned like krak grenades, al la Daemon screamers.

        Which leads to my points which link to your point about MC’s cost. I see it as all tying together. I’m not saying they shouldn’t cost that much, but when they are the vast majority of our means to destroy mech, then they do cost too much. I understand them raising the points to make us use things other than TMCs, but they didn’t supply us with the proper units to do so, thus making us still need to use many TMCs that are now over costed.

      • We’re on the same page, but I believe there be a fundamental difference. It sounds like we agree that the codex is fairly well balanced internally (not perfectly… *grumble* pyrovores, but pretty well). It’s obviously not balanced when compared to the powerlevel of other codicies though (and I’m sure we can agree there). I think the difference in our thought processes is that you feel the Tyranids are underpowered, and my argument is that they’re actually balanced properly for the game, and that (almost) every other codex is overpowered.

        In practical terms, it’s easier to resolve the issue by “fixing” the Tyranid codex to match the other power levels. I don’t think that’s the real solution though, as I think the other dexes are ridiculous. To keep bumping the power level up each time creates a real implementation of codex creep, and bothers me to no end. I’d rather see them ‘nerf’ the others than ‘buff’ the Tyranids. The end result is roughly comparable and requires a whole lot more effort (a ‘la a 3rd edition reset), but I think would provide a better end solution.

  5. I agree with you both on your point about preferring a balanced ‘low’ powered game rather than a hyper-charged ‘everything is crazy but balanced against everything else crazy’, and that the Space Marine codex is a good ‘un.   I don’t like the use of special characters to unlock unit options, but it’s a book full of interesting and useful options.   Some are better than others, but most are at least okay, and you can do a lot with it.

    I think the Tyranid Codex sucks, however.   Not just because it’s so underpowered compared to the competition, but because so much of it just doesn’t work even by its own standards.

    So you have lictors that turn up to the battle after the troops they’re supposed to be guiding in, genestealers – famous for crawling around space hulks and ripping up people in dense cover – striking after Imperial Guard Conscripts hiding behind a hedge, Tyranid primes unable to accompany their broods whose weapon skill and ballistic skill they improve into battle in their spore, the psychic might of the almost infinite hive mind being thwarted by AV11 boxes and apprentice librarians’ psychic hoods, etc., etc…

    I don’t mind weaknesses built into a codex (finding it a struggle to take out armour), but it’s annoying when units don’t do what the fluff suggests they should do.

    It’s also annoying that (as others have mentioned), if you try to build themed armies, you’re probably going to penalise yourself even more.   There are several decent and interesting elite choices in the codex, so it’s annoying to have to take as many hive guard as possible in those slots to have a chance of cracking (or just suppressing) opponents’ armour – because very few other things in the codex can even attempt to do so.

    • Good points all around.

      Lictors have been underwhelming for three editions now (which is silly, because I think if they could simply have charged the turn they deep strike, that would make it worthwhile). Instead, they help reserves (if they’re on the table), but have to reserve to work. In short, that unit is just poorly designed. Likewise, the FAQ that prevents alpha warriors from joining in a pod, is ridiculous.

      The only things I don’t agree with you on are that you’re “required” to take hive guard to crack tanks. I don’t know why the internet just glosses over the fact that Zoanthropes do that amazingly well (better than anything else I can think of in the game, in fact–all while providing valuable synapse). The doom (to a much lesser extent) can also crack armor at range.

      I’ve complained on more than one occassion that “all of the good stuff is in elites,” though, so I definitely feel where you’re coming from.

      • You’re right; you aren’t absolutely required to take hive guard to crack tanks, but I think there are plenty of reasons for them being the default and best choice.

        Partly it’s cost (yes, Tyranofexes can do it, but they’re really expensive – not much use in low point value games).   But for all their tank busting nastiness, zoanthropes suffer some big flaws: slow, short ranged, vulnerable to shooting (more so than hive guard due to their inability to fire from behind cover) and when up against a competent psyker, suddenly very unreliable.   It’s the unreliability that I think is their biggest drawback, for competitive players at least (though it must be said, I’m not very).

        Funnily enough, I don’t actually hold any of this against them.   It’s not that I think that any of these flaws make them bad, as such.   But when there are so few decent options to compliment them with, there’s a very powerful incentive to take the more reliable hive guard – which also compete with them for elite slots – as a means of getting some anti-tank into your army list.

        Which comes back to my point about it being a bad codex.   Even when you have a decent option (like zoanthropes), the bad design of the codex makes using the option problematic.

      • I object to “contemporary wisdom.” Hive guard are decent, but I don’t think they’re strictly better than zoanthropes. Zoanthropes provide valuable synapse to an army, which I can’t see how people are getting if they use nothing but hive guard.

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  7. I understand what you’re saying here Rob.  I agree to an extent, but being a child of 5th Edition (I started playing right after the SM codex release) I don’t have a basis for comparison to earlier editions.  That being said I can still use my overall record against armies to gauge there effectiveness I think. 

    I can say that I’ve only lost to Tau maybe a handful of times, I’ve never lost to the Sisters (only played against them 4-5 times), against anyone other than our resident Mega-Necron player I’ve never lost against Necrons (he is a good General, gotta give that to him!), and I’m probably 50/50 or less against Eldar (those who stuck it out are good at strategery!).  I’ve lost to Orks once in recent memory, but it ended turn 5 and if it had gone on another turn I’d have won handily.  Depends on the day against Daemons, but that’s just how that codex works!

    On the flip side, I’ve never beaten Dark Eldar (tied once), Space Wolves handily stomp my ass, I don’t even want to talk about Grey Knights (Draigo killed a Bio-Titan), and I generally beat anyone with Tyranids played by anyone not named Cole (don’t think I’ve ever played against your Tyranids Rob).  I used to keep my case nearby for easy pack-up when I saw Imperial Guard, but they have waned lately and I find that I don’t have as many problems against them.  Vanilla Marines – hmm.  I’d say an overall win against them, but it depends on the General.  I’ve tabled them, and I’ve been tabled by them. 

    Blood Angels – I’m not exactly sure how powerful that codex is.  Honestly never played against another BA player.  Not one time.  I was in Iraq when the newest codex came out and by the time I got back people were starting to move on.  I can honestly say I don’t think anyone’s really figured out “THE” build with that codex and I feel like a big reason people moved on so quickly was because they couldn’t do what other codex’s were doing – mainly Auto-Win, if I can be so brash.  Space Wolves did it, I.G. certainly did it, Dark Eldar aren’t bad by any means, Grey Knights (’nuff said), but something happened with BA.  Sure they do the same things better than Vanilla, but they aren’t winning on a grand scale, and if you scour the Ultra-Competitive Blogs there has been barely a peep since about 4-6 months from the Codex release about the Angels.  I think there are two other BA players, besides myself, now in our local area?  Far more Tyranid, Vanilla Marine, I.G., and even Eldar players in our local area.  Weird isn’t it?  You’re correct, BA are a better codex than Vanilla in my absolute honest opinion.  I think on most days, and against most generals, they can handily beat Tyranids – but only if they bring a shooty Mech or Hybrid build.  I’m not sure BA belong in the same box as Wolves, I.G., GK, and DE.  I may see about drumming up a post on BA to send your direction on this exact subject… maybe I’ll call it “BA – from GW to Ebay”   

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