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Caledonian Deathwatch Network

The Top 10 Units in 40k

Hi everyone, thanks for clicking this clearly click-bait title!

Before most of you lean forward at your PCs (or mobile devices) with torches and pitchforks in hand in anticipation, let me preface this article by saying that this is merely one gamer’s stab at trying to pin down the top units in the game (at least for now).

Trying to predict the meta in the game right now is like dangling upside down, wearing a blindfold, trying to shoot a water pistol at a moving target all at once – nigh on impossible! For the benefit of those who may read this article at a later time, this is just after the Ork FAQ, and still before Chapter Approved, so at the time of writing these are (at least I think so anyway) reasonable opinions about the real pecking order of the 41st Millennium!

To give some more clarification on why I’ve made some choices, I’ll try to touch on the below points for each unit choice:

  • Synergy Units – Units which perhaps are not good on their own, but add great benefits to others
  • Recommended Factions – To try and pick out why these particular attributes are useful
  • Stratagem Choices – Getting the most out of these units

Remember, this order is subjective to one man’s opinions, and I apologise greatly if your favorite units have not made the cut! This was a tough selection, and not everything could get into the top 10. There will be some honorable mentions near the end as well. Also, there are NO forgeworld units in this list – not because they aren’t good, but because I didn’t have all the FW books to hand. (All Pictures are from the GW website).

So, with that said, lets get to the list!


10 – Lootas


We made quite a big deal about Lootas when we reviewed the Ork Codex, and to be honest the only reason that they aren’t higher on this list is because the Ork Codex is still so new. With the exception of the recent Freedom GT, there haven’t been many major events where the Orks have reached the podium – yet. Lets talk about Lootas specifically though – why are they good? For starters they have guns that pretty much amount to Autocannons (R48, AP-1 D2) – and despite their poor ballistic skill, they can benefit from the Dakka Dakka Dakka! rule to generate even more hits! You can even go for More Dakka! to improve this to a 5+ to generat even more hits! This is even better if you’ve selected the Bad Moons kultur for your unit, to get those crucial re-roll 1’s to hit.

What’s a good way to boost your 15 strong squad of Lootas? More Lootas! This is not a joke – take a 15 man squad, and then use the Mob Up strategem to join it to a second unit of 10 or less, to create an absolutely fearsome firebase. You then potentially have 25 Lootas, who are rerolling 1s to hit – and generate additional hits on a 5 or 6!

“But…” I hear you say… “just go first against them and kill them first!” That’s what the Grot Shields stratagem is for! Target the Lootas at your peril, and watch in terror as those wounds get bounced to the unit of Gretchin in front of the big mobbed up squad! Lootas are absolutely a unit to be watched going forward, I expect they will become a feature in Ork armies.


9 – (Smash) Captains


I couldn’t find a picture of a Space Marine Captain with a Jump Pack and a Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield on the GW website, so the above photo isn’t how you’d likely find these guys on the table. Nevertheless, these guys still remain sizable threats in Imperium armies.

The Big FAQ which introduced the Tactical Restraint rule really hurt these guys (as you often found them paired with the Kurov/Grand Strategist Company Commander), and that’s probably why I’ve ranked them lower than I may have previously on such a list. Typically you would see these guys in Blood Angels detachments – especially with one of them taking the Angel’s Wing relic – which denies the opponent the opportunity to fire overwatch against them.  This is great against gunline armies such as Tau.

Although Command Points are less readily available for these guys – you can still use stratagems such as Upon Wings of Fire to get into some super useful positions both early and late game. Given as well the prevalence of the ITC ground floor ruin rules, these guys are super easy to hide. Once well placed ruin can be all they need to ruin your day….


8 – Chaos Cultists

Chaos cultists are the true workhorses of Chaos Space Marine lists. Often found with Abbadon the Despoiler, they can be the roadblock from hell (and much more)! Cultists are ridiculously cheap, which means that you can bring a ton of them to the party.  Abbadon (or budget abbadon if you opt for the cheaper Chaos Lord) can make a large blob of these guys immune to morale, and also make them re-roll to hit if they are Black Legion.

You may be wondering what sort of offense that these guys can muster – it actually turns out to an eyebrow raising HUGE amount! For starters, you can slap Veterans of the Long War on them to improve their wound rolls by 1 for the rest of the phase. This is an amazing way of making autoguns (which are usually average at best) a very deadly weapon against high toughness targets – especially if you are also adding a re-roll to hit mechanic into the mix.

The phenomenal strategem Tide of Traitors may have been weakened in the Big FAQ, but its still fantastic for replenishing one of your cultist units – and also more crucially outflanking into a potentially more useful position. If your cultists are Slannesh flavoured, you can also enjoy Endless Cacophony which allows a unit to shoot again! This is even more fearsome when paired with Veterans of the Long ware for that double shoot +1 to wound bonus!

Even the combat variants of cultists are strong – with 2 attacks base per model, you are getting a great return on your investment. They are also Objective Secured – what more could you want from a 4 point model?


7 – Vertus Praetors

Vertus Praetors are a unit that I hate seeing across the table – not because I don’t like them, but because they literally scare the crap out of me.  In a pure Custodes detachment, their Aegis of the Emperor rule improves their invulnerable save to an impressive 4+. Their 6+ Feel No Pain against mortal wounds in the psychic phase is also a nice boost against psyker heavy armies.

Considering how elite a Custodes army tends to be, their crowd control methods are awesome! Each Praetor is equipped with a hurricane bolter (and hits on a 2+). Whack a Shield-Captain into the list to confer re-rolls, and you have quite the threat in both combat and shooting. If they get to charge you as well, they will be re-rolling to wound due to the Interceptor Lance special rules.

This rule is doubly nice when combined with the fantastic (if expensive) strategem Stooping Dive, which lets these guys make a charge out of sequence, in the enemy turn! With a 2+ save, and 4 wounds per model, they can be quite the challenge to put down, and get into enemy lines with surprising speed. They also have access to the From Golden Light They Come strategem to offer some useful deep strike options too. Also, they are Objective Secured in pure Custodes detachments – this is a solid, solid unit.


6 – Genestealers


Specifically Tyranid Genestealers as opposed to Cult Genestealers (although those guys are great too). If you are running a Genestealer centric list, I really recommend running Hive Fleet Kraken. Kraken units can charge after they fall back, and when advancing they roll 3D6 and take the highest – which is phenomenally  useful when Genestealers can already charge after they have advanced!

In addition, you can combine awesome abilities such as Hive Commander from the Swarmlord to move a huge unit of these guys for a second time in the shooting phase – improving their potential threat range to an impressive FORTY inches!

Also, if the unit numbers more than 10 models, it gains an extra attack per model. This is really scary when you add stratagems into the mix such as Adrenaline Surge to fight again. With rending claws basic on the unit as well, they can output a horrendous amount of damage.  They only have a 5+ save (including an invulnerable), making them the glassiest of glass cannons, but if you can successfully deliver these guys, it can be game over as early as turn 1 if you have failed to screen properly.


5 – Knight Castellan

Another contender on the list, who probably would have been higher before the Big FAQ. With the emergence of the Tactical Restraint rule and the price changes for some of their stratagems, they don’t have access to as many Command Points as they would like – but make no mistake, the Castellan can be a juggernaut of destruction if left unchecked.

Depending on whether or not you are running a mono-knights list, House Raven is still probably the best bang for your buck with this guy. Advance and shoot with no penalty is great, but it’s really the mighty Order of Companions stratagem that you’re gunning for here. Re-rolling ALL 1s during your shooting phase (including Damage, shots, hits and wounds) is a frightening force multiplier.  This guy can make super quick work  of most other vehicles in the game – although the Knight vs Knight game can often come down to luck of the dice!

If running any Mechanicus household (and I recommend that you do, because it’s better for the Castellan IMO) – you can access great relics such as Cawl’s Wrath (a safe overcharged Plasma Decimator), and use stratagems such as Machine Spirit Resurgent which lets your knight act on it’s top profile. He struggles against hordes, but make no mistake, this guy still packs a punch, even if he’s not quite the top dog that he used to be.


4 – Riptides



With the new Tau Codex (and the associated Shield Drone changes), Riptides have seen a resurgence in Tau armies. Combined with the ITC rule for blocking Ground floor LOS, and the ability to bounce huge wounds onto hidden shield drones makes riptides a really frightening prospect.

Some of the Tau attributes are really good, but the best one is probably the Tau sept itself. The ability to use For the Greater Good, and benefit from a 5+ to hit on overwatch makes units think twice before charging into a Riptide heavy gunline.

Riptides have access to some neat strategems as well, including Branched Nova Charge, which allows them to not only boost their invulnerable save to a 3+ (for when you run out of drones), but also get the most out of your main gun (which I would recommend to be a Heavy Burst Cannon). In addition, Smart Missile Systems remain a fantastic weapon in this age of line of sight blocking terrain. Riptides can definitely tick a lot of boxes in terms of what you need your heavy hitters to do.

Riptides are really easy to customise as well – you often find them equipped with Advanced Targetting Systems to make their weapons that bit better, and also Velocity trackers to combat units such as Aeldari units with the FLY keyword. It’s also easy for them to benefit from markerlight support if there is a Sa’cea Firesight Marksman, who can immediately add a marker light to a unit (and all units within 6″) for 2 CPs. A very versatile unit, that has a lot of options and roles that it can carry out – and is tough to put down if played correctly.

3 – Shining Spears


Shining Spears – absolutely one of the best units in the game at the moment, and have been since the Craftworlds codex dropped. These guys are the ultimate in versatility – from crowd control Twin Shuriken Catapults, to tank busting Laser Lances (or Star Lance for the Exarch), there is literally no battlefield problem that they can’t have a go at solving. Also packing a 3+/4++ (from shooting), they are not easy to put down either. This becomes even better when a Farseer slaps Fortune onto them for a 5+ Feel No Pain, or if a Warlock boosts them with Protect  to boost their saves even further.

They also excel in multiple Craftworld attributes – Alaitoc is fantastic, putting them on a -1 to hit at long range (potentially going up to a -2 if you stack this with Lightning Fast Reflexes). Also a good choice is Saim-Hann purely for the Warriors of the Raging Winds stratagem, which allows them to charge after advancing and also re-roll hits of 1 in that subsequent fight phase – they also get to re-roll this charge, making them super likely to get into combat. Pair this with Quicken to really get these guys across the table fast. Court of the Young King  is also good for Biel-Tan spears to gain a +2 charge distance bonus, and rerolls of 1 in the fight phase.

All this said though, we still haven’t discussed the best faction for Shining Spears, which is undoubtedly Ynarri. Selecting Shining Spears in such a detachment means they lose their Craftworld benefit (although not the keyword – which is crucial for stratagem usage), but gain Strength From Death. The Soulburst ability to double move / shoot / fight is absolutely unparalleled, especially when combined with some of the standard Aeldari powers such as Empower or Doom. Yvraine can also boost them with Word of the Phoenix (to Soulburst) or Ancestor’s Grace (to re-roll 1’s for that turn). Even  unsupported by Psychic powers, Ynarri Spears remain strong – they can easily blow away a chaff unit with their Shurken Catapults, and then profit from that death to make a charge (or another shooting attack if it suits them) out of sequence. A definite top-tier unit, one to beware if you come across it on the other side of the table.


2 – Talos

Just missing out on the top spot is the Drukhari Talos. These things have been appearing in greater numbers in the last few months, and it’s not hard to understand why. At toughness/strength 6, with a 5+ invulnerable its not much to write home about is it?

Enter Urien Rakarth. Bringing also the Prophets of Flesh coven with him, this improves the invulnerable save of the Talos to 4+. In addition, all Prophets of Flesh units within 6″ of Urien Rakarth add 1 to Strength, Toughness and Leadership! Urien Rakarth babysitting potentially up to 9 Talos is a horrifying prospect – a unit of 3 has 21 wounds in total, at toughness 7, with a 4+ invulnerable save and a 6+ Feel no Pain, these guys are going nowhere fast!

You can also equip these guys with Haywire Blasters – granted, their BS is 4+, but they put out 2D3 haywire shots per model, which is nothing to be sniffed at. When it comes to the business end of the turn they aren’t slouches either – with the options of Chain Flails to manage hordes (TEN attacks per model rerolling to wound here!), or Macro-Scalpels  when a stronger attack is needed (for AP-2 / 2 Damage attacks). These guys can FLY as well, meaning they can bring their personal brand of death to enemy flyers, and also stalk units hiding within ruins.

In terms of stratagems, a useful option for them is Architects of Pain, which allows them to treat their power from pain level as one turn higher than normal. This makes them more likely to make charges, or more importantly add 1 to hits in the fight phase!

A truly terrifying unit.


Honorable Mentions


Before revealing the top spot, I just want to mention some other units which I considered for this list, but I felt were edged out by the top 10:

  • Skyweavers – A great all round unit, especially useful with Haywire Cannons
  • Ork Boyz – A solid troops choice, made even more useful by their new Dakka Dakka Dakka and kultur rules
  • Plaguebearers – A really good, tough, fast unit that when synergised properly (with units such as Sloppity Bilepiper) can cause a lot of lists problems
  • Wave Serpents – Probably still the best transport in the game. Really prevalent in Craftworlds armies, and super tough to put down

1 – Dark Reapers


In my opinion, still the top dogs of 8th edition. The rule of three was great for cutting down on spam, but I think it actually led to the creation of the best army in the game – a Ynarri army that features a few units of spears, and one huge unit of Dark Reapers.

Dark Reapers are definitely a solid choice for Craftworld armies, but they are a unit on another level when put into an Ynarri army. Ask any competitive 40k player what one of the scariest things in the game is, and a large portion of them will probably tell you “Ynarri Reapers”.

So why are these guys so good? The first reason is the Inescapable Accuracy rule – which means that they ALWAYS hit the target on a 3+. This is so massive – they ignore penalties for moving, they ignore enemy modifiers, the works! What makes this even better, is that they can start the game in something like a wave serpent, then get out and blast you. Better yet, they can move out from behind a ruin, shoot you, and then use Fire and Fade to move back behind that ruin, safe from harm!

Dark Reapers are equipped with Reaper Launchers that can shoot S8 Damage 3 Missiles, or double shoot at S5 2 Damage instead. The Exarch can also take this gun, but more often than not they will take Tempest Launchers, to shoot 2D6 shots at units that can be out of line of sight!

This becomes even more terrifying, when they have Guide cast on them by a Farseer, or worse yet – Word of the Phoenix by Yvraine, to shoot this Dakkastar (is that a word?) TWICE in the same turn (probably using fire and fade after this as well to escape your grasp). If your Dark Reapers are caught in a tight spot as well, they also have access to Lightning Fast Reactions to make opponents -1 against them with shooting.

All of this makes Dark Reapers (for me), the best unit in the game at the moment.



So there we go! Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed it! I’m sure my choices will have probably made some of you spit out your coffee – if so then get in touch and have your say!

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