Hey everyone, if you're like me you just came back from the movies and saw that the new ITC Missions, which were said to come out after BAO, are live! While the Mission Pack is largely the same it has some changes, mostly to Secondaries, which were requested via community interaction a few weeks back. These are likely to be the Missions for quite some time, and unless Games Workshop puts effort into better Missions they're also likely to be the competitive standard. So what's the good and bad?
To their credit the ITC Guys seemed to have realized that their Secondary Objectives were a complete joke. Only half the list, if that, was ever used and the Secondaries were trivial to build around for some armies, impossible for others, which created yet more imbalance with the game. Of particular note were Gangbusters and Behind Enemy Lines, both almost never taken as they applied to very few armies (none that are competitive) or were effectively impossible to max out.
These have been overhauled with Gangbusters getting the boot and replaced with Ground Control which allows you to score for every Objective you hold at the end of the game you score a point. Sadly this isn't a very good addition as it falls into the "Win More" category, if you're holding 4 Objectives at the end of the game then you were going to win anyway. If you're going to hold less than 4....why would you take this? While Gangbusters was literally useless and this new addition is not it's still likely to be rarely taken, especially since not all the ITC Missions even use 4+ Objectives. Oof.
Moving onto completely better news, Death By a Thousand Cuts has been changed to only need 2 Enemy Units but they have to be killed in the Turn, not the Round. This is a great change as even the most elite armies include 8 Units, although there is counter-play with your opponent suiciding units into your army to decrease the count. Fortunately this isn't viable when playing with the ITC Clock Rules, which are getting popular, as you cannot be forced to attack enemies in the Fight Phase. Overall a very good change to a bad Secondary although I think making it the Round would be a good change.
Behind Enemy Lines has also been changed to only require one unit but it has to live through your opponent's turn. Again this is a great change as previously this was up there with the most useless Secondaries, now armies with durability can make this work. Because it has to be done over four Turns I still don't think this will be a popular choice but it's at least now viable and that's a big step in the right direction.
The other small changes were moving The Reaper to just killing 20 Enemy Models, whenever. This should now be extremely popular as there are no timing restrictions and many armies fall into having 80+ Models, even in the competitive scene. Big Game Hunter is also now 7+ Wound models instead of 10+, get wrecked Carnifex spam. Right now this change isn't very big as it really does largely target Tyranids but when the next balance pass is done it could be a bigger deal.
A change made to the other Secondaries is limiting stacking, this was very punishing to models like Mortarion and Magnus who surrendered full Kingslayer Points, a Headhunter Point, and a Big Game Hunter Point. While my personal feelings are these models should not have a place in regular play I am not the taste maker for Warhammer 40K and I'm sure many people will be happy to see this. Fortunately for me most big models are still garbage in the game and this is unlikely to change that but if you choose to bring them you may find yourself in less of an auto-lose situation.
Lastly we have one more new Secondary, Marked for Death, which is by far my favorite. This actively attacks elite armies as you get to pick 4 Units, each with Power Level 7+, and you get a point for each one you destroy. With Knights and Tanks being most of the meta right now you can get good work out of this Secondary.
While the good things were decently good, I fear the bad is going to be VERY bad. Prior to this update a big part of competitive play was limiting Secondaries via list building, things like sticking a Mortar in Guardsmen Units to avoid The Reaper, limiting Characters/Tanks, that kind of thing. This practice was on the down swing a bit ever since the Knights Codex dropped as people were throwing Secondaries out and just spamming the most powerful stuff they could get. That's pretty much where we reside now and where the game will stay until changes are made by Games Workshop.
What we have now with the ITC Missions is an environment where you should always score 12/12 Secondaries in a competitive game. With the amount of viable options and how deadly 8th Edition is I have a hard time seeing evenly matched armies not being able to punch 12 Points out of each other, especially with what's good in the game right now. So instead of a focus on Secondaries, the focus shifts to Primaries.
As anyone who has played ITC Missions knows you score a point if you killed something on your turn, a point if you held an Objective on your turn, and at the end of the round the player with the most kills, as well as the player holding the most Objectives, get a point for each. While I'm happy to see Objectives getting more focus the "Kill More" Primary is now going to turn into an issue. Personally I've always hated Kill More and thought it has no place in a competitive game because it massively favors elite armies. For example I played in a recent tournament against another Imperium Player who was fielding a Big Knight. I was able to kill his entire army but because he had so fewer units than I did he was able to rack up Kill More for most of the game. Even though I beat the crap out of his army he nearly won the game because of that one thing, when he had no business being in the game.
With Knights being such a massive presence in the meta, I'd argue they're the most impactful Codex we've had in 8th Edition thus far, it's now extremely punishing if you don't fall in line and move to an elite build. The option is certainly on the table to counter Kill More with Hold More but Objectives are much more volatile than removing units. The only counter-play to Kill More is to purposefully leave stuff around so you can kill it later, something that can backfire if you're not playing with a Chess Clock (as mentioned earlier). While one can argue it's tactically interesting to play that way it's extremely unintuitive and gives elite armies an advantage, even a damaged Vehicle/Monster can put out some pain while you wait around to kill it at the right time. Even worse some of the popular big models don't meaningfully degrade or they can operate at full functionality via Stratagems.
While overall the ITC Missions have been improved I think any canny player is going to see the new holes and quickly exploit them. Since Knights are everywhere it's not like a lot of the top armies have to be changed to work in this environment and I fear the ITC Panel wasn't able to see the forest through the trees. Time will tell and I'll certainly be play-testing these Missions in the hopes that I'm wrong.
If I were to change the ITC Packet I would omit Kill More completely, change The Butcher's Bill to Round, and change Ground Control to 2 Points per Objective. This would likely make for a more even playing field and also pair nicely with any meta the game can throw at the packet.
On an optimistic note I think the balance problems with 40K are so obvious right now that I'd be surprised if Games Workshop didn't hit every single one of them. Knights are likely to see both direct and indirect nerfs which may very well clear up the Kill More problem, making it something I just fund stupid as opposed to potentially game deciding. As the ITC Guys are in bed with Games Workshop it's very possible they know what changes are coming in the next few months, as well as the next few Codexes, and have designed accordingly. That's why I'm saying for now I think there will be a problem, in a few months who knows. What are your thoughts?