Are Slaanesh OP?

Part One of the Focus on Slaanesh Series

It is only by sacrificing everything to the senses’ pleasure that this individual, who never asked to be cast into this universe of woe, that this poor creature who goes under the name of Man, may be able to sow a smattering of roses atop the thorny path of life.

Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795)

Well the performance of Slaanesh at Blackout has certainly caused quite a stir – today I’ll be discussing where I think they stand, and what that means for the game.

Part Two of the Series (coming next week) will look at How to Beat Slaanesh, with Australia’s top Hedonites player spilling the beans!

The big headline was that Slaanesh filled out 5 of the Top 10, and the first thing I want to say there is…

That’s not as bad as it might look

Think about what has to happen in practice to end up in that situation.  If all the Slaanesh armies were utterly dominating everyone else, they are all sitting at 3-0 overnight, and end up playing each other on the top tables.  This means they take wins off each other, and knock each other back down.

That certainly happened a lot with DOK under GH18 in particular.  While their overall tournament win rate sat between 70% and 75%, their win rate outside of mirror matches was an running at an astonigshing 90% in their prime according to stats guru LLV.  That’s just fucking ridiculous.

Think of it this way: we’ve all been at events where two people meet at 4-0, on Table 1, in the final game.  Very rarely does the loser of that match actually finish 2nd overall – even though they were playing off for the win.

So what that leaderboard is telling us is that while some of the Slaanesh were mixing it at the top tables, others lost earlier in the event and rose up through the ranks.  Dominating the final Top 10 like that is usually an indicator that they were not dominating all weekend.

Furthermore, they didn’t win the event, and the high-ranking Slaanesh armies racked up losses against Khorne, KO and Deepkin, which would seem to be a decent spread (thanks to @JustPlay_Ritchie for that insight).

Where it gets a bit harder to explain away is that while this may be a blip – it is not only a blip:

  • At Essex GT in July, we saw Slaanesh filling out 3 of the Top 5, and 1st Overall
  • And then at Midwest Meltdown, they got the 1-2-3 and swept the podium for Best General

In this context, I think it’s a fair question to ask: Are Slaanesh OP?

Let’s Dig Into the Discussion

Let’s look at some of the arguments we’ve seen advanced on this topic:

“Slaanesh are not fun to play against”

Well, this one could be a whole topic in its own right!  I get that it can be frustrating to have to kill your enemy and kill them again – it can certainly feel like they are being rewarded for failure in a way that other armies aren’t.  HOS players can afford to misposition or even YOLO their Keeper of Secrets, and they are automatically halfway to getting another one for free.  In that sense they are out of step with the power levels of other armies. 

The second common complaint is Locus: specifically that it is unengaging to sit back and watch the Hedonites activate again and again and again, while you just stand there and die. 

While it’s true that there are some workarounds (more on this below), I do have some sympathy with this complaint.

What I would say here is that at least stuff is killing and being killed.  I would much rather have this dynamic that something like Vanguard Wing in its prime, which was designed to choke the life out of games.

Or putting it another way: HOS are very strong, but at least they are good at winning games of Warhammer, as opposed to avoiding having to actually play at all.

“They are too strong in certain matchups”

I could certainly agree with this one.  It’s very difficult for a Slaanesh player to lose a game against some armies with multi-wound Battleline: you’re not just relying on playing well yourself in that situation, you’re relying on the Slaanesh player doing something stupid, so it really can be out of your control.

The depravity table is just too generous in these games.

Furthermore, is matchup-dependency a sufficient way to “balance” an army?  Let’s say we were at a tournament with an abnormally high amount of shooting (perhaps taken by some people specifically to address Slaanesh), and a Slaanesh army can therefore “only” manage to go 3-2 .  They would be balanced in the sense that they did not dominate the event, but if all 5 of those games were wild blowouts, that’s not my idea of what good game balance looks like.

Pro-Tip: Sometimes you will actively want to avoid killing a Keeper of Secrets, so as not to award Depravity Points which might otherwise let them bring on some Daemonettes, to steal an objective for example.

My suggestion: Charge it!  If you wait for them to charge you, they will be the ones to dictate what models you have in combat.

Whereas if you charge a Keeper of Secrets with 1-wound chaff, you can double-tag the Keeper to prevent them from piling in, and therefore minimise the number of models you are forced to attack with yourself.

For example, this is how I would contain a Keeper with Gloomspite Gits:

You have to attack the Keeper – but you do not have to pile in. 

With the Netters debuffing the Keeper, two models locking her in place, nowhere to retreat to, and her summoning blocked off, these units are going nowhere fast.

“They’re not unbeatable”

I should bloody well hope not.  That really is a pathetically low bar to set for what is acceptable.  If any army was literally unbeatable, we might as well give up now.

An army can quite conceivably be both beatable, and OP.  Anything in that 70%+ win rate window I think deserves be looked at very carefully. 

There are certainly some workarounds that can be built into your army.  For example, you can encircle Slaanesh Heroes to shut down their summoning.  This aspect of the mechanic would be true whether you generated summonable units 10x faster than you do now, or 10x slower.  In fact, you could get an infinite number of Depravity points, but if you get your Heroes shut down or sniped, you can’t use them. 

I think most people would accept that an infinite amount of summoning would be OP.  The exact same difficult-to-achieve workarounds would apply in that scenario.  So just because there are ways and means to shut down the summoning does not in any way mean that the scaling of it is correct.

Shut it down and you’re golden.  Fail to shut it down and they will generate extra units at a ludicrous rate.  It’s a good mechanic that has been overdone – the definition of OP.

“Just take shooting”

Let me flip that around: Why bother, when you can just take Slaanesh?  They are way easier to win a lot of games with than most shooting armies, which will be hamstrung across the course of most tournaments by bad matchups.

If you want to run an S-Tier army, fair play to you, but at least own the filth.  Don’t try to put it on your opponents for not taking jank that will lose them a lot of games, and that you haven’t been willing to go out on a limb and take yourself.

I would argue that if you believe the entire meta should shift to accommodate a specific army that cannot reasonably be dealt with by most mainstream builds…again, that’s actually a pretty good working definition of OP.

WWPD: What Would Plastic Do?

If Slaanesh summoning was cut in half, would they be a bad army?  Of course not.  You will still have that game of cat and mouse where you are trying to shut down their summoning entirely – what it would do to the game is make it a much tighter equation when that is not possible, rather than a dispiriting blow out. 

My suggestion would simply be to rescale the summoning table, and significantly increase the number of DPs that each unit costs: DPs already require a huge amount of bookkeeping so I don’t think that’s a strong enough argument against.  Personally I would look at a 30% – 40% increase across the board, but there is room for some more finesse there once you get into the fine detail.

A more subtle way would be to prevent Mortal Wounds from contributing DPs – this used to be the case before the book came out, and their summoning really didn’t need that buff. This would be a lesser nerf, and has the upside of bringing in more strategic counter play.

A third option that I quite like, as suggested by Michael Thomson (@greenraiderz21), would be to limit the summoning to once per Movement Phase, maybe even wiping the slate clean when DPs are used in a manner similar to Khorne’s Blood Tithes. Any of these methods for reigning it in could work.

Similarly, I think Locus is a good mechanic that has been overcooked.  What if Locus went off on a 5+ (and 3+ for Greater Daemons), instead of a 4+ (and 2+ for Greater Daemons)? 

What you would see in practice is that there would be fewer feel-bad moments from chains of Locus.  Good players still have the tools to win a lot of games with the army, but less experienced players would have to improve their standard of play to do well with Slaanesh on the mid tables, where currently they might often get away with loose play. 

Similarly, it would take the edge off a little in their (very) good matchups, and make more room for player skill to come into the equation.

The rules would be exactly as thematic as they are now – mechanically, they would function in literally the exact same way.  The army’s strengths and playstyle would still be what they are now. 

So you’d end up with a powerful, thematic army that is both challenging and fun to play with and against. 

That would be a great spot to be in.

The TLDR

Slaanesh are obviously very strong: however, the domination of multiple recent events is a red herring.

My gut feel is that they are too strong on the mid tables moreso than the top tables – bad players are not punished sufficiently for bad play.

Similarly they are overtuned in their good matchups to an extent that they breaks those games, even if they don’t break the game.

I believe that Slaanesh has some good game mechanics that have gone too far:

  • Slaanesh summoning is too generous and I would like to see that dialled back
  • Locus should also be made one click harder to trigger

This is about bringing the army back down to earth in specific ways, rather than smashing it across the board – overall, they present an interesting challenge, and relative to other recent boogeymen, it’s not actually that bad for the game that Slaanesh is having its moment in the sun.

Final Thoughts

We all have skin in the game here.  Slaanesh players have a vested interest in arguing that the army is “fine”: partly because they want to feel like they are winning games through superior Generalship (and not simply by pushing around a busted army), and partly to win the online war of words, thereby shielding their army against potential future nerfs.

We also need to recognise that Non-Slaanesh players have the exact opposite interests at stake, so I have at least tried to be fair in my assessments. 

But being fair is not the same thing as failing to reach conclusions or having opinions.  Like all of you, I have opinions on Warhammer, and these are mine: you’re welcome to agree or disagree, either in the comments here or by hitting me up on Twitter @PlasticCraic

Excelsior!

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