Strange things were afoot when I played in a tournament a few weeks ago…

I was happily getting ready to thrown down and play some games, when I considered I was about to play in my first tournament in a few months, so I looked around and noticed something new. It had only been a few short months, but I noticed quite a few Blood Angel players. There was about 40 players total and maybe 8-10 were playing Blood Angels, which made sense the codex had been out for about a one year and that is usually how long it takes for people get a handle on a new codex. What I wasn’t ready for was the number of Space Wolves players. It turned out that only 1 person was playing them. That is right, a single Space Wolves player and it was a girl.

I was shocked (about the Space Wolf part).

The same event last year had over 10 Space Wolf players. At the same time I was playing my games; in Southern California Reece Robbins was at another event with a similar number of players and the same result: one Space Wolf player. I thought about the Alamo GT and Battle for Salvation events and how certain other army took best overall.

So fast forward Jwolf from BoLS recently posted an article about the problems typical Space Wolves builds face when they encounter Dark Eldar.

So why all this Space Wolf being sucky talk?

The reason is not Dark Eldar, we all know what it is: Grey Knights. I didn’t mention the tournament I played in we had at least 5 Grey Knight players. In a few short months it seems the competitive kids are jumping off the burning ship that is Space Wolves, in what has been a surprising adoption to Grey Knights. Goatboy winning at the Alamo with Grey Knights and Nick Nanavati at the Battle of Salvation.

Usually a new army takes at least 6-12 months to maturate (like Blood Angels), so far Grey Knights have worked double-time.

So what are the reasons for this sudden shift?

Grey Knights have a few things going for them making adoption easy. First off the low model count. You can easily put together a Grey Knights force with fewer model and still be effective. The army isn’t fundamentally different in unit types as the previous book. GW went to great pains to allow players to use their old models, it didn’t hurt that the old metal Grey Knight sculpts still hold up well. So all old Grey Knight players had to do was buy a Dread Knight and a few apes. Even if you decided you wanted to buy a whole new army it was easy: all you had to do was buy some Grey Knight boxes and you were set. Since the henchman models were the same as before finding them was easy.

So it was infinitely easier to build a Grey Knight army. This is in direct contrast to Dark Eldar which most players are building from the ground up because they (rightfully so) refused to play with old crappy models. As well many players have chosen to wait for the entire line release before investing in Dark Eldar wholeheartedly.

Another reason for Grey Knights quick rise is the their codex is so different from anything else. It has lots of new rules and wargear; it is tailored made for those that love customization and mid-maxing. As well they have an easy build for those that gravitate instantly to the Internet approved lists. Purifier spam is the confluence of competitive perfection and early adoption. Easy to play, low model count, just add riflemen Dreds, a Vindicare, and you have it.

Still what does this have to do with Space Wolves? Well that is simple: Grey Knights have been the excuse everyone has been waiting for. Even competitive players get bored playing the same list over and over. Let us call it Space Wolf fatigue or Goatboyitis because playing the same army for two years can become tiresome. And instead of investing a lot more money in Dark Eldar or Imperial Guard, Grey Knights are the “cheaper” alternative because in all likelihood you already have half the army hiding in your closet.

So what can we expect going forward? Well I think WargamesCon is going to be the first real test. By then most competitive players that made the switch and their Grey Knight armies will be ready. What numbers can we expect from such a large event, I am ready to be shocked again.

This still doesn’t explain Blood Angels still poor showings at events even though it seems many players are playing them. I have my theories as well, but that is going to have to be another article….