The Top Warhammer 40k Players Win before the first die Roll.

by | May 11, 2021

As someone who has watched the competitive scene for almost two decades, I becoming more and more convinced that being the best at Warhammer 40k doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best at Warhammer 40k: when it comes to the actual game itself. The whole recent Dark Eldar freak-out illustrates this point. The best Warhammer 40k players gravitate quickly to whatever army is the “best” doing it as fast as possible. Seeing the same names consistently appear, you have to wonder what commonalties do they have with each other? 

Here are some of the obvious ones…

Money to Jump Armies

The Top Warhammer 40k top players have the financial freedom or player group pool to move from the current best army to the next. Then still have the money to travel and play in all these events. The best players can also pay for their armies to get painted in record time to meet minimum requirements.

The Time

The Top Warhammer 40k top players also have the free time to practice and think about the game. Some of the top players have even made it their jobs to be Top 40k players. Either way, they have the brain space to follow the latest Warhammer 40k meta trends and test out what is working or not. 


The Top Warhammer 40k top players talk and talk to each other, if you take all the top 20 players in any given year, the majority of them are either personal friends or are part of teams and chat groups where they talk to each other. This allows them to stay on top of the meta and bounce off ideas between each other to determine a consensus on what is good and what is not. 


these commonalties produce a small group of players who have a huge advantage over average and even “big fish in a little pond” players who typically form the gatekeeper role in events. The consensus the top players create (sometimes coach) tons of copy cats who follow whatever they are doing. This then is amplified by social media channels and groups who echo the same things the top players are doing, while mostly playing it off as their own original ideas. 

So what happens when a new codex hits, especially a strong one? Well the best players get a big advantage, and to take a term we all know, alpha strike the competition. They are armed with such a pre-game advantage that they show up to events oftentimes only a week after a codex drops and destroys the competition. The best players essentially create a knowledge and model advantage, that the vast majority of players cannot compete with.

This then becomes self perpetuating, as other top Warhammer 40k players see the results and have to decide between two choices: copy or hard counter. Copy is the easiest choice, and you will see most top players do just that, unless they have an established persona where they take certain armies. Then you have a few, but brave hard counter players, who try to make a list for all comers, but also destroy the current big bad. It then becomes a match up game, where the hard counter player must avoid the low chance counters to themselves and still slay the top lists. 

What the top Warhammer 40k players essential do is minimize the chance of an upset to almost zero, by applying all the pre-game preparation they do. This is why you never see a rando beat a top player, by taking the best and newest hotness or the just step below, they will almost always win. The best players simply after a few practice games let the list play itself. When Warhammer 40k has a particular moment of imbalanced you get the situation you see with Drukhari. Where you have top players going to events with almost identical lists because it just the easiest path to victory.

Now I am going to be a bit controversial: practice doesn’t make a top player. As long as you have a solid knowledge of the game rules and decent math skills you will win the majority of any Warhammer 40k game with a top tier list. Practice then becomes more about memorizing rules and less about skill or risks you take in the game. This is part of the reason you see players winning events right out of the gate with a new codex; a few conversations with other top players to build consensus, a few quick test games, and magically you win GTs.  While the majority of opponents are stuck playing the one army they have and don’t have enough knowledge of the new codex to effectively game plan against. 

This leads to a simple math game where most top players in any given GT or even Major events might have one “tough” game and the final match being the one if any real test. Even then match ups play a the most important role to success, more than any opponent’s actual skill. This means the best Warhammer 40k players are just playing odds trying to maximize victory before any dice roll. Of course, the top 40k players for the most part don’t disrespect opponents, but having watched them you can tell the second they hit the table knowing they have already won. The Warhammer 40k competitive scene has been like this for as long as I can remember, and especially since most events have dropped comp scoring and allow new codexes to be played before any FAQ.

In the world of real money and other incentives, you can see why the top players are very risk adverse and refuse to take any chances. Is this a bad thing? Well not really, it just means the way we romantically look at great players in other games or sports, doesn’t really apply to Warhammer 40k. It doesn’t mean the things I talked about above don’t exist in all sports or games, but think of Tom Brady, he is the best quarterback not because of just time or money. Tom Brady is a cut above, because of the in-game decisions he can make while it is actually happening. The Warhammer 40k Top players are more what NFL folks call a system quarterback, maximizing the system they are presented with. So in other words, to become the best Warhammer 40k player all you need is extra time, resources, a bit of advance knowledge and you too can win with the next copy & paste top tier list, you saw on the internet. Still, this is much harder than you can imagine.

style="display:block" data-ad-client="ca-pub-7460009040743076" data-ad-slot="5043707189" data-ad-format="auto" data-full-width-responsive="true">