[Top 10] Warhammer 40k Best Starting Armies That Are Powerful

warhammer 40k, 9th edition, tabletop, best army warhammer

Need help in figuring out which army to go for in 9th edition Warhammer 40k?

There's been a lot of changes in Warhammer throughout the years. We are now in the 9th Edition of the game, the meta has shifted once again. While it has always been a rule of thumb to pick an army that looks cool to you, you might still be curious as to which armies have the better competitive edge. Let this list help you out.

10. Dark Angels

Dark Angel Chaplain leading the charge against Heretics

“Repent! For tomorrow you die!” Starting off this list would be the powerful 1st Legion, the Dark Angels. With the recently added rule Armor of Contempt, be sure to expect several Space Marine legions on this list. The Dark Angels are in a pretty good spot right now during 9th Edition, primarily due to the sheer power of the Deathwing. 

The Deathwing has one of the most fantastic models the Dark Angels have. Still, they are currently the best way to play the 1st Legion competitively due to the rule 1st Company. This rule gives terminator squads the Objective Secured ability. You can even try spicing up your list with Ravenwing units such as the Ravenwing Apothecary to add durability to your terminators or Ravenwing Black Knights for additional fire support. Now with three wounds, 2+ saves, and Armor of Contempt, watch your opponent scratch their head as they try figuring out how to blast your terminators off his objective.

Dark Angel Strengths

  • Highly mobile due to Ravenwing models
  • Highly resilient due to Deathwing models
  • Terminators and Bikes can get Objective Secured

What Dark Angel Excels In…

  • Claiming and Holding Objectives. Ravenwing could secure objectives while the Deathwing could hold them.
  • Movement Buffs. Characters of the Ravenwing give superb movement buffs. 

Dark Angels Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Dark_Angels


9. Thousand Sons

Ahriman ushering Rubric marines of dust

“All is dust.” The Thousand Sons have been a competitive army since their 9th edition codex drop and are probably one of the strongest Chaos Space Marine Legions right now. The Thousand Sons are highly reliant on their Psychic Powers, and if that gameplay style suits your taste, then the Sons of Magnus are the army for you. 

Talking about Magnus, our big red Primarch got a massive drop of 30 points in the Nephilim points update, putting him at 420. The Thousand Sons’ Rubric Marines are excellent troop options, and the Points Update made them even more potent by making some of their wargear options cheaper and even free. Combine these updates with your durable Scarab Occult Terminators that have Objective Secured, and you’ve got a psychic force to be reckoned with.

Thousand Sons Strengths

  • Versatility due to Psychic Powers
  • Good AP Shooting, most marines have guns that are AP -2
  • Resilient Terminators that have Objective Secured

What Thousand Sons Excels In…

  • Successful Psychic Phases. Rules such as Cabalistic Rituals help psychic powers go off easily.
  • Mortal Wounds Infliction. Mighty psychic powers could inflict multiple Mortal Wounds.

Thousand Sons Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Thousand_Sons


8. Necrons

Necron Technomancer charging with his entourage of Triarch Praetorians

A good surprise on this list would be the Necrons. Long before the Nephilim points update, the Necrons were in a bad spot, primarily because they were one of the early factions that got a 9th edition Codex. Since Codex creep is a thing, Necrons have always been in a lower-tier bracket in the competitive scene, but not anymore. 

The Necrons got a tremendous points rework in the update, with almost all characters dropping between 5pts to 15pts, C’Tan going down by 50pts, some models dropping by a few points, and the big bad Silent King himself going down to 400pts. The Necrons generally have some of the most durable models in the game due to rules such as Living Metal and Reanimation Protocols; giving them more points to work with just adds more models on the table for your opponent to deal with. With the update lowering almost everything in cost, we’re bound to see some more robotic skeletal killers on the table.

Necrons Strengths

  • Cost-efficient buffs due to models such as the Technomancer and Chronomancer
  • Vehicles now have <CORE>
  • Durable due to Quantum Shielding, Living Metal, and Reanimation Protocols

What Necrons Excel In…

  • Board Control. Primarily due to high wound models and fast units such as Wraiths and Scarabs.
  • Melee Combat. Skorpekh Destroyers, Flayed Ones, and Wraiths pack quite the punch.

Necrons Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Necrons


7. Grey Knights

Adrik Voldus, Grand Master of the Grey Knights Chapter, with a retinue of Paladins

Next on this list would be the hailed Daemonhunters of the Imperium, the instrument of the Emperor’s will, the Grey Knights. The Grey Knights have always been the elite of the elite, both in the lore and the tabletop. If playing with low model counts suit your play style, then these silver-armored demon slayers might be for you. Since the April balance dataslate introduced Armour of Contempt, Grey Knights have been in a good spot. They have an easy-to-learn playstyle as most of their units are good at shooting and melee, proving themselves to be quite decisive. 

Aside from their vehicles, they didn’t get many point updates in the recent Nephilim points update. However, they’re known to struggle against certain enemy matchups such as Tyranids, and with the direct nerf to Tyranids, the Grey Knights are actually getting an indirect buff. With incredible psychic powers and fearsome melee, you can easily succeed on the table with a Grey Knights army.

Grey Knights Strengths

  • Superb psychic phase thanks to rules such as the Ritual of the Damned
  • Powerful Psyker Characters that are beasts in close combat

What Grey Knights Excel In…

  • Alpha Strikes. Most Grey Knight Models have the ability to deep strike.
  • Unit Buffs. Mighty psychic powers could buff units to be more durable or optimized in shooting.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Grey_Knights


6. Blood Angels

The Lord of Death, Mephiston, guarded by Primaris Intercessors and Aggressors

The 9th Legion or the Blood Angels is also one of the Space Marine Legions that came out on top after the Nephilim Points Update. Being already a good space marine legion that leans heavily on close combat, several point changes to their heavy melee units such as Sanguinary Guard and Death Company, made their close-quarter action more cost-efficient. 

If you’ve always wanted to play the Space Marines competitively, then the Blood Angels would be the perfect chapter. With multiple charges, it is easy to secure objectives with Blood Angels. They are currently the best legion to play if you want to top at a tournament, and with the new changes to secondary objectives, you could easily make Saguinius proud.

Blood Angel Strengths

  • Flexible because you have multiple characters to choose from that have different roles
  • Easy army to learn

What Blood Angel Excel In…

  • Close Combat. Most units of the Blood Angels Specialize in vicious close combat.
  • Getting to Close Combat. Blood Angels have the Red Thirst Chapter tactic, which gives them +1 to Advance and Charge rolls.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Blood_Angels


5. Harlequins

The Masque of the Midnight Sorrow acting a grand performance

High up on this list are the clowns of Cegorach, the Harlequins. Even after their Voidweaver nerfs, the Harlequins still remains to be a top-tier competitive army due to all sorts of other shenanigans in their arsenal. Though you pay for Harlequin Units in premium when it comes to points, they quickly make up for it by being exceptional close combat murder machines. 

Even though Characters and Harlequin Tropes have Toughness 3, Harlequin’s Panoply gives them 4++ invulnerable saves and -1 to hit modifier in close combat. Add some psychic power buffs from Shadowseers that force enemies to wound your units with a -1 modifier, and you’ve got killer clowns that are even harder to kill.

Harlequin Strengths

  • Extremely mobile thanks to Rising Crescendo as it gives Harlequins the ability to Advance and Charge or Fall back and Shoot/Charge.
  • Troops and characters can move horizontally and through models
  • Army-wide 4++ invulnerable saves
  • Strong strategems

What Harlequins Excel In…

  • Close Combat. The Harlequins are exceptional in melee; they hit hard and are even harder to hit and wound.
  • Changing Fate. Harlequins have Luck of the laughing God, a rule that gives the player a minimum of three free rerolls per battle round that could be used for crucial game-swerving moments.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Harlequin


4. T’au Empire

A T’au Riptide and Ghostkeel making ready to ravage Gue'la scum with railgun weaponry

After all the melee-oriented armies introduced in this list, it’s time to present the shootiest army in Warhammer 40k yet, the T’au Empire. They are one of the three Xeno armies that got hit with the nerf bat with the recent updates. Although nerfed in Nephilim through point increases in powerful units such as Crisis Teams, Broadsides, and even Stormsurges, some units such as Farsight and Shadowsun still cost the same points thus remain to be viable options when building your T’au army. Though necessary, these point adjustments force you to be more frugal when building your T’au army. 

Despite the Nephilim changes, the T’au are indeed still powerful. Overwhelming firepower is the name of the game with the T’au Empire, with Crisis Battlesuits being the bread and butter of your T’au army; they are highly customizable regarding weapon load-outs; you can have different Crisis Battle units to fill various roles on the tabletop. With clever positioning and support from other shooty units such as Broadsides, you will raze the table of any and every enemy foe.

T’au Empire Strengths

  • Good mobility to make up for their weakness in melee
  • Solid units in the form of Crisis Teams, extremely deadly units with all forms of support

What the T’au Empire Excel In…

  • High AP Shooting. The T’au Empire’s guns are what they are mostly known for; their heavy rail weaponry, plasma rifles, and even simple pulse rifles all pack quite a punch.
  • Shooting buffs. Comes in the form of Fire Markerlights, an action done at the beginning of the movement phase. This rule is too long to break down, but they basically improve your T’au units’ shooting phase.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/T%27au_Empire


3. Tyranids

Tyranids of the Hive Fleet Leviathan swarming through the ruins of a desecrated planet

“Nom! Nom! Nom!” The Tyranids perhaps are taking this spot on a fascinating note. They used to be the absolutely, uncontested strongest army in Warhammer 40k, boasting an overall win rate of 70% in most tournament matches. Now, they are one of the biggest losers in the Nephilim update. With massive point nerfs to their units, such as Hive Tyrants, Malceptors, and Warriors, it will be a challenging climb back to the top. However, despite these changes, Tyranids are still a top-tier army due to their units’ insanely good datasheets. They are currently the latest codex for 9th Edition, with the Chaos Space Marine codex soon to follow. 

Swarm your foes with Termagaunts or Hormagaunts, scythe them down with Carnifexes, or bombard them with Hive Guard or Exocrine. With the Tyranids, you still have many robust options when building your army. Although Hive Tyrants and Warriors got more expensive, they still play well in the hands of a strategic player. You can still devour as much as you want. You just now have fewer models to devour with.

Tyranid Strengths

  • Strong Monsters have impressive stats with 2+ saves, high toughness, and high wound count
  • Very flexible as they have a ton of unit options that are functional in a lot of roles

What the Tyranid Excel In…

  • Mortal Wound Infliction. Tyranids have units, strategems, and psychic powers that are efficient in inflicting Mortal Wounds.
  • Solid Melee. Big bugs hit hard.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Tyranids


2. Craftworlds Eldar 

The Avatar of Khaine ready to lay waste with burning fury

Another powerful Xenos army are the Asuryani, taking the second spot on this list. Craftworlds Eldar, although hit with point increase nerfs, still remains potent. Eldritch Storm was nerfed, but Hail of Doom remained utterly untouched by the recent dataslate, and building your army around this rule is the best way to compete as Craftworlds Eldar. Characters, Aspect Warriors, and others got a point increase, but units such as shuriken catapult wind riders and some troops stayed the same, and these are the guys who can utilize Hail of Doom the most. With some flexible unit choices, combined with more Aeldari shenanigans in the form of absurd psychic powers and crazy good strategems, the Eldar will continue to be a nuance in competitive Warhammer 40k.

Craftworlds Eldar  Strengths

  • Super fast, jet bikes are extremely swift with 16” movement with an advance move that is automatically 6”
  • High AP Shooting, this mostly comes from Hail of Doom

What the T’au Empire Excel In…

  • Psychic Phase. The Eldar Psychic phase is seriously threatening, they could buff up their units, weaken yours, and inflict so much mortal wounds all on the same turn.
  • Taking Objectives. Not only are their units fast, but they also have units such as Rangers that could Advance Position onto unclaimed objectives while having Objective Secured.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Asuryani


1. Sisters of Battle

The Adeptas Sororitas priming their holy guns of bolt and fire

“Deeds, not words!” The Adeptas Sororitas or Sisters of Battle are huge beneficiaries of the Nephilim update and are taking the top spot on our list. With points reduction on most of their jump-pack units, such as Zephyrim and Seraphim, you’ll see more angel-like battle nuns zooming across the field. The Sisters were nerfed before but were able to bounce back due to Armour of Contempt and a rework to their Miracle Dice generation. Sisters of Battle generate Miracle Dice that could be used to substitute critical rolls in the game, from Shooting, Charging even to Damage rolls and more. Sisters of Battle now generate Miracle Dice every PLAYER turn, compared to the previous ruling of being every battle round. 

The Adeptas Sororitas has always had solid units such as Repentia, your designated close-combat monsters, and Retributors, the Sisters’ shooty combatants. They also have access to Morven Vahl, one of, if not the most effective HQ choice in the game right now due to her rules that can give re-roll to hit and wound on <CORE> units. With so many units that fulfill different battlefield roles while being cheap pointwise, the Adeptas Sororitas is easily one of the top contenders as the strongest Warhammer 40k army right now.

Sisters of Battle Strengths

  • Flexible unit choices, you can be a fully melee-oriented army, a fully shooting-oriented army, or a mix of both flavors
  • Psychic counters, a good majority of their units (even vehicles) can deny opponent psychic powers

What the Sisters of Battle Excel In…

  • Unit Buffing. Morven Vahl, strategems, and other characters such as the Dogmata can turn a 112-point Repentia squad into a beast of a unit that could scythe down absolutely anything in the game.
  • Trading. With Sisters of Battle, you want some of your units and characters to die as some of these units could generate more Miracle Dice, which can be used to help claim more objectives.

Details: https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Adepta_Sororitas

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Hailing from the land of the Philippines, John Emony is your resident geek, nerd, and weeb. An avid fan of Warhammer to being an extreme devotee of Hololive girls, his interests knows no bounds.
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