Best Armies of NOVA 2019!

The dust has settled and there’s another great NOVA behind us! This marked NOVA’s 10th year raising funds for charity and running a great convention. Today we’ll be taking a look at the NOVA Warhammer 40,000 Grand Tourney although there were a ton of great events throughout the weekend. Now NOVA is no ordinary tournament with 9 rounds, forming brackets after round 5, and with its own mission set. Because of this we’ve provided a little more data than we normally do and we’ll have some explanations below. You can also check out last year’s results here or see if the meta has shifted since ATC here. Finally if you’re into the tournament scene in the Mid-Atlantic we still have plenty of slots in our own Crozius GT in November. Now without further delay, are you ready to see the best armies of NOVA 2019?

FactionAverage PlacePlayersAverage WinsRound 5 Average Points (GT)Total Average Points
Drukhari 5044.25132.25183
Cult Mechanicus 99.69134.23121.77183.8
Adepta Sororitas 100.6733.67119.67169.67
Genestealer Cult 117.93154.47122.4188.6
Imperium 127.92533.96117.23173.77
Aeldari 127.96253.96115.2168.68
Khorne 13115132232
Imperial Knights 138.1763.83115.17173.17
Adeptus Astartes 139.82113.64104.09151.64
*Overall Average*148.52953.61109.84161.19
T'au Empire 156.32193.32107.95149.32
Chaos 165.67333.56104.24155.91
Adeptus Custodes 169.64113.82103.09165.45
Necrons 171.09113.2797.55140.73
Space Wolves 17232.33106135.67
Tyranids 173.3362.67106.67145.83
Grey Knights 181.3363.3393.17152.67
Chaos Daemons 18332.33104.33123.33
Thousand Sons 186.52293115.5
Asuryani 19072.7196.14136.43
Chaos Space Marines 193.652.698.6128.8
Astra Militarum 200.64142.7195.93142.5
Knights Renegades 20213101134
Dark Angels 203.252.688.8130.6
Forces of the Hive Mind 204.852.6107.4133
Deathwatch 2121485172
Blood Angels 218.3362.3391.83125.17
Death Guard 2431380124
Slaanesh 250.523.5106.5156

Notes on NOVA

Because NOVA is such a unique tournament we though it was worth taking a moment to talk about how it is structured. First, NOVA uses its own mission packet that is similar to ITC missions with 33 points possible. Of those points 18 are from holding objectives (either progressively or endgame chosen by the player), 12 are from secondaries that are picked each game like ITC, and finally 3 points from points destroyed in the opponent’s army (1 for every 500 up to 1500pts destroyed). Now you hopefully understand the missions, it’s also important to realize that NOVA puts players into 16 man brackets after round 5. Players play exclusively in their bracket for the last 4 rounds of the event. This means many players drop after one loss in their bracket since they can no longer win it. Between the brackets and the drops this really skews the data. Finally the terrain is uniform with 2 “NOVA L’s” in the middle of the table, 2 hills in corners, 2 ruins in corners, and a forest in the middle of a Dawn of War deployment. This means the table is both very open and very limited in terms of sight lanes so keep that in mind.

The short version? There are A LOT of different ways to look at the data. We’ll be running down the factions based off their average place. Why? Well first that’s how ITC points are assigned and secondly using the average number of wins (our first thought) overly weights games played in the bracket. Just remember there were 297 players total. Again, we realize there’s a lot of ways to look at this so we left the chart above unlocked so you can play with it as you will. Have fun!

Top Tier


Well would you look at that? The Dark Eldar managed a significantly higher average placement than any other faction by a long shot! While there were only 4 players brave enough to attempt to play a pure Dark Kin army they did quite well. In a mission set that require holding objectives to score the majority of points it appears the durability of Haemonculi units really helped them out. Oh and Razorwings aren’t pushovers even if they aren’t quite as scary as their Craftworld cousins’ flyers.

Cult Mechanicus

Averaging just under 100th place the 13 pure Admech players had a great showing. Several used fortifications such as the Imperial Bastion full of plasma Destoryers. If that wasn’t enough for you the new Mechanicus transport model in its non-transport form was quite a boon. There were a ton of Skorpius Disintegrators rolling around the field with 3D3 S6 -1 Damage 2 shots. NOVA L’s can be very frustrating for shooting armies that need line of sight. Many players can stack assault unit in the crux of the L for charges without overwatch or hide valuable units there. Being able to hit these units hard with a lot of shots at damage 2 was definitely helpful for the Scions of the Omnissiah.

Adepta Sororitas

Unfortunately I don’t really have a lot to say about Sisters. They’re here, they’re coming, and OMG did you see those plastic sisters! Between the Cannoness handed out at the announcements and some sisters models on display at the Games Workshop booth I think we’ll be seeing the Nuns with Guns a lot more in the coming months.


There were a lot of Orks. Like more Orks than we’ve seen at any recent major tournament and they did quite well. Who knew that 300 bodies in front of Smasha Guns and characters with Relic Shock Attack guns were good? Apparently a lot of people. I got to play two Ork players before entering brackets. In the first game I killed over 200 Orks and lost on a Da’Jumped Grot squad taking objectives. In the second game I just got Smasha and Shock Attack Gunned to death not to mention the bagillion shots from Shoota Boys Da’Jumping around everywhere. It was crazy. Both guys were great opponents who just loved playing Orks. My take away? Orks can hold objectives and push you back or control the board at the same time. In NOVA that’s a big deal. Also dice apps are the bomb. I love Ork fluff so maybe we’ll see a shift in the meta at events using ITC rules? I hope so even if its just so I can make an Eversor Assassin useful again. And yes after this weekend I did name my Punisher Tank Command “Grot Control”.

Genestealer Cult

The cult rises again. With exceptionally skilled players like John Lennon, Matt Root, and Chris Blackham all playing GSC we were going to see some high scores from them. Even NOVA’s ruling that units had to come onto the table by turn 3 (so you can’t take endgame and just blitz your opponent) didn’t hurt them too bad. Similar to Orks there are a lot of bodies between you and the characters holding objectives plus a lot of pressure. Again, in NOVA that’s very good. I’ve heard some rumors that the new Space Marine rules and infiltrating units could mean the death of the Cult but we’ll see if that actually holds up. GSC is looking strong right now.


With 53 players Imperial Soup was by far the largest faction played. We’ve come a long way from the days of the Castelan with 90 Guardsmen and 3 Smash Captains. There were a large variety of lists but many used Custodes Calladiuses with some even using the Orion Gunship. A new FAQ has adjusted the Calladiuses’s main gun’s strength down from 8 to 7 so we’ll see if that sticks around. Overall we know that the abundance of choices in Imperium lends itself to well rounded armies that can handle a lot of things on the tabletop. We’ll see if rules like Combat Doctrines being denied to soup lists encourages more monofaction lists.


Did you know Eldar flyers were good? Because they’re good. It’s also worth pointing out they did almost exactly as well as Imperial soup in terms of place and wins. Even in a meta where objectives are king it’s hard to hold objectives if you’re dead and you can’t kill the damage dealers in your opponent’s list. My first loss in the bracket was to an Aeldari list although I’ll say he was using Wraithblades, or as he called them, Sliceyboyz! It was great game although we were both exhausted and I have a new found respect for Wraithseers. I do think though that these Aeldari results show that missions do play a big deal in tournaments. The flyers still did well but they just weren’t as dominate without the extra points from kills like in ITC. I keep saying this but we’ll see if this build gets hit with the nerf bat or the meta just adapts.

Also a shout out here to our buddy Jeremy Know with a Dark Eldar/Harlequin jet bike list who went on an amazing run against several top players so a big congrats to him!

The Rest

Alright we’re going to start moving a little faster now. We normally look at a Middle and Bottom Tier but with all the data from NOVA we’ll let you decide that for yourself.

Khorne, Imperial Knights, and Adeptus Astartes

Blood for the Blood God! There was one Khorne player who did quite well. You’ll notice that, just like our ATC 2019 breakdown, a Khorne player had the best average score overall. Mostly because there was one of them (but also because they’re just that good). Speaking of low numbers of players there were only 6 Imperial Knights players. Usually we expect to see a lot more pure Knight players but I think many of them chose to soup this year. Knights are still potent on the tabletop but many armies and the present of Calladiuses made a single Knight a liability. Long gone are the days of the unstoppable Castelan with a 3++.

For the Space Marines however this was a last Hoorah! before the new Codex rules kick in. They have lots of new toys and we think there might be a whole new set of Super Friends coming here. First round I was lucky enough to play a Guilliman gunline and yes he still rerolled everything! Pretty cool. While my weight of fire eventually wore down the marines it was the first time I had seen a Redemptor Dread in action and they put out a lot of shots. Might of Heroes on vehicles to bump them to T8 or T9 is also pretty sweet. Even without their new rules the Sons of the Primarchs beat the average so I can’t wait to see what they can do with the new Drop Pod rules, Litanies, and host of other goodies.

Tau Empire

Where to start with Tau? I guess first it’s best to say Tau won the GT overall! The winning list was as many drones as possible with 3 Riptides played by a top ITC player. Given that, it’s a little odd to see Tau below the average placement. There were many lists with Broadsides as well as several mechanized lists with Skyrays. I usually think of Genestealer Cult as the army a good player can wield like a scapel and one mistake might cost them the game but I wonder if that’s true of Tau as well. Look out for Riptides coming to a gaming table near you!

Chaos, in all Its Forms

I’m going to group in Chaos, Chaos Space Marines, Daemons, Renegade Knights, Death Guard, and Thousand Sons here. Overall Chaos is just not performing as well as it’s Imperial counterpart. Space Marines did quite well but the traitor legions didn’t reciprocate that. Now Thousand Sons and Death Guard did do about as well as the non-Codex Compliant chapters but why are these marines not doing as well as the loyal Codex Astartes? Even Chaos soup who had a ton of players just didn’t perform like Aeldari and Imperial soup who were very similar in performance. I’ve heard a lot of crying from CSM players about the newest Space Marine releases and I think this data, might, just might, validate some of that.

Maybe it was the missions but even Plaguebearers being nigh unmovable on objectives didn’t pull Chaos through. I did play a Chaos player with beautifully painted Bash Bros and Plaguebearers but with first turn as Guard it was an uphill battle for him. I think the Vigilus releases didn’t do for Chaos was this new Codex and all its supplements are going to do for Loyalists. We have an in house theory that as the Imperials get newer technology Chaos will be getting more integrated and powerful Daemonic abilities to counter them. Maybe even another Daemon Primarch? That’d ship the balance of power.

Custodes, Space Wolves, and Grey Knights

The Golden boys were seen a lot at NOVA but mostly as an accessory to Imperial Soup armies. On their own they were tough to move off of objectives. Having guns from hover tanks and Telemon Dreads also helped out. The Space Wolves did the best of the noncompliant Chapters and I did play a Wolf player. He had uniquely painted bike army pushing up the board quickly with lots of bolters. While we he could clear a lot of screens, needing to make a charge before being able to have an advance and charge aura on his Warlord forced him to take a full round of shooting before getting in close. The space puppies have a lot of tricks and unique units but they definitely need an update or some more utility.

Grey Knights are in a very similar place. We’ve been talking about how expensive Space Marine models are for the points for a while now. Grey Knights have this problem to the extreme. A single failed 3+ might lose them 20-30 points. I’m not sure if the new Codex release will help them at all. Maybe a combined Grey Knights and Inquisition book will follow the Sisters release and breath new life into all those Index units and Grey Knights at the same time?


There were 11 Necron players reanimating robot corpses across NOVA this year. Most armies had 3 flying crescents, 3 Dooms Day Arks (DDA’s), and some combination of Immortals or Tomblades. Oh and Imohtek. Possibly my favorite game of the weekend was against a Necron player who went with 10 man units of Immortals getting Tesla on 5’s with My Will be Done and the Nightbringer. It was a very close game with his DDA’s facing off against my Basilisks and Manticore. After 6 rounds he was able to pull it our with 2 more points although we both had a lot of fun killing each other across the board. Again, I like seeing a high variety of armies competing and it was great to see Necrons on the table. I hope people keep pushing different builds but I’m nervous to see if they get left out of the new Psychic Awakening story arc or not.

Tyranids and Forces of the Hive Mind

Well first off Forces of the Hive Mind were the only soup that was outperformed by all of it’s constituent parts. I think right now if you want to play the Hive Fleet the Genestealer Cults are the way to go. On that note however I did get to play a Kraken Genestealer rush army. That was stressful let me tell you. When 90 Genestealers come gribbling across table, up to 40″ for some of them, the Guard gun line just groans. It became a contest of Catachan knives and artillery against Tyranid claws and…worms that burrows into our flesh? You get the point. It was an incredibly fun game but Genestealers are just simply overcosted for what they do. Also it’s bull crap that Swarmlord can be shot. Just make him like Guilliman at 9 wounds and Tyranids get instantly scarier. It’s a shame we don’t see more Bugs on the table.

Astra Militarum

Oh the poor old Guard. With 14 players and still an average placement of above 200 out of 295 we’re in a tough spot. I played a mono faction Imperial Guard army and while I loved it and had great games it was very challenging. I personally went 4-5 coming in the dead middle at 147th place. I’ve been pushing myself to try and score the highest as Guard in the South for ITC and learned to my dismay that NOVA is technically in the North East. I did get to play another Militarum player for bracket championship and he got first turn. There are only so many Guard builds out there and while everyone else is getting fancy fall back and shoot hover tanks we, we just don’t. Hopefully we’ll we see some access to new buffs in Pyschic Awakening that will take the Guardsmen out of just being another loyal 32 and a tank with Hammer of Sunderance.

Dark Angels, Death Watch, Blood Angels

This is what you get for being non-Codex compliant! Since 8th dropped marines have been a point intensive elite army that just hasn’t been able to stand up. Sure Smash Captains and the characters have made a splash but as a mono-faction the Astartes have struggled. There are supplements trickling out and an extra attack in the first round of most combats is not nothing though. Maybe with all the new Primaris toys we’ll see more love?