Best of Armies of NOVA Open 2018!

After a long and hard fought weekend the dust has settled and the scores are out! This past weekend was another great NOVA Open Convention. The NOVA Grand Tournament is one of the largest GT’s on the east coast and uses their own unique mission set that can be found here. There were 4 rounds of open play before players were placed in brackets of 16 for 4 more rounds. And don’t forget that NOVA is a charity event which raised over $60,000 this year. Overall the event went very smoothly and was one of our personal favorite GT’s we’ve attended. You can also check out last year’s scores here. Now are you ready to see the Best Armies of NOVA Open 2018!


FactionAvg ScorePlayers
Adepta Sororitas 2263
Ynnari 222.48
Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element214.449
Thousand Sons212.812
Heretic Astartes 209.110
Harlequins 2055
Space Wolves 200.34
Imperial Knights 199.928
Adeptus Custodes 196.86
Drukhari 194.716
Astra Militarum194.536
Renegades and Heretics 1941
Adeptus Astartes193.213
Death Guard 190.89
Overall Average190.8237
Necrons 182.56
Tau Empire181.818
Grey Knights 1782
Blood Angels176.910
Asuryani 176.412
Genestealer Cult 1761
Cult Mechanicus 166.67
Orks 163.73
Knights Renegades 1583
Dark Angels 149.86
Deathwatch 1171

While we normally organize the data by main faction, this year we saw the emergence of a very specific list. It contains Knight shooting, a CP farm, and a fast assault element. After combing through all lists submitted we decided to define this list as having some combination of these three parts: a Knight Castellan or 3 Helverins; some type of CP farm such as a Guard battalion; and finally a heavy assault element of Blood Angels Smash Captains, Custodes Shield Captains, or two Gallants. Any list that contained at least one piece from each of the three parts we put together to show how dominant this list is in the meta right now.

Top 16

1Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element
2Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element
4Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element
5Thousand Sons
6Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element
7Adeptus Custodes
9Blood Angels
11Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element
12Adeptus Custodes
13Knights/CP Farm/Assault Element
14Tau Empire
15Adeptus Astartes

*Edit: we had previously mistyped the top 16. The above is now corrected.*

Top Tier

Hey would you look at that! Maybe plastic Sisters are actually going to be useful after all! With only 3 players and a dedicated fan base my suspicion is anyone bringing sisters to a major GT has a lot of confidence in them. While the low number of players can throw off the average congrats to all those players who put their Nuns with Guns on the table.


Next up we have the Ynnari. We’ve seen them slip a little in the standings recently at other events like Bay Area Open although they do consistently place near the top. NOVA is notorious for the “NOVA L” pieces of terrain placed in the center of the table. This provides lots of line of sight blocking and great ways to prevent overwatch. Shining spears were able to jump out, kill something, and then Soulburst with their long movement back out of line of sight behind the L pieces. You can read what we think about them here. Another tactic we saw was the combination of Craftworlds with Harlequinn jetbikes equipped with Haywire.. Being able to dish out mortal wounds on a 4+ to wound and D3 mortal wounds on a 6 to wound is no joke when you have D6 shots and lots of Knight targets.

THE List

Now we come to possibly the defining meta of this year’s NOVA Open. The Knight codex has given Imperial players a powerful shooting platform that can have a 3++ invulnerable save. Pairing a Castellan with a CP farm and screen of Guardsmen gives them more than enough CP’s. The final part of this list is a strong assault element. We saw many combinations of this but usually it was Smash Captains, Custodes Shield Captains, or two Gallants. While we counted 49 of these lists there were as many as 80 that had some further tweak from the core meta formula. In the top bracket 6 out of the top 16 players were using this list. In fact congratulations to Andrew Gonyo for winning NOVA for a second time in a row! He was also using THE list. 

Here’s a brief version of how it works: The Castellan takes the +1 invuln warlord trait after spending a CP to become a character and get a trait. It then uses Rotate Ion Shields every turn it is seriously threatened in shooting. We’ll show the math in a later article but it is very difficult to bring down in one turn with a 3++ invuln. The Guard provides 5 CP for cheap and then takes Grand Strategist as well as Kourov’s Aquila to steal/regain CP’s. One of the Blood Angels Captains usually has the Veritas Vitae in order to also farm CP’s back. While the Castellan shoots and the Guard screen, one Smash Captain charges turn one and can charge 3D6, fight twice, and fight again if he is killed. Now this is CP intensive but the battery keeps the army supplied. It’s got strong shooting, survivability, screens, strong assault, and a turn one charge. What more could you want in a list?

Thousand Sons – Knights

Thousand Sons had a good showing with Justin Curtis playing in the final round with them. Using the character rules with screens and dishing out mortal wounds is still a very powerful combination. So is using both Mortarion and Magnus together. Harlequinns had a player in the top 16 and saw a lot of use out of those newly upgraded bikes with haywire. We also see the old Index Space Wolves had a last hoorah. I’m curious to see if they have enough tools to do better than their other Astartes cousins who have been suffering in 8th. Finally we have Imperial Knights. We saw them perform well at the American Team Championship and they’ve consistently been one of the armies to beat. It looks like they do best when given full support however.

Middle Tier

Adeptus Custodes

I’ve always loved the personal bodyguards of the Emperor and I love seeing them do well. There were 2 Cutodes players in the top 16 and Joe Behrend’s Custodes army came in second overall for best painted at the entire convention. He also won the Renaissance Man award as well! I think the Custodes really benefited from the line of sight blocking terrain and their survivability. When there are lots of Knights throwing plasma at you its nice to have a 4++ or 3++ on your models.


The denizens of Commoragh have seen a steady decline since they burst onto the scene with their new codex. There was one Dark Eldar player in the top 16 only losing to Gonyo in the semifinals. While Covens still appears to be quite strong, their haywire are just not as powerful as the new Harlequinn weapons. The Dark Kin will need either psyker support for Doom or Jinx from the Craftworlds or they’ll need anti-vehicle support from the space clowns in order to remain really competitive in this new meta.

Astra Militarum – Tau Empire

The Good Ole’ Guard has been hanging in there although many of their lists were really Imperial Soup. You can’t say this edition isn’t fluffy when there’s always 32 Guardsmen running around trying not to get crushed under the feet of a Knight or the hammer of a Slamguinius. And hey look there was even one brave Renegades and Heretics player who did ok! Man do they need an update from Forgeworld. The vanilla marines have continued to show that they’re better than their other battle brothers although their score was buoyed by Reece from Frontline Gaming who made it into the top 16. Doing exactly average, was the Death Guard. While they have a lot of tricks we haven’t seen them able to break into the top tiers yet this edition.

Moving on below the average, first up we have Tyranids. Without a consistent anti-Knight option and a way to deal with Smash Captains or screens on turn 1 I think the bugs are struggling. We’ll see if the upcoming GSC gives them some more utility and tools to play with. I think they’re the codex to watch for a comeback. Necrons were also able to put up decent points with their long range firepower. I was expecting to see a lot more wraiths to take advantage of the NOVA L’s but it looked like Destroyers were the most useful unit of the event for them. Finally we have the Tau. Their were a lot of blue space communist at NOVA with a variety of lists. Once again Yvhara’s seem to be the key decider on whether a Tau list excels or performs average.

Factions that Struggled

Grey Knights – Genestealer Cults

I want Grey Knights to work so badly. It jut feels like there should be an Imperial version of the Thousand Sons screen with Psykers behind them. Please GW overlords release my Grey Knights from the only 1 mortal wound Smite and let them be free! Blood Angels also struggled although they had a decent number of players. I think this points to the fact that Slamguinius really needs the support of a CP battery and the long range firepower of a Castellan to excel. I’ve talked before about how marines needs some type of boost this edition and seeing Grey Knights, Blood Angels, Deathwatch, and Dark Angels all struggle event after event is just difficult.

One surprise is how different the scores for Craftworld Eldar were from their cousins. Usually they are clustered in the top third together but this time we saw NOVA was hard on the Asuryani. There was only one Genestealer Cult army playing but expect that to change with the new codex. A few decent psychic powers and turn one charges will make them dangerous if there’s any nerf to THE list.

Daemons – Deathwatch

This was another surprise for me, seeing Cult Mechanicus struggling. I honestly thought the presence of Termite Drills would be more widespread giving them a much needed boost. A Termite can easily threaten a Knight especially if its full of chaff clearing Skitarii. We’ll keep an eye on them for now. Daemons also had a fair showing but again lack the tools to deal with the overwhelming meta. Bloodletter bombs just don’t cut it anymore when there’s 90 guardsmen in the way and angry Knights behind them. For Orks it’s worth mentioning a full assault Ork list saw some success with Stormboys and Da’ Jump. Hopefully their new codex lets all those closet Ork players put their rampaging fungi back on the table soon. Renegade Knight didn’t do as well as their loyalist counterparts which tells me that what really makes the Knight codex is their access to stratagems. Finally, there’s always one Deathwatch player and I applaud you. It’s tough out there being so specialized but I love that there’s always someone who just wants to play what their favorite army.

Final Thoughts

There was clearly a defined meta at this event. THE list was rampant and had many variations but with the more tweaks it appears the lower they performed on average. We’ve been having a lot of discussions about whether this new list is great or terrible but we have definitely decided it relies on the CP farm. One nerf to that and THE list will start to crumble. Just make it so you can only save CP’s from your own codex strats and the math really changes. The Warhammer Community and rules team were at the event and very visible. We can’t imagine they didn’t see what was happening and have some plans to address it in some way. With the upcoming release of Orks and Genestealer Cults we have two really melee focused armies coming. I can’t wait to see how they shift the meta or if they can dislodge Knights. Interesting things are on the horizon!

Both of the Field of Fire guys were able to make it out to NOVA this year. Experiencing it first hand we both think this was one of the most well run and organized events we’ve been to. The judges called out milestones for time and then uniformly applied chess clocks when those milestones weren’t being met. There were no major rules issues and almost every round started and ended on time. In addition NOVA handed out a deck of cards instead of just the standard mission pack which were really cool. We’ll be doing a review of the whole event soon. Keep a look out for our After Action Reports in the coming week!


Don’t like what we said? Did we make a mistake? Just want to chat? Get in touch with us through email at, our Facebook page, or commenting below!