10th Edition Competitive Faction Focus: Imperial Knights (Updated October 27, 2023)

With the release of 10th edition now firmly behind us and more than a month of competitive games in the books it’s time to start taking a deeper look at each of the game’s factions. In this series we’ll talk about each faction, what they have to offer, how they play, and talk about a few list concepts to consider.

You can find all the Faction Focuses that we’ve published here.

In this article, we’re taking a look at the chivalric houses of the Imperial Knights. After some strong early performances, they’ve had some of the biggest changes of 10th edition so far – including a significant nerf to their key Bondsman abilities, as well as the general change to Towering. Noah Beddome takes us through a revamped Faction Focus after the September Balance Dataslate.


  • Update (Latest): 2023-10-27 for Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate.
  • Published: 2023-08-21

Why Should You Play This Faction?

Do you want to go fast while being tough? Do you appreciate giant robots? If the answer is yes to both of these, Imperial Knights are probably one of your best options. Imperial Knights are an elite force, with some great low volume high damage-dealers, and are pretty durable when the opponent tries to swing back at them. The latter is even more true than in previous editions, as the change in Toughness scaling moving Armigers to T10 has taken a substantial chunk of weapons that used to wound them on 5s to needing 6s, meaning that if you get your target priority right, some foes can run out of tools to fight you. While Imperial Knights are a decent traditional damage focussed army, they really shine as a low unit count board control army.

Imperial Knights are also a great army for people starting out in competitive play, because you can focus on fine tuning skills with a small model count while winning some games based on stats alone. That isn’t to say there’s no skill to playing them, as learning how to manage your limited number of models effectively in tougher matchups is vital to success, but you’re going to be going into many of your games as the side that would win a straight shootout/brawl, which is always helpful. By ensuring that you have the tools to participate in every game you play, Knights also give you more opportunities to learn from things that go wrong, and how more experienced players work around you when outgunned, which can develop your skills for the future.

Credit: SRM

Five Things You Need to Know

  • A Mix of Big and Small Knights is a Must: If you want to go all Armigers, go play Chaos. Bondsman abilities mean that you want big and small Knights in your list working together to get the most out of them.
  • Capability Over Lethality: You are Lethal Enough! Your melee is pretty good, your shooting especially against low model count units is great but you are not as lethal as a lot if your big competitors while you have fundamental weaknesses like being almost all vehicles or having relatively bad volume based shooting, so when evaluating units or enhancement look for things that let you do something other than killing better (See Mysterious Guardian)
  • Pick Reclaim The Realm: You have two choices for an Oath, and should nearly never take Lay Low the Tyrant to provide a single hit and wound re-roll of a 1 each time you Shoot or Fight. It does not provide nearly enough comparative benefit and is relatively easy to deny. Reclaim the Realm shines on the current terrain trends. The extra movement allows for getting into position, adapting quickly, and incentivizes your opponent to cede the table to prevent you from getting Honored. That being said, if you’re confident you can clinch an early warlord kill, go for it, but this will likely only be true in games you’d win anyway.
  • Tactical Objectives Aren’t Too Bad: As long as you bring some Imperial Agents to help with a few of them (which you should), you’re actually pretty decent at Tactical Objectives. Armigers can flip objectives with ease and have plenty of movement, and this edition Action-like objectives don’t exclude Vehicles.
  • Watch Out for Your Key Weaknesses: As an army, you can end up struggling a bit with large targets with 2+ saves, and are vulnerable against lists that can just deck a big Knight. Don’t be afraid to Strat Reserve a big Knight if you can only hide one, especially if you bring Mysterious Guardian .

The Q3 2023 Dataslate

The Dataslate was specifically cruel to Imperial Knights and may have been an over correction.

The Good

  • The change to how Towering works is a buff for Knights allowing them to hide key resources and but still easily get lines of sight, it also just feels a lot nicer to play in a way that is not grossly unbalanced for either side.

The Bad

  • The Change to Strats and Discounts hit Knights pretty hard. Not only did most of their strats go up, the change to how discounts works means that Canis’ can only discount Shoulder the Mantle and according to GW’s ruling at their own events also can’t use it on Command Reroll
  • Bondsman Synergies were broken in this data slate by limiting the effect of the Bondsman ability to only the Armigers and not the Questoris Knight handing it out. This not only reduced efficiency and return on investment but it also crippled Knights that were designed with their Bondsman effect in mind like the Warden or Errant and especially the Castigator
  • Titanic units losing  Overwatch was also pretty brutal which combined with the devastating wounds change kicked the valiant out of the top slot and all the way to the basement.
  • Points did drop on Canis but they went up on Armiger Chassis making them all an even 150 which is honestly salt in the wound.

What Are the Must-Have Units to Start This Faction?

First up, buy some magnets. Magnetizing big Knights is very doable, and while there are some clear standouts at the moment, almost all of them are at least good, and the churning eddies of rules and metagame changes could end up incentivising you to switch them in and out over time. Once magnets are obtained, your starting point for this faction is two big Knights, two Helverins, then Warglaives and Imperial Agents. The Callidus or Eversor Assassins are particularly good and most of the Agents infantry and Character models have a role to play. As an alternative, a Dominus Knight with a team of Armigers can perform well. 

Unfortunately with the most recent data sheet Imperial Knights lost a lot of internal balance and a lot of lethality with the reduced relevance of bondsman abilities. Which basically means when selecting a knight you need to be very intentional about what it adds to your army  beyond killing stuff. For these reasons the Errant is a stand out as it answers hard threats, has both melee and shooting and adds mission play.  In the Questoris Chassis the Warden, Canis Rex and Crusader are all solid includes.  There is also a significant Forge World line of Knights like the Cerastus that offer unique weapons and effects. So as you expand your collection to more exotic options you might find better fits.

From there, the things you likely want to consider are either a third Questoris Knight, That Dominus we mentioned or one of the Cerastus Knights that isn’t the Archeon. The stand out as of this writing being the Atropos who is an amazing all rounder and has significant advantage over most Questoris Knights.

Imperial Knights - Armiger Helverins
Imperial Knights – Armiger Helverins
Credit: Pendulin

How Does This Faction Secure Objectives?

There is an old Carnival Game called “Cover the Spot” where you try to completely cover a red circle with metal discs to completely cover the spot. That game is excellent practice for holding objectives with Knights. Seriously though, your army is made up of huge, hard to kill robots with OC 10, speedy, relatively numerous robots with OC 8, and everything is on a large base. Your only real issue on this front is low board coverage if you start losing a few models, so to ensure against that you want to bring along some Imperial Agents to either hold your own backfield or come out of reserves in the opponent’s (or if it’s a Callidus Assassin, both), and you should also consider the extremely good Banner of Macharius Triumphant on a more mobile Knight. This provides them with sticky objectives, allowing them to step stone towards the enemy leaving locked-in objectives in their wake. It’s especially great on a Knight Warden thanks to their additional durability and incentive to play aggressively.

How Does This Faction Handle Enemy Hordes?

The same way you secure objectives. You can kill light models pretty well with a combination of blast weapons, stubbers, and sweep attacks but as hordes have become more numerous and horde incentivizing detachments include movement tricks the best thing you can do is cover the objectives with bases and shoot anything that’s a real threat. You need to accept that your Knight army won’t kill enough Warriors or Lychguard to matter especially because the devastating wounds change.

The challenge in this matchup is not, therefore, killing them – it’s making sure they don’t out-score you on objectives. The first key to this is to lose as few models as possible – many horde mooks won’t be a real threat to any sort of Knight, so identify the things that are and take them out ASAP so you retain enough models to contest the board. Past that, make sure you identify which objectives there’s a threat of your opponent reaching, and double stack models on it if necessary – with two Armigers, it can be difficult for the enemy to fit enough models on a point to contest OC 16.

How Does This Faction Handle Enemy Tanks and Monsters?

This slightly depends on the defensive profiles you’re up against. At a baseline, the thermal spear on Warglaives is good for dealing some damage to big targets, as unlike a lot of melta weapons it’s been significantly bumped up in strength this time around, hitting at S12. Lay Low re-rolls work really well with this (low shot count, high quality is where this sort of thing is best), and can certainly do the lift for you against moderately crunchy target.

If your metagame features a lot of hull/monster heavy forces or a lot of 2+ saves, The Errant, Atropos, and Castellan have some words. Because of how easy it is for large models to get cover (especially against Crusaders that want to stand still), bringing a bunch  AP-1 and AP-2 shooting like the Paladin or Crusader can fall short, especially if the opponent is smart and knows to prioritize killing Warglaives. If this is something you run into, there’s a couple of things you can try.

First up, make sure to be (appropriately) aggressive with your big knights who shoot and chop because even if it can’t kill this stuff at range, in melee it’ll chop them up. You can also just go for death by a thousand cuts – popping Trophy Claim on a Crusader will usually push some damage through even if the opponent is saving on 2+.

One of the standouts right now especially against hard targets that reduce damage is the errant with the mighty Melta 6 thermal lance.

Alternatively either Dominus Knight or the Atropos will also deal with these threats.  Knight Valiant and Castellan are your chunkiest options here, as the Valiant’s  missiles and harpoon will put the fear of the Emperor into large targets while the Volcano Cannon and Plasma Decimator are great into big models and 2+ saves. The Atropos have both melee and good anti tank and also does this well with Dev wounds on the Graviton Singularity helping get past saves. All of these models work particularly well with the Mysterious Guardian enhancement, allowing you to stash it in deep strike or redeploy it to get good angles. Mysterious Guardian also combos well with your buff from Reclaim the Realm 

Another option is to switch to Canis Rex who will do truly horrendous things to enemy centerpieces in multiple phases. The caution is that doubling down on efficiency can leave you deprived of abilities to play the mission.

Imperial Knight
Imperial Knight. Credit: Jack Hunter

Board Control

I know, this sounds wild, the low model count army is somehow playing board control. Follow me into madness. Knights are actually a decent board control army because of their speed, durability and base size. This is reinforced by a sprinkle of Imperial Agents. A 4 inch wide base strategically placed creates strong deep strike denial while threatening most of the board after turn one allows for threat projection. One note is board control does not necessarily mean screening, Knight lists can deep strike screen well but are not good at screen charges, they are however decent at move blocking.

The combo of speed, weapon ranges, decent melee and durability would be enough but it is amplified by taking Reclaim the Realm. Knights getting Honored is not ideal for any opposing army and your opponent will assume you are going to try and get Honored. Most of the time this means your opponent will allocate resources and build a plan around the assumption you are going to pressure the home objective to become Honored. Your opponent respecting the threat to their home objective actually sets most opponents back, giving you breathing room and allowing you to establish a strong board presence early on and win on mission play. If they don’t respect it you will usually end up honored rapidly and that is an entirely different ball game.

What Combos Should You Build Around?

Knight Combos took a huge hit in the most recent data slate removing most actual synergy from the book by making the Bondsman not effect the knight that hands it out. Key Enhancements and Stratagems to consider are:

  • Mysterious Guardian on any Questoris, Cerastus or Dominus Knight
  • Unyielding Paragon does not really combo anymore but it does go a long way in the current meta as of writing this. 
  • Mythic Hero on a Warden or Errant or Crusader can add a lot of mission play, survivability or additionally fire power.
  • Tank Shock with pretty much anything that isn’t a Helverin – don’t forget you can do this, it helps to guarantee the kill against big targets.

Some Lists

Imperial Knights haven’t been tearing it up since the balance dataslate (as intended), but they’ve still managed to put up some solid finishses.

Björn Eriksson’s List

Björn took this list to a top 4 finish, going 4-0-1 at the Fantasia Fanatic XLIV Grand Tournament in October. In achieving that finish they took down Eldar, World Eaters, Astra Militarum, and Thousand Sons, only tying against T’au in round 4.

Army List - Click to Expand

ImpORKial Nauts (2000 points)
Imperial Knights
Strike Force (2000 points)
Noble Lance


Canis Rex (460 points)
• Warlord
• 1x Chainbreaker las-impulsor
1x Chainbreaker multi-laser
1x Freedom’s Hand

Knight Castellan (565 points)
• 1x Plasma decimator
2x Shieldbreaker missile launcher
1x Titanic feet
2x Twin meltagun
1x Twin siegebreaker cannon
1x Volcano lance


Armiger Helverin (150 points)
• 2x Armiger autocannon
1x Armoured feet
1x Questoris heavy stubber

Armiger Helverin (150 points)
• 2x Armiger autocannon
1x Armoured feet
1x Questoris heavy stubber

Armiger Warglaive (150 points)
• 1x Meltagun
1x Reaper chain-cleaver
1x Thermal spear

Armiger Warglaive (150 points)
• 1x Meltagun
1x Reaper chain-cleaver
1x Thermal spear

Armiger Warglaive (150 points)
• 1x Meltagun
1x Reaper chain-cleaver
1x Thermal spear


Callidus Assassin (90 points)
• 1x Neural shredder
1x Phase sword and poison blades

Inquisitor Coteaz (75 points)
• 1x Bolt pistol
1x Nemesis daemon hammer
1x Psychic Blast

Inquisitorial Henchmen (60 points)
• 4x Inquisitorial Acolyte
• 4x Acolyte firearm
4x Acolyte melee weapon
1x Eviscerator
• 1x Gun Servitor
• 1x Acolyte melee weapon
1x Heavy bolter
• 1x Mystic
• 1x Acolyte firearm
1x Acolyte melee weapon

The list follows the formula we set out above of “two bigs, agents, glaives, and helverins.” It leans on Canis Rex and some Imperial Agent help for holding backfield objectives (the Mystic’s 12″ anti-deep strike aura gives extra protection on this front). Where the list deviates a bit is trading out a Crusader for a Castellan, which gives the list a bit more durability and wounds at the cost of another body, give or take.

Wrap Up

Knights are worse off than they were in the early part of 10th, but they still have some game and are pretty flexible in which big toys they can play with, giving lots of variety to try out. Charge forth gloriously, and blow the enemy to bits.