It’s a great time to be a fan of big stompy robots. With the release of the 9th edition codexes for both Chaos and Imperial Knights, mecha lovers both traitorous and loyal are living their best lives. This article isn’t for the minions of the dark gods however; my teammate John Lennon already wrote an article for those losers. This article is for the loyal and honorable Imperial Knights players looking for somewhere to start competitively with the new rules. With these new books Games workshop finally succeeded at making the two knights factions feel distinct, and they both play quite differently.
The first question to ask yourself about the new book is: What do Imperial Knights do well, and especially what do they do that Chaos Knights do not? The easy answer is that while Imperial Knights hit significantly less hard in melee and don’t do any of the cool leadership shenanigans Chaos Knights can do, they can shoot very hard, dish out a ton of mortal wounds, and have much more unit synergy than their chaotic brethren.
One of the biggest differences here is that Imperial Knights have Bondsman abilities, a cornerstone of the new book. These are Command Phase abilities held by the Questoris-Class knights that buff nearby Armiger-class units. Bondsman abilities are quite strong in and of themselves but when you factor in bonuses from the Questoris Exalted Court upgrades like the inherent -1 damage from Forge Master and the Noble Exemplar abilities they become something to build a list around.
Choosing a Household
The second question to ask yourself is which house/allegiance do you want to build around to maximize the army’s strengths? I personally lean towards Questor Mechanicus for a variety of reasons. The first being the Stratagems that the Questor Mechanicus hknights have access to: Calculated Targeting, Benevolence of the Machine God, and Machine Spirit Resurgent chief among them. The latter two feel essential to me for any army with big, expensive units that will just eat mortals or get bracketed down to hitting on a 5+. Calculated Targeting is an amazing stratagem and I feel very comfortable building a list designed to abuse it consistently. Finally, the Mechanicus houses are excellent largely across the board. House Raven has excellent speed and House Krast can dish out the damage but my favorite is House Taranis. Having 13 to 30 wounds thanks to the 1-2 extra provided by the Mechanicus Oath, gaining a 6+ to ignore wounds goes a long way (Rob: This is an effective wounds increase of 20%, so 13 wounds plus a 6+ FNP is functionally like having 16, while on a 26 wound model it’s more like having 31). The House Taranis Stratagem, Our Darkest Hour – which can bring a knight back in a close game – can be back-breaking for any opponent, while the Knight of Mars Warlord Trait is insane and a draw to the house just by itself.
Building a List
With that in mind, let’s look at what units I want in this list. I want a big knight with Knight of Mars to be very hard to kill, especially late game and to drop a ton of damage through both normal shooting and Calculated Targeting. With that in mind, I want a Knight Crusader. The ability to turn a wound roll on the thermal cannon to a 6, two if your Army is Virtuous Under the Lay Low the Tyrants Oath, can dish out an obscene level of mortal wounds, one most enemies are simply not ready for.
The relic Judgement and the chaincannon can also put in quite a bit of work, especially if the Crusader has been buffed by a nearby Princeps. I’d really like a knight with Heart of Ion as well; it’s a fantastic relic and especially good on a knight with one big gun – a Magaera, Warden, or a Paladin springs to mind. A Paladin with Princeps does give the Crusader a truly staggering level of damage and is a decent carrier of the Heart.
Finally, I would like a knight to buff my Armigers further with either The Virtue of Courage for exploding 6s to hit or The Knight’s Faith for a 5+ to ignore wounds . While it would seem like that means I’m taking a Preceptor, I’m actually not. In practice, the Preceptor’s damage output is lacking and a 420-point buff piece isn’t really what I would like in the list. That leaves us with Master of Lore, a 30-point Exalted court upgrade that makes the bearer know and chant one Knightly Teaching. I’m more than willing to spend the CP to make sure the chant goes off each turn I need it to as it only costs 1 CP. When it comes to picking the knight to be the Master of Lore, I want a knight that stands on its own and has a decent Bondsman ability. That leaves us with a Crusader, an Errant, a Gallant (or even a Magaera if I decide the Bondsman ability isn’t as important). I’d like four armigers in the list so I may be light on points heading into the final selection, which will determine which knight I end up going for.
Putting all of those together we end up with this list:
+++ Imperial Knights Super-Heavy Detachment +++
Oaths: Defend the Realm, Lay Low the Tyrant
LoW: Knight Paladin – Princeps, Heart of Ion, Warlord: Revered Knight, Ion Bulwark
LoW: Knight Crusader – Endless Fury, Knight of Mars, Master Tactician
LoW: Knight Gallant – Sanctuary, Knight Seneschal, Master of Lore: The Knight’s Faith, Meltagun
LoW: 3x Armiger Warglaives
LoW: Armiger Helverin
This list packs a ton of damage in both shooting and melee. The Paladin and Crusader make a tag-team duo that packs a ton of punch at range and the Noble Exemplar ability for Master Tactician means that the first use of Calculated Targeting will be free. The Gallant and the accompanying Warglaives will make your opponent’s life a living hell as they attempt to stop the pain train without exposing themselves to the devastation that is the Crusader with the Paladin buff. Finally, the Helverin holds backfield objectives very well while picking up the Crusader buff each turn.
Knights got an amazing boost to their Secondary game as well. Instead of a variety of bad choices and Stranglehold, they now have several good codex Secondary Objectives to choose from:
- Duel of Honor is the standard terrible dueling secondary and can be discarded most of the time but the other three are all bangers.
- Honor of the House is a decent 10-13 points most of the time but conflicts with No Prisoners and Grind Them Down, which are both fairly decent secondaries for knights.
- Yield No Ground might be the best secondary in the game, allowing you to score an easy 4-5 points every turn from turn two onward, however since it conflicts with Stranglehold it isn’t as significant an improvement in that category as Renew the Oaths.
- Renew the Oaths allows knights access to the Shadow Operations category, a category they previously couldn’t take a secondary from before the new book – and it is quite good. Performing actions near the center of the board gives you 3-5 points per turn depending on who does them and if that wasn’t enough it also has a good chance to give an honor point as well.
Renew is my clear choice for best codex secondary to take alongside Stranglehold and something out of No Mercy, No Respite.
Wrapping Things Up
Overall, Imperial Knights look very flavorful and very fun to play. Imperial and Chaos Knights both seem to be strong codices without being over the top, something that should come as a relief to anybody who saw a release schedule full of broken codices over the past four months and worried if every new book would be more of the same. We’ll see what kind of impact Imperial Knights have on the competitive landscape over the weeks to come but I’m personally quite excited to see them on the tabletop and to try my hand with the book in events.
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