9th Edition Faction Focus: Adeptus Custodes

Rejoice fellow Imperial citizen, for the time of the Emperor’s Resurgence is nigh! Can you feel it? His light shines upon you. We stand firm in his glory. We are the Emperor’s Shield, his Spear, his Vengeance, and it is time to scour these Heretics and foul Xenos from existence.

It’s a good time to be an Adeptus Custodes player. The new points, missions objectives, and recent buffs have seriously elevated the competitive edge of the Custodes, and so far they’re one of the big winners of the transition from 8th edition to 9th edition 40k. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get started.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include the changes from the Adeptus Custodes and War of the Spider FAQs released on July 27, 2020.


Points Updates

In a somewhat shocking turn of events, Custodes points barely changed with the update in the Munitorum Field Manual, so those “future-proofed” lists I had originally posed in the War of the Spider Custodes review based on a 20-30% points increase ended up being much lower than the expected 2,000 points. That gives us a lot of room to work with. (And makes my notes really short.)


All of the Custodes HQ options went up slightly (5 points, on average), with the biggest hit to Shield Captains on Dawneagle Jetbikes (Roughly 10-15 points). In general these were light changes, leaving Custodes well-positioned when considered relative to other factions with harsher points increase. This is a trend that you’ll see happening to most of the faction’s units.


Custodes Troop units mostly stayed the same points-wise. Sword and Shield Custodian Guard went up, so they’re now the Custodes’ most expensive troop model. Melta spears came down by 1 point, which was surprising. Overall, this is a win for the faction.

Adeptus Custodes – Custodian Guard
Adeptus Custodes – Custodian Guard
Credit: Pendulin


Axe wardens increased in cost slightly (3 points per model), all of our Contemptor variants went up, the Vexillas all went up about the same as shield caps, but amazingly all of the Custodes Terminator builds went down in cost!? (Aquilon are now 3-4 points cheaper per model, which is amazing).

Fast Attack

The Venatari went up slightly, along with bikes. Although if you were running only Salvo launchers, you won’t notice.

Heavy Support

The Caladius with Arachnus went down slightly, and up slightly for Iliastus (the 2 builds are the same cost now). The Telemon went up slightly, but the Land Raider went down.


Both the Orion and the Ares went up slightly.


The Coronus went up slightly.

Bottom Line

Overall this is a great slate of changes for us – Custodes players everywhere should be rejoicing. While points went up for almost every unit in the game, these tiny, 5-point changes on our expensive units leave us coming out better in relative terms. This means that relative to other armies, Custodes now have more to work with. And given how other factors (which we’ll talk about in a bit) favor Custdoes in 9th, that’s a big boost to the faction.


Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms


There were a few changes in the Custodes Codex FAQ updates that are worth noting for what they do functionally:

  • The Moment Shackle portion of Trajann’s once-per-game ability to regain D3 CP when a Stratagem was used (up to the amount used for the Stratagem), was changed; now using this ability makes the next Stratagem you use free. This is a huge boost. Not just because you don’t have to roll a D3, but also because it allows you to do some cheeky Stratagem usage – if you are low on CP and your opponent doesn’t think you have enough to use something important, you can surprise them with something big.
  • Inescapable Vengence, the stratagem to let Allarus snipe at characters, was updated to reflect the new Look out Sir rule. As with the other rules that allow you to ignore Look Out, Sir, it’ll no longer let us get around abilities like Cloud of Flies.
  • Indomitable Guardians, the Stratagem that allows a Custodes unit to “interrupt” in the fight phase wile they are within 3″ of an objective was updated to refer to being within Engagement Range.
  • The Land Raider lost the Power of the Machine Spirit rule, which is ironic because similar to the Space Marines vehicles it now can no longer can’t use the brand-new War of the Spider Vengeance of the Machine Spirit Stratagem to shoot/fight/auto explode on death. Note that the Caladius does keep this ability, meaning you can still use Vengeance of the Machine Spirit on it. Which matters more since no one was taking Land Raiders anyways.
    Editor’s Note: This was fixed with the FAQs that dropped this morning – now any non-Dreadnought Custodes vehicle can use the Stratagem.
  • The Auric Shackles Relic lost the ability to gain D3 Victory points for killing the enemy warlord, which was really the only reason to take it. Even though I never saw an event that actually allowed this function, the concept of your relic bearing character having to hunt down the enemy warlord for points I found to be a cool and thematic concept.

Beyond the Moment Shackle change, nothing huge here. Then the War of the Spider FAQ dropped, which has much more substantive changes. These are welcome changes, putting to bed some tired arguments around Assassins gaining the benefit of Custodes Detachments and fixing an issue with vehicles losing Power of the Machine Spirit.

  • Custodes detachments no longer give +1 invulnerable save to models in them, just ADEPTUS CUSTODES INFANTRY and ADEPTUS CUSTODES BIKERS, so no more 3+ invulnerable save Assassins.
  • Shield of Honour cannot be used on VEHICLE models – so no tanking wounds for Knights.
  • Ten Thousand Heroes prevents you from gaining an additional Warlord trait with Shoulder the Mantle.
  • Vengeance of the Machine Spirit now specifies ADEPTUS CUSTODES VEHICLE models excluding DREADNOUGHT models, instead of units with Power of the Machine Spirit which has now been deleted.
  • Ancient Artifice now reduces damage by 1 instead of halving damage, bringing it in line with Duty Eternal in the Marine books
  • Prosecutors updated with Look Out Sir language for 9th.
  • Clarified that you can use Fortress of Willpower as well as Empyric Severance, as well as Purity of Faith from the Sisters of Battle codex – the stratagems are used subsequently to each other.
  • Clarified that the Emperor’s Auspice Stratagem only prevents re-rolls that are part of the ‘Making Attacks’ sequence and e.g. does not prevent re-rolling the number of shots.


Custodes Telemon Dreadnought
Custodes Telemon Dreadnought. Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

Secondary Objectives (and how to score them)

Let us go ahead and examine each secondary in the 2020 GT Missions pack, and how we can mitigate/achieve them. You choose three of these before the game begins, and you can only choose one from each category. Some of these are better for Custodes than others.

Battlefield Supremacy

Domination: Score 3 points at the end of your turn if you control more than half the objectives. Generally we don’t want to spread out too far, so on missions with the objectives spread way out, this becomes slightly risky. Additionally in a match up that you are concerned about enemy melee threats, it makes this harder to achieve consistently. Since this is scored at the end of your turn, as long as you have the units to move onto objectives, this is really easy to ensure that you score it, though granted in order to max you need to do it every turn, which will not be feasible in every match. Even with it being semi mission/match up dependent, I think this is the most reliable Battlefield Supremacy secondary for Custodes to score. (Best in Category.)

Engage On All Fronts: Similar to Recon for 8th ed ITC scoring. Score 2 points if you have units wholly within 3 different quarters of the battlefield (6″ away from the center) at the end of your turn, if you have units wholly within all 4 quarters score 3 points instead. Like I mentioned in the Domination section typically we don’t want to be too spread out generally, then tack on that our units would need to be wholly within a quarter and away from the center, and this is looking harder and harder to score. Since it is still end of turn scoring, you can ensure it as long as you have the movement, but generally it will be worth less points than Domination and more difficult to continually score. If you have multiple units arriving from reserves, this becomes easier to score, but more or less makes scoring it the first turn impossible unless you also have fast units. With all the issues, maxing looks extremely hard to do (you have to be in all 4 quarters all 5 turns) and even difficult to scrape out 8+ points as well. (Meh.)

Linebreaker: Score 4 points for having 2 units wholly within the enemy deployment zone at the end of your turn. If you have 2+ units in reserve this secondary is very achievable, as long as your opponent cannot screen out their deployment. With a smaller board I think it will be much easier for your opponent to screen you out minus a few armies. Ironically enough, a Custodes mirror generally will have a hard time screening out their deployment zone, and really any elite army will have this problem. So if you have the right list to try it, and you have the right match up, this is a really solid pick. (Good with specific list and match up.)

No Mercy, No Respite

Thin Their Ranks: Score 1 point for every 10 models killed (10 points if that model was 10+ wounds). The current primary objective emphasizes durable units holding objectives, so a shift to elite durable units and vehicles is expected. When you tack that on to the fact you more or less need to kill 150 models to max this secondary, it seems fairly unrealistic to take. If you face an Ork/Tyranid horde with a ton of bodies this could work, but still competes with the other 2 choices in this category. (Could be good vs large horde armies.)

Grind Them Down: Score 3 points at the end of the battle round if more enemy units were destroyed than friendly units. Due to the durability and low unit count of our faction, this is a fairly attractive choice (as long as you aren’t fighting pure knights or a Custodes mirrior). The only detriment is that you need to score this every turn in order to max, but in most match ups this seems like a fairly safe choice. (Pretty good.)

While We Stand, We Fight: Identify the 3 highest point-cost models in your army. For each of those 3 models that are alive at the end of the battle, score 5 points. Whoo boy, this secondary can be super good if you have the right army list. Depending on what those 3 models are in your list is whether or not this becomes risky. For example, if your 3 most costly models are a Telemon, Trajann, and a Shield Captain, you are in a pretty good place to safely take this, since they will be very hard to kill. If your 3 models are 3 Caladius tanks, this is a lot more risky. All in all, this is currently my favorite in category (Telemon, Trajann, Vexilla in my list) since it is an easy 10 to 15 points. (Really good, with the right list.)

Custodes NMM
Custodes NMM, Credit Silks

Purge The Enemy

Titan Hunter: Score 10 points for destroying an enemy Titanic unit, 12 points if 2 or more were destroyed, and 15 if 3 or more was destroyed. When I read the version of this for the main rule book missions, I laughed at how punishing it was for Knights. It has been slightly tuned, but still a pretty good pick into knights generally. Effectively if you run into a list with a Knight, this is an easy 10 points (as long as you can kill a Knight I suppose, but you have bigger problems if not). (Pretty good, vs Knights.)

Bring It Down: Score 2 points for every enemy Vehicle/Monster destroyed with 10 or less wounds, 3 points for a Vehicle/Monster with 11+ wounds. If you are facing a list with a bunch of Vehicles/Monsters this is a solid choice for obvious reasons. If your opponents list fits the bill, this should be an easy 8+ points. (Good.)

Cut Off The Head: Score points depending on the turn that the enemy warlord was destroyed (13/10/6/3/1). Very risky, we would have to rely on Allarus sniping, an assassin, or a character-hunting Bike Captain. Additionally all of this hinges on your opponent not just hiding their warlord till turn 3/4, which if they go second, and bring in their warlord from reserve on turn 3, means the soonest you kill it is turn 4 (3 points). This becomes even more dubious when you look at the fact that the reserve mechanic is now usable by any unit in the game, so every opponent could do this if they wished. If your opponent;s Warlord is a crucial model (Mortarion for example) this becomes less risky, but your opponent could still decide to reserve it to ensure you lose these points. (Dubious at best.)

Assassinate: Score 3 points for every enemy character destroyed. Most armies are rocking 2-5 characters, so depending on the opponent, this can be fairly reliable. With the new Look Out, Sir targeting rules for characters, this is easier to achieve as well, but still reliant on being able to get at your opponents characters. Allarus sniping and/or an assassin shore up this secondary fairly well. Combos well with Abhor The Witch. (Good in the right match up.)

Shadow Operations

Raise The Banners High:  Infantry unit performs action on an objective starting at the end movement and completing at end of your turn. Banners are destroyed at the end of any phase that your opponent controls that objective. During your command phase, score 1 point per objective with a banner on it and 1 point per banner remaining at the end of the game. Since actions cannot be performed by a unit that advanced that turn, and prevent you from shooting/charging (or use auras) during that same turn, this is fairly hard to accomplish for a low unit count army. If you make a list to utilize this secondary, it can be more feasible, but if your opponent is very mobile, this becomes fairly risky. Also keep in mind, you effectively need 3 banners up at least 3 turns of scoring to max. (Good with the right list.)

Investigate Sites: Non-character infantry unit performs action at the end of movement within 6″ of the center of the battlefield with no enemy units within 6″ of the center, completes at end of you turn. Score 3 points each time this action is completed. This can be fairly reliable to do again with the right setup and match up. However because there must be no enemies within 6″ of the center when you start the action at the end of your movement phase, your opponent can just push units into the midfield to deny your ability to score this. In theory you could mitigate this with a Stooping Dive from a nearby bike unit, but if your opponent engages that unit, or is able to be far enough away, this won’t work. Additionally, if the mission doesn’t have an objective near the center of the table, you are having to commit to a part of the table that isn’t scoring your primary objectives, and we generally don’t have many units to work with. See the spreading out being bad generally mentioned above. (Probably too risky to go for.)

Deploy Scramblers: Non-character infantry unit performs action at end of movement phase, once wholly within your deployment zone, once more than 6″ away from either deployment zone, and once wholly within enemy deployment zone, completes at end of your turn. Score 10 points if all 3 pieces are completed, zero otherwise. With having easy access to infantry coming in from reserve, this secondary is fairly easy to achieve as long as your list has the infantry to achieve it. Slightly risky because you get none if you fail, but overall looks to be an easy 10 points. (Good.)

Teleport Homer: Infantry unit performs action at the end of the movement phase, while wholly within the enemy deployment zone, and completes at the end of your next command phase. Score 4 points each time it is completed. Slightly risky in that your opponent can try to screen you out early, but otherwise pretty good. A Custodian Guard squad with shields is dying to achieve this for you. 8+ points seems fairly reliable, if you build it into your list idea. Also combos well with Linebreaker. (Good with the right list and match up.)


Abhor The Witch: If your army contains no Psykers, Score 5 points for every enemy Psyker character destroyed, 3 points for non character Psyker units. This secondary is Amazing – if you run into Grey Knights, Thousand Sons, or most Chaos lists, these points are very easy to score. Since you are unable to take this with having a Psyker in your list, I would stay away from using an Inquisitor, unless you really have a build in mind. If you run into these match ups, combo this with Assassinate to make every Psyker character you kill, worth 8 secondary points, which I can’t even describe how good that feels. (Super Good, if your opponent has 2+ psykers.)

Mental Interrogation: Psyker character performs psychic action (Warp Charge 4) within 18″ of any enemy character model, score 3 points. If you go the Inquisitor/Psyker route, this is fairly reliable to achieve, as long as your opponents characters aren’t all in reserve or hiding in the very back of their army. Keep in mind that enemy Psykers can still use Deny The Witch to stop this action. Need to complete every turn to max. (Good, if you brought a Psyker.)

Psychic Ritual: Psyker character performs psychic action (Warp Charge 3) within 6″ of the center of the battlefield. Score 15 points if completed 3 times, zero otherwise. A few concerns arise here, the need to be near the center of the table like with Investigate Sites, so the same issue if there is no objectives nearby. Secondly, an enemy Psyker can deny this. So if your opponent is able to keep you away from the center and/or deny it multiple times, you are going to lose out entirely on this secondary. (High Risk, High Reward. Probably too high risk to go for.)

Pierce The Veil: Psyker character performs psychic action (Warp Charge 4) within 6″ of enemy’s battlefield edge and more than 6″ away from enemy units. Score 8 points if completed 2-3 times, or 15 if completed 4+. This seems like Psychic Ritual, but almost harder in every way. Having a more difficult position to get to, and having to cast 1 more time for the 15 points, this seems like an auto pass. If you run into another hyper elite army, like the Custodes mirror or Knights, this becomes more achievable with a durable Psyker that pops up from reserve (Hector Rex), which makes 2 times for 8 points more realistic, but situational at best I would imagine. Sidenote: could combo well with Linebreaker/Teleport Homer, using a Custodian Guard squad with shields and Hector Rex, but you still need the right opponent match up to truly pull it off. (Situational, but could be list/match up dependent.)


Custodes vs Gellerpox Infected
Custodes vs Gellerpox Infected
Credit: Pendulin

How They Play

How Custodes play in 9th edition is really going to depend on the type of list you play, but what I’m going to do is break down each of what I consider to be the four main archetypes:

Foot/Termie list

Running a list focused on our Infantry and terminators looks to be a very viable strategy at this point. With our units being nearly Impossible to kill (T5 terminators that are ignoring AP-1/-2, only wounded on unmodified 4+, and that cannot have attacks re-rolled against) pushing into the middle of the board and holding it is very doable. Keeping a terminator bomb in reserve to utilize the Vexilla Teleport Homer in most match ups is basically a given.

Shield Host wise could be a few. I think Solar Watch would have the biggest benefit, simply because of having the Warlord Trait Sally Forth that not only makes your blob move 1″ faster, but also allowing those units to advance and fire their rapid fire weapons still. Since the biggest drawback to this style of list of mobility, having a Warlord Trait to mitigate that is a big deal. Dread Host has obvious Synergy with the stratagem to increase the chances of charges from reserve (although it isn’t a big increase) and the Warlord Trait All Seeing Annihilator giving out bonus hits in melee boosting the combat effectiveness of your units. Emissaries Imperatus might see some niche usage, depending on how common modifiers end up shaking out in the meta.

Speed List

Lists that focus on our access to very mobile units allows for quickly taking up Primary objectives and potentially threatening enemy backfield units. A backbone of bikes combined with grav tanks and/or Venetari allows for potentially aggressive early play and potentially racks up Primary Victory points very rapidly, due to being able to most dictate where your opponent can go on the table. Additionally being able to get to midfield immediately allows you to get your Primary points while still potentially playing cagey with terrain, since in order for your opponent to contest he has to come into range of your ability to strike first. A list like this isn’t quite as durable as the Foot style list, due to losing out on access to Storm shields and the impressive stratagem for terminators to ignore AP-1/-2. Ideally you would want to focus on taking an early lead, and trying to preserve it by preventing your opponent swinging the game back at the end.

Shield Host-wise, I would recommend Shadow Keepers. Grim Resolve used on bikers is a big durability boost, S4 (Marine bolter spam anyone?) is now only wounding on 6s, S6 (Riptides with burst, Knights with Gatling) is now wounding on 5s, S7 (Lootas, Caladius with Iliastus) is wounding on 4s. Additionally it similarly helps out of Grav tanks in the same manner, though you only get to use it on one unit per phase, so choose wisely. Solar Watch using the Sally Forth Warlord Trait allows for an extremely aggressive move by bikes, allowing them to advance 21″ and still fire hurricane bolters at -1 to hit, in theory this allows you to decimate an opponents front line screens right away, and sets you up to charge into the heart of their forces (with a Stooping Dive in your opponents charge phase, if they are unable or unwilling to move away). While this is an bold move (which makes me like it more), I am not sure how well it will pan out in competitive play.

Blended list

Looking at the two concepts above, I think there is merit in the concept of an Combined Arms version of them. Having a large bike unit to push up early to take up board space and objectives, allows for a terminator unit coming in from reserve to be in a better position sooner. Effectively your fast units speed up the table to take early control, and your terminator unit(s) drop in to hold onto that control. In theory this should benefit from the best of both lists.

Since holding onto the table is the focus of this style of list, I think durability should be prioritized, so you should probably run this style list as Shadow Keepers to keep your units alive longer.

Mech list

I have never been overly fond of a Custodes Mech list, but I will certainly say that is the most lethal ranged style list we can make. Our grav tanks are able to move onto objectives early due to their high movement and a Telemon (or 2) makes for a brick of a unit that will be hard to shift from wherever it calls home. If you can see where the best firing lanes are going to be (focusing on where the objectives lay) you should be able to continually remove important elements from your opponents army. Just keep in mind that with the smaller board combat units have less ground to cover in order to come destroy your priceless tanks in melee, and since fly now longer allows you to fall back and shoot surviving those combats isn’t generally ideal either (although you can shoot those units you are locked up with if you choose to risk staying in combat with them).

Again from a durability stand point, I think Shadow Keepers is your Shield Host of choice. Emissaries Imperatus might be a good call, simply because of how reliant you will be on your shooting attacks.

Random Sidenote: If you read the War of the Spider Custodes review, you know how poorly I rated Shadow Keepers. Yes I do find it funny that now it seems to be my go to Shield Host choice and will happily eat my words from before. However I still think the relic is garbage and the Warlord Trait is only good for one specific build of a Shield Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike.

Mission Focus List Building

You want to build a list that matches your play style, but also that will succeed at the mission. Ensuring that you build your list with the Secondary objectives in mind is going to be a big deal for your success. Having too many characters or vehicles in your list will make it easier for your opponent to choose, let alone score Secondaries. If you decide to bring along an Inquisitor with Psychic abilities, you will lock yourself out from being able to choose Abhor the Witch when you run into a Grey Knights or Thousand Sons match up as discussed in the Secondary section. If you wanted to focus on Raise the Banners High, you would need to make sure you have access to fast infantry to move onto objectives early without advancing (Venetari or infantry that disembark from a transport for that extra oomph). Deploy Scramblers is potentially very easy for Custodes, since having a unit to perform these actions in your deployment and the no man’s land are very easy to accomplish, and performing in your opponents deployment is doable from a unit popping out from reserve. The last secondary I want to highlight with list build in mind is While We Stand We Fight, a list with this secondary in mind is very easy to achieve, as discussed above.

Custodes Tribune Ixion Hale
Custodes Tribune Ixion Hale. Credit: Jack Hunter

Sample Lists

Blended List Idea (Patrol)

3 Sagittarum
Vexilla w/ spear (enough points left over to swap to a shield if you prefer)
6 Aquilon w/ bolter, fist
7 Bikes (I am running Hurricane Bolters, but you could easily swap Salvo Launchers in here)
Telemon w/2x arachnus
Vindicare or Calidus

Blended List Idea 2 (Outrider, but able to work on Raise the Banners)

Vexilla w/ spear
4 Sagittarum
6 Bikes
5 Venetari w/ pistol, buckler
5 Venetari w/ pistol, buckler
4 Aquilon w/ bolter, fist

Termie List (Vanguard)

Vexilla w/ spear
5 Aquilon w/ bolter, fist
4 Aquilon w/ bolter, fist
6 Allarus w/ spears
Telemon w/2x arachnus
Telemon w/2x arachnus

Mech List (Spearhead)

Bike Cap (can swap to Trajann if you prefer)
Bike Cap
Vexilla of your choice
Telemon w/2x arachnus

Speed List (Patrol)

Bike Cap
Vexilla w/ spear
5 Guardians w/ shields
7 Bikes
5 Venetari w/ pistols

G-man Speedy Terminator Idea (Solar Watch Vanguard + Gman Supreme Command)

Using the Sally Forth to gain extra movement and advancing shots, and stacking with the bonus to advance/charge from Mr. G-man himself, should allow for your terminators to move into position early, and give you plenty of punch sitting on the objectives. I am not sure sinking a bunch of points into Gman is worth it, but it was an interesting idea so I thought I would share it here.

Vexilla w/ spear
5 Aquilon w/ bolter, fist
5 Aquilon w/ bolter, fist
7 Allarus w/ axe

Roboute Guilliman


Aaron Cook’s Wizards Asylum GT list – 1,995 points

This list, which Aaron took to a 4-1 2nd-place finish at the Wizards Asylum GT last weekend, runs heavy on Custodian Squads for capturing and controlling objectives. It’s a good example of a foot list with Terminator support, using the Allarus Custodians to control the middle of the board while being nigh unkillable.

Adeptus Custodes Battalion Detachment

HQ: Trajann Valoris
HQ: Shield-Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike w/Interceptor Lance, Superior Creation, Relic: Auric Aquilis, Warlord

Troops: Custodian Squad w/2x Guardian Spear, 1x Guardian Blade + Storm Shield
Troops: Custodian Squad w/2x Guardian Spear, 1x Guardian Blade + Storm Shield
Troops: Custodian Squad w/2x Guardian Spear, 1x Guardian Blade + Storm Shield
Troops: Custodian Squad w/2x Guardian Spear, 1x Guardian Blade + Storm Shield
Troops: Custodian Squad w/2x Guardian Spear, 1x Guardian Blade + Storm Shield

EL: Allarus Custodians x5 w/Ballistus Grenade Launcher, Castellan Axe
EL: Vexillus Praetor wGuardian Spear, Vexilla Magnifica

HS: Telemon Heavy Dreadnought w/2x Arachnus Storm Cannon, Spiculus Bolt Launcher

No Slot: Callidus Assassin



Outlook: Strong

With the small points changes, the brand new stratagems from Psychic Awakening: War of the Spider, the new mission format, and more CP to work with, I think Custodes are looking to be super competitive in the early 9th ed meta, and are likely to be a top-tier army. If you’ve been thinking about painting the boys in gold, now’s a good time.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.comOr if you’re a patron, head over to our Discord where you can chat with us directly.