9th Edition Faction Focus: Sisters of Battle

An article by    Competitive Play Gaming Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

9th edition is out in the wild, and with it a whole raft of changes to the factions of Warhammer 40,000. Even as the first tournaments start to kick off for the ultra keen, the Faction Focus train continues, with today’s taking a look at the game’s most recent “full” faction, the Adepta Sororitas.

Things move fast in the modern 40K universe, and it was less than 9 months ago that we first opened up the shiny new Adepta Sororitas codex to take a look at the goodies inside. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a faction that must have been finalised when 9th was well under way, the Sisters of Battle get one of the cleanest transitions to 9th Edition points wise – there aren’t any massive surprise increases, and the few that stray even slightly outside the expected ranges are generally for a good reason. Points aren’t everything though, and as you’ll know by now if you’ve been keeping up with our 9th Edition coverage, there are changes to list construction, rules and missions as well, all of which impact on how the game is played and how the army functions within it. Read on to make sure you’re ready to win glorious victory’s in the Emperor’s name right out of the gates!

Overview

Sisters of Battle Simulacrum Imperialis Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Sisters of Battle Simulacrum Imperialis Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

As with all factions, Sisters receive both some boosts and some knocks from the accumulated set of changes. The key high level ones are as follows:

The Good

  • Most units did reasonably well in the point changes, especially named characters
  • The army excels at controlling space, which is important in the new missions.
  • Smaller board gives opponents fewer places to hide from their melee threats.
  • Strong melee threats allow for capture of objectives when needed.
  • Less impacted by some of the charge changes than other melee factions thanks to reliable auto-charges from Acts of Faith.

The Bad

  • No proper tarpit units within faction, making proactive play onto objectives a challenge.
  • Exorcists and Seraphim squads pretty much the only thing to get badly hit, which hurts as both filled a role that’s tricky to replace.
  • Limited options for spiking damage other than Repentia.
  • Generally end up worse-off for starting CP than before.

Mostly the outlook for Sisters is pretty positive, and I expect them to perform strongly early in the edition, with armies using the Valorous Heart and Bloody Rose continuing to be the standouts. The codex is very powerful and provides players with an exceptional toolbox of tricks to catch out their opponents, but the range is also quite small and has pretty limited options in some slots. A couple of slightly painful point hikes further constrains this, and you end up in a situation where the Sisters have a good game plan, but are a little bit less flexible in how they can address it than some armies.

Obviously as an IMPERIUM faction one option to deal with this is to soup them with other armies, and in fact the very first GT of 9th edition was won by Space Marine/Sister soup, using the Sisters to fill the role of melee missiles while Relic Contemptors and Eradicators provided the ranged output. Not everyone wants to immediately pivot to running the discount resin boi and his spicy friends though, so we’re mostly going to focus here on what you can do within your Sisters detachments to get ahead.

We’ll start, as ever, by going through the army’s units to have a look at what’s changed in each section, then move on to army lists at the end.

Units

HQ

Sisters of Battle Canoness

Sisters of Battle Canoness. Credit: Corrode

The HQ slot generally works out positively for the Sororitas. Their non-named characters all went up by pretty standard amounts, meaning that Canonesses and Missionaries continue to provide decent HQ slot fillers and general force multipliers when required. You’ll probably see Missionaries a little bit less – filling an HQ slot is now less of an intrinsic advantage (and can become a drawback), so for people who solely want the effect provided by the Missionary’s aura, a Preacher might provide a way to claw some points back. Canonesses also lose out just a litlte bit on flexibility now that you have to select relics and any additional warlord traits on your roster – you can’t hedge by picking one with a brazier of holy fire and only upgrade it to the Brazier of Eternal Flame when up against relevant armies. That probably means you’ll see more null rods instead, especially as they came slightly down in points. The Beneficience relic for the Bloody Rose continues to be an efficient way to create a nasty melee threat, and since that’s compatible with the null rod loadout, that’ll propbably be quite common.

Named characters are where the big wins in this section come through. Junith Eruita goes up a very competitive 5pts, meaning that while she continues to suffer badly from being in an order that isn’t one of the two best, she’s good if you’ve gone that way. Celestine and the Triumph of St. Katherine, on the other hand, are going to be everywhere. Both only went up 10pts, which is great for their starting prices, and both are better than ever in 9th Edition. Celestine’s Shield of Faith aura is excellent for keeping your army alive on objectives, while the Triumph is a terrifying walking force multiplier (I wrote a whole article about the nonsense it can pull) that will demands that your opponent answer it before they’ll have any real chance of contesting the part of the field it’s occupying. Both also win from being INFANTRY, and thus getting the best version of most terrain effects, with the Triumph even gaining a specific rule to stop it falling foul of its wound count for Obscuring terrain. Both of these units represent tremendous assets for any player going hard on Sisters, and I would expect to start most lists assuming I’m picking both. The only thing to watch out for with the Triumph is that it doesn’t meet any of the criteria to provide Look out Sir to your other characters any more.

Troops

Battle Sisters

Battle Sisters. Credit: RichyP

The Battle Sister continues to be a good core infantry choice. They go up two points per model plus another point on each storm bolter that the squads often pack, taking you to 55pts for a bare-bones squad and 61pts with the extra shots. That’s probably enough to leave them as merely efficient rather than extremely efficient as they were before, and with less incentive to fill out multiple battalions you’re likely to see more experimentation with the various alternative flavours of infantry, especially Celestians. That’s particularly true because one of the big wins for Sisters points-wise is a healthy discount on melta weapons, and you’d rather dip into those on units with some additional buff capabilities.

These are still in the kind of price range where if you want to go wide with them you definitely can, just don’t feel that you definitely have to start with 6 squads in every list if you want to try some different options.

Elites

Sisters have an extremely dense set of Elites options, with a mix of Ecclisarchy weirdos and specialist Sister squads. This section’s about to be even more of a headache, as a lot of stuff here went up in value, so strap in.

Death Cult Assassins. Credit: SRM

We’ll start with the ones we can still largely just discard – Crusaders and Death Cult Assassins and both pretty naff, and the Dialogus is unlikely to be worth a slot when her effect doesn’t stack with the likely ubiquitous Triumph. The Hospitalier also probably doesn’t break into lists but I think she has a slightly higher chance just thanks to being able to heal the Triumph up past relic brackets and providing an emergency morale strat if you want to bring larger units. She’s also a decent model to perform Actions with. I suspect she doesn’t end up worth paying for still, but it’s more plausible overall.

Continuing the theme of “probably still not” we have Arco-Flagellants. These have thus far tended to suffer in comparison to Repentia for a melee murder unit, and on balance that’ll probably remain true. The singular reason they might see play is that if you’re willing to invest in an Inquisitor to drop an invuln on them they’re a relatively efficient sink of wounds for their cost, so slightly harder to dislodge once they’ve done an initial round of killing. Realistically though, they still aren’t tough enough after you make that extra investment, so you’re almost certainly best trying to play around your lack of a tarpit than to boostrap a mediocre one.

Repentia Superior

Repentia Superior. Credit: Corrode

Next up, we’ll rattle off the “no real change” club. This covers Imagifiers and the Repentia Superior. The Imagifier didn’t change in points at all, which is a big win considering you want one in almost every army, and the fact that you choose their ability on deployment is just gravy. Repentia Superiors also continue to be a useful model to have around when you have Repentia, and not taking up a slot is now going to almost always be an upside too. Losing the ability to easily get the Repentia to S8 makes re-rolling 1s to wound slightly less good, but still fieldable.

Moving on to the ones where there’s more of a shift, first up we have the Preacher. This is a pretty easy change – some armies are going to try and squeeze into a single Battalion, and when they do so they aren’t going to be able to fit a Missionary. When that happens, take a preacher in one of the ample Elites slots instead. You 100% still want this effect when you are Bloody Rose, and this is an easy way to get it.

Next up, a big winner – Celestians. These were distinctly nearly there in the codex on launch, and 9th edition pushes them over the top. They’re still only one point more than basic Sisters, but with going up that represents a smaller percentage difference, and you’re no longer pressured to take six squads of Battle Sisters to get CP. Taken together, that make Celestians great, especially as Bloody Rose. Their inbuilt re-roll hits while near a character, plus their ability to re-roll wounds via a strat make them one of the better ways to get a mild damage spike off in an emergency if you buy them meltas and a combi-melta, but the real value comes in their ability to get stuck into combat in an emergency. As Bloody Rose with an Imagifier and Preacher nearby you’re suddenly packing 41 WS3+ S4 AP-1 attacks from a full squad, which can have full re-rolls on hits and wounds and +1 to wound if you want to just go all in. Obviously that’s not as murderous as a fullly buffed squad of Repentia going ham (almost nothing in the game is), but can still flatten an entire squad of Boyz, and comes from a unit that packs much more flexibility in other areas. That kind of tunable flexability is extremely valuable in 9th, so expect to see way more of these (which is good because their helmets are way cool).

Sisters of Battle Repentia

Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Speaking of Repentia, these took a little bit of a knock in that all S modifiers are now applied consistently, so you can no longer get them up to S8 via Tale of the Warrior. That does reduce their efficiency a reasonable amount against targets at T8, T7 or T4, but good news – in Bloody Rose, where they’re most commonly seen, a fully buffed up squad can still one-round a Knight when they’re only S6. They also didn’t go up many points, remaining alarmingly cheap for just how dangerous they are. Even more so than before you definitely want these as Bloody Rose so you can use the strat on them, but they continue to be extremely good in that Order, so much so that they’ve already been seen in a GT winning soup list.

Our last entry here is another unit that was popular in Bloody Rose in 8th – Zephyrim. These I’m not sure on. They were already somewhat steep in price, and rising up to 20pts per model when you’ve got a bit less room to play with in your army makes them a tough sell, especially as they tended to rely pretty heavily on dropping onto the board in strung out formations that will violate the new coherency rules, and then wrapping something with an auto-charge. My suspicion is that the combination of all the challenges with these, combined with Celestians and Dominions being much more attractive than they were before, means that these will ebb in popularity, but I’m willing to be proven wrong.

Fast Attack

Phew. OK, through that lot, this should be easier.

Two options in this slot, one gets better, one gets a bit worse, both end up usable – so generally good news!

Much like Celestians, Dominions gain considerably in comparison to basic Sisters thanks to the uniform point changes. Instead of the Celestian schtick of being able to punch stuff in melee and rack up re-rolls, these most notably give you access to a pre-game move, which they make at the start of the first battle round. This gives you a way to push onto some mid-board objectives from the word go, something that’s thus far proving to be pretty handy in the 9th edition missions. I think you do need to be a little cautious with this, as Sisters rely on defensive auras for protection, so if that’s your plan make sure you’ve got something up your sleeve to extend them (the Book of St. Lucius on an Imagifier seems like a good shout for Valorous Heart in particular). While there’s a risk in extending very early, forcing your opponent to come and engage you is very good for Sisters, as it draws them into range for a Repentia surprise.

Sisters of Battle Seraphim

Sisters of Battle Seraphim. Credit: Corrode

The other option here, Seraphim, took one of the few large point increases in the book, going up four points each. That’s mitigated a little by a four point drop for dual inferno pistols, meaning two of the models in the squad effectively stay the same price, but large squads rack up a hefty price increase. That doesn’t leave these unusable by any stretch of the imagination. Especially (and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve typed this) as Bloody Rose, the dirty secret of Seraphim in the book as released was that they were distinctly overpushed for their price, and part of the change here is just a correction of that. I think you could argue that maybe three points rather than four would have been better, but given you nearly make that back on the Infernos, you can work with it. You probably won’t see multiple big squads in lists any more, but one big unit ready to leverage Deadly Descent is still a realistic inclusion, and small squads with the Infernos can be a headache for your opponent to plan around if you hold them in reserve.

Heavy Support

Heavy support sees a bit of tuning that changes the viability of some units, but no massive overhauls.

Credit: RichyP

First up, the previous holder of the “basically don’t ever take these” crown in this section, Penitent Engines, actually picked up what works out to a point decrease, going down to 50pts per model. That’s good – it was essentially never correct to take these over Mortifiers under the old price comparisons, whereas being a whole 10pts cheaper each is in the range where you can squint and say maybe. It says a lot about the previous disparity that the answer is probably still not, but it’s good that there’s a little more to the decision.

Credit: Starvolt

Partially that’s because Mortifiers also did well in the point changes, with their base price being adjusted down to account for changes to the costs of Heavy Bolters, meaning the net per model increase for bolter ones is a paltry four points, with heavy flamer ones again coming down slightly. For a unit that was already on the cusp of good enough, that’s a great place to be for the edition transition, and these probably have a place. They’re one of the more durable things you can use to prise something off an objective, and a squad of three is also the perfect PL to put into strategic reserves as a genuinely scary threat to drop on an opponent’s flank. The only real issue with them as it stands is that, like a lot of VEHICLE squads, they’re horrendous for giving up the Bring it Down secondary in a faction that doesn’t want to fully lean into that, which might hold them back from true greatnesss.

Next up, we have Retributors. Like a lot of INFANTRY that can ignore the heavy weapon penalties, these gain a bit from the new split costs on a lot of heavy weapons, keeping them at a reasonable-ish price. Sadly, there’s still just not really anything they do better than other options in the army, and will largely just remain on the shelf.

Credit: Dunkelbrau

Last but not least, the Exorcist. This was a pretty spicy inclusion in Valorous Heart lists in 8th, but has been hit with a reasonably large increase, going up both on the chassis and its mandatory heavy bolter. It’s also in a weird limbo for how good its missiles are until we get a clarification on how Blast against mid-sized squads works with multi-dice weapons, as with either 3d3 or 3d6 shots the answer here is either “literally nothing” or “absolutely masses”. The big thing they do gain is that they can now move and shoot without penalty, which since they rely on line of sight to fire is excellent for them. It also opens up the possibility of repositioning to keep up with either the Triumph or an Imagifier, as I don’t think you can quite afford the points to buy a trio of them with a dedicated buff squad any more. If you’ve gone heavy on them before I’d look at going down to two, and now that they’re mobile I can see a potential use for a single one trailing the Triumph and auto-passing saves all day long.

Dedicated Transports

Synthwave Immolator Credit: Silks

Synthwave Immolator Credit: Silks

Not too much to say here. The Rhino stays pretty cheap, and will continue to be used for transporting Repentia (and now potentially Celestians too). The Immolator continues to be bafflingly expensive, ending up in an awkward space of being neither good as a tank nor as a transport, and will continue not to see any real use as a result.

Fortifications

Whisper it kids, but the Battle Sanctum might now be good, actually? With slotting one into your army now often free CP-wise, there’s legitimately going to be a case for taking one sometimes, especially as it gives you a reliable piece of cover to stick some basic sisters holding a home objective under. 55pts isn’t nothing, but it’s definitely not a lot either, and this has got to be one of the bigger potential winners from the edition across the entire range.

Imperial Agents

Inquisitor Coteaz

Inquisitor Coteaz
Credit: Pendulin

Sisters continue to be huge fans of bringing a tagalong Inquistor, largely to help Repentia make it into combat with Terrify. Any of Coteaz, Draxus or a basic Xenos inquisitor continue to have a place in lists. There is now a mild downside in that doing so locks you out of the very powerful Abhor the Witch secondary against some armies, but ultimately Repentia are one of the big draws to the faction and can get messed up bad by a lot of things on overwatch, so the calculus probably still falls on the side of packing one.

Note: A reader has pointed out that the exact wording of Sacred Rites means that currently RAW you lose access to them if you bring an agent. We believe that to be an oversight, as the newer wording on Imperial Agents is clearly meant not to disrupt army-wide abilities, but do be aware of it and hopefully an FAQ will address it.

Secondary Objectives

All armies in 9th need to think about which secondaries they’re likely to excel at, and Sisters have a few that stand out from the main list (though they’re maybe just slightly shorter on them than you’d really like). Some of their best are:

  • Domination – with strong board control and plenty of melee units that can push stuff off an objective, this should be something you can reliably aim at.
  • Raise the Banners High – lots of infantry, including some CHARACTERS you can afford to skip a turn of the auras on.
  • Psychic Ritual – paradoxically for a faction that only brings Psykers in the form of Imperial Agents, there’s actually a pretty legit argument for taking this sometimes – you’ve got the bodies to keep an inquisitor safe, and you want to force your opponent to engage mid-table, so this can be a real pick.

They’re also very good at quite a few of the mission-specific secondaries, so definitely take a look at those when choosing.

Army Lists

The net outcome of the faction not massively changing is that you’re still going to see pretty similar principles applied to army design for Sororitas, with the main difference likely to be that more Dominions and Celestians will pop up in place of trying to fill a second Battalion. The biggest draw the army has going for it is definitely still the combination of board control and melee punch, meaning that I think any successful list is likely to have at least some Bloody Rose component, and indeed when I tried to pull one together that didn’t it looked deeply anemic. With that in mind, i’ve put together two samples – one pure Bloody Rose, and one that’s primarily Valorous Heart with a Bloody Rose contingent.

Pure Bloody Rose

Bloody Rose Battalion – 0CP

HQ

Triumph of St. Katherine – 195
Celestine – 170
Canoness, chainsword, bold pistol, null rod, Relic – Beneficience, Warlord – Indomitable Belief – 60

No Force Org Slot 

Inquisitor Coteaz, Inqusitorial Mandate, Terrify, Castigation – 95pts, 1CP
Repentia Superior – 40

Troops

Battle Sisters x5 – 55pts
Battle Sisters x5 – 55pts
Battle Sisters x5 – 55pts

Elites

Celestians x10, 2 meltaguns, combi-melta, power sword, cherub, simulacrum – 165
Celestians x9, 2 meltaguns, combi-melta, power sword, cherub, simulacrum – 153
Imagifier, Tale of the Warrior, Heroine in the making – Beacon of Faith, Open the Vaults – Litanies of Faith – 45pts, 2CP
Preacher – 35
Repentia x9 – 135
Repentia x9 – 135

Fast Attack

Seraphim x10, 4 inferno pistols – 170
Seraphim x5, 4 inferno pistols – 95

Heavy Support

Mortifiers x2, Anchorite x1, 6 heavy bolters, flails – 185

Dedicated Transport

Rhino, storm bolter – 78
Rhino, storm bolter – 78

Total 1999pts, 9CP

Running out of Elite slots in a Battalion, what a time to be alive. It should be reasonably clear what the basic plan is here – move up into the mid board with the Rhinos, Repentia, Celestians, Triumph and some of the Sisters, as an initial thrust to force your opponent to engage, then kick the crap out of their main body with Celestians and Repentia while bringing in Mortifiers (who often go into reserves) and Seraphim wherever the opponent is weak to do some damage. A cool thing you can do with Seraphim in that situation is drop them in and use Deadly Descent to blast away a screen that’s in a position where you want to deploy your other reinforcements, potentially opening up a serious weakspot.

Against armies with low board coverage you can also give serious consideration to putting one of the Repentia units into reserves instead/as well, as their ability to come in and automatically make a large charge is a huge headache to deal with (and it’s not like you’ll mind riding some Celestians in one of the Rhinos). That’ll also help deal with the one challenge you’ll sometimes have here, which is putting a convincing enough threat mid board – if you’re worried about that, reserving a Repentia squad instead and pushing some Rhino-riding Celestians and Mortifiers up should be adequately scary.

This army obviously selects the Hand of the Emperor Sacred Rite every game.

Combined Arms

Valorous Heart Battalion – 0CP

HQ

Canoness, Relic – Litanies of the Faith, Warlord – Beacon of Faith – 50pts
Triumph of St. Katherine – 195pts

No Force Org Slot 

Kyria Draxos, Terrify – 85pts

Troops

Battle Sisters x5 – 55pts
Battle Sisters x5 – 55pts
Battle Sisters x5 – 55pts

Elites

Imagifier, Tale of the Stoic, Heroine in the Making – Indomitable Belief, Open the Vaults – Book of St. Lucius – 45pts, 2CP

Fast Attack

Dominions x10, 4 storm bolters, combi-melta, simulacrum – 147
Dominions x10, 4 storm bolters, combi-melta, simulacrum – 147
Dominions x10, 3 storm bolters, combi-melta, simulacrum – 144

Heavy Support

Exorcist, exorcist missiles – 195
Exorcist, exorcist missiles – 195

Bloody Rose Vanguard – 3CP

HQ

Celestine – 170

Elites

Preacher – 35
Repentia x9 – 135
Repentia x9 – 135

Dedicated Transport

Rhino, storm bolter – 78
Rhino, storm bolter – 78

Total 1999pts, 7CP

This army trades the flexibility of flanking units for a more concrete plan to dominate the first turn of the game. Thanks to the boosted aura range on the Imagifier, you can use the pre-game moves of the dominions to move them a good distance up the board pre-game while staying in the all-important defensive auras (keeping them a bit further back to tag Celestine too if your opponent can bring a lot of AP-3 to bear), allowing you to get a head start on seizing the mid board with stuff that’s extremely challenging to shift (even more so if you can get them into terrain). You probably then want to blow an Act of Faith to get a big advance on the Imagifier turn 1 so that you can shift the whole army upwards to start really dominating things. That includes the Exorcists, who can use their new mobility to shuffle up with the blob, keep part of their hull tagged into the Imagifier aura to benefit while lining up choice shots. That also lets them try and stick with the Triumph, giving them access to auto-passed saves in a pinch.

Finally, you do of course still have the Repentia contingent waiting in their Rhinos to rock out and do mischief. You aren’t stacking their invuln up to a 4++ in this build, and don’t have the Celestians as a backup melee punch, so you need to be a bit more judicious in how you use them, but the tradeoff is that you put a lot more pressure on your opponent to come and get you fast, setting up good opportunities.

You have a bit more flexibility on Sacred Rites here – Hand of the Emperor is still a fine choice, but Spirit of the Martyr would also be justifiable if your opponent deploys cautiously.

Of the two lists, I think I marginally prefer this one  – it has a very concrete plan for how it wants to play the game while ahead, and enough punch to seize control when it’s behind. It’s also partially just a taste thing though, so definitely experiement with whichever option you like best!

 

Outlook: Strong

Overall, while it’s not 100% plain sailing Sisters go into 9th in a good place – they have some very strong options available to them and should be able to adapt to the new mission style very effectively. There’s also likely a whole world of soup options for them out there, with a small Bloody Rose contingent being a plausible add to a wide variety of Imperium lists.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions let us know at contact@goonhammer.com, otherwise check back in tomorrow to see where the Faction Focus wheel of fortune lands next!

 

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