Custodes Kill Teams
Kill Team Elites introduced the Imperium’s biggest and shiniest heroes to Kill Team in the form of the Adeptus Custodes.
While some of the community were a bit salty about this (though to be honest there’s always someone salty about everything new, everything old, and everything in general) Custodes, who will often deploy small forces to perform missions necessary to protect the Throne, are very well suited to Kill Team in terms of background.
In this article I’ll talk about playing with and collecting Custodes for Kill Team. I’ll be doing so from the point of view of a tournament player, as I play a fair amount of tournament or tournament style games.
- Extremely tough: At 5 Toughness, 3 wounds, and a 2+ save (with a 5+ invulnerable that is upgraded to 4+) for a basic Custodian Guard, taking a Custodian off the table can be incredibly difficult, and will usually require high volumes of fire to wound them and cause them to fail their saves.
- No I mean really tough: With the ability to take Storm Shields for a 3+ invulnerable save, Custodian Guard can also shrug off most of the game’s heavy firepower, rendering even high-damage weapons frustratingly useless.
- Versatile: Custodian Guard have OK shooting, can fire on the move with a 2+ BS and have 3 Attacks in melee that hit on a 2+, and their basic weapons all do multiple damage per hit, meaning they can take out almost any target in a pinch.
- Morale: Leadership of 8 on the standard Custodes Guard means they’re unlikely to break, and the small model count means that even with two dead models you can’t fail a shaken test. In this way, low model count pays off.
- Small model counts: You’re always going to be outnumbered as Custodes, and any time you lose a model, you’re going to feel it. Most Custodes Kill Teams will be either 2 or 3 models at the 100-point level and that can make dealing with doors in Arena a real challenge.
- Low flexibility: Custodes only have 3 units to choose from, and one of those is a Commander. They also don’t have many options when it comes to wargear. They have no assault weapons, which ties them into a certain method of play.
- Difficult to control the board: With so few models and limited movement, you’ll frequently find your games start with you running as fast as you can to key objectives. Hordes can still be a problem for you if they can control more of the board and stop you from reaching objectives in time.
- No psykers. Mortal wounds are going to tear you up and there won’t be much you can do about them except kill the psykers before they can hit you. Ideally in close combat where multi damage weapons provide more reliable kills.
Custodes have two non-commander choices: Custodian Guards and Allarus Terminators, clocking in at 33 and 67 points, respectively. I never take Allarus Terminators, as they are just not worth it in any game below 200 points. Generally, two Custodian Guards are preferable to one Allarus because they can be in two different places at once, and you always need to be able to threaten multiple parts of the board. A Custodian Guard is easily more survivable than the Terminators of any faction with the possible exception of Death Guard and you’ll find that you benefit more from having more bodies, not being even tougher than the game’s toughest units.
At 100 points you have three models, so each one needs to be doing something every turn to contribute towards victory, meaning you want to skew towards the higher output option.
Your go-to unit for Custodes kill teams. In a standard 100-point game you will be taking 3 Custodian Guard. You have to take a Leader, which leaves two specialist slots. I usually take a Veteran and a Combat specialist. For objective games, the extra 6” of movement in turn 1 can be very important, either to help set up a charge if your opponent is melee-focused (in which case if they win priority they’ll likely move toward you), or to help contest the middle or move toward the furthest objective as soon as possible, depending on the mission. Custodes need to get across the board quickly, and need first turn charges if they can get them. You can also take Scout, Sniper and Zealot specialists, but in 100 point games you only have three models and one must be the leader. If you are playing a 200 point game and can take the leader and three specialists then I would choose Zealot for the third for the extra close combat attack. Custodes have a much bigger damage output in melee, so taking a specialism that doesn’t increase your attacks or get you into combat faster is a waste in my opinion.
For weapons I almost always take guardian spears with the additional free attack from misericordia. This gives enough Custodian Guard enough close combat attacks to engage two or three enemies in close combat, but you have to remember the misericordia attack should be allocated to a model you don’t mind surviving, as it is only damage 1, and in close combat resolution you can’t double dip with different weapons as you can with shooting.
Sword and shield Custodes have a place, and that place (and why you should include them in your roster) is for when you are facing large amounts of AP -2 or better shooting (plasma guns for instance, or fusion/melta weapons). Having a 3+ invulnerable save improves the odds of shrugging off the multi-damage shots of these weapons to 2/3 rather than 1/2, but for that additional survivability you sacrifice OK shooting and better melee prowess.
If you do take Allarus Terminators you need to have a plan for how to use them and customise them for your opponent. Against T3 and T5 opponents (Death Guard for example), give them guardian spears, because you will still be wounding on 2s against T3 and 3s against T5 regardless, and you get an extra -1 AP to carve through armour. Against T4 opponents take castellan axes, because you will be wounding on 2s. Against T4 opponents like Orks this will almost always be mathematically better, because the majority of opponents are 6+ save and will get no save from the axe. Ultimately if you crunch the numbers, unless you are fighting Marines, Orks, or Thousand Sons, then guardian spears are usually the best choice.
Adeptus Custodes get access to a single Commander option, the Shield-Captain, who clocks in at a minimum of 118 points. He’s basically an even beefier Custodian Guard with the option of taking a castellan axe, which retains the shooting of a Custodian’s spear but trades off some melee AP for the ability to hit at strength 8. He’s bafflingly-priced at his different tiers, as there’s no way to take him and 3 Custodian Guard at 200 points, and if you take him at level 2 you give up the second Guard. Giving him a storm shield brings him up to 133 points, leaving room to run a Shield-Captain plus 2 Custodian Guard, which is going to be how you run Custodes with a Commander 99% of the time. If your local meta allows you to play Commander games without a Commander model, then 6 Custodian Guard, or 4 with an Allarus is a much better force to take.
Custodes get six stratagems available to them, some of which are more useful than others. From Golden Light and Concussion Grenades are both specific to Allarus Terminators, and taking one in a standard 100 point game limits you to only two models. In a 200 point game you might take one and place it in your opponent’s backline using From Golden Light, and it will give your opponent fits. This is especially true in a game with three objectives, and where you have “kill the enemy” objectives like Cut Off the Head or High Profile Targets or “get in enemy deployment zone” objectives like Recon Sweep. A first turn alpha strike like this lets you start scoring these objectives in turn 1, and possibly be on an objective in the enemy backline on turn 2.
The other Custodes stratagems are situational.
- Concussion Grenades (1 CP) changes up a Terminator’s grenade launcher profile to be AP 0, but any model you hit with it can’t attack in the shooting phase and gets -1 to hit in the Fight phase that turn.
- From Golden Light (1 CP) lets you teleport in up to 3 Allarus Terminators from reserves anywhere more than 5″ away from an enemy model. Again, very powerful in execution but requires taking Allarus Terminators.
- Ever Vigilant (2 CP) lets you fire at enemy deep strikers within 12” when they set up, but costs you 2 CP in a turn when you will likely have already spent 1 CP on a Veteran move.
- Unflinching (1 CP) means one model hits with Overwatch shooting on a 5+. You are still only rolling 2 dice unless you are an Allarus Terminator (who will roll between 3 and 5 due to grenade launcher), so again, it’s situational.
- Inspire Fear (1 CP) lets you select one model and enemy models within 1” subtract 1 from Nerve tests. If you have a model amongst several flesh wounded enemy models, or you’ve just broken the enemy and want to get them to fail their Nerve tests so you can just mop them up next turn, then this can be useful. It’s 1 CP and it’s handy, especially if you’re trying to get enemies on objectives to fail their tests.
- Spark of Divinity (1 CP) lets you Deny the Witch from one of your models for one CP. This is very useful when facing psykers who can chip away at your Custodes with mortal wounds. One mortal wound a turn doesn’t sound so bad, but a couple of turns and suddenly your Custodes are a lot more vulnerable to a lucky wound getting through the save.
Playing Custodes in Kill Team
If you are playing with secondary objectives (in Annihilation and Arena formats for example) then you need to be very careful in your selection. Engage on All Fronts is impossible, because you need at least four models for it. Scout the Field is similarly difficult, because it also ties up at least 2 of your models to do it, one of them in the corner of the board. Obliteration is easy though, because if you kill any model with shooting from guardian spears you score it, and most of the time your close combat kills will also score it. Similarly Cut Apart should be an easy objective for you.
If you are taking Custodes to a tournament then do not set your heart on top table, because you will have difficulty getting maximum scores with secondary objectives and objective holding. In Arena you also will struggle with doors and blocking to get to your opponent and kill enough of their stuff to start forcing breaks. Annihilation can be a bit better as you don’t have the door issue and will find it easier to win by trying to table or break your opponent, but Annihilation also has more potential to face high strength high AP shooting from outside of your melee threat range.
For all that Custodes give you T5 3 wound models with a 2+ save, you are playing the game on hard mode, and will usually be looking to win by killing the opposition as you can’t win a game of board control. Or, you can, but only once you’ve killed most of the opposition and/or broken them, so you should aim to do that anyway.
It means you need to be a disciplined player and play strategically rather than reactively. Against a good player you will struggle, and I will go through how to fight Custodes shortly. You only have three models, and if you lose one model it may become impossible for you to win, particularly if you lose that model in the first two turns before you can score much in terms of objectives and secondaries.
When you look at the mission look closely at what you have to do to win, and what your opponent has to do. If there are four or five objectives you can never hold them all. If there are three then holding two out of three is much more practical, and putting one Custode on the rear objective and using the other two to put pressure on the middle objective is a solid plan. What is the terrain layout? How long will it take you to get in combat? Very often your opponent going first to come closer is very good for you, and may cause your opponent to become cautious, allowing you to push forward and put pressure on objectives.
However this is where Custodes have some weaknesses. Your shooting is either rapid fire or pistol, meaning you cannot advance and fire. You also don’t have high AP/strength shooting. You need to focus on melee and closing, but even with a Veteran move you may not be in combat until turn 2. Look for any way to pressure your opponent until then.
Custodes are quite intimidating. Where does your opponent need to be to win the game? Will he go there if there is a big bad Custodes in charge range of it?
Custodes have to play to the objectives more strictly than most factions, because while Orks or Guard can afford a few models to tootle around doing something else or to sacrifice to prevent your opponent scoring VPs, Custodes don’t. With every model you have to look at the most effective action you can take every turn.
If you want to get a full roster for 100 to 200 point games you can buy two boxes of Guard and one of Allarus and go with the following:
6 Guard with Guardian Spears and Misericordia
3 Guard with Sword and Shield
1 Allarus with Guardian Spear and Misericordia
2 Allarus with Castellan Axe
1 Shield Captain with Guardian Spear and Misericordia (or give one of the Guard a nice head and make a Vexilia to play 40k)
This lets you try a lot of different combinations, use a Commander and customise against different opponents. If you are playing 100-point games you can use the following roster:
3 Guard with Guardian Spears and Misericordia (your go-to team)
2 Guard with Sword and Shield (in plasma heavy and sparse terrain environments)
1 Allarus with Guardian Spear and Misericordia
1 Allarus with Castellan Axe
This gives you the option to take Allarus, though I wouldn’t recommend it in a 100-point game.
Custodes are strong against elite factions, like Space Marines, Necrons, and Deathwatch. Factions with chaff units that they can throw in to keep them tied up (Poxwalkers, Grots, etc) can neutralise the very few models Custodes have, allowing you to concentrate your melee elites or shooting on one model at a time (Combat specialist Nobs with big choppas or klaws can cause real problems, as can Combat specialist Death Guard Fighters with plague flails or cleavers). More bodies also lets them simply control the board to complete their secondary objectives while the Custodes kill one nameless mook per turn.
Custodes are not super quick, and if you can tie them up for a turn or two it will be impossible for them to win. Against Custodes you should focus on the objectives, primary and secondary. Can you score all of yours? Can you deny all of your opponents? In Arena or Annihilation you could score a maximum of 6 VPs per turn, and doing so pretty much guarantees victory. Custodes players will really struggle to do the same.
For weapons you want high damage weapons if possible, Str 5 and above and AP 1 or 2. Heavy flamers are actually very good, because you may sneak a wound or two through the armour, but normal flamers suck badly as it’ll be 5+ to wound trying to get through a 2+ save. Plasma weapons and melta weapons and similar high strength, high AP, high damage are great choices, particularly because you need to punch out Custodes quickly. Don’t be afraid to use a CP reroll to make sure you hit. Just accept and remember that you’ll only ever be wounding Custodes on 3+, and they’ll always save on 4+ due to invulnerables.
Normally with elite armies you can swamp them with Ork Boyz or Hormagaunts. This isn’t the case with Custodes. If you put four Ork boyz into a Custodes then he can put a spear attack on three of them, and a misericordia on the other, and hit on 2+, wound on 3+ and ignore your save. You could potentially lose 2+ Boyz in a single round of combat doing that, and it brings you closer to breaking and reduces your ability to control the board. Feed one Boy into combat per turn, keep another Boy within 3” to get piled into and then retreat away next turn. A smart Custodes player won’t take that bait and will stop outside of 1”, but people make mistakes.
In combat think about how you resolve attacks. If you have charged a Custodian with a Death Guard model with a plague flail and plague cleaver, then resolve the flail first. If you are able to get three wounds through then you have a 50/50 chance to kill. If the plague cleaver then strikes and only score 2 wounds it is still more likely to kill, and won’t fail to roll an injury because the Custodes would still have 1 wound. More damage striking later will always be potentially better.
Painting and Modeling Custodes
Custodes have good, modern models sculpted in the last few years, and with the range overseen by Jes Goodwin they are coherent and well thought out. While we didn’t get a Talons of the Emperor Codex and Sisters of Silence options to fight alongside Custodes (which would have given them some much needed anti-psychic ability in their book as well as cheaper Troop choices for 40k), the Custodes range is really good.
You can buy Custodian Guard and get a full Kill Team from one box with the option to build the other two models as sword and shield Custodes to allow you to swap load outs in your team, or if you are running a pure guardian spear team in almost all circumstances like I do then you could pick up a box of the Custodian Wardens who I feel are nicer models with cool cloaks.
Unless you want Terminators, you can have a full kill team from one box. For playing Command level games you’ll want to have one model done up as a Shield Captain, but in 200 point games you are always best off having six models and no commander if you have the option. This is because 3 models at 200 points is not very good for really obvious reasons.
On the painting side you have such a small number of models that painting them to the best of your ability is not a big ask. GW did an excellent painting tutorial for Custodian Guard when The Burning of Prospero was released.
Additionally if you’ve painted up one box of Custodes, then painting up another box and a character or a vehicle or two will take you to 1000 points for 40k, and give you enough to play small play formats. A lot of players play three 3-man squads of Custodian Guard (1 shield, 2 spear), a Vexilia and two jetbike captains, and this list has the benefit of being useable in 30k with some swapping around of squad components. If you are using one of the example rosters below then basically you have a 1000 point force.
Playing Custodes in Kill Team means playing a small and elite group of Supermen in a world of cardboard. But they don’t have Superman’s restraint. It is tricky in competitive games, and I think it would be a very brave top-tier tournament player who took Custodes in an Annihilation format, let alone Arena, but for casual fun play they are a great force to collect and paint.
They’re a great intro Kill Team, with each model being very tough and strong against opponents, for introducing younger players to the game. However in competitive play they struggle because of poor board control and the possibility of opponents who know what they are doing and how to neutralise them. They don’t make a lot of rolls, so a run of bad dice luck can sink you. In competitive play they are certainly hard mode, like Kroot.
From a hobby perspective they’re a good faction to take and stretch your painting muscles with, as they’re very low model count, to the point of potentially being a single box purchase, and this means you can spend a lot of time painting your team to a high standard. They’re also a great faction to expand into a 40k force, as a single box of them is a significant chunk of a 1k army (which you can potentially do with 13 models from 3 boxes).
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