Big Golden Heroes: Talons of the Emperor (Adeptus Custodes) Kill Team Tactics

Do you want like your warriors, big, elite, and decked out in golden armor from head to toe? Does the idea of running teams of more than four models bore you? Do you really wish your models could perform an action, shoot, charge, and fight in the same turn? Then the golden forces of the Adeptus Custodes may be the Kill Team for you!

Originally omitted from the first Kill Team until the release of Elites, Custodes are a fully fledged force in KT21, with the ability to mix Custodians with the Sisters of SIlence as the Talons of the Emperor. Although super-elite as warriors in their base form, Custodes make plenty of sense in Kill Team given how they typically operate in the fluff. In this article we’ll talk about playing with and collecting Custodes for Kill Team.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the changes to Custodian Guard APL and the Brotherhood of Demigods Tactical Ploy in the October 2021 Compendium FAQ.

Faction Overview

Custodes vs Gellerpox Infected
Custodes vs Gellerpox Infected
Credit: Pendulin


  • Extremely tough: Custodes are the toughest operatives in Kill Team, with 18 Wounds and a 2+ save on the basic Custodian Guard. They also can’t be injured and they ignore Stun and any and all modifiers to their APL. Taking a Custodian down is a big undertaking.
  • No I mean really tough: In addition to already being tough as hell, Custodian Guard can take a Storm Shield which gives them a 4+ invulnerable save and allows the operative to parry two hits every time they parry an attack.
  • Versatile: Custodian Guard have small numbers, but make up for that with 3 APL, and they can make great use of it with ploys to let them shoot twice and fight twice.
  • Team Flexibility: The Talons of the Emperor can operate either as a super-elite team of four Custodian Guard or as a wider team of two Custodians and five Sisters of Silence, or just run ten Sisters of Silence. You’ve got options and if the mission and opponent call for it, you can easily shift from a super-elite team to more of a mid-range group.
  • Melee: Custodians are brutal in melee, and sword+shield custodians can potentially just sit back and avoid most damage by actually making use of the parry mechanic. Sisters of Silence Greatblades are no slouch in that department, either.


  • Small model counts: You’re going to be vastly outnumbered if you’re running only 4 Custodians most of the time, and even switching to seven models with Sisters of Silence will likely leave you with smaller numbers than most non-marine teams. This can make achieving primary objectives difficult, though your Custodes are able to make up for some of this with having 3 APL (down from 4 thanks to the recent FAQ).
  • Shooting: Custodians come with decent ranged weapons on their Guardian Spears – 3/5 damage and P1 is nothing to sneeze at – but the faction lacks anything really approaching a ranged solution for heavier models. Sisters of Silence only add flamers and bolters to the mix, meaning that while Custodians aren’t bad at shooting, they’ll typically find themselves outmatched if they have to go up against plasma guns and meltaguns (a problem you can solve by killing those operatives first). That said, they can make up for this by shooting multiple times, albeit not as much as they used to.

Ultimately Custodes don’t have many weaknesses in the new Kill team and in fact proved so powerful that they needed almost immediate adjustment. The first Kill Team FAQ issued significant nerfs to the team, dropping them to APL 3 and reducing the effectiveness of their Strategic Ploy to ensure they aren’t quite so brutally dominant. They’re clearly still good however, and it remains to be seen if these nerfs were enough.


Talons of the Emperor Kill Teams

Talons of the Emperor Kill Teams are built from two fire teams picked from the following list:

  • Two Custodian Guard
  • Five Sisters of SIlence

If you don’t have a leader, then one Custodian Guard or one Sister of Silence can be upgraded to a Leader.

Custodian Guard come in two flavors: Guardian Spear or Sentinel Blade + Storm Shield. The Guardian Spear is a much better offensive weapon, while the Sentinel Blade + Shield trade some of that damage output for much better protection and durability.

Sisters of Silence come in three flavors: Prosecutors, the standard variety with bolters, Witchseekers, who come with flamers, and Vigilators, who have greatblades. You aren’t limited to how you want to split your five spots between the loadouts.



Adeptus Custodes Custodian Guard by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

Adeptus Custodes [Warrior]

Your bog-standard Custodian comes with 18 wounds and a 2+ save, which means that your opponent will be trying to throw all the APx weapons they can at you in order to take these big boys down. Thanks to the recent FAQ, each Custodian now has APL 3, which means that you can easily Shoot, Charge, and Fight in a turn, or drop one of those to perform an objective action. When you combine this high APL with the Peerless Warriors Strategic Ploy you could potentially fight or shoot twice in a turn, and multi charges against weak enemy models become practical to do. Remember that you can’t be stunned or injured either, so Genestealer Cult Webbers are just silly string as far as Custodes are concerned.

With Custodes you have two choices of load outs: Guardian Spears or Sentinel Blades and Storm Shields.

  • Guardian Spears are 3/5 P! bolters which are 5 dice 5/7 Lethal 5+ weapons in close combat. This means you tend to blast or blend any guard equivalents in your way, as your damage output is just right for murdering squishy humans or Eldar, and 7 damage on a critical hit is also the ideal value for killing weaker models outright on the charge. Sometimes the best defense is just murdering your opponent before they can hit you back.
  • Sentinel Blades and Storm Shields give you a 4+ invulnerable save (helping keep you alive if your opponent is busting out Melta weapons or Dark Lances), but you get only a P! bolt pistol for shooting and a power sword for close combat. If you are fighting an opponent without access to Melta or Plasma weapons (Kroot would be a good example, as would Orks or Tyranids) then I would choose Guardian Spears over Sentinel Blades. Guardian Spears are useful at any range, and even more aggressive in close combat for one-crit killing things like Gaunts,  Tau, or Guardsmen.

Facing Melta, large numbers of AP weapons or large close combat threats that a Storm Shields double parry would neutralise then a distraction Custodes with Storm Shield to attract these threats while the rest of your Kill Team completes objectives can be a good plan. If the enemy have to come to you (Harlequins, Wyches, Genestealers, Hormagaunts) then 6” range limitation on your shooting isn’t going to be much of an obstacle. Otherwise, standard Custodes drilling opponents from across the board is my preference.


Adeptus Custodes [Leader]

This is a Custodes with 19 wounds instead of 18, and you have to decide where you want that extra wound. If you’re using a Storm Shield Custodes to put a big threat into your opponent’s half of the table, then an extra wound can be pretty useful.


Sisters of Silence – Prosecutor, Witchseeker and Vigilator [Warrior]

Sisters of Silence are differentiated by their weapon loadout, with everything else being identical. The weapon loadout should be chosen on the role you want them to fulfill. Sisters of silence have APL 2, 8 wounds and the 3+ save of power armour, so they are better than Guardsmen or rank and file Tau troops, but don’t have the ability to murder everything like Custodes do. This means if you are taking a 2 Custodes/5 Sisters Kill Team, you need to sit and plan what you want to do. Essentially Sisters make for good bodies when you need to “go wide” on objective control for a mission, or when you’re up against Psykers, where they can just straight up shut off a Psyker’s ability to cast if they get close enough.

Prosecutors are armed with bolters. They’re perfect for sitting on a Vantage Point, picking off models advancing forward (especially anyone with a Melta or Plasma weapon) or occupying objectives in the backfield, where they can use their bolters to still contribute to the fight. I run two, and find them very useful.

Witchseekers are armed with flamers, which means that to be useful they need to be moving up the board. Flamers aren’t the brutal murder weapons they were in KT18, but they’re still very useful for chipping away at enemies and overwhelming their defence dice. They’re useful for chipping away at things like Marines or Custodes because of this, as you’re reasonably likely to get 4 hits, and your opponent has a maximum of three saves they can make. Softening up targets so they can be dealt with in a single blow during a Fight action, or even better softening up several so a Custodes can go bowling in with a charge, Fight twice and then shoot someone else, is what Witchseekers are for, and this means they’ll be part of your push towards your opponents drop zone or the objectives in the middle of the board.

Vigilators are rocking a power sword, meaning they roll 4 dice needing 3+, for 4/6 damage and criticals on a 5+. Which is all very nice, but they’ll struggle against dedicated melee troops like Harlequins because they only have 8 wounds, and melee is rough in KT21. Murking Guard equivalents or models with 3 dice 2/3 damage (most Eldar, Cultists, etc) is where they excel.

The Psychic Abomination rule means that all Sisters of Silence models cannot be targeted or affected by psychic powers, and no model within 6” of them can use psychic abilities. This means Grey Knights or Thousand Sons may find Talons a particularly tough match up. Against Grey Knights, pair a Sister up with each of your Custodes and get within 6″ of your opponent to support a Custodes in really messing them up.


Sisters of Silence Superior

This is a Sister of Silence with one extra wound, and I feel that wound is more useful on a Custodes. Some may disagree, particularly if combined with a Vratine Faceplate.


Custodes Elite Team – Painted by Thundercloud


The Talons have some incredibly good ploys. This is where your Command Points will be spent rather than re-rolls, particularly since you’re hitting and defending on 2+ most of hte time anyways.

Strategic Ploys

Aegis of the Emperor (1 CP) – for the rest of the turn you can downgrade the damage from any critical hit received to the damage for a normal hit. Critical effects will still apply, so this is useless against Melta weapons’ mortal wounds, but on the whole this means less damage taken and so it means your Custodes living longer and Sisters living full stop. If you’re about to end up in lots of punch-ups and firefights, this is a great Strategic Ploy to set off.

Creeping Dread (1 CP) – every enemy model within 3” of a Sister of Silence worsens their Weapon and Ballistic skill as if they were injured. This is situational, and not as good as Death Guard’s Contagion, but enough to make enemy weapons hit less often. Better if you are facing a melee-heavy enemy.

Peerless Warriors (1 CP) – Custodes can Shoot twice and Fight twice during their activation. This is an even better version of the strategic ploys Marine factions have, which make you pick shooting twice or fighting twice. It allows you to get the most out of your Custodes, and I’ve killed three separate enemies in a turn with a single Custodian using this ploy. It’s one of the most powerful effects in the game and you’re going to use it every turn in a four-Custodian Kill Team.

Tactical Ploys

Arcane Genetic Alchemy (1 CP) – Changes a normal save to a critical save. This can be very useful when taking fire.

Brotherhood of Demigods (1 CP) – This used to be something you could use in either in your turn when you activate or the end of the Firefight phase, but thanks to the recent FAQ, now only works at the end of the FIrefight phase. You pick one Custodes to take a free Fight or Overwatch action (this does not count as an activation). This is a huge step down from the overpowered mess it used to be, but it’s stilla  powerful effect. For instance consider this scenario: The turn is ending, you are about to Overwatch, you can move a Custodes around cover so they can clearly see a Concealed model, then fire Overwatch at them. Is a Custodian you would like to Overwatch or shoot with pinned in combat? Fight and murder your opponent, then activate the model as usual.

Talons (1 CP) – This lets you dual activate a Sister and Custodes during the same activation, resolving their actions in whatever order you like. It’s restricted to models within 6” of the enemy, 2” of the middle of an objective and the Sister and Custodes have to start within 3” of each other. So it’s pretty restrictive. But with that in mind it means you can do quite a lot, especially if Peerless Warriors is active.



Talons of the Emperor have access to one general item, two for Custodians, and two for Sisters.

  • Oath Parchment – 3EP This gives a once-per-battle Command re-roll for that model you can use without spending a Command point. It’s useful but not super interesting.
  • Tanglefoot Grenade – 3EP This one’s for Custodes only. It’s a grenade with 6″ range that reduces an enemy model’s APL by 1. I’d rather just shoot them, though I can see it being used to limit the actions of a big monster like a Tyranid Warrior.
  • Misericordia – 2EP The other Custodes-only equipment, and only for Guardian Spear Custodes.. After this operative fights, roll a dice; on a 3+ you inflict 2 mortal wounds on your opponent (has to be the model you were fighting, not another model in Engagement range). I think you can see why they’ve banned it for Storm Shield Custodes. You get to fire this thing off twice in any turn in which you fight twice, so if you’re multi-charging, this can help you finish off multiple targets.
  • Psyk Out Grenade – 2EP This is a grenade for Sisters of Silence and traditionally in the fluff was made from the Emperor’s poo (this may have changed since Rogue Trader). It’s Pretty useless against non-psykers and non-Daemons, but changes to 3/5 damage and Lethal 5+ when it’s used against those targets. Which means it’ll absolutely murder Grey Knights and Daemons and you should definitely take these when you fight those factions.
  • Vratine Faceplate – 2EP The other Sisters of Silence Equipment option. This gives you a once-per-game ability to reduce the damage from an incoming attack by 3. This gives a chance for a Sister to survive when otherwise they’d die, and can be very helpful if you’re planning to put a bolter sister by herself on an objective.


My current Talons Kill Team – Thundercloud

Building a Kill Team

Custodes have some flexbility, but within a 20-model roster you can fit pretty much all of your options. It’s relatively easy to build a working Custodes Kill Team from a single box of Custodian Guard, but you’ll eventually want to include Sisters of Silence options for those games where your small team size becomes a liability.


This example competitive roster allows for a large variety of teams. This would allow a solely Custodes team, a solely Sisters of Silence team, and a large variety of Custodes and Sisters for a mixed team.

Basically a single Custodian Guard box gives you a very elite team (though you might struggle with primary objectives), and if you add a Sisters of Silence box to that you have a fairly full roster. If you want to do competitive tournaments that’s where you bother to get a full roster of 20.

Operative Weapons
Custodes [Leader] Guardian Spear
Custodes [Leader] Sentinel Blade & Storm Shield
Custodes [Warrior] Sentinel Blade & Storm Shield
Custodes [Warrior] Guardian Spear
Custodes [Warrior] Guardian Spear
Custodes [Warrior] Guardian Spear
Sister of Silence Superior Boltgun & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Prosecutor Boltgun & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Prosecutor Boltgun & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Prosecutor Boltgun & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Prosecutor Boltgun & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Witchseeker Flamer & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Witchseeker Flamer & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Witchseeker Flamer & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Witchseeker Flamer & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Witchseeker Flamer & Gun Butt
Sister of Silence Superior Executioner Greatblade
Sister of Silence Vigilator Executioner Greatblade
Sister of Silence Vigilator Executioner Greatblade
Sister of Silence Vigilator Executioner Greatblade

Depending on your mileage, it may be worth swapping out a Vigilator or two for more Sword + Shield Custodians, but that’ll be a decision based on personal preference and the presence of high-AP weapons in the meta.

Example Kill Teams

This is the team I’ve been using recently:

  • Custodes [Leader] – Sentinel Blade & Storm Shield
  • Custodes – Guardian Spear
  • Sister of Silence Vigilator
  • 2 x Sister of Silence Witchseeker
  • 2 x Sister of Silence Prosecutor

This team has two Custodes to move forward and pressure the enemy, supported by two Witchseekers and a Vigilator, and two Prosecutors to get on Vantage Points and snipe at enemies with their bolters or hold objectives close to the Drop Zone. This gives you plenty of extremely tough Custodians for an opponent to deal with while also having enough bodies to sit comfortably on objectives while the rest of the team puts in work.


Final Thoughts

I think Talons of the Emperor are a top-tier team in the current meta. The ability to go all elite with 4 Custodes when you’re facing a Marine-based team and dunk on them, or to flex to a 7-model team against more horde-y opponents (anyone with Guard equivalents) so that you can also hold ground while Custodes bully individual models or small groups, makes the faction very flexible. Sisters having complete flexibility on their loadout is a very nice bonus as well.

The Strategic and Tactical ploys are all really good, and are flavourful while being powerful. The equipment ranges from ok to good, and there’s no poor or trap choices as far as I’m concerned. I’ve played several games with them now, and I play them as an aggressive fire fight team, moving up and winning gunfights with overwhelming Custodes awesomeness until suddenly the enemy is outnumbered and highly pressured.

You can choose between Seek and Destroy and Security Tac Ops for a Custodes team, and Sisters of Silence adds Recon into the mix. This gives a good mix of objectives to choose from, though Seek and Destroy goes quite nicely with the play style of the faction.

I’ve found them an enjoyable team to play, with Sisters running round achieving the objectives and Custodes running round being big gold wrecking balls. Small teams of Custodes running around is good and fluffy, and they’re easy to collect and paint up.

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