Today sees the second Xenos Codex of 9th Edition go up for pre-order, bringing the elegant and sinister forces of the Drukhari up to date for the exciting new world we live in. And friends, readers, lovers, haters – this book absolutely rules.
Games Workshop have brought twisted joy to the hearts of the alarming number of Drukhari players on the editorial team by sending us a copy of this book, so join us as we delve in and get extremely hyped at all the horrific things we’re going to do with it.
Note: The first publication of this missed a key note – Power from Pain only applies if your army is Monofaction Drukhari. We’ve removed the soup list for now – everything else still applies.
Why Play Drukhari?
Why not play Drukhari? They’re one of the most diverse and interesting factions in 40k – a mad collection of torture elves, Frankenstein elves, gladiator elves, and pirate boats, with a wide range of esoteric weaponry and interesting tricks. With a complete range re-launch back in the early 10s, the vast majority of their models are a) in plastic and b) look amazing, which can’t exactly be said for their uptight Craftworld cousins. And also, as you’ll learn through this review – the new book is just fantastic, with a whole bunch of new options that are both very thematic and extremely powerful. This is still an army that rewards high skill and husbanding your fragile resources carefully, but unlike the anaemic position of Drukhari at the end of their 8th edition life, you’re now very well rewarded if you can get it right.
What’s in the Book?
- Lore for the vicious denizens of Commoragh
- Army special rules for fielding a Drukhari list, including rules for Kabals, Covens, and Wych Cults
- Special rules for Realspace Raids, allowing you to play a combined force of all three Drukhari factions without giving up what makes them great – and getting a couple of fantastic benefits to boot!
- Warlord traits, stratagems, relics and a dedicated set of secondary objectives
- Rules for promoting particularly powerful Archons, Succubi, and Haemonculi, and for bringing their retinues to the table
- Updated rules for the entire unit range
- A whole swathe of Crusade rules, capturing the narrative of the ever-shifting alliances and betrayals among the Dark Kin
The Five Best Things About This Book
- Flexibility. One of the biggest problems the 8th Edition codex had was how the three subfactions limited your list-building options. But between the returning Raiding Force rule and the new Realspace Raiders rule, most of those limitations have been cast off, letting you build the list you want to build.
- Drazhar. Holy shit. In the same vein, Incubi finally got the glow-up they’ve been begging for since 2010, making them into the deadly killers they always ought to have been. Other Characters get a taste of this too, and herohammer out of this book is just fantastic in general.
- Flavour. A ton of things that just didn’t quite feel right in 8th edition have been addressed. Archons are actually worthwhile in a fight now. Trueborn and Bloodbrides make a welcome return, and are joined by Haemoxytes to give Haemonculi a retinue of their own. The Wych Cults finally fired whoever was refusing to let out more than 3 vials of Grave Lotus at a time. There’s all kinds of little wins like this throughout the book, where rules both make units better on the table but also make them feel like they ought to from the background.
- Wych Cults. Wych Cults weren’t bad in 8th, but their strengths were narrow and didn’t really sell them as the deadly killers they’re meant to be. This authors of this book have declared screw that – Wych units are now incredibly destructive, and rightly so.
- Examples. It’s not the first thing you’d think to pick out, but it’s the kind of thing that we get excited about. Realspace Raids are complex, with a lot of different moving parts which make fundamental changes to how your army is built. Two pages are devoted to clearly explaining how to build one, and there’s additional explanatory text for the way obsessions, relics, and stratagems work in regular Kabals/Cults/Covens too. It’s a huge win from a design point of view, and hopefully will save a lot of headaches.
There are a few army-wide rules here, and they’re all pretty useful. First up, the Power From Pain table has undergone a complete overhaul. The biggest thing here is that the 6+ ignore wounds has changed to a 6+ invulnerable save, which improves to a 5+ in round 4. The table is still mostly melee focused, but is a little more broadly useful, especially now that it affects your vehicles (and packs a few vehicle-specific buffs to boot). Round 2 allowing you to advance and charge is particularly spicy.
Poisoned Weapons are, naturally, still here, and they now specify an unmodified dice value that they trigger on. For example, splinter rifles are Poisoned Weapon (4+), meaning that a 4+ to wound will always wound – even if your opponent has -1 to wound, for example (though bear in mind that abilities such as Transhuman Physiology will still win this arms race, owing to their particular wording).
Combat Drugs also makes a return, but now allows you to choose the same drug for two different units without having to use them all. If you still want to roll randomly you can, and are rewarded for doing so by being able to roll two dice, re-rolling duplicates. A few have changed slightly – the +1A is now only when you charge or heroic, but the army is so fast that you’re largely going to have it on when it matters still.
Finally for old rules we have Insensible to Pain, which transforms from a 5+ invulnerable save for Covens units into a 5+ Feel No Pain. That’s technically a trade down, but don’t forget you also still have an invulnerable save via Power from Pain.
As well as these old favourites there’s a new rule, Blade Artists. Nearly everything in the book has this, even Ravagers! It’s a simple rule – unmodified 6s to wound in melee gain an additional -1 AP. This is great, especially for Wych Cult units throwing out lots of attacks; no more will your Wyches pile 20 wounds on a Space Marine unit only for them to ping off their power armour. Don’t sleep on it for other units, though – Incubi are especially spicy, where any 6 to wound will be damage 3 and AP-4!
The first thing worth talking about here is the way the book is organized. As with the 8th edition Codex, the Drukhari roster is organized into three subfactions: Kabals, Wych Cults, and Haemonculus Covens. Most of the units in the book fall into one of these three categories. Just like you’re used to, if your detachment only contains units from a given subfaction, those units gain an Obsession (the Drukhari version of Chapter Tactics).
Thankfully, this isn’t quite as restrictive as it sounds, for three main reasons: first, Blades for Hire make a return, reflecting those units like Incubi and Mandrakes which sit outside of the system in Commoragh. These can be dropped freely into detachments without affecting any subfaction rules.
Second, Raiding Force makes a return, in a tweaked form – as long as every Detachment in your army is a Patrol, none of them cost any CP. This is a small but welcome change – you no longer need to squeeze in three Patrols to benefit.
Finally, the various scheming lords of Commoragh have found common ground and figured out how to work together for at least as long as they’re outside the Webway and deployed in a Realspace Raid Detachment. This is a single Detachment with exactly one Archon (who must be the Warlord), one Haemonculus, and one Succubus, and at least one of each of their respective Troops choices. With these conditions met, all the units in your detachment gain the Realspace Raiders keyword, and your Archon’s re-roll aura changes to affect all Realspace Raiders Core units rather than just <KABAL> and Incubi units. It also gives all the units in that detachment the appropriate Obsession, and gives you access to strats, relics, and Warlord traits for each HQ’s respective subfaction.
There’s a lot going on here, but the takeaway is that you’ve got a lot more flexibility when building your list than you did previously, opening up a ton of options.
Wings: Seriously – the level of choice this gives you outstrips pretty much anything else in the game right now, because in any Realspace Raid list you build, you can pick the best Kabal, Coven and Cult for your purposes and enjoy all of the benefits. Given there are 36 possible combinations just from the “named” subfactions, the breadth of options here is outrageous.
You do lose one key option, though: the new Weakling Kin rule means that you can’t take any non-Drukhari models in a detachment with any Drukhari units unless all the units in that detachment are Ynnari. This means no more splashing Yvraine or the Yncarne into your Drukhari detachment for psychic support. This directly proscribes something that was a central part of the 8th edition Ynnari design, so it’s an interesting hint that there’s changes coming there, too.
As before, there’s a whole pile of options here: each subfaction has at least 3 “official” choices (Kabals have 4) as well as a set of mix-and match traits you can slap together to make your own scheming group of murder elves. If that last part gives you a cold shiver as you remember Phoenix Rising, don’t worry – these have been almost completely rethought, and no longer will all the Kabal traits try and incentivise you to throw Kabalite Warriors into melee. Even though they’re better at that now.
Vect’s personal Kabal is back with a vengeance, bringing a useful set of options that make them a solid pick. Their Obsession, Thirst for Power, gives +1 Ld to all units with the Obsession, lets them use the next round’s Power From Pain ability, and lets each unit re-roll a single hit roll every time it shoots or fights. If you’ve ever fired a volley of blasters and seen nothing but 2s to hit, you’ll appreciate that part. In addition, if a Realspace Raid includes a Black Heart Archon, Blades For Hire in the detachment also benefit from treating the Power from Pain table as one round higher.
They’ve also had some key changes to their relic and stratagem (Labyrinthine Cunning, the Warlord trait, is unchanged). Writ of the Living Muse has had something of a sidegrade. It now only affects Core units, which means no more buffing your vehicles – Ravagers and Raiders will weep at the loss. On the plus side, it does extend to Blades For Hire if you’re in a Realspace Raid, enabling the prospect of Incubi or Scourges re-rolling 1s to hit and wound – a big buff to their offensive output.
Agents of Vect is completely different. It’s still one use only, but now it’s 0CP, and its effect is very spicy indeed – you can use it after your opponent plays any stratagem other than Command Re-roll, and instead of preventing it altogether, it simply increases the CP cost to use it again by 1 for the rest of the battle. If your opponent has a key stratagem they want to play every turn (e.g Novokh’s Blood Rites, Chaos’s Veterans of the Long War), this now punishes them for doing so, and while not every army has a target like that, this is completely free for you to use, so when you can deploy it for value it’s a huge win.
These changes are interesting. The change to the Writ means your Archon can no longer use it to babysit Ravagers, which is probably fine given how much this book seems to want you to take your HQs into combat anyway. More interesting is the ability to let Blades for Hire count the round as one higher for Power From Pain – Drazhar and his Incubi are already scary as hell now, and giving them the ability to Advance and Charge is going to be nasty, especially if the Writ-carrying Archon is now busting into combat with them to supply hit and wound rerolls instead of hanging out at the back watching his boats.
The Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue lives up to their name – their Obsession, the Serpent’s Kiss, lets them improve the target number of their Poisoned Weapons by 1 to a maximum of 2+. This means your basic splinter weapons will be wounding on 3+ into all targets, which could be nasty, particularly when you combine it with the splinter cannon’s new AP-1 2 damage profile. Even better, if one of those poisoned weapons manages to kill something, its unit subtracts 1 from Combat Attrition tests until the end of the turn. They also keep their excellent redeploy stratagem – which now lets you put things into Strategic Reserves for free, and ignore any limits on reserves when doing so. The Warlord trait and relic are merely ok, but the Obsession and stratagem are well worth a look for a different take on Drukhari, particularly if you’re playing a non-Realspace Raiders list and going deep on the capabilities of your Kabalites instead. They also combo well with one of our favourite new stratagems, Potent Metallotoxins, of which more below.
Slay From the Skies is dialled back a bit from the previous codex: the bonus to move for VEHICLEs has dropped from 3” to 2”, and units no longer re-roll 1s to hit for Rapid Fire weapons. They still ignore Light Cover, which is nice, but compared to the big buffs the other Kabals got it’s a shame to see Flayed Skull losing capabilities.
There is at least some exchange, as the Warlord Trait and Stratagem are a little better. Famed Savagery now gives +1 strength and attacks all the time, a thing you might actually want now that Archons aren’t horrible in melee, and Masters of the Shadowed Sky gives you +1 to hit a unit that can fly, or +2 to hit an AIRCRAFT. This gives it a little more purpose, and means that even against planes you’ll be getting a net benefit of +1 to hit.
Finally, the Obsidian Veil gives your Archon a 4+ invulnerable save, which will really come in handy when you roll a 1 on the first shot your opponent puts into them and a bunch of higher AP weaponry suddenly turns ominously to point at them.
Rounding out our named Kabals are the Obsidian Rose. These guys were somewhat underrated in 8th, and they’ve picked up a huge new buff in this codex – as well as their previous thing of making ranges for all non-relic Assault, Rapid Fire, and Heavy weapons +6”, they also get one free wound re-roll each time a unit is selected to shoot or fight. That’s huge for your blasters and dark lances, and again, your Archon wants at least try to fight now – re-rolls to wound are a great way for them to be able to punch up.
Deathly Perfectionist takes a slightly weird sidegrade, giving non-relic weapons +1 Strength instead of the old +1 Damage. It doesn’t quite pair that well with anything your Warlord can take, though potentially his default power sword becoming effectively S5 is worth a look. The potential for an S9 blast pistol also shouldn’t be discounted now that those are very cheap, and your Archon may actually want to be in range to use it. The final part of the Kabal’s offering is the Armour of Misery, granting -1 to hit and a 3+ armour save, and Failure is Not an Option which is much the same except for having been 9th-ified to refer to Combat Attrition instead of just Morale.
There are now 10 Kabal traits available, of which two are “All-Consuming” (i.e. your whole trait) and the others can be combined by picking any two. These are a substantial improvement on the ones in Phoenix Rising (mercifully), and while the named choices are likely to win out most of the time (especially Black Heart because of how well it supports a Realspace Raid) there’s a few cool ones here. The likely standout combination is probably Merciless Razorkin and Tortuous Efficiency, giving you extra hits on 6s with splinter weapons and extra AP on 6s to wound at range respectively. Now that Venoms aren’t core it’s a bit harder to buff them up, so if you want to try one of the go-wide Venom lists that used to dominate this is a decent way to amplify things. You could also try the all-consuming Toxin Crafters for this kind of list, which boosts your poison weapons to Poison 2+ on a 6 to hit and gives you re-roll 1s to wound for them. These obviously combine well, and if you’re planning on peppering your foe at range is another option worth try.
Most of the rest here are at least cute, but don’t really seem to enable any particular strategy better than the named ones.
Cult of Strife
The Cult of Strife is still aggressive this time around, though in a different way from before. Its Obsession, The Spectacle of Murder, lets them fight first if there’s an enemy within engagement range at the top of the Fight phase, and gives +1 to charge rolls against enemies that don’t have any other units from your army in engagement range. Once they make it in, a Succubus with their Warlord Trait, Blood Dancer, gets 2 additional hits every time they roll an unmodified 6 to wound, and can use the Phial Bouquet to add an additional random Combat Drugs effect at the start of each round.
Their Wyches aren’t left out in the cold, though, and can benefit from their No Method of Death Beyond Our Grasp stratagem, which for 2CP lets a Wych unit shoot or fight again at the end of the appropriate phase. Given the number of attacks Wyches can put out, this can be absolutely punishing.
All the stuff here is really strong – Wyches (especially Bloodbrides, more on them later) are complete nightmares now, so fighting twice with them is strong, and getting Fight First on a lot of stuff tends to be quite powerful, meaning going wide here is rewarded. Finally, +1 to charge out of deep strike is extremely good if you have a small number of units planning to do that, so this works well in a Realspace Raid. Add in the fact that they get some extra goodies in the Book of Rust (for more, see our other review today!) and you have an extremely strong first cult.
Cult of the Cursed Blade
The treacherous Cult of the Cursed Blade lives by a simple ethos: Only the Strong Will Thrive. To that end, models with its Obsession get +1 Strength and cause mortal wounds to enemies in Engagement Range on unmodified saves of 6 against melee attacks. Treacherous Deceiver, their Warlord trait, boosts the second half of their Obsession to go off on 4+, while the Traitor’s Embrace relic makes a Cursed Blade Succubus dangerous even in death, dealing d3+3 mortal wounds to the unit that killed it on a 2+. Finally, if your opponent decides to try to get the jump on you by charging your Wyches, for 2CP they can deploy Venomous Shardbombs and chuck up to 5 grenades with the Poisoned Weapon (2+) ability.
This cult basically provides a whole bunch of ways to punish the foe for trying to mess with you, plus the baseline effectiveness of a built in strength boost (which ends up giving you much broader combat drug choices than any other Cult). The revenge mortals are surprisingly spicy here on large units too – Hellions and Reavers can both pack in a lot of wounds, at which point taking them down in close combat is going to cost your opponent quite a lot of pain. Don’t forget you can apply this to Raiders too, making them pretty frustrating to chew through with basic attacks.
The only thing to watch out for is that this is going to slow down your rolling quite a bit – once you’ve run out of wounds you don’t get to make saves any more (because you have no models to assign the wounds to), meaning you’ll need to batch out your dice in ever smaller sets as your models go down. This tends to cap your actual expected damage in the 5-6 mortal wounds for most squads, but a full squad of Hellions who have had their 5++ switch on can go a bit higher against single damage attacks.
This faction feels like it’s aimed at people who want to go wide on Wyches, where the stinging punishments it inflicts will rack up over the course of the game. It’s in pretty stiff competition with the Cult of Strife for that thanks to them getting a bunch of extra options in Book of Rust, but there is some real power here.
Cult of the Red Grief
The Red Grief is obsessed with The Speed of the Kill, gaining +2 to advance rolls and allowing their units to re-roll charge rolls. This makes them super speedy around the table (remembering that you have essentially army-wide Advance and Charge from turn 2) and also gives them a boost when you’re bringing things in from reserves (something Drukhari will often want to do). On the latter point, if you’ve only got a small Wych Contingent then Cult of Strife probably perform better, but if you’re planning on bringing in a bunch of units at once wide access to re-rolls will help.
The relic here is perhaps the most exciting bit – Wings’ favourite the Blood Glaive is back, a relic archite glaive that hits at S+2 AP-3 D3. This is still pretty great, especially with how many attacks Succubi can have, and really the only reason it isn’t extremely exciting is that there are now valid relic weapon options that any Succubus can take. The warlord trait has also changed significantly – no more 3++ (booooooo) but in its place you can only be hit on an unmodified 4+. Realistically you’re probably using Trait picks on Succubi for killing power, but it’s cool to see this mechanic applied to something other than wounds. Finally, the stratagem still lets you leap back into a Transport after fighting, with a slight change to how it actually works mechanically – definitely still a potentially neat trick.
Going fast and killing things is a big part of the Wych Cult way of life, and the Red Grief are extremely well placed to exploit the new Advance and Charge mode of Power From Pain. You get a bit less raw power than the other two, but if what you want from your Wyches is speed then this is your best option. The transport trick also works pretty well for keeping your precious Bloodbrides safe, giving you another compelling reason to take this.
Bluntly, all of the Cults are pretty good, and because of Realspace Raids there’s massive scope to experiment with them – and all of the named ones seem good enough to at least try.
All three Wych Cults are very good, and that makes the custom cults here quite a tough sell. That’s especially true because Test of Skill, previously a source of surprise shooting buffs for Venoms, has been nerfed to only affect melee attacks (+1 to wound against Monsters or Vehicles). You can combine it with Precise Killers (Blade Artists triggers on a 5) to make your units extremely good at chewing through tougher targets if the metagame swings in that direction, but compared to the named ones it’s pretty lacklustre.
There are a few other things that are at least pretty fun here – you can gain the ability to pile in and consolidate through models (very cool with a Master Succubus) and the ability to get extra hits on 6s when you charge, but weight of attacks is not something Wyches are going to be struggling with. As with damn near everything in this book, if you find something that works especially well with a given army here you can pretty much just take it, but in general look at the named cults first.
Prophets of Flesh
In 8th edition Prophets of the Flesh was basically the only choice for Covens for the majority of the book’s life, except towards the end when the one worthwhile Phoenix Rising build (Dark Technomancers shooting spam) took over. In 9th the Prophets have been dialled back significantly. Their Obssession, Connoisseurs of Pain, still makes them more durable, but works a bit differently: first, your Characters, Grotesques, Talos, and Cronos will regain a lost wound in each of your Command phases. Second, it gives them always-on transhuman, except that it doesn’t work against attacks with a strength of 8 or higher. Given that your weakest Coven units clock in at toughness 4 – or 5 if your Haemonculus is within 6” – this won’t let your Wracks shrug off a lascannon shot, but it will make it harder for anti-infantry weapons to chew through them. It does mitigate the effects of either bonuses to wound or things that lower your toughness, though, making Prophets a particularly interesting pick into armies like Blood Angels or Death Guard, which rely on the first and second respectively.
Diabolical Soothsayer is completely different, letting you choose at the start of the battle to either improve your toughness and wounds or your movement and attacks by 1 each. Haemonculi are reasonably tough and fairly dangerous in combat already, and this trait offers you the flexibility game-to-game to choose to lean into the more useful of the two based on your opponent’s list.
The old stratagem is gone, replaced with Sins Writ Large, which gives an INFANTRY unit within 6” of a Haemoculus full hit rerolls for either 1CP (Wracks) or 2CP (Grotesques). Given that full wound re-rolls are still on the table with The Torturer’s Craft this can give you some spectacular turns with Grotesques in particular – though for that matter, Wrack melee is no longer negligible.
Finally, the Vexator Mask is back, and its effects are unchanged – though the range of the fight last is now only 3”, making it a bit harder to use.. Cancelling out Overwatch matters a lot less now, but choosing a unit and making it ineligible to fight is pretty damn good if you can set it up (though it’s fair to say competition is now much stiffer on relics).
Prophets are no longer the only valid choice a lot of the time but still have some decent things going for them and are likely to see a reasonable amount of use.
The Dark Creed
If Morale and Combat Attrition gimmicks have legs, it’s going to be here. Distillers of Fear gives each of your Coven units an aura that lowers enemy units’ Leadership by 1 and causes them to subtract 1 from Combat Attrition tests. In addition, your melee attacks against units with Ld equal to or lower than yours get +1 to hit, which will make your turn 2 charges more effective and assist in pinning down units with those pesky -1 to hit modifiers. Just keep in mind that, since it’s an Aura, it only applies once no matter how many units you have surrounding your target.
If that’s not enough, Fear Incarnate allows your Warlord to choose an enemy within 9”, then turn off ObSec and stop it from performing actions, so long as it rolls above that unit’s Ld on 3d6. This fits perfectly with your Obsession and can let you flip an objective you don’t think you’ll be able to completely clear or take away your opponent’s ability to effectively contest a key objective in the clutch.
Their stratagem, An Esoteric Kill, Delivered From Afar, is more or less unchanged, but the cost is increased to 3CP on Talos. If you saw the new and improved heat lance profile and started cackling at the idea of using it to snipe out characters, then a) great job getting into the right Drukhari mindset, and b) you can do that, but it’ll cost you more.
The unique relic is a little less exciting. One day, we will see a pistol relic that competes with other things you could take on the same unit. Spirit-Sting is not that relic. It’s not terrible, as 3 shots wounding on 2+ at AP-3 that ignore invulnerable saves is pretty scary in the abstract, but “fine” doesn’t cut it in a book as stuffed full of great options as this one is.
The warlord trait and strat here are both very swingy, but also both potentially hugely powerful in the right situation. Messing with leadership is definitely something that’s seen a mixed level of success over the course of 8th and 9th, but there’s some compelling stuff here that’s certainly fun to try out.
The Coven of Twelve
These Butchers of Flesh have a simple, yet powerful, Obsession: all your melee weapons other than Relics improve their AP by 1. Combine this with Blade Artists and your Coven units are suddenly a lot more threatening: pushing their Wrack blades to a base AP-2 gives Wracks enough of a boost to make them a threat your opponent will actually need to consider, and Talos with chainflails will mulch through just about anything fairly easily. There’s a second part here, which allows Coven of Twelve units to shoot while performing actions without interrupting the action. This won’t come into play often – the universal secondaries all require INFANTRY models, and you probably won’t be buying guns for your Wracks, while only a handful of the mission secondaries even have actions you can take. However, keep it in mind for when it counts: being able to score Data Intercept with a Talos or Raider while still shooting could be very useful.
Your other options are a similarly mixed bag: Scarlet Epicurean gives your Warlord -1 damage, which is neat and might help keep your Haemonculus alive, and the Flensing Blade is a pretty neat relic melee weapon for character hunting, but you’ve usually got better things to spend your limited relic slots on. However, it’s really the only way to build a “killy” Haemonculus, so if you’ve got room in your list, it’s worth considering. The stratagem, A Most Inventive Demise, is an interesting trick to threaten enemy characters who over-extend, letting you deal a pile of mortals after you consolidate on a d6 roll of 2+. It’s niche, but since you’ll want to be advancing your Haemonculus anyway, keep it in mind.
The standout choices here are the two All-Consuming Obsessions: Artists of the Flesh, which gives non-vehicle models -1 to incoming damage, and Dark Technomancers, which lets you “enhance” your weapons to add 1 to its wound roll and its damage, at the cost of dealing mortal wounds to the bearer if you roll any unmodified 1s to hit for a weapon – d3 mortals to monsters and vehicles, 1 to everything else. You also can’t re-roll hit rolls when doing this. While still good, it’s worth saying that Technomancers has been depowered a lot from its old form, and is no longer nearly as potent. The wounds triggering on failed hits and not being able able to re-roll them mean that this is going to hurt, especially on vehicles, and if you try the old plan of stacking it on Venoms you have a small risk of straight up losing one as soon as you shoot – and their shot count has taken a dive anyway with the change to splinter cannons. The flip side is that this is much, much better on weapons that auto-hit like liquifier guns and Cronos blasts, as there’s now no risk to doing so at all.
As with the other types of faction there’s some other cool stuff here – you’ve got your charge re-rolls, your extra hits on 6s, lots of good stuff. The named covens and Techomancers are real good though, most likely relegating the other custom traits to a small part of a Realspace Raid where you’ve identified a very specific need.
Lords of Commorragh
Not all Drukhari are made equal, and the most notable of Commorragh’s residents are a cut above even their already-impressive kin. To represent these truly formidable foes, you can upgrade a single Archon, Succubus, or Haemonculus in each detachment to be a “Master” of their respective role for 15 points, or 20 for the Haemonculus. As a bonus, if the detachment you chose was a Realspace Raid, you can choose one of each HQ choice to upgrade, though your army can only contain one of each. Each upgraded model gains a unique ability and also gains access to a Relic and Warlord trait that can help set them apart from their less-powerful peers.
As a general rule, you’ll want to take advantage of these upgrades where available, as they’re all very useful and open up some of the best traits and relics in the book.
Master Archons gain the Splintered Genius ability, which lets them fight a second time at the end of the Fight phase once per battle. Their Soulhelm relic imposes a -1 penalty to hit them, and also confers a 5+ ignore wound, dramatically increasing their survivability. Finally, if you choose this Archon as your Warlord, you can make them a Consummate Weaponmaster, adding 1 to the damage of their non-Relic melee weapons – nifty on a venom blade. Mostly the base ability is the big draw here, as an optional fight twice on a model you can make pretty lethal is very strong.
A Master Succubus is a real Show Stealer, and can consolidate 6” in any direction after she fights, even if that move doesn’t take her closer to the nearest enemy model (though bear in mind that if she’s in base to base contact, she cannot move at all, per the FAQ on the similar Custodes ability). The Dancer’s Edge improves the Archite glaive’s AP and damage by 1 each, and ignores invulnerable saves on wound rolls of 6. Finally, the Whirling Death Warlord Trait allows you to choose to change your Master Succubus’s Attacks characteristic to be 3 + the number of enemy models within 2”. Master Succubi are probably going to be the most commonly seen of the three possible Masters simply on the back of Bloodbrides being complete nightmares, and the base ability is also really good – being able to step out of combat after fighting, or dash onto an objective, is potentially huge. It’s also great when combined with the Cult of Strife trait against an unwary opponent, as if they don’t use their first charger to kill your Succubus you get to Fight First, murderise something then step out of combat. The relic and trait are more nice to have – the Glaive is powerful but there’s a very strong alternate combo in the book for pushing past invulnerables, and though the Warlord trait is one of the best implementations of this effect we’ve seen, Succubi can already get a lot of attacks. It potentially is good on a Cult of Strife Succubus taking the Dark Lotus Toxin out of Book of Rust on Razorflails, as when you’re doubling your attacks getting lots of them to start with can send the Succubus into full on unit-clearing mode.
Rounding out the choices on offer, your Master Haemonculus becomes an Alchemical Maestro, which lets you roll a d6 when it’s destroyed and place it back on the battlefield with d3 wounds remaining on a 2+. It’s a once per battle effect, but it’s a solid one. The Poisoner’s Ampule Relic lets you choose an enemy unit within 9” once per game, deal d3 mortals to it on a 2+, then turn off all of its Auras and prevent it from benefiting from any other units’ Auras. This is a useful utility effect that should always be in consideration for your lists. Lastly, the Twisted Animator Warlord trait lets you pick a unit of Wracks within 3” and bring back up to d3 models during your Command phase.
All of this is super spicy. Getting back up on a 2+ the first time you die makes the character incredibly sticky and is just generally handy when things get rough, but the relic is also absolutely outstanding. The fact that you can either switch off a unit’s auras or stop a unit benefitting from them as the situation dictates gives you huge flexibility, and is going to blow some mid-table throwdowns wide open. A very, very solid pick that’s available to all. The Warlord trait is also worth considering if you’re bringing a chunky unit of Haemoxytes, as adding models back into a unit that’s both ObSec and straight up shrugs off the first wound each phase is going to drive your opponent up the wall. The generic Haemoculi warlord traits are also one of the few things in this book that aren’t incredible, making this an even more appealing pick.
Ultimately – all of these are going to see use, as they all have real power to offer you. That’s especially true because of…
If you choose to upgrade any of your HQs, you can also upgrade a single troops choice in the same subfaction to become one of the Favored Retinues. In addition to their subfaction-specific effects, these upgrades cost +2 points per model and improve the unit’s Ld by 1, but cap the squad size at 10. All of these are super good, though, and only serve to make the upgraded unit even better at their intended role.
Kabalite Warriors can be upgraded to Kabalite Trueborn, who improve their BS to 2+ and can ignore any or all hit roll and BS modifiers. Take a squad of 10 with a pair of blasters and a dark lance, shove them in a Raider, and watch the fireworks.
Wyches become Hekatrix Bloodbrides, and come with 2+ WS and an improved Blade Artists ability that increases the AP of their attacks by 3 on a 6 to wound rather than just 1. This means that 6s to wound with Hekatarii blades come in at an impressive AP-4, and with 41 attacks from a full squad, anything you charge them into is in serious danger.
Finally, Wracks upgrade into Haemoxytes, who improve both their Save characteristic and invulnerable save by 1 each. This gives them a 5+ invulnerable out of the gate and a 4+ from round 4 forward, which will seriously improve their durability, especially if they’re near a Twisted Animator Haemonculus who can give them +1 toughness and bring back d3 models per round. And if that weren’t enough, they also change the damage of the first failed save per phase to 0, letting them shrug off damage that would obliterate another model.
On top of all of these bonuses, your chosen squad stays in the Troops slot. This is useful for a couple of reasons: not only can you use them as your compulsory Troops choice in a Patrol or Realspace Raid detachment, they also keep the Objective Secured ability while significantly outperforming similar troops options in their respective roles. Hekatrix Bloodbrides are the biggest winner, as they take an already scary unit and turn them into nightmare blenders, and you should probably aim to hold 20pts back to upgrade a squad any time you buy a Master Succubus. The other two options are less mandatory but still very strong. Haemoxytes are pretty flexible, being good at fighting for mid-board objectives in a ten model squad, and a five model unit is also a great home objective holder thanks to the wound shrug. Expect to see the latter a lot (especially because of how good the Master Haemoculus relic is), and we’re definitely going to be at least trying out the full unit. Trueborn are very cool but also the most skippable, though it is worth pointing out that ignoring penalties means they can use a dark lance or splinter cannon with impunity, so a full squad flying around on a Raider can be very nasty, particularly with the Black Heart or Obsidian Rose Obsessions which give them a built-in re-roll to hit or wound respectively.
In combination with the Lords of Commorragh rule this is a fantastic boon to the faction, both in terms of power on the table and also thematic feel, and we look forward to slamming these into lots and lots of lists.
Because of just how many factions they have, Drukhari get slightly fewer stratagems than other factions, but it’s a very strong set, with most of the chaff carved out and one or two things turned into datasheet abilities, leaving the classics and some strong new choices ready for your delectation.
In terms of the old stuff, there are returning versions of a lot of strats, with the key ones being:
- Fire and Fade (renamed to Never Stationary, and now costing 2CP)
- Cruel Deception (improved, now you can either pay 2CP to Fall Back and be able to shoot and charge, or 1CP for just one of them).
- Lightning Fast (down to 1CP, much needed because it’s way weaker in 9th)
- Screaming Jets and Webway Portal (no longer mutually exclusive, huzzah, though Screaming Jets is now one use only).
- Alliance of Agony (which you now get as well as the standard extra warlord trait option, so you can have up to five (!) traits in an army).
- Torturer’s Craft (now only 1CP if you use it on Wracks with 10 or fewer models).
Experts may recognise that as pretty much the sum of the key Drukhari toolkit, and that isn’t even exhaustive – there’s basically no stratagem we can ever remember using that isn’t still here in some form.
Eviscerating Fly-by is also back and needs its own mention, because it got a major buff. You still roll a d6 for every model in a Wych Cult unit that FLYs over the enemy, but now deal a mortal for each 5+ (or 4+ against INFANTRY). Unlike a lot of mortal strats in 9th this isn’t capped, which makes it absurdly good – 20 Hellion squads look extremely competitive now, and this lets them do an average of 10 mortals to an INFANTRY squad. There’s no modifier for CHARACTERs or anything, so you can just slam this button to straight delete a key buff model, and do horrific damage to units like Blightlords leaning on trivial defences like “high Toughness” or “good saves”, like the cowards they are.
There’s still space for some new toys as well, and the most exciting of these are probably Murderous Descent, Potent Metallotoxins and Prey on the Weak. Murderous Descent lets you disembark your units from a Transport (>9” from the enemy) immediately after it arrives as Reinforcements for 1CP. This is fantastic – it lets you potentially bundle units up in Reinforcements for 1CP, charge straight from Deep Strike with melee units that you aren’t confident will always want to leap straight on the board, and more subtly lets you get an extra 3” of reach when coming in from Strategic Reserves, which can allow you to do some sneaky things around reaching Objectives when coming in off a board edge. You may wonder why you’d be coming in from reserves and not Screaming Jets, and that could be thanks to the Poisoned Tongue stratagem or the new Swift Outflanking stratagem, which allows a transport within 9″ of the board edge to jump back into reserves mid game.
Potent Metallotoxins gives you a way to take down VEHICLES if all you have is poison – for 2CP it lets a unit use those weapons to full effect against a VEHICLE for a phase (though note that it still excludes TITANIC, so no burning down Knights with acid bullets). This is great if you’ve got some splinter fire left that you need to clear a key target with, and also for Wracks trying to tear down a tank – the only tragic thing is that it doesn’t work on Relics, so the Tryptych Succubus can’t just straight up punk a Leman Russ (which she would mathematically if this worked on her, that thing is wild).
Finally, Prey on the Weak is a cool new trick that lets a CORE unit go for the throat on something that’s looking a bit worse for wear. For 1CP, you get re-roll 1s to hit against a unit that’s below its starting strength or full re-rolls to hit on a unit below half strength. Sometimes you just need something dead, and having this help to go the final stretch against a key target is very valuable given how reasonably priced it is.
There’s a few other bits and pieces available, but these are the ones that we’re most excited about. The Drukhari stratagem sheet is fantastic – it gives you tools for pretty much everything you want to do on the table, and is going to keep your models moving fast and reaping souls. Top stuff.
Rather than the six choices most books get, Drukhari get three for each subfaction. While the names of these are the same as they were in 8th, most of them have changed in important ways.
For Archons, Hatred Eternal is the most straightforward choice, letting them re-roll hit rolls and wound rolls (exceptional with the Djin Blade). This is also Drazhar’s mandatory trait, which makes him into an absolute terror, but there’s no way to combine him being Warlord with a Realspace Raid, so getting it on him has a high cost. Soul Thirst is a sidegrade from 8th, now adding an additional attack regardless of whether you charged and regaining a wound whenever any enemy model within 6” is destroyed, but limiting it to 1 wound regained per turn. Finally, Ancient Evil lets you choose a unit within engagement range and make them ineligible to fight until all of your units have fought – certainly decent if you’re planning to get into it.
Most Succubi will wind up taking the Precision Blows trait, which allows them to deal mortal wounds equal to the damage characteristic of their weapon on an unmodified 6 to hit. Taken on a Succubus with the Tryptych Whip or some other source of extra attacks, this can quickly spiral out of control and turn your Succubus into an incredibly powerful Character hunter. The other traits aren’t bad, but have trouble competing: Quicksilver Fighter gives you 2 more attacks to work with, while Stim Addict has you roll 2 dice on the Combat Drugs table and apply the results, re-rolling 6s or results you’ve gotten from the datasheet ability.
Wings: Precision Blows is absolutely wild, and combining it with the Tryptych Whip and the +1A drug is truly stupid and needs only a minor spike to just straight up instakill most characters, no matter what defences they’re packing. It’s also super relevant in the current metagame because it effectively bypasses Disgustingly Resilient – the change to the weapon’s damage is applied at the point an unsaved wound is assigned to a model, and the attack sequence here never gets that far. It also lets the whip get some damage through against VEHICLES, pretty much the only thing it’s not absurd at normally. An incredibly, amazingly dumb ability that you should take a lot.
Haemonculi have two traits worth considering: the Master Regenesist trait is an interesting choice if you’re fielding a lot of pain engines, as it upgrades your Fleshcraft ability to heal 3 wounds rather than d3. Alternatively, Master Artisan increases your Haemonculus’s survivability by adding 1 to toughness and wounds. Master Nemesine seems good at first, as its +1 to wound rolls is typically a great effect. There’s just one problem: all the weapons you care about have the Poisoned Weapon (x+) trait, which only functions on unmodified rolls. Even in the event of an errata correcting this oversight, it’s a bit whatever – Haemonculi aren’t so good in melee that this will be at the top of your list. Honestly – these are a little lacklustre compared to almost everything else in this absurd book, so you’re probably looking elsewhere (either at subfactions or the Master Haemoculus) for this pick when you Alliance of Agony.
There are three choices here worth talking about. First, the Helm of Spite is back as the sole source of denies in your entire book. As a bonus, anyone you successfully deny automatically suffers perils regardless of their roll. You’ll almost always want to include this in your lists as it’s really the only anti-psychic option you’ve got (though you may favour simply killing the psyker and eating their soul, as is tradition).
The Djin Blade is an upgrade for an Archon’s huskblade that improves the strength, AP, and damage by 1 each at the cost of having a 1-in-6 chance of dealing a mortal to you every time you use it. Now that Archons are legitimate combat threats, this is a great option to make them seriously scary against a wide variety of targets.
Finally, the Tryptych Whip is just plain good. It adds 3 attacks to your Succubus, pushing her to 9 attacks base (or 10 on the charge with Adrenalight), wounds on a 2+, and moves up to damage 2. Depending on what you’re trying to do, you might consider the Dancer’s Edge or, if you’re Red Grief, the Blood Glaive, but as a general rule this is what you’re taking on your Succubus.
There’s a few others in here but they’re kind of mediocre, and between the faction ones and the three above you’re rarely going to get deep enough into the list to give them another look. The relic pages are the sole thing in this book that feels like they were phoned in – there’s only 6, placed on a double-page spread with most of the space being taken up by a huge new art piece, which is very cool but does rather emphasise the lack.
The standout here is Herd the Prey, which is just a reskinned version of the Necrons’ Purge the Vermin – at the end of each battle round after the first, you score two points for each table quarter that your opponent does not have a unit wholly within. The Drukhari definitely bring the power necessary to take advantage of this ability, and the fact that it competes with Engage on All Fronts creates an interesting tension: do you rely on your superior mobility to score an all-but-guaranteed 3 points per round, or lean into your overwhelming offensive ability to try for 4 or even 6? The answer won’t be the same for every list or every opponent, and having the choice in playstyles is an interesting option.
Take Them Alive! is probably an interesting choice, though it appears to include a slight misprint. Assuming that it’ll be FAQ’d to apply at the end of every battle round rather than at the end of the battle, gaining 3 VP for destroying a Character or Monster in melee and an additional VP for destroying anything else in melee is better than it sounds – between your Wych Cult and Haemonculus Coven units, you’ve got some scary melee threats that will let you threaten to score this objective every round, especially once your ability to advance and charge switches on in round 2.
The remaining two objectives are a bit less useful. Fear and Terror could have some situational use due to the wide variety of effects in this book that impose penalties on Morale checks and Combat Attrition tests, but you’ll probably be better off with one of the above two choices – “hope you kill enough models, but not too many, and your opponent doesn’t just blow Insane Bravery, and also it’s useless against Death Guard and all Space Marines and anything that automatically passes Morale” makes for quite a narrow use case. Finally, Beasts for the Arenas is an extremely matchup-dependent pick: if you’re heavy on Wych Cults and your opponent has a lot of Monsters, Cavalry, or Beasts, this is a no-brainer. However, if you’re leaning more into the combined-arms approach that these rules encourage, you could easily find yourself denying yourself victory points if you kill something with Kabal or Coven units. Potentially extremely worth it against Tyranids, though – and if you see an opponent put down a Hierophant across the table from you, you are a coward for not trying to take it down with a Succubus in melee.
First things first – a reminder of general rules – everything in this book except Beasts now has Power from Pain, and the overwhelming majority also have Blade Artists (just the planes and part of the Court of the Archon miss out). Every Covens unit also has Insensible to Pain as part of their datasheet, while all Wych Cult units except Lelith have Combat Drugs.
We should also talk about CORE – which is ridiculously broad here. Everything except CHARACTERs, the various Beast units, Mandrakes and Vehicles get it. What was that? You were expecting another entry on that list? Talos, perhaps? Nope – they’re CORE. Elf bullshit is back.
Characters reshuffle a fair bit – Archons and Haemonculi are a bit less deadly on their base rates now (though the former can mitigate that a lot with relics) while Succubi and Drahzar have been juiced up to the moon.
Archons improve to a 4+ armour save like all Kabalites and their Overlord ability now affects <KABAL> CORE and INCUBI (though you’ll frequently trade this out for REALSPACE RAIDER CORE, which is usually even better). They also come with a power sword by default now, which is weird, though they retain all the old options as well. These have shuffled a bit – the huskblade no longer gives +1S, so is a fair bit less useful (though upgrading to the Djin Blade is phenomenal) while the venom blade gained a handy point of AP, plausibly making it the pick if you just want a very basic Archon with no upgrades. The Shadow Field also remains in all its swingy glory, and since a huge percentage of lists will take one of these for a Realspace Raid, look forward to being on either side of its wild variance a lot!
Succubi pick up 2 extra attacks, and their Brides of Death ability now allows <WYCH CULT> CORE units within 6” to re-roll wound rolls of 1 on melee attacks (handy, as it now stacks with Raid Mastermind). In addition, their Archite glaive has lost the penalty to hit, making it a lot more reliable, but is still D1. The real winner out of their basic options is the shardnet and impaler, which is AP-2 D2. Given they have 6A base, and can take Combat Drugs for a point of S, you can just straight up have 7 S4 AP-2 D2 attacks on this 60pt model before you even start upgrading her, which is vicious. Taking an extra Wych detachment just to get more of these honestly seems like a plausible play. No Escape has also received what is technically a sidegrade but is basically a net upside. The boost when you have a shardnet is no longer as extreme, but it now works on everything, so you can trap tanks to your heart’s wicked content. Your chance of winning the rolloff with a Shardnet is now around 2/3rds, so this is real handy. Succubi are absurdly good, pick them!
The Haemonculus gets an odd change in the context of the wider book – they lose an attack on their profile, but pick up an extra wound in exchange. They also have a fixed loadout, but it’s significantly improved (at least over their old base rate): the Haemonculus tools now have Poisoned Weapon (2+), and the Scissorhand gives an additional 2 attacks at AP-2, netting them out to an extra attack from their old profile. Finally, they pick up the Fleshcraft ability (as a replacement for the old stratagem), which lets them slap d3 lost wounds back on a Grotesque or Coven MONSTER within 3”. Losing customisation here hurts a fair bit – no more hexrifles and electrocorrosive whips means these aren’t going to be big damage dealers, so when you take one (as you frequently will) you should probably be looking at utility builds, for which the Master Haemonculus options are very strong.
Lelith Hesperax is a little weird, if we’re honest: she’s a Succubus with an extra attack and a power sword that gets additional hits on unmodified hit rolls of 6, which isn’t the most impressive profile, especially now that her Natural Perfection ability no longer lets her benefit from Combat Drugs. Instead, she gets to either charge in a turn when she Fell Back or Advanced, or fight again at the end of any Fight phase in which she kills at least one model. On the plus side, she can re-roll hit rolls and wound rolls against Characters, but her profile isn’t amazing for going headhunting. Mostly it seems kind of confused, like they couldn’t quite decide if Lelith was a duellist or a chaff-destroying whirlwind, and attempted half of both. If you’ve made her your warlord she does start to “get there” thanks to getting 3 extra hits on 6s, but you can’t upgrade Named Characters to Warlords with any of the straits, meaning you can only get that full blown power if you pass up both Realspace Raids or the choice to make Drahzar your warlord, and at that point the fact that basic Succubi are so very cheap and cheerful makes Lelith look a bit unnecessary. She also uses your Master Succubus slot for a detachment.
Speaking of Drazhar. Holy shit. This guy rules. He serves up either 5 attacks at strength 6 for 3 damage, or 7 attacks at strength 5 for 2 damage, and whichever one he chooses comes in at AP-3 and +1 to the wound roll. On defense, he’s got a 2+/4++ save profile and subtracts 1 damage from all incoming attacks. And if that’s not enough, he gets to fight twice in every Fight phase – even if he didn’t charge, and like all Incubi has a chance of forcing the enemy to Fight Last via the Tormentors tule. He’s 135pts, but worth every one of them. The one thing that might pump the brakes on him is that he straight up doesn’t fit into a Realspace Raid smaller than a Brigade – so you need to spend 2CP for an Auxiliary Support for him, or utilise Raiding Force to take multiple Patrols instead. Let’s hope his seriously upgraded profile bodes well for the Phoenix Lords (or should we say…. the other Phoenix Lords?) when they get revised.
Finally, Urien Rakarth has been busy in his lab grafting new rules onto his datasheet, keeping everything he had before and adding the new Fleshcraft rule as well as getting the Master Haemonculus ability via Sustained by Dark Science. He’s also picked up an extra wound and attack, as well as making the Casket of Flensing hit automatically, which moves it from “Why Is This Even Here” tier up to “Fuck It, Might As Well.” Fortunately, Master of Pain and Sculptor of Torments are still here, but they now only affect CORE units, though that still covers the key units of Grotesques and Talos, so it’s pretty much fine. Like Lelith, he is a Master, so uses that slot for your detachment. He gets the fewest changes of the named HQs and along with Prophets generally he’s a bit less essential than he used to be, but he’s still solid.
The HQ slot here rules. There’s a degree to which the basic Haemi and Archon are either buff characters or vessels to be infused with hilarious upgrades, but that’s absolutely fine given the choices you have access to. Meanwhile, Succubi and Drahzar absolutely rip, and the herohammer potential from this book is through the roof.
Every Troops choice here got a bunch better, and that’s awesome! Don’t forget that all of these can also be upgraded if you’ve brought the appropriate Master with you.
Kabalite Warriors picked up an extra attack and improved their save to 4+ – very nice given they’re still 8pts a shot. Nothing incredible here, but hopefully a 4+/6++ defensive profile helps make them a lot less fragile when they inevitably hit the table after their transport is blown up. Having Blade Artists as well as the extra attack also means they’re not totally harmless in melee any more, which helps if you need to push back against enemy chaff. The points increase they’ve taken on the base model since 2018 is more or less mitigated by the weapons getting generally cheaper than they were – a 5-model squad with a blaster was 47pts when the 8th book landed, and now it’s 50pts and your guys are all way better, so overall things are looking good for the Kabals.
Your Wyches have been in training all that time they’ve spent on your shelf, and have come back with some nasty tricks. With an extra attack base and -1 AP baked into their Hekatarii blades, they’re already a lot more threatening even before you look at their special weapons, and remember that Combat Drugs are now free-picked, so they can all be S4 if you have multiple units. The Shardnet and Impaler and Hydra gauntlets each picked up a point of AP to move to AP-2, and the hydras now give +2 strength instead of re-rolling wound rolls. Razorflails now double your attacks but no longer allow you to re-roll hit rolls. The weirdest bit here is the way you get those weapons, though: for every 10 models in the squad, you can take one of each. This means you get twice as many Wych weapons in a full squad of 20, but won’t be able to load up on a particular choice like you could before. Their special rules also remain, meaning they have a 4+ invulnerable save in melee and the same modified version of No Escape as Succubi get.
Wyches absolutely rule – your basic unit of 10 is tossing out 41 attacks, probably at S4, for only 100pts, and the upgrades are pretty strong. Expect to see them everywhere.
The biggest change to Wracks is the change to Insensible to Pain: rather than starting the game with a 5+ invulnerable and 6+ ignore wound, those things are now reversed. A few of their weapons have changed as well: the Hexrifle has improved to S6 AP-2 damage 2, the Liquifier gun is up to 12” range, strength 4, and a fixed AP-2, and the Ossefactor has gained a point of damage but lost its mortal wounds gimmick. Wracks are definitely a little harder to use than they were as Prophets of Flesh in the old book, but they’re super cheap at 8pts each, and moderately durable ObSec models that can do actions are at least pretty good for 9th edition, and they even get AP-1 on their weapons to help them pile on a bit more hurt.
The overall upshot here is that all of these feel valid (a real theme for the book), which is great for providing you with a broad array of listbuilding options. Realspace Raids are extremely good, so expect to see at least one of each of these in many lists, and it feels like you could build wider around any of them.
The Court of the Archon is a new datasheet that serves as a home for the various weirdos who could serve as your Archon’s retinue before. As you’d expect, there are 4 different types. Each one is a 0-4 choice, though the unit must have at least 4 models – so you can bring one of each, or go ham on just one type, or mix and match as you please. Ur-Ghuls and Medusae are unchanged, while Sslyths and Lhamaeans are a bit different. The lizardfolks are down to toughness 3 from their previous 5, but their Cold-Blooded Bodyguard ability now makes your Archon untargetable so long as they’re within 3” of a unit with any Sslyths in it. Meanwhile, the Lhamaean picks up the ability to give Archons and Kabalite Trueborn the ability to automatically wound the target with poisoned weapons on an unmodified 6 to hit. The fun thing here is that you just need a Lhamaean or Sslyth in the unit to get their respective effects, but the aura is measured from the unit. This means you can, as one example, stack a bunch of cheap Ur-Ghuls to extend its effect. It feels likely that the best way to use this is to find one of these models that you really want four of, and take exactly four of them plus maybe an Ur-ghul to soak wounds. None of this is super cheap, so with the rest of the book being extremely strong it’s kind of skippable – but four Ur-Ghuls or four Medusae both line up some offensive output.
Moving on from the Archon’s personal zoo of freaks and geeks, we’re going to the opposite end of the spectrum with the professional mercenaries of Commoragh, the
Striking Scorpions Incubi. Incubi rule now. Not only have their Klaives picked up an extra strength and damage, their Tormentors have completely changed: now, they single out an enemy unit within engagement range and roll 2d6 against the target’s Ld. If they rolled higher, that enemy unit is not eligible to fight until all eligible units from your army have fought. Add to this the fact that you now have a way to reliably get them re-rolls to hit with a Realspace Raiders detachment (and re-roll 1s is enough for them now that they’re WS2+ base) and you’re cooking with gas.
Mandrakes can no longer natively deep strike – instead, they can set up anywhere on the board more than 9” from the enemy’s deployment zone. Additionally, once per game, you can remove them from the board during your movement phase and then, in your next turn, set them back up anywhere 9” away from enemy models. At 75pts for a minimum unit, that makes them exceptional Deploy Scramblers fodder, meaning you’ll probably see a unit slotted into lots of armies.
Grotesques get an extra point of strength on their Flesh gauntlets and extra damage on their Monstrous cleavers. Given they were already excellent, and the fact that as multi-wound models they’re winners from the improved Feel No Pain, they’re going to continue to be a great choice. They’re also big winners from the new version of Dark Technomancers if you’re that way inclined, as they can all pack Liquifier guns, which gives you a nasty spike out of deep strike.
For a faction so themed around mobility it’s always been a bit weird that (other than the beasts) there are only three slots here. Luckily, all of these absolutely rule now.
Before we talk about the good stuff, let’s cover off the beasts quickly. The entire Wych Circus is back, and mostly unchanged. Beastmasters (which technically sit in the Elites slot, but are slotless assuming you bring a BEASTS unit to go with them) go to toughness 4 and gain the ability to pick a BEAST within 6” once per turn and let it Advance and Charge. You’re also now limited to three Beast units per each Beastmaster in your detachment, but that probably won’t be an issue – these are, bluntly, very skippable, and if you’re taking them at all it’s probably tiny units to occupy space. A Beastmaster and some minimum units is pretty cheap – but so is just taking more Troops, and it’s pretty clear that these are mostly meant to be thematic options.
On to better things. Scourges pick up an extra attack, and their Ghostplate Armour ability improves to a 5+ invulnerable save. Offensively, there’s some sidegrading going on – a lot of their key weapons have become Heavy but they can now get re-roll 1s to hit in a Realspace Raid and re-roll 1s to wound with an appropriately-equipped Black Heart Archon. Gun-wise, dark lances have gone to 3+d3 damage (which rules), heat lances are newly Heavy but also now S8 and always get +2 to damage rolls (which also rules) and Haywire has changed significantly. Renamed to “Drukhari haywire blaster” to avoid confusion with other, lesser, haywire blasters, it’s now Heavy, and S3 AP-3 Dd3, but against VEHICLES always wounds on an unmodified 4+ and does an extra d3 mortals on a 6 to wound. Heavy isn’t ideal for Scourges, but the other changes net out to a positive, if not here then for Talos. You no longer chip vehicles to death with a drizzle of mortal wounds, but putting through AP-3 damage d3 shots on a 4+ that still get d3 mortals on a 6 works out better overall.
Since this is the first relevant place to talk about the changes to dark lances, heat lances, and haywire blasters we’ve picked them up here, but the most obvious down-the-line play for Scourges is just running them with four of the humble blasters and dropping into a Black Heart Raid Mastermind’s bubbles. You may well want to explore other options, but blaster Scourges are a neat 100pts and it’s hard not to see value out of that.
Reavers have picked up a whole bunch of support from various cults and get a couple of datasheet upgrades – an extra attack and their bladevanes becoming S+1 rather than flat S4, allowing you to drug them up if you need to. They also get access to the spicy new heat lance profile, which is surprisingly cheaper than the blaster so very good here, since as bikers they’re a lot less bothered about Heavy. These are going to be a complete menace because of how fast they are (and army wide Advance and Charge from turn 2), and can do some real damage with both melee and shooting – six of them with two heat lances is genuinely worth considering the +1 BS drug, especially if you’re able to keep them hovering in a Raid Mastermind’s hit re-roll aura. Also, since people will complain if we don’t mention it – yes the book has them written down as 10pts, but that’s still clearly a mistake and as far as we’re concerned overwritten by the updated field manual (all other points in that for Drukhari match the new book, so it’s clear the mistake was just copied over in the first pass of that). We know this won’t stop certain members of the community from loudly insisting they be allowed to play 10pt Reavers until once again told not to, but just know that we’ll be shaking our heads disdainfully.
Last, but good lord not least, Hellions. These might just be the single most improved unit in the book, and are just monstrous. They’re 17pts each and have gone to 2W, T4 and 3A base, and their hellglaive has a point of AP now. These are just brutally, brutally good on rate, fast, deadly and easily the best users of Eviscerating Fly-by. They even put out a horrifying hail of splinter fire. These are easily good enough to see play in units of 20, and are even INFANTRY to boot, so can cheerfully charge through BREACHABLE walls, or even do actions if you somehow manage to run out of things for them to kill. Why not.
Talos haven’t changed on the stat line, but all of their key weapons have. Looking at shooting first, there’s big changes to the Drukhari haywire blaster and the heat lance, as discussed under the Scourge section. A volley of either of these is now incredibly destructive – and don’t forget that in a Realspace Raid, they can even get re-rolls to hit, a welcome improvement to their sometimes very swingy shooting output.
Moving on to melee, there’s subtler but important changes that serve to make Talos a little less good at their key role of “hit things” – chain-flails no longer re-roll wounds, and macro-scalpels now require a pair to get the additional attack. It’s a bit of a shame to see both lose some output, and of course Talos are a bit more fragile now, trading the old Prophets 4+ invulnerable save for a maximum 5+ invulnerable save coming quite late in the game. Like other Covens units they do benefit from the improvement to a 5+ Feel No Pain, but they’re still overall a little less tough than they were. Being CORE and able to pick up a re-roll aura does help to mitigate that, however.
Cronos also see some improvements, with their ranged weapons coming up to strength 5. In addition, the “healing” gimmick that was formerly part of the Spirit Probe’s effect is now baked into their datasheet in the form of the Reservoir of Pain ability. This no longer goes off on unsaved wounds, instead requiring the Cronos to actually kill an enemy model. However, for each model it kills, it can heal a model from a nearby Drukhari Core unit or, if the unit doesn’t have any wounded models, bring one back with 1 wound. More exciting is that the Spirit Probe is now just a flat buff aura, providing melee re-roll 1s to wound for CORE and CHARACTER units within 6”. This means that having one of these floating with your Talos is fantastic now, and they’re also as good as ever with Technomancers due to some of their shots being auto-hit.
Ravagers pick up an extra wound on top of the dark lance changes. As a bonus, Shock Prows are actually interesting now, despite being gated behind a strat, allowing you to either ram another vehicle for d3 mortals or Comorragh Drift into other units and roll for every model in Engagement Range. Not having CORE holds these back quite a bit, as you have so much good stuff to choose from, but having one to fly around the back peppering shot isn’t going to be too bad – and at least dark lances, the iconic Drukhari weapon, are no longer irrelevant.
Drukhari have always excelled at transport-heavy builds, especially built around Venoms, and up front there’s a great change here – both flavours of transport got +1 capacity, meaning you can now take a character alongside a 5- or 10-model unit. This is exceptionally welcome, and makes these even easier to use. They’re also still not faction locked, so if you want to ferry Wyches around in Kabalite Raiders, go wild.
On the models themselves, the Raider got the bigger glow-up here, going to base T6 and benefitting massively from dark lances being worthwhile. Now they hit like a truck, having lots of single shots of these scattered around is genuinely handy, especially as Black Heart or Obsidian Rose. The disintegrator is still a fine choice too, and now that there’s real motivation to take 10 model units expect to see these quite a bit more (especially as the base build of 85pts is very cheap). In Black Heart, where they have Advance and Charge from turn one, having one around also lets you pull a mean trick with Enhanced Aethersails – you can fire one of these 22” out the gate and still charge, potentially locking down a valuable shooting unit if your opponent hasn’t been careful.
Venoms love the extra capacity, and splinter cannons being a bit meaner now is good for them, but they’re surprisingly pricy – buying two splinter cannons puts these on the same 85pts price tag as the base Raider. They’re still pretty good with the right Obsession, but if you just want the ability to ferry stuff around the Raider is now in much closer contention. Losing the ability to get a 6+ feel no pain from Black Heart hits these especially hard.
One final thing worth calling out here is that some of the upgrades have changed a bit, and Chain Snares in particular look like a decent way to dump 5pts now, just giving you +3A. This takes either vehicle to 6A, which is not bad for chipping off the odd wound here and there, especially once Flensing Fury switches on. Finally, something neat for all Drukhari vehicles is that they no longer crumple to melee quite so much – as new beneficiaries of the Power from Pain table, they get a regular 6+ invulnerable save on top of their Flickerfield/Night Shield, improving to 5+ in round 4 (or 3, for Black Heart ones).
Transports – still good. Nuclear hot elf takes right here.
Ah planes. Poor, “innocent” victims of 9th edition’s major changes, and generally a much smaller part of the metagame than they once were. There’s no massive divergence from that here – these are probably closer to something you want than a lot of AIRCRAFT (especially as some faction traits work well on them), but entirely skippable if you’re not interested.
The Razorwing remains a reasonably cheap and cheerful shooting platform, benefitting heavily from the dark lance change, but if you just want to pack some extra shots in a Ravager that can also sit back on a home objective feels like a better place to be.
The Voidraven is pricier but maybe a bit more compelling just because the bomb has changed to be very spooky indeed. Rather than dropping on a single unit, it now drops on a point you’ve moved over and you roll for every unit within 6”, dealing d6 mortals on a 4+ (-1 to the roll for a CHARACTER). The potential there is absolutely massive, and the sheer psychological impact of having it available is going to be a big deal in some games. The plane gets improved versions of its boosted darklight weaponry alongside this, and the missiles have gotten nastier, so while you’re paying a somewhat eye-watering 200pts for the whole package, you do get power for that price.
In a book that has some extremely pushed choices these are kind of meh – you aren’t going to hate sneaking one into lists, but the absurd cornucopia of choices you have elsewhere means you frequently won’t bother.
How They’ll Play
Drukhari end up as the complete opposite of Death Guard – your units are all extremely fragile (though on that note – ask Jack how “fragile” he thinks Haemoxytes are!), but they’re lightning fast, can come in pretty decent numbers and the best of them hit like absolute monster trucks. You want to lean into this hard – the way you’re going to win games with the Drukhari is by lashing out with devastating punches that leverage transports, Incubi and the Wych cult units to tear brutal chunks out of your opponent’s forces. To anchor this, you have the choice of either lots of pesty units flitting about in transports or some sterner stuff out of the Covens, backed up either way by some absolutely nightmarish characters scattered around them, waiting to countercharge an incautious foe and rip them into tiny little pieces.
It plays like Drukhari should, basically!
Wings: This book is an absolute triumph, for me knocking Death Guard off the podium as the highest quality book so far in 9th. There’s power here in spades, you’re provided with an astounding array of valid choices, and the book feels like it actively wants you to experiment with all the different delights it has to offer. Selfishly (as we’ll see in a second) my most beloved army archetype gets some excellent support here, and I look forward to unleashing it on opponents post-haste. It also leaves me tremendously excited to see how 9th is going to bloom now we’re out of the mandatory start-of-edition Space Marine churn and hit the real factions for cool people.
I could go into more detailed thoughts but I honestly don’t know how I’d fit them all in, and I suspect I’ll be writing a lot about the various nonsense this book enables once it hits the tournament scene.
Fundamentally – if I had access to a kabalite raiding force all of my own, I’d be sending them up to Nottingham right now to make sure whoever was responsible for this masterpiece was forced at splinterpoint to work on any and all future Aeldari books.
Condit: I am absolutely in love with this book. Even as I was reading through it for the first time, my mind was instantly aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. There are just tons of options here, and landing on the list I want to run out of the gate honestly took longer than I expected.
Doubling down on what Wings said, this feels like a set of rules that is designed to actively encourage you to try out new and unusual strategies, and there are plenty of options here to build those strategies out of. This is definitely a set of rules that will require some finesse to get the most out of, but that’s OK. All in all, I’m hopeful that future releases have me as excited to see them hit the table as this one does.
Corrode: The other Goonhammer team members have spent recent days listening to me bang on and on about this book, and for that I pity them – though of course as a good Drukhari Archon I feed on their pain. Let’s just say that I’m thrilled by this book, which is a huge improvement over the 8th edition one – which wasn’t a bad codex for its time but was definitely showing its limitations by the last year or so of 8th edition.
Unlike Wings I’m going to permit myself some reasonably lengthy thoughts here. What do I think is so great about this? Firstly, just echoing what the other guys have said – the depth of choice available here is just incredible, and a gigantic step forwards from the previous rules. A fundamental problem for Drukhari was that their weird gimmick of having three different mini-armies didn’t sit easily in the 8th edition framework that wanted you to have pure Detachments to get most of the good rules. Raiding Force was clearly intended to get around this, but it didn’t quite get there, especially since right after the old codex came out we got the CP changes to Battalions which made them almost always a better choice. What this meant was that Drukhari list-building became pretty boring by the end, with endless slight reshuffles of the same few units, and heavy limitations imposed by how thin the roster is if you’re looking at it from the point of view of only Kabals or only Cults or only Covens. This particular Gordian Knot has been sliced through in decisive fashion by Realspace Raiders, which puts those issues to bed in a way which is simultaneously thematic, flexible, and has a few hidden limitations that are just meaningful enough to make it not be a de facto requirement for list building. It’s a big win that has me absolutely fizzing with ideas for list-building, and trying out new things that just wouldn’t have been possible before.
The other aspect here is of course that so many units are just better than they were. Most of the old mainstays are still great, but the stuff that was borderline or mediocre before has almost all been brought up, sometimes in spectacular fashion – as someone who has coveted Incubi rules that matched their awesome models for the past 10 years, I am so glad for them to finally be the murderous killers they ought to be, not to mention the huge improvement on Hellions and even just regular Wyches. Scourges also have had a lift – they came up every so often in lists before, and our own Wings briefly had a run of using 15 of them, but for the first time I can remember they look genuinely great. All that means you not only have a much easier time building lists that include a diverse part of the range, you also actually want those units on the table in the first place.
Like any set of rules, there are of course a few misses. This is going to sound a bit like a guy with a mouthful of cake complaining he doesn’t have enough ice cream, but it’s worth discussing the missteps in this otherwise astounding book. Firstly, it’s a shame that Drazhar is nearly impossible to fit into a Realspace Raid, certainly at 2,000pts. You can just about squeeze in a Brigade if you really want to, or you can bring him in an Auxiliary Support, but it’s untidy and slightly odd when so much work has been done to ensure you’re not messing about contorting the detachment system just to put the army on the table.
Secondly, for me Archons just don’t quite get there in terms of melee potential – they’re no longer awful at it, but they would have probably benefited from an extra point of damage on each of their melee weapons to make sure they had enough punch to matter. As it is, there’s lots of options that encourage you to build a melee-centred Archon, but since they’re all relics and Warlord traits they tend to be mutually exclusive. Relatedly, it’s clear that part of the point was to get away from the old “Black Heart Archon babysitting three Ravagers as far from the action as possible” thing, but the (very welcome!) Raid Mastermind rules and the new spin on Writ of the Living Muse end up encouraging much the same play, just with a slightly remixed set of units.
On the subject of Ravagers, and to a lesser extent Razorwings, there’s some clear mental hangover going on with these, and it seems like they didn’t get the same kind of fundamental rethink that was applied to other units in the book. It’s absolutely true that 125pt dissie Ravagers which could make use of Doom and Jinx were too much, but that was also now nearly 2 years ago – here in 2021 they are 140pts without CORE, with disintegrators adding another 15pts on top despite dark lances being arguably the better choice again now that they are d3+3 damage; the low shot count is also potentially better for making use of their one available source of re-rolls, the Black Heart or Obsidian Rose traits.
Finally, there is a little bit of rules fatigue in actually using a Realspace Raid, and in particular all the potential overlapping auras and the slightly different ways they affect different units. A regular Archon’s re-roll 1s to hit Overlord aura hits <KABAL> CORE and INCUBI. A Raid Mastermind buffs REALSPACE RAIDER CORE instead (but not specifically Incubi). A Black Heart one can additionally have the re-roll 1s to wound aura from Writ of the Living Muse, which affects KABAL OF THE BLACK HEART CORE and also, if in a Realspace Raid, BLADES FOR HIRE. What this means is:
- A regular Archon gives re-roll 1s to hit to their Kabal, and all INCUBI units (including Drazhar, who we’ll assume has somehow fit into the raid in the first place)
- A Raid Mastermind gives re-roll 1s to hit to all REALSPACE RAIDER CORE units, which means lots of things that normally don’t get them (Covens and Wych Cult units, all the Blades for Hire except Mandrakes, and now not Drazhar)
- A Black Heart Raid Mastermind with Writ of the Living Muse gives re-roll 1s to wound to all KABAL OF THE BLACK HEART CORE and also BLADES FOR HIRE units – so not quite a lot of the things that benefit from Raid Mastermind, but now Drazhar is back in, as are Mandrakes
Pushed to its logical conclusion, with a build which you’ll see in the list section is not particularly extreme, this means that you can have a Black Heart Archon standing in range of a unit of Mandrakes, a unit of Talos, and a unit of Kabalite Warriors, and all three of those units benefit from different combinations of his auras – and of course he himself doesn’t, but he does get the free hit re-roll from the Obsession. It’s a lot to explain to someone unfamiliar with the codex, and a lot for either player to keep track of moment to moment in a game. The reason I keep mentioning Drazhar is that it seems like GW themselves sort of forgot about him – it’s fairly rare in 9th codexes that a character can be affected by auras and he gains and loses their effects depending on which way the keywords change.
To some extent this is the price of the otherwise fantastic ability to make best use of all your options that Realspace Raid gives, but let’s just say I’ll be completely unsurprised when it turns out that a GT winner was re-rolling wounds for his Talos all the way through a tournament or giving Mandrakes re-rolls to hit or something.
Overall though these are nitpicky complaints, and if you’re reading this – be in no doubt that I love this book, and can’t wait to rack up dozens of games with it. Whoever is responsible for this one should give themselves a pat on the back, if only to check for the knife plunged into it by a rival Archon.
Condit’s Tantalus List
One of the first things that occurred to me when reading these new rules was that Kabalite Trueborn in a transport would be pretty nasty, even if you take the heavy weapon. Their ability to ignore penalties to hit would let them punch up aggressively even on a mobile firebase, and taking them in Flayed Skull would let the splinter rifles ignore cover.
Backing that up, I’ve got Coven of Twelve units, who bring AP-2 Wracks and AP-1 chainflails on the Talos, giving me a few options to threaten the mid-table. Red Grief Wyches get remarkably consistent charges starting in Round 2 between the +2 to advance rolls and re-rolling charges.
My plan is to load the Trueborn, Incubi, and Drazhar, into the Tantalus, then move it up aggressively to contest objectives. Drazhar and the Incubi will pile out at the earliest opportunity, while the Trueborn combine their fire with the Tantalus’s pulse disintegrators to take out key targets. The Coven units will provide a somewhat more durable set of units that can hold objectives, and the Bloodbrides can flip a key objective when I need it.
Realspace Raid Battalion – Flayed Skull, Red Grief, Coven of Twelve
- Master Archon (85 pts)
- Venom Blade
- Blast Pistol
- Consummate Weaponmaster
- The Obsidian Veil
- Master Succubus (75 pts)
- Archite Glaive
- Tryptych Whip
- Precision Blows
- Master Haemonculus (100 pts)
- Helm of Spite
- Twisted Animator
- 10x Kabalite Warriors (135 pts)
- Kabalite Trueborn
- 2x Blasters
- Dark Lance
- 10x Wyches (130 pts)
- Hekatrix Bloodbrides
- 1x Shardnet & Impaler
- 10x Haemoxcytes (100 pts)
- 5x Wracks (40 pts)
- 5x Incubi (80 pts)
- 20x Hellions (340 pts)
- 2x Talos (220 pts)
- Splinter Cannons
- Cronos (85 pts)
- Spirit Probe
- Spirit Vortex
- Tantalus (310 pts)
- Raider (90 pts)
- Venom (75 pts)
- 1x Splinter Cannon
Auxiliary Support Detachment (-2 CP)
- Drazhar (135 pts)
Corrode’s Realspace Raid
This one is a fairly simple concept – I started by thinking about how to jam in the maximum number of blasters in a Realspace Raid, and went from there. I could squeeze in one more Kabalite Warriors squad for this, but I don’t think the trade is worth it. The basic concept here is to pour out a huge amount of darklight, particularly once the Scourges hit the board, while the melee elements break heads and keep things away from the precious boats. Haemoxytes are great for sitting tight and holding up an objective, and can even reasonably go off and fight things with their new and improved AP-1 Wrack blades. You put down a lot of bodies, a lot of hulls, and a whole lot of firepower, a few tricks with the Mandrake redeploys, and still get some extremely potent melee in the form of the Incubi and Talos – what’s not to love?
Realspace Raiders Battalion
Kabals – Black Heart
Cults – Cult of Strife
Covens – Artists of the Flesh
-1CP Alliance of Agony
-2CP 2x Prizes from the Dark City
Master Archon, venom blade, warlord – 80, Writ of the Living Muse, Consummate Weaponmaster
Master Haemonculus – 100, Twisted Animator, Poisoner’s Ampule
Master Succubus – 75, Precision Blows, Triptych Whip, Adrenalight
10 Trueborn, 2 blasters, 1 dark lance – 135
5 Kabalite Warriors, blaster – 50
5 Kabalite Warriors, blaster – 50
10 Hekatrix Bloodbrides – 120, Grave Lotus
9 Haemoxytes – 90
5 Incubi – 80
5 Incubi – 80
5 Mandrakes – 75
5 Mandrakes – 75
5 Scourges, 4 blasters – 100
5 Scourges, 4 blasters – 100
5 Scourges, 4 blasters – 100
2 Talos, each with 2x haywire blasters, chain-flail, macro-scalpel – 220
Venom – 75
Venom – 75
Venom – 75
Venom – 75
Raider, dark lance – 85
Raider, dark lance – 85
We (as in the elf-lovers, everyone else is cowering) are absolutely over the god-damned moon with this book, and can’t wait to get onto the tabletop with it. It’s an absolute slam dunk, and we firmly hope every army gets this amount of love in their 9th Edition update. Comments, questions and suggestions to email@example.com.