Codex Grey Knights – 9th Edition: The Goonhammer Review

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Too long have Daemons terrorized the tables of 9th Edition uncontested. Wreathed in silver fire, the Knights of Titan have finally burst forth from the warp, ready to channel all their might and mastery into obliterating warp spawned fiends (and anyone else who gets in their way).

Alongside their dark counterparts the Thousand Sons, Grey Knights are about to get a new, upgraded codex, and Games Workshop have kindly sent us a review copy so we can give you a prognostication of the future. Let’s dig into it and see what the omens hold!

Why Play Grey Knights?

Grey Knights offer you a highly elite army that trades off the durability of factions like Custodes and Death Guard for a heady mixture of psychic might and mobility. Outside of a few imported vehicles from Codex Marines, every unit in this army is both a Psyker and has the built-in ability to Teleport Strike onto the battlefield (even some of the ones that were missing it in 8th). This allows you to launch devastating assaults over the course of the second and third turns of the game, sending probing daggers into any position where they’re weak and obliterating their finest units with a hail of Smites and other powers. Once that initial onslaught has softened the enemy up, most of the units are deadly melee combatants as well, and are more than capable of putting any survivors to the sword. No witnesses. This army rewards players who want a relatively small force with the ability to launch devastating alpha strikes, and one that rewards careful positioning and judicious force allocation.

What’s in this Book?

  • Lore for the Knights of Titan
  • Rules for building an army of Grey Knights including, for the first time, special rules for each of the eight Brotherhoods that make up the order.
  • New rules for upgrading your characters with gifts from the Prognosticars, offering gifts of foresight to swing the battle at key moments.
  • Crusade rules, including the ability to create and hunt a custom Daemonic Nemesis.
  • All the Stratagems, Traits, Relics and Chapter Approved Rules you’d expect, plus two Psychic Disciplines – Sanctic and Dominus.
  • Datasheets for the full range of Grey Knight units.

The Five Best Things About This Book

Grey Knight - Justicar

Grey Knight – Justicar
Credit: Pendulin

  • Strike Marines: Grey Knights finally join the 2W club, and come with better weaponry, full Smite and more attacks to boot, leaving them (and the other units that share their statline) as a force to be reckoned with, and really feeling like the elite killers they should be.
  • Dreadknights: Grand Master Dreadknights have stayed awesome, but the regular flavour has received a massive boost (including the CORE keyword) that makes them a serious contender.
  • Customisation: You get a bunch of options for how to upgrade your characters and nearly every unit can mix and match its equipment, giving you loads of ways to optimise your list to face any foe.
  • Brotherhoods: More options are always welcome, and there are some cool choices here to really amp up some key units.
  • Kaldor Draigo: Still an absolute beast, maybe even more so. Just in case you were worried.

Where’s Crusade?

As ever, for both this book and the Thousand Sons we’ll be bringing you a separate Crusade review next week, so check that out if you want to discover whether your Brother Captain is a bad enough dude to hunt a Bloodthirster.

The Rules

Detachment Rules

As standard, to benefit from lots of the army’s rules your list needs to include one or more Grey Knight Detachments, i.e. detachments that only contain units with the Grey Knights, Agent of the Imperium or Unaligned keyword. Grey Knight detachments have a couple of limitations:

  • Your list can only include one Grand Master and one Brother Captain from each BROTHERHOOD, and each detachment can only contain one of each of these. These are legendary heroes, not dime-a-dozen Space Marine captains!.
  • If your army is Battle Forged, each detachment can only include models from one BROTHERHOOD, the new sub-factions.

All units in Grey Knight detachments gain The Aegis (discussed below), and detachments where all models are from the same BROTHERHOOD (with the exception of Honoured Knights units, this book’s equivalent of Blades for Hire or Dynastic Agent) become a Brotherhood of Psykers, unlocking extra rules depending on which Brotherhood was chosen.

Finally, if your whole army is Grey Knights (with the same exceptions as above) you unlock the returning Masters of the Warp ability, allowing you to amplify your forces with a choice of five shifting Tides.

Army-wide Rules

The Aegis

The Aegis is the replacement for the old Brotherhood of Psykers rule, and gives all Grey Knights Psykers +1 to their Deny the Witch attempts (which returns from 8th) and all units a 5+ ignore wounds against mortal wounds, replacing the old +1 to cast. Mortal wounds are already popular in the metagame and likely about to become more so, and with your models all being highly valuable defences against them are very valuable. No longer getting cast boosts particularly stings with some reasonably meaty warp charge values on key powers, and it’s worth saying up front – this codex represents a pretty substantial upheaval to the faction, with quite a few of the tools they relied on in 8th changed or removed. There are some cool new options to replace them, and the baseline quality of some models has gone up a lot, but if you played the Grey Knights heavily in the glorious window between Ritual of the Damned and the pandemic starting, you should probably steel yourself for some disappointments as you go through this book for the first time.

Nemesis and Psi Weapons

Grey Knights have lots of abilities that key off either Nemesis weapons (most of their melee options) or Psi weapons (their two special ranged weapons and the upgraded versions on Dreadknights). These are defined in the codex for clarity’s sake, though it’s pretty obvious which are which. Sadly, Psybolt Ammunition no longer makes bolt weapons count as Psi.

Masters of the Warp

A big part of Grey Knights’ late-8th glow-up was the addition of the Masters of the Warp ability, and it’s back, still as their “pure” bonus for armies entirely made up of GREY KNIGHTS units (with the normal exclusions for UNALIGNED and AGENT OF THE IMPERIUM). This ability gives you access to five different Tides of the Warp that provide a bonus for every Psyker in your army. You select one of these to be active at the start of the first battle round, and can change to a different one later on with the Warp Shaping power (with a new rider that you can’t switch back to one that was active earlier in the battle).

Source: Warhammer Community

Experts may have already spotted that there’s one more of these than in 8th, and most of there are some substantial changes afoot for the former Tides, too. Your options are:

 

  • Tide of Convergence: boosts the range of Psi weapons and allows Nemesis weapons to score mortal wounds on an unmodified 6 to wound.
  • Tide of Celerity: Means that any 1s or 2s you roll when Advancing or Charging count as a 3. Strong when you want to go fast, and good in combination with the new version of First to the Fray.
  • Tide of Shadows: Light Cover when you’re >12” away from the enemy, and Dense Cover instead if you had Light already. Weakened from 8th, but still great alpha strike protection.
  • Tide of Escalation: Allows units from a Brotherhood to cast their subfaction’s Psychic power multiple times in a turn, increasing the Warp Charge value by one each time (which eagle eyed readers of the previews on WarCom guessed might be possible thanks to the wording on some of the powers).
  • Tide of Banishment: Your optional button to slam when Daemons need to be purged, giving your units an aura that saps their leadership and RR1s to hit and wound against them.#

Now, before the howling about Convergence no longer boosting Psi damage starts, we should re-assure readers that you can still access a damage boost for these weapons via a psychic power, and while Escalation’s boost to Smites is gone, all your units get full Smite now anyway – an understated but reasonably consequential change – so it’s pretty bearable.

With that out the way, let’s look at what these do for you. Tide of Shadows has a pretty obvious impact but is no less strong for it – if you lose the roll-off you can throw it up for a bit of extra durability out the gate, and it’s particularly strong on Nemesis Dreadknights, who have a base 2+ save to layer it on top of. Tide of Convergence is now your bread and butter option once battle is joined – it gives your guns some extra reach, and makes every unit in your list even more deadly in a fight. Having both the ranged and melee boosts bundled into one reduces the awkwardness of needing to switch between them for different kinds of offence.

The rest are more specialised. Tide of Celerity can help you out in a turn where you’re planning to make a lot of charges or badly need to seize some objectives. It’s worth saying that the impact it has on Deep Strike charge maths isn’t spectacular by itself, bumping you from a 28% chance to around a 39%. Every little helps, but it’s still not reliable; one of the dice needs to be a 6 for it to change anything, after all. Where it really boosts things is if you also have +1 to Charges from First to the Fray, where it’s a jump from 42% to 58% – a considerably bigger boost, and starting to push to a pretty happy place. Ultimately, Grey Knights want to land their charges very, very badly, so anything that helps can be welcome in the right circumstances, but don’t expect this to solve the problem by itself.

Tide of Escalation is probably the biggest change, and sadly is probably a bit of a miss. Some of the Brotherhood powers are things you could imagine wanting to multi-cast, but it’s far from all of them and having to both activate this and give up whatever else you were going to do is a pretty steep opportunity cost, especially with the escalating warp charge.

Finally, if Daemons need smote, then Tide of Banishment is obviously strong, especially as it works on ranged attacks too – most Daemon hordes do not like massed bolter fire with RR1s attached. If bigger Daemons are your prey you might still want Convergence up for the mortal wounds.

Taken as a whole, this ability is fine but also considerably more skippable than it either used to be in 8th, or in comparison to how strong some other pure army bonuses are in 9th. There look to be some extremely real soup detachment options in this book, and while you should ensure your army can maximise Tides if you’re running Grey Knights solo, don’t feel too discouraged from wider experimentation either.

Space Marine Abilities

Grey Knights are Space Marines and thus benefit from their iconic And They Shall Know No Fear and Bolter Discipline abilities. They don’t get Shock Assault, but the extra attack has been built into their statlines so they’re overall better off. Most of the Infantry units also have the Combat Squads ability.

While they do all the cool Space Marine things, it should be noted that Grey Knights are no longer ADEPTUS ASTARTES, instead getting their own fancy SANCTIC ASTARTES keyword, finally closing off any angles for weird interactions with the Space Marine book – this army is its own thing.

Subfactions – Brotherhoods

Joining the trend set by the Thousand Sons and Death Guard, Grey Knights get some mini-Subfactions, representing the eight different martial traditions within the chapter. 

The majority of units now have a <BROTHERHOOD> keyword to replace, and a few abilities (notably re-roll auras from Grandmasters, Brother-Captains and the boost from Brotherhood Ancients) now key off it. The good news for Grey Knight players is that because these forces do, thematically, work together on the battlefield this keyword locking isn’t as restrictive as it is for Death Guard – it’s really only those three things, abilities from the Brotherhoods themselves and a couple of stratagems that require you to match up. Pretty much everything else just keys off GREY KNIGHTS or GREY KNIGHTS CORE.

In exchange for fielding Brotherhood detachments, you unlock some extra options. Each one unlocks a stratagem and warlord trait, pretty standard for a subfaction, but in place of a relic each BROTHERHOOD PSYKER unit gains access to a subfaction-specific Psychic Power in addition to any others they know.

Good news – there’s some great stuff here. These aren’t as deep as the subfactions in some armies, but the additional powers are free real estate, and there are three Brotherhoods where the combination of tools really stands out. We’ll have a look at those three, then do a quick blast through the remaining five at the end.

Swordbearers

Source: Warhammer Community

The Swordbearers had their psychic power previewed on Warhammer Community, allowing you to boost the wound rolls of ranged attacks from your vehicles. What if you wanted the hit rolls to be boosted as well though? Well that’s where the stratagem comes in – Marked for Death, which lets you pick an enemy unit near to one of your Psykers and give all Swordbearer units (not even just vehicles) +1 to hit against it with their ranged attacks. It’s reasonably costly at 2CP, but opening up +1 to hit for everything targeting a specific unit as well as +1 to wound for the vehicles lets you pull off a hell of a gank with ranged firepower, especially when you throw Empyric Amplification into the mix. The hit rolls working for everyone is real nice, as it mitigates the move/shoot penalty for Purgation squads and per-unit special weapons, but the real big-money payoff here is with Dreadknights. Layering these two effects on top of the other improvements these have received makes a spearhead of a GMDK and three regular ones look like the real deal – both in Grey Knights lists and plausibly in soup. More on that later.

The warlord trait is probably less competitive, but is very welcome for other modes of play. It grants the warlord access to a new Psychic Action that allows them to apply a 4+ invulnerable save to a friendly vehicle. If you love using a Land Raider or Stormraven with your Grey Knights, access to a 4++ makes them considerably more impactful, and the fact that this gets applied in the Psychic phase and not the Command Phase means you can also use it after either bringing the bearer in from Deep Strike, or more likely the vehicle from Strategic Reserves. It’s cool – but you can also just do this with Sanctuary, so unless you’ve got two vehicles to protect you probably don’t need this.

Wardmakers

Source: Warhammer Community

Another strong psychic power that was previewed on WarCom here, and some neat utility tricks to back it up. Switching off the ability to benefit from auras is obviously great, and can be very impactful against Adeptus Mechanicus, Dark Angels or Adepta Sororitas, which you may recognise as some of the game’s best factions! The other tricks are less splashy but quite useful – the Masters of the Word stratagem lets a Character swap out one of their powers for another from the Dominus discipline, always useful for a faction so reliant on psychic powers, while the Loremaster warlord trait provides the unusual but splashy effect of preventing your opponent from attempting a deny on your powers if you cast them on an unmodified  8+. Very much a metagame call, but if Sororitas, the Thousand Sons or mirror matches become a big deal it can help tilt things in your favour.

The other thing the Wardmakers get is some Named Characters – both Voldus and Stern now sport this keyword. Voldus is essentially just a straight-up better foot Grandmaster (though all pale in comparison to Draigo), and Stern’s Zone of Banishment is now more strictly upside, so this can be a nice additional bump for picking this Brotherhood.

Prescient Brethren

Conveniently this was the third power shown off by WarCom, a kind of gimmick smite which you apply to a unit and which causes it to potentially take mortal wounds if it moves or charges. Of  the three here it’s probably the most situational, but it’s worth having in your back pocket for taking on things like C’tan or Ghazgkull with their limitations to wounds taken per phase – bypassing those by causing wounds in their Movement or Charge phases is pretty powerful, and of course your psykers just know this power so it’s always available to you for that circumstance.

The really juicy stuff here is the stratagem and trait, though. The Foresight strat costs you a mere 1CP, and just straight up gives a Psyker unit RR1s to hit and wound in either the Shooting or Fight phase (and you could of course use it in both, in the right situation). In an army that’s going to be all over the table, being able to just trivially switch on re-rolls when you need them is phenomenal, and while the Swordbearers are probably the Dreadknight Brotherhood, if you want a second GMDK this is a stupendous trick for them to have access to. This is a button you’ll want to slam a lot, which obviously isn’t cheap, and this is where the Warlord trait has your back – Divination grants a psychic action you can perform to gain a command point. Empyrean Domination has gotten lost in the warp, so if you want to farm CP this is now your main option, and because Psychic Actions don’t mess with your auras like regular ones this could be a strong pick on something like an Apothecary or Chaplain.

The Rest

While these stand out, the other five Brotherhoods definitely aren’t useless, all having at least some interest to them.

  • The Blades of Victory like to get in the opponent’s face, and are helped to do so by a Psychic power which provides valuable charge re-rolls, and a Warlord trait giving a pre-game Normal Move to them and some buddies.
  • The Preservers like keeping stuff alive, and can grant a 6+ ignore wound with their power that does stack up to a 5+ with an Apothecary – to whom they can give increased aura range with a Warlord trait. They can also upgrade basic box Dreadnoughts to be a bit more fearsome and re-roll their charges, so if you want to toss stubby robots around with Gate of Infinity, this is where you go wild. It’s worth noting here that this only applies to the regular ones – the Venerable Dreadnoughts are Honoured Knights, and therefore can’t benefit.
  • The Rapiers like to hit things with a flurry of blades, and have a strong synergistic combo between their power (+1A) and stratagem (extra hits on 6s).Could be good fodder for a patrol with one big unit as a deadly melee blender.
  • The Exactors punish the enemy up close, with emergency Heroic Interventions and a power that incinerates enemy units who risk staying in combat.
  • The Silver Blades provide lightning speed at close range, able to fall back and shoot, switch their guns to pistols, and make a Warlord a preternaturally quick killer.

Stratagems

Grey Knights vs Tyranids

Grey Knights vs Tyranids
Credit: Pendulin

There’s a considerable amount of shuffling and consolidation in the Grey Knights stratagem section, and sadly this is the place where the biggest losses will probably be felt from their old set of tricks.

First up, let’s cover the standard stuff – Grey Knights get the routine 9th Edition extra Relic/Warlord trait options, and join the Space Marine supplements in being able to take a second trait on your actual Warlord, which has some plausible uses. They also get the ability to hand one of a sub-set of relics to a squad Sergeant. Beyond that, there’s a reasonable number of Space Marine imports here, all re-named to make them unique, so Apothecaries, Chaplains, Dreadnoughts and Machine Spirit/Smokescreen units can all use their normal tricks, and your characters can fight on death if they get punked before swinging.

More juicily, unlike Firstborn Marines everywhere else Grey Knights do keep access to an equivalent of Transhuman Physiology, albeit at a slightly higher price of 2CP/3CP for small/big squads respectively. Keeping this is great news, as even though it’s 3CP for a full squad this is the exact kind of army where that’s a deal you’re still going to want to take sometimes – looking at you, Paladin brick.

Purifiers and Paladins also get a shakeup. Untainted and Unbowed on Purifiers is now where -1D lives, and Paladins instead have a stratagem to swap out one of their powers, leaning into their new role as Sanctic swiss-army knives. Other units also get some specific tricks here – Purgation squads get a very welcome strat for +1 to wound at half range, Brother Captains get an extremely useful ability to provide a +1 to cast aura with Psychic Locus, and in-line with a lot of units Interceptors have their once-per-game shunt moved to a Stratagem.

Now, that last one sounds bad till you discover that it’s not just them – it’s units with the TELEPORTER keyword, which includes Dreadknights that you purchase the relevant upgrade for. Being able to guarantee a redeploy on one of these without needing to cast Gate is very spicy, and the keyword also grants the option to fall back and shoot/charge for a mere 1CP with Fight on the Move. Essentially, 10pts extra on your Dreadknights is now going to substantially magnify how much of a headache they are to have on the table – very much what you want.

Two more new wargear stratagems provide some final powerful options. Nemesis warding staves no longer give a melee invulnerable save, but if a unit contains any you can now throw up a 5+ invulnerable save (or 4+ for Terminators) against shooting with Zone of Warding (1/2CP for up to 5 or 6+ models respectively). Realistically, this means having one stave in your units provides extra flexibility, and they’re free so go ahead and do that. Finally, Psyk-Out Grenades is a fully hilarious tool for punishing enemy Psykers – a unit with the right keyword (and it’s generously distributed of all your infantry, including characters) can throw one, and if it hits (on a 2+) the Psyker just immediately suffers Perils. Neat stuff.

There’s one last strat to talk about, and I think this mostly mirrors something Rob’s going to hit over in the Thousand Sons review because both books have this. The Need to Know was something I was hugely excited about when I started reading, then flopped with a sad trombone noise halfway through. For 1CP, you get to swap out one of your secondaries…but you have to do it straight after both players reveal them, at which point there’s unlikely to have been much of a change in your incentives from a few seconds before. I can just about see situations where an opponent revealing a choice of Attrition or Stranglehold might give you pause, but often you’re going to be able to anticipate that ahead of time. The reason I got so hyped about this is that I thought it was going to let you swap at the start of the first battle round, which very much would  be a worthwhile, cool and impactful effect, and it’s a tremendous missed opportunity that this very conservative option was taken.

So that’s Stratagems and while there’s a nifty toolbox here that helps the army get things done, as mentioned up front it feels like a downgrade overall. That’s mostly because the Ritual of the Damned stratagem sheet was buck wild, overcompensating for how weak the original Codex ones were, and the extremes in both directions have been flattened out. The biggest losers from that process feel like Terminators of both the regular and Paladin variety – losing Redoubtable Defence is a spectacular blow, and unlike some of the other big losses (most notably Bring Down the Beast) there isn’t anything else in the book that quite fills that gap. Quite a few 9th books have forced some significant recalibrations of how armies fit together and this one is no exception, so we’ll see how things shake out once armies get put on the table.

Warlord Traits

Grey Knights have the standard allocation of six warlord traits to pick from, and there are definitely some goodies. The biggest standout is Unyielding Anvil, which is Rites of War but better – not only does it provide an aura of ObSec for CORE and CHARACTER models, it also makes any models that already had ObSec count double when working out who controls an objective. That means it’s good both when it’s making Dreadknights ObSec and when your Strike Marines are trying to compete against enemy hordes. Top stuff, and likely to see play in most lists.

Elsewhere, First to the Fray returns with the same theme but a new effect. It’s now +1” to Advance and Charge rolls for the Warlord, and if they’re in Engagement Range of an enemy unit any of your other units that charge that unit also get +1”. It feels like this could maybe have borne giving re-rolls as well, but any way to get a better than 9” charge was something notably missing from the previous incarnation of this book and it’s welcome. A Grand Master Dreadknight with both of these traits via Exemplar of the Silver Host feels pretty real!

The others aren’t as exciting, but aren’t terrible either. Hammer of Righteousness is a nice clean +1 to wound in the first round of combat, never bad, while Nemesis Lord offers an alternative way around higher toughness by making your attacks with Nemesis weapons auto-wound on a 6 to hit. We’ll have to go ahead and feed that one into Hammer of Math and see which one comes out ahead.

Rounding things out, you get two thematic options in Daemon Slayer and Psychic Epitome. Daemon Slayer does what it says on the tin – it’s a flat +1A, and Daemons can’t take Invulnerable Saves against the Warlord’s melee attacks. Having a baseline effect that works in any game is good design (especially as this is Draigo’s mandatory trait), but you’re still mostly only going to want this if Daemons are rampant in the metagame. If they are then it is, of course, outrageous. Psychic Epitome instead boosts the psychic might of your army – each Psychic Phase the warlord can empower one nearby friendly Psyker to do +1MWs with any Witchfire powers. Sadly, this one ends up falling a bit flat – Smite isn’t a Witchfire power, and there’s a specific, extremely disappointing rider on Vortex of Doom that stops the splash damage interacting with this (Note: technically the wording on this is broken right now and doesn’t always stop it, but expect a swift FAQ to tidy it up). If you really try you can get +2MWs out of this a turn, but it’s hard enough work that you probably won’t bother.

Overall, you’re very likely going to want at least the first two of these most of the time, and some lists might want to apply a third to create a combat monster. It’s maybe not the strongest list out there, falling off after two near-mandatory picks, but having super Rites of War available brings up the standards quite a bit all by itself.

Relics

Grey Knight Credit: Pendulin

A surprisingly huge list here, with a relic version of almost every weapon (all basically fine if unexciting) and then some more interesting ones on top of that. The Artisan Nullifier Matrix returns in a re-vamped form to protect you from Perils – it’s now just a flat 9” aura of “do not suffer Perils”. Going wide with Strikes looks like a major route for this army to go, so this is potentially very helpful. Sadly, that does stop it helping you push powers through, and the Sanctic Shard has also seen a re-write to be more of a defensive tool. It now means that any Deny roll by the bearer of an unmodified 8+ automatically denies the power you’ve pointed at. In a Psychic-heavy metagame that could certainly be good, but this is another place where it feels like a lot of Grey Knights’ toys have been taken away all at once – keeping one of the ways to increase cast reliability wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable.

It’s not all doom and gloom though – the Banner of Refining Flame changes to a rather more exciting version that’s plausibly worth a look. The bearer gains a Psychic Action that does d3 MWs to every enemy within 6” of them, which in the midst of a brawl can be a pretty spectacular amount of damage. Neat stuff. In terms of new toys, you pick up a variety of defensive options for your various Infantry characters, plus the Domina Liber Daemonica which prevents Daemon deep strikes nearby (plus hurts their combat attrition), but the clear standout and rapid contender for the crown of “funniest relic interaction in the game” is the Sigil of Exigence

Once per game, when the bearer is chosen as the target of a ranged attack, you can immediately redeploy them anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from the enemy, and if they’re no longer a legal target the opponent has to re-target their attacks. It’s cool just on baseline, but why is it so hilarious? You can put it on a Grand Master Dreadknight. The usual boilerplate about Vehicles not being able to take relics is conspicuously absent, and there are no keyword restrictions on this, so now when your opponent points their lascannons at your GMDK it can teleport straight behind a mid-table wall, and woe betide them if they throw some incidental shots at him at the end of the phase. This is super, super cool, and the power level is real – expect this to be a common pick.

That plus a few of the utility things ensures there’s plenty to work with here. It does feel like some sort of cast boost is conspicuously missing though, and the Sanctic Shard should probably have been left alone..

Psychic Powers

Grey Knight - Justicar

Grey Knight – Justicar
Credit: Pendulin

As some of the finest Psykers in the galaxy it’s only fitting that Grey Knights get multiple psychic disciplines, with both the Dominus and Sanctic Disciplines returning from 8th.

There’s a lot of change though, especially in the Sanctic powers, which now work quite differently to normal. For most non-Character units, the datasheet includes a fixed Sanctic power that they know in addition to Smite. For example, Strike Marines know Smite and Hammerhand, while Purifiers know Smite and Purifying Flame. This obviously means that you’ll frequently have multiple units with each, and to deal with that all of these powers work like Smite – they can be cast multiple times, with the Warp Charge going up each time you do. That means if you want three of your Strike Squads to all Hammerhand up before getting stuck in (and you may well want to, it slaps), they can. This also brings down the book keeping involved in actually playing this army quite a lot, no more trying to remember which power Strike Squad number 3 was loaded with. A few units can mix it up a bit (notably Paladins, for whom this is the new gimmick), but by and large you’ll know what tricks you have access to.

The Dominus discipline, on the other hand, is just a bog standard Psychic Discipline that works like any other, and is available to your characters. Some of the splashier Sanctic effects have also been moved to this one.

Sanctic Discipline

Your six Sanctic powers are as follows. Most of these don’t choose a target – they self cast on the unit manifesting them.

  • Astral Aim (WC6): Grants the unit a hit re-roll when shooting, and ignores the benefits of cover.
  • Purge Soul (WC6): The odd one out that no unit gets as their fixed power – and it’s a fairly mediocre damage dealing spell you probably won’t take.
  • Hammerhand (WC5): Kicks ass. Full wound re-rolls in the fight phase. Love it.
  • Purifying Flame (WC5): The “Purifier Smite” is now its own power, dealing a flat 3MWs to the closest enemy, or d3+3 if you roll an 11+ (and Purifiers get +1 to cast it). Makes a Rhino with a couple of Purifier MSUs in it a pretty fun mortal bus.
  • Armoured Resilience (WC6): +1 to armour saves. If you’re still going to try to make Paladins work, you definitely want this.
  • Ethereal Castigation (WC6): A re-named version of Edict Imperator, allowing you to immediately shoot then move. The fixed power on Interceptors, which makes them pleasingly mobile.

In the majority of cases these are effectively part of unit datasheets, with only Paladins being both able and interested in free picking (and almost certainly taking Armoured Resilience and Ethereal Castigation). Losing the old version of Astral Aim is another big sting to the army, as it shuts down quite a number of nonsense combos. Being able to have lots of Strike Marines on full wound re-rolls is a very nice compensation though.

Dominus Discipline

The splashier stuff lives here, starting out with Gate of Infinity (WC7), which is still mostly the same, allowing a unit to be redeployed. It is now locked to only targeting Psykers, so no more teleporting a Land Raider, but gains 6” of extra range for a massive 18” reach, making it extremely flexible. Still great.

New and exciting is Empyric Amplification (WC7), which is your power for absolutely dunking someone you don’t like. You pick a visible enemy within 12”, and then all attacks made against it with Nemesis and Psi weapons are at +1D until your next psychic phase. This is appallingly devastating to any sort of elite or high value target, and extremely good in combination with Swordbearers Dreadknights in particular. Good stuff.

Sanctuary (WC6) also returns, and sadly they’ve finally put a sword through the heart of the OG source of bullshit invulnerable save combos. It now just grants a flat 4++, which is fine if you’re bringing larger squads of something like Purifiers, or trying to make Vehicles work, but doesn’t let you pull off the nonsense of the old version. That leaves it as very much a sometimes treat.

Vortex of Doom (WC7) has been toned down a bit in exchange for being more reliable into the primary target – the splash is only for 1MW, but the targeted unit just straight up takes 2d3 mortals whatever you cast it on, which is decent. As an added bonus, the splash no longer affects your units, leaving this as probably fine as a second choice on one of your characters.

Warp Shaping (WC4) still changes Tides, now with a rider that you can’t switch back to a Tide that’s already been used. If you’re pure, you want someone to cast this. Next question.

We finish up with another new entry in Ghostly Bonds (WC5), which halves the move characteristic of a targeted unit. That’s…fine, but because many of the game’s most mobile units rely on Advance or Charge boosts, flat halving of movement is always a bit less powerful than it sounds. Still, it’s a very low Warp Charge, which does make it more appealing.

Fundamentally, some of the stuff here is what makes the army tick and you want it. You’re never going to leave home without Gate, Empyric Amplification and Warp Shaping, and all of the rest are pretty credible ways to use up slots on the rest of your characters.

Litanies of Purity

Grey Knight Chaplains continue to be far too cool for regular Litanies and have their own special list. To be brutally honest, you kind of wish they didn’t. There’s some stuff here that is interesting on its own merits, but you would toss it all out in a heartbeat for access to Canticle of Hate. In addition, they’re pretty niche and the Chaplains now only know one (in addition Litany of Expulsion, your standard hit re-roll aura), so you need to have a very specific plan for them if you’re going to use one.

There are some where that’s plausible, to be fair, starting with Invocation of Focus. This gives you a handy aura of +1 to manifest Blessing powers, which includes Hammerhand, Astral Aim Sanctuary and Gate. These are things you very much want to land, so this can be helpful, but honestly this could probably have just been flat +1 to cast.

Recitation of Projection, for an extra 6” range for bolters and psi weapons (or 3” for Psi weapons already boosted by Tide of Convergence), was a big deal in the old book but probably goes down in value a bit now that the combos you can pull off with Psybolt Ammunition are a bit less potent, and you can’t use Astral Aim to snipe from behind a big wall.

Psalm of Purity might genuinely see some use – it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, granting bonus AP on 6s to wound with ranged weaponry, but this army feels like it’s badly missing a few more tricks to amp up its ranged firepower and this might be what they have to settle for. If melee spikes are your preferred route to banish Daemons you can instead use Words of Power, which gives a single unit additional wounds on a 6 to wound, plus maybe (it’s unclear if this is meant to stack) doubles up when Mortal Wound bonus from Tide of Convergence. Combining this with Hammerhand for wound re-rolls on a big unit is going to make a hideous mess of almost anything, so if you’ve got large units rocking in, and need something absolutely flattened, you can do worse. 

Finally, you get a couple of Litanies to shut down your opponents tricks – Intonement for Guidance still allows you to ignore all hit roll modifiers, while Refrain of Convergence is a swanky new toy that dispels any ongoing psychic powers and opponent has cast on one of your units, and also makes them immune to further powers, mirroring the Sisters version. Both neat in the right matchup, but therein lies the problem – a lot of stuff here is narrow.

Knowing two of these was vital to how Grey Knight Chaplains were used in 8th, and only getting to know one makes them quite hard to justify. With two known you could either take two of the somewhat situational buffs or one buff and one of the matchup-specific options. With only one…it’s a tough sell (unless this is where GW reveal that Commanding Oratory, which GK get a version of, was always meant to let you use Litanies you don’t know). With the basic troops of the army being so much deadlier it is, of course, possible that you’re happy just having a Chaplain kicking around for the hit re-rolls in a fight, but our read is that you’re going to want to be plowing as many points into units as possible.

Wisdom of the Prognosticars

Every army in 9th gets some sort of cool upgrade option you can spend points on, and Grey Knights are no exception. Wisdom of the Prognosticars provides you with twelve different options for upgrading your characters, representing either prophetic visions or special artefacts presented to a hero for use at a key moment. Functionally, both types work exactly the same – you can buy one of these for each (non-named) Character and can’t take the same one twice, and most grant a once per game effect.

Good news – there is some strong stuff here. The three biggest standouts are probably A Noble Death out of the Visions list, and Servant of the Throne plus the Gem of Inoktu from the Artefacts.

A Noble Death (20pts) essentially gives the bearer the ability to activate the Unyielding Anvil warlord trait (ObSec aura for CORE and CHARACTER, already ObSec counts twice) in your Command Phase, lasting until the start of the next Command phase. Most lists are already going to be taking that Warlord trait, but Grey Knights are often going to end up all over the board, so being able to draw on this in an emergency is great (and the price is good). This is also strong if you end up bringing Grey Knights in soup and don’t want to make one of them your Warlord, as it gives you partial coverage on that trait at a key moment.

Servant of the Throne (20pts) is much more hero-hammer focused and allows the bearer to, once per game, activate a 3+ Invulnerable Save for a phase when they are chosen as the target of the attack and yes reader you can put it on a GMDK. Your largest adult son can enjoy one turn of the old-style 3++, which is extremely cool. The final standout is the Gem, which was shown on WarCom and gives you one turn of +2 to all your Dominus casts. With the removal of lots of other options for boosting this, that can be very clutch, and it’s priced to move at 15pts.

They aren’t the only cool options, and a lot of these feel like they’re worth experimenting with. You get one-shot effects to switch off Overwatch, shoot a unit that arrived from Reinforcements, and trigger a Heroic Intervention from non-characters, and the more unique and potentially very spicy ability to Overwatch on a 4+. There’s also the Foretelling of Locus, which is a bit pricier (30pts) but might have some potential. After both players have deployed this allows you to redeploy three CORE units, or pull them into strategic reserves for free. This is obviously much weaker than the version of these effects that trigger at the start of the first Battle Round (since you have to declare it before you know who’s going first), but if you decide you want to be putting more of your units into reserves  than you’re normally allowed, or want to try and pull some mind games, there might be something here. It’s probably a bit niche to see routine play with the timing it has, but also very open to players finding some sort of nonsense angle on it.

Edit: Thanks to some feedback, it turns out I missed a subtlety on this – there’s a specific Rule on when “after deployment” effects happen, and it turns out to be in the “pre game abilities” step after determining first turn. This pushes this back up to being a “full” Phantasm equivalent, and thus really good. Thanks to the commenters and patrons who pointed this out!

Finally, less strictly competitive but still cool, there are some options for going after enemy Daemons or Psykers, whether it be forcing them to fight last, switching off their auras or shooting them in the head with a big bolt that makes them forget a random spell. All of those need quite specific metagames to be great, but the anti-Daemon ones are particularly aggressively priced, which makes the barrier before you start considering these a bit lower.

This section of the book is pure goodness and very welcome – the pricing across the board feels well tuned and there are both standout winners and a strong second tier of things you’ll consider if you’ve got spare points. Top marks.

Secondary Objectives

Last up before we move onto datasheets, Secondary Objectives. There’s only three here, but there’s some good stuff. Front and centre of that, sound the fanfares people because there’s a good Warpcraft Secondary. Purifying Ritual lets any number of your Psyker units (mercifully not only Characters) perform a psychic action to purify an Objective Marker within 3”. Each turn, you score points depending on how many different objectives were purified that turn, capping out at 6VP if you purified four or more. This rules, and it combines a lot of elements of good secondaries. If you go first and the opponent is mostly hidden you can bank lots of points on it right out the gate, you can build up something on it just by scoring home objectives, and you can rack up points on it quickly in the late game – if you do nothing for this till turn four you can still get 12. Even better, unlike a lot of similar objectives there’s no rider that your opponent can’t be within 3” of the objective when you do it, so when things are on a knife-edge it’s very tough for them to stop you from squeezing points from this. All of this on an objective where, on six marker maps, you never have to go past the halfway line to maximise. Using up psychic actions is, undeniably, a cost but this feels legit most of the time in a way that none of the other Warpcraft secondaries do, especially in a book that can go very wide on psychic-capable units, and having an always on option in that category is a gigantic boon to Grey Knights.

Teleport Assault (NMNR) isn’t awful either, giving you three points if one or more enemy units were destroyed by a Grey Knight unit that either arrived from Teleport Strike or redeployed with Gate of Infinity or Teleportation Shunt that turn. This should be a lock on turns two and three and you’ve got ways to reach for it in other turns, so might be worth it in some games. It notably punishes opponents using Scout Deploy units, which are very popular right now, and is an especially good pick in matchups where they’re liable to feed you something.

Third and finally, if you’re playing against Daemons you can thoroughly ruin their day with Destroy the Daemon, an uncomplicated “kill Daemons, get points” secondary and it’ll sometimes be worth a look into Death Guard and CSM lists with lots of Daemon Engines too – especially if either Magnus or Mortarion is present, since those bag you 5pts all on their own. This one is more niche, but that’s not the worst thing in a list that has an exceptional choice front and centre, and Chaos lists with a sizeable contingent of things scoped in to this aren’t that uncommon.

That’s basically the summary; the best here by some distance is Purifying Ritual, which has all the elements of a huge win for these faction-specific objectives – it’s a good Secondary in a bad category that rewards you for doing stuff that’s likely to feed into other Secondaries you’re interested in taking like Stranglehold. Treacherously, the Thousand Sons have probably nosed ahead with the best single Secondary in this pair of books, and a better rounded selection overall, but Ritual is definitely still good and will help the faction a bunch.

The Units

All of the Grey Knights datasheets have been updated for 9th Edition, some for better and some (probably) for worse – this is a definite mixed bag. The rule of thumb is that any of the power armoured units and both flavours of Dreadknights are better, characters are mixed, and everything else looks a bit iffy. Let’s dig in.

HQ

Credit: Lungboy

Kaldor Draigo

Kaldor Draigo kicks ass, and you want to take him a lot. He’s slightly cheaper, keeps his same melee profile (i.e. he’s a vicious killer), gets AP-1 and D2 on his storm bolter and re-gains a 3+ invulnerable save via the Sanctum Sigillum. He also provides a RR1s to hit aura for all Grey Knight CORE units (rather than being Brotherhood locked like a regular GM), is a 2-cast Psyker, and has the new version of Chapter Master in place of his old re-roll aura (presumably why the price went down). Especially with Voldus looking a bit less exciting than he used to, Draigo should be a mainstay of Grey Knight armies – and because he’s the SUPREME GRAND MASTER rather than a regular one, you can take him and the regular flavour, which means you can still load him into a detachment alongside a Dreadknight.

Grand Master Voldus

Voldus also goes down in cost a bit, but loses quite a bit more than Draigo, to the point where you’re probably only taking him if you wanted a Wardmakers Grand Master anyway (which he is a considerable upgrade on). He’s now only a 2-cast Psyker, which is the main blow against him, and while he keeps his powerful unique melee weapon and gains the same master-crafted storm bolter as Draigo, he’s probably not where you want to put your points.

Grand Master

Your regular Grand Master, providing you with a re-roll 1s to hit aura for a Brotherhood, and a customisable loadout. Realistically, unless you have a specific plan for a relic or a gift of the Prognosticars the price difference between one of these and more exciting options (i.e. Draigo) isn’t big enough that you’ll routinely take one. They also only get one cast now, though they still know two Dominus powers, further incentivising the other options.

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight

These kick ass. Warcom already blew the reveal on what’s probably the biggest news, which is that the sword now gets an option to make a sweep attack, and a good one too at S6 AP-2 D2. That rockets it to being a near-auto take, something that’s also true of the heavy psycannon, which jumps to S8 AP-2. The incinerator also ends up effectively flatly upgraded, dropping to D1 but going to 2d6 shots, making it more flexible. The psilencer is the only tool that gets a bit of a sidegrade, gaining S and AP at the cost of dropping to D1, but with 12 shots it’s excellent with Empyric Amplification. It isn’t even only the weapons that got better – these now get Teleport Strike by default, and buying the Teleporter is only required to unlock the redeploy and Fall Back/Shoot/Charge stratagems (which you probably do want to do). Finally, you get an extra wound and inch of movement at full health.

The only price you pay for all this is dropping down to a single cast, but that’s rather offset by them also being substantially cheaper – a GMNDK with the sword, psycannon and psilencer is now 205pts, down from 235pts before, leaving you plenty spare to buy them the teleporter and/or the Servant of the Throne upgrade for a one-turn 3++.

Were it not for the one-per-Brotherhood limit you would absolutely go back to slamming three of these in a list. As is, you want one most of the time, will sometimes want to squeeze a second in, and beyond that will have to console yourself by taking the regular ones, which are also much improved.

Brother-Captain

Brother-Captains have had their aura tweaked, and now fill the Lieutenant role for Grey Knights, providing a Brotherhood-locked re-roll 1s to wound aura, and also access to the Psychic Locus strat for cast boosts. As you’d expect from Grey Knights, they’re also substantially nastier than your common or garden Lieutenant, being a full Terminator-armoured killer armed with a nemesis weapon of your choice and a master-crafted storm bolter. If you just want a flat output boost this is probably your guy, as Grand Master re-rolls are likely coming from either Draigo or a GMDK.

Brother-Captain Stern

Stern joins Voldus in being locked to the Wardmakers, and for a small price premium on a regular Brother Captain you get an extra attack and two special abilities. Strands of Fate is still a cute but absurdly high-risk gimmick where you trade re-rolling one of Stern’s hits, wounds or saves for the opponent getting a floating re-roll of the same in their turn, but Zone of Banishment has received an upgrade. Rather than replacing Stern’s Smite, this now just deals a MW to all nearby Daemon units every time he manifests a power. That leaves him as fine overall, but honestly even if you’re already running Wardmakers he isn’t mandatory.

Brotherhood Champion

Brotherhood Champions are duelists, designed for fighting enemy leaders one-on-one (which they’re fine at), but in terms of what they do for your lists their main function is being the cheapest HQ option available, coming in at a mere 70pts. If that’s what your list needs, go wild.

Castellan Crowe

If you’ve got slightly more points to spend on a melee killer, Castellan Crowe is decent. He’s an extra 20pts over the Brotherhood Champion, but comes with a better profile, mortal wounds from his Daemon sword (which he’s apparently just using now?), access to the Purifying Flame psychic power and a free fight on death. Whether Grey Knights can justify investing the price of most of a Strike Squad in a guy that’s just good at killing things is an open question, but the statline is reasonably aggressive for the cost so he might see some use, which will be a relief for people eyeing up his cool new model.

Brotherhood Librarian

The consequence of most other characters dropping down to just one cast is that Librarians now do stand out as better Psykers than most of your options here – they get to cast two powers, and have the cute gimmick of being able to pick from Sanctic powers as well as Dominus. In practice, you shouldn’t do that – they really needed an ability to allow them to target Sanctic powers on other units rather than having to self cast to make this worthwhile. Nonetheless, if you want more Dominus casts these are fine, and bringing the Artisan Nullifier Matrix into the fray is highly valuable.

Brotherhood Chaplain

Chaplains are obviously here to bring Litanies to the table, so whether you want one over, say,  a Librarian will mostly be determined by the plans you can concoct using those. They do get a cast as well, but are notably less useful than pretty much all the other characters in a straight up fight because the crozius arcanum isn’t a nemesis weapon and has a less useful statline than those.

Techmarine

Both an engineer and a wizard. Fun stuff. Techmarines do all the stuff you’d expect around awakening machine spirits (for +1 to hit) and repairing vehicles, get a cast as well, and are dirt cheap. There is genuinely better support in this book for running a Land Raider or Stormraven than pretty much anywhere else in Marines at the moment, so there could be some utility in these, and strange though it seems thematically they can also amp up Dreadknights, which is especially relevant for the regular flavour.

Troops

Grey Knight Kill Team

Grey Knight Kill Team
Credit: Pendulin

Strike Squad

Basic Strike Marines are fantastic now, and this book probably lives or dies on whether they’re so good that they carry it. At the extremely aggressive price point of 22pts each, you get a Marine with built in deep strike, a storm bolter and a powerful melee weapon (the basic force sword is now S+1 AP-3 D2, so you’re laughing) and the ability to either Smite, now in full-fat form, or give their unit melee wound re-rolls with Hammerhand each turn. That’s a hell of a package, and one has to imagine that the reason some of the more potent tricks have been filed off the edges of this book is because the designers kept looking back at this datasheet nervously. If you’re trying to build competitive lists, these and Dreadknights are your bread and butter. Also, both the psilencer and incinerator are free swaps for one model and the basic psycannon is only 5pts and has traded a shot for becoming D2, so there are lots of equipment choices worth exploring. While the basic sword being S5 makes it a good default, in the current metagame the halberd (S6 AP-2 D2) is probably also worth a look, as going to S6 makes them great for mopping up various AdMech toys as they start to wound on a 2+.

Brotherhood Terminator Squad

Unfortunately we’ve got some big mood whiplash here – Terminators suck. These run you 20 extra points per model over the Strike Marines, and all that gets you is an extra wound and point of save (and I guess technically the ability to take a special weapon without losing the melee attack). You should take (nearly) twice as many Strike Marines instead, pretty much all of the time.

There seems to have been a fundamental disconnect in how these are priced – presumably the cost of regular Terminators was taken as a starting point and then a premium was added on for the psychic ability (they also get Hammerhand). In practice, that isn’t actually a good way to price these – Terminators tend to be good in chapters whose Chapter Tactic and stratagems strongly support them, and as a vector for layered buffs from Chaplains. The Aegis is considerably less useful on these than some Chapter Tactics out there, and Grey Knight Chaplains aren’t nearly as exciting as regular Marine ones, which leaves these far weaker than their counterparts in some other chapters. It also feels like these (and Paladins) are priced assuming Redoubtable Defence still exists, but it, uh, doesn’t.

As it stands, these aren’t worth it. The good news is that this is a problem that is likely fixable with points changes, so hopefully those will come down the pipe in the future.

Elites

Grey Knights Credit: Lungboy

Grey Knights Credit: Lungboy

Brotherhood Apothecary

An Apothecary, but in Terminator Armour and with a big sword and fully five attacks. Ignoring wounds is good, Grey Knights definitely have models you’re willing to spend a CP to revive, and getting a genuine combat statline on top of all of that is nice, so if these can squeeze into lists they’re potentially very worthwhile.

Brotherhood Ancient

If you’d prefer to spend about 100pts on an offensive force multiplier instead, the Brotherhood Ancient brings a fancy flag that grants +1A to CORE in an aura, and in an army where almost everyone is carrying a cool sword, that’s pretty good. Can also take the Banner of Cleansing Flame for an extra nasty surprise once battle is joined.

Paladin Squads

Paladins are souped up Terminators, with an extra attack, more special weapons and the unique trick of being able to freely pick two Sanctic powers. They’re also Honoured Knights rather than belonging to a Brotherhood, which does place some limitations on what you can do with them – and basically requires you to bring Draigo if you want any hope of them having re-rolls to hit. Picking their powers does let them get access to both Armoured Resilience and Ethereal Castigation, which lets them be very flexible on the table, but they’re so expensive and can no longer load up on damage reduction or 3+ invulnerable saves in melee, with no more wounds on their profile than a regular Terminator. In theory there are cool things you can do with a big squad of these, but once again it looks like you’ll get far more reliable value from Strike Marines.

Purifiers

Purifiers are immediately more interesting because they’re working off the Strike Marine baseline. They’re another Honoured Knight unit, and run you one more point each than basic Strikes, with the upsides of being able to take two specials per five, the Purifying Flame power (with +1 to cast) and the ability to use Unbowed and Unbroken for -1D. For these, it feels like there’s plausibly a play in taking a full squad of ten with four incinerators in a Rhino – depending on the matchup, you can either Combat Squad them for a big damage spike from the powers, or keep them together to maximise the value of Unbowed. Like a few other units who were missing it before, these do also now get built in Teleport Strike, so no more spending CP if you want to Deep Strike them.

Paladin Ancient

A more different flag bearer, and probably less useful – their +1A aura only applies to Paladins, and though they get the ability to inspire a unit in your command phase for +1 to hit in melee, you’re almost always going to be better off with the Brotherhood Ancient.

Servitors

They’re Servitors – cheap trash that can sit on an objective behind a wall and perform Actions. Like in a lot of highly elite armies, this can make them a serious consideration for your lists.

Dreadnought

Your basic stubby boxnought is probably better here than in most places, as they’re a Psyker with the ability to boost their own saves with Armoured Resilience, and if you’re running as Preservers can be upgraded to be extra spicy in a fight with a buff to Movement, re-rolling charges, and +1 damage in the first round of combat. Grey Knights are short of units that both have powerful guns and can synergise with their suite of abilities, so these might occasionally be worth a look with multi-meltas.

Venerable Dreadnought

Slightly better stats at a slightly higher price – but also losing the Brotherhood Keyword for Honoured Knight, which is a real downside here, especially as it means you can’t upgrade them with Charge of the Ancients. If you just want a robot guy to sit at the back and plink away, then sure you probably still pick this, but it’s a real shame that the upgrade angle is closed off.

Fast Attack

Interceptors

Grey Knights still only have one Fast Attack option, but it’s a good one – Interceptors are very strong. For a two point premium over Strike Marines, you get the same great baseline, but with a 12” move that essentially has FLY, Ethereal Castigation as their power for sneaky shooting shenanigans, and the TELEPORTER keyword that unlocks various strats. Taking a unit or two of these to shore up your objective play and ensure you can apply early pressure seems very good – in particular, they give you great additional reach for Purifying Ritual.

Heavy Support

Dreadknights

Hell yeaahhhhh. Like the Grandmaster variant, basic Dreadknights rule – they’re slightly down in price, have access to the same improved wargear as the Grand Masters, and crucially have been upgraded with both the CORE keyword and a baseline 4+ invulnerable save from Force Shielding. That means these are as tough defensively as the Grand Masters (they got the extra wound too), can benefit from most buffs in the book (including Unyielding Anvil for ObSec), and can sometimes actually hit harder in the fight phase than the Grand Master version thanks to having Hammerhand as their power. These are great, taking three plus a GMNDK as Swordbearers looks legit, and it’s good to see that you no longer have to feel obliged to put half the Grand Masters of the entire order on the table every game.

Purgation Squad

Loss of old-school Astral Aim shenanigans makes these a bit weaker than they once were, and your heavy support slots are now heavily contested by Dreadknights, but if you find yourself needing a few more guns, these still fill that role, especially as psycannons are a bit spicier on base rate now. These are yet another unit that gains baseline Teleport Strike, and incinerators now have 12” range, so that’s another possible angle for using them. Not exciting, but plausibly useful.

Land Raiders

Realistically, Swordbearer Grey Knights might be the best place to run non-Achilles Land Raiders and Stormravens. With Sanctuary to drop a 4+ invulnerable save on them and ways to boost their output despite them not having CORE, they end up way closer to viable than in most places. It’s also worth saying that these are all 20pts cheaper than is printed in the book, since the MFM points for this year pre-buffed them.

All of that still doesn’t make the Land Raider seriously competitive – it’s hard to overcome them just costing so much for the amount of shooting they bring to the table – but it means that for more casual games you are going to be able to have plenty of fun with them. It’s amazing what access to a good invulnerable save will do for you!

Dedicated Transport

Rhino

Rhinos are as good as their payloads, and since Strike Marines are now exceptional, there’s almost certainly a place for them in Grey Knight lists.

Razorbacks

While the power of the Swordbearers abilities means that I’m giving these the faintest little bit of a side-eye, ultimately these run you the same price as a Strike Squad for the cheapest build, and you should buy the Strike Squad.

Flyer

Stormraven

If Grey Knights’ (very strong) synergies with Marines’ “big” vehicles break through anywhere it’s probably on the Stormraven. The fact that they have much more flexible damage dealing capabilities and reach compared to Land Raiders means that if you can keep one alive and kicking, it’s much more challenging for the opponent to overcome. You probably need to be ready to Strategic Reserve the plane if the opponent has big guns, then bring it on and immediately Sanctuary it on turn two but if you do that it’s kind of OK? It’s very unlikely to be the dominant way to play Grey Knights, but it’s something I can imagine pulling off a surprisingly decent performance in the right hands.

Stormhawk/Stormtalon

These are direct imports from the Marine book, but once again the Swordbearers synergies and Sanctuary mean you can’t totally count them out. If you’re going hard on Dreadknights as well you can add these in for a very defensively skewed list with a pretty broad damage output, which might confound some opponents.

Our Thoughts

How They’ll Play

Grey Knights have two standout assets – Strike Squads and Nemesis Dreadknights. The former can hit hard and hit anywhere, while the latter provide more of a sturdy anvil that can occupy parts of the table for a prolonged period, and act as an initial spearhead for you. That’s going to inform how you play the army – you’re going to want to use these more durable anvil elements (probably accompanied by some units in Rhinos) to make an initial push into the mid board, then go in all guns blazing over turns two and three when your reserves can start arriving and taking the enemy apart. You want to avoid ever getting caught in a grinding engagement in any one place, as your forces are likely to be relatively few in number, and although tougher than they used to be, still not really meant for a meat grinder. Instead, if you find that the opponent has built up a strong point, use your Dreadknights to hold firm in that position then try to swing the rest of the army to somewhere more vulnerable. You want to hit hard, hit fast and leave no witnesses.

Hot Takes

Wings

The main body of these reviews generally aims to focus on the positives as much as possible – a new book arriving always provides an infusion of excitement for players of that army, and we want to highlight the things that are going to be cool to use, and only focus on negatives where it really matters strategically, or people need to know about them to make their plans. This section at the end is where I can get a bit more opinionated about what the book means, and highlight any areas of disappointment or serious balance concerns arising.

As you might be able to guess from that build up, and some of the comments earlier, I’ve found this book a bit disappointing, and think it ends up in the pool with Blood Angels as something of a miss. That does not, to be clear, mean there’s nothing cool in it or no good builds. The “floor” of quality for 9th Edition books is higher than ever, and there’s some decent stuff here – the Visions of the Prognosticars are one of the best designed sets of upgrades out there, getting a strong Warpcraft Secondary rules, and they’ve succeeded in making a Grey Knight scary at baseline. In terms of building armies, I am reasonably confident that armies built predominantly around Strike Marines and Dreadknights are at least viable, and that a few point cuts could open up more options. I do also find it amusing that a Stormraven Gunship looks genuinely close to valid in this army.

Ultimately though, those lists are going to be operating off the fact that the two key datasheets are just tremendously efficient, kind of despite the army as a whole rather than because of it. I think there are two key problems with this book that really hold it back

Firstly, a lot of the wilder combos unlocked by Ritual of the Damned are just gone. Some of those were crutches required because the base 8th Codex was such trash, and would have been outrageous with good datasheets, but we’ve swung too far in the other direction and the book needs some of that galaxy brain energy back. In addition, some of the units in this book still feel as if they’re priced for better combos existing (mostly Terminators, but the Characters could probably be cheaper across the board as well). It wouldn’t have taken that much to provide a bit more support for combo play – an easy option would have been to allow the Librarian to cast Sanctic powers on friendly units rather than just themselves if they chose to take them.

Secondly, this book has clearly been developed in parallel and as a mirror to Thousand Sons, and loses out badly in the exchange. Compare the army-wide bonuses – Grey Knights get +1 to deny and a 5+++ against Mortal Wounds, both niche defensive abilities that are only relevant some of the time, and don’t really do anything to proactively determine your strategy. By contrast, Thousand Sons get +1 to cast and a 5+ Invulnerable save added to a lot of their units. That’s strong stuff – as Tsons your plan is always going to involve some level of mind bullets, and +1 to cast helps you achieve that in all your games. Meanwhile, the 5+ invulnerable save provides a defensive option that’s relevant in far more of your games, and one that’s genuinely transformational for a bunch of the otherwise boring Marine vehicles and also powerful on a few Forge World choices.

That tilted balance extends to their abilities. The Grey Knight Codex has a lot of options that further boost your Denies, and a few that boost your casting, while the Thousand Sons have a lot of boosts to casting, and only a few for Denies. Here’s the problem – you just don’t need lots of Deny boosts most of the time, and they’re dead weight in many matchups, whereas cast boosts are always relevant, and generally have less drop-off in utility.

Grey Knights end up with a significant amount of their tools just not doing anything too much of the time, and some of that space needed to go on big, splashy effects that are widely applicable. Ironically, this book has solved the problem the old one had where anti-Daemon tools took up too much of the real estate and power budget (I really like moving a lot of this to one of the Tides as a choice) but in its place there’s an excessive focus on Denies, too much caution in the combos they’re given access to, and too much nervousness about treading on the Thousand Sons’ toes. The sheer quality of the common or garden Strike Marine might still carry the book, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.

That’s a real shame, and I never enjoy having to write a more negative review – I want to get to the end of a book and be excited about the potential with five different lists bouncing around in my head. For what it’s worth, I do think the Strike and Knight lists should be fun to play, so if you’ve got an army there’s things to work with, and handing out some points cuts in the next Munitorum Field Manual could definitely open up more.

Army Lists

Wings – Strikes and Knights

I mean this can’t be a surprise if you’ve read the review up till now – Strike Marines and Dreadknights are where it’s at, so let’s build a list with them.

Swordbearers Battalion

HQ

Kaldor Draigo – 180
Powers: Vortex of Doom, Empyric Amplification, Gate of Infinity

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight, sword, psilencer, teleporter, psycannon, Servant of the Throne – 235
Warlord: Unyielding Anvil, Exemplar of the Silvered Host – First to the Fray
Relic: Sigil of Exigence
Powers: Empyric Amplification, Gate of Infinity

Librarian, sword – 105
Relic: Artisan Nullifier Matrix
Powers: Warp Shaping, Sanctuary

Troops

5 Strike Marines, 3 swords, 1 stave, 1 psycannon – 115

5 Strike Marines, 3 swords, 1 stave, 1 psilencer – 110

5 Strike Marines, 3 swords, 1 stave, 1 psilencer – 110

5 Strike Marines, 3 swords, 1 stave, 1 psilencer – 110

Elites

10 Purifiers, 8 swords, 2 staves – 230

Fast Attack

5 Interceptors, 4 halberds, 1 stave – 120
Endowment in Extremis: Augurium Scrolls

Heavy Support

Nemesis Dreadknight, sword, psycannon, psilencer – 175

Nemesis Dreadknight, sword, psycannon, psilencer – 175

Nemesis Dreadknight, sword, psycannon, psilencer – 175

Dedicated Transport

Rhino – 80

Rhino – 80

2000pts, 9CP

Ok so I did include some other stuff too. The goal here is to give you options for how to set up so you can adapt to games. At baseline, the expectation is that two of the DKs go into deep strike and the GM and one regular start on the table. Because the GM has a Teleporter, if they need to they can both be behind the biggest bit of Obscuring terrain you’ve got, and then can proceed to the mid-board via the regular one getting Gated and the GM using Teleport Shunt. You’ve also got two Rhinos, which can either have all the Strikes or two Strike Squads and the Purifiers. Depending on what guns the opponent is packing, you can either keep the Purifiers together as a single block for maximum Untained and Unbowed/Sanctuary tarpitting, or Combat Squad them for a big damage spike from two casts of Purifying Flame. The Interceptors, finally, give you some flexible mobility, and they’ve got halberds instead of swords because the S6 profile is specifically good at tangling with Ad Mech Infiltrators early on. 

On turn two, you can dump two more Dreadknights, Draigo and the rest of the infantry onto the table and go hog wild. It’s not especially subtle, but you’re going to hit hard in the mid-game, especially with access to the Swordbearer abilities and Empyric Amplification to really eradicate something. Hopefully, that leaves your opponent rather short on the kind of killing power they need to take multiple Dreadknights off the table, and you roll through to victory from there.

Wrap Up

And there you have it folks – the Grey Knights. Be sure to also check out our review of the Thousand Sons, check back in for the Crusade Review next week, and hit us up with any comments, questions or suggestions at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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