Unfortunately the long-feared quiet weekend has come to pass, with the otherwise indefatigable Australian and NZ scenes finally settling down for short rest. I do mean a short one – next weekend we’ve got a small GT in NZ and the second run of the Gladiator Gaming Team Event firing, this time going a full five rounds, so regular service will resume in just a week’s time, but right now I’m faced with a tragic gap in my schedule.
Like any good content provider, I have naturally decided to fill this with a numbered list. The last few months have seen some pretty substantial shakeups in the metagame, between FAQs, balance updates, mission changes and the release of two very powerful new books that provide some novel angles of attack. New units are getting tried out on the battlefield, secondary strategies have been evolving and various recently discounted options lurk in the wings waiting for the right player to find a shell to take them from a spin. I have, naturally, been sitting in the Goonhammer Office Panopticon (installed at great expense) watching all of this unfold, and this week, for your entertainment, I have picked out ten units to talk about that have either started to show the early signs of becoming metagame hits, or that I think have some sleeper potential that could give a shot in the arm to some weaker strategies.
To keep things interesting, I’ve limited myself to one pick per codex, and have tried to mix up the choices that have “proven themselves” with my more speculative ones, so that the readers in the audience devoted enough to look at as many army lists as I do every week don’t get bored. Inevitably, some of these aren’t going to pan out, or are going to have a brief moment in the sun before flaring out as some new hotness rolls up. That’s part of the fun though – writing (and reading) articles like this would be deathly boring if we could all see the future – so I hope you enjoy the ride.
Just before we kick off, this week highlights once again that keeping the schedule for these articles filled is an ongoing process. If you’re hosting or attending an event in a COVID-safe location that you want me to know about, you can reach out at email@example.com. Even if you think I’ll probably already know about it it’s great to hear from TOs, and always useful to have someone I can reach out to with any questions about the army lists or how things played out on the day, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
With that out the way, on to our exciting numbered list!
…ah crap I have to order these. Uh. I guess there in rough order of how hot the take is? Let’s go with that.
The Units to Watch
10 – Chaos Terminators
We’ll start with a unit that should be on most people’s radar at this point, but one that’s still got plenty more room to grow as far as I’m concerned. Chaos Space Marine Terminators are very aggressively priced as of the January FAQ because essentially five points of free combat weapon was folded into their cost, meaning that you can have a Terminator with a combi-bolter and your choice of power sword, power axe or lightning claw (the connoisseur’s choice) for a mere 28pts. That is a great price tag for a flexible brawler unit (something 9th tends to reward), and while they don’t yet have the 3W profile of their decadent loyalist cousins, they’re much cheaper and the bolter/LC build is really flexible and can’t be imitated by those Imperium losers.
Their closest comparator ends up being claw/shield Vanguard Veterans (trading the mobility and a point of invuln for the gun), and while the VanVets are probably still the better unit, being a little less good than one of the game’s premier options is a strong place to be, especially in a weaker faction. There’s also more scope for souping them effectively than for the loyalists, and all that means these should be on the radar of Chaos players of pretty much any stripe other than Death Guard.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
Emperor’s Children. Regular readers will know that I’m cheating a bit here, obviously, because this particular configuration has already been seen out in the wild in a major-winning list, souped alongside Slaanesh Daemons. The EC stratagem sheet is the draw here – you’ve got Honour the Prince for (very nearly) automatic charges out of Deep Strike and Excess of Violence to turn the already considerable horde-clearing capabilities of the unit up to 11. They’re also locked in to Slaanesh, which you’re just fine with, as it unlocks the ever enjoyable Endless Cacophony stratagem for when you really need to hose something down with 80 bolter shots (which you can, naturally, boost with Veterans of the Long War).
I don’t think that Emperor’s Children are guaranteed to keep that monopoly, however, especially as people try them out in soup builds. Two other legions give you some especially strong incentives to pack nasty Terminator squads, the World Eaters and the Black Legion. The World Eaters give you access to the Red Butchers stratagem, essentially building you a unit of Khorne Berserker Terminators by giving the unit S5 and letting them fight twice (and you can have a third via Fury of Khorne if you’re feeling spicy). Combined with the ability to consolidate 6″ via Kill! Maim! Burn!, if this unit ever starts a fight phase already in combat (or gets to charge multiple units) then your opponent is in enormous trouble, as they can rack up a body count that should temporarily sate even the blood god’s thirst. The other faction that’s got to be worth a look in is the Black Legion. Partially this is because for those dedicated souls trying to make pure CSM work, the Black Legion were among the highest performers so slotting what’s probably now the best CSM unit in only makes sense, but there are also some specific combos. Between the legion trait and the aura from Veteran Raider you can have the Terminators fall back and both shoot and charge, while World Killers gives you a pricy but very effective tool to stamp your dominion upon an objective at a key moment, Space Marine ObSec tricks be damned.
I expect that we’ll keep seeing Emperor’s Children Terminators show up in soup builds, and wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of concotion wanting one of those other two legions showed up at some point too.
9 – Dire Avengers
Dire Avengers are, to all intents and purposes, cheaper now than they were at any point in 8th, because they’ve returned to their 11pt basic price tag and all but the most expensive Exarch weapon set is now free. Just on a surface level, your MSU of these packing either Bladestorm or Battle Fortune on the Exarch has now returned to being a fundmantally decent unit, and that’s a huge uplift for the faction as a whole. It’s been really striking just how much breathing room being able to knock 30-45pts off my expected minimum spend on troops has been when putting together lists. Craftworlds desperately needed some help out of the January FAQ, and if they get anywhere from here it’s almost certainly going to be thanks to this cut in particular.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
The especially nice thing about this heavy buff landing on Dire Avengers is that, while they’re totally fine used to fill Battalion slots, there’s also ways you can specifically build around them. The big headliner here is Asurmen, who provides a 4+ invulnerable aura for his followers. Asurmen/DA spam was a fringe strategy seeing quite a bit of experimentation (including by me) towards the end of 8th and now DAs are back to their old price tag it feels like it should have a lot to offer in 9th. Going wide with 11pt 4++ ObSec models is a proven strategy out of Sisters, and it also unlocks the option of packing big squads to switch on Avenging Strikes, especially now you’re no longer so motivated to try and fill multiple battalions. Add in either custom Craftworld traits to up the damage output or Ulthwe for a 6+ feel no pain, and you have a promising looking army core that I’m extremely keen to try out.
You don’t even need to bring Asurmen if you want invuln-toting Avengers mind, as for the very reasonable price of 5pts you can give the exarch a Shimmershield for a unit-wide 5+. This does mean giving up the dual gun firepower, but if you take Avenging Strikes you’ll probably make any lost output back over the course of the game, and if you just want stuff to sit on objectives more stably than craftworlds can usually manage there’s even been some talk about taking Stand Firm here. I honestly wonder if there’s even some sort of shell where you could make these do something with the Yncarne or Avatar, as a fearless and/or 6+++ bubble on top of everything else is pretty cool.
As someone who owns far too many Dire Avengers, I am naturally inclined to see the best in them, but I genuinely do think there’s some real play here, and combining a healthy number of Avengers with some powerful shooting and Shining Spears is basically where I’d start for any Craftworld list at the moment.
8 – Tyrannofex with Acid Spray
The Tyrannofex is on this list because the poor, beautiful bug is currently getting a bit overshadowed by some of its massive resin cousins, and I don’t think it’s fair for it to miss out on the fun the Hive Mind’s spectacular resurgence brings. It picked up a double whammy of improvements in the January FAQ, going down substantially in points while also benefitting from the change to Bring it Down, making an extra monster much less of a liability, and taking those things together gives you a package that’s basically just neat, and can be slotted into lists where you have the points without having to worry too much about how you’re going to babysit them.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
Therin lies the key to the Tyrannofex – you don’t have to do very much to make them work. They don’t really need any of the Adaptive Physiologies to make them function, they don’t need lots of CP infused into them to kick off combos, you can just park one with its back tagging a home objective, then dare your opponent to move anything they don’t want soaked in a bunch of acid into that half of the board. If they don’t? Lumber forward and take the mid-board with them, whatever, no big deal. They have a very credible defensive profile for the cost (t8, 14W) which means they need real firepower pointed at them to kill them (especially if you run as Jormundgandr for cover in the open), and it’s probably a reasonable way down your list of priority targets, so it’s not the end of the world when the opponent decides to expend the resources to make that happen in 9th’s shorter games. Unlike a lot of the units that don’t mind parking on a home objective, bully charging one is also an extremely bad idea unless you can take it out in one round, as otherwise the culprit is getting the full acid blast treatment on the ensuing turn.
The Tyrannofex obviously has plenty of competition for your points, with Exocrines being the obvious comparator, and it’s going to vary list-to-list which one you want (and if you’re running as Kronos then sure, take the Exo). If what you’re looking for is something that can afford to play a more muscular game, and provide some substantial zone deterrence without any help, then the Tyranno is very much worth a renewed look in the current environment…probably. The only caveat I have to stick on that is that if the metagame grows even more Terminator heavy then the low AP of the spray here might prove a major hinderance, as Terminators in cover (or with shields) getting to take a 2+ obviously puts a stern cap on your effectiveness. Even then, however, the lists investing heavily in durability are often less happy to have another high toughness target facing them down, and a lot of the time you’ll be able to find a way to make this brute do some work.
7 – Purifiers
This one is straight up a PSA – if you haven’t heard about the Purifier menace yet (most likely from Erik Lathouras‘s run with them at the LVNo), consider this your warning. As the metagame has drifted harder and harder towards melee dominance, Grey Knight players have spotted a crack in GW’s long-running efforts to remove all the places in the game where you can get a 2+ invulnerable save. Purifiers have access to the Stand Firm stratagem, which gives them a 4++, which they can improve with Sanctuary to a 3++. Sanctuary’s rules normally cap it there, but if you give them a Nemesis Warding Stave you additionally add one to your rolls (rather than changing the save) in melee and hey-presto, you’ve got a 2++. Experts assure me that getting a 2+ invuln is “pretty good”, and this unit is starting to see play in the vast majority of Grey Knight lists, as being able to put down a unit that can tarpit very effectively without running you anywhere near the price tag of Terminators is great.
Note: Do be warned that the WTC FAQ has ruled that this interaction isn’t allowed, so if you’re participating in an event using that, don’t plan around this.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
Grey Knights are a little bit of a weird beast here, because they’re very heavily incentivised to run a pure list, so there’s an extent to which the advice is going to be “put at least one unit of 8-10 Purifiers in your army”. I realise that’s not especially mind blowing, but there’s a few extra pieces of advice to go with it. By packing a ten model unit of these you’re ensuring that you have a unit that’s packing the maximum count of storm bolters – so when equipping the Paladin bomb that you may well have, lean towards taking lots of psycannons. That way, on a turn where you switch to Tide of Convergence you can use both Psybolt Ammunition and Psychic Onslaught if required, maximising the amount of pain you can throw out on what’s likely to be your best shooting turn. If you want to bring multiple units of Purifiers, make sure you bring Rhinos so you can ensure you’re only deploying the one buffed unit at any one time. Unlike many GK units, Purifiers don’t have built-in Teleport Strike, and since your precious CP are probably earmarked for various shenanigans you ideally want to avoid spending them just to get these down safely. That also helps with board control, and it’s been very noticeable that Grey Knight lists able to rely on the (relatively) cheap Purifiers as a “main” unit look substantially heavier on the table (see Stuart Trainer’s list here), with much more ability to last out the game and control the board. That’s something that Grey Knights have really struggled with so far this edition, and highlighting just how much Purifiers have helped them get back into the game is why they get a slot on this list. I shall now sit back and wait for GW to immediately invalidate this article by deciding to apply the WTC ruling in a surprise FAQ.
6 – Assault Centurions
They’re baaaack. Arguably, they probably shouldn’t have left. Centurions are unique among non-CHARACTER Marine infantry in that they didn’t pick up the CORE keyword in the new book, and that lead a lot of people to put them on the shelf in favour of shiny new toys like, uh, Attack Bikes. The newest of toys. Anyway, that was probably premature because here’s the thing – Centurions do not need the CORE keyword to function. Leave the hurricane bolters on the shelf, pack them into your list at their really very aggressive price tag of 55pts each with flamers, and advance them around the board causing trouble. No sane opponent is going to look at the statline these are packing and think they’re now safe to get in a fight with, CORE be damned, and some of the effects you really want on them (the Narthecium, Combat Revival and various chapter-specific ones we’ll get to) aren’t even cut off. In some ways it can actually be liberating – in a melee focused metagame, these need very little support to contribute effectively, allowing you to concentrate your resources elsewhere. Right towards the end of 8th we’d started seeing these pop up in unlikely chapters like Iron Hands, just because lumbering into a central L then daring your opponent to come try and deal with it was totally fine as a plan. The basic shape of that honestly feels better in 9th, and you can even chuck a three model squad into strategic reserves for a single CP if you want to live rent-free in your opponent’s head until they come in – especially now they can flame straight from reserves. These really do feel like they’re on the cusp of being OK just on rate…
How to Get the Most Out of Them
…but some chapters can push them much harder. Obviously the old duo of White Scars and Raven Guard (usually Successors) have the most options here. Any way to chuck these into “proper” deep strike or a full outflank is great, as is anything that boosts their mobility on the table, and these chapters give you the tools for this. Raven Guard are generally going to want to run as Hungry for Battle, put them in Strike From the Shadows then use Raven’s Blade for a re-rollable 8″ charge (assuming anything is left after the flaming). Scars aren’t quite as good at the deep strike bit (though Fierce Rivalries is very good) but it almost doesn’t matter – thanks to being able to Advance and Charge, double move early via Wind Swift and pick up the speed boosts from the Plume of the Plainsrunner and Storm-Wreathed (neither of which is CORE locked) they’re more than capable of getting these into battle, and for Scars in particular that’s very exciting. Flat damage three on their drills is always tasty, but that going up to four in the late game is hilarious – and actively helpful right now. Blightlord Terminators have already made a splash because of how nightmarish a lot of armies find shifting them (allowing strong board control and WWSWF) but these from Scars counter them pretty effectively from turn 3 onwards – S10 D4 attacks that explicitly don’t rely on any re-rolls to get stuff done goes straight past all the normal obstacles that the Death Guard put up and makes a huge mess of them, and they’re going to do a better job of Mortarion hunting than most units if you’re worried about him. If Death Guard do become a major meta force, expect to see more of these tried.
Honestly, while these two chapters stand out there are plenty of other cool things you can try as well. Black Templars (who are seeing a surprising metagame surge at the moment) feel like they’re worth a look thanks to the standard combo of Devout Push and Tenacious Assault, Deathwatch can deep strike them with Teleportarium, actually boost their hit rolls, hand them a feel no pain from afar and do sneaky stuff with Brotherhood of Veterans, while Blood Angels bring a natural charge boost and Shield of Sanguinius. Even Dark Angels, who you’d think would be covered for chonky bois, feel like they might bring some game on the Successor front – Righteous Repugnance provides an angle to hand them full hit and wound re-rolls in melee which, uh, yeah that’s pretty good for them. Line Unbreakable then makes them very tough to stop and the ability to shoot their flamers in combat via Fire Discipline is also pretty cool.
There’s a lot of stuff, is what I’m saying, and it feels like this is an angle that’s been underexplored. With bigger and tougher tarpits increasingly popular, packing a unit that can help crack them open while also being excellent in horde matchups feels like it’s worth another look.
5 – Chimera
Here we flip back across to the tried and true combo of “recent discount” and “from a weak faction”. The Astra Militarum have been in a rough spot all edition, but recent changes have helped them overall, and dedicated Guard players should be on the lookout for ways to capitalise. If buying and painting 40 resin ponies doesn’t take your fancy (and, you know, relateable) I think you could do worse than give the humble Chimera (of which you probably already own several) another look. With their main gun becoming free and a discount added on their heavy bolter, these now run you a bargain basement 75pts each, you can pack effectively as many as you want into a list, and at exactly ten wounds they now only bleed 1pt each on BID. That means you could slap down four of these to go with your three Russ/two Manticore core and still not quite give up maximum points on that most wicked of secondaries, and if you want to just go all-in on flodding the board with small tanks you can afford to push your numbers even higher. That gives you a formidible wall of steel to drive around the board ramming things and blocking stuff off, helping you make up for the relative weakness of Guard’s melee options, and a non-zero number of lists are just straight up going to struggle to fully clear this kind of army out, letting you lean on your (still cheap) infantry to squat on objectives for a big score.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
If we’re just talking about the Chimera, and you want to absolutely maximise how annoying they can be, Armageddon Steel Legion and their spiritual son Yarrick have got to be worth a look. Ignoring AP-1 across all of the tanks is going to help a bunch in plenty of matchups, further reducing the rate at which the opponent can chew through them with anything other than the good stuff. Yarrick, meanwhile, gives you a re-roll 1s aura to at least somewhat boost your damage output. Going Steel Legion also lets you play around with the Mount Up! aura to put stuff back into the transports in an emergency, which can be powerful in the right situation, especially with Veterans or Command Squads, whom you want to try and squeeze the most shooting out of. There’s actually a neat interaction here that I hadn’t spotted before which is that you could bring a unit on from Strategic Reserves within 3″ of a transport, then use the order to allow them to jump in to the tank straight after firing. Bringing plasma-toting squads in for some one-and-done shooting is popular right now, but setting up so that you can actually sometimes protect the models for another go the next turn is obviously going to be even better! Most lists are obviously still going to want the Spotter/Experts 3 TC, 2 Manticore 3 Scions battalion as their primary detachment, but bringing an Armageddon battalion as the rest of the list honestly doesn’t look like a terrible idea with this in mind.
If you want to go all-in on causing headaches, of course, you could paint those forty ponies as well. The sheer number of durable wounds that the Krieg lists can put onto the table is a big part of their strength, and augmenting their already extremely silly levels of durability with a bunch of discount tanks is very likely to result in a list that cannot be functionally removed in most 5-turn games. Add in a Sisters detachment with Celestine to bring the gift of invulnerable saves (and bring her melta-toting Retributor friends) and it feels like there’s maybe something there.
4 – Psychomancer
The Psychomancer has been growing on me, and I’m not the only one. Unlike a lot of units on this list, the rules on the model haven’t changed since the codex, but the world we’re (un)living in has. One of the places Necrons are a bit lacking is in real, proper, point-and-delete killing power, and many of their options that do bring some of this to the table rely on flat D2 and D3 weapons. That makes the Death Guard builds we’re seeing out the gate seen very threatening indeed, and Dark Angels are likely to pose some of the same challenges. If you can’t destroy the units outright, however, maybe you can at least shut them down, and that’s where the Psychomancer comes in. With the ability to slow the enemy down, switch off their ObSec or at least force them to fight last so your melee units have a sporting chance, this most spooky of skeletons provides some alternative angles of attack that might prove necessary in the coming months. Being able to pack an Atavindicator to throw out some Mortal Wounds also doesn’t hurt at all against many of the same challenges.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
In some ways, I’m coming late to this particular party. According to my sources in the weird and wonderful world of the team-event-adjacent-singles-event-scene (it’s a real thing, honest) the Psychomancer has been seeing some promising play as the lone HQ in various triple C’tan builds. Most of these are using Eternal Expansionist setups to play for objectives while C’tan sit at the back blasting with Mortals and racking up While We Stand, We Fight and the Psychomancer makes sense here. Usually sporting the Veil of Darkness, they can pick a key turn to teleport to a position and switch off the opponent’s ObSec, allowing the army-wide access to it granted by Eternal Conequerors to flip an objective out of the opponent’s hand at a key juncture. This kind of precision scoring manipulation is like catnip to the WTC crowd so it’s no surprise to see this kind of strategy evolving there, but it definitely feels like it has wider applications. I’ve had surprisingly good performence in my Novokh lists from using the Veil of Darkness to shunt my Lychguard to a vulnerable flank pretty early on, and brawling through the opposition from there, and bringing a Psychomancer along for the ride to potentially switch off the ObSec of their charge targets and make the situation much more urgent for the opponent seems appealing. The Nightmare Shroud aura is also genuinely powerful against anything that doesn’t just ignore the attrition modifier, and another nice combo with C’tan if you’re that way inclined, as they tend to scatter lots of mortals wound like candy.
All things considered, I’m much more invested to try this model out than I expected to be, and there’s a reason that even now there’s a primed one on my painting station. On that note, I hope I’m right about this one, because let me tell you this kit is (appropriately) an absolute screaming nightmare to build.
3 – Knight Castellan
So originally this slot was going to be the Knight Magaera but I’ve been comprehensively beaten to the punch on that one by the folks over at Art of War, so instead (on the advice of intrepid list pioneer Gunum) it’s time to talk about another lurking evil that will forever live rent-free in the heads of most 8th Edition veterans, the Knight Castellan. Unlike some of our other entrants here, there’s been no recent massive discount to the unit itself, but the metagame and supporting tools have been looking ever more favourable. Magaeras and Armigers being priced to move means that pure Knight lists can plausibly put one of these monstrosities down with real backup. A fully operational Castellan, two Magaeras and three Warglaives runs you exactly 2000pts, and brings the kind of pain to the table that many players have adjusted out of the habit of planning for. Ranged firepower is trending ever harder towards mid-ranged setups designed to prise out opposing melee units, and the formidible challenge of taking out a Castellan at extreme range is something that few outside Sisters are going to routinely have the tools for. Underlying this calculation for a lot of players is the assumption that in a shorter game, they’ll be able to weather the storm of anything they can’t reach out and kill, but with a Castellan on the board that’s an extremely bold assumption. Between flat three damage plasma from the (near mandatory) Cawl’s Wrath, eye-watering turbo-blasts from the volcano lance and a respectable clip from the various sidearms, if your plan relies on having high-quality models last out the game, you do not want to see one of these on the other side of the table.
How to Get the Most Out of Them
As has always been the case, there’s almost no contest between Questor Imperialis and Questor Mechanicus for the Castellan – Mechanicus every time, because even if Cawl’s Wrath and Machine Spirit Resurgent weren’t Mechanicus locked, the houses are flatly better anyway. Any of Krast, Raven and Taranis have some real appeal in this context. If you’re all-in on Knights, Krast is usually the pick because of how much of an overall boost to your output their Tradition gives you (and First Knight is helpful too), but if you’re souping both the others have attractions. While you will often want to be hanging your Castellan back, being able to hustle around the board at speed via the Raven Tradition is very helpful, and joining that house also grants you access to the infamous Order of Companions stratagem. Is this usually necessary? No – but with Death Guard arriving on the scene, we are back to having some matchups where it’s actually relevant, whether it be blasting some Blightlords apart or really ruining the day of that person who’s just deployed their newly painted Mortarion. Those armies do also tend to be pretty low on heavy ranged fire, meaning you’ll want the option to close to bring the meltas into play once the Primarch is down, again making Raven helpful. Finally, Taranis is probably closer to a meme now you can’t re-roll the dice for Our Darkest Hour, and the extra durability ideally shouldn’t matter in most games – but if you’re a gambler, it’s there for the taking.
Playing as Mechanicus also opens up the new-ish Cold Calculation warlord trait. Time was Ion Bulwark was practically mandatory on the Castellan, but there are few enough lists that are going to reliably threaten the Knight out of the gate that I think I’d be willing to try gambling on taking Calculation, and accepting that I’ll sometimes have to sink points into Rotate. On the assumption I’m taking two other big knights, I’d probably spec those defensively and aim to force my opponent to take them out first while the Castellan blasts away.
That brings us onto the subject of lists. You’ve seen what I’d likely be trying for a pure Knight build above (Krast, two Magaeras, three Warglaives), but for soup I’d probably tweak the setup. Go Raven, keep the Castellan (Cold Calculation, Cawl’s Wrath), keep the first Magaera (Sanctuary), but instead of the second one of those, take a Freeblade Lancer (Landstrider) with the Sworn to a Quest quality. That saves you some points, and gives you an extremely hefty ObSec brick to thrust onto objectives. It also makes sure all your Knights are CHARACTERS and pretty mobile, and the two mid-board ones can both have a 4++ in melee at the same time. It also leaves you 445pts to play with, which you can fill out in a number of ways. Krieg or AdMech Pony Club is as appealing as ever, but following on from the theme above you could do something like:
- Company Commander
- 2 Infantry Squads
- 2 Chimeras
- 1 Scion Squad
- 1 plasma Command Squad
- Armoured Sentinel
That lets you completely avoid exposing any non-armoured unit to opposing shooting till you want to, gives you enough bodies that you’re likely to be able to pull of Scramblers if you need to, and you’ve even got a spare home objective lurking model in the sentinel if the Castellan needs to go walkabout to melta things. You get ferocious damage output while keeping enough stuff to play the mission, and it feels like it could work – especially if “standing still and daring the opponent to try and shift you” continues to grow in popularity as a stratagy. The Castellan dares. Oh yes it does.
2 – Crisis Suits with Flamers
Oh Tau. What are we going to do with you? I’m not here to tell you that I have discovered the secret to making Tau good again, but when going through the point changes and trying my hand at throwing a few lists together, flamer-equipped Crisis Suits did stand out to me as something plausibly worth exploring, because they’ve gotten real cheap through successive buffs (40pts for a suit with three flamers or two and an ATS), and get closer than most of the roster does to filling the role of a “Brawler” unit. Another thing I’ve been working on recently is updating the unit roles guide for 9th (check in next week for that, hopefully) and something 9th heavily incentivises is the inclusion of units that can roll around a section of the battlefield fighting stuff at close range with relatively minimal support, and ideally adapt to a wide variety of targets.
Really, truly, you want these units to get stuff done in melee, but a five-model all-flamer Crisis team isn’t bad at pulling this off, and when you’re only paying 40pts each for the models the defensive statline looks a lot more proportionate than normal, and being able to overwatch for free is pretty tasty when you’re throwing that many auto-hits around. Not needing a huge amount of support is also a big deal in Tau, as they’re heavily reliant on stratagem combos and markerlight setup to get their units operating at full effect – normally. While totally happy to pick up Command-and-Control Node, this unit doesn’t need any support to do its thing, allowing you to focus buffs and support for either Broadsides (also appealingly cheaper) or a more tooled up Crisis Team. This tips you towards being able to pull off the kind of multi-front engagement that you need to execute to win games in 9th, and honestly Tau-playing readers – do you have anything to lose by trying them out at this point?
How to Get the Most Out of Them
Another point that’s very much in this unit’s favour is that it works well in Farsight Enclaves, the coolest and also best Sept. Being able to switch on a 5+ feel no pain with Defence in Numbers lets them weather a volley of fire that much more effectively, they’re perfectly happy closing within 6″ to benefit from the Sept Tenet, and Farsight is more than happy to drop his paltry shooting to hand out wound re-rolls in a pinch. Another angle you can (and probably should) take to increase the durability here is to load out one suit as a “defence” model – take an Iridium suit and swap one flamer for a shield generator. That gives you an extra tough ablative model to soak up some initial blasts, and you can even go further and tool that model with an airbursting frag and the Reactive Countermeasures Prototype System to make them a true nightmare to crack.
Speaking of systems, I aluded to the fact that you can get either an ATS or a third flamer at the same price so you’re probably wondering which you should take. The way the maths works out, shooting at a model with a 3+ save is the balance point where both work out the same. Against 2+ saves you want the ATS, while against anything worse than that you’re better off with the higher volume of shots. Which you choose is thus going to depend slightly on the metagame you expect to face, but right now I think I’d probably just go for all flamers, with my reasoning being that you’re packing other tools to engage models with a 2+, both builds perform equally against a 3+ (and you blow Multi-Spectrum Sensor Suite against Marines in cover) and if you pay for the ATS you lose out against anything with a way to ignore AP-1 or starts at an effective 1+.
The other key thing to using this unit well is exploiting what it gives you at a list building level – a much cheaper tool to achieve a particular goal than Tau otherwise get. Similar to Purifiers in Grey Knights this gives you quite a lot more breathing room when building your lists to squeeze lots of stuff in, and I was able to put together a list featuring these that also packed two Broadside units, another Crisis bomb (with Gatling Burst, the other way to have a high-ish performance squad on the cheap) and two loaded Devilfish that I didn’t totally hate. Tau firepower is still mean, especially with Broadsides as cheap as they are, so anything that gives you a chance to maybe, just maybe, contend enough in the mid-board to actually utilise that is worth at least exploring (for anyone who hasn’t given in and bought another army by now).
1 – Kustom Stompa
Please do not adjust your web browser. The Stompa has been the butt of many, many jokes since it arrived in the 8th Edition Ork book, but today I am here to tell you that it’s Forge World cousin the Kustom Stompa might just be Good, Actually, and that’s because of a little (well, massive, rusty) thing called the stompa lifta-droppa.
This gun is outrageous, and the Kustom Stompa can take two. You should absolutely do this, and then this monstrosity to bring ruin to anyone who has ever mocked a massive idol of Gork/Mork with such cruel jabs as “doesn’t have an invuln” or “doesn’t do enough damage”. The first bit is maybe still true (but like with the Castellan, matters a fair bit less in many matchups) but the lifta droppa makes damage a solved problem. Each gun gets an average of 8 shots that hit at AP-4 for damage d3+3, but the real spice is in how their wounding works. Rather than having a strength, you instead roll 3d6, needing to beat the target’s toughness to score a wound. I’ll save you the trouble of going and doing the maths – this gives you a >98% chance of hitting the 5 total you need to wound against T4 models (slightly better than 2s re-rolling) and even against the T8 that is the peak for almost every target you’re still wounding about 74% of the time (about the same as 4s re-rolling). This makes this weapon great against any vehicles or monsters that cross its path, but like a lot of tools that are clearly meant for that, where it absolutely excels is against elite infantry.
Whether you are being troubled by Inceptors, Blightlords, Custodian Guard or (especially) the Deathwing, this weapon will absolutely ruin their day, and doesn’t give a damn about Transhuman Physiology or whatever equivalent the target can throw up. Just operating at base rate, the two liftas here can smoke an average of three 4++ Terminators of pretty much any stripe a turn (and flat out evaporate an Inceptor squad), and these aren’t even the only guns it gets – it packs three absurd damage 6 shots from its eye-beams and can install a belly cannon for a volley of D2 shooting (which does means sacrificing transport capacity and the opportunity to have a Big Mek carrying a Kustom Force Field inside). Left to its own devices, there are a reasonable number of matchups where this model can actually rack up a kill count to justify its price tag through the game. What if you didn’t just do that though…
How to Get the Most Out of Them
Obvious one out the way – you will often want to pop More Dakka when this shoots. It lets you bypass any pesky Dense terrain that’s in your way, and adds a reasonable handful of extra hits. The real prize, however, is managing to land Visions in the Smoke on this. That isn’t always trivial – you need an Evil Synz weirdboy ideally backed up by a healthy number of Boyz to buff the casting, but if you can land it things get absolutely wild. Visions grants full hit re-rolls, and these combine exceptionally well with More Dakka, because they mean you get more extra shots and those extra shots are more likely to themselves hit. Once it’s all added you, you get an average of about 13.5 hits total with the liftas with both of these effects online, and that’s a number that means business. It won’t quite kill Mortarion or Big Bird by itself (though don’t forget the eye beams exist) but pretty much any other monster or titan can expect a one-way trip to the morgue from the liftas alone. Fired into big tarpits it’s even nastier – you’re putting 6-7 4++ models of pretty much any stripe into the bin, and against anything without an invuln you can plausibly pick up multiple whole squads. This also means your opponent has to really hope that their plan for counterattacking against this menace can either one-shot it or can somehow shield themselves from its wrath, otherwise it’s going to quickly dominate the shooting game and rack up an exceptional kill count over the course of the game.
That’s good for Orks too, because they’re very much a faction that can exploit that kind of attrition. Even once you’ve got the Stompa and its support in your list you can afford three big blocks of Boyz and some utility units, and while you won’t have quite as much brute force going in as the Goff Skarboyz lists do, plenty of armies already struggle to clear out that many models and will struggle substantially more if their horde clearers are getting vaporised whenever they pop their heads up. Orks aren’t a faction that’s hurting for viable strategies right now, with both Goffs and Deathskull vehicle spam still being reasonably respectable, but if you’re hankering to try out something extremely silly and surprisngly effective, haul one of these bad boyz onto the table and just absolutely go to town.
As promised, clickbait mode will now be disengaged, and your regularly scheduled programming will resume next week. Please do not adjust your internet browsers. In the meantime, if you have any comments, questions or suggestions, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.