Detachment Focus: Cult of Magic (Updated July 12, 2024)

In this series of articles we take a deep dive into a specific detachment for a faction, covering the faction’s rules and upgrades and talking about how to build around that faction for competitive play. In this article, we’re covering the Cult of Magic Detachment for the Thousand Sons.

The Thousand Sons had nine cults in ninth edition but in Tenth they’ve been reduced to just one: The Cult of Magic. That’s fine, because most players were only running the Cult of Time or Cult of Deception before anyways. The Cult of Magic rules aren’t complicated, but they are some of the most powerful in the game.


  • Update (Latest): 2024-07-12 for the June 2024 Balance Update
  • Update: 2024-06-12 Initial Publication

Detachment Overview

The Cult of Magic enhances the power of your Psychic weapons, making them much more deadly. On top of that, the detachment offers some extremely powerful Enhancements and Stratagems.

Detachment Rule: Kindred Sorcery

In your Command Phase, you can pick one of the following abilities to take effect until your next Command phase:

  • Psychic weapons equipped by Thousand Sons models in your army gain [LETHAL HITS]
  • Psychic weapons equipped by Thousand Sons models in your army gain [SUSTAINED HITS 1]
  • Psychic weapons equipped by Thousand Sons models in your army gain [DEVASTATING WOUNDS]

You can go ahead and stop agonizing over this because I’m going to tell you right now: In most turns of most games, you’re going to take Devastating Wounds. It’s by far the most powerful effect here, and helps you push through damage you’d otherwise never be able to get. The army has a number of ways to re-roll wounds, allowing you to fish for Devastating Wounds with almost any Psychic Attack you could make. When you combine this with the mortal wounds you can do with Doombolt and Grenades, you have an army which is more than capable of taking down any target in the game. Note that this doesn’t specify shooting or melee, and will apply to the melee attacks made by your Force Staves and Daemon Princes.

If there’s a time you’ll use SUSTAINED HITS 1, it’s purely when the bulk of your shooting will be coming from Magnus, who already has Devastating Wounds on his Gaze of Magnus and his Blade of Magnus.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


These are three of the best Enhancements in the game, and also Athenaean Scrolls. The Vortex and Lord of Forbidden Lore were recently nerfed, and even with those nerfs they’re still insanely strong and near must-takes.

  • Arcane Vortex (25 points) – Add 1 to the Strength and Damage characteristics of Psychic Weapons equipped by the bearer. You can have fun putting this on a Daemon Prince or a Sorcerer, but the real value is on an Infernal Master, where his Screamer Invocation suddenly becomes one of the most deadly weapons in the game as a Torrent 2D6 S7 AP-2 D2 gun which frequently also has DEVASTATING WOUNDS and the ability to re-roll all wounds, plus the ability to auto-turn one wound roll per turn into an unmodified 6. It’s incredibly, stupidly good and absolutely worth 25 points. not quite a must-take at 25 points, but pretty close.
  • Athenaean Scrolls (20 points) – In your command phase, if the bearer is on the battlefield and not Battle-shocked, you generate one extra Cabal Point. This is fine but a bit expensive for a single Cabal Point. You have better ways to generate them.
  • Lord of Forbidden Lore (35 points) – The bearer can be selected to use a Ritual even if another PSYKER from your army has already been selected to use that one this phase. This is massive, and it’s how you get to double Doombolt. A must-take in the army for the versatility it buys you.
  • Umbralefic Crystal (20 points) – Once per game you can remove the bearer’s unit from the battlefield in the Command phase. If you do, in the Reinforcements step of your next Movement phase, set that unit back up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9″ away from any enemy units. This is massive, and can be used to save you from a melee you don’t want to be in. Great for taking advantage of gaps in the opponent’s back lines, great for escaping trouble, great for getting to key objectives and hard-to-reach spots at the right time. Another must-take.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


The six Stratagems available to the Cult of Magic are very good. Following the June 2024 Balance Update, you can now reduce the cost of any of these by 1 with the Echoes of the Warp Cabbalistic Ritual.

  • Psychic Dominion (Epic Deed, 1 CP) – Use in any phase after an enemy unit picks its targets. Pick one Thousand Sons unit targeted and for the rest of the phase they get a 4+ Feel No Pain against Psychic Attacks while any Psychic weapons used to attack them gain the [HAZARDOUS] ability. This is very niche – it’s mostly for the mirror match and Grey Knights – but pretty solid when you need it.
  • Destined by Fate (Epic Deed, 1 CP) – Used in any phase when you fail a saving throw. Reduce the damage of that attack to 0. This is great but note that it requires a failed save, so it can’t be used to blank damage on an attack doing Devastating Wounds.
  • Devastating Sorcery (Battle Tactic, 1 CP) – Used in the Shooting phase. ick a PSYKER unit from your army and it can re-roll hit rolls and wound rolls with Psychic Attacks. This is huge – it’s great for fishing for Devastating Wounds with Magnus or an Infernal Master, and combos in a big way with Ensorcelled Infusion to turn a unit of Scarabs into a murder machine. You’re going to use this more than any other Stratagem on this list.
  • Ensorcelled Infusion (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – Used in the Shooting phase. Pick a PSYKER unit from your army and until the end of the phase all inferno bolt pistols, inferno boltguns, inferno combi-bolters, and inferno combi-weapons equipped by that unit have the [PSYCHIC] ability and a Strength characteristic of 5. This is basically the Stratagem which makes big Scarab units work – you take a unit of 10 with 8 combi-bolters and with a Terminator Sorcerer they throw out 36 shots at S5, which then get +1 to hit and wound if they’re close to Magnus now that their guns are PSYCHIC. Those also gain Devastating Wounds from the Detachment rule, and you can use Devastating Sorcery to re-roll wound rolls with the unit as well. If you’re going for broke against a massive target, throw in Twist of Fate to prevent saves and you can delete almost anything in the game, albeit at a high cost.
  • Sorcerous Might (Epic Deed, 1 CP) – Used in your Shooting phase to add 9″ to the range of Psychic weapons equipped by a unit for a phase. This is fine – it’s pretty niche in its use but it can be helpful when you need to dump something like Screamer Invocation on a unit without getting too close. It also combos with Ensorcelled Infusion, but generally you’ll be getting your Scarabs within 12″ of your target anyways.
  • Warp Sight (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – Used in your Shooting phase on a Thousand Sons PSYKER unit and one enemy unit visible to them. Until the end of the phase, each time a friendly PSYKER model in your army targets that unit they gain IGNORES COVER and INDIRECT FIRE. This is pretty solid for spotting an enemy unit and shredding them through walls with something like a character on Disc, but it’s also pretty situational.

Of these, Devastating Sorcery and Destined by Fate are the stratagems you’ll use most often, the former to push out Devastating wounds and the latter to protect Magnus or a Daemon Prince. The rest are fine but require specific situations – though they’re very good in those situations, so keep them in mind.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Playing This Detachment

The Thousand Sons are one of the game’s best armies but also one of the most difficult to play. You’re piloting a very elite force which can absolutely crumble if you lose one or two key units at the wrong time. Though the flipside is you have one of the most devastating clapbacks in all of 40k, able to deliver the kinds of haymakers that most armies cannot recover from.

When you play this Detachment, you have options. The core of your strategy is going to be driven by Mangus and a series of PSYKER characters joined to Rubric units who can both augment those units and use their wound re-roll abilities to push out Devastating Wounds to enemy units. Rubrics are one of the game’s best units, and their wound re-rolls are fantastic not just for their warpflamers but also the army’s psychic output.

Despite only having a small pool of units to choose from, you have a lot of options when you build a competitive Cult of Magic Detachment – you’ll need Magnus, and you’ll generally want 2-5 Rubric squads, but you can support them in a number of ways, using everything from Scarab Terminators to Mutalith Vortex Beasts to Tzaangors to Forgefiends. The Rubrics are your key units here – they can dish out incredible damage with a character attached, but can also die surprisingly quickly, and they’ll disappoint you in melee often. Focus on keeping a healthy distance from melee threats and choosing your spots, dropping in and clearing units off the table and using Temporal Surge to move out of harm’s way and onto key objectives.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up our look at the Cult of Magic, an incredibly powerful detachment for one of the game’s most versatile armies. It’s a difficult Detachment to work with – there are a lot of combos here and intricacies in how you plan around different movement options and Stratagems – but when you pull it off the whole thing feels downright magical.

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