Faction Focus: Imperial Knights

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9th edition is here and with it a host of new rules, points, and FAQs that have completely changed the game. In today’s Faction Focus, Shane Watts is talking about Imperial Knights – how they’ve changed in the new edition and how they play. So settle in and get comfortable as we dive into everything you need to know.

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The Points Updates

Imperial Knights were one of the surprise big winners of this of the points update – almost everything went up in its base cost, but most of the weapon costs dropped to zero, significantly mitigating these increases and leaving us with a bunch of 30-point increases on knights.

At a baseline, GW’s correct recognition that there’s diminishing returns on large units and they thus didn’t need to go up by that much means that Knights can still hit the table in force – the four Questoris, two Armiger list we mathed out could squeeze onto the table with just the drop of an Armiger. That’s huge, because the resilience of these lists comes from overwhelming the enemy with big Knights, and so being able to keep the same number of Questoris hulls while all your predators get a bit weaker should do a lot to keep Knights as a real force in 9th edition.

Armigers went up 15 points each, along with the Moirax variant. The Cerastus Knights and 2 big’uns – the Prophyrion and the Asterius – went up, but not significantly so.

And then there’s the Castellan, which no longer pays anything for its guns, taking it down to a very fieldable 620 points with the four missile build. Now that we’re through the second round of FAQs and the Chaos Knight Tyrant has also come down to the same price, the Castellan is likely worth another look.

The FAQ

The FAQ helped Imperial Knights considerably. The rules to move over models have drastically changed; now the Titanic Knight units can move over enemy units (except for VEHICLE and MONSTER units) when doing a normal move, an advance, or making a Fall Back move. This means that one of the main tactics of move blocking a Knight with a cheap screen in order to prevent it from moving, is more or less dead. Freeing up the movement phase for Knights is a big deal and will better enable them to actively focus on getting onto objectives.

Imperial Knight

Imperial Knight. Credit: Jack Hunter

Secondary Objectives

Secondary Objectives are one of the big changes to 9th edition missions. To ITC veterans they’ll be conceptually familiar, but there are a lot of differences between these secondaries and the set you’re used to. Let’s go ahead and examine each secondary in the 2020 GT Missions pack, and how we can mitigate/achieve them. You choose three of these before the game begins, and you can only choose one from each category. Some of these are better for Imperial Knights than others, and some are just completely not feasible without souping in units from other factions.

Generally, you want to pick objectives that align with your existing goals, such as killing key target units and holding objectives, maxing out your rewards for pursing those goals. Try to avoid secondary objectives that depend on your opponent’s actions or are easy for them to interfere with. Also note that secondary objectives in 9th edition can be difficult to max out. Make sure the secondaries you pick can score you at least 10 points, but if they cap out at 12-13 that’s not the end of the world if it’ll be much easier to score those points than it would be to max out another objective.

Battlefield Supremacy

Domination: Score 3 points at the end of your turn if you control more than half the objectives. With most of the missions being 5/6 objectives, this means typically you will need to hold 3 or 4 objectives at the end of your turn. This seems like it is potentially doable in early turns of the game, but will get progressively harder as the game goes on. If you soup in some objective grabbing units, this becomes a lot more feasible. This objective also gives you end-of-turn scoring, which can help mitigate going second. (Good.)

Engage On All Fronts: Similar to Recon for 8th ed ITC scoring. Score 2 points if you have units wholly within 3 different quarters of the battlefield (6″ away from the center) at the end of your turn, if you have units wholly within all 4 quarters score 3 points instead. Fitting a Knight wholly into a quarter is kind of a pain in the ass, but can be achieved. However again without having some souped units, being in all 4 quarters, especially for multiple turns, is going to be rough. Getting some points is easy, but maxing is going to be hard, if not impossible. (OK.)

Linebreaker: Score 4 points for having 2 units wholly within the enemy deployment zone at the end of your turn. Being “wholly within” is hard (as just mentioned above) for such a large base. However if you want to soup, there is a few good options to help you achieve this like Tempestus Scions. They aren’t very survivable, but they have a very small footprint and so are pretty easy to hide. If you have scions, and your opponent has a hard time blocking out their back field, this could work well.  (Good with the right build and right match ups.)

Imperial Knight Armiger Warglaive

Imperial Knight Armiger Warglaive
Credit: Pendulin

No Mercy, No Respite

Thin Their Ranks: Score 1 point for every 10 models killed (10 points if that model was 10+ wounds). The current primary objective emphasizes durable units holding objectives, so a shift to elite durable units and vehicles is expected. When you tack that on to the fact you more or less need to kill 150 models to max this secondary, it seems fairly unrealistic to take. If you face an Ork/Tyranid horde with a ton of bodies this could work. Additionally, it competes with Grind Them Down, which generally a horde would be vulnerable to as well. (Pass.)

Grind Them Down: Score 3 points at the end of the battle round if more enemy units were destroyed than friendly units. With having a low unit count made of models that are generally durable, this is a pretty solid pick. If you soup and can protect those units via hiding etc., this is probably one of the most reliable secondaries Knights can pick. (Pretty good.)

While We Stand, We Fight: Identify the 3 highest point-cost models in your army. For each of those 3 models that are alive at the end of the battle, score 5 points. The big downside to this is that killing our knights is already part of the game plan for any opponent we go up against – if they don’t kill one or two of our big knights, they’re not going to win. So we don’t want our big Knights to die, but expecting all 3 of our most costly to survive a whole game is fairly unrealistic. Getting 5 points from this is realistic, but not 10/15, unless you practically tabled your opponent early in the game. (Not Good.)

Purge The Enemy

Titan Hunter: Score 10 points for destroying an enemy Titanic unit, 12 points if 2 or more were destroyed, and 15 if 3 or more was destroyed. Well the good news is, if you run into another Knights army, this should work well for you – it’s an auto-take. The bad news is, it’s also pretty much an auto-take against you, even if you’ve only got a single TITANIC unit. (Good vs Knights sadly.)

Bring It Down: Score 2 points for every enemy Vehicle/Monster destroyed with 10 or less wounds, 3 points for a Vehicle/Monster with 11+ wounds. If you are facing a list with a bunch of Vehicles/Monsters this is a solid choice for obvious reasons. If your opponent’s list fits the bill, this should be an easy 8+ points. (Good.)

Cut Off The Head: Score points depending on the turn that the enemy warlord was destroyed (13/10/6/3/1). If you brought a Castellan/Valiant, this could happen with the missile snipe, but is still very risky. If you also brought along an assassin, you can increase these odds in your favor, but still pretty risky overall. (High Risk, High reward, if you brought a Castellan/Valiant.)

Assassinate: Score 3 points for every enemy character destroyed. Most armies are rocking 2-5 characters, so depending on the opponent, this can be fairly reliable. With the new Look Out, Sir targeting rules for characters, this is easier to achieve as well, but still reliant on being able to get at your opponents characters. Combos well with Abhor The Witch(Good.)

Imperial Knights - Knight Gallant

Imperial Knights – Knight Gallant
Credit: Pendulin

Shadow Operations

This whole section requires soup, because infantry.

Raise The Banners High:  Infantry unit performs action on an objective starting at the end movement and completing at end of your turn. Banners are destroyed at the end of any phase that your opponent controls that objective. During your command phase, score 1 point per objective with a banner on it and 1 point per banner remaining at the end of the game. Well the good news is, you can entirely forget about this secondary unless you brought soup-ed infantry, and you more than likely won’t have more than 2 banners up at a time. The upside is that any banners in your backfield you put up, will probably stay, since your opponent will have to get past the knights to tear them down. You might be able to be a little cheeky with some reserve shenanigans for mid-field objectives, but don’t rely on it. (Ok, with the right soup.)

Investigate Sites: Non-character infantry unit performs action at the end of movement within 6″ of the center of the battlefield with no enemy units within 6″ of the center, completes at end of you turn. Score 3 points each time this action is completed. With the discussion for Raise The Banners High, this is even harder to achieve and riskier as well, so probably not good.  (Not good.)

Deploy Scramblers: Non-character infantry unit performs action at end of movement phase, once wholly within your deployment zone, once more than 6″ away from either deployment zone, and once wholly within enemy deployment zone, completes at end of your turn. Score 10 points if all 3 pieces are completed, zero otherwise. I see a theme of, we don’t really have the tools, and with part of this objective relying on an infantry unit completing an action in the enemy deployment zone, even with soup this probably isn’t going to happen. (Pass.)

Teleport Homer: Infantry unit performs action at the end of the movement phase, while wholly within the enemy deployment zone, and completes at the end of your next command phase. Score 4 points each time it is completed. As said throughout this section, already our weak point in needing infantry, and being in the enemy deployment zone with 2 units seems very unrealistic. (Pass.)

Warpcraft

Besides Abhor The Witch, this section requires a souped in Psyker.

Abhor The Witch: If your army contains no Psykers, Score 5 points for every enemy Psyker character destroyed, 3 points for non character Psyker units. This secondary is Amazing – if you run into Grey Knights, Thousand Sons, or other Chaos lists, assuming you didn’t soup in your own Psyker. (Super Good, if your opponent has 2+ psykers and you have none.)

Mental Interrogation: Psyker character performs psychic action (Warp Charge 4) within 18″ of any enemy character model, score 3 points. With only scoring 3 points per action, you need to do this every turn to max, which seems like it won’t happen that often, unless you bring quite a few Psykers. Keep in mind that enemy Psykers can still use Deny The Witch to stop this action. (Good, if you brought a Psyker.)

Psychic Ritual: Psyker character performs psychic action (Warp Charge 3) within 6″ of the center of the battlefield. Score 15 points if completed 3 times, zero otherwise. A few concerns arise here, one of which is the need to be near the center of the table, which is an issue if there is no objectives nearby. Secondly, an enemy Psyker can deny this. So if your opponent is able to keep you away from the center and/or deny it multiple times, you are going to lose out entirely on this secondary. (High Risk, High Reward.)

Pierce The Veil: Psyker character performs psychic action (Warp Charge 4) within 6″ of enemy’s battlefield edge and more than 6″ away from enemy units. Score 8 points if completed 2-3 times, or 15 if completed 4+. This is like Psychic Ritual, but almost harder in every way. Having a more difficult position to get to, and having to cast 1 more time for the 15 points, this seems like an auto pass, especially since our Psykers will have a hard time getting into position for this, unless for some reason your souped in units include a GK psyker. Really the only way this ends up being feasible at all is if you brought along some GK you plan on bringing in from reserve, and your opponent can’t screen out their backfield. (Maybe, if you brought some Grey Knights along, but still dubious.)

Credit: BuffaloChicken

How They Play

With 9th edition, we have a new mission format and for the most part these revolve around holding objectives, which is not exactly what Knights are known for. Additionally the secondary objectives don’t play very well into a Knights list (there is only really 3 sections to choose secondaries from unless you brought soup and there is one secondary that is directly targeted at us), so the ways one wins the game aren’t going to be easy either. The new terrain changes are slighted against us as well, but with high movement being able to draw line of sight around obscuring terrain should be feasible.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, the FAQ changes discussed above really open up the movement capabilities of Knights. In 8th edition move blocking Knights to keep them off objectives and away from gun line style units was very easy to do (nothing more frustrating that 5 scouts moving out hands across America style, and making your Knight incapable of moving forward on your turn).

Additionally Engine War gave Knights a few minor tweaks and extra stratagems. Flanking Maneuver (Auto advance 8″, must end within 12″ of a board edge, can’t charge afterwards) combined with House Raven advancing and shooting, makes for a potentially very mobile knight (Castellan needs more distance for LoS, Crusader/Castigator trying to push up the board). Cover The Advance (Crusader shooting main guns that deal wounds to an enemy model, prevent that unit from overwatching) creates opportunities to ignore overwatch, which isn’t quite as big as it was in 8th edition, but still was an ability Knights didn’t really have access to in the past. While the Custom Households pale in comparison to the Codex houses, there is a cheeky Mechanicus House Warlord Trait to be found. Cold Eradication (roll an extra die and discard one, for attacks that have a random number) could be quite strong on a Castellan from any Mechanicus House, there is a lot of random attacks on the Castellan, and getting to pick out of an extra roll really benefits it. Assuming you don’t mind giving up Ion Bulwark.

These things in mind, you’ll need to craft a list to take advantage of the missions. Having big Knights to create forward board pressure and keep your opponent off objectives will be key, and having units in the backfield on objectives in order to score your own (which means either Souped in units, or Armigers, or both or a Castellan).

If we focus on how to score Primary objectives, it doesn’t look too bad. In all but 2 of the GT packet missions, if you hold 2 objectives you’ll score 10 points primary (15 for hold more if you managed to keep your opponent off objectives during their turn). Holding 2 objectives for four turns is 40 of the 45 maximum points you can score, which is really doable over the course of the game. This is especially easy if you decide to soup in some objective holders, but can also be achieved by a pure Knights List.

In a pure Knights list, you will need to double down (use 2 units) to hold onto any objectives that your opponent can shoot you off of, however you are easily able to bully your opponents’ objectives. If you can combine a solid backfield/midfield objective(s) holding, and can use your big knights to keep your opponent off of their objectives you should be able to score more points for Primary than them. Also if you brought a Castellan, and your opponent has a bunch of vehicles or monsters, you stand a good chance of deleting those from the equation as well.

 

Credit: SRM

Sample Lists

We’ve talked about how Knights play, now let’s look at some list concepts and see how we might put some of these concepts into action.

Krastsader and Drop Troop Friends list

Imperial Knights Super Heavy Detachment
House Krast

LoW: Crusader w/thermal, gatling
LoW: Crusader w/thermal, gatling
LoW: Crusader w/thermal, gatling
LoW: Knight Gallant

Militarum Tempestus Patrol Detachment (-2 CP)

HQ: Tempestor Prime

Troops: 5x Scions
Troops: 5x Scions
Troops: 5x Scions

This list uses the strength of House Krasts ability to tune up a Crusader with the Headsman’s Mark, and the fact that they reroll hit rolls in melee when charge/charged/heroic, so basically all the goodness from before. You have a Gallant that can shoot up the table to threaten your opponent and some Scions that pop out of reserve to hold objectives or score secondaries. If you decide to make the Scions Iotan Gorgonnes you can use the Daring Descent stratagem to set them up more than 5″ away from enemy models vs the traditional 9″, which can make for some cheeky objective snagging (although not quite as cheeky as GSC or GK can do). With 4 big Knights, this should allow you to bully the table early and the Scions should be able to lock in secondary points and/or late game objectives.

The Return of the Raven Castellan (Pure Knights list, 1 Super Heavy Detachment)

Imperial Knights Super-Heavy Detachment
House Raven

LoW: Knight Castellan
LoW: Knight Castigator
LoW: Knight Gallant
LoW: Moirax w/Lightning Locks
LoW: Moirax w/Lightning Locks
LoW: Moirax w/Lightning Locks

With the point drops to the Castellan there is an argument to be made for breaking it back out; with the additional considerations of the potential rise of vehicle/monster/elite meta this could have real merit. In order to maximize the bonus of House Raven’s Trait, an advancing Castigator and Gallant make for a early push-threatening duo, along with some Armigers with Lightning locks that can advance and shoot at no penalty. This list is very mobile (and needs it with only 6 models) that allows you to get to your opponent and/or move around intervening terrain.

 

Outlook: OK, Probably

While I think pure Knights will struggle with the current 9th edition mission format, I think that with getting some games in you will be able to play Knights competitively once you learn how to make them work with the mission objectives in mind.

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