Forge World Custodes – The Goonhammer Hot Take

Custodes Tribune Ixion Hale
Custodes Tribune Ixion Hale. Credit: Jack Hunter

Alongside the new Custodes Ares Gunship, Games Workshop have surprised everyone by dropping some finalized rules for the rest of the Forge World Custodes range. Today, Jack dives into them to explore how they change the usability of these models.

Continuing Forge World’s love affair with giant models, a brand new shiny golden airplane just got released, but for Custodes players that wasn’t the most interesting part of this new release. With little fanfare, Forge World dropped revised rules for the rest of the FW Custodes range on us, and have bumped these up from beta rules to official final ones. The timing is perfect, as they hit just before the LGT rules freeze, giving some much-needed balance while hopefully still allowing enough time for people to rework their lists if needed. It also means we’ll get to see them in action very soon.

I’m going to start out by looking at the Ares, and then we’ll be moving through the changes across the rest of the units.

Ares Gunship
Ares Gunship

The Ares Gunship

Clocking in at 415 points the Ares is notably cheaper than the Orion while maintaining the same toughness profile, and trading all the transport capacity for a gun. While the Orion was able to put out good firepower against a wide range of targets with the bolt launchers and lastrum bolt cannons, the Ares is almost entirely a tank hunter. Like other blaze weapons the main gun has two different fire profiles, a beam or a burst. The beam is a d3 shot, strength 14, AP -4, damage D3+6 tank killer, and the burst is a 3-shot strength 9, AP -3, damage D3 worse tank killer. Unlike with other blaze weapons, I can’t see any reason to ever use the burst profile, as you’re likely only getting a single extra shot over the beam, and that shot is significantly worse.

The only two other guns on the Ares are a pair of heavy blaze cannons, which picked up a bit of a buff over their old profile. They gained an extra 12″ of range on both profiles, and the beam profile is now damage D3+3 rather than being flat damage 3. In exchange the burst profile dropped from 6 shots to 4, so not as good at clearing lighter targets. Interestingly while the heavy blaze cannon beam profile rerolls wounds against VEHICLE units the magna-blaze cannon doesn’t. A strange oversight from my perspective.

The Ares also has the ability to bomb units. Up to twice per battle, and only once per turn, the Ares can bomb a unit. Rolling a d6 per model in the unit, it deals a mortal wound on a 4+ – and tops out rolling 20 dice. Vehicles and monsters get hit 3 times. This is a decent ability, if you’re fighting someone with large units or who hides them out of line of sight, but isn’t a make-or break thing. It’s probably most useful against vehicles/monsters like Talos that come in units, as on a 3-model unit will have you roll 9 dice and drop 4-5 mortal wounds on a fairly tough unit.

Both the Ares and the Orion also dropped from being a Lord of War to being a Flyer role. While you can now fit them into any detachment rather than devoting one to a superheavy aux, they can no longer hold objectives, and you can get tabled while they’re still on the board. It also increases the minimum commitment to Custodes to field one. Overall I read this as a nerf.

The Updates

Almost every unit in this PDF have gotten a few minor changes, particularly if they had any adrathic weapons, which kept the same stat line and no longer overheat. When this is the only change I’m not going to be specifically talking about the unit unless that change is going to completely change the viability or use-cases of it.

Adeptus Custodes Guardian with Guardian Spear
Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Adrasite and Pyrithite Custodians


  • Moved from Elite to Troop
  • Adrasite spears no longer overheat
  • Slight points drops


There’s a bit of a reason to take these now, if you want something to go hunt medium vehicles and elite infantry. The pyrithite spears are still probably not worth it, they’re just melta guns. Adrasite at strength 5 with flat 3 damage make excellent Aggressor or other elite unit hunters. The big win is being Troops, so you can use these to pad out a Battalion.

Custodes Guard Squad
Custodes Guard Squad. Credit: Pendulin

Saggitarum Custodians


  • Moved from Elite to Troop
  • Disintegration Beam gained 3″ of range and no longer overheats
  • 5 point per model drop


These are now an excellent choice to fill a Battalion. Custodes previously struggled with having units to hold back field objectives, needing to give up a valuable heavy support slot for one of these units, and still needing to take normal Custodian Guard squads. You can now drop a 3-man squad of assault heavy bolters on an objective for only 150pts.

You should also seriously consider paying for the misericordia on these – for most Custodes it adds an extra, worse attack, but there’s nothing saying you can’t use it for all your attacks if you have one, so here buying them substantially improves your ability to body chaff units in melee.

Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought


  • D3 additional attacks instead of exploding 6s


With 4 attacks that hit on 2s base, d3 additional attacks will result in an average of 5 hits, as opposed to exploding 6s resulting in about 4 hits on average. A marginal change, a little more consistent but tops out lower.

Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnought


  • Spear is flat 2 shots instead of D3 shots


Another minor change that makes the Achillus more consistent in shooting. Still a cool dread, though inexplicably less durable than a Space Marine Relic Contemptor, especially with the new stratagem. Deep strike this near your opponent’s heavy units for something that absolutely needs to be dealt with.

Caladius Grav-Tank
Caladius Grav-Tank. ForgeWorld Image.

Caladius Grav-Tank


  • Accelerator cannons dropped to strength 7, flat 2 damage
  • Blaze cannons gain +12″ range, beam increases damage to D3+3, and burst drops to 8 shots
  • 10-20 points increase in total cost depending on weapon options (230 with accelerators, 240 with blaze)


Friends, this is the nerf we were all expecting. With the triple-Caladius detachment getting splashed into Imperium armies all over the place it was only a matter of time before the tank got nerfed, since it was aggressively un-fun to play against. The common accelerator cannon loadout has been dropped down to strength 7, and from damage D3 to flat 2 damage. While the damage change is mostly a wash, continuing the general theme of this update to increase consistency while slightly reducing the maximum output, the strength decrease cuts the ability of the gun to clear out heavy armor down significantly. Against a Knight or Tank Commander it’s now only about 2/3 as effective. It still retains the fantastic 60″ range, high mobility, and charge resilience, so I don’t see these vanishing out of Custodes armies – they still do a fantastic job of killing lighter vehicles and heavy infantry, but I don’t see three of them getting splashed into armies all over.

I don’t rate the heavy blaze cannon as worth taking – your 240 point tank only has 2 shots that are marginally better than lascannons, so it’s not providing reliable antitank, and the burst shots were significantly cut down for clearing infantry.

Custodes Telemon Dreadnought
Custodes Telemon Dreadnought. Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

Telemon Heavy Dreadnought


  • Arachnus storm cannon dropped to strength 8/7 from 9/7, and range dropped to 36″/24″ from 72″/48″
  • Melee weapons dropped by 10 points whether taken individually or as a pair


This is a rather excessive nerf in my eyes. The Telemon was certainly a quality dread, and having some strength 9 shooting was very helpful, but with only 4 shots (if both arms are storm cannons) it topped out at merely 12 damage. Dropping both the strength and range makes the weapons significantly less useful, particularly as Custodes need that high strength shooting more now with the Caladius getting hit. I can see it now being run with one or two fists as a close range bully, but that’s a position already well filled. Assuming no rerolls it’s going to do about 12 damage to a Knight, which is a touch lower than a 3-man squad of Aquilon Custodes will do – and the Aquilon Custodes top out significantly higher.

Orion Assault Dropship


  • Gained 40 points
  • Moved from Lord of War to Flyer


Like the Ares, the Orion moved from a LOW slot to a Flyer slot. Easier to slot into an army, but can’t hold objectives. Again it’s probably a net negative. While the blaze cannons did get their shot count nerfed, they still combine well with the other weapons to clear heavy infantry. I’m not sure that’s a role that a Custodes army particularly needs filled, especially for nearly 500 points. Probably no longer worth taking.

Custodes Guard Squad
Custodes Guard Squad. Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

The Wrap Up

If you’ve skipped over the detailed breakdown up above, you should note primarily that the Caladius finally got its much-needed nerfing, and the Telemon got a significant nerf as well. While I still see Caladius as having a place in a primarily Custodes army, I doubt we’ll still be seeing them slotted into other Imperium forces with anywhere near the same frequency. The big loss to the army is in long-range high-strength shooting. Outside of the stupid airplanes, most shooting now tops out at strength 7, with the relatively short range and low shot count Telemon guns at strength 8 and even lower shot Caladius Blaze Cannons at strength 9. This is going to push the melee options for dealing with high toughness targets up in importance, especially the Aquilon Custodes, a punchy Telemon, or Contemptor-Achillus. I see the Aquilons as the best option, their deep strike is built in rather than relying on a stratagem, and they have a number of interesting gun options. Even their base storm bolter is strength 5 and will rip up marines.

I also see two big wins, and one quality of life improvement out of this update for the Custodes. Saggitarum Guard are now a troops choice, which opens up the possibility of a double battalion for a pure Custodes army. It’ll still be tight on points, but you won’t need to waste the close range spear/sword squads on holding your deployment zone anymore. Adrathic weapons across the board also all lost their overheat, so many units now have the option of running some weapons with flat 3 damage without the chance of cooking themselves. For quality of life a number of weapons changed from being d3 shots/damage to flat 2, which hits their maximum output slightly but makes them much more reliable to use.

Custodes Vertus Praetors
Custodes Vertus Praetors. Credit: Jack Hunter