We recently covered the lead-up to the American Team Championships from the Art of War team – you can find that article here. Following that event, current ITC Champion Jack Harpster took his Grey Knights to the WTC to play on Team USA. While he wasn’t able to share his strategy with us last time around, now that the WTC is over we had him come back to take a deep dive into his thoughts and strategies behind taking Grey Knights.
I was fortunate enough to play for Team America at the World Team Championship this year. For those who don’t know, the WTC is the pinnacle of Warhammer 40k, in which countries send teams of 8 players to compete against the best that other countries have to offer. This event is very important to me and last year USA took a very disappointing 4th place after being in the lead for most of the event. Slipping from 1st place to not even making the podium in the space of single day was rough and every returning team member wanted nothing more than to do better this year. And with an entirely new edition, it’d be an entirely different game.
With that in mind, what army did I choose to take to the most important event of the year?
I chose Grey Knights.
Picking Grey Knights
When the team first started testing, I was our Thousand Sons player. I tested the Sons to death but couldn’t quite find the build in a teams event that would work consistently. I had settled on a build running Magnus with ten Scarab Occult Terminators and while the list had some raw power, it struggled if my opponent could choose a table/layout I didn’t want. It also struggled into both heavy indirect fire and Genestealer Cults. This left the army without an identity as either an Attacker or Defender, leading to it routinely getting killed in pairings. It would later turn out there was a very cool Thousand Sons list I wouldn’t figure out in time that run by both England (Vik Vijay) and Germany (Arne Zerndt) which solved some of these problems and I’m excited to iterate on that concept going forward, but at the time the army just wasn’t cutting it. Luckily, I had a pet project waiting in the wings with Grey Knights.
As part of trying to select our eighth army, our captain Sean Nayden had briefly flirted with Grey Knights. I liked the faction enough that when he’d moved on, I worked on the list to see if there was any life there. After testing, it turned out that Grey Knights were a weird, hyper-mobile army with insane rules but inefficient units. If I could make their units synergize well enough with their rules then there could be some power there as an army that looks to avoid the opponent and only engages on its own terms. The Grey Knights performed well in practice games over and over as I worked on fine-tuning the list and we switched it in for our struggling Thousand Sons with one purpose in mind: I was going to draw our opponents’ Eldar lists.
With that in mind, here’s what I submitted:
Jack Harpster’s Grey Knights (1,990 Points)
Kaldor Draigo – Warlord – 155
Grand Master – First to the Fray, Incinerator – 150
Brother Captain – Sigil of Exigence, Psycannon – 125
10x Brotherhood Terminators – 2x Incinerators, Ancient’s Banner, Narthecium – 450
10x Brotherhood Terminators – 2x Incinerators, Ancient’s Banner, Narthecium – 450
10x Paladins – 5x Psycannons, Ancient’s Banner – 510
Callidus Assassin – 115
5x Exaction Squad – Medi-Pack, Grenade Launcher, Webber, Soulguilt Scanner – 35
This list only has five units, two of which don’t do much heavy lifting, but that can be both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, there aren’t a lot of hooks here for your opponent to grab onto when it comes to influencing your list or scoring off you – if your opponent pulls any cards that require them to interact with your army directly, they have few options which aren’t a ten-man Terminator unit with Truesilver Armour. Additionally, the fact that the list concentrates a large amount of power into a small number of large units means that each unit is an actual threat and each use of the Mists of Deimos Stratagem (make a normal move up to 6″ or go back into Strategic Reserves) is a huge deal. It’s back-breaking for your opponent when they’re forced to Fall Back and in response your ten Terminators uses Mists to leave and immediately returns with Rapid Ingress to threaten an completely different flank.
The downside is that you have to be careful to preserve your cheap units as you need them to stand on objectives while your ten-man units teleport around stealing objectives and scoring secondary missions. Rarely in playing this list do you actually use all thirty Terminators at the same time – with Grey Knights’ teleporting shenanigans no unit is ever really out of position and often you’ll find that one or two units is forward interacting with your opponent while the other(s) hang back and score points while waiting in the wings. The game plan against power armies like Eldar is to waste their time as much as possible while scoring. If they push forward to chase you too aggressively, it is easy for you to drop a brick of terminators behind them to take their home objective. Your game plan is to limit interaction as much as possible while scoring points and if they get too aggressive you threaten multiple units all at once with deep strike charges to avoid Phantasm. Every time they move near one of your units, it teleports away and appears somewhere else.
It’s not a perfect solution but when played well you can limit the Eldar player’s ability to score while frustrating their attempts to play a normal game of 40k and burning their turns. I must have played that matchup about ten times before heading to WTC and it was a draw almost every time. Naturally, I never played it once at the actual event.
Grey Knights are incredible at one thing, and that’s drawing games. It’s tough to get more than a 13 in teams scoring with the list but it’s also a massive effort for your opponent to give it less than an 8. The list is so hard to interact with that it keeps games close almost no matter what. In singles that’s very stressful, with every game coming down to a few points, but in teams it was reassuring. The one exception was GSC: In the game I played I was able to live to the end of the game but I had to keep teleporting each turn to avoid my opponent’s shooting and as a result scored very few primary points. Luckily, the rest of the team had that matchup handled for the event and I just have to hope GW’s balance team has it handled for the future.
Against Necrons you generally have the run of the table, being able to eventually win most any fight given enough time while controlling objectives in the meantime. The game plan is to steal objectives out from under their expensive units repeatedly and Mists away if they fall back. You’re the one with agency in that matchup so exploit the secondary and primary edges you have to slowly accumulate a points lead. I’d probably place that matchup at a 13 generally.
At first glance Custodes looks like a matchup where they should blow you out. It looks like they can just bully their way onto objectives and you can’t do anything to stop them. This is partly true but misses how miserable you can make their life miserable as well. They don’t have enough units to control every objective on the board and are at serious risk of overextending with a unit and finding said unit surrounded by two bricks of terminators and subsequently killed. Trajann’s unit can ignore your Truesilver Armour* so you want to avoid him at all costs but luckily you can pick your fights and the Custodies largely can’t. Wardens can’t re-roll wounds so they’re your target if you ever feel like you have to fight.
On that note, one good thing to keep in mind is that you mostly don’t have to fight. You teleport around holding objectives on the fringes and scoring secondaries while the Custodes lock down objectives but are significantly worse at scoring cards. Both players are heavily incentivized to not interact, it’s impossible for them to chase you down without giving you the ability to punish them with 3” deep strikes with Prognisticated Arrival or collapsing on isolated objectives and it’s hard for you to shift blocks of Custodian Guard and Allarus Terminators if they fully commit to camping on objectives.
The matchup is an 8-12 almost every time. They’ll attempt a couple charges from outside of Mists range over the course of the game. If they make more than average and/or have good card draws it’ll be an 8-10; if they don’t it’ll be a 10-12. It’s an oddly relaxing game to play – Martin Nielsen (the captain of Team Denmark) and I finished it in under an hour, played all five turns fully and ended with a 10-10 draw.
*This was true in the WTC but may vary by format. Check with your TO before the event.
The list has a decent time matching into both Imperial and Chaos Knights. Imperial Knights have so few units that it’s fairly manageable for you to pick your fights and utilize the Terminators’ Lethal Hits on the charge to get the drop on the army with all thirty Terminators at once if they leave themselves open, or to nickel and dime them for armigers with one unit at a time while staying safe. I’d put the matchup at a 12; thirty Terminators is the point where, yes, you actually have the punch to put down the knights you need to and since you will connect first and on your terms that means they’ll be playing off the backfoot and without a high number of units to both fight you and score. It can get rough if you go for the connect with thirty Terminators plan and then roll bad saves on the following turn but, you know, just don’t do that. The real answer is that you want to still use your tricks while going aggro. Avoid shooting where possible, use Mists when they trigger it, always have cover and try not to expose more than one unit at a time and then pop Armor of Contempt on that unit.
Chaos Knights is a more chaotic game. The faction has a LOT more individual units than their loyalist counterparts and won’t be put on the back foot as quickly. Luckily the individual armigers die so much quicker than Questoris-class Knights. Nine saves and an armiger falls, while Draigo almost solos one with his gifted lethal hits. A ten-man Terminator unit comes close to dropping two on the charge; with shooting and possibly the Grenades stratagem, you should get one. As soon as Chaos Knights push you, you have to hit them hard and your first priority should be trying to break their back as soon as possible. This isn’t guaranteed but with their board presence you can’t try to run rings around them. I’d say this is a matchup that favors Grey Knights but it’s a swingy game.
it’s a generally favored but swingy game.
Deathwatch and Astra Militarum
Massed indirect armies like Deathwatch making good use of Desolators and Imperial Guard are a rough time for this list, but it’s possible to find points against them. Deathwatch is really only a problem because they can teleport Kill Teams to shoot you alongside fire support from the desolators and it’s tough to avoid. If they don’t go deep on increasing their AP and ignoring cover you may be able to tank them well enough to draw the game even. Plenty of Deathwatch players don’t bring real ways to go above AP2 and cover alongside Truesilver Armour means they have trouble killing you. If they bring Land Speeders and Hailstrikes with maybe a side of Hellblasters then you will struggle. Probably more like a 6-7 there.
Comparatively the Imperial Guard are immobile and non-dynamic but their indirect guns come with a range stat that just says “yes” means there’s no escape. This means that particular matchup involves tanking them as best as possible, using the Haloed in Soulfire Stratagem (which makes a unit arriving from Deep Strike/Teleport Assault untargetable outside of 12” for a turn), while camping on objectives. If you see an opportunity to get in on them with your bricks then you can swing the game but I tend to not assume my opponents will mess up for me (sometimes good opponents do mess up, though). I treat this matchup as a 6 or so as well. You will die but you can camp on objectives and score secondaries in the meantime.
How It Went
Out of my seven games, I played into Necrons three times, Custodes, Thousand Sons, Imperial Knights and Tyranids. The only game I lost was into one of the Necrons because I broke my one rule with the army in round seven: I went aggressive unnecessarily and had the dice backfire on me once I had committed and was unable to teleport away. Even there I managed to net an 8 which is a perfectly respectable score against a great opponent. If you want to watch the list in action you can check out the War Room or my game on Wargames Live’s stream against Matt Robertson’s Tyranids. To no one’s surprise, that game was a draw.
Team USA finished second, having drawn to Poland, who eventually got first place. This was an incredible year for Team USA, full of ups and downs but at the end of the day I’m so proud of the expanded American WTC community and how we came together as a group. Team members who weren’t playing the teams event did amazingly at the singles event immediately beforehand (Art of War’s own Quinton Johnson took third place) and assisted the team as coaches, helping prep for specific matchups as well as coordinating the team throughout the rounds. I can only imagine what next year has in store for the team but I, like most of last year’s team are excitedly looking forward to it.
Check out the Art of War 40k YouTube channel and our War Room subscription for more Grey Knights content along with many other videos designed to improve your play and provide you with a strong foundation to understand all facets of 10th Edition.
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