John Lennon talks about playing with the new Black Templars Codex

Credit: Robert "TheChirurgeon" Jones

John: Gather, Neophytes, as I dive into the most sacred tome of 9th edition. After years of waiting the Black Templars finally have their own standalone codex, and it’s a good time for the faithful to stock up on black primer. I’m John Lennon from the Art of War, and I’m here to break down the competitive merits of this new supplement and talk about how Black Templars armies can succeed.

The new supplement may be light on page count but it has a lot to process, from a new Relic Bearers mechanic to a very different stratagem set for the army to that of the Index. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book when it dropped. But a few days, a lot of theory crafting, and some list writing later I am ready to call my first shot on the book! Let’s start by exploring what makes the army tick before we craft a first list. 

Credit: SRM

Launching the Eternal Crusade

Although this is the first Templars codex in five editions, the book itself isn’t truly stand alone. Similar to Space Wolves, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, and Deathwatch, Codex Supplement: Black Templars builds on top of Codex: Space Marines and everything that follows has to be viewed through the lens of the ninth edition Marine codex, which of course invites every other supplement into the conversation. Although marines are generally acknowledged to be slowly slipping down the power scale, the codex still has plenty of bit, and I think this is the most diverse the codex has ever been when it comes to which chapters are viable. If you are a Black Templars player from the old days who has stuck with the army through thick and thin, rejoice — this book is flavorful and fun, with a bevy of options and absolutely zero witches. On the other hand if your marines are painted purple and have called eight different primarchs “Daddy” in the last two years, you’re not alone and there is still quite a lot to consider here. 

With the 9th edition Index, the Black Templars previous identity was defined by speed and combat tricks, with access to the ability to Advance and Charge, reliable combat trapping, and the almighty Devout Push Stratagem that gave you blanket permission to break any rules you wanted as long as your models ended closer in the fight phase. In this new book, almost every relevant rule from the old Index has been taken out back and shown the Emperor’s mercy. But while Games Workshop may have taketh away, they’ve also given the faction quite a bit back.

Black Templar Lieutenant with Power Fist and Power Sword
Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

The Stratagems

Let’s start with the losses before the gains; not out of pessimism, but because the old Templars were so radically defined by their Stratagems. Devout Push did survive, but now has the practical limit of “if you’re not in combat you don’t get to suddenly end there” which leaves it as merely a very good stratagem, and not one of the best in the game. Templars can still trap units in combat – and for one Command Point less – but the effect is less reliable. The ability to Advance and charge is gone completely – banished and never to be seen again. Old Templars were defined by combat jank and speed, and almost all of the speed here has been removed. Templars still reroll Advances, and Devout Push can add 3” to your threat range in any one spot, but the effective threat range of a Terminator has gone from 30” to 20”, a sizable decrease. 

So let’s talk about what the Templars gained, because the future may be grim but the faction’s outlook in this article is not! Templars gained a 1-Command Point Stratagem, Strength of Conviction, to grant Objective Secured to a CORE unit in the Command Phase, aka right before you score points for primary objectives. That’s fantastic timing, good value, and the only limit is CORE so yes, this works on dreadnoughts. A new Chaplain stratagem, Bombastic Delivery, lets you automatically pass one litany and roll for an additional one, making a great value in the do-or-die turns where a specific litany is essential. Throw in a couple of situationally useful strats, your normal pregame relic and Warlord stratagems, and the illusion of relevance for Land Raiders and you have a compelling Stratagem section that’s well above-average for a marine chapter. The biggest takeaways I have are that Black Templars are still the masters of trickery once they’re in combat, and gained some good board control utility, but are less effective than before at getting into combat.

Credit: Chris ‘whiteshark12’ Cowie

Litanies

Next let’s talk about the Litanies of the Devout. This unique chaplain table is enough to make any other chapter green with jealousy, as the two standouts from the index return with several new powerful contenders in the mix. Giving a 5+ feel no pain to a CORE unit with Litany of Divine Protection is still on the table, while the +1 attack from Fires of Devotion is better than before as it works when you get charged. Toss in a melee “Mortal wound on 6s to wound” from Psalm of Remorseless Execution and a clone of the Sororitas chant to just straight up ignore psychic powers with Plea of Deliverance, and you’re all set. There’s another chant to buff the chaplain himself, but I don’t think that making a character into an offensive beatstick is really where the strength of this book lies. This is something I’ll reiterate when we get to the warlord traits. 

 

Warlord Traits

Aaaand we’re there! Most of these traits only buff the Warlord himself, not the units around, but none in such an impressive manner that I want to use them to build my own beatstick when Helbrecht is right there. The only aura buff to be found is giving extra AP on 6s to wound, which is fine but generally not as necessary if you pack a lot of high AP weapons anyways. 

Credit: SRM

Relics

Fortunately, the Relics are much more impressive, with a standout power sword replacement (the Sword of Judgment) and a mighty defensive piece in Tannhauser’s Bones. This amazing Relic changes the incoming damage of any weapons to 1; that’s extra sexy on a 7-wound bike chaplain. Have I mentioned that you want a chaplain? All three of the best relics from the Index return, giving you plenty of options here as well. Ancient Breviary still makes a chaplain more reliable at reciting litanies, while the Crusader Helm buffs auras just as before. The Aurelian Shroud took a small nerf but has better timing, as it is now a Once per Game aura giving a 4+ invulnerable save to CORE INFANTRY only, but can be activated at the start of the Command Phase. If builds start to look less storm shield heavy and put more emphasis on blocks of Crusaders, expect to see this relic used often.

 

Vows and Relic Bearers

The more unique aspects of this supplement are the Vows and Relic Bearer mechanics. Vows are mechanically similar to Sacred Rites for Sororitas, giving you a choice of buffs made at the start of the game. Unfortunately only one of the four choices is consistently exciting, making this one of the more lackluster parts of the book. The Vow I’m referring to is Uphold the Honour of the Emperor, which provides every non-servitor unit in the army with a 5+ invulnerable save and an army-wide mini-Transhuman Physiology (wound rolls of 1 and 2 always fail), at a cost of never benefitting from cover. When applied to Dreadnoughts and vehicles that never benefit from cover anyways, this free invulnerable save has a lot of appeal. On top of that, if your opponent is fresh out of AP-3 shooting, you can just choose another more situational Vow instead.

The good news is that the Relic Bearers mechanic is far more interesting, and provides a number of points upgrades that allow you to give one model in a unit a pseudo-relic. These are fantastic and perhaps my favorite part of the book. Even at first glance, five of them stood out as the kind of value I wanted in my life, but the realities of list building meant I had to tamp down some of those impulses. Let’s start by jumping back for a moment to a Stratagem I omitted earlier: Champion of the Feast lets you upgrade a Sergeant model for 1 CP, giving him +1 wound, attack, and weapon skill – you’ll want to take this, and most likely slap it on a Terminator Sergeant. Then you’ll want to give your Champion Terminator the Crux Obsidian, a 15-point Relic Bearer upgrade that reduces the damage of incoming damage by 1, turning him into a very tanky miniature dreadnought to stand in front of your unit, literally begging your opponent to kill him so that an Apothecary can fix him immediately. 

In addition to this, you can also have a model treat AP-1 and AP-2 on incoming attacks as AP 0 by giving him the Icon of Heinmann for 15 points, the Holy Orb (+15) can be thrown at an enemy unit to make it fight last, and there are several good weapon options here. There are many good choices that can take you quite far.

High Marshall Helbrecht
High Marshall Helbrecht. Credit: SRM

Playing Black Templars

So where does this land us? What is a Black Templars army like with the new 9th edition Codex Supplment? Wrapping it all up, I think I have decided that against all lore and preconceived notions, The Black Templars are not a melee army. Much like the Adepta Sororitas, they have transitioned into the nebulous world of being a board control army that threatens melee to the unwise heretic who dares close the gap first. I often liked to joke that my Ultramarines army bristling with firepower was secretly a melee army, and I just took guns to encourage people to come close enough to get punched. At their core, every marine army is a melee army because marines do everything, but I don’t think Templars can afford to take only melee. The new book significantly reduces their speed but comes with a sharp increase in durability (I haven’t even mentioned that Grimaldus provides an Aura that allows nearby friendly CORE units to ignore wounds on a 6+), great Objective Secured access, and improved characters. With the new buffs Templars are probably tougher than Iron Hands and Dark Angels, and are still faster than either, with better trickery to make up for having less raw shooting power. 

So what does this mean for how you’ll play them? When building your army, you’ll need to be tough enough and have enough shooting that people can’t just stand outside of your charge range while dumping bullets into you forever. Marines have some great secondary choices and Templars will play well into board control Secondary Objectives like Stranglehold. Your choice of Oaths of Moment, Raise the Banners, and whatever your opponent and mission offer you can lead to high-scoring games where bricks of ObSec Infantry hang on long enough to give you strong primary scoring as well. If your opponent tries to stay out of your reduced threat range, that’s alright — You have the objectives, and they likely won’t match your scoreboard. They’ll have to come close if they want to compete.

 

The List

The unfortunate conclusion to all of this is that it is inevitably leading us into another “Dreadnaught plus Vanguard Veterans” army list. Yeah, this isn’t my most creative list here, but those datasheets are hard to resist. I am going to fight that urge as best I can however, and test out some of the more unique elements of Templars, namely Primaris Crusader squads. Let’s write using these concepts and sew where we land.

+++ Black Templars Battalion Detachment (11 CP, 1,999 Points) +++

-1 CP Champion of the Feast

HQ: Primaris Master of the Forge (Rites of War, Warlord) 100
HQ: Grimaldus (Litany of Divine Protection, Psalm of Remorseless Persecution) 140
HQ: Helbrecht 160

Troops: Primaris Crusader squad (1x Power Axe, 13x Chainsword, 1x Sword Brother, 5x initiate, 8x Neophyte) 248
Troops: Primaris Crusader squad (1x Power Axe, 13x Chainsword, 1x Sword Brother, 5x initiate, 8x Neophyte) 248
Troops: 5x Infiltrators 120

EL: Redemptor Dreadnought (Plasma, Onslaught, Icarus) 185
EL: Redemptor Dreadnought (Plasma, Onslaught, Icarus) 185
EL: Redemptor Dreadnough (Plasma, Onslaught Icarus) 185
EL: 2x Company Veterans (2x Storm Shields) 48
EL: Chief Apothecary (Selfless Healer, Aurelian Shroud) 110 

HS: 5x Eradicators (4x Heavy Melta Rifle, 1x Multi Melta, Crux Obsidian, Champion of the Feast) 270

++ 1,999 Points ++

 

Playing This List

Let’s start by talking about the Eradicators. Effectively this unit is going to “fire and fade” with Devout Push (shooting, then darting back out of line of sight), while enjoying full re-rolls from a Chapter Master. They’ll act as a nice bullet sponge that makes them a real pain to deal with. For context, that Sergeant has 4 wounds, reduces incoming damage by 1, and will always have at least a 6+ roll to ignore damage but will frequently have that improved to 5+. Once per game the unit will have a 4+ invulnerable save, and with a cheeky Stratagem for +1 save against damage 1 weapons, these guys will resist all but the strongest indirect fire. And I mean it – five Squigbuggies will bounce off this little bundle of joy like a rubber ball – it’s going to take all five to kill one model, and that Apothecary has no problem rolling up his sleeves to revive our favorite hero immediately afterward.

The list is designed to sit back and play passively, and against armies lacking in serious indirect fire they just get to enjoy letting their characters stringing out near bodyguards, frustrating shooting and providing enough counterpunch to make getting close a dangerous proposition. Put in some tech for the more offensive indirect fire options currently in the game, and I like this as a first draft list. I’m not sure if the Eradicators fit in the same list as the dreadnoughts, as it’s relatively light on bodies, but I love all of the tools available here. My plan is to practice with this going forward, and if I don’t like how it fits I will probably try slotting the eradicator brick and the dreadnaughts into two separate archetypes to test out and see which works better. I love Redemptors with an invulnerable save and feel no pain and healing, so there’s no way that doesn’t make it onto my practice table at least once. Include some damage-soaking blobs of infantry that make for excellent counter punch and I’m really excited to land this on the table and take the wrath of the Emperor to his foes! 

 

The Competitive Future

On the whole I expect Codex Supplement: Black Templars to make about the same impact competitively as the Sororitas Codex. It feels like all of the best tools from the old book have been lost or toned down, but they’ve been replaced with a facelift across the board and better board control and durability. This is likely going to feel like a very different book for existing Templars players, and I would guess that it will take a lot of adjustment time for this book to make a splash in the meta. But, there are too many tools and options in this book for a competitive player to be disappointed, and I look forward to seeing a marine resurgence on the tabletop! 

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