Kill Team Tactics: The Warpcoven Kill Team

White Dwarf 469 brings us yet another new Kill Team, this time giving us the Warpcoven Kill Team, which takes the Thousand Sons and gives you a reimagined and very different kill team to the one in the compendium. This is the second of these new updated kill teams we’ve gotten rules for, laying out the blueprint for how future updates to the Compendium teams might look and for the time being, making White Dwarf an essential purchase for Kill Team players.

So how does this new kill team stack up to the others, and is this latest variation on the Thousand Sons worth your time? Let’s dive in and see.

Warpcoven Kill Teams

Forget Tzaangor leaders – Warpcoven Kill Teams are led by a single Thousand Sons sorcerer and he comes with a Force Stave and one of an inferno bolt pistol, a warpflamer pistol, or a Prosperine Khopesh – more on that in a bit.

After that, you can select Ten (10) Warpcoven operatives from the following list, but Marines count as two of your picks each and you can only pick each Gunner, Icon Bearer, or Tzaangor Champion once. Also you can’t have a second Rubric Marine gunner unless you have all Rubric marines, and you can have up to three Sorcerers total.

  • Sorcerer with force stave and pistol/warpflamer pistol/khopesh
  • Rubric Marine Gunner with Warpflamer
  • Rubric Marine Gunner with Warpflamer or Soulreaper cannon
  • Rubric Marine Icon Bearer
  • Rubric Marine Warrior
  • Tzaangor Champion
  • Tzaangor Icon Bearer
  • Tzaangor Horn Bearer
  • Tzaangor Fighter
Thousand Sons Rubricae Fire Team Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Operatives

This team gives you a large variety of Operatives to work with. You have to have at least one Sorcerer to be Leader, but you can have up to three and you’ll want to have three on your roster. You can also take a Sorcerer and five Rubric Marines, two of which can be gunners, and that’s an option you can make using the standard Thousand Sons squad box. On the cheaper side, Tzaangors take one slot each, allowing you to mix Rubrics and Tzaangors to get some additional numbers and get up to an 11-model kill team, though realistically you’d never do this since you’d be leaving too much good stuff on the table – most often you’ll be looking at a team of 3 Sorcerers and then either 3 Rubric Marines, 1 Rubric Marine and 4 Tzaangors, or 6 Tzaangors.

One thing to note is that Rubric Marines are a bit different here – Their All is Dust ability now limits them to never moving more than 3⬤ during their activations. Otherwise they retain their 5+ invulnerable save and the 2+ save against damage 3 or less weapons. 

The other new addition here is the ability to take a Prosperine Khopesh. This sword has the same profile as a force stave but trades the Stun ability for Lethal 5+, plus if you take the Staff and Khopesh, you gain the Relentless rule on both. This gives you a much more deadly melee option on your Sorcerers and is likely the option you’ll want to take most of the time – it just gives you a much better chance of pushing big damage through and taking out medium-sized opponents in two hits. Sorcerers also gain the Rubric Command ability, which once per Turning Point lets a friendly Rubric Operative within 3⬤ add one to their APL. This replaces the Strategic Ploy Sorcerous Automata that Thousand Sons kill teams have, making you more reliant on having rubric-sorcerer pairs moving around the table but less reliant on CP to get your third action. 

Boons of Tzeentch

The gifts of servitude to the Gods of Chaos. Each time you add a Sorcerer to your roster, you can select a Boon of Tzeentch for them, which gives them a neat bonus. There are three categories of Boon to choose from, and you can’t pick the same one twice for an operative. Your othern operatives can also get boons through Spec Ops rewards and Requisitions and when that happens, you roll for them. The three categories of boon are Fate, Mutation, and Aetheric.

Mutation

  • Warp Swell improves the normal damage on your operative’s melee weapons by 1, which is OK. Being 5/6 is decent but not amazing given you’ll often be taking the Khopesh for its Lethal 5+.
  • Mutant Appendage gives your operative -1 APL on a single Mission action or pick up action once per turn, giving you a little more flexibility to move, cast, shoot, and still action or pick up an objective without giving you 4APL.
  • Avian Talons lets you retain a single regular hit as a critical hit when you fight after a charge. This is likely better than Warp Swell for getting the damage you need but again isn’t going to be your first choice.

Fate

  • Patron of Destiny gives you a free use of the Command Re-roll Tactical ploy once per turn for this operative, but each time you use this you roll a D6 and on a 1-3, you lose the ability for the rest of the game. At the very least this gives a free specific-use 1 CP and there will be games where you get 2-3 out of it. It’s not bad, but it’s not exciting.
  • Incorporeal Sight gives the operatives non-psychic ranged weapons Lethal 5+ and No Cover, making them considerably more deadly. The problem is this doesn’t do a whole lot on a pistol, so it’s more something you’d want on one of your gunners.
  • Time-Walker gives the operative +1 attack with their melee weapons and adds ▲ to their movement, speeding them up and making their Khopesh a bit more lethal. This is pretty handy for getting your Sorcerer around and ensuring you get off a couple of Lethal 5+ crits to kill your target. 

Aetheric

  • Immaterial Flight gives you the FLY keyword. Very handy if you’ve got a very vertical space with lots of up-and-down to traverse, and generally good for milking as much mobility as possible from your Sorcerers, but may be terrain-dependent. Maybe you could model this using a disc of Tzeentch?
  • Crystalline is probably the best option out of all of these, improving your save characteristic by 1. Going to a 2+ save is major improvement, and there aren’t that many ways of protecting your Sorcerers.
  • Empyric Ward is the other money option, giving you a 4+ invulnerable save. For my money Crystalline is better but they’re both pretty great, with different uses depending on who you’re up against and what kind of firepower they’re bringing.
Thousand Sons Aspiring Sorcerer
Thousand Sons Aspiring Sorcerer. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Psychic Actions

The real meat of what Warpcoven teams get – and why you’ll take three Sorcerers – is the Psychic Powers. Each time you add a Sorcerer to your roster you have to pick which of the three Psychic Disciplines they study. You can double up on disciplines if you want but because you can’t double up on the use of powers in the same Turning Point, it will often behoove you to take all three in your team. Each discipline has three powers to choose from.

Destiny Discipline

Doombolt returns here and we get two new powers for manipulating probability in your favor.

  • Weave Fates gives a friendly Warpcoven operative the ability to re-roll any or all of their defence dice when being shot at. This is a really handy trick and combos very well with the Boons in the Aetheric category that improve saves. Keeping your Sorcerers around is one of the keys to a successful outing with this team.
  • Twist Destiny debuffs an enemy unit, preventing from re-rolling dice when making attacks and removing any positive APL modifiers they may get. This is situational, since it’ll depend on your opponent having access to either effect and relying on it, but when you can deny hit re-rolls on a gunner it’s a good feeling.
  • Doombolt, which is not a bolt weapon (per the FAQ), is just a really good shooting attack, same as it is in the Compendium. You’ll often lack for heavy and special weapons firepower as Thousand Sons, particularly if you lose your Soulreaper cannon and Doombolt gives you a wonderful alternative. The ability to come in and do 2-4 mortal wounds with this power is great.

Tempyric Discipline

The Tempyric Discipline is all-new and gives us one enemy debuff, one heal spell, and one ranged attack.

  • Ephemeral Instability is a team-wide debuff, forcing your opponent’s operatives to subtract ⬤ from Dash and Charge moves until the end of the Turning Point. This can be pretty nasty, and can just destroy your opponents’ ability to complete some key charges. It’s also very nasty against slower teams that depend on dashes to complete movement, such as Death Guard. Want to stop them from climbing up 5″ walls? Here’s your chance.
  • Temporal Manipulation heals a nearby operative for 2D3 lost wounds. It’s a solid amount and a good way to stymie an opponent trying to chip away at one of your gunners or sorcerers with smaller arms fire. Utterly demoralizing when you take an operative from 2 wounds remaining to 8.
  • Fluxblast is another solid shooting attack, though not quite as good as Doombolt. 4 shots at 3/4 damage puts it on par with a bolter, but add Blast and Rending on top of that and you have something that’s at least pretty dangerous against hordes. 

Warpfire Discipline

The Warpfire Discipline brings back Firestorm and gives us two new powers, one a movement tool and the other a single-model debuff.

  • Warp Portal lets you take an operative within ■ who hasn’t moved yet this Turning Point and move them to anywhere within ⬟, after which that operative can’t move again. This is a small jump, and maxes out at 3⬤ distance, but that’s pretty good when it comes to Rubrics and their slow Movement, plus it can help you tee up an Sorcerer for what is essentially a 4 APL turn, moving them before their activation starts, then having them do extra Psychic Actions and shoot. It’s less useful on Rubrics given that they no longer shoot twice.
  • Infernal Fire is a Debuff that makes it so friendly operatives fighting or shooting the affected operative can re-roll any or all of their attack dice. This is incredibly nasty, and exactly the kind of tool you need for taking down Custodes and other very elite operatives. Maximizing your damage potential with this can be extra solid when it’s paired with Doombolt to fish for 5+ results can really help you punch damage through good saves.
  • Firestorm returns from the Compendium, offering another strong option against hordes – 5 attacks, 4+ to hit, 2/2 but Blast Barrage, and Indirect mean this is your best option for nuking operatives that think they’re safe and out of sight.

Every discipline offers something you want, so it’s a good idea to just take all three in most games.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Ploys

Warpcoven teams share none of the ploys that Thousand Sons teams have access to, most notably losing Malicious Volleys, Sorcerous Automata, and Sorcerous Focus. Instead they get their own set, which has more options and is more tailored to how they’ll be building teams. Each of these costs 1 CP.

Strategic Ploys

  • Exalted Astartes is your replacement for Malicious Volleys, letting your Sorcerers either fight twice if they don’t shoot, or shoot twice if they don’t fight, but they have to shoot with a different ranged weapon each time – ranged weapons from a psychic power are eligible for this. This won’t help your Rubrics much, and more than likely you’ve doubled up the melee weapons on your sorcerers to get the Khopesh and that sweet, sweet Relentless bonus, so it’s really going to be about Fighting twice. A Khopesh sorcerer who fights, heals himself with Temporal Manipulation, and then fights again is a pretty nasty piece of work.
  • Psychic Dominion replaces Sorcerous Focus, and is necessary since you’ll often have more than one Sorcerer you need to double cast. This lets your Sorcerer Operatives manifest psychic powers twice per activation.
  • Slow and Purposeful affects your Rubrics; each time they shoot, if they haven’t made a normal move, charge, or fall back move already that turning point, they can re-roll any or all of their hit rolls. If you’re already in good position or within dash range of good position, this is pretty powerful, and it’ll do its best work on teams that have 4 Rubrics. Unlike Malicious Volleys, it works with the Soulreaper Cannon.
  • Savage Herd is for your Tzaangors and lets them each retain one normal hit as a critical hit when they fight in combat. A nice little bonus if you’re running the 3 Sorcerers + 6 Tzaangors team.

Tactical Ploys

  • Capricious Plan can be used by a Sorcerer at the end of their activation. You immediately get a free Dash action and can change the operative’s order. This is great for running up, popping off a psychic power, then dashing back into cover and throwing up the Conceal order. Just be sure to plan for it.
  • Psychic Cabal lets your Sorcerers share powers if they’re within ⬟ of each other, letting you double or triple up on casting from the same Discipline. It’s a good way to have your cake and eat it too with regard to having all three disciplines in your kill team.
  • Mutant Herd works when you activate a Tzaangor to pick another nearby Tzaangor to immediately activate after the current activation, before any Overwatch shots. This is good for avoiding Overweatch with your Tzaangor-heavy team and basically gives two of your Taangors “GA:2”, which can be helpful for pushing through damage or capping objectives.
  • Schemes of Change lets you discard a TacOp and randomly generate a new one. This can be pretty handy in a pinch, if you’re no longer able to score something because it’s too late, or because circumstances have changed to make scoring it very unlikely. Just be sure you’ll actually be able to score the alternatives you could draw before you fire this one off. 

Equipment

Warpcoven get their own equipment list, which has seven options like the Thousand Sons list. Several of these are repeats from the Compendium entry.

  • The Gargoyle Bayonet returns, a Rubric-only option that gives the operative a 4/4-damage melee attack. At 2 EP it’s a bit much to spend for so little effect, particularly when your sorcerers are the real melee powerhouses.
  • High Capacity Magazine (1/3 EP) is new, and upgrades an autopistol, inferno bolt pistol, or inferno boltgun with the Ceaseless special rule, costing you 1 EP for an autopistol and 3 EP otherwise. This is a nasty upgrade, and worth looking at on a Rubric marine if you need some extra ranged firepower.
  • Occult Talisman gives you the ability to ignore mortal wounds or wounds from a psychic power shooting attack on a 5+. That’s not bad, even at 2 EP, and it’s good protection on your Sorcerers against other powers or meltaguns.
  • Sorcerous Scroll (4 EP) also returns, giving a Sorcerer the ability to put one psychic power from another discipline on the scroll before the battle and then autocast it if you aren’t within Engagement Range. This is amazing, and you’re probably going to take it every game. Doubling or tripling up on powers is stupid good, and getting two disciplines with one model is very strong. Just watch out that you don’t make yourself too juicy a target. You’ll also need to figure out what power you want to put on the scroll.
  • Arcane Robes goes on a sorcerer and once per battle lets them turn a Crit into normal damage. Again, good for protecting your most valuable assets.
  • Ensorcelled Rounds goes on a Tzaaongor Fighter and gives their autopistol +1 damage (both characteristics). Going to 3/4 isn’t a bad bump, but you’re not taking Tzaangors for their shooting.
  • Gilded Horns returns, Giving the Tzaangor with it the ability to turn one 5+ result into a critical hit when fighting after a charge move. As your only other 1 EP option, this won’t even be a gap filler, it’s just something you’ll want on Tzaangor-heavy teams.
Credit: TheChirurgeon

Tac Ops

Warpcoven kill teams get to be a Real Boy, and now have their own Tac Ops. It’s also worth noting that their access to Tac Ops broadly changes depending on the way they build their kill teams for a game – if their team has 4+ Arcana Astartes (Sorcerers and Rubrics), they get the SECURITY archetype. If they have 5+ Tzaangor operatives, they gain the RECON archetype.

  • Scry Secret is revealed during the first turning point and has your opponent pick one of their Operatives to be holding a secret. Your job is to then do the Scry Secret Psychic Action at them and then not die. Scry Secret requires you be within ⬟ of the secret holder. Do it, and you get 1 VP. Stay alive, and you score another. It’s not great that your opponent gets to pick the secret holder, but the 6″ distance is at least a little generous. Still, not my favorite option.
  • Sorcerous Ritual asks you to do the Sorcerous Ritual psychic action and you reveal this after doing it. Sorcerous Ritual is a psychic action you do while within ⬤ of an objective or the table center and more than ⬟ from your Drop Zone. Once you do this action in a spot, that’s the only place you can do the action again. Do this on two or more turns and you score 1 VP. Do it on 3 or more to score another VP. This one’s not too bad, but depends heavily on keeping your Sorcerers – your most valuable operatives and the source of your damage – alive and doing psychic actions.
  • Grand Plan is revealed on the first turn – your opp selects one of their operatives and an objective more than ⬟ from their table edge and isn’t one that can be removed during the game. If you take out that enemy operative, you score 1 VP. If you control the objective at the end of any turn, you score 1 VP. This one is also realy tough – it takes the decisions out of your hands and will often mean very hard/impossible to score targets.

Building a Warpcoven Kill Team

Building a Warpcoven Kill Team roster almost always starts with your Sorcerers. You’ll need to have at least three Sorcerers on your roster and most of the time you’ll want 5-6 so you can mix up the powers and Boons they get. Combos like Immaterial Flight and Warp Portal can give the team some incredible mobility, and Time-Walker Ephemeral Instability gives us an operative who can’t really be touched unless he wants to be. We’ll also want to consider one Warpflame Pistol option, and Incorporeal Sight on the pistol makes it a much better option. And having Mutant Appendage as an option for building a Sorcerer focused on capturing and actioning objectives is good to have as well. 

  • Sorcerer with Khopesh & Force Stave, Boon: Immaterial Flight, Discipline: Warpfire
  • Sorcerer with Khopesh & Force Stave, Boon: Empyric Ward, Discipline: Tempyric
  • Sorcerer with Khopesh & Force Stave, Boon: Time-Walker, Discipline: Tempyric
  • Sorcerer with Khopesh & Force Stave, Boon: Crystalline, Discipline Tempyric
  • Sorcerer with Khopesh & Force Stave, Boon: Mutant Appendage, Discipline: Tempyric
  • Sorcerer with Warpflame Pistol and Force Stave, Boon: Incorporeal Sight, Discipline: Destiny
  • Sorcerer with Khopesh & Force Stave, Boon: Warp Swell, Discipline: Destiny

For Rubrics there isn’t a ton of versatility. We want the option for 1 Sorcerer and 5 Rubrics as a team, but that will rarely be something we actually do unless we really need the second gunner. Instead, 3 Sorcerers, 4 Rubrics – 1 Icon, 1 Soulreaper, 2 Warriors – is likely to be how we stack the team for elite engagements. 

  • Rubric Marine Icon Bearer
  • Rubric Marine Gunner with Warpflamer
  • Rubric Marine Gunner with Soulreaper Cannon
  • Rubric Marine Warrior
  • Rubric Marine Warrior

We’ll stuff the rest with Tzaangors. We could have all 10 here but 1 Sorcerer + 10 Tzaangors is dumb, so we’re instead going to go with 8 for the extreme option of 2 Sorcerers + 8 Tzaangors and to be honest if you wanted to add one or two more Sorcerers to the roster and max out at 3 Sorcs + 6 Tzaangors I wouldn’t blame you.

  • Tzaangor Champion w/Greataxe
  • Tzaangor Horn Bearer
  • Tzaangor Icon Bearer
  • Tzaangor Fighter w/Blades
  • Tzaangor Fighter w/Blades
  • Tzaangor Fighter w/Blades
  • Tzaangor Fighter w/Chainsword + Autopistol
  • Tzaangor Fighter w/Chainsword + Autopistol

So that’s our roster, and it gives us a ton of flexibility. We can consider different configurations for different circumstances, though most of our kill teams will start by including all three Sorcerers, the most powerful operative in our arsenal. 3 Sorcerers + 6 Tzaangors is a solid mainline option when we need bodies, but 3 Sorcerers + Soulreaper Cannon + Icon + 2 Tzaangors is also a fine option and may be a good option against Custodes/Talons – we can use the Arcane Robes equipment to blunt the edge of psych-out grenades and take Chainsword + Autopistol Tzaangors with Ensorcelled Rounds and High-Capacity Magazine to get some extra edge against tougher armor on one of our Fighters.  When we need to go more elite and have some ranged firepower, we can drop to 3 Sorcerers + Soulreaper Gunner + Icon +  Warrior and get an extra Inferno Boltgun with a High-Capacity Magazine in the mix. 

Final Thoughts

Overall the Warpcoven are an exciting and flexible addition to the game’s rosters, and much more flexible and exciting to play than Compendium Thousand Sons kill teams, though I’m not sure yet how they’ll shake out power level-wise. Their psychic powers give them a ton of great tricks but their shooting seems to be a bit worse without Malicious Volleys to fall back on. Still, if you’re building Thousand Sons, this is going to be the way to run them. Start modeling/sharpening up your Khopeshes now. 

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