Nephilim Faction Focus: Thousand Sons

Welcome to War Zone: Nephilim! There’s never been a shake-up this large during an edition of 40k, and in June Games Workshop dropped a new missions pack with all-new secondaries, changed how CP works in games, published new, all-digital points for the first time ever, and published a new balance dataslate, dramatically shifting the power levels of some armies.

With any big changes comes a new series of Faction Focus articles and we’re doing the same for Nephilim as we did for Nachmund. In this article TheChirurgeon is talking about the Thousand Sons, covering how the faction changed, what it means for playing them, how they’re likely to fare in the new meta, and writing a list with some thoughts on playing them.

The Thousand Sons managed to show up late enough in 2021 to avoid getting any kind of attention in the December or February dataslates, but were the big recipients of the Armour of Contempt change from that dataslate, enjoying the stacking interactions between Armour of Contempt and All is Dust. That, combined with several interesting mobility options and obsec terminators, helped catapult the faction into a low tier 2 status, capable of reliably generating TiWPs and occasionally stealing away an event in a meta dominated by Tyranids.

The Nephilim changes are a bit of a mixed bag for the Thousand Sons, with a nerf to one of their better (but situational) secondary objectives and buffs to others.

The Notable Changes

The Thousand Sons received a mix of small points tweaks and some large secondary adjustments in the Munitorum Field Manual, most of which are positive.
  • Rubric Point Drops. The big changes for Thousand Sons points-wise are the drops on Rubrics, who now get icons of flame free (-10), as well as point drops on the Soulreaper Cannon (-5), and Warpflamers (-3). This turns the Rubric unit into a much more formidable option and really puts the screws to the idea of taking Cultists in the army when doing so means giving up 2 cabal points, a cast, and ObSec. The Warpflamer change is also a big boon for anyone looking to teleport a unit across the table to light up an unsuspecting target, since they’ll now be 15-30 points cheaper.
  • Cheaper Legion Command. Every one of the Legion Command options dropped in cost by 5 points, making them much more attractive as options. This is particularly solid for Dilettante, which buys you a relic for points instead of CP, Protege, which for 5 points gets you an extra power, Loyal Thrall, which lets your Sorcerer do actions and cast, Witch-Warrior, which improves your mortal wounds output, and Rehati, which gives your Exalted Sorcerer an extra cast for only 20 points now. Basically almost all of these were a little too expensive before and now most of them are interesting options.
  • Other Point drops. There are some other, less impactful point drops. The most significant of these is likely Magnus dropping by 30 points, but it’s still a pretty hostile meta for him and his inability to contribute to the Wrath of Magnus faction secondary (one he’d have been perfect for) make him subpar even at 420 points. The Tanks and Helbrutes got cheaper too but outside the Vindicator (which still has the bad D6 shot version of its gun but with a 5+ invulnerable save is fairly interesting at 120 points), this likely doesn’t matter much.
  • Secondary Objectives. This is probably the biggest change by far – the Thousand Sons secondary objectives got a complete overhaul. Wrath of Magnus was strongly nerfed, Mutate Landscape got a sidegrade, and the other two were significantly improved, plus we can take three per game. On the whole it’s a solid change, and one that helps the faction stay relevant.
  • CP changes. On the downside, Thousand Sons are going to be notably hurt by starting CP drops – pretty much every army wants at least one relic (Umbralefic Crystal) and one Warlord Trait (Master Misinformator), and there’s a strong case to be made for taking one or two others, potentially. The biggest challenge here is going to be that having 3+ CP on early turns to be able to use Unwavering Phalanx on a big unit of Terminators is still very important and tough to work around if you need CP to force out an important cast as well. This makes having more Cabal Points to get CP via a ritual and using Glimpse of Eternity more important.

Despite some challenges, on the balance, things have improved for Thousand Sons – not just because the faction got some nice point drops to make things easier, but also because several of their notable rivals saw some nerfs – Tyranids, Eldar, and Harlequins saw some nerfs, and that’s good news for a faction that struggled against those top contenders (though as we’ll see, there are other contenders now who present a problem).

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Playing Nephilim Missions

The missions haven’t changed, but the CP and the secondaries have, in ways that massively change the game plan for Thousand Sons. The two big losses here are Stranglehold – a solid pick in many matchups for the faction thanks to typically having two large blocks of Scarabs to hold the middle, and Wrath of Magnus, which in many matchups could be a “free” 12-15 VP simply for doing what you already want to do: Smite the ever-loving shit out of your opponents.

Let’s start by talking about the faction secondaries, and then go from there to talk about a broader secondary game plan for the faction.

  • Sorcerous Prowess received a major facelift; it still requires that you kill enemy units in the Psychic phase, but will now reward you with 2 VP for killing non-PSYKER units in the Psychic phase, making it much more broadly useful against factions other than Grey Knights and Thousand Sons. It’s still not necessarily a great pick, but being able to score 2 VP for finishing off a unit with psychic powers can add up quickly and as a Purge the Enemy secondary it’s not terrible. You’ll want to avoid this against armies that have a built-in feel no pain save against mortals, since it’ll be difficult to push through those last few wounds, excepting potentially the likes of Grey Knights where you’ll score more VP. I’d probably leave it on the shelf against Custodes, though.
  • Mutate Landscape got a sidegrade. The action no longer gets more difficult with each cast (staying at warp charge 4), but now you have to control the objective at the time of casting – though that’s not necessarily a tall order for the faction’s ObSec casters. It’ll be worth watching against knights and other armies that have models that count as more than one model, though. On the whole, this one is still decent but not great. It’s basically going to cap at 12 VP in any of the 5-objective missions, but it’s pretty easy to do and now that it doesn’t get any harder you’ll be save some Cabal Points for other things. The fact that any of your units can attempt it gives it a huge leg up over Psychic Interrogation.
  • Burn Empires also got a bit of a side-grade. You can still can still be attempt the action with multiple Infantry units per turn, but now characters can’t do it (though admittedly, they weren’t really the units you were using for this before). The good news is that you can start the action while there are enemy units nearby, though as with Mutate Landscape you have to control the objective. Though again, this is not a particularly tall order for Thousand Sons and you don’t need to control it through the entire action (which still completes at the start of your next Command phase). It’s still 4 VP per objective. The biggest problem with Burn Empires is that you really don’t want to have both it and Mutate Landscape going at the same time – you can’t do both on the same objective with the same unit in a given turn, and doubling up per objective just isn’t something you have the time or resources for, especially since doing the action will typically stop you from shooting unless you’ve paid points for Ardent Automata. The upside to Burn Empires is that it’s going to be an easy 8 points on a lot of missions where you can fire it off twice on turn 1 and hope to get a third objective to score 12, so if it looks like that’s your best option it’s not a terrible plan.
  • Wrath of Magnus I’ve intentionally saved for last. The secondary caught a bit of a nerf, but I’m going to argue that it’s actually still a solid option and in some cases, better than it was. You still can’t pick it if your opponent doesn’t have a PSYKER, so it’ll be dead against some armies. But now instead of scoring you 3 VP at the end of each round for more models killed by psychic powers you score 1 VP each for manifesting more Witchfire, Blessing, and Malediction powers than the opponent.

OK, let’s do some general rundowns of what we’ve got in the ole arcane tome of powers we might actually cast in a given game:


  • Time Flux (Cult of Time)
  • Sorcerous Facade (Cult of Duplicity)
  • Glamour of Tzeentch
  • Temporal Manipulation
  • Weaver of Fates
  • Pyric Flux
  • Presage
  • Swelled by the Warp
  • Temporal Surge


  • Tzeentch’s Firestorm
  • Doombolt
  • Gaze of Hate
  • Baleful Devolution


  • Twist of Fate
  • Cacodaemonic Curse

Maledictions are by far the hardest category here; Cacodaemonic Curse is absolutely a stretch in this group – I never run it and I really don’t want consider doing it just to get my counter up on Maledictions. So we’re going to need to think pretty hard about who can cast lots of Maledictions and how we can avoid them.

Note that Smite doesn’t have a power type. That means you can’t get your Witchfire count up casting it. But also, your opponents can’t do that either, so it’s on the balance a good thing. Also note that you only have to manifest powers, not resolve them against a target. Casting Twist of Fate with no legal targets still counts as a perfectly fine malediction.

Alright, let’s talk about the opposing factions you’ll need to worry about and how this can play out:


The Asuryani have a few spells they’re going to be bringing against you often enough to be a pain in the ass. Guide, Doom, Fortune, Conceal/Reveal, Protect/Jinx, and Executioner are common picks, but generally the Eldar are going to run a bunch of blessings and have the power to toss out 1-2 Maledictions per turn. The good news is that if you force them to do more maledictions or you stay out of their way you can potentially throw off their game plan as they’re not likely to have a bunch of “surplus” casts. This is one of those areas where it will probably be useful to have a second malediction on hand, but otherwise you’ll need to come prepared to drop out 4 blessings per turn and deny any maledictions your opponents try to cast at you. Of course, note that they can also just cast out of range with no legal targets to manifest powers and screw you over.


Shadowseers only have a single malediction – Veil of Tears – and they aren’t likely to take it over Fog of Dreams, Mirror of Minds, or their other options.


The Leviathan and Behemoth powers are both Blessings, but the Kraken power – Synaptic Lure – is a Malediction that gives re-roll to charge rolls against a target, and is likely to see use when Tyranids get within 18″ of you. Paroxysm is also a commonly used Malediction, giving an enemy unit -1 to its wound rolls and preventing it from firing overwatch or setting to defend. So against Kraken you’ll likely have to worry about double Maledictions but not so much anywhere else. Otherwise, Catalyst and Onslaught are blessings and Psychic Scream is a Witchfire.

Grey Knights

Our classic nemeses can be a real pain in the ass here. The Rapiers brotherhood get an extra blessing power, while the Prescient Brotherhood and Swordbearers have maledictions. On top of that, the faction has access to a ton of blessing and witchfire powers, plus a great malediction in Empyric Amplification. Top it all off with the fact that they get +1 to their deny attempts and can keep you off your casts and you’ve got an uphill battle. This is possibly the worst matchup for Thousand Sons when it comes to Wrath of Magnus. While some of the game’s other factions may be able to hold you to 10 points consistently with lots of malediction casts, the Grey Knights can potentially hold you to 5 or fewer if they get some good turns, though their biggest weakness is that they need to save their casts for the Purifying Ritual secondary early in the game. That means that while Wrath of Magnus may be more difficult against Grey Knights, it also may still be your best third option.

Death Guard

Standard Death Guard armies typically only have one caster with two powers: Miasma of Pestilence (Blessing) and Curse of the Leper (Witchfire). If they get cute they might have Curse of Plagues (Blessing) instead, but that’s the same type and Wrath of Magnus is a super-safe pick against them. If you’re up against a Terminus Est list with multiple psykers however, they can usually add 2 Maledictions with Lungrot and Rotwind, and they’ll often run Gift of Contagion to get a third, which can cause you to cap out at 10 for Wrath of Magnus.

Chaos Space Marines

The more standard Chaos Space Marine flavors got shafted a bit in their new book – specifically, the Hereticus Disciple sucks. The Malefic Discipline is really, really good now however, and Masters of Possession are going to be common components in CSM lists, opening them up to Wrath of Magnus. The good news here is that MoPs only get two casts; the bad news is that one of them is typically going to be Warp Marked (malediction), while the other will be either Pact of Flesh or Cursed Earth (both blessings), though Pact/Cursed Earth is also a solid combo. you’ll want to deny Warp Marked whenever possible.

Picking Secondaries

So where does that leave us as a faction? Well, we’re going to be relying a lot on Mutate Landscape and Psychic Interrogation, depending on the opponent and map. The former is a better all-around pick – though likely to be worth fewer points – and safer to attempt, since it doesn’t require any CHARACTER targets, nor a CHARACTER to cast. If your game plan is to lean more heavily on Interrogation, you’ll probably want a Tzaangor Shaman in the army to attempt it, since wasting a full round of casting with Ahriman or an Exalted Sorcerer is really bad.
After that, we’ve got a few options. Generally, we don’t want to take both action secondaries and warpcraft, since we quickly run into an issue of actions economy, where we just don’t have enough units to do all the actions we need every turn. The exception is if you’re running a unit or two of Cultists or Tzaangors, in which case both Raise the Banners and Burn Empires become options, with varying utility depending on the map and terrain layout. Engage on All Fronts can also be a fine option for Cult of Duplicity armies, which have a bit more mobility thanks to Sorcerous Facade, while Grind Them Down might be a more reasonable pick for Cult of Time lists (though I’m generally not a fan of the secondary).
Against psyker armies, I think Wrath of Magnus still has a fair amount of play. It’s certainly better going second than it is going first and you’ll want to keep careful track of what’s being cast and what you need to cast, but it’s a more reliable 12+ points than most of the other secondaries available to the faction.
That’s the biggest challenge for the faction competitively as it currently sits – there are a lot of solid 10-12 point secondary objectives in there but none that I think are reliable 15-pointers and none that are very forgiving – even in a good game you have to be “on” every single turn with something like Mutate Landscape or Wrath of Magnus to score 15 VP off it. That’s a real challenge when going up against armies that can easily put up 100 points with their options – you will need to worry about games in which those armies get out to an early head start and you end up playing catch-up for the duration of the game.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Squaring Up Against the Meta

The Thousand Sons gained ground overall against the field, but still have some matchups they’ll struggle in.

The Positive

The Thousand Sons are still going to flourish in matchups where opponents bring minimal psychic support, preventing opponents from taking Abhor the Witch while opening the faction up for Wrath of Magnus. Death Guard are particularly susceptible here, since mortal wounds tend to be their Achilles’ heel – just watch out for the plague marine squads, which will absolutely wreak havoc on you in melee. The same goes for Chaos Marines, who lack the Thousand Sons’ mobility. Even with Abhor on the table, other marine armies are generally a solid matchup for Sons, provided they can stay out of trouble against D2 melee units that might otherwise cause trouble.

Chaos Knights should also be a positive matchup, particularly when running an Abominant – Rubric and Scarab units are immune to morale and ignore many of the effects of Dread Tests. And while the army often lacks lots of heavy weapons, AP-2 is the perfect amount of put knights on their invulnerable save and you’ll make up the rest with a mix of high volume, Wrath of the Wronged, and mortal wounds. Finally T’au tend to be a positive matchup for Thousand Sons, where their being able to take Abhor doesn’t quite make up for the lack of any psychic resistance and susceptibility to AP-2 firepower.

The Struggle

Surprise! Tyranids, Sisters, Grey Knights, and Custodes are all still going to be a mondo pain in your ass. The Grey Knights matchup is slightly easier than it was thanks to Wrath being a bit easier to score against them and Purifying Ritual being worse but sisters are just going to annoy the hell out of you, throwing out lucky deny attempts at the worst time for your plans and scoring buttloads of VP on their own secondaries. Against them you’ll likely want Burn Empires or Raise the Banners over Mutate Landscape.

Building Lists

A faction focus wouldn’t be complete without at least one list. Generally speaking, your Thousand Sons list consists of an Exalted Sorcerer and two units of ten terminators as the core of the army, in either Time or Duplicity. From there it’s more season-to-taste, and you can either go heavy on Rubrics or go lighter on them in favor of some heavier threats that can better deal with enemy armor. One option currently seeing a more play is to just go heavy on warpflamer rubrics and use their volume as a substitute for heavier shooting.

Generally speaking, the Thousand Sons do a decent job of holding the middle and bullying enemies off objectives using obsec terminators and Warpflamer Rubrics, but can be torn apart by melee armies that come in heavy with multi-damage weapons that ignore All is Dust. Though in a post-stranglehold world, holding the middle isn’t quite as important as it used to be (though you still want to do it for primary), meaning that there’s probably even less of a use case for Cult of Time over the more mobile Cult of Duplicity option.

Alejandro Serrano’s List

Alejandro piloted this list to a 5-0 finish and event win at a GT in Spain over the past weekend, coming out on top after games against Drukhari, Sororitas, two Custodes lists, and Death Guard. It’ll be very familiar to Thousand Sons players, running the standard Cult of Duplicity list, though the big changes here are three Icons of flame and all of the list’s Rubric Marines have traded their bolters for Warpflamers, making them considerably more deadly short-range threats.

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [97 PL, 5CP, 16 Cabal Points, 1,999pts] ++

Cults of the Legion: Cult of Duplicity

+ HQ +

Ahriman [9 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 180pts]: 21. Presage, 22. Weaver of Fates, 23. Temporal Surge, Disc of Tzeentch

Exalted Sorcerer [8 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 145pts]: 11. Tzeentch’s Firestorm, 13. Doombolt, Disc of Tzeentch, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Rehati

Infernal Master [5 PL, 2 Cabal Points, -2CP, 90pts]: 12. Glamour of Tzeentch, Egleighen’s Orrery, Master Misinformator, Warlord

+ Troops +

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 117pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 13. Doombolt, Warpflame pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer: 4x Warpflamer

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 117pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 32. Pyric Flux, Warpflame pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer: 4x Warpflamer

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 119pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 11. Gaze of Hate, Warpflame pistol
. Rubric Marine w/ soulreaper cannon: Soulreaper cannon
. 3x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer: 3x Warpflamer

+ Elites +

Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, -1CP, 195pts]: Hellforged cyclone missile launcher, 2x Twin volkite culverin

Scarab Occult Terminators [21 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 440pts]: 2x Hellfyre missile rack
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer: 31. Empyric Guidance, Inferno combi-bolter, Rites of Coalescence
. 7x Terminator: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon

Scarab Occult Terminators [21 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 435pts]: 2x Hellfyre missile rack
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer: 31. Cacodaemonic Curse, Inferno combi-bolter, Protégé
. 7x Terminator: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon

+ Fast Attack +

Chaos Spawn [5 PL, 115pts]
. 5x Chaos Spawn: 5x Hideous mutations

Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]: Chaos Spawn

Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]: Chaos Spawn

++ Total: [97 PL, 3CP, 16 Cabal Points, 1,999pts] ++

Once you get past the Terminators and Rubrics the question is “How do you spend the list’s remaining points?” Here Alejandro has gone with a twin volkite Contemptor and a large unit (5x) of Chaos Spawn, which are great for scoring Engage on All Fronts (since their starting strength is more than 3 models). The spawn give the list lots of good, cheap screening and added mobility and giving Ahriman the Disc and Temporal Surge makes casts very reliable.

Here there isn’t much in the way of heavy shooting to take on vehicles, which means that the list will rely on mortal wounds and volume of shots to take down targets like knights. Here Pyric Flux is a great tool to have, since it bumps the Warpflamers up to S5 to get a 5+ to wound against T8 knights, and Wrath of the Wronged can be used to get that further up to 4+. Though note that in many of those matchups you’ll want to make the armigers/war dogs your primary targets, particularly against Chaos Knights.

Wrapping Things Up

That concludes our look at the Thousand Sons, but we’ll have more over the next few weeks as we cover each of the game’s factions and some of the subfactions. Until then, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at