Psychic Awakening Review, Part 2: Chaos Knights

Despite the rise and uh, second rise followed by what will hopefully be the leveling off of Iron Hands space marines, Chaos Knights have remained competitive since their release last summer, owing in part to their ability to double up gatling and thermal options on Iconoclast Despoilers and support them with Lightning Lock War Dog Moiraxes. However despite being competitive, Chaos Knights have yet to really break through with a list that can finish off a GT.

With the release of Psychic Awakening VII: Engine War, Chaos Knights suddenly have access to a host of new rules and abilities, giving them more options than ever before as well as new stratagems, relics, and finally households to boost their power at no additional cost. But do these new abilities do enough to push them over the edge, or are we looking at a marginal boost with limited utility? Join Shane Watts and I today to find out as we pore over the new rules.



Chaos Knight Dread Households

Let’s start with the big thing: Chaos Knights finally catch up to their loyalist counterparts with the addition of Dread Households (and, if you’re reading our Imperial Knights review, they get the superfaction benefits of Imperialis and Mechanicus Oaths to mirror Chaos Knights). If your army is battle-forged, then Chaos Knights models in your army except for Dreadblades gain the <DREAD HOUSEHOLD> faction keyword and you can pick a household for each unit. There are three households that are Iconoclast-only, and two that are Infernal-only. All of the knights in a Super-Heavy detachment have to be from the same dread household, but these models gain a Household Bond, which is a subfaction trait for Chaos Knights. They also gain access to a household Warlord Trait, Stratagem, and Relic.

This is pretty big, but how big depends on how good the households are. Let’s dive in.


Chaos Knight. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer
Chaos Knight. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Iconoclast Households

There are three Iconoclast Households and these need the least help to be good since Iconoclasts are already better than Infernals by a bit thanks to the benefits they get from being in combat that help them stomp enemy units into the ground.

House Herpetrax

House Herpetrax is all about resilience. Their knights get +2 Wounds (+1 for War Dogs) with their Dauntless bond. Their Warlord Trait, Bound to None, replicates the Pact with the Dark Gods Infernal only Stratagem, allowing the Warlord to return to the battlefield with D3 wounds remaining on a D6 roll of 4+ at the end of the phase if it didn’t explode. Anyone who has ever played against an Infernal Knight or House Taranis knows how annoying this is and while this isn’t nearly as versatile as having a Stratagem, it also doesn’t cost you 3 CP, either. The House Herpetrax Stratagem, Warping Aura, does additional mortal wounds to each model within 1” on a 4+ at the end of the Fight phase.

Shane: Getting 1 or 2 extra wounds is objectively worse than the 6+ “ignore wounds” rule that IK House Taranis gets (this ability to ignore wounds on a 6+ effectively grants 20% extra wounds on average, so 2.4/4.8/5.6 more wounds depending on chassis). Granted, this is somewhat dependent on your ability to roll 6s sometimes, so if you’re chronically bad at that, this is your answer, haha.

The biggest advantage to the house Warlord trait is that this House Herpetrax is Iconoclast, so effectively you get a Warlord that is equivalent to having the BEST Infernal-only Stratagem. The house Relic (-1 to be hit in melee) is OK. It helps mitigate one of the biggest weaknesses of knights, getting smashed in melee. Warping Aura is worse than other equivalent mortal wound stratagems unless you are within 1” of 3+ enemy units at the end of the fight phase. (Typically 1CP mortal wound stratagems are D3 mortals to one enemy unit).

TheChirurgeon: Also, it’s important to note that, because I am a giant child, I giggle every time I read or say the name of this house.

House Lucaris

House Lucaris specializes in melee combat, and their bond, Virtue Through Strength, gives them +1 to hit on the turns they charge, are charged, or perform a Heroic Intervention and their Warlord Trait lets them fight first in the fight phase. The House’s relic is a souped-up replacement for a Tyrant’s two twin meltaguns, and its Stratagem, Trample Them, does mortal wounds to units that a House Lucaris titan moves over.

Shane: Virtue Through Strength combos well with the Iconoclast bonus. It’s a strong base trait that helps Iconoclasts do what they do best, which is make up for Knights’ low model count with the ability to stomp the crap out of enemy models in melee. The Warlord trait isn’t great; fight first mechanics require some combos to get any benefit from. However if you dip into a Death Guard detachment and have a Foul Blightspawn buddy following this knight around, you can get some solid benefits from this trait. Still not sure I would take it, especially when another detachment will cost CP in 9th edition, but interesting.

The relic boosts the twin meltas on a Tyrant to S9 and always melta roll (so 2d6 damage take the highest), but wasting a relic on the tertiary weapons of a tyrant just seems like a bad call. Trample Them seems good on paper, but what opponent is going to give you the opportunity to walk over their units? Maybe an edge case use when fighting over an objective.

House Khymere

OK so House Khymere also specializes in melee combat. The house bond, Rampant Cruelty, lets them re-roll wound rolls of 1 when using weapons except for titanic feet. Their Warlord Trait makes enemy morale tests more difficult. The house artefact, Annihilatum, replaces a Tyrant’s Conflagration cannon with one that’s 3 damage, and its Stratagem, Fury of Surtr’s Wake, costs 2 CP to do D3 mortal wounds to each enemy unit within 3” on a D6 roll of a 4+ in the Shooting phase.

Shane: Rampant Cruelty only works on melee weapons excluding feet, so it’s not great, unless you have a detachment dedicated to a Castigator or melee knights. Combine this with the fact there are better melee-oriented traits you can take it’s pretty “meh.” The Warlord trait is a worse version of the generic Chaos Knights Warlord trait Aura of Terror. So unless you were looking to double dip on Ld shenanigans, this is just terrible. And since Ld tricks are still not so great in 8th ed….. Maybe it will get better in 9th?

The relic boosts a tyrant’s conflagration cannon to 3 damage (from 2) and makes it Assault, which is OK. Being able to shoot it after an Advance seems OK, but you lose out on the top guns and harpoon shooting. Conflagration cannons don’t really see a lot of play either, so this isn’t terribly exciting. The Stratagem is a little pricey at 2 CP, but if you have multiple enemy units within 3” during your shooting phase, and you don’t think you’ll kill them after a charge, then I can see this being OK. I can see a case of this being useful if/when a hero-hammer style list is all up in your grill. So beyond the strat, this House seems terrible.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Infernal Households

The Infernal Households have more to offer shooty knights but have had less value overall since knight armies are too small to specialize in just one thing. Combine that with the need to take D3 mortal wounds every time you want to choose your benefit and you’re looking at a set of bonuses that have to be pretty good to be worth considering.

House Vextrix

House Vextrix wins the trait lottery with its Titankin trait, which lets its units re-roll a single hit roll and wound roll each time they shoot, fight, or fire Overwatch. This is particularly good on dual thermal Infernals, where you want as much variance smoothing as possible. The House Warlord Trait heals the warlord 1 wound per turn, while the already-previewed Heretek Power Core relic gives its bearer +1” to movement and +1 to damage with Reaper Chainswords and Thunderstrike Gauntlets, and +1 to its explode rolls. The house’s Interception Array Stratagem costs 2 CP and is used at the start of the Shooting phase to ignore hit roll and BS modifiers for a phase.

Shane: This trait is pretty good, one drawback being the more elite nature of Chaos Knights means less overall utility from the number of re-rolls. The other main drawback is that typically Double Thermal Despoilers benefit more from the Iconoclast extra attack/AP than the Infernal bonus, but being able to re-roll a thermal cannon hit and wound seems like it could be good. The Warlord trait is OK; healing a wound a turn can be handy, but probably not worth spending the Warlord Trait slot on.

The Heretek Power Core can do some nasty things with a Rampager, combine with the Eager for the Kill Warlord Trait for +1 on Advance/charge rolls and pop the Infernal Daemonic Power bonus for +2” Move and another +1 to advance/charge.  That gives you a 15” move, plus a 3-8” advance, and +2 to the charge. For an average 20” move, followed by an average 9” charge (assuming you use the Full Tilt Stratagem to charge after advancing). Also, assuming your opponent hasn’t blocked your move with pre-game scouts etc, but otherwise, looks pretty good. Sidenote: If you do this same tactic with a Cerastus Chassis Knight (Castigator/Lancer etc), you are looking at a 17” move instead, just no synergy with the +1D because of the wrong weapons. Double Sidenote: Since the +1 to explode is +1 to the roll, you can combine this with Spiteful Demise (explode on a 4+) for extra explosive hilarity.

TheChirurgeon’s Note: Shortly after writing this, Shane and I played a game and his Infernal Cerastus failed to explode on a 3+, then failed to explode a second time after a CP re-roll. Of course by that point I had already lost all three of my army’s Venomcrawlers to one blowing up and killing the other two, so I get to keep my title as “king shit of bad explosions.”

Interception Array is a super good stratagem in the current meta of -3/-4 to hit Alpha Legion units and -1/-2 Harlequin haywire bikes. Depending on how the modifiers change in 9th, this could dip in importance, but in 8th ed, this is legit.

House Khomentis

The Infernal Knights of House Khomentis get a boost as they take damage, getting +1 to their Attacks and hit rolls with melee weapons when they’ve lost half or more of their wounds, helping mitigate their degrading profile and making them more dangerous as they injure themselves. They also get a 5+ roll to shrug off wounds in the Psychic phase, helping them avoid smites.

House Khomentis’ real power comes from its Warlord Trait – Dread Hunter lets your warlord, once per game, declare that it’s going to make a killing strike in the Shooting phase, giving it +1 Damage and the ability to re-roll hit and wound rolls until the end of the turn with a single ranged weapon. This is a nasty boost, particularly for a Castigator’s gatling cannon, where you can combine the Killing Strike with the Infernal Household’s Daemonic Power surge ability (D3 mortal wounds to get +1 damage and +1 strength), to get 16 S7, AP-2, D4 shots that re-roll hits and wounds! This also combines with the house artefact, Daemonic Shrike, which lets you pick an enemy unit within 18” each Shooting phase and improve your AP by 1. It’s a lot to invest in a single knight but it’s a hell of an alpha strike. The house Stratagem lets a single unit of War Dogs outflank, arriving from reserves within 6” of a battlefield edge.

Shane: Both of the pieces of Khomentis’ traits are available as Custom Households, so if you only like one half and not the other, you can do that. Both parts of this trait are situational, but are OK on their own. The Warlord trait only being once per game is limiting, but you can really delete a unit effectively with is. With the Castigator build mentioned above, imagine 16 4-damage shots re-rolling hits and wounds vs Centurions. Glorious.

The relic needing to be within 18” is a rather limiting factor, but if you can pull it off – as in the above example – it can be very impactful. So it’s OK. The stratagem to Outflank a unit of War Dogs is pretty good, giving you solid protection against alpha strikes, as well as being able to find good angles to shoot at enemy units from. Seems good.


War Dogs. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Custom Households

Of course, if you don’t want to use one of the new households, you can make your own. The same rules apply here, where every unit in your Super-Heavy detachment has to be from the same Household and you get to choose whether your custom household will be Iconoclast or Infernal. As with other create-your-own subfaction rule sets, you pick two rules for your custom household, though some choices in the list count as two.

Rather than go through all these, we’ve decided to pick out a few winners to keep an eye on. There are a bunch we’re not listing here, some of which are good in specific situations and some that we just don’t think much of. A lot of the melee boosts here that would otherwise be fantastic exclude attacks made with the Titanic Feet weapon, making them at best mediocre.

  • Dark Forging gives +6” range to shooting attacks of 24” range or more, +2” if less than 24”. Getting extra range is always good, especially since some of Chaos Knights’ best weapon choices are normally 36” range.
  • Abominable Constitution gives units +1” to movement, and always counts as top bracket for movement only. Being reliably 11”/13”/15” movement throughout the entirety of a game is pretty strong and this is solid on War Dogs.
  • Harrying Packs lets War Dogs fall back and either charge or shoot at -1 to hit. A trait that negates one of the biggest drawbacks of War Dogs is a massive boost and this may be an-auto include in any War Dog only detachment.
  • Endless Torment lets you re-roll a single die when determining the number of shots made by a model shooting a weapon or firing Overwatch with a gun that has a random number of shots. This bumps the average number of shots you get on a dual thermal cannon Despoiler up to 9.5 from 7 and is a pretty solid boost. The downside is that it costs two trait slots, so it’s an expensive trait to pick. Though combine it with Trail of Destruction and laugh maniacally.
  • Models with the Enlightened Idolators ability treat AP-1 attacks against them as being AP 0. Considering spraying down a knight with a volume of AP-1 attacks is a valid tactic (see RG centurion bolters / GK stormbolters), and this is a super good counter. Also makes Lootas sad. The big downside is that this requires two trait slots instead of one, which makes it a big cost.
  • Heretical System-Bond costs two slots and is our first “future-proofed” trait, giving units +1 to hit rolls against models that give any negative hit modifiers. It also eats up two trait slots and we’re not entirely sure it’s worth it.
  • Pinpoint Cruelty gives you a single die re-roll when rolling for variable damage each time the model is chosen to shoot or fight. This will boost your damage output on stomps and thermal shots (expected damage jumps from 3.5 to 5). 
  • Unhallowed Inscriptions gives you the ability to ignore wounds in the Psychic phase on a 5+. While this is really good against armies that deal damage in the Psychic phase, it’s still pretty situational. However, this household trait is HILARIOUS against Grey Knights, since not only can you mitigate the damage from Smite and other psychic powers that deal direct mortal wounds, it also works against a unit that shoots in the Psychic phase with the Edict Imperator power.
  • Pride-fueled Fury gives units that are at half or fewer wounds remaining +1 attack and +1 to hit in melee. Effectively this makes your knights more effective in melee while they are in the middle bracket, and not terrible at bottom bracket. Having a trait that is reliant on being heavily damaged isn’t great, but since knights tend to fall off late game as they degrade, this may balance out the scales. Consider combining with Abominable Constitution to make this more useful. (Shane: Combining Pride-fueled Fury and Abominable Constitution is what I am messing with for Icono Thermal Knights.)

Wings: Invading this article to apply a hot take, my sleeper pick here is an Iconoclast household running Pinpoint CrueltyInfamous Hereditary (which gives you a single hit re-roll each time you shoot/fight). My expectation is that the best Chaos Knight builds will remain triple dual-thermal Iconoclasts with other Chaos elements backing them up, and while I think house Lucaris is very good on that, I think this has play as well. When almost everything you’re packing is random damage, re-roll 1 hit and 1 damage roll each time you shoot/fight is not much worse than the re-roll 1 hit and 1 wound of the (definitely very powerful) House Vextrix, and comes attached to the generally superior Iconoclast Allegiance. The fact that both effects are actively good on the thermal cannons and stomping feet that makes this setup work feels very potent to me.

(Shane: Wings tends to be a trend setter on these things, so I won’t be surprised if his Hot Take, well…. Takes.)

(TheChirurgeon: God don’t encourage him. After double thermal knights became a thing he was insufferable.)

Overall Impressions

This entire set of rules is a Free boost to the already existing rule set for Chaos Knights. So that in of itself is a major benefit. Beyond that, there’s a slew of good stuff among all these new rules and house traits and even if they don’t elevate Chaos Knights to a top-tier army by themselves in 8th edition, there’s a chance for them to be at that level in 9th and at the very least they give the army more competitive options, with interesting choices to be made between Iconoclasts and Infernals. If you’re a Chaos Knights player, you need these new rules for at least the free benefits.


Knight Moirax
Knight Moirax. Credits: That Gobbo

Shane’s New Lists

We’ve put together some lists using the new rules. While we can’t guarantee these are going to be viable in 9th edition, we’ve tried to keep the number of detachments down to reflect 9th’s focus on paying CP for additional detachments rather than being rewarded for having them. What we’ve seen so far suggests that Chaos Knights will benefit significantly from having 12 CP to work with in 9th edition in 2,000 point games, and that’s something we hope holds.

A New Spin on an “old” list:

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment
Household: Custom Iconoclast (Abom + Fueled Fury)

LoW: Double Thermal Despoiler w/Ironstorm
LoW: Double Thermal Despoiler w/Ironstorm
LoW: Double Thermal Despoiler (Dreadblade, give em the Rune for extra Pact and melee invuln)

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment
Custom Infernal Household (Harrying + Abom)

LoW: Double Lightning Lock Moirax
LoW: Double Lightning Lock Moirax
LoW: Double Lightning Lock Moirax
LoW: Double Lightning Lock Moirax
LoW: Double Lightning Lock Moirax

This list is more or less what I was already running, but with new and improved abilities. I am down to 1 Dreadblade vs. before, but this allows it to take 3 abilities essentially. Roll for 2, and pick the third with the relic. Long story short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Khomentis Annihilator and Friends list:

Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment
House Khomentis Infernal Household

LoW: Renegade Knight Castigator (For super gatling WL trait fun)
LoW: Renegade Knight Atropos
LoW: Renegade Knight Lancer
LoW: Double Thermal Despoiler w/Ironstorm Missile Pod (Dreadblade, 5++ relic and extra pact)
LoW: Double Lightning Lock Moirax War Dog

This list is a little less flexible, but gets to play with the new Khomentis WL trait, which is LITERALLY killer. In addition all 3 of the other big knights have invulns that work in melee, which is a big benefit (looking at you Mr AP-4 Smash Captain). Also brings along a little guy with some sweet chaff killing guns.

This one is also only a single Super-Heavy detachment, which hopefully future-proofs it a bit better.


More Engine Wars

We’ve got more thoughts on Engine War still to come, so check back tomorrow for our reviews of Imperial Knights and Chaos Daemons. In the meantime if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at