We found out a few months ago that the glorious golden host of the Adeptus Custodes and the clandestine forces of the Genestealer Cults were next in line for Codexes, and while the wait for those has been extended a little by COVID shipping issues, Games Workshop has provided a little pre-Christmas treat for the two factions in the form of the Shadow Throne boxed set.
Not only does this contain a new hero for each faction (shut up, Genestealers Cultists are heroes too), like all battle boxes it contains datasheets for all the other models in the box. That means the box provides a sneak peek at some of the changes that are coming with the new books, and luckily for our beloved readers, Games Workshop has kindly sent us a review copy, so you can join us as we take a look inside.
There turns out to be quite a bit here – because the box contains the Broodcoven sprue, multiple GSC HQs get covered, while over on the side of the Talons of the Emperor, all three Sisters of Silence datasheets get an update. In addition to this, for anyone who’s been desperate to take their armies from these factions out on Crusade, each also receives a page of rules for the narrative game mode, which we’ll take a look at in a separate review. Finally, some of our expert painters have taken a crack at the fancy new models in the box, and How To Paint Everything guides for both the Blade Champion and Reductus Saboteur will be going up shortly. All in all, a nice little surprise to end the year on, so let’s dive into the Datasheets.
Shadow Throne brings the Custodes their first new mainline model since the big release wave in 8th in the form of the Blade Champion – a master duelist and general all-around killing machine. All Custodes characters are pretty deadly, but this is the first we’ve seen where that’s the primary focus, and the datasheet reflects that. His statline is as nasty as you’d expect for a Custodes killer – WS2+, S/T5 and a mighty six attacks, plus the eye-watering Ld11 that all Custodes now have. Perhaps surprisingly, he does only have a 3+ save (though that increases to 2+ in melee), which looks to be because he’s skipped out on leg armour, similar to Venatari. Offensively, that puts him broadly on par with the Allarus Shield Captain on raw stats, but the weaponry and aggression is what distinguishes him.
Blade Champions carry three separate flavours of sword into battle (objectively the coolest way to go about it), and can choose one to use each time they fight. Warhammer Community took a look at these a while back, but the summary is that he’s got something for every occasion, and is particularly terrifying into opposing Characters, with S6 and full re-rolls being perfect for punking Dreadknight Grand Masters.
Chasing down Characters does appear to be a particular focus for these Champions, as similarly to Space Marine Company Champions, this model can always choose to move towards the nearest enemy CHARACTER when it performs a Heroic Intervention, and gets a 6″ Heroic range to maximise area control. That’s incredibly nasty on a model this deadly, and the baseline threat here is pretty similar to the higher end of what you can assemble on a fully upgraded, relic-loaded Chapter Champion, with far higher durability to boot. In combat, this model adds 1 to its armour saves thanks to Consummate Swordsman, which also gives him Transhuman but for getting hit (i.e. hit rolls of 1-3 always fail).
That’s a very potent combo with the Kaptaris stance from Martial Ka’tah, which puts a severe cap (get it? like Kaptaris?) on any opponent’s damage output. Getting into combat and staying there helps you more broadly too – while mostly a killer, the Martial Inspiration ability means that any fellow Custodes trying to charge into something the Champion has already engaged get +1″ to their rolls, especially helpful for your Deep Strikers.
All of this comes at the very reasonable price tag of 110pts (not in the book, but WarCom helpfully showed the prices on Thursday), and that looks pretty attractive – you get something far nastier than a similar price tag would buy you in other armies, and a potent tool for chucking some emergency herohammer into the mix. In particular, if Custodes keep their ObSec for all INFANTRY and BIKERS in the new book, having that on a nasty murderer with a big heroic is going to be extremely valuable (but sadly, Shadow Throne doesn’t elaborate too much on army-wide abilities). Right now, if you pick this model up and your local events are allowing it (as it has a points cost) then it’s not a bad way to get a second HQ into a Battalion, especially if you chuck the Eagle’s Eye on them – combining ObSec, a 6″ heroic and a 3+ invulnerable save gives you a powerful utility tool to lurk next to your Dreadnoughts.
The updated datahsheets for the following other units also turn up here:
- Allarus Custodians
- Allarus Shield Captains
- Allarus Vexillus Praetors
- All three Sisters of Silence units.
Allarus Custodians have changed the least here, with pretty much the same statline as before other than the weapons normalising to D2 rather than Dd3, and the Guardian Spear going up to S+2, which I suspect makes it the choice above the axe a lot of the time. The only surprising thing about the datasheet is the unit size, which is now 1-6 models. It is possible that this is Shadow Throne only, designed to let you use these even if you’ve built characters with some of them, but if that’s a general change it’s interesting – not as busted as it would have been with ROD compared to Retrieve Nachmund Data, but plausibly still a useful quirk for some lists.
Allarus Captains also don’t change that much, but pick up some additional heft, gaining a wound and an attack so that they’re really selling the whole “Emperor’s Finest” thing – looks like Custodes Characters in general are just going to be nightmares now. Unsurprisingly, their re-roll aura is now CORE only.
The Vexillus Praetor gets something a bit more exciting and new. They still choose between three flags, and the Imperius and Magnifica options are largely the same, just updated for 9th Edition and CORE/CHARACTER locked (the latter now provides Dense, for example). However, rather than providing soup synergies the Vexilla Defensor is now extremely good for Custodes armies, providing a 6″ aura of Light Cover for CORE/CHARACTER models. I for one look forward to storm shield Custodians wandering around on an effective 0+ save – this looks extremely potent.
Finally, the three Sisters of Silence datasheets get a look, and as mentioned on WarCom they now fit into three different battlefield roles – which is notable because it makes Prosecutors Troops. How the army construction works here we’ll have to wait and see, but if you can pay the Troop tax with a small unit of these, that blows a lot of things wide open. They do become slightly more boring as a result, losing their ability to snipe Psykers, but ObSec is an extremely appealing trade for that.
Vigilators stay much the same, but Witchseekers have been cribbing some notes from the Sororitas Codex, and have gotten a lot more interesting. These now get both a Dominion-style pre-game move for them or a Transport they’re embarked in, plus their flamers have gotten AP-1. Add all that up, and I can definitely believe that bolting a Rhino and a unit each of Prosecutors and Vigilators onto a Custodes detachment for utility purposes will be a popular choice.
As a general note for Genestealer Cults, like Custodes this booklet is pretty coy about their army wide rules. All units have an ability called Conceal, and there are some rules for that at the start (which are the old Cult Ambush rules) but it specifically says “This ability is for use in the Shadow Throne missions. For other missions, use the rule as described in Codex Genestealer Cults”. There’s also nothing about the new Crossfire rules that Warhammer Community previewed, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to wait a bit longer to get the full picture.
Did someone say bombs? The Reductus Saboteur might represent a new record for the number of different explosive-related rules packed onto a single model – she’s lugging two kinds of grenade around, has seeded the battlefield with remote explosives that she can use as a shooting attack and can perform an Action to set a mine she can later detonate, and all this while being extremely sneaky.
You’re going to get the most value out of her in the Shooting Phase, because the Remote Explosives are legit. I really like the design here, as modelling “I am a master saboteur who has seeded the battlefield with bombs” as a shooting attack is a nice combination of flavour and ease of play, and given that she’s shooting at BS2+ they’re a genuine threat to enemy vehicles and monsters, while still far from terrible at picking up a few infantry models. Given that there’s no limit on how many times you can use them, and you can protect her both with Look Out Sir and with her Clandestine ability, you should be able to keep hammering away with these for most of the game, which is a lot of value. Up close, she also has a one-use demo charge, which can be handy in a pinch against 2W infantry (and if there’s any stratagem support for Grenade weaponry in the new book, she’s going to be at the front of the queue). While she probably won’t be using them much, it’s also worth calling out that she shows off a change to blasting charges, which are now S5 AP-1, but only d3 shots. That honestly looks like a huge upgrade (it’s the same for Neophytes), as it’s relevant against a far broader range of targets, and only fractionally worse against 11+ model hordes compared to the old frag grenade equivalent profile.
It would, of course, be a little dull if you couldn’t add more hidden explosives during the battle, and that’s what the Reductus Explosives rule lets you do – once per game, you can use an Action to set up an explosive marker, then as long as the Saboteur is alive you can detonate it as above. The cool thing here is that the timing on the Action has been designed so that you’re actually incentivised to use it – it runs from your Command Phase to the end of your Movement Phase, so you have to stay still to do it but you don’t have to give up using your juicy shooting attack. That incentivises you to try and hustle her into a key position turn one, then on turn two she can set up a trap while also starting blasting. Just what you want.
The final notable thing about the Saboteur is the Clandestine ability – her defensive statline is incredibly brittle if your opponent gets to her, so not getting shot is key. Luckily, as long as she’s within an area terrain feature, she can only be shot by enemies within 12″, and they’re also at -1 to hit her at all times. This is neat final addition to the model, as it gives some extra utility – I can easily imagine camping her on the fringe of an objective-containing home ruin for most of the game (setting a trap as well, of course) then making a break for the safety of some friends if things get spicy.
All of this is pretty cool, but you do pay for it. 80pts for the shooting threat she provides isn’t unreasonable, but she will die to a stiff breeze in melee so you do need to play carefully to keep her alive. It’s honestly a lot harder to evaluate her in a vacuum compared to the Blade Champion, because Genestealer Cult lists have historically been intricately constructed mechanisms of death, so we’ll need to see whether there’s a place for her to slot in. For what it’s worth, she doesn’t appear to have the CROSSFIRE keyword mentioned in the WarCom preview article, so may need to look elsewhere for additional tricks.
Two other Genestealer Cult boxes get bundled into Shadow Throne, but one of them is the doozy that is the Broodcoven box set, so all three of the Patriarch, Magus and Primus have their new datasheets included – and the news is good.
We can start with the Patriarch, as his changes aren’t complicated, he’s just largely better. An extra wound and improving to a 4+ invulnerable save makes him quite a bit more durable, and he now knows and casts two powers by default, with the familiar granting a once-per-game re-roll rather than a cast (and just being a Cherub-style token rather than a model). He does lose a point of S, but keeps full wound re-rolls and S5 is the key breakpoint for those, so is still a blender in melee. The only real loss is that his fearless aura has become immunity to Combat Attrition instead, but that’s largely in-line with changes to similar effects across 9th, so maybe not hugely surprising. Fundamentally, with this statline you’re still definitely going to want one of these in your lists.
The Magus also jumps to know 2/cast 2 base (extremely welcome) and their Spiritual Leaders effect is now mortal protection in the psychic phase rather than massed denies. That’s a sidegrade, but becoming a better caster is excellent news, and they’ve also dropped to PL4, which hopefully corresponds to a bit of a discount points-wise (though I guess could be because the familiars are likely cheaper now). Rounding out the Coven, the Primus is still buff-focused, but is also quite a bit scarier in a fight – still not breaking any records, but will actually cut a few opposing models down. Buff-wise, Cult Demagogue is now a generic RR1s to hit aura for CORE, while Meticulous Planner lets you choose one CORE unit for RR1s to wound in your command phase. Both of these seem to lean a bit more towards supporting shooty infantry than the old versions, which were very much tuned towards popping out of ambush then messing something up in melee, but will obviously lose synergy with anything that isn’t CORE. I’m assuming GSC players want something other than Ridgerunner spam to be viable, and hopefully he’ll help with that. Stat-wise, he goes up to T4 defensively and is now swinging at S5 and D2, so has a fighting chance of putting a few Marines or an enemy character in the bin if they underestimate him (which anyone used to the old statline is absolutely going to). In general, these look like a positive set of changes for the army.
The last unit on show here are the Neophyte Hybrids, who take up a whole lot of room in the booklet thanks to having a million weapon options, but the actual changes are a relatively short list (though these do have CROSSFIRE). The big one here is the Cult Icon – WarCom showed this off for Acolytes, and the mechanic of bringing back models in your command phase is the same, but for Neophytes it’s d6 models, which is wild. While they’re as squishy as ever, this means opponents can’t plan to chip units down, and instead are forced to commit to fully eradicating anything they shoot, likely resulting in wasted firepower. This triggering in the Command Phase is also huge for scoring purposes – Primary Scoring happens at the end of the Command Phase, so you can catch an opponent out by triggering this and snaking models onto an objective they weren’t expecting you to hold (something Necrons can currently pull with Reanimation Orbs). Having this available on lots of units that can be pretty numerous is spicy indeed.
The other changes are all equipment based, with the aforementioned blasting charges, shotguns,webbers and seismic cannons all getting tweaks. Shotguns just get a flat buff to be S4 all the time – so a clear choice over autoguns if you’re planning on deep striking up close. Webbers are now pretty unusual – rather than a normal attack sequence, you just roll against the highest S in the target unit, and if you beat it you deal a mortal. It’s a cool idea, but given they’re likely coming with a 5pt price tag (almost all upgrades in 9th cost at least this much) and are going to be outright dead in some matchups, I’m not convinced they’ll do that much (and yes I am prepared to look like an idiot in a few months if they’re somehow broken). The seismic cannon is much more conventional, and just gets way better – the D1 mode now has a point of AP, and the D2 mode has an extra point of AP and 24″ range, making it way more usable. Given that multi-damage weapons are a shortcut to setting up Crossfire, I’d guess these are going to be pretty relevant!
All-in all, this looks pretty promising – we’ll need the book to get the full picture, but all of this shows the reassuring signs of the general 9th Edition trend of units being better at doing their key jobs at baseline is coming to the Cults as well.
That’s it for the datasheets from this box, but stay tuned for more in the form of narrative reviews and painting guides for the cool new models you can see above. We’re definitely feeling even more hungry for the full books for both these factions, and are looking forward to seeing them finally arrive in the new year. Comments, questions and suggestions to email@example.com.