Start Competing: Adeptus Custodes Tactics

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Overview

Welcome, Defender of the Imperium, to Start Competing: Adeptus Custodes Tactics! If you’ve ever looked at a Space Marine and thought “what if this, but more?” then Adeptus Custodes are the army for you. Even more elite than the Deathwatch, even more elite than the Grey Knights, the Adeptus Custodes are the Emperor’s personal bodyguard, and so of course they’re the most special of them all. To give you an idea of just how special, check out the Custodian Guard datasheet – this is the basic model in your army, and he rocks WS and BS2+, S5, T5, W3, A3, and a 2+ save. Plus an AP-1 D2 boltgun which is also a potent melee weapon. If you long to buy an army on Friday and be playing it fully-painted by Sunday morning, these are the guys for you. Keep in mind however that many of the best Custodes options are in the Forge World Imperial Armour Compendium (marked with a FW here in their unit entries) so the ostensibly cheap cost of a plastic army can rapidly inflate once you start accounting for the resin bits.

As well as the Custodians themselves, this article will also incorporate the Sisters of Silence – they can appear elsewhere, but War of the Spider includes ways to seamlessly tie them in with Adeptus Custodes armies, so it would be remiss to ignore them.

Army Strengths

  • Every single model in your army has character-level stats
  • Fantastic supplementary rules from Psychic Awakening: War of the Spider which really broaden your available toolkit
  • Strong, focused Forge World support offers a bunch of options
  • Powerful characters
  • Tough, all-obsec army with good shooting and melee is basically purpose-built for 9th ed missions

Army Weaknesses

  • Tiny numbers – you’ll have the fewest models on the table against anything but a Knight army, so every death matters
  • Codex options leave you very short on anti-tank firepower – you will almost definitely need to invest in at least some Forge World units, bringing the £££ cost of the army way up
  • Surprisingly high skill floor – your units are great but there aren’t many of them, and getting the most out of the army takes some thought

Competitive Rating

Strong

For most of 8th edition the Adeptus Custodes were firmly at the bottom of the pile, flaming out hard after a brief initial run when their codex first launched and spamming Vertus Praetors was the flavour of the month. A few players saw moderate success with them, and for another brief period the Caladius Grav-tank was everywhere thanks to being extremely undercosted for its capabilities, but they spent more of the time at the bottom than at the top and had a very low win-rate, particularly as a pure army.

With the release of War of the Spider, though, they got one of the most extensive Psychic Awakening updates in the game, gaining a whole host of new options. That book arrived at a difficult time, with 8th on its deathbed and much of the world in the grip of covid-19, but the obvious potential was there.

Happily for Custodes players everywhere, that potential was fulfilled in 9th. They got the best of everything in the transition to the new edition – the primary missions suit the Custodes’ playstyle very well, they are vulnerable to very few secondaries, their points hardly changed as everything else went up, and they finally got to properly play with all the new things War of the Spider brought them. The recent release of the Imperial Armour Compendium has only brought more joy for the golden boys – most players are looking at the update with trepidation, watching formerly over-the-top units get brought back in line with the rest of the game, but the Adeptus Custodes Forge World options have largely stayed the same or gotten slightly better.

All this has combined into some excellent performances. Custodes lists have regularly shown up in our Competitive Innovations series, and they’ve made appearances in top 4s every month of the edition so far. If you’re looking for a time to play Custodes, it is right now.

 

Custodes Guard Squad

Custodes Guard Squad. Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

War of the Spider

War of the Spider added significant new capabilities to the Adeptus Custodes. They gained an array of Shield Hosts, each with a new Warlord Trait, Relic, and Stratagem, 14 other new stratagems, and the ability to make one of your Shield-Captains into a Captain-Commander, giving them another trait on top of any Warlord Trait. For the Warlord traits, relics, and stratagems, you will find these in the appropriate sections below. Captain-Commanders get their own section, called ‘Lords of the Shield Hosts.’

Special Rules

Adeptus Custodes have three default special rules. Aegis of the Emperor applies to all Custodes units with the rule (which is currently only INFANTRY and BIKER), and The Emperor’s Chosen and Sworn Guardians affect INFANTRY and BIKER units in Adeptus Custodes detachments.

Aegis of the Emperor

Models with this rule have a 5+ invulnerable save, and a 6+ Feel No Pain against mortal wounds in the Psychic phase. A simple but effective rule.

The Emperor’s Chosen

Units with this rule have +1 invulnerable save, to a maximum of 3+. This is a special rule intended to give you an advantage for taking an Adeptus Custodes detachment instead of a mixed Imperium detachment, which isn’t even a thing you can do in Matched Play any more. It has powerful “early 8th” energy. And it’s a very good benefit to have.

Sworn Guardians

At first glance this is just the standard “objective secured” rule every army has, but it’s worth a careful re-read of the conditions – these rules affect INFANTRY and BIKER units, which means that your characters, your jetbikes, and your Terminators are also obsec. This is a powerful way for Custodes to counter their hyper-elite nature, and stop you from losing every objectives-based game because someone put down more guys on one objective than your entire army contains.

Weapons Changes

Custodes benefit from one of the weapons updates that came with the 9th edition Space Marines codex – their storm shields now offer +1 to armour saving throws and a 4+ invulnerable save. For Custodians this is pure upside as they still get +1 to invulnerable saves from The Emperor’s Chosen, so they still get a 3++ and also now have a 1+ save.

Lords of the Shield Hosts

An exciting new inclusion for Custodes is the ability to spend 1CP before the game to make one of your Shield-Captains (and only one – it’s a once per game stratagem) into a Captain-Commander. This gives them access to one of the following 9 traits, which they get in addition to any Warlord trait they might have.

  • Slayer of the Unclean –  Attacks made by this model do double damage on an unmodified wound roll of a 6 (e.g. 1 becomes 2, d3 becomes 2d3). Solid ability, great for spiking damage but generally Custodes characters don’t have that many attacks so getting it off at a useful time isn’t guaranteed. B
  • Swift as the Eagle –  +1 to Advance and charge rolls and +1 to Move for this model. Nice and straightforward for getting a character that little bit more movement. B+
  • Strategic Mastermind – Whilst this model is on the battlefield, you can roll for each Command Point you spend to use a stratagem and get 1 back on a 5+. Solid and helpful for continuing to power your very good stratagem selection. B+
  • Bane of Abominations – When resolving an attack made by this model against an enemy MONSTER unit or VEHICLE unit, you can re-roll the wound roll. A fine ability held back a little by the MONSTER or VEHICLE units being a little suppressed in the meta right now, and bike captains having access to re-roll wounds from a few different angles anywayB-
  • Indomitable Constitution – +2 Wounds for this model. Simple and uncomplicated. B+
  • Master of Melee – +2 attacks while within 1″ of units of six or more enemy models. Fine, though worth keeping an eye out for how many armies are actually running large units – more relevant in a world with Ork hordes and big blocks of Necron Warriors around the place. B
  • Unstoppable Destroyer – When this model piles in, it can move up to D3+3″ and can end the move closer to any enemy model within that distance of this model. When this model consolidates, it can move up to D3+3″ and does not have to end the move closer to the nearest enemy model. A huge movement buff, which is always strong in 40k, though be aware that there’s a reasonable interpretation that if you are in base contact you can’t consolidate away – so try and make sure this guy doesn’t get tied up. A
  • Defiant to the Last – For each wound this model has lost, increase its Attacks characteristics by 1, to a maximum of 3 additional attacks. Fine but abilities that rely on your models being damaged are always iffy in terms of whether you get any real value out of them – for every game where it’s clutch to have it, there’s games where it just doesn’t come up and you’d have been better off with something else. B-
  • Inspirational Exemplar – +3″ to the range of this model’s aura abilities. Ironically, the most uninspiring option here, but not an unreasonable pick. B

Stratagems

Stratagems

In the base codex, Custodes have a great set of stratagems, many of which are good and which look even better now that a Custodes army actually takes the field with a reasonable number of command points.

  • From Golden Light They Come – 1/3CP: Use during deployment. Set up one INFANTRY, BIKER, or DREADNOUGHT in deep strike for 1CP, or 2 for 3CP. This can be a good way to protect a melee Dreadnought from getting shot off the board, but Custodes lack charge boosters to overcome the 9″ charge out of deep strike, so it’s kind of a gamble. Vertus Praetors don’t really need the help. It’s a good Stratagem but you need a definite plan for how to use it – such as with the Vexilla Teleport Homer below. B
  • Unflinching – 1CP: Use in your opponent’s Charge phase. Hit on a 5+ rather than a 6 in Overwatch. This is fine, especially with the massed bolter fire you can get on a lot of units; the only real issue with it is that your opponent often won’t be the one doing the charging and that you still need to spend another CP to Overwatch. B
  • Unleash the Lions – 2CP: Use at the start of your Movement phase on a unit of Allarus Custodians. That unit immediately splits into separate units, each containing a single model. Dropping a block of Terminators in your opponent’s face and then splitting them up into annoying separate units is a good gimmick to have. B
  • Tanglefoot Grenade – 1CP: Use at the beginning of your opponent’s Movement or Charge phase. Choose an enemy unit within 12″ an ADEPTUS CUSTODES INFANTRY unit. Roll a D6 and reduce the Movement or charge distance of that enemy unit until the end of the phase. Units with FLY are unaffected. For defending against things like deep striking Genestealer Cultists or mobs of Da Jumping Orks who are coming in with a challenging charge, this is great, but just generally being able to mess with your opponent’s movement or charges is an all-round powerful ability, especially in 9th where you have smaller boards and you’re likely to encounter far fewer sit back and shoot gunlines. B+
  • Ever Vigilant – 2CP: Use immediately after your opponent sets up a unit on the battlefield within 12″ of an ADEPTUS CUSTODES INFANTRY unit. You can immediately shoot at -1 to hit. This is fine, but 2CP is a lot to invest when you will often only have smallish units of Custodes infantry on the board. Can be extremely relevant in the right situation, though. B
  • Vexilla Teleport Homer – 3CP: Use at the end of your Movement phase. When you set up a teleporting unit you can set it up wholly within 6″ of a VEXILUS PRAETOR and more than 3″ from enemy models. You can combo this with a combat block coming in from deep strike, as if you can get the Praetor in place then you’re ready to make a 3″ charge on something. Do watch out for Space Marine Infiltrators, though – their ability hard-counters this. B+
  • Open the Vaults – 1/3CP: The standard relic stratagem, 1 extra relic for 1CP or 2 for 3CP. Yeah it’s the relic stratagem. There’s some great Custodes relics, so this can be very worthwhile.
  • Avatars of the Emperor – 1CP: Use at the beginning of the Morale phase. Choose an ADEPTUS CUSTODES (non-VEHICLE) unit; you can use that unit’s Leadership for taking Morale tests for friendly IMPERIUM units within 6″ of that unit. Yeah, whatever, it’s morale. C
  • Shoulder the Mantle – 1CP: When your Warlord is slain, choose a SHIELD-CAPTAIN from your army. They become your Warlord and generate a Warlord trait. Your Warlord is not considered to have been slain. Cut Off the Head is one of the lowest-scoring objectives in the game, so for pure points denial this is nearly irrelevant in 9th. Being able to get another Warlord trait on something that didn’t have one before is a reasonable use of a CP, though. B
  • Networked Machine Spirits – 1CP: Use in your Shooting phase. Choose a Venerable Land Raider and at least one other Venerable Land Raider within 6″. None of those models suffer any penalties to hit rolls until the end of the phase. You are not going to have multiple Venerable Land Raiders on the board. D
  • Indomitable Guardians – 1CP: Use in your opponent’s Fight phase after an enemy unit that charged has fought. Choose an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit within 3″ of an objective and fight with it next. Basically a discount version of Counter-offensive for a Custodes unit that’s holding an objective. In 9th, a game all about objectives and with melee being a heavy feature, this is a very powerful ability. A
  • Inspire Fear – 1CP: Use at the beginning of the Morale phase. Choose a non-VEHICLE ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit. Your opponent adds 1 to Morale tests taken for enemy units within 3″ of that unit until the end of the phase. Whatever. D
  • Sentinel Storm – 2CP: Use at the end of your opponent’s Shooting phase. Pick an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit within 1″ of an enemy unit. That unit can shoot with its sentinel blades as if it were the Shooting phase. 2CP for this is too much considering the set-up involved, especially when your opponent can just fall back if they need to. D
  • Burst Missile Net – 1CP: Use in your Shooting phase when a unit of Vertus Praetors makes ranged attacks. If they all fire flakkburst missiles at the same target with the FLY keyword, you can re-roll failed wound rolls. FLY is less common than it was, especially as AIRCRAFT have mostly cycled out of the meta, but in the relevant situation this is a cheap and usful stratagem. B
  • Spark of Divinity – 1CP: Use when an enemy psyker manifests a psychic power within 12″ of an ADEPTUS CUSTODES INFANTRY or BIKER unit. You can Deny the Witch. This is a no-nonsense in the “Custodes anti-psychic” toolbox, and the one that’s easiest to make use of. B
  • Plant the Vexilla – 1CP: Use at the end of your Movement phase. Choose a VEXILUS PRAETOR which didn’t move. You can increase the range of the Custodes Vexilla ability by 6″ until your next Movement phase, though the Praetor can’t charge. This is fantastic for getting the most out of a Praetor for a turn, particularly to let you extend the -1 to hit bubble out while your stuff pushes aggressively forward. B+
  • Piercing Strike – 1CP: Use when you select an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit in the Fight phase. Add 1 to wound rolls for guardian spears. The stratagem itself is good, its targets are just kind of limited. B
  • Inescapable Vengeance – 2CP: Use when you select a unit of Allarus Custodians from your army in the Shooting phase. They can ignore the Look Out Sir rule when choosing targets. Seriously this list is so full of stuff which is fine, and Allarus Custodians pack enough firepower that throwing a pile of shots into something like a Warlock or one of the many weak-ish GSC buff characters is worthwhile, though they may struggle to pick off anything tougher. B
  • Wisdom of the Ancients – 1CP: Use at the start of any phase. Select an ADEPTUS CUSTODES DREADNOUGHT; until the end of the phase you can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for friendly ADEPTUS CUSTODES units within 6″. Independent re-rolls for your Dreadnoughts are a fine thing to exist, especially in an army full of BS2+ units. B
  • Castellan Strike – 1CP: Use in the Fight phase. Select an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit. As long as all castellan axes in that unit target the same enemy unit, improve them to AP-3. This is fine for what it is, and sometimes AP-3 is going to be a difference-maker. B
  • Concussion Grenades – 1CP: Use in your Shooting phase when a unit of Allarus Custodians fires. until the end of the phase, their balistus grenade launchers have AP0, and enemy INFANTRY units hit by these attacks are stunned until the end of the turn – they cannot fire Overwatch and your opponent must subtract 1 from hit rolls for the unit. Overwatch suppression is never a bad thing to have, but it’s maybe not vitally important to Custodes, especially in 9th where Overwatch is much more limited. B
  • Eyes of the Emperor – 1CP: Use when you draw a Tactical Objective. You can discard that objective immediately and draw another. Tactical Objectives don’t exist in 9th. F
  • Victor of the Blood Games – 2CP: Use when you set up an ADEPTUS CUSTODES CHARACTER from your army during deployment. You can re-roll one hit roll, wound roll, or save roll for this model in each turn. A powerful stratagem, particularly on the classic Shield-Captain on Dawneagle with one of the 3++ relics. Herohammer is already a thing Custodes do very well, and this helps cement it. I’m not saying you need to use it every game, but you should at least think about using it if you have a beatstick captain who’s going to operate independently – Custodes are no longer so constrained by CP that 2 in deployment is a significant chunk of your potential used up. A
  • Even in Death… – 2CP:  An ADEPTUS CUSTODES CHARACTER can shoot or fight on death. You obviously don’t want your characters to go down, but this can be vital for getting another round out of them – when you’ve paid a bunch of points for a guy on a jetbike, getting one more thrust of the lance before he eats shit is worth 2CP if you’re in a place to take advantage of it. A
  • Avenge the Fallen – 1CP: Use in the Fight phase. Select an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit; until the end of the phase, models in that unit they have +1 attack for each model from that unit which was slain this turn. Can turn the tide if you lose a few models but not a whole unit.
  • Bringers of the Emperor’s Justice – 1CP: Use in the Fight phase. Select an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit; each time you make a hit roll of a 6+ during this phase that was targeting a HERETIC ASTARTES unit you can immediately make another attack. if it was a BLACK LEGION unit, you can make an extra attack on a 4+. It’s the “target a specific faction/sub-faction, get an ok effect” thing, yay. HERETIC ASTARTES is a broad enough keyword that you at least might get a few chances to use this, but also you could spend CP on literally anything else. C
  • Stooping Dive – 3CP: Use at the end of your opponent’s Charge phase. Choose a BIKER unit from your army that is within 12″ of an enemy unit. You can immediately Charge as if it were your Charge phase, and you fight first in the following Fight phase – even before other charging units. Hugely powerful in the right circumstances, though at this point most players are going to have one eye on avoiding getting hit with it, and 3CP is a lot. Potentially game-winning in the right circumstances. B+

War of the Spider adds the following 14 general stratagems:

  • Ten Thousand Heroes – 1CP: You give a non-Warlord character a Warlord trait, once per battle. Custodes have powerful characters and great traits, so this is an easy wiinner. Note that you can’t use this to double-dip on traits in-game with Shoulder the Mantle. A
  • Ancient Artifice – 1CP: Use when a Dreadnought is the target of an attack – until the end of the phase, that Dreadnought takes -1 damage. This changed in the War of the Spider FAQ, in line with the Marine version, Duty Eternal. Note that this doesn’t stack with other abilities that reduce damage, and the Forge World Dreadnoughts already have -1 damage built in, so it really only applies to the codex Contemptor – which isn’t really a thing anyone is taking. It’s a C for that reason, and is probably just going to disappear in the codex.
  • Arcane Genetic Alchemy – 2CP: Use in any phase when an ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit that is not a VEHICLE is chosen as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, wound rolls of 1-3 always fail, irrespective of any other abilities. It’s good in Marines and it’s good here too – it’s marginally less relevant since your army is T5 rather than T4 so fewer weapons will wound you on 2s, but it’s a key tool for ensuring your expensive models stay on the table. A
  • Eternal Penitent – 1CP: Use before the battle to make any Custodes Dreadnought +1 Attack and re-roll charges, once per Dreadnought. Custodes Dreads are good and have just gotten better with the Forge World update, and lists that take them are using this pretty much routinely – it makes them even better at their core competency of bashing things in the face in combat for a minimal cost. A
  • Vengeance of the Machine Spirit – 2CP: Use when any non-Dreadnought Vehicle is destroyed. That model can either automatically explode, or shoot one of its guns as if it were the Shooting phase, or make one attack with a melee weapon as if it were the Fight phase as if it were on the top row of its damage table. A good situational stratagem for your vehicles, though possibly a little pricy. B
  • Slayers of Nightmares – 2CP: Use in the Fight phase when you pick a Custodes unit to fight with. Until the end of the phase, melee weapons have +1 to wound against units with a higher Toughness characteristic than the model making the attack. Ironically a time when your high-toughness army works against you, but there’s plenty of stuff in the game tougher than a Custodian and this is a great opportunity to get +1 to wound against those targets. B
  • Fortress of Willpower – 1CP: On a 4+ (3+ for Wardens) you can ignore one psychic power that targeted a Custodes unit this turn. Great for blocking mortal wounds and such, but also very useful for removing debuffs like Doom or Jinx. A
  • Indomitable Engines – 1CP: Use in any phase, when a Custodes vehicle would lose a wound as a result of a mortal wound. On a 5+ that wound is ignored, and you can continue to roll for any further mortal wounds this phase. The same as Armor of Contempt in Marines, and just as good here as it is there, especially with Harlequins being a big meta feature. A
  • Superior Fire Patterns – 1CP: Use when you shoot with a Custodes Infantry unit that did not advance. Until the end of the phase, models in that unit make double the number of attacks with Rapid Fire and Pistol weapons. Very handy for adding a bit of extra punch to your units’ ranged output, with the only strike against being that most units are small in size and therefore it only applies to a small number of models. Particularly handy on a unit of Venatari Custodians, which come with 2-shot pistols. B+
  • The Emperor’s Auspice – 2CP: Use in any phase when an Custodes unit is chosen as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, your opponent cannot re-roll any dice when attacking that unit. This is RUDE AS HELL against many factions. A
  • Blood Games Veterans – 1/2CP: Use in your Shooting phase; select one Custodes unit in your army and until the end of the phase, ranged attacks score an automatic hit and wound on an unmodified 6. 1CP for a 5 model unit, 2CP for 6 or more. Helpful for piling wounds on something, particularly if are for example pumping hurricane bolter shots off bikers into something tough enough to face-tank most of it. B
  • Archeotech Munitions – 1CP: Use in your shooting phase when you pick a Custodes unit to shoot with; until the end of the phase, ranged attacks that do d6 damage roll 2d6 and discard the lowest. There’s not a ton of relevant d6 damage weapons in the codex, though melta missiles are the obvious place to take advantage of this and of course there’s always pyrithite spears on the Forge World Custodians. B
  • Auramite and Adamantium – 1CP: Use in any phase when a Terminator unit is targeted by an attack. Until the end of the phase, treat AP-1 and AP-2 as AP0. Seriously the resilience options that Custodes get in this book are nuts. 1CP to make high-volume low-AP fire significantly less good at chipping wounds off Terminators is great. B+
  • Fraternity of Heroes – 1CP: Use at the end of your opponent’s Charge phase. Select one Custodes unit that is not in engagement range. That unit can immediately perform a heroic intervention as if it were a CHARACTER. Just in case your opponent tries to get cute, you can put nearby units into melee with them. Slightly less good now that chargers can still attack you, but presumably what they wanted to fight was the thing they charged in the first place. A

Additionally, each shield host brings a new stratagem to the table, as below:

  • Grim Responsibility (Shadowkeeprs) – 1CP: When a Shadowkeepers unit is chosen as the target of an attack, then until the end of the phase you can make attacks resolved against that unit -1 Strength. A fantastic stratagem that ties in well with the other resiliency stratagems – you have four great options for reducing incoming fire, across a range of profiles. A
  • Shield of Honour (Aquilan Shield) – 1CP: Use in any phase when an IMPERIUM CHARACTER is targeted by an attack. One friendly Aquilan Shield infantry or Dreadnought unit within 3″ can be selected, and until the end of the phase you resolve attacks against the Custodes unit instead. This has now been erratad to be non-Vehicle characters, so you can’t use it to protect a Knight, which makes it merely ok instead of insanely good. B
  • Golden Light of the Moiraides (Dread Host) – 1/2CP: Use at the start of your Charge phase. Select one Dread Host unit that teleported into battle this turn for 1CP, or up to three for 2CP. Until the end of the phase, you can roll 3D6 and discard one for charge rolls for those units. If you’re going all-in on a deep striking plan, this is a great way to give you that bit extra oomph for getting into combat. B
  • The Eagle’s Strike (Solar Watch) – 0CP: Use in any phase when an enemy character is destroyed by a Solar Watch model from your army. The next time your opponent wants to use a stratagem, they must spend 1CP extra to use it. Can be used once per battle round. Extremely good for 0CP, especially later in the game where an opponent may well be running on fumes CP wise and you effectively stop them using any stratagems at all for a turn. A
  • The Emperor’s Hand (Emissaries Imperatus) – 1CP: Use in any phase when an Emissaries Imperatus unit is chosen to shoot or fight with. Until the end of the phase, ignore any negative hit, wound, or AP modifiers and any benefit to the saving throw from cover for that attack. Modifiers are a bit less important in 9th just because you can’t stack them any more, but a neat stratagem all the same – particularly relevant for Harlequins which can put down an entire frontage of -1 to hit, -1 to wound units. B+

Warlord Traits

Custodes have some interesting traits, and they get even better now that you can take multiple if you want to.

  • Champion of the Imperium: Friendly ADEPTUS CUSTODES INFANTRY, BIKER, and DREADNOUGHT units within 12″ of your Warlord at the start of your opponent’s Charge phase can Heroically Intervene. This is Trajann’s required trait. A solid trait and a great way to make your army into a solid deathball that can’t be charged – important in 9th where melee is powerful and key for flipping objectives. A
  • Peerless Warrior: Each hit roll of a 6+ in the Fight phase gets to make an extra attack against the same unit using the same weapon. Custodes don’t really have many ways to improve their hit rolls since they all hit on a 2+ anyway, and your Warlord is at maximum going to have 5 attacks, so whatever. C
  • Superior Creation: 5+ Feel No Pain. An excellent trait for making your already-tough Warlord even more annoying to get rid of. A
  • Impregnable Mind: You get a free Deny with your Warlord at +1 to Deny. Handy since you don’t get Denies normally, but War of the Spider adds some new options for dealing with psychic powers both for the Custodians themselves and by integrating Sisters of Silence. B-
  • Radiant Mantle: Your Warlord is -1 to hit. Generally ignored in favour of Superior Creation. B
  • Emperor’s Companion: You can re-roll damage rolls. On a jetbike Shield-Captain this is great, because fluffing the D3 damage is about the only bit of variance you should really be suffering on them. B+

The shield host traits are as follows:

  • Lockwarden (Shadowkeepers): Attacks made by a CHARACTER that target the Warlord are -1 to hit. When the Warlord attacks an enemy CHARACTER, subtract 1 from all saving throws (including invulnerable saves). Super good – a nice combo of a helpful defensive buff with an unusual and powerful offensive one. A
  • Revered Companion (Aquilan Shield): Halve any damage for attacks against this Warlord. A simple but effective buff. B+
  • All-seeing Annihilation (Dread Host): When resolving an attack made with a melee weapon by a friendly Dread Host unit within 6″, an unmodified hit roll of 6 scores 1 additional hit. A fine buff for upping your melee output. B
  • Sally Forth (Solar Watch): Add +1″ to the Move characteristic of all Solar Watch units within 6″ of your Warlord at the start of the Movement phase. Additionally, units within 6″ can shoot with Rapid Fire weapons even if they advanced, but they are -1 to hit. The -1 isn’t too oppressive in a faction with native BS2+, and its a nice little mobility buff. B
  • Voice of the Emperor (Emissaries Imperatus): Friendly Imperium units within 9″ can use the Warlord’s Leadership. Add 3″ to the range of the Warlord’s aura abilities (already included here). Fine, doesn’t do a ton for you, probably not better than the range of other choices. B

Relics

  • Gatekeeper: A relic guardian spear. You overwatch on a 3+ with a Rapid Fire 3, S4 AP-1 D2 gun, and fight at S+1 AP-3 D3. The extra few shots and the improved overwatch is fine, but there’s better in here. C
  • Raiment of Sorrows: Basically the Company Ancient banner from Space Marines. If a castle of on-foot Custodians was a thing, this would be great for getting more use out of them, but uh… it isn’t. Even if it was, you probably don’t get enough return from this on the relatively few guys to make it worthwhile. C
  • Eagle’s Eye: +1 invulnerable save. You put this on a Shield-Captain to give him a 3++. Simple but effective. A
  • Auric Aquilas: BIKER only. The model has a 3+ invulnerable and can re-roll failed charges. A big upgrade for a beatstick Shield-Captain on Dawneagle. A
  • The Praetorian Plate: TERMINATOR only. At deployment, pick a friendly IMPERIUM CHARACTER. At the end of your opponent’s Charge phase, if there is an enemy within 1″ of that character, you can move the relic bearer within 3″ of that character and within 1″ of that enemy model. This is an extremely fun gimmick which just doesn’t get used that often because a guy on a jetbike can just be in combat without having to play switcheroo. Some players have been comboing this with the Vexilla Teleport Homer stratagem to whip a Praetor up the table and then bring in a bomb of infantry who would otherwise struggle to make contact, but the trick strongly relies on a) going first and b) your opponent falling for your highly telegraphed bait. B
  • The Veiled Blade: A relic sentinel blade. +2 attacks when within 3″ of an objective. Cute but whatever. C-
  • Emperor’s Light: Relic misericordia. +1 to Morale tests within 12″ of the bearer. Who cares? D
  • Wraith Angelis: Relic Vexilla Magnifica. Instead of the normal ability, friendly IMPERIUM INFANTRY or BIKER units within 6″ automatically pass Morale tests, and once per battle in the Movement phase, the bearer can stand still and each unit within 6″ (friendly or enemy) takes D3 mortal wounds on a 4+ (5+ for CHARACTERS, 6+ for ADEPTUS CUSTODES). A Morale effect plus a once per game ability that stops you moving and can hurt your own guys? Sign me up!!!! F
  • Auric Shackles: Enemy characters are at -1 Attack within 6″ of the bearer.  Another relic on the “cute, but only that” list. The FAQ removes its ‘score extra victory points’ effect so you don’t even get the potential of scoring 103pts. C
  • Obliteratum: Relic balistus grenade launcher. 12″ Assault 1, S10 Ap-4 Dd3. As a pocket railgun this is pretty fun, but once again, cute but not that relevant. C+
  • Fulminaris Aggressor: Relic Vexilla Defensor. Instead of the normal ability, friendly IMPERIUM INFANTRY or BIKER units within 6″ automatically pass Morale tests, plus there’s a gun and a melee profile – the gun is 8″ auto-hits, Assault D6, S4 AP-1 D1, and the melee is S+2 AP-1 D1. I have no idea why you’d ever take this. D
  • The Castellan’s Mark: At the beginning of the game but before the first turn, you can pick the bearer and one ADEPTUS CUSTODES unit within 6″ and redeploy them (you must deploy them on the table). This could be hilarious to pull on someone if you use it to redeploy a big block of Vertus Praetors and a Captain so that their refused flank becomes unrefused. B
  • Faith Absolute: Relic Vexilla Magnifica. Instead of the normal ability, friendly IMPERIUM INFANTRY or BIKER units within 6″ automatically pass Morale tests, and the bearer gets a single Deny. Between this and the Impregnable Mind Warlord trait, GW really tried to give Custodes native psychic defence. It’s probably not worth giving up the -1 to hit flag for this, but at least it isn’t an outright bad choice like the other two relic banners. B-

The shield host relics are as follows:

  • Stasis Oubliette (Shadowkeepers): At the start of the Fight phase, select one enemy character within 3″; until the end of the phase, halve the Attacks of models in that unit, rounding up. Friendly Shadowkeeprs get re-roll 1s to wound against that character. A decent relic, that maybe just gets edged out by some of the other options available. B
  • Praesidius (Aquilan Shield): Replaces a storm shield, makes your model -1 to wound. Straightforward for making a model just that bit tougher, your main issue is just finding a guy with a storm shield to put it on. B
  • Admonimortis (Dread Host): Replaces a castellan axe. The shooting profile is the same, and the melee becomes S+3, AP-3, D3. Fine, but there’s better available. B-
  • The Swiftsilver Talon (Solar Watch): Replaces a guardian spear. You can shoot and charge in the same turn as Advancing or Falling Back. The shooting profile is Assault 4, S4, AP-1, D2 and the melee is S+1, A-3, Dd3. Advance and charge and fall back and charge are great capabilities to unlock, limited mostly by only applying to guys on foot. B
  • Vexilla Dominatus (Emissaries Imperatus): Re-roll morale for friendly Imperium Infantry and Bikers within 6″, and friendly Emissaries Imperatus models within 6″ count as 3 models for controlling objectives. Potentially very helpful in the objective-focused game of 9th, especially for flipping objectives against other obsec units. B+

 

Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

 

Units

HQ

Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

Captain-General Trajann Valoris

The Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes is a bit of a beast. He has the standard S5 T5, and then also W7 and 5 attacks. With a 2+ save and 3+ invulnerable, he’s not likely to go down easily even in sniper meta. He has two cool rules on top of this, too – Legendary Commander grants him re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1 for friendly ADEPTUS CUSTODES units within 6″, and the Moment Shackle is a funky bit of kit which has a once-per-battle effect – either regain d3 wounds Trajann has lost that phase, pile in and fight an additional time at the end of a Fight phase, or use it to make your next stratagem cost 0CP. A very powerful character for a reasonable cost, Trajann appears in many lists.

 

Custodes Tribune Ixion Hale

Custodes Tribune Ixion Hale. Credit: Jack Hunter

Shield-Captain

The basic Shield-Captain would be a terrific character in any other Codex, but within this book they’re kind of outclassed. They can take any of the default Custodian weapons – guardian spear, castellan axe, sentinel blade + storm shield – and pack a misericordia too, and they give out re-roll hit rolls of 1. There’s nothing wrong with them, but the preference seems to be for either Trajann or a Terminator for a foot guy, or for a Jetbike.

Shield-Captain in Allarus Terminator Armour

The Terminator has a slight advantage over the regular guy in that he is W7 like Trajann and can deep strike natively instead of having to pay CP for it. A very solid character which has appeared in a number of different lists, the Terminator is a solid choice if you don’t need the speed of a Dawneagle and would rather have a slightly cheaper character which is still a great platform for the various different buffs that Custodes can offer.

Shield-Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike

A fast, tough character with FLY, these offer a ton of melee punch. You can go all-in on making them as tough and fighty as possible, utilising the Auric Aquilas, Superior Creation, and Indomitable Constitution for a 9-wound 3++ melee machine, or be a little more restrained and grant them Unstoppable Destroyer for a speedy assassin which can dive into combat, take out a hard target, and then flee before any retaliation can meet them.

Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

 

 

Troops

Custodes Guard Squad

Custodes Guard Squad. Credit: Pendulin

Custodian Guard

The basic Troops choice for a Custodes army, Custodian Guard have two different loadout options; either a taking a guardian spear or a sentinel blade and Storm Shield. As with all Custodes units they’re very expensive, but equally they’re the strongest troops in the game on a per-model basis. The spear is more powerful offensively with extra range, AP, and damage at range, and extra strength in melee. The sword + shield loadout is stronger defensively with a 1+ armour save and a 3+ invulnerable save. Older lists often took a three man squad, taking one Custodian with the storm shield and two with spears is a great balance of defense and firepower, though following the storm shield changes we’re seeing more units of these in 4s and 5s all equipped with the shields, which offers an extraordinarily tough block to chew through for most armies which will struggle to batter through the 1+ (potentially even 0+ in cover) armour save with anything but their strongest weapons, which are still bouncing off the 3+ invulnerable. With even the spears topping out at 24″ range, and Custodes transport options being rather expensive, these suffer from a mobility problem trying to take advantage of their offensive stats, though the smaller boards in 9th edition help them get stuck in, as does the requirement for armies to come out and fight for objectives – where your superior toughness, melee ability, and ability to interrupt twice per round with Counter Offensive and Indomitable Guardians.

Custodian Guard with Adrasite and Pyrithite Spears (FW)

A version of normal Custodian Guard with some fancy spears, these are worse defensively than normal Custodian Guard without the ability to take any storm shields. Their two different spears are either a meltagun (the new, buffed version with +2 damage at half range) or a single s5, AP-3, D:3 shot at 18″. While the strength 5 shooting profile is very nice, the short range and lack of mobility, coupled with not being able to take any storm shields, leaves these not particularly worth taking – if you want shooting you can take the Sagittarum Custodians below, or for pure defensive stickiness the regular Custodians do a better job.

Credit: Immanetized

Sagittarum Custodians (FW)

Sagittarum Custodians are a solid choice for filling out a Battalion, if you’ve chosen to go down that route instead of a Troops-light patrol. One potential weakness of Custodes lists is holding backfield objectives with units that can still meaningfully participate – your Custodian Guard might be great for not shifting, but it’s quite a big investment to have them just standing around on your board edge unable to do more than plink a few pistols at anything that comes close. Sagittarum fill that gap – they have the same statline as other Custodians but come equipped with an adrastus bolt caliver, effectively a combi-weapon with a “bolt volley” profile that is effectively an Assault heavy bolter, and a 15″ disintegration beam which offers a single S5, AP-3 D3 shot. This is good flexibility to have, as even a squad of 3 can meaningfully contribute at range, and anything that comes close will have to weather the disintegration beams on top. In a meta where Custodes themseves are good, as well as Gravis-armoured Space Marines, a gun that can put out S5 AP-3 D3 is very relevant.

Elites

Custodian Wardens

Custodian Wardens are almost exactly the same as the Custodian Guard, with an additional melee attack and a 6+ feel no pain save. There’s also the option to swap their guardian spear out for a castellan axe, which has the same shooting profile but trades one point of AP for 2 more points of strength in melee, making each one hit at Strength 8. In exchange for gaining the option to take the axe, they lose the sword and shield loadout. They’re certainly better offensively than the Guard, but they don’t really fulfil a role you need when Terminators are right there.

Vexilus Praetor/Vexilus Praetor in Allarus Terminator Armour

A Vexilus Praetor can be taken either in Allarus Terminator Armor or in normal Custodes armor, which slightly changes their statline and what weapons they can take, but doesn’t influence their primary role – carrying a big stick that provides an aura effect. From our viewpoint the terminator version is strictly worse, as it’s more expensive and only carries a misericordia as a melee weapon. The Custodes armor version has the choice of either a guardian Spear or castellan Axe, both which are about equally useful, or it can choose to take a storm shield for more defensive abilities.

There are three choices of vexilla that can be taken. All of them allow friendly IMPERIUM INFANTRY and BIKER units (not limited to just Custodes) to re-roll failed Morale tests within 6″, and have a unique additional effect.

  • Vexilla Imperius: ADEPTUS CUSTODES models (other than VEHICLES) add 1 to their Attacks Characteristic while their unit is within 6″
  • Vexilla Defensor: IMPERIUM INFANTRY units have a 5+ invulnerable save against ranged weapons whilst they are wholly within 9″
  • Vexilla Magnifica: Your opponent must subtract 1 from hit rolls in the Shooting phase for attacks that target ADEPTUS CUSTODES units within 6″

All three can be useful, but the Magnifica is pretty clearly the best. Though Custodes are tough, they have few enough models that stacking every defensive buff they can get to make sure they stay alive to deal damage is a sensible plan.

Allarus Custodians. Credit: Immanetized

Allarus Custodians

Custodes Terminators: When your big beefy boys aren’t big enough. They have an additional wound and attack each over Custodian Guard, and have deep strike without requiring a CP investment. Allarus can take either a guardian spear or castellan axe, and carry a balistus grenade grenade launcher – a 12″ range Assault d3, S4, AP-3, d:1 weapon. The grenade launcher also has Blast, which is great for horde-clearing. Much of their fun comes from their special rules and stratagem interactions – they have the Slayers of Tyrants rule that allows them to pile in and consolidate 3″ towards the nearest enemy CHARACTER, even if it’s not the nearest unit (as long as they finish within 1″ of an enemy unit), can use Inescapable Vengeance to character snipe, or use Unleash the Lions to split into single model units. Unleash the Lions is particularly cool with a big unit, as trying to avoid wasting firepower with either overkill or underkill against single T5, 4W models with a 2+ save and 4+ invulnerable save is not easy. As you’ll see in the lists section, people are bringing these in all kinds of combinations.

Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought

The Custodes Contemptor is fine, but unexciting. It only has the Kheres assault cannon or multi-melta as a weapon option (and the latter seems to have been forgotten about in the weapon updates), but it’s still relatively mobile and decently strong in melee. It does get Unyielding Ancient, giving it a 6+ Feel No Pain. It is however overshadowed by the unique Custodes variants, the Galatus and Achillus, particularly since these gained some key buffs in the Imperial Armour Compendium.

Aquilon Custodians (FW)

Aquilon Custodians are a variant Terminator, though they don’t share any of the cool stratagems that the Allarus get since those helpfully all specify the unit name “Allarus Custodians”. Instead of carrying spears or axes, Aquilon Custodians have three different ranged weapon options, and two different melee weapons. This mix-and-match gives them the ability to tailor to a specific role, and they’ve got a lot of firepower to do that with. On the ranged front, they can take an infernus firepike, lastrum storm bolter, or twin adrathic destructor. The firepike is a d6 shot, S6, AP-1, D:1 flamer, with a 15″ range. Aquilons don’t need a stratagem to deep strike, so that’s as many as 6d6 autohits clearing out even reasonably heavy infantry screens – and the range means that they’re even still effective against Infiltrators. Lastrum storm bolters are 24″ range Rapid Fire 2 S5 AP-1 D1, and twin adrathic destructors are 18″ range Assault 2, S5, AP-3, D:3 weapons, functionally the same as the ones that Custodians can take. Any of these are solid options, with the storm bolters coming in cheapest (and up to 8 shots each within 12″ with Superior Fire Patterns), and the adrathic destructors the deadliest.

Aquilon melee weapons are either a solerite power gauntlet or power talon, going for either punching great big holes in vehicles or carving through swathes of infantry. The power gauntlet is Sx2 (10), AP-4, 2 damage, making it a better power fist (and the highest strength melee weapon available to Custodes infantry), and the talon is S+1 (6), AP-2, D:1, making 1 additional attack and re-rolling wounds. These tend to be ignored in favour of the base Terminators, but we do have one list that was using the gauntlets and lastrum storm bolters.

Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought (FW)

The Galatus is a durable and melee focused Contemptor dreadnought, designed to take out larger groups of targets. Carrying a Galatus warblade and shield, its only shooting is 12″ range, with 2d6 s6, AP-1, D:1 autohits. The new Compendium gives its melee a substantial buff – it has 5+D3 additional attacks at S7, AP-3, D:3, giving it a perfect weapon to chew up heavy infantry, and defensively has a 4+ invulnerable and is at -1 to hit in melee combat. Like all other Dreadnoughts it gains Guardian Eternal, meaning that attacks allocated to it are -1 damage, and it retains the Unyielding Ancient rule from the base Contemptor. Gaining an attack and Guardian Eternal makes these look a lot more viable than they were previously.

Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnought (FW)

The single coolest dreadnought in 40k, the Contemptor-Achillus rolls with an Achillus dreadspear. The spear shoots as a 24″ range, Heavy 2, S8, AP-2, D3 weapon, and the Achillus carries two support weapons as well; a choice of infernus incinerators, lastrum storm bolters, and twin adrathic destructors. Any of these is a fine pick depending on cost and what you want the Dreadnought to do.

Melee is where the Achillus shines, as the spear makes its 5 attacks Sx2 (i.e. a mighty 14), AP-3, damage d3+3, and like most other Custodes units it can deep strike with From Golden Light They Come. It has the slightly weaker Atomantic Shielding 5+ invulnerable compared to the Galatus’ 4+, but the damage potential from the spear is hard to ignore. Also it is, as mentioned before, cool as hell.

Fast Attack

Custodes Vertus Praetors

Custodes Vertus Praetors. Credit: Jack Hunter

Vertus Praetors

More commonly-known as Dawneagle Jetbikes, Vertus Praetors are tremendously powerful and versatile unit in the Custodes’ arsenal. They combine 14” Movement speed and FLY with T6, 4W bikes that pack decent shooting thanks to their hurricane bolters or salvo launchers, and the ability to wreck house in melee with their interceptor lances. Thanks to the changes to heavy weapons in 9th, the salvo launchers gain in value as you no longer take a -1 to hit penalty for moving and shooting them, which is nice. If you need something on the table which is fast, punchy, and flexible with its shooting (the launchers have two profiles, either a melta missile which curiously re-rolls wounds rather than having the melta rule, or a flakkburst version which is weaker but gains bonuses against flyers), these are a great choice. Because Vertus Praetors gain the Sworn Guardians rule, they’re also excellent for snatching up objectives at range.

Agamatus Custodians (FW)

The Forge World brothers of the Vertus Praetors, Agamatus Custodians have the same statline and lances as, but pack heavier gun options on their bikes, coming with lastrum bolt cannons (36” Heavy 3 S6 AP-2 1 Damage) instead of hurricane bolters and the option to upgrade to either an adrathic devastator or a twin las-pulser. The Adrathic devastator is 18″ Heavy 2, S6, Ap-3, D3 – a potentially powerful choice for taking on Gravis-armoured Space Marines, and tasty in plenty of other circumstances too. The twin las-pulser on the other hand is more like a true heavy weapon, packing only 24” range but Heavy 4 shots at S8, AP-2 with D3 damage each. It’s a more interesting weapon option for an army that tends to thrive on high volumes of small arms fire, but it doesn’t come cheap.

Agamatus Custodians haven’t seen much high-level tournament play, but it feels like there must be some way of utilising them – though their high price tag is certainly forbidding.

Venatari Custodians (FW)

Jump Custodes, Venatari are kind of like the low-calorie version of Vertus Praetors. They’ve got lower Toughness, shorter Movement, fewer Wounds and Attacks and, oddly for Custodes, a 3+ save, but they have the ability to Air Drop into the battlefield anywhere more than 9” away from an enemy unit. In their base configuration, Venatari are less of an assault unit and more of a mobile harassment option, coming with a Tarsus buckler and a Kinetic destroyer, which has a tasty S6, AP-2 2 damage profile that scores additional hits on a 6 to hit. The buckler makes them 2+ save, which is helpful. The melee option sees them armed with Venatari lances, which keeps their shooting (albeit at Assault 2 12” range) and gives them some nasty S6 AP-3 D3 damage melee attacks.

On release these seemed a bit whatever, but going up to a 2+ save as well as having the possibility of using the Superior Fire Patterns stratagem to make them 4 shots with exploding hits gives them a unique upside that should see them make more regular appearances.

Pallas Grav-Attack (FW)

A light tank option for Custodes with a 16” Movement characteristic and a twin arachnus blaze cannon that can fire in two modes. And while it’s easier to destroy than most Custodes units with T6 and 8 wounds, it still retains a 5+ invulnerable save, giving it a little bit of extra survivability.

The Pallas Grav-Attack packs some serious shooting punch. The twin arachnus blaze cannon gives it a lot of shooting versatility: Beam mode gives you a 36” Heavy 2, S7 AP-4 3 damage shot that re-rolls wounds against vehicles, making it a capable little tank hunter, while Burst mode is 24” Heavy 6, S5 AP-2 1 damage gun that can tear through infantry. The Pallas Grav-Attack is a highly mobile gun platform that can put in a lot of work, zipping around and taking out larger targets or clearing infantry off objectives, and it’s reasonably cheap to boot.

Heavy Support

Venerable Land Raider

It’s a Land Raider, but more. Land Raiders occasionally show up in winning lists, but rarely, and the Custodes version doesn’t really offer much to incentivize that to change. You can safely ignore it.

Caladius Grav-Tank (FW)

These used to be insane, bringing some of the most efficient shooting in the game with an enormous range and great defences – not only do they have a bunch of wounds, a 3+ save, and a 5+ invulnerable, they can also benefit from the Vexilus Praetor’s flag of -1 to hit. Nowadays you don’t see them all the time, but they’re still reasonable and one of the lists we feature later on sports 3 of them like the old days. When equipped with the twin iliastus accelerator cannon, the Caladius offers a lot of medium-strength shots at good AP and damage 2, and for lightly-armoured vehicles or Primaris Marines they’re absolute hell on … well, grav-plates I guess, but you get the drift. The alternative is a twin arachnus heavy blaze cannon (say that three times fast) which can fire off either 2 shots at 48″ range, S9 AP-4 damage 3+d3 and also re-rolls wounds against vehicles, or a shorter-ranged 36″ burst mode which is heavy 8, S7 AP-2 D1, effectively four autocannons strapped together. With no points difference between the two guns, it’s really just about deciding which you favour – what do you need the Caladius to bring to your list?

Credit: Immanetized

 

 

Telemon Heavy Dreadnought (FW)

The Telemon Heavy Dreadnought is the Custodes equivalent to a Leviathan, with the bonus of being able to ignore wounds on a 6+, and as you might expect it offers some fearsome shooting. By default it packs pair of iliastus accelerator culverins and a spiculus bolt launcher, but the version that seems to be favoured takes the Arachnus storm cannon, which has the common Beam or Burst modes – here either 2 36″ range shots at S8 AP-4 D3, with the normal wound re-roll against vehicles, or 6 shots at 24″ range with the same S7 AP-2 D1 profile as in other cases. This gives it enormous flexibility in taking on different targets, keeping its shooting relevant throughout the game. Unlike its cousin the Leviathan it retains its Toughness 8 and 4+ invulnerable save with a mighty 14 wounds, making it one of the hardest targets in the game when you factor in Guardian Eternal and Unyielding Ancient. It can also swap one of its guns for a Telemeon caestus (i.e: fist) which gives it an impressive S16, AP-3, D4 melee profile and an additional attack, as well as a twin plasma projector.

Custodes Telemon Dreadnought

Custodes Telemon Dreadnought. Credit: CrabStuffedMushrooms

 

 

Dedicated Transport

Coronus Grav-Carrier (FW)

The Custodes version of a HUGE Razorback, a sleek little number that can gives Custodes an alternative to having to cart units around in a Land Raider. It can hold 6 Custodes Infantry models, and packs a twin Arachnus blaze cannon and a Twin Lastrum bolt cannon, and keeps the usual tricks. It’s not cheap, though, and you don’t really need something to carry your models around in – they get around well enough on their own.

Flyer

Orion Dropship (FW)

The Orion is a flyer with BS2+, T8, W22 and a 3+/5++. It can hover, and has Airborne and Supersonic like other flyers. It mounts two Arachnus heavy blaze cannons, two twin Lastrum bolt cannons, and two Spiculus heavy bolt launchers, which is a lot of guns. It can also transport 12 Custodes INFANTRY, or 7 and a Dreadnought. It’s a lot, is what I’m saying. However, you can lose the transport capacity and take the gunship version instead, as below, and you get a more efficient unit.

Ares Gunship (FW)

The Ares is the latest Forge World toy for Custodes, and oh boy, it’s another giant Y-wing looking thing. It’s a bit cheaper than the Orion and has better guns. As a unit, the Ares is almost entirely a tank hunter. Like other blaze weapons the main gun has two different fire profiles, a beam or a burst. The beam is a d3 shot, strength 14, AP -4, damage D3+6 tank killer with Blast, and the burst is a 3-shot strength 9, AP -3, damage D3 worse tank killer.

The only two other guns on the Ares are a pair of heavy blaze cannons, the same as the ones on the Caladius. Interestingly while the heavy blaze cannon beam profile rerolls wounds against VEHICLE units the magna-blaze cannon doesn’t. This has gone through a couple of printings now so it doesn’t seem like it’s an oversight. Weird.

The Ares also has the ability to bomb units with infernus firebombs. Once per turn, the Ares can drop bombs with an area effect – you can pick one point that the bearer moved across, and for each unit within 6″ you roll a dice, on a 4+ that unit takes d3 mortal wounds (5+ for non-VEHICLE/MONSTER characters). Being able to do this every turn instead of just twice, and affecting all units within 6″ of a point, is a reasonable trade against the old version. The gunship can choose to hover if it wants to, and has a 5+ invulnerable save in common with all the other Forge World Custodes vehicles.

One minor point to be wary of is that it is possible that an Ares does not, in fact, fit on the table for 1/3rd of the missions that use ‘Dawn of War’ deployment, as the model is larger than 10″ in every direction. This has caused some Discourse in the past that we won’t go into here. Check with your TO ahead of time if you intend to bring one.

 

Credit: Felime

 

Sisters of Silence

As promised, we also include here the Sisters of Silence, who following the War of the Spider release have been slotted in as a kind of companion force to the Custodes. It’s a very short unit list – just 4 – with a small selection of stratagems available to them. You can field these either in a Vanguard detachment without needing a character, or in an Adeptus Custodes detachment, where unlike normal you don’t lose detachment abilities for including them. The latter is the one that is turning up a bunch

Units

Sisters get four datasheets, representing three differently armed flavours of the Sisters themselves and then the Null Maiden Rhino as a transport to round them out.

All of the INFANTRY have a large number of things in common:

  • The statline – they’re pretty elite, with 3+ for their WS/BS, 3+ saves, 2A a piece and a nippy 7″ move, but do suffer from only having S/T of 3. Their Sergeants get an extra attack and have a hefty Ld9, so aren’t likely to go anywhere.
  • The Psychic Abomination special rule, making them unable to be targeted or affected by psychic powers, and giving enemy psykers within 18″ a cumulative -1 to cast/deny for each unit with this ability, to a maximum of -4.
  • The Witch Hunters special rule, letting them re-roll wounds against PSYKERS. This is a buff from the White Dwarf version, where they only re-rolled melee wounds. They really don’t like psykers.
  • Psyk-out grenades, which have a chance to inflict mortal wounds on Daemons or PSYKERs.

The poor Rhino does not get any of these special rules, differing only from a regular one in being able to carry the Sisters and having a chance to heal a wound each turn. It tries real hard though.

The three exciting flavours you can take the Sisters in are Prosecutors, Vigilators and Witchseekers, who each have kind of their own deal going on.

Prosecutors

First in line are the Prosecutors, who are a great exemplar of one of the weaker aspects of 40k in that they’re pretty dull but they’re also cost-effective so generally come out as the best. They’re 10ppm with the standard statline and wield boltguns. Their special trick is that they can use these to snipe PSYKER CHARACTERS, and in the new rules they also gain a dedicated stratagem in Punishment Fire, which turns their boltguns into 18″ range Assault 3 weapons for a phase, making even a small squad a reasonable threat to a weaker psyker that strolls too close. That’s especially true thanks to the buff to Witch Hunters – five of these blasting away with this strat on are now on a coin-flip to cleanly blow a Farseer away, with a mean output of 4.5 wounds.

Prosecutors are fine, and are are likely to remain the unit of choice out of this list of people want access to what the Sisters can bring. Their statline makes them perfectly decent for lurking on a backline objective, and they’re good enough for their cost that if you want some of this faction’s special tricks, they can start looking really worth it.

Vigilators

Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Vigilators are your melee option, packing the mighty executioner greatblade. “Mighty” used to be a bit of an overstatement, as it was only S4, but WotS buffs this to S5, and offers the Decapitating Strike stratagem, which for 1CP gives them a nice, clean +1 to wound in combat. These still feel like they’re a little short on weight of attacks to truly get there, but they can now punch pretty reasonably for their weight class against enemy elite infantry, and will absolutely make a mess of any psyker they touch. They do pay for this though, being more expensive than  Prosecutors. If you have points to spare it’s not a horrible idea to bring these, as they’re a nasty threat to spring on anything that tries to flank you.

Witchseekers

Your final option are the Witchseekers, who wield flamers.  An entire unit of flamer wielders is something relatively unique,  but recent books have given us decent comparators in the Pteraxii Sterylizor and Serberys Sulphurhounds and that kind of shows up that these are just overcosted – you’re paying for both the full flamer unit gimmick and the Sisters gimmick, meaning that these are rarely operating efficiently in whatever role you need them to play. Their new stratagem, Purgation Sweep, doesn’t even make that much difference – it puts a floor of four on their shot counts, which protects you from a low roll and ups their average shots by one each, but a full squad already flattens the variance a bit, and it even goes up to a 2CP cost if you have 6+ models. Fundamentally these struggle for a niche.

Stratagems

We’ve covered the three unit-specific stratagems already, and on top of these come five generic ones. You unlock these (and the previous ones) by either including a Sisters of Silence detachment in your army or adding any Sisters units to a Custodes detachment – so a single allied unit working with the golden boys can still pop these.

  • Empyric Severance: As befits their status, Sisters get a potent version of the standard 4+ deny strat, trading 6″ of range for working on a 3+ rather than a 4+. As long as you’re willing to run them out in front of your high value targets, this combines with their innate anti-psyker aura to make Sisters very good at their job. The WotS FAQ also makes it clear that you can use this and the Custodes version if you really, really need a power not to go off. A
  • Talons: A stratagem specifically for working alongside the Adeptus Custodes. After a Custodes unit has shot or fought, you can give a Sisters unit re-rolls to hit for the phase. Has the definite issue that the sum total of output you get from any of these units just isn’t quite there – both Prosecutors and Vigilators like the re-rolls, but given that Custodes armies now have ample things they want to spend their CP on, any army that can use this by definition probably doesn’t want to. C
  • Desperation’s Price: When a psyker suffers perils within 18″ of a Sisters squad, they take an additional d3 MWs for 1CP. This adds even further to the psychic defence angle, and makes them especially effective against armies that throw out high volumes of powers like Grey Knights and Thousand Sons, where sheer volume of dice rolled makes an eventual perils near unavoidable. Few psykers are entirely safe when suffering 2d3 MWs, and the chance of this totally ruining your opponent’s plans is real, for all that it’s necessarily situational. B
  • Creeping Dread: For 1CP, you can pick a Sisters INFANTRY unit at the start of the phase, and any enemy within 6″ of them that makes an attack is at -1 to hit. This gives you a way of squeezing a last bit of value out of a screening squad, forcing your opponent to pick them off or take penalties when they might otherwise ignore then. B
  • Immaterial Dissonance: When a squad hits a DAEMON or PSYKER unit with a Psyk out grenade, the target gets -1 to hit and can’t overwatch until the end of the turn. This is incredibly situational to the point where it’s very hard to plan around. Occasionally you will play against like, Grey Knights or a Bikelock Conclave and you will get your opponent good with it, but even then you have to be able to get the unit into position, and even then you’ll occasionally just miss, and then handsome sophisticated elves will point, laugh and kill you with Shurikens. Anyway, sorry, lost my train of thought there, this is like a C.

Entirely fittingly, the cream of the crop here are the anti-psyker tools, and that largely informs how I think Sisters will most plausibly be used.

Army Lists

We have four recent (at time of writing) lists here to share with you. It’s worth pointing out that all of these are from before the Forge World book released, so there may be slight differences in how they would be used now, and we will update this section in a few weeks if there’s serious differences in how lists are being built. If you’re a regular reader of our Competitive Innovations column, n doubt much of this commentary will seem familiar – Custodes have done well in early 9th and all the lists here have featured there.

Stephen Henry, 1st Place – Labor Day GT

Army List - Click to Expand


++ Patrol Detachment -2CP (Imperium – Adeptus Custodes) [16 PL, 264pts, -2CP] ++
Shield Host: Shadowkeepers

+ HQ +

Shield Captain in Allarus Terminator Armor [8 PL, 110pts]: Guardian Spear

+ Troops +

Custodian Guard Squad [8 PL, 154pts] . Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Guardian Spear
. Custodian: Guardian Spear

+ Elites +
Prosecutors [3 PL, 60pts]: Sister Superior. 4x Prosecutor: 4x Boltgun, 4x Psyk-Out Grenades
Prosecutors [3 PL, 60pts]: Sister Superior. 4x Prosecutor: 4x Boltgun, 4x Psyk-Out Grenades
++ Spearhead Detachment -3CP (Imperium – Adeptus Custodes) [84 PL, 1,615pts, -3CP] ++
Shield Host: Shadowkeepers

+ HQ +

Captain-General Trajann Valoris [10 PL, 190pts]

+ Elites +

Aquilon Custodians [17 PL, 320pts] . Aquilon Custodian: Lastrum Storm Bolter, Solarite power Gauntlet
. Aquilon Custodian: Lastrum Storm Bolter, Solarite power Gauntlet
. Aquilon Custodian: Lastrum Storm Bolter, Solarite power Gauntlet
. Aquilon Custodian: Lastrum Storm Bolter, Solarite power Gauntlet

+ Heavy Support +

Caladius Grav-tank [12 PL, 225pts]: Twin Illiastus Accelerator Cannon

Caladius Grav-tank [12 PL, 225pts]: Twin Illiastus Accelerator Cannon

Caladius Grav-tank [12 PL, 225pts]: Twin Illiastus Accelerator Cannon

+ Flyer +

Ares Gunship [21 PL, 430pts]

++ Total: [106 PL, -8CP, 1,999pts] ++

 

The firepower that an Ares and three Caladius tanks can put out together is absolutely wild. Combined with their exceptional mobility, when this army goes first it will inflict catastrophic damage on any non-horde list, and even against those it has the rate of fire to make a real dent. It could be a bit one-dimensional, and could get outplayed on objectives, but it’s definitely potent.

War of the Spider provides the tools to amp this version up to 11. The Aquilon and Custodian squads provide two highly durable units that can fight for objectives mid-board, shielded with strats as needed, while cheap Sisters of Silence provide inexpensive models for holding the back. The Allarus Captain is a highly effective solo operator with ObSec, and forces an opponent to be way more cautious about spreading out from their backlines, as he can comfortably turn up and fight even moderately tough stuff off an objective.

All of that’s nice, and having a coherent plan for board control is going to be part of why this worked, but the other key thing to highlight is the extent to which having access to The Emperor’s Auspice closes off a key weakness of this concept – losing the Ares straight away when it goes second. The gunship is no slouch defensively, but any army that could reliably pop a Knight could take one down as well, and it’s impossible to hide. Without re-rolls, however, and with many lists skimping a bit on front-loaded firepower in 9th edition, that’s much, much less likely to happen, and being Shadowkeepers lets the army layer Grim Responsibility on top as well. With both of those up, there are very few lists that are going to pull off the kill, substantially reducing the risk of losing to a string of bad rolloffs. It also lets you be a bit more muscular about pushing the Ares into the opponent’s lines to use its bomb, as many of the short ranged tools that punish it at close range lean on re-rolls. It crosses the threshold to where many armies are just going to have to ignore it (beyond maybe baiting out the stratagem) and focus on other things, allowing it to spend the entire game raining fire down on their forces, which will leave a lot of armies in pretty bad shape. This list was using the old version of the bombs, too, which means that the Ares potentially makes gains in potency for mashing stuff with the infernus. Pushing Custodes Terminators off an objective is hard enough when your forces are in good shape, never mind once you’re losing several of your elite units a turn.

Michael Taylor, 1st Place – Fields of Blood

Army List - Click to Expand


++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Custodes) [101 PL, 9CP, 2,000pts] ++
Shield Host: Dread Host

+ Stratagems +

Open the Vaults (1 Relic) [-1CP]

+ HQ +

Shield Captain in Allarus Terminator Armor [6 PL, 110pts]: Warlord, Warlord Trait: Champion of the Imperium, Guardian Spear, Relic: (Castellan’s Mark)

Shield-Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike [9 PL, -1CP, 175pts]: Captain-Commander: Unstoppable Destroyer, Relic: Auric Aquilis, Hurricane Bolter,
.

+ Troops +

Custodian Guard Squad [13 PL, 224pts] 4x Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield

Custodian Guard Squad [13 PL, 196pts] 4x Custodian: Guardian Spear

Sagittarum Custodians [12 PL, 250pts]: 5x Sagittarum Custodian

+ Elites +

Allarus Custodians [18 PL, 390pts] 6x Allarus Custodian: Guardian Spear

Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnought [8 PL, -1CP, 190pts]: Eternal Penitent, 2x Twin Adrathic Destructor

Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought [8 PL, 175pts]

+ Heavy Support +

Telemon Heavy Dreadnought [14 PL, 290pts]: Arachnus Storm Cannon, Arachnus Storm Cannon, Spiculus Bolt Launcher

++ Total: [101 PL, 9CP, 2,000pts] ++

 

A Dreadnought-heavy variant on Custodes, this list is light on the board in terms of numbers but the units it does have pack a sensational punch. A double storm cannon Telemon offers a fearsome shooting platform, supporting an on-foot contingent which includes a Champion of the Imperium Warlord allowing the entire mass to heroically intervene if required, and the Castellan’s Mark giving that little bit of deployment flexibility to outwit an opponent. The Unstoppable Destroyer jetbike Captain is a great bully unit, able to plunge into melee to take out a key target before dancing back out of range again, allowing you to threaten distant targets while the main clump pushes forwards and takes over central objectives. This list has less of the raw output of the Ares and Caladius version that Stephen was piloting, but it offers enormous flexibility across the board, and thanks to the Warlord trait it’s basically never safe for your opponent to try and flip an objective with anything other than total destruction of the unit that’s holding it.

Gord Weppler, 1st Place – Northern Front YYC

Army List - Click to Expand


++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Custodes) [96 PL, 1,996pts, 11CP] ++
Shield Host: Shadowkeepers
+ HQ +
Captain-General Trajann Valoris [10 PL, 190pts]

Shield Captain in Allarus Terminator Armor [6 PL, 118pts, -1CP]: Captain-Commander, Castellan Axe, Eagle’s Eye, Misericordia, Strategic Mastermind, Superior Creation, Warlord
+ Troops +
Custodian Guard Squad [8 PL, 168pts] . Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield

Custodian Guard Squad [8 PL, 168pts] . Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield

+ Elites +
Allarus Custodians [24 PL, 584pts] . Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia
. Allarus Custodian: Castellan Axe, Misericordia

Vexillus Praetor [6 PL, 128pts]: Misericordia, Storm Shield, Vexilla Magnifica

+ Fast Attack +
Pallas Grav-Attack [6 PL, 105pts] Pallas Grav-Attack [6 PL, 105pts]

+ Flyer +
Ares Gunship [22 PL, 430pts]

++ Total: [96 PL, 11CP, 1,996pts] ++

 

We know Custodes are strong in a number of configurations, and Shadowkeepers packing a couple of big “bomb” units, whether a large squad or an Ares is one of them. You end up with a critical mass of defensive stratagems such that you won’t run out of protective tools when your opponent changes targets part-way through the phase. With The Emperor’s Auspice for the Ares and Auramite and Adamantium for the Allarus, very few ranged threats are going to be able to pop them off while you still have CP to play with, meaning that you’re going to get at least a few turns of use out of them. Given how absurdly dangerous they are, that’s good news for you and very bad news for anyone up against you.

If you’re getting low on CP here you do also have the option of blowing Unleash the Lions, releasing a whole host of Allarus to roam around the board giving your opponents headaches, nullifying their ability to concentrate firepower in a single place and nuke stuff. Given they’re all ObSec, it’s a powerful final play for board control, and can give you an angle to get back on top of a game that’s slipping away.

Marshall Reeves, 2nd Place – Amiable Bright: Plague Wars

​​Army List - Click to Expand


++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adeptus Custodes) [104 PL, 10CP, 2,000pts] ++
+ Configuration +

Battle Size [12CP]: 3. Strike Force (101-200 Total PL / 1001-2000 Points)

Detachment CP

Shield Host: Shadowkeepers

+ HQ +

Captain-General Trajann Valoris [10 PL, 190pts]: Misericordia, Watcher’s Axe

Shield-Captain on Dawneagle Jetbike [9 PL, -1CP, 175pts]: Auric Aquilas, Captain-Commander, Indomitable Constitution, Interceptor Lance, Salvo Launcher, Superior Creation
. Warlord: Warlord

+ Troops +

Custodian Guard Squad [13 PL, 280pts] . Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield

Custodian Guard Squad [13 PL, 224pts] . Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield
. Custodian: Sentinel Blade, Storm Shield

Custodian Guard Squad [13 PL, 196pts] . Custodian: Guardian Spear
. Custodian: Guardian Spear
. Custodian: Guardian Spear
. Custodian: Guardian Spear

+ Elites +

Allarus Custodians [12 PL, 280pts] . Allarus Custodian: Ballistus Grenade Launcher, Castellan Axe
. Allarus Custodian: Ballistus Grenade Launcher, Castellan Axe
. Allarus Custodian: Ballistus Grenade Launcher, Castellan Axe
. Allarus Custodian: Ballistus Grenade Launcher, Castellan Axe

Prosecutors [3 PL, 60pts] . 4x Prosecutor: 4x Boltgun, 4x Psyk-Out Grenades
. Sister Superior: Boltgun, Psyk-Out Grenades

Vexillus Praetor [6 PL, -1CP, 120pts]: Guardian Spear, Impregnable Mind, Ten Thousand Heroes, Vexilla Magnifica

+ Fast Attack +

Vertus Praetors [25 PL, 475pts] . Vertus Praetor: Interceptor Lance, Salvo Launcher
. Vertus Praetor: Interceptor Lance, Salvo Launcher
. Vertus Praetor: Interceptor Lance, Salvo Launcher
. Vertus Praetor: Interceptor Lance, Salvo Launcher
. Vertus Praetor: Interceptor Lance, Salvo Launcher

++ Total: [104 PL, 10CP, 2,000pts] ++

 

Yeah, it’s basically just a few blocks of absurdly tough troops backed up by a few nastier threats and some characters and still put in a comfortable second place finish at a GT. Custodes – they’re good at this.

The big, notable thing here is the upswing in the number of Storm Shields in the army – as discussed in the Custodian Guard unit entry, these used to be most often seen slotted onto a single model in a squad, but in Custodes the new version uniquely shines as being pure upside. That makes the five and four model squads here incredibly tough to shift, which is exactly what you want from your units in 9th! They can seize control of key positions, the cheap Prosecutor squad can hold a home objective, then the Bikes, Terminators and Bike Captain can maraud around the board picking stuff up. Not a super complex plan but clearly an effective one, and it’s all further enhanced by the extra durability option the Shadowkeeper stratagem gifts them.

As we mentioned at the start of the lists section, none of these are using the up to date Imperial Armour rules and the potential benefits that book provides. This list seems like it would benefit a lot from the newly-updated Venatari Custodians who would potentially slot into this strategy nicely, so it’ll be interesting to see if they start popping up in builds like this. In the meantime, the template here is a solid one for a striaghtforward build which is not, like other versions, reliant on large chunks of resin.

And Now, to Open the Black Chambers

That’s about all we have to say about the Adeptus Custodes. We hope you’ve enjoyed this write-up, and you’re excited to sally forth from Terra and destroy the enemies of the Emperor. As ever, if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line in the comments below, hit us up on Facebook, or shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com. Otherwise, it’s time to get painting the Ten Thousand – better lay in a lot of gold paint!

 

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