Start Competing: Genestealer Cults Tactics

An article by    Gaming Start Competing Tactics Warhammer 40k        0

40K spends a lot of time on massive, over-the-top science fantasy narratives with genetically engineered super-soldiers facing down space elves, ancient Egyptian skeleton robots and the dark gods themselves. What if that’s not what you want out of it though? What if you just want to play a plucky band of working-class heroes coming together against impossible odds to achieve a noble* goal? What if you just want to make sure that everyone feels the warm embrace of the Four-Armed Emperor’s love, and don’t understand why people keep shouting about nuking your planet from orbit? What if you just really, really like sneaking up on people and sawing them in half**? If any of these things sound like you, then Genestealer Cults (GSC) might just be the faction you’ve been looking for. Read on to find out how to make the most of these devious insurgents and run rings around your opponents.

If you are an Imperial bootlicker looking to crush their rebellions instead it’s worth having a read too – GSC are one of the game’s most complicated factions, and knowing what they have up their sleeve is vitally important to defeating them.

* Goonhammer makes no actual value judgement about the nobility of infecting the populace with parasitic alien DNA.
** Goonhammer actively does not endorse sawing any actual people in half. Please don’t.

Special thanks to Goonhammer community members Soggy (Instagram), ThatGobbo (Instagram) and John Q. Brown for furnishing us with pictures for this article.

The Cult Arises

The Cult Arises. Credit: John Q Brown

Army Strengths

  • An unparalleled toolbox of tricks, allowing you to run rings around the unwary.
  • Exceptionally deadly melee units with good delivery options.
  • Powerful characters
  • Cheap, viable choices in every mandatory slot, so have tonnes of CP.

Army Weaknesses

  • Crumble if you let the opponent land a counterattack.
  • No real long-ranged shooting options.
  • Weaker the better your opponent knows your army.

Competitive Rating

Strong

Genestealer Cults are one of the best armies in the game, putting up consistent high finishes since the release of their codex. They’ve had a few nerfs to some of their best abilities since (including one very recent one that we haven’t had time to see the full impact of) but this hasn’t stopped them dominating the top tables the world over. The absurd power of some of their core units combined with exceptional characters and a vast array of tricks to crush the unprepared makes them an ideal force for those aiming for the very top of the tournament scene.

Special Rules

Cult Ambush

Nexos

Nexos. Credit: Soggy

Cult Ambush is at the heart of what GSC do, and what makes them unique. This ability is common to every unit in the codex, and gives them two additional options when deploying at the start of the game.

  1. Any unit can set up underground, going into standard “Deep Strike”. This is capped by the Tactical Reserves rule as normal, so no more than half your units or points value can use it, though as we’ll see there’s a way around that.
  2. Any unit can choose to deploy in Ambush. Rather than deploying a unit on the board, you instead place an ambush marker down in your deployment zone. This doesn’t count as deploying in tactical reserves, so any number of your units can do so (and generally, all of them should).

Ambush markers are revealed either at the start of your first movement phase if you go first, or the end of your opponent’s first movement phase if you go second. If your opponent takes the first turn, none of their units can set up or end their move within 9″ of a marker, and they don’t know exactly where each of your units are going to be while moving, giving them a lot less information to work with than normal.

When ambush markers are revealed, you start by picking a marker on the board and placing a model from any of your units in ambush within 1″ of the centre of it. You then set up the rest of the squad wholly within your deployment zone and within 6″ of the first model. They also have to be >9″ away from enemy models. Thanks to a change in the wording in the FAQ, they don’t count as arriving as reinforcements, so if it’s your turn they can then act normally, and only count as having moved if they actually move (unlike normal units setting up on the battlefield), and also cannot be targeted with “intercept” abilities or anything else that keys off reinforcements (but do qualify for A Perfect Ambush). You then repeat this until you run out of units or ambush markers.

This ability is exceptionally powerful just at baseline. It means that when deploying, your opponent doesn’t really know what you’re planning, and you effectively always have the advantage of being able to adapt the positioning of your on-board presence to whatever they do, something you “normally” have to pay the choice of going first or second for in many mission packs. It also hampers the ability of aggressive, combat based armies to attack you, as they can get no closer than 9″ to where any of your units are going to be, meaning they’re always looking for at least a 9″ charge.

However, it’s the addition of various additional effects and stratagems that make this even more potent. The most important of these is They Came From Below. For one CP, just before you reveal an ambush marker, you can remove three markers from the board, and move three of your units underground, to deep strike on turns 2 or 3 as normal. This is great, because:

  • With careful placement of markers, the ability to remove three of them can often feint you away from one flank or part of the board. If your opponent has concentrated their units in one place, it can deny them targets, especially if they have melee units patiently waiting 9″ away from markers.
  • It lets you get around the tactical reserves limits. Units pulled by this aren’t counted towards that, so it allows you to end up with considerably more than half your models in deep strike.

The latter part used to be even more important, as some poor wording let you hold the deep strikers pulled with it past turn 3, but it’s still exceptional now that’s been fixed by a FAQ. Most GSC armies will contain several “bombs”, large deep striking units that often run to the 200-250pts range (usually Aberrants and Acolytes). You might not normally be able to get all of these plus their required support characters into deep strike under the “half your army limit”, but with this stratagem it’s trivial, and it’s very common to declare these units as setting up in Cult Ambush then move them underground. The only thing to be wary of with that is if your opponent has access to Vect or GSC’s own “counterspell” stratagem – in this case it is critical that you remember to put a Four-Armed Emperor unit down on the board prior to activating this stratagem, as that way you can counter their counter – getting this ability stopped if you’ve built your whole plan around it can easily lose you the game on the spot, with your fragile units ending up standing in the middle of nowhere looking awkward.

That strat is used by almost every GSC army in the majority of their games, but there are some ways to mess with this.

  • If you have a Nexos, he can redeploy one ambush marker anywhere in your deployment zone >12″ from the enemy after he arrives. Not all lists include one, but if yours does this can link up with removing three to further reduce the number of valid targets in a particular part of the board.
  • You can use the Scanner Decoys stratagem to place up to three additional ambush markers during deployment for 1CP (and can only do so once). This often isn’t needed, but can be good against a combat army that might try and rush you like Orks – combined with They Came from Below and a Nexos you can essentially afford to put a line of 7 markers across the front of your deployment zone that will all disappear, likely leaving your opponent with nothing to charge.
  • You can use the Meticulous Uprising stratagem to move up to three markers 12″ for one CP just before you reveal one (they have to stay within your deployment zone, and can’t go within 9″ of the enemy). Hopefully you’ve put your plan together such that you can achieve whatever shuffling you need without this, but it does provide yet another way to confound the foe, and a useful “undo button” if you survey your opponent’s first turn movement or deployment and realise you’ve messed up.

Taken all together, Cult Ambush means that your opponent is going to start the game with quite a bit less information than you, hopefully letting you keep them on the wrong foot. If you’re playing against Cult, it’s critical to be aware of the fact that most lists can make 3-4 of their blips vanish and optionally move three more – when planning movement on your first turn, you need to make sure you’ve got targeting lines on a healthy number of markers so you can start killing stuff. This is especially true in ITC, where you want to be trying to get a decent score turn one if at all possible, as they tend to dominate turns 2 and 3 but will struggle to land kills on T1.

Unquestioning Loyalty

Cult Heroes are Defended

Cult Heroes are Defended. Credit: ThatGobbo

This ability is common to every unit in the army other than the Patriarch and VEHICLES.

Each time you fail a saving throw for a GSC CHARACTER or they suffer a mortal wound, while they are within 3″ of a unit with this ability that is either from the same <CULT> or BROOD BROTHERS, you can roll a d6. On a 4+, a model from the unit is slain instead.

This is a very handy ability. GSC characters are very powerful but pretty squishy, with even the Patriarch going down pretty quickly to any sort of heavy attack, and as long as there are willing chumps nearby this should substantially slow down their demise. It isn’t nearly as reliable as the Tau version, and so you will sometimes see your heroes get splattered by single big attack if you’re unlucky, but it makes putting high quality attacks into your vital buff characters a bit less appealing. It’s also of growing relevance as the quality of snipers increases, peaking with the recent Raven Guard release, helping your most precious models survive. It’s also very nice that it works with BROOD BROTHERS, as lots of GSC lists fill out battalions with them and in a sniper matchup they can babysit your more back-line characters.

Brood Brothers

Cult Russ

Cult Russ. Credit: ThatGobbo

Brood Brothers refers to two things:

  • Some units in the codex have this keyword instead of a <CULT> keyword, while still having the GENESTEALER CULT and TYRANID faction keyword. They can thus be included in your detachments as normal, and also don’t break your Cult Creed. They don’t get cult bonuses and aren’t affected by some <CULT> abilities. Of these units, the most relevant one is the basic Brood Brothers Infantry Squad, which lets you fill out a troops slot for 40pts. Mortar teams are also pretty common, especially in lists filling out a Brigade.
  • For each GSC detachment your army has, you can include up to one ASTRA MILITARUM detachment, ignoring the normal Battle Brothers rule for building a battle forged army. These have the following additional restrictions:
    • All units have the BROOD BROTHERS tag instead of a regiment keyword (or MILITARUM TEMPESTUS). This gives them +1Ld and the Unquestioning Loyalty ability as their regimental trait.
    • No named characters, relics or specialist detachments.
    • Officers cannot order units with the GENESTEALER CULT faction keyword (i.e. Brood Brothers squads in your main detachments). This was added via an FAQ having initially been ruled the other way. They also can’t order units that wouldn’t normally be orderable like Ogryns.
    • Cannot contain your warlord.
    • Give you half the normal CP for the detachment.
    • Don’t gain cult ambush.

Originally, when you could bring in Officers to order the Brood Brother squads that your main army probably contained, this was pretty attractive. Now it’s very rarely used. When it does turn up in a competitive context, it’s almost exclusively to bring in Guard Tank Commanders. This army doesn’t really have any good tools for dealing with chaff at range, which can leave it somewhat high and dry if it finds itself in the position of being on the defensive against a horde list. A Supreme Command of punisher Tank Commanders can substantially shore up that weakness. You could also theoretically look at demolisher Commanders after their recent buff, as they provide a volume of ranged AT shots that the army will struggle to get elsewhere.

As it stands, however, doing either of these things opens up weaknesses as well, which is why it’s pretty rare. Your opponent’s anti-tank usually looks pretty naff against GSC, but Russes are pretty much the perfect target for conventional anti-tank weaponry, letting them get value they might otherwise have been denied. Most top players tend to look elsewhere at the moment. That being said, Tank Commanders are just a generically very efficient unit, so this is rarely going to look completely horrible, and can be a good choice in smaller game sizes (where the T8 of Russes can make them a little bit of a pain to shift) or if you’re starting out on GSC and already have a Guard collection and need to bulk out the army. The other unit that occasionally pops up is the Vulture Gunship, as similarly to the punisher Commander it puts anti-horde firepower on the board very cost-efficiently.

Gene-Sect

Each CHARACTER datasheet can only be included once per detachment. This makes it slightly harder to spam certain units, but between the fact that GSC have cheap fillers for almost every slot, often want multiple different <CULT> detachments in the same army with access to various auras, and have an actual good summon ability that can fetch additional characters, it doesn’t hold you back that much. Just make sure you don’t accidentally submit an illegal list.

Broodfather

If your army contains any Patriarchs, and a GSC character is your warlord, it has to be one of the Patriarchs. This is absolutely fine because this is pretty much always the right choice anyway – if a Patriarch is your warlord you can use the Broodcoven stratagem to hand a warlord trait to a Primus and a Magus as well. More warlord traits is good, and they don’t even have to be the same <CULT>!

Specialist Detachments

Broodsurge

Broodsurge. Credit: ThatGobbo

GSC have two of these and both are good. We’ll largely cover them in the text, but there’s:

  • The Deliverance Broodsurge, which includes:
    • Iconwards
    • Acolytes
    • Neophytes
    • Goliath Trucks
  • The Anointed Throng, which includes:
    • Abominants
    • Aberrants

Aberrants and Acolytes are the best alpha strike melee options in the book, and each of these includes a warlord option that helps with delivery of the one they include, and a stratagem that boosts their damage output, with the Deliverance Broodsurge being especially good. Given the abundance of CP GSC have access to, it’s almost always correct to include a Broodsurge, and is sometimes worth grabbing the Throng too.

Psychic Powers

    • Mass Hypnosis – WC7: Make an enemy unit suffer a -1 penalty to hit, not be able to fire overwatch and fight last until your next psychic phase. All nice debuffs, and great for softening up a target like a Knight before your Patriarch goes in. Often somewhat overshadowed by the Amulet of the Voidwyrm relic, but still a great choice. B+
    • Mind Control – WC7: Pick an enemy model within 12″ and roll 3D6. If you equal or beat their leadership, you can immediately have it shoot at a single target enemy unit, or make a single melee attack if it’s within 1″ of another enemy unit. This is obviously fantastic against things like Knights or Eldar planes – 3D6 beats every unmodified leadership in the game on average, and getting to make use of one of your enemy’s best models for a turn can be devastating. Be aware – if your opponent is savvy they can mitigate this by keeping units within 1″ of each other, at which point you can only use the vastly less impressive “single melee attack” mode. Be careful not to pick a unit that’s affected by this. Still very much an A.
    • Psionic Blast – WC5: Pick an enemy within 18″ and roll 2d6. Deal 1MW if you roll less than or equal to their LD, or d3 if you roll more. A worse smite, even a target-able one, is not what this army is looking for. D
    • Mental Onslaught – WC6: Pick a unit within 18 and roll off, adding your psykers leadership and the target adding theirs. If you win, deal 1MW and repeat until you lose, draw, or they roll a 6. Oh how the mighty have fallen. As we predicted in our codex review this turned out to be a bit much (it originally didn’t stop on them rolling a 6) and a FAQ nerf has substantially put this in its place. It’s still not terrible but not having an infinite ceiling makes it not worth investing in boosting your LD, and in turn that makes it unreliable and not much up to snuff. C
    • Psychic Stimulus – WC6: Pick a Cult unit within 18″. That unit can charge if it advanced, and always fights first (following the standard rules for this). Theoretically cool, but the way the army has played out in practice is that it usually does most of its charges out of deep strike. However, both Atalan Jackals (which are very fast) and Twisted Helix units (which get +2 to advance) can make strong use of this. C most of the time, in specific builds/matchups.
    • Might From Beyond – WC7: Give a Cult unit +1 attacks and strength for a turn. An absurdly great force multiplier on two of the best units in the book (Aberrants and Acolytes) and used in most lists. A

Might from Beyond and Mind Control are picked a lot, with Mass Hyponosis also being a popular choice, and Psychic Stimulus sometimes being worth it. If you look back 6 months you’ll see Mental Onslaught talked about a lot, but the changes to that in the spring FAQ rendered it substantially less powerful.

Cult Creeds

An Esotetic Kelermorph

An Esoteric Kelermorph. Credit: ThatGobbo

Cult Creeds are the GSC flavour of subfaction traits, and grant an ability to INFANTRY and BIKER units in detachments that share a <Cult> keyword, excluding GENESTEALER models. That excludes Patriarchs (which are still absurd and used in almost every list) and Purestrain Genestealers (which are sadly almost totally irrelevant), but for competitive purposes they do what they need to, applying to the four core units that most GSC armies rotate around – Neophyte Hybrids, Acolyte Hybrids, Atalan Jackals and Aberrants.

There are six of these and, terrifyingly, five of the six have strong competitive applications. The combinations of stratagems, warlord traits and relics you get from some of these are so good that GSC relatively often use “mixed” detachments, sacrificing access to a faction trait (often on units that wouldn’t have got it anyway like Patriarchs and Brood Brothers) to open up a bunch of other choices. The Genestealer Cult codex came out at a point where GW had really hit their stride with coming up with rules for 8th ed and it really shows in how potent and interesting these are.

Cult of the Four Armed Emperor

  • Cult Creed – Subterranean Ambushers: In the first battle round, units with this get +1 to advance and charge rolls. After that, units that set up on the board get +1 to advances (which isn’t really relevant) and charges (which very much is) until the end of that turn.
  • Warlord Trait – Inscrutable Cunning: One re-roll per battle that you can use on a hit, wound or saving roll for a FOUR ARMED EMPEROR unit. In addition, gain d3 extra command points at the start of the game.
  • Relic – Sword of the Four-Armed Emperor: Replaced a bonesword or Locus blades. AP -3 and you can make four additional attacks each time the wielder fights.
  • Stratagem – A Plan Generations in the Making – 3CP: Once per battle, when an opponent activates a stratagem, roll a d6. Nothing happens on a 1, the enemy stratagem is cancelled, the CP refunded and can’t be used again in the phase on a 2-5, and cancelled without a refund on a 6.

Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor (or 4AE as it’s often abbreviated on army lists) could theoretically be argued to be the “best” cult in the sense that the vast majority of army lists include at least some units tagged with it, although as ever with GSC things aren’t quite what they seem.

The popularity is for two main reasons:

  1. Cult live and die on their charges landing on crucial turns, so the +1 bonus to that coming out of deep strike is a much bigger deal than it might first appear.
  2. The stratagem is absurdly good and something all cult players want access to.

Anyone who’s played with or against Agents of Vect will know how powerful cancelling a stratagem is, but it’s arguably even more valuable to Genestealer Cult, because there are a few things that can absolutely ruin them that are almost “mandatory” to stop. This is most notably true against opponents that have an intercept stratagem that can actually just straight up delete an incoming Acolyte unit, or those that have access to Vect or 4AE themselves, where blocking a key Lying in Wait, Perfect Ambush or They Came From Below could ruin your plans in an instant.

The other thing that’s pretty handy here is the warlord trait. Via the Broodcoven stratagem cult can hand out extra warlord traits to a Magus and a Primus, and this is a great one to put on a random Magus for some extra CP if you have nothing better to use it on.

The relic is irrelevant compared to other, better options.

While 4AE is by far the most common cult, unlike some other factions it’s very rare to see a “pure” army of it. Having access to the stratagem is great, but the trait only really helps units that you want to deliver from deep strike into immediate melee, usually Acolyte Hybrids and a Patriarch to make them fearless and pile on the pain. For almost anything else other cults are better options, and there are also good cases for running even some of those key units as other factions as well.

As a general rule, you’re pretty likely to see a 4AE battalion using the Deliverance Broodsurge detachment with an Iconward, a Primus and sometimes a Patriarch leading lots of rocksaw Acolytes into battle out of deep strike in lists, but it’s by no means a permanent fixture. Having trawled through top lists while writing this, at the very top there actually seems to be a mild trend away from this detachment and towards just including a few 4AE characters to tick the box of unlocking the stratagem and to hold the warlord trait. However, if you are starting out competing with this faction it’s an extremely good detachment to include – it’s very powerful and the stacked bonuses to land your charge make it much more forgiving than GSC can otherwise be.

The Pauper Princes

  • Cult Creed – Devoted Zealots: Re-roll hits for units that charged, were charged or heroically intervened this turn.
  • Warlord Trait – Beloved Grandsire: Add 2 to Unquestioning Loyalty rolls for your warlord.
  • Relic – Reliquary of Saint Tenndarc: PAUPER PRINCE units within 6″ are immune to morale, and when an INFANTRY or BIKER model dies within 6″ they can either shoot a single weapon or make a single melee attack on a 4+.
  • Stratagem – Vengeance for the Martyred 1CP: Use this if an enemy unit destroys a PAUPER PRINCES CHARACTER from your army. Your PAUPER PRINCES units add one to hit rolls against it for the rest of the battle.

The Pauper Princes are probably the second weakest cult, and honestly I came into this article thinking I wouldn’t need to write about them, but on doing my standard list trawl I found an army that used them in a 40kstats top four, so here they are getting some actual words.

This does put me in a slightly awkward position because they clearly have a use, it’s just not totally clear to me what. The list uses a large number of hand flamer acolytes with a Patriarch in a Broodsurge, and having studied it alongside the options above I believe the cunning plan is as follows:

  1. Give a Patriarch the relic and trait.
  2. Throw him and a bunch of acolytes into combat.
  3. Every time someone tries to hurt him the wounds bounce onto the acolytes, who can then fire their hand flamers at point blank range when they die half the time.

That’s…pretty hilarious assuming it is the plan. It’s fairly fringe and probably not the best thing you can be doing, but it speaks to the sheer depth of this book that I’ve had to sit here staring at an army list and a bunch of abilities trying to work out how it came together until it suddenly clicked.

(N.B. if you are the player of the above, or have used a similar list and I’m wrong about how it works, please do give use a shout at contact@goonhammer.com).

This cult is pretty mediocre outside that combo. The creed bonus is nice, but as GSC your “challenge” is making sure your units hit combat rather than killing stuff once they’re there, so you’d rather have 4AE. The stratagem is theoretically cool in a few matchups, but would require you to dedicate much more of your army to this than you’re ever going to.

The Hivecult

  • Cult Creed – Disciplined Militants: Halve the number of models that flee from your units (rounding down). You can also shoot after falling back at -1 to hit.
  • Warlord Trait – Hivelord: Re-roll 1s for shooting attacks for HIVECULT units within 6″ of your warlord.
  • Relic – Vockor’s Talisman: The bearer can re-roll hits in melee against CHARACTERs. In addition, their melee attacks inflict a mortal wound on a 6+ except against VEHICLE or TITANIC units.
  • Stratagem – Chilling Efficiency – 2CP: After an enemy loses any wounds as a result of a shooting attack by a HIVECULT unit, add one to hit rolls against it for other HIVECULT units for the rest of the phase.

The Hivecult is the only complete “miss” in very competitive games, largely because they want you to play a “shooty” GSC build but turn out not to have the most efficient way to do it. That’s not to say they’re worthless mind, and their abilities synergise quite well for a “kitchen table” army with some modest teeth. Sticking the warlord trait on a Primus and the Gift from Beyond onto a Jackal Alphus combines with the stratagem to stack up some very substantial hit bonuses against a single key target. Unfortunately, this falls down because there are only two units you’re really want to combine this with (Ridgerunners and Neophytes), and the former don’t really get there competitively and the latter are better off as our next contender. As we covered in our codex, you can do a hilarious skew build with lots of Ridgerunners in this cult, but there are much, much better ways to build shooty armies for the top tables.

Genestealer Cult Infantry

Genestealer Cult Infantry. Photo: RichyP

The Bladed Cog

  • Cult Creed – Cyborgised Hybrids: Models with this creed have a 6+ invulnerable save, or improve an existing invulnerable save by one. INFANTRY also ignore the move/shoot penalty for heavy weapons.
  • Warlord Trait – Single-Minded Obsession: Pick a unit at the start of the battle. You can re-roll wounds against it for BLADED COG units within 6″ of your warlord.
  • Relic – Mark of the Clawed Omnissiah: Gain a 4+ invulnerable save and deal a mortal wound to an enemy within 1″ on a 2+ after finishing a charge move.
  • Stratagem – Overthrow the Oppressors – 1CP: Use when a non-GENESTEALER unit fights. Get an extra attack on an unmodified 6 to hit, or an unmodified 5 or 6 against IMPERIUM or an unmodified 4, 5 or 6 against ADEPTUS MECHANICUS.

The Bladed Cog have had a surge in popularity recently, as a build wielded by notable GSC players Leigh Abbey and Nick Rose has emerged and put up some very impressive finishes, most notably taking Nick to second place at NOVA. That’s especially notable given that NOVA had already incorporated the nerf to They Came From Below that appeared in the September FAQ into their rulespack, so the fact that the Bladed Cog build was the best performing GSC list there is worth paying attention to.

This build leans on the strong synergy between the cult creed and Neophyte Hybrid squads taking advantage of their ability to bring multiple heavy and special weapons to load up on two mining lasers and two webbers. Combining this with the warlord trait and a Jackal Alphus, you can bring a huge number of accurate lascannon shots in from nowhere and absolutely obliterate a single high-priority target like a Knight. The webbers add some almost-free (they’re a mighty one point each) charge deterrence and can be used against infantry out of deep strike thanks to their 16″ range, and the whole unit benefits from the 6++, which when combined with a cult icon to give a 6+++ means that even against mid-high AP D1 firepower (a very present threat now Marines are back in a big way) you save 30% of wounding hits.

Finally, if you’re feeling spicy or want to have options for dealing with a second Knight after the one you targeted with the trait has been blown apart, you can include a squad of Acolytes in this detachment – the ridiculous number of extra hits the stratagem will give you against an Imperium unit will let Acolytes comfortably tear it apart.

The Relic here is irrelevant but it doesn’t really matter – the Neophyte spam build is the real deal, and potentially has quite a bit to recommend it in the metagame that’s emerging, so look for the Bladed Cog to continue to rise in popularity.

Edit: As reader Alexander Dattilo pointed out in the comments, the fact that the relic stacks with the creed to give a 3++ can be really, really good on an Abominant, compensating for him otherwise lacking an invuln. Even more reason to loe Bladed Cog!

The Rusted Claw

  • Cult Creed – Nomadic Survivalists: Add one to your non-invulnerable saves against AP-0 or -1 weapons. In addition, BIKERS can move/shoot heavy weapons or advance/shoot assault weapons without penalty.
  • Warlord Trait – Entropic Touch: Unmodified wound rolls of 6 made by RUSTED COG units within 6″ in the fight phase get an additional AP-1.
  • Relic – Metallophagic staff: Replaces a force stave. Gives S+2 and AP-5, damage D3, and the haywire effect (mortal on 4+, d3 mortals on 6+) against vehicles.
  • Stratagem – Drive-by Demolitions – 1CP: a RUSTED CLAW BIKER unit gets +1 to hit and wound with Grenade weapons for a phase. They can also move as if it was the movement phase after shooting, but cannot charge this turn.

The Rusted Claw do one thing well – bikes. This might cause you to raise an eyebrow slightly, as there are only two BIKER units in this book, one of which is a backline character. Fortunately, Atalan Jackals are one of the best units in the book and both the creed and the stratagem here are very good with them.

The stratagem is the most important bit, and it’s slightly more common to see the bikes included in a mixed detachment where they’re the only things tagged as Rusted Claw. Combining Drive-by Demolitions with the Extra Explosives strat allows you to chuck five demo charges at once ,which with the hit and wound bonus will quite often blow an important target clean apart. Jackals are pretty fast meaning that you can either move into position to do this naturally or (more often) use Lying in Wait to drop them in grenade range. If you want something really big dead and can afford to blow 9CP on it (which is less ridiculous in this army than some) you can even bring a squad of ten with the demo charges, bring them in, chuck five with perfect ambush and five more in normal shooting. Edit: never mind, that no longer works as of their most recent FAQ on timing of stratagems. This is ludicrous overkill against most things, but it’s there as an option, and the “normal” rate of this is still extremely potent and pretty hard to stop.

The stratagem is definitely the most attractive thing here, but the Creed is worth looking at too, as it’s very powerful. Jackals are already extremely tough for their cost, and layering this on top just amplifies that further. This can be exploited by going very deep on the bikes, as we’ll look at in a list we cover later on. It’s also just a generically “fine” ability to have kicking around on your other models, potentially giving a bit more staying power to units like flamer-equipped Acolytes, meaning it used to be a pretty good one to start on as you grew an army.

Unfortunately new Marines, specifically doctrines, make that way less of a good idea. Between heavy bolters, ironhail stubbers and onslaught cannons in Devastator doctrine, and bolt rifles in Tactical, Marines suddenly bring a tonne of AP-2 anti-horde to the table, which almost entirely nullifies the worth of this. With that in mind, at the moment this probably isn’t where to look outside of the specific tricks that make it great. The Warlord Trait and Relic are both also pretty useless.

The Twisted Helix

  • Cult Creed – Experimental Subjects: Add +1 to strength and +2 to advance rolls.
  • Warlord Trait – Bio-Alchemist: +1 damage for non-relic weapons used by your warlord.
  • Relic – Elixir of the Prime Specimen: +1A, T and W.
  • Stratagem – Monstrous Bio-Horrors 3CP: A unit of TWISTED HELIX ABERRANTS can fight again at the end of the phase. In addition, enemy units within 6″ of that unit get -1LD this turn.

TWISTED HELIX SMASH! The Twisted Helix like to smash things, most notably with Aberrants but also with Patriarchs amped up to be a ridiculous blender via the combination of the Relic and Warlord trait. Anointed Throngs with Aberrants in them are the most common place this gets used, but it turns up as a “wider” pick in armies too because it provides a hefty boost to Acolyte Hybrids as well, letting them rend things apart that much more effectively when they’re away from your other buffs. The +2 to advances also lets them redeploy much more quickly if you need to bring them in away from the main battle, especially if you tag them with Psychic Stimulus as well to let them advance and charge.

The Twisted Helix is an utterly uncomplicated blunt instrument, but an extremely effective one, and more than good enough to see play at the highest levels.

Units

I think that might be the most words we’ve ever written on one of these before getting to the units. Genestealer Cult have lots. A lot of them, especially the characters, are pretty great, but a lot are kind of trash too. Lets find out which is which.

HQ

Patriarch

The Patriarch

The Patriarch. Credit: John Q Brown

Big daddy Genestealer himself is quite the bargain at 125pts, and you’ll want to include at least one in almost all of your armies, both because he gives you access to Broodcoven and because he’s just good. With T5, 6W and a 4+/5++ he’s the toughest character in the book (although still far from indestructible) and is an absolute blender in combat. He has 6A at S6, re-rolls all wounds, does d3 damage and resolves any wound rolls of 6+ at -6 and damage 3. Various traits, powers and relics can amp this up even further, and while you won’t ever quite get him to the point of reliably gutting a Knight in a single round of combat (unless you bring the Vial of the Grandsire’s Blood from the Broodsurge detachment because apparently drinking his own blood makes him mad), but you can prop him up to S7/8, give him more attacks and boost his damage, at which point anything smaller than a Lord of War is in terminal trouble. He can also advance and charge, helping get him where he needs to be in the first place.

All of that’s pretty cool, and you’d potentially buy these just as deep striking murder machines at the cost, but the extremely key thing they have on top of that is a 6″ aura within which all <CULT> and BROOD BROTHERS units auto-pass morale. This helps make large Acolyte units even better than they already are, since you often want to take them in large numbers and they’re individually fragile. Most armies aim to include a Patriarch tagged with whatever CULT their Acolyte bombs are for this reason, and it’s also vital if you’re running a bike spam build.

He’s a one-cast psyker that knows two powers, and is effective at delivering Mind Control or Mass Hypnosis. He can also buy up to two familiars. Each of these let him cast an additional power at the end of the psychic phase once per game, and is also a model that forms a unit with the Patriarch. This is actually super handy, because if the Patriarch is out by themself and takes a lascannon hit, you can just shrug and assign it to a familiar, removing the risk of an instant-kill high-roll. Do remember that you have to choose to do this before you roll a save. Purchasing one familiar is pretty common, especially as one can be upgraded to the powerful Crouchling relic.

Finally, he adds +1 to hit rolls for <CULT> GENESTEALER units within 6″. Sadly, Purestrain Genestealers are totally irrelevant competitively, so this only accomplishes allowing him to ignore the first -1 he gets tagged with (if that comes up) and boosting any familiars up so they hit on twos.

Patriarchs are extremely good. Take one and consider whether you might want to take two, especially if you have large units from two different CULTs.

Magos

Magos

Genestealer Cults Magos. Credit: Corrode

The “classic” GSC psyker is a lot less impressive than the Patriarch and is actually fairly steeply priced for what they are (a one-cast psyker that can buy familiars to boost to two with naff combat stats). However, at least one still turns up in most lists. The only unique thing on their datasheet is that they grant all cult units within 6″ a deny in your opponent’s psychic phase – nice against some armies, but often not super impressive. Why do they show up so often then? Well, they’ve got a good few uses:

  • They’re one of the two characters that can pick up a trait from Broodcoven, and the only one that’s reliably planning to start on the board. That means that if you want to set up some combos with something like the Bladed Cog trait, they’re a good choice to bring in early alongside a Jackal Alphus.
  • They’re one of the better choices to bring in as a “lone” 4AE unit to get stratagem access in a mixed detachment. GSC powers aren’t CULT locked so they still contribute, and the 4AE trait is a nice one to stick on via Broodcoven.
  • They can activate Telepathic Summons for you, and you’re more willing to have them about on the board turn 1 to do so than you are a Patriarch.

Unlike a lot of stuff in this book the rate on these is pretty steep for what they do, but the flexibility having one around offers you turns out to be enough that they’re still worth it. Get one.

Primus

Cult Primus

Cult Primus. Credit: Corrode

The Primus is the third member of the Broodcoven and a much more focused tool – he has one job, and it’s popping up alongside whatever matching <CULT> units are about to alpha strike and making them do it a tonne better. You are 100% buying this guy for his auras and whatever relics or warlord traits you’ve decided to pack in with him (often just Alien Majesty to up his aura size), as he’s pretty terrible in a fight, being an extremely mediocre attacker and dying to a stiff breeze.

His auras are hot stuff though – first up he adds +1 to hit rolls for nearby <CULT> units. This is fantastic, as most of your best units are WS3+ at base, and can often get re-roll 1s by buying a banner, taking their accuracy as high as it will go once you add this in. If that wasn’t enough, when he sets up on the battlefield you can pick one enemy unit, and friendly <CULT> units within 6″ can also re-roll 1s to wound against it. Given that you’ll often be rolling in with S10 rocksaws that have +1 to wound via a stratagem, this combines with the first ability to mean that whatever gets hit first by the units this guy comes in with tends to just melt, with really only the toughest stuff in the entire game having even the slightest chance of living through it.

Given that this army relies on its big alpha strikes landing, that makes this guy fantastic, and you’ll see at least one in every list, often more than one if there are melee alpha units from more than one CULT. He also turns up in the Bladed Cog Neophyte spam build, often carrying the Single Minded Obsession trait, as his wound re-rolls aren’t melee only, so you can nominate one big target with Single Minded Obsession and another with his built-in ability, upping your efficiency against both.

Acolyte Iconward

Iconward

Iconward. Credit: Soggy

Another HQ choice and another must-have in almost every army. The Iconward has a fancy flag, which gives INFANTRY and BIKER models within 6″ a 6+++. That’s generically great, especially with bikers against D2 weapons and stacked with the 6++ from Bladed Cog on hordes of Neophytes. Aberrants instead get re-roll 1s on their existing FNP. His other ability is a bit of a miss – he grants re-rolls on morale tests to CULT units within 6″, but this almost never comes up – it’s extremely likely that units you care about are either in a Patriarch’s bubble or you’re burning auto-passes (one of the few design misses in this book is that there are a bunch of ways to grant fearless or morale boosts which are all irrelevant because the Patriarch brings it for free).

That’s all OK but not exactly lighting the world up, so why is this guy everywhere? The secret is that the things that make him good aren’t on the datasheet.

The first is the Icon of the Cult Ascendant relic, which makes his banner give an aura of +1S. That’s obviously excellent, as it takes your Acolytes up to S5 on their base attacks and 10 on their saws, allowing them to murder everything, and your Patriarch up to S7, which can combine with other stuff to get him over the crucial line of S8 in some games.

The second is that he’s the only character who can be part of a Deliverance Broodsurge, a specialist detachment the wants you to combine him with Acolyte Hybrids, which as you might have picked up by now is kind of what this army planned to do anyway. He can use Field Commander to take the Augur of the Insurgent warlord trait, which grants him a re-roll charge aura for other Deliverance Broodsurge units, including those crucial Acolytes.

One you look at him as having a re-roll charge and +S aura it’s extremely obvious why this guy is so popular. A huge proportion of lists include the Broodsurge, and this guy will almost always be in them. A 4AE detachment with this guy, Acolytes and a Primus is particularly common.

Jackal Alphus

We finally get to a unit that’s merely good in some builds, not ubiquitous. The Jackal Alphus is an awesome sniper on a dirt bike, and her rifle can threaten to plink some wounds off a character (or kill a weak one if you’re very lucky). That’s not what you’re buying her for though – she appears in lists because of her Priority Target Sighted ability. This lets her pick a visible target within 36″ at the start of the shooting phase, and give <CULT> units within 6″ (or 12″ for BIKERS) +1 to hit it.

This obviously isn’t for everyone, but is good in two places:

  • The Bladed Cog Neophyte spam build. I do not need to draw you a diagram of why adding +1 to hit on a bunch of lascannon shots is “quite good”.
  • In Rusted Claw bike bomb/spam builds. This requires a bit more finesse to use, but the size of her aura for BIKERs means that it’s often possible to string one model back into it when you’re planning to use the demo charge combo attack to try and take down a priority target. Buffing up to hitting on 2s here helps reduce the chance of a whiff.

She is a tried and tested success in these two loadouts, so if you’re running one of them include her, otherwise give her a miss.

Abominant

Abominant

Abominant. Credit: Soggy

Another entry on the “good in the right builds” list. He’s not all that on his base rate – he hits like an absolute truck when he connects, but only has three attacks hitting on 4s, which is extremely unreliable. He is pretty hefty – he has T5, 5W, reduces multi-damage attacks by 1D and has a 5+/5+++ (and also regenerates wounds) but like everything in this list will faceplant hard to a serious attempt to kill him.

Much like the Iconward, his sauce comes from elsewhere, and in his case it’s almost entirely the other GSC specialist detachment, the Anointed Throng. This only includes Abominants and Aberrants, so if you want the warlord trait you have to have him. Since the warlord trait is a +1″ charge aura for units in the specialist detachment, Abominants are really good and GSC need to make their charges (as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing by now), if you’re running Aberrants as your alpha strike option (or one of them) it’s often worth bringing this guy too (though it’s not as ubiquitous a choice as the Iconward – people run Aberrants without this guy). Once you’ve got him he can also trigger one of the stratagems in this detachment, giving a unit of Aberrants within 6″ of him re-roll 1s to wound, which is nice if you don’t have a Primus keyed to their target. You can also give him a relic weapon that makes him slightly better, but this is very much a nice-to-have.

The last few things to remember with him is that he has an aura of -1 to cast for enemies (which is nice, but you do need to remember it and tell your opponent) and that he, himself, has the Aberrant keyword, so if you need him to use his buff stratagem on himself (or double fight if he’s TWISTED HELIX) he can, though that’s very much a last resort as he usually won’t do enough with it to justify the cost.

Troops

Acolyte Hybrids

Acolyte Hybrids are one of the best units in this book and can probably make a credible claim to be one of the best Troops choices in the game. Before you buy them any upgrades at all they are extremely dangerous for their 7pt cost – they’re WS3+ and S4, and have two attacks each with rending claws (S user, -1AP or -4AP on 6+ to wound) and one with their cultist knife. They’re no tougher than the average Guardsman (unless you’re running Rusted Claw or Bladed Cog), but that’s a lot of killing power, and as GSC they can always burst from Deep Strike, and are often under the influence of powerful auras.

However, several upgrade options they have access to make them even better, and it’s these that push them into all-star status. First of all, as many models as you like can take a hand flamer for 1pt each. Well why is that so impressive, you ask? After all, they aren’t deep striking within the 6″ range for those. Are they?

Thanks to the Lying in Wait stratagem, which lets a unit appear within 3″ rather than 9″ in exchange for not being able to charge, it turns out they are, and a full squad of these with flamers can lay down a withering hail of chaff clearing shots, in a fashion that’s a complete nightmare for some armies to deal with (including being an excellent tool to have in the arsenal against other GSC armies). This strategy is referred to as the “flamer bomb”, and appears quite often in lists.

What if you just want to kill people in combat, though? Well, to start with you can (and should, if melee is your plan) buy them a Cult Icon for 10pts, letting them re-roll 1s to hit. Combining this with a Primus takes them to 2s re-rolling 1s to hit, helping their massive wave of attacks land. But are rending claws really enough? There seem to be some weapon upgrades available – maybe we could buy some of those.

Two models per five can take a demo charge or one of three industrial melee weapons. Of the latter, the heavy rock saw is the only game in town, being both the most reliable and, for some reason, the cheapest by a reasonable margin. It’s Sx2, AP-4 D2, which is a horrific profile, especially when you remember that these will often be at S5 thanks to an Iconward Banner. Finally, if you’ve made their detachment a Deliverance Broodsurge and they charged this turn, and you’re really worried that they aren’t quite going to get there, you can spend 1CP at the start of the fight phase to give them +1 to wound.

It cannot be overstated enough how absurdly reliable and deadly these are against pretty much anything other than 3++ or better invulns. In a full squad of 20 you can take up to 8 rocksaws, but most people don’t bother going beyond about six simply because there’s just nothing that will still be alive after they (plus all the rending claws from the rest) swing – with a banner and the strat the saws will be hitting on 2s re-rolling 1s and wounding on 2s against anything, so six of them carve about 18-20 wounds out of a Knight on average, leaving it easily low enough that you’ll finish it off with AP-4 claw hits (which proc on 5+ once the strat is up). Because these are spread out over a tonne of volume they’re great for clearing hordes out too – you can comfortably delete 30 Boyz using the same set of buffs.

Because of the high model count and big boosts you can get to their charges, they’re also excellent at wrapping enemies and locking them in combat. This is the best way to boost their survivability and keep them in the game for more than one turn, and because of their deadliness there’s almost no chance of your opponent turning the tables on you and keeping them in combat for your next turn. If you’re playing against these, remember they’re on 32mm bases and try and avoid leaving a gap that big in your lines so they can’t get round to wrap you so easily.

Acolyte Hybrids  are phenomenal, and almost every list will have some. They’re best as either 4AE (to increase their chance of landing a charge) or Twisted Helix (so they’re S5 without needing to faff with buffs) but are seen in other forms too. If you want to play GSC competitively, get lots.

Neophyte Hybrids

Neophyte Hybrids

Genestealer Cults Neophyte Hybrids. Credit: Corrode

Neophytes didn’t get the attention that Acolytes did initially, but as we already covered, a Bladed Cog build has emerged over time that makes them do work. While they’re 10pts more per unit at baseline than Brood Brothers, their ability to take multiple heavy weapons in the squad and benefit from <CULT> tagged abilities (notably the Jackal Alphus’s hit boost, the Iconward banner and the Bladed Cog Warlord Trait) has turned out to make spamming these with mining lasers and webbers (the latter because at 1 point why the heck not) really good. They can either pop up on the board turn one and blast something away with all their lasers if the opponent has deployed too close, or come in in a big bubble later on and take advantage of the fact that they ignore hit penalties for moving to achieve much the same thing. Bladed Cog’s 6++ combined with the icon also gives them a lot more staying power than Brood Brothers in a meta now full of AP-2 anti-horde.

This isn’t especially complicated, but results show that it’s extremely effective, and because it relies less on waves of consecutive deep strikes than the builds that took advantage of pre-nerf They Came From Below, expect to see it a lot more.

Outside Bladed Cog there isn’t a massive argument for taking these over Brood Brothers. They used to be pretty good in Rusted Claw, as the creed gave them a 4+ against anti-horde weapons a lot of the time, but Marine doctrines make that much less likely to work – you now want the 6++ Bladed Cog gives you more.

Brood Brother Infantry Squads

Brood Brothers

Brood Brothers. Credit: ThatGobbo

40pt Guard infantry squads have been good all edition, and while they aren’t quite as powerful in GSC as Guard thanks to not being able to be ordered, they’re still a fine way to flood the board with cheap bodies and fill out detachments. GSC have a tonne of good stratagems and thus thirst ceaselessly for CP, and also want to include a lot of characters, so being able to populate the Troops choices with three squads of these is a powerful and commonly used list building tool. An especially notable way people do this is, if they want a lone character from a <CULT> other than their main one, build a battalion with their main <CULT> Patriarch (who can’t get creed abilities anyway), the random character they want, and three squads of these, giving a setup that lets you bring in a differently keyworded character at very little cost while also getting CP and more bodies.

There’s not much more to say about these – outside of Bladed Cog they’re basically the “default” detachment filling troops choice for any mandatory slot that isn’t full of Acolytes, and a fixture of the vast majority of top lists.

Elites

Hybrid Metamorphs

These don’t really see that much play in their own right. When equipped with two metamorph talons, these are technically one of the most point efficient anti-horde choices in the book. This doesn’t really come up much though – Acolyte Hybrids may be slightly less efficient on a per model basis at clearing hordes, but the squads you are taking of them are still deadly enough to kerb stomp most opposed horde units. They also fill a troop slot, whereas these are elites.

Where it’s worth remembering that these exist is for Telepathic Summons (GSC’s summon strat, which we’ll cover later). You often want to hold about 60pts for it, and 60pts on these will get you five with dual metamorph talons and hand flamers. If you’re up against a horde, especially one with invulnerable saves (e.g. Bloodletters) where the AP of Acolytes doesn’t matter this squad is potentially your best summoning choice.

Otherwise, give them a miss.

Aberrants

Aberrants

Aberrants. Credit: Soggy

Aberrants are the other big melee nasty that people use after Acolytes. Not everyone uses them, and not everyone agrees on whether they’re worth it over just “more Acolytes”, but lists including them have taken people to top finishes and they’re a popular choice that’s worth talking about.

Much like Acolytes, these things will absolutely blender anything they hit. These come in squads of 5-10, each being equipped with power picks (the correct option) or heavy power hammers (the incorrect option). For each five models you can and should upgrade one to a Hypermorph, who can take a hammer or a heavy improvised weapon (the correct choice here) and a hypermorph tail. They’re tougher than most other things in the army, being T4, 2W, 5+/5+++, and reducing the damage of all multi-damage weapons that wound them by one, meaning they don’t just melt away if targeted by heavy burst cannons and the like. They will still go down to concentrated fire though – don’t expect these to tank if it you let aggressors unload on them.

Thoss are their defences, what about the offence? We’ve got 4-8 models with power picks and two with street signs. What do they do?

The power pick is S user (they are S5 base), AP-2 Dd3, which is pretty nice at baseline, but the really sweet part is that for each attack a model makes with them they get to make a rending claw attack as well. These only have two attacks base, so this helps a lot with letting them fight against enemy hordes. The heavy improvised weapon is also great for this – it’s Sx2, AP-1 D2 and straight up lets you make two hit rolls per attack, which is great with the A3 the Hypermorph has. Put together, these can comfortably crush most things you roll them into, and much like the rest of the army, there are plenty of ways you can boost them.

Given that all the equipment you’re taking effectively doubles their attack stats, they’re especially great targets for Might from Beyond, and can also be boosted up by an Abominant if you’ve put them in an Anointed Throng. The other big thing they can do that Acolytes can’t is (if they’re Twisted Helix, which they often are for this reason) fight twice, allowing them to either finish off a big target that they didn’t kill on the first swing or hit another thing if they multi-charged.

What Aberrants having going for them over Acolytes is that, while they die to concentrated firepower, a stiff breeze won’t eliminate them. If you’re confident that they’re going to hit a part of the board hard and leave your opponent reeling they can be fantastic, as it takes a bit more than just lasgun fire to start worrying them. However, there is a tradeoff for this – they’re slightly less appallingly deadly when deployed in representative full sized squads, and don’t have the sheer consistency of a fully buffed-up Acolyte unit (they can’t take a banner). I’ve never been 100% convinced of their value over Acolytes but that’s probably a facet of the army I primarily play – they can struggle against highly mobile forces like Eldar that can re-deploy tools to take these out even if you land them in a weak-spot, and you’d probably just rather have more Acolytes loaded and ready to go, whereas against slower or more constrained armies these will threaten to just steamroller through a line once they get going. It’s a mark of the sheer power and depth of this book that there isn’t even a full consensus about this among top players – some swear by these, some leave them at home.

At that point, you should honestly just try them out – if you find them working for you then probably look for builds with them, if not, try swinging back to more Acolytes.

Clamavus

Clamavus

Clamavus. Credit: Soggy

One loud boi.

The Clamavus is a cheap, squishy character whose main purpose is his buff aura, which gives +1Ld and +1″ to advances and charges for <CULT> units within 6″. He also stops enemies deep striking within 12″ of him, and does a MW to enemy units within 6″ on a roll of a 6 at the start of your shooting phase. Basically though, what this guy brings is the +1″ charge aura.

Turns out that adding that extra reliability to your key charge turn is worth it, and this guy shows up in most lists. Stacking him as 4AE with a Broodsurge to give 7″ re-rollable charges out of deep strike is a particularly popular choice.

Basically, he’s very one dimensional, but worth including. The main decision you need to make is which turn to throw him down – make sure it’s either your key turn where everything has to go right or you’re very confident of wrapping and trapping a unit so he’s still around the next turn.

Sanctus

Sanctus

Sanctus. Credit: Soggy

The Sanctus is a lethal sniper against psykers, and relatively “meh” against everything else. Technically he has a melee build, but yeah don’t buy that, we’re here for the sniping.

His rifle is Heavy 1, S4, AP-1 Dd3, can target characters and does a MW on a 6+ to wound. So far so average (and vastly less good than an Eliminator) but against psykers he shoots up in value – if they take any damage from him (including the mortal wound) they take an immediate Perils of the Warp. He can be further improved with a relic sniper which gives him +2 to wound rolls, making that MW (and thus the perils) go off on a 4+.

That’s outrageously good against most psykers, as a lot of them have four or less wounds, and are thus at risk of dying to a single lucky shot then blowing up and dragging their nearby friends into the warp. He can also often “double tap” on the first turn. When you use the A Perfect Ambush stratagem on him (which can allow a model coming out of ambush or deep strike to immediately shoot) it costs 0CP and in your first movement phase you often have no other use for this, so may as well use it to get an extra shot from him. It’s even funnier if your opponent has the first turn – did that bike Warlock move anywhere within 36″ and LOS of one of your ambush markers? Then when your ambushers are revealed, it’s the warp for him.

Finally, he ignores cover – a nice to have against things like Librarians which might otherwise shrug off his shots once concealed.

Against psyker heavy armies this guy is an absolute weapon, and he only runs you 60 points, meaning that many people include him in their lists so he can be given the Gift from Beyond relic rifle if needed, or squat on a backline objective taking pot shots when not. He’s also another good choice for summoning with 60pts (and can use the Perfect Ambush immediately then too, because what else are you using it on in the psychic phase?

Kelermorph

Kelermorph

Kelermorph. Credit: John Q Brown

Speaking of “nasty things to summon for 60pts” we have the Kelermorph. This guy is something of an oddity in that he’s a close ranged sniper, only having 12″ range on his pistols but being able to do very nasty things with them. Each pistol has 2 shots (for a total of 6), he can target characters with them and for each hit he gets he can immediately make an additional attack (giving him an average of about 9 hits). The shots are S4 -1 D2, so that onslaught credibly threatens a lot of things, and will blow (for example) a Farseer off the board in a single volley. If you’re up against slightly tougher game you can upgrade one of his pistols to the Oppressor’s Bane relic, which gets an extra shot, an extra point of AP and re-rolls wounds against characters. That takes him over the line of threatening to pop even Space Marine characters in a single volley, and is a real headache for opponents to plan around. Because he’s got a high rate of fire, he’s also just fine at popping infantry, and at his price you don’t need to kill many Primaris Marines to make his points back.If he kills any models, he also gives re-roll 1s to hit for the rest of the phase to nearby friendly <CULT> models, which is usually fairly marginal as benefits go but can occasionally be set up to give a lot of value, especially combined with Rusted Claw bikes or Bladed Cog Neophytes

You do need to make sure they kill something worthwhile on the way in, as they’re extremely squishy and will die very fast when attacked.

Kelermorphs are prolific users of the Lying in Wait stratagem, and the need to screen for a potential 3″ deep strike against a single-model unit that can pop a vital character can give enemy armies absolute fits, the mere threat of this forcing them to move way more slowly than they’d like. Alternatively, if your opponent doesn’t think carefully enough about the prospect, bringing one of these in with Telepathic Summons on turn one can pop a character they forgot to screen properly (although be aware you can’t combine this with Lying in Wait, as that has been errated to specifically only work with units deploying from the underground).

You’ll basically never hate having one of these either in your army or your summon pile (or both), so get yourself one if at all possible (they’ve bizarrely still only ever been released in the now out-of-print Starn’s Disciples kill team box, but luckily the other models in that are more Acolyte Hybrids, so you won’t hate picking one up if you can find it).

Nexos

The Nexos is a cheap character who gives you the ability to move an ambush marker (as discussed earlier) and CP regen – on a 6+ at baseline for both your and your opponent’s CP, improving to 5+ on yours if you also have a Primus on the board and 5+ on your opponent’s if you also have a Clamavus down. Given that GSC throw CP around like confetti, he’s usually going to be worth a good 3-4 over the game, and the marker move isn’t irrelevant, so this is a fine but non-mandatory way to spend 50pts. He’s very common if you are filling out a Brigade, and is another popular option for a lone 4AE character in a mixed detachment, being put down to sit on a back-line objective all game threatening to activate the strat.

The model is also exceedingly cool which, you know, since he is also at least fine competitively might be a strong motivator for some.

The Rest

  • Purestrain Genestealers: Because of how absurdly deadly either Aberrants or Acolytes are there’s just no role for these. They’re expensive, less good than either of those against big targets and at best on par against small targets.
  • Locus: A weird character bodyguard/assassin with a bunch of strange abilities. Doesn’t come together into a package that’s worth including in your army.
  • Biophagus: The only thing this guy does is help Aberrants. They don’t really need the help, and definitely don’t need it enough to spend points to drop a free kill point near your opponent’s army. If you could guarantee they got the Toughness boost every time he might see play.

Fast Attack

Atalan Jackals

Atalan Jackals are a very good unit for two reasons. Firstly, they’re absurdly durable for their cost, having T4, 2W each and inbuilt -1 to hit, and come in at 10PPM on the stock build (shotgun and cultist knife). Combining that with how good the 6+++ from an Iconward is on 2W models and the ability to bring a 4W wolfquad along per four other models (for only 17pts with its cheapest gun) gives you an extremely fast unit that can fill a tonne of space while being an absolute nightmare to take out proportionate to how cheap it is – a min/maxed squad of these slaps 36 wounds onto the board for only 171pts. Because of how fast they are and how much ground they cover, they’re great for harassing the enemy with bully charges and making a general nuisance of themselves. Small squads are also good objective grabbers. Big squads like this this as Rusted Claw for additional saves and mobility has seen a reasonable amount of play. Like almost all other uses of the Rusted Claw trait, it does need the caveat that new Marines make it substantially less good.

The other thing these are good for is (again as Rusted Claw) blowing stuff apart with the grenade combo. We already covered this in the cults section, but it’s the real deal. Delivered either by zooming in at an opportune moment or via Lying in Wait it can just delete your opponent’s key stuff in a very cost efficient manner. This is much more common than the full spam builds, with a lot of armies featuring 5-7 model squads of these laden with demo charges and ready to rock in and do some damage.

A small squad is also a pretty decent thing to summon onto an objective with Telepathic Summons, as the standard 60 reserve points gets you four and a wolfquad, which is going to be way harder to shift off a point than most other things you could choose and has the mobility to redeploy if needed.

Atalan Jackals are a great unit that’s worth having, just do be aware that the meta is suddenly a little bit hostile to them – Marines are effective at killing them, and their best gimmick (popping up and blowing  something to bits) doesn’t really work on the wicked Iron Hands. Against everyone else they are still very valuable, and even in inclement matchups cost-efficient objective grabbers are never going to be terrible.

The Rest

  • Achilles Ridgerunners: Incredibly cool but tragically just not what this army wants to do. Fun in a gimmick Hivecult build, but the “real” way to throw down lascannon-equivalent shots is Bladed Cog neophyte spam.
  • Cult Armoured Sentinels: You are not even slightly interested in these.
  • Cult Scout Sentinels: Or these.

Heavy Support

Rockgrinder

Rockgrinder. Credit: Wings

Brood Brothers Heavy Weapon Squad

Cult have the units in every other slot to put together some very cost efficient Brigades, and these are both the best and cheapest Heavy Support option in the book (wielding mortars, the only competitive choice). While they’re more expensive and worse (lacking anything like Cadian re-rolls) than their Guard equivalents, adding a smattering of indirect anti-chaff is always fine, especially playing with ITC terrain rules. You mostly only take these if you need to fill the slot, but they’re perfectly serviceable in that role.

The Rest

  • Cult Russ: Awful here – adds a target for your opponent’s anti-tank without even the efficiency of being a Tank Commander.
  • Goliath Rockgrinder: Sadly doesn’t get there – not terrible on rate but just not needed in the army and suffers the same problem of giving your opponent a “class” of target that they wouldn’t otherwise have. At least the drilldozer is hilarious as-of the codex, slamming these in during casual games can be a lot of fun.

Dedicated Transport

No actual units you want to take here, so straight on to “The Rest”.

    • Cult Chimera: This army kind of doesn’t really need transports, so these don’t usually get a look in. Saying that, Chimera spam Guard builds do occasionally do OK in Euro events, so if you told me that someone had come up with a galaxy brain build using these I’d probably at least check whether you were lying before dismissing it out of hand.
    • Goliath Truck: While it has a much wider array of possible passengers than the Chimera, you’d basically never rather buy these than just more infantry. This is a shame, because I for one want to live in a world where the Patriarch is driven around in his truck hurling demo charges out of the back in all directions for the great glory of the Hive Mind. The Broodsurge gives you a disembark after move stratagem for these, but you can’t do it within 9″ of the enemy, rendering it largely pointless.

Fortifications

  • Tectonic Fragdrill: No.

Stratagems, Traits and Relics

Nearly there, stay with me. With all the units covered, the last thing remaining before we get to some lists is to blaze through the “generic” stratagems, relics and warlord traits. We’ve already covered a lot of these in the body of the text, so where we’ve fully explored them already we’re just going to reference back.

Stratagems

Bear in mind while looking at these that the “default” GSC loadout has at least two battalions and usually three – you’re going to have a lot of points to spend!

General

  • Clandestine Goals – 1CP: In a Maelstrom game, you can keep your cards hidden. If you’re playing Maelstrom and aren’t already playing a mission where they’re hidden for everyone, this is almost certainly worth spending a point on. B
  • Lurk in the Shadows – 2CP: At the start of your opponent’s shooting phase, pick an INFANTRY unit that’s entirely on or within a terrain feature. Your opponent can only target them with shooting when they’re the closest visible unit. Generally not super easy to set up, and the army doesn’t tend to have a single high-value long ranged infantry unit which is the kind of thing that would super benefit this. Worth remembering that you have it, but generally doesn’t come up. C
  • They Came From Below… – 1CP: Already discussed – lets you pull three units from Ambush into deep strike. Even after all its nerfs, still something you will use almost every game for many lists. A
  • Broodcoven – 1CP: Already discussed – adds warlord traits to a Magus and Primus if a Patriarch is your warlord. Extremely good, used in almost every game. A
  • Devoted Crew – 1CP: A vehicle acts on full for a turn. GSC have no vehicles you want to use, and the ones you have are ultra squish, so generally irrelevant. Revisit if Forge World ever put out a culted up Bagger 288 as a LOW choice. (and if you’re the particular generation of extremely online that means the song is now stuck in your head, I’m not sorry).
  • Monstrous Vigour – 2CP: Use at the start of your turn. Add 1 to FNPs for an Aberrant unit until your next turn. Sadly the timing on this makes it a miss – the Aberrants won’t be on the board to target at the start of the turn you bring them in, and your opponent is, shall we say, highly motivated to kill them straight away. if you manage to roll them straight into a wrap-and-trap this gets a lot better on subsequent turns, and can be worth it if they’re a clear priority target. C+
  • Meticulous Uprising – 1CP: Already discussed – move three Ambush Markers. Useful, but not something you want to burn every game. B-
  • Hyper-Metabolism – 1CP: Use at the start of your movement phase to heal a character for D3. Your characters are fragile enough that they’re usually in a binary state of “alive” or “extremely dead”. Occasionally fringe relevant if you’ve taken a perils on a Magus, or a Patriarch has clung to live, but not usually worth it.
  • Rigged to Blow – 1CP: Use when a vehicle dies to auto-explode. You aren’t taking any vehicles (and this doesn’t apply to Brood Brother detachments). It would be good with Rockgrinders if they were any good, so if they go to absurdly low costs in CA or something, remember this.  D
  • The First Curse – 1CP: Give a unit of Purestrain Genestealers a random buff. This is an abysmal stratagem – quite apart from purestrains not being good, one of the “buffs” makes them lose advance and charge in exchange for +1 to their base save. Awful, never use this even if you have purestrainsF
  • Cult Reinforcements – 1CP: Return up to D6 slain models to a Troops unit at the start of your movement phase. This is a really nice trick to have up your sleeve – because  your stuff is fearless so much of the time, if a single model lives you can use this to bring back a bunch of special weapon wielders. B
  • Detonate Concealed Explosives – 2CP: At the start of your shooting phase, as long as you have at least one GENESTEALER CULTS unit on the battlefield, pick an enemy unit and roll a D6, adding one if it has 10+ models and subtracting one if it’s a character. On a 4+ deal it d3 MWs, on a 7+ d6. Very pricey for what it does and not usually worth it, but can occasionally come up if your opponent is hiding a single surviving infantry model on an objective or something. C
  • Scanner Decoys – 1CP: Put down up to three extra ambush markers. Not usually worth it in pure GSC, but gets a lot more value if you’re souping with Tyranids, bumping up the number of “spare” markers you can put down in matchups where you want them to screen. C in pure, B in soup.
  • A Perfect Ambush – 3CP: Immediately after a unit with Cult Ambush arrives on the battlefield, it can either shoot or move d6″. This is one of the most important stratagems in the book, as it turns bringing in your top-end deep strike bombs from a somewhat risky business to (very nearly) a sure thing, especially combined with the re-rolls and boost you can get from the rest of the book. It isn’t cheap, but this is your bread and butter, and you will use it on your key alpha turn most games. It’s also good on turn one if you bring in a Sanctus from ambush, or summon in a Kelermorph. A
  • Telepathic Summons – 2CP: Gets its own section – see below.
  • Return to the Shadows – 1CP: At the end of your movement phase, an INFANTRY or BIKER unit more than 3″ away from the enemy can go back into deep strike (it can’t be one that arrived this turn). It then has to deep strike the next turn. This can be very powerful if your opponent has spread out and your alpha units have finished off whatever was in front of them and need to re-deploy, or you wrapped and trapped on your last turn, killed whatever you wrapped in their turn, and now don’t have a good charge. It might also, post the changes to They Came from Below, see use to “emulate”. If you were hoping to keep a unit back to T4 and have a good LOS blocker or magic box in a “safe” part of the board, you could plausibly bring your unit down behind that on T2, then go back into Deep Strike with this on T3, ready to attack on T4. It’s also funny to “reload” a Sanctus if he has no good targets, remembering that he can Perfect Ambush for free when he turns back up the next turn. B
  • Lying in Wait – 2CP: Already discussed – bring a unit in within 3″, but it can’t charge. Fantastic with Kelermorphs, flamer bombs and bike bombs. Do watch out though – if you declare this and it gets Vected, you still have to put the unit down normally, which can seriously cramp your plans. Either save 4AE to deal with that or make sure you have a backup plan when you use it.
  • Extra Explosives – 1CP: Already discussed – up to 10 models in a unit can throw any grenades, and five can throw demo charges. The reason the bike bomb works, and also not irrelevant just to allow a big unit of acolytes to chuck frag grenades in a pinch. A
  • Grandsire’s Gifts – 1/3CP: Extra relics. You have good ones. Use this. A

Telepathic Summons

Telepathic summons is a very powerful summoning strat. For 2CP, in exchange for one of your psykers not casting for a turn, it allows you to summon a unit of up to 3d6 PL. They can appear anywhere on the board that is >9″ away from the enemy, and have the same <CULT> tag as the psyker that summoned them.

This is very spicy because for the low, low price of 60pts it turns out there’s a tonne of relevant stuff you can summon in:

  • Sanctus
  • Kelermorph
  • 10 Neophytes with 2 Heavy Stubbers and 2 Grenade launchers
  • 4 Jackals and a Wolfquad with Heavy Stubber OR 4 Jackals with demo charges
  • 5 Metamorphs with double Metamorph Talons OR 6 Metamorphs with whips and hand flamers

That’s quite a spread of utility options for 60pts and a low investment, and it adds the critical threat of a summoned Kelermorph turning up on turn 1, which your opponent really has to respect.

Not every list makes use of this option, but it is seriously worth thinking about as long as you have a Magus or Patriarch you’re planning to put down on the board turn 1. Do watch out for snipers if you go second though – losing your ability to do this before you’ve activated it will really suck!

The other thing to be aware of is, common to all summoned units, your new models aren’t part of a detachment, so won’t have any detachment abilities, which includes cult creeds and obsec for Troops. Don’t accidentally cheat!

Specialist Detachment

  • Deliverance Broodsurge:
    • The First to Draw Blood – 1CP: Already discussed. +1 to wound for a Broodsurge unit. Incredible. A.
    • Reckless Manoeuvre – 1CP: Lets you disembark after moving, at a risk of taking mortal wounds and >9″ away from the enemy. Far too many restrictions to make taking a transport worth it. D
  • Annointed Throng:
    • Devotion Till Death – 2CP: At the start of the fight phase, pick an Aberrant unit. If they die, they get to pile in and fight before they do. Great if your opponent has some sort of bigger fish that actually threatens these in melee, or you get hit by the Vexator Mask or something. B
    • Fight for the Annointed One! – 1CP: An Abominant can grant re-roll 1s to wound to an Aberrant unit. Fine. B

Warlord Traits

Patriarch

Genestealer Cults Patriarch. Credit: Corrode

  • Focus of Adoration: <CULT> Infantry or Biker units within 6″ can heroic. Potentially a very nasty surprise, and can give a lot of mobility to move your units around at a surprising time. Doesn’t see a tonne of use though. C+
  • Shadow Stalker: -1 to hit your warlord. If your warlord is being directly attacked, this isn’t likely to help enough. C
  • Biomorph Adaptation: +1S, +1A. Great on a Patriarch. B+
  • Born Survivor: Reduce multi-damage attacks on your warlord by 1. In a bucket with Shadow Stalker – won’t help enough if your opponent has lined up a shot. C
  • Alien Majesty: +3″ aura radius. Deceptively great, and a very common pick on a Patriarch or Primus. A
  • Preternatural Speed: Always fights first. Always a bad ability unless it’s near army- wide, because your opponent’s first charger still gets to go. D
  • Deliverance Broodsurge – Augur of the Insurgent: Already discussed. Re-roll charges in a 6″ aura for Broodsurge units. Top tier. A
  • Anointed Throng – Insidious Mindwyrm:  +1 charges for Anointed Throng units in a 6″ aura. Not quite as good as the above, but still good enough that if you can take it you always should. B+

Alien Majesty is a big winner of the “generic” ones, with Biomorph Adaptation also being a good choice. Beyond that, you’re generally better looking at the cult-specific ones, especially Bladed Cog, Twisted Helix and 4AE.

Relics

Acolyte Iconward

Genetealer Cults Acolyte Iconward. Credit: Corrode

  • Icon of the Cult Ascendant: +1S banner. Yes. This. A+
  • Sword of the Void’s Eye: A turbo-powered Bonesword that’s S+2, AP-2, d3 damage and re-rolls hits and wounds. Actually makes a Primus a threat, but you still won’t take it most of the time because you’re not buying them for their combat prowess. Can be fun in smaller games where you want every unit to do as much as it can. C+
  • Amulet of the Voidwyrm: +1 to saves against ranged weapons (including invulns) and ignore overwatch. Overwatch suppression is obviously great in this army, and this is a very common pick. B+
  • Scourge of Distant Stars: Add one to your hit rolls, and deal enemies that attack you in melee a MW on an unmodified 1 to hit. Weird. Bad. D
  • Oppressors Bane: Already discussed. Souped up Kelermorph gun. Not usually at the front of the queue, but can be fine. B
  • Dagger of Swift Sacrifice: Relic Cultist Knife of Sanctus Dagger that stabmurders characters real good. This has a lot of words on it and is even quite powerful in the abstract, but the three things that can wield it are a melee Sanctus (which you aren’t taking), a kelermorph (who you don’t want in melee and would buy the fun first) or a Magus (who you really don’t want in melee). Because of that, it’s bad. D
Familiars

Genestealer Cults Familiars. Credit: Corrode

  • The Crouchling: A relic familiar for a Patriarch or Magus (side note – is this the only relic that can actually be killed?). Acts as a normal familiar, and lets the owner know an additional power and adds +1 to all their casts. This is really good – I, an Eldar player, would commit a not inconsiderable number of crimes to be allowed to give my Farseer one of these. Generally taken on a Patriarch to help with landing key psychic powers on an alpha turn, and very good there. A
  • The Gift from Beyond: Already discussed – relic sniper rifle for a Sanctus or Jackal Alphus that adds +2 to wound against non-VEHICLE targets. Extremely brutal on a Sanctus if your opponent has psykers. Not really worth it on a Jackal. when it’s good, otherwise
  • Deliverance Broodsurge – Vial of the Grandsire’s Blood: Lets you give a single model +2S and +2A for a turn once per game. In Twisted Helix this does actually let you load up a Patriarch that has a shot at taking out a Knight in a turn, but in general because the only think you can take this on is an Iconward, you rarely pick it over the banner. C
  • Anointed Throng – Really Big Blessed Sledgehammer: A relic hammer for the Abominant without the -1 to hit and a bonus point of Ap. Fine, but you aren’t taking it over the real goods. C+

GSC get more than enough to work with here. The Icon turns up in most lists, with a second relic usually being from among the Amulet, Gift or Crouching depending on the exact list and matchup, with the Oppressor’s Bane also occasionally appearing. Unlike the Warlord Traits, this is where the goodies are, and people mostly take the generics over the cult-specific ones.

Army Lists

Now that we’ve seen all the tools available to GSC, we’ll close with a look at how top players bring these together into lists, of which we’re going to cover three. A particular thanks this week to 40kstats.com for the hard work they do curating top army lists – there’s just so much stuff in this book that without being able to cross check “is anyone actually running this” I might have been here forever!

James MacKenzie’s “Traditional” GSC

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Tyranids - Genestealer Cults) [59 PL, 1,084pts, -1CP] ++
Cult Creed: Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor
Specialist Detachment: Deliverance Broodsurge [-1CP]


+ HQ +
Acolyte Iconward [3 PL, 53pts]

Primus [4 PL, 75pts]: Bonesword

 

+ Troops +
Acolyte Hybrids [9 PL, 175pts]: Cult Icon
. 8x Acolyte Hybrid
. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Leader: Autopistol, Cultist Knife


Acolyte Hybrids [9 PL, 175pts]: Cult Icon
. 8x Acolyte Hybrid
. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Heavy Rock Saw

. Acolyte Leader: Autopistol, Cultist Knife


Acolyte Hybrids [11 PL, 179pts]: Cult Icon
. 17x Acolyte Hybrid (Hand Flamer): 17x Hand Flamer
. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Autopistol, Demolition Charge
. Acolyte Hybrid (Heavy Weapon): Demolition Charge, Hand Flamer

. Acolyte Leader: Cultist Knife, Hand Flamer


+ Elites +

Aberrants [14 PL, 252pts]
. 8x Aberrant (Pick): 8x Power Pick
. 2x Aberrant Hypermorph (Improvised): 2x Heavy Improvised Weapon
Clamavus [3 PL, 55pts]
Kelermorph [3 PL, 60pts]
Sanctus [3 PL, 60pts]: Silencer Sniper Rifle


++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Tyranids - Genestealer Cults) [26 PL, 400pts] ++
Cult Creed: None (Mixed Detachment)


+ HQ +
Magus [4 PL, 80pts] 4AE
Patriarch [7 PL, 125pts]: Warlord 4AE

 

+ Troops +
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: Brood Brothers Leader . 9x Brood Brother
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: Brood Brothers Leader . 9x Brood Brother
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: Brood Brothers Leader . 9x Brood Brother

 

+ Fast Attack +
Atalan Jackals [6 PL, 75pts] Rusted Claw
. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun

. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun

. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun

. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun

. Atalan Leader: Demolition Charge, Shotgun


++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Imperium - Astra Militarum) [35 PL, 516pts] ++ 

Regimental Doctrine: Brood Brothers


+ HQ +
Company Commander [2 PL, 30pts]: Chainsword, Shotgun

Primaris Psyker [2 PL, 46pts]: Force Stave


+ Troops +
Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts] . 9x Guardsman
. Sergeant: Laspistol
Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts] . 9x Guardsman
. Sergeant: Laspistol
Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts] . 9x Guardsman
. Sergeant: Laspistol


+ Flyer +
Vulture Gunship [11 PL, 160pts]
. Vulture Gunship: Heavy bolter, Twin Punisher Gatling Cannons
Vulture Gunship [11 PL, 160pts]
. Vulture Gunship: Heavy bolter, Twin Punisher Gatling Cannons


++ Total: [120 PL, 2,000pts, -1CP] ++

James has been tearing up the UK tournament scene this year with his cult army, and this is his winning list from the Imps Emperor GT. The main 4AE Broodsurge detachment here is an excellent showcase of all the stuff you expect to see coming together in successful lists – he’s got two rocksaw Acolyte squads, the flamer bomb and a full Aberrant squad, backed up by some of the best characters. The second detachment shows off the kind of sneaky list building that GSC often use – neither the Magus nor Patriarch really care about getting the 4AE cult bonus, so they can sit in here along with some Brood Brothers and a Rusted Claw bike bomb.

Finally, we have James’s special sauce (which as far as I’m aware he popularised) which is a Brood Brother detachment packing Vulture Gunships. Having access to these is fantastic in the mirror as only the bike bomb really threatens them and they can can control drop zones. They’re also fine against other horde armies, but do have the mild tradeoff of being easy prey for Eldar.

This list basically showcases all of the “standard” cult tools brought together into a powerful whole, and if you want to be able to beat cult you need to be able to look at this list and have a plan for how to defeat it.

Nick Rose’s Bladed Cog Neophyte Spam

Genestealer Cults Battalion (Mixed)
​
HQ
Magus (4 Armed Emperor)
Patriarch (4 Armed Emperor)
​
Elites
Kelermorph (Bladed Cog)
Nexos (Twisted Helix)
​
Troops
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad: x10
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad: x10
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad: x10
​
Genestealer Cults Battalion (Bladed Cog: Deliverance Broodsurge)
​
HQ
Acolyte Iconward
Jackal Alphus
​
Elites
Kelermorph
​
Troops
Acolyte Hybrids: 20x Hand Flamers
Neophyte Hybrids: 6x Autogun, 2x Mining Laser, 2x Webber
Neophyte Hybrids: 6x Autogun, 2x Mining Laser, 2x Webber
Neophyte Hybrids: 6x Autogun, 2x Mining Laser, 2x Webber
Neophyte Hybrids: 6x Autogun, 2x Mining Laser, 2x Webber
Neophyte Hybrids: 6x Autogun, 2x Mining Laser, 2x Webber
​
Genestealer Cults Battalion (Twisted Helix)
​
HQ
Patriarch
Primus
​
Elites
Clamavus
Aberrants: 8x Power Pick, 2x Heavy Improvised Weapon
Hybrid Metamorphs: 9x Hand Flamers, 9x Whips/Rending Claws, Cult Icon
Hybrid Metamorphs: 9x Hand Flamers, 9x Whips/Rending Claws, Cult Icon
​
Troops
Acolyte Hybrids: 5x Autopistol
Acolyte Hybrids: 5x Autopistol
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad: x10

Yes that is two squads of Hybrid Metamorphs there so apparently when I said they didn’t see main list play I was wrong. I assume they’re a counterpick for other GSC armies and Orks – the metamorph whips let them fight even if they’re killed before their unit activates, and running into them as a screen is about the worst nightmare of an Acolyte Hybrid squad and will at least dent a Boyz squad. That makes them a great screen for all the Neophytes in relevant matchups.

This book is a lot OK?

Anyway other than that, this list shows off the Bladed Cog mining laser spam we’ve already talked about. Because it’s got that to take down armoured targets, it can afford to eschew any Rocksaw Acolyte units, packing a flamer bomb of them and an Aberrant squad as a wrecking ball melee choice. It’s also got two Patriarchs, the Twisted Helix one of which can be loaded up as a Knight killer in a pinch.

This list presents a somewhat different threat profile to the “traditional” list – rather than keeping the opponent on the backfoot with relentless waves of pressure it puts something on the board that the opponent actually has to come deal with (the Neophytes) and then has a tonne of ways to punish them if they make any mistakes. If the opponent doesn’t want to come play, it still has enough of an offence to press the issue via the Aberrants and Patriarchs.

Frankie Giampapa’s Bike Spam

Army List - Click to expand

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Genestealer Gult) [ 63pl, 939pts ]

Rusted Claw:

+HQ+

Jackal Alphus [4pl, 70pts ] Jackal sniper rifle, autopistol, and blasting charges
Patriarch [8pl, 137pts ] Warlord, Mounstrous rending claws, 1x The Crouchling

+Troop+

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x9, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x9, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x9, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades

+Elite+

Kelermorph [3pl, 60pts ] Liberator autostubs, cultist knife

+Fast Attack+

Atalan Jackals [13pl, 174pts ]x12, Atalan Wolfquad x2, Mining laser x2, Shotgun, Atalan Leader, Cultist Knife
Atalan Jackals [13pl, 179pts ]x10, Atalan Wolfquad x2, Mining laser x2, Shotgun, Atalan Leader, Cultist Knife, Demolition Charge x5
Atalan Jackals [13pl, 199pts ]x12, Atalan Wolfquad x2, Mining laser x2, Shotgun, Atalan Leader, Cultist Knife, Demolition Charge x5

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Genestealer Gult) [ 20pl, 318pts ]

Rusted Claw:

+HQ+

Acolyte Iconward [3pl, 53pts ] Autopistol, rending claw, blasting charges
Patriarch [8pl, 137pts ] Mounstrous rending claws, 1x Familiar

+Troop+

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x9, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x9, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x11, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Genestealer Gult) [ 38pl, 743pts ]

Four-Armed Emperor:

Vigilis Defiant :Deliverance Broodsurge

+HQ+

Acolyte Iconward [3pl, 53pts ] Autopistol, rending claw, blasting charges
Primus [4pl, 75pts ] Needle Pistol, bonesword, toxin injector claw, blasting charges

+Troop+

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3pl, 40pts ] x9, Brood Brothers Leader, Las Pistol, Lasgun, Frag grenades
Acolyte Hybrids [11pl, 230pts ] x19, Acolyte Leader, autopistol, cultist knife, rending claw, blasting charges, cult icon, heavy rock saw x8
Acolyte Hybrids [11pl, 230pts ] x19, Acolyte Leader, autopistol, cultist knife, rending claw, blasting charges, cult icon, heavy rock saw x8

+Elite+

Kelermorph [3pl, 60pts ] Liberator autostubs, cultist knife

Our final entrant here, which regular readers might recognise as the list that took me out of the LGT invitational, leans on the sheer cost-efficiency of Atalan Jackals to let it do something most other GSC lists can’t – dominate the board from turn one. The speed and resilience of the bike squads, combined with them covering enough ground to daisy-chain back to various auras, lets them move out turn one with relatively impunity, and against an unprepared or incautious opponent can box them in before they know what’s happened, leaving them easy prey for the two waves of Acolytes that will follow. In the ITC format, the six mining lasers mounted up on the bikes, combined with a Jackal Alphus, actually gives them a decent chance of fishing for a kill turn one as well if the opponent has a relevant vehicle target, closing another of GSC’s very mild weaknesses. I can tell you from personal experience that this list is a tough one to battle against – there’s just so much you need to kill, and every turn you find yourself with less and less stuff on the board to do it with.

You can read a writeup of my game against Frankie piloting this list here, or hear him talk about it on the Art of War Podcast.

Wrap Up

What a marathon that was! GSC have one of the deepest books in the game, so there’s bound to be something we’ve missed. If you have some cool trick that we didn’t cover or just want to say hi you can reach us at contact@goonhammer.com or via our Facebook page.

 

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