Start Competing: Imperial Fists Tactics

The Imperial Fists are the stalwart defenders of Terra, known for wearing yellow power armor and being really uptight. They’ve never had amazing rules by any stretch, typically focusing on their renowned skill with bolters and their ability to win protracted siege battles, the former of which is OK and the latter of which doesn’t really matter in 40k’s slightly-bigger-than-skirmish environment where fortifications are often completely absent. The Imperial Fists saw a bit of a resurgence with the release of the second Codex: Space Marines of 8th edition, combining strong firepower with the ability to stay in Devastator Doctrine all game to act as devastating glass cannons, though they were overshadowed by the more resilient Iron Hands for much of their run and suffered more severely when combat doctrines were nerfed. With the 9th edition Codex: Space Marines, the Imperial Fists took an additional hit with the 9th edition errata to their Chapter Doctrine, effectively gutting much of their early shooting prowess and pushing the faction to the bottom of the list for Space Marine chapters competitively.

Chapter Overview

Imperial Fists are Space Marines, so they’re fine, but with the gigantic nerf dropped on their Doctrine in the 9th edition Codex: Space Marines, and a supplement that’s always been a bit weaker than the others besides that one overpowered trick it could pull off with Specialist Detachments (also gone), there’s basically no reason to ever pick them over and above any other flavour of Marines for competitive purposes. It’s a dark time for those that love bright yellow armour when it comes to tournament play, but it’s not the end of the world if you’re just looking to compete in a more casual environment – again, they’re still Space Marines.


  • Bolter fire. Thanks to the Imperial Fists’ Chapter Tactic, Fists can put out bolter fire like no one’s business, meaning they can really shine in Intercessor-heavy builds going into the Tactical Doctrine. And you can double up on that with the Bolter Drill Stratagem.
  • Anti-Buildings. If buildings ever catch on competitively or your friends start bringing them to games, hoo boy are you going to be ready for them. With several bonuses – both passive and active – to hurting buildings, Imperial Fists can certainly do a number on them. Any time you want to make buildings relevant, Games Workshop, we are ready.
  • Anti-Vehicle Firepower. Imperial Fists get a couple of good buffs against vehicles from things like their chapter doctrine and the Tank Hunters Stratagem.


  • Fewer options. The Imperial Fists share a book with Crimson Fists, which means that they inexplicably just have fewer stratagems and relics than the other First Founding chapters, owing to the need to allocate some of the space for their options in each to the Crimson Fists. It’s a bit of a baffling choice on GW’s end (they could have just put those on their own page) that leaves Imperial Fists with less to work with.
  • Devastator Doctrine reliance. A few key Imperial Fists rules are only active/accessible while the Devastator Doctrine is active, meaning that some of these rules are only really active on turn 1 and if you don’t get anything out of them, you’re screwed.


Chapter Tactic – Siege Masters

Each time a model with this tactic makes a ranged attack, the target does not receive the benefits of Light Cover against that attack. Each time a model with this tactic makes an attack with a bolt weapon, an unmodified hit roll of 6 scores 1 additional hit. This is still a pretty good chapter tactic, and hasn’t changed from its prior incarnation in the second 8th edition book. Turning off enemy cover is always useful, and Light Cover is the most common (and useful) bonus you can remove, making this great on weapons of all sizes. The bolter benefits allow them to put out some insane amounts of firepower and really emphasise building around Intercessors who can throw out withering hails of AP-2 firepower in the Tactical Doctrine.

Doctrine – Legacy of Dorn

The Imperial Fists doctrine buffs Heavy weapons while the Devastator Doctrine is up, which is fitting for the sons of Dorn, though the 9th edition FAQ limits this to attacks with a Strength Characteristic of 7 or more, substantially reducing the effectiveness of this particular buff and ensuring the number of units it can actually apply to is very small. On that note, some of the weapons this can apply to, such as multi-meltas, kind of don’t need the damage boost, where they’re already doing some pretty solid numbers without it. Also, as a Devastator doctrine buff in an army which has no additional ways of rolling the doctrines back on its own (you are limited to Adaptive Strategy), it is a lot less good than it was and that’s before you factor in the FAQ nerf. Your Fists-playing article author is not at all mad about this.

Putting aside that criticism, the cool thing about the doctrine is that it makes some units really nasty. Not as many as it used to – Centurions used to really benefit from this – but there are still some units you can run that will get good value out of this on turn 1 and can be used to push out some anti-vehicle firepower that can cripple an enemy’s strategy before they act. The tough part is going to be making sure that your units can actually see the relevant targets on turn 1 to make use of this. You can get around this with Vengeance Launcher Whirlwinds, which we’ll talk about more later, and more mobile units with heavy weapons. The Invictor Tactical Warsuit also makes a strong case for using this doctrine, and Redemptor Dreadnoughts can pack a pair of decent rate-of-fire weapons that can use it. Suppressors can also be a good fit here, where the ability to rock S7, AP-2, damage 3 shots against their primary targets is really nasty. Las Fusil Eliminators may also have some play here, being able to drop flat 4 damage shooting against vehicles at AP-4, which combined with their forward deployment makes them potentially worth some consideration.

Ultimately though the big downside is that if your opponent doesn’t have any, or many, vehicle units, this isn’t going to matter much. It’s also got no synergy with the Chapter Tactic, which encourages the use of bolters en masse, and as Imperial Fists are limited in their ability to roll back doctrines and re-activate Legacy of Dorn that makes it something that’s nice to have but not really something you can build around. Imperial Fists armies will likely see more success building around high amounts of bolter fire and taking a small number of things that can benefit from Legacy of Dorn.

Imperial Fists Bladeguard Veterans
Imperial Fists Bladeguard Veterans. Credit: Jack Hunter


The Imperial Fists have access to 14 stratagems, two fewer than any other supplement (and fewer than Crimson Fists, their own successor chapter), plus one of those is fully worthless in 9th edition now that there are no Maelstrom of War missions. Imperial Fist stratagems are a bit of a grab bag – some of the stratagems continue the inexplicable love for things that interact with the BUILDING keyword, some are great at increasing the sheer volume of bolter fire they put out, and some are just kind of there.

  • Bitter Enemy – 1CP: In the Fight Phase, re-roll any Hit and Wound rolls against Iron Warriors. While Iron Warriors are one of the stronger Chaos Marine legion options, they’re not particularly strong overall and the meta shows no indications of moving that way. You’re rarely, if ever, going to use this. D
  • Close-range Bolter Fire – 2CP: In the shooting phase, you can use this to change the type of Bolt weapons for a CORE or Character unit to Pistol. This is kind of cool – your big value is going to be from auto bolt rifles – and allows you to take advantage of the chapter tactic and the Assault Doctrine bonus simultaneously. There’s potentially some use here for a squad of Auto bolt rifle Intercessors who charge in to tie up a unit for a turn and then shoot themselves free, but generally you’ll be better off taking standard bolt rifle Intercessors. When it comes to those, switching to pistol means you’re going to lose your rapid fire shots and ultimately spending 2 CP to pop off 5-10 bolter shots just isn’t going to get you enough value. The CORE/Character restriction is new to 9th, but doesn’t matter all that much – vehicles don’t need to change their weapon type to pistol to shoot, so this really only hurts Centurions, who were more than capable of punching things to death. Once Heavy Intercessors finally make it onto the table this will pick up a bit of extra utility – instead of just adding more strength 4 attacks to a unit in close combat, it’ll be adding strength 5 attacks – particularly useful as the Heavy Intercessors can’t take a melee weapon on the sergeant. B-
  • Bolster Defences – 1CP: Once per battle, at the start of the Movement phase, one Imperial Fists Infantry unit entirely on or within a terrain feature can get an additional +1 to their armor save until they make a Normal Move, Advance, Charge, or Heroically Intervene. Solid, though limiting in only being usable once per game. Combined with cover, a unit can have +2 to their armor save, putting an example unit of Centurions at a 0+ save (requiring AP-3 to save at worse than a 2+). If you have something that wants to sit on an objective and never leave, while putting out a hail of firepower, this is a great way to spend a point and keep them around forever, though it will depend on having terrain features close to objective markers. Note that with the errata from the 9th edition FAQ, the unit can still pile in and consolidate and keep its armor save bonus, so if you’re charged you can use the opportunity to move around a bit and adjust your positioning without worry of losing your bonus. Also note that you get the bonus against melee attacks even if you’re in cover that doesn’t give you a bonus to your armor saves against melee attacks. A
  • Bolter Drill – 2CP: Used in the Shooting phase when activating a CORE or Character unit to shoot. Until the end of the phase when a model in that unit shoots a bolt weapon, an unmodified 6 to-hit scores an additional hit. This doubles up on the Imperial Fists chapter tactic, turning a 6 to-hit into three hits. Doesn’t really need much explanation – more bolter hits are great. This Stratagem encourages you to have units of 10 Intercessors so you can push out the volumes of firepower necessary to really take advantage. 20 bolt rifle shots will, on average, trigger this three times, giving you a total of 6 additional hits. It’s also solid on stalker bolt rifles and even better on 10-man units of Heavy Intercessors, where you can get some higher rates of fire and 2-damage shots. The CORE/Character restriction is new to 9th, and unlike the change for Close-Range Bolter Fire, does matter more for Centurions, who could deck themselves out with heavy bolters and hurricane bolters and go to town. Boltstorm Aggressors are still Core and so able to make use of this but they’re not particularly great now that they can’t fire twice. A-
  • Sappers – 1CP: In either the Shooting or Fight phase, give a unit plus one to hit and wound a BUILDING. Nobody takes buildings. Without a comprehensive rework of building rules, there will never even be an opportunity to use this. You might as well give +1 to hit the moon. (Jack: The previewed Death Guard fart bong terrain might actually get used, so I’m bumping this up just a little bit – there’s an infinitesimal chance you’ll actually get to use it) F+
  • Stubborn Defence – 2CP: Use at start of battle; as long as your Imperial Fists Warlord isn’t deep striking, in a transport, or otherwise not on the battlefield. You can’t discard Storm or Defend tactical objectives, but scoring them gains you an additional victory point. This was marginal at best in 8th edition but now that Tactical Objectives just fully don’t exist, this is completely worthless. F
  • Pain Is A Lesson – 1CP: Give a unit that is not a Vehicle or Servitor and has been chosen for an attack a 6+ Feel No Pain for a phase. Incredibly useful, gives a taste of Iron Hands durability to one of your units. Just a 6+ alone won’t be enough to save a unit from concentrated fire, but combined with Bolster Defences it can be a difference maker. The big downside is that you have to declare this when the unit is chosen as a target for an attack and not say, when they’d lose a wound. At least it lets you position away from an Apothecary, letting your units roam a little freer. B

    Imperial Fists Impulsor with Shield Dome
    Imperial Fists Impulsor with Shield Dome. Credit: Jack Hunter
  • Tank Hunters – 2CP: In the Shooting or Fight phase, give one Imperial Fists unit +1 to wound against a single selected enemy Vehicle unit. Combined with the volume of fire Imperial Fists can put out, this is fantastic at allowing bolters or heavy bolters to punch up into enemy vehicles. Like the doctrine, it’s aggravating that it doesn’t work on monsters. But it’s a good investment, particularly for S7 guns that are trying to punch through wounds while the Legacy of Dorn Doctrine is active and it works on units that aren’t CORE. B+
  • Champion of Blades – 1CP: Give an Imperial Fist relic to a successor chapter Character, including a Crimson Fists character. It doesn’t work the other way around to give a Crimson Fists relic to an Imperial Fists character. We’ve seen this same Stratagem in all the other supplements, but the Imperial Fists relics aren’t particularly amazing. B
  • Gift of the Phalanx – 1CP: Give a Sergeant a Master-crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, the Fist of Terra, or Gatebreaker Bolts. Either a Master-crafted Weapon or the Fist of Terra are likely choices for this, put on an Intercessor Sergeant. Either option is a potent melee threat in an Imperial Fist gunline, but none of these are must-takes. B
  • Sentinel of Terra – 1CP: Give an additional Imperial Fists warlord trait to your non-named-character warlord. The Imperial Fists have some solid warlord traits, so this can come in very handy. It also, as written, allows giving an Imperial Fists trait to a Crimson Fists warlord. A
  • The Shield Unwavering – 2CP: Use at the end of your Morale phase and pick an Imperial Fists infantry unit within 3″ of an objective marker. Until the start of your next turn that unit gets +1 Attacks and +1 to their saving throws (except invulnerable saves). This is an incredible defensive buff that got a little better in 9th edition where the non-active player gets to fight first. This stratagem is great everywhere else it appears, and here it can win games – it can let an infantry unit absorb a significantly increased amount of damage while holding an objective, and you can combo it with Bolster Defences to make one unit truly stupidly resilient. It also puts Intercessors getting charged at 4 attacks each, which is a very respectable melee threat for many things which might want to try and push them off an objective they’re holding. A
  • Clearance Protocols – 1CP: Up to 10 models can throw a grenade instead of 1. Can give a unit of stalker bolt rifle Intercessors a whole lot of weak shots if they’re facing down a horde, but those shots are essentially lasguns (with -1AP assuming you’re still in devastator doctrine), or hit a light vehicle with 10 krak grenades. Doesn’t give any extra range on the grenades, so still needs a unit to get close before they become usable. This is one of those stratagems that you’re unlikely to specifically build around, but having it in your back pocket to unleash in the right context can be devastating. B-
  • Praetorian’s Wrath – 2CP: Once per battle, you can use this while the Devastator Doctrine is active. Until the end of the Shooting phase, unmodified 6s to-wound with heavy and grenade weapons get an additional +1 AP, across the whole army. The equivalent of the same Stratagem across the other supplements, but with Imperial Fists being likely to throw out prodigious volumes of heavy bolter fire this can actually make a difference. The downside is that you can literally only use it on the first turn of the game, severely limiting its utility. It’s potentially going to do its best work when you have lots of Heavy Intercessors to make use of it, where this combined with Bolter Drill makes for a unit that can pump out enough shots to really make use of both. B

Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Fist
Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Fist. Credit: Jack Hunter


The Imperial Fists have access to two sets of relics – four Relics of the Fists and six Special-Issue Wargear. The Relics of the Fists can be freely taken by Imperial Fists characters, or given to a successor chapter, including Crimson Fists, with Champion of Blades. The eight Special-Issue Wargear items can be given to either Imperial Fists or their successors, and through Gift of the Phalanx a subset can be given to a sergeant.

Relics of the Fists

The four Imperial Fist relics are a mix of one weapon and three different upgrade options, ranging from a generally useful aura boost to a magic banner that has a strong buff but probably not one your army is really looking to use.

  • The Spartean: Upgrade an Imperial Fist bolt pistol or heavy bolt pistol to one with 18″ range, 2 shots, strength 4, AP -3, damage 2, and gives it the ability to target Characters. A cool little trick, but between the other Relics of the Fists and the relics in Codex Space Marines there’s little reason to take a slightly improved bolt pistol. C
  • The Banner of Staganda: Imperial Fists Ancient model only. Add 1 to hit rolls in the Fight phase for CORE or CHARACTER units within 6″. This is a strong and useful ability that has nearly no synergy with a gunline and can be replaced by any Chapter Ancient that wants it anyway. C
  • The Eye of Hypnoth: Gives its bearer an aura that allows friendly Imperial Fists CORE units within 6″ to re-roll wound rolls of 1 with ranged attacks. For a while this relic had some real value in that it could give you the impact on any unit (the CORE rider was added in the 9th edition post-codex FAQ) and saved points on a Lieutenant. Now that HQ slots are at a premium and it only applies to CORE it’s a bit less valuable, but it still helps you get more out of a Captain, Chapter Master, or Chaplain. A-
  • The Bones of Osrak: For an Imperial Fists Librarian, when attempting to manifest a power from Geokinesis, they can re-roll the psychic test. Additional reliability when casting psychic powers is very useful, though none of the Geokinesis powers have a particularly high warp charge cost to make this something you need. C

Special-Issue Wargear

In addition to the four standard pieces of Special-Issue Wargear, the Imperial Fists and their successors have four unique items. As seems to be common, the unique bolt ammo is underwhelming; however some of the others are competitive with the genuine Relics of the Fists as options to take in a list.

  • Adamantine Mantle: Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. A solid defensive choice, particularly on a captain or chaplain that already has an invulnerable save. Some of the other Special-Issue Wargear may be a better choice defensively on other characters, however. B-
  • Artificer Armour: Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-crafted weapon: Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Suppressor sergeants having the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage (or even 4 damage against vehicles with Legacy of Dorn!), or 3-damage power fists. A
  • Digital weapons: Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C
  • Fist of Terra: Replaces a power fist with the following profile: Sx2, AP-3, Damage 2, Bearer can make 1 additional attack with this weapon. Notably this doesn’t have the -1 to-hit penalty of a normal power fist, so not only does it punch more, it punches more reliably. A
  • Gatebreaker Bolts: Shooting a bolt weapon, make one hit roll that causes D3 wound rolls. Each wound roll is at AP-5, D1. This could be an upgrade for a sergeant using a regular boltgun, or a model with a bolt pistol, but in neither case is it worth spending a CP to take. D
  • Auric Aquila: This relic grants a 4++ invulnerable save, and an additional 5+ roll to ignore mortal wounds taken in the psychic phase. This is another decent defensive choice to drop on a Lieutenant or Librarian that wouldn’t otherwise have an invulnerable save, especially the latter which now gets some protection from Perils of the Warp. B
  • Warden’s Cuirass: Adds one additional wound to the bearer. This is going to provide marginal value on most of your characters, where a better save would do more work overall and the Adamantine Mantle giving you statistically a 50% boost in effective wounds is just a better deal any way you slice it. C


Imperial Fists Gravis Captain
Imperial Fists Gravis Captain. Credit: Jack Hunter

Warlord Traits

The Imperial Fists and the Crimson Fists each have their own unique set of warlord traits, with the Imperial Fists having six and the Crimson Fists having three.

  1. Siege Master: Add 1 to this model’s wound rolls against Building and Vehicle units. Great on a slam captain or anyone else that’s going to be in melee against Knights or tanks. The big downside is that the value of being able to take down those targets has diminished quite a bit, and the need to pick your Warlord Traits during army construction means that the somewhat niche nature of this makes it something you should pass on. Besides, hurting vehicles isn’t going to be your biggest problem. This is Tor Garadon’s required trait. C
  2. Indomitable: This warlord can only be wounded on a 4+. An always-on Transhuman Physiology is pretty solid, especially if you’re going to be taking on bigger targets or worried about being in combat for more than one round. You can use Sentinel of Terra to combine this with Stubborn Heroism and take the Adamantine Mantle on a Gravis Captain and that character’s not going anywhere. This is Captain Lysander’s required trait and it makes him just an absolute brick shithouse. A
  3. Fleetmaster: Once per battle, if the Warlord remained stationary and did not make any attacks this turn it can call down an orbital strike. Pick one point on the battlefield and roll a D6 for each unit within D6″ of that point, subtracting 1 if the unit you’re rolling for is a character. On a 4+ that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. This is far too random to be a reliable source of mortal wounds and the extra requirement that you hold still and not do anything else doesn’t help. The stratagem in the new book is a much better version of this effect. F
  4. Stubborn Heroism: The warlord halves incoming damage, but cannot fall back. See above for combining this with Indomitable; this trait is great for keeping your warlord alive. A
  5. Architect of War (Aura): While a friendly Imperial Fists Core unit within 6″ is getting the benefits of cover, each time an attack with AP-1 is allocated to a model in that unit, that attack is AP 0 instead. This got a bit of a wording update in the FAQ that came out following the release of the 9th edition Codex: Space Marines, making it a bit easier to wrap your head around. As is, it helps your Marines in cover keep their bonuses  B-
  6. Hand of Dorn: If your army is battle-forged, gain D3 command points before the battle. Simple, powerful, always worth taking, even if it requires spending a command point for Sentinel of Terra. Worst-case, you end up losing nothing and 2/3 times you end up with +1/2 Command Points. A


Imperial Fists Terminator Librarian
Imperial Fists Terminator Librarian. Credit: Jack Hunter

Psychic Powers

Imperial Fist psychic powers are a bit weird, in that several powers seem to encourage an army that fights in close, something at odds with the doctrine bonus to heavy weapons and lack of a way to mitigate the movement penalty for INFANTRY. Once again we also have a power that gets bonuses for targeting buildings. With 9th edition forcing you to pick psychic powers during list construction, many of these have become significantly less useful, and you can skip having an Imperial Fists librarian pretty easily and leave yourself the option to take the Abhor the Witch secondary.

  1. Tectonic Purge – WC6: Any enemy units that start their charge within 12″ of the psyker must subtract 2 from the result. A strong defensive buff, this trait can combine with Difficult Terrain to make some units damn near uncharge-able. It’s also helpful for keeping units charging you out of deep strike by negating the bonus from a Chaplain’s Canticle of Hate. The only major downside is the enemy needing to start within 12″, meaning the Librarian needs to be near the front lines. B+
  2. Wrack and Ruin – WC6: Pick a Building or enemy unit wholly on or within a terrain feature, within 18″ and visible to the psyker. Roll 9D6, adding +1 if the target unit is a BUILDING, dealing 1 mortal wound for each roll of 5+. Potentially better than smite, as it can target anything and doesn’t take a penalty to hit characters, averaging 3 mortal wounds with the potential to spike very high. The building half is never going to come into play, and with Imperial Fists ignoring cover there’s a definite incentive for your opponent to avoid terrain that isn’t line of sight blocking, but there are worse options. B-
  3. Iron Inferno – WC6: Select a point on battlefield within 18″ and visible to psyker. Roll one D6 for each enemy unit within 6″ of that point; For each roll of a 4+, that enemy unit takes a mortal wound. Better than most area of effect powers, this doesn’t suffer from a penalty to hit characters or have a random radius. Still, only dealing one mortal wound per unit makes this need to hit multiple units to do much, and that means it generally isn’t something you want to take. C
  4. Fortify – WC4: Restore D3 lost wounds to one Imperial Fists Infantry or Biker model within 12″. A trivially low warp charge for some healing? Sign me up. This is going to do its best work on Invader ATVs, which inexplicably have the BIKER keyword, and as you can throw this on a jump pack librarian and cast from 12″ away, it’s much more reliable for healing than an Apothecary, though the latter can revive dead ATVs. A
  5. Aspect of Stone – WC5: Add 2 to the psyker’s strength and toughness until your next psychic phase. Counters the positioning vulnerability you may incur trying to make use of Tectonic Purge, and turns a psyker into something of a melee threat, but not enough of one. C
  6. Chasm – WC6: Select enemy unit that cannot Fly and within 18″ and visible to the psyker. Roll 2D6; if the result is less than the lowest Move characteristic it takes one mortal wound; if it’s equal it takes D3; if it’s greater then it’s flat three mortal wounds. Another power that can be used to snipe out a character, this power has a 58% chance to do a full three mortal wounds against something with the standard six-inch movement, and of course that only increases against slower units like Terminators. This is going to be great against Death Guard models with 4″ and 5″ movement and their Disgustingly Resilient rule won’t do a thing ot stop it. B+

Overall, Tectonic Purge and Fortify are probably the best powers here, though cases can be made for the other powers on either an army that fights at close range or on a secondary Librarian, or against enemy gunlines which aren’t going to want to charge at yours.


The Imperial Fists have two unique units – Captain Darnath Lysander of the Imperial Fists (still not worth it) and Tor Garadon.

Imperial Fists Captain Tor Garadon
Imperial Fists Captain Tor Garadon. Credit: Jack Hunter

Tor Garadon

Continuing the theme of all the 8th edition Space Marine supplements getting a Primaris character, the Imperial Fists get Captain Tor Garadon. Garadon gives friendly Imperial Fist CORE units the standard Captain re-roll 1s to hit, has a gigantic fist with a x3 strength modifier, and has a Signum Array that provides a friendly unit within 3″ BS 2+. Garadon also has a pair of abilities that increase his potency against Vehicle and Building units, the Siege Captain ability and Siege Master warlord trait. Combined, these give Garadon 6 s12 punches on the charge that do 4 damage to Vehicles, and a d3+1 damage grav-gun, both of which get +1 to wound (so he’s wounding Knights on 2s with his fist, or 3s with the grav-gun). He, of course, can’t do this to a Carnifex, but at least he can punch out Rob’s semtex filled Kytan.

9th Edition’s change to how Chapter Master functions is a big boon for Tor Garadon. Both a Chapter Master and Garadon have a single target buff in addition to the captain re-rolls, with Garadon’s signum being able to be used on any unit, rather than just being limited to CORE like the Chapter Master – and hitting on a 2+ re-rolling 1s is better than hitting on a 3+ re-rolling 1s and 2s. Given the lack of units with a native 2+ ballistic skill, Garadon is a little bit more generally useful.

Captain Lysander

Captain Lysander is almost completely unchanged from his previous incarnation in the 2017 Codex Space Marines, and like in that version of the Codex, he kind of sucks. He doesn’t really have enough attacks to be a melee beatstick, and he’s not tough enough to cause anyone real problems. His special buff is now “no more than 1 model can flee” rather than “+1 Ld”, but how relevant either of those is in a codex with small, tough, high-Leadership units is questionable. You kind of get the sense that GW don’t really know what to do with him, so here he is.

Imperial Fists Veteran Intercessors
Imperial Fists Veteran Intercessors. Credit: Jack Hunter

Looking individually at the Imperial Fist psychic powers, warlord traits, relics, and stratagems there are quite a number of powerful options that any army would be happy to have – but they don’t work together in any sort of useful fashion. Legacy of Dorn provides a useful turn 1 buff (if you’re playing against a vehicle heavy army, which is far from guaranteed in 9th), but being limited to only strength 7 and above means it’ll only add a few points of damage a game. Siege Masters, Bolter Drill, and Close Range Bolter Fire encourage heavy use of bolt weapons, particularly in larger units. Compared to 8th edition the Imperial Fists are actually a little less scattered in what the book asks you to build, but that was accomplished purely by stripping away options.

Notable Units

Although Imperial Fists only have two unique units, there are a number of units that shine in the army, thanks to their unique rules.

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought
Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Redemptor Dreadnoughts

Armed with macro plasma incinerators, Redemptors stand a good chance of being able to get some turn 1 use out of Legacy of Dorn, and being CORE can be shifted back into the Devastator Doctrine later. They also play well in the close combat of 9th edition missions with their melee power, and provide an additional source of re-roll auras as needed.

Heavy Intercessors

While at the time of this writing the models for Heavy Intercessors still haven’t been released, their utility in Imperial Fists is obvious: The ability to take higher damage or rate-of-fire bolt weapons plays incredibly well to the chapter’s strengths, and there are arguments to make for both the executor bolt rifle, which acts as a souped-up stalker, and the hellstorm bolt rifle, which gives the unit a high volume of fire to benefit from the Chapter tactic and potentially Bolter Drill too.


The Whirlwind tank isn’t the powerhouse it once was, but it serves a very important role in an Imperial Fists list – namely, it’s one of the Space Marines’ best guns for delivering S7 shots with a high rate of fire and it can fire at targets that aren’t visible, meaning you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to delete a large vehicle target with its 72″ guns on turn 1. Combined with the tank’s relatively cheap cost – 135 points with the Vengeance Launcher – and you’ve got something good enough to consider as a two-of if you know you’ll be facing vehicles.

Predators Destructor and Stalkers

Two other relatively inexpensive tanks that can output multiple S7 shots at a decent range, the big thing holding these tanks back is that it’s a little to easy to keep them out of range or line of sight on turn 1. Still, the Predator Destructor’s autocannon is very nasty firing in Devastator Doctrine with the boosts the Imperial Fists have to offer.

Imperial Fists Primaris Eradicators
Imperial Fists Primaris Eradicators. Credit: Jack Hunter


Good in almost any army, Eradicators make the best use of Legacy of Dorn when equipped with heavy melta rifles, so we’d be remiss in not mentioning them here – however it should be noted that they’re already extremely good at killing things, and adding a little bit of extra damage against vehicles isn’t particularly significant. For the CP investment to shift them back into Devastator Doctrine you’re only gaining 18% increased damage at long range and 13% in close.

Playing Imperial Fists

Imperial Fists in 9th play as something close to a Marine horde, stacking up multiple big units wielding bolters to make as much use as possible of bonuses that last the length of the game. Legacy of Dorn can give you a powerful first turn, but requires planning in list creation and in early deployment. If you’re taking Whirlwinds, you’ve got fewer deployment considerations as it can shoot anything, but it’s only doing it once so target priority is key – use that firepower to knock out or heavily bracket a key unit that you might not have the firepower to kill later. Other units trying to make use of Legacy should be held as late in your deployment as possible, to be placed in locations where they’ll be able to move to open up shots on vehicles turn one. Of course, you might be playing Tyranids, where none of this will matter.

After deployment, taking objectives as early as possible is key. Bolster DefencesPain is a Lesson, and Shield Unwavering all give substantial defensive buffs, while most Imperial Fist offensive abilities revolve around shooting – so you want your opponent trying to peel you off objectives, rather than you shooting them off one then standing there like a fool as you can’t actually claim it. You do still need some ability to kill your opponent off their objectives, which is a great place for Bladeguard (just like any other Marine army) or Redemptor dreads, giving them continued use after they’ve spent their first turn Legacy of Dorn firepower.

Imperial Fists also seem like a natural home for Heavy Intercessors, who can really benefit from the main codex Unyielding in the Face of the Foe stratagem as well as the others on offer here, and whose bolter-based weaponry gets a lot out of the Chapter tactic. They’re also a decent target for Tank Hunters, putting out a high volume of S5 fire which can get down to wounding even T8 on 4s.

You can also build at least one really tough character – doubling up on traits to get Indomitable and Stubborn Heroism is a great way to get a character on the table which is just hellish for an opponent to shift, particularly if it’s a Gravis or biker Captain with a lot of wounds who is also not susceptible to small arms.

With all that said, at the end of the day, Imperial Fists just don’t have a whole lot going for them that isn’t done better by other chapters. While this is a competitive article, I’m going to lean into fluff a tiny bit – you should play them if you like their color scheme or background, but if you’re trying to be competitive you should most likely go elsewhere. Ultramarines and Salamanders both do the close range shooting army better, and Sallies can build even tougher heroes if they want to, while Iron Hands have durability and long range firepower down pat.

Imperial Fists Patrol Detachment
Imperial Fists Patrol Detachment. Credit: Jack Hunter

Tips and Tricks to Remember

  • Don’t over-commit on trying to make use of Legacy of Dorn. It’s a great buff, but doesn’t really mesh with the overall competitive meta, and trying to maximize it can easily lead to not having the firepower to clear off objectives.
  • Keep units moving forward. There’s a lot of tendency with Imperial Fists towards a static gunline (they are siege masters after all), but 9th Edition is a game of objectives.
  • Tor Garadon’s Signum is used in the Command Phase, so you can buff a unit then move it away from him. Given his relatively slow speed, it’s not difficult to outpace that short 3″ buff range, but carefully planned movement can make sure that it’s handed off to a unit that can then move to open up a firing position.


Alberto López won an RTT with this build, having successfully found all the S7 guns with a decent rate of fire.

Alberto López’s Imperial Fists 

++ Imperial Fists Battalion Detachment (Imperium – Adeptus Astartes – Imperial Fists) [10CP] ++

HQ: Primaris Chapter Master 130 pts (-1 cp Sentinel of Terra)
HQ: Primaris Master of Sanctity 110 pts (-1 cp Warlord Trait)

Troops: Intercessor x10 Bolt Rifle Power Fist 210 pts
Troops: Intercessor x10 Bolt Rifle Power Fist 210 pts
Troops: Intercessor x10 Stalker Bolt Rifle Chainsword 200 pts
Troops: Infiltrator x5 120 pts
Troops: Infiltrator x5 120 pts

EL: Primaris Chief Apothecary 95 pts (-1 cp Warlord Trait)
EL: Redemptor Dreadnought +Icarus Rocket Pod 180 pts
EL: Redemptor Dreadnought +Icarus Rocket Pod 180 pts
EL: Redemptor Dreadnought 175 pts

Whirlwind +Whirlwind vengeance launcher 135 pts
Whirlwind +Whirlwind vengeance launcher 135 pts

++ 2,000 points ++

The Standout Features

  • Triple Redemptors, two with Icarus Rocket Pods
  • A pair of vengeance launcher whirlwinds
  • 6 Troop choices filled with bolter shots
  • A Chief Apothecary for reviving dead marines

This list highlights what’s probably the best use of the Imperial Fists Chapter Doctrine – the Vengeance Launcher on the Whirlwind. 2D3 shots at 72″ that ignore LOS means that on turn 1 the pair will launch an average of 8 S7 AP-2 D3 shots at any vehicles on the table regardless of how deployment ended up. There are also three Redemptors, two of which can make use of the doctrine bonus with their Icarus Rocket Pods if the opportunity presents itself,

Where to Read More

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