Start Competing: Iron Hands Tactics

Once the terrifying bogeymen of late 8th edition, the Iron Hands haven’t had bespoke rules very often but when they have, those rules have been at least pretty good, and sometimes – as was the case with the 8th edition codex supplement – “game-breakingly amazing.” The 8th edition Iron Hands rules were nerfed on three separate occasions, with substantial errata and a change to Space Marine Combat Doctrines before they were finally reduced to something resembling merely “top tier.” Following the release of 9th edition’s Codex: Space Marines the Iron Hands have fallen to being only “pretty good,” combining strong passive defensive buffs with active ones and some solid shooting buffs.

Chapter Overview

Similar to Salamanders, Iron Hands haven’t suddenly become bad, but a lot of the things that made them good have been opened up to the masses and the kind of lists that really benefit from their Doctrine have been disincentivised. An Iron Hands list filled with the best units from the book is still a horrendous thing to face down on the table, but as with Salamanders the Ultramarines are currently edging them out as the all-rounder of choice.


  • Defense. Iron Hands have strong passive defensive buffs, like their Chapter Tactic’s army-wide 6+ feel no pain save and protection against degrading profiles, plus a number of truly annoying active defensive buffs like Cogitated Martyrdom, Reject the Flesh, Embrace the Machine, and Souls of Iron.
  • Vehicles. The Iron Hands have more rules, stratagems, and buffs that help vehicles than any other Marine chapter, and they can make some truly scary dreadnoughts, even if the days of the dreaded “Broviathan” lists are behind us. Their ability to repair vehicles is also second to none.
  • Shooting. The Iron Hands’ abilities favor shooting a bit more over fighting in melee (though they have a couple of good melee buffs), and things like Wrathful Machine Spirit combine with Calculated Fury to make for some nasty alpha strikes from units that don’t need nearly as much character support to function at full strength. Methodical Firepower helps them drop back into Devastator Doctrine, and Engine Purge gives you an additional AP benefit for being in the Devastator Doctrine, though you can only use it round 1.


  • Reliance on the Devastator Doctrine. The Iron Hands’ rules were clearly written with the older version of Combat Doctrines in mind, and there are several stratagems and bonuses in the book that key off the Devastator Doctrine being active, something that’s a lot less useful when that’s only going to be the first turn of the game unless you’re spending CP. The change to combat doctrines really hurts the faction’s ability to use all its tricks.


Chapter Tactic – The Flesh is Weak

Each time a model with this tactic would lose a wound, roll a D6; on a 6, that wound is not lost. Additionally, models with this tactic whose characteristic can change as they suffer damage are considered to have double the number of wounds remaining for the purposes of determining what those characteristics are. The degrading profile piece is a nice bonus, but the real value here is that army wide 6+++, which is even better on multi-wound models (and stronger now that old Marines, bikers, and Terminators have that extra wound) and can be improved via stratagems and other rules. It’s a strong passive buff for the army, and while Iron Hands no longer hit in Overwatch on a 5+, Overwatch is a lot less useful than it used to be anyways, making that particular loss something the army barely feels.

Chapter Doctrine – Calculated Fury

The Iron Hands doctrine buff really goes all-in on Heavy Weapons. At first glance, it looks similar to the Ultramarines trait but has some differences – on the upside Iron Hands get their doctrine from turn one, but on the downside they do not count as being stationary (they just ignore the penalty for moving and shooting), losing some of the edge-case interactions Ultramarines get. This used to be incredibly strong until the changes to Combat Doctrines forced you to cycle out of Devastator doctrine, preventing you from enjoying it all game. That downside is somewhat mitigated by the fact that vehicles no longer suffer a penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons thanks to the Big Guns Never Tire rule, and with the 9th edition Codex Space Marine armies can now get the Devastator bonus (and associated chapter doctrine bonus) with the Adaptive Strategy stratagem as well as the Iron Hands-specific Methodical Firepower stratagem.

Warlord Traits

The Iron Hands pick up six warlord traits of their own, building off Merciless Logic from the codex. This is great news, as prior to the supplement Merciless Logic wasn’t a particularly interesting take, with characters lacking the volume of attacks for it to become a reliable choice. An important consideration while reviewing these, jumping ahead to stratagems, is that Iron Hands can make a Dreadnought a character, making them eligible to take these. We’ve reviewed them with this in mind.

  1. Adept of the Omnissiah: At the end of your Movement phase the Warlord can repair one friendly IRON HANDS VEHICLE within 1″ for 1 lost wound, or D3+1 instead of 3 if this model is a TECHMARINE. A model can only be repaired once per turn. Potentially useful if you’re not taking Feirros, but you’re probably taking Feirros, and his ability to reliably heal 3 (or 6, using the stratagem) wounds back will be more useful than the D3+1 here. C
  2. Will of Iron: The Warlord may attempt to deny one psychic power per turn, or one extra if it could already deny. Extra denies are very useful in an Iron Hands army, as much of your ability to reduce incoming damage applies to shooting and melee, not mortal wounds. That said, psykers are less common than they used to be and so this really feels like something you’ll want to avoid picking unless the meta really calls for it. B-
  3. All Flesh is Weak: The Warlord gains the ability to ignore wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Of marginal use on most characters, but through use of the March of the Ancients stratagem this can be given to a Dreadnought, providing a solid boost to durability. B
  4. Student of History: When the Warlord consolidates it may move up to 6″ in any direction, not necessarily towards the nearest enemy model. A very useful trait both offensively and defensively, as your warlord can charge in, attack, and leave before being hit back, or if not blocked in the Warlord can leave combat after being charged, resulting in the charging unit hanging in the wind for the Iron Hands’ prodigious shooting. Another very interesting trait to apply to a Dreadnought, as it can help them avoid being locked in combat and forced to shoot at targets in Engagement Range. A
  5. Merciless Logic: When making an attack with this warlord, unmodified hit rolls of a 6 generate an additional attack with the same weapon (these can’t generate additional attacks). Generally not useful as character shooting tends to be pretty limited and too low volume to benefit from this and in melee it’s going to amount to one extra attack per fight activation. However, continuing the trend of these traits being incredibly useful on dreadnoughts, this trait will give you an average of three extra hits from a Leviathan’s shooting attacks and pairs well with the gun options on a Redemptor as well. B-
  6. Target Protocols: At the start of the Shooting phase, nominate one friendly IRON HANDS unit within 6″ of this warlord. Until the end of the phase, that unit may re-roll one hit roll, one wound roll and one damage roll when resolving ranged attacks from models in that unit. Potentially useful if you have some D6 damage weapons that you’d like to improve the reliability of, and a bit more useful now that Captain/Lieutenant re-rolls are limited to CORE units and this isn’t. It’s also just great on a small squad of Eradicators, who will gladly make use of all three re-rolls when they shoot (though it doesn’t activate twice if they shoot twice). It’s also pretty solid buffing a Terrax-Pattern Termite. A


Iron Hands Intercessor by Booley
Iron Hands Intercessor. Credit: Jack Hunter


Iron Hands and their successors have access to two sets of relics. The first, Relics, are only available to Iron Hands normally, but successors can use the Bequeathed by Iron Council stratagem to take a single one. The other set, Special-Issue Wargear, are available to successors freely and some can be given to squad Sergeants via the Scion of the Forge Stratagem.

Relics of Medusa

The Relics are a mix of fairly generic weapons that you probably won’t build around, a couple useful items, and The Ironstone, which was once one of the single best relics in the game and is now just whatever.

  • Axe of Medusa: Replaces a power axe at S+3 AP-3 3 damage. A nasty melee weapon against most targets short of a Knight and it has that wonderful 3-damage tag to make it a real contender, plus you can punch up into those bigger targets with Might of Heroes. Not something you’ll build a list around though. It’s a real shame there are no valid Primaris users of this, where it’d be a very solid add – you think it’d be something you could take on a Primaris Techmarine but they carry an Omnissian power axe instead. Whomp whomp. B
  • Aegis Ferrum: Primaris models only, increases Toughness by one and reduces all incoming damage by one to a minimum of one. Stick this on a Primaris Chaplain on Bike to make an insanely tough bike character who can play a little more aggressively while acting as a force multiplier. B+
  • The Mindforge: Replaces any type of force weapon for a weapon that’s Sx2 AP-3 and does D3 damage, giving it a big strength boost. It’s cool, it’s flavorful, it makes a Librarian a lot better in combat… and there’s basically no reason to take it as Librarians are mediocre in the Fight phase and too fragile to risk. C
  • Betrayer’s Bane: Upgrades the melta half of a combi-melta to be Assault 2. This is a cool and flavorful weapon and it became a lot better when its damage profile was upgraded to do D6+2 damage when targeting a unit within half range. It’s not a bad take on a Jump Pack Captain or Lieutenant who can close the gap to get the extra damage. B
  • The Ironstone: What used to be an auto-take relic is now much less valuable, having lost a significant amount of power through FAQs and errata. In its current incarnation, the Ironstone allows its bearer to choose a single friendly Iron Hands vehicle within 3″ at the start of each battle round, and as long as that vehicle is within 3″ of the bearer, incoming attacks against the vehicle reduce their damage by 1 (to a minimum of 1). This doesn’t stack with other effects that reduce damage. The change from an aura hurts, but the restriction keeping it from stacking it with dreadnoughts’ Duty Eternal rule is really the deal-breaker. That said, there are still some uses for this – if you’re invested in bringing a Repulsor or Gladiator to the table (although you really shouldn’t), this can help boost their survivability considerably. It’s still a decent relic overall but it’s far from the days when it was faction-defining. B
  • The Tempered Helm: While on the battlefield, roll a D6 for each Command Point you use for a stratagem. On a 5+, you gain one Command Point. You may only gain one Command Point per battle round. Command Point regeneration is less essential in 9th, since you get back one/turn anyway, but having a way to get a second is still good. Rolling one die per CP you spend makes this a fairly reliable way to get CP back, so using the Relics of the Chapter stratagem to take this is going to be worthwhile in most games – it should normally pay for itself. A
  • The Gorgon’s Chain: A model with this relic has a 4++ invulnerable save. When resolving an attack made with a ranged weapon against that model, subtract one from the wound roll. Useful to give an invulnerable save to a model that doesn’t already have one – a Techmarine, Librarian, or Lieutenant for example. The to-wound penalty for ranged shooting can also be useful for added protection against snipers, but the invulnerable is the main draw of this relic. Slapping this on a Primaris Apothecary with the Chief Apothecary upgrade makes for a durable vector for Combat Restoratives. B

Special-Issue Wargear

The Iron Hands share the same four generic Special-Issue relics that as the other supplements, and have an additional four unique relics. Three of them are quite useful, and the fourth is not bad, though none are something to build a list around.

  • Adamantine Mantle: Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Solid, particularly for units that already have a 4+ invulnerable save and who won’t benefit as much from the defensive Relics. A decent fall back to have. 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. Most useful for if you want to put master-crafted on something in a squad B
  • 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
  • Auto-Medicae Bionics: If this model has lost any wounds, at the start of your turn it regains D3 lost wounds. Having a character heal themselves is useful, but D3 isn’t tremendously reliable, and there are a number of much stronger defensive relics available. C
  • Teeth of Mars: Like Teeth of Terra, but for killing vehicles. S: User AP-2, 2 damage, granting +1 attack when activated. If targeting a vehicle, strength changes to S:x2. This can be given to a character to whack a bunch of S:8 D2 hits into a vehicle, while not significantly sacrificing ability to clear chaff. Losing a point of AP compared to a power fist is regrettable, but balanced out by not having a to-hit penalty and gaining an extra attack. Especially good with Might of Heroes as it gets you to S9 for fighting tanks. B+
  • Haywire Bolts: When firing a bolt weapon, make only a single attack, but when attacking a VEHICLE an unmodified wound roll of 4-5 inflicts D3 mortal wounds in addition to normal damage, and a 6 inflicts 3 mortal wounds in addition to normal damage. These are a useful trick to throw on a stalker bolt rifle Captain, where you can tap vehicles at 36″ for a decent chance of putting a couple mortal wounds on. Similar to the Raven Guard’s option, it’s also pretty great on an Eliminator sergeant. I am definitely not made that Iron Hands have better haywire than Drukhari or Harlequins do. B
  • Fortis-Pattern Data Spike: A neat little relic which lets you roll 2d3 and pick the highest for repairs. Unfortunately, we now live in a high-tech chrome-plated future where any Techmarine can pay 20 points to become a Master of the Forge and just get a flat 3-damage repair. This might be worthwhile if you wanted to take a second Techmarine for some reason, but realistically you’re not going to do that. Don’t waste your relic slot on this. C-

Iron Hands Indomitus Primaris Captain. Credit head58


The book gives the Iron Hands 16 unique stratagems, most of which focus around vehicles and shooting. The stratagems fit the fluff of the Iron Hands very well – they lean into the same things your characters, warlord traits, and relics want to do, so synergize well with the rest of your army.

  • Mercy is Weakness – 1CP: Use in either the Shooting or Fight phase when an Iron Hands unit is chosen to shoot or fight. Select one enemy unit. Until the end of the phase, every model in your Iron Hands unit that is able to must target that unit. Unmodified wound rolls of a 6 cause an additional wound against that enemy unit. Useful to activate if you have a squad or weapon with a significant volume of shooting that will proc a few of the effects – grav-cannon Devastators are a potentially good target. B
  • Methodical Firepower – 1CP: Put an Iron Hands unit into Devastator Doctrine for the turn, if not already there. This was a weird one back when Iron Hands would never, ever leave Devastator doctrine for any reason, but now it’s pretty solid for getting an extra turn out of something if you want the AP or to be able to move and fire without penalty. B
  • March of the Ancients – 1CP: After nominating your warlord, pick a dreadnought. It gains the CHARACTER keyword, +1 attack, and +1 leadership. Incredibly useful to let you turn a dreadnought into a character, allowing you to screen it. A Contemptor is now a choice target, being 9 wounds, though if you’re more interested in the attack and possibly Warlord trait than character protection it’s also good on a Redemptor. As we discussed earlier, it also opens up giving a warlord trait to a Dreadnought via Hero of the Chapter, or if you give this to your warlord (remember that a warlord does not need to be a character) they can take one trait from being the warlord and a second from Paragon of Iron. Limited to one use per game. A
  • Vengeance for Istvaan V – 1CP: Have one unit re-roll all hits in melee against Word Bearers, Iron Warriors, Night Lords, or Alpha Legion. Not entirely sure why this doesn’t cover the Emperor’s Children, as Fulgrim was the one who made Ferrus Manus a head shorter, but it’s not a tremendously useful stratagem in general – you may not have a strong melee unit to use this on, and even if you do, when was the last time anyone put Word Bearers on the table? D
  • Wrathful Machine Spirit – 2CP: Use in the Shooting or Fight phase when selecting a friendly Iron Hands vehicle model. Until the end of the phase, re-roll all hit rolls. This Stratagem is great, it gives you an emergency Chapter Master for your best vehicle when you need one. Particularly good in 9th where Chapter Masters cannot normally give re-rolls to non-Dreadnought vehicles. A
  • Souls of Iron – 2CP: Deny a psychic power within 24″ of any of your units on a 4+. Definitely more reliable than attempting to deny with one of your Librarians (although you explicitly get to try that before you’re obliged to activate this), and vastly expands the area in which you can attempt to deny powers. Variants of this have always been one of the most powerful stratagems wherever it appears and Iron Hands in no way needed this on top of the rest of the nonsense they got at release, but it’s here and you should use it to your advantage. The only downside in 9th is that psykers aren’t nearly as common as they used to be, making this a bit less useful. A
  • Scion of the Forge – 1CP: Give a Sergeant the Adamantine Mantle, Artificer Armor, a Master Crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, Teeth of Mars, or Haywire Bolts. Most likely to be used to mastercraft an Intercessor thunder hammer, but could also give a Sergeant the Teeth of Mars, which is both much cheaper and plausibly better. B
  • Reject the Flesh, Embrace the Machine – 1CP: Give an INFANTRY unit a 5+ Feel No Pain, or a character with the All Flesh is Weak Warlord trait to a 4+ Feel No Pain for the rest of the phase when targeted by an attack. Stack this with Transhuman Physiology to turn a unit of Intercessors into a real strong tar pit. Arguably has even more benefit for a Successor, as they won’t already have the 6+. B+
  • Engine Purge – 2CP: In the Devastator Doctrine, any attacks with Heavy or Grenade weapons increase the AP of the attack by one on an unmodified 6 to wound. Effectively, when this goes off it takes the AP of your heavy weapon to two better than native, which is almost always going to push you to hit someone’s invulnerable save. The only real problem with this stratagem is that your AP is already going to be good, and most Space Marine armies have limited CP. Less good now that you only get to be in Devastator for one turn. C+
  • The Gorgon’s Rage – 1CP: Add one to hit rolls with melee weapons, and also add one to wound rolls if fighting Emperor’s Children. Useful if your army has a strong melee unit, and you will, since you’re almost certainly bringing Bladeguard. A good boost to your melee output without having to shell out for the Veteran. You can also combine this with Fury of the First to have Terminator power fists hitting on a 2+, or to actually give a bonus to hit to Centurions. B
  • Cogitated Martydom – 1CP: Grot shields! An INFANTRY unit can intercept wounds off a non-VEHICLE character within 3″ on a 2+. The infantry squad acting as shields will take one mortal wound per wound the character would’ve taken, so a lascannon can potentially take out three Intercessors. A key thing to note is that this ability must be activated at the very beginning of the Shooting phase, so if you have tasty targets that aren’t shielded by your “grots” be prepared to defend them in other ways. A key change here which makes it a lot less useful is that it only applies to non-VEHICLE characters now – no more can a Leviathan Dreadnought be shielded by the bodies of its Intercessor comrades. B
  • Machine Empathy – 1CP: Have a Techmarine repair a second time, though you cannot repair the same target multiple times. A great way, especially with Feirros, to deal with the aftermath of a vehicle explosion or other form of AOE damage, or any time multiple vehicles end up taking damage. B
  • Paragon of Iron – 1CP: Give your warlord (who is not a named character) an additional trait. Does what it says on the tin. Gives you some fun options for your warlord, such as combining Will of Iron and All Flesh is Weak to get an extra-durable librarian that can double-deny. B
  • Optimal Repulsion Doctrines – 2CP: Overwatch on 4s if you have the Iron Hands chapter tactic, or 5s if you’re a successor using different tactics. As a gunline army, better overwatch means much more ability to stay out of melee. However, now that Overwatch costs you 1CP to use on top of the 2CP for this strat, you’ll probably find better uses for your Command Points. B-
  • Auto-savant – 2CP: Tactical Objectives no longer exist so this would be genuinely better if it was blank. F
  • Bequeath by Iron Council – 1CP: Take an Iron Hands relic as a successor. Less essential now that the Ironstone isn’t the be-all end-all of the relic world. B

Psychic Powers

The Iron Hands now have their own psychic discipline, Technomancy. Iron Hands Librarians can choose to know all of their powers from this new discipline instead of the Librarius or Obscuration disciplines, so you can’t mix and match powers on the same Librarian. Technomancy focuses primarily on your vehicles and your durability, with power options for use either defensively or offensively.

  1. Blessing of the Machine God – WC5 (or 8 on TITANIC) – Add +1 to hit for a friendly Iron Hands vehicle within 12″ until your next Psychic phase. Similar to the popular Recitation of Focus chaplain litany, this has longer range and casts more reliably for a non-Master of Sanctity. Only works on vehicles, but you’re likely to have a lot of vehicles in an Iron Hands army, and more relevant now that e.g. Contemptors aren’t BS2+ naturally. Note that you pick a target after you roll to manifest this power, so if you whiff on your 8+ you can settle for a non-Titanic vehicle. The Titanic restriction is laughably narrow given that Iron Hands only have a handful of titanic units to chose from to begin with but if you’re bringing an Astraeus you may as well live the dream. A
  2. Objuration Mechanicum – WC7 – Select one visible enemy unit within 18″. Ranged attacks cause a mortal wound to the firing unit on unmodified hit rolls of one. Useful against any enemy units that fire significant numbers of shots. The relatively short range and high warp charge renders it hard to count on though, and now that you can no longer pick powers at the table you can’t flex it in against the targets where it would be good. C
  3. Fury of Medusa – WC6 – Pick a visible enemy model within 18″. Draw the shortest possible line between the psyker and target model, and roll 1d6 for each enemy unit it passes over and the target unit, adding 2 to the result if it’s a vehicle. On a 4-5 the unit suffers 1 mortal wound, on a 6+ it suffers D3. Beam powers have tended to be underwhelming but this can actually be a lot if you manage to line it up right against some armies. It probably still doesn’t get there when arrayed against the extreme power of some of the other choices here, but it’s actually a fine attempt at implementing this. C+
  4. Psysteel Armor – WC6 – Select a friendly Iron Hands unit within 12″, add 1 to armor saves (not invulnerables). Like cover, but stacks on top of it. Very useful if you’re facing a lot of AP-1 or AP-2 shooting that won’t be triggering the invulnerable save provided by Feirros. Potentially really funny on something like Terminators in cover. It’ll also let you push Dreadnoughts and other vehicles up to a 2+ save. A
  5. Reforge – WC5 – Repair a visible Iron Hands vehicle within 3″ for D3 wounds. Turns your Librarian into a Techmarine, giving you an option to repair a second vehicle. Note that this cannot be used to repair a vehicle that’s already been repaired by a Techmarine or Feirros. B+
  6. Machine Flense – WC6 – Select a visible enemy vehicle within 18″. That vehicle suffers D3 mortal wounds, then select an enemy unit within 6″ of the vehicle. For each mortal wound the vehicle suffered, the unit takes a mortal wound on a 3+. A decent upgrade over Smite if you’re fighting a vehicle heavy opponent, which lets you potentially splash a wound or two onto a nearby unit or character. Like Objuration Mechanicum, less good now that you can’t flex into it against the right list. B

Biggest wins here are Blessing of the Machine God and Psysteel Armor, which combine to give your vehicles a strong survivability buff and an additional counter to things that have penalties to hit. For the “Techmarine chapter” this whole list is a surprisingly big win – it’s competitive with the White Scars for “best Marine lore.”


Credit: Head58

Iron Father Feirros

The Iron Hands only have one unique unit – Iron Father Feirros. This guy is a super powered gravis armored Techmarine, throwing buffs to all your nearby units and providing a more reliable repair. He has two buffs for your units – each Shooting phase he can give one Iron Hands unit within 3″ +1 to hit with ranged attacks, and his Rites of Tempering ability gives INFANTRY units within 6″ a 5+ invulnerable save all the time. He also repairs for a flat 3 wounds instead of a Techmarine’s D3 wounds, and has a personal 5+ “Feel No Pain”. He’s no slouch at killing either, mounting what’s effectively an AP-2 heavy bolter on his shoulder, and wielding a S7 D2 power axe alongside his servo-arm (although his WS is only 3+, meaning his melee is merely good, not great).

Feirros is a tremendous force multiplier, though reduced from what he was at his worst now that the invulnerable save is good for INFANTRY only. At 140pts he’s still a great unit in a pure Iron Hands army.

Notable Units

While Iron Hands only have one unique unit, there are a number of units that do particularly well in an Iron Hands army because of the Chapter’s rules.


Iron Hands Dreadnoughts are great even before you get into the stratagems that really push them over the top. The 6+ ignore wounds combines nicely with Duty Eternal to let them push through incoming fire that would cripple another Chapter’s units, and the fact that an Iron Hands Redemptor’s profile won’t degrade at all until you’ve dealt it 10 damage means it’s going to be tearing its way through your opponent’s forces at maximum effectiveness right up until it dies. Add in March of the Ancients to add an extra attack and give it the CHARACTER keyword and you’ve got a model that’s tough as nails and, if it’s a box-dread or Contemptor, can even benefit from Look Out, Sir! Add in Wrathful Machine Spirit to get some much-needed re-rolls in a critical moment and you’re off to the races.

Vehicles in general

Similarly, the ability to ignore degrading profiles and repair vehicles for an insane number of wounds each turn means that generally speaking, Iron Hands benefit more from running vehicles than other Space Marine armies do, especially since they have a couple of ways to add re-rolls or bonuses to hit that other chapters no longer can. Just be mindful not to make it too easy for your opponents to max out the Bring it Down secondary.


Grav-cannon and multi-melta Devastators are great in any list, but particularly useful in Iron Hands. The added durability they’ve gained from picking up an extra wound goes even further thanks to The Flesh is Weak, and Calculated Fury makes them both more mobile and more reliable than other Chapters’ units. Just keep in mind that Methodical Firepower goes off at the start of the movement phase, so if you deploy them from Strategic Reserves or via Drop Pod, you won’t be able to put them in Devastator Doctrine.

Bladeguard Veterans

Bladeguard are just plain good across the board, but are worth an honorable mention here – with 3 wounds, a 2+ save and a 4+ invulnerable save, they’re phenomenally resilient, and between The Flesh is Weak and your defensive stratagems, they can be an absolute chore for your opponent to fight their way through. Plus, for 1CP you can use The Gorgon’s Rage, giving them +1 to hit with melee weapons without having to bring a Bladeguard Ancient.

Techmarines and Apothecaries

The Iron Hands have a few boosts for Techmarines, such as the Adept of the Omnissiah warlord trait to boost their ability to repair vehicles, the Axe of Medusa relic, and the Machine Empathy Stratagem. Upgrading a Primaris Techmarine to be Master of the Forge essentially lets you create a budget version of Feirros that’s arguably as deadly but a less resilient and 40 points cheaper.  Apothecaries seem like a weird choice here given the Iron Hands’ focus on metal parts over meat and the fact they get no benefit from the aura, but when you combine an Apothecary’s ability to revive units and heal wounds with the ability to ignore wounds you end up with an effect that’s even more valuable because the wounds it heals are about 20% more valuable (this goes for repairing vehicles as well). Being able to return ATVs to life with Apothecaries is even meaner in Iron Hands lists.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Playing Iron Hands

Because of their natural resilience and the ability to boost their 6+ ignore wounds save from a couple of different angles, Iron Hands make for a tougher army than most. They’re a particularly great place for a Dreadnought-heavy list style – combining the 6+ from The Flesh is Weak with the -1 damage from Duty Eternal makes them exceptionally tough, and the ability to use March of the Ancients to end up with a Dreadnought Warlord with one or even two great Warlord traits which also potentially benefits from Look Out Sir! is one that can’t be replicated anywhere else. That’s not even to mention the possibilities of utilising the various buffs to vehicles to make them even more effective. Iron Hands’ passive resilience and ability to repair vehicles also means that they’re better positioned to work with the Grind Them Down secondary objective in the right matchups. That said, competitive 9th edition lists tend to not vary as much as you’d think with regard to total numbers of units per army, so often you may find that even with the extra toughness it’s only useful to take Grind Them Down against extreme lists.

Hands are also best-placed to make use of the Marine vehicles which otherwise look overcosted in the post-CORE world where they cannot ordinarily access key buffs. A number of their stratagems and psychic powers are CORE-agnostic and just key off VEHICLE, allowing you a way to bring their performance more into line with other units in the codex. If you really want to try out a Gladiator or put your Repulsors on the table, or even just make use of a Land Raider or something, then this is pretty much the best place for it, even more so when the Chapter tactic and the unparalleled repairing capabilities of an Iron Hands Techmarine are taken into account.

Devastators also get a lot of the same benefits here as they do in Ultramarines, though from a slightly different angle – Hands are the premier place for a Drop Pod of Devastators to come roaring down from the sky with Devs bailing out on turn 1 and unloading while they still count as stationary and retain re-roll 1s to hit. Being able to put one or even two units back into Devastator – the latter at a fairly high CP cost, mind – keeps them trucking longer, and with 2 wounds and the 6+ ignore (or possibly even a 5+) they’re even tougher to shift than usual and likely to make it to the mid-game.

Bladeguard are ever-green in Marine lists, and their core capability is no different in Hands, but they do become even tougher when they can run around Apothecary-free with a 6+++ and potentially even get a 5+ version. The Gorgon’s Wrath is also a surprising buff for them to be getting out of this book, increasing their melee capability in a way you probably aren’t anticipating from “gun robots, the Chapter.”  The same buff also helps Terminator Assault Squads, who can stack it with Fury of the First to be battering away with 2+ to hit thunder hammers – not a bad trick to have in hand.

Overall, Hands are a little less flexible than Ultramarines or Salamanders, their closest equivalents among the other Marine chapters, but they make up for it with more raw power in their damage output and being tougher to take off the table. They’re likely to take a more shooting-heavy focus than other Marines, with a greater proportion of heavy weapons and shooting-based units backed up by a few key squads of melee linebackers or mixed-use units like Dreadnoughts rather than going hard on melee as White Scars or Blood Angels might. It’s a slower and more considered playstyle, but one which is still very suited to 9th edition – if you want something tough to take and hold an objective, a buffed-up squad of Iron Hands Terminators or Bladeguard Veterans is a choice prospect for achieving that.

Tips and Tricks to Remember

  • You can Interrupt Combat with Counter-Offensive and then use Student of History to peace out: There’s a particularly neat trick you can do here with the Student of History Warlord Trait if your opponent doesn’t expect it. If you’ve got this on a unit and your opponent charges it and then opts to fight with something else first, you can use Counter-Offensive to interrupt combat order and fight next with your Warlord, then follow that by pulling the entire unit far enough back that the opponent can’t reach it when they activate their charging unit to pile in and fight – just remember that you need to get more than 4″ away.
  • Plan your movement with Techmarines and other short aura units: Many of the Iron Hands’ special auras, as well as the ability to repair vehicles, require you to be within 3″ of the target unit. That’s not a lot, and so be sure to plan your movement carefully so you don’t end up out of position with a key unit when you need to repair something or give it an invulnerable save. It can help to start by moving your slowest model first, especially if you need to Advance with that model and aren’t sure what kind of roll you’re going to get.
  • Plan your Turn 1 movement and deployment carefully: You’re only going to get one turn with Devastator Doctrine active for you whole army and while a devastating alpha strike isn’t the be-all end-all in 9th edition that it was in 8th, it’s still helpful to think about how you’ll make the most of it whether you’re going first or second. Additionally, while your units won’t need the support of a captain for their turn 1 heavy weapons fire, they’ll want to have it the following turn, so while you may be aggressive up front, it helps to have a plan to move those units back into aura range on turn 2.
  • Don’t neglect your melee options: Yes, Iron Hands have some solid Devastator Doctrine boosts. But you’ll need melee units to capture objectives and the Iron Hands have access to Bladeguard Veterans same as any other Space Marines chapter. That’s good because they’re great, efficiently-costed units that are even more of a chore to take out in Iron Hands. Mercy is Weak and The Gorgon’s Rage are also both excellent buffs to throw on them. So when you’re building, resist the temptation to go all-shooting.


Iron Hands Bladeguard. Credit: head58


True to form, we’re including a sample list for the Iron Hands here.

David Hodgett’s Iron Hands

David took this list to a third place finish at Warpstorm XIII.

++ Iron Hands Patrol Detachment (-3 CP) ++
Stratagems: Hero of the Chapter -1 CP
Relic of the Chapter -1CP

HQ: Captain on Bike w/Storm Shield + Thunder Hammer, Chapter Master, Relic: The Tempered Helm, Paragon of Iron (-1 CP), WARLORD: Master of the Codex

TROOPS: 5x Tactical Squad, Power Axe, Storm Bolter 100

NO SLOT: Culexus Assassin x1 100

EL: Bladeguard Veteran Squad x3 105
EL: Terminator Assault Squad x5, Thunder hammer/Storm Shield 215

HS: Devastator Squad x 5, Grav cannon x4, Armorium Cherub 135
HS: Eradicator Squad x 3 120

DT: Drop Pod, Storm Bolter 70

Iron Hands Patrol Detachment (-2 CP)

HQ: Lieutenant 70, Warlord Trait: Target Protocols, Jump Pack, Relic:Betrayer’s Bane, Combi-melta 100

TROOPS: Tactical Squad x 5 90

NO SLOT: Culexus Assassin x1 100

EL: Bladeguard Veteran Squad x3 105
EL: Veteran Intercessor Squad x 9, auto bolt rifles, power fist 208

HS: Devastator Squad x 5, Grav cannon x4, Armorium Cherub 135
HS: Devastator Squad x 5, Multi-melta x4, Armorium Cherub 175

DT: Drop Pod, Storm Bolter 70

++ 1,998 Points ++

The Standout Features

  • A very out-there build for Marines
  • Actual Tactical Marines!
  • Grav Devs and Multi-melta devs in drop pods to take advantage of showing up on turn 1 with Devastator Doctrine active
  • 5-model Assault Terminators with shields continuing to grow in popularity as a deep strike troubleshooting threat.
  • A big brick of Veteran Intercessors ready to take advantage of Rapid Fire.
  • Two Assassins on top of everything else.

This list has a whole lot of different stuff going on, to the extent where that’s probably part of why it’s was successful. There are a ton of different angles that this army can attack on, and much of it can start in some form of deep strike, including two drop pods that can be filled to the brim and come down straight away if needed. Because the drop pods and their contents (which can include a tac squad if needed) don’t count towards the deep strike count, the footprint that this army has to start on the table is tiny, and likely to be very easily hidden on plenty of boards. However, given the first turn it can still immediately slam into big damage action, with Iron Hands being particularly well suited to running pod devs thanks to their doctrine. Grav may not be the absolute terror it was a month ago, but someone on the Goonhammer patron discord raised the good point that in a lot of situations it’s still a heavy bolter but better for the same price, and coming out of an Iron Hands drop pod is definitely one of those situations. For targets that require more brutal attention the grav Devs are joined by a single squad of multi-melta Devs, ideal if someone is, say, planning to overwhelm you with far too many Greater Daemons. Multi-meltas are absolutely everywhere following their buff in the Marine codex, and seem like they’re going to be a real terror in the new meta. Combined with the fact that the Lt and Captain can get into position to buff the drop units, this list can throw out a horrific amount of early pain, harking back to the Marine lists of old.

What’s frightening about it, considering that, is that after throwing that initial punch this list still has a massive amount of gas in the tank. Even before looking at the other units, all of those drop units are way less glass jawed than they used to be thanks to an extra wound, but there’s a bunch more coming after. Bladeguard and Eradicators are good pretty much everywhere and provide a solid backup to any sort of early pressure, a big brick of Veteran Intercessors can hold ground something fierce, and Assault Terminators and Assassins provide some great mopup utility once the big punch is out of the way.

All things taken together, this list is just mean. It’s almost impossible to avoid taking some heavy damage from it out of the gate, and it’s going to immediately be all over the board while doing so. An interesting concoction.

Where to Read More

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