Start Competing: Thousand Sons Tactics (Updated 5/16/2022)

Are you a fan of sorcerous tricks that buff your units and hurt those of your enemies? Do you dream of drowning your enemies in a sea of mortal wounds? Were you the person who always played a mage in your Dungeons & Dragons group? Then we might have the army for you!

Table of Contents

Army Overview

The Thousand Sons are a legion of the dreaded Chaos Space Marines, but a legion that specializes in sorcery and the use of arcane relics in their warfare. Their forces are led by sorcerers and primarily composed of Rubricae, the animated suits of armor that once held their less-gifted brothers before they were transformed to dust by the Rubric of Ahriman.  

Since their release as a full army in 7th edition, Thousand Sons have brought a powerful psychic force to the battlefields of the 41st millennium. In 9th edition they’ve come into their own as an army, relying less on soup builds with other Chaos Space Marine legions and acting more as a standalone force of muscle wizards.

As with any strategy document, this article represents a specific time and place. This article was updated in April 2022, after the release of the April 2022 Balance Dataslate.

Strengths

  • Psychic Powers. The Thousand Sons have a ton of Psychic Powers to choose from, and that gives them an insane amount of versatility. Want to teleport around the table? You can do that. Want to bring back dead models? You can do that. Want to vomit out a ton of mortal wounds? Yep, you can do that too.
  • Solid Troop Options. While not as durable as their terminator armor-clad brothers, Rubric marines are still a solid troop choice and offer several options to support different playstyles. Armour of Contempt makes them even more durable.
  • Amazing Terminators. The 9th edition Codex gives Scarab Occult Terminators the Objective Secured rule, making them a powerful, tough unit for occupying objectives and bullying enemies off them. They further benefit from the Armour of Contempt Rule, which gives them an effective 0+ save against damage 1 weapons, and the ability to easily improve that further by stepping into cover.
  • Decent AP shooting. The basic guns most of your marines have are AP-2, which makes them great for tearing through armored targets and forcing enemies to rely on their invulnerable saves. It’s not quite as good in a post-Armour of Contempt world, but it’s still pretty solid.
  • Cabalistic Rituals. The faction mechanic for Thousand Sons is reasonably strong, allowing you to do some good tricks and guarantee that key spells go off.

Weaknesses

  • Reliance on Psykers. There’s no way to sugarcoat this: In most of the games you play you’ll be at risk of giving up 15 points for the Abhor the Witch secondary. You can make this tougher by focusing on tough units and those you can protect, but on average Thousand Sons give up 9-10 points for Abhor per game. This also means you’re going to struggle against armies that can block your psychic powers by having access to lots of Deny the Witch attempts, like Grey Knights, Sisters of Battle, and Black Templars.
  • Unit Costs. Thousand Sons are an expensive, elite army. You’ll be low on model counts, which can make it difficult to hold large parts of the table. That can also be an issue because while Thousand Sons aren’t entirely glass cannons, they aren’t as durable as Death Guard and can get wiped off the table quickly, especially if they don’t have the support of psychic buffs to durability.
  • Long-range firepower. Thousand Sons have nasty psychic powers, but lack the long-range shooting of even the Death Guard, making them much more reliant on mid-range shooting and getting line of sight on their targets to cast psychic powers at them.
  • High Strength weapons. Similar to lacking long-range firepower, the Thousand Sons don’t have a lot of high-strength weapons generally, and will often deal with heavier targets using either a high volume of AP-2 small arms fire, or mortal wounds from psychic powers.
  • Melee. The Thousand Sons have some solid counterpunch options but while Scarabs are decent at fighting you’ll generally want to keep most of your marines out of hand-to-hand combat, especially if their opponents have weapons that do 2+ damage.

Competitive Rating: High

Thousand Sons join Sisters as a very well pitched codex, with some clear things they do extremely well. This proves enough to earn them a place in the metagame, but they also have some clear weaknesses that stop them from being dominant. In their favor, a Thousand Sons psychic phase is an absolute trip (as it should be), Rubricae are a really good core Troop unit now, Spawn are surprisingly strong, and Scarab Occult bricks provide a mixture of lumbering inevitability and highly potent grinding firepower. The Characters also rule, some of the Cults provide some standout power (most notably Duplicity and Time) and the various supporting weirdo units are all seeing at least fringe play.

The army’s weaknesses are twofold – their firepower reach is constrained and they struggle against Grey Knights and Sisters, both of whom are very effective at shutting down their psychic nonsense. That hasn’t stopped them putting up some good results, and they will dumpster the unprepared. Armour of Contempt makes them an even more durable force, and gives them some real staying power with their Rubric and Scarab units. This, combined with the sudden emphasis on mortal wounds, has allowed them to jump a tier, though they still struggle against Tyranids and Grey Knights at the upper end of the spectrum.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Faction Special Rules

Thousand Sons have their own special rules, completely separate from the other forces of the Heretic Astartes. These are broken into Detachment abilities and Datasheet abilities, with the former only applying to Thousand Sons detachments, i.e. detachments that only include models with the THOUSAND SONS keyword.

Detachment Rules

Rubric Marines, Scarab Occult Terminators, and Bray units in a Thousand Sons detachment get the Objective Secured rule. This has two immediate implications: The first is that Scarab Occult Terminators are very, very good at holding objectives and will act as the core of many Thousand Sons armies. The second is that Thousand Sons Cultists are very, very bad and their only value is being a cheap way to put lots of bodies together for buffing with Weaver of Fates.

In addition, Thousand Sons detachments are subject to three rules:

Brotherhood of Sorcerers

All Thousand Sons units in a Thousand Sons Detachment gain this ability, which gives the unit +1 to their Psychic Tests and gives ARCANA ASTARTES (Marines) and TZAANGOR units a 5+ invulnerable save.

These are both huge benefits for the Thousand Sons army, and reason enough to not take mixed detachments. The +1 to tests helps dramatically smooth out their casting even before you add on boosts from Cabbalistic Rituals, and makes reliably casting powers even up to Warp Charge 7 a breeze. 

On the other side the 5+ invulnerable save is a big benefit for Tzaangors, making them able to weather a surprising amount of firepower as a group of cheap objective holders. It’s also a huge benefit for the non-Daemon Vehicles, which benefit very strongly from suddenly having a free invulnerable save. This gives new life to Rhinos, Helbrutes, and several other Forgeworld Vehicles like the Fire Raptor, dramatically improving their ability against Dark Lances and melta weapons.

Mere Servants

Mere Servants, which limits Cultists and Bray units to one each per unit of Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators in the Detachment. This limits how you build armies and keeps Thousand Sons armies from looking like the old Tzaangor-heavy armies of 8th edition but isn’t really necessary since they made Rubrics and Scarabs useful.

Jealous Tyrant

Each Thousand Sons Detachment can only have a single Daemon Prince. This doesn’t matter much.

Malicious Volleys

When shooting Rapid Fire bolt weapons, you can double shoot if you’re within half range, the shooting model is INFANTRY and Remained Stationary in the previous Movement phase, or the shooting model is a Terminator. This is great for ensuring that your Scarab Occult Terminators are always tossing out massive numbers of AP-2 shots, but can be handy when your Rubrics stay in one place as well. Note that for Rubrics your whole unit has to Remain Stationary (not just the model), and that Rubrics still need to abide by this rule – they ignore the penalties for moving and shooting Heavy weapons, but unlike Death Guard do not count as having Remained Stationary.

Armour of Contempt

Added in the April 2022 Dataslate, Armour of Contempt reduces the AP of incoming attacks against HERETIC ASTARTES models by 1, unless they already have a mechanic to reduce AP. This stacks with the All is Dust rule on Rubrics and Scarab Occult Terminators to give you the ability to basically shrug off AP-2 weapons if they’re damage 1, and with the benefit of light cover you can get that even higher. This won’t make you invincible, but needing AP-3 to even start to get Scarab Occult Terminators to a 3+ save is pretty good. Note that this also applies to Chaos Spawn, Mutalith Vortex Beasts, and all of your vehicles. The only units it doesn’t apply to are Tzaangors and Cultists.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Legion Command

Character models in Thousand Sons Detachments have access to Legion Command upgrades, special upgrades that can be purchased for different points totals, similar to those that other factions in 9th edition codexes get. These are limited a bit in terms of which models they can go on, and have varying degrees of usefulness, though most won’t see play. The real tragedy is that none of them apply to Daemon Princes.

  • Rehati (25) – Exalted Sorcerer. This model can attempt to manifest an additional psychic power per phase. This can be pretty useful, especially in smaller point value games. That said, volume of casts won’t be a big problem for you in some games so its value will depend on how you’ve built (it’s better when you have fewer casters).
  • Paradigm of Change (15) – Exalted Sorcerer. Add 1 to this model’s Wounds and Attacks characteristics. This is an OK way to spend some leftover points to get to 6 wounds but melee isn’t necessarily where you want your Exalted Sorcerer to be, even with a Khopesh.
  • Dilettante (35) – Exalted Sorcerer. This sorcerer can be given an additional Sorcerous Arcana relic – it has to be something they could have and it has to be unique (it doesn’t cost you CP or take up a relic slot). This is amazing, and a steal at 35 points. It’s a great way to get an additional relic without spending precious CP, or forcing yourself to spread effects across two characters.
  • Loyal Thrall (15) – Sorcerer/Sorcerer in Terminator Armour. This model can attempt to perform a Psychic Action in place of one power, rather than all of them. This is a handy way to get some extra value out of a character, particularly when you need someone to do the Psychic Interrogation. 
  • Witch-warrior (15) – Sorcerer/Sorcerer in Terminator Armour. When this model manifests Smite or a Witchfire power that does mortal wounds, you can re-roll one die to determine the number of wounds. This is also handy, particularly if you’re running the Cult of Magic. It can also make things like Baleful Devolution and Firestorm of Tzeentch a bit more consistent, though with those you’re typically fishing for low-probability results.
  • Battle-psyker (10) – Sorcerer/Sorcerer in Terminator Armour. This model’s BS and WS become 2+ and it gets 5 Attacks. This is a solid way of beefing up a Terminator Sorcerer to be a respectable melee combatant, but it’s seldom something you actually want to pay points for – there are better ways to spend your last 10 points.
  • Ardent Automata (20) – Aspiring Sorcerer/Scarab Occult Sorcerer. This model’s unit can perform an action and still shoot. This is pretty great, and combos very well with Cult of Duplicity units, who can zip around the table using Sorcerous Facade. It’s best placed on Scarab Occult Terminators or Warpflamer Rubrics, for whom the loss of shooting actually matters. The only downside is that 20-point cost, but it lets you action with a 10-model unit effectively.
  • Protégé (10) – Aspiring Sorcerer/Scarab Occult Sorcerer. This model knows one additional psychic power from any discipline it has access to. Knowing an extra power isn’t nearly as good as casting an extra power, and most of the time not knowing enough won’t be your issue.
  • Rites of Coalescence (15) – Aspiring Sorcerer/Scarab Occult Sorcerer. In your Command phase, another model in this model’s unit regains all lost wounds. This is pretty damn good on a unit of Terminators, and helps ensure you can bring a model back with Warped Regeneration or the Cult of Time’s Time Flux power by ensuring that your whole unit has full wounds every turn. Also given how hard it can be to take wounds off Scarabs, it’s also just solid without those. Note that there’s a great combo with this and the Infernal Master, where if you fail a pact you can use the Malignant Pact Stratagem to take a wound on the Terminators, who then heal it immediately.

Of these, Dilettante, Rites of Coalescence, Ardent Automata, and Rehati are going to be the upgrades you see most often in competitive lists and that’s because they’re the most powerful, while still having reasonable costs for what they do.

Faction Secondary Objectives

Like every Codex army in 9th edition, Thousand Sons have their own secondary objectives to choose from. There are four of these, and they’re generally pretty solid, with two being stand-outs. 

Warpcraft: Mutate Landscape 

This gives your Psyker units a psychic action called Mutate Landscape (WC 4) to perform. One psyker unit from your army can do this each psychic phase if it’s within range of an unmutated objective marker. Succeed and that objective marker is mutated and the cost of this power goes up by 1 for the rest of the game. Each mutated objective marker is worth 3 VP at the end of the game.

This is a solid secondary, particularly on the 6-objective maps, and the fact that it can be done by any Psyker unit makes it much more versatile and useful than some of the other psychic secondaries. The fact that you can do this while an enemy is within range of the marker helps keep it viable, and this is one of the better options you’ll have for psychic secondaries. Cabalistic Rituals giving you various ways to manipulate the roll or make it undeniable also help get the last few casts over the line.

No Mercy, No Respite: Wrath of Magnus

The other secondary you’ll take with regularity, this one can only be taken if your opponent has one or more PSYKER units in their army. You score 3 VP at the end of the battle round if you killed more models than they did as a result of psychic powers. So think Grind Them Down, but for Smites. That’s pretty helpful, as most of the time you go up against another psyker army you’ll have more ways to do mortal wounds and your opponent will be more focused on casting other utility powers anyways. Plus you can always try and deny their casts on 3D6. Just watch out for this against armies that only run a few big, elite models – you don’t want to put yourself in a position to lose these points to a single smite.

The other downside to this secondary is that it isn’t Warpcraft. That seems like a benefit at first, since it means you can double up on this with Psychic Interrogation or Warp Ritual, but it’s neutral at best since this secondary wants you to be smiting and those want you to be doing psychic actions. As a result, this more than likely is something you’ll want to take when you not only have the opportunity to score it, but also when you have a good kill secondary lined up. 

Shadow Operations: Burn Empires

This gives you the Burn Empires action, which Infantry can do at the end of your Movement phase. You can do this with multiple units, provided each is within range of a different objective that isn’t within your deployment zone. You can’t start this while there are enemies in range of the marker and it finishes at the start of your next Command phase or the battle’s end. Burn an objective and it’s worth 4 VP at the end of the game. 

This is a very tough objective to max out and it generally only has play on maps with 4 midtable objectives, making Data-Scry Salvage potentially the only time you’d do it. That said, even if you try to live the dream of forward deploying/teleporting onto objectives to burn them on turn 1, you still need to survive with those units until turn 2, and your units will be caught out of position. Ultimately the time requirement and the need to not have opponents near the objective make this one a bit too difficult to pull off and score 12+ on – you should skip it in favor of Retrieve Nachmund Data or Raise the Banners.

Purge the Enemy: Sorcerous Prowess

Score 5 VP at the end of the game for every enemy PSYKER CHARACTER unit that was destroyed in the Psychic phase by one of your Psyker units, and 3 VP for each other enemy Psyker destroyed by a Psyker during the Psychic phase by a Psyker unit in your army. This is like a souped-up version of Abhor the Witch, just for your Psykers to do. It’ll rarely have value outside of matchups against Grey Knights, and in those games you’ll be contending with their 5+ roll to ignore mortal wounds, which may make finishing them off with Psychic powers too unreliable. Ultimately you’ll be better off taking Wrath of Magnus over this.

Cults of the Legion

First introduced in Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned, Cults act as the subfactions of the Thousand Sons, giving you nine different options to choose from. Rather than having passive rules that apply to models in the Cult however, psykers in the cult know an extra psychic power – the one associated with their cult. It’s a powerful bonus, particularly for units of Rubrics and Scarab Occult Terminators that often want more to do than just Smite.

In addition to the extra psychic power, each Cult also gives you access to a Warlord Trait and a Sorcerous Arcana (relic) for models in the Cult to take. Because the Psychic Power is the free part of this and it’ll go on every one of your rubric and scarab squads, the cult power is the most important part of the cult you choose, and additionally this is why the Cults of Time, Scheming, Duplicity are the best options here, with Time and Duplicity being the clear standouts when you also consider their relics and traits.

The update in War Zone: Nachmund means that you can’t combine cults in the same army any more, which does away with the powerful Time + Duplicity builds, and means you’ll have to pick one for your whole army.

Cult of Mutation

The Cult of Mutation focus on unit buffs and debuffs, which gives them some particularly nasty tricks, and the big draw here is that their Psychic Power provides a uniquely easy to land movement debuff to ruin your opponent’s plans.

  • Psychic Power: Warp Reality (WC 6) – Pick a terrain feature within 24” and visible to the caster, then pick an enemy unit within 3” of that feature. Until your next psychic phase, halve that unit’s Move characteristic and subtract 1 from Advance and charge rolls made for it. This is a handy way to trap a unit in a terrain feature, since you only need line of sight to the feature itself. It can be useful for stopping Vanguard Veterans from screaming out of a ruin (though note they don’t lose FLY), or can be used to prevent a unit from falling back if you make some clever movement or your opponent is already in difficult terrain.
  • Warlord Trait: Touch of Vicissitude – Each time an attack is made by this warlord, an unmodified hit roll of 6 inflicts 1 mortal wound on the target in addition to any other damage. This is neat, and triggering off hits is certainly helpful, but it suffers from not having a Warlord who can really put out a lot of attacks. This works best when paired with Magnus’ full re-rolls to hit ability on a unit, which allows you to fish for 6s to hit for extra mortal wounds. Otherwise, this is theoretically best on a Daemon Prince with a pair of malefic talons.
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Exalted Mutation – Sorcerer model only. Add1 to the bearer’s Strength, Toughness, and Attacks. If you could put this on a Daemon Prince it might be worth looking at, but as-is it’s limited to models you don’t particularly want to buff. At best, you put this on a Terminator Sorcerer with the Battle-Psyker upgrade to get a pretty capable melee unit, but it’s not a great way to spend your resources.

Cult of Prophecy

The Cult of Prophecy study the future and how to divine its mysteries. They’ve got some interesting tricks to play with, mostly focusing on giving you some additional re-rolls and staying out of trouble. They’re one of the better options, but they don’t see a ton of competitive play since Time and Duplicity are just better.

  • Psychic Power: Divine the Future (WC 6) – Roll one D6 and set it to one side. Until the start of your next psychic phase, you can use that dice roll to replace a single dice rolled for a hit roll, wound roll, advance roll, psychic test, deny the witch test, or morale test for a CULT OF PROPHECY unit from your army. This is neat, but it’s going to be very dependent on what you actually roll, and the fact that it doesn’t work on saves or damage rolls is a pretty big bummer.
  • Warlord Trait: Guided by the Whispers – Once per turn, when this warlord is picked as the target of a charge, before the charge roll is made and after firing any Overwatch, it can make a Normal move of up to 6”. This doesn’t let your opponent choose a new target, so it can really help you escape trouble and force charges to fail if they also target your Warlord. It can also be used to get you into Heroic Intervention range of a target that doesn’t necessarily want to charge. It’s particularly good on units mounted on discs of Tzeentch or with wings, as if they can jump behind some sort of obstacle they can make the charge almost impossible. Do bear in mind that given other versions of this effect have been FAQed to allow re-targeting even though the original text didn’t include it, some TOs will rule the same on this one (though it’s still a good trait).
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Oraculae Brazier – In your Command phase pick a Cult of Prophecy Core or Character unit within 6”. Until the start of your next Command phase, each time that unit is picked to shoot or fight you can re-roll one hit roll, one wound roll, and one damage roll when resolving that unit’s attacks. This is pretty nifty, and probably does its best work on a Hellbrute or Contemptor, where it’s really handy for smoothing out the damage on those twin Lascannons. 

Cult of Time

The Cult of time focus on messing with the linear flow of time itself. What could go wrong? This is the go-to cult for armies built around large blobs of Scarab Occult Terminators, as being able to cast Time Flux on Terminators is very useful and generally the best value you can get out of the power. The relic and warlord trait are also pretty good, making this one of the three competitive options for Thousand Sons.

  • Psychic Power: Time Flux (WC 6) – Pick a friendly Cult of TIme Infantry unit within 6”. You can return one destroyed model from that unit ot the battlefield with all of its wounds remaining. This is a really great power to have for Scarab Occult Terminators, where it can add a lot of added durability to a unit that’s already pretty tough to kill. Getting back a 3-wound model every turn can really help keep the unit on objectives in the face of withering firepower and help keep your ability to do damage up. Combined with Temporal Manipulation and Warped Regeneration/Rites of Coalescence you can get back 2 models per turn and heal a third.
  • Warlord Trait: Immaterial Echo – In your Psychic phase, when this warlord manifests a power with a result of 9+, they can attempt to manifest another power that phase, if they manifest that power it can’t be denied. You only get one extra power per phase this way. This is a pretty solid bonus, since it’s not too hard to get up to 9 on two casts with the Thousand Sons’ standard +1 and help from Cabbalistic Rituals. 
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Hourglass of Manat – The first time the bearer is destroyed, keep it to one side, then set it back up again at the end of the current phase as close as possible to its previous position and more than 1” from enemy models with D3 wounds remaining. This is also a handy way to save a key character and prevent them from giving up points for Assassination or Abhor, provided you can get to safety after standing back up. 

Cult of Scheming

These tricky bastards use their powers to come up with all those stupid plans where they obviously lose in the end, but yell “just as planned!” as they run away anyways. The abilities here are pretty good, giving your army a lot of flexibility. 

  • Psychic Power: Seeded Strategy (WC 7) – Pick a Cult of Scheming CORE unit within 24”. Until the end of the turn, that unit can shoot or charge after Falling Back. This power is pretty handy, essentially gifting the ability to your entire army and making sure your Rubric and Scarab units can’t be trapped in combat.
  • Warlord Trait: Grand Schemer – While they are within 3” of this warlord, friendly Cult of Scheming units get Objective Secured. If they already had it, they count as double models. 
  • Sorcerous Aracana: Cha’Qi’Thl’s Theorem – Once per battle the model holding this can use it if it’s on the battlefield. Pick one Thousand Sons Stratagem and until the end of the phase or until you use it that Stratagem costs 0 CP. This is OK; it’s basically trading a relic slot – and usually that means 1 CP – for a chance at saving more CP later, and getting back your 1CP at worst. The best possible target is going to be Unwavering Phalanx, which is something you’ll be likely to use and costs 3 CP most of the time you fire it off, netting you 2 CP on this deal. Otherwise it’s also OK with Wrath of the Wronged, but Thousand Sons have surprisingly few stratagems that cost multiple CP overall. 

Cult of Magic

These are the guys that really practice hurting you with their minds. The Cult of Magic have the most offensive power of the cults, and ways to get more casts. They’re a bit of an also-ran among the Cults, but strong enough to potentially see play in the post-Armour of Contempt meta.

  • Psychic Power: Astral Blast (WC 6) – The closest visible enemy unit within 12” takes D3 mortal wounds, then each other unit within 3” of that unit takes 1 mortal wound. This is pretty strong, and the ability to auto-splash can help you chip damage off units that otherwise might not be targetable.
  • Warlord Trait: Devastating Sorcery – Once per psychic phase this Warlord can re-roll the psychic test when attempting to manifest a Witchfire power. This is only OK. Free re-rolls are nice, and this does its best work on a Rehati Exalted Sorcerer packing at least one other mortal wound power.
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Arcane Focus – If your army is a Cabal of Sorcerers, you can pick one Cult Psyker unit within 6” each Psychic phase. Until the end of the phase, Cabbalistic Rituals used on this unit costs 1 fewer Cabal Point. This combos really well with the Arrogance of Aeons Warlord Trait, to the point where you kind of don’t want it without that trait on hand to make it more valuable.

Cult of Knowledge

These nerds spend their time reading lots of books and just accumulating a lot of information and forbidden knowledge, such as “teaching crabs to read.” Their abilities are pretty solid, but not quite good enough to make them a top pick.

  • Psychic Power: Empyric Trespass (WC 6) – Pick an enemy unit within 24”. Until your next Psychic phase, each time you attack that unit with a model in the Cult of Knowledge, re-roll a wound roll of 1. This is pretty nifty, and very solid with both Warpflamers and Scarabs, where you’re likely to throw out a large volume of shots that give you lots of re-roll opportunities. Also handy for Volkite Contemptors looking for more mortals.
  • Warlord Trait: Ardent Scholar – You can re-roll dice rolls of 1 on Psychic Tests. This is fine, good for variance reduction, but not stellar.
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Incaladiaon’s Cry – Weird that the book-reading subfaction relic is a special warpflame pistol but OK. This pistol’s got S6 and AP-3, giving it an easier time of wounding. This would be pretty money if you could give it to an Aspiring Sorcerer of a Warpflamer unit with the Aspiring Magister Stratagem but as-is it’s pretty much a waste of your time.

Cult of Change

The Cult of Change are agents of instability, and as such are the most likely to cut your brake lines and yell “WILD CARD!” as they jump out the back of your van. They have one of the army’s more fun relics, and that’s saying something.

  • Psychic Power: Dysmanifestation (WC 6) – Pick an enemy unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase they get -1 Ld and -1 Attack. Not too shabby; the Ld modifier is just whatever, but the -1 Attack can be really valuable against vanguard veterans and other melee threats that could challenge you on an objective.
  • Warlord Trait: Fickle Nature – You can re-roll charge rolls for this Warlord and your warlord can shoot and charge in a turn in which it falls back. I’m continually confused by why these abilities don’t let you manifest psychic powers after falling back instead, which would make them much more widely useful. As-is, it’s mostly only going to have value on a Daemon Prince. 
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Capricious Crest – Once per battle round when a test is taken within 18” of the bearer (including themselves), you can either change one of your rolls of 1 to a 6, or change one of your opponent’s 6s to a 1. We’ve covered this in Ruleshammer, but if you use this on an opponent, they have to make the decision to re-roll the test before you use this. So they’ll get first crack at preventing your shenanigans and know ahead of time if you’re able to screw them over. Still, it’s a fun ability and forcing a perils and a failed test when someone rolls a 1 and a 6 is pretty great. Also good for your own rolls and pushing out big smites. 

Cult of Duplicity

The lying, cheating bastards of the bunch, the Cult of Duplicity are the other major competitive Cult subfaction among the Thousand Sons, enjoying several key tricks and one of the more powerful spells in the game in Sorcerous Facade. The ability to whip any one of your units around the table at your leisure is very powerful, and the Warlord Trait is also really good. The Cult of Duplicity vies with the Cult of Time for the strongest of your options.

  • Psychic Power: Sorcerous Facade (WC 8) – Pick a friendly Cult Infantry or Monster unit within 6”. Remove them from the battlefield, then set them back up anywhere more than 9” away from any enemy models. Being able to pick up any of your units that still has its sorcerer is incredibly good, letting you zip over to key objectives if they’re left under-defended. Being able to teleport a Mutalith Vortex beast is also a hilarious bonus.
  • Warlord Trait: Master Misinformator – At the start of the first battle round, before the first turn, pick up to D3 non-Vehicle Cult of Duplicity units and remove them and this warlord from the Battlefield, then set them up using the normal deployment rules for the mission. This is fantastic, allowing you to deploy aggressively and then pull back if you don’t get the first turn, or deploy very defensively and then go aggressive if you do. It gives you a lot of flexibility to react to your opponent, especially because you have that valuable first turn information already in hand.
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Perfidious Tome – In each of your Command phases you can read the tome and roll a D6. On a 1, your opp gets a CP. On a 4+, you get a CP. This isn’t bad but you’ve got other better ways to get CP that don’t run the risk of giving one to your opponent.

Cult of Manipulation

The Cult of Manipulation are all about tricking people into doing their bidding. Though they can’t be all that good at it or they’d be able to trick opponents into bringing a psyker and messing up their ability to take Abhor the Witch. They’re not particularly powerful, though the warlord trait here is interesting.

  • Psychic Power: Attempted Possession (WC 5) – Pick an enemy unit within 18”. They take a mortal wound and until your next psychic phase they get -2 to their psychic tests. This is particularly good if you’re going up against Grey Knights or maybe other Thousand Sons, but that’s about it and it’s only going to affect one unit per turn. You can pass on this one.
  • Warlord Trait: Beguiling Influence – Each time an attack is made against this Warlord, the hit, wound, and damage rolls can’t be re-rolled. This is really good. If Magnus had this, he might be playable. The biggest problem with this is that it doesn’t have a ton of value outside of putting it on a Daemon Prince. 
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Sorthis’ Mirror – Each time you fight, instead of fighting you can pick one enemy INFANTRY model with an Ld of 9 or less within Engagement range and that enemy model immediately attacks its own unit, and is treated as a model from your army for all rules purposes. If it destroys its own unit, you count as having destroyed it. This is pretty nifty and can be a neat trick for taking down some of the game’s bigger targets, as there are quite a few powerful units that are rocking Ld 9 or worse, like Aggressors and Centurions, Harlequins Troupes, Incubi, or Tyranid Warriors. The downside to this is that you really don’t want to be in combat with most of the things you’d use this against.

Cabbalistic Rituals

The monofaction bonus for Thousand Sons is Cabbalistic Rituals. If your entire army is made up of only Thousand Sons units, then at the start of each of your Psychic phases you generate a number of Cabal points for each unit in your army that’s on the battlefield. These vary by model:

Cabal Points by Unit

  • 4: Magnus the Red
  • 3: Ahriman, Exalted Sorcerer, Thousand Sons Daemon Prince
  • 2: Sorcerer, Sorcerer in Terminator Armour, Infernal Master
  • 1: Scarab Occult Sorcerer, Aspiring Sorcerer, Tzaangor Shaman

These points go away at the end of the phase if you don’t use them, but before then you can spend them on any one of 9 effects that apply to a unit in your army – a unit can only benefit from a single Ritual per turn. Most of these are used after a psychic power is successfully manifested, or after taking a test.

  • Warp Sight (3 points) – Use after a successful cast. If the power requires you select a unit visible to the psyker, you can select a unit visible to any friendly unit with the Cabbalistic Rituals ability instead. Note that this doesn’t change other restrictions, such as the range of the power or the requirement that the target be the closest.
  • Imbued Manifestation (4 points) – Use after a successful cast. Adds 6” to the range of the psychic power’s effects. If a power has multiple ranges, it only affects the first one specified. Pretty straightforward and helpful for extending the range of key casts.
  • Malevolent Charge (4 points) – Use when a power is cast that does mortal wounds to an enemy unit. After it inflicts its wounds, pick one unit that it inflicted mortal wounds on and they take an additional D3 mortal wounds. This is really helpful for pushing through extra damage, and cheap to boot.
  • Echoes from the Warp (4 points) – Use in your Psychic phase. Pick a Psyker from your army and until the end of the phase they can do the Echoes from the Warp (WC 3) Psychic Action. If successful, you gain a Command Point. This is a great and reliable way to get extra CP, and the best way to burn off remaining Cabal points.
  • Kindred Sorcerers (5 points) – Use after taking a psychic test. Add 1 to the test. This is very handy for getting off key powers, where already having +1 to attempts means it’s unlikely you’ll miss a cast by more than 1. Also great for making Deny the Witch Attempts much less likely for cheap.
  • Pact from Beyond (7 points) – Use when attempting to manifest. Don’t make a test; instead you automatically pass at the minimum charge value. This is really helpful for difficult casts, but will seldom get you over the thresholds to  make cool effects happen at higher cast values. Note that if you cast Smite until the next value needed is an 11, this will automatically generate you one, though it’s unlikely you’ll ever actually do this in a game (but pushing it to 9 to trigger Warped Regeneration is much more practical and a common play).
  • Cabbalistic Focus (8 points) – Use after a successful cast. That power or psychic action can’t be denied. This is expensive, but really helpful against Grey Knights or armies with 4+/5+ deny effects. You’ll want to save it for those powers that absolutely need to go off to accomplish your game plan.
  • Psychic Maelstrom (8 points) – Use when you pick a unit to manifest powers. Until the end of the phase, that unit can attempt to manifest any Witchfire power than any other psyker unit already attempted in the phase, and they can do so even if they don’t know it. This is a great way to double up on a powerful effect, though you’re limited to the powers that cause mortal wounds. That said, Tzeentch’s Firestorm and Doombolt are good picks for this.
  • Wrath of the Immaterium (9 points) – Use after taking a psychic test. Add 2 to the results. Given that you’ve already got a +1, this is a great way to get off big smites. And if you’re running Magnus, this is almost guaranteed to get you to 11+ on your smite, since at full health this gives him +5 on his Psychic Test, turning results of 6+ into super smites.

These effects are incredibly powerful and form the backbone of what Thousand Sons armies want to do, which will primarily be dipping into their toolboxes to push through powerful buffs on their units. The ability to guarantee powers go off when needed is huge, and while there are some benefits here for powers that do mortal wounds, those will typically take a back seat to the utility effects and generating extra CP with Echoes from the Warp.

Stratagems

The Thousand Sons have a number of Stratagems to bolster their in-game prowess. Some of these will be familiar to Chaos Space Marine and Death Guard players, but most are unique to the faction.

Battle Tactic Stratagems

  • Fated Mutation (1 CP) – Used in the Fight phase, when a Chaos Spawn from your army fights. Until the end of the phase you can pick the unit’s Mutated Beyond Reason ability and when you roll for attacks you add 1 to the result (so you basically get +1 Attack). Chaos Spawn are already one of the sleeper good picks in the Thousand Sons army and this is a huge benefit for them, giving you extra attacks when you need to go wide or wound re-rolls or AP4 when you need to go tall. 
  • Ensorcelled Infusion (1 CP) – Used in the Shooting phase, when a vehicle from your army that’s within 6” of an Arcana Astartes Psyker shoots. Until the end of the phase, improve the AP of all ranged weapons on the model by 1. This is really good for getting more out of your vehicles. It’s dynamite on a Volkite Contemptor (except against other Marines in an Armour of Contempt world) or Leviathan, and isn’t too shabby on a Fire Raptor or Defiler, either. Anything with lots of shots that are AP-2 or worse, basically.
  • Unwavering Phalanx (1 CP/3 CP) – Use in the opponent’s Shooting phase when they target a Rubric or Scarab unit. Until the end of the phase, each time an attack is made on the unit, subtract 1 from the damage (to a minimum of 1). If you’re 5 models or fewer, this costs 1 CP. This is expensive, but absolutely money as a way to keep your Terminators around and sitting on objectives when they might otherwise just get cleaned off the table. Ditto your Rubrics. Use it to retain a unit that you can heal up on your turn. Note that because of how this is worded, it will in fact combo with All is Dust on Rubrics and Scarabs to give you +1 to your save against 2 damage attacks. You’re going to use this at least once per game and probably 2-3 times, but just be mindful that it only works in the Shooting phase. This means that your Scarabs will very much want to avoid getting tagged in melee by units that can do 2+ damage in melee.
  • Wrath of the Wronged (2 CP) – Used in the Shooting or Fight phases when an Arcana Astartes unit shoots or Fights. Until the end of the phase, add 1 to their wound rolls. The Thousand Sons version of Veterans of the Long War is a useful tool to have, particularly since your army lacks high-strength firepower to deal with big targets.
  • Infernal Fusillade (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase, when an Arcana Astartes infantry unit shoots. Until the end of the phase, each time a model in that unit shoots a bolt weapon, they get +1 shot with that weapon. This is primarily useful on your large units of rubrics and scarabs – since it doesn’t scale up by number of shots, you’re really just looking for raw model counts on value. But adding 8 additional shots to a unit of 10 Rubrics or Scarabs (you’re gonna lose two to your soulreaper cannons, most likely) for 1 CP isn’t too shabby, especially if you’re stacking other stratagems like Wrath of the Wronged at the same time.
  • Inhuman Savagery (2 CP) – Use in the Fight phase when a Tzaangor unit fights. Until the end of the Fight phase they can re-roll hit rolls. This is a solid way to make Tzaangors much more deadly with their AP-1 blades, and going from 50% hit rate to 75% is money.
  • Vengeance for Prospero (1 CP) – Use in the Fight phase when a Thousand Sons unit fights. You can re-roll hit and wound rolls against Space Wolves units. This is incredibly situational, but money when your scarabs are dug in with a squad of wolf guard or whatever else.

Epic Deed Stratagems

  • Great Sorcerer (1 CP) – Use in the Psychic phase. Pick one Thousand Sons psyker in your army and they can attempt to manifest an additional power this turn. This is super helpful for those times you need to get off a utility cast and a Smite, and should always be something you keep in your back pocket.
  • Malignant Pact (1 CP) – Use in the Command phase when your Infernal Master fails to make a pact. Pick a friendly Thousand Sons Infantry/Cavalry unit within 6”. That unit suffers 1 mortal wound and the pact is successful. This is really good for when you need to push through a certain pact, and the fact that the master can hurt himself helps. Being able to decide after failing is solid as well.
  • Warped Regeneration (1 CP) – Use in the Psychic phase after manifesting a power with an unmodified test of 9 or more. If that unit contains a model with any lost wounds, that model is healed and regains up to D3 wounds. Otherwise, you can return a dead model to the unit with full wounds remaining. This is great to have on hand but it’s so random when you’ll actually get to use it thanks to that “unmodified” rider that prevents you from forcing it via Cabbalistic Rituals or your own army bonus. For reference, your odds of rolling a 9+ on 2D6 are just under 28% so the chances you get this on your Scarab Occult Terminators when you need it are not great. When this happens on the right unit it’s huge; just don’t forget about it.
  • Unholy Susurrus (1 CP) – Use this Stratagem at the start of your psychic power to swap a power on one of your psykers with another one from a discipline it has access to. This is useful for when you’re in a matchup where you just have the wrong power set, or if you lose a key psyker early and need to cast their power. 
  • Biomechanical Mutation (1 CP) – Use in any phase, when a Thousand Sons vehicle is going to lose a wound from a mortal wound. Until the end of the phase, roll a D6 each time you lose a wound from a mortal wound and on a 5+, that wound isn’t lost. This is another helpful took to have around for when there are a lot of psychic mortals coming your way, or when you’re about to eat a block of mortal add-ons, but it’s not likely to save your vehicle from a significant pile-on. 
  • Metaphysical Focus (1 CP) – Use in the psychic phase after you attempt a psychic action with an Arcana Astartes Psyker. That unit can attempt to manifest one power this phase. This is really handy for keeping your units “on” while doing psychic actions, either the Echoes from the Warp action, Psychic Interrogation, or Mutate Landscape. Useful for putting up buffs during actions or late-game when you run low on psykers.
  • Psychic Dominion (1 CP) – Use in the Psychic phase, when you attempt to deny a power. So long as your psyker attempting the deny is within 6” of another friendly Thousand Sons psyker that could also attempt to deny, you can add a D6 to your deny attempt. This ups your average result from a 7 to a 10.5, greatly improving your odds, and a re-roll can take that even further if you absolutely need to prevent something. This is particularly great for punishing players who think they can take Psychic Interrogation against you – 1 CP for 3 VP is a trade I’ll make all day.
  • Malevolent Machine Spirit (2 CP) – Use in your Command phase to pick a Thousand Sons Machine Spirit unit in your army. Until the next command phase that model is considered to have its full wounds remaining for the purposes of determining which profile to use. I have no idea why this costs 2 CP. Someone on the rules team really thinks Land Raiders are great and can’t be convinced otherwise. 
  • Masters of the Immaterium (1 CP) – Use in your psychic phase when one of your psykers would suffer Perils of the Warp. They don’t suffer Perils. This one is great to have for when you’ve already used your CP re-roll on a different test and need to avoid taking mortals, or if you need to save the CP re-roll and the power you were attempting wasn’t that important. Good to have because you’ll be casting a lot.
  • Sorcerous Might (1 CP) – Use in the fight phase when a Sorcerer or Exalted Sorcerer equipped with a force stave (non-Relic) fights. Until the end of the phase, that force stave’s damage profile becomes D3+1. This is nifty for pushing through extra damage in a pinch against bigger targets or targets with -1 damage that a Khopesh won’t handle.

Requisition Stratagems

  • High Acolytes (1 CP) – Use before the battle, when mustering your army. If your Warlord is Thousand Sons, you can give an extra Warlord trait to one ARCANA ASTARTES character in your army. The Thousand Sons have several solid Warlord Traits and this is how you get to use more of them. Great stuff.
  • Sorcerous Arcana (1 CP) – Use when mustering your army if your Warlord is Thousand Sons. Pick a Thousand Sons character and give them a Sorcerous Arcana relic. This is your extra relic strat. Also great.
  • Aspiring Magister (1 CP) – You can give one of the following relics to an Aspiring Sorcerer or Scarab Occult Sorcerer: Coruscator, Skaeloch’s Talon, Incandaeum, or the Stave Abominus. This is the standard relic-on-a-sergeant stratagem we’ve seen in marine books for a while now. The Coruscator and Incandeum are OK upgrades on a Warpflamer squad sorcerer, while the stave abominus and skaeloch’s talon are just weird anti-monster/anti-horde options that aren’t worth your CP.

Strategic Ploy Stratagems

  • Schemes of Change (1 CP) – Use this after you and the opponent reveal secondary objectives or agendas, and you can replace one of your secondary objectives or agendas with a new one. This is pretty worthless. It might have value at 0 CP but even then the situations where you’ll want to change secondary objectives in response to an opponent’s are pretty rare. There are better uses of your precious CP.
  • Risen Rubricae (2 CP) – Use during deployment when setting up a Rubric Marines unti in your army. That unit can be set up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” away from the enemy deployment zone and enemy models. You can only use this once. This is a very handy ability, but its utility is going to be strongly predicated on the map, the opponent, and whether you’re going first. You won’t know when you use this, so that makes it a bit of a gamble. It can be really worth it if you’re going up against an opponent that relies on doing heavy damage first turn as a way to stymie their alpha strike, but if you end up going second it can also mean you’ve just left a cheap target out in the open. There’s also some value to using this on missions with the “lock-in” mechanic for holding objectives (Data-Scry Salvage and Death and Zeal), and the former has added benefits from letting you score extra VP immediately on the Data Intercept action by letting you lock in one objective turn 1 and then move onto another to capture.
    How this combines with Master Misinformator is the subject of some debate; prior to February, it was common to use the Warlord Trait from the Cult of Duplicity to deep strike redeploy a unit after the first turn roll-off, but the text making this explicitly possible was quietly removed from the Thousand Sons FAQ in April. That said, this was replaced by other text in the general FAQ that allows units to be redeployed using stratagems like Risen Rubricae as long as they stay on the battlefield. However, there are some timing questions around doing this, as Risen Rubricae has to be used during deployment, and Master Misinformator happens before the first turn. That said, UK events have generally ruled that this allows for redeploying with Risen Rubricae, but this may be something you want to ask your TO about ahead of time. 
  • Webway Infiltration (2 CP/3 CP) – Use during deployment. You can put one (2 CP) or two (3 CP) Thousand Sons Infantry units into the webway instead of putting it on the battlefield. Then they show up in the Reinforcement step of one of your Movement phases anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from any enemy models. Your terminators can already do this and the extra cost on this when compared to Risen Rubricae and just taking the Umbralefic Crystal make this something you will probably not end up using very often. 
  • Implacable Guardians (1 CP) – Use at the start of your opponent’s Shooting phase and pick one Arcana Astartes character (except Magnus). Until the end of the phase while that model is within 3” of any friendly rubrics or scarabs, that character can use the Look Out, Sir rule even if those units contain fewer than 3 models. Note that this Stratagem changed substantially in the April Dataslate, and no longer does what it says in the book/datacards – it won’t let you prevent all incoming attacks, so you’ll still be vulnerable if you’re the closest target or if the opponent has snipers.
  • Coruscating Beam (3 CP) – Use in your Command phase if your Warlord is on the Battlefield and pick a point and put a marker on that point. At the start of the next Command phase put another marker on the battlefield within 9” of that point and draw a line between the center of each, then roll a D6 for each unit you pass over or through, adding 1 if the unit has 11+ models and subtracting 1 if the unit is a Character. For every 4+, the unit takes D3 mortal wounds. You can only use this once. This is the Thousand Sons’ version of Orbital Bombardment and it’s not very good. The wound output isn’t great and doing mortal wounds isn’t a problem your army really has, plus it’s expensive. It’s more of a pressure/positioning tool to try and clear out chokepoints with some value against armies like Astra Militarum that might load their backfield full of tightly-packed tanks, but the actual damage output isn’t great.
  • Vector Strike (1 CP) – Use in your Movement phase after you make a normal move with your Thousand Sons Heldrake. Pick an enemy model you moved across that isn’t a Character with 9 or fewer wounds and roll a D6; on a 2+ that unit takes D3 mortal wounds or, if it has FLY, it takes 3 mortal wounds instead. This can be pretty great if you’re bringing a Heldrake but it’s hampered by the fact that Thousand Sons Heldrakes aren’t that good. Can be very helpful for getting movement phase wounds off against Vanguard veterans or other tough units, though. 
  • Inescapable Forewarning (2 CP) – Use at the end of the Reinforcements step of your opponent’s Movement phase, if an enemy unit was set up as reinforcements within 18” of an arcana astartes psyker in your army. Pick an Arcana Astartes CORE unit within 6” of that psyker who aren’t in engagement range of enemy units and they can shoot as if it were your shooting phase, but have to target an eligible enemy that was set up as reinforcements within 18” of them and the Psyker. This is a much, much better version of Auspex Scan, with more range and no penalty to your To Hit rolls. This is fantastic for Scarab Occult Terminators and Contemptors, each of which can just punish the crap out of models teleporting in or climbing out of drop pods.
  • Selfless Automata (2 CP) – Use in the Heroic Interventions step of your opponent’s charge phase. Pick an enemy unit that finished a charge move within engagement range of any arcana astartes characters units from your army and a unit of rubrics or scarabs within 12” of that enemy and not already in engagement range. They can perform a Heroic Intervention but can move up to 2D6” and have to end up within Engagement range of the selected enemy and can’t end in engagement range of any other enemy units. There’s a lot going on here but basically your scarabs and rubrics can counter-charge enemy units that try to charge your psykers, including Magnus. You’ll want to let your opponent know about this one before the game as a matter of good form, but otherwise it’s very situational and more of a deterrent than something you’ll actually use (though those are the best kinds of Stratagems sometimes). If you *do* have the opportunity to use it, look for ways to take advantage of the movement – only one model has to end up in engagement range of the enemy unit you’re intervening against so you can use the 2D6” movement to steal objectives away, move into better position for next turn, or block an opponent’s pile-in and consolidate moves.
  • Empyric Reservoir (1 CP) – Use in your Psychic Phase pick a model in your army within 6” of a friendly Mutalith Vortex Beast and that model generates D3 additional Cabal points. This is a fine way to turn CP back into Cabal Points but it’s hampered by the fact that the Mutalith Vortex Beast isn’t great. If you’re doing this, you better have a very clear picture of how you’re going to spend the cabal points.
  • Slow and Purposeful (1 CP) – Used in the Movement phase when an Arcana Astartes infantry unit makes a Normal move. Until the start of your next turn, they’re considered to have Remained Stationary. Rubric marines already ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons and this can’t be used to Fall Back and shoot, so this is basically just for getting Malicious volleys off with your infernal bolters. It’ll be solid when you need an extra 8 AP-2 bolter shots.
  • Aetheric Saturation (1 CP) –  Used in your Psychic phase when a psyker character within 12” of a Mutalith Vortex beast is picked to manifest powers. Instead of manifesting one power with that model, it’s healed and regains up to D3 lost wounds. You can only heal up once per turn, so this doesn’t stack with other healing effects. This one is super situational and not likely to be something you ever use.

Wargear Stratagems

  • Soul Reap (1 CP) – Use in your shooting phase when a Thousand Sons unit shoots and that unit’s Soulreaper cannons get to make two hit rolls per shot against units of 11+ models instead of 1. This is incredibly strong when you’re going up against hordes, typically giving you an extra 10 shots to work with and helping you clear out a large number of models. It’s good against Tau units that end up as 11+ models with drones, Black Templar Crusader squads, and big units of poxwalkers. If you’ve only got one soulreaper cannon in your unit, then the value of this is a bit more limited – save it for when you really need 5 more shots on a unit.
  • Warpflame Gargoyles (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Fight phase to pick an Arcana Astartes vehicle (except Helbrutes). Roll 1D6 for each other unit within Engagement range, subtracting 2 if it’s a character or vehicle unit. On a 4+, that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. It’s worth noting that you can use this in either Fight phase, and so use it twice per battle rebound, but on the whole it’s very situational. It’s useful for when you have a Rhino stuck in against several enemy units, and it can help a Contemptor or Leviathan in a pinch.
  • Arcane Smokescreen (1 CP) – Use in your opponent’s shooting phase when an Arcana Astartes Smokescreen unit is selected as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, attacks against that unit get -1 to hit rolls. The standard smokescreen stratagem, which is great when you need to protect a Rhino full of marines and doubly good with that free 5+ invulnerable save. Also affects Leviathans. 
  • Malefic Scroll (1 CP) – Use in your Psychic phase when a non-Magnus psyker manifests the Smite psychic power. That manifestation inflicts 3 mortal wounds instead of D3 or D6 (no dice roll is made). This is pretty great; you get to use it after you know the cast value and it’s wonderful for all those times when you need to get off 3 mortal wounds on your target.

Relics

In addition to the cult relics, Thousand Sons have 17 more general relics to choose from. A fair number of these replace weapons (usually force staves), and the more useful options tend to be those that have utility outside of combat. There are enough great relics here to make it worth your while to buy extras using CP and the Dilettante Legion Command.

  • Seer’s Bane – replaces a force sword or khopesh with one that’s S+2, AP-4, and D3 damage, and each time you fight a psyker unit, the strength improves to Sx2 and the damage becomes D6. This feels like a slight downgrade against most targets, where the improved strength and AP are offset a bit by going from 2 damage to D3. It’ll give you some solid value against Grey Knights, Daemons, and Kill Rigs, but it’s just not worth it.
  • Umralefic Crystal – Once per battle in the Command phase, you can pick up the bearer or one friendly Thousand Sons Infantry unit within 6”, then in the following Reinforcements step, put them down anywhere more than 9” away from enemy models. This is one of the most useful relics in the book, with tons of great uses – teleport a Warpflamer or Terminator unit into good position to wipe out an enemy, teleport an imperiled unit out of melee, reposition onto an objective in order to start an action at the end of the Movement phase, or just consolidate your power base. Lots of great ways to use this, and it’s basically an auto-include.
  • Helm of the Daemon’s Eye – Each time your opponent uses a Stratagem, if the bearer is on the battlefield roll a D6; on a 5+ you get 1 command point. There are other, more reliable ways to get CP as Thousand Sons but during your average game this will pay for itself so it’s not the worst use of an extra CP. The downside is that you’re capped at 1 extra CP per round and if you’re going first, you’ll rarely know if it’s worth it to get extra CP via the ritual.
  • Coruscator – Replaces an inferno bolt pistol with one that’s got 18” range, Pistol 3, S5, AP-2, and 2 damage. It’s a nasty little shot and one of the best pistol relics they’ve made. It’s just not as good as the non-weapon relics.
  • Aethenean Scrolls – Exalted Sorcerer only. Once per battle in your psychic phase when you pick this guy to manifest, you can instead read from the scrolls. If you do, pick one psychic power it knows from the Discipline of Change or Vengeance and for the rest of the battle when you attempt to manifest that power roll an extra D6 and discard one for the test. The downside is that you can’t use this on any of the cult powers (boo), but the upside is that you’ll frequently have powers that you *need* to go off, so the question is whether this gives you enough value over just the standard +1 and being able to further boost that with a CP re-roll and/or other rituals. And largely, those are enough. If you’re still really unsure or going up against a lot of Grey Knights, this can really help out, or if you’re trying to get off the big Tzeentch’s Firestorm every turn, where this can give you really good odds of hitting 9+.
  • Thrydderghyre – Model with a Disc of Tzeentch. This model can Advance and Charge and Fall back and cast, plus each time it consolidates it can move up to 6” and doesn’t have to end closer to the nearest enemy, allowing it to just wander out of combat at its leisure. These are all great effects and they’re great to have but the problem is that Exalted Sorcerers aren’t particularly great at fighting in melee and you mostly don’t want to use them for it. Most of the time you use this it’ll be defensively but if you want to get real aggressive with this you can use it to charge cheaper screening units and then consolidate into other targets that you want to tie up and aren’t so capable of killing you in melee, like Leman Russ tanks, Manticores or Broadsides.
  • Egleighen’s Orrery – At the start of each of your command phases you can pick one enemy unit visible to the bearer. If you do then until the end of the turn that unit gets an Aura called Fated Doom, which makes it so that when Thousand Sons CORE units within 6” of that unit make attacks, they ignore any/all WS, BS, hit roll, and wound roll modifiers, plus abilities that reduce the damage characteristic of the attack. This shuts down a ton of annoying effects, and is great for buffing both Scarab Occult Terminators and Contemptors against big targets like Be’lakor, Talos, Deathshrouds, and Redemptors, where modifiers to wound rolls and damage might otherwise cause you headaches. It’s just a fantastic relic with a ton of uses and it’ll find its way into most competitive lists. Just be careful that you need your character in place to spot a unit at the start of the Command phase.
  • The Chronos Tutorum – Model with a Warlord Trait only. Once per battle in your command phase you can give this model one extra Warlord Trait. It has to be one he could have and it can’t be one you already have in your army. This is… well, it’s just OK. Having double warlord traits on a model is neat, but the Thousand Sons Warlord Traits just aren’t that impressive. If you’re really looking for value here then maybe having a Daemon Prince with Undying Form and Beguiling Influence or Aetherstride could be interesting; the former gives you a very tough model while the latter lets you save 35 points on wings and avoid making your DP a To the Last target.
  • Skaeloch’s Talon – Replaces a force stave with one that’s Sx2, AP0, 2D3 damage. Love the damage improvement, and with the addition of Armour of Contempt, this has suddenly become much more useful, since giving up AP-1 really doesn’t matter all that much against a bunch of armies. Probably still not good enough to add to a list, but neat.
  • Conniving Plate – Arcana Astartes only. Gives the bearer a 2+ save and in the Fight phase, enemy models can only allocate up to half their close combat attacks (rounding up)to the model. This is a neat effect but only affects models within Engagement range, making it rather easy to play around using the second rank of models. It’s otherwise an OK effect for dueling enemy characters however and going to do its best work on a Daemon Prince who’s also rocking Undying Form. But there’s a legitimate question of whether you need that in your army to begin with and whether it’s worth spending CP on.
  • Warpweave Mantle – Each time the bearer is picked as the target of a charge, an unmodified roll of 9+ always fails. Each time the bearer makes a psychic test, if it lost any wounds, add +1 to the test. This is fun in that it means that 28% of charges against you just fail, and you’ll almost never have to worry about charges out of deep strike, but the situations where it’s actually useful are going to be rare since opponents just won’t attempt to charge you when the failure rate is massive. If you want to use this, it’s probably going to do its best work on an Infernal Master, who can use Malignant Pact to take a mortal wound when he fails a pact so you can get a +2 caster for the rest of the game. But that also depends on you failing the pact roll.
  • Paradoxical Chatterfowl – Infantry model only. At the start of the fight phase pick an enemy model in 3” and roll a D3. Until the start of the next Fight phase, reduce that models’ WS and BS by the result and subtract the result from all psychic tests they make. This is really funny against Nemesis Dreadknights but smarter opponents can play around it and the more likely situation is that you roll a 1 and get murdered anyways. Better to just not be in combat to begin with.
  • The Change-Wrought Chalice – Tzaangor Shaman only. The bearer knows one extra power. This isn’t bad per se but it’s limited by the fact that Shamans aren’t that useful and if you’re running one it’s not for the ability to cast powers but rather likely to be as a way to complete psychic actions for Warpcraft Secondary Objectives.
  • Incandaeum – Replaces a Force stave with one that’s got a shooting and melee profile. The shooting version is a S5 AP-2 flamer (not bad), and the melee version is a S+3 force stave. This is probably the best of the stave relics, if only because it can be solid on a Warpflamer unit sorcerer, but you can get most of the same value out of just taking a warpflamer pistol.
  • Pentakiaric Armour – Infernal Master only. He knows an extra pact and once per turn the first time the model fails a save the damage on that attack becomes 0. This isn’t particularly good – you don’t have the ability to attempt another pact, so knowing an extra one isn’t all that useful, and most of the time you attempt a pact it’s going to be Malefic Maelstrom and if that’s not it you’ll be using Glimpse of Eternity to get an extra CP. You get to know two already so there isn’t a ton of utility in having a third.
  • The Prism of Echoes – Each time the bearer manifests a Blessing power, double the range of that power’s effects. There are 8 blessing powers in the two Psychic disciplines Thousand Sons get, and of these the ones you’re going to cast the most often are Glamour of Tzeentch, Weaver of Fates, Temporal Surge, and Presage. And realistically you don’t need to boost the range on these unless you’re trying to stay out of Deny range, in which case yeah, sure, a 36” Glamour or Weaver cast can be cool. But you can usually just stay out of range or force through a power with a ritual if it’s that crucial.
  • The Stave Abominus – Replaces a force stave with one that’s 1 damage but makes double attacks. This stinks, and you shouldn’t take it.

Warlord Traits

In addition to the cult traits, Thousand Sons have access to six generic Warlord Traits which are mostly just OK. They’re seldom worth spending CP to have one on an extra model, particularly when you’ll be spending CP to get extra relics.

Ahriman gets the Warlord trait Otherworldly Presence while if your army includes Magnus the Red as Warlord he gets Arrogance of Aeons, Undying Form, and Lord of Forbidden Lore.

  • Arrogance of Aeons – You can re-roll Deny the witch tests for this warlord and this warlord can benefit from one additional Cabbalistic Ritual on each of your psychic phases. This is really good on Magnus and not really so good anywhere else. You will seldom need to double up on rituals and the extra deny is more a nice to have.
  • Seeker After Shadows – Each time this Walord attempts to perform a Psychic action you can roll an extra D6 and discard one when taking the Psychic test. Also, this Warlord generates 1 extra Cabal point per turn. Passing Psychic action tests is really not something the Thousand Sons need help with most of the time though it can be OK for Tzaangor Shaman if you’re going to use him for Mutate Landscape multiple times. 
  • Undying Form – Reduce the damage of attacks allocated to this Warlord by 1. This is great. Always useful, and great to have on a Daemon Prince. 
  • Lord of Forbidden Lore – Your Warlord knows one extra Psychic Power, unless he’s Magnus, in which case he knows every power. This is absolute money on Magnus and good on an Exalted Sorcerer with Rehati, since they can actually cast their extra power. But on the whole this isn’t really something you need since you can just swap out powers instead.
  • Otherworldly Presence – Once per game before you make a save with your Warlord, you can activate this to get a 3+ invulnerable save until the end of the turn. If Magnus had this, he’d be playable. As-is, it’s only going to be valuable if you get caught out of position by an opponent and then you’re gambling a lot on making saves to dig yourself out of a mistake you probably could have avoided. This is something you’re better off solving with positioning.
  • Aetherstride – Add 3” to the Move characteristic of the Warlord, and the Warlord can Fall back and charge, and when the Warlord makes a Normal move, charge, Advance, or Falls back, it can move as though it had FLY. This would be a hell of a lot more useful if you could cast after falling back. As-is you can get some interesting combos with it on a Daemon Prince but this doesn’t necessarily line up with what you want to be doing with your army outside of a fighty daemon prince (though it does see use for that).

Infernal Pacts

New to the 9th edition Codex Thousand Sons are Infernal Pacts, prayer-like abilities that Infernal Masters can attempt during the Command phase. There’s a clear “best option” in these – Malefic Maelstrom – and a few others that are OK. Infernal Masters know two of these by default.

  • Bladed Maelstrom – Pick a visible enemy unit within 30”. It gets -2 to Advance and charge rolls until your next Command phase and if it has 6+ models it takes a mortal wound. This is OK as a long-distance way to slow down a key enemy unit but since it doesn’t affect Normal moves it won’t slow them that much. 
  • Fires of the Abyss – The closest visible enemy unit within 15” takes D3 mortal wounds. This is a little more reliable than Smite and kind of neat but you can also just cast Smite.
  • Capering Imps – Pick one visible enemy unit within 24”. Until your next Command phase that unit doesn’t get the benefits of cover, can’t fire Overwatch, and can’t set to Defend. This is kind of neat because it removes the -1 to hit from Dense terrain in addition to cover save. It has a ton more value in the post-Armour of Contempt meta, where cover saves stack with the new rule to make your AP-2 bolters irrelevant. This ensures they stay relevant.
  • Diabolic Savant – At the start of your next Psychic phase you get +1 Cabal point and in that phase you can re-roll psychic tests for the Infernal Master. If you don’t want Glimpse as your second Pact this is probably the next best option, but it’s not as good as Glimpse.
  • Glimpse of Eternity – Until the start of your next Command phase you can re-roll one dice you have rolled. You can’t re-roll any rolls related to the mission. This is pretty great, since it’s a completely unrestricted, meaning you can re-roll lots of things that Command Re-rolls no longer let you re-roll, such as the number of mortal wounds done by a smite, or the explosion roll for a vehicle. 
  • Malefic Maelstrom – Pick one friendly visible Thousand Sons until within 24”. Until the start of your next Command phase, add 1 to the strength of ranged attacks made by that unit. This is the best of the pacts and it’s not close. It’s amazing on Scarab Occult Terminators, it’s great on Contemptors, it’s great on Leviathans, it’s great on Warpflamers. If you’re taking an Infernal Master, you want this pact.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Psychic Powers

One of the meatiest and most important parts of Codex: Thousand Sons, psykers in the army have access to two disciplines – the Discipline of Change and the Discipline of Vengeance – each with 9 powers to choose from. For the most part, having two disciplines here is meaningless – only Tzaangor Shamans are prevented from choosing from both (they can only pick from the Discipline of Change), so you’ll just be taking powers from either in whichever way is most convenient.

While these powers vary in strength, there aren’t many stinkers in the bunch. instead their utility tends to be much less about the raw power of one particular spell and more about what your army’s plan is and how the large pool of powers you have to cast will work together – are you buffing several units for shooting and durability? Are you trying to force out a ton of mortal wounds? What powers need to be cast?

The Discipline of Change

  1. Tzeentch’s Firestorm (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 9D6. For each roll of a 6, that enemy takes a mortal wound. If you rolled an unmodified 9+ to manifest, the enemy takes a mortal wound for each 5+. With a low power cast this nets you 1.5 mortal wounds on average. With a 9+ cast you’re looking at 3-4. That’s pretty good, especially given you can pick your target. Your expected output of this without other buffs is about 1.7 wounds. As for the question of whether it’s worth it to use the Athenian Scrolls on this spell, the answer’s “kind of.” It certainly improves your odds substantially, but the bigger question is whether getting the mortal wounds is more important than guaranteeing that Weaver of Fates or Glamour of Tzeentch go off. That said, if you are throwing this out you can combine it with the Malevolent Charge Cabbalistic Ritual to tack on another D3 mortal wounds and get some really nasty output from a single power.
  2. Glamour of Tzeentch (WC 6) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 18”. Until the start of your next Psychic phase subtract 1 from the hit roll of attacks against that unit. This is pretty good, offering lots of utility and a huge survivability boost. Note that it works against melee attacks as well as shooting. You want this most of the time for big targets.
  3. Doombolt (WC 6) – The closest visible enemy to the psyker within 18” takes 3 mortal wounds. This is pretty money, particularly when you double up with Malevolent Charge to do D3+3 mortal wounds. This is also a great spell to double-cast using the Psychic Maelstrom Cabbalistic Ritual. Its best feature is its consistency.
  4. Temporal Manipulation (WC 5) – Pick a friendly, non-vehicle Thousand Sons model within 12”. That model is healed and regains up to D3 lost wounds. A model can only be healed once per turn. This can’t bring back dead models and so is pretty limited in its utility, except for healing up Magnus – if he manages to survive a turn of being shot at. Can have some utility to heal post-Perils but ultimately you don’t need this power.
  5. Weaver of Fates (WC 7) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 18”. That unit gains a 4+ invulnerable save until your next Psychic phase. This is very solid, and worth including in any list that includes Chaos Spawn. While it’s good for making Scarab Occult Terminators more durable against heavier guns/melee threats, you’ll get more value out of using it to buff Chaos Spawn or Cultists if you’re taking them, giving them massively improved survivability. Casting this can serve as a deterrent to going after your Scarabs, but if your opponent appears to already be avoiding them, think about casting it elsewhere.
  6. Baleful Devotion (WC 8) – Pick one visible enemy unit within 18” that has 6 or more models. Roll a number of D6 equal to the result of the Psychic test. For each roll of a 6, that enemy unit suffers D3 mortal wounds. If you could use this to target smaller units, this would be amazing. As-is, it’s OK but not stellar. The average output on a cast of this is just under 2 mortal wounds, and that’s not particularly amazing for a power that costs 8 to cast. That said, the ceiling on this is massive, and if you have Magnus it’s worth remembering that it’s in your back pocket via his Warlord Trait.
  7. Cacodaemonic Curse (WC 6) – Pick one enemy unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase, that unit gets -1 Strength to its ranged weapons. This is situationally useful – it does its best work on models that have lots of S4, S5, or S8 shooting, where dropping the strength by 1 makes a significant difference in your unit’s survivability. Not needing line of sight is a big help here, since it means Hive Guard are a great target for this. Otherwise it’s a bit situational.
  8. Pyric Flux (WC 5) – Pick a friendly Arcana Astartes unit within 12”. Until the end of the turn, add 1 to the Strength of all warpflamers, warpflame pistols, and heavy warpflamers (and any relics that replace those weapons) that they’re equipped with. This is great now that Warpflamers are useful, and is pretty much what goes on the aspiring sorcerer in your Warpflamer unit. The one thing that really stinks about it is the baffling decision to have it end at the end of the turn – keep that in mind because it doesn’t work for Overwatch fire.
  9. Perplex (WC 7) – Pick an enemy unit within 24”. Until your next psychic phase, that unit can’t target units more than 24” away with ranged attacks. This is pretty situational, but can be interesting. The problem is that the Thousand Sons are also not an army packed with long-range shooting so good use of this requires you to get in range of the target to begin with, and even after that major threats like knights can just walk 12” and get in range to shoot most things in a turn. This is probably a backup spell at best.

Thousand Sons Rubric Marine
Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Discipline of Vengeance

  1. Gaze of Hate (WC 5) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 3D6. For each 4+ that enemy takes a mortal wound. On average this gets you 1.5 mortal wounds and is more targeted than Smite, making it a good replacement for your second or third Smite, but not quite as good as your first cast. It’s a good combo for Malefic Maelstrom since it lets you pick the target, and dropping 2D3 mortal wounds on a character can be very nasty, especially if you have Glimpse of Eternity up to re-roll one of the mortal wound counts.
  2. Twist of Fate (WC 8) – Pick an enemy unit within 12”. Until your next psychic phase, models in that unit can’t use any invulnerable saves. Hot damn, this is straight fire. The only thing stopping this from being the best power in the game is that your army is almost all AP-2 firepower, and with Armour of Contempt you may not even get to the invulnerable save. That said, even for units that don’t have Armour of Contempt, this may not matter – forcing Knights to take a 5+ armor save instead of a 5+ invulnerable save isn’t great. Where this is great is for dealing with Harlequins, Craftworld Psykers and Aspect Warriors, Daemons, Tyranids, and Drukhari. It also combines well with the AP-3 Khopesh attacks from Scarabs.
  3. Dark Blessing (WC 6) – Pick one visible enemy within 6” and roll a D6. If you roll higher than their toughness characteristic they take D3+3 mortal wounds. This one is pretty situational, since its utility depends entirely on going up against T3 targets, and because it requires you be very close to actually cast. It might be an OK fit on a fighty Daemon Prince, where the likelihood he’ll get stuck in against T3 targets is high, and every now and then you’ll mulch some T4 character with a 5+ roll, but you can probably get more mileage out of Twist of Fate with the DP’s sword. That said, this is a decent power to save your Glimpse of Eternity re-roll for.
  4. Presage (WC 7) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase they get +1 to their to hit rolls. This is excellent. It’s always good and works well on every unit except for Warpflamer Rubrics. The more hit rolls you’re making, the better it is, so it’s doing its best work on Scarabs, Volkite Contemptors, Leviathans, Spawn, and Daemon Engines.
  5. Swelled by the Warp (WC 6) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons model within 12”. Until your next psychic phase that model gets +2 Strength and +1 Attack. If this buffed a unit it’d be amazing. As-is, it’s mostly a trick for your Daemon Prince to get to S10 and an extra attack. It’s pretty good for that, though.
  6. Temporal Surge (WC 7) – Pick a Friendly Thousand Sons Infantry, Cavalry, or Beasts unit within 6”. That unit can make a Normal move. This is a pale imitation of the Warptime of days of old, but it’s still incredibly good even in this reduced state. Yeah you can’t yeet Magnus across the table any more but double moving a unit of Rubrics, Scarabs, or Spawn is incredibly useful for getting onto objectives, setting up charges, or getting line of sight on a key target. The spell is instrumental to how the army functions on the table and is worth building around.
    As a result, Temporal Surge is also a dangerous crutch: You need it to go off, but having to roll a 6+, or against Grey Knights and other armies with the ability to Deny the Witch, is no guarantee. This makes Temporal Surge a good candidate for the Athenaean Scrolls or a Cabbalistic Ritual.
    The other thing to consider is the spell’s range: 6” is not a lot, and the nature of the spell means that whatever you cast the power on will often be moving away from the caster. This can easily lead to situations where the caster pushes a unit forward, only to be left behind and potentially in the open. Because of this you’ll need to be careful about how you use the spell and position models (an Exalted Sorcerer on Disc here is a decent idea since he can pull slower units with him), or just put it on your Aspiring Sorcerers directly. This also makes it a good candidate for Prism of Echoes to boost its range, and you’ll almost certainly want to double up on the power in your units so that you have backups to cast in multiple places.
  7. Empyric Guidance (WC 4) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 12”. Until your next psychic phase, add 6” to the range of Rapid Fire and Heavy weapons on models in that unit. This is basically made for buffing Scarab Occult Terminators to get 30” range, allowing you to pick off key targets while staying out of threat range on some of the game’s nastier threats – or at least force units like Eradicators to Advance to shoot you. Loses utility pretty quickly after turns 1-2 unless you’re up against Harlequins, however.
  8. Psychic Stalk (WC 5) – Pick a visible enemy unit (excluding vehicles, monsters, and characters) within 18” and roll 2D6. If you roll higher than the unmodified Ld of that unit, one model in the unit picked by an opponent is slain. This is the worst power in the book. It’s not worth consideration. The hoops you have to jump through to maybe kill the worst model on your opponent’s unit are too high and the odds of rolling a 9+ against better targets is only 28%.
  9. Desecration of Worlds (WC 7) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 24”. Until your next psychic phase, every time that unit makes a normal move, advances, falls back, or makes a charge move, roll a D6 for every model in the unit. For each result of a 6, that unit takes a mortal wound. This does its best work against massive units of 1W models and so the ideal target here are Devilgaunts, who will suffer 5-6 mortal wounds every time they move. It’s also not bad against other more elite 1W targets that are setting up to charge, however – Warp Talons, Zephyrim, Incubi – these are all decent targets since even a unit of 5 is likely to take 2 mortal wounds as they move in and charge, saving you a lot of incoming attacks to save. It’s not something you need every game, but against the right targets might be worth swapping in.

Picking the Right Powers for your Army

Picking the right powers for your army is about figuring out your strategy. You almost always want Temporal Surge in there on a couple of casters, but beyond that you need to figure out if your army’s primary focus is using psychic powers to improve and get more out of your units, or if your primary goal is spitting out mortal wounds to take down tougher targets.

If you’re going down the buffs route, you need to think about which units you’ll be buffing and when. Got two units of Spawn you need to use for early pressure? You’ll want Weaver of Fates and potentially Presage for them. Want to support a large unit of Scarabs? Glamour of Tzeentch and Presage are your best buffs, but Empyric Guidance can be a good add there as well. And you’re going to want Twist of Fate in the mix to soften up key targets.

More often than not you’ll need mobility, so if you’re not running Cult of Duplicity, you may want Temporal Surge on your Scarab Occult Terminators to give them some extra speed. That’s generally preferable in Cult of Time to putting the power on another caster.

On the other hand if you’re looking for mortal wounds output, you’re going to need more than just Smites, but they’ll still be a major part of your plan. We’ve covered casting probabilities before in Hammer of Math, and you can generally think about your power selections in terms of the expected mortal wounds output you can generate in a turn before shenanigans and Cabbalistic Rituals are taken into account. Your first three smites are worth an average of just over 3 mortal wounds each, after which your returns and casting probability diminish to the point where you want other options. You also want Tzeentch’s Firestorm and Doombolt in the mix for raw output and reliability, and you can tack on additional D3 with the Malevolent Charge Cabbalistic Ritual. That gives you around 10-14 mortal wounds per phase before you tack anything else on and from here Astral Blast, Gaze of Hate, or another Smite are good picks, plus you’ll want to have Cabal points to double cast Doombolt. 

In game terms, this means loading up 4-5 psykers with the relevant powers, and if you need all of that on the same target you’ll need to take care to ensure that your psykers are positioned properly around the same target to make it the closest where that’s required. More than likely you won’t be able to do that (or you won’t want to, since it’ll mean clustering up too much), so you’ll want to plan around having an average of 9ish mortal wounds to toss at any one target at a given time, if you’ve loaded up on all of these. I’d avoid pushing too far beyond these and trying to fit the likes of Baleful Devotion, Dark Blessing, or Desecration of Worlds into the mix as they’re just not reliable and you’re better off doing other things with your remaining powers. If you really want one more witchfire power, go with Cult of Magic.

Units

The Thousand Sons have a very strong slate of units. Very few of them are outright bad, and even the subpar ones tend to be at least interesting enough to try from time to time. Having Objective Secured on Terminators helps a lot, and currently armies tend to be built around Rubrics and Terminators rather than Tzaangors or other chaff units.

HQ

There’s a ton of power in the HQ slot for Thousand Sons, and you’ll find that armies regularly chafe at the notion of only including 3 HQ choices in a Battalion. The good news is that you have ways around that if you take an Exalted Sorcerer.

This is where your best psykers sit, and they’re essentially the fulcrum around which the rest of the army turns.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Ahriman

What a way to start. Ahriman is one of the better units in the whole game and is almost a must-include in competitive Thousand Sons Detachments. He doesn’t have access to cult powers or abilities, but he’s still an absolute powerhouse, with the ability to cast 3 powers and deny 3 powers per turn, plus he can re-roll psychic tests, making him one of the most reliable casters in the game and the perfect unit for all those tough spells that you need to go off. He also comes with a 4+ invulnerable save and a generic re-roll 1s to hit aura for all Thousand Sons CORE units, and he slots nicely into almost any army. 

Ahriman has the option to take a Disc of Tzeentch, and it’s generally a good idea to give him one for the extra mobility if you’re going to give him Temporal Surge, since he’ll need to zip around and get close enough to actually cast it. You also want to put him on a Disc if he’s going to be throwing out mortal wounds with Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Doombolt, or Desecration of Worlds, since he’ll need to get close. You don’t really need the disc if he’s going to sit in the backfield casting Presage, Weaver of Fates, and Glamour of Tzeentch, but that may also not be the best use for him.

Ahriman’s Warlord Trait is Otherworldly Presence, which doesn’t really add much and is a compelling reason to just never make him your warlord.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Thousand Sons Daemon Prince

Daemon Princes used to be auto-includes in the Thousand Sons but these days they’re much more something you need to have a specific plan for. They’re easily the best at melee among the Thousand Sons HQ options, but at the same time they’re one of the most disappointing units in the game when they actually get into melee – five sword attacks that can’t be re-rolled natively really stinks for actually doing damage. Still, that’s your best option and a 3-damage attack so you’re almost always paying the points for the Hellforged Sword, the best of the three options (S9 just isn’t relevant enough and you can get +1S other ways when you need it). 

The Daemon Prince is a decent target for many Warlord Traits, and Undying Form is usually the best pick, while the Conniving Plate isn’t a bad addition, either. Basically you want to kit this guy out to charge in and finish off targets your shooting couldn’t, and wipe out tougher opponents that might otherwise be bad to charge with a unit of Rubrics or Scarabs. Swelled by the Warp is also a decent power pick for the DP since he’ll need all the attacks he can get – you’ll be surprised at how often only getting 5 attacks that hit on a 2+ lets you down in combat.

Wings are an interesting option here. Sometimes you want them but at 35 points it’s a big ask and it almost immediately means your DP will be a To the Last unit unless you’ve got more than two ten-model units of rubrics/scarabs. That’s not great, but it’s something you can work around in a pinch. And it’s not as though To the Last is a common secondary pick for Thousand Sons anyways. Aetherstride is a better pick most of the time.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Infernal Master

The newest addition to the Thousand Sons army, the Infernal Master is a combination Psyker/Chaplain, who in addition to knowing one power (and being able to cast one), knows two Infernal Pacts. He can attempt to make in each of your Command phases, and on a 3+, they’re successful. We’ve already covered the pacts – see Infernal Pacts – but the clear best option among them is Malefic Maelstrom, which improves the strength on a unit’s ranged attacks by 1.  If you’re taking one in a competitive game then your best picks are Malefic Maelstrom and Glimpse of Eternity, as the ability to re-roll any die is very useful to have in your back pocket (though Cacodaemonic Curse has more play now than it used to). The downside to this guy is that his utility is limited to specific lists that want +1 strength on ranged attacks and the ability to fail your pact one third of the time (even if you can fix the odds for 1 CP and a mortal wound) isn’t great. He’s a good unit but more of a sometimes option in the armies that need him rather than something you build around explicitly.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Exalted Sorcerer

Exalted Sorcerers are basically combo Chaos Lord-Sorcerers for the Thousand Sons. They combine a re-roll 1s to hit aura and a 4+ invulnerable save with the ability to cast two powers per turn. They know two powers each and at least one of these guys is going to be in almost every army you build, even if you’ve already got Ahriman. That’s because unlike Ahriman, you can upgrade your Exalted Sorcerers with a large number of Legion Command upgrades, and because they also unlock additional sorcerers and terminator sorcerers via the Thrall rule on those Datasheets.

How you kit out your Exalted Sorcerer will depend on the role you want them to take. 

  • The Utility option will typically double up on Relics using the Dilettante Legion Command upgrade. This allows you to combine Athenaean Scrolls and Umbralefic Crystal, and if you’re in a Cult of Time Detachment you’ll be giving him Immaterial Echo to potentially cast a third time each turn. 
  • The Mortal Wounds option is where you’ll want to use the Rehati upgrade to give him three casts outright, and then give him the Athenaean Scrolls with Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Doombolt, and Gaze of Hate. This is also a model you may want to put Lord of Forbidden Lore on to give him a third non-Smite spell option.

You can give the Exalted Sorcerer a Disc of Tzeentch for extra mobility and that’s generally a solid idea if you need him to move around to either throw out wounds or be close to key units for buffs. If you take multiple Exalted Sorcerers in a list one of them will probably have a disc.  

Thousand Sons Aspiring Sorcerer
Thousand Sons Aspiring Sorcerer. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Sorcerer

These are your cheapest HQ option but they don’t bring a ton to the table over another squad of Rubrics except for one more cast. Still, sometimes that’s what you really need and if you already have an Exalted Sorcerer this guy won’t take up an HQ slot. But generally there’s nothing this guy does that you can’t get from a different option.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Sorcerer in Terminator Armour

For a few more points you can get a Sorcerer, but in Terminator Armor. That means they’re slower (-1” Movement), more durable (2+/5++ save with +1 wound), and better in combat, since they can take a Khopesh. They can also teleport into battle, though this isn’t doing a ton for you in most games. Terminator Sorcerers are fine, but there just isn’t much of a use for them in most armies. They can be OK accompaniments to a Scarab unit, and can be one of your nastier options with Battle-Psyker and a Khopesh. Or you can focus on him being a mortal wounds bomb with Witch-Warrior. Ultimately though an Exalted Sorcerer does most of this for you already, so the Terminator Sorcerer is for when you have some extra points to spend on a heavier free slot character who can teleport in and do Psychic Interrogation. 

Troops

The Thousand Sons have three Troops choices, and unusually not all of them have Objective Secured. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rubric Marines

We’ve come a long way since the Tzaangor-heavy armies of 8th edition. Rubric Marines are, for the most part, relatively durable Troops choices. They come with 2 attacks each, a 3+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, 2 wounds, and the unit comes with AP-2 inferno bolters and an Aspiring Sorcerer as its champion, capable of casting Smite and one other spell, plus whatever they learn from their Cult. Generally, Inferno bolters aren’t amazing, but they’re annoying enough to help wipe out medium and heavy infantry.

As troops, Rubric Marines are incredibly versatile. They work well in several configurations but the most common competitive configurations are:

  • Minimum Size. 5 models, four of which are rubrics. This is your basic objective holder, and in the Cult of Duplicity they’ll use Sorcerous Facade to pick up and drop wherever you need, either to perform actions or just hold an objective. It’s usually not worth it to put a Soulreaper cannon on these since they may just not shoot often enough for it to matter, but an Icon of Flame isn’t a bad addition if you want the extra Cabal points.
  • Warpflamers. Take a unit of 5 (10 is also an option, but often overkill, lots of lists land on 7-8) armed with Warpflamers and give the Aspiring Sorcerer a Warpflame Pistol and the Pyric Flux power to boost their strength. These will mulch through enemy targets on sheer volume. Either deploy them forward with Risen Rubricae or put them in a Rhino to ensure they make it to their targets in one piece, or use Sorcererous Facade to teleport-drop them onto vulnerable targets. 
  • Bigger Squads. You may, from time to time, get value out of a large squad of Rubrics. Note that you are still limited to one Soulreaper cannon – it’s not a “one per five models” deal – but you’ll typically want to include one on these bigger squads to improve their output.

In most builds you’ll want one large unit and a bunch of minimum size ones, focusing on having one unit to maximize the impact of buffs and protective abilities on. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Tzaangors

Tzaangors are in an interesting (read: bad) position in the new book. They’re more durable than Cultists and have Objective Secured, thanks to having T4 and a 5+ invulnerable save as BRAY units, and they’re actually capable of doing anything in melee (though this is not a good use for them). They’re fine for doing actions and holding objectives and if you take them you pretty much always want to keep things small and go with a minimum size squad with blades.

The problem with Tzaangor is that they’re costed between the dirt cheap cultist choice and the more expensive Rubrics ObSec choice and that’s kind of a lousy place to be. They aren’t quite cheap enough to be throwaway options and they’re not good enough to be used for more important thanks. For only a few points more you can get a 5-model Rubric unit that gives you Cabal points, psychic powers. More durability (with as many wounds), and only 5 models to move and hide. This means Tzaangors are kind of the odd models out in the Thousand Sons army right now, though their added durability makes them better 10-model units than Cultists, and having ObSec and being able to do actions makes them a little more valuable in the Nachmund missions that allow ObSec units to “lock in” control of an objective.

Chaos Cultists

Every time Games Workshop writes a new Chaos book, Cultists get worse. The most recent round of updates have seen them losing Objective Secured and being capped at one unit per unit of Rubrics/Scarabs. Cultists really only have value in large units, where the ability to give them a 4+ invulnerable save with Weaver of Fates and +1 to hit with Presage can turn even autoguns into something dangerous. 

Elites

The Thousand Sons don’t have a ton of Elite choices, but given you’re usually running a Battalion and at least one unit of Scarabs, there’s a bit rougher competition than you’d expect.

Tzaangor Shaman
Tzaangor Shaman. Credit Mike Bettle-Shaffer.

Tzaangor Shaman

The Tzaangor Shaman is your only Elite psyker character option and has some value as a very fast caster who can do Psychic actions like Mutate Landscape and Psychic Interrogation from anywhere on the board without giving up a ton because he’s cheap and only has 1 cast. He might have some outside value as a buff for your other Tzaangor units, but it’s worthless on Tzaangor Enlightened and if you’re taking Tzaangors it’s to be cheap objective holders, not melee units. This guy’s primary value is being a cheap action doer. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Scarab Occult Terminators

Scarab Occult Terminators went from a unit with outside use to the beating heart of 9th edition Thousand Sons lists. With 3 wounds apiece and the ability to go to both reduce damage and incur an extra +1 save against 1-damage attacks, they’ve got solid durability which combines with 4 AP-2 inferno bolter shots apiece and 2-damage power swords for a unit that has some solid damage output. They’re great all-arounders, good for bullying units off objectives and holding them, and thanks to having Objective Secured they have a place in almost every Thousand Sons list. The question is whether you want to run 20 or 30 of them.

You’ll get the most value out of a 10-model unit of Scarabs when you stack buffs on them – Weaver of Fates for a 4+ invulnerable save, Presage for +1 to hit, Exalted Sorcerer auras, Glamour of Tzeentch for -1 to be hit, Wrath of the Wronged for +1 to Wound, and Unwavering Phalanx to reduce incoming damage from ranged attacks. Yeah, you’ll pay the extra CP for phalanx, but it’ll often be worth it when you need to drop it against a Night Spinner or Caladius or other big-shot D2 weapon, though this will probably only be something you can afford to do once per game. 

Big units of Scarabs tend to do their best work on missions that have a single center objective to occupy, forcing an opponent to deal with them. The good news is that in Nachmund missions, the majority of missions now have a central objective, giving these a lot more value. Most successful lists are going to revolve around a large unit of Scarabs.

Large units of Scarabs tend to work best with the Cult of Time, where the ability to bring back models with Time Flux and Warped Regeneration (typically combined with the healing effect of Rites of Coalescence or Temporal Manipulation to ensure every model is at full wounds), can really make trying to tear through a big unit of Scarabs a demoralizing task. This is a double-edged sword, however: You need to make the Scarabs so tough they’ll weather decent shooting and not get completely wrecked in a single turn without making them such a bad target your opponent just ignores them and kills the rest of your army. 

Even with all that, it’s important to understand that Scarabs are not Blightlords and require a lot of investment to get on that level (and even still lack Toughness 5). You have to be a bit more careful with them because they will absolutely die if you over-expose them – particularly in melee. With AP-3 and 2 damage swords they’re solid in melee but they aren’t worldbeaters. They’ll cleave through regular marines no problem, but you’re likely to be disappointed with their output against anything that reduces incoming damage by 1, and 2-damage melee units like Incubi will just tear through them.

On the smaller side of things, 5-model units can give you a lot of value without requiring you spend 400+ points, but the tradeoff there is that you don’t get as much efficiency out of buffing a small unit. This is a better option for Duplicity lists, where you can redeploy squads before the game and potentially deploy them more aggressively/defensively as needed.

Recommended Loadout: Take the Soulreaper cannons and Hellfyre missile racks when you can, especially on larger units. It helps up the damage output of the unit and ensures you’ll get the most out of buffs while also giving you some anti-vehicle firepower. On smaller units this might not be what you’re looking for. Because they’re slow and can always use the extra push, you typically want to give them Temporal Surge as their Psychic Power.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Helbrute

With improved stats, damage reduction, inferno combi-bolters, Armour of Contempt, and a 5+ invulnerable save thanks to being ARCANA ASTARTES, the Thousand Sons Helbrute is likely the best possible version of the Helbrute. And it’s still not good enough to play. As a melee option, the Helbrute has some great weapons – fist and scourge is a solid combo, and pretty great for the points – but at only 6” movement and no ability to Advance and charge, he’s not going to make it to combat often enough. On the ranged side, none of the Helbrute’s options are great and it just doesn’t have enough damage output to be worth taking as a ranged platform. Can you take a Helbrute and still do OK? Maybe. Should you? No. 

Forge World Options

Let’s talk about the three Forge World options in the Elites category – the Relic Contemptor, the Leviathan, and the Decimator. These are all a bit odd in that, while they’re solid in a Thousand Sons army, they don’t get any benefits from Brotherhood of Sorcerers, since they already have an invulnerable save. Still, the damage output of the Contemptor and Leviathan is high enough that you don’t have better options.

Chaos Contemptor Contemptor

The Chaos Contemptor used to be absolute fire thanks to the twin Volkite Culverin option. And if we’re honest, it’s still a pretty great option even at its increased points cost. At a base cost of 140 points, the only options worth considering here are either two twin lascannons, two twin volkite culverins, or twin volkite + chainfist, and the missile launcher is an optional add-on you’ll usually want to add on.

The Volkite Culverins have gone up in price to 15 points per arm and with good reason: They’re an incredibly powerful, versatile option, throwing out 8 S6, 2-damage shots that do additional mortals on 6s to wound. While they’re still AP 0, the fact that Contemptors are CORE means you can buff them in a number of ways and the mortal wounds and sheer volume of shots mean you’re likely to make something work with them regardless. Giving them +1 strength with an Infernal Master significantly improves their lethality, and having Egleighen’s Orrery around can help reduce the impact of damage -1 effects that would blunt the unit’s effectiveness. What used to be a liability – having AP 0 – is now a kind of benefit in the Armour of Contempt meta, as you aren’t paying for AP that will be ignored. Against non-marine targets, you can always use Ensorcelled Infusion to boost that AP to 1, though.

Volkite Culverin + Chainfist is more of a niche play but can be solid as more of a mid-table unit capable of fighting units off objectives. 

Twin Lascannons are going to be more of a backline ranged play, allowing your Contemptor to sit further back and take down heavier targets. With D6 damage and only one shot Lascannons aren’t great but put four of them together and suddenly you can mitigate a lot of variance. These guys also make decent units for To the Last.

Chaos Leviathan

The Chaos Leviathan is the bigger, heavier, tougher brother of the Contemptor. It loses the CORE keyword in exchange for having more wounds, a 2+ save, and bigger weapons. As an option, Leviathans shifted significantly following the Armour of Contempt update, and are now much more attractive with their functional 1+ save and the ability to go with heavier weapon options.

On that note, the value of their weapon options has also changed. Pre-Armour I might have suggested that Storm Cannons were the best option, due to their shot volume and the fact that you could get them to AP-2. Post-Armour, having AP-1 looks a lot less valuable, and that makes the Grav-Flux Bombard suddenly the standout option. Having 2D3 shots at S8 AP-3, 2 damage that upgrades to 3 against marines is one of the best options you’ll get for taking on Terminators, and helps shore up your anti-vehicle weaknesses as well. And while the Bombards are Blast, you have to worry less than most armies about getting tagged in melee, as you can (hopefully) use psychic powers to dig your dreadnought out of melee before the shooting phase if that happens.

If there’s a downside to the Grav-flux Bombard it’s the 18” range, which means it’s a great target for Empyric Guidance to bring it up to 24”. The Leviathan loves buffs generally, and it’s a high-quality target for Presage, Malefic Maelstrom, and Ensorcelled Infusion. Its two Twin volkite cavaliers are also nothing to sneeze at, and 8 volkite shots will also help you push through a few extra wounds against key targets. The Leviathan historically struggled to find a place in most armies but following the Armour of Contempt update there may be a place for one.

Chaos Deredeo Dreadnought

The shootiest Forge World Dreadnought option, the Deredeo also loses CORE in exchange for more shooting options, with the Hellfire plasma carronade being the most valuable of those options, giving you six shots at S7 AP-3 2 damage and the option to supercharge to S8 and 3 damage, which you’ll want to do most of the time. The plasma has a clear advantage over the autocannon battery since it gives you better AP and more play against targets that reduce damage by 1. The Volkite battery suffers a similar issue and is something you get more value out of on the Contemptor. Ultimately the Deredeo is fine but too expensive for the value you get. If you take one, give it the Aiolos Missile launcher for extra shot output.

Decimator

The Decimator daemon engine sees occasional play with the standard Chaos Space Marine traitor legions, where the ability to give it full re-rolls to hit with the Daemonforge Stratagem or Abaddon gives it a lot more value to just poop out mortal wounds on the dual soulburners build. That’s not something you get access to in Thousand Sons, and so the Decimator doesn’t have anything to offer, particularly when when you can get same output Butcher Cannons give you on Forgefiends. 

Fast Attack

There isn’t much in the way of Fast Attack choices for Thousand Sons. Chaos Spawn are pretty common in Thousand Sons armies, while Enlightened don’t see much play.

Tzaangor Enlightened.
Tzaangor Enlightened. Credit: muggins

Tzaangor Enlightened

Tzaangor Enlightened seem great on paper. They have S5, AP-1 bows that hit on a 2+ and ignore Look Out, Sir and also they’re pretty fast and mobile, with 2 wounds each and a 5+ invulnerable save. But the reality is that they only have one shot each, and that means a unit of 6 will, on average, do maybe 1-2 wounds to a Space Marine character with T4. That’s good enough to take the last wound off an injured model but it’s not going to wipe the unit off the table and that means these guys are not going to be the character snipers they seem to be.

Instead if you’re using these guys they’re probably more likely to be for scoring points on Engage on All Fronts, or helping do actions deep in enemy territory, though even Engage isn’t necessarily a good pick for them given they’re not super durable and going to 2 models makes them worthless. So the lesson here is: Don’t take Engage on All Fronts. It’s a bad secondary – take Stranglehold instead.

Credit: PierretheMime

Chaos Spawn

Chaos Spawn are just great. They’re stupid cheap and incredibly good value for their cost, able to move quickly, screen more valuable units, harass enemy units, or just screen out enemy deep strikers. There’s a lot less value for single-model units of them now thanks to the changes to Engage on All Fronts, but units of this type still have value to harass or threaten enemies or make sacrifice plays for objectives for primary scoring, Stranglehold, or additional scoring actions on missions like Data-Scry Salvage.

As a 5-model unit, these are pretty nasty. They have 4 attacks each and their Mutated Beyond Reason ability gives them either AP-4, 3D3 attacks (average 6), or re-rolls on wounds, plus they do S5 Ap-2, 2 damage attacks normally. The optimal choice will vary by target: 

  • Razor Claws. This gives your attacks AP-4. It’s going to be best against targets that ignore AP-1 and AP-2 or units with a 2+ save and either no invulnerable save or a 5+, which usually means Terminators. You want to avoid having this against units with a 4+ invulnerable save.
  • Grasping Pseudopods. 3D3 Attacks. This is best against horde enemies, and targets with T4 or lower. You want this against most space marines and most of the chaff in other armies.
  • Toxic Haemorrhage. Re-roll wound rolls. This is best against targets with T6 or more, since re-rolls give you the most value when they’re worse rolls. It’ll break even with Grasping Pseudopods against T5 targets, so your mileage may vary there. 

The rub here is that you can spend 1 CP for Fated Mutation when your Spawn is selected to Fight, which lets you pick your option and gives you +1 to your attacks for the phase. So when it absolutely matters, you’ll be able to ensure you have the best option in play.

Otherwise, these guys are great – except for their defense. With only a 5+ armor save they aren’t going to last long when they start getting hit, though this also means they really benefit from the added defense afforded by Weaver of Fates and Glamour of Tzeentch. They’re also solid targets for Warped Regeneration. The other thing to watch out for is to make sure you don’t overestimate them. Yeah, they can be solid in melee but with only WS 4+ if you try and charge them into Harlequins you’re going to realize how little that gets you when you’re rolling 5s to hit. Pick your battles with them.

Dreadclaw Drop Pod

Dreadclaws are another unit that see semi-reliable play in Chaos Space Marine armies, either to drop out Havocs or melee units that can get easy charges in using the Honour the Prince Stratagem. Neither of those is an option for Thousand Sons, who instead will be looking more at putting a unit of Warpflamer Rubrics into a Dreadclaw to drop out and light up an unsuspecting unit. That’s not bad but it’s an expensive trick that you can mostly replicate with Stratagems and Master Misinformator so your value is tied to being able to drop in when you don’t have first turn and how valuable you find the dreadclaw. They tend to be disappointing in melee but can be very annoying, especially with a 5+ invulnerable save. But ultimately you’re better of saving the points.

 

Heavy Support

Even an army capable of putting out mortal wounds like the Thousand Sons needs ranged support, and there are a few options here that are at least interesting to consider.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Mutalith Vortex Beast

The Mutalith Vortex Beast remains one of the game’s strangest units and a truly unique addition to the faction. Purely as a melee threat, it’s interesting, packing 5 Attacks at S8, AP-2 and 3 damage with claws and the option to switch to its maw for sweep-like attacks (3x the number at AP-1, D1) when dealing with hordes, which helps considerably. It regains D3 wounds per turn and packs a 4+/5++ save profile to keep it from going down too quickly. You can teleport it around the table in the Cult of Duplicity to get it into position and with a 10” movement it’s got a pretty nasty threat range. For 140 points, it’s a valuable distraction that demands to be taken seriously as a melee threat and if your opponent doesn’t commit to killing it entirely, they may be shocked to find it suddenly regaining a ton of wounds the turn after. Armour of Contempt applies to these guys as well, making their 4+ armour save a bit more impressive.

On top of that, it’s also got the Warp Vortex ability, which lets you use up to two of its powers per shooting phase (you lose these as you lose wounds, getting only 1 below half health and 0 below 4 wounds). You can’t pick any that another beast has used, which is fine since you’ll rarely if ever take more than one and almost certainly won’t take more than two. These powers are:

  • Immaterial Fire – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll a D6 for each model in the unit; for each 6, that unit takes a mortal wound
  • Turbulent Discharge – Pick the closest visible enemy unit within 18” and roll a D6; on a 2-4 it takes D3 mortal wounds, and on a 5+ it takes 3 mortals.
  • Maelstrom of Madness – Roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 9”. On a 2+ that unit takes 1 mortal wound.
  • Bean of Unreality – Pick a visible enemy unit with 10+ wounds within 24” and roll a D6, subtracting 1 if the target is an AIRCRAFT and adding 1 if it’s TITANIC. On a 3-4 it takes D3 mortal wounds and on a 5+ it takes D6. 

So you’ve got two options for hordes (Immaterial Fire, Maelstrom of Madness), one option for big targets (Beam of Unreality), and one best option for elite and mid-sized targets (Turbulent Discharge). These are pretty solid, though in an ideal world you’d have a second discharge-like ability to pick from. Immaterial Fire really only does work against units of 12+ models, while Maelstrom of Madness is going to do better work when you have several units nearby, but it’s also really great for hitting characters who are trying to hide behind bodyguards or other units. It’s money if you’re going up against Grimaldus, since a single mortal wound can score you 3 VP for Assassination. 

What’s great about these powers is that they aren’t Shooting attacks and so nothing that deals with shooting affects them. This can be very helpful for getting around debuffs or other protective abilities.

Ultimately the biggest challenge for the Mutalith is finding a good use for it; it costs too much to just throw away as a distraction, but at the same time it’s not good enough to triple up on and it’s not durable enough to soak up a bunch of firepower in the T’au/Custodes/Craftworlds meta. It’s a fairly solid melee combatant though and if the points cost ever comes down it’ll likely become a common one-off in lists to accompany daemon engines. The best thing about it is that it’s reasonably durable, able to push out non-psychic mortal wounds reliably, and it isn’t a psyker, so having it around doesn’t add to your Abhor totals. If you’re building more around utility from your Sorcerers than mortal wound output, the Mutalith may be able to help shore up some of your weaknesses.

Chaos Predators

Chaos Predators aren’t quite good enough and so don’t see much play. Suddenly having a 5+ invulnerable save from Brotherhood of Sorcerers and Armour of Contempt makes them much more interesting, but if you’re going to go that route you probably want a Sicaran instead. They’re just far outclassed by the Forge World dreadnoughts and Daemon Engines. If you do take one, take the autocannon variant. 

Chaos Vindicator

Vindicators also benefit from a 5+ invulnerable save to go with being T8 and having a 2+ armor save, and suddenly look hilariously tough when you stack Armour of Contempt on top of that. Unfortunately their damage output isn’t good enough to make them offensive threats. Instead if you’re taking one, it’s to be a reliably tough unit for moving up the board and capturing objectives, the same way White Scars lists used Hunters or Death Guard used Plagueburst Crawlers in 8th edition. They’re durable enough that you can have them charge key units to tie them up if they get across the board – and you can use Smokescreen to ensure they do – and then you can use psychic powers to kill whatever they tagged in the following Psychic phase.

That said, even T8 2+/5++ with a -1 to hit and AP reduction isn’t good enough to survive in this meta with only 11 wounds so you’re likely better off looking at other options.

Chaos Land Raider

Chaos Land Raiders are all dramatically overcosted, even with the drop to 265 points and the 5+ invulnerable save. The biggest problem is that they don’t have enough guns, and you can get most of the transport value from a Rhino at a fraction of the cost. Transport-wise, they don’t hold enough Scarabs to be good transports for them, and terminators can teleport in anyways. They may have play in other armies but in Thousand Sons you want to invest your points elsewhere.

Defiler

I really, really want Defilers to be good. And they have much better profiles now in Thousand Sons! With BS 3+ and 5 attacks they’re very close to playable, even if they don’t particularly get anything out of being Thousand Sons units. They’ve got decent ranged shooting and the ability to tear things up in melee if someone wants to get fresh with them, but their biggest issue is that they’re still paying for both melee and shooting effectiveness, and only realistically able to use one at a time. In that sense, their shooting is only OK and they don’t quite have enough attacks (or access to the necessary re-rolls) nor the speed to be reliable melee threats. They also have a brutal degrading profile, losing accuracy and movement at each bracket drop. The Defiler is going to disappoint you most of the time.

Defilers are going to do their best work with a list that’s going heavy on vehicles, pushing them forward aggressively and holding forward objectives, hoping that smokescreen and a 5+ invulnerable save will keep them alive (and annoying) for an extra turn. Don’t bother giving them lascannons; go with the Reaper Autocannon – a massively underrated gun – and the Defiler Scourge to give it enough attacks to be legitimately worth worrying about. 

If you do take this guy, he’s a decent target for Ensorcelled Infusion, where giving an extra AP on the Reaper Autocannon and Defiler Cannon to take them to AP-3 is pretty helpful. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Forgefiend

Forgefiends got a huge boost in Codex: Thousand Sons by going to BS 3+ and getting improved weapons. Turns out actually being able to hit things is a big help for a shooting platform! At 175 points with twin Hades Heavy Autocannons and an Ectoplasma cannon, they’re interesting now that the Volkite Contemptor has come up in price, but they suffer from not being Arcana Astartes and so receiving no benefit from the Orrery. 

Forgefiends are big models and hard to hide, but they’re just good enough at what they do to make the cut in some lists and they don’t need a ton of support to work. Ensorcelled Infusion is solid on them against the right targets and depending on how the meta shakes out it might be worth looking at triple Ectoplasma cannons for the 3-damage shooting, which buys you a hell of a lot more efficiency against targets that reduce incoming damage by 1.

Maulerfiend

Maulerfiends likewise got a much-needed boost in Codex: Thousand Sons, moving to WS 3+ and 6 attacks base, with fists that now do D3+3 damage each. At 150 points with Lasher Tendrils – which you’ll want – they can absolutely wreck some of the bigger targets you’ll go up against, making them solid fighters against Crusher Stampede and Custodes targets… if you can break through their invulnerable saves. There’s little reason to use Insorcelled Infusion on these guys, and the big downside here is that Thousand Sons don’t really do anything for Maulerfiends. Similar to the Mutalith, they may be playable with a points drop, and there’s potentially a list that runs two Maulerfiends and a Mutalith waiting out there when they’re all closer to 120 points.

Dedicated Transport

There are only two options here, and their utility is limited by the fact that most Thousand Sons armies specialize in teleporting all over the table. if you take a Thousand Sons transport, it’s typically for extra on-table durability, to which Armour of Contempt adds some extra oomph.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Rhino

The Chaos Rhino is a very solid good transport for Thousand Sons, where suddenly getting a free 5+ invulnerable save makes it an extremely good deal for a tank that was already borderline playable with its existing stats. The invulnerable save makes it an efficient way to soak up wounds and protect your Rubrics, and combined with Smokescreen you’ve got about as much durability as you can get for 80 points. 

If you’re taking Rhinos, the goal is to keep your Rubrics in them for as long as possible, moving them onto objectives and treating them like piñatas, protecting the precious cargo until they’re blown open, at which point a large number of Objective Secured Rubrics pop out, holding the objective. There’s sometimes utility in getting out and using Temporal Surge to press forward extra distance, but unless you need to dislodge another unit from the objective, this shouldn’t be your first impulse.

The one downside to these is that they can’t transport Cultists or Tzaangors, so just be mindful they’re only an option for Rubrics, which limits their utility. 

Terrax Termite Assault Drill

The Termite is a more recent addition to the Thousand Sons’ repertoire and is basically “what if a Rhino could really wreck things in melee?” Termites are great because they demand your opponent deal with them immediately, and Hateful Assault makes them even better. They lose a bit when you don’t have anything you’d really need to put in them to get out and charge, though. On the whole you won’t have much need for these, simply because you can already teleport around the table and you don’t really have infantry melee threats.

 

Flyers

Thousand Sons Heldrake
Thousand Sons Heldrake. That Gobbo

Heldrake

Thousand Sons have a single Codex flyer option — the Heldrake — and it’s OK. Heldrakes suffer from not being able to put out either enough shots or enough attacks to really be a threat to most things, but what they are good at doing is being incredibly annoying. They’ve gained BS 3+ and 5 Attacks in Codex: Thousand Sons, with upgrades to their weapons, but they’re now AIRCRAFT, which makes them much less useful – they can’t hold objectives or block movement nearly as well, and they have to spend a turn transitioning to Hover mode if they want to charge non-AIRCRAFT things. It also means you can’t hide them from T’au and Eldar shooting, and that’s a big problem for games where you go second.

With the improved BS the Baleflamer is no longer the only good play for Heldrakes – now there’s at least a passing reason to take the Hades Autocannon. The Claws are also improved in this book, now with AP-2 and 2 damage base, upgraded to 4 against enemy AIRCRAFT. That’s kind of neat, but the recent limitations to AIRCRAFT in the December Balance Dataslate make this much less useful and even before those changes, the Heldrake was likely to just get murdered by Wazbom Blastajets. That said, with Harpies about to make a big splash on the competitive scene there might suddenly be a place for Heldrakes.

The other neat trick for the Thousand Sons Heldrake is the Vector Strike Stratagem, which lets it do mortal wounds to units that it passes over. This can’t hit a character but with a trade of 1 CP for D3 mortal wounds on a 2+ or flat 3 on a target with FLY it can be pretty handy against the growing number of juicy flying targets, like Vertus Praetors and Crisis Suits.

Ultimately Heldrakes are a marginal unit at best and just aren’t good enough at any of the things they’re ostensibly designed to do. It’s a unit whose sole purpose is to annoy, and even then it’s not as good at being annoying as it could be. I’ve tried very hard to make the Heldrake work and this big flying idiot just disappoints me every time.

Chaos Fire Raptor Gunship

It’s worth mentioning the Fire Raptor here, as it’s seen some very limited competitive success. A 340-point aircraft before you upgrade its autocannons to heavy bolters, the Fire Raptor is another vehicle that benefits greatly from the Brotherhood of Sorcerers 5+ invulnerable save and the Armour of Contempt rule to boost its durability. On the table it’s a gunship, zooming from end to end putting out a large amount of firepower with its Twin Avenger bolt cannon, hellforged autocannons, and hellstrike missiles, the former two of which really want to use Ensorcelled Infusion for the bump to AP-2 to do anything against marines. This isn’t a bad amount of firepower but it’s also not a lot either, and the Fire Raptor is also a really, really big target that’s impossible to hide. Even with its defenses it’s not going to last long against T’au shooting.

Lord of War

Magnus the Red. Credit: Colin Ward

Magnus the Red

Let’s get something out of the way right now: Magnus did do something wrong. What he did wrong was continually failing to wipe the Space Wolves out of the galaxy. That said, Magnus is an interesting – but ultimately very unfortunate – unit. Against armies that can’t deal with him effectively, he’s a complete nightmare, wiping out enemy units and casually tossing out a dozen mortal wounds per turn. He’s got a solid melee profile and the ability to cast Twist of Fate to remove invulnerable saves, plus some great movement at 16”. In the psychic phase he’s an incredibly reliable caster with his +2 bonus at full health and as your warlord he knows every single power the Thousand Sons have access to, which is neat. He can absolutely crap out mortal wounds or buffs as you see fit, plus he’s got a 4+ invulnerable save and -1 damage thanks to Undying Form, which can help him weather a lot of D2 firepower and attacks, while being able to heal himself each turn if he takes damage.

On the other hand, a 4+ invulnerable save, Armour of Contempt, and -1 damage are nowhere near enough to weather the storm of D3+3 or 3+ damage shooting that many armies can put out now, and the reality is that if you don’t get the first turn Magnus is just going to get shot off the board. This is exacerbated by the fact that he’s no longer a potential target for Temporal Surge, making it difficult for him to actually get off the kinds of first-turn charges he needs to make himself an immediate threat and tie up key enemy units (that said, 16” movement can be enough to get you across the table against an opponent who isn’t paying attention).

Magnus is a surprisingly good pick against other Thousand Sons armies, Grey Knights, and Tyranids, where his ability to deny damn near anything makes him a nasty threat, though a lot of his longevity will depend on your ability to make 4+ invulnerable saves. The flip side is that Magnus is a huge liability when going up against T’au and Eldar shooting, where he’ll just be blasted off the table by Hammerheads, Stormsurges, or Fire Prisms before he can act. With a points drop he might have some play over a knight but for 450 points you’ll be better off adding a non-psyker with T8 and powerful ranged attacks over another psyker in most matchups.

 

Souping Thousand Sons

The Thousand Sons are an army that soups relatively well. While the Cabbalistic Rituals mechanic is solid, it’s not so strong that you need it, and it’s relatively easy to ignore in favor of other effects. As a result, there have been competitive list from time to time that proved quite successful combining the raw psychic power of Ahriman or Magnus with other large threats like Be’lakor or Abaddon and the ranged shooting from Plagueburst Crawlers. These haven’t seen much play since Nachmund owing to just how bonkers shooting threats have gotten, and the Plagueburst Crawlers are likely to see even less play following the changes to indirect fire. Still, if you’re looking to sharply increase the number of mortal wounds you can throw out per turn or add a Scarab Terminator block for durable Obsec objective holders, you can add a Thousand Sons detachment to your Chaos Soup list without giving up much – you lose Cabbalistic Rituals and the ability to take the Sorcerous Arcana from the Great Cults.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Daemons

Souping Daemons used to be more common but thanks to multiple changes in 9th edition – in particular the addition of Cabbalistic Rituals – there isn’t a ton of value in adding Daemons to your army. The one area you might consider this is summoning a Tzeentch Daemon Prince. Doing so gives you one of the only ways to get re-rolls to hit to daemon engines (his aura works on all TZEENTCH DAEMONS), and on summoning he can give you the Flickering Flames Psychic Power, which is incredibly easy to cast and extremely solid for giving your daemon engines +1 to their wound rolls. And he can do all this while not breaking your detachment bonuses or taking away your Cabal points. Give him a sword and talons to keep him cheap and have him babysit a couple of Forgefiends.

Another option in the burgeoning Tyranid mortal wounds meta is to look at using summoned daemons – particularly Brimstone Horrors – as cheap screening units against psychic powers that have to pick the closest target. Keeping 100 or so points around to dump out brimstones can be a solid play to add a backline objective holder, prevent a charge, or soak up some mortal wounds.

Chaos Knights

The new Chaos Knights codex makes the prospect of adding a Dreadblade detachment to Chaos armies very enticing. While there are multiple options here you could pursue, the most valuable to Thousand Sons is likely the prospect of taking a trio of War Dog Executioners or Huntsmen, since the former offer the kind of ranged punch and mobility that Thousand Sons just don’t have and the latter offer strong anti-vehicle shooting and a significant melee punch with the reaper chaintalons. That they also give you three more ObSec bodies is just icing on the cake. 

If you’re not taking an Abominant Dreadblade you can use the Pyrothrone to make one of your Dreadblades a PSYKER, though I’d generally advise against this unless you’re taking a Knight Tyrant – the Warp Storm Discipline doesn’t have much to offer a Thousand Sons army save Winds of the Warp to protect your knight investment. 

Of course, if you’d rather go harder on the chaos knights side of things, you’re welcome to – losing Cabbalistic Rituals is not that big a deal all things considered, and you may find that a Patrol sporting two units of Scarabs, a couple of Sorcerers, and a unit of Rubrics or Tzaangors is more than enough Thousand Sons to support 1,000 points of Chaos Knights.

Playing Thousand Sons

The Thousand Sons are a difficult army. They’re dangerous without having tons of long-ranged shooting or anti-tank firepower, they’re a little durable but can still die quickly to multi-damage attacks, and they’ve got movement tricks but aren’t very fast on the ground. On top of that, there’s a ton to remember with psychic powers and Cabbalistic rituals that can make the army daunting. Here are a few pointers on building lists with Thousand Sons and playing the army.

Think about what your casters will be doing as you build your list

Determining which powers to cast and when is one of the biggest challenges for new players starting with Thousand Sons. Your psychic phases will be long, especially during your first few games with the faction, as you try and figure out what each unit is casting and how to coordinate. The best time to plan all of this out is before the game even starts – rather than try and have a bunch of casters who can do several things, focus on the one thing you want that unit to cast most turns. For Terminators, that’ll often be Temporal Surge or Presage. For your Daemon Prince, that’ll probably be Doombolt and Swelled by the Warp. And so on. Think about the powers you want each unit casting and go from there. Stack them on the units where it makes most sense, and plan to be caught out of position later.

If you’re taking Ahriman, consider that while he’s a powerful mortal wounds engine but also one of the most reliable casters in your army. His ability to re-roll any psychic tests makes him the perfect caster for the more difficult powers (read: Higher Warp Charge), like Twist of Fate, Presage, and Tzeentch’s Firestorm (where you are trying to roll a 9+). 

Create a plan for tracking psychic powers used in-game

Tracking Psychic Powers is one of the other big challenges for new players to Thousand Sons. You’ll often double up on powers and effects, and during a game you’ll need to manage who has what and how it’s being used. Using tokens or cards from the faction data cards deck will help you keep track of who has cast, what they’ve cast, and what you have left to cast. Practice working with these and tracking them so you can speed up your psychic phases. 

The Warped Regeneration Trick

I’ve seen a few people ask about this, so let’s talk about it: How do you bring back a model when you’re on Cult of Duplicity or one of non-Time Cults, or if you’re Cult of Time, how do you get back two models per turn? The answer is to use the Warped Regeneration trick. The catch is that Warped Regeneration requires you cast a spell with an unmodified 9 – only 28% odds without a re-roll. So how do you do that? The answer is by using the Smite power to force the the required casting value up to 9, then using the Pact from Beyond Cabbalistic Ritual to automatically cast the Smite power at the minimum required charge of a 9, triggering the ability to use Warped Regeneration to bring back a model.

Two things to note here:

  1. You need to attempt Smite four times before your Terminators in order to force the 9 – the first cast is WC 5, then 6, 7, and 8 – and you’ll need to cast Smite with the Terminators so be sure they don’t need to cast something else.
  2. If you do need to cast something else, be ready to spend the CP to get an extra cast with them after.
  3. You won’t be able to use another Ritual with the unit, so you’ll be vulnerable to deny attempts. But you also don’t have to stop at 9, so if you want to get that up to 10 or 11, feel free.
  4. You don’t need a valid target to attempt Smite – Smite checks for a target after it has been manifested, so you can use units that are completely hidden and have no targets to get your Smite counter up.

Credit: Dylan Gould

Go heavy on Scarabs

Scarab Occult Terminators are one of the game’s best units right now, and the only question with them is how many you should be running and how many squads. Don’t be afraid to look at 20+ for an army. Just be mindful you play defensively with them – use their ObSec and durability to set the tone and pace, and don’t overextend if you don’t have to – once they get hit in melee you’ll find out pretty quickly how fragile they can seem.

Be wary of the Warpcraft Secondary Objectives

You’ve got a psychic army, and that’s great. You know what’s not great? Scoring 3 points on a psychic secondary objective because you were too busy casting other things. Secondary objectives like Psychic Interrogation seem like free real estate when you’re picking, but the reality is that because only your characters can do those psychic actions, that often means that you’ll be making tough decisions between attempting the action and casting key powers, or spending CP to do both. It’s not a great place to be, so unless you’ve planned on doing this ahead of time with a Sorcerer or Tzaangor Shaman, it’s likely not worth it to commit to doing psychic actions.

How Many Cabal Points Do You Need?

Good question. In my experience you want to build armies with 13-14 Cabal points. This gives you enough to reliably generate 2-3 effects per turn before you lose any units, and after you lose a unit or two you’ll still have the ability to generate 2 effects per turn. Your most common effects are going to be making something undeniable, adding 1 to a cast, adding D3 mortal wounds and, if you have any points left over, getting an extra Command Point (this is very handy early in the game while your casters lack line of sight on key targets).

Using Cabal Points

As with the rest of your psychic phase, you’ll want to have a plan for using your Cabbalistic Rituals. What you’ll do will vary by turn, since as you close the distance between you and the enemy your ability to cast more spells that target the enemy will increase and your priorities will shift. 

When you start your psychic phase, you’ll generally want to prioritize your most important spells first unless you’re trying to bait out Deny attempts. That’s because the effects that help you push out a cast – Kindred Sorcerers, Wrath of the Immaterium, and Cabbalistic Focus – all have pretty high costs, and it’s better to push those out early so you know where you stand on leftover points – you may end up rolling high enough that you don’t need them, giving you more opportunities to do cool stuff later.

On early turns, you’ll want to get as many uses of Echoes from the Warp as you can. This is a great psychic action to toss to your backline objective holders or units that won’t have line of sight on enemy targets. Warp Sight and Imbued Manifestation are also going to have more value here, helping you see around cover and hit units that are further away. Just remember that you can only use one Cabbalistic Ritual on a unit per Psychic phase.

On later turns, you’re likely to have fewer Cabal points to work with as some units have died, in which case it’ll be more important to use effects like Malevolent Charge and Psychic Maelstrom to get the most out of the units and casts you do have. 

Army Lists

There are multiple ways to build solid Thousand Sons lists that can compete, and in this section we’ll look at multiple list concepts from different Great Cults.

TheChirurgeon’s Cult of Duplicity List

This list is an evolution on the one I took to the GW US Open in Seattle, where I started 3-0 before losing to Tyranids and ultimately finishing 5-2.

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [102 PL, 10CP, 13 Cabal Points, 1,999pts] ++

Cults of the Legion: Cult of Duplicity
Sorcerous Arcana [-1CP]: Additional Relics [-1CP]

  • HQ [20 PL, 8 Cabal Points, 370pts] +

Ahriman [9 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 180pts]: 12. Twist of Fate, 13. Doombolt, 21. Presage, Disc of Tzeentch [1 PL, 20pts]

Exalted Sorcerer [6 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 100pts]: 11. Tzeentch’s Firestorm, 11. Gaze of Hate, Athenaean Scrolls, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Master Misinformator, Warlord

Infernal Master [5 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 90pts]: 12. Glamour of Tzeentch, 5. Glimpse of Eternity, 6. Malefic Maelstrom, Umbralefic Crystal

  • Troops [18 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 320pts] +

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 110pts]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 26pts]: 22. Weaver of Fates, Warpflame pistol [5pts]
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun [84pts]: 4x Inferno boltgun

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 105pts]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 21pts]: 21. Temporal Manipulation, Inferno Bolt Pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun [84pts]: 4x Inferno boltgun

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 105pts]
. Aspiring Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 21pts]: 31. Empyric Guidance, Inferno Bolt Pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun [84pts]: 4x Inferno boltgun

  • Elites [54 PL, -1CP, 2 Cabal Points, 1,095pts] +

Chaos Leviathan Dreadnought [13 PL, -1CP, 220pts]: Grav-flux bombard, Leviathan siege claw and meltagun
. Two twin volkite calivers

Scarab Occult Terminators [21 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 445pts]: 2x Hellfyre missile rack [20pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer [1 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 55pts]: 23. Temporal Surge, Inferno combi-bolter, Rites of Coalescence [1 PL, 15pts]
. 7x Terminator [280pts]: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]

Scarab Occult Terminators [20 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 430pts]: 2x Hellfyre missile rack [20pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer [1 Cabal Points, 40pts]: 23. Temporal Surge, Inferno combi-bolter
. 7x Terminator [280pts]: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon [45pts]: Soulreaper cannon [5pts]

  • Fast Attack [3 PL, 69pts] +

Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]: Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]
Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]: Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]
Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]: Chaos Spawn [1 PL, 23pts]

  • Heavy Support [7 PL, 145pts] +

Mutalith Vortex Beast [7 PL, 145pts]

+++ 1,999 Points +++

The Standout Features

  • Two big units of Scarabs, a must now in every Thousand Sons list
  • Three units of Chaos Spawn
  • A Leviathan for ranged support
  • A Mutalith for extra mortal wounds and melee punch

After several big tournaments with my Thousand Sons, here’s where I’ve ended up. I think two units of 10 Scarabs are basically mandatory in competitive Thousand Sons lists now, whether you go Cult of Time or not. Your big challenge taking them is going to be that they have limited range and mobility – though Temporal Surge and Sorcerous Facade help a lot here – and preventing them from taking mortal wounds or having to fight melee units they don’t want to fight. That’s where the Spawn and the Mutalith come in, providing fast screening units for Smite and other closest-model mortal wound effects, while offering a bit of a melee counterpunch as needed. The Leviathan can do the same, and his Grav and Melta shooting gives the army a bit more punch against heavier vehicles that come too close. 

There are a few ways you could go with this list – certainly if you wanted to take out the Leviathan for a pair of Volkite contemptors that’s not a terrible play, and going with AP0 over AP3 isn’t a terrible move in the post-Armour of Contempt meta. You could also eschew the heavier support options in favor of more small bodies and casting support, adding some Cultists to raise banners and a Tzaangor Shaman for mobile smites.

 

Henry Bearne’s Cult of Time list

On the other side of the spectrum is Henry’s Cult of Time list, which he played to a 4-1 finish before missing the top cut at the Manchester Super Major in late March. Like all Cult of Time lists, Henry went heavy on Terminators, but the difference here is an eye-watering 30 Scarab Occult Terminators, a play that is sure to be just as strong post-Armour of Contempt.

++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [61 PL, 11CP, 8 Cabal Points, 1,210pts] ++

Cults of the Legion: Cult of Time

+ Stratagems +

Sorcerous Arcana [-1CP]: Additional Relics

+ HQ +

Ahriman [8 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 160pts]: 11. Tzeentch’s Firestorm, 12. Twist of Fate, 21. Presage

Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [7 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 125pts]: 11. Gaze of Hate, 13. Doombolt, Force stave, Immaterial Echo, Inferno combi-melta, Warlord, Witch-warrior

+ Troops +

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 105pts]
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 12. Glamour of Tzeentch, Inferno Bolt Pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun: 4x Inferno boltgun

+ Elites +

Scarab Occult Terminators [20 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 410pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer: 23. Temporal Surge, Inferno combi-bolter
. 7x Terminator: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon

Scarab Occult Terminators [20 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 410pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer: 23. Temporal Surge, Inferno combi-bolter
. 7x Terminator: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon

++ Patrol Detachment -2CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [41 PL, -3CP, 7 Cabal Points, 790pts] ++

Cults of the Legion: Cult of Time

+ HQ +

Infernal Master [5 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 90pts]: 31. Empyric Guidance, 5. Glimpse of Eternity, 6. Malefic Maelstrom, Umbralefic Crystal

Thousand Sons Daemon Prince [10 PL, -1CP, 3 Cabal Points, 185pts]: 13. Doombolt, 22. Swelled by the Warp, 3. Undying Form, Hellforged sword, High Acolytes, Hourglass of Manat, Wings

+ Troops +

Rubric Marines [6 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 105pts]
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 22. Weaver of Fates, Inferno Bolt Pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun: 4x Inferno boltgun

+ Elites +

Scarab Occult Terminators [20 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 410pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer: 22. Weaver of Fates, Inferno combi-bolter
. 7x Terminator: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon

++ Total: [15 Cabal Points, 102 PL, 8CP, 2,000pts] ++

The Standout Features

  • 30 Scarab Occult Terminators
  • A Winged Daemon Prince with the Hourglass of Manat
  • Ahriman, sans-disc

A lot of opponents look at a 10-model unit of Scarabs and say “I just won’t engage with that. I’ll ignore it. To which Henry says “ignore this, ya filthy casual.” The list here packs three units of 10 fully kitted-out Scarabs, all capable of bringing back 1-2 models per turn. The result are three monster obsec units that can control three objectives and reliably score Stranglehold while the remaining Rubric units give extra utility.

The list receives some additional melee support from a Daemon Prince and a Witch-Warrior Terminator Sorcerer, and can use them to support different Terminator blocks while Ahriman supports the third.

 

Go Change Your Ways

Phew, that was a lot of words about a bunch of space muscle wizards! By now you hopefully have everything you need to build your own Thousand Sons army and start crushing your opponents. Although not a competitively dominant faction, Thousand Sons have a lot of play and enough power to compete. They’re a complicated but rewarding army to play. 

As always, if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line in the comments below or shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com. Otherwise, go forth and destroy your foes. Especially the Space Wolves you come across.