Start Competing: Thousand Sons Tactics (Updated 3/12/2020)

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Overview

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!

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 8th edition, they’re a powerful force indeed. While their potency has waxed and waned over the last two years, Thousand Sons are still an incredibly powerful addition to Chaos armies, and a common sight in top tournament lists. In this article, we’ll explore their key units, relics, warlord traits, stratagems, powers, and strategies, and discuss how to best use them to achieve victory.

As with any strategy document, this article represents a specific time and place. This article was updated in March 2020, about two months following the release of Psychic Awakening 4: Ritual of the Damned, which introduced new rules for Thousand Sons, and after the March 2020 Codex: Space Marine FAQs/errata that changed Combat Doctrines.

 

Strengths

  • A Solid Codex Overall. The Thousand Sons book was one of the first powerful codexes made in 8th edition. It has lots of powerful units and even the stuff in it that’s bad is at least interesting. It’s just a very well-written book overall and avoids a lot of the pitfalls of the Death Guard book.
  • Powerful HQ Units. Thousand Sons have some of the best HQ units in the game, including Ahriman and Winged Daemon Princes. Also while Magnus is a Lord of War and isn’t quite the powerhouse he used to be, he’s still a very solid unit pick.
  • Solid Troop Options. While Rubric Marines aren’t the world’s best troop choices, Tzaangors and Cultists give Thousand Sons two decent, cheap options for filling out detachments.
  • Psychic Powers. Thousand Sons have access to more psychic powers than any other faction in the game, and their sorcerers are powerful casters who can push out a crapload of mortal wounds.
  • Lots of cross-faction synergy. With the TZEENTCH keyword, DAEMON units of their own, and the ability to cast spells that boost units in multiple factions, Thousand Sons have some strong synergies with other Chaos factions. 
  • Solid Stratagems and Relics. Unlike Death Guard, Thousand Sons got a full extra page of Stratagems, and were allowed to keep many of the Codex: Chaos Space Marines stratagems that Death Guard didn’t get, such as the Daemonforge stratagem. 
  • Good for Soup. There’s very little penalty to putting a Thousand Sons detachment in Chaos Soup, making them a powerful addition to any soup list.

Weaknesses

  • Out-of-date Design. Thousand Sons fare better than most older codexes, but they still suffer from being an early 8th edition codex. This is most harshly seen in their psychic powers, where everything is overcosted in terms of warp cost (seriously there are multiple powers that have Warp Charge 9).
  • Limited Units. Like the Death Guard, Thousand Sons suffer from basically being a codex supplement that’s been treated like a full codex. Thousand Sons have a much smaller unit list than Chaos Space Marines, and don’t have access to new units like the Lord Discordant or Venomcrawlers.
  • Long-Range Shooting. Thousand Sons can throw out mortal wounds like no one’s business, but lack strong, long-range anti-tank options. They can close some of those gaps with Forge World units, though most of those tend to be stronger when paired with other Chaos Space Marines legion traits. 
  • Melee. Thousand Sons have some solid melee units but it’s not really their strong suit. Outside of Winged Daemon Princes and Tzaangors, you won’t be doing a ton of fighting with your Thousand Sons units. 

 

Competitive Rating

As Part of Soup: Top-Tier

As a Standalone Army: Medium

There are currently two major Chaos Soup builds that compete at the top levels of the tournament circuit and Thousand Sons detachments are a primary component of one of them and often sneak into others. As we’ll see in the lists section later, these tend to be either Supreme Command Detachments loaded with Psykers, or Battalions that use a mix of Psykers and Tzaangors. Despite being written fairly early in 8th edition, the Thousand Sons Codex holds up very well–there are a lot of powerful units and abilities in the Codex, and almost nothing is outright bad. Even most of the less-competitive stuff is at least interesting. So the result is that the really strong stuff sees a lot of play in competitive soup lists, but you could do a lot worse than going Monofaction Thousand sons (or monofaction Tzeentch with a heavy Thousand Sons presence, if you want to be fluffy in your approach). 

 

Special Rules

  • Death to the False Emperor – When fighting an IMPERIUM unit in melee, a hit roll of a 6+ gives the attacker an additional attack with the same weapon. This is solid when it’s on and worthless when it’s not. The upside is that Space Marines are everywhere now, so you can at least count on it being active for about half your games.
  • Hateful Assault – Units with this rule — basically everything except for Tzaangors and Cultists — get +1 Attack in any turn in which they charge, were charged, or heroically intervened. This is really good on your Daemon Princes and Daemon Engines, the non-Tzaangor units you’ll want to get into melee combat in a given game. 
  • Cults of the Legion – A battle-forged army that contains any Thousand Sons Detachments can choose to dedicate each Thousand Sons detachment to a Cult of the Legion. Doing this gives all non-Tzaangor, non-Cultist, and non-named Character units in the detachment a <CULT> faction keyword, and gives them access to some cool bonus stuff. Specifically:
    • All Thousand Sons <CULT> Psykers know an additional psychic power, the one that matches their Cult. This is in addition to their other powers.
    • Thousand Sons <CULT> Characters have access to a Cult-specific Warlord trait that they can take instead of one from the Codex.
    • If your army is led by a Thousand Sons <CULT> Warlord, you get access to an additional Sorcerous Arcana specific to your chosen <CULT>.
  • Malicious Volleys – Units with this rule (all HERETIC ASTARTES models) that shoot a rapid-fire bolter weapon can fire twice at full range if they remained stationary unless they are a BIKE, TERMINATOR, or CENTURION. This is a huge upgrade for Rubric Marines and Scarab Occult Terminators, whose AP-2 bolters benefit greatly from the ability to be double-fired at longer ranges. While you still need to keep Rubric Marines stationary to benefit (their All is Dust rule only helps with heavy weapons), Scarab Occult Terminators can be very frightening as they drop in and unload 4 AP-2 shots apiece at 24″ range.
  • Daemonic Ritual – Thousand Sons characters can give up their movement in a turn to attempt to summon a TZEENTCH daemon. They roll either 2D6 or 3D6 and you can summon a Daemon unit of equal or lesser power level to the battlefield. If you roll doubles on this attempt you take a mortal wound and if you roll triples you take D3. This is vaguely useful for adding daemons to an army without messing up the detachment keywords, but most of the time you’re going to just take a separate detachment of daemons anyways.
  • Brotherhood of SorcerersIn a Thousand Sons Detachment, Psykers gain this rule, which Increases the range of all psychic powers by 6”. Additionally, in Matched Play, units with this rule do not add 1 to the Warp Charge of subsequent Smite attempts in a given turn. This is a powerful 1-2 punch that helps turn your sorcerers into mortal wound-dealing machines who can toss out Smites at 24” and extend the range of powers like Warptime to meaningful distances.
    Wings Note: Be aware that while casters with this ignore the accumulated penalty to Smite, their attempts still add to the difficulty for other casters, so if you have a mix of Thousand Sons and non-Thousand Sons psykers in a soup army and want to cast Smite from some of the others, get theirs out the way first!
  • Disciples of TzeentchIn a Thousand Sons Detachment, your Troops get this rule, which allows them to count as holding an objective even if they have fewer models on it, unless another unit on the objective has a similar rule. Every army has this, but it’s easy to forget how useful it is when you can take objectives from Knights and larger units by having a single Cultist or Tzaangor on them.

 

Warlord Traits

The Thousand Sons have a very strong lineup of Warlord Traits — one of the strongest in the game — and they can use them to build some powerful HQs. The only reason you not to take these is because you may put your Warlord in a different soup detachment, but Thousand Sons will often be a strong choice for hosting your Warlord.

  • Arrogance of Aeons – Re-roll failed Deny the Witch attempts for your Warlord. It’s not going to help you against every army, but being able to shut down enemy psychic powers with regularity can devastate some armies. Pales in comparison to the better options, however. C
  • Undying Form – Reduce all damage suffered by your warlord by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Very good to have on bigger HQs like your Winged Daemon Prince, and can help a lot if they end up out of position. Particularly strong in today’s 2- and 3-damage meta. B
  • Aetherstride – Your Warlord can Advance and Charge in the same turn, and can re-roll Charge Rolls. This is also pretty good, and great for making sure your Daemon Prince makes it into combat. B
  • Lord of Forbidden Lore – Your Warlord knows one extra psychic power. Also very strong when you need additional flexibility and you have a Warlord who can select powers from multiple disciplines. This is Magnus’ Warlord Trait and while we’d rather he have undying form, it’s a decent option for him (though Ahriman or a High Magister Daemon Prince will usually be the best options). B
  • Otherworldly Presence – Improve your Warlord’s Invulnerable Save by 1 (to a maximum of 3+). Another very solid power, and helpful for giving your Daemon Prince a 3+ invulnerable save, which may not be something are wild about but screw them. Treat yourself. This is Ahriman’s Warlord Trait and it’s a good reason to make him your Warlord, especially if you aren’t running a soup list that can easily screen him. A
  • High Magister – Add 1 to any psychic tests made by your Warlord. Very strong, if not as eye-poppingly powerful as some of the other options, and using this on a Daemon Prince is probably the most common choice in tournament lists. Great for pushing out multiple powers per turn, firing of D6-mortal wound smites, and making sure those WC 7+ powers go off. Can be combined with Arcane Focus from the Cult of Magic for even more insane effects.  A

 

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Psychic Powers

The Thousand Sons sport the game’s most powerful psykers, and to reflect this they have access to three psychic disciplines, each of which has something to offer. Do note that we’re listed the range of the powers as printed – obviously you’ll usually have +6″ to that! Also note that, while we are generally not high on powers that do targeted mortal wounds because of their output and WC difficultly, there are some very compelling reasons to take them, which we discuss later on in the “Playing Thousand Sons” section.

Discipline of Change

The Discipline of Change is the Thousand Sons-exclusive discipline. It’s OK. The big winners here are Glamour of Tzeentch and Weaver of Fates, but most of the time you’re going to want to take Dark Hereticus before these, just because you can protect your Daemon Princes and Sorcerers with screens, and the offensive output of the DH discipline does more for you.

  • Tzeentch’s Firestorm (WC 7). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 9 dice. For each 6 you roll, they take a mortal wound. On average, this is going to get you 1-2 mortal wounds, which isn’t amazing, particularly for a power that has Warp Charge 7. This will do more work when cast by Aspiring Sorcerers who otherwise only get “baby” Smites, and the ability to choose a target is pretty relevant. C+
  • Boon of Change (WC 7). Choose a friendly non-DAEMON Thousand Sons Character within 3” of the Psyker and roll 2D6 on the Boon of Tzeentch Stratagem table and apply the result. You can get some interesting buffs this way, but you have no way of controlling what you get and it could backfire big, making it pretty worthless. D
  • Glamour of Tzeentch (WC 7). Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 12”. Until the start of your next psychic phase, enemy units that target that unit get a -1 penalty to their to hit rolls. This is a great power and something you’re going to want for pretty much every game to protect important units. A
  • Doombolt (WC 9). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18”. That unit takes D3 mortal wounds and until your next psychic phase it halves its Movement characteristic and can’t Advance. This is very strong, but it’s also a huge pain to cast. Your chances of rolling a 9+ on 2D6 with no help is basically 28%, which means that if you want to cast this with any reliability, you’re going to need multiple buffs. It should be costed at 8. This got more useful with the addition of the Arcane Focus Relic in the Cult of Magic, because now it’s much easier to get characters who have +2 to their Psychic attempts. B
  • Temporal Manipulation (WC 6). Pick a friendly THOUSAND SONS model within 12”. That model regains D3 wounds. This doesn’t do enough for you to take it over something that either prevents you from taking wounds in the first place or something that murders your enemies. C
  • Weaver of Fates (WC 6). Pick a THOUSAND SONS unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase, improve that unit’s invulnerable save by 1 (to a maximum of 3+). If the unit didn’t have an invulnerable save, it gets a 5+ instead. A

Dark Hereticus Discipline

Most Thousand Sons Sorcerers get access to the Dark Hereticus Discipline, replicated from Codex: Chaos Space Marines. This is a good set of powers, and having it really opens things up for the Thousand Sons in a way that underlines how much the Death Guard got screwed. The best part about this discipline is that it works on HERETIC ASTARTES, so you can easily cast its spells while souping.

  • Infernal Gaze (WC 5). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 3D6. For each 4+ you roll, that unit takes a mortal wound. Easy to cast, targeted mortal wounds. It’s not a lot, but you could do a lot worse. It’s less useful for Thousand Sons where there’s no penalty to casting your 8th Smite. B
  • Death Hex (WC 8). Pick a visible enemy unit within 12”. Until your next psychic phase, that unit can’t take invulnerable saves. This is very good, particularly when paired with strong long-range shooting. Unfortunately, that means it’s not quite as good for Thousand Sons, but it’s still a strong power to have for when you need to pop over and shut down the invuln on something with an exalted sorcerer. Biggest downside is that it’s WC 8. A
  • Gift of Chaos (WC 6). Pick a visible enemy unit within 6” and roll a D6. If you roll higher than the target’s Toughness, that unit takes D3+3 mortal wounds. If you kill a character this way, you can add a Chaos Spawn to your army. Against most targets you’re looking at failing this two thirds of the time. And when it does succeed and you kill a character, you won’t get to add the spawn because you didn’t pay reinforcement points for it. Skip this one. D
  • Prescience (WC 7). Pick a HERETIC ASTARTES unit within 18”. They get +1 to all hit rolls until your next psychic phase. This power is amazingly good. Great on big squads, great on big WS/BS 4+ Daemon Engines, great for targeting flyers. Your first psyker will almost always have this and Warptime. A
  • Diabolic Strength (WC 6). Pick a HERETIC ASTARTES model within 12” of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, that model gets +2 Strength and +1 Attack. This is very good for pumping up your Winged Daemon princes before they charge into battle, or helping Magnus, Maulerfiends, or Vortex Beasts tack on some extra attacks. A
  • Warptime (WC 6). Pick a HERETIC ASTARTES unit within 3”. That unit can immediately move as if it were the Movement phase. Errata’d to not work on units that just arrived on the battlefield, but even with that adjustment this is still one of the strongest powers in the game. It’s incredibly useful for double-timing key units around the table, capturing objectives and setting up first-turn charges. You will want to have this on somebody in almost every game. The fact that Thousand Sons are Just Better at using this, and can cast it on other Heretic Astartes stuff, is a key driver behind their soup popularity. A+

Discipline of Tzeentch

In addition to the Discipline of Change and the Dark Hereticus Discipline, Magnus and Thousand Sons Daemon Princes have access to the Discipline of Tzeentch from Codex: Chaos Daemons. There are some interesting things in here, but on the whole Tzeentch got shafted in the powers department in that book.

  • Boon of Change (WC 7). Pick a friendly TZEENTCH DAEMON unit within 18” and roll a D3 to determine what bonus that unit gets until your next psychic phase. 1 is +1 Attack, 2 is +1 Strength, 3 is +1 Toughness. These bonuses are all pretty decent, but still disparate enough that you won’t want to use this most of the time. It has the same name as the Discipline of Change power, so you can’t attempt to cast both in the same turn, despite them have different text. If you had to pick one, this is the better of the two, despite being temporary. C+
  • Bolt of Change (WC 8). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18”. It takes D3 mortal wounds. If you kill a character with this, you can add a Chaos Spawn to your army. The Spawn costs you reinforcement points, so this is basically worthless in matched play, where it’s just an incredibly shitty and difficult to cast Smite. D-
  • Gaze of Fate (WC 6). You can re-roll a single die later during your turn. This is deceptively good, basically trading a single power for a CP. Very useful for smoothing out key rolls, and helping you avoid bad rolls when you’ve spent all your CP on other things. A
  • Treason of Tzeentch (WC 8). Pick a visible enemy character within 18” and roll 2D6. If you roll over their Leadership, you can treat the model as if it were friendly in your Shooting, Charge, and Fight phases. At the end of the Fight phase, it goes back to normal. This is a very powerful effect, but with now way to modify the Ld roll, it’s difficult get this off, even after you’ve cast it. So it’s an A+ effect with a D- cost. C
  • Flickering Flames (WC 5). Pick a friendly TZEENTCH DAEMON within 18”. Until your next psychic phase, add 1 to wound rolls made for that unit’s shooting weapons. This is OK for Chaos Daemons, where you’d ostensibly use it to buff Pink Horrors. It’s got some extra utility for Thousand Sons, where you can use it to boost Daemon Engines like the Heldrake, Defilers, or the Decimator. B
  • Infernal Gateway (WC 8). Pick the nearest visible enemy model within 12”. That model’s unit, and every unit (friend or foe) within 3” of that model suffers D3 mortal wounds. If you manifest this power with a roll of 12+, those units take D6 moral wounds instead. This is a potentially large effect, but can be difficult to control and doesn’t really work for you at short range. It’s also hard to cast, but its utility is dramatically improved by the Cult of Magic, where the Devastating Sorcery Warlord Trait and Arcane Focus Relic can make it much more potent and castable. It’s also potentially worth moving onto Ahriman using a Chaos Familiar, or onto Magus, just for the upside it can deliver. B

 

Relics

Thousand Sons have access to six relics. Three of them are bad to middling, two are OK, and one is so good it that none of the others matter.

  • Seer’s Bane – Replaces a power sword or force sword. It’s a S User, AP-3 D3 Damage sword that doubles the bearer’s strength against PSYKERS or units with a Leadership characteristic of 12+. So conditionally a power fist without the -1 to hit drawback. It’s… OK, but there are better relics to take. B
  • Dark Matter Crystal – One of the game’s greatest relics, the Dark Matter Crystal can be used once per game (at the end of your Movement phase) to take the bearer or a single THOUSAND SONS INFANTRY unit within 12” off the table, then you set them back up anywhere that’s more than 9” away from enemy models. It doesn’t count as falling back if it was in combat. This is amazing. Use it to escape bad combats. Use it to drop a unit into position to charge. Use it to reposition a shooting unit. Use it to capture an objective across the table. You will want to take this almost every game you play. A+
  • Helm of the Third Eye – If your army’s battle-forged and the bearer is on the table, roll a D6 each time your opponent uses a stratagem. On a 5+ you get 1 CP (max 1 per battle round). An OK way to get back CP, so often purchases as a second relic and the go-to if you don’t need the DMC. B+
  • Coruscator – Replaces an inferno bolt pistol. Range 12” Pistol 3 gun with S4 AP-2 and D3 Damage. It’s OK, but boring. C
  • Athenian Scrolls – If you roll doubles when making a successful Psychic test for the bearer, then the opponent can’t deny it or negate it. You still perils on a double 1 or 6. Rolling doubles happens on 1 in 6 casts, and at least one of those is going to cause you to spend a CP to re-roll the result, so the chances of this being useful aren’t real high. D
  • The Prismatic Staff – Replaces a Force Staff. A S+2 AP-1, D3 Damage melee weapon that allows its bearer to shoot and charge during a turn in which it fell back. That’s a really, really good ability… on like, a Daemon Prince. Because they can’t take Force Staves, it ends up being something you kind of don’t need on the units that can get it, especially because half of the units that can get a force staff can also get the FLY keyword via a Disc of Tzeentch. C

 

Cults of the Legion

Ritual of the Damned gives the Thousand Sons subfactions called Cults of the Legion. There are nine of these in total. Any Thousand Sons Detachment in a Battle-Forged army can be assigned a Cult of the Legion at no charge. Once upgraded, all non-CULTIST, non-TZAANGOR, non-named Character THOUSAND SONS units in the detachment get the relevant <CULT> keyword and a few very nice perks.

The first of these is that they get the psychic power from their cult for free. Yeah, you read that right. Every Psyker in the detachment gets an extra power free. All the Aspiring Sorcerers, all the Scarab Occult Terminator Sorcerers, all the Daemon Princes, all the HQ Sorcerers. A free extra power, and most of them are really good. In addition to the free power, each cult has access to an additional Warlord Trait and Relic. These powers, traits, and Arcana range in power from “that’s neat” to “obscenely good.”

 

Cult of Prophecy

One of the top three Cults you can devote yourself to in terms of raw power level, the Cult of Prophecy dedicate themselves to divining the future and in game terms, this translates to some pretty mean tricks. The Cult’s best trick is the Divine the Future psychic power, which really helps smooth out your variance.

  • Psychic Power: Divine the Future (WC 6) – Roll one D6 and set it aside. 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, charge roll, Psychic test, Deny the Witch test, or Morale test for a CULT OF PROPHECY unit from your army. Basically gives you a miracle dice, which is incredibly useful to have. You’re going to want to fire this off every turn you’re able and having it as an extra power on all of your psykers is great. A
  • Warlord Trait: Guided by the Whispers – Once per turn, after this Warlord fires Overwatch, it can immediately move up to 6″ as if it were your Movement phase. This is great for keeping your warlord out of combat, allowing you to jump away, either out of charge range altogether, or next to another character waiting to Heroically Intervene, or nearer to a unit of Rubricae you plan to use Yoked Automata with. There are a lot of tricks you can pull with this. The downside is that from a raw power perspective, it’s way behind and that likely keeps it from being something you’ll actually end up using. B
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Pythic Brazier – When a Cult of Prophecy unit within 6″ of a friendly model with this relic is chosen to shoot or fight with, you can re-roll one hit roll, wound roll, or damage roll. This was (understandably) FAQ’d to only affect Cult units, but even with the change it’s still a very powerful effect, and works very well with C-Beam Contemptors or other units that have a small number of high-powered shots.

Cult of Time

The Cult of Time specialize in time magicks and turning time into a weapon. In game terms this means regenerating wounds and models. These are some neat tricks, and ultimately because of the effect of their Time Flux power, the Cult of Time really want to be in a detachment with Scarab Occult Terminators to benefit from it.

  • Psychic Power: Time Flux (WC 5) – Pick a friendly Cult of Time INFANTRY unit within 6″ of the psyker. You can return one destroyed model from that unit to the battlefield with all of its wounds remaining, putting it into coherency with its unit. If the unmodified result of the test was a 9+, you get D3 models instead. This is an interesting effect, particularly since it’s a big boost for every Aspiring Sorcerer leading a squad. It’s going to do the most work with Scarab Occult Terminators, which are more expensive, harder to kill, and have more wounds. Sadly Thousand Sons don’t have access to anything heavier like Obliterators, so you’re mostly limited by the actual units you can use it on. B
  • Warlord Trait: Immaterial Echo – In your Psychic phase, if this Warlord manifests a psychic power with a result of 9+, they can manifest an extra power that phase. You only get one extra per phase. This is a neat bonus but a recurring theme for Cult Warlord Traits is going to be that they are competing with an exceptional set of codex traits and most just don’t stack up. B-
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Hourglass of Manat – The first time the model holding this Relic is killed, at the end of the turn return it to play with D3 wounds remaining, as close as possible to where it died, more than 1″ away from any enemy models. This is a really cool trick, and notable because it just works, no roll required.

Cult of Mutation

The Cult of Mutation specialize in the warping powers of Tzeentch, improving the strength and toughness of their units. It seems at first glance like the Cult’s big effects are going to be boosting characters into combat monsters, but as we’ll see, the actual impact leaves a lot to be desired. Instead, their best trick is slowing units down with Warp Reality.

  • Psychic Power: Warp Reality (WC 6) – Pick a terrain feature within 18″ of the psyker (or 24″ if you’re getting the benefit from Brotherhood of Sorcerers), 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 that unit. This is a powerful effect and a much easier way to get the powerful after effect of Doom Bolt without having to manifest a WC 9 power. Useful for stopping units of Possessed running at you full speed or other foot slogging melee units that will have to use terrain like NOVA Ls to cover their approach. A
  • Warlord Trait: Touch of Vicissitude – When resolving a melee attack by this warlord, an unmodified hit roll of 6 inflicts a mortal wound on the target in addition to any other damage. It’s cool that this happens on hits and not wounds, but you can’t boost the effect and it’s not going to happen often enough to move the needle. C
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Exalted Mutation – Sorcerers only. Add 1 to the Strength, Toughness, and Attacks characteristic of the model holding this Relic. On a Daemon Prince, this’d be hot fire. On a Sorcerer, it’s much less intimidating, particularly as there aren’t many good weapon options to take advantage of the stat boosts with. C

Cult of Scheming

The Cult of Scheming specialize in convoluted plots and plans that anticipate their foes’ moves several steps ahead. In game terms, this means some devious tricks, like a psychic power that lets a unit fall back and still shoot and charge, and a warlord trait that affects how objectives are held. The Cult of Scheming has some cute tricks, and the best of 

Wings Note: This is another effect that isn’t locked down to only Thousand Sons stratagems, so it’s a good one to use with soup (and this one I expect to stay able to do that).

  • Psychic Power: Seeded Strategy (WC 6) – Pick one Cult of Scheming unit within 24″. That unit can shoot and charge this turn, even if it fell back. This is a powerful effect to have at your fingertips, particularly with Scarab Occult Terminators who don’t mind double-tapping and charging into a unit, then using their Aspiring Sorcerer to repeat the process after making a Fall Back move. The big downside is that this power wants to go in detachments with more than just characters. A
  • Warlord Trait: Grand Schemer – Friendly Cult of Scheming units within 3″ of this Warlord gain the Disciples of Tzeentch ability, otherwise known as “Objective Secured,” which makes the unit scoring above other units without similar abilities. If they already had the ability, they count as double the number of models instead. This is another really nifty ability and great for holding objectives with Scarab Occult Terminators but like so many other traits, more nifty than powerful. B
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Cha’Qi’Thl’s Theorem – Once per battle, in any phase, you can use this if the model holding it is on the battlefield. If you do, you pick one Stratagem, and until the end of the phase or until you use the Stratagem, its command points cost is reduced to 0. Most of the time this is only going to be worthwhile if you can find a way to pick a Stratagem that costs 2+ CP to use, and there just aren’t a ton of those open to Thousand Sons. If it were just limited to Thousand Sons, that’d mean throwing out a free Coruscating Beam, Counter-Attack, or Yoked Automata, but since it isn’t faction-locked, you can also get cute by applying this to Stratagems in any of the other Chaos Codexes/Campaign supplements as well. And while that’s cute, unfortunately there aren’t a ton of additional options that’s giving you, either. Your best non-Thousand Sons options are going to be Daemonic Guidance System from Codex: Chaos Knights, Nurgle’s Rot from Codex: Death Guard, Grandfather’s Blessings from Codex CSM/Death Guard, Fury of Khorne and Endless Cacophony from Codex: Chaos Space Marines, and Frenetic Bloodlust or Warp Surge from Codex: Chaos Daemons. C

Cult of Magic

The Cult of Magic are all about those mind bullets, killing things using psychic powers. They’re easily one of, if not the most powerful Cults to pick from, in part because your ability to stack tons of bonuses on a Daemon Prince of Tzeentch and in part because combining Infernal Gateway with the Astral Blast power and the Devastating Sorcery  Warlord Trait can create some wild effects, splashing tons of damage everywhere with increased damage output.

  • Psychic Power: Astral Blast (WC 6) – The closest visible enemy unit within 9″ takes D3 mortal wounds, and every other unit within 3″ of that unit suffers 1 mortal wound. Brotherhood of Sorcerers only increases the initial range on this power, but even with that, it’s damn powerful, especially for a Warp Charge 6 power. The big reason for this is that it combines with the Cult’s Warlord trait to increase the splash damage, and if you’ve got it on a Daemon Prince who can also cast Infernal Gateway, you can create some hilariously terrifying mortal wound bombs. A
  • Warlord Trait: Devastating Sorcery – When this Warlord manifests a power that does 1+ mortal wounds, increase the number of mortal wounds inflicted by 1. So your basic Smites become D3+1/D6+1, and Astral Blast does D3+1 to the target and 2 to everything within 3″. Infernal Gateway does D3+1 to a target unit and every unit within 3″. This makes Gateway a much more useful power, and can make some real bastard Daemon Princes capable of devastating whole armies unless the opponent plays around them. And what’s wonderful about all this is that in many formats, you can wait until game time to choose to set all this up. A
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Arcane Focus – When a Psychic Test is taken for a model with this relic, add 1 to the total. If Devastating Sorcery is the shot, this is the chaser. It’s exactly what you need to ensure that Infernal Gateway goes off if you’ve already invested in Devastating Sorcery as your Warlord Trait, and if you’re not interested in that particular level of nonsense, then consider combining this with the High Magister Warlord Trait to get a caster that has +2 to casting on everything and can casually push through those WC 9 powers without issue. A tremendously useful relic that actually gives the Dark Matter Crystal a serious run for its money. A

Cult of Knowledge

The big nerds, even among the Thousand Sons. These guys specialize in turning knowledge into a weapon. They have a couple of neat tricks, but nothing so strikingly powerful that you’ll feel compelled to build around them.

  • Psychic Power: Psychic Delve (WC 6) – Select one enemy unit within 18″. Until your next Psychic phase, when you resolve an attack against that unit from a friendly Cult of Knowledge unit, re-roll wound rolls of 1. A useful ability and while common for loyalists, re-rolling wounds, especially for shooting attacks, is rare for Chaos, and helpful to have if you’re planning to open fire on something with a squad of Scarab Occult Terminators, which have decent AP but relatively low weapon strength. B+
  • Warlord Trait: Ardent Scholar – When a Psychic test is taken for this model, you can re-roll dice rolls of 1. Also helpful for avoiding Perils and improving your odds of casting, this is a fine consolation prize if you’ve already given someone the High Magister Warlord Trait. A
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Incaladion’s Cry – A weapon that replaces a warpflame pistol with one that’s Pistol D6, S6, AP-2, D1, and it automatically hits. It’s OK, but you’re never going to take it over the better options. C

Cult of Change

The Cult of Change are all about disturbing the status quo. These are the clowns who like to stir things up at your Super Bowl party just to see what happens. They’ve got a trio of interesting abilities, and are probably in the top half of Cult options power level-wise, but come in around 4th.

  • Psychic Power: Disturb Reality (WC 6) – Pick an enemy unit within 12″. Until your next psychic phase, that unit gets -1 Ld and -1 Attacks. This is a nifty ability for neutering a key combat unit and protecting your screens. The Ld penalty is whatever, but can be a useful add-on if you’re souping with something like Night Lords that keys off of low Ld values. B
  • Warlord Trait: Fickle Nature – You can re-roll charge rolls for this Warlord, plus it can shoot and charge in a turn in which it Fell Back. A nifty set of abilities to have on a Winged Daemon prince or Terminator Sorcerer.
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Capricious Crest – Once per turn, when a Psychic test is taken for a model within 18″, you can change any roll of a 1 to a 6 for your army, and any roll of a 6 to a 1 for your opponent’s army. This is a neat ability that lets you manipulate both your own and your opponent’s psychic tests, and we’ll be talked about it in detail in our Ritual of the Damned-themed Hammer of Math. Even in the worst-case scenario where you have to turn a double 1 into a 12, you can still use the Adepts of the Immaterium Stratagem to avoid taking damage. A

Cult of Duplicity

Another very powerful entry in the list of Cults, the Cult of Duplicity specialize in being a bunch of liars. Their psychic power is basically Da Jump for Cult units, i.e. strong as hell, and their Warlord Trait, Duplicitous Tactician, lets you redeploy D3 <CULT> units before the first battle round and, similar to the Emperor’s Children Stratagem in Faith and Fury, doesn’t specify that they be redeployed according to mission deployment, potentially allowing you to drop them off the board and into Deep Strike. The Cult of Duplicity is the other frontrunner for “Strongest Cult you can take” and the number of deployment tricks you can pull here, particularly working in concert with the Risen Rubricae Stratagem, is just nuts. If Cult of Magic is the primary consideration for Supreme Commands in Chaos Soup, Cult of Duplicity should be your consideration if you’re running Rubrics or Scarab Occult Terminators.

  • Psychic Power: Sorcerous Facade (WC 7) – Pick a friendly Cult of Duplicity unit within 6″. Remove it from the battlefield, then set it up anywhere more than 9″ away from enemy models. That unit is treated as having moved this turn. This is very powerful, and a great way to mitigate not taking the Dark Matter Crystal, though note that unlike the Crystal, this power can’t move Tzaangors. Even still, very useful for re-deploying that unit of Scarab Occult Terminators somewhere out of combat or where they can double tap with their AP-2 Combi Bolters. A
  • Warlord Trait: Duplicitous Tactician – At the start of the first battle round, before the game starts, pick up to D3 Cult of Duplicity units from your army. Remove those and your warlord from the battlefield and then set them up again following the normal deployment rules for those units and the mission being played. If you redeploy a Transport, all of units embarked also get to set up again. Note that, per our note above, this Stratagem allows you to then put those units into Deep Strike reserves with a Stratagem or if they can Teleport, or place them forward with Risen Rubricae, allowing for some very silly (and powerful) tricks. A
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Perfidious Tome – At the start of the battle round, roll a D6 if a model with this Relic is on the battlefield. On a roll of 1, your opponent gets 1 CP. On a 4+ you get 1 CP. This could be an interesting way to get more CP but the chance of giving your opponent more CP isn’t worth the upside of a 50% chance of an extra CP. D

Cult of Manipulation

The cult that’s all about getting you to do things you don’t wanna do. Their power messes with a model’s ability to manifest psychic powers, their warlord trait debuffs nearby units by reducing their Attacks, and their Relic, Sorthis’ Reflector, allows its wielder to duplicate the weapon of any INFANTRY model within 1” as long as that model has Ld 9 or less. You can’t re-roll hits or wounds for the attacks and they have to go on the model you copied from, but it can be a fun way to turn your opponent’s favorite toys against them, particularly if they’re tooled out for killing big targets.

  • Psychic Power: Attempted Possession (WC 6) – Pick an enemy Character within 18″. That unit suffers 1 mortal wound. Until your next psychic phase, when that unit takes a Psychic test, subtract 2 from the total. This is a fun way to snipe with mortal wounds and the added rider is a bonus against Eldar and Grey Knights, where you will otherwise struggle to Deny their boosted powers.  B
  • Warlord Trait: Beguiling Influence – Subtract 1 (to a minimum of 1) from the Attacks characteristic of enemy models while their units are within 1″ of this Warlord. Handy, but not as good as boosting your Warlord’s offensive output. B
  • Sorcerous Arcana: Sorthis’ Reflector – When a model with this Relic fights in the Fight phase, you can pick an enemy Infantry model with Ld 9 or less within 1″ of this model and pick a melee weapon they have. Until the end of the phase, this model is treated as having that weapon and can only make attacks against that enemy model’s unit, and you can’t re-roll hits or wounds. This is maybe the weirdest relic in the book, and one of the weirdest in the game. It’s certainly interesting, but given that its power is wholly dependent on what your opponent brought to the table, probably not worth the hassle over just tearing something up with Malefic Talons. Still, the idea of charging something and killing it with its own weapon before it can fight is pretty funny. D

 

Stratagems

Unlike the moribund Death Guard, Thousand Sons get three pages of Stratagems, meaning they get their own bespoke abilities while not giving up any of the valuable Chaos Space Marines Stratagems that every Chaos army needs (such as Daemonforge). Thousand Sons stratagems are, on the whole, only OK, but they’re not bad either, and the baseline power of your units will do most of the heavy lifting.

  • Linebreaker Bombardment (1 CP) – Used in the Shooting phase when you have 3 Thousand Sons Vindicators within 6” of each other. You give up their shooting in order to pick a visible point within 24” of all 3 of them and then you roll a D6 for each unit within 3” of that point, adding 1 if the unit has 10+ models and subtracting 1 if it’s a character. On a 4+, the unit takes 3D3 mortal wounds. This is a lot of damage, but you need to take 3 Vindicators to use it, they have to all survive, and you’re giving up their shooting, which is now better than it was. You will never use this.. D
  • The Great Sorcerer (1 CP) – Use at the end of your Psychic phase to have one psyker from your army manifest an additional power. Useful when you need to get an extra Smite off. B
  • Fire Frenzy (1 CP) – If a Thousand Sons Helbrute doesn’t move, you can use this in the Shooting phase to have it shoot all its guns twice, but they have to target the nearest visible unit. This just isn’t that great given how bad Helbrute guns are and it doesn’t work on the Forge World Dreadnoughts. C-
  • Coruscating Beam (3 CP) – Use once per battle in the Shooting phase if your Warlord didn’t move. Instead of shooting with your Warlord, pick two points on the table that are 9” apart and visible to him. Draw a line between those two points and for every unit the line passes over, roll a D6, subtracting 1 if the unit is a CHARACTER. For each 4+, the unit suffers D3 mortal wounds. Basically a Thousand Sons Orbital Bombardment. The unlimited range makes this a little more interesting but it’s highly situational and for 3 CP, you’ll almost always have better things to do. C-
  • Cabalistic Focus (1 CP) – Use when you attempt to manifest a psychic power with a Thousand Sons psyker within 6” of at least two other friendly Thousand Sons Psykers. You can add 2 to the test. This is very useful when you need to cast some of the higher WC powers and if you’re taking a Psyker-packed Supreme Command, you’ll have the models to use this. B
    Wings Note: 
    Can be brutal used to swing for a super infernal gateway
  • Relics of the Thousand Sons (1/3 CP) – Get a Relic Stratagem. Use to add the Dark Matter Crystal to your army if your Warlord isn’t a Thousand Sons unit. A
  • Killshot (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase when you have 3 Thousand Sons Chaos Predators within 6” of each other. They get +1 to their Wound rolls and Damage for attacks that target MONSTERS and VEHICLES. This is a decent ability but you are rarely going to bring a single Chaos Predator with Thousand Sons, let alone three. C
  • Blasphemous Machines (1 CP) – Use in the shooting phase to let a vehicle ignore the penalties for moving and firing a Heavy weapon or Advancing and firing an Assault weapon for a turn. Solid ability, and helpful if you’re running a Forge World dreadnought that you need to move. B+
  • Warpflame Gargoyles (1 CP) – Use on a non-Helbrute, non-Heldrake vehicle at the start of the fight phase to roll a D6 for each unit within 3”. Subtract 2 for Characters and Vehicles, for each 4+, the unit takes D3 mortal wounds. Not being able to use this on Heldrakes or Helbrutes — the vehicles you’d want to use to get into combat — really hurts this. Can occasionally be valuable for a Maulerfiend, though.. C
  • Chaos Familiar (1 CP) – Swap out one of a Psyker’s powers with another one from any one of the three Disciplines Thousand Sons get access to. This can be interesting if you need to get a Discipline of Tzeentch power onto Ahriman or an Exalted Sorcerer, and it can be situationally interesting if there’s something you need in a pinch. B+
  • Veterans of the Long War (1 CP) – Great stratagem, and worth building around. Use on blade Tzaangors to put a real beating on enemy units, or use on Scarab Occult Terminators to push through their Inferno Storm Bolter shots. An all-around great power to have for your infantry. A
  • Boon of Tzeentch (1 CP) – Use after a non-Daemon Thousand Sons character kills an enemy Character, Vehicle, or Monster. Roll 2D6 and get a buff from the list that lasts the rest of the game. This list is better than the Chaos Space Marines list but it’s still not amazing to use this and it’s not going to come up that often given that it won’t work on Daemon Princes. D
  • Webway Infiltration (1/3 CP) – We are FINALLY getting into the Thousand Sons-specific stratagems and the wait was worth it. Webway Infiltration lets you put one or two units into the webway during deployment, to show up at the end of your Movement phase more than 9” away from any enemy models. This is fantastic, and there are plenty of ways to use it to launch surprise attacks or protect units that need to close long distances without being shot. A
  • Soul Flare (1 CP) – Use when an Aspiring Sorcerer or Scarab Occult Sorcerer dies. Roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 6” of that model, subtracting 2 if the unit is a Character or Vehicle. On a 4+, the unit takes a mortal wound. Doing a single mortal wound just doesn’t matter enough to make this worth it. D
  • Fate Mutation (1 CP) – Use in the Fight phase before a TZEENTCH Chaos Spawn fights. Instead of rolling for the Spawn’s ability that turn you can choose and you can re-roll the number of attacks each spawn in the unit gets. Interesting if you’re taking large units of spawn, but Spawn lack an invulnerable save and are just too squishy. The funny part is that against Primaris targets and the like, the three options are basically the same, with AP-4 giving you the slight edge. C
  • Vengeance for Prospero (1 CP) – Use before a Thousand Sons unit fights in the fight phase. Until the end of the phase, their Death to the False Emperor triggers on a 4+ instead of a 6+ against Space Wolves. You will never use this. D
  • The Flesh-Change (1 CP) – Use at the start of any phase on a Thousand Sons Infantry Character. The character dies, but you get a Chaos Spawn for free. Given that your characters are likely to be expensive Psykers, this is really not what you want to be doing with them. D
  • Inferno Bolts (1 CP) – Use before the battle to upgrade a bolter weapon (including a twin heavy bolter) on a Vehicle in your army. Its AP characteristic becomes -2. Potentially fun on Contemptors. C
  • Baleful Vortex (1 CP) – Use after a Mutalith Vortex Beast resolves a power. Roll a D6 for another power and you immediately use that power, even if you’ve already used it. This power is automatically successful. Now we’re talking — this brings some much-needed stability to Vortex Beasts, and allows you to manifest two powers at random, then mash out a third that you need. B
  • Cycle of Slaughter (2 CP) – A unit of Tzaangors can fight again. This is pretty much the unit you want this on and for 2 CP it’s a steal. A

Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned gave the Thousand Sons a set of 7 new stratagems that really helped improve the faction’s power s a standalone option. The bulk of these really focus on improving the play of Rubicae and Scarab Occult Terminators. Like the new Cults, they do nothing for Tzaangors. The upside is that they’re all pretty damn good.

  • Magister (1 CP) – Choose a non-Warlord character in your army. That character gets a Warlord trait. You can only use this once per battle and you can’t double up on traits. This isn’t the flashiest new ability but holy crap is it something the Thousand Sons really needed. The Thousand Sons have some of the game’s best Warlord Traits and with the new Cult traits on top of those, you’ll likely end up using this stratagem in every game you play, particularly if you’re bringing a Thousand Sons Supreme Command packed with multiple strong characters. A
  • Infernal Fusillade (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase. A Rubric/Scarabs unit can shoot twice with its Rapid Fire weapons if it didn’t move this turn. This is a huge ability for Thousand Sons, whose AP-2 bolters already had what the rest of Chaos was missing when it came to actually making the large volumes of fire on Scarab Occult Terminators work. Being able to pump out 4 shots with Rubrics at 24” or 8 shots with Scarab Occult Terminators can mean some truly hellacious damage and it goes a long way to making these units viable. The hard part will be overcoming the 24” range, but the Cult of Duplicity’s redeploy trick and Risen Rubricae can help ensure you’ll be where you need to be. Don’t forget to pop Veterans of the Long War when you use this. A
  • Yoked Automata (2 CP) – Use at the end of your opponent’s Charge phase and pick an enemy unit that ended up within 1″ of a non-Tzaangor Thousand Sons character. One unit of Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators within 12″ of that unit and not locked in combat with another unit can perform a Heroic Intervention and move up to 2D6″ instead of up to 3″ when they do it, but they have to end within 1″ of that enemy unit and no others. This is a handy trick that can help mitigate what might otherwise be smaller model counts in a pure Thousand Sons army by giving your units a way to protect each other from further away. It also helps prevent opponents from just jumping over your screens to get to your characters by giving you a powerful way to punish that nonsense. It’s situational, but it’ll be devastating if your opponent isn’t prepared for it. B
  • Risen Rubricae (1 CP) – Use when you set up a Rubric Marines unit from your army during deployment. You can set it up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9″ away from the enemy deployment zone and any enemy models. You can only use this Stratagem once per battle. This was already a nifty Stratagem helpful for putting your otherwise slow Rubrics into position on an objective but with the current ITC rules that don’t allow seizing, this can be straight fire, allowing you to position a unit for a devastating turn 1 strike if your opponent doesn’t deploy appropriately conservatively. A
  • Sorcerous Infusion (1 CP) – Use this Stratagem when you’re resolving a Psychic Power from a Thousand Sons model. If your Psychic test roll was 9+, that model’s unit can pick a model to regain D3 lost wounds. Otherwise, you can return a dead model in the unit to the battlefield at full health. Another handy way to get Scarab Occult Terminators back risk-free, given that you can just wait until after you’ve cast and you know what the roll was. B+
  • Indomitable Foes (1 CP) – Use when a Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators unit is chosen as the target of an attack. Improve that unit’s invulnerable save by 1 (to a max of 3+) for the rest of the phase. This jumped out to us because it’s a great way to help a unit survive the rash of high-AP shooting that marines can throw out, particularly when combined with the Weaver of Fates psychic power to get to that 3+ invulnerable save level. Having a 3++ really helps mitigate the fragility of these units and when combined with new powers and stratagems to heal models or return them to the battlefield, can make large units of Scarab Occult Terminators very scary. This is pretty much what Rubrics needed to be good, since with this and Weaver of Fates you can get even a regular squad of Rubrics down to a 3+ invulnerable save and because All is Dust just gives you +1 to your saving throws, it means you can effectively end up with a 2+ invulnerable save against D1 weapons. A
  • Adepts of the Immaterium (1 CP) – Use when a Thousand Sons psyker from your army would suffer Perils of the Warp. They don’t suffer Perils of the Warp. This is a nifty little Stratagem that’s wonderful to have and will see use at least once per game. It’s particularly useful in high-leverage situations where you’re trying to cast with an injured character, and combos well with the Capricious CrestA

 

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. Chapter Approved and Ritual of the Damned really shook things up for the Thousand Sons from an army composition standpoint; not only is the monofaction army more viable, and more units from the army viable, but the units you’d use have completely shifted – whereas before Thousand Sons relied on large groups of Tzaangors, the army now looks at significant numbers of Rubric Marines and Scarab Occult Terminators, while Tzaangors have fallen by the wayside.

HQ

Ahriman

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What a way to start. Ahriman has a strong claim to being the single best unit in the game, and is almost must-include in competitive Thousand Sons Detachments. When you take him, you’ll typically want to put him on a Disc of Tzeentch to give him the DAEMON and FLY keywords and increase his threat range by another 6”. Ahriman is basically a combo Sorcerer-Chaos Lord, with a Chaos Lord’s Stat line, 4+ invulnerable save, and re-roll hit rolls of 1 aura. The real kicker is his psychic capabilities. He can manifest and deny three psychic powers per turn, and he knows Smite and three powers from the Change and/or Dark Hereticus Disciplines, and adds 1 to all his psychic and deny tests (making some of the higher WC powers easier for him to pull off). The only reason you’d leave Ahriman out of your Thousand Sons list is to save the points for other great units (usually more Daemon Princes) or because you’re sick of fielding him and want to give some of your other painted models some time on the table.

Ahriman lost a little utility in the recent release, only because he doesn’t have access to the sweet Cult powers and abilities, but he’s still a powerhouse and worth fielding. Note that putting him on a Disc carries a few hefty disadvantages – he loses the ability to use Veterans of the Long War (not that this matters much) and if you’re playing in ITC format, he can’t hide in “magic boxes,” but the tradeoff is that the added mobility is incredibly helpful.

Daemon Prince of Tzeentch

The army’s second-best unit. Daemon Princes are absolute machines at murdering things. They’re the army’s best melee unit, and they come with a re-roll 1s to hit aura and psychic powers to boot (getting a second cast, making them by far the best flavour of Daemon Prince). The ideal build for Thousand Sons Daemon Prince is to give him wings and a pair of malefic talons. Many Thousand Sons armies and Supreme Command Detachments take two of these, make one a Warlord and usually give one a Dark Matter Crystal so he can zap himself or a unit of Tzaangors around the table as needed. For Warlord Traits, Otherworldly Presence is the jam if you want resilience, while High Magister is the pick if you need him to be casting. Protect these guys by running them behind a screen of either Tzaangors and Cultists if you’re monofaction or Horrors, Possessed, or Nurglings if you’re running soup, and then charge them forward when enemies get to close or once you’ve pressed far enough ahead to reach some good targets.

Note that Daemon Princes are one of the few units in your army that can get the Discipline of Tzeentch natively, which makes them a great candidate to give the Gaze of Fate psychic power. Also note that his DAEMON keyword will be relevant if you’re running Daemons in your army, and there are opportunities to get some cool synergies with him if you’re running the Changeling or a Changecaster.

Winged Daemon Princes of Tzeentch saw a 15-point increase in Chapter Approved 2019, which hurts but isn’t about to prevent anyone from taking one of the best units in the game. You’ll just be less likely to take two of them.

 

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 5+ invulnerable save with the ability to cast two powers per turn. They can also take a Disc of Tzeentch for extra mobility (though again, note that this has certain disadvantages by removing their INFANTRY keyword, but the mobility tends to outweigh the downsides). Exalted Sorcerers are pretty good, and while they don’t see as much play in soup lists because the traditional play is usually Ahriman + two Daemon Princes, there’s definitely more of a place for them now as a cheaper additional two-spell caster and there’s definitely a place for an Exalted Sorcerer in competitive lists if you can’t fit Ahriman. With Thousand Sons you have a lot of psyker options, and they’re all at least decent, so which you’ll want to take will depend on how your army wants to play.

 

Sorcerer

Thousand Sons Aspiring Sorcerer

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

The cheapest psyker HQ option, these guys are good for filling out the HQ requirement in a detachment if you need a second HQ choice and are looking to save points. They’re not terrible, and even get an invulnerable save (unlike those plebeian sorcerers from other Chaos factions) but they aren’t cheap enough compared to some of the other options for them to be super compelling. Another area where you will more often be using Terminator Sorcerers just for their resilience and ability to teleport.

 

Sorcerer in Terminator Armour

Like a standard Sorcerer, only with Terminator Armour. The big difference between these guys and the Exalted Sorcerer is that they lack the re-roll 1s to hit aura but are more resilient, with a 2+ armour save instead of a 3+, and they have the ability to teleport into the battlefield for free. Because you’ll seldom be taking Thousand Sons troops in a Chaos Soup army, Terminator Sorcerers have a bit more use as a second sorcerer to back up Ahriman than Exalted Sorcerers, often being seen in this role in a Supreme Command Detachment where the points aren’t quite there to fit a second Daemon Prince. You pretty much always want to give these guys a familiar so they can get their first power off each turn more easily — it’s a huge boost for powering through WC 8 powers.

 

Troops

Rubric Marines

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The most iconic unit in the book is a really solid troop choice, though the biggest challenge with Rubrics is going to be the high points cost on a per-model basis. The good news is that recent developments – namely, a points drop in Chapter Approved 2019 and a host of new stratagems to support them in Psychic Awakening – Rubric Marine are now much more playable. They’re still one of the hardiest troop options in the game, at T4, 3+ save like all marines but with a 5+ invul on top of that and the All is Dust rule grants +1 to saving throws if the weapon is D1, so even their invul becomes a 4+. This further combos with Psychic powers like Weaver of Fates and the super-useful Indomitable Foes Stratagem, allowing you to create Rubric squads with a 2+ invulnerable save against D1 weapons. 

Their unit champion is also an Aspiring Sorcerer, able to cast one power a turn. When they use Smite it’s a downgraded version, so they’re best when they’re manifesting other powers, but throwing out extra mortal wounds never hurts. The good news is that every one of these gets a free bonus power from their Cult if you’re running pure Thousand Sons detachments. Duplicity (redeploy), Scheming (Fall back and shoot/charge) and Knowledge (re-roll wound rolls of 1) all work well for this.

Being a little slower than normal and lacking great transport options, Rubrics are your backline objective holders because your opponent needs to focus very hard to dislodge them. Their bolter are nice as well, packing AP -2 they can shred through most things that get too close. You can take a flamer (also with AP -2) on a per model basis and it’s recommended that you take 2 or 3 to deter any charges. Finally, the soulreaper cannon is a Heavy 4, S5, AP -3 weapon. All is Dust allows you to ignore the -1 to hit from moving and shooting with Heavy weapons so it’s a straight upgrade in every way, however it requires significant investment to get there. You can only equip it if you have 10 models in the unit, which requires a lot of points to get there. If you want to go heavy on rubrics, the cannon is worth it but otherwise, stick to 5 man squads. They cost enough as is, and their primary move is dropping out a ton of AP-2 bolter fire.

Although they’re slower, you now have a ton of options for redeploying these guys and getting them up the table mid-game, particularly if you have the Cult of Duplicity to work with. With Sorcerous Facade, any squad with its Sorcerer alive can zip around the board as it needs, dropping onto objectives or into the enemy’s backline whenever. Because of this, there’s a lot of value in considering a squad of 20 Rubric Marines with Inferno Boltguns to maximize the firepower they can put out with Stratagem boosts.

 

Tzaangors

Tzaangors

Tzaangors. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

If rubrics are your backline objective holders, these are your vanguard, leading the charge. Tzaangors used to be your bread and butter as troops in a Thousand Sons army, before Chapter Approved 2019 raised their costs by 1 point per model. They’re still good but at double the cost of a Cultist, they’re no longer the cheap way to fill out a Detachment and they’re no longer the horde option you want to build the whole army around. We’d rather they have stayed at 7 ppm, but with the boosts to Rubrics and Scarab Occult Terminators, you’re much less likely to be looking at these as the core of your army.

Tzaangors have 2 weapon options, tzaangor blades or a chainsword and bolt pistol. The bolt pistol requires you get so close to your target you’re always better off with the tzaangor blades anyway. The blades have -1 AP and given how many of these guys you can field, it’ll add up. They’re also quite a bit more durable than cultists, being toughness 4 and having a 5+ invul, they won’t go down as easily. The one catch is without any decent ranged options, closing the distance can be a challenge, so a “Tzaangor bomb” using a max squad and a Webway Infiltration or the Dark Matter Crystal relic has been a popular tactic in a pure Thousand Sons lists pre-CA19. You should almost always take a brayhorn (+1 to charge and +1 to run) to help make that charge whereas the Icon of Flame is almost never worth it unless you have some leftover points to burn. Coming in massive squads, they’re also a great target for unit-wide buffs like Weaver of Fates and Glamour of Tzeentch, which can combine to make them a nightmare to shift.

Tzaangors aren’t the core of the army they used to be, but a large blob of them can still hit like a truck and cause some damage. That said, if you’re building from scratch, you may want to consider leaving them by the wayside in favor of Rubric marines and Troop support from Chaos Daemons.

 

Chaos Cultists

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Newly re-dropped to 4 points per model, Chaos Cultists are back to being a semi-viable option for Thousand Sons. They work primarily as cheap bodies to fill out Battalion detachments. You might also use them as a tarpit for your opponents, where the ability to show up in squads of 40 works well with the Tide of Traitors Stratagem, though you’d need to include a Chaos Space Marines detachment in order to get access to the Stratagem, negating the benefits in most cases. So to recap, Cultists have real value as a 40-point Troop choice and not much else right now.

 

Elites

Tzaangor Shaman

Tzaangor Shaman

Tzaangor Shaman. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer.

An Elite Character handy to have if you’re going to take Tzaangors, but diminished in utility now that Cult rules are out and Tzaangors aren’t quite as useful as they used to be. It has an Aura to give +1 to hit for all Tzaangors (Both the troop and Enlightened versions) so all of your bird men can hit on a 2+. A nice bonus is that once per battle they can re-roll a failed psychic test. They only get access to the Change discipline but that’s alright, you’ll probably takes Weaver of Fates to make your Tzaangors more durable. Finally the point cost is pretty cheap so if you have an elite slot open and the points to pay for it, the Shaman is a welcome buff bot. They’re also a great choice to carry the Dark Matter Crystal as long as your opponent doesn’t have too many snipers (Sadly, this means giving them a Dark Matter Crystal is less useful in the post-Raven Guard meta, where you’re going to face Eliminators a lot more often). Tzaangor Shamans are the fastest Smite platform you get. 

 

Scarab Occult Terminators

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Scarab Occult Terminators are about as good as Terminators can get in 8th edition. They still cost a lot of points, but after a key points reduction in Chapter Approved 2019 and a host of new Stratagems to make them more durable and useful in Ritual of the Damned, they’ve gone from “situationally useful in some builds” to “something to consider building around.”

Besides the 2+/5++ save common to Terminator models, Scarab Occult Terminators also borrow the All is Dust rule from Rubrics, granting them an additional +1 to saves for attacks that do D1, This can combo with Weaver of Fates and Indomitable Foes to create some 2++ Terminators that are insanely difficult to remove, though the current D2+ meta makes it less likely All Is Dust will kick in when they need it. Their weapons are the real draw – Rapid Fire 2, S4 AP -2 bolters that always get to shoot twice due to Malicious Volleys is a hell of a punch. They’ve also got powerful S5/AP-2 flamers as a variant option. The heavy weapon options are solid purchases too, since All is Dust lets you ignore the -1 to hit penalty for moving, helping remove another large problem that Terminators have.

The main problem is that those point costs add up quickly and you probably won’t be able to include too many of these in an army, but the new Cult powers give you a number of new great ways to use these, teleporting them around the table, falling back and shooting/charging, and bringing them back after they’ve been killed. They’ve become a real Swiss Army Knife unit, capable of dishing out massive damage with their shooting, packing a punch in melee, and zipping around to wherever they’ll be needed to do the most damage. They also slot very well into that Elites slot of a Supreme Command Detachment.

Helbrute

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Helbrutes have some interesting options post-Hateful Assault, with Power Scourge + Fist giving it some real chops and the ability to throw out 8 attacks on the charge. Unfortunately, the melee variant is pretty much the only way you’ll consider running one of these, since their ranged options suffer from the -1 to hit penalty if they move and max out at twin lascannons + missile launcher as a configuration. Helbrutes have gotten progressively cheaper over 8th edition and they’re not bad per se, but they’re also still outclassed by many other superior options, either when it comes to shooting, where you’ll use a Forge World dreadnought, or combat, where you can use a Maulerfiend.

 

Fast Attack

Tzaangor Enlightened

Tzaangor Enlightened

Tzaangor Enlightened. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Tzaangor Enlightened are an underrated unit in the Thousand Sons Codex. While they lack the numbers or attacks to really punish enemy units in melee (and don’t get Hateful Assault), with Fatecaster Greatbows they can be a very effective and mobile harassment unit that can’t be tied down in combat. On their own they’re OK. But with a detachment of Chaos Daemons they can get a real boost: Their Discs give them the DAEMON keyword, allowing them to benefit from boosts like Flickering Flames and Heralds of Tzeentch (in addition to boosts from psychic powers that affect HERETIC ASTARTES units such as Prescience). If you really want them as a melee unit, you can potentially load them up with spears and buffs from things like the Mutalith Vortex Beast and the Cycle of Slaughter Stratagem, but that’s an area where you may still be better off spending the energy on a large squad of regular Tzaangors.

Tzaangor Enlightened came down 2 points per model in Chapter Approved 2019, which makes them a little more attractive, but the big issue now is that they’re competing with suddenly much more attractive Rubric Marines.

 

Chaos Spawn

Chaos Spawns are cheap, fragile, relatively fast melee units who got better thanks to the addition of the Hateful Assault rule. They don’t have a ton of utility outside of being cheap fillers for a Fast Attack slot, which you’ll never need. This is primarily because despite having T5 and 4W, they have only a 5+ save, and will go down pretty quickly once they’re shot at. If you do want to take them, Thousand Sons offer you some better options than most, with the ability to take a squad of five Chaos Spawn and have them accompanied by a Mutalith Vortex Beast, which can give them a large boost by giving them the ability to re-roll charges or boost their AP by 1 (or both). Then you can use the Fated Mutation Stratagem to choose the upgrade they get when they fight. This means you can give them AP-3 attacks with the Mutalith and use their Mutated Beyond Reason effect to give them +2 attacks each, giving them D6+3 S5 AP-3 D2 Attacks on the charge, which will be great for shredding primaris marines. You just need to survive the Overwatch shooting. This is also a great way to spend a lot of effort to make a bad unit OK, but it’s not a massive points investment either. More fun than competitive.

 

Heavy Support

Mutalith Vortex Beast

The most surprising addition to the Thousand Sons’ Codex, the Mutalith Vortex Beast is one of the game’s strangest units. It’s a 125-point T7, W14 MONSTER (not a DAEMON, mind you), with the ability to some damage in melee, but its real value is the Warp Vortex ability. Specifically, the Chaotic Infusion, Temporal Flux, and Ephemeral Touch abilities, which give a unit within 9” +1 Strength, the ability to re-roll charges and fight first, or improves their AP by 1, respectively. You can either pick one to attempt per turn or get one at random, which then lets you roll for a second. You will not want to do this.

The buffs are solid, but you have to roll to activate them (This is a 2+ at full health and degrades). The Vortex Beast is best used as a Distraction Carnifex-type unit, drawing fire from other more important targets while still acting as a threat if your opponent doesn’t deal with it completely. Mutaliths are not quite good enough for competitive play for their current cost, but they’re almost good enough. If you’re going to run one, pair it with some Maulerfiends or a Tzaangor bomb, or use the fact that it gets Hateful Assault to toss out 15 attacks with its Betentacled Maw weapon. Bonus points if you can drop Diabolic Strength on him before he charges — he can really make use of the extra strength and attack.

Chaos Predator

Chaos Predators aren’t quite good enough and so don’t see much play. If you are going to take one, take the autocannon variant. There are just better options for you to look at, but most of them will involve souping in Chaos Space Marines to get better Forge World Dreadnoughts. 

Chaos Vindicator

Vindicators got a boost thanks to the recent Codex: Space Marines update, having their guns move to Heavy D6 from Heavy D3 with the potential to upgrade. This is a big change that certainly makes them better, but definitely doesn’t make them good enough to consider in your army. They sadly have neither the range nor the damage output (and also they suffer a move-and-shoot penalty for their Demolisher cannons) to be a real threat. If you do take one, its best use is to be a cheap objective holder, where being a T8, 11W vehicle can be useful. Thousand Sons kept the Linebreaker Stratagem, but it’s especially not worth your time to take three of these and also give up their shooting to do it.

Chaos Land Raider

Chaos Land Raiders are all dramatically overcosted, especially now that the new Space Marines Codex has dropped their costs even further while letting chapter tactics affect them and giving them combat doctrines. The only value these have is as a transport for your terminators or rubric marines, and the former can teleport in on their own. You can skip bringing one of these to your game.

Defiler

I really, really want Defilers to be good. But sadly, here we are. Defilers aren’t good enough at shooting, they’re not quite good enough at fighting, and they’re not quite tough enough to mitigate not being quite good enough at fighting. Hateful Assault makes them better, but you don’t have access to Lords Discordant to buff them, and Defilers will draw a lot of firepower and tend to die before they can recoup their costs. If you do take one, treat it as a melee unit and ignore its terrible Battle Cannon. Give it a Defiler Scourge and rush it at the opponent as quickly as you’re able, having it draw fire from other targets. 

Forgefiend

With their 4+ BS, inability to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons, and the lackluster weapon options they get, Forgefiends just leave too much to be desired. The Hades Autocannon is the better option of the two, and if you take these you want to babysit them with an Exalted Sorcerer to give them re-rolls and buff their shooting, but you shouldn’t be running these in your Thousand Sons army. Or any Chaos Space Marines army, really.

Maulerfiend

Maulerfiends got a much-needed boost from Hateful Assault, where every Attack they get matters. They’re a solid inclusion in a monofaction Thousand Sons army as a dangerous melee unit to charge at the opponent. As TZEENTCH DAEMON ENGINES, they have access to a large array of buffs in the Thousand Sons army, and make good flanking units for a Winged Daemon Prince. They also pair well with a Mutalith Vortex Beast. They’re not super-competitive, but there’s a place for them if you don’t want to soup. Give them Lasher Tendrils and take them in pairs to ensure that at least one of them makes it to their target.

 

Dedicated Transport

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Rhino

Ah the humble Chaos Rhino in blue. As one of your only dedicated transport options it at least doesn’t have much competition. Like most marine armies, rhinos are cheap but probably not as cheap as they should be. In a Thousand Sons list however, they face competition against a variety of ways to deep strike your forces. Between the Dark Matter Crystal, The Cult of Duplicity, Risen Rubricae, and the Webway Infiltrate stratagem, Thousand Sons have a lot more cost-effective options for getting your units around. Ultimately it’s a bit of a binary choice here, either you need the transport or you don’t, and Land Raiders cost too much.

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, but you could do worse that putting some Rubrics in one and using it to put a bunch of AP-2 bolter fire in your opponent’s face and forcing them to deal with a Drill before the rest of your army arrives.

 

Flyers

Heldrake

Thousand Sons have a single 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 (even with Hateful Assault), but what they are good at doing is being incredibly annoying. With the ability to move 30″ on Turn 1, the best way to run these is to take 2 to 3 of them and run them up the table on turn 1, charging them right into your opponent’s front lines and tying up key units that might otherwise cause you problems or shoot at your slower units. While a T7, 12W body isn’t all that resilient once the shooting starts, the 5+ invulnerable save and wound regeneration give these guys a little extra staying power, and they can also be helpful for taking down enemy flyers if you can get in there with several of them and use the Daemonforge Stratagem to make sure more of your hits land. But overall, the best use for these guys is to charge them headlong into key targets that will lose a Shooting phase falling back from them, such as Leviathan Dreadnoughts and Tank Commanders.

 

Lord of War

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

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, he’s still a beast of a unit, even if he’s not quite the wrecking ball he used to be. Most of his decline hasn’t been his fault: Magnus’ decline is the direct result of Knights taking over the meta, leading every army to build in solutions for taking down T8, 24-wound units with a 4+ invulnerable save, making Magnus’ T7, 18W body look relatively tame in comparison. Still, Magnus is as big a threat as you’ll find in 40k, and demands the opponent’s attention the moment he hits the table. Magnus can manifest three powers per phase and attempt to deny three powers per phase, and gets to pick from any of the three Tzeentch disciplines. At full health he gets +2 to his psychic and deny attempts and he gets a special Smite which does D6 mortal wounds, or 2D6 if you roll a 12+ on the test. With full health and the bonus from the Cabalistic Focus Stratagem that makes only an 8+ to do 2D6 mortal wounds, which is an incredibly scary proposition. You’ll generally want to give Magnus the Weaver of Fates power to protect him with a 3+ invulnerable save and help him get into combat, where he’s a powerhouse capable of putting out real damage, especially if buffed with the Diabolic Strength power. On that front, Warptime can help you get there.

Finally, Magnus’ aura doesn’t just give re-rolls to hit of 1, but also allows nearby Thousand Sons Psykers to re-roll 1s for psychic tests within 9″. This is a damn good aura, boosting Magnus’ casting odds (and those of nearby Ahrimans, Daemon Princes, and Terminator Sorcerers) to ensure your powers get off. He works very well surrounded by Scarab Occult Terminators or Rubric Marines to benefit from both of his auras, and he benefits significantly from being around the Changeling, Fateskimmer, or a Changecaster, where the 6+ roll to ignore wounds and bonus to strength are significant.

Magnus didn’t appear to get a ton of help in Chapter Approved 2019, retaining his points cost, but as knights have faded from the meta and options have shifted accordingly, he’s become a bit more attractive as an option.

 

Daemons

Browsing through the Thousand Sons Codex, you’ll notice a number of Tzeentch Daemon options — Horrors, Flamers, and Screamers, specifically. While these are all Tzeentch daemons and their inclusion in a Thousand Sons list is fluffy, you definitely do not want to actually put them in a Thousand Sons detachment — they lack the THOUSAND SONS keyword, and will ruin your ability to get Stratagems, Cults, and Brotherhood of Sorcerers if they’re included in the Detachment. Tzeentch Daemons, particularly Horrors, are pretty good, though. There are two ways to include Tzeentch Daemons in your Thousand Sons army:

  • Summoning. Set aside some points before the game and, during the game, use the Daemonic Ritual special rule to summon some daemons. The upside to doing this is that you roll to summon, then pick the unit. So if you have a few different Tzeentch daemons to choose from, you can pick the one that best suits your situation and need. Summoned units aren’t part of your army and so don’t break up your detachment’s keywords. Unfortunately, this also means rolling to beat a number and not moving a key character so they can summon. This is just not worth your time to do. Instead, you should…
  • Take a detachment of Chaos Daemons. Instead of summoning your daemons, just take a detachment of Chaos Daemons. You get more options, with the ability to mix and match more varieties of daemon from other gods, and you get access to Chaos Daemons stratagems such as Denizens of the Warp, which is great for teleporting in units of Horrors to crash into your opponent’s flank, and Daemonic Possession, which you can use to punish your opponent’s Perils rolls.

Adding Daemons to your army gives you some powerful options. Horrors are notable here for their ability to be an incredibly cheap harassment unit. One popular strategy for horrors is to take 20 Horrors placed into Reserves using the Denizens of the Warp Stratagem during deployment (20 is the most you can take without having to spend more CP), then teleporting them in to disrupt the enemy’s plans. With help from a Changecaster, they can throw out 40 shots at S4 the turn they drop and use a buff from Flickering Flames to get additional wounding before they charge in. One important trick to note with Horrors is that you can leave a few points in reserves when you take them, then teleport them in and declare a charge. When the opponent starts firing overwatch, you can spend the reinforcement points on blue horrors, which you then place within unit coherency, 2″ in front of the rest of the Horrors. This gets you 2″ closer, making your charge significantly more likely and punishing the crap out of your opponent for daring to fire overwatch.

If you’re adding Tzeentch Daemons to your Thousand Sons, the good units to consider are Horrors (as described above), The Changeling, and Changecasters, which can boost your DAEMON units in interesting ways.

 

Notable Forge World Options

The Forge World Indexes don’t have quite as much to offer Thousand Sons, owing to their Legion Trait being limited to boosting Psychic powers. There are still a few units worth considering, however – The Chaos Decimator is pricey, but it’s got the DAEMON and DAEMON engine keywords, and so can benefit from a variety of options, such as getting the Str bonus from proximity to a Herald of Tzeentch. It’s a great target for the Prescience psychic power as well, which can help mitigate its BS 3+ and the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons. If you’re taking this guy, consider giving him double butcher cannons. If the Decimator doesn’t do it for you, you’ve also got 3 Relic Dreadnought choices.

Hellforged Dreadnoughts

Welcome to the one Chaos Space Marines army where Hellforged Dreadnoughts are perhaps not so great. This is because when they explode, they do extra mortal wounds to nearby PSYKERS which is basically all the best units in your army, and all of the units in your army that can lend the dreadnought a re-roll 1s to hit aura. So while Hellforged Dreadnoughts are still decent, you want to be extra careful about leaving them near your units. This is also where I’ll note that, in addition to being a danger to the PSYKER units around them, Hellforged Dreadnoughts don’t get much out of being THOUSAND SONS units, so if you’re including them as Thousand Sons in your army, it’s almost always going to be because you are playing a monofaction list. In that capacity, both Hellforged Deredeo and Hellforged Leviathans offer a lot of long-range firepower support for an army that mostly lives at a 24″ range. Give either Butcher cannons and give the Deredeo a Greater Havoc Launcher to maximize its firepower and let it fire at targets unseen. The Hellforged Contemptor is also worth looking at, again with double butcher cannons, as a way to get more ranged firepower, or with double C-Beam Cannons, if you’re looking to get cute with the Pythic Brazier.

Hellforged Spartan Assault Tank

Spartans got a boost in the recent FAQ set with its own version of Power of the Machine Spirit. Spartans are a beastly unit with the ability to dump out a lot of lascannon shots and survive at least a turn of heavy shooting. If you’re taking one, it’s to hold a large unit of expensive Scarab Occult Terminators, which means you’re dumping nearly half your army’s points into a single tank and its occupants. You should probably avoid these, but they’re juuuust good enough that you’ll talk yourself into considering them over and over (this is almost always a mistake).

 

Thousand Sons Rubric Marine

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Playing Thousand Sons

How you play Thousand Sons will depend on whether you’re bringing them as a monofaction army or as soup. In either case, you’ll want to load up on powerful psyker HQs, and use those to both toss out a ton of mortal wounds, boost nearby units, and slam into enemy lines. Regardless of how you play them though, you’ll need to protect them and that means appropriate screens and units to capture objectives. The workhorse of your army is likely to be one or two large squads of Rubric Marines capable of dumping out incredible damage to infantry, which will be helpful in environments choked by lots of Primaris marine and Possessed bodies. Your sorcerers can sit behind (or zip around with) a unit of advancing Rubric Marines, buffing units until it’s time to come out and make a move or counter-charge anything that crashes into your lines.

Outside of your psyker HQs, you have some other choices to consider. Scarab Occult Terminators are expensive, but can be a powerful punch when dropped behind enemy lines. Maulerfiends can do some real damage and demand attention when they’re on the table. Tzaangor Enlightened can effectively harass units on your opponents’ flanks. Regardless of what your secondary threats are, you’ll be buffing them with an array of psychic powers so make sure you’ve got a good spread of psyker HQs to cast with. Overall, the Thousand Sons Codex is a good book and you have a lot of options. As we dig into the lists below, you’ll see several different ways of approaching playing Thousand Sons, with a number of different unit choices, and you’ll see that the Cults of Magic and Duplicity are the most common choices, for the raw power and strategic options they give you, respectively.

Depending on what your list is trying to do, your psychic power selection will either lean heavily toward unit buffs, or you’ll find yourself taking every power you can to dish out mortal wounds. Yes, we rated them poorly above, but when you can stack them all on top of each other with multiple casts of Smite, the ability to dish out 1-2 mortal wounds at a time really adds up and you can put some incredibly hurt on units. This is essentially the strategy that Daemon soup lists had been using with regard to powers as a way to mitigate the lack of strong shooting, and it can be a frightening way to take out units that you can’t otherwise shoot, or hard-to-target support characters. In the current marine-heavy meta it’s less likely to fall out as well given that marines have more protection against mortal wounds (particularly Iron Hands and Black Templar), and the characters you’re targeting can have 6+ wounds much of the time. The more shooting you have, the more you’ll want to have buffs that can make those units better, and the less you have, the more you’ll want to focus on powers that deal targeted mortal wounds.

The most common options you’ll see in successful Chaos Soup lists is to include either a Supreme Command or Battalion detachment packing three sorcerer option including a Warlord (one of these is usually Ahriman, but any combination of non-Tzaangor Psyker HQ options are viable here). For Battalions, you’ll be filling them out with a single large (20-model) unit of Rubric Marines for their raw firepower, and the rest with squads of Cultists.

 

Army Lists

We can break the Thousand Sons lists into two groups: Monofaction lists, which can be pretty strong but still shouldn’t be considered “top tier,” and Soup lists, which typically use Thousand Sons as part of a Supreme Command Detachment or Battalion as a way of getting Ahriman and a Daemon Prince or two into the army and, in the case of a Battalion, use Rubrics for firepower and Cultists to generate some additional cheap CP.  

Monofaction Lists

Monofaction Thousand Sons lists are a bit of a rarity, owing to having a lower overall power level than the soup lists. What they can do well however, is throw out mortal wounds using the army’s ridiculous number of psykers. This functionally allows them to overcome limitations in long-range weaponry, by just drowning it in mind bullets. In this section, we’ll look at a recent monofaction list that makes good use of the ability to take multiple Cults.

Bryce Robinson’s Thousand Sons

Bryce took this list to a 3-2 6th place finish at the Iron Dice 40k GT. His list pulls out all the stops with regard to the new tricks, starting with the Cult of Magic Daemon Prince with Devastating Sorcery, Arcane Focus, Infernal Gateway, and Astral Blast, allowing him to drop insane numbers of mortal wounds on unsuspecting opponents. He’s also got the large unit of Rubric Marines to zap around the table with Sorcerous Facade and Risen Rubricae, and they’re sized to do maximum damage when shooting twice. He has the large unit of Scarabs set up to teleport in and recover dead models with the Time Flux psychic power. He’s got 8 different Pysker HQs, all ready to cast a wide variety of powers, both buffing their units and ripping apart enemies. And he’s got some cheap bodies for holding objectives and enough melee punch to pull things out in a pinch. It’s a fun list and a good starting point.

Bryce Robinson's Thousand Sons - Click to expand

Thousand Sons Supreme Command Detachment (+1 CP)
Cult of Magic

HQ: Damon Prince w/Wings, Hellforged Sword, Malefic Talon, Warlord: Devastating Sorcery, Relic: Arcane Focus, Powers: Smite, Infernal Gaze, Infernal Gateway, Astral Blast
HQ: Sorcerer w/Force Stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Powers: Smite, Infernal Gaze, Diabolic Strength, Astral Blast
HQ: Terminator Sorcerer w/Force Stave, Inferno Combi-Bolter, Familiar, Powers: Smite, Death Hex, Gift of Chaos, Astral Blast

Thousand Sons Battalion Detachment (+5 CP)
Cult of Duplicity

HQ: Damon Prince w/Hellforged Sword, Malefic Talon, Magister Stratagem (-1 CP): High Magister, Extra Relic: Dark Matter Crystal, Powers: Smite, Gaze of Fate, Glamour of Tzeentch, Sorcerous Facade
HQ: Sorcerer w/Force Stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Powers: Smite, Diabolic Strength, Warptime, Sorcerous Facade

Troops: Rubric Marines x19 w/17x Inferno Bolters, 2x Soulreaper Cannons, Aspiring Sorcerer w/Force Stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Powers: Smite, Weaver of Fates, Sorcerous Facade
Troops: Rubric Marines x9 w/8x Inferno Bolters, 1x Soulreaper Cannon, Aspiring Sorcerer w/Force Stave and Inferno Bolt Pistol, Powers: Smite, Temporal Manipulation, Sorcerous Facade
Troops: Rubric Marines x4 w/Inferno Boltguns, Aspiring Sorcerer w/Force Stave and Inferno Bolt Pistol, Powers: Smite, Boon of Mutation, Sorcerous Facade

Thousand Sons Battalion Detachment (+5 CP)
Cult of Time

HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch, Powers: Smite, Doombolt, Prescience, Warptime
HQ: Sorcerer w/Force Stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Powers: Smite, Temporal Manpulation, Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Time Flux

Troops: Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Cultists x10 w/Autogun

Elites: Scarab Occult Terminators x9 w/Inferno Combi Bolter, Power Sword, 2x Hellfyre Missile Racks, Aspiring Champion w/Force Stave and Inferno Combi Bolter, Powers: Smite, Weaver of Fates, Time Flux

 

Soup Lists

Most of the Soup lists you see for Thousand Sons are designed around using Thousand Sons as strong psyker support for a “Possessed Bomb” Chaos Space Marines detachment. These main contingents hit like a freight train, but lack the ranged firepower and psychic support that a Thousand Sons detachment can provide.

Christian Olofsson’s Chaos Soup

Christian’s list, which he took to a 5-0 3rd Place finish at the 106-player Games of Westeros IX event in March, represents the current “tech” for Thousand Sons in a soup list. The list runs an Alpha Legion Possessed Bomb detachment, using Nurgle-marked Possessed. These come with -1 to be hit from more than 12″ away thanks to the Alpha Legion trait, and that can be further buffed with the Dark Apostle’s Benediction of Darkness prayer and the Cloud of Flies Stratagem, giving the Possessed -3 to be hit, ensuring they’ll reach their targets at almost full health. The Poxbringers further boost them while the Nurglings start on and hold objectives.

Meanwhile, the big support here comes in the form of a Cult of Duplicity Thousand Sons Detachment. Three psyker HQs – Ahriman on Disc, a Winged Daemon Prince, and an Exalted Sorcerer on Disc provide strong psyker support and tons of mobility and the ability to redeploy the detachment’s big squad (20 models) of Rubric Marines, which can boost their invulnerable save with Weaver of Fates and put out obscene amounts of damage firing four times with Malicious Volleys and Infernal Fusillade.

Christian Olofsson's Chaos Soup - click to expand

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [49 PL, 739pts, 6CP] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion
Specialist Detachment [-1CP]: Daemonkin Ritualists

Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple

HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Benediction of Darkness, Mark of Nurgle
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Mark of Nurgle, Techno-virus injector
HQ: Master of Possession [5 PL, 88pts]: Force stave, Mark of Nurgle, Shepherd of the True Faith

Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun

Elites: Possessed [20 PL, 289pts]: Mark of Nurgle, 17x Possessed

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Daemons) [17 PL, 302pts, 5CP] ++
Chaos Allegiance: Nurgle

HQ: Poxbringer [4 PL, 70pts] HQ: Poxbringer [4 PL, 70pts]

Troops: Nurglings [3 PL, 54pts]: 3x Nurgling Swarms
Troops: Nurglings [3 PL, 54pts]: 3x Nurgling Swarms
Troops: Nurglings [3 PL, 54pts]: 3x Nurgling Swarms

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [63 PL, 957pts, 5CP] ++
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Duplicity

HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch [9 PL, 166pts] HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch [9 PL, 195pts]: 6. High Magister, Malefic talon, Warlord, Wings
HQ:  Exalted Sorcerer on Disc of Tzeentch [8 PL, 140pts]: Force stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol

Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Rubric Marines x19 w/Inferno Bolter, Aspiring Sorcerer w/Weaver of Fates
Troops: Rubric Marines x4 w/Inferno Bolter, Aspiring Sorcerer w/Glamour of Tzeentch

++ Total: [129 PL, 16CP, 1,998pts] ++

Michal Kostecka’s Chaos Soup with Chaos Knights

This list, which MIchal took to a 5-0 2nd Place finish at the 84-player Prague Open event in late February, offers an alternate take that swaps out the Possessed bomb – which is very vulnerable to Grey Knights’ increased-damage smiting ability – in favor of Chaos Knights, who may have a little more push now that the entire meta is gearing up for destroying hordes of primaris marines and not 2-3 knights per game.

Michal’s list features a pair of double-thermal Knights Despoiler backed up by four Moirax War Dogs – who can put out an insane amount of firepower – and a Thousand Sons Battalion stocked with three Sorcerers (Ahriman on Disc, Exalted Sorcerer on Disc, Terminator Sorcerer), all from the Cult of Magic. It’s filled out with Chaos Cultists, who give the list cheap bodies to put on objectives and generate an extra 4 CP over a Supreme Command Detachment. The three Sorcerers act as powerful psychic support for the knights, with the Terminator Sorcerer using Arcane Focus to replicate Ahriman’s +1 to cast.

Michal Kostecka's List - click to expand

++ Super-Heavy Detachment +3CP (Chaos – Chaos Knights) [41 PL, 723pts] ++

LoW: Knight Despoiler [25 PL, 413pts]: Dreadblade, Heavy stubber, Iconoclast Household, Ironstorm Missile Pod, Thermal cannon, Thermal cannon
LoW: War Dogs Moirax [8 PL, 155pts] w/ Character (Traitoris Lance), Iconoclast Household, 2x Lightning lock
LoW: War Dogs Moirax [8 PL, 155pts] w/ Iconoclast Household, 2x Lightning lock

++ Super-Heavy Detachment +3CP (Chaos – Chaos Knights) [42 PL, 725pts] ++

LoW: Knight Despoiler [25 PL, 413pts]: Dreadblade, Heavy stubber, Iconoclast Household, Ironstorm Missile Pod, Thermal cannon, Thermal cannon
LoW: War Dogs [9 PL, 157pts] w/ Character (Traitoris Lance), Heavy stubber, Iconoclast Household, Two War Dog autocannons
LoW: War Dogs Moirax [8 PL, 155pts] w/ Iconoclast Household, 2x Lightning lock

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [34 PL, 551pts] ++
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Magic

HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch [9 PL, 166pts] HQ: Exalted Sorcerer on Disc of Tzeentch [8 PL, 145pts]: Force stave, Plasma pistol
HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [8 PL, 120pts]: Arcane Focus, Devastating Sorcery, Familiar, Force stave, Inferno Combi-bolter, Warlord

Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists x10 w/Autogun

++ Total: [117 PL, 1,999pts] ++

Stephen Mitchell’s Chaos Soup

This final list, which Stephen piloted to a 4-1 2nd-place finish at the 48-player Alpha Strike GT at the end of February, is worth pointing out for one reason in particular: It doesn’t rely on Possessed, instead using a mix of Rubric Marines and Noise Marines to put out devastating ranged shooting. It also showcases one of the more obscure tricks you can pull with Thousand Sons: Many of the stratagems in Ritual of the Damned are limited only to RUBRIC MARINES and not faction-locked, which means they can be used on the Rubric Marines in an Alpha Legion detachment. This is the best of both worlds in a sense; the Rubric squad will benefit much more from -1 to be hit than the +6″ range on psychic powers, and still be a wonderful target for abilities that key off the Mark of Tzeentch or Rubric Marines.

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [80 PL, 1,254pts] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion

Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple
Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple

HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Mark of Tzeentch, Mutating Invocation
HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Mark of Tzeentch, Mutating Invocation

Troops: Cutlists x10 w/Mark of Slaanesh, Autogun
Troops: Cutlists x10 w/Mark of Slaanesh, Autogun
Troops: Cutlists x10 w/Mark of Slaanesh, Autogun

Elites: Noise Marines x20, 17 w/Sonic Blaster, 2 w/Blastmaster, Champion w/Chainaxe + Sonic Blaster
Elites: Rubric Marines [22 PL, 328pts] x19 w/Inferno Boltgun, Aspiring Sorcerer w/Force Sword

HS: Obliterators [18 PL, 285pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 3x Obliterator

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [24 PL, 375pts] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion

HQ: Daemon Prince with Wings [9 PL, 165pts]: Delightful Agonies, Malefic talon, Wings, Mark of Slaanesh
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 90pts]: Combi-bolter, Force stave, Mark of Tzeentch

Troops: Cutlists x10 w/Mark of Slaanesh, Autogun
Troops: Cutlists x10 w/Mark of Slaanesh, Autogun
Troops: Cutlists x10 w/Mark of Slaanesh, Autogun

++ Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [23 PL, 371pts] ++
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Magic

HQ: Ahriman [7 PL, 131pts] HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [8 PL, 120pts]: Familiar, Force stave, Inferno Combi-bolter
HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [8 PL, 120pts]: Familiar, Force stave, Inferno Combi-bolter, Warlord

++ Total: [127 PL, 2,000pts] ++

[/expand]

 

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. At least, until whatever Psychic Awakening book comes out that gives them five new psychic disciplines and forces us to rewrite this entire article. In the meantime, 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.

 

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