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!
The Thousand Sons are a legion of the dreaded Chaos Space Marines, but a legion that specializes in sorcery and the use of arcane relics in their warfare. Their forces are led by sorcerers and primarily composed of Rubricae, the animated suits of armor that once held their less-gifted brothers before they were transformed to dust by the Rubric of Ahriman.
Since their release as a full army in 7th edition, Thousand Sons have brought a powerful psychic force to the battlefields of the 41st millennium. In 9th edition they’ve come into their own as an army, relying less on soup builds with other Chaos Space Marine legions and acting more as a standalone force of muscle wizards, though soup with Chaos Daemons has recently helped re-elevate them in the competitive conversation.
As with any strategy document, this article represents a specific time and place. This article was updated in May 2023.
- Psychic Powers. The Thousand Sons have a ton of Psychic Powers to choose from, and that gives them an insane amount of versatility. Want to teleport around the table? You can do that. Want to bring back dead models? You can do that. Want to vomit out a ton of mortal wounds? Yep, you can do that too.
- Solid Troop Options. While not as durable as their terminator armor-clad brothers, Rubric marines are still a solid troop choice and offer several options to support different playstyles. These are absolutely the backbone of a Thousand Sons army so get used to painting gold trim.
- Amazing Terminators. The 9th edition Codex gives Scarab Occult Terminators the Objective Secured rule, making them a powerful, tough unit for occupying objectives and bullying enemies off them. They’re not quite the terrors they were under Armour of Contempt, but they’re still pretty damn good.
- Decent AP shooting. The basic guns most of your marines have are AP-2, which makes them great for tearing through armored targets and forcing enemies to rely on their invulnerable saves. And now that Armour of Contempt is a thing of the past, AP-2 is back to being very good.
- Cabbalistic Rituals. The faction mechanic for Thousand Sons is reasonably strong, allowing you to do some good tricks and guarantee that key spells go off.
- Reliance on Psykers. There’s no way to sugarcoat this: In most of the games you play you’ll be at risk of giving up 15 points for the Abhor the Witch secondary. You can make this tougher by focusing on tough units and those you can protect, but on average Thousand Sons give up 9-10 points for Abhor per game. This also means you’re going to struggle against armies that can block your psychic powers by having access to lots of Deny the Witch attempts, like Grey Knights, Sisters of Battle, and Black Templars.
- Unit Costs. Thousand Sons are an expensive, elite army. You’ll be low on model counts, which can make it difficult to hold large parts of the table. That can also be an issue because while Thousand Sons aren’t entirely glass cannons, they aren’t as durable as Death Guard and can get wiped off the table quickly, especially if they don’t have the support of psychic buffs to durability.
- Long-range firepower. Thousand Sons have nasty psychic powers, but lack the long-range shooting of even the Death Guard, making them much more reliant on mid-range shooting and getting line of sight on their targets to cast psychic powers at them.
- High Strength weapons. Similar to lacking long-range firepower, the Thousand Sons don’t have a lot of high-strength weapons generally, and will often deal with heavier targets using either a high volume of AP-2 small arms fire, or mortal wounds from psychic powers.
- Melee. The Thousand Sons have some OK counterpunch options but while Scarabs are decent at fighting you’ll generally want to keep most of your marines out of hand-to-hand combat, especially if their opponents have weapons that do 2+ damage.
- Mortal Wounds. Thousand Sons can dish but they can’t take them. Armies that can spam you with mortal wounds will blow right through your dust-filled suits of armor.
Competitive Rating: Low
The Thousand Sons are in a weird place. The core of the army is pretty strong, with lots of tools to work with, plenty of mobility thanks to Sorcerous Façade, and the ability to throw out a ton of mortal wounds to deal with enemy targets. That said, their secondaries are pretty bad, particularly following the loss of Wrath of Magnus in Arks of Omen, and their durability post-AoC leaves something to be desired. Ultimately the army lacks the durability it needs to tussle at midtable against harder hitters and it lacks the damage to alpha strike opponents off the table. The army is also not great at melee and armies like Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Orks, and World Eaters will absolutely demolish it if they can get in close and stay there.
What success Thousand Sons have had in Arks has come from allying in Chaos Daemons, where the additional psychic power of the Lord of Change and shooting output/mobility of Flamers gives them a lot of extra oomph, even with the changes Flamers received.
Faction Special Rules
Thousand Sons have their own special rules, completely separate from the other forces of the Heretic Astartes. These are broken into Detachment abilities and Datasheet abilities, with the former only applying to Thousand Sons detachments, i.e. detachments that only include models with the THOUSAND SONS keyword.
Rubric Marines, Scarab Occult Terminators, and Bray units in a Thousand Sons detachment get the Objective Secured rule. This has two immediate implications: The first is that Scarab Occult Terminators are very, very good at holding objectives and will act as the core of many Thousand Sons armies. The second is that Thousand Sons Cultists are very, very bad and their only value is being a cheap way to put lots of bodies together for buffing with Weaver of Fates.
In addition, Thousand Sons detachments are subject to three rules:
Brotherhood of Sorcerers
All Thousand Sons units in a Thousand Sons Detachment gain this ability, which gives the unit +1 to their Psychic Tests and gives ARCANA ASTARTES (Marines) and TZAANGOR units a 5+ invulnerable save.
These are both huge benefits for the Thousand Sons army, and reason enough to not take mixed detachments. The +1 to tests helps dramatically smooth out their casting even before you add on boosts from Cabbalistic Rituals, and makes reliably casting powers even up to Warp Charge 7 a breeze.
On the other side the 5+ invulnerable save is a big benefit for Tzaangors, making them able to weather a surprising amount of firepower as a group of cheap objective holders. It’s also a huge benefit for the non-Daemon Vehicles, which benefit very strongly from suddenly having a free invulnerable save. This gives new life to Rhinos, Helbrutes, and several other Forgeworld Vehicles like the Fire Raptor, dramatically improving their ability against Dark Lances and melta weapons.
Mere Servants, which limits Cultists and Bray units to one each per unit of Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators in the Detachment. This limits how you build armies and keeps Thousand Sons armies from looking like the old Tzaangor-heavy armies of 8th edition but isn’t really necessary since they made Rubrics and Scarabs useful.
Each Thousand Sons Detachment can only have a single Daemon Prince. This doesn’t matter much.
When shooting Rapid Fire bolt weapons, you can double shoot if you’re within half range, the shooting model is INFANTRY and Remained Stationary in the previous Movement phase, or the shooting model is a Terminator. This is great for ensuring that your Scarab Occult Terminators are always tossing out massive numbers of AP-2 shots, but can be handy when your Rubrics stay in one place as well. Note that for Rubrics your whole unit has to Remain Stationary (not just the model), and that Rubrics still need to abide by this rule – they ignore the penalties for moving and shooting Heavy weapons, but unlike Death Guard do not count as having Remained Stationary.
Character models in Thousand Sons Detachments have access to Legion Command upgrades, special upgrades that can be purchased for different points totals, similar to those that other factions in 9th edition codexes get. These are limited a bit in terms of which models they can go on, and have varying degrees of usefulness, though most won’t see play. The real tragedy is that none of them apply to Daemon Princes.
The June 2022 Points update for Nephilim dropped the price of these upgrades by 5 points each, making them significantly more viable.
- Rehati (20) – Exalted Sorcerer. This model can attempt to manifest an additional psychic power per phase. This can be pretty useful, especially in smaller point value games. At 20 points it’s not a bad upgrade for getting the most out of your Exalted Sorcerer when you want that extra Smite cast, or if you’re taking the Lord of Forbidden Lore Warlord Trait.
- Paradigm of Change (10) – Exalted Sorcerer. Add 1 to this model’s Wounds and Attacks characteristics. This is an OK way to spend some leftover points to get to 6 wounds but melee isn’t necessarily where you want your Exalted Sorcerer to be, even with a Khopesh.
- Dilettante (30) – Exalted Sorcerer. This sorcerer can be given an additional Sorcerous Arcana relic – it has to be something they could have and it has to be unique (it doesn’t cost you CP or take up a relic slot). This is a very solid upgrade at 30 points, particularly when you have to spend 1 CP to get even your first Relic. You’ll rarely have 30 points just lying around, but starting on 1 extra Command Point when taking the Umbralefic Crystal isn’t a bad tradeoff.
- Loyal Thrall (10) – Sorcerer/Sorcerer in Terminator Armour. This model can attempt to perform a Psychic Action in place of one power, rather than all of them. This is a handy way to get some extra value out of a character, particularly when you need someone to do Psychic Interrogation. It’s a steal at 10 points, and makes taking an additional Sorcerer/Terminator Sorcerer over a Tzaangor Shaman a very strong play.
- Witch-warrior (10) – Sorcerer/Sorcerer in Terminator Armour. When this model manifests Smite or a Witchfire power that does mortal wounds, you can re-roll one die to determine the number of wounds. This is also handy, particularly if you’re running the Cult of Magic. It can also make things like Baleful Devolution and Firestorm of Tzeentch a bit more consistent, though with those you’re typically fishing for low-probability results.
- Battle-psyker (5) – Sorcerer/Sorcerer in Terminator Armour. This model’s BS and WS become 2+ and it gets 5 Attacks. This is a solid way of beefing up a Terminator Sorcerer to be a respectable melee combatant, and there are worse ways to spend your last 5 points. If you’re taking this you want it on a Terminator Sorcerer with a Khopesh.
- Ardent Automata (15) – Aspiring Sorcerer/Scarab Occult Sorcerer. This model’s unit can perform an action and still shoot. This is pretty great, and combos very well with the Umbralefic Crystal, where can zip a unit around the table, then have them action after arriving somewhere. It’s best placed on Scarab Occult Terminators or Warpflamer Rubrics, for whom the loss of shooting actually matters. You won’t use this every game, but it’ll be important when you need to raise a banner or plant a bomb and still shoot.
- Protégé (5) – Aspiring Sorcerer/Scarab Occult Sorcerer. This model knows one additional psychic power from any discipline it has access to. 5 Points to know an extra power is a great deal, and a good way to spend your last 5.
- Rites of Coalescence (10) – Aspiring Sorcerer/Scarab Occult Sorcerer. In your Command phase, another model in this model’s unit regains all lost wounds. This is pretty damn good on a unit of Terminators, and helps ensure you can bring a model back with Warped Regeneration or the Cult of Time’s Time Flux power by ensuring that your whole unit has full wounds every turn. Also given how hard it can be to take wounds off Scarabs, it’s also just solid without those. Note that there’s a great combo with this and the Infernal Master, where if you fail a pact you can use the Malignant Pact Stratagem to take a wound on the Terminators, who then heal it immediately.
Of these, Dilettante, Rites of Coalescence, Ardent Automata, Loyal Thrall, and Rehati are going to be the upgrades you see most often in competitive lists and that’s because they’re the most powerful, while still having reasonable costs for what they do.
Faction Secondary Objectives
Like every Codex army in 9th edition, Thousand Sons have their own secondary objectives to choose from. These got a major shake-up in Arks of Omen, removing Wrath of Magnus – the faction’s best – and making the rest tougher. These changes have ultimately combined to massively hurt Thousand Sons competitively.
Warpcraft: Mutate Landscape
This gives your Psyker units (including non-characters) a psychic action called Mutate Landscape (WC 5) to perform. One psyker unit from your army can do this each psychic phase if it’s within range of an unmutated objective marker you control. Succeed and that objective marker is mutated. Each mutated objective marker is worth 3 VP at the end of the game.
As a secondary, this one is mostly just mediocre. On most 5-objective missions you’ll top out at 9 VP unless you’ve got the game well in hand, but going to 12 on 6-objective maps is more doable. That said, this secondary is worse than Warp Ritual and even Psychic Interrogation in a lot of ways, and you’ll generally be better off taking Interrogation instead.
Shadow Operations: Burn Empires
This gives you the Burn Empires action, which non-Character Infantry can do at the end of your Movement phase. You can do this with multiple units, provided each is within range of a different objective you control which isn’t within your deployment zone. You can’t start this while there are enemies in range of the marker and it finishes at the start of your next Command phase or the battle’s end. Burn an objective and it’s worth 4 VP at the end of the game.
This is a very tough objective to max out and it generally only has play on maps with 4 midtable objectives, making Data-Scry Salvage potentially the only time you’d do it. That said, even if you try to live the dream of forward deploying/teleporting onto objectives to burn them on turn 1, you still need to survive with those units until turn 2, and your units will be caught out of position. Ultimately the time requirement and the need to not have opponents near the objective make this one a bit too difficult to pull off and score 12+ on – you should skip it in favor of Raise the Banners or Retrieve Battlefield Data.
Purge the Enemy: Sorcerous Prowess
At the end of the battle:
- Score 5 VP for each enemy PSYKER CHARACTER one of your psykers destroyed in the Psychic phase.
- Score 3 VP for each other enemy PSYKER unit destroyed in the Psychic phase by one of your psyker units.
- Score 2 VP for each other enemy unit one of your psyker units destroyed in the Psychic phase.
This one can be tough to make work, but if you’ve built your army around doing mortal wounds in the psychic phase – which is what you should be doing these days – it’s not too difficult to score 8-10 VP off it per game even if your opponent doesn’t have any PSYKERs. Ultimately it’s a good pick if your opponent isn’t giving you any other kill secondaries as it’ll give you more flexibility in terms of targets.
Cults of the Legion
First introduced in Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned, Cults act as the subfactions of the Thousand Sons, giving you nine different options to choose from. Rather than having passive rules that apply to models in the Cult however, psykers in the cult know an extra psychic power – the one associated with their cult. It’s a powerful bonus, particularly for units of Rubrics and Scarab Occult Terminators that often want more to do than just Smite.
In addition to the extra psychic power, each Cult also gives you access to a Warlord Trait and a Sorcerous Arcana (relic) for models in the Cult to take. Because the Psychic Power is the free part of this and it’ll go on every one of your rubric and scarab squads, the cult power is the most important part of the cult you choose, and additionally this is why the Cults of Time, Scheming, Duplicity are the best options here, with Time and Duplicity being the clear standouts when you also consider their relics and traits.
Because you can’t combine cults in your army, you’ll need to choose one. This will typically be Duplicity, where the added mobility is a huge boon to the army.
Cult of Mutation
The Cult of Mutation focus on unit buffs and debuffs, which gives them some particularly nasty tricks, and the big draw here is that their Psychic Power provides a uniquely easy to land movement debuff to ruin your opponent’s plans.
- Psychic Power: Warp Reality (WC 6, Malediction) – Pick a terrain feature within 24” and visible to the caster, then pick an enemy unit within 3” of that feature. Until your next psychic phase, halve that unit’s Move characteristic and subtract 1 from Advance and charge rolls made for it. This is a handy way to trap a unit in a terrain feature, since you only need line of sight to the feature itself. It can be useful for stopping Vanguard Veterans from screaming out of a ruin (though note they don’t lose FLY), or can be used to prevent a unit from falling back if you make some clever movement or your opponent is already in difficult terrain.
- Warlord Trait: Touch of Vicissitude – Each time an attack is made by this warlord, an unmodified hit roll of 6 inflicts 1 mortal wound on the target in addition to any other damage. This is neat, and triggering off hits is certainly helpful, but it suffers from not having a Warlord who can really put out a lot of attacks. This works best when paired with Magnus’ full re-rolls to hit ability on a unit, which allows you to fish for 6s to hit for extra mortal wounds. Otherwise, this is theoretically best on a Daemon Prince with a pair of malefic talons.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Exalted Mutation – Sorcerer model only. Add1 to the bearer’s Strength, Toughness, and Attacks. If you could put this on a Daemon Prince it might be worth looking at, but as-is it’s limited to models you don’t particularly want to buff. At best, you put this on a Terminator Sorcerer with the Battle-Psyker upgrade to get a pretty capable melee unit, but it’s not a great way to spend your resources.
Cult of Prophecy
The Cult of Prophecy study the future and how to divine its mysteries. They’ve got some interesting tricks to play with, mostly focusing on giving you some additional re-rolls and staying out of trouble. They’re one of the better options, but they don’t see a ton of competitive play since Time and Duplicity are just better.
- Psychic Power: Divine the Future (WC 6, Blessing) – Roll one D6 and set it to one side. Until the start of your next psychic phase, you can use that dice roll to replace a single dice rolled for a hit roll, wound roll, advance roll, psychic test, deny the witch test, or morale test for a CULT OF PROPHECY unit from your army. This is neat, but it’s going to be very dependent on what you actually roll, and the fact that it doesn’t work on saves or damage rolls is a pretty big bummer.
- Warlord Trait: Guided by the Whispers – Once per turn, when this warlord is picked as the target of a charge, before the charge roll is made and after firing any Overwatch, it can make a Normal move of up to 6”. This doesn’t let your opponent choose a new target, so it can really help you escape trouble and force charges to fail if they also target your Warlord. It can also be used to get you into Heroic Intervention range of a target that doesn’t necessarily want to charge. It’s particularly good on units mounted on discs of Tzeentch or with wings, as if they can jump behind some sort of obstacle they can make the charge almost impossible. Do bear in mind that given other versions of this effect have been FAQed to allow re-targeting even though the original text didn’t include it, some TOs will rule the same on this one (though it’s still a good trait).
- Sorcerous Arcana: Oraculae Brazier – In your Command phase pick a Cult of Prophecy Core or Character unit within 6”. Until the start of your next Command phase, each time that unit is picked to shoot or fight you can re-roll one hit roll, one wound roll, and one damage roll when resolving that unit’s attacks. This is pretty nifty, and probably does its best work on a Hellbrute or Contemptor, where it’s really handy for smoothing out the damage on those twin Lascannons.
Cult of Time
The Cult of time focus on messing with the linear flow of time itself. What could go wrong? This is the go-to cult for armies built around large blobs of Scarab Occult Terminators, as being able to cast Time Flux on Terminators is very useful and generally the best value you can get out of the power. The relic and warlord trait are also pretty good, making this one of the more competitive options for Thousand Sons. They’re not quite as good as they used to be since Nephillim did away with the To The Last secondary, however – keeping Terminators on the table isn’t quite as useful as being able to teleport your units around.
- Psychic Power: Time Flux (WC 6, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Cult of Time Infantry unit within 6”. You can return one destroyed model from that unit ot the battlefield with all of its wounds remaining. This is a really great power to have for Scarab Occult Terminators, where it can add a lot of added durability to a unit that’s already pretty tough to kill. Getting back a 3-wound model every turn can really help keep the unit on objectives in the face of withering firepower and help keep your ability to do damage up. Combined with Temporal Manipulation and Warped Regeneration/Rites of Coalescence you can get back 2 models per turn and heal a third.
- Warlord Trait: Immaterial Echo – In your Psychic phase, when this warlord manifests a power with a result of 9+, they can attempt to manifest another power that phase, if they manifest that power it can’t be denied. You only get one extra power per phase this way. This is a pretty solid bonus, since it’s not too hard to get up to 9 on two casts with the Thousand Sons’ standard +1 and help from Cabbalistic Rituals.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Hourglass of Manat – The first time the bearer is destroyed, keep it to one side, then set it back up again at the end of the current phase as close as possible to its previous position and more than 1” from enemy models with D3 wounds remaining. This is also a handy way to save a key character and prevent them from giving up points for Assassination or Abhor, provided you can get to safety after standing back up.
Cult of Scheming
These tricky bastards use their powers to come up with all those stupid plans where they obviously lose in the end, but yell “just as planned!” as they run away anyways. The abilities here are pretty good, giving your army a lot of flexibility.
- Psychic Power: Seeded Strategy (WC 7, Blessing) – Pick a Cult of Scheming CORE unit within 24”. Until the end of the turn, that unit can shoot or charge after Falling Back. This power is pretty handy, essentially gifting the ability to your entire army and making sure your Rubric and Scarab units can’t be trapped in combat.
- Warlord Trait: Grand Schemer – While they are within 3” of this warlord, friendly Cult of Scheming units get Objective Secured. If they already had it, they count as double models.
- Sorcerous Aracana: Cha’Qi’Thl’s Theorem – Once per battle the model holding this can use it if it’s on the battlefield. Pick one Thousand Sons Stratagem and until the end of the phase or until you use it that Stratagem costs 0 CP. This is OK; it’s basically trading a relic slot – and usually that means 1 CP – for a chance at saving more CP later, and getting back your 1CP at worst. The best possible target is going to be Unwavering Phalanx, which is something you’ll be likely to use and costs 3 CP most of the time you fire it off, netting you 2 CP on this deal. Otherwise it’s also OK with Wrath of the Wronged, but Thousand Sons have surprisingly few stratagems that cost multiple CP overall.
Cult of Magic
These are the guys that really practice hurting you with their minds. The Cult of Magic have the most offensive power of the cults, and ways to get more casts. They’re a bit of an also-ran among the Cults; the Astral Blast power is good and the warlord trait is solid but there’s just not enough value here over what you get from Time or Duplicity.
- Psychic Power: Astral Blast (WC 6, Witchfire) – The closest visible enemy unit within 12” takes D3 mortal wounds, then each other unit within 3” of that unit takes 1 mortal wound. This is pretty strong, and the ability to auto-splash can help you chip damage off units that otherwise might not be targetable.
- Warlord Trait: Devastating Sorcery – Once per psychic phase this Warlord can re-roll the psychic test when attempting to manifest a Witchfire power. This is only OK. Free re-rolls are nice, and this does its best work on a Rehati Exalted Sorcerer packing at least one other mortal wound power.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Arcane Focus – If your army is a Cabal of Sorcerers, you can pick one Cult Psyker unit within 6” each Psychic phase. Until the end of the phase, Cabbalistic Rituals used on this unit costs 1 fewer Cabal Point. This combos really well with the Arrogance of Aeons Warlord Trait, to the point where you kind of don’t want it without that trait on hand to make it more valuable.
Cult of Knowledge
These nerds spend their time reading lots of books and just accumulating a lot of information and forbidden knowledge, such as “teaching crabs to read.” Their abilities are pretty solid, but not quite good enough to make them a top pick.
- Psychic Power: Empyric Trespass (WC 6, Malediction) – Pick an enemy unit within 24”. Until your next Psychic phase, each time you attack that unit with a model in the Cult of Knowledge, re-roll a wound roll of 1. This is pretty nifty, and very solid with both Warpflamers and Scarabs, where you’re likely to throw out a large volume of shots that give you lots of re-roll opportunities. Also handy for Volkite Contemptors looking for more mortals.
- Warlord Trait: Ardent Scholar – You can re-roll dice rolls of 1 on Psychic Tests. This is fine, good for variance reduction, but not stellar.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Incaladion’s Cry – Weird that the book-reading subfaction relic is a special warpflame pistol but OK. This pistol’s got S6 and AP-3, giving it an easier time of wounding. This would be pretty money if you could give it to an Aspiring Sorcerer of a Warpflamer unit with the Aspiring Magister Stratagem but you can’t and so it’s pretty much a waste of your time.
Cult of Change
The Cult of Change are agents of instability, and as such are the most likely to cut your brake lines and yell “WILD CARD!” as they jump out the back of your van. They have one of the army’s more fun relics, and that’s saying something.
- Psychic Power: Dysmanifestation (WC 6, Malediction) – Pick an enemy unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase they get -1 Ld and -1 Attack. Not too shabby; the Ld modifier is just whatever, but the -1 Attack can be really valuable against Tyranid Warriors and other melee threats that could challenge you on an objective.
- Warlord Trait: Fickle Nature – You can re-roll charge rolls for this Warlord and your warlord can shoot and charge in a turn in which it falls back. I’m continually confused by why these abilities don’t let you manifest psychic powers after falling back instead, which would make them much more widely useful. As-is, it’s mostly only going to have value on a Daemon Prince.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Capricious Crest – Once per battle round when a test is taken within 18” of the bearer (including themselves), you can either change one of your rolls of 1 to a 6, or change one of your opponent’s 6s to a 1. We’ve covered this in Ruleshammer, but if you use this on an opponent, they have to make the decision to re-roll the test before you use this. So they’ll get first crack at preventing your shenanigans and know ahead of time if you’re able to screw them over. Still, it’s a fun ability and forcing a perils and a failed test when someone rolls a 1 and a 6 is pretty great. Also good for your own rolls and pushing out big smites.
Cult of Duplicity
The lying, cheating bastards of the bunch, the Cult of Duplicity are the other major competitive Cult subfaction among the Thousand Sons, enjoying several key tricks and one of the more powerful spells in the game in Sorcerous Facade. The ability to whip any one of your units around the table at your leisure is very powerful, and the Warlord Trait is also really good. This is pretty much your best option for competitive Thousand Sons – the added movement you get from Sorcerous Facade and the flexibility from the redeploy pair to make this easily the most mobile and adaptable option available.
- Psychic Power: Sorcerous Facade (WC 8, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Cult Infantry or Monster unit within 6”. Remove them from the battlefield, then set them back up anywhere more than 9” away from any enemy models. Being able to pick up any of your units that still has its sorcerer is incredibly good, letting you zip over to key objectives if they’re left under-defended. Being able to teleport a Mutalith Vortex beast is also a hilarious bonus. If there’s a downside here it’s that 8 cost, which makes it a bit tough to rely on, but you can use Cabal points to help power it out when you need it.
- Warlord Trait: Master Misinformator – At the start of the first battle round, before the first turn, pick up to D3 non-Vehicle Cult of Duplicity units and remove them and this warlord from the Battlefield, then set them up using the normal deployment rules for the mission. This is fantastic, allowing you to deploy aggressively and then pull back if you don’t get the first turn, or deploy very defensively and then go aggressive if you do. It gives you a lot of flexibility to react to your opponent, especially because you have that valuable first turn information already in hand.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Perfidious Tome – In each of your Command phases you can read the tome and roll a D6. On a 1, your opp gets a CP. On a 4+, you get a CP. This isn’t bad but you’ve got other better ways to get CP that don’t run the risk of giving one to your opponent.
Cult of Manipulation
The Cult of Manipulation are all about tricking people into doing their bidding. Though they can’t be all that good at it or they’d be able to trick opponents into bringing a psyker and messing up their ability to take Abhor the Witch. They’re not particularly powerful, though the warlord trait here is interesting.
- Psychic Power: Attempted Possession (WC 5, Malediction) – Pick an enemy unit within 18”. They take a mortal wound and until your next psychic phase they get -2 to their psychic tests. This is particularly good if you’re going up against Grey Knights or maybe other Thousand Sons, but that’s about it and it’s only going to affect one unit per turn, and at a range where you could have probably just killed instead.
- Warlord Trait: Beguiling Influence – Each time an attack is made against this Warlord, the hit, wound, and damage rolls can’t be re-rolled. This is really good. If Magnus had this, he might be playable. The biggest problem with this is that it doesn’t have a ton of value outside of putting it on a Daemon Prince.
- Sorcerous Arcana: Sorthis’ Mirror – Each time you fight, instead of fighting you can pick one enemy INFANTRY model with an Ld of 9 or less within Engagement range and that enemy model immediately attacks its own unit, and is treated as a model from your army for all rules purposes. If it destroys its own unit, you count as having destroyed it. This is pretty nifty and can be a neat trick for taking down some of the game’s bigger targets, as there are quite a few powerful units that are rocking Ld 9 or worse, like Aggressors and Centurions, Harlequins Troupes, Incubi, or Tyranid Warriors. The downside to this is that you really don’t want to be in combat with most of the things you’d use this against.
The monofaction bonus for Thousand Sons is Cabbalistic Rituals. If your entire army is made up of only Thousand Sons units, then at the start of each of your Psychic phases you generate a number of Cabal points for each unit in your army that’s on the battlefield. These vary by model:
Cabal Points by Unit
- 4: Magnus the Red
- 3: Ahriman, Exalted Sorcerer, Thousand Sons Daemon Prince
- 2: Sorcerer, Sorcerer in Terminator Armour, Infernal Master
- 1: Scarab Occult Sorcerer, Aspiring Sorcerer, Tzaangor Shaman
These points go away at the end of the phase if you don’t use them, but before then you can spend them on any one of 9 effects that apply to a unit in your army – a unit can only benefit from a single Ritual per turn. Most of these are used after a psychic power is successfully manifested, or after taking a test.
- Warp Sight (3 points) – Use after a successful cast. If the power requires you select a unit visible to the psyker, you can select a unit visible to any friendly unit with the Cabbalistic Rituals ability instead. Note that this doesn’t change other restrictions, such as the range of the power or the requirement that the target be the closest.
- Imbued Manifestation (4 points) – Use after a successful cast. Adds 6” to the range of the psychic power’s effects. If a power has multiple ranges, it only affects the first one specified. Pretty straightforward and helpful for extending the range of key casts.
- Malevolent Charge (4 points) – Use when a power is cast that does mortal wounds to an enemy unit. After it inflicts its wounds, pick one unit that it inflicted mortal wounds on and they take an additional D3 mortal wounds. This is really helpful for pushing through extra damage, and cheap to boot. You’ll often find it useful to use this on a Smite cast with the Malefic Scroll Stratagem to have a regular Smite do D3+3 mortal wounds.
- Echoes from the Warp (4 points) – Use in your Psychic phase. Pick a Psyker from your army and until the end of the phase they can do the Echoes from the Warp (WC 3) Psychic Action. If successful, you gain a Command Point. This is a great and reliable way to get extra CP, and the best way to burn off remaining Cabal points.
- Kindred Sorcerers (5 points) – Use after taking a psychic test. Add 1 to the test. This is very handy for getting off key powers, where already having +1 to attempts means it’s unlikely you’ll miss a cast by more than 1. Also great for making Deny the Witch Attempts much less likely for cheap.
- Pact from Beyond (7 points) – Use when attempting to manifest. Don’t make a test; instead you automatically pass at the minimum charge value. This is really helpful for difficult casts, but will seldom get you over the thresholds to make cool effects happen at higher cast values. Note that if you cast Smite until the next value needed is an 11, this will automatically generate you one, though it’s unlikely you’ll ever actually do this in a game (but pushing it to 9 to trigger Warped Regeneration is much more practical and a common play).
- Cabbalistic Focus (8 points) – Use after a successful cast. That power or psychic action can’t be denied. This is pretty much the most useful ritual in the bunch and pretty much necessary to even compete with some armies – you will use it every single turn against Adepta Sororitas armies to push through Psychic Interrogation for 15 VP, and likely end up using it in similar fashion against Tyranids, Grey Knights, and Thousand Sons. It’s expensive, absolutely worth using to push through casts for secondaries.
- Psychic Maelstrom (8 points) – Use when you pick a unit to manifest powers. Until the end of the phase, that unit can attempt to manifest any Witchfire power than any other psyker unit already attempted in the phase, and they can do so even if they don’t know it. This is a great way to double up on a powerful effect, though you’re limited to the powers that cause mortal wounds. That said, Tzeentch’s Firestorm and Doombolt are good picks for this. Just remember that you can’t use a second ritual to try and improve that test result unless Magnus is making the attempt and has his Warlord traits.
- Wrath of the Immaterium (9 points) – Use after taking a psychic test. Add 2 to the results. Given that you’ve already got a +1, this is a great way to get off big smites. And if you’re running Magnus, this is almost guaranteed to get you to 11+ on your smite, since at full health this gives him +5 on his Psychic Test, turning results of 6+ into super smites.
These effects are incredibly powerful and form the backbone of what Thousand Sons armies want to do, which will primarily be dipping into their toolboxes to push through powerful buffs on their units. The ability to guarantee powers go off when needed is huge, and while there are some benefits here for powers that do mortal wounds, those will typically take a back seat to the utility effects and generating extra CP with Echoes from the Warp.
Note that points updates in Nephilim have made Cabal Points much easier to come by, as Icons of Flame are now free on Rubric units. Typically a monofaction Thousand Sons army will have room to use two big effects and one small one early in the game.
The Thousand Sons have a number of Stratagems to bolster their in-game prowess. Some of these will be familiar to Chaos Space Marine and Death Guard players, but most are unique to the faction.
Battle Tactic Stratagems
- Fated Mutation (1 CP) – Used in the Fight phase, when a Chaos Spawn from your army fights. Until the end of the phase you can pick the unit’s Mutated Beyond Reason ability and when you roll for attacks you add 1 to the result (so you basically get +1 Attack). Chaos Spawn are already one of the sleeper good picks in the Thousand Sons army and this can be a big benefit for them, giving you extra attacks when you need to go wide or wound re-rolls or AP4 when you need to go tall. They’re still likely to disappoint you with their WS4+ but if you’ve got a unit of 3+ trying to get something done, this is solid.
- Ensorcelled Infusion (1 CP) – Used in the Shooting phase, when a vehicle from your army that’s within 6” of an Arcana Astartes Psyker shoots. Until the end of the phase, improve the AP of all ranged weapons on the model by 1. This is really good for getting more out of your vehicles. It’s dynamite on a Volkite Contemptor or Leviathan, and isn’t too shabby on a Fire Raptor or Forgefiend, either. Anything with lots of shots that are AP-2 or worse, basically.
- Unwavering Phalanx (1 CP/3 CP) – Use in the opponent’s Shooting phase when they target a Rubric or Scarab unit. Until the end of the phase, each time an attack is made on the unit, subtract 1 from the damage (to a minimum of 1). If you’re 5 models or fewer, this costs 1 CP. This is expensive, but absolutely money as a way to keep your Terminators around and sitting on objectives when they might otherwise just get cleaned off the table. Ditto your Rubrics. Use it to retain a unit that you can heal up on your turn. Note that because of how this is worded, it will in fact combo with All is Dust on Rubrics and Scarabs to give you +1 to your save against 2-damage attacks. Prior to Nephilim/Arks you’d definitely use this once or twice per game; now it’s used much more sparingly, and you just may not be able to afford to use it on your 10-man terminator units (but you may use it for 1 CP after they lose 5 models). Just be mindful that it only works in the Shooting phase – this means that your Scarabs will very much want to avoid getting tagged in melee by units that can do 2+ damage in melee.
- Wrath of the Wronged (2 CP) – Used in the Shooting or Fight phases when an Arcana Astartes unit shoots or Fights. Until the end of the phase, add 1 to their wound rolls. The Thousand Sons version of Veterans of the Long War is a useful tool to have, particularly since your army lacks high-strength firepower to deal with big targets. You’re going to use this a lot going up against Knights, where combining it with Malefic Maelstrom means you can wound T8 targets with infernal bolters on a 4+ and bring them down with sheer volume of shots. Also great on Warpflamers being boosted by Pyric Flux to get 2+ to wound against T4 targets. This is something you’ll use for taking down big targets in a single round of shooting.
- Infernal Fusillade (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase, when an Arcana Astartes infantry unit shoots. Until the end of the phase, each time a model in that unit shoots a bolt weapon, they get +1 shot with that weapon. This is primarily useful on your large units of rubrics and scarabs – since it doesn’t scale up by number of shots, you’re really just looking for raw model counts on value. But adding 8 additional shots to a unit of 10 Rubrics or Scarabs (you’re gonna lose two to your soulreaper cannons, most likely) for 1 CP isn’t too shabby, especially if you’re stacking other stratagems like Wrath of the Wronged at the same time. This is pretty important for taking down big knights or Daemons in a single round with Rubrics.
- Inhuman Savagery (2 CP) – Use in the Fight phase when a Tzaangor unit fights. Until the end of the Fight phase they can re-roll hit rolls. This is a solid way to make Tzaangors much more deadly with their AP-1 blades, and going from 50% hit rate to 75% is money. That said, you probably don’t want to be spending your CP on Tzaangors unless you absolutely need them to kill something and think it’ll work.
- Vengeance for Prospero (1 CP) – Use in the Fight phase when a Thousand Sons unit fights. You can re-roll hit and wound rolls against Space Wolves units. This is incredibly situational, but money when your scarabs are dug in with a squad of wolf guard or whatever else.
Epic Deed Stratagems
- Great Sorcerer (1 CP) – Use in the Psychic phase. Pick one Thousand Sons psyker in your army and they can attempt to manifest an additional power this turn. This is super helpful for those times you need to get off a utility cast and a Smite, and should always be something you keep in your back pocket.
- Malignant Pact (1 CP) – Use in the Command phase when your Infernal Master fails to make a pact. Pick a friendly Thousand Sons Infantry/Cavalry unit within 6”. That unit suffers 1 mortal wound and the pact is successful. This is really good for when you need to push through a certain pact, and the fact that the master can hurt himself helps. Being able to decide after failing is solid as well.
- Warped Regeneration (1 CP) – Use in the Psychic phase after manifesting a power with an unmodified test of 9 or more. If that unit contains a model with any lost wounds, that model is healed and regains up to D3 wounds. Otherwise, you can return a dead model to the unit with full wounds remaining. This is great to have on hand but it’s so random when you’ll actually get to use it thanks to that “unmodified” rider that prevents you from forcing it via Cabbalistic Rituals or your own army bonus. For reference, your odds of rolling a 9+ on 2D6 are just under 28% so the chances you get this on your Scarab Occult Terminators when you need it are not great. When this happens on the right unit it’s huge; just don’t forget about it. That said, you can use the Cabbalistic Ritual that automatically casts a power at its minimum required value to get an unmodified 9 off of Smite if you have stacked enough casts (4) previously, and that’s typically the way you’ll use this to get back a Terminator.
- Unholy Susurrus (1 CP) – Use this Stratagem at the start of your psychic power to swap a power on one of your psykers with another one from a discipline it has access to. This is useful for when you’re in a matchup where you just have the wrong power set, or if you lose a key psyker early and need to cast their power.
- Biomechanical Mutation (1 CP) – Use in any phase, when a Thousand Sons vehicle is going to lose a wound from a mortal wound. Until the end of the phase, roll a D6 each time you lose a wound from a mortal wound and on a 5+, that wound isn’t lost. This is another helpful took to have around for when there are a lot of psychic mortals coming your way, or when you’re about to eat a block of mortal add-ons, but it’s not likely to save your vehicle from a significant pile-on. If you’re taking rhinos or dreadnoughts, this is mostly helpful for using them to screen mortals from other psychic armies.
- Metaphysical Focus (1 CP) – Use in the psychic phase after you attempt a psychic action with an Arcana Astartes Psyker. That unit can attempt to manifest one power this phase. This is really handy for keeping your units “on” while doing psychic actions, either the Echoes from the Warp action, Psychic Interrogation, or Mutate Landscape. Useful for putting up buffs during actions or late-game when you run low on psykers.
- Psychic Dominion (1 CP) – Use in the Psychic phase, when you attempt to deny a power. So long as your psyker attempting the deny is within 6” of another friendly Thousand Sons psyker that could also attempt to deny, you can add a D6 to your deny attempt. This ups your average result from a 7 to a 10.5, greatly improving your odds, and a re-roll can take that even further if you absolutely need to prevent something. This is particularly great for punishing players who think they can take Psychic Interrogation against you – 1 CP for 3 VP is a trade I’ll make all day.
- Malevolent Machine Spirit (2 CP) – Use in your Command phase to pick a Thousand Sons Machine Spirit unit in your army. Until the next command phase that model is considered to have its full wounds remaining for the purposes of determining which profile to use. I have no idea why this costs 2 CP. Someone on the rules team really thinks Land Raiders are great and can’t be convinced otherwise.
- Masters of the Immaterium (1 CP) – Use in your psychic phase when one of your psykers would suffer Perils of the Warp. They don’t suffer Perils. This one is great to have for when you’ve already used your CP re-roll on a different test and need to avoid taking mortals, or if you need to save the CP re-roll and the power you were attempting wasn’t that important. Good to have because you’ll be casting a lot, and likely to generate 1-2 perils per game.
- Sorcerous Might (1 CP) – Use in the fight phase when a Sorcerer or Exalted Sorcerer equipped with a force stave (non-Relic) fights. Until the end of the phase, that force stave’s damage profile becomes D3+1. This is nifty for pushing through extra damage in a pinch against bigger targets or targets with -1 damage that a Khopesh won’t handle, but staves being AP-1 means that most of the time you’re not going to actually push many attacks through.
- High Acolytes (1 CP) – Use before the battle, when mustering your army. If your Warlord is Thousand Sons, you can give an extra Warlord trait to one ARCANA ASTARTES character in your army. You probably won’t use this often as you’re already spending 1 CP on your first Warlord Trait, but the Thousand Sons have several decent traits to pick from.
- Sorcerous Arcana (1 CP) – Use when mustering your army if your Warlord is Thousand Sons. Pick a Thousand Sons character and give them a Sorcerous Arcana relic. This is your extra relic strat.
- Aspiring Magister (1 CP) – You can give one of the following relics to an Aspiring Sorcerer or Scarab Occult Sorcerer: Coruscator, Skaeloch’s Talon, Incandaeum, or the Stave Abominus. This is the standard relic-on-a-sergeant stratagem we’ve seen in marine books for a while now. The Coruscator and Incandeum are OK upgrades on a Warpflamer squad sorcerer, while the stave abominus and skaeloch’s talon are just weird anti-monster/anti-horde options that aren’t worth your CP.
Strategic Ploy Stratagems
- Schemes of Change (1 CP) – Use this after you and the opponent reveal secondary objectives or agendas, and you can replace one of your secondary objectives or agendas with a new one. This is pretty worthless. It might have value at 0 CP but even then the situations where you’ll want to change secondary objectives in response to an opponent’s are pretty rare. There are better uses of your precious CP.
- Risen Rubricae (2 CP) – Use during deployment when setting up a Rubric Marines unit in your army. That unit can be set up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” away from the enemy deployment zone and enemy models. You can only use this once. This is a very handy ability, but its utility is going to be strongly predicated on the map, the opponent, and whether you’re going first. You won’t know when you use this, so that makes it a bit of a gamble. It can be really worth it if you’re going up against an opponent that relies on doing heavy damage first turn as a way to stymie their alpha strike, but if you end up going second it can also mean you’ve just left a cheap target out in the open. There’s also some value to using this on missions with the “lock-in” mechanic for holding objectives (Data-Scry Salvage and Death and Zeal), and the former has added benefits from letting you score extra VP immediately on the Data Intercept action by letting you lock in one objective turn 1 and then move onto another to capture. This Stratagem is much more painful in Nephilim/Arks, where armies start with only 6 CP. That said, you’ll generally want to save it for occasions where it can help you score VP early by being on objective, or on Recover the Relics, where you only gain CP each turn for being on an objective outside your deployment zone. It’s basically a wash to spend 2 CP to get 2 CP back in the first two turns, but you also get the benefit of having a unit in a forward position and the CP cost pays for itself.Note that you cannot combine this with the Master Misinformator Warlord trait to redeploy a unit outside of your deployment zone – Risen Rubricae has to be used during deployment, while Master Misinformator happens before the first turn. You can still redeploy a forward-deployed unit, but if you do so they have to be redeployed back into your deployment zone.
- Webway Infiltration (2 CP/3 CP) – Use during deployment. You can put one (2 CP) or two (3 CP) Thousand Sons Infantry units into the webway instead of putting it on the battlefield. Then they show up in the Reinforcement step of one of your Movement phases anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from any enemy models. Your terminators can already do this and the extra cost on this when compared to Risen Rubricae and just taking the Umbralefic Crystal make this something you will probably not end up using very often.
- Implacable Guardians (1 CP) – Use at the start of your opponent’s Shooting phase and pick one Arcana Astartes character (except Magnus). Until the end of the phase while that model is within 3” of any friendly rubrics or scarabs, that character can use the Look Out, Sir rule even if those units contain fewer than 3 models. Note that this Stratagem changed substantially in the April Dataslate, and no longer does what it says in the book/datacards – it won’t let you prevent all incoming attacks, so you’ll still be vulnerable if you’re the closest target or if the opponent has snipers.
- Coruscating Beam (3 CP) – Use in your Command phase if your Warlord is on the Battlefield and pick a point and put a marker on that point. At the start of the next Command phase put another marker on the battlefield within 9” of that point and draw a line between the center of each, then roll a D6 for each unit you pass over or through, adding 1 if the unit has 11+ models and subtracting 1 if the unit is a Character. For every 4+, the unit takes D3 mortal wounds. You can only use this once. This is the Thousand Sons’ version of Orbital Bombardment and it’s not very good. The wound output isn’t great and doing mortal wounds isn’t a problem your army really has, plus it’s expensive. It’s more of a pressure/positioning tool to try and clear out chokepoints with some value against armies like Astra Militarum that might load their backfield full of tightly-packed tanks, but the actual damage output isn’t great.
- Vector Strike (1 CP) – Use in your Movement phase after you make a normal move with your Thousand Sons Heldrake. Pick an enemy model you moved across that isn’t a Character with 9 or fewer wounds and roll a D6; on a 2+ that unit takes D3 mortal wounds or, if it has FLY, it takes 3 mortal wounds instead. This can be pretty great if you’re bringing a Heldrake but it’s hampered by the fact that Thousand Sons Heldrakes aren’t particularly good. Can be very helpful for getting movement phase wounds off against Vanguard veterans or other tough units, though.
- Inescapable Forewarning (2 CP) – Use at the end of the Reinforcements step of your opponent’s Movement phase, if an enemy unit was set up as reinforcements within 18” of an arcana astartes psyker in your army. Pick an Arcana Astartes CORE unit within 6” of that psyker who aren’t in engagement range of enemy units and they can shoot as if it were your shooting phase, but have to target an eligible enemy that was set up as reinforcements within 18” of them and the Psyker. This is a much, much better version of Auspex Scan, with more range and no penalty to your To Hit rolls. This is fantastic for Scarab Occult Terminators and Contemptors, each of which can just punish the crap out of models teleporting in or climbing out of drop pods. It’s also just great for scaring your opponents out of deep striking, and the best stratagems are the ones you don’t even have to use.
- Selfless Automata (2 CP) – Use in the Heroic Interventions step of your opponent’s Charge phase. Pick an enemy unit that finished a charge move within engagement range of any arcana astartes characters units from your army and a unit of rubrics or scarabs within 12” of that enemy and not already in engagement range. They can perform a Heroic Intervention but can move up to 2D6” and have to end up within Engagement range of the selected enemy and can’t end in engagement range of any other enemy units. There’s a lot going on here but basically your scarabs and rubrics can counter-charge enemy units that try to charge your psykers, including Magnus. You’ll want to let your opponent know about this one before the game as a matter of good form, but otherwise it’s very situational and more of a deterrent than something you’ll actually use (though again, those are the best kinds of Stratagems sometimes). If you *do* have the opportunity to use it, look for ways to take advantage of the movement – only one model has to end up in engagement range of the enemy unit you’re intervening against so you can use the 2D6” movement to steal objectives away, move into better position for next turn, or block an opponent’s pile-in and consolidate moves.
- Empyric Reservoir (1 CP) – Use in your Psychic Phase and pick a model in your army within 6” of a friendly Mutalith Vortex Beast; that model generates D3 additional Cabal points. This is a fine way to turn CP back into Cabal Points but it’s hampered by the fact that the Mutalith Vortex Beast isn’t great. If you’re doing this, you better have a very clear picture of how you’re going to spend the cabal points.
- Slow and Purposeful (1 CP) – Used in the Movement phase when an Arcana Astartes infantry unit makes a Normal move. Until the start of your next turn, they’re considered to have Remained Stationary. Rubric marines already ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons and this can’t be used to Fall Back and shoot, so this is basically just for getting Malicious volleys off with your infernal bolters in a unit of Rubrics. That means most of the time it’s going to result in an extra 3-4 bolter shots, which isn’t worth a CP most of the time.
- Aetheric Saturation (1 CP) – Used in your Psychic phase when a psyker character within 12” of a Mutalith Vortex beast is picked to manifest powers. Instead of manifesting one power with that model, it’s healed and regains up to D3 lost wounds. You can only heal up once per turn, so this doesn’t stack with other healing effects. This one is super situational and not likely to be something you ever use.
- Soul Reap (1 CP) – Use in your shooting phase when a Thousand Sons unit shoots and that unit’s Soulreaper cannons get to make two hit rolls per shot against units of 11+ models instead of 1. This is incredibly strong when you’re going up against hordes, typically giving you an extra 10 shots to work with and helping you clear out a large number of models. It’s good against termagants, hormagaunts, big units of boyz, and T’au units that end up as 11+ models with drones. You mostly want to use this on Terminator squads that will be packing two Soulreaper Cannons.
- Warpflame Gargoyles (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Fight phase and pick an Arcana Astartes vehicle (except Helbrutes). Roll 1D6 for each other unit within Engagement range of that unit, subtracting 2 if you’re rolling for a character or vehicle unit. On a 4+, that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. It’s worth noting that you can use this in either Fight phase, and so use it twice per battle rebound, but on the whole it’s very situational. It’s useful for when you have a Rhino stuck in against several enemy units, and it can help a Contemptor or Leviathan in a pinch, since they don’t have the HELBRUTE keyword.
- Arcane Smokescreen (1 CP) – Use in your opponent’s shooting phase when an Arcana Astartes Smokescreen unit is selected as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, attacks against that unit get -1 to hit rolls. The standard smokescreen stratagem, which is great when you need to protect a Rhino full of marines and doubly good with that free 5+ invulnerable save. Also affects Leviathans.
- Malefic Scroll (1 CP) – Use in your Psychic phase when a non-Magnus psyker manifests the Smite psychic power. That manifestation inflicts 3 mortal wounds instead of D3 or D6 (no dice roll is made). This is pretty great; you get to use it after you know the cast value and it’s wonderful for all those times when you need to get off 3 mortal wounds on your target. Pairs wonderfully with the Malevolent Charge Cabbalistic Ritual to get D3+3 mortal wounds off a regular Smite.
In addition to the cult relics, Thousand Sons have 17 more general relics to choose from. A fair number of these replace weapons (usually force staves), and the more useful options tend to be those that have utility outside of combat. There are some solid choices here, but generally there’s one auto-take and two others you will consider situationally.
- Seer’s Bane – replaces a force sword or khopesh with one that’s S+2, AP-4, and D3 damage, and each time you fight a psyker unit, the strength improves to Sx2 and the damage becomes D6. This feels like a slight downgrade against most targets, where the improved strength and AP are offset a bit by going from 2 damage to D3. It’ll give you some solid value against Grey Knights, Daemons, and Kill Rigs, but it’s just not worth it.
- Umralefic Crystal – Once per battle in the Command phase, you can pick up the bearer or one friendly Thousand Sons Infantry unit within 6”, then in the following Reinforcements step, put them down anywhere more than 9” away from enemy models. This is one of the most useful relics in the book, with tons of great uses – teleport a Warpflamer or Terminator unit into good position to wipe out an enemy, teleport an imperiled unit out of melee, reposition onto an objective in order to start an action at the end of the Movement phase, or just consolidate your power base. Lots of great ways to use this, and it’s basically an auto-include. This is also notable for teleporting your units in the Command phase and having them arrive in the Movement phase, so they can perform actions the turn they arrive – something you can’t do with Sorcerous Facade. This is also the only way you can teleport two units in the same turn, and can be helpful if you want to send an Exalted Sorcerer across the board with a unit of Terminators to give them re-rolls or extra mortal wound support.
- Helm of the Daemon’s Eye – Each time your opponent uses a Stratagem, if the bearer is on the battlefield roll a D6; on a 5+ you get 1 command point. There are other, more reliable ways to get CP as Thousand Sons and in Arks your opponent is no longer likely to actually net you back the CP as reliably. You’re also capped at 1 extra CP per round and if you’re going first, you’ll rarely know if it’s worth it to get extra CP via the ritual.
- Coruscator – Replaces an inferno bolt pistol with one that’s got 18” range, Pistol 3, S5, AP-2, and 2 damage. It’s a nasty little shot and one of the best pistol relics they’ve made. It’s just not as good as the non-weapon relics.
- Aethenean Scrolls – Exalted Sorcerer only. Once per battle in your psychic phase when you pick this guy to manifest, you can instead read from the scrolls. If you do, pick one psychic power it knows from the Discipline of Change or Vengeance and for the rest of the battle when you attempt to manifest that power roll an extra D6 and discard one for the test. The downside is that you can’t use this on any of the cult powers (boo), but the upside is that you’ll frequently have powers that you *need* to go off, so the question is whether this gives you enough value over just the standard +1 and being able to further boost that with a CP re-roll and/or other rituals. And largely, those are enough. If you’re still really unsure or going up against a lot of Grey Knights, this can really help out, or if you’re trying to get off the big Tzeentch’s Firestorm every turn, where this can give you really good odds of hitting 9+.
- Thrydderghyre – Model with a Disc of Tzeentch. This model can Advance and Charge and Fall back and cast, plus each time it consolidates it can move up to 6” and doesn’t have to end closer to the nearest enemy, allowing it to just wander out of combat at its leisure. These are all great effects and they’re great to have but the problem is that Exalted Sorcerers aren’t particularly great at fighting in melee and you mostly don’t want to use them for it. Most of the time you use this it’ll be defensively but if you want to get real aggressive with this you can use it to charge cheaper screening units and then consolidate into other targets that you want to tie up and aren’t so capable of killing you in melee, like Leman Russ tanks, Manticores or Broadsides. Would love to have this on Ahriman.
- Egleighen’s Orrery – At the start of each of your command phases you can pick one enemy unit visible to the bearer. If you do then until the end of the turn that unit gets an Aura called Fated Doom, which makes it so that when Thousand Sons CORE units within 6” of that unit make attacks, they ignore any/all WS, BS, hit roll, and wound roll modifiers, plus abilities that reduce the damage characteristic of the attack. This shuts down a ton of annoying effects, and is great for buffing both Scarab Occult Terminators and Contemptors against big targets like Be’lakor, Talos, Deathshrouds, and Redemptors, where modifiers to wound rolls and damage might otherwise cause you headaches. This relic seems fantastic on the surface but ultimately is much harder to use in practice than it’s worth – you need to have line of sight on your target before your unit starts moving and shooting, and that’s going to be unlikely early in the game, and the relic’s effects won’t cover things like Transhuman Physiology, which isn’t a modifier. Going against units that reduce incoming damage really only matters in melee where you have D2 Khopesh attacks, and -1 to hit can just as easily be overcome with Presage. This relic can be useful in the right meta but in my opinion it’s not worth the CP.
- The Chronos Tutorum – Model with a Warlord Trait only. Once per battle in your Command phase you can give this model one extra Warlord Trait. It has to be one he could have and it can’t be one you already have in your army. This is… well, it’s just OK. Having double warlord traits on a model is neat, but the Thousand Sons Warlord Traits just aren’t that impressive. If you’re really looking for value here then maybe having a Daemon Prince with Undying Form and Beguiling Influence or Aetherstride could be interesting; the former gives you a very tough model while the latter lets you save 35 points on wings.
- Skaeloch’s Talon – Replaces a force stave with one that’s Sx2, AP0, 2D3 damage. Love the damage improvement, but still not good enough to add to a list.
- Conniving Plate – Arcana Astartes only. Gives the bearer a 2+ save and in the Fight phase, enemy models can only allocate up to half their close combat attacks (rounding up)to the model. This is a neat effect but only affects models within Engagement range, making it rather easy to play around using the second rank of models. It’s otherwise an OK effect for dueling enemy characters however and going to do its best work on a Daemon Prince who’s also rocking Undying Form. But there’s a legitimate question of whether you need that in your army to begin with and whether it’s worth spending CP on.
- Warpweave Mantle – Each time the bearer is picked as the target of a charge, an unmodified roll of 9+ always fails. Also, each time the bearer makes a psychic test, if it lost any wounds, add +1 to the test. This is fun in that it means that 28% of charges against you just fail, and you’ll almost never have to worry about charges out of deep strike, but the situations where it’s actually useful are going to be rare since opponents just won’t attempt to charge you when the failure rate is massive. If you want to use this, it’s probably going to do its best work on an Infernal Master, who can use Malignant Pact to take a mortal wound when he fails a pact so you can get a +2 caster for the rest of the game. But that also depends on you failing the pact roll.
- Paradoxical Chatterfowl – Infantry model only. At the start of the Fight phase pick an enemy model in 3” and roll a D3. Until the start of the next Fight phase, reduce that models’ WS and BS by the result and subtract the result from all psychic tests they make. This is really funny against Nemesis Dreadknights but smarter opponents can play around it and the more likely situation is that you roll a 1 and get murdered anyways. Better to just not be in combat to begin with.
- The Change-Wrought Chalice – Tzaangor Shaman only. The bearer knows one extra power. This isn’t bad per se but it’s limited by the fact that Shamans aren’t that useful and if you’re running one it’s not for the ability to cast powers but rather likely to be as a way to complete psychic actions for Warpcraft Secondary Objectives.
- Incandaeum – Replaces a Force stave with one that’s got a shooting and melee profile. The shooting version is a S5 AP-2 flamer (not bad), and the melee version is a S+3 force stave. This is probably the best of the stave relics, if only because it can be solid on a Warpflamer unit sorcerer, but you can get most of the same value out of just taking a warpflamer pistol.
- Pentakairic Armour – Infernal Master only. He knows an extra pact and once per turn the first time the model fails a save the damage on that attack becomes 0. This isn’t particularly good – you don’t have the ability to attempt another pact, so knowing an extra one isn’t all that useful, and most of the time you attempt a pact it’s going to be Malefic Maelstrom and if that’s not it you’ll be using Glimpse of Eternity to get that sick re-roll. You get to know two already so there isn’t a ton of utility in having a third.
- The Prism of Echoes – Each time the bearer manifests a Blessing power, double the range of that power’s effects. There are 8 blessing powers in the two Psychic disciplines Thousand Sons get, and of these the ones you’re going to cast the most often are Glamour of Tzeentch, Weaver of Fates, Temporal Surge, and Presage. And realistically you don’t need to boost the range on these unless you’re trying to stay out of Deny range, in which case yeah, sure, a 36” Glamour or Weaver cast can be cool. But you can usually just stay out of range or force through a power with a ritual if it’s that crucial.
- The Stave Abominus – Replaces a force stave with one that’s 1 damage but makes double attacks. This stinks, and you shouldn’t take it.
In addition to the cult traits, Thousand Sons have access to six generic Warlord Traits which are mostly just OK. They’re seldom worth spending CP to have unless you’re taking a Daemon Prince.
Ahriman gets the Warlord trait Otherworldly Presence while if your army includes Magnus the Red as Warlord he gets Arrogance of Aeons, Undying Form, and Lord of Forbidden Lore.
- Arrogance of Aeons – You can re-roll Deny the witch tests for this warlord and this warlord can benefit from one additional Cabbalistic Ritual on each of your psychic phases. This is really good on Magnus and not really so good anywhere else. You will seldom need to double up on rituals and the extra deny is more a nice-to-have since your whole army has the ability to attempt to deny.
- Seeker After Shadows – Each time this Walord attempts to perform a Psychic action you can roll an extra D6 and discard one when taking the Psychic test. Also, this Warlord generates 1 extra Cabal point per turn. Passing Psychic action tests is really not something the Thousand Sons need help with most of the time though it can be OK if you’re going up against a lot of psyker armies where it can be helpful to get high value casts that are harder to deny. Though it does nothing for you against Sisters of Battle, who just deny on a 5+. This was more useful before Mutate Landscape lost the rider that made it more difficult each time you tried it, but still has some value if you drop it onto something like a Tzaangor Shaman to do Interrogates with, where it can help you get the extra CP and push through very hard-to-deny attempts of 11+ without needing to spend 8 cabal points every turn.
- Undying Form – Reduce the damage of attacks allocated to this Warlord by 1. This is great. Always useful, and great to have on a Daemon Prince.
- Lord of Forbidden Lore – Your Warlord knows one extra Psychic Power, unless he’s Magnus, in which case he knows every power. This is absolute money on Magnus and good on an Exalted Sorcerer with Rehati, since they can actually cast their extra power. This has slowly started to see more competitive play as players have been forced to pare down their number of casters to fit daemons into armies that soup them in.
- Otherworldly Presence – Once per game before you make a save with your Warlord, you can activate this to get a 3+ invulnerable save until the end of the turn. If Magnus had this, he’d be playable. As-is, it’s only going to be valuable if you get caught out of position by an opponent and then you’re gambling a lot on making saves to dig yourself out of a mistake you probably could have avoided. This is something you’re better off solving with positioning.
- Aetherstride – Add 3” to the Move characteristic of the Warlord, and the Warlord can Fall back and charge, and when the Warlord makes a Normal move, charge, Advance, or Falls back, it can move as though it had FLY. This would be a hell of a lot more useful if you could cast after falling back. As-is you can get some interesting combos with it on a Daemon Prince but this doesn’t necessarily line up with what you want to be doing with your army outside of a fighty daemon prince (though it does see use for that).
New to the 9th edition Codex Thousand Sons are Infernal Pacts, prayer-like abilities that Infernal Masters can attempt during the Command phase. There’s a clear “best option” in these – Malefic Maelstrom – and a few others that are OK. Infernal Masters know two of these by default and can attempt to make one pact per turn.
- Bladed Maelstrom – Pick a visible enemy unit within 30”. It gets -2 to Advance and charge rolls until your next Command phase and if it has 6+ models it takes a mortal wound. This is OK as a long-distance way to slow down a key enemy unit but since it doesn’t affect Normal moves it won’t slow them that much. The biggest problem is that anything that can Advance and Charge and threaten you from 24-30″ away isn’t going to be visible when you try to use this – on turn 1, you’ve likely hidden your Infernal Master and they’ve hidden your ideal target, and on turn 2 they are going to be well within reaching distance even if you give them -4″ of advance and charge movement.
- Fires of the Abyss – The closest visible enemy unit within 15” takes D3 mortal wounds. This is a little more reliable than Smite and kind of neat but you can also just cast Smite.
- Capering Imps – Pick one visible enemy unit within 24”. Until your next Command phase that unit doesn’t get the benefits of cover, can’t fire Overwatch, and can’t set to Defend. This is kind of neat because it removes the -1 to hit from Dense terrain in addition to cover save. How useful it is will vary by opponent and the terrain layout you’re playing on. This is basically your third option, and depending on the meta you may take this over Glimpse.
- Diabolic Savant – At the start of your next Psychic phase you get +1 Cabal point and in that phase you can re-roll psychic tests for the Infernal Master. If you don’t want Glimpse as your second Pact this is also a solid option, but it’s not as good as Glimpse, where getting a single die re-roll on a cast attempt will usually be better than getting a full re-roll.
- Glimpse of Eternity – Until the start of your next Command phase you can re-roll one dice you have rolled. You can’t re-roll any rolls related to the mission. This is pretty great, since it’s a completely unrestricted, meaning you can re-roll lots of things that Command Re-rolls no longer let you re-roll, such as the number of mortal wounds done by a smite, the explosion roll for a vehicle., or a single die on a charge roll.
- Malefic Maelstrom – Pick one friendly visible Thousand Sons until within 24”. Until the start of your next Command phase, add 1 to the strength of ranged attacks made by that unit. This is the best of the pacts and it’s not close. It’s amazing on Scarab Occult Terminators, it’s great on Contemptors, it’s great on Leviathans, it’s great on Warpflamers. If you’re taking an Infernal Master, you want this pact. You basically need this to take down knights in that matchup, and it’s almost always useful.
One of the meatiest and most important parts of Codex: Thousand Sons, psykers in the army have access to two disciplines – the Discipline of Change and the Discipline of Vengeance – each with 9 powers to choose from. For the most part, having two disciplines here is meaningless – only Tzaangor Shamans are prevented from choosing from both (they can only pick from the Discipline of Change), so you’ll just be taking powers from either in whichever way is most convenient.
While these powers vary in strength, there aren’t many stinkers in the bunch. instead their utility tends to be much less about the raw power of one particular spell and more about what your army’s plan is and how the large pool of powers you have to cast will work together – are you buffing several units for shooting and durability? Are you trying to force out a ton of mortal wounds? What powers need to be cast?
The Discipline of Change
- Tzeentch’s Firestorm (WC 6, Witchfire) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 9D6. For each roll of a 6, that enemy takes a mortal wound. If you rolled an unmodified 9+ to manifest, the enemy takes a mortal wound for each 5+. With a low power cast this nets you 1.5 mortal wounds on average. With a 9+ cast you’re looking at 3-4. That’s pretty good, especially given you can pick your target. Your expected output of this without other buffs is about 1.7 wounds. As for the question of whether it’s worth it to use the Athenian Scrolls on this spell, the answer’s “kind of.” It certainly improves your odds substantially, but the bigger question is whether getting the mortal wounds is more important than guaranteeing that Weaver of Fates or Glamour of Tzeentch go off. That said, if you are throwing this out you can combine it with the Malevolent Charge Cabbalistic Ritual to tack on another D3 mortal wounds and get some really nasty output from a single power.
- Glamour of Tzeentch (WC 6, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 18”. Until the start of your next Psychic phase subtract 1 from the hit roll of attacks against that unit. This is pretty good, offering lots of utility and a huge survivability boost. Note that it works against melee attacks as well as shooting. You want this most of the time for big targets, and it’s great for keeping your Scarab Occult Terminators on the table.
- Doombolt (WC 6, Witchfire) – The closest visible enemy unit to the psyker within 18” takes 3 mortal wounds. This is pretty money, particularly when you double up with Malevolent Charge to do D3+3 mortal wounds. This is also a great spell to double-cast using the Psychic Maelstrom Cabbalistic Ritual. Its best feature is its consistency.
- Temporal Manipulation (WC 5, Blessing) – Pick a friendly, non-vehicle Thousand Sons model within 12”. That model is healed and regains up to D3 lost wounds. A model can only be healed once per turn. This can’t bring back dead models and so is pretty limited in its utility, except for healing up Magnus – if he manages to survive a turn of being shot at. Can have some utility to heal post-Perils and can be useful for bringing a unit of Terminators back to full if you want to try and get a model back.
- Weaver of Fates (WC 7, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 18”. That unit gains a 4+ invulnerable save until your next Psychic phase. This is very solid, and worth including in any list that includes Chaos Spawn. While it’s good for making Scarab Occult Terminators more durable against heavier guns/melee threats – and there’s just enough AP-4 to be worth using it on them, you’ll also get a ton of value out of using it to buff Chaos Spawn or Cultists if you’re taking them, giving them massively improved survivability. Casting this can serve as a deterrent to going after your Scarabs, but if your opponent appears to already be avoiding them, think about casting it elsewhere.
- Baleful Devotion (WC 8, Witchfire) – Pick one visible enemy unit within 18” that has 6 or more models. Roll a number of D6 equal to the result of the Psychic test. For each roll of a 6, that enemy unit suffers D3 mortal wounds. If you could use this to target smaller units, this would be amazing. As-is, it’s OK but not stellar. The average output on a cast of this is just under 2 mortal wounds, and that’s not particularly amazing for a power that costs 8 to cast. That said, the ceiling on this is massive, and if you have Magnus it’s worth remembering that it’s in your back pocket via his Warlord Trait.
- Cacodaemonic Curse (WC 6, Malediction) – Pick one enemy unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase, that unit gets -1 Strength to its ranged weapons. This is situationally useful – it does its best work on models that have lots of S4, S5, or S8 shooting, where dropping the strength by 1 makes a significant difference in your unit’s survivability. That said, it’s going to be in your army because it’s a Malediction and unlike Twist of Fate, it’s relatively easy to cast.
- Pyric Flux (WC 5, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Arcana Astartes unit within 12”. Until the end of the turn, add 1 to the Strength of all warpflamers, warpflame pistols, and heavy warpflamers (and any relics that replace those weapons) that they’re equipped with. This is great now that Warpflamers are useful, and is pretty much what goes on the aspiring sorcerer in your Warpflamer unit. The one thing that really stinks about it is the baffling decision to have it end at the end of the turn – keep that in mind because it doesn’t work for Overwatch fire.
- Perplex (WC 7, Malediction) – Pick an enemy unit within 24”. Until your next psychic phase, that unit can’t target units more than 24” away with ranged attacks. This is pretty situational, but can be interesting. The problem is that the Thousand Sons are also not an army packed with long-range shooting so good use of this requires you to get in range of the target to begin with, and even after that major threats like knights can just walk 12” and get in range to shoot most things in a turn. It doesn’t have a lot of value.
Discipline of Vengeance
- Gaze of Hate (WC 5, Witchfire) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 3D6. For each 4+ that enemy takes a mortal wound. On average this gets you 1.5 mortal wounds and is more targeted than Smite, making it a good replacement for your second or third Smite, but not quite as good as your first cast. It’s a good combo for Malevolent Charge since it lets you pick the target, and dropping ~2D3 mortal wounds on a character can be very nasty, especially if you have Glimpse of Eternity or Witch-Warrior to re-roll one of the mortal wound counts.
- Twist of Fate (WC 8, Malediction) – Pick an enemy unit within 12”. Until your next psychic phase, models in that unit can’t use any invulnerable saves. This is pretty good, especially against units that mostly rely on an invulnerable save. The only thing stopping this from being the best power in the game is that your army is almost all AP-2 firepower, and so against units with a 3+ save this just doesn’t matter – forcing Knights to take a 5+ armor save instead of a 5+ invulnerable save isn’t great. Where this is great is for dealing with Harlequins, C’Tan, Craftworld Psykers and Aspect Warriors, Tyranids, and Drukhari. It also combines well with the AP-3 Khopesh attacks from Scarabs. The downside is that WC 8 is a very high bar, and so this will typically go on Ahriman, since he can re-roll his Psychic tests. This is also the one Malediction you want in your army all the time, but note that it’s also the most likely to fail as a cast.
- Dark Blessing (WC 6, Witchfire) – Pick one visible enemy within 6” and roll a D6. If you roll higher than their toughness characteristic they take D3+3 mortal wounds. This one is pretty situational, since its utility depends entirely on going up against T3 targets, and because it requires you be very close to actually cast. It might be an OK fit on a fighty Daemon Prince, where the likelihood he’ll get stuck in against T3 targets is high, and every now and then you’ll mulch some T4 character with a 5+ roll, but you can probably get more mileage out of Twist of Fate with the DP’s sword. You can skip this one.
- Presage (WC 7, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 18”. Until your next psychic phase they get +1 to their to hit rolls. This is excellent. It’s always good and works well on every unit except for Warpflamer Rubrics. The more hit rolls you’re making, the better it is, so it’s doing its best work on Scarabs, Volkite Contemptors, Leviathans, Spawn, and Daemon Engines.
- Swelled by the Warp (WC 6, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons model within 12”. Until your next psychic phase that model gets +2 Strength and +1 Attack. If this buffed a unit it’d be amazing. As-is, it’s mostly a trick for your Daemon Prince to get to S10 and an extra attack. It’s pretty good for that, though.
- Temporal Surge (WC 7, Blessing) – Pick a Friendly Thousand Sons Infantry, Cavalry, or Beasts unit within 6”. That unit can make a Normal move. This is a pale imitation of the Warptime of days of old, but it’s still incredibly good even in this reduced state. Yeah you can’t yeet Magnus across the table any more but double moving a unit of Rubrics, Scarabs, or Spawn is incredibly useful for getting onto objectives, setting up charges, or getting line of sight on a key target. The spell is incredibly useful and makes your Terminators a much more mobile, threatening unit.
As a result, Temporal Surge is also a dangerous crutch: You’ll often need it to go off, but having to roll a 6+, or against Grey Knights and other armies with the ability to Deny the Witch, is no guarantee. This makes Temporal Surge a good candidate for the Athenaean Scrolls or a Cabbalistic Ritual.
The other thing to consider is the spell’s range: 6” is not a lot, and the nature of the spell means that whatever you cast the power on will often be moving away from the caster. This can easily lead to situations where the caster pushes a unit forward, only to be left behind and potentially in the open. Because of this you’ll need to be careful about how you use the spell and position models (an Exalted Sorcerer on Disc here is a decent idea since he can pull slower units with him), or just put it on your Aspiring Sorcerers directly. This also makes it a good candidate for Prism of Echoes to boost its range, and you’ll almost certainly want to double up on the power in your units so that you have backups to cast in multiple places. Typically this spell goes on your Aspiring Terminator Sorcerers in Scarab units.
- Empyric Guidance (WC 4, Blessing) – Pick a friendly Thousand Sons unit within 12”. Until your next psychic phase, add 6” to the range of Rapid Fire and Heavy weapons on models in that unit. This is basically made for buffing Scarab Occult Terminators to get 30” range, allowing you to pick off key targets while staying out of threat range on some of the game’s nastier threats – or at least force units like Eradicators to Advance to shoot you. Loses utility pretty quickly after turns 1-2 unless you’re up against Harlequins, however. Still, a power you want in your army and a near auto-cast.
- Psychic Stalk (WC 5, Witchfire) – Pick a visible enemy unit (excluding vehicles, monsters, and characters) within 18” and roll 2D6. If you roll higher than the unmodified Ld of that unit, one model in the unit picked by an opponent is slain. This is the worst power in the book. It’s not worth consideration. The hoops you have to jump through to maybe kill the worst model on your opponent’s unit are too high and the odds of rolling a 9+ against better targets is only 28%, and that’s on top of need to roll to cast it.
- Desecration of Worlds (WC 7, Malediction) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 24”. Until your next psychic phase, every time that unit makes a normal move, advances, falls back, or makes a charge move, roll a D6 for every model in the unit. For each result of a 6, that unit takes a mortal wound. This does its best work against massive units of 1W models and so the ideal target here are Termagants and Hormagaunts, who will suffer 5-6 mortal wounds every time they move. It’s also not bad against other more elite 1W targets that are setting up to charge, however – Warp Talons, Zephyrim, Incubi – these are all decent targets since even a unit of 5 is likely to take 2 mortal wounds as they move in and charge, saving you a lot of incoming attacks to save. It’s not something you need every game, but against the right targets might be worth swapping in. It’s also a Malediction, so you may just take it to have another one, since the 24″ range is nice.
The Thousand Sons have a very strong slate of units. Very few of them are outright bad, and even the subpar ones tend to be at least interesting enough to try from time to time. Having Objective Secured on Terminators helps a lot, and currently armies tend to be built around Rubrics and Terminators rather than Tzaangors or other chaff units.
There’s a ton of power in the HQ slot for Thousand Sons, and you’ll find that armies regularly chafe at the notion of only including 3 HQ choices in a Battalion. The good news is that you have ways around that if you take an Exalted Sorcerer.
This is where your best psykers sit, and they’re essentially the fulcrum around which the rest of the army turns.
What a way to start. Ahriman is one of the better units in the whole game and is almost a must-include in competitive Thousand Sons Detachments. He doesn’t have access to cult powers or abilities, but he’s still an absolute powerhouse, with the ability to cast 3 powers and deny 3 powers per turn, plus he can re-roll psychic tests, making him one of the most reliable casters in the game and the perfect unit for all those tough spells that you need to go off. He also comes with a 4+ invulnerable save and a generic re-roll 1s to hit aura for all Thousand Sons CORE units, and he slots nicely into almost any army.
Ahriman has the option to take a Disc of Tzeentch, and it’s generally a good idea to give him one for the extra mobility if you’re going to give him Temporal Surge, since he’ll need to zip around and get close enough to actually cast it. You also want to put him on a Disc if he’s going to be throwing out mortal wounds with Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Doombolt, or Desecration of Worlds, since he’ll need to get close. You don’t really need the disc, but it’s nice to have if you can afford it since the mobility it gives him lets him be much more valuable running for getting off shorter-ranged spells. Ahriman is the best place to park Twist of Fate.
Ahriman’s Warlord Trait is Otherworldly Presence, which doesn’t really add much and is a compelling reason to just never make him your warlord.
Generally speaking if you’re taking two units of Scarab Occult Terminators (and you are), you want Ahriman to accompany one while either your Daemon Prince or Exalted Sorcerer accompanies the other, ensuring you’ll be able to get re-rolls on 1s to hit with both.
Thousand Sons Daemon Prince
Daemon Princes used to be auto-includes in the Thousand Sons but these days they’re much more something you need to have a specific plan for. They’re easily the best at melee among the Thousand Sons HQ options, but at the same time they’re one of the most disappointing units in the game when they actually get into melee – five sword attacks that can’t be re-rolled natively really stinks for actually doing damage. Still, that’s your best option and a 3-damage attack so you’re almost always paying the points for the Hellforged Sword, the best of the three options (S9 just isn’t relevant enough and you can get +1S other ways when you need it).
The Daemon Prince is a decent target for many Warlord Traits, and Undying Form is usually the best pick, and tacking on the Conniving Plate Relic isn’t a bad addition, either. Basically you want to kit this guy out to charge in and finish off targets your shooting couldn’t, and wipe out tougher opponents that might otherwise be bad to charge with a unit of Rubrics or Scarabs. Swelled by the Warp is also a decent power pick for the DP since he’ll need all the attacks he can get – you’ll be surprised at how often only getting 5 attacks that hit on a 2+ lets you down in combat.
Wings are an interesting option here. Sometimes you want them but at 35 points it’s a big ask. Aetherstride is a better pick most of the time, but with To the Last no longer being an option the extra cost isn’t as big a deal as it used to be.
The newest addition to the Thousand Sons army, the Infernal Master is a combination Psyker/Chaplain, who in addition to knowing one power (and being able to cast one), knows two Infernal Pacts. He can attempt to make in each of your Command phases, and on a 3+, they’re successful. We’ve already covered the pacts – see Infernal Pacts – but the clear best option among them is Malefic Maelstrom, which improves the strength on a unit’s ranged attacks by 1 an dis a must-have for taking on Knights. If you’re taking one in a competitive game then your best picks are Malefic Maelstrom and Glimpse of Eternity, as the ability to re-roll any die is very useful to have in your back pocket (though Cacodaemonic Curse has more play now than it used to). You’re basically taking one of these in every competitive army.
Exalted Sorcerers are basically combo Chaos Lord-Sorcerers for the Thousand Sons. They combine a re-roll 1s to hit aura and a 4+ invulnerable save with the ability to cast two powers per turn. They know two powers each and one of these guys is going to be in almost every army you build, even if you’ve already got Ahriman. That’s because unlike Ahriman, you can upgrade your Exalted Sorcerers with a large number of Legion Command upgrades, and because they also unlock additional sorcerers and terminator sorcerers via the Thrall rule on those Datasheets.
How you kit out your Exalted Sorcerer will depend on the role you want them to take.
- The Utility option will typically double up on Relics using the Dilettante Legion Command upgrade. This allows you to combine Athenaean Scrolls and Umbralefic Crystal, and if you’re in a Cult of Time Detachment you’ll be giving him Immaterial Echo to potentially cast a third time each turn.
- The Mortal Wounds option is where you’ll want to use the Rehati upgrade to give him three casts outright, and then give him the Athenaean Scrolls with Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Doombolt, and Gaze of Hate. This is also a model you may want to put Lord of Forbidden Lore on to give him a third non-Smite spell option.
You can give the Exalted Sorcerer a Disc of Tzeentch for extra mobility and that’s not a bad idea if you need him to move around to either throw out wounds or be close to key units for buffs, but if you’ve already got Ahriman on a disc you probably just leave this guy on foot. He’ll generally want to hang out with a unit of Scarab Occult Terminators to ensure they get re-rolls to hit.
These are your cheapest HQ option but they don’t bring a ton to the table over another squad of Rubrics except for one more cast. Still, sometimes that’s what you really need and if you already have an Exalted Sorcerer this guy won’t take up an HQ slot. If you’re taking one of these, it’s typically going to be as a fourth CHARACTER psyker to do psychic actions, in which case you’ll typically want to consider the Loyal Thrall upgrade. That said if you have the points, the Terminator option is usually better.
Sorcerer in Terminator Armour
For a few more points you can get a Sorcerer, but in Terminator Armor. That means they’re slower (-1” Movement), more durable (2+/5++ save with +1 wound), and better in combat, since they can take a Khopesh. They can also teleport into battle, though this isn’t doing a ton for you in most games. The value of a Terminator Sorcerer is primarily in being an action character who doesn’t take up a FOC slot. They’re not as mobile as the Tzaangor Shaman, but what they bring to the table is being able to take Loyal Thrall to cast and action, plus they’re much harder to kill, give you 2 cabal points, and can be a reliable caster. Witch-Warrior/Battle-Psyker is also not a bad shout for them if you aren’t really worried about that second cast after running Interrogation.
The Thousand Sons have three Troops choices, and unusually not all of them have Objective Secured.
We’ve come a long way since the Tzaangor-heavy armies of 8th edition. Rubric Marines are, for the most part, relatively durable Troops choices. They come with 2 attacks each, a 3+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, 2 wounds, and the unit comes with AP-2 inferno bolters and an Aspiring Sorcerer as its champion, capable of casting Smite and one other spell, plus whatever they learn from their Cult. Generally, Inferno bolters aren’t amazing, but they’re annoying enough to help wipe out medium and heavy infantry. With the Nephilim point changes Rubrics got some big drops – icons of flame became free, while Soulreaper Cannons and Warpflamers also dropped in cost. This was essentially a nail in the coffin of Tzaangors and Cultists, as it now means you’ll want to maximize your rubrics where you can.
As troops, Rubric Marines are incredibly versatile. They work well in several configurations but the most common competitive configurations are:
- Minimum Size. 5 models, four of which are rubrics. This is your basic objective holder, and in the Cult of Duplicity they’ll use Sorcerous Facade to pick up and drop wherever you need, either to perform actions or just hold an objective. At the new lower cost it will occasionally be worth it to put a Soulreaper cannon on these, and you’ll always want the Icon of Flame as it’s free.
- Warpflamers. With the point drops on warpflamers, it’s now these guys’ time to shine. They can be an incredibly damaging unit for their cost and almost every competitive army takes at least one unit of warpflamers while many pack two or three. You can take them as MSUs but often I find the output on 5 is just not quite enough while 10 can be overkill; the sweet spot is more like 7-8 per unit. Give the Aspiring Sorcerer a Warpflame Pistol and the Pyric Flux power to boost their strength. Either deploy them forward with Risen Rubricae or use Sorcererous Facade to teleport-drop them onto vulnerable targets. This can be particularly solid against Adepta Sororitas armies, where you can easily wipe out a large number of T3 models with some decent rolls.
- Bigger Squads. You may, from time to time, get value out of a large squad of Rubrics. Note that you are still limited to one Soulreaper cannon – it’s not a “one per five models” deal – but you’ll typically want to include one on these bigger squads to improve their output.
In most builds these days you’re taking 3-5 units of Rubrics, typically either minimum size units with bolters and maybe a soulreaper, or units of 7+ warpflamers.
Tzaangors are in an interesting (read: bad) position in the new book. They’re more durable than Cultists and have Objective Secured, thanks to having T4 and a 5+ invulnerable save as BRAY units, and they’re actually capable of doing anything in melee (though this is not a good use for them). They’re fine for doing actions and holding objectives and if you take them you pretty much always want to keep things small and go with a minimum size squad with blades.
The problem with Tzaangor is that they’re costed between the dirt cheap cultist choice and the more expensive Rubrics ObSec choice and that’s kind of a lousy place to be. They aren’t quite cheap enough to be throwaway options and they’re not good enough to be used for more important thanks. For only a few points more you can get a 5-model Rubric unit that gives you Cabal points, psychic powers. More durability (with as many wounds), and only 5 models to move and hide. This means Tzaangors are kind of the odd models out in the Thousand Sons army right now, though their added durability makes them better 10-model units than Cultists, and having ObSec and being able to do actions makes them a little more valuable in the Arks missions that allow ObSec units to “lock in” control of an objective. These days you’re probably just going to run 5 Rubrics or, if you need the points, a unit of Cultists.
Every time Games Workshop writes a new Chaos book, Cultists get worse. The most recent round of updates have seen them losing Objective Secured and being capped at one unit per unit of Rubrics/Scarabs. Cultists really only have value in large units, where the ability to give them a 4+ invulnerable save with Weaver of Fates and +1 to hit with Presage can turn even autoguns into something dangerous. If you’re taking Cultists it’s because you want to fit in one more action-doing backfield objective holder and don’t have the points for another unit of Rubrics.
The Thousand Sons don’t have a ton of Elite choices, but given you’re usually running a Battalion and at least one unit of Scarabs, there’s a bit rougher competition than you’d expect.
The Tzaangor Shaman is your only Elite psyker character option and has some value as a very fast caster who can do Psychic actions like Mutate Landscape and Warp Ritual from anywhere on the board without giving up a ton because he’s cheap and only has 1 cast. He might have some outside value as a buff for your other Tzaangor units, but it’s worthless on Tzaangor Enlightened and if you’re taking Tzaangors it’s to be cheap objective holders, not melee units.
Instead, this guy’s primary value is being a fast, cheap psychic action doer who doesn’t take up an HQ slot in your army. The disc makes him incredibly mobile and gives him the ability to range around to hit enemy characters with Psychic Interrogation or, in a pinch, dash forward to do Warp Ritual at the center of the board. You probably don’t need him and a Sorcerer/Terminator Sorcerer, but you’ll usually want one of them at the very least, because your rubrics can’t do Interrogation and against higher-scoring armies you’ll need a Warpcraft secondary that can get you 15 points reliably.
Scarab Occult Terminators
Scarab Occult Terminators went from a unit with outside use to the beating heart of 9th edition Thousand Sons lists. With 3 wounds apiece and the ability to go to both reduce damage and incur an extra +1 save against 1-damage attacks, they’ve got solid durability which combines with 4 AP-2 inferno bolter shots apiece and 2-damage power swords for a unit that has some solid damage output. They’re great all-arounders, good for bullying units off objectives and holding them, and thanks to having Objective Secured they have a place in almost every Thousand Sons list. The question is whether you want to run 20 or 30 of them.
You’ll get the most value out of a 10-model unit of Scarabs when you stack buffs on them – Weaver of Fates for a 4+ invulnerable save, Presage for +1 to hit, Exalted Sorcerer auras, Glamour of Tzeentch for -1 to be hit, Wrath of the Wronged for +1 to Wound, and Unwavering Phalanx to reduce incoming damage from ranged attacks. Yeah, you’ll pay the extra CP for phalanx, but it’ll often be worth it when you need to drop it against a Night Spinner or Caladius or other big-shot D2 weapon, though this will probably only be something you can afford to do once per game.
Big units of Scarabs tend to do their best work on missions that have a single center objective to occupy, forcing an opponent to deal with them. The good news is that in Nachmund missions, the majority of missions now have a central objective, giving these a lot more value. Most successful lists are going to revolve around a large unit of Scarabs.
Large units of Scarabs tend to work best with the Cult of Time, where the ability to bring back models with Time Flux and Warped Regeneration (typically combined with the healing effect of Rites of Coalescence or Temporal Manipulation to ensure every model is at full wounds), can really make trying to tear through a big unit of Scarabs a demoralizing task. This is a double-edged sword, however: You need to make the Scarabs so tough they’ll weather decent shooting and not get completely wrecked in a single turn without making them such a bad target your opponent just ignores them and kills the rest of your army.
Even with all that, it’s important to understand that Scarabs are not Blightlords and require a lot of investment to get on that level (and even still lack Toughness 5). You have to be a bit more careful with them because they will absolutely die if you over-expose them – particularly in melee. With AP-3 and 2 damage swords they’re solid in melee but they aren’t worldbeaters. They’ll cleave through regular marines no problem, but you’re likely to be disappointed with their output against anything that reduces incoming damage by 1, and 2-damage melee units like Incubi will just tear through them.
On the smaller side of things, 5-model units can give you a lot of value without requiring you spend 400+ points, but the tradeoff there is that you don’t get as much efficiency out of buffing a small unit. This is a better option for Duplicity lists, where you can redeploy squads before the game and potentially deploy them more aggressively/defensively as needed.
Recommended Loadout: Take the Soulreaper cannons and Hellfyre missile racks when you can, especially on larger units. It helps up the damage output of the unit and ensures you’ll get the most out of buffs while also giving you some anti-vehicle firepower. On smaller units this might not be what you’re looking for. Because they’re slow and can always use the extra push, you typically want to give them Temporal Surge as their Psychic Power.
With improved stats, damage reduction, inferno combi-bolters, and a 5+ invulnerable save thanks to being ARCANA ASTARTES, the Thousand Sons Helbrute is likely the best possible version of the Helbrute. And it’s still not good enough to play. As a melee option, the Helbrute has some great weapons – fist and scourge is a solid combo, and pretty great for the points – but at only 6” movement and no ability to Advance and charge, he’s not going to make it to combat often enough. On the ranged side, none of the Helbrute’s options are great and it just doesn’t have enough damage output to be worth taking as a ranged platform. Can you take a Helbrute and still do OK? Maybe. Should you? No.
Forge World Options
Let’s talk about the three Forge World options in the Elites category – the Relic Contemptor, the Leviathan, and the Decimator. These are all a bit odd in that, while they’re solid in a Thousand Sons army, they don’t get any benefits from Brotherhood of Sorcerers, since they already have an invulnerable save. Still, the damage output of the Contemptor and Leviathan is high enough that you don’t have better options.
Chaos Contemptor Contemptor
The Chaos Contemptor used to be absolute fire thanks to the twin Volkite Culverin option. And if we’re honest, it’s still a pretty great option even at its increased points cost. At a base cost of 140 points, the only options worth considering here are either two twin lascannons, two twin volkite culverins, or twin volkite + chainfist, and the missile launcher is an optional add-on you’ll usually want to add on.
The Volkite Culverins have gone up in price to 15 points per arm and with good reason: They’re an incredibly powerful, versatile option, throwing out 8 S6, 2-damage shots that do additional mortals on 6s to wound. While they’re still AP 0, the fact that Contemptors are CORE means you can buff them in a number of ways and the mortal wounds and sheer volume of shots mean you’re likely to make something work with them regardless. Giving them +1 strength with an Infernal Master significantly improves their lethality, and having Egleighen’s Orrery around can help reduce the impact of damage -1 effects that would blunt the unit’s effectiveness. A great target for using Ensorcelled Infusion to boost that AP to -1.
Volkite Culverin + Chainfist is more of a niche play but can be solid as more of a mid-table unit capable of fighting units off objectives.
Twin Lascannons are going to be more of a backline ranged play, allowing your Contemptor to sit further back and take down heavier targets. With D6 damage and only one shot Lascannons aren’t great but put four of them together and suddenly you can mitigate a lot of variance. These guys also make decent units for To the Last.
The Chaos Leviathan is the bigger, heavier, tougher brother of the Contemptor. It loses the CORE keyword in exchange for having more wounds, a 2+ save, and bigger weapons. As an option, Leviathans are less useful now that they no longer get Armour of Contempt, though their versatility as shooting/fighting units gives them a bit of value as a counter-charge play or a way to deal with units which need to take a 3-damage beating.
Grav-Flux is basically the premier shooting option for this guy, giving you decent versatility and range with solid damage output against most targets. If there’s a downside to the Grav-flux Bombard it’s the 24” range, which means it’s a great target for Empyric Guidance to bring it up to 30”. The Leviathan loves buffs generally, and it’s a high-quality target for Presage, Malefic Maelstrom, and Ensorcelled Infusion. Its two Twin volkite cavaliers are also nothing to sneeze at, and 8 volkite shots will also help you push through a few extra wounds against key targets. In my experience, if you take this guy you want to give him one melee weapon because it’ll be more valuable as a melee counter-threat in your army than a ranged option.
Chaos Deredeo Dreadnought
The shootiest Forge World Dreadnought option, the Deredeo also loses CORE in exchange for more shooting options, with the Hellfire plasma carronade being the most valuable of those options, giving you six shots at S7 AP-3 2 damage and the option to supercharge to S8 and 3 damage, which you’ll want to do most of the time. The plasma has a clear advantage over the autocannon battery since it gives you better AP and more play against targets that reduce damage by 1. The Volkite battery suffers a similar issue and is something you get more value out of on the Contemptor. Ultimately the Deredeo is fine but too expensive for the value you get. If you take one, give it the Aiolos Missile launcher for extra shot output.
The Decimator daemon engine doesn’t see much use these days but if your’e taking one you want to give it twin Soulburners to just try and get even more mortal wounds out there.
There isn’t much in the way of Fast Attack choices for Thousand Sons. Chaos Spawn are pretty common in Thousand Sons armies, while Enlightened don’t see much play.
Tzaangor Enlightened seem great on paper. They have S5, AP-1 bows that hit on a 2+ and ignore Look Out, Sir and also they’re pretty fast and mobile, with 2 wounds each and a 5+ invulnerable save. But the reality is that they only have one shot each, and that means a unit of 6 will, on average, do maybe 1-2 wounds to a Space Marine character with T4. That’s good enough to take the last wound off an injured model but it’s not going to wipe the unit off the table and that means these guys are not going to be the character snipers they seem to be.
Instead if you’re using these guys they’re probably more likely to be for scoring points on Engage on All Fronts or Behind Enemy Lines, or helping do actions deep in enemy territory, though they aren’t super durable so you’ll need to be very careful with them.
Chaos Spawn are just great. They’re stupid cheap and incredibly good value for their cost, able to move quickly, screen more valuable units, harass enemy units, or just screen out enemy deep strikers. There’s a lot less value for single-model units of them now thanks to the changes to Engage on All Fronts, but units of this type still have value to harass or threaten enemies or make sacrifice plays for objectives for primary scoring, Stranglehold, or additional scoring actions on missions like Data-Scry Salvage.
As a 5-model unit, these have the potential to be pretty nasty. They have 2D3 attacks each and their Mutated Beyond Reason ability gives them either AP-4, 3D3 attacks (average 6), or re-rolls on wounds, plus they do S5 Ap-2, 2 damage attacks normally. The optimal choice will vary by target:
- Razor Claws. This gives your attacks AP-4. It’s going to be best against targets that ignore AP-1 and AP-2 or units with a 2+ save and either no invulnerable save or a 5+, which usually means Terminators. You want to avoid having this against units with a 4+ invulnerable save.
- Grasping Pseudopods. 3D3 Attacks. This is best against horde enemies, and targets with T4 or lower. You want this against most space marines and most of the chaff in other armies.
- Toxic Haemorrhage. Re-roll wound rolls. This is best against targets with T6 or more, since re-rolls give you the most value when they’re worse rolls. It’ll break even with Grasping Pseudopods against T5 targets, so your mileage may vary there.
The rub here is that you can spend 1 CP for Fated Mutation when your Spawn is selected to Fight, which lets you pick your option and gives you +1 to your attacks for the phase. So when it absolutely matters, you’ll be able to ensure you have the best option in play.
Otherwise, these guys are solid – except for their defense. With only a 5+ armor save they aren’t going to last long when they start getting hit, though this also means they really benefit from the added defense afforded by Weaver of Fates and Glamour of Tzeentch. They’re also solid targets for Warped Regeneration. The other thing to watch out for is to make sure you don’t overestimate them. Yeah, they can be solid in melee but with only WS 4+ you’re going to realize how little that gets you start rolling to hit. Pick your battles with them.
Ultimately the value on these guys is as cheap, fast distractions or a screening unit for chargers or enemy psychic powers. They’re pretty good at that, though.
Dreadclaw Drop Pod
Dreadclaws are another unit that see semi-reliable play in Chaos Space Marine armies, either to drop out Havocs or melee units that can get easy charges in using the Honour the Prince Stratagem. Neither of those is an option for Thousand Sons, who instead will be looking more at putting a unit of Warpflamer Rubrics into a Dreadclaw to drop out and light up an unsuspecting unit. That’s not bad but it’s an expensive trick that you can mostly replicate with Stratagems and Master Misinformator so your value is tied to being able to drop in when you don’t have first turn and how valuable you find the dreadclaw. They tend to be disappointing in melee but can be very annoying, especially with a 5+ invulnerable save. But ultimately you’re better of saving the points.
Even an army capable of putting out mortal wounds like the Thousand Sons needs sometimes needs heavier support, but unfortunately there aren’t many options worth considering in this slot in the current book.
Mutalith Vortex Beast
The Mutalith Vortex Beast remains one of the game’s strangest units and a truly unique addition to the faction. Purely as a melee threat, it’s interesting, packing 5 Attacks at S8, AP-2 and 3 damage with claws and the option to switch to its maw for sweep-like attacks (3x the number at AP-1, D1) when dealing with hordes, which helps considerably. It regains D3 wounds per turn and packs a 4+/5++ save profile to keep it from going down too quickly. You can teleport it around the table in the Cult of Duplicity to get it into position and with a 10” movement it’s got a pretty nasty threat range. For 140 points, it’s a valuable distraction that demands to be taken seriously as a melee threat and if your opponent doesn’t commit to killing it entirely, they may be shocked to find it suddenly regaining a ton of wounds the turn after.
On top of that, it’s also got the Warp Vortex ability, which lets you use up to two of its powers per shooting phase (you lose these as you lose wounds, getting only 1 below half health and 0 below 4 wounds). You can’t pick any that another beast has used, which is fine since you’ll rarely if ever take more than one and almost certainly won’t take more than two. These powers are:
- Immaterial Fire – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll a D6 for each model in the unit; for each 6, that unit takes a mortal wound
- Turbulent Discharge – Pick the closest visible enemy unit within 18” and roll a D6; on a 2-4 it takes D3 mortal wounds, and on a 5+ it takes 3 mortals.
- Maelstrom of Madness – Roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 9”. On a 2+ that unit takes 1 mortal wound.
- Bean of Unreality – Pick a visible enemy unit with 10+ wounds within 24” and roll a D6, subtracting 1 if the target is an AIRCRAFT and adding 1 if it’s TITANIC. On a 3-4 it takes D3 mortal wounds and on a 5+ it takes D6.
So you’ve got two options for hordes (Immaterial Fire, Maelstrom of Madness), one option for big targets (Beam of Unreality), and one best option for elite and mid-sized targets (Turbulent Discharge). These are pretty solid, though in an ideal world you’d have a second discharge-like ability to pick from. Immaterial Fire really only does work against units of 12+ models, while Maelstrom of Madness is going to do better work when you have several units nearby, but it’s also really great for hitting characters who are trying to hide behind bodyguards or other units. It’s money if you’re going up against Grimaldus, since a single mortal wound can score you 3 VP for Assassination.
What’s great about these powers is that they aren’t Shooting attacks and so nothing that deals with shooting affects them. This can be very helpful for getting around debuffs or other protective abilities.
Ultimately the biggest challenge for the Mutalith is finding a good use for it; it costs too much to just throw away as a distraction, but at the same time it’s not good enough to triple up on and it’s not durable enough to soak up a bunch of firepower. It’s a fairly solid melee combatant though and if the points cost ever comes down it’ll likely become a common one-off in lists to accompany daemon engines. The best thing about it is that it’s reasonably durable, able to push out non-psychic mortal wounds reliably, and it isn’t a psyker, so having it around doesn’t add to your Abhor totals. If you’re building more around utility from your Sorcerers than mortal wound output, the Mutalith may be able to help shore up some of your weaknesses.
Chaos Predators aren’t quite good enough and so don’t see much play. Having a 5+ invulnerable save from Brotherhood of Sorcerers makes them much more interesting, but if you’re going to go that route you probably want a Sicaran instead. They’re just far outclassed by the Forge World dreadnoughts and Daemon Engines. If you do take one, take the autocannon variant.
Vindicators also benefit from a 5+ invulnerable save to go with being T8 and having a 2+ armor save, and that makes them among the toughest units in your army. Unfortunately their damage output isn’t good enough to make them offensive threats. Instead if you’re taking one, it’s to be a reliably tough unit for moving up the board and capturing objectives, the same way White Scars lists used Hunters or Death Guard used Plagueburst Crawlers in 8th edition. They’re durable enough that you can have them charge key units to tie them up if they get across the board – and you can use Smokescreen to ensure they do – and then you can use psychic powers to kill whatever they tagged in the following Psychic phase.
That said, even T8 2+/5++ with a -1 to hit isn’t good enough to survive in this meta with only 11 wounds so you’re likely better off looking at other options.
Chaos Land Raider
Chaos Land Raiders are all dramatically overcosted, even with the drop to points drop and the 5+ invulnerable save. The biggest problem is that they don’t have enough guns, and the guns they do have aren’t great (they don’t get the D6+2 damage of their CSM counterparts, nor T9), plus they’re slow to boot. You can get most of the transport value from a Rhino at a fraction of the cost. Transport-wise, they don’t hold enough Scarabs to be good transports for them, and terminators can teleport in anyways. They may have play in other armies but in Thousand Sons you want to invest your points elsewhere.
I really, really want Defilers to be good. And they have much better profiles now in Thousand Sons! With BS 3+ and 5 attacks they’re very close to playable, even if they don’t particularly get anything out of being Thousand Sons units. They’ve got decent ranged shooting and the ability to tear things up in melee if someone wants to get fresh with them, but their biggest issue is that they’re still paying for both melee and shooting effectiveness, and only realistically able to use one at a time. In that sense, their shooting is only OK and they don’t quite have enough attacks (or access to the necessary re-rolls) nor the speed to be reliable melee threats. They also have a brutal degrading profile, losing accuracy and movement at each bracket drop. The Defiler is going to disappoint you most of the time.
Defilers are going to do their best work with a list that’s going heavy on vehicles, pushing them forward aggressively and holding forward objectives, hoping that smokescreen and a 5+ invulnerable save will keep them alive (and annoying) for an extra turn. Don’t bother giving them lascannons; go with the Reaper Autocannon – a massively underrated gun – and the Defiler Scourge to give it enough attacks to be legitimately worth worrying about.
If you do take this guy, he’s a decent target for Ensorcelled Infusion, where giving an extra AP on the Reaper Autocannon and Defiler Cannon to take them to AP-3 is pretty helpful.
Forgefiends got a huge boost in Codex: Thousand Sons by going to BS 3+ and getting improved weapons. Turns out actually being able to hit things is a big help for a shooting platform! At 175 points with twin Hades Heavy Autocannons and an Ectoplasma cannon, they’re interesting now that the Volkite Contemptor has come up in price, but they suffer from not being Arcana Astartes and so receiving no benefit from the Orrery. Now that Armour of Contempt is gone these have a bit more play again, as Hades Autocannons are very playable, particularly with Ensorcelled Infusion to boost their AP.
Maulerfiends likewise got a much-needed boost in Codex: Thousand Sons, moving to WS 3+ and 6 attacks base, with fists that do D3+3 damage each. At 150 points with Lasher Tendrils – which you’ll want – they can absolutely wreck some of the bigger targets you’ll go up against, making them solid fighters against Crusher Stampede and Custodes targets… if you can break through their invulnerable saves. There’s little reason to use Insorcelled Infusion on these guys, and the big downside here is that Thousand Sons don’t really do anything for Maulerfiends.
There are only two options here, and their utility is limited by the fact that most Thousand Sons armies specialize in teleporting and/or double moving all over the table. if you take a Thousand Sons transport, it’s typically for extra on-table durability.
The Chaos Rhino is a very solid good transport for Thousand Sons, where suddenly getting a free 5+ invulnerable save makes it an extremely good deal for a tank that was already borderline playable with its existing stats. The invulnerable save makes it an efficient way to soak up wounds and protect your Rubrics, and combined with Smokescreen you’ve got about as much durability as you can get for 80 points.
If you’re taking Rhinos, the goal is to keep your Rubrics in them for as long as possible, moving them onto objectives and treating them like piñatas, protecting the precious cargo until they’re blown open, at which point a large number of Objective Secured Rubrics pop out, holding the objective. There’s sometimes utility in getting out and using Temporal Surge to press forward extra distance, but unless you need to dislodge another unit from the objective, this shouldn’t be your first impulse.
The one downside to these is that they can’t transport Cultists or Tzaangors, so just be mindful they’re only an option for Rubrics, which limits their utility.
Terrax Termite Assault Drill
The Termite is a more recent addition to the Thousand Sons’ repertoire and is basically “what if a Rhino could really wreck things in melee?” Termites are great because they demand your opponent deal with them immediately, and Hateful Assault makes them even better. They lose a bit when you don’t have anything you’d really need to put in them to get out and charge, though. On the whole you won’t have much need for these, simply because you can already teleport around the table and you don’t really have infantry melee threats.
Thousand Sons have a single Codex flyer option — the Heldrake — and it’s pretty bad. Heldrakes suffer from not being able to put out either enough shots or enough attacks to really be a threat to most things, but what they are good at doing is being incredibly annoying. They’ve gained BS 3+ and 5 Attacks in Codex: Thousand Sons, with upgrades to their weapons, but they’re now AIRCRAFT, which makes them much less useful – they can’t hold objectives or block movement nearly as well, and they have to spend a turn transitioning to Hover mode if they want to charge non-AIRCRAFT things. It also means you can’t hide them from T’au and Eldar shooting, and that’s a big problem for games where you go second.
With the improved BS the Baleflamer is no longer the only good play for Heldrakes – now there’s at least a passing reason to take the Hades Autocannon. The Claws are also improved in this book, now with AP-2 and 2 damage base, upgraded to 4 against enemy AIRCRAFT. That’s kind of neat, but the recent limitations to AIRCRAFT in the December Balance Dataslate make this much less useful and even before those changes, the Heldrake was likely to just get murdered by Wazbom Blastajets. That said, with Harpies about to make a big splash on the competitive scene there might suddenly be a place for Heldrakes.
The other neat trick for the Thousand Sons Heldrake is the Vector Strike Stratagem, which lets it do mortal wounds to units that it passes over. This can’t hit a character but with a trade of 1 CP for D3 mortal wounds on a 2+ or flat 3 on a target with FLY it can be pretty handy against the growing number of juicy flying targets, like Vertus Praetors and Crisis Suits.
Ultimately Heldrakes are a marginal unit at best and just aren’t good enough at any of the things they’re ostensibly designed to do. It’s a unit whose sole purpose is to annoy, and even then it’s not as good at being annoying as it could be. I’ve tried very hard to make the Heldrake work and this big flying idiot just disappoints me every time. It’s even worse with the changes to Flyers requiring it start off the table, so it’s not even able to make a turn 1 charge from hover any more.
Chaos Fire Raptor Gunship
It’s worth mentioning the Fire Raptor here, as it’s seen some very limited competitive success. An expensive aircraft before you upgrade its autocannons to heavy bolters, the Fire Raptor is another vehicle that benefits greatly from the Brotherhood of Sorcerers 5+ invulnerable save to boost its durability. On the table it’s a gunship, zooming from end to end putting out a large amount of firepower with its Twin Avenger bolt cannon, hellforged autocannons, and hellstrike missiles, the former two of which really want to use Ensorcelled Infusion for the bump to AP-2 to do anything against marines. This isn’t a bad amount of firepower but it’s also not a lot either, and the Fire Raptor is also a really, really big target that’s impossible to hide. Even with its defenses it’s not going to last long against T’au shooting. It has even less play now that it can’t start on the table.
Lord of War
Magnus the Red
Let’s get something out of the way right now: Magnus did do something wrong. What he did wrong was continually failing to wipe the Space Wolves out of the galaxy. That said, Magnus is an interesting – but ultimately very unfortunate – unit. Against armies that can’t deal with him effectively, he’s a complete nightmare, wiping out enemy units and casually tossing out a dozen mortal wounds per turn. He’s got a solid melee profile and the ability to cast Twist of Fate to remove invulnerable saves, plus some great movement at 16”. In the psychic phase he’s an incredibly reliable caster with his +2 bonus at full health and as your warlord he knows every single power the Thousand Sons have access to, which is neat. He can absolutely crap out mortal wounds or buffs as you see fit, plus he’s got a 4+ invulnerable save and -1 damage thanks to Undying Form, which can help him weather a lot of D2 firepower and attacks, while being able to heal himself each turn if he takes damage.
On the other hand, a 4+ invulnerable save and -1 damage are nowhere near enough to weather the storm of D3+3 or 3+ damage shooting that many armies can put out now, and the reality is that if you don’t get the first turn Magnus is just going to get shot off the board. This is exacerbated by the fact that he’s no longer a potential target for Temporal Surge, making it difficult for him to actually get off the kinds of first-turn charges he needs to make himself an immediate threat and tie up key enemy units (that said, 16” movement can be enough to get you across the table against an opponent who isn’t paying attention).
Magnus is a surprisingly good pick against other Thousand Sons armies, Grey Knights, and Tyranids, where his ability to deny damn near anything makes him a nasty threat, though a lot of his longevity will depend on your ability to make 4+ invulnerable saves. The flip side is that Magnus is a huge liability when going up against T’au and Eldar shooting, where he’ll just be blasted off the table by Hammerheads, Stormsurges, or Fire Prisms before he can act.
Magnus has dropped in costs a few times, and the recent removal of the Wrath of Magnus secondary makes him a more attractive option but ultimately his biggest competition is the Lord of Change – there just isn’t a ton of value in taking Magnus over the Lord of Change in Thousand Sons armies where you can already get the re-rolls you need and the big bird is both more durable and able to cast spells the rest of your army doesn’t have.
Souping Thousand Sons
The landscape around souping has shifted tremendously since the releases of Codex: Chaos Knights and Codex: Chaos Daemons. Previously, souping meant giving up Cabbalistic Rituals in order to take advantage of some other army’s rules, usually while trying to make a more “smash bros”-style army work. With the new rules in Codex: Chaos Knights and Chaos Daemons however, there are other options available that don’t mean losing your rituals – which is good, because you’ll need those to force through Interrogation actions.
Codex: Chaos Daemons reintroduced souping and the Arks of Omen GT Missions Pack kept it around in modified form. Your army can include a Patrol Detachment of Chaos Daemons as long as those Daemons all have the TZEENTCH keyword. You’re no longer bound by the point cost restrictions, which is great, but now you’re tightly bound by the Patrol detachment limitations, which means no longer getting three units of Flamers and needing to bring a unit of Horrors.
When it comes to the units, there are a few options to consider:
- The Lord of Change is a powerful pick here, giving you a Magnus-level threat for fewer points, with more resilience to ranged attacks thanks to having more wounds and a 3+ daemon save, plus access to a whole different set of powers, making him less of a pain when it comes to managing your casts. The LoC can cast three powers and you’ll want one of those to be Infernal Gateway, an incredibly strong power that boosts your mortal wounds output. Bolt of Change is also a great one to have, and Treason of Tzeentch or Infernal Flames will be your third pick, depending on whether you’re taking flamers of Tzeentch.
- Flamers are still incredibly strong, even after the nerfs, though no longer the must-take, meta-defining terrors they used to be. They have a 12″ movement and weapons that have insane output at D6+3 shots each, but now must roll to hit (although they hit in a 3+). They’re fast, tough, and have great output.
- Soul Grinders are another interesting option, especially in Tzeentch where they get a 4+/4+ daemon save. They bring some real nasty ranged firepower and melee punch to the army.
Ultimately, taking either a Lord of Change with a unit of Horrors and potentially a unit of Flamers can elevate your list in different ways, creating an army that more resembles a Magnus-led force. It adds a ton of versatility to your army without messing up your Cabbalistic Rituals, though it’s a fair question to ask why Tzeentch Daemons need the Thousand Sons – they’re a more powerful army on their own.
The Arks of Omen makes an allowance for Chaos armies to take a single Chaos Knights Auxiliary Super-Heavy Detachment for 0 CP, and that unit has to be a DREADBLADE. This is functionally the same as how it was before Arks. While there are multiple options here you could pursue, the most valuable to Thousand Sons is likely the prospect of taking a trio of War Dog Executioners or Huntsmen, since the former offer the kind of ranged punch and mobility that Thousand Sons just don’t have and the latter offer strong anti-vehicle shooting and a significant melee punch with the reaper chaintalons. That they also give you three more ObSec bodies is just icing on the cake.
If you’re not taking an Abominant Dreadblade you can use the Pyrothrone to make one of your Dreadblades a PSYKER, though I’d generally advise against this unless you’re taking a Knight Tyrant – the Warp Storm Discipline doesn’t have much to offer a Thousand Sons army save Winds of the Warp to protect your knight investment. Your best option is likely going to be taking a trio of War Dog Executioners, which are just amazing backfield objective holders with strong ranged fire.
Playing Thousand Sons
The Thousand Sons are a difficult army. They’re dangerous without having tons of long-ranged shooting or anti-tank firepower, they’re a little durable but can still die quickly to multi-damage attacks, and they’ve got movement tricks but aren’t very fast on the ground. On top of that, there’s a ton to remember with psychic powers and Cabbalistic rituals that can make the army daunting. Here are a few pointers on building lists with Thousand Sons and playing the army.
Think about what your casters will be doing as you build your list
Determining which powers to cast and when is one of the biggest challenges for new players starting with Thousand Sons. Your psychic phases will be long, especially during your first few games with the faction, as you try and figure out what each unit is casting and how to coordinate. The best time to plan all of this out is before the game even starts – rather than try and have a bunch of casters who can do several things, focus on the one thing you want that unit to cast most turns. For Terminators, that’ll often be Temporal Surge or Presage. For your Daemon Prince, that’ll probably be Doombolt and Swelled by the Warp. And so on. Think about the powers you want each unit casting and go from there. Stack them on the units where it makes most sense, and plan to be caught out of position later.
If you’re taking Ahriman, consider that while he’s a powerful mortal wounds engine but also one of the most reliable casters in your army. His ability to re-roll any psychic tests makes him the perfect caster for the more difficult powers (read: Higher Warp Charge), like Twist of Fate, Presage, and Tzeentch’s Firestorm (where you are trying to roll a 9+).
Create a plan for tracking psychic powers used in-game
Tracking Psychic Powers is one of the other big challenges for new players to Thousand Sons. You’ll often double up on powers and effects, and during a game you’ll need to manage who has what and how it’s being used. Using tokens or cards from the faction data cards deck will help you keep track of who has cast, what they’ve cast, and what you have left to cast. Practice working with these and tracking them so you can speed up your psychic phases.
The Warped Regeneration Trick
I’ve seen a few people ask about this, so let’s talk about it: How do you bring back a model when you’re on Cult of Duplicity or one of non-Time Cults, or if you’re Cult of Time, how do you get back two models per turn? The answer is to use the Warped Regeneration trick. The catch is that Warped Regeneration requires you cast a spell with an unmodified 9 – only 28% odds without a re-roll. So how do you do that? The answer is by using the Smite power to force the the required casting value up to 9, then using the Pact from Beyond Cabbalistic Ritual to automatically cast the Smite power at the minimum required charge of a 9, triggering the ability to use Warped Regeneration to bring back a model.
Two things to note here:
- You need to attempt Smite four times before your Terminators in order to force the 9 – the first cast is WC 5, then 6, 7, and 8 – and you’ll need to cast Smite with the Terminators so be sure they don’t need to cast something else.
- If you do need to cast something else, be ready to spend the CP to get an extra cast with them after.
- You won’t be able to use another Ritual with the unit, so you’ll be vulnerable to deny attempts. But you also don’t have to stop at 9, so if you want to get that up to 10 or 11, feel free.
- You don’t need a valid target to attempt Smite – Smite checks for a target after it has been manifested, so you can use units that are completely hidden and have no targets to get your Smite counter up.
Be wary of the Warpcraft Secondary Objectives
You’ve got a psychic army, and that’s great. You know what’s not great? Scoring 3 points on a psychic secondary objective because you were too busy casting other things. Secondary objectives like Psychic Interrogation seem like free real estate when you’re picking, but the reality is that because only your characters can do those psychic actions, that often means that you’ll be making tough decisions between attempting the action and casting key powers, or spending CP to do both. It’s not a great place to be, so unless you’ve planned on doing this ahead of time with a Sorcerer or Tzaangor Shaman, it’s likely not worth it to commit to doing psychic actions.
How Many Cabal Points Do You Need?
Good question. Now that Icons of Flame are free you’ll likely run an army with 18-22 Cabal points. I really like having 20+ as that lets you reliably generate two big effects and one small one, and you’ll often want to have enough on hand to make either Warp Ritual or Psychic Interrogation un-deniable every turn against armies which can prevent it.
Using Cabal Points
As with the rest of your psychic phase, you’ll want to have a plan for using your Cabbalistic Rituals. What you’ll do will vary by turn, since as you close the distance between you and the enemy your ability to cast more spells that target the enemy will increase and your priorities will shift.
When you start your psychic phase, you’ll generally want to prioritize your most important spells first unless you’re trying to bait out Deny attempts. That’s because the effects that help you push out a cast – Kindred Sorcerers, Wrath of the Immaterium, and Cabbalistic Focus – all have pretty high costs, and it’s better to push those out early so you know where you stand on leftover points – you may end up rolling high enough that you don’t need them, giving you more opportunities to do cool stuff later. Many games this will be Warp Ritual or Psychic Interrogation, because you need to get that off and potentially push through any denies, unless you’re confident you can bait out all of your opponent’s attempts before casting.
On early turns, you’ll want to get as many uses of Echoes from the Warp as you can. This is a great psychic action to toss to your backline objective holders or units that won’t have line of sight on enemy targets. Warp Sight and Imbued Manifestation are also going to have more value here, helping you see around cover and hit units that are further away. Just remember that you can only use one Cabbalistic Ritual on a unit per Psychic phase.
On later turns, you’re likely to have fewer Cabal points to work with as some units have died, in which case it’ll be more important to use effects like Malevolent Charge and Psychic Maelstrom to get the most out of the units and casts you do have.
There are multiple ways to build solid Thousand Sons lists that can compete, and in this section we’ll look at multiple list concepts. Note that you can find up-to-date lists for successful competitive Thousand Sons lists by visiting 40kstats.com.
Jordan McGregor’s List
Jordan took this soup list to a 4th place finish at Clash of the Titans XVI in mid-April.
++ Arks of Omen Detachment (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [79 PL, 6CP, 17 Cabal Points, 1,514pts] ++
Arks of Omen Compulsory Type: Troops
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Duplicity
+ HQ +
Ahriman [9 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 180pts]: 13. Doombolt, 22. Weaver of Fates, 23. Temporal Surge, Disc of Tzeentch
Exalted Sorcerer [8 PL, 3 Cabal Points, 145pts]: 11. Gaze of Hate, 11. Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Disc of Tzeentch, Plasma pistol, Prosperine khopesh, Rehati
Infernal Master [5 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 90pts]: 12. Glamour of Tzeentch, 5. Glimpse of Eternity, 6. Malefic Maelstrom
+ Troops +
Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 110pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 21. Presage, Warpflame pistol
. 3x Rubric Marine w/ inferno boltgun: 3x Inferno boltgun
. Rubric Marine w/ soulreaper cannon: Soulreaper cannon
Rubric Marines [7 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 122pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 12. Glamour of Tzeentch, 13. Doombolt, Protégé, Warpflame pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer: 4x Warpflamer
Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 117pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 13. Doombolt, Warpflame pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer: 4x Warpflamer
Rubric Marines [6 PL, 2 Cabal Points, 117pts]: Icon of Flame
. Aspiring Sorcerer: 13. Doombolt, Warpflame pistol
. 4x Rubric Marine w/ warpflamer: 4x Warpflamer
+ Elites +
Scarab Occult Terminators [21 PL, 1 Cabal Points, 420pts]
. Scarab Occult Sorcerer: 31. Empyric Guidance, Inferno combi-bolter, Rites of Coalescence
. 7x Terminator: 7x Inferno combi-bolter, 7x Prosperine khopesh
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
. Terminator w/ Heavy Weapon: Soulreaper cannon
+ Fast Attack +
Chaos Spawn [5 PL, 105pts]
. 5x Chaos Spawn: 5x Hideous mutations
Tzaangor Enlightened [3 PL, 54pts]: Aviarch, Divining spears
. 2x Enlightened
. . 2x Disc of Tzeentch: 2x Disc blades
Tzaangor Enlightened [3 PL, 54pts]: Aviarch, Divining spears
. 2x Enlightened
. . 2x Disc of Tzeentch: 2x Disc blades
++ Patrol Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Daemons) [24 PL, -2CP, 485pts] ++
+ Configuration +
Chaos Allegiance: Tzeentch
Detachment Command Cost
+ HQ +
Lord of Change [17 PL, -2CP, 345pts]: Architect of Deception, Bolt of Change, Incorporeal Form, Infernal Gateway, Relics of the Impossible Fortress, Stratagem: Warlord Trait, The Impossible Robe, Treason of Tzeentch, Warlord
+ Troops +
Pink Horrors [7 PL, 140pts]: Daemonic icon, Instrument of Chaos
. 9x Pink Horror: 9x Coruscating flames
++ Total: [17 Cabal Points, 103 PL, 4CP, 1,999pts] ++
The Standout Features
- A Lord of Change
- A trio of Tzaangor Enlightened for mobility
- A unit of 5 Chaos Spawn
This list incorporates an allied Daemons Detachment with a Lord of Change to give it a nasty big creature for extra psychic support but the real stars here are the Enlightened and the Chas Spawn, which give it three fast units which can help reliably score Engage on All Fronts or Behind Enemy Lines and give it another secondary option the army sorely needs.
The Lord of Change here really replaces a unit of Terminators, and moving down to a single unit of 10 Scarabs. It’s still running the standard trio of Thousand Sons characters, with a core of four units of Rubrics, three of which are running all warpflamers.
Go Change Your Ways
Phew, that was a lot of words about a bunch of space muscle wizards! By now you hopefully have everything you need to build your own Thousand Sons army and start crushing your opponents. Although not a competitively dominant faction, Thousand Sons have a lot of play and enough power to compete. They’re a complicated but rewarding army to play.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line in the comments below or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, go forth and destroy your foes. Especially the Space Wolves you come across.