The vigil of the Adeptus Custodes never ceases, and it’s time for the Ten Thousand to enter Tenth Edition. Their Index has been published today, so it’s time to find out how they’re shaping up in the new world.
This review is just of the Index rules and datasheets themselves – so some takes are speculative until we have the Munitorum Field Manual to confirm whether the price is right. Also, and especially relevant to Custodes, Forge World units are not covered in this review.
Before we begin we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Index.
Army Rule – Martial Ka’tah
The Adeptus Custodes are masters of melee combat, able to use different fighting stances to adapt to different situations. In 9th Edition this was represented by a slightly complicated set of rules for cycling through the stances, but in 10th Edition it’s been heavily simplified, and is focused on the Fight Phase rather than having a grab bag of effects.
The reward for it being more narrow is that it’s more flexible and focused. At the start of each Fight Phase you select one of three stances for your army to adopt, which applies to every unit with this ability, which is Custodes Infantry, Bikers, Dreadnoughts and Land Raiders, but not Sisters of Silence. Yes, the Land Raider can do karate, no we will not be taking questions.
Two of these help you adapt to specific types of targets – Dacatarai gives you horde clearance with Sustained Hits 1, while Rendax is designed for hunting big game, providing Lethal Hits. Alternatively, if you need to just hold the line, Kaptaris gives your opponent -1 to hit any units with the ability.
This isn’t particularly complicated (though there are some other tools that interact with it) but is pretty good. The first thing to note is that you make this choice every Fight Phase, so if you’re doing lots of charges and expecting to clean up in Fight First during your turn you can take one of the aggressive options, then in your opponent’s turn use Kaptaris when receiving counter-charges.
The maths on Dacatarai vs. Rendax also does basically work as you’d expect – in terms of expected value, Sustained Hits 1 and Lethal Hits are equivalent when you need 4s to wound, Sustained is better when you need 3+ or less and Lethal is superior against stuff where you’re after 5+ or more. There’s some additional nuance in how the variance works out that means they’re not exactly the same even on 4s (briefly, pick Rendax is you reliably need to do at least some damage, Dacatarai if you’re fishing for a high roll), but if you just do what the fluff tells you, you’ll basically get an optimal outcome.
All of this is strong – it means you’re never in a situation where you can’t deal with your opponent’s stuff in melee, and -1 to hit in the Fight Phase is appreciably better in 10th Edition than it was in 9th, as there are fewer re-rolls (something they’ve pulled off to a greater degree in melee compared to shooting), and weapons that used to have “built-in” -1 to hit like power fists just have worse base WS, so the penalty you apply actually matters.
Detachment Rules – Shield Host
The Custodes Index Detachment provides an assortment of re-worked versions of some of their iconic toys from 9th Edition, broadly focused on fighting for board control.
Custodes also have a theme, reflected in both detachment rules and on their datasheets. A lot of their units and abilities provide a buff all the time, and a once-per-game super move, reflecting the supreme ability of the Ten Thousand to rise to a challenge when it matters. This is super cool – in my opinion, it does a good job of capturing the flavour of the army, a significant improvement on 9th.
Detachment Ability – Aegis of the Emperor
Adeptus Custodes models from your army (including Sisters of Silence) get a Feel No Pain 4+ against Mortal Wounds. Nice and simple. This ends up feeling a little different than how it did in 9th Edition because Smite is no longer a near universal source of Mortal Wounds, but the addition of Devastating Wounds to the game keeps this very relevant. This ability is used a lot across the Indexes, and would be very bad news for an elite army like Adeptus Custodes if they couldn’t mitigate it. With Aegis, you’re effectively still getting a 4+ invulnerable save even against this flavour of assault, great for protecting your big units from some burst damage tricks, Characters from Precision/Devastating sniper tools, and tanks from Anti-Vehicle devastating toys. I will say I’m a little surprised that this is the Detachment Ability rather than the army rule, because the volume of Devastating Wounds out there means that Custodes might have a fairly rough time without something like this – but I’m sure when the codex arrives there will have been some thought put into this.
The Custodes game plan of “go to objective, take objective, keep objective” is well represented here, with a mixture of defensive and offensive tools, many of which get better when you’re near an objective or in the thick of it. Many of these cannot be used on Sisters of Silence – only the first two work on those.
The simplest is Slayers of Nightmares, good clean fun where you pay 1CP for +1 to wound against Vehicles or Monsters in the Fight Phase. This obviously helps clear out these key targets, and can also sometimes change the maths on which stance you want to go for – if you can push your wound target to 3+ with this, Dacatarai suddenly becomes great even into tanks. If you’re a bit worse for wear you can also add Avenge the Fallen, giving a unit +1A if they’re below Starting Strength, or +2A instead below half strength. This returns direct from 9th Edition, it was good there and feels even better now that a unit below Half Strength will often have a nasty Character within it who will be only too happy to mete out some vengeance.
If you don’t fancy using that, of course, you can just have a model stand clean back up. Vigil Unending lets you restore a dead model (not a CHARACTER) to a unit on full wounds in your command phase for a CP, and this is very much an army where a model is often worth a CP. You can only do it once per unit per game, but it’s a great option to have, and particularly good on stuff like Wardens or Allarus. You can also hold on to objectives even if you die with the exceptionally powerful Sworn Guardians which lets you lock an objective to you for 1CP, controlling it till the opponent does at the start or end of a turn. Plenty of armies have this capability, but the difference here is in the timing – you can do this at any point in your Movement Phase, so can use it to move to the mid board and immediately secure an objective, forcing opponents to either come and fight you up close (daunting against Custodes) or leave it under your control.
Your last two stratagems are both pricier at 2CP but extremely good (and as we’ll see, Custodes have plenty of flexibility to get a few free uses where it matters). Unwavering Sentinels is used at the start of the Fight Phase and gives a unit within range of an objective Fight First, which is an outstanding ability to have up your sleeve, as its mere existence makes your opponent’s life very tricky when it comes to planning the Fight Phase. The first unit to Fight in a given phase is the non-active player’s chosen Fight First unit, so if you’ve got 2CP floating your opponent straight up can’t charge you with stuff that’ll die to a swing from you unless it’s as part of a multi-pronged assault, and even then losing a good unit in a swing turn is a nightmare. Finally, if you want to stay alive, Arcane Genetic Alchemy is a super strong defensive trick, providing an Adeptus Custodes Infantry unit with damage reduction for a phase. No explanations really needed here – it’s good. Falcon: I cannot stress how important Arcane Genetic Alchemy is to this army. While some units have definitely seen a decrease in their deadliness this edition, when you’re staring a squad of Obliterators in the face you are going to want it available every round.
You definitely want to be using the 2CP effects here, so bring some Shield Captains along to get your once-per-battle round freebie – otherwise, lock in objectives early and often.
An interesting mix of Enhancements on offer here, and notably all of these do two things, generally a static buff and a once-per-game big effect. Realistically, the ones you’re going to want most here are the two with the better static effects, which are the Veiled Blade and Ceaseless Hunter. The Veiled Blade gives you a flat +2 to your melee weapons attacks and lets you triple the bearer’s OC once per battle, which usually equates to adding +4. For a melee-focused army boosting attacks is great, and jumping a Character to OC 6 if they’ve lost their Bodyguard is really good – it jumps them above most Vehicles/Monsters and MSUs of enemy elite stuff. Great on a Blade Champion. Ceaseless Hunter keeps the bearer’s unit mobile, letting the Fall Back/Shoot/Charge, and also make a Normal Move of 6” once per game when the enemy ends a move nearby. This rules – it does something all the time, and provides an incredible once-per-game way to unpick your opponent’s plans, either barrelling onto an objective or hiding away a key unit.
The other two are a bit less exciting – Unstoppable Destroyer provides Mortals on the charge and a once-per-game Battle-shock test in a radius after completing a charge, which is OK but Battle-shocking stuff after charging doesn’t do that much – it might let you steal an objective for a Tactical Objective, but it’s past the point where you’re preventing Overwatch. Inspirational Exemplar is the last one, and provides a boost of Ld to 5+, and a once-per-game ability to just un-Battle-shock a nearby friendly unit. That’s a decent ability but situational, so whether this one goes in will depend on it being cheap.
Like a lot of factions, Custodes have some elements that are shared across a lot of datasheets. Your basic Custodian is T6/3W/2+/4+ invulnerable, and by default is wielding a guardian spear, providing a couple of Assault shots at S4 AP-1 D2, and five melee attacks at WS2+ S7 AP-2 D2. Many can switch out the spear for an axe, which has the same shooting profile and trades the spear profile for 4A/WS3+/S9/AP-1. The increased damage is nice, but I think the loss of AP and accuracy probably means you’ll stick to the spear in most cases – you have tools (Rendax and Slayers of Champions) for punching up into big targets, but you don’t really have any ways of boosting AP, so against something like Marines you really don’t want to have them rolling 2+ or 3+ saves if they pop Armour of Contempt.
Plenty of units switch up this profile in various ways, but this is your baseline – quite an exciting one. Also, all the Custodes INFANTRY have built-in access to Deep Strike, and it looks like some unit sizes have been shaken up to reflect what you can do with various boxes – Vexillus Praetors have been rolled into squads, but generally where you can build a model as a Shield Captain, the minimum size now assumes you’ve used one model for that.
Just as a reminder – this review does not cover Forge World units. Custodes have, by volume, one of the biggest Forge World ranges out there, so a lot of this could change depending on what those units bring to the table, particularly in the area of anti-tank.
Five Coolest Units
- Blade Champion: The Blade Champion keeps his assortment of terrifying melee profiles, and gains built-in re-rolls of Advance/Charge for his unit, a once-per-game Advance/Charge and free Heroic Interventions, creating a nightmare board control tool.
- Valerian: Actually has a purpose now – buffs the unit he leads with -1AP for incoming attacks, allowing them to go toe-to-toe with the nastiest stuff out there.
- Custodian Guard: The combination of abilities and options on your core unit now makes them a genuinely exciting inclusion.
- Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought: If you get interred in a dreadnought you can no longer hear the bell that says the fight is over – war machines that stand back up on death rule.
- Land Raiders: You very, very obviously want to Assault Ramp Custodians into battle, and adding big shots can only help.
Five Biggest changes from 9th
- More Aggressive: Lots of abilities and tools both reward and enable a playstyle focused on slamming into the enemy.
- Fewer Bikes: The bikes are still fine but they’ve been toned down from their 9th edition height, and also suffer from the general changes to FLY. A unit of two with a Captain (which you can do now) probably still has a place, but don’t expect Bike spam lists like in 9th.
- More Sisters of Silence: Bluntly, in 9th Edition all the Sisters datasheets were outright bad. They look a bit more like something you’ll actually want now, and can still act as cheap objective holders.
- New Faces: Quite a few units even outside the Sisters of Silence were pretty much unusable in 9th. All of these have had major tuneups, so should actually see play.
- Brawling MSUs: Small units of Allarus and Wardens have an actual role to play in pressuring the opponent.
Are some of these a reach without Forge World? Absolutely, but the format has its demands.
Custodes have a lot of Character choices – a couple of powerful named leaders, three flavours of Shield Captain, the mighty Blade Champion and a couple of Sisters of Silence choices.
Many are asking – is Trajann Valoris still an auto-take? Probably? He’s not as list-defining as in 9th Edition, but he’s very good – he can join either Custodian Guard or Wardens, has great shooting and melee, lets his unit ignore all non-Save modifiers or characteristic penalties, and gets a once-per-game big swing from his Moment Shackle, either granting his unit Fight First, doubling his attacks to 12, or gaining a 2+ invulnerable save. The last one sounds cool, but honestly if he’s by himself and you haven’t popped this yet you’ve done something wrong. Either the Fight First or attack doubling are incredible though – the former lets you ruin the enemy’s plans even if you don’t have the CP for Unwavering Sentinels, while the latter will flatten most things. The reason you might not see him is that, price dependent, I think there’s a good argument that your first and second Characters accompanying big foot units should be a Blade Champion and a Shield Captain.
Let’s tackle the why of Shield Captains first. You can get these in three flavours, regular, Terminator and Bike, and they can join the appropriate units and are generally slightly better versions of the equivalent regulars. All of these have the Strategic Mastery ability, which lets you pick one unit with it once per battle round for a free Stratagem, even if another unit has already used it this phase. As seen above, Custodes Stratagems whip, and you want to be using them a lot, and in an ideal world you want to be popping this free one every Battle Round in every game.
You probably want two Shield Captains to make sure that you’re doing this all the time, and the Bike Captain and regular flavour are probably your picks. This is because these two have better unique tricks – the Bike Captain (aside from being the most personally murderous) gets a super strong movement trick, while the regular captain boosts stances in a potent way. The Allarus just gets to Fight on Death, which is fine, but there’s a definite trend across Indexes of including defensive or revenge abilities on Characters that would have been great in the 9th paradigm, but are less exciting in 10th where if your Leader is getting whacked you’re already in a very bad way. In contrast, the regular Captain gives his unit two Stances at once all the time, and all three once per battle, letting you play exciting games of “will it blend?” with the opposition, while the Bike Captain has a wild ability in Sweeping Advance. This grants 6” Consolidation all the time, great for reaching out and grabbing objectives, and once per game lets the Captain’s unit Fall Back or Normal Move at the end of the Fight Phase. This is incredibly strong, particularly because if you go second, it can essentially work like a 12” Scout move you get to do at the end of the opponent’s first turn, which is quite the thing. This is why, despite Bikes being a bit weaker overall, I think two with a Captain will be a fixture in a lot of lists, because this is such a strong asset to have in your pocket.
If you have a big Custodes unit, you might eschew any of these choices for either Valerian or a Blade Champion if you want to be durable or fast respectively. Valerian is a strong fighter in his own right and provides -1AP in the Fight Phase, creating an extra-tank setup for some games, while the Blade Champion is the nastiest personal killer other than Trajann, and gives you free Heroics and once-per-game Advance Charge, which – yes please. My suspicion is that if you go for a full-sized ten model Custodian unit, the Blade Champion is the play simply because getting them into touch a turn early is so good, and Heroic Intervention is one of the key things you want free stratagems for anyway! I could see supplementing this with Wardens or Custodians with Valerian or a Shield Captain out of a Land Raider, and suspect that three Wardens with a Character is a very viable unit too.
Finally, we have the Sisters of Silence – Aleya and a generic Knight Centura, who can each join any of the three Sisters units (and helpfully both have Scout, so if they join Witchseekers don’t break that). Aleya is a pretty nasty combatant and provides Fight First, decent with Vigilators, while the generic Centura boosts the speed of her unit and also forces anything that Falls Back from her to take Desperate Escape tests. Which sees use will depend on the price of the units you want them with – Vigilators are actually scary now, but the Centura with some Witchseekers could be pretty potent, and potentially does more for the army in terms of new capabilities.
Custodes have a fairly limited unit roster – you have your regular Custodians, slightly cooler Custodians, flying bike Custodians and Terminator Custodians, backed up by Venerable Dreadnoughts and Land Raiders.
Regular Custodians, quite honestly, do pretty much everything you could want here. Their basic all-rounder statline is very good, and they have a couple extra tricks that really push them over the top. They re-roll 1s to wound all the time, and get full wound re-rolls while in range of an Objective, which combos extremely well with their once-per-game trick of shooting twice. A full stack of ten of these represents some pretty serious firepower, and shooting twice with full wound re-rolls will take a massive chunk out of the enemy. If you’re going for a big unit you may also want to seed in a couple of praesidium shields – models with these have slightly worse offence, but 4W, so are perfect for mitigating the impact of D3 weaponry against the unit. Custodians also have the option to equip one model with a Vexilla, which grants the entire unit +1 OC. This is especially powerful when battle-shocked since the unit’s OC goes down to 1 rather than 0, however it comes at the cost of replacing the model’s weapon with a misericordia.
If you want fancy special Custodians you can take Wardens instead. These are tougher Custodians – if they have a leader they get 10th’s standard semi-Transhuman (-1 to wound for attacks with S higher than their toughness) and their once per game trick is to pick up an almighty Feel No Pain 4+ for a phase. This is so strong that it encourages you to take multiple small units of these rather than one big one, and MSU Wardens with buddies feels like an interesting choice. Wardens can also take a Vexilla without replacing their main weapon (unlike regular Custodians and Allarus), meaning that they can grab that sweet OC bonus without losing out on attacks.
If you want really tough Custodians you can take Allarus Custodians, gaining an extra wound and T7. These are ultra-deadly if they’re fighting priority targets, getting full wound re-rolls against Vehicles, Monsters and Characters, and once per game can be picked up at the end of your opponent’s turn and set up as reinforcements in your movement phase. These have the smallest minimum size of any of the foot units at 2, so a small unit could be a good flex choice if the price is right.
Finally for “types of guy” – bikes. These, bluntly, have been dialed back from their 9th Edition stature, returning to 4W, and having their salvo launchers capped at flat D3. They’re still fast, they’re still very deadly on the charge, and can do Mortal Wounds with a flyover, but on pure rate they’re not quite there. As detailed in the Character section though, two of these with a Captain get so much value from the once-per-game Fight Phase move that they suddenly look exciting, so you’ll probably see that tried (and don’t rule out a full unit with that being worth it too).
The ten thousand bring two flavours of armoured backup along, Venerable Dreadnoughts and Land Raiders. Both of these seem pretty good. The former is a nice all-rounder that get lifted to greatness by the Unyielding Ancient ability. First time it dies? Gets back up on a 2+ at the end of the phase. Beautiful, especially because it brings a multi-melta and powerful melee to help backfill on anti-tank. The Land Raider also adds some anti-tank with its Godhammer lascannons, and can also throw a powerful unit into the opponent’s face with Assault Ramp. As you might have inferred from the above, you can make some quite nasty units with six Custodian models, so hurling these at the enemy should be pretty fun.
Sisters of Silence
Sisters bring three different flavours of armament and Rhinos to the field, all with Feel No Pain 3+ against Psychic attacks.. It looks like the minimum size for all squads has gone down to 4, presumably accounting for building one as a Centura, which should mean they retain their capability as cheap objective holders, especially Prosecutors with OC 2. Vigilators are also genuinely nasty now, packing Devastating Wounds which is good everywhere, and Anti-Psyker 4+ to go sicko mode into their chosen targets. Witchseekers, meanwhile, bring flamers and the ability to force a Battle-shock test onto whatever they target, plus a scout move. A unit of these with a Centura could be very nice – early board control, anti-horde and suppression/trapping of enemies. If you’re doing that, you’re quite plausibly bringing a Rhino too – it’s a Rhino. You know what those do.
We’ll be real – there’s lots of fun stuff here, but more than any other faction half of this is still to come. There certainly is lots to enjoy here – plenty of ways to turn Custodians and Wardens into fancy killing machines, good reasons to bring a small unit each of Bikes and Allarus, and incentives to try VenDreads and Land Raiders. It’s mostly missing some more high damage stuff, and we’ll see if either the Forge World dreads or my personal nemesis the Caladius Grav Tank provide that.