Thousand Sons Unit Focus: Leaders (Updated 4/30/2024)

In this article series we’re taking a look at the leader options available to each faction, looking at what units they pair with, and talking about the combos available to those units as well as tips for running them solo. In today’s article, we’re talking about the Thousand Sons.

You can find our Competitive Faction Focus article on the Thousand Sons here.


  • Update (Latest): 2024-04-30 for the Q2 2024 Points Update
  • Update: 2023-09-15 for the Q3 2023 Balance Dataslate
  • Published: 2023-08-29

The Thousand Sons have a small number of datasheets, but the units they have access to are very potent – few of them are bad, and pretty much every unit in the army has a role in some build or another. That said, there are some that you’ll use more often than others, and a big part of that is just based on the fact that you have a limited number of units to work with and a lot of competition for your limited Leader slots, especially after the point hikes in the Q3 Munitorum Field Manual.

Let’s start by looking at the options and where they can be added.

Right off the bat we can see how competitive the Rubric Marine spot is – that’s going to be the major factor for many of our character options, but as we’ll see there’s also plenty of reason to take some of these characters solo. Additionally, Magnus the Red and the Daemon Princes cannot lead units, so we’ll be excluding them from this analysis. They’re still pretty valuable, and if you’re running Thousand Sons you’re probably running Magnus anyways.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


Even at his increased cost, Ahriman is the other must-take unit in the Thousand Sons, owing to having a number of very powerful abilities. Chief among these is Arch-Sorcerer of Tzeentch, which once per game lets you use a Ritual for 0 Cabal Points. This is a huge benefit, and will almost always be a free Twist of Fate or Doombolt, freeing you up to use your Cabal Points on other effects in tandem

As a leader, Ahriman’s Rubric Lord ability gives his unit +1 to wound rolls, which is a fantastic buff for Warpflamer Rubrics. Combined with their ability to re-roll wound rolls of 1 – or all wound rolls if attacking a unit on an objective you don’t control – and you have an incredibly potent unit that’s a nightmare for controlling the board via Overwatch. Note that this ability also applies to melee, giving those rubrics a surprising boost.

  • Why not Inferno Bolter Rubrics? The big combo with Inferno bolters is using Ensorcelled Infusion to make them S5 and PSYCHIC, and while that’s a good combo with +1 to wound, the fact that they become Psychic means you can get the same benefit by having them within 6″ of Magnus. Comparatively, the Warpflamers can’t do this, so you want Ahriman buffing them instead.

Ahriman’s psychic power is Psychic Stalk, an 18″ PRECISION attack that fires one S6, AP-1, D6 damage shot. It can be pretty nasty if you’ve got Devastating Wounds up, but with only one shot you’re more hoping to get off a lucky shot from time to time than really relying on it to kill characters. On the other hand, don’t discount Ahriman’s staff, which benefits from his same +1 to wound while he’s leading a unit and will wound most infantry targets on a 2+ while dealing flat 3 damage when it the opponent fails to save. In a pinch, this can be combined with Twist of Fate to push through some nasty damage.

Ahriman’s disc gives him an extra wound and movement while taking away his GRENADES keyword but his Rubric Lord ability is so good you’ll always want him with a unit of rubrics. That said, at 5 points giving Ahriman one extra wound and some extra mobility is a fine way to spend your last 5 points.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Exalted Sorcerer

Another solid mainstay of competitive Thousand Sons armies, the Exalted Sorcerer brings durability to units rather than increased damage output. Specifically, the Exalted Sorcerer has two abilities of note: Arcane Shield gives his unit of Rubrics a 4+ invulnerable save, while Rebind Rubricae is a Command phase ability you can use to return 1-2 dead Rubrics to his unit per turn (this happens on a 2-5; on a 1 the unit takes D3 mortals and on a 6 you get back two models). This means he’ll usually want to be with 10-model units of Rubrics to both get the most out of the “extra” wounds you save per game and also to ensure that his ability to bring back dead models stays online as long as possible.

Typically you’ll want to give your Exalted Sorcerer a Warpflame pistol. This gives you extra Overwatch stopping power and pairs much better with a full unit of Warpflamers, though note that the Exalted Sorcerer’s Astral Blast attack is not a PISTOL so you won’t be able to shoot both in the same activation. Astral Blast is an 18″ D6-shot BLAST attack which hits at S6 Ap-2 and D3 damage with Devastating Wound built in, so you’ll want Sustained Hits most of the time you’re firing it off. This one’s not a bad candidate for the Arcane Vortex Enhancement, though as we’ll see there are better options. Typically one of these in your army has the Lord of Forbidden Lore or Athenean Scrolls Enhancement, if you have the points for it.

Exalted Sorcerer on Disc of Tzeentch

For 15 points more you can take the version on a Disc of Tzeentch. On Disc the sorcerer loses the GRENADES keyword (more on why this matters later), and picks up an extra wound and more Movement. Additionally, disc Sorcerers trade out Rebind Rubricae for Binding Tendrils, which lets you pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ at the end of your Movement phase and on a 2+ that unit’s Move characteristic is halved, as are the unit’s Advance and Charge rolls. This is a nasty little ability, though the chance of failing mutes its effectiveness somewhat. This makes the Exalted Sorcerer on Disc more of a solo operative, ranging around the table to score secondary objectives and slow enemy units down while having a little extra durability thanks to a 4+ invulnerable save.

The other upside to the Exalted Sorcerer on Disc is a superior ranged weapon – Arcane Fire is an 18″ Psychic Torrent weapon that does D6 attacks at S6 AP-2 and D3 damage. It’s a very solid attack and a good accompaniment to warpflamer rubrics. It’s also just fine on its own, and it’s a great target for the Arcane Vortex Enhancement to give it S7, D3+1 damage attacks.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Infernal Master

Another incredibly strong stand out in the army, the Infernal Master makes a great addition to bolter rubrics thanks to Malefic Maelstrom, which gives the unit he joins SUSTAINED HITS 1 (which does nothing for Warpflamers). That said, the Infernal Master’s real benefits aren’t as a Leader in that sense – his real value comes from his psychic attack. Screamer Invocation is an 18″ Psychic Torrent Weapon which fires off shots at S6 AP-2 and 1 damage. In its basic mode it shoots 2D3 shots; in Hazardous/Focused mode it fires 2D6 instead. This makes it an incredibly good target for Arcane Vortex, as having those shots be S7 and 2 damage makes this a particularly nasty attack (note: You’ll get 7 shots on average). The icing on the cake here is Glimpse of Eternity, which once per turn lets you change the result of one Hit, Wound, Damage, or Saving Throw roll for this model to a 6. Combined with army-wide Devastating Wounds it means you can easily push through some mortal wounds.

Infernal Masters are very good and at 75 points they’re one of your cheapest unit options. They work well as solo operatives thanks to their nasty damage output and the ability to always have a save roll of 6 on hand, and taking two in a list isn’t rare. The recent points increase to Arcane Vortex hurts them a little bit, but you can offset that increase with some of the other units which saw point drops.

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

Thousand Sons Sorcerer

The also-ran of the group, the Thousand Sons Sorcerer is nonetheless a strong option, and worth consideration with a unit of Rubrics. The Sorcerer combines two abilities: The first is Empyric Guidance, which gives his unit LETHAL HITs, a solid upgrade but one that’s wasted on Warpflamers. The other is Illusions of Tzeentch, which makes his unit untargetable with ranged attacks outside of 18″ as long as he’s leading a unit. That second ability is the stand-out value here, making it much easier for you to have backfield Rubric operatives who can sit out in the open without fear of being murdered by a Wraithknight or Caladius.

Sorcerers pretty much always want Warpflame Pistols, and their Fires of the Abyss ability is also a PISTOL attack, so it can be shot at the same time. It fires off 2D6 shots at 12″, hitting on a 2+ at S5 AP-1 and 1 damage, but has Sustained Hits 3 to get off extra shots. That means that, on average, you’re liable to get 7-8 hits off it each time you fire. At 85 points the Thousand Sons Sorcerer is a solid pickup, but somewhat unfortunately sandwiched between two better options – the Exalted Sorcerer for defensive capabilities and the Infernal Master for offense.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Thousand Sons Sorcerer in Terminator Armour

Another near must-include for the army, the Terminator Sorcerer is a powerful offensive multiplier for your Terminators. When added to the unit, those Terminators have LETHAL HITS, giving them a solid way to punch up without investing CP. Additionally, the Marked by Fate ability lets the Sorcerer pick a visible enemy within 18″ in your shooting phase and from then on, friendly Thousand Sons models re-roll 1s to hit that unit. This applies to more than just the Terminators and is a big boost for taking down key targets. Giving Magnus and the Terminators re-rolls of 1 really takes out most of the variance, and when you combine it with the Scarabs using Ensorcelled Infusion for S5 Psychic Combi-bolters which Magnus gives +1 to hit, you have a unit that can toss out 36 S5, AP-1 bolter shots that hit on 2s re-rolling 1s, get +1 to wound, and have LETHAL HITS plus one of either SUSTAINED HITS 1 or DEVASTATING WOUNDS. It’s a very nasty combo that makes your Scarab Terminator brick a real offensive threat.

Scarabs love having this guy around and most lists take one to pair with Scarabs, though you can also run one or two solo if you need. It’s easy to bring one onto the table via Deep Strike to score secondary objectives when you need and they’re pretty durable. Note as well that this character has one of the army’s few real anti-vehicle attacks; Coruscating Flames only gives you 3 shots but they’re Anti-Monster/Vehicle 4+ with Devastating Wounds, giving you a good chance to chip 2-4 wounds off a bigger target.

This guy is a good target for the Umbralefic Crystal – either solo or with a unit of Terminators. As a standalone model he’s very durable, and with a unit he gives them a lot of extra movement and the ability to escape from bad combats.

Tzaangor Shaman
Tzaangor Shaman. Credit Mike Bettle-Shaffer.

Tzaangor Shaman

Finally that brings us to the Tzaangor of the group. The Shaman can pair with either variety of Tzaangor though he’s arguably more useful paired with Enlightened or running solo. The shaman gives his unit a 5+ Feel No Pain while leading models, and +1 to hit rolls for the unit he leads. Those are both pretty solid boosts, and they’re more useful on the Enlightened, who benefit more from hitting on 3+ with their Fatecaster Greatbows. That said, at 60 points the Shaman is the cheapest character option in your army and as he comes on a disc, fast enough to be a unit you consider running solo to score secondary objectives even without Lone Operative.

Running Characters Solo

Since the Q1 dataslate update, running the Changeling as your lone daemon option to get a cheap teleporting Lone Operative isn’t really an option anymore, and even units of Blue Horrors are a bit too expensive for what you need. That said, it’s not out of the question to run the occasional solo character in a Thousand Sons army – Infernal Masters and Terminator Sorcerers also make good, fairly durable options instead that give you good mobility without giving up Cabal Points.

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