Wizards in Silver: Grey Knights Kill Team Tactics

Grey Knights are the premier daemon hunters in Warhammer 40k, but they’re also comfortable killing aliens, super-soldiers or robots as well. They’re the psychic enforcers of the Imperium, giving demons and the forces of Chaos a booting when required. Grey Knights are a super elite force, but you get as many as a Primaris kill team, only you also get psychic powers, better guns, better melee, and some different ploys. They aren’t tearing up the competitive scene right now, but they’re a solid mid tier faction. Thousand Sons do psychic shenanigans better, Harlequins do melee better, but Grey Knights do a bit of both while wearing power armour.


  • Psychic Powers – Not that many teams get psychic powers, and Grey Knights are one of them. They have three powers to choose from that help you push the power of your operatives over the top, either by improving their saves, letting them ignore cover, or upping their damage.
  • Decent shooting and melee – You only get five Grey Knights in a team, but your basic operative comes with a storm bolter and a nasty melee weapon. Having Relentless on your shooting and your melee attacks will give you a lot of consistency. And unlike lots of teams that make you choose between melee and ranged weapons, Grey Knights just have both on all their models.


  • “Elite” is a polite way of saying you don’t have a lot of friends – Grey Knights kill teams consist of five models, with no room to customize that save deciding whether you’re going to take a Gunner.
  • AP – Grey Knights have solid shooting, but none of their gunner options are amazing when it comes to taking down heavier targets. Psycannons with Astral Aim can be pretty nasty, but Grey Knights don’t have any ranged weapons with AP, even on critical hits. Your primary way of pushing damage through is going to be by overloading your opponent’s defence dice.

Grey Knights Kill Teams

Grey Knight Kill Teams consist of five models: One Justicar and four other models, of which one can be a Gunner. Whether you actually take a Gunner or not is the big question that you never ask for other factions but as we’ll see later on and discuss, taking four Warriors is often going to be the better option.

Grey Knight - Justicar
Grey Knight Justicar. Credit: Pendulin

Grey Knight Justicar

A solid power-armoured killing machine armed with a storm bolter and your choice of force weapon, falchions or warding staves. Justicars have no command abilities and no ploys are tied to them, which makes them just a warrior with an extra wound and improved BS/WS on their attacks  this makes them a little less painful to lose unlike say, Guard Leaders.

The Justicar comes with a storm bolter and your choice of melee weapon. Storm bolters are a solid method for killing pretty much anything with 7/8 wounds and a save of less than 3+ (so Guard and Cultist equivalents will go down in a turn, and a lucky round of shooting might cut apart an Ork in the open). The melee options vary in utility, though most of the time your choices here will boil down to fachions vs force weapon depending on whether you’d rather have consistency or more critical hits (as we’ll see later hammers, while flashy, aren’t likely to be the best choice).

There is a case for creating a Justicar Gunner with Psybolt Ammunition and Truesilver armour, as hitting on 2+ with your 4/5 damage Stormbolter and re-rolling 1s while having a 2+ save is pretty good; your big challenge will be that Justicars, as Leaders, have TacOps for murdering them specifically so it’s a lot of gear to stack on a juicy target, and means focusing on shooting using your best melee model (having WS 2+ with 5-attack Force Weapons is really tough to pass up).

Grey Knight - Justicar
Credit: Pendulin

Grey Knight [Warrior]

With a storm bolter and force weapon you’ll murder a lot of things in firefights or melee, but you’re still a marine. 3+ saves are good, but you may want to use Tide of Shadows to keep from catching a mining laser or plasma gun to the face. Giving these guys Sanctic Blessing makes them operate like pseudo APL 4 models (though without objective holding priority), though how you can actually get value out of having the free psychic power will be very situational. Storm bolter and fachions are great standard loadouts for your warriors, since having re-rolls on all ranged and melee attacks gives them remarkably consistent damage output that makes it easy to predict how and where you’ll get value out of them.


Grey Knight Gunners. Credit: Pendulin

Grey Knight [Gunner]

Grey Knight Gunners are in an odd spot. With no force weapon for melee and a ranged weapon that doesn’t benefit from Bolter Discipline, they give up a lot to take a beefier gun. What you do get will throw a lot of dice or do major damage but there are some big caveats.

All of these weapons are Heavy (meaning you can’t shoot and move, charge, or fall back, only dash), limiting the utility of the operative as you don’t have access to Suspensors. Lack of double shoot and Heavy means you have a model without good melee that can only fire once per turning point, can only move 3” a turn if it does, and you end up with a model that pretty much has to sit on a backfield objective doing a mission action/psychic buff/shoot every turn. That’s not terrible, but you are giving up mobility in a game where mobility is often life.

So let’s talk about what you get in exchange for this tradeoff in mobility:

  • Incinerator – A flamer, but undermined by being Heavy. Moving 3” and flaming someone 6” away is very different to the normal move 6/flame 6 that you get from normal flamers. 6 Attacks and 2/3 damage is better than a standard flamer, but again being heavy undermines the normal marine tactic with 6” weapons of moving and dashing to give you a 15” threat radius. Your extra damage likely doesn’t make up for being able to shoot fewer times.
  • Psilencer – With 6 attacks, 3+ to hit and 3/4 damage, this will likely churn out 4 hits each time you shoot it, enough to overwhelm a model’s defence dice. Great for murdering guard-level enemies and has the ability to split fire.
  • Psycannon – 5 Attacks, with a 3+ to hit and 4/6 damage. With no AP, this is again reliant on overwhelming defence dice, meaning you’re likely to turn anything with a 4+/5+ save into a bloody mess (good for Orks and the causes of Orks), but poor saves or some good critical luck on your part can nail a marine-level target in a single volley.

Let’s look at the maths of this. This table shows average damage per shot.

Weapon                                       Vs Save
2+ 3+ 4+ 5+ 6+
Storm Bolter 4.2247 5.5921 6.9503 8.4317 9.772
Storm Bolter + Psybolt 5.5268 7.2509 8.9668 10.6944 12.3412
Incinerator 7.0103 7.8405 8.626 9.3281 9.9937
Psilencer 8.397 9.3297 10.3036 11.1937 11.921
Psycannon 8.7226 9.9634 11.3942 12.4558 13.704


So everything looks great for Psycannons right? The thing to remember here is that this is is per shot, so a Storm Bolter will fire twice in a turn with Bolter drill, and that puts things in perspective. A Psycannon is only marginally better than a standard storm bolter firing twice vs 2+ armour, and in all other cases a Storm Bolter firing twice is mathematically better than all the heavy weapon options firing once.

Throw in the loss of movement from the guns being Heavy and the loss of a power weapon for melee mayhem and, unless you are fighting Custodes, there is no real use-case for taking a Grey Knight Gunner, and even against Custodes, taking a gunner is a marginal improvement at best since you still lose out on melee capability and movement.

Psybolt ammunition on one of the Warriors or the Justicar easily replaces the Gunner, and it’s a shame you can only give it to one model.

Grey Knight Credit: Pendulin

Grey Knights Melee Weapons

Grey Knights have four melee options, Force Weapons, Daemon hammers, Falchions and Warding Staves. Each one has its benefits, and it’s worth covering all of them here. You could build a team that has every single option covered, but as we’ll see, that doesn’t always make sense.

Force Weapons

Your default halberds/swords. With 5 attacks, 4/6 damage and Lethal 5+ it’s a great weapon for carving up opponents from guard to marines and a serious melee threat. It’s your standard power sword and there’s a reason power swords are good.


Your other go-to option, Falchions are 4/5 damage with Relentless. Re-rolling all your attacks makes your output much more consistent, but you’ll have a consistently lower ceiling than Force Weapons offer with Lethal 5+. Which you prefer will largely come down to play style, though you may find you need Lethal 5+ more to take out targets before you get mulched.

Daemon Hammers

5 dice, 5/6 damage and Stun with the trade off of -1 to hit. It’s not a good as a powerfist (with 5/7 and Brutal) but it’s good for going into an opponent with a lot of wounds but not a great ability to fight back (Heavy Intercessors are probably the ideal target here… I cannot think of another model fitting that profile). I don’t rate it for a melee choice because the trade off (-1 to hit) means you’re likely to have fewer hits, and compared to a Force Weapon with Lethal 5+, you’re likely to compensate for 1 point less standard damage with more critical hits that your opponent may not be able to parry.

Warding Stave

4/5 and Stun. Again, it’s no Lethal 5+.


Psychic Powers

For 1AP each operative in you rteam can use a psychic power. These aren’t particularly showy powers, but they can help you out sometimes.

Armoured Resilience

Add +1 to your save for the rest of the Turning Point. Popping this off in a model at the start of the Turning Point that you know will be taking a lot of incoming fire will help keep it alive. Doesn’t work in melee, and remember that.


Until the end of the turn, each time the operative fights in combat, the first time it resolves a hit, add +1 to the damage. This is nice, but best against wound 7, 11 or 13 opponents, where it means a force weapon will kill a model in either one or two strikes. It’s situational, and worth using when you want to end fights quickly. If you combine this with a multicharge, Sanctic Blessing equipment and Shock Assault ploy it is nice, but that’s a lot of things to tie together.

Astral Aim

Until the end of the turn, this models ranged weapons gain the No Cover Rule. You can see why this is really useful on back field models, particularly gunners, to ensure models aren’t able to automatically retain saves.


Strategic Ploys

Grey Knights have four Strategic Ploys, and two of them will be pretty familiar to most marine players, though Bolter Discipline takes on a whole new meaning when you’re talking about storm bolters.

Bolter Discipline

The clutch marine ploy shared by all marine factions, allowing you to fire your storm bolters twice in an activation. This is a great ploy for every faction that has it and it’s even better for Grey Knights, where the guns getting double shooting have Relentless to ensure you hit with almost everything.

Shock Assault

Perform two Fight actions in a turn but cannot shoot; this is great if you can get a multi-charge off and then mix it up with Force Weapons but just be mindful of what you’re charging and how they’ll hit back.

Tide of Shadows

This really helps you against sniper/vantage point campers. If the enemy is on a Vantage Point and you have the Conceal order, are in light cover and more than 6” from the enemy, then you stay in Conceal and can’t be shot at.

Note the limitations, because if the enemy isn’t on a Vantage point then it has no effect, and you have to be using the Conceal order, which means no shooting back (and standard GK shooting is decent). This makes it really useful against some factions, useless against others, and your opponent can play to make it very situational for you. Good if you want to Conceal up the board and then Shock Assault, which is a valid tactic against non-melee based teams.

Tide of Celerity

When a Grey Knight model charges, go an extra inch. Good for nine inch charges if you are going to need them, or a little extra movement to multi engage enemies.

Tactical Ploys

Grey Knights only have two Tactical Ploys.

Only in Death Does Duty End

Lets you activate after being incapacitated (though the FAQ stops you double Fighting while being unkillable). Good for staying alive if you get shot and shooting back/doing a mission action/etc.

And They Shall Know No Fear

Ignore modifiers to APL and injury for a models activation. Good for avoiding minuses to hit for Injury or if your opponent has webbed you up.

Grey Knights vs Tyranids
Credit: Pendulin


Psybolt Ammunition* [3EP]

Add +1 to a Storm bolter’s damage characteristics for the whole game, making them 4/5. You can only give this to one model, and it gives a Storm bolter a similar damage output to a heavy bolter (Relentless vs P! for getting an additional dice past the defence roll). There’s a reason you can only give this to one model, and combined with bolter discipline this is better than the Gunner options as you can fire twice and still get good melee.

Sanctic Blessing [2EP]

Once per game perform a Manifest Psychic Power action for free. Useful for a Hammerhand, Multi-charge, Fight, Fight turn, or a Move, Dash, Astral Aim, Shoot turn but situational.

Hexagrammic Ward [2EP]

One model can have a dispel scroll basically. Once per battle, when a Visible enemy model performs a psychic action, on a 3+ it’s dispelled but they still lose the action point. Against Thousand Sons it’s useful, but against most other opponents it’s totally useless.

Truesilver Armour* [3EP]

Give one model a 2+ armour save. Good for helping to keep your Justicar or a key model alive.

Purity Seal [3EP]

Once per battle use the Command Reroll Tactical Ploy for free. The value on this is somewhat limited given you can already re-roll your hits when shooting and potentially in melee, but it’s helpful for getting a clutch save.

Psyk-Out Grenade [2EP]

A water balloon unless used against a Psyker or Daemon, when the 1/1 damage jumps to 3/5 with Lethal 5+. Literally only select it is you are fighting Thousand Sons, Daemons or Grey Knights.


A Grey Knight Kill Team. Credit: Pendulin

An Example Kill Team

This is going to seem very boring, but if I were fighting against anything with 8 wounds or less, and save 4+ or worse, I’d go with the following.

Grey Knight Justicar Leader – Nemesis Force Weapon & Storm Bolter

4 x Grey Knight Warriors – Nemesis Force Weapon & Storm Bolter

Bolter Discipline in the first turn or two, so you are getting 12-14 Storm Bolter shots at your opponent, and move up the board so you can finish them off in melee in Turning Point 3 or 4.

Example Roster

This roster is based on a single box. In competitive terms I don’t see any point in a full 20 model roster, given that you may not take a Gunner at all and force weapons are the most efficient melee option.

Rob: I’d consider falchions as an alternative, especially if you’re going up against weaker targets where you don’t need the Lethal 5+ as badly and just need to get some volume through. Either way you should be fine.

Operative Weapons
Grey Knight Justicar Force Weapon & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Force Weapon & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Force Weapon & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Force Weapon & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Force Weapon & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Deamon Hammer & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Deamon Hammer & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Warrior Falchions & Storm Bolter
Grey Knight Gunner Psycannon & Fists
Grey Knight Gunner Psilencer & Fists

Playing Grey Knights

On the table, you’ll likely find that Grey Knights don’t feel super enough. They’re a five-model elite team, but suffer from the same limitations as other five-model teams (lack of board control, crumble quickly under concentrated fire especially with AP weapons), while lacking some of the perks elite teams have to compensate for this (good defensive tricks like Death Guard, some AP on their weapons like Deathwatch, or higher wound numbers like Primaris).

Psychic abilities – these are not super interesting, and one or two more abilities could have been added to give more meaningful choices. As it is, anyone firing will pick Astral Aim, anyone fighting will pick Hammerhand, and anyone doing neither but likely to get shot at will pick armoured resilience. Since it costs an AP to cast without Sanctic Blessing, anyone moving and firing twice or multi-charging and fighting twice will pick none of them.

Gunner options – This is one of the few times where there is a legitimate argument to not take a Gunner. Heavy with no access to Suspensors screws them over so much, especially Incinerators, and vs. a Storm Bolter with Psybolt Ammunition and Bolter Discipline there really isn’t much competition. Taking a Gunner means losing out on damage output in almost all use cases save for sniping at Custodes with a psycannon from the other end of the board. As a result, you’ll likely end up leaving the Gunner out of your fire team in every game.

Thundercloud: I’d personally fix this by adding Suspensors to the equipment list, give all the weapons P!, give Psilencers Relentless and Psycannons Rending or Balanced. Suddenly you can crack armour and have a reason to take Gunners, and Incinerators can get close enough to use what, with P!, becomes a really nasty flamer.

Melee Options – The melee options are deceptive in that there are lot of them but one stands well above the rest. Force Weapons are a power sword (4/6, lethal 5+). None of the other options do more damage on the crit and none of the other options generate crits as reliably. My second choice would be Falchions (4/5, Relentless) for the re-rolls. Rob: I think having re-rolls on your melee and ranged attacks going all the time makes for some very strong consistency, but you’ll have a lower damage output on the whole.

In melee you are going for the kill as quickly as possibly. Stun removes one successful normal hit from your opponent, which is good if your opponent has a very bad roll or is a non-melee specialist but you are looking to 1 or 2 shot your target with either a crit combined with Hammerhand to murder 7 wound models (and thus take no blows in return) or double crit a marine level opponent, or Hammerhand crit plus normal hit (7+4 for 11 damage). The combat shouldn’t last long enough for your opponent, if they’re any good in melee, to be using all their hits.

Against factions with wounds 8 there is an argument for Warding Staves etc because two hits with anything kills them, but it only really matters if they don’t have many close combat dice and getting rid of a normal hit negatively affects them given they’re likely to only strike once before dying if you charged them, or twice if they charged you. I can’t think of anything that wants to be in melee with a low number of attack dice where Stun would make a difference.

I think Force weapons are just significantly more efficient at murdering things than any of the other options, as Lethal 5+ and 5 dice is likely to give you two crits and let you kill almost anything short of Krootox, Custodes and Heavy Intercessors in two strikes. And Heavy Intercessors are something you want to lock in melee as it completely screws them over with their 2APL.

Equipment – the lack of Frag and Krak grenades, which they have access to in 40k, seems like an omission of something that would help them against hordes and factions like Harlequins, and it hurts here. Lack of Suspensors limits the utility of Gunners hard, and including them would be fully justified for the elite of the Space Marine chapters. Your options will often come down to stacking buffs on a your leader.

Ploys – Grey Knights have two ploys of their own, one pretty good (Tide of Shadows) and one pretty bland (Tide of Celerity). Everything else is a standard marine ploy, and while Bolter Discipline, Shock Assault and Only in Death Does Duty End are all great ploys, we wanted to see Grey Knights get something of their own. As-is you can get plenty of value out of firing off Bolter Discipline every round but it may prove to be a little boring after a few games.

A Grey Knight Kill Team. Credit: Pendulin

Final Thoughts

Grey Knights are middle of the pack competitively. They beat a number of the marine Kill Teams, with good melee from all being equipped with a power weapon, and storm bolters. They suffer from all the same weaknesses as elite marine teams, low model count and board control issues, and a tendency to crumble after a couple of models are lost.

The faction lacks any AP and will struggle fighting Custodes or Tyranid Warrior Monster Mash lists, because they can soak or exchange fire on even or better terms. Against guard equivalents they’ll murder them both with shooting and up close, but against the Specialist Kill Teams (Octarius, Chalnath, White Dwarf) they will struggle against the specialist operatives and range of ploys and abilities.

Otherwise the team is solid, easy to paint, and easy to play (as easy as the all Primaris teams as it’s basically all the same models and very limited special rules). I wouldn’t take them in competitive play but in casual play it’s a fine team you can make from one box.

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