Lias Issodon and the Deathwatch

I still consider Lias Issodon one of the best Independent Characters in 40K, in particular due to the versatility of his special rules and wargear, and I think he pairs up especially well with the Deathwatch faction, which right now is struggling in the competitive meta due to its extreme “glass cannon” nature.

In particular, here are some things about Lias Issodon that mesh well with a Deathwatch force:

[1] “Master of Ambush” Warlord Trait — Being able to GUARANTEE infiltrating himself and three other non-vehicle units is a very big deal for Deathwatch, not only because they have limited mobility options and they cost a lot for even their base units (meaning it can be prohibitive to purchase lots of transports for them), but also because it allows them to maximize their close ranged shooting and assault abilities, which really are the Deathwatch’s main strengths. Lias Issodon allows you to potentially put up to three Kill Teams with max Frag Cannons, or three units of Terminators with max Assault Cannons, or three units of Combi-Grav Veterans, 18″ away from their target before the game even begins. Turn 1, you either move the units up 6″ (i.e. for Frag Cannons, Heavy Flamers, etc) or stay still and unleash full powered Grav Gun Salvos, thus maximizing your “alpha strike.” Significantly, if one of these units has a DW Independent Character in it (like an Aquila Kill Team with a Librarian), then you can equip him with the Beacon Angelis Relic and “summon” a fourth DW unit in close to concentrate your close ranged firepower even better turn 1.

[2] Shrouded USR and Locator Beacon — Since Issodon has Shrouded in his special rules, he confers it to any squad he joins. This means that he can attach to an allied Deathwatch unit and give it a 3+ cover save in even basic terrain (Note: this will make him lose his Chapter Tactics and the squad he is attached to lose its Mission Tactics, so there is a drawback to this). This obviously works well for a “fire base” unit like a squad of Veterans with Stalker Boltguns camping back in your DZ. Alternately, if you Infilitrate him along with a DW Biker squad, then even in the open they will get a 2++ Jink save (i.e. 4++ save from Jink + Shrouded), helping them survive until they can charge in on Turn 2 with their cheap PWs. Finally, since Lias Issodon has a Locator Beacon as part of his Wargear, he gives a DW army the ability to have two separate units for bringing in Drop Pods, Terminators, Jump Infantry, Kill Teams, etc. with no scatter (i.e. Lias Issodon can bring in one and a DW character with the Beacon Angelis can bring in another), thus increasing the flexibility and precision of a Deathwatch force, which is critical for them, given their low numbers and lack of durability.

[3] “Cunning Strategist” and “Infiltrate, Isolate, and Destroy” rules — The “Cunning Strategist” rule basically gives your forces free Reserve re-rolls and causes enemy Reserve rolls to have a -1 modifier, in turn giving you better control of your reinforcements and improving your chances of out-massing your opponent at the critical time and place on the battlefield, even if he has a bigger overall army than you (which is almost guaranteed when playing Deathwatch). As for “Infiltrate, Isolate, and Destroy,” this gives you small bonus chance to sabotage/weaken an enemy unit or vehicle before the game begins. While it is not necessarily a game changer, I once got lucky with this rule and “Haywired” to death a Necron Triarch Stalker before the game even began, which meant that my opponent did not get to boost the BS of his surrounding Necron forces the entire game, helping my cause significantly.

[4] Allied Support — Of course, you can only include Lias Issodon with a Deathwatch army by taking him in a Space Marine CAD or Allied Detachment alongside the main DW force. While this can reduce it the points you have to spend on DW units, it also opens up the possibility of bringing some very solid reinforcing units that synergize quite well with the enforcers of the Ordos Xenos. Examples include Space Marine Scouts in Land Speeder Storms (great as cheap Objective Seizers and harassment forces to take the pressure off your main DW squads), Drop Pod Centurions with Grav Cannons (to provide heavy ranged fire support against TEQs, MCs, etc.), Quad Mortar batteries (for a versatile, long-ranged fire base to mitigate enemy hordes and even deal with light vehicles), Ironclad and Siege Dreadnoughts (to soak up enemy attention, provide good close combat punch, and serve as a “shield” for nearby DW squads), and Bike equipped Chapter Masters/Chaplains/Librarians (to lead the mobile DW Vanguard and Bike squads, since currently no DW characters can take Space Marine Bikes and only a Watch Captain can take a Jump Pack).

 

Overall, while Lias Issodon is an excellent addition to any Imperium army, I think he combines particularly well with the forces of the Deathwatch and really bumps them up from “struggling” to at least the “moderately competitive” level in terms of competing with other armies, especially if you flesh it out with some of the supplemental Space Marine units noted above. Since they are all Astartes, from a fluff and painting perspective, you can easily represent Lias and his Space Marines as “counts as” Deathwatch in order to not break up the flow and visual presentation of a pure Deathwatch army.

Triumvirate of the Imperium: Celestine and Iron Hands

St. Celestine has both increased in points (now 40 MBs) and abilities. Specifically, she gained 2W, so 5W total, Eternal Warrior, Armourbane for her sword, and two “free” Gemini bodyguards (Geminae Superia are WS5, BS4, S3, T3, I4, 2W, 2A, Ld10, 3+/4++) which can tank wounds for her and be resurrected throughout the game, as long as she is alive).

She also gained a new rule called Saintly Blessings: Celestine can give a 12″ radius buff to friendly non-vehicle Army of the Imperium units at the start of each of your turns. Each buff can only be used once per game, and affect units based on their Battlefield Role (ICs get affected as long as they are a part of the “targeted” unit for each type of blessing):

-HQs: Zealot until the start of the next turn.

-Troops: FNP 6+ until the start of next turn.  If models already have FNP, they get a +1 bonus to FNP instead.

-Elites: Counter-Attack and Furious Charge until start of next turn.

-Fast Attack: Crusader and Fleet until start of next turn

-Heavy Support: Relentless until start of next turn

-Lord of War: It Will Not Die for the rest of the game.

 

Finally, as mentioned in previous articles, she can be taken as an HQ for any Imperium army in a CAD/Allied detachment and unlocks a set of 6 Relics for friendly Imperium characters to use. Considering all this, I think one of the most competitive ways to use Celestine, and particularly her Saintly Blessings, is in a CAD from an Iron Hands army… here are some ways I can see Celestine synergizing well with an Iron Hands force:

[1] Buffing Iron Hands Troops — Since His get FNP(6+) naturally, being able to buff that up to FNP(5+) for a turn can make a significant difference in a game, especially when you are moving Bikers into position for an important shooting phase or your Tacticals and Scouts are trying to hang on to an Objective for one more turn to gain required VPs. If IH Troops have Endurance cast on them, then with Celestine’s help they can be buffed all the way up to FNP(2+), making them VERY difficult to bring down for that turn (remember, any IC attached to them benefits from this as well).

[2] Buffing Iron Hands Drop Pod/Mechanized Devastators — With the ability to hand out Relentless for a turn, Celestine can take normally static Devastator squads and make them both more mobile and extend their weapon’s ranges. For example, if you Drop Pod a bunch of IH Devastator squads into enemy lines with MMs and/or Grav weapons and give them Relentless, they can fire to full effect that turn, delivering very potent firepower when you need it. Alternately, if the Iron Hands are riding in Rhinos, then can move up and still fire their Heavy Weapons through the Firing Points on Turn 1 with the help of Celestine’s blessings.

[3] Buffing IH Shadowstrike Kill Team — If you are using the Shadowstrike Kill Team formation, then you can get Celestine into position and bring the Vanguard Vets down via DS on Turn 2, with Celestine “casting” Furious Charge on them to make them more effective when they do charge. A great way to do this is to attach Celestine and her bodyguards to an IH Biker Command Squad (with an Apothecary) and attached Biker Chapter Master… between the Chapter Master and Celestine, plus enhanced FNP, the entire squad can easily weather a lot of enemy firepower, then turn 2, you bring in the Vanguard Vets and have them assault with Furious Charge. Additionally, the Command Squad makes Celestine and her bodyguards more survivability (i.e. majority T5 and FNP from the Apothecary) while she makes the Space Marines Fearless and gives them Hit and Run, so both units mutually benefit.

[4] Unlocking Relics — While IHs already have access to the Gorgon’s Chain and the Shield Eternal, Celestine allows them to also access the Shroud of the Anti-Martyr , which means you can potentially have up the three separate characters with Eternal Warrior (well, four, counting Celestine herself) in your army, making it very difficult for you opponent to deal with them (don’t forget, IH characters also get FNP(6+) and IWND naturally). Alternately, you can give one of your Iron Hands ICs the Blade of the Worthy and another IC the Burning Blade, allowing you to have two different characters that strike at S6+ AP2 at full initiative.

Triumverate of the Imperium: Belisarus Cawl and the Astra Militarum

Belisarus Cawl  is one of the new HQs available via the Fall of Cadia and, at the cost of 40 MBs, he has the following profile:

—————————————————————————————–

WS5, BS5, S5, T6, W5, I3, A3, Ld10, Sv 2+

WARGEAR:

-Arc Scourge: S+1, AP4, Melee, Haywire, Master-Crafted, Machine Scourge (can re-roll the result of the Haywire rule)

-Solar Atomiser: Range 12″, S10, AP1, Assault D3, Master-crafted, Melta

-MCed Power Axe

-Mechadendrite Hive:  When a model with a Mechadendrite Hive makes it attacks, it makes an additional 2d6 attacks with its Mechadendrites (S4, AP-, Melee), and a single attack with its Dataspike (S User, AP-, Melee, Haywire), at the initiative 10 step (this does not grant an additional Pile In Move).

-Scryerskull

-Refractor field

SPECIAL RULES

-Canticles of the Omnissiah

-Feel No Pain

-Independent Character

-Very Bulky

-Artificer Self-repair Mechanisms: At the start of each of your turns, Belisarius Cawl recovers D3 Wounds lost earlier in the battle

-WL Trait – Masterwork Bionics: Belisarius Cawl can re-roll failed FNP rolls.

-Canticles of the Archmagos (they can only be used if he is on the battlefield, in the same way as regular Canticles, except they also affect friendly Army of the Imperium vehicles within 12″ of Belisarius, even if they don’t have the Canticles of the Omnissiah rule):

Harmony of Metallurgy:

  • 1-3 Units: It Will Not Die
  • 4-7 Units: It Will Not Die.  Make two ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only 1
  • 8+ Units: It Will Not Die.  Make three ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only 1

Utterance of Neutralization:

  • 1-3 Units: +1 Ballistic Skill
  • 4-7 Units: +2 Ballistic Skill
  • 8+ Units: +3 Ballistic Skill

War Hymnal of Fortitude:

  • 1-3 Units: 6+ Invulnerable Save
  • 4-7 Units: 5+ Invulnerable Save
  • 8+ Units: 4+ Invulnerable Save

—————————————————————————————–

So, you can see, Belisarius brings a lot to the fight, both personally and in terms of buffs and, even though he is pretty expensive points-wise, he can be taken as a HQ choice for ANY Imperium army CAD or Allied detachment. He also “unlocks” Relics that can be taken by Imperium HQ choices in the same army as him.

All this got me thinking about Astra Militarum and how he could work if we taken as an HQ for their faction. Right out the gate, he can serve as a powerful “anchor” unit for an AM gun-line, especially if you put him in a big blob squad and use his Ld10 and high survivability (5Ws at T6 with 2+/5++, re-rollable FNP, and the ability to “regenerate” D3 wounds a turn) to keep them in position and “tank” for the unit (he can also use certain Canticles, such as giving himself Stealth for a turn, to force-multiply the entire unit, especially if it is in some cover). If the unit is charged, he provides some very respectable close combat hitting power, both against hordes (Mechadendrite Hive), more elite troops (Power Axe), and vehicles (Arc Scourge).

On top of all this, he can use the Canticles of the Archmagos to make AM vehicles around him significantly better: imagine a squadron of three Vendettas that are bumped up to BS4 for a turn, or a squadron of Leman Russes that all have IWND for a turn, or even an artillery battery that has a 6++ for a turn. You can even use him to buff AM Lords of War, like Baneblade variants or Imperial Knights (imagine a BS5 Avenger Gatling Cannon on a Knight Warden, or a BS4 Vulcan Mega-Bolter on a Stormlord), making them more potent over the course of the game. Finally, he also comes with a Scryerskull (for uncovering Mysterious Objectives at a distance) and what is, in essence, a S10 meltagun with D3 shots a turn (at BS5, don’t forget, with the option to re-roll misses via Canticles once a game), so those give him some additional utility.

In terms of the Relics that Belisarius unlocks, if you take a Commissar Lord with the Memento-Mortispex and attach him to the same blob squad as Belisarius, then you can have a 50 man unit that can choose to Skyfire, use Monster Hunter or Tank Hunter USRs, or fire Snap-shots (including Overwatch) at BS2 each turn, making it even more versatile and dangerous on the tabletop. Combine this with the Belisarius and the buffs he can hand out to neighboring AM vehicles and you can create a really effective Imperial Guard task force against almost any opponent, I think.

Triumvirate of the Imperium: New Relics

I am excited about the arrival of the new Triumvirate of the Imperium characters (i.e. Celestine plus her bodyguard Geminii, Belisarius Cawl, and Inquisitor Greyfax), especially since it appears that ANY Imperium army can choose to take any of these three as a HQ choice, so Space Marines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Grey Knights, Deathwatch, Militarum Tempestus, Astra Militarum, Cult Mechanicus, Skitarii, Inquisition, Sisters of Battle, etc. can all take them in their armies.

Aside from what the characters themselves bring, which is significant, Celestine and Cawl both “unlock” special Relics that can be taken by any friendly characters in the same army. Here are my thoughts on what I think are some of the best of these:

—Unlocked by Belisarius Cawl—

[1] Memento-Mortispex (5 MBs) – At the start of each of your turns, choose a rule to apply to the bearer and their unit (or weapons as appropriate): Cognis Weapons (BS2 Snapfire, Flamers do 3 hits rather than d3 with Wall of Death in overwatch), Monster Hunter, Skyfire or Tank Hunter.

*APPLICATION — Perhaps the best new Relic available, I see this in the same class as the Hunter’s Eye and Gorgon’s Chain and Astral Grimoire (i.e. very competitive, don’t leave home without it). Being able to give an entire unit Cognis Weapons, Skyfire, Monster Hunter, or Tank Hunter, without any kind of Ld test/Psychic test/dice roll, is exceptional. Right out the gate, some of the best units to use this on include Grav Centurions, Astra Militarum blob squads, Kataphron Destroyers, Sternguard, Deathwatch Veterans, Deathwatch Terminators, Grey Knight Purifiers (with max Psycannons), Long Fang Packs (with max Lascannons), Blood Angel Gunslinger Vanguard Veterans, Sanguinary Guard with max Inferno Pistols, and Repentia Squads (with max Multi-Meltas).

Probably one of the very best options would be on a Dark Angel Biker Interrogator Chaplain leading a 10 man squad of Black Knights… the entire squad already has 18″ Rapid Fire TLed Plasma Weapons, so they can greatly benefit from Tank Hunters against vehicles, Monster Hunter against MC/GMCs, and Skyfire against Flyers and FMCs. On top of this, even if the squad Jinks (to take advantage of re-rollable Jink saves, from the Ravenwing special rule), you can use Cognis Weapons to make them Snapfire at BS2 which, combined with TLed, gives them a 50%+ hit rate even after Jinking, making them survivable AND potent in the same turn (usually you can only have one or the other).

[2] Omnissiah’s Grace (2 MBs) – Bearer has 6+ Invulnerable Save.  If they already had an Invulnerable Save, they get a +1 to their Invulnerable to a max of 3+.

*APPLICATION — Not that great on a character without an Invul save already, but on one that already has a 5++ or 4++, like most Space Marine Captain equivelants or models in TDA, this in essence gives you a “free” Storm Shield without the drawbacks of losing attacks in close combat. Grey Knight Grandmasters, Thunderwolf Lords with PF/Wolf Claw combos, Tech-Priest Dominus with Conversion Field wargear, Interrogator-Chaplains and Chaplains of all flavors, Cataphractii Terminator Captains, Imperium Psykers that can cast Forewarning on their unit, Watch Masters, Skitarii Ruststalker Princeps with dual Transonic Blades/Chordclaw and Conversion Fields, and TDA Inquisitors all can benefit quite a bit from this very affordable Relic.

[3] Saint Curia’s Autopurger (5 MBs) – Models charging the bearer and their unit do not get extra attacks for charging.  All models that are locked in combat with the bearer and their unit must pass a Toughness test at I10 step, or suffer 1 Wound for each test failed (can take saves as normal).

*APPLICATION — The debuff against enemy charging units is quite handy, especially against strong melee squads like Wulfen, Death Company, and Khornate unit which rely on Rage to increase their attack numbers, but where this Relic really shines is against low Toughness opponents (i.e. Eldar of all types, most T3 “human-based” forces, Gaunt/Ripper swarms, Necron Scarabs, etc) due to the second half of this rule. Forcing a wound for every failed Toughness test can be a game-changer, ESPECIALLY if you can combine it with Enfeeble (from the Biomancy discipline), Rad grenades (from an attached Inquisitor), and/or Skitarii Vanguard, with their “Rad-saturation” rule to reduce enemy toughness even further (imagine charging Eldar units reduced to T2 by Rad Grenades from an attached Inquisitor and then using this relic, causing Wounds on rolls of 3+ for every model locked in combat with you!). Overall, this is best used as a “crowd-control” Relic to rapidly thin out enemy hordes, especially since it inflicts these wounds at I10, before your opponents can strike back (I think this Relic is particularly potent against Genestealer Cult, who have high Initiative and close combat output, but low T and weak saves, meaning you can be charged by them and inflict massive damage before they even get to swing).

 

—Unlocked by Celestine—
[1] Blade of the Worthy (6 MBs) – Replaces a melee weapon.  S User / +2, AP3 / 2, Melee, Divine Fury:  At the start of the Fight Sub-phase, the bearer makes a Ld test.  If they pass, the sword uses the second profile for the duration of the phase.
*APPLICATION — This is basically an AP2 Relic Blade (with no draw-back from being Two-Handed) that requires an Ld test to use which, given that most characters potentially wielding it are Ld10, is pretty darn reliable (i.e. 91% chance of passing an Ld10 check). I think there are several ways to go with this… a Grey Knight Grand-Master could take NF Falchions, then replace on of them with this Relic, giving him the option to use an AP3 Force Weapon or a S+2 AP2 blade each turn (and both can be “buffed” up by +2 with Hammerhand as well)… alternately, you could give it to a Biker Captain Master (with AA) for a cheap, hard-hitting, mobile IC that can attach to a unit or go solo if required. Finally, you could give the Blade of the Worthy to an Astra Militarum Company Commander to make a surprisingly punchy combat unit that your opponent will likely not be expecting.
[2] Desvalle’s Holy Circle (7 MBs) – Bearer has a 4+ Invulnerable.  Enemy units cannot Deep-Strike within 12″ of the bearer.  If they scatter within 12″ of the Bearer, they suffer an automatic Deep Strike Mishap.

*APPLICATION — Like the “Saint Curia’s Autopurger” Relic, the first part of this piece of gear is solid (i.e. giving a 4++ to the bearer), but the real reason for taking it is for the second part of the rule, preventing Deep Strikes within 12″ and causing an auto-Mishap if they scatter to within 12″. This is such a potent piece of Wargear, especially when use to protect key units/vehicles (like your Warlord or an Imperial Knight, for example), against threats like Drop Pod Meltacide units, Wraithguard with an attached Dark Eldar IC with a Webway Portal, deep striking units with massed Flamer templates, enemy units that can assault on the same turn they Deep Strike (i.e. CSM Raptor Talon, Skyhammer Annihilation Force ASM), etc. etc. Putting this Relic on a mobile character, like a Bike or Jump Pack equipped IC, allows you to move this 24″ circle of “no Deep Strike” rapidly all over the table-top, thereby denying you opponent significant real estate and greatly hampering his tactical options.

Traitor Legions: Army Analysis

Normally, in the past, I have been an almost exclusively Imperium player, but recently I have been trying out some different Chaos Space Marine lists, based on the new Traitor Legion options, and I was able to try out the following 2000 point army during the holidays:

—-Night Lords CAD—-

HQ

*Daemon Prince of Tzeentch with Wings, Stormbolt Plate armor (Relic) [WARLORD]

TROOPS

*2 x 5 Raptors with 2 Meltaguns, Power Axe on Champion

 

—-Iron Warriors CAD—-

HQ

*Daemon Prince of Tzeentch with Wings, Fleshmetal Hide armor (Relic)

TROOPS

*6 x Obliterator (1 model per squad)

FORTIFICATION

*2 x Haemotrope Reactors

 

—-Thousand Sons Allied Detachment—-

HQ

*Sorcerer with PML(3), TDA, Spell Familiar, Mark of Tzeentch, MB, Astral Grimoire (Relic)

ELITES

*1 x 10 Terminators with Mark of Tzeentch, 10 Combi-Meltas, 10 Chainfists

TROOPS

*1 x 10 Tzaangors

—————————————————————————————————————

I was playing against a Word Bearer’s army with lots of Cultists plus a Dark Apostle (Lost and the Damned formation), triple Forgefiends and Warpsmith (Helforged Warpack formation), two Heldrakes (Heldrake Terror Pack formation), and three Helbrutes that could deep strike (Mayhem Pack formation, I think its called), and two PML(3) Sorcerers (Lords of the Legion for the Grand Host detachment). Since everything was part of the Grand Host detachment, except for the Helbrutes, they all benefited from the Crusader and giving a free boon each turn to a character in addition to their specific formation rules and the Word Bearer “Chapter Tactics” (i.e. Dark Apostles have a 6″ Zealot bubble and harnessing Warp Charges for Conjurations in the Malefic discipline on 3+s).

In terms of my army, the plan was to keep all the one man Obliterator squads in the back, around the Haemotrope Reactors, and “power up” their Plasma Cannons into S7 AP2 Large Blast pie plates for fire support to the army. Meanwhile, the Tzeentch Terminators and TDA Sorcerer formed a mini-deathstar and advanced quickly on my opponent, using the Astral Grimoire relic to make them Jump Troops in the Movement Phase and Psychic Blessings to “power up” to 2+/3++ saves as they advanced. Simultaneously, the two Tzeentch Daemon Princes Swooped forward 24″ on turn 1 and used their re-rollable 2+ armor saves (and re-rollable 2+ cover save, in the case of the Night Lords DP) to survive incoming enemy firepower until they could transition to Gliding mode (Turn 2) and charge into the enemy ranks (Turn 3). Finally, the Raptors started in reserve and dropped in to meltacide enemy units and charge if they survived while the Tzaangors were just a cheap ObSec unit that might tarpit another enemy force.

In terms of actual battlefield results, the Obliterators did not do so well, as several of them suffered Get’s Hot! on turn 1 (Haemotrope Reactor powers up their Plasma weapons, but also causes Get’s Hot on a 1 or 2, not just 1), meaning I lost a lot of firepower there. On turn 2, they were out of range for most of their weapons, so I had to use Lascannons, which was not ideal against tons of Cultists, though it did make for some humor at the time 😉 Overall, I think I kept the Obliterators too tied to the Haemotrope Reactors, meaning they did not have as much impact on the game as I expected, and in the future would advance them as they fired, or even DS them closer to enemy lines.

The Raptors did surprisingly well, with good scatters for their Deep Strikes, and one Raptor squad was the Hero of the game, killing the Warpsmith Warlord on the turn they dropped in and then killing another Sorceror in Overwatch as he charged them and a Forgefiend on turn 3 with their Meltas. In the future, I might invest in one or two more Raptor squads and continue dropping them aggressively around the enemy forces like I did this game.

The two Daemon Princes also did well, shrugging off almost all enemy combat power easily, except for Vector Strikes by my opponent’s Heldrakes, which ignore both armor and cover saves of course. They both survived long enough to get into combat, where they tore up units as expected. I think, if I were to change anything about them, I would have given them each PML(1) and then have them roll on Telepathy for Psychic Shriek, since right now they lack any kind of shooting and have to drop into Hover Mode to make any kind of impact on the game.

Finally, the Tzaangors didn’t do much, as they were pretty much ignored, but the Tzeentch Terminators performed pretty well, absorbing a decent bit of firepower (I think I lost one of them as a casualty) and being able to close quickly with their Chainfists and 2+/3++ saves, thanks to the Astral Grimoire. In the future, I might drop several Chainfists and use the points for some other units in the army (like PML(1) for the DPs that I mentioned above).

Overall, I think this army did a decent job of combining three different elements of the CSM Legions, with lots of ObSec units (in this case, it was actually all Kill Points, so this didn’t matter, but in most games I would have 9 ObSec units) and a solid amount of durability, mobility, and firepower all around.