Talons of the Emperor: Making Custodes Work in a CAD

I did an earlier article on Custodes when they first came out for 40K, but now that they have been “re-released” via Talons of the Emperor, with some new units, rules, and a detachment all their own, I thought I’d take a closer look at them.

In terms of the Custodes themselves, they are almost identical to their previous incarnation, but now have a 5++ “stock” when equipped with the Guardian Spear (goes up to a 3++ if they trade it out for a Sentinel  Blade and Stormshield for 2MBs per model), which means they have the following profile:

WS5 BS5 S5 T5 W2 I4 A3 Ld10 Sv2+/5++ (the Shield Captain has +1WS/I/A over the normal profile)

Combine this with a cost of 10 MBs per model (extra 2MBs for the Shield Captain), S6 AP2 attacks at full I4 if they have the Guardian Spear (plus a built in BS5 Bolter) or S5 AP3 attacks at full I4 if they have the Sentinel Blade (plus a 12″ S4 AP5 Assault 2 shooting profile that can also fire all Snap Shots at BS2), plus Eternal Warrior, Adamantium Will, Deep Strike, Fearless, and Bulky rules and you have the makings of a very strong overall unit, especially for their points cost. In terms of upgrades, besides being able to swap Guardian Spears for Sentinel Blades for free, one model per army can replace his Guardian Spear with a Custodes Vexilla (banner that gives +1A to the squad and Fearless to all Imperium units within 12″) and any model that does not have a Guardian Spear can take a Storm Shield for 2MBs. Finally, each squad can take a Custodes Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport if it wishes (it is just like a normal Land Raider, but with BS5, a built in 5++ save, the ability to ignore all Crew Shaken/Crew Stunned results, and the “Venerable” special rule, which is just like what Venerable Dreads have).

Beyond this, Custodes are now considered Troops choices. Normally, this might not matter much (since they usually come as part of the special “Golden Legion Task Force” detachment, which only allows them to take Custodes squads, DT Custodes Land Raiders, and the new Custodes Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought), but it actually allows you to take them as part of a CAD (and so get Objective Secured Custodes!). How, you might ask? Well, from the recently released Triumvirate of the Imperium and Triumvirate of the Primarch rules, you can take St. Celestine, Belsarius Cawl, Grand Master Voldus, or Cypher as a HQ choice in a Combined Arms Detachment for ANY Imperium army, meaning that you can now meet the requirements of 1 HQ/2 Troops with one of these HQ choices and Custodes as the 2-6 Troops choices… pretty awesome (don’t forget, if Custodes are Objective Secured, then their DT Land Raiders become Objective Secured too)!

Of these HQ options, I think the best ones to work with Custodes are Celestine, Cawl, and Voldus, since each of them brings some solid synergy abilities to work with the boys in golden armor:

[1] St. Celestine — Everyone is already aware of what great value she (and her bodyguards) are for their points, especially since they provide some exceptional “tanking” abilities to any unit they attach to. On top of this, since they are Jump Infantry, they can attach to a Custodes squad in Deep Strike Reserve and then DS in with them starting on Turn 2. Not only can Celestine and her Gemini bodyguards soak up otherwise dangerous enemy shooting (I am thinking Grav Cannons here) for the Custodes, but they can also choose to split off on later turns and grab objectives, charge a different unit, etc. Finally, with her special “aura” abilities, Celestine can give nearby Custodes FNP(6+) for a turn, further boosting their already top-notch durability, or she can give herself Zealot for a turn, allowing her to act as a “quasi-Chaplain” for the squad she is attached to.

[2] Belsarius Cawl — Like Celestine, he provide some amazingly efficient “wound tanking” ability for any Custodes unit he is attached to (i.e. T6, 5W, 2+/5++, re-rollable FNP, and automatically regenerate D3 lost wounds per turn). While he unfortunately cannot Deep Strike with the Custodes or ride in their Land Raider with them, he can do quite well leading a foot-slogging squad, absorbing the non-AP2/1 attacks himself and using Look out Sir! to pass the AP2/1 attacks off to Custodes with Storm Shields. More importantly, he provides the Custodes with some powerful anti-tank abilities, which is arguably one of their main weaknesses. First, he has his Solar Atomiser, which is basically a souped-up Meltagun with S10, Master-Crafted, and D3 shots per turn, all fired at his BS5. On top of this, in close combat he can put out 5 attacks on the charge with his Arc Scourge, which is a S6 AP4, Master-Crafted, Haywire weapon (that can re-roll the result of the Haywire rule), meaning he can reliably bring down 4-5 HPs off even the toughest vehicles (like Imperial Knights and Land Raiders) per Assault Phase. Given that Custodes have only S4 shooting and S6 close combat attacks, this goes a long way toward making up for their weaknesses against heavy vehicles, which would otherwise be a tremendous threat to them.

[3] Grand Master Voldus — He is basically a PML(3) Grand Master who also has a Daemon Hammer that strikes at full Initiative (so I5 for him) and who can, if the Warlord, get up to 4 rolls on the Sanctic Daemonology table. Besides bringing innate S8 AP2 attacks at I5 to a Custodes army (again, helping with their weakness in anti-tank capabilities), his ability to get Sanctic powers (well, 5 technically, with the Primaris power Banishment), he can be a pretty potent force-multiplier for a Custodes army. Looking at the Sanctic powers, Hammerhand brings him up to S10 AP2 and Custodes with Guardian Spears up to S6 AP2 (all striking at full Initiative), Sanctuary brings him up to a 3++, “normal” Custodes up to a 4++, and Custodes with a Storm Shield up to a 2++, and Gates of Infinity gives him and his squad amazing mobility to almost anywhere on the battlefield (which, again, mitigates one of their primary weaknesses). Additionally, all three Witchfires are quite useful, with Purge Soul useful for sniping wounds off MCs, Cleansing Flame a great tool against massed hordes, and Vortex of Doom providing an exceptionally potent (but risky) S: D AP1 Small Blast at 12″ which can be used against all kinds of enemy targets.

Besides “unlocking” Custodes squads as troops within a CAD, taking one of these HQs also means you can take additional Custodes Venerable Land Raiders as Heavy Support choices (up to three of them) and up to three Custodes Venerable Contemptor Dreadnoughts as Elites choices, giving you the ability to field a “full-sized” army of these Golden Warriors if you want (Oh, and since you are taking a CAD, you can also give them a Fortification choice and/or take a LOW choice like Guilliman or an Imperial Knight, if you so choose). Overall, while I don’t think taking these HQs to create a Custodes CAD will make for an overly competitive army, it certainly gives them more options and mitigates many of their weaknesses, in turn allowing them to maximize their strengths, namely tremendous close combat and durability values, especially for their points cost.

Triumvirate of the Primarch: Grand Master Voldus and Blood Angel Friends

Continuing to look at the Triumvirate of the Primarch as more rules are leaked, next we have Grand Master Voldus of the Grey Knights. Based on what we have heard so far, he as the “standard” Grey Knight Grand Master stats/wargear/rules as follows:

 

WS6 BS5 S4 T4 W3 I5 A4 Ld10 Sv 2+/4++

WARGEAR:

-TDA/Frag Grenades/Krak Grenades/Iron Halo/Storm Bolter

SPECIAL RULES:

-The Aegis/Preferred Enemy (Daemons)/Purity of Spirit

 

On top of these “baseline” abilities, Voldus is PML(3) (he can generate from any disciplines available to the Grey Knights, including Technomancy, Geokinesis, Fulmination, and Librarius powers) and has the “Lore Master of Titan” Warlord Trait (so he can generate an additional Sanctic power above his three normal powers). Looking at him another way, he is basically a hybrid of a the stats of a Grand Master and the Psychic abilities of a maxed out Librarian.

Additionally, and this is important, his Relic is the “Malleus Argyrum,” which is a normal Nemesis Daemon Hammer in every way except for one thing… it strikes at full initiative! So, without any buffs, he as a S8 AP2 Force Weapon that strikes at WS6 and I5… with Hammerhand added in, then it can easily go up to S10 AP2, making it dangerous against anything in the game, including GMCs, Super-Heavies, and extreme combat characters like the infamous Iron Hands Biker Chapter Master of Doom!

 

To really maximize Voldus’ abilities, this is how I am considering running him:

-Voldus (focuses on getting Electrodisplacement from the Fulmination discipline or Might of Heroes from the Librarius discipline)

-Allied TDA Blood Angel Librarian with PML(2) (takes The Quickening power, which is a Primaris power, so they are guaranteed)

-Allied TDA Blood Angel Chaplain

-GK Paladins with Brotherhood Banner and Apothecary

The entire group combines together, either in a transport (like a Spartan Assault Tank, Land Raider Crusader, etc.) or using Electrodisplacment, to get into assault with key enemy units. In a best case scenario, with Force, Might of Heroes, and The Quickening all activated, that gives Voldus 9-11 x S10 AP2 Instant Death attacks on the charge, all at WS6 (with re-rolls to Hit, thank to Zealot) and I8-10 (thanks to The Quickening and Might of Heroes).

Against a Wraithknight, he strike first and gets an average of 10 attacks, 8-9 hits, 7-8 wounds (and no armor saves or FNP, thanks to AP2 and Instant Death)… add in the fact that each Unsaved Wound causes D3 wounds, because of Force being activated, and you are almost guaranteed to kill the Wraithknight before it strikes.

Similarly, against a Stormsurge, Voldus would get an average of 10 attacks, 8-9 hits, 7-8 wounds, and 3-4 Unsaved Wounds after 4++ Invul saves (again, no FNP because of Instant Death)… with some luck in getting 2s and 3s on the D3 wounds inflicted for each Unsaved Wound and you can kill the Stormsurge before it ever gets a chance to hit back or Stomp (the Paladins can strike in here with their weapons as well).

Even against Thunderwolf Cavalry and/or Wulfen, Voldus with get an average of 10 attacks, 8-9 hits, 7-6 wounds, and multiple dead TWC or Wulfen units before they can even strike back (it depends on how many Storm Shields the unit has to stop the S10 AP2 Instant Death attacks).

While this might be somewhat of a “gimmick” tactic, in the right circumstances this battle group, led by Voldus, will be able to deal with almost any enemy unit in close combat it encounters. If Voldus is able to roll up Electrodisplacement, then he also has a very solid chance of getting into combat Turn 1 and not even needing an Assault Transport to ride in (saving you tons of points in your army)… just Deep Strike in a GK unit turn 1 near the enemy target (the closer, the better), then use Electrodisplacement to “swap” places with Voldus and his battle group and follow it up with a (hopefully successful) Turn 1 charge. I think this tactic can be especially useful against Tau Riptide gun-lines, super mobile Eldar forces backed by Wraithknights, Centurion-stars, and pretty much anything else which can put out ridiculous firepower turn 1, since it can begin shutting that down right away with such potent close combat ability combined with an early game charge.

Triumverate of the Imperium: Celestine, Teleporting Grey Knights, and the Deathpack

Here is an idea for a battle group that I have been playing around with a bit lately:

-Celestine (and her bodyguards of course)

-10 x GK Interceptor Squad (with 2 Psycannons and 2 Daemon Hammer)

-“Deathpack A” formation from the Space Wolves starter kit (Wolf Lord on TWC with Runic Armor, Thunder Hammer, Wolf Claw, Shroud of the Anti-Martyr Relic; 10 x Grey Hunter with Drop Pod, +1CCW, Power Axe, 2 MGs, WGPL with Combi-Melta and Wolf Claw, Wolf Banner; 4 x TWC, all with PF/SS)

-“Deathpack B” formation from the Space Wolves starter kit (Wolf Lord on TWC with Runic Armor, Blade of the Worthy Relic; 5 x Grey Hunter with Drop Pod, Flamer; 4 x TWC, all with PF/SS)

So, basically, the way this works is that Celestine and her bodyguards attach to the Interceptors and the two “Deathpack” TWC squads (each with their respective TWC Wolf Lords attached) set up on either side of her.

Turn 1, Celestine uses her ability to give the two TWC squads/TWC Lords Fleet and Crusader. Then, everyone (i.e. both TWC packs, Celestine/Interceptors) move up 12″ in the Movement Phase. Meanwhile, the large Grey Hunter squad (with the Wolf Banner) drops in and shoots up a target unit with their Meltas and sets up their Wolf Banner (more on this later).

In the Shooting Phase, the Interceptors can add their Psycannons and Stormbolters into the mix while Celestine shoots with her “one shot Battle Cannon” orbital barrage. Simultaneously, the two TWC squads run forward as well…. thanks to Crusader and Fleet, there is quite a solid chance of the getting a 5-6″ Run per squad (roll two dice and pick the highest, due to Crusader, and re-rolls of any dice, due to Fleet)… this should put the two TWC at 17-18″ across no man’s land (and about 6-7″ from the edge of the enemy DZ).

During the charge phase, the two TWC squads attempt to charge any enemy units deployed along the edge of the DZ (the “Deathpack” formation allows these units to charge after running), which means that they have to make an average of 6-7″ charge, with re-rolls thanks to Fleet (and no slowing due to Difficult Terrain, thanks to being Cavalry)… between the two squads, there is a very solid chance of one or both squads getting the charge off and laying down lots of S10 AP2 attacks… with proper positioning of the Grey Hunters and their Wolf Banner, you can give the one or both of these units +1A, making them even more deadly in close combat.

In subsequent turns, you can use Celestine to give the Wolf Lords (and their units) Zealot with her aura, plus you can have the Interceptors shoot or charge themselves (they can use Hammerhand to give themselves, Celestine, and her Gemini bodyguards +2S, which can make a major difference for the whole unit) and Celestine can give the entire squad Hit and Run. Alternately, you can “shunt” the Interceptors across the board to an Objective and have Celestine/the Gemini bodyguards attach to one of the TWC packs to add durability and attacks (and Hit and Run as well). Finally, the second Grey Hunter Pack can come in on its Drop Pod and grab an Objective and/or put down a Flamer template while the “original” Grey Hunter pack can continue to shoot or even charge into combat (between +1CCW and the Wolf Banner, each Grey Hunter gets 4A on the charge).

Finally, the TWC Lords use their respective Relics (Shroud of the Anti-Martyr for EW on one and Sword of the Worthy for +2S AP2 attacks at I5 for the other) “unlocked” by having Celestine to make them even more potent in combat and, along with their TWC escorts, able to continue to wreak havoc in enemy lines in subsequent turns.

Assault Vehicles for All!

While I think there is a need for “macro-changes” in 8th edition to help rectify the current discrepancy between shooting and assault, one thing I think that would help accomplish this at the more immediate level would be to provide an additional, affordable assault transport for every major faction so that their close combat troop are not stuck with either footslogging, riding in non-Assault vehicle transports, and/or paying 200+ points for Assault Vehicles.

Here is my stab at making this kind of vehicle for each faction (minus Chaos Daemons):

—————————————

RETALIATOR APC — (FAST ATTACK choice for Space Marines, Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Deathwatch, Sisters of Battle, Inquisition, and Chaos Space Marines) — 100 points

BS4   AV13/11/10   3HP (Vehicle, Tank, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 10 models (no Bulky/Very Bulky/Extremely Bulky models)

WAR GEAR:

-Pintle-mounted TLed Flamer (may upgrade to a TLed Melta Gun or TLed Plasma Gun)

-Siege Shield

-Omni Grenade Launcher — Every turn may choose to use Smoke Grenades (not limited to one use, unlike most vehicles) OR Concussion Grenades (enemy forces may not fire Overwatch at any unit that has disembarked from the Retaliator APC for the rest of the turn)

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Advanced Repair Servo — Can repair Immobilized or Weapon Destroyed results or a lost HP on itself each turn (instead of shooting or moving Flat Out) on a successful roll of a 5+

—————————————

TELEPORTATION POD — (FAST ATTACK choice for Grey Knights) — 80 points

BS4   AV13/13/13   3HP (Vehicle, Immobile)

Transport Capacity: None

WAR GEAR:

-Gatling Psycannon

SPECIAL RULES:

-Deep Strike

-Drop Pod Assault

-Psychic Pilot (3) — Always knows Force, Banishment, The Shrouding (from Telepathy), and “The Summoning” powers (“The Summoning” is a WC1 blessing with 72″ range and no LOS requirements that teleports one friendly Grey Knight non-vehicle unit or Walker unit to within 6″ of the caster with no scatter, using the rules for Deep Strike; you can upgrade it to a WC3 power which acts in the exact same way, except that the teleported unit can charge on the same turn that it is teleported)

—————————————

CERBERUS APC — (FAST ATTACK choice for Astra Militarum and Genestealer Cult) — 75 points

BS3   AV12/12/10   3HP (Vehicle, Tank, Fast, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 20 models

WAR GEAR:

-Pintle-mounted Quad Heavy Stubber

-Smoke Launchers

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Suppressive Fire — Any non-vehicle units hit by the Quad Heavy Stubber must take a Pinning Check at the end of the Shooting phase

—————————————

CHAMELEON — (FAST ATTACK choice for Craftworld Eldar and Harlequins) — 90 points

BS4   AV12/12/10   3HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Fast)

Transport Capacity: 12 models

WAR GEAR:

-TLed Shuriken Cannon

-Specter Holo-Matrix — Vehicle may re-roll failed Jink saves

-Star Engines

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Assault Vehicle

—————————————

SCORPION (FAST ATTACK choice for Dark Eldar and Harlequins) — 110 points

BS4   AV10/10/10   3HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Fast, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 18 models

WAR GEAR:

-6 x Black Venom missiles (72″ S6 AP1 Fleshbane)

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per parent Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Unrivalled Assault Vehicle — Any units that charge into combat on the same turn that they disembark from this vehicle add +3″ to their charge range and gain +1S to all their close combat attacks during that fight sub-phase.

—————————————

KROOT WAR SKIFF (FAST ATTACK choice for Tau) — 60 points

BS3   AV11/11/11   3HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 16 models

WAR GEAR:

-2 x Heavy Kroot Guns

SPECIAL RULES:

-War Totems — Only Shapers, Kroot, Kroot Hounds, and/or Krootox may embark on this vehicle. On any turn that a unit disembarks from this vehicle, it gains Hatred, Rage, and Furious Charge for the rest of the turn.

—————————————

DA CHOPPA’ WAGON (FAST ATTACK choice for Orks) — 110 points

BS2   AV14/11/10   4HP (Vehicle, Tank, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 30 models

WAR GEAR:

-4 x TLed Big Shootaz

[***May take normal vehicle upgrades, per Ork Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-More Dakka! — All vehicle weapons can fire at full BS if the vehicle has moved 12″ or less

-Da Biggest to da Front! — Every Nob, Mega Nob, and/or War Boss in a unit that disembarks from this vehicles gains +1A until the end of the phase.

—————————————

NECRONTYR WAR BARGE (FAST ATTACK choice for Necrons) — 80 points

BS4   AV11/11/11   4HP (Vehicle, Skimmer, Fast, Open-Topped)

Transport Capacity: 10 models

WAR GEAR:

-Gauss Cannon (may upgrade to a Tesla Cannon)

-Quantum Shielding

SPECIAL RULES:

-Living Metal

-Combat Protocol Beacon — Any friendly Necron non-vehicle units within 12″ of this vehicle gain Hatred

—————————————

BROODOFEX (FAST ATTACK choice for Tyranids) — 130 points

WS3 BS3 S6 T6 W4 I2 A2 Ld8 Sv2+  (Jump Monstrous Creature)

WAR GEAR:

-Acid Spray

-Stinger Salvo

[***May take normal Biomorph upgrades, per Tyranid Codex***]

SPECIAL RULES:

-Fearless

-Instinctive Behavior (Hunt)

-Brood Beast — Up to 30 Termagaunts/Hormaguants, 15 Genestealers, or 10 Tyranid Warriors may ride on a Broodofex exactly as if they were embarked on an open-topped transport vehicle (i.e. they can all shoot their weapons, they can disembark 6″ and assault the same turn, they are vulnerable to Template Weapons due to the No Escape! rule, etc.).

Hidden Gem: Centaur Weapons Carrier

Something which all the different Imperium factions have lacked, and still lack, is an affordable open-topped transport that provides their infantry with some mobility and protection, but still allows all the embarked models to shoot and/or assault when required. The closest thing to meeting this criteria is the Land Speeder Storm, but while an excellent multi-purpose transport, it is only allowed to transport Space Marine Scouts, so its utility in this role is quite limited for anything besides those Troops.

Enter the Centaur Weapons Carrier, a Forgeworld Astra Militarum vehicle that can be taken as a Fast Attack option in a CAD or Allied detachment (not to mention as a DT for certain DKOK and Armoured Battle Group units). The Centaur has the following stats/rules:

BS3 AV11/11/10 HP2 (Transport, Fast, Open-Topped)

*Heavy Stubber, Searchlight, Smoke Launchers

*Transport: 5 models

*1-3 Centaurs per Squadron, costs 8 MBs per model

On first glance, this vehicle costs the same points as a Land Speeder Storm and seems inferior in almost every way, with less mobility (Fast Vehicle vs Fast Speeder), less firepower (BS3 Heavy Stubber vs BS4 Heavy Bolter and Cerberus Launcher), and roughly the same survivability (AV11 on the front vs the ability to Jink).

So, why even consider taking a Centaur Weapons Carrier? Well, number one, it is not restricted to SM Scouts, so ANY Imperium infantry that can fit into it can load up as passengers (note: unlike Rhinos/Razorbacks, there is no restriction against Bulky models as passengers) and, number two, since you can take up to three Centaurs in a squadron, you can get a lot of them cheaply with even a “bare bones” AM Allied Detachment. On top of this, Centaurs are Fast Vehicles, meaning they can move 12” and then Flat Out another 12” turn 1, setting up an almost guaranteed Turn 2 charge if they are not destroyed (also, almost guaranteed to be in range of short-range shooting like meltas and flamers on turn 2). Combine this with some Psychic support, like say casting Invisibility on the Centaur squadron, and you can rapidly and reliably have up to 15 models in your opponent’s face by Turn 2 of the game.

So, based on all this, what are some tactical applications for the Centaur and allied Imperium units? Here are some ideas that come to mind for each major faction:

[1] Grey Knights – The Centaur makes an excellent little transport for a 5 man Purifier squad, since not only can the entire unit shoot out of it with SBs/Incinerators/Psycannons, but they can also using Cleansing Flame and assault out of the vehicle all in the same turn, thus maximizing all their different strengths while mitigating their lack of mobility and durability issues.

[2] Dark Angels – A Centaur makes for an excellent “mobile bunker” for a DA Command Squad with 5 Grav Guns and Relic Banner (making them Relentless). The Centaur can move up-field and have its passengers put out 15 Grav shots at 18” all game long, all the while protecting them from small arms fire and even serving as a LOS blocking vehicle for other DA units (i.e. say some RW Bikers moving up behind the Centaurs).

[3] Space Wolves – Whether using Centaurs as cheap Bunkers for Long Fangs (all five Heavy Weapons in a Long Fang squad can shoot out, since it is Open-Topped) or as cheap, mobile transport to “Rhino Rush” Blood Claws or close combat oriented Wolf Guard up-field, the Centaur can synergize quite well with a SW force (and again, the Centaur(s) can form an excellent LOS blocking shield for foot slogging Wulfen as they advance toward the enemy as well). Finally, even Lone Wolfs and Wolf Scouts can grab a ride in a Centaur to make them more effective on the table-top, especially in getting into assault.

[4] Blood Angels – BA Vanguard Vets (whether of the melee or gunslinger loadout) and Death Company without JPs both benefit tremendously from having a mobile assault transport that can move 24” Turn 1 and get them in range to assault the rest of the game. Similarly, basic BA Tac squads (with Heavy Flamers and dual Hand Flamers on the Sgt) and BA Assault Squads (with two Meltaguns and dual Inferno Pistols on the Sgt) get much better when they have a cheap Open-Topped transport to shoot and assault out of.

[5] Deathwatch – Unlike most factions, Deathwatch can take Terminators in squads of 1-2, which means they can load them into a Centaur (despite each TDA model being Bulky) and move safely up-field, all the while shooting with whatever Heavy Weapons they are packing (i.e. CMLs, Assault Cannons, Heavy Flamers, Melta PFs, etc.). On top of this, they can subsequently charge out of the Centaur later on, maximizing their value as close combatants as well. Aside from Terminators, DW Veterans also benefit tremendously from grabbing a ride in a Centaur, whether using it as a static Bunker for a Stalker Boltgun squad, an Assault Vehicle for a squad loaded up with PWs and Heavy Thunder Hammers, or a mobile firebase for a squad with maxed out Frag Cannons or Infernus Heavy Bolters. Even if you just keep the baseline Bolters/Special Issue Ammo or the DW Shotguns, a 5 man Veteran squad in Centaur is much more durable and mobile than normal for a relatively cheap points investment and suffers no loss in firepower in the process.

[6] Space Marines – Honor Guard, Command Squads, Devastator Squads, Vanguard Vets, Sternguard Vets, min-sized Tactical and Assault squads, Crusader squads, and even Sniper Scout squads can all take great advantage of a squadron of 1-3 allied Centaur Weapons Carriers. Of all of these, I think Honor Guard are one of the units that truly get the most out of riding in Centaur APC, as it allows them to rapidly move across the battlefield and assault into combat, thereby maximizing their tremendous points-value while mitigating their weakness, namely lack of mobility and no Invulnerable saves. Alternately, a Devastator squad with max Grav Cannons can move into mid-field and set up a massive, 48” “area denial bubble” with their 20 Grav shots fired safely from within the Centaur “bunker” (at least until your opponent takes out the Centaur itself). Finally, the Centaur makes an exceptional transport for a Librarius Conclave, which can use it to move into position to disembark and cast their powers, cast Witchfires from inside the vehicle, and even assault out of the vehicle if you have Iron Arm and Endurance up on the squad!

[7] Skitarii – Both Rangers and Vanguard can make excellent use of Centaur support, especially since they lack any organic transport of their own, and also because it mitigates their poor durability while simultaneously letting them still use all their firepower to full advantage (especially with their Plasma Calivers, Arc Rifles, etc.).

[8] Imperial Assassins – Whether it is a Vindicare using a Centaur as shooting bunker or an Eversor/ Callidus/Culexus using it as an “assault taxi” to get the quickly across the board into combat, I think Centaur squadrons can be quite a force multiplier for Imperial Assassins (especially in new detachments, like the Castellans of the Imperium, where you can have up to 6 Assassins on the field at once).

[9] Sisters of Battle – Dominion squads, Retributor squads, Battle Sisters squads, and Command squads all can benefit from an extra layer of mobility and protection while they employ their ranged attacks to best advantage. Additionally, Centaurs can take Repentia from almost unplayable to very dangerous, since it protects them from enemy firepower and allows them to get into assault reliably, even against units on the other side of the battlefield.

[10] Inquisition – Henchman War Bands, whether they are close combat oriented (i.e. like DCAs, Crusaders, and Priests) or shooting oriented (i.e. like Acolytes, Joakeros, and Heavy Weapon-toting Servitors), can all benefit from the Open-Topped nature of Centaurs, especially if you take multiple War Bands riding in a squadron of multiple Centaurs (attached Inquisitors can also shoot and/or assault effectively from these vehicles).

[11] Militarum Tempestus/Astra Militarum – Whether as a transport for Scions/Scion Command Squads or as mobile Bunker for AM Command Squads, Ratlings, and/or Wyrdvane Psykers, there are lots of applications for the Centaur with a MT/AM list proper, especially if you flood the battlefield with them (i.e. up to 9 Centaurs if you take three squadrons of them in CAD Fast Attack slots). In particular, I think Scion Command Squads with four Hotshot Volleyguns and AM Command Squads with four Special Weapons are excellent candidates for grabbing a ride in Centaur APCs.

As you can see, there are numerous options for utilizing Centaur Weapons Carriers with Imperium allies, and I did not even touch on using them as a “Hero Hammer APC” to ferry around 1-5 Independent Characters for shooting, Witchfires, and/or Assault (i.e. imagine, say, an AM Priest and four Wolf Guard Battle Leaders with Runic Armor and TH/Wolf Claws all assaulting out of a single Centaur). Bottom line, while this is a little known Forgeworld vehicle, I think it could be a tremendous boost to the competitive lists of most Imperium armies out there.

Grey Knights and Allied Skyhammer

One of the combinations I have used in the past, to good effect, is allying a Grey Knight Nemesis Strike Force with the infamous Skyhammer Annihilation Force formation from the Space Marines faction (usually I go Ultramarines with this, for the “free” rerolls via the UM Chapter Tactics). Generally, I found that these two elements synergize quite well, especially if the GKs use the Nemesis Strike Force, which combines quite well with the Skyhammer Annihilation Force’s ability to choose what turn it will arrive on.

Here is the “foundation” of the list I used:

—Nemesis Strike Force—

[1] GK Librarian with PML(3)

[2] 5 man GK Terminator squad (with one Daemonhammer and one Psycannon)

[3] 2 x Nemesis Dreadknight (both with PT, Heavy Psycannon, Heavy Incinerator, and Daemonhammer)

 

—Ultramarines Skyhammer Annihilation Force—

[1] 2 x 10 man Devastator squads (both with Drop Pods and 4 Grav Cannons each)

[2] 2 x 5 man Assault squads (no upgrades)

 

The idea with these two lists is to maximize the Alpha Strike potential, especially with the potential for all units to come in from Reserve Turn 1 (or in the case of the Dreadknights, more often than not, start the game on the table and shunt 30″ upfield on Turn 1 to provide threat overload alongside the arriving Skyhammer units.

In terms of synergy, the Grey Knights bring the following to the army:

[1] Psychic Powers/Dice — Even this small force generates 6 WCs a turn and, between the automatic powers on the Terminators/Dreadknights and the wide-range of powers to choose from on the PML(3) Librarian, you can have tools to deal with any situation. You can even buff the Skyhammer units with power such as Prescience, Invisibility, and Phase Form, or alternately you can “debuff” the enemy with powers like Misfortune, Null Zone, and Subvert Machine.

[2] Anti-horde shooting — With Psycannons, Heavy Psycannons, Heavy Incinerators, and Storm Bolters, plus strong close combat abilities across the board, the Grey Knight half of this force can deal with hordes of light infantry that the Grav-heavy Skyhammer units might otherwise struggle against.

[3] Close Combat Power — The Librarian and Terminators hit solidly in the Assault phase by themselves, especially with guaranteed access to Hammerhand and Force Weapons, but the real threat here is the two Nemesis Dreadknights, who on the charge can generate 10 x S10 AP2 Force weapon attacks at I4 and WS5. Combine this with their superior mobility (from the Personal Teleporters) and strong durability (4W T6 protected by 2+/5++, which can bump up to a 4++ with successful casting of Sanctuary) and you have a close combat threat that can handle even the toughest units in the game, which is a strong compliment to the Grav shooting prowess of the Skyhammer Devastators.

As for the Ultramarine Skyhammer units, they bring to the army the following:

[1] Massed Grav-Shooting — With 40 Grav Shots a turn (including coming out of their Drop Pods, since they are Relentless), with re-rolls to Hit from Devastator Doctrine, and re-rolls to Wound/to Penetrate due to Grav Amps, all of which can be targeted at up to four different units a turn (thanks to Combat Squads), the Skyhammer Annihilation Force provides a threat that can be devastating to medium/heavy infantry, Monstrous Creatures, and even vehicles all game long.

[2] Mobile Skirmishers/Objective Grabbers — The two “bare bones” ASM squads have the ability to charge the same turn they arrive, making them an excellent “bully” unit for tying up enemy shooty unit or even a “sacrificial lamb” unit to assault powerful enemy combatants that you need to occupy for a turn or two while the rest of your Devastators and Grey Knights do their work. Additionally, with their inherent mobility, you can use the ASM to grab far-flung objectives all game long.

[3] Synergy Enhancers — You can also use the special rules of the Skyhammer formation to effectively “suppress” enemy units before they are charged simply by shooting at them; either they are forced to Go to Ground if they fail a 3D6 leadership check or, if they pass it, then they still cannot fire overwatch, making even Bolter armed Devastator Combat Squads quite solid at neutralizing key enemy units for a turn. Additionally, the ASM can be used as cheap skirmisher type units, screening other elements of your force from enemy assault and/or harassing your opponent’s plans with their maneuvering.

As you can see, the Skyhammer Annihilation Force is already a potent formation (one of the best in the game), but combined with these elements of a Nemesis Strike Force, they can make for quite a competitive Imperial “task force.”

Custodes Tactica

With GW releasing 40K rules for the new Custodes models (albeit without a way to field them quite yet, aside from Unbound; I am going off the assumption that that will be corrected soon), I think they have solid potential for competitive play. Looking at their stats/rules, they have the following:

-WS5 BS5 S5 T5 W2 I4 A3 Ld 10 Sv2+

-Guardian Spear (Shoots just like a Bolter and, in close combat, has the following profile: S: +1 AP2, Two-Handed, Block — Gives a chance to block one enemy attack per turn, if you roll higher than their To Hit roll) and Power Knife

Custodes can trade the Guardian Spear for Sentinel Blade (Power Sword with 12″ S4 AP5 Assault 2 shooting profile built in, which also can make Snap Shots at BS2) for free, which means you go down to S5 AP3 and lose AP2 (and the Block special rule), but gain +1A (since the sword is not Two-handed and combines with the Power Knife for two close combat weapons) and the ability to shoot and assault the same turn (unlike the Guardian Spear, which cannot assault after shooting, since it is a Rapid Fire weapon).  More importantly, if you do NOT have a Guardian Spear, each Custodes can take a Storm Shield, giving them a 3++ and counter-acting a critical vulnerability, namely the lack of any Invul Save in their “natural” state.

Special Rules wise, the whole squad is Bulky, can Deep Strike, has Adamantium Will, is Fearless, and (most importantly) has Eternal Warrior! GK Paladins are dying with envy for these kind of stats! 😉 Seriously, though, this makes them quite flexible and reliable, with the option to deploy by Deep Strike or ride in Land Raiders, no danger of every failing a Morale check, and insurance that they will never lose both their wounds to a single attack (except it is a Destroyer attack, of course). One small interesting note is that all Custodes are Characters, not just their “sergeant,” meaning you can choose any of them to take a challenge (great for saving attached ICs) and also any of them can try and Look Out Sir! on a 4+ to preserve their wounds.

Finally, one Custodes in your army can trade his Guardian Spear out for a Custodes Vexilla Banner, giving Fearless to any friendly Imperium units within 12″ and +1A to any friendly Imperium. Combine all this with the Shield Captain “squad sergeant” (who is mandatory and has +1WS, I, and A above normal Custodes) and the option to add up to 5 more Custodes, at 10 MBs per model, and you have an expensive but potent unit, especially in close combat.

OK, now that we have gone over the basics, how do we get the most out of these expensive models? I think their primary weaknesses are lack of an Invul save (unless they drop Guardian Spears for Sentinel Blades and Stormshields), their lower mobility (Deep Striking aside), and their mediocre shooting (basically just Bolter shots at BS5). On the other hand, they strike at S6 AP2 with I4 and WS5, with 4A per model on the charge (5A if the unit has the Custodes Vexilla banner), they are T5 with 2W and Eternal Warrior to make them VERY survivable against anything that is not AP2/1, and they can mix up Guardian Spears/Sentinel Blade + Storm Shield combos to give them both hitting power and durability in the same unit.

Here are some ways I think to “force-multiply” them right out the gate and take them to the next level in terms of competitive game play:

[1] Azrael — Attaching the Dark Angel Chapter Master gives them all a 4++ (even with Guardian Spear), making them MUCH more durable without sacrificing their S6 AP2 attacks at full initiative. Additionally, if they are riding in a transport with him (say a LR Redeemer or a Spartan Assault Tank), then his 4++ is conferred to the transport, making it more 50% more survivable and thus more likely to deliver them to combat successfully. Finally, if Azrael your WL, then he can choose his trait, ranging from adding +3″ to the unit’s Run and Charge moves to giving the squad Furious Charge (so all the Guardian Spear Custodes are hitting at S7 on the charge, making them a real threat to most vehicles) to FNP for the unit if they are close to an Objective.

[2] Brother-Captain Stern — With guaranteed access to both Hammerhand and Sanctuary, he can make the already dangerous Custodes into almost invincible Close Combat monsters. Hammerhand makes their Guardian Spears strike at S8 AP2 (at I4 still) and even models with Sentinel Blades attack at S7 AP3. Better yet, Sanctuary ups any Custodes with Storm Shields to a 2++, allowing them to “shrug off” an average of  83% of all enemy AP2/1 attacks for the rest of the squad. Finally, he adds his own close combat power, especially his Force Weapon, into the mix and also gives the whole unit Preferred Enemy (Daemons) and enhanced Deny the Witch (which synergizes well with the Adamantium Will of the Custodes).

[3] Sevrin Loth — With guaranteed access to Endurance, Enfeeble, and Life Leech (in the Biomancy Discipline), he can double the survivability of the Custodes against anything that is not S10 (or has Instant Death inherently) via FNP(4+), he can reduce enemy Toughness by -1 (so S6 Guardian Spears “double out” T3 Space Marine, for example), and he can restore lost wounds to Custodes via Life Leech. Alternately, he can go Telepathy instead, with guaranteed access to Invisibility, again making the whole unit vastly more difficult to hurt via shooting or close combat. Finally, he is very solid Close Combat fighter himself, especially with his ability to have a 2++ save using the Armor of Selket.

[4] Ulrik the Slayer — While not as dramatic as some of the HQs already mentioned, he gives the entire squad of Custodes he is attached to Preferred Enemy, without any requirement to pass any Psychic Tests, and he also gives them FNP(6+), for a small buff in durability. Ulrik is not amazing as a fighter, but does have a BS5 Plasma Pistol and 5 x S6 AP4 attacks at WS6 and I5 on the charge, so he can add a little more “uummpphh” to the Custodes, especially against vehicles and units with 4+ armor or worse. Finally, if he is the WL, he also gives the unit Monster Hunter, which is quite solid for dealing with enemy MCs and GMCs that are more and more common in the game these days.

[5] Sanguinary Priest with The Angel’s Wing relic — A cheap way to give the Custodes FNP, without any need to roll for Psychic Powers or pass Psychic Tests. Additionally, the Angels Wing allows the entire unit to Deep Strike more safely/accurately and also makes it much less vulnerable to enemy Interceptor fire (mainly thinking of Tau here).

[6] Deathwatch TDA Librarian with Dominus Aegis relic — The DW Librarian can move normally with the Custodes or Deep Strike in with them, depending on the circumstances, and can also use any Psychic Powers he rolls to enhance them (imagine if he got Warpmetal Armor and cast on the Custodes squad, making the entire unit majority T6!). The Dominus Aegis gives the whole unit a 4++ if it does not move, which also activates on the second round of any combat (since they cannot move, by default, if they are stuck in combat), making the entire squad much more durable at a bargain points cost.

[7] Ordos Xenos Inquisitor with Rad Grenades, Ulumeathi Plasma Syphon, and Liber Heresius relic — The Rad Grenades reduce enemy Toughness by -1 on the first round of any combat, making the Custodes more potent in combat than they already are, the Plasma Syphon reduces the threat of Rapid Fire Plasma Weapons significantly, and the Liber Heresius relic allows the squad to Scout at the beginning of the game and gain Counter-attack and Hatred for one turn each later in the game, which can be quite useful in the right circumstances.

 

[8] Two Adepta Sororitas Ministorum Priests, one with the Litanies of Faith relic — The Priests gives the Custodes Hatred for re-rolls to Hit in the first round of combat (the Custodes already have the Fearless portion of Zealot), which is a solid buff in and of itself. More importantly, the Litanies of Faith allows both Priests to auto-pass their War Hymns tests, meaning that as long as they are alive, the whole unit AUTOMATICALLY gains Shred for its close combat attacks and AUTOMATICALLY re-rolls any saving throws (both Armor and Invul) in close combat… taken together, especially with a few Custodes with Storm Shields up front for “tanking” purposes, and you should be able to tear through even the most deadly opponents like Wulfen, Ork War bosses in Mega Armor, Hive Tyrants, GMCs, Iron Hands Chapter Masters with the Gorgon’s Chain relic, etc. etc.