Codex Deathwatch: Allied Cerastus Knight-Lancer

As I continue to look at the new Deathwatch faction and how to integrate them effectively into the competitive 40K landscape, I think take an allied Oathsworn detachment of 1-2 Imperial Knights would be a highly effective and synergistic mix. As I discussed before, one of the problems with Deathwatch is the high cost (and so low model count) of even its cheapest units, especially compared to other MEQ based armies whose “basic” troops often cost about half as much as a barebones DW Veteran (in this, I think Deathwatch armies are very similar to the old, 3rd/4th edition Grey Knight armies, which had pretty limited unit options and very expensive “base” models, but which had relatively high combat power potential in each unit). I addressed one potential solution to this high point cost/low model count with my recent post on allying in the Space Wolf “Wolfkin” formation to provide lots of cheap bodies for screening, board control, and melee tie-up, as well as distracting enemy shooting away from the pricey DW units (basically, the ‘Wolfkin” are kind of the Imperium’s version of Ork Boy Mobs).

The other problems I think Deathwatch faction players will face is the lack of potent, medium to long-range firepower outside of Razorbacks, Land Raiders, and Dreadnoughts with Lascannons and/or DW Vet squads with Missile Launchers (which is VERY expensive way to get a “Devastator equivalent” type squad), their lack of very durable assault units (outside TH/SS Terminators), and their somewhat limited options in dealing with Gargantuan Creatures like the very popular Wraithknights and Stormsurges of late.

One way to deal with all this is taking 1-2 allied Imperial Knights, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article. While you can find justification for taking pretty much any of the Knight variants as an ally to Deathwatch (the Knight Gallant and Knight Warden both come to mind), I think one Imperial Knight variant stands out:

-Cerastus Knight-Lancer — With a basic Imperial Knight profile of AV 13/12/12 and 4A base, the Lancer differs from other IKs in that it has special Ion Shield which cannot cover its rear arc, but gives a 5++ in close combat and forces Super-Heavy Walkers and Gargantuan Creatures to have a -1 to Hit in close combat attacks directed against it. Additionally, it can give up its shooting to run 3D6″ (so a max potential movement of 30″ in a single turn). Finally, it Shock Lance can shoot at 18″ with S7 AP2 Heavy 6 Concussive and can be used in Melee with Strength D AP2, just like most other Knight CC weapons, but it also grants +1I on the charge.

On its own, the Lancer is powerful threat that enemy forces cannot afford to ignore and thus can serve as a very effective “damage tank” to take opposing combat power away from your relatively fragile Deathwatch units and allowing them to keep dishing out their own combat power for longer. It also provides an effective answer to  LOW units, like Wraithknights, enemy Knights, etc. that would be difficult for the Deathwatch to handle on their own (i.e. if the Lancer inflicts an Unsaved Wound on a Wraithknight with its shooting, then Concussive reduces the Wraithknight to I1, allowing the Lancer to strike before it with a S10 Hammer of Wrath and 5 Strength D AP2 attacks, which taken together have a very solid chance of killing the Eldar GMC before it can even strike back).

In terms of synergy, the Deathwatch have exceptional access to Librarians (you can have multiples of these in EVERY Kill Team, if you want), which in turn gives them several options for force-multiplying the Lancer:

a) Invisibility — Obvious application here, an Invisible Lancer would be almost impossible to bring down before it charges into combat and even difficult to hit once it is in the Assault phase

b) Prescience — Being able to re-roll all of its To Hit (both shooting and assault) is a TREMENDOUS boon for the Lancer and makes its already effective shooting and devastating close combat abilities even better.

c) Magnetokinesis — Granting the Lancer a “free” move of 18″ in the Psychic Phase in addition to its normal 12″ Move and 3D6″ Run means it can basically be anywhere on the board at the end of Turn 1, ready to charge at will on turn 2.

d) Null Zone — Reducing a target enemy’s Invul Save by -2 combines very well with the Lancer’s shooting and close combat attacks, as it removes some of the only defenses those units have against the Lancer’s otherwise deadly offensive capacity.

e) Reforge — While not super powerful, repairing one lost HP and giving the Lancer IWND can keep it in the fight a bit longer, thereby forcing your opponent to dedicate even more combat power to deal with it (and, thus, less combat power they can use against your DW forces)

f) Warpmetal Armor — Along with Invisibility and Prescience, this might be the “ultimate” power to use on an allied Lancer. By increasing its Armor to AV14/13/13, Warpmetal Armor makes this Imperial Knight tremendously more survivable against both shooting and close combat attacks, with even S10 Railguns and Wulfen Thunder Hammers requiring 4+s to cause glancing hits on it.

Taken all together, I think a Cerastus Knight-Lancer, working in conjunction with MSU Deathwatch squads and/or Kill Teams, can make for a very effective, and hard to counter, combination in competitive 40K games, as well providing some balance to the weak areas of a Deathwatch CAD or Black Spear Strike Force primary detachment.

Cerastus Knight-Acheron and Psychic Support

The Knight-Acheron is a FW variant Imperial Knight that can be taken as part of  Codex: Imperial Knights or as a LOW choice for any Imperium army.

https://www.forgeworld.co.uk/resources/fw_site/fw_pdfs/Warhammer_40000/Cerastus_Knight_Acheron.pdf

As you can see, it has basic Imperial Knights stats (AV13/12/12, 6 HPs, WS4 BS4 I4 A4) and Rules/Wargear (Super-Heavy Walker rules, Ion Shield) and comes in at a cost of 83 MBs. What separates the Acheron from other Imperial Knights is its Flank Speed special rule (if it chooses to Run, it moves 3D6″) and its weapons:

1 – Acheron-pattern Flame Cannon — Hellstorm S: 7 AP3 Ordnance 1

2 – TLed Heavy Bolter — 36″ S: 5 AP4 Heavy 3

3 – Reaper Chainfist – S: D 2 Melee, Machine Destroyer (when attacking any target with an Armor value, rolls of 1 on the Destroyer Damage table may be re-rolled)

Obviously, the Acheron is built to get in close with the enemy as quickly as possible, light them up with its Hellstorm template, and then charge into melee with S10 Hammer of Wrath/5 x Destroyer attacks on the charge. The question is, how to make sure you can do this successfully?

To answer this, I think we have to look at two key elements… mobility and survivability. Since Imperial Knights are battle brothers with other Imperium factions, they can benefit from at least some of their buffs, in particular they can profit from allied Psychic support.

Right out the gate, some of the best Psychic Powers that I can see to help the Acheron with its Survivability are:

1 – Invisibility — Naturally, being able to make enemies only Snap Shot at it and only hit it on 6+ in combat makes it WAY more survivable, giving it time to get across the table and lay down the hurt

2 – Warpmetal Armor — Improving the Acheron to AV14/13/13 is a BIG boost to its durability, making it immune to S7 shooting from the front and anything not S8+ in close combat, plus combining with the Ion Shield to make it just that much more tough to damage.

3 – Flame Shield — While the Ion Shield provides a 4++ for ONE facing, Flame Shield provides a 4++ cover save on all sides, making the Acheron 50% less vulnerable to melta drops in its rear arc and other anti-tank shooting that can engage it from the flanks.

4 – Reforge — Basically a power that restores a lost HP and gives the Acheron IWND, which obviously can be very helpful during a game, potentially “healing” up to two lost HPs a turn.

In terms of mobility, the Psychic support options are more limited, but two new Space Marine powers can help the Acheron get across the field very quickly:

1 – Magentokinesis — Grants the Acheron a free 18″ move in the Psychic phase. While it cannot charge the same turn it does this, it can still shoot its mighty S7 AP3 Hellstorm template or just use its 12″ move +18″ Magnetokinesis move + 3D6″ run move displace a total of 33-48″ each turn, setting up basically guaranteed flaming/charging in subsequent turns.

2 – Shifting Worldscape — If the Acheron is inside a piece of terrain, then you can “levitate” that terrain (and the Acheron inside it) up to 24″. This normally forces a Dangerous Terrain test, but with Move through Cover and Super-Heavy status, the Acheron can basically ignore this risk and still shoot and charge the enemy that same turn (the biggest shortcoming of this ability is that Shifting Worldscape costs 3 WCs, making is difficult to cast reliably).

Finally, in terms of enhancing the damage output of the Acheron, there are a couple of options:

1 – Prescience — While the Hellstorm template hits automatically and the Heavy Bolter is already twin-linked, this in essence gives the Acheron “Hatred” in close combat, greatly increasing the chance that its 5 x Destroyer attacks on the charge actually hit their target.

2 – Null Zone — Dropping enemy Invul saves by -2 gives the Acheron much more damage potential against tough units, both in shooting and close combat. Additionally, when dueling with powerful close combat enemies, this can mean the margin of victory for the Acheron.

3 – Doom (Runes of Fate) and Drain (Runes of Battle) – While Eldar are allies of convenience and so cannot cast Blessing powers on the Acheron, there is nothing stopping them from casting a Malediction on the common foe and benefiting the Imperial Knight in that way. Doom basically grants the Acheron Shred when shooting at a selected target, meaning it has a 97% chance of wounding anything with T5 or below. Drain, on the other hand, lowers an enemy’s WS/I by -1, which can be critical for when the Acheron charges say, an enemy Wraithknight, since it gives the Acheron a better chance of hitting and also the ability to hit simultaneously in close combat.