Wargear Analysis: Top Relics in the 40K Universe (Part I)

I have been looking through all the different armies in 40K and here is my take on the top Relics in the game right now, the ones a competitive list should not leave home without (in no particular order):

 

[1] GORGON’S CHAIN (Iron Hands) — Gives Bearer a 3++, Eternal Warrior, and +1 to his FNP (does not replace a weapon); as the Bearer loses wounds, this item loses some of its benefits (but regains them it the Bearer regains the wounds somehow).

*Rationale: Not only is this one of the great durability enhancing Relics in the game (especially when combined with something like a Narthecium from an attached Command Squad or the Endurance power) but, unlike the Shield Eternal, you do not lose out on the ability to fight with two close combat weapons for +1A when using it. The classic way to use it is with an Iron Hands Chapter Master… give him a bike, Artificer Armor, PF, LC, and the Gorgon’s Chain and attach him to a Biker Command squad and you have a character that is 4W, T5, 2+/3++, with IWND and FNP(3+)… on top of this, he puts out either 6 PF or 6 LC attacks on the charge at WS6, so a true close combat beast on almost every level.

 

[2] HUNTER’S EYE (White Scars) / MULTI-SPECTRUM SENSOR SUITE (Tau) — Both of these relics do exactly the same thing, which is allow the shooting of their unit to Ignore Cover, with no test of any kind required (the Tau MSS only works if its bearer does not shoot himself, while the Hunter’s Eye still allows its bearer to shoot and benefit from Ignore Cover).

*Rationale: I don’t think I need to explain how powerful these two Relics are, especially when combined with a powerful shooting unit, since Cover Saves are one of the key forms of survivability for everything from hordes of light infantry to Jinking Bikes/Skimmers/FMCs to even vehicles using Smoke Grenade Launchers. Being able to remove this protection with 100% reliability is amazing and can be a game-changer in almost all circumstances. Some of the best uses for these Relics include attaching their bearer to Grav-Cannon Centurions, Missile-side Teams, Long Fangs with Plasma Cannons behind a Haemotrope Reactor, and Deep Striking Crises Suit Teams (with almost any weapons configuration), though the possibilities really are almost endless. Imperium forces probably get the most out of an attached White Scars IC with the Hunter’s Eye, since there are no limitations to its abilities and since Tau already have easy access to Ignore Cover via Markerlights, but these two Relics are definitely in the “don’t leave home without them” category.

 

[3] GRIMOIRE OF TRUE NAMES (Chaos Daemons) — Roll a dice, on a 3+ you cause the target friendly Daemon unit to improve its Invul save by +2, on a 1 or 2 roll, then they make it worse by -1.

*Rationale: Another of the most “famous” Relics (since several Chaos Deathstars are built around it), in conjunction with the Cursed Earth power (from Malefic Daemonology) you can bring a selected Daemon unit up to a 2++ (which becomes re-rollable if the are a Daemon of Tzeentch). Combine this with a powerhouse unit, like a Daemon Prince/Daemonic MC, a horde of Flesh Hounds, or even allied CSM Daemons (like Possessed, Obliterators, and Warp Talons) and you have a durable, mobile, and deadly unit which cannot be ignored, but also can shrug off entire armies worth of combat power. Of course, there is some risk associated with it, but that is why so many Daemon players us Fateweaver for the re-roll to the Grimoire (i.e. it goes from a 66% chance of success to an 88% chance with Fateweaver support).

 

[4] TALISMAN OF BURNING BLOOD (World Eaters) — Add 3″ to the Movement, Run, and Charge distances of the Bearer and his unit.

*Rationale: Another very powerful relic that you can build an entire Khorne army around. One of the best builds I can think of for this is a unit of World Eater Bikers from the Butcherhorde detachment, along with up to five attached Chaos Lords on Juggernauts… give the Talisman of Burning Blood to one of the Lords and outfit the rest with close combat Relics and you have a unit that is T5 across the board, hits like a freight train thanks to Rage + Furious Charge + Khorne Relics (and can even split into six different units to charge multiple elements of your opponent’s army), and also has ridiculous mobility. How much mobility? Well, this unit gets a free 2D6″ movement before the game begins (which does not prevent charging on turn 1, unlike Scout), can move “normally” up to 15″, then charge another 2D6+3″ (with re-rolls for failed charges), which gives it an average Turn 1 charge threat radius of 32″… pretty impressive! As I mentioned, the whole unit can use this, then split up later turns to maximize the “choppiness,” and generally cause all kinds of problems for an opposing army, especially a shooting-based force like Tau or even Eldar.

 

[5] ASTRAL GRIMOIRE (Thousand Sons) — The bearer can make one friendly unit within 12″ (this can be his unit, if he wants) into Jump Infantry for the Movement Phase each turn, with no requirement of any kind of Psychic or Leadership test.

*Rationale: This is one of my favorite Relics, and one that I have already tried building an army around, because it is so reliable and literally doubles the mobility and flexibility of otherwise slow-moving units, be it Scarab Occult Terminators, Obliterators, 20 man blobs of Rubric Marines, Possessed, or even Tzaangor Warherds. Add in some Psychic support to make the unit even more durable and potent in shooting and/or close combat and the Astral Grimoire can really turn a good unit into an elite, “flagship” battle group for your whole army that will be a threat to all kinds of opponents. So far, my favorite build is 10 x Thousand Sons Terminators with Combi-Meltas, Chainfists, Reaper Autocannons, and an attached PML(3) Sorceror (he carries the Astral Grimoire for the unit)… if you get a blessing off on the unit, then the Terminators can move 12″ a turn, shoot either Bolters/Reaper Autocannons or Meltas/Reaper Autocannons, and charge in with their Chainfists, all while rocking 2+/3++ saves to make for a unit that can really do a mix of everything well.

 


OK, that’s it for now, will look at the remaining Top 10 later, plus some honorable mentions in there as well 😉

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.

Skyhammer Fist of Medusa Task Force

I think this might be an unusual, but competitive, army build using the Iron Hand’s Fist of Medusa detachment. Basically, you use the following components:

—CORE—

*Battle Demi-Company (Terminator Captain in Cataphractii Armor,  3 Tactical Squads in Drop Pods with Melta/Combi-Melta, ASM squad in Drop Pod with double Flamers, Devastator Squad with 4 Multi-Meltas, Drop Pod)

—COMMAND—

*Strike Force Command (Terminator Captain in Cataphractii Armor with Relic Blade and Auspex)

*Strike Force Command (Terminator Captain in Cataphractii Armor with Relic Blade and Auspex)

—AUXILIARY—

*Skyhammer Annihilation Force (2 ASM squads, 2 Devastator Squads with 4 Grav Cannons, Drop Pods)

*Raptor Wing (2 Stormtalons with TLed Lascannons, Land Speeder with 2 Heavy Bolters)

 

So, the idea with this Task Force is that each Cataphractii Terminator Captain joins a Devastator squad from the Skyhammer Annihilation Force (and the one from the Demi-Company joins the Multi-Melta Devastator squad from the Demi-Company), providing multiple benefits: first, it allows them to continue to be “Relentless” all game long (even after arrival), meaning they can move and shoot to full capacity all game long. Second, the Cataphractii Captains can “tank” for the Devastators with their 3W, 2+/4++ (and re-rolls to Invul saves of 1). Third, the Captain provides some close combat capability in case they get charged (or he can split off and charge an enemy unit preemptively, if necessary). Fourth, the Auspex reduces enemy Cover saves, which is one of the only defenses against massed Grav Cannon shooting. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, each Captain gives his squad (and any nearby Iron Hands infantry) FNP(5+), thanks to the rules of the Fist of Medusa strike force, thus greatly improving their overall durability in the game.

As for the rest of the Task Force, the Tactical Squads (and their Drop Pods) provide more Objective Secured unit and some anti-armor capability via their melta/combi-melta weapons, while the Drop Pod ASM gives you some anti-horde with dual flamers (and even more Objective Secured units). The bare bones ASM from the Skyhammer provide mobile “skirmisher” units to grab objectives, tie up enemy forces, and/or screen your own forces. Finally, the two Storm Talons provide general fire support and anti-Flyer capacity (at least if you are not using the Death from the Skies rules), while the Land Speeder spots for them and also provides some additional Heavy Bolter fire (don’t forget, if any of these Flyers/Skimmers are within 12″ of one of the Cataphractii Terminator Captains from this detachment, then they get PotMS, allowing them to “split fire” for free).

In terms of employment, if your bring in the Skyhammer on Turn 1, then you have a total of 5 Drop Pods arriving with your Alpha Strike, allowing you to hit your opponent with 40 Grav Shots and 8 Melta shots if you want. In subsequent turns, you can bring in the remaining two Drop Pods (with the Flamers on the ASM and the Melta/Combi-Melta on the Tacs) to support your force on the deck or seize other objectives (since EVERYTHING from the Demi-Company is Objective Secured, this can be very effective). You also get to bring in the Stormtalon Gunships automatically on Turn 1, thanks to the Raptor Wing rules, and can employ their TLed Assault Cannons and TLed Lascannons to great effect wherever you need them, especially when you add in Strafing Run (for BS5) against ground targets and the “Priority Target Received” for re-rolls to Wound/to Penetrate against a selected target.

Overall, I think an army like this, based around the Fist of Medusa detachment (and especially the Demi-Company and Skyhammer formations), makes for a versatile, competitive Iron Hands Task Force that can reliably take on almost any kind of opposing army.

 

Fist of Medusa and FNP

The Angels of Death Supplement has brought so many new things to the game, from Psychic Disciplines to new “Decurions” for Iron Hands/Imperial Fists/Salamanders to introduction of Cataphractii Terminator Armor to 40K that it is hard to know where to start.

Right out the gate, one of the most significant new additions, in terms of competitive gameplay, is the new Fist of Medusa detachment for Iron Hands (i.e. their own, unique version of the Gladius Strike Force). One of the new special rules (called “Reject the Flesh, Embrace the Machine”) of the Fist of Medusa detachment is that all IH models that are part of it gain an additional +1 to their FNP rolls while within 12″ of an IC from the same detachment.

This means that, combined with IH Chapter Tactics, all non-vehicle models have FNP(5+) “base” if they are within 12″ of an IC and models that already have FNP gain a net +2 to their FNP rolls… thus, a Fist of Medusa Command Squad with an Apothecary gives the entire squad FNP(3+), not to mention any attached Iron Hands ICs (i.e. with the Gorgon’s Chain relic, an IH Chapter Master attached to the Command Squad has FNP(2+)!).

Alternately, if you are able to cast Endurance (say, using a Libarious Conclave) on a Fist of Medusa squad, then the whole unit has FNP(2+). You can even get your “base” FNP from allies, such as attached SW Wolf Priests (they provide their squad with FNP(6+)) or attached BA Sanguinary Priests (they provide their squads with FNP(5+)). Since SWs and BAs don’t technically have the Chapter Tactics special rule, they do not negate IH Chapter tactics by attaching ICs to them, meaning a Fist of Medusa squad with an IH IC and a Wolf Priest attached has FNP(4+) and with an IH IC and a Sanguinary Priest attached has FNP(3+).

There are obviously many applications of all this, but just out the gate here are some of in-game the applications that come to mind:

1 – Fist of Medusa Biker Command Squad with Apothecary/Grav-guns/SSs and attached Biker Chapter Master — The classic shooty Command Squad, the entire unit has 3++ and FNP(3+), giving it better than the equivalent of a 2++ save against anything that cannot negate their FNP rolls (i.e. S10, D weapons, Instant Death weapons, all of which are relatively rare in the game). Add in the top-tier firepower and mobility, and the ability of the Chapter Master to tank with his 2+/3++/FNP(2+)/IWND and T5/4W and you have a very potent unit.

2 – Fist of Medusa Hammernators Squad (from 1st Company task Force AUX) with attached TDA Chaplain and BA Sanguinary Priest with “The Angel’s Wing” Jump Pack Relic — The entire squad starts in reserve, then Deep Strike in, using the “The Angel’s Wing” to mitigate the scatter roll and enemy Interceptor fire (looking at you, Tau Battle-suits). With the Sanguinary Priest’s Narthecium, that gives all the IH Terminators a 2+/3++ save and FNP(3+), meaning they are very difficult to kill with anything that is not S8 AP2 or better (i.e. even BS4 Grav Cannons take 13-14 shots to kill a single Hammernator like this).

3 – Fist of Medusa Devastator Centurions with attached Libarious Conclave of 3 x TDA/SS Librarians — Roll hard for Endurance and, provided you get it and cast it successfully (harnessing WCs on a 2+ should make this pretty reliable), the Centurions have T5, 2W, a 2+ save, and FNP(2+). Against non AP2/1 weapons, this gives them the equivalent of a re-rollable 2+ armor save, making them all but invincible to even massed enemy firepower while they dish out their Grav Cannon goodness. Even against AP2/1 weapons, provided they are not S10 and/or do not have the Instant Death rule, the Centurions still get FNP(2+), meaning for example it takes 21 x BS4 Plasma Gun shots to kill a single Centurion on average.

As you can see, there are LOTs of applications for the Fist of Medusa “Reject the Flesh, Embrace the Machine” special rule. The biggest limitations are, one, that you have to field the Fist of Medusa detachment with at least one Core and one Auxiliary choice to get the benefit (a significant investment that you have to build your entire army around) and, two, that you have to have Fist of Medusa ICs within 12″ plus a source of “base” FNP in the unit to get the most out of these combos.