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.

Custodes Caladius Grav-Tank

While the Caladius is being released by Forgeworld for 30K only right now, I think it is highly likely to be added as an option for the Agents of the Imperium codex (which will include Custodes) in 40K in the future. Based on that possibility, here are some initial thoughts on the tactical employment of this advanced combat vehicle, if it does indeed port over to the 40K universe:

In terms of stats, the Caladius is a Fast Skimmer with BS5 AV13/13/11 and 3HPs. It also comes with POTMS, Deep Strike, and Outflank (the 30K version also has Flare Shields and Grav-Backwash, but I doubt that will be included in a 40K version). In terms of weapons, it has:

[1] TLed Lastrum Bolt Cannon (36″ S6 AP3, Heavy 3, Heliothermic Detonation) on its hull

[2] TLed Iliastus Accelerator Cannon (60″ S7 AP2, Heavy 3, Rending, Rapid Tracking, Heliothermic Detonation) on its turret (Note: Rapid Tracking allows the Iliastus Accelerator Cannon to ignore Jink saves and Heliothermic Detonation allows both weapons to add +1 on the Vehicle Damage table for penetrating hits and force a Toughness test for Unsaved Wounds, with any model failing that test suffering Instant Death).

Finally, the Caladius can take Armoured Ceramite for 4 MBs and/or Extra Armor for 1 MB as upgrades (the entire vehicle without upgrades is just shy of 40 MBs in price).

In terms of tactical employment, this is basically a more expensive, more capable Sicarian Predator tank. With BS5, TLed on both of its weapons, and its status as a Fast Skimmer, the Caladius can move 12″, shoot both of its weapons (each at a different target, thanks to POTMS), and have 97% accuracy for all of its shots. AV13 on its front and sides mean it is quite durable, as long as you keep enemy forces away from its rear arc, and can ignore S6 and below shooting attacks from the front/sides (this is especially true if you take Armoured Ceramite for Melta immunity). Finally, if you need to get it into a specific firing position (or to grab an Objective), it has superior mobility options from the ability to Deep Strike, Outflank, or move 30″ in a single turn (12″ normal move + 18″ Flat Out for being a Fast Skimmer). All in all, you pay quite a lot for this vehicle, but in return you get a VERY capable vehicle all three key classifications of mobility, durability, and firepower.

Speaking of firepower, I think there are several very good targets for the Caladius:

[1] Bikes and Jetbikes — With the ability to ignore Jink saves for the Iliastus Accelerator Cannon, coupled with TLed BS5 and S7 AP2, you have a VERY good chance of killing two to three bikes a turn with this weapon, despite their T5 and access “built-in” cover saves. Add in three BS5 TLed more shots from the Lastrum Bolt Cannon and this tank can reliably kill (or at least reduce to just one or two survivors) an entire Biker or Jetbike squad every Shooting Phase (the long range of these two weapons, coupled with the ability to move 12″ and still shoot, makes this even more effective). If you are able to successful cast Phase Form on the Caladius, then it gets even better at this roll, ignoring both LOS and enemy cover saves with BOTH of its weapons.

[2] Monstrous Creatures and Hero ICs– Combining the high strength/low AP of both its weapons and the built in superior accuracy makes the Caladius quite good at chipping wounds off of MCs and ICs, especially at long range, before they can get in close to shoot and/or assault. What really makes this tank shine in this roll, however, is the Heliothermic Detonation rule; while T5+ MCs are unlikely to fail a Toughness test, if you inflict unsaved wounds enough times in different shooting phases, the odds are the will and, on that one time that they do, they lose any FNP they have (i.e. Riptides) and they also lose all their remaining wounds in a single shot. Against T4 and below ICs, failing a Toughness Test is even more likely (casting Enfeeble on the target can make this even more probable), which means that Warlords without Eternal Warrior have to be very wary of the Caladius.

[3] Medium/Light Skimmers  — Ignoring Jink makes a big difference here, as does lots of accurate S7 and S6 shots that chip off HPs rapidly (or cause an Explodes! result on a roll of 5+, in the case of a Penetrating Hit from the Iliastus Accelerator Cannon). Many Skimmers also tend to use mobility and long-ranges to avoid enemy shooting, but the Caladius can often outmaneuver and outrange these opponents, thus negating these tactics. Finally, if using Deep Strike or Outflank effectively, the Caladius can get good flank or even rear armor shots, making even its S6 AP3 TLed Lastrum Bolt Cannon a threat. Basically, all Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tau, Necron, and Astartes Skimmers have to be very careful when an enemy Caladius in on the field.

[4] Heavy Infantry — Units like Tau Battlesuits, Centurions, Terminators, Meganobz, Wraithguard, Lychguard, Ogryns, Obliterators, and (ironically) enemy Custodes are all excellent targets for a Caladius’ weapons load-out. Combine this with the new Null Zone power, to reduce enemy Invul saves by -2, and you kill several dangerous/expensive enemy heavy infantry models each turn at quite long-ranges (i.e. for example, a Caladius could reliably kill and entire 3-man Crises squad each Shooting Phase, which would be pretty devastating for a Farsight Enclave army based around lots of these).

In terms of survivability, there are a couple of ways to enhance the Caladius’ chances of surviving enemy attacks directed at it. First, you can use a friendly Sky-Shield Landing Pad to provide it with a “free” 4++ save on top of its AV 13/13/11, without having to Jink (and so lose most of its firepower). Second, you can cast Warpmetal Armour on it, bringing its stats up to AV14/14/12 (so basically a Land Raider from the front and sides). Finally, you can repair it with the Reforge power (and grant it IWND in the process) and, if you have to, Jink for a 4++ cover save if you are desperate. Probably the best defense for this Grav-Tank is to use its range and mobility to keep it out of range/LOS from the most dangerous enemy weapons and take Armoured Ceramite to protect if from enemy meltacide squads.

Sisters of Silence Deployment Tactics

Well, just like Custodes, Sisters of Silence now have a formation that allows players to field them without going the Unbound route. Sisters of Silence have the following stat line:

WS4 BS4 S3 T3 I5 A2 Ld 10 Sv3+ (15 points cost per model, +10 points for Sister Superior)

Additionally, they are Fearless, cause Fear, and have “Bane of Psykers” (get Precision Shots and Precision Hits and may re-roll at to Hit rolls against any enemy units that contain at least one model with Psyker/Brotherhood of Psyker/Psychic Pilot rules) and, more importantly, Psychic Abomination, which is basically the same as the Culexus Assassin’s special rule (i.e. ALL Psykers, friend or foe, within 12″ have -3Ld, do not generate any Warp Charges, and can only harness Warp Charges on a 6+; also, units with this rule can never be affected by any kind of Psychic Power, good or bad, and ANY blessings or maledictions that are “active” within 12″ of a model with this rule are immediately cancelled).

In terms of Wargear, Sisters of Silence come stock with Bolters, CCWs, and Psykout grenades, but can trade out their Bolters for Executioner Greatblades (S: +1 AP2, Two-handed) for free or for Flamers (+2 points per model), giving them solid options for both close range shooting and combat.Obviously, their real value is their ability to shut down enemy psykers (and the Deathstars dependent on them) for a very economical points cost.

Aside from their fragility (T3, 3+ armor saves means they are pretty much like Aspect Warriors), Sisters of Silence’ greatest weakness is mobility, since they lack any form of special deployment like Deep Strike, Infiltration, Scout, etc. and also do not have any inherent access to any dedicated transports.

Out the gate, here are a few ideas on how to get Sisters of Silence “into the mix” and close up to the enemy where they can effectively employ their Flamers, I5 S4 AP2 Greatblades, and/or anti-Psyker abilities:

[1] Lias Issodon — Taking him as your Warlord gives you the guaranteed ability to Infiltrate himself and three friendly units… this obviously works amazing with Sisters of Silence, getting them at least within 18″ of the enemy (as close as 12″ away, if they can find LOS blocking terrain)… on Turn 1, the Sisters move up 6″, then run another D6″, basically guaranteeing that you are within 12″ of a selected enemy unit (or units) and cancel any Blessings cast on it (we are thinking Deathstars here, especially ones that rely on durability buffing spells like Invisibility, Endurance, Warpmetal Armor, Veil of Time, etc.)

[2] Allied Stormraven (with Locator Beacon) and Skyshield Landing Pad — The Sisters cannot start the game in the Stormraven, but they can mount up turn 1 and the flyer can then “dash” forward turn 1, using Jink to help keep it alive. Turn 2, the Stormraven can switch to Zooming mode, making it able to get almost anywhere on the board, and then use Skies of Fury and the Locator Beacon to basically “precision drop” the Sisters of Silence wherever you need them, whether to unleash mass flamer templates on tightly packed enemy infantry or to neutralize enemy Psychic capabilities.

[3] Allied Land Raider Spearhead formation — If you want to go the expensive route (and equip the Sisters for close combat via Executioner Greatblades), then you can use this formation to get three Land Raider transports (which ignore all vehicle damage table results except for Explodes if they are within 6″ of each other) that can safely an entire three squad Null-Maiden Task Force to the front safely. Not only can they get the Sisters of Silence in range to pop out and unleash multiple anti-psykers “bubbles,” but since they are Assault Vehicles the Sisters can also charge in the same turn, putting their 3 x S4 AP2 I5 attacks per model to good use (this should wreck almost any MEQ squad, especially with the Sisters of Silence’s high initiative, but can also be great against 2+ saves enemies that strike at lower initiative, such as Devastator/Assault Centurions, Terminators, Mega Armored Nobz, Broadside Battlesuits, etc.). As with the Stormraven tactic described above, the Sisters have to start the game outside the Land Raiders, but can jump in turn 1, then have their transports move up 12″ + 6″ from Flat Out to get into position quickly.

[4] Allied Fortification with Escape Hatch — As I have discussed a number of times in previous articles, the Escape Hatch trick is a relatively secure (and cheap, points-wise) method to get a friendly foot-slogging unit between 19-24″ across the board turn 1 (i.e. Escape Hatch is deployed 12″ toward the enemy DZ before the game begins, turn 1 the unit disembarks 6″ from it, then run another D6″). While this is not a foll-proof method, it can reliably “sling-shot” a squad of Sisters of Silence toward the enemy DZ and allow them to begin shutting down enemy Psychic abilities/powers as early as Turn 1, in turn making the rest of your army much more powerful against opponents that rely heavily on these abilities.


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.