Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Take on The New Grey Knights - Part I: HQ and Troops

Grey Knights are a little something I hold fairly dear in my heart. I’ve had a Grey Knight collection since back in 3rd edition when the metal models came out (as they were and still are amongst the nicest Space Marines ever made by GW), but my fascination with them stretches back a slight bit further, when I saw the (very) old metal terminator models, so much so that I still have an old converted SW Terminator Runepriest that I converted into one. Thus, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that my favourite models were not only getting new rules, but also new plastic multi-piece kits!

That said, by now I’m certain everyone has already heard rumours of the latest Grey Knights codex (or possibly even read the codex!), and with the official release date just around the corner, I thought I’d just take some time out of my busy day to talk about what I really feel about them. There is a lot of discussion going on about them on several forums, but I seem to notice some common “issues” being discussed, so I’m just going to toss my opinion in.

I’ll keep things simple since I assume at this point most of you have already read the rules, so I’m going to skip through statlines, abilities and whatnot, unless it serves to support my discussion. Note that my opinions are not necessarily “correct” by any means, and I humbly must admit that I’m going purely off sheer theoryhammer at the moment of writing this. These are merely my opinions, and in no way should dictate how you want to play your army J


Grey Knight Grand Master

(Yes thats Draigo, but hey, he is the Supreme I have a more fitting photo for Draigo based on his fluff...)

Coming in at a whopping 175 points base, the GM (as I’ll call him from here) is pretty much what you’d expect from a more-elite-than-usual Space Marine Commander. Pretty good stats, is considerably resilient with a sexy 3++ in close combat (with the sword), and can take a ton of kit, if you are willing to pay the points. The problem?

1) Terminator Armor (TDA from now on). Its nice for survivability, not nice for transportation. You either suck it up and buy something to move him, or just risk footslogging/deep striking him. Or shove him in a Chimera bought for Henchmen, but some part of me has a feeling that would be FAQ’ed since it seems silly that TDA cannot go into Rhinos/Razorbacks but they can go into Chimeras.

2) He has three attacks, and unless you are willing to buy falchions (ew…) that’s all he’ll ever get unless he charges. You’ll ALWAYS want to master-craft/digiweapon/both his weapons, just to make sure he doesn’t fluff his rolls. However, given that he has a Force Weapon (as with pretty much all other Grey Knights short of Crowe) in some situations that’s all you need. Still, he would still suffer against hordes, and can easily be tarpitted if you are not careful.

I’d personally not bother going to town with this guy. Just give him master-crafted and/or digital weapons and those new-fangled (and utterly awesome) rad grenades/blind grenades/servo skulls, and call it a day. I’ve seen some people suggest buying him a Psycannon, but its ultra-premium price tag due to his BS 6 makes it too costly IMO.

He does, however, bring something unique that no other army has ever seen; Grand Strategy. All the options for Grand Strategy are extremely good in the right situations. Counter-attacking deep striking Paladins? Scouting Interceptor Squads? Scoring almost-any GK? Yes please. However the real power here, IMO, is the fact it occurs before deployment so you can tailor it to your needs (more for tournaments), and combined with the fact this actually occurs before Combat Squads, you can potentially give 2-6 units additional abilities after Combat Squad’ing.

The problem with him is simply that many people would take him, but just because its “cool to have Grand Strategy”. Fact is, the GK army has access to some really nice HQ choices, and the GM is pricy for a not-very-killy character – only take him if you have a grand strategy for Grand Strategy (heh), otherwise you end up paying a lot of points for a dude with three attacks.

GK Brother Captain

No. Just no. Pay those 25 points for Grand Strategy.

Brotherhood Champion

Urgh. He usually won’t get any more than three attacks under most situations, whether it be his one-target D3 attacks or his “all in base contact” ability, and you practically send him in wanting him to die, just for a chance to nuke someone with a very risky and not-too-unlikely-to-fail ability. If you want a cheap HQ, Inquisitors is where its at.


A great utility HQ. His stats suck so don’t bother gearing him for combat, and his Level 3 upgrade, while tempting, costs a bomb. Again, I believe in keeping him simple. Most of the psychic powers have a good use, but I’m personally fond of:

1) The Shrouding. Stealth adds to the survivability of your very small elite army, and given the abundance (excessive abundance IMO) of cover in 5th ed., you’d want this.

2) Sanctuary. Anyone who has ever played with/against pIrusk in Warmachine knows how bloody frustrating it is to force difficult terrain on charging units, and potentially game-changing. Making it dangerous terrain to boot is just icing on the cake.

3) The Summoning (maybe). The ability to move something from anywhere in the table to where the Librarian is opens up a realm of possibilities. The reason I said “maybe” is because it is somewhat risky due to the deep strike rules, and the way I read it, I’m pretty sure servo skulls/Mystics/homers do not work as targets of the Summoning are not “arriving”, they are simply being moved around.

Lord Kaldor Draigo

Frankly his fluff is terrible and feels like the writer was high on Chuck Norris jokes when he wrote them, but that’s not my point…

Many people have called him “Mephiston for GKs”, and seeing his stats, its not difficult to see why. S5 T5 W4, Eternal Warrior and with a 2+/3++ save, he will be extremely difficult to kill. Scary stats aside he’s decent; not exceptionally good, but not nearly as bad as many portray him. IMO, the trick is to shove him into a Paladin squad with an Apothecary, which would make him impossibly resilient to “mundane” weapons. He is also a Level 2 Psyker, so Hammerhand activated Force Weapons for everybody. His main issue is really his points cost, but for 60 points over a Level 2 GM with a master-crafted weapon, you basically get +1S, +1T, +1W, +1A, Eternal Warrior, Sanctified Flame (which isn’t great, but oh well.). Sounds like a deal to me.

Plus, he allows you to take Paladins as troops. While the immediate kneejerk to this is the “Draigowing”, but I think some Paladins combined with things like Mystics for deepstrike accuracy would be pretty important as Land Raiders/Storm Ravens would put a very heavy burden on your points.

Grand Master Mordrak

He WAS cool in the beta when his Ghost Knights were 32 points each, but now they cost the same amount of points as a normal Terminator; but without Psycannons/Incinerators. That coupled with the fact the entire squad dies when Mordrak dies and that Mordrak isn’t an Eternal Warrior means there no way for me to ever justify taking him.

Brother-Captain Stern

I’m never a big fan of giving the opponent an advantage unless my advantage was far greater than the advantage I was giving my opponent. The fact that the advantage I’m giving myself is EXACTLY what I’m giving my opponent means I won’t use him personally. He’s also pretty expensive, and unless you get really lucky on that D6, Zone of Banishment isn’t all too awesome either.

Castellan Crowe

Ah, Crowe. I wrote a rather long reply about him on a forum before, so I’m just going to copy/paste this:

I'm probably going to get a lot of flak for this, but seriously, Crowe isn't that bad. I'm not by any means saying he's GOOD, but he's not as epic terribad as I think many people think. A lot of people get discouraged by the whole "he's not an IC, his weapon isn't a force weapon, it doesn't ignore armor saves, the Grandmaster is 100x better and people charging him gain furious charge" issue, but if you think about it:

1) He's not very expensive. And if you look at him, he basically, sort of, has 1 less wound than a Grandmaster at 25 points less, but with the same armor save and a 4+ invul instead of a 3+ in melee if your GM kept the sword. Makes him softer if you don't use the defensive stance, but Crowe is cheaper after all. I'd say his number of attacks usually is sort-of on-par with the GM; against masses you have Cleansing Flame and his AoE attack, which could get you 2-3 attacks at least if placed well so he gets more attacks than the GM then, and if he gets stuck in combat with a single model, despite his (possibly) lower attack count, he can one-shot the target if Crowe dies even if its an Eternal Warrior, against whom Force Weapons don't help insta-gib.

2) He is a level 1 psyker, and not an independent character. This means that:
a) You are probably not going to cast Hammerhand that often as your only psychic power. This in effect kind of means he "always wounds on a 4+, and ignores armor saves", which given that MEQs are all T4 anyway, means that he, kind of, has a power weapon due to his special rending rule. Granted its not always a power weapon against T3 targets, but the trade-off is you get to wound pretty much anything on a 4+.

b) Not being an independent character, he is one extra source of Cleansing Flames since, well, he can't join a squad anyway. If you get him into a combat with a squad of Purifiers, thats two Cleansing Flames before the fight even starts, AND his special attacks. This also kind of mitigates-ish his issue against T3 targets; yes, if he rolls a 3 he doesnt ignore armor saves on those T3 targets, but seriously T3 targets very often they don't have great armor to begin with either, and things like hordes of Tyranids will take decent casualties from even Crowe himself.

3) Grand Strategy is utterly awesome, and Crowe doesn't have it. He does, however, make Purifiers Troops. While Grand Strategy is more flexible, it is also not entirely impossible for it to only occur for one squad, whereas taking Purifiers as troops means that your troop slots will be filled with a truly solid, focused unit type. I've never been a fan of jack-of-all-trades units (in this case, the GKSS) because they are simply not killy enough in their desperate attempt to cover all grounds. Its the same reason I'm not a big fan of Tacticals. At 1A each and with a fairly low chance at getting off the charge, the GKSS simply lacks the punch that the Purifiers have. And seriously, super cheap halberds. I6 force weapons are terrifying to face, and whether or not you charge or get charged, with at least 2A base, thats a ton of super-high I attacks coming your way.
Disclaimer: My DIY chapter has always followed the Blood Angels codex, and I do sometimes take Tacticals simply for the heavy weapon. And yes, I'm aware that Assault Squads aren't very killy or assaulty, but they cost marginally less than a GKSS, and are far more mobile. Plus with the SHP and superior mobility, I'm usually looking to pull off FC anyway and they do have FNP against mundane attacks.

The main issue with Crowe is delivering him. You could just keep running him every turn and he should make it up there by mid-game, which isn't a bad thing. And if your opponent charges him? Sure, go right ahead. Crowe's "AOE attacks" generally strike first, so that mitigates the +1I the opponent will get, so the only main benefit the opponent will get is that +1S, and the +1A as usual.


Again, I wrote a fairly lengthy discussion about them before, so I’m just going to copy/paste this, with slight modification.

For the measly points cost of a single Purifier you can get an Inquisitor, who can fill the compulsory HQ slot should you need something cheap such as in smaller games, or if you just want a second (supporting) HQ character filling in that slot. Frankly the Inquisitor has awesome stats for his points IMO, but this is somewhat "balanced out" by the fact its a HQ choice.

They also open up the Henchmen option, which in turn, comes with a whole bunch of utility, but I won't be going so much into detail about them here. And lets not forget, they are also a source of Servo Skulls.

1) The Ordo Malleus Inquisitor is, IMO, one of the better Inquisitors. With access to the Hellrifle, he makes an awesome (and wonderfully cheap) long ranged character, ideal for babysitting a Jokaero/Servitor shooty squad (which is, by the way, actually fairly well-priced for the sheer amount of firepower they can dish out). He can also take the Daemonblade, which is surprisingly powerful (and unusually safe) for its points. Power Armor is pretty cheap too if you plan on putting him upfront.

I think the trick here is to keep him cheap; the second you start buying him things like TDA or Psychic Powers he becomes very expensive very fast, and the cost for his upgrade to get Psychic Communion (which you'd probably already have courtesy of a GM if you took one) and Hammerhand seems a little pricey for my liking, but certainly still a very viable option to make his squad that much more killy in melee. Note that the TDA upgrade isn’t bad as it gives you access to the Psycannon.

2) Not a big fan of the Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor. The Psyocculum and crossbow are both rather situational, and I've never been a big fan of the Inferno pistol.

3) The Ordo Xenos Inquisitor is also not too shabby; he's a very affordable source of a Conversion Beamer (40 points cheaper than the Techmarine equivalent at base cost!) but given the range of the Servitor heavy weapons, the Conversion Beamer would be out of its "ideal range" whereas its nicely within the range of the Malleus's Hellrifle; makes me think that it may not be the best Servitor babysitter. Alternatively, the Xenos Inquisitor is also a very cheap source of those new-fangled grenades, of which I'm particularly fond of the Rad Grenade. A simple Power Weapon, Power Armor and Rad Grenades only runs to 58 points, which isn't too bad for what you are bringing to the table.

Inquisitor Cotaez

Coteaz feels like a good example of an Inquisitor who took too many toys; at his points he has a bunch of special rules, but he's not particularly killy or survivable in close combat; without an invulnerable save and due to his I1 there is a good chance he will die before ever swinging his hammer :/
However, he is a Lvl 2 Psyker with Sanctuary, which is an interesting and otherwise unobtainable combination for Inquisitors. Still, his greatest utility is making Henchmen Troops, which comes with its own benefits.

Inquisitor Valeria

Valeria.....she's interesting and a toolbox of sorts. For many points you get a character with two very powerful one-shot attacks; a very ridiculously powerful gun which sadly may actually miss because of her good-but-not-all-that BS 4, and her insta-gib amulet which is actually rather good, particularly against all those 2W characters out there. She also effectively has a Djinn Blade (I think the rules are exactly the same, but I could be wrong), which when combined with her ability to force rerolls of successful saves (which means even invulnerable saves have to be rerolled) and her own invulnerable save (which could save her when she hits herself on her head with her dagger) means that she's not *too* shabby in combat, but not great either. WS 4 S 3 simply means that even against a standard MEQ on the charge she'd only kill one, which is kinda sad. I'm personally inclined towards saying she's not worth it for her two one-shot abilities, but not THAT terrible either.

Inquisitor Karamanov

If this guy had an invul save I'd TOTALLY play him, every single game. Not because he is great, but simply because who doesn't like a big, walking nuke dispenser with horrifying accuracy? Granted you lose some men, but thats what those Acolyte henchmen are for :X

He's too expensive in my opinion, especially given that S10 attacks would one-shot him, and various other things would just insta-kill him with no chance of saving himself (as most such options ignore normal armor saves). Would pretty much force him to hang around at the back of the table nuking people since a T5 W4 model really isn't tough enough to take its own sweet time walking up into melee, and even once he gets there he can fight but isn't that great. I tend to view his combat stats as more of a defensive thing.


Grey Knight Strike Squad

I’m going to come out and say it right here; I dislike the GKSS. Frankly, I'm tempted to not even bother with GKSS's outside of their Warp Quake utility and for those cases where I'm not running Crowe or Coteaz. While I admit that 20 points is very cheap for what you are getting, problem is you are forced to pay all this for something that shoots and assaults well-ish; but not entirely all that well. What you end up with is a very jack-of-all-trades unit that doesn't do anything too properly. If at all anything, they should be played in the same way they were in 3rd ed; a unit that is there mainly to just shoot; close combat for them is optional. Granted they are now better in melee, but I see no reason to pay so many points to make a mediocre close combat unit a semi-effective close combat unit. For a marginal increase in points you can get something that does assault bloody well (Purifiers in assault; I6, 2A each base, with optional Cleansing Flame against hordes, awesome). That said they aren’t bad in any way, and for a mere four points more than a normal Tactical Marine, it’s a bargain. I’m just not a fan :/

Grey Knight Terminators

Call me crazy, but I'm not a big fan of the troop-Terminators personally. Why? Well, if you look at them for their gear, then yes, they are worth the 40 points. But here is my problem with them: A Terminator costs 14 points more than a Purifier with a halberd. For all those points the only thing you gain is Terminator Armor, and you lose Cleansing Fire which does make them, overall, potentially more killy than Terminators. In addition, the Terminators pay premium for special weapons, while Purifiers get them for dirt cheap. Oh, and Purifiers are Fearless....

Terminators are also more difficult to deliver; the only economically viable (but significantly risky) method is Deep Strike, but given that troop Terminators only get one special ranged weapon per five models, you practically want ten of them to get two Psycannons, and to make those Psybolts worth it.

But "PURIFIERS ARE NOT TROOPS, YOU CANNOT COMPARE THEM!" you say. There are ways around it; you can take GKSS as troops, you can take Henchmen as troops with Coteaz, you can take Crowe, you can give them scoring with a GM. So basically, you lose some punch, and pay a little more for good guns, all for a whooping fourteen points per model.

To make matters worse, the (utterly awesome) Paladins are a mere 15 points more than a Terminator per model. That gives you at least twice the survivability; I say "at least" because the Paladins have wound allocation shenanigans and the optional Apothecary that helps them overcome one of the biggest issues with Terminators in general - dying to sheer weight of small arms fire. They also gain Holocaust, which is an optional extra ranged attack with anti-horde potential. Granted Holocaust is not great, but hey, its something. One thing the Terminators have that the Paladins don’t have is Thawn, but its no loss. To “make back his points” he practically has to come back to life twice, which is really unlikely and thus, IMO, he is not worth it.

All photos are properties of GW, except the Chuck Norris picture, which was from Google :)


  1. LOL Chuck Norris! Agreed that fluff was over the top!

    Thanks for this Joash. Great article and a good overview for those of us going into the tournament - albeit this is far from the standard way people build GK armies.

  2. Is part two up?

  3. LOL looks like there is demand for Joash's rants!



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