Wrath of Magnus Review: Formation: War Cabal

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Hey everyone, Chandler here.  With the release of Wrath of Magnus and subsequently Traitor Legions, the sons of the Crimson King have returned with a vengeance.  Today we’re going to take a look at the new War Cabal formation for Thousand Sons.  For more analysis, tactics articles, and reviews check out the Tactics Corner.

Chaos Space Marines players the world over are rejoicing at the release of new rules for the Traitor Legions and with good reason. Some of the added buffs and new Legion benefits make Chaos Space Marines viable again.  Thousand Sons in particular have several new units, Formations and Detachments available which enhance their army beyond the simple Rubric Marines from the codex.  Rubrics have always been a staple for Thousand Sons players and the new War Cabal gives them some nice benefits.

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Overview: The War Cabal is a Thousand Sons Formation available in both the Wrath of Magnus and Traitor Legions supplements.  In addition to being a stand alone Formation, it can be taken as a Core choice in a Grand Coven Detachment.  It is composed of the following:

  • 1 either Ahriman, Daemon Prince, Exalted Sorcerer, Sorcerer
  • 1-3 either Exalted Sorcerers or Sorcerers
  • 1-3 units of Rubric Marines
  • 1-3 units of Scarab Occult Terminators

Special Rules: The Formation comes with two special rules including Favoured of Tzeentch which allows you to re-roll failed saving throws of 1 if the Formation has the maximum number of units. That can be a pretty strong benefit, but unfortunately, like most of the Thousand Sons formations, the price point is very high.  At absolute bare bones cost with no upgrades, to gain the benefit of Favoured of Tzeentch it will cost right at 1500 points! That is taking 4 basic Mastery Level 1 Sorcerers with the required Mark of Tzeentch, 3 units of Rubrics, and 3 units of Terminators.

Oracular Guidance lets a unit re-roll all to hit rolls of 1 for any unit containing a Psyker when he successfully manifests a power until the start of your next Psychic Phase. That is a pretty strong buff considering all of these units come with a sorcerer attached.  Re-rolling 1s in both shooting, close combat and throughout your opponent’s turn can be pretty significant.

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Additionally, because this is a Thousand Sons Formation, all units able to take Veterans of the Long War must do so at no additional cost and all Sorcerers and Daemon Princes must be upgraded with the Mark of Tzeentch or Daemon of Tzeentch.  Units with Veterans of the Long War also benefit from the Blessing of Tzeentch allowing them to gain a +1 to their Invulnerable Saves when they are effected by a Blessing psychic power.  That’s pretty strong and makes these units incredibly durable which is a nice offset given the points cost for most of them. The Sorcerers also get the option to choose to roll all their powers from the Tzeentch table rather than up to half.

If you take this Formation as a Core choice in a Grand Coven Detachment, you also gain the ability to re-roll Perils results when you cast a Psychic power and the ability to cast 1 more Psychic power than your unit’s Mastery Level allows.

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Tactics: Running a War Cabal with maximum units can make this Formation pretty resilient and deadly to any enemy with 3+ armor or higher.  These units can sling some massive firepower all at AP3 potentially re-rolling 1s to-hit and saving throws of 1. Since all of these units come with Invulnerable saves combined with Mark and Blessing of Tzeentch means you can have several units rocking 3++ invulnerables re-rolling 1s making them hard to take off the table, which is great considering the significant point investment.

The War Cabal can dominate the psychic phase as well. At minimum you’re looking at 13 warp dice before rolling in a bare bones War Cabal with maximum units! Increase the Mastery Levels on these basic Sorcerers and you can be rolling up to 17 warp charge before dice.  That is more than enough to rival even some Chaos Daemon builds.  And again, when taken in a Grand Coven Detachment, you’re gaining the ability to cast more Psychic powers per turn.

The key to getting the most out of the Formation is to ensure your units spread those Blessings around.  Fortunately every unit in the War Cabal will have the Force power which will be an easy way to buff those Invulnerables.  Scarab Occult Terminator Sorcerers  have access to Divination meaning you can always be sure they can have Prescience to throw around also. Additionally, a lot of the new psychic disciplines have plenty of Blessings available.  Earthly Anathema from the Geomortis Discipline, for example, really makes these units deadly as it can give Ignores Cover and the ability to ignore line of sight.  That can be pretty devastating when firing Ap3 weapons that re-roll 1s to-hit!

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This army really shines by making the most of devastating Witchfire powers and Maledictions.  The new Tzeentch power table is pretty awesome with a lot of new powers such as Baleful Devolution and Treason of Tzeentch.  Your opponent will cringe as you take over his Gravcannon Devastators and blast his own units away, for example.

Mobility is a serious issue in this Formation. Terminators are naturally slow and Rubrics have Slow and Purposeful making them unable to Run should you need to do so.  This can be offset a bit by taking the Astral Grimoire relic which allows the bearer or a single infantry unit within 12″ to gain the Jump unit type until the end of the Movement phase.  Generally speaking, however, these units are extremely slow and will struggle against armies that can outmaneuver them, such as Eldar.  Ahriman could be taken as the Warlord in this Formation giving Infiltrate to some of the units, allowing them to also Outflank from Reserves, but again Ahriman is a big point sink.

High armor vehicles, such as Imperial Knights, and 2+ Armor or Cover save units can also cause some problems.  A lot of this can be mitigated via Witchfire Psychic Powers like Psychic Shriek and other similar powers that ignore armor saves.  The Heretech Discipline is a nice option for Sorcerers when facing off against those Imperial Knights or other nasty vehicle units as there are several witchfires that have Haywire or other such abilities which strip hull points off of tanks and walkers.

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Close Combat is another area where the army struggles.  You can throw Force Axes on those Sorcerers to give them a nice AP2 weapon with Instant Death when Force is active and having a 3++ save potentially re-rolling 1s gives them quite a bit of durability since they’ll be swinging at initiative 1 with them.  Walkers are another hard unit to crack for Thousand Sons as they don’t come with grenades so will struggle against them and because they are Fearless they cannot use the Our Weapons are Useless rule to get away.  Equipping the Aspiring Sorcerer with a melta bomb isn’t a bad idea, and a Force Stave at least gives them the ability to possibly hurt most Walkers in the game at STR 6.  Generally speaking they are fairly weak as a whole in close combat, however with their durability they can be good at tarpitting pesky assault units that don’t have Hit and Run.  Terminators come with some pretty devastating firepower, but all of them come equipped with Power Swords with no way to upgrade beyond that, making them useless against anything other than light infantry or power armored marines.

Overall, the War Cabal has a lot of great potential and certainly makes Rubric Marines much better than before.  This Formation isn’t a game changer, but it certainly gives those Thousand Sons armies a pretty big boost.  The key to making it work is power selection and making the most of the Psychic phase. You really have to know what you’re up against in order to select the right Psychic powers to make the difference. The army is slow, but has some pretty amazing durability which is easily accessible army wide.  Can this army hang with a lot of top tier builds like Battle Company or Daemonic Incursions? Maybe depending on the missions and power selections.  Generally speaking, however, it will struggle against highly mobile armies because it simply doesn’t have the speed to keep up with them.

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The War Cabal has some nice flavor appropriate to the Thousand Sons Legion focusing on dominating the Psychic Phase.  These truly are the most powerful non-xenos psykers in the lore and the new buffs really make them shine on the table as well.  I know I am excited to see all of the new Legions rules and Detachments in action!
And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

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About Chandler

Sometimes I play 40k. Sometimes I drink beer. Oftentimes I do both. I host an annual ITC Grand Tournament, Come the Apocalypse GT, as well as a podcast called Come the Apocalypse - a Warhammer 40k Podcast which you can find on iTunes or the Google Play Music store.

12 Responses to “Wrath of Magnus Review: Formation: War Cabal”

  1. Threllen December 21, 2016 11:43 am
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    I really love the new Tzeentch marine models and I’ve always thought they had cool rules. I mean tons of psykers and AP3 bolters – what’s not to love.

    But they’re just criminally overcosted in my opinion. Like you said, just to max out a war cabal for the re-roll on the invuls you’re basically spending the entirety of your 1850 point list. And all that gives you is an army that’s pretty dang good against MEQs but extremely bad against just about everything else. 1k sons are cool in moderation but they get expensive really quickly.

    • Chandler December 21, 2016 12:10 pm
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      They do and that is unfortunate. I really had hoped that some of the weapons upgrades would have given them the option to take a high strength weapon for popping transports. To me, taking 10 to get a Str 5 assault cannon just isn’t very good. And yes, the price point is astronomical. Some of the issues can be mitigated by psychic powers, but you don’t want to spend all your psychic rolls on Heretech to get haywire shots.

      I really want to like the War Cabal but the cost needed to gain the benefit of rerolling saves is just too high.

    • abusepuppy December 21, 2016 11:13 pm
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      I don’t think they’re tournament-winners, but within the context of their own formations Thousand Sons and Scarab Termies are both pretty solid units. I wish they got a little bit better heavy weapon options, but you can’t fault their resilience- 2+/3++ rerolling 1s is really rough to bring down, and like Ravenwing it doesn’t need any external support to function- all the more so because you’re also rerolling 1s to hit as well in the mix.

      It seems hard to justify taking more than the minimum number of bodies, though. Maybe a 10man, but even that is pretty pricey.

      • Chandler December 22, 2016 6:10 am
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        I agree. I could not see running these in 10 man squads. And honestly the Soulreaper Cannon is just not that attractive an option to spend 290 points to unlock for Rubrics. The units are pretty solid though and with the max total units have incredible resilience like you said.

        If the price point for some of these units was just a little better then I think it could easily be a fantastic formation. As it is, it’s still good, but the point investment doesn’t leave much room to add things to a list that can compliment it well (like units capable of bringing down transports easily).

      • Threllen December 22, 2016 6:24 am
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        Yeah, my issue is mostly with the Heavy Weapons if you’re looking at taking a lot of 1k sons. They have awesome anti-MEQ capabilities and they can be pretty resilient. But what are you going to do if you’re facing a lot of 2+ saves? Or a lot of vehicles? They have very little in the way of anti-tank power save for their psychic powers which can be hit or miss since it’s just RNG which power you get.

        • Chandler December 22, 2016 6:52 am
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          Yup. 2+ save troops and armor are going to be a challenge for them. I was really hoping for some answers in that regard with the update, but alas it didn’t happen. The Exalted Sorcerer’s unlimited range blast is nice but it’s one shot only. STR 9 AP2 is definitely good, but even then it’s still hard to pop open a rhino with that.

          Knowing what you’re going up against and knowing what psychic trees work best against your opponent will be extremely important I think. But even with the boosts, the warp can be fickle. I guess you have to know you’re going into this army with a gambling man’s mentality. It’s risky, but the payoff could be good depending on what you get. Certainly not an army for everyone lol.

        • abusepuppy December 22, 2016 8:22 am
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          I don’t think you ever bother with the Soulreaper Cannon for Thousand Sons- not only are you spending a lot to unlock it, it’s not actually _that_ much better than your basic Bolters are.

          I think a dedicated Thousand Sons list has two basic plans for dealing with 2+ saves: Magnus or Daemon allies/summons. Magnus (as well as other casters on the Change table) can shred big, tough targets pretty badly and that’s typically what you see- stuff like Riptides and Dreadknights, not hordes of Terminators. By the same token, many of the daemonic summons can do severe work on guys with 2+ saves; if you’re really worried, Force Axes are also an option on your psykers, as your squads can be shockingly hard to remove in CC when they’ve got that Blessing + Favor bonus going for them.

          For vehicles, I think it depends on how you build it. Magnus and Co. can solve vehicles as well or better than they solve 2+ saves, but you also have the potential for Oblits (via IW allies or a Cult of Destruction) or some of the FW options in a CAD (Rapier platforms, Fire Raptor, etc.)

          • beau December 22, 2016 6:45 pm
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            Would the tzeentch oblits gain the blessed of tzeentch rule that would improve their invuln save to 3+ with a blessing on them? That could be cool.

          • abusepuppy December 22, 2016 10:11 pm
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            So long as you took them in a Thousand Sons detachment (which you can nominate any detachment as if you meet the requirements), then yes. It’s a bit pricey on them, but probably worth it in the end.

          • Chandler December 23, 2016 6:19 am
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            Hard to justify the points cost for Oblits that can be one-shot even if they have a 3++. That said, I love Oblits and used to use them regularly in 6th with my Chaos army. Always Mark of Nurgle though of course.

          • Threllen December 23, 2016 7:47 am
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            It’s a big points investment in those oblits because, at the end of the day, they can still get one shot by lascannons and meltaguns with only a 3++ to stop it. That’s obviously nothing to scoff at but all it takes is one bad roll and buh-bye.

            Also high volume of shots is always an issue. You’re putting a lot of points into them to make them Tzeentch and possibly give them a blessing, but if they’re facing something like scatter lasers – they die just as easily as if they had no invul.

            I can’t say I’ve tried Oblits with MoT in a Tzeentch-themed detachment but prior to the Traitor Legion book, the MoT always felt like a trap. MoN is cheaper and much more universally applicable.

  2. beau December 21, 2016 12:18 pm
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    I use Thousand Sons in thousand point games… the lucky numbers help me win. I think even in big games I would still stick to a CAD. 1-2 renegade knights supported by a CAD using Ahriman, infiltrated rubricae (to hopefully kill the AV threats on first turn), tzangors for bubblewrap/objectives. Allied detachment of pink horrors for more warp charges lead by HoT or Fatey (who will also summon more horrors).

    I feel like something like that would make a better all comers list. These formations have powerful bonuses but the requirements make them too inflexible and unwieldy…

    Will still buy Magnus soon anyways though.