Hey, everyone. Chandler here with a look over everyone’s favorite Chaos wizards, the new Thousand Sons Detachment in Wrath of Magnus and Traitor Legions, the Grand Coven. For more analysis, tactics and reviews be sure to check out the Tactics Corner.
From the Eye of Terror the warp tears open and the Silver Towers emerge. Grand floating palaces fashioned like the towers of Tizca on Prospero before the fall, the Exalted Sorcerers and Magnus lead their legion hosts to terrorize the Imperium. With Rubric Marines, Scarab Occult Terminators, and Tzaangors in the vanguard, these Sorcerers carve a path of psychic destruction with their Grand Covens.
The Thousand Sons new Grand Coven Detachment in Wrath of Magnus and Traitor Legions allows Chaos Space Marines players to bring Thousand Sons armies with their own Detachment benefits and rules. In the Grand Coven you must have at least 1 Core choice, 1 Auxiliary and up to 4 Command Choices. As such, this is a Thousand Sons Detachment which has certain restrictions and benefits which you can read about in my review on the Thousand Sons Legion Rules.
While most of the Traitor Legion “Decurion” style builds can take generally the same units, Thousand Sons are much different in what they are allowed to take within the Grand Coven. Those units are as follows:
- War Cabal – 1 Either Ahriman, Daemon Prince, Exalted Sorcerer, or Sorcerer, 1-3 either Exalted Sorcerers or Sorcerers, 1-3 Rubric Marines, 1-3 Scarab Occult Terminators
- Sekhmet Conclave – 1 Either Magnus the Red, Ahriman, Daemon Prince, Exalted Sorcerer, Sorcerer, 3-9 units of Scarab Occult Terminators
- Rehati War Sect – Magnus, 3-9 either Daemon Princes or Exalted Sorcerers (all must be Mastery Level 3)
- Ahriman’s Exiles – Ahriman, 3-9 Exalted Sorcerers
- Lord of the Legion – 1 of either Magnus, Ahriman, Daemon Prince, or Exalted Sorcerer
- War Coven – 1 Either Daemon Prince, Exalted Sorcerer, Sorcerer and 3-9 either Exalted Sorcerers or Sorcerers
- Tzaangor Warherd – 1 Exalted Sorcerer, 3 units of Tzaangors, 0-6 units of either Tzaangors or Chaos Spawn
- Daemon Engine – 1 of either Defiler, Forgefiend, Maulerfiend, Helbrute, or Heldrake
- Legion Armoury – 1 unit chosen from either Chaos Land Raider, Chaos Predator, or Chaos Vindicator
Of note, unlike the other Traitor Legions Detachments, they don’t gain access to the Chaos Warband as a core choice, nor do they gain access to any of the other Formations the other legions use to build their detachments. Instead they have their own selection of choices for Auxiliaries which reflect the flavor of the legion itself.
The Grand Coven Detachment comes with two distinct Command Benefits. Lord of Fallen Prospero which allows your Warlord to re-roll the result when rolling on the Thousand Sons Warlord Traits, which is pretty standard as these detachments go. Masters of Arcane Knowledge allows you to re-roll the result when rolling on the Perils of the Warp chart which is very useful since you’ll be casting a lot of psychic powers with this army. Additionally it allows your Psykers to cast one more power than their Mastery Level would normally allow, meaning a Mastery Level 2 Sorcerer, for example, could cast up to 3 powers.
While these bonuses are really nice, especially the ability to re-roll on the Perils chart, I have found that Masters of Arcane Knowledge won’t come into play very often mainly because as much warp dice as this army can generate you’ll go through a lot of it fast. Rarely will you be able to cast more than a couple of powers per Psyker anyway.
Additionally, every Formation in the Grand Coven has the Favoured of Tzeentch special rule, which allows you to re-roll failed Saving Throws of 1 when the Formation has the maximum number of units. While this is a very strong benefit, the price point to gain it is incredibly high.
The first thing to note when attempting to build a Grand Coven Detachment is that this army just works differently than a lot of other armies in 40k. Most of the damage you’re going to be dealing with this army will occur during the Psychic Phase, which while flavorful and interesting, is not exactly the most reliable for a variety of reasons. Essentially Rubrics, Scarab Terminators, and Tzaangors serve as meat shields and bodies (albeit highly durable ones for the most part) for your Sorcerers and Exalted Sorcerers to do the bulk of the work against your opponent. Running a Grand Coven Detachment requires a different mindset than most of us are probably used to using in our games. Typically you want to take advantage of lots of small MSU forces capable of jumping on objectives etc. This army does not work like this and if you try to force it to work in this fashion, you’re probably not going to enjoy playing it.
Another thing of note, as mentioned above, is the price point for this army. Unlike the other Traitor Legions, who can pick up an Auxiliary of Chaos Spawn to cheaply fill that slot, Thousand Sons don’t have that option in a Grand Coven. The cheapest way to fill the Auxiliary requirement is with a bare bones Chaos Predator which is 70 points. This is important because the bulk of your points will probably be spent in one of the Core Choices, which are all incredibly expensive.
I’ve already covered the War Cabal in a different article. It is probably the most cost effective option of the 2 Core choices, but even then can be incredibly expensive when you start tacking on the required Sorcerers and their Wargear. Gaining Favoured of Tzeentch to re-roll armor saves of 1 is going to be very difficult to attain because of the price point of the Scarab Occult Terminators, who in fairness are a rather lackluster unit anyway for the points you pay for them. The biggest drawback to the Formation, and really the Grand Coven in general, is the lack of ability to deal with armor. Imperial Knights are a very popular choice in the meta now, and units in the War Cabal outside of the Sorcerers have very little answers for them at all. The Scarab Occult Terminators are only equipped with power swords and can’t exchange them and the Rubrics are horrible in combat with even light infantry much less an AV 13 walker. Sure the Sorcerers can take Force Staves, making them Strength 6, but without additional help, they are not going to be able to tackle these things at all. Melta bombs on your Aspiring Sorcerers are must haves in this army otherwise, being Fearless and unable to use the “Our Weapons are Useless” rule, you’ll be stuck in combat until you die.
The absolute cheapest way to field a War Cabal and still gain the benefit of durability from Favoured of Tzeentch will cost roughly 1560 points minimum. That’s with 4 basic Mastery Level 1 Sorcerers with a Mark and an Aura of Dark Glory, 3 Rubic squads and 3 Scarab Occult Terminator squads. It will also only generate 13 warp charge. That might seem like a lot by most standards, but within this army it is not. Personally I think that adding mastery levels, or at least Spell Familiars, to your sorcerers is more important than durability gained from Favoured of Tzeentch.
Alternatively, you can run the Sekhment Conclave as a Core, which is nice as it lets you squeeze in Magnus and gain the benefit of +1 to his Toughness as long as he is within 6″ of 2 other units. That is also a pretty good buff for the Formation in general, as the Scrab Occult Terminators become harder to wound and we all know mass small arms fire can wipe out terminators. Taking less wounds can mitigate that. That said, you’re looking at 750 points just in Terminators alone that can do very little to armored targets. Their twin-linked AP3 bolters can do massive work against small infantry however and each one of them comes with a ML 2 Terminator Sorcerer to aid them with buffs. Bringing Magnus and 3 of these squads will cost 1400 points base and will give you 11 Warp Dice and Magnus is an absolute beast on the table especially once he gets airborne. Making him Toughness 8 makes him virtually immune to most small arms fire.
The Command choices here are pretty good. Ahriman’s Exiles lets you add a lot of extra warp dice, but again, the price point makes it difficult to bring in a Grand Coven as you’re going to need bodies and most of those points will be eaten up in either Core choice. Being able to take Magnus or even Ahriman, an Exalted Sorcerer, or Daemon Prince alone gives the Detachment some flexibility as well. The Rehati War Sect is very powerful, especially when supplemented with flying Princes, but it is really an army in of itself, and not really feasible as a Command choice in a Grand Coven in most builds.
As for the Auxiliary options, they are pretty limited. It is interesting to see the War Coven as an Auxiliary here. I think this formation has a lot of potential in general, but probably not within a Grand Coven as it is incredibly expensive alongside either a War Cabal or Sekhmet Conclave Core. The Tzaangor Warherd is a very nice option, but would have been better served in this build had they made it a Core option. Being Auxiliary makes it less appealing because you need these Auxiliary choices to give you options against armored targets and the Tzaangor Warherd doesn’t really give you that. Being able to take Daemon Engines is nice, especially things like Heldrakes and Maulerfiends with no tax. I think Maulerfiends are probably the best option here as you can put some pressure on your opponent with them pretty quickly while your Sorcerers and Rubrics or Terminators move up the field. And Maulerfiends can hit armored targets extremely hard. The options in the Legion Armoury are pretty good. Predators are probably the most cost efficient option here and bringing a unit of them gives them Monster Hunter and Tank Hunters, which gives you something to deal with Armor.
Overall the key to running this list effectively is psychic management. Power selection is crucial here as well. If you’re facing off against lots of armor then the Heretech discipline will be something to look at for your Sorcerers as there are several options that either fire Haywire shots or simply strip hull points off vehicles. If you’re facing off against lots of infantry then spamming Psychic Shriek is a good idea. You can even dedicate a Sorcerer to Summoning because being able to re-roll on the Perils chart can offset the disadvantage of using the Daemonology powers. Bringing in Pink Horrors with Split and giving you extra Warp Charge is always good.
Warp dice are a resource that you must use carefully. The first power you should always try and cast is Siphon Magic wherever available. For 1 Warp Charge, your psyker gains a Blessing which will trigger Blessing of Tzeentch for the Sorcerer and will also let you gain additional warp charge from your other psykers nearby to cast those high warp charge powers later, like Treason of Tzeentch. You have to save enough dice to ensure that key units for that turn can get Blessing of Tzeentch. The easiest way to do this is obviously with Force, which every Psyker in the list will have access to. Just ensure you remember to manage your dice to ensure you can get those Blessings off to buff your troops.
Let’s take a look at a list concept for the Grand Coven:
Grand Coven Detachment 1850
Core: War Cabal
- Sorcerer, ML 1, Mark of Tzeentch, Aura of Dark Glory, Spell Familiar, VotLW
- 5 Rubrics x3, Aspiring Sorcs with Melta Bombs
- Scarab Occult Terminators
- 3 ML2 Sorcerers on Bikes, Mark of Tzeentch, Aura of Dark Glory, Spell Familiar, VotLW
- Exalted Sorcerer, ML 2, Astral Grimoire, Spell Familiar
- 3 Maulerfiends
There aren’t a lot of bodies in this list and instead it relies on casting Blessings to get that +1 to the Invulnerable Saves. The Sorcerers all go in units of Rubrics and/or Terminators. The Exalted Sorcerer starts in the Scarab Terminators to give them, or nearby units, Jump in the Movement Phase. The 3 Maulerfiends apply pressure quickly by moving up the field to engage armored targets. There are 14+d6 total Warp Charge dice per turn in the list, which gives you a lot of options on casting, especially because of the familiars. Between the Tzeentch powers and the other trees you should be able to have answers for a variety of threats you might face, and the Maulerfiends give you some good options to engage nasty things like Imperial Knights, or to crack open those pesky Rhinos to get to the good parts inside with your Rubrics shooting. Their ability to re-roll 1s To Hit when a Psyker casts a power can go a long way to ensuring your AP3 bolters deal some massive damage. Again, one Sorcerer here is devoted to Summoning, probably the Exalted Sorcerer since he has the most wounds to augment the Perils with. Throw down Pink Horrors to block units from charging, or to hold objectives.
The troops in the Grand Coven are not Objective Secured, and instead you’ll be relying heavily on killing enemy units to take those objectives you need. Fortunately this army has quite a bit of killing potential especially given the right psychic powers and buffs. Overall, I think the Grand Coven is an interesting choice, but is really outshined by the other Legions such as Death Guard and Emperor’s Children who have access to highly durable units that can actually be Obsec as well. Don’t expect to see the Grand Coven Detachment be a difference maker or a huge meta shift, but it certainly improves Thousand Sons to the point that they are playable.
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