Imperium Unit Review: Imperial Knight Castellan REVISTIED Post-Nerf(s)

Hello, 40k armchair generals SaltyJohn from TFG Radio here to bring you a tactics article about that most ubiquitous of imperial units the Imperial Knight Castellan. For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!


The Imperial Knight codex made a big splash on the competitive scene when it was released. I picked up the codex and immediately ordered A Renegade Box Set, a Crusader, and a Castellan. If you paid attention to the Bay Area Open this year (Last year, this year I took a double Castellan list and went 2-4) then you know I piloted a 4 Knight plus Astramilitarum list to a 6-0 second-place finish. The Imperial Knights represent a faction of ultra-powerful households in the 40k universe that can trace their lineages and in some cases even their Knights, back to the Horus Heresy and before. Imperial Knights have pilots who guide them into battle and the fighting style and military acumen of the pilot is matched to the armament of the Knight they pilot. The Households also adhere to two types of houses, houses aligned with the Mechanicum called Questor Mechanicus or households aligned with Imperium called Questor Imperialis. In game terms, household alignment within the Imperium’s structure affects the stratagems you can use, which is a very cool mechanic.


Overview: The Castellan is the ultimate shooting platform in the Imperial Knight codex. In fact aside from the Porphyron, it is the best shooting Knight available in matched play. The Castellan has a massive amount of firepower it can put out in a shooting phase, depending upon the Household you choose, and Imperialis or Mechanicus, you get access to some stratagems that can boost the already formidable firepower of the Castellan even further. It can serve as an anchor unit to any Imperial army on its own or it can serve as the cornerstone to an Imperial Knights force. This all still holds true. 


Wargear and Special Rules: 

Tactics: At first glance, most of you may think the Castellan is quite a push-button choice. Just choose targets and watch them evaporate from the board. While this holds some truth, like any stereotype, there’s much more to using a Castellan effectively than just “Take one in your list and win hurr durr”. The first thing to note is the slow movement compared to the other Imperial Knights, with only 10in of movement compared to the 12in of the other Knights you need to keep that in mind, if for no other reason than you don’t want to accidentally cheat your opponents. It’s also important to keep this more limited movement in mind during deployment, as you may want to set up the Castellan behind a screen or large piece of terrain, and knowing it moves 10in rather than 12 will keep you from inadvertent movement blocking your Castellan from shooting the best targets. This brings me to the most important tactic when running a Castellan; Target Priority.

You will often hear higher caliber players discuss how target priority is key to success at high levels of play in Warhammer 40k. Target priority is defined as A grouping of targets with the indicated sequence of attack. Generally speaking, it’s making a list of things you want to be destroyed in order from first to go, through the last. Target priority in terms of 40k takes on a few archetypes. Game long Target Priority and Turn by Turn target priority.  I am not going to go really in-depth into 40k target priority here, but suffice it to say, when you play a unit like the Castellan, that is 600+ points of your army and has massive damage output, choosing the correct targets from turn to turn is really important. Target priority even extends to knowing weapon by weapon what to target. The Castellan and its weapons excel at killing high toughness, high wound models, and it is quite terrible at clearing large swathes of low toughness, low wound, infantry hordes. The Volcano Lance and the Plasma Decimator have similar strength profiles, whereas the shoulder cannons are S7 and therefore not as good against many of the targets you would use the Lance of Plasma against. The Meltaguns are quite short-ranged, compared to the rest of the model’s armaments, and coupled with the 10in, rather than 12in, move it is important to keep them in mind when enemies get close. Picking the correct targets requires familiarity with the weapons and the odds of hitting, wounding, and amount of damage that’s likely to be rolled. The Castellan is a model that is hindered by random die rolls. Picking targets based on the best possible outcome of all the random rolls that go into a turn of shooting with the Castellan is a bad idea, but so is choosing targets by assuming the absolute worst die roll possibilities. The best way to learn this isn’t by math hammering out the probabilities and committing them to memory, it’s practice. Practice, practice, practice. As with anything practice is required to play 40k well, even with the most seemingly push button of units.

The other parts of what makes the Castellan such a good unit are relevant House Stratagems and Relics. Particularly House Raven and the Questor Mechanicus rules. If you want to run the Castellan at it’s most effective than you’ll want to run it as House Raven. The biggest weakness of the Castellan is how random many of its weapons are. The random number of shots, big swings in potential damage per hit, hitting on 3s. All of that can be mitigated through a single 2cp (Now it is 3CP) Stratagem. The House Raven strat Order of Companions, when used on the Castellan, allows it to re-roll all rolls of 1 in the shooting phase. The number of shots, to hit, to wound, amount of damage, it’s even been ruled in most cases that a roll of 1 or 2 on a d3 can be re-rolled via this strat. Not just the roll of a 1. When you couple this with the Mechanics Plasma Decimator Relic, Cawl’s Wrath, you get an even more potent weapon platform. Another weakness of the Castellan is how big of a target it is for the enemy. Again, there is a good stratagem combo that works here. You can purchase a Warlord Trait for the Castellan, even if it isn’t a Warlord, and give it a 4+ Invulnerable save against shooting attacks, you can then use a Strat, Rotate Ion Shields, for 3cp to make it a 3++ against shooting attacks for that turn (Again, this is something that’s changed. You can no longer get the Castellan, or any Knight, to a 3++ invul)! Even if your opponent damages the Castellan and degrades it, you can still fight at full next turn. As long as you’re Mechanicus aligned, but you’re taking House Raven so that’s not a problem.

My Bay Area Open 2019 list in all its ridiculousness.

The single largest weakness of the Castellan is its vulnerability in Close Combat. With no dedicated close combat weapons, other than it’s feet, poor Weapon Skill, and no invulnerable save in close combat the Castellan is truly weak to enemy units that have massed attacks, or high strength attacks. This is where the rest of your list is most important. To successfully run a Castellan you will need a way to keep the enemy at bay until the Castellan, or other units in your army can neutralize the only threats to the Castellan. Either the enemies most effective shooting units, or the enemies best assault units. Screening your Castellan properly with other Knights or with some Astramilitarum chaff is the best way to make sure your opponent can’t get to your Castellan the first two turns.

Well. Most of that is still relevant. The only problem now is the point cost increase to the Castellan, increased cost of the Stratagem, and nerfs to CP farms since I wrote the original article. The increase of points to the Castellan to 704 from 538 means a couple of things. The first should be obvious, an increase in points to a unit means it needs to either be more efficient than before to make up for that or at the very least maintain it’s efficiency. For the Castellan at 704 points, this means that you almost certainly need to be House Raven now to use the Order of Companions Stratagem, and the operate at full strat, as often as you can. Previously at the 604 cost point you could depending on the list, sometimes justify taking the Castellan in a non-House Raven list. For example, you could have taken the Castellan in a House Terryn list with double Gallants. The Castellan is also less survivable now than it was before. Without the ability to get the Invul save to a 3++ you need better efficiency out of the Castellan while it survives because it won’t be surviving as long. So at 704 points you really need that Castellan to pull its weight and you need it to last or at least operate at full capacity as long as possible, and that means House Raven and a lot of Command Points. Here is where we start to see the various nerfs to the Castellan combine to make the unit less viable than it was before. With the model now taking up an additional 166 points in your list you have less space for more CP generating detachments or other Knights to help mitigate the loss of a Castellan, CP regen happening a lot less often, and the cost of many important strats for the Knight being higher the Castellan took a pretty big hit over the course of 3 rules adjustments. I was asked at this year’s Bay Area Open why I didn’t just bring my same list from last year, why would I be crazy and bring two Castellans? One answer was, I wanted to run two Castellans because it seemed funny, the other is I literally could not bring my list from last year’s BAO due to the point increase. 100 more points for the Castellan meant dropping the Astramilitarum battalion, which I can’t do because I need CP, or dropping one of the 2 Gallants or the Crusader. I could have done that.

In the end, the Castellan hasn’t been nerfed into the realm of being unplayable like some people on the internet have been claiming. But it is a much more careful choice when building a list now if you take one. In order to make certain, you get reliable work out of the Castellan in a point efficient manner House Raven for the Order of Companions Stratagem is almost a 100% must take. You will also need a lot of CP now to make that worth it in the long run over the course of 3 or so turns, so at minimum, we’re talking 10-15 CP. It has become harder to run the Castellan in a point efficient manner, but not impossible.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the updated Castellan and what it can do for your 40k lists.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

One Response to “Imperium Unit Review: Imperial Knight Castellan REVISTIED Post-Nerf(s)”

  1. Avatar
    Dusty July 9, 2019 5:54 pm #

    Unless I am mistaken…the Castellan was always 604 points before nerf. Where did you get 538 points?

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