Drukhari Tactics: Archon Tactica

“I have tread upon a thousand world and feasted upon the pain and suffering of untold millions but nothing compares to the exhilaration I feel from the cries of a Mon’keigh who has finally realized their corpse Emperor cares not for their suffering,” -Archon Tyrannos, Kabal of the Faded Glory

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Among the Truekin there are those who’s natural ruthlessness, and ability to navigate the ever changing political topography of the Dark City, has allowed them to rise through the ranks to a position of power, respect and infamy; The Archon. The personal representation of any general who would brave the gauntlet of the 41st Millenium at the head of a Kaballite based Drukhari army.

Boasting an impressive stat line, an affordable price tag and access to powerful wargear, relics and warlord traits, the Archon can fill a number of roles in your force ranging from close combat beat stick, targeted anti-tank or, most commonly, force multiplier for a Spearhead of Ravagers.

In this article we will dive into what an Archon brings to the table, how to get the most out of them and present you with a selection of builds for your next realspace raid.


On the surface the Archon is your basic Kaballite warrior turned up to 11.


With an 8 inch move, and access to the Blaster and Phantasm Grenade launchers the Archon can cover a decent amount of ground on foot when advancing while still maintaining a sizeable threat to nearby enemies (hitting on 3+ and rerolling 1s with its assault weapons). When combined with a disembarkation move from a venom or raider, which is the only way any respectable Drukhari overlord goes to war anyways, this means an Archon boasts a 29” threat range with their range weapons (+1d6 if you feel frisky and advance) and a 23” assault threat, where they are no slouch due to their wargear, relic and warlord trait selection.

The WS and BS, wounds, attacks and leadership are exactly what you would hope for from a Warlord level character (his mark of 5 attacks actually places him amongst the more punchy HQ choices in the game) and while the basic Drukhari S and T and Sv leave something to be desired they are mitigated by special rule and weapon options.

As with all Drukhari Archons benefit from the army wide Power From Pain rule and all the bells and whistles it brings (i.e. the 6+++ Feel no Pain style save and the reroll on charges on turn two or later). 

The Overlord rule fills the role of the nearly ubiquitous Captain Aura and just shows how fun of a guy these dark lords are to be around, by allowing any <Kabal> units within 6” to reroll to hit rolls of one, including himself.

The final rule, which is usually the first thing that comes to the opponent’s mind, is the Shadowfield that all Archons are equipped with. Forged with archaic technology beyond the understanding of even Bellisarius Cawl, and finicky beyond all get out, the Shadowfield provides the Archon with one of the few 2++ saves in the game, which covers for the 5+ they have on their profile. The issue is that this save cannot be rerolled for any reason and once it fails, usually the first time you roll it, is gone for the rest of the game. 

In terms of equipment the Archon comes with your choice of a Power sword, Venom blade, Agoniser or Huskblade and a ranged weapon in the form of a splinter pistol, blast pistol or Blaster (for the time being as it is an Index choice). All of these have their place (except for the Power sword which is frankly outclassed by the other melee options) but you typically see these Overlords with one of two load outs in the competitive scene: Venom blade & Splinter Pistol (72 points) or Blaster and Huskblade (93 points).

WeaponRangeType SAPDCost
Power swordMeleeMeleeUser-314
Venom bladeMeleeMelee*012
Splinter Pistol12”Pistol 1*010
Blast Pistol6”Pistol 18-4D610
Blaster18”Assault 18-4D617
Phantasm Grenade Launcher18”Assault D3101 (-1 Ld until end of turn)3

*Poison weapon (wounds non-titanic and non-vehicles on a 4+, Venom blades get a +2 on this roll)

If you are running heavy Kabal then both of these builds should be in your army as one allows you to have a mobile character with the potential to lay down wounds on everything from grots to knights (with the right strats and traits) and the other gives you a strong base to build a mobile firebase around.

Obsession, Warlord traits and Relics Options:

The Drukhari book has a strong selection of Warlord traits and Relics which really let you customize your Archon to the specific role you need but in ITC the pool is slightly smaller as there are only a few which are tied to obsessions (Drukhari Chapter Tactic equivalent) that are truly competitive.

Among the obsessions the two front-runners are the Kabal of the Black Heart and Kabal of the Flayed Skull

Black Heart gives you access to the Agents of Vect stratagem (AKA Vect’s Veto, AKA Mother May I), lets your infantry have the benefits of Power From Pain as if the game was one turn further along and gives you vehicles a 6+++ save,

Flayed Skull gives you the laundry list of +3” movement on models with the fly keyword and ignore cover and reroll 1s to hit with rapid fire weapons for said units or models embarked on transports with the fly keyword and a handy strat to get +1 to hit against anything with Fly. 

The Kabal of the Obsidian Rose also has potential as it gives you +6” range on all non-pistol ranged weapons and gives you the only strat that allows Kabalites to shoot more than once a round, in the most round about way involving failing a moral check and then selecting models to flee and shooting them before they potentially run for the hills. This additional range opens up the possibility to be extra troll-y as you kite the enemy around and outrange them just slightly with your 42” Splinter Cannons, Dark Lances and Disintegrators or blast them away with your expanded rapid fire range and 18” shredders.

Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue is handicapped by a comboed middle of the road obsession rule, reroll 1s to wound with non-relic melee weapons and when firing poison weapons, and mediocre warlord trait (covered below) but a fantastic stratagem which allows them to redeploy up to three units after deployment but before the first turn begins.

The most well known combo, and arguably best, is Labyrinthine Cunning (the Kabal of the Black Heart warlord trait), which allows you to roll a d6 for each command point spent by you or your opponent and regain 1 CP for each roll of 6, and the Writ of the Living Muse, providing the Overlord with a 6” bubble of reroll 1s to wound.

Note: pretty much every Drukhari player runs Labyrinthine Cunning/Writ of the Living Muse in ITC lists as the extra CP you get from it can mean the difference between winning or losing on the strength of a crucial Agents of Vect/Lightning Reflexes/Fire and Fade. The added bonus of paired reroll auras synergizing with a trio of Disintegrator Ravagers and protection of a warlord who stays away from the business end of any Smash Captain’s Hammer also help.

Before the FAQ geared at reigning in the Castellan/Loyal 32/Smash Captain list this was the no-brainer go to warlord trait as it allowed you to potentially generate multiple CP every battle round but since the Tactical Restraint rule went into effect it has opened the door for some other options to see some play.

My personal favorite amongst the other options is Hatred Eternal, which allows you to reroll all failed to wound rolls with your Archon. 

This drastically skews the math behind an Archons attacks in Melee, particularly when you combine it with the Djinn Blade, a beefed up Huskblade that give the bearer two additional attacks and improves the AP to -3 at the cost of a 1 in 6 chance of suffering a mortal wound at the end of each fight phase it’s used. 

With 7 attacks, hitting on twos, rerolling ones and wounding GEQ on a 3+, MEQ on 4+ and most vehicles on 5+, with rerolls on failed wounds and D3 damage an Archon has the ability to really stack up wounds while potentially taking nothing in return due to their 2+++ shadowfield (which will of course fail the first time you are shot with a lasgun, poked by a grot or looked at wrong by the opposing general).

Other enticing trait options are Famed Savagery (Kabal of the Flayed Skull only), +1 S and A when charging, charged or heroically intervening, and Soul Thirst, +1 A when charging, charged or heroically intervening and regening one wound for each model killed in melee. The first of these is situationally better than Hatred Eternal when clearing chaff or facing anything with T8 or better while the latter give your Archon the potential to survive after his inevitable Shadowfield flub. 

Besides these four options the rest are probably best left to non-ITC settings as they range from mildly efficient (Deathly Perfectionist [Obsidian Rose]t: +1 damage on non-relic weapons) to laughably mediocre (Towering Arrogance [Poisoned Tongue]: 12” LD bubble for friendly Kabal units).

In terms of Relics the Djinn Blade and Writ are the clear front runners but there are others you can CP in depending on your match up. The Helm of Spite gives you a Deny the Witch opportunity with the equipped character which causes an automatic Perils of the Warp on the offending Psyker if the deny is successful. 

If you go down the pathway of Poisoned Tongue (which I strongly suggest you don’t) you could CP in the Soul-seeker (an 18” pistol 2 , ap-1 D d3 gun which wounds non-vehicles on a 2+, ignore line of sight, the character targeting rule and cover) so you can pick off support characters. 

Flayed Skull has a special armor (the Obsidian Veil) which gives a 4++ once your Shadowfield bites the dust and the Obsidian Rose has a 3+ armor (the Armor of Misery) which gives your Archon -1 to hit in the fight phase but both of these are just putting lipstick on a pig as the Archon is either going to paste whatever he ties up against, pass all his Shadowfield saves (it could happen) or go down harder than Deebo at the end of Friday.

Notable Stratagems:

There are a few stratagems you want to be aware of when fielding an Archon as they can help take their output up a notch or just help keep them alive when you have overstepped your cover.

The first of these is Prizes from the Dark City, the Drukhari extra relic trait, which allows you to branch out and take something besides just the Writ of the Living Muse. 

Next is Alliance of Agony, which doesn’t actually affect your Archon but greatly improves your army by allowing additional Warlord traits for an allied Succubus and Haemonculus.

Lightning Reflexes, -1 to be hit until end of phase, and Fire and Fade, move 7” after firing a ranged weapon, of course have their place but if you are using them on your Archon it’s probably because you’ve made a booboo.

A personal favorite of mine is Torment grenade, a throwback to older editions, which allows you to deal D3 mortal wounds if you beat the LD of unit hit by your phantasm grenade launcher on 3d6 (remember the launcher gives any unit hit a -1 LD until end of turn).

Another fun one is Soul-trap, another throwback, which you can use when you kill an enemy character in the fight phase and get +1 A, S and LD. This combined with Hatred Eternal and a Djinn blade can turn you warlord into a character which can really carve through the opposition as he starts to wound MEQ on 3+ or knights on a 5+ with rerolls.

Build Suggestions:

Now that you have an appreciation of what all at your disposal lets piece it together and give you a few sample builds I’ve run to varying effect.

“The Orator”- Archon (70pts), Splinter Pistol (0pts), Venom blade (2pts) and Writ of the Living Muse relic (72pts total)

You know them and, if you’ve faced off against them, you probably hate them. Found hiding near the board edge spouting out N’sync lyrics (Baby bye, bye, bye) to the adoring masses (i.e. the trio of Ravagers who are contractually bound to him) this Archon is everywhere the Drukhari want to be. Sprinkle in Labyrinthine Cunning to taste based upon need for extra CP.

“The Dissector”- Archon (70pts), Blaster (17pts), Huskblade (6pts), Phantasm grenade launcher (3pts), Djinn blade relic and Hatred Eternal warlord trait (96 pts total)

Generally found where the biggest, and least protected, threat in the oppositional army is this character is capable of dealing a surprising amount of damage vs. vehicles with his Blaster (hitting on 2s with rerolls and generally wounding most on 3s with rerolls), torment grenade stratagem and Djinn blade (averaging 4.3 wounds against a T7 3+ save vehicle in melee) or simply deleting any pesky character he can get close enough to target.

“The Perpetual”- Archon (70pts), Splinter pistol (0pts), Huskblade (6pts) The Obsidian Veil Relic (Flayed Skull only) and Soul Thirst Warlord trait (76pts total)

Probably my least favorite of the builds I’ve run this Archon is all about trying to increase the staying power of a glass cannon by adding on the ability to regen wounds in the fight phase after killing enemies models and having a backup 4++ for when the shadow field dies at the least opportune time. You could upgrade to a blaster and thrown in a phantasm grenade launcher to this build to up the damage output but this character is really about tying up something important in melee and surviving long enough to be a pain in the rear end. If you don’t want to run Flayed Skull you could also take the Djinn blade to up damage output at the cost of survivability or take the Parasite Kiss, a relic pistol that wounds on 2+ vs non-vehicles at ap -2 and 2 damage and allows you to regen wounds for every model killed, for extra soul-vampire based shenanigans.

Well I think that’s about all I can bring to you this week. Please drop me a line in the comments below letting me know how you like to build your Archons and check back in the future as I delve further into the Dark City with a series of articles exploring the kabalite subfaction of the Drukhari.

Article written by Luke Perkins.

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5 Responses to “Drukhari Tactics: Archon Tactica”

  1. Dakkath November 10, 2019 3:25 pm #

    Seems like kabals have the same problem T’au do. The one subfaction choice just brings all the best unique features as to make other choices pointless.

    • Luke Perkins November 11, 2019 10:38 am #

      It is kinda a problem for the Kabals and unfortunately Phoenix Rising didn’t really help out any. It gave some great tools to Cults and Covens but Kabal armies will still be Black Heart and Flayed Skull based.

  2. Vipoid November 12, 2019 5:57 am #

    IMO the issue with Archons is that they need Artefacts *and* Warlord Traits just to be worth their base cost.

    Otherwise you are – at best – paying ~90pts for a single Blaster shot. And even that option probably isn’t long for this world.

    Well at least we have plenty of other generic HQs to choose from. Oh.

    • abusepuppy November 12, 2019 6:51 am #

      72pts for a guy who gives out rerolls is not the worst thing in the world. It’s not _exciting_, but it’s what most factions get.

      • Vipoid November 12, 2019 12:01 pm #

        Okay, to start off with, the HQs in other armies tend to have melee weapons that are actually worth a damn. Meanwhile, the Archon is a melee HQ whose melee weapons are absolute garbage.

        More importantly though, most armies have HQs that can actually buff their *entire* army. Meanwhile, the Archon’s aura is limited to just a handful of units in the DE codex. If I take an Autarch, his aura will work on any vehicle, any Wraith unit, any Aspect Warrior unit, any Guardian unit etc. Meanwhile, if I take an Archon, his aura won’t work on any Wych Cult unit, on any Coven unit, or on Mandrakes, Scourges or Incubi. It’s also useless on his own Court. He’s nowhere near fast enough to keep up with fliers so that leaves, what, Kabalites, Venoms, Raiders and Ravagers. I guess Trueborn if you count them.

        You’ll forgive me if I’m not really impressed that our main HQ can buff all of 4 units.

        What’s more, unlike most other factions, Dark Eldar – and Kabalites and Trueborn especially – are known for fighting from atop open-topped transports. However, the Archon’s aura doesn’t work inside, into, or out of open-topped transports.

        And let’s not forget that the Archon himself has 0 mobility options. I mean, it’s not like Dark Eldar are known for using Wings, Skyboards and Jetbikes or anything. So if you want him to move faster than a brisk jog, putting him in a transport is your only option – in which case he isn’t even able to buff *himself*, let alone anything else.

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