Hey everyone, TJ Lanigan here from The Art of War to talk about the new Psychic Awakening Chaos stuff.
The new book Ritual of the Damned gives the Thousand Sons subfactions called “Cults of the Legion.” There are nine different cults in total. Any Thousand Sons Detachment in a Battle-Forged army can be assigned a Cult of the Legion, giving it access to a new power, relic, and Warlord Trait. Note that all of the stratagems we will cover later in this article are not tied to any cult, which means anyone can use them.
The compelling part to note here is that the cult you pick unlocks the psychic power from their cult for free. Every Psyker in the detachment gets this extra power in addition to its regular allotment, so no need to worry about slotting it in. These free powers are the best part of this book, giving you flexible new strategies and play-styles that revolve around them. The Warlord Traits and relics are also super potent depending on the cult you choose. Alright, let’s dive into these Cults of Magnus!
Cult of Prophecy
Dedicated to divining the future, the Cult of Prophecy has some pretty sneaky tricks. Their psychic power gives them the ability to roll and store a single die, to use until the start of their next Psychic Phase, letting you replace a die rolled for a Cult of Prophecy unit with that saved die. This trait is a very similar mechanic to Sisters of Battle’s Miracle dice and comes in handy for unreliable charges from reserve. Their relic, the Pythic Brazier, gives all friendly units within 6″ the ability to re-roll one hit, wound, or damage roll each time they shoot or fight. It’s not faction-locked in any way, making it is insanely powerful with the right faction mixing (looking at you, Knights). I expect that it will get errata’d only to affect Thousand Sons units, though. If this does eventually get errata’d, it will have minimal application since not many units in Thousand Sons spike their damage from low quantity, high potential shots like las cannons, where this ability would shine. The Warlord Trait allows you to move the HQ 6″ after you fire overwatch, making it far less likely that the charge succeeds. Not bad, but not the most potent ability, considering that Daemon Princes usually get the Warlord Traits, and they have no guns.
Cult of Time
The Cult of Time specializes in time magics and turning time into a weapon. This mechanic works by regenerating wounds and models. This cult’s psychic power is Time Flux, which has a Warp Charge of 5 and, if successfully manifested, can return a dead model in a unit of CULT OF TIME INFANTRY to life with full wounds remaining and, on a 9+ to manifest, can return D3 models instead. This is the cult which I think has the most interesting mechanic and the one I want to try to make work in a competitive setting. Bringing models back to life for free seems super strong, especially when those models are already tough to kill. The Cult’s Relic allows a destroyed model to stand back up at the end of the phase the first time they’re killed and with D3 wounds as well. This is powerful when you think about putting it on a demon prince and what it takes to kill one of those already, especially when you consider this with Temporal Manipulation as well. The Warlord Trait is also potent, allowing you to cast an extra power if you manifest a spell on a 9+. This value is very attainable since you have two opportunities to do this with most units that are casting.
Cult of Mutation
The Cult of Mutation specializes in the warping powers of Tzeentch, improving the strength and toughness of their units. The spell for this cult is called Warp Reality. This power allows you to nominate a unit within 3″ of a terrain piece and halve their movement characteristic whilst also giving them minus one to advance and charge rolls. This is very strong in trying to slow certain armies down to a crawl. Using this in conjunction with Doombolt, you could slow down an entire melee army. The Warlord Trait allows you to deal mortal wounds when you roll a 6+ to hit. The relic allows one sorcerer model to get +1 toughness, strength, and attacks. All in all, the psychic power does not do enough to warrant taking this cult, as the other abilities are just not that strong.
Cult of Scheming
The Cult of Scheming specializes in convoluted plots and plans that anticipate their foes’ moves several steps ahead. This allows this cult to utilize tricks on the battlefield that can really swing the game in your favor. The psychic power allows a target unit to shoot and/or charge, even if it fell back. This is great for a unit like Rubrics, that need to be able to fire every turn to really get their points back. The Cult’s Relic, the Cha’Qi’ Thl’s Theorem, allows the controlling player to reduce the command point cost of a stratagem you use to 0 for a single phase, once per game. It’s an interesting ability that would allow you to spend it on something that you would never spend CP on, such as Coruscating Beam. The Warlord Trait enables models to count for double the number when determining objective secured. Unfortunately, this is another no go for me, because the power, relic, and Warlord Trait are far too situational to be of full use.
Cult of Magic
The Cult of Magic is all about mortal wounds and killing things using psychic powers. The psychic power for this cult is an area-of-effect mortal wound damage spell that not only deals damage to the closest unit but to units within 3″ of them as well. The Warlord Trait, which increases the number of mortal wounds dealt by psychic powers manifested by one, is a huge boon. The relic is Arcane Focus, which gives the Warlord +1 to their psychic tests. As a cult, they are incredibly powerful and hands down my top pick for the best cult. Expect them to be all over competitive lists.
Cult of Knowledge
The keepers of secret knowledge, even among the Thousand Sons. These guys specialize in turning knowledge into a weapon. Their Warlord Trait lets you re-roll ones on your psychic tests. The cult’s psychic power allows you to pick an enemy unit within 18″, and all your cult units will re-roll ones to wound against it. When you combine this with vets, you could be wounding on 3+ and re-rolling ones, or better. The relic is a pistol that operates like a flamer. Not a bad cult if you are trying to play a rubric-heavy shooting army.
Cult of Change
The Cult of Change is all about spreading Chaos. They rely on effects that disrupt how your opponent’s army works. The cults spell allows them to reduce the attacks and LD of a unit near them. Their relic, The Capricious Crest allows you to flip your 1s to 6s in psychic tests as well as flipping your opponents 6s to ones. Their Warlord Trait lets them re-roll charge rolls and shoot and/or charge in a turn in which they’ve fallen back. Not a bad cult; I could definitely see some play with them.
Cult of Duplicity
This cult is about misdirection, giving information to your opponent, and then changing the information after your opponent has used it. Their spell allows them to redeploy one unit on the board anywhere that is more than 9″ inches away from your opponent’s units. The relic allows you to roll a die at the start of each battle round. On a 4+, you get a CP, but on a 1, your opponent gets it instead. The Warlord Trait allows you to redeploy D3 units before the first battle round begins. This cult has some cool tricks but isn’t really anything groundbreaking. Most armies already have mechanics that work like this, and they aren’t going to increase your output greatly throughout the game.
Cult of Manipulation
The cult that’s all about diminishing your opponent’s army. The psychic power for this cult targets a psyker, causes it a mortal wound, and then debuffs their casting by making them -2 to cast. The Warlord Trait subtracts one attack from units that are within 1″ inch of the Warlord. This can be pretty difficult to use because you generally don’t want to get too close with your Warlord. Lastly, the relic allows you to copy one weapon from a unit you’re in combat with and use it against them. This cult screams for a melee army which Thousand Sons are not. The relic and Warlord Trait require you to get your all-important character into melee and use it as a beat stick, which scares me with anything but a prince, and even then…
Thousand Sons have their own set of stratagems, and with this book, it gains an entire additional page of them! These seven new stratagems focus on improving Rubric Marines and Scarab Occult Terminators, giving them more options for shooting and more mobility and defensive upgrades.
- Infernal Fusillade (1 CP) – Use in the Shooting phase. A Thousand Sons Rubric/Scarabs unit can shoot twice with its Rapid Fire weapons if it didn’t move this turn. This is an excellent ability for Thousand Sons, whose AP-2 bolters are already a reliable choice for clearing units. Being able to pump out 4 shots with Rubrics at 24″ or 8 shots with Scarab Occult Terminators can pack a punch and put these units back on the map. The hard part would be setting them up in a spot where they will be able to use this ability turn after turn.
- Magister (1 CP) – Choose a non-Warlord character in your army. That character gets a Warlord Trait. You can only use this once per battle, and you can’t double up on Traits. This is precisely what I wanted out of the book. The Thousand Sons have some of the game’s best Warlord Traits across all of the Chaos books. Players were already taking some as the Warlord. It’s great to be able to use some of the new ones to increase the effectiveness of the HQs.
- Risen Rubricae (1CP) – This allows one unit of Rubric marines to redeploy anywhere on the board that is more than 9″ away from any enemy units. This stratagem pairs well with being able to fire twice if you don’t move. This would allow a 20 man unit to fire 80 shots that could hit on a 2+ and wound on a +1 as well.
- Indomitable Foes (1 CP) – Use when a Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators unit is chosen as the target of an attack. Improve that unit’s invulnerable save by 1 (to a max of 3+) for the rest of the phase. A great way to help a unit survive mass shooting that would otherwise deny your normal save (from, say, Marines). The stratagem is particularly powerful when combined with the Weaver of Fates allowing that unit to get a 3+ invulnerable. Having a 3++ helps get the full use out of these units, especially when combined with new powers and stratagems to heal models or return them to the battlefield. Definitely some strong combos here.
- Adepts of the Immateruim (1CP) – When you would suffer perils, you don’t suffer perils! What a strong ability for an army that loves to cast powers. If you run out of re-rolls in a psychic phase, this allows you to continue casting powers without having to worry about someone dying.
- Sorcerous Infusion (1CP) – This stratagem allows a unit to heal wounds if it casts a spell at 9 or more. This spell also allows one model to return to the squad in the case of a rubric squad. The only stratagem that I believe has any effect on the primarch. Having Magnus heal 2d3 a turn with this and temporal Manipulation is very powerful. If you are playing Magnus, I strongly recommend using this every turn.
- Yoked Automata (2CP) – This stratagem allows a Rubric unit that was not charged to counter charge a unit that has ended within 12″‘ of it. Not the best use of the Rubrics, because they are not known for their melee prowess.
Putting it all Together
This book is all about giving rules to the fighting force of the Thousand Sons. If you were already playing mono-faction Thousand Sons, these rules are a significant boon to you. However, if you are one of the many Chaos armies that uses the tried and true Supreme Command detachment of goodness, you will not be impressed with all the new rules, since they do not really affect you. That is not to say that these rules will not make it into competitive play, because some of these cults make the supreme command detachment even stronger( looking at you cult of magic). It’s also crucial to note that these rules don’t force Thousand Sons to go mono-faction, which allows you to keep playing the detachments you already see and still get the new rules. Also, Ahriman and Magnus do not exclude you from gaining access to a cult; they just don’t benefit, which is huge. Ahriman is one of the best characters in the game, and if you had to give up using him for new rules, well, I’m not sure it would have been worth it. With all that being said, I believe that mono-faction Thousand Sons has been pushed up to mid-tier competitive, with a solid mix of defensive stratagems and new cult buffs. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that this will see top-tier play, due to the overall power of the units that were buffed. In my opinion, Rubrics are still just too expensive to be splashed into an already formed Chaos list. What’s even worse is that units like Magnus and Tzaangors were almost entirely untouched, which makes me ask: Why did they go up in points?
With all of this, I am excited to test the new boundaries of this Chaos faction. Until next time… Let The Galaxy Burn!!!
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