Hi Folks! This is my second article discussing that new Grey Knights list. Check out the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
In the first article last week, I discussed the double Paladin bomb, and the tools that Grey Knights players have to make Paladins all the more durable than they already are.
This week, I want to take a step back and consider a couple of points that make the list particularly troublesome for a lot of armies in the meta at the moment.
Moreover, with the new changes to the Space Marines, the double-Paladin Grey Knight list has a lot of potential to go the distance on the competitive scene in the coming few months. Indeed, there are three or four strong forces to which we could apply the same logic, but this new Grey Knights hotness has a couple of cool things going for it that could potentially put it at the top of the pile.
First, it’s all-infantry list. Anyone who plays a lot of 40k in the ITC format will know just how valuable it is to be able to reliably hide a unit or a model. Small, hidden units can camp on objectives all game, reliably ticking that hold box on the the score-sheet. A unit hiding in a midfield terrain piece can be particularly threatening, especially if it has some prowess in close combat. They can act as a screen for characters in the backfield, making those precious casters immune from all non-sniper firepower. (Incidentally, I think we’re going to see T’au players take much more advantage of this particular screening strategy in the coming months, now that the Enclaves allow two Commanders per detachment, but that’s a topic for another time).
And not only can this list take advantage of the opportunities to hide in a standard ITC-format game, it also has tools to deal with the opponent’s units that are hiding out of line-of-sight. As I mentioned last week, Astral Aim is very useful psychic power when cast on a full-strength unit of Paladins. There aren’t many low-model-count infantry units that withstand that amount of firepower.
Indeed, as a T’au player, I know just how valuable it is to be able to hide models out of line-of-sight. Hiding Drones on the bottom floor of a building within 3″ of the Riptide is a great strategy. Furthermore, we T’au players know that our alpha units — our Riptides — are virtually impossible to hide, so the know the value of ten Paladins hiding in that L-shaped ruin, waiting for the right time to pounce.
Another tidbit on hiding infantry: the chap with whom I most often play 40k plays Drukhari, and you had better believe that when I pop those Venoms, the Kabalites inside will jump from the wreck into the nearest building, on the ground floor, out of line-of-sight.
Second, those characters are tough to target, meaning that it’s very tricky for opponent’s to stop those buffs on the Paladins. Of course, certain psychic-heavy armies will have the tools to negate some of the Grey Knights’ psychic abilities, but armies that don’t — my T’au, for one — are going to struggle to do any damage to the characters that are making the Paladins all the more fearsome.
This element of the army speaks to a broad theme of the list: it can actually be quite tricky to interact with. If you checked out any of the interviews with Laurence Baker, you’ll know that he will hold his Strike teams in reserve, waiting for the opportune moment on turn two or turn three to drop them down. If the Grey Knight player chooses to play the list like this, there isn’t much that a lot of armies can do to it on turn one.
Let’s dig into that a little. Depending on the list, on turn one the Grey Knights player will have 20 Paladins and a handful of characters on the board. In the new format of ITC, the players know who will going first and second. This means that, if the Grey Knights player is going first, he can place his models as far forward in his deployment zone as he is able, knowing that he’ll be able to buff them up and fling them across the table into cover on his first turn, notwithstanding any deny the witch rolls, of course.
What does this mean for this opponent? He won’t be able to target the characters, of course. And he will have to deal with a buffed-up unit of ten Paladins right at his doorstep, very possibly out of line-of-sight.
It’s the format of the game in particular that makes this strategy so useful. ITC terrain is designed to have two big, line-of-sight blocking terrain pieces either side of the center of the board: the so-called L-shapes. And it’s in one of these terrain pieces that the Paladins will sit. This will force a lot of armies to redeploy a significant chunk of their units in order to bring firepower to bear. Moreover, plenty of armies simply won’t have the movement speed to get into an advantageous position. Most Aeldari lists will be able to do something in response to this threat, but consider the Astra Militarum, the Adeptus Mechanicus, the T’au — even some Space Marines list will struggle with this play.
There’s one more point that could be worth considering with the Grey Knights: Ritual of the Damned hasn’t been out for that long. It’s well within the bounds of possibility that there are more tricks that the community has yet to find. The Grey Knights clearly have a lot going for them at the moment, and the army could get more powerful still before the meta begins to react.
And that’s the thing: this list came out of nowhere, and I’m we’ve all heard people on the internet — and, I dare say, in real life — complain that it’s too powerful. Are they right? I don’t know. Game balance is a very tricky thing to get right. But something is going to come up in the coming few months to counter it. In fact, I’m sure there are a handful of players who are working on it as I type this sentence. It’s like F. A. Hayek’s idea of spontaneous order. No one individual need plan exactly how to beat this Grey Knights list. A few cool ideas will emerge, and the community as a whole will pick the best one, or perhaps the best few.
Until such a time, I’m going to work on my maneuver secondaries. It’s a good idea for T’au to take recon, right?
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