Psychic Awakening Daemon Review

Hello, my fellow nerd friends. It’s the one and only Brown Magic Nick Nanavati from Art of War here to talk to you about Daemons and how to utilize best their new tools in the brand new Psychic Awakening! 

Long long ago, I was once known as “The Daemon Guy” and played them pretty much exclusively through 6th and 7th edition. However, when 8th edition released, I found their play-style unattractive to me. They went from being one of the most unique, dynamic toolbox armies to a bunch of stat lines that run across the table at your opponent. That said, they’ve gotten incremental hints at a more nuanced play style through various releases and now the latest Engine Wars Psychic Awakening.

I think a lot of players look at Daemons on the surface level and don’t really know the codex’s identity is trying to be. Grey Knights are an elite army that has total mastery of the Psychic Phase. Tau shoots a lot and is very difficult to engage or damage. Orks are a horde based faction that embraces the idea that if you believe something hard enough if it’ll happen. Daemons, on the other hand, have struggled to find their place. 

credit to Games Workshop
credit to Games Workshop

Earlier in the edition, they could be characterized as “Plaguebearer Spam.” Who knew 30 man ob sec units with T4, -2 to hit, and a 5++/5+++ for 7 points per guy would be good!? Shortly thereafter, Chapter Approved increased the price point of plague bearers and reduced the value found in stacking hit modifiers by giving better reroll to hit mechanics to the latest batch of updated factions. Daemon players have since struggled to adapt. Some players have found a small but decent niche in “Keeper Rush,” a style in which players would run many of these super-fast, hard-hitting greater daemons and try to simply blitz your opponent off the table. This was seen with mild success, with the most successful users typically going 4-2 at major events. The latest Psychic Awakening has given A LOT of support to this style of build for a mono-daemon player, as well as some new ways to play the army as a mixed faction utilizing other Chaos sources as well. 

Today, I will go over running Daemons as a mono-faction, and what identity they can now take on. I’ll also briefly be covering some of the new ways to use daemons as an allied force to the larger Chaos-super faction.

Far and away, the best things the new Daemons got access to are the Exalted Greater Daemons, and if you’re interested in running Daemons as a mono-faction, this is certainly the route you will want to go.

credit to Games Workshop
credit to Games Workshop

Exalted Bloodthirsters- These big guys are definitely a force to be reckoned with, and they can have a lot of great value as an additional big guy in a monster rush list. The Insensate Rage Thirster is my favorite because it has access to the sweep attacks to help him not get bogged down by more numerous expendable units. I think just one Thirster is the sweet spot, so you can always just choose between the 2+ armor save or the Blessed Blood reward depending on the match. 

I’ve seen a lot of hype generated over the combination of Blessed Blood and the Blood Drinker Talisman, but I don’t think it’s worth it. The issue is you can only give an exalted relic to your warlord, and the Bloodthirster being the warlord has a huge opportunity cost since the Lord of Change, which we will get to soon, makes such a tremendously powerful Warlord. Additionally, while you can theoretically take eight damage then heal eight damage on repeat, your opponent will likely damage you over multiple phases with things such as smite, combat, and shooting. And even if you are slaughtering infantry with your Thirster and forgo hitting a harder, less numerous target, and go 12/12 on attacks to kills (with your no rerolls), you still only average four wounds healed. Overall, for 230 points, I like a single thirster as an additional monster to support your trio of Keepers, but don’t go crazy with this guy.

Exalted Lord of Change– Now this bird is bae! There are many different rewards this guy would want to use such as Spell Thief in specific matches, Lord of Flux, Aura of Mutability, and Master of Deception. There is legitimate merit here to writing “random” on your data sheet, since there’s only really one undesirable roll you could get on the table. That said, being able to choose Aura of Mutability when playing against an army that will deal damage to you via death by thousand cuts (like multiple small unit Dark Eldar) is truly oppressive. Conversely, Spell Thief stealing doom from an Eldar army can be breaking. The real power to the Lord of Change is as the warlord, though. He can take the -1 damage warlord trait, the Impossible Robe as his relic, and then choose exalted reward(s). 

Credit to Games Workshop
Credit to Games Workshop

He can function in two main ways from the strategic level. First, he can fly forward and push his denial range against enemy psykers with his super-powerful +2. This is great for getting board control on your opponent. Many players design lists on psychic powers going off, and a way to help ensure that it is simply to be outside of the denial range of the opponent. Using your LOC aggressively, you can potentially remove that as an option entirely or make your opponent altogether secede board control. 

The second way you can use the Lord of Change is as a big screening unit. It is very feasible to hide an entire Thousand Sons Supreme Command or Alpha Legion unit of your choice via concealing behind the nigh unkillable big bird. This is, of course, a very different than a monster rush list, but using things like the Lord of change, three units of Nurglings, and some Beasts of Nurgle could drive shooting armies mad as they can’t interact with any of your characters or Obliterators/Possessed as you grind them down at range. Units like beasts of Nurgle and Nurglings in 9th edition may also gain more value as potential flag planters, but I’ll try and refrain from too much speculation on 9th in this article.

Keeper of Secrets– Keepers were already some of the best monsters within the context of a Daemon army, and they got a lot better in the new Psychic Awakening. Almost all of their rewards are good, but the two that stand out as best are Blessing of the Dark Prince and Quick Silver Reflexes. If you’re running a monster rush list, I’d recommend running three of these and using them as the fast threat overload that they are. I’d probably give one Blessing of the Dark Prince and then roll randomly for the other two keepers to see what extra value you can get. 

Credit to Games Workshop
Credit to Games Workshop

Finding an Identity

Now that I’ve covered the main boons of the new Psychic Awakening (sorry Great Unclean One, maybe next time buddy), let’s figure out what synergies we can find and put it all together. I’ve already talked about psychic phase domination with the Lord of Change leading the assault, but Daemons are uniquely equipped to go further. The Blue Scribes is a lowly little character that everyone forgot who gives a -1 to cast within 12″ and steals enemy powers when they fail to cast. This is generally not seen because 12″ range auras used offensively are too finicky to make work, but within the context of a threat overload list, I think you can push this little guy forward aggressively. Additionally, Fiends of Slaanesh give a -1 cast to psykers as well, which can further push you down the psychic domination train and give you more avenues to trap enemy units in combat, something this army desperately needs. 

Additionally, new Daemons offer a lot of potential leadership modifiers, which could potentially be useful for Fear Seeking Keepers you may end up with. Fiends offer a new stratagem to give enemy units -2 leadership, which can be combined with Phantasmagoria to get enemies to -3 leadership. While this isn’t anything spectacularly reliable since many armies are fearless or have other mechanics to mitigate morale, these bonuses come with the units you already want to take, and they synergize nicely with things like the Contorted Epitome and the Forbidden Gem, both of which will be auto includes in this type of army.

Putting It All Together– Here’s a sample list for daemons that highlights a lot of the ideas I talked about in this article.

  • Tzeenctch Vangaurd:
    • Lord of Change 250
    • 6 Flamers of Tzeentch 120
    • 6 Flamers of Tzeentch 120
    • Exalted Flamer 50
    • Exalted Flamer 50
    • Exalted Flamer 50
    • Slanesh Battalion:
    • Keeper of Secrets- shining aegis 210
    • Keeper of Secrets- shining aegis 210
    • Keeper of Secrets- shining aegis 210
    • 10 Demonettes 60
    • 10 Demonettes 60 
    • 10 Demonettes 60 
  • Mixed Battalion:
    • Blue Scribes 81
    • Contorted Epitome 195
    • 3 Nurglings 54
    • 3 Nurglings 54
    • 3 Nurglings 54
    • 107 Summoning Points

Daemons are finally finding their place in the game as an aggro-control army. They rush their opponent, overwhelming them while simultaneously removing their abilities to fend you off. This style is one I expect to be even more prevalent as we move into 9th edition with the table size shrinking and a larger emphasis placed on board control. 

If you’re interested in exploring Daemon ideas further either as a stand-alone faction or as an ally to a larger Chaos force, I implore you to check out the War Room. We have some of the most accomplished chaos players out there as coaches such as myself, Mark Perry, and TJ Lanigan, and we’re all more than happy to help you reach your chaos goals as we head into a new era of 40k!

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

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8 Responses to “Psychic Awakening Daemon Review”

  1. Avatar
    Blight1 June 17, 2020 5:22 am #

    The relic doesn’t have to go to your warlord but your warlord does have to be a daemon of the same god. So you could have a herald be warlord and still unlock an exalted relic. Really though it’s still far too restrictive. Should have just said that if you have an exalted greater daemon then they can take one of these relics. Let us pay CP for more if we want to. Only faction I know of with this kind of extreme restriction on relics.

    • Avatar
      Víctor Yanguas June 17, 2020 7:53 am #

      new relics on TS psychic awakening, you can pick the cult relevant one only if tour warlord IS from the same cult

  2. Avatar
    Paul Winters June 17, 2020 7:28 am #

    Worth throwing out there that there were some changes to the Slaanesh Daemon sheets from their previous reprints in CA19. Since they are often looked over in EW reviews.

    1) Keeper of Secrets still has an incorrect movement profile, but they fixed its attack profile. The movement profile was fixed in the CA19 errata, but GW didn’t apply the errata correctly to the EW version.

    2) The Contorted Epitome’s weapons were swapped, and the Ravaging Claws are now the primary attack, and the Coiled Tentacles are the secondary attack. Allowing it to take the Slothful Claw relic without losing all of its attacks. The Contorted Epitome’s strength value was lowered by 1, and Coiled Tentacles are now +1 strength. The net effect is now the Ravaging Claws are S5 instead of S6.

    3) The Infernal Enrapturess’ revive now only works on Codex Chaos Daemons – Slaanesh Daemons. She cannot revive CSM Slaanesh Daemons like Possessed or Obliterators.

    4) The Herald of Slaanesh on Hellflayer has a typo with its Ravaging Claw being D1 instead of D2.

    Also worth the call out CA19 changed how the Contorted Epitome’s fallback mechanic works. The player owning the Contorted Epitome makes the roll now, not the opposing player. I see people get this wrong pretty often.

    • Avatar
      Trasvi June 18, 2020 8:22 am #

      Oh thats actually a good change for the Epitome. S5-S6 is one of the most meh strength breakpoints out there, but allowing the Daemon player to roll (and CP reroll) the Ld check is kinda huge.

  3. Avatar
    Paul Winters June 17, 2020 8:00 am #

    Also in that sample list, a Keeper of Secret with a Shinning Aegis is 220pts, not 210pts?

  4. Avatar
    rvd1ofakind June 17, 2020 9:46 am #

    ctrl+f stratagem
    0 results found
    makes you think…

    The army that needed strats the most got only 1 usable stratagem that’s not even that amazing (Flamers), it’s just that flamers were already close to being good.

    • Avatar
      Paul Winters June 17, 2020 10:29 am #

      9th point adjustments may make some of these stratagems more valuable. The Fiend -2 LD is kind of whatever in 8th but could be huge in 9th.

  5. Avatar
    Lardus June 19, 2020 1:08 am #

    But what if you serve only the Lord of Skulls? I want a pure Khorne list with Thirsters, Letters and Flesh Hounds…those other Chaos Gods can go screw themselves 😛

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