Ad Mech Psychic Awakening Review

Mars Strikes Back: The Adeptus Mechanicus and Engine War
<Transmission Incoming: 010101001010 “The Lord of Mars Summons the Disciples of the Omnissiah”>

Hey everyone, Richard Siegler (from The Art of War 40k) back again to talk about the wonderful new rules the Adeptus Mechanicus received in Psychic Awakening: Engine War.  While I am best known for playing T’au Empire at events in 2019,  I returned to 40k from a three edition hiatus with Grey Knights and the Adeptus Mechanicus (mine are painted in the Deimos Forge World scheme) and have a soft spot for the Imperium’s masters of all things machine.   In this article, I’d like to discuss the cacophony of powerful new rules Admech received in Engine War and how that positions them nicely as a top competitive army heading into 9th edition.

Competitive Admech in 8th Edition


Throughout 8th edition, the Adeptus Mechanicus have generally struggled to reach the top of the meta.  Early on, many Admech players relied on a Mars list centered around Cawl and as much firepower as could be brought to bear—Kastellan Robots, Onager Dunecrawlers, Kataphron Destroyers, oh my.  Or, before the Stygies VIII stratagem, Clandestine Infiltration, was nerfed into a simple 9-inch pre-game move, other players brought a few dozen electro-priests and unleashed untamed zealotry on their opponent’s deployment zone turn one.  In 2019, reinforcements arrived for the Mechanicus in the form of Skorpius Disintegrators and Skorpius Duneriders, which spawned several new lists.  These lists were built around multiple small units of vanguard loaded with plasma in a sea of transports backed by the disintegrators, which had reasonable success at majors like the NOVA Open and Pro Tabletop’s Atlanta Open.  However, they struggle against Chaos builds that relied on untargetable Alpha Legion possessed units and fast melee armies that could tri-point and tag multiple tanks to limit incoming firepower.  Additionally, Admech lacked the powerful warlord traits, relics and other pre-game options that many factions had been granted from the design team over the last year.  So, what has Engine War changed?

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New Datasheets and Stratagems


First off, reinforcements have arrived in the form of several new powerful datasheets for the Mechanicus.  The Manipulus and Skorpius tanks are joined by a host of supporting units to fill out the Adeptus Mechanicus roster, beefing up the previously thin fast attack slot and adding a unique flyer—the archaeopters.  Additionally, each new unit received stratagem support in Engine War to further increase the utility. 
In my opinion, the Serberys Raiders are the standout option among a very strong set of datasheets.  One of Admech’s greatest strength this edition has been its ability to target and eliminate characters.  The transauranic arquebus is arguably the best sniper in the game with its extensive range, and overall powerful profile.  But rangers lugging around an arquebus lacked mobility.  The Serberys Raiders completement the arquebus touting rangers by providing a highly mobile volume of fire sniping unit for the low cost of 14 points a model.  Instead of your opponent taking a shot or two from an arquebus and then simply hiding for the rest of the game behind terrain, the mobility of the raiders allows them to easily get angles on wounded characters and finish them off.  They also have access to an incredible new stratagem that allows them to move in the charge phase instead of firing overwatch.  So not only are they useful snipers, but they also double as excellent screens.  And if that was not enough, they also have the Skirmishing lines ability to move before the first battle round begins.  What more can I say, this unit is the whole package and offers multiple tools in a single low-cost unit.


Not to be completely overshadowed, the Pteraxii Skystalkers also offer competitive Admech lists a powerful new tool—cheap screening with the FLY keyword.  For much of 8th edition, Admech shooting has been envious of those blue xenos creatures who could use cheap flying drone to screen out opponent’s reserve and melee threats while offering little opportunity for tri-points in combat.  For a few more points, but also the addition of a useful gun and some special rules, the Skystalkers serve a similar role in protecting Admech vehicles and being able to operate on their own and behind enemy lines.  The Soar Away ability, in particular, allows them to go from a screening unit one turn to a reserve threat and harassing unit in your opponent’s backfield in another.  And finally, their new stratagem allows them to put an enemy unit at -1 to hit in their next shooting phase.  A very useful tool to have against armies that rely on large models with a lot of firepower.  With Admech’s repair abilities, keeping a tank alive for an extra turn can be a big swing moment.
The Serberys Sulphurhounds and Pteraxii Sterylizors end up doing fairly similar things to the Raiders and Skystalkers, respectively but do less for a slightly higher cost due to being equipped with flamers.  I think both are certainly viable, but I my initial impression is that I prefer the synergies of the Raiders and Skystalkers over their counterparts.  The deeply sunk talons stratagem that enables Sterylizors to hold things in combat on a 2+ is very powerful, especially in lists that have Electropriests pushing into midfield, but I haven’t found the best way to get them into my list just yet.


Then we have the Archaeopter, which has three different datasheets—a transport, a gunship, and a bomber.  The transport only carriers six models and that seriously limits its utility.  The gunship and the bomber, on the other hand, offer firepower or mortal wounds for a fairly low price.  They also have access to a 20-point piece of wargear that subtracts one from incoming damage.  Additionally, if you keep the command uplink on them instead of upgrading to the chaff launchers you have access to the electro-filament countermeasures stratagem to turn off enemy aura abilities within six of the flyer.  Not a bad tool to have to force your opponent to protect against that threat.  The bomber (fusilave), on the other hand, can also use the seismic bomb stratagem to halve the movement characteristic, advances, and charge rolls of an enemy unit it flew over.  Effectively, tremor shells from the Space Marine codex.  Once again, a nice tool to have, but the flyer seems to be more of a luxury item that would be nice to have, but not essential to the core of a competitive Admech list.
Alongside the stratagems tied to the new units, there were several stratagems for the original codex datasheets.  The best of which is the stratagem to allow your Admech force to access additional warlord traits, followed by a +1 to wound stratagem for Ironstrider Ballistari, and lastly a stratagem to change the armor penetration characteristic of Corpuscarii electro-priests to -2.  Because Corpuscarii can proc their tesla effect on 6+, or 5+ with Daedalosus’s +1 to hit aura, they can put out a tremendous amount of str 5 ap -2 shooting and easily clear your opponent’s screening units.  The potency of the other two stratagems come from rules we will further explore below.

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New Custom Forge World Canticles

Now I am intentionally skipping the Custom Forge World Dogmas because frankly they are interesting and flavorful, but they pale in comparison to the main Forge Worlds, especially Mars and Stygies VIII, which have Forge World specific canticles now as well as powerful stratagems unique to them.  Red Saturated Forge World is the most interesting, especially on a melee detachment with Fulgurite Electro-Priests, but because almost all of Admech’s powerful rules are < Forge World > locked, mixing detachments means you are potentially losing out on powerful warlord trait synergies and need to buy separate characters for that detachment.  This is especially true because most Admech characters, and the new warlord traits which we will get to below, combine powerful shooting and melee buffs that most benefit a cohesive mono-Forge World army.


Now the Canticles of the Omnissiah ability has been both praised for its flexibility in allowing you to choice a certain benefit in different turns, but also maligned for having some rather mediocre options (Yes, I’m looking at you Litany of the Electromancer).  Engine War offers Admech armies a new option to replace one of those lackluster ones (goodbye electromancer) with a new Forge World Canticle depending on which < Forge World > your warlord is from.  And, of course, the standout option here is the Mars Canticle, which allows you to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons, but more importantly it provides +1 strength to heavy weapons, which is an incredible army-wide buff.  This takes cognis autocannons to strength 8 or heavy phosphor blasters to strength 7, meanwhile all those heavy stubbers are now strength 5.  This is a massive change and dramatically increases the efficiency of Mars firepower.  This is the standout Canticle.
Other useful canticles are the Lucius one for +1 to invulnerable saves (to a maximum of 4+).  This would alter the 6+ invulnerable save from bionics that most Admech datasheets have to a 5+.  A not insignificant change.  It can also be combined with the Servitor Maniple specialist detachment that can grant a Kataphron breacher or destroyer unit a 5+ invulnerable save pre-game, to now put them at a 4+ invulnerable save.  This can also then be further combined with the Acquisition at all Costs stratagem for +1 to saving throws to effectively bring that Kataphron breacher unit to a 2+ armor save and a 3+ invulnerable save (the stratagem adds one to the saving throw so 3s become 4s to get around the Lucius Canticle restriction).  There is also a warlord trait that can offer Kataphrons the ability to ignore wounds on a 5+.  Now that is an absurdly durable unit, but it does require quite a bit of command points and the Canticle to work and your opponent can simply shoot your other breacher units or the rest of your army instead.  Also a reasonable option or running electro-priests, getting them to a 4+ invulnerable save before your Fulgurites obliterate an enemy unit in combat and the Lucius Dogma to ignore ap -1 further helps both Kataphrons and Priests.


The other custom Forge World canticles are situational.  The Stygies VIII canticle allows units to fall back and shoot—a powerful ability—with the penalty of -1 to hit, but by and large you would be using this to help your vehicles fall back out of combat to shoot and there is a warlord trait that does it better.


Now, as written, once you choose to replace a Canticle with the Forge World Canticle it actually impacts your entire army not just < Forge World > units so Mars units could benefit from +1 invulnerable save from the Lucius canticle.  You would just need to have your warlord be < Lucius > to access it.  However, I don’t believe this is intended (another case of the designers not thinking about souping different Forge Worlds), and may be clarified in a future FAQ.  Other things that may end up being adjusted are heavy phosphor blasters going back to 15 points so Kastellan robots are not sitting at an absurd 65 points (and you thought 65-point obliterators were problematic!), as well as the stratagem to grant additional warlord traits may end up being restricted to just one use pre-game.  Which leads us to the warlord traits themselves and why such a change is in the realm of possibility.

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New Forge World Warlord Traits


I saved the best for last, because honestly these are not only excellent rules in the context of an Admech army, but they are some of the best warlord traits in the entire game right now.
Instead of choosing a Warlord trait from the Adeptus Mechanicus Codex, you and instead choose a Holy Order warlord trait.  These traits each come with three options from which you choose one to be active at the start of your turn (so going second you will have to wait until your opponent had a turn).  Not only are they quite flexible, often combining shooting and close combat oriented buffs in the same rule, but the abilities themselves are incredible. 


Divinations of the Magos is perhaps the most powerful of these traits offering a 6-inch aura in which each hit roll of a 6 is an additional hit.  For an army that shoots as much as Admech, that is an enormous amount of additional hits over the course of a game.  It also works on overwatch, which makes declaring multiple Skorpius tanks as targets of a charge a scary proposition.  But what if you also have Fulgurite Electro-Priests in your army and they really need to make a charge this turn?  Well, you can instead choose to reroll charges with the second option of this warlord trait.  With the Manipulus hanging out nearby for the +1 to charge, this is a wonderful tool for ensuring your counter assault makes it into combat.


Fabrications of the Artisan offers a similarly powerful set of abilities.  The first of the three options offer a 6-inch aura in which ranged attacks within half range gain an additional armor penetration value.  The fact that Admech have ways to increase the range of their weapons—the Manipulus doing the Omnissiah’s work here—so that half range is even longer and allows those Mars heavy stubbers to be strength 5 and ap -1 at 18-21 inch range.  If that was not enough, this warlord trait also allows you to choose Enhanced Engine Interfaces which allows friendly vehicles models within 6-inches to shoot if they fell back that turn.  A nice tool to have in your back pocket, even in 9th edition.


The other warlord trait that offers a new tool for Admech is the Analyses of the Logos, which grants access to Empyric Prognosis.  This ability grants friendly < Forge World > units within 6-inches the ability to ignore mortal wounds in the psychic phase on a 4+.  One of the biggest weaknesses of Admech has been its psychic defense outside of the Graia stratagem to negate a power on a 4+.  Instead of dipping into allies for a Culexus Assassin or Inquisitor for deny the witch attempts, this ability allows you to use durable tanks like the Skorpius Dunerider or Terrax Drills to soak up mortal wounds and ignore half of them on average.


Overall, these warlord traits are incredible value and because the stratagem Mechanicus Locum allows you to take as many extra warlord traits as you have non-named characters, you could take Divinations of the Magos, Fabrications of the Artisan and Analyses of the Logos all in the same game—giving you nine different options each turn from which you activate three.

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Competitive Adeptus Mechanicus List Archetypes:


Because we are about to step into a brand new edition with new rules interactions and points costs I don’t want to offer full lists that might be irrelevant in a few weeks.  So instead, I’m going to offer three conceptual lists that are less about the points and more about what synergies I see as the most valuable to build a competitive list around.  And, in my mind, there are three primary ways to build a new competitive Adeptus Mechanicus army—Mars, Stygies VIII, and Lucius.  Overall, I feel like Mars is the most synergistic and does everything well.  It’s the ultimate toolkit style of army that is based primary on shooting, but also offers counter assault and excellent screening in the form of Pteraxii Skystalkers and Serberys Raiders.  The Stygies list meanwhile is designed to put your opponent under constant pressure starting turn one with the goal of breaking their resistance by turn three or four and by that point you’ve also dominated the table for half of the game.  The Lucius list is a bit more reliant on certain things going well (you roll the Lucius Canticle, you have command points to spend on Acquisition at all Cost, etc.) and so it’s the least reliable of the three, but it is certainly an interesting option that could be excellent in the 9th edition missions when durable units that do not really need to do damage can sit on objectives and rack up primary points for you.


Mars:
Battalion
Belisarius Cawl Warlord, Static Psalm-Code
Daedalosus
Manipulus -1 cp Divinations of the Magos
10 Skitarii Rangers, 3 snipers
6 Skitarii Rangers, 2 snipers
5 Skitarii Rangers
10 Fulgurite Electro Priests
10 Fulgurite Electro Priests
6 Ironstrider Ballistari, Cognis Autocannons
10 Pteraxii Skystalkers
Skorpius Disintegrator 111
Skorpius Disintegrator 111
Skorpius Disintegrator 111
Skorpius Dunerider

Mars Outrider
Enginseer -1 cp Fabrications of the Artisan
6 serberys raiders 86
6 serberys raiders 86
6 serberys raiders 86

Stygies VIII:
Vanguard
Dominus Warlord Prime Hermeticon or Learnings of the Genetor
Manipulus -1 cp Warlord trait: Divinations of the Magos
12 Fulgurite Electro Priests
12 Fulgurite Electro Priests
10 Fulgurite Electro Priests
Termite Drill
Termite Drill
Skorpius Dunerider

Outrider
Daedalosus
7 Serberys Raiders
7 Serberys Raiders
6 Serberys Raiders
10 skystalkers
10 sterylizors

Spearhead
Enginseer -1 cp Fabrications of the Artisan
Skorpius Disintegrator
Skorpius Disintegrator
Skorpius Disintegrator

Capture.PNG


Lucius:
Battalion
Manipulus, -1 cp Warlord trait: Divinations of the Magos
Dominus, Warlord: Learnings of the Genetor
Daedolosus
8 Kataphron Breachers
9 Kataphron Breachers
9 Kataphron Breachers
10 Fulgurite Electro Priests
10 Fulgurite Electro Priests
Skorpius Dunerider
Skorpius Dunerider
6 Serberys Raiders
6 Serberys Raiders
6 Serberys Raiders
Skorpius Disintegrator
Skorpius Disintegrator
Skorpius Disintegrator

If you enjoy this type of competitive analysis or want to see these types of Adeptus Mechanicus lists (and many others!) in action on the tabletop, please check out our twitch channel where we live stream matched play content every Friday at 6 pm EST and Sunday at 1 pm EST.  We also do hobby streams Monday-Friday at 3 pm EST in which you can hang out with Nick, Mark or myself while you hobby and ask us all your Warhammer related questions!

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