Greetings, fellow nobles! Gather around and learn the secrets of the sacristans. Imperial Knights may not have received new models, but these loyal protectors of mankind received a healthy dose of new rules in the recent Engine War, and I (John Lennon from Art of War) am here to discuss the Knights’ changes and buffs.
Let’s start with the basic buffs. Imperialis and Mechanicus each received an allegiance oath for having a pure Mechanicus or Imperialis detachment. Mechanicus will automatically heal a wound a turn, and Imperialis add one to advance and charge rolls. Both of these are small but useful buffs. Note that +1 to charge does not stack with Landstrider, but faster advances and charges are quite nice, and you won’t always be taking Landstrider anyway. Much more potent are the six additional warlord traits that Knights received, three for each orientation. The single most powerful one would have to be on a Mechanicum warlord, as you can use Cold Eradication to roll one extra dice and discard the lowest for any random shots. As much as it pains me to say this, a Castellan actually comes back to its former glory with this trait. Extra and reliable shots are just maddening for this behemoth, but the Valiant also will love this trait. You’re going to notice that this is a theme; I believe that the Valiant gained the most from these added rules in general. The Imperialis traits also provide some situational use. As more and more 9th edition rules are revealed, it feels that the game will involve a more substantial melee presence. Giving your Knight -1 to hit in melee is quite powerful, especially when a Smash captain tries to introduce themselves to your poor knights.
While Knights did get custom traits, I find them a little underwhelming. Many of the Knights’ strengths come from their specific <Household> traits and stratagems, and I don’t think that any of the custom traits will realistically replace that. Many of the traits are specific to certain enemies, like Chaos or monsters, but there are still a few that could be quite useful in the competitive scene. If you are taking Knights with variable damage, you could consider looking at rerolling one hit roll and rerolling one damage. To me, this seems like a way to play Knights while spending less CP and hoping that inherent buffs will take you over the edge. Unfortunately, we do not know how to build a Knight army in 9th, but if you are taking Knights as an ally to a faction like Ad Mech, who will want to use all of their command points, these traits may make more sense. Buffing ranges will also be useful, but advancing and shooting from Raven may do the trick while also providing a classic Knight stratagem that is hard to turn down.
The most critical buffs come from the new stratagems that Knights received. Each knight class received a stratagem, and as always, there are studs and duds. Depending on which Knight class you want to use, these strats will influence the house you take. The weakest of these has to be the Errant. An unpopular and unreliable knight can reroll hit rolls at close range but doesn’t have enough shots to make this much better than a normal CP reroll. That’s a hard pass for me, and there is still no need to take an Errant. Ironically, the Preceptor does its job better now. If you are going to be in that 18″ bracket, you might as well go for max shots on the Preceptor with a higher strength weapon, that provides some buffs to Armigers. I don’t think this justifies a Preceptor in your list yet, but if 9th edition points make it a little cheaper relative to other Knights, it might actually be viable.
The Gallant stratagem is quite strong in certain situations, mostly if you go for House Terran. Getting a 6″ pile in and consolidate, combined with fighting twice, will let you get crazy distance on what is already the fastest Knight house. This is a very CP heavy trick to pull, but when you need it to work, it will make a significant difference. Charge one unit, kill it, and consolidate 6″ before fighting again and moving another 6″. Once you get into the second unit and rip it apart, you can go another 6″ to tie up a new enemy. With the shorter boards, Terran speed may be more important, and this kind of maneuverability will get you slinging around terrain to engage the enemy.
Paladins and Crusaders both received useful buffs that you will enjoy when you need them, but may not come up as often as you’d expect. Shutting down overwatch will be extremely useful when it matters, but so many units that get shot by a Crusader are no longer threatening on overwatch anyway, especially with recent revelations that overwatch will be primarily from a stratagem. A Paladin with flat three damage will be excellent at doing extra damage, but it doesn’t quite have the ap or reliability to make me comfortable with it in most situations. Still, it helps me feel better about killing three-wound models like Aggressors or Harlequin bikes. I don’t think that the longest range Knight is going to benefit from a shorter board, but now we are getting into the real good buffs.
One of the biggest concerns for Knight players, based on what 9th has shown us, is that Knights can be seen over tall ruins but can’t see through them. Knights will not be able to win long-ranged duels, and they don’t have the board control to hang back. The two Knights that are going to be the most useful are the Warden and the Valiant. Both are shorter ranged and bring efficient guns to bear. Knights are going to have to push up to get good shots, and you will already be closer by the time that happens, so a shorter ranged weapon will naturally play into this role.
The Warden is simple: get within eight inches, automatically hit. This was already optimal range with its flamer, and it provides an additional reward for a Knight that wants to be both shooting and charging. With so many buffs to vehicles, taking a fist or chainsword will be more valuable than the extra gun a Crusader could bring. And, there are new stratagems to make the fist’s mortal wound trick much more reliable.
The Valiant happened to get two specific stratagems, and they are both quite potent. First, if it’s able to connect with its harpoon on any target, it can cause an explosion of mortal wounds from that point, which is excellent when targeting vehicles and other large models. While this doesn’t solve the main problem of the harpoon’s reliability, it does make it much more devastating when it works. Second, it’s flamer on overwatch can induce a -2 to charge penalty on whatever it hits. While this only works on models that target the Valiant itself, it will be a strong deterrent as long as you have command points left. The Valiant has traditionally been used as part of Hawkshroud, where it’s buddy overwatch stratagem can be most efficient on an auto-hit flamer. Again, this is stronger than any of the custom traits you could choose. However, a darkhorse contestant for your Valiant is House Raven. Advancing and shooting that flamer is very deadly, and you can now use a new strat that might as well be designed for Raven. For a mere one command point, you can automatically advance 8″ instead of rolling a dice. With Landstrider, this takes your Valiant 20″ forward every time it moves, enough to get whatever angle you need and that flamer wherever it needs to go for maximum carnage. A Valiant is also quite explosive on death, and putting it in the middle of an enemy army will be very rewarding. House Raven also has the benefit of being Mechanicus, which brings along the Cold Eradication warlord trait I mentioned earlier. A Valiant with siege cannons and it’s flamer will always appreciate a more reliable number of shots!
As with all of the new rules, they are colored by the shadow of 9th edition. All of the things we know indicate that the battle will be fought in the middle of the board. Knights will need to be ready to repel any enemy who tries to take the center objectives and be able to maneuver around and deal with long-range harassment shooting. Frankly, Knights may not be as competitive as they have been in the past with this play-style. A lot will hinge on the points cost they are provided. More so than most armies, a high points increase will remove one of the precious few models that you have access to. But, the new rules in Engine War make it far easier for a cunning pilot to get the most out of each Knight that you commit to the joust!
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