Space Marine Review: Relics

It is hard to imagine a time when most armies did not have relics, so integral have they become to army compositions. In 8th edition, a lack of strong Relics could often times force armies into mono builds or curtail their competitiveness altogether. At the start of 8th, Marines had this problem. NuMarines, at the end of 8th most certainly did not, and this trend continues thought to 9th edition for them. Let’s take a look at what toys Marines can bring to bear.

Ranking System

As before, I will be using the same grading scale, reproduced below

  • Competitive: This is a codex entry (unit, stratagem, item, etc.) that has a place in essentially any competitive list built with this faction regardless of unit choices or is the source of a significant force multiplication effect for other units.
  • Efficient: This is a codex entry that can stand on its own merit in a matched play list but works best when combo’d up with other units or in specific situations to become very powerful but may not always be seen.
  • Situational: This is a codex entry that may not pass as competitive on its own merits but can be made effective in a creative list, as a meta-buster, or in a specific combo or scenario where it ratchets up in power to potentially very high strength but otherwise will not be seen very often.


  • The Armor Indomitus: We start off with a relic anyone can take. The all inclusive Relic. It adds 1 to the wounds characteristic of the bearer, gives them a 2+ save, and once per battle, can activate a 3++ save for that phase. This is a solid relic, and one that I often eye for some of my squisher characters who can not take an Invul save on their own. If I have the CP spare, I like to throw this into a Chief Apothecary. That one turn that he really needs the 3++ have saved him so many times, much to my opponents pleasure. This is not an auto take, but its not a bad one to throw onto him, or another squishy character such as a Librarian. Efficient
  • The Shield Eternal: This relic replaces a storm shield, combat shield, or relic shield. It acts exactly as a storm shield (+1 to save and 4++), and also gives the bearer a 5+++ feel no pain save. Most characters don’t need this, as while the 5+++ is nice, it is not a key trait to spend for a CP. The exception I feel, is a Company/Chapter Champion. This trades out his combat shield (5++) for the 4++, and he often times wants to be super aggressive. Having been on the receiving end of him a few times, he has actually impressed me more that I expected he would. This relic does compete with the Blade of Triumph, which increases his damage a fair bit. Overall, not a bad relic, but mostly outclassed and provides few benefits. Efficient
  • Standard of the Emperor Ascendant: This relic goes on an ancient only, increasing the range of it’s banner by 3″ and allowing CORE units within range of the banner (9″ typically) to re-roll morale tests. If this were an innate ability, it still would not make Ancients a competitive choice. Having to expend a limited relic slot on it makes this a hard pass in my book. Situational
  • Teeth of Terra: Now, this is a beauty. Replacing a Chainsword (which costs 0 pts), this relic grants the bearer an additional 3 attacks. Each of these attacks are Str +1, AP -2, and 2 damage, perfect for cleaving through Marines. With the ability to get additional attacks via War Lord (WL) traits, Psychic powers, and other abilities, this can turn a character into a real blender. One such example is a Wolf Lord on a Thunderwolf, with Wolfkin WL trait and this relic, puts out 8 to 10 attacks. Exploding 6’s can easily see this model pick up most troop or character units fairly reliably.  A key part of a unit like this though, is to keep them fairly cheap. At 110 points base, this is a unit you don’t mind trading for a strategic advantage. That was just one example, but many other chapters are able to make similar beat sticks, such as a bike Captain with Imperium Sword, pushing out 7 str 6 attacks. Competitive
  • Primarch’s Wrath: In the past, I have not been too keen on the ranged relics, namely due to the lack of quantity of attacks. This gun replaces a Boltgun, Master-Crafted Bots gun, or a Special Issue Bolt Carbine (all of which cost 0 points – so that is a win). Primarch’s Wrath is a Rapid Fire 2, Str 5, ap -2 and 2 damage gun at 24″ range. The fact it is Rapid Fire means Bolter drill becomes an option, allowing it to drop 4 shots down range if standing still. Easily able to get to ap -3 in the Tactical doctrine, this little gun makes for a decent bit punch. Thrown on a back line character such as a captain or a lieutenant that wants to stand still and give an aura to a gun line, this could be a decent relic for them. Not something you go out of your way to grab, but not a terrible choice if you are finding yourself with a fair bit of extra CP. Efficient
  • The Burning Blade – This relic replaces a Power Sword or Master Crafted Power Sword. It gives a hefty +3 str, a whopping -5 ap, and a reasonable 2 damage. Its straight up just a damage relic. AP -5 means that anything without an invul is straight up taking damage. The +3 makes him hit at str 7 typically, which makes it a prime target for all the usual buffs to str to get up to str 8. Slap this on a character you want to pick up non-dedicated melee units, and it should do a decent job putting some hurt on most infantry in the game, as well as vehicles. That is probably where this shines the most, as a Primaris Capt will put out 6-8 attacks, and wounding on 3’s or 4’s, can put a good 10+ damage on a vehicle. This competes with Teeth of Terra, and really comes down to what you need your character to do. Need more of an anti Infantry build, go with the Teeth. Need more anti armor build, take the Blade. Competitive
  • Purgatorus – A pistol relic that is not complete garbage. Replacing a Bolt, Heavy Bolt, Master Crafted Special Issue Bolt, or Absolver Bolt pistol, this relic kicks out at a decent 18″ range. Str 5 lets it punch above most pistol’s weight class, while Ap -3 and 2 damage makes sure that punch has some bite. Finally, it is able to fire down range with a good 3 shots. Now, the question becomes, why take this over Primarch’s Wrath? Both are effectively free upgrades. The pistol has a shorter range, but always 3 shots, while the rifle has longer range, but variable 2 or 4 shots. Ap -3 on the pistol is quite nice, as it makes other MEQ’s (Marine Equivalent – T4, 3+) be saving on a 6+ or lose a model. The pistol can also be fired in CC as well, which gives it some more use on a combat style character – but if you are going combat style, why not take one of the excellent CC relics instead? It really comes down to play style and build. In my mind, Primarch’s Wrath is more for a back line character, like a Lieutenant, while Purgatorus wants to go on someone like an Ancient who wants to be near combat, but not necessarily in it. When they inevitably get tagged, they have just that touch more punch. This relic definetly has a place in some builds. Efficient
  • Reliquary of Gathalamor – This relic is limited to Primaris models only, and gives the bearer an 18″ aura. While enemy psychers are within range of the aura, they subtract 1 from their psychic tests. In addition, when they fail a test, on a 4+, they take d3 mortal wounds. Eh. I mean, I guess it’s kinda cute… You are relying on (A) your opponent bringing psychers, (B) your character getting within 18″ of them, and (C) them failing their test. This is another relic that, if a special rule on a character, could be cute, but it’s simply not competitive. Too many fail points, to much your enemy can do to shut it down. If the game allowed you to select extra relics after seeing your opponent’s list, it could have some marginal play, but needing to denote relics pre-game now… pass. Situational
  • Bellicos Bolt Rifle – Replacing a Master Crafted Auto Bolt rifle (so Primaris Capt or LT only), this gun is an Assault 4 at 24″ range. Str 5 is nice, but it is kinda let down by the ap -1, and 2 damage is pretty standard on the ranged weapons. I’d pick up the Primarch’s Wrath over this every time. Same number of shots if standing still or in half range, but better AP. Situational
  • Lament – This relic replaces a Master Crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle (again, Primaris LT and Capt). It’s a Heavy 1, at 36″ range. It is also Str 5, ap -2, and 3 damage. If it wounds, the target also takes a mortal wound. The extra mortal is kinda cute, but one shot makes me turn away from this. A one shot weapon, when it misses, just feels bad. You can fail to hit, fail to wound, fail to get through the save, and your one shot relic just went to waste. More shots almost always is better than one big shot… just ask Tau and their rail riffles… Situational
  • Ghostweave Cloak – I was kinda down on this relic when I first read it. Then I gave it a go in a few games and was pleasantly surprised. It may only be taken by Phobos unit with a Camo Cloak. I found it best on a phobos libby. It allows the bearer, when making a Normal, Advance, or fall back move, to ignore models while moving. In addition, attacks made against them are -1 to hit. This offers a good bit of flexibility and a bit more surviavbility. This is not a go to, and is often the first cut from my list if I am too short on CP, but it is nice to float a Libby through my lines casting Psychic Fortress. Efficient
  • Tome of Malcador – A returning relic, this on is unchanged from before, although the wording has been cleaned up to have less arguments at events now. It is restricted to Librarian’s only, and allows them to take an additional power from any discipline they have access to. With the changes to Chief Librarian’s, this is now the only way most Libbies have to cross powers. Can be quite useful picking up any number of powers, from either the Librarius Discipline or from a chapter specific tree. Personally, I like taking Psychic Fortress + Might of Heroes from the main tree, and using this to pick up an additional power from the chapter specific one, such as Drakeskin (Salamanders), Shadow step (Raven Guard), or Instincts Awoken (Space Wolves). There is such flexibility in build that this offers, which can appeal to a variety of play styles. However, most Librarian’s are fairly squishy, not having an innate invul save, and taking this relic does preclude them from taking another, survival based one. Exactly which is best, or even if needed at all, will wholly depend on one’s play style and desired usage of the Librarian. Competitive
  • Benidiction of Fury – Oh boy. This relic is my first buy. Every. Single. Time. The combination of this + the Mantra of Strength litany, is quite potent. It replaces a Crozius Arcanum for a Chaplain, and gives Str +2, AP -2 and 3 flat damage. In addition, natural wound rolls of a 6 does an additional mortal. This means most of the time, the Chaplain, unbuffed, is swinging at Str 6, letting him wound infantry on 3’s. Mantra of Strength pushes him up to Str 7 (which does not matter much), but also 4 damage a pop. This makes him very, very threatening. It allows him to pick up things like Outriders, where every fail is a dead model, and makes him a massive threat to characters, when failing two of 5 saves can see their character die. Being able to pick up buffs through the normal ways (WL and Psychic Powers) can easily see him move up to Str 8 or even 9, with a hefty 8 attacks with all buffs. Putting that many resources into him is typically overkill, but the threat this relic makes a Bike Chaplain can not be understated. Competitive
  • The Honour Vehement – This relic can go on any character, and gives them an aura of 6″. While CORE units are within that Aura, they effectually lose Shock Assault, and instead gain +1 attack. This is meant for protracted fights, where you are stuck in and trading blows with your opponent. In my experience, most fights do not have this. Either one player withdraws quickly, or a unit gets murdered fast. Very rarely do players sit in combat and slog it out. As such, this relic, in my experience, has very little practical use. Situational
  • The Vox Espiritum – This relic is limited to Primaris units only, and it increases the range of their Aura abilities by 3″. It will not increase the range of Psychic powers that give Aura’s. Honestly, not bad, but everything else is just so much better. Most Aura’s are limited to Core now as well, which further limits the usage. Perhaps there is a non-special character, Primaris unit in a supplement, but from what I can see, this is just overshadowed by everything else. Situational

So there we have the Marine Relics. Overall, there are some very solid relics, both for ranged and close combat attacks. A few are decent in a support role, but most are for pure damage output. This leads more to a hero hammer style game, but with potential to give up points for losing characters, one has to be careful with throwing a beat stick character forward without a game plan. Over all though, Relics for Marines offer a lot of strong options on top of an already strong codex.

Next time we will look over the Psychic Powers.

2 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Relics”

  1. Avatar
    Polyproline December 4, 2020 7:41 am #

    I have enjoyed using the Vox Espiritum on a Primaris Apothecary. Expanding the FNP bubble from 3″ to 6″ has made it much easier to fit multiple units within range. However, I re-read the apothecary rules after reading your post and realized that a friendly unit would still need to be within 3″ of the apothecary to receive healing. If only one of the apothecary’s abilities benefits from the increase range, maybe the value of the relic is not as high as I thought.

    • Reecius
      Reecius December 4, 2020 1:44 pm #

      Yeah, that may not be the best combo but man, that upgraded Apothecary is still the bee’s knees!

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