Eric S. is back with some sweet GSC knowledge for us!
During the past few weeks these GSC articles have focused on various strengths the Cult Codex has ranging from their superior mobility to the benefits the army received during GW’s latest FAQ. While the GSC army has plenty of strong units and abilities that make it competitive on the tabletop there is one glaring weakness that all Cult players must learn to accept before finding success with this difficult to master army. The fragile nature of every single unit within the GSC codex is the reason this army is not competing with Space Marines or Harlequins for one of the best Codexes in the game. Identifying this weakness is extremely important in becoming a good GSC player, but a great GSC player will be able to recognize their armies fragility and incorporate a plan to mitigate their armies largest weakness. By planning around this glaring weakness a GSC army can take the leap from bottom tier cannon fodder to a competitive Codex able to compete with any army in 40k.
There are a couple of areas a Cult player can look to for mitigating their army’s biggest weakness and the first comes in the form of unit buffs, stratagems, or any other rule baked into our own codex that will help increase our units survivalist. Most of these things are obvious after the first read through of the GSC Codex, like the Iconward’s 6+ ignoring wounds save or the stratagem Lurk in the itself. Even the most novice players quickly learn that hiding units behind obscuring terrain or giving their units the benefit of light cover greatly increase their survivability. It takes a truly experienced player to use the extra survivability their units receive from terrain on the battlefield in a way that will impact the end state of the game and allow them to score more points than their opponent. Many players (myself included) want to get their hard hitting units to a position on the battlefield where they can do the most damage to their opponShadows (which allows a GSC unit that is fully on or within terrain to become untargetable unless they are the closest unit). However, some of these things only become apparent after playing GSC and testing some of these abilities on the tabletop. While the Bladed Cog trait of giving infantry and bikes a 6+ invulnerable save may not seem that impressive, pairing it with the Iconwards save makes those big blocks of 20 Neophytes and Acolytes hang around much longer then your opponent expects. Combine this with a well placed Patriarch, allowing the majority of your GSC army to ignore morale, and the Cult can hang around on some objectives better then most armies out there. The look on an opponents face when they kill 19 Neophytes knowing that the last one left on the objective is fearless is one of my favorite moments when playing GSC.
The second (and most important) mitigation to GSC’s fragility comes in the form of proper use of positioning and use of terrain on the battlefield ent’s army as quickly as possible.
A good example of this is rushing a big unit of Twisted Helix Acolytes or Abberents up the board with their extra fast advance and casting Psychic Stimulus on them to get a charge off turn 1. While this may seem like you are getting that hard hitting unit into the action quickly what is actually happening is you are handing your opponent an easy unit to take advantage of on their own terms.
The best example of the difference between someone using the terrain as a nice benefit and someone actively utilizing the battlefield to win a game was made obvious to me by watching the Art of War battle reports on YouTube. While watching these highly skilled players play on their channel I noticed they did something drastically different than I did while playing 40k. They exercised patience. When I first started playing GSC I looked for all of the ways I could quickly engage with my opponents army in turn 1 or turn 2, but generally this left my fragile GSC units exposed on the battlefield by only costing my opponent their screening units. By emulating the players on battle reports like shown on the Art of War my GSC army suddenly lasted longer on the tabletop allowing me to score points throughout the entire game instead of attempting to gut my opponents army with a single (usually ill advised) charge.
“This dude just told me my GSC army isn’t fragile because I have two 6+ saves?!”, I hear some of you screaming into your computer monitors (calm down this is a game). When looking at some of the defensive buffs other armies get like Trans-human Physiology, Reanimation Protocols, or the new -1 to damage buff Death Guard enjoys, our sad 6+ saves do seem like they aren’t going to get the job done. Remember though the GSC codex is designed to be a glass double barreled shotgun. There aren’t many other units in the game that can match the offensive output of a giant squad of Rock Saw toting Acolytes, and our Codex even gives us the tools to get our fragile units into place through our enhanced mobility. A GSC player is going to trade units, those Acolytes are going to die after they drop down and (hopefully) make their charge into something. A good GSC player will make sure they have positioned their army in a way that allows them to trade those Acolytes for something their opponent can’t afford to lose.
By keeping these mitigating factors in mind while playing the fragile Genestealer Cults you will have a much easier time holding objectives throughout the same to score primary points in the Command Phase, as well as be able to keep more squishy little alien worshipers on the table for late in the game. This is when a single fearless Neophyte can run over to an unsuspecting opponents objectives for late game points and give the GSC a come from behind win (thanks GW for the new Primary Scoring FAQ!).