Countering the Meta: Imperial Knights

John Lennon, Art of War coach and a noble bondsman sworn to the Throne, joins us to talk about Imperial Knights! To see him in action with these new ideas, be sure to check out our games on YouTube and in the War Room!

Have you ever talked to one of those grizzled old veterans at a local game store, and they tell you to never sell an army after it gets nerfed? After all, Games Workshop’s balance system is a pendulum, and bad units and armies eventually get better as rules are released. Well, it’s time to talk about the Imperial Knights!

This is the first article in a series where we break down a list and faction that we think is a little underappreciated in the global meta. We won’t be talking about pure White Scars or Harlequins here, but instead focusing on getting the most out of the bottom feeders of 40k. Starting up, we are diving into everyone’s favorite feudal mech-suits with giant chainswords!

Imperial Knights were almost completely written off at the dawn of 9th edition. A greater emphasis on holding objectives, and terrain rules that actively punish models with more than 18 wounds were seen as far too much for a relatively one dimensional army to overcome. Combine that with the fact that Knights were not considered to be very competitive at the end of 8th edition, and there just wasn’t much excitement about the faction. However, salvation can come from the most unexpected of places. No new codexes and campaigns were given, but Knights are an army that has access to quite a few units from Forge World, and benefited massively from that book. Combine this with some sneaky points changed granted by the Munitorium Field Guide FAQ, and Knights are, for the first time in two years, actually approaching competitive.

Image result for knight magaera
Credit to Games Workshop

Let’s dive into the list, shall we?

Super Heavy detachment (house Krast)

Questoris Knight Magaera (Siege Claw, Warlord, First Knight, the Headsman’s Mark) 480

Questoris Knight Magaera (Siege Claw, Landstrider) 480

Questoris Knight Magaera (Siege Claw, the Helm Dominatus, Ion Bulwark) 480

3x Armiger Warglaives (3x meltaguns) 420

1x Armiger Warglaives (1x meltagun, Freeblade: Sworn to a Quest, Exiled in Shame, Obsessed with vengeance) 140

The flaws that plagued Imperial Knights at the beginning of 9th edition still exist, and many of the Knights units still aren’t competitive in 9th edition. But, if you focus on the strongest units available, then you can craft an actually competitive list. What makes these units viable? Let’s get into it!

Credit to Games Workshop

The Knight Magaera

The undisputed winner of the “most improved” tag from Imperial Armor has to be the Knight Magaera. With a much more reasonable price tag compared to its codex counterparts, the Magaera brings a suite of rules and wargear that simply outperform the other Lords of War. To top things off, it’s perfectly suited to counter the current meta. If a tech priest cut open the magaera to see what it’s made of, they’re going to find a whole load of damage 3. Lightning cannon? Strength 7, ap -2, damage flat 3. With 8 shots and the tesla rule (each 6 to hit is three hits), this gun averages a 100% hit rate with no rerolls needed. Next up is the twin rad-cleanser, with a healthy 2d6 auto hits at 12″ range. Strength 2 and ap – may sound bad, but worry not! This wounds everything besides vehicles and titanic units on a 2+, and carries a nasty flat 3 damage around. Want more flat 3 damage? The Hekaton Siege claw has been upgraded with a sweep profile, allowing the user to make 12 attacks at Strength 8, ap -2 and… drumroll please… flat damage 3. It’s no secret that Death Guard with damage reduction, three wound Gravis Space Marines, Harlequin jetbikes and Dark Angels terminators have been overrunning the meta lately, but the Magaera is perfectly poised to kill these pesky “power creep” units as efficiently as possible.

Although some of these weapons lack the high ap to kill the toughest infantry, this is massively mitigated by the fact that a Magaera natively ignores the benefits of cover. If I can’t get -1 to hit in a forest, no one can! Damage output isn’t enough to win the game by itself, but luckily the Magaera is also durable by the standard of Questoris Knights. While every Knights Ion shield gives them a 5++ against shooting, the Magaera has a flare Ion shield that also gives this 5++ in close combat! And let me save you the time of checking your codex, you can spend a command point to rotate ion shields in close combat for a sweet, sweet 4++. One of the most popular ways to kill a knight is to jump it in close combat with high ap, multi damage weapons, and a Magaera will both present a stern overwatch and a much tougher nut to crack.

Image result for armiger warglaive
Credit to Games Workshop

The Armiger Warglaive

The same old baby knight we know and love is back, with a 20 point discount! There’s no real secret tech here, this is just the cheapest unit knights have access to, and with such a low model count, a few extra units will only help. The Warglaive’s close combat weapon does happen to be damage 3, giving even more synergy with the Magaera’s rules above. With a thermal spear and a cheap meltagun, the Warglaives provide some unreliable shooting that can be quite deadly when it connects, or use their sweep profile in close combat for 8 attacks and a little extra horde clearance. And if someone tries to attack your big knights, don’t forget to use a command point and heroically intervene 6″ with all nearby warglaives!

Image result for house krast
Credit to Games Workshop

Putting it all together

Ok, how does the above lead to an actually competitive list? This style of Knights army is trying to overwhelm parts of the battlefield by killing everything there and moving on. With Custodes, Death guard, Space Marines and Slaanesh demons all being powerful right now, this army provides a surprisingly hard counter to several of the more popular armies in the game, and is certainly not a matchup that many people have planned for. With massive amounts of damage 3 (or higher), this can pick up elite and relatively low model count armies at a pace that they simply can’t sustain. In testing against the new Death Guard, the Magaera has presented a shockingly hard counter. Many armies are focusing on aggressive melee elements, and devastating short ranged firepower designed to kill T4 and T5 multi wound targets. This plan does work well often, but Knights are absolutely not what you want to see when the only shooting you brought is a plasma inceptor!

There are also a few tech pieces here designed to reinforce the army. First up, House Krast will provide rerolls in melee to all of these knights whenever they charge or are charged. Knights don’t have the fire to fully table horde armies, so it’s essential to get maximum damage in every phase. Ideally, your knights are shooting and charging several times a game so that you are inflicting max carnage. One of the warglaives, you may notice, is a freeblade who gains Objective Secured! In testing, I noticed that my opponents would try to deepstrike small skirmishing units like Furies, flayed ones, and more behind my lines to go contest any objectives that I left a warglaive on while my Magaera run directly into their deployment zone. Because a warglaive can hide behind a ruin, it’s the ideal unit to sit back and deal with enemy skirmishing units, even if it loses the benefit from House Krast. But the Krast Armigers can receive +1 to hit a target from the Helm Dominatus, and the Magaera with Headsmans Mark will receive a +1 damage into ten wound models! This makes the lightning cannon an absolutely brutal damage 4 into most tanks or monsters that no one wants to see.

Image result for warglaives 40k
Credit to Games Workshop

Final Thoughts

It’s been a long time since Knights stomped successfully over the battlefield, but this is the closest to relevant that we have seen them in 9th edition, and I am excited to put them on the battlefield, and put the fear of House Krast into many of the top meta armies out there!

Thanks John! If you want to see more from John, or see these Knights in action next week, check out the Art of War on YouTube and in the War Room!

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3 Responses to “Countering the Meta: Imperial Knights”

  1. Avatar
    Nebu February 10, 2021 1:00 pm #

    Always loved the Magaera and had an idea close to yours. In theorie I went with custom household instead of Krast. Imperialis for faster move and mega Obsec banner, noble Combatants for exploding 6s in melee and defiant fury (+1ws and +1atk below half W. So if you go down to mid profile you lose movement, stay at the same ws and gain 1 atk what are effectivly 2 or 3 dice in melee (remember the exploding 6s)).
    Any thoughts about it?

    • Avatar
      abusepuppy February 11, 2021 2:03 am #

      I was thinking on custom households as well, but you give up First Knight (for reroll 1s to hit) and the Headsman’s Mark (for +1dmg), which are both really big. Noble + Defiant is definitely a good combo, but I would be worried about losing access to the ability to act at full capacity.

    • John Lennon
      John February 12, 2021 3:27 pm #

      I do like that custom combination, but I think the Krast bonuses are enough to get it done. Rerolling hits is slightly better than exploding 6s with no rerolls. Overall the relics and strats are better by staying mechanicus.

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