Welcome back to looking at the Drukhari (DE, or True Kin) Codex. Today we are focusing on the Kabals. This sub faction of the army has always been the core, both fluff and table top wise. Their role has shifted slightly with this book. While they are not good enough that you typically can run a pure Kabal and be happy with your performance, they still offer some great buffs. Read on for our deep dive on Kabals
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.
Kabals offer 4 big named obsessions, and 10 make your own style Obsessions. The big 4 are, Black Heart, Posioned Tongue, Flayed Skull, and Obsidian Rose. Players from 8th edition should recognize these names, but many of their abilities have changed quite a bit.
Kabal of the Black Heart
The home of Asdrubael Vect, this Kabal is the largest organization in Commorragh. Units with this obsession, which have the Power From Pain (PfP) ability, count the current turn as one high when referencing the chart. This is a nice bonus. Considering that almost everything except beasts and some of the Court of the Archon have Power from Pain, it is a fairly wide spread ability. This gives advance and charge Turn 1, and the 5++ save on turn 3. Additionally, if the Archon is part of a Real Space Raid (RSR), then Blades for Hire in this detachment benefit from the advanced PfP chart. This can be very nice on Incubi, letting them pick up their 5++ sooner, and on rare occasion, allowing them to make use of the Advance and Charge turn 1. Also, models in this Obsession get +1 LD. Rarely if ever need, but nice free bonus.
Finally, units in this detachment are able to re-roll a hit roll per unit when shooting or fighting. This is quite good, especially on Dark Lance Raiders. Seeing as our vehicles have no way to get re-rolls any more, this increases the viability of them quite a bit.
Overall this Obsession offers a good number of bonuses. Their Warlord trait, Labyrinthine Cunning, and their Relic, Writ of the Living Muse are both solid picks, and their Strat, Agents of Vect, is straight up amazing. There are a lot of small buffs and abilities that have rather far reaching effects, which make picking this a solid option. One build leans into the RSR and Incubi, using them as qualifiers for Raiders the rest of the RSR can use and picking up more accurate lances. Competitive
Kabal of the Poisoned Tongue
Home of Lady Malys, one time lover of Vect, this Kabal focuses heavily on their poison weaponry. Models with this obsession improve the poison weapon of their ability by 1 to a max of 2+, each time they make an attack. In addition, if an enemy model is killed by a poison weapon from this obsession, subtract one from combat attrition test for that unit until the end of the turn.
So, first things first, we need to address the improving poison for the weapons. There are two schools of thoughts, and I really hope this gets an FAQ. We will use a Splinter Rifle in Rapid fire range for this.
The first school says that each time you make a shot, the shot starts at poison (4+) then goes the (3+). Second shot again starts a (4+) and improves the (3+).
The second school of thought says that each time a model shoot, the benefit is cumulative. So on the first shot it goes from a (4+) to a (3+). The second shot then goes from a (3+) to a (2+).
This is tricky, and I can see the argument for both sides. To delve a bit deeper, let’s look at the exact wording:
Each time a model with this Obsession makes an attack with a poisoned weapon, improve the Poisoned Weapon ability of that weapon by 1 to a maximum of 2+ (e.g. Poisoned Weapon (4+) becomes Poisoned Weapon (3+)).Page 55 of Codex Drukhari
The rules for making attacks in the Core rule book state that they have been written assuming you will resolve them one at a time. The Crux of the issue, is whether or not the Poisoned ability of the gun resets after each shot, or if the benefit carries over from the first shot to the second.
I, personally, and on the side it does carry over, and this is due to the qualifier in the rule. There is a max of Poison (2+) that a weapon can be improved to. Why add this? Poison weapons wound an unmodified rolls, so negatives to wound will not effect them. Additionally, every weapon that is Poison is either (4+) or (2+). Considering that every wound roll of a 1 is an automatic failure, it would not matter if you could improve a weapon to (1+). So, then, why have the qualifier? It seems to me that the intent is to improve a rifle from 4+ to 3+ to 2+.
Until this gets an offical FAQ, if you are playing in an event and plan to use this, make sure to talk with your TO.
As for fast rolling this, just use two different colored dice. All the green dice are 3+ to wound and all the red are 2+.
Now, onto the second part of this obsession. If a model in the enemy unit is killed, the unit is -1 to their Combat Attrition (CA) test. This is very clearly worded to not stack.
It is worth pointing out that Grisly Trophies, which any vehicle may take, has a -2 LD aura. Additionally, the Dark Creed Coven (which is pretty good in it’s own right) has a -1 LD and -1 CA aura. Combining those you can end up with an effective -4 LD and – 2 CA effect on a unit.
It is worth noting that for Space Marines, their ability And They Shall Know No Fear lets marines ignore CA modifiers. Many other armies have abilities or ways to auto pass LD tests, as well as the universal 2CP strat, Insane Bravery, to auto pass a Morale test.
DE can lean heavy into LD shennanigans, and not make it their only trick, so having this as an option in match ups where it is worthwhile is still quite good.
The relic and WL trait for Poisoned tongue are bad, and will likely never see competitive play (unless significant changes in the meta occur), but their redeploy stratagem, Insidious Misdirection, is good enough to consider using as well.
All in all, this Kabal offers a very strong Obsession that has a good bit of depth to it. Even if the Poison weapons are limited to 3+, that is still quite good. This Kabal, to me, is a real contender, especially if you are not buying into the RSR but going with multiple patrols (which I believe is the stronger build. Competitive
Kabal of the Flayed Skull
This Kabal has a very interesting bit of Background, with the leader of it having previously been a Reaver pilot. They focus on high speed attacks from transports.
Every time a model that can fly or that is embarked on a transport that can fly makes a ranged attack, the target does not gain the benefit of light cover. Considering that most of the warriors weapons don’t have AP, this is ok but not great. 8 shots, hitting on a 3+, wounding on a 4+ vs a marines 3+ save will maybe do 1 wound.
A previous iteration of this trait also allowed rapid fire weapons to re roll a hit roll of ones. This is a much missed ability since units in transports have no access to any re-rolls, auras, and can not have stratagems (including the command re-roll strat). This kinda limits the effectiveness of this Obsession.
The second part of the Obsession, is Vehicle unit get +2″ on their movement. This bring Raider to 16″ and Venoms to 18″. This used to be +3″… but the boards also used to be bigger.
In fact, board used to be 72″ long, compared to the 60 of today. 19″ move over 72″ is 26% of the board length a Venom used to be able to cover. 18″ move on today’s board of 60″ is 30% of the board traversed. Likewise, the width went fro 48 to 44″ takes the Venom from 43% to 41%. Considering that most deployment zone if you deploy on the long edge are at most 24″, this lets your transports still be able to apply their occupants guns wherever they desire. The issue then, is that the occupant’s guns are a bit lack luster. Even if you did 10 man raiders with multiple special and a heavy weapon, the damage out put for your cost is just not quite there.
Combined with decent WL trait and Relic, and a sub par Stratagem, this Kabal is merely Efficient
Kabal of the Obsidian Rose
This Kabal of perfectionists strives to have the best wargear available.
Their obsession allows them to re-roll a wound roll per unit in the shooting or fight phase. Additionally, they add 6″ to non relic Assault, Rapid Fire, and Heavy weapons they wield.
The re roll wound is nice, but I think I would rather the re roll hit Black heart offers. Likewise, the extra range is ok, but 9th edition is about moving up and taking the objectives away from your opponents. I do see room for a detachment of this with Tripple Lance Ravagers hanging back 42″ and hitting targets, but I don’t thing this will matter much.
Their WL trait, Deadly Perfectionist, and their Relic, The Armor of Misery are both solid if unexciting picks. Their stratagem, Failure is not an Option, is too situational to build around.
All together, this leaves a Kabal that is not bad per se, but when compared to Black Heart or Poisoned Tongue, it is clearly out classed. Efficient
As we have seen in every book thus far, there is the option to take a pick two and build your own Kabal. Some of the options are all consuming, meaning they take up both slots and can not be combined with any other traits
- Dark Mirth: Units with this trait have the Dark Mirth Aura, which, enemy units within 12″ take a mortal wound on a 5+ when they move, advance, fallback, or charge.
This, this is really interesting. A 12″ range is big, and the wording does seem that you can stack this multiple times from different of your units on the same enemy unit. I think this is more a gimmick than anything else, but a full army of this could add up pretty quickly. Efficient
- Deadly Deceivers (all consuming): Units with this obsession may fall back and still shoot, albeit at -1 to hit. No. Just no. If this was not all consuming, this could be interesting. But giving up all your obsession traits for a situational thing – no. Situational
- Disdain for Lesser Beings: Each time you have to make a combat attrition test, add one to your roll. This means that if you are above half strength, you will never lose a model barring modifiers. Of course, you still lose the initial one for failing the morale test.
I dismissed this one out of hand at first, but thinking on it.. it could be potentially interesting. Warriors can come in units of 20. That is 4 special weapons hidden in there. Of course, then you are not taking transports, but I wonder if a Warrior Horde army, maybe even with the Dark Mirth, could see some play… Efficient
- Merciless Razorkin: Each time a splinter weapon rolls a 6 to hit, it counts as two hits. Exploding 6’s can be quite powerful, especially with the amount of shots that can be put down range. This is probably one of the stronger custom traits. Competitive Especially if combined with…
- Tortuous Efficiency: Each time a splinter weapon rolls a 6 to wound, improve the AP by 1. With more attacks from Merciless Razorkin and better AP from this one, you can try and stack up a lot of shots down range to weight of dice things to death. I expect to see this combination a fair bit. Competitive
- Mobile Raiders: If you really want the extra movement that Flayed Skull provides, you can pick this up for an extra 2″ on things that can fly. Smaller boards mean this isn’t really needed, but also isn’t bad to have. Efficient
- Soul Bound: Models with this obsession have a 5+++ vs mortals. Defensive buffs are not really a big thing for DE, but since we have next to no psychic defense, this can help mitigate a large weakness we have. Efficient
- Toxin Crafters (All consuming): When a model with this trait gets a natural 6 to hit, change the poison type of that weapon to poison (2+). Additionally, re-roll 1’s to wound with poison weapons. This is interesting. Most of your shots are wounding on a 4+ still, but a few will eek through as 2+ to wound. The re-rolls though is always on.
The issue for me then, is I compare this to Poisoned Tongue. If that obsessions works like I think it does, then 50% of your shots are Poison (2+), instead of 16% that this obsession offers. I don’t think re-rolling 1’s makes up for that difference. Even if all of the Poisoned Tongue attacks are 3+, that is still better in my opinion. As such, while this isn’t bad, it doesn’t offer enough to draw me away from the big 4. If it was not all consuming, that would be a different story, but as it is…. Efficient
- Twisted Hunters: Add 1 to hit when targeting characters. Listen, we are not Raven Guard. Leave this one at home. We don’t have access to snipers, and T3 are picking up +1 to hit in CC anyways. Just no. Situational
- Webway Raiders: Reduce the cost of the Webway Portal strat by 1. It effectively lets you Deep Strike one unit for free or two units for 2CP. That strat is not good, and this does not make it any better. Situational
I think you can safely say that the named Kabals easily win over taking any mix and match options. It is certainly better than the Psychic Awakening book, but dear Vect this is bloody awful. 20 minutes and a chorus of screaming souls, and we could fix these easily. Alas…. we have what we have.
On to the Units!
Kabals can take the following units: Archon (HQ), Kabalite Warriors (Troop), Court of the Archon (Elite.. kinda…) and the Ravager (Heavy Support). Of course, they may also add in any Blades for Hire and transports. Interestingly though, I could not find any penalty for chucking a Cult or Coven unit in. That unit of course gains no obsession, but it does not seem to break the obsession either. I could be missing something obvious, and I am sure the comments will point it out if so….
Man, this guy. So, he is rocking in at typical Eldar strats. Strength and Toughness of 3. 5 Wounds and 5 attacks means he has a decent bit of punchyness and can take a few hits back. He comes stalk with a splinter pistol and a power sword. These weapons, despite him being the Leader of his Kabal, are exactly the same any other unit can take.
He comes with two special rules (above Power from Pain and Blade Artist), the first letting his <Kabal> units re-roll 1’s to hit, so long as they have the core keyword. Secondly, he has his Shadowfield, which is exactly as it was before. A 2++ save, that the first time he fails it (and he can’t re roll the save), it goes away. As before, he does not have to make saves on it, and with a buffed up armor to now a 4+, it can be a very good idea to tank as many shots as possible on the armor save and leave the Shadowfield for when it really matters.
Wargear options for him are:
- A Power Sword (Ap -3, 1 damage, Str +1, Free)
- An Agoniser (AP -3, 1 damage, poison (4+), Free)
- A Husk Blade (Ap -2, 2 damage, str user, +5 pts)
- A Venom Blade (Ap -1, 1 damage, poison (2+), Free)
- A Splinter Pistol (Ap -0, 1 damage, poision (4+), Free)
- A blast pistol (Ap – 4, d6 damage, str 8, range 12″, 1 shot, +5 pts)
If he wants to do anything in combat, he really wants to be able to wound. So, either a Power Sword, for Str 4, or a poison weapon to bypass his Strength altogether. Alternatively, he can be in the Kabal of Obsidian Rose or Flayed Skull for one of their WL traits, that are decent for a beatstick Archon. The Djin Blade replaces his Huskblade, if you want to go down that route, and makes him ok, picking up +1 str there.
Alternatively, you can try to make him not care about his damage output, and just do buffs. This would more lean towards a RSR with Black heart. Give him Writ of the Living muse, and keep him cheap on wargear. If he is going into combat with the Fight last trait, accompanying Incubi, he is giving them re roll 1’s to hit and wound. This can be pretty big.
Personally, I am going to run him one of two ways, either as the aforementioned buff Archon, or as a master Archon of Poison.
For an additional 15 points, you may upgrade your Archon to a Master Archon, giving him the Splintermind ability. This allows you to, once per game, fight twice at the end of the fight phase. We just established that he is really not a great CC fighter, but whatever. Additionally, it opens up the ability to take Trueborn (more on that below) and the Soulhelm relic as well as the Consummate Weaponmaster WL trait.
It is the latter which I want to look at. An Archon, clocking in at 80 pts, and with a Venom Blade, is doing 5 attacks at ap -1 and 2 damage, wounding on a 2+. To me, you only commit to this if you are already going in on Trueborn.
Overall, this guy is… not great. He does not have a clearly defined roll, but is all but mandatory for some types of builds. Best thing is, he is pretty cheap. With some resources in WL traits and Relics, he can kinda edge towards fulfilling a role, but really, just bring him for the tax that he is. Efficient
Warriors are mostly unchanged, although the Warhammer Community page did highlight what changes there were.
Basically, an extra attack and a better armor save. Of the two, the armor save is the bigger thing. Sticking them in cover means you can be looking at a 3+ save (or even 2+ with Hunt from the Shadows). This can really help against small arms fire. The improvements to weapons really are the biggest thing win for warriors. The Dark Lance being more reliable with the damage it does, the shredder having higher strength, and even the splinter cannon picking up two damage and a pip of ap is decent. These guys are fairly cheap, and with their basic rifle, they will not pose a great threat, but are fairly reliable in their damage output. They may take a single Heavy Splinter cannon or Dark Lance per 10 models, and may take a Blaster or Shredder per 5 warriors. The Sybarite, their squad leader, may take either a Power Sword or Agoniser (neither of which is worth it), and may also pick up a Phantasm Grenade Launcher (PGL). The PGL has seen a significant change, now rolling to beat the target LD, and if it does, inflict a mortal wound. It still fires d3 shots, so there is the potential of 3 mortals from this thing, and with the relative ease of dropping a -2 or even -3 ld bubble, this has a good bit of potential.
If you took a Master Archon, then one unit per Master Archon may be upgraded to trueborn. This increases their points to 10 points each, and gives them a few new abilities. They are capped at a max of 10 models though, and gain no different wargear or increases to the amount of wargear they may take.
Instead, Trueborn gain a Ballistic Skill of 2+, which, when the unit shoots, they can choose to ignore any or all modifiers to hit or ballistic skill rolls. They also pick up an additional point of LD (making a Black Heart squad LD 9). Being limited to 10 means you only are able to get a single heavy weapon in the squad. There are two basic builds I see for these guys.
Either, a Black Heart with a Dark lance, two Blasters, and a PGL, embarked in a Raider with Dark Lance and PGL. Total package costs you 230 points. With a 14″ movement, you should be able to line up shots on your targets. Both the Raider and the embarked squad will be able to re-roll a hit roll. Use Never Stationary after the Raider fires, to scoot it back behind cover and keep your gun ship relatively safe. With three fairly accurate dark light shots coming out of the squad, and another from the boat, it should be able to do significant damage to most heavy targets.
The other build I am considering is a Poisoned Tongue one. This time, just taking the Splinter Cannon and PGL, with no other squad upgrades (unless I have some points I need to find a home for). They will mount up in a Raider with PGL, Lance, and Splinter Racks. The Racks let you Rapid Fire your Splinter Rifles at the full 24″ range. This setup racks in at 215 points. Putting a bunch of shots downrange that hit on 2+ and wound on 3+ (or 2+ if that is correct) can force a lot of saves.
The issue for me, is that neither of these builds are the most efficient use of points we can do. They are not bad, but they are not the best. Run them if you want, but the lack of special weapons and the AP 0 on the splinter rifles holds these back a bit. Both Warriors and Trueborn are Efficient. Seeing as Warriors are a near mandatory unit for some builds, a small 5 man for 40 points will probably make an appearance in many a RSR as a tax.
Court of the Archon
This unit has seen the biggest shake up, and there are some very interesting options here. All of the other units have been consolidated into this unit. The unit must contain at least 4 models, but all models are a 0-4 requirement in the unit. This means you can do a full unit of one model, or mix it up. The Court counts as an elite slot, unless you have an Archon, in which case one may be included without taking up a detachment slot (one per Archon).
Each of the 4 different models that can comprise a Court have their own unique abilities. Each model does have a Move of 8, a WS and BS of 3+, and 3 wounds. Since the unit has so many different parts, I am going to look at each of the 4 individually, then at the unit as a whole.
The Lhamaen comes with a Shaimeshi Blade, a poison (2+), ap 0, 1 damage weapon that 6’s to wound can also do a mortal. It has a base of two attacks, meaning which is not all that great. Additionally, if a Archon or Trueborn unit is within 3″ of them, than any model in those units that makes an attack with a poison weapon and scores a 6 to hit, that hit automatically wounds. Meh. This does nothing to help get around the traditionally bad AP poison weapons have. With only a CC weapon, and 2 attacks, you are not putting out enough attacks to make this a decent combat option. At 16 points per model, you can get two Warriors for the same cost and do better in combat. This one is a solid pass for me.Situational
A medusae is an interesting option. Clocking in at a beefy 22 points (which is probably a near death sentence for this model), they have almost nothing special about their stat profile. What they are bringing to the table is a Str 4, ap -2, 1 damage flamer pistol. Auto hitting with d6 shots. The pistol option is quite interesting, as they can get stuck in and allow the Ur-Ghuls to do the heavy lifting on the fight phase, and then do some damage in the shooting phase if they get locked in. One damage is not great, but it is pretty common for flamer style weapons, and a 12″ range on them is very nice (following the trend of most flamers now). The biggest issue, as mentioned before, is their price. I can see perhaps splashing one or two in a unit, but they are not that great enough to really spam. A unit of 4, at 88 points, will kill one space marine on average. The same number of Warriors can kill 2. Efficient
Now, this is is an interesting entry. Rocking a 5+/5+++ and PfP, this model can eventually be relatively durable. Still only toughness 3, it’s 3 wounds can get some good millage, especially once it’s invul kicks up into a 5++. Wargear wise, it has a Shard carbine, a splinter pistol, and a Sslyth Battle Blade. The battle blade is AP -2, and while they don’t have Blade Artist (only the Lhamean does), it’s 3 attacks at str 5 allows it to pose a decent threat.
The real draw however, is that it has the updated bodyguard rules. While the unit contains any Sslyth, then a friendly Archon within 3″ can not be targeted by ranged attacks. This does stop snipers. Unfortunately, we don’t have a great long ranged option for our Archons, but it can help keep them alive longer, especially if their Shadowfield has dropped. Finally, coming in at 16 points per model , these are actually more efficient than an equal number of Warriors. The bad thing about them, is you are limited to only 4, they are $18 per model retail, and they are currently sold out. Overall though, this is a Competitive choice.
The final entry for the Court, each Ur-ghul clocks in at just 16 points per model. Like the Sslyth, they have a 5+++ as well, and Pfp. An Urghul is here for exactly one purpose, and that is to wail on things in close combat. Rocking 4 attacks base, and picking up two more on the charge, and Ur-ghul uses their Talons at Ap -1 and a paltry one damage. I would have loved to see them pick up 2 damage, but alas… Even so, as you can’t take more than 4 Sslyth, these are a nice addition for fleshing out the squad if you so desired to. Competitive
Overall the Court offers some interesting options. The I would rank the Court as a whole as Efficient, mainly because Sslyths are such efficient models. Ur-ghuls are a decent option as well. Between those two entries, the Court can offer a decent CC unit for a pure Kabal list. There is also so play I think in just the 4 Medusa. It is not a great pick, but it is a fun pick. Lhamaen will end up being filler of extra wounds, to help keep your damage dealers ticking a bit longer. The fact they won’t take up an Elite slot it nice, as you can more easily pack in those Incubi and Mandrake squads you really want.
As a final note, the Sslyth Party Yacht (Credit to the Splintermind Podcast): 4 Sslyth, 4 Medusa, 4 Ur-Ghul and 3 Lhamean. With a Master Archon with Hust blade and Blast Pistol, and all mounted up in Tantalus. Clocking in at 664 points, or a full 33% of a 2k army. Is it good? Hell no! Is it fun…. you tell me.
Ravagers have lost a little bit of their appeal in the new codex. Not so much what they lost, but what they did not gain, mainly the CORE keyword (which is honestly not surprising). This makes them not able to pick up the Archon re-roll 1’s to hit and wound bubble. And honestly, I am glad. That was a very boring and False Kin way to play, in my opinion.
Now though, they are relatively free to move about as they desire. Additionally, a Black Heart Ravager can really make use of the re-roll hit per unit rule. They do pick up Power from Pain, which gives them an invul in CC as well, and a few other minor buffs. It can help a Ravager on it’s last legs keep on ticking as well, once it’s able to double the number of wounds for it’s degrading chart.
The build I think most people are leaning towards now, and that I have always loved, has been the triple lance ravager. I like to chuck a Phantasm Grenade Launcher on them as well, just to try and sprinkle that around as much as possible. Since Lances are now free, and Disintegrator cannons a 5 point upgrade, the Lances are the much cheaper and much deadlier option now.
I still love Ravager’s, and the damage potential of 3 lances, with either a re-roll to hit or to wound, depending on the Obsession, can make them a solid backbone of a list. How many, and what to pair them with, is still very up in the air, but watch for these. Competitive
Overall, the Kabals offer some interesting tools. Mainly ranged, but with a splash of Melee thrown in to be able and hold their own. With the strength of Wych Cults, Kabals are a strong partner to give them the ranged presence they need to advance up under covering fire. A strong fire base can hold your back objectives, and DE transports are mobile enough to allow you to quickly reposition and challenge objectives as needed as well.
Next up, be on the look out for Cults. Also, I am going to do the flyers and the transports in a different review as they can pick up different Obsessions and benefits than most units can.
Thanks for reading, and happy
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