40K: Tzeentchian Schemes and Machinations III

Kazzigum navigates the confusing fog of a delirious haze to take his third step upon the Nine-fold Path of Change.

As a devoted follower of all things Tzeentch, you’d think I would understand the old adage “the best laid plans of mice and men.”  I mean, Tzeentch actively mocks and ridicules the machinations, plans and schemes that mortals spin.  Indeed, Tzeentch often encourages such schemes amongst his own followers just to see the things they will do to achieve such plans.  It is even said that Tzeentch, and his truly favored minions, scheme and plot just to scheme and plot – there being no other real purpose.  So given all this, you’d think I personally would be better prepared to see my own plans go completely awry.  Well … nope.  Not so much.

So two-odd weeks ago, I returned with my buddies from LVO.  I’d like to be able to raise my hands high and bellow in glorious victory.  Alas, I once again let my teanmates down and went 2-4, and we will not discuss the events of Sunday’s tournament.  Overall, I think our team did pretty well, particularly Adrian and Herb, both of which went 4-2 and placed fairly high (Herb also won his heat on Sunday).  Go team Unbound!  Sadly, my Tzeentch daemons were shameful.

We are ashamed.

I’ll be honest, I expected to perform a little better.  So, upon reflection, what went wrong?  Well, I could point to the fact that my lists – and yes, I ran two separate Tzeentch Daemon lists for the two events (this was mistake number one) just didn’t play out exactly as I imagined they would.  Well, perhaps they would have had I not played two ‘mirror’ matches on Day 1 – oddly enough, I had up to this point never played against lists that were so similar to my own, and did absolutely the wrong both times in response.

Or perhaps I could bemoan the absolutely terrible luck I endured over the course of the weekend’s games (and here I blame my brother, as he didn’t attend this year and ordinarily is the magnet for such things — the curse glommed onto me in response apparently).  Ordinarily I don’t put much stock in such things, as I’ve always felt that my luck evens out over the course of a tournament.

However, a couple instances stand out in my mind here:

  • My Lord of Change failing a Toughness test against the Warpflame from an opposing Fateweaver’s Flickering Fire and then subsequently failing the grounding test and plummeting into the dirt right before a charging opposing Daemon Prince in Game.
  • My super friendly opponent using the pair of special Unbound dice I gave to all my opponents to roll on the Tzeentchian Warpstorm Table (feeling the ironic twist yet?) to roll a 12 and turn one of my Heralds into a Lord of Change under his control before I even got a turn in Game 3
  • When I threw 15 Warp Charge dice at the 2 WC Force activated by an opposing Dreadknight charging my Lord of Change and rolled a single 6 in Game 2 of Sunday’s tournament,
  • or … well, let’s just say I could go on.

 

“Anything but a …”  Yeah, it felt like that.

Yes, I could blame all these things, and more besides, and while they’re all more or less true, ultimately, I think it is the time constraints that hurt me the most.  I play a big, unwieldly Daemon army that summons and has horrors that split, and while I’ve taken steps to make it run as smooth and quick as possible, it still takes time.  Truth be told, it probably runs about the same pace as a Gladius, which yeah, is pretty slow.  Still, I think I let it get in my head.

I feel like I was always so worried about the clock that I often just let my judgement lapse in later turns, not taking the few minutes I need to really access what I was doing, or planning to do, and this just cost me a game or two.  Not to take anything away from my opponents, as I feel like I did play some great players, particularly both opponents in Game 1 of both tournaments.  I just feel I shot myself in the foot a couple times.

You can’t see it, but there’s an enormous bullet hole on top.

So, why am I rambling on about all this?  Well, aside from the fact that I think LVO is pretty cool and the experience is fun to relate (for example, how weird is it that out of the eight games I played over the course of the weekend, I only played against space marines once, and that was the last game?), I’m trying to establish a lame excuse for having not written in so long.  Seriously, I was feeling rather low regarding my LVO performance, but I still had every intention of jumping right back into writing once I got back from the big tournament.

Alas, Tzeentch was displeased with my shaming of his armies, and loosed his loathsome brother upon me – two days back I was struck down by a creeping crud that I can only assume was the Flu, and which is even now still lodged a tad in my lungs.  Ugh, I do not wish this upon anyone, and despite all my efforts, I still gave it to my wife.  She was not thrilled.

She was not.

But nevertheless, I am back.  I’ve even concocted plans to revisit my Tzeentch Daemons lists, though I’ll leave those for farther down the Nine-Fold Path.  For now, let’s return to the Thousand Sons for our third step upon the blessed Path of Change.  I love all things Tzeentch, though my first Warhammer 40,000 (40k) love has always been the Thousand Sons.  Leading up to LVO I was giving all my hobby time to my Tzeentch Daemons, despite amassing all the new Thousand Sons kits.  They’ve just been laying there, mocking me.

But now, the promised hour has come, and with the stinging blisters to my ego from LVO behind me, I’ve begun to lovingly heap the attention upon these kits that they deserve – assembling, converting, caressing …  Good times are here and I’ve even begun to work on Magnus – though I’ve still got to figure out something to do with mine that’ll make him stand out as definitely mine.

Yes, like this.  But without the red.  Blue.  Lots of blue.

The Third Step Upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change

On the Second Step on the Nine-Fold Path, I moved away from just sorcerers and cultists (the traditional Chaos Space Marine army over the last half decade) and actually included real CSMs – Rubrics to be exact.  Well, I’m happy to say that I’ll be doing something similar on this, the third step upon the Nine-Fold Path.  Though, if I’m honest, I’m only including one unit of Rubrics and one unit of Scarab Occult Terminators (see, I told you they’d get their turn), the rest of the list is packed full of tzaangors, sorcerers and gribbly monsters (spawn).

Fortunately, I’m a firm believer in the philosophical argument that says this is exactly as it should be in CSM warbands – a core of hard and bitter CSMs (in this case Thousand Sons Rubrics) and a host of horrific dregs (mutants, cultists and other assorted ‘things’) to be used as expendable pawns/tools.  Still, I will include a list later down the Nine-Fold Path that will explore the idea of mostly Rubrics/CSMs.

I didn’t say anything…

The basic philosophical difference between this list and that presented on the second step of the Nine-Fold Path is that this list embraces the new Thousand Sons Grand Coven detachment.  Truth be told, I favor this new detachment over the simple Combined Arms detachment (CAD), but it does require that I include chaos terminators, which as I mentioned last time, I’ve never been much a fan of (shut up, I have a degree in English, and I did it on purpose).

The good news is the new Scarab Occult Terminators are everything a Thousand Sons player could ever desire from terminators – basically Rubrics (with all that implies), access to new, abundant and cool heavy weapons and with the inclusion of an actual sorcerer (as in Mastery lvl 2 and not just an aspiring sorcerer with only access to Tzeentch sorcery).

Once I came to accept the inclusion of terminators, I was free to delve into the Grand Coven detachment.  As I said, I prefer this new detachment over the simple CAD, as to me, it just makes the army feel more like I’ve always believed a Thousand Sons force should feel (though, to be fair, I still enjoy the list I presented on the second step of the Nine-Fold Path).

It’s okay, we’re cool.

So why exactly do I prefer the Thousand Sons Grand Covens detachment?  Well, beyond the fact that it’s made up of an assortment of specific Thousand Sons formations (we really are spoiled among the Traitor Legions at the moment – though I’m sure the others will get their turns), It really comes down to one command benefit – Masters of Arcane Knowledge.  On the face of it, this benefit doesn’t seem all that big a deal, and I’ve heard plenty of players (both in person as well as online) say exactly that. But, as I often do, I disagree.

Masters of Arcane Knowledge lets all the psykers in the detachment (and there will be plenty of them) re-roll the result of Perils of the Warp, should they suffer them, as well as manifest an additional psychic power in each psychic phase.  The first of these is pretty huge, as it basically amounts to a re-rollable 5+ save against the negative effects of suffering a Perils of the Warp (as results 5-6 are most likely not going to be a negative result to any CSM sorcerer).  This is especially a boon for Thousand Sons players, such as myself, that intend to dabble in a little Daemonic Malefic sorcery.

Having said this, I think the second part might be even more potent (and certainly overlooked).  The ability to manifest an additional psychic power means that even a lowly aspiring sorcerer can potentially dish out some serious firepower.  While not always applicable in every turn, I find that there are always times in every battle where due to positioning, I wish one or more sorcerers could just evoke one more power.  The ability to now do so, could make all the difference.

So, having said all that, I present my second Thousands Sons list:

The Thousand Sons – The Gleaming Horde of Mephretesis — 1846

Thousand Sons Grand Coven Detachment (Thousand Sons detachment) – 1,846

War Coven Formation [formation] – 1,057

Mephretesis, Sorcerer Lord of the Pavoni, Exalted Sorcerer x 1, 1 additional Mastery lvl, Gift of Mutation, Spell Familiar, Disc of Tzeentch, Astral Grimoire

Knave the Deceiver, Former Librarian of the Alpha Legion, Sorcerer x 1,2 additional Mastery lvls, Combat Familiar, Gift of Mutation, Spell Familiar, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW
Rubric Marines x 10, warpflamer x 1, soulreaper cannon, icon of flame
Scarob Occult Terminators x 5, soulreaper cannon, hellfire missile rack

 

Tzaangor Warherd Formation [formation] – 654
Naphazar, the Whispering Darkness, Sorcerer x 1, 2 additional Mastery lvls, Gift of Mutation, Mark of Tzeentch, Spell Familiar, VotLW
Tzaangors x 16, twistbray, 9 have auto pistol and chainswords
Tzaangors x 10, twistbray, 5 have auto pistol and chainswords

Tzaangors x 10, twistbray, 4 have auto pistol and chainswords

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

 

Daemon Engines Formation [formation] – 135

The Shining Spire, Vessel of Tzenahk the Occluder, Hellbrute, twin-linked heavy bolter, power fist with incorporated combi-bolter, Death of Kasyr Lutien and Vessel of Tzenahk the Occluder Legecies of Ruin

And to push it to 2,000 pts, I will add the following unit to the War Coven formation:

Rubric Marines x 5

We’re back, baby.  No one serves Tzeentch like we do!

Tactics

For the most part, this army has the basic overall attack strategy as the two previous armies I presented on the Nine-Fold Path, namely charge forward with the gribbly monsters and mutants (spawn and tzaangors), while the sorcerers advance more slowly from behind with the Rubrics and Occult Terminators to provide sorcerous support.  Of course, the tzaangors and spawn are not nearly as hard hitting as the maulerfiends from the last list, but the Rubrics and Occult Terminators sport more heavy weaponry this time, and there are overall a lot more chaff units to choke the field with.

Wait, what?  What was that thing about choking again?

At this point, I’d like to single out the Scarab Occult Terminators for scrutiny.  I know I gave CSM terminators a good bashing in my previous article, and terminators are generally disdained as a unit in 40k overall, but I really gotta say, I’m impressed with the Scarab Occult Terminators.  Yes, they are expensive, the unit I’ve included here is 300 points alone, but they really pack a punch and are highly resilient, even for terminators.  For firepower, they’re all armed with AP3 combi-bolters and all their available heavy weapons are AP3 as well, and in a squad of five, you can include up to such two heavy weapons.  The Soulreaper cannon is Str5 with rending and the Hellfyre missile rack is Str8, so both are potent.

The only downside is that all their available weaponry is relatively short ranged at just 24” and they are not that great in assault, though they’ll reap non-assault dedicated troops well enough (as all their weapons are AP3 here as well).  As for resilience, well they are Terminators of course, but they also come standard with 4+ invulnerable save thanks to their Mark of Tzeentch, and this should most likely always be increased to a 3+ invulnerable due to the sorcerer’s use of Blessing of Tzeentch.  All this, and that’s before you account for the fact that they also include a Mastery level 2 sorcerer standard as well, who depending upon what discipline you decide to augment his two Tzeentch powers with, can possibly further enhance the unit’s resilience or provide even more firepower.

So, as I’m sure you can tell, I like the Scarab Occult Terminators.  Apart from their exorbitant cost, their only real weakness that I can see is that they are rather slow and suffer from poor maneuverability.  This later weakness is why I’ve always favored deep striking my terminators up until now.  With the Scarab Occult Terminators, they’re just too expensive to risk leaving off the table for possibly multiple turns (there are always exceptions depending upon my opponent and/or the mission of course).

So no, the Scarabs will need to plod up the field along with the Rubrics.  Fortunately, Mephretesis’ relic, the Astral Grimoire, allows me to pick one friendly infantry unit within 12” each movement phase to allow them to move like jump troops for that phase – which ought to provide just the oomph to mobility the Scarabs need to allow them to get stuck in where I need them most.

We’ll just jump over this screamer of Tzeentch to get into position and…

So aside from this overall plan, what’s really different with this army here?  Honestly, not much.  Aside from the slightly tooled up hellbrute standing in the backfield, haunting objectives and providing a stabilizing presence to Malefic sorcery due to its Death of Kasyr Lutien Legacy of Ruin, it really all comes down to the sorcery I choose to employ to wield in support of the army.

As in my last Thousand Sons army, once you get past the obligatory Tzeentch psychic powers that all my sorcerers must roll for (and again, I do not view this as a bad thing, as I firmly believe the new powers added to the discipline in Wrath of Magnus are potent and fluffy – see my previous Schemes and Machinations article for a more in-depth discussion on this matter), I really only have a few decisions to make.  Honestly, I just need to decide what sorcery the four sorcerers I have in my army with the ability to choose will pursue.

This is the exact spell Magnus used to move the Planet of Sorcerers back into realspace.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first.  Naphazar, which some of you may recognize from the Cerulean Seers featured on the first step upon the Nine-Fold Path, is a character who always dabbles in the daemonic.  Therefore, he’ll make both of his two rolls on the Malefic discipline.  I’d like to get Sacrifice here, but no matter what, I’ll substitute Summoning out for one of the rolls.  The plan with Naphazar is to join one of the units of tzaangors, but with one of the spawn always nearby (in case he gets that Sacrifice), and within 12” of the hellbrute – at least initially.

Naphazar will begin by conjuring a unit of pink horrors, and for all the same reasons I laid out in my last Schemes and Machinations article (I encourage you to have a look at that article for more insight into that whole issue).  However, considering all the layers of protection (spell familiar, Masters of Arcane Knowledge command benefit and the re-rolls provided by the Death of Kasyr Lutien Legacy of Ruin) he has against the Perils of the Warp danger inherent with mortals practicing Maleific sorcery, he will continue summoning daemons all throughout the game – provided I can spare the warp charge.

I intend to use Naphazar to keep summoning Tzeentchian daemonic allies until my opponent forces me to stop.

Still ashamed, but willing to improve.

Beyond Naphazar and his all-important role as summoner of daemonic allies, the remaining three sorcerers choose their magicks more for style rather than anything else (if I’m honest with myself).  Mephretesis, much like the exalted sorcerer and warlord in my last Thousand Sons list, will roll once on the Ectomancy discipline.  Like his brother warlord, Mephretesis is looking to get either Ghost Storm or Soulswitch with this roll, as these powers are just so useful (and fluffy!) for the slow-moving Thousand Sons (particularly since this particular army lacks transports entirely).

For his second roll, as a master of the Pavoni Cult, he will of course roll on the Biomancy discipline, where I’d be happy with anything except Haemorrhage, as I cannot abide that pathetic power).  Knave, in my personal backstory, is a Heretikal tinkerer, a master of war machines and a corrupter of the machine spirit.  Therefore, I will use both his two rolls on the Heretech discipline.  I hope to roll any of the powers that allow me to augment the hellbrute, but given the abundance of war machines one typically encounters on the battlefields of the 41st millennia, I’ll be pretty content with whatever I roll here.

Lastly, after much consideration, I’ve decided that the Scarab Occult Terminator sorcerer will roll on the Ectomancy discipline as well, and for exactly the same reasons as my warlord.

Yes, I USED to be in the XXth Legion, and NOW I’m aThousand Son.  What can I say?  I’m a Traitor.

Mephretesis, as my warlord, will fight from inside the Rubric unit, advancing upon the enemy and using both his relic and sorcery to support the attack.  Knave is a little more difficult to position, and it honestly depends upon the nature of my enemy as well as the Heretech powers I roll.  Ideally I’d like to have him hang back, perhaps with one of the tzaangor units, to use his sorcery to support the hellbrute, but if he doesn’t roll any of the Heretech blessings, there’s little point to that.

I’m also not a big fan of the tzaangors hanging in the rear, as they need to get stuck in to pull their weight, particularly considering their formation allows them to run and assault.  So perhaps he can join one of the spawn and lurk in the backfield in a position to help the hellbrute (assuming he has the blessing (s)).  Ultimately, I’m not a big fan of this strategic choice either, since I feel he’s just too vulnerable and doesn’t do enough to make it worth it (though, again, depending upon the enemy’s composition and the game’s objectives, it may be worth it).

I think it will be a better option to either run him with one of the advancing tzaangor units (the big one most likely), or just put him with the Rubrics as well.

Ummm … we’d be okay with hangin’ in the back …

So that’s the plan.  Advance the gribbly horde upon the enemy and blast him with our sorcerous might that follows behind.  The key to this overall plan is to tie up and overwhelm the enemy (summoned daemons can help tremendously here, particularly horrors), while the sorcerers use their powers to outmaneuver or just plain zap the enemy.  It can be surprisingly effective, though of course, sorcery can be notoriously fickle.  Ultimately, I’m good with that. As I said before, I’m most interested in the style.

Mephretesis, Naphazar and Knave are more than just Mastery level 3 CSM sorcerers to me.  They’re living and breathing villains to me, specific characters that show up (as they are here, with perhaps ever so slight tweeks) in many of my various lists.  Speaking of which, some of you may have noticed that my hellbrute —  The Shining Spire – has a name too.  Well, this is a Tzeentchian daemon engine (counts as Hellbrute) I’ve converted that I’ve kitted out specifically in this way, including using Legacies of Ruin from Imperial Armour 13 (IA13).  To me, he’s a unique character as well, and you’ll see him again on the Nine-Fold Path.

I’ll be baaack…

Last thing before I go.  Some of you no doubt have noticed that I’ve included Legacies of Ruin from IA13 in both my Thousand Sons armies so far.  There’s a reason for this – they’re cool.  They allow CSM players to customize and upgrade a few of the various war machines available to us (though not actual daemon engines).  I find this particularly satisfying with hellbrutes, as they inherently have so few options to ordinarily do so.

And while I firmly believe a CSM player can construct a perfectly viable army using only the CSM codex and the Traitor Legions supplement, why shouldn’t I use other sources if I have them?  I’m a CSM super fan.  The more CSM stuff there is, the happier I am.

In the end, this was my primary complaint for so long – that the CSM codex was just so boring and dry.  Now I see it as just the beginning, with layers of Traitor Legions and Imperial Armour 13 and more layered on top.  I say gimmie more.  More!  More!  I’ll take it all.  That’s the CSM way.

Praise Tzeentch and All is Dust!

So what do you think?  Are you tired of the Nine-Fold Path, or like me, are you starting to question why there need only be nine steps upon the Path?  So what say you — are you ready yet to follow me upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change?

Read more from Kazzigum on Slaved to Ruin

  • Me

    I am not much into Chaos, but this has to be one of my favorite articles of this type that I have read on BoLS. A lot of the stuff I read looks at units individually, but none exist in a vacuum. You did a great analysis (at least in my opinion) of the synergies between units.

    I really wish someone could do something like this for the Eldar, er… Aeldari. I am not out to OMGROFLSTOMP folks, I just want to have a fun and fluffy game. I guess that future genius should probably wait until eighth comes out though…

    • Thanks, I appreciate the kind words. Sadly, I’m pretty much just a Chaos guy, so I’m not the droids … err .. the guy you’re looking for.