40K Lore: Magnus – The Red Cyclops

Loremasters today we speak of the mighty Lord of the Thousand Sons – the mightiest living psyker in the galaxy.

Magnus the Red (Also known as the Crimson King, the Sorcerer-King, Cyclopean Magnus or the Red Cyclops) is the Primarch of the Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marine legion. A giant in both physical and mental terms whilst a mortal inhabitant of the materium, Magnus long tried to understand and control the warp, becoming a sorcerer of formidable power. Magnus would eventually fall from favour with his father, the Emperor, and with the majority of his brother-primarchs due to his zealous advocacy and use of such power.

Early Life

Magnus, as an infant, was dropped onto the remote colony world of Prospero. Magnus was unique among his brothers as he was entirely aware of his own birth and development, and remembers his infancy completely. He also regularly communed with the Emperor via telepathy before their official reunion.Magnus was incredibly fortunate to land on Prospero, as anywhere else his psychic nature would have made him an outcast, shunned and hunted. Prospero was a world of outcast human psykers, making him nothing special in the eyes of the colonists. They had chosen Prospero for its remoteness from Terra. When Magnus fell from the skies, it was like a portentous comet. His pod landed in the central plaza of all the places on the planet.

Mentored by the fame psyker-scholar Amon, he became a ward of the scholars and quickly gained their powers, surpassing them in many ways. Magnus soon even eclipsed Amon in power.Magnus mastered every psychic training program and soon surpassed the greatest adepts of the commune. By that time he had so much control of his psychic powers, he was by far the greatest person on the planet. One day, Magnus performed something to change the world forever. Instead of channeling Warp energy from the Warp to the Materium universe, he looked into the Warp, going from the student to absolute master instantly. Magnus became the hero of Prospero when he led a campaign to purge the Psychneuein from Prospero, who for centuries had wreaked havoc on the planets population. With the threat removed, Magnus rebuilt many of Prospero’s cities, most notably Tizca, which became renowned for its beauty and splendor. The chief scholars of Prospero that survived the war with the Psycheuein became the founders of the Cults of the Thousand Sons.


Discovery by The Emperor

With such a mind in the Warp, it was not long until the Emperor noticed him. When his fleet arrived and the Emperor stepped foot upon the planet, he and Magnus immediately embraced and conversed as if the two had known each other for years; as indeed they may have done, in the mind if not in the flesh.

The Thousand Sons Magnus inherited were rife with psychic mutations, being based on Magnus’s genes. He took them in as his own and began training them in the ways of the psyker. Individuals from within the Imperium who were fearful of these rampant mutations began to voice their opinions openly, but Magnus silenced them Magnus and the Emperor formed a seemingly close bond, reaching into the Warp together. However despite the warnings of his Father to beware the horrors of the Empyrean, Magnus lost his right eye in a failed bargain with (what he would later discover to be) Tzeentch to save his legions sons from mutation. The bargain cost Magnus his eye, but for a time the mutations did go into remission.

Magnus fought bravely and successfully during the Great Crusade and become close to Horus, Lorgar, and Jaghatai Khanbut he was always a wild and impetuous commander. Due to his early brush with Chaos during his abduction, Magnus had an inherent affinity for the Warp and the secrets within its fabric. Throughout the Crusade he came into contact with long isolated cultures where psychics had been allowed to flourish. Although warned by the Emperor to shun such matters, Magnus began to gather arcane lore from across the galaxy. From this material he compiled the monumental tome of sorcery that would come to be called the Book of Magnus.

The further from Terra the crusade went, the more strange warp-influenced creatures they came across. This naturally made Magnus look bad, his control of the Warp being similar to these creatures.Leman Russ and Mortarion both distrusted Magnus due to his use of the Warp and because of his use of deceit where they would have used more straightforward physical strength. Such was the distrust that Magnus and Russ almost came to blows on Ark Reach Secundus over the fate of the planets Great Library, and heavy bloodshed was only prevented by the intervention of Lorgar. To solve this dispute, the Emperor called for a debate on the use of psychic powers. They gathered on Nikaea and the Emperor presided over the debate. The Emperor finally ruled that only astropaths and Navigators would be tolerated, the Librariums were to be disbanded, and that sorcery was to be banned. Magnus was not pleased with the outcome. Nonetheless he remained true to the Imperium, and tried to dissuade his friend and brother Lorgar from attempting to discover the secrets of the Warp for fear that it may corrupt him.


The Horus Heresy

Magnus returned to Prospero, intent on pursuing his sorcerous experiments in secrecy. He peered into the Warp, and saw a vision of Horus’ revolt and roles all the legions would play, except his own. Entering the mind of his brother while it was under a Chaos ritual initiated by Erebus and Cultists on Davin, Magnus attempted to persuade his brother away from heresy and remain loyal to their father. However when that failed, Magnus decided to warn the Emperor via an astral projection spell rather than the much slower mode of astropathy. As his disembodied spirit blazed through the Warp, he came across a Webway corridor that led to Terra.

Unbeknownst to him, this particular corridor was constructed by humans, a part of the Emperor’s secret Webway project. Magnus tried in vain to breach the wall of the corridor, but then an anonymous voice from within the Warp offered Magnus the extra power he needed, and the overconfident Magnus accepted without question. Magnus tore a breach in the wall and followed the corridor to Terra, bursting through the portal beneath the Golden Throne. The breach allowed daemons to invade the Webway and ruin the Emperor’s project. Magnus was so shaken and horrified by his blunder that he could not find the will to deliver his warning, and instead retreated back to his physical body on Prospero.

The Emperor dispatched Leman Russ and his Space Wolves to arrest Magnus and bring him to Terra. On the way to Prospero, Leman Russ received new orders from the now-corrupted Horus who changed the order to read that the Emperor had changed his mind and wished the Thousand Sons destroyed. In the ensuing Burning of Prospero, Magnus watched in horror as the great libraries and arcane archives he had worked so hard to create were burned to the ground. Engaging Leman Russ in combat, just as the Space Wolves Primarch was about to strike the final blow, Magnus and his forces disappeared into the Warp thanks to a ritual he had helped prepare with Ahriman. There, Magnus found what he had wanted: unrestricted psychic powers and an opportunity for vengeance. Eventually giving himself to the forces of Chaos, Magnus took all that he had from Prospero, from the Imperium, into the Warp forever. Magnus’ physical form had been destroyed in battle against Russ, and now existed as a being of corporeal Warp energy in the Eye of Terror alongside his legion.

Magnus later appeared as an ethereal projection on the ruins of Prospero to Jaghatai Khan and told his brother it was time to finally choose a side in the conflict. Magnus again appeared on board the Salamanders Battle Barge Charybdis, this time as a mental projection. There, Magnus conversed with Captain Artellus Numeon, asking him what he would sacrifice to see Vulkan restored and seemingly helping the ship through the Ruinstorm. Magnus’ words to Numeon eventually were the catalyst for the Salamanders Captain to sacrifice himself to resurrect Vulkan.

The next time Magnus was seen in physical form, he had gained the status of Daemon Prince of Tzeentch. Magnus eventually joined forces with the Traitor Astartes led by Horus, taking part in the Siege of Terra as vengeance against the Emperor for betraying him


After the Horus Heresy

After the failure of the Horus Heresy, the newly-formed commune joined together with Ahriman to find a way to stop the mutation caused by their allegiance to Tzeentch. They cast a mighty spell to counter the corruption. The Planet of Sorcerers, the new world of the Thousand Sons, was arcing with violent blue and yellow streaks of lightning. They would strike down every Marine until Magnus had to intervene. Their mutations had been halted, but at a terrible cost: their bodies turned to dust and their armour sealed tightly shut.

Magnus summoned Ahriman and his council, and railed at them for what they had done. When Ahriman protested, Magnus fought and gained the upper hand. Ahriman, no match for his Primarch, was struck down. But just as Magnus raised his fist to kill him, Tzeentch itself spoke: “Magnus, you would destroy my pawns so readily?” then Magnus knew that his master had planned for all of this. So he spared Ahriman and banished him and his council on an eternal quest to understand Tzeentch. They still wander the galaxy, looking for relics of a former time of psychic prowess and control. It is said that Ahriman even attempted to access the Eldar webways, although this is unconfirmed

Despite knowing Tzeentch’s plans had led to this fate, Magnus was beyond enraged to see that the Legion he had sacrificed so much for, his legion of scholars, had been reduced to automatons who could no longer even think. With his homeworld lost and his legion in ruin, Magnus ascended to the top of his tower and vowed, as Horus had, that he would see the galaxy burn.

Later, seeking revenge against the Space Wolves for the Burning of Prospero, Magnus would lead his Thousand Sons in an assault against the Space Wolves homeworld of Fenris in what became known as the Battle of the Fang.

In the many years since the Heresy, Magnus has become increasingly aloof and detached from his legion and the happenings of the Materium. He spends much of his time in the Warp, waging the Great Game of the Dark Gods.


Abilities and Wargear

Magnus was above all else a supremely powerful Psyker matched in the Imperium only by Malcador and surpassed only by the Emperor. Magnus was capable of changing his size and form at will, dispatching scores of enemies simultaneously with psychic assaults, and single-handily battling Titans. His psychic foresight allowed him to predict and foresee most events. Magnus’ power was such that it was speculated that the Emperor intended to use him to power the Golden Throne, a task that quickly killed even Malcador. Magnus’ own appearance is a byproduct of his psychic power, with Lorgar stating that nobody has ever seen his true form.

Magnus usually relied on his immense psychic power for battle, but was equipped with regular weaponry. He was typically seen wielding a massive Chain Weapon shaped as a Khopesh and a large Bolt Pistol. He wore an ornate suit of Power Armour with many engravings and wardings.

Learn more about the Thousand Sons Legion


“But all things change, my brother. I’m not the same as I was, and you’re… well, let us not mention where you are now.”

– Magnus the Red to a statue of Leman Russ, during the Battle of the Fang

  • SilentPony

    Damn, nice Magnus. Forge World has surprised me with its consistent quality with the Primarchs.

  • Chris Hateley

    The tit-horns are conspicuous in their absence.