40K: The Custodes Achilles Heel

The Adeptus Custodes have a massive weakness – will the new Codex help them with their Achilles Heel?

When folks talk about the Adeptus Custodes on the tabletop one of the first things people bring up is “how do you deal with a Horde?” That’s a valid question because that is the biggest weakness of their army. It’s just a pure math problem: The Adeptus Custodes cannot currently generate enough firepower to kill an army with a massive amount of bodies to deal with. Can you imagine them taking on the Unlimited Poxwalker Horde? I don’t think they would win – but it might be fun to try!

The Custodes are known for their small, elite numbers, even smaller and more elite than the Grey Knights. The lack of numbers, coupled with the lack of HQs and other options, has really hampered them in 8th edition. But, with a new Codex on the horizon, we’re hopeful that problem will remedy itself.

Understanding The Problem

For folks to really understand how bad of a problem this is let’s take a look at this from a pure numbers perspective. To do that, we need to know the basic statline of a Custodian.

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s just assume that they are all rocking the Guardian Spears. And let’s assume they are taking a full squad of 10.

Shooting: 10x 24″ Rapid Fire 1, Strength 4, AP -1, 2 damage shots.

Close Combat: 34x(edit: Math) 31x Strength 6, AP -3, D3 damage melee attacks.

Now, they are hitting on +2/+3 for the most part, so they are really accurate. (We also know that the new codex will make their BS 2+ which will help). But currently in terms of shooting – that’s not terribly impressive. Even at 12″, that’s still as many shots as a Tactical Squad. The AP is better, but when was the last time a squad of 30 Ork boys were really that worried about bolters?

As for Close Combat, that’s a lot of attacks at a good strength and AP – plus D3 damage is no joke. But the damage doesn’t spill over anyways – so yeah, they will kill a lot of stuff…if they can get to close combat. Again, that squad of 30 boys should be worried about them getting into combat because that’s going to be a lot of dead Orks. But this is a horde – there will be more.

Always More Boyz!

Okay – but that’s just Ork Boyz. What if we swapped those out with, say, Pox Walkers. Now we’re dealing with a horde that has a +5 “Feel No Pain” save. Sure, you’re doing D3 damage, but not all of those are going to go through now. What if we start stacking buffs on them, too? Is Typhus around? Now you’re wounding on 3+ instead of 2…Maybe toss a Miasma of Pestilence on them for the -1 to be hit, too. My point is these guys are deceptively susceptible to modifiers to their to-hit and to-wound rolls BECAUSE they don’t have a bucket load of attacks to start.

One bad roll is all it takes for the game to go south for them.

The smaller your army is, the more the dice are going to impact you negatively. You lack redundancy and you lack staying power. Each loss of a model becomes a bigger and bigger problem. We know that the new codex will have some ways to help with this – the bonus to the Invulnerable save and the new Aegis save vs damage in the Psychic Phase will help. But it’s still just a numbers game and the numbers are stacked against the Custodes.

It’s A Lack of Efficiency

I’m going to do something I tend to avoid which is to talk actual points. A unit of 10 Custodian Guard with just Guardian Spears is 520 points. Let that sink in for a moment. 520 POINTS – for ONE unit. Can you take a smaller unit? Sure – a unit of 5 (which is the current minimum – but not for long) is still 260 points! For the amount of fire power they are generating (both shooting and melee) are they worth 520 points? What if you could get a 10 man squad for the price of the 5 man squad? Would that be worth the fire power in points?

“But they are tough! They have a 2+ save, a 5+ Invulnerable, Tough 5 with 3 wounds!” Absolutely! They are extremely durable – but it would only take a couple of tanks or other heavy (read: anti-vehicle) weapons to vaporize the squad. And of course those are going to shoot at them because they have NOTHING ELSE to shoot at! A round of bad rolls and *poof* that’s 520 points down the tube. That’s not counting the buckets of dice a horde army can also dump on them. You’re going to fail saves – that’s just math. And don’t get me started about how Objective Secured totally hozes the Custodes.

Not if I use my Special Dice – “Stop it, you dirty cheater”


That Was Then, This Is Now

From the previews we’ve seen, the new codex is going to help them deal with the Hordes a bit better. We know about the saves. We know they are getting some HQ options that are going to really help. We know Jetbikes are also on the way, too.

Okay – these are RAD.

The question I have is “will it be enough?” That I don’t know. For the points cost, the Guardian Spears need to have more shots. From a pure numbers side of things, they need to be able to have spill over attacks/damage if they want to compete with a real horde army.

But how will GW balance them vs a non-horde army? If they make them too good at dealing with hordes, that means they should steam-roll non-hordes. But if they don’t do something to help them deal with a horde, then folks will simply move on to the next thing.

Custodes – Forever the Ally, never the “Main Army”


What do you think? Will the Codex help with hordes? How would you re-balance the Custodes to better deal with the current state of 40k?

  • Badtucker

    word on the street is the unique rule they have as an army (mentioned in the character tactica) is the ability to double their attacks in cc ( at a base stat most likely).

    • Rajah1897

      Whoa. Where was this at?

      • Badtucker

        floating around some trusted folk on the web

        • euansmith

          Top people?

          • Badtucker

            “We have top men working on it now.” “…Who?”
            “…Top… men.”

    • Munn

      I thought their unique army rule was getting +1 to their invul save.

      • Badtucker

        Might be a stratagem

  • orionburn III

    Sooo…you’re saying a small, elite force may have some difficulty in dealing with hordes? Who would have guessed!

    Maybe we should let the codex actually come out and have some folks get a few games in before we start jumping to conclusions or worrying that one crappy horde list is going to render an army useless.

    • ZeeLobby

      Right? Lot of custode-spam today.

      • orionburn III

        I mean I get that it’s a subject worth discussing, but maybe for when the book actually comes out and we see how they do. The worrying about one or two crappy lists that they may have to face and acting like the army is going to be junk because of it gets old. Give the pretty boys a chance.

        • ZeeLobby

          Yeah. Just seems quota filling. Take leaked/copied book. Show snippets across 8 articles, add 6 more articles of speculation, etc.

    • marxlives

      Just take a vehicle with a large AOE and drop it on the horde…

      • LankTank

        And that is why I still think we should get +1 modifiers for blast weapons when shooting at units with 10 or more models

    • Ulrik

      But…but…you have to be alarmist and demand solution from GW even before we know the rules!

  • Porti89

    word on the street is the unique rule they have as an army (mentioned in the character tactica) is the ability to double their attacks in cc ( at a base stat most likely).

  • CG

    Shouldn’t a unit of 10 be 31 CC attacks not 34?

    9×3 + 1×4

  • Bootneck

    The majority of the gaming circuits I play in there are very few hoard armies, with the general consensus is no one can be bothered painting, playing and moving trash armies.

    The other thing you find is at tourneys here is when you have a limited game time and playing a hoard can be a disadvantage, added set-up, movement combat times etc

    In fact I can’t remember the last time I played against one, maybe Orks but even then they didn’t bring many boyz.

    • euansmith

      Don’t people use movement trays to speed up deploying and moving hordes?

      • Valourousheart

        Movement trays? Don’t be silly. What I tell new players to do is glue all of their Boyz or Gaunts together with string, so that when they move one, the rest follow and keep squad coherency.

        And as a bonus when the holidays come around, they can use their models as a garland for the Christmas Tree.

        • euansmith

          😀 😀 😀

  • Munn

    So what’s with people copying comments here lately? they can’t gain anything from it can they?

    • Jose Luis Camarasa

      word on the street is the unique rule they have as an army (mentioned in the character tactica) is the ability to double their attacks in cc ( at a base stat most likely)

    • euansmith

      It seems to be some weird Echo thing. I’ve only seen it on BoLS, so maybe it is the Machine Spirit trying to communicate with us?

    • MarcoT

      Word on the street is they’re trolls

    • Mathew G. Smith

      Disqus bots copy people at random so their comment history is more varied. Then some people thought it was funny and now they’re doing it too.

  • What’s going on with the “+2” or “+3” or “+5” instead of 2+, 3+, 5+?

    • Bootneck

      2+ armour save, 5+ invul standard.

      Then they can be equiped with S/S for 2+/3++

      If they a sole custard army I believe there basic invul gets improved by +1 to a max of 3++.

      Depending on configuration they will commonly be :-


      • Bootneck

        That’s also not to mention the terminators who were the heavier prototype of the Cataphracti variant and also the jet bikes – will they be T6?

        • Sothas

          The 30k bikes are T6, so yeah, probably.

      • I think you missed what I meant. He is constantly writing “+3” instead of “3+”. And I have no idea why. It’s not even the first article like that.

        • Bootneck

          Lack of coffee? Maybe he’s been playing D&D lately ><

          • euansmith

            When he starts quoting THAC0, you know it is too much D&D.

      • Josh Felstead

        Congratulations, you’ve missed the point entirely.

        • euansmith

          It’s those pesky To Hit mods!

    • BClement

      Does it matter? This is just semantics and has literally nothing to do with the point of the article.

      I just wish the author would pick one and stick with it. At least be consistent.

      • It just annoys and slightly confuses me.

  • Drpx

    What if we gave them a spell or gun that used a large blast temp-OH WAIT!

  • Ravingbantha

    The problem comes down to how an army like this should win, a small strike force of Custodes are not meant to wipe out an ork horde or a swarm of poxwalkers. They are there to strike at the heart or perform a very specific task. Hopefully there will be some good rules in their book in regards to obtaining VP or some other way to ensure a win. Any elite force, that gets stuck in a protracted battle against overwhelming numbers, is eventually going to find itself dead. They are there to get in, do the job and get out.

    • Wa Bell

      U think the Emperor found that out the hard way under the Palace.

    • Sothas

      In 30k the army deals with hordes via high AP and reliable damage. It’s still incredibly small, but it’s also probably the 3rd best army (After knights and solar auxilia). I play a mechanized 2500 of Custards in 30k and haven’t lost a game yet.

  • quaade

    Hypothetical weakness article based on the current statline. Everything might be invalidated when the codex comes out, noone knows.
    Make comments then.

  • Marcus Clark

    I just realised those ‘jet bikes’ look like Judge Dreads bike from Stallone movie.

    • euansmith

      Indeed, I’m thinking those bikes will come in handy for Arbite players. 😀

  • euansmith

    How about if all their weapons cause wounds to spill over, like mortal wounds, but not ignoring saves?

  • bad mood

    Wait, so does that mean unlimited poxwalker horde is still a viable list and did not get nerfed/invalidated by rule clarification? If so, I cry a mad laugh for triple crushing conscripts (especially send in the next wave) and leaving that rule hole wide open in the meantime.

    • Karru

      They didn’t change the Tide of Traitors either, so doesn’t surprise me that Chaos wasn’t getting those nerfs.

  • MarcoT

    Where’s the actual math?
    Let’s look at 5 men vs 30 slugga orks, in total isolation. Custodians get the advantages here (within 12″ and charge).

    Shoot spears, 5×2=10 shots. 2+/4+ gives 4 dead orks. Then combat, 4×3+4=16 attacks. 2+/3+ gives us 9 dead orks for 13 total.
    13 hit back, 12×3+4=40 attack. 3+/5+ followed by a 2+ save gives us 1 wound. No dead custodians.
    Orks fail leadership badly, killing another few. Where did that horde go?

    Or turn it around. 30 orks get the advantage now.

    Shoot sluggas, 30 shots. 5+/5+ followed by a 2+ save gives us no wounds. Then combat, 29×3+4=91 attack. 3+/5+ followed by a 2+ save gives us 3 wounds. 1 dead custodian.
    Custodians hit back, 3×3+4=13 attacks. 2+/3+ gives us 7 dead orks. Next round the custodians likely don’t lose another man yet the orks lose the same, getting worse from there.

    Granted, the custodians cost 100+ points more, and fights are never in isolation, but they are properly winning here. So what’s the problem with hordes again? Seems to me this is going to be a highly annoying army to play against if your opponent refuses to roll 1’s for his saves.

    • briandavion

      well for one thing, if you tie up that custodes unit for 3 turns..

      • MarcoT

        3 players turns are just 1,5 game turns.

        • briandavion

          whoops right I thought you meant 3 game turns

  • Ulrik

    So, elite force with low number of models wont be all-rounder? Im…not shocked. Yes, Custodes may be vulnerable against waves of bodies…but…and this is very bold thought…they still can be fun to play, just not for tournament WAAC enviroment…

    So yes, let “I must buy the new meta conquering army before FAQ weakens it” move on the next thing. And the rest of people liking the idea of such force will still have fun without “oh my gosh, GW made them weak…oh no, now they are OP! Nerf, nerf!” cycle.

    Funnily, I discovered that even armies not winning tournaments are fun to play. Well…especially those…

    And for the rest…maybe…juuuust maybe…its better to wait for the Codex itself before writing “sky may be falling!” articles…;)

  • AntonisLak

    Golden banana spam arghghgh

  • John John Slade

    I heard from Japanese anime fan from Tokyo that they are really jealous of these Adeptus Custodes. Just because badass jetbikes! So they’re decide to send Ultraman for……. ‘fight’ them.

  • pokemastercube .

    they also have said the FW units are comming too so that is tanks and the guys who carry the large guns

  • SacTownBrian

    This is primarily a tournament issue. Are you a hard core tournament player. If yes then avoid, if not then who cares?

  • Borja Saiz Bustamante

    So… those poster boys are 3 wound Termies at T5. 520 points for 10 man sized unit.

    How much plasma can I pour into… for the same points…?

    You know what? I do not care at all. Killing power rarely gives you the game, or being invincible. Please Mr. Custodes, eat these 30 gaunts on synapsis, your anti horde sucker. Every army can do something like that. Two turns of movement, two turns doing nothing usefull. Then game ends.


  • Frostasche

    “My point is these guys are deceptively susceptible to modifiers to their to-hit and to-wound rolls”

    No they are not, just do the math. A -1 to hit for a unit that has a bs of 2+ means the damage is reduced by 20%, for a bs of 4+ it means 33% reduction to damage, for 5+ (most damaged tanks) it means half the damage output. They belong to the units that are at least influenced by modifiers to their hit and wound rolls.

  • Muninwing

    … then you play them like you play an elite army.

    you choose the engagements.
    you use terrain to your advantage
    you hide behind sight blocking terrain
    you fall back when needed to control pacing
    you use distractions and sacrifices to keep them coming to where you want them
    you deploy properly

    there are things you can do with a small elite force that you cannot with another army. and while i won’t pretend that hordes are not a weakness, there are strategies to dealing with them. that’s been the way for many editions.

  • EnTyme

    So apparently the army used in the WHTV bat-rep is going to have 19
    models. Assuming at least some of those are transports, I’m assuming
    only one, maybe two detachments, so like 7 command points tops? I really don’t see this as being a competitive army.

  • ellobouk

    Unless I recall differently, they did say they would give the custodes polearms something to deal with hordes. Hopefully something to allow damage from the spears to carry over, or let them break their attacks down like Morty can

  • dante13

    I can’t be the only one that thinks the custodes look abysmal honestly they look terrible to me.. A gimmick army with too much gold..

    Who the hell would go to war in gold armor… Are you trying to blind them to death stormcast eternal style?