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40K: Grey Knights in the Tourney Circuit

6 Minute Read
Jun 14 2011
Last week I attended a NOVA style tournament in Australia with my new Grey Knights called Event Horizon. I finished in the top 8 based on win/loss, 5th in battle and 11th overall (half-painted army, what do you expect!?) and was able to get some games in quick succession with my Grey Knights.

This post is going to look at some of my, Kirby’s, thoughts on how the Grey Knights faired. My Battle Reports can be seen on 3++ is the new black with Game 1, Game 2, Game 3Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6 having been posted. Normally before a tournament I take my list and practice a lot against different opponents within the mission parameters to make sure I’m comfortable with the army in multiple situations and am less likely to run into scenarios I haven’t encountered before. Unfortunately this time around though, I didn’t have this luxury as I only had a month to assemble and paint my army. And I paint slowly. Add in a lot of stuff happened in my life during that month period and I was lucky to get three colors on my army, let alone practice games in.

One of my half-painted Purifier with sculpted flames on Halberd.
I did have my play-testing games when I was testing the codex and this list in particular but I was ultimately going into the tournament inexperienced with the army so it was a great learning process. I’ll look at how the list plays briefly first and then look at strengths and weaknesses uncovered during the weekend. Here was the list used:

Kirby’s Dastardly List
Librarian with Shrouding, Quicksilver, Might of Titan, Sanctuary
Inquisitor with 3x Servo-Skulls
Henchmen unit with 3x Multi-melta Servitors, Chimera
2x5x Purifiers w/2x Psycannon, Psyback
2x10x GKSS w/2x Psycannon, MC Hammer, Psybolt Ammo, Rhino
2x5x GKSS w/psycannon, Psyabck (1 with searchlight)
2x Psyfledread

The list is a Grey Knight mech list with a fair amount of tanks (7+ 2 Dreads) and MEQ bodies (44 infantry). An important aspect of Grey Knight mech is it plays very differently from many other Marine tank armies as Grey Knights fight very effectively outside of their transports. This is due to their Storm Bolters and therefore being effective 24” away from your opponent. In this regard, Grey Knight mech plays a lot like a Hybrid army and your opponent has to actively deal with Grey Knights on foot shooting him and whatever your tanks are doing. This is covered in detail here.

Marines out of tanks! Oh my!
The key to running this army successfully is to maximise your usage of that 24” range. In the game that I lost to Footdar (I know right? Game 4 btw) I played way too aggressively and didn’t maximise my usage of this range advantage. This pulled the opponent onto level footing with me in terms of being able to do damage and in the end scraped a victory by ~100 VP. This 24”range of course has its issues against armies which have a lot of weapons greater than 24” (hi Imperial Guard; oh which I played four of!). This is where the Psybacks (Heavy Bolter Razorbacks with Psybolt Ammo) and Psyfledreads (2x TL-autocannons Dreadnoughts with Psybolt Ammo) come in as they add the mobility to bring the Psycannons into range of the opponent and also add good strength shots at 36” and 48” respectively.


What this all equates to is a game of ranges, very much more so than other armies. The vast majority of your army wants to be at 24” from their primary target (no Grey Knights still aren’t good in combat) with the extra fire support attempting to suppress or kill anything further away (i.e. Long Fangs, Razorbacks, Hydras, Chimeras, etc.). For the most part throughout this tournament I was able to use this mix of ranges and multiple threats to my opponent (6 squads disembarked + Chimera/unit inside + 4 Pysbacks + 2 Psyfledreads) across multiple ranges to overwhelm my opponent’s guns. This was an obvious strength of the list and something that Grey Knights will always be good at: shooting. 

With the mix of ranges you’re able to overcome the limitation of the 24″ against armies which outrange you which often modifies their gameplan to bring them into range of your guns (i.e. Chimeras moving forward). Against other armies you’ve got more effective firepower early game and don’t have a huge road block within a particular section of the field.

24″ range is important! As are blurry photos…
This mix of firepower was also beneficial in your basic Grey Knight squads due to the Psycannons being effective anti-infantry and anti-tank. This means when firing your Storm Bolters at infantry you are not ‘wasting’ high powered anti-tank shots. This of course does have its opportunity costs in terms of being able to effectively deal with both tanks and infantry.

Like any Marine based list, the list is pretty durable. With T4/3+/Ld9 statlines across the board and AV11 transports based on the 5th edition vehicle damage chart, the army is quite capable of having a few bad turns (or good opponent turns) and being able to turn the game around. Nothing new here but important to note.

And finally we have psychic powers. The unfortunate fact is, against lists without psychic defense these are just part of the army and it makes it click so well. Your vehicles are rarely suppressed and the Librarian improves the defense and offense of the whole list (though I never needed to use the Quickening + Might combo on the large squads). Powers like Hammerhand and Cleansing Flame help shore up the weaknesses of the list in combat as well. Unfortunately, against an army such as Eldar or Tyranids who have psychic defenses which not only stop powers from being cast, but increase the chances of perils and the army can find it much harder to operate. 


There is one huge glaring weakness here though: inability to reliably deal with AV14 and in turn, no AP1. Sure you say, you’ve got 10 psycannons and statistics says even on the move, those should generate 2.222 rends (4.444 stationary). Life doesn’t work that way unfortunately and due to the extra die you need to roll to penetrate AV14, psycannons (like assault cannons before them) are unreliable at damaging AV14. I played against four armies with AV14 tanks (all the IG ones) and not once was I able to kill one of them with shooting (I got 3 out of the 6 in combat). 

This leads to the next major weakness of the army: close combat. We’ve talked about it on this blog before but it really is a limitation. Whilst the whole army is armed with Force Weapons, you’re still based on a tactical Marine statline with 1A and WS4 whilst being more expensive. Against units which a Tactical Marine beats in combat, you’ll do well and against some other units (such as Tacticals), you’ll do okay but you won’t be sweeping them off their feet quickly. Against a dedicated combat unit? Shooting it is often the best bet.

GKSS suck in combat. Luckily the game ended :P.
Concluding Thoughts

So a lot of rambling there but ultimately I’m quite happy with the way the army played. I’m going to make some changes to my list such as dropping the Librarian and looking for a counter-assault unit (Death Cult Assassins please) and probably run another henchmen squad (either 2x Inquisitors or Coteaz to get two Troops henchmen) for multiple and more mobile melta. Whilst the Librarian was great and worth his weight in gold in some games, other times he was restrictive in how I ran my force as I felt I needed to clump around him. The lack of active psychic defenses will be annoying but with Reinforced Aegis, I think I can survive without it. 

In terms of army power the codex is happy go chappy with all the other 5th edition books (excluding Nids who got the shaft). I’m not into the whole tier concept and metagame because balanced lists can and do exist but the codex is balanced well both internally and compared to the other current 5th edition books. Some of their mech seems really cheap (Psyfledreads compared to normal Rifledreads) but this is often made up in the extra expense one pays for your basic Grey Knight. 

And with that I leave you with this amazing picture from the guy who co-won best army.

The floor is yours everybody.  What’s your final take on the Grey Knights? 

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