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40K Tactics: Malefic and Sanctic Daemonology

19 Minute Read
Jun 12 2014
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Time to master Warhammer 40,000’s newest psychic disciplines – whether you serve Chaos, or abhor it!

Hello there everyone, my name is Learn2Eel from Imperator Guides and today I wanted to bring you the final analysis of Psychic Disciplines in 7th Edition with Malefic and Sanctic Daemonology. The art of summoning and banishing Daemons through usage of the maligned Warp powers is one that has made its return to Warhammer 40,000 gameplay in a big way and I think most players are thankful for it. While game-balance concerns are certainly justified, I do feel the narrative potential of a psyker sacrificing their soul to the Chaos Gods for aid is awesome and gives the game a lot of extra flavour that I feel is a continuation of the “cinematic” 6th Edition. I hope you enjoy this article!
A note that this is Part Three of the “Psychic Disciplines” article series.


Malefic Daemonology

While my initial impressions – and that of almost everyone, admittedly – of this discipline was that it would break the competitive meta, fully understanding how the Psychic Phase and other disciplines function has given me a new perspective on it. Summoning extra re-enforcements is obviously an incredible asset to have as it gives you a points advantage over your opponent, but that does come at a cost and it usually means investing heavily into psykers or losing those you have very quickly. Perils of the Warp generally isn’t that bad as it mostly revolves around Leadership tests but that it occurs on any double rolled when using Malefic Daemonology – unless you have the Daemon special rule – means you are pretty likely to start losing wounds or even losing the psyker outright. That the powers themselves can kill your models if you either successfully or unsuccessfully manifest them without Perils in the mix does make it very risky to use, especially since you need anywhere between five and seven dice to reliably cast a warp charge three power.

Still, I won’t lie about just how powerful this discipline is; Scorched Earth alone is a tremendous Blessing for Daemon armies while any of the Conjuration powers are usually well worth the risks. I think though that summoning some extra Chaos Daemon units in a game won’t always make a huge difference against the nastiest gun-line armies if only because most Daemon units are quite fragile. Still, free extra units? Yes please! This is a discipline that can become absolutely game-breaking if you invest several hundred points worth of psykers into it but otherwise is just a strong but I feel still relatively fair discipline. To combat Malefic Daemonology and Chaos Daemons in particular, I am eager to see how and when Grey Knights are redone; we already know that Sanctic Daemonology is their new go-to lore, but how will their Nemesis Force Weapons and equipment such as the Aegis function?

PrimarisSummoning
Warp Charge Cost : Three
Range : 12″
Type : Conjuration
Effect : A unit from Codex: Chaos Daemons of either ten Bloodletters, ten Pink Horrors, ten Plaguebearers, ten Daemonettes, five Flesh Hounds, three Flamers, three Nurglings or five Seekers is created.

As a Primaris power that can either be taken without the need of a dice roll by a Psyker or is generated automatically if the Psyker gets all their powers from Malefic Daemonology (excluding Chaos Psykers with a mark), Summoning is one heck of a powerful tool to have. As a power, this is obviously quite strong at first glance; all of these units are strong in their own ways (in a 6th Edition context) and that the power can be used to create one from a wide range of units give the controlling player a huge amount of variety. Do you need to get a light infantry squad out of cover? Summon some Flamers of Tzeentch and roast them. Do you need a durable scoring unit for a last turn, game-winning objective grab? Plaguebearers are here to answer your needs. Alternatively, do you want to tear apart a squad of Space Marines in furious close combat? If Bloodletters aren’t your thing, then Daemonettes or Seekers will certainly help out.

In contrast to my first published thoughts on Malefic Daemonology, we know everything about just how Conjuration, Perils in the Warp and summoning Chaos Daemon units with particular regards to the Warp Storm Table functions now. These units must Deep Strike onto the battlefield and thus gives all the Conjuration powers in the discipline natural synergy with Cursed Earth, and this also means these units cannot subsequently move or charge. Pink Horrors are capable of generating a psychic power when they are summoned and can freely take a power from Malefic Daemonology in addition the Primaris of the Change discipline. Perils in the Warp also isn’t much to worry about unless your psyker has a low Leadership value which will generally apply mostly to Astra Militarum or Chaos Daemon psykers outside of the Tzeentch variety (or so it seems). This will definitely prove to be the bread and butter “daemon factory” psychic power even if only to summon more Pink Horrors, but its uses otherwise are still fantastic; gaining a points advantage over an opponent cannot be under-estimated. I will say though that I feel the melee units here are less valuable than say Pink Horrors or Flamers because they will still need to wait a turn at minimum before they can launch an assault and are all quite fragile, but units such as Plaguebearers which are very tough or Seekers that are ridiculously swift will have their uses.

FirstCursed Earth
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : Psyker
Type : Blessing
Effect : All models with the Daemon special rule within 12″ of the psyker add a +1 bonus to their invulnerable save, and do not scatter when arriving by Deep Strike as long as the first model is placed within range.

This is a power that considering its Warp Charge cost and range is what I would consider absurd. Yes, the Warp Charge cost is low and thus opponents only need one “six” to stop it, but that the power has such a low “price” means that duplicates of it will be rather intimidating. Oh, and don’t forget Deny the Witch bonuses still don’t affect Blessings meaning that to stop this power will require six dice if you want super reliability! If you are actually using a Codex: Chaos Daemons detachment, this is one of the best powers you could ever hope for. Combine it with the Grimoire to give any unit you want a 2+ invulnerable save, stop Flamers of Tzeentch and Bloodletters from scattering out of position, or just make up for a bad roll on the Warp Storm Table. A Greater Daemon, Daemon Prince or Soul Grinder with a 4+ invulnerable save is crazy, just as a large fifteen-plus unit of Daemons will cruel your opponents’ shooting by laughing off effectively half the wounds inflicted upon them. Summoning any kind of Daemon using the Malefic discipline and then casting Cursed Earth will give you what amounts to free and very durable units. Casting Cursed Earth before using the Conjuration type powers is a given if you have the power for the Deep Strike scatter removal alone, but the defensive boost it provides will help even fragile melee units such as Bloodletters survive to perform their stated role. Heck, psychic death-stars of all kinds that used Forewarning and are now reliant on it going off once because you can’t cast the same power twice from the same unit could see Cursed Earth become incredibly popular as a “backup” power.

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SecondDark Flame
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : Template, Torrent
Type : Witchfire, Assault 1
Effect : This is an attack using the range listed with a profile of Strength 4, AP 5 and the Soul Blaze special rule.  

My first thought on this psychic power was that it actually compares rather well to the Primaris of Pyromancy, Flame Breath, which uses a Strength 5 AP4 template with Soul Blaze. Trading a pip in both Strength and AP to gain Torrent is an exchange that is much more favourable to Dark Flames. Guaranteeing far more hits with the ability to accurately position the template as well as gaining an extra 12″ in total range cancels out the raw damage stat difference as I’ve noted in my comparisons between the Astra Militarum Hellhound and Bane Wolf, and the same is definitely true here. This power really doesn’t compare to Cursed Earth in terms of overall application with the defensive boosts it provides to both purchased and summoned Daemons, but it is still a nice little power to have for clearing out light infantry from 20″ away.

ThirdInfernal Gaze
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : 18″
Type : Beam, Assault 1
Effect : This is an attack using the range listed with a profile of Strength 3, AP4 and both the Armourbane and Fleshbane special rules.

As with Dark Flame, this is yet another decent if a bit uninspiring psychic shooting attack (excuse the 5th Edition terminology) that doesn’t roll to hit in a traditional manner. As middling as the raw stats might be, the inclusion of both Armourbane and Fleshbane sees that this power is decent against non vehicle units at least. Remembering that the average roll of 2D6 is seven, this will on average land a glancing hit against an AV10 facing which really isn’t that great seeing as it can only inflict one hit at maximum on a single vehicle outside of squadrons. Always wounding on a 2+ with AP4 is tasty but the way beams work means you likely won’t be getting too many hits with this power. Like Dark Flame, I see it as a nice little extra to give your psyker some added damage output at range, though I would favour the other powers if your warp charge pool is limited.

FourthSacrifice
Warp Charge Cost : One  
Range : 6″
Type : Conjuration
Effect : A unit from Codex: Chaos Daemons of either one Herald of Khorne, one Herald of Tzeentch, one Herald of Nurgle or one Herald of Slaanesh is created with up to 30 points worth of options. If the power is successfully manifested, either the psyker or a friendly model within 6″ suffers one wound with no saves allowed.

As much as the risks of Daemonology (Malefic in particular) have been heavily touted, most of the powers are pretty lenient and Sacrifice is surprisingly no different. A Warp Charge one cost significantly reduces the risks of Perils despite the attached risks associated with using Daemonology, though causing an automatic wound on a single model does stop it from completely outclassing the Witchfire powers. Still, this is so much better than the witchfire powers and it is so painfully obvious too. A Herald of Khorne can slay most characters in a challenge with ease, while a Herald of Tzeentch can potentially pull some shenanigans with Divination or even Daemonology when called forth. That you have to pay a “wound tax” to summon the Herald does leave me a bit iffy on it in comparison to the basic Summoning power, though giving the Herald up to thirty points worth of upgrades normally available to them is really useful. Conjuring a “free” Herald with the Grimoire to give your Warp Talons or Obliterators a 3+ invulnerable save on the fly sounds nifty, as does getting a miniature challenge monster in the form of a Herald of Slaanesh with the Eternal Blade. I think the ability to give summoned Heralds 30 points of upgrades is what makes this power worthwhile as it can give you some amazing items like the Portalglyph or even a Mastery Level 2 Herald of Tzeentch that brings Flickering Fire and lots more Malefic powers to your arsenal.

FifthIncursion
Warp Charge Cost : Three
Range : 12″
Type : Conjuration
Effect : A unit from Codex: Chaos Daemons of either three Bloodcrushers, three Screamers, three Plague Drones or three Fiends is created.

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With a warp charge cost equal to that of the Primaris power which does not require a random roll to access, it stands to reason that Incursion will be compared against Summoning. In that sense, are ten Bloodletters or five Flesh Hounds superior to three Bloodcrushers for Khorne Daemons? Would you generally prefer three Screamers to either ten Pink Horrors or three Flamers and so on? Generally speaking this really depends on the situation at hand and often lacks in clear answers. Three Bloodcrushers are slightly less durable against Strength 7 or lower (or no Instant Death) shooting than five Flesh Hounds yet have superior damage output, while ten Pink Horrors bring ranged attacks where as Screamers are a purely assault unit. You are still getting a strong unit that is effectively “free” for use in game, and weighing up where each unit will be more effective won’t always be easy. As it stands, this is another great power that pales to Summoning only because of the latter’s status as the Primaris Power and its greater utility in regards to number of units to draw from.

SixthPossession
Warp Charge Cost : Three
Range : 6″
Type : Conjuration
Effect : A unit from Codex: Chaos Daemons of either one Bloodthirster, one Lord of Change, one Great Unclean One or one Keeper of Secrets is created. If the power is successfully manifested, the psyker (or psykers, in the case of a Brotherhood of Psykers) is removed from play. If the psyker fails to manifest the psychic power, the psyker suffers Perils of the Warp.

Outside of Invisibility from the Telepathy psychic discipline at the very least, Possession is possibly one of the strongest psychic powers in the game right now. Summoning a roughly 100-160 point unit with Summoning or Incursion is of course nothing to sniff at and each of those units can prove very useful in a given situation, but nothing really compares to conjuring a 200-250 point Greater Daemon that requires little support. A Lord of Change as stock is a Mastery Level two psyker with one of the best profiles in the game, while a Bloodthirster in the new rules (challenge wounds spill over to the unit) is going to be downright terrifying. The buffs given to flying monstrous creatures for the most part see those two already crazy strong units made even more so now, and the fact you can summon them at the cost of a psyker as cheap as a 110 point Psychic Mastery Level three Sorcerer (for example) is simply ridiculous. Of course, the Bloodthirster did see a bit of a reduction in usefulness with the inability to declare a charge on the same turn it switches between flying modes, but if you Summon it near an opponents’ lines then that probably won’t be an issue anyway!

This is all not even considering how much a unit as slow as a Great Unclean One or as fragile as a Keeper of Secrets gets from being summoned on a psyker that could potentially be moving into the enemy deployment zone on turn two with a jetbike or fast skimmer transport. Arguably though that isn’t even the best aspect of the power. Say your Greater Daemon, Daemon Prince, Mephiston or other super-powered model is clinging to life with one or two wounds remaining; what do you do? Possess them with yet another intensely destructive Greater Daemon!  If you roll this power up you should never swap it out – the excuse of “purity” is invalid if you are rolling on the Malefic Daemonology discipline, after all! I shudder to think what Drop Podding a psyker into your opponents deployment zone on turn one and proceeding to summon a Greater Daemon could do to your opponents morale, particularly if it is a Keeper of Secrets that gets lucky and proceeds to cast Invisibility on itself!

Sanctic Daemonology

The second form of Daemonology is one that has so far flew under the radar somewhat with the ability to summon daemons of course being the more coveted set of powers, rightly or wrongly. As our early thoughts indicated, Sanctic Daemonology is essentially the new Grey Knight psychic discipline that – per the FAQs – completely replaces their old codex powers. There are still some of the previous powers such as Hammerhand, Sanctuary and Cleansing Flame while retired classics from other rulebook disciplines (and codices) have found their way here with Gate of Infinity and Vortex of Doom. We may see Sanctic Daemonology taken commonly just for beating Malefic Daemonology summoning lists because the Primaris power – especially when pretty much every Grey Knight unit has it – is a really good counter for them.

To say I really like this new discipline would be an under-statement as I feel this is definitely going to give Grey Knights in particular a lot of unique ways to handle the increasing threat of Daemons. The powers here are all very useful for tackling or protecting against Daemons but where Malefic Daemonology is “universal” in the sense that summoning extra units will always be helpful, some of these powers are specifically suited to taking on Daemons and have no effects against non-daemonic foes. This is why I think that Sanctic Daemonology probably won’t be as popular as Malefic Daemonology as while it obviously lacks the sheer spectacle of being able to summon Daemons, a few of the powers themselves also aren’t as generally applicable against armies outside of Chaos Daemons. However, there really is a lot to like here and I think Grey Knight players will appreciate some of these powers even if losing favourites like Dark Excommunication is painful.

PrimarisBanishment
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : 24″
Type : Malediction
Effect : The target unit reduces its invulnerable save by one if it has the Daemon special rule, cumulative with all other modifiers to their invulnerable save.

A timely edit has saved my false opinion and facts about this psychic power from spreading too far, thanks to our comments section (big thank you!). I mistakenly quoted this power as Warp Charge Three when it is actually Warp Charge One – I checked the psychic cards first and not the rulebook, failing to notice the FAQ for psychic cards on the Black Library website. Anyway, as a Warp Charge One power Banishment is a perfectly good tool for dealing with Daemons and isn’t a poor imitation of other abilities like Cursed Earth or Sanctuary. It is limited in the sense that it only affects Daemons and no other kinds of units full stop, but considering how common such units are going to become with Malefic Daemonology I think having this Primaris per Psychic Focus or actually taking it will still prove worthwhile.

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FirstGate of Infinity
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : Psyker
Type : Blessing
Effect : The Psyker and any attached unit are removed from the table and immediately re-enter the battlefield via the rules for Deep Strike reserves. A note that Zooming or Swooping units cannot be the targets for Gate of Infinity.

I think this power needs no introduction as it has existed in some form for as long as I can remember (5th Edition) most notably as one of a few powers most Space Marine psykers could channel. Being able to redeploy a unit anywhere on the battlefield through a Deep Strike “move” is always a great tool to have as its uses are almost limitless. You have the classic objective grab on the last turn, repositioning away from an assault unit, flanking a vehicle with exposed side armour, plonking a death star unit in your opponents’ lines and so on. With a low warp charge cost and the innate risks attached with Deep Strike, this is a good but not over-powered ability that can be very risky if you go for a close drop within 7″ or so of another unit. With Maelstrom of War missions and Tactical Objectives, the value of Gate of Infinity may have leaped forward yet again as it did in 6th Edition with the capture and hold focus it had. Being able to zip around the board to capture critical points or attack certain targets to fulfill the conditions of the Tactical Objective cards can be game-winning and centred all around just one psyker, but be aware that most opponents will catch on to this very quickly.

SecondHammerhand
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : Psyker
Type : Blessing
Effect : The Psyker and any attached unit increase their Strength value by two.

Grey Knight players all know it and love it; this is the bread and butter psychic power of the Ordo Malleus’ Chamber Militant and one that makes even their basic units monster hunters. In the codex, this merely increased the units’ Strength by +1 but would stack with the casting of Might of Titan for another +1 Strength bonus. Now, both powers have been combined into a single power with half the warp charge cost for the exact same total benefits; basically, this power is absolutely amazing. Giving +2 Strength to a Psyker and their unit is all kinds of crazy for one warp charge point and can turn the “Space Marine killers” in lowly Howling Banshees to terrifying monster hunters or – as before – Purifiers and Paladins into walking avatars of death. This is a fantastic psychic power for Grey Knights in particular considering almost all their units natively know it but also for other armies with decent or nasty melee units.

ThirdSanctuary
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : Psyker
Type : Blessing
Effect : The psyker and any attached unit increase their invulnerable save by one or gain a 6+ invulnerable save if they don’t have one. All units with the Daemon special rule within 12″ of the psyker treat all terrain as dangerous terrain.

Sanctuary is amazing! Increasing a psyker and their units’ invulnerable save by one is really strong for reasons I have already detailed with Cursed Earth, but this is possibly even more so because it applies to non-daemonic units rather than just Daemons. For Grey Knights as an example, casting Sanctuary gives even your basic Strike Squads armed with Nemesis Force Swords a 5+ invulnerable save in close combat and a 6+ invulnerable save against shooting. Terminators and characters with storm shields adore this power as a 2+ invulnerable save provided by a single warp charge point is just ludicrous. The extra anti-daemon effect is nice but nothing ground-breaking, but as Daemons do lack good saves and rely on having army-wide invulnerable saves this does stand a good chance of picking off a few models. By the by, that every single Grey Knight vehicle (though the FAQ says “Land Raiders” we can assume it includes the Crusader and Redeemer as well) has this psychic power in addition to Banishment is a little bit ridiculous when you can combine it with Forewarning to give a Land Raider variant or Stormraven Gunship a 3+ invulnerable save!

FourthPurge Soul
Warp Charge Cost : One
Range : 24″
Type : Focussed Witchfire
Effect : The Psyker and the target model each roll a D6 and add their respective Leadership values; if the Psykers’ total result is greater than or equal to the target models’ total models result, that model suffers an automatic wound with no armour or cover saves allowed.

This is a nifty little Focussed Witchfire power that I feel works really well as a Warp Charge one power if only because there’s a good chance you can get lucky with two dice giving you two successes to meet the “choose a model” requirements. I like this power for trying to deal with those characters models with mediocre Leadership values such as Ministorum Priests that are pivotal to large, expensive units. The guaranteed wound if you score equal to over your opponents’ Leadership outside of applicable invulnerable saves or Feel No Pain rolls is nice, though it could be argued that Pyromancy’s Spontaneous Combustion is more useful for its explosive after-effects despite being limited by its Strength and AP. For trying to snipe out pesky character or special weapon holders, it is a pretty decent power and works very well when combined with Banishment against the near mandatory bearer of the Grimoire of True Names.

FifthCleansing Flame
Warp Charge Cost : Two
Range : 9″
Type : Nova, Assault 2D6
Effect : All enemy units in range suffer 2D6 Strength 5 AP4 hits with the Ignores Cover and Soul Blaze special rules.

It probably comes as no surprise that Cleansing Flame has been changed dramatically from its previous incarnation which allowed the otherwise near worthless Castellan Crowe to inflict a 4+ Rending wound on all models in a combat. The bane of hordes everywhere previously, Cleansing Flame has been normalized with 7th (6th) Edition psychic powers to an ability that has more applications but cannot be used in combat anymore. Inflicting 2D6 Strength 5 AP4 hits that ignore cover saves on all units within an 18″ diameter of your psyker is pretty darn powerful and will wipe out entire chunks of light to medium infantry units at a time. Pair this up with the massed Deep Striking capabilities of Grey Knights in particular and this power is pretty decent for its warp charge cost, though it does suffer from the usual Nova power stigma. The range is limited and thus requires some form of Deep Strike capability on the psyker while the hits aren’t likely to do too much to vehicles and your typical Toughness 6, 3+ armoured monstrous creatures. Still, I dread to think what a Fire Warrior based Tau list built around Supporting Fire and Ethereal bubbles will turn into when a psyker deep strikes in the middle and uses Cleansing Flame to eviscerate at least a third of the infantry. I’m assuming charred remains, but the thought of a fishman exploding like a cherry is delicious! This is a good power again for your assault units or a deep striking psyker, but otherwise the usual Nova limitations apply and it is decent but not really terrible or great.

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SixthVortex of Doom
Warp Charge Cost : Three
Range : 12″
Type : Witchfire, Assault 1
Effect : This is an attack using the range listed employing a small blast marker with a profile of Strength: Destroyer, AP1 and the Vortex special rule.

I guess you can sum up the general reaction to this tweaked psychic power perfectly with the words “what the?”. Vortex of Doom marks its reappearance from Telekinesis at the head of the Sanctic Daemonology discipline with a jaw-dropping increase in its destructive potential. A Strength 10 AP1 small blast is nasty enough, sure, but it was constrained by the limited number of models it could hit in addition to its lack of Ignores Cover. As a Destroyer weapon, you now have a weapon that can potentially inflict 6+D6 wounds on any model on a six while also removing D3 hull points plus the chart roll for a penetrating hit on any dice roll above a one. Being able to remove D3 wounds on a 2+ automatically – barring cover and invulnerable saves – is really strong and gives the Vortex a potent anti monstrous creature effect while it retains its effectiveness against Toughness 5 and lower multiple wound models with Destroyer weapons being treated as Strength 10 for Instant Death purposes.

Of course, a small blast still hits very few models and the warp charge cost for such a power is incredibly high, but that is before one considers what the Vortex rule does. Wounds are allocated as for Barrage weapons which provides really nasty sniping potential to the power, but the main effect is that the marker remains in play even after the shot has been resolved and is treated as impassable terrain. At the start of each following player turn – yes, both players (or sides)! – the vortex scatters 2D6 inches in a random direction and causes further Destroyer hits on models it touches after it finishes moving. The vortex is only stopped when a double is rolled for the scatter dice; what this all means is that the Vortex of Doom will still be destructive even after the fact and will move at least once before your opponent can react and potentially cause even more hits. Even if the Vortex fails to hit enemy models, having a small blast marker as impassable terrain can serve to block off an open route through terrain and slow your opponents’ advance down or force dangerous terrain tests on their transports. I think this power definitely justifies its warp charge cost if only for how terrifying it can be for an opponent to see their six wound Tervigon sucked into the warp in one phase!

And that’s all folks! I hope you found this article entertaining or useful to your endeavours as a general in the ever-evolving battlefields of the 41st millennium. Both sides of the coin that is Daemonology are very valuable with Malefic probably being the more accessible in terms of applications to players, though the Sanctic powers are still incredibly strong albeit with a more focussed nature. I am a big fan of these two psychic disciplines and I am pleased to see that the vast majority of armies – Tyranids aside – can use these powers to both summon and destroy Daemons in equal measure. It seems that 7th Edition has ushered in a new era of terror and corruption with the introduction of Daemonology to the core rules, and I for one am most excited to see what further changes Games Workshop brings to their biggest game. If you have any ideas or thoughts on the two sides of Daemonology, please leave a comment below.

We appreciate any and all feedback and discussion!

“Those tainted souls that deal with the malefic entities of the Warp are as twisted as the beings they summon. There is no place in the Emperor’s eyes for Daemons and their consorts. Brothers, take no mercy on any being you find in that hellish city; these traitors are no more humans than the foul creatures of chaos.”

Grey Knight Justicar, Siege of Dethos

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