40K: Tzeenthian Schemes and Machinations II
After a lingering hiatus filled with swirling Tzeentchean imagery, Kazzigum takes his second step upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change.
So I know I’ve been away for a while – well from writing anyway; I’m never really away from the Endless Net. If I’m honest, it’s been difficult to concentrate for a guy like me. As a True Devotee of Tzeentch, these past two months have almost been too much. Considering the truly awesome Thousands Sons release (both in terms of volume of new models and material, as well as background and overall story), I was amazed to see the glory that is Tzaanuary. The new Disciples of Tzeentch book and its flood of new kits has my head spinning – and I don’t even play Age of Sigmar yet (still working on assembling my Goblin horde). The Tzaangors (on discs even!), the new blues and brimstones, a new Changeling, the mighty new Lord of Change/Fateweaver and even the new Acolytes box – I mean, wow. Just wow. And new Tzeentch dice. Can’t forget those. They are just so awesome. What? Yes, I’ve heard some complain that they are gaudy or just too hard to read, but obviously such talk is coming from the unenlightened or straight-up Nurgle worshipers. Both are worthy of disdain.
All these new kits are just incredible, especially for a Tzeentch guy like me. I mean, when I first heard the stirrings of what was coming, I told myself “Hey, that’s cool. I’ll nab the new daemons, and well whatever, they’ll never really do a new Lord of Change, so I don’t need to worry too much. I don’t play Sigmar, so I can safely skip the Acolytes and the Tzaangor characters. My wallet is safe.” Ha! I’m weak. As soon as I saw the models, I knew I was doomed. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve also been spending the last couple months preparing my Tzeentch Daemons for LVO. During the prep work, I thought I had settled upon my list, but I had a chance to play it at a local tournament – a big one, mind – and during the course of that, I had two revelations. The first was very helpful ahead of LVO – namely I was playing it all wrong and needed to seriously adjust my overall strategy. Great. This helps and honestly lets me play the army more in the way I originally envisioned it. The second revelation was, well, rather less helpful. While unable to sleep for day two of said tournament, I realized I could run another awesome list using the new Pandamonium of Tzeentch detachment from Wrath of Magnus, and so crafted said list. So now I have two lists for LVO and find myself in great need for more blue and brimstone horrors (
which according to my prognostications will drop only days before the big tournament which are totally not dropping on time and so I must embrace my back-up plan and finish painting my Ghostbuster Ghosts for ‘counts as’).
Why yes, I’m totally a blue horror…
Curse you Tzaanuary! I mean … Praise Tzeentch!
I’ll just need to make sure everything else is finished so that I can safely devote the 4-5 days I’ll have to those blues and brimstones alone — will require some Eye of Terror level warp-time manipulations now I’m afraid. Speaking of which, having heaped a great deal of love on my Tzeentch models from Silver Tower lately, I really love these new Tzeentch aesthetics. Man I’m hooked, and Tzeentch already had his hooks into me. I had no chance of resisting these new models, except maybe the new Changeling. The new one looks cool, but so does the old one, and I’m content with that one … right? The whispers say no. They are saying something about painting the new one up in a different color scheme and using him for a different list on the Nine-Fold Path. The whispers have never lied to me before, so they must be right. Then again, this Nine-Fold Path monstrosity I’ve created may be responsible for my inability to resist these new Tzeentch Disciple models despite only intending them for Warhammer 40,000 (40k). I had already wondered what sorts of lists I might create once I came around to the eighth or ninth article in the series that would be different, but then the imagery of the Silver Towers from Wrath of Magnus, coupled with other sources of 40k Tzeentchean background material that I’ve read over the years began to seep into my mind, and I knew. The idea is still coalescing, but I have an idea for a Nine-Fold Path army that is gonna be just awesome. And when it’s assembling on the battlefield, it’ll probably look more at home on a Sigmar battlefield then on a 40k one, but it’ll still be fluffy and true. I love Tzeentch.
Before I get into my second list on the Nine-Fold Path of Change, let me just take a minute to address the elephant in the room – the new Lord of Change. What a gorgeous model. This baby has been a long time coming, and of course Games Workshop (GW) doesn’t disappoint. I’m a bit surprised that the kit makes both the ‘generic’ Lord of Change as well as Fateweaver himself, as the background material (and stat-line) describe Kairos as quite a bit weedier than the standard greater daemon of Tzeentch should be. This bothered me a bit for a while, but I eventually realized I should withhold judgement until I actually see the kit in the flesh. Pictures rarely do these new centerpiece models justice, and perhaps the Kairos build IS a bit more shriveled. Regardless, the Kairos build is stupefyingly better than the old model – which I’ve always disliked, and so remains the only serious Tzeentch model I don’t own. But now, I guess I’ll need to finally craft a Tzeentch Daemons list that actually features the Fateweaver, because THAT model, I gotta own.
And one last thing that really blows my mind. Did anyone else notice who the spokesperson for the new Eldar name change was this past week? That’s right, my main man Ahriman. So calling it now, this new Eldar-focused campaign book — apparently called Gathering Storm: The Fracture of Biel-Tan — that GW is no doubt rolling out in February is gonna be all about how the Eldar need to unite to fight off Ahriman’s latest attack on the Black Library – because Magnus owes him a solid and he’s serious about breaching the webway this time. And all this means that it’s still possible we might see yet more Tzeentch/Thousand Sons models (though perhaps unlikely). Despite my love all things Tzeentch, I find that I almost wish there to be no more new kits. My wallet is hanging by a thread as it is.
The Second Step Upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change
So I know that it weirded some readers out in the first installment of this series when I went on and on about how I was excited for where Chaos Space Marines (CSMs) and the Traitor Legions are at right now, particularly the Thousand Sons, and then presented a list that basically didn’t have any in it. To this I say, relax baby. That was just the first installment and the list I presented there was just the natural upgrade to a list I had previously show-cased. The list I present here DOES feature Thousand Sons, and I love the way it feels.
So for my second step upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change I present to you a fairly basic Thousands Sons army as I would write such a list. In fact, this list is basically an upgraded version of my staple Thousands Sons list that I’ve been running all during 6th and 7th edition. The difference now is, GW has answered my dark prayers and given my dirty Traitors special rules and formations that really make the army feel like the Thousand Sons (and without me needing to resort to ‘counts as’ shenanigans using other Traitor Legion formations/detachments/blah blah blah…). The list features lots of Rubrics, sorcerers and a pair of Maulerfiends (I love me some daemon engines!), but only now, I really get to stack on the sorcery.
Sadly, this Thousands Sons list does not utilize the sexy new Grand Coven detachment, but as I said, this is basically a conversion of my staple Thousand Sons list of old. That list featured no terminators, and certainly not Scarab Occult terminators (since they obviously didn’t exist!). And since the Grand Coven cannot be built without Scarab Occult terminators, this was obviously a problem. Truth be told, I’ve never really been much of a fan of terminators in general (aesthetically wasn’t a fan). It’s only been in recent years, particularly with GW’s releases of the old pattern stuff in plastics, that I’ve begun to warm up to them. Then with the Scarab Occult – sexy, saucy, add a sorcerer and – BAM! I’m in. So don’t worry, their turn is coming further down the path. But for now, I content myself in this list with tons of sorcery, spooky ghost marines and big, daemonic robots.
So, having said that, I present the newest version of my basic Thousands Sons list:
The Thousand Sons – Ish’Trikar’s Host — 1850
Combined Arms Detachment (Thousand Sons detachment) — 1409
Ish’Trikar, Sorcerer Lord of the Raptora, Exalted Sorcerer x 1, 1 additional Mastery lvl, Gift of Mutation, Spell Familiar, Corusacator
Rubric Marines x 10, warpflamer x 1, soulreaper cannon, icon of flame
Rubric Marines x 6, warpflamer x 1, icon of flame, aspiring sorcerer w/melta bombs & warpflame pistol, rhino w/havok launcher, warpflame gargoyles & Death of Kasyr Lutien Legacies of Ruin
Rubric Marines x 6, warpflamer x 1, icon of flame, rhino w/additional combi –bolter & warpflame gargoyles
Tzaangors x 10, auto pistols x 5, twistbray
Maulerfiend, lash tendrils
Maulerfiend, lash tendrils
War Coven Formation [separate Thousand Sons formation] – 440
Khabek Xalte-Ptah, Grand Sorcerer of the Raptora, Sorcerer x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, 2 additional Mastery lvls, VotLW, Spell Familiar
Sorcerer x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, 1 additional Mastery lvl, VotLW
Sorcerer x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, 1 additional Mastery lvl, VotLW
Sorcerer x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, 1 additional Mastery lvl, VotLW
And to push it to 2,000 pts, I will add the following to the CAD:
Tzaangors x 3 & auto pistols x 4 to the Tzaangor unit
Mutilator x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW
Mutilator x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW
At this point, I’m sure many of you are thinking, what makes Thousands Sons any better than they were before? The prevailing thinking, especially on the Endless Net, is that Rubric marines, and their accompanying aspiring sorcerer, are just too expensive for what they do. My favorite line of wisdom in this regards goes something like this “They’re too expensive for a unit that dies just as easily to small arms fire as regular marines.” It may surprise you to know that I generally agree to this line of thinking – to a point. Rubric marines, and indeed almost all the cult marines from the CSM codex are very expensive (especially in regards to what the ‘regular’ Traitor Legion CSMs get now with the new special Traitor Legion rules). But the thing is, just because something is too expensive for what you’re paying for it, that doesn’t mean it is actually bad. Rubrics are also very much better than normal CSMs, even the new and improved Traitor Legions. Sure, to small arms fire they die the same – unless those ‘regular’ marines are trading bolter salvos with the Rubrics themselves, in which case the ‘regular’ marines will be reaped like corn (AP 3 bolters are no joke to the typical marine). In addition, Rubrics are significantly more resilient to heavy, armor-penetrating weapons, as they always rock at least a 4+ invulnerable, and will now likely a 3+ in most circumstances due to the Blessing of Tzeentch. Layer upon this the aspiring sorcerer, who in addition to having a force weapon, wields Tzeentch sorcery – which no longer universally sucks (all three of the new powers are awesome and really act as multipliers for the Thousands Sons way of war – more on this later – though obviously Baleful Devolution, as literally the coolest spell ever, binds it all together), and the Rubric unit, in my eyes at least, is very much worth it. There is also the matter of Rubrics and their sorcerer being allowed to upgrade to the new weapons, all of which are pretty good, particularly the soulreaper cannon (which typically for Rubrics, is expensive).
Nevertheless, I acknowledge that Rubrics and sorcerers are expensive, and so, a Thousand Sons army, by its very nature, is an elite army. This list is no exception, and so the overall army has relatively few models. This is a weakness that I must always remain aware of, and over the years I’ve developed a line of thinking to answer such matters that has served me well. Basically, when fielding a unit that I feel is probably too expensive for what it does on the table-top (but hey, let’s face it, I’m gonna field it anyway because it’s sooo cool), I try to build into the list other units that are probably too good for the points that they have to pay. It’s a weird thing, as I know that most people in my place instead just ignore the ‘over-costed’ units in favor of the ‘under-costed’ ones. Over the years I’ve had success with this philosophy, and for whatever reason it seems to work better than it should on paper. Regardless, as those of you who have been reading my articles know, my goal is never to soul-crushingly curb stomp my opponent, but rather to just compete. To make a good game of it, and if I can do so in the tournament environment, all the better.
So having established that Rubrics are probably a bit too expensive for what they do, how do I compensate in my Thousand Sons list? Fortunately, this is literally a no-brainer, as CSM sorcerers are easily one of the best units in the CSM codex (and thanks to the new Thousand Sons special rules and improved Discipline of Tzeentch powers, the Mark of Tzeentch is no longer a liability) and I’ve crammed a bunch of them into the list. Whereas the Traitor Legions book introduced special rules to significantly improve the basic Traitor marine for basically no cost, the Thousand Sons were instead gifted with the ability to include gobs of sorcerers in all their units via new units and formations. This, coupled with various elements that make invoking our sorcery much easier – in this case the Siphon Magic power, spell familiars and the ability to harness Warp Charge points on a 3+ when invoking Telekinesis powers in my War Coven formation – means that this army should dominate the Psychic phase. And that’s as it should be, as in the background, this is literally what the Thousand Sons are known for.
So the basic plan with this Thousand Sons army is all about magic dominance. Having said that, what exactly is our plan? Well, the idea remains the same as when I originally designed the list in 6th and 7th edition. Run the pair of Maulerfiends straight up the field, preferably at a flank or choke point where they can command lots of attention, but not need to deal with the entirety of the enemy’s forces. In support of the fiends, one unit of Rubrics will follow in the additionally-combi-bolter-armed rhino and so will the Tzaangors. The remaining Rubric units will plod along behind, providing sorcerous support and mopping up opponents that attempt to resist. The havoc launcher armed Rhino will lurk in the backfield, holding onto objectives in my deployment zone, launching attacks of opportunity with its longer reach, and serving as a platform to enhance our infernal magic.
Of course, the linchpin for this whole battle plan is the magic the sorcerers wield in support of it. The main idea is to use sorcery to compensate for the army’s smaller size and to keep the opponent wrong-footed. So just what sort of sorcery to utilize, becomes key. To begin with, I’ll naturally have a great deal of access to the newly improved Tzeentch discipline, which aside from the obvious use of blasting apart the enemy, has two new powers that really dovetail well with the overall strategy of keeping the enemy distracted and at bay while my Rubrics proceed with their implacable advance. The first is the fore-mentioned Baleful Devolution, which aside from being a great spell for blasting enemies with impunity, also has a chance of actually turning them into chaos spawn under my control, which in turn are great for further sowing the seeds of discord amongst my opponent’s ranks. The second power is Treason of Tzeentch, which is a nasty mind-control power that allows me to utilize my opponent’s own non-vehicle troops to do our dirty work for us. When the opponent is beating on his own guys, it’s always a win for me.
But beyond the copious amounts of Tzeentch magic, I really only have a couple routes to pursue. Firstly, in order to utilize the War Coven’s special benefits, all the sorcerers in the formation need to choose the same psychic discipline from the five basic disciplines in the Warhammer 40,000 main rulebook that are listed (and since all but Khabek Xalte-Ptah are only mastery level 2, after rolling for their mandatory Tzeentch power, they only get one roll apiece). I’ve chosen Raptora, or Telekinesis for you unenlightened savages. While I know many feel that Telekinesis is a sub-par psychic discipline, I’ve always rather liked it. Most of the powers are straight-forward, Warp Charge-cheap witchfires, and I’ve had nasty results from both Crush and Shockwave. But more importantly, I love Levitation and especially Objuration Mechanicum (which works wonders on all vehicles, but is all-the-more satisfying when employed against Imperial Knights, since their shields avail them not). Levitation is just nice for redeploying my slow-moving infantry. The only really terrible power in the tree is Telekine Dome (and only because most of the army has a built-in superior invulnerable save), and even this can be used to protect the Tzaangors and Rhinos while still activating the Blessing of Tzeentch special power.
With the Raptora chosen for the War Coven, that leaves only three other psychic rolls between my two Mastery 3 sorcerers. Ish’Trikar, as the lone exalted sorcerer in the army, is naturally the warlord. For his first roll, I will roll on the new CSM Ectomancy discipline. With this roll I’m gunning for either Ghost Storm or Soulswitch, both of which allow me to redeploy my slow infantry in surprising and nasty ways. Failing either of these, the remaining powers are a mix of potent witchfires and blessings that will serve well enough. And with that, that leaves just two rolls left between the two sorcerers (though I’ll be honest in that I intend to purposely roll on the Thousand Sons Warlord table in the hopes of rolling Lord of Forbidden Lore and generating an additional spell, which will likely be from the Heretech discipline to hopefully help augment my daemonic machines). For these last two rolls, both sorcerers will focus on the same discipline – Malefic Daemonology. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’d like to roll Cursed Earth for one of these rolls, but failing that, I’ll stick with Summoning. This last bit is actually very important to the overall army strategy, as I intend to conjure a unit of pink horrors from the very beginning of the battle. While utilizing Malefic powers can be dangerous for CSMs, with the combination of spell familiars and the Death of Kasyr Lutien Legacy of Ruin from Imperial Armour 13 on my backfield rhino to provide rerolls when invoking Malefic powers, I hope to successfully conjure at least one unit of pink horrors using a minimal expenditure of Warp Charge. Of course, this may still result in damage to the sorcerers and/or even the rhino, but I really only need successfully do it once or twice at the beginning of the battle, and then can be done with it.
And this Summoning of pink horrors is the last real key to making this army step up to the next level. Summoned aggressively in the enemy’s face, the horrors can run amuck, distracting, psychically blasting (the Change discipline really is quite devastating in this regard) and splitting into even more annoying units of lesser horrors that all do the same thing – all while further augmenting the overall psychic potential of the army thanks to being a brotherhood of psykers themselves. Pink horrors really are nasty, and if you’re interested in just what kinds of shenanigans they are truly cable of, I recommend you read my previous article Oh the Horror. Oh, I know, I know. I can hear you all now. “If you have to turn to daemons to really make the army work, Thousand Sons still just aren’t any good. Why do CSMs need to always ally with someone else to make them compete, even the new Traitor Legions?” Well, you know what I say to that? I say that if this is your attitude, then you really don’t understand CSMs or the Traitor Legions at all. I’ve been playing CSMs since 1988, and let me let you in on a little secret. The Traitor Legions have long-since given up their purity of purpose. They traffic with, enslave and otherwise bind the scum of the galaxy to their cause – from pirates, aliens and mutants, to full-on daemons. And they always have. The background is rife with such alliances. In fact, it’s only those posers, the three supposed unaligned Traitor Legions (and you know who you are), who claim to not traffic with daemons. I firmly believe that these Traitor Legions protest too much, and that they are the ultimate sources of these wild theories that CSMs should be able to stand on their own like their loyalist former brothers. Pshhh.
No, I feel no remorse. The Thousand Sons, like all the Traitor Legions, use daemons as instruments of war. They are tools to be bound, utilized when necessary and then cast aside when their usefulness is done. Wrath of Magnus is replete with Tzeentch daemons fighting alongside the Thousand Sons invaders, and from the way they are presented in that campaign’s rules book, it is obvious that GW means for us true devotees of the Ruinous Powers to utilize them exactly as I’m doing here. Perhaps were I intending to summon some other Chaos God’s minions rather than Tzeentch’s, I’d feel otherwise, but I’m not. So judge me if you must. I’m good with it.
Praise Tzeentch and All is Dust!
So what do you think? Am I a hypocrite? Perhaps just a heretic? And are you ready yet to follow me upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change?