Let’s talk about how to fix the worst army in the game.
Grey Knights are sadly the worst Codex in the game right now. They are an army that has lost its unique place as the most elite fighting force of the Imperium, and its focus in the fluff — despite, or maybe due to, having one of the first 8th Edition codexes the army has never found a place in the competitive meta. Changes to psychic powers have undermined the list and generally left it lacking. Today I’m rolling up my sleeves and talk about how we might work to fix it.
The Problem With Grey Knights: Table Performance
Grey Knights have a couple of issues, both on the tabletop and in the fluff. First, let’s tackle some of their tabletop issues. The predominant issue with Grey Knights boils down to the fact that they are an elite army in an edition that doesn’t favor elite armies. 8th Edition is a deadly edition, and Grey Knights pay top dollar to be an elite force. At the end of the day, however, the average Grey Knight is no harder to kill than any other Space Marine. The lack of survivability is already an issue for the cheaper Space Marines, for Grey Knights it… literally… kills them.
On top of that, a lot of Grey Knight units lack the offensive power needed to be relevant today. While they have good close combat weapons, the average Grey Knight is still setting at a single attack, which makes their units very vulnerable in combat. Their shooting is a bit better. That’s supposed to be a strong point, yet in this day and age stormbolters are a decent but not amazing weapon. Some of the Grey Knight heavy weapons are decent, but they are also costly and lack good options to deal with heavy armor.
Lastly, the army is supposed to be an army of Pyskers. However, they just aren’t very good at that. Their special rules nerfed their ability to smite heavily. While they still have some ability to smite stuff, it’s just not the best and they are outshined in every way by their Chaos counterparts – the Thousand Sons.
The Problem With Grey Knights: Someone Does It Better
Another major issue Grey Knights have is that in general, for whatever they do, someone else does it better, which is not a good place to be for an elite army. When it comes to close combat ability, and tanky-ness Adeptus Custodes have them beat hands down. They usurped the Grey Knight place as the Elite army. When it comes to elite shooting and rapid deployment, Death Watch does it better. The Xenos hunting counterpart to the Grey Knights is simply a better elite shooting army. Grey Knights still have their powers, but as I said, it just isn’t all that great.
The Problem With Grey Knights: Too Focused
The last issue with Grey Knights is something that’s plagued them since their very first Codex. The army is supposed to be hyper-focused at fighting only a single type of enemy: Daemons. While they should be super good at fighting this foe, they shouldn’t necessarily be better at fighting other foes, nor should they (in fluff) often end up fighting non-daemons. The problem is that an army that’s only good when facing one other specific army isn’t really good overall, nor is a fun matchup for the targeted army when they fight the army meant to crush them. GW has struggled with this balance a lot. Currently, Grey Knights get some minor buffs when fighting daemons, but the majority of their games simply won’t feature that foe.
The Problem With Grey Knights: Fluff
Lastly, the Grey Knights have a bit of a Fluff issue. Frankly, based on their fluff, they really shouldn’t even be an army. The Grey Knights are arguably the smallest force in the game to get a Codex with less than 1000 of them active in the Galaxy. Even the super rare Custodian Guard have ten times their numbers. Grey Knights should realistically only ever be deployed in small squad-sized strike forces. Full 40K sized Grey Knight armies would be reserved for extreme Daemonic incursion battles like the 1st Armageddon War. Also, the warp centric events of the Great Rift seem like they should place the Grey Knights in the limelight, yet that hasn’t happened either
Fixing Grey Knights: Fluff
So the first thing I would do, and this would provide a reason behind most of the other changes, is to update the fluff a bit. Vigilus Ablaze introduced an interesting concept to the game that the mysterious substance known as Blackstone can either negate or amplify warp and psychic powers. I would have Cawl come to Titan with a new armory of Blackstone powered weapons meant to amp up the natural ability of the Grey Knights. With their equipment upgraded, and with the possible addition of Primaris Marines, The Warriors of Titan would set out on a new quest: extinguish half of all life in the universe!
Oh whoops, sorry, wrong people from Titan. No, the Grey Knights new quest would be to the close the Great Rift by building new Blackstone Pylons on key worlds to beat back the warp and maybe eventually close the galactic scar. Think of these Pylons as the Imperial counterparts of the Noctilith Crown. Grey Knight forces would be tasked to go to crucial worlds and take them from whoever might be holding them, thus giving them a reason to fight non-daemons, and building new pylons (or Aqulias or whatever). Rearmed and revitalized, the Grey Knights would have a new lease of life.
So I’d do a few things to jazz up Grey Knights on the table top. First, off give them an extra attack across the board. These could be at least as good as regular Marine Veteran. With their new Blackstone weapons, you could give them some extra abilities. I’d look at making basically all of their weapons ignore invulnerable saves. This would be a unique ability for an army in the game and give them tools to fight both Deamons and other top factions.
I’d also bring back an old rule, The Shrouding. The Shrouding was an old Grey Knight ability that shielded them from ranged fire. This should be an ability that all Infantry and Dreadnoughts get in an all Grey Knight Detachment and would say: During the Shooting phase enemy models can only shoot this unit if it is the closest visible target. This would make fighting Grey Knights are a very difficult task at range, as you would be very limited on what units you could target. Grey Knight’s would be a power addition to soup lists, but even in full armies of their own, they’d be able to control what units got hit, and keep their pricey fragile units alive.
I think if you made those changes and added in maybe some extra psychic ability and a few weapons and units you’d have a powerful force. They’d be an army that could ignore invulnerable saves and had decent shooting and close combat. Moreover, they’d be a tough army, but with their resilience based on careful player positioning rather than raw power. With these changes, you’d get a more powerful army that also played in a unique way, and that had a solid role and goal in the fluff ripe with storytelling potential.
Let Us Know How You Would Fix Grey Knights.