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40K: Custodes Psychic Awakening Rules are Golden

10 Minute Read
Jul 7 2020

Psychic Awakening comes to a close, and The 10,000 Go To War!

Hello everyone! My name is Darren. I’m from CanHammer, I run the Custodes Collective Discord, and I’m a Custodes Super Fan! I’m very excited to write this article for my friends at Art of War, and so over-the-moon excited by our new book. This article will feature an overview of the Custodes section of War of the Spider. This book has plugged some critical gaps in the Custodes faction.

This article focuses on how this book will play in 9th Edition, which is just weeks away. With very few events happening, many people unable to play games, and with the focus of our book being on stratagems and requiring the changes to CP generation that 9th will bring, I think it only makes sense to look forward to the new Edition. With upcoming changes to detachments, this article will focus on playing a pure Custodes army and not include any imperial soup elements, assassins, or inquisitors.

Since the original codex was released, Custodes has been the most elite army in 40k. With army sizes rarely reaching more than 20 models, Custodes was designed around units being very tough and hitting hard. Certainly, in the lore, Custodes are supposedly the toughest warriors in the galaxy, equivalent to many Space Marines put together. While the army could hold its own at first, with the increasing lethality of 40k towards the end of 8th Edition, this was no longer the case. Some of the Forgeworld releases helped fill some gaps. Still, they were “adjusted” later and were little consolation to those either unable to get or afford Forgeworld or who played mission formats where Forgeworld was not allowed.

The Golden Challenge

Heading into this long-awaited update, some of the main problems a Custodes army faced included:

  • Lack of toughness for an army with so few models (2+ save ain’t what it used to be with everyone having easy access to mass AP1/2 shooting)
  • Lack of shooting power (the halcyon summer of the triple Caladius list was soon put to rest, and the Telemon got tripled “adjusted”)
  • Falling behind in the race for fight phase lethality (Ragnar, nuff said)
  • Making it into combat in the first place (an almost exclusively footslogging combat-based army with no way other than a 3CP stratagem of getting into combat reliably)
  • No protection against psychic armies (especially against Grey Knights, Thousand Sons, Eldar, a 6+ save against mortals in the psychic phase only goes so far)
  • Lack of Command Points (we have some of the best stratagems in the game, but requires a battalion tax of 500+ points for base amounts of CP).

Well, I am happy to say that the combination of War of the Spider and the impending release of 9th Edition has addressed most of these problems! Without going through every new rule and stratagem, let’s look at some of the big winners.

Shield Hosts

The introduction of Shield Hosts has provided some much-needed buffs to many aspects of the army and gave some identity and different ways to play other than storm shield spam hide-hammer. While there are no specific doctrine-like, army-wide rules in this update (boo), there are some real gems here:

Shadowkeepers Stratagem: Grim Responsibility (1CP)

  • This stratagem makes attacks against one of your units have -1 strength. While this is not quite as good as -1 to wound (which arguably it should have been), it’s still a useful defensive buff.

Solar Watch Warlord Trait: Sally Forth

  • Units within 6″ of the warlord have +1″ movement, and can shoot rapid fire weapons after advancing (with -1 to hit). This improves not only the mobility of footslogging units, but also allows more shooting output for very little penalty. Combo this with the Superior Fire Patterns stratagem (see below) for some real good shooting and mobility.

Emissaries Imperatus Stratagem: Emperor’s Hand (1CP)

  • Unit shooting or fighting gets to ignore all modifiers for the phase for those attacks. This includes modifiers to hit, wound, save (like cover), and AP modifiers. This just makes everything more efficient. There are plenty of these modifiers all over the game, and with new terrain rules introducing cover into combat as well, this is quite a good stratagem.

Dread Host Warlord Trait: All Seeing Annihilator

  • Units within 6″ of the Warlord get exploding 6s in combat. This is amazing. We have a high volume of attacks, and combined with +1 attack Vexilla Banner, this should increase our melee output significantly.

Dread Host Stratagem: Golden Light of the Moiraides (1/2CP)

  • Here it is, more reliable charges. For just 1 CP for a unit, or 2 CP for three units that just deepstruck in, they can charge on 3d6 dropping the lowest. Combined with an increased number of reroll charge abilities and CP rerolls in the book, it’s much more reliable now for units to get into combat where they can do some real damage. Used with the homer stratagem, you are almost guaranteed big hammer units getting to where they need to be.

Captain Commander

While the Shield Captain on Bike has had some success in various forms, and remains a fairly reliable HQ choice for most Custodes lists, basic Shield Captains have been hit or miss. With the new Captain Commander Traits, you now have a fantastic variety of buffs you can give any Shield Captain! Some of the better ones include:

  • Slayer of the Unclean – double damage on melee weapon! This is still just on unmodified 6 to wound, so with only 5 attacks, it’s not going to be a big deal most of the time, but man, will it feel good to do some 2d3 damage occasionally (or 6 damage with the 3-damage axe relic!).
  • Strategic Mastermind – regenerate a CP on a 5+ per CP spent. I think this may end up being the one used the most, simply because most of our new-found power and toughness is stratagem based, and we will be burning through CP very quickly.
  • Indomitable Constitution – add 2 wounds. These guys were already fairly hard to kill at T5 or 6, with 2+ save and often 3+ invuln and already at 7 wounds, but this just brings them up to Guilliman levels with 9 wounds. How many times has a biker captain with one wound left given your opponent nightmares at the end of the game? Now imagine he had three wounds left!
  • Unstoppable Destroyer – can now pile-in and consolidate d3+3″, and can basically do this in any direction. Wow. This is a subtle but potent ability that has so many uses. Definitely one to consider. Being able to move freely in and out of combat opens up a whole world of combat shenanigans.


These Strats are Golden

And finally, we come to the meat of our new powers, the gifts from the Emperor Himself, our new stratagems. And boy, are there some good ones here. Let’s pick out some of the highlights.

  • Eternal Penitent (1CP) – give a dreadnought +1 attack and reroll charges. Along with the new buffs to vehicles allowing them to move and shoot without penalty, and the new Dread Host 3d6 charge stratagem, add a reroll charge onto that will now see our Dreadnoughts kicking some butt! Watch as your Telemon drops down, charges 3d6 with a reroll, has 5 attacks (6 with double fist, 7 with attack banner) doing 4 damage each, all while double shooting the Spiculus Launcher and other guns into combat at the same time. Demolish!
  • Arcane Genetic Alchemy (2CP) – this is just Transhuman Physiology for us. It is slightly less useful since we have higher toughness, but still very welcome against higher strength high damage weapons. Also, it works on our bikers who did not get any specific love in the book. You will be using this a lot.
  • Fortress of Willpower (1CP) – allows a unit targeted by psychic power to stop it on a 4+ (3+ if you are a Warden unit). Along with our Warlord Trait to deny powers, our 6+ save against psychic mortals, our stratagem that lets us deny powers, and our new-found Sisters of Silence allies (and they have a 3+ deny stratagem), this is a welcome addition to our psychic defenses.
  • Blood Games Veterans (1/2P) – this allows our units to auto hit and wound on 6s. Auto-hitting we already kind of do, but auto-wounding is clutch, especially against T7-8 models that we traditionally have struggled against. And now, with more attacks and shots, this will definitely trigger more often.
  • Superior Fire Patterns (1CP) – as previewed, double the number of shots for rapid fire and pistol weapons. Wow. Forty-eight heavy bolter shots from a unit of Aquilon Terminators; 7 Allarus Terminators shooting 28 2-damage bolter shots that can snipe characters for 2CP, Venatari putting out 24 strength 6/AP2/2D shots at 18″. This stratagem is amazing and ramps up our shooting output. Combined with the Solar Watch Warlord Trait, and auto-wounding, we definitely see some increased firepower.
  • Auramite and Adamantium (1CP) – Terminators treat Ap1/2 as AP0 for the whole phase. This is my favorite stratagem. When you spend 500 points on a unit, you want it to survive, and all the high-volume, low-AP firepower is where it truly hurts. This basically negates so much firepower in the game right now, turning it into AP0 saves on 2+ armor. This stratagem is so so SO good. Too bad it’s not a rule instead of a stratagem.
  • Emperor’s Auspice (2CP) – choose one of your units, and your opponent cannot reroll anything against them that phase. This is the first mechanic of this type I believe in the game, turning off rerolls like this. And wow is it good. No reroll number of shots, hits, wounds, or damage rolls. It Negates buff auras from characters that so many armies rely on, as well as those traditional bugbears like Doom and Guide. Combine this with Auramite and Adamantium, and we are talking some of the toughest units around.

Oh, and we still got Tanglefoot!

The Verdict

There is much to be thankful for with this book. The Emperor truly protects, and we may actually start to see Custodes being true to their lore of being the toughest guys in the galaxy. There is a fantastic balance of offensive and defensive buffs in this book that will enable the army to be harder to kill, kill more, and still remain thematically elite. We are going to need A LOT of CP, so while 9th Edition definitely helps us out, you won’t be able to indiscriminately spam stratagems every turn. A smaller table size and more dense infantry friendly terrain will also help.

Here is a sample list rolling around in my head for 9th Edition. I think playing our new book in 8th would be very difficult since we have limited CP. It is quite difficult right now to write a definitive list, especially since we do not know how many CP the specialist detachments will cost. But just roughly, writing a list to utilize many of the new rules and stratagems and play to our strengths, you would likely look to try some of these units.


Adeptus Custodes Army List (Patrol + Vanguard; depending on vanguard cost, potential to just run two patrols at the expense of likely 1 CP? And an extra unit of guardians)

Patrol detachment of Emissaries Imperatus

  • Shield Captain (probably on bike, but foot/Allarus works too) – give him 3+ invuln relic of your choice + CP regen Commander trait)
  • 4-5 Custodian Guardians – all storm shields/swords – for midfield holding and actions, can be quite sturdy with the Emissaries stratagem.

Vanguard detachment of Dread Host

  • Trajann Valoris (still need his Moment Shackle for CP regen probably, and beatstick)
  • Vexilla – either -1 to hit or +1 attack as you like, could give him 3D axe relic for funsies, along with extra Warlord Trait from Dread Host
  • 6-7 Allarus Terminators – with all the new defensive and offensive buffs, and their pre-existing utility in terms of sniping characters, denying overwatch, movement shenanigans, and ability to split up, they are possibly the most versatile unit we have.
  • 4-5 Aquilon Terminators – putting out the shooting hurt, and with strength 10 fists and new +1 wound stratagem against tougher targets, they’ll be doing the Emperor’s work on anything in the game (could sub this unit for 5-6 Venatari for a more mobile, surgical unit that also puts out crazy shooting with double shots, but does not hit as hard in combat).
  • THE TELEMON (aka Big Bertha) – boy oh boy, the Telemon is back. A miniature Knight in toughness, with -1 to hit from the Vexilla as well, now also with half damage stratagem (likely will be FAQd but still good). Now shooting without penalty with Storm Cannon, shooting double shot Spiculus Launcher and 2d3 plasma flamers into combat, and punching 5-7 times with strength 16 damage 4 fists? What’s not to love. Did I mention he can reroll a 3d6 charge from deepstrike?
  • Sisters of Silence unit – I include a single unit of bolter sisters for holding objectives, doing actions, and providing access to their stratagems, mostly for psychic defense. For only 50pts, it’s quite a bargain, and with the ability to target psykers and possibly turning their bolters into assault 3 shots, this little cheap unit is very flexible.

So that’s it!  

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