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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Armies in 5th: Psychic Powers: Grey Knights

Yay Armies in 5th is back! Grey Knights are one of the premier psychic armies in the fluff and they now have the powers and playability to back it up. For the most part, the across the board psychic powers aren't super scary. They are certainly annoying, effective and useful for the Grey Knights payer, but this is factored into the codex design. As for the psychic powers you only get on characters, well they are a different story and there are some very good ones. All in all most Grey Knight armies will have a lot of psychic powers to use every game (including mass force weapons) and whilst psychic defense isn't mandatory, it's going to really annoy Grey Knight players.

As a Grey Knight player it's important to remember a couple of things. Psychic defenses which make perils more likely (i.e. Runes of Warding) are really bad for your tanks and squads. You don't want to be damaging your own tanks for your opponent (it's only a glance you say but I'm sure the Razorback enjoyed having its turret blown off) and losing your squad leader can often hurt the overall leadership of the unit (I.e. Grey Knights Strike/Interceptor Squads). Whilst characters are more likely to cast through this because they have excess wounds and invuls, it's the loss of leadership and damage to your own tanks you need to be careful of. Even in a normal game you're going to likely suffer perils at some point. It is quite likely you'll cast 20+ powers in a game depending upon your build. You have been warned!

We'll start with the army wide powers first. Whilst not all of these powers are available on all units, they are pretty readily accessible.

Fortitude - 

This is a vehicle based psychic power and thanks to Psychic Pilot, always cast at Ld10. What Fortitude does is allow a vehicle to ignore Crew Stunned and Shaken results. This obviously helps make the Grey Knight army very hard to suppress in terms of both shooting and moving and what often wants to be suppressed (back field shooting) will generally be out of range of psychic defenses. Even Rhinos greatly enjoy the use of this power as passengers can still utilise the top hatch most effectively. For an extra five points per vehicle, this is an excellent power. Importantly this power is cast during your turn after your opponent has done all his shooting. Even with psychic defense your opponent has to consider their suppression hasn't worked and rather focus fire to ensure vehicles don't move or shoot because they are dead (or weapon destroyed/immobed).

In short: fortitude is the anti-thesis to suppression fire.

Hammerhand -

A lot of old Daemonhunter players are complaining about the lack of S6 nemesis force weapons. Whilst S6 in combat was awesome I'd rather have mass force weapons in my army thanks. S4 power weapons however aren't that scary, even if they are at I6 thanks to Halbreds. Hammerhand helps here. Whilst it doesn't boost Grey Knights to the vaunted WS5/S6 of the Daemonhunters codex, WS4/S5 force weapons are still pretty good. What's important is this bonus is applied before you double your strength for Daemon Hammers as well. Yes, those babies are now S10.

Something very important to remember about hammerhand though is if you use it, you cannot use your force weapon ability (or any other squad based abilities you might have). However, attached characters can cast it and have the whole unit benefit whilst the unit can still use another power or their force weapons. The same can be said in reverse. Think very carefully before you pick which power you want to use then as there are certain situations in which one is better than the other.

Dark Excommunication -

Nothing fancy here. Another kick in the face to Chaos Daemon armies as they lose gifts but hey, it's not like they were good before right?

Psychic Communion -

This is perhaps one of my most favorite powers of all time. All. Time. Psychic communion gives Grey Knight players significant ability to control their reserves, particularly as the modifications can be made after the dice have been rolled. You can therefore take advantage of a good roll or minimise the damage of a bad roll. On an average roll you can go either way and the major implication here is it stacks. No FAQ needed. It says so explicitly.

As a simple utility spell this is amazing. You can reserve deny your army to take advantage of the mission or minimise the damage your opponent can do whilst ensuring you don't come on in waves (one of the biggest disadvantages of reserving). You can also try and build an army around this but eh, not so flash. Importantly though you can run a couple of units as delayed reserves to pick up objectives in your backline whilst your main army pushes forward. The same principle can be used to ensure offensive deep-strikers come in when they are needed by either delaying them or bringing them forward. Either way the ability to manipulate your reserves as you see fit is very powerful.

This power is found only in the HQ section but a lot of units can take it including Grand Masters, Inquisitors, Brother Captains and quite a few special characters. Unfortunately the caster of this power needs to be on the table for the army to benefit. This makes it difficult to create a reserve based army and can be risky to reserve deny your army for more than a single turn.

Let's now take a look at the more character specific, i.e. Librarian, powers and we'll follow that up with psychic powers only really seen on one or two units.

Shrouding -

Remember the Stealth Pants thoughts when the latest BRB FAQ was released? Well now we've got a Stealth Marquee. Shrouding provides all units within 6" of the caster with the Stealth special rule (6+ cover in the open or +1 to cover save). With the standard cover save being 4+ this brings it down to a very impressive 3+; storm shields for everyone against shooting! This makes Grey Knights in midfield even more daunting to remove and can be combined with Purifiers and Sanctuary to get both good shooting and assault defenses in place. What's particularly good about Shrouding is it affects vehicles as well. By using smoke/terrain and mech training, Shrouding can provide a lot of 3+ cover saves on vehicles. Combined with Fortitude this makes vehicles very resistant to lasting damage.

Sanctuary -

Coatez and the Librarian have access to this power which is an excellent defensive spell. Essentially sanctuary is a 12" area of dangerous terrain for units attempting to make assaults (that 12" means even cavalry and beasts are getting hit). This can make assaulting a bit more unreliable (snake eyes! curses) and cause damage to any incoming units. Importantly, armies without assault grenades will find themselves always at I1 against an army which can effectively use sanctuary *kicks Tyranids in the face again.*

A particularly nasty combination for sanctuary is with Purifiers and Cleansing flame. Because Cleansing flame happens before attacks are made, the combination of dangerous terrain and cleansing flame can cause a lot of damage to units before they even get to attack. Add in Purifiers generally being pretty good in assault with a bunch of I6 force weapons, and assaulting the front line of a Grey Knight army can be a daunting prospect.

Smite -

See Space Marine Psychic Power review. It's the same. Still not worth it.

Might of Titan - 

In editions past Librarians were beastly combat monsters thanks to powers like this. However, these powers generally focused on them and that didn't change with the transition from 4th to 5th. Librarians did though and they don't have the statline or defenses to be so beastly anymore. Matt Ward figured this out and this spell provides +1 Strength and an additional D6 vehicle penetration to a whole unit. No longer is the Librarian attacking at high strength values but the whole squad is.

Importantly Might also stacks with Hammerhand so your basic Grey Knight has got his S6 back! A bunch of S6 attacks are very useful in dropping tanks and particularly help against Dreadnoughts in combat (which is a more likely scenario than usual due to a general lack of melta in the army). Also being able to reliably wound other MEQs and high T creatures if highly important. Since the Librarian is also capable of casting both of these powers, the unit itself is free to use their Force Weapons which is very likely to help against the high Toughness units.

Quicksilver -

A similar power to above, this is a unit buffing power but rather than focusing on hitting power, Quicksilver improves a unit's speed (initiative). No this doesn't mean your Hammers are now I10 but rather a squad can ensure they get their hits in and attempt to reduce damage by limiting the number of attacks available to their opponent. Particularly 'weak' combat units such as normal Grey Knights can take advantage of this as they are unlikely to be equipped with Halbreds due to their 1A base.

This can be combined with Grey Knight Terminators to ensure they have a 4++ in combat. Halberds are generally a better combat choice because I6 force weapons are pretty scary but a 4++ in combat is very nice to have as well. By using Quicksilver on a GKT unit, the Libby is able to forego the opportunity cost in picking between a Halberd and the normal Force Sword. Unfortunately this can only be done for one unit (unless you take two Librarians) and isn't always going to succeed (whilst Halbreds are always I6).

Summoning -

This power is very different to Gate of Infinity from Space Marines. Rather than moving the Librarian's unit, Summoning allows other units to be moved to the Librarian's location. A teleport homer/location beacon is needed though to ensure silly mishaps don't send units to their doom. What's great about this power is you can be very aggressive with a squad(s) and pull them back to safety as needed (assuming they aren't locked in combat). At the same time you can also use this power to pull Troops onto objectives or even pull slower units up to where the Librarian is (i.e. Libby in Stormraven). Summoning essentially adds another dimension to your movement phase. Take maximum advantage of this.

This can also be used on vehicles with the upgrade Warp Stablisation field but they count as having moved flat out. No warping in vehicles for side shots! That being said, being able to warp Land Raiders across the field or un-do outflank failures (this also works on infantry) combined with teleporters can put a lot of pressure on your opponent very quickly.

Vortex of Doom -

Another copy/paste from the Space Marine codex. Since Grey Knight Librarians come with Terminator Armor standard, Vortex can always be cast and can be combined with Servo Skulls for minimal scatter. At the same time the power is still limited by ranged and when it perils, can have a nasty effect on your models (and no 3++ storm shields to save you!).

Warp Rift -

Just in case there weren't enough 'remove from play' spells going around, Warp Rift is another one. Rift is an initiative removal based template which targets units rather than models. Nothing really spectacular though it's interesting to see yet another "go home W6!" ability.

That's the Librarian powers down so we're going to look at the more specific powers accessible by only one or two units throughout the book.

Cleansing Flame (Crowe/Purifiers) -

This power has already been discussed in relation to Sanctuary and is an excellent horde control power for Purifiers. Since it happens at the start of the assault phase, using it against high I (6+) opponents can minimise the number of attacks the Purifiers have to suffer. It's important to remember the effectiveness of this spell is based on how many models are in the opposing unit and it can be used against multiple units to full effect. Get these guys into multiple horde units!

Whilst it is excellent against units with lots of models and low saves, some some basic thought needs to go into which power should be used (cleansing, hammerhand or force weapons) against particular opponents. MEQs don't really care about cleansing for example whilst TWC don't care and hate force weapons, etc..

Santified Flame (Draigo) -

It's a S5 template with no AP. Yay.

Heroic Sacrifice (Crowe/Brotherhood Champion) - 

High WS on both of these characters means you have a 67% chance of taking any single model in base to base contact with your dying IC to the grave with you. It's a bit of a laugh but nothing really worth taking these guys for and it also means you weren't using hammerhand or your force weapon ability that turn. I'd rather be able to kill things than hopefully take something to the gave with me when I died.

Warp Quake (Grey Knight Strike & Interceptor Squads) - 

This is basically the mystic replacement for Grey Knights. Whilst you don't get free shooting phases at deep-striking units, you can disrupt an opponent's ability to reliably deepstrike and automatically cause any mishaps in a 12" area around the squad. This is a huge "fudgemuffin off" sign to deep-striking armies and really hurts the likes of Daemons, Duke and Jumper based lists. Even against token deep-striking units, Warp Quake provides the Grey Knight army with a buffer normally provided by bubble-warp against deep-striking units.

Astral Aim (Purgation) -

A mini-Hive Guard or Smart Missile System power, this allows Purgation squads to hide and fire to a very high effect without needing to see their target. Unfortunately unlike Hive Guard and SMS, this always grants an unmodifiable cover save. Use in conjunction with mobile cover such as Rhinos to protect Purgation squads from incoming fire and when clear fire lanes open up, move the mobile cover so the Purgation squad doesn't need to use Astral Aim and automatically provide a cover save. Even when stationary Rhinos can be used to do this whilst Astral Aim is used to provide firepower as the army advances.

Holocaust (Paladins) -

S5 5" blast, no AP, 12". Nothing to write home about.

Reconstruction (Techmarine) -

At Ld8 this isn't a super reliable power but since Techmarines are finally IC's and a bunch of other goodies, Tehcmarines should see some use. With Fortitude already making vehicles very resistant to shaken and stunned results, a Techmarine with reconstruction can help remove weapon destroyed and immobilised results. With reconstruction cast and a servo-harness, it's a 75% chance in fact for this to happen which is pretty good! If you don't kill the tank, it's going to come back and get you!

Zone of Banishment (Stern) - 

Affecting your own models is pretty lame but if you find Stern (wait; you're using him?) all alone he can take down a bunch of weaklings. More powers which can insta-remove W6/T6 models though...poor Tyranids.

Psychic Barrage (Psyker Henchmen) -

This is a love/hate relationship. On one hand you have a large blast power very similar to PBS from Imperial Guard but importantly both the strength and AP depend upon the model count. This means you can get a S10 AP1 blast and combined with servo skulls on the rare occasion, well that S10 AP1 blast scatters D6-3". Wow! Otherwise you have a pretty scary large blast template which can be cast from a Fortitude Rhino. Now for the hate...Ld 8 makes it unreliable and a single perils on this unit wipes them out unlike PBS.


And there you have it folks, a very long list of psychic powers available to a very psychic based army. Once again, whilst psychic defenses are not necessary they can give a Grey Knight player fits as many lists might rely on the army wide systems such as Hammerhand and Fortitude too much. Very few of the powers are 'in your face awesome' but there is a lot of utility to be had by having access to so many varied psychic powers across multiple vessels.

Sure hope I haven't missed anything...

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