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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grey Knights HQ Units Review

Hey, Biscuit here, with my review of the Grey Knights HQ units. There's a lot of them, and a lot of them are quite good. I'm really impressed with the HQ selection, actually, as almost all of them seem to be excellent choices.

First, let's define some of the shorthand I'll be using, for those of you who aren't that up on our communities slang:
NFW=Nemesis Force Weapon
NF[weapon]=Nemesis Force Weapon of that type.
MCr=Master Crafted (MC would be Monstrous Creature)
IC=Independent Character
2+/5+=The first number is the models armor save, the second is the models invulnerable save.
3++=the new black. Shorthand for saying just the models invulnerable save.
ID=Instant Death
DS=Deep Strike
B2B=Base to Base (contact)

Everything else should be obvious. (I.E. Hammer=Nemesis Daemon Hammer) Or will be covered as we go.

In addition, I want to make something clear: you can build some insanely badass units in Codex: Grey Knights. You can even build squads that will never lose any form of combat to any other unit in this game. This is a trap. Upgrades are often expensive, appear everywhere, and will bleed you dry before you know it. The key with GK is to build specializations onto the extremely well-rounded base that is the GK chassis as cheaply as possible, and avoid overdoing it.

Alright, so who's first up?

Grey Knight Grand Master
The GKGM (or GM) is an awesome unit that is going to show up in a lot of lists. While he is a pretty nice combat HQ, (alright stats) the real reason you bring him is to gain access to his Grand Strategy. Grand Strategy allows you to pick D3 units at the beginning of the game, and give them a special rule of your choice, between making them reroll 1's to wound, giving them counterattack, giving them scout, and making them scoring. All the chosen units have to have the same strategy.

By far the best use of Grand Strategy is to get yourself more scoring units. With a GM, you need to worry MUCH less about including adequate scoring in your list, as you can move units into it. As a side note, a unit becomes scoring BEFORE it is deployed and can combat squad, so you can potentially get up to 6 additional scoring units on the field with this power. (More realistically 2-4) The other abilities are nice, but not as game changing, and provide a nice buff for KP games.

He also comes with Psychic Communion, an ability that lets you adjust your reserve rolls by +1 or -1. This is huge for the GK, who have a TON of DS options; with accurate DS around any servo-skulls. For more on this power, and all the powers, I'm pretty happy with Kirby's analysis here.

Alright, so what do we have for equipment? He comes stock with Terminator Armor, an Iron Halo, Frag, Krak, and Psyke-Out Grenades, and a NFSword. The sword is nice, as it combos with the Iron Halo nicely to give you a 3++ in close combat. We are not immune to instant death, a powerfist can splat us, so that's our choice unless he's with a bigger squad and can avoid it. If he's with a larger unit, a Halberd isn't bad for a mighty I7, and a hammer is nothing to scoff at either. The halberd is nice because it allows us to kill most IC's and monstrous creatures before they strike with a force weapon, the hammer is great because it aces everything, but we lose initiative. Falchions are meh, it's better to have the bonuses the others provide rather than +1A. The Warding Stave, while nice, is almost certainly not worth the 35 point asking price. So for melee, Sword in most cases, halberd or hammer for when you travel with big squads.

Whatever option you choose, MCr it. You have a 3+ to hit in most cases, and anywhere from 3 to 5 attacks depending on unit/loadout etc. You will probably miss one attack, so don't think of it as a re-roll, think of it as 5 points for effectively +1A.

What about ranged options? Everyone is agog over the psycannon, but it's ludicrously priced at 45 points for the GM. Yes, you always get 4 shots. Yes, he's BS6. It's still too expensive. GK bring an insane amount of antitank in most builds, you don't need to cram it on here for exorbitant points. And no, do not take it and then MCr it. A psycannon is not worth 50 points, I don't care who you are. The Psylencer is similarly over costed, so let's skip it entirely. That leaves us with two options: the base Stormbolter, or the Incinerator.

The Stormbolter is not great, and we don't need to pay 5 points to get a couple of S5 shots. The Incinerator, however, is a hell of a deal at 5 points. Sure, it "wastes" the BS of six, but it costs next to nothing and it's quite good against almost any infantry target. Grab one, don't MCr it.

Alright, now what kind of secondary equipment can we take? Going down the list:
-Blind Grenades are awesome. Defensive grenades for only 5 points are a steal, and you should always take them.
-Meltabombs are not great. GK have plenty of melee tank killing options, we don't need to shoe-horn them onto our GM.
-Digital Weapons are actually quite good, much for the same reason as MCr, since they're very cheap. It's not worth it if you're taking a hammer, but it's essential for halberd users to help ID things before they attack, and swordsmen find it a nice upgrade as well.
-Psybolt Ammunition five points is too much for this, really. Skip it and take one of the melee upgrades instead.
-Empryan Brain Mines are okay, and appropriately costed for 10 points. The nicest thing about them is that they target an individual model, so you could use them to potentially stop things like hidden fists from hitting you. Their biggest problem is that they are unreliable. I wouldn't build my GM base with them, but if I have 10 points at the end of list building, this is not a bad way to spend them.
-Psychotroke Grenades are awesome. These, along with rad grenades, are the two "auto-include" options that should be on every Grand Master. Even if the GM is attached to a regular strike squad, just having the two grenades allows them to best just about anything in combat. Take 'em. One thing to note: these grenades activate the first round of any assault, you don't need to be the one assaulting to make them go off. Same with Rad Grenades.
-Rad Grenades are required. -1T to the enemy the first round of any assault brutalizes anything you will ever fight. Take this.
-Orbital Strike Relay is... eh. It's cool, and pretty accurate with a servo skull reducing scatter, but it's very expensive. There's better ways to spend 50 points in this codex.

Other options:
Psy Mastery 2: Fine if you want it, but not really required. You'll stop needing to cast psychic communion around the time you hit combat, (your reserves should most likely be in) and whatever unit you're with can hammerhand for you, or you for them, which still allows for someone to force weapon without this upgrade. It's not a great upgrade, mostly good if you like to try and tackle stuff solo with your GM.

Up to 3 servo-skulls: I would always take these, actually. Even if you're not DS or putting down a lot of blast templates, the ability to mess with infiltrators and especially scout moves is awesome. For 5 points each, do yourself a favor and grab a couple.

So what builds am I looking at doing then? Here are the big three I like.

For hanging with a small squad:
Incinerator, MCr NFSword, Blind Grenades, Rad Grenades, Psychotropic Grenades, 2x Servo Skull.
It's a lot of utility for 230 points, and about the cheapest good GM you can make.

If you're hanging with a big squad, swap out for the MCr hammer and have fun.

For killing nasties before they even get to attack:
Incinerator, MCr NFHalberd, Digital Weapons, Blind Grenades, Rad Grenades, Psychotropic Grenades, 3x Servo Skull.
Even if you get charged, you are still 3 attacks with a rerolled miss, wound rolls with a reroll miss and the enemy at -1T, and all at a mighty I7, with instant death from the force weapon. Remember, your squad can hammerhand for you as well. This will remove anything that isn't eternal warrior before they even get to attack. All at "only" 240 points, not bad. This is what I'm most likely going to field in my lists.

You should note, however, that the Grand Master is NOT a good choice for every army list. If you want to bring a librarian, you will have to choose between the two, as bringing both is simply too expensive. Generally, the GM is better in a more melee style list, as his buffs are amazing, while the Libby is much better for a ranged list. In any case, do not take the GM in any point value under 1750, you're much better off investing in more bodies. The GM is nice for lists that are weak on scoring units, or needs some way to deal with melee deathstars, as the GM+any other unit can ace just about anything in melee.

Grey Knight Brother-Captain
The Brother Captain is a worse Grand Master. Straight up. He has the same equipment, almost the same statline, but he doesn't give you the awesome Grand Strategy. If you're looking for a beatstick HQ, you have better much options (Champion), and if you want utility take a GM. Unfortunately, I just don't see a case where you'd take the Brother-Captain over the GM.

Brotherhood Champion
The Champion is only okay. The big thing he boasts is the ability to assassinate big nasties before they strike with his D3 I10 NF(effectively)Lightning Claw attacks. That being said, he's not as generally good as the GM is, and he's REALLY hurt by the fact that he only has 1 wound.

Still, he's not too bad for 100 points, he's in fact your cheapest actual Grey Knight HQ by a wide margin. (though he's still more expensive than upgraded inquisitors) He also allows re-rolls to hit on the charge, and his blade abilities are nice. Let's take a look at them:

Titan's Herald: When he assaults, everyone can reroll to hit! Hurrah! It's a nice buff, and best used on your weaker melee units, actually, as the harder ones already slaughter whatever they hit. A strike squad with this is MUCH scarier.

Sword Storm: His vorpal blade goes snicker-snack. This is actually quite good, he makes a single attack against every enemy model in B2B with him. That means, when he charges, if you don't bunch him up with your guys so that he gets surrounded by the pile in, he's rocking 7 attacks. (Against hordes, against MEQ's it probably more realistically 2-4.) Add in that he's probably hitting and wounding on 3+ (with hammerhand) and rerolling all fails, and he can put some hurt on the enemy before they can do anything about it. (I6)

Blade Shield: a winner of an ability. Instead of attacking, you can instead reroll all defensive saves for the Champion. That means you only have a 1/36 chance of failing an armor save (!!!) and a 8/9 chance to make an invulnerable. You can use this to not only tie up units with the champion alone, but with clever positioning to negate a lot of attacks coming at the squad he's attached to.

Rapier Strike: It's alright, the move I talked about at the beginning of the this description. D3 attacks (+1 for charging) at I10, nice because he can force weapon ID with it, though it can only target an MC or IC. Unfortunately, because the Champion is only mastery one, if you do this, fail the psychic test, and then get killed in return you cannot Heroic Sacrifice. Lame, if you ask me, but that's how the chips lie. Still, it's alright for trying to take out big enemies before they maul the crap out of you.

Heroic Sacrifice: If he dies, make a psychic test, then try to hit one model in B2B. If he hits it, goes away with him. Nice because he's only 100 points, it's easy to throw him into something that's worth a lot more than him, have it kill him, then take it to hell with you. Otherwise, you probably won't be using it that much.

Okay, those are the moves, what about equipment?
Unlike all other GK HQs, the brotherhood champion comes in Artificer Armor instead of Terminator, allowing him to sweeping advance and get in all transports. This is actually pretty huge, as it allows him to play much nicer with armies that don't really want to take terminator squads. He also comes with a nice 2+/3+ with an Iron Halo+Force Sword, so he's not too fragile with his single wound. He comes with the standard grenades, and his sword rerolls failed wound rolls. Overall, he has an extremely nice set-up for 100 points. Let's look at his additional equipment:
-Digital Weapons are actually worthless. He already rerolls all failed wounds, and you can't reroll a reroll. This literally does nothing for 5 points. Real men still buy it though, daddy needs his bling.
-Empyrean Brain Mines eh, not bad, especially since he likes to hang out with non-hard squads. Taking away a powerfist's attacks for a round is quite nice, but you're probably better off spending 10 points to upgrade whoever he's pal-n' around with.
-Psybolt Ammo Not for 5 points.

I really, really wish this guy could take a personal teleporter. Then he would be awesome, and I'd put him in a lot of lists. As it is, he's still a pretty excellent HQ choice. I can't think of another HQ from another dex that comes close to having the powerful abilities and loadout that the Brotherhood Champion has for a measly 100 points. If it were an option in vanillla Space Marines, I'd be all over this guy. As it is, though, the other HQ's bring so much more support that I'm simply not convinced he's worth it, cheap as he is. Still, not at all a bad HQ, and he's nice to stick with a unit that you want to do forward CC work.

Ah, the master of psykers in a chapter of psykers, and man what a master he is. A Librarian brings so many different buffs and tricks it's almost foolish to leave home without him.

Well, how are his stats? Mediocre. No matter how you equip him, he's never going to be a close combat monster. That's okay though, because he can do well for himself with minimal investing. He gets the same base equipment and Grand Masters and Brother Captains, which includes a force sword, which we want to keep, as it gives us a 4++ instead of a 5++ in melee, where we need it. Though you can make him kind of good in melee, don't try. Save the points and invest in upgrades for the squad he lives with, and keep him out of combat when you can. Yes, you can buy him a warding staff, no you probably shouldn't. It's quite expensive, so unless he's hanging out with your big melee death squad save the points. Otherwise, certainly buy it. He also bring a psychic hood, which helps out against a lot of really nasty things.

The real story here is the powers. However, there is one very important thing Kirby did not mention in his article that is critical to understand. You can cast two powers per turn. That's player turn, not game turn. That means that you can cast two powers in your own turn, and two in the opponents.

What does that mean? Well, both Sanctuary and The Shrouding are cast in the opponent's turn, which means we can have both those up as well as throwing down two powers in our own turn. That is incredible.

So which powers do we want? Luckily, we don't have to pick and choose, we can simply start buying them for 5 points each. Here are my brief thoughts on them:
Dark Excommunication is not really good. Save yourself five points, you already trounce daemons.
Might of Titan quite nice, as it stacks with hammerhand. You can really put the hurt on anything with combination rad grenades+hammerhand+might as you effectively jump +3S. Also, allows you to maul the crap out of vehicles if you get a good charge off, and doesn't have to be aimed at your own squad. Can also be used to +1S allied squads while leaving them the option to use their force weapons. Worth picking up.
Quicksilver Awesome. I10 is brutal given that all your units have ID weapons. This move will single-handedly allow you to mulch most deathstar units, take it.
Sanctuary definitely take it. This is one of two moves you get to cast every turn in the opponent's assault phase, make the most of your psy abilities!
The Shrouding the other power you cast on the opponent's turn. Also, possibly the best power in the dex. Your elite army is a lot scarier with 3+ cover saves.
Smite yeah, not great. You'll probably want to take one of the good offensive powers instead.
The Summoning It's important to note that having a teleport homer does NOT mean that you do not scatter with this power. The teleport homer only works on teleport deeps strikes, and The Summoning does not count as one. That being said, it's still quite a nice power. As long as you're near a servo-skull, you can only scatter d6 inches when summoned, which should mean you're pretty safe as long as you have a bit of a landing zone. If you're out of servo-skull range, I wouldn't attempt it. This isn't a required power by any means, but it's quite nice to have in an army that brings forward assault units, as you can teleport a unit back if it should become overextended. Not for every list, good for assaulty lists, bad for shooty ones.
Vortex of Doom not good. We don't need to fail a cast and end up murdering ourselves and our expensive unit. If we need an anti-armor hit, Warp Rift has almost as much range and is much more reliable.
Warp Rift It's okay. it's effectively a very nice flamer, though it's not much better than an incinerator against marines, and it's significantly worse against light infantry. Honestly, I don't see it being used much as your libby will want to be casting Quicksilver and Might on any turn you assault. It's pretty nice against low I models, however, and if you're really concerned about monstrous creatures, take it. I also bet we'll be seeing it taken a lot once Necrons get an update, as it's brutal on them. It's nicest feature is that it automatically pens vehicles, though it is AP- so it is -1 on the damage chart. Still, 5 points for an antitank gun, even a gimped one, is a deal. If you have 5 points left over, go ahead and take it, but it's not something that needs to be built in.

Another question: do we need to upgrade to level 3? I don't think so. You can cast all the powers you want (4 good ones) a turn already, I see level 3 being situational and not always worth the points.

Alright, what other wargear? We want the teleport homer if we have a deep strike army, otherwise, skip it. Psybolt and Digital Weapons are lame, we don't need to spend points on them. My opinion on Empyrean Brain Mines is the same as with the GM, nice, but not required, they're OK. It's a shame this guy can't take cool grenades. Of course, we want the Servo Skulls as well.

So how would I recommend running him? Like this:
(Sword) Quicksilver, Might of Titan, Sanctuary, The Shrouding, 3x Servo Skull
Those are the big four powers you should always be taking, the others are more situational and based on your build.

The Librarian is best used in ranged list, as he's too squishy to really mix it up in melee. Unless he's riding in a stormraven, he should almost certainly be with a terminator squad in cover, blazing out and benefiting from a 3+ cover save. He's also pretty good in a raider, or a Stormraven, for the same 3+ reason. In this case, he's a boon to any mech force, as 3+ cover makes any vehicle much harder, and makes your advance much more difficult to stop.

In a midfield army of at least 1750 points, the Librarian and the Grandmaster are the HQ's of choice. The Grandmaster is only really great if you need the extra scoring, while the libby is all-around good in any build.

Ordo Malleus Inquisitor
The inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus are your best option for a cheap support inquisitor. That being said, if you're bringing him/her purely as a melee beatstick, do yourself a favor and buy a Ordo Xenos one to support your melee instead. The inquisitors start cheap but rapidly become more expensive as they get outfitted.

Let's talk about some equipment that is common to all inquisitors:
Servo skulls are slightly cheaper with inquisitors than GK HQs, (3 instead of 5) so that's nice. You can get 3 for less than the normal price of two. Servo-skulls are already a bargain, so it's nice to get more of them for cheap.

The other big options that is available to all inquisitors is the ability to upgrade to a psyker level 1 with either the hammerhand or psychic communion power. This is very nice, because it is by far the cheapest way to get reserves manipulation into your list. Hammerhand isn't essential in an army that already has it on almost every unit, so if that's all your after save yourself 30 points.

Each inquisitor also unlocks a henchmen squad, but that unit will get its own review.

Alright, back to the individual stuff:

The nicest thing about the Ordo Malleus Inquisitor is that he can bring a cheap psycannon once he gets his terminator armor, which gives you an okay combat HQ and is a decent way to get a relentless psycannon. His out of terminator stuff isn't great, (especially the random and rarely good daemonsword, which is a shame) and though you can give him cool gear, he'll still never be as good as the actual marine HQ's in combat. Still, it's the best option for a good inquisitor if all you're after is to unlock a henchman squad and fill out your HQ choice. Actually, it's probably your best HQ choice if all you want to do is cheaply fill out your mandatory HQ.

The most aggravating thing about the Ordo Malleus Inquisitor is that when you upgrade him to terminator armor, you get a free Nemesis Daemonhammer, but if you then further upgrade him to be a psyker, he has to swap the hammer for a sword. I'm hoping this gets FAQ'd, and it's still worth it to do so if you need the reserves help, but it is aggravating.

So, all he needs is terminator armor, a psycannon, and servo skulls with the psyker upgrade if you need reserves assists. Simple, easy, cheap.

Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor
The Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor is... kind of bad. The condemner boltgun is an overpriced piece of junk, the Null Rod hurts you more than helps you in this army full of psychic buffs, and the psyocculum is very situational and a bit expensive. If you want an inquisitor to help in combat, the Ordo Xenos is better, if you want an inquisitor to... hang out, the Ordo Malleus is much better. He's a cool fluff choice, but not a good choice for a competitive list.

Ordo Xenos Inquisitor
The Ordo Xenos inquisitor is weirdly enough your best option for an actual combat inquisitor, due entirely to one thing: grenades. This inquisitor, unlike the others, can take both the Rad and Psychotroke grenades, or the "oh-hey-I-win-combat" grenades.

The Plasma Syphon is only really worth it if you're hanging out with terminators to buff them, otherwise it's not too useful for its cost. The conversion beamer is heavy, and we'll want to be moving AND close to the enemy, so don't bother with it. The needle pistol looks cool, but you're better off finding another 5 points and buying psybolt ammo for a squad instead of buying it. Do pick up powered armor, though, a 3+ save is quite nice for eight points.

As far as melee upgrades go, I wouldn't bother. Let whatever squad you're with mop up after you toss the 'nades.

The psyker upgrade is a little different for this one. We can use communion if we need reserve stuff, but hammerhand is also nice. Because we are hanging out with a melee squad, hammerhand can be quite nice, because it allows the squad to activate their force weapons and benefit from hammerhand in the same phase. It's worth considering, though the grenades alone are probably enough.

So, final build?:
Rad grenades, Psychotroke grenades, power armor, 3 servo skulls, and possibly the psyker upgrade.


Alright, conclusion and summary for each good HQ, to remind us what they're for:

Grey Knight Grand Master: Not good under 1750 points. Excellent in an army that doesn't want to load up on the troop options, and/or an army that simply needs a combat boost. He brings a lot of overall utility, which is very nice if you need a bit of a boost.

Grey Knight Librarian: Not good under 1750 points. An excellent all-rounder and a huge boon to any army, the librarian isn't a bad choice in any list, as long as he has a good unit to run with.

Grey Knight Brotherhood Champion: Fun, not bad, not great. Best value melee HQ, and if you don't need reserve

Ordo Malleus Inquisitor: The cheapest HQ, unlocks a henchman squad, adds a psycannon, and fills out your mandatory HQ role, can be good for reserves manipulation.

Ordo Xenos Inquisitor: Cheap good melee support HQ, that can also help with reserves.

Whew! That was quite the review, and I'm only half done! At least the special characters (next time) will go a bit faster.

The most important thing to remember with GK HQ's is that they are extremely expensive. Yes, taking a Grand Master and a Librarian brings a lot of stuff... for far too many points. It's okay to have one, hell, it's okay to even buy cool options for one, but there's no way to efficiently run two. Inquisitors are similar, but fit a little differently: take only what you need with them, otherwise, if you're spending a lot of points, why wouldn't you take a GK HQ?

It is interesting, though, as there are no hard-and-fast rules for which HQ you should take. The five I've listed here are ALL good in their own right, and which to take depends hugely on what your list is doing. I can't think of another codex with this much HQ variety.

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