With the new Thousand Sons codex I got my Dusty Boys out, blew all the excess dust off them and dived into the new codex to find out the changes, potential nerfs and hopeful buffs.
It's been a rough ride for Thousand Sons since their initial launch as a Mono-Army back in 7th edition. Having tried to run them many times throughout 8th and 9th as a solo-army I have to admit I got tired of struggling to compete and they unfortunately got put back in their cases.
The new codex however, has got me very excited to get them out again and start playing some games!
My initial thoughts are: what a complex and unique codex. One very reminiscent of Tzeentch. This book is packed full of interesting combinations, utility picks, and strategies that I’m sure haven't even been thought of yet! I love that the Cults have made it in from the Psychic awakening, they were full of flavour and had some nifty tricks.
I do, however, think this book is going to take some time to stabilise itself in the meta. It will be interesting to see what ends up coming out as the strongest build. My instinct is that there will be several builds and that Thousand Sons may be able to compete in the middle of the pack as a singular entity as opposed to being tagged onto the side of a Chaos Army as a small detachment of HQ’s. I do hope that doesn’t end up being the fate of them again.
The first major change is the Cabal Points. These are crazy strong. Simply said. A bonus for being a ‘Pure’ Thousand Sons army gives you the ability to add abilities when you manifest psychic powers. Cabal points are earned at the start of the phase and lost at the end of the phase. You gain Cabal points for the various Pskyers you have left on the board at the start of that phase.
Some of the better options are in the remit of 8 or 9 Cabal points but can be game-changing. Ensuring a spell such as Twist of Fate (Rebranded Death-Hex) automatically goes off, or if playing against a heavy Pskyer army spend 8 Cabal Points to make it undeniable. Even the cheaper ones are super handy, there is one to gain a CP by doing a Psychic Action, or being able to put a Blessing onto a unit anywhere on the board.
My main opinion on these is that these are critical to how a Thousand Sons player will build and play their list. If there was a big push to run Thousand Sons as a Pure army Cabal Points are it.
The 2nd large change is the spells available for the Thousand Sons. Instead of having 3 Disciplines, sharing one with Heretic Astartes and one with Daemons of Chaos they now have 2 of their own. The Vengeance Discipinle and the Change Discipline. These both have 9 powers each and with the 9 available from the Cults that totals a whooping 27 powers available.
Many of the traditional powers remain, Weaver of Fates and Glamour of Tzeentch are both there, the former having a slight change in giving units a 4++ invulnerable save rather than +1 to the save. Death Hex and Warptime have both been rebranding into Twist of Fate and Temporal Surge, effectively doing the same thing. Temporal Surge now only affects Infantry, Beasts and Cavalry. This is a nice addition, the “Cavalry” part of the Discs of Tzeentch always felt like an old adage that got in the way more often than it was used. Now all the rules either include it as standard or call the keyword out like in Temporal Surge. Only a little change but one that I'm pleased to see. A lot of the Mortal Wounds powers have changed slightly or completely been overhauled. Doombolt has seen a great change, in my opinion, now Warp Charge 6 for straight-up 3 Mortal Wounds.
All Is Dust:
All Is Dust has changed slightly, no longer giving +1 to all saves and only just for armour saves. This… is probably a needed change. It’s definitely a nerf, but with the change to Weaver of Fates and the removal of the Indomitable Foes stratagem for +1 Invulnerable save I think the design intent is to remove the majority of 3++ invulnerable saves across the army. For design space, I’m with the change, with Rubrics and Scarab Occult both gaining a wound I think they’re probably still tankier. I haven’t worked the maths out on it yet though. I do have to say 3++ invulnerable saves are very difficult to balance and are inherently not fun to play against.
These changes to the ways to boost Invulnerable saves also means Magnus can no longer gain a 3++ save. He does, however, get the Mortarion treatment in gaining the Supreme Commander keyword and triple Warlord Traits. The key one that stands out for me is the -1 Damage Warlord Trait. His Smite has dramatically changed to 3D3 mortal wounds for the Wrath of Magnus ability, this makes it more consistent but does mean you won’t get any more 10-12 mortal wounds being dished out (you can replicate this with a high roll and a Cabal Point ability, however.)
Finally, the Thousand Son trait has changed from an extra 6” on powers to +1 to cast and a 5++ on all Arcana Astartes and Tzaangor units. This is huge. A big problem I had using my Thousand Sons back in 8th edition was whenever you NEEDED a spell to go off, you would often fail it by one or two. Having the additional +1 to cast is really going to help Thousand Sons out with consistent casting of their spells and stop other armies denying you as often. It's a shame to loose the extra 6" range but for me this is absolutely worth the trade.
The Nine Cults have returned from Psychic Awakening, they're mostly the same with some having some nice tweaks.
The Cult of Time has been slightly changed in that their spell now only resurrects 1 model. But the Hourglass of Manat has remained giving a great way to bring a Daemon Prince back from the dead.
The Cult of Mutation has a nice Relic that helps supe up a Sorcerer giving it +1S +1A and +1W. This combined with the “Battle Psyker” upgrade and a Kopesh could make up a fun smash Sorcerer.
Cult of Magic also sees a similar nerf/change as the Cult of Time, no longer giving +1 MW on spells and instead allowing you to re-roll the test for the spell.
Cult of Duplicity remains a very tricky one with the spell allowing you to move units around the table as if you were deep striking them. Its hard to put a value on this as re-deployment is a huge tactic and the ability to have it "on a stick" is incredibly powerful, especially for an army that doesn't actually move that quick anyway. Movement is everything in 9th Edition and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Cult of Duplicity rising to the top.
My absolute winners here are the Scarab Occult. At a mere 40ppm they're outright strong. Rocking 3 wounds, a new stratagem to reduce damage by 1 in the shooting phase and all the usual Thousand Son tricks we all know and love these guys are incredible. On top of this, they also gained a new weapon the “Kopesh” a damage 2 Power Sword. This has helped to shore up one of their main weaknesses before. Now they can actually do some damage in combat!
I expect most Thousand Sons lists to be running a big block of 10 as a standard to anchor their list behind. With the combinations of the traditional defensive Psychic Powers, the new stratagems, and a cover save, Scarab Occult will be very powerful and very difficult to shift.
Other winners worth mentioning - all Rhino Chassis Vehicles. Whether Predators are worth anything even with a 5++ Invun is yet to be seen, especially without Core, but they are definitely improved from their previous edition. One surprise unit for me after reading through the codex was the Vindicator, with a smaller board and an Invulnerable save, this could finally see some use.
Finally, a big mention to the updated Maulerfiend, Forgefiend and Heldrake options. All three saw big upgrades in terms of damage capabilities and consistency, all gaining an extra point of WS and BS to a 3+. Heldrakes now work as an actual flyer with some spicy bonus when fighting against aircraft and a new Vector Strike stratagem to do Mortal Wounds on a flyby. Maulerfiends Gain the ability to ignore all terrain penalties and Forgefiends Guns are slightly more impressive. I know these updates are really exciting our resident Chaos Marine Player: Liam and I cant help also feel a bit excited for the potential of the new Heretic Astartes codex.
On the one hand Tzeentch gives WS and BS, on the other it takes away. Tzaangors are now WS4 and can only be taken in units of 20. As someone who painted Two 30 man units this does make a me a bit sad, but I can understand that 30 man units of 32mm base units are… difficult to balance. They are 7ppm however. But I don’t think is enough to keep them valid for anything other than an “action monkey” for Raising banners, carrying out Retrieve Octarius Data etc. I think this is because without the large unit, and without hitting hard enough (they still only have 2 attacks) they cant do a job better than Rubric Marines can, who also have 2 attacks AND a shooting weapon AND a better save.
It’s also not great news with the other Tzaangor Units. Shamans have lost their once per game re-roll on a failed psychic test, they have dropped to 70ppm and will probably see some use as cheap sources of Cabal Points and casting another power. Enlightened are… a mixed bag. The spears are now always damage 2 but the Fatecaster Greatbows lost an attack, even if they do always hit on a 2+ now. I'm interesting in units with the Diving Spear but I fear my freshly painted Greatbow models wont see much use. (which is sad as it's only taken me 4 years to get round to painting them...)
If you wanted to see Thousand Sons change from being an army that spews out a lot of mortal wounds you might be disappointed, otherwise, there is a lot that has come out of this book to be happy and pleased about.
"Codex: Tzaangors" is now well and truly a distant memory. Rubric Marines and Scarab Occult are absolutely are the forefront of this book and as an avid fan of these models I couldn't be happier with this, I'm a bit sad I can no longer run large blocks of Rubric Marines but with the changes and extra benefits they've got it's something I think I can live with.
There is a lot more in this book that I haven't mentioned - I fear this article might be very long if I did! I'll end with if you're just joining the XVth or have been a long time collector and fan, it's a great time to be into Thousand Sons. There is so much depth in the book and I personally cant wait to get into it by playing lots more of my Thousand Sons!
I've come up with two lists I want to initially try out. I think it's going to take a lot of games before I get my head around which Cult is the best and which one suits my play style the best. I'm also trying to come up with a list I feel confident taking Magnus in but I haven't quite worked on out yet!
This is a list to try a few things out. I want to give the large units of Tzaangors a go. I've gone with Cult of Time because I want my 3 units of actual Thousand Sons to stick around a bit longer since I'm going a bit heavy on Tzaangors. Finally, I'm bringing the Predators out. Its a known fact with the other TOMD guys that i LOVE anything on the Rhino Chassis. Having painted a variation of over 12 type of Rhino/Predator model these things are my favourites. With the 5++ I want to see how they do, Lascannons are great and give me some needed anti-tank - something I've found Thousand Sons struggle with, but I've kept Heavy Bolters on the side to keep them cheap(ish).
My Exalted Sorcerer Combo I quite like, rolling 3D6 on the Atheanen scrolls means I've got a good chance of getting a 9+ and therefore triggering Immaterial Echoes and casting an additional un-deniable power.
Battalion - Cult of Time
Daemon Prince - Hourglass of Manat
Exalted Sorcerer on Disc - Seeker of Shadows, Immaterial Echoes, Atheanen Scrolls, Warlord.
Sorceror in Terminator Armour
2x10 Rubric Marines - Soulreaper Cannon
1x10 Scarab Occult - 1x Warpflamer, 1x Helfrye Missile Rack
Tzaangor Shaman - Umbralefic Crystal
2x Predator Annihilator - 2x Heavy Bolters
This list I feel is leaning much more into what Thousand Sons are going to be great at. Whether Mutation ends up being the Cult I land on I'm not sure, but I really couldn't give up on the Smash Sorcerer. My only disappointment is that you can't take this combo with a Disc as Exalted Sorcerers are the only ones that can go on them now. The extra movement and fly would be great with this. However, the Terminator is much tankier and running around with 5 Attacks, Strength 6 AP -3 2 Damage. He only gets better against Psykers going to Strength 9 and D6 Damage. Sticking Swelled by the Warp on him makes it even spicier.
I think the Mutalith could be a big distraction carnifex and he does throw out some consistent Mortal Wounds, but I think he'll be the first thing with the Tzaangors to go in place of more Scarab Occult or Rubrics. A couple of 5 man units would allow for Actions and take up the job I've got the Tzaangors in there for.
Battalion - Cult of Mutation
Exalted Sorceror (Warlord) - Disc of Tzeentch, Kopesh, Seeker after Shadows, Atheanean Scrolls - Weaver of Fates, Twist of Fate
Ahriman - Baleful Devolution, Tzeentches Firestorm, Doombolt
Infernal Master - Glamour of Tzeentch
Sorcerer in Terminator Armour - Melta, Battle Psyker, Exalted Mutation, Kopesh - Swelled by the Warp, Temporal Surge
1x10 Rubric Marines - Icon of Flame, Soul Reaper Cannon - Desecration of Worlds
1x10 Rubric Marines - Icon of Flame, Soul Reaper Cannon - Presage
1x10 Rubric Marines - Icon of Flame, Soul Reaper Cannon - Temporal Manipulation
1x10 Tzaangors - Blades
1x10 Scarab Occult Terminators - 2x Helfyre Missiles, Soul Reaper Cannon, Rites of Coalesence - Cacodeamonic Curse
Mutalith Vortex Beast
1x5 Tzaangor Enlightened - Fatecaster Greatbows