Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A "change" of pace...CSM: Thousand Sons revisited

While Eldar are my main army and I really enjoy playing them, Thousand Sons have always been a fun army for me and I've had quite a few wins under my belt with them from the 3.5 dex. Unsurprisingly, my interest in them dropped off when the previous codex ruined CSM but with 6th edition out and a new codex on the horizon, what better time to revisit Thousand Sons than now?

Yes indeed, 6th edition changed 40k in a big way and a new CSM codex will definitely change how CSM armies will be built and played. First, lets take a quick stroll down memory lane for those out there who have not played Thousand Sons "back in the day," then move into what lies ahead for all of us in the next two weeks...

Memory Lane:

Thousand Sons used to be a very robust and characterful army. Two wound models at a decent price with access to sorcerers who could cast spells multiple times and who automatically passed psychic checks. Not to mention they had access to Rubric terminators (who also had 2 wounds and a sorcerer upgrade) and Chosen who, when upgraded, were sorcerers and had quite a lot of options. Worth mentioning is that when you took a unit in the chosen number (9 for Tzeench), champion upgrades were free so you got the sorcerer upgrade for free in a 9 man Thousand Son unit. I really long for the options the 3.5 codex had but I think those days are long gone. If you haven't guessed it by now, I am not the biggest fan of the previous codex but I am hopeful the new one will change things for the better.

The future of Thousand Sons:

Lets look at what we know is coming our way thanks to the recent leaks...

Thousand Son rubric units:

-Thousand Son units are apparently the same, 3+/4++ Space Marine stats, AP3 Bolters with Slow and Purposeful.

-Thousand Sons are elites now but become troops when a Sorcerer or Ahriman is taken as an HQ choice.

-Thousand Sons are virtually the same points cost. 150 base for 4 with a sorcerer and 23 points for each additional one.


-Ahriman is 230 points, Mastery level 4, can cast 3 Witchfire powers a turn and automatically allows d3 infantry units to infiltrate each game. He has access to Biomancy, Pyromancy, Telepathy and Tzeench and his staff is a Force Stave (S+2, AP4, Concussive, Force).

Psykers/Psychic Powers:
-New lore of Tzeench with 4 powers and psykers with the mark of Tzeench MUST take at least one power from the discipline of Tzeench (see picture to the right for the powers available in the discipline of Tzeench).

-Sorcerers can be up to Mastery level 3 for 25 points per level past 1.

-Demon Princes can be up to Mastery level 3 for 25 points per level.

-Availability of Biomancy, Pyromancy and Telepathy for our Psykers.

Putting it all together:
So we end up not far from where we left off in the previous codex. We are still 23 points per model, Aspiring Sorcerers are still very expensive and we have the same stats.

The positive thing about all of this is that the initial power generated is free which grants us a net savings of 25-30 points depending on the powers generated (because the 3/4 and 5/6 powers were roughly 25-30 points previously-Bolt of Change and Winds of Chaos).

The bad thing is that we pay 58 points for the Aspiring Sorcerer that has no real defense to perils or being sniped from precision shots. WHY does the Aspiring Sorcerer cost virtually the same amount of points as the HQ sorcerer but have worse stats and options? Now that we know their only options are a stupid mutation roll and melta-bombs, so they remain Mastery level 1 and stuck with a Tzeench power, I am starting to think Phil Kelly either doesn't understand Thousand Sons or hates them (no offense Phil). 

I would have liked our sorcerer to be either much cheaper or, if expensive, at least get a significant stat boost and useful options since they cost about as much as an HQ model but are nowhere near as good. I would have also liked a points reduction on Rubrics to 20 points or so. 

Making it work:
All in all, with 6th edition in mind and with the other options we have in our codex, this may even out. I say this because so far, in my games in 6th with Thousand Sons, Rubrics with AP3 Bolters and the new Psychic powers have actually been really good.

Psychic Powers:
Since a Thousand Son army will feature more psykers than most other armies, you will want to try and get good powers and you will definitely need to learn how to get the most out of what you end up with. More psykers mean more chances for getting those powerful and game changing powers.

Regarding Thousand Sons in the new codex, as long as you roll a 3+ for Psychic Powers on the Tzeench chart and are able to upgrade the mastery level of Aspiring Sorcerers to get rolls from Telepathy, Thousand Son squads should do fine. Well, now that we know Aspiring Sorcerers are Mastery level 1 max and only get a Tzeench power, it will be up to our HQ sorcerers to generate book powers =(.

Discipline of Tzeench:
-Our 3-4 power is a Beam S8 Ap1 power. This is an improvement over Bolt of Change because it doesn't require a roll to hit and it can affect multiple vehicles. Get into position and line up some nice side armor shots on a parking lot.

-Our 5-6 power is essentially Winds of Chaos, a template weapon that wounds on a 4+ regardless of toughness, is AP2, and glances vehicles on a 4+.

Every other power is pretty lame, the Primaris is an unreliable blast and the 1-2 power is a s4 ap- hit on a friendly character within 2" and if the character survives the hit, he gets a roll on the chaos boons chart which I am not personally all that impressed with.

In conclusion, if you roll a 3+, rejoice because you got something useful. If you rolled a 1 or 2, Tzeench hates you and you are stuck with some lame power.

I personally believe that Telepathy offers the most for a Thousand Sons army of the available book disciplines. This is because Getting Puppet Master, Hallucination, Invisibility or even Terrify is huge as you can:

-Force an enemy tank to shoot for you (puppet master)

-Take an enemy unit out of the game for a turn or make it attack itself (hallucination)

-Greatly increase the survivability of a unit from enemy shooting and close combat (invisibility)

-Become able to run down units that are otherwise fearless like Mobs of Orks or Tyranids (Terrify)

Rubrics and AP 3 Bolters:
Last but not least are our access to Rubrics and AP3 Bolters. This is actually really huge as a lot of action will be taking place out in the open or behind 5+ cover and taking a 3+ save to a 5+ cover or no save at all is huge when facing other armies. In some of my games against other Space Marines or Purifier spam armies, my Rubrics have mowed down tons of 5 man units that are so prevalent in my meta. The fact that we have a 4+ invulnerable save is another huge thing as power weapons and low Ap weapons don't scare us as they do other units. Sure Rubrics die to Bolters and Lasguns just like any other marine but they really shine when facing AP2/3 weapons.

The thing is, one off squads will not accomplish much but 2 or more have done amazing things for me. Coupled with cheaper HQ sorcerers with access to Mastery Level 3, a Thousand Sons army can really spam certain powers which will definitely give us an edge over other armies.

So What will a good Thousand Sons Army look like?
I think a solid core of an army will have either Ahriman or a Sorcerer for an HQ to make Thousand Sons troops, 2+ units of Thousand Sons in Rhinos and maybe 2-3 units of Cultists for cheap scoring units/fodder.

Previously, anti-tank was a real challenge for CSM but in the new codex, we may get a lot of nice options for dealing with enemy armor while our Rubrics deal with the troops that are shot out of their transports. Also, In 6th, anti-air is also a new consideration but thankfully our codex will have options in either a Hell Drake or Havocs with Flak Missiles. Throw in some Close Combat elements like terminators and I think you have a decent and solid list.

The list I will probably end up throwing together may look like this:

Sorcerer, level 3
Ahriman or another level 3 Sorcerer.

Terminators: 8 strong (so they are 9 with an hq) with upgrades, power axes and MoT.

3XThousand Sons: 9 and a sorcerer in a Rhino

3X10 Cultists

Fast Attack:
Hell Drake

Heavy Support:
depends on options but perhaps some Obliterators and or Havocs.

Well, that's it for now. My next post regarding Thousand Sons should include some more WIP of my army and maybe some battle reports or a more in-depth tactical review.

To everyone out there, what do you guys think you will want in a Thousand Sons army? What do you guys want to see in the new codex? What has worked or hasn't worked for you?


  1. I also was a fan of 1k Sons back in 3.5 and with the amount of sorcerers available would laugh when watching opponents whine when they were turned into Chaos Spawn en masse.

    Here's to the new codex!

  2. Indeed, however, I am pretty disappointed with how Phil handled Thousand Son units and the Discipline of Tzeench. The Aspiring Sorcerer only gets boon of mutation and Melta Bomb options so he remains Mastery level 1 and stuck with Tzeench spells...Yet he costs as much as an HQ sorcerer who gets tons of options and utility. Regarding Tzeench spells, only 2 of them are useful and the rest suck...Why couldn't he have come up with maybe 7 powers like every other book discipline?

    I am really scratching my head at some of the changes. Oh well, 2 Sorcerers for HQ every game for me I guess...

  3. Or maybe a Tzeench Daemon Prince made from the Sphinx model . . .

    But I understand about the lack of flexibility. One would think with the universal lowering of costs of most units there could have been (or may still be pending on the actual rules) a bit more to add.

    1. Demon Princes have been nerfed and their points cost increased =(. I might take a Sphinx model and make it into a Hell Drake, though.

      There is always the Demon Codex that we can get decently priced Demon Princes from, though. They will offer us a S8 Ap1 shot with Skyfire if they get wings which is probably what I will end up doing.

      Sadly, Thousand Sons do not really have a lowered cost, not by much (maybe 27-32 points per unit) but the nice thing is we do get other cheaper options in CSM and Cultists and apparently a ForgeFiend is 140ish with 2 H4 S8 guns for a total of 8 shots, not too shabby IMO. Like you said, we'll have to see how the new codex pans out and go from there.

  4. Good read, I'm looking to reboot my thousand sons with the new codex. the sons themselves didn't get much better but as all of the support units have changed making anti tank wildly available, I think they still have a roll, One thing you can be sure of is that they excel at killing off troops.

    One more thing you didn't mention is how can we abuse Ahriman's dinfiltrate rule, I'm thinking something that can shoot and assault. A couple of hellbrutes in your face turn 1 seems scary.

  5. Thanks, pushups, I agree that support units became more viable and cheaper in general so that could make TS a lot more viable in turn.

    Ultimately, Ahriman's infiltrate ability only works with Infantry units but I can definitely see it being used on a nice unit of Terminators with Combi-Meltas =).

    I'm working on a CSM codex overview like my Eldar ones and some TS tactical articles, stay posted and I look forward to your input!