Saturday, March 26, 2011

A guide to GK unit upgrades

In this article, I will highlight the importance of certain unit upgrades for Grey Knights.  Keep in mind that I do my guides in a very cost effective manner.  If I don't think the unit upgrade isn't worth it, I won't mention it.  Please, feel free to disagree via questions or comments.

When to Master-Craft?

For 5 points, there's a lot of reasons why you should MC weapons.  You increase accuracy in your shots and you improve the lethality of your attacks in CC.  A GM or Libby with a MC weapon makes him much more dangerous in combat because you're going to be landing more Force Weapon hits.  Once Force Weapons are activated, everything in the game that lives or breathes will fear you without question.  Eternal Warrior is the only thing that can save them at that point.  My rule to Master-crafting is simple and effective:  Always MC your Psycannons if you can, always MC your Daemonhammers and always MC your HQ's weapons if you can fit the points.  Keep in mind that MC is only 5 points and most of the time you can put it on any weapon you wish.  That means when you want something to hit; when you NEED something to hit, 5 points is a very small price to pay.  All squad leaders can MC their weapons, another thing to keep in mind.

What NFW should I use?

This depends entirely on playstyle and personal preference but I'll tell you what I prefer:  Halberds on everything with 2 attacks, Swords on your vital HQs and Hammers on anything that's non-IC, can't be picked out and in a 5:1 ratio to any infantry squad.  This means no IC in your army should ever carry a Hammer.  Grand Masters are I5 so you want to take advantage of that and Librarians have the exact stats as a Paladin.  For Librarians, if you favor protection, go with a NFS to make him 4++ in CC.  Sometimes I prefer the extra early hitting power so I give the Librarian a MC Halberd.  For Grand Masters, I almost always take the NFS because it gives him a 3++ in close combat.  Nothing else in the army is capable of giving you 3++ in CC for the price and his I5 is easily capable to matching most troops and HQs in combat.  A I7 Halberd should only be considered if you want to outpace really speedy HQs.

Remember what I said about the ratio between Hammers and infantry.  It doesn't matter if you're using Terminators, Paladins or GKSS, you always want to maintain a 5:1 ratio unless you have a specific purpose.  This means if you want a close-range tank-busting team of S10 Hammers, I might take a 5:2 ratio of Hammers.  This is viable, but ONLY do this if the Hammers are free or very cheap.  You don't have Storm Shields so don't think you can weather the same kind of damage to swing less.  Grey Knight Terminators rely on killing things in combat first to minimize the number of attacks back.

So when do you use swords?  You only use swords if you want to play defensive in nature on units utilizing invulnerable saves.  This should mean all PAGK (Power-armored Grey Knights) should not use swords right?  No.  On everything but Purifiers, you keep the swords for 2 key reasons:  The Halberds are expensive and with one measly attack, you're not taking full advantage of your speedy potential.  That means swords stay on GKSS and Interceptor squads because it's cost effective.

But what about Falchions?  Speed is more important than the +1 attack.  Offense, in my opinion, is more important than taking armor saves as defense.  Killing the enemy before they have the chance to strike eliminates the possibility to rolling poorly on armor saves.  This not only eliminates the use of defensive measures entirely but it also kills the enemy.  There's nothing better than that, especially when you consider that falchions costs points to upgrade.

Lastly, we have Warding Staves.  These things should be the last thing you look at because they're very limited in use.  They're expensive, takes away a I6 Halberd, only works in CC and did I mention it's too expensive?  I don't know about you folks, but I'd rather kill whatever I touch rather than relying on a expensive, purely defensive option.  The only time these should be looked at is on Paladins, and I honestly wouldn't take 1 unless I have excessive points (and this is never).

When to buy a Psycannon?

Always.  The Psycannon is one of the best weapon upgrades to grace our codex and I embrace its use in full effect.  Not only can you use it on the move or standing still, but the S7 Rending is one of the best options to punch through enemy armor.  In fact, it's the most reliable way to break through AV14 Land Raiders since meltas are such a rarity.  If your army has the option to take 1:5 or 2:10, go for it.  Purifiers and Purgation units can utilize 4 at max squads and that's always a good anti-armor option.  As for the subject of taking an 50 point MC Psycannon on an Grand Master, I think it's worth the points if you're planning to shoot it a lot.  BS6 with a re-roll is no joke and 4 shots per turn adds a lot to the army over the course of the game.  Keep in mind that Paladins can MC the Psycannons that they can take, so make sure you always spend that little extra to make it happen.  MC Psycannons can transform that missed opportunity to a dead Land Raider.

But what about Incinerators or Psilencers?

Psilencers are absolute ass compared to the Psycannon.  Incinerators, on the other hand, are great weapons.  Even though Incinerators are amazing, they clash with Psycannons for upgrade slots and that's the only reason they're ranked behind.  I guess it completely depends on your metagame.  If your club plays with a lot of mech, Psycannons are definitely the preferred upgrade.  If your club enjoys playing with plenty of boots on the ground and horde units, load up on the Incinerators because they're the best template weapons available for their cost.

When to take Psybolt Ammunition?

You take Psybolt Ammo on big squads of infantry or on vehicles with a good amount of bolter weapons.  Keep in mind that if you upgrade your Hurricane Bolters with Psybolts, they no longer count as defensive weapons.  Razorbacks with a 5 point upgrade become little Assault Cannons.  Assault Cannons with these become the same as a Psycannon.  These are also fantastic on Rifleman Dreads because 4 BS4 S8 shots makes a huge difference when trying to punch through enemy armor.  Large squads of infantry shooting S5 Storm Bolters also do serious damage to troops left in the open.  It also gives you the opportunity to hurt AV11 Rhinos.  Frankly, the best part to S5 Storm Bolters is that you start wounding T4 66% of the time instead of 50% and T3 83% of the time instead of 66%.  That's a pretty big difference.

What kind of grenades should I take on my HQs?

My must-takes are Blind Grenades and the Rad Grenades.  They can't be blocked by any reason, isn't random and has a fixed result.  Defensive nades reduce the amount of damage your squad will take in combat and Rad nades increase your squad's combat effectiveness.  Neither of these require your IC to be in base to base with the enemy.  Against T3 opponents, you don't even need to Hammer Hand to to start instant killing models (via double S vs. T) and wounding on 2s.  When fighting MEQ (T4 3+), Rad grenades with Hammer Hand result in 2+ wounds across the board and a huge boost in combat potential.  Rad grenades are also huge against MC creatures where you'd otherwise need 5s or 6s to wound.

Other grenade options are Empyrean Brain Mines and Psychostroke Grenades.  Brain Mines don't really work because you'll be killing most things you outspeed anyway.  Those you can't guarantee kills on don't really care.  Mines won't really protect you against faster HQs or CC specialists and most hidden fists won't be in base to base for it to work.  Psychotroke Grenades are great and fun and can have all kinds of funny effects on your opponent, but it's not guaranteed and it "might" increase your chances at killing stuff in CC.  For me, it's all about the guarantee and not the fear of possibility.  There's enough possibility in a game of dice to begin with, so why add another layer of random?  If you can spare the points, feel free to take Rad and Psychotroke nades for extra lols.  Just know that I'll take Rads over Psychostrokes any day of the week because rolling a 1 in a game-changing assault is asshairs.

When to take Servo-skulls?

Always.  They help with your Deep Strike placement, prevents Infiltrators from setting up and pushes Scouts back a respectable distance.  The most important reason to take Servo-skulls is DS assistance.  There's nothing that sucks more than having your expensive GKs mishap when you need them the most.  How many you take of these damn things depends entirely on how many points you have left.

When to take the Brotherhood Banner and Apothecary?

I only take the BBanner on big squads of Terminators.  If I have 7 or more, I almost always take the BBanner because the extra attack and free pass on activating Force Weapons is just divine.  The idea is that you HH with the Libby and then use the Terminator's power to auto-activate.  This way you get the +S in addition to having Instant Death wounds.  I use the same philosophy on the Apothecary and even more so when there's important ICs attached.  Some people believe the Apothecary to be too expensive on Paladin squads and I agree with them to a degree.  In squads of 5, I never take a Apothecary because I don't see them as a main fighting force.  If I have a squad of 7 and some ICs attached, I will always take the Apoth because he makes his points back in a hurry.  As long as you save 3 missed wounds on any of the models you have there, you make the Apoth's points back.  Of course you can always take another Paladin to save some points and add some more extra firepower, but there'll always be games where you'll roll poorly the first time.  I personally like having the additional failsafe.


carn said...


Wonder why You disregard Warding Staff combat potential. It is nemesis force weapon so act as nemesis sword in combat with 2+ inv.

Lack of combat special rules is with BBaner. It replaces nemesis sword so fight with bare hand. How high is such paladin on Your allocating wounds list? How long do You protect model with 2 no pw attacks but boosting effect on squad?


HERO said...

I normally run a Libby w/ a MC Halberd in a 7x Paladin squad w/ Apoth all configured differently. I use the Libby to boost the missing combat potential of the BBanner. At greater points, I like taking a Grand Master w/ the squad as well.

Anonymous said...

i noticed you said that you whouldent take "more then one" warding staff, did you mean in your whole army or on one unit, because the codex says that you can only have one staff per squad( it was the leaked beta codex that said as many as you want per squad not the final dex). just curious, not to make a big deal about wording but ive seen this[mistake?] before on other blogs and such.

HERO said...

The only place a Warding Staff should belong is in a Paladin squad. And even then, only 1 is needed, and only when you have spare points. And stop using the leaked dex, it's obsolete and contains incorrect information.

carn said...

And who would use test codex now? And in printed one Staff is NFW and is one per squad no matter when You look be it paladins or any other.

But i dont write to flame with You. Just was wandering of Your toughs.

Keep the good work on GKs!

BCcorin said...

Hero thanks so much for this. Very helpful. I was thinking about mixing some swords into my halberd units for wound allocation on my terms and pallies. You seem to feel it's unnecessary. But your point is sound: Use halberds, go first, kill everything.

HERO said...

Right, I understand that you can only take 1 in a Paladin squad. But you can take more with ICs like the Libby or GM, and I'm saying that it's a complete waste of points. Do not take 1 per army because you can't afford the points. If you can, you're building your army wrong.

Anonymous said...

Just like to point out you might actually get 2 attacks from Falchions, as they generally come in a pair for 2CCWs and the special rule for them does not say you get an extra attack for 2CCWs, just you get an extra attack. Might make them seem more useful, as I don't think they're really worth the cost at just +1 attack.

Duke of Earl said...

How hard is it to read?

The wielder of a pair of Nemesis falchions has +1 attack.

Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing. It's clearly stated that you get +1 attack. There's no ambiguity that could be used to argue for +2 attacks. For a GW rule it's surprisingly clear.

Anonymous said...

I think that the point people are trying to make is that it states quite clearly that you get +1 attack, as you have shown, but it nowhere mentions that that attack is because you have a pair of CCWs. Try thinking of it as a pair of lightning claws, but instead of the re-rolls, you get +1 attack instead (with an additional +1 for having 2 CCWs)

btw, this is not my own point of view, just one which has been argued extensively on other forums, I myself have no intention of using Falchions and Halberds on my Termis will do just fine! :D

Anonymous said...

I have seen rhinos and razorbacks in almost all the lists you have built, so i was wondering if Landraiders/stormravens even worth taking for a competitive list?

HERO said...

SRs tend to die way too often, that's their biggest problem. AV12 is crap and if you're TB'ing for cover you're not shooting or dropping off troops. Another problem I have is the damn GK SRs having Mindstrike Missiles over Bloodstrike Missiles. I don't know about you guys, but paying 5 extra points for that Psyker pilot is not worth the 4x S8 AP1 missiles :(

LRs are better, but not being able to take them as dedicated transports is just balls I think. Not to mention LRs are pretty easy to destroy this edition.

Valegorn said...

wow, I usually don't have any issues with figuring out wonky rules, but there is some serious ambiguity. Going off of the pattern I see, each weapon gives you some benefit. Falchions simply giving you one attack sounds like it isn't because of the +1A for two CCW. I can easily see it going both ways.

But if I were to choose, I'd say its a +1A because it is two CCW. So there would be no additional attack because it is two CCW. I'm sure it will be addressed in a FAQ.

HERO: Do you always try to max out your rifleman dreads? Also, would you play these GK's in a smaller point tourney? Sometimes my local game store likes to run 1k tourneys. Personally I've had bad experiences with small points elite armies, I think there is some marginal return of performance for most armies, and with the elite ones, they simply do poorly in smaller point battles. What say you?

HERO said...

I'd say that small points and elite armies really don't mix. I played a 1500 point game before and I felt severely outnumbered. At the end of the day, you're still a normal marine and you definitely die like one. I don't always max out my Rifledreads, but I do like 2-3 in most of my lists these days. Sadly, for 1k tournaments, I'd recommend going shooty with HB + Psybolt RBs and spamming Rifledreads. Not very fun.. but it is a tournament so show no mercy.

Unknown said...

Actually, I rather like the mindstrike missiles. Enemy librarians(read: psychic hoods :P) are one of the biggest threats to GK and with the missiles' 72" range and defensive weapon status you can snipe the enemy librarian the moment the SR enters the field.

Jipin said...

i still think ws 6 master crafted.hammers are still good. hammerhand and s10 id anything (near enough) is worth it. my characters historically do poorly in cc so i guess i need the help! otherwise I agree with nearly everything here Hero. thoughts on Dreadknights?

Pyriel said...

Mindstrikes are crap, they have to hit first meaning they will scatter away 66% of the times so you shoot 3 missiles and get 0.84% perils wounds on the target.

now imagine if the target has an inv save = even less peril hits and at the end of the day the psycher you just hit has 2 or 3 wounds so what´s the difference. Mind missiles sucks ass.

As for landraiders they might actually work here. you have summoning that can get them to other places without exposure while driving or wasting shots while driving.
you have techmarines and/or shrouding for nice 3+ and 2+ cover saves and you have cheap strike squads that make the landraider immune to deepstriking melta.

It might very well be worth keeping a pair or even three land riader in 3/2+ cover save terrain for most of the game just killing things at range with the raiders and orbitals completely safe from deepstriking and grabbing objectives only at the end with strike squads or teleport or summoning. That strategy might actually work wonders despite lower numbers.

Remember, multiple landraiders are dangerous even in this edition and GK landraiders have the best survivability of them all.

Hero: Could this be anything to try out?

HERO said...

Yeah, I don't know. You can try LRs in 2s or 3s, with a Techmarine, Librarian and place to summon them. If you think about it, that's a lot of special conditions that needs to be fulfilled and most games, the perfect scenario won't fall into your lap.

I'm not saying it's a impossible strategy, it's just that it's not as insured as I would like.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of 1k games, I was thinking about this list:

Libby, 4 powers.
2x 10 GKSS, psycannons, psybolts, rhino/s
2x Psyrifle Dreads

Playable? Rubbish? I'd enjoy hearing your advice.

HERO said...

Wouldn't change a damn thing.

Dagron XIII said...


I disagree that Mindstrike are crap. Chances are you're playing with skulls which reduce d6" scatter if within 12". Figuring it that way, you're looking at d6" - 4" scatter you should hit the libby 3-4 times. That's not even figuring that some of those scatters will score a hit on the scatter die. 3-4 auto wounds from perils is not something to sneeze at lightly and you're not even counting the wounds that those shots actually cause. Besides, any seer council in existance will walk lightly around those missles which is good since the eldar present the largest psychic defense you're likely to face.

Still, I understand Hero's argument concerning points and would favor SR and LR much more in a mixed GK army as opposed to the PGK that Hero runs.

Pyriel said...

Well, the mindstrikes are really there to be used against farseers and nid monsters with shadow. The first will always be hidden in a vehicle and the second has an absurd toughness so those S6 perils wounds become less dangerous.

Thinking about libbies, they will too be hidden away in rhinos etc so even less targets for the mindstrike.

If anything in the GK arsenal requires an insane amount of favorable conditions to be met it is the storm with its mindstrikes.

Some things in this codex are well thought of and some things just look like someone who absolutelly hates gray knights put together a pile of useless dung over a cofee break.
Things like psilencers, falchions and psychic defense are pure fails across the board.

HERO said...

Pyriel, you're thinking about 4th Ed. bro. Perils is no longer a strength value, it's just a wound with no armor saves and you have to re-roll successful invul saves.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, what a great info blog well done !!

I really like the idea of a simple paladin only army (with Librarian and GM dude as per your list on tactica - pretty much exactly what I was planning)
Just a little concerned now after reading these last few posts that I'm wasting my time with that...
With your experience now... (clearly a LOT more than mine) how effective do you think this army can be especially with DeepStrike?
If you got your ICs attached to your squads then none of your army will be on the table at the start of the game - never played like this before - pros cons ??
Thank loads

HERO said...

The Pros are that you're playing with a very elite army and you don't need a lot of models to get started. Paladins are near invulnerable to small arms fire but suffer greatly from high strength AP weaponry (especially double T).

DS is also very risky, because even with the reduced skull scatter, there's a chance your army will come in pieces instead of with force. Your army is small enough that you can't afford having your dudes come in piece by piece because they'll just get focus fired and blow away. That's the problem with DS and reserves in general, and that escalates greatly the more elite your army is (which GK is the most).

The only way around this is if you have Draigo starting on the field by himself and psychic communion the Paladins down. It might go well for you to DS since you can minimize the Psycannon's 24" weakness, but there will be games where you roll 3 1s for reserves and half of your army shows up on Turn 5 when everything you have is dead. Those games will be sad times for you.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm wise words I think and exposes a big issue with this type of setup... :( shame.

Could you start 10 paladins and draigo and librarian in a redeemer maybe ? Good for a 20" charge to get things going?


HERO said...

How do you plan on fitting that in a Redeemer? Terminator bodies count as 2 models. And nothing says SHOOT ME HERE than that unit.

Anonymous said...

yeah sry termi armour, forgot... late, lacking sleep... :)

Anonymous said...

On the paladin upgrade list it states 'the entire squad can take psybolt ammo ... 20 pts'

is this ONE cost for the whole unit as it suggests so it's better value on a larger unit OR cost per model ??

HERO said...

I don't understand the question. You buy the upgrade for the entire squad for 20 pts. It's not worth the 20 points unless you have a good amount of models that can take advantage of it. If 2/5 dudes are carrying Psycannons, and they can't take advantage of Psybolts, then its not worth it for that configuration.

Anonymous said...

That answers it thank you. I was just unsure if it was a 20pts per model cost or 20pts for everyone! Most upgrades are priced per model - twoz why i was a little confused.

Anonymous said...

I have a few questions as i am fairly new to use psykers.
1. Activating force weapons in the rule book is stated as using a psychic power so can say a unit of paladins without a banner activate their NFWs AND use Hammerhand ??
2. Can paladins activate hammerhand and a librarian leading the squad use all his powers in same turn and still get the benefit of the hammerhand ? i.e. not count it as one of his powers?
3. Why are paladins not fearless !!???
4. Surely a GK Librarian should be immune to Perils of Warp with all the blarb about no GK ever being corrupted by chaos etc... ??

HERO said...

1. No.
2. Yes
3,4. Come on guy.

Anonymous said...

ta. 3,4 --> am i being fik and missing something obvious ?

HERO said...

You're being "fik", whatever that means. Those are your opinions and they're NOT represented in the codex at all.

Anonymous said...

lol :p
fik = thick btw.

Anonymous said...

Hey dude need some help with HQ!!

Just spent ages building a GK list with Crowe and a Lib as HQ choices with all paladins and purifiers and Crowe leading one of the purifier squads...
Just noticed crowe ISNT an IC so he cant join or lead a unit right !!????
Which seems to go against the Titans Herald spec rule which allows re-rolls for crowe "... and all members of the squad he has joined..."

Whats going on here then? Typo ? Can he join or not ? If not he's just going to get shot!

Again with Mordrak he's not a IC either so apart from his ghosts he cant join a unit either right ?
So again the 'Fists to the Fray' rule is a bit slack in its terminology as it says "...Mordrak and any unit he accompanies ..." when this can ONLY be GhostKnights !!???
Bit crap aint it ???

HERO said...

Yes, it's crap. Neither Crowe or Mordrak are ICs.

Anonymous said...

Please forgive my newb question but do termies and paladins HAVE to start the game in reserve??
I cant find anywhere in the rule book or codex that says they HAVE to!
The rule book talks of having to start in reserve IF you want to use deepstrike - Optional.
The codex says models wearing termie armour 'can' or'may' start in reserve and arrive using deep strike.. - again Optional.

Can someone point me to a specific written rule that says they 'HAVE' or 'MUST' start in reserve rather that optional rules which is all i can find ? Would be nice to start the game with a table full of shooty paladins ! :)

Thanks and sorry if i'm missing something obvious and just being dumb!

HERO said...

No, they don't have to start the game in reserve. They have the option to, and they have the option to DS because they're wearing TDA.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou. Damm I've always throught they HAD to! Dont know where i got that from!

Anonymous said...

When facing armies like orks{high numbers low initiative would it be reasonable to equip purifiers or even strike squads with nemesis falchions?

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