Grey Knights Tactica: Grey Knights 101

The Agenda

  • Overview
  • The List
  • List Dissection
  • Grey Knights Battle-Plan and Strategies
  • Wombo Combos
  • Closing Thoughts

I’ve had an opportunity to get a few games under my belt with the new Grey Knights from Psychic Awakening, and I’m extremely excited (potentially even switching my main from Aeldari to GK) to keep playing Grey Knights here in 2020. I’d like to discuss a few key overall game plans, some strategies, and tactics that I’ve been utilizing over the course of the past month or so. Buckle-in and let’s discuss.

The List

WannaBmoy's 2,000 Point Pilot Grey Knights List:

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Imperium – Grey Knights) [83 PL, 1,128pts, 8CP] ++

+ Configuration +

Battle-forged CP [3CP]

Detachment Bonuses: Show Bonuses

Detachment CP [5CP]

+ HQ +

Brother-Captain Stern [8 PL, 105pts]: Astral Aim

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight [14 PL, 214pts]: Dreadfist, Gatling Psilencer, Heavy Psycannon, Nemesis Greatsword, Sanctuary

Lord Kaldor Draigo [12 PL, 180pts]: Armoured Resilience, Edict Imperator

+ Troops +

Strike Squad [7 PL, 89pts]: Gate of Infinity
. 3x Grey Knight (Halberd): 3x Nemesis Force Halberd, 3x Storm Bolter
. Grey Knight (Psycannon): Psycannon
. Grey Knight Justicar: Storm bolter
. . Nemesis Force Halberd: Nemesis Force Halberd

Strike Squad [7 PL, 86pts]: Gate of Infinity
. 3x Grey Knight (Halberd): 3x Nemesis Force Halberd, 3x Storm Bolter
. Grey Knight (Psilencer): Psilencer
. Grey Knight Justicar: Storm bolter
. . Nemesis Force Halberd: Nemesis Force Halberd

Strike Squad [7 PL, 89pts]: Gate of Infinity
. 3x Grey Knight (Halberd): 3x Nemesis Force Halberd, 3x Storm Bolter
. Grey Knight (Psycannon): Psycannon
. Grey Knight Justicar: Storm bolter
. . Nemesis Force Halberd: Nemesis Force Halberd

+ Elites +

Apothecary [5 PL, 88pts]: Astral Aim
. Nemesis Daemon Hammer: Nemesis Daemon Hammer

+ Fast Attack +

Interceptor Squad [16 PL, 188pts]: Astral Aim
. 8x Interceptor (Falchions): 16x Nemesis Falchion, 8x Storm Bolter
. Interceptor Justicar: Storm bolter
. . Nemesis Force Halberd: Nemesis Force Halberd

+ Heavy Support +

Purgation Squad [7 PL, 89pts]: Gate of Infinity
. 4x Purgator (Psilencer): 4x Psilencer
. Purgator Justicar: Storm bolter
. . Nemesis Force Halberd: Nemesis Force Halberd

++ Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Imperium – Grey Knights) [63 PL, 872pts, 1CP] ++

+ Configuration +

Detachment CP [1CP]

+ HQ +

Chaplain [8 PL, 107pts]: 2. Words of Power, 6. Invocation of Focus, Astral Aim, Storm bolter

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight [14 PL, 224pts]: 4: First to the Fray, Dreadfist, Dreadknight teleporter, Gatling Psilencer, Heavy Psycannon, Nemesis Greatsword, Sanctuary, Warlord

Librarian [9 PL, 101pts]: Empyrean Domination, Sanctic Shard, Warp Shaping
. Nemesis Warding Stave: Nemesis Warding Stave

+ Elites +

Paladin Squad [32 PL, 440pts]: Gate of Infinity
. 7x Paladin (Halberd): 7x Nemesis Force Halberd, 7x Storm Bolter
. 2x Paladin (Warding Stave): 2x Nemesis Warding Stave, 2x Storm Bolter
. Paragon: Storm Bolter
. . Nemesis Force Halberd: Nemesis Force Halberd

++ Total: [146 PL, 9CP, 2,000pts] ++

List Dissection

List Commentary: In my first pilot iteration of the list, there are some unit choices that are likely “sub-optimal” as the competitive community would call them, but I’ve gone ahead and included them for the following reasons:

1) I own the models and love them
2) I own the models and love them
3) Even “bad units” can be played competitively

The list was designed around maximizing the usage of Tide of Convergence and Tide of Escalation while taking advantage of the Psybolt Ammunition and Psychic Onslaught stratagems and the Astral Aim and Edict Imperator psychic abilities to maximize my overall damage output.

Strong characters provide me with those precious adolescent Rites of Banishment Smites. Interceptors and a single Paladin blob are the receipients of Psybolt Ammunition with Psycannons and Psilencers embedded in each Strike Squad for additional output for Tide of Convergence. The Purgation Squad and Grand Master Nemesis Dreadknights make the most of Psychic Onslaught.

Ultimately, I feel dual battalions are necessary but since I do not have the additional 15 Strikes quite yet, this is the list I’m running with until further notice.

Let’s go over a few of the unit choices in the list.

Couple of Grand Masters take on a Daemon Prince

Lord Kaldor Draigo: Frankly, the re-rolls for the Paladins and Purgation squad with Astral Aim and Edict Imperator are so powerful. Since I only have 9 Command Points in this list, I try to take advantage of as many unit abilities and psychic abilities as possible to maximize my output. He’s a beatstick with the Titansword dealing 6 attacks with Shock Assault at S8 AP-4 Dmg 3, 3++ with his Storm Shield and 7 wounds.

Brother-Captain Stern: He’s cheaper than a regular Brother-Captain and is used simply for his Psychic Locus ability. Don’t fall for the trap of using his The Strands of Fate ability. Lastly, Stern also gives me access to some Dominus Discipline spells.

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight: Say what you will about the GMNDK baby carriers, I think they’re cool as heck. They are also relatively stand-alone units that can deal damage and operate with or without the use of stratagems. Sanctuary and Heed the Prognosticars can make them incredibly durable and they can also make good use of Astral Aim, Edict Imperator, and Psychic Onslaught. Their re-roll aura can be handy when you want to divide your focus on a coordinated assault. I typically keep my warlord in Deep Strike with the First to the Fray warlord ability. Imagine coming down with a GMNDK, shunting a squad of Interceptors, Gating a Paladin Squad, and deep striking in some strike squads. All of this can occur on turn 2 and put a tremendous amount of pressure wherever I want them to (provided I eliminate screens on turn 1 with Astral Aim and edict imperator from Paladins, Interceptors, the Purgation Squad, and/or the non-Deep Striking GMNDK). They’re absolute beasts in combat and effective even when they’ve degraded.

Chaplain: Taken for their powerful Litanies of Purity, access to the Dominus Discipline. He’s also a surprisingly durable and powerful character. All of the Litanies are powerful, but I’ve found Intonement for Guidance and Recitation of Projection to be the most crucial at-times. The ability to ignore hit-roll and Ballistic Skill modifiers can be absolutely clutch in certain matchups and because the list is so terrain dependent, I’ve found the extra 6″ to be very useful (let’s be honest, who couldn’t use an extra 6″…) to maximize use of terrain and ensure that my firepower is within range to do some damage.

Librarian: The Librarian tends to have the Sanctic Shard relic, and I use him as a backfield objective holder and to cast my non-battle-plan dependent spells such as Warp Shaping, Empyrean Domination, and an argument can be made for Ethereal Manipulation as well as Edict Imperator which are the warp charge 7 spells. I am considering making him my Warlord and taking Lore Master so that he has access to three abilities. But for now, I like him as a backfield objective holder that can reliably gain me CP and change my Tides as necessary.

Paladins: The new (old) kid on the block. While not wholly dependent on Paladins, they are a focal point of the list. Currently, I have them kitted out with a few Nemesis Warding Staves and Halberds. I do not equip them with Psycannons because I have them as a dedicated Psybolt Ammunition unit. My general strategy is to try and start them on the board in a ruin or magic box that can either (or both) use Edict Imperator and/or Astral Aim on turn 1. I tend to play very conservatively with them, using them to create a 24″ bubble of board control that my opponents are reluctant to want to enter. Towards the mid-game, I will commit them to the board to get them “stuck-in” my opponent’s line. This is when I will tend to switch over to Tide of Escalation and start maximizing the Mortal Wound output of my army.

Apothecary: Relatively cheap unit that can keep my Paladins going longer and also access the Dominus Discipline. They are also surprisingly powerful with a WS 2+ W5 A4 (5 with Shock Assault) stat-line. I kite mine out with a Nemesis Daemon Hammer to act as a mini Smash Captain.

Interceptors: I really like this unit. Their shunt ability means I can really take advantage of potential terrain on turn 1 and use them as my Psybolt Ammo target within a ruin or magic box to gain board control but also threaten weak points in my opponent’s line. They’re also cheaper than Paladins and can serve in a similar function (albeit significantly less durable). Their maneuverability is something that Grey Knights lack a little bit and can be a huge boon to get key wraps or threaten objectives on their own.

Space Wolves Reivers contemplate their odds of survival after declaring a charge against a Grey Knights Purgation Squad

Purgation Squad: 89 points for 4 Psilencers. Hide them in a ruin/magic box, keep Draigo and a Chaplain nearby and watch them go to work. Combined with the Bring Down the Beast stratagem, there is nothing this unit won’t take off the board in a single round of shooting. Another cheeky tactic, that I will discuss below, is that I’ll often have them protecting the back of a Paladin blob if my opponent has deep striking or outflanking elements. If they choose to wipe the Purgation Squad, they’re increasing a charge range by 2-3″ on the Paladins, and if they charge the Purgation Squad, for 1CP I can take advantage of Preternatural Senses and hit on 4-6s on overwatch. Not bad for an 89 point “backfield” screen.

Paladins move out of the ruin to shoot in the Psychic Phase with Edict Imperator while the Purgation Squad protects the rear and adds to the weight of fire with Astral Aim and Psychic Onslaught. Draigo and a Chaplain lend support with their re-roll aura and Litanies.

Strike Squad: The trusty Strike Squad. I have really enjoyed using them with Dynamic Insertion to steal away objectives from my opponent when I go second. This really comes in handy turns 3+ to help me start securing the Hold More primary objectives in ITC matches. Each squad has a Psycannon and/or Psilencer to lend some additional weight of fire and their MW output is also clutch. While they lack durability, their offensive output (especially with Nemesis weapons) should not be overlooked as they can single handily take objectives if needs be.

Grey Knights Battle-Plan and Strategies

Path to Victory (Overall Battle-Plan): Grey Knights might be one of the most cagey armies today. They reward a patient general who is able to employ some cunning tactics and take advantage of their flexibility. Grey Knights aren’t the unstoppable juggernaut of 5th edition but they certainly have the Paladin-Star which will be a cornerstone for most Grey Knights armies. With 440+ points invested in this unit, it is important to maximize its effectiveness. Additionally, there is a plethora of other options and tools that I feel are worth exploring.

I’ve found that the general path to victory for Grey Knights is to squeeze out small minor victories as opposed to going for the decisive crushing win. In the ITC format, I’m happy to to give up Hold More turns 1-3, if I can keep my units hidden and win by Holding 1, Killing 1 to 2 enemy units to try and secure a Kill More, as well as keeping pace with secondaries. Towards the middle-to-late game, I am able to move out to start controlling the board to jump ahead on the Hold categories.

If all goes according to plan, a typical margin for victory for this conservative strategy will be anywhere between 2 – 6 points on the primaries. In non-ITC formats, my general game plan is more or less the same. I like to focus on patient play to set up more coordinated strikes and then try and make up ground during turns 3 and onward. This usually means I’m playing from behind up early on, and it is important for me to stick to the plan and not make any rash decisions in the early game to keep my assets safe.

Terrain and Board Control: Grey Knights are incredibly dependent on good terrain. Whether it’s line of sight blocking terrain pieces or ruins/magic boxes, Grey Knights want it all. My general strategy is to try and provide my opponent with zero quality targets in the early game. I will sometimes leave my non-warlord GMNDK to try and entice my opponent to go first. Grey Knights excel at-going second and keeping your critical assets protected is key.

I will often try to leverage a firebase of Paladins and my Purgation Squad to gain control of a key section of the board on Turn 1-3. On Turns 2-3, once I’ve established my foothold, I will often bring down my Warlord GMNDK, shunt a squad of Interceptors, or gate my Paladins to start committing to the board.

Paladins, Draigo, and an Apothecary move into a ruin to gain board control against a Drukhari opponent

Grey Knight’s Fire and Fade / Shooting Through Walls Cheat-Mode: One of the most powerful abilities in the game is the ability to fire without needing LOS. Astral Aim allows Grey Knights players to take full advantage of this on any of your units. Whether it’s used on a Venerable Dreadnought with Twin Lascannons and Missile Launcher (a unit I plan on experimenting with to help deal with Thunder-Fire cannons), or Purgation Squads, GMNDKs, Land-Raiders, Paladins, Interceptors, etc. It’s incredibly powerful to be able to bring significant firepower from the safety of a ruin, magic box, or LOS blocking terrain.

Grey Knights also have access to their own version of Fire and Fade via Edict Imperator. The benefit here is that it allows you to fire out of sequence in the psychic phase and then move. There are some powerful combinations that can take advantage of this strategy as discussed below under the Timing and Coordinated Attacks strategies.

Grand Master in Nemesis Dreadknight using Edict Imperator to fire down range at a unit of Talos before moving back to the safety of a ruin that blocks line of sight.

Timing and Coordinated Attacks: Grey Knights are one of the few armies that have a true Alpha strike but also very powerful Beta strikes as well. A well-timed Alpha strike with a Shunt move from a squad of Interceptors and Gating a Paladin squad can really devastate an opponent. A powerful Beta strike can also consist of multiple deep striking elements of Strike Squads, GMNDKs, powerful characters, Gating a Paladin blob, and a shunting Interceptor squad. One of the most crucial aspects of learning Grey Knights is when and how to time your strikes.

A well-timed Beta strike allows Grey Knights to bring a significant portion of firepower against your opponent

A powerful strategy is using Edict Imperator and/or Astral Aim in your psychic phase to clear a screen to then fit a squad that can Gate of Infinity into an ideal position. This could help eliminate your opponent’s key units/characters, but also help you gain critical position as well. Additionally, Edict Imperator allows for you to double up on the usage of Psybolt Ammunition or Psychic Onslaught in the psychic phase and shooting phase which can significantly boost your overall damage output.

Althought not a perfect example, you can check out an example of this strategy employed below:

  1. The Interceptor Squad at the bottom of the screen has shunted into position on turn 2
  2. The GMNDK has deep struck 9″ away from the Wave Serpent but within 6″ of the Interceptor Squad
  3. At the beginning of the Psychic Phase, The Interceptors cast Astral Aim on themselves and then the GMDNK casts Edict Imperator on the Interceptors.
  4. The Interceptors then finish off the Wave Serpent
  5. The Paladin blob on the left side is then able to Gate of Infinity within 9″ of the Dark Reaper squad but also 6″ within the GMNDK to access the re-roll aura and First of the Fray Warlord trait.
  6. The Paladin squad and GMNDK are able to shoot and then attempt to charge the Dark Reapers to remove a critical component of the opponent’s army.
Shunting Interceptors, Deep Striking Grand Masters, oh my!

Stealing Objectives: Grey Knights love going second. One of my favorite tactics is using Dynamic Insertion to steal objectives on turns 2-3 from my opponent to try and secure Hold More or even the bonus objective. While everyone loves Dynamic Insertion to Psychic Suicide Bomb a key enemy unit (discussed below), I find that trick to be too costly of a CP investment. This strategy trades CP for VP which is always a recipe for success.

An Objective Secured Strike Squad is Dynamically Inserted to steal an opponent’s objective.
Wombo Combos

Psy-Storm: My lists are built around the usage of Psybolt Ammunition, Psychic Onslaught, and the Tide of Convergence. This equates to Str6 Ap-1 Dmg 2 Psybolters, Str 6 Ap-1 Dmg D3+1 Psilencers, Str 9 Ap-3 Dmg 2 Psycannons when used In conjunction with Psybolt ammunition and Psychic Onslaught. This can be further augmented with re-roll auras, and Litanies to reduce damage variances or increase AP characteristics even further.

When used in conjunction with Bring Down the Beast (2CP), your Psi weapons will be taking down Knight equivalents each turn even with a 4+ save.

Paladin-Stars: The cat’s out of the bag regarding Paladins. They make great use of the above strategy but are also incredibly durable when using Transhuman Physiology, Redoubtable Defence, Armoured Resilence, and Sanctuary. I typically run my blobs with at-least 2 staves, though I may be adding some more in the future.

Smite Spam: We touched on the usage of the Psychic Locus ability. When combined with the Tide of Escalation this provides signicant mortal wound output. I tend to swap to this Tide towards turn 3-4 when my Paladins and other units start getting stuck into close combat but will often times start out with this strategy Turn 1-2 as well.

Psychic Suicide Bombers: The Inner Fire spell when used with Powerful Adept to increase the range by 6″, Empyric Surge and the Sanctic Shard to increase the result of your Psychic Tests, and/or Psychic Channeling to aim for that super high psychic test result can pretty much delete any enemy character or out a significant hurt on a key unit (including your own). Goonhammer ran a really nice article touching on the mathematical side of this combo. You can check that article out here.

Ultimately, it’s a nice trick to have but it’s a significant investment of valuable CP resources.

Astral Aim / Edict Imperator: Obviously take advantage of these two potent sources of firepower that can deliver damage without exposing your units to your opponent’s ranged firepower. Other interesting choices for these abilities are Venerable Dreadnoughts, Land Raiders, GMNDKs, and other vehicles. I especially like the idea of early Astral Aim on a Ven Dread with Twin Lascannons and Missile Launcher to try and eliminate your opponent’s Thunderfire Cannons or other forms of artillery that do not require LOS. Since Grey Knights tend to be squishy 1 wound MEQs, they are particularly susceptible to artillery fire.

Closing Thoughts

With some recent nerfs to Space Marines, Grey Knights have risen in overall power. They might be in that second tier of competitive factions now but can certainly compete against any army. They are cagey, have a ton of tools, great combos, powerful units, good firepower, and the psychic superiority we have all come to love and know. While durability is still somewhat of an issue, there are spells, stratagems, and strategies to help offset this.

What’s Next?
I’m currently working through adding another 15 Strike Marines to my collection as well as another 10 man Paladin bomb. While the dual Paladin bomb can be fun, I feel that it’s a lot of points and I’d almost rather have 3 Purgation squads and an Interceptor squad for a similar cost in points. Overall, I’m extremely happy with how my Grey Knights have been performing and they’ve been a breath of fresh air to kick-off 2020.

Have you been playing or playing against Grey Knights? What are your thoughts? What’s working for you and how are you playing them? Let us know in the comments or look for us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to join in the conversation!