Unremembered Sons: First Impressions of 1k Sons in Ritual of the Damned

GW previewed a few of the new mechanics for the Thousand Sons faction from the upcoming Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned expansion book, available for pre-order this Saturday the 18th of January.

The Thousand Sons are familiar to many as a plug and play Soup ingredient for any chaos army as a Supreme Command Detachment, bringing some long range psychic shenanigans and counter assault in the form of multiple Daemon Princes and usually Ahriman on a Disc of Tzeentch. The ability to add 6″ to the range of your death hex, targeted MW spells, and buff spells while remaining untargetable due to the character rules, hiding behind a wall of Plaguebearers, makes the detachment extremely useful.

However, as a stand-alone faction, Thousand Sons have suffered of late. Their core troops are either too expensive (Rubric Marines) or too ineffective (Cultists) to be worth the point/detachment slots. Tzaangor as troops for a battalion were popular in early 8th, but once the Daemon book dropped, they were almost instantly thrown to the side in favor of soup lists focusing on Plaguebearers as the core screening and objective holding units for Chaos armies. For roughly the same points cost, you were getting a screening unit that was -1 or -2 to hit, that had the same 5++ invuln but also a Feel No Pain save on top to reduce incoming damage, and the ability to heal back models if you roll well on a morale check.

CA 2019 hurt Thousand Sons even further, making them one of the only factions that actually had points increases on key units, while most factions saw sweeping points reductions across the board. Tzaangors went up to 8 points (the same as a plaguebearer…), Daemon Princes went up in points, and most everything else stayed the same, making mono faction Thousand Sons lists even less enticing than before.

Players were really hoping that Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned would be the answer – that it would bring the faction up in power and allow it to stand on its own, ever changing feet, rather than being stuck as an add-on to more efficient chaos soup armies.

While this preview shows that the Thousand Sons are getting some very fun tools and abilities, it doesn’t give me confidence that they’ll be able to hold their own as a mono-faction list. All of the buffs that were previewed today, while useful, still seem to be just as useful – if not more so – on a smaller detachment of choice casters and potentially an odd unit of rubrics or terminators in support. Let’s dive in:

Cults of Prospero

Each detachment of Thousand Sons can now choose to be part of one of the 9 cults of prospero, a call back to the 9 fellowships (and 5 cults, Raptora, Pavoni, Corvidae, Pyrae, and Athenean) that Horus Heresy era Thousand Sons units were divided into. Each cult, in the lore, was focused on one aspect of the warp and mastery there of – telekinesis, pyrokinesis, biomancy, geomancy, etc.

Each cult you dedicate yourself to opens up additional spells, relics, and warlord traits to utilize. The Thousand Sons are one of those factions that seem to only lean on one or two relics and warlord traits as is, so having more viable options is a great step towards making them more competitive.

For example, if you dedicate your detachment to the Cult of Time, you gain access to the Time Flux psychic power, which allows you to heal infantry units for a low low warp charge cost of 5:

Sure, you’re likely to just bring back 1 model, and there aren’t very many multi-wound models in the army that are worth taking in general, but on an unmodified 9+ you’re bringing back d3 models, and a reroll from CP and from Gaze of Fate, and built in rerolls of 1 if you brought Magnus along for the party, and you’re more likely to get that than not. Being infantry only really pulls this spell down a notch or two – having the ability to heal units of Enlightened used as mobile objective grabbers or screen clearers would have been very useful, but as is, you’re mainly going to take this spell if you run a big unit of terminators to drop in and clear screens, so you can keep them in the fight longer.

If you dedicate yourself to the Cult of Duplicity, you can opt to take the new warlord trait Duplicitous Tactician, making you the Chaos equivalent (almost) of a C’tan Shard of the Deceiver:

The ability to redeploy cannot go understated – its a hugely powerful tool to try to get your opponent to deploy heavy in one area of the board, only to move to their less protected flank and try to make a play. The fact that this ability doesn’t specify a particular unit type means you can do this for characters, tanks, flyers, even Magnus himself. And since it happens at the beginning of the first battle round, before the first turn, you’ll already know who has first turn/whether the initiative has been seized – and it can help you get a crucial unit (or units) back into a more defensive stance to whether the first turn.

This Cult in particular has a lot of play with the stratagem GW previewed today, Risen Rubricae, which can create a neat combo to put your opponent on their heel early in the game:

For 1 CP, you can take a unit of Rubric Marines and essentially infiltrate them right into your opponent’s grill. Combine that with the Duplicity Cult warlord trait above, and you can place them aggressively, draw your opponent’s deployment to counter, then re-deploy them to another flank or behind ruins out of line of sight to put them in a poor position to capitalize on board control or other mission primaries, depending on the mission format you’re playing. Only being able to use the strat once per game is frustrating, as Thousand Sons need all the help they can get to get over the slow movement of their power armor troops.

But, especially if going first, a unit of 10 Rubrics with a Soulreaper Cannon and their special bolters will do some work on enemy screens if you use this strat correctly, and if you can place them on a central objective in cover to take maximum benefit from their ability to shrug -1 AP weapons, you’re going to have a great early advantage on board control.

A lot of people have brought up warpflamers, and they are correct that since this is a deployment you can absolutely move your warpflamer unit of rubrics up 1″ into flamer range and roast whatever your opponent has in front of you. My only qualm with that strategy is that in a marine heavy meta on average your unit of rubrics is only picking up 5 primaris marines, and that’s if you rock 10 flamer rubrics, which is very points intensive. Being counter assaulted by centurions or aggressors or blown away by repulsor fire on the following turn doesn’t seem to be a very good trade off, and its heavily dependent on getting first turn, which is a risky gamble.

But, it certainly can be a part of your strategy, something we didn’t have before – an option to get warpflamers close enough to be useful. And against something like an ork horde or guard list, or even vs eldar flyer spam (flamers are the ultimate anti aircraft weapon, didn’t you know?), it can do some serious work.

Cult of Duplicity seems to be very geared towards movement shenanigans, as their spell previewed on GW’s facebook page shows another trick up your sleeve to get your normally slow moving rubric units where they need to go, without taking up a relic slot with the Dark Matter Crystal:

With a casting value of 7, and all the shenanigans Thousand Sons have for improving casting results, this power is no sweat. Being able to play the mobility game and get an early advantage in board control helps the Thousand Sons a lot, and allow them to contest/grab hold more or bonus points in many ITC format missions that previously they would be unable to contest due to the slow nature of their army’s troops.

The relic for the Cult of Duplicity is another good one – the Perfidious Tome:

While CP generation has gone to the wayside as a feasible strategy with the rules limiting you to 1 CP per battle round, being able to get that CP on a 4+ instead of on a 5+ makes this relic instantly better than the Helm of Many eyes, one of 2 relics that typically saw play in Thousand Sons lists.

Without seeing the full reveals, Cult of Duplicity is striking me as an early winner as far as cults go – the mobility and deployment shenanigans this cult represents can help the army get an early board control advantage, which in most competitive games is crucial. It also opens up the army to secondaries in ITC that they typically wouldn’t try to score, such as Ground Control or Behind Enemy Lines or Recon.

The final reveal from today was a relic for the Cult of Change – if you dedicate your detachment to this cult, you get access to the Capricious Crest relic, which can be a great tool for maintaining psychic supremacy over the board:

The ability to modify 1s to 6s for your friendly casters on a critical Warptime to get out of harms way, or a Temporal Manipulation to heal up a character, or to guarantee a mega smite from magnus, or to get the higher casting value spells off like Doombolt, Infernal Gateway, and Treason of Tzeentch.

The bonus ability to turn a critical Null Zone or Doom power into a failure is huge – granted, an 18″ range is a little closer than your characters probably want to be to enemy psykers, since it means you’re likely to get engaged in combat the following turn if the opponent is half good, and it also means that your opponent is in deny range which you want to try to avoid typically with most uses of a Thousand Sons detachment.

But, none the less, an increased ability to get off your crucial spells every turn, and a chance to cripple your opponent’s psychic phase (especially as marines become more omnipresent in the meta, and their powers become a critical lynch pin in how many of the most powerful builds function) is a big win for the army.

Overall Impressions

So all in all, I love what we’ve seen today – its not world breaking, its not going to likely change the use case for most Thousand Sons detachments, and supreme command detachments in a chaos soup list will still likely be the most attractive way to run them, now with additional spells and relics and traits to use based on the cult that you choose.

But, if you’re like me and you prefer running Thousand Sons as a mono-faction build, you have a lot more tools to do that successfully, and especially with Cult of Duplicity, will have a ton more mobility than your army is used to.

The good news is that, with 9 cults to choose from, and a spell, relic, and warlord trait from each, Thousand Sons just went from 6 relics and warlord traits to a whopping 15, and from 18 spells to an absolutely staggering 27. And it looks to be that GW aims to continue to make them the unequivocal masters of the psychic phase, so I’m excited to see what the other 7 spells, 7 relics, and 7 warlord traits have on offer.

What do you think? How do you think these rules will help/change the way you play your Thousand Sons? What other combos or abilities are you hoping for to make them more of a stand-alone army? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us to stay current with GDFC’s review of all the latest GW releases!