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Faction Focus: Grey Knights

Hey, guys! Erik here, and today I’m bringing you the ins and outs about Grey Knights! In this article, I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Grey Knights and touch on what to expect from Psychic Awakening.

As you all know, Grey Knights pre-psychic awakening are in a pretty unfortunate position. However, there still is a bit of hidden strength here. Grey Knights have some unique rules and game-play interactions that are not shared by other factions. It creates an alternative way to play the game that most opponents are not overly familiar with in the current metagame. For the most part, 40k at the moment is built around explosive damage or overwhelming board control. Grey Knights don’t fit into either of those categories, which is why it may seem like an impossible task to take them to the top-level at an event.

So, just how do Grey Knights operate then? 

Despite what people may think, the obvious aggressive deepstrike style list geared towards getting maximum use out of your storm bolters isn’t competitive. You pay too much of a premium on your units, which honestly neither have the inbuilt survivability nor the actual damage output that they should for their points cost. The army needs to operate in an extremely defensive style, abusing the strength of their characters, which is where I believe their power lies. So, the key to writing a strong Grey Knights list is finding the appropriate screens for your strong characters. There are a lot of ways to include “the appropriate screens” to your army, while having access to the entirety of the imperium, but let’s assume we’re looking at mono Grey Knights. Here are some units to consider (this is assuming you are playing with a fair amount of line of sight blocking terrain):

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Multiple Units of 3 Paladins – Hiding these units out of line of sight is quite difficult for your opponent to handle. Most sources of indirect firepower actually cannot effectively deal with 9 wounds of t4, 1+ armor saves ( assuming you’re in cover) 

Venerable Dreadnaughts – This may seem like a weird one, but dreadnaughts are actually quite small and easily fit into the bottom floor of ruins while still using their firepower with Astral Aim. With the ability to gate vehicles, you can easily get these units into really annoying spaces. 

Land Raiders – Something that most people will absolutely raise their eyebrows at is the old, faithful land raider. If you think about the current metagame, a lot of current lists struggle to deal with toughness 8 from range. With the combination of sanctuary and astral aim, these hulking metal boxes can cause a lot of headaches for your opponent to try and shift. Another use for the land raider that I love is holding them back until late game once screens start to run thin and gating them into their backfield. For the most part, characters start to be left vulnerable. They can’t always protect themselves from a gating land raider jumping into the backfield and laying down some lascannon shots into critical characters. 

The Main Strength of The Grey Knights – The core strength of Grey Knights is smite spam. Almost every single unit having access to this spell is honestly your best and most consistent form of damage. You may think because it’s limited to 12″ range that this isn’t viable. However, there is a single model that is compulsory in every single Grey Knight list, in my opinion, and that model is the Brother Captain. The Brother Captain doubles the range of smite of all units within 6″, which allows you to quite easily jam multiple units behind line of sight blocking terrain and make maximum use of the 24″ smiting coming from your ball of characters all grouping together. Unlike Eldar, your smite battery is not something people want to come near to try to shut down because the damage output in assault can be devastating. 

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Gate of Infinity – Grey Knights have a unique toolset in the form of two spells: Gate of Infinity and Astral Aim. Specifically, the uses of Gate can be incredibly handy. It could be used to promote some aggressive play during the late Gate or exploit and press an advantage if your opponent happened to leave an opening within their screen. However, I feel the best use of Gate is using it as a means of escape. Due to the fact that Grey Knights are not a common faction in 40k at the moment. Most players aren’t familiar with combating the effective use of this spell. Aggressive armies, to avoid your mass storm bolter shooting, will be looking to tag some of your easier pinned targets, such as your dreadnaughts and land raiders. Not only do you have potent counter-assault, but you also have the option of simply casting Gate to pull the land raider/dreadnaught out of combat. If your opponent isn’t aware of this ability, it can leave them incredibly vulnerable to a big shooting phase, followed by a strong counter-assault. One small slip up on their behalf can leave them in a world of pain. 

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Grey Knights Part 2: Post Psychic Awakening:

Grey Knights have just received an incredible arsenal of buffs through Ritual of the Damned, including some things I certainly would not have predicted. Let’s address what is probably the most significant buff we have received, 2 damage smites! This honestly adds so much power to the Grey Knights faction and even further supports the claim to Grey Knights power lies in their hearty characters. So, we are back to finding the best units to screen them. 

Luckily for us, Grey Knights also gained a list of new stratagems that make units like paladins, terminators, and dreadnaughts so much harder to shift. A lot of armies will struggle to shift all these different units while taking a mass of two damage smites to the face. 

Overnight, Grey Knights have become an attrition powerhouse of an army. On face value, I don’t think many factions, if any, could stand in front of a Grey Knights list and go toe to toe with them for six turns. The key to success with Grey Knights will be forcing your opponent to play a six turn game with you and making sure they can’t push you out of the race early. Staggering durable screens can do this, and you can do this through deepstrikes or Gate of infinity. I would approach this through a 10-man paladin unit using the transhuman stratagem, armored resilience spell (-1 to wound), redoubtable defense (-1 damage to paladins or terminators), all in combination with the tide of shadows (always count in cover and -1 to hit on a terrain feature). 

Let’s take a quick look at a list that includes all of these units and some sweet interactions between characters, including the new and fantastic chaplain litanies!

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Battalion:

Chaplain

Chaplain

7x strikes 1x stave

5x strikes 1x stave

5x strikes 1x stave

Vanguard

Librarian

Librarian

10x pallies

4x silencer, 4x stave 6x halberd

Venerable dreadnaught w/ Heavy plasma + missile launcher

Venerable dreadnaught w/ Heavy plasma + missile launcher

Supreme

Voldus

Brother Captain, Silencer

Brother Captain

Brother Champion

Rhino

Rhino

So, breaking down this list for a second, there are enough command points to fund the deepstrike of the venerable dreadnaughts, which will act as forward screens for your character smite council. The essential function of the list will be to keep the paladins out of line of sight, with the minus 1 to wound spell on them, in conjunction with sanctuary. Your back-line should consist of your rhinos full of strikes. Now, the rhinos aren’t necessary for the list, but they help in keeping the Strikes safe from things like Thunderfire cannons. They also add a nice little turn 2 / turn 3 screen, when they pop smoke and Gate forward with Tide of Shadows. This becomes such an inconvenient situation for your opponent, as they are left trying to crack open the toughness 7 3+ save shell with -2 to hit, while you’re sitting there maintaining your smite damage.  While being the most resilient screen you have access to as a Grey Knights player, they can also now project insane amounts of damage from a considerable range. Using some of the chaplain litany buffs for +6 inch range, +1 ap on bolt and psi weapons, combined with any of the psibolt stratagems, and you’re now projecting quite a terrifying amount of damage from range. 

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While it may not be the obvious unit choice, the venerable dreadnaught is undoubtedly my favorite. Dropping these in mid-game or gating forward within the late game is an incredible strategy for keeping your smite council safe from harm when your paladins start to take a beating. Now, because you want to spend as much time as possible in Tide of Escalation for the added smite damage, carefully map out your turns when you change into Tide of Shadows. What this lets you do is Gate the dreadnaught into a good position and pop smoke, preferably keeping the dreadnaught on a terrain feature. At this stage, he is -2 to hit with a 6+ feel no pain, with a 5+ invulnerable save from sanctuary. On top of all that, you now have access to a half damage stratagem for dreadnaughts! To me, this combination of overlapping buffs is simply incredible for the late game. At this point, you should have made a dent in the enemy force by killing or crippling the units that would have been able to dig them out of this situation easily. When you launch this little legend forward, your enemy is unable to deal with it, and has no choice but to take another turn of crippling smites all over again. 

Where I Think Grey Knights May Land In The Meta:

I do not feel Grey Knights will be the kings of the metagame in 40k, though I believe they are about to shake things up. It will take a very different approach for opponents to deal with a faction that operates in this manner, and Grey Knights will cause a lot of headaches for things like Space Marines, Tau, and of course, Chaos. While there are a lot of strengths within the layering of buffs you can apply to units across your army, Grey Knights still remain an army that will take a considerable amount of finesse and patience to play. As much as it may seem like it, Grey Knights are not an army that simply applies brute force and comes out on top. You should expect to see Grey Knights on the tabletop a whole lot more than you have been seeing them for the last year or two. It’s an exciting time for the sons of Titan, but keep in mind that as the meta adapts to the coming storm that is Grey Knights, we, as Grey Knight players, will have to adjust with the changes. Do not become complacent with any current list builds. It’s important always to try new combinations of units and styles of play on the table to stay fresh, not only for yourself but to keep things unfamiliar for your opponent.

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