Hey everyone, Erik from The Art of War here! Today we’re taking a look at Custodes from a different perspective and looking at one of the Shield Hosts I find quite amazing that seems to have been overlooked by the majority of the Custodes player pool.
Before we dive into which Shield Host I believe has the most potential, let’s lay some foundation for why Custodes are in a position of power. In 9th edition, it’s no secret the game is all about board control. Securing objectives now comes with less demand to kill your opponent’s units. All three of these things suit Custodes incredibly well. They are a faction of resilient units that can all hit relatively hard in close combat while being objective secured across the board.
Because of all this, any faction wanting to compete with Custodes in 9th edition will need to be able to contest them for board control while maintaining ownership of objectives. In my mind, there is one Shield Host in particular that makes this even harder for your opponent to achieve, and that is Aquillon Shield. Unlike the other Shield Hosts, all three of the options given in the book are things you will want to include within your list: the warlord trait and the relic storm shield in combination gives you half damage and -1 to wound. On top of that, the unique stratagem for Aquillon Shield is the ability to pass off wounds to a friendly Aquillon Shield infantry or Dreadnaught unit. The critical aspect of this stratagem is the excess of wounds carried through after killing the friendly unit you spill wounds onto are lost. To me, this stands out far more than anything else you gain from the other Shield Hosts. This gives you the ability to turn your opponent’s shooting phase on its head completely. With your characters being objective secured, being able to keep them alive for as long as possible makes a huge difference in a game based on holding objectives at the end of your command phase.
There are multiple ways to get the most use of this stratagem. The most obvious application would be filling out your list with MSU (multiple small units) of Custodes. Still, another funky use is when you are applying pressure with your Biker Captains. The ability to “look out sir” high-strength, high-damage weapons onto a Shield Captain on foot with halving damage and -1 to wound is absolutely incredible. Doing this keeps your opponents on their toes with having to really think through their shooting phase and will force over commitment as they don’t know when you’re planning on using this stratagem, which will put even more pressure on their order of shooting.
The core of a list that I believe will have incredible strength will be two units of Alarus Terminators, probably one unit of ten and one unit of eight. The reason I think these units have a place in a Custodes list is that they make the best use of all the stratagems as well as a number of their own tricks with piling in towards the nearest characters which makes it much easier to tag certain units to shut down an enemy shooting phase. Along with the entire army being objective secured, you can “unleash the lions.” This creates several one-man units becoming ridiculously annoying to handle not only with shooting but because of your ability to pass off wounds as Aquillon Shield.
An army of objective secured, character equivalent units, and Aquillon Shield as an added layer of ways to mitigate damage is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Custodes, in my opinion, is not an army that functions well coming out of deepstrike. They prefer to use their units’ strengths to bully their opponent out of key areas and enforce their control over objectives while also threatening some of the objectives your opponent is occupying. Being able to keep your objective secured characters alive when you want them to dive in is a headache that no one wants to deal with.
All in all, Custodes are in a great spot moving into 9th edition, and I believe Aquillon Shield offers them the most versatility to get the job done.