Ready for a breakdown on what to do with the new Sisters of Battle codex? Now that the dust has settled, we called in some expert help from the land down under to provide clarity and direction now that we’ve had the book in our hands for a few weeks! Erik Lathouras is here to bring truth and enlightenment to all of the Emperor’s faithful subjects!
” Faith is our Shield”
Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, penitants and faithful! I am Erik Lathouras from The Art of War and today we’ll be taking a bit of a deep dive into the new Sisters of Battle codex, this is going to be a long one so strap yourselves in.
So, a couple of more general changes that are most noticeable when having a bit of a read into the new codex is, unlike the previous book there is a wide range of ways to build and play your list, where as in the previous codex for competitive play it was almost always a mono Bloody Rose list or a combination of Bloody Rose and Valorous Heart, while I still believe Bloody Rose to be the strongest option it’s really nice to see a bit more variety throughout the sisters book, not only for competitive reasons but also to keep things fresh and interesting for yourself in wanting to try different combinations of units. Before we get into breaking down specific data sheets and if I believe they are viable and/or strong for competitive play I’m going to visit the changes to what I believe are the three strongest of the orders and what those list builds may be made up of or look like on the tabletop.
Let’s start with my personal favorite, Order of The Bloody Rose. Now for the most part this sub-faction remained the same with a few minor changes and I still believe most if not all sisters lists will need a Blood Rose detachment to add the sufficient counter punch this faction needs to dig themselves out of unfavorable combats or awkward situations against more hearty units like blight lord terminators and the rising threat of grotesques. The Bloody Rose maintained their natural +1 attack in the first round of combat along with their +1 AP to melee weapons which in my opinion is even more valuable than before now that the War Hymn given by the missionaries only affect one friendly unit within 6, without the reliable access to +1 attack across multiple units it will be quite difficult to include a sufficient amount of melee damage in your lists without including Bloody Rose. The main change we have seen with this faction is to the stratagem “Tear Them Down”, now this used to be easy access to +1 to wound in combat and has now changed to unmodified 6s on the hit roll score an automatic wound. Now, most people have been talking as if this is a nerf, but I believe in the current state of the meta this is far more useful, especially when used in conjunction with units like repentia that have natural full re-rolls to hit, the reason I believe this is because we currently live in a world littered with transhuman and high toughness units, think of things like, Grotesques, Custode dreadnaughts with access to -1 strength, Redemptor Dreadnaughts, Dark Angel Terminators, the list goes on. While it isn’t as effective on units without re-rolls to hit we have been gifted with a stratagem that grants any unit the “Zealot” special rule, which for those of you that are unaware of what that is, it gives the unit full re-rolls to hit at the cost of 2 command points, or 1 command point if you’re within 6 of a priest. As far as I’m concerned the only actual nerf Bloody Rose received was the nerf to the Beneficence relic, now changing to single damage, and even then still isn’t terrible with how common -1 damage on various units now is.
Moving into the order increasing rapidly in popularity is the Argent Shroud, this order allows you to still field the multi melta retributors to mostly the same effect as the previous codex, giving your detachment the ability to count as stationary after a move and advance. Now, this also opens up the door for some hyper MSU (multiple small units) list archetypes making the most out of battle sister squads with multi meltas accompanied by retributors at a high level of efficiency thanks to our Cannoness for reroll ones to hit and the Palatine for a reroll ones to wound aura. This sort of archetype will be very irritating to walk into, thanks to the help of miracle dice, making those opportunities to spike high damage reliable and consistent, which is perfect for a grotesque and cronos meta. Outside of the Order benefit, there isn’t too much going on here, with an incredibly situational stratagem (4+ save against mortal wounds) and a 6″ Heroic Intervention Warlord trait (which would be on a relatively weak combat character). I see this order mostly being used to compliment some of the other builds available such as The Bloody Rose or possibly reinforcing a shooting-based archetype built through Ebon Chalice/Sacred Rose with the assortment of Argent Shroud multi meltas.
Next on the list is the Ebon Chalice! Outside of the inclusion of small patrol or mixed detachment thrown in to make up of some lists from the previous codex, this is another Order we have yet to really see hit the table. With quite a considerable amount of tech options added in the new book, they have quickly become one of my personal favorite “tech choice” detachments for a number of reasons. First up, for what I intend on using this detachment for their ability to gain a second sacred rite is actually incredibly useful, especially when you select which sacred rites are active during deployment, so having a small detachment that in my opinion will be typically made up of dominions, rhinos, retributors and small battle sister squads that has the ability to take a 5+ deny the witch or extra AP on 6’s to wound in shooting is just a really nice buffer for an already useful, tech-heavy detachment. This takes us to their stratagem, this one isn’t making any waves but it is definitely useful in the right situation, for 1 command point you add 4″ of range to your flame weapons and on a 4+ you do a mortal wound to the target unit to a maximum of 3 mortal wounds, now this is clearly useful for extending the threat range of flamers/Heavy flamers coming out of transports but also for balancing the efficiency of your shooting in your head when mathing out how many flamers to commit to each enemy unit if you’re looking to maximize the potential of your shooting. Moving onto what I think is the most important part of the detachment, the warlord trait, “Terrible Knowledge” while this may not have been so useful in the past, now the Miracle Dice generation has been restricted across the board, locking in a 6 as the first dice of the game is, in my opinion, incredibly useful, this allows you to effectively fuel your repentia from strategic reserve or zephyrim from deep strike and makes this powerful style of play from the previous book still well and truly viable in the new one. In addition to all that, it also offers a 5+ command point regeneration and with the number of new strats we have access to along with the additional pregame strats for relics, warlord traits etc, will most definitely come in useful throughout a 5 turn game.
Moving onto some of the key stratagems, I think they have really added quite a lot of flexibility here. Some of these are a bit of a nerf on what they used to be but now there is certainly more choice depending on the situation you find yourself in.
Cleansed By Fire 2CP: This stratagem gives a unit their maximum shots with flame weapons and doesn’t restrict them to all firing at the same target, so incredibly useful here given Sisters flamers received a +1 strength buff across the board! I would be looking to use this to effectively clear your opponent’s chaff and small troops units as well as clear space for your turn 2 or 3 push through repentia, zephyrim, and arco flagellants.
Fiery Oratory 1CP: This one isn’t taking the world by storm by any means but with preachers/missionaries losing their constant +1 attack aura, being able to guarantee you can pass your +1 attack war hymn when you really need it will certainly come up in times where you really need to have an effective counter charge or make a hard push.
Suffering and Sacrifice 1CP: This is certainly one of my favorites from the new book, this forces enemy models within engagement range to only be able to target the character (which must be your warlord or a Living Saint), to me this can almost act as another fight last tool in your arsenal when combined with word of the emperor which we will get into later, though because it only affects models within engagement range it won’t be incredible on all units but against things like Talos or big monsters and other small model count units, it could be a game changer.
Desperate for Redemption 2CP: This one, in my mind is another game changer, especially if you’re a heavy melee focussed army this stratagem will absolutely drive you crazy, changed from the old repentia do a mortal wound on a 4+ when they die, it now allows them to fight on death if they haven’t already fought in the fight phase, for those of you that have read my Tyranid articles I mentioned how amazing I thought lash whips were in the current meta game and now we have them for repentia! so shifting the leftovers of a Repentia unit just got that much more stressful for anyone going into a game against the Sisters.
Devastating Refrain 2cp: While being costly this one encourages a strong argument to include one exorcist in your list, even though losing some efficiency but not retaining re-rolls from any of the characters this stratagem allows you to target units out of line of sight, something sisters have not before had access to, definitely worth considering.
Defenders of the Faith 2CP: In my opinion this one is a bit costly even while being really useful at making your big sister units hard to shift from objectives. This gives a unit the ability to fire their bolt weapons as if they were in rapid fire range and only be wounded on a roll of a 4+, this one I’ve seen is quite popular throughout a lot of lists building around the 20 man sister unit receiving multiple buffs, but I personally don’t think it’s sustainable and throughout the game you’ll be lucky to have this unit effectively trade up.
Holy Rage 1/2CP: This one is very interesting, it keeps units like Zephyrim in the game, this stratagem gives a unit the “Zealot” special rule and is reduced to 1CP if used near a “ministorum priest”. It’s worth noting that it is used at the start of the charge phase so you’re able to begin the phase near a priest and then charge away from him retaining the buff, which is super handy because from personal experience playing with units like Zephyrim I would always be slightly nervous sending them into certain combats without any sort of re rolls to hit. This fixes that issue and keeps Zephyrim and units you are using in a similar way, effective.
Blessed Bolts 1CP: And Finally, one of the handiest stratagems, especially being at a low cost and now having access to 2 damage storm bolters means you will likely see quite a few more of them littered throughout armies, this stratagem inflicts 2 mortal wounds on a roll of a 6 to wound instead of normal damage to a maximum of 6 mortal wounds in that phase. So really nice at giving your storm bolters to put a bit of pressure on some of those units with better armor saves or really scaring certain buffing characters.
Now we get into the most exciting part of the book, being the Blessings of the Faithful. I think they did an amazing job in allowing players to really spice up some of their characters in the HQ slot, considering that in comparison to a lot of other factions Sisters have traditionally been quite limited in choice.
I’m going to start with what is quite clearly the standout, especially on a Bloody Rose Canoness with the Righteous Rage Warlord trait ( re-roll hits and wounds) in combination with the Blade of Saint Ellynor ( +2 strength, Ap -3, 3 Damage) and that is, of course, Word of The Emperor. Now to me, for 40 points this is just too good to pass up in any list, Bloody Rose or not. This gives the character a fight-last aura, which is absolutely incredible in allowing you to set up multiple big charges with units like repentia, sacresants, and Zephyrim. This is something sisters were unable to do previously without the inclusion of an Inquisitor, but that isn’t even the best part, all the Blessings of the Faithful also come with a miraculous ability that you can use once per battle, to use it, you simply discard a miracle dice (you can discard more than 1 to increase the range of the aura) at the start of your command phase and the “miraculous ability” is active until the start of your next command phase. The Miraculous Ability for Word of The Emperor is to turn invulnerable saves off! Absolutely insane. Not only is that amazing for allowing you to commit to almost any unit with this character or with the support of repentia and just remove it from existence but it also makes her a serious pain to deal with in your opponent’s following turn as you cannot simply charge her because she still has that fight last aura. In my mind, this is an absolute must-have and I wouldn’t leave home without it.
There are quite a number of Blessings that are really useful and some of them much more suited to armies constructed around a shooting-based archetype. But in my mind sisters are a lethal melee-based army that can do from a small amount of fire support to enable some miracle dice generation, which is why the other Blessing I believe to be the next best is “Rapturous Blows”. This Blessing gives the character +1 strength and +1 Damage to her melee weapons (not including relics). I’ve had quite a lot of success with running a number of Canoness geared to hit hard in combat and this just completely supports the ability to do that, giving a second Canoness a blessed blade to be running two, three damage models in amongst hard hitting units like repentia and arco flagellants leaves you with such a potent combat army that has a number of tools to deal with almost any situation it is presented with. It also comes with a Miraculous Ability that makes all “core” units within 6 inflict mortals wounds on an unmodified wound roll of a 6, which to me is amazing at making your standard battle sisters become quite potent combat threats on any given turn, it also helps sisters in a matchup they generally didn’t always favor, that being Custodes. Now this one isn’t an auto-include as just like space marines we can only field one Canoness per detachment, so sometimes you may just want to save on the command points and field a single battalion/brigade, but if you are branching out I highly recommend this model is included.
Now that we’ve covered a number of the new buffs and little tech choices you can include in your army, let’s take a look into some of the new units and characters we now have access to and where I believe they will fit into lists
We’ll start with the new big baddie, Morvenn Vahl. Now when you look at her profile she is crazy, she hits hard, and has great army buffs. She really is quite great! She gives out a reroll 1s to hit and wound aura for core units as well as giving a single core unit full reroll to hit and wound and with her 4+ invulnerable save and halve damage ability in combination with miracle dice she’s very difficult to put down. The only thing I don’t like about her is the fact she HAS to be the warlord and her warlord trait is righteous rage, so it takes away from the word of the emperor Canoness a little bit at a hefty points cost of 265. All in all though, I can definitely see her being used in a lot of lists. She does add a lot for her points, but I do have my concerns about how well she will actually function in the army.
Taking a look at what I think is one of the only lack luster choices in the new codex is unfortunately the paragon war suits, I think Games workshop missed the mark here at a steep cost of 80 points per model their damage output is relatively poor as they lack the high damage hitting power or the volume of attacks. In saying that I can see them being used nicely in an argent shroud list that focuses on them being small mobile gun platforms that can pick on your opponent’s flanks and chaff units with relative effectiveness, they aren’t the easiest of units to kill but with only a 6+ invulnerable if someone wants to put them down you’re probably going to lose the unit. At first glance, I liked these models as Bloody rose as it starts to bring up their volume especially when using the paragon warblades but at the same time they are competing with other great choices like repentia and it will be difficult to get the same effectiveness out of the warsuits, but I could see a list making use of being able to overload your opponent with combat threats with repentia in rhinos supported by a small number of paragon war suits. All in all, I think as a Sisters player I’m a little bit spoiled for choice and these certainly aren’t a bad unit, just not the most effective.
Moving onto my personal favorites, Ephrael Stern and Kyganail. When these characters came out they were pretty lackluster and were very rarely seen, now I think they will be very common, especially at a cheap price of 120 points, it is a character unit that is -1 to hit and -1 to wound, a 4+ invulnerable and a 5+ feel no pain save on Kyganail. On top of all that, they always strike first and Stern ignores invulnerable saves, perfect for picking on those pesky Shadowfield archons kicking around. Outside of their damage potential which is adequate for their points cost I think they are just amazing mid-board objectives campers in that mid to late game when you start to run low on units that can effectively hold mid-board objectives without dying too easily, your opponent trying to shift these two from an objective once you’ve had the chance to pull some of their teeth out will find it very difficult to do so. To sum up, an absolute bargain for 120 points.
Looking at the new and improved celestians, The Sacresants, these girls are super cheap for what they bring to the table and I imagine they’ll be seen in most lists. Providing the bodyguard rule for all your characters, being slightly harder to shift from objectives compared to most of your other sisters units as well as having an extra attack and a good choice of melee weapons makes them quite hard to look past. But the coolest thing in my opinion is their ability to perform heroic interventions, this is super handy at preventing your opponent from being able to snatch primary away from you and also become quite frustrating to shift in combat thanks to their -1 to wound stratagem.
Last but not least, The Dogmata, I think this model had so much potential and while I’m not disappointed with it I believe it could have been considerably better. In most of my lists I think I’ll be hard-pressed to include her over a cheap preacher but she does offer the ability to give a core unit objective secured which is quite nice for launching small units of death cults/crusaders at your opponent and snatching some primary. If you’re looking at running a single detachment list she is quite good to be used as a warlord trait carrier for beacon of faith to enable the sisters specific secondary to be scored considerably easier and as Bloody Rose with the Psalm of Righteous Smiting Hymn she can become quite a beat stick herself. So definitely not a bad choice and again only being 65 points you can’t really go wrong but I think when you’re looking at a list where you need to trim some points downgrading her to a preacher will likely be the first place you look.
In conclusion, I think Games Workshop did a great job with the new sisters codex, they really opened up a lot of options with the army and it doesn’t feel like you’re forced into taking the standard mass repentia and retributors. The army has what feels like a bottomless pool of tech choice options which is going to be incredible when gearing your list for a particular meta and heading into bigger events, in my mind, they definitely have all the tools they need to accommodate for anything any of the other factions can throw at them and I am really looking forward to putting this new army on the table. I hope you enjoyed this article and found it insightful. Watch this space to see some of the crazy ideas myself and the other Art of War boys come up with!