The Sound of Sisters of Silence

Alliterative? Yes. But how strong are the Sisters of Silence on the battlefield? Is Null Maiden the new Black? Or are they just beautiful models that will sit on the shelf, only to be taken out for the occasional novelty game?

On basic stats, the Sisters are good, but not great. WS and BS 4 with I5 and two attacks (three for the Sister Superior) and 3+ saves are nice, but they’re somewhat hampered by the S3/T3 of unaugmented humans (an issue familiar to anyone whose ever played Sisters of Battle). At 15 points a piece though, they’re decently cheap and can be taken in a compact 75 point squad.

Their real strength though is in their wargear and their special rules.

Wargear: The Sisters are equipped with Psyk-out Grenades (an absurd name but go with it…) which will, in most cases, not do much, but has the potential to be really quite nasty. It also denies bonus attacks from a psychic unit that’s charging.

They can also replace their Boltgun with a Flamer for 2 pts., which may be tempting for a model or two. But more importantly, they can give up their shooting attacks by taking an Executioner Greatblade for free. That moves them up to doing S4, AP2 attacks at initiative. That’s pretty damned good.

Special Rules: Fear and Fearless will keep them in the fight, and Bane of Psykers gives them Precision Shots and Precision Strikes against an enemy unit with at least one Psyker, and can re-roll failed hits when targeting those units. Combine that with Psychic Abomination, which puts all Psykers within 12″ at -3 Ld (all of a sudden that Fear is a bigger deal), do not generate Warp Charges, and can only harness them on a 6, and puts out basically a 12″ bubble of “No Psychic Powers Here” and you’ve got a multi-model group of Culexus Assassin grade  anti-Psyker badasses.

The Formation, which lets you field them in a Battleforged army with 1-3 squads, adds Warp Siphon, which will add one less dice to their Warp Charge pool for each unit in formation after the first.

latest
Here to Ruin Your Day

On paper, that’s pretty strong, but I’m going to argue it’s situationally strong. The Sisters still have two major weaknesses:

Standard Human Toughness: While the swords might bump their strength up to something respectable, they remain Toughness 3 models. Any army that doesn’t have a plan to deal with T3, 3+ models is an army that has effectively lost 40K, flat out. This is a simulation of what a single, 3-man Scatterbike squad can do against that:

scatterbikesisters

As you can see, there’s really solid odds of killing three or more models, and while you’re unlikely to wipe out an entire squad of 5 Sisters, narrowing them down to two models is still a pretty dramatic blow. Here’s the same for a squad of 10 MEQs rapid firing their Bolters into that squad:

bolterssisters

Slightly worse odds of doing nothing, but slightly better odds of that long tail where the unit is wiped out or is badly mauled.

Delivery Mechanism: Unlike the Custodes, the Sisters of Silence don’t come with Deep Strike built in. Their a foot-slogging unit, and as anyone whose had to run an assault unit whose options are a 6″ Move + 1d6″ Run or nothing, that’s a recipe for sadness. A fragile assault unit needs a transport – and right now, they don’t have one. The solution is, of course, a Battle Brothers taxi, but they can’t start in those (which is why I chose the two shooting scenarios I did – both the Eldar and Space Marines could viably get those kind of units into range before the Sisters had a chance to hide in the back seat of their friend’s car). And given their an assault unit, the most appropriate options are…a Land Raider. Which does somewhat put a damper on the “Sisters are Cheap” concept. A Rhino will also get them there, but would leave them vulnerable to at least one turn of shooting pre-assault, which as mentioned, could get ugly.

But The Formation, Right? That’s Gonna Ruin Some Farseer’s…

I’m going to stop you right there. Whenever there’s a strong Psychic defense army, for justifiable reason people assume yeah, it’s going to do a number on those pesky wizard-space-elves. I’m going to argue that, for the Sisters, that’s really not their wheelhouse. Let’s consider a somewhat generic Seer Council army I faced in a recent tournament (and one that cleaned my clock). It had three Farseers and five Warlocks in it. That’s generating somewhere between 15 and 20 dice a turn. Subtracting two from that is, at best, eliminating a “Ah, what the heck…” power the Eldar player throws off at the end after getting Fortune and Invisibility off. Handy, but not going to cramp their style. Two dice is, at most, 11.8% of their dice pool, and at worst, 10% of it.

Now, if you catch those Eldar in combat, they’re in for a world of hurt, but a Jetseer has the ultimate defensive strategy vs. melee units: running away.

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Clear out, someone spotted a top-knot!

I really don’t think putting the cramp in psyker-heavy Eldar armies is really where the Sisters of Silence will find their wheelhouse. Instead, I’d suggest it’s going to be best found in shutting down armies that dabble in witchcraft, and who have strong Psychic characters who are supposed to be pulling double-duty as melee fighters. Space Marine Librarians, Sorcerers, Wolf Priests. To a single Level 2 Psyker, the Warp Siphon rule means a loss of somewhere between 25% and 67% their Warp Dice. That’s potentially casting zero powers. And for Psykers not just spamming backfield Blessings, but hoping to get up in your face with some juiced up powers, like the Blood Angels Librarians do, the presence of I5 AP2 Psychic Nulls is suddenly a much bigger deal. That’s where I think they’ll excel.

The short version: If you can keep them alive, I think the Sisters of Silence will do good work against armies that have a strong Psychic presence, but where it isn’t the army’s focus. But don’t expect them to negate someone whose gone all-in in the Psychic Phase. But I’m sure as hell painting a full formation of them.

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16 Comments


  1. Thanks for this. Was considering them as Guard allies. But won’t bother now. Too circumstantial.

    Money saved for another day.

    Reply

    1. These are essentially Monte Carlo simulations of binomial distribution functions. I prefer simulations for two reasons:

      1. I find it a more intuitive way to describe more complex game mechanics. For this post, the binomial distribution to describe things is dead simple. For more complicated questions, I find it easier to specify the same way I would in a game – by a series of dice rolls.

      2. Simulation is what I do for a living (in circumstances where there aren’t clean analytical formulation) – so it’s something I naturally prefer, and am more adept at coding.

      Reply

  2. I was hoping you’d analyze whether they’re worth it over a culexus assassin for the cost, as I think that’s where the real argument for them is. They’re cheaper, with a worse statline, but they honestly seem to fill the anti-psyker-bubble role just well… If they can get there. What isn’t immediately obvious is which takes more shooting to remove, for example, a culexus or equivalent points worth of sisters of silence. It’s t4 vs. t3, sure, but you’re looking at about 10 wounds worth compared to the like 2 iirc the assassin has? And 4++/6+fnp vs. power armor. I think the sisters might be harder to remove, especially if they can get decent cover. They have worse initial positional options, but can canvas a bit more area, generally, especially if you really go in on them. I think psychic area denial might be the name of the game.

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    1. I think the biggest problem with the Culxus is that you only hit them on a 6. Doing a quick rig-up, with both the scenarios explored recently, a squad doesn’t kill a Culexis in the open a slim minority of the time, which makes a Sisters squad more durable if you’re purely talking about keeping the anti-Psyker bubble intact.

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    2. I think it’s part of their usefulness, but beyond the anti-psyker gimmick Sisters of Silence give you a Fearless MSU Tactical Squad that can take Flamers and Greatblades. If there are no psykers around the Culexus becomes little more than a close combat tie-breaker.

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  3. Flamers, Greatblades, and a 12″ bubble suggests they’re a front-line unit, but not necessarily an assault unit – they don’t have assault grenades for one (Psyk-Out grenades aren’t Assault Grenades) and a handful of S4 attacks aren’t all that worrisome. I’d suggest this unit is probably better at deterring charges than making them.

    As for the Warp Siphon, sure, removing 1-2 dice from the hand of a dedicated Eldar/ Daemons psychic list is not going to prevent him using powers, but that’s just the Formation bonus. The models themselves bring a lot more to the table than that. Psykers within 12″ of any models in the Sisters unit are essentially shut down – they generate 0 Warp Charges, harness on a 6+, and are at Ld -3. Take three units (which you’d need for the -2 dice bonus) and you can basically nullify half the table. This suggests synergy with things like Pod Squad armies; running away is less of an appealing option when you’re running into a Psychic Abomination bubble. Also, as noted in the article, 15 dice per turn is the very high end of normal when it comes to Warp Charge, and 20 dice is pretty extreme; armies pulling these numbers are likely to be relying quite heavily on wizardly shenanigans to make them work, and as a result the Sisters’ bubble becomes a pretty big hindrance rather than the minor nuisance it would be to less psyker-focused armies.

    Me, I’m going to run a Task Force alongside my SoB/ Imperium army. At the moment I’m thinking of putting 3 Flamers and 2 Greatblades on them, dumping them in some FA Rhinos on turn one, then shoving them down people’s throats. If the opposition have psykers, their bubble might be useful. If not, I still have a bunch of Fearless Sisters roaming around midfield hosing stuff down with templates and hacking anyone who charges them with I5 Greatblades.

    Reply

    1. This. You are approaching the Sisters largely from only one dimension (how good are they at assault?). There is much more to the Sisters in terms of board control than is initially apparent.

      Any unit with a psyker has to stay away from them. Sure, the Eldar can do that with aplomb, but there is surely utility in thise process for the player using the Sisters.

      The Sisters are able to take a battlefield advantage (psykers) and turn them into a liability just by taking the field. The player with psykers either has to go out of their way to eliminate the Sisters or go out of their way to stay the heck away (or at least keep key units away from them). In malestrom and objective missions, this is a considerable problem.

      Any unit worth 75 points that can capture objectives, kick butt in melee, negate psykers in a bubble, fearless(!), have a universal effect if used in numbers, AND significantly disrupt movement and deployment options of the other player just by being on the board is a pretty powerful unit.

      They are certainly situational. Against an army with zero psykers then their utility is pretty low, but considering a number of armies see psykers as critical components — thats potentially a big deal. Better yet, at 75 points, even if a player with Sisters ends up without a good target, they are cheap enough to not be that big of a gamble (assuming blind matchmaking and lists)

      Reply

      1. Most of the analysis I did wasn’t how good are they in assault, but how survivable are they – which is a critical component of your argument. And the answer is…middling. That’s the take away. Not that the Sisters are bad, because they aren’t. It’s that, as far as I can see right now, the Sisters are “fine”.

        That’s not a bad place to be. I just don’t think they’re going to be meta-changing, and I think their anti-psyker power is most apparent against a defined niche of psychic armies, and not the ones that immediately come to mind. I simply think there are too many ways to kill them before their abilities ever end up paying off, and the ways to fix that end up being situational (you need to go first) and/or spendy (assault transports).

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      2. I would also, for the record, love to be wrong about this one.

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    2. “Flamers, Greatblades, and a 12″ bubble suggests they’re a front-line unit, but not necessarily an assault unit – they don’t have assault grenades for one (Psyk-Out grenades aren’t Assault Grenades) and a handful of S4 attacks aren’t all that worrisome. I’d suggest this unit is probably better at deterring charges than making them.”

      I think 16 S4, I5 and AP2 attacks on the charge is enough to me ‘worrisome’. They may also work as a counter-charge unit, and perhaps they will, I’m just not sure with a single wound and T3 that they’ll do well in that role – they’re not built to take much fire.

      “As for the Warp Siphon, sure, removing 1-2 dice from the hand of a dedicated Eldar/ Daemons psychic list is not going to prevent him using powers, but that’s just the Formation bonus. The models themselves bring a lot more to the table than that. Psykers within 12″ of any models in the Sisters unit are essentially shut down – they generate 0 Warp Charges, harness on a 6+, and are at Ld -3. Take three units (which you’d need for the -2 dice bonus) and you can basically nullify half the table. This suggests synergy with things like Pod Squad armies; running away is less of an appealing option when you’re running into a Psychic Abomination bubble. Also, as noted in the article, 15 dice per turn is the very high end of normal when it comes to Warp Charge, and 20 dice is pretty extreme; armies pulling these numbers are likely to be relying quite heavily on wizardly shenanigans to make them work, and as a result the Sisters’ bubble becomes a pretty big hindrance rather than the minor nuisance it would be to less psyker-focused armies.”

      It’s the high end of normal, but it’s not the *rare* end of normal. I’ve encountered an army using that magnitude of psychic dice at least once in every tournament I’ve been in recently. And yes, the bubble is strong, but it’s got problems as well:

      – It doesn’t work if they’re headed forward in transports
      – It dies when they die

      So they’re either out in the open and moving slowly, at which point they’re likely taking fire, or they’re in their busses and you’re taking whatever psychic damage you intended to counter while they reach their destination. They may work as objective/area denial units – I’ve mentioned that as a strength of the standard Sisters of Battle more than once, but if so, again, their primary threat is where the Psykers are coming to you (Some versions of the Librarius Conclave, Rune Priests, Grey Knights, etc.).

      “Me, I’m going to run a Task Force alongside my SoB/ Imperium army. At the moment I’m thinking of putting 3 Flamers and 2 Greatblades on them, dumping them in some FA Rhinos on turn one, then shoving them down people’s throats. If the opposition have psykers, their bubble might be useful. If not, I still have a bunch of Fearless Sisters roaming around midfield hosing stuff down with templates and hacking anyone who charges them with I5 Greatblades.”

      I mean, I own 15 of them…I’m on board. I just don’t think they’re the greatest unit since sliced bread.

      Reply

      1. “I think 16 S4, I5 and AP2 attacks on the charge is enough to me ‘worrisome’.”

        Yeah, but it’s on an infantry unit. That’s a 6″ move + 2-12″ charge. Can’t ignore terrain, can’t bypass obstacles, doesn’t even get Fleet or Crusader or anything. If that unit hits something, the target will die – but it has to hit something.
        Remember in 5th Edition, when everyone was creaming themselves over Grey Hunters getting a free CCW? Everyone thought they were assault units because they put out a ton of attacks on the charge, but people who used them for shooting and deployed the CCWs defensively tended to fare better. That’s how I see the SoS outside of crippling psykers. You don’t charge with them. You push them down people’s throats with Flamers, and keep the Greatblades on hand in case someone charges you.

        “they’re not built to take much fire.”

        Right – but unless you’re putting them in an (expensive) Assault Vehicle then they’re going to be taking fire if you try to use them as an assault unit. Either they’ll get shot, or they’ll end up trapped behind a bunch of cheap/ free transports and spend the whole game clambering through wreckage, as is the fate of all assault units with the “Infantry” type that can’t Deep Strike/ Cult Ambush.

        “It’s the high end of normal, but it’s not the *rare* end of normal. I’ve encountered an army using that magnitude of psychic dice at least once in every tournament I’ve been in recently.”

        Fair enough – but you’re not going to see that many psychic dice in the majority of games, and when you do see them the army will generally be built around psychic powers. That gives the bubble a decisive role – spoil the unit(s) powering the army. Against more balanced armies the bubble is less decisive, so you give them Flamers and a ride. They deny movement to whatever psykers there are, and burn stuff while doing so. Even without the bubble I still think they’re better for area denial/ objective camping than Sisters of Battle; they’re Fearless, so there’s no risk they’ll run away after taking some casualties from plinking, they can’t be Swept, and they’re a less appealing prospect for charges in the first place thanks to I5, Greatblades, and multiple Flamers.

        They’re not the best unit since sliced bread, sure, but they’re hardly expensive enough to make lack of quality an issue – for what they cost they’re pretty sweet.

        “– It doesn’t work if they’re headed forward in transports”

        How so? I’m not trying to gainsay, but I don’t see anything that says this.

        Even supposing that’s true, the opponent only gets free reign while they’re in the box. If he pops the transport, he then has to kill the Sisters in the same shooting phase or accept that his psykers can’t go into that area of the board.

        Reply

        1. “Yeah, but it’s on an infantry unit. That’s a 6″ move + 2-12″ charge. Can’t ignore terrain, can’t bypass obstacles, doesn’t even get Fleet or Crusader or anything. If that unit hits something, the target will die – but it has to hit something.
          Remember in 5th Edition, when everyone was creaming themselves over Grey Hunters getting a free CCW? Everyone thought they were assault units because they put out a ton of attacks on the charge, but people who used them for shooting and deployed the CCWs defensively tended to fare better. That’s how I see the SoS outside of crippling psykers. You don’t charge with them. You push them down people’s throats with Flamers, and keep the Greatblades on hand in case someone charges you.”

          Two thoughts on this:
          – An assault unit does not have to be a unit that charges – counter-charges are a thing, as are, as you noted, units designed to take a charge. That statement was merely noting that a SoS unit on the charge is no joke, even to fairly beefy units.
          – If you’re close enough to “push them down people’s throats with Flamers” you’re within the distance of an average 2d6 charge.

          “Right – but unless you’re putting them in an (expensive) Assault Vehicle then they’re going to be taking fire if you try to use them as an assault unit. Either they’ll get shot, or they’ll end up trapped behind a bunch of cheap/ free transports and spend the whole game clambering through wreckage, as is the fate of all assault units with the “Infantry” type that can’t Deep Strike/ Cult Ambush.”

          They’re going to be taking fire regardless of what they’re doing if they’re any good. There’s literally no functional build for a Sisters squad that doesn’t expose them to fire.

          “Fair enough – but you’re not going to see that many psychic dice in the majority of games, and when you do see them the army will generally be built around psychic powers. That gives the bubble a decisive role – spoil the unit(s) powering the army. Against more balanced armies the bubble is less decisive, so you give them Flamers and a ride. They deny movement to whatever psykers there are, and burn stuff while doing so. Even without the bubble I still think they’re better for area denial/ objective camping than Sisters of Battle; they’re Fearless, so there’s no risk they’ll run away after taking some casualties from plinking, they can’t be Swept, and they’re a less appealing prospect for charges in the first place thanks to I5, Greatblades, and multiple Flamers.”

          Here is where I disagree. I think they’re decisive role will be for moderately strong but not focused psychic armies, where the enemy is more likely coming to them (making the bubble easier) and where their dampening abilities will do more good. Popping the invisibility on a Wolfstar, things like that.

          For the *really* psychic heavy armies, most of those have mobility options that will let them avoid the bubble, and abilities that can be used in the backfield where the bubble isn’t.

          “How so? I’m not trying to gainsay, but I don’t see anything that says this.”

          The FAQ has made it pretty clear that auras don’t work inside transports.

          “Even supposing that’s true, the opponent only gets free reign while they’re in the box. If he pops the transport, he then has to kill the Sisters in the same shooting phase or accept that his psykers can’t go into that area of the board.”

          And my assertion is, especially if you’re running them as an MSU unit, then that’s not actually all that hard.

          Reply

          1. “Two thoughts on this:
            – An assault unit does not have to be a unit that charges – counter-charges are a thing, as are, as you noted, units designed to take a charge. That statement was merely noting that a SoS unit on the charge is no joke, even to fairly beefy units.”

            I don’t disagree, but I still don’t think close combat is their primary role. They’re a unit you use aggressively, sure – you want that bubble and those Flamers to be as far up the board as possible – but they’re still a T3 Infantry unit without grenades. T3 without grenades means they’re going to struggle when charging through cover, and Infantry means they have little control over how and where they assault.

            “– If you’re close enough to “push them down people’s throats with Flamers” you’re within the distance of an average 2d6 charge.”

            Yeah – and it might be a good idea to assault, or it might not be. My point is you’re not lining them up to charge stuff, you’re lining them up to Flame stuff. The Flamers (and power armour to an extent) are what they use to earn their keep in the absence of psykers. The Greatblades are secondary weapons.

            “They’re going to be taking fire regardless of what they’re doing if they’re any good. There’s literally no functional build for a Sisters squad that doesn’t expose them to fire.”

            That’s my point, and it’s why I think all-Blade units are a bit of a waste. With the Blades you **have** to get out of the Rhino and stand around in the open for a turn getting shot before you can do anything. With the Flamers you can sit in the box and put Templates over stuff if you’re so inclined.

            “Here is where I disagree. I think they’re decisive role will be for moderately strong but not focused psychic armies, where the enemy is more likely coming to them (making the bubble easier) and where their dampening abilities will do more good. Popping the invisibility on a Wolfstar, things like that.”

            That’s what I’m thinking too. I think we have different definitions of “moderate” though; I’d classify 6-9 Warp Charge armies as “moderate”, 10-12 as “psyker-heavy”, and anything with 12+ is pretty extreme. I see a lot of armies running 6-9 psychic dice, very few with more than 12, and those that are tend to be Invisible deathstars or Tzeentch Daemons. Most of the GT-winning lists have no psychic dice at all.

            “For the *really* psychic heavy armies, most of those have mobility options that will let them avoid the bubble, and abilities that can be used in the backfield where the bubble isn’t.”

            The bubble is 24″ in diameter and every model in the squad projects it. It’s huge. Flying psykers like Fateweaver are liable to end up off the table if they try too hard to avoid the bubble, and if they don’t, they’re useless. Jetbike psykers fare a bit better, but they’re still going to end up stuck in a corner until they can shoot their way out, and any of their own units that are within the bubble can’t be Guided or Fortune’d. Anything that can’t fly or jetbike is in serious trouble.

            “The FAQ has made it pretty clear that auras don’t work inside transports.”

            It’s actually in the Datasheet too, I just noticed it the other day.

            “And my assertion is, especially if you’re running them as an MSU unit, then that’s not actually all that hard.”

            A single Culexus Assassin bubble can chase psykers out of an entire table quarter. With two units of Sisters you have ten of them for not much more than the cost of a single Culexus, and you can’t just double them out with a lucky Krak Missile hit or chase them away by forcing Morale every turn. You have to kill the whole squad before it’s safe to go back in the water. It’s not difficult to do, sure, but it still needs to be done, and whatever you use to do it is one less thing that’s shooting at the rest of my army. That sounds good to me.

            Again, I’m not saying they’re the end-all-be-all or an auto-include or whatever, merely that they’re not a terrible unit and a place can be found for them in certain armies. Just don’t try and run your own psykers alongside them; I tried it with my Wolves the other day and it was a bit of a disaster.


  4. One other thing — Sisters scale well against psyker armies. An army that is throwing 10 or more dice on the table during the psychic phase is going to have multiple psyker targets hat will hate the Sisters’ denial bubble. So, yeah, lots of dice means the multi-unit-take-dice-away formation is less useful, but those multiple units of Sisters now have a lot more targets to kill.

    Likewise, a smaller army that only dabbles in the psychic round could see the loss on 1 or 2 dice as a significant hindrance. Yes, there are fewer targets for the Sisters to go bash face, but their universal board rule is not a lot more effective in cramping the other player’s plans.

    Again… for 75 points.

    You dismiss their utility too quickly, Eric.

    Reply

    1. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but I’m skeptical. I’d be less skeptical if they worked while they were in transports, but they don’t. Two of the major “Lots of Dice” armies are Eldar Seerstar armies and Tzeentch-based Daemon armies, both of which are pretty much backfield powers that can dance outside that bubble.

      I’ve repeatedly stated that they are strong against armies where your psykers are also doing double-duty as frontline characters, which is where that bubble is relevant. But even with three units, I’m skeptical that a Jetseer or flying Changer of Ways is going to be in that bubble for very long.

      Reply

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