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.
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:
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:
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.
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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