It’s been a quiet April here at Variance Hammer. I’ve been working on a review for Inferno, digesting Shadow War: Armageddon (which went on sale as I was boarding a plane and was sold out by the time the flight attendants told us to turn our phones off), and to be perfectly honest, a lot of Mass Effect: Andromeda is being played right now.
But along with all of that, the last little hit of the Gathering Storm series came out with Talons of the Emperor, updated and expanded rules and models for the Sisters of Silence and the Custodes in 40K. When I first reviewed the Sisters of Silence I was a little tepid…has that changed?
The TL;DR version: Yes. The reasons? The meta and a Rhino.
The Meta: When I reviewed the Sisters of Silence last time, one of my major skepticisms was how useful their aura would be against the heaviest psychic armies in the game. In my opinion, both an Eldar Seer Council-based force and a heavy Chaos Daemons summoning army had either the mobility or utility (or both) to still squeeze nearly every drop out of their psychic phase without being troubled to get close. I thought that limited their effectiveness to countering armies who were relying on psykers coming to them – fueled up Space Marine death stars and the like.
When I wrote that, Magnus the Red was but a rumbling on the rumor sites – it would be nearly a month before that model was confirmed, let alone the rules for him leaked. But Magnus and the renewed Thousand Sons introduced a new type of psychic army to the meta – one built primarily along out-and-out aggression in the psychic phase. Not only is Magnus good at that (I like Forge the Narrative‘s description of him as a psychic Baneblade), but he’s pointed well enough that he and his ilk have made a major impact on the tournament scene. That radically changes the utility of having a little bubble of psychic power in your lines shielding your dudes.
Beyond that though, the Talons of the Emperor box introduced a “proper” codex for the Sisters, spartan though it is – and that too brought some changes, good and bad. Let’s look at some highlights:
New Squads: This is actually a little bit of a disappointment to me – but it’s a disappointment that’s likely for the best. The generic Sisters of Silence squad has been replaced with the Prosecutor, Vigilator and Witchseeker squads, all exclusively armed with boltguns, Executioner greatblades and flamers respectively. This results in a loss of the gloriously flexible unit that was three greatblades and two flamers, but it does bring the units more in line with what can be fielded in Horus Heresy: Inferno (oddly, the Custodes codex goes the opposite way, retaining generalist squads).
Now it’s really a matter of what roll you want them in – Vigilators are the cheapest option and still scary in terms of their close combat prowess, while Prosecutors are a competent if unexceptional firebase that will be actively dangerous to any psyker containing unit that strays too close. The real question is the Witchseeker squad – at 85 points it’s the most expensive of the options, and thus the worst if all you’re looking for is warm null-maiden bodies to foil the plans of enemy psykers. And five flamers is…a little excessive. Though as a counter-charge unit, they’re quite scary. Shown below are the casualties experienced by an MEQ-style unit just from Overwatch against a 5-woman Witchseeker squad:
One can expect to lose at the very least a model or two from even relatively durable infantry squads before combat even really begins. And while S3 isn’t much to write home about, high initiative and 11 attacks is still reasonably formidable.
But what’s really important, to my mind, is the addition of the Null Maiden Rhino. It’s definitely not Forge Worlds beautiful new Sisters of Silence transport for the Heresy, but the ubiquitous metal box has some important features:
- It’s protection. The Sisters can start inside it, which will be invaluable versus “What makes you think there will be any left by the time your turn comes around?” alpha-strike armies. And while it’s not an assault transport, two of the three Sisters squads aren’t really looking for an assault transport – it’s only actively vexing for Vigilator squads, who remain in kindof an awkward place, having lost a little bit of their counter-charge prowess with the loss of the option to take some flamers.
- It’s mobility. It’s all well and good to have a bubble of anti-psyker power, and you can string them along at max coherency fairly effectively, but being able to move your bubble around at the speed of the rest of your army, and for many forces, that means piling into a transport.
- It doesn’t negate their powers. Bane of Psykers, like all auras, turns off when you get inside a transport. But the Rhino itself has the rule, which means the bubble is still there. Unless it’s FAQ’d…or, I suppose, if the Rhino then mounts up in a Thunderhawk Transporter.
- It makes them better. By the rules, “Sometimes a unit entry will include a transport option, allowing a vehicle to be selected together with the unit. These Dedicated Transports do not use up a slot on the force organisation chart, but count as having the same role as the unit they were bought for all other rules purposes.” All other rules purposes, in this case, is that each unit taken in a Null-Maiden Task Force detachment after the first extends the Psychic Abomination aura by 3″. Which means now not only can your bubble move thanks to the Rhino, but it’s getting stronger.
Overall? I think the changes to the meta with an increase in offensive casting thanks to some beautiful new models with powerful rules in the form of Magnus and the new Lord of Change, along with the addition of a dedicated transport and a more general utility detachment changes my opinion of the Sisters from “Handy but situational” to a pretty solid bet. I would have liked to have seen a Land Raider option for them as well, and the loss of the general-purpose Swords-n-Flamers squad probably annoys some people who have already glued models together, but overall it’s a marked improvement that justifies taking these truly spectacular looking models.
For those without the boxed set, their rules are available digitally from Black Library and iTunes.
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