Thursday, January 12, 2012

How Grey Knights Saved Warhammer 40,000!

Well Necrons too but I'll come to that. Now before you get over excited and tell me how much I'm wrong that I fail, have a read and think about what I'm saying. There's no doubting that Grey Knights have been a popular army. There's no denying that it's pretty easy to put a solid GK list together that with any sort of skill will win games at tournaments. There's also no point arguing that there aren't some ridiculous (but not overpowered) things in that codex, we have Matt Ward to thank for that!

What's all the fuss about GK anyway?
Let's start by looking at the problems most people have with the book. Firstly, GK are meant to be an elite space marine army. The idea being that individual units are awesome but you pay through the nose for them which means you don't have a very high model count. This hopefully gives some balance to the army, in that you only have to lose a couple of models in each unit to really harm their effectiveness. The trouble is, they aren't that expensive and you do end up with about the same model count as any other SM codex. Add to this pretty much everyone wielding a I6 force weapon and storm bolter, psycannons aplenty, S8 rifleman (psyfleman) dreads, ignoring shaken and stunned, grenades that are stupid, powers that make you S6 in combat, everything being a psyker, etc etc etc. There's no doubting that some of the units are stupidly good even considering slightly higher points values. An army based around purifiers, razorbacks and dreads is a pretty tough prospect for any opponent.

Are they actually invincible though?
Contrary to popular belief however, they are far from invincible. Like any other MSU force, if you can stop their transports they aren't very quick and small units are easily dealt with. Unlike other marine armies they struggle against AV of 12 or more. Yes, the psycannons can rend but otherwise they've got very little options for dealing with AV14. If they come across an army with lots of potent psychic defence then they really can't hack it. No Hammerhand, Psychic Pilot, etc and they'll find it very tricky. Armies like Eldar, SW and Tyranids with decent psychic defence can really shut them down. Dark Eldar can match their I6, can easily outrun them and keep out of 24" range and also their wyches don't give a toss about your fancy force weapons thanks! Against their craftworld cousins GK have to deal with Runes of Warding making things tricky for them. They also don't like wave serpents and falcons with their AV12 and Holo-fields. Pretty much every codex can do something about them. I could write a entire post about their limitations and how you can pick them apart.

Get to the point, how did they "save" 40K?
Well, you don't have to go to many tournaments or clubs to realise that the vast majority of people play Space Marines of one flavour or another. They make up a large chunk of the available codexes and even when promising books like DE and Necrons come out you can always guarantee people will end up back with their marine armies after a brief flirtation. So what army are the grey knights, these golden boys of the imperium, best against? Other Space Marines. Yes other armies also struggle but clearly Space Marines are the ones who'll have the real trouble. Grey Knights are the perfect counter to MSU. They easily deal with enemy rhinos and razorbacks and then smash the occupants with torrents of fire and power/force weapon attacks.

The reason people get so upset with the GK codex is that their standard web list tournament army can't beat them. If you put a GK MSU list up against a BA, SW or vanilla marine equivalent then they'll wipe the floor with them. Along with IG these are the staple armies of the top tournament players and frankly in their current for they aren't going to have much chance against GK. This is where GK save 40K. By releasing a codex that's a perfect counter to the current builds out there it forces players to have a rethink. The "meta-game" has been knocked out of shape. There was a time when close combat armies ruled the roost and slowly but surely the meta game changed and gave mech shooty armies the advantage. We're now at a point where both styles of army can work again. No matter what anyone tells you, GK are a shooting army. They're crap in combat compared to what they can do at 24" range. They're good on the charge but even purifiers can't handle a decent alpha strike in combat.

No really, get to the point! How are they saving 40K?
There are lots of old codexes that can no perform in 40K thanks to grey knights. Tau (as I've demonstrated) can be an excellent counter to grey knights. So what if you can beat my fire warriors in combat, who can't? Here's some railgun in your face!  What do you mean you can't get through my AV13 and you've got very little S8, low AP shooting to deal with my suits? Even my AV12 causes you problems.

As I've said, Eldar are back in the game. Tons of S6 anti-infantry shots from scatter lasers, shuriken cannons and starcannons to make GK players take a lot of 3+ saves. AV12 fast vehicles which your psycannons and dreads have trouble against. Oh and good luck using your psychic powers.

New Necrons with Night Fighting, Difficult Terrain, Quantum Shielding, Re-Animation Protocols etc etc. You're going to have to get into combat with them and that's going to be tough when you'll have to abandon your transports and weather a torrent of fire to do so. Oh and scarabs will eat your tanks for breakfast!

This all leads to people trying out new things. It's no longer possible to easily build an army to take on all-comers because there's been such a backlash against grey knights.

To cut a long story short. The number of people fielding Grey Knights has meant that people have had to move away from their SM armies and look at something else. This can only be good for the game. I'd love to go to a two-day tournament and only play one game against an MEQ army. Right now, I think that might happen!

Far from Grey Knights, "ruining 40k", they're saving it!


  1. I loved this article, you bring up a lot of good points that I have not seen in any other article.

    1. Thanks mate. I suspect you might be the only person who thinks this. Everyone else will probably disagree!

  2. One other point: Grey Knights are relatively easy on the pocketbook. A bat report today on Bell had this GK list:
    Lord Draigo
    Librarian - master crafted warding stave, 2x servo skull, Might of Titans, Sanctuary,shrouding, Warp Rift

    10x Paladin: fully complex w. 4x psycannon
    10x GKT w. 2x psycannon


    Ever so roughly speaking, that's $300.00, list. The IG army on the other side of the batrep, typically heavy on vehicles, is about $450. $150 *and* I can win? Yes, please.

  3. You've a good point. GK = anti marine spam, Nice. Certainly for Guard and Tau, GK are a challenge - but not an insurmountable one. The only problem is that GK usually require a certain amount of 'anti-GK' building ... as such they sap points away from more practical builds.

    Alternatively, I'd love to take my Tau out against GK. Nice.

    On the Tyranids, I disagree. Tyranids were fail and a fluffy uphill struggle, combine that with the instantkill on MC's and GW have really shot the pooch. I haven't bothered with Nids since. Tau however... mmm.

    1. On building, "anti-GK". At least if you build a list that will beat GK you stand a decent chance against other MEQ armies.

      I agree there's no point taking nids against GK but since other peoples lists have changed to fight GK the nids have become a bit more viable in my opinion. Granted I'm not gonna go get myself a nid army but still.

  4. The only reason GK are popular is because they are over powered and easy to win with. No it wasn't GK that saved 40k, it was the erections that people got over them.

    1. You sir, appear to have totally missed the point of this post. Did you read it all?

      The whole point is that because ppl got so excited about them and bought them in their droves it changed the game as we know it. Thanks for the comment but please do me the courtesy of reading the article beforehand.



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