Friday, January 17, 2014

Imperial Guard Tactics: Psykers

Moving right along now, today lets talk about psykers.  So this is not going to be about any one unit but will go over the two main choices in the IG codex and will also briefly cover the allied contenders as well as they are worth mentioning.  The IG currently have two choices for psykers and I will say I was very happy when this edition dropped and the IG finally go good psykers.  For long time players I am sure you will remember the dismal worthlessness of the past incarnation of Psykers.  Now the Primaris is your HQ and the Battle Squad is an elite, and to be honest the primaris didn't really become too useful till 6th.  He was ok in 5th but his basic powers were only meh, but with the ability to draw from the BRB, especially telepathy, he has become a decent contender to bring.

The Primaris is the same price as a lord commissar base, but he can't take upgrades.  This really isn't a bad thing as there isn't really anything you can give him that would be useful, he already has a force weapon. He has standard stats for a guardsmen, but has 2 wounds and WS BS 4, frags, laspistol and a refractor field.  He is a psyker (ML1), IC, and has the rule that if he suffers perils and a commissar is in the same unit, he is executed (Its for your own good).  His standard powers are lighting arc and night shroud. Lighting arc is 24" S6 AP5 Assault 2D6, not bad but there are better primaris powers in the BRB that he can take which I will cove later.  Night shroud targets the psykers unit and an enemy must pass a Ld test to shoot at them, if fail they lose shooting phase.  So neither are that great, and I would never use them in loo of the BRB powers.  Speaking of which he can take Biomancy, Telepathy, Telekinesis, and Pyromancy.  I know no divination he is just horrible.  Don't think of him as a support psyker, he is much more of an attack psyker that can get a good buff or two maybe.  Here is the main advantage of taking the BRB powers, he is only ML1, but can choose two to replace his standard.  This is awesome, not many ML1 psykers can know two powers.  This means you have flexibility with him.

My favorite table to roll on is telepathy.  One is that the primaris power is awesome, and when paired with PBS is even better, which I will talk about later.  Since two of the powers are warp charge two, you have a decent chance of getting one of the ones you want, and since the primaris is good roll twice on this table.  Ideally Puppet Master and Psychic Shriek is what you want.  This means he has a potentially devastating attack that ignores cover and armor, and can target enemy units and turn them against your opponent.  Dominate and Terrify are also really good, dominate forcing your opponent to pass leadership test each time it tries to do anything.  Terrify removes fearless and they are afraid of everything, plus forcing an immediate morale check.  Mental fortitude is good, but you have a rule called get back in the fight that the CCS can issue so its not as amazing.  Shriek is great, roll 3D6 and then subtract the targets Ld, they suffer that many wounds with not armor or cover saves.  Its random, but compared to the attack he knows its no less so and its much better as no need to roll for strength. This is great for stacking wounds on an MC like a riptide.

Telekinesis is decent.  The primaris is meh, 18 S6 no AP beam weapon.  Yes it has strike down but that is situational.  Since its a beam it reduces its S by one each time it hits, so your not going to be getting to many useful wounds out of this.  Crush can be very good, but it can also suck balls.  Its random with some more randomness thrown in and if you as me its randomness is far to random for me.  In the end it can only cause one wound too.  Gate is great and you can move guys quickly across the field and is good.  The ob mechanicum is good and can be great against those pesky eldar with all their pseudo rending.  Plus its not bad against vehicles.  Shockwave is meh, again its too weak and is random in attacks. The dome gets you a 5+ invul, this is good.  the last one you can't take so reroll.  The issue with this is that it is way too dependent on getting the right roll and even then this is a random table with a shit ton of randomness thrown in to be useful.  I would pass.

Pyromancy is pretty good, better than telekinesis.  The primaris is essentially a heavy flamer with soul blaze.  So this is solid.  This really is what you need to pay attention too, does the primaris help you and is it good, if not you should not roll on the table, which is why I suggest you steer clear of telekinesis.  Fiery form is actually decent, he has a 4+ invul, 2+ S and his attacks have soul blaze.  No he is not a combat monster, but S5 with a 4++ is not bad and if you do get caught in one it will do in a pinch, remember he has a force weapon too.  Fire shield is pretty darn good, it s 4+ cover and causes 2D6 S4 hits to units that successfully charge the affected unit.  If you have a unit that is going to get charged, throw this on them and it will certainly help.  Inferno has the profile of a bolter, but is a blast with soul blaze and ignores cover and assault 1.  Not bad but nothing amazing.  Spontaneous combustion is a focused power with 18", the target model suffers a wound with no armor or cover saves allowed, if he is slain then place a blast marker over him and all models underneath suffer a S4 AP5 hit that ignores cover.  Not bad, this is great for weapon sniping.  Sunburst is a nova with a 6" range and S4 AP5 assault 2D6 with blind and ignores cover.  Really is not that bad, you are going to assault a unit or are about to be assaulted this is  a good power to take.  The last you can't take which is a pity as its rather good.

Biomancy is the last one.  Smite is decent with 12" S4 AP2 assault 4.  Nothing to write home but it does give you something that can hurt termies and other 2+ which is not bad.  Iron arm is good, but its not as great on him as other psykers.  That being said, if you do get it it is not bad either.  He won't be insta killed and has a chance of becoming a decent combat character that won't just be crushed off the bat.  Enfeeble is good, -1 to S and T and treats everything as difficult.  This is great for slowing down a unit and setting them up for your attack.  Endurance is good, but their isn't much in the IG codex that can benefit from it. The only exception is Ogryns as this makes them fucking tough to kill with IWND and FnP.  This alone makes the ugly fucks worth it, but when you don't get this it will hurt a lot having paid for ogryns.  Life leech is ok, its a higher S than smite w/S6 but only has 2 attacks.  Now the psyker can get a wound back.  But he only has 2 so he will probably never get to take advantage of it, smite is going to be more useful.  Warp speed sounds great, but on his own the psyker is still going to get owned in CC even with this, and if in a unit he doesn't confer it Fleet as it does not give the joined unit that rule.  Pass on it.  Haemorrhage is pretty decent, target model suffers a wound with no armor or cover save allowed if it fails a toughness test.  This continues till a model in the unit passes.  Great against low T units, IG Tau, Eldar, or units like scarabs or rippers.

So for the Primaris, you have to look at him as a psyker that is mostly offensive and hurts your opponent.  The reason being is that you can get access to better buffing psykers through allies that are cheaper so this guy is much better suited to offensive tactics.  Personally go with telepathy, it has the best primaris and has 4 solid powers that you can get, since you get two rolls and 5 and 6 are re-rolls, you have a very high chance of getting the one you want (puppet master).  If you are taking him, you need to be taking a battle squad.  Their powers help the primaris out immensely.  The shriek is leadership based, and the PBS has weaken resolve which lowers the target leadership, meaning that 3D6 minus leadership has the potential to be devastating.  The only weakness is that this requires a lot of rolling and gives your opponent two deny the witch saves to stop this combo.  Its great when it works and most times it will work and is a great way to remove a unit that has no invul, or to stack wounds on individual MCs.

Pyromancy is your next useful one, this though generally supports a more aggressive psyker so be careful.  Often times though the enemy is coming to you.  You have a solid primaris power and the rest are decent.  I would not choose this against MEQ, but if facing horde armies this is the power to go with.  Biomancy is a little to up and down, it has a good primaris though so you can risk it.  Stay away from the ones that give personal bonuses, the psyker just isn't that great to be worth those buffs.  Stick to powers that hurt your opponent.  Don't take telekinesis, too few are really good to be worth the random chance.  This guy is one of your more expensive psyker choices and can't access the best buffing powers due to lack of warp charges and tables.  So he is best suited to offensive powers and throwing cheese at your opponent.  Shriek is just fun and with PBS it is a potentially devastating attack, combined with the possibility of puppet master, you can have this lower tier psyker do some amazing things.

Now the Psyker Battle Squad is the other choice you have.  The base squad is 10 points less than the Primaris and comes with 4 psykers and an overseer.  The overseer is really nothing more than a Sgt that kills D3 psykers if they suffer a perils.  They are not a brotherhood of psykers so don't get confused, they have the Psychic Choir special rule which counts them as a single psyker and you can measure LoS and distance from any psyker.  So you can have one poke his head out and hide the rest.  Their powers are all based on how many psykers are in the squad and they can have up to 9 in the unit. Their first attack is Soulstorm, which is a 36" large blast assault, the S is the number of psykers and the AP is random.  Now I roll a lot of 2s and 1s, so this is great for me as I tend to have a nice large blast termie killer.  But if your don't roll like me, thats ok this is still a great attack, its assault has great range and only one psyker need expose himself.  Weaken resolve reduces the targets leadership by the number of psykers in the squad.  As many are familiar with the ole leaf blower IG, these guys were the lynch pin of that army.

Now though the best use for these guys really is to support your primaris psyker and his psychic shriek.  I had great effect when I rolled lucky as hell and got a 5 6 and 6 when I rolled the shriek and reduced a Ld10 unit to 4, suffice it to say had they not had FnP they all would have been dead.  If you are having trouble with riptides this is a good tactic and is good against tau in general as they have little psychic support.  This starts to have trouble when you are facing other psykers and anything with adamantium will.  Avoid those targets, and if you have no choice, use the soulstorm for you PBS and whatever alternate power your Primaris has.  The PBS is something that is great in a bunker.  They are T2 so need some serious protection, hiding them in a bunker is great and since their powers are assault they can still move out and use them.  Having 36" range powers means they will rarely not have something to hit.

Really the PBS and Primaris are PBJ and if you are taking one you should take they other as they just work together.  The other reason is that most of your ally options don't have telepathy access, so the Primaris is a great choice for this if you aren't looking for a buffer.  IG already have Prescience with orders on infantry, so prescience is only useful on vehicles.  Keep that in mind.  Divination is a good table, but don't get distracted by it and think it is your only option that you have.  I personally like the more offensive psykers and the IG has access to some really good ones and since you really can't dump anything on them, you aren't sinking any points.

As far as ally psykers, I will do an in depth article, but her is the overview.  An inquisitor is cheaper, but only by 15 and thats if you only buy the pyker upgrade, and since you are getting servo skulls, he is really only 6 pts cheaper (point out he has no invul and the primaris does).  Actually the lack of invul saves on most ally psykers is very important, as it is something that makes a big difference and I have survived far longer than I should have with that 5+ (it works for termies). A maleus can get termi armor,but at that point you have gone way past the primaris in pts.  The inquisitor is your most cost effective buffer unit, having access to divination.  Coteaz is a great choice for 100pts if you are looking for a ML2 with some great bonuses.

The dark angels libby used to be a go to for divination, but with inquisitors you have that covered now.  Standard marine ones are ok but really the primaris will do in a pinch for offensive power and Coteaz/inquisitors are far more cost effective buffers.

The next best choice is the Space Wolf rune priest.  This guy is your best psyker defense and has a great offensive punch.  Jaws is still amazing and he can punch the crap out almost anything.  If you are looking for a front line psyker and a negating enemy psychic powers on a 4+ is still hot as hell. The choice is yours but this guy is your best all rounder and is great defense against the screamers and seer councils so something to really consider.

The IG psykers work best together.  Combine their offensive powers and you can throw a lot of cheese around.  Neither are great as buffing units so don't try to use them that way, they work best at hitting your enemy, either through damage attacks or debuffing them.  Puppet master and Shriek are great choices and are just plain mean.

If you want to go psychic ultra douche, take Two primaris and go for telepathy (goal is two puppet masters and shriek) two PBS, and a rune priest.  Flop that massive hunk of cheeese on your opponent and watch him cry from the smell.  I'm mean.  The reason is you can have on always throwing puppet master and the other shrieking his psychic head off.  You have two PBS to try and get weaken resolve or throw pie plates and then the wolf man to shut down your opponents powers and drop riptides into the abyss.  This is prob not the most efficient, but when this goes off, you will be making people cry.  Also throw in an inquisitor or two with prescience because you can.  Show those filthy cheating xenos the psychic cock...I mean might of the emperor!  Make sure you play this against a friend first, or a tournament where there are no friends.  Fair warning that is a cheese dick army.  Now I want to try it out :).  I might be about to lose a friend or two, but I know a tau player so thats ok, he can't say anything :).

If you have other uses for your pyskers please let me know.  That about covers the basics, and there are most definitely more advanced uses of them but if you are wondering what direction to go, there  you go.



  1. I used a full Battle squad to great effect early last year. I just sat them in a chimera, (unless i was facing eldar with their crazy old anti psyker stuff) and reduced the enemy leadership to like 2 (usually 2) and then blew them up with the S9 blast. Usually they would be running by then end of the phase. Well worth the investment. Just focus them on one target and enjoy as it become ineffective for at least a turn.

    1. Can't use the Ld effect from transports anymore sadly. The blast still works wonders though.

  2. I have to disagree on your assessment of Arc Lightning. I regularly take it and am rarely disappointed. The amount of shots it has, combined with a decent strength, means its pretty likely to kill something, and that without having to get close enough that your enemy that psyscream gets you.

    1. Its meh and I have had great affect with scream and regularly. And to the point of range, Most cases you are getting that close by mid game, thats why puppet master or the other powers is important to this. You have one for range and one when they get close. I would rather have something that ignores armor and cover, plus doesn't have to roll to wound. Occasionally you will whiff, but the same goes for lightening as you can roll 2 attacks. For me its the whole package. Having two powers from telepathy gives far more flexibility and the standard powers are just meh compared to the other tables. If it works for you go for it, but try out telepathy and see what it does for you :)

    2. The problem with all the 'Zzzap' powers is that for basically the same points you could get the hardware to kill dudes elsewhere in our codex. A Griffon for e.g. is only 5pts more and throws down S6 death (with better AP than Arc Lightning) at range, without the need for a psychic test, without the risk of being shot by a commissar...

      When fitting a Primaris into my lists, I always end up thinking to myself:
      '...There is no 'deny the witch' save against a gun...'

    3. That is a very good point, That is why I like taking powers that I can't get anywhere in the codex. Puppet master is hands down one of favorites and the other telepathy powers are good too. The one that removes fearless is great to use on orks right before you shoot some artillery at them and pin them.

    4. The way I employed the arc was in a chimera from another unit. It's complimentary to the ML and close in range, so if you can get 24" away, you can slap out 3x BS3S6 shots and an average of 7xS6BS4 shots from the primaris out the hatch. That's a really reliable way to glance out vehicles.

      I've recently switched to using the Shriek/Weaken Resolve combo as an MC answer. It's really all the IG have vs. the all-too-easy-to-get cover saves for MCs. (Those neuter LCs and other high S, low AP shots.)

      Good note on Firey Form: it can be a potential double stack. The stock Primaris is modeled with a Force Stave, giving S+2 and AP4 at his native initiative. Add in +2 S from Firey Form and you have a 5 attacks on the charge at initiative 3 with S9AP4. Not bad. Sadly, you don't have enough warp charge to do both FF and use the force weapon, so I'd almost rather use that, hope for the failed save from the MC, then zorch it with a force attack.

      Warning on that vs. Tyranids: Shadow in the Warp is gonna play hell with CC psykers, at -3LD.

  3. I occasionally run a Primaris for Biomancy- just for the chance of getting Endurance and throwing it on Squadrons of Leman Russes, or the possibility of reducing the T of a unit by -1 can make those scores of S3 lasgun shots really make a mark... Pew pew times a million just got scarier :P

    1. Not bad at all. It comes down to personal flavor, biomancy is a little too risky for me, as there are too many powers on it that only buff the psyker, but still not useless either.

      My personal flavor is Telepathy, I love getting puppet master off and shooting the enemy with his own guys :)

    2. Aye you are right- there is a lot of chaff in the Psychic tables we have access too, so whatever table you roll on, its going to be risky. At least with two rolls there is a high probability of rolling something useful.

      I have used the Primaris twice with Biomancy, first time he was an utter flop... Second time I got Enfeeble and Endurance vs. a TAU army that included Longstrike. Each turn I kept throwing Endurance on my squadron of three Leman Russes. Between my 4+ cover, FnP and It Will Not Die, I didn't loose a single tank (one was immobilised I recall).

      Seems to me that if you want a more efficient Psyker, that the =][= is the best choice. For roughly the same points you get Divination, Servo Skulls and Ld 10.

    3. Its the reason I roll on telepathy, its 2/4 chance of getting what I want. Since two of the powers are warp charge 2, you can't get them so if you roll them you re roll till you get a power you can take. That leaves 4, you have very good odds of getting what you want ans the primaris is solid so even if one isn't, its not a huge draw back