I have been stricken with writer's block this week and haven't played a ton of new video game offerings in the last fortnight. So, today we're going back to the well with a continuation of my "Tacticool Analysis" series of articles.
In the previous two articles, we took an in-depth look at Rubric Marines and Tzaangors. Today we're looking at one of the real sledgehammer units available to a Thousand Sons force - Scarab Occult terminators.
The Scarab Occult are the post-heresy version of their legion's Scarab Occult psyker terminator force. This explains why the new models are not wearing "modern" terminator armor, but instead the Cataphractii terminator armor used during the Horus Heresy. Though member of the Scarab Occult was a psyker in their own right, only the psychically stronger members of the Scarab Occult were able to resist the Rubric's effects.
The Scarab Occult are the final iteration of Terminator armoured Thousand Sons. Previous iterations have included "Terminators, but with Tzeentchy bonuses" and "Terminators, but with an extra wound". In fact, Terminators with an extra wound (through an ability called "Daemonic Resilience") was good enough to get there competitively, and there was even an army featured in white dwarf from the mid noughties with custom built Rubric Terminators. God knows where they got the modern Terminator Armour from, but who cares - headdresses, baby!
So anyway, how do you make a Scarab Occult Terminator? Well, take a Rubric Marine. Add Terminator armour, a power Khopesh and replace the Boltgun with a Combi-Bolter. What do you get?
The answer is a hard-as-nails unit with massive firepower, that has a role of being the hammer unit in your army. Generally speaking, you can point a unit of Scarab Occult at anything short of a Land Raider and watch it disappear. Add a potent combination of force-multiplication psychic buffs and stratagems to crank it up to eleven.
Of course, cranking to eleven isn't cheap and these guys require investment and protection to extract maximum value. In a 2,000 point game a fully loaded unit of these lads works out to be a little under twenty-five percent of your force. That's a big investment to make in a single unit, but the rewards are plentiful if they are used correctly.
On The Tabletop
Scarab Occult Terminators look a little bit like this:
So, pretty obvious - bigger, tougher, scarier Rubric Marines. They resist D1 weaponry and have the ability to deep strike. With the exception of the heavy warpflamer (which is annoyingly useless) they have the same weapon options as Rubric Marines.
You can, however, take two Hellfyre Missile racks in addition to two Soulreaper Cannons (or Warpflamers, I guess...). This is excellent for the Scarab Occult and allows them extra flexibility, as you don't have to choose between extra help with anti-infantry or extra punch against vehicles - you can have both.
In case you wanted me to explain my derision for the heavy warpflamer, it's simple. It is unable to be used out of deep strike, and even if conventionally deployed, the weapon's short range and the want for the Scarab Occult to not move in order to fire their boltguns twice means the Warpflamer is just best left at home. Just feel free to load up and have a ball with the Soulreaper cannon, which is still a heavy bolter with the AP of a Lascannon and awesome.
Being unable to take anything but a Khopesh is an issue. No access to power fists and having no punch in combat makes the Scarab Occult vulnerable to being engaged by high toughness low armor save units - Dreadnoughts, Custodes and strange Ork Buggies, to name a few. Sometimes these units won't be able to hurt you back, but each turn in combat is a turn not shooting - and as I will explain below, you want your Scarab Occult to be shooting more than anything else.
Let me be clear. Scarab Occult Terminators look tough, but they are not. They have a glass jaw and in a world filled with high-strength, low-ap multiple-wound shooting, these guys are the first thing your opponent targets. As an elite shooting unit, each casualty makes a big dent in the damage potential of your expensive Scarab Occult unit.
So, you need protect the unit. The easiest answer is to find a big target to be shot at instead of your Scarab Occult. This can be Magnus, or a Lord of Change or even a vehicle, such as a Land Raider. However, this further adds to the investment you make and if your opponent knows what they're doing, they'll just shoot your Terminators anyway.
In the absence of a big dumb target or a foolish opponent, the answer is to deep strike your Scarab Occult. This way you guarantee that they will get one turn of shooting. If you make that round count, you may well get a second - which is where the fun really starts.
Because of the investment required in the Scarab Occult unit, you can often tell how your game will go depending on two factors:
- What the board looks like before you deep strike your Scarab Occult.
- The results of your Scarab Occult shooting.
So what helps to make that first round of shooting count? Well, for starters, pile on the buffs. Prescience and Veterans of the Long War for +1 to Wound and +1 to hit are a good place to start. Stripping potential targets of an invulnerable save with Death Hex can also be situationally useful.
If you manage to get that second turn and you play cleverly (i.e, not like me) Infernal Fullisade will give you an extra round of shooting with your Inferno Combi-Bolters. If you live in magical christmas land where your unit of Scarab Occult suffers no casualties, that's 32 shots (at +1 to hit and +1 to wound) twice. At two different targets.
But, returning to earth for a moment, the above scenario has only happened once for me in 9th edition so far. If you go into a game thinking about how you're going to get four rounds of uninterrupted shooting with your Scarab Occult, enjoy your loss.
As with all Space Marine units, Thousand Sons have access to Malicious Volleys, which allows for maximum shooting efficiency for Bolt weapons at maximum distance - 24 inches. This means that unless you bought a Warpflamer (derp) all of your weapons have the same distance, which makes positioning simple. You almost always want to give your Scarab Occult as much room as possible to spare, so that when you put your boys down they put as much distance between them and whatever has plans to assault them.
Lastly, don't be afraid to split fire with Hellfyre racks - they're anti-vehicle and won't have as nice of a matchup against your preferred primary target, which is T4/5 infantry. With +1 to wound from Veterans, they'll not have trouble wounding vehicles - though a relative low AP of -2 does make getting the wounds to stick a problem. It's not impressive, but as we've discussed here before with Thousand Sons, dealing with vehicles is a team effort.
Le Hidden Gem
Have you guessed it yet?
In case it isn't immediately super obvious, it's Sorcerous Facade... again. It's almost like being able to instantly redeploy is really good. Made even better by being equipped with Inferno Combi-weapons that allow you to fire with maximum efficiency at 24 inches. Orks love Da Jump, Thousand Sons like Cult of Duplicity. If you're not considering it, you should be, because it's great.
Another good cult is the Cult of Time, with the ability to replace Terminator casualties suffered through the game and keeping the unit topped off. However, the Sorcerous Infusion stratagem (from Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned) isn't a bad replacement if you can deal with having to spend command points to get models back. This also means you don't give up Sorcerous Facade.
Don't be afraid to invest early and often to protect these guys either. At almost a quarter of your force fully loaded, it's likely their fate is tied to your opportunity to win the game. Stratagems like Indomitable Foes (also from Psychic Awakening) and psychic powers like Weaver of Fates and Glamour of Tzeentch to increase your invulnerable save and limit the effectiveness of return fire are key to giving you that second round of shooting.
Thousand Sons have always struggled with unit diversity and Scarab Occult Terminators are a worthy addition to the roster.
If you're going to include them, do not skimp. You're not going to get anywhere with five. You need that ten wide unit for the extra heavy weapon and missile rack and for buff efficiency. Much like other unique chaos terminators (Blighlords, Deathshroud, etc.), they're not casual includes like loyalist terminators. If you include them they're build arounds - they're too expensive to include in small numbers, where they will accomplish little and die quickly.
Overall, Scarab Occult are a favourite unit of mine for the amount of shooting they can put out. If left unchecked they'll shoot your opponent's entire army off of the board. The damage they can do is disgusting. But they don't just work by themselves - they need support and you need to factor their influence into your gameplan.
And if you do, you'll have a grand old time hosing people down with Inferno Combi-bolter fire.
Catch you next time,
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