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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Analysis: Astra Militarum in 8th Ed, HQ Units

Let's analyse the HQ options available to Astra Militarum. Like all my reviews, this will be from a competitive play perspective, at around 2000 pts scale, so keep that in mind as we dive in!

HQ Options

The Faction keyword system in 8th Ed means that some Astra Militarum units are actually in the Imperial Agents sections of the Index. And since there are no codexes yet, all Imperium units are technically options for an Astra list; but we'll constrain this review to just a couple of the other Imperium units that are useful options for an Astra list.

The HQ options we're reviewing are the:

  • Company Commander (Astra Militarum)
  • Tank Commander (Astra Militarum)
  • Lord Castellan Creed (Cadian)
  • Knight Commander Pask (Cadian)
  • Colonel Straken (Catachan)
  • Lord Commissar (Officio Prefectus)
  • Commissar Yarrick (Officio Prefectus)
  • Tempestor Prime (Militarum Tempestus)
  • Uriah Jacobus (Adeptus Ministorum)
  • Celestine (Adepta Sororitas)
  • Primaris Psyker (Scholastica Psykana)
  • Inquisitor (Inquisition)

Company Commander

A cheap, fragile utility Character, there is really no reason not to include multiples in most Astra lists. Skip the extra wargear—he's there to issue Orders (two per turn), not to fight!

Tank Commander

A Leman Russ with improved BS3+ and Tank Orders (one per turn, but not to himself or other Characters) for an extra 35 pts. I don't know if Tank Orders are worth that price, and you can only use them if you have at least one other Russ in your list and you're keeping it within 6" of the Tank Commander.

We've already established that the Punisher Cannon is the best Russ turret, and that three Heavy Flamers are the best Russ secondary weapons (and don't care about BS), so let's look at how improving BS changes damage output:

I don't think the BS3+ upgrade is worth 35 pts. As we'll see shortly, the BS2+ upgrade (Pask) is only 45 pts, so if you're playing Cadian tanks (why not?) then the Tank Commander is not really an efficient choice.

Lord Castellan Creed

A Cadian Company Commander with wargear (meh) and an extra Order per turn for an extra 40 pts doesn't sound that great, but he also provides a +2 CP bonus which seems to be pretty rare from what I've seen of 8th Ed Factions so far. That equates to an extra two universal rerolls per game—which is potentially pretty awesome! However, Astra seem to be one of the few Factions that can feasibly field a Brigade Detachment in 2000 pts, and that extra +2 CP doesn't mean much if you already have 12 CP. So maybe—somewhat counter-intuitively—Creed is better used in smaller games only, or if you're playing a different Imperium Faction and just want to splash him in for utility.

Knight Commander Pask

For an extra 10 pts over a normal Tank Commander, Pask offers BS2+ and two Tank Orders per turn, which can be issued to normal Tank Commanders but not to himself. If I wanted to put a tank in a HQ slot then it would be Pask in a Punisher, but keep in mind that you're really committing to buying at least two more tanks to receive his Tank Orders, and that could be a fair chunk of your points budget.

There is some conjecture that the Vanquisher Cannon profile includes a typo (S8 should be S9) and that GW apparently stated on Facebook that it would be errata'd—if that occurs, then the iconic Pask in a Vanquisher might be playable.

Colonel Straken

A Catachan Company Commander with an improved statline (meh), wargear (meh) and a 6" buff aura of +1A for Catachan units. Straken is basically a Company Commander and Ministorum Priest rolled into one—and costs significantly more than both together—but his buff stacks with that of the Priest so if you want A3 Conscript blobs then this is your man. In fact, Straken targeting Conscripts is probably the only scenario in which you would use the Fix Bayonets Order.

Lord Commissar

The Lord Commissar combines the 6" buff aura benefits of a regular Commissar (no more than one model lost per morale fail) and an Inquisitor (use his Ld9 instead of your own) on a single model that is not terrible in close combat. All together a decent HQ choice if you expect to benefit from both buffs.

However, the morale loss-limiting benefit of Commissars is actually highly overrated. It really only helps units with Ld lower than 7 and more than ten models—so just Conscripts! Other squads with low Ld (e.g. Command Squads, Special Weapon Squads, Heavy Weapon Squads) have so few models that morale either doesn't matter or just wipes them out.

If you want to play foot horde Astra, then you're pretty much forced into taking the Straken + Priest + Lord Commissar supporting combo to make your Conscripts relevant. In other styles of list, the Lord Commissar is probably an expensive luxury item.

Commissar Yarrick

The Old Man of Hades Hive is a Lord Commissar that has a 6" buff aura of reroll 1 to hit. This is a pretty awesome bonus, as it is equivalent to issuing the Take Aim Order to every unit in range and can be combined with actual Orders like FRFSRF and Bring It Down to buff your firepower even more. However, Yarrick is very expensive at 130 pts—maybe that is worthwhile in a Conscript horde list?

Tempestor Prime

The Stormtrooper equivalent of the Company Commander, this guy costs 10 pts more and can Aerial Drop, but only issues one Order per turn, and only to Militarum Tempestus units. Don't forget this if you are running Stormtroopers and regular Guardsmen in the same list!

The Tempestor Prime can freely exchange his pistol for a Pimp Cane that allows him to issue two Orders per turn. Always do this.

While this seems like a no-brainer HQ option if you are running Stormtroopers, consider that those Stormtroopers are nearly always going to be cheap suicide squads, so it just may not be worthwhile buying them Officers. After all, if you don't expect your squad to survive the return volley after they Aerial Drop and unleash Plasma hell, do you really need to stop them from self-destructing using Take Aim?

Uriah Jacobus

He provides the same 6" buff aura of +1A as a regular Ministorum Priest, and a +1Ld buff too, but costs a hell of a lot more than a regular Priest at 100 pts. That +1Ld works with Lord Commissars to buff your Conscripts up to Ld10—I think it's too early to tell if Conscript horde will be the optimal meta build, or how many players will actually field a highly impractical 500-model human tide, but in that case it may be worthwhile fielding the unique Priest.


An annoyingly resilient beatstick, Celestine is a perfect candidate to nominate as your Warlord if you really want to deny your opponent that Victory Point! While she lacks the Astra Militarum keyword herself, she does have a 6" buff aura for Astra Militarum that confers a 6++ invulnerable save. That might not seem like a big deal, but I think it will actually be huge in 8th Ed—with the difficulty of getting a cover save (especially for large squads, i.e. Conscripts) and the modification of cover saves by AP, always having a 6++ could be a really meaningful resilience boost for Guardsmen.

It's a recurring theme, but these unique Characters are either too expensive for a 'normal' list, or potentially invaluable to a Conscript horde list.

Primaris Psyker

Fairly cheap at 40 pts, the Primaris Psyker (no relation to the NuMarines!) casts a single psychic power per turn, which will either be Terrifying Visions (enemy within 18" gets -2Ld) or Psychic Barrier (Astra Militarum unit within 12" gets +1Sv). The defensive power is probably only worth it if—you guessed it—you're running a Conscript horde. Otherwise, that offensive power actually seems really strong. Run, Sphess Mahrines, run!

However, you could alternatively spend an Elites slot and only 15 pts to take an Astropath for the same benefits, plus a useful debuff ability. So I don't think the Primaris will see the table.


Inquisitors do not have the Astra Militarum keyword, or any particular synergy with the Faction, but I like them so I'm including them anyway!

All Inquisitors have the same 6" buff aura as Lord Commissars (use their Ld instead of your own) except that it affects all Imperium units. The three unique Inquisitors have Ld10, which is better than a Lord Commissar, although you do pay more points for the benefit.

The real power of Inquisitors are their psychic powers—all three are great for an Astra list:

  • Terrify is a -1Ld debuff that stacks with the Astropath's Terrifying Visions, with the added bonus of preventing Overwatch—excellent against big squads, Tau, or anything with Flamers!
  • Mental Fortitude confers auto-pass Morale for one unit, which is great for Conscripts (sigh) and is the equivalent of the Insane Bravery Stratagem that normally costs 2CP
  • Dominate forces an enemy Character to immediately make a single shooting or melee attack against an enemy target of your choice—turning your opponent's beatsticks against them is obviously very good!
Note that Karamazov is not a Psyker, but he does have a 12" debuff aura of -1Ld that only affects Infantry—again, this stacks with Terrify and Terrifying Visions, so you could potentially build around crushing enemy Morale, but I doubt it would be worthwhile.

Ordo Malleus Inquisitors can be taken in Terminator Armour, but I don't know if the cost is worthwhile, since they are still only T3 and don't get substantially better weapon options.

Greyfax can snipe Psyker and Daemon Characters, but she is not much of a beatstick so I would probably take a Culexus Assassin instead for this role.

I was really excited about Coteaz and his Spy Network rule, that allows an Ordo Malleus unit (such as six Acolytes with Plasma Guns) to shoot out-of-turn-order at every enemy unit that deploys after the game has commenced; however, I later realised that the Ordo Malleus unit may only shoot Overwatch in this way, which massively reduces its power.

In summary, just stick to cheap regular Inquisitors for their tasty psychic powers!


It should be fairly obvious that your choice of HQ options for an Astra list will be based on one simple question: "Are you running a Conscript horde?"

If you are running Conscripts, then you absolutely need a Lord Commissar to keep them alive, and Commissar Yarrick may be a worthwhile upgrade. Uriah Jacobus may also be a worthwhile upgrade over the also mandatory Ministorum Priest. You'll need enough Company Commanders to give Orders to all your squads, and one of them should be upgraded to Colonel Straken. And if you can afford it, Celestine is another great buffer for Conscripts. A Primaris Psyker is another useful buffer, but a cheaper (Elite) Astropath is probably a better option.

If you are not running Conscripts, then you don't really need Commissars or Priests of any kind. Stick to Company Commanders for Orders and spend your points on more guns instead!

If you are running a Stormtrooper-heavy list, then you'll probably take some Tempestor Primes for Orders; however, if you are using Stormtroopers as cheap suicide nukes, then their Officers are an unnecessary expense.

The Tank Commander doesn't seem to be that points-efficient when you can take Knight Commander Pask instead, but in a really high-points game you might be able to afford a regular Tank Commander or two alongside Pask.

Lord Castellan Creed is a great Warlord choice in low-points games when you can't field a Brigade Detachment, since his +2CP bonus will be really significant; however, if you can get enough CP normally, then you are probably better off taking multiple regular Company Commanders instead.

Finally, Inquisitors are really good utility Psykers, so while they are not technically Astra Militarum HQ options, they are worth considering in an Astra list.


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