The Culexus Assassin

January 26, 2015 · 4 comments

The Celexus Assassin

The rollercoaster that is 6th and 7th edition, has majorly changed 40k. Allies, in particular, have altered how we approach our list-building. Good or bad, this is how it is now. A Dark Eldar raider will fight and die alongside a Tyranid Warrior, an Imperial Inquisitor will actually cooperate with a Chaos Cultist to win a battle, and a Tau Fire Warrior will hang out with an Ork Boy. Fortifications, Superheavies, Flyers, blah blah blah. Things have gotten crazy and now the army combinations are limitless. I still haven't been able to entirely hop on the ally train. The most I've been able to do is ally my Farsight Enclaves with a tiny Tau Empire detachment. But I am coming around. I am going to try including an Assassin detachment in my army. Why?


Psykers are a big part of 7th edition. They get their own phase and everything! A few factions don't get psykers, due to fluff reasons, but apparently being able to ally with factions that do is supposed to make us poor suckers feel better about it. That's ok, I didn't want them anyways. The problem we face now, is that Everyone has them, or has access to them, and some of those psychic powers are insane. Our markerlight force multipliers are pretty good, but we pay heavy penalties for those multipliers and psykers get to have all these fun abilities basically for free!
Since I play FSE, the Talisman of Arthas Moloch has been handy. It actually gives me a chance to block some of the nastier psychic attacks that our low leadership Tau struggle against, without resorting to my own psykers. But that is thinking defensively. We need to attack these psykers. but how?

The Ultimate in Anti-Psyker Warfare

Everyone is talking about the Culexus Assassin, and I assume that is because it seems like the only answer (outside of joining in on the cheese). Assassins have their own dataslate, so you don't have to bring a full allied detachment to get them, and it is much more affordable to get their rules: $17 from the Black Library. But that model...Gross. I'll make my own, thank you very much. I want it to look like a Tau anyways.
So, what do we get for 140 points?
  • Impressive statline, from a Tau perspective anyways. 4+ invulnerable, 3 wounds, and very high skills and initiative. He is also a character so he can challenge.
  • Etherium. When you target him, you use WS1 and BS1. So lots of close combat attacks and template/blast weapons will still kill him, but he is tougher to target in the normal way.
  • Animus. Basically a S5 AP1 medium ranged shooting attack made during the psychic phase. It uses nearby psykers and warp charges to function, but Tau don't use their warp charges anyways, so you'll be guaranteed 1-3 shots. If you start getting close to other psykers (as you should be) this weapon can get pretty deadly. The nice thing here is that you can fire it and then run or throw a grenade like normal in the shooting phase, and since it isn't a psychic power it cannot be blocked with Deny the Witch.
  • Psyk-out grenades. Perils are a bit scarier nowadays, so an auto-peril on a psyker, just for hitting its unit sounds like a sweet deal to me. Very useful for hitting those Primaris Psykers buried in infantry blobs (especially if there is a commissar around too). These are his only weapon, so if you aren't within 8" of a psyker's unit, and you aren't planning to assault something, you can just run. 
  • Special Rules. Infiltrate, move through cover, fearless, fear, preferred enemy: psykers, -2 to LOS, no armour saves against cc attacks, and cc wounds cause instant death on a 6. 
  • Anti-Psyker. This is where he gets crazy: 
    • He is completely immune to psychic abilities and he immediately cancels blessings and maledictions within 12". Goodbye Invisibility!
    • Nearby Psykers (12") are -3 to leadership, which can be pretty awesome when combined with Fear and Psyk-Out grenades. They also do not generate warp charges and can only harness warp charges on a 6, effectively removing those psykers from the psychic phase until the Culexus is dead or they move away
    • His close combat attacks cause Instant Death to psykers.
Pretty decent unit for 140 points. The weaknesses are pretty obvious though:
  • He is only one T4 model and he cannot join other units
  • He is somewhat slow, being regular infantry and lack of Fleet
  • He is a Desperate Ally, and his utility drops if your opponent isn't fielding psykers. 
  • An assassin is its own detachment. In tournaments where detachments are restricted, this can hamper your ability to fill other gaps in your army
  • Very weak against vehicles unless they are psychic pilots. 

Just Add Psyker

So why include him in a Tau army? What makes him mesh with our units? 
  • Infiltrators. He can easily get caught out on his own against a defensive opponent, so having some of the best infiltrators in the game (stealth suits and Kroot) to back him up can keep him alive until he kills his target(s)
  • He uses warp charges to shoot, and we aren't using them anyways. You have a 66% chance of getting to shoot his animus 3 times each psychic phase, even when he isn't near a psyker. Not bad when the animus is S5 AP1 and he has BS8.
  • Engaging Psykers head-on. Powerful psykers (the Culexus' target of choice) will often be buried in enemy units. He can attack these psykers directly with his grenades and shut them down with his freakish aura. Tau are usually forced to pulverizing the entire unit before getting a shot at the soft psyker center, and have to deal with the psyker's abilities in the meantime.
  • Monstrous Creatures. Even if your opponent has no psykers, engaging large single models works well for the Culexus, as he will have chances to kill it outright. His attacks can even hurt things he normally would be too weak to wound, thanks to Instant Death. Tau, again, have no way of killing these multi-wound monstrosities outside of mass firepower. Just don't try tangling with CC powerhouses like the Swarmlord or Avatar of Khaine.
  • Anti-Invisibility. Like everyone else, Tau struggle against this power. Markerlights can help, but only so much, and snap shooting at a higher BS still doesn't allow our powerful Ion Blasts. The Culexus can make that power go away just by being nearby. Many players invest a ton of points into getting Invisibility and the Culexus is worth his weight in gold if he can get within 12" of that psyker.
Tau don't need psykers. They have Ethereals and markerlights and Kingfishers. If we want something, we pay for the equipment instead of casting powers. Allowing our opponents to imitate our awesome force multiplication through witchcraft simply will not do. However, psychic shenanigans, armour, and meat shields keep those psykers safe from harm during our all-powerful shooting phase. The Culexus works like a can opener, stripping away those defensive spells and laying the enemy unit bare for the Tau army to eradicate. Once the unit is weakened by Tau shooting, the Culexus is usually capable at mopping up whatever is left in close combat.

Like Stealth Suits, the Culexus can be difficult to pin down as a target priority. Even at 140 points, your opponent may be hesitant to commit too many resources to such a small model. BS1 shooting is often dismissed as a waste, and any S8+ blasts will likely be pointed at units of battlesuits instead of your lowly assassin.

The Culexus plays different from the other assassins, and isn't as straight forward. He often needs a couple turns to kill his targets, so he will need to stay alive longer, and he needs to be close to his prey. If you infiltrate too close without support, he'll be targeted early and die early. If you deploy too far away, you may never catch your quarry, even with the "free" run every turn. Finesse and anticipation of your opponent's moves/deployment are key to the Culexus' success.

Culexus, Tau Edition

So, how can we include an assassin without using that crazy GW model? We convert one of course. Shas'la Kais was the first thing that came to mind, due to his history, but it wasn't enough for me. Instead, I opted for assuming some of the Tau race either already contains the Pariah defect, or it is able to replicate the effects through genetic modification. Assuming they were able to recover just a single Culexus Assassin, dead or alive, they would have no trouble recreating most of the equipment in their own way.
Behold! My Culexus Assassin Counts-As!

It is a Fire Warrior base, with a modified Rail Rifle from the Pathfinder kit. The augmented muscles and the cloak are green stuff. The cables are paper clips, bent to shape.
A rail rifle is a S6 AP1 weapon, which is as close as Tau weaponry gets to the Animus, so it was the obvious choice of weapon. I added the under-slung grenade launcher for throwing the Tau imitation of Psyk-out grenades. The cloak hides the stimulant injectors, drug cocktails, and whatever other weird inventions the Fio-techs would use to get a Tau up to this statline. The cloak also doubles as the Etherium.

Recent Experience

I have only used him four times so far. The first was a 2000 point doubles game (1000 points each). It was Tau+Necron vs. Astra Militarum/Orks. The only psyker on the board was a Weirdboy, but I stayed away from him because he was buried in a big mob of boyz.
We managed a victory, despite being pummeled pretty hard early on. My Culexus was definitely the MVP as far as kills went. He killed a squad of Veterans, finished off another squad of Vets, wiped out a unit of 4 mek guns plus Big Mek, and then ripped a Wyvern apart. Mostly with his bare hands too. His success was due to a few factors
  • Opponents had little experience with assassins. They didn't realize how deadly he was until he was in their backfield, especially since they expected him to only be good against Psykers. 
  • Nearby Wraiths. Wraiths have a nasty reputation, so they were targeted first.
  • Engaging targets that were not very good in close combat and that were not Fearless. 
  • Luck, in the case of the Wyvern. I needed 6's to glance it in close combat and I rolled two out of three.
The last three times were in a doubles tournament with random partners. Unfortunately, my partner was pretty new and we ended up outmatched by some powerful team combinations that got lucky with the draw. We got 7th out of 10. But how did the Culexus do?

  • Game 1: Grey Knights/Imperial Knight plus Eldar. Worked like a charm. The invisible termies came in via Deep Strike, cast invisibility and then my Culexus stripped the blessing away. He killed a few of the termies and opened up the rest of the unit for targeting. Unfortunately, in close combat the Grey Knight player rolled Very well for his invulnerable saves and then rolled really well again for his Daemon hammers so my Assassin died prematurely. I knew in my heart that I shouldn't charge him in, and just keep his psychic phase shut down, but I really wanted to test his limits.
  • Game 2: Astra Militarum plus Necrons. No psykers. Due to my own error I forgot to infiltrate him and so he had to arrive from Outflank and didn't contribute much to the game. By the time he was ripping things to pieces in close combat we were running out of time.
  • Game 3: Orks plus Astra Militarum. No psykers. He blocked the scout move of some Deffkoptas. He ripped a Chimera apart with his bare hands and killed several of the vets inside. However, a very lucky overwatch shot from a meltagun killed him before he could finish wiping the vets from the board.

I think that this shows that he can be amazing in the right setting, but that a single T4 model is still vulnerable to S8 weapons. I feel he could have been pretty decent in the second game but I simply forgot to Infiltrate him before the first turn started. I clearly need some practice with him, but I think this only shows that his learning curve isn't that bad and the benefits can be absolutely army-breaking.

Thanks for reading! What do you think about using Assassins alongside a Tau list? Do you prefer the other assassins as Tau allies?

Battle Report: Tau/Necrons vs. Astra Militarum/Orks

January 9, 2015 · 0 comments

Tau/Necrons vs. Astra Militarum/Orks

---AER Test Subject B-204 scanned the meager Gue outpost. The mercenary orks were gearing themselves up for a fight, while their grot slaves and Gue employers tended to the heavy artillery and tanks.

The small building behind the defense perimiter was the only logical location for a captive of war. He would have to clear the entire compound before he could He picked up on the sounds of the approaching cadre. He could faintly hear the engines of their Necron collaborators too. Promising them Fio technology in return for their services seemed like a weak lie to B-204, but the simple machines had agreed anyways. They might become an issue, but not if the Shas'El's plan worked.

The cadre was in range now. As the Gue and grot artillerymen began their opening salvos, B-204 made his move. No more than a ripple in the grass against a backdrop of explosions, he made his way straight for his first targets.---

This was actually a practice match for an upcoming doubles tournament I am helping throw at our FLGS. The restrictions are pretty simple: 1000 points per army, Battleforged. This was a very fun match that came right down to the wire.

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