First up in the codex, we have the Lesser Gifts; the cheapest options that typically have the weakest benefits, as one would expect. The main reason most will roll for Lesser Gifts is the '0' option, but that isn't to say the rest of the chart is entirely redundant - the main issue is the situational use of most Lesser Gifts, though the pre-deployment status of determining them gives you a good deal of flexibility. Let's take a look - a note on the formatting, as I have decided to have each 'tiered' weapon at the end of each Gift section.
1) Burning Blood - If the Daemon suffers an unsaved wounds, the unit that caused it suffers D3 Strength four AP five wounds with the Ignores Cover special rule. This can be useful to inflict a few extra wounds for combat resolution purposes, and will likely kill a few light infantry models each time it activates, but my beef with it is that it functions solely off of taking wounds in melee. Given that most characters that would want to take a Lesser Gift usually only have one or two wounds anyway, I feel this isn't too great a gift to use for any model - for Daemons with many wounds, such as Greater Daemons, they typically won't use lesser gifts save to take a specific weapon. In that sense, I would opt to swap it out for a magic weapon if you can.
2) Cleaving Strike - Any to hit roll of a 'six' made in close combat by the Daemon is resolved at double their Strength characteristic, following the usual restrictions. This is similar in practice to rolling a 'six' for a model such as a Bloodthirster, bearing an Axe of Khorne, and would be functionally identical against any model that is Toughness five or lower. For the most part, your Herald's have a lower Strength or don't ignore armour (unless you take a cheap Etherblade) and in that sense it is situational at best. It would work best on a Daemon that has a high number of attacks, increasing the chances of rolling a six, and has a base Strength of at least four to capitalise on instant-death against most multi-wound characters. That, and you should hope they ignore armour saves - given this is inexpensive to accomplish, Cleaving Strike is ok.
3) Corrosive Breath - A ranged template weapon that hits with Strength five, AP five and has the Armourbane special rule. Given that this is great against light infantry and should do well against light vehicles, Imperial Guard, Eldar, Dark Eldar and the like are all good targets. As you roll for Daemonic Gifts after you find out what opponent you are facing, this givers you a good deal with flexibility when deciding whether this gift will be useful. With Armourbane and Strength five, as the average roll of 2D6 is seven, you can reliably penetrate typical AV11 transports and the like, ignoring their cover saves, which can be pretty brutal if positioned well against Dark Eldar enemies. Of course, being a template weapon, it has a minimal range and thus is best suited for a more offensive unit than anything else - or at least one that is quick enough that it should be reliably able to use it. Not a bad choice at all, but it should be used based on what rolls it up and what enemies you are facing - light infantry and typical transports are prime targets.
|Your will was not strong enough!|
4) Spell Breaker - The Daemon gains the Adamantium Will special rule. Given that if but one model has this special rule then its entire unit gains the benefits, this is actually a pretty useful addition, though it is again situational as it will be functionally worthless against an army that doesn't employ psykers at all or often such as Necrons, Dark Eldar or Tau. Against many opponents though, Denying psychic powers on a +5 can make a big difference; in fact, if it is rolled on a model such as a Herald of Tzeentch with a high mastery level, you could potentially see +3 Deny the Witch saves! This depends on the unit and what you want the bearer to do, obviously, but it must be noted that any highly psychic opponent - again, the beauty of the system is that you can adapt on the fly given you already know your opponent - increases Spell Breaker's value exponentially. A more than decent roll!
5) Warp Breath - Another ranged weapon that hits at Strength eight, AP four as an Assault one shot at eighteen inches that has the Soul Blaze special rule. Depending on what character rolls this up and whether vehicles or multi-wound broods of Toughness four or lower - such as Tyranid Warriors - are present, this can be a lot more useful than you might initially think. It can give a unit such as Plaguebearers or Horrors an inexpensive and powerful anti-tank weapon that can reliably penetrate - though perhaps not destroy - enemy armour. The range and Soul Blaze are decent, but this is definitely a good roll for a character such as a Bloodreaper in a unit that needs to charge forward and otherwise has little means of dispatching enemy transports without a charge. It is useful on a monstrous creature, but only to a point - three of the four Greater Daemons, for example, are quick enough to reach a target and destroy it with their Smash attacks that this weapon is of limited use. Otherwise, not bad.
6) Warp Strider - The Daemon and its unit add +1 to their Reserve rolls. Given that this is only useful for a unit that is deep-striking, it really depends on what unit rolls it up - it is of limited use on Seekers of Slaanesh, for example, but far more worthwhile for Daemonettes. Similarly, the flying Greater Daemons and the Keeper of Secrets may feel more at home starting on the board, whereas a Great Unclean One can use it to get to their quarry that much quicker. Much like the rest of this particular chart, the benefits are specific to certain units and certain situations, making them unreliable at best.
Lesser Weapons - These are the truly tasty and reliable (no random roll required!) options for any Daemon that wishes to take a Lesser Gift; for a measly ten pistachios, one can grant themselves an intimidating AP two master-crafted melee weapon that strikes at their Initiative value! One brutal combination in particular has arisen with the use of these weapons, discussed below; suffice it to say, your enemies may want to wear a helmet.
|Should I take an Etherblade?|
Axe of Khorne (Khorne) - This is a weapon that Bloodthirsters' come stock with, and it has one key difference in comparison to an Etherblade; it swaps the master-crafted special rule for the Decapitating Blow special rule, but otherwise, they are functionally identical. Yet again, an AP two at-Initiative weapon for such a low cost is pretty ridiculous, though it must be said that most (if not all) Khorne characters that can take it already come stock with a Hellblade or better anyway. It is the fluffier option compared to the Etherblade for a Khorne champion, but the Decapitating Blow special rule is what will make or break it; any to-wound roll of a six in melee inflicts instant death. Given that Khorne Champions tend to do pretty well in challenges as it is, this can turn a Herald of Khorne - or even a Bloodreaper, truth be told - into a very nasty character-killer for only a minimal investment. Though some luck is required, the pay-off is immense - the AP of two means most enemies will have to rely on their invulnerable saves, if they have any, to ward off the wound. When speaking in terms of statistics, a Bloodreaper that charges into a Mawloc - for example - has about a 33% chance of killing it outright, no ifs or buts. Given that the same Bloodreaper with the Axe of Khorne is only a twenty-five point investment compared to its fellow ten point models, and that such a unit is about seven times the Bloodreaper's cost, paying for such a possibility is not a bad idea. However, you need to weigh up whether such an effect has a decent chance of occuring, and whether that re-roll from the Etherblade would be more worthwhile; again, study the characters in your opponent's army, and that should inform your decision. It must be noted that a Bloodthirster or a Daemon Prince of Khorne has a very high chance of this attack successfully rolling a six to wound, and that it also combines with other specialist weapons to provide +1 attack - tasty!
Staff of Change (Tzeentch) - A melee weapon that is pretty simple in its use; it provides two to the user's Strength, has an AP of four, strikes with the Concussive special rule, and causes enemy characters or monstrous creatures slain by the Staff to explode, causing D6 Strength five AP four hits on any enemy unit within D6 inches. Essentially, it is like a cheaper, riskier but potentially more rewarding power maul that is pretty decent on a Herald of Tzeentch. I wouldn't recommend taking it on an Iridescent Horror or the like, given their limited combat abilities at best, but an Exalted Flamer or the like can certainly use it to good effect, particularly against blob squads comprised of Orks or Imperial Guard. Though it can potentially do quite a bit of damage to the wielder or their unit, some might say the invulnerable saves of the Daemons mitigate this. In that sense, again, it is risky, but decent against light opponents - otherwise, if you are intending to take a magic weapon on a Tzeentch character, consider an Etherblade instead. Of course, the Staff of Change fits far better on a certain type of unit, given that their attacks are always treated as AP two - monstrous creatures. Tzeentch Daemon Princes and Lords of Change can - for a ridiculously low cost - take a weapon that increases their Strength by two, makes their melee attacks Concussive, and explodes with the likelihood of less damage being inflicted on the user given their higher natural durability. Essentially, you are spending ten sandwiches to make an already nasty monstrous creature Strength eight - Concussive is of situational use, given the already extraordinarily high Initiative values of either monster, but it is obviously very useful against opposing enemies with similar Initiative, or engagements where your own Initiative is reduced. Realistically, making your Lord of Change or Daemon Prince wound almost anything in the game on a +2 - including other monstrous creatures - and inflict instant death on Toughness four or lower multiple wound models, which are the most common type of character, is more than a bit ridiculous. As one would presume, I would always recommend this weapon on any monstrous creature dedicated to Tzeentch - it is simply too good and cheap not to take. On other units, it is of situational use given its mediocre AP and the low Strength of such models.
|Should I take a Plague Flail?|
Witstealer Sword (Slaanesh) - A melee weapon that has a similar unique ability to a Plague Flail, but one that will likely find more use; the Witstealer Sword is AP five, Rending, and unsaved wounds caused by it force enemies to take an Initiative test or suffer another wound with no armour or cover saves allowed. Given all Daemons of Slaanesh treat their melee attacks as Rending regardless of the weapon they use, including Rending in the profile is rather superfluous - on a unit champion, what it ideally does is give them an edge against low-armour save enemies, such as Ork Nobz, given that their fives to wound would also ignore such armour saves. The following Initiative test or suffer a wound would be a reliable one-two-punch against typical Ork Nobz in that sense, and a Rending wound here or there stands a good chance of knocking an extra wound off of Necron characters and the like. Still, I feel that unless your opponent has a range of low Initiative models with multiple wounds, the Etherblade would be the better choice for your lowly unit champions and Heralds, given that it is natively AP two and thus increases the number of armour-ignoring wounds caused by the Daemon. Of course, Etherblades are already of situational use on Strength three Slaanesh characters anyway, owing to Rending, and as such I would avoid these altogether. On a Keeper of Secrets or Daemon Prince of Slaanesh though, this is a tad more interesting - but mostly when combined with Fiends of Slaanesh. This is because Fiends inflict a meaty Initiative penalty of five to enemy units they successfully charge for the first round of combat which, combined with a Witstealer Sword that ignores armour saves altogether, can be absolutely brutal. Take a Toughness six monster for example, a unit that you cannot instant-kill through Smash attacks - a Trygon is a good example. A cheaper Keeper of Secrets armed with this sword that assaults at the same time a Fiend unit does - even if they charge through cover - strikes before the Trygon with seven attacks, hitting it on threes, and wounding it on fours. If even one wound gets through, your opponent had better hope they can roll a lot of sixes, as any other roll is a failure and leads to another automatic wound! Nasty...but really, it is mostly useful on a Keeper of Secrets, given a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh would be better off taking the weapon available from the Greater Gifts chart.
I think the Lesser Gifts are most definitely situational, and their cost and randomness means they are probably best reserved to take specific weapons - mostly Etherblades and Staffs of Change - on your characters. Just be aware not to spend too many points on upgrading all of your characters, as in a Daemons army where nearly everything is cheap, this can lead to losing out on a lot of models!
Did you like this article and agree with my sentiments? Or you think I am way off the mark with my summations? Have your say in the comments below - we welcome any and all critiques. Thank you!