11 Jan 2014

7 Days of Glory - Black Templars

Since the dawn of the Imperium, countless heroes have risen to combat the forces of disorder. Their names sung in the annals of history and celebrated by trillions, each has shown such surest bravery and skill to be forever remembered as the finest champions of the God Emperor. But few among them can claim to have defended the Imperium time and again for over ten thousand years, and it is to this most glorious accolade that the Chapters of the Space Marines have taken. Their peerless prowess in combat and almost fanatical dedication to the preservation of the Imperium has marked them out as the Emperor's most favoured warriors, the aptly named Angels of Death. It is thus that the Codex Imperator dictates that the most revered of these Chapters shall be commemorated for their many heroic deeds; this is the week of glory, where the greatest of heroes are given the respect only they deserve.

The Black Templars

All sinners fear the Emperor's Wrath! Purge the Xenos! Abhor the Witch! Let none escape the Judgement of the Righteous!
If there was ever a Space Marine Chapter that embodied the over-zealous and fanatical Knights Templar Order that famously participated in the Crusades for the Kingdom of Heaven, it would be the Black Templars. Their progenitor may have been Rogal Dorn, but it is to the Holy Light of Terra that they owe their sole allegiance. As Sigismund did long ago, the Black Templars have forsworn the Codex Astartes, instead adopting tactics and a force organization that is as much an insult to Roboute Guilliman's work as was their famed creator turning his back to the great Primarch. The Black Templars are so frightening because they are super-augmented warriors that cannot be controlled save by the High Marshall himself; he alone organizes their ever-swelling numbers into Crusades, individual fleets tasked with the utter annihilation of a foe. They care little for the protection of humanity itself, going so far as to punish those that stand in their way - harmless civilians or traitor cultists all! They are a space-bound conglomerate of well equipped zealots fueled by rage and true abhorrence of those they deem unworthy of the Emperor's blessing; psykers, xenos, traitors, all are mortal enemies to the Black Templars. It is such that their Chaplains are among the most fanatical and charismatic of all, driving their battle brothers into a divine frenzy that is a truly terrifying sight to behold for any mortal being. On the battlefield, the Black Templars are an unstoppable horde combining raw martial skill with a controlled battle lust, making them perhaps the ultimate warriors among the Space Marines. They do not strike as a small force disrupting an enemy battle line as any other Chapter, but as countless armies engaging the foe in the most brutal close quarters combat imaginable. 
They do not accept surrender.
They do not entertain mercy.
And any that are impure to their eyes will face the wrath of the Emperor resplendent.

Chapter Tactics

Accept Any Challenge, No Matter the Odds - This provides characters, from squad Sergeants to Independent Characters, with re-rolls to hit with close combat attacks in a challenge, as well as applying the Rending special rule to their melee weapons while engaging an opponent in single combat. Whereas Iron Hands provide significant defensive boosts for their multiple-wound characters through It Will Not Die, Black Templars instead get a significant damage boost by having anything like re-rolling all to hit and to wound rolls with six attacks on the charge armed with a pair of lightning claws. While most will prefer the added survivability - seriously, regrowing wounds on a character with Eternal Warrior, four base wounds and a 3+ invulnerable save is just nuts - having a character with a lot more damage potential can be a lot of fun. The re-rolls to hit can help save your character by inflicting more wounds on an opponent that strikes after you, for example, such as when you are in cover and charged by a wounded Skarbrand. Skarbrand can rip apart even an Iron Hands Chapter Master with the Shield Eternal in one round of combat, so having those extra potential hits can actually prove to be more valuable in certain cases. That this also applies to regular characters gives a greater incentive to take Sword Brothers and Sergeants in your squads, as with re-rolls to hit, even models with Veteran profiles can be pretty nasty with mere power weapons.

Crusaders - This provides units with both the Adamantium Will and Crusader special rules, giving them two minor boosts that are nonetheless underrated by the community. Adamantium Will gives a +1 Deny the Witch bonus to all Black Templar units which, with their inability to take Librarians, means each of their units will usually Deny the Witch on a 5+. This isn't that great not because of a lack of psykers in the meta, but instead because the strongest psychic powers are blessings that don't directly target an opponents' units. However, with the new Tyranids, this may prove more valuable with the probable increase in the number of Zoanthropes seen in army lists. Crusader, the other side of this coin, allows units to roll an extra dice, picking the highest for their Run moves, as well as adding D3 to their Sweeping Advance rolls. Not only does this give foot-slogging or "recently departed" (read, blown out of a transport) squads a very useful speed boost for closing to the enemy, but they are also quite a bit more likely to catch slippery (read, Eldar) enemies that attempt to flee from combat. With so many abilities and wargear choices available to give fleeing a units a boosted or regular, regardless of casualties, chance at regrouping, making sure you catch and destroy fleeing units is almost essential. With Fire Warriors, Crisis Teams and so on having access to Bonding Knives, or Eldar that can get psychic powers for automatic regrouping, Sweeping units up with strong shooting could very well be the difference between your assault unit making another charge or getting blown to pieces. While Adamantium Will and Crusader are probably the most minor boosts for Space Marine infantry from the various Chapter Tactics, they are nonetheless quite useful and should not be disregarded.

Unit Reviews

High Marshall Helbrecht - The High Marshall comes with a Chapter Master stat-line and all that entails, with the goodness of four wounds and four attacks. He is tough with a 2+ armour save and 4+ invulnerable save, he dishes out the hurt pretty well with D3 + four AP3 attacks on the charge at Strength 4, and he has a slew of one-use abilities. He's pretty cheap as far as special characters go, and for this reason alone he is always a nice option to consider. Helbrecht even comes with a combi-melta that, with Ballistic Skill 5, is very reliable and can be quite helpful in a pinch, though obviously it shouldn't be used as the only anti-tank weapon in a unit considering it is one-use-only. Helbrecht's Warlord Trait is solid, providing he and his unit with Furious Charge for one turn when they launch an assault; you have to declare it before you resolve the charge, which can sadly lead to it being wasted if you fail to make it into combat. This obviously makes it a bit unreliable as there is always a possibility you may not get to use it, and as far as one-use-only Warlord Traits go, it isn't all that great anyway.

However, when you combine it with Helbrecht's unique special rule, Crusade of Wrath, it does get very interesting. Another one-use-only ability, you can declare you are using it at the start of the Assault Phase, granting all Black Templar units with both Hatred and Fleet for that phase. Combine this with Furious Charge from the Warlord Trait and, for Helbrecht alone, you are looking at D3 + four Weapon Skill 6, Strength 5 AP3 attacks that re-roll failed to hit rolls. Applying these re-rolls to hit for the first round of combat across an entire army can be really nasty, especially for Crusader Squads and elite melee units such as Honour Guard. However, the really big part of this is providing Fleet across the army, making your charges far more reliable for a turn. Basically, you want to be using his Warlord Trait and Crusade of Wrath in the same turn, and this is also why he makes a great leader for the "Black Tide" - a horde of twenty-strong Crusader Squads.

Sadly, there are a couple of issues that Helbrecht suffers from that stop him from being an auto-include in Black Templar army lists. First off, his survivability doesn't stack up to your regular Chapter Master builds for two reasons; he lacks a 3+ invulnerable save, and he doesn't have Eternal Warrior. However, he does have greater durability than Pedro, for example, and he can get lots of ablative wounds in the form of large Crusader Squads, so this isn't a massive issue unless you face properly kitted out combat characters. His actual damage output is worse than most other Chapter Master equivalents, especially a generic Black Templar Chapter Master, because he only gets four base attacks and between five and seven on the charge. He has a power sword with no other bonuses aside from the bonus attacks on the charge, and while he does have Rending from the Chapter Tactics, and re-rolls to hit, he doesn't get as much benefit from them as other characters would. His damage output just isn't what I would hope for from the actual High Marshall of the Black Templars, a Space Marine that is reportedly chasing Ghazghkull across the galaxy.

My main issue with him though is that after using his Warlord Trait and his Crusade of Wrath, there just isn't much to distinguish him from a better equipped Chapter Master for a similar price. The Warlord Trait isn't that great, and though the Crusade of Wrath is very nice, it is just so reliant on a number of factors. To really make the most of it, you want multiple units charging at once, and that just isn't likely in the current meta with such dominant shooting armies. To be fair, this is why Helbrecht is quite cheap; in fact, he is cheaper than a Chapter Master equipped identically to him, and Helbrecht gets the advantage of all his extra rules. Still, he isn't much of a combat monster, his abilities aren't great and his equipment isn't really optimal. He's a good choice because of his low comparative cost, but he isn't nearly as ground-breaking as someone like Tigurius for Ultramarines or Khan for White Scars.

High Chaplain Grimaldus - When reviewing Chaplains, I pointed out their low comparative durability and melee prowess to Captains, as well as mostly mediocre support abilities, made them poor, expensive stand-ins for Librarians. They try to perform both roles and end up being over-costed and rather ineffective at both, though they do have their uses when kept cheap and attached to large melee units. This makes them quite a bit more valuable for Black Templars with their potentially massive Crusader Squads, especially as Librarians are unavailable to the Heirs of Sigismund. Enter Grimaldus, the High Chaplain of the Black Templars, with a boosted stat-line including an extra wound and attack, making him more of an Interrogator Chaplain equivalent than anything else. He comes stock with a master-crafted plasma pistol, as well as the It Will Not Die special rule. With the extra wound, this might seem valuable, but with only a 3+ armour save, Toughness 4, a 4+ invulnerable save and no Eternal Warrior to speak of, he isn't really that durable. His damage output isn't much better than a regular Chaplain as well, as he only benefits from one more attack than a Chaplain.

Grimaldus' signature rules are to bring a unit of Cenobyte Servitors, or Servitors without any options to speak of, and conferring the Zealot special rule to units within 6" rather than just the unit he is attached to. The problem with the Servitors is that Grimaldus has to join them, and as there can only be five in the squad and they aren't cheap, you need to get them a transport - easier said than done as they have no dedicated transport option. They are fragile and don't really offer Grimaldus the protection he needs as an expensive support character, and while giving models within 6" of them a 6+ invulnerable save is ok, it isn't really worth their inclusion. Similarly, Grimaldus conferring Zealot to all units within 6" seems nice enough, but it pretty much requires you to bunch up your units to get any more benefit out of it than a regular Chaplain. Given all the Strength 8 AP2 large blasts with Ignores Cover and similar weapons going around, it isn't really a great idea to bunch up with units, Space Marines especially. Grimaldus' abilities just aren't that worthwhile, and while this wouldn't be such an issue if he was cheap, he is significantly more expensive than a regular Chaplain and he isn't even equipped that well. Grimaldus is thus reserved for fluffy lists more than anything else, as his bubble effects really aren't that useful in the first place - giving Fearless to models with And They Shall Know No Fear is a good, but hardly massive buff for Space Marines, though Hatred is decent enough. I just do not see Grimaldus as being worth it, or his Cenobyte Servitors, especially as he is slightly more expensive than the far more useful High Marshall Helbrecht.

The Emperor's Champion - One of the iconic Black Templar commanders, especially as he was previously used to take army-wide vows when the army had its' own separate codex, the Emperor's Champion is designed to hunt down enemy characters. As a unique character, you can only take one in the army, no matter how much you might like them. So how has the Emperor's Champion carried over from the old codex? He doesn't give you vows - the Chapter Tactics see to that now - and he is now, unfortunately, more like a more expensive, inferior Captain. He has similar stats to a Captain, with one less to his Ballistic Skill - not that it really matters - Wounds and Attacks, the latter of which are incredibly important. Having less Wounds and Attacks means that not only is he quite a bit less survivable, but his damage output is also lessened. Sadly, none of his other rules really make up for this. He comes stock with Artificer Armour and a very handy AP2 power sword with master-crafting, which are certainly very useful indeed. His special rule, Slayer of Champions, forces the Emperor's Champion to both issue and accept challenges and, with only three or four Strength 4 AP2 attacks on the charge, this can be really bad. As the Emperor's Champion is hardly cheap, he could very well be your Warlord, and regardless, having an expensive character forced to challenge characters you really want to avoid - like Abaddon - or have to accept challenges against solo characters - like a Bloodthirster - can really mess up your assault phase.

The benefits of his unique special rule are that he can pick from one of two "stances" in each challenge, gaining either +2 Strength on his attacks but losing a bonus attack for two weapons and striking at Initiative 1, or having instant death on to wound rolls of a 6. These are decent, but they do suffer from the overall issues I have with the Emperor's Champion; he doesn't have that many attacks with only four on the charge using his one-handed stance, and three on the charge with his two-handed stance. The Strength 6 stance is great for engaging most characters, but striking last and losing an attack can be a death knell for the Emperor's Champion. Similarly, having Instant Death on to wound rolls of a 6 is nice, but again, with only four attacks at Strength 4 and no re-rolls to wound to speak of, it just isn't that much of an improvement over the damage potential offered by a similarly equipped Captain. Pair that up with a reduced statline, notably one less wound than normal, and the Emperor's Champion is an uninspiring choice that, while a good combat character certainly, just isn't worth the cost. You are far better off paying more points to get a kitted out Chapter Master if you really want a combat monster to hunt enemy characters and, unlike the Emperor's Champion, the Chapter Master isn't forced to issue or accept challenges and can survive almost anything that is thrown at him. Like Grimaldus, I feel that the Emperor's Champions' abilities are decent, but they just aren't worth the price you pay for them.

Crusader Squads - Now we're talking. Take a Tactical Squad, give it the option of both a special and heavy weapon at five-strong, the option of a Land Raider Crusader as a Dedicated Transport, the option to exchange their boltguns for chainswords, the option of taking a special melee weapon on a non-character model that cannot be challenged out and the option to add cheap Scout equivalents into the squad itself for a total potential squad size of twenty. After all this "giving", take away....the option for a teleport homer on the squad leader, and choice on which Chapter Tactics to have. So basically, Crusader Squads are essentially Tactical Squads plus one, and I almost wish I wasn't being serious with that comment. For a Black Templars army, there is literally no reason to not take Crusader Squads over Tactical Squads. I almost don't need to say anything more, because they are just an awesome Troops choice that pretty much one-up Tactical Squads in a lot of ways. You can run Crusader Squads in multiple-small-units with a plasma gun and lascannon at five-strong, for example. You can use a maxed-out squad of twenty models to run up the field as a cheaper than expected melee horde that can carry boltguns and shotguns or just combat weapons at leisure. You can run them in Land Raider Crusaders to dare your opponent to breach your AV14 walls of armour to get at your valuable scoring units. You get to share one of the traits that Grey Hunters are famous for, hidden power weapons. This is really just a great unit overall that can either be used as miniature firebases, cost-effective dedicated melee units or just your above-average scoring units. You seriously cannot go wrong with this surprisingly versatile unit.

Favoured Units

Experience and many trials have led to competitive army lists for each of the Chapters, and they usually revolve around a strong core of units unique to each list. This is the beauty of the Space Marine codex; so many units are affected in a staggering number of ways by the different Chapter Tactics, improving their viability exponentially based on the choice of army. For Salamanders, I have listed three units that pop up in many of their builds in some form. Please be aware that these aren't necessarily the strongest units available to Salamanders or the ones that receive the most benefits from their Chapter Tactics, but some of the most common that I have seen.

Chapter Masters - While the Iron Hands Chapter Master is easily the hardest nut to crack of the different Chapter Master builds, the Black Templar variant is by far the most deadly. With re-rolls to hit and Rending in challenges, arm them with anything from a thunder hammer to the Burning Blade and they can tear apart almost any character in the game short of Skarbrand with ease. This is before mentioning the obvious ubiquity of unlocking Biker Squads as Troops choices, the boosted stats over a Captain, and the always handy but unreliable Orbital Bombardment. They are great value for Black Templars especially and, if you don't want to encroach on High Marshall Helbrechts' domain, just treat your Chapter Master as an exalted hero leading a Crusade!

Crusader Squads - Crusader Squads are basically Tactical Marines with a few neat little twists, the most important of which is that they can bring Land Raider Crusaders as dedicated transports. This means that you can mount all the infantry in a Black Templars force in Land Raiders without compromising your Heavy Support slots, a build which does have certain hard counters - such as massed flying monstrous creatures - but is itself a hard counter to many of the tournament lists going around. Having a wall of AV14 transports protecting your hard-hitting scoring units is kind of crazy when done en masse. Add to that the option of taking both a special and heavy weapon at five-strong units, including ablative wounds in the form of Neophytes, and freely exchanging boltguns for close combat weapons, and Crusader Squads are in some ways even more of a toolbox unit than Tactical Marines.

Land Raider Crusader -What's not to love about Land Raider Crusaders? They are pound for pound one of the most durable transports in the game, they are as mobile as any other tank, they have good firepower and they can ferry pretty massive units. Add Frag Assault Launchers, the Assault Vehicle special rule, as well as it being a Black Templar creation, and you have yourself a fluffy and awesome heavy transport. Though incredibly expensive, the option to take these on Crusader Squads as dedicated transports - the basic Troops choice for Black Templars - is massive in that you can field an entire force inside of Land Raider Crusaders while still bring Predators, Stormravens and other dedicated fire support options in your Heavy Support slots. Iconic and strong, the Land Raider Crusader is a great transport for Crusader Squads, and will serve any Black Templar list well. 

Themed Army Lists

Coming up with a themed Black Templars list was rather difficult, with a tough decision between two popular fluffy builds that have emerged with the new codex;. It was either the "Black Tide", a horde of foot-slogging Initiates and Neophytes led by Helbrecht for his one turn of re-rolling charge rolls, or "Black Crusade", a mass of Crusader units and elite melee squads mounted up in Land Raider Crusaders. I eventually settled on the latter build simply because it is a hilarious spoiler list at tournaments that can prove surprisingly effective.

Chapter Master w/ thunder hammer, artificer armour, shield eternal
Honour Guard (6)

Crusader Squad (5 Initiates, 5 Neophytes) w/ meltagun, Sword Brother
Dedicated Transport - Land Raider Crusader w/ multi melta
Crusader Squad (5 Initiates, 5 Neophytes) w/ meltagun, Sword Brother
Dedicated Transport - Land Raider Crusader w/ multi melta
Crusader Squad (5 Initiates, 5 Neophytes) w/ meltagun, Sword Brother
Dedicated Transport - Land Raider Crusader w/ multi melta

Heavy Support
Land Raider Crusader w/ multi melta

Total = 1850

This army list plays off of one of the awesome extras that Crusader Squads gain over regular Tactical Squads; the option to take Land Raider Crusaders as dedicated transports. This allows for four of these armoured behemoths to surge forward, filled with angry Crusader Squads and Honour Guard led by a ferocious Chapter Master that are all above average combat units. The Crusader Squads are there to beat down on the scoring units of other armies, from Fire Warriors to Tactical Marines, and backed by their own personal AV14 tank, they should have no trouble against the vast majority of units they engage. The Honour Guard are there to beat down on an opponents' elite units, including Assault Terminators and Wraithblades, and will make a mockery of most units that engage them. The Chapter Master is as you expect and, with Black Templar Chapter Tactics, even nastier than usual with re-rolls to hit in a challenge. Each transport and Crusader Squad has a melta weapon to nominally deal with an opponents' armour, and while this list is very one-note and can be countered quite easily by lance weapon spam or flying monstrous creatures, it is nonetheless an incredibly tough list to get points off in the current meta. Wave Serpents with scatter lasers, Tau with massed Strength 7 and Strength 5 shooting, Necron Airforces and other such top builds traditionally struggle with Land Raiders due to their rarity, and Black Templars can bring them in a way that no other can really match at the moment.

In Closing

I hope you enjoyed the last in a series of seven articles covering each of the distinct Space Marine Chapters represented in the 6th Edition Codex: Space Marines! The Black Templars are the most fanatical of the Space Marines, dedicating their lives to the glory of the Emperor above all else. As Sigismund turned his back on the Codex Astartes long ago, so too have the Black Templars shied away from the strictures and laws followed by other Chapters; they are instead a conglomerate of zealots, blindly fervent in their holy quest to rid the galaxy of those they deem impure. Psykers, witches, xenos, chaos taint; all are aberrations in the Emperor's eyes - or so they believe - and they will never rest until the galaxy has been purged of heresy. Their lineage shines through clearly, the stubborn refusal of High Marshall Helbrecht to end his vendetta against Warlord Ghazghkull but one of countless examples to which the Black Templars have refused to accede in a crusade. It is their unfathomable fervour and fearless charges that have made them a force to be feared by all in the galaxy, and the Emperor have mercy on those that run befoul of their wrath. There is no mercy, there is no surrender!

For more discussion on Black Templars and other Space Marine Chapters, visit the forums over on +Bell of Lost Souls or view our Space Marine Tactica series. Have a lovely day! Eel out.  


  1. Damn, looks like my comment done eralier on from my mobile phone got lost in the warp... So let's try that again.

    First of, thanks for this week with those awesome posts! This kind of posts really gives the reviews of the Space Marine Codex a finishing touch. I really enjoyed the highlights you pointed out in characters / units / Chapter traits and possible combos.

    A minor thing that nagged me was that alot of lists had drop pods (and even more drop pods). Personally I'd would have loved to see some more variety.
    But pods are just really strong for Marines, so I see why you did the lists as you did them. :-)
    Also I've got a request: do this kind of post for every codex you review please. As mentioned above, this just gives the reviews a finishing touch and helps getting (new) ideas for list building. Every codex offers two to three viable builds and focusing on these with a post each would be awesome.

    Finally I've got to say thank you for this awesome blog!
    Please keep up the great work!


    1. Thank you!

      I'm really happy with how this mini-series has been received, so I plan on doing one for each army - for Tyranids, I've got a pretty unique idea that I think everyone is going to love :)

      I understand in regards to the Drop Pods, I'm thinking a better build to showcase a proper Iron Hands army would have been a typical mechanized force with Predators and massed Rhinos/Razorbacks/etc.

      Thanks again!