Unit Review: Grand Master & Brother-Captain  

Posted by Michael Hogan in ,

Xethik here with the first part of a new series based on reviewing the units in the Grey Knights codex. The goal here is to give an idea of when you would want to take him from a gaming stand-point and how to gear him if you were to.

Before I begin, I feel that it is beneficial to quickly go over the differences between a Grand Master and a Brother-Captain.

A Grand Master comes out at 25 more points than a Brother-Captain, with the only difference with the stats is that the Grand Master has an additional point of Ballistic Skill. When it comes to upgrades, the Grand Master pays 5 more points for both the Psycannon and Psilencer and can also be upgraded to Psychic Mastery Level 2. The main difference, however, is the Grand Strategy special rule.

Grand Strategy is a rule added to the army for every Grand Master in your army (including Special Character Grand Masters). According to the Grand Strategy, at the beginning of the game, before deployment, you roll a D3 and choose that many units of infantry, jump infantry, monstrous creatures or a walkers, except for Independent Characters, Inquisitorial Henchmen, or Ghost Knights. Each one of these units can gain one of the following. (Note that with the recent FAQ you may not give one unit two special rules)

  • Reroll to Wound rolls of 1 for the entire game
  • Gain Counter-attack for the entire game
  • Gain Scouts for the entire game
  • Claim objectives as if they were Troops (including Walkers)
Paying 25 points for even one of these is usually worth it, as the ability to score with a Dreadnought or Scout a hard hitting unit can be game changing. But if you don't have a unit that would somehow benefit from the Grand Strategy, you can stick with a Brother-Captain and still be very happy.

Now, let's discuss when you would take a Grand Master or Brother-Captain. In a pure Grey Knights force, these two HQs are the only way to gain the Psychic Communion power, which is essential for manipulating your reserves effectively with Grey Knights. In addition, Grand Masters and Brother-Captains are very tough to kill and powerful HQs in close-combat, and can greatly add to the effectiveness of any squad they are attached to. However, since they are always in Terminator Armour, you may not want to take a Grand Master in a game where you have no close-combat squads on foot which are not Terminators, as attaching a Grand Master to a Purgation squad or having him walk on the field by himself is a bit silly and a throw away of his costs. The main reason for taking the Grand Master at all, as said, is the Grand Strategy ability.

Now, let's go over the wargear options available to the Grand Master and the Brother Captain.

Close Combat Weapons
Nemesis Force Sword - While not an option, it is the default weapon for these guys. It changed your Invulnerable save to a 3+ in close-combat instead of a 4+ and acts as a Force Weapon, like all Nemesis Force Weapons. It's also 'free' as it is included in the base cost.

Nemesis Force Halberd - For a cheap cost, you can improve the initiative value of your HQ from 5 to 7. Initiative 5 is higher than most non-Eldar/Slaanesh units, so do you need to be improving it even more? Generally, I would say no. If you're building this guy to be effective against other high initiative HQs, then I think you should be taking note of the fact that you are losing the 3+ invulnerable save in close-combat (4+ instead) which will be hurting you a lot of if you don't manage to take out your opponent. Not a bad option, just one I wouldn't consider automatic.

Nemesis Daemonhammer - Same cost as the Halberd, but counts as a Thunder Hammer. While I do love hard-hitting HQs, you won't be swinging any harder than another squad member with one of these and while you may have an extra attack and some Weapon Skill on the other model, you are losing the "hidden" value of the weapon and Weapon Skill does nothing against vehicles. Power fists and Thunder Hammer on squad models cannot be targeted specifically, meaning you cannot focus the model before initiative 1 to avoid taking hits. On a Grand Master, however, enemies can focus and take you out before you can swing and you no longer have a 3+ invulnerable save. So I would say generally not worth it and you are throwing away your Initiative 5.

Nemesis Falchions - An extra attack is nice, but for the points I would say generally not worth it. Again, you are losing the extra protection in close-combat and paying points, so I would shy away from this.

Nemesis Warding Stave - An upgraded version of the Nemesis Force Sword by giving you a 2+ Invulnerable save in close-combat. However, it is a large point cost. Perhaps if you are trying to build a super-powerful and hard-to-kill close-combat HQ, it is worth it, but I generally wouldn't spend the large point cost on it as knowing your luck you'll be taken out before you can even get to close-combat with it.

Ranged Weapons
Storm Bolter - Default range weapon. Nothing special.

Incinerator - For a small point cost, you are getting a very nice template weapon but you have no benefit from your Ballistic Skill. However, for the same points you could put that on a Terminator (unless you have already taken a special weapon) and have the higher Ballistic Skill Storm Bolter. Good if you want the template and still have a psycannon on your Terminators, for example.

Psilencer - Not a huge fan of Psilencers in general and especially not at this point cost. I wouldn't consider taking it.

Psycannon - A beautiful Ballistic Skill 5/6 Relentless Psycannon. However, you pay a large number of points for it, almost twice of that for one on a Terminator. If you have the points, go ahead and purchase it, but just be aware of the cost.

Misc. Wargear
Psychic Mastery Level 2 - You are able to cast an additional Psychic Power a turn, but you pay quite the cost for it. It is nice to be able to manipulate reserves and have Hammerhand activated, or have both Hammerhand and Force Weapons active, but you can cast Hammerhand from the squad you are in and still be able to cast Force Weapon with your Grand Master if you wish, or the other way around. In general, not worth it, but you can use it effectively.

Servo-skulls - You can take up to three of these for a low point cost. Good if you have a lot of Conversion Beamers or other blast templates or if you plan on attempting Deep Strikes often. They do offer scout/infiltration defense, too, so a good left-over point spending, but they don't make you more combat effective.

Blind Grenades - Defensive grenades will make your opponent think twice before assaulting you. Makes your unit better able to receive charges, especially if you have Counter-attack on the unit.

Meltabombs - While I love meltabombs, I feel that someone in the squad you are in will probably have a Daemonhammer and with Hammerhand, you can probably deal with most vehicles without taking these.

Digital Weapons - Allowing you to reroll one failed wound per turn in close-combat is nice for the cost. If you have the points leftover and definitely think you will be a close-combat hero, this is nice.

Psybolt Ammunition - If you have a Storm Bolter, this isn't too bad. But otherwise useless. Not terrible, but you could always give it to an entire squad of Terminators for only four times the points and there are some other nice upgrades.

Empyrean Brain Mines - Decent, but I feel that anything in base-to-base with your Grand Master will probably be shortly suffering a beating and may not have the chance to attack anyways! For example, non-characters can be simply pulled off from other wounds while characters will be hopefully struck down from Force Weapons. Plus, they are decently pricy.

Psychotroke Grenades - A very powerful grenade that works both when you are assaulted and when you assault. While 5/6 of the results seem great, some of them won't do anything against your opponent anyway. For example, a roll of a 2 does very little against models with only 1 attack anyway, while option 4 does nothing against Fearless units and 5 doesn't do much if you are going first anyway.

Rad Grenades - Reducing the toughness value of an assaulting or assaulted unit by 1 is monumental, especially if that means you will be Instant Deathing when you normally wouldn't be (Toughness 4 models against Grey Knights with both Hammerhand and Might of Titan). More consistent than Psychotroke Grenades, so you can better judge the outcome of an assault before you roll for the effect, which is why I prefer them.

Orbital Strike Relay - A really powerful blast, but it is expensive. You also cannot move when firing it, even with Relentless, which is a bit of a downside. Plus it always scatters, meaning it is difficult to hit your target. I would rather put this on a Techmarine or Inquisitor and have fun with it that way, but it isn't an option off-limit, especially if you don't plan to always be charging at your opponent with the Grand Master.

Master-crafting Weapons -A low cost to reroll one failed hit a turn. Not bad, and a good place to spend those extra 5 points you have if you don't have anything else, especially on a Psycannon or the like.
So those are your options. Here are some sample builds I would consider taking (with the Grand Master. Most could be Brother-Captains, too).

Sample Build
Close-combat Support Grand Master - 195 (240)
Rad Grenades, Blind Grenade
(Optional - Psycannon)
Run this guy either on foot or in a Land Raider with Terminators or Paladins to support them in close-combat and still change your army around with the Grand Strategy. A bit expensive, but he does add quite a bit.

Gunline Grand Master - 225
Mastercrafted Psycannon
Just gearing this guy to hang out with a foot squad and fire endless Psycannon rounds that don't miss too often. Again, expensive, but if you really want Grand Strategy with a shooty army, this could work as he can both soak wounds and lay down fire himself.

Deep Strike Army Grand Master - 190
Servo-skulls x 3
Standard wargear but with some servoskulls to help you deep strike effectively. I would be tempted to keep this guy on the table with a small squad in order to use Psychic Communion, but he could also deep strike with everyone else.

So that's it for the Grand Master. A nice supportive HQ that adds a lot to units he doesn't even have to join, but also a close-combat specialist. While he is expensive, he is one of the best non Special Character HQs available in the game, if not the best, for being a monster in close-combat and supporting your entire army. I hope you enjoyed!

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at Sunday, July 17, 2011 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Nice post, I dont play Grey Knights but enjoyed your assessment.

July 17, 2011 at 6:37 PM

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