Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Mordrak & Ghostwing in 6th Edition 40K

A New Dawn for Mordrak & his Ghost Knights

Welcome back ladettes and fiends. You came to this blog to find out more about how Grey Knight Grandmaster Mordrak, and his ghostly bodyguard, fare in this brand spanking new 6th edition of Warhammer 40K, didn’t you?
Of course you did.

For Mordrak the cursed Knight of Mortain and his spectral crew, this new iteration of 40K has definitely brought brand new challenges but also opportunities. The game has evolved, and therefore so have practically every unit imaginable in 40k. As I’m a real Ghostwing fanatic, I thought I’d take my time and review the unit as a whole while me and the Wednesday NightGaming Crew are familiarising ourselves with the new ruleset.
To reiterate: What is it about Mordrak that makes him so special? Let me refresh your memory.
For starters the extra 25 points from a vanilla Grandmaster you get one with an extra Wound and Attack with a Master-crafted Daemonhammer thrown in, and the ability to spawn ablative wounds in the form of Free (Ghost) Terminators.  Also First to the Fray allows an automatic no-scatter Deep Strike on the GK player’s 1st turn, perfect for using Mordrak and his unit for an anchor to entrench Draigo, a Librarian, a Techmarine, or an other IC for deploy-anywhere funtimes (in lieu of Drop Pod options for the Grey Knights, first to the fray along with servo skulls & homers are the only ways to mitigate deepstriking risks). The downside is Mordrak’s unit lacks shootydakka psycannons so one has to rely on Daemonhammers for vehicle-busting, and if Mordrak were ever to be killed the unit goes poof!
Now, onwards to my review, where I make note of the major changes, both good and bad, and non-changes, that could impact the way a Ghostwing army can be played now.

Disclaimer: I have only gotten in a couple of practice runs with 6th edition and have not played a full-on Ghostwing army with the new rules yet, so this review remains theoretical based on analysis, comparisons and assumptions of mine, you’ve been warned! Also this 'list' of pros / cons are by no means exhaustive, so readers are more than welcome to contribute any further thoughts.


As a lot of the movement rules remain the same (6” move, 2D6 move through difficult cover, etc) Still cannot assault after Deepstriking.
Terminator armour still relentless, bulky, no sweeping advance, etc as before.

Dakka dakka still good, as before. Fire away dem Assault 2 Stormbolters!
Assault grenades (frag) still allow terminators to ignore the Initiative 1 penalty when assaulting through Difficult Terrain.

Psychic Powers:
Brotherhood of Psykers remains unclarified, as ATSKNF replaced as per rulebook as indicated in FAQ release, but yet no mention in FAQ of following rulebook’s definition instead of codex (which makes mention of Justicar / Knight of Flame, but not an infantry character which Mordrak is). Obviously, RAI, Mordrak is the Ghost Knight Justicar and any Hammerhand psychic tests are based off him, but I’ve also seen arguments saying Mordrak and his Ghost Knights should be able to get pull off Hammerhands twice (one for Mordrak himself, the other for Ghost Knights), which is patently ridiculous.

Dangerous Terrain now not-so dangerous. Deepstrike away into Difficult/Dangerous Terrain as you now get to use your armour save (previously it was invulnerable only). This to me is the biggest change which opens up a lot more tactical use. Combo it with the Ghost Knight’s Stealth (+1 to cover save) you are certainly afforded an entrenched 2+ armour unit in good cover on their first turn due to the precision deep strike. Hooray for this great improvement!
Terrain charts have been re-written. Interestingly area terrain (like a blast crater) is now a standard 5+, but allows a fantastic 3+ cover save if gone-to-ground. Great for entrenching Mordrak and his Ghosts into a crater, and when the inevitable plasma pie plates come knocking you just go to ground and dig in deep, especially good to create a stranglehold on an objective and use Stealth for an overall 2+ cover save against AP1 / 2 / Plasma & Demolisher Pie plates. If anyone tries to assault you, get back up for Overwatch fire!
As all in-reserve units come in on a 3+, Mordrak gets to manipulate the reserve rolls with his Psychic Communion ability making a devastating improvement on a Deepstrike-reliant army (of course, I’m assuming you’d deploy Mordrak first, then use his abilities to get other Terminator / Strike Squad / Interceptor / DreadKnight units onto the field.
Mordrak can now deepstrike direct onto an unoccupied battlement, suffering NO difficult / dangerous terrain tests to boot. This is a major plus and a canny opponent would do well to rectify this by making sure that any buildings or fortifications with a sufficiently large battlement area is occupied at all times.
Deepstriking direct unto a battlement would give the unit a 3+ cover save, and in the next turn they can either occupy the building itself or access the ground direct if there happens to be a ladder nearby (do check before doing this!).

Mordrak also gets Precision Shots (on a 6+ to hit), and Precision Strikes in combat (which is a fine combo with his Re-roll to hit on his master-crafted daemonhammer).
You can now throw a single frag grenade in lieu of one model shooting (the rest get to shoot as normal).
Overwatch (snap shots hitting on 6+) fire when assaulted, which is always possibility after deepstriking. Blast away with those Stormbolters!
You can also *possibly* chuck a krak grenade in Overwatch shooting, while more dakka in Overwatch anyways.
*LOOPHOLE ALERT* Upon reading the rulebook there is this particular quirk to the Overwatch rules. If you declare a charge at an enemy unit, after they Overwatch fire at you and IF they actually land a hit, one always gets to Go to Ground the charging unit to effectively *cancel* the charge. Combo this with area terrain and Stealth you get a mighty 2+ cover save and an opportunity to play *chicken-charge* where one minute you’re charging, and oh wait the next minute you’re not and you’ll be staying put anyway.
Mordrak and his Ghost Knights retain their 2+ armour save, which is now stronger due to the de-buff to power swords (now AP3). Also if you’re playing full-on Ghostwing, all Terminators are pretty buff pretty, which is all-good for lovers of tactical dreadnought armour.
Cover Saves:
Cover is now more beneficial on a per-model basis. If it’s 25% obscured, they get the requisite cover save (5+ for area terrain, 4+ for most things, 3+ for fortifications).
Invulnerable Saves:
Mordrak  is type  Infantry (Character), thus is allowed a 4+ Look Out Sir! Save. Pity it’s not a 2+. Still, watch out for AP1 / AP2!
Nemesis swords , halberds, glaives  are specifically AP3 being unusual force weapons and retain their codex bonuses. Win! Vs. 3+ armour save marines. Especially since you'll be hitting first, what with all them halberds your ghosts will be carrying innit?
Daemonhammers are still Thunderhammers, which means they are AP2, specialist weapon, unwieldy and concussive. AP2 weapons now add a +1 modifier on the Vehicle Damage Chart (yahoo!) .
Vehicles can now be hit and glanced to death more effectively (auto-hits when still, 3+ when moving any speed be it combat, cruising, or flat out!, and against walkers it’s a WS comparison), so deepstrike to the rear of rhinos and/or other transports and pew pew ping ping away with Stormbolters, glancing on 6’s. Or use them krak grenades, if you’re not already Hammerhanding your dudes.

ATSKNF and new Morale Regrouping rules means no more being escorted off the board when you are unlucky and fail a Morale Test (1 in 6 chance of failing). That’s happened to me before but No More! (Plus ATSKNF can allow a 3” regroup move in addition to normal moves, shooting and assault).
Psychic  Powers:
6+ Deny the Witch save against Psychic powers, therefore a  5+ save as Mordrak is Psychic Mastery Level 1. Also don’t forget we still have the Aegis, (-1 to enemy Ld during Psychic test) which helps.
Similarly as most of GK powers are buffs, enemy’s Deny the Witch and Psychic Hood are now inapplicable  (as *almost* all Psychic Hoods have now been nerfed, no longer a 24” range anti-psyker ability). Hammerhand away!
Still a fun combo with a Librarian to use Warp Rift on vehicles, or apply Sanctuary to make Mordrak even more secure when counter-assaulted (as charging through Difficult Terrain is now 3D6 but choose the lowest!)
Mordrak would have access to the Warlord leadership traits. Immovable Object on the personality traits is an interesting one, allowing Mordrak & his Ghosts to be a scoring unit. Note: By extreme RAW of Mordrak's Grand Strategy, while his unit of Ghost Knights can't be made scoring, one can infer that there's nothing stopping Mordrak to be made scoring. In any case, Immovable Object makes the whole unit scoring.


An-all deepstrike in-reserve army is no longer viable, as if in any end of game turn (Note: NOT player turn, thankfully!) there are none of your units on the table (and at least 50% of units not being in reserve being there to begin with at the start of the game) you lose automatically.
Do note that while teleporting into a battlement, should the building below it be occupied Mordrak runs the risk of being assaulted the very next turn (no overwatch allowed in this instance), or suffer a devastating grenade assault the turn after though I must point out the rulebook is not clear at this point if a unit on a battlement gains a 3+ cover save while being ‘assaulted’ with grenades, when they would do if shot at normally.
Also when trying to ‘disembark’ from a battlement you have 3 options, the first being going through the building itself (presumably unoccupied, or there’s a friendly unit letting you past) or down an access ladder or hatch (which you have to agree with your opponent before play). Otherwise, it’s a leap off the building and taking a dreaded ‘Impact Test’, in which armour saves are NOT allowed to be taken (much like the old Dangerous Terrain tests). In addition, there is a -1 modifier for each 3” distance fallen. Yikes.

Precision fire and strikes can pick out and snipe Mordrak, potentially wiping out your entire Ghost Knight unit with a lucky S8 hit, and LOS! Only works on a 4+ as he’s not an Independent Character. Watch out for enemy character wargear such as powerklaws, fists, hammers, melta-pistols, etc.
Also watch out for lucky barrage shots (or Barrage Sniping as it’s now called). While template and blast weapons are used as per previous edition to determine hits, wound allocation are as per the new edition e.g. closest model dies first, this differs for barrage blasts, where wounds are to be allocated as per proximity from the blast centre, so a lucky S10 Instant Death Hit! Result on Mordrak and an unlucky save roll can result on elimination of the entire unit.
In the previous edition of 40k, while in combat Independent characters can be singled out and allocated a tonnage of wounds. Not so anymore in 6th edition where wounds can be allocated by the controlling player of said models if they are all in 'closest promity', as opposed to shooting where they are randomly distributed when models are 'equal proximity', otherwise nearest first.
Now, Mordrak can also be picked out and challenged in combat like any other character. Previously in 5th edition he was a mere ‘upgrade’ that wasn't even Independent.
In this new age of combat, Mordrak is likely to be challenged by other Powerfist sergeant’s, and likely both SPLAT! Each other, and then it’s bye-bye to the whole unit. If you think this too risky, don’t take the challenge and let the sword-bearing Ghost Knights (2+ save, 4+ invulnerable) soak up such wounds. Also if you play your unit positioning right (and positioning is key) you should be able to use Halberd Ghosts to take out such threats anyway.
Also, if in a challenge, it’s probably better to accept it with a Librarian with a 2+ invulnerable stave first in Mordrak’s stead (or better yet, Draigo!) , or use the Glorious Intervention rules to swap characters in a challenge if Mordrak gets  pretty close to biting the dust.
Long story short, I think it’s too risky for Mordrak to be challenging other characters in combat what with the plethora of powerfists and the like littering the battlefields of the 41st millennium.
Nemesis swords , halberds, glaives  are now AP3, debuff against termies and other 2+ armour saves.
For Ap2 shenanigans, take Daemonhammers then! (You were going to take some anyway and not just rely on Mordrak to crack vehicles, weren’t you?) But then again, you were always going to avoid getting into combat with TH/SS Termies anyway, weren’t you?
Note: Daemonhammers are still thunderhammers but the Concussive USR has now been debuffed to now longer auto-shake the crew of a vehicle in combat when penetrating/glancing. Boo!
Random 2D6 assault charge range. Deepstrike Mordrak up close and personal then move and assault the next turn! Overall though close combat is a more dangerous affair now, with random charge distance and Overwatch fire.

Psychic Powers:
Perils of the Warp is now unsaveable be prepared for Mordrak to lose a wound when he fails it (again 1 in 6 chance of failing).

*Note 01* I've been re-reading the rules, it turns out that while you can't take a save of any kind, it can be argued RAW 'Feel No Pain' is not a save of any kind, and therefore in a unit of Paladins with an apothecary, one should get a 5+ FNP roll against Perils. Great for Draigo, Paladins and attached Librarians, no change for Mordrak however.

*Note 02* I've also discovered upon more in-depth reading of the rules that both a double-1 and a double-6 on your psychic test is a failure, and one takes a wound automatically with no save. In the previous ed. if you rolled  double-1 the power still goes off regardless. In this new edition this has been removed.
No access to the new BRB psychic powers as per FAQ ruling (Librarian + Inquisitors only).


Fundamentally, I feel that despite the new edition, Mordrak and his Ghostwing remain a fun, fluffy, viable, first-strike deepstrike-style army. In fact, one can even argue that the major changes to terrain and buildings (particularly battlements) open up new avenues of play for Mordrak, new tactics, an inevitably new challenges.
For me, the changes to dangerous terrain rules, the overall nerf to Psychic Hoods no longer being able to affect Hammerhands, and the fact that vehicles have been debuffed are a major boon to the Ghostwing. Conversely, overwatch, random charges, challenges and other character sniping possibilities are dangerous, but not just for Ghostwing alone (all armies will suffer from these).
Sure, I’ve heard it been argued that Mordrak was uncompetitive in 5th edition and remains so in 6th. Sure, you can buy a normal vanilla Grandmaster and combo it with servo skulls and fancy grenades, yadda yadda. Sure, I’ve been told Draigowing, Crowe + Purifier + Psyrazorspam (last edition) was more competitive. Sure, I know from experience that Mordrak’s style of play can be a bit one-trick-pony, easily anticipated and dealt with by a cunning opponent.
But you know what? I love Mordrak. I love his fluff, and I love how his style of play fits in with my fluff expectation of how a Grey Knight army *should* work the way they strike first and strike hard, wrongfooting an unready opponent.
I also love how the certainty of First to the Fray is coupled with the expected/unexpected random power of generating ablative wounds in form of further Ghost Knights, much in the same way I LOVE Stern, and that one day I plan to have both Stern and Mordrak in the same army list. Time will tell.
Conjecture aside, I’m looking forward to my first outing with Ghostwing which I’ll report on in due course.

Thanks for reading, and would love to hear any thoughts/ideas!


  1. I am sure that a perils roll of double 1 still activates the power as stated in the 6th ed rulebook. Overall you helped me with mutch information about Mordrak so thank you for that

  2. Actually Zappa David you're right! My bad, had a re-check and there it is:

    Page 67 (Perils of the Warp) - Roll of double 1's still activate power, even if wounded/killed by result.