Welcome to Warhammer Tactics! Today, we’re going to break down all of your options when facing off against an Imperial Knight. That way, when somebody shows up with their fancy new Castellan at your local store, you’ll be equipped to take it down. I’ll be breaking down some universal tactics that you can use, and then I’ll delve into some faction specific strategy to help make sure you’re properly equipped to go Knight hunting.
First, there are a myriad of Imperial Knight variants. Each variant has its own weapon options and special rules. Obviously, writing tactics on how to handle each specific variant would end up coming out as a small book! So, I’ll be broadly referring to Knights as a collective. Make sure to ask about how your opponent’s Knight is equipped and respond accordingly!
So, let’s look at the weaknesses of an Imperial Knight. First, they usually clock in around 450-600 points depending on load out and variant. Even in a 2000 point game, that’s a significant chunk of your opponent’s points! Defensively speaking, they are mostly 24 wounds (some variants fluctuate a bit on this number, usually the Dominus class variants), Toughness 8, and they have a 3+ armor save and a 5+ invulnerable save. So, small arms fire isn’t very likely to do any significant damage, but volume of shots can chip off a few wounds here and there. Against anti tank fire, they benefit from being tougher and having an invulnerable save, so they tend to be significantly harder for most anti tank weapons to really hurt. In addition, they have the ability to add one to their invulnerable saving throws through the “Rotate Ion Shields” stratagem. If your opponent has one Knight, you should just assume that the model always has a 4+ invulnerable save from your shooting attacks.
So, shooting them to death for many armies isn’t usually the most effective method of attack. Luckily, there are a few different things that we can do to circumvent this issue. For one, we can simply ignore the Knight. Imperial Knights bring 0 list synergy with other armies. They don’t improve other models for the most part. All they’re really good for is laying down the hurt. This is completely army and list dependent, but for some lists, just ignoring the Knight is the right option.
Since the Knight’s only purpose is to kill things, it needs to kill at least it’s price in models to be efficient. And if you are playing an Ork list with 200 boyz and some stormboyz and a few characters, let’s say, most Knights just aren’t going to be able to kill 500 points of boyz, even if they’re totally ignored. That means your opponent is effectively losing points on his investment if you ignore it completely.
Again, I stress that this answer is one that should be weighed carefully. Knights actually don’t hit that hard for a 500 point model, except for the melee variants. They’re far more defensive in nature, so ignoring it and not playing to its strengths is a totally valid option. But, you need to be 100% positive that your opponent won’t come out ahead with you letting the knight run free.
Another option available to combating Knights is getting up close and personal. Knights only receive the benefit of their invulnerable save from shooting attacks. Dedicated melee armies, especially ones that can get over Strength 4 or that do multiple damage easily (think Khorne Demons, specifically Bloddletters), can easily just run up to a Knight and knock it over, no problem. Strength 4 models can plausibly chip a few wounds off, but it’s not a reliable method to really kill it, at least in one turn. Even a horde of 30 ork boyz making 120 attacks will, on average, do only 4.44 wounds to a Knight, which isn’t exactly breathtaking. But, heavy hitting units can really do a number. Like everything else we talk about, this is going to be list and faction dependent, but for many lists melee is a practical and efficient answer.
We can also just debuff the knight so it’s no longer effective. An easy example would be adding any kind of negatives to hit, as this really tanks the effectiveness of the Knight. There are also a couple of Psychic Powers that allow you to shoot with enemy models. These powers become insanely powerful when used on an Imperial Knight. If you have one of these powers at your disposal, make sure you bring it along!
Finally, we can mess with the Knight’s ability to move. This is mostly a tactic that’s useable against melee focused knights, but it can occasionally have some mileage against gun platforms too. After all, many of the gun platform knights still have some close range fire power. Keeping them out of range of that close ranged firepower goes a long way. Now, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “But, Knights can just walk over enemy Infantry!”. That’s actually not quite true. Yes, the “Super-Heavy Walker” ability does allow Knights to walk over enemy Infantry and Swarms, but there’s a catch. They can only do it while Falling Back.
So, if you park some cheap units 1.1” in front of the Knight, he actually can’t move forward. As long as you have cheap units to get in the way, you can effectively stop a melee based Knight from ever being even remotely threatening all game, or at least until you’re ready to try to take it down.
Now, before we delve into some Faction specific abilities, I would like to talk about a specific Knight combination some players like to use. Through a combination of a warlord trait, relic, and the “Rotate Ion Shield” stratagem, it’s possible to push an Imperial Knight to a 2+ armor save, and a 3+ Invulnerable save. My honest suggestion for most players is to automatically ignore this Knight. Unless you’re 100% confident that your list can handle something this durable, the right answer is to usually ignore it and focus on the rest of the enemies force. In each Faction specific area, I’ll make sure I address this specific set up a bit further based on what that Faction can plausibly do against it.
IMPERIUM OF MAN
The Imperium players actually have many avenues of attack for handling a Knight. You can ally in some Blood Angels for what many players affectionately refer to as “Smashguinius”. It’s a Blood Angel Captain with a Thunder Hammer and a relic Jump Pack called the Angel Wing, along with a few psychic powers and stratagems. You’ll make something like 16 Thunder Hammer attacks, assuming you also swing twice. That’s ~12.5 hits, 8.32 wounds, ~6.9 that push through saves, for about 21 Damage! Given Knights only have 24 wounds, all you have to do is put a little light firepower after that, and down it goes!
Alternatively, you can take some Raven Guard Terminators and Shrike. Infiltrate up close, walk up, and charge on in. 8 terminators will make 17 attacks, get 11.33 hits, 5.68 wounds, 4.73 push, for 14 wounds! That’s half of it’s health right there. Now add in Shrikes attacks and the rest of your list, and you can probably down it in one go, or get it very close to dead. This setup is a tad narrow, but it’s great at its job.
Imperial Guard also have their fair share of answers. Infantry heavy Guard lists can usually just ignore a Knight, since it won’t come close to killing its share of Guardsmen. You can also always take a Shadowsword, and fight your opponent’s Lord of War with your own! That Volcano Cannon will make 6 shots, get 3 hits, 2.5 wounds, 1.25 will push through that invul, and you’ll still do about 9 Damage, a third of its health. Throw in its Las Cannons for another 4 or so Damage, and some Leman Russes, and you can easily kill it in 1-2 turns.
Regarding the 2+/3++ Knight: Most of the options I discussed here go out the window against this. Your best bet will be Smashguinius, or ignore it. Even a Shadowsword’s Volcano Cannon will only push .83 wounds, for 5.83 damage. That’s not very good for a model as expensive as a Shadowsword. Yes, it has some Lascannons, but those don’t add too much.
Chaos also has its fair share of ways to handle a Knight. For one, Bloodletter Bomb (a Bloodmaster+30 Bloodletters deepstriking in and charging 3d6+1 inches) can really do a number on a Knight. Although you have to wait until Turn 2, once you do come in and make contact, you’ll get 60 attacks, 50 hits, 16.7 wounds, and you’ll push just shy of 14. Because of some funky math with how the bonus damage on wound rolls of 6 works, Those 14 pushed wounds do about 21 damage! Then you spend 3 CP and fight a second time, and that Knight is as good as toast. Or you kill it with the Bloodmaster, or you shoot it a bit before you charge to soften it up. You’ve got lots of options.
If shooting it is more your thing, some Slaanesh Obliterators can handle this badboy, no problem. Prescience, Veterans of the Long War, and Endless Cacophony means you’ll be spitting 24 S8 ap-2 D2 shots. Assuming they have a re roll aura nearby too, that’s 23.33 hits, 15.56 wounds, 10.37 push through, for just shy of 21 Damage! Now, Obliterators are very random units, so in execution your results will be all over the place. But you can pretty reliably get some serious damage down with this set up.
Regarding the 2+/3++ Knight: If you don’t have a Bloodletter Bomb, you’ll probably just want to ignore this thing. Assuming they attack twice, Bloodletters can actually kill this in one go. You’ll get 120 attacks, 100 hits, 33.3 wounds, 22.2 will push, and because of the chance to deal bonus damage on the Bloodletter Weapons, on average you’ll get 33.3 Wounds. That’s WAY more than enough to kill a Knight, even accounting for him swinging with his feet and killing a few guys. If you don’t have a Bloodletter Bomb, you’re probably going to have to ignore it. Tzaangor Bomb won’t do nearly as much damage, but over a couple turns could plausibly kill it too.
Tyranids don’t have too many ways to actually kill a Knight. Genestealers tend to really bounce off since they only wound on 6’s, even though their rending attacks ignore armor on the Knight. They can probably kill a low health one if they have a big squad size, that’s about it. That’s not a problem for you though, since you have much better options than killing it. You can ignore it, or debuff it into the ground. You can move infantry around it to stop it from moving very easily, shutting down melee Knights. You also have access to a -1 to hit Psychic power, which is helpful. If you tap into GSC, Knights become kind of a joke.You gain a second -1 to hit, and you can shoot it at your opponent too! Even the 2+/3++ variant really falls into the same pitfalls, since your objective isn’t killing it.
If you don’t have access to GSC, some hiding and double firing Hive Guard can put in some work. You’ll get 24 shots, 16 hits, 8 wounds, push 5.33, for just shy of 11 Damage. It takes two turns, but you can kill it no problem. You will struggle against the 2+/3+ variant however, since you don’t have a great way to kill it, unless you happen to be playing a melee focused monster heavy list. Overall though, Nids are particularly well positioned to handle Knights.
Aeldari have so many tools for handling Knights it’s insane. You can block “Rotate Ion Shields” with Dark Eldar, you’ve got lots of good anti tank weapon options, Craftworlds have a ton of debilitating psychic powers that can make a Knight extremely frail, Harlequins can get tons of anti tank weapons up close and personal, Ynnari can double fire some Dark Reapers….
My only real advice for Aeldari is that you should consider other codexes if playing a mono codex army usually when considering Knights. It’s a lot harder for you to handle a Knight in a 2+/3+ than it is for them to handle a Knight that had Rotate Ion Shields blocked, has received -1 to saves, and has been Doomed. To get all these benefits though, you’ll need to take multiple different Aeldari armies.
Unless you’re playing Mono Craftworlds, that is. Craftworlds have enough psychic buff manipulation and minuses to be hit that you should be just fine as long as you remembered your Dark Reapers or Fire Dragons. Overall, this is probably the best Faction to be playing in terms of handling Knights, with Tyranids being a solid 2nd place.
Tau are far, FAR more limited in their options for handling Knights. You really can’t engage them in melee, and you probably don’t want to ignore it, since most Tau lists tend to have some expensive toys in them. You also don’t usually have tons of spare infantry to block off it’s movement.
Unsurprisingly, what you can do as Tau is shoot it right off the table. 5 Markerlights, a use of Kauyon, and most lists in Tau can do pretty good damage to a Knight. If you’re playing T’au sept, it gets even easier, since the +1 to wound strat really pushes your damage up. Maybe use a Command/Control Node on a Riptide for even more insane damage. Just make sure you overlap all of your buffs, and fire everything into it, and you’ll usually kill or severely injure it in one turn, no problem.
Where Tau really struggle however, is the 2+/3++ set up. The 3++ invul really mitigates your damage, and you don’t have any realistic way to kill it in melee either. What you can do however, is take 3 units of 9 sniper drones out of T’au Sept. With 5 lights, a Firesight Marksman, and a Drone Controller, you’ll be hitting on 2+ rerolling 1’s. With the T’au Sept strat, you’ll wound on 4’s, and 5+ also net you a mortal wound. It’s very easy to get into rapid fire range with their 48” guns and above average movement. Layer this all together and you get 54 shots, 52.5 hits, 26.25 wounds. Out of those 26.25 wounds, you immediately score 17.5 Mortal Wounds (!!!), and you get another 4.4 or so wounds after saves. Add those together, and you get 22/24 wounds off a Knight! The rest of your army can easily get those last few.
I can’t claim ownership of that set up, however. It’s 100% Nick Nanavati that pointed this on eout, and it’s a good one to keep in mind if you find yourself possibly having to play a Knight in 2+/3++.
Necrons are, unfortunately, probably the faction that will generally struggle the most against a Knight. You don’t have tons of cheap bodies to stop movement, you’re too elite of an army to settle for being shot/chopped up for 6 turns, and you don’t have many melee threats, which forces you to contend with the 4+ invulnerable save.
You do have a few options, however. For one, Wraiths out of Novoakh can lay down some pain. With the double fight stratagem, you’ll get 36 attacks, 32 hits, 10.67 wounds, 7.1 will push, for 14 Damage. You’ll have to invest everything else into it as well, but with some Wraiths helping out you can take it down. You can pair this with 6 Destroyers (not Heavy, just regular) shooting Gauss Cannons re rolling everything from Extermination Protocols. You’ll get 18 shots, 16 hits, ~8.9 wounds, You’ll push ~ 6, doing 12 Damage, exactly half of a Knight’s health. Combine this with the wraiths and you’ll get a kill on a Knight.
Unfortunately, you don’t have a very good answer to a 2+/3++ Knight. The improved defenses are very hard for Necrons to crack through. Your best bet is probably to ignore it and hope you don’t lose too much from the 6 or so rounds of fire from it.
Well, that wraps it up! This was definitely a longer one, but hopefully I’ve left you with some ideas to handle an Imperial Knight. They’re big, intimidating models, but they can be beat. You just have to play to their weaknesses, not their strengths. Make sure to check in next week for some Vanilla Space Marine tactics!