Top Genestealer Cult Tactics Warhammer 40k- Nights At The Game Table


    Welcome to Warhammer Armies! Today, we’re going to be breaking down the nefarious Genestealer Cults and all the ways you have to use the Genestealer Cults to sneakily ambush and crush your opposition. We’ll be going over their relics, stratagems, warlord traits, recommended units, and more.  There’s a lot to unpack with this army, so let’s begin.

Disclaimer: Genestealer Cults have access to a variety of Creeds and allies in Tyranids and Astra Millitarum, thanks to Brood Brothers. These options will largely not be discussed or mentioned in this article, and will instead be covered in their own articles. This article, unless otherwise mentioned, is looking only at GSC as a stand alone army.

 Army Overveiw

 Genestealer Cults (hereafter GSC) are a very technical army built around using brutal deep strikes and various forms of misdirection to outmaneuver their opponents. They have access to one of the broadest set of units due to their ability to ally with both Tyranids and Astra Millitarum, along with a strong set of Psychic Powers and other support pieces.

– You have a slew of CHARACTERS, and almost all of them more than pull their weight with their various auras and abilities.
– Purestrain Genestealers and Aberrants are downright terrifying melee units capable of running rampant through your opponent’s army
–  GSC have an extremely high skill ceiling, allowing players to rapidly improve their performance as they improve with the game and the army.

– Overall, GSC are a relatively frail army. Most of your units aren’t very durable, and you’ll feel every casualty as the game progresses.
– Although you have a very powerful suite of CHARACTERS and Psychic Powers, you can’t realistically bring all of them to bear, which means you have many considerations to make during a game. A couple bad decisions can easily ruin a game for you far more than other armies.
– You have a limited set of actually useful Stratagems, while simultaneously being very CP hungry.

Army Ability Analysis

    GSC have two army abilities: Unquestioning Loyalty and Cult Ambush. Unquestioning Loyalty is a defensive ability that, while it’s found on most models, is in execution a mechanic just for your CHARACTERS. Whenever a CHARACTER either fails a saving throw or suffers a mortal wound, you can roll a d6 if a friendly unit with Unquestioning Loyalty is within 3”. On a 4+, the unsaved wound or mortal wound is applied to that unit instead. This makes your characters far more durable, which in turn allows for you to be more aggressive with your offensive characters.

    Their second ability is Cult Ambush. Ambush opens up multiple new deployment options for you. Any INFANTRY or BIKER unit with Ambush can simply be set up as reinforcements, following all normal rules for reinforcements. This gives you a large degree of flexibility baseline in where your units show up compared to most other armies. Instead of only having some units with the ability to show up as reinforcements, you have the lateral freedom to deploy exactly as you need.
    In addition, Ambush also opens up an additional method of deploying your army, using tokens (hereafter referred to as blips) to represent a unit. For the most part, blips can’t be moved or interacted with, and they get revealed at the start of your first movement phase or the end of your opponent’s first movement phase, depending on who goes first. When you reveal blips, any unit that was replaced by a blip can be placed, regardless of the order of how you placed blips and which unit you initially put in reserves and instead marked it with a blip.
    We won’t focus on the exact rules for how using blips works here, as there’s actually a lot of specifics to it that can be found in the GSC codex describing exactly how this mechanic works. Instead, we’ll cover some basic strategy for you and how to get the most out of both ends of Cult Ambush.
    Ambush leaves you with a large degree of flexibility with how you set up your army, but there are some general ideas that you will want to follow. Generally, you’ll want to have your large, offensive units like Purestrains set up in ambush to follow the normal rules for reinforcements. This allows you to pressure your opponent with the threat of one or more major threats that can show up anywhere, anytime.
    After you’ve set up your threats off table, you should start placing as many units as possible with blips. The blips allow you to effectively counter deploy your opponent, regardless of matchup or scenario. You can place Blips in desirable positions, and you’ll usually want to use the Scanner Decoys stratagem to open up extra options for you.
     Once it’s time to set up your army, you’ll be able to deploy with the full knowledge of your opponent’s deployment if you’re going first, or knowledge of your opponent’s movement if going second. This gives you a large degree of flexibility to punish aggressive opponents or outmaneuver gunlines.
    Whatever you can’t deploy with either mode of Cult Ambush should simply be deployed safely, usually to take Objectives or establish front lines and early screens for your fire support. Ambush allows you to, effectively, be extremely mobile on your first turn while also providing you with perfect information. Proper use of Ambush will be a large make or break for any GSC player, and it’s a mechanic to consider in list construction.


    GSC have 6 Warlord Traits, and for the most part they’re nothing to shout home about. Some of the Cult specific Warlord Traits are very powerful, and they will be reviewed later. For now, we will only be looking at the 6 generic Warlord Traits.
1.Focus Of Adoration: This is a rather situational Trait, but it’s very valuable against melee lists. It causes your Warlord to broadcast a 6” aura which enables friendly <CULT> INFANTRY and BIKER units to perform a Heroic Intervention as if they were characters. This makes enemy close combat lists stuck making difficult decisions with charges, as they can easily end up tied up against enemy units they weren’t planning on fighting. Not worth using every game, but keep it in mind.

  1. Shadow Stalker: This provides your Warlord with a static -1 to be hit. Normally, this would be a solid Warlord Trait. However, you can generally rely on Unquestioning Loyalty to provide more than enough extra defense for your CHARACTERS, which makes this trait rarely worth taking, especially when Born Survivor offers a stronger defensive boost.

3.Biomorph Adaptation: This provides your Warlord with +1 Strength and +1 Attack. This is a large improvement on the damage potential of a Patriarch, yielding almost a 50% percent damage hike against Toughness 7 targets, which is most VEHICLES and MONSTERS.  This is going to be your generic, go to Warlord Trait most games. It’s also very powerful on an Abominant, if you don’t have a Patriarch.
Born Survivor:  This provides your Warlord with -1 damage, to a minimum of 1. If you want a defensive Warlord Trait, this is going to be the choice. Generally you’ll want to amp up the damage since Unquestioning Loyalty provides you with plenty of CHARACTER defense, but if you are concerned about your Warlord taking large hits, you can really boost his survivability with this.

5. Alien Majesty: This gives your Warlord a simple +3” to his Aura abilities. As is the case with other aura range boosting abilities, this simply isn’t worth taking in most situations. 6” is more than enough to work with. 9” does provide more breathing room, but tighter play renders this benefit moot.

6. Preternatural Speed: This causes your Warlord to always strike first in close combat, much like Slaanesh Demons or other similar abilities. These kinds of abilities are usually only useful in drawn out combats, which your Warlord will rarely be in. This is definitely a pass.

    Overall, your optimal choices are pretty cleanly cut between Born Survivor or Biomorph Adaptation. Against close combat heavy lists, Focus of Adoration can make your opponent’s charges very awkward and difficult for them, so it should be on your radar for situational use.

Psychic power analysis

    GSC have a very powerful suite of Psychic Powers, which means you’ll want to bring plenty of Psykers. The discipline is instead balanced around the fact that all of your casters can only cast one power, and your Psychic Powers typically have a higher Warp Charge Value. In order to get the most out of your Psychic Powers, you’ll need to carefully plan around which powers you want and which caster will know them.

1. Mass Hypnosis: Hypnosis is quite simply the most debilitating debuffs in the game, at least in a bubble. Although it has a low range of 18” and a high Warp Charge Value of 7, Hypnosis causes one enemy unit to be unable to fire overwatch, fight last in the fight phase, and -1 from their hit rolls. This is a very versatile debuff, and one you’re probably going to want available every game.

2. Mind Control: Mind Control is one of the funnier Psychic Powers in the game, and it’s theoretically very powerful. It has a Warp Charge Value of 7, and a 12” range which is rather poor. On a successful manifest, you can roll 3d6 against a single model’s leadership. If you beat their leadership, you get to make a single close combat attack with that model, or a full shooting attack with it. This power is really only worth using against enemy models with a lot of guns, which is typically going to be a VEHICLE. With only a 12” range, you’re going to struggle getting in range to target a meaningful model,even with Cult Ambush. In addition, your opponent can park another unit within 1” of the target you’re trying to Mind Control, which makes it ineligible to shoot since it technically is in close combat when you Mind Control it. Despite these limitations and difficulties, a successful Mind Control can do a lot of damage. This is a very high risk, high reward power. Treat it accordingly.

3. Psionic Blast: Psionic Blast has a lower Warp Charge Value of 5, and a range of 18”. On a successful manifest, you target an enemy unit and roll 2d6. If you beat their Leadership, you cause D3 Mortals. If you don’t, you cause 1 Mortal. WIth how high the opportunity costs on your powers are, Psionic Blast should simply never be taken. You can always Smite, and the ability to target your Smite is simply not nearly as good as having one of the many other noteworthy powers at your disposal. This is easily your hardest pass up.

4. Mental Onslaught: Onslaught is going to be a critical ace in the hole for any wily GSC player, as long as their army has a Patriarch, and doubly so if they ally in Tyranids. However, there’s a ton to unpack here. Onslaught only has a Warp Charge Value of 6 (rather low for GSC), and a workable 18” range. On a successful cast, you target a visible enemy model and roll a d6, adding your Leadership to the roll. Your opponent rolls a D6 and adds their model’s leadership to the roll. If you win the roll off, you cause 1 Mortal Wound to the unit and repeat the process. If you tie or get beat, the process ends.When the model you targeted dies, the process ends.  Note that although it applies Mortal Wounds to the unit, your opponent can simply kill off the model that you target first, which means this power will almost always kill only one model.

    At first glance, this is a rather awkward and conditional power. However, the theoretical impact of this power is really high since GSC and their allies have lots of access to many ways to manipulate Leadership values. If you want to use this power, it basically needs to be on a Patriarch, as it has a base Leadership of 10. You can then take the Base Rulebook Warlord Trait for a 6” aura of +1 Leadership, boosting you to 11. A nearby Clamvus pushes you up to 12, which is already 3-4 Leadership higher than most things in the game. If you dip into Tyranids, you can dial this up to 11 and take a Flying Hive Tyrant that knows The Horror, which imposes an additional -1 Leadership, making you effectively Leadership 13. Other than passing a couple fairly easy Psychic Tests and not having your Powers denied (which they will almost certainly be in deny range, so be mindful), you’re now just 1 Psychic Power away from killing any single model in the game.

    Since you’ll be easily beating your opponent by 3-5, you should be able to win more than a few roll off’s. Even something like a Space Marine Captain (Ld 9 Base) is likely to simply get one shot, since you’re beating your opponent by 4. Although you lose ties, you’re simply at such a huge advantage that you’re almost guaranteed to kill them before they can tie or beat you. Against base Leadership 8 or lower targets, it’s practically a kill regardless of their health. Even a large MONSTER is likely to get 100-0’d by this power if you are in full swing. The beautiful thing about this is that, by and large, you can simply opt into this power when you think that Onslaught is likely to be live, and not bother with it the games that it’s not. The Horror is a strong debuff on it’s own, regardless of synergy, and you get to pick your Warlord Traits and Psychic Powers on a game by game basis.

    This means that, unlike many other “gimmick” strategies, you don’t have to hamstring yourself in anyway to have this option on your tool belt. Plus, the payoff on this set up is a lot higher than other gimmicks, while also having far less points of failure. All in all, you really want to keep this combo in mind every game. As a final note, if you REALLY want to go all in on this strategy as part of your list, you can include a Locus (a model we don’t normally recommend), and use Lying In Wait to arrive within 6” of the target to apply his -1 Leadership debuff to the intended target. This can be particularly funny against Imperial Knights if you pull it off. For example, a Castellan is base Leadership 9. Full swing, your Patriarch is at Leadership 12, and the Castellan at 7. The Castellan player wins on ONE result out of 36 possible, and the other 35 he takes a Mortal and repeats. You have a good chance of doing most or all of it’s health in one go. Definitely priceless, if you can pull it off.

5. Psychic Stimulus: Stimulus has a Warp Charge Value of of 6 and a range of 18”. It allows you to buff a GENESTEALER CULT unit so that it can advance and charge, and also always strikes first in close combat. Generally speaking, your big melee bombs should not be charging across the table. Instead, they should be engaging your opponent with Cult Ambush + A Perfect Ambush to get right in the opponent’s face with their large threats. This makes Stimulus largely a pass, unless you feel that the always strikes first clause will be important.

6. Might From Beyond: Might has a Warp Charge Value Of 7 and a decent range of 18”. On a successful manifest, you can give one INFANTRY or BIKER unit +1 Strength and +1 attack. This is easily one of the strongest unit steroids in the game, and is balanced out by its very high Warp Charge Value. Note that on Aberrants with picks, you’ll get +2 attacks, one with a pick, one with a claw.

    All in all, GSC have an extremely powerful psychic discipline that functions somewhat like a toolbox. You usually have the right power for a given situation, as long as you adapt to your opponent’s list during game set-up.


GSC have a smaller Relic pool than some other armies, clocking in at only 8 generic Relics. However, many of them are very reasonable, which leaves you with choices on how many to take and how to use them. Interestingly, many relics behave far more as upgrades for a certain character rather than an optional upgrade to go on any character.
Icon Of The Cult Ascendant:  Effectively an upgrade for an Acolyte Iconward, the Icon causes your Iconward to broadcast an aura of +1 Strength. The Iconward is already a very efficient defensive upgrade for your army, and this Relic transforms him into an efficient offensive upgrade as well. If you take an Iconward, you’re almost certainly going to want this, especially against higher Toughness armies.
Sword Of The Voids Eye: There’s a lot of other armies that would kill to get access to this relic. It’s an upgrade for a Bonesword, which effectively means it’s an upgrade for a Primus only. However, it changes his rather unimpressive bonesword to a a Strength +2, Ap-3, Damage D3 weapon that re-rolls all failed to hit and wound rolls. Given that a Primus has a respectable 4 attacks, this upgrade pushes a Primus from a character that can’t do much in melee to someone that can go toe to toe with the likes of Chaos Lords and even Smash Captains. Defensively, you don’t have much in the way of saves, but 5 Wounds is reasonable and Unquestioning Loyalty is largely indistinguishable from something like an Iron Halo. All in all, if you have a Primus and think you’re going to want him to get dug into melee, this is a great relic.
Amulet Of The Voidwyrm:  The Amulet is kind of a strange relic. It provides the bearer with +1 to saving throws against shooting attacks and prevents the bearer from firing overwatch. On the one hand, denying Overwatch is great. On the other hand, the +1 to saving throws is pretty narrow. It does help a Patriarch from getting blown up by a stray meltagun or other high damage weapon on overwatch, but that’s pretty unlikely. Generally, this Relic is a pass as you have a lot of other good options.
    However, it does gain a lot of mileage against Tau in particular, as you will probably need the +1 to saves and denial of Overwatch to help you close the gap safely, since Tau overwatch can be almost as damaging as their regular shooting.
Scourge Of Distant Stars: This is another rather conditional Relic. It gives the bearer +1 to hit, which is basically only useful on an Abominant. In addition, the Relic causes any enemy unit that attacks them and rolls an unmodified 1 will suffer a Mortal Wound. The problem with this Relic is that you have access to a Primus for a +1 to hit, which you will probably be including. This means for the most part all you’re getting access to is the Mortal Wound effect, which isn’t very good unless you’re facing something like tons of Hordes. Against an Ork player, you could probably buff yourself up to a 4+ Feel No Pain using Monstrous Vigour and try to survive the onslaught of attacks and make the Ork horde kill themselves. This is rather suicidal still, but it’s the only way this Relic might be useful. Overall, it’s usually a hard pass.
Oppressor’s Bane: This is an upgrade for any Autopistol or Liberator Autostub. This makes it effectively only an upgrade for a Kellermorph, as it’s usually not worth taking on any other character that has an autopistol, and Liberator Autostubs are Kellermorph only. The Oppressor’s Bane is a significant improvement to the typical Autostub, as it makes one more shot and has a better AP. In addition, it gets to re-roll failed wound rolls. Between the Kellermorph’s ability to basically doublefire their pistols and the natural improvements of the Oppressor’s Bane, this Relic significantly improves the odds of killing an enemy Character in one salvo from a Kellermorph. If you’re taking one, this Relic is basically a must include. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Dagger Of Swift Sacrifice: This is an upgrade primarily intended for a Sanctus, although it can upgrade a Cultist Knife as well. It carries the same profile as the Sanctus Bio-Dagger, but it gains the ability to inflict D3 Mortal Wounds if the target survives. Overall, this relic simply isn’t very good. If you’re looking to assassinate characters, the Kellermorph is significantly better for the job, and more consistent. You should pretty much never be taking this Relic.
The Crouchling: Out of all the Relics you have at your disposal, The Crouchling is one you should never leave home without. It’s an upgrade for a familiar taken on any Psyker, and it provides the Psyker with +1 to cast and an extra power known, to boot. Many of the GSC Psychic Powers have very high Warp Charge Values, and the +1 significantly improves your odds of success while also making your powers harder to deny. The added utility in bonus powers known in addition to improved consistency from the +1 to cast is simply too good to pass up. Always take this.
The Gift From Beyond: This is an upgrade for any character with a Sniper Rifle, providing them with a static +2 to wound with their sniper rifle attacks, as long as they aren’t targeting a VEHICLE or TITANIC unit. Generally, we don’t recommend any units that can take a Sniper Rifle, as they are mostly inefficient options compared to other options in the codex. However, if you do feel like taking a Jackal Alpha or Sanctus, you can get some mileage out of a Sniper Rifle that hits on 2+ and wounds most targets on 2+. Definitely one of the more “fun” Relics in the Codex.

    Overall, how you take Relics is largely going to depend on how you build your list and the army that you’re facing. The only constant must have is The Crouchling, and from there you should be taking extra Relics as you deem necessary based on what you need.


    GSC have a reasonable Stratagem lineup at 19 generic options. Some of their Stratagems are very powerful and you’ll be using them constantly, others are good situational tools, and some are just simply not worth your CP. Although you’ll want at least 12 or 13 CP total to function nicely, you don’t get too much benefit for having more, at least compared to other Factions. 2 Battalions will usually be way more than enough.

Clandestine Goals(1 CP): This is one of two Stratagems that are extremely binary. They’re either absurd or literally unplayable. For 1CP, in a Maelstrom of War game, you can play with permanently hidden objectives. This is a huge advantage and completely worth using in 100% of your games with the Tactical Objectives rule. Otherwise, you literally can’t use it.

Lurk In The Shadows(2CP): This is almost an incredible Stratagem, almost. It allows you to give any GSC INFANTRY unit the same protection against being shot that Characters with less than 10 wounds have. However, it comes with the extra condition that the unit must be entirely within a terrain feature to benefit from this Stratagem. If you can plausibly get your big units inside of terrain without sacrificing too much in terms of your gameplan, this Stratagem can be really strong. However, it’s very difficult to line up. You won’t be able to use this every game, but sometimes things will line up and it’s worth dropping on your opponent.

They Came From Below…(1CP): This is either a decent Stratagem, or a down right broken Stratagem depending on how you play it. Baseline, it allows you to turn 3 blips into units that in ambush, which is kinda moot since you can just put them in ambush to start, and the 1CP for the minor amount of misdirection isn’t usually worth it. However, there is a way that it can enable charges Turn 1 from Reserves. It all hinges on if your local stores or events allow you to use this Stratagem in regards with the new FAQ.. The way this works is a tad elaborate, but it’s 100% legal from a Rules As Written perspective so you should have it at your disposal if your event or store is allowing this.

    The way it works is as follows: Per the new GSC FAQ, units deployed as a blip onto the table actually count as being deployed for the Tactical Reserves rule. Amongst other things, the Tactical Reserves rule is what prohibits players from placing units from Reserves onto the table on the first turn. However, the rule only prohibits you from placing units from Reserves onto the table during the first turn if the unit(s) in question were placed in Reserves during Deployment.

    Since They Came From Below is actually used during the game, this makes the three blips that you put into Ambush actually able to then be put right back on the table at the end of your first Movement Phase, since they weren’t placed in Reserves during Deployment. At this point, you can then drop the units on board Turn 1 and go from there. Currently, this leaves GSC as one of the only armies able to make a Turn 1 threat from Reserves, and they’re extremely threatening because of it. Just make sure you check with your local store or event on how they feel about this, since it’s somewhat of a “rules lawer”-esque play, and it will almost certainly make your opponent sour in a pick up game. As a quick final note, this Stratagem can be used to push the amount of units you have in Reserves over what you would normally be allowed, which is often  useful for really Ambush heavy lists.

Broodcoven(1CP): Occasionally, you’ll find yourself in situations where you wish you could have multiple Warlord Traits over different characters. If you have a Patriarch, Magus, and Primus, you can give your Magus a Warlord Trait and your Primus a Warlord Trait. This is often useful when used in conjunction with certain CREED specific Warlord Traits. Where applicable, we’ll mention this briefly in their Faction Focus.

Devoted Crew(1CP): Like many other armies, this is a stock Stratagem that lets you count yourself as being at your highest Wound Track on a GSC VEHICLE. If you have a badly damaged Leman Russ, this is possibly worth the CP. Otherwise, most of your Vehicles with Wound Tracks aren’t worth spending CP on.

Monstrous Vigour(2CP): This is honestly kind of an absurd Stratagem, especially if you have multiple targets for it. On the one hand, you have to declare this Stratagem at the start of your own turn, which is a bit awkward to time. On the flipside, it provides you with a +1 to your Bestial Vigour rolls on any ABERRANT unit (so, on Aberrants or the Abominant) until the start of your next turn. The fact that it’s live for your entire turn, and your opponent’s entire turn makes this an extremely CP efficient Stratagem as long as it’s used at the right time. Basically this is the definition of high risk, high reward.

Meticulous Uprising(1CP): This is easily your worst Stratagem. 1 CP to move some of your blips before you place units is simply a strictly worse version of Scanner Decoys, and there’s no situation where you would need this AND Scanner Decoys. Never use this.

Hyper-Metabolism(1CP): Another stock Stratagem, this allows you to recover D3 wounds off any GSC CHARACTER. However, at only 1CP, this Stratagem is actually useable. Usually you’re being charged 2, which is too much to pay for this kind of effect. At 1CP, it’s a great option to keep in mind.

Rigged To Blow(1CP): Once again, we have a generic stock Stratagem. For 1CP, you can force a VEHICLE to explode if it dies as long as it has a Cache of Demolition Charges. If you find yourself fufilling these conditions, 1CP to get D3 wounds on a few enemy units can be alright. Keep it in mind if it’s possible for you to activate it.

The First Curse(1CP): Purestrains are already a very powerful unit, and The First Curse pushes them up to 11. For only 1 CP, you get a random buff, all of which are highly desirable. Effectively on a D3, you either get +1 damage on wound rolls of 6+, +1 to Advance and Charge, or you go to a 4+ save but lose the ability to advance and charge. At first glance, the loss of Purestrains getting to Advance and Charge is pretty bad. However, Purestrains are going to be coming out from Cult Ambush along with A Perfect Ambush, which makes this potential loss negligible compared to the many possible gains. Plus, you can always take Psychic Stimulus to turn back on your ability to Advance and Charge to help further mitigate this loss. All around, this is a great Stratagem.

Cult Reinforcements(1CP): This lets you restore D6 models to any GSC TROOP unit. Honestly, your troops are mostly going to be Brood Brother Infantry Squads, and 1CP to recover 3 or 4 Guardsmen is just not a good use of CP. Easily a hard pass.

Detonate Concealed Explosives(2CP): This is a really awkward and weak Stratagem. For 2CP, you can attempt to (more or less) Smite a single enemy unit as long as you can pass a D6 check that’s based on the enemy unit you’re trying to Smite. Between the high cost and high failure rate, this Stratagem is a hard pass.

Scanner Decoys(1CP): We briefly touched on this Stratagem when discussing Cult Ambush. It’s effectively 1 CP for 3 additional blips from your Cult Ambush ability. The value of these extra blips decays with the more blips that you place on the table, but in general the extra options for moving your fire support around is worth the 1CP. Generally, you’ll be using this Stratagem in the pregame.

A Perfect Ambush(3CP): Most armies have a Stratagem or two that define them. For GSC, it’s A Perfect Ambush. Although it’s pricey at 3CP, this earns you a free D6 of movement when you deploy a unit from Reinforcements, or a free Shooting attack with that unit. 99.99% of the time you’ll be using this to move closer to the enemy, which in turn allows for high consistency charges. Keep in mind that this has some disgusting synergy with a Kellermorph along with Lying In Wait. You’re going to using this on Turn 2 and 3, possibly on 4 with use of Return To The Shadows.

Telepathic Summons(2CP): This is your extraordinarily binary Stratagem. In a Matched Play game, this Stratagem is effectively worthless, since it summons new units into play which you can only do if you are playing an army smaller than your game size. On the flip side, outside of Matched Play, you can ignore literally every other Stratagem on this list and dump all of your CP into Telepathic Summons every turn and bury your opponent in 3D6 Power Level of free Purestrains or Aberrants every turn. Over 6 turns, you’ll get somewhere in the realm of 1250 points or more of free units, which is absurd.

Return To The Shadows(1CP): This lets you remove a unit from the table and drop it in as Reinforcements on your next turn. There’s not a ton of uses for this Stratagem due to the changes to Cult Ambush. Sometimes pulling a unit back into Reserves for a reposition is worth the CP, especially if your opponent leaves their backfield open and you have a strong melee unit still on the table. Just remember that you can’t use it to pull a unit that’s very close or in melee with your opponent.

Lying In Wait(2CP): For the most part, this Stratagem is pretty bad. 2CP to place a unit from Reinforcements just outside of 3” instead of outside of 9” of your opponent in exchange for being unable to charge is almost certain death for the unit you drop in. However, it does have very good use with a few units, like the Kellermorph. You can still shoot with the unit that you deploy, which means that you can apply an absurd amount of pressure on your opponent’s softer characters. Although it costs 5 CP, you can drop a Kellermorph in with Lying In Wait and then use A Perfect Ambush to shoot your Kellermorph twice, likely scoring two CHARACTER kills and crippling your opponent’s army. There are a couple other combos with this Stratagem as well with other units, which will be covered in the unit analysis.
Extra Explosives(1CP): Continuing with the line of stock Stratagems, this lets you shoot Grenade weapons with up to 10 models in a given unit instead of 1. For the most part, this Stratagem isn’t that great, and usually isn’t worth using except out of a couple of unit specific combos.

Grandsire’s Gifts(1/3CP): Like every other army in the game, you get a Stratagem for bonus Relics. You’ll often be taking 1 extra, and occasionally might want 2 extra. Not much to say here.

    Overall, GSC have a decent range of Stratagems, although unfortunately some of them are very conditional or simply not worth using. The ones that are worth using however are extremely potent, and bring the army a lot of power and flexibility to pressure their opponents.

Specialist Detachment Analysis

    Vigilus opens up two specialist detachments for GSC, which we will briefly be going over if you would like to play with Vigilus. We’ll be taking quick snap shots at the options that these Specialist Detachments unlock, and if they’re worth including.

Anointed Throng: The Anointed Throng turns some already very powerful units into some of the most devastating units in the game. It affects Abominants and Aberrants, giving them access to multiple damage boosting Stratagems and a Warlord Trait that helps improve your charge ranges.

    Specifically, you have access to a 2CP Stratagem that lets you fight with any models that die in the Fight phase, even if they’ve already attacked, which is a really strong affect. In addition, you also get access to a 1CP Stratagem that lets you re-roll all failed wound rolls. Both of these Stratagems are simply incredible, and already make for a strong payoff.

    You also get access to a bonus Warlord Trait (which you can always access for just 1CP even if he’s not your Warlord) that causes your Warlord to broadcast a 6” aura of +1 to charge ranges for anyone from the Anointed Throng. GSC already have access to lots of ways to increase their charge ranges, and this just helps improve it by one more step. Finally, you have a decent relic in a buffed up Power Sledgehammer that drops the -1 to hit and goes up to ap-4, which is also not bad.

    All in all, the pay-offs for the Anointed Throng are very strong, and if you have the CP to spare, you’re going to consistently get some serious mileage from this Specialist Detachment. If you want to run this, consider running 2 units of Aberrants as a minimum to justify the CP spent. You’re also going to want a lot of CP between the usual GSC Stratagems and multiple uses of the Stratagems granted here.

Deliverance Broodsurge: This is definitely the less impactful of the two Specialist Detachments available to GSC, but it’s great to do a cool thematic army to build around if you’re a fan of Goliath Trucks and Acolytes/Neophytes. It gives you access to a decent damage buff along with a really thematic Stratagem to fly across the board and try to reach melee turn 1. Let’s dig into the particulars.

    On the Stratagem front, you have a 1CP Stratagem that gives a unit that made a successful charge +1 to wound. This is a huge boost to the damage potential of these units, since it offsets their lower strengths and causes successful rending attacks more often. In addition, you also get access to a 1CP Stratagem that lets you disembark from a Goliath Truck as long as you didn’t also embark into it this turn, even if the Goliath Truck has moved. You have to disembark more than 9” away from enemy models, and you have to roll a d6 for every model that disembarks. Each roll of a 1 kills a model. Despite these downsides, the pay-offs are fairly decent here.

    You also get a really useful Warlord Trait which allows you to re-roll all Advance and Charge rolls for anyone from the Specialist Detachment, which in turn will help you make those 9” charges. Of course GSC have other ways to get bonuses to charge distances, and they’ll be very useful alongside this affect. You also have a really stellar relic that’s an alternative to the Icon Of The Cult Ascendant. It’s still an upgrade for an Iconward only, but this Relic instead gives out +1 Leadership instead of +1 Strength. Normally, this isn’t as good except for Mental Onslaught combo shenanigans. To compensate for this, you also get a once per game buff to give a GSC character +2 attacks and +2 Strength. There’s a lot of good candidates for this, and although the buff only has a 3” range, it’s really solid.

    All in all, while not quite as good as the Anointed Throng and certainly not as up front with it’s usefulness, the Deliverance Broodsurge is still a reasonable option for anyone looking to do a more “human” GSC army that still packs a punch. It’s also highly desirable if you’re looking to use Mental Onslaught as a combo to remove big problem units, as it’s another +1 Leadership that your opponent can’t stop, or if you want to improve a single unit of Acolytes in your army to get that very sweet +1 to Wound Stratagem

Recommended Unit Analysis

    GSC have a rather lopsided set of units in their codex. Practically all of their HQ and Elite choices are highly playable, while their other entries are rather thin for highly playable options. In addition, the various rules and restrictions GSC have around CHARACTERS makes list construction a very difficult affair, but worth going through as GSC are incredibly potent when played at their full potential.

HQ’s: Patriarch, Magus, Acolyte Iconward, Abominant, Primus

Patriarch: The Patriarch is, as the name would suggest, the head honcho for any GSC player, and he’s borderline auto include. He gives +1 to hit to Purestrains, which can be redundant but in Purestrain heavy lists this will alleviate your need to bring a Primus. He also hands out an aura that causes you to automatically pass Morale Tests, knows 2 Psychic Powers and Casts 1, has a reasonable statline with some serious melee threat, AND opens you up to the Mental Onslaught psychic power combo. He has almost no downside, and should practically always be in your army. Always take 1 Familiar for The Crouchling, and if you have the points take 2.

Magus: The Magus is your default support caster. He knows 2 powers and casts 1 power, which is a tad weak for a 80 point model. However, he also causes nearby units to gain the ability to get a free Deny The Witch attempt if they’re the target of an enemy Psychic Power, which can be useful against debuff heavy Pysker armies. If you want more Psykers in your army, the Magus  is the way to go. If you have the points, take 1 Familiar to have access to an extra power when you need it.

Acolyte Iconward: The Iconward is a largely defensive model, designed to cut your casualties across a variety of metrics. He hands out a 6+ feel no pain roll to any GSC INFANTRY units, while also allowing you to re-roll failed Morale Tests in the same range. Finally, he allows Abominants and Aberrants to Re-roll 1’s on their Bestial Vigour rolls, which helps cut the damage these units receive slightly. In addition, the Iconward has a very good Relic in the Icon of the Cult Ascendant, making him a great performance enhancer in almost every phase of the game.

Abominant: This guy is your own personal Smash Captain, except he’s on steroids. Not only does he make Aberrants  better by making natural hit rolls of a 6 count as two hits (which also affects himself), but he’s swinging one of the most powerful melee weapons in the game. He has a lowish attack count and accuracy issues, but a nearby Primus can help here. He also penalizes enemy psychic tests which helps.
    Defensively, he’s all over the place. A 5+ save is pretty poor. However, he also has a 5+ to shrug off damage, he reduces all incoming damage by 1, and recovers D3 wounds a turn. For some armies, this guy will be a total pain to put in the ground. If you have even one unit of Aberrants, he’s a great inclusion.
Primus: The Primus is a great offensive support piece, albeit a straightforward one. He provides an aura of +1 to hit in the Fight phase and a aura of re-rolls of 1 to wound against a set enemy target. He’s another great inclusion to any list as a simple
force multiplier.
Troops: Brood Brothers Infantry Squad, Acolytes
Brood Brothers Infantry Squad: These guys are literally just Guardsmen with +1 Leadership and Unquestioning Loyalty. What’s not to love? At 4 points, they’re dirt cheap and they help raise your deployment count, which in turn lets you put more units in Cult Ambush. Keep them cheap, maybe just take a Mortar, and call it a day. These will be your bread and butter troop for filling out a detachment.
Acolytes: In general, Acolytes are just okay. Offensively they’re a weird halfway point between a Guardsmen and a Genestealer at 7 points, which is fairly efficient. The issue is that defensively they’re made of tissue paper, as they’re only T3 with a 5+. They have some game out of a Deliverance Broodsurge, but there is a funny combo with Lying In Wait.
     You can take up to 20 in a squad, and they can all take hand flamers. It’s going to be tight but in theory you can drop 20 in for 160 points and dump 20D6, or around ~70 auto hitting Strength 3 shots on something for 160 points. Not amazing, but super good against hordes.
Elites:Aberrants/Purestrain Genestealers/Acolyte Bomb, Clamavus, Kelermorph, Nexos

Aberrants/Genestealer/ Acolyte Bomb: Normally, we look at every unit individually in our recommended units section. However, these three units all fill very similar roles in a GSC army, each with their own pro’s and cons. Because of this, we’re going to be looking at these 3 units at the same time, along with their essential role in a GSC list. As we talked about in the Stratagem Analysis, A Perfect Ambush is the defining stratagem for GSC.

     It guarantees you a very high level of consistency with your charges out of Cult Ambush. This in turn should be used with large, expensive melee units (hereafter referred to as bombs) to get the most value out of your 3 Command Points being spent. When building your list, you’ll need to have two bombs in mind, one to bring in on Turn 2, and one to bring in on Turn 3. Which bombs you take will depend on what it is you’re looking for, and to some degree on which HQ choices you plan on bringing.

    First up, we have the Aberrant bomb. Aberrants are your biggest “heavy hitter”, and they combine well a Primus and an Abominant. Their base loadout leaves them making 2 strength 5 ap-2 D3 damage attacks and 2 Strength 5 AP-1 1 Damage attacks (with an opportunity to be AP-4). This is already a very flexible suite of attacks. With both supporting characters nearby, you’ll average about 12-13 damage against a typical Vehicle (Toughness 7, 3+ save), which should 100-0 your target. You can take a Heavy Power Hammer to become dedicated anti-big stuff, but this is generally not recommended since Aberrants are already reasonably effective against these targets, and you sacrifice your flexibility by taking the Power Hammer. Although you take Aberrants to be a bomb, their defensive capability can’t be understated. At 2 wounds, -1 damage, 5+ armor and a 5+ to shrug off damage, the baseline defense on an Aberrant is extremely high. There are very few weapons that are efficient against these lines of defense, which in turn makes them a pain for your opponent to try to remove. All in all, the Aberrant unit makes for your most points efficient bomb, both offensively and defensively. As a neat interaction, remember that Might From Beyond will let you make an extra Claw attack as well as an extra Pick attack, since every Pick attack yields a free Claw attack.

    Next, we have the Genestealer bomb. This is the quintessential “lawnmower” unit, as a full squad of Genestealers make a ridiculous 80 Strength 4 Ap-1 attacks, with a potential to become AP-4. They play very well with both a Primus or a Patriarch, which also means that they slot into lists easier. You only need one of these two HQ choices to push Purestrain Genestealers to their maximum, which is a perk that can’t be understated. With a nearby Patriarch, these guys will kill an average of 22 Space Marines, 38 or so Guardsmen, and even against an Imperial Knight you’ll typically strip around 11 wounds off (assuming full squad size). Throw in a Primus for re-rolling 1’s to wound and possibly Might From Beyond, and you have the most raw damaging unit possible.Just be careful, as a full unit of 20 is a pricey 300 points, and Genestealers can’t really take too much punishment. Toughness 4 and a 5+ invulnerable save says that you aren’t totally paper, but you’re definitely not Aberrants!

    Finally, there’s the Acolyte bomb, which is your budget/glass cannon option. Although we talked about these guys in the Troops section, they also get a mention here despite the fact they aren’t actually Elites. Offensively speaking, Acolytes are making 2 swings each at Strength 4 AP-1 1 Damage, with a chance to become AP-4, along with an extra Strength 4 AP 0 1 Damage attack. Unique to the Acolyte bomb is the option to take a Cult Icon, which lets you re-roll 1’s to hit. Combined with a Primus, these guys climb to practically a 100% hit rate.
    However, their overall damage potential is much lower than the other units, and defensively the Acolytes are made of wet tissue paper. The extra attacks with no AP help offset the fact you only get 2 attacks when fighting lightly armored hordes, but these swings will quickly drop off in value against more heavily armored opponents. All in all, the damage potential on Acolytes is extremely high for their cost of only 7 points, but their Toughness 3 and 5+ armor means that even a gunline punching back in melee is likely to kill a good chunk of your own unit. But, at 150 points for 20 and an Icon, you’re getting a lot for what you pay for. Also note that Acolyte bombs out of a Deliverance Broodsurge are extraordinarily scary.

    Generally, we recommend one unit of Purestrains and one unit of Aberrants  in a full list, but there’s nothing wrong with taking 2 units of Purestrains or 2 units of Aberrants. Your exact composition of bombs will depend on which HQ’s you wish to take, and vice versa, along with how much you want to spend. As long as you take a combination of high synergy HQ’s and bombs, you’ll be good to go.

    Clamavus: The Clamavus is a cheap support piece to help make your charges more consistent. For the most part, A Perfect Ambush is a 3d6 charge out of reserves, and we will simplify it to that for this discussion. To land a 9” charge on 3d6, you’ll succeed about 74% of the time. That’s pretty good, but it’s still a 1-in-4 failure rate. Adding +1 to the charge roll bumps this number up to 84%, and a CP re-roll on any of the 3d6 will make it practically a guarantee. You’re paying 3CP to help make your bombs get into melee, paying a simple 55 points to make it almost a guarantee is worth it.

    Kellermorph: This guy is insane, there’s no other way to put it. At only 50 points, you get a model that can push out 6 Strength 4 AP-1 Damage 2 attacks, and each hit makes another attack. Although these bonus attacks can’t cascade and make more bonuses, you’ll frequently be landing 10-12 hits on enemy units thanks to his Ballistic Skill of 2+. This is already extraordinarily efficient, and that’s before we consider The Oppressor’s Bane along with Lying In Wait. Oppressor’s Bane just drives your damage potential on this model up to 11, and Lying In Wait makes the Kellermorph unreasonably difficult to screen out for many lists without castling, which is then a problem with multiple bombs to screen and defend against as well. Take as many as you can, and 100% of the time you should always take one with The Oppressor’s Bane.

Nexos: This is a pretty straight forward model. GSC have a lot of good Stratagems, and they can ally with other armies who also have access to lots of good Stratagems. For only 50 points, you get a model to stand in a corner and generate you 6 CP during the course of a game, and maybe 1 or 2 more during game set up. If you’re playing with a Brigade, he’s probably not necessary. But any list made from a couple of Battalions is going to want a Nexos for the extra CP to use.

Fast Attack: Atalan Jackals

    Jackals are a very efficient and fast moving unit capable of harassing the enemy and chipping away at their front lines. At 10 points, it’s hard to complain about a T4 model with 2 Wounds that moves 14 inches, even though they only have a 5+ save. In general, we recommend keeping these guys dirt cheap and taking Shotguns. A squad of 10 will drop 20 Strength 3/4 shots, which isn’t a lot of firepower but it will clear screens and for 100 points it’s hard to complain. It should be noted that Jackals also have an extraordinarily strong combo with Extra Explosives. A 5 man unit with 5 Demolition Charges costs 75(!) points, and you get 5 D6 Strength 8 AP-3 D3 damage shots. Whoever you throw those at is going to die, unless it’s a horde of 40 models. Against a Vehicle, you’ll usually 100-0 or cripple it, since the average is 9.7 wounds. A unit or two of these are great just to get up close and frustrate your opponent while he deals the rest of your list.

    Heavy Support: Brood Brothers Heavy Weapons Teams

    These guy are one of your bread and butter units. As an army, GSC rely on getting up close and personal with the heart of the enemy in melee to score a victory. Most players will try to play around this by placing Infantry in your way. To solve this issue, you can take lots of Mortars. A team of 3 Mortars will drop 3d6 Strength 4 shots every turn, without needing line of sight, onto your enemy’s frontlines. 39 points is a steal for this much firepower over a course of a game. With 3 units of 3, you’ll get 31.5 attacks, ~16 hits, and 11 wounds against Toughness 3 Infantry. That’s a decent amount of saves to force your opponent to take every turn. You’ll want at least 2 teams of 3, and usually 3. You can take other weapon options, but the Mortar is by far the most efficient.


     GSC have a lot of considerations to make with their list construction between their potential allies, Vigilus, which bombs they will include, and which HQ’s to take. We’re going to look at a sample 2000 point list and how the list plays on the table, while also covering how the list answers these considerations.

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Tyranids – Genestealer Cults) [33 PL, 537pts, -1CP] ++

+ No Force Org Slot +

Stratagem: Grandsire’s Gifts [-1CP]: 1 Extra Sacred Relic

+ HQ +

Acolyte Iconward [3 PL, 53pts]

Primus [4 PL, 75pts]: Bonesword

+ Troops +

Acolyte Hybrids [11 PL, 150pts]: 19x Acolyte Hybrid, Cult Icon
. Acolyte Leader: Autopistol, Cultist Knife

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 47pts]: Brood Brothers Leader
. 7x Brood Brother
. Brood Brothers Weapons Team: Mortar

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 47pts]: Brood Brothers Leader
. 7x Brood Brother
. Brood Brothers Weapons Team: Mortar

+ Elites +

Clamavus [3 PL, 55pts]

Kelermorph [3 PL, 60pts]: Oppressor’s Bane

Nexos [3 PL, 50pts]

++ Brigade Detachment +12CP (Tyranids – Genestealer Cults) [90 PL, 1463pts, -1CP] ++

+ No Force Org Slot +

Specialist Detachment: Anointed Throng [-1CP]

+ HQ +

Abominant [6 PL, 105pts]

Magus [4 PL, 80pts]: Power: Mass Hypnosis, Power: Psychic Stimulus

Patriarch [8 PL, 137pts]: Familiar, Power: Mass Hypnosis, Power: Mental Onslaught, Power: Might From Beyond, The Crouchling, Warlord, Warlord Trait: Biomorph Adaptation

+ Troops +

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 47pts]: Brood Brothers Leader
. 7x Brood Brother
. Brood Brothers Weapons Team: Mortar

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 47pts]: Brood Brothers Leader
. 7x Brood Brother
. Brood Brothers Weapons Team: Mortar

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: 9x Brood Brother, Brood Brothers Leader

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: 9x Brood Brother, Brood Brothers Leader

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: 9x Brood Brother, Brood Brothers Leader

Brood Brothers Infantry Squad [3 PL, 40pts]: 9x Brood Brother, Brood Brothers Leader

+ Elites +

Aberrants [14 PL, 250pts]
. 10x Aberrant (Pick): 10x Power Pick

Kelermorph [3 PL, 60pts]

Purestrain Genestealers [16 PL, 300pts]: 20x Purestrain Genestealer

+ Fast Attack +

Atalan Jackals [6 PL, 75pts]
. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Demolition Charge, Shotgun
. Atalan Leader: Demolition Charge, Shotgun

Atalan Jackals [3 PL, 45pts]
. Atalan Jackal: Autopistol, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Autopistol, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Autopistol, Shotgun
. Atalan Leader: Demolition Charge, Shotgun

Atalan Jackals [3 PL, 40pts]
. Atalan Jackal: Autopistol, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Autopistol, Shotgun
. Atalan Jackal: Autopistol, Shotgun
. Atalan Leader: Autogun, Shotgun

+ Heavy Support +

Brood Brothers Heavy Weapons Squad [3 PL, 39pts]
. 3x Brood Brothers Weapons Team: 3x Mortar

Brood Brothers Heavy Weapons Squad [3 PL, 39pts]
. 3x Brood Brothers Weapons Team: 3x Mortar

Brood Brothers Heavy Weapons Squad [3 PL, 39pts]
. 3x Brood Brothers Weapons Team: 3x Mortar

++ Total: [123 PL, -2CP, 2000pts] ++

    This list combines a lot of the tools and combos we suggest into a well rounded package, and it brings the command points to make it happen.
To begin, the order that you do things in deployment is important. Your first deployment should always be your Nexos, since he can generate CP occasionally during deployment.
    From there, the Purestrains and every other CHARACTER go into reserves. In total, this is just under 1000 points and definitely less than half of your units, so you’re good there. Then you will want to place all of your Brood Brothers Infantry along with your Heavy Weapons Teams and Jackals. Finally, you’re going to hide your Aberrants and ideally your Acolytes. You don’t have the points to spend on blips because of all the Cult Ambush shenanigans you already have going on, but that’s okay.
    On the Stratagem front, you’re going to be spending 1 for Anointed Throng, 1 for Field Commander, 1 on The First Curse, and at least 1 for Gransire’s Gifts, and that’s just on the pre-game stratagems!
    Now that Deployment is done, let’s go over how this list wins the game. Your regular Brood Brothers Infantry should be looking to cover your backfield and midfield in bodies while you shell your opponent with 13 mortars a turn. Meanwhile, your Jackals move up the board to start harassing and clearing the enemy’s frontline. Try to play safe with the unit that has 5 Demo Charges, because you want them alive to get the most use out of Extra Explosives.
    Turn 2 is where the fun begins. Everything in Ambush gets put on the table aside from the Aberrant and the Kelermorph without Oppressors Bane. You’ll definitely be using Lying In Wait and A Perfect Ambush this turn. You’ll also want to use Return To The Shadows on your Aberrants so they can drop in next turn. At this point you should be able to hit a target with your Atalan Jackals that have Demolition Charges while your Purestrain Genestealers do their thing.
    Turn 3, your Aberrants and remaining reinforcements show up and your remaining Brood Brothers Infantry should start walking up board. If the Acolytes are alive and well, you can have them Return To The Shadows for a turn 4 Acolyte bomb now that your opponent is likely low on threats to close out the game. As an added bonus, your Kelermorphs should be able to wreak havoc  since your opponent has so many other threats to address.
    All in all this is a very trick heavy list with lots of model manipulation and opportunities to outmaneuver your opponent. It uses a ton of Stratagems and CP, but 20 to start and 6 more earned throughout a game should keep you above water, even with the Anointed Throng added on.
    That completes our guide on Genestealer Cults. With all the information and tactics at your disposal, you should have no problem crushing your oppressors in the name of the Grandsire at all your Nights At The Game Table. Make sure to check out our other guides on Cult specific tactics and how to ally with Tyranids and Astra Militarum.
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Thanks to Games Workshop for the images used in the article.

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