Codex: Space Marines Review Part 5 – Relics

Greetings, fellow paragons of virility! And welcome to this latest installment of our review of the new Space Marines Codex! Today, we look at the Relics, both generic and Chapter-specific ones. Much like the Chapter Tactics and Warlord Traits, the quality of the Relics varies greatly, unfortunately. I reiterate that a bit more attention being paid to their design would have largely avoided this issue. But looks like New GW is still somewhat Old GW…

It’s worth mentioning as well that when I say something is bad, it’s not always an issue of the item in question being objectively bad. Rather, it is oftentimes a question of opportunity cost. Indeed, the Relic (or whatever else I’m talking about) might be perfectly fine if you compare it to nothing else, but when your analysis begins to take into account the fact that selecting one Relic prevents you from taking another one, you really need to start comparing your options to get a more complete idea of the real value of your pick. It would have been useful to state this in one of my earlier articles, I now realise, but I just didn’t think of it at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say…

Generic Relics

  • The Armour Indomitus – Gives you a 2+ armour save and a 3++ for a turn. Given that this is the only way to get Artificer Armour on a non-named Character now, the value of this Relic is much greater than it was in 7th edition. Especially valuable for a Librarian, who have no other way of getting an invulnerable save outside of Terminator Armour.
  • The Shield Eternal – Gives a Storm/Combat Shield-bearing Character a 3++ and halves all damage against him (rounding up). Especially useful for a Captain intent on taking out big gribblies as he will be far tougher for said gribblies to take down. Pair up with a Thunderhammer and go nuts!
  • Standard of the Emperor Ascendant – Improves the Ancients’ special ability by 1, makes every friendly unit within 6 inches immune to Morale and decreases the Ld of enemy units within 6 inches by 1. Used to support the right list, this Relic is very potent. A Devastator gunline is going to love this Relic!
  • Teeth of Terra – Essentially turns a Chainsword into a 2D Power Axe giving D3 bonus attacks. Fun fact: in the hands of a Captain, the Teeth of Terra equals or outperforms the Burning Blade against almost all opponents, given average rolls (due to the extra attacks and Damage).
  • The Primarch’s Wrath – A S5 Ap -2 2D Storm Bolter, basically. Not bad. If you’re going with a more gunline-oriented list, where your Characters will be hiding behind a lot of bodies (and thus unlikely to maximise their use of defensive Relics) and you’re not bringing a Company Ancient, you could do worse than picking this Relic.
  • The Burning Blade – A S+2 Ap -5 Power Sword. As mentioned above, the Teeth of Terra is an overall better pick due to the additional attacks and 2D.
  • Tome of Malcador – Librarian knows an extra Librarius spell. This only allows you to know one more spell, not cast an extra one too, so you really need to think long and hard if you want to spend your Relic allocation on this. There may be times where it’s worth it, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that these will be rare.

Chapter-Specific Relics

  • The Sanctic Halo (Ultramarines) – Gives a Captain a 3++ and allows him to try to dispel one Psychic Power a turn. The Smurf love continues with this great Relic. Not only does it make your Captain (which will often be your Warlord) harder to kill, it turns him into half a Librarian! Easily one of the best Relics.
  • The Spartean (Imperial Fists) – A 2 shot, Ap -1 2D Bolt Pistol that allows you to target Characters. Really? The Fist hate continues as well, it seems… The ability to target Characters is nice, but at 12 inches, it’s a lot less significant than some other ability could/would have been…
  • The Crusader’s Helm (Black Templars) – Improves the range of Aura abilities by 3 inches. Not bad at all! Allows you to increase your army’s board coverage without sacrificing those yummy rerolls.
  • Raven’s Fury (Raven Guard) – Allows a Jump Pack Character to reroll failed charges and allows Charge moves even after Advancing. Meh. If you want a Raven Guard Jump Pack Character that can reliably get charges off, why not just go with Shrike (winner of the “Most Improved” award for a 8th ed SM Char)?
  • The Salamander’s Mantle (Salamanders) – Character gains +1 Toughness. Toughness boosts are a lot less significant than they were in 7th, given how the Wound Chart functions – a bolter might be wounding you on 5s now, and a Heavy Bolter on 4s, but a Lasgun still wounds you on 5s, and an Assault Cannon still wounds you on 3s. The Armour Indomitus will likely do a lot more to help keep you alive than this Relic will.
  • The Axe of Medusa (Iron Hands) – Basically a cheap and less random (straight 2D instead of D3D) Relic Blade. Better than the Teeth of Terra against multiwound models but worse against single-wound ones.
  • The Fist of Vengeance (Crimson Fists) – In effect, a cheaper, better Thunder Hammer (no To Hit penalty). Doubtful this is worth passing up on some of the other Relics.
  • Mantle of the Stormseer (White Scars) – Psykers gain a +1 bonus to casting Smite. Nothing to sneer at – Smite is a good power and casting it more easily is nice.

The standouts, to me, are the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant, the Sanctic Halo and the Crusader’s Helm, with honourable mentions going to the Armour Indomitus, the Shield Eternal and the Mantle of the  Stormseer.

As with your Warlord Trait, you should plan ahead when designing your list to really make the most of your Relic. The best example is the Standard – if your army features mostly Tactical Squads, you’re not going to get the most bang for your buck. Even if you manage to get the special ability to trigger a ton of times, it’s not going to matter too much – bolters are not exactly the scariest weapons in all of 40k-dom. Devastators, however… that is going to be a different story. Likewise, there’s little point in selecting the Teeth of Terra for a Raven Guard Captain playing support for a gunline; the Primarch’s Wrath is likely going to be a more sensible choice, as you’ll be able to get more mileage out of it. Unfortunately, unlike Warlord Traits (and unlike how I thought Relics worked at first), you must select your Relic during the list-writing stage. Having the ability to select upon knowing your opponent’s army’s composition would have been a great boon, as you’d have been able to tailor to maximise the effectiveness of your list. Alas, it was not to be!

Some quick and dirty guidelines to help your decision-making process (already alluded to a lot of this but worth repeating):

  • Gunline army with lots of heavily-army Infantry: go with the Standard.
  • Gunline army playing on Defenders of Humanity (Tactical-heavy): Sanctic Halo/Crusader Helm for Ultras/BT, Primarch’s Wrath or Armour Indomitus for everyone else.
  • Assault army with lots of power weapon-equipped Infantry: again, the Standard.
  • Assault army with more run-of-the-mill fighters: the Armour Indomitus or the Shield Eternal, possibly the Mantle if you’re White Scars and have a Libby. The Helm if you’re BT is also a good pick here.

While I like the Teeth quite a bit, it prevents you from taking the Armour or the Shield; and while the Teeth can easily be replaced by a Thunder Hammer, the two defensive Relics actually bring something unique that cannot be replaced by “generic” upgrades (to an extent, you could replace the Armour Indomitus with Terminator Armour, but then you’re not riding in Razorbacks or using a Jump Pack, which can be problematic depending on your list).

UPDATE: As Craig reminded me in the comments, it’s worth spending a second to discuss the Relics of the Chapter Stratagem. If you’re willing to set aside a Command Point for it (or 3 to get two Relics), you can play around with your force a bit and include some of the more situational Relics. For example: let’s say we have an Ultramarine army featuring a Captain, Lieutenant, Company Ancient and a bunch of Devastators supplemented by Razorbacks and whatnot. During the list-writting stage, I select the excellent Standard of the Emperor Ascendant Relic to increase the chance my Devastators will go down firing a hail of righteous fury at their killers. As I come up against my adversary, I realise he is bringing a ton of Psykers. Since I didn’t give my Captain any Relics during list-writting, I am now able to spend a CP to activate Relics of the Chapter and give him the Sanctic Halo, thus giving me a bit of a better chance to mitigate the impact of my opponent’s wyrds. If I was playing a more DoH-oriented list without an Ancient and with Tacticals instead of Devastators, I would likely make my Lieutenant the Warlord, give him the Armour Indomitus (to help him stay alive and thus deny Slay the Warlord to my opponent) and thus still be able to give my Captain the Halo if necessary.

That’s it for now, beloveds. Until next time!

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27 responses to Codex: Space Marines Review Part 5 – Relics

I think the big reason that Teeth of Terra outperforms the Burning Blade is that it's Dmg2, which means against anything even vaguely tough it has a far higher output. The bonus attacks help a lot too, of course.

I think when I ran the numbers, I ran them against single-wound dudes, so yeah it's even better when fighting multi-wound models.

The Teeth of Terra is (are?) pretty outstanding. It outperforms a Thunderhammer against all but the high T opponents (e.g., vehicles, monsters). The Fist of Vengeance is a premiere weapon too. 20% better than a TH for the big stuff. Not sure it should be overlooked if you play Crimson Fists.

The Teeth of Terra is a single item, despite having a plural in its title, so it should be referred to in the singular. Think of something like the 1954 film, ‘Seven Samurai.’ Younwould say “‘Seven Samurai’ is a film directed by Akira Kurosawa.” and not “‘Seven Samurai’ are a film…”

Remember there’s also the stratagem which allows you to take an extra relic for a command point, not on the same character but could be useful for a second HQ and I’m assuming the command point cost means you can pick it at the beginning of the battle or skip it if you don’t feel it would help, unless I’ve missed something there. You could give shield eternal to captain and armour indomitus to librarian for example. Also I might have misremembered this but isn’t the shield also available to chars with a combat shield? Not many admittedly but you could use it with the stratagem to throw the shield onto one of the champions upgrading him from a 5++ to a 3++. Hell if you’re awash with command points you might even replace the chainsword on an apothecary with the teeth of terra just for lulz, though that’d make him an even bigger target of course.

You’re allowed to spend command points before the battle begins so that’s where that stratagem would kick in.

Good point about the Stratagem; will g back and add a bit on that.

You are also right that a Char with a combat shield can have the Shield Eternal, but I think that’s only the Champion that has the option, and I try to forget that he even exists lol

I think Relics need to be evaluated by two separate metrics: ones that you select at the list building stage and plan your games on the assumption that they will be there and those more situational ones that you get if needed via the stratagem.

The Primarch’s Wrath, for many army lists, is probably a part of that second category. Build your list with, say, a Captain wearing the Armour Indomitus. But find yourself matched up against an enemy with lots of W2 infantry? Spend a CP and upgrade your Librarian’s storm bolter to the Primarch’s Wrath.

I believe the rule is going to be, at least at GW official tournaments (and others will follow their lead) that stratagems of that kind have to be written into the list. The one that makes captains grandmasters also.

The only thing that annoys me about it is that a Captain and Lieutenant have to pay for a master-crafted Bolter to get it, and my list are so tight on points that I never have those 3 (?) pts needed.

I find that the hardest restriction isn’t the point cost, it’s the opportunity cost. A model has to have the basic version of the Relic in question, so if you think you might maybe possibly give someone the Teeth of Terra, then they must have a chainsword already…

"If you want a Raven Guard Jump Pack Character that can reliably get charges off, why not just go with Shrike (winner of the “Most Improved” award for a 8th ed SM Char)?"

Because you can only have one Shrike, and this gives you access to a second HQ that can advance, re-roll charges (after deep striking too), and could take the "No overwatch" warlord trait to give the rest of your units a chance at getting stuck in without having to eat any plasma.

Right, but you can just Deep Strike your other Char that is also your Warlord next to Shrike so he gets the reroll charge bonus and doesn't have to "waste" a Relic allocation on the jump pack…

But that requires your enemy to have bunched all useful charge-targets in a relatively small area; anyone who sees a bunch of RG jump pack units getting ready for deployment is probably going to spread out a bit, to limit the RG player's ability to threaten multiple vital points at once. Having a second, reliable deep strike charger in the army plus whatever is accompanying Shrike offers the option to engage across a wider front.

Oh definitely. I can see the value in a captain with the RG relic tooled for combat, maybe TH/SS or something to handle the really tough nuts that Shrike can't crack, but I don't see why you'd ever give him the warlord trait over Shrike. If you're using the RG trait Shrike's the best beneficiary for it, and if you're not using Shrike as your warlord the generic traits give better options.

The thing is, giving Shrike the Warlord Trait is going to be bad because he can’ t use it if you also want to use his charge range reroll aura ability. So you would be better off having a second Char be your Warlord, drop him next to Shrike so he can use his aura to reliably get the charge off to go deny the enemy Overwatch. Give said Char the Shield Eternal and a Thunderhammer to handle the big nasties.

That's a fair point, sure. Shrike being the warlord improves his own resilience, but makes him incapable of serving as an overwatch-soak for others.

On the other hand, charging Shrike and a close combat squad into the same target feels like overkill? If it's not a super-hard target Shrike should be able to chew things up well enough himself, and if it is a super-hard target he shouldn't be going in there in the first place. Engage across the widest front! Maximize enemy unit disruption!

Salamanders Chapter Tactics plus Standard of the Emperor Ascendant could be a really surprising combo. Sally tactics RAW says you get the re-roll to hit and wound every time the unit fires or fights. Activating the Standard Bearer ‘revenge’ attack is a separate attempt to fire for each casualty. So, park him with Devastators or Hammernators and every casualty will get to attack again with a reroll to hit and wound. That’s a deadly revenge tactic.