My Tactics pledge: I am not the greatest player, nor a seal pup. I will endeavor to speak from my experience and always be honest about what is theory and what is play tested. Never will I assume to know better than anyone else... unless I must call out ego or pretension.
Thousand Sons are one of the most durable units in the game. They can walk across the battlefield without a worry of being in cover, they can tie up most units in assault, and they don't run away from a fight. The only question (ever) concerning the Thousand Sons, is can you justify the points cost?
At first glance you won't see much difference between the old and new Thousand Sons rules. To refresh your memory here is a side by side comparison between 6th and 4th edition codexes. (Click to Enlarge)
So what has changed between editions?
- Removal of Sorcerer Commands
- Psychic Power Change
- Access to Icon of Flame
- Access to Gift of Mutation
- Increased Leadership 9-10
--Automated to Kill--
The removal of Sorcerer Commands only helps Thousand Sons. It was one of those things that rarely came into play, but thankfully Phil Kelly didn't see fit to keep it in, only to change it to something else more annoying. It is good to know that soulless killing machines can perform even without their masters.
--Random as the Rubric--
No longer do Aspiring Sorcerers buy powers, now they roll on the Tzeentch powers table for free. This is one of the better changes to the Thousand Sons. The only draw back is you must choose from only Tzeentch powers. Aspiring Sorcerers are only Mastery Level 1, so you will only ever see three different powers-- each providing different uses.
--A Token of my Burning Affection--
As I mentioned in my Chaos Space Marine review, I felt the Icon of Flame was pretty pointless. With the Thousand Sons however it does have a redeeming quality. One of the things Thousand Sons hate are horde units; typically Thousand Sons just don't have enough shots to deal with them. This is where Soul Blaze comes in, it gives your units a chance to cause more damage and combined with Tzeentch's Firestorm you really can cull the herd. This may not be the best use of points, but it sure is fun.
--An extra Tentacle Keeps the Doctor Away--
Gift of mutation, another one of those upgrades I find pointless, but in the hands of the Thousand Sons it can prove entertaining. Like Icon of Flame, buying this upgrade is best used in concert with another Psychic Power: Boon of Mutation. Now granted you can kill your own Sorcerer, then there is the chance you will be turned into a spawn, but where is the fun in that? Add in the Boons you get from winning challenges, and you can really start to rack up the favor of the Gods.
--Don't turn down a good Leader--
This is one of those head scratches, but you can only assumed it made fluff sense for Thousand Sons to all have Leadership 10 instead of just the Champion. I guess you will be thankful when Terrified.
The real 1k difference makers.
As I alluded to, the real big changes came earlier for the Thousand Sons. 6th edition boosted Thousand Sons with the changes to Fearless and Cover saves.
Fearless: Before tarpiting with Thousand Sons could be a dicey situation with how Fearless worked in 5th. Now you can take large Thousand Sons squads and feel secure that even rolling badly you won't get finished off by having to take even more saves. The Fearless changes also protects attached characters from taking extra Fearless wounds if combat goes south. It really makes them the Wraithguard of the Chaos Space Marine army.
Cover Saves: With 5+ cover now the standard instead of 4+ this is an amazing boon for Thousand Sons units. Even with a great weapon like Inferno bolts, often times people would easily shrug off the AP3 because of easy to get cover saves. Now even with ways to boost a cover save, it becomes a much harder prospect and catching your opponent out in the open is much easier. 1 in 3 chances is much preferable to 1 in 2 chance your opponent is going to make his save.
Conversely, the changes to Slow and Purposeful are a minor drag. Now being able to Overwatch is a problem as is not having Run decreases the over usefulness of the Thousand Sons.
The changes over all makes Thousand Sons a very viable option on the battlefield.
Large or small, Thousand Sons can hold up large swaths of territory creating an impressive 24" bubble. The lengths in which opponents avoid this unit is amazing. Only against horde armies do Thousand Sons have real problems, unless you counter with horde Thousand Sons. If you are running a Tzeentch centric army consider two Thousand Sons units at most --one blob or two for the flanks. Thousand Sons do lack anti-tank, so leaving points to compensate is paramount. Having a few Cultist units is a good way to lighten the load for the investment in Thousand Sons.
Thousand Sons are great support units, escort units, screening units, and scoring units. Their point cost is the only thing that holds them back from the top tier.
--Ways to play Thousand Sons--
Death Star Configuration: 357 pts 14-man Thousand Sons unit with no upgrades. A Thousand Sons death star is a glorified Character delivery system. Tzeentch characters are fairly cheap so consider bring two Chaos Sorcerers and two allied Heralds of Tzeentch running near and you have a something special.
Balanced Configuration: 320 pts 10-man Thousand Sons unit with Icon of Flame, Tzeentch's Firestorm Primaris Power, Rhino w/Dirge caster. Drive up, unload, decimate. This is the classic use of the Thousand Sons, but now with an extra flamey punch. Even consider assaulting units if necessary using the Rhino's Dirge Caster to stop Overwatch.
MSU Configuration: 185 pts 5-man Thousand Sons unit with Rhino. Sit back claim objectives and hope for Doombolt for an extra punch. Nothing fancy with this unit, should only be used if you plan on going with all Tzeentch force.
Horde Configuration: 487 pts 19-man Thousand Sons unit with Melta bombs, Gift of Mutation. Hope for Boon of Mutation psychic power and let the fun begin. With such a large unit the random loss of your Aspiring Sorcerer is mitigated. Holding your deployment zone with this unit will keep back most units that approach and gives you time to rack up those chaos boons.
A Word about Allies
Thousand Sons are complemented well by certain allies, Imperial Guard or Deamons for instance.
For Deamons adding Tzeentch Hearlds is just nasty. With Wind of Chaos and Doombolt Tzeentch Heralds can take out vehicles and hordes alike. Add two Hearlds, one Flamer unit, and one Screamer unit all for around 500 pts gives you all the anti-tank you need, plus keeps things very fluffy.
Thousand Sons suffer from not only poor tank busting, but no real way to take out 2+ armor. So for Traitor Guard use Meltaguns or Plasmaguns Veterans and a Leman Russ squadron to compensate. Fluff wise looking into the Spireguard when designing that Traitor legion.
Remember unlike other Battle Brothers Daemons ICs cannot join with Chaos Space Marine units under any situation.
Overall, Thousand Sons are a great scare tactic, and with the heavy MEQ meta makes most opponents really squirm. Don't be afraid to invest in unit or two of Thousand Sons you should be happy with the results.