Codex: Thousand Sons
All is Dust
Guide by Wraith, with thanks to Cheesegear and LeSwordfish.
Note: There are some notable cross-overs between Codex: Thousand Sons and Codex: Chaos Space Marines and Codex: Chaos Daemons. LeSwordfish wrote a guide about the Chaos Marines stuff, and Chaos Daemons are pretty hot on the Tournament scene right now (Spring 2019) so if you need a second opinion then by all means take a look or feel free to ask questions in the thread.
Spoiler: Universal Rules
Sons of Magnus – Thousand Sons Detachments
If your army is Battle-forged, you gain the following special rules:
Brotherhood of Sorcerers: All of your Psykers’ Powers have +6” range. Handy, given how often you might be Teleporting various units about the place and need to keep up with them.
Disciples of Tzeentch: Objective Secured. Is what it is.
Death to the False Emperor: If you roll 6+ to hit in melee against an <IMPERIAL> enemy, roll to hit again. A nice perk if it goes off, but you have far less DthFE units than your Codex Chaos Marines counterparts, and those you do have tend not to want melee so it probably won’t come up all that much.
Daemonic Ritual: Instead of moving, a <THOUSAND SONS><CHARACTER> can summon a <TZEENTCH><DAEMON> unit that has the Daemonic Ritual rule and whose Power Rating is equal to or lower than 3d6. The Summoner takes Mortal Wounds for doubles and triples. This is NOT a Psychic Power, so every eligible <PSYKER><CHARACTER> (Scarab Occult Sorcerers, Rubric Sorcerers and Iridescent Horrors are NOT characters, remember) in your army can do both every turn, so long as you’ve budgeted for it.
Cheesegear: Remember that you're not just limited to the Daemons found in the Sons' book. Summoning also doesn't count as 'arriving from Reinforcements', so you can do it on Turn 1, and after Turn 3. Summoning can be a huge tactical advantage when used correctly. However, Summoning what units, when, basically needs a Guide all to itself.
Spoiler: Artifacts of the Thousand Sons
If you have a <THOUSAND SONS> Warlord, one of the following may be given to a <THOUSAND SONS> <CHARACTER>. They may not be given to named Characters.
Seer’s Bane: Replaces a Force/Power Sword; Strength is Doubled against Psykers and units with LD9 or higher. Your Warlord should be the Daemon Prince, who can’t have it.
Dark Matter Crystal: Once per battle, the bearer or a friendly unit within 12” can Set Up Anywhere (SUA) 9" or further away from an enemy unit. Mobility wins games. Hordes wins games. Highly-mobile blobs of 30 Tzaangors is nightmare fuel, whether you’re Turn 1 Deep Striking into someone’s face or dropping onto an objective in the dying moments of the game.
Helm of the Third Eye: If you’re Battle-forged and not in reserve, gain a CP on 5+ whenever your opponent uses a Stratagem. Very popular in tournaments, as you don’t have many other ways of regenerating CPs, and can occasionally be the deciding factor for an opponent who might-or-might-not use an ability this turn.
Coruscator: Replaces an Inferno Bolt-Pistol with a somewhat better Inferno Bolt-Pistol. Not worth the price tag.
Athenaean Scrolls: If you roll a double for a Psychic Test, the power cannot be Deny’d. You’re going to be spamming so many powers that 1 or 2 per game (on average) won’t be THAT big of a deal.
The Prismatic Staff: Replaces a Force Stave. You hit a bit harder in melee and can then Shoot and Charge in the same turn in which you Fell Back. While a nice ability, it just doesn’t hit hard enough to really justify taking the Stave over a Sword.
Cheesegear: DMC and Helm are the only two Relics worth having. If you're running two or three Battalions of Tzaangors, you have enough CPs for a second Artefact.
Spoiler: Warlord Traits
Arrogance of Aeons: Re-roll failed Deny the Witch tests. Few armies have no Psykers so you can at least say that much, but even fewer have as many Psykers as you do. If you’re that insecure about dominating the Psychic Phase, one extra reroll probably won’t make you feel much better.
Undying Form: Reduce all damage done to your Warlord by 1, to a minimum of 1. Not awful on a Daemon Prince, but it’s always a gamble between this and not taking ANY damage with 3++. Do you feel lucky?
Aetherstride: Your Warlord can Advance and Charge in the same turn, as well as rerolling failed charges. Not one for the Sorcerers – while not completely craven in melee, they have far better places to be.
Lord of Forbidden Lore: You know 1 extra power. Taking this as the toolbox approach can save you Command Points instead of spending them on Chaos Familiar, but the latter doesn’t lock you into a choice from Turn 1. Eh.
Otherworldly Prescience: Your Invulnerable Save increases by +1. Most missions have Slay the Warlord, and the difference between 4++ and 3++ is big, so it’s always a strong contender.
High Magister: +1 to all your Psychic Tests. Popular on the tournament scene; you’re going to use a lot of Psychic Powers, so you might as well make them reliable. Strong choice.
Cheesegear: High Magister is the good one. It just gives you that leg up you need on your opponents' Denies, and helps your Warlord cast some of the harder Powers (e.g; Doombolt)
Spoiler: Psychic Powers
Remember; Brotherhood of Sorcerers adds 6” to all of your ranges.
Smite: Every Psyker in your army knows Smite, but most of the non<CHARACTER>s only know the hobbled version, just like the Grey Knights. Fortunately, you have access to a bigger variety of alternatives so it’s really not that big of a problem, but it’s worth remembering the exceptions (including Pink Horrors).
That being said, every <CHARACTER> who knows Smite also knows another power that causes Mortal Wounds as well – if you want to double-down and throw out 30+ Mortal Wounds per turn, then you can because Smite always casts on at least 5+. There’s *maybe* one or two armies in the game that can hope to even try to stop you, and thus is how you’re going to stay competitive in the <KNIGHT>s’ meta.
Discipline of Change:
Tzeentch’s Firestorm (WC7): Similar to Infernal Gaze but harder to cast and likely to yield similar results (~1.5 Mortal Wounds). Your Rubric Sorcerers could take it, but your Characters will prefer the Gaze.
Boon of Mutation (WC7): A friendly non-<DAEMON> <CHARACTER> within 3” of the caster rolls on the random Boon table. Everything but Double 1 is a benefit and it saves you the Command Point of using the stratagem, but it’s random and you have way better things to do.
Glamour of Tzeentch (WC7): Pick a friendly unit within 12”: your opponent gets -1 to hit them in the shooting phase. Excellent for keeping your expensive MSUs and objective-sitting blobs that much tougher to kill.
Doombolt (WC9): Victim within 18” takes d3 Mortal Wounds, halves it’s movement and cannot advance. Expensive to cast but can shut down an imminent charge from your opponent. Give it to someone who has +2 to their casting, like Magnus, or possibly combine it with Gaze of Fate for a reroll.
Temporal Manipulation (WC6): Target within 12” heals d3 wounds. The obvious recipient for this is Magnus, but bear in mind that it specifies models, not creatures, so it works on Predators, Defilers and the rest of them too. The more of them you have, the more useful this power becomes.
Weaver of Fates (WC6): Target unit within 18” gets +1 to their invulnerable save. So, pretty much anything in your army that isn’t a Vehicle, and they get 5++ instead. Excellent, combos with Glamour of Tzeentch to really make sure that objective remains in your hands. Your big targets like Magnus and Daemon Prince appreciate it, too.
Dark Hereticus Discipline:
Infernal Gaze (WC5): An enemy unit within 18” rolls 3 dice; any that show 4+ cause a Mortal Wound. On paper it’s less reliable than Smite, but it doesn’t have to target the nearest unit. Use both and hope to roll high for best results, I guess?
Death Hex (WC8): One enemy unit within 12” cannot take invulnerable saves. Some people have called this one of the best powers in the game – I’m inclined to agree.
Gift of Chaos (WC6): One target model takes a Toughness test or suffers d3+3 Mortal Wounds, and it turns into a Chaos Spawn if it dies. Thousand Sons make it work by having 12” range instead of 6”, but most things will ignore it on less than 5+; do you feel lucky enough to keep winning Save-or-Die effects? If not, Gaze them instead.
Prescience (WC7): An <HERETIC ASTARTES> unit within 18” of the caster gets +1 to hit. Unfortunately Thousand Sons have less Astartes to aim at, so unless you ally in something like Havoks it’s not nearly as reliable as its Codex Chaos Marines’ counterparts. Then again, 20 Rubric Marines with two Soulreaper Cannons can make a hell of a mess, if you’re willing to pay for them.
Diabolic Strength (WC6): An <HERETIC ASTARTES> model within 12” gains +2S and +1A. Daemon Princes like it, Magnus isn’t so interested as he already wounds most things on 2’s.
Warptime (WC6): A friendly <HERETIC ASTARTES> unit within 3” gets to move again. Another contender for “best in the game” since this time it does reliably target Tzaangors (who are <HERETIC ASTARTES> but aren’t Heretic Astartes, but whatever), and moving big units around quickly is a huge deal.
Discipline of Tzeentch:
Boon of Change (WC): A friendly <TZEENTCH><DAEMON> unit within 18” gains +1 Attack, Strength or Toughness. If you’ve chosen Horrors over Tzaangors then it’s pretty good, but that’s not an automatic assumption. Daemon Princes can combo it with Diablolic Strength and go nuts, if they want to.
Bolt of Change (WC9): An enemy unit within 18” takes d3 Mortal Wounds, and creates a Spawn if it’s a <CHARACTER> who subsequently dies from it. Harder to cast than Infernal Gaze but statistically more reliable in how many wounds it causes, so it’s another way to spam MW’s if that’s what you want to do. The errata changes this back to WC8, which is a lot more fun for everyone involved.
Gaze of Fate (WC6): You gain a free reroll for the rest of the turn. Why wouldn’t you do this every turn? It’s great, and THEN you have the same thing available as a 1CP stratagem too if you really, really need it.
Treason of Tzeentch (WC8): An enemy <CHARACTER> within 18” has to roll equal to or under their Leadership on 2d6; if they fail, they fight for you in your Shooting, Charge and Fight Phases this turn. Difficult to cast and usually unlikely to go off, you’ll be disappointed more often than not. Although <KNIGHTS> are very common and they can be <CHARACTERS> too, if you’re feeling lucky; Leadership 9 fails 1 time in every 6 rolls….
Flickering Flames (WC5): A friendly <TZEENTCH DAEMON> unit within 18” gets +1 to wound on its shooting attacks. Another one that’s really good if you invest heavily in Daemons as both Flamers and Horrors will happily delete an impressive number of bodies on one turn, but it’s entirely likely that you haven’t taken many Daemons. It could be handy for a crucial shot from a Defiler or Forgefiend, but they really need help to HIT rather than wound.
Infernal Gateway (WC8): Target an enemy model within 12”; ALL UNITS within 3” of them take d3 Mortal Wounds (d6 if you show 12+ on the Psychic Test). Devastating if you can hit a model with a big footprint and a popular Aura effect – like Guilliman for example – but less useful against something like Orks who can soak wounds like crazy. It’s not a bad power to give to Magnus, he casts it reliably and can Fly to wherever he would put it to best use.
All Stratagems cost 1CP unless noted otherwise.
Linebreaker Bombardment: Three Vindicators blow up a big area of the board. You do not have 3 Vindicators.
Coruscating Beam (3CP): Draw a 9” line on the battlefield, everything under it takes d3 Mortal Wounds on 4+. WAY too expensive and unreliable, even if you can pull it off to hit multiple units.
The Great Sorcerer: Cast an extra Psychic Power. Sometimes you just need to finish off a character with 1 wound left, so you Smite them. Easy.
Cabalistic Focus: A Psyker within 6” of two more Psykers gets +2 to cast a power. You have a ridiculous number of Psykers, or you want Magnus to top out his Smite roll every turn, so it’s pretty good.
Fire Frenzy: Helbrute can fire twice, at the nearest target. Easy for your opponent to play around with an appropriate screening unit, but if you happen to have a Helbrute and they're looking directly at a small unit or character then it's cheap enough that you might as well try it.
Relics of the Thousand Sons (1CP or 3CP) : Take one or two extra relics. Thousand Sons’ relics are actually pretty good, and one of them has a reasonable chance to get those CP back. Definitely to be considered, if you’re character-heavy.
Daemonforge: Reroll all failed hit and wounds attempted by a <DAEMON VEHICLE>. Really handy, since your ‘Fiends and Defilers are hitting on 4+, but remember it only lasts one phase and not a turn, so it can get expensive on a Defiler who is both shooting and fighting.
Killshot: Three Predators band together and get +1 to their to-wound rolls. You’re way more likely to have Predators than Vindicators, but the odds aren’t great that this will ever be useful.
Blasphemous Machines: A <DAEMON><VEHICLE> ignores the penalty for moving and shooting. The difference between 4+ and 5+ isn’t so great that you should regularly spend points on it, but if you make a mistake in placing your Forgefiend it at least prevents you from wasting the entire turn while you reposition.
Boon of Tzeentch: Kill an enemy <CHARACTER>, <MONSTER> or <VEHICLE> in melee, and a non-<DAEMON> <CHARACTER> gets to roll on the table for a random buff. That’s a lot keywords for something that your best melee fighters, Daemon Princes and Magnus, can’t use. Hard pass.
Warpflame Gargoyles: A <VEHICLE> (that isn’t a Helbrute or Heldrake) inflicts d3 Mortal Wounds on everything (friend or foe) within 3” on a 4+. A cheeky little secret that you can call upon when your opponent tries to dogpile your Defile/Maulerfiend and put them off their stride.
Chaos Familiar: Your <PSYKER> can swap one Psychic Power for another from the three listed Disciplines in the Codex. Sadly it does not allow you to take powers from outside of your Codex, which would be fun, but it’s a way of giving Warptime or Death Hex to a Rubric Sorcerer.
Sorcerous Pact: When using Daemonic Ritual, roll 4 dice instead of 3 and ignore doubles and triples. On average you’ll roll a 14, which is 9 Screamers, 12 Flamers or 15 Pink Horrors (and 1 shy of the full 20). It’s an impressive toolbox ability, with the added bonus of not Mortal Wounding yourself to death.
Veterans of the Long War: +1 to wound for <THOUSAND SONS><INFANTRY>. Old Reliable.
Webway Infiltration (1CP or 3CP): During deployment, one or two <INFANTRY> units can SUA. You want 90 Tzaangors in your opponent’s DZ by the end of turn 2, with 30 making a charge straight away? This and the Dark Matter Crystal will do it for you. Mobility wins games. Hordes win game. Mobile hordes are nightmare fuel.
The Flesh-Change: Swap a <THOUSAND SONS><INFANTRY><CHARACTER> for a <TZEENTCH> Chaos Spawn. But… why? I *guess* if Ahriman is down to 1 wound and is about to die anyway, you could ‘Spawn him for 0 points and keep a model on the table, but 'Spawn are pretty bad and your opponent still claims Slay The Warlord/Kingslayer/Whatever anyway. You might as well force them to waste an entire unit's shooting to take off that 1 wound, and hope for the off-chance that your 3++ saves get lucky and wastes another turn later as well?
Soul Flare: Your dead Sorcerer explodes and Mortal Wounds everything within 6” on 4+. A hilarious but inefficient way to turn a narrow defeat into a draw, I suppose.
Inferno Bolts: *A* boltor weapon on a <VEHICLE> becomes AP-2 for the turn. That… would still be pretty lousy if it were ALL boltor weapons for a turn.
Fated Mutation: You can choose a unit of Chaos Spawn’s Mutated Beyond Reason result this turn, and it rerolls it’s attacks in the Fight phase. Makes Spawn kind-of reliable, but if you’re relying on Spawn then you’re in a pretty bad position.
Baleful Vortex: A Mutalith Vortex Beast immediately uses an additional random power. The buffs stack so even rolling the same one twice doesn’t do any harm, which are pretty good for a nearby melee unit.
Vengeance for Prospero: Death to the False Emperor triggers on 4+ instead of 6+, but only against <SPACE WOLVES>. This stratagem was dead in the water before I even finished typing this sentence.
Cycle of Slaughter (2CP): A <TZAANGOR> unit gets to fight again this turn. Just in case you hadn’t completely deleted a whole unit with them in turn 1 anyway.
Ahriman – An all-around winner, with more than enough (worthwhile) abilities to justify the difference between him and an Exalted Sorcerer, and more efficient than taking two Exalted/one Exalted and a normal Sorcerer. He’s a must-take option unless you’re taking Magnus, and in a big game you should definitely consider taking him anyway.
…on a Disc – Take the disc, or don't take Ahriman at all. But you really, really SHOULD be taking Ahriman. On a disc. We cannot be more clear on this subject. Use Warptime as well for extreme positioning potential, but he should probably be fast enough to be able to use it on another unit, or use a different power entirely.
Cheesegear: Ahriman isn't just one of the best units in the book, he's one of the best models with the <CHAOS> tag from ANY Codex.
Before removing Ahriman's Disc to shave points, consider turning some Tzaangors into Cultists, before doing something dumb like removing Ahriman's Disc.
Exalted Sorcerer – Not a bad choice, but Ahriman is just better. Two sorcerers without discs are barely less expensive than Ahriman without; they cast one more power but he denies one more and is better at both. You *might* use one of these guys if you’re doubling up battalions… but you’re more likely to use a Daemon Prince instead.
…on a Disc – If you are taking an Exalted Sorcerer instead of Ahriman, the same rules apply. Somewhat more important to take one if you can though, as Exalted Sorcerers only have 3+/5++ and being able to
run and hide manoeuvre into position is more crucial when you can only cast 2 powers per turn and can’t necessarily afford one of them to be Warptime.
Cheesegear: The only thing wrong with Sorcerers on Discs is that they aren't Daemon Princes with Wings. However, remember that Supreme Commands are things that exist, and it is entirely possible to run three of each.
Sorcerer – No. You’re already losing a lot in the drop between Ahriman and Exalted, losing yet more to downsize again leaves you too few options and not enough hitting power. If you need to save 17 points from somewhere so badly, don’t take it from your HQ’s statline.
…in Terminator Armour – Actually not a horrible proposition. Still not as good as an Exalted Sorcerer on a Disc, but he can take a familiar (awesome) and he can Teleport Strike/Warptime more efficiently for *slightly* less points…. Pick your play-style, consider the pro’s and cons of either… and take Ahriman if possible.
Daemon Prince – A strong contender for an alternative to Ahriman, although it’s quite highly recommended to take both, make the ‘Prince your Warlord and take advantage of his survivability and the High Magister trait. Our Princes are better than the Chaos Marines variety as we get 4++ and two Psychic powers for the same price, and he synergizes with more of your Warlord Traits than the Sorcerers, as well as being able to chop into reasonably-high Toughness enemies. You’ll never be sad to have a Prince in your list, though like Ahriman on a Disc you can take a Prince without Wings if you really must… but you’d prefer them if you can.
Remember that due to FAQ ruling, Daemon Princes of Tzeentch (Thousand Sons) are different to Daemon Princes with the Mark of Tzeentch (Chaos Space Marines). It is entirely possible to run six Daemon Princes in your army while maintaining a "Tzeentchian Daemon Prince of Tzeentch" theme. Datasheet caps be damned. Nope, forget that; The April 2019 FAQ changed this entirely. <Codex Chaos Marines> are now the same datasheet as <Codex Thousand Sons> Daemon Princes, so there's no doubling up. While you can still summon a 4th <THOUSAND SONS> Daemon Prince using Daemonic Ritual if you have the points for it, but for multiple HQ choices you'll have to go to Exalted Sorcerers on Disc. Oh noes. Army ruined. Whatever will you do? How will you cope with the same amount of Psykers chucking out Mortal Wounds for less points. The sky will fall. Oh noes. Everything ruined.
Rubric Marines – Think of them as a support unit, rather than expecting to get much done with them directly. They’re ~100 points for a psychic power with 5 wounds and 3+/5++. MSU is the way to go in order to maximise that potential – causing Mortal Wounds with Smite or using a power like Glamour of Tzeentch to support another unit is the most efficient thing that you can be doing.
If you’re thinking of taking 10 Rubrics to give yourself backup wounds in order to protect your Soulreaper Cannon, it’s going to get VERY expensive VERY quickly, and a single Heavy Weapon at only Strength 5 is not really adding to the unit’s ability to deal with threats that it couldn't already. That being said, if you want to go the full mile and sit 20 Rubric with Glamour of Tzeentch on an objective backed up by a Sorceror/MSU with Weaver of Fates, it’ll take something quite special to shift them. Multiple units also suits taking multiple Icons of Flame – 1/6 gets much better when you’re doing it 3 or 4 times per turn, if that’s what you want to do, but you're often going to be hiding on an objective a long way from the enemy so if anything needs cutting out of your list these are an easy 5 points.
Tzaangors – Hordes win tournaments. They can do so especially when you SUA a unit of 30 Tzaangors with Blades (-1AP, and physically cheaper than buying the 40k Upgrade packs to give them crappy pistols) by using a Dark Matter Crystal to make a nigh-guaranteed assault in Turn 1, only to Webway Infiltration two more units of 30 Tzaangors in a turn thereafter. Not only do you stand a pretty good chance of deleting at least 2-3 enemy units early, it’s a big threat that draws attention away from your smaller units, which might even be other small units (~15 models) of Tzaangors lurking about the place looking to pounce on enemy SUA units. 30 Tzaangors costs less than 10 Rubric Marines, so taking 60 or even 90 of them really isn’t out of the question.
Cheesegear: Taking 50 Tzaangors should be the standard; 30+10+10 for one Battalion. Taking 90 is a good option, though. Remember that Tzaangors count as <Heretic Astartes>, which is all manner of stupidity. But, we didn't write the rules, we just abuse them. Prescience for +1 to hit, Veterans of the Long War for +1 to wound, and then Tzaangor Shaman for another +1 to hit 'cause why not?
Chaos Cultists – A mixed bag. They’re cheaper than Tzaangors for screening and sitting on distant objectives, but they don’t have the burst potential, 5++ or synergy with the rest of your list. A couple of units of ~10 with a heavy stubber to babysit objectives is fine, but unlike their Death Guard/Nurgle counterparts there are comparatively few efficient ways to make them into much more.
Pink Horrors – The same price as Tzaangors, but stickier since you must “kill” each one 5 times to actually get the body off the table. They also have a psychic power and a decent shooting attack which becomes a good shooting attack if you take more than 20 of them. They can also take advantage of the same SUA tactics, although they’re only hitting on 4+ and don’t have an equivalent to a Tzaangor Shaman to improve them. If you’re going horde-heavy then Tzaangors with their buddies are probably a better choice, but if you’re going Rubric-heavy and need a big blob of sticky troops, Horrors might be preferable.
Blue Horrors – Less than half the price of Pink Horrors, significantly less than half the effectiveness, and still more expensive than Cultists. They’re not in the book so that you can actually start the game with them.
Brimstone Horrors – 3pts for a body with 6++ and a tiny silhouette that nigh-guarantees that your opponent can’t draw Line Of Sight to them behind walls and ruins? Arguably they’re better at Objective-sitting than Cultists, and at 30 points per unit they’re kind-of okay for filling out slots in battalions too.
Cheesegear: Did you *pay points* for Blue and Brimstones? Of course you didn't. That's dumb. You definitely don't need to kill each Horror '5 times' because no-one does that. If you're going to run Pink Horrors, then pay a ****-load of extra points onto them. You're better off just Summoning a new unit of Pink Horrors with the same points. Besides, 'can't take above starting strength' means that if your unit starts with 20 models, you don't get two Blue Horrors when a model dies, you get one, because 19+1=20. Splitting Horrors is only good when you're not playing Matched Play. If you're not playing Matched Play, why are you reading this? Just do whatever you want.
Chaos Rhino – Very, very hard to justify. If you have 5 Rubric Marines in a Rhino then they’re not using their Icon of Flame/Psychic Power properly. If you have 10 Rubric Marines in a Rhino, you’re paying even more points to not use your SRC and Power. If you’re using it for Tzaangors, you’re not using ENOUGH Tzaangors. If you’re taking it for Cultists, you’re implying that Cultists need to go anywhere that isn’t an Objective.
Scarab Occult Terminators - Something of a “distraction Carnifex” unit. They’re too expensive to take lots of them, but they can Teleport Strike near your opponent, Prescience up and really make them regret trying to ignore a Soulreaper Cannon and a Missile Rack right where it hurts. Are there more important things you could be spending points on? …Probably.
Cheesegear: This one is a direct quote: ”Anything you write other than 'They're bad.' is too many words.” Fair enough.
Tzaangor Shaman - The more Tzaangors you have, the more highly recommended he becomes. A bit tricky if you’re going to Webway Infiltrate and/or Dark Matter Crystal the Tzaangor unit, but the Disc can help with that to some extent. If you’re running 90+ Tzaangors, do you take two of them? Probably. Three? I mean, why not? Just remember the wording of the ability says “any” not “each”, so the +1 to hit doesn’t stack from multiple Shamen. Even if you’re not running lots of Tzaangors, he’s still a fast moving Psychic Power dispenser (with a one-off reroll) for the price of peanuts, which will always be handy.
Helbrute - A reasonable weapons platform, for it’s cost. You don’t have too many other sources of lascannons or krak missiles outside of the tanks in the Heavy slot, so if you really need them then this the one place to start. In direct comparison Helbrutes don’t degrade as they lose wounds and being Crazed has no down sides. Similarly, two of them are cheaper than one Land Raider and are about as dangerous, with the bonus of being able to spread out for defence and a broader Line Of Sight.
Cheesegear: “Helbrutes are hot garbage.” Oh. Okay then. To put it in context, "You could instead take a Tzaangor Shaman for way fewer points cost and use him to reliably dish out Mortal Wounds." That way you still have reliable damage output AND you get to buff your Tzaangor units all at the same time.
Flamers - In the current meta of cheap hordes, Flamers can be pretty damn good. D6 auto-hitting s4 shots with 12” range on a body with 4++ (which can be 3++ with the right stratagem) can melt a hilarious number of Guardsmen/Grots and survive whatever is left over. The elephant in the room is that the Codex: Chaos Daemons version are even better because they can take a Herald who adds his own benefits – with so much cross-over between allied forces, there’s almost no reason to take the Codex: Thousand Sons version unless you absolutely must for… reasons?
Spoiler: FAST ATTACK:
Screamers - Pretty durable and a decent attack in melee, they’re doing what a Heldrakes would be expected to at quite a bit less of the cost – get in the backfield, score some early Linebreaker, ruin the day of a small-but-crucial unit and/or character that thought it could hide from you. Hitting on only 4+ kinda sucks as there isn’t anyone who can reliably keep up with them to provide buffs, unless you’re having Sorcerers Dark Matter Crystal-ing each other to go meet them somewhere across the table.
Tzaangor Englightened - With spears/pistols, they’re pretty bad; Relying in 5++ to run across the table is not going to be big or clever. Give them Fatecaster bows, however, and with a range of 24” and a movement of 12” (effectively giving them a threat-range of 36+d6”) they suddenly become pretty good at harassing anything they want. They’re pretty cheap – a unit of 6 is a solid number, for about 100 points, and a couple of such units is a decent investment – and your opponent will hate them because they’re too cheap to spend lots of resources on killing but also way too painful to ignore.
Chaos Spawn - Even if you roll well, they’re still the least useful Fast Attack option you have. Hard pass.
Heldrakes - If you can get it into position to lock an important enemy unit in combat, or roll well enough to assassinate a small unit, then that’s pretty good. It’s a lot of points to do that while only causing a few wounds per turn, and with so many armies out there employing screening tactics then your opportunities will be few and far between. As with Codex: Chaos Marines, the Heldrake’s best days in the meta are behind it.
Cheesegear: It can Turn 1 Charge. That’s a big deal. Especially if you're going all-in with a Dark Matter Crystal, a Mutalith, and a Daemon Prince doing a Warptime.
Spoiler: HEAVY SUPPORT:
Chaos Land Raider - With no really good options to ride in them, they’re way too expensive to justify as mere turrets. Two Predators should cost less, put out the same amount of firepower, and cover more of the board.
Chaos Predator - For the niche it fills in a Thousand Sons army, who don’t have access to Havoks, it’s a useful heavy weapons platform that doesn’t take up an Elite slot that could have a Tzaangor Shaman or unit of Flamers in it. It does degrade with wounds however, and by the time you’ve paid for its weapons its going to be quite close to a Helbrute… Between the two, you might just want to ally in some Havoks.
Chaos Vindicator - Short ranged, dies quicker than you think and degrades as it dies. The Predator at least gives you some flexibility, as well as being more consistent.
Defiler - Cheaper than a Land Raider, better in close combat than a Maulerfiend, and a better selection of guns than a Forgefiend. It feels confusing because you often want to take several heavy weapons on something with BS4+, so it might be better to treat it as a close combat unit with a scourge that just happens to have some incidental shooting. Probably your best heavy choice in the book, but that is quite faint praise.
Forgefiend - BS4+ will break your heart, and the guns are weird – the autocannons are s8 (good) but only AP-1 (not good), so a lot of things you want to shoot s8 at aren’t going to be as worried by it as they ought to. The Ectoplasma Cannon isn’t a terrible alternative, but you already have several pretty good anti-infantry units; think of it as a budget-Predator, in that you could take it when the alternative isn’t quite viable.
Cheesegear: S8, AP-1 is fine, thank you very much. Especially when you have 8 shots at 2 Damage each. What kills the Forgefiend, is BS4+, nothing else. Even with BS4+, a Forgefiend is still better than a Predator because a Forgefiend is a Vehicle with an Invulnerable save. Either way, Thousand Sons' Heavy choices are all pretty bad and you're way better off with anything else. Also, as a <DAEMON><VEHICLE>, a Forgefiend will always benefit from Daemonforge. Meanwhile, Killshot only works when you have three Predators... But your opponent went first and destroyed one on Turn 1.
Maulerfiend - Not inherently a BAD unit, but it struggles to make its own mark when so clearly overshadowed by other things. Especially when it’s double the cost of a Helbrute, who is pretty bad and yet fills a similar role.
Mutalith Vortex Beast - You always want the option that gives you 12 attacks, because WS4+. For a monster with 14 wounds its actually not expensive, and all of its melee buffs are handy if you’re running a lot of Tzaangors – even SUA’d units can *probably* be reached by the Beast’s 17” threat range (24” when its wounded). Plus, the buffs stack if you have more than one Beast and its never a bad thing to be handing out Mortal Wounds to everything within its radius. By taking one you’re admitting that you would rather be playing Codex: Tzaangors… But that’s not necessarily a bad way to go. Just remember that randomness is BAD, so don’t bother rolling; you should be picking your one ability every turn.
Spoiler: LORD OF WAR:
Magnus the Red - Magnus the Red is for life, and not just for a casual PUG. What I mean by that is, he’s capable of doing a huge amount of stuff every turn, but for his immense price tag then you need to make sure that he DOES huge amounts of things every turn otherwise he’s going to fall behind the curve. If you’re prepared to micromanage him and exploit everything he can do, all the time, then he’s a beast… Except for that one game where he gets Alpha-Strike’d into the ground on Turn 1 and you concede on the spot. This *should* become less likely as more armies prepare to fight hordes of Cultists/Grots rather than 18 wound 3++ monsters, but as always be wary of your metagame.
Spoiler: Summary & What To Do Next
Despite a reputation as being all about Psychic Powers, Thousand Sons can be surprising in that they are also robust in other forms of warfare; manoeuvrability, survivability, mass/elite melee and mass/elite shooting.
They have some of, if not the, best HQ choices in the game and very solid options in most other slots, but if they have one glaring weakness its that they have very limited access to good quality Heavy choices. While their ability to rain Mortal Wounds on an enemy in the Psychic phase does a lot to alleviate this, it can be hard to do that AND to maintain your defences, or to keep enough powers available to move your army optimally.
As such, after your army reaches about 1,000 points in size it’d would be a very good time to start considering the benefits of a Renegade Knight for your collection. They’re all the rage nowadays in many competitive armies, and while providing key Heavy support a Knight of your own is a valuable and effective defence against another. If nothing else, while some players might consider a Knight versus Knight combat to be a satisfying neutralisation of a threat, the Thousand Sons can very quickly tip the balance in their favour with a few well-aimed Smites, guaranteeing their own Knight supremacy without tying up too many resources in bringing down a single target.
Alternatively if you would rather stick to a theme of Tzeentch Astartes and Daemons rather than Knights, a dip into Codex Chaos Marines is certainly a better option than what you have available as it gives you Havoks or Obliterators for long-ranged support, as well as access to Daemon Princes of Tzeentch who are almost as good as your own Tzeentchian Daemon Princes. It won’t solve all of the problems that you face in the game, but it’s a distinct improvement on the alternatives.