Rethinking Rubric Marines

Army Building, August 14, 2018

Think Rubric Marines are garbage? Let’s see if we can turn that frown upside down by changing the way we look at these dust boys.

A Dust Bin of Options

If you’re new to Thousand Sons or you’ve been playing them for a while, you’ll know that Rubric Marines don’t get a lot of play in most armies. They tend to be looked at as “too expensive” for what they are. In the latest codex, Tzaangors were introduced as a close combat troop choice to give the men of dust some help. Since then, they’ve been the go-to staple of most lists/armies you run into. Even in 10-man hit squads they are a force to be taken seriously, especially if you’ve got some characters sitting out in the open. Also in 8th edition, Cultists have been going through a bit of a renaissance, since everything wounds on a 6 and they are one of the cheapest troop options in the game.

All of these happenings have shoved our beloved Rubric Marines into the shadows. But I think they deserve every bit of consideration when designing a Thousand Sons list and think it just means breaking down some barriers of how we think about them.

Baby Smite

First of all, their “baby smite” is a bit lacking and when the Chaos Index was released, that’s all they had. In most cases, you’re only going to get 1 mortal wound off this and, should you peril, you’re probably going to lose Rubric Marines along with the sorcerer for just D3 mortal wounds. This ain’t so great.

The good news is that in the Codex, Aspiring Sorcerers were given access to the new Change discipline. In that discipline are a couple spells worth noting - Doombolt and Tzeentch’s Firestorm.

Raise the Roof

We’re looking at these two spells because they offer much more up-side than the baby smite with only marginal increases in difficulty. Each spell needs an 8 or 7 to succeed respectively and that’s certainly going to be more difficult than a 5. But the way to look at this is you’re raising the potential to do damage at the expense of a marginal increase in difficulty. Another way of looking at it is you’re more likely to roll 7’s and 8’s then you are 11’s and 12’s, and more likely to get 2 (or more) 6’s out of 9 dice than 11’s or 12’s.

As a result, I’ve taken to using a rule of 2 for my number of Rubric Squads, where I can take both spells on my Aspiring Sorcerers in place of the baby smite. The need for a 3rd squad disappears since we don’t have the ability to cast the same power multiple times in the same round. But when it comes down to it, you’re aspiring sorcerer is functioning no differently than a regular sorcerer would with regards to casting probabilities.

Points & Value

Speaking of sorcerers, how much do they cost? The cheapest way you can take them is 103pts if you strip out their Inferno Bolt Pistol for a regular one. They take up a required HQ slot in your typical Battalion and can dish out a couple spells. They have 4 Wounds and a 3+/5++ and do not have the All is Dust rule.

Rubric Marines come in at 107pts for your basic squad. They come with 4 Inferno Bolters and one Inferno Bolt Pistol and can dish out that 1 psychic power from the Aspiring Sorcerer. They fill a required troop slot on your Battalion and have a combined 5 Wounds with a 3+/5++ with the All is Dust rule.

So, essentially for 4 more points, depending on how you look at it, you get a tougher sorcerer with more wounds and 4 extra bolters instead of just a pistol. Sure you’re only casting 1 spell because of this but again, you’re filling a required Troop slot that you need in your Battalion.


The next benefit we get here is from keeping our Rubric Squads down in size to 5-man squads. There are two reasons for this. First, we’re using our squads for psychic purposes, the bolters are just a bonus. When we look at it this way, there’s no reason to add any additional marines to the squad, especially the 7 more that are needed to take a Soulreaper cannon. Second, when morale hits us, we’re not going to be effected until at least 3 marines are killed and at that point we’d need to roll a 6 in order to do so. Which means, the worse morale position we’ll ever be in is having to roll a 4 or better when all 4 marines are killed at once.

This is good for us because morale is just free units being killed/removed and we want to avoid that as much as we can. If we had say, a 10-man squad, we’re much more likely to take more fire which means more risk to morale and free units down the drain for our enemy.

That New Guy

The only model in the rest of the codex that beats this is the new Tzaangor Shaman, who gets a full Smite and 1 power from the Change tree. At 90 points they also come on a disc with a 5++, and 4 wounds - making him one of the best psyker options we have in the codex.

The key is to this is that the Shaman gets a full smite where our Rubrics do not. This means you can load up a defensive spell on the Shaman as an alternative rather than having to take away from the powers you’ve placed on the Rubric Marines following the logic above.

Sample List

Below you’ll find an example of how we put this to use in a list. The keys you’ll find are that we’ve maximized some of the cheapest psykers in the codex as well as balancing the army out with enough bodies to screen or assault as needed. Finally, we’ve got 3 squads of bow-enlightened to escort our Shamans and I’ve given a couple combi-plasmas to the sorcerers which can help in taking down light-mid armor’d vehicles and characters.

2000pt Sample List

Battalion Detachment (Chaos - Thousand Sons) [55 PL, 1047pts]

Vanguard Detachment (Chaos - Thousand Sons) [21 PL, 375pts]

Outrider Detachment (Chaos - Thousand Sons) [27 PL, 577pts]