Warpcoven Guide
Howdy folks. My name is Pat, and online I go by the username Pizzanui. I have been playing Warpcoven pretty much since they were released, starting in early 2022, and have been playing them competitively since early 2023. At time of writing, I am the #1 ranked Warpcoven player in the US, and #5 in the world, per ITC. In the wake of the Q1 2024 dataslate, many in the Kill Team community found themselves with new or renewed interest in playing Warpcoven. This guide is primarily aimed at them: players who are either new to this team, or who find themselves in need of a refresher.

           In this guide, I will focus on the questions that I most frequently hear from new Warpcoven players. These include guidance on how to build the team, pointers on many of the pre-game decisions that you’ll have to make, as well as general tips and tricks that are essential for any aspiring space-wizard. If you would like a more detailed breakdown of many of the points covered here and more, I hope to release more in-depth guides for intermediate to advanced Warpcoven players at some point in the near future. In the meantime, I am always happy to talk about this team with any who ask. At the end of the day, competitive play aside, I just love Kill Team, and I love the Thousand Sons.
           Let us begin with the broad strokes. Warpcoven is a toolbox team that rewards careful planning and in-depth game knowledge. We have access to everything from straight-up elites to frail chaff, and can lean more heavily into shooting or melee depending on operative selection. As a result, we have an incredible degree of flexibility in the Select A Kill Team step, allowing us to tailor our team composition to suit almost any situation. We are also exceptionally flexible in-game, with no fewer than nine different psychic powers and a wide variety of other unique abilities at our disposal. However, this team is also enormously complex, with an extremely high cognitive load that can make the prospect of mastering this team seem daunting at first. If you stick with it, though, you will find that Warpcoven is supremely enjoyable to learn and improve with, as they directly reward pilot skill to a degree matched by few other teams in the game.
Operative Selection
Warpcoven’s operatives can be broken down quite cleanly between three discrete categories: Sorcerers, Rubric Marines, and Tzaangors. All three are absolutely essential to playing this team at the competitive level. I often hear folks ask if a roster that excludes either Tzaangors or Rubric Marines is viable, and the honest answer to this question is “no.” The simple truth is that this team relies heavily on its ability to pick precisely the right tools and apply them to precisely the right situations. Without a full toolbox, you will often find yourself in matchups that should be entirely winnable, but end up with you being completely steamrolled by the opponent. Keep in mind that one drawback of having as deep of a toolkit as we have is that we lack the raw stats to brute force our way through unfavorable situations. Moreover, any true follower of Tzeentch must embrace and embody change. Stagnation is death.
           Sorcerers have a solid and versatile chassis with 13 wounds, 3+ armor saves, 5+ invulnerable saves, and a wide variety of options for customization between weapons, psychic disciplines, and Boons of Tzeentch. They are your strongest operatives by far, and with the possible exception of certain extremely niche situations, you should always run the maximum of three, including one of each psychic discipline. This leaves you with six slots remaining on the team to allocate between Rubric Marines and Tzaangors, the former of which occupy two slots each.

           Rubric Marines are just like many other marines in this game, with 12 wounds, 3+ armor saves, and 3APL. However, they are painfully slow thanks to All Is Dust (cannot move more than 6” total during their activation), and their Sorcerer’s Command ability means that they go down to 2APL if they activate farther than 9” from the nearest Sorcerer. On the bright side, they have solid guns, and are somewhat more durable than many marines thanks to their 5+ invulnerable save and the bullet point of All Is Dust that upgrades their armor save to 2+ against weapons with a Normal Damage characteristic of 3 or less. Still, it is unwise to rely on this durability, as powerful weapons (particularly those with AP2) can still vaporize them with ease, and they become vastly less effective when Injured — which is made even worse by the fact that this team is the only marines team in the entire game with no way whatsoever to ignore the Injured condition.

           Finally, Tzaangors are melee-oriented chaff models that help your team score objectives, increase your activation count, and can pressure teams with weak melee. Even with Relentless, their 4+ Weapons Skill leaves them fairly unreliable, and they are quite frail with only 9 wounds and a 5+ invulnerable save. However, they help cover the weaknesses of Rubric Marines quite nicely, and provide your team with the extremely potent ability to choose its number of activations. I recommend always taking at least 2, and you can spam up to 6 or even 10 of them if the situation calls for it (though realistically it is almost never optimal to exceed 6, as that would mean leaving Sorcerers on the bench).

           Generally speaking, team compositions are discussed in terms of X/Y/Z, where X is the number of Sorcerers, Y is the number of Rubric Marines, and Z is the number of Tzaangors. As I mentioned above, I recommend always taking 3 Sorcerers and at least 2 Tzaangors, which means that you really only have three options to choose between: 3/2/2, 3/1/4, or 3/0/6.

           3/2/2 is my personal favorite team composition, and is one that I recommend to brand new Warpcoven players so that you can quickly get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of each individual operative. Your two Rubric Marines are the Icon Bearer and the Gunner with Soulreaper Cannon, and your two Tzaangors are usually Fighters with Tzaangor Blades. The main strength of this comp is its shooting, which makes it great against teams that are weak to getting out-shot, e.g. Kommandos, Fellgor, or Gellerpox. This comp is also one that I find myself turning to in situations where Tzaangors will struggle to provide value, which includes the teams just mentioned, as well as teams like Exaction Squad and Hunter Clade that can shut off the re-rolls that Tzaangors rely on to be effective in melee.

           3/1/4 is a comp that I mostly use against elites and hordes. Against elites, your sole Rubric is going to be the Gunner; since you have 8 activations compared to your opponent’s 6, you can spend your second-to-last activation in the first Turning Point using Warp Portal to teleport your Gunner into a position where it can shoot one of your opponent’s operatives (typically on a Vantage Point), then activating that Gunner and using all three of its actions to dispense dakka (see: Exalted Astartes). Against hordes, I usually take the Icon Bearer instead, using it as a support piece to power up my Sorcerers and back them up with a gun capable of seriously threatening double-kills against the fragile bodies typical of most hordes. In both cases, your four Tzaangors help immensely with scoring objectives, and can even dish out some solid damage in melee if need be. Be warned, though, that Tzaangors will usually die almost immediately after they change their order to Engage, so pick your battles wisely. My Tzaangors will usually be three Fighters with blades and one Champion with greataxe, though sometimes it can also make sense to replace another Fighter with either the Tzaangor Horn Bearer or the Tzaangor Icon Bearer (though probably not both).

           Finally, 3/0/6 is a comp that I primarily take against 8-wound teams, especially those with weak melee. Tzaangors can reliably kill most 8-wound enemies with 2 normal hits in melee, and going up to 9 activations means that we can match or even surpass Eldar teams in terms of activations. Typically, with this many Tzaangors, you will always run the Champion (always with Greataxe) and will usually run the Horn Bearer as well to help your goats cross the board more easily. The Tzaangor Champion is surprisingly unimpressive on its own, as its lack of in-built re-rolls on a melee profile that only rolls 4 dice on 3+ means that you will fail to kill even guardsmen in melee a bit too often. However, its ability to double-fight gives it the ability to seriously threaten double-kills, something that no other Tzaangor can achieve. With the Savage Herd strategic ploy active, the Champion’s melee math becomes substantially better, to the extent that it becomes pretty much a straight upgrade over a Fighter; as such, I always take the Champion if I am running 4 or more Tzaangors, as I usually expect to be using Savage Herd during the second and/or third Turning Points with that many goats on the team.
Thanks to the buff to Arcane Robes in the latest dataslate, they are now (nearly) auto-takes on all three Sorcerers. This leaves you with 4 EP to spend. If you are running a Rubric Marine Icon Bearer, the High Capacity Magazine is absolutely essential for making its Inferno Boltgun output solid damage reliably, which means that your final remaining EP will be spent on Gilded Horns for one of your Tzaangor Fighters. If you are not running the Rubric Marine Icon Bearer, then you will usually be spending your remaining EP on either a Sorcerous Scroll or four Gilded Horns. The latter would be my recommendation against teams where the 9-wound breakpoint is relevant, e.g. Hand of the Archon, whereas the former would be my recommendation in most other situations. Typically, the Sorcerous Scroll will be used to put Ephemeral Instability on a non-Tempyric Sorcerer, but there are many other situational uses, such as putting Doombolt on a non-Destiny Sorcerer to give them better single-target shooting. Occult Talismans are also situationally useful, particularly in the mirror match and against teams that can dish out large amounts of mortal wounds.

The other equipment options available to this team (Gargoyle Bayonet and Ensorcelled Rounds) are unfortunately completely overshadowed by the ones discussed above. As such, I do not recommend taking either of them under any circumstances.
Tac Ops
Thanks to the Q4 2023 Balance Dataslate, Warpcoven can now choose freely between the Security and Recon archetypes. As such, you will usually be better off with Recon, as Recover Item is one of the easiest Tac Ops in the game to max, and Secure Vantage can also be extremely easy for this team to score on many tournament boards. Surge Forward, Secure Unexplored Rooms, and Courier are also all solid in the right situation. I do not recommend Outflank or Plant Transponder, except maybe in the extremely rare situations where you swap out another Tac Op for one of those two using Schemes of Change — though I want to stress that this should never be your plan A, and probably shouldn’t be your plan B, C, or D either.

           On some boards, Secure Vantage may be near-impossible to score, and the alternatives within Recon might not be very appealing either. In those situations, Security can be a solid fallback option. The main problem with Security is that it is very demanding in terms of the positioning of your operatives, and Warpcoven is already quite demanding in that regard in even the best of circumstances. Many Security Tac Ops are also easy for the opponent to deny. However, Secure Centre Line, Seize Access Point, and Central Control can sometimes be difficult for the opponent to contest due to terrain placement, so those are the ones I often look to first. Escort Operative is also acceptable, but risky, as it relies on a specific operative surviving to the end of the battle; on a Sorcerer with Immaterial Flight, however, this can sometimes be reasonably achievable if you keep them in Cover on a Vantage Point before hurling them across the board at the end of the game. Protect Assets can be solid against hordes, but I would not take it against any team with fewer than 12 operatives. Finally, Hold Them Back is extremely easy for most opponents to deny, and as such, I would avoid taking it.

           In terms of faction Tac Ops, Warpcoven only has one that I would consider taking in a competitive setting: Sorcerous Ritual. It is rather taxing on your team’s action economy, but because the Sorcerous Ritual action is a mission action, this downside can be mitigated with the Mutant Appendage Boon of Tzeentch. However, the action economy strain is still serious enough that I avoid taking Sorcerous Ritual on Loot missions unless there are simply no better options.

There is a common misconception that, because the Sorcerous Ritual action has the “psychic action” tag, a Sorcerer cannot perform a Sorcerous Ritual and also cast one of their spells in the same activation unless you have Psychic Dominion active. Rest assured that this is not true. The tag “psychic action” has no mechanical effects, except against an extremely small number of other teams that have tools that specifically interact with enemy psychic actions, e.g. Talons of the Emperor (Psychic Abomination) and Novitiates (Null Rod). Incidentally, the same is also true of the Scry Secret action.

Scry Secret and Grand Plan are both quite flavorful and super fun to play around with in narrative, but they are not viable in tournament play. Both place too much control in the hands of the opponent and are too easy to deny. Do not take them under any circumstances.
When planning out your deployment, you should ideally also be planning out more-or-less the entirety of the first Turning Point, at minimum. This is true of most teams, but it is especially true of Warpcoven due to the intensely demanding positioning requirements of many of your abilities, e.g. Icon of Flame and Sorcerer’s Command. Broadly speaking, the three things that you should keep in mind during deployment are alpha strikes, objectives, and setting up for following turns.

           Warpcoven has essentially two different possible alpha strikes. The first involves a Sorcerer with the Immaterial Flight Boon of Tzeentch. You can deploy with an Engage order fully behind Visibility-blocking terrain, Fly onto a Vantage Point, cast a Shoot spell, and then Dash back to safety using either your third action or the Capricious Plan Tactical Ploy. This can be particularly devastating if the Shoot spell in question is Fluxblast and you manage to catch multiple enemies in the blast — against most hordes and even some midrange teams, this can be impactful enough to determine the outcome of the entire game in the very first activation. The second alpha strike at our disposal involves using Warp Portal to slingshot a Rubric Marine (especially the Gunner) onto a Vantage Point and then double-shooting, though this is much less reliable as it leaves the marine exposed to getting shot before it has a chance to shoot, or getting killed in retaliation after it shoots. It is also possible to shoot Concealed targets across the board with Firestorm, but the abysmal damage output of that spell makes this alpha strike unreliable enough that I rarely even consider it.

           Regarding objectives, this aspect of deployment is very similar to most other teams, requiring you to assess the tools at your disposal to determine how many objectives you can safely score. Chief among these tools are Warp Portal, which can allow the teleported operative to Loot or Secure objectives that are deep in the midboard; Time-Walker, which can allow a Sorcerer just enough reach to score an objective that most other teams wouldn’t be able to; and Immaterial Flight, which can do the same. The free actions granted by Icon of Flame and Mutant Appendage can also afford Sorcerers the actions required to tap objectives and also toss out a spell or two in the process, maximizing the efficiency of their activation. Finally, Tzaangors are usually good candidates for scoring objectives as they move up the board in the first Turning Point, whereas Rubric marines are usually relegated to scoring objectives deep in your own territory in the early game.

           Setting up for future turns should also be familiar to most established Kill Team players. Typically you want to make sure that your operatives will be as safe as possible from enemy aggression in the second Turning Point, while also ensuring that you are able to score objectives and threaten kills, lest you fall behind. However, the recent buff to the duration of our buff and debuff spells also adds an interesting dynamic to this aspect of the game. It can make sense to plan to intentionally delay a given Sorcerer’s activation in the second Turning Point, thereby ensuring that any buffs or debuffs that they have given out remain active as long as possible. Also, make sure that any Rubric Marines you have will begin each of their activations within range of Sorcerer’s Command, as failing to do so can be extremely punishing.

           I typically deploy Tzaangors first, as they usually want to be out in front and will always start with a Conceal order, meaning that I give away very little information to my opponent by doing so. Utility sorcerers and any Rubrics that you do not intend on shooting with during the first Turning Point are usually what I look to deploy in my second group, as they can also be safely given Conceal orders. This leaves for last any operatives that you are planning on shooting with during the first Turning Point, plus as many Sorcerers and Rubric marines as you can manage, as those are high-value operatives that your opponent will be watching intensely during deployment. Remember to pre-measure your moves to make sure that you can actually manage the plays that you are planning — this is especially important if you are planning any Warp Portal shenanigans, as those require precise positioning from multiple operatives on the team.
Roster and Building
Included below is a list of the first 14 operatives on the roster that I take to most tournaments. The remaining 6 slots are extremely situational picks, which I will bring with me, but which I do not expect to take in most circumstances. The Sorcerer configurations for this team are quite controversial, and will often vary greatly from roster to roster. As such, I strongly recommend experimenting to find a roster that works best for you. My personal roster is built around the fact that the tournaments that I attend are almost always either mixed events or open-only, and would therefore likely look quite different if I was planning on attending a tournament that was ITD-only.

Sorcerer: Tempyric, Immaterial Flight, Prosperine Khopesh
Sorcerer: Warpfire, Time-Walker, Prosperine Khopesh
Sorcerer: Destiny, Mutant Appendage, Warpflame Pistol
Sorcerer: Destiny, Incorporeal Sight, Warpflame Pistol
Rubric Marine Icon Bearer
Rubric Marine Gunner: Soulreaper Cannon
Tzaangor Champion: Tzaangor Greataxe
Tzaangor Horn Bearer
Tzaangor Icon Bearer
Tzaangor Fighter: Tzaangor Blades
Tzaangor Fighter: Tzaangor Blades
Tzaangor Fighter: Tzaangor Blades
Tzaangor Fighter: Tzaangor Blades
Tzaangor Fighter: Tzaangor Blades

           The Sorcerers listed are my “core four” that I take in the vast majority of games. They are all equipped with either a Prosperine Khopesh or the Warpflame Pistol, as Inferno Bolt Pistols simply aren’t worth the opportunity cost of missing out on one of the other weapon options in my opinion. The Boons of Tzeentch on these four sorcerers are the ones that are generally regarded as the best on the team, though some others have situational benefits that I will not be covering here. For their disciplines, it is my strong recommendation to plan on taking all three in pretty much every game, especially now that Ephemeral Instability has been nerfed.

I consider Tempyric plus Immaterial Flight to be an absolutely essential combination for threatening the Fluxblast alpha strike against hordes, thereby forcing them to deploy sub-optimally just to avoid losing multiple operatives in the first activation. Time-Walker plus Prosperine Khopesh is a combination that allows a Sorcerer to become one of the most powerful melee operatives in the entire game, and I put it on a Warpfire Sorcerer because that is the psychic discipline whose spells are the least valuable after the first Turning Point. I put the Warpflame Pistol on a Destiny sorcerer because shooting with both the flamer and Doom Bolt can be very deadly, even threatening kills on enemy marines. Typically, this Sorcerer will have Mutant Appendage, because free actions are just absurdly powerful in this game, but I will usually swap to Incorporeal sight on Capture missions, especially against elites, and especially if I am not planning on taking Sorcerous Ritual. In Close Quarters games, always take Mutant Appendage, and consider swapping Immaterial Flight for either Empyric Ward or Crystalline.

In terms of Rubric Marines, unfortunately the only two that are worth running are the Icon Bearer and the Gunner with Soulreaper Cannon. Warriors and Gunners with Warpflamers simply don’t contribute enough value to the team to justify occupying two slots, mostly because of the movement limitation from All Is Dust and the positioning requirement from Sorcerer’s Command. That said, both of the marines on this roster are quite powerful in the right situation. The Icon Bearer’s Icon of Flame ability grants free actions, which I have already called out as extremely powerful, and it doesn’t hurt that a bolter with AP1 and Ceaseless is a pretty solid weapon, especially with Slow and Purposeful active. The Gunner, meanwhile, is almost exclusively a damage-dealing piece, capable of some frankly disgusting damage output when utilized alongside Exalted Astartes and Slow and Purposeful. The lack of in-built re-rolls in the Soulreaper Cannon means that you stand a very real chance of whiffing your shots if you don’t use Slow and Purposeful, but if you make sure to use that ploy, you can reliably kill anything less durable than an Intercessor in a single shot, and can reliably kill just about anything with a double-shoot.
The Tzaangor choices here are pretty straightforward. I recommend 5 Fighters on the roster for situations in which you want to go 3/0/6 but don’t want the horn or flag goats, for whatever reason. You can get by with as few as 3 Fighters on the roster, but it is my strong recommendation to have at least 4 and ideally 5 for an optimized roster. Horn and flag goats are here for their respective situational benefits, chief among which are the mobility boost from the horn and the improved objective control from the flag. The Champion is here primarily for situations where you run at least 4 Tzaangors, and therefore are likely to be using Savage Herd when your Champion charges. In terms of weapon options, luckily these are also pretty straightforward, as the Icon Bearer and Horn Bearer don’t have any weapon options to select, and the Champion and Fighters only have one viable weapon option each. Fighters always want Tzaangor Blades, as both autopistols and chainswords are so unreliable that they struggle to land kills on even guardsmen. The Champion always wants the Tzaangor Greataxe, as Reap 1 is a pitifully weak keyword, it is extremely easy for the opponent to play around once you’ve telegraphed it during operative selection, and the Champion’s weapons are just a bit too unreliable without Brutal to make it harder for the opponent to parry.

Building this team usually requires three boxes: Exalted Sorcerers, Rubric Marines, and Tzaangors. If you have enough bits in your collection, you might be able to skip the Exalted Sorcerers box and just kitbash two extra Sorcerers from the Rubric Marines box, but as discussed before, skipping either of the other boxes is something that I strongly discourage. Tzaangors, however, can skip the upgrade sprue that gives them autopistols and chainswords, for the reasons discussed in the previous paragraph. From the Rubric Marine box, all you need are an Icon Bearer with Inferno Boltgun and the Gunner with Soulreaper Cannon, though do note that the Warpflame Pistol is not in the Exalted Sorcerers box, so make sure to use the one from the Rubric Marine box on one of your Sorcerers. Regarding the Exalted Sorcerers box, all you need to do is make sure that you give your Sorcerers the correct weapons (ideally magnetized), and don’t model any on a Disc of Tzeentch; beyond that, just have fun, as the customization offered by this box is pure delight.
Closing Thoughts
I could literally talk about Warpcoven for hours — and, indeed, will absolutely do so if given the chance — but now that this document is over 4,000 words long, I have to stop myself or else risk rambling on ad infinitum. It is my hope that this guide helps with the accessibility of this team for newer players, and gives returning players some direction regarding intermediate-level tactics. Moreover, I hope that I have instilled you with at least some of the love that I hold for this team. The final piece of advice that I would like to leave you with is this: practice, practice, practice. The cognitive load that this team places on the pilot is pretty intense, and can become an especially difficult burden to bear when playing multiple games in a row (e.g. at tournaments). Ultimately, the most effective way to reduce that mental strain is simply to practice as much as you can with this team. The more you play with them, the less brain-power you will need to dedicate to remembering their core mechanics, freeing up more of your attention to be spent on optimizing your play and planning out your moves. Good luck out there, fellow space-wizard. May the Changer of Ways guide your dice.
           Huge thanks to Disregarding Dice for hosting this guide, and to the many talented Kill Team players with whom I’ve discussed and refined all of the ideas contained in this guide.

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