Now you see that evil will always triumph
because good is dumb
I discussed some of the overall implications associated with the Warp Storm table and Daemonic Instability last week here. The natural point to discuss the Daemon Codex from that analysis is in the HQ department. There are two distinct types of Daemon HQ's - Heralds and Greater Daemons. A discussion of both requires a discussion of the associated gifts, psychic powers and of the Loci for the heralds which naturally leads to a discussion of the other Force Org selections. To keep the initial impressions simple, I am going to start with the Greater Daemons - unnamed for this post - and then move on from there.
When I consider an HQ they generally have two important properties: force multiplier or combat monster. The Daemons codex is no exception - other than there are more opportunities for HQ's to be force multipliers, even at the Greater Daemon level. For this analysis I am going on the assumption that the book Psychic Powers are superior as buffs - which they are - to the ones in the Daemons Codex. The place in my opinion for the Daemon powers are after you get that book power you want - maybe Iron Arm, Invisibility or Precognition. In order of their appearance in the codex, the first greater daemon is...
The Bloodthirster brings with it exactly what you would expect from the Greater Daemon of Khorne - it is a fast close combat monster at an economical price for a flying monstrous creatures. It has access to additional gifts - and can grab two Greater Gifts or a Greater and Exalted. There is no reason to provide it with any of the Lesser Gifts - as a rule I do not think the Lesser Gifts are worth it on any of the greater daemons. As a force multiplier - the only role for a Thirster is in taking Exalted gifts for a Portalglyph or Grimmoire of True Names, a role that is wasted on the Thirster.
Given the only role of a Thirster is to tear apart enemy units, the Exalted gifts are all worth their cost and I would not be upset to get any result. Given that, the Greater Rewards provide a significant survivability boost - with the chance at Feel No Pain, It Will Not Die, and Rerollable Invulnerable saves. There is a chance at a worthless 3+ save, but the Blade of Blood Khorne swap is worth it for Rampage if confronted with swarms of enemies.
Fully kitted, a Blood Thirster probably should come in just under 300 points and although it is impressive to drop that kind of CC monster to the table - I really think that overall it is not worth it. The Bloodthirster is hurt by the rise of Plasma Weapons that ignore its 3+ save, it is impressive in combat, but still vulnerable to Grenades or being held up indefinitely in challenge after challenge. If it brought more impressive shooting to the table - along the lines of a Flying Tyrant, then there might be more potential. In a list that emphasizes Flying Monstrous Creatures one might fit - but I would not recommend that kind of list in any case.
Lord of Change
I want to like the Lord of Change - it is a flying monstrous creature with a strong statline and the ability to reroll its invulnerable saves. It has the potential with Divination rolls to strongly buff nearby units - or itself. As a shooting platform, I think the Lord of Change wastes itself when a Herald of Tzeentch at Mastery 3 is almost as competent. The Lord can skyfire, which is a nice bonus, but is expensive to use for that ability alone. The role for a Lord of Change then is as a buffer, that can become a nightmare to remove with a little luck...
The luck needed by the Lord is twofold. First, it needs to take at least one Greater Gift in order to get itself an Armour Save. Feel No Pain is also a great buff. This Greater Daemon is also the only one worth grabbing a Lesser Gift on for a Staff of Change - the Warpdoom Explosion, +2 S is nice, especially since it resolves at AP 2 due to Smash. This provides a CC unit able to Instant Death T4 characters.
Second, when rolling on Divination, Precognition is an outstanding power for the Lord of Change. It is worth another Mastery level hoping to get it. As I write this, I like the Lord of Change a bit more - at worst it will provide Divination buffs on a strong flying platform that can keep up with moving troops. At best it provides a Fateweaver like model that can reroll all failed saves with 5 wounds and attacks at S8, WS 6. If Skyfire is really needed, it can always grab a Tzeentch power - but in most cases I think I would rather take Divination and let the Lord make the entire army more terrifying.
Great Unclean One
The Great Unclean one sits on an extra wound and toughness due to its Nurgle dedication and also has a natural Shroud - which provides a 3+ in terrain. This is outstanding with Move Through Cover on monstrous creatures letting the Great Unclean One deep strike close to the enemy, into cover without risk. It is even better coming off an icon, to make sure it can get in close since it is also the slowest of the Daemons.
The reward for slowness on an Unclean one is access to the Biomancy table - which is devastating on a Monstrous Creature. I think this guy needs to be Mastery 3 - the chance at T8-10 is too brutal for some armies that simply cannot handle such a monster. Life Leech is also annoying on this guy, and Enfeeble provides great utility. The magical combination on a Great Unclean One is Iron Arm, Endurance, Enfeeble to provide a solid rock unit that makes all the enemies near him better.
The Greater Gifts are all good for the Unclean One - but I would keep him cheaper by going with psychic powers and then leaving it at that. Neither of the Weapon Swaps provide much to an Unclean One that his profile does not already take care of.
Keeper of Secrets
For purely sentimental reasons the Keeper of Secrets is my favorite of the Greater Daemons. His role is similar to the one played by a Lord of Change - with additional close combat ability. Unlike the Bloodthirster the Keeper brings the potential to be a force multiplier with her access to Telepathy, which is my favorite table in the game. Invisibility and Hallucination are outstanding powers - possibly the most game breaking that can be used. The other powers are all excellent, especially Terrify as a means to shift extremely difficult to manage units - however Dominate can be situationally useful while Puppet Master provides potential to gain access to firepower lacking in the Daemon codex.
Once it reaches combat, the Keeper is as brutal as any of the other greater daemons - although it suffers from the same survivability problem as the other Daemons - albeit without the advantage of biomancy or flight. I think the role of the keeper is to come in Turn 2 via Deep Strike near the enemy and grab invisibility (from itself or another unit), using instruments to guarantee its arrival. As a loadout, it is the most reasonable Mastery 3 psyker, and if it grabs Invisibility first, the Slaanesh powers provide strong buffs/debuffs for it to act as a force multiplier.
Greater Daemon Summary
None of the greater daemons are poor choices and they are competitively costed across the board. I think the Bloodthirster provides the least to an overall army - I like my army to work as a self supporting, tuned machine with psychic powers supporting the whole, and the models using their impressive statline to win key combats. As such, I prefer the Keeper and Great Unclean One as my top choices. The Lord of Change is a close second and I do not think I would field a Bloodthirster.
All four daemons need to avoid being too close to a weaker unit - since combat resolution strips away all of their protection. In a <2000 point game I would never bring more than one Greater Daemon - the heralds provide too much to lose the other HQ slot and it commits too many points to single monsters vulnerable to a poor Warp Storm roll.
Notably missing from this analysis of HQ monsters is a Daemon Prince - that is simply because I think the Greater Daemons are better overall than a Daemon Prince, which belong in the Heavy Support slot in most cases.
Next week I will get into more depth on the individual Daemonic Rewards, Psychic Powers and some initial impressions on the Heralds.