The Blades of Khaine are a kill team for the tabletop skirmish game Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team by Games Workshop. They’re available as part of the Kill Team: Salvation expansion for the game.
The Aspect Warriors that make up the Blades of Khaine kill team are all Craftworld Aeldari, an ancient Xenos species who, after nearly going extinct due to the excess of their ancestors, are all dedicated to walking stricly disciplined Paths of training and wisdom. If their chosen path is a path of war and bloodshed, they might join the versatile riflemen of the Dire Avengers, the berserking blade-dancers of the Howling Banshees, or the guerilla specialists of the Striking Scorpions. No matter which Aspect Shrine they follow, Aspect Warriors dedicate themselves to the perfect use of Shuriken Catapult, Power Weapon or even Chainsword, and donning colours and armour that sets them apart from their fellow Aeldari who follow other paths.
In the game, the Blades of Khaine offer only three different operative types, but grant each type a long list of special abilities, making the team one of the most mechanically complex in the game, while looking pretty uniform on the tabletop. They’re great at close combat if you choose Howling Banshees or Striking Scorpions, but can also become Overwatch experts if you add in Dire Avengers. You can field a combination of Aspect Warriors or dedicate your entire team to a specific Aspect.
If you want excellent melee combat and a complex but adaptible and rewarding set of rules with lots of choice in every single activation, the Blades of Khaine might be just the kill team for you.
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Abilities of the Blades of Khaine Kill Team
Aspect Techniques are sets of 5 abilities available to each of the Aspect Warrior types of the Blades of Khaine kill team (Dire Avengers, Howling Banshees, Striking Scorpions). You can use one Aspect Technique for every activation in a Turning Point, corresponding to the list of Techniques available for the type of Aspect Warrior of the operative you’re activating. You can use each Technique once per Turning Point, or twice if you’re only fielding one type of Aspect Warrior in your team (ie a full team of Striking Scorpion, for example).
Dire Avenger Aspect Techniques
The Dire Avenger Aspect Techniques revolver around maximizing the utility of ranged weapons and keeping your Dire Avengers fit for fight:
- The Slicing Hurricane lets you perform a Shoot Action during a Normal Move with the Active Dire Avenger, which means you can move some of your distance for the move, shoot, and then move the rest of the distance. It doesn’t work for grenades.
- Death of a Thousand Blades can be used after you’ve made a Shoot action with Shuriken Catapult, Twin or otherwise, and lets you make another shooting attack with that weapon against another target within Circle/2 Inches of the original target.
- Vigilance of the Avenger gives the No Cover Special Rule to a Shuriken Cannon, Twin Shuriken Cannon or Shuriken Pistol for one shooting attack against an enemy operative in Cover.
- Unstinting, Immovable lets you retain a failed save as a succesful normal save in a Defence dice roll against an enemy shooting attack if you also rolled a critical save in that defense roll.
- Raging Heat of the Dying Flame is used when a friendly operative who is injured or has had a debuff to its Action Point Limit is activated, and it then treats that operative as uninjured and at its full Action Point Limit.
Howling Banshee Aspect Techniques
The Howling Banshee Aspect Techniques maximize maneuverability and close combat superiority:
- The Woe can be used after a Howling Banshee Charges, incapacitates an enemy operative and is no longer engaged with any enemy operatives. It then gives her a free Charge action using any movement left over from the original Charge action.
- Rain of Tears can be used in combat after the active Howling Banshee strikes with a critical hit. It can then Dash or Fall Back as if it had Fly, leaving the combat. It can be used even if the operative already Dashed or Fell Back in that activation.
- Acrobatic gives a Howling Banshee Fly during one movement action, but for a maximum distance of 3 Circle/6 Inches.
- Scream-That-Steals lets you resolve one succesful hit before the attacker in combat, but you must use it to parry.
- Shriek-That-Kills lets a Howling Banshe perform a Shriek-That-Kills shooting attack with 6 attacks, 2 critical damage, Indirect, No Cover,Torrent Triangle/1 inch and the Stun Critical hit rule which is such an awesome “grenade” to throw at a bunch of hiding enemies before descending upon them with your Power Weapons.
Striking Scorpion Aspect Techniques
The Striking Scorpion Aspect Techniques emphasize stealth and guerilla tactics:
- Patient Stalk, Hidden Blow lets a Concealed Striking Scorpion do D3+2 mortal wounds to one enemy it passes by during a Normal Move in which it must move withing Engagement Range of one or more enemy operatives.
- Strike and Fade lets a Striking Scorpion with an Engage Order who just incapacitated an enemy in combat and is now more than Square/3 Inches from any enemies change its order to Conceal and perform a free Dash Action, even if it normally wouldn’t be able to.
- Scorpion’s Eye lets a Striking Scorpion making a Shoot action with a Shuriken Pistol or Twin Shuriken Pistols against an enemy in Cover gain the Indirect Special Rule for that attack.
- Merciless Strikes gives the Stun Critical Hit Rule to a Striking Scorpion’s melee attacks in a Fight action where it retained any critical hits.
- One With the Gloom lets a Concealed Striking Scorpion be always treated as having a Conceal Order as long as it’s within Triangle/1 Inch of a Light or Heavy Terrain Feature for one activation, even if other rules would negate it, such as an attacker on a Vantage Point
Operatives of the Blades of Khaine Kill Team
The Blades of Khaine kill team consists of 1 Leader and 7 other operatives from the list below.
Dire Avenger Exarch (Leader, 1 per kill team)
The Dire Avenger Exarch has 9 Wounds, a Save of 3+, and an Action Point Limit of 3, just like the two other Exarchs. He has quite a few different loadout options: Shuriken Catapult/Fists, Twin Shuriken Catapult/Fists, Diresword/Shimmershield, Diresword/Shuriken Pistol, Power Weapon/Shimmershield and Power Weapon/Shuriken Pistol.
The Shuriken Catapult has 4 attacks, hits on a 2+ and does 4 critical damage. It has the Rending Critical Hit Rule, so it scores an additional critical hit instead of a normal hit if it rolls at least one other critical hit in an attack roll. Long range firepower one of the main attractions of the Dire Avengers in the Blades of Khaine kill team, so it’s nice to have that as an option for the Dire Avenger Exarch along with its decent Fists melee weapon, but it is outshined a bit by the other infinite range option, the Twin Shuriken Catapult: The Twin Shuriken Catapult only hits on a 3 and does 3 damage in normal and critical damage, but it still has Rending and the Relentless Special Rule for full rerolls of its attack rolls.
The Diresword is basically a Power Weapon with Rending, which is a really good Critical Hit Rule to have when you also have Lethal 5+ to let you score critical hits on a roll of 5 or more, and combined with the Shuriken Pistol, which is just like the Shuriken Catapult but with limited range, you’ll end up with a consistent output of critical hits. The Power Weapon gets 6 critical damage in exchange for having no Rending, which isn’t the best tradeoff.
The Shimmershield gives friendly operatives (they don’t have to be Dire Avengers!) within Circle/2 Inches of the Exarch a 4+ Invulnerable Save, which si pretty amazing, and much better than having a Shuriken Pistol, so the ideal loadout for a Dire Avenger Exarch who doesn’t travel alone on the battlefield is definitely Diresword/Shimmershield. The Shimmershield is also really cool in the sense that it is the only Exarch in the Blades of Khaine kill team that has any synergy with warriors in your team who don’t follow the same Aspect path. So, if you’re running a multi-aspect kill team (maybe you already have an Aeldari 40k army with lots of Aspects to choose from?), the Dire Avenger Exarch is the top pick for leading it.
Like the other Exarchs, the Dire Avenger Exarch can perform two Shoot or Fight actions in an activation, and finally, he has the Defence Tactics ability like regular Dire Avengers, which means his Ballistic Skill doesn’t worsen for Overwatch attacks (presuming you’ve given him any ranged weapons.
Dire Avenger Warrior (7 per kill team)
The Dire Avenger Warrior has the same stats as all the other standard Aspect Warriors of the Blades of Khaine Kill Team: 8 Wounds, a Save of 4+ and an Action Point Limit of 3.
It only has 1 loadout option: Shuriken Catapult, which has unlimited range and the Rending Critical Hit Rule so it scores another Critical hit instead of one of its normal hits if it rolls at least one Critical hit in an attack roll, and the mediocre Fists attack.
The coolest thing about this operative, which is otherwise somewhat a pretty vulnerable standard operative with an ok Boltgun equivalent, is the Defence Tactics ability, which lets it perform Overwatch without worsening its Ballistic Skill for it.
Howling Banshee Exarch (Leader, 1 per kill team)
The Howling Banshee Exarch has the same stats as the other Exarchs (9 Wounds, an Action Point Limit of 3 and so on), but a wholly different set of loadouts. It can with either Mirrorswords, Shuriken Pistol/Executioner, Shuriken Pistol/Power Weapon, Triskele/Power Weapon or Triskele/Shuriken Pistol.
The Mirrorswords are an excellent melee weapon: With 5 attacks hitting on a 2+, the Lethal 5+ and Relentless Special Rules, and a critical damage of 6, you’ll score lots of critical hits and do really good damage with them. The Executioner is also really strong, with 7 critical damage and the Lethal 5+ Special Rule so you’ll score critical hits a third of the time, and the advantage of combining it with the Rending Shuriken Pistol for short range firepower. The Power Weapon, which is the other weapon you can take with a Shuriken Pistol, has one less critical damage, but 4 normal damage and the Lethal 5+ Special Rule, which means a slightly more reliable (but less flashy) damage output.
The Triskele is a short range ranged weapon with Rending and the Torrent Square/3 Inches rule for area damage, but it only has a critical damage of 3 and 4 attacks. If you’re taking it, definitely combine it with the Power Weapon, since otherwise, you’ll end up with two mid-range ranged weapons, which isn’t optimal.
The Howling Banshee Exarch can Shoot or Fight twice in an activation like the other Exarchs, but it also has the Banshee Mask ability like its regular Warrior sisters, which worsens the weapon skill of its target by 1 when fighting in combat (unless the target is Injured). This is a really neat ability that makes Howling Banshees good at dealing with strong melee opponents while being strong in melee themselves.
Howling Banshee Warrior (7 per kill team)
The Howling Banshee Warrior has the same stat as the other standard Aspect Warriors (8 Wounds, an Action Point Limit of 3 etc.), but excels in close combat against other melee fighters. It is equipped with a Lethal 5+ Power Weapon and Shuriken Pistol, ensuring you have a good critical damage output at melee and close range, and its Banshee Mask ability worsens the Weapon Skill of enemy combatants in melee combat. If you’re looking at datacards alone, the Howling Banshee Warrior and the Striking Scorpion Warrior are very similar, with the main difference being that the Banshee’s Power Weapon is just plain better than the Chainswords of Striking Scorpions, even though Striking Scorpions have access to some mortal wound output. So if you’re mixing Aspects, it makes sense to go with either Banshees or Scorpions plus Dire Avengers, at least from a rules perspective.
Striking Scorpion Exarch (Leader, 1 per kill team)
The Striking Scorpion Exarch has the same stats as the other Exarchs (9 Wounds, 3+ Save and so on), but he has some pretty tasty melee loadout options. He can choose between Shuriken Pistol/Biting Blade, Shuriken Pistol/Scorpion’s Claw and Chainsword, and Twin Shuriken Pistols/Twin Chainswords.
The Shuriken Pistol is just like on all the other Aspect Warriors (Rending, limited Range), but the Twin Shuriken Pistols gain Relentless for full rerolls of their attack rolls, which is pretty nice. The Biting Blade is the best kind of “blunt instrument”, with 5 attacks hitting on 2s, 5 normal and 6 critical damage, and the Rending Critical Hit Rule. That’s some very consistent damage output! The Twin Chainswords have the same stats as the Biting Blade with one lower damage in normal and critical damage, but adds the Relentless Special Rule for full rerolls, and since that option is always combined with Twin Shuriken Pistols, it’s the loadout that should give you the most succesful hits flat out.
The Scorpion’s Claw and Chainsword also has 5 attacks hitting on 2s, but has 6 critical damage, Lethal 5+ and Brutal, which means your opponent can only parry it with critical hits.
All the loadout options are actually really fun and powerful, so it’s a good thing that the kit will let you build two Exarchs to swap between. Our favorites here are the Biting Blade and the Claw and Chainsword, but that’s at least as much down to rule of cool as it is to rules.
Like the other Exarchs, the Striking Scorpion Exarch can Fight or Shoot twice in an activation, and like the other Striking Scorpions, he has the Mandiblasters ability, which lets him do 2 mortal wounds to a target just before rolling attack dice in a Fight action against it.
Like the Howling Banshee Exarch, the Striking Scorpion Exarch is just a beast in close combat, with not much other complexity to talk about.
Striking Scorpion Warrior (7 per kill team)
The Striking Scorpion Warrior has the same stats as the other standard Aspect Warriors, but is equipped with a Shuriken Pistol and a Chainsword, which does have Rending, but is otherwise probably the least interesting melee weapon aside from Fists in the Blades of Khaine kill team. It’s not bad at all, but the Banshee Power Weapons are just a little bit better.
What does make them a solid pick is their Mandiblasters ability, which does 2 mortal wounds to the target of any of their Fight actions just before you roll the attack roll.
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Ploys of the Blades of Khaine Kill Team
For one Turning Point, this adds Triangle/1 Inch to the Movement characteristic of your operatives, and allows them to move around and over friendly operatives and their bases as long as they don’t finish their moves on top of them.
For one Turning Point, this lets you reroll on of your defence dice against all incoming shooting attacks against Ready friendly operatives (ie they haven’t had their activation yet in that Turning Point).
For one Turning Point, this lets you reroll one attack dice in all attack rolls made while fighting in combat with active friendly operatives (ie it’s their activation).
For one Turning Point, this lets you reroll one of your attack dice in each attack roll made for shooting attacks against enemy operatives who have already had their activation during that Turning Point.
This lets the active friendly operative perform two Fight actions in its activation, as long as the friendly operative isn’t an Exarch.
This lets the active friendly non-Exarch operative make two Shoot actions in its activation.
This lets the active friendly operative Fall Back for one less Action Point (even if that means it becomes free).
This can be used just after the opponent rolls attack dice for a combat or shooting attack made against a friendly operative. The enemy can’t reroll their attack dice for that attack roll, even with Command Re-roll.
Equipment of the Blades of Khaine Kill Team
This can only be equipped by Dire Avengers, and adds 1 to the attacks of its Fists or Gun Butts weapons.
Rune of Prophecy
This gives you the once per game ability to add or subtract 1 from your Initiative roll.
Rune of Foresight
This gives you the once per game ability to gain 1 Command Point the first time the opponent uses a Strategic of Tactical Ploy (apart form Command Re-Roll) chosen by you at the start of the game.
Rune of Shielding
This gives the bearer the once per game ability to ignore the damage inflicted by one attack dice in a shooting or combat attack made against it.
This gives the bearer the once per game ability to use Command Re-Roll for free when fighting in combat, making a shooting attack or when a shooting attack is made against it.
This is basically a Smoke Grenade, creating an Obscuring Circle/2 Inch area close to the bearer once per game.
This is effectively a Frag Grenade in the sense that is has Blast Circle/2 Inches, Indirect and Limited, but it does 3 normal damage and 4 critical damage instead of the usual 3/4 (meaning that it’s really good!).
Tac Ops of the Blades of Khaine Kill Team
The Archetype of the Blades of Khaine kill team depends on which Aspect Warriors you have the most of in your team. If Dire Avengers are the most common on your team, it has the Security Archetype. If Howling Banshees are the most common, your Archetype is Recon, and if Striking Scorpions are the most common, your Archetype is Infiltration. If your team is equally split between types of Aspect Warriors, you can choose between the two Archetypes for those two types of warriors. The Tac Ops for these Archetypes can be found in the Kill Team Core Book. In addition to the Tac Ops from these Archetypes, the Blades of Khaine kill team has access to the following faction-specific Tac Ops:
This can be revealed in the Target Reveal step of any Turning Point. It gives you 1 Victory Point if both a Dire Avenger, a Howling Banshee and a Striking Scorpion deal damage to enemy operatives in the same Turning Point, and another Victory Point if it happens again in another Turning Point.
This can be revealed in the Target Reveal step of any Turning Point. It gives you 1 Victory Point in a Turning Point where you use all five Aspect Techniques (see the Ability section) in the same Turning Point, and you have to actually meet the conditions for using those Aspect Techniques and carry them out. If that happens again in another Turning Point (which is pretty unlikely), you score another Victory Point.
This can be revealed in the Target Reveal step of any Turning Point. It gives you three conditions for scoring in a Turning Point: A friendly Dire Avenger controls and objective, a friendly Striking Scorpion is within Pentagon/6 Inches of the enemy, and a friendly Howling Banshee is within Pentagon/6 Inches of the enemy drop zone. If at least 2 of those conditions are achieved in a Turning Point, you score a Victory Point, and if it happens again in another Turning Point, you score another Victory Point.
Playing the Blades of Khaine Kill Team
When it comes to playing the Blades of Khaine kill team, there are two ways to approach the problem. First, you can look at it from a strict rules perspective. From that angle, it makes a lot of sense to take a Dire Avengers Exarch for the Invulnerable Save aura, and a mix of Dire Avengers for long range and either Howling Banshees (for all out close combat madness) or Striking Scorpions (for sneaking and guerilla tactics). For many players, however, another approach might be just as important: Fielding a mixed team if you don’t already have an Aeldari army is really expensive, and the Dire Avengers look a lot different from the other two Aspects in quality and style, so many players will want to focus on just one Aspect. If that’s your approach, the Striking Scorpions are by far the most affordable and all-round, since the Salvation box comes with 10 of them instead of the 5 Howling Banshees or Dire Avengers you get in their respective kits – but more on that in the section below.
The biggest problem with the Blades of Khaine kill team from a beginner perspective is that most of the rules that really make one kind of Aspect Warrior unique aren’t written on their datacards. Instead, a lot of awesome rules are placed in the Aspect Techniques tables in addition to Strategic Ploys and Tactical Ploys, leading to a lot of page-flipping in rulebooks for the first many games you’ll play, especially if you’re mixing Aspects in a team. On top of that, 2 of your 3 Faction Tac Ops require you to field all 3 Aspects, and since you’ll very rarely do that, that means your de facto options for scoring points are a bit limited.
In short: playing the Blades of Khaine is pretty complicated. That’s not to say they aren’t strong, though! The Exarchs have many really strong weapons, and the Aspect Techniques tables are full of good stuff, plus all of your standard Aspect Warriors have interesting abilities. You just have to get used to the fact that, while the Space Marine Scouts in the Salvation expansion for Kill Team are the quintessential “kill team” team in terms of rules, the Blades of Khaine are the complete opposite, with no specialists and a bunch of visually alike operatives with the same loadouts who all have access to the same large pool of special abilities – which can be pretty tricky to keep track of!
However, if you love the lore of Aspect Warriors and are into collecting them, or if you want a really, really modular team for math-hammering out fun combos, the Blades of Khaine provides both of those experiences in spades. In the hands of a skilled player, the Blades of Khaine look like they could dominate a lot of match-ups, but it will require a pretty advanced understanding of the game.
Building and assembling your kill team
The Blades of Khaine kill team can be assembled from 3 different kits:
- Dire Avengers is a kit that’s literally 20 years old, meaning it will look pretty weird next to the other two kits for this kill team due to changes in size, detail and proportions. Apart from that, plastic kits from the early 2000s are generally pretty easy to assemble, and the Exarch has access to a bunch of cool-looking weapons. Be aware that you only get 5 Dire Avengers in a pack, so building your team from these is around twice as expensive as fielding a full set of Striking Scorpions from the Kill Team: Salvation box.
- Howling Banshees is pretty new for a Craftworlds kit, dating back to 2017. It is comparable in quality and proportions to the Striking Scorpions. Due to the acrobatic stances of the Banshees (they’re all jumping off little rocks on the ground, you don’t have a lot of customisability in terms of their poses, but since their swords and pistols are one-handed, you do have some freedom in how you pose their arms. The kit also comes with several unhelmeted heads if you want to make an Ynnari team. The Banshee Exarch’s special weapons look like they would fit other bodies than the designated Exarch one, if you plan on building multiple Exarch options for your roster. Like the Dire Avengers, you only get 5 Banshees in a box, so they’re more expensive to field than Striking Scorpions at the moment.
- Striking Scorpions are a brand new kit, and the kit in the Kill Team: Salvation box lets you build 10 Scorpions from 2 identical sprues (so you’re essentially building 2 Striking Scorpions kits). You can build 2 Exarchs from this kit without using the same body twice, but it does require you clip and cut a little bit if you want to glue the two-handed Biting Blade to a non-Exarch body. Otherwise, they’re very easy to assemble, as long as you take care of the rather big mould lines down the middle of their helmets. The kit also comes with many unhelmeted options if you want to make an Ynnari team.