Back in the days of the Daemon Hunter codex it was common knowledge that Grey Knights were not a fighty army, they were a shooty army. A lot of this was because a) they had storm bolters and b) you were so likely to get creamed by anything even remotely scary, you had to stay the fuck away from pretty much the whole world. Some of you might be surprised to find out that according to internet wisdom, this classification of Grey Knights has not changed. Despite army-wide force weapons, psychic dickery and entirely new types of close combat grenades materializing out of thin air (POP!), the word on Nerd Street is that if you’re trying to beat things up in base-to-base you’re not doing it right. So why is this?
Grey Knights: Shooty or Fighty?
The verdict is in from the internet; Grey Knights = shooty, not fighty. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this but the two main ones are the Grey Knights low number of attacks and great availability of psycannons. Psycannons are now one of the neatest, grooviest infantry mounted anti-tank options in the game. It’s essentially a strength 7 assault cannon (remember razorback spam? Grey Knights can mount twice as much firepower on their infantry dudes alone, and they’re a higher strength) which, barring monoliths, should solve pretty much any problem you have with tanks, as long as you can get within 24” of the enemy. Why not just give Grey Knights meltaguns, you might wonder? Well, for a start meltaguns are ruining 40k and secondly, Grey Knights being able to keep their enemies at arms’ length is essential. By being able to blast a transport from 24” away means that those melta-vets won’t be blasting you back next turn. Being able to move 6” and still shoot your heavy weapons means that Grey Knights are still able to dictate the flow of battle by not being static and forcing the enemy to make tough choices. This coupled with their storm bolters gives Grey Knights a good shooting arm.
On the flipside of the coin, Grey Knights now have even less attacks than they used to. Sure they now all have force weapons, but if you’re fighting garbage (IG, Tau etc) then your force weapons are a waste and if you’re fighting awesomeness (thunderhammer terminators, genestealers etc), they’ll tear your nuts off and take minimal casualties back, force weapons or no. This basically means Grey Knights only excel at killing well protected things that are shit in combat (tactical squads, broadside battlesuits, necron warriors), which is nice but it really doesn’t qualify Grey Knights as a close combat army. The nastiest example of this conundrum is orks, who have good toughness, no armour, lots of attacks and high numbers. The exact worst close combat enemy for a model with only 1 attack, a force weapon and a high points outlay.
The above is all the opinion of various internet authorities and while I can’t argue that there’s wisdom in their words, I myself wouldn’t lump Grey Knights into these categories irrevocably. For starters there’s always purifiers who get more attacks and an excellent anti-horde attack in the form of cleansing flame which wounds every model in combat on a 4+. But even purifiers and terminators aside, one reason why Strike Squads supposedly can’t cut it in combat is that optimal builds aren’t willing to spend points or slots on things like Brotherhood Champions who give their squad re-rolls to hit like a chaplain and who can also tie up nasty independent characters in combat while the rest of the squad hacks a retinue to death. They’re also writing off the possibility of tooling up Strike Squads and the fact that with Hammerhand and Might of Titan you can add to the strength of the Grey Knights’ attacks. 10 guys putting out 20 initiative 6, strength 6 force weapon attacks with re-roll to hit is pretty damn scary. Alternatively, instead of relying on Might of Titan, you might consider just taking a character with rad grenades. Most of the time you should be wounding on 2’s.
I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of reasons why the WAAC guys don’t consider this viable and while I can see there’s much easier and more effective ways to win a game, I’m not convinced you couldn’t play a very competitive close combat Grey Knight army (with no henchmen) and win. If nothing else you win a moral victory for being manly and trying to beat something to death, rather than hiding in a transport like a sissy and firing your atomic pea-shooter at people.