Chaos Space Marines and Vigilus Ablaze – The Goonhammer Review – Part 2 (Army Options)

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Intro

Welcome back to all Chaos Lords, those tempted by the newly ascendant Dark Powers and the various Imperial lapdogs and Xenos scum wondering what on earth they’re going to be facing down across the table once people have had a few weeks to paint stuff (and buy Forge World out of stock of Rotor Cannon and Chainaxe kits).

In Part 1 yesterday we covered all the new and updated datasheets available in the new books. Throughout, you might have seen references to various unfamiliar stratagems and abilities, and that’s because alongside all the unit changes, Vigilus Ablaze brings a whole new selection of other options, both new abilities for the Black Legion and the various Renegade Chapters and also a whole set of specialist detachments, allowing you to further customise your very own Chaos horde and unlock powerful new abilities.

Today we’re going to go through all of these, then finish with a number of army lists (a mighty four, since it turns out co-writing a review is a great way to generate a whole bunch of ideas for new forces.

One_Wing has Forge World units explained to him, colourised, early 2019

Faction Abilities

The Black Legion

Abaddon’s chosen march to war.

Abaddon’s very own legion get the biggest expansion in Vigilus Ablaze, receiving a set of stratagems, warlord traits and relics all of their own. While the pool of relics and stratagems isn’t quite as deep as those available to completely separate marine lists like the Thousand Sons, the Black Legion get these in addition to the set from Codex CSM, with the end result being that they have a very strong set of options to choose from. Combined with Abaddon himself being extremely powerful, and providing a force multiplier to other units that isn’t really available elsewhere, expect to see a lot of Black Legion detachments (usually alongside Red Corsairs, as we’ll see in a bit) in armies that have gone heavily in on Chaos Space Marines.

Legion Trait

Black Legion retain their legion trait from the original codex (+1 LD, Rapid Fire guns become Assault when advancing). The LD buff isn’t hugely relevant given you’ll often bring Abaddon, but at least makes 5-model units of Havocs/CSMs very nearly fearless if they’re sitting in your backline. The other buff also lets you get a bit of value out of your units if you need to advance them to reposition (though is a less attractive option than before on the most likely users, Terminators, thanks to beta bolter rules). In general, this isn’t something you can build an army around like the Alpha Legion trait, but it’s still a value-add to the army.

Stratagems

  • Let the Galaxy Burn: Reprinted from the Codex, this lets a unit re-roll 1s to hit for a phase, or re-roll misses if they’re a Chaos Space Marine unit. A nice option to have access to – in general you want to be keeping your key units in a re-roll bubble of some sort, but 1CP is a low price to pay to get this in an emergency (if you’re bringing in Terminators with Combi-Plas and want to overcharge, for example).
  • Chosen of the Pantheon: For 1CP at the start of your turn, a unit that didn’t pick a specific mark gains all four chaos god keywords till your next turn. This can be great with something like a big unit of Terminators, letting them dip into multiple god-specific stratagems, and don’t forget that if you hit a point where you decide you only want one god for the rest of the battle, you can use the main Codex stratagem “Beseech the Chaos Gods” to “lock in” one choice for the rest of the game.
  • World Killers: For a hefty 3CP at the start of a battle round, your Black Legion units switch off the obsec abilities of any enemy units for a battle round when they’re contesting the same objective. This obviously means that even one troop model from a Black Legion detachment trumps any number of any other models for the purposes of holding an objective. This is very expensive, but it’s one of those tools that will be game-winningly good on some occasions, so it’s a great tool to have in your back pocket. Worth noting that the wording on this is a bit weird, using some unnecessary extra words that sort of imply that it might be intended to effectively also make all of your units obsec as well as removing it from the enemy. It definitely doesn’t do that as currently written, but this is definitely one of those things worth checking up on when the FAQ drops, because if it does it’s obviously even better!
  • Relics of the Long War: Your standard extra relic stratagem. Worth nothing that there is wording on the previous page that prevents you using both this and the main CSM “extra relic” stratagem in the same game, which is definitely fair enough given that this set of stuff is “as well as” the core CSM rules rather than “instead of”.
  • Merciless Fighters: For 1CP, at the start of the fight phase, a unit gets +1 attack if it contains more models than there are enemies within 3″ of it. This obviously works well with a large unit of Chaos Cultists (or the comedy option, a horde of Khorne Berserkers), but because it happens prior to pile ins, it should often be possible to set it up so that more elite units such as a large Terminator Squad can trigger the buff before piling in and fighting at high efficiency. As with all CSM buffs, combining it with Veterans of the Long War and/or the Khorne double fight is big, clever and highly recommended. This is a really good trick to let you punch above your weight, and a steal at 1CP.
  • Tip of the Spear: Again for 1CP, in your first shooting phase the unit in your army that’s closest to the enemy can reroll shooting attacks. This doesn’t feel like it will come up that often – on your first turn none of your deep strike nasties will be down, your weaker, screening units might well be out front, and you should hopefully have successfully set up Abaddon to provide re-rolls in other places you need them. However, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t cost anything to have access to it, and it’s quite good in the odd case where it’s relevant.
  • Legacy of Horus: Hands out some minor leadership buffs if you are mixing legions. This is never going to be relevant.
  • Council of Traitors: As long as Abaddon, a Chaos Lord or a Daemon Prince is your warlord, for 1CP you can hand out a warlord trait to each of a Sorcerer (which can include a Terminator or Bike Sorcerer) and a Dark Apostle. Warlord traits are great, the Black Legion gets 6 extra traits to choose from, and you want to set this up whenever you can.

This only makes us love them more.

The cream of the crop here are Council of Traitors, Merciless Fighters and World Killers, simply because they give the Black Legion access to some additional flexibility and tricks. Others can be situationally useful, but we think these will come up the most.

Warlord Traits

  • Veteran Raider: Units within 6 of your warlord (including the warlord) can charge even if they fell back. Nice if you decide to build your own smash captain, as throwing chaff bodies at them to stop them being able to charge is a common way to counter them, and could maybe allow something like Terminators to disengage from a “harassment” unit like a ramming Wave Serpent and roll into a better target.
  • Indomitable: Halves incoming damage on your warlord. Great when applied to a Terminator Sorcerer via Council of Traitors.
  • Black Clad Brute: +1S and a chance of doing some Mortal Wounds on the charge. Immediately outclasses Veteran Raider for the purposes of smash captain construction, as it combines with VotLW to get you to wounding on 2s against Knights.
  • Soul Eater: Your warlord regains D3 wounds on wiping out a unit. Bad.
  • Trusted War-Leader: Regain your CP spent on strategems on a 5+. Good. Obviously a great choice to apply to a Dark Apostle via Council of Traitors.
  • First Among Traitors: Your warlord and units within 6″ trigger “Death to the False Emperor” on 5s. Bad because of how specific it is. Abaddon has to take it, which is one of his biggest drawbacks, but now being able to hand out 2 additional traits mitigates that.

The winners here are Black Clad BruteIndomitable and Trusted War-Leader, and that’s a combination that will come up a lot via Council of Traitors in lists without Abaddon (with his trait obviously subbing out Black Clad Brute when he’s present). Note from TheChirurgeon: I think Veteran Raider is also a really strong trait because of its aura effect, which can be really valuable for something like a unit of Berserkers.

The mon-keigh will live to regret the theft of our precious gimmick!

Relics

  • Ghorisvex’s Teeth: An extremely powerful relic chainsword with extra attacks, damage and AP that is phenomenal if you can get to S5 (oh hi Black Clad Brute). Once you do that, you can have a decent “discount” Smash Captain.
  • Trophies of Slaughter: Another minor LD mod for a faction that don’t need it in the slightest, pass.
  • Sightless Helm: Gives a model -1 BS but then all of their weapons (crucially including melee) get +1 AP. Extremely good on a Lord Discordant with a Baleflamer, as that doesn’t roll to hit, and his outrageous melee output only gets better. Also good on the aforementioned smash captain, who’s not going to be shooting anyways, as it removes the “fail case” of your opponent lucking out and rolling a bunch of 6s to save.
  • Angel’s Bane: A heavily souped up combi bolter that’s even more souped up against Imperium. Not a “must take” but a fine level up if you have nothing better to buy.
  • Cloak of Conquest: Bearer gets souped up if they kill enemy characters. Unfortunately, this kind of ability just doesn’t work in competitive play. Probably hilarious in mammoth apocalypse games.
  • Spineshiver Blade: S5 power sword that you get D6 extra attacks with. A nice extra to throw on to a fully-featured smash captain to give them even more output (as you can make the extra attacks in addition to their basic Thunder Hammer attacks) but missing D2 to be worth it on their own, especially compared to other options like the Murdersword.

There are some decent choices here, but nothing that really screams out as must-takes, with the possible exception of the Helm on a Lord Discordant, as once you run the maths against key targets it really does make a huge difference to his killing power. Despite that, these exist entirely as a bonus for Black Legion players, and it’s nice for them to have some relic weapon choices in line with the power level these are commonly at in newer books (seriously, compare the relic weapons in earlier Codexes to the newer ones, the difference is spectacular).

Summary

These extra choices really help the Black Legion stand out as probably the best option for the “core” of a Chaos Space Marines army. One of the reasons Space Marines (loyal and chaotic) have struggled this edition is that they pay a lot of points to theoretically be “generalists”, which the game currently doesn’t favour. The Black Legion options really lean into the flexibility angle, and given how well some of them combine with new Terminators and small marine squads, help the marine playstyle thrive in a hostile environment.

Renegade Chapters

In the main CSM Codex, Renegade Chapters, representing chapters that have more recently fallen from the Imperium’s grace, had a fixed Legion trait (advance and charge), no stratagems or relics and lost access to probably the best stratagem in the book, Veterans of the Long War. This, in combination, made them a rather difficult sell. The new Vigilus book sets out to fix that with specific traits, along with an accompanying relic, warlord trait and stratagem for six of these. In a nice surprise, some of these turn out to be really, really good, genuinely bringing the use of Renegades (and really, one chapter in particular) into consideration. We’ll run through these in turn, starting with the biggest hit – the Red Corsairs.

Red Corsairs

The Red Corsairs have two big draws, the first being their Legion Trait. A detachment containing any “Chaos Space Marine” (i.e. the core troops datasheet) units gives +1CP, and one with three units +3. This means that a spiky 17 battalion of three minimum-sized squads of Chaos Space Marines with two characters will generate a whopping 8CP. Better yet, one of those characters can be the extremely cost effective Huron Blackheart, a named character from the codex who’s a Chaos Lord with relic gear and also about 3/4 of a Chaos Sorceror for 105pts, which is very good.

Their relic, Maelstrom’s Bite, is also an outrageously powerful combi-melta, with a Rapid-Fire 3 S5 D2 bolter and a S9 meltagun. This is a great toy to give to a Warpsmith (because he’s cheap and BS2+), Terminator Sorcerer, or Chaos Lord on Bike (to get access to beta bolter rules).

Their stratagem is “Tide of Traitors” but for Chaos Space Marines. Given that CSM units can go up to 20, you could theoretically try to build an army to exploit this, but in practice even with the allure of the stratagem you probably don’t want to spend >250pts on 20 Chaos Marines (we’d rather spend that level of points on a big Terminator squad).

A good compromise might be to, if you find yourself with a few points left at the end of list building where you’ve included a Red Corsairs Battalion (which will be a lot of lists), chuck a couple of plasma weapons in one squad (combi-plasma on the champion, plasma gun on a regular). That squad probably doesn’t hugely jump up the opponent’s target priority list, but gives you a unit that can potentially drop in and murder a back-line company commander or similar if your opponent messes up. At most, you’d want to max out with a squad of 10 with minor upgrades.

Finally, the Warlord Trait lets you hand out an extra relic to a Red Corsairs character, and also gives +1 Attack after killing a character. Given that the Red Corsairs relic is really good, handing it to a character is nice – don’t forget that you can still use your free basic relic from your warlord on a “vanilla” CSM relic if that’s more useful. They’ve also updated Huron’s warlord trait to be this one, a marked improvement over the Codex.

Overall, the Legion trait here is so spectacular that you’ll probably see a Red Corsairs Battalion in a lot of lists, and the other tricks are all nice-to-haves – Huron gives another +1CP when he’s your warlord, so picking him as that then handing out relics like candy puts Red Corsairs close to the Black Legion’s level for efficiency.

Crimson Slaughter

Nothing much going on here. The trait needs you to invest heavily in Crimson Slaughter to give you a lot of CP, and you’d rather just take Black Legion and “Trusted War Leader”. The warlord trait is leadership trickery and the relic is a D1 relic melee weapon, both great additions to the respective pantheons of “completely irrelevant tools that meet those descriptions”.

The only draw here is the stratagem, which allows you to declare a piece of terrain within 12″ of a Crimson Slaughter unit to be “very spooky” (technical rules description) at the start of your opponent’s shooting phase, and units within 3″ of that terrain piece get -1 to hit for a phase. That can actually be outrageously good in the right circumstances, so if you have both a full renegade detachment (to unlock the stratagems) and a weird mixed supreme command or something it might be worth nominating one model to have this keyword just so you can throw out this particular sucker punch if the stars align. This will probably work best with a unit that can teleport in to get within 12” of a key piece of terrain, or something like a Lord Discordant you want to rush forward.

The Purge

These guys, conversely, are surprisingly good, though possibly held back from true greatness by not getting VotLW. Their Legion Trait allows their units to re-roll attacks against targets that have already lost any wounds this turn. Given the wound doesn’t even need to have been inflicted by a Purge unit, this is frankly absurd – you can throw a “Smite” or a Warpsmith “Machine Curse” to tee up a bunch of incredibly accurate shooting from some units with this keyword. They’re a great combo with the “Devastation Battery” specialist detachment we’ll be covering in a bit, with Havocs and Obliterators benefiting hugely from the trait, and are also potentially a good home for a bunch of Las/Missile Helbrutes being given a 5++ by a Dark Apostle (since Helbrutes don’t get VotLW anyway but do get Legion Traits).

TheChirurgeon’s Note: Go even bigger. Both Helforged Contemptors and Leviathans get the HELBRUTE keyword and while they can’t Fire Frenzy, they’re much more efficient at putting out silly amounts of firepower.

A great home for these.

Their warlord trait lets a unit re-roll 1s to wound and damage rolls, which is a bit lacklustre as most things are only going to get benefit from one half of that in the contexts you actually use them, and the re-roll 1s to wound is worse for improving wound efficiency than VotLW, but it’s better than nothing and still useful. The stratagem for the Purge, All Life is Worthless, may be the coolest stratagem in the game. It lets a unit shoot into combat, with 1s hitting friendlies. Letting a chaincannon Havoc squad blow away a melee unit that’s wrapped and trapped one of your screening units can cripple the entire gameplan of some armies and is just outrageously powerful when it’s relevant. Finally, their relic is a black hole grenade, and even though it’s not actually very good, it’s hilariously metal and it still helps get quick wounds to activate the army’s Legion tactic.

Overall, these guys are fantastic – while it’s a shame that a lot of the units that really benefit from their trait would also benefit from VotLW, re-rolling hits on BS3+ units provides a comparable increase in output to Veterans against many targets, meaning that if you’re continuously using Veterans elsewhere you can boost some of your other units using this faction trait instead. The only other strike against them is that Abaddon can provide the same benefit in Black Legion armies, meaning that chaincannon and Obliterator squads could potentially rely on that, but for backline units, the Purge can be a real beast.

The Scourged

Back to a bit of a miss here, as their Legion Trait is really just a bit worse than “The Purge” in almost all cases. Their stratagem gives a deep strike intercept, but only within 12″ so your opponent can just avoid any units that could profitably do it, and the trait just isn’t good enough for you to want lots of things. Their warlord trait is OK, it’s the “good” combat order modification effect of forcing an opponent to fight last, but with Black Legion and Red Corsairs in the mix for efficiency, warlord traits have to be stunningly good to catch the Chaos Lord’s eye outside them. Finally, their relic is a really bad version of the Helm of Spite.

Move along, nothing to see here.

Brazen Beasts

Legion trait gives AP-4 on 6s to wound in melee, which is quite cool on something like Khorne Berserkers who throw out a lot of attacks, but really wants to combo with VotLW, which it can’t. You could theoretically try and use the +1 wound from a Dark Apostle, but that’s very hard to line up. Warlord trait is another “this character gets better when it kills a character” effect, which is still a hard pass.

The relic and stratagem could both have uses – the relic gives a 2+, extra move and an extra attack, which would be nice on a Daemon Prince, and the stratagem lets you throw out Mortal Wounds from a Daemon Engine at the end of combat. These could in theory have places in weird Supreme Command detachments, but almost certainly don’t quite get there – once you’re doing that, options really have to be the best of the best to make the cut.

TheChirurgeon’s Note: I think these guys are an interesting alternative to World Eaters. Pairing an Apostle with Chainaxe+Chainsword Berserkers isn’t that hard, and the Burning Daemonheart stratagem could be a great way to get the last 2-3 wounds you need on something the Lord Discordant is fighting. Outside of Berserkers though, you just don’t have enough attacks on most units to make the trait work. It could probably work on 10-man chainaxe terminators or chainsword bikes, though.

Flawless Host

These get “Death to the False Emperor” in melee against everyone, and double dip against Imperium. Given you can still access “Prescience” in Renegade detachments, this is a little better than the Brazen Beasts, so Flawless Host Khorne Berserkers (weird though that sounds) could maybe be a thing, especially as their stratagem applies hit re-rolls in the fight phase for a low price. Their warlord trait keys off the ability, tripling the number of extra attacks you get, which could potentially let you set up some hilarious combats with a Daemon Prince, but you sadly can’t combo it with a Lord Discordant because he doesn’t get Legion Traits (which is a shame, because his built-in +1 to hit would make this outrageous). The relic is fine but not going to make the cut in a Black Legion/Red Corsairs world.

The flawless host probably get closest to being worth thinking about outside “Red Corsairs” and “The Purge” simply because they buff up a kind of unit (melee) that isn’t helped as much by the others, but still ultimately probably aren’t good enough to compete with the best choices.

Specialist Detachments

Like the first Vigilus book, Vigilus Ablaze contains a whole bunch of new specialist detachments, but this time, rather than a spread across several armies, they’re all focused on Chaos (with one slightly wobbly exception), with seven for Chaos Space Marines and one for Chaos Daemons. As with the original Vigilus book, some of these look very interesting, while some are a bit of a miss. We’ll quickly run through a summary of each one, but for our money the very clear standout is the Devastation Battery, with the Soulforged Pack, Host Raptorial and the Host of Skulls following behind.

Bringers of Despair

Includes all Black Legion Terminators in a detachment (which includes Abaddon). You might think, given that we’re quite hot on Black Legion terminators, that we’d be keen on this, but sadly it’s a bit lacklustre. One strategem is dedicated to allowing a unit within 18″ of a model in the detachment to auto-pass morale, which is theoretically cool, but irrelevant if you’ve brought Abaddon, and also something that would need to go off twice before it was more efficient than just using “Insane Bravery” because of the cost of the detachment.

The second one is a little better – it lets you double the impact on morale of casualties inflicted by a unit in the fight phase. A Black Legion Terminator squad with chainaxes in Abaddon’s Bubble will chew through 8-11 chaff infantry in a turn (depending on their save), so this actually can be a neat way to sucker punch out a squad of, for a topical example, 20 Acolyte Hybrids (though obviously the fact that those in particular will chainsaw your terminators to death before they run is what we in the business like to refer to as “a problem”. Maybe shoot them with your combi-bolters).

However, even this fails the test of being extremely situational, and this is one of the specialist detachments that runs too high a risk of costing you points and giving you nothing. The Warlord trait is also absurdly narrow, and the relic is fine but needs help to be really good, because it’s a relic weapon that only gets to S7 naturally.

While this doesn’t seem to quite get there for buffing Terminator squads, or if you have Abaddon, where it might just about get over the line is applying it to a Terminator Character to make a “mini-Abaddon” in the case that you have large squads you’re sure you’re going to need to auto-pass Morale on, and don’t mind spending a CP up front to make it cheaper each time. This can be a good way to get this effect into an army that can’t justify spending points on the big guy himself, and can be handy cross-faction on something like Tzaangors.

Devastation Battery

This man is very, very excited

By far the best in the book. Includes Havocs, Obliterators, Chaos Lords and Warpsmiths, all top tier units.You’re really here for two things. First off is the warlord trait, which grants re-roll 1s to wound against vehicles to devastation battery units within 6. Unlike in Space Marines, wound re-rolls are hard to come by in CSM, so this is extremely welcome, and also combos very well with VotLW, because re-roll 1s get better the better your target number is. The second is one of the two stratagems, “Punishing Volley”, which when you go second, allows you to shoot one with one of your units at the end of your opponent’s first movement phase.

This is a phenomenally powerful effect (out of sequence extra actions almost always are) which if used correctly can inflict absolute misery on your opponent. It isn’t without its drawbacks, of course, because using it means leaving one of your good units out in at least something of a “vulnerable” position, but the rewards and mind games can be extreme. We like a devastation battery that includes:

  • A full squad of Obliterators
  • A Chaincannon Havoc Squad
  • A Missile Launcher Havoc Squad

All of these units are relatively survivable once they’re in “Prepared Positions”, and so depending on your matchup, you can make a judicious choice about what you can potentially profitably leave out in the open. Against something like Orks, who don’t tend to have great long ranged answers to models with 2+ saves, and who definitely want to come towards you, leave the Chaincannon squad out front just behind your screen, and enjoy watching the Ork player try to win with one fewer blob of 30 boyz. Against something a bit tastier like a Knight Gallant, consider if you might get more out of your Obliterators being in position to ward it off from your lines than in deep strike – with a friendly Dark Apostle throwing -1 to hit on them they’re really very difficult to shift once you factor in a cover save, and a good round of shooting can put a lot of pain on a knight. For all other purposes, the Missile Launcher Havocs sitting in the back line will be bound to have something they can put a bit of hurt on with a round of rockets.

Using this judiciously will certainly be a skill to develop, but the power is definitely there, and we think this will come out a lot. We haven’t really talked about the relic or the other stratagem because neither is great – the relic lets you strip cover from a target which is fine but not worth a CP most of the time, while the other stratagem is specifically for killing “Buildings” and isn’t even good at that

We tend to feel this works best as either Black Legion (assuming you have Abaddon kicking around for re-rolls) or The Purge, with Red Corsairs also having some game because against an army that might want to ram a plane up in your face, a Warpsmith with the relic gun and his normal melta actually has an outside chance of randomly punking it via the strat, and that’s something people are less likely to see coming than shooting from a normal squad.

Soulforged Pack

Includes all “Daemon Engines” and “Warpsmiths”. Specifically extremely good with Lords Discordant, as the warlord trait grants an increased move aura, both the stratagems help them excel (there’s an advance and charge one and a reduce degradation one) and the relic is niche but can be really good in specific matchups (it’s a special set of mechandrites that gets one attack per model within 1″, and D2).

Definitely a new home for Khorne’s shiniest metal sons

This is utterly uncomplicated but also quite good – if you’re packing a Lord Discordant (or even multiples) you probably want to include this detachment. The same is true if you’ve picked up a Kytan Ravager, as both strats really help him. Frankly, the ability to advance and charge on a melee monster is so helpful that you probably include this if you’ve got any of the melee Daemon Engines in tow.

Host Raptorial

Includes Jump Pack units. Unfortunately, Raptors and Warp Talons haven’t had the Terminator treatment and are still quite bad. That’s a shame, because this detachment would provide some great support for them if they weren’t, in fact, kind of bad. The biggest gain here is the warlord trait, which adds +2 to charge for Host Raptorial units within 6″, which is obviously huge, as it takes the required charge out of Deep Strike to 7″. This alone, combined with CSM’s new ability to build smash captains means that this will almost certainly see some use, because just as people are willing to put points into making a Blood Angel smash captain more likely to connect, the same is true here. The non-terrible of the two strategems here also feeds into that – it gives a model the ability to re-roll hit rolls for a turn after it arrives from deep strike, and importantly doesn’t specify “failed hit rolls”, so you can re-roll 2s to hit with a Thunder Hammer. It’s a bunch of command points to plow into a single model, but thanks to the Red Corsairs, CSM armies will probably have those points to throw around, so we can definitely see this coming up.

Imagine this but with a Thunder Hammer

TheChirurgeon’s Note: It’s also not bad on Raptors, who can load up on two plasma/melta guns and a plasma pistol in a squad and put out some shooting wounds the turn they arrive. Its big downside is that you have to use it before you charge, so if you don’t have shooting with the unit, the points could just get wasted if you flub the charge distance roll.

Being able to make exactly one unit of Warp Talons more likely to connect with their charge is also helpful, as while they’re very pricey, their ability to prevent overwatch can let the aforementioned smash captain connect with the shootier kinds of Knight where there would be a genuine risk of him dying to overwatch. Warp Talons are still obviously hella overcosted, but if you can land Diabolic Strength on a Khorne smashcap before he goes in he can plausibly kill a knight in a turn, and the total cost of the tools you use to do that, even including the Warp Talons, is still going to be less than the Knight. In soup armies, you can also use this to help connect with things like Bloodletter bombs, something we explore in our sample lists below.

TheChirurgeon’s Note: There’s also probably a build here to toy with that stacks Night Lord raptors with Haarken (separate detachment), a Jump Pack Chaos Lord (Field Commander), Butcher Cannons, and the Stratagem to regularly force -9 or -10 to Ld. Unfortunately most of the time this will probably just cost your opponent 2 CP unless you can force checks on two or more units. Might be worth looking at if the meta swings back to hordes.

I could even be good here!

Cult of the Damned

Includes Dark Apostles, Dark Disciples and Cultists. A weird and strange set of buffs that don’t really achieve anything you can’t do more efficiently in other ways – the only neat trick being the ability to guarantee a Dark Apostle prayer goes off via a stratagem. Thing is though, once you have his little helpers prayers already go off on a 2+, and we would rather spend a CP on a re-roll when that occasionally fails (especially as it happens “out of phase”, so you’re not using up the re-roll for one) than invest a whole bunch of resources in it “up-front”.

Everyone loves cults

TheChirurgeon’s Note: If you’ve got multiple Dark Apostles to stack buffs, having them go off automatically might be the jam, though it requires you bunch up your apostles near the same set of disciples. Still, worth the peace of mind you’ll get from knowing all your buffs got stacked at the top of the first battle round. I can see a couple of armies that incorporate Cults of the Damned.

Daemonkin Ritualists

Includes Masters of Possession, Dark Apostles, Possessed and Greater Possessed. If Possessed were any good at all (they aren’t) this could be quite cool, as on a big squad of them the force multiplier that is the “+1S, +1A” strat would be pretty great on a big squad (leaving aside the fact that it doesn’t actually work on them RAW due to the way it’s sequenced, as this is obviously not intentional). Unfortunately, one weird trick does not make a terrible unit worth taking, and while the warlord trait is again quite cool, it just can’t be justified when the units it works with are so awful. Amidst all the badness, the relic weapon is weirdly good, being the first thing we’ve really seen where it literally just automatically throws out a mortal wound at a target with no dice rolls involved. However, it in no way alone justifies the price of entry.

One of the biggest shames about this is detachment that you’d likely want to run Ritualists as Red Corsairs in order to get the ability to Advance and Charge with all of your gunless possessed, but then that costs you the ability to buff them with Veterans of the Long War. It’s just lose-lose when there are units you can take that don’t require this much effort to make them playable.

Fallen Angels

This is the one that’s “Wobbly Chaos”. It grants some extra abilities to “Fallen” units, and also, more interestingly, normalises the keywords of “Sorcerer” (just the basic one, no terminators or bikes this time) and Rhino models so they’re in line with the rest of the Fallen. This includes giving them the “Imperium” keyword, which technically allows you to include a Sorcerer with Dark Hereticus powers in an Imperial Army (half of which immediately don’t work because of keywords, but we’ll charitably assume there’s a FAQ coming). That means that at the “low low price”* of including three units of Fallen in a 0CP detachment, you can sneak a Chaos Sorcerer into an Imperium army. The most obvious use of this is to whack a jump pack on him and get deep striking Death Hex into an Imperium army, but honestly this feels like a big reach – Death Hex is definitely easier to use than Null Zone, but this is a big price to pay for that, especially as the secret to good Death Hex casting is to do it with Magnus or Ahriman, who benefit from increased range and buffed casts thanks to Thousand Sons traits and their own cool tricks.

In which TheChirurgeon proves his Chaos Lord pedigree by having a painted Fallen to hand

If you really want to use your boi Cypher this detachment also slightly buffs him by stopping CP regain traits from working within a radius of him, but that honestly feels like something so niche that people will often forget it even exists.

Once again, while it sort of maybe gives Imperium yet more options to slot into their armies, this is a gift for narrative players who really like Dark Angels fluff, and more power to them being able to use their Fallen more effectively.

*price is not low, and definitely not “low low”

Legion of Skulls

Bloodletters are really good, and this detachment gives them a few tools to be even better. Brazen Skull effectively lets you trade in a CP for a Smite when that would be useful to you, and that’s a neat thing to have access to you when you want it (also note that while this happens in the shooting phase you can still do it while in combat). The other stratagem mostly helps characters like the Skulltaker or Bloodmaster join into the fray when their 3D6 charging Bloodletter buddies charge in, and that’s also useful and good (though given you’ve likely paid for 3D6 charges “up front” could maybe have afforded to cost 1CP). Finally, the Warlord trait is absolutely hideous on the Skulltaker, and lets him potentially take massive chunks out of anything with the Character keyword (such as most knights). The relic, at least, is a bit of a non-event.

Another of One_Wing’s previous opponents is going to be very, very happy about this.

None of this stuff would make you want to take Bloodletters and associated characters if they were bad, but as they happen to already be very, very good, this detachment is pretty great.

Army Lists

So, that’s all the new toys, and as you can see, there’s an absolute plethora of cool things for Chaos players to try out. Putting our heads together, we’ve come up with three lists that we think show off some of the new stuff you can do with these books. Hopefully, they will spark some ideas of cool things to test out, and we think that once people start experimenting some of the choices here will prove to really shine.

List 1 – Guns and Bodies

Army List - Click to Expand

Battalion – Black Legion – 6CP – 812

HQ

Abaddon 240 – Warlord – (+2CP, -1CP for Council of Traitors)

Terminator Sorcerer (Force Stave) – 112 – Indomitable (Death Hex, Prescience)

Dark Apostle – 100 – Trusted War Leader, Illusory Supplication

Elites

Dark Disciples – 10

Troops

30 Cultists (autoguns/Slaanesh) – 150

30 Cultists (melee weapons/Khorne) – 150

10 Cultists – 50

Spearhead – Black Legion – Devastation Battery – 777pts, -1CP

HQ

Warpsmith – 60 (-1CP, Field Commander)

Heavy Support

3 Obliterators – 345

5 Havocs – Reaper Chaincannons – 150

5 Havocs – Missile Launchers – 150

Rhino – 72

Battalion – Red Corsairs – 410pts, 8CP

HQ

Huron Blackheart – 105 (Infernal Gaze)

Warpsmith w/ combi-melta (relic gun) – 75

Troops

2×5 Marines – 130

6 Marines w/1 plasma, combi-plasma on champion 100

Total – 1999pts, 16CP

Waiting for your own shooting phase is for loyalists.

This list plays with some of the obviously good shooting toys available, and tries to make the best possible use of the cultists after the nerf (still with Abaddon, gifted a 5++ by the Dark Apostle) for board control. The Devastation Battery includes a Rhino to hid the havocs in in some matchups, as an army that’s concentrated all of their long range firepower in a single unit (like, for example, a Castellan) might struggle to pop the Rhino and then kill what’s inside (especially as it can pick up a 5++ from the Dark Apostle).

List 2 – Wrecking Ball

Army List - Click to Expand

Battalion – Black Legion – 1144pts, 5CP

Abaddon 240

Terminator Sorcerer (Force Axe) , Prescience, Warptime – 114pts

Cultists x10 x2 100

Cultists x11  55

10 Terminators, Chainaxes, 5 combi-bolters, 5 combi-plasma, Slaanesh – 335

10 Terminators, Chainaxes, combis-bolters, chainfist on sergeant, No Mark –  300

Battalion – Red Corsairs – 375pts, 8CP

Huron Blackheart – 105 (Diabolical Strength) – Warlord (+1CP)

Warpsmith w/Combi Melta (buys Relic, -1CP) 75

3×5 Marines – 195

Supreme Command – Mixed Heretic Astartes – Soulforged Pack, -1CP – 480pts

Lord Discordant w/Autocannon (World Eaters, Khorne) – 160pts, Field Commander (-1CP)

Lord Discordant w/Autocannon (Black Legion, Nurgle) – free relic, Sigthless Helm  160pts, 

Lord Discordant w/Autocannon (Red Corsairs, Slaanesh) – takes extra relic from Huron, Intoxicating Elixir – 160pts

Total – 1999pts, 15CP

This army focuses on using the best push threats the book gives to CSM players in big squads of Black Legion Terminators and Multiple Lord Discordants. The fact that all of the alpha units here have 2+ saves can be a complete nightmare for some armies, and any force that wants to have a straight up fight with this one is going to find itself in serious difficulties. It does have some issues dealing with Aeldari Plane spam, but even then is tough enough to potentially pivot to playing an objective game.

List 3 – Murder Soup

Army List - Click to Expand

Battalion – Thousand Sons – 5CP, 693pts

HQ

Thousand Sons Daemon Prince w/Dark Matter Crystal, Malefic Talons – Warlord – 214pts

Ahriman on Disc – 166 pts

Troops

2x 10 Cultists – 100pts

29 Tzaangors w/ Brayhorn – 213pts

Battalion – Red Corsairs – Host Raptorial – 5CP, 571pts

HQ

Huron Blackheart – 105pts

Chaos Lord, with Jump Pack, Combi-Melta (relic, -1CP), Thunder Hammer, Field Commander (-1CP) (Khorne) – 129pts

Fast Attack

Warp talons x5 (Khorne) – 120pts

Troops

5 Chaos Space Marines w/Plasma Gun, Combi-plasma on champion 87

2x 5 Chaos Space Marines – 130pts

Battalion – Khorne Daemons – Legion of Skulls –  3CP, 731 pts

HQ
Daemon Prince w/MoK, Wings, Daemonic Axe (Relic, -1CP) (180 pts)

Bloodmaster (56 pts)

Troops
Bloodletters x20 w/Bloodreaper, Banner, Instrument (165 pts)

Bloodletters x20 w/Bloodreaper, Banner, Instrument (165 pts)

Bloodletters x20 w/Bloodreaper, Banner, Instrument (165 pts)

This list shows off how some of the new synergies available to Chaos Space marines can come together as a whole. Thanks to the Red Corsairs, even after the truly heroic number of CP this list spends pre-game (usually 11, though two of the relics are “Nice to haves” that could be cut) you still have 10CP to play with “in game”, and a list that’s a complete nightmare to try and plan a game against. From turn 1, the threat of teleporting the Tzaangor bomb is a severe concern for your opponent, and from turn 2 they have to contend with the rest of the army, three bloodletter bombs supported by the overwatch denial of the Warp Talons, turning up.

Warp Talons have great synergy here – they have the “Khorne” and “Daemon” keywords, so benefit from charge re-rolls from Locus of Rage, which combined with the +2 to their charge from the Field Commander, makes them extremely likely to hit combat. That solves the big problem bloodletters have – you want to run units of 20 or fewer to keep the Deep Strike cost down, but if you lose even 1 to overwatch they then lose their size buff. The Warp Talons can prevent this, allowing you to enjoy the full power of Bloodletter units ripping your opponent’s forces to shreds.

List 4 – Fun with Forge World

Army List - Click to Expand

Battalion – Black Legion – 680pts, 6CP
Abaddon (WL, Council of Traitors)
Sorc w/MoS + Indomitable WL trait
Cultists x30
Cultists x27
Cultists x10

Supreme Command – Black Legion – Soulforged Pack – 760 pts, 0CP)
Lord Discordant w/Baleflamer and Sightless Helm
Dark Apostle w/2 Disciples, Trusted War Leader WL Trait
Warpsmith w/Eye of Night
Kytan Ravager

Battalion – The Purge – 556pts, 5CP
Warpsmith
Warpsmith
Cultists x10
Cultists x10
Cultists x10
Helforged Contemptor w/2x C-Beam Cannons
Helforged Contemptor w/2x Butcher cannons

Total – 1996pts, 14CP

This list is designed to take advantage of some of the crazier Forgeworld interactions. The Kytan makes use of its ability to take a LEGION keyword to get buffs from the Dark Apostle and Abaddon, and when paired with the Lord Discordant and the Soulforged Pack’s stratagems, becomes a real beast. The list does the same for Helforged Contemptors, who use the Purge legion trait to get rerolls on all their shooting if they target anything that lost a wound in the prior phase, which the list’s three warpsmiths and sorcerer should be able to deal well before the Shooting phase starts. Finally, Abaddon rounds out the list with his old school strategy of buffing cultists, but he can boost the daemon engines in a pinch.

Wrap Up

That brings our (fairly mammoth) review of the new Chaos toys to a close. What’s clear from this release is that GW really care about giving some of the forces that have felt a bit “unloved” up till now a shot in the arm, and want to see people making use of some cool (but up till now underpowered) units on the tabletop. Every Chaos Lord should be delighted at the toys these books have given them, and we hope you have fun trying some of the strategies above yourselves.

 

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