Nearly two months since the Space Marines Codex v2.0 first released, we’re finally getting the last parts of Marinetember, with the Imperial Fists and Salamanders supplements releasing (and a few key units that people expected to release months ago). Was the book worth the wait for Salamanders players? Well, it depends on what you were looking for. If you wanted a codex with the game-breaking power of the Iron Hands, then no. If you wanted a very solid book with a lot of great options that will give you a competitive army, then yes! Read on, dear reader.
In addition to the faction rules laid out in Codex: Space Marines, Salamanders get some additional rules of their own. But before we dive into those, let’s cover what you need to do to get access to them. We’ve covered this before in our Ultramarines, White Scars, Raven Guard, and Iron Hands reviews, so if you already know this part, feel free to skip ahead.
Accessing These Rules
For most of 8th edition, you’ve only technically gotten access to the full suite of subfaction (i.e. “Salamanders”) specific rules if your army has literally used the SALAMANDERS keyword. Homebrew chapters could choose a trait, but wouldn’t get stratagem, trait or relic access (meaning that in tournaments people just used the main keywords).
That’s changed, and you can now get access to 95% of what’s in this book if you are a Salamanders successor chapter. We broke those rules down in part 1 of our main book review, and importantly “successor chapters” in this case includes those using the “build your own” traits. If you’re going down-the-line Salamanders, this is the tactic you get:
The Salamanders already had an incredibly powerful trait in the original Marine codex and they got to keep that when the new Codex rolled around. They also got a massive upgrade to their tactic with the new book, tacking on a clause that has them reducing the AP of AP-1 weapons to 0 on attacks against them. This is a powerful combination and it puts Salamanders on equal footing with any of the other chapters besides Iron Hands, though taking half of it with a Successor Chapter to get Master Artisans and Stealthy may still be a more powerful pairing. The overall smoothing effect this gives the army means that you can save CP for more important stratagems and rolls, and generally expect that your army will perform close to average in most games. It also encourages you to work with minimum-sized squads, to increase the number of free re-rolls you can take with the Tactic.
If you want to instead pick your own trait we’ll go through what we think the best successor combos are a bit later on. For now, we just need to establish that Successor chapters can get most (or in fact with CP expenditure, all) of what’s here, and keep that in mind until we cover them in detail. We’ve already covered these in prior supplement reviews, so if you’re familiar with them already, feel free to skip ahead. The breakdown of how to get these abilities is as follows:
Successor Chapter Rules - Click to Expand This might seem to be needlessly complicating things, but there are actually some subtleties of who gets what in various soup scenarios. Basically: The takeaway is that you have to have a decent commitment to Salamanders to get much out of this – you can add a Knight alongside your otherwise Salamanders army and get everything except the Doctrines, but you can’t make a Supreme Command of Librarians from three different chapters and stick the best relic from each book on each. This is almost certainly what the rather more restrictive wording is intended to prevent, so good job, GW.
This might seem to be needlessly complicating things, but there are actually some subtleties of who gets what in various soup scenarios. Basically:
The takeaway is that you have to have a decent commitment to Salamanders to get much out of this – you can add a Knight alongside your otherwise Salamanders army and get everything except the Doctrines, but you can’t make a Supreme Command of Librarians from three different chapters and stick the best relic from each book on each. This is almost certainly what the rather more restrictive wording is intended to prevent, so good job, GW.
Chapter Doctrine – Promethean Cult
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This is easily the weakest Chapter Doctrine in any of the books. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given how strong the Salamanders’ Chapter Tactic is and how little we need another Iron Hands-level army running around, but it’s certainly not great if you’re a Salamanders player, either. The biggest problem is that these days there just aren’t that many flame and melta weapons in a Marine army, and the weapon that could most stand to benefit from this ability — heavy flamers — are Heavy weapons and so can’t benefit from both this and the Devastator Doctrine AP bonus at the same time. Tragic. It’s a welcome boost for melta guns and multi-meltas however, where having Strength 8 will now mean that we can wound most targets on a 2+ and help push through damage on larger targets. There are a few ways to make this work, but I’m not completely sure that it’s worth the investment to try and do it. The most obvious ones that come to mind are flamestorm Aggressors, who can throw out a frightening number of shots, and Sternguard Veterans, but both essentially demand that you take the Long-Range Marksmen Successor Trait to compensate for having an 8″ range. There’s also a potential play with Assault Centurions and Invictor Tactical Warsuits (if you give them Incendium Cannons), and I suspect that ultimately building around flamers is probably going to cost too much to make it worth going crazy for when many Salamanders strategies are also good for boosting traditionally good Marine units.
Salamanders have two units in this book: Vulkan He’Stan returns, clothed in all his original glory (and also Kesare’s Mantle), while Salamanders get a new character added to the mix – Adrax Agatone. Having two options is a step up in my opinion, and something I think Games Workshop should have done for Raven Guard and White Scars, rather than converting existing characters.
The Salamanders’ new character is Adrax Agatone, a Primaris melee monster practically designed for leading Assault Centurions and Veteran Intercessors into combat. He carries a 12″ flamer for chapter solidarity purposes and carries an AP-3, 4 Damage thunder hammer called Malleus Noctum. While he only has S4 base, the real money for Adrax is his Unto the Anvil ability, which adds 1 to wound rolls for melee attacks made by friendly Salamanders models within 6″ if they charged, were charged, or performed a Heroic Intervention that turn. This is huge for turning any squad into a bunch of jacked-up monsters and stacks with the Crucible of Battle Stratagem to create an insane one-two punch that allows even Intercessors to threaten any target in the game. One downside to Adrax is that as a Primaris Marine he can’t ride with Assault Centurions, but ultimately any way you can get him to the front lines to support a devastating charge will work. He doesn’t have Vulkan’s 3+ invulnerable save, but he’s got 6 wounds and the Arridian Drakehide Cloak, which reduces incoming damage he takes by 1 (to a minimum of 1), which boosts his survivability a bit. His biggest downside is that he costs 140 points — you’re definitely paying for that thunder hammer.
Vulkan remains largely unchanged from his original incarnation. His Forgefather aura has improved to grant full re-rolls instead of re-rolls for failed hits and wounds. Vulkan’s not a bad fighter when he’s your warlord — it gives him the ability to attack with his spear at Strength 8 and his 3+ invulnerable save gives him real staying power — but he’s ultimately going to serve you better lending his unique aura to a flamer and/or melta-equipped unit. He’s ideally sized to accompany Assault Centurions and Sternguard Veterans, where he can act as act as a multiplier, but note that any list that tries to fix flamer range with Long-Range Marksmen can’t benefit from Vulkan’s Salamanders-specific aura. This makes it difficult to use him to get the most out of flamers, and a better play when it comes to getting the most out of meltas. Unfortunately, meltas tend to be bad. There’s potentially a fun combo to be had pairing him with a Relic Leviathan Dreadnought running a pair of cyclonic melta Lances; the lances will benefit greatly from the ability to re-roll misses on the move (though you could also use the Relentless Determination Stratagem to keep their 2+ to hit), and The Crucible of Battle stratagem to ensure they wound anything in the game on a 2+. At 18″, that’ll give you 8 hits on average with a good chance that all 8 wound, dishing out an average of 28 damage. The downside is that your Leviathan is an extremely charge-worthy target, with no way to fall back and shoot. So make sure to screen it effectively.
Salamanders have access to 16 Stratagems, several of which revolve around giving boosts to flame and melta weapons and require a lot of building to make work, and a few that are just absolutely bonkers
- Flamecraft – 2CP: In the Shooting phase, pick a Salamanders unit. Until the end of the phase, when a model in that unit shoots a flame weapon, it automatically does the maximum number of attacks. There are a few units that you’ll want to look at for this Stratagem; the first are flamestorm Aggressors, who can fire off 12 shots piece on the move to do 60 hits with a 5-model squad, ideally while the Tactical Doctrine is active so your shots have +1 to wound and are AP-1. This is obviously best when you’re doubling the number of shots with the Firestorm ability, but even if you’re running a Long-Range Marksmen Successor Chapter, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sit still for a turn and still hit things with your gauntlets (though there is a workaround with the Relentless Determination stratagem). The second is Invictor Tactical Warsuits, which deploy close enough to the enemy and move fast enough to threaten things on the first turn with their 12″ incendium cannons. The downside is that only one can get the benefit, but throwing out 12 S5 shots that either are AP-2 or AP-1 with a +1 to wound depending on your doctrine can do some real damage. Finally don’t sleep on Centurions, who have been resurgent recently. Assault Centurions each have two flamers and can cause real damage when they get into combat. A
- Rites of Vulkan – 2CP: Use at the start of the Movement phase if the Tactical Doctrine is active. Until the start of the next battle round, whenever you shoot a Rapid Fire or Assault weapon with a SALAMANDERS model, an unmodified wound roll of 6 causes the AP of the shot to improve by 1. Can only be used once per battle. I’m not particularly high on this. It’s interesting as an army-wide buff, but for 2 CP I just don’t think it gets there. It seems meant to work in tandem with Flamecraft or just a bunch of Intercessors shooting, but the difference between AP-2 and AP-3 isn’t so high that I think it’s worth spending 2 CP to get such a relatively small payoff. C
Wings Note: A version of this obviously turns up in all the books, but I agree with Rob that this is one of the places this is weakest – I don’t feel like Salamanders are likely to go ham on the tools for a single doctrine as much as some other Marines, especially as their custom doctrine isn’t great. If you’ve lined up a turn of amazing shooting with Intercessors by all means use this anyway!
- The Crucible of Battle – 1CP: In the Shooting or Fight phase, when a SALAMANDERS unit from your army is activated, add 1 to their wound rolls for attacks they make until the end of the phase. This is so good it makes me furious as a Chaos Space Marines player. This is already a build-around ability in Chaos armies where it’s limited to only work on INFANTRY and BIKERS. Salamanders just get it on everyone. Thanks, GW. At its core, this Stratagem lets you take down bigger targets using high weight of fire. Your Intercessors can now use a high volume of shots with this to take down a T7 tank using this to get 4+ to wound and using the Tactical Doctrine to cut through its armor. Likewise, it’s great for turning charging Veteran Intercessors into buzzsaws, since it can be combined with the Honour the Chapter Stratagem to fight twice using the bonus from this and Shock Assault. A+
Wings Note: Holy moly. Quite apart from being amazing pretty much all the time, this is the sort of thing that heavily motivates soup builds – if, for whatever reason, you decide you want a few specific Marine units in a wider Imperium list the presence of this stratagem is a big draw.
- Despite the Odds – 1CP: Use this at the end of the turn if your SALAMANDERS Warlord is still on the battlefield and you scored zero Tactical Objectives this turn. Generate one new Tactical Objective. Even in games using Tactical Objectives, this one is iffy — some restrict your hand size in a way that may mean you just end up discarding the card you generated. C
- Strength of the Primarch – 1CP: Use at the start of the fight phase on a SALAMANDERS unit in your army. Until the end of the phase, add 1 to the Strength of models in that unit and when you roll an unmodified roll of 6 on your wound rolls, double the damage of their weapon for that attack. This is also insane, mostly because it combos very well with The Crucible of Battle. Don’t let that “unmodified” scare you off–taking Intercessors from S4 to S5 and then stacking Crucible will ensure they can wound almost any target in the game on a 4+, and the double damage on 6s will just be gravy on top of that. Remember to combine this with Honour the Chapter as well for a double-punch. Yeah, it’s a combo that costs you 6 CP but you only need it to work once. A
- Immolation Protocols – 1CP: Use in the Shooting phase on a SALAMANDERS unit. Until the end of the phase, all their flame weapons become Pistol type. Theoretically useful for when your flamer units are stuck in combat, but that’s not going to happen often enough for this to matter, and those units probably aren’t worth trying to make work. C
Wings Note: I mean if you are trying to make flamestorm Aggressors work this is a very good tool to have in your back pocket.
- The Fires of Battle – 1CP: Use in your Shooting phase or your opponent’s Charge phase when firing Overwatch with a unit. Pick a single model. When you shoot a flame or melta weapon that phase with that model, unmodified wound rolls of 4+ cause an extra mortal wound on top of their other damage. This is going to do the most work on double-shooting flamestorm Aggressors, but will work just fine on Invictors, where being up-close and having a better platform for moving and shooting is going to give you more value. It combos expensively (but well) with Flamecraft. The downside will continue to be that flamers have almost no range and limited options, meaning that to make this work you have to jump through a lot of hoops. Leave the pie-in-the-sky scenarios at home and focus on using this when it can get you half a dozen key mortal wounds. B
Wings Note: I think this has play with an Invictor as a line guardian unit – there are plenty of threats in the metagame which are not going to be super happy that you have the option of spending 3CP to dump 6 mortals on them.
- Self Sacrifice – 2CP: Here we go, the big bogeyman for Salamanders. Use this at the start of your opponent’s Shooting phase and pick a SALAMANDERS INFANTRY unit in your army. Until the end of the phase, enemy unit can’t target any other INFANTRY units that are within 6″ of the selected unit unless that unit is the closest enemy unit to the firing unit and visible to it. GW managed to protect itself OK on this one by restricting the effect to infantry, but this still allows you to force your opponent to target units that are less than ideal. This can either be a nigh-unkillable Warlord stacking multiple traits and relics, or tough unit that needs to tank for your Eliminators, Aggressors, Centurions, or whatever other slow, powerful units you need to protect. This also works very well with Successor Chapters running the Stealthy trait. A
- Rise From the Ashes – 2CP: Use when a SALAMANDERS CHARACTER dies to have them stand back up with one wound on a D6 roll of a 4+ at the end of the phase. You can only use this once. Very useful for protecting your Warlord and preventing your opponent from scoring those points right away. A
- Relentless Determination – 1CP: Use this at the end of your Movement phase on a unit that didn’t Advance. That unit counts as having remained stationary until your next Movement phase, and if it has a damage table, double the number of wounds it has remaining when determining its profile. I can see you’re already thinking about combining this with flamestorm Aggressors and look, I hear you. I understand what you’re saying. But it’s still not enough. Yes, you can toss out 72 autohitting shots with them, but doing that still costs 3 CP every time you shoot and has an 8″ range. This is going to be more useful for double-tapping with Executioners on the move, double-firing with Boltstorm Aggressors, and preventing the -1 to hit penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons. A
Wings Note: Much like with Ultramarines, turning on Bolter Discipline for Intercessors on the move can be a big deal as well.
- Vengeance for Istvaan V – 1CP: When you fight Word Bearers, Iron Warriors, Night Lords, or Alpha Legion, you can re-roll hit rolls in the Fight phase. If you ever do use this against a Word Bearers player, go ahead and take a photo and shoot an email to us with the photo at email@example.com because it’ll be the first time it’s ever happened. F
- Exemplar of the Promethean Creed – 1CP: Give your non-unique Warlord an additional Warlord trait. Can’t be used to give someone a trait that you’ve already given a model in your army. This is especially good for Salamanders, because they have some great Warlord Traits. A
- Stand Your Ground – 1CP: Use on a SALAMANDERS INFANTRY unit in any phase if it’s not a Servitor and didn’t Advance and it’s being chosen as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, when you make saves against attacks with a damage characteristic of 1, you get +1 to your armour save (not invulns). Pretty good for helping shrug off all the AP-2 Devastator Doctrine fire you’re going to have to deal with in the Marines-heavy meta. Also works well with the other buffs, such as Fire Shield. B
- Master Artisans – 1CP Give a Sergeant a piece of Special Issue Wargear from a subset of the list (Master Crafted, Digital Weapons, Drakeblade, Dragonrage Bolts). OK if you have a specific use-case for it, like giving a Master-Crafted Weapon to an Aggressor Sergeant. B
- Born Protectors – 2CP Use when your opponent declares a charge at one of your Salamanders units. Pick another Salamanders unit that isn’t in combat and is within 12″ of the unit being charged. It can fire Overwatch at the charging unit too. Also, if the charge is successful, that unit can perform a Heroic Intervention and move up to 2D6″, ending up closer to the enemy unit that charged and not within 1″ of any other enemy units. This is pretty neat, and makes it really easy to deter units trying to charge the weak parts of your lines. A
Wings Note: One place where this is exceptionally good is against armies planning to wrap and trap you. A unit of Intercessors counter-charging into the side of a GSC blob and basing a bunch of models can completely wreck their movement plans, and a failed wrap attempt is often game ending.
- Trust of Prometheus – 1CP Give a Salamanders Relic to a Successor Chapter. Not bad, given that the Salamanders have good relics. A
The Salamanders have access to two sets of relics – seven Relics of Nocturne and eight Special-Issue Wargear. The Relics of the Nocturne can be freely taken by Salamanders characters, or given to a successor chapter with the Trust of Prometheus Stratagem. The eight Special-Issue Wargear items can be given to either Salamanders or their successors, and through Master Artisans a subset can be given to a sergeant.
Relics of Nocturne
There are seven Salamanders-only Relics of Nocturne.
- Vulkan’s Sigil: Gives the model +1 Attack, and once per battle at the start of the Fight phase you can activate this relic to give every SALAMANDERS unit within 6″ +1 Attack (also giving the bearer +2 Attacks that turn). A great add-on to a Smash Captain, particularly if your plan is to deliver him to the battle with a unit of Assault Centurions or other hard-hitting assault unit. A
- Drake-Smiter: An AP-4 relic Thunder Hammer that, on unmodified wound rolls of a 6, does +3 damage to the target. It’s a pretty powerful effect if you can get enough attacks and a Lieutenant bonus on the model using it, but you still get -1 to hit with it, so you’ll want to put this on a Chapter Master (or stay next to one) if you can. A
- Wrath of Prometheus: Replaces a boltgun or master-crafted boltgun (so, small Marines only for this one) with a superior model: 30″ range, S5, AP-2, D3 Rapid Fire 1. The 3-damage makes this a pretty spicy upgrade for a Lieutenant placed with a gunline. B
- The Tome of Vel’Cona: Gives a Librarian an additional power from the Promethean Discipline. Also you get a +1 bonus when you attempt to manifest a Promethean power with this model. Helpful for when you want to combine the Librarius and Promethean disciplines on the same model, but usually you’ll want someone who knows both Drakeskin and Fire Shield. That +1 to manifest is incredibly useful though, since every Promethean power has WC 6 and lowering that to 5 is a big deal, bumping your unmodified chances of a cast up from 72% to 83%. A
- The Salamander’s Mantle: Attacks against this model subtract 1 from their wound rolls. This is an interesting ability. On its own, it’s solid. Taken with the other Salamanders powers and warlord traits, it creates some rough combinations, where you can have very difficult-to-crack characters that can only be wounded on a 6+ by small or medium arms fire. B
- Nocturne’s Vengeance: Replaces a combi-flamer. The bolter half is AP-2, D2 and the Flamer half is 12″ range, AP-1, D2. An interesting weapon to have, and good for dissuading charges on a key unit. Not particularly powerful, though. C+
- Helm of Draklos: PRIMARIS model only. Gives them +1 wound and enemy units within 6″ get -1 to their Leadership. The extra wound is nice but the Leadership doesn’t matter and there are already a ton of better ways to make a Salamanders character tougher. C
In addition to what we can now say for sure are the four standard pieces of Special-Issue Wargear, the Salamanders and their successors have four unique items. As seems to be common, the unique bolt ammo is underwhelming, however some of the others are competitive with the genuine Relics of Nocturne as options to take in a list.
- Adamantine Mantle: Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. A solid defensive choice, particularly on a captain or chaplain that already has an invulnerable save. Some of the other Special-Issue Wargear may be a better choice defensively on other characters, however. B-
- Artificer Armour: Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
- Master-crafted weapon: Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range, or Suppressor sergeants having the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
- Digital weapons: Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C
- Obsidian Aquila: When a friendly <CHAPTER> model within 6″ of a model with this Relic would lose a wound, roll a D6; on a 6+ the wound isn’t lost. This is a powerful effect to have, giving nearby models a real boost in staying power. The strange part of it is that it works on models and not units, so you’ll have to think about how you allocate wounds to models in a unit near this Relic. A
- Dragonrage Bolts: Shooting a bolt weapon, make one hit roll that causes D6 wound rolls. The target doesn’t get the benefit of cover, and the weapon has AP-1 and 1 damage for this attack. This could be an upgrade for a sergeant using a regular boltgun, or a model with a bolt pistol, but in neither case is it worth spending a CP to take. D
- Promethean Plate: When resolving an attack against a model with this relic, unmodified wound rolls of 1, 2, or 3 always fail. This is a strong way to protect T4 characters that might otherwise be vulnerable to high-strength weaponry, or who want to take on big targets. B+
- Drakeblade: Replaces a power sword, master-crafted power sword, or combat knife. An AP-4, D2 power sword that does a mortal wound to the target every time you make an unmodified wound roll of 6. Not too shabby, but being Strength User means that you’re not going to connect on wounds as often as you’d like. Still, when paired with Anvil of Strength you can build a kind of “lite” Smash Captain who doesn’t have to spend 40 points on a Thunder Hammer. B
Wings Note: The fact that you can give this to a Reiver Sergeant is pretty cute – although I probably still wouldn’t take them, being able to load up the sergeant with something that will chew through a minor character makes them that tiniest bit more relevant.
The Salamanders have an Imperially-Mandated Six Standardized Warlord Traits to choose from. Overall, this is probably the strongest list of Warlord Traits in the game. Even the worst among them is still usable in the right list, and the traits you can access here do some things you rarely see in other books. Salamander characters are gonna be legit, y’all.
- Anvil of Strength: Your Warlord gets +2 Strength. This is Vulkan’s base warlord trait and it’s pretty cool. It’s especially good for him because it means that his spear hits at Strength 8 if he’s your warlord. It also means that if he isn’t, he kind of stinks at punching things. This will get you your best results when you’re pairing it with a power fist or thunder hammer, and suddenly having S12 instead of S8 can make your smash captain a much scarier fighter. A
- Miraculous Constitution: When the warlord would lose a wound, roll a D6. On a 6, they don’t lose the wound. Also, at the start of your Movement phase, your warlord regains 1 lost wound. This is also pretty good, and you’ll get the most mileage out of it when its paired with high-wound characters like Bike, Terminator, and Gravis Captains. Helpful when you think your Warlord will be out in the open or potentially sniped by Raven Guard. B
- Never Give Up: At the start of the battle round, pick a friendly SALAMANDERS unit within 6″ of the Warlord. Until the end of the battle round, that unit has the Defenders of Humanity ability, basically giving it objective secured. This can be a useful way to hold objectives, particularly because the Warlord can just drop it on himself as needed. B
- Forge Master: Your Warlord gets +2 Toughness. Helpful for putting Captains out of 2+ wound range for S8/9 guns and protecting them a bit from snipers. You’ll get the best returns out of giving this to a Captain on a Bike, where you can cross another threshold by having a T7 warlord riding around. A
- Lord of Fire: You can re-roll the dice to determine the number of attacks made with flamer weapons for friendly SALAMANDERS units within 6″ of this warlord. This is Adrax’s Warlord Trait and it runs into the standard issue of flame weapons just not being that good or plentiful in Marine lists. Probably most helpful when paired with flamestorm Aggressors. It’s still alright, but probably not something you want in competitive play when there are other, crazier options around. B-
- Patient and Determined: Once per shooting phase and once per Fight phase, one of your attacks automatically hits. This is pretty sick, especially given that you can still re-roll another attack. That said, it’s not for everyone – To hit probabilities are already pretty high for Captains and better yet for Chapter Masters, so you’ll get more mileage out of putting this on a slam Captain/Master, where you have a slightly lower chance of hitting. A
Psychic Powers – The Promethean Discipline
Salamanders get access to the Promethean Discipline, which has a pair of very strong defensive buffs that you’re going to want any time you bring a Librarian.
- Flaming Blast (WC 6) – Pick a point on the battlefield within 24″ of the psyker and visible to the model. Roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 3″ of that spot; on a 4+ it suffers 1 mortal wound. We’ve looked at non-smite MW powers recently and powers like Flaming Blast take a lot of work to make viable. Maxing out at 1 mortal wound to any given unit just isn’t good enough in most situations. The only thing this really has going for it is a 24″ range. C-
- Fire Shield (WC 6) – Pick a friendly SALAMANDERS unit within 18″ of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, enemies attacking that unit with ranged weapons subtract 1 from their hit rolls. In addition (holy crap there’s more?), units that declare a charge against the shielded unit subtract 1 from their rolls. This is a fantastic power, and great for protecting key units. Throw it on a Repulsor Executioner to make the thing almost impossible to charge from deep strike (double 6 only) or just use it to make your objective holders even more of a pain to shift. A+
- Burning Hands (WC 6) – Until the start of your next Psychic phase, when you make an attack for a close combat weapon with the psyker, every time you hit, the target takes a mortal wound and the attack sequence ends. Basically turns all your psyker’s hits into mortal wounds. This is an interesting power, basically giving your psyker the Murdersword. The problem is that psykers are kind of terrible at combat. You can get more attacks on a Primaris/Phobos Librarian but you’ll have a better chance of making it to combat with a jump pack Librarian, but neither one is going to really bring it with only a 3+ WS. You could put a lot of time and effort into making a combat monster Librarian, or you could just make a beastly Smash Captain and average more damage overall. C
Wings Note: I…actually think this might be better than it looks? I was very down on it on first reading, but could be relevant as a counter charge option on a Primaris Librarian. Assuming you’re running a Classic Marine Battle Pile, and he’s in a Chapter Master aura, you’re looking at 3-4 mortals each time he fights, and he’s got multiple routes to swinging twice. Most likely the fact that there are some properly cracking options in here means that doesn’t come up, but I think this is an interesting piece of design.
- Drakeskin (WC 6) – Pick a friendly SALAMANDERS unit within 12″. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, add 1 to the Toughness characteristic of models in that unit. This is also fantastic, and has a number of very good use-cases. It’s great for protecting units sitting on objectives (and very good when combined with Fire Shield), combos well with a number of effects, and can be used to push key units over important Toughness thresholds, like making a Repulsor Executioner T9. A+
- Fury of Nocturne (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy within 18″ and roll 2D6. If the result is more than the highest Toughness characteristic of models in that unit, it takes D3 mortal wounds. This is going to get you your best results on infantry, where the chances of rolling a 5+ on 2D6 are 83%, and less so on tough vehicles, where you only have a 28% chance of rolling an 8+. That still means that on average, your chances of doing any mortal wounds with this power to a T4 unit are about 48%. You’re better off finding another power to fill this slot most of the time. The good news is, you have them. D
- Draconic Aspect (WC 6) – Subtract 2 from the Leadership of enemy units within 12″ of the psyker. Leadership just doesn’t matter enough for this power to ever be useful. F
Salamanders are in an interesting place rules wise as there’s nothing in the book that’s as transformative as all the movement and deployment shenanigans in the White scars and Raven Guard books, or the abilities that enabled completely different builds like Iron Hands removing all of vehicles’ drawbacks. They’ve got some powerful options, but they’re spread around enough that it may not be clear how powerful Salamanders are for some time. But we believe they are incredibly strong, and going to make waves.
Using Self Sacrifice (Until It Gets Nerfed in an Upcoming FAQ)
Much like the Ironstone, the Self Sacrifice Stratagem is the kind of ability you see and causes you to immediately do a double-take. It’s so obviously good that it’s hard to believe it made it to print as-is. The interaction you’re immediately going to think of here is using a CHARACTER as the Stratagem’s target, since Characters with fewer than 10 wounds can only be targeted if they are the closest model to the firing model. This means that you can effectively make large portions of your army untargetable by using Self Sacrifice on a character while another, non-visible unit (such as Scouts sitting behind a wall) is closer to the opponent. They can’t shoot the character because the hidden unit is closer, and they can’t shoot the units around the character because of the Stratagem. Great stuff. This won’t protect your vehicles (and we’re thankful for that, mind you), but it does give you a way to protect slower units that have to slog across the board to get their licks in, such as Centurions.
As for what to use Self Sacrifice on, we have some thoughts below, in the “The Toughest Characters in the Galaxy” section.
Flamer and Melta Units
We need to talk about the various options available to Salamanders players when it comes to making the Chapter Doctrine and this pile of flame- and melta-specific abilities and Stratagems work. So let’s run through a few notable options:
Where everyone immediately goes when they read the Chapter Doctrine and the Stratagems. And look, we get it. Five Flamestorm Aggressors can put out a whopping 60 shots with Flamecraft, or 120 if you use Relentless Determination to allow them to count as stationary. Add in The Crucible of Battle to ensure that the flamers wound anything on at least a 4+, and why not make it a full 5 CP with The Fires of Battle, so that every unmodified wound roll of a 4+ for a single Aggressor also does a mortal wound (I am aware that this doesn’t combo with Crucible but that doesn’t matter all that much). In Tactical Doctrine, where you get +1 to your wound rolls and an AP bonus of -1, there is almost nothing in the game that can survive this, particularly given that the Fires’d Aggressor should, on average, deliver 12 mortal wounds by itself. That’s 5 CP for a single volley, but guaranteed to destroy anything in the game several times over.
That’s a lot, but the good news is you don’t really need all of this — If you can get a squad of 3 Flamestorm Aggressors into 8″ range, use Relentless Determination to fire twice for 1 CP and use Fires of Battle on one. On average you’ll score 14 hits per model, and 7 mortal wounds for your fires Aggressor. Pair with Crucible if the target is really big, but you should be able to do enough damage with this that you won’t need to build your entire list around delivering one group of Aggressors to a high-value target. This is nasty but the reason we aren’t super gung-ho on this strategy is because Assault Centurions exist.
Look, as long as Assault Centurions are as insanely pushed as they are right now, there’s no reason not to use them over Flamestorm Aggressors. Centurion Assault Squads are slow, but competitively costed and they hit like a freight train in combat. Each one comes with two flamers, giving then the ability to also put Flamecraft, Crucible, and Fires to use as needed, but they also hit significantly harder in melee, coming in with Siege Drills that hit at S10, AP-4 3 Damage that don’t give a penalty to hit. They were already insanely useful without the boost to their flamers, and Salamanders have plenty of reasons to load 3 of them with Vulkan into a Land Raider Redeemer, or five and Vulkan into a Land Raider Crusader.
Wings Note: I do worry a bit that the lack of good, specific delivery options means that you’ll look elsewhere for options to run these. The Chapter Tactic is great on them though.
Either take 10 with combi-meltas and stick them in a pod to put 10 better-than-lascannons into someone, or if you’re playing a successor with Long-Range Marksmen you can take a squad with combi-flamers and a pod for much cheaper. Sadly both options are expensive glass cannons and don’t have much competitive merit, but for your average game they will probably be fine.
Similar to Sternguard, you can put 4 multi-meltas into a drop pod for a hard-hitting turn 2 punch that can wound pretty much anything in the game on a 2+ with the right CP expenditure. Another insane glass cannon choice, but gives you a little bit more range to work with for your extra D6 damage roll, especially if you’re rocking Long-Range Marksmen as a Successor Trait.
Relic Leviathan Dreadnoughts
Paired cyclonic melta lances are, with proper support, looking at hitting and wounding virtually any target on re-rollable 2s before defensive abilities, averaging about 13 damage to anything with a 4+ invulnerable save. It’s potentially risky since Salamanders lack any recourse once their vehicles are successfully charged and 300 points of your army being dead in the water for a turn is going to sting, however with proper screening and the covering fire from Born Protectors you can probably keep him safe and there are worse choices for your dreadnought slot in a list. Pairing one with Vulkan is the fastest way to max out its firepower.
Space Marine Land Speeders are a potentially underappreciated unit, with decent mobility and durability for their points cost. We’ve already seen some harebrained attempts to make them work for Dark Angels, but in a Salamanders army where they can enjoy a boost to wounding, maximum damage, and the ability to count as stationary while firing their heavy weapons, there’s potentially a really strong play around running a trio of Land Seeders sporting multi-meltas and heavy flamers which can put out some real hurt, especially once you’ve slipped into Tactical Doctrine. Because they operate as a squadron, you can apply the benefits of Flamecraft and Relentless Determination to all three at a time, creating a lot of value for your CP spend. Artum disagrees with me on this one, but I’m optimistic that Salamanders Speeders can get there.
Attack Bikes are already seeing fringe play as slot fillers, and a single model squad with a multi melta pairs pretty well with both the Chapter Tactic and the Doctrine.
The Toughest Characters in the Galaxy
Salamanders have access to some of the best Warlord Traits in the game, and their ability to make extremely tough and powerful characters is no joke. Salamander Smash Captains and Self-Sacrificial Dreadnoughts have some real chops, and the Librarians will reliably see table play as well. Let’s talk about some options here.
Salamanders Smash Captains are probably the most dangerous non-Blood Angels Smash Captains you can build. Being able to give your Captain +2 Strength pre-hammer doubling is a huge boost, allowing them to wound pretty much anything on a 3+, or a 2+ if you spend a CP to give them Crucible for a phase. The other piece of this equation is the Drake Smiter relic thunder hammer, which turns your Captain into a particularly dangerous monster when you combine it with the Strength of the Primarch Stratagem, which doubles the damage characteristic of a model’s weapon when it rolls an unmodified 6 to wound for an attack. Because both abilities modify the damage characteristic, the order of operations doubles the damage, then adds 3. This is made clear in the Core Rulebook on page 175, but people keep forgetting it (or never read it to begin with), so they have been flipping out over “12 damage thunder hammer attacks” that were never going to happen. So I’m’a post this here:
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news here on the 12-damage Thunder Hammers, but the good news is that 9-damage attacks are still incredibly good and getting just one or two during a Fight phase where you are hitting at AP -4 is going to be enough to kill the crap out of whatever you were swinging at. Note that because the Drake Smiter still gives you -1 to hit, I’d recommend giving it to a Smash Chapter Master with Jump Pack or alternatively, giving it to a Terminator Smash Captain who can then use the Fury of the First Stratagem to get +1 to hit and remove the negative modifier. You’ll want to squeeze out every hit you can to give yourself as many chances as possible to roll 6s to wound.
They may not be able to jump over enemy screens, but Bike Captains have some real value for Salamanders, particularly when you start layering on toughness bonuses like Forge Master and The Salamander’s Mantle, which can give you a T7 Bike Captain that enemy units are -1 to wound. anything S6 or lower is wounding him on 6s, and even higher-strength weapons will only get through on a 5+. Combine it with the Fire Shield psychic power and/or Drakeskin to have a Character who can tank a few hits as he closes in or if combat runs long. Or, if that’s overkill to you, just give him Drake Smiter and Anvil of Strength and have him go to town the same way you would a Jump Captain.
You aren’t going to turn Librarians into real fighters, but they are going to be key to protecting specific big units. I suspect that most of the time this will be a Repulsor Executioner, where giving it -1 to be hit and +1 Toughness turns it into a real tough nut to crack. Fellow author Artum and I are split on the Tome of Vel’Cona relic — the extra power is marginal, but the +1 makes a big difference when it comes to making sure you get off protective powers on your first turn. I don’t think it’ll ever be your first relic, but over the course of an average game, it’ll pay for itself by saving you at least 1 CP re-roll on a key power. So take it if your strategy depends on a unit being buffed by it.
The Salamanders have access to not just one but two Character Dreadnought options. The first is your bog-standard Chaplain Venerable Dreadnought. Chaplain Dreadnoughts are universally acknowledged as beautiful, wonderful babies and too good for this world, which is why Forge World stopped selling them a year ago and they’ll probably be scuttled off to the Legends release in the next few months. Their ability to skirt the boundaries of good rules taste by being untargetable Character HQ Vehicles has continually come up in our Space Marine Codex reviews, and shocker–they’re really good when you combine them with Salamanders Warlord traits granted via the Hero of the Chapter Stratagem, or if you’re running one as your warlord, why not double up with the Exemplar of the Promethean Creed Stratagem? Here it’s really up to you how you want to play this: Anvil of Strength gives your Chaplain a S16 Beatstick, and Forge Master gives him T9 for withstanding blows as he walks around reciting litanies at your Marines. If you’re doubling up, then Forge Master and Never Give Up are an interesting pair for having a T9 Dreadnought who can hold objectives and give himself Defenders of Humanity as needed. You’ve got several options here and they’re all pretty solid.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the big scaly elephant in the room, though: Bray’Arth Ashmantle, the Salamanders Character Venerable Dreadnought. Weighing in at 400 points(!!), Bray’arth has a legitimate bid for “toughest non-titan unit in the game.” He’s essentially a poster child for “Forge World Rules,” owing to having 9 Toughness, 8 Wounds, a 2+ armor save, 5+ invulnerable save, and a 4+ Feel No Pain/ignore wounds ability (plus Duty Eternal as an option, if you don’t feel like rolling so many dice). Weapons-wise he’s got two S6 AP-2 D3 heavy flamers and with base strength 8, his powerfists are always coming in at S16. And while sure, he costs 400 points and can’t really be your Warlord in a battle-forged army (he has to be the only HQ), you can still give him a Warlord trait with the Hero of the Chapter Stratagem. And there’s really only one choice here: Forge Master, so you can have a T11 Dreadnought waddling around, soaking up fire from everything. Use Bray’Arth to tank fire as the world’s biggest distraction Carnifex. Use him with Flamecraft to throw out 12 hits and add in Crucible of Battle while you’re at it to make sure they wound so you can push through a couple dozen wounds of damage. Put him in a Dreadnought drop pod and put a Jump Chaplain with Litany of Hate wherever he lands (remember you have to be on the battlefield at the start of the battle round to use a litany, so you have to fly the Chaplain over, not drop him in from orbit) to get him into a charge. Put him on your front porch to deter burglars. Use him to prop up tables. There’s nothing this stupid little dreadnought can’t do and even with only a minor buff he’ll be the hardest 8 wounds your opponent ever tried to deal.
Wings Note: Don’t forget that if they die they can get back up on a 4+! Won’t your opponent be delighted when that happens?
Before we close out, we’ve put together some list concepts that use these new units and rules with a competitive mindset. With these lists we’re focusing less on trying to make flamer units work and more on the notion that Salamanders are a great all-rounder army with lots of strong, if somewhat disjointed strategies and great pieces. They’re also a good fit for Successor chapters, given that the second half of their Chapter Tactic falls short of Stealthy in terms of overall utility, and you’ll likely find that Salamanders successors with Master Artisans and Stealthy work just fine. I’m not of the opinion that it’s worth trying to make 11″ flamers work if it means giving up one of those two traits — that seems like a trap option.
Whose bright idea was it to give Marines Veterans of the Long War, anyway?
Artum's list, Click to Expand
Salamanders Battalion (+5 CP, 774 points)
HQ: Adrax Agatone 140
HQ: Primaris Lt w/auto bolt rifle 69
Troops: 10 intercessors w/ auto bolt rifles and Thunder Hammer on Sgt 196
Troops: 8 intercessors w/ auto bolt rifles and Thunder Hammer on Sgt 162
Troops: 5 Infiltrators 110
DT: Impulsor w/ storm bolters and shield dome 97
Salamanders Vanguard detachment (+1 CP, 520 points)
HQ: Primaris Chaplain 77
Elites: 6 Aggressors w/ bolt and fragstorm 222
Elites: Redemptor w/ gatlings, stormbolters and missile pod 161
Elites: Primaris Apothecary 60
Salamanders Spearhead Detachment (+1 CP, 702 points)
HQ: Primaris Librarian 98
HS: Eliminators w/fusils and carbine 91
HS: Eliminators w/fusils and carbine 91
HS: Thunderfire Cannon 92
HS: Repulsor Executioner w/ laser destroyer, storm bolters and top stubber 330
Rather than building towards leveraging the Chapter Doctrine, this list aims to take advantage of all the support for raw dakka and melee that the Salamanders book has. With two large units of auto bolt rifle Intercessors and a maxed out squad of Aggressors all being able to put a frankly indecent amount of S4 AP1 +1 to wound shooting as they advance up the field with Captain Agatone while a Thunderfire Cannon stops people from running away and eliminators and an Executioner blow away the harder targets, leading to a mass charge of Primaris Marines all with +1 to wound in melee from Agatone which can be further amplified where needed by Strength of the Primarch or The Crucible of Battle. With proper play and positioning of the Infiltrators and Eliminators, the list can also be broadly immune to early Deep Strike melee shenanigans.
Look, Land Speeders Are Gonna Work This Time. Trust Me.
Salamanders Brigade List, click to expand
Salamanders Brigade (+12 CP, 1,999 points)
HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Drake Smiter, Storm Shield, Warlord: Anvil of Strength 143
HQ: Librarian with Jump Pack, Force stave 116
HQ: Lieutenant with Storm Bolter 60
Troops: 5 Infiltrators 110
Troops: 9 Intercessors w/Auto Bolt Rifles 162
Troops: 5 Scouts w/Sniper Rifles 65
Troops: 5 Scouts w/Bolter 55
Troops: 5 Scouts w/Bolter 55
Troops: 5 Scouts w/Bolter 55
Elites: 3 Flamestorm Aggressors 105
Elites: Invictor Tactical Warsuit w/Incendium Cannon 131
Elites: Invictor Tactical Warsuit w/Incendium Cannon 131
FA: Attack Bike w/Heavy Bolter 37
FA: Attack Bike w/Heavy Bolter 37
FA: 3 Land Speeders w/Heavy Flamer, Multi-Melta 243
HS: 3 Eliminators w/Bolt Sniper Rifle 72
HS: Repulsor Executioner w/Ironhail 330
HS: Thunderfire Cannon 92
I really wanted to see if I could make a brigade work, and along the way try and work in some options that will benefit from the Chapter Tactic without going crazy trying to make it the focal point of the list. There’s a little of everything in this list, which can control the board with the Eliminators and Infiltrators, move around quickly with the Land Speeders and jump characters, and strike from a distance with the Executioner and Thunderfire Cannon. I’m not living the dream of running Assault Centurions in a Land Raider here, but I can reliably Advance the Aggressors up the table while protecting them with the Intercessors, and the list has enough CP to play around with some of the bigger moves. The Attack Bikes are basically paying the detachment’s unit tax here, but they can be helpful for soaking some Overwatch shots if I need them. On the topic of the Land Speeders: Feel free to laugh at me on those. They’re definitely the most “out there” part of the list, and I wouldn’t blame you for swapping them out and doing three single multi melta Land Speeders as the Fast Attack Options and re-allocating the remaining points to buy another Invictor, upgrade the Troops, or buy more Heavy Support options.
While not as obviously broken as Iron Hands, Salamanders have a lot of combos to work with and a lot of just really solid things going for them. They’ll likely favor lists that take a more varied approach, and they’ll naturally lend themselves to a character and MSU-heavy playstyle as a result of having awesome warlord traits and a re-roll ability that encourages having more small units to maximize its value. We think they’re going to be very competitive moving forward, though the most successful Salamanders lists will probably either be Successors or only making incidental use of the Chapter Doctrine.
As always, if you have any questions or comments about the Codex or our review, or have thoughts to share, feel free to drop a comment below. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org — We’d love to hear from you! Until then, happy hunting.