Death Guard at Goonhammer Open UK and Post-Dataslate Thoughts

I really want to preface this by saying I wasn’t even meant to be playing the whole event. I sure as hell wasn’t supposed to be winning any games or competing. I’m not Innes out here with a weird but good list beating double Wraithknights before the balance patch. 

Every large event should have a spare player to hand, it makes sense, it’s normal. That was me. If there were an odd number of drops for either the 40k GT or the Heresy narrative I’d fill in and play, if there were further drops then I’d stop playing. A doorstop for someone to be able to score their games against to be able to keep the rankings going and that none of the paying customers would have to sit out for a round. Keep people playing. That’s it, that was the job.

I did do that, to be fair, I took my Imperial Fists for the Heresy narrative and wrote my list and support force; and I didn’t even write a proper 40k list, I knew I had more than 2k worth of stuff and James “One Wing” Grover made me write a real list before doing pairings, cause it turned out that there was an odd number of drops, and I would be playing.

My List

Death Guard have been a favourite of mine since late 4th edition 40k when I was 13 years old. Plague Marines and Nurgle have always held a place in my heart and when they got a whole new range refresh in 8th there was no question I’d be collecting and painting a large army of the gross, yet sort of cartoony, chaos marines. This list is made up of what I’ve painted over the years. It’s far from being optimised and there’s some tweaks that I’d like to have made if I had time to paint just a few infantry models.

This is a fluff list. Or pretty close, at least. Typhus and Mortarion don’t seem to get on so well so having both maybe goes against that a bit. Units of 7 plague marines, 3 deathshroud with Typhus, a couple pieces of artillery as the block of infantry marches across the table: this is Death Guard.

When I got home I even started painting some of those that I’d already built for more options in future games. Namely: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour, a 6th Deathshroud, and 2 Blightlords with autocannons and another 2 with plague spewers. That Blightlord blob down there? I’d really prefer it to have autocannons and plague spewers so that it becomes a real overwatch threat and autocannons can put out a lot more hits and wounds than blight launchers between Sustained 1 and Devastating Wounds; especially with a Lord of Virulence leading them to re-roll all those wound rolls.

Bair’s Mortarion

GHO (1990 Points)
Death Guard
Plague Company
Strike Force (2000 Points)

Death Guard Daemon Prince (190 Points)
• 1x Hellforged weapons
1x Plague spewer
• Enhancements: Living Plague

Lord of Virulence (140 Points)
• 1x Heavy plague fist
1x Twin plague spewer
• Enhancements: Shamblerot

Mortarion (370 Points)
• Warlord
• 1x Rotwind
1x Silence
1x The Lantern

Tallyman (55 Points)
• 1x Close combat weapon
1x Infected plasma pistol

Typhus (115 Points)
• 1x Master-crafted manreaper

Plague Marines (140 Points)
• 1x Plague Champion
• 1x Heavy plague weapon
1x Plague boltgun
• 6x Plague Marine
• 1x Blight launcher
2x Heavy plague weapon
2x Plague boltgun
6x Plague knives
1x Plague spewer

Plague Marines (140 Points)
• 1x Plague Champion
• 1x Heavy plague weapon
1x Plague boltgun
• 6x Plague Marine
• 1x Blight launcher
2x Heavy plague weapon
2x Plague boltgun
6x Plague knives
1x Plague spewer

Blightlord Terminators (350 Points)
• 1x Blightlord Champion
• 1x Bubotic blade
1x Combi-weapon
• 9x Blightlord Terminator
• 2x Blight launcher
7x Bubotic blade
2x Flail of corruption
5x Plague combi-bolter

Deathshroud Terminators (140 Points)
• 1x Deathshroud Champion
• 1x Manreaper
1x Plaguespurt gauntlet
• 2x Deathshroud Terminator
• 2x Manreaper
2x Plaguespurt gauntlet

Plagueburst Crawler (175 Points)
• 1x Armoured tracks
2x Entropy cannon
1x Heavy slugger
1x Plagueburst mortar

Plagueburst Crawler (175 Points)
• 1x Armoured tracks
2x Entropy cannon
1x Heavy slugger
1x Plagueburst mortar

There’s no real secret or trick to the army and I’ll tell you the same thing I tell all my opponents “it just kinda walks forwards slowly”. Also, it’s a melee army. Plagueburst Crawlers only do so much damage, and those guns on the rest of the units aren’t taking down anything big. Deathshroud are solid into infantry with their plague flame pistols, and the terminator blob with re-rolls can knock a few wounds off things here and there but you’re not relying on this damage. You need to Rapid Ingress, close the gap, and kill in melee; preferably with extra Sustained Hits and/or extra AP from stratagems.

My game plan is basically:

  1. Deepstrike Typhus with Deathshroud
  2. Strategic Reserve 7 Plague Marines (without the Tallyman)
  3. Have Daemon Prince give FNP6+ to Terminator blob
  4. Mortarion gives aura to Plagueburst Crawlers which all moves up together to get him in combat too
  5. Use sticky objectives effectively

And it’s that last point that really makes the army work. Sticky objectives is incredibly powerful. That doesn’t mean you can just walk off of them all of the time, if there’s an enemy unit that has a fast enough move, or in reserves, the Plague Marines hang back with Tallyman on my home objective to keep that from being scored easily.

Feel No Pain 6+ isn’t going to save all of the terminators, but it goes a very long way in off setting Damage 2 and 3 weapons from being as effective into Blightlords and keeps a couple alive when they otherwise wouldn’t. Daemon Princes also simply have a solid amount of damage on their own between shooting and combat with a 7″ move, fast for this army.

The Games

I will absolutely not be going into much detail regarding every game. Every one of my opponents was fantastic, friendly, and in a good mood which was fantastic. Maybe it’s because they saw Death Guard across the table, one of the lowest win rate armies since 10th came out, and didn’t take it too seriously because of that.

Every single game I chose to play Tactical Objectives. There’s no grand strategy here, I just didn’t have any sort of brain to play Fixed Objectives. Also I like the free CP from discarding, it’s like a treat for messing up and not scoring any points.

Game 1 – Greg’s Imperial Fists

  • Search and Destroy
  • Take and Hold
  • Chilling Rain

Day 1 Game 1. It’s early, I wasn’t really even sure if I’d be playing, you never know if there will be another last-minute drop. But I did play, and against Imperial Fists. Very simply primary: take and hold objectives, it’s even in the name! This was the only game where I didn’t use strategic reserves on Plague Marines. I simply forgot that it existed as a choice. Then I went first, which is great because Death Guard move really slowly and this list does practically nothing turn 1, some incidental damage from plague mortars at best.

It was back and forth for the first three turns of the game, Hellblasters and big tank did a fair amount of damage to my units, but Mortarion was largely ignored allowing him to fly around and kill a Redemptor and some other stuff later on. Typhus and Deathshroud Rapid Ingressed bottom of turn 2 out of line of sight of hellblasters, then moved up and murdered them in my next turn. The Death Guard simply pushed him further back into his corner making it easy to score on Primary and scoring maximum on secondaries.

By the end of it, there were very few yellow marines on the table and far too many nurgle models left. End of game score: 90-73. 

Game 2 – Brandon’s Raptors

  • The Ritual
  • Hammer and Anvil
  • Chilling Rain

More Space Marines! After a victory I was very concerned about running into one of the dozen+ Eldar armies, but that didn’t happen until the next game (and then, again, the day after). This time they were Raptors and it was a very thematic and cool list full of Infiltrators, Incursors, Eliminators (snipers), and an Invictor Warsuit. The army was converted all over, every model had suppressors on their guns. It ruled to play against. And big props to Brandon too. He’s new to 40k and wargames in general and hadn’t ever played the Ritual mission before either.

The Ritual is a weird mission too. There’s only one objective in no man’s land, you remove the others, and you don’t score any primaries for your home or opponent’s objectives. Instead your units can place a new objective (1 per turn) as an action for either play to take and score. I had a unit of plague marines ready to spend the entire game not shooting, not in melee, placing an objective for 4 turns. The rest of my army moved across to the other flank to draw attention away from this unit and their singular purpose while Mortarion made sure they were kept safe from harm. The strategy paid off in the end with a score of 80-53.

Game 3 – Raf’s Eldar

Does the mission and stuff really matter? You know how this is going to end already.

  • Priority Targets
  • Crucible of Battle
  • Chilling Rain

So this happened. I knew it would, with a dozen or more eldar players and almost twice as many Wraithknights at the event it was going to happen. I made the mistake of winning games and I found out what that means. Oops.

And look, I tried, ok? But there really wasn’t much my list could do here. I deepstruck (deepstriked?) all my terminators. The Blightlords came in as a rapid ingress and waddled over 4″ before charging into a Wraithknight. The most amsuing part of this game is that that charge left the Wraithknight on 2 wounds, which it lost when it tried to retreat and those Blightlords overwatched it – killing it. Then they died. Raf was great about it though, very friendly and I can’t begrudge him wanting to take the-broken-list to a competitive event. Well maybe I can, but I won’t.

With a list like mine this really isn’t a game. It’s getting tabled while trying to do as much as possible before that happens. Could I have scored better? I honestly don’t think so. Maybe a big-brain in the comments can tell me how I could have won instead. But I didn’t. And that’s ok! Final score: 36-94.

Game 4 – Martin’s Custodes

  • Purge the Foe
  • Crucible of Battle
  • Chilling Rain

Before I get into this I need to note that we ruled Trajan and Mortarion’s ability for ignoring modifiers to not work against Damage characteristic changes. This is how it was ruled at GW’s event at Tacoma, so we did the same. Realistically this wouldn’t have even come up in our game either, the Custodes weren’t in a position to make use of it at any point having need for other strats and the captain’s free strat not being in play until too late in the game.

A new day and a new set of games to try and score points with. Pairings went up during Saturday night so I got to see that I was due a game with Custodes. Now, I’d never played against Custodes before but heard that they’re doing pretty good so was a little concerned. However I was also the spare player and simply fell into this, so was interested in seeing how it’d go.

The thing about Custodes like this list (which was two 9-man units of custodian guard with a mix of shields and spears, lead by a Captain and Sword-running-man each, then Tragan in a unit of Wardens and 5 Allarus in total between 2 squads) is that they don’t have almost any meaningful shooting. At least not against a T5+ army like mine. He wanted to close the gap, I wanted to close the gap, and by turn 2 there was no gap left. Oh and there was a Callidus assassin to make my -1 Damage strat cost 3CP after the first use (on turn 1 on Mortarion) and 2 of those 35 point Exaction squads in strategic reserve.

My game plan was incredibly simple: kill the Custodes before they killed me. A unit of plague marines were put into reserve to walk onto the rear objective and the Deathshroud with Typhus put into deepstrike to pop up…somewhere.

I didn’t expect this to go all too well. Mortarion moved up turn 1 to deploy a teleport homer, because I assumed I’d need to score early and fast if I wanted a chance at victory, but left him out front ready to be charged by some Custodes. Thanks to -1 Damage they only knocked half the wounds off him, down to 8, and he swung back with some luck to remove 3 Custodian Guard at once. There wasn’t a single unit though that died in the first turn, and no Death Guard casualties at all.

Then turn 2 happened and oh boy did it happen. This was huge and honestly came down to me rolling an 11″ charge out of Deepstrike with Typhus and the Deathshroud (I went first so didn’t want to wait and rapid ingress, that would have cost me the game) and killing 5 of the Wardens with Trajan with just shooting from all my terminators and Plagueburst Crawlers; only their mortars were able to shoot, too, due to placement and ruins being in the way. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen so many 1’s and 2’s rolled to fail saves. But it’s a dice game, and that’s how it goes sometimes. Trajan moment shackled to strike first, other Custodes also used a strat to strike first which meant he didn’t have enough CP to cause -1 Damage from my weapons. Trajan and Co killed all 3 Deathshroud with his remaining Wardens and Typhus swung back…killing the remaining Wardens. Blightlords charged into the block of custodian guard with Mortarion to help clear them off and were subsequently charged by the other block of guard in the bottom of turn 2. Sustained Hits with the amount of attacks Blightlords throw out trurns out to be pretty good!

All said and done there were basically no Custodes left on the table by the end of turn 3. The Exaction squads walked on, Plague Marines murdered the Callidus, and I left the Exaction squads alive so I could score kill 1 and more in turns 4 and 5. An incredibly brutal game ending in a shocking 93-39.

Death Guard tabled Custodes. I know, it’s crazy, both of us were pretty equally shocked at this. Turns out that simply killing the Custodes first means they aren’t scary after all, try it sometime.

Game 5 – Matt’s Space Wolves

  • Scorched Earth
  • Dawn of War
  • Chilling Rain

I got really bad at taking pictures because I was getting tired, so I’m sorry there’s not more of that to see.

After beating Custodes I got incredibly cocky and really screwed up my deployment here. Very obviously Mortarion should not be on the front line like that, he should be behind a ruin or at least a bit further back since the main shooting threat was a unit of Long Fangs with a total of 7 multi meltas. Add in Oath of Moment to all those shots and you get a very dead Mortarion very early on. Add in Bolter Drill and you get a dead Plagueburst Crawler from just overwatch then as well.

I just want to throw in here: I really hate Oath of Moment. What a stupid rule. I’m not mad that it’s incredibly powerful (well I am) but I’m more mad about how slow it makes rolling all those dice. This edition generally plays pretty quick, I didn’t go over time on any of my games but this mechanic is a mess.

This is definitely one of those games where I knew early how badly I messed up and wouldn’t be able to catch up either. Don’t get me wrong I prefer this kind of loss to something like the Eldar game(s) because I can learn from it and simply do better next time. You do not always have to deploy on the line, especially not when there’s multi meltas in a transport that haven’t been placed yet.

Final score: 30-85

Game 6 – Ben’s Eldar

Here we go again.

  • Vital Ground
  • Crucible of Battle
  • Chilling Rain

Sorry, I didn’t take a photo. Just imagine the Eldar from earlier, but in a different paint scheme. I’m sorry Ben I can’t remember what colours they were, but they were gorgeous minis, you did a great job on them, I really wish I’d gotten a photo! But I was tired, and I didn’t.

I was really hoping that being 3-2 meant I was going to be able to avoid the Eldar matchup again, but nope! Did I learn from game 3? Well, no, not really. I learned that there’s nothing my army list can do against 2 Wraithknights aside from remove 1 before I’m tabled, and try and kill off some of the support elements. That’s about it. Unfortunately for some reason I assumed the little Farseers handing out handsome buffs simply couldn’t be shot at, being Lone Operative or something, and didn’t bother asking. This isn’t the case and I’m now a little mad that I didn’t simply shoot them with plague mortars.

Really there’s not much to say, Ben played well and was equally awesome as a person as all the rest of my opponents. I was able to score a bit better thanks to some surprising bad luck on the Eldar part, with only a single 6 in the fate dice pool after a few mulligan attempts and some shockingly bad shooting from Wraithknights. Mortarion even survived into turn 3, barely, but he did. But not much else did by the end of the game. I was able to keep both Wraithknights occupied in combat for a bit however and only 1 was able to retreat and shoot each turn which definitely helped, but not quite enough!

Final score: 58-88

The little list that could

Final Thoughts Pre-Data Slate

It was fantastic to have a bar on site and the energy overall was just incredible. The crowd seemed to be well humoured and in good spirits, especially those not playing against double Wraithknights twice. A great experience to be play and try to compete with a pure Death Guard list. I had Brigands with me, but decided against taking any allies. I was the spare player after all, with Death Guard, I wasn’t there to win or compete really just to make sure none of the players were out of game!

But I actually won 3 games, one of them against what’s meant to be a top tier faction, all while playing what’s supposedly a bottom tier faction. It felt great meeting all of my opponents, chatting about gaming, all of them equally shocked that I even had Death Guard at a tournament and many of them not having played against Death Guard yet this edition. There’s definitely something to be said for not simply following online discourse and playing the army and models that you want to play.

Final Place: 26th of 64

Further Thoughts Post-Data Slate

Oh man this army just got so much better it’s actually insane. I’ve played 13 games of 40k so far, a few of them being casual and 9 of them being competitive and have won 8 of those games. I cannot wait to see how much better my Death Guard start doing now.

That list above is now only 1780 points. I gained 210 more points to do stuff with, 220 if I actually fill it out to 2,000 points now and I’ve been brainstorming all day what I was missing from that list that I can add in and make it better to score more reliably. The obvious first thought is very simply a third Plagueburst Crawler and some Cultists or Poxwalkers. It’s easy, gives me more ranged firepower and indirect shots and a cheap little infantry unit to score secondaries with. Not bad.

Realistically though that’s not the answer for me and I’m approaching with the same mindset I had last week: no allies, just to see. Nurglings, beasts of nurgle, and armigers (yes Norman, I know, Brigands) are all very very good to take but that’s not what I’m aiming for!

Without removing anything from the list, because I do believe it to be a very solid base, what I’d like to add in now is:

  • A rhino
  • A Helbrute with a plasma cannon and fist

That’s it, that’s the change. With a rhino one unit of plague marines can get up the board quicker, score primary and secondaries for me better with that mobility and the rhino can act as a tasty little conduit for disease spreading -1WS and -1BS to enemy units early. Any amount of shooting or melee that’s going into my rhino after the unit has already disembarked is shooting that’s not going into my actually important units. It can also tank shock things, which will always be amusing.

Death Guard Helbrutes are so good now. I’m stuck with 3 that are built with glued-on weapon options which is why it’ll have a plasma cannon and fist, I do also have a lascnannon and fist one but plasma gets more shots and Blast with a damage 3 gun is fantastic into heavy infantry like terminators etc. Spreading that -1WS/BS at range is insanely powerful. Causing large enemy models like Knights, Stormsurges, Riptides, Repulsor Executioners, Wraithknights, etc to be hitting 1 worse than normal that you’re able to stack Cloud of Flies on top of can mean their biggest shooting threat is hitting Mortarion or whatever else on a -2. That’s nuts. If you don’t think Death Guard are tough, or didn’t get tougher, then I’m not even sorry: you’re wrong.

I’m exceedingly happy with these changes. I can’t wait to get the army back out on the table with another 220 points to play with.

That’s all for now and as ever if you have any comments or feedback then join in the discussion below or e-mail as at