Detachment Focus: Deceptors

In this series of articles we take a deep dive into a specific detachment for a faction, covering the faction’s rules and upgrades and talking about how to build around that faction for competitive play. In this article, we’re covering the Deceptors Detachment for the Chaos Space Marines.

The Tenth Edition release of Codex: Chaos Space Marines gives the faction access to a whopping eight detachments, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. These can dramatically change how the army plays, as each one tends to push players to build in a different way. In this series we’re diving deep into each Detachment and talking about what its rules are and how to play it.

Detachment Overview

Although legion-agnostic, the Deceptors are clearly modeled after the Alpha Legion, with an emphasis on subterfuge, infiltration, and the use of Chaos Cultists for forward operations. Their Detachment has a number of very Alpha Legion-esque Stratagems and Enhancements that let you get up to all kinds of skullduggery and subterfuge.

Detachment Rule: Masters of Misdirection

In the Declare Battle Formations Step, you can select a number of LEGIONARIES and CULTIST MOB units from your army. Until the end of the battle, those units and any CHARACTER units attached them (excluding EPIC HEROES) have the Infiltrators ability. The maximum number of units you can select in this way depends on the battle size – you can pick two of each for Incursion games, three of each for Strike Force, and four of each for Onslaught.

This means in a 2,000-point game, you could potentially have up to six units – three units of Legionaries and three units of Cultists – plus their attached characters, deploying as Infiltrators. That’s massive. It immediately opens up possibilities you didn’t have before, and there are some insane consequences here, such as putting 75 cultists in the middle of the table before the game starts and stickying every objective in No Man’s Land. And while that particular style of play isn’t as valuable in tenth edition as it was in ninth, at the very least it allows you to set up for some early board control, trades, and counter-charges. On that note, Legionaries are very much an underrated unit when it comes to their damage output and being able to Infiltrate a unit with a Master of Executions can also provide some nasty threats for early game charges. Infiltrating early here also sets up other plays later, such as using Scrambled Coordinates to prevent a unit from deep striking anywhere within 12″ of your Infiltrators, and you can get some insane board coverage with a 25-model unit.

The downside here is that this is purely a board control play; unlike Renegade Raiders, Veterans of the Long War, or Pactbound Zealots there isn’t much here to increase your raw damage output. As a result, you’re not going to hit as hard as any of those factions, and you may find that your board control isn’t quite durable enough for holding the middle of the table, since it’s just a bunch of Cultists and Legionaries.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


The Deceptors have one of the weirdest Enhancements in the game. These all scream “Alpha Legion,” particularly Soul Link.

  • Falsehood (10 points) – Bog-standard, power-armored Chaos Lord model only (can’t go on a Jump Pack or Terminator Lord). In the Declare Battle Formations step, you can put the bearer in Reserves instead of on the table. Then, in the Reinforcements step of one of your Movement phases, you can pick a model in a friendly (non-attached) Legionaries or Chosen unit on the battlefield. Kill that model and then replace it with the Chaos Lord, and attach it to the unit as Leader. This is completely wild in terms of the effect – there’s nothing like it – but also, it sucks. There’s just not a situation where I’d want to kill one of my models to attach a lord to a unit instead of putting him there from the start of the game. Best-case, you use this to dynamically attach to a unit about to make a charge but even then you can just use a Rhino like everyone else.

There is one use for this and I hate that it’s even possible but it’s worth at least knowing about: You can bring a unit in from Reserves just outside of 9″ away from a target, put their 32mm bases close together, then depending on how you set them up, remove a model such that when you place the Chaos Lord – who will be on a larger, 40mm base – he can be placed closer to the enemy unit, creating opportunities for an 8″ or 7″ charge out of deep strike, depending on how clever you are and how you’re using terrain. I wouldn’t personally recommend doing this, but don’t be surprised if you see it happen until there’s some kind of FAQ or errata for it. That said, you have other ways to get short charges out of reserves and coming in out Strategic Reserves with a unit of Legionaries isn’t exactly the best play so this is also likely to be too many hoops to jump through for not enough reward.

  • Cursed Fang (10 points) – Goes on an Infantry model. Improve the AP of the bearer’s melee weapons by 1 and they gain [PRECISION]. Solid on a Chaos Lord or Master of Execution, where the biggest problem with their weapon is that it’s only AP-2. 
  • Shroud of Obfuscation (15 points) – Goes on an Infantry model. The bearer gains Stealth and Lone Operative. This is great on a Jump Pack Chaos Lord, turning him into a cheap action unit who can deep strike in and move around your opponent’s backfield doing actions.
  • Soul Link (5 points) – Goes on an Infantry model. At the start of your Command phase you can pick one other Infantry character model from your army which isn’t an EPIC HERO. Until your next Command phase the bearer gains the PSYKER keyword, and you replace their datasheet abilities with the ones of the CHARACTER you picked.

Let’s talk about Soul Link because at 5 points it’s a real steal and it’s really interesting, but actually making use of it well requires doing some homework. There are a few notable ways I can think of off-hand to make use of it:

  • Master of Executions borrowing a Chaos Lord’s Abilities: You can use this to get the free Stratagem but also the once-per-game use of Chance for Glory on your MoE, giving him +1 Attacks, Strength, AP, and Damage for a round. You’ll primarily want to do this against undamaged units since it will cost you the ability to re-roll hits and wounds from the Warp-Aligned Butcher ability but the extra stats boost really beef up the MoE’s output, and you can get re-rolls to wound anyways from the Legionary unit he’s with.
  • Cheap Duplicate Warpsmith: You can take a Sorcerer or Cultist Firebrand and give them this, then repeatedly use it to duplicate a Warpsmith, getting one for essentially five points cheaper for the entire game. Which is OK if you want a second Warpsmith, I guess.
  • Charge Boosts from a Master of Possession: You normally can’t get this guy’s benefit on anything that can deep strike, but with Soul Link you can grab the Master of Possession’s abilities, arrive from Deep Strike, and get +1 to your Advance and Charge rolls.

Otherwise this is a rough one. Maybe there’s a combo here I’m missing but at the moment there just aren’t enough cool things to do with it or Characters to grab abilities from and of the options you have well, the Chaos Lords all share one ability while the Chaos Terminator Sorcerer has an ability that affects an enemy unit. As with Falsehood, this is an ability which seems way cooler than it actually is.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


The Deceptors have some really fun Stratagems, chief among those being Detonator. 

  • Detonator (Wargear, 1 CP) – Used when an enemy model with Deadly Demise (excluding TITANIC models) is destroyed. If you have a character within 18″ you can use this and it automatically explodes. This is hilarious and wonderful, and if you can get close enough to use it a great way to punish castles filled with units tightly packed around an exploding vehicle. Pair with deep striking Obliterators to pull off some nonsense. Also goes well with a Lone Operative using the Shroud of Obfuscation.
  • From All Sides (Battle Tactic, 1 CP) – Used in the Charge phase to give one of your units +1 to Charge rolls for each other HERETIC ASTARTES unit from your army that made a charge move this phase, to a max of +3. This can be dynamite for getting off a charge out of deep strike or reserves with a key unit if you can pull of some charges with Cultists and other units first to drop the necessary roll down to a 6 or 7. Combine it with a unit of Terminators and a Terminator Sorcerer for a free re-roll on your charge.
  • Pick Them Off, (Battle Tactic, 1 CP) – Used in your Shooting phase. When one of your units attacks a unit below Starting Strength, you can re-roll the hit roll. If they’re below Half-Strength, you can re-roll Wound rolls as well. This is okay. These effects tend to be underwhelming but full hit re-rolls at below starting strength is easy enough to hit enough of the time to make this worthwhile. Solid for something like a Forgefiend, Vindicator, or Obliterators if you can chip a wound off your target first.
  • Coils of Deception (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – Used in your Movement phase after one of your units makes a Fall Back move. They are eligible to Shoot. This is just a really solid Stratagem to have. Helpful for escaping combats you don’t want to be in, especially with vehicles which want to avoid taking -1 to hit on their shooting.
  • Relentless Pursuit (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – Used in your opponent’s Movement phase after they end a Normal, Advance, or Fall Back move. You can pick one of your infantry or mounted units within 9″ of that unit and not in Engagement Range and make a Normal move up to 6″. These reactive move Stratagems are always useful, often for helping dodge charges you don’t want to be tangled up in, or for moving onto objectives or blocking an opponent.
  • Scrambled Coordinates (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – Used in your opponent’s Reinforcement Step of their Movement Phase. Pick a unit in your army and reserves can’t be set up within 12″ of it. This is pretty brutal when you combine it with a 25-model Infiltrating squad of Chaos Cultists – they can basically block out the entire middle of the table if they stretch out far enough, and anything they can’t cover your other units can. Helpful for blocking out your Deployment zone as well against armies like the Hypercrypt Legion.

Alpha Legion Headhunter Kill Team. Credit: Lupe

Playing This Detachment

Deceptors are an interesting way to play Chaos Space Marines, trading offensive output for board control. They’re absolutely going to cause problems for armies like Hypercrypt Legion Necrons, where they can force their opponents to play honestly rather than spend 1 CP per turn to score 7 VP on Behind Enemy Lines + Deploy Teleport Homers, but the one-two combo of having less offensive output from Stratagems/Detachment rule and spending more points on weaker offensive units like Cultists means they have to play a bit more cagey, focusing on boxing opponents out and getting good trades.

A Sample List

So what does this look like in practice? For my money, these lists need at least two big units of Cultists – though note you’ll still need to keep one behind for your home objective, or have someone to sit on it (Cypher does fine for this, really). Cultists having Infiltrate doesn’t *quite* solve the same problem Nurglings do, since the latter give you an option for Deep Striking and showing up late in the game to hit a corner for Investigate Signals. 



Chaos Lord

Chaos Lord with Jump Pack
– Shroud of Obfuscation

Master of Executions
– Soul Link

Master of Executions
– Cursed Fang

Master of Executions


Legionaries x5

Legionaries x5

Legionaries x5

Legionaries x5

Cultist Mob x20

Cultist Mob x20

Cultist Mob x10


Chaos Rhino


Chaos Predator Destructor

Chaos Predator Destructor

Chaos Predator Destructor

Chaos Vindicator

Chaos Vindicator


This isn’t far off from what you might expect to see in a list right now. It’s rocking four units of Legionaries, each with a character attached – those squads can be downright brutal, and it’s got one Master of Executions with Soul Link who can flex into the role of a Chaos Lord in a pinch. There’s one smaller unit of Cultists here for backfield objective holding, while the idea is to Infiltrate the other two units and a unit or tow of Legionaries, while the rest ride in the Rhino. There’s a ton of ranged support here, and the Helbrute can help the Predators and Vindicators make up for the loss of firepower.

Final Thoughts

It’s fitting that the Deceptors Detachment is the hardest to wrap my head around; there’s a lot of really cool stuff here but making it work and getting the most out of these rules requires some thought and skill. Even if the Detachment isn’t one of the best in Codex: Chaos Space Marines, there are enough good tricks here to keep players busy, and there are some players out there who will absolutely thrive with these rules.

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