Detachment Focus: Dread Talons

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 Dread Talons 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

Dread Talons ushers in a ruleset for the sinister, oft-maligned Night Lords. The VIII Legion are especially cruel and cunning, favoring hit and run tactics, brutal shows of violence and terror tactics to cow the enemy. They’ve got some amazing lore and if you’re not already a fan of trilogy of books by Aron Dempski-Bowden, then you really should be. On the tabletop they’ve tended towards cute but slightly weaker than some of their peers, and I’d say this detachment continues that theme, with a very Battle-Shock focused set of rules that can pull some amazing tricks and traps, but doesn’t bring the same raw power you see elsewhere. If you love it when a plan comes together and you want to get the most from the Jump Pack-clad Raptors of the CSM range, this is a very fun way to play them.

Detachment Rule: Terror Descends

The Dread Talons detachment rule gives your units a 12″ aura of -1 to Battle-shock tests, and, in the opponent’s Command phase, any enemy units below Starting Strength within 12 of one or more HERETIC ASTARTES units must take a Battle-shock test (this won’t cause them to take two tests). Tyranids players will know Battle-shock is a fun and flavourful mechanic but one that can let you down. The ability to shut down Stratagems and OC across chunks of the opponents army has undeniable power, but the variable nature of the tests, combined with the fact that most of the game’s units have Ld 6, means you can’t rely on it in the same ways you can raw damage and delivery. Into low leadership armies this can add up very quickly, but they can mitigate this by attaching characters to their units. The key will be stacking modifiers – such as with Raptors – and finding ways to force more than one test per turn.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Enhancements

Dread Talons have some okay enhancements. Of these, the Warp-Fuelled Thrusters are the pick you’re most likely to take.

  • Night’s Shroud (20 points) – Gives a Chaos Lords unit the STEALTH ability. Very nice for adding some durability to a key piece; the frustration here is that you can’t take it on Terminator Lords – would that really have been so bad?
  • Willbreaker (10 points) – A HERETIC ASTARTES model from your army can trigger a Battle-shock after its unit has fought in the first phase, on an enemy that it hit. The timing on this is just terrible; it’s too late to trigger any of your Stratagems or effects which require targeting a Battle-shocked unit, and because Battle-shock wears off at the end of the turn it won’t carry into your opponent’s Command phase to prevent them from scoring. At best it can help you flip an objective for the current turn, letting you steal it away for end-of-turn scoring on something like Secure No Man’s Land, or for an action you started earlier with another unit, since things like Cleanse don’t check for control until the end of the turn.
  • Warp-Fuelled Thrusters (20 points) – Probably the most thematic enhancement in the Detachment, this one lets a Jump Pack Chaos Lord and his unit (Raptors) return to reserves at the end of the opponent’s turn if they’re not within Engagement range of an enemy unit. A nice way to keep a Raptor squad on the move and it combos well with other tools in this detachment.
  • Eater of Dread (15 points) – A 5+ CP generation at the start of your Command phase if the bearer is on the battlefield, adding 1 to the roll for each Battle-shocked enemy unit on the field. Mid-to-late game this is likely to trigger on a 3+ or 4+ and could help keeping the CP rolling in. It’s the better of the two 10-point options.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Stratagems

The stratagems on offer here lean into the brutal shock tactics feel of the Night Lords. Most of them key off, or help to trigger, Battle-shock, doubling down on the detachment rule. I think the frustration here for Night Lords players will be that many of these buffs are a lot more situational than ones available elsewhere, and need more work to trigger. That said there are some very useful tools here.

  • Depthless Cruelty (Battle Tactic, 1 CP) – Used in the Fight phase to give an INFANTRY unit +1 AP against a unit that is either  Battle-shocked or Below Half-strength. It’s good to have when you have it, and something that Raptors will really appreciate – you just need a way to force a test before they fight.
  • Relentless Terror (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – Used in the Movement phase after an INFANTRY unit Falls Back. They can Fall Back and Charge this turn. This is always useful, and great for letting you pick when and where you want to engage with enemy units. At the very least it’s good for making sure you get to fight first again.
  • Bloody Example (Epic Deed, 1 CP) – A Fight phase stratagem triggered when you kill an enemy Character unit, triggering Battle-shock tests for every enemy unit within 12 inches. Theoretically powerful but the timing of this means its overall game impact is quite limited outside primary play in your own turn. Another area where the writers seem to have misunderstood the actual impact of a unit being Battle-shocked in your turn, though it’s theoretically better if you can pull it of during your opponent’s Fight phase.
  • Screaming Descent (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – One of the cooler toys on offer here, this lets you bring in a Jump Pack unit from Reserves more than 3 inches away in the Reinforcements step, and immediately trigger a Battle-shock test on an enemy Infantry or Mounted unit within 6 inches and visible to the unit. Very nice with Raptors, who stack -2 to Leadership at that range in this detachment, and a good way of teeing up Battle-shock for your other stratagems. That said, the unit doing this can’t charge afterward, and so you have to be ready to take out whatever nearby targets you’re dropping next to with something else. In Space Marines armies you can get away with this because Inceptors are somehow T6 and have heavy bolters/plasma guns; Raptors are considerably less good at shooting.
  • Pitiless Hunters (Battle Tactic, 1 CP) – This is used in the Shooting phase to give full re-rolls to hit and wound in to an infantry unit targeting an enemy unit that is either Battle-shocked or Below Half strength. It is a massive shame this isn’t something you can use in melee as well, but this helps you put out even more shooting juice into a vulnerable target and helps Raptors punch up even into enemy armour. Another one for the ‘conditional, but good’ pile. The key here will be finding ways to force Battle-shock tests from a distance, but Chaos Space Marines have a few ways to do that. Once you can make that happen, Forgefiends absolutely eat this one up.
  • Merciless Pursuit (Strategic Ploy, 1 CP) – The real ‘Gotcha’ trick of the detachment, this triggers at the end of the opponent’s Movement phase. An infantry unit can select an enemy unit that Fell Back and is within 6 inches, and declare a Charge against them. You don’t receive any Charge bonuses for doing so. Trapping can win games on its own, and when this works it will cause the enemy enormous problems. Keeping opponents tied up and in the grip of your combat units is crucial so any tools that help you do this are really very valuable. It’s also free Movement, and this is good enough that opponents will have to think twice about making a Fall Back move at all – and that’s the best place to be.

Night Lords Autocannon Havocs – Credit: RichyP

Playing This Detachment

So what’s the best way to play Night Lords in the tenth edition Codex? The honest answer is “As Red Corsairs.” But if you’re looking to make this work you need to get the Battle-shock train moving as quickly as you can, lean into fast, angry melee units and overwhelm the enemy on the primary. I think Night Lords can utilise Raptors better than most, applying -2 to Battle-shock tests in key places on the board that will cause even the most elite armies to come unstuck at least some of the time. Being able to trap the opponent in combat with very nasty combat units has a lot of potential, and I think Abaddon and Harken both have play here if you can deal with the unholy alliance of Black Legion characters. The detachment can really bully infantry but has a bit of a hard-target removal problem so it will be a case of working out what your solutions for vehicles are as you get to work. Dropping in Raptors, shocking a key target and then hosing it down with boosted shooting, and using Battle-shock and your considerable melee threat to overwhelm the enemy on the primary will be key.

A Sample List

Rob: As I see it, the key to making Night Lords work is forcing Battle-shock tests often, and at -2 leadership. That means finding ways to do it at range, and stacked with a Raptors unit nearby. Your odds of making a 6+ on 2D6 are 72%, and those drop to 58% and 42% at 7+ and 8+, respectively. If you can force a second test on top of that, you can really start to see some failures, and the odds of making two tests consecutively at each value drop to 52%, 34%, and 18%, respectively. That 34% is the sweet spot for us – getting someone on a 7+ and making them test twice is a recipe for success, and the Insane Bravery Stratagem won’t help them in your shooting phase.

So how do we force extra tests here? Well, there are a few ways, but they generally boil down to the following:

  • The Cultist Firebrand forces enemy units hit by him (and he has a torrent weapon) to take a Battle-shock test.
  • Noise Marines used to force a test in the Shooting phase for units hit by their attacks.
  • Raptors force tests at the start of the Fight phase
  • The Khorne Lord of Skulls forces tests after killing units in the Fight phase

On top of that, we might get some boosts from allied units. Specifically, the Poxbringer gives enemy units within 6″ a -1 to their Leadership, while the Sloppity Bilepiper forces Battle-shock tests on units within 6″ at the start of the Fight phase. But the real prize here is the Skull Cannon, which forces a Battle-shock test on an enemy unit hit in the Shooting phase. The problem? You have to take a unit of Bloodletters for each one, and none of those units are HERETIC ASTARTES. So for now we’re going to focus on Noise Marines and hope they keep their ability to force battle-shock tests in the Shooting phase.

This list was built using point values from the current Munitorum Field Manual.

”The

CHARACTERS

Haarken Worldclaimer

Chaos Lord with Jump Pack
– Warp-fuelled Thrusters

Chaos Lord with Jump Pack
– Night’s Shroud

Cultist Firebrand

BATTLELINE

Cultist Mob x10

Cultist Mob x10

DEDICATED TRANSPORT

Chaos Rhino

OTHER DATASHEETS

Chaos Predator Destructor

Chaos Predator Destructor

Chaos Predator Destructor

Chaos Vindicator

Forgefiend

Noise Marines x5

Noise Marines x5

Noise Marines x5

Raptors x5

Raptors x5

Raptors x5

Alright you’ve got one backfield holding Cultist unit here, four tanks and a Forgefiend for ranged support, and three units of Raptors to be your melee threats, plus ranged support from the Noise Marines. The general idea is that the raptors drop in close using Screaming Descent, then the Noise Marines or Firebrand tag that target to force a second Battle-shock test, triggering the Battle-shocked state and opening things up for one of your tanks to get full re-rolls to hit and wound. If that seems like a lot to jump through just to get a unit re-rolls well, I agree. This list might also prefer dropping a unit of Noise Marines in favor of more Raptors, to give Haarken a bigger melee threat overall, and you probably won’t need more than two ranged battle-shock dealers.

Note that this depends a lot on Noise Marines keeping that ability in their Index. Which, I hope they do because otherwise it’s a lot harder to make this work.

Night Lords Terminators – Credit: RichyP

Final Thoughts

Ave Dominus Nox, brothers. Night Lords are back where they usually are, with a cool flavourful detachment that probably won’t quite hit the heights of some of the other offerings in this book. It has some potent tools and should be great fun for a Night Lords aficionado though, and I think it will catch out the unwary and prey on the vulnerable, much like the VIII Legion themselves! I’m definitely very excited to give it a try.

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