Nurgley Bois: Death Guard Tactics in Kill Team

An article by and    Gaming Kill Team Tactics        0

Sometimes, you don’t want to overwhelm your opponent with numbers, or with technological superiority, or with clever tactics and skillful deployment. Sometimes, like Rocky Balboa, you just want to show the other guy that no matter how much he’s got, it’s not enough to take you down. And sometimes, you want to show him that in a way that is as disgusting as humanly possible – maybe even a little more.

When it comes to Kill Team, Death Guard bring a combination of solid weaponry and an utter refusal to care about the number of limbs you’ve shot off of them, letting them slog through oppressive amounts of oncoming fire and dish it back out just as readily. Their core units are expensive – even moreso than other Marines – but they’re tough as nails and can manage the heaviest weapons with ease. The Plague Marines are accompanied by Poxwalkers, whose stats aren’t impressive, but let you take control of objectives and threaten to tie up your opponent’s units with models they’d really prefer not to have to shoot at. Ultimately, this is counterbalanced by the faction’s lack of useful Tactics and slow movement across the board. If you want to give your opponents a glimpse of the slow, inexorable march of death as it comes to claim all they hold dear, the Death Guard may be for you.

Plague Marines. Credit: Zuul the Cat

Strengths

  • Disgustingly Resilient – Every model in the faction has this ability, which allows them to ignore unsaved wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. That means that for Death Guard, failing a save isn’t the end of the world. You’ll find that your models will survive attacks that you might otherwise expect to remove them from the game.
  • Weapon Options – Death Guard don’t have quite as many options as loyalist Adeptus Astartes lists, but the ones they do have are pretty good. There are very few “trap” choices available to you, and many of the options that seem less useful have niche uses that make them worth considering into certain lists.
  • Inexorable Advance – With the release of Elites, your models ignore penalties to hit for moving and shooting Heavy weapons or advancing and shooting Assault weapons. They also double-tap with Rapid Fire weapons against targets within 18” instead of half range. This helps offset your low Movement characteristics and let you get your models where you need them to be without sacrificing shooting.
  • Cheap Chaff Choices – Poxwalkers may be weak, but they’re super cheap and you can bring a ton of them. Adding a few to your list on missions where you need to control objectives or areas of the map (or doors) can make your Kill Team deceptively strong at scoring those objectives.

Weaknesses

  • Points Cost – Outside of Poxwalkers, Death Guard are expensive. Plague Marines start at 14 points and only go up from there, and your Elites choices range from 40 to 55 points. You’re likely to have a low model-count list, so plan accordingly.
  • Slow – Your models move about 1” slower than average, which can add up over the course of the game. It also means that you have 1” lower effective threat range on your ranged weapons. However, keep in mind that this does not affect your charge distance – Plague Marines are just as eager to get stuck in as anyone else (all the better to spread Grandfather Nurgle’s blessings). This makes certain scenarios (Terror Tactics, etc) particularly tough.
  • Weak Chaff Choices – Poxwalkers are cheap, but they’re not really good at anything other than having a 1/3 chance to shrug off any incoming damage. Don’t rely on them to do anything other than mill around objectives, operate doors, and potentially tie up your opponent’s shooting if you get lucky with positioning.
  • Situational and Expensive Tactics – Your Tactics choices are unimpressive. Thankfully, you don’t need them to get mileage out of the faction, but keep in mind that you don’t have as many tricks up your sleeve if you get caught out.

 

Death Guard Units

Death Guard don’t have many units to choose from, but that’s fine – the choices on offer here are mostly pretty good. Plague Marines are strong, durable, and capable of taking on almost any threat using their specialist weaponry. Poxwalkers are none of those, but they’re only 3 points, so who cares? Just don’t rely on them to pick up a kill. The new Terminator choices with Elites are some of the hardest units to shift in the entire game, and back that up with some absolutely terrifying weapon choices. And with everything except Poxwalkers benefitting from Transhuman Physiology, you’ll be able to stay in the thick of it even if you take a flesh wound.

Plague Marines

Plague Marines. Credit: TheChirurgeon

These are the core of any Death Guard list, and for good reason. At 14 points, they bring an extra point of Toughness and a 5+ to ignore wounds over other Marines, making them difficult to dislodge compared to their loyalist brethren. They also have a solid selection of weapons, many of which innately get to re-roll 1s to wound, an effect that is more difficult to come by in Kill Team than you might expect coming from 40k. You can bring two Gunners, two Fighters, and a Plague Champion, who can each be equipped to deal with most any threat.

  • Gunner Weapons: Plasma is your go-to weapon here against most targets, although the plague spewer and plague belcher are both useful both in Arena and on boards that have a lot of cover. Which Plague weapon you take will depend on the matchup and personal taste.
    • Plague Belcher: A flamer that has +1” more range and re-rolls 1s to wound. It’s an Assault weapon, so you can fire it after advancing, letting you bring it into play more reliably. A Demolition Specialist carrying this adds 1 to Wound Rolls, re-rolls fails, and hits automatically, even if the target is obscured. Not bad. 
    • Plague Spewer: A heavy flamer that has +1” more range and re-rolls 1s to wound. The downside is that you can’t advance and fire this one.
    • Blight Launcher: An all-around solid choice that competes with the plasma gun. Trades a point of AP for the ability to re-roll 1s to wound and deal multiple damage without overcharging. Its advantage over the plasma gun is that you can fire it after advancing, which extends your initial threat range slightly. Once you close to within 18”, overcharged plasma is stronger against all targets, but the blight launcher is a stronger choice at long range and is nearly as effective all-around with less risk.
    • Meltagun: The meltagun sounds good in theory but is slightly harder to use for Death Guard due to your 5” Movement characteristic making it that much harder to get within 12” (or 6″ to avoid the distance penalty). Skip it and go with another choice instead.
    • Plasma Gun: Just as good here as in other lists. Unfortunately, Disgustingly Resilient won’t help you on an overcharge – the firing model is taken directly out of action rather than suffering a mortal wound. Plasma guns are stronger than the blight launcher when overcharged, but risky. If you’re bringing one, make sure to save the CP for the re-roll.
  • Fighter Weapons: Generally speaking, you’ll want at least one Flail of Corruption along with another option depending on the matchup. A second Flail is always a good choice, but consider also taking a Great Plague Cleaver or a Mace of Contagion.
    • Bubotic Axe: A power axe that re-rolls wounds of 1.
    • Great Plague Cleaver: A d6-damage power fist that re-rolls wounds of 1. The lower to-hit roll is a bit of a liability with only 2 attacks, but it’s 1 point cheaper than the Mace and Axe combo below and performs better against T4. A solid choice to headhunt against Marines or MEQ.
    • Flail of Corruption: This is the good shit. It took a nerf in the most recent update and only deals one damage per hit, but it generates a lot of hit rolls. On a Combat or Zealot specialist, it averages 6 hit rolls and can spike as high as 9. On average, it takes about 2 attacks to force an injury roll against T3, and 3-5 attacks to force an injury roll against T4 (depending on Sv). Expect this guy to draw a lot of hate, and do what you can to keep him alive until he makes it to combat.
    • Two Plague Knives: This is a trap choice. Don’t take it. Unlike in 40k, taking two knives doesn’t net you an extra attack.
    • Mace of Contagion and Bubotic Axe: The Mace is a 3-damage power maul that subtracts 1 from the hit roll and re-rolls 1s to wound. This is an interesting choice that could be worth considering despite the penalty to hit – re-rolling 1s to wound very nearly makes up for it, and the consistent 3 damage if it gets through is great. Unfortunately, it’s held back by its low AP value and the fact that you can’t take the Mace without the companion Axe, so you’re paying a total of 5 points. Possibly worth considering into T3 if you’ve got the points to spend, but you’re probably better off just taking a second flail.
  • Champion Weapons: Most of the Champion’s options aren’t great, with the exception of the plasma pistol or plasma gun – take one of those (favoring the plasma gun unless you don’t have the points). The plaguesword is effective against targets with Toughness 3 and lower, especially those models that don’t have great saves, and also saves you a couple points into the bargain. The power fist lets you wound T4 on a 2+ and brings solid AP to the table.
  • Icon of Despair: Skip it unless you have 3 points and literally nothing else to do with them – a single point of Ld penalty usually won’t matter until late in the game, and in the interim you’ll probably get more out of a weapon upgrade or even another Poxwalker.

Poxwalkers

Poxwalkers. Credit: TheChirurgeon

Your chaff choice. They’re not strong, and they’re not very tough (though Disgustingly Resilient means they’re tougher than you’re probably thinking), but they’re annoying as hell and you can take a lot of them. Excellent for milling around on objectives or just generally being a pain. If you’ve got 3 points and an open slot in your list, fill it with one of these.

 

Elites

Your only new choices in Elites are two flavors of Terminators, and they’re both doozies. Bringing even one of these will cost you a minimum of 40 points, but they’re incredibly durable and have access to some terrifying weaponry. Their points cost makes them hard to recommend, but their large base size and formidable weaponry mean bringing one to an Arena board could pose a difficult question for your opponent to answer.

Blightlord Terminators

Infuriatingly tough to kill, these jerks add a 2+/4++ and a second wound to the already excellent Plague Marine statline. They also have the Aura of Rust rule, which gives all their melee weapons an additional -1 AP on a roll of 6 to wound and can add some additional offensive punch. However, they’re even more expensive than other Terminators, starting at 40 points and going up to 41 for Gunners, Fighters, or Champions. You can field them with a balesword or a bubotic axe, which are a power sword and power axe respectively that each re-roll 1s to wound. Which you take is matchup dependent, and you’ll typically bring one Terminator at most anyway. Build based on your opponent’s list, and default to the axe if you’re not sure. Each Terminator can also take a combi-plasma or combi-melta instead of its combi-bolter. The combi-plasma is good value here at 3 points – if you’re already putting this many points into one model, another 3 points to make it deal out damage as well as it can take it are likely well-spent.

  • Gunner Weapons: In addition to the plague spewer and blight launcher, you can also bring a reaper autocannon for 5 points. It performs decently against T4 and will absolutely shred T3. On a non-Arena board, the autocannon is worth considering, but a Terminator with plague spewer is a solid choice anywhere, whether you deep strike it into your opponent’s backline, or simply use it to discourage chargers in an Arena game.
  • Fighter Weapons: Your only option here is the flail of corruption. You lose all ranged firepower but gain the ability to draw the attention of every single model in your opponent’s kill team until you’re finally put down, and that might take a while. The flail is just as deadly here as on a Plague Marine but will need to pick up several kills to make the model’s points back. It’s a bit too all-in to be reliable, so you’re probably better off taking flails on Plague Marines where losing one won’t completely kneecap you.

Deathshroud Terminators

These start at 50 points, or 55 points for a Champion. You will only bring one of these in your list, but they’re scary. Each is equipped with a plaguespurt gauntlet, which is a hand flamer that re-rolls 1s to wound, and a manreaper, which is a giant scythe that will destroy anything you point it at, hitting at S8 and re-rolling 1s to wound. They lack the Aura of Rust rule, but don’t need it as much since their melee attacks are resolving at AP -3 anyway. The Champion can also take a second plaguespurt gauntlet for a total of 58 points, and if you’re already taking him, you might as well – another D6 shots if you can’t make the charge is probably worthwhile. If you’re playing a Commanders game, these guys get even better – commanders within 3” of a Deathshroud gain an extra attack and can offload any hits against them onto their bodyguard on a 2+. It’s hard to recommend taking these due to the huge points cost, but if you do, it’s a serious threat – assuming it can make it across the board.

 

Commanders

Most competitive games don’t involve Commanders, so you probably won’t be bringing these guys out that often. However, there are a few standout choices should you choose to – specifically, the Foul Blightspawn and Lord of Contagion are both solid choices, though each is fairly expensive.

Foul Blightspawn

Starting at 80 points makes this guy one of the more expensive choices for a Death Guard Commander, but he’s worth it. The Plague Sprayer is an incredible gun that is likely to kill whatever you point it at, and if an enemy somehow manages to make it through to engage him in melee, his Revolting Stench tactic will take away their ability to fight in the Hammer of Wrath phase. If you’re playing a Commanders game and don’t know which Commander to pick, this is the Goonhammer-Approved default choice.

Tallyman

The Tallyman is somewhat uninspiring, essentially being a Death Guard Chaplain with a plasma pistol and no crozius. His Seven-fold Chant ability is interesting, giving you a 1-in-6 chance of refunding CP spent on Tactics. Since Death Guard have so few 1CP tactics worth using, this could be interesting, but is ultimately likely not reliable enough to recommend taking him.

Biologus Putrifier

If you really like Blight Grenades for some reason, this is the model for you. His Hyper Blight Grenade is actually somewhat useful, and he even explodes on death, with a potential to throw out mortal wounds to everyone nearby. Unfortunately, his longest ranged weapon is 6”, and his grenade-buffing aura isn’t great since only one model can throw a grenade per phase, and he can’t benefit from his own aura. Look elsewhere for your Commander.

Plague Surgeon

This guy is interesting, if not particularly good – his weaponry is not inspiring, and his unique datasheet ability only kicks in against Adeptus Astartes, but that’s not why you’d consider taking him. The highlight here is the Tainted Narthecium tactic, which allows you to re-roll 1s on Disgustingly Resilient rolls. The short range on his wargear means he’s going to want to get in close, so if you’re going to take him, have him escort your Fighters with melee weapons to give them some extra staying power while they move across the board.

Lord of Contagion

Lord of Contagion. Credit: TheChirurgeon

At a starting cost of 114 points, this guy is expensive, but scary. Expect every model in your opponent’s kill team to shoot at him from turn 1, but with 6 wounds and the same 2+/4++/5+++ as other Death Guard Terminators, he has a decent chance of making it across the board, and once he gets there, he’ll do work. He can take the same manreaper as the Deathshrouds, or swap it for free for a plaguereaper, which trades a point of strength for a flat 3 damage. This is a trade worth making – moving from S6 to S7 isn’t a breakpoint against most targets you’ll run across, and reliable 3 damage attacks at AP-3 will absolutely chew through most enemy kill teams. To top it off, his (somewhat confusingly-worded) Vector of Contagion tactic lets him deal a mortal wound to each enemy model in close combat with any friendly models near him on a 4+. It costs 2CP, but if you can force a scrum with multiple enemies and have the CP to spare, it could help turn the tide of a match.

 

Death Guard Tactics

Death Guard don’t get great tactics choices, and the useful ones they have are situational. Lean on your units’ refusal to die and use tactics when they’re relevant. Luckily, you’ve probably got amazing models on the table to start, so you won’t need to be constantly looking through your tactics in order to stay competitive.

  • Putrid Splatter (2 CP) – Roll a D6 when one of your models loses a wound in the fight phase for each enemy within 1” of that model. On a 6, that enemy suffers a mortal wound after all of its attacks have been resolved. Expensive, situational, and unlikely to do anything. D
  • Cloud of Flies (2 CP) – Use at the end of the movement phase to make a model untargetable in the shooting phase unless it’s the closest target visible to the shooting model. Use this with Poxwalkers to keep your flail of corruption safe until it can close in for the charge. B+
  • Veterans of the Long War (2 CP) – Gives a model +1 to Wound against IMPERIUM units in either one Shooting or Fight phase. More expensive and more situational than its 40k cousin, and doesn’t affect Poxwalkers. Useful when it’s relevant, pointless when it’s not. Elites updates this to affect your Terminators as well as your Plague Marines. B+/F
  • Grandfather’s Blessing (2 CP) – Give up your first round of CP to add +1 to hit and wound rolls for a chosen model for the rest of the game on a 2+. On a 1, they suffer D3 mortal wounds instead. Interesting on a great plague cleaver or mace of contagion fighter, but very all-in. Between Disgustingly Resilient and the injury roll, there’s a decent choice a model that fails this roll will still survive, but in either case giving up command re-roll and other tricks for an entire battle round is risky. On the other hand, your models are tough to kill and you’re not a CP-hungry list, so using this isn’t as punishing as it might be in another faction. C
  • Nurgling Infestation (2 CP) – On a 4+, a model within 1” of your Leader at the end of the movement phase suffers a mortal wound. An expensive 50/50 chance of taking a wound that requires you to commit your Leader. However, you’re likely to have to commit him anyway, so having this in your back pocket is useful. B
  • Nurgle’s Gift (1 CP) – After you take a model out of action with a Poxwalker, add another Poxwalker to the board within 1” on a 4+. Poxwalkers aren’t very good at killing things so you’re not likely to have the chance to use this, but if you do and it works, it can be very useful. If you’ve got CP to burn, you might as well. B-

 

Elites

  • Teleport Strike (1 CP) – Deep strike a Terminator that you set up in reserve. Your Terminators are even slower than others, so if you’re going to bring them, this is the most reliable way to make sure they’re in the thick of things causing problems. A-
  • Virulent Infestation (2 CP) – The exclusive tactic from the Dolorous Strain box set. Only works on Sector Imperials or Sector Sanctoris Kill Zones, so you aren’t missing much. Use at the start of a battle round and pick a piece of terrain no larger than 6″ in any dimension that’s within 1″ of a model in your Kill team (you can’t pick a shaken model). Until the end of the battle, enemy units get -1 to their Toughness while they’re within 2″ of that terrain. Potentially pretty good, but expensive and only useful in specific Kill Zones, so it’s not going to matter in competitive play. C-

 

 

Playing Death Guard in Kill Team

One of the best things about the Death Guard, especially if you aren’t playing Elites, is how forgiving they are. You’re going to have one of the best shooting models on the table. You’re going to have one of the best melee units on the table. You’re also probably going to be harder to kill than the other person. This gives you the opportunity to play aggressive and take risks in ways other factions can’t. Use that to your advantage. 

Plague Marines. Credit: RichyP

General Strategies

Split fire, split fire, split fire. Odds are your opponent has more models than you do – at least if you don’t count the Poxwalkers. Your guns are powerful, and you’ve got access to plenty of multiple-damage weapons. Play the odds and work to remove as many models as you can. 

Your tactics aren’t anything amazing, so take advantage of the tactics available to everyone. Command re-rolls are always useful, especially if you save them for the injury roll. Decisive Strike and Decisive Shot can provide a huge momentum shift for a price that’s easier to pay when you aren’t saving CP for something else. 

Death Guard in Arena

Death Guard have everything they need to dominate close-quarters engagements in Arena games – plague spewers and plague belchers are terrifying weapons in close, and your Marines and Terminators get re-rolls to wound in the Fight phase. Use your dangerous combat units to create space for your Poxwalkers to hold objectives and score.

Arena Objectives

As ever, play to your strengths when choosing Arena Objectives. However, those strengths will change based on the matchup. At first glance, Death Guard seem to be a team that relies on out-killing their opponents to win, but the ability to take Poxwalkers makes you a credible threat for board control, especially against low-model-count lists like Marines. They may only move 4”, but with no ranged weapons, you can advance them to move at something approximating a reasonable speed.

Against lists with higher model counts, lean into the objectives that give you points for killing models and leave most of the Poxwalkers in the case – at T3 with no save but a 5+ to ignore wounds, they’re almost as likely to go down to a stray lasgun round or shuriken catapult as they are most specialist weaponry. Instead, focus on removing your opponent’s threatening models with your Plague Marines.

No matter the foe, your ability to bring several powerful weapons to bear will make the various objectives that reward you for killing your opponents tempting. 

  • Attrition is a solid choice into lists with about 8 or more models – your low model count and solid defensive stats mean that, with some smart play and a little target priority, you likely won’t lose a model every turn, and your relatively high density of specialist weaponry will let you dish out wounds at a decent clip. Keep your Poxwalkers protected and you’ll score this regularly.
  • Cut Apart is a good one for your Plague Marine Fighters to chase after – they’re going to be advancing across the table for the first turn or two, and are fairly deadly once they close. If you’re bringing both Fighters, which you usually should, this is worth considering.
  • Death From Afar is another one worth looking into since your slow movement speed will make it easier for your opponent to keep you at long range if they want to, and your ability to rapid fire out to 18” lets you achieve this objective while still double-tapping with boltguns and plasma guns. This will also trigger if you pick up a kill at range with one of your auto-hitting weapons, letting you pick up points even on Arena’s more tightly packed boards.
  • Thin Their Ranks is a good choice into T3 lists – you’re going to be absolutely loaded with S6 and better weapons, so it’s not unreasonable to expect you’ll have a few rounds where you pick up multiple kills.

Sample Combat Roster – Daniel Valente, NOVA Kill Team GT 2019

This is a competitive Death Guard list that entered the NOVA Open this year, and is a solid starting point for your own roster. You’ll want to decide on your specialists and weapon choices for your Plague Marines based on the matchup. Once you’ve taken those four or five models, fill out with whatever else you need based on the points you have available, and bring a handful of poxwalkers to clog up the board and help control objectives or board sections. When choosing your options from this list, think about how the various specialist and wargear options will help you against a given enemy, and choose accordingly.

Death Guard

  • Plague Champion (Leader)
    • Plasma Gun
    • Power Fist
  • Plague Champion (Leader)
    • Plaguesword
    • Plasma gun
  • Plague Marine Fighter (Combat)
    • Flail of Corruption
  • Plague Marine Fighter (Combat)
    • Great Plague Cleaver
  • Plague Marine Fighter (Veteran)
    • Flail of Corruption
  • Plague Marine Gunner (Demolitions)
    • Blight Launcher
  • Plague Marine Gunner (Heavy)
    • Blight Launcher
  • Plague Marine Gunner (Demolitions)
    • Plague Belcher
  • Plague Marine Gunner (Veteran)
    • Plague Belcher
  • Plague Marine
  • Plague Marine Fighter
    • Flail of Corruption
  • 9x Poxwalkers

If you wanted to make some changes, you could swap one or both of the Blight Launchers for Plasma if you want to play a little riskier, and could change one or two of the Poxwalkers out for Terminators, especially if you want to take advantage of their ability to deep strike or have them hold down a hallway on an Arena board. You could also play around with specialist choices to find the one that works for you – taking a Zealot with Flail of Corruption gives you a second model that benefits from the additional d3 attacks rather than just 1 on the charge, which could be a nasty surprise. The core of your roster will probably wind up looking something like this, so take the opportunity to find the specific twists that work for you and make it your own.

Plague Marine Kill Team. Credit: RichyP

Final Thoughts

Despite their somewhat limited options at list construction, Death Guard kill teams provide a strong core of capable all-rounders that can take on any opponent while still threatening board control with their cheap and plentiful Poxwalkers. Their relatively limited pool of options to draw from means that most combat rosters will wind up looking similar, but if you want a Kill Team with strong core options that can dish it out as well as they can take it, you could do worse than the Death Guard.

As always, we’re interested in your feedback. If you’ve got any questions or comments, or want to share your Death Guard Kill Team with us to feature on the site, drop us a line in the comments below or shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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