October 2020 FAQ Update Review: Chaos Knights, Chaos Space Marines, Death Guard, and Thousand Sons

In advance of the upcoming release of Codex: Space Marines and as promised, Games Workshop dropped a massive FAQ update on us today (remember when we said fifteen books needed FAQs? Turns out it was more). There’s a lot to digest, so we’re poring over every word of the updates and noting what’s changed and our thoughts on what it means for the faction. In this article we’re looking at changes and updates to the forces of Chaos, and the changes made via FAQ to the following books:

  • Codex: Chaos Knights
  • Codex: Heretic Astartes / Chaos Space Marines
  • Codex: Death Guard
  • Codex: Thousand Sons
  • Faith & Fury
  • Ritual of the Damned
  • War of the Spider
  • Engine War

The bulk of these changes were to add weapon profiles and adjust relics that replace updated weapons. No points changes have been issued for Chaos units, nor have any statlines been adjusted.


Chaos Knights and Engine War

Let’s start with the minor stuff, which is the stuff related to Chaos Knights. The new FAQs for Chaos Knights and Engine War only update weapons profiles, including one relic in Engine War. The big updates here make meltaguns even better for War Dogs, since they can have a more consistent damage output. Overall these are minor changes, but nice to have. They shouldn’t dramatically change the faction or its outlook.

  • Codex: Heavy flamers are now 12″
  • Codex: Meltaguns are now D6+2 damage at half range, rather than 2D6 drop the lowest
  • Codex: The plasma decimator now only causes you mortal wounds on unmodified rolls of a 1 instead of any rolls of 1, and Blast was formally added to the weapon description to make it easier to remember.
  • Codex: Twin Meltaguns are also now D6+2 damage at half range.
  • Engine War: The Serpentstrike relic now does D6+2 damage at half range, which fits since it replaces a pair of twin meltaguns.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Space Marines, Faith and Fury, and War of the Spider (Creations of Bile)

There are three main books that include vanilla Chaos Space Marines, and they all saw substantial updates, particularly for weapon profiles. Note that only weapon profiles got an update – if you were hoping for 2W Chaos Space Marines, you’ll have to wait for the release of their codex some time next year (or later).

A number of weapon profiles have changed though note that weapon costs have not changed. It seems like the points update we got with 9th took these into account already; this makes some weapons significantly better, and it makes others significantly worse compared to their marine counterparts – for example, thunder hammers are now AP-2 but still cost 40 points on characters, whereas they only cost 20 for marines. That sucks, and it would be a bigger deal if anyone ever took thunder hammers on Chaos Lords. Maybe after the Codex gets an update that makes DttFE proc on unmodified 6s.

Ranged Weapons

  • Codex: The Puscleaver relic now has a Strength characteristic of +1.
  • Codex: The Claws of the Black Hunt increase the model’s Attacks characteristic by 2. This is in line with the new wording that gives a model with lightning claws +1 attack for each claw, which makes them quite a bit better.
  • Codex: Astartes Chainswords now replace all instances of Chainsword in the Codex. These give Chaos Space marines an extra AP-1 on their attacks.
  • Flamers, Combi-flamers (the flamer profile), heavy flamers, and twin heavy flamers are all 12″ range now. This makes flamers much more useful for units that deep strike – terminators with combi-flamers in particular, who can increase their number of shots by 1.5 per model, on average, against targets within 12″ when they drop in.
  • Meltaguns, Combi-meltas, and multi-meltas do D6+2 damage when shooting at targets within half range, instead of rolling 2D6 and taking the highest result. This is a welcome change that increases the consistency of melta damage, bringing the floor up to 3 per and ensuring meltas are less hit-or-miss (mine still fail to wound like 100% of the time though).
  • Multi-meltas are now Heavy 2. That doubles their effectiveness for no cost! When paired with the damage update, this makes multi-meltas significantly better. Usable, even! Finally, you’ll be able to consider using all of those Dark Vengeance Helbrutes you’ve been storing in your closet.
  • Plasma guns, plasma pistols, and combi-plasmas now destroy the firing model when an unmodified roll of 1 to hit is rolled. This is a good quality-of-life improvement. Now you can supercharge at targets in dense cover to your heart’s content.
  • Kharn’s plasma pistol and Helbrute plasma cannons now only do a mortal wound on unmodified hit rolls of 1. Same as above, but you don’t lose the entire model (already true).
  • REAPER AUTOCANNONS ARE NOW AP-2. Big change that was sorely needed, making Reaper Autocannons significantly more usable and giving Chaos Terminators some actual AP on their shooting. You’re still going to eat a -1 to hit with these things but for 10 points, a Heavy 4 S7 AP-2 D1 gun isn’t too bad.
  • Heavy Bolters and Twin Heavy Bolters are now 2 damage. This is another big change that turns the heavy bolter into something pretty fearsome. It immediately makes twin heavy bolters worth consideration on Helbrutes, since 6 AP-1 2 damage shots can really put a hurt on some units, and it also makes Heavy Bolter Havocs worth a second look, since the 36″ range and upgraded damage profile arguably make heavy bolters a better option that Reaper Chaincannons.

Melee Weapons

  • Astartes Chainswords are Strength: User, AP-1 1 damage melee weapons that give the bearer an extra attack. This is a huge upgrade that instantly makes the Chaos marine melee options better. The big winners on this are Chaos Bikers, Raptors, and Berserkers, who enjoy having that extra chainsword attack also be at AP-1, and may want to eschew taking the chainaxe altogether and spending the point, since getting attacks at S6 vs S5 may not be worth it (not to mention the hassle of converting the models). This is also a potential point in favor of pistol + sword Chaos Marines as your troop choices, since having AP-1 melee weapons is a pretty solid bonus.
  • Power swords are Strength +1. This is a big upgrade for the humble power sword, and something that’s going to be a bigger deal for Thousand Sons, but it’s also relevant on Chaos Terminators, who can take them native. At 5 points, it’s a pretty reasonable deal as an upgrade over a chainaxe if you’re planning to get stuck in.
  • Power Axes are Strength +2. This is an OK change – moving from S4 to S6 isn’t as big a deal as going from S4 to S5, but there are several units that get a massive benefit from this by going to Strength 7. The ones that immediately come to mind are Berserker champions, Red Butchers Terminators, and Creations of Bile, who can suddenly get in some nasty S7 AP-2 swings that make them much more dangerous against T7 vehicles, especially once you factor in Veterans of the Long War.
  • Power Mauls are Strength +3. Potentially one of the real sleeper hits (pun intended) of the melee weapons update, power mauls suddenly making S7 Terminators (albeit for 5 points a pop) is a pretty tasty proposition. The perpetual curse here is being a 1 damage weapon, which significantly hurts them, but if you’re running Creations of Bile taking your Terminators to S8 gets them over an important threshold that may compensate for that. Another weapon that is suddenly worth a second look.
  • Power Fists are now flat 2 damage. We’d seen this in other places, and it’s a big upgrade for power fists, which now are faster to play with and lose their damage variance, ensuring you’ll never again be frustrated as you roll a string of 1s and 3s to do the least efficient possible job killing Primaris marines. This is a big upgrade that makes power fists on terminators worth consideration.
  • Chainfists are now D3 damage, with a flat 3 damage against VEHICLEs. This is an upgrade on the whole for chainfists, where on average they’ll do similar damage to non-vehicles (though as we noted under Power Fists, with frustratingly increased variance), and against vehicles they’ll just rip through them, which makes this a better option on the whole if you are planning to take down vehicles. It’s certainly worth a look, though our previous lists that took a pair of chainfists in large terminator blobs may now look at power fists instead.
  • Lightning Claws now give you +1 attack per claw. This is another big improvement, helping make Lightning claws more viable. Poor Haarken gets an extra attack that he desperately needs (though not as much as a 2 damage melee weapon), and warp talons coming in with 4 attacks each on the charge is pretty tasty, though they likely still aren’t worth their increased points cost until they get another wound. Still, they’re much more interesting as glass cannons now. Also, World Eaters Red Butchers lightning claw terminators come in swinging with 6 attacks each at S5 in their first round of combat and another 5 each in round 2 on the turn they charge – PRETTY GOOD. Also these combo great with Creations of Bile and their +1 strength bonus. Lots of reasons to try these out now, where increasing a unit’s output by 25-50% can be a huge deal.
  • Thunder Hammers are now AP-2. Just a flat nerf to the thunder hammer and with the boost to power fists, one that makes them incredibly skippable given that they still cost 40 points on characters and the -1 to hit is still incredibly relevant for Chaos Space Marines, who proc abilities on modified rolls.
  • Force weapons have changed. Mirroring the changes to power weapons, Force swords are now S+1 (and very usable), Force axes are now S+2, and Force Staves are S+3. This makes Force Staves even better, though now Force swords look pretty tasty as well. Force axes less so.

Faith and Fury

Nothing appears to have changed for Faith and Fury, where the big change was stripping out everything related to the Black Templars and Space Marine rules. That’s a bit of a shame since it would have been nice to see similar buffs to some of the daemon weapon relics.

War of the Spider (Creations of Bile)

Likewise, no changes here for the Creations of Bile. There are some updates to imperial weapons.


Death Guard Plague Marine
Death Guard Plague Marine Credit: That Gobbo

Death Guard and War of the Spider

There’s nothing new in War of the Spider for Death Guard, so the big changes are all for weapons. These have already been detailed above. None of the Death Guard’s special plague weapons have changed, only their weapons that are available cross-codex. Note that Death Guard did not receive Astartes Chainswords, so if you take a Chaos Lord or other character that comes with a chainsword, note that they’ll get the shitty version that does not confer AP-1. As far as I can tell, that’s the only place this would matter. The big winner in all this is the Myphitic Blight-Hauler, which now gets two multi-melta shots at no additional cost, making them significantly more effective. Hell yeah!

Otherwise, these changes aren’t much of consideration for Death Guard, who tended to lean heavily on other options. There’s some consideration to be made for combi-meltas and power fists now, which have a more reliable damage output, and bubotic axes and baleswords now look a spot worse next to the power weapon cousins.


Thousand Sons and Ritual of the Damned

Nothing has changed in Ritual of the Damned for Thousand Sons, so the only changes are to the Codex. The big adjustments here are to relics/Sorcerous Arcana – the Seer’s Bane is now Strength +1 and the Prismatic Staff is now Strength +3, bringing them in-line with the force weapons they replace. Otherwise, the weapon changes are only for weapons shared with Codex: Space Marines, which means that while Thousand Sons’ flamers get extra range, warpflamers stay frustratingly locked at 9″. On the plus side, coming with S+1 power swords now at no additional cost makes Scarab Occult Terminators suddenly much more interesting, though the fact that they cost 38 points per model isn’t great. It’s not awful, but it’s not amazing.


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