Q1 2024 Balance Dataslate & MFM – Chaos – The Goonhammer Review

Today Games Workshop released a massive update for Warhammer 40,000 giving us a huge shake-up for competitive play. In addition to the balance dataslate for Q1 2024, we also saw the release of a new game-wide points update, rules/FAQ updates and errata, datasheet updates, and an entirely new detachment for the Drukhari.

There’s a ton here and nearly every faction in the game is affected in one way or another. While we’re covering the specifics of each released document in its own article to help make clear where things are changing, it’s important to note that these changes have combined effects. 

Finally before we dive in, we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing an early copy of these updates for review purposes.

Goonhammer’s resident Chaos Lords have gathered in dark council, and now come to you with tidings from the warp regarding how the Dataslate affects their favourite factions. There’s something of a mutinous air in the more skull-bedecked parts of the (extremely real) Goonhammer offices, but let’s start out with the good news about Daemons.

Chaos Daemons

Status: Warpy Winners


  • When bringing Daemons as Allies, you must take at least as many Battleline units as non-Battleline units for each respective God
  • Lots of Khorne Daemons down in points, with Bloodletters (140 to 120) and Skarbrand (345 to 305), the biggest winners
  • Lots of Slaanesh Daemons down in points, with Keepers (330 to 290) and Seeker Chariots (75 to 65) the biggest winners
    Lots of Nurgle Daemons down in points, with Great Unclean Ones (250 to 230), Rotigus (260 to 230), and Plaguebearers (125 to 110) the biggest winners
  • Some Tzeentch Daemons down in points, with Kairos (285 to 270) the big winner
  • Soul Grinders go from 200 to 190


Mike Pestilens: Daemons have a strong set of rules, but desperately needed some points drops to get some breathing room in their lists. I don’t know which of the Dark Gods to thank, but we absolutely got the points cuts we needed.

With a sweeping host of points drops, Daemons are ready to rock now. Did you like running Greater Daemons? Enjoy very well priced Great Unclean Ones, Rotigus, Keepers Of Secrets, Kairos, and Skarbrand. Enjoy running Lesser Daemons? Try out cheaper Bloodletters, Plaguebearers, Seekers, Fiends, Flamers, and Bloodcrushers. The fact that most Leaders got points drops means we can actually start experimenting with some fun combos too.

The change to make allying Daemons more difficult will actually be a great thing for the faction long term. Daemons have always suffered from having their units nerfed because they potentially were too good as allies for other Chaos factions. Now we don’t have to worry about situations like the Changeling getting nerfed because it was ubiquitous in Thousand Sons or Chaos Knights lists, since they’re paying an expensive tax to take any non-Nurgle units. I also want to make one thing very clear, since people might misunderstand the Daemonic Pact change when they first read it: The requirement to match Battleline and non-Battleline units of each God only applies when bringing Daemons as allies. If you play Daemons as your main faction, you are literally completely unaffected by this change.

The only nerfs Daemons took were Nurglings going from 35->40, and the Blue Scribes going from 65->75. And you know what? These are both totally reasonable, and you’re still going to see them, just less often. If Daemons players have any complaints, its that the Troops are still a hair too expensive on the whole. Blue Horrors really needed to come down from their egregious 125 points cost and didn’t. Pinks could have used a little love, as 130 or 135 would feel a lot better. Daemonettes and Bloodletters are not bad anymore, and you can run them without feeling like you’re nerfing yourself, but they both could have dropped an additional 10-15 points and been fine. Units like Plague Drones and most Slaanesh Chariots could also have used a little love. The internal balance of the Daemons index is still a little bit too heavily shifted towards the Greater Daemons. Considering how cool our Greater Daemon sculpts are and how fun they are to play with, there are far worse issues to have.

If I had to pick a God to be the biggest winner, I would go with Nurgle, followed closely by Slaanesh. Being able to bring a Great Unclean One with the Endless Gift and Rotigus for under 500 points total will really elevate Nurgle Daemon lists. Cheaper Keepers and Lesser Daemons will give Slaanesh more tools to play with. The only reason Nurgle is a bigger winner than Slaanesh is that Shalaxi was left at 450 points, when she could have easily been reverted to her previous posts cost of 400. But that’s just one nitpick, and overall Daemon players should be very content with their place in the meta after these updates.

What’s Next

TheChirurgeon: Daemons don’t get the buffs Drukhari do but they see some solid drops across the board, and should see more play now that they have a few extra units to work with. On the other hand, expect to see everything but Nurglings disappear from other faction lists as allies.

Chaos Knights

Status: Boring Loser


  • All bigs down (except the rampager) 5-7% with the exception of the Abominant which went down a whopping 55 points (it’s still bad)
  • Brigands up 10 points
  • Executioners down 10 points
  • Nurglings up 5 points, which aren’t Chaos Knights but they are battleline Daemons so your first pick on what you’re gonna take for allies


Norman: Gonna be honest with you all, it’s not a ton. Basically the average all dogs list will downgrade a brigand for a huntsman or something, your daemon support will take a hit (it already was because of the slate changes) and you will continue to see those lists dominate the CK meta. This is really unfortunate, but taking something from “Untakeable” to “Pretty Bad” doesn’t really open up diversity in list building. The bump on brigands hurts, we’re getting close to them being untenable, but for now they’re just an extra cost of doing business.

The only real good news here is a lot of the natural predators to Chaos Knights have moved away, and the new top meta dogs are vulnerable to the Chaos Knights gameplan. That is except for Necrons, they’re just gonna suck the whole time. You’ll need something for dealing with a monolith and c’tans. Brigands are probably the call here but we also may see a trend towards Rampagers to take out monoliths. You’ll notice all the units I’m talking about haven’t gone down and this is not something I’m missing. All those knights are bad. We might see desecrators take the field a bit more often but they mostly exist to buff brigands and the brigand package went up. The other thing we may see more of is Rotigus or other greater daemons showing up because of how cheap those got but at that point I think you’re just making a worse chaos daemons list.

To editorialise a little bit for a second, the real bummer here is, as I’ve mentioned, the game plan doesn’t really change and just got worse. With the Daemon changes you can no longer use effective cheap characters to confirm your secondary game. With the points changes you lose a bringand in most lists and don’t try and take any bigs outside the rampager which was already on the menu. If you’re like me and have been playing Chaos Knights for a long time you may be getting bored of the status quo that’s been in place since 9th edition and bored of a detachment and army rule that come up once or twice a game. I find in my games I use no enhancements from the Traitoris Lance unless I somehow have 25-30 points (now 25-35 with the change to Nurglings) left over with no other options for Aura of Terror and I can count on my hands the number of times I use a detachment stratagem over the course of an RTT and it’s almost always Knights of Shade. I’m really just bored with it all at this point and that’s a shame for an army with such cool models.

Mike P: The Chaos Knight changes here are emblematic of something I’ve noticed in previous 40K dataslates. If you take a faction’s top unit and nerf it from elite to mid, and take a faction’s worst units and buff them from awful to mediocre, that faction’s power hasn’t remained the same. It’s gotten worse.

A 455 point Abominant is as valuable to me as a 400 point Abominant or a 2000 point Abominant, because at all 3 of those points costs it is just going to sit on my shelf (looking beautiful while doing it, for what it’s worth). A similar principle applies to Executioners at 140, 150, or 2000 points.

The only real winners are the Desecrator, Despoiler, and Tyrant, all who have shifted back into the realm of consideration at their points costs. The Castigator and Lancer are also intriguing options. Unfortunately I still think all of them are worse than their equivalent points in War Dogs, but you won’t feel as bad if you want to put those models you enjoy on the table. And with Necrons being untouched, I’m going to look hard at a Despoiler with 2 thermal cannons. The thought of dropping Melta 6 on C’tan warms my heretic heart.

What’s Next

TheChirurgeon: We’ve gone back and forth internally on how to build Chaos Knights for the post-dataslate meta and make anything out of the changes. Ultimately what we end up on is pretty much “do the same thing over, but worse.” You can still take Nurglings without an issue, so those will be an option. And Brigands will likely disappear as allied units in other faction lists.

Norman: I touched a bit on this above but to lay it all out, I agree we’ll likely see more of the same. As for changes, Karnivores are the new brigand, expect to see 5-6 of these in every Chaos Knights list. You’ll probably still see brigands in lists with one or two of them subbed out for Huntsmen. Rampagers may make the scene in order to help deal with the monoliths that will be running around but karnivores and brigands probably still do the job there. You’ll definitely want to hold onto those nurglings because they are your best bet for allies and it’s worth noting they unlock access for the now bargain take of Rotigus or a GUO. As for a dark horse pick, keep an eye on the Castigator, I don’t think it quite gets there, but sustained hits is a great bonus, it’s got a reliable gun, and the tall boys are faster and have more wounds so maybe! The Atrapos might also be worth looking at, but its also the only tall guy still locked behind resin so that may preclude them from showing up too much.

Chaos Space Marines

Status: Huge Losers


  • You can’t put units in Transports unless they share a Mark Of Chaos keyword with the vehicle
  • Nurgle part of Dark Obscuration went to 18” instead of 12”
  • Profane Zeal literally cannot be used on non-Undivided units anymore, and it only provides Wound re-rolls for those Undivided units
  • Accursed Cultists are OC1
  • Accursed Cultists only regenerate in the CSM player’s Command Phase
  • Accursed Cultists, Dark Communes, Chaos Lords, Chosen, Warp Talons, Obliterators, and Forgefiends all up +10-30%
  • Lord Of Skulls down 30
  • Allies rule changes make taking anything other than Nurglings too expensive


Mike Pestilens: Look how they’ve massacred our spikey boys.

When it came to Eldar being game-breakingly dominant, they kept getting gentle nerfs to nudge them in the right direction without risking going too far. When it comes to CSM being one of the best armies in the game, up there with Eldar and Necrons and some Marine builds depending on your perspective, CSM get absolutely torn to shreds to ensure they’re not going to win anything until they get their next codex.

The fundamental issue I have with this is there seems to be a lack of understanding of how nerfing certain things affects others. If you think units are undercosted with current rules? Then it makes sense to nerf their rules or nerf their points. If you take away the problematic rules and then increase their costs to what would have been fair with the problematic rules, then that’s not balance, that’s punishment.

Let’s take the Undivided Chosen+Chaos Lord in a Nurgle Rhino combo that was too strong and too common in CSM lists. We can all agree that it needed a nerf, and as a CSM player I was actually looking forward to that combo getting some sort of nerf so internal balance could be shifted around. By stopping Undivided ChosenLords from going into Nurgle Rhinos, they’ve already gotten a huge nerf since they’re no longer safe on the approach. This was the most problematic part of the interaction and fixing that already made the unit fair. By stopping Profane Zeal from re-rolling their hits, they are doing 12.5% less damage so they do less damage when they connect (and less consistent, since they’re now 23% less effective versus -1 to Hit targets). No longer being unforgettable in transports and hitting weaker solved their issue. So then why did a full Chosen Lord unit go up 60 points after it got every good part of its rules torn apart? A similar principle applies to Accursed Cultists with Dark Communes (“AC/DC”). This unit was too good and I was actually annoyed at how mandatory it felt in CSM lists. But it got basically all of its good rules cut out. Why did an AC/DC unit go up 30 points when it got its problematic rules cut out and then some?

Let me say it like this: There is a huge pool of CSM units that need buffs, not nerfs. Those units are now all worse than they were before this MFM+Dataslate that supposedly focused on internal balance as much as external balance. Did you have a Heldrake that you spent dozens of hours painting the trim for but never put on the table because it was unplayably bad? Congrats, that Heldrake is now even worse.

There were no drops to any of the many completely useless units to give CSM players anything to get excited about. Did you remember Lord Discordants exist? Me neither.

Vashtorr got the exact same points change in this MFM as the Nightbringer. I’ll just leave you with that.

TheChirurgeon: I definitely agree that Chaos Space Marines got done entirely too dirty. This is an area where GW had half a dozen levers to pull and instead of pulling a few of them for a faction that was great but not dominating, decided to pull all of them, without any feel for how the combined effects would hit. If you’re giving Accursed Cultists OC 1 and worse regeneration, why exactly do they need a points hike? And in my estimation Profane Zeal is a big miss – the problem was using it to fish for devastating wounds with Forgefiends and Chaos Lords moreso than re-rolling hits.

Also, they really, really needed to carve out an exception for the Mark of Chaos Undivided with that transports rule. It would both make sense from a fluff standpoint, and help avoid issues like “I’m never taking a Slaanesh or Khorne Land Raider because it would be a stupid waste of points.” Plus let’s be real here – the problem was entirely Nurgle transports using Dark Obscuration to protect occupants.

Curie: I mentioned this in the meta article earlier this week, but one thing to note here is it seems that GW is hesitant to buff units within an army that’s outperforming while they nerf the problematic units. No one wants a repeat of Thiccc City where an internal rebalancing counters the attempted external rebalancing. They took the same approach with Aeldari – where internal balance is similarly way off – making substantial nerfs while not buffing anything that hasn’t been seeing play.

What’s Next

TheChirurgeon: A lot of waiting for the Codex to release, most likely. Chosen + Lord units still have some play at their new cost, and Forgefiends are still good enough to see play, but Accursed Cultists getting triple-nerfed means they’re likely to be sidelined, pushing Chaos Space Marines back to more of a shooting castle build. There might be a play for Warpsmiths at this point, given they were borderline before and you’ll be falling back on some mediocre strategies. Bikes didn’t go up, so they may see more play as well and Possessed might show up again. The new tax on non-Battleline Daemon allies means you’ll see a drop-off in non-Nurgling daemon options and more pure CSM lists.

Lists-wise the Abaddon shooting castle is still very solid, Abaddon with Tzeentch units were largely unaffected, and even with more expensive Forgefiends and Obliterators you can still do outrageous damage, plus several borderline units like Vindicators suddenly look a bit more attractive. The faction won’t be D-tier or anything but it will likely see a massive drop-off as top players move to other, more powerful factions and players aren’t able to win games by spamming Accursed Cultists any more. Basically you’ll be relying on older, mid-tier builds running CSM and you should expect to see similar results.

Death Guard

Status: Slight Winner


  • Only one Biologus Putrifier can throw a free grenade per turn.
  • Plague Marines +2ppm, Plagueburst Crawler +15ppm
  • Typhus -20ppm, Lord of Virulence -20ppm, Deathshroud Terminators -5/-10 points, Foetid Bloat-drone -10ppm
  • Nurglings +5 points for 3
  • Mortarion’s aura now ignores damage reduction and AP reduction effects


TheChirurgeon: The Death Guard manage to escape mostly in neutral position from this Dataslate. Yeah, Putrifiers are a bit worse, but in a very fair/manageable way, and Plague Marines, PBCs, and Nurglings went up, but a lot of the other units we were taking went down. The list I took to Tampa ends up being something like 30 points more expensive with these changes, but it’s relatively easy to make room for those points – I can scrap the bloat-drone I was running and take more Plague Marines and another character without losing much, and it’s probably just better for me to rework the list a bit. Either way, this all amounts to a

Mike Pestilens: With Death Guard, it seems GW did a great job of meeting their goal of fixing internal balance. The thought of 3 Deathshroud + Lord Of Virulence coming in at 200 points flat is really appealing. Bloat Drones were also just on the edge on good, and coming in at under 90 points now means they have a very real role in lists. All 3 weapon variants are pure value at 90 points. Typhus at 80 points is also very valuable either solo or Leading a unit, as he felt worth it already when he was 100 points. Plague Marines and PBCs getting a slight nerf doesn’t mean they’re bad. They’re both still very viable. In fact, if people stop respecting indirect in their lists after all indirect units got nerfed and don’t bring enough transports for their squishy units, PBCs with Mortarion could still do really powerful work.

The clarification that Mortarion’s aura lets us ignore modifiers to our weapons means we are better positioned than most armies to kill Necrons, who rely heavily on halving damage on C’tan (and to a lesser extent, on reducing incoming AP on Immortals). The change to Nightspinners also means Mortarion’s aura now ignores all parts of their movement debuff since we are no longer locked out of advancing.

What’s Next

We’ll see a reduction in lists taking 30+ plague marines in favour of more varied lists running support from vehicles – though with the increase to Brigands you won’t be seeing them pop up nearly as often, if at all. That said, Karnivores are an intriguing option and had shown up in a list here and there. Nurglings at 40 are still a great value and as a BATTLELINE unit very much your plan for hitting distant action objectives during a game while your units commit to more important targets elsewhere. I still don’t think bloat-drones are good enough but Mortarion probably makes his way back into more lists now that he can reliably help nearby units ignore damage and AP reduction. PBCs still fill an important role in the army and so likely see play, but I suspect we’ll see more lists running two of them from here on out. And not having to worry about Night Spinners as much is also a welcome improvement which makes Rhinos a little less necessary – though you’ll still want them.

Thousand Sons

Status: Losers


  • Allies changes mean no taking the Changeling or Blue Scribes without a unit of horrors
  • Custodes changes make them much more durable against the faction’s key abilities


TheChirurgeon: On the surface not a lot changed for the Thousand Sons – there were no point changes and no adjustments in the dataslate nor the FAQ. So why are they big losers?

Well the answer is because they were already struggling competitively as a faction, having put up only five top 4 showings since December 1st and only a single win – and that was back on December 1st. Every single one of those lists has included the Changeling, and another included the Blue Scribes as well – points have become so tight in the list that it very much needs a cheap, deep-striking action unit with some kind of in-built protection which can score. The changes to daemonic allies essentially takes away a key component of the faction’s scoring that it can’t replace, hurting the faction’s ability to compete.

Additionally, the buffs to Custodes act as a minor stealth nerf as well – Custodes aren’t likely to be a dominant faction, but the combination of point drops and devastating wound protection makes them a much more playable option, and they continue to be a difficult matchup for Thousand Sons, where the faction’s key mechanics are suddenly only half as effective. Any meta where Custodes are more common is a bad one for Thousand Sons. The upside here is that a reduction in indirect fire will be good for the Thousand Sons – if they can get away with spending less on transports or have to worry less about losing Tzaangor or Cultist units, their games get a lot easier.

What’s Next

The Thousand Sons are likely to drop an entire tier as a result of these changes – they just don’t have a replacement for the kind of cheap, easy scoring they got out of the Changeling. Competitive lists will continue to run heavy on Rubrics as the faction’s best unit, but may have to look at trying either Cultists or an additional unit of Tzaangor Enlightened as a replacement.

World Eaters

Status: Big Losers


  • Eightbound go up +10/+20, Exalted Eightbound go up +10/+20
  • Kharn goes up +20, Master of Executions goes up +20
  • Berzerker Glaive only gives +1 Attack/+1 damage always
  • Favoured of Khorne -10 points, only works once per game
  • Daemon Prince now only gives a 5+ invulnerable save with aura, gives a 4+ to units if they already had an invulnerable save
  • Lord of Skulls -30, Forgefiend -25


TheChirurgeon: These changes hit the World Eaters like a freight train. The top list for the faction was typically running at only 1,975 points, and it’s now 45 points over. There’s no easy cut in the list, and the faction doesn’t have enough units to find reasonable substitutes, so it’s just straight-up losing a unit’s worth of models On top of that, the change to Favoured of Khorne just makes the army flat-out worse, as the odds of getting back Angron at least once in a game diminish substantially without the ability to re-roll your Blessings of Khorne roll every round. This doesn’t seem like it should be a massive blow to the faction but World Eaters pretty much live on the razor’s edge when it comes to faction balance. They only really do the one thing, and they’re either good enough at doing it or not. These are some brutal changes, and I suspect that the combination of all of them will be a bit too much and push the faction back down to C-Tier.

Mike Pestilens: I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

Okay, that’s a lie. I’m mad.

The Favoured Of Khorne nerf is absurd. I’m just going to say it. You can’t give a faction a lottery system for their army rules and then get mad when players take the only way to add some reliability to it. At the very least, if they’re going to crush Favoured Of Khorne, they should have also changed the Advance + Charge blessing so it has an easier trigger. Not having any reliable access to Advance + Charge in a purely melee army is just wild.

Seriously, the Berzerker Glaive got a huge nerf? It was one of the most fun mechanics in the game, and given how little high damage melee World Eaters have, basically their only way to deal with C’tan. I’d rather have seen the Berzerker Glaive enhancement get a points nerf than a rules nerf, because all Masters Of Executions getting a 25% points nerf because the Berzerker Glaive MoE was too good is just silly.

I’m actually fine with the foot Daemon Prince aura nerf because the Jakhal horde+DPs list was a huge headache to play with and against and obviously not how they envisioned World Eaters playing, but then they should drop the DPs points if its main mechanic got majorly nerfed. The 4++ invuln part should basically never trigger now, because your Eightbound/Exalted Eightbound should be far outpacing your foot DP.

What’s Next

TheChirurgeon: Look, you aren’t going to run Forgefiends or the Lord of Skulls, so your option is basically to cut a unit and run with a worse version of the same army. We may see a unit of Jakhals or a Rhino drop out, depending on what the meta calls for. Even with only +1 attack/damage the Master of Executions is a fearsome unit you’ll want to run, and you’ll still need to bring Angron, even if he’s less likely to come back. Expect to see a very wide disparity with this army between its go first and go second win rates.

Wrap Up

Tough times for some of the forces of Chaos, but a few points of dark amidst the light. I think that’s the way round it works for them. Anyway, check back in a few minutes for a look at the Xenos factions.

That wraps up our look at the Chaos factions, but there’s a ton more going on with this update. If you missed any of our other articles, it’s worth heading back to the home page to check them out, and we’ll be covering the other faction groups in other articles as well. Over the next few weeks we’ll also be doing deeper dives into these factions and updating our Faction Focus series to incorporate these changes, so stay tuned for that.

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