Start Competing: Black Legion Tactics

Credit; Robert "TheChirurgeon" Jones

This is a companion article to our larger Start Competing: Chaos Space Marines article. In this article, we’re looking specifically at the Black Legion traitor legion, examining their rules, units, and tactics and strategies for using them.

The poster boys of the Chaos Space Marines faction, the Black Legion were the first traitor legion to get a full host of stratagems in Vigilus Ablaze (a set that were reprinted in The Book of Fire recently) and while the rules they got were decent, they tended to not look so great next to the raw power of the Faith and Fury legion rules. Still, Black Legion have access to some neat tricks and custom units, foremost among them being Abaddon the Despoiler, a powerful single unit that can lend power to several strategies. 


Legion Overview

The Black Legion aren’t the strongest traitor legion competitively, but they do have some very nasty tricks they can pull off, particularly with Abaddon in the mix and his very strong aura abilities.


  • Abaddon. Abaddon absolutely lives up to his “Warmaster” name, providing numerous buffs and being one of the game’s most powerful melee units. As the number of re-rolls for non-CORE units in the game dwindles, Abaddon’s insanely good full re-rolls aura just looks better and better.
  • Extra Warlord Traits. The Black Legion are one of only two legions that can get additional Warlord Traits for their characters (the other being Alpha Legion), and while their ability to do this is limited to taking a Chaos Lord + Sorcerer + Dark Apostle, that’s a good trio and it only costs you 1 CP for two additional traits, which is a bargain.
  • Mark-Agnostic. The Black Legion aren’t locked into a single mark of chaos, leaving them free to pick and choose where it makes sense – you can give the mark of Slaanesh to shooting units, Khorne to fighting units, and so on.
  • High leadership. That +1 Leadership on regular chaos marines matters a lot more than you’d think, helping you tank an extra loss without having to worry about combat attrition. Abaddon’s aura that makes nearby CHAOS units fearless is also a massive boost, turning otherwise cowardly squads of chaos cultists into intractable blobs of fanatics.
  • Extra CP. The Black Legion are one of two Chaos Legions that can generate extra CP, and have two ways to do it. This means you can actually create armies that start with 14 CP at 2,000 points and regenerate CP at a decent rate on top of that.


  • Weak Legion Trait. The Black Legion’s trait is OK at best – the Ld bonus is nice, but there just aren’t enough units where the ability to advance and fire Rapid Fire weapons matters. Ironically, it’d be at its best if you could use it on autogun cultists, but they no longer receive a legion trait so it’s a waste.
  • Mediocre Stratagems. While there are some gems in the Black Legion strat list, it’s not a particularly strong set, especially when compared to the Faith and Fury stratagems.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


Legion Trait: Black Crusaders

Units with this trait get +1 Ld and if they Advance, they can still fire their Rapid Fire Weapons as if they were Assault weapons that turn. With Cultists no longer able to benefit from a trait, this is pretty bad. The +1 Ld bonus actually does a fair amount of work especially now that Chaos Space Marines and smaller squads of elite units can suffer more from Combat Attrition rules but overall this trait isn’t strong enough to build around. There’s mild upside to this if you need to Advance with say, Bikes or Terminators, but even in those cases you’re giving up a lot of shooting to do it. If you’re playing Black Legion, it’s not for this. This and several other Black Legion abilities seem to want to push you toward Chaos Space Marines as your troops, but the incentive to do that just isn’t there.

Warlord Traits

The Black Legion have a few solid Warlord Traits, and with Council of Traitors, they have a way to get multiple traits in the same army. This is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, two extra traits for one CP is a bargain. On the other hand, the restrictions on which units those have to be mean that you’re usually stuck picking traits that work well on a Sorcerer an a Dark Apostle (though picking for a Chaos Lord or a Daemon Prince if Abaddon isn’t your Warlord gives you a lot more options).

  • Veteran Raider. friendly Black Legion units within 6″ can Fall Back and charge in the same turn. This is pretty good! It’s a solid way to have units that can avoid being tarpitted, and a good way to re-activate Hateful Assault when you need it. It combines well with the Tip of the Spear warlord trait aura and can really help you re-commit key melee units that might otherwise be locked up in the wrong combats at midtable, or just Fall Back to open up a melee unit that thought it was safe or trapping you to a round of shooting before you move back in to finish the job. The fact that it’s an aura means it takes a bit of work to build around and use effectively, but being able to use it with multiple units is pretty solid. A
  • Indomitable. All damage suffered by the Warlord is halved, rounded up. With this trait you can effectively create your own mini-Abaddon, which is kind of neat. On its own, it’s a strong trait for protecting your warlord from all of the 2- and 3-damage shooting out there and works great on a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant where you’ve got a decent amount of wounds and have to worry about heavier threats. Really great if you’re going up against power fists. A
  • Black-Clad Brute. Add 1 to your Warlord’s Strength and after they make a Charge move, pick an enemy within 1″ and roll a D6; on a 4+ that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. The 4+ nature of this isn’t too bad, and +1 Strength is significant for a lot of models. The downside is that you’ve got other, better options and you can get +1 Strength with the Intoxicating Elixir if you really want it. Decent on a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant, though. Also solid on a Jump Pack Chaos Lord with lightning claws or the Rapacious Talons. B
  • Soul-Eater. Each time your Warlord destroys an enemy unit, they regain D3 lost wounds. Cute, and potentially fun on a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant, which actually have enough wounds and killing power to make use of this, but this isn’t as helpful on the whole as say, Indomitable. C+
  • Trusted War-Leader. While your Warlord’s on the battlefield, every time you spend a CP to use a Stratagem, roll a D6; on a 5+ that CP is refunded. This is pretty solid, and one of only two ways that Chaos has to regenerate CP. It’s particularly good when combined with the Council of Traitors Stratagem, which basically makes that Stratagem free in an average game. It also helps that you’re rolling per CP spent, which is useful when you’re tossing out Endless Cacophony (though you still can only get 1 back per battle round). If you think you’re going to need extra CP to work with late-game, this is pretty decent, and it’s a great filler third trait if you aren’t sure what to take on your Dark Apostle, though I’d recommend considering Veteran Raider there as well if you haven’t already taken it or are locked into your first Warlord Trait. B+
  • First Amongst Traitors. Death to the False Emperor triggers extra hits on a 5+ for friendly Black Legion units within 6″. This is the Codex: Chaos Space Marines trait for Black Legion and the one Abaddon is stuck with and it’s not great. It’ll do real work against Imperium armies, where the extra hits it generates and the fact that it’s an aura are pretty money, but it’s dead against anything else and so most of the time you’d rather have something that’s “on” all the time. That said, you are definitely going to be playing marines at some point or another and when it’s on, it’s great, even if you can’t stack bonuses to have it fire on a 3+. It combines extremely well with Prescience to get you extra attacks on a 4+. C


The Black Legion have access to eight stratagems, two of which are used outside of the game. Note that with the exception of Let the Galaxy Burn, which actually has different wording in Vigilus Ablaze, these are only accessible if you have a Black Legion Detachment. There are a couple of stand-outs here like Council of Traitors and World Killers, and while the most part these pale in comparison to what the other legions got later on in Faith and Fury, those two are strong enough to build around.

  • Let the Galaxy Burn (1 CP). Use when a Black Legion Infantry or Biker is picked to attack in the Shoot or Fight phases. You can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for that unit for the phase. If they’re a Chaos Space Marines unit (literally the Troops choice, by name), then you can re-roll all hit rolls for it instead. Important Note: The wording in Codex: Chaos Space Marines (II) is the old, “failed hit rolls” wording, so if you aren’t running a Black Legion Detachment, you only have access to the older, worse version. This is a pretty solid way to make sure you’re getting the benefits of a Chaos Lord without having to babysit a unit and it can be really strong on a large unit of bikers. This also really helps Chaos Space Marines units now that they have free access to AP-1 chainswords – a squad of sword and pistol Chaos Marines can be surprisingly nasty in the Fight phase with this, especially once you layer on Veterans of the Long War to get some extra wounds pushed through. It’s also fine on Raptors, Obliterators, and Terminators if you’re caught away from a valuable aura and need the extra damage output. B
  • Chosen of the Pantheon (1 CP). Use at the start of your turn to give a Black Legion unit with no mark all 4 marks (KHORNE, TZEENTCH, NURGLE, and SLAANESH) until the start of your next turn. This is cute, and there are a couple of fun tricks you can pull of with it, like having a unit of Terminators or Bikers double-shoot with Endless Cacophony and double-fight with Fury of Khorne but if you’re keeping track that’s a whopping 6 CP spent on a unit before you factor in other buffs like Veterans of the Long War. The other one is stacking multiple aura buffs from Chaos Daemons units on a Chaos Space Marine unit with the DAEMON keyword, so you can do things like have multiple herald buffs on a unit of Warp Talons (though they won’t be on the table at the start of the turn they arrive from Deep Strike). Unfortunately the reality is that there just aren’t any easy or compelling ways to use this, and even the uses it has aren’t that great, which is a shame because it should have been very good! It feels like it wants to be on the level of marine stratagems that give you every Doctrine active at once, but doctrines actually do something on their own. D
  • World Killers (3 CP). Use at the start of any battle round to turn off enemy abilities that allow them to control objective markers as long as there are any Black Legion units within 3″ of the center of that objective marker until the end of the battle round, even if the enemy has more models within range of it. This is very expensive, but the ability to turn off an opponent’s Objective Secured and score an easy Hold One/Two/More for primary objective scoring can be massive in a close game, resulting in a real coup when you pull it off. The fact that it goes off at the start of the battle round also helps with this, meaning you can activate it before your own scoring or your opponent’s and mess up their attempts to score while also bolstering your own, resulting in a 10 or even 30-point swing for a turn. That’s massive and can literally win the game for you. A+
  • Relics of the Long War (1/3 CP). Allows you to get 1/2 extra Black Legion relics. While there are a couple of interesting Black Legion relics, Ghorisvex’s Teeth is the only real stand-out, so you aren’t liable to use this often.
  • Merciless Fighters (1 CP). Use at the start of the Fight phase. Pick a Black Legion unit from your army and if it has more models than there are enemy models within 3″ of it, models in the unit get +1 to their Attacks for the rest of the phase. Note that you use this before you pile in, so you can get clever with the positioning of your chargers in order to make sure this will work, since it only checks model count when you use it. +1 Attack on a big squad of Bikers, Possessed, or Terminators is a great buff to have, and this combines very well with Berserkers’ ability to fight twice and Fury of Khorne. The extra attack is going to do a ton of work for you and pound for pound is a better bonus than +1 to wound so if you have to choose between this and Veterans of the Long War, pick this – especially if you’re up against IMPERIUM units where you have a chance to generate extra attacks.. B+
  • Tip of the Spear (1 CP). Use at the start of your first Shooting phase. You can re-roll hit rolls for the Black Legion unit from your army that is closest to an enemy unit until the end of the phase (if more than one is the same distance, you get to pick). This is an easy buff to use but hard to remember and it only works once per game. The big challenge will be that you need a unit with good shooting that doesn’t already have re-rolls – Daemon Engines already have Daemonforge to do this, Chaos Space Marines (and pretty much all your Infantry/Bikers) get Let the Galaxy Burn – and is on the table turn 1. It’s cool that it isn’t locked to Infantry and all and it’s good to have when you can make something out of it, but that will be less often than you think and then after that it may as well not exist. C+
  • Legacy of Horus (1 CP). Use at the start of the Morale phase to give +1 Ld to any non-Black Legion <LEGION> units from your army that are within 6″ of a friendly Black Legion unit. Basically intended to give you a bonus for souping Chaos Legions but the benefit is so weak that you’re never going to use this. D
  • Council of Traitors (1 CP). Use before the battle if your warlord is a BLACK LEGION CHAOS LORD, DAEMON PRINCE, or Abaddon. You can pick a Black Legion Dark Apostle and a Black Legion SORCERER to each get a Warlord Trait. You can only do this once per game and you can’t double up on traits. This is pretty great, and helps mitigate that Abaddon’s default Warlord Trait is bad. You can use this to put Trusted War-Leader on your Dark Apostle, which is probably the right play most of the time, and put a Shadowspear trait on your Sorcerer, while having Abaddon’s +2 CP benefit still kick in or using the third trait to make your Smash Lord or Lord Discordant extra beefy. Even if the units you can do this on are restrictive, sorcerers and dark apostles are great and the economy of 2 extra traits for 1 CP is amazing. A+
Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


If you have a Chaos Space Marines warlord, you can give one of these to a Black Legion character in your army for free instead of the ones in the Codex. Or you can use Relics of the Legion to buy additional relics from this list. It’s a decent list and there are a couple of interesting combinations to consider here, but there’s some strong competition with the Codex Relics and the Daemon weapons from Faith and Fury.

  • Ghorisvex’s Teeth. Replaces a chainsword with one that’s S User, AP-3, 2 damage and every time you fight you can make 2 extra attacks with this relic. Also every time you roll a wound roll of 6+ with it, you do a mortal wound in addition to the standard damage. This is fantastic, in part because it’s free (chainswords cost 0 points) and in part because you can use Veterans of the Long War or the Soultearer Portent prayer to boost that to 5+ (now that these don’t stack, this is less insane, sadly, but living the dream of having both was rare anyways). This is probably the Black Legion’s best relic, and the key ingredient in building “Chainlord” Chaos Lords that can tear things up in melee. Chaos don’t have a lot of reliable multi-damage melee weapons and weapons that give you -1 to hit are inherently worse for them so this is a great way to make your chaos lord more of beast. Goes well with a Thunder hammer or power fist, where you want some options. A
  • Trophies of Slaughter. Gives +1 Ld to friendly Black Legion units within 6″ and gives -1 Ld to enemy units within 6″. This is better than it used to be, now that morale matters quite a bit more for marines. Having Ld 10 marines is pretty solid, and dropping your opponent’s to 7 or lower can make killing a model or two in a squad of marines. But there are better relics to have and this doesn’t really mesh with what Black Legion are doing as a faction. C
  • Sightless Helm. Reduce the wearer’s BS by 1, but improve the AP of all their weapons by 1. Note that this applies to melee weapons as well, which means that on a unit that just doesn’t care about BS to begin (by virtue of having no guns) with like a Daemon Prince or Smash Lord, this can be a powerful boost. It’s also pretty funny on a Lord Discordant with Baleflamer, which doesn’t roll to hit when you fire it at range anyways. Too bad you’ll usually want the +1 Strength from Intoxicating Elixir over the AP boost on your Lord Discordant, but Black-Clad Brute can make up for that pretty easily if you want to go for the combo here. This is also great when combined with lightning claws, thunder hammers, and power axes, all of which can really use the boost that comes from going to AP-2 to AP-3. B
  • Angelsbane. Replaces a combi-bolter. 24″ Range, Rapid Fire 2, S5 AP-2, 2 damage and this improves to 3 damage when targeting IMPERIUM units. This is pretty neat, and fun times on a Terminator Chaos Lord providing extra support to either Obliterators or a unit of Terminators, or on a bike lord bringing extra firepower. It helps that marines are about 50% of the armies you’ll face and it’s not too shabby against Admech either. Combines well with the Hatred Incarnate Warlord trait from Codex: Chaos Space Marines. A
  • Cloak of Conquest. Each time the bearer kills an enemy character, they get +1 Strength, Attacks, and Ld for the rest of the battle. This has the potential to snowball into some hilarious buffs in a game, but most of the time you’re looking at one or two buffs at the most, and not until after you start mulching characters, which generally there will be fewer of in 9th edition. Take something that’s already on when the game starts. C-
  • Spineshiver Blade. Replaces a power sword. S+1, AP-3 1 damage, and each time you fight, you can make D6 extra attacks with this weapon. the D6 extra attacks make this a kind of proto-daemon weapon and having the attacks as added value makes it better than just being a power sword (especially now that power swords are Strength +1 on their own), but not by enough that you’d take this over Ghorisvex’s Teeth, which costs you 0 points instead of what a Power Sword costs. It’s also tragically 1 damage, which makes it on the whole worse than just taking lightning claws or a power fist. C


Notable Units

There are two Black Legion special characters. One is amazing, and the other… well, the other is Haarken.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Abaddon the Despoiler

The Black Legion Warmaster and basically the leader of the Chaos Space Marines faction overall, Abaddon is 220 points of complete badass on the tabletop. He’s S5, T5 with 8 Wounds, a 2+ save/4+ invulnerable, and he halves all incoming damage (rounding up). He’s got two auras, one that makes all friendly Heretic Astartes models within 12″ ignore morale, and one that allows you to re-roll hit rolls for friendly Black Legion units within 6″. On top of that, he’s got solid shooting the Talon of Horus, a D3 damage, AP-1 Combi-bolter, and he’s an absolute monster in melee thanks to 6 Attacks base plus the Talon of Horus, a Sx2, AP-4 D3 damage weapon and Drach’nyen, a daemon sword that makes D6 additional attacks (unless you roll a 1, in which case you take a MW) at S+1, AP-3 3 damage. He can mulch hordes or big targets equally, and he works well both as part of a melee vanguard or bolstering units’ shooting with his aura. Plus he’s got all four marks, so he can use Grandfather’s Blessings to heal, Fury of Khorne to fight twice, and benefit from powers like Weaver of Fates and Delightful Agonies to make him even harder to kill. If you’re taking a Black Legion army, you’re going to want to build around Abaddon most of the time because there isn’t a compelling enough reason to use them otherwise. As your Warlord Abaddon gives you +2 CP but comes with the hot-and-cold First Among Traitors trait though you’ll play against Marines and Custodes often enough that it’ll get some use and when it’s on, it’s pretty strong. Fortunately, you can use Council of Traitors with your extra CP to mitigate this. Or just don’t make Abaddon your Warlord, which is also just fine. The extra CP you get from making Abaddon your Warlord are great for getting multiple uses from World Killers per game.

Abaddon’s a great melee fighter but his force multiplier abilities are where the real power is – The most notable of this is his Lord of the Black Legion Aura, which gives full re-rolls to hit to all friendly BLACK LEGION units within 6″. As 9th edition moves us toward fewer full re-rolls and restricting re-rolls to CORE units, this ability stands out as a real world-beater and it’s particularly great on the vehicles and Daemon Engines that make up the most powerful options the Chaos Space Marines have to offer. Right now the competitive lists built around Abaddon pair him with Forge World dreadnoughts and Decimators and Lords of Skulls to make the most of this aura and really up the army’s damage output.

Abaddon’s got a second secret weapon in his Mark of Chaos Ascendant aura that has friendly Heretic Astartes models within 12″ automatically pass morale tests and turns 30-model squads of Chaos Cultists into incredibly difficult-to-shift 30-wound terrors that can eat up large swaths of the table, only to recur with the Tide of Traitors stratagem when they get down into the single digits. This essentially allows Black Legion armies to control large swaths of the board and gum up the works midfield, tarpitting enemy assailants that can’t wipe the squads in a turn while powerful units of your own retaliate after the Cultists fall back. This means that although Abaddon can be placed in a Teleportarium to deep strike in, he’ll usually want to start on the table if you’re taking Cultist blobs. His aura means he’s a decent pairing for Obliterators and Terminators, but if you put him with Obliterators he’s going to die very quickly since he becomes targetable after a single Obliterator in the squad of three is killed. Likewise, if you put him with Terminators, you want it to be a large squad rather than a small one.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Haarken Worldclaimer

Abaddon’s herald is a Chaos Lord armed with a lightning claw and a spear that can inexplicably only be used as a ranged weapon. He’s got an aura that gives Raptors of any legion re-rolls to hit in melee within 6″ (this includes himself as he’s got the RAPTOR keyword), and he debuffs enemy Ld by 1 within 18″. Also, his Head-claimer ability gives him +1 Attack each time he kills an enemy character. This previously all amounted to a big fat nothing but now that raptors have AP -1 Astartes Chainswords and Lightning claws give you +1 attack per claw, he’s suddenly much more reasonable – that extra attack makes a world of difference, especially when you’re up against IMPERIUM units. Stuck with a 1-damage weapon, Haarken will still struggle to kill enemy characters in combat, but he’s going to push through more damage now and his re-roll aura is legitimately strong for Raptors, helping them make the most of their new free AP boost. His Ld -1 aura is also crazy relevant as 18″ is an incredibly long distance to have that effect at. Ironically, Haarken works best in concert with Night Lords, where Raptors have access to the Raptor Strike Stratagem to charge 3D6″ when arriving from Deep Strike and the Ld -1 aura combines with the Raptor -1 aura and the Night Lords’ Legion Trait to give any unit fighting raptors with Haarken in the area -3 to Ld before casualties start happening. He can still get that to -2 or -3 pretty easy with Black Legion Raptors, but getting units to -4 and -5 with Night Lords can be a real terror (no pun intended) for armies that normally ignore the impact of losing 1-2 models.

As a Warlord Haarken is stuck with the Lord of Terror Warlord Trait from Codex: Space Marines. It makes sense, but if he had Veteran Raider he’d be much better off. He also doesn’t have the CHAOS LORD keyword, so generally making him your Warlord is inadvisable. On the whole, it’s hard to make Haarken work. He doesn’t really work with Black Legion armies because Black Legion Raptors are only OK, he doesn’t have a mark of chaos, and he can’t benefit from the stratagems that Night Lords and Emperor’s Children get that let units make charges out of deep strike. He’s a little bit better than he was since Raptors dropped to 15 points per model, but again the issue is that being Black Legion does nothing for raptors (though they aren’t terrible, either).

Sorcerers and Dark Apostles

The vast majority of times you play Black Legion you’re going to be using Council of Traitors to give one or both of these a Warlord Trait. Give your Sorcerer something from the Shadowspear traits to improve his casting (or put him in Terminator Armour and give him Angelsbane and the Hatred Incarnate trait to maximize his damage output) and give the Dark Apostle something to help your core strategy, like Veteran Raider or Trusted War-Leader.

Chaos Cultists

Cultists are cheap fodder in any Chaos Space Marines list, but they truly shine in the Black Legion, where Abaddon’s aura turns them into fearless speed bumps that can slow down near any unit in the game, be it shooting or fighting. Use Tide of Traitors to recur them when they get low on numbers, and be sure to support them with Abaddon’s re-roll aura, and Sorcerer powers like Delightful Agonies and Prescience to get more out of their volumes of fire. You’ll also have Merciless Fighters as an option most of the time on larger units, so you can use that to get +1 to attack in melee in a pinch as well.

Terminators and Obliterators

Because they can be accompanied by Abaddon during a teleport action, there’s some extra value that Black Legion armies can get from Abaddon if they aren’t using him to turn cultists into frothing madmen. Abaddon works well with both – he’s a great melee support for the Terminators and his First Among Traitors aura will help them get extra value out of space marine targets, and Obliterators do well with his full re-rolls to hit on their shooting. Though with the latter you’ll need to be really careful about how you screen Abaddon – if it’s just him and three Obliterators killing one of them opens him up to be shot at and he’ll go down pretty quickly once that happens. Likewise, if you pair him with Terminators you’ll generally want them to be larger squads.


Black Legion Raptors aren’t anything particularly special, but they did get cheaper in the January 2021 points update and they do get decent support from Haarken while a Jump Pack Chaos Lord or Daemon Prince with Veteran Raider makes a fine accompaniment for them since it gives them the ability to Fall Back and charge in the same turn. They’re a lot useful now at 15 points per model and with AP-1 chainswords, plus a lightning claw on the champion is a much better play now. A large squad of Raptors is also a good fit for Merciless Fighters, where you can use the fact that Raptors can go to 15 models to make it easier to hit the “more models” threshold for the +1 Attack, which is a huge boost, and against Imperium armies will help you get your Death to the False Emperor rolls going off on a 5+. The big challenge is going to be how you get them into combat: With no ability to improve charges after a Deep Strike, Black Legion Raptors need to be a little more cagey about how they approach things. You can give them the mark of Khorne and an Icon of Wrath to help their charges (you pretty much always want to do this, since it also opens up fighting twice as an option), but even with an icon for free re-rolls your chances of making a 9″ charge from the drop are still going to be only 48%which means you shouldn’t bank on making that charge. They also don’t have a pregame move, so typically you’ll want to drop Raptors where you can hide them for a turn and then have them strike at a valuable target, where a 12″ move and re-rolls on charges should be enough to chase down anything that you’d want to fight. The upside here is that as INFANTRY, your Raptors aren’t stuck doing nothing if they drop – they can drop in and perform Actions the turn they arrive, and make for great Retrieve Octarius Data units when you need to get into other table quarters to get that data.


Black Legion Chaos Space Marines / Servants of the Abyss for Blackstone Fortress by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms
Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Playing Black Legion

Competitively, Black Legion armies are going to tend to revolve around Abaddon, who brings powerful melee and aura abilities to the table that many other legions just can’t match. His Leadership aura turns large squads into incredibly tough bodies, and while there’s a bit of a tradeoff in your vulnerability to Blast weapons, those haven’t proven to be near strong enough nor ubiquitous enough to really punish horde armies that sit on objectives with a large number of models. Abaddon works as a force multiplier for both big cultist blobs and large units of more elite shooting/fighting models like Terminators.

One of your more potent tricks is Council of Traitors. Because it’s two extra Warlord Traits (and you have some good options) for one CP, and Sorcerers and Dark Apostles are both pretty good units, you pretty much always want to start building around having all three in your army, which means a lot of time you’ll be looking at a Battalion or a pair of Detachments for army construction. The battalion base choice isn’t too bad since it gives you three HQ slots and you can fill the Troops slots with Cultists who can be made fearless or some Chaos Space Marines who benefit from a little extra mobility. Because maximizing World Killers can literally swing you the game, you’ll want to make sure your army packs multiple ObSec units that can be on objectives when the time comes to shoot your shot, and that all kind of fits together to form the core of a Black Legion army.

Tips and Tricks to Remember

There are a few things you’ll want to remember as you play Black Legion that will help you get the most out of the faction:

  • Don’t forget about the Shadowspear Warlord Traits. Council of Traitors lets you take an extra trait on a Dark Apostle and a Sorcerer and while none of the faction’s traits are particularly great for a Sorcerer, there’s an entire list of legal traits in the Shadowspear booklet that are wonderful for Sorcerers (particularly Warp Lord). Give these a look when you’re building your list so you can max out the value of your Council of Traitors Stratagem.
  • Think about how you’re going to use your Council of Traitors. You don’t have to include all three models but it’s kind of a huge waste to play Black Legion and not get the traits, so think about how you’re going to use your Sorcerer and Dark Apostle, and the powers/prayers they’ll need to execute on that. You also don’t need all three – you’ll want a Sorcerer pretty often but the need for a Dark Apostle kind of varies so if you don’t want the full trio don’t feel like you have to take them – paying 1 CP for one extra Warlord Trait is a fine trade too, and worth paying for.
  • Stack buffs on your Cultists. Your Mark of Slaanesh Autogun Cultists will become stupid tough to kill with Delightful Agonies and Illusory Supplication, and they can take advantage of both Veterans of the Long War and Endless Cacophony to improve their chance of wounding and shoot twice with all their applied buffs. Use these to your advantage to turn 30-60 autogun shots into something really nasty.
  • Abaddon’s Leadership buff is for all Chaos Space Marines. It doesn’t matter what legion your units are from, if they’re within 12″ of Abaddon they automatically pass morale tests. That’s pretty handy if you’re mixing detachments and using Cultists to fill Troops slots. But he won’t give them re-rolls to hit, so keep that in mind.
  • Don’t sleep on the Apostle. He’s no Abaddon when it comes to morale, but the Dark Apostle gives nearby Cultist units within 6″ his Ld to use, which will be 10 thanks to the Black Legion trait. That means you have to lose 5+ cultists before morale starts potentially affecting you, giving you a much more comfortable buffer to work with. He can also make the Cultists harder to hit or give them a 5+ invulnerable save, if that’s the strategy you’re building around.
  • Don’t get too brave with Abaddon. Abaddon’s a nasty combat threat and capable of holding his own, but he’s more valuable as a force multiplier in many ways and left unsupported he’ll go down pretty quick. Be sure not to let him get too far away from key allies or you’ll find out how fast he can lose 8 wounds, even with his reduction abilities and saves. Similarly…
  • Remember that Abaddon has all four marks of chaos. The Tzeentch stratagem won’t do much for you but remember that Abaddon can fight twice for 3 CP with Fury of Khorne, can fire twice with Endless Cacophony, and can heal D3 wounds at the start of the Movement phase with Grandfather’s Blessings.
  • In 9th edition, Abaddon’s old style re-rolls aura is one of the most powerful weapons in the game. You just do not see re-rolls for non-CORE units any more and being able to get them as an aura on multiple units at the same time – in full re-rolls mode, no less – for Black Legion vehicles is an incredibly powerful ability. It’s huge on Contemptors, Lords of Skulls, and Decimators, and can act as the crux of a very nasty vehicle-heavy strategy that plays well in metas beset by lots of light vehicles.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The List

So far the most successful player we’ve seen with Black Legion is Russell Tassin, who recently (late September, 2021) won the Warzone Houston Major with a Black Legion army. If you’ve always hated the idea of going cultist-heavy with Black Legion and needing to field tons of old models to make them work, then look no further, because Russell’s list relies more on using Abaddon as a force multiplier for some big, elite units.

Russell Tassin’s List

We’ve featured some of Russell’s lists before, typically trying his best to make Black Legion work and he finally went ahead and did it – at a 9-round major, no less. Russell took this list to 5-1 in the Swiss Rounds before going 3-0 in the top 8 cut to win it all at Warzone Houston with this Black Legion list. The list makes good use of Abaddon’s insanely good re-roll aura and some of the army’s other fun tricks (an Angelsbane Terminator Lord) with some of the best vehicles Chaos Space Marines have access to in order to put out some insane amounts of shooting.

The List

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [74 PL, 1,530pts, 11CP] ++

Legion: Black Legion

+ HQ +

Abaddon the Despoiler [11 PL, 220pts, 2CP]: 6. First Among Traitors, Warlord

Chaos Lord in Terminator Armour [6 PL, 105pts]: Angelsbane, Chainfist, Combi-bolter, Mark of Slaanesh

+ Troops +

Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 55pts]: Mark of Khorne
. 8x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun: 8x Autogun
. Chaos Cultist w/ special weapon: Flamer
. Cultist Champion: Shotgun

Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 50pts]: Mark of Khorne
. 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun: 9x Autogun
. Cultist Champion: Autogun

Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 55pts]: Mark of Khorne
. 8x Chaos Cultist w/ autopistol and brutal assault weapon: 8x Autopistol, 8x Brutal assault weapon
. Chaos Cultist w/ special weapon: Flamer
. Cultist Champion: Brutal assault weapon and Autopistol

+ Elites +

Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, 215pts, -1CP]: Hellforged cyclone missile launcher, No Chaos Mark, 2x Twin lascannon

Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, 215pts, -1CP]: Hellforged cyclone missile launcher, No Chaos Mark, 2x Twin lascannon

Chaos Leviathan Dreadnought [13 PL, 245pts, -1CP]: Grav-flux bombard, 3x Hellforged hunter-killer missile, Mark of Khorne, Storm cannon
. Two twin volkite calivers

Decimator [9 PL, 180pts]: No Chaos Mark, 2x Soulburner petard

+ Dedicated Transport +

Chaos Terrax-Pattern Termite [10 PL, 190pts]: Mark of Khorne
. 2 Twin Terrax volkite chargers: 2x Twin Terrax volkite Charger

++ Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment -3CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [23 PL, 470pts, -1CP] ++

Detachment Command Cost [-3CP]
Legion: Black Legion
Shared Faction Bonus [2CP]

+ Lord of War +

Khorne Lord of Skulls [23 PL, 470pts]: Gorestorm cannon, Hades gatling cannon

++ Total: [97 PL, 10CP, 2,000pts] ++


The Standout Features

  • Pure Chaos Space Marines win a major! This is not a drill! (OK there is a Drill).
  • Abaddon’s full re-rolls combine with the most efficient vehicles that Chaos has to offer to grind opponents out of the game.
  • A truly outrageous amount of anti-tank shooting strips away the opponent’s rides and big guns, then the Lord of Skulls goes in for the kill.

Playing This List

One reason Russell was able to finally break through was by focusing on a list of tricks that gun for a hull-heavy metagame featuring lots of light vehicles regardless of whether you’re playing Orks, Drukhari, or Adeptus Mechanicus.

The dynamo powering this list is, of course, the full re-roll aura that Abaddon provides to Black Legion units, allowing the suite of powerful Forge World Dreadnoughts to operate at a level of efficiency that is no longer widely available over in Imperium land, while also jacking up the power level of the various Daemon Engines. The Lord of Skulls datasheet is genuinely good, and as also seen in one of the undefeated LGT lists if you boost it up just a little (Abaddon or Iron Warriors being the premier options) it’s a great pick now that you can tag one in for only a single CP rather than three. It will absolutely have a target on its head, but it’s at least got a lot of wounds, a built in invulnerable save and a non-degrading offensive profile, so it takes some real killing and if they swing and miss it’s a disaster. It’s also a pretty funny tag team with a unit of Cultists for holding an objective, as if you pop World Killers then the opposing ObSec is getting trumped – and it can also bodily hide a unit of Cultists behind it because of its size.

The rest of the of the toys here are a bit more familiar – all the dreadnoughts are known good units, but it’s interesting to see them taking lascannons instead of Volkite. That looks like it leans in to an expected vehicle-heavy metagame (which it absolutely got, so good call there) and is a recognition that the absolute priority for the army is popping anything that can seriously threaten the Lord or the Leviathan, as they’re the more flexible killing machines that the list needs operational to function. Volkite without AP just won’t cut it against a lot of targets, whereas a volley of re-rolling lascannon shots might. The Terrax is also a cute choice and surprisingly deadly – pop it up in Abaddon’s aura and those five melta shots have a really good chance of just popping something. It also provides a way of getting some cultists to an objective in safety, and again potentially physically hiding them when they’re there, helping the list get the most value out of them (or keep a few alive so they auto-pass morale in Abaddon’s other aura and can be re-spawned with Tide of Traitors). This list can strip away its opponents valuable tools very fast, but the Lord of Skulls can only be in once place at once, so having just a smattering of objective units is good.

That’s mostly it – the cute double shooting anti-Imperium captain excepted – and the result is super cool. It is a travesty that Chaos have had to wait so long for 2W infantry, but as this list shows they do still have a few tricks in their pocket as a result of not being revised, and utilising those to kill so, so many enemy vehicles was a smart move. Russell did drop a game in the swiss to a hyper mobile board control Drukhari build that left the Raiders at home, but made it into the top eight and won out from there. Massive congratulations to Russell, and enjoy your well deserved spot at the top of the ITC CSM rankings.


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