Start Competing: Chaos Daemons

Do you like invading realspace with hordes of slavering warp-spawned neverborn? Do you find shooting in Warhammer 40,000 to be kind of a chore, and wish armies spent more time mangling things in melee combat? Does the idea of having to think about armor saves rub you the wrong way? Then Chaos Daemons are the army for you friend, and this is your guide to playing them!

 

Table of Contents

Army Overview

Chaos Daemons are an army that at first glance, may seem very straightforward and limited. But further investigation reveals a deep, versatile faction that can work well either on its own or as part of a soup army. Unlike many factions, the core strength of Chaos is in its troops, leading to builds that see players marching large hordes of lesser daemons across the table. Or just pushing a few piles of Nurglings around some Daemon Princes.

As always, a guide like this represents a time and place. This was written shortly before the LVO 2020 40k Grand Tournament in January, 2020.

Army Strengths

  • Psychic Powers. Daemons – with the exception of those devoted to Khorne – have some very good psychic powers in their arsenal, and most of them are reasonably costed. The army also has psyker options in multiple force organization slots, giving the army a way to take plentiful psyker units to help make up for a lack of shooting.
  • Low Cost. Because you aren’t paying for a unit that can shoot, Chaos Daemons are cheap. Taking a squad of 30 Bloodletters is only going to run you 210 points, maybe 230 if you take the Icon and the Instrument (which you will).
  • Melee Combat. Chaos Daemons, particularly on the Khorne and Slaanesh sides of the tetrad, can really put out some hurt in melee that, combined with some of their tricks for getting into melee and their psychic powers, can make up for their lack of shooting. Daemon Princes are also some of the game’s fiercest melee combatants.
  • Great Characters. Chaos Daemons have access to some great character options in the form of Daemon Princes and Greater Daemons, giving the ability to take multiple, versatile large threats that can draw enemy fire away from troops and other objective holders, and help mitigate the army’s durability problem.
  • Great Troops. The Troop choices in the Daemons army are some of the best in the game. Every one of the options is at least playable, although Plaguebearers’ recent nerf moves them from the top of the list to the bottom. When coupled with the Characters point above, the net result is that Daemons have no trouble filling out Battalions to get CP.

Army Weaknesses

  • Durability. Most of the Chaos Daemons’ rank-and-file units are Toughness 3 and the army doesn’t have much in the way of armor saves, instead relying on the Daemons’ innate 5+ invulnerable save as their only defense. It’s great to have an invulnerable save, but only saving on one third of the incoming wounds means that daemons die in droves when the shooting starts.
  • Shooting. Daemons have very little shooting, and while they have a few longer-ranged options, most of their shooting attacks are short-ranged. If Daemons want to hit at a distance, they typically need to do it with Psychic Powers or add in Chaos Space Marines.
  • Unit Variety. Although Chaos Daemons have access to a large array of units across four chaos gods, many of them just aren’t very good. While much of this stems from the aforementioned durability issues, many of the units are just redundant, doing functionally the same thing (melee) without enough to differentiate them against other better (usually cheaper) options. This means that Daemon armies tend to run heavy on troops, which are usually the best choice. Daemon armies may be great at filling out Battalions, but they’re never used to fill out Brigades.

 

Competitive Rating: Competitive in Soup, Medium as Monofaction

While Daemons aren’t the dominant force they used to be, they’re still a common part of Chaos Soup lists, where adding a Daemons Battalion for cheap CP and access to stratagems can be a major asset. As monofaction armies, they fare worse; Chaos Daemons have a lot of interesting tricks that can help them close the gap with shootier armies, but many of those tricks can be shut down by modern marine armies, and Daemons will struggle with a lack of ranged attacks in games where they aren’t able to close distances and disrupt enemy plans early. There have been some interesting attempts to make monofaction daemons work, and we’ll explore what those look like in our lists section.

 

Special Rules

Chaos Daemons don’t have a ton of complicated army-wide special rules, but they make up for it with a lot of complicated special rules on individual units.

  • Allegiance to the Dark Gods. Most units in the Chaos Daemons army owe their allegiance to one of the four Chaos Gods: Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh. Think of these as a sort of subfaction, in that most auras, stratagems, and abilities, as well as several detachment bonuses, will only work for Daemons of a specific Allegiance.
  • Daemonic. Units with this ability have a 5+ invulnerable save. This is the best save that most non-Tzeentch units in the Daemons army have access to, and while it’s useful, it’s not particularly strong, and that means that your daemon units are, for the most part, pretty squishy unless they’re getting other help.
  • Daemonic Legions. In a Battle-forged Chaos Daemons detachment, all Troops units gain this ability, which lets them control objectives even if they have fewer models, unless another unit with a similar rule is also on the objective. Every army has some variation of this, but it’s an important ability for holding objectives and since Troops are some of Daemon armies’ best units, it’s very likely to see use in your games.
  • Gifts of the Gods. Daemons that have an allegiance to one of the four Chaos Gods also get an ability corresponding to that god.
    • Khorne: Unstoppable Ferocity. Models with this ability get +1 to their Strength and Attacks characteristics for the rest of the turn any turn in which they charge, are charged, or heroically intervene. Khorne Daemons are the best at melee combat, and this is one reason why.
    • Tzeentch: Ephemeral Form. Models with this ability improve their invulnerable saves by 1, to a maximum of 3+. This means that most Daemons of Tzeentch enjoy a 4+ invulnerable save, which is much more helpful for avoiding death and really helps their smaller units stick around.
    • Nurgle: Disgustingly Resilient. When a model with this ability would lose a wound, roll a D6 and on a 5+, that wound isn’t lost. When combined with the fact that Nurgle daemons tend to have a higher Toughness, it makes them frustratingly difficult to move off the table, especially in large numbers.
    • Slaanesh: Quicksilver Swiftness. Models with this ability always fight first in the Fight phase. If the opponent has units that have charged, or has other units with a similar ability, then you alternate fighting with these units, starting with the player whose turn it is. This is kind of the loser in the God powers competition as, while it has its uses, those tend to be rare and easy to play around on the opponent’s side.
  • Daemonic Ritual. Instead of moving, any CHAOS CHARACTER can attempt to summon a unit of Daemons at the end of the Movement phase by choosing one of the four Chaos Gods (if you have an Allegiance or Mark you can’t choose a God you don’t have allegiance to), and rolling up to three D6. You take a mortal wound if you roll doubles, and D3 of them if you roll triples, but after your roll, you can put a unit of Daemons with power level equal to or less than the result onto the battlefield within 12″ of the summoner and more than 9″ away from enemy units. In Matched play you have to pay the points for these units, but they can be chosen when you summon them and they don’t break anything about your detachment’s rules. This isn’t an ability that sees a lot of play. In part because you usually already know what units you want to play, and in part because you rarely want to give up a character’s movement phase in order to summon. Despite this, there are lists that go in hard on this and use it as a free way to Teleport in a unit that needs to stay hidden until a key turn.

 

The Powers of Chaos

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Daemonic Loci

In a Battle-forged army, if a Chaos Daemons Detachment consists only of units with the same Allegiance (see above), then all CHARACTERs in that Detachment gain the corresponding Locus ability. These are essentially auras that improve nearby units, increasing the value of Daemon army HQ choices. That said, while these bonuses are nice, they are usually overpowered by the benefits of mixing and matching daemons of different gods, and so you seldom see them get use at the competitive level.

There’s one for each Chaos God:

  • Khorne: Locus of Rage. Re-roll charge rolls for friendly KHORNE DAEMON units within 6″ of a model with this ability. This is a good ability, but you usually won’t need it since you’ll also be using the Banner of Blood to roll 3D6″ for your charge and using an instrument to get +1 to your rolls. This is more useful if you’re doing some mono-Khorne souping, where it can be used to give units like Warp Talons the ability to re-roll their charges.
  • Tzeentch: Locus of Trickery. Roll 2 dice at the start of the Fight phase and discard the highest result. For the rest of the fight phase, any time an enemy unit rolls that number to hit when attacking a TZEENTCH DAEMON unit within 6″ of a Character with this ability, the attack misses. This is the worst of the Loci, where more than one third of the time you’ll find this ability does nothing for you. The good news is, no need to fret over taking mono-Tzeentch detachments.
  • Nurgle: Locus of Virulence. Whenever you roll a Wound roll of 6+ for a NURGLE DAEMON within 6+ of a unit with this ability, that attack does +1 damage. This is a strong ability, and when you combine it with the fact that Nurglings are the cheapest way to fill out a detachment’s Troop Slots, it’s no wonder that Nurgle detachments were the most common. They’re less common now that Plaguebearers are more expensive, but a 30-model unit within 6″ of a Herald with this ability can still do a lot of damage.
  • Slaanesh: Locus of Swiftness. Friendly SLAANESH DAEMON units within 6″ of a model with this ability can Advance and Charge in the same turn. This one is very useful for helping Daemon units get into combat, and powerful when combined with the the high movement value that most Slaanesh units have.

Relics

Chaos Daemons have access to a number of relics, with every god but Nurgle getting four. Nurgle only gets 3, because the followers of Nurgle can’t have nice things.

  • Armor of Scorn – Khorne Monsters only. Gives a model a 4+ Invulnerable save (useful) and allows them to attempt to deny one psychic power in each enemy Psychic phase (also very useful). A fine upgrade, here’s the thing: Khorne Daemon Monsters are essentially glass cannons; you want them to get into the enemy and tear things up as much as possible before they’re killed, and if you protect them, it’s usually with the Character targeting rules. A 4+ invulnerable save is fine, but it’s not good enough to make a Bloodthirster or Daemon Prince tough enough, and so most of the time you’d rather have a relic that makes them even better at killing things. B-
  • The Crimson Crown – Khorne model only. Each time you make a wound roll of 6+ for a friendly KHORNE DAEMON unit within 6” of the bearer, the model that made the attack can make an additional attack with the same weapon (these don’t generate additional attacks). This one is weird in that it procs additional attacks off Wounds. Interesting because it can work with Chaos Space Marine units with the KHORNE keyword, so potentially interesting if you can pair a Herald with something like a Venomcrawler or some Lords Discordant, but it’s not going to generate enough attacks for you most of the time. B
  • A’rgath, the King of Blades – Khorne model only, replaces a Blade of blood or Hellforged sword. Gives you a S+1, AP-4, D3 Damage sword that can re-roll failed wounds when Targeting a character and if you give it to a monster, its damage improves to a flat 3 damage. It’s… OK. On a Daemon Prince you’re basically looking for this as a potential second relic after you’ve given the Skullreaver to another Daemon Prince but and most of the time you’re going to wish you’d just doubled up on talons. Take the Skullreaver before this. On Heralds it’s not really worth spending the relic. C+
  • Skullreaver – Replaces an axe of Khorne, great axe of Khorne, or daemonic axe. Profile is S+3, AP-4, D6 Damage and against TITANIC units you re-roll failed wound rolls. Additionally, each time you roll a 6+ to Wound, your target takes an extra D3 mortal wounds. Now we’re talking, this thing is great. It’s money on a Daemon Prince of Khorne, particularly if you have to go up against Knights and other big T8 vehicles. You could put this on a Bloodthirster but they’ll probably get killed before you can close the gap to use it. A
  • The Impossible Robe – Tzeentch. Gives a model a 4+ invulnerable save (that will be increased to 3+ with Ephemeral Form), and the ability to re-roll a save once per game, but if you roll a 1 you die immediately. This is great on Daemon Princes and Lords of Change but you’ll want to avoid using that re-roll until it’s already a do-or-die situation. A
  • Soul Bane – Tzeentch Heralds only. Replaces a ritual dagger with one that’s Strength: User, AP-5 1 damage and prevents the enemy from taking invulnerable saves. I’m a little unsure why they didn’t just make this do mortal wounds but fine. It’s only 1 damage and it’s on units you generally don’t want in melee combat so while it’s neat you won’t be using it. C
  • The Endless Grimoire – Tzeentch Psyker only. Gives you an additional power. This is more useful when you don’t have an army loaded up with Psykers, which means it’s more useful for non-Tzeentch Daemon armies, which will typically have 5-6 psykers and don’t need spells they can’t cast. B-
  • The Everstave – Tzeentch only. Replaces a Rod of Sorcery or Staff of Change and gives you +1 to Psychic tests when you attempt to Smite. This is better than the range bonus you’d get, but it stinks that you have to give that up. The ability is OK but there are better things to spend your relic slot/CP on. C
  • Horn of Nurgle’s Rot – Nurgle. Roll a D6 every time the bearer kills an enemy in the Fight phase within 7″ of a friendly unit of Plaguebearers. On a 4+, you get to add a Plaguebearer to that unit. You’ll need to spend reinforcement points if you want to go above the starting total, but this can be OK. The major issue is that Nurgle Daemons tend to rely on their characters for buffs and not kills. B
  • The Entropic Knell – Nurgle only. Enemy units get -1 Ld within 7″ of the bearer. This effect wouldn’t be useful at 21″, let alone 7. F
  • Corruption – Nurgle model, replaces a plaguesword, balesword, bileblade, or hellforged sword with one that’s S+2, AP-3 D3 Damage and re-rolls failed wound rolls. It’s OK. Not what you want on a Daemon Prince or Great Unclean One, where the Strength boost is nice but talons and the sword are a better deal, and your Poxbringers aren’t trying to fight anything. C+
  • The Forbidden Gem – Slaanesh. Once per game, you can use the gem to try and hypnotize an enemy character within 12” at the start of any enemy phase. You roll 3D6 and if you roll over their Ld, they can’t act until the end of the phase and their auras are turned off. This is a very powerful effect and on that will succeed most of the time given that an average roll on 3D6 is 10.5 (and that’s before you start factoring in Ld modifying abilities and psychic powers like Phantasmagoria. Speaking of which, it works very well on a Contorted Epitome with said power. A
  • The Mark of Excess – Slaanesh. Gives you +1 Attack and an extra +1 each time you kill a CHARACTER or MONSTER. It’s OK, but it’s not really the effect you want to spend a relic slot or CP on. C+
  • Soulstealer – Slaanesh. Replaces a Witstealer sword or Hellforged sword with one that’s S+1, AP-3, 3 Damage and each time you kill a model, you regain a lost wound, plus you re-roll failed wounds against AELDARI units. Given that this makes your base profile attacks Strength 7 instead of Strength 8 on a Keeper of Secrets, it’s not something they want to take, which leaves Daemon Princes where it’s a significant upgrade on the Hellforged Sword. If you’re taking a Winged Daemon Prince, it’s not a bad investment. B
  • Slothful Claws – Slaanesh Herald only. Replaces their claws with a set that are S+1 AP-2, 2 Damage and go to AP-4 on wound rolls of 4+ instead of 6+. A major upgrade but not something you desperately need on a model whose primary purposes is buffing others. Probably going to give you the most value on a Hellflayer Herald. B

Stratagems

There are seven generic Chaos Daemon stratagems and 3 for each god. Note that, despite the wording on Stratagems to refer to CHAOS DAEMON units, it has been ruled via FAQ that you cannot target other factions’ daemons (such as Thousand Sons Daemon Princes or Myphitic Blight-Haulers) with these stratagems. Other abilities such as auras and unit abilities affect Daemons from other books, though.

  • Denizens of the Warp (1/2 CP) – Used during Deployment to put a unit of Daemons into Reserves, so they can show up anywhere on the table more than 9″ away from any enemy units. If the power level of the unit you’re putting into the warp is 9+, then this costs 2 CP instead. This is one of the quintessential Chaos Daemon stratagems, used to put powerful units such as Bloodletter Bombs into deep strike so they can show up, activate their banner of blood, and charge the enemy immediately. You’re going to use this stratagem at least once in most games. A
  • Daemonic Possession (1 CP) – When an enemy psyker suffers a perils, they take another 1D3 mortal wounds. Remember that death due to Perils causes wounds to nearby units, making this a somewhat rare but fun treat to use when it goes off, and that the very least having it in your back pocket means that your opponent will almost always have to spend a CP to try and avoid a perils. B
  • Daemonic Incursion (2 CP) – Played when a DAEMON unit is destroyed by a GREY KNIGHTS unit. Return the unit to the battlefield, at full strength, anywhere more than 9″ from an enemy model at the end of the next Movement phase. This doesn’t cost you any points, it’s just some hilarious nonsense you can pull if you happen to be up against Grey Knights. I suspect this will become much more useful as Grey Knights go from being “a laughingstock” to “a legitimate threat in the meta” after Psychic Awakening 4: Ritual of the Damned. Even then, it’ll be incredibly situational, but always worth using when you can. Trading 2 CP for several hundred points of daemons is an easy trade.
  • Warp Surge (2 CP) – Use at the start of any phase. Improves a unit of Daemons’ invulnerable saves by 1 for a phase (to a max of 4+), but they can’t re-roll any of their saves. Helpful when you need to protect a large unit of Seekers or Daemonettes from being shot up. Having to use this at the start of the phase (and before your opponent chooses a target) is a rough downside, but it’s still a vital ability that is part of what makes these lists work. B+
  • Soul Sacrifice (2 CP) – Use when a Chaos Character from your army tries to summon a unit of Daemons using a Daemonic Ritual. The character takes D3 mortal wounds, but you can roll 4 dice instead of 3 for the attempt, and while the summoned unit is within 6″ of the summoner, it re-rolls hit rolls of 1. You basically need this if you’re attempting to summon a Greater Daemon, where rolling 16+ on 3D6 just doesn’t give you enough of a chance to make that reliable, but you probably won’t need it otherwise, since 3D6 will do for most anything you’d actually want to summon. And also you typically don’t want to be summoning things thanks to how the rules work. C
  • Rewards of Chaos (1 / 3 CP) – Extra relic stratagem.
  • Daemonic Pact (1 CP ) – Use when a Chaos character summons a Daemon unit to the table with a ritual. They can do a second summoning attempt. You’ll rarely summon one unit, let alone two, but as long as you’re holding a key character in place to summon, this is an option, I guess. C
  • Banner of Blood (1 CP) – Used before the battle. Upgrades a banner to a Banner of Blood which, once per game, can be activated to let one unit charge 3D6” instead of 2D6”. This is incredibly good, and how you’ll get your Bloodletters into combat the turn they arrive from the warp. Remember that if they’re near a Herald (or other KHORNE DAEMON CHARACTER) in a Khorne-devoted detachment, they’ll also get to re-roll to their charge distance. The average charge distance you’ll roll in those situations is 10.5, more than enough to close the distance. A reason to bring Bloodletters to the table. A++
  • Locus of Wrath (2 CP) – Used in the Fight phase. You pick a KHORNE DAEMON CHARACTER in your army and until the end of the phase you can re-roll failed hit rolls for KHORNE DAEMON units within 6”. This is OK. The re-rolls are the old type that get messed up by modifiers, but unless you’re fighting Plaguebearers, that won’t matter most of the time in melee. The big problem is that 2 CP is a lot to pay for the effect. B
  • Frenetic Bloodlust (3 CP) – The Khorne “Fight again” stratagem. Goes off at the end of the Fight phase. It’s very good, but expensive. A
  • Revolting Regeneration (2 CP) – Use at the end of your movement phase to have one model in a Nurgle Daemon unit regain D3 lost wounds. IF there aren’t any wounded models, you can get one back with a single wound left. This is too expensive to be something you use often, and the most fun way to use it is to have it bring back a 30+ point model in a squad of Beasts of Nurgle or Bloat Drones. Unfortunately, neither of those is great, so most of the time if you use this it’ll be to do an emergency heal on a Daemon Prince, and you’ve probably got better ways to spend CP. C+
  • Plague Banner (1 CP) – The Nurgle banner upgrade stratagem. Use pre-game to upgrade a single Icon in a Nurgle unit, then once per game you can activate it to change the damage characteristic of a unit of plaguebearers to 2 until the end of the phase. This is really good, and you want to make sure you use it any time you’re taking a big unit of Plaguebearers that will be getting into combat. Suddenly giving a squad of 30 of those things D2 weapons that re-roll wounds is incredibly nasty and when paired with their other buffs, can make them capable of taking down a surprising amount of units. A
  • Locus of Fecundity (2 CP) – Use at the start of any phase to give a Nurgle Daemon character in your army an aura that allows friendly Nurgle Daemon units within 6″ to re-roll DIsgustingly Resilient rolls of 1 for that phase. This can be useful for protecting your units in an early shooting phase, but it’s an expensive stratagem to roll out and the bonus isn’t worth it unless you’re going to be giving it to a lot of models. But, a useful tool to have and the aura can protect other factions’ Nurgle Daemons, which makes for good synergy. B
  • Blasted Standard (1 CP) – The Tzeentch icon upgrade. The Blasted Standard can be activated once per game and when you activate it, you roll 9 dice and for each roll of 6, the closest visible enemy unit takes a mortal wound. So on average, you’ll get 1-2 mortal wounds with this, which just isn’t enough to make this worth using. It’s the only banner that sucks. D
  • Magical Boon (1 CP) – Use at the end of your Psychic phase and pick a Tzeentch Daemon Psyker from your army; it can immediately attempt to manifest an additional power this turn. Helpful when you need to throw out one extra power to set something up or dish out some mortal wounds. B
  • Locus of Conjuration (2 CP) – Use at the start of your Psychic phase and pick a Tzeentch Daemon character from your army. For the rest of the phase, you can re-roll failed psychic tests for friendly Tzeentch Daemon units within 6″ of that model. This is a really good power that’s helpful for pushing through all of those high-cost powers in the Tzeentch Discipline. Oh and also the Discipline of Change that Thousand Sons Daemon Princes have access to – like the other auras, you can’t use this to give a Thousand Sons Daemon Prince an aura, but they can benefit from it if it’s on a Chaos Daemons unit. A
  • Locus of Grace (1 CP) – Used at the start of a Fight phase to give a SLAANESH DAEMON CHARACTER from your army an aura that gives all SLAANESH DAEMON units within 6” of that character the ability to make an additional attack each time they roll a to wound roll of a 6+. Per the FAQs, this can only give an aura to characters from the Daemon faction, but once it does, the aura itself can boost Slaanesh Daemons from the Chaos Space Marines faction, making it a very strong combo with effects like Veterans of the Long War and the Dark Apostle’s Soul Tearer Portent prayer to get extra attacks on Wound rolls of a 4+. Otherwise, it doesn’t do quite enough without the help. B-
  • Aura of Acquiescence (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Fight phase. Pick a Slaanesh Daemon unit in your army, and units within 3” of that unit get -1 Attack (to a minimum of 1) for the rest of the phase. This is a great way to protect your units in combat, and because it’s a 3” aura, it’s really part of the engine that makes large squads of Seekers work, allowing them to both protect their fragile bodies and also spread out and protect other units by giving their combat opponents an extra -1 Attack. A
  • Rapturous Standard (1 CP) – Used at the start of the battle to upgrade a Daemonic Icon to a Rapturous Standard. The Rapturous Standard is an Icon with the normal ability and once per battle you can activate it before the bearer’s unit fights to give the unit the ability to re-roll all failed hit rolls until the end of the phase. It’s no 3D6” charge, but it’s a very fine ability to have, and will benefit you more on larger squads. B+

 

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Warlord Traits

Chaos Daemons’ warlord traits are split across the four Chaos Gods, so a given Chaos Character will have access to six traits that correspond to the god they are dedicated to. For the most part, these traits are pretty good! But you rarely see them in competitive lists, because the Daemon Prince options for Chaos Space Marines, Thousand Sons, and Death Guard tend to be better and have better options. If you’re running Chaos Daemons without them however, there are lots of serviceable options that can support different strategies.

Khorne

  1. Aspect of Death – Each time an enemy model fails a Morale test within 8” of your warlord, they lose an additional model. This doesn’t matter against big hordes and against high-value targets, they probably won’t fail morale tests. D
  2. Glory of Battle – Add 1 to your Warlord’s Attacks characteristic whilst there are more enemy models within 8” than friendly models. A very situational way to get +1 Attack when most of the time you’d be better off just taking the Legendary Fighter trait from the core rulebook. C
  3. Oblivious to Pain – Roll a die each time your Warlord loses a wound. On a 6, they don’t lose the wound and you can re-roll failed hit and wound rolls for your warlord until the end of your next turn. This one’s OK for boosting the survivability of a Bloodthirster warlord, but there are better options. B-
  4. Immense Power – Add 1 to your Warlord’s Strength characteristic. This works best on a Daemon Prince or Skullmaster, where you are essentially giving it the ability to get to a key Strength threshold on charges – 9 for the Daemon Prince, 8 for the Bloodmaster. A
  5. Devastating Blow – Every time your Warlord fights, it can trade all its attacks for a single attack that does D3 mortal wounds. This will rarely be more efficient than just throwing out the 7 to 13 attacks you’ve carefully engineered to happen. C
  6. Rage Incarnate – Re-roll hit rolls of 1 for friendly KHORNE DAEMON units that charged this turn and are within 8” of your Warlord when they fight. This ability doesn’t do much for Daemon Princes but it’s great on a Bloodmaster paired with a large blob of Bloodletters. B

Tzeentch

  1. Boon of Sorcery – Add 1 to the result of the first Psychic test made for your Warlord in each psychic phase. Having +1 to cast is always useful, but what you’ll typically find is that Tzeentch Daemons don’t need the bonus to cast on their Daemon Princes as often as they want to make their Winged Deamon Princes harder to kill or more useful to nearby units. B
  2. Incorporeal Form – Reduce all damage inflicted on your Warlord by 1 (to a minimum of 1). This is a very useful way to keep your Daemon Prince (or other warlord) alive, particularly against Stalker Bolt Rifles and marines who can use stratagems to target your Warlord even when they aren’t the closest. This is the most consistently useful of the Tzeentch Warlord traits. A
  3. Warp Tether – Re-roll failed morale tests for friendly Tzeentch Daemon units within 9″. A longer range than these abilities normally have, and potentially useful when you’re fishing for a Reality Blinks result, but not good enough to make it worth taking over the other options. C-
  4. Lorekeeper of Tzeentch – Add 6″ to the range of the first psychic power your Warlord manifests each psychic phase. Another boost to only your first power, which is an odd restriction to force. This isn’t as good as the +1 to cast, particularly given that many of the Tzeentch powers have Warp Charge 8. it’s otherwise useful on Bolt of Change, but even there you’ve got 18″ to work with. C
  5. Tyrant of the Warp – Roll a D6 each time your Warlord suffers a Perils of the warp; on a 2+ they don’t Perils. This just isn’t very good. You won’t perils enough in an average game to make this worth it, and most of the time a CP re-roll will get you out of trouble without costing you a Warlord trait. This could have been “you can’t Perils” and it might have been a bit more worth considering, but the fact that you can still perils on a 1 makes it pretty pointless. D
  6. Daemonspark – Re-roll wound rolls of 1 in the Shooting phase for friendly Tzeentch Daemon units within 9″ of your Warlord. Tzeentch shooting isn’t entirely amazing, but +1 to Wound is a big deal and it combines with the Flickering Flames psychic power to boost daemonic shooting, even for Pink Horrors, to respectable levels. It’s not an every game type trait, but it works for specific strategies. B

Slaanesh

  1. Celerity of Slaanesh – Add 3″ to your Warlords Movement. This is potentially interesting on a Keeper of Secrets or Winged Daemon Prince, where suddenly the jump to 15″ or 17″ of movement can open up some incredibly nasty turn one charge options. On the other hand, it’s not particularly valuable otherwise. C+
  2. Quicksilver Duellist – Re-roll failed hit and wound rolls against Characters in the Fight phase. Shalaxi Helbane has to take this. It’s OK but narrow, and both Shalaxi and Keepers of Secrets already re-roll wound rolls of 1 and hit on a 2+, making it less important to take. Still, it can help a lot against specific things. B
  3. The Murderdance – Gives your Warlord +D3 Attacks on the charge. Has a cool name, and is great for winning decisively, which you’ll want to do most of the time. This would be great on Syll’Esske, but they have to take Bewitching Aura instead. B
  4. Fatal Caress – Each time you make a wound roll of a 6+ for this Warlord in the Fight phase, the target takes a mortal wound in addition to any other damage. This is a nice add-on ability to have for units like Daemon Princes with Malefic Talons and Keepers of Secrets who can throw out a large number of attacks. The only problem is that Slaanesh daemons don’t really have ways to break this and improve their wound chances. C
  5. Savage Hedonist – Add 1 to your Warlord’s Attacks characteristic. Not particularly flashy, but dependably good. Not great either, though. B-
  6. Bewitching Aura – Non-Vehicle enemy models get -1 Attack while they are within 6” of your Warlord. Really wish that Vehicle clause wasn’t there, because taking away an attack from a Knight would be very helpful. As-is, it’s a solid defensive boost and being a 6” aura means it’s likely the most useful of the Warlord traits all-around, but may not fit a more aggressive playstyle. Syll’Esske has to take this trait, and it’s a good one to have. A

Nurgle

  1. Blessed with Corpulence – Your Warlord gets +1 Wound. This would be mediocre for most units/factions, but it’s particularly bad for Nurgle, where you have many better options. One extra wound is just not a big enough effect to make a real difference for the models you’d put it on even if you aren’t considering superior options. C+
  2. Acidic Ichor – Each time your Warlord loses a wound in the Fight phase, roll a D6. On a 4+ the unit that inflicted the wound takes a mortal wound. This is a great upgrade that’s great for improving your Warlord’s damage output in melee and really punishing enemy units for having the nerve to inflict damage on him. A
  3. Plaguefly Hive – Your opponent must subtract 1 from all hit rolls when targeting your warlord if the unit making the attack is within 7″. This is a better way to increase your Warlord’s longevity than +1 wound, making him harder to hit in melee combat and combing well with Miasma of Pestilence. Though on the whole, this doesn’t help solve the problem of your Great Unclean One being shot off the table. C+
  4. Virulent Touch – Add 1 to Wound Rolls for your Warlord in the Fight phase unless its targeting a Vehicle. This one isn’t particularly useful, given that you can get both GUOs and Daemon Princes to S8 attacks pretty easily with the support of a herald, at which point you’re wounding most infantry on 2+ and also probably re-rolling failed saves. Where you really need this is for taking down vehicle targets, the one place it doesn’t work. C-
  5. Impenetrable Hide – Your Warlord has a Save characteristic of 4+. This might have been vaguely useful before the new marines book, but now there’s so much AP-1 and AP-2 shooting out there that you’ll be taking your 5+ invulnerable save all the time anyways. This needed to be a 3+ or 2+ to really create value. D
  6. Pestilent Miasma – At the start of your turns, roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 1″ of your Warlord. On a 4+, that unit suffers a mortal wound. On the surface this seems like it has more potential for mortal wounds than Acidic Ichor, and it does, Acidic Ichor is easier to make work (and is passive), and creates a disincentive for hitting your warlord, which this one doesn’t do. C

 

Psychic Powers

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Every Chaos god save Khorne (who is not about all that magic stuff) gets a set of six psychic powers to work with. These disciplines are pretty good, and each one has some good powers worth using.

Tzeentch Powers

For the “Great Sorcerer,” Tzeentch got kind of shafted on powers in Codex: Chaos Daemons. The Discipline of Tzeentch has some OK powers, but most of them are bad Smite replacements that you’ll take just so you can max out on your ability to do mortal wounds to make up for not having any shooting.

  1. Boon of Change (WC 7). Pick a friendly TZEENTCH DAEMON unit within 18” and roll a D3 to determine what bonus that unit gets until your next psychic phase. 1 is +1 Attack, 2 is +1 Strength, 3 is +1 Toughness. These bonuses are all pretty decent, but still disparate enough that you won’t want to use this most of the time. C+
  2. Bolt of Change (WC 8). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18”. It takes D3 mortal wounds. If you kill a character with this, you can add a Chaos Spawn to your army. The Spawn costs you reinforcement points, so this isn’t great in matched play, where it’s just a worse, difficult to cast Smite. That said, if you’re going heavy on Tzeentch, you want every way to generate mortal wounds that you can come by. B
  3. Gaze of Fate (WC 6). You can re-roll a single die later during your turn. This is deceptively good, basically trading a single power for a CP. Very useful for smoothing out key rolls, and helping you avoid bad rolls when you’ve spent all your CP on other things. You should be casting this every turn. A
  4. Treason of Tzeentch (WC 8). Pick a visible enemy character within 18” and roll 2D6. If you roll over their Leadership, you can treat the model as if it were friendly in your Shooting, Charge, and Fight phases. At the end of the Fight phase, it goes back to normal. This is a very powerful effect, but with now way to modify the Ld roll, it’s difficult get this off, even after you’ve cast it. So it’s an A+ effect with a D- cost. C
  5. Flickering Flames (WC 5). Pick a friendly TZEENTCH DAEMON within 18”. Until your next psychic phase, add 1 to wound rolls made for that unit’s shooting weapons. This is OK for Chaos Daemons, where you’d ostensibly use it to buff Pink Horrors. It’s got some extra utility when you’ve allied in Thousand Sons and Chaos Space Marines where you can use it to boost Daemon Engines like the Heldrake, Defilers, or a Forgefiend. B+
  6. Infernal Gateway (WC 8). Pick the nearest visible enemy model within 12”. That model’s unit, and every unit (friend or foe) within 3” of that model suffers D3 mortal wounds. If you manifest this power with a roll of 12+, those units take D6 moral wounds instead. This is a potentially large effect, but can be difficult to control and doesn’t really work for you at short range. It’s also hard to cast, so if you’re going to toss it out, you want it on something that has a bonus to cast, such as a Lord of Change. All that being said, this is so spectacularly deadly when it works that it’s valid to include. B+

Nurgle Powers

The Nurgle powers have a great mix of buffs and damage-dealing spells, and they’re all pretty easy to cast. Nurgle’s discipline has the best powers for cross-faction synergy.

  1. Stream of Corruption (WC 5). The closest visible enemy within 7″ of the psyker takes D3 mortal wounds, or D6 if the unit has 10+ models. The range on this stinks, but it’s a solid replacement for Smite when you’re in close. B-
  2. Fleshy Abundance (WC 5). Pick a friendly Nurgle Daemon unit within 18″ and one model in it regains D3 wounds. Helpful for healing up Daemon Princes or, in a soup list, fixing up Daemon Engines. B
  3. Nurgle’s Rot (WC 7). Roll a D6 for every non-Nurgle unit within 7″ of the psyker. On a 4+, the unit takes D3 mortal wounds. This is another power with short range, but it can be devastatingly powerful with enough units around you, especially if you’re near a bunch of characters and other single model units. B
  4. Shrivelling Pox (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy unit within 18″. Until your next psychic phase, subtract 1 from its Toughness characteristic. This is a nasty debuff that can really hurt a unit if you can drop its toughness below a specific threshold. It’s OK for Nurgle Daemons but fantastic when paired with Death Guard, where Mortarion’s ability combos with it to make the Curse of the Leper power even nastier and to soften up units you’ll be shooting at. B+
  5. Virulent Blessing (WC 7) – Pick a friendly Nurgle Daemon unit within 18″. Add 1 to wound rolls made for that unit in the Fight phase, and wound rolls of 7+ do double damage. This is very, good when paired with Nurgle Daemon Princes and extremely good when paired with Chaos Possessed from a Chaos Space Marines or Death Guard detachment, where they can use the Veterans of the Long War Stratagem to get another +1 to wound, causing the double damage to trigger on a roll of a 5+, and the Soultearer Portent prayer, which will give them another +1 to wound, causing this to go off on a 4+. B+
  6. Miasma of Pestilence (WC 6). Pick a friendly Nurgle Daemon unit within 18″. Until your next psychic phase, enemy units attacking that unit get -1 to hit. This is a very useful power, all the time. It stacks with other effects to make nasty combos, and is a great way to protect key units. It was a huge part of Plaguebearer dominance, where they can add this to the Cloud of Flies ability to frequently give attackers -2 to hit. A

Slaanesh Powers

Slaanesh Daemons get access to 6 psychic powers, one of which (Delightful Agonies) shares a name with the Chaos Space Marines’ Slaanesh power, though each has different rules (they still count as being the same power for the purposes of the Psychic Focus rule). These powers are all pretty good! Even Phantasmagoria, which would normally be a marginal effect at best, has real value on a Contorted Epitome.

  • Cacaphonic Choir (WC 6) – Roll 2D6 and add 2 if your test result was 10+. The closest visible enemy unit within 18” takes one mortal wound for each point this exceeds their highest Leadership value by. We covered the probability of getting out mortal wounds with this power in our Diet Smite Hammer of Math series, and it just doesn’t stack up as a power, even with boosts. You’ll seldom be so loaded up with powers that you want this over a 2nd or 3rd Smite attempt. D
  • Symphony of Pain (WC 6) – The nearest visible enemy unit within 18” gets -1 to all hit rolls until your next Psychic phase. A very solid power, and while the nearest clause isn’t amazing, you can work around it thanks to the visibility restriction. Giving a unit -1 to hit is always useful and at WC 6, you’ll get this off most of the time. A
  • Hysterical Frenzy (WC 8) – Pick a friendly SLAANESH DAEMON unit within 18” that is within 1” of an enemy unit. That unit can fight as though it were the Fight phase. This power is incredibly good, giving you a free additional Fight phase that occurs before the Charge phase, allowing you to clear your way for another charge or just get in an extra round of damage before your opponent has a chance to hit you again. The only downsides are the need to keep a unit in combat past the charge and the WC 8 cost, but the Contorted Epitome can help make this a more reliable cast. B+
  • Delightful Agonies (WC 5) – Pick a friendly SLAANESH DAEMON unit within 18” of the Psyker. Until your next Psychic phase, roll a D6 each time they take a wound and, on a 6, they don’t lose it. A strong buff, though easier to cast (WC 5 vs 6) and less powerful (ignore wounds on a 6+ instead of a 5+) than the CSM version. Still worth taking and very easy to cast. A
  • Pavane of Slaanesh (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy within 18” and roll a D6 for each model in the unit. That unit takes a mortal wound for each 6 you roll. We covered this one in our Smite analysis as well — this is going to do work against units of 15+ models. Take it when you’re up against those, leave it when you aren’t. B-
  • Phantasmagoria (WC 6) – Enemy units subtract 1 from their Ld while they are within 12” of your Psyker until your next Psychic phase. This is bad on most casters but straight fire on the Contorted Epitome, where it makes the Horrible Fascination ability that much more potent. Making it a 12” aura helps a lot here. A (Contorted Epitome) / D (Everything else).

Specialist Detachments

With Vigilus Ablaze, Khorne Daemons get access to their own Specialist Detachment, the Legion of Skulls. Unfortunately, it kind of sucks. For 1 CP, you can upgrade a Khorne Daemons Detachment to be a Legion of Skulls Detachment, which gives every BLOODLETTER the LEGION OF SKULLS keyword. Here’s what that gets you:

  • You get access to a Field Commander Warlord Trait – Bloodblessed, which gives you +1 Attack and another +1 Attack if you’re within 6” of an enemy CHARACTER. This is OK for a Bloodmaster/Skullmaster, but there are better ways to spend your CP.
  • You get access to a relic, The Goreplate, which lets you roll a D6 at the end of any Fight phase where you killed a model, and add 2 if you killed a Character. On a 4+, you regain D3 wounds. This is fun, but Bloodmasters aren’t big enough for this to matter and Skullmasters aren’t good enough to make this worth taking.
  • The Brazen Skull Stratagem (1 CP) – Use during the Shooting phase. Pick a Legion of Skulls model in your army, pick an enemy unit within 8”, and roll a D6. If the result is equal to or greater than your BS, that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds. This is OK. The most interesting thing about it is that it’s not a to hit roll, so you can use it to huck D3 mortal wounds onto flyers that come too close to your ground units without suffering a penalty to hit. B+
  • The Red Tide Stratagem (2 CP) – Use in the Charge phase and pick a unit that was Charged by a LEGION OF SKULLS unit this phase. Legion of Skulls units that declare a charge against that same unit (and no others) get to add 2 to their charge rolls. This is something I guess you’d use to make sure your Bloodmaster makes it into the same combat as your Bloodletter bomb, but it’s really not worth 3 CP to make that happen. It’s only really going to be useful if you’re doubling or tripling up on things, with 2 squads of bloodletters, but at that point you’re spending all your CP on a single Fight phase trick carried out by like 500 points of stuff. C-

 

The Units

For each class of units in the Chaos Daemons codex, there’s typically at least one unit choice for each of the four gods, though there are a few extra unaligned daemon choices available to players. Because each god has multiple heralds and greater daemon builds, there are more HQ options for Chaos Daemons than any other slot.

HQ: Daemon Prince of Chaos

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Daemon Princes are the core HQ choice in the Chaos Daemons army. They’re fast, tough, they can dish out in melee combat, they’re psykers, and they have fewer than 10 wounds, so you can easily protect them with infantry until you need them to plow forward and destroy something. Traditionally, the Chaos Daemons version of the Daemon Princes have been overshadowed in competitive play by their Heretic Astartes Cousins: Aside from the Daemon Prince of Khorne, who we’ll discuss below, Chaos Space Marines, Thousand Sons, and Death Guard tend to have better Daemon Prince options than the Daemons book. So if you’re playing a soup army, we’d suggest looking at those options first. If you’re not, then Daemon Princes are still among your strongest HQ options. They make excellent melee combatants, and you’ll typically want to give them wings so they can move where they’re needed and jump over screens to charge enemies. Weapons-wise, you will generally want to give your daemon prince a pair of malefic talons, in order to max out the number of attacks they get, with one notable exception, discussed below.

  • Khorne Daemon Princes are all about murdering things. While they do very well with a pair of malefic talons, the reason you bring this guy is so you can give him the Skullreaver Axe relic. Skullreaver gives him the ability to output an insane amount of damage against larger targets. Unfortunately, knights are no longer as prevalent in the meta for him to wail on, but there’s always use for a unit with his level of damage output and protectability. Khorne Daemon Princes get an extra attack as a replacement for not having Psychic powers, and thanks to Unstoppable Ferocity get an extra +1 attack and strength on the charge.
  • Tzeentch Daemon Princes are less killy, but provide a lot of psychic power stuff, and strike back at anything that crashes into your lines.
  • Nurgle Daemon princes are tougher to kill owing to their ability to shrug off wounds, but generally don’t do as much for you as the other three. You don’t so much need the resilience because you’ll be relying mostly on having 8 wounds to protect your prince until it’s time to fight. If you’re bringing this guy, the play is to give him malefic talons and the Virulent Blessing psychic power, which gives him +1 to wound and the opportunity to do double damage in combat.
  • Slaanesh – Winged Daemon Princes of Slaanesh are fine. You generally want to give them double Malefic Talons and use them to jump over screens and tear up enemy forces. We’ll devote less time to these because they don’t really stack up to their Chaos Space Marines cousins (thanks to better relic and stratagem support), and in a Slaanesh Daemons Detachment you have stronger options to bring for your HQ slots.

 

HQ: Greater Daemons

Each Chaos God has a greater daemon that essentially acts as the largest, most impressive daemon in that god’s arsenal (though there’s a special character variant of each as well, and those are generally stronger). Greater Daemons look fantastic on the table, but with the exception of potentially the Keeper of Secrets, they’re all rather unimpressive from a performance standpoint. The biggest problem is that they’re all 10+ wounds, making them immediately targetable. And with fewer than 20 wounds and relatively poor saves to rely on for protection, they’re just not likely to live long enough to reach the enemy and earn their points back.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Bloodthirsters

Oh you poor, rage-filled children. Bloodthirsters have a great model and look terrifying on the table (even though they now sit somewhere on the smaller end of Greater Daemons), but ultimately they just aren’t good enough to overcome the fact that your opponent will shoot them off the table before they can act – they are neither fast enough nor tough enough on the whole, and their damage output is surprisingly bad for what it seems like the incarnation of fury should be bringing to the table. The fact that their attacks and WS degrade as they take damage just adds insult to injury – why couldn’t they at least have their Attacks increase with damage, similar to some Chaos Space Marine vehicles?

The only version of the Bloodthirster you should even consider in a competitive setting is the Bloodthirster of Insensate Rage, whose Great Axe gives him the ability to do some real damage to either big targets or hordes with 7 S16 or 14 S8 attacks on the charge if you’re at half health or better (as well as a chance to score extra hits on 6s). You’ll probably want to run him with the Armor of Scorn if you do this to up his survivability against mortal wounds and anti-tank firepower, but keeping him as cheap as possible is also an option.

The Keeper of Secrets

After being stuck with a dopey metal model and mediocre rules for the better part of three editions, Slaanesh’s greater daemons finally made a comeback in 2019, with a new model that demanded new rules. The Keeper of Secrets got a huge size boost and a profile boost to give them higher BS, more Wounds, and a higher Movement attribute, helping the KoS get into combat quicker. Because of its 16 Wounds and degrading profile, you’ll pretty much always want to drop the Shining Aegis on your Keepers in order to give them the extra survivability of a 6+ ignore wounds save (effectively giving them 20% more wounds). In addition, the Keeper of Secrets is going to be safest when it’s locked in combat – its Mesmerizing Aura gives enemies -1 to hit it in melee and the Witstealer Sword gives enemies that have been wounded by it a further -1 to hit.

At first glance, the Keeper of Secrets appears to be hampered by having 16 Wounds and thus being targetable. However, as with the Lord Discordant, the Keeper of Secrets is powerful enough, fast enough and, following the Chapter Approved 2019 balance update, cheap enough to more than make up for that fragility. Like the Lord DIscordant, If you’re taking the Keeper of Secrets in a competitive format, you want to run three of them, maybe four for threat saturation. And while matched play rules prevent you from running four, the good news is you can always toss in Salaxi Helbane for a fourth.

The biggest problem with the Keeper of Secrets right now is that the datasheet for the model printed in Chapter Approved 2019 is completely messed up, giving the model lower movement, a degrading Strength attribute, and no extra attacks for Snapping Claws. While we expect this to be fixed as soon as the FAQ for CA19 comes out, we’re also nearly two months post-release waiting for that to happen.

Great Unclean One

Credit: Brandon Fox

with T7, 18 Wounds, and Disgustingly resilient, Great Unclean Ones have a strong claim to being the toughest of the Greater Daemons. It still isn’t enough however – a meta full of shooting that can take out Repulsor Executioners and Knights does just fine against T7 models with a 5+ invulnerable save and so despite the Great Unclean One’s 35-to-45-point drops in Chapter Approved 2019, it’s still unlikely to do much for you in a competitive game, particularly given how slow he is on the table. This is compounded by the massive nerf to Plaguebearers, which simultaneously just make Nurgle as a whole less attractive. The Great Unclean One is a potent psyker, and has a fun way to use the Bileblade to improve his cast chances, and he’s very strong in melee combat considering his cost (the challenge is, of course, getting him there). With the bell, the Great Unclean One can pull of the amusing trick of bringing back Daemon units; this is most useful on larger, multi-wound units like Beasts and Plague Drones or, if you’re souping, Myphitic Blight-Haulers and Obliterators.

Lord of Change

The Lord of Change is very close to playable. With a 4+ invulnerable save thanks to Ephemeral Form and the ability to cast and deny two powers per Psychic phase with a +2 bonus at full health plus the ability to fly and Smite at 30″ with a Rod of Sorcery, the Lord of Change has a lot going for it. With its 20-point points drop in Chapter Approved 2019, it may even be worth a second look, though at 240-250 points, it’s still a hefty investment. You can improve his longevity by giving him the Impossible Robe relic, getting him to a 3+ invulnerable save naturally (though I’d advise against using the robe’s ability to re-roll a save until failing won’t matter). This gives you a good combo with the Incorporeal Form Warlord trait that reduces incoming damage by 1 to give you a Lord of Change that’s pretty hard to kill and can jump around the board dropping powers and stifling the opponent’s. The Lord of Change can be a nasty combatant with a Staff of Tzeentch, but you’ll never get the Spawns out of it in Matched Play and frankly the Lord of Change isn’t good enough at fighting to turn down the ability to cast Smite at 30″. Ultimately that’s a lot to invest in an already expensive model and while he’s not liable to be worth it in super-competitive lists, the tricked-out version of the Lord of Change is worth some consideration.

 

HQ: Named Characters

Skarbrand

The special character Bloodthirster. We legit wish he worked more like he does in Age of Sigmar than here. He has shades of it, with his base number of attacks increasing the further down the damage brackets he goes, but it’s a pale imitation of the hilarious levels of murder that AoS Skarbrand can achieve when brought to low health. Inflated cost and lack of FLY further seals the deal of being worse than his generic ‘Thirster brothers. His one cute trick is combo-ing with a unit with FLY to trap Flyers that can’t hover in combat, and then kill them when they fail their Fall Back attempts and are unable to move their minimum distance. This is hilarious, but it’s not worth trying to build around.

Karanak

An HQ special character Flesh Hound, but with three heads. Karanak’s got the ability to mark an enemy character at the start of the game and get +1 to hit and wound rolls against them, and he’s got 5 S6, AP-2, 2-damage attacks on the charge. His biggest asset however, is being able to attempt to deny two psychic powers per enemy psychic phase. His biggest disadvantage is that he’s the third-most useful HQ in the Khorne Daemons cupboard, and so he’ll usually get squeezed out by a Daemon Prince and a Bloodmaster. That said, his ability to deal with psychic powers can be a huge boon for a Khorne-heavy army, where powers like Death Hex can ruin your day. Karanak’s ability to deny two powers per turn combined with his mobility makes him a useful deterrent, and he’s not bad in combat.

Skulltaker

The special character Herald of Khorne. Comes with an extra wound, an extra attack, and a better sword, and the ability to re-roll failed hit and wound rolls against CHARACTERS. He’s also got a different aura, giving +1 to hit rolls for friendly BLOODLETTER units within 8”. This is a tasty ability, but not one that standard Bloodletters really need if they’re sitting on 20+ models and already hitting on a 2+ for Murderous Tide — ultimately they need the +1 Strength more. Where it does have value is on Bloodcrushers, who got the BLOODLETTER Keyword in the Codex: Daemons FAQ. If you’re taking them, it’s worth considering Skulltaker with them, as he’s got an extra 1” of Movement and can mostly keep up with them.

Kairos Fateweaver

The special character Lord of Change. Kairos is better at casting than the Lord of Change, with the ability to cast 3 and deny three powers each psychic phase (and he knows all of the Tzeentch powers), and a better fighter, since he doesn’t need a Rod of Sorcery to get his cast bonus and the Staff of Tomorrow has a better profile than the Staff of Tzeentch. But he’s also much more fragile, since he can’t be given The Impossible Robe or Incorporeal Form as a Warlord Trait (he’s stuck with Tyrant of the Warp). This means that Kairos is incredibly powerful (and a bit better-costed thanks to a 25-point drop in Chapter Approved 2019), but likely to be shot off the table on the first turn. Kairos gives you an extra D3 Command Points if he’s your warlord, but Tyrant in the Warp is a bad enough trait that you’re likely better off making something else your warlord. Kairos is neat but still a bit too expensive for how fragile he is.

The Changeling

The special character Herald of Tzeentch, The Changeling is one of the most hilarious, well-designed units in the 8th edition range and a powerful addition to any Tzeentch army. The Changeling’s core abilities are the Locus of Transmogrification, which gives Tzeentch Daemons within 9″ (great range) the incredibly useful ability to ignore wounds on a 6+, and the ability to copy any unit and weapon within 1″ of it in the Fight phase via the Formless Horror rule and The Trickster’s Staff. In practice, this means that the Changeling has the best profile and melee weapon of any model within 1″ of it, making it potentially the most dangerous unit in the game when it comes to Heroic Interventions. Oh and also the Changeling is a psyker that can cast/deny one power. At 100 points, this thing is a steal.

The Blue Scribes

A couple of Horrors riding on a Disc of Tzeentch who aren’t technically psykers themselves, but can disrupt nearby psykers, giving enemy psykers within 12″ a -1 penalty to their tests and any time they fail a test within 12″ of the Scribes, they lose it for the rest of the battle. This is hilariously useful and will absolutely wreck an opponent’s day if they are relying on repeated casts of a difficult power. Additionally, the Scribes automatically manifest a random Tzeentch psyhic power on every one of your turns, plus Smite if they ate a power from an enemy pysker the turn prior (these can’t be denied). Note that they can’t manifest something that has already been cast or attempted, so you ideally want to use their random cast before any other psykers in your army start making decisions. Sadly, the Scribes are more interesting than useful — not enough of your opponents will rely on psychic powers so heavily that the disruption matters (though it can be useful for stopping Null Zones), and the random cast is fun but not incredibly useful. Combine that with the Scribes’ recent points increase (+11) and you’ve got a unit that’s just sitting on the wrong side of usability.

Shalaxi Helbane

The named character variant of the Keeper of Secrets, Shalaxi trades out the Keeper’s Wistealer Sword for the Soulpiercer spear, which allows it to attack at S12 AP-4 and do D6 damage, upgraded to 6 against Characters. This makes Shalaxi the ideal fighter for targeting Character Knights, Lords Discordant, and Smash Captains, especially when you factor in the Mesmerizing Aura it shares with Keepers of Secrets and the Cloak of Constriction, which gives incoming melee attackers -1 to Wound. This means that smash captains attempting to take down Shalaxi will be hitting on 4s and wounding on 4s. If they hit you at all, that is — Shalaxi can also move 6” when Heroically Intervening, allowing you to play some truly nasty tricks (in combination with fighting first) if opponents aren’t paying attention.

As with the Keeper of Secrets, you’ll want to give Shalaxi a Shining Aegis 100% of the time to maximize their survivability. Shalaxi is a strong addition to a Slaanesh Daemons detachment running multiple Keepers of Secrets as combat threats, and the massive 40-point drop it received in Chapter Approved 2019 pushes it well into the realm of competitive viability.

Syll’Esske

Syll’Esske. Credit: Brin

One of the few Chaos Daemons Characters that didn’t drop in points in Chapter Approved 2019, Syll’Esske, The Vengeful Allegiance carries a similar statline to a Daemon Prince only with double the attacks, plus both the Daemon Prince and Herald aura buffs in addition to a unique morale aura buff. So taking this pair allows you to skip out on adding a Herald to get the Strength boost. Syll’Esske’s biggest unique factor is the ability to fight twice every turn, once with each of its two weapons (the Axe of Dominion hits at S8 AP-3, 3 Damage, while the Scourging whip hits at S5, AP-1, 1 Damage and makes D3 hit rolls instead of 1 for each attack. This makes Syll’Esske good at clearing out both hordes and heavier targets. Finally, Syll’Esske also has the DAEMONETTE keyword, which is relevant if you’re running the Masque.

The biggest downside is that despite their 9” movement, Syll’Esske lacks the ability to jump over screens like a Winged Daemon prince, so you’ll have to be very considered in how you use their multiple pile-in moves to move through crowds. In an ideal scenario you can use the 8-24 whip attacks and the Locus of Grace Stratagem to clear a path to other targets, but you may need to do more work clearing a path beforehand. The other challenge is that Syll’Esske’s 4+ armor save and 5+ invulnerable saves aren’t great, but as an 8-Wound character, you can protect them from enemy fire using the character rules.

Rotigus

The special character Great Unclean One. Rotigus shares the GUO’s issues but is slightly better in melee thanks to some extra attacks from his uh, arm mouth. Unlike the Great Unclean One, he’s got a nifty flamer-type weapon in the Streams of brackish filth, which is a Strength User AP-3 1 Damage weapon that does 2D6 auto hits within 7″ and re-rolls wound rolls. That can do some real damage in a pinch and is good for attacking flyers that get too close thinking their to hit modifiers and inability to be charged will save them. Rotigus is also a capable caster, and can dole out extra mortal wounds when he rolls a 7 to cast. Rotigus recently dropped 35 points in Chapter Approved 2019 and while that’s an interesting sentiment, it’s not really enough to make him playable. He’s not fast enough to get into combat and he can’t jump over enemy screens, and he’s not durable enough to survive not being in combat long.

Epidemius

The special character herald. Tougher than a Poxbringer, and with more wounds, but without the Poxbringer’s +1 Strength aura. Instead, Epidemius counts up a tally every time a Nurgle Daemon unit destroys an enemy unit, and as the counts go higher, you start to score better and better bonuses, gaining re-rolls to hit, improving Strength and Toughness, and Attacks. The abilities are neat because they’re army-wide, but they require a ton of investment before you start seeing strong results and the big issue is that runs counter to the flow of 8th edition, where you want your abilities and bonuses kicking in right away so you can cripple your opponent early. It also puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the army to get early kills, which won’t always be possible, both because opposing armies may make that harder and because Nurgle Daemons are slow. Epidemius is neat but he really wants a mono-faction Nurgle army and even then he’s not the best way to spend your points.

Horticulous Slimux

Credit: Brandon Fox

Another special character Herald, Horticulous’ primary abilities are being an OK melee combatant and buffing nearby Beasts of Nurgle, giving them +1 to hit within 12″ and re-rolled Charge distances within 6″. This actually makes Beasts pretty scary, and his ability to trap units in combat (or at least punish them for falling back) is a neat add-on. Horticulous’ other ability is to plant Feculent Gnarlmaws as he travels, which can be a fun way to grow additional cover for your army, and is a better way to put Gnarlmaws on the table than wasting an entire detachment to field them. Horticulous came down 15 points in Chapter Approved 2019 and while he’s probably still a bit overcosted, if you want to go heavy on Beasts of Nurgle, you should be fielding this guy too.

 

Be’lakor

The only unaligned named HQ in Codex: Chaos Daemons, Be’lakor is basically a unique Daemon Prince who comes with a very, very good sword (S+1, AP-5, 3 Damage), Wings and a 14″ movement, 6 Attacks, and the ability to cast two powers per phase (though the powers he knows come from a stripped-down version of the Dark Hereticus discipline), plus an aura that gives re-rolls on hit rolls of 1 to all friendly Daemons within 6″. He’s a little more survivable than the average Daemon Prince as well, with the ability to re-roll all failed saves, which makes his 5+ re-rolled invulnerable save slightly better than a 4+ (he’ll save about 56 percent of the time). Taken on its own, this all seems pretty good, but Be’lakor’s got three knocks against him: The first is that he can’t take a Warlord Trait from the Codex, which caps his power a bit (if he is your warlord, your options are the ones in the basic rulebook, so enjoy +1 Attack on charges). The second is that he breaks monogod detachment rules for loci for every god. And the third is that until, recently, he cost 240 points. But with Chapter Approved 2019, Belakor dropped a whopping 40 points down to a much more palatable 200 and suddenly it’s worth looking at him as a Daemon Prince replacement in lists, especially now that he only costs 5 points more than a double-talons Thousand Sons Winged Daemon Prince. If you’re running Be’lakor, it’s primarily to use him as a fighter, where his sword can really do some damage with his 6 attacks. Powers-wise, you’re pretty much always going to give him Death Hex and Infernal Gaze, which at the very least, gives him a little extra utility. We got a peak at the first successful list running Be’lakor at the Caledonian Uprising in January, and expect to see him show up more throughout the year.

 

HQ: Heralds

Heralds of Khorne

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Heralds essentially come in three varieties: Bloodmasters, your bog-standard Heralds, Skullmasters, your Heralds on Juggernauts, and Blood  Thrones, your Heralds on a Chariot. All three have the Locus of Khorne aura, which boosts nearby KHORNE DAEMONS within 6” by giving them +1 Strength. This is incredibly powerful, and also works on Chaos Space Marine Daemon units.

Bloodmasters

By far the most useful of the three herald varieties, clocking in as the cheapest HQ you can take for a Khorne army. Their Locus of Khorne aura is very useful for buffing Bloodletter bombs and their upgraded swords are great. Note that on the charge, these guys are S7. They can deal more damage than you’d expect and their +1 Strength aura is a must-have for most Khorne-heavy lists.

Skullmasters

Skullmasters are the Juggernaut variety of Herald. They’re just not efficiently costed, and are only going to show up in casual lists, even buffing Bloodcrushers (since Bloodmasters buff Bloodcrushers just as effectively). They needed a points drop in Chapter Approved 2019 and didn’t get one.

The Blood Throne

This is the largest, beefiest version of the Herald of Khorne. Bigger and tougher, but it’s only got 6” Movement. It’s still sitting under 10 Wounds so it’s got some protection but ultimately there’s no reason to take this over either a cheaper Bloodmaster (or even Skullmaster) or instead of paying the extra points for a Daemon Prince.

 

Heralds of Tzeentch

Changecaster

The standard Herald of Tzeentch, with a Locus ability that gives +1 Strength to friendly Tzeentch Daemon units within 6″. This is super relevant both for buffing Daemon Princes up to S8 and for boosting the shooting attack on Horrors and Flamers, where both have attacks that hit at Strength: User and benefit tremendously from a +1 bump. Changecasters also have the option of taking a Staff of Change, which ups their Smite range to 24″ and is something you want all the time because they are pretty unimpressive as melee combatants. These guys were all over the place prior to Chapter Approved 2019, acting as cheap HQ fillers in Daemon detachments while adding an additional Smite and psychic power to throw out mortal wounds. Post-CA19, they’ve gone up 13 points per model and while they aren’t as aggressively costed, they’re still worth considering in a Daemons army relying on psychic powers for ranged damage or if you’re going hard on a strategy revolving around Horrors and/or Flamers.

Fluxmaster

Basically a Changecaster on a Disc. Makes him faster and better-suited to keeping up with fast units that want his +1 strength aura like Screamers. Fluxmasters saw limited play before their small points bump in CA19, and I’m not sure they’re still worth it afterward unless your strategy has you all-in on screamers.

Fateskimmer

A Changecaster on a Burning Chariot. The Chariot gives him FLY, 5 Toughness, 8 Wounds, and 6 extra S7, AP-3, 2 damage attacks every time he swings, turning him into kind of a kind of poor man’s Daemon Prince that has a +1 Strength aura instead of a re-roll 1s aura and a worse Weapon Skill. I would have been on board with taking these and suggested they might even be undervalued, but despite a year of almost no tournament play in top lists, they got a +20 point increase in CA19, making them only 5 points cheaper than a Daemon Prince with Wings. And with WS 4+, that’s not a good comparison.

 

Heralds of Slaanesh

The Contorted Epitome

The Contorted Epitome. Credit: Steel_Mentor

At first glance, the Contorted Epitome looks like a weird variant on the Herald of Slaanesh. Or rather, two Heralds riding a sentient, malevolent mirror into battle. The epitome comes with the Herald’s Locus of Slaanesh, but is faster (12″ Movement), and much beefier, sporting 5 Toughness and 8 Wounds. It also makes 10 Attacks in combat, 2 with S6 AP-2 D3 tendrils, and 8 more with S6 AP-1 D2 claws (which can proc an AP of -4 when it rolls a 6+ to wound). Given it can advance and charge in a pure Slaanesh detachment, when you need it in melee you can also get it there double time. All told, its stats are tasty as hell, but the Epitome’s main strengths lay in its Psychic shenanigans and the Horrible Fascination rule.

Horrible Fascination is the other major draw here, preventing enemy units within 6” from falling back unless your opponent can roll under the unit’s Leadership on 3D6. This combines well with powers and abilities that reduce Ld and when combined with the Epitome’s 12” Movement range means you can run the Epitome up alongside your Daemon Princes, Keepers of Secrets, and Lords Discordant, protecting it thanks to its 8 Wounds, and then use it to protect your big characters by keeping them locked in combat the turn after they complete their charges.

Although the Epitome works great in a Slaanesh Daemons detachment, it also fits fine into a mixed Daemons list owing to its ability to cast and dispel two powers per turn with a +1 to cast and dispel. In a Slaanesh detachment that means casting Delightful Agonies on a 4+ and Hysterical Frenzy on a 7+ and in mixed settings casting Symphony of Pain on a 5+.

This is one of Slaanesh’s very best tools, and has seen a lot of tournament play, so make sure you get one!

The Masque of Slaanesh

The only Slaanesh HQ to see a points increase in Chapter Approved 2019, the Masque increased by 13 points. It was a bit of an odd choice, given that the Masque has only seen limited competitive play. The Masque’s key benefits are an ability that gives friendly units +1 to their hit rolls against a unit within 1” of the Masque each combat and an aura that gives nearby DAEMONETTE models (within 6”) a -1 to be hit in the Fight phase. Otherwise, the Masque is a so-so fighter itself and lacks the +1 Strength aura. The Masque is worth considering in a Daemonette-heavy list (note that this includes Seekers, Syll’Esske, and the Contorted Epitome) but less valuable than a standard Herald elsewhere.

Infernal Enrapturess

The Enrapturess has a modified Herald statline that exchanges the +1 Strength buff for improved summoning, a wide aura that causes Perils of the Warp on any doubles for an enemy psyker, a 1 in 6 chance to return an entire model to a unit of nearby Slaaneshi Daemons, and a mid-ranged shooting attack with two modes. The Enrapturess doesn’t really do much for Slaanesh strategies; the vanilla +1 Strength aura is arguably more helpful when you’re running Daemonettes or Possessed, and while the option of resurrecting dead Obliterators in a soup list is tantalizing, it’s tricky to set up as you are probably deep striking them, sometimes away from your main force, and it relies on your opponent failing to wipe the squad. It would also often mean using the Denizens of the Warp stratagem to teleport her onto the table and there are probably better units to spend that CP on. That leaves the major value of the Enrapturess as the perils on any doubles ability, which when combined with the Daemonic Possession Stratagem can really wreck an opposing psyker but won’t happen reliably enough to be worth banking on.

Herald of Slaanesh

At 50 points apiece, Heralds of Slaanesh are a solid addition to a Daemons army looking to fill out a detachment, because they are literally the cheapest HQ option a Daemons army can take. On their own merits, they’re decent fighters, with 4 Attacks at S5, AP-1, 2 Damage that can be AP-4 on wound rolls of 6+. In a mono-Slaanesh army, their biggest advantage is their Locus of Slaanesh aura, which gives +1 Strength to SLAANESH DAEMONS within 6”, a benefit that is particularly strong on Chaos Space Marines units that share the DAEMON keyword and can really use the extra strength, such as Warp Talons and Possessed. These can also carry the Forbidden Gem Relic, which makes them a great counter to Knights in a mixed Detachment.

Heralds on Seeker Chariots and Hellflayers

These options give you larger, faster, beefier platforms for the Locus of Slaanesh aura, which frankly, you don’t really need given that the Herald’s best trait is costing 50 points and you have the Epitome for that. The Hellflayer is interesting in that it gives itself S10 attacks, but the high variance on the number of attacks you’ll get prevents it from being a worthwhile investment. The Exalted Seeker Chariot makes your Herald targetable with 12 Wounds, and so is actively detrimental in most cases. That said, all of these options are much cheaper post-Chapter Approved, and of them the Herald on Hellflayer is the one most likely to merit consideration.

 

Heralds of Nurgle

Credit: Brandon Fox

Poxbringer

The bog-standard Herald of Nurgle, Poxbringers are basically just bringing a +1 Strength aura and a single cast to the table, but at 70 points, that’s a very good deal. Plaguebearers could absolutely make use of that boost to kill things and so Poxwalkers were a common sight on competitive tables when players were running multiple squads of 30 Plaguebearers. Now, not so much, though if you’re going to run Plaguebearer blogs still, you want one of these nearby.

Sloppity Bilepiper

The best-named unit in the entire game, the Sloppity Bilepiper was a must-include in Plaguebearer-heavy armies for his ability to allow nearby Nurgle Daemon units to roll 2D6 and drop the highest when making morale tests, substantially increasing the odds of rolling a 1 and getting back D6 Plaguebearers after a rough round of shooting. Their secondary ability to give Nurglings and Great Unclean Ones +1 Attack and the ability to advance and charge is neat, but secondary to the morale ability. As with the Poxbringer, the Bilepiper’s use is tied to Plaguebearers and as they’ve become less useful, so has he.

Spoilpox Scrivener

The Spoilpox Scrivener boosts the movement of nearby Plaguebearers by 2″ and gives them +1 to hit, plus extra attacks on rolls of a 7+. While not quite as useful as the Bilepiper, Scriveners are a useful tool for boosting Plaguebearers and when combined with a Bilepiper and Poxbringer, they make the lesser daemons a real nasty threat on the battlefield. Though again, this is less useful now that Plaguebearers cost 8 points per model.

 

Troops

Four troop options, one for each god.

Bloodletters

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

These guys are glass cannons, but they’re very good glass cannons. They do their best work in large groups (20+), where they can take advantage of their Murderous Tide rule, which gives them +1 to hit. At only 3 Toughness, they’ll die quickly if something gets a chance to shoot at them or retaliate, so the goal is to treat them like a bullet and throw them into a Bloodletter bomb (we’ll talk more about Bloodletter bombs later). The only downside is the amount of CP you have to invest in a Bloodletter bomb, but it’s worth it. Be sure to give them a banner that you can upgrade to a Banner of Blood and an instrument so you can get the +1 to your Advance and Charge rolls – you’ll need it. These guys are the backbone of a Khorne Daemons strategy, and they show up often in competitive lists.

Horrors

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The shootiest of the lesser daemons, Horrors come in three varieties: Pink, Blue, and Brimstone, with three different points costs. All are useful for filling out Battalions, though usually you’ll want either a full squad (30) of Pink Horrors to actually charge things and do damage with, or you’ll want large blobs of Brimstone Horrors to eat up large portions of the table and screen your units, forming long chains of models that enemies have to jump over to reach the units you’re protecting. Pink Horrors come with the ability to do “baby” Smites on a D6 and are capped at 1 mortal wound if they number 10 or fewer, but they can also do a D6 deny and it’s a nice bonus for a unit whose primary value is being cheap and annoying. The flame shooting attack of Horrors isn’t particularly great either, but it’s worth noting that with proper boosts from a Daemon Prince or Herald you can turn this into a very respectable attack, throwing out 60 S4 shots that wound most targets on 2+ or 3+.

One particularly clever (and nasty) trick with Horrors is to leave yourself a few points for Reinforcement points, enough to cover a couple of blue horrors. Then when you drop your horrors out of deep strike and declare a charge and your opponent fires Overwatch, if they manage to kill a Horror (and remember, you can choose to not use their Invulnerable save for this), you can spawn two Blue Horrors from it, up to 2″ closer to the enemy and reducing your charge from a 9+ attempt to a 7+.

Daemonettes

Credit: RichyP

At 6 points per model, Slaanesh gets some of the cheaper useful Troop choices. Daemonettes aren’t as tough as Plaguebearers and they’re not quite as good at fighting as Bloodletters, but they come with 2 Attacks base (which jumps to 3 when the unit numbers 20+), and AP-1 weapons that jump to AP-4 on Wound rolls of a 6+. With help from the Locus of Swiftness in a pure detachment, they gain the ability to Advance and charge, giving them the ability to get into combat without teleporting onto the battlefield. The big issue is that with only 3 Strength, even with Herald support they just aren’t particularly good at taking out medium or heavy infantry. As a result, Slaanesh Daemon armies are better off running multiple smaller squads of Daemonettes to fill out detachments rather than taking a large blob.

Plaguebearers

Credit: RichyP

The hardest to kill of the lesser daemons, Plaguebearers used to be an absolute menace on the ITC circuit. With 4 Toughness, Disgustingly Resilient, and the Cloud of Flies rule giving them -1 to be hit if they start a phase with 20+ models, removing a unit of 30 plaguebearers from the table could be an absolute nightmare, taking several turns and preventing a player from being able to score points for the “Kill More” primary objective. When given a Daemonic Icon and paired with a Sloppity Bilepiper, they also had a fair chance of getting back Plaguebearers at the end of a turn as well. Then Chapter Approved 2019 happened, raising their costs by 1 point per model and instantly crushing their utility. They’re still a fine unit and the strategy is still viable, but at 250 points for a 30-model squad with icon instead of 220, they’re just not the efficiently-costed monsters they used to be. When taking Plaguebearers, you pretty much always want to max out the unit size toe ensure you get the Cloud of Flies bonus for as long as possible, and you want to pair them with a Sloppity Bilepiper to keep them around. A Poxbringer is also a fine accompaniment, since boosting them to S5 is a big improvement.

Nurglings

Credit: Brandon Fox

Nurglings are amazing. Sure, they’re just a small pie plate of gross little turds, but they’re cheap, gross little turds who can start the game parked on every objective in no man’s land thanks to their Mischief Makers rule. At 54 points per 3-base unit, Nurglings are among the cheapest Troops choices Chaos Daemons have and while Brimstone Horrors may be cheaper, Nurglings are much harder to kill and are better for taking/holding objectives, so they’ve quickly become the detachment fillers of choice as Plaguebeaers have seen less play post-Chapter Approved 2019.

 

Elites

Bloodcrushers

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Bloodletters on Juggernauts. Faster and tougher than Bloodletters, but neither fast enough nor tough enough to be a build-around unit. The extra wound they picked up combined with their points drop in Chapter Approved 2019 makes them much more palatable now however, and while they probably still around quite good enough to crack high-level competitive play, they aren’t a trap choice either. You can raise some real eyebrows with a unit of 12 deep striking onto the table and throwing out the Banner of Blood charge. The 49 S6, AP-3 sword attacks and 36 S7 AP-1 Juggernaut attacks are a brutal combination and they’re both likely to live longer than Bloodletters and also survive being shot at in overwatch (and you don’t have to worry about losing a model and screwing up your numbers bonus). They’re also just as good a target for fighting a second time. Though you’ll probably want to use Warp Surge to keep them alive through shooting phases. So like everything else from Khorne, these are can be incredible glass cannons.

Flamers

Flamers are interesting, durable units that can cover large distances and belt out significant amounts of very respectable AP-1 shooting. They really benefit from being near a Herald in order to bump their shooting up to S5, and like Horrors can benefit from multiple buffs to their Strength and To Wound rolls. With a 5-point drop in cost in Chapter Approved 2019, Flamers may have gone from “too expensive” to “borderline” with some use in the right armies.

Exalted Flamer

Exalted Flamers pack some of the faction’s best shooting – 18″ S9, AP-4 D3 Damage shots at Heavy 3 and BS 3+ – onto a platform with the CHARACTER keyword. But the best shooting in the Chaos Daemons faction is still just not amazing. In a Tzeentch-heavy army going hard on Horrors and buffs for him he might be a good add-on to give you extra firepower, but at 50 points per model he’s just not doing enough, especially once you start moving and taking on a -1 to your to hit rolls for the heavy firing mode.

Fiends

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Fiends dropped an additional 5 points per model in Chapter Approved 2019, turning a unit that already had some solid upside into one worth real consideration. Fiends are fast (14” Movement) melee fighters that come with 4 Attacks each and come with 2 incredibly destructive auras: The first is Disruptive Song, which gives enemy Psykers -1 to their Psychic tests within 12”, and the second is Soporific Musk, which stops units within 1” from Falling Back unless they can FLY. This makes Fiends hilariously good as harassment units, able to really wreak havoc on your opponent’s plans if they can reach their back lines. In addition to disrupting psychic powers, Fiends are useful for trapping enemy units in combat, either to protect your larger units or stop those enemy units from shooting. Ultimately, these aren’t as good overall as the Contorted Epitome, another source of this effect but their ability is more reliable against non-flying targets, and having the ability to deploy it in multiple places at once adds a lot of value.

Beasts of Nurgle

Now slightly cheaper thanks to Chapter Approved 2019, Beasts of Nurgle are tough and nasty in melee combat thanks to a 2 damage weapon that re-rolls wounds, but slow. Their ability to Heroically Intervene like a character is hilarious, especially when paired with the Deadly Slime Trail ability to punish units attempting to Fall Back. Ultimately though, their slow speed and inability to jump screens puts them on the wrong side of competitive, and while they have some cool abilities, they’ll be more at home in a strong casual list than a real competitive one.

 

Fast Attack

Flesh Hounds

Fast harassers who are also best run in big blobs. For double the cost of a Bloodletter, you get more speed, higher toughness, an extra wound, an extra attack, and the ability to attempt to deny one psychic power per enemy phase. Unfortunately you give up having AP-3 and the ability to do multiple damage on an attack. On the whole, it’s probably not worth it, but it’s worth noting that Flesh Hounds’ ability to Deny the Witch can make them useful as anti-psyker units that can cover large distances and disrupt enemy plans.

Screamers

Fresh off a 5 point-per-model drop in Chapter Approved 2019, Screamers haven’t seen much competitive play but that may change. While on the whole they are probably still too expensive, even at 23 points per model, they pack a surprising punch with 3 S6 AP-3 2 damage attacks each, making them really good for killing Primaris marines in melee. It’s a shame that the Tzeentch powers/Warlord traits only boost shooting attacks’ rolls to wound, cause these guys would be really deadly if they could get a 2+.

Seekers

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Daemonettes aren’t amazing in a big horde, but Seekers on the other hand can put in a lot more work. Seekers boost Daemonettes with a 14” Movement and 2 Wounds, plus an extra two tongue attacks every time they fight and the ability to re-roll charge rolls. With the added boost of a Herald and the ability to Advance and Charge in a pure Slaanesh detachment, Seekers can be an incredibly fast, relatively cheap (15ppm) melee unit that can help tie up enemy units early by having a 24-25” threat range on T1. They also benefit from being Daemonettes (and having the associated keyword), which makes them a great target for buffs form Heralds and the Masque.

Plague Drones

Plague Drones are tough flying units with 4 wounds apiece and the ability to do some nasty attacks thanks to the 4 attacks each they get from their mounts, which are 2 damage each and re-roll failed wound rolls. These guys could have really benefit from there being some kind of mounted Poxbringer because they really want that +1 Strength bonus. As-is, they’re pretty nasty but expensive even at the reduced price of 36 points per model. I suspect the Plaguebearer nerf also inadvertently killed these, but they might be worth experimenting with.

Hellflayer

Similar to the Seeker Chariot, the Hellflayer adds D6 additional Sx2 (so 8), AP-1, 2 Damage attacks to the chariot’s profile and is a Fast Attack option. It’s mediocre, and doesn’t really do enough to merit taking.

Chaos Furies

Fast little Flying melee units that finally got new models in Warcry of all things, Furies can at least dole out 2 attacks each at S4 and generally want to be devoted to Khorne so they can benefit from Unstoppable Ferocity. These guys have come down a lot in points cost since 8th edition started and as of Chapter Approved 2019, they’re now sitting at a much more reasonably-priced 7 points per model, making them worth considering as a harassment unit.

 

Heavy Support

Daemons don’t have a ton of Heavy Support options, and what they do have tends to be light on actually support.

Skull Cannon

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

They’re not great, but they aren’t terrible, either. The Skull Cannon has a battle cannon that ignores cover on a fairly tough platform that won’t fold immediately in combat. Not a first or second pick unit but hardly the trashiest thing either. Though if you’re running Khorne to this degree, we have to point out that you shouldn’t be relying on guns to get the job done.

Soul Grinder

A big Daemon vehicle that can spit D6 S8, AP-2 3-Damage shots, these aren’t as accurate as the Skull Cannon (hitting on 5+ when moving), aren’t as strong in combat as a Daemon Prince or Bloodthirster (they also have a WS of 4+), and they can’t be protected like a Daemon Prince. Even with the points drop in Chapter Approved 2018, they aren’t worth it.

Burning Chariot

Basically an Exalted Flamer riding on a pair of Screamers. Being able to pop off S9 AP-4 D3 damage shots at 18″ isn’t too bad, but it’s not quite good enough as your army’s only shooting options, either. Burning Chariots don’t shoot well enough to be a good shooting unit, and don’t fight well enough to be a great melee unit in an army that already has lots, and they aren’t durable enough to survive once they start getting targeted.. The best use for a Burning Chariot is to act as a distraction for other, better units.

Seeker Chariots / Exalted Seeker Chariots

Large, conspicuous melee units that are likely to be shot off the board before they can do much damage and aren’t much of a threat when they actually do arrive in combat, thanks to having low Strength and AP on their attacks.

 

Fortifications

Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Blood Altar

Fortifications generally aren’t good in 8th edition and this one is no exception. It’s just awful. One conditionally good buff and three mediocre ones stuck on an immovable terrain piece. Better than most fortifications by virtue of being summonable via Daemonic Ritual (so it doesn’t cost you an entire detachment slot to use) but it’s still 100 points better spent elsewhere. Seriously, the Herald buff is so useless: Put yourself up on an exposed position for a little extra invulnerable save and an extra attack you can’t use because most models can’t actually reach you up on the platform to hit you. The only upsides are that it’s unkillable and can be used as a movement blocker in a pinch, or to buff deep-striking Bloodletters or Bloodcrushers.

Feculent Gnarlmaw

OK maybe there’s one exception. The Gnarlmaw has some good abilities that make it potentially worth having around. The problem as always is the need to take an entire detachment for just your Fortifications, which just isn’t worth it and turns the Feculent Gnarlmaw it more of an amusing oddity relegated to be decoration on display boards. That said, it’s abilities are pretty nice and it creates a lot of cross-faction synergies with things like Obliterators, which really like the ability to get +2 to their saves in an environment riddled with AP-2 shooting. As we mentioned on Horticulous Slimux above, the ability to make these is more useful than taking them in a detachment, but then you’re putting points into Horticulous and hoping he isn’t killed before he can plant one where you want it. Gnarlmaws have a good set of abilities but this edition just doesn’t allow them to be workable in competitive play.

 

Forge World

Credit: Macathu

Compared to the other factions of the 41st millennium, Daemons have very few noteworthy units from Forge World. Save the Plague Toads of Nurgle which, for a short time, were insanely undercosted units, the Forge World options for a daemons army are all more flavorful than good, being primarily composed of special character Daemon Princes and Greater Daemons that cost a too many points to ever be worth taking. None of the Daemon options from Forge World see much play, and while our aim is to be comprehensive, we’ll be adding them in to this section at a later date.

 

 

Playing With Daemons

If you’re going to play with the denizens of the warp, there are a few strategies and tricks you should be aware of.

The Bloodletter Bomb

This is basically a group of 20-30 Bloodletters with an instrument and a Banner of Blood, usually accompanied by a Skullmaster. Both units are placed in the warp using the Denizens of the Warp Stratagem, to arrive on the battlefield more than 9” away from an enemy on turn 2. They’re basically a bullet at this point — activate the banner and they get 3D6+1” charge, with a full re-roll from the Bloodmaster. On an average roll you’ll get 11.5”, more than enough to close any gaps between you and the opponent.  Remember to hold a couple back to keep in range of the Bloodmaster in case he doesn’t make the charge, though.

Ideally, you use this to charge something out of LOS or that’s already been tied up in combat, since overwatch shooting is liable to kill 1-2 of your Bloodletters and cost you your +1 to hit bonus on a smaller unit. Or you can take more than 20 to buy yourself some insurance, but that’ll cost you an extra CP. You can also take them in smaller groups as well, and leave the Herald out, which is something you see more often in soup lists, i.e. lists for cowards.

Pink Horror Blobs

Large squads of 20-30 Pink Horrors supported by a a Herald of Tzeentch and a Daemon Prince with the Daemonspark Warlord Trait can dish out a ton of damage, throwing out S4 shots with +1 to Wound and re-rolling 1s to hit. It can be a very nasty way to put out a lot of shots, and you can use Denizens of the Warp to protect them until you need them on the table.

Plaguebeaer Blobs

Though less useful than they used to be pre-points increase, the idea here is still sound: Squads of 30 Plaguebeaerers with a Poxbringer and a Sloppity Bilepiper, plus a Spoilpox Scrivener if you’re really trying to go hard. Cast Miasma of Pestilence on the unit to give them -2 to be hit and watch them be an incredibly difficult to kill, making them useful for scoring 4-point turns in the ITC format where Kill More is a primary objective.

Using Screens

Because Daemons have a lot of cheap units, they have a lot of options for building screens that can control parts of the board. The idea is that you want to use these large masses of cheap troop units to protect and hide your Daemon Princes until they are in position to attack the enemy’s key units.

Not the most competitive strategy, but there’s a case to be made for running 2 to 3 minimum-size units of Flesh Hounds that screen Karanak. Have them race up the table to sit within 24” of your opponent’s psykers and have fun with the ability to throw out 5 Deny the Witch Attempts on key powers. Then use your Khorne dogs to harass their cheaper, objective-holding units.

Other TIps and Tricks

  • Pay attention to where auras and other abilities offer cross-faction synergy. There are a host of auras and abilities that work across both the Chaos Daemons and Chaos Space Marines factions, such as the Chaos Space Marine Daemon Prince’s re-roll 1s aura or the many Locus auras that Chaos Daemons get. Note that most of these are on the Daemons side — many Chaos Space Marine abilities and auras only work on <LEGION> Daemons or HERETIC ASTARTES units, while most of the Daemon auras and powers work on any SLAANESH DAEMON units. understanding how these overlap will help you get the most out of units like Possessed and Warp Talons.
  • Have a plan for protecting your units. Both your Slaanesh Daemons and Chaos Space Marines tend to be very fragile, and will need protection. Often that will mean either hiding them effectively or keeping them locked in combat and using tricks like the Contorted Epitome or Fiends to trap units in combat. Have a plan for keeping your units healthy and ready to administer pain (and pleasure) in equal measure.
  • Be active in every phase of the game. Unless you’re running pure Slaanesh Daemons (which we’ll talk about below), a Slaanesh Chaos Marines or mixed CSM/Daemons army will have something to do in every phase, with lots of movement, good psychic powers, strong shooting, and terrifying melee units. It’ll take work to plan and coordinate, but you’ll want to make sure you’re active in every phase.
  • Mind your CP. Slaanesh-devoted Chaos Space Marines, particularly the Emperor’s Children, are a very thirsty army, particularly when we start talking about CP usage. There are a ton of different tricks you can pull with them, but they all cost enough CP that you aren’t going to be able to do all of them in the same game, especially once you start spending CP on things like re-rolls and Prepared Positions. Have a plan for how you’re going to use your CP and focus on the 1 or 2 tricks that will really take advantage of your army’s resources.

 

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Lists

Anthony Chew’s Tzeentch Soup List

This list, which Anthony piloted to a 1st-place finish at the Caledonian Uprising GT in January, relies heavily on a group of powerful psykers and daemon princes (who are also psykers) to spit out an obscene amount of mortal wounds while placing a lot of trust in a small number of Horrors to hold objectives and protect his characters with screens. In order to help with this, he has set aside 269 reinforcement points, which can be used to summon a unit with one of the army’s many characters, or to continually split the army’s horrors when they die – the ten pink horrors can produce 20 blue horrors (100 points), and the resulting blue horrors plus the other 10 can produce another 30 Brimstone Horror Pairs (90 points), making it difficult to actually wipe the Horrors off the table. He can also use the points to summon larger, or split things and use what’s left over to summon more pink/blue horrors to split again. Belakor gives him some added flexibility here, able to summon daemons of any god in a pinch.

 

Anthony Chew's Tzeentch Soup List - Click to Expand

Thousand Sons Supreme Command

HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour (100), Force Stave (8), Inferno Combi-Bolter (3), Familiar (9) Relic: Dark Matter Crystal (-1 CP)
HQ: Exalted Sorcerer on Disc of Tzeentch (132), Force Stave (8)
HQ: Exalted Sorcerer on Disc of Tzeentch (132), Force Stave (8)

Thousand Sons Supreme Command

HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch (166)

HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch (185), Pair of Malefic Talons (10), Warlord: High Magister
HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch (185), Pair of Malefic Talons (10), Free Relic: Athenaen Scrolls

Chaos Daemons Battalion

HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch (155), Pair of Malefic Talons (10)
HQ: Be’lakor (200)
HQ: The Changeling (100)

Troops: Horrors; one Iridiscent (7), four Pink (28) and 5 Blue (25)
Troops: Horrors; one Iridiscent (7), four Pink (28) and 5 Blue (25)
Troops: Horrors; 10 Brimstones (30)

Elites: 8 Flamers of Tzeentch  (160)

Army Total: 1731, Reinforcement Points: 269, CP Total: 9

 

Asa Carlson’s Slaanesh Daemons List

This list, which Asa piloted to 3rd place at the Renegade Open event late last year, runs monofaction Slaaneshi Daemons to great effect. It’s got some nasty disruption in the form of the two units of Fiends, as well as the ability to lock down enemy units, trapping them in melee combat with the Fiends and the Contorted Epitome. Asa’s got three Keepers of Secrets plus Shalaxi Helbane to run up the board, acting in a similar fashion to Lords Discordant in the marine build, and the Fiends and Contorted Epitome help tie units up in combat once they arrive. And because it’s monofaction Slaanesh, every Character in the army can advance and charge in the same turn, giving them some amazing threat ranges. You’ve got 12 CP to work with after you buy the Rapturous Standard for your Seekers, and the Daemonettes can sit on objectives while the rest of the army goes to work.

When Chapter Approved hit, almost every model in the list got cheaper, and today this list is only 1,741 points. That’s a huge drop, and gives the list a ton to work with for next time. 

Asa Carlson's Slaanesh Daemons List - Click to Expand

++ Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Daemons) [39 PL, 750pts] ++ + No Force Org Slot +
Chaos Allegiance: Slaanesh

+ HQ +
Keeper of Secrets [13 PL, 250pts]: Delightful Agonies, Shining aegis, Symphony of Pain, Warlord
Keeper of Secrets [13 PL, 250pts]: Shining aegis
Keeper of Secrets [13 PL, 250pts]: Shining aegis

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Daemons) [72 PL, 1,250pts] ++
Chaos Allegiance: Slaanesh

+ HQ +
Shalaxi Helbane [14 PL, 270pts]: Shining aegis
The Contorted Epitome [10 PL, 195pts]: Hysterical Frenzy, Phantasmagoria, The Forbidden Gem

+ Troops +
Daemonettes [8 PL, 88pts]: Alluress, 12x Daemonette, Instrument of Chaos
Daemonettes [4 PL, 60pts]: Alluress, 9x Daemonette
Daemonettes [4 PL, 60pts]: Alluress, 9x Daemonette

+ Elites +
Fiends [6 PL, 126pts]: Blissbringer, 2x Fiend
Fiends [6 PL, 126pts]: Blissbringer, 2x Fiend

+ Fast Attack +
Seekers [20 PL, 325pts]: Daemonic Icon, Heartseeker, Instrument of Chaos, 19x Seeker

 

Menelik Eriksson’s Possessed Bomb Chaos Army

This list, which Menelik piloted to a 5-1 finish at the Defcon event in January, showcases the current flavor of Chaos in the meta right now. This calls for large Possessed Bombs, big squads of Possessed using buffs from multiple Daemons, Apostles, and the Specialist detachment to turn them into something truly frightening. These tend to run Alpha Legion as their Chaos Space Marine Legion and give the Possessed the mark of Nurgle so they can benefit from Miasma of Pestilence and Virulent Blessing. The possessed bomb will be protected by forward deployed nurglings, which gives it time to move up and get swole from all the psychic powers. The Contorted Epitome is an interesting choice, if the bomb is able to walk from unit to unit via pile in/consolidate, the Epitome will help prevent enemies from falling back (assuming they weren’t already wrapped).

One thing this list does is protect its Possessed well – You can either use the Conceal stratagem to prevent the opponent from shooting at the Possessed unless their the closest unit, or another trick this list can pull off is to stack hit modifiers – You combine the Benediction of Darkness prayer with the Miasma of Pestilence psychic power and the Alpha Legion Trait and suddenly the possessed are -3 to hit with ranged weapons outside of 12”. This isn’t quite as devastating as it used to be, but it’s still very nasty, and can be a solid way to protect your horde if Conceal won’t do the trick. The sheer amount of bullshit you can pull with the Possessed themselves really is something to behold, and this list is incredibly difficult to put together an effective counter for. Deep Striking melee options sound good on paper until you remember that Alpha Legion can also prevent them coming in within 12” with the Scrambled Coordinates stratagem, and the sheer brick wall of resilience that a buffed-up unit represents will give even stuff like Shining Spears or GSC Acolytes pause, and comfortably butcher a lot of stuff on the fight back if you come at them and metaphorically miss.

Given how easy it is to hide them, the Nurglings do plenty of work in holding objectives since the majority of popular no-LOS shooting is D1, meaning they’ll still get their 5++/5+++ saves against it. Three Thunderfires don’t even wipe a single unit on average dice at that point, making them great for holding things down while the army’s Possessed power forward.

Menelik Eriksson's Possessed Bomb List - Click to Expand

Alpha Legion Supreme Command 

Specialist Detachment: Daemonkin Ritualists

HQ: Dark Apostle + 2x Disciples
HQ: Dark Apostle + 2x Disciples
HQ: Master of Possession
Elites: Possessed x19 w/Mark of Nurgle

Thousand Sons Supreme Command

HQ: Ahriman
HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch w/Wings, Talons
HQ: Daemon Prince of Tzeentch w/Wings, Talons

Chaos Daemons Battalion

HQ: Poxbringer
HQ: Poxbringer
HQ: The Contorted Epitome, Warlord

Troops: Nurglings x3
Troops: Nurglings x3
Troops: Nurglings x3
Troops: Nurglings x3
Troops: Nurglings x3

 

For the Dark Gods of Chaos!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this guide to the daemonic forces of chaos! We look forward to updating it in a few months when Psychic Awakening: Engine War releases and gives Daemons all kinds of cool new tricks. As ever, if you think we’ve missed anything, or got anything wrong, or just wanna toss out list ideas and comments, drop us a note in the comments below or hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com or over on our Facebook Page, and we’ll do our best to respond.

 

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