Start Competing: Chaos Space Marines Tactics

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Do you think that Imperial Space Marines are lame? Are you fond of cavorting with daemons and making dark pacts with the ruinous powers? Are you generally bitter and angry all the time about the rules your army receives? Are you a fan of painting trim on every surface of every model in your army? Well then grab an eight-pointed star and strap in because we’re finally talking about Chaos Space Marines! In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the army, the units, the relics and powers, and how to play them.


Table of Contents

Army Overview

Chaos Space Marines look like Marines, but don’t let that fool you: They lack many of the tricks that Space Marine armies have, with none of the benefits of Doctrines nor the range and shooting prowess. As a faction, Chaos Space Marines have access to some of the best melee units in the game, including Possessed, Berserkers, and Daemon Princes, and access to some great psychic powers, but tend to fall short when it comes to options for mobility and shooting options – most CSM transport options are overpriced and CSM shooting tends to lack AP and be mid-range at best. So for many Chaos Space Marine armies, the game plan is to build around your best units and creating a protected delivery method for them.

As with the rest of these articles, the idea is not to give an exhaustive review of every unit and option. Instead, we’ll cover each section with a general discussion of the good units, relics and stratagems, point out any traps, and then discuss how these pieces fit into a competitive army. This is primarily a review of the units and options that are specific to Chaos Space Marines, but Chaos Space Marines often see play in Chaos Soup armies, and we’ll be covering some of those cases as well.

As always, a guide like this represents a time and place. This was written in April 2020, after the release of Psychic Awakening: Saga of the Beast (and during the global COVID-19 Pandemic).


Army Strengths

  • Psychic Powers. Chaos Space Marines have some of the game’s best psychic powers in the Dark Hereticus discipline. As a result, Chaos Sorcerers – with their ability to throw out non-faction-gated buff powers like Warptime and Prescience – are some of the game’s best units, and they can take Jump Packs.
  • Melee Combat. Chaos Space Marines are generally pretty good when it comes to melee combat. Berserkers are one of the game’s best melee units, and Possessed can be absolutely insane with the buffs you can give them. Lords Discordant are absolutely blenders, and Chaos Space Marine daemon vehicles and Helbrutes are also pretty good in this area. It’s very easy to build a Chaos Space Marine army that can wreak absolute havoc once it reaches the enemy.
  • Great HQ/Character Options. Chaos Space Marines have access to some great character options in the form of Daemon Princes, Lords Discordant, Chaos Lords, and Sorcerers, to name a few. There’s a ton of versatility at the top of any Chaos Space Marines list, with options for both heavy hitters and cheap HQ slot fillers.
  • Cheap Troops. Chaos Cultists are 4 points per model, allowing you to fill out a Troops slot for 40 points. That’s helpful, because Chaos Space Marines are a particularly CP-thirsty faction now.
  • Specialist Detachments. Chaos Space Marines have access to a whole supplement’s worth of Specialist Detachments, and several of them are good enough to be worth playing in a competitive army.
  • Cross-Faction Synergies. Because of the DAEMON and <MARK OF CHAOS> keywords, Chaos Space Marines have a lot of interactions with Chaos Daemons, with auras and abilities that can benefit units in both armies. Likewise, they share HERETIC ASTARTES with Thousand Sons and Death Guard. This can lead to some powerful combinations in soup armies, and tends to make up the backbone of strong competitive Chaos lists.

Army Weaknesses

  • Durability. Your average Chaos Space Marine has Toughness 4, 1 wound, and a 3+ save. That’s just not great, and it means that many of your hard-hitting melee units such as Berserkers are also pretty fragile. In most games your biggest challenge will be figuring out how you’re going to deliver your melee units into the enemy lines in one piece.
  • Shooting. Chaos Space Marine shooting is generally not very good; most CSM guns top out at 24″ or 36″ range and most of the army’s core units rely on AP 0 boltguns, which are not good. While Chaos Space Marines certainly have some better shooting options, such as Hellforged Deredeo Dreadnoughts, Hellforged Leviathans, and Obliterators, these are few and far between.
  • AP and Damage. Because of when the codex was published (and re-published) and the weapon options Chaos Space Marines have, you’ll notice they have a pretty rough lack of 2+ damage or high AP shooting, and this is something that extends to their Troop melee options as well. The result is that competitive Chaos Space Marine armies tend to be built around the few units that either have access to multi-damage weapons with some AP or can, through sheer volume of attacks, making up for these shortcomings.
  • Subfaction Traits. Faith & Fury is a huge help to Chaos Space Marines armies, which needed a boost to its subfactions. But even with new stratagems, some issues remain: The CSM subfaction traits don’t apply to Cultists or non-Helbrute vehicles, and many of them are just underwhelming to begin with (the Word Bearers’ ability is particularly heinous). As a result only a couple of theses even matter.
  • Mobility. Chaos Space Marines have a couple of pretty mobile units and some units that can deep strike, but almost all of their transport options are pretty bad. The army has a couple of ways to help make charges out of Deep Strike (from more than 9″ away), but these are limited to specific units. There are also a few other options we’ll discuss later.
  • CP Thirsty. A lot of the best Chaos Space Marine strategies rely on copious use of stratagems, particularly those from Faith and Fury. This means that Chaos Space Marine armies can end up blowing through a ton of CP pretty quickly, and so you’ll need to have a plan for how to generate and use that CP when you build your game plan.

Competitive Rating: Strong

Chaos Space Marines have as a faction been up and down over the course of 8th edition, though mostly down – there have been several competitive Chaos Space Marine armies, though rarely among the top tier of options, and generally they’ve been limited in their versatility. With the release of Faith and Fury however, the floodgates have opened, and Chaos Space Marines now find themselves working with some very strong builds and multiple options to build around in competitive lists.


Chaos Space Marines Rules

Slaanesh Aligned Chaos Warband

Slaanesh Aligned Chaos Warband. Credit: That Gobbo

In this section we’ll cover the main rules for the army, starting with the faction’s army-wide special rules, then diving into the Stratagems, Warlord Traits, Relics, and powers available to all Chaos Space Marines, and then we’ll finish off with a look at each of the traitor legion options, their subfaction-specific rules, powers, Stratagems, and relics, and how they stack up against each other.

Where to Find The Rules

Chaos Space Marines require more books to play competitively than any other faction, even loyalist marines. If you’re going to play seriously, you probably need all of the following, and that’s before you start souping in Daemons, Thousand Sons, or Death Guard:

  • Codex: Chaos Space Marines v.2 – Is the second publication of the faction Codex (it has a white skull with a “II” on its cover) and has all of the basic faction’s rules and datasheets. You will know you have the right book if it has the datasheet for the Lord Discordant and prayers for Dark Apostles.
  • Imperial Armour Index: Forces of Chaos – has the rules and datasheets for Forge World units like the Kytan Ravager, Hellforged dreadnoughts, the Blood Slaughterer, and characters like Arkos the Faithless.
  • Vigilus Ablaze – has the rules for the Black Legion, renegade chapters, and specialist detachments.
  • Psychic Awakening: Faith & Fury – has the rules for Daemon Weapons, plus Stratagems, Relics, and Warlord Traits for each of the Emperor’s Children, Alpha Legion, Night Lords, World Eaters, Word Bearers, and Iron Warriors.
  • The Shadowspear Chaos Codex Booklet – is the only place you can find the Psyker-specific Warlord Traits for Chaos Space Marines.
  • You will also need the following FAQs:
    • Codex: Chaos Space Marines
    • Vigilus Ablaze
    • Faith & Fury
    • Imperial Armour Index: Forces of Chaos

If you want to soup in other Chaos factions, you’ll want to have the following:

  • Codex: Thousand Sons and Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned for Thousand Sons.
  • Codex: Death Guard for Death Guard
  • Codex: Chaos Daemons and Chapter Approved 2019 for Chaos Daemons


Faction Special Rules

There are a few army-wide special rules that Chaos Space Marines have access to regardless of which legion they hail from or which god they’ve devoted themselves to.

Death to the False Emperor

When fighting an IMPERIUM unit in melee, a hit roll of a 6+ gives the attacker an additional attack with the same weapon. This is solid when it’s on and worthless when it’s not. The upside is that Space Marines are everywhere so now you can at least count on it being active for about half your games. This is also not dependent on unmodified rolls of a 6, so you have several tricks to make it fire off more often, though it also means that Thunder Hammers and Power Fists won’t really get to use it.

Hateful Assault

Units with this rule — basically everything except for Cultists — get +1 Attack in any turn in which they charge, were charged, or heroically intervened. This is a really good boost for your melee units, and will do wonders on large squads of Possessed or Berserkers.

Malicious Volleys (formerly Bolter Discipline)

When a unit with this ability stays stationary during the Movement phase (or is a TERMINATOR, BIKER, or HELBRUTE) fires a Rapid Fire bolter weapon, it can make double the number of attacks. A solid update to all Chaos Space Marines that showed up in January last year and was reprinted in Faith & Fury, this mostly helps Bikers and Terminators live up to their full potential by giving you four shots per model, albeit still at S4 AP0.

Marks of Chaos

Almost every unit in the Chaos Space Marines army has the <MARK OF CHAOS> keyword, which can be replaced by one of KHORNE, TZEENTCH, NURGLE, or SLAANESH, allowing the unit to devote itself to a Chaos god. There are several powers, relics, and Stratagems which are only available to devotees of a particular Chaos god, and some Legion traits require that your whole army be devoted to a specific god. Marks also fuel the army’s ability to do

Daemonic Ritual

A rule across the Chaos factions, a Chaos Space Marines Character can opt to not move during the Movement phase and instead attempt to summon a unit of Daemons, with the restriction being that if you have a Mark of Chaos, you can only summon something that shares that keyword with the character. You roll up to 3 dice when you do this, and you can summon a unit with power level equal to or less than the result you roll. If you roll doubles, you take a mortal wound, and if you roll triples, you suffer D3 mortal wounds. The summoned unit has to be placed within 12″ of the character and more than 9″ from an enemy model. This is a cooler ability in theory than execution. The theoretical upside to summoning is that you can pick a unit at the moment you summon, giving you a lot of possibilities and the ability to pick a unit that will fit your current situation and opponent. In reality, it’s slow, hard to rely on, and it requires you spend points and time on a character not moving and fighting in order to put a unit on the table you still had to pay points for, and most of the time you’re better off just taking a Daemons Detachment and putting the units you want into the Warp before the game with the appropriate Stratagem. The big upside to summoning is that you can summon Daemons without ruining your Chaos Space Marines faction bonus (they won’t lose their legion trait if the whole detachment is from the same legion and the only daemons are ones that you summon), but you’re seldom going to want to do this.

Legion Traits

Chaos Space Marine armies have access to a large variety of subfactions, each with their own special rules called Legion Traits. To pick a legion, you replace your <LEGION> keyword with a Legion of your choice (it can’t be Death Guard or Thousand Sons, who have their own rules). If every unit in a detachment has the same Legion keyword, then Legion Traits apply to all INFANTRY (excluding Cultists), BIKERS, HELBRUTES, and CHARACTERS in that detachment.

In addition to having special rules for each legion’s units, each legion also has access to its own Warlord Traits, Relics, and Stratagems, and some have access to their own special characters.

A Special Note on Codex Traits

Note that, unlike with Space Marines, not all legion rules are faction-locked; while the Faith and Fury and VIgilus Ablaze Stratagems, Warlord Traits, and Relics require a full legion detachment, those in Codex: Chaos Space Marines are not, so you can give a World Eaters Warlord the Slaughterborn warlord trait in a mixed detachment, or use the In Midnight Clad Stratagem on a Night Lords unit in a mixed detachment. There aren’t a ton of reasons you’d want to mix detachments, particularly now that you’ll want access to a legion’s Stratagems, but there are a few use cases for doing this, such as having an extra Supreme Command detachment of characters whom you want to have from several different legions. We’ll talk more about that later.

Despoilers of the Galaxy

In a Battleforged army, all troops in Chaos Space Marines detachments gain this ability, which is the standard “Objective Secured” rule that all armies get, which makes your Troops’ claims to Objectives stronger than non-Troops’. It’s often overlooked but it’s an important rule for helping capture contested objectives, and gives real value to Cultists, who can mitigate their squishiness with massive blobs that are tough to dislodge from objectives.


Psychic Powers

Terminator Sorcerer. Credits: That Gobbo

For Chaos Space Marines, you have access to two disciplines: The Dark Hereticus disipline and the Malefic discipline. The Dark Hereticus discipline is the stronger of the two and available to most of your psykers, while the Malefic discipline is only available to Masters of Possession.

The Dark Hereticus Discipline

Most Chaos Space Marine psykers have access to the Dark Hereticus discipline, one of the strongest psychic disciplines in the game. The only downside to it is that a lot of the powers are on the higher end of Warp Charge casting requirements, and Chaos Sorcerers don’t have a ton of ways to make them easier to cast. The big upside however is that these powers are not legion-locked, so a Night Lords sorcerer can cast Prescience on an Iron Warriors unit. Because of this and their overall power level, the powers you can pull off here make a Chaos Sorcerer or two basically auto-includes in Chaos Space Marine armies, and worth splashing in a sorcerer or two in a Death Guard army.

N.B. Some of these ratings may seem off if you’re used to playing against Thousand Sons, who can also use these. The value changes for them because of their range and cast boosts, plus the sheer number of slots they need to fill. These ratings reflect the use of these powers in Chaos Space Marine detachments.

  • Infernal Gaze (WC 5). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18” and roll 3D6. For each 4+ you roll, that unit takes a mortal wound. Easy to cast, targeted mortal wounds. It’s not a lot, but you could do a lot worse. You’re rarely going to be taking enough psykers to make use of this, and you’ll often rather have casting redundancies than spending a slot on this. C
  • Death Hex (WC 8). Pick a visible enemy unit within 12”. Until your next psychic phase, that unit can’t take invulnerable saves. This is very good, particularly when paired with strong long-range shooting. Unfortunately, Chaos Space Marines don’t really have a lot of that, but it’s still a strong power to have for when you need to pop over and shut down the invuln on something. The biggest downside of Death Hex is that it’s WC 8, and you also shouldn’t be afraid not to take it, or to discard it with Chaos Familiar if there are no targets for it or you kill all of them. A
  • Gift of Chaos (WC 6). Pick a visible enemy unit within 6” and roll a D6. If you roll higher than the target’s Toughness, that unit takes D3+3 mortal wounds. If you kill a character this way, you can add a Chaos Spawn to your army. Against most targets you’re looking at failing this two thirds of the time. And when it does succeed and you kill a character, you won’t get to add the spawn because you didn’t pay reinforcement points for it. Skip this one. D
  • Prescience (WC 7). Pick a HERETIC ASTARTES unit within 18”. They get +1 to all hit rolls until your next psychic phase. This power is amazingly good. Great on big squads, great on big WS/BS 4+ Daemon Engines, great for targeting flyers. Your first psyker will almost always have this and Warptime. A
  • Diabolic Strength (WC 6). Pick a HERETIC ASTARTES model within 12” of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, that model gets +2 Strength and +1 Attack. This is very good for pumping up your Winged Daemon princes before they charge into battle, or helping Huron, Maulerfiends, or Venomcrawlers tack on some extra attacks and beat strength thresholds with their weapons. A
  • Warptime (WC 6). Pick a HERETIC ASTARTES unit within 3”. That unit can immediately move as if it were the Movement phase. Errata’d to not work on units that just arrived on the battlefield, but even with that adjustment this is still one of the strongest powers in the game. It’s incredibly useful for double-timing key units around the table, capturing objectives and setting up first-turn charges. You will want to have this on somebody in almost every game. On a Sorcerer with a jump pack, you can have this reliably within 3″ of any unit you need it for all game long. A+

God-Specific Powers

There are also three additional powers you can access if your Psyker has the Mark of Tzeentch, Nurgle, or Slaanesh. All three of these are good.

  • Tzeentch: Weaver of Fates (WC 6). Pick a visible TZEENTCH Heretic Astartes unit within 18″. Until the start of your next psychic phase, improve its invulnerable save by 1 to a maximum of 3+, and if it didn’t have an invulnerable save, it gets a 5+. This is a great way for helping protect valuable units, and helpful on everything from Terminators and Obliterators to Daemon Engines and Vehicles you’d want to protect. Caps out at a 3++, but stacks with other abilities to help you get there. The only downside is that the Mark of Tzeentch is less useful than some of the others on many units. A
  • Nurgle: Miasma of Pestilence (WC 6). Pick a visible NURGLE Heretic Astartes unit within 18″. Until your next Psychic phase, your opponent must subtract 1 from all hit rolls that target that unit. This is a powerful ability, great for protecting Nurgle units and one key to the “Possessed Bomb” armies that run a max-buffed Possessed unit with the Mark of Nurgle. It’s particularly good when combined with the Alpha Legion trait to stack an additional -1 to be hit and the Dark Apostle’s Benediction of Darkness to get you to -3 to be hit outside of 12″. A
  • Slaanesh: Delightful Agonies (WC 6). Pick a visible SLAANESH Heretic Astartes unit within 18″. Until the start of your next Psychic phase roll a D6 each time a model in that unit loses a wound; on a 5+ it doesn’t lose that wound. Another strong buff, great for improving the longevity of units that are likely targets since the result is effectively a 50% increase in the wounds. Wonderful for large blobs of Cultists who otherwise don’t really have a save at all. A

The Malefic Discipline

On the other side of things, Masters of Possession have access to the Malefic discipline, which is mostly buffs for DAEMON units. These are particularly good if you’re running armies that are heavy on Possessed or Daemon Engines, but are very skippable if not. The big drawback to them is that the Master of Possession himself is unable to take a jump pack or teleport in, so these powers are severely limited by how far you can move the caster. They’re all also locked to the caster’s <LEGION>, meaning they can’t affect other Chaos Factions’ units, and aren’t suitable for mixing legions.

  • Incursion (WC 7). When cast, you can immediately attempt to summon a unit of DAEMONS to the battlefield using the Daemonic Ritual ability as if it were the Movement phase and when you do so, you roll 4 dice instead of 3 and can’t summon any mortal wounds as a result of doubles or triples. This is already much better than the regular Daemonic Ritual, in part because it doesn’t lock you into standing still, but it’s even more hoops to jump through to do something that just isn’t all that helpful to most game plans. This would be more useful is summoning was something you actually wanted to do. C
  • Sacrifice (WC 4). Pick a model within 2″; it takes a mortal wound. Then you pick a friendly <LEGION> DAEMON model within 18″ to regain D3 lost wounds. Also if the target is a Daemon Engine and the    wound was put on a friendly <LEGION> Warpsmith, you gain 3 lost wounds instead. This is a pretty marginal power – doing 1 mortal wound instead of D3 when you could be Smiting an enemy within 2″ isn’t the best deal even if you get D3 back, and there just aren’t enough reasons to jump through the hoops to get the full 3 by hurting your Warpsmith, especially because he can already be healing daemon engines himself. D
  • Mutated Invigoration (WC 7). Pick a friendly Chaos Spawn, <LEGION> Possessed, or <LEGION> Cult of Destruction (obliterators/mutilators) within 18″. Until your next Psychic phase, that unit gets to re-roll for Mutated Beyond Reason if it’s a Chaos Spawn (the bonus it gets to its attacks, rolled on a D3), it can re-roll the number of Attacks it gets if it’s a Possessed unit, and it can re-roll one of the dice when determining the Strength, AP, or Damage of a Cult of Destruction’s attacks. This is best-suited to making sure Possessed end up with 2+ Attacks per model, which dramatically increases their melee output. The Obliterator re-rolls are theoretically useful, but Obliterators are usually teleporting in and will be far away from a footbound Master of Possession. It’s solid insurance on Possessed, though. B+
  • Possession (WC 5). Until the start of your next Psychic phase, the AP on the Psyker’s melee weapons improves by 2 and each time he destroys an INFANTRY Character in the Fight phase, you can add a Chaos Spawn model to your army, or a Greater Possessed if the model killed was an ADEPTUS ASTARTES or HERETIC ASTARTES. If he kills a vehicle, it automatically explodes – no roll is made and the psyker is immune to the explosion results. You only get the Possessed or Spawn if you can pay the reinforcement points for it, making this not particularly useful for anything other than buffing your Master of Possession in melee, where having an AP-3 Force Stave isn’t so bad, but you aren’t liable to kill too many things with it. C
  • Cursed Earth (WC 7). Improve the Invulnerable save of friendly <LEGION> Daemon units by 1 (to a max of 3+) while they’re within 6″ of this psyker until your next Psychic Phase. This is a huge buff, turning most of those 5+ auras into 4+ and stacking with Weaver of Fates to get to that 3+. The fact that it’s an aura means that you’ll need to keep your Master of Possession with the units he’s buffing, but it also means you can boost multiple units or Daemon engines at the same time. This and Infernal Power are where the real money is at in the Malefic Discipline. A
  • Infernal Power (WC 6). Until the next Psychic Phase, re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1 for friendly <LEGION> Daemon units within 6″ of the Psyker. This is the big money power for Possessed bombs. It’s easy to cast and powerful as hell. Works wonderfully on Daemon Engines as well, and re-rolling wounds in the Shooting phase is generally not something that Chaos Space Marines have access to. A


Prayers to the Dark Gods

Credit: Charlie A

With the release of Vigilus Ablaze and the new Dark Apostle unit, Chaos Space Marines got access to a whole new set of buffs with Prayers to the Dark Gods, which were cool and unique until Space Marines got a million of them, including chapter-specific litanies. Every Dark Apostle knows the Dark Zealotry prayer by default (though there’s frustratingly no card in the faction’s Datacards for this), plus one chosen from the list of 6 prayers, plus an additional god-specific one if they have a Mark of Chaos.

Most Prayers to the Dark Gods affect a single target unit, which allows units to move away from the Dark Apostle as needed after receiving a buff (though they’ll be out of position the following turn if this happens). Prayers happen at the start of the Battle Round, which is great for Benediction of Darkness but also means they’re generally going to be a pain to remember, and they go off on a 3+, though this can be improved to a 2+ by spending 10 points on a couple of Dark Disciples, something you’re always going to want to do. Like all the new powers, Prayers are locked into only affecting the <LEGION> of the Dark Apostle chanting them.

  • Dark Zealotry – Re-roll hit rolls in the Fight phase for attacks made by friendly <LEGION> units within 6″ of this priest. This is a fine ability, but will usually play second fiddle to everything else you want to do, since a lot of the other prayers do things that you can’t really get anywhere else in the Chaos Space Marines army. That’s OK though, because it’s literally free. The downside is that you are going to forget it exists because there’s no card for it. B-
  • Benediction of Darkness – Pick a friendly <LEGION> unit within 6″ and until the start of the next battle round, subtract 1 from hit rolls made for attacks with ranged weapons that target that unit. This is a great way to boost a unit’s longevity, and works on anything in your army, making it great for making things like Kytans and Lords of Skulls more survivable as well as massive squads of Possessed. The only downside is the range, which makes it really easy to “outkick your coverage” with a unit that will get the prayer bonus, then be out of range to get it again next turn. A
  • Litany of Despair – Your opponent has to roll 2D6 and drop the lowest when they take a morale test for a unit within 6″ of this priest. This is easily the least exciting prayer and will rarely be more useful than well, any of the others. C-
  • Omen of Potency – The priest gets +3 Attacks and his melee weapons become AP-4. Dark Apostles aren’t exactly big melee fighters, what with their 3 Attacks at S5. Upping them to 7 attacks on the charge with AP-4 is a significant improvement, but it’s not giving you enough that it’s worth taking this over buffing nearby units. C+
  • Warp-Sight Plea – Pick a friendly <LEGION> unit within 6″. Add 1 to hit rolls for attacks made by ranged weapons for models in that unit. A great way to boost the shooting efficiency of a unit, and a good supplement/redundancy to Prescience on a Sorcerer. Shame it doesn’t affect melee attacks though, since it would have been wonderful to get another +1 to trigger some of the abilities that CSM have in the Fight phase. A
  • Soultearer Portent – Pick a friendly <LEGION> unit within 6″. Add 1 to wound rolls for attacks made with melee weapons by models in that unit. Another great buff, and one that combines well with Veterans of the Long War to ensure that you’re wounding your targets on a 2+/3+. It’s extremely good with Nurgle flavoured Possessed bombs. The downside is that it requires you moving up and getting in with your Dark Apostle, which is a lot tougher than hanging back and dropping Warp-Sight Plea and Benediction of Darkness. A
  • Illusory Supplication – Friendly <LEGION> models within 6″ have a 5+ invulnerable save. This is a really solid ability for when your Priest is going to be babysitting units like large blobs of Cultists on an objective, where the lack of a decent armor save makes them easy to kill and a 5+ invulnerable save (plus a 5+ feel no pain from the Delightful Agonies psychic power, ideally), can really give them staying power. On the other hand, most of the units you’re going to bring with you are either already rocking a 5+ invulnerable save, or are too fast for the Apostle to keep up, really limiting the usefulness of this prayer in a Chaos Space Marines army. B

God-Specific Prayers

You get these free if your Apostle has a mark. All four of them boost the Dark Apostle chanting them, and mostly they’re helpful in a pinch as a “back-up strategy for when your Apostle is getting into combat and wouldn’t be better off firing off his main chosen power or Dark Zealotry.

  • Khorne: Wrathful Entreaty – The priest gets +2 Strength. Lets you swing at S7, which is a strong upside against vehicles, and less useful against other targets since you were already S5. C+
  • Tzeentch: Mutating Invocation – The priest regains D3 lost wounds. Priests don’t have a ton of wounds to begin with, so chances are once you’ve started losing them, you’re going to die, but if you’re holding on it’s got some utility. C+
  • Nurgle: Feculent Beseechment – The Priest gets +2 Toughness. More useful overall than +2 Strength or regaining D3 wounds as it helps you avoid losing them in the first place pretty well and stops you from being wounded on a 2+ by most attackers. Helpful when you’re facing down a pretty nasty opponent and you just need to survive one extra round to hold them up. B-
  • Slaanesh: Blissful Devotion – The priest can Advance and Charge in the same turn. This is the least exciting buff, but lowkey the most useful, since it helps your Apostle stay in lockstep with some of the units you’ll likely want to be buffing if you want his aura buffing units that are going to be getting stuck in for melee combat. Note that you won’t need it if you’re running Red Corsairs, but in most other cases, this is a strong backup to have. A-



Chaos Space Marines have access to an OK number of Stratagems through their Codex, and access to a significantly larger number through supplements like Vigilus Ablaze and Faith and Fury, though those are gated/specific to certain subfactions so we’ll cover those under the section for each subfaction. Here we’ll be covering the ones that every Chaos Space Marines detachment has access to, excluding the legion-specific ones that are usable in mixed detachments. We’ll note which ones those are in our Legions section.

  • Beseech the Chaos Gods (1 CP). Use at the start of your turn to give a unit that didn’t dedicate itself to a Chaos God a Mark for the rest of the game. In theory this allows you to be very versatile, making game-time decisions on what buffs you want to have for a unit. In practice, it’s very clunky and the number of cases where it is useful is small enough that you’re better off marking the unit during list building and saving the CP. If you really want to go this route, the Black Legion have a better version. C-
  • Blasphemous Machines (1 CP). Use when a Heretic Astartes vehicle shoots in the Shooting phase. Until the end of the phase you can ignore penalties for moving and shooting or advancing and firing assault weapons. This is a helpful buff, particular on your daemon engine vehicles that start at BS 4+. Not quite as good as Daemonforge, but they work well together anyways. A
  • Chaos Boon (1 CP). Use at the end of a Fight phase after one of your non-Daemon characters kills an enemy Character, Vehicle, or Monster. Roll 2D6 and you get a random buff. On the low end, this can turn you into a Chaos Spawn (2) and on the high end you can become a Daemon Prince (12), though note that this result may be worse than what you had if the unit rolling was a special character. The rest are OK, and most of the time you’ll get to choose which non-spawn or non-daemon prince buff you want because a 7 lets you do that. On the other hand, it’s a hard feat to pull off, the risk is too high, and most of the buffs don’t matter that much if they happen that late in the game. To make matters worse, this thing takes up the space of four Stratagems, robbing Chaos Space Marines of 3 other strats and reducing the total number the faction has access to. That alone is enough to make this Stratagem detestable. D
  • Chaos Familiar (1 CP). Use at the start of your Psychic phase to replace a power on any Heretic Astartes Psyker with one from the Dark Hereticus discipline. Helpful if you need to quickly pivot to a different power mid-battle, or if you want to get cute you can use it to get Dark Hereticus powers on a Master of Possession. Neither is particularly strong. C+
  • Daemonforge (1 CP). Use in the Shooting or Fight phase when a Daemon Vehicle is chosen to attack. You can re-roll failed hit and wound rolls for that model for the rest of the phase. This is also very, very good. Many of the faction’s best units are Daemon Engines and so being able to quickly and cheaply tap into free re-rolls for them makes things like the Lord of Skulls and the Venomcrawler all the more deadly. A
  • Daemon Shell (1 CP). Use just before a Heretic Astartes character fires a bolt pistol, boltgun, combi-bolter, or a bolter in a combi weapon. You only get to make a single hit roll which you can’t re-roll and if you hit, the target takes D3 mortal wounds, but if you miss, you take D3 mortal wounds. This can be helpful in a pinch but it’s a Stratagem that never sees use because you’re using your CP for everything else. C
  • Endless Cacophony (2 CP). Use at the end of your Shooting phase and pick a SLAANESH Infantry or Biker unit. It gets to immediately shoot again. This is one of the faction’s best powers, and the reason you’ll often want your shooting units marked as Slaanesh. Works wonderfully on Obliterators, Bikers, Terminators, and Havocs. A+
  • Fire Frenzy (1 CP). Use in the Shooting phase, before a Helbrute shoots. If it didn’t move in the Movement phase, you can fire all of its weapons twice at the nearest visible enemy unit. Note that this doesn’t work on HELBRUTES, it only works on Helbrute units (so not Leviathans or Contemptors and the like). Regular Helbrute shooting is bad enough that if you’re taking one, it’s going to be as a cheap melee threat, and that means you’re never going to have a use for this. Best-case, you might use it on a Sonic Dreadnought holding a missile launcher, but even that’s a stretch and the closest target restriction kills it. C
  • Flakk Missile (1 CP). Use when an infantry model fires off a missile launcher at a unit that can FLY. You only make a single hit roll this phase, but you add 1 to the hit roll and if you hit the target takes D3 mortal wounds. This is a situational tactic in the best of times, and often won’t be something you’re seriously considering. You also will rarely if ever even have missile launchers in your army to begin with. C
  • Fury of Khorne (3 CP). Use at the end of the Fight phase. Pick a KHORNE Infantry or Biker unit and it can immediately fight again. Yeah, Space Marines get this for any any of their guys and you only get it for Khorne but it’s still a powerful tool in your arsenal and particularly brutal when paired with Berserkers, who get to pile in, fight, and consolidate three times. It’s also great on Terminators and Abaddon. Real shame you can’t use it with Lords Discordant, though. A
  • Grandfather’s Blessings (2 CP). Use at the end of your Movement phase on a Heretic Astartes NURGLE Infantry or Biker unit. A model in that unit heals D3 wounds or, if no models have missing wounds, then you can return a single dead model back to the unit. This is going to give you the most bang for your buck when combined with units that have expensive multi-wound models. The most notable of these being Obliterators, where being able to potentially return one is a huge points boost. Otherwise, it’s situationally OK on Possessed or Bikes, and you’ll usually want to spend your CP elsewhere. C+
  • Killshot (1 CP). If you have 3 <LEGION> Chaos Predators within 6″ of each other in the Shooting phase, you can pop this to give them +1 to wound rolls and damage rolls against MONSTERS and VEHICLES for the phase. It’s a decent buff, but it’s not a good enough reason to bring three predators and if you lose one you’re suddenly holding nothing. C+
  • Linebreaker Bombardment (1 CP). If you have 3 <LEGION> Chaos Vindicators within 6″ of each other, you can, instead of shooting with any of them, pick a point on the battlefield within 24″ of all three and roll a D6 for each unit within 3″ of that point, adding 1 if the unit has 10+ models and subtracting 1 if it’s a character. On a 4+ the unit takes 3D3 mortal wounds. This is a holdover from early edition design and while Marines had their relevant Stratagems removed, Chaos Space Marines are stuck with theirs. Even with a gun buff Vindicators aren’t good enough to make this work; they aren’t fast enough or tough enough to make this reliable, and they aren’t good enough on their own to make it worth it if you lose a Vindicator on turn 1 and can’t use this stratagem. C
  • The Great Sorcerer (1 CP). Use at the end of the Psychic phase to allow one of your TZEENTCH Heretic Astartes Psykers to manifest one more psychic power this turn. This is a solid way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your Sorcerers, though Tzeentch casters are pretty rare because it’s usually better just to take them as Thousand Sons. B
  • Tide of Traitors (2 CP). Once per game you can use at the end of your Movement phase to pick up a unit of Chaos Cultists (take them off the battlefield) and set it up again wholly within 6″ of a battlefield edge and more than 9″ away from any enemy models. You can only use this once per game. This is a powerful effect for moving a large squad of Cultists to a key position and it used to be very strong but now that Cultists have been nerfed into irrelevance it’s no longer something you build around. A-
  • Veterans of the Long War (1 CP). Use when a Heretic Astartes infantry or biker that isn’t from a Renegade Chapter shoots or fights. Add 1 to wound rolls for that unit until the end of the phase. This is one of the core abilities of the Chaos Space Marines army, and an amazingly powerful build-around Stratagem. Being able to up the wound output of a large unit of Bikers, Obliterators, Havocs, Berserkers, or Possessed makes them an incredibly lethal force, and it’s amazing when combined with Stratagems that let you shoot or fight twice, so you can double your return on CP investment. One of the faction’s best Stratagems. A+


Specialist Detachments

The Vigilus campaign (Vigilus Defiant and Vigilus Ablaze) introduced the world to Specialist Detachments. Then those were promptly forgotten and never mentioned again. But for some factions – Chaos Space Marines being the most notable – they’re a very important addition to the army, and make several key builds viable. If you’re a more casual player looking for thematic links, many of them also tie into specific legions (such as the Host Raptorial to the Night Lords and the Devastation Battery to Iron Warriors), but with the exception of the Bringers of Despair (Black Legion), they aren’t restricted in any such way.

Bringers of Despair

The only legion-exclusive Chaos Specialist Detachment, the Bringers of Despair is a Black Legion-only detachment that gives Terminators the BRINGERS OF DESPAIR keyword. This is one of the weirdest specialist detachments, because it’s written in such a way that leads me to believe it was intended for Black Legion armies that aren’t bringing Abaddon, or for armies that pack multiple squads of Terminators like a kind of Black Legion Deathwing. The WL trait is designed around turning a Terminator Lord into a mini-Abaddon, and likewise one of the Stratagems is focused on helping nearby units pass morale. You can use both of these to some effect with Abaddon in your army too, but the reality is that you probably won’t need them.

  • Warlord Trait: Chosen of the Warmaster. Re-roll hit rolls of 1 for attacks made by friendly BRINGERS OF DESPAIR while they’re within 6″, or if the model was already a Chaos Lord, you can instead re-roll all hit rolls. So you can either give a Terminator Sorcerer a Chaos Lord aura or upgrade a Terminator Chaos Lord’s. The upgrade option here isn’t bad, but there are other warlord traits you’ll likely want more. B
  • Relic: Foecleaver. Replaces a power axe with one that’s S+3, AP-2, D3 damage and gives +1 to hit rolls against IMPERIUM units. It’s an interesting kind of near-power fist that works very well with Death to the False Emperor and, if you’re also running Abaddon, can mean proc’ing extra attacks on a 4+ (or a 3+ with the Prescience psychic power). Not too bad! But it’s only against Imperium armies and while those are the most common armies you’ll be up against, it’s not going to do much other than be a semi-power fist against other factions. B
  • Stratagem: Brutal Subjugation (1 CP). Use at the start of Fight phase. Pick a Bringers of Despair unit from your army. Each enemy model slain by this unit in the Fight phase counts as double in the following morale phase. This is an interesting way to help boost Terminators’ damage output, since killing 4 intercessors and saddling your opponent with a +8 to their roll is pretty solid, but having to do that before you start swinging makes it a bit harder to predict, and even in those cases, an opponent can just pay the CP to keep a unit around early on. C
  • Stratagem: Chosen Enforcers (1 CP). Use when a friendly HERETIC ASTARTES unit within 18″ of a Bringers of Despair unit takes a Morale test. They automatically pass. This isn’t bad, but it requires you be within 18″ of the Enforcers and you’re paying 1 CP for the opportunity to use it, meaning that you better be using this multiple times or finding value out of the Detachment in some other way if you want to avoid wasting CP. C

Cult of the Damned

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Cult of the Damned is based around running large blobs of Cultists, and affects Dark Apostles, Dark Disciples, and Chaos Cultists, giving them the CULT OF THE DAMNED keyword. At the time it was written, Cultists were 5 points per model and had just lost the ability to get legion traits, plus they were dropped down to squads that maxed out at 30 models. Since then they’ve dropped back to 4 points per model, but the loss of legion traits leaves them as little more than detachment filler these days. The buffs in here are designed around helping keep the Cultists on the table and making them more of a combat threat, but Chaos already has tons of great combat threats, both on the cheap side (Bloodletters) and the elite side (Possessed, Berserkers). This might be more workable if Cultists still came in squads of 40, but in the world we live in, there’s not really an army concept that this detachment helps. If you’re taking a Cult of the Damned Detachment, it’s for the Dark Apostles, which can get to 1+ litany chants with the Chorus of the True Faith Stratagem, but even that’ll be overkill most of the time.

  • Warlord Trait: Exultant Preacher. You can re-roll charges for friendly Cult of the Damned units within 6″. This is a strong ability if your army is working with a lot of melee cultists. Unfortunately, if your army is built around melee cultists, it’s also really bad. B
  • Relic: The Inferno Tome. This gives the bearer a ranged weapon that’s 8″ range, Assault D6, S5 Ap-1, d3 damage, auto-hitting. It’s an interesting additional weapon to have, but not super exciting. Goes on a Dark Apostle and while this detachment will have you racing forward with him alongside combat cultists, it’s still probably not something you want to spend a relic slot on. C
  • Stratagem: Ritual Offerings (1 CP). Use when an enemy model is destroyed by a Cult of the Damned Cultists unit in the Fight phase. That unit automatically passes Morale tests for the rest of the battle. The “rest of the battle” rider is neat, but the times you want this are for when your Cultist blob has wiped out a unit in combat, but taken enough losses that it’d like take significant morale losses on top of that. With a Dark Apostle nearby, that means losing something like 8+ models, at which point your unit has at most something like 20 models and has already lost a third of its combat efficiency. It’s better than spending 2 CP for Insane Bravery but the entire point of Cultists is that they’re cheap and now you’re spending 1-2 CP to save a 120-point unit of T3 6+ save dorks that will become progressively less effective at fighting. C
  • Chorus of the True Faith (1 CP). Use when a Cult of the Damned Dark Apostle in your army chants a prayer. If there are any friendly Cult of the Damned Cultists within 6″ of that Apostle, they get +1 to their prayer attempt. You pair this with Dark Disciples and boom–you’ve got a 1+ prayer roll that you literally cannot fail (as there is no rule saying that a roll of 1 always fails for chanting prayers). This isn’t worth a 2 CP investment to get to this point, since having a 2+ and re-rolling will cover you most of the time just fine, but there’s conceivably a 2 Apostle/3 cultist Battalion that could be funny with this, though it’s hard to imagine that you need 100% reliability on your prayers to make that worth building. B

Daemonkin Ritualists

Credit: Charlie A

One of the three Specialists Detachments that sees regular tournament play, the Daemonkin Ritualists detachment gives the Daemonkin Ritualists keyword to all Dark Apostles, Dark Disciples, Masters of Possession, Possessed, and Greater Possessed in the detachment and focuses on buffing Possessed and Masters of Possession. You’re primarily taking this for the Vessels for the Neverborn Stratagem, which is a key buff for the large Possessed squad that makes up the core of the Possessed Bomb strategy. The Warlord Trait is also a strong boost for the unit. The relic and second Stratagem are pretty skippable, though.

  • Warlord Trait: Shepherd of the True Faith. Each time you roll an unmodified wound roll of 6 for an attack made by a melee weapon for a friendly Daemonkin Ritualists unit within 6″, that attack does an extra mortal wound to the target. The big benefit here is with a 20-man blob of Possessed, where the sheer volume of attacks you’re putting out will mean a reliable stream of additional mortal wounds to finish off your targets, especially bigger ones. B+
  • Relic: The Burning Rod. Upgrades a force staff – so basically the Master of Possession’s weapon – to one with S+3, AP-1 and D3 damage, that lets you drop an additional mortal wound on the unit of your choice within 1″ of the bearer. Not nearly strong enough to be worth a relic slot in a Chaos Space Marines army. D
  • Stratagem: Vessels of the Neverborn (1 CP). Use at the start of the Fight phase on a Daemonkin Ritualists DAEMON unit from your army that’s within 6″ of a Daemonkin Ritualists Master of Possession. It gets +1 Strength and +1 Attacks until the end of the phase. This is straight fire, and the reason you’re taking this detachment. You will open-palm windmill slam this onto a large squad of Possessed 100% of the time, and this is basically the only reason to have a Master of Possession in your army. Sure, they can do other things, but this is why they’re here. Remember that because it’s until the end of the phase, if you end up fighting twice with Fury of Khorne, the Stratagem still applies. A+
  • Stratagem: Souls of the Devoted (1 CP). Use at the start of your Movement phase. Pick a Daemonkin Ritualists POSSESSED unit from your army and a friendly Daemonkin Ritualists character within 6″ of that unit. The Possessed takes D3 mortal wounds and the character regains that many. This is pretty much trash, since your Master of Possession’s protection is the Character rule (and if he’s getting targeted outside of that, he’s not gonna survive to use this), and because your Possessed wounds tend to be more valuable than the Master of Possessed. D

Devastation Battery

The Devastation Battery specialist detachment gives <LEGION> CHAOS LORDS, WARPSMITHS (this includes Lords Discordant), HAVOCS, and OBLITERATORS the DEVASTATION BATTERY keyword and access to a host of useful buffs and Stratagems that really help boost the effectiveness of Chaos Shooting. The only reason this hasn’t made any kind of competitive impact is that Chaos Shooting still stinks, and the best units in the Chaos Shooting arsenal are Forge World Dreadnoughts, who can’t benefit from this detachment. Still, there’s an outside case to be made for running your Obliterators as part of one of these, or if you’re going to run Havocs, you may as well, though you won’t have the most competitive list.

  • Warlord Trait: Armour Bane. Re-roll wound rolls of 1 for attacks made by friendly Devastation Battery units within 6″ if the target is a vehicle. The real upside here is that, while Marines are lousy with (an even better version of) this ability on Lieutenants, Chaos just doesn’t get many ways to re-roll wounds, and none for shooting, and so it’s a powerful improvement to either Havocs, where you’ll want it on a barebones Chaos Lord to provide double-auras, or on a Terminator Lord teleporting in with Obliterators. The vehicle restriction isn’t ideal but you’ll almost always have a target or two to make use of this. The upside is that the Field Commander Stratagem is used before the start of the battle, giving you a little leeway if you aren’t sure if you want to spend the CP every game. A
  • Relic: The Daemon’s Eye. At the start of your Shooting phase, pick a friendly Devastation Battery unit within 6″. Enemy units don’t get the benefit of cover against that unit’s weapon this phase. Another solid ability, though notably worthless if you’re playing Iron Warriors. Helpful against the modern version of the Raven Guard Chapter Tactic, but there will likely be enough games where this doesn’t matter to make not taking it the right move. B-
  • Stratagem: Wall-Breakers (1 CP). Use at the start of your Shooting phase. Pick a Devastation Battery unit in your army and you can re-roll damage attacks for ranged weapons in that unit targeting BUILDINGS until the end of the phase. Welp, here’s one of the other reasons no one uses this Detachment. You’re never going to use this ability outside of narrative play. F
  • Stratagem: Punishing Volley (1 CP). Use at the end of your opponent’s first Movement phase, if you didn’t have the first turn. Pick a Devastation Battery unit in your army and it can shoot as if it were the Shooting phase. This is flat-out amazingif you can actually use it. It’s basically a free extra round of shooting before your opponent gets to take an action, but the requirements that you be going second and have the unit on the table to shoot with means that it’s mostly going to apply to Havocs outfitted with long-range weapons, and your opponent can play around it if they know it’s coming. Still, it’s a powerful ability and it only costs 1 CP. A

Fallen Angels

More a novelty than anything you’d actually use, the Fallen Angels detachment gives the FALLEN ANGELS keyword to a Vanguard Detachment of FALLEN, plus Chaos Rhinos and Chaos Sorcerers, letting you essentially expand the number of Fallen units you can work with. The abilities it gives you aren’t particularly good, and there’s no special warlord trait, only an extra ability that Cypher gets if he’s in there (which he will be, because otherwise what are you even doing).

  • Agent of Discord. Cypher gets this in a Fallen Angels detachment. It makes it so that enemy units within 12″ of Cypher can’t use any abilities, Warlord Traits, or Relics that let them gain/return/refund CP, and the range on it ups to 18″ while there are 10+ friendly FALLEN ANGELS within 12″ and 24″ if there are 20+. It’s remarkably narrow for a faction that no one plays and given the hoops you have to jump through, but it doesn’t cost you another CP.
  • Relic: Caliban Steel Blade. Replaces a force sword with one that gives you D6 damage on wound rolls of 6+. It’s a marginal improvement, but at least you can use Veterans of the Long War to cause it to go off on rolls of a 5+.
  • Stratagem: Without a Trace (1 CP). Use at the start of the enemy Shooting phase to give a FALLEN ANGELS unit that is entirely on/within a terrain feature -1 to be hit until the end of the phase. A fine way to help keep a unit of Fallen around, and you can stack it on your FALLEN ANGELS Rhinos’ smoke grenades to get -2 to be hit for one unit. Which won’t really matter because there’s no reason to shoot a rhino full of fallen. C+
  • Stratagem: Ancient Enmity (1 CP). Use when a FALLEN ANGELS unit fights. You can re-roll wound rolls for attacks made by that unit targeting DARK ANGELS until the end of the phase. OK, sure. I mean, if you’re playing with Fallen it’s probably for a narrative game against Dark Angels anyways. D

Host Raptorial

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

One of the three competitive Specialist Detachment, Host Raptorial gives <LEGION> Jump Pack units the Host Raptorial Keyword. From there the detachment gives you access to a fantastic warlord trait and two solid stratagems – Vicious Descent and Terror Strike, the later of which works very well with the Night Lords rules from Faith & Fury. Armies planning to use Warp Talons as disruption vectors or as melee threats essentially need the Host Raptorial detachment, both for the bonuses it gives and the help it provides making additional charges out of Deep Strike.

  • Warlord Trait: The Tip of the Claw. Add 2 to charge rolls for HOST RAPTORIAL units within 6″. This is amazingly good, taking you from a 28% chance of making a 9″ charge out of Deep Strike to a 58% chance before you add in any re-rolls. For Warp Talons, who don’t have access to the icon of Khorne, this is extremely important. And because it’s an aura, it can benefit multiple units at a time. If you’re taking Warp Talons, you’re putting them in a Host Raptorial and if you’re taking a Host Raptorial, you’re taking this trait. A+
  • Relic: Chiropteran Wings. When you move over units in the Movement or Charge phases, roll a D6 for every enemy unit you pass over and on a 4+ they suffer D3 mortal wounds. This is an interesting, quirky relic that would be a lot better if you were actually likely to put your warlord on the battlefield turn 1 and have him jump over units. Otherwise it’s a fun ability but you want your Jump Pack Lord to be a murderblender in melee combat and this isn’t as good as your other options, which is a bit of a shame. C+
  • Stratagem: Vicious Descent (1 CP). Use when a Host Raptorial unit is set up on the table at the end of the Movement phase. You can re-roll hit rolls for that unit until the end of the turn. OK so on the plus side, this is really strong and you want to use it almost every game. Also, it’s worded so it can help you with shooting if you decide to bring Raptors as a fun goof. On the other hand, that same wording will screw you over time and again because you’re going to forget the correct timing for using this Stratagem. Strong ability, just set a reminder or make sure you don’t forget to pop it off before your Movement phase ends. A
  • Stratagem: Terror Strike (1 CP). Use when an enemy unit is destroyed by a Host Raptorial unit from your army. Enemy units within 6″ of that unit get -1 to their Ld until the end of the turn. Theoretically you can stack this in the Shooting and Fight phases if you get real solid with Raptors and Warp Talons but more realistically you’d use it after mulching a unit with Warp Talons. It’s near worthless on its own but combined with the Ld modifiers you can get from the Night Lords’ Legion Trait, you can easily get that to -3 or -4 and turn 1-2 casualties on a squad into something more troubling. C+

Soulforged Pack

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The third competitive Chaos Space Marines Detachment, though less popular than it used to be. The Soulforged Pack gives the SOULFORGED PACK keyword to WARPSMITH (nb: Lords Discordant have this) and DAEMON ENGINE units. The key benefits of this detachment are based around pushing Daemon Engines into melee combat. It’s good with the faction’s best Daemon Engines, both smaller options like the Venomcrawler or Maulerfiend, and larger options like the Kytan Daemon Engine or the Lord of Skulls. If you’re taking Daemon Engines, you want this, if only for the ability to get additional movement and the ability to Advance and Charge in the same turn.

  • Warlord Trait: Master of the Soulforges. Add 2″ to the Move characteristic of friendly Soulforged Pack Daemon Engines within 6″. A nice little boost that’s particularly good for Daemon Engines that want to get into melee combat as quickly as possible. You want to give this to a Lord Discordant, who will benefit from the boost himself, and going from 10″ to 12″ movement is a solid upgrade and it’ll help him keep up. A
  • Relic: Mecha-Serpents. Custom mechatendrils (they replace a Warpsmith’s/Lord Discordant’s Mechatendrils) that do exactly one additional attack for each enemy model within 1″ at S+1, AP-1 and 2 damage. It’s interesting, but unlikely to be something your Lord Discordant actually gets much use out of, despite his large base size. The upside is that there are plenty of other things you’d rather give a Lord Discordant. C
  • Stratagem: Daemonforge Overdrive (1 CP). Use at the start of the Fight phase. Pick a Soulforged Pack Daemon Engine in your army. It counts as having double the number of wounds left for the purposes of determining which profile to use. This is a nifty ability to have in your back pocket, but keep in mind that some Daemon Engines improve at melee combat as their wounds decrease. B
  • Stratagem: Infernal Engines (1 CP). Use at the start of your Charge phase to let a Soulforged Pack Daemon Engine Charge even if it Advanced this turn. This is really good and for some high-movement daemon engines like the Kytan, pretty much guarantees you can get off a turn 1 charge. Just make sure you don’t outkick your coverage with your extra speed. A


Warlord Traits

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Space Marines warlords have access to 6 generic traits in the codex, plus a set specific to legions that were reprinted in Faith and Fury along with new legion-specific traits, so we’ll talk about those later on. The Codex Warlord Traits are, overall, fine but not amazing-but Vigilus and Faith & Fury add some real gems (which we’ll cover in the legion sections). Shadowspear also added 6 additional traits exclusive to psykers that have inexplicably not been reprinted anywhere but are very solid, particularly if you’re playing a Black Legion or Alpha Legion army, each of which is able to take multiple warlord traits.

Codex Warlord Traits

  • Eternal Vendetta. Re-roll failed wound rolls in the Fight phase against ADEPTUS ASTARTES targets. Cool against Marines but completely worthless at all other times. F
  • Flames of Spite. If you roll a 6+ to wound with a melee attack made by your warlord, the target takes 1 mortal wound in addition to any other damage. This can be really nasty when paired with a Dark Apostle and Veterans of the Long War, allowing you to knock out mortal wounds on rolls of a 4+. It’s also pretty solid on a Warlord who can put out a ton of attacks, most notably a Lord Discordant. B
  • Unholy Fortitude. Your Warlord gets +1 Wound and ignores incoming damage on a 6+++. Won’t make your warlord any better in combat, but will help keep them alive and can be particularly helpful on a larger target like the Lord Discordant. B
  • Hatred Incarnate. Re-roll wound rolls of 1 for attacks made by your Warlord. This is solid, particularly if you aren’t going to have an Exalted Champion around – which is most of the time. It’s not amazing, but it’s among the better Codex options. B
  • Lord of Terror. When enemy units take morale tests within 6” of your warlord, they roll 2D6 and take the highest result. This will rarely matter, though it can potentially be a little bit more valuable if you’re rocking a lot of Night Lords morale debuffs. Still not worth taking over your other options, though. D
  • Exalted Champion. You get +1 Attack. If there’s a less flashy trait than this, I’m not sure what it is. Still, it may not be flashy, but it’s solid and Chaos Warlords will take all the attacks they can get. A

Shadowspear Warlord Traits

If a Psyker Character is your Warlord, you can generate a trait for him from this table instead of the of the one in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. These are solid but haven’t been printed anywhere else, and can be kind of a chore to find. These are particularly useful for Black Legion armies using the Council of Traitors Stratagem to get warlord traits on a Dark Apostle and a Sorcerer.

  • Arch-Sorcerer. Your Warlord knows an extra psychic power from any discipline they have access to. A great way to get that third power you often need if you want the extra versatility on your sorcerer, so you can have Warptime, Prescience, and either Death Hex or the god-specific power. A
  • Devourer of Magic. Your Warlord can attempt to deny an extra power each phase, and when they do they regain 1 lost wound each time they successfully deny. The extra deny is a pretty nice bonus here, and regaining wounds is just icing on the cake. B
  • Reader of Fate. Once per battle, you can re-roll a failed Psychic test or Deny the Witch attempt. In addition, each time your warlord manifests a psychic power, roll a D6 and on a 6 you gain 1 CP. This is also a neat way to help push through powers and save CP, and is one of a very few means that Chaos Space Marines have to regain CP (the other being the Trusted War-Leader Warlord Trait). B
  • Infernal Gaze. Increases the range on Smite to 24″ for your Warlord. Neat, but Thousand Sons just get this as their legion trait and there’s nothing stopping you from taking a detachment of those. A
  • Warp Lord. You can re-roll rolls of 1 when taking a Psychic test for your warlord. One of the few dependable ways to help improve your casting odds that Chaos Space Marines have access to, and a great way to help avoid getting Perils of the Warp. Extremely helpful for ensuring that you get off Prescience when you need it. A
  • Daemon-Bound Power. Add 1 to your Warlord’s Strength and you can re-roll damage rolls for their force weapon. This is really only going to matter on Sorcerers and Masters of Possession (Daemon Princes can still take this but all they get is +1 Strength, though that’s not nothing), and most of the time you won’t want to focus on making those better at melee when they could be better at casting. C



Night Lords Champion Chaos Space Marine Night Lords , Painted by Tyler "Coda" Moore

Painted by Tyler “Coda” Moore

Chaos Space Marines have access to a variety of relics; there are those in their codex, which include a set of god-specific relics and a set of legion-specific relics, plus another set of legion-specific relics in Vigilus and Faith & Fury. Note that legion relics are not locked to legion detachments — even those in Faith and Fury can be taken for a <LEGION> character as long as the Warlord is a Chaos Space Marines character (you don’t need a legion detachment). Overall the Chaos Space Marine relics are pretty damn good – there’s something for every build here, and almost every legion has at least one stand-out relic.

  • Talisman of Burning Blood – KHORNE model only. You can advance and charge in the same turn, and you can re-roll failed charges. Great relic, great boost for a Khorne character, and a great way to make sure you are keeping up with a unit holding an Icon of Wrath. A
  • Eye of Tzeentch – TZEENTCH model only. Get +1 to your Psychic tests when attempting to manifest Smite. Just kind of a “meh” bonus, especially when there are other options out there. C
  • Intoxicating Elixir – SLAANESH model only. The model gets +1 to its Strength and Attacks. Straight upgrade to any character you slap it on, especially Daemon Princes, Lord Discordants and Smash Lords, and it’s relevant on all three. Lords Discordant in particular enjoy having 9 Strength on the Charge and 8 afterward, and the extra Attack is especially meaningful when it can also proc additional attacks thanks to the Flawless Host legion and Warlord traits. A
  • Puscleaver – NURGLE model only. Replaces a power sword with a relic that’s S User, AP-2, D3 Damage but it wounds on a 2+ if the target isn’t a VEHICLE. Cute, but dropping to AP-2 hurts it and most of the time the Murder Sword is a better option. C
  • Axe of Blind Fury – KHORNE model only. Replaces a power axe with one that is S+3, AP-3, D3 damage and gives the bearer Kharn’s ability, i.e. you can’t re-roll hit rolls of 1 for attacks with the Axe of Blind Fury and instead 1s are allocated to a friendly unit within 1″ if there is one. This just isn’t a big enough buff for that downside, and it suffers from only being D3 damage. If this was flat 3 damage, we’d be talking. C
  • The Murder Sword – Replaces a power sword. S +1 AP-4, 1 Damage. But at the start of the game you nominate one enemy CHARACTER to be the sword’s target and whenever you hit that character, you do a mortal wound instead of the normal damage. That’s hilariously strong but having a sword that only works on one character and is terrible everywhere else just isn’t a great strategy. Though it is funny against something like knights, where it will be near-impossible for your opponent to hide their character. On the other hand, you aren’t going to do 24 mortal wounds to it before it stomps you to death. C

Daemon Weapons

Faith and Fury introduced a new set of relics for every legion to access in Daemon Weapons. Daemon Weapons are a set of five relics that can be taken by Characters in any Chaos Space Marines army; four are dedicated to a specific Chaos god (and keyword-locked), and the fifth is open to Chaos undivided. Daemon Weapons are basically Relic weapons except they have the Daemon Weapon rule, which has you roll a D6 the first time you choose a model to fight each Fight phase. On a 1, you take a mortal wound and can’t use the weapon in the phase. On a 2+ you fight as normal. Basically, what Abaddon has with Drach’nyen, and like with Drach’nyen, many of the Daemon Weapons have abilities that key off the roll. Several of these also have replacement options for Daemon Princes as well, so they aren’t just for Chaos Lords. Now that Tzeentch Winged Daemon Princes will cost you more, the vanilla codex crew are worth a bit more consideration.

  • Q’D’AK, The Boundless – Replaces a Power Sword/Hellforged Sword/Force Sword on a Tzeentch model. S User, AP -3 and D3 damage seems pretty meh compared to other relics. However it has the party trick of: “When resolving an attack made with this weapon, invulnerable saves cannot be made,” which can make it good for character hunting or dealing with nasty smash Captains, provided you get the first swing in. B
  • Thaa’ris and Rhi’ol, The Rapacious Talons – Replaces a Slaanesh model’s lightning claws/malefic talons. S User, AP -2, D2. Re-roll the wound roll and add the result of your daemon weapon roll (provided it wasn’t a 1) to your model’s Attacks characteristic this phase. Replacing lightning claws, this is merely neat. This combines nicely with a Flawless Host’s Renegade Trait, Death to Imperfect on a Chaos Lord with Jump Pack with the Ultimate Confidence Warlord Trait. Doing 5+D6 attacks on the charge, causing two extra hits on a 6, 1 on a five creates a fun-to-use blender. In all, you want these when you know you’ll be going up against infantry, which make them good on a Host Raptorial warlord charging in with Raptors against Infantry squads and less great when you want something approximating a smash captain. A
  • Zaall, the Wrathful – Replaces a Khorne model’s Power Sword or Hellforged Sword. S User, AP -5, 2 Damage, and each round you add your roll for the Daemon weapon to the model’s strength. AP-5 is spicy but on the whole this comes off as a less reliable burning blade. The big upside is that it’s relatively low-cost from a points standpoint, and much better on a Winged Daemon Prince where your starting strength is already high. It’s very good for cutting through Assault Centurions and enemy planes. B+
  • G’Holl’Ax, Fist of Decay – Replaces a Nurgle model’s Power Fist. Sx2, AP -3, 3 Damage, and gives you -1 to your hit roll, which means it’s going to kill your Death to the False Emperor ability, but it always wounds on an unmodified 2+. Cheaper than a Thunder Hammer with most of the upside and much better at wounding knights and other large targets with T6+. Strong enough to be worth looking at. B
  • Ul’’O’Cca, The Black Axe – Replaces a Power/Force/Demonic Axe with one that has a profile of S User, Ap 0, D1, but it causes a mortal wound in addition to your other damage every time you roll an unmodified 4+ on your wound rolls. This is a weird option – throwing out mortal wounds is pretty good, but your damage ceiling is basically the number of attacks you make, and more often than not you’re just doing half your attacks as mortal wounds with this guy because the base attacks on this are awful. If you want something for cracking powerful characters there are going to be better options – even against stuff that’s in the sweet spot of “has an invulnerable save” and “has few enough wounds to be threatened by this” you’re probably better off just throwing out a ton of 2- and 3-damage attacks for them to save against. C


The Legions of Chaos

Space Marines have Chapters, Chaos Space Marines have Legions. There are 9 original traitor legions, two of which – Death Guard and Thousand Sons – have their own codexes (and their own Start Competing articles). The remaining 7 are covered in Codex: Chaos Space Marines, Vigilus Ablaze, and Faith & Fury. There are also another six Renegade legions covered in Vigilus Ablaze to give you some alternate options for homebrew chapters. The big difference between the founding legions and the Renegades is that the Renegades tend to have better legion traits, but can’t use the Veterans of the Long War stratagem, which is a fairly hefty blow. Also the renegade chapters only have 1 stratagem/warlord trait/relic each, and aren’t nearly as fleshed out as the first founding legions at this point. Some of them are still pretty good, though.

In this section, we’ll dive into each legion and explore their Warlord Traits, Relics, Stratagems, and how they stack up. I have listed the legions in alphabetical order.

Alpha Legion

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Alpha Legion are masters of stealth and guerilla warfare, typically relying on covert ops to get the job done and sending forward operatives to lead cultist uprisings to destabilize planets ahead of their arrival. They’re probably the strongest choice among Chaos legions rules-wise thanks to a great set of stratagems and hands-down the best legion trait. Most Possessed Bomb armies take Alpha Legion as their legion in order to make their Possessed as difficult to kill as possible, stacking to hit modifiers to protect it as it slogs across the table. Alpha Legion also support this strategy well with a series of Stratagems that allows them to move things around pre-game and deploy forward, cutting the distance between armies and helping them get their Possessed into the comfortable safety of those mid-table NOVA Ls.

Legion Trait: Hidden in Plain Sight

Units shooting at units with this trait more than 12″ away get -1 to their To Hit rolls. Simple, powerful, and easy to take advantage of. It stacks wonderfully with the Miasma of Pestilence psychic power and Benediction of Darkness prayer to make a unit -3 to be hit, and you can get that up further with the right combination of Daemons units. It’s a great passive buff to units across the board.

Warlord Traits

Alpha Legion have access to some very solid Warlord Traits. Clandestine and Master of Diversion are particularly useful, while I Am Alpharius just isn’t what it used to be.

  • I Am Alpharius. When you pick this, you randomly generate another trait from uh, Codex: Chaos Space Marines. If that model is destroyed, you can immediately pick another Alpha Legion character from your army to get this trait and another one. You can keep doing this until all models are destroyed. This has always been funny and flavorful, but now that you have five better options it looks a lot worse. Also, poor wording on it means that you’re stuck with the pretty mediocre options from the original Codex instead of the cool new legion-specific traits. C
  • Clandestine. When resolving an Attack made against this Warlord, subtract 1 from the hit roll. This is amazing on a Lord Discordant, who was already a strong choice in an Alpha Legion list. Being able to rock a Lord Discordant who can get -2 to be hit from more than 12” away gives you the ability to soak up a lot of whiffed shots before you close the distance, and the survivability boost is just great. A
  • Headhunter. This Warlord can target Character units even if they aren’t the closest. Also when you make a ranged attack, an unmodified hit roll of 6 does 1 mortal wound to the target in addition to other damage. This is also pretty good, but hampered by the lack of high-volume shooting on Chaos Warlord options. Your best bet is, again, a Lord Discordant, where the autocannon gives you two long-range, AP-1, 2-damage shots to play with. Alternatively a Chaos Lord on Bike with a Combi Bolter can put out a pretty good volume of shots, and might be worth considering for this. Lord Arkos might also be a good fit for this, since he’s got a Meltagun, or a Hellwright on a Dark Abeyant, if you want to get real cute. B
  • Master of Diversion. At the start of the first battle round, before the first turn, pick up to 3 other friendly Alpha Legion units on the battlefield. Remove them and set them up again following the usual rules for deployment and mission. If you redeploy a transport, the models inside move with it. This is a good ability wherever it turns up, and another one that being able to add as a second trait is real good. A
  • Cult Leader. When you roll a 6 to wound with Alpha Legion Cultist units within 6” of this warlord, you improve their AP by 1. A neat way to potentially make Cultist shooting valuable, marred by the fact that Cultists have been nerfed to the point where it isn’t worth it to take large blobs of them. B-
  • Faceless Commander. Once per battle, at the end of your Movement phase, you can pick up this warlord and set them back down within 3” of an Alpha Legion Infantry unit and more than 9” away from any enemy models.This is a fun little ability and useful for zipping a daemon prince around the table or just helping support specific objectives. B


Alpha Legion also have some of the best Stratagems that Chaos Space Marines can take, helping protect key units (like Possessed) and deploy them forward to close the distance they need to travel to get off turn 1 charges. It’s a strong bunch of tricks that work well with a variety of units.

  • Forward Operatives (1 CP). Use when you set up an Alpha Legion infantry unit during deployment. At the start of the first battle round you can move them up to 9”, and cannot end up within 9” of any enemy models. Even nerfed from its original version, this stratagem is a solid way to establish early board control and get key units further up the board and in position to make a turn 1 charge. A
  • Conceal (2 CP). Use at the start of your opponent’s Shooting phase. Pick an Alpha Legion Infantry unit in your army. Until the end of the phase, it can’t be shot at unless it’s the closest visible target. This is another hilarious way to screw with your opponent, and just a common way we’re protecting units now in 8th edition. This is predominantly used with Possessed to keep them from being shot at while a base of Nurglings is  A
  • Sabotaged Armory (1 CP). Use when an enemy vehicle is destroyed. If you have any Alpha Legion units on the table, your opponent adds 3 to one of the D6 rolled for the explosion roll, and they can’t re-roll the results. This is a hilarious way to punish your opponent for castling, particularly with Forge World units that like to do D6 mortal wounds when they explode. Situational, but hilarious and potentially huge when it happens. If you’ve ever had a vehicle blow up in your backline and completely destroy your whole army on turn 1, you know how big a deal this can be. B
  • Scrambled Coordinates (1 CP). Use in your opponent’s Movement phase, when they’re setting up a unit arriving as reinforcements, but before it’s placed on the table. That unit has to be set up more than 12” away from any Alpha Legion units in your army rather than 9”. A neat way to turn all your Alpha Legion units into Infiltrators for a turn, and helpful for preventing charges you don’t want. It’s particularly spicy because it happens after your opponent is committed to putting the unit down, which means that a big unit of Cultists screening out can completely wreck something like a Raven Guard Centurions’ ability to position. Do note that unlike Infiltrators’ ability, it only affects a single unit, and so things like Genestealer Cults will just be able to power past you with multiple units or Perfect Ambush. Still an A
  • Renascent Infiltration (1 CP). Use at the end of your Movement phase. Pick an Alpha Legion Infantry unit from your army that is more than 1” away from any enemy models and didn’t arrive as reinforcements this turn. Remove that unit from the battlefield. Set it up again at the end of your next movement phase, more than 9” away from any enemy models. Any models that can’t be set up when this happens are destroyed, and if it doesn’t come back before the battle ends, it’s destroyed. This is another cool re-positioning ability that allows you to potentially protect a unit for a full turn, then drop it onto an objective one turn later. It’s potentially good for protecting Cultists late-game before you drop them on an objective you couldn’t reach otherwise, but less so for units that want to shoot things. You can also use it to effectively do a turn 2 Deep Strike with any INFANTRY unit, setting up out of line of sight and then using this to deliver a key unit into proper position to strike or to use Scrambled Coordinates to mess up an opponent’s plans. B
  • Ambush (2 CP). Use in your opponent’s Movement phase, after an enemy unit is set up on the battlefield as reinforcements. Pick an Alpha Legion unit within 18” of that unit to shoot at it as if it were your Shooting phase. This doesn’t have the usual -1 rider and can be very strong if you have the firepower to make an opponent pay. B
  • Feigned Retreat (1 CP). Use in the Movement phase after an Alpha Legion unit falls back. It can still shoot. This is a wonderful ability, and it’s great that Chaos finally has it. A
  • We Are Alpharius (1 CP). Use before the battle to give another Alpha Legion character a Warlord trait. You can’t pick the same trait twice and can only use this Stratagem once. This is great for getting Clandestine and Cult Leader and Master of Diversion into the same army. A


The Alpha Legion relics are a weird bunch. There’s a pair of swords, an armor upgrade, a couple of bolt weapons, and then two more “out there” relics. Of all of these, the Hydra’s Wail is the most interesting, giving Alpha Legion their own kind of Agents of Vect.

  • Blade of the Hydra. Replaces a chainsword with a swords that’s S+1, AP-2, 2 damage and every time you fight, you get an extra +D3 attacks with this weapon. It’s a fine little upgrade and replacing a chainsword makes it free, but it’s probably not going to be your first relic. Fine as an add-on for a Smash Lord, though. B-
  • Drakescale Plate. Infantry only. This model gets a 2+ save and when they take a mortal wound, roll a D6; on a 5+ you don’t lose that wound. Most useful on a Jump Pack Chaos Lord. B
  • Mindveil. At the start of your Movement phase, if this relic holder is on the table, roll 3D6 and until the end of the Movement phase, their Move characteristic becomes that result. Also this model can move over enemy models and terrain as if they weren’t there and in the Charge phase it can move over non-building models as if they weren’t there and it can charge in a turn in which it fell back. So kind of like a weird, variable, charge-after-falling-back Jump Pack. Most of the time you’ll be looking at 8 to 12” movement, but it’s gonna feel real bad the first time you roll a 3 or 4. Where this does add value is on a Lord DIscordant running alongside infantry, as it removes a lot of the challenge with avoiding blocking your movement. Combined with Warptime, this can also let them circumvent problematic terrain that enemy forces might be trying to hide behind. B
  • Hydra’s Wail. Once per battle at the start of a battle round, a model with this relic that’s on the table can activate it. Until the end of the battle round, when an opponent spends CP to use a Stratagem, roll a D6; on a 4+ they have to spend an extra CP to use that Stratagem or else it has no effect and the CP is lost. This is a brutal ability that can really make or break an enemy’s turn and You’ll almost always want to use it on turn 1 or 2, depending on who you’re facing. It’s a very, very good ability to have. A
  • Viper’s Bite. Replaces a combi-bolter. 24” Range, Rapid FIre 2, S5, AP-2, D2. Solid, and potentially very useful when combined with the Headhunter Warlord Trait. B-
  • Hydra’s Teeth. Model with a bolt weapon. The model’s bolt weapons get the following abilities: This weapon automatically hits its target, wounds on a 2+ unless targeting a vehicle/titanic unit, in which case it wounds on a 6+, and units don’t get the benefit of cover against this weapon’s shots. Another very interesting combo with Headhunter, and potentially hilarious on a Chaos Lord on Bike rocking an extra Combi-bolter for 8 shots. C+
  • Shadeblade. Replaces a power sword or force sword. S+1, AP-3, d3 Damage and attacks (all attacks, not just melee) against the bearer get -1 to hit. This is good clean fun as relic weapons go – it gets a character to the key break points for “meaningfully contribute to melee in 8th” (S5 and multi-damage) and has another buff too. B+

Special Characters

There’s a single Alpha Legion Special Character, Lord Arkos, Master of the Faithless. Arkos comes with a Combi-Melta and the Black Blade of Venom, a 3-damage, AP-2 S User weapon that gives +1 to wound rolls against any non-vehicle targets. He’s also got a host of special rules, and they’re all at least decent:

  • Lord of the Faithless gives +1 to Advance and Charge rolls for friendly THE FAITHLESS units within 6″, but while Arkos has gotten Errata to have both the “Alpha Legion” and “The Faithless” keywords, the Alpha Legion units around him won’t, meaning his ability really only helps his advance and charge rolls. Still, not terrible and it makes Arkos himself a threat to charge after redeploying with Renascent Infiltration.
  • Arch-Villain gives you +1 CP if Arkos is your warlord.
  • Infiltrator allows him to be deployed anywhere more than 12″ from an enemy unit.
  • Aura of Dark Majesty trades the standard Chaos Lord 4+ invulnerable save for a 5+ and a -1 to be hit in the Shooting phase.

Arkos isn’t the most competitive option out there — he doesn’t hit hard enough and the things he does, while interesting, aren’t always what the Chaos Space Marines army typically wants to do — but he can work in some Alpha Legion lists, even those focused on Possessed Bombs. As your Warlord, Arkos has the benefit of not being bound to a pre-set Warlord Trait, leaving you free to give him Headhunter or Clandestine as a Warlord Trait. At 21 points more than a standard Chaos Lord, Arkos is a bit pricier, but gives you enough in terms of wargear and abilities to make up for it.

The Black Legion

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The poster boys of the Chaos Space Marines faction, the Black Legion got a little screwed by being the first subfaction to get the “supplement” treatment, getting a list of relics, warlord traits, and Stratagems in Vigilus Ablaze. As a faction choice, they’re… alright. They lack a powerful Legion Trait, and Cultists losing traits hurts the Black Legion particularly hard. They have decent, but not amazing, relics, stratagems, and warlord traits. Their biggest unique selling point is Abaddon, who’s quite the beast in combat and can give nearby Black Legion units full re-rolls to hit.Black Legion Chaos Space Marine armies can be decent, but aren’t gonna be nearly as competitive as some of your other options, sadly.

Legion Trait: Black Crusaders

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

Warlord Traits

The Black Legion have a few solid Warlord Traits, and with Council of Traitors, they have a way to get multiple traits in the same army.

  • Veteran Raider. friendly Black Legion units within 6″ can Fall Back and charge in the same turn. This is pretty good! It’s a solid way to have units that can avoid being tarpitted, and a good way to re-activate Hateful Assault when you need it. It combines well with the Tip of the Spear warlord trait aura and some Warp Talons in a detachment where you are running this and a Field Commander. B+
  • Indomitable. All damage suffered by the Warlord is halved, rounded up. Between this and the Bringers of Despair warlord trait, you can effectively create your own mini-Abaddon, which is kind of neat. On its own, it’s a strong trait for protecting your warlord from all of the 2- and 3-damage shooting out there and works great on a Lord Discordant. A
  • Black-Clad Brute. Add 1 to your Warlord’s Strength and after they make a Charge move, pick an enemy within 1″ and roll a D6; on a 4+ they take D3 mortal wounds. The 4+ nature of this isn’t too bad, and +1 Strength is significant for a lot of models. The downside is that you’ve got other, better options. B
  • Soul-Eater. Each time your Warlord destroys an enemy unit, they regain D3 lost wounds. Cute, and potentially fun on a Lord Discordant, which actually has enough wounds and killing power to make use of this, but not as helpful on the whole as say, Indomitable. C+
  • Trusted War-Leader. While your Warlord’s on the battlefield, every time you spend a CP to use a Stratagem, roll a D6; on a 5+ that CP is refunded. This is pretty solid, and one of only two ways that Chaos has to regenerate CP. It’s particularly good when combined with the Council of Traitors Stratagem, which basically makes that strat free in an average game. It also helps that you’re rolling per CP spent, which is useful when you’re tossing out Endless Cacophony. B+
  • First Amongst Traitors. Death to the False Emperor triggers extra hits on a 5+ for friendly Black Legion units within 6″. This is the Codex: Chaos Space Marines trait for Black Legion and the one Abaddon is stuck with and it’s not great. Against Imperium armies sure, it’s solid, but it’s dead against anything else and even against Imperium armies there are other things you’d rather have. C


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

  • Let the Galaxy Burn (1 CP). Use when a Black Legion Infantry or Biker is picked to attack in the Shoot or Fight phases. You can re-roll hit rolls of 1 for that unit for the phase. If they’re a Chaos Space Marines unit (literally the Troops choice, by name), then you can re-roll all hit rolls for it instead. Important Note: The wording in Codex: Chaos Space Marines (II) is the old, “failed hit rolls” wording, so if you aren’t running a Black Legion Detachment, you only have access to the older, worse version. This is a pretty solid way to make sure you’re getting the benefits of a Chaos Lord without having to babysit a unit. You’re unlikely to ever use that second version, though – you aren’t going to be running large squads of Chaos Space Marines to make it worthwhile. B
  • Chosen of the Pantheon (1 CP). Use at the start of your turn to give a Black Legion unit with no mark all 4 marks (KHORNE, TZEENTCH, NURGLE, and SLAANESH) until the start of your next turn. This is cute, and there are a couple of fun tricks you can pull of with it, like having a unit of Terminators or Bikers double-shoot with Endless Cacophony and double-fight with Fury of Khorne but if you’re keeping track that’s a whopping 6 CP spent on a unit before you factor in other buffs like Veterans of the Long War. The other one is stacking multiple aura buffs from Chaos Daemons units on a Chaos Space Marine unit with the DAEMON keyword, so you can do things like have multiple herald buffs on a unit of Warp Talons (though they won’t be on the table at the start of the turn they arrive from Deep Strike). Unfortunately the reality is that there just aren’t any easy ways to use this, and even the uses it has aren’t that great, which is a shame because it should have been very good! D
  • World Killers (3 CP). Use at the start of any battle round to turn off enemy abilities that allow them to control objective markers as long as there are any Black Legion units within 3″ of the center of that objective marker until the end of the battle round, even if the enemy has more models within range of it. This is very expensive – possibly too expensive – but the ability to turn off an opponent’s entire army’s ObSec and score an easy Hold One/Hold More/Bonus Point can be massive in a close game. The fact that it goes off at the start of the battle round also helps with this. A-
  • Relics of the Long War (1/3 CP). Allows you to get 1/2 extra Black Legion relics. While there are a couple of interesting Black Legion relics, Ghorisvex’s Teeth is the only real stand-out, so you aren’t liable to use this often.
  • Merciless Fighters (1 CP). Use at the start of the Fight phase. Pick a Black Legion unit from your army and if it has more models than there are enemy models within 3″ of it, models in the unit get +1 to their Attacks for the rest of the phase. Note that you use this before you pile in, so you can get clever with the positioning of your Chargers in order to make sure this will work, since it only checks model count when you use it. +1 Attack on a big squad of Bikers, Possessed, or Terminators is a great buff to have, and this combines very well with Berserkers’ ability to fight twice and Fury of Khorne. B+
  • Tip of the Spear (1 CP). Use at the start of your first Shooting phase. You can re-roll hit rolls for the Black Legion unit from your army that is closest to an enemy unit until the end of the phase (if more than one is the same distance, you get to pick). This is an easy buff to use but hard to remember and it only works once per game. The big challenge will be that you need a unit with good shooting that doesn’t already have re-rolls – Daemon Engines already have Daemonforge to do this – and is on the table turn 1. It’s good to have when you can make something out of it, but that will be less often than you think. B-
  • Legacy of Horus (1 CP). Use at the start of the Morale phase to give +1 Ld to any non-Black Legion <LEGION> units from your army that are within 6″ of a friendly Black Legion unit. Basically intended to give you a bonus for souping Chaos Legions but the benefit is so weak that you’re never going to use this. D
  • Council of Traitors (1 CP). Use before the battle if your warlord is a BLACK LEGION CHAOS LORD, DAEMON PRINCE, or Abaddon. You can pick a Black Legion Dark Apostle and a Black Legion SORCERER to each get a Warlord Trait. You can only do this once per game and you can’t double up on traits. This is pretty great, and helps mitigate that Abaddon’s default Warlord Trait is bad. You can use this to put Trusted War-Leader on your Dark Apostle, which is probably the right play most of the time, and put a Shadowspear trait on your Sorcerer, while having Abaddon’s +2 CP benefit still kick in or using the third trait to make your Smash Lord or Lord Discordant extra beefy. Even if the units you can do this on are restrictive, sorcerers and dark apostles are great and the economy of 2 extra traits for 1 CP is amazing. A+


If you have a Chaos Space Marines warlord, you can give one of these to a Black Legion character in your army for free instead of the ones in the Codex. Or you can use Relics of the Legion to buy additional relics from this list.

  • Ghorisvex’s Teeth. Replaces a chainsword with one that’s S User, AP-3, 2 damage and every time you fight you can make 2 extra attacks with it. Also every time you roll a wound roll of 6+ with it, you do a mortal wound in addition to the standard damage. This is fantastic, in part because it’s free and in part because you can use Veterans of the Long War and the Soultearer Portent prayer to boost that to 4+. This is easily the Black Legion’s best relic, and the key ingredient in building “Chainlord” Chaos Lords that can tear things up in melee. A
  • Trophies of Slaughter. Gives +1 Ld to friendly Black Legion units within 6″ and gives -1 Ld to enemy units within 6″. While there’s some novelty in having Ld 10 on your units, you’re already +1 Ld for the legion trait and this isn’t nearly good enough to matter most of the time. D
  • Sightless Helm. Reduce the wearer’s BS by 1, but improve the AP of all their weapons by 1. Note that this applies to melee weapons, which means that on a unit that just doesn’t care about BS to begin with like a Daemon Prince or Smash Lord, this can be a powerful boost. It’s also pretty funny on a Lord Discordant with Baleflamer, which doesn’t roll to hit when you fire it at range anyways. Too bad you’ll usually want the +1 Strength from Intoxicating Elixir over the AP boost. B
  • Angelsbane. Replaces a combi-bolter. 24″ Range, Rapid Fire 2, S5 AP-2, 2 damage and this improves to 3 damage when targeting IMPERIUM units. This is pretty neat, and fun times on a Terminator Chaos Lord providing extra support to either Obliterators or a unit of Terminators, or on a bike lord bringing extra firepower. B
  • Cloak of Conquest. Each time the bearer kills an enemy character, they get +1 Strength, Attacks, and Ld for the rest of the battle. This has the potential to snowball into some hilarious buffs in a game, but most of the time you’re looking at one or two buffs at the most, and not until after you start mulching characters. Take something that’s already on when the game starts. C-
  • Spineshiver Blade. Replaces a power sword. S+1, AP-3 1 damage, and each time you fight, you can make D6 extra attacks with this weapon. the D6 extra attacks make this a kind of proto-daemon weapon and having the attacks as added value makes it better than just being a S+1 power sword, but not by enough that you’d take this over Ghorisvex’s Teeth, which costs you 0 points instead of what a Power Sword costs. C

Special Characters

There are two Black Legion special characters. One is amazing, and the other is just complete garbage. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which but I’ll give you a hint: The garbage one isn’t the faction’s leader.

Abaddon the Despoiler. The Black Legion Warmaster and basically the leader of the Chaos Space Marines faction overall, Abaddon is 210 points of complete badass on the tabletop. He’s S5, T5 with 8 Wounds, a 2+ save/4+ invulnerable, and he halves all incoming damage (rounding up). He’s got two auras, one that makes all friendly Heretic Astartes models within 12″ ignore morale, and one that allows you to re-roll hit rolls for friendly Black Legion units within 6″. On top of that, he’s got solid shooting the Talon of Horus, a D3 damage, AP-1 Combi-bolter, and he’s an absolute monster in melee thanks to 6 Attacks base plus the Talon of Horus, a Sx2, AP-4 D3 damage weapon and Drach’nyen, a daemon sword that makes D6 additional attacks (unless you roll a 1, in which case you take a MW) at S+1, AP-3 3 damage. He can mulch hordes or big targets equally, and he works well both as part of a melee vanguard or bolstering units’ shooting with his aura. Plus he’s got all four marks, so he can use Grandfather’s Blessings to heal, Fury of Khorne to fight twice, and benefit from powers like Weaver of Fates and Delightful Agonies to make him even harder to kill. If you’re taking a Black Legion army, you’re going to want to build around Abaddon most of the time because there isn’t a compelling enough reason to use them otherwise. As your Warlord Abaddon gives you +2 CP but comes with the lame First Among Traitors trait. Fortunately, you can use Council of Traitors with your extra CP to mitigate this. Or just don’t make Abaddon your Warlord, which is also just fine.

Haarken Worldclaimer. Abaddon’s herald is a Chaos Lord armed with a lightning claw and a spear that can inexplicably only be used as a ranged weapon. He’s got an aura that gives Raptors of any legion re-rolls to hit in melee within 6″, and he debuffs enemy Ld by 1 within 18″. Also, his Head-claimer ability gives him +1 Attack each time he kills an enemy character. Unfortunately, none of this matters. Raptors are awful at melee combat, so you won’t be taking them in the first place and even if you do, you won’t get much out of the re-rolls. The Attacks boost is hilarious – With only a S User, AP-2, 1 damage melee weapon, Haarken has hilariously little ability to actually kill characters he gets into combat with, so you can laugh as you see him get tarpitted by Techpriests and Guard Commanders. Haarken might be more interesting if he didn’t have a default Warlord Trait (so he could be a Host Raptorial field commander), but instead he’s stuck with Lord of Terror. 


Brazen Beasts

One of the six Renegade Chapters introduced in the Vigilus Ablaze book, the Brazen Beasts are an alternate option to the World Eaters for players who want a Khorne-devoted faction: Every model with the Brazen Beasts Keyword that can have a mark has to have the Mark of Khorne. As such, you can’t have any Brazen Beasts psykers.

Legion Trait: Rend the Foe

Each time you roll a wound roll of 6+ for an attack made by a model with this trait in the fight phase on the turn in which the model charged, was charged, or heroically intervened, that hit roll is resolved at AP-4. This is alright. It would have been pretty great if you could combine it with Veterans of the Long War to get some 5+ and 4+ triggers, but as a Renegade Chapter, you’r stuck with Soultearer Portent as your only means of boosting this. It’s going to do the most work for you on units with high attacks output, like Berserkers or Possessed, but the latter really want support from a Master of Possession and the former would rather be Red Corsairs or World Eaters most of the time.

Warlord Trait: Carve the Runes

Each time your Warlord kills an enemy character, they get +2 to their Strength and Attacks. This is a stronger boost than most of the similar effects, but still not really enough to make it the Warlord Trait you’d want to take. C

Stratagem: Burning Daemonheart (1 CP)

Use at the end of the Fight phase and pick an enemy unit within 1″ of a Brazen Beasts DAEMON ENGINE from your army. Roll a D6 and on a 2-4 it takes D3 mortal wounds, and on a 5-6 it takes 3. This is potentially a neat trick to get extra damage from your daemon engines if you can’t finish the job against a target, and another way to push out even more damage with a Lord Discordant, but not enough of a reason to take Brazen Beasts as your legion. B

Relic: Daemonflesh Plate

Gives you a 2+ save, plus +1 to your Move and Attack characteristics. Really nifty on a Winged Daemon Prince, where all of the bonuses are relevant. The downside is that you’d be taking this over the Talisman of Burning Blood. B


Crimson Slaughter

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The poster boys of 6th and 7th edition Chaos Space Marines, Crimson Slaughter have fallen out of the limelight, and no longer enjoy a full codex worth of benefits as a result. They’ve got some interesting tricks, but nothing that really jumps out or pushes a specific play style.

Warlord Trait: Maelstrom of Torment

Enemy unit within 6″ get -1 Ld and boost that to -2 within 9″ instead if your Warlord has killed any enemy models. The good news is that this is trivially easy to activate. The bad news is that even the activated version doesn’t really matter. C

Stratagem: Terrifying Phenomena (2 CP)

Use at the start of the enemy Shooting phase. Pick a terrain feature within 12″ of a Crimson Slaughter unit from your army and enemy units within 3″ of that terrain feature get -1 to their to hit rolls until the end of the phase. This is a neat ability, and a great way to punish castles and enemy backlines holed up on terrain features, filled with Thunderfire Cannons. The hard part is getting a unit near the terrain, but Heldrakes make great enablers for this with their ability to move 30″ on turn 1. B+

Relic: Blade of the Relentless

Replaces a Power Sword. S+1, AP-3, 1 damage and if you kill any enemy models in the Fight phase with this weapon, then from the end of that Fight phase onward, the weapon automatically wounds. This is pretty neat given how easy it can be to kill a single model. The downside is it’s still only a 1 damage weapon, which makes it mediocre at best. C+


Death Guard

Credit: TheChirurgeon

The Death Guard aren’t part of the Codex: Chaos Space Marines subfactions. You’ve made a wrong turn, friend. Though they share the HERETIC ASTARTES keyword with Codex brand Chaos Space Marines and can share the NURGLE keyword, making them good allies for a CSM detachment, they have their own Codex. They also have their own Start Competing article, which you can find here.


Emperor’s Children

Emperor’s Children Noise Marines. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Emperor’s Children are the primary Slaanesh-aligned faction of Chaos Space Marines, and though for a while they played second fiddle to the Flawless Host, Faith and Fury put them right back at the forefront. Emperor’s Children have access to a ton of great stratagems and boosts, giving you options regardless of whether you want to make a single big mudermonster warlord, run large blobs of Noise Marines, or play with shooting-heavy squads of Terminators or Bikers. As a Slaanesh-devoted faction, they’re interesting in soup builds as well, since Slaanesh daemons have some really strong options and make great soup partners.

Legion Trait: Flawless Perfection

Units with this ability always fight first in the Fight phase, even if they didn’t charge. If an opponent has units that charged, then you alternate activating units with this ability and those that charged, starting with the player whose turn it is. This is… just OK. It isn’t nearly as good as forcing a unit to fight last, but there are some situations — usually where you’re charged by multiple units — where it can come in handy, and you can use it to mess up an opponent’s ability to use the Counter-Offensive Stratagem with some clever play. In addition, all Emperor’s Children units have to have the Mark of Slaanesh if they can have a mark, and the faction can take Noise Marines as Troops. The Mark of Slaanesh is just fine and the Noise Marine Troops aren’t something you have to take, but do open up some interesting build opportunities. C+

Warlord Traits

Most of the Emperor’s Children Warlord Traits are about mitigating incoming damage or counterattacks, and of these the best option is Glutton for Punishment by a country mile. Loathsome Grace is also very good for upping your offensive output.

  • Stimulated By Pain. Add 1 to your attacks characteristic for each wound suffered (max 3), if you somehow regain the wounds you drop the attacks. There are just many better options than this. C
  • Intoxicating Musk. Enemy attacks made within 3” of the warlord have -1 to hit. Not a bad way to protect the warlord from getting punched back by a target that he either multi-charged or couldn’t kill, but marginal defensive boosts aren’t really what you want from your traits. C
  • Unbound Arrogance. This one is a fun mini game: When you fight with your Warlord, both you and your opponent pick a number between 1 and 3 on a dice, hiding it behind your hands. Revel the numbers. If the numbers are different add the number you chose to your attacks. This is making you work really hard to get +D3 Attacks and there are just better ways to get more attacks that don’t require you frequently guessing “2” because it’s always in your opponent’s best interests to take away the “3” option. C
  • Faultless Duellist. At the start of the fight phase, roll a D3. Until the end of the phase, subtract that many attacks from enemies within 1” of the warlord. Another way to reduce the damage you take back from nearby enemies and potentially better than Intoxicating Musk against anything with 2+ attacks. C+
  • Glutton For Punishment. Reduce any damage inflicted on the Warlord by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Very strong. You want to mitigate incoming damage on your warlord? This is the trait you want to do it with. This thing is a huge boon against Stalker Bolt Rifles and a fantastic add for your imminently shootable Lord Discordant. A
  • Loathsome Grace. Reroll charge rolls, and add 1 to your warlord’s Strength and Attacks when you charge or make a Heroic Intervention. Pretty much a copy paste of the Imperium’s Sword from Codex: Space Marines, but very helpful to have when it comes to boosting a Lord Discordant or Daemon Prince. Works very well with the Intoxicating Elixir to double up on your Attacks and Strength boosts, but also very helpful on Host Raptorial Slam Lords who want to make sure they nail their 7” charges. A


Emperor’s Children get access to a very good array of stratagems that really make them competitive with Flawless Host as a Slaanesh option and really gives a huge boost to any strategy you’d want to run Emperor’s Children with. Melee or Shooting, deployment, Terminators or bikes, possessed — there’s a lot to work with.

  • Combat Elixirs (2CP). At the start of the battle select one Emperor’s Children unit that is not a vehicle or chaos cultist. You can only use this once per battle. Apply one of the following effects of your choice:
    • +1 Attack
    • +1 Strength
    • +2” to Move
    • +1 Toughness
      Expensive, but very good. Great for pushing a character’s stat over a key threshold. Also great for boosting a squad of something like Terminators or Warp Talons that really need the boost to be viable. The flexibility is just so good. A
  • Excess Of Violence (1CP). Use this Stratagem in the Fight phase, when you choose an Emperor’s Children Infantry Unit to fight. Any time you destroy an enemy model you may make one additional attack with the same weapon against that unit. Also appears in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. It’s solid ability for clearing hordes, where it can quickly help you rack up more attacks. Note that this also triggers if a unit of yours dies and then shoots something (and kills it) using the Music of the Apocalypse ability, so you can create some fun situations where you chew through units and then, when killed, you pop off 3 shots and if one of those kills a model, you can get another shot (and shoot at things outside your combat). Note that, post-FAQ, this will only work for models killed that aren’t within 1″ of an enemy model when they die, so feel free to get creative with your wound allocations in order to make your opponent pay for causing you harm with more than a bolt pistol shot. B+
  • Incessant Disdain (1CP). Use this at the end of your opponent’s charge phase. Select one Emperor’s Children’s character and give them a 6” Heroic Intervention. You have to move towards enemy Character models OR the nearest enemy model. Very useful for creating surprise Interventions, and forces your opponent to play around some very tricky situations if they don’t want to catch a facefull of Daemon Prince when charging into your screening lines. B+
  • Honour The Prince (1CP). Use this AFTER making a charge roll for an Emperor’s Children Slaanesh unit from your army. Change the result of one of your D6 to a 6. This is an absolute pearl of a stratagem. With this it’s a mere re-rollable 3+ roll to get deep strikers in and critically you can use it after you have rolled, meaning as long as you don’t roll snake eyes your Host Raptorial slam lord is going in hot. A+
  • Excruciating Frequencies (1CP). When you select an Emperor’s Children Noise Marine unit to shoot with, use this stratagem to give them +1 S and +1 Damage on Blastmasters, Sonic Blasters and Doom Sirens to the end of the phase. This is exactly what Noise Marines need as a boost to be viable. Getting S5 D2 sonic blasters ignoring cover and firing 3 shots on the move is great, and the Blastmaster loves this just as much. Combined with Endless Cacophony to double up on boosts and you’ve got something real nice. Remember that Noise Marines can be in squads of 20. A
  • Cruel Duellists (1CP). Use when you pick an Emperor’s Children unit (but not a cultist or vehicle unit) to fight with in the fight phase. Any unmodified 6s to wound will cause the attack to be resolved at AP-3. Solid for a unit of something like Raptors or Terminators where you might have a good volume of attacks but low strength or AP because of how they’re outfitted. Shame it doesn’t combo with Veterans of the Long War. B
  • Tactical Perfection (1CP). Before the first turn begins, select one Emperor’s Children unit and redeploy it to a new position, following the deployment rules for the mission being played. If it’s a transport with models inside they too get redeployed as well. This is a very solid ability, and doesn’t carry the baggage that the Raven Guard Stratagem has, meaning you can redeploy into deep strike as long as the unit has that ability. A


The Emperor’s Children have access to a solid list of relics, with most of their options supporting the strategy of “make some insane melee characters who will be absolute buzzsaws,” though Remnant of the Maraviglia is cool for supporting a longer-ranged shooting strategy with multiple units.

  • Blissgiver. Replaces a Bolt Pistol with one that’s 6″ range, Assault D6, Strength:User, AP-1, 1 damage, can be fired within 1″ of an enemy like a pistol, and can target enemies within 1″ of a friendly. Every time it wounds but doesn’t kill a Character, roll a D6 at the end of the phase and on a 6 they take D3 mortal wounds. This is the Codex: Chaos Space Marines relic for Emperor’s Children. It’s… fine, but there isn’t anywhere you’d really wanna put it. There are better relics fighting for a slot. C-
  • The Endless Grin. Enemy units get -1 to their Leadership and roll an additional dice, dropping the one of your choice when they take Morale tests within 6” of the model with this relic. Choosing the die is interesting for when you’re up against daemons, but otherwise this is another worthless Leadership-modifying ability. D
  • Fatal Sonancy. This is a weapon with 12” range, Assault D6, S6, AP-2, 1 Damage that hits automatically and ignores cover. So a nasty flamer in other words. Interesting because it doesn’t replace an existing weapon, acting like an upgraded Doom Siren. Neat for giving your Warlord a little extra short-range damage output, but the range is probably too short and the damage too low to make this worth taking.  C
  • Armour of Abhorrence. Enemy units can not fire Overwatch at a model with this relic and if they fail a morale test within 6” of a model with this relic, an additional model flees. The morale ability is whatever, but turning off Overwatch is really good, particularly when you’re going up against Iron Hands that hit on 5s or Tau that can hit on 5s and fire with multiple units. In a meta filled with both this can prove a decisive pick. Great for a Smash Lord that can use Honour the Prince (or the Host Raptorial bonus) to charge in and prevent units from firing Overwatch at other key chargers, like your Possessed. A
  • Remnant of the Maraviglia. Priest model only. Once per battle instead of chanting and prayer, the model can broadcast the Remnant. For the rest of the battle round, reroll wound rolls within 6” of the model with the relic. This is great for Chaos, who don’t get access to Lieutenants, and something you’re always going to combine with the Endless Cacophony and Veterans of the Long War Stratagems to have an insane round of Shooting. A
  • Distortion. Replaces a Power or Force Sword, S user, AP -4, D3 Damage and you can opt at the start of the fight phase to gain -1 to hit and S x2 if you wish, turning it into an AP-4 power fist. Pretty nasty, and the dual mode gives it a lot of utility. B
  • Raiment Revulsive. A model with this relic can re-roll all charge, hit and wound rolls. All of them. Holy moly shitballs give this to a Loathsome Grace Chaos Lord with a thunder hammer and jump pack and you are in for a whale of a time. Spend a whopping 1cp for Honour The Prince and you will make sure he gets into combat almost every time. If you want to make the best murderlord possible, this is where you start. A+


The Emperor’s Children only have access to one character – Lucius the Eternal (Fabius Bile is a former member, but no longer has the keyword or the affiliation). Lucius is a bit of an oddity; he’s got a Chaos Lord’s aura and statline, but only a 5+ invulnerable save, though whenever he makes a save in the fight phase, on a D6 roll of a 4+ he causes the attacker a mortal wound. He comes with a Doom Siren and the Lash of Torment, a 6″ S User AP-1 2 damage whip that can be shot within 1″ of an enemy unit and target units within 1″ of a friendly unit. His master-crafted power sword is a nice +1 damage boost, and his Duellist’s Pride ability gives you +2 attacks if you put all of your attacks on the same character in the Fight phase. He’s a bit weird, but he’s only 11 points more than a regular Chaos Lord so if you wanted someone for backline support who can be effective in a counter-charge, he’s efficiently costed. Doesn’t bring much else to the table, though.


Flawless Host

Chaos Space Marines

Credit: That Gobbo

The former darlings of the competitive scene, the Flawless Host are a Renegade Chapter dedicated to Slaanesh and what they lack from Veterans of the Long War, they make up for in sheer volume of attacks thanks to their Legion Trait. From the moment their rules were released, Flawless Host Lords Discordant became a thing thanks to their native +1 to hit aura. Other than insanely good characters, the Flawless Host don’t have much else to offer, so you rarely see them fielded as full armies. Post-Shock Assault and CA19 points drops, it’s probably worth looking at chainsword Chaos Space Marine as troops in a Flawless Host detachment rather than Cultists, and there’s a (slight) case to be made for Flawless Host Warp Talons, just based on how you can buff them.

Legion Trait: Death to the Imperfect

Every time a unit with this ability rolls a 6+ to hit in the Fight phase, it can immediately make an extra attack against the same unit with the same weapon. These are in addition to the Death to the False Emperor attacks and they can’t generate additional attacks themselves. Also, every Flawless Host unit has to have the Mark of Slaanesh if it can have a Mark. The key part of this ability is that “6+,” which means that it can be affected by modifiers to hit. Functionally, Chaos Space Marines have two abilities that modify their to hit rolls in Melee: The Prescience Psychic power and the aura on the Lord Discordant, which gives +1 to hit to Daemon Engines, including himself. The result is an easy way to get Lords Discordant that generate new attacks on a 4+, which when combined with the Warlord Trait, can double their output. A

Warlord Trait: Ultimate Confidence

If your Warlord gets extra attacks from the Death to the Imperfect trait, they generate 3 attacks instead of 1. This basically triples the effect of your legion trait and acts as the second half of the 1-2 punch that is “making the most insane Lords Discordant you can imagine.” Even on Daemon Princes, this is a sweet ability to have. A

Stratagem: We Cannot Fail (1 CP)

Use when a Flawless Host Infantry unit fights in the Fight phase. Until the end of the turn you can re-roll hit rolls for attacks made by the unit. This is pretty great too, despite the downside of only working on Infantry (you just don’t really need it on a Lord Discordant). It makes the idea of a few squads of Chainsword-and-bolt-pistol Flawless Host Chaos Marines more appetizing than running Cultists to fill out a detachment. B+

Relic: Flawless Cloak

The bearer gets +1 Attack and the range of their aura abilities increases by 3″. This isn’t bad, but it’s not going to be your first pick for the faction when the Intoxicating Elixir is an option. Still, it’s a fine second relic and a good way to extend a Lord Discordant’s Aura of Discord. B


Iron Warriors

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The bitter, angry Marines who simulate battles with tabletop wargames, the Iron Warriors are masters of Siege Warfare. Which would be great if buildings weren’t completely worthless in Warhammer 40k. Faith and Fury gave them some new life, but not enough to really translate to competitive play. They have some neat tricks that revolve around shooting and Obliterators but well, Chaos shooting still isn’t good enough to get there, even with what I’d consider to be a pushed set of abilities in Faith and Fury. They may see more use now that Marine doctrines no longer let them sit in Devastator Doctrine all game, as being able to push a unit to ignore AP-2 is a solid boost.

Legion Trait: Siege Lords

Enemy units don’t get any bonus to their saves for being in cover when Iron Warriors are shooting at them. Also, you can re-roll failed wound rolls against BUILDINGs. That second part is worthless, but the first part of this trait has become much more relevant as Raven Guard and Stealthy Space Marine Chapters have become popular. As is, it’s serviceable but not great. B-

Warlord Traits

The Iron Warriors Warlord traits are pretty good! The best of them buff nearby units, helping get other units over the hill to respectability. Sadly, without the ability to give warlord traits to multiple characters, you’re going to have to make some tough choices, and Iron Warriors probably needed to be able to take two or three of these to get over the top competitively.

  • Cold and Bitter. When a Morale test is taken for a friendly Iron Warriors unit within 6” of this Warlord, do not roll the dice, it auto passes. This barely matters. D
  • Daemonsmith. When resolving an attack made by a model in a friendly Iron Warriors Daemon Engine or Cult of Destruction unit within 6” of this Warlord, an unmodified hit roll of a 6 scores 1 additional hit. The sheer number of things this can buff and the high volume of shots you can put out with some of those units makes this a very good ability to have. It’s particularly good with a full unit of Obliterators. A
  • Iron Without. Gives the Warlord a 5+ Feel No Pain. It’s decent, but not amazing. Best on a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant. B
  • Bastion. When resolving an attack made with a weapon that has an AP of -1 against a friendly Iron Warriors unit that is within 6” of your warlord and is in cover, the weapon is treated as AP 0. This is a decent passive buff, but really shines when combined with the Dour Duty Stratagem, which lets you drop the AP of incoming fire by another 1, letting you effectively ignore up to AP-2 for a single (key) unit. A-
  • Siege Master. Friendly Iron Warriors Havocs and Vehicles within 6” re-roll 1s to wound. Strong ability that turns a Chaos Lord into a combo Lord/Lieutenant. Good to have for Reaper Chaincannons, and just nice in general because CSM don’t get LTs. Most of the time you’ll probably be better off with Daemonsmith, but this is going to have broader applications if you aren’t running Obliterators or Daemon Engines. But you should be running those. A-
  • Stoic Advance. Friendly Iron Warriors do not suffer the penalty to moving and firing Heavy weapons while they are within 6” of this Warlord. This is also really neat, and potentially combos very nicely with a Lord Discordant who can give those same vehicles +1 to hit, allowing things like Defilers and Forgefiends to become actual threats. The only downside is that this competes directly with Daemonsmith, Bastion, and Siege Master, making it hard to justify if you aren’t running an army heavy with shooty Daemon Engines. B


The Iron Warriors have a really strong list of stratagems, and most of them are priced to move. Most are also flavor wins and they really hammer home the idea that you want to run Obliterators, Havocs, and Vehicles in an Iron Warriors army.

  • Iron Within, Iron Without (1 CP). Use in any phase when a unit is about to lose a wound. Roll a D6 for that wound, and each other wound you lose afterward in that phase. On a 6, you don’t lose the wound. A Codex reprint. It’s OK, especially because it can apply to your vehicles. B
  • Methodical Annihilation (1 CP). Use in the shooting phase when you pick an Iron Warriors unit to shoot with. Pick one of the following effects: re-roll damage rolls, or re-roll any or all of the dice to determine the Type characteristic of weapons that models in the unit are equipped with (so re-roll the number of shots). This is solid on a squad of Lascannon or Missile Launcher Havocs, and stacks well with Veterans of the Long War and Endless Cacophony. A
  • Dour Duty (1 CP). Use in your opponent’s shooting or your charge phase when an Iron Warriors unit is chosen as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, when you resolve an attack with a ranged weapon against the specified unit, reduce the AP of the weapon by 1. Also notably not Infantry-locked, so a good way to blunt incoming damage against a Daemon Engine. Combines very well with the Bastion Warlord trait to let your unit ignore up to AP-2 on incoming shooting attacks. B+
  • Unholy Vigor (1 CP). Use at the start of your movement phase to give an Iron Warriors vehicle back up to 3 wounds. It’s a big boost, and helpful when paired with a Warpsmith who can give you another D3, or just good to have in your back pocket to pop over a profile bracket threshold. B+
  • Tank Hunters (1 CP). Use in the shooting or Fight phase when you’re shooting or fighting with a non-cultist Iron Warriors unit. Pick a vehicle, and until the end of the phase you can re-roll wound rolls against that vehicle. This is another great ability, very strong for taking out enemy vehicles and getting full re-rolls on your wound rolls is hard to come by. A
  • Rampant Techno-Virus (1 CP). Use in the Shooting or Fight phase when you pick an IW Obliterators or Mutilators (lol) unit to attack with.Until the end of the phase, you can re-roll any or all D3 rolls made for that unit’s flesh weapons. A good way to ensure you’re getting the best possible profile from your Obliterators, and a lot cheaper than bringing along a Master of Possession and spending a power on getting the same effect. B
  • Cannon Fodder (2 CP). Use at the start of your opponent’s shooting phase. Pick an Iron Warriors Infantry unit, then pick an Iron Warriors Cultists unit wholly within 6” of that unit. Until the end of the phase, enemies can’t target the selected unit if the Cultists unit you picked is a closer visible target. A hilarious and flavorful way to protect your havocs from being shot at, and a great way to ensure that they continue to spit out the volumes of firepower they need while giving them 30 ablative wounds. Also great with Obliterators, though you may often find them set up far ahead of helpful screening units. A
  • Bitter Enmity (1 CP). The throwaway rivalry stratagem. When you’re fighting an Imperial Fists unit in melee combat, you can re-roll the hit and wound rolls. These faction-specific stratagems are the worst. D


The Iron Warriors Relics are pretty good, with all but two of them being focused on doing damage.

  • Fleshmetal Exoskeleton. The Codex relic for Iron Warriors. Gives a save and you regain 1 wound at the start of each turn. Kind of worthless on a Lord Discordant (though healing 2 wounds per turn is pretty funny), but a solid add to a Winged Daemon Prince, or Jump Pack/Bike Chaos Lord, who can use the extra security of a 2+ armor save. B+
  • Siegebreaker Mace. Replace a power maul or accursed crozius. Gives you a dual-profile melee weapon – Swing or Smash – where Swing is S+2, AP-2, 2 Damage and Smash is Sx2, AP-3, D6 Damage and you can only make two attacks, but for each one you roll 2D6 and choose the highest result. This is an OK weapon but now that Chaos Space Marines can take Thunder Hammers to get high damage without giving up all their attacks, there’s a lot less utility in this. C+
  • Cranium Malevolus. A model with this relic can use the Cranium instead of shooting. If you do, you roll a D6 for each enemy vehicle within 9” and on a 4-5 it takes D3 mortal wounds and on a 6 it takes 3 mortal wounds. This is really a really, really good replacement for shooting on a model that will be hanging out in the enemy lines, tearing stuff up. Looks great on a Daemon Prince or Jump Pack Sorcerer as a way to push out extra mortal wounds, and it’s a powerful defensive option against vehicles that swarm your lines as well. B
  • Insidium. This model gets the DAEMON keyword (if it doesn’t already have it) and gets +1 Strength, Toughness, and Wounds. This is a great way to introduce some extra cross-faction synergy with your warlord and a detachment of daemons but it’s also just very good on a winged Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant, where the bonuses to Strength and Toughness matter. B+
  • Axe of the Forgemaster. Replaces a power axe or daemonic axe with one that’s S+3, AP-3, 2 Damage and whenever you fight a vehicle, unmodified hit rolls of 5+ inflict D3 mortal wounds in addition to regular damage. Pretty dang tasty, especially on jump lords and Daemon princes that can use it to just punch jets out of the sky. At the very least, it’s a great alternative to a Thunder Hammer, since it’s better against hordes and Marines but turns on the pain against vehicles when you need it. This is kind of what Siegebreaker Mace wants to be when it grows up. A
  • Spitespitter. Replaces a combi-bolter with one that’s 24” range, Rapid Fire 2, S5, AP-3, D3 damage. Decent, but boring. Fine on a Terminator Lord you want to place with Obliterators as a way to have him be more helpful on the shooting side. B-
  • Techno-Venomous Mechatendrils. Replaces mechatendrils on a WARPSMITH with a set that does 4 attacks at S User, AP 0, 1 Damage but every hit scores a mortal wound. This is an interesting and powerful upgrade for Lords Discordant (who have the WARPSMITH keyword) and gives them the ability to add 4 mortal wounds to their already considerable output. The only downside is that you probably don’t really need the extra output. There’s also not really a compelling reason to ever put it on a regular Warpsmith. B+


Night Lords

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Night Lords have historically been saddled with the second-worst legion trait next to Word Bearers, owing to the fact that in most cases, stacking a few negative modifiers to Leadership either amounts to one extra model dying or the opponent spending 2 CP to prevent any models from dying. The upside is that with Faith and Fury, they got an insane boost in the form of Stratagems that give them some of the best Deep Striking options, the ability to turn off enemy auras, and the ability to lock enemy units down in melee, preventing their escape. Though less popular than Alpha Legion, there are some Night Lord builds that can put in real work, though note that they make for a CP-thirsty subfaction.

Legion Trait: Terror Tactics

Models in enemy units get -1 Ld while a unit with this ability is within 6″ of their unit, to a maximum of -3. This can stack with some other effects like Butcher Cannons and Warlord traits to get up to -7 or -8, but at the end of the day, you still need to kill a bunch of models to force morale tests and even then 2 CP will negate all your hard work and prevent a unit from fleeing off the table. Morale just isn’t that big a deal in 8th edition and when you put this next to extra attacks, -1 to be hit, or even ignoring cover, it’s hard to argue for it as a trait. It does have some use however, since it will occasionally get you an extra casualty or two and it helps ensure the Prey on the Weak Stratagem will almost always be online in the Fight phase. C

Warlord Traits

The Night Lords Warlord Traits are mostly middling, with the best probably being One Piece At a Time or Murderous Reputation. The rest are either not doing enough or are too situational to be very useful. In most armies, you aren’t going to run monofaction Night Lords; they’ll be a detachment that likely doesn’t contain your warlord unless you’re giving him a trait from a Specialist Detachment.

  • Night Haunter’s Curse. Once per battle round, re-roll a single hit, wound damage, advance, charge roll or saving throw for this Warlord. Same as the one in the Chaos codex. C+
  • One Piece At A Time. Warlord can charge in a turn where they Fell Back. When attacking this warlord with a Melee Weapon, subtract 1 from the hit roll. This is useful for making sure you’re continually getting the +1 Attack bonus from Hateful Assault, and is nice to have on Slam Lords and Winged Daemon Princes who may want to disengage, jump over a unit, and then charge another more valuable target. B+
  • Murderous Reputation. When resolving an attack made by this Warlord, an unmodified hit roll of 6 inflicts 1 mortal wound on the target in addition to any other damage. This is really solid if you can boost the number of Attacks you’re throwing out, and is like a better version of Flames of Spite. Best on talon Daemon Princes, but the “unmodified” rider makes it a tough sell over the next one. B
  • Killing Fury. Add D3 to the attacks of this Warlord in a turn which they made a charge, were charged or performed a Heroic Intervention. These additional attacks last until the end of the Fight Phase. Not exciting, but a good way to get some extra attacks, and the fact that Night Lords can be KHORNE makes this even better. B+
  • One With The Shadows. When resolving an attack made against this warlord while they are entirely on or within a terrain feature, add 1 to their non-invulnerable saving throw. Also, as long as they are entirely on/within a terrain feature add 1 to their invulnerable save, to a max of 3++. There must have been a better way for GW to write this rule. Otherwise, it’s just OK, and you’re likely going to want to use your precious warlord trait resource on an offensive option. C
  • Dirty Fighter. Whilst there are more friendly models within 3” of this Warlord than enemy models, when resolving an attack made with a melee weapon by this Warlord, add 1 to the wound roll. This one’s pretty easy to game if you set up your movement right, but it takes way too much work to get value out of it compared to other, better options. C


Thanks to Faith and Fury, the Night Lords have an incredible set of stratagems to work with. Almost every one of them is going to be regularly useful, and a couple of them are fully good enough to be worth building around. There’s a ton here to work with, and while Vox Scream is going to be the big focus, We Have Come for You and Hit and Run both make compelling add-ons to a Possessed Bomb.

  • In Midnight Clad (1 CP). The Codex Stratagem. Use when a Night Lords Infantry Unit is targeted in your opponent’s shooting phase. Until the end of the phase, subtract 1 from the hit roll against that unit. This is a pretty solid buff when you need to protect one unit and if you are running your Possessed bomb as Night Lords, you’ll want this handy to replicate their legion trait. The good news is, this works inside of 12″. B+
  • Vox Scream (2 CP). Use this stratagem at the end of your Movement phase. Select one model within 18” of a Night Lords unit. Until the start of your next Movement phase, enemy units cannot use the selected unit’s aura abilities. This is great. You can use Vox Scream to turn off a Chapter Master. You can deactivate a unit of Infiltrators’ anti-Deep Strike zone. Turn off a Lord Discordant’s +1 to hit. This is just a fantastic ability for disrupting your opponent’s plans and the only downside is needing a full Night Lords Detachment. The good news is, there are lots of reasons to take one now, so don’t feel like you have to take a triple-Heldrake Air Wing to make this work, though Heldrakes are very good at delivering this to your opponent on turn 1. A+
  • Prey On The Weak (1 CP). Use when you pick a Night Lords unit to Shoot or Fight in the Shooting or Fight Phase. Add 1 to your hit roll as long as your Leadership is higher than that of the models in the unit your are targeting. This seems weak on the surface, but remember that the Night Lords’ Legion Trait reduces the Leadership of nearby enemy units, so it’ll almost always be active in the Fight phase and for Night Lords Characters mixing it up, especially if you have more than one unit in combat. A-
  • Hit And Run (1 CP). Use at the start of your Charge phase. Select one Night Lord unit that Fell Back this turn. You may charge with that unit. Very solid and helpful for picking new opportune targets and getting your Hateful Assault attack back. B+
  • We Have Come for You (1 CP). Use this at the start of your opponent’s movement phase. Select one Night Lords unit that is not a Vehicle. Until the start of your next turn, enemy units within 1” of that unit can not Fall Back unless they have the Vehicle or Titanic keyword, or have a minimum Move characteristic. Trapping units in combat is great, and goes a long way toward making Night Lords playable. This is aces on a Winged Daemon Prince who wants to protect himself by staying in combat, only to fall back and charge again on his turn. Also great on Possessed, who want to stay in combat to protect themselves. A
  • From The Night (1 CP). Use at the start of your Charge phase. Select one Night Lords Infantry unit that is entirely on or within a terrain feature. Until the end of the turn, when a charge roll is made for that unit, add 2 to the result, and when resolving an attack made with a melee weapon by a model in that unit, add 1 to the hit roll. This is an interesting way to mitigate charging out of/through terrain features that force you to subtract 2 from your charge distance, making it particularly relevant for NOVA format games. Otherwise it’s great any time you can use it to help make a charge, and wonderful at events with fixed terrain set-ups like NVOA and the LGT, where you can use the large, central ruins to deep strike into, prevent Overwatch, and then charge through, using the +1 bonus to make the charge all that much easier. B
  • Raptor Strike (1 CP). Use this stratagem in your Charge phase, before making a charge roll for a Night Lords Jump Pack unit from your army that was set up on the battlefield as reinforcements this turn. Roll 3D6 for your charge roll instead of 2d6. Warp Talons in particular and Raptors to a lesser extent needed an ability like this to help them make it into combat and this is a huge boost, especially when paired with the bonuses from the Vigilus Ablaze Host Raptorial detachment. A
  • Flay Them Alive (1 CP). Use this in the Fight phase, when an enemy unit is destroyed by an attack made by a Night Lords model from your army. Until the end of the turn, when a Morale test is taken for an enemy unit within 12” of a Night Lords unit, your opponent must roll one additional D6 and you get to pick which one is discarded. Meh. The Ld modifiers angle of Night Lords doesn’t really work in the 8th edition rules framework and you’ve got too many better things to spend your CP on. D


The Night Lords have a couple of interesting relics — The Stormbolt Plate and the Scourging Chains, are good, the Vox Daemonicus is interesting, and the rest are just kind of OK.

  • Claws of the Black Hunt. Replaces a pair of lightning claws. S+1, AP-3, D3 Damage and you get +1 attack and can re-roll wound rolls. The Codex relic for Night Lords, these are solid, but not particularly flashy. Still, if you’re not sold on the mark of Slaanesh or the Rapacious Talons, these are a fine substitute, and each of the bonuses – Strength, AP, and Damage – are things Lightning claws really need to be useful. B+
  • Flayer. Replaces a Power Sword. S +1, AP -3, 2 Damage. Each model killed by this weapon counts as two for morale purposes. The morale part is whatever, but a S+1 D2 power sword is good enough to make a model respectable in combat. B
  • Stormbolt Plate. An Infantry-only armor upgrade, making it one of the few you can’t give to a Daemon Prince. Give you 2+ armor save and count as always being in cover. I think the weirdness with One With The Shadow’s text can be explained by this relic. It’s pretty good to have on a Jump Pack Chaos Lord, who suddenly looks a lot more durable and has less of a bad time if they get caught out of position and shot with a bunch of bolters. B+
  • Vox Daemonicus. Infantry model only, enemy units within 6” of this model reduce their aura abilities’ ranges to 1”, in addition enemy models coming into the battlefield as reinforcements can not be set up with 12”. A pretty nifty pair of abilities that don’t really synergize at all. I suspect this is going to be more useful for its 12” area denial than turning off auras, but ideally these two wouldn’t be on the same relic. They could work together ok on a Lord DIscordant that speeds into the enemy lines early on, turning off auras and potentially boxing out counter-attackers, but there you’re more going to get the aura shutdown effects going. B
  • Talons Of The Night Terror. Model that can FLY only. Gives you a D3 additional attacks at S +1, AP -1, D1. Goes up to D6 if you charge, were charged or Heroically Intervened. The extra attacks are interesting, but at low Strength and 1 damage, nothing to write home about. Helpful for trying to pick off an extra Marine, though. The big upside to this one is that it doesn’t replace a weapon, making it all upside, but there still isn’t enough power here to recommend it over a weapon upgrade. C+
  • Scourging Chains. Improve the AP of melee weapons this model has by 1. Subtract 1 from the Attacks of enemy models within 1” of a model with this relic. A solid way to improve the AP on either Lightning Claws, Malefic Talons, or Power Fists while protecting the bearer. Going to do solid work making Talons AP-3, and will work great on a Lord Discordant. B+
  • Misery of The Meek Once per battle at the start of your Movement phase, use this relic to regain D6 wounds and add D3 to the model’s attacks until your next turn. This effect just isn’t big enough to throw away a relic slot on it. C-


The Purge

Death Guard Plague Marine

Credit: That Gobbo

The Purge are the Nurgle-aligned Renegade Chapter, blessed with one of the strongest legion traits to grace a Chaos faction. Until Faith and Fury was released, Chaos Space Marine armies basically lived on a diet of Flawless Host Lords Discordant and Purge Forge World Dreadnoughts, owing to their ability to generate insanely consistent damage output with the faction’s legion trait. These days it’s still a strong trait, and Purge detachments play very well with Death Guard detachments, where cross-faction Nurgle synergy helps everyone.

Legion Trait: Bringers of Oblivion

You can re-roll hit rolls for attacks made by units with this rule when they target enemy units that have lost one or more wounds already this turn. Also, every PURGE unit has to have the Mark of Nurgle if it can have a mark. There really isn’t a unit that doesn’t benefit from this trait — it’s fantastic — but the biggest winners are the HELBRUTE units that make up the faction’s best shooting units. Namely, Hellforged Deredeo Dreadnoughts and Hellforged Leviathans, both of which can lock on to something that has already lost wounds in say, the Psychic phase to a Smite or other psychic power, where all you need is a single mortal wound to get the party started. This ability is more than strong enough to build whole armies around it. A+

Warlord Trait: Blessed Mission

Re-roll wound rolls of 1 for attacks made by your Warlord, and re-roll damage rolls for weapons used by your Warlord. This is, at best, OK, and a good example of an ability where whoever wrote it wasn’t really thinking about how many things it would affect. While many Chaos Characters may benefit from re-rolling 1s to wound, most of them don’t have weapons that offer variable damage; none of the Daemon Prince nor Lord Discordant weapons offer variable damage (save krak grenades), meaning that your options for getting actual use out of that “re-roll damage” ability are power fists, meltaguns, force weapons, and the Master of Executions’ Axe of dismemberment. Of those, only the Meltagun is a D6. So you can generally skip this one, but if you do want to use it, a combi-melta/powerfist Chaos Lord is probably your best bet. C

Stratagem: All Life is Worthless (1 CP)

Use in your Shooting phase and pick a Purge unit that isn’t within 1″ of any enemy models. It can target enemy units that are within 1″ of friendly units until the end of the phase, but if you roll an unmodified 1 to hit, it gets resolved against one of your friendly units within 1″ of that target enemy. This is nifty to have, allowing you to tarpit units and still shoot up the dangerous units trying to break through, and it full-on prevents enemy units from using melee to protect themselves. A

Relic: Orb of Unlife

A single-use item you can throw in the Shooting phase instead of firing a ranged weapon. You pick a point on the battlefield within 8″ of the bearer and roll a D6 for every unit within D6″ of that point, subtracting 2 from the result if the unit is a VEHICLE. on a 4+ that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. This isn’t amazing, but it combos very well with the Purge’s Legion Trait, helping “turn on” their re-roll ability by putting cheap, unavoidable wounds on one or more targets. B


Red Corsairs

Photo & Models: TheChirurgeon

If the Red Corsairs had a full compliment of Stratagems, Traits, and Relics, they’d probably be a top-tier Chaos Space Marines subfaction. As is, they’re comfortably situated around the 1.5 tier range, thanks to an incredibly good Legion Trait that makes including a Red Corsairs battalion in your army an incredibly attractive proposition. Red Corsairs work best with units that want to get into melee fast, thanks to their “advance and charge” ability, so they make a good match for Lord Discordants, melee-focused Helbrutes, Berserkers and Possessed. Their unique Legion trait also makes them a great option for generating CP, since they can get you 8 CP battalions with very little additional points investment.

Legion Trait: Raiders from the Maelstrom

Units with this ability can Advance and charge in the same turn. Also if a Detachment contains three or more units with this trait, then you get +1 CP for that Detachment. If there are 3+ Chaos Space Marines units with this trait in the Detachment, you get +3 CP for the Detachment. This is great, though note that Chaos Cultists don’t count as a unit with this ability, so make sure that you aren’t including them as one of your three Red Corsairs units. Melee units love the first part of this ability. A+

Warlord Trait: Reaver Lord

Your army gets an extra relic, chosen from the Artefacts of Chaos, which must be given to a Red Corsairs character in your army that doesn’t have a relic and it can’t be the same as something else you’ve taken. Also, every time your Warlord kills an enemy character, they get +1 Attacks because sure, why not. This replaces Huron’s previous Warlord Trait, and it’s pretty solid. The extra +1 Attacks rider is whatever, but the extra relic is pretty nifty, even if the net impact is essentially getting +1 CP. B

Stratagem: More Where They Came From (3 CP)

Use at the end of your Movement phase to pick up a Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marines unit from your army and put them back on the battlefield within 6″ of a battlefield edge and more than 9″ from enemy units, at full starting strength. This is pretty neat, and not restricted to once pre game like Tide of Traitors, but has the issue that you don’t really want to actually run big squads of Chaos Space Marines just to have a good unit to bring back onto the table (it’s not worth using on a minimum-size squad). Still, using it on a 10-man, 2-heavy weapon squad could be interesting, and there’s probably worth considering a single 20-model squad if you’re going hard on this concept, just to bring them back in a flanking position.

Relic: Maelstrom’s Bite

Replaces a combi-melta with one that improves both the bolter and the meltagun parts: The bolter is 24″ Rapid Fire 3, S4, AP-1, 2 damage, and the Meltagun half is 12″ Assault 1, S9, AP-4 D6 damage, and it does 2D6 drop the lowest at half range. This is really nifty and a good upgrade to put on something like a Chaos Lord on bike rolling around with a bike squad that can really belt out a lot of firepower. It’s not terribly strong, but the gun itself is a good value, especially if you’re getting it free with your Warlord Trait. B


The sole Red Corsairs character is Huron Blackheart, the faction’s leader. He’s effectively a Chaos Lord equipped with a power axe, power fist, and a 9″ heavy flamer. Where he really shines however is that he’s also a Psyker who knows one power plus Smite, and his little familiar gives him an additional power while it’s alive. This means that you can load an extra power or two on to him, giving him Warptime so he can push himself into combat quicker, or Infernal Strength, allowing him to boost his stats before fighting. As an added bonus, taking Huron as your warlord gives you 1 CP. Otherwise, he’s an efficiently-costed Chaos Lord/Sorcerer combo and worth including in as an HQ choice in a Red Corsairs army looking for a Chaos Lord option.



The Pure Chaos Space Marines by Tyler “Coda” Moore

There’s a baseline “Renegade Chapters” Legion Trait in Codex: Chaos Space Marines, used to broadly represent renegade chapters before Vigilus Ablaze came out. Its only rule is a single trait, allowing you to Advance and Charge in the same turn, making it a much worse version of the Red Corsairs’ ability. There is literally no reason to ever use this.


The Scourged

The Tzeentch-aligned Renegade Chapter, the Scourged have a kind of odd mishmash of abilities that offer an alternative to the all-psykers approach of the Thousand Sons, mostly offering a variety of weird effects that don’t synergize with each other. There’s not a ton to say about this group; their tricks aren’t nearly good enough to offset what you give up by taking them as a legion, leaving them as a purely “for funsies” choice.

Legion Trait: Omniscient

You can re-roll one hit roll for an attack made by a model in a unit with this trait each time it shoots or fights. Also units with this trait hit in Overwatch on a 5+. Also, every unit with this trait has to take the Mark of Tzeentch if it can. Pairing a much worse Master Artisans with 5+ Overwatch surprisingly doesn’t result in an amazing faction trait, though it’s better than some legions get. It’s OK but not great and doesn’t really help with most Chaos game plans. C+

Warlord Trait: Shattering Truth

At the start of each Fight phase, pick an enemy unit within 3″ of your Warlord and it can’t be chosen to fight until all other units able to fight have done so. A cool Belt of Russ-style ability that makes your Warlord incredibly annoying to deal with. Good to have on anything you’re going to have charging into enemy lines and getting counter-charged. A

Stratagem: Prescience (2 CP)

Use after your opponent sets up a unit arriving on the battlefield as reinforcements and pick a Scourged Infantry unit from your army within 12″ of that enemy unit. Your unit can immediately shoot at that one as if it were the Shooting phase. No -1 to hit rider is nice on this confusingly-named Stratagem, which replicates a trick that the Alpha Legion have. Good for punishing units that want to get close. A

Relic: Book of Untruth

Each time an enemy Psyker within 18″ of the bearer manifests a power, roll a D6 and on a 5+ they take a mortal wound. Cute, but not great. It’s not going to throw out enough mortal wounds to really punish someone or stop them, especially that it’s only a chance. C


Thousand Sons

Thousand Sons Rubric Marine

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

The Thousand Sons aren’t part of the Codex: Chaos Space Marines subfactions. You’ve made a wrong turn, friend. Though they share the HERETIC ASTARTES keyword with Codex brand Chaos Space Marines and can share the TZEENTCH keyword, making them good allies for a CSM detachment, they have their own Codex. They also have their own Start Competing article, which you can find here.


Word Bearers

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Word Bearers have the worst legion trait in the game, and hilariously it got even worse when the rules team decided it no longer applied to Chaos Cultists. The good news is that they got some absolute fire in Faith and Fury, with new Warlord Traits, Stratagems, and Relics that boost the subfaction to considerable heights. The big winners here are Word Bearers Possessed. If Alpha Legion and Night Lords Possessed are about protecting the unit with defensive buffs/modifiers to hit until it can arrive, Word Bearers Possessed are absolute glass cannons.

Warlord Traits

The Word Bearers Warlord Traits are OK. Exalted Possession is the clear winner among them, and does exactly the kind of thing that I wish Word Bearers could just do to any CHARACTER as a stratagem.

  • The Voice of Lorgar. Add 3” to the range of this Warlord’s aura abilities. The Codex: Chaos Space Marines trait. Would be more useful if you could take a second warlord trait to give you a more useful aura to extend. C+
  • Exalted Possession. Your Warlord gains the POSSESSED and DAEMON keywords (if they didn’t already have them), plus they get +1 Strength and Attacks and +1” to their Movement. This is a very cool ability to give to a Chaos Lord or even a Daemon Prince. Extra strength and attacks are always relevant, and adding the DAEMON keyword opens up great synergies with the Chaos Daemons army that can help make your warlord even better. This works well on any of the characters you’d throw it on — don’t feel like you have to throw it on something that isn’t already a Daemon. Also opens up access to the Revered Hosts for the character, but sadly won’t get you the DAEMONKIN RITUALISTS keyword, since Warlord Traits are applied after Specialist Detachments. A
  • Daemonic Whispers. Roll a D3 before the battle, and you get that many CP. Also, once per battle, if your warlord is on the table, you can re-roll a single hit, wound, damage, or save roll. This is… Good. But boring. It’s definitely not enough of a reason to pick Word Bearers. Becomes an immediate A if they ever give Chaos a general-purpose extra trait ability. C+
  • Master of the Union. Friendly WORD BEARERS DAEMON units within 6” get +1 Attack. Another very solid ability, mostly useful for boosting Daemon Engines and Possessed. Works very well on Winged Daemon Princes and Lords Discordant, who also help themselves to that extra attack. Potentially helps Possessed actually “get there” when you start stacking on other bonuses. B+
  • Diabolist. When this Warlord would lose a wound, roll a D6 and on a 6+, you don’t lose a wound. BUT – add 3 to the roll if the wound is from a mortal wound. This is a nifty rider to add on–ignoring mortal wounds on a 3+ isn’t too shabby. This is probably on par with Unholy Fortitude. B
  • Sacrilegious Regeneration. The Warlord gets +1 Wound and at the start of your turn regains up to D3 lost wounds. This could have some value on a Lord Discordant or Daemon Prince if it weren’t for the fact that once they start taking wounds they usually die. It’s… OK. C+


Except for Dark Pact and Vengeance for Monarchia, Word Bearers have some insanely good stratagems. They have both buffs for Possessed and stratagems to help make sure that your supporting characters can fire off the buffs they need to get out, either from the psykers or the Dark Apostle.

  • Dark Pact (1 CP). Use at the end of your Movement phase when a Word Bearers character summons, you can re-roll the dice and you don’t suffer mortal wounds for doubles/triples. This is the Word Bearers Stratagem from Codex: Chaos Space Marines and while neat, doesn’t do nearly enough to make summoning worthwhile, though there are some circumstances in which you may use it to summon a Contorted Epitome or a unit of Horrors. C
  • Malevolent Covenant (1 CP). Use in the psychic phase, after a Word Bearers psyker fails a test. The power is automatically manifested at the minimum required warp charge value and without a double having been rolled and it can’t be denied. After you resolve the effects, you take 1 mortal wound. This is a very interesting power, and I love it for forcing through a high-cost power like Death Hex or Prescience when you really, really need it to go off. Also, as written, if you have enough psykers, it can also be used to force a D6-wound Smite. But most of the time it’s undeniable, un-failable Warptime, Cursed Earth, Death Hex, or Prescience. A
  • Apostle of the Dark Council (1 CP). Use before the battle (and only once). Upgrade one of your Dark Apostles to have the Dark Council ability, which lets them know and chant one extra prayer each battle round. So basically the ability that all Marine chapters have, but only for Word Bearers. This is really good, especially because you can combine it with the Epistle of Lorgar relic and Disciples to get near-automatic successes. Another very good Stratagem, you can use it to pair up powers like Benediction of Darkness and Illusory Supplication to protect a key vehicle. A
  • Cursed Despoilers (2 CP). Used after deployment but before the first turn if you have a Word Bearers unit on the table. Pick a non-fortification terrain feature. That terrain doesn’t give cover. This is an interesting ability, and potentially more helpful in games/events where you have static terrain layouts, so you’ll have a good idea of what hiding spots there are pre-game. It’s not quite as healthy against Marines using the Stealthy chapter trait, and your opponent can still use Prepared Positions for a turn, but that costs them 2 CP and this is still situationally useful for making sure a unit deployed in cover is suddenly exposed. Note that this effect hits you too, should you find yourself on that terrain feature. B-
  • Revered Hosts (1 CP). Use in the Fight phase when you pick a Word Bearers POSSESSED or GREATER POSSESSED to fight. Until the end of the phase, add 1 to the damage of melee weapons for models in the unit. This is Word Bearers’ gift to Possessed Bombs. You may not be able to get them to -4 to be hit but getting to 2 damage is a major threshold for being useful in combat and while there are a lot of Strength and Attacks buffs for Possessed, this is the only damage buff. This is a HUGE boost and makes Word Bearers the high-risk, high-reward option for Possessed bombs, since they’ll be more likely to do. Although you only need half as many to achieve the same effectiveness against lots of targets. It also makes Greater Possessed into some absolute beasts with D3+1 damage per attack. The defensive boosts are probably better in the long run, but Revered Hosts allows you to hit like a sledgehammer. A+
  • Hexagrammatic Ward (1 CP). Use in any phase after you make a save roll for a Word Bearers Character. Treat the result of the save as a 6. You can only use this once per battle on a given Word Bearers character. This stratagem owns. The best part is you elect to use it after rolling your save, so you can wait for when you really need it. It’s very clutch to have and a hilarious combo with the Sacrilegious Regeneration Warlord trait. A
  • Vengeance for Monarchia (1 CP). Use in the Fight phase when a Word Bearers unit is fighting. You can re-roll hits and wounds against ULTRAMARINES units. Welp, they couldn’t all be winners. D


There are several very, very good Word Bearers Relics and all of them do something interesting at the very least. The only dud in the group is the Book of the Reviler and there’s plenty here to consider.

  • The Cursed Crozius. Replaces a power maul or accursed crozius. A S+2, AP-2, 3 damage unit that re-rolls wound rolls against IMPERIUM units. This isn’t flashy, but it’s a pretty damn good. The AP and Strength bonuses aren’t amazing, but this is the only place you’re gonna find flat 3 damage outside of a Thunder Hammer, and not having a -1 to hit attached to it means you can put in some real work and still proc Death to the False Emperor. This works very well with the Exalted Possession Warlord trait, which gets you to 7 strength and makes you eligible to receive aura buffs from Daemon Heralds, Greater Possessed, and the Master of Possession powers, getting you to S8 or S9 and able to smash anything you get your hands on. B+
  • Crown of the Blasphemer. This model gets +1 to its invulnerable save (to a max of 3+), and enemy units within 6” get -1 Ld. The Leadership modifier is marginal at best, but the invulnerable save bonus is great on a Lord Discordant, where getting to that 4++ is pretty valuable for a targetable character. B
  • Baleful Icon. Enemy units charging a friendly WORD BEARERS unit within 6” of this model subtract 2 from the result. This is an interesting ability, in part because you don’t really see it as an aura often. It’s a really helpful ability on Repulsors and it’s great for protecting a castle of units like Hellforged Deredeo dreadnoughts and Leviathans that really don’t want to be in combat. B+
  • Book of the Reviler. Non-Daemons only. Before the battle you can activate this to randomly generate two free Chaos Boons from the table in Codex: Chaos Space Marines, re-rolling Spawndom, Daemonhood, and Duplicates. This is… OK, I guess. Your chances of getting one 7 result (which lets you pick any result) on 2D6 about 1 in 3, where you’re usually looking for specific stat boosts. Otherwise it’s such a grab bag that you’re better off not taking this. C-
  • The Malefic Tome. Psyker only. You know one more psychic power from your chosen discipline, and you get +1 to your psychic tests. This is a pretty solid add, since it lets you stack Prescience, Warptime, and something like Delightful Agonies or Weaver of Fates on the same Sorcerer, but the +1 to cast is the real rockstar here. Being able to reliably cast Prescience is huge for Chaos Space Marines and if you pair this with something like Warp Lord you can make your casts near-automatic. You could also drop this on a Master of Possession but it’s rare that you’ll actually need him to have three powers, so you’re basically just going for the +1 to cast. A
  • Ashen Axe. Replaces a chainaxe. The Ashen Axe is a S+1, AP-2, D3 Damage axe that prevents any non-Vehicle, non-Titanic units within 1” from falling back unless they have a minimum Move characteristic. This is fantastic, and almost a reason to strongly consider a Word Bearers detachment. The downside is that the weapon is only OK, but it’ll work just fine on a Slam Lord holding a Thunder Hammer in the other hand, or just a barebones jump lord running alongside your Possessed and using this to trap a unit in combat with it during the opponent’s turn. A
  • Epistle of Lorgar. PRIESTS only (so, Dark Apostles). When you chant a prayer, you can re-roll to determine if it’s heard. Also friendly Word Bearers within 6” get +1 Ld. This is better than it looks. I mean, the Ld bonus still doesn’t matter, but being able to stack this with the +1 from your Disciples essentially gives you a re-rollable 2+  for your prayers, which is nifty if you’re planning to upgrade your Apostle to an Apostle of the Dark Council. B


World Eaters

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Khorne-devoted legion of Chaos Space Marines, revolving around the principle of “wrecking things in melee combat.” Most of the World Eaters’ abilities and rules are based around helping them either get into combat, or fight better once they are there. As with Emperor’s Children, World Eaters have a special benefit in that they can take Khorne Berserkers as Troops, eliminating the need for them to fill out detachments with worthless Cultists and instead making their frothing madmen the meat of their strategy. Berserkers are a very effective combat unit and really shine as troops in a World Eaters detachment, and you can supplement them easily with either Terminators or Daemons.

Legion Trait: Butcher’s Nails

When a unit with this legion trait charges, you can make 1 extra attack with each of its models in the subsequent Fight phase. This is worded extremely poorly, so you only get +1 attack on the first round of fights with a squad of Berserkers, but it’s still a good boost. In addition to this, every unit in a World Eaters army has to have the Mark of Khorne, and as a result they can have no psykers. Also – and this is the best part – Berserkers are a Troops choice for World Eaters. B

Warlord Traits

True to form, the World Eaters traits are primarily focused on turning your Warlord into a killing machine.

  • Slaughterborn. When you kill an enemy Character, Monster or Titanic model with an attack by this warlord, add 1 to it’s Attacks, Strength characteristics. This is the Codex Trait. Judging by how many of these Chaos gets, it really seems like GW thinks that games involve World Eaters characters tearing through a lot of enemy characters instead of watching a bunch of enemy characters run the hell away. C-
  • Arch Slaughterer. If there are more enemy models within 3” of your warlord than friendly models, they get D3 extra attacks until the end of the fight phase. If Kharn had this as his Warlord Trait it’d be pretty solid thanks to fighting twice. As-is, it’s just OK. C+
  • Disciple of Khorne. Re-roll hits and wounds against characters or units that have a model with 5 or more wounds when using the Warlord’s melee weapons. Basically made for going after knights and Riptides, and more helpful for going after enemy characters than Slaughterborn, which doesn’t kick in til you’ve killed them. This ends up being a kind of always-on Daemonforge for a Lord Discordant or Daemon Prince, and it’s a very solid take since it covers most of the targets you’ll want them taking out. B+
  • Violent Urgency. When an Advance or charge is made for a friendly World Eaters within 6” of the warlord, add 1 to the result. This is very, very good, particularly when you’ve got a squad of Berserkers piling out of a Termite drill looking to make a 9” charge or a squad of Terminator Berserkers dropping in. Going from a 9+ to an 8+ with the ability to re-roll charges using an Icon of Wrath really helps dramatically improve your charge probabilities. A
  • True Berzerker. Halve incoming damage from melee weapons against your warlord. Cute for when you’re going up against all those characters and Knights, but in those cases the best defense will usually be an offense that murders them before they have a chance to fight back. B
  • Battle Lust. Increases your Warlord’s Heroic Intervention range to 6” and they always fights first in the fight phase, even if you didn’t charge. If the enemy charged or if they have a similar ability, alternate with choosing units to fight, starting with the player whose turn is taking place. Decent, particularly when your opponent makes the mistake of being careless with their charges and allows themselves to be intervened against, but more fitting for a counter-charge play style that probably doesn’t suit your World Eaters army. B


World Eaters have a very tasty set of Stratagems that cover a variety of bases, from shutting down enemy psychic powers so you can make it into combat to helping you get into combat, to making your murder machines better at being in combat, to helping your guys survive the morale phase after combat.

  • Scorn of Sorcery (1 CP). The Codex Stratagem. Use in the opponent’s Psychic phase when a psyker manifests a power within 24” of a World Eaters unit, roll a D6. On a 4+ the power is negated. The Codex reprint, and a great stratagem. Negating something 50% of the time (or 75% with a re-roll) is good to have, especially when you have no psykers. A
  • Apoplectic Frenzy (1 CP). Use this during deployment when you set up a World Eaters infantry unit from your army. At the start of the first battle round but before the first turn begins, move that unit 9”. It cannot end within 9” of enemy models. If both players have units that can move before the game begins, take turns starting with the player who has the first turn. This is an ability that looks really good but requires you apply it to a World Eaters unit that’s out in the open (read: Not in a Vehicle), and really banks on you having the first turn to get that turn 1 charge (even then, with no way to Advance and Charge, you’re a long-shot to actually make the charge). I’d like this more if Berzerkers weren’t glass cannons that need to be protected on their way to the enemy, or if it worked on Helbrutes or Daemon Engines. Given that in ITC formats you’ll know if you’re going first during deployment with no chance of an opponent seizing, this can be your quick ticket to a position yourself for a turn 1 charge. Or, if you aren’t on the play, you can use it to move a key unit like a Smash Lord back into cover after you’ve determined you won’t be going first in non-ITC games. A
  • Skulls for the Skull Throne. (1 CP). Use in the fight place after a World Eaters Character kills a character with a melee weapon. Gain D3 Command Points. This is a no-brainer, all-upside ability that you will use whenever you kill a character. A
  • Red Butchers (2 CP). Use before the battle (and only once), select one unit of World Eaters Terminators. Add 1 to the Strength of that unit. They also gain the Fight Twice in the fight phase ability that ‘regular’ Berserkers have. Now this is what I’m talking about. Expensive, but a massive upgrade to Terminators, and finally gives me a use for those Forge World kits I’ve got sitting around. Really not sure why they limited this to once per game. I’m also not sure it’s good enough, but it’s worth a shot on lightning claw Terminators who can toss out 5 attacks each on their first fight and 4 in the second. But it’s extremely cool and I wish Emperor’s Children got something like this to make Noise Marine terminators. This works very well on Chainaxe Terminators. Note that you can also use this on a Terminator Lord to get a monster character who fights twice. A
  • Kill! Maim! Burn! (2 CP). Use in the Fight phase before you consolidate with a World Eaters unit. Move them 6” instead of 3”. This is a great tactical ability that most players are going to overlook. Consolidating 6” is a great way to shift your Berzerkers into the next target, helping mitigate the downside of wiping a unit out the turn you charge. People are going to sleep on this ability and you will use it to surprise them, and then murder them. B+
  • Wild Fury (1 CP). Use when selecting a World Eaters unit to fight. Until the end of the fight phase, improve the unit’s AP by 1. This is the boost that Berzerkers and Red Butchers Terminators need to get over the top against many enemy units. As any Marine player can tell you, improving the AP of a crapload of attacks by 1 is incredibly powerful, especially when it’s applied to models that fight twice and only have AP-1 to begin with. A+
  • Blood for the Blood God (2 CP). Use when you destroy an enemy unit in the Fight phase. Until the start of your next turn, World Eaters units auto pass all morale checks without having to roll any dice. This requires a bit of planning and foresight to use well, and is basically banking on you having multiple units in combat potentially losing multiple models per unit, and being able to recognize that will happen as soon as you destroy a unit. The big downside is that you can’t wait for the Morale phase, but if you know you’re going to take a beating with your Berserkers from attacks back (and they’re pretty fragile, all things considered), then this is a good option to activate rather than waiting to try and spend the same CP on Insane Bravery. C
  • Stoke the Nails (1CP). Use when a non-cultist INFANTRY or BIKER unit fights. Death to the False Emperor triggers against everyone for the phase, and triggers on a 5+ against IMPERIUM units. Super good at letting your units punch that much harder and well priced at 1 CP. Especially tasty if you decide to bring a Dark Apostle or non-World Eaters Sorcerer to buff your units. A


World Eaters relics are all about melee combat, and all four of the weapon choices are at least decent. The others are only OK. Not the end of the world, since World Eaters are more interested in having a horde of berzerkers murder things out of the Troops slot.

  • The Brass Collar of Borghaster. The Codex Relic. Gives the bearer the ability to Deny the Witch once per enemy psychic phase, any successfully denied powers this way auto Perils the caster. Nice if you don’t have Flesh Hound support against Eldar, but ideally paired with a CHAOS DAEMONS detachment so you can hit them for an extra D3 mortal wounds every time they perils. B+
  • Crimson Killer. Replaces a plasma pistol. 12” range, S 9, AP -3, 3 Damage. Unmodified wound rolls of a 4+ with this weapon inflict a bonus mortal wound. That’s one hell of a profile for a pistol and it beats the hell out of giving the model a chainsword to go with its primary melee weapon. B
  • Gorefather. Replaces a chainaxe with an axe that’s S+2, AP -2, 3 Damage but gives -1 to your hit rolls. However, each unmodified wound roll of a 6 inflicts 3 mortal wounds and ends the attack sequence. This is a solid weapon, and the fact that it replaces a weapon that costs 1 point is also worth noting. It combos particularly well with the Disciple of Khorne trait, where the re-rolls help offset the -1 to hit and helps fish for more mortal wounds. It’ll turn off Death to the False Emperor, though. B+
  • Banner of Rage. Priest model only. Once per battle you can activate this to add 1 to the attacks of friendly World Eaters within 6” of the model. This increases the already insane amount of attacks berserkers get. Very solid for a Berserker Horde or just chewing through a very tough or large unit. Pairs well with the Fury of Khorne and Wild Fury Stratagems. B
  • Berserker Glaive. Replaces a power axe or axe of dismemberment (the Master of Executions’ Axe). Profile is S +1, AP -2, 2 damage and if the bearer loses a wound, on a 5+ the wound is not lost. A solid upgrade for an Exalted Champion or Terminator Lord. Less sold that you’ll want to replace a MoE’s axe with it. C+
  • Helm of Furore. Infantry only. Add +2 to the Strength characteristic of the model with the relic. You must charge with this model if you are within 8” of an enemy at the start of the Charge phase. Cool way to get a S12 Thunder hammer jump lord and extremely lore-appropriate. As an option I’m not sure it’s worth giving up control of when you do and don’t charge, but you can play around this pretty easily. C+
  • Bloodhunger. When an enemy model is destroyed by the relic holder in the fight phase, roll a d6. On a 4+ the bearer regains up to 1 lost wound. This is actually a really good way to keep your Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant at full wounds, just because of how easy it is for one of them to chew through 4-6 models per turn. B-


The World Eaters have two special characters to choose from, and while both are combat monsters, neither is particularly attractive as an option for your army in a competitive setting.

Kharn the Betrayer. The face of the World Eaters, Kharn is a serious threat in melee combat. His axe gives him S6, AP-4 D3 damage attacks and he fights twice per turn. Also, his aura gives re-rolls on all failed hit rolls to friendly World Eaters units within 1″. The downside is that you can’t re-roll his hit rolls (he always hits on a 2+), and every time you roll a 1, you have to allocate it to a friendly unit within 1″ if there is one. This isn’t too bad, actually – you can work around this by having Berserkers Pile In to within range of Kharn, make their attacks, and consolidate away, or have Kharn pile in away from his Berserker allies to prevent from mulching them. The big downside is that Kharn just kiind of doesn’t do enough damage on his own. S6 is good but not amazing, and D3 damage is likewise OK but not great. You’ll often find yourself surprised Kharn didn’t do more. He’s a fun unit and a bit of a pain to make work, but you can make better melee characters for competitive play.

Zhufor the Impaler. The other World Eaters character, though he’s a bit off thanks to Forge World rules that mark him as a member of the Skulltakers legion. He’s essentially a Chaos Lord in Terminator Armor with an aura that does nothing (it gives re-rolls to friendly SKULLTAKERS within 6″), some souped up weapons (an AP-1 combi bolter attached to a power fist and the Skulltaker Axe), and the ability to deny one power per turn. The deny attempt is pretty good and the Axe is interesting: It’s S User (5 in this case), AP-2, 2 Damage, but when you target a character, every wound roll of 6+ becomes AP-4, 3 damage. Zhufor is interesting, but losing the chaos Lord aura basically kills his viability.



In this section we’ll be talking about the units that make up the Chaos Space Marine army. We’ll be skipping over the special named characters, having already covered them in their relevant legion section above. Also note that the goal here isn’t to provide a comprehensive listing of every unit; we’ll be glossing over those that are so terrible they don’t really merit consideration in a competitive list. Fortunately for us, there are very few Chaos Space Marine units in that category.


An area where the Chaos Space Marines army really shines is in the HQ slot, where it has a number of strong choices that can be built into real melee blenders.

Chaos Lord

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

The bog standard leaders of the Chaos Space Marine army, Chaos Lords are a versatile tool in your arsenal. They’ve got a solid melee profile, sporting 5 attacks base and the ability to wield a variety of wargear. Also comes with an aura that lets nearby <LEGION> units re-roll hit rolls of 1. Chaos lords are relatively cheap (74 points) and can be outfitted a variety of ways, making them good “Swiss army knife” style HQs, able to fit a variety of needs:

  • In their base format, they work as backline support, lending auras to shooting units. This isn’t the ideal use for them, but there are worse things you could do with an HQ slot. If you’re going this route, keep them cheap – upgrade to a Chainaxe if you want, but don’t waste points on someone who won’t really be in combat except to counter-charge.
  • With the ability to take Jump Packs and Thunder hammers, plus a variety of other weapon options, Chaos Lords can be potent melee units, and take on the “Smash Lord” configuration, maximizing their damage output with a thunder hammer and chainsword, or with a suitably brutal relic like Ghorisvex’s Teeth, the Forgemaster’s Axe, The Cursed Crozius, or The Ashen Axe to turn them into a real beater capable of dropping multiple multi-damage strikes. Because they have Jump Packs, these Chaos Lords usually want to be part of a Host Raptorial specialist detachment, so they can take the Tip of the Spear Warlord Trait to get off a 7″ charge the turn the arrive on the battlefield as reinforcements. Since the Chaos Lord on Bike is now a Legends option, if you want a Chaos Lord who can keep up with a squad of bikes, this is basically your primary option.
  • He’s a separate datasheet, but the Chaos Lord in Terminator Armour brings some extra punch to the table, giving you a Lord who can teleport in and is a bit more durable than the jump pack option, with an extra wound and a 2+ armor save, though Chaos Lords already get a 4+ invulnerable save so the added 5+ from terminator armor doesn’t matter. Otherwise, they aren’t bringing much more to the table but some Specialist Detachments and stratagems key off the TERMINATOR keyword. There isn’t a ton of reason to take one.


Daemon Prince

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

One of two serious combat monsters that Chaos Space Marines have access to in the HQ slot (along with Lords Discordant), Daemon Princes – almost always taken with wings – are combat blenders that combine a great statline – S7, T6, and a 3+ save – with 8 wounds, meaning they can sit comfortably behind other units and out of harm’s way until you need them to jump over both screens and tear something up. Daemon Princes of Khorne come with an extra attack (meh), while the other three flavors are Psykers that know Smite and a single other power, making them versatile weapons who can boost their combat prowess or cast an extra warptime in a pinch. Finally note that Daemon Princes also have a re-roll 1s to hit aura like Chaos Lords, but it also works on all DAEMONS with the same mark, so it works cross-faction. Their only major downside is that they only have 4 base attacks, but they benefit from both Hateful Assault and the ability to take a pair of Malefic Talons, which is the way you’ll want to run them most of the time and gives them +3 attacks. Faith and Fury gives you a few ways to upgrade them, giving them relics that can replace either talons (like the Rapacious Talons) or a Hellforged Sword/Daemonic Axe. All Daemon Princes count as being the same unit for the Rule of Three, but you’ll usually want to take two or three of them in an army, sometimes from different factions (Thousand Sons Daemon Princes are the strongest choice, but also cost the most). They also really work well with the armor relics that confer a 2+ save (the ones that aren’t infantry-only, anyways).

In battle, Daemon Princes are best kept protected until they’re needed, advancing behind a steady line of infantry, ready to jump over and decimate opponents that get too close, or to make important counter-charges.

One more thing to note is that Daemon Princes can take a ranged weapon (there’s no model for this) – the Warp Bolter. This doesn’t replace anything (it’s an add-on you pay 3 points for) and it gives the Daemon Prince a 24″ Assault 2, S4, AP-1, 2 Damage gun that’s a handy add-on to an already formidable melee profile. It’s worth taking most of the time you can spare the points for it.



Credit: TheChirurgeon

One of the most important units in the Chaos Space Marine army, Sorcerers are Psykers with access to Smite and two powers from the Dark Hereticus Discipline. This makes them invaluable support units for casting Warptime on a key melee unit, or a buff like Prescience or Delightful Agonies. It’s rare to see a Chaos Space Marines list (or even a Chaos list) not packing a Sorcerer or two and as a unit they’re good enough to be worth souping in if you’re running a Death Guard army. Because the Heretic Astartes powers are not legion-locked, they can be from any legion and help Chaos Space Marines from any other, and you can give one a Jump Pack to increase their mobility, which is handy for when you need to be within 3″ of your target to cast Warptime.

Sorcerers have a great set of powers to choose from but can be a little fragile, with only 4 wounds and a 3+ save and no invulnerable, they’ll die pretty quick if they’re ever caught in the open or forced to fight in melee combat. The good news is that you can mitigate this by taking a Sorcerer in Terminator Armour, which gives him the ability to teleport into battle, +1 wound, a 2+ save, and a 5+ invulnerable save, making them much more durable and giving them some better shooting options. The better play is typically to do this with a Thousand Sons Sorcerer, but a CSM one can work in a pinch, particularly when paired with Obliterators to cast Prescience on.


Master of Possession

Credit: Charlie A

The Master of Possession is a Pysker HQ that specializes in working with DAEMON units. He’s got the same profile as a Sorcerer, but is locked into taking a force staff and instead of knowing two powers from the Dark Hereticus Discipline, knows and can cast two powers from the Malefic Discipline. Because of this, and his role in the Daemonkin Ritualists Specialist Detachment, he’s a key component in many Possessed Bomb armies, where he can activate the Vessels for the Neverborn Stratagem and cast Cursed Earth and Infernal Power on the Possessed. He’s also a good target for the Shepherd of the True Faith Warlord Trait from the detachment.


Dark Apostle

Credit: TheChirurgeon

Although Dark Apostles have been around for a while, they didn’t become useful until the release of the second Chaos Codex/Vigilus Ablaze, when they received an update with the ability to chant Prayers to the Dark Gods. Each Dark Apostle comes with an OK melee statline (WS 2+, 4 Wounds, 3 attacks), a 4+ invulnerable save, an accursed crozius, and an aura that lets him share his Leadership with nearby units, which can be handy for keeping cultists on the table. They also know two prayers – one of your choosing, plus the Dark Zealotry prayer, and they get a third god-specific one if you give them a mark of Chaos. Most of the prayers are very good, and give you a lot of utility. While Dark Apostles aren’t quite as good in melee combat as the more versatile Space Marine Chaplains, they make up for it by being able to take Dark Disciples, which improve their prayer odds to 2+, and make it much easier to rely on casting something like Benediction of Darkness, Warp-sight Plea, or Illusory Supplication every turn. Because they aren’t Psykers, a Dark Apostle can slot into any legion, and because their prayers are legion-locked but not infantry-locked, they’re often helpful for buffing vehicles like the Lord of Skulls. Dark Apostles have a place in most Chaos Space Marine armies, where their only real limiting factor is that they’re slow-being on foot means they can’t easily dart around the table like loyalists, and so making good use of them will mean careful placement and work to keep them near their Disciples and the units you want them to buff at the start of each battle round.

Dark Disciples

Give your Dark Apostle +1 to prayer rolls. Almost always worth taking.



Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Warpsmiths are essentially the Techmarines of the Chaos Space Marine faction. They have a few interesting tricks, such as the ability to heal a vehicle for D3 wounds or do 1 mortal wound to an enemy vehicle within 18″ on a 2+ (very nifty if you have PURGE units that want to activate their legion trait). plus they come with a power axe, flamer, and meltagun, making them dangerous at close range, but their primary asset is being one of the cheapest HQs in the army. Warpsmiths make great HQ slot fillers, and they’re always just good enough to make themselves useful, particularly if you have a daemon engine or two they can hang out with. But they’re never going to be a key part of your strategy.


Lord Discordant

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The big, bad bogeymen of the Chaos Space Marines Codex. Lords Discordant are one of, if not the single best units in the Chaos Space Marines army. They are fantastic melee combatants, capable of holding their own and mulching most targets in the game – including larger targets like knights where with the right buffs they can take one down in a single round – and they’re great force multipliers, with an aura that immediately makes all of the other daemon engines in your army much better. Most armies want at least one Lord Discordant and many want three. Armament-wise, you have two options: The Autocannon and the Baleflamer. This used to be a no-brainer pick for the Autocannon, but since the baleflamer came down to 20 points (from 30), it’s a much closer choice. You still probably want the Autocannon most of the time because it’s cheaper, but the Baleflamer will help you a lot more if you’re running Red Corsairs Lords Discordant who can advance and charge.

If there’s a downside to this wonderful murdermachine, it’s that his 12 wounds mean that he can be immediately targeted by enemy units. That, coupled with only being T6, means that the Lord Discordant will go down very quickly without help if he doesn’t have other help or durability buffs. This makes protecting your Lord Discordant is a tough prospect, and the best way to handle it is usually to bring three, making it unlikely that you’ll lose all three in a single turn and so you’ll still have some around for support. There are a couple of easy ways to boost their longevity that are worth looking at: Delightful Agonies and Weaver of Fates both help prevent damage, while Benediction of Darkness can make them harder to hit. It’s still worth looking at having a Lord Discordant as your warlord, but keep in mind that they’ll be difficult to protect, and potentially easy Headhunters/slay the warlord points. One final thing to note is that the Lord Discordant is a CHARACTER, so they get the Legion Traits thanks to errata, but not INFANTRY, so they can’t use some stratagems and abilities, such as Fury of Khorne.


Master of Executions

The other cheap HQ choice for Chaos Space Marines, the Master of Executions is a wonderful backline support character, able to hang back and quickly wade into combat for counter-charges when needed, thanks to his Warp-Sighted Butcher ability, which gives him a 6″ Heroic Intervention if he can use it to get within 1″ of an enemy character. The Master of Executions is a pretty straightforward unit otherwise, packing a solid weapon in the Axe of Dismemberment. Give him the Mark of Khorne so he can fight twice and let him hang back and deal with anyone stupid enough to charge into your backline objective holders.


Other Choices

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The rest of the Chaos HQ choices aren’t really worth talking about at length; Fabius Bile will likely become more interesting once War of the Spider releases, though.

Fabius Bile

Bile’s got a Chaos Lord statline with no aura and the ability to regenerate lost wounds (D3 at the start of each of your turns). His primary gimmick is upgrading a single unit of your Non-Character Heretic Astartes Infantry at the end of each Movement phase, where you roll a D6 for each model in the unit and for each 1 the unit takes a mortal wound. Afterward you roll for the benefit, a D3 giving you either +1 Strength, +1 Toughness, or +1 Attack. This is theoretically pretty good, though too random to really be worth relying on and the fact that you have to waste a turn footslogging next to Bile to even activate it means it’s just a novelty at best.


Cypher has a really cool model, and his pistols are neat. Nothing about the Fallen “works” in 40k the game however, and he doesn’t bring much to the table as a character. He can’t even be in a detachment with the rest of your Chaos Space Marines units – he lacks the HERETIC ASTARTES keyword.

Hellwright (FW)

The Hellwright is essentially a Dark Mechanicus Techpriest that you can add to your army. He’s got a special aura that gives +1 Attacks to any nearby Hellforged vehicles, which might be interesting if you ever had a reason to take melee Leviathans or Contemptors, or if anything useful in melee had the Hellforged keyword. He’s also got the ability to repair <LEGION> vehicles and QUESTOR TRAITORIS vehicles, the latter of which is completely worthless because thanks to errata, all Chaos Knights now have the CHAOS KNIGHTS keyword instead. Otherwise he also has the WARPSMITH keyword and there are a few funny tricks you can pull off with him but none of it is strong enough to make him worth consideration in a serious army.



Chaos Space Marines have two options at the Troops slot and neither is amazing. We’ll talk about the two “sometimes” Troops choices – Noise Marines and Berzerkers – in Elites.

Chaos Cultists

Chaos Cultists

Chaos Cultists. Credit: That Gobbo

Ah, the mighty Chaos Cultist. Scourge of a thousand tables. Recurring tactical nightmare of the Imperium. These guys were so powerful they had to be nerfed not one, not two, but three times over the course of 8th edition but they finally got to be so bad they got a buff. Now back down to 4 points per model but still relegated to max squad sizes of 30, these once-terrifying horde units are now little more than detachment filler, acting as a cheap way to fill out your Battalions and sit on objectives. There’s still some marginal value to be had in larger squads, particularly if you can protect them with a Dark Apostle or Abaddon’s morale aura, but on the whole without legion traits and unable to go to 40 models (giving you the most value on your Tide of Traitors Stratagem), there’s just no longer a reason to build around them. On the other hand they sit on objectives just fine (though they’ll die quick to Thunderfire Cannons and well, everything else, and they only cost 40 points for a squad of 10.

Chaos Space Marines

The Pure Chaos Space Marines by Tyler “Coda” Moore

Now priced at 11 points per model, Chaos Space Marines have finally gotten cheap enough (and Cultists bad enough) that you’d consider taking a squad or two as your Troops choices (outside of a Red Corsairs detachment, that is). Chaos Space Marines don’t do anything particularly well, so either give them 5 bolters and the mark of slaanesh to maybe shoot twice or in a pinch you can arm them with bolt pistols and close combat weapons and the mark of Khorne to make a squad that can be a moderate nuisance in melee combat. Squad-wise, they can go to 20 models and have 2 special or heavy weapons, but investing in these squads is almost always a mistake.



Chaos Space Marines have a number of interesting Elites choices, most of them specializing in melee combat or mid-range shooting.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

After several points drops and a loadout change to allow them to carry chainaxes by default, Chaos Terminators are finally good enough to be worth using. Able to dump out 4 shots per model up to 24″ after teleporting onto the battlefield, Chaos Terminators have the volume to do some real damage, particularly when you’ve combined them with the Veterans of the Long War Stratagem. The best way to use them is to likely give them the Mark of Slaanesh so they can use Endless Cacophony to fire twice before charging in, though if you’re running World Eaters and using them as Red Butchers, I won’t begrudge you that, even if it isn’t a top-tier strategy. If you’re going this route, consider giving them an Icon of Excess as well, since it can help punch through units of space marines that might otherwise tarpit the unit effectively.


Credit: Charlie A

The current golden boys of the faction, which is ironic considering the models they have. Possessed are, on their surface, a mediocre unit; they have no shooting and the fact that they have D3 attacks rolled every turn can make them hugely unpredictable as a melee unit. However, when combined with several easy buffs from the Daemonkin Ritualists Specialist Detachment, the Master of Possessed, and either a Greater Possessed or Daemonic Herald (as they have the DAEMON keyword), they become a really nasty force to be reckoned with, able to mulch through most of the obstacles in the game.

This is the core of the Possessed Bomb list – a 20-model blob of Chaos Possessed backed up by a Master of Possession, Dark Apostle, and usually either a Greater Possessed or a Herald. There are several different ways to run them as well, depending on your style. Word Bearers Possessed tend to hit hardest, but are the most vulnerable, while Alpha Legion Possessed are fast, the hardest to hit and easiest to protect (most notably with Conceal). Night Lords Possessed can also be hard to hit and can trap units in combat, while World Eaters Possessed have a ton of attacks and fight twice, and Emperor’s Children Possessed have the ability to make some insane charges, plus they can boost stats easily.

Mark also matters. The most common flavors are Nurgle, where Miasma of Pestilence boosts their defences and Virulent Blessing from Daemons stacks with Veterans of the Long War to turbo-charge their damage, and Slaanesh, where they get access to Delightful Agonies on the defensive and the Contorted Epitome provides a good compliment to what they’re doing and boosts their strength further. With the right combination of (easy) buffs, Possessed have gone from being the buff of a “Hear Me Out” list joke to a true build-around unit. At the time of writing Alpha Legion/Nurgle (the original breakout build) is probably still just about the most common choice, but Slaanesh versions are rapidly rising in popularity, and other flavours are being used successfully as well.

Greater Possessed

Credit: MasterSlowPoke

Greater Possessed are pretty nasty in combat, but their real value is adding +1 Strength to a nearby squad of Possessed.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Chaos Dreadnoughts, Helbrutes have a few stark advantages over their loyalist brethren. The first being that they get 8″ Movement, which is great, because the other advantage is that they have great melee options. And you need those, because their shooting options are pretty bad. On the whole, Helbrutes are cheap and pack some interesting options, but tend to suffer from being Not Quite Good Enough. They benefit from Legion Traits but only a few of the legion traits even matter to them, namely World Eaters (+1 Attack on the charge), Alpha Legion (-1 to be hit outside of 12″), Flawless Host (exploding 6s cause extra hits in melee), and the Red Corsairs (Advance and charge in the same turn). Iron Warriors might be a solid pick, but generally if you’re taking a Helbrute, your best options are to kit it out for melee combat, either giving it 2 Power scourges (so it can wade into combat with 11 Attacks on the charge) or a Helbrute fist and power scourge, to maximize the damage it can do against bigger targets.

Emperor’s Children armies can take Sonic Dreadnought Helbrutes; these have some interesting shooting options, but are more of a novelty. They’re a very cool novelty, though and if you don’t run one in your Emperor’s Children army, you are a coward.

Khorne Berzerkers

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

One of the deadliest melee units in the game, Khorne Berzerkers pack a lot of power into a relatively inexpensive, fragile shell. Their ability to fight twice per turn is crazy deadly, especially when each one comes with S5 and 2 Attacks base and can be kitted out with a chainaxe and chainsword to get them to 4 attacks each on the charge. Berzerkers are very strong but your biggest challenge is going to be getting them into combat. They can’t teleport on their own, leaving you to find other ways of delivering them to combat without losing too many models. This can sometimes be done with Warptime, or if you’re Red Corsairs you can use the ability to advance and charge to make those distances shorter but more than likely you’ll want to do this with a Transport. Unfortunately, almost all of the Chaos Space Marine transports are terrible. Rhinos are, at best, serviceable but the one transport you might really want to look at is the Terrax Termite Assault Drill, which can deliver your Berzerkers right to their target on turn 2 and will stick around to become a threat in its own right. The downside is the need to make a 9″ charge, but there are a few ways you can help with that (the Violent Urgency Warlord Trait, in particular), particularly if you’re running World Eaters.

On that note, Berzerkers really shine in World Eaters armies, where they can occupy Troop slots in a Detachment and benefit from an extra attack during their first fight round on the turn they charge. With Apoplectic Frenzy you can move squads up 9″ before the game starts, moving them into key mid-table terrain features like NOVA Ls to set them up for a turn 1 charge or protect them from enemy fire.

Noise Marines

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Nosie Marines are the Slaanesh-devoted Elite unit in the Chaos Codex, armed with Sonic Blasters that ignore cover and act as upgrades over standard marine bolters (though less so now that Bolter Discipline/Malicious Volleys exists). They can come in squads of up to 20 and can include one Blastmaster under 10 models or two at more than 10; these act as souped-up Missile Launchers, with modes that are good for big targets and small. Noise Marines have a cool ability called Music of the Apocalypse that allows them to pop off a shooting attack after they die, which is a fine bonus. Unlike with Khorne Berzerkers, there’s not really a lot of compelling reasons to take Noise Marines outside of Emperor’s Children. This is both because they can occupy a Troops slot and also because Emperor’s Children have the Excrutiating Frequencies Stratagem, which adds 1 to the damage of a squad’s sonic weapons, dramatically boosting their output and making it well worth it to have a single squad of 18-20 that can fire twice on loud mode with Endless Cacophony. That said, you can likely make a case for them in an Alpha Legion detachment, where the ability to redeploy them, move them forward pre-game, or fall back and shoot while having -1 to be hit is pretty solid. Skip giving a Doom Siren to the Champion though; give him a Sonic Blaster.

Rubric Marines

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Animated suits of armor stolen from the Thousand Sons, Rubric Marines pack a mean punch thanks to their AP-2 Inferno bolters and come with a Psyker who knows a baby version of Smite, but they come with a hefty price tag at 16 points per model. Normally, there isn’t a really compelling reason to take Rubric Marines in a Chaos Space Marines army; they’re not quite good enough without the crazy help you get from the new Stratagems that Thousand Sons got for them in Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned.

OK, but here’s the thing: None of those fancy new Stratagems are legion-locked; instead they affect RUBRIC MARINES specifically, meaning that you can take a Supreme Command Detachment of Thousand Sons filled with Sorcerers and Daemon Princes that gives you access to Thousand Sons Stratagems, then take a squad of Thousand Sons in say, an Alpha Legion detachment (where they get the legion trait of being -1 to be hit) and then still have access to the Thousand Sons stratagems to teleport them into the battlefield (Risen Rubricae), shoot twice if they remain stationary (Infernal Fusillade), or bump up their invulnerable saves (Indomitable Foes). When combined with these Stratagems and another legion trait, Rubric Marines can be pretty nasty. Alpha Legion works best for this, but you can get up to some fun shenanigans with the Iron Warriors’ Dour Duty Stratagem, which can combine with the Bastion Warlord trait to get you to functionally ignoring AP-3 on 1 damage shooting weapons.

Hellforged Contemptor Dreadnought (FW)

Chaos Space Marines lack the Relic Contemptor variant that their loyalist counterparts have and instead get this cheaper model, which is still actually pretty good. Hellforged Contemptors come with WS/BS 2+, can take a variety of decent mid-ranged shooting weapons, and have a 5+ invulnerable save against ranged attacks that improves to 4+ in melee. There are several things you could outfit one of these with but their best role is going to be fire support, so your best options are to go dual Butcher Cannons, giving you a large volume of S8 AP-1 2 damage shots, or to take dual Ectoplasma Cannons, which are S7 AP-3 D3 Damage. As shooting support, these tend to be outclassed by their more specialized brethren, the Deredeo and Leviathan, but these are still cheap enough to consider in some outside scenarios, since they may be the most efficiently-costed unit in the

Hellforged Sicaran (FW)

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

One of the more interesting Forgeworld tanks, the Hellorged Sicaran suffers from just not having enough shooting, an issue that the Imperium would eventually solve by piling a hundred smaller guns onto a Repulsor chassis. They might be more useful if they weren’t so expensive, but 150 points base before you add any other guns for something with its Accelerator Autocannon is too much.

Other Choices

Chaos Space Marines

Chosen Chaos Space Marines. That Gobbo


Basically veteran Chaos Space Marine squads, Chosen have all the issues that CSM squads have, but cost 1 point per model more, get +1 attack and lose out on ObSec by virtue of being Elites. Their biggest value is the ability to kit them out in a ton of different ways, and of these the most useful loadout is either 5 plasma guns or 5 meltaguns and putting them in a Termite Assault drill so they can pop out and drop a bunch of surprise shooting on someone before they die horribly.

Plague Marines

Nurgle-dedicated marines filled with pus and bile, Plague Marines are tougher than normal and have some fairly nasty weapon options, but don’t particularly bring much to a Chaos Space Marines army. Hell, they’re barely worth taking in a Death Guard army, where they can be taken as Troops.


OK I was wrong; the best thing about Greater Possessed is that you no longer ever have to think about running Mutilators. Mutilators are the worst kind of melee unit. They’re unreliable, unremarkable, and slow.


Fallen have the same issues that Cypher does in that they can’t really be fielded in a Chaos Space Marines detachment thanks to their odd keywords. They’re really just an option for fun themed armies and Narrative games.

Chaos Decimator (FW)

Sitting somewhere between a Helbrute and Contemptor, the Decimator is notable for being a Daemon Engine that can carry Contemptor weapons. This means that it has much better guns than a Helbrute and while it lacks the Contemptor’s 2+ BS, it can benefit from the Lord Discordant’s aura giving it +1 to hit and can use the Daemonforge Stratagem to get re-rolls. And, like the Hellforged Contemptor, it has a 5+ invulnerable save. the big problem is that Lords Discordant don’t want to hang back and shoot, they want to charge forward and kill things, and so they make a bad partner for the Decimator, whose ability to take butcher cannons and C-Beams is outclassed by Contemptors.

Hellforged Predator (FW)

Inexplicably placed in the Elites slot. It’s not really doing anything you need.


Fast Attack

The Chaos Space Marine Fast Attack options are limited, but there are some good options in there. The meat of it are Bikers and Warp Talons.

Chaos Bikers

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Fast, tough, and thanks to Malicious Volleys able to push out a crazy number of bolter shots, Chaos Bikers can make a great addition to an army as a mobile fire base capable of putting out heavy volumes of mid-range, mid-strength shooting. AP 0 isn’t great, and means that you typically don’t want them trying to weight-of-fire big vehicle targets, but against Intercessors, Ork boyz, or other large squads of infantry they’ll do some great work. Because you almost always want them firing twice with Endless Cacophony you’ll want to give them the Mark of Slaanesh, and as there’s no reason for them to have a bolt pistol, give them a chainsword so they can also do work in melee combat in a pinch, where having 3 attacks each on the charge isn’t too shabby. If you do want the extra push against vehicles, giving two bikers meltaguns (and a combi-melta on the champion) is also a solid option.



Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Raptors are pretty bad. They aren’t good enough in melee to do any real damage (and there aren’t enough ways to buff them) and their shooting isn’t good enough to make them mobile fire bases. The good news is that you have Warp Talons for the melee aspect and bikers for the shooting aspect. This means that Raptors are left on the outside, which makes me sad as a Night Lords player but as a “player who wants to win games,” you can skip them.


Warp Talons

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Once a complete laughingstock, thanks to Faith and Fury Warp Talons have quickly become a powerful utility unit in the Chaos Space Marines’ arsenal. The core unit definitely doesn’t look like much; Warp Talons are a series of Jump Pack-enabled Chaos Space Marines (including a 1-Attack profile) armed with a pair of lightning claws. What they do bring to the table is the DAEMON keyword and the Warpflame Strike ability, which prevents enemy units from firing Overwatch at them the turn they arrive on the table as reinforcements. Previously, this didn’t matter, as they aren’t able to take an Icon of Khorne and didn’t really have a reliable way of making those charges. However with multiple points drops, plus the Host Raptorial detachment and Faith and Fury’s new stratagems (including the Night Lords’ Raptor Strike and We Have Come For You), coupled with the need to protect charging Possessed, they’ve suddenly found new life as potent disruptors. A 5-model squad of Warp Talons is capable of dropping onto the battlefield and charging multiple units, preventing them from firing Overwatch at other more valuable targets. And because they have the DAEMON keyword, they can benefit from many of the same buffs and auras that are helping the Possessed, giving them a little extra fighting power and making them into something resembling an actual threat.

Taken on their own, Warp Talons don’t really have the damage output to be a solid melee threat – lightning claws just aren’t very good in 8th edition, and they don’t have enough attacks to be a volume threat. They’re best used as one or two 5-model squads in your army, held in reserves until they can drop onto the table and protect another charging unit. If you take two squads, consider that you may want to keep one for turn 3, especially if you’re using a stratagem to help the squads make their charges.

Blood Slaughterer of Khorne (FW)

The Blood Slaughterer is one of several melee-focused daemon engines, but the only one that slots into the Fast Attack slot. Blood Slaughterers are always Khorne-devoted, have a 10″ move, 6 Attacks (+1 from the Blade and +2 if they ever fight INFANTRY units), and come with a blade and a harpoon, each of which does flat 3 damage, making them nasty vehicle hunters. Blood Slaughterers are as good a choice as any of the other melee daemon engines, and priced appropriately. Pair them with Lords Discordant to get them to WS 2+ and BS 3+ and have them hunt. Their Scuttling Gait ability (always advance 6″) makes them good targets for the Infernal Engines Stratagem in a Soulforged Pack.

Other Choices

Chaos Spawn

Chaos Spawn make good, cheap fillers in an Outrider detachment, and if your opponent isn’t paying any attention they can cause some mischief, being surprisingly deadly in melee. But they’re super squishy with no invulnerable save and the fact that they’re BEASTS and not INFANTRY means they can’t run through ruin walls and that kills their viability in tournament play.

Greater Blight Drone (FW)

The bigger, meaner cousin of the Death Guard Foetid Blight-Drone. Lacks Disgustingly Resilient because Forge World rules are dumb as hell, but heals one wound at the start of each of your turns. The Greater Blight Drone is faster and better at shooting than the smaller versions – it comes with BS 3+ and doesn’t degrade. That’d be great, except its primary gun is Heavy 4, so you’re still shooting at BS 4+ most of the time. They get an extra gun and a scout move that’s a neat addition, but at more than 200 points per model, you can comfortably skip these.

Hellforged Dreadclaw Drop Pod (FW)

The only small drop pod the Chaos Marines have access to. Unlike loyalist drop pods, it can’t come in turn 1. It also can get up and fly around after it arrives, which is neat but not something you want to pay an extra 70 points for.

Hellforged Kharybdis Drop Pod (FW)

A bigger, meaner version of the Dreadclaw, capable of carrying a full 20 models. They’re not terrible shooting or fighting, either, and certainly pack a lot of bulk. The ability to deliver 20 models would make them interesting if they weren’t massively overcosted thanks to a price hike they took more than a year ago. At 325 points they just aren’t worth it.


Heavy Support

Chaos Space Marine tend to lack good long-range shooting, but they have a number of solid Heavy Support choices, both in terms of options for quality mid-range shooting and strong melee-focused daemon engines.



There was a lot of excitement around Havocs and their wonderful new models when the 2nd Codex came out for Chaos Space Marines. Then it all died down very quickly, for a few reasons. The first is that even with T5, because Havocs are now fixed at 5 models per squad, they can’t take any ablative wounds, so they’re more fragile than ever. The second is that while the Reaper Chaincannon is neat, its 24″ range and S5 shots marks it as a gun that is designed to clear out hordes of infantry, something that Chaos has no problem with and an issue that wasn’t what the meta has been asking for (it has more value now that primaris marines are more prevalent, but the 24″ range still kills it). So with Havocs you have a unit that isn’t quite good enough at shooting and isn’t quite durable enough. There are some ways to mitigate this, such as with the Cannon Fodder Stratagem for Iron Warriors, but even then you’re going to find out how disappointing the output on four Lascannons or Missile Launchers can be pretty quick. Havocs work best with the Mark of Slaanesh so they can shoot twice with Endless Cacophony, preferably while under the influence of multiple auras and abilities like a Chaos Lord’s re-roll hit rolls of 1 aura, the Prescience power, or the Warp-Sight Plea prayer.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Obliterators got a huge adjustment in the 2nd codex to go with their new models, beefing up in size, wounds, and firepower. The results are mostly positive (the increased point costs not so much), and the result is a unit of Teleporting 4W Infantry with 6 shots each firing Fleshmetal weapons at 24″. OK, here’s the good stuff: Obliterators can put out a lot of damage, and are pretty tough, thanks to 2+/5++ saves, T5, and 4 wounds apiece. They also hit pretty hard in melee combat thanks to their mini-power fists. Here’s the bad: They’re slow as hell when they aren’t teleporting, have limited range, and their shooting can be wildly inconsistent. While you can choose a target after you have rolled the stats for their guns (see the FAQ for this), it still doesn’t mitigate the fact that it really sucks when you roll a 1 for any of their gun stats, particularly damage. Obliterators almost always want to have the Mark of Slaanesh so they can double up on shooting and they also really want to be targets for Veterans of the Long War. The Iron Warriors have a few neat tricks to improve them, but they work pretty well in Alpha Legion or even Black Legion, where Abaddon’s full re-rolls aura helps them greatly.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Defilers have been left on the outside looking in ever since they lost the ability to fire indirectly several editions ago, but they’ve received a kind of new lease on life recently thanks to Lords Discordant. Here’s the thing: If you’re running one of these, ignore the guns. Don’t buy any extra guns, give it a scourge, and treat it like a melee-focused Daemon Engine. Run it/them up the board supported by Lords Discordant, and if it gets off any hits with its battle canon, that’s a bonus. Otherwise, focus on its ability to deliver S16, AP-3 D6 damage attacks with its claws (plus another 3 at S12, AP-2, 3 damage with the scourge). Overall the Defiler is probably the worst of the melee daemon engines you could take, if only because you have to pay for the gun, but it’s not a bad option, either.


A purely melee-focused daemon engine, the Maulerfiend offers a fast (10″ move) vehicle platform that can put out a scary number of attacks in melee when equipped with Lasher Tendrils, and its Maulerfiend fists are capable of doing real damage. Like the other melee daemon engines, it wants the support of a Lord Discordant to mitigate its terrible WS, but otherwise it’s an uncomplicated unit – point it at the things you want to kill and have it charge forward, ideally as part of a Soulforged Pack.


Credit: Triphos

A newer unit from the Shadowspear box, Venomcrawlers have seen varying levels of competitive play off the back of their ability to run quickly and put out a solid number of attacks for its points cost. It doesn’t benefit from legion traits, but will enjoy the +1 attack from Hateful Assault and gets the benefit of a 5+ invulnerable save and the ability to regain wounds after killing things (in addition to regaining one per turn). As with the other daemon engines, one of the bigger downsides to these is the 4+ WS and BS, so Venomcrawlers basically need to be paired with one or more Lords Discordant. Good thing those are great. They also explode on 5s, which is great when they’re stuck in with enemy units.

Hellforged Deredeo Dreadnought

Most likely the best shooting platform in the Chaos Space Marines army, the Hellforged Deredeo has a number of things going for it. The first is that as a HELBRUTE, it benefits from Legion Traits, making it a good fit in a Purge army, where it can benefit from re-rolls to hit against models already wounded this turn, or an Alpha Legion detachment (-1 to be hit at more than 12″, which it will hopefully always be), or even Iron Warriors (no cover bonuses for enemy units). The best loadout for the Deredeo is almost always the Butcher Cannon array with a greater havoc launcher to maximize output, and if you’re not working with a Purge detachment, you want to make sure you have some way of re-rolling 1s to hit to maximize their output (a barebones chaos lord is fine for this). Skip the Hellfire Veil and be sure to surround it with screening units because as soon as someone gets into combat with the Deredeo, it’ll be worthless.

Hellforged Leviathan

Hellforged Leviathan Dreadnought

Hellforged Leviathan Dreadnought. Credit: That Gobbo

Even bigger and burlier than the Contemptor, the Hellforged Leviathan is a monster unit, capable of putting out a punishing amount of firepower and benefitting from legion traits as a HELBRUTE. It can also fight in melee combat, but that’s really not what you want it for. No, what you want a Hellforged Leviathan for is a pair of Butcher Cannon arrays, which give the Leviathan a silly amount of firepower that’s great for mulching marines or taking on light vehicles. These pair very well with Deredeos to create long-range shooting batteries, and older pre-Faith & Fury competitive lists frequently featured a Purge or Death Guard Leviathan and 2-3 Hellforged Deredeos. They can also work well in an Iron Warriors detachment, where removing cover bonuses and using stratagems like Tank Hunters to up your chances of punching damage through against vehicles and Dour Duty, Unholy Vigour, and Iron WIthin, Iron WIthout to keep it on the table.

Other Choices

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


The shooty cousin of the Maulerfiend. Unfortunately, while WS 4+ is something  you can live with on a melee unit, it’s absolutely not something you can live with on a shooting unit that suffers an extra -1 to hit if it moves.

Chaos Vindicator

Even with the updated gun profile – which helps – these aren’t good enough to be worth much consideration. The best use for them is as (relatively) cheap T8 roadblocks that can rush the opponent early on, like a kind of very poor man’s Plagueburst Crawler. Just use PBCs instead.

Chaos Predator

The Predator Autocannon is a solid weapon but these just aren’t points-efficient enough to merit use.

Land Raider

The poor Land Raider is still about 100 points too expensive to be worth using in most games, and almost everything you’d want to transport in it can just teleport into the battlefield anyways.

Plague Hulk of Nurgle

A tougher, Nurgle-r Defiler in most respects, the Plague Hulk packs some useful abilities, like an aura reducing the saves of enemies within 1″ by 1, effectively making its weapons AP-4 and also affecting invulnerable saves. They’ve also got better weapons on the whole, and Disgustingly Resilient. They even get the <LEGION> and DAEMON ENGINE keywords from the FAQ. But they cost 80 points more than the Defiler, and that essentially makes them too pricey to run as 3-ofs alongside a trio of Lord Discordants. At that point, the army wants cheap killing power more than units that are hard-to-kill. Still, this feels more like a unit that’s “on the cusp” than many other units in our “Other Choices” bin.

Hellforged Land Raiders (FW)

The Hellforged Land Raiders aren’t much better than their plastic counterparts.

Hellforged Scorpius (FW)

The Hellforged Scorpius’ Whirlwind launcher is pretty solid, but doesn’t carry the AP bonus its loyalist counterpart enjoyed and doesn’t do a lot to support the current melee-heavy strategies of the army. It’s also a vehicle, and a bit pricey at 217 points after you add in the weapons. Still, firing twice at 48″ with 3D3 S6 AP-2 2 damage shots is nothing to sneeze at, and these could find a home in Iron Warriors or Purge detachments that can make better use of units that can fire indirectly.

Wings Note: I’ve played against these as Iron Warriors and I can confirm that they were pretty mean. They also ate all my Shining Spears. Turns out they’re surprisingly nasty in melee.


Dedicated Transport

Chaos Space Marines only have two Dedicated Transport options: The lowly Chaos Rhino and the Terrax Pattern Termite Assault Drill.

Chaos Rhino

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The lowly rhino is about 20 points too expensive to be something you’d seriously look at as a transport option in most games, but it’s also your only cheap option, and there are occasionally successful armies that use them, usually as a delivery mechanism for Berzerkers.

Terrax Pattern Termite Assault Drill (FW)

Terrax-pattern Termite Assault Drill

Terrax-pattern Termite Assault Drill
-Credit: Pendulin

A newer, Forge World addition for Chaos Space Marine armies to employ, the Terrax Pattern Termite Assault Drill is more expensive (130 points), but can carry 12 models and can deep strike, dropping off units just outside of 9″ away from they enemy. This is a very useful way for pushing key units right into the enemy lines, where they can make charges with the help of stratagems like Honour the Prince. The big advantage that Termite Drills have – and something that makes them nominally worth it – is that they are serious threats on their own once they arrive – an opponent that doesn’t deal with one will suddenly find that they have to deal with 7 drill attacks barreling into their lines, tearing things up.




Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Notable for being an aircraft that can also tear things up, the Heldrake got a much-needed boost from the Hateful Assault rule, which bring it up to 5 Attacks on the charge when at full health. Heldrakes have a terrible ballistic skill and you’ll want them moving forward to charge, so give them Baleflamers. Despite their Heldrake Claws ability, the ideal targets for Heldrakes are tanks without fly and gunlines, where you can Charge a Heldrake right into them on turn 1 after a 30” move and tie them up immediately, protecting the rest of your army from fire as it advances and your opponent is forced to fall back in the following turn. They can also be used to attack pesky Eldar flyers in a pinch, using their auto-hit guns and claws to put in some real damage if they aren’t shot down first. Heldrakes are particularly nasty in Night Lords detachments, where their high movement allows them to get up close and personal quickly, activating Vox Scream Stratagem on turn 1 from essentially anywhere in the enemy lines. As daemon engines, they also benefit from Lord Discordant auras, making them a little nastier when their mounted buddies finally catch up.

Other Choices

Chaos Fire Raptor

Fire Raptors were great before their points hike in Chapter Approved 2017. Now there’s potentially a place for them in armies that can stack a lot of bonuses and auras on one of them, but Chaos Space Marine aren’t really one of those armies, especially because they lack the Combat Doctrines rule to give them meaningful AP boosts. As-is, the Fire Raptor is a solid, but slightly overpriced gun platform that can put in work against targets for you. It’s not competitively priced, but bringing one won’t kill you, either.

Chaos Storm Eagle

These never got the points hike that Fire Raptors got, but they didn’t really need them. Clocking in at 325 points with base equipment, they’re a relatively expensive mechanism for carrying 20 models into battle. And like all transports, you need them to survive through to your turn 2 in order to get out and start charging. This can be set up reasonably on turn 1 with a Dark Apostle using Benediction of Darkness to give your Storm Eagle a -2 to be hit, but once you’ve moved out of his range on turn 2 a -1 to be hit won’t be enough to protect a T7, 16W vehicle. Ultimately it’s too much investment for something that will likely be shot out of the sky before you ever have a chance to move.

Chaos Hellblade

Hell blades had a short stint of play in Death Guard armies, where they were the cheapest large base unit you could field, allowing you to use them to block off enemy movement and trap units in place while Blightlord Terminators closed in and mowed them down, but then GW stepped up and changed the rules for flying bases, forcing Don Hooson to come up with a new army (see my notes on Triple Lord of Skulls lists, below). They aren’t worth your time now.

Chaos Hell Talon

Hell Talons have some unique rules but cost too much to be worth considering seriously.



Chaos Space Marines have access to a single Fortiifcation, The Noctilith Gate. It’s a very pretty boondoggle that suffers from the same detachment-related issues all fortifications in 8th edition have.


Lords of War

Chaos Space Marines have access to quite a few Lords of War, two of which are surprisingly viable. Most are not. We’re not going to waste time talking about the Warhound, Reaver, and Warlod titans here.

Khorne Lord of Skulls

We’ve come a long way from this guy costing 888 points for narrative reasons. At 380 points base, this guy is basically a much slower Kytan with 6 more wounds, an extra gun, and improving attacks as it takes damage. That last part is a neat trick, but not so great you’ll enjoy dropping to S5 and 4” Movement to get 8 Attacks. As a Lord of War with the <LEGION> keyword, the Lord of Skulls benefits from auras, Dark Prayers, and psychic powers, and as a daemon he benefits from all of the same buffs and auras. There’s a very real set of players out there right now trying to make triple Lord of Skulls lists work (and seeing decent results). Because they get to double up on guns, they pack a little more firepower than the Kytan Ravager (the standard loadout is Hades Gatling Cannon + Ichor Cannon), and come with an extra 6 wounds for only 20 points more. The loss of mobility compared to the Kytan doesn’t matter as much as you’d think — while you give up turn 1 charges, you’re doing more shooting and you’re not outrunning your aura/power support, plus having two 48″ range guns makes you more of a legit shooting threat while you’re pressing forward. Like most Daemon Engines, the Lord of Skulls loves to be accompanied by a Lord Discordant, and Dark Apostles and Masters of Possession make great supports as well.

Kytan Ravager

Credit: TheChirurgeon

The Kytan is basically like a Khorne Chaos Knight, only it retains the HERETIC ASTARTES, DAEMON, and <LEGION> keywords and is a DAEMON ENGINE, and so can benefit from a bunch of faction synergies that Chaos Knights don’t get, such as having Benediction of Darkness cast on him by a Dark Apostle, or receiving the +1 to hit from being near a Lord Discordant. The Kytan also gets access to the Daemonforge Stratagem, and receives the same +1 Strength and re-roll charge benefits other Khorne Daemons can get from Bloodmasters. Otherwise, their loadout is solid, giving you a S8 AP-2 D2 gatling cannon that doesn’t give a penalty to hit when moving and the Kytan’s WS and BS never degrade. Meanwhile its axe gives you the option of either 6-damage Smash attacks or triple-attack slash attacks, either of which are great, depending on the target you’re trying to take down. Kytans essentially offer you a Knight-like unit, but it currently appears to be outclassed by the Lord of Skulls, which packs a second gun and slower movement. The lower movement is rough, but doesn’t matter nearly as much when one of the biggest concerns about the Kytan is how easy it is to outkick your coverage and find yourself stranded without aura/power support.

Greater Brass Scorpion of Khorne

The largest Khorne-dedicated Lord of War, the Greater Brass Scorpion is priced like a unit that Games Workshop wanted you to use only in Apocalypse, with a base cost of 550 points despite having only 20 Wounds and a 3+ save. So it’s basically a Titanic Glass Cannon. It’s that it’s very fast, with 12” base movement and a 3D6” charge. And with 8 base attacks at full health that deal 6 damage each, it can do some insane damage on the charge. Plus it has two very good guns that can tear through infantry and vehicles/monsters alike. And it’s got the <LEGION>, DAEMON ENGINE, and DAEMON keywords, so you can buff it with Dark Apostles, and Lords Discordant. But at 650 points, it’s also insanely expensive and it’s going to die on the first turn of the game.


Strategies for Playing Chaos Space Marines

There’s a lot more to Chaos Space Marines than just understanding the units; if you want to be successful you have to put them all together in a way that will work for you on the table. Before we jump into the specifics, note that there are some basic resources you should be aware of and familiar with that are helpful for every army:

OK, with that out of the way, let’s jump into some specifics.

Build and Plan for the Mission You’ll Be Playing

The game isn’t just about your army and your opponent’s; you’re playing the mission as well, and building an army without the mission (and scoring) in mind is a mistake. As you build your army, think about how it will score points in the format you’re playing, and how opponents can score points against it. If you’re building for the ITC or NOVA formats, think about both which secondary objectives your army will be able to score most effectively – does it have the units and mobility to score Recon? Can it effectively bring down large vehicles? Is it better-suited to Engineers? – and which objectives people can score against you – do you have 24 wounds of 3+ wound, non-Troop models for Gangbusters? 80 wounds of models for Reaper? 4+ characters for Headhunter? If you’re playing progressive scoring, what’s your plan for holding objectives over several turns? If you’re playing Schemes of War, how will you build your Schemes deck? These are questions you need to ask, so you know your strengths and weaknesses and how your army will win.

Don’t be Afraid to Soup

Unlike their imperial counterparts, Chaos Space Marines have nothing to lose from taking armies that include Chaos Daemons or other chaos legions, including Thousand Sons and Death Guard. The Chaos factions are rife with cross-faction synergies you should consider:

  • You can’t use Chaos Daemon Stratagems on Chaos Space Marine DAEMON units, but Chaos Daemon auras and abilities that affect DAEMON units of the same god will also affect Chaos Space Marine DAEMON units. The most common examples will be Heralds, whose auras grant +1 Strength to DAEMON units within 6″ – these are ideal for buffing Chaos Possessed, Daemon Engines, and Warp Talons.
  • Although they have their own Codexes, both Death Guard and Thousand Sons have the HERETIC ASTARTES keyword, meaning that many effects that impact HERETIC ASTARTES units (and aren’t locked to a specific Legion) can also be used on those units. The most common example of this is being able to cast Prescience and Warptime on Death Guard units like Mortarion, but also extends to Stratagems – if your army includes a Chaos Space Marines detachment, you can use the Tide of Traitors Stratagem on Death Guard or Thousand Sons Cultists (who aren’t much better, but can come in squads of 40). The inverse is also true – Thousand Sons casters using Dark Hereticus powers can target HERETIC ASTARTES units from CSM detachments, and given they’re way better casters you often want to bring them along to land your crucial Warptime.
  • We’ve mentioned this above, but the Thousand Sons stratagems in Ritual of the Damned that affect RUBRIC MARINES are not locked to Thousand Sons units, so if you have a Thousand Sons Detachment and a Chaos Space Marines detachment with Rubric Marines in it, then you can use the Stratagems on those Rubric Marines, even if they’re say, Alpha Legion Rubric Marines enjoying that legion trait.
  • On that note, you’ll often want to consider how you can get more value from the other two armies – even in mixed detachments, Winged Daemon Princes, Thousand Sons Sorcerers, and Ahriman are powerful psykers capable of doing incredible damage even without the Thousand Sons legion trait or stratagems. A Thousand Sons Supreme Command detachment full of psykers is a powerful addition to Chaos Space Marines army.

Plan to Spend a Lot of CP

Chaos Space Marines are a very CP-thirsty army; many of your tricks rely on multiple stratagems, with many of those costing 2 CP. You’ll want to make sure that you are starting games with at least 8 CP, so you can effectively use those combinations at least once and hopefully twice during the game. You’ll also want to make sure you’re bringing at least one Battalion in your army, two if you can manage it and plan to use more stratagems and Specialist Detachments.

Daemon Engines and You

Chaos Space Marines have a number of different Daemon Engines to build around, although daemon engine-heavy armies have fallen out of vogue recently. If you’re going that route, don’t spend too much time worrying about the minute differences between Venomcrawlers, Maulerfiends, Defilers, and Blood Slaughterers – which of these is the best will mostly boil down to your personal preferences, play style, army strategies, and the meta you’ll be facing. Just make sure whatever you take is well-supported by the right auras, powers, and prayers so you can get the most out of it, and get in some practice games with the list so you’re comfortable playing with those daemon engines.

Threat Saturation

Chaos Space Marines have some great units that are fairly fragile and in the case of the Lord Discordant, frustratingly easy to target. If you’re not working with something like an untargetable blob of Possessed, the way you’re going to get around using this problem is through redundancy and threat saturation – that is, taking multiples of your key units such that it is impossible for your opponent to deal with all of them effectively before they can disrupt your opponent’s plans. This is why you take three Lords Discordant, three Lords of Skulls, etc. Stacking up a huge punch of Lords Discordant and Forge World dreads is a pretty robust plan.

Stack Effects With Endless Cacophony and Fury of Khorne

Fury of Khorne lets you fight again at the end of the Fight phase. Endless Cacophony lets you shoot again at the end of the Shooting phase. For both of these, any stratagems you’ve played for that phase will stay in effect through the additional round of fighting/shooting. Take advantage of this by using them when they’ll have the greatest effects, i.e. after you’ve used Veterans of the Long WarExcruciating Frequencies, Prey on the Weak, or Wild Fury (or anything similar).

Be Active in Every Phase of the Game

Psychic Powers are a potent part of your arsenal. Make sure you’ve brought Sorcerers (or ways of dealing with powers if you’re going mono-Khorne) and have a plan for how to use them. A good Chaos Space Marines army will usually be active in every phase of the game.

Don’t Forget to Pray

Dark Apostles are a powerful addition to your army, but remembering to activate prayers at the start of a battle round can be hell if you’re not used to playing with them. Set reminders for yourself and your opponent so you know to stop and activate these effects at the start of each battle round.

Don’t Get Greedy

Between prayers, auras, psychic powers, stratagems, and cross-faction abilities and auras, you can stack a lot of effects on certain units, creating some truly insane combinations – Possessed with a dozen Strength 8 attacks each, with -5 to be hit! Daemon Princes who can one-shot a Warhound! And other madness. Here’s the thing: You don’t need all of it. You just need enough to kill those targets and consolidate into the next one. As you build, focus on having enough, with redundancies in case something happens and you need another buff, and not on how insane you can make things by going all in on a single strategy. Otherwise you’ll find that you have nothing to do when you lose your 20-model possessed squad on turn 1.

Grey Knights and You

Grey Knights are really good right now, and they’re even better against Daemon-heavy Chaos armies. You’re gonna be facing some rough uphill battles if you run into them. If you’re pure daemons, you’re going to have a real bad time against them, but the good news is that Grey Knights do have some limitations. They’re dependent in many ways on taking down a single unit at a time and making a strong counter- or “beta”-strike, and you can sacrifice a unit to bait them out and get them in position to strike yourself. Be careful about what targets you make available to them, be prepared to lose those targets, and you can limit the damage you’re taking and hit them when they’re vulnerable.

Specific Strategies

Looking for Possessed Bombs? Daemon Engines? Triple Lord of Skulls? How to use Lords Discordant? We’re going to talk about that all in the lists section, so keep scrolling down.


Sample Lists

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

In this final section, we’re going to talk about some specific lists, highlighting key strategies and synergies, and talk about how to play them. If you’ve been looking for Possessed bomb lists, they’ll be here in a variety of flavors. I’m not going to cover every possible list, but I am going to try to present a broad swath of lists and units, so no matter what level you’re at or the units you have, there will be something you can work with – it’s an exciting time to play Chaos Space Marines!

Also, before I hop into this, it’s important to note something: Competitive means a lot of different things. For some people a competitive list means “regularly clocking 6-0 results at major GTs.” I cannot stress enough how much of a mistake it is to think that way. First off, going 6-0 takes a ton of player skill, the right meta, and a bit of luck. Good lists and players go 5-1 or 4-2 or even 3-3 all the time. Second, there are plenty of lists that can regularly go 2-1 or 3-0 at a local RTT, where you have a smaller gauntlet to run and more chances for luck to work out in your favor. Many, many lists can win 3 games in a row but will fail to win 5+. I’d urge you to think about what your goals are and relax your standards – just because you are going to a tournament doesn’t mean you can’t play something a little more casual and still succeed. Finally, you’ll likely do better with a worse list that you’re comfortable with than one that’s stronger but you’ve rarely played. Just ask Nick Nanavati about his LVO White Scars list if you want to know more about that.

Mani Cheema’s Possessed Bomb Chaos Soup

We’re staring off with the current top list for the faction, and if you want someone to emulate, you could do a lot worse than Glasshammer’s Mani Cheema, who has been known for his aggressive play style and building great lists. Mani took this Possessed Bomb list to a 5-0-0 1st place finish at the 100-player Battlefield Birmingham event in March (the last major recorded before lockdowns closed most events), running a mix of Alpha Legion, Thousand Sons, and Chaos Daemons. In many ways, it’s the model for current Chaos Space Marine Possessed Bombs.

The core here is an 18-model unit of Possessed as part of an Alpha Legion Daemonkin Ritualists Specialist Detachment. They’re supported in a number of key ways:

  • A Master of Possession, who can protect the unit (Cursed Earth) and buff it (Infernal Power) with his spells and turns on the Vessels for the Neverborn Stratagem, plus he has the Shepherd of the True Faith Field Commander trait.
  • A Sorcerer, who can also buff (Prescience) and protect (Delightful Agonies).
  • Chaos Cultists, who can either hold objectives or move ahead of the Possessed, and force the opponent to fire at them instead with the Conceal Stratagem
  • The Possessed have the Mark of Slaanesh, which allows them to benefit from the auras of the Slaanesh Daemons in the Supreme Command Detachment
  • The Herald of Slaanesh and the Contorted Epitome have the Locus Aura that gives +1 Strength (these don’t stack)
  • The Infernal Enrapturess can bring back dead Possessed every turn
  • The Contorted Epitome prevents enemy units from falling back with its Horrible Fascination ability
  • Because the Chaos Daemons detachment has allegiance to Slaanesh, all of its characters have the Locus of Swiftness, allowing the Possessed and any other SLAANESH DAEMON units within 6″ to Advance and Charge in the same turn, helping them all get into combat
  • The Herald and the Contorted Epitome both have the Hysterical Frenzy psychic power, which allows a unit of SLAANESH DAEMONS to fight in the Psychic phase, giving the Possessed another chance to inflict real pain

The list also helps mitigate the need for tons of CP by packing a Thousand Sons Battalion Detachment. This includes Ahirman and two Sorcerers in the Cult of Magic, packing maximum casting power (the Warlord has the Devastating Sorcery Warlord Trait, giving him extra mortal wounds on every cast, and the Arcane Focus relic to get +1 to casts. Ahirman’s powers are set up more for supporting the Possessed (Prescience, Warptime), but the other two are for offering support to the Rubric Marines along with the Tzaangor Shamans. For ranged firepower and holding objectives, the list packs two 13-model squads of Rubric Marines, who can be dropped in anywhere on the battlefield with Risen Rubricae, then use their All is Dust rule and Glamour of Tzeentch to sit on objectives while comfortably tossing out Inferno bolter shots all game.

Mani Cheema – Battlefield Birmingham 17

++ Alpha Legion Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [40 PL, 602pts, -2CP] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion
Specialist Detachment: Daemonkin Ritualists

HQ: Master of Possession [5 PL, 88pts]: Cursed Earth, Force stave, Infernal Power, Mark of Slaanesh, Field Commander (-1CP), Shepherd of the True Faith
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 88pts]: Bolt pistol, Delightful Agonies, Force stave, Mark of Slaanesh, Prescience

Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh x9, Champion w/Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh x9, Champion w/Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh x9, Champion w/Autogun

Elites: Possessed [20 PL, 306pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 18x Possessed

++ Thousand Sons Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [79 PL, 1,081pts] ++
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Magic

HQ: Ahriman [7 PL, 131pts]: Doombolt, Prescience, Warptime
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 88pts]: Force stave, Glamour of Tzeentch, Infernal Gaze, Inferno Bolt Pistol
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 88pts]: Cult Relic, Devastating Sorcery, Force stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Temporal Manipulation, Tzeentch’s Firestorm, Warlord

Troops; Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]. 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun. Cultist Champion: Autogun
Troops: Rubric Marines [21 PL, 232pts]. Aspiring Sorcerer: Force stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Weaver. 13x Rubric Marine w/ Inferno Boltgun
Troops: Rubric Marines [21 PL, 232pts]. Aspiring Sorcerer: Force stave, Inferno Bolt Pistol, Weaver. 13x Rubric Marine w/ Inferno Boltgun

Elites: Tzaangor Shaman [5 PL, 90pts]: Force stave, Temporal Manipulation
Elites: Tzaangor Shaman [5 PL, 90pts]: Force stave, Glamour of Tzeentch
Elites: Tzaangor Shaman [5 PL, 90pts]: Force stave, Weaver of Fates

++ Slaanesh Daemons Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Daemons) [18 PL, 315pts] ++
Chaos Allegiance: Slaanesh

HQ: Herald of Slaanesh [4 PL, 50pts]: Hysterical Frenzy
HQ: Infernal Enrapturess [4 PL, 70pts] HQ: The Contorted Epitome [10 PL, 195pts]: Hysterical Frenzy, Phantasmagoria

++ Total: [137 PL, -2CP, 1,998pts] ++


Nathan Roberts’ Monofaction Chaos Space Marines with Havocs

Second place at Battlefield Birmingham (4-1) was Nathan Roberts’ list, running monofaction Chaos Space Marines, albeit across several legions – Word Bearers, Alpha Legion, and Emperor’s Children. It’s a much different list from the standard Possessed bombs, and while it does run Possessed, it only runs a squad of 9, given the Mark of Khorne and shoved in a Rhino with an Exalted Champion to give them re-rolls to wound and the Master of the Union Warlord trait to give them +1 Attack each. Here the Emperor’s Children Smash Lord fills a valuable role, dropping in from deep strike and using Honour the Prince to guarantee a charge while the Armour of Abhorrence turns off his target’s ability to Overwatch, allowing him to tie up a key unit and prevent it from firing Overwatch at the Possessed.

Here the real interesting choices are the Havocs; the list runs two squads of them, one with 4 reaper chaincannons and the other with 4 lascannons. Either or both can be put into a Rhino and moved into a better position on T1. Both are in a Devastation Battery Specialist Detachment, which allows them to shoot out-of-phase on the opponent’s first turn if the list is going second, something you’ll know when you deploy with the current ITC rules, and be able to set up pretty easily.

Nathan Roberts – Battlefield Birmingham 17

​++ Word Bearers Battalion Detachment (+5 CP) ++
Legion: Word Bearers

HQ: Sorcerer of Tzeentch (80), force stave (8) 88pts (Powers: death hex, warptime, prescience*) (Relic: the malefic tome*)
HQ: Exalted champion of Khorne (70), chain axe (1) 71pts (Warlord: master of the Union)

Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto pistol & close combat weapon (0) 40pts
Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto pistol & close combat weapon (0) 40pts
Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto pistol & close combat weapon (0) 40pts

Elites: 9 possessed of Khorne (153), icon of wrath (10) 163pts Elites: 9 possessed of Khorne (153), icon of wrath (10) 163pts

Dedicated transport: Chaos Rhino of Tzeentch (65), combi-bolter (2) 67pts
Dedicated transport: Chaos Rhino of Tzeentch (65), combi-bolter (2) 67pts

++ Alpha Legion Battalion Detachment (+4 CP) ++
Legion: Alpha Legion
Specialist Detachment: Devastation Battery

HQ: chaos lord of Tzeentch with jump pack (93), power axe (5) 98pts (Relic: Daemons eye -1cp)
HQ: Dark Apostle of Tzeentch (72), accursed arcanum (0) 72pts (prayer: warp sight plea)
Non force org: 2 dark disciples (10) 10pts

Troops: 5 chaos space marines of Slannesh (55) 55pts
Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto guns (0) 40pts
Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto guns (0) 40pts

Heavy support: 5 Havocs of Slaanesh (70), 4 lascannons (100), champion with bolter and chainsword (0) 170pts
Heavy support: 5 Havocs of Slaanesh (70), 4 reaper chaincannons (80), champion with bolter and chainsword (0) 150pts
Heavy support: 3 Obliterators of Slaanesh (285) 285pts

++ Emperor’s Children Battalion Detachment (+5 CP) ++
Legion: Emperor’s Children

HQ: chaos lord of Slaanesh with jump pack (93), thunder hammer (40) 133pts (Relic: Armour of Abhorrence -1cp)
HQ: Sorceror of Slaanesh (80), force stave (8) 88pts (Powers: delightful agonies, prescience)

Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto guns (0) 40pts
Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto guns (0) 40pts
Troops: 10 Cultists of Slaanesh (40), auto guns (0) 40pts



Justin Curtis’ Monofaction Chaos Space Marines with Bikers and Warp Talons

Justin Curtis placed 3rd (4-1) at the 48-player ITC event CAGBash XIII in early March. The list is notable for a few reasons. The first is that it doesn’t run Possessed. The second is that it runs an Iron Warriors battalion. The Iron Warriors Battalion isn’t doing too much and is primarily here as a CP battery, but the Cultists in it can still use the Iron Within, Iron Without and Dour Duty stratagems to make themselves harder to kill as they sit on objectives.

The core of this list is the trio of Lords Discordant, who can buff the Khorne Lord of Skulls. A lone Lord of Skulls isn’t especially terrifying, but alongside the Lords Discordant you can run into some threat priority issues and the Master of Possession can provide additional support with Cursed Earth. Meanwhile the Night Lords detachment offers powerful shooting from the bikers (with the option to charge in), while the Warp Talons can drop in and tie up a unit in Overwtach before the Lords Discordant can be attacked.

Justin Curtis – CAGBash XIII

++ Alpha Legion Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [62 PL, 998pts] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion

HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon [10pts], Mark of Tzeentch, Techno-virus injector
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon [10pts], Mark of Slaanesh, Techno-virus injector
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon [10pts], Mark of Nurgle,  Techno-virus injector
HQ: Master of Possession [5 PL, 88pts]: Force stave [8pts], Mark of Nurgle

LoW: Khorne Lord of Skulls [30 PL, 430pts]: Hades gatling cannon [90pts], Ichor cannon [25pts]

++ Iron Warriors Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [39 PL, 510pts] ++
Legion: Iron Warriors
Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple [10pts]

HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Illusory Supplication, Mark of Tzeentch, Mutating Invocation, Warlord
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 88pts]: Bolt pistol, Force sword [8pts], Mark of Slaanesh

Troops: Chaos Cultists [9 PL, 100pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 24x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun [96pts], Cultist Champion [4pts]: Autogun
Troops; Chaos Cultists [9 PL, 120pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 29x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun [116pts], Cultist Champion [4pts]: Autogun
Troops; Chaos Cultists [9 PL, 120pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 29x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun [116pts], Cultist Champion [4pts]: Autogun

++ Outrider Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [30 PL, 492pts] ++
Legion: Night Lords

HQ: Sorcerer with Jump Pack [7 PL, 116pts]: Bolt pistol, Force sword [8pts], Mark of Tzeentch

FA: Bikers [11 PL, 186pts]: Mark of Slaanesh x7, Biker Champion [25pts]: Combi-bolter [2pts], Combi-bolter [2pts]

FA: Warp Talons [6 PL, 95pts]: Mark of Nurgle, 4x Warp Talon [76pts]: 4x Lightning Claw (pair) [40pts], Warp Talon Champion [19pts]: Lightning Claw (pair)

FA: Warp Talons [6 PL, 95pts]: Mark of Nurgle, 4x Warp Talon [76pts]: 4x Lightning Claw (pair) [40pts], Warp Talon Champion [19pts]: Lightning Claw (pair)



Nick Devotion’s Triple Lord of Skulls List

Another popular build right now is to run triple Lord of Skulls-based lists. These are a bit less susceptible to Grey Knights, since they have more range and take more individual effort to bring down. What Lords of Skulls do bring to the table is a lot of resilience, particularly against Thunder Hammers, where having a 5+ invulnerable save (that can be buffed) helps significantly reduce the amount of damage they take, giving them a chance to strike back and heal up the following turn. One of the other major benefits is that Lords of Skulls don’t really need CP like other Chaos Space Marine armies do — only a few stratagems even affect them (Daemonforge, the Soulforged Pack stratagems), freeing you up to use your CP elsewhere and just worry about auras, positioning, and shooting.

This list, which Nick Devotion took to a 2nd place, 4-1 finish at the 35-player CaptainCon event in February, mixes the Triple Lord of Skulls with some Chaos Daemons and a small squad of Possessed in a Daemonkin Ritualists Specialist Detachment. The Horrors serve an important purpose here, deploying in long chains to screen out potential attackers who might lock the Lords of Skulls in melee combat. The reinforcement points help with this, allowing you to put down additional brimstone horrors as needed when the blue horrors are killed. The Lord Discordant buffs the Lords of Skulls, while the Dark Apostle and Master of Possession can all buff the Lords of Skulls or the Possessed, whichever needs it more in the moment. The big challenge for this list is going to be speed – it doesn’t have a ton of units and it’s not particularly mobile, so some armies will be able to outflank it and it may struggle to hold objectives early on.

Nick Devotion – CaptainCon

++ Alpha Legion Super-Heavy Detachment +3CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [90 PL, 1,290pts, 3CP] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion

LoW: Khorne Lord of Skulls [30 PL, 430pts]: Hades gatling cannon, Ichor cannon
LoW: Khorne Lord of Skulls [30 PL, 430pts]: Hades gatling cannon, Ichor cannon
LoW: Khorne Lord of Skulls [30 PL, 430pts]: Hades gatling cannon, Ichor cannon

++ Chaos Daemons Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Daemons) [19 PL, 220pts, 8CP] ++

HQ: Bloodmaster [3 PL, 56pts] HQ: Poxbringer [4 PL, 70pts]

Troops: Horrors [4 PL, 30pts]: 10x Pair of Brimstone Horrors
Troops: Horrors [4 PL, 32pts]: Blue Horror, 9x Pair of Brimstone Horrors
Troops: Horrors [4 PL, 32pts]: Blue Horror, 9x Pair of Brimstone Horrors

++ Alpha Legion Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [30 PL, 483pts, ] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion
Specialist Detachment [-1CP]: Daemonkin Ritualists

HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Mark of Tzeentch, Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Hydra’s Wail, Mark of Nurgle, Warlord, Techno-virus injector
HQ: Master of Possession [5 PL, 88pts]: Force stave, Mark of Tzeentch

Elites: Possessed [10 PL, 153pts]: Mark of Nurgle, 9x Possessed

++ Reinforcements (Chaos – Daemons) [7pts] ++

Reinforcements [7pts]: 7x Reinforcement Points

++ Total: [139 PL, 2,000pts, 11CP] ++


Stephen MItchell’s Noise Marines and Rubrics List

Making full use of that whole “use Rubric stratagems from Ritual of the Damned on CSM Legion Rubrics,” is this list, which Stephen Mitchell piloted to a 4-1 finish at the 43-player Gigabytes GT ITC event on February 29. Stephen’s list features neither Possessed nor Lords of Skulls, instead opting for a brutal firebase of Noise Marines (20), Rubric Marines (20), and Obliterators (3), each of which can put out a withering hail of fire against different types of targets. Six squads of Cultists fill out the detachments to give the list 14 CP to play with and give the list a way to hold objectives, while the Thousand Sons Sorcerers give the list a nasty psychic punch and can support specific units. The two Dark Apostles also act as buffing agents for each of the squads. In practice, this likely looks like one Thousand Sons Terminator Sorcerer teleporting in with the Obliterators while Ahriman and the other Terminator Sorcerer support the Noise Marines and Rubrics with the two Dark Apostles. Rubric Marines stacking their All is Dust rule (+1 saves vs. damage 1 weapons) with the Alpha Legion Trait (-1 to be hit) and Indomitable Foes (+1 to invulnerable saves) and Benediction of Darkness (-1 to be hit) and Weaver of Fates (+1 to invulnerable saves) and potentially being in cover makes them brutally difficult to take down while they pelt you with AP-2 bolter fire.

Likewise the Noise Marines will benefit more from just having the -1 to be hit, plus Delightful Agonies to shrug off wounds, and they’ll want Prescience or Warp-Sight Plea to improve their accuracy (you can use Prescience on the Obliterators and have the Apostle put WSP on the Noise Marines), or Illusory Supplication/Benediction of Darkness if you’re more worried about high-AP fire. Meanwhile they’re pouring out cover-ignoring sonic weapon shots twice per turn with Endless Cacophony and boosted by Veterans of the Long War.

Stephen Mitchell – Gigabytes GT

++ Alpha Legion Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [80 PL, 1,254pts] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion

HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Mark of Tzeentch, Mutating Invocation, Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple
HQ: Dark Apostle [5 PL, 72pts]: Mark of Tzeentch, Mutating Invocation, Dark Disciples [1 PL, 10pts]: 2x Dark Disciple

Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion: Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion: Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion: Autogun

Elites: Noise Marines [19 PL, 357pts]: 2x Marine w/ Blastmaster: 2x Blastmaster, 17x Marine w/ Sonic blaster: 17x Sonic Blaster, Noise Champion: Chainaxe, Sonic blaster
Elites: Rubric Marines [22 PL, 328pts]: 19x Rubric Marine w/ Inferno Boltgun, Aspiring Sorcerer: Force sword, Inferno Bolt Pistol

HS: Obliterators [18 PL, 285pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 3x Obliterator

++ Alpha Legion Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [24 PL, 375pts] ++
Legion: Alpha Legion

HQ: Daemon Prince with Wings [9 PL, 165pts]: Delightful Agonies, Malefic talon, Wings, Slaanesh
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 90pts]: Combi-bolter, Force stave, Mark of Tzeentch

Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion: Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion: Autogun
Troops: Chaos Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion: Autogun

++ Thousand Sons Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Thousand Sons) [23 PL, 371pts] ++
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Magic

HQ: Ahriman [7 PL, 131pts] HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [8 PL, 120pts]: Familiar, Force stave, Inferno Combi-bolter
HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour [8 PL, 120pts]: Familiar, Force stave, Inferno Combi-bolter, Warlord

++ Total: [127 PL, 2,000pts] ++

Marcus Glowczak’s Chaos Knights and Lords Discordant

There’s almost no synergy in this list, which Marcus took to a 4-1 finish at the 34-player GH500 ITC event in February. Rather, it just trades on good old fashioned beatdowns, running 6 of the nastiest threats in Warhammer 40k. It runs three dual-thermal cannon Iconoclast Chaos Knights and three Red Corsairs Lords Discordant (who can advance and charge), plus a Battalion of Red Corsairs Chaos Space Marines to act as objective holders and a CP battery. The end result is a list that essentially has 6 massive threats that need to be addressed immediately, and 19 CP to play with.

Marcus Glowczak – GH 500

+ Chaos Knights Super-Heavy Detachment +6CP (Chaos – Chaos Knights) [75 PL, 6CP, 1,207pts] ++

LoW: Knight Despoiler [25 PL, 413pts]: 4. Warp-haunted Hull, Character (Traitoris Lance), Heavy stubber, Iconoclast Household, Ironstorm Missile Pod, The Quicksilver Throne of Slaanesh, Thermal cannon, Thermal cannon, Warlord
LoW: Knight Despoiler [25 PL, 397pts]: 3. Daemonic Vigour, Dreadblade, Heavy stubber, Iconoclast Household, Pacts and Damnations, Thermal cannon, Thermal cannon
LoW: Knight Despoiler [25 PL, 397pts]: Heavy stubber, Iconoclast Household, Thermal cannon, Thermal cannon

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [22 PL, 3CP, 313pts] ++
Legion [3CP]: Red Corsairs

HQ: Master of Executions [4 PL, 60pts]: Mark of Khorne
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 88pts]: Bolt pistol, Force sword, Mark of Tzeentch

Troops: Chaos Space Marines [4 PL, 55pts]: Mark of Khorne, Aspiring Champion: 2x Chainsword, 4x Marine w/ Chainsword
Troops: Chaos Space Marines [4 PL, 55pts]: Mark of Khorne, Aspiring Champion: 2x Chainsword, 4x Marine w/ Chainsword
Troops: Chaos Space Marines [4 PL, 55pts]: Mark of Khorne, Aspiring Champion: 2x Chainsword, 4x Marine w/ Chainsword

++ Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [27 PL, 1CP, 480pts] ++
Legion [1CP]: Red Corsairs

HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Mark of Slaanesh, Helstalker: Techno-virus injector
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Mark of Slaanesh, Helstalker: Techno-virus injector
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Mark of Slaanesh, Helstalker: Techno-virus injector

++ Total: [124 PL, 10CP, 2,000pts] ++


Chris Vo’s Thousand Sons, Death Guard, and Night Lords

I’m including Chris’s list, which placed 4th at the CaptainCon February GT with a 4-1 finish, because it offers a bit of an alternate take – mixing in Death Guard for Plagueburst Crawlers is a popular strategy in Possessed-heavy lists as well, where PBCs are incredibly difficult to kill and enjoy the same aura benefits as Possessed thanks to their core weapons being based off the vehicle’s strength attribute. Nurgle-heavy lists also enjoy the benefit of Nurgling Troops, which are cheap Battalion fillers with the added benefit of being able to start on objectives and be generally irritating. Chris’ list uses them in a NURGLE keyword detachment with Poxbringers, who can boost the PBC strength, and takes advantage of the fact that Plagueburst Crawlers don’t benefit from a Death Guard legion trait or Stratagems much anyways.

In addition to this and the Cult of Magic Thousand Sons Detachment, the list also packs a Night Lords detachment with two mean Lords Discordant, two Heldrakes, a squad of Warp Talons, and some Cultists. The Heldrakes start the game charging forward and being able to gum up enemy lines, charge key units, and use Vox Scream to turn off enemy auras and if they live, they can later benefit from the Lord Discordants’ and Poxbringers’ auras. The Warp Talons serve as a great distraction and support for the Lords Discordant, as they can drop in and charge a key unit to prevent it from firing Overwatch at anything you want to charge with. The Raptor Strike Stratagem is a big help here, giving them a 3D6″ charge move to work with.

Chris Vo – CaptainCon

++ THOUSAND SONS Supreme Command [23 PL, 1CP, 394pts] ++
Cults of the Legion: Cult of Magic

HQ: Ahriman on Disc of Tzeentch [9 PL, 166pts] HQ <Warlord>: Exalted Sorcerer on Disc of Tzeentch [8 PL, 140pts]: Force stave, Inferno bolt pistol
HQ: Sorcerer [6 PL, 88pts]: Force stave, Inferno bolt pistol

++ NURGLE Battalion [41 PL, 5CP, 722pts] ++

HQ: Poxbringer [4 PL, 70pts]: Fleshy Abundance
HQ: Poxbringer [4 PL, 70pts]: Miasma of Pestilence

Troops: 3x Nurglings [3 PL, 54pts] Troops: 3x Nurglings [3 PL, 54pts] Troops: 3x Nurglings [3 PL, 54pts]

HS: Plagueburst Crawler [8 PL, 140pts]: 2x Plaguespitter, Heavy slugger
HS: Plagueburst Crawler [8 PL, 140pts]: same as above
HS: Plagueburst Crawler [8 PL, 140pts]: same as above

++ NIGHT LORDS Battalion [57 PL, 5CP, 872pts] ++

HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Mark of Khorne
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon, Mark of Nurgle

Troops: 10x Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, Autoguns
Troops: 10x Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: same as above
Troops: 10x Cultists [3 PL, 40pts]: same as above

FA: 8x Warp Talons [12 PL, 152pts]: Mark of Khorne

FL: Heldrake [9 PL, 140pts]: Baleflamer, Mark of Nurgle
FL: Heldrake [9 PL, 140pts]: same as above

++ Total: [121 PL, 14CP, 1,988pts] ++


Wrapping Things Up

Phew, that was an odyssey! If you read through the whole thing, you have this author’s eternal thanks. If you just stopped in to check on something or look for ideas on a single unit, that’s cool too. This article took me three weeks to write and ended up being more like a short novel in length, so there’s probably something I missed or didn’t get right. If you see something, or if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at



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