Start Competing: Red Corsairs Tactics (Updated 12/20/2022)

This is a companion article to our larger Start Competing: Chaos Space Marines article. In this article, we’re looking specifically at the Renegade Chapters and how to manage their custom rules and strategies.

The release of the 9th edition Codex: Chaos Space Marines gave us a bit of an ideological shift, moving the faction away from more custom renegade chapters toward a more traitor legions-centric approach. As a result, the 8th edition chapters added in Vigilus – Flawless Host, Scourged, Crimson Slaughter, Brazen Beasts, and the Purge – were removed from a rules standpoint. Now players playing one of those chapters are encouraged to just use the rules from other legions.

If you’re a Red Corsairs fan however, the good news is that your particular brand of black and red marines did stick around, getting new rules, stratagems, relics, and a secondary objective to boot. The Red Corsairs still claim one of the game’s strongest legion traits, and have some great tools to work with, albeit in a more limited number.

Red Corsairs Faction Icon

Legion Overview

The Red Corsairs have a truncated list of rules to work with compared to the other legions, but what they do have is meaningful and powerful.


  • Speed. The Red Corsairs have an incredibly good legion trait, and the crux of it is that every unit with the trait can advance and charge. This makes them the fastest legions, and very capable of delivering reliable turn 1 charges. They’ve also got several other tricks for moving around the table between their Warlord Traits and Stratagems, making them very mobile compared to the other traitor legions.
  • Objective Control. The other half of the Corsairs’ trait is also great, giving their units double model counts for objective control, helping them win the battle over objectives with smaller units and against units like War Dogs that count as 5 models and can otherwise use that ability to steal an objective.


  • Reduced Options. The Red Corsairs only have 3 Warlord Traits, 3 Relics, and 4 Stratagems to work with, though what they get definitely feels pushed to compensate.
  • CP Thirsty. The Red Corsairs have some great Stratagems, but all but one of them costs 2 CP, making them costly to use.


We’ll be covering each of the renegade chapters here as separate sections, including some notes on playing each.

Legion Trait: Raiders From the Maelstrom

  • Units with this trait are eligible to declare a charge in a turn in which they Advanced
  • Models with this trait count as two models when determining control of an objective marker, or 5 models if they have a Wounds characteristic of 10 or more.

This is a very, very good trait – possibly the best trait, though Creations of Bile likely edges it out. Both halves are very useful, but we’re particularly focused on the first half; army-wide advance and charge is a huge boost in your army’s threat range, giving you an average of 3.5” but allowing you to extend up to 6” with a little luck. It makes turn 1 charges with units like Bikes very reliable and even gives units like Possessed a reasonable chance of a turn 1 charge, helping you close gaps you otherwise couldn’t and apply pressure quickly. 

The other half is good in its own right, helping you get a ton more value out of MSU marine units, who otherwise might struggle against War Dogs and Helverins that show up and count as 5 ObSec models. Even units like Rhinos can play a real role in controlling objectives after they have dropped off their payload. A+

Warlord Traits

The Red Corsairs only have three Warlord Traits, but all three are strong enough to play.

  • Reaver Lord. At the start of your Command phase, if this WARLORD is on the battlefield, roll a D6; on a 4+ you gain 1 Command point. The weakest trait of the bunch, the upside here is that this trait will likely pay for itself, as it’ll generate you an average of 2-3 CP per game. That said, that’s not necessarily enough upside compared to other CP generating abilities. This is, tragically, Huron’s trait, but the good news is you don’t have to buy it for him. He doesn’t even have to be your Warlord if you don’t want him to be. C
  • Angel of Hatred. Each time this Warlord Fights, if it made a charge move, was charged, or performed a Heroic Intervention this turn, then until that fight is resolved add 1 to the Strength and Attacks characteristics of this Warlord. This is pretty great – it’s a very solid boost on a Lord Discordant or Daemon Prince to kick them above a key Strength threshold. The issue with Angel Of Hatred is that Hatred Incarnate is literally just a better version of this, providing the same benefits but also coming with hit rerolls.  B-
  • Dark Raider. Once per turn, in your Shooting phase, after shooting with a friendly RED CORSAIRS CORE unit within 6” of this Warlord, that unit can make a Normal Move. If it does so, that unit is not eligible to declare a charge this turn. This is huge – free movement post-shooting can be a massive boon, and this is great on Bikes, Dreadnoughts, and Terminators that want to either pop off a bunch of shots and then hide or double move to make up for poor movement. This is one of the most valuable warlord traits in the game, and a big part of the appeal of playing Red Corsairs. A+



Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


In a similar vein to Relics and Warlord Traits the Red Corsairs only have four Stratagems.

  • Secure the Prize (Battle Tactic, 1 CP). Use in any phase, when a RED CORSAIRS CORE unit from your army in range of an objective marker is picked as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, each time an attack with a Damage Characteristic of 1 is allocated to a model in that unit, add 1 to any armour saving throw made against that attack. This is a great bonus, and if you can stack it with cover you can make a unit very durable to small arms fire. It’s also good for tanking D1 attacks from say, other Chaos Space Marines. Good to have in your back pocket. B+
  • Rain Fire and Death (Strategic Ploy, 2 CP). Use in your Command phase, if a Red Corsairs CHARACTER unit from your army is on the Battlefield. Pick one point on the battlefield and place a marker on that point. At the start of your next Command phase, roll a D6 for each unit within 6” of the centre of the marker, Adding 1 if the unit is within 3” of the centre and subtracting 1 if that unit is a CHARACTER. On a 2-5, that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. On a 6+, they take D6 mortal wounds. That marker is removed. You can only use this once. This is basically a cheaper version of the Space Marines’ Orbital bombardment, and at 2 CP is actually worth the occasional consideration. It’s still not amazing, but it can be helpful for keeping a unit off an objective for a turn. C
  • The Hounds of Huron (Strategic Ploy, 2 CP). Use in the Fight phase after a RED CORSAIRS BIKER unit from your army fights. If that unit is within Engagement Range of any enemy units, it can Fall Back as if it were your Movement phase. Otherwise, it can make a Normal move as if it were your Movement phase. This is an incredibly good Stratagem, and reason enough to take a big unit of bikers in your Red Corsairs army. It allows you to hit and run against bigger targets, rushing in for attacks and then running away 14” before an opponent can hit back, or if you wipe your target out, zip away to safety or onto an objective, where you can use your double counting to your advantage. It’s also phenomenal when used on your opponent’s turn. This is one of the game’s best Stratagems. A+
  • Raid Supply Lines (Strategic Ploy, 2 CP). Use in the start of the Reinforcements step of your opponent’s Movement phase, if a RED CORSAIRS WARLORD from your army is on the battlefield. If it is the first or second battle round, you can select one of your opponent’s Strategic Reserves or Reinforcements units. That unit cannot arrive on the battlefield this phase for any reason, even if it has another rule that states it always arrives on the battlefield during a specific battle round (e.g. Drop Pod Assault). You can only use this Stratagem. This is an ability that’s completely unique to the Red Corsairs, and a really good one to have against armies that might deliver deep strike threats. You can also use it to delay units that want to come back onto the table after leaving on turn 1. The best part? You don’t actually have to use this. Just telling an opponent you can do this before the game – something you should do in good sportsmanship – will usually be enough to deter an opponent from trying to drop something on you, and that’s about as good as delaying something from coming in. Note that this won’t stop units that teleport, like Veil of Darkness Necrons or Cult of Duplicity Thousand Sons, from coming back the turn they leave. A


There are three Red Corsairs relics to work with, and of them, the Armour of Badab is the best of the bunch, though taking it requires taking a Terminator character.

  • Maelstrom’s Bite. This replaces a combi-melta with one that gives you a S9 AP-4 D6+2 damage melta with an 18” range on one side and a 2-damage, AP-1 Bolter on the other half. That’s a solid little boost in terms of damage and while you’re not going to put this on a Terminator champion, it can go on a Chosen Champion taking a combi-melta (it can’t go on a Biker champion, since only the non-champion models can take combi-meltas). If this could go on a biker champion, it’d be a nice little play, but on Chosen it’s just not strong enough to include. If you want to run this, put it on a Slaanesh unit, as the ability to turn a failed hit into 2 hits on turns 3-5 makes that high damage extra valuable. B-
  • Armour of Badab. TERMINATOR only. Gives the character the Armour of Badab (Aura): While a friendly RED CORSAIRS CORE or CHARACTER unit is within 3” of the bearer, TERMINATOR models in that unit have a 4+ invulnerable save and non-TERMINATOR models in that unit have a 5+ invulnerable save. This is really good, and gives your Terminators a solid durability boost against the kinds of incoming AP-4 attacks that have become more common in the post-Armour of Contempt world. The downside to this is that you need to have a Terminator character to take it, and that’s really not so much something you want to spend one of your three HQ slots on. On top of that, you have other ways to buff your Terminators that will be more effective against attacks with AP-2 or worse. A
  • Traitor’s Laurels. The bearer gets +1 Attack and can use a single Epic Deed Stratagem for 0 CP once per battle and gets the Traitor’s Laurels (Aura): While a friendly RED CORSAIRS CORE unit is within 6” of the bearer, they can ignore modifiers to Combat Attrition tests. The attrition aura is OK but not amazing since you can largely get that from Icons – though it’s helpful on Terminators, and the +1 Attack is a decent bonus. The free Stratagem is, as always, weird as hell. There are only two Epic Deed Stratagems a non-Vehicle can use in the Codex: Fell Prayers and The Great Sorcerer. So if you’re taking this you want it to either be on a Dark Apostle, which is your best use for it, or on a Tzeentch psyker, where you’d rather take the Eye of Tzeentch or the Liber Hereticus. If you’re taking an Apostle, it’s OK. C

Secondary Objective: Raid and Reave

Shadow Operations

If you pick this, RED CORSAIRS INFANTRY and BIKERS can do the Raid and Reave Action, which they can do at the end of your movement phase if they’re within range of an unraided objective marker and ends at the beginning of your next Command phase or the end of the battle, whichever comes first. A unit can’t start this while there are any non-AIRCRAFT enemy units within range of the same marker. If you complete this, the objective is said to be raided, and until the end of the battle the unit that raided it is carrying spoils of war. 

Each time you complete this action, if the objective was in your own deployment zone you score 1 VP, if it was wholly in your opponent’s deployment zone, you score 3 VP, and in any other place, you score 2 VP. At the end of the battle, score 1 VP for every RED CORSAIRS unit in your army carrying spoils or 2 VP if that unit or the transport it’s in is wholly within your Deployment zone.

This is pretty bad. Finishing actions at the start of your next Command phase is the kiss of death for an action secondary, and if a secondary can be interrupted, it better score you a lot of VP. This doesn’t do that – your backfield objective holder can score you 3 VP if it survives the entire game, but netting 10+ on this means having three other objectives you were able to raid and surviving with at least one unit that did the raid action. Hitting four objectives with a two-turn action is pretty rough, and will really only be an option on The Scouring and Recover the Relics, which puts two near your deployment zone to work with early. Ultimately, this competes with Raise the Banners, a safer and more reliable secondary, even on those same missions. D

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Notable Units

The Red Corsairs have a single named character – chapter master Huron Blackheart, but there are a number of units that happen to perform better when they’re able to take advantage of the faction’s rules.

Huron Blackheart

The sole Red Corsairs character is Huron Blackheart, the faction’s leader. He’s effectively a Chaos Lord equipped with an exalted power axe (2 damage), a Heavy flamer (it also gets the +2 shots with Let the Galaxy Burn), and the Tyrant’s claw, which gives him a 1-damage AP-2 sweep option to double his attacks. He comes with 7 Attacks base and T5, giving him a bit beefier statline than a traditional chaos lord, with a 4+ invulnerable save from his sigil of corruption. Like a Space Marine Chapter Master, Huron gets both a re-roll 1s aura for friendly RED CORSAIRS CORE units within 6” and also a Command phase ability to give a single CORE or CHARACTER unit within 6” full re-rolls to hit. That’s pretty unique for Chaos Space Marines outside of the Black Legion, and a compelling reason to include Huron if you’re going Red Corsairs.

Huron’s most unique ability is The Hamadrya, a little gremlin that accompanies him in battle and lets him, once per game at the start of your Psychic phase, turn Huron into a PSYKER for one phase, letting him manifest either the Smite power or one power from the Dark Hereticus Discipline. This is pretty neat, but can also be used in a pinch to make Huron your back-up psychic action unit for a turn, letting your Daemon Prince and Master of Possession do other things. 

Huron’s not a big enough beater to really replace a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant but his ability to give full re-rolls has quite a bit of value when dropped on a unit of bikers, terminators, or a Contemptor. 

Daemon Princes and Lords Discordant

You know how you can build really nasty versions of these with daemon weapons and warlord traits? They’re even better when they can Advance and Charge on any given turn. The Red Corsairs don’t restrict you to a single Chaos God, so you’re free to take your Flames + Ul’o’cca Discolord and G’holl’ax Daemon Prince in the list and give them that extra burst of speed to make early charges.


Bikes do very well in Red Corsairs, and if you’re running the faction it’d be a shame to not at least look at them. They get a full +6” movement when they advance, which pairs with a 14” move to give them easy T1 charges. On top of that, the ability to move out of combat with them is fantastic, and there’s a play around having them ping-pong off enemy units and onto objectives where they can steal them away from opponents. You can also make a case for taking Black Rune bikes over Terminators, counting on having T5 to support them.

Terminator Sorcerer

If you’re not taking Huron, consider the Terminator Sorcerer as an option for the Armour of Badab to give invulnerable saves to nearby units. The Sorcerer can walk alongside the 10-model terminator blob and be your army’s psychic action unit, freeing up your Master of Possession to cast on other units.

Possessed and Warp Talons

Fast melee units love being able to advance and charge and the Red Corsairs lets them do exactly that. Chaos Spawn also do a decent job in Red Corsairs of skirmishing and bothering opponents on objectives, although the Fast Attack slot in a Red Corsairs list is probably too crowded to include these gribblies. 


Counting as 2 ObSec models and being able to always advance and charge makes them a versatile unit for scoring and denying Primary. Red Corsairs make better use of Legionaries than most Legions, and you’ll want to bring a squad or two with chainswords and some upgraded weapons in most lists. 

Playing Red Corsairs

If you’re playing Red Corsairs, your strategy is going to fall into one of two categories:

  • Go to go very hard on the ability to Advance + Charge, with a plan to overload your opponent with threats that crash into their lines early in the game and pressure them in their deployment zone while your slower units hold objectives in the middle of the table.
  • Play a more aggressive midboard control game with units that can double-count for objective counts. You’re still going to use melee units that can advance and charge for early pressure, but the focus is more on mobility with units like bikes.

Either way, the core of your army is going to look pretty similar – it’ll still include a unit of 10 Black Rune Terminators and a unit or two of Possessed – but you may supplement that more with Bikers and a Psychic game. You could also go a different direction and eschew the Terminators entirely, leaning even more heavily on Bikers with some ranged and melee infantry support. You could honestly run 3 units of Bikers as the core of your army in Red Corsairs and feel good about your list.

A List

There haven’t been any top 4 lists running Red Corsairs yet – they’ve been mostly overshadowed by Creations of Bile and Emperor’s Children – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some play to them. I’ve put together a list here that goes for a more balanced approach, using the standard Terminator core for control and a large unit of bikes for a faster punch, flanked by Possessed, Venomcrawlers, and a Daemon Prince.

++ Battalion Detachment 0CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [104 PL, 2CP, 2,000pts] ++

Legion: Red Corsairs

+ HQ [25 PL, -2CP, 440pts] +

Daemon Prince with Wings [11 PL, -2CP, 180pts]: 5-6. Dark Raider, Diabolic Strength, G’holl’ax, the Decayed, Hellforged sword [10pts], Mark of Nurgle [1 PL, 15pts], Stratagem: Relic [-1CP], Stratagem: Warlord Trait [-1CP], Warlord, Wings [2 PL, 35pts]

Huron Blackheart [7 PL, 140pts]

Master of Possession [7 PL, 120pts]: Mark of Slaanesh [1 PL, 15pts], Pact of Flesh, Mutated Invigoration

+ Troops [10 PL, 210pts] +

Cultists Mob [2 PL, 50pts]
. 9x Chaos Cultist w/ cultist firearm [45pts]: 9x Cultist firearm, 9x Frag & Krak grenades
. Cultist Champion [5pts]
. . Autopistol and brutal assault weapon

Cultists Mob [2 PL, 50pts]
. 9x Chaos Cultist w/ cultist firearm [45pts]: 9x Cultist firearm, 9x Frag & Krak grenades
. Cultist Champion [5pts]
. . Autopistol and brutal assault weapon

Legionaries [6 PL, 110pts]: Chaos Undivided
. Aspiring Champion [18pts]: Bolt pistol, Boltgun
. Marine w/ balefire tome [38pts]: Balefire tome [20pts], Prescience
. 3x Marine w/ boltgun [54pts]: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades

+ Elites [41 PL, -2CP, 835pts] +

Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought [8 PL, -1CP, 170pts]: Chaos Undivided, 2x Twin volkite culverin [30pts]

Chaos Terminator Squad [19 PL, -1CP, 385pts]: Mark of Slaanesh [1 PL, 15pts]
. Chaos Terminator [43pts]: Combi-melta [5pts], Power fist [5pts]
. Chaos Terminator [43pts]: Combi-melta [5pts], Power fist [5pts]
. Chaos Terminator [38pts]: Chainfist [5pts], Combi-bolter
. Chaos Terminator [33pts]: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
. Chaos Terminator [33pts]: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
. Chaos Terminator [33pts]: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
. Chaos Terminator [33pts]: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
. Chaos Terminator [33pts]: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
. Chaos Terminator [33pts]: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
. Terminator Champion [-1CP, 43pts]: Black Rune of Damnation, Chainfist [5pts], Combi-melta [5pts], Trophies of the Long War [-1CP]

Possessed [7 PL, 140pts]: Possessed Champion [28pts]
. 4x Possessed [112pts]: 4x Hideous mutations

Possessed [7 PL, 140pts]: Possessed Champion [28pts]
. 4x Possessed [112pts]: 4x Hideous mutations

+ Fast Attack [28 PL, 515pts] +

Chaos Bikers [16 PL, 305pts]: Mark of Slaanesh [1 PL, 15pts], Icon [5pts]
. Biker Champion [30pts]: Astartes chainsword
. 6x Chaos Biker w/ bolt pistol [180pts]: 6x Bolt pistol, 6x Combi-bolter, 6x Frag & Krak grenades
. Chaos Biker w/ special weapon [40pts]: Bolt pistol, Meltagun [10pts]
. Chaos Biker w/ special weapon [40pts]: Bolt pistol, Meltagun [10pts]

Venomcrawler [6 PL, 105pts]

Venomcrawler [6 PL, 105pts]

The Standout Features

  • Huron to lead this whole thing
  • A G’holl’ax Daemon Prince with Dark Raider to give the bikes extra mobility
  • A trio of psychic characters gives you lots of flexibility for psychic secondaries
  • A 9-model unit of bikes can threaten opponents early and has staying power
  • A Volkite Contemptor to get some extra shooting

This list trades more on mid-table presence with the Terminators and Bikes, but has the Daemon Prince, Venomcrawlers, and two units of Possessed to press forward early and pressure opponents. Huron is perfectly at home with the Terminators and Contemptor, handing out full-rerolls as needed, while the Daemon Prince can range forward with the bikes, which can dip out to fight something, then zip back over to him with the Hounds of Huron Stratagem.

Where to Read More

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