Start Competing: Ultramarines Tactics

The poster boys of the Space Marine faction and potentially all of Warhammer 40,000, the Ultramarines have had a long journey from having their own Codex representing all of the “generic” chapters in 2nd edition to being an afterthought for most of 3rd and 4th editions before really coming into their own as more special character units were released for the faction, culminating in the return of the chapter’s primarch, Roboute Guilliman, at the end of 7th edition during the Gathering Storm campaign. With Guilliman returned, the Ultramarines have never been far from viable in competitive play and are at the forefront of the 40k narrative, and they’ve long been the “default” option for the GW studio scheme. While the 8th edition Ultramarines supplement was one of the weaker books from the supplement group, the 9th edition Codex: Space Marines and its rules changes have improved their standing considerably, making them a very strong, if not tier 1, competitive choice.

 

Chapter Overview

The Ultramarines have become significantly better in 9th edition as other chapters have gotten worse and the rules for moving and shooting and falling back have changed to make their unique abilities significantly better. They’re an incredibly flexible force that has solid Stratagem and special character support.

Strengths

  • 8th Edition Full Re-roll abilities. With the removal of the Chapter Master re-roll ALL hits aura, Guilliman and Seal of Oath are uniquely powerful force multipliers in an edition that has seen a sharp decline in overall re-roll options.
  • Chapter Tactic. The Chapter Tactic for the Ultramarines is very strong. The ability to Fall Back and shoot is now rare in 9th edition, making Ultramarines difficult to deal with in melee as they’re able to just drop back and shoot you and, with the Fall Back and Re-Engage Stratagem, charge as well. The bonus to their Leadership is also more relevant in 9th edition.
  • Special Characters. Besides Guilliman, the Ultramarines have some very strong special characters, chief among them being Tigurius, who is one of the game’s best psykers.
  • Jack of All Trades… The Ultramarines kind of do everything well, and they’re the most tactically flexible chapter of Space Marines, able to move freely around the board shooting while picking and choosing the combats they want to be involved with. The Chapter doctrine is a huge boost for your non-vehicle heavy weapons units like Devastators and Suppressors, who can stay mobile without losing damage output.

Weaknesses

  • …Master of None. While Ultramarines do a lot of things well, they’re not as good at fighting as White Scars or Space Wolves, nor as fast as Blood Angels, nor as good at shooting as Deathwatch, nor as hard to kill as Iron Hands.
  • Speed. While very flexible, Ultramarines lack many of the mobility enhancing options of other chapters, with no unique abilities that allow advance or charge re-rolls, and very few abilities that add to them. In addition, they can never advance AND charge, and they’re reliant on Strategic Reserves or datasheet abilities for off-the-table Reinforcements. Furthermore much of their strength comes from the aforementioned re-roll abilities. Unfortunately to capitalize on these powerful options you’re forced keep your forces clumped around one or more buffing models, which can be an issue in a very objective focused edition.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rules

Legion Tactic: Codex Discipline

Units with this Tactic get +1 to their Leadership and can shoot in a turn after making a Fall Back move, but if they do they get -1 to hit.

This ability used to be just OK in 8th edition, but since 9th edition changed the rules for FLY to no longer allow units to Fall Back and shoot and as the rules for morale have changed in 9th edition and the new Codex: Space Marines, both have become significantly more relevant. The ability to Fall Back and shoot with any unit in your army makes it more difficult for melee armies to “turn off” your units by touching them in melee, allowing you to engage on your terms. Now that Marines no longer re-roll morale natively, Combat Attrition makes a failed Leadership test possibly deadly for even small squads, and Insane Bravery is a once-per-game Stratagem, the +1 Leadership bonus has become more important as well.

Chapter Doctrine – Scions of Guilliman

Whilst the Tactical Doctrine is active, models with this ability that moved in your Movement phase, but did not Advance or Fall back, can make attacks with ranged weapons in the Shooting phase as if their unit had remained stationary this turn.

This is the Ultramarine “super doctrine” buff. It’s a solid one for the game of manoeuvre that constitutes 9th edition. The ability has two immediate implications: 1) infantry units can avoid the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons, and 2) if you’re not advancing, Bolter Discipline always triggers for applicable weapons (extending the bolt rifle’s 2-shot threat range to 36″ for example). It’s not relevant for vehicles now that they can move and fire Heavy weapons freely anyway, but the 9th edition codex favours infantry over non-Dreadnought vehicles anyway, and so for the likely core of your army it’s a great buff.

Psychic Powers

The Ultramarines have their own set of psychic powers: the Indomitus Discipline. Ultramarine Librarians can choose to know all of their powers from this new discipline instead of the Librarius or Obscuration disciplines, so you can’t mix and match powers on the same Librarian (except through use of the Tome of Malcador). While overall the Indomitus powers are interesting, with the possible exception of Scryer’s Gaze none of them are enough to justify taking them over the now vastly improved Librarius Discipline. The letter grades on here are in the context of actually taking Indomitus, over Librarius. If you were to compare both sets of powers to one another you could consider each of these letter grades to be one step worse.

  1. Precognition. WC5 – The psyker gains a 5+ Invulnerable save and units attacking it suffer a -1 penalty to hit. The penalty to hit won’t matter much unless you’re in combat since you’ll usually be screening the Librarian, and this power is really about protecting your Librarian in combat. The problem is, most of the time you’ve got better things to do with your Librarian. An already bad power is made all the worse with the changes to Psychic Fortress, an ability that provides 5++ as an aura makes a single 5++ on the caster seem laughable. D-
  2. Scryer’s Gaze. WC7 – Either generate 1 command point if your army is Battle-forged, or once this turn you can reroll a single To Hit or To Wound or damage roll for a friendly Ultramarines unit within 18″ of the psyker. If you have an Ultramarines Librarian, you’re almost certainly taking this since its a bonus 3-4 command points a game and can allow you to skip on taking Adept of the Codex. Alternatively you can combine it with command reroll to reroll two separate big damage rolls in the same phase. A (If you don’t have Adept of the Codex), C if you have it.
  3. Telepathic Assault. WC7 – Pick a visible enemy unit within 24″ and roll 2d6+2 against their leadership; they take the difference in mortal wounds. One of the better not-smites by virtue of being able to do 6 mortal wounds to Ld8 every now and then but against high leadership armies you’re often going to need to cast the power then roll another 7 or 8 on 2d6 to get anything out of it – which is a lot of fail cases for basically just Smite. Even worse if you’re rolling up against Necrons. C
  4. Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath WC6. – Roll 1d6 per model in a visible enemy unit within 18″ and it takes a mortal wound for every 6 you roll. Hopefully kills 1/6th of a horde unit but overall not particularly meaningful against most targets. D
  5. Psychic Shackles. WC6 – At first appearance, a slightly worse version of Tenebrous Curse from the Obscuration discipline as it only applies -1 to enemy charges and advances rather than -2 them. This means enemy units with the ability to Advance and Charge will only move slightly slower than normal. Unlike similar effects it does however apply to units with FLY so you can hamper the movement of enemy jetbike units and the like. It is also worth noting that thanks to the return of Difficult Terrain you can essentially prevent slower units from making any sort of relevant movement unless they advance. B
  6. Empyric Channeling. WC5 – Pick another Ultramarines Librarian within 12″; they get +2 to cast and don’t suffer perils of the warp on a double 1 or 6. Not to be confused with not suffering perils at all as effects such as those employed by a Master of Possession or Chaos Knight will still cause a perils on double 2-5. Potentially very strong if your strategy revolves around getting off a specific power, but 80 to 100 points for an extra Librarian, which is eating up valuable HQ slots, to up your cast rate is a big price to pay. It made slightly more sense in 8th edition when you were actively trying to get extra detachments into your list and therefore more HQs, but in 9th this power is just bad. You give up an entire power only to increase the odds of another, while still having no guarantee that this power will itself go off. If we are being real this should be a stratagem that allows psykers to give up a cast to buff another, and even then its usefulness would be limited when you have someone like Tigurius. F

Prior to 9th Edition an argument could’ve been made for Scryer’s Gaze as a reason to take this discipline, but with Psychic Fortress being as good as it is, this discipline is just pushed further and further into being cute but kind of pointless. This is especially so because the psyker of choice for Ultramarines is Tigurius, who is so much better than a regular Librarian that there’s rarely a reason to take the generic – and since he can’t access relics, you can’t give him the Tome of Malcador to access the one or two good powers in this discipline.

Credit; Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Warlord Traits

Ultramarines get six Warlord traits, padding out the list beyond Adept of the Codex from the base Space Marine book. There is a mild problem that none of them are as good as Adept of the Codex, itself being pretty much a must-take due it almost always earning the 1 CP it takes to purchase it, and providing more over the course of a game in most cases. The others range from middling to good, and are really only worth taking if you’ve already got Adept of the Codex on someone.

  1. Adept of the Codex. As long as your Warlord is actually on the table, then every time you use a Stratagem you can roll a d6 per CP you spend and on a 5+ you get a point back. The only time this isn’t an auto-take is if you have severely depleted your CPs pre-game via Relic and Trait purchases, and are likely to spend what is left on Rapid Redeployment. A-
  2. Master of Strategy. Once per battle round, shift a single unit within 6″ of the warlord into Tactical Doctrine. Grants you another option to keep your guys in tactical doctrine during rounds 1, 4, and 5. If you’re in the habit of using Squad Doctrines or Adaptive Tactics this is a great CP saver. It is interesting to note this ability isn’t restricted to Infantry or Bikers like the stratagems, nor is it restricted to CORE units. This is a great WL trait to put on a Primaris Techmarine (or any unnamed character) who can use it to buff a Sicaran Venator, for example, to gain access to a flat 6 dmg on its main gun. Unfortunately, it is in competition with other traits that your unnamed characters are in desperate need of. B
  3. Calm Under Fire. Friendly Ultramarines units within 6″ don’t suffer the -1 penalty to their To Hit rolls when using the Chapter Tactic to fall back and shoot in the same turn. Less useful now that the interaction of rerolls and modifiers is mostly gone for Marines, but if you’re running armour-heavy Ultramarines/successors then you’ll be able to fall back and still hit at maximum ballistic skill. Nice to have, but only situationally useful. C
  4. Paragon of War. Unmodified 6s to wound on attacks made by this Warlord deal a mortal wound in addition to any other damage. Potentially amusing on a Teeth of Terra Captain with their 8 attacks on the charge before outside assistance, or on a Captain armed with the Vengeance of Ultramar, who can spit out 8 bolter shots at 12″ range. Most of the time you’re not going to get enough wounds going to make this feel worth it, though. A fun, but solidly non-competitive choice, being only half as good as Guilliman’s sword proc. C-
  5. Nobility Made Manifest. A trick picked up from the Custodians; all units within 6″ of your warlord can heroic intervene 3″ as though they were characters, has potential given the massively increased melee output of Astartes across the board. It’s now Guilliman’s warlord trait instead of Adept of the Codex so it will see use like it or not. It’s a bit like an assault version of the Tau’s “For the Greater Good” ability, in that charging one Marines unit means getting your ass beat by every other Marine unit within 3″. B  (Because of Guilliman), Otherwise you aren’t using it.
  6. Warden of Macragge. Warlord can heroic intervene from 6″ and move 6″ when they do. Useful if you have a Gravis captain or beatstick Chaplain to dash into a gap in your line when they haven’t been declared against and surprise-murder half the enemy unit. This has dropped significantly in utility now that Heroic Interventions make you a valid target for combat even if not initially declared as a charge target, and now that you can’t use Hero of the Chapter at the table when you see Space Wolves or something across from you. At the end of the day the deadly characters like Calgar or Guilliman, who could want this, obviously can’t take it. And if you’re dropping an extra Warlord Trait on an unnamed Warlord then you’re probably going to take one of the other traits on this list. D+

Stratagems

Ultramarines have 16 stratagems of their own, several of which let you play around with the Tactical Doctrines for your units. Overall, the stratagems Ultramarines get fit the fluff pretty well – they give Ultramarines a tactical, flexible feel and don’t lean too hard into shooting or punching things.

  • Martial Precision – 1CP Use on an Ultramarines model before resolving a shooting attack. It automatically scores a hit on the target (do not roll). Small but extremely useful when you want to make a perfidious Aeldari plane not be alive anymore courtesy of a heavy melta rifle shot. With plentiful access to rerolls this stratagem is very niche in its usefulness, but sometimes you don’t want to risk that 10% chance coming up. B-
  • Rapid Redeployment – 2CP At the start of the first round before the first turn, you can redeploy up to 3 Ultramarines units. It’s Phantasm, but for angry men in power armor instead of elves. Easily the most significant stratagem in the book, as it opens up a vast array of plays that just weren’t possible before. Redeploying units is an incredibly good ability. Note that if you want to infiltrate, you have to deploy them aggressively first and then pull them back with this if necessary, rather than the other way around. A+
  • Vengeance for Calth – 1 CP An Ultramarines unit can re-roll melee To Hit and To Wound rolls against a Word Bearers unit until the end of the Fight phase. This stratagem will never matter because Games Workshop has put so much work into making sure that Word Bearers are so bad no one will ever want to play them. If you do ever end up playing against Word Bearers, you’re 100 percent going to forget that you have this stratagem and it won’t matter. F-
  • Sons of Guilliman – 1 CP The old Ultramarines chapter stratagem renamed, giving an Infantry or Biker unit the ability to re-roll hit rolls of 1, or all hit rolls if the unit has the Troops battlefield role. It’s still a useful tool for having units operating far away from the rest of the army and with plasma Inceptors and assault Hellblasters being very strong choices this edition it is a great way to allow them to break from the pack and not immediately die or force a huge reduction in shooting efficiency. This is especially true for the former, which are often taken specifically to be placed on the table away from the main force. It also pairs up extremely well with Assault and regular Intercessors who have the only shoot and fight twice abilities in the codex. Spending a single CP to get full re-rolls on all those extra attacks is an excellent combination. B
  • Inspiring Command – 1CP At the start of the shooting phase, increase the aura range for a Captain, Lieutenant or Chapter master by 3″. It has been confirmed that the stratagem also effects aura causing relics, like the Seal of Oath, which automatically increases the usefulness of this stratagem. B
  • Avenge the Fallen – 1CP When an Ultramarines unit is destroyed, mark the bastards that done it for the remainder of the battle and get a permanent re-roll 1s to hit against them with any unit in your army. An underused stratagem that is a steal for 1 CP, and can be excellent late game if your buffing characters have died. Considering it functions like Sons of Guilliman but for your entire army, players have likely been overlooking this one for a long time. B-
  • Cycle of War – 1CP Once per battle, if you’re in Assault Doctrine you can play this Stratagem and the Devastator Doctrine becomes active This means Ultramarines can rotate back to Devastator for a round on turns 3, 4, or 5 then they’ll be in Assault Doctrine the following turn. Thanks to 9th Edition this stratagem has gone from niche to basically useless. Odds are that come turn 5 being in Assault doctrine will be more useful than getting a final round in Devastator doctrine. Either way, there are far better strats you can spend 1 CP on. D-
  • Courage and Honour! – 1CP Add +1 Ld to every unit of your army during the Morale phase. Any long time Ultramarines player will tell you that morale is a thing that happens to other players and rarely if ever more than one unit. This has changed somewhat now that Marines no longer re-roll their morale tests  and this stratagem can potentially save you 1 CP by being a preferred option over your single use auto-pass stratagem. The most common case you will find is that you have lost 4 out of 5 models in a 5-man unit leaving you with a Ld 9 Sergeant and only a 1 in 6 chance of failure. Save yourself the stress of potentially losing the squad and spend 1 CP. C+
  • Tactical Expertise – 2CP Used at the start of your Movement phase if you’re in the Tactical Doctrine. For the rest of the battle round, when you shoot with Rapid Fire or Assault weapons, unmodified wound rolls of 6 give the shot improve the shot’s AP by 1. Can only be used once per battle but stacks with the AP bonus from The Tactical Doctrine. Might have some legs given the sheer number of shots coming out of a squad of 10-strong Intercessor squads using the Rapid Fire stratagem, where going from AP-2 to AP-3 is a real boost, but you need a lot of bolter shots to make it really do work. This is a perfect example of a strat that bogs the game down for very little improvement. Ultimately, there are far more useful things you can do with 2 CP. F+
  • Squad Doctrines – 1CP At the start of your movement phase put a single INFANTRY or BIKE unit into any of the 3 doctrine modes until your next Movement phase. A very strong ability to have. Being able to shift a unit into Tactical Doctrine so it can fire on the move on turn 1 without shifting the whole army is very strong. Likewise it allows you to reap the benefits of Assault Doctrine for a single unit without having to commit the whole army to Assault Doctrine, which can be very useful for something like Bladeguard Veterans who with -4 AP completely cancel out standard power armor. This can be the difference between completely destroying a squad and having a single objective secured model manage to survive for another turn. Keep on when you have to declare this stratagem as it is easy to forget. A-
  • Fall Back and Re-Engage – 1/2CP A unit that falls back can shoot and charge in the same turn. If they also have the Codex Discipline chapter tactic, this costs 1 CP less and the unit doesn’t suffer the -1 penalty to its To Hit rolls from Chapter Tactics. This is an absolute steal at 1 point for Ultramarines but will still frequently worth the 2 CP it costs for any non-“Inheritors of the Primarch” successors, as it allows you to back off with your Captain/Dreadnought/Aggressors and shoot at whoever is vexing you with the rest of your army without sacrificing their significant melee capabilities. This is perhaps the best mobility enhancing ability Ultramarines have access to aside from Rapid Redeploy. Nothing is more frustrating to your opponent who attempts to tie up a key unit only for you to fall back towards their lines, and then use that to declare a charge into another unit. A+
  • Honoured Sergeant – 1CP Honoured Sergeant lets you give a model with the Sergeant keyword in its profile a Master-Crafted Weapon, Digital Weapon, Hellfury Bolts, or the Sunwrath Pistol from the Special-Issue Wargear list. You can’t have duplicate relics in your army. Most of the time this is going to be used to master-craft a weapon to give a squad some extra hitting power. Most Marine players have probably been tempted by this stratagem at one point in time. While it is tempting to have an Assault Plasma Incinerator that overcharges to 3 Damage or an Aggressor Sgt who has Powerfists that do 3 Damage the fact is not being characters makes them very easy to pick off. C+
  • Defensive Focus – 2CP Allows up to three other unengaged units within 6″ of a charged unit to fire Overwatch at the charging unit. Essentially a For the Greater Good (of Ultramar), this ability has become more useful now that Overwatch normally costs CP to use. Still it requires high volume shooting to make best use of it. It reaches a whole new level of useful in the presence of Guilliman’s reroll aura, and when combined with Auspex Scan is a great combo for discouraging charges out of deep strike. – A (If you have Guilliman), C+ otherwise
  • Tactical Insight – 2CP A stratagem for Maelstrom objectives in an edition where Maelstrom objectives don’t exist. F
  • Exemplar of the Chapter – 1CP When you pick an unnamed character to be your warlord, they can take an Ultramarines warlord trait in addition to their existing choice. Very useful if you’re playing friendlies or if you need a way to fit Adept of the Codex and another trait onto your custom warlord, but won’t work for you if Guilliman or Calgar are in their necessary warlord spots. However, if you don’t take either of these large men this is near auto-take to get Adept of the Codex or Master of Strategy on your Warlord, especially if you don’t have a lot of characters to put extra traits on. B+
  • Honoured by Macragge – 1CP Strictly for Ultramarines successor chapters, spend 1 CP once per battle you can take a Relic of Macragge. Useful if you need more oomph for your custom boys than Special-Issue Wargear will give, most likely for the Standard or the Sanctic Halo. C+

Relics

Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Ancient

A Primaris Ancient. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Ultramarines and their successors have access to two sets of relics. The first, Relics of Macragge, are only available to Ultramarines normally, but successors can use the Honoured by Macragge stratagem to take a single one. The other set, Special-Issue Wargear, are available to successors freely and some can be given to squad Sergeants via the Honoured Sergeant Stratagem.

Relics of Macragge

The Relics of Macragge are solid, if unexciting. They’re all pretty decent, but none of them scream out to be built around, much like the warlord traits. That said, none of them are complete duds, either.

  • Soldier’s Blade Replaces a power sword or combat knife and is a S+1 AP-4 2 Damage melee weapon. It is this latter option that stops this relic from being utterly irrelevant to the Burning Blade as it helps Phobos characters as they don’t otherwise have access to power-weapon equivalents. Unfortunately, you’re playing Ultramarines, Phobos characters are pretty low on your list. C
  • The Sanctic Halo Captain or Chapter master, grants a 3+ invulnerable save and the bearer can attempt to Deny the Witch once per turn as though they were a psyker. Still as good as it ever was and basically never a bad choice of relic, and receives an extra boost due to storm shields no longer providing a 3++. This relic only falls short of A rating simply due to competition from other relics. B+
  • The Standard of Macragge Inviolate Friendly units within 12″ autopass morale and friendly units within 6″ have +1 attack, bringing your standard Primaris body up to 4 attacks in the first round of combat. Right out the gate the autopass morale ability is merely ok for a chapter that already has +1 leadership and really doesn’t want to field squads larger than 5 models. That being said the +1 attack aura is great, and its primary downside is that it requires an Ancient to fielded, which is another 3 points for opponents looking to score assassinate and doesn’t do a lot by itself. It pairs excellently with Bladeguard Veterans (giving you an excuse to take the Bladeguard Ancient) and can be very useful for shoring up the assault phase for a chapter that usually prefers to be shooting its opponents. A-
  • Armour of Konor The old Shield Eternal, but now for Terminator Armour only and slightly worse. Gives the model a 4++ invulnerable save and halves incoming damage. Good if you have a Terminator Librarian you want to protect. I personally love damage halving abilities, but sadly Terminator characters still fall short of being competitive in an Ultramarines list making this relic sub-par. Great for casual matches though. C
  • Helm of Censure The relic bearer re-rolls To Hit and To Wound rolls of 1, unless it’s against ADEPTUS ASTARTES or HERETIC ASTARTES units, in which case the bearer also gets +1 to their To Hit and To Wound rolls. Exists solely to be given to Captains or Judiciars, and is more useful than most faction-keyed relics because Marines and Chaos Marines make up like a large number of armies. While this might sound enticing this item is basically redundant against any non-Marine armies, and has likely never seen play in a single winning list. C
  • Vengeance of Ultramar Replaces a storm bolter with a storm bolter that is Rapid Fire 4 that re-rolls wounds against non-vehicles. Because it replaces a bolt weapon, it benefits from Bolter Discipline, meaning that you can use it to pop out 8 shots at full range with -1 AP while you’re in Tactical Doctrine. This is a fun choice, but hardly competitive, ideally it would go on a terminator or bike captain to always benefit from Bolter Discipline. C+
  • Tarentian Cloak Gives a 5+ Invulnerable save and the character heals d3 wounds at the start of each of your Movement phases. This relic is best when given to a character that doesn’t have an inherent invulnerable save like a Librarian or Lieutenant and even then it is pretty diminished now that Apothecaries are good. Another example of a relic that has likely never seen a top table – though speaking of Apothecaries, they’re potentially good bearers of it. C

The Banner is probably the biggest winner here – +1A is the kind of buff that turns your normal line infantry into capable combatants, opening up new avenues of play at a low cost.

Special-Issue Wargear

The Ultramarines share four Special-Issue relics with other first founding chapters. They also have four unique Special-Issue relics, two of which are very good and two of which are just OK.

  • Adamantine Mantle Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Solid, particularly for units that already have a 4+ invulnerable save and who won’t benefit as much from the defensive Relics of Macragge. Basically, a better version of the aforementioned Tarentian Cloak. Almost every recipient of this item will already have an invulnerable save making it far more useful when trying to build a tanky character. B-
  • Artificer Armour Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. Realistically, neither of these units are worth spending or CP to give this relic. A good choice for casual games, but falls into the same spot as the Tarentian Cloak. C+
  • Master-Crafted Weapon Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. Most characters have ample access to deadlier weapon relics, but potentially funnier for making an Inceptor sergeant flat damage 3 on its overcharge – though sergeants still run into the trouble of their unit just being shot immediately since they don’t have the character rule to shield them. B
  • Digital Weapons Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C-
  • Reliquary of Vengeance Once per game at the start of the Fight phase you can activate this to give everyone within 6″ of the bearer +1 to their Attacks characteristic until the end of the phase. The Standard of Maccrage, but if it was a single use, and therefor pretty shit despite some gimmicky melee combos it allows. C
  • Seal of Oath Could also have been called “Screw That Guy In Particular.” Gives original flavor Guilliman rerolls of all To Hit and To Wound rolls in a 6″ aura around the bearer against a single enemy unit chosen at the start of the first battle round. Pick the most important and expensive unit in the enemy line and watch it melt. Perhaps the most powerful relic specific to Ultramarines as it is a perfect counter to any expensive unit your opponent picks whether it be The Silent King, Daemon Primarchs, etc. This relic pairs excellently with Rapid Redeployment to ideally place your firepower to eliminate the Oath target. A+
  • Hellfury Bolts The ranged counterpart to digital weapons, when firing a bolt weapon the bearer can choose to fire a single shot that deals a mortal wound if you hit (instead of the regular attack, not in addition to it). Basically useless now that Aggressors can no longer double shoot. D+
  • Sunwrath Pistol Replaces a plasma pistol with an upgraded 2-shot S8 AP-3 D2 pistol. More useful to have, but there are better things to spend your points and relics on. A fun thing to take for casual play, but otherwise ignore it. D+

The Seal of Oath is an outrageously big winner here – against any opponent with a key unit you absolutely want it. Imagine if there was a stratagem that read the same way this relic does for 1 CP. It’s the best relic in the book. Let this be a lesson children, nothing is more powerful than the power of keeping your word.

Ultramarines Units

The Ultramarines have more unique units and named characters than many of the Codex: Space Marines factions (though now that Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, and Deathwatch are in that mix, this isn’t quite as true or impressive a count as it used to be), and the variety gives them some interesting advantages. With the release of the 9th Edition codex and chapter command options the usefulness of certain named characters has seen some dramatic shifts.

Retro Sicarius. Credit: SRM

Captain Sicarius

Captain Sicarius is a non-Primaris Captain with an extra ability and slightly superior wargear. You can choose one friendly Ultramarines unit that is CORE or CHARACTER within 6″ of Sicarius to gain the Objective Secured ability until the end of the battle round. His ability is interesting and novel, but may not see use unless you find yourself in situations where Sicarius is either alone or surrounded by non-Troops. He costs 30 more points than a standard Captain, and is likely to be eclipsed by his Primaris counterparts as his ability is very niche, and is ultimately less deadly in a fight than most captain variants – never mind that you can just give a character Rites of War to replicate the effect but better.

Chaplain Cassius

Cassius has swapped out his Crozius Arcanum for an Artificer Crozius, which has +2 Strength and AP-2 in its profile (instead of S+1, AP-1), allowing Cassius to hit at Strength 6 and take down more heavily-armored targets. To represent that he’s a tough old bastard, Cassius has 5 Toughness. Despite all of this, because he has one less attack and can’t take the Benediction of Fury relic, Cassius won’t be quite the close combat buzzsaw that a Primaris Chaplain can be. On the other hand, Cassius’ real value is that he knows two litanies plus the Litany of Hate and can recite up to two of them each Battle Round. Unfortunately for him, spending points to turn a Primaris Chaplain into a Master of Sanctity provides the same level of utility while being deadlier in combat, and having access to Warlord Traits that make litanies more reliable. On the plus side Cassius runs at a very cheap 95 points meaning he might may have a spot on lists that find themselves incapable of squeezing in a generic Master of Sanctity.

Chapter Ancient

For 25 points more than a Company Ancient (or 20 more than a Primaris Ancient), you get a power sword, a 2+ save and a secondary ability that adds +1 to hit on a CORE unit in melee. This can be matched for 20 points by the generic Ancients who can also upgrade themselves with Chapter Command making the wargear the primary difference here from the codex option. Ultimately, 100 points is a steep cost for one of the less useful buffing characters available to Ultramarines, and as outlined earlier, the Standard of Maccrage Ascendant is the only reason you’d really want one of these guys.

Chapter Champion

Much like the above options this once Ultramarines unique character now has a generic version located in the main codex. That being said he comes in at a cheap 75 points, only 5 points above the generic version, and for this extra cost you get all of the abilities of the codex version along with a 2+ save, +1 attack, and the ability to re-roll all hits vs characters, while only losing the 5++ from the combat shield. Champions haven’t really been a popular choice for competitive lists, and that is unlikely to change as they’re limited in their usefulness.

Ultramarines Chapter Champion

Ultramarines Chapter Champion. Credit SRM

Chief Librarian Tigurius

Tigurius is perhaps the most useful character available to the Ultramarines. Like all the above characters he is in direct competition with the new generic variants available via Chapter Command, and while in the previous examples the differences have been slight we now have a clear case of a superior choice. Tigs clocks in at 135 points, while his generic Chief Librarian counterpart is 15 points cheaper (assuming you’re using a Primaris Librarian). For this extra cost you receive: a superior Force Staff, the ability to re-roll all psychic powers, +1 Cast and Deny (note that the +1 to Deny is at any range unlike the 12 inches required of your standard psychic hood), and finally the ability to impart a -1 hit modifier on any core unit with 6 inches for the entirety of the battle round. In short, if you want to take a Librarian, Tigurius is an automatic take.

Chief Librarian Tigurius. Credit: JD

Honour Guard

These guys along with their cousins the Victrix Guard and Company Veterans have had a significant rules change in that they are no longer a way for a character to pawn their wounds off onto another unit, but prevent characters within 3 inches from being targeted by shooting, period. This is rather big upgrade in an edition where targeting characters has become easier. Unfortunately, their price tag places them between both the cheaper Company Vets, and the far more durable and deadly Victrix Guard. While this doesn’t make them useless it does make them redundant, and you’re unlikely to be taking them even if you find yourself with a few points left over that could potentially upgrade your Veterans into them.

Marneus Calgar

Calgar finds himself in a bit of a rough spot come 9th. With the change to Chapter Master auras he’s now the inferior to his father, while being on the pricey side but still receiving the downgraded Chapter Master buffing ability. This isn’t to say he is terrible; he does still provide extra CP and is tough to crack in combat thanks to his damage-reducing ability. Sadly his powerfists were not awarded the flat 2 dmg of the standard models making his combat potential very swingy.

It is too early to tell if recent changes will see him permanently relegated to the casual lists, but most competitive players are going to look to save themselves a quick 50 or so for a generic variant to keep their HQ costs low. Basically you ask yourself if 50 points is worth 2 CP and the ability to halve incoming dmg. A decent bonus is that Adept of the Codex is his inborn warlord trait, so you can count that as providing another bonus CP as you no longer need to purchase the trait.

Marneus Calgar

Marneus Calgar, post-Primaris Rubicon. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

 

Roboute Guilliman

Guilliman has had a lot of ups and downs since his release in the game, going from being one of the only viable ways to make Marines competitive in early 8th, to being nearly sidelined at the end of the edition by Calgar or extremely cheap generic Chapter Masters, both of which shared his primary ability of providing full re-rolls at a much reduced price.

With the advent of 9th and the massive reductions in abilities that provide re-rolls the Primarch of the XIIIth has come out with one of the few remaining re-roll all hits auras in the game (CORE and CHARACTER of course). In addition he kept his re-roll 1s to hit on all IMPERIUM keyword models secondary aura making him one of the few ways to buff non-CORE choices. To sweeten the deal he pays for himself by negating his detachment cost, and then provides a bonus 3 CP. His Warlord Trait also serves to help solidify the “battle-pile” you are looking to build around him making charging into an Ultramarines force led by him to be a dangerous prospect.

Basically, Guilliman is now truly in a league of his own. While he suffered a drop in lethality as did all Marine characters he uniquely retains the ability to re-roll his own hits, and with the change to bodyguard models his vulnerability to shooting is somewhat mitigated. While COVID-19 continues to keep the number of large events to minimum this hasn’t stopped more than a handful of Guilliman lists from making strong attempts at first place finishes.

Roboute Guilliman

Roboute Guilliman. Credit: Corrode

Sergeant Chronus

Chronus remains the cheapest HQ option available to any Marine army, which is a selling point for him that is immediately countered by HQ slots being much harder to come by. Unfortunately, he does not provide much in the way of buffs for your army, raising his vehicle’s BS to a permanent 2+ and regenerating a single wound per round respectively, but his main issue is that he is still restricted to non-Primaris vehicles. He falls in the merely “OK” category with some of the old vehicles like Whirlwinds having their uses in Marine lists, but unfortunately they’re in stiff competition for Heavy Support slots from much more useful CORE options like Eradicators or Devastators.

Sergeant Telion

The Master of Scouts almost never saw the table prior to 9th Edition despite being an extremely cheap HQ option, but now that it costs CP to purchase detachments, and with Scouts going to the Elites slot means this guy is basically useless for competitive play. On top of this 70 points is simply an outrageous cost for a model that only buffs a single model type, and not in any significant manner.

Tyrannic War Veterans

Traditionally just Sternguard models that are better at killing Tyranids, these guys suddenly find themselves is an excellent spot retaining their old 17 PPM cost while gaining an extra wound like all small Marines. This may have been a mistake on Games Workshop’s part, but they instantly invalidate Sternguard as an option, essentially being the same models but cheaper, with a nice bonus “Fuck Tyranids” ability built into them. I actually didn’t realize this until updating this guide, and while you’re going to have a hard time finding models for these guys (I’d proxy Sternguard) having boltguns that have -3 AP in a Marine heavy meta at a cheaper cost than Intercessors is nothing to sneeze at.

Ultramarines Victrix Guard

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Victrix Honour Guard

These guys are excellent having received the new bodyguard rule like Honour Guard and Company Veterans. They received a deserved point increase to 35 PPM, making them the same cost as Bladeguard Veterans. Interestingly enough they also retained their 3++, which is crazy considering they have a natural 2+ armor save, a level of protection that is completely absent from all non-character units in the army. These guys are almost a requirement for any Guilliman list, and will be useful even if you don’t have him. Their power swords remain standard however, so they lack the lethality of Bladeguard against multi-wound targets.

Perhaps the most durable unit available to Ultramarines, point for point, they really live up to their bodyguard role and can just as easily be incredibly hard to shift objective holders, and are an excellent choice for any Ultramarines army.

Notable Units

One of the consequences of the 9th Edition codex is that in most cases units that are good for one chapter are good for all chapters. This is departure from 8th Edition where units like Aggressors were “must takes” for Ultramarines due to how their super doctrine worked with their “shoot twice” ability. This is no longer the case with the super doctrine now being broadly useful for all heavy weapon carrying infantry, Eradicators, Devastators, and Suppressors being the most useful examples.

Blocks of 10 Intercessors also remain a useful choice as Ultramarines still have ways to put multiple squads into Tactical doctrine in the early and late game without needing to break the bank like other Marines who are forced to use Adaptive Strategy to do so. Squads wielding auto bolt rifles in particular have seen success having gained access to Rapid Fire, as 60 s4 shots with ap1 rerolling everything will make a great many targets sweat.

 

Credit: Artum

Playing Ultramarines

Playing Ultramarines is all about leveraging their unique abilities. In that regard you’re looking at a largely infantry based force of CORE units. Early in the game your goal is to maximize your buffing abilities to try and provide overwhelming firepower that allows you pick off your opponent’s key units. The “Battle Pile” is alive and well with Ultramarines allowing them to surpass almost any other army in terms of sheer firepower if using things like Seal of Oath or Guilliman, while using a combination of an Apothecary, Psychic Fortress, and defensive stratagems so that your opponent will break themselves on you when they inevitably counter-attack.

Only once you feel you have made optimal use of your buffing abilities and gained control of the board or eliminated enough key threats should you then break your army apart and spread out. Ultramarines are the definition of an army who is greater than the sum of its parts, and when divided they are usually at a greater disadvantage than other chapters lacking any of their innate speed boosting abilities (Scars) or defensive qualities (Iron Hands or Salamanders).

This need to bunch up can feel like a liability against more maneuverable armies, and it is, but what you’re getting in return is very potent. Much of learning how to play the army comes from repeated practice where you learn how to optimally maneuver it, while still keeping units within the proper range of their support. Thinking where your army needs to be two turns down the road is critical to the success of an army that is largely composed of infantry based foot sloggers.

Lastly, remember that CORE units are especially important for any Ultramarines list as all your powerful re-rolling abilities are tied to this. If you plan on bringing non-CORE units you should have a plan to mitigate their reduced usefulness, or they should be so points efficient in their shooting/melee capabilities that they utterly off set this hinderance.

Tips and Tricks to Remember

  • Pick your targets carefully: Consider whether your opponent has any tools that can push past your defenses or negate abilities you rely on such stratagems that prevent re-rolls. Nothing like expecting to use Defensive Focus to discourage a deadly charge only to find out your opponent negates overwatch.
  • Abuse Rapid Redeployment: Gaining the advantage at the start of the game is key, and spending a chunk of your CP to line up a turn 1 sucker punch against the heart of your opponent’s army is almost always worth it. This combos well with Seal of Oath.
  • Remember your timings: Squad Doctrines has to be activated at the start of your movement phase while Adaptive Strategy is done in the Command Phase. These are small differences but can easily be forgotten, and shrewd opponents will call you out on them.

 

Ultramarines Eradicators. Credit: SRM

Lists

As is traditional we’re going to close this out with a few army lists. Right after the Marine codex dropped Ultramarines had a very strong showing with two pure lists doing well, which was very helpful for our purposes in showcasing them.

Thomas Byrd’s Ultramarines

Thomas took this list to a 4-1 third place finish at the Warzone: The Dark Times GT in mid-November 2020.

++ Ultramarines Supreme Command Detachment (+6 CP, 380 points) ++

LoW: Roboute Guilliman, Warlord (+3 CP)

++ Ultramarines Battalion Detachment (-5 CP, 1,620 points) ++

HQ: Chief Librarian Tigurius [135] w/Might of Heroes, Psychic Fortress, Psychic Scourge
HQ: Primaris Chaplain on Bike [140] w/Master of Sanctity, Hero of the Chapter: Wise Orator (-1 CP), Relic: Seal of Oath, Litanies: Recitation of Focus, Catechism of Fire

Troops: Infiltrators x5 w/Helix [130] Troops: Infiltrators x5 w/Helix [130] Troops: Inftercessors x10 w/Auto bolt rifle, Grenade Launcher x2, Sgt. w/Thunder Hammer [230]

EL: Primaris Apothecary w/Chief Apothecary, Hero of the Chapter: Selfless Healer, Relic: The Vox Espiritum
EL: Victrix Guard x2 [70] EL: Victrix Guard x2 [70]

FA: Attack bike (3) w/Multi-melta [165]

HS: Devastators (5) w/lascannon + cherub [155] HS: Devastators (5) w/grav + cherub [135] HS: Hellblasters (5) w/assault incincerator [165]

++ 2,000 points ++

 

The Standout Features

  • Chapter Doctrine enables foot Devastators to operate at high efficiency.
  • Seal of Oath and Guilliman turbo-charge shooting.
  • Full Intercessor squad takes full advantage of Rapid Fire and Tigurius’ protections.
  • Victrix Guard provide great objective holders.

This list takes advantage of many of the Ultramarines’ key strengths in 9th edition following the release of the new codex. Specifically:

  • Strong named characters – Tiggy and Guilliman are both fantastic models.
  • A great shell for Devastators thanks to the Doctrine.
  • The Seal of Oath letting grav Devs punch at their pre-codex weight.
  • Victrix guard being the perfect cheap unit in 9th, filling the same slot as we saw from Company Veterans in Dan’s list.
  • Redeploy effects being more valuable than ever now people have a handle on the missions.

That’s a bunch of real assets and this list packs the lot, squeezing in both characters, multiple Devastator squads and some Victrix guard, and still finding space for a full Intercessor squad (with Ultras being some of the very best users of Rapid Fire), some Infiltrators for board control and Attack Bikes/Assault Hellblasters to finish things up. Combining that raw power with the ability to substantially alter the deployment plan once the first turn is decided, and the fact that charging the army is genuinely scary thanks to Defensive Focus and Bobby still having a full re-roll aura and you have a list that can really compete.

 

Ultramarines Outriders. Credit: SRM

Jared Gomez’s Ultramarines

Jared took this list to a 4-1 fourth place finish at the Clutch City GT in mid-November 2020.

++ Ultramarines Battalion Detachment ( -1 CP, 2,000 Points) ++

Relics of the Chapter: 1 extra Relic

HQ: Bike Captain 110: Power Fist, Bolt Pistol, Warlord, Rites of War, Sanctic Halo
HQ: Tigurius 135: Veil of Time, Null Zone, Psychic Fortress
HQ: Primaris Reiver Lt 75: Hero of the Chapter, Lord of Deceit, Seal of Oath

EL: Primaris Apothecary 95: Chief Apothecary, Selfless Healer, Vox Espiritum
EL: Bladeguard 175: 4x Bladeguard , Bladeguard Veteran Sgt
EL: Contemptor Dreadnought 150: kheres assault cannon, Storm Bolter
EL: Redemptor Dreadnought 185: Macro Plasma Incinerator, onslaught Gatling cannon, 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus rocket pod
EL: Redemptor Dreadnought 185: Macro Plasma Incinerator, onslaught Gatling cannon, 2x Storm Bolters, Icarus rocket pod

FA: Suppressor Squad 100

TROOPS: Incursor squad 105
TROOPS: Infiltrator Squad 130: Helix Gauntlet
TROOPS: Intercessors 105: bolt rifles, power sword
TROOPS: Tactical squad 100: Heavy Bolter

HS: Eradicator Squad 120: Melta Rifle
HS: Eradicator Squad 120: Melta Rifle

DT: Razorback 110: Twin Heavy Bolters

++ 2,000 points ++

 

The Standout Features

  • Tigurius, the Seal of Oath and Dreadnought spam provide a powerful combination.
  • The heavy bolter buff is apparently enough to get Razorbacks into real lists. What a world.

If you were looking for a successful Ultramarines list that didn’t rely on Guilliman, here’s your option. Tigurius can throw out an extremely reliable cast of Psychic Fortress to protect the Redemptors and various infantry here, especially when combined with another range-boosted Apothecary aura for the latter. Most of the rest of this list we’ve seen perform in the various other builds, but I’d be extremely remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that there’s an honest-to-god Razorback here, just living its best life carrying around tactical marines. Turns out that being able to get a turn of AP-2 D2 heavy bolter fire in to kick off the game is kind of just a fine thing to drop into a list if you’ve got some points kicking around now. What a marvelous world 9th Edition is. Not too much more to say, but hats off to Jared for really bringing it old school right here.

Where to Read More

Click here to return to our larger guide on Codex Space Marines. If you have any questions or feedback, shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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