Start Competing: White Scars Tactics

Though a first founding legion, it took White Scars a long time to get real recognition in Warhammer 40k. They didn’t get proper rules until the Index Astartes article series in 3rd edition started handing out rules to each first founding chapter/legion, and their treatment through 4th, 5th, and 6th edition was pretty sparse. Recently however they’ve started to get rules of their own that properly reflect their unique style of warfare. Although they are largely a Codex chapter, the White Scars favor lightning strikes and rapid insertion operations, relying heavily on bikes and jump infantry to strike foes hard and fast. Their rules on the battlefield reflect this, making them one of the fastest, most ferocious chapters around.

Chapter Overview

The White Scars really came into their own with the release of their supplement in 8th edition and while they were initially overshadowed by Iron Hands and Raven Guard, they were the next-best and recognised as a very strong book. With the coming of 9th edition and its greater focus on melee combat, and other supplements being reined in a little in power, their unique blend of speed and powerful melee have made them a nightmare to confront. Most of the Space Marine chapters are at least decent and White Scars are among the strongest. They’re solidly a Tier 1 army as of the writing of this article.


  • Melee. The White Scars are a powerhouse in melee, with one of the strongest Chapter Doctrines in the game. In addition to being able to tack on +1 damage to their melee attacks while the Assault Doctrine is active, they also have the ability to Advance and charge, letting them get into melee all the sooner, and Fall Back and Charge, re-activating their Shock Assault and Combat Doctrine abilities, plus a number of other stratagems, warlord traits, relics, and powers that help them get into melee combat and wreck house.
  • Speed. The White Scars may also be the fastest Marine chapter – Advance and charge gives them enormous threat range, plus they have a range of stratagems like Fierce Rivalries, Lightning Debarkation, Strike for the Heart, and Wind-Swift to get extra movement.
  • Psychic Powers. The Stormspeaking Discipline is pretty good, giving you a way to make reliable charges out of deep strike with Ride the Winds, though with more reliable Chaplain auras and the general devaluing of psykers in 9th it’s somehow both really good and kind of not worth taking.


  • Resilience. White Scars can access the core resilience buffs from the Marine book, but there’s nothing on top of that making them tougher – you won’t find Iron Hands or Salamanders level of buffs to your defensive capabilities here.
  • Shooting Support. Scars have some great buffs to moving and shooting, being able to fall back and shoot and with the key Hunters Fusillades stratagem allowing a unit to advance and fire any weapon as if it were Assault, but they don’t really do anything to make your guns hit more or harder – all that focus is placed on melee instead.


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


Chapter Tactic – Lightning Assault

Units with this tactic can declare a charge in a turn after they Advanced or made a Fall Back move. Additionally, they do not suffer a penalty to their hit rolls for firing Assault weapons in the same turn after they Advanced.

This is a faction-defining ability, fundamentally changing how White Scars play. The first half is the bit that most people remember – being able to Advance and Charge in the same turn means that your JUMP PACK and BIKER units have an insane threat range, able to jet across the board and threaten enemy units with first turn charges pretty reliably, especially if your opponent has the first turn and moves forward. Even the regular foot-slogging infantry can be very nimble, especially if combined with Plume of the Plainsrunner for +1 to Advance and Charge rolls. Being able to Fall Back and charge is great as well, allowing you to pick and choose the combats you want and avoid getting stuck in where you don’t while allowing you to turn your guns on units you want to soften up before you re-charge them (and re-activate your Shock Assault rule for +1 attack).

The second part is more understated, but does its own share of heavy lifting, for two reasons – first, many good weapons in the Marine codex are Assault, with an obvious example being plasma exterminators on Inceptors. Second and more subtly, White Scars have a 1CP stratagem called Hunters’ Fusillades, which can be used on any unit to count its weapons as being Assault for the phase – so suddenly your Devastators can move, advance, and shoot with no penalty. This is great for both extending the threat range of those units and also for allowing them to hide out of line of sight until the opportunity comes to jump out and fire.

Doctrine – Devastating Charge

If your army is 100% Scars, you get the following additional ability on all models with the Combat Doctrines ability:

Whilst the Assault Doctrine is active, when resolving an attack made with a melee weapon by a model with this ability in a unit that made a charge move or performed a Heroic Intervention this turn, add 1 to the Damage characteristic of that weapon for that attack.

This is the kind of ability that really nails the wow factor on first read. +1 damage in melee across the entire army (as long as you’ve charged or intervened) is an absurdly powerful ability, especially when applied to “volume” attacks. Given that you’re also getting an additional -1AP from the baseline Assault Doctrine, that turns the basic knives all your models have in their pockets into D2 AP-1 close combat weapons. Given, as we’ll see, there are also a couple of good ways to boost your strength or wound rolls, when Assault Doctrine becomes active suddenly your basic units, especially all the Primaris stuff with 2A base, can just start punching out pretty much anything. That’s definitely a huge flavour win: Once the time for a heroic charge rolls around, the entire White Scars army just slams into the enemy and starts tearing them apart.

The main challenge with this ability is the timing though. Because of the way Doctrines cycle, the earliest you can have this active is on the third turn – though the new codex has brought a big win for Scars with the Adaptive Strategy stratagem allowing one unit to count as being in all doctrines simultaneously, and unlike Blood Angels who don’t get the benefit of their doctrine on a technicality, White Scars absolutely do. If you really need something dead in the early going, you can throw Adaptive Strategy on a key unit and it’s ready to rumble.

Also, just to make it as clear as possible – unlike a lot of similar effects we’re used to (looking at you Blood Angels) this doesn’t take effect if you have been charged, only when you charge, so make sure you’re on the offensive.

This is a great ability and as we’ll explore when we look at some units that work well as Scars, there are definitely ways to get a lot out of it, whether you want to be Scars or a successor. Its main limitation is just that two-turn delay to get it going army-wide.


We’ve already talked about quite a few of the Scars stratagems above, and that’s for good reason – the unique stratagems are the deepest part of the codex supplements.

  • Born in the Saddle – 1CP: A BIKER unit that advanced can still shoot. Nice for getting that little bit extra out of a unit of Outriders, and particularly great for buzzing Attack Bikes up the board and into melta range – and shooting at no penalty. A
  • Butchered Quarry – 1CP: When an enemy falls back, one of your INFANTRY/BIKER units can make one melee attack each against them, then consolidate after the fall back move is done (though you can’t end within 1″ of an enemy unit, and have to go closer to the unit that fell back). This is pretty fun, especially if a battered unit is falling back from your Bladeguard or Vanguard Veterans. A nice thing to have for one CP. Note – although the final move is like a consolidate, it isn’t actually one, so you can’t combo it with Strike for the Heart (which we’ll see later). B
  • Wind Swift – 2CP: Double move a unit. This has changed a bit from what the codex says – you now have to make a Normal Move first and then you can make an Advance after, which makes your choices a bit less flexible. You cannot shoot, charge or do any psychic after. You also can’t use it on ARTILLERY any more, which, lol, ok. Good for early positioning and late game pushing a unit to an out-of-reach objective. A
  • Ride Hard, Ride Fast – 1CP: Your opponent gets -1 to hit (with ranged weapons) against a unit that advanced. Very well priced at 1CP, and very nice that it has no keyword restrictions. B
  • Lightning Debarkation – 1CP: A unit can disembark from a transport (that isn’t a Flyer) after the transport has moved. They cannot charge after doing so. The key use here is to get a unit of Devastators way up the board by bailing them out of a Rhino, especially since the transport can advance and still do this – a unit of melta Devastators can have a humongous threat range for their half-range bonus to damage with this. A
  • Khan’s Champion – 1CP: You can give one a Sergeant either Master-crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, Headtaker’s Trophies, or Stormwrath Bolts. Most useful for if you want to put master-crafted on something in a squad – but +1 damage is also a thing you have ready access to thanks to your doctrine. B
  • Hunter’s Fusillade – 1CP: After a unit advances, Rapid Fire and Heavy Weapons become Assault. Fabulous for moving Devastators around at pace with no penalty, and indeed any other Rapid Fire or Heavy weapon. Particularly helpful with Doctrines as you get the bonus AP, too. A
  • Chogorian Thunderbolts – 1CP: Essentially Hammer of Wrath (dealing a mortal wound to a charged enemy unit on a D6 roll of 6 for each model in a charging unit) but for BIKER units. Basically never worth it. D
  • Quarry of the Khan – 1CP: Maelstrom cards don’t exist in 9th and this was the worst version of this anyway. F
  • A Mighty Trophy – 1CP: Another flavour win that’s horrible to actually use. if you kill the enemy warlord with a melee attack, your army is fearless for the rest of the game. Once you’re at the point of killing their warlord in melee, you are unlikely to have a spare point to blow on an incredibly marginal buff. F
  • Fierce Rivalries – 1CP: Use at the start of your charge phase, and roll 3D6 and discard the lowest on your first charge. Yes please. Combined with either Ride the Winds or Canticle of Hate this is fabulous for getting the nearest thing to a guaranteed charge out of deep strike 9th has to offer. A
  • Strike for the Heart – 2CP: Increase your consolidation move to 3+D3″, or 6+D6″ if the unit’s Move characteristic is more than 10″. Movement is king and in particular a biker character being able to go 6+D6″ can potentially be game-changing for them, but the relatively CP cost and the potential to never quite have the right circumstances to make the most of it let it down a little bit. Also now excludes ARTILLERY. B
  • Feinting Withdrawal – 1CP: Fall back and shoot. Sure – good, clean, fun, priced to move. This is just a good effect to have access to, especially in 9th where FLY no longer gives it automatically. A
  • Tempered by Wisdom – 1CP: If your warlord is not a named character, you can give them an additional trait from the list in this book. Letting you combo the mainline traits with one of the White Scars ones is great – a slam Captain or similar with Imperium’s Sword/Chogorian Storm is quite something on the charge, as is being able to access a buff and get Master of Snares too. A
  • The Eternal Hunt – 2CP: Once per battle, while in Assault Doctrine, give your army an additional point of AP on 6s to wound. The circumstances where this is worth 2CP aren’t that numerous. C
  • Encirclement – 1CP: Set up a unit outflanking (except ARTILLERY, again, or BUILDINGS) and able to come in at the end of a movement phase within 6″ of the board edge. Fabulous – everyone can do something similar to this with Strategic Reserves now, but that has a laundry list of restrictions on where things can come in and when, and never from the opponent’s board edge. Meanwhile the chad White Scars can simply stroll on directly into the backfield, either to set up a charge or to deploy scramblers or otherwise take part in Activities. A
  • Gift of the Khans – 1CP: If your warlord is from a successor, you can take a Relic of Chogoris. There’s not a lot of great reasons to take a White Scars successor, but the relics here are good, so if you did that for some reason then accessing them is a nice thing to have. B

White Scars Assault Intercessor
White Scars Assault Intercessor Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Warlord Traits

White Scars get their own suite of Warlord Traits to play with, and they’re pretty good. They all revolve around melee combat and turning your warlord into a melee monster.

  1. Deadly Hunter. After your warlord finishes a charge move, pick an enemy unit within 1″ and roll a D6. On a 2+ that unit suffers a mortal wound. This is OK by itself, given how likely the mortal wound is, but it’s way outclassed by most other trait options. This trait is the one in the base Marine codex, for some reason/ C
  2. Chogorian Storm. If the Warlord performs a charge move or a Heroic Intervention, they get +D3 Attacks until the end of the turn. Great for adding even more punch to a slam character. A
  3. Trophy Taker. Every time this Warlord kills a character, add 1 to its Attacks characteristic for the rest of the battle. The only dud of the bunch, really. Sadly, this is also the Warlord Trait that Kor’sarro gets stuck with, and it’s a good reason to not make him your Warlord. D
  4. Master Rider. Biker Only. Your Warlord can re-roll charges. Also, when resolving an attack against this Warlord, subtract 1 from the To Hit roll if it advanced in the previous Movement phase. This is a great way to make sure your Warlord makes it into combat, and when paired with your ability to Advance and charge on the same turn, gives your Warlord some insane threat range. It’s also worth noting that the penalty to hit does not specify ranged attacks, so if you advance and charge, you’ll reap the benefits in the Fight phase as well. Always be Advancing. A
  5. Hunter’s Instincts. When resolving an attack made by this warlord against an enemy MONSTER or VEHICLE unit, add 1 to its To Hit and To Wound rolls. A great way to turn your Khan/Captain into a monster-killing machine and mitigate the downside of a thunder hammer or power fist. B
  6. Master of Snares. When an enemy unit within 1″ of your Warlord tries to fall back, roll a D6. On a 4+, they can’t fall back this turn. This is a really great ability and makes whatever unit your Warlord is paired with very, very nasty and difficult to escape. This was FAQed to not affect models with a minimum move, so you can’t use it to destroy planes by lassoing them like you could at release – which is probably for the best. A

Master of Snares in general really is fantastic – it’s just as good on the Slaaneshi Contorted Epitome, and it’s the main strength of Drukhari Wyches, but no-Fall Back abilities are exceptionally rare and this one is pretty easy to deploy to your advantage. While relics and double stacking traits makes the best use of it, just sticking it on any bike or jump Captain is potent – or the new bike Chaplain as a secondary trait. Chogorian Storm also shows up routinely, as your melee monsters get nothing but upside from it.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


As in other supplements, the White Scars have two sets of Relics: Relics of Chogoris, which can only be taken by White Scars, and Special-Issue Wargear, which can be taken by either White Scars or White Scars successor chapters.

Relics of Chogoris

  • Mantle of the Stormseer. Psykers only. When a model with this relic takes a Psychic test to manifest a Stormspeaking power, add 1 to the total. Not super-exciting, but because the Stormspeaking Discipline is good, a powerful relic to take. B
  • The Hunter’s Eye. At the start of your Shooting phase, pick a White Scars unit within 6″ of a model from your army with this relic. Until the end of the phase, ranged attacks made by that unit ignore cover. This is OK, but it just doesn’t line up well with what your core army’s focus is likely to be. C
  • Banner of the Eagle. Ancients only. Friendly White Scars units within 6″ of a model with this relic get +1 Strength. This is a huge benefit, especially for combat units coming in with S4 or S5 attacks. It combos extremely well with Kor’sarro Khan’s ability to give nearby chargers +1 to their To Wound rolls, giving you the ability to wound pretty much anything in the game on at least a 4+, and potentially as good as a 2+ against lots of key T4 or T5 units. This is the kind of relic you can build around. A
  • Wrath of the Heavens. Biker only. Soups up a model’s bike to have 16″ movement and be able to travel over other models and terrain features in the movement phase as if they weren’t there. A great way for a bike Khan or Bike Captain to do a sick wheelie right over a screening unit and murder a character your opponent thought was safe. The 16″ Movement is also a nice range boost, but you’ll need to be careful you don’t out-run your supporting units and leave your Bike Khan/Captain exposed. B
  • Scimitar of the Great Khan. Replaces a power sword or relic blade. It’s a S+1, D2 Power Sword that does 4 damage when you roll an unmodified 6 to wound with it. It’s OK, but you’re likely going to want to run Teeth of Terra instead. C
  • Plume of the Plainsrunner. Add 1 to the Advance and Charge rolls for units within 6″ of the model holding this relic. This is a fantastic boost and the way it combos with other abilities and stratagems like Fierce Rivalries and Ride the Winds helps ensure that if you want to get a charge in, you can make that shit happen. This is also one key advantage of Ride the Winds over just taking a Chaplain – you can stack that with this, for a 6″ charge out of deep strike. A
  • Glaive of Vengeance. Replaces a Khan’s lance (so essentially for a Khan on Bike only). Always has a Strength characteristic of x2. It’s a significant improvement, but the point of taking the Khan is likely to be to not have to spend a relic on his weapon, and the ability to fall back and charge, or heroic unless they actually lock you, means that most of the time you’ll be able to get the x2 strength profile on the Khan’s lance anyways. D

Special-Issue Wargear

  • Adamantine Mantle. Lets a model ignore wounds on a 5+. A solid boost in durability for a character, and best on characters who don’t benefit from taking artificer armour. B
  • Artificer Armour. Gives the model a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save. Fantastic for models with power armour saves who need the durability boost, i.e. bike and jump pack characters, especially those that don’t already have an Iron Halo. Storm shield characters or the Khan on bike can get down to a 1+ save by taking advantage of this. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon. Increases the damage characteristic of a non-relic weapon by 1. There are very few cases where this isn’t useful and it’s going to be most useful on the characters you want to take down bigger targets. Also the best pick for a squad Sergeant who wants a boost – mastercrafting a thunder hammer or lightning claw on a squad of Vanguard Veterans is potentially very spicy. A
  • Digital Weapons. The model gets to make an extra attack every time it fights using the generic close combat weapon profile and if that attack hits, the enemy takes a mortal wound on top of the other damage. Very similar to what you get from the Deadly Hunter warlord trait and probably not the best use of a relic. C
  • Equis-Pattern Bolt Pistol. A 5-shot AP-1 bolt pistol. Fun, but not where you’ll want to spend your relic. C
  • Headtaker’s Trophies. Gives enemy units within 6″ -1 to their Leadership. These effects just don’t matter 95% of the time and when they do, taking out one more Ork Boy isn’t worth spending a relic on. D
  • Stormwrath Bolts. Pick a bolt weapon the model has. When you shoot that weapon, you can fire a Stormwrath bolt. You only get one shot, but that shot is S7 AP-1 and if you’re shooting a MONSTER, it does D6 damage. Cute trick, but also not where you’re likely to want to spend your relic slots. C
  • Cyber-Eagle Helm. Friendly models within 6″ firing Overwatch hit on a 5 or 6. This is useful in many other armies. As White Scars, you want to be the one doing the charging. Then falling back and charging again. This doesn’t really fit with that plan. D

Most of the real winners relic-wise are on the “Relics of Chogoris” list, and there are some big winners there, particlarly the Banner of the Eagle and Plume of the Plainsrunner.

Credit: OhDearGodNo

Psychic Powers

The White Scars have their own psychic discipline, called the Stormspeaking Discipline. It’s actually pretty great – it has that perfect mixture of well-designed “standalone” abilities and stuff that aligns extremely well with the army’s plan. The only downside is that 9th edition tends to discourage the use of psykers and one of its more notable powers (Ride the Winds) can be replicated by a Chaplain – though see the note about Plume of the Plainsrunner.

  • Blasting Gale – WC7: pick an enemy unit within 18″. They cannot advance and roll one fewer dice to charge until your next turn. A teeny bit of a miss here, as the Tenebrous Curse power from the main book usually does it better. However, that can’t affect units with FLY, and this can be an option against such armies. It’s definitely one of the weaker ones here. C
  • Lightning Call – WC7: Does D3 mortal wounds to the closest unit within 18″ (note that, unlike Smite, it is not restricted to visible units). If the unit isn’t destroyed, you do an additional mortal on a D6 roll of 4+, then a 5+, then a 6+. An extra Smite equivalent is useful to have around, especially as it lets you dedicate a Librarian to double tapping on mortals if you need them to, and this is at least a decent one. You average about 2.7 wounds each time you successfully cast this, which is just fine as far as Smite equivalents go. B
  • Ride the Winds – WC6: A friendly unit within 12″ gets +2 to Advance and Charge rolls till your next psychic phase. Really lets a unit hoof it around the table, enabling some enormous charges. Loses a bit of a step in 9th where Chaplains are able to trivially replicate the charge part, but if you want to be able to fire off a key unit right across the table, this is the way to go – especially with a smaller board bringing everything that bit closer. A
  • Storm Wreathed – WC6: A friendly unit within 12″ cannot be shot at in Overwatch this turn, and each model can do a mortal wound on a 6 when charging. Less relevant in an edition where Overwatch is a lot less of a thing, and where you can’t just flex into it against the armies where it matters, but a good secondary pick behind Ride the Winds if you wanted to stick purely to White Scars powers. B
  • Spirits of Chogoris – WC6: Pick an enemy unit within 18″ and give it -1LD and (vastly more importantly) -1 to hit until your next psychic phase. Reasonably cheap, especially with Mantle of the Stormseer, and nice for limiting the effectiveness of a key enemy unit for a turn – especially something like a Knight which wants to benefit from both shooting and melee. B
  • Eye of the Storm – WC6: Roll a dice for each enemy unit within 12″ of the caster, and do a mortal wound for each 4+ (or 3+ against units with FLY). Once more Ynnari weep in the corner somewhere – unlike their version, this actually has a meaningful range and a decent chance of doing something. Still a lower-tier power here, though. B-

As disciplines go, this is a strong one especially among the Space Marine lores – and of course you can always take Tome of Malcador to utilise this and dip into a key power from Space Marines such as Psychic Fortress or Null Zone, or vice versa.


Kor’sarro Khan

The Crimson Khan
Yeah this is a White Scar. Credit: Corrode

Following Marneus Calgar across the Rubicon Primaris, we have Kor’sarro Khan, and he’s a beast. Even following the 9th points changes he’s still cheap. Stats-wise he’s basically a Primaris Captain with a special (and pretty good) melee weapon in Moonfang: a S6 AP-3 d3 Damage sword which can re-roll wounds and damage against characters. Access to native re-rolls makes him a great assassin, especially combined with his incredibly powerful Aura ability “For the Khan!“. Friendly White Scars CORE or CHARACTER units within 6” that have charged or Heroically Intervened get +1 to their wounds rolls that turn, making them pseudo-Blood Angels for a turn. That’s exceptionally good – combined with the +1 damage buff, it makes any of your units near to the Khan absolutely deadly on the charge – a unit of Bladeguard can potentially be striking at S5, AP-4, D3 with +1 to wound, which is incredibly nasty to basically anything in the game.

Finally, as well as all the standard Captain stuff (Iron Halo, Rites of Battle) he gets a bird. The bird can be fired at someone to do a MW on a 4+, no line of sight needed. Go bird. Ca-caw.

Kor’sarro requires some setup, but the payoff is extremely good, and he’s a very strong draw to being actual White Scars rather than a successor – you can replicate the effect to an extent with a Chaplain, but it’s more limited. The only real strike against him is that for fluff reasons he isn’t a Chapter Master and cannot be made one (because he’s a Named Character). That sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. He also gets a bad warlord trait if you make him the boss – don’t.

Those gripes aside (and they’re pretty minor in the scheme of things), he’s both an unusually powerful murder machine in his own right, and an absolutely incredible force multiplier. “Kor’sarro and some Bladeguard/Vanguard Veterans” is a great base for a competitive Scars army.

Khan on Bike

Somewhat less excitingly, you can also pick a Khan on Bike (note that the FAQ clarifies that you can’t take these in successors either – yet another reason to just play pure Scars). He’s fine – he’s basically a Captain with a locked-in set of wargear to represent a specific kit that GW surprisingly still produces. He gets a Khan’s lance and a buckler. The Khan’s lance is pretty cool – it’s either a D3 damage power sword (which has gained the +1 Strength like other power swords in 9th) or, when you charge or heroically intervene, it becomes x2 Strength instead. The buckler gives your non-invulnerable saves +1 in melee, making this guy a very tough cookie against chaff.. You have the option of making him a Chapter Master via the stratagem as well, as he does have the right keywords.

He’s basically fine, but a regular bike captain with the Teeth is similar points, and the +3A the Teeth give you are exceptional when comboed with the Scars Doctrine – the more attacks the merrier. A storm shield now replicates the buckler’s effect anyway, which narrows the difference even further. That said, there any use case for this guy? The answer is yes  – the main thing he has going for him is that, while it isn’t as good as the Teeth, he doesn’t need a relic pick to have a decent weapon – either freeing him up to take something else (Artificer Armour for a 1+ save is an obvious pick), or leaving you free to spend your relic slots in other places.

White Scars Chapter Champion Credit: Alfredo Ramirez
White Scars Chapter Champion Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Other Notable Units

In addition to their bespoke units, there are a few regular Space Marines units worth additional consideration in White Scars armies thanks to the chapter’s unique rules.

Primaris Chaplain on Bike

This guy is good in pretty much any Marines list, but he’s especially good in White Scars. For a melee chapter, handing out the +2 to charges is obviously great by itself, but Scars play into all of his strengths – Advance and charge is great on the bike’s auto-advance 6″, and he can stack damage up to a truly ridiculous 5 per hit between Benediction of Fury, his own buff, and the White Scars one, and grab +1 to wound from Kor’sarro to boot. He can even be -1 to hit, which may be vital for keeping him alive longer.

Outriders and Bikers

Like the bike Chaplain, Outriders gain hugely from what Scars bring to the table – advance and charge, +1 damage with their chainswords, -1 to hit for less than the Codex, firing their guns on the Advance – there’s a lot here. Regular bikers and Attack Bikes get much the same benefit, and in particular being able to Advance and fire a unit of Attack Bikes helps give them a truly enormous threat range – 3 of them can fire 20″ across the table and open up with no hit penalty on their guns, for a truly ferocious round of multi-melta shooting.

Vanguard Veterans and Assault Terminators

Lightning claws got even better after the 9th edition weapons update, turning their wielders into real blenders. The White Scars’ Chapter Doctrine shores up their biggest weakness – being damage 1 weapons – and in the process, Vanguard Veterans go from a unit that at the end of 8th edition was an expensive glass cannon to being a complete nightmare to deal with. The best way to outfit these is with a single lightning claw and a storm shield, which gives them some real durability while they have plenty of offensive output with the +1 attack they get from having a single claw. Assault Terminators with Lightning Claws are a little less versatile but much more durable, and are even nastier in terms of damage output. They’ll typically want help making charges out of deep strike, and that’s where a Librarian with Ride the Winds or a Primaris Chaplain on Bike with Canticle of Hate comes in, allowing them to make a 7″ charge (which, with Fierce Rivalries, can be taken on 3D6, dropping the lowest result).

Company Veterans

These are sleeper hits in the Marine codex anyway, being cheap infantry for actions, but in White Scars you can take multiple units of guys with lightning claw/storm shield at a cheap cost which are nevertheless potential melee blenders – especially when powered up in Assault doctrine. 9 attacks each with re-rolling wounds at AP-3 damage 2 is extremely potent for a mere 54pts.


White Scars Infiltrators Credit: Alfredo Ramirez
White Scars Infiltrators Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Playing White Scars

So how do you get the most out of White Scars?

Like any faction, the main thing to keep in mind is that you need to have a plan for your army, and build a list that supports that plan. In White Scars, that normally means a few things:

  1. Powerful melee units to get the most out of the Chapter Tactic and doctrine
  2. Supporting shooting units that aim to utilise either the stratagem support available, or the built-in power of the Chapter Tactic to give them a boost
  3. Characters which boost your melee punch or contribute effectively in melee themselves (or both!)
  4. Utilising your high manoeuvrability to play the mission effectively

Units with a high volume of reasonably quality melee attacks are an obvious vector for meeting point one – Bladeguard Veterans, Vanguard Veterans, and Assault Terminators are all good picks here. They benefit a lot from the +1 Damage (particularly the latter two, who get a lot out of buffing lightning claws from 1 to 2 damage), and White Scars offer multiple ways to get them into combat. Bladeguard, who are mostly restricted to being on foot, get a big lift from being able to Advance and charge. Vanguard and Terminators can both take advantage of their native deep strike to arrive as a turn 2 hammer, dropping into range of a Chaplain or a Librarian with Ride the Winds to send them flying into melee, perhaps supported by Fierce Rivalries. The Terminators can even utilise the teleport homer to take down one side of the board before reappearing on another.

Something you might note here is that many of these units are not, naturally, obsec, and therefore vulnerable to a single Tactical Marine or something surviving and stopping them scoring – a supporting character with Rites of War or Ancient with Steadfast Example can help out here, and the latter can bring the Banner of the Eagle to the table too.

White Scars are also about the only faction which can still get some mileage out of Assault Centurions – bringing them in with Encirclement gets over their low mobility, or Wind Swifting them up the board early on before utilising Advance and charge and Plume of the Plainsrunner can help them actually hit melee. The Encirclement plan works better now that their flamers are 12″ range by default – they can arrive, put some reasonable shooting pain on a target, and then follow up with a charge. It’s also a good place to have Ride the Winds in mind, since unlike Canticle of Hate that isn’t CORE-restricted.

In terms of shooting, it won’t surprise anyone if the first port of call is plasma Inceptors – they’re extremely good in all Marine builds, and they’re even better here, where they can take advantage of Advancing without penalty to extend their threat range. They provide exactly the kind of firepower White Scars need – highly deadly and able to simply remove a threat that they would rather not have to engage in the Fight phase.

Other good choices include Attack Bikes – we’ve mentioned utilising Hunters’ Fusillades to engage at extreme range, but they’re also just generically good, being a cheap source of melta and one which can keep up with the rest of the White Scars’ swift-moving force. There’s also Devastators of both the melta and grav-cannon varieties – melta Devs are well-suited to utilising Lightning Debarkation to leap out of a Rhino and apply melta to whatever target needs it most, while the grav version can profit from being on foot; it’s not quite as good of a plan here as it is in, say, Ultramarines, but it definitely works.

Eradicators lost a step in the transition to the 9th codex, as they can no longer take advantage of Lightning Assault to be able to advance and double shoot without penalty, but they’re still fine here, and being able to take advantage of Encirclement has its advantages on them too. This may well be a case where Attack Bikes simply outclass them, though – the bikes don’t cost much more to get a bonus wound, an ok amount of anti-infantry, and a weapon which is just 2 shots instead of having to fiddle about with conditional double-shooting, as well as being much faster.

Character-wise, starting your list with the Khan himself and a Primaris Chaplain on Bike seems like a safe bet. The Khan in particular is a good argument for staying pure White Scars rather than a Successor – there’s not a lot of reasons to do the latter anyway, but having a great force multiplier that’s also nice and cheap to get on the table is a big winner. For a third pick you have options – a Chapter Master on Bike can offer another powerful melee character, or you can utilise the strong psychic discipline with a Librarian of one form or another. There’s also the slam Captain with Teeth of Terra and Chogorian Storm, who can get up to a truly stupid number of attacks – all the better to take advantage of the Chapter doctrine.

Finally there’s the mission. White Scars are very well suited for 9th edition gameplay, being Marines who are a) fast and b) very capable of rucking in melee. A core of units dedicated to sweeping primary objectives and then digging in to hold them until the scoring round is the premier 9th edition play, and Scars have some distinct advantages with their playstyle. Wind Swift gives unparalleled ability to get a unit onto a point right now – since it’s not keyword restricted, you can even throw it on some Outriders to move a princely 34″, taking a distant objective from almost any position on the board. For secondaries, Encirclement is also really handy for taking something cheap – Company Veterans or even Servitors – and popping them into the enemy deployment zone to deploy scramblers or pop up for easy Linebreaker points. Thanks to Hunters’ Fusillades and Born in the Saddle you have multiple options for utilising Advance moves and still operating effectively, blending moving and firepower easily.


As is traditional we’re going to close this out with a few army lists. Two recent successful lists here are Dan Sammons’ White Scars going 4-1 at Mid-MO Maelstrom, and Baz Croucher managing a 5-0 (in a pods of 6 format) at Kent Wargames GT.

White Scars Battlepile. Credit: Dan Sammons

Dan Sammons’ White Scars

Dan Sammons piloted this list to a 4-1 4th place finish at the Mid-MO Maelstrom event in late November 2020.

++ White Scars Battalion Detachment (0 CP, 2,000 points) ++

Relics of the Chapter [-2CP]: 2x Number of Extra Relics [-2CP]

HQ: Kor’sarro Khan [6 PL, 110pts]: Bolt pistol, Frag & Krak grenades, Moonfang
HQ: Lieutenants [4 PL, -1CP, 75pts]
. Lieutenant in Reiver Armour [4 PL, -1CP, 75pts]: Combat knife, Frag & Krak grenades, Master-crafted special issue bolt pistol, Rites of War, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP], The Vox Espiritum
HQ: Primaris Chaplain on Bike [7 PL, 150pts]: 3. Exhortation of Rage, 4. Mantra of Strength, Absolver Bolt Pistol, Benediction of Fury, Chapter Command: Master of Sanctity [1 PL, 35pts], Crozius arcanum, Frag & Krak grenades, Litany of Hate, Strike off the Head, Twin Bolt rifle, Warlord, Wise Orator

Troops: Assault Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 95pts] x5
Troops: Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] w/5x Occulus bolt carbine, paired combat blades
Troops: Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] w/5x Occulus bolt carbine, paired combat blades

EL: Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 175pts] x5
EL: Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 175pts] x5
EL: Company Veterans [3 PL, 54pts] 2/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield, Veteran Sergeant w/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield
EL: Company Veterans [3 PL, 54pts] 2/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield, Veteran Sergeant w/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield
EL: Company Veterans [3 PL, 54pts] 2/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield, Veteran Sergeant w/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield
EL: Primaris Apothecary [5 PL, -1CP, 105pts]: Absolver Bolt pistol, Chapter Command: Chief Apothecary [1 PL, 25pts], Frag & Krak grenades, Plume of the Plainsrunner, Reductor Pistol, Selfless Healer, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP]
EL: Vanguard Veteran Squad [14 PL, 276pts]: Jump Pack [2 PL, 20pts] w/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield x8, Veteran w/Lightning Claw + Bolt pistol, Veteran Sergeant w/Lightning Claw, Storm Shield

FA: Attack Bike Squad [4 PL, 110pts] Multi-Melta x2
FA: Attack Bike Squad [4 PL, 110pts] Multi-Melta x2
FA: Inceptor Squad [12 PL, 250pts]: 4x Inceptor [160pts], Inceptor Sergeant [40pts], Plasma Exterminator x2 [50pts]

++ Total: [100 PL, 8CP, 2,000pts] ++

The Standout Features

  • White Scars play all the big hits
  • Three Company Veteran units provides extremely strong secondary scoring capabilities.
  • Two Bladeguard blocks and some VanVets provide a very strong melee presence.
  • Multi-melta attack bikes and Plasmaceptors provide shooting backup

Layering White Scars’ powerful movement tricks and late game melee burst on top of the core quality of Marine units is a recipe for success in 9th edition, and that strategy is put to work here. Clawvets, Plasmaceptors, Attack Bikes and Bladeguard are great in almost any Marine list, but all they’re particularly well suited here in White Scars. Dan also brings a unit which we haven’t specifically called out as suitable for White Scars but which slots neatly into basically any Marine list, as covered in the base Start Competing article, that being the Reiver Lieutenant – whose somewhat feeble melee starts to look actually quite decent in this army, and who also is the vector for both Rites of War and Tactical Precision, both boosted by the Vox Espiritum.

This is the list that really exemplifies a lot of what we’ve been talking about – it’s deep on melee units with some quality shooting support backing it up, and is absolutely ferocious in the midfield where it can run riot over an enemy less keen to get into a scrap than it is. With the storm shields across all the key units it has a very flat target profile – there is a lot of 2+/4++ here to chew through, and an Apothecary bringing both the Plume of the Plainsrunner and Chief Apothecary abilities to keep it all ticking. It’s worth noting here that Dan was using the erroneous “back of book” points costs for Chapter Command (likely enforced by the event before they were FAQed) so there’s about 20pts to play with in this list following that being clarified to be wrong.

Baz Croucher’s White Scars

Baz piloted this list to a 5-0 third place finish at the Kent Wargames GT at the end of October. It’s notable for making use of the Stormspeaking Discipline and taking a more shooting-heavy approach to the White Scars.

++ White Scars Battalion Detachment (0 CP, 1,995 points) ++

Relics of the Chapter [-2CP]: 2x Number of Extra Relics [-2CP]

HQ: Captain on Bike [8 PL, 150pts]: Astartes Chainsword, Chapter Command: Chapter Master [2 PL, 40pts], Storm shield [10pts], The Imperium’s Sword, Warlord
HQ: Captain on Bike [6 PL, -1CP, 130pts]: Chogorian Storm, Storm shield [10pts], Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter [-1CP], Thunder hammer [20pts], Wrath of the Heavens
HQ: Librarian [6 PL, 115pts]: 3) Ride the Winds, 4) Storm-wreathed, Bolt pistol, Force axe, Jump Pack [1 PL, 25pts], Plume of the Plainsrunner

Troops: Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] x5
Troops: Incursor Squad [5 PL, 105pts] x5
Troops: Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 110pts]: Auto Bolt Rifle x4, Intercessor Sergeant w/Power Fist

EL: Bladeguard Veteran Squad [10 PL, 140pts] x3
EL: Terminator Assault Squad [9 PL, 165pts] w/Lightning claws x5
EL: Terminator Assault Squad [9 PL, 165pts] w/Lightning claws x5

FA: Attack Bike [6 PL, 165 pts]: Multi-melta [10pts] x3
FA: Attack Bike [6 PL, 165 pts]: Multi-melta [10pts] x3

HS: Eradicator Squad [12 PL, 240pts]: Melta rifle x6
HS: Eradicator Squad [6 PL, 120pts]: Melta rifle x3
HS: Eradicator Squad [6 PL, 120pts]: Melta rifle x3

++ Total: 1,995 points ++

Baz eschews Vanguard and Company Veterans completely and takes only one minimum-sized squad of Bladeguard Veterans, instead favouring lightning-claw equipped Assault Terminators, which trade some of the on-the-table swiftness for a base 2+ save and 5 attacks each on the charge. The Librarian both carries the Plume and also throws out Ride the Winds, pushing the Terminators into combat with a 6″ charge out of deep strike – with a reroll that becomes extremely strong odds to slam into combat. They’re backed up by two bike Captains (one of which is upgraded to a Chapter Master), one of which wields a regular chainsword while the other takes advantage of Chogorian Storm to a) get himself up to a mighty 7-9 thunder hammer attacks and b) utilise the Wrath of Heavens to be a terrifying and swift-moving assassin.

What can’t be ignored here, of course, is the enormous amount of melta in the list – 6 Attack Bikes and 12 Eradicators. We’ve talked about the utility of Attack Bikes extensively here, and it’s hard to argue with the sheer ferocity of 12 Eradicators doing their thing – especially here where they can show up anywhere including your opponent’s own board edge. If you need something melted right now, this list will certainly get you a long way there.

Where to Read More

We hope you’ve enjoyed this run through White Scars, an interesting and powerful Marine faction with a lot to offer on the table and a really fun, fast playstyle which can contrast with the sometimes plodding “battle pile” style many other supplements encourage. This article is of course paired with the main Start Competing: Space Marines where you can find coverage of the core book, or check out other faction articles if you’re interested in multiple supplements and trying to make your mind up. As ever, if you have any questions or feedback, shoot us an email at