We Have Such Sights to Show You: Slaanesh Tactics for 40k

An article by    Gaming Tactics        0

Despite being one of the four cardinal Chaos Powers and Khorne’s supposed rival in The Great Game, Slaanesh has felt like the neon-haired stepchild of the Chaos pantheon in recent years, even getting tossed into a sack and kidnapped in Age of Sigmar. Just incredibly shameful. As a result, despite being fans of the undisputed Best God (don’t @ me I know internet lawyers), Slaanesh fans have had to sit grinding our pretty pearly teeth while our uglier Chaos friendos got toy after toy after toy during the Chaos range overhaul that has occurred over the last three and and a half years.

That’s all changed now.

With the 2019 releases of Wrath and Rapture and Hedonites of Slaanesh for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, 40k players have been treated to a slew of brand-new units and updated models for Slaaneshi daemons along with updated rules for their use in the 41st millennium. But despite this new release, there hasn’t been much fanfare for the new daemons, in part because their rules were quietly released as datasheets packaged with models and then thrown on the Warhammer Community site shortly afterward. As a result, we’ve felt that the new units haven’t quite gotten the recognition or tactical consideration they’ve deserved, and have instead been shunted aside for other, more traditionally dependable daemon factions. It also doesn’t help that Slaanesh daemons lack a full counterpart marine legion with its own bullshit rules to complement them.

But no longer! Come with us as we delve down the uncomfortably moist hole of Slaaneshi factions and examine the new units and how they can slot into your own bands of magical bimbos, himbos and ximbos alike, while taking a broader look at how to make the most of 40k’s most overlooked Chaos friendos.

 

The (Relatively) New Slaanesh Stuff

The Keeper of Secrets

Talk about a glow-up. After being stuck with a dopey metal model and mediocre rules for the better part of 3 editions, Slaanesh’s Greater Daemons are making a comeback in a big way. Between the massive shift in size, stat changes and the slew of new weapons options, the Keeper is essentially a brand-new unit.

First off, the Keeper of Secrets now boasts higher BS, more Wounds, and a slightly higher Movement attribute, all of which are always welcome. These changes make a big difference, as the Keeper really wants to stay and and then get into combat ASAP, especially now the larger model size makes it harder to hide from enemy sight lines and easier to focus down.

Luckily, the Keeper now has some new tricks to make it even more survivable with two of its new options. First we have the Shining Aegis, which confers a 6+ FNP save against wounds and a 5+ against Mortal Wounds. Ask any Nurgle player how handy Disgustingly Resilient is and you’ll understand why this option is the top dog.

The second option, which runs a slight bit cheaper, is the Sinistrous Hand, which restores d3 wounds at the end of combat as long as you’ve killed a non-VEHICLE. This option is outshone by the Soulstealer relic weapon (which you should absolutely windmill slam onto a Keeper), but can be a nice option for a secondary Keeper.

There’s also the default options of a Ritual Knife (0, 1 or d3 Mortal Wounds at the end of Combat, depending on your roll), or a Living Whip (an Assault 6 gun that can shoot like a pistol in combat), but the Keeper is plenty killy already, so you should stick with the Aegis or the Hand as your primary choices for the Keeper of Secrets.

Finally don’t overlook that the Keeper of Secrets is also a Psyker capable of manifesting two powers per turn. The Slaanesh powers aren’t amazing, but there are a few we’ll want to use.

The biggest downside to the new Keeper of Secrets is that 16-Wound attribute. While the Shining Aegis and the Soulstealer help keep the Keeper in business longer, they can’t make up for the fact that the opponent can bring all of their firepower to bear on one from the game’s first turn and destroy one as needed. Having one survive long enough to make it into combat is essentially going to depend on your ability to give the opponent other targets to shoot at, and in most cases you’re going to get more utility out of a winged Daemon Prince who can’t be shot at unless they’re the closest target. This is a real shame, because we love the model and it can do some real damage once it makes it into close combat.

Shalaxi Hellbane

Shalaxi gives Slaanesh players a brand new, non-Forge World, named Keeper character. Shalaxi is an anti-character/anti-monster missile and has the tools to ruin the shit out of any tooled-up Warlord’s day. First-off, Shalaxi swaps out the basic Keeper’s Witstealer Sword with Soulpiercer, a loooong ass spear that hits at double strength (12) and deals D6 damage, upgraded to a flat 6 damage on a Wound roll of a 6+ if targeting a CHARACTER. This beauty allows Shalaxi to go toe-to-toe to the likes of Knights, Guilliman or Abbadon, with up to 24 damage to potentially dole out, as well as the additional attacks they gets with their claws AP-3, D3 claws. Hellbane also gets a built in re-roll for wound rolls of a 1, which is a helpful boost, and enemies trying to hit Hellbane in melee take a -1 to both their To Hit and To Wound rolls. Finally, Hellbane can pile in or intervene 6″ toward the nearest enemy CHARACTER, which can cause some fun shenanigans.

While Shalaxi’s boosted cost also buys you a slightly greater degree of survivability – Shalaxi comes with a Shining Aegis and is harder to hit and wound in melee – they still suffer from the same problem as the Keeper of Secrets. Namely, having enough wounds to be targetable with shooting attacks. 16 Wounds and a 5+ invulnerable save (and a 6+ Feel No Pain) is nothing when you’re facing down the kind of concentrated, long-range fire that players already have to field to be able to take out Knights.

Syll’Esske

Credit: Games Workshop

Now things are heating up. For only 40 points more than a Winged Daemon Prince, Syll’Esske, The Vengeful Allegiance gives you a similar statline with double the attacks, plus both the Daemon Prince and Herald aura buffs, plus a unique morale aura buff. On top of that, Syll’Esske comes with a monster 8 attacks and can fight twice every turn, once with each of its two weapons (the Axe of Dominion hits at S8, AP-3, 3 Damage, while the Scourging whip hits at S5, Ap-1, 1 Damage and makes D3 hit rolls instead of 1 for each attack). That is incredibly nasty, and makes Syll’Esske really, really good at clearing out both hordes and larger targets. Syll’Esske also has the DAEMONETTE keyword, something which can potentially be relevant if you’re running the Masque.

Syll’Esske’s 4+ armor save and 5+ invulnerable isn’t great, but as an 8-Wound character, they can be protected from enemy fire by the character rules. The biggest problem with Syll’Esske is mobility: While the Daemon Prince has 9″ Movement and the ability to advance and charge in a mono-faction detachment, the lack of FLY makes it easy for opponents to screen important targets from Syll’Esske’s axe. The upside however is that you can thresh those targets away with the 8-24 whip attacks before moving on to clobber things with the axe with your second fight action. The new Keeper of Secrets might be larger, but Syll’Esske might be the breakout star of the new release.

The Contorted Epitome

Credit: Steel Mentor, who spent all week trying to get this painted by the publication deadline

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

First, the Epitome can cast and dispel up to 2 powers a turn. Its psychic prowess is further pushed into Tzeentch’s territory with a bonus +1 to cast and dispel, which means it can cast Delightful agonies on a 4+, and cast Hysterical Frenzy on a 7+, which are both very good things. Furthermore, the Epitome gets a 2+ save against mortal wounds, making it a really bad target for psychic powers. Finally, the Horrible Fascination Rule prevents enemy models within 6″ of the Epitome from Falling Back unless they can roll under their Ld value on 3D6. Given that the average roll on 3D6 is 10.5, that gives you good odds of trapping a unit in combat if the Epitome is nearby – which might actually let you get some use out of the Hysterical Frenzy power.

Overall, The Epitome gives us another extremely powerful 8-wound character choice to try out in our Slaanesh detachments.

Infernal Enrapturess

Not quite as new as the rest of the crew considering that she was released in last year’s Wrath and Rapture box set, but it’s worth talking about the Infernal Enrapturess here. The Enrapturess has a modified Herald statline that exchanges the +1 Strength buff for improved summoning, a wide aura that causes Perils of the Warp on any doubles for an enemy psyker, a 1 in 6 chance to return an entire model to a unit of nearby Slaaneshi Daemons, and a mid-ranged shooting attack with two modes.

While useful as a backline support for a Daemons army, this unit can be a nasty lil’ buddy for a squad of the already-feared Slaaneshi Obliterators. With a similar range on their Fleshmetal Guns, the Entrapturess can hang behind her buff buddies to provide anti-psyker support and potentially keep bringing any fallen Obliterators back from the aether. The only challenge will be positioning her so that she’s around when they arrive on the battlefield, which may mean putting her into the Warp using the Denizens of the Warp stratagem at the start of the battle.

 

Notable Chaos Space Marine Units

While there’s a lot to like about the new Daemons, there are a few older units, particularly among the Chaos Space Marines, that we’ll also look at.

The Flawless Host

Credit: Games Workshop

The second installment of the Vigilus campaign, Vigilus Ablaze, introduced us to subfaction rules for the Black Legion, the Red Corsairs, the Crimson Slaughter, and 4 god-aligned Renegade subfactions (The Purge, Flawless Host, The Scourged, and Brazen Beasts). Of these, the Flawless Host, who have to be aligned with Slaanesh post-FAQ, are among the best, with a trait called Death to the Imperfect that gives their INFANTRY, HELBRUTES, BIKERS, and CHARACTERS an additional attack for every 6 they roll To Hit in the Fight phase (this goes off in addition to the Death to the False Emperor ability, making them doubly good against Imperial enemies).

The Flawless Host Warlord Trait (Ultimate Confidence) gives the Warlord 3 bonus attacks from the legion trait instead of 1, which is incredibly good now that the Lord Discordant can get Legion Traits (more on him later). The We Cannot Fail stratagem gives an INFANTRY unit re-rolls for hits in the Fight phase, which would be more useful if Slaanesh Chaos Marines had access to better close combat units. Finally the Flawless Cloak relic gives the bearer +1 Attack and extends the range of their aura abilities by +3″. This isn’t bad, but it’s going to lose out to the Intoxicating Elixir most of the time in terms of effectiveness.

The big downsides of the Flawless Host are that:

  1. As a Renegade Chapter, they don’t have access to the Veterans of the Long War stratagem, which isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it is strong enough to build around, and
  2. Outside of Berserkers, Chaos Space Marines don’t have many great INFANTRY close combat options, which can make it difficult to take advantage of their Legion trait

Lord Discordant on Helstalker

While not technically a Slaanesh daemon, the Lord Discordant can be devoted to Slaanesh if you want him to be, and he’s an absolute monster in melee. He’s got a ton of high-strength attacks, good Movement, and gives himself bonuses to hit with his aura, meaning he triggers Death to the False Emperor on a 5+. He’s even better once you devote him to Slaanesh, slapping an Intoxicating Elixir on him and making him part of the Flawless Host. In most versions of the Slaanesh lists we build, we’ll start with a Flawless Host Lord Discordant (we tend to avoid making him the Warlord though–his double-digit Wounds count make him too easy a target). Pairing him with Heralds of Slaanesh gives the Lord Discordant a helpful +1 Strength plus the ability to Advance and Charge, which is extremely useful given his loadout and the fact that we’ll want to get him into close combat as quickly as possible.

Credit: OhDearGodNo’s son, who is apparently rad as hell

Infantry Units Who Are Good at Shooting

 

Chaos Space Marines with the SLAANESH keyword get access to the Endless Cacophony stratagem, which lets them shoot an additional time. This is incredibly powerful when paired with a unit that has a large number of shots or high-damage firepower, and ideally is something you pair with Veterans of the Long War for +1 to Wound and an aura that lets you re-roll some or all of your to Hit rolls. To use Veterans of the Long War, we’ll need to use a non-Renegade legion. The best options for us at that point are likely to be either the Alpha Legion or Black Legion, though if you really, really wanted to use the Emperor’s Children, it’s not the worst choice (though it’s a clear third)

When it comes to the units who are best at shooting in the Chaos Space Marine codex, here are the options to consider:

  • Havocs – These guys got a huge boost in the new Codex release, getting tougher, ignoring the move-and-shoot penalty, and getting access to the Reaper Chaincannon that can put out 8 S5 AP-1 D1 shots per turn at 24″. Firing twice with a squad of these guys is a great investment of 2 CP, especially in tandem with the VotLW stratagem.
  • Obliterators – The new Obliterators are also monsters, with greater durability and firepower post-Vigilus. They can Teleport onto the table, which helps protect them before they get a chance to shoot, and they have the DAEMON keyword, which means they can benefit from the Auras and abilities of many of the Slaanesh Daemons. Unfortunately, most of those abilities are melee-based, but it could be fun to pair them with an Infernal Enrapturess on the off-chance you get to reanimate some T5, 4W models.
  • Chaos Bikers – These guys got a big boost with the new bolter rules, since they can now pop off 4 bolter shots per turn at 24″ range. When paired with the Endless Cacophony and VotLW stratagems plus plasma guns and combi-plasma on the champion, a squad of 9 bikers can put out an obscene number of shots and wounds.
  • Noise Marines – Noise Marines, on the other hand, got a little worse after the bolter changes, since their guns just aren’t quite as impressive compared to some of the other options in the army. Still, Assault 3 guns that ignore cover bonuses aren’t bad, the Blastmaster is OK, and the Music of the Apocalypse ability giving you shots right before death does provide an interesting disincentive to shoot them. It’s also potentially valuable to take them as Troops if you’re running Emperor’s Children.

Daemon Units Who Are Good at Fighting

This is where things get rougher, because our options for good melee units don’t really outshine the tools already available in the Slaanesh Daemons list, with one notable exception.

  • Winged Daemon Princes – Flawless Host Daemon princes are one of the new hot tickets in the metagame – combining the Prescience power with the Flawless Host Warlord trait makes these average a truly eye-watering number of hits, and if you buff their strength via Diabolic Strength or the Intoxicating Elixir, they can obliterate almost any large target. Being able to fire them about via Warptime also adds an extra dimension of mobility compared to Daemon Codex princes.
  • Venomcrawlers – They aren’t my favorite unit, but they’re not bad, either. The Venomcrawler gets you a Daemon of Slaanesh who combos well with the Lord Discordant and can benefit from both his aura and that of the Heralds (especially the Heralds’ auras, where going from S8 to S9 is a big help).
  • Greater Possessed and Possessed – I’m really not a fan of regular possessed most of the time, but if you can pair them with a Herald you can get the boosts from both the Locus of Slaanesh and the Locus of Power, giving your Possessed +2 Strength and the ability to Advance and Charge in a pure list. That comes really close to making them worthwhile. I still wouldn’t bother with the Master of Possession, though.
  • Warp Talons – There’s potentially a case to make around using Slaanesh Warp Talons in a Host Raptorial to help support a turn 2 assault and Lightning Claws look a lot better if you can boost them to Strength 5.
  • Chaos Sorcerers and Chaos Lords on Steed of Slaanesh – An Index unit that’s sure to be overlooked and eventually pushed out of the game, Steeds give us the same mobility as a jump pack, only we lose the FLY keyword in favor of getting more Wounds, Attacks, and the DAEMON keyword instead, all for only +7 points. Give a Sorcerer a Force Axe and suddenly they can be efficient combat monsters too, rushing around the table with the rest of our units and pushing out S6, AP-2 D3 damage hits when they’re near a Herald.

 

Building Around Slaanesh

Before we go down this road, I should note: Most of the time you’re probably going to be better off just taking Syll’Esske or a Lord Discordant and doing a mixed detachment rather than trying to make a bunch of combos and pure detachments work. That said, we’ve already talked about which units are good so now we’re more interested in the wonky bullshit aspect of building Slaanesh.

Daemons of Slaanesh

The biggest problem with Slaaneshi daemons is that their troop choices just aren’t very good. Daemonettes lack the power of Bloodletters, and lack the ability to fight multiple times with a stratagem, and they lack the baby Smite and silly resilience of Pink Horrors, and they cost more than Brimstone Horrors. So if we’re building a pure Slaanesh list where our plan is to support better Chaos Space Marine units, we’ll probably want to run a Supreme Command detachment that features Syll’Esske, the Contorted Epitome, and a couple of Heralds to boost other stuff. We’ll probably look at the Masque for one of these, because of her ability to boost the survivability of both Syll’Esske and the Epitome, which have the DAEMONETTE keyword.

Although they don’t really measure up to Plaguebearers and Bloodletters, Daemonettes do have a couple of saving graces. They’re a point cheaper than their cousins, meaning putting together a gigantic unit to provide a large number of screening bodies is quite practical, especially when combined with the Warp Surge stratagem. A couple of their tricks also make them especially good at screening in the current metagame. Quicksilver Swiftness can seriously interfere with the plans of armies like Genestealer Cults who want to push multiple charges into you at once, as if they hit more than one unit in a turn then one of yours will get to fight first. The Aura of Acquiescence (1CP for -1 Attack to a unit in the Fight phase) also helps absorb the shock of such a charge. Add in the Masque chilling behind them, and suddenly you’ve got screen that works extremely well against armies relying on a big shock charge.

Chaos Space Marines

Ultimately, I think that a lot of the utility of Slaanesh Daemons is tied up in how they interact with their Heretic Astartes cousins. If we build on the idea of the new Slaanesh Daemons as a bunch of combat monsters with good boosts for each other, we can extend that to some of the best units in the Chaos arsenal. That means lots of Lords Discordant and the best double-shooting we can muster to support our combat monsters.

 

Some List Concepts

Because Daemonettes make lackluster troops, the most prudent way to use the new Slaanesh HQs is probably in a Supreme Command that lets us pair up several of them at once and easily meet the requirements for having a monogod faction. We’re going to make use of that second Locus to Advance and Charge a lot, you see.

A Balance of Pain and Pleasure – 2,000 Points, 14 CP

The point of this list is to use the biggest melee hitters available to Slaanesh and pair them up in ways that can fly across the board immediately, boosting each other as they get into close combat. The trickiest part of this army is going to be screening the units at the front: Cultists, our cheap screening units, are significantly slower than most of our monster HQs, so if we go first, we may need to spend a turn walking before we follow up by exploding forward. Most of our big combat monsters will be able to Advance and charge, giving them an average threat radius of about 22 to 23 inches.

Overall it’s a fluffy list that probably goes a bit overboard with being all-in on Slaanesh, but that’s exactly the level of bullshit we’re on here. The one downside is that we don’t have much synergy between the Daemon-heavy part of the army and our shooty parts–the Noise Marines don’t even get so much as an aura to benefit from, but we can cast Prescience on them to make up for it. That’s the price we pay for having some shooting, though.

Pleasure and Pain (2,000 Points) - Click to expand

Total Command Points: 14
Chaos Daemons Supreme Command Detachment, 665 points (+1 CP)
Allegiance: Slaanesh
HQ: Syll’Esske, the Vengeful Allegiance
HQ: Contorted Epitome
HQ: Contorted Epitome
HQ: The Masque

Chaos Space Marines Battalion Detachment, 495 points (+5 CP)
Legion: Flawless Host
HQ: Daemon Prince with Wings (Warlord), Intoxicating Elixir, 2x Malefic Talons. Warlord Trait: Ultimate Confidence
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker
Troops: Chaos Cultists (11)
Troops: Chaos Cultists (10)
Troops: Chaos Cultists (10)

Chaos Space Marines Battalion Detachment, 840 points (+5 CP)
Legion: Emperor’s Children
HQ: Sorcerer on Steed of Slaanesh w/Force Axe
HQ: Sorcerer on Steed of Slaanesh w/Force Axe
Troops: 10x Noise Marines w/7x Sonic Blasters, 2x Blastmasters
Troops: 10x Noise Marines w/9x Sonic Blasters
Troops: 10x Noise Marines w/9x Sonic Blasters

 

A Rush of Pain – 2,000 Points

On the other hand, if we didn’t care at all about the shooting, well then we might make a list that looks like this. We’re keeping our Supreme Command, but swapping out the Noise Marines in favor of going all-in on daemonic melee. And look, I know I’ve said in the past that Possessed aren’t worth it, but if they can advance and charge and they’re coming in with S7? Well, that might could just work out sort of OK. Also I couldn’t fit a third Venomcrawler into the list. Here what we’re doing is using Greater Possessed to get an additional +1 S buff on the SLAANESH DAEMONS in the Flawless Host detachments, and using the Lords Discordant in tandem to bum rush the enemy lines alongside a pair of Venomcrawlers. Venomcrawlers are a solid and underrated unit, but suffer greatly from having S6 base and having that degrade as they get bracketed. Our double locuses help us avoid those problems and make the Venomcrawler faster to boot.

The Pain Rush (2,000 Points) - Click to expand

Total Command Points: 10
Chaos Daemons Supreme Command Detachment, 665 points (+1 CP)
Allegiance: Slaanesh
HQ: Syll’Esske, the Vengeful Allegiance
HQ: Contorted Epitome
HQ: Contorted Epitome
HQ: The Masque

Chaos Space Marines Battalion Detachment, 910 points (+5 CP)
Legion: Flawless Host
HQ: Daemon Prince with Wings (Warlord), Intoxicating Elixir, 2x Malefic Talons. Warlord Trait: Ultimate Confidence
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker
HQ: Lord Discordant on Helstalker
Troops: Chaos Cultists (11)
Troops: Chaos Cultists (11)
Troops: Chaos Cultists (11)
Heavy Support: Venomcrawler (130)
Heavy Support: Venomcrawler (130)

Chaos Space Marines Vanguard Detachment, 409 points (+5 CP)
Legion: Flawless Host
HQ: Sorcerer on Steed of Slaanesh w/Force Axe
Elites: Greater Possessed
Elites: Greater Possessed
Elites: Possessed x7

 

One_Wing’s Iconoclast Efficiency

A list that One_Wing put together for our review of the Chaos Knights Codex, this list matches the new Slaanesh Daemons with the new Chaos Knights to provide a one-two punch of insane mid-range firepower from double-gun knights with the close combat prowess and high Movement of Slaaneshi daemons. For the reasons outlined earlier, the Daemonettes are especially good at screening in the Genestealer Cult matchup, which is one that’s normally tough for Knights as well.

Army List - Click to Expand

Iconoclast Super Heavy – 1279
2x Despoiler w/ 2x Thermal Cannons – 794
Despoiler w/ 2x  Avenger Gatling Cannons + Heavy Flamers – 485

Slaanesh Daemon Battalion – 718
Contorted Epitome – 195
The Masque – 65
30 Daemonettes, Banner, Instrument – 205
28 Daemonettes, Banner, Instrument – 193
10 Daemonettes – 60

One_Wing: Dual Thermal Iconoclast Knights seem really, really good. The Dual Avenger build is still good enough that you want one, as quite a lot of the flexible relics and abilities are very powerful in the right matchups, so you want one around to buff up as appropriate, but Dual Thermals are great on the wing-giant robots.

To back up the brutal power these represent you want bodies, but one of the problems with trying to mix hordes and Knights is tripping yourself up – Plaguebearers in particular are very slooooow unless you invest in buffs that you could be spending Knight points on.

Daemonettes seem like a good solution to this – they’re on smaller bases, and in a full Slaanesh detachment can pick up Advance and Charge from the characters, so they’re mobile enough to clear a path when needed. The Epitome looks like a great unit that hasn’t quite found it’s place yet. Providing A++ psychic defence and the looming threat of trapping a unit in combat with Knights makes it a great compliment to this build.

 

Keep 40k Weird

More than four thousand words in and we’ve barely touched the tip of what can be done with Slaanesh! From Daemon Princes to Daemonettes, we’re sure there’s more to dig into here for enterprising freaks. While the Daemon aspect is primarily focused on melee, you can find Slaanesh units to do just about anything well, which means that there are a ton of options to play with. If you think there’s something we missed, or if you’ve got a great idea for a Slaanesh-heavy list, we’d love to hear it — shoot us an email at contact@goonhammer.com and share your weird creation.

 

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