Your Army Sucks 2k21 Preview, Part 2: Chaos

It’s a whole new year, and your army is likely to see some changes. Goonhammer is here to help, with an unbiased preview of every army, how it plays, and what to expect. We’ll be covering each codex with the deep detail you’ve come to expect from our worst writers, based entirely on whether we play it or not, or how stupid the army is conceptually. We did Imperium already, so it’s time to work on Chaos next, so we can field the maximum number of comments whining at us about hating T’au.


Armies of Chaos

Welcome back! For some reason our last preview wasn’t enough to put you off reading a second one, so here we are. Today we’re looking at the armies of chaos – the Big Bad Guys of the 40k setting. Despite what any of those other Xenos faction players would have you believe, Chaos are the real antagonists of the 40k setting, really leaning into their heel status and making fun of your hometown as they throw Marneus Calgar into the turnbuckle and smash his face up with a folding chair and putting their foot up on the ropes as the ref counts him down to award them the belt. Meanwhile the rest of you Xenos clowns are fighting over the Cruiserweight title or whatever, killing yourselves with over-the-top acrobatic stunts. Sure, it’s fun to watch but we all know that you don’t have the “look” required to headline main events. So what does 2021 hold for the saltiest players in 40k? Let’s dive in and find out.


Chaos Daemons

Lord of Change
Credit: Silks

What’s their deal?

While a lot of people like to say shit like “there are no good guys in 40k” and look real smug, it’s hard to make a case that Chaos Daemons are anything but the setting’s “bad guys,” being the literal manifestation of negative emotions and experiences in the physical world. Yeah sure the other factions may do a genocide here or there (note to self: You do not in fact, “gotta hand it to them”), but chaos daemons don’t even have the upside of “some people maybe get to live OK.” After languishing toward the end of 8th, they’ve exploded in 9th as one of the game’s top factions, owing to a complete reconfiguring of what makes good units and a massive boost from Engine War to make the Lord of Change potentially the game’s single best unit.

What are the good units?

Greg: All of them, I think? I’m not being lazy here, I just think the entire codex is generally regarded to shock dicks. Exalted Greater Daemons give you the option to be a complete dingus, and I’m not aware of anything in here that outright sucks.

Rob: There’s still some garbage. Skull cannons, soulgrinders, Hellflayers. But there are a lot of solid units, to the point that daemons have multiple ways to build tournament-winner armies. The downside is that some of the good units are like, Beasts of Nurgle, which cost $44 a model.

Wings: Khorne is a terrible slacker bringing the roster down from being wall-to-wall hits, but everyone else? Yeah they kick ass.

Rob: Even Khorne’s got some solid utility, albeit on fewer units. The Bloodthirster is definitely the worst of the greater daemons, though.

How much will you hate painting this?

Rob: Daemons are pretty easy to paint on the whole. They’re fine if you just want to slap some contrast paint down, and if you want to do more, they’re easy to step up your game on. The greater daemons might take a bit more of your time, though.

What’s Happening for them in 2021?

Right now it doesn’t look like much is happening for daemons in 2021. They don’t figure to matter in the Charadon campaign yet and we haven’t seen anything that looks like a preview for them yet. Normally you can kind of count on Age of Sigmar to give you some cues for new daemon releases but right now all the new Slaanesh stuff is mortals, making it look like daemons will get to enjoy their incredibly strong codex for a while longer (though a points adjustment could bring the whole thing tumbling down, so watch out for that).

Greg: This is one of the few codices where Not Messing With It, For God’s Sake Can You Just Stop Fucking With Things For One Minute is hands-down the best outcome. 

Do you want to play this?

Rob: Hell yeah you do. Daemons fuck. The only downside is that you basically need a Lord of Change and if you want to run a list that runs 3-4 greater daemons those four models alone are going to run you $600. Still, if you can stomach that cost, go ahead and pick them up and solve your puzzle box to “assbeating configuration.”

Greg: Daemons are absolutely buck wild and the only reason not to play them is because they’re all totally evil. They’re also a fun backdoor into Age of Sigmar, if you’re into double-gaming. That’s good value for money.

Wings:  Remember when all the Daemon players were super mad about Engine War “sucking”? Good times.

Rob: People were so mad we didn’t call that book “absolute shit” in our review. It ruled.


Chaos Knights

Credit: WhiteOutMouse

What’s their deal?

Goth Imperial Knights. Also, they have cooler models than Imperial Knights, in part because their basic knights have sick backwards dog legs and faces that look like they’re screaming. Robots with teeth are very much our shit. Like Imperial Knights, they’ve been left behind by 9th edition and are arguably even worse as an army, having yet to even make a top 4 showing at a GT. That’s not great for what is supposedly a terrifying army of murderous robot jox.

What are the good units?

Chaos knights are weird. Their units are OK and they actually win a fair amount of games, but they’re also just completely outclassed by certain armies, so it’s not uncommon to see a Chaos Knights list go 3-2 or better but lose a game early on and clean up in the losers’ brackets.

Wings: Worth giving a shoutout to one of their saving graces, the Forge World Armiger Moirax, which works incredibly well with the Infernal Power boost. Running around with a grotesquely swollen beefy Trogdor arm shooting lightning is good, actually.

How much will you hate painting this?

Chaos Knights are fun as hell to model and paint and you don’t have to paint a lot of them. They are big though, and you gotta treat each one like a special plastic baby centerpiece.

Greg: Easily the best army for the “Finding Crab Parts On The Beach and Gluing Them To Plastic” crowd.

What’s Happening for them in 2021?

Currently we’ve got no inclination that Chaos Knights will get much of anything in 2021, but Imperial Knights are getting new rules in the upcoming Charadon campaign supplement and typically that means Chaos Knights won’t be too far behind with an update that looks similar. I’d give them good odds on seeing something in the back half of 2021.

Do you want to play this?

Rob: I mean I already play every Chaos army, so kind of? But Chaos Knights are pretty bad at the moment and don’t soup quite as nicely as Imperial Knights. You’re not going to hate them playing casually but I wouldn’t recommend them competitively.

Greg: Knights are never going to be that bad. It’s still a giant robot, and can still do giant robot shit, such as being functionally immune to small arms fire, or kicking the everloving stuffing out of anything smaller than a light tank. You’ll just have as many losses where you table your opponent as you do wins. 


Chaos Space Marines

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What’s their deal?

The cooler, spikier, smaller brothers of Imperial Space Marines, who told the Emperor to fuck off and as a result suffered an ass walloping so hard it made them stop fielding land speeders. Chaos Space Marines were pretty good at the end of 8th edition and are kind of bad now in 9th edition, as being fragile is now a much bigger liability for the army. Chaos Space Marines also have the game’s whiniest fanbase, which would be more irritating if it wasn’t mostly justified. 

Greg: Chaos Space Marines are, as an objective fact, punk rock and thus unimpeachably cool. 

What are the good units?

There are some good units in the mix for Chaos Space Marines, but many of them have better variants in Death Guard. Obliterators, Defilers, Abaddon, Berzerkers, and Lords Discordant are all pretty solid units, and there’s a good dozen more that are at least fieldable. Chaos Space Marines have some good stuff; they just can’t really compete on their own.

Wings: Look at this chump forgetting the Heldrake. Even if “Daemon Robo-Dragon” wasn’t a great sell, it turns out they’re extremely good too!

Rob: I didn’t forget the Heldrake, I just don’t want to tell everyone about it and risk it getting a points hike. I painted five of those goddamn flying turkeys covered in trim and so help me I will not do anything to jeopardize their utility.

How much will you hate painting this?

Oh my god let me tell you about gold trim on models. I have painted, in my life, over twenty thousand points of Chaos Space Marines and I have never really enjoyed having to paint gold trim on every part of a model’s armor. The models are very pretty (especially the new ones) but holy shit you will lose count of how many times you think you’re done painting one only to realize you missed a single tooth embedded in the trim of your mini’s shoulder pad. Fuck them teeth.

Greg: Nothing has ever explained the Chaos Aesthetic more than the GW podcast where the designer described the new Obliterators as “the wet toothy guy” and “the dry boney guy”. It’s a great line, but mostly I love it because he’s describing the only two sculpts they made for a unit that can take three models.

What’s Happening for them in 2021?

Absolutely nothing, from the current look of things. Which is a real problem because Chaos Space Marines could really use that extra wound and are waiting on their Codex update to actually get it. Most likely we’ll see updates to Death Guard and Thousand Sons before we get Chaos Space Marines. The upside is that the longer chaos space marines players have to wait for a new book, the more likely we’ll have new models to be disappointed by.

Do you want to play this?

Rob: siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. Yeah. I love my spiky plastic children. You should probably stay away, though.


Death Guard

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What’s their deal?

The Nurgle devotees of the Chaos Marine legions, the Death Guard are basically the Astartes equivalent of the guy you knew in college who decided that because his parents weren’t making him bathe anymore, he just wasn’t going to do that. After a massive release setting them as the antagonists of the 8th edition boxed set with tons of new models, they were mostly bad throughout the edition, lacking the speed and shooting to really compete. 9th’s emphasis on being able to just soak up fire while sitting around in the middle of the table has made it their time to shine, however.

Wings: Not forgetting that their update in War of the Spider was one of the most buck wild things GW published in the entire of 8th. That probably helped.

What are the good units?

Plague marines are a solid core to the army and figure to get better as they move to 2 wounds and 2 attacks each in the upcoming codex. The changes to Disgustingly Resilient pair well with the extra wound as well, now giving them precisely a 0% chance of ever being blasted to hell by an overcharging plasma gun. The new rules for Mortarion look like they could make him significantly more reliable on the table, and moving to T8 and -1 damage on incoming attacks could really change things for the Primarch.

How much will you hate painting this?

Death Guard have very detailed models but are an army that is known for being visually disgusting. So in a similar fashion to how you eat a hot dog when you’re wearing a yellow shirt, you have license to be sloppy as hell when you paint these. You are free to douse them in washes and cover them with Nurgle’s rot. It rules.

Greg: Much like eating a ton of hot dogs, you might puke a bunch. This is fine. 

What’s Happening for them in 2021?

The new codex was supposed to be out already, but got delayed due to Circumstances, which makes this part easy: Death Guard are getting a new codex in January-ish, plus new rules in Charadon. Which seems cool but also means that you’ll have to buy an expansion on your codex rules like right after the book is out, which seems pretty gross (Greg: fitting). The new book looks to have some rules that reward you for playing them by themselves, which could make souping them with Nurgle daemons less likely. There are also two new models coming out, a new Terminator Lord with a double plaguespewer and a Fortification that looks like some smokestacks that spray farts into the air. I don’t have high hopes for the fortification, but the shooty lord could be good, especially with the previewed rules to upgrade plague weapons.

Credit: Games Workshop

While a lot of hemming and hawing has been made over the faction’s new Disgustingly Resilient rule (which reduces incoming damage by 1), less has been said about the new Contagions of Nurgle rules, which at the very least turn every model in your Death Guard army into a mini-Mortarion, plus Mortarion himself gets to retain this ability with an always-on stink range of 9″. While Death Guard don’t appear to have the silly AP bonuses that Space Marines get on their bolters, being able to wound on a 3+ against nearby targets with S4 guns is mathematically almost as good as getting AP-1 on the bolters, and that’s a big boost for an army that doesn’t really have a lot of high-AP shooting. The new profiles also give plague marines 2 wounds and 2 attacks base, so it looks like they’re losing Hateful Assault in favor of +1 attack, which is another welcome change. Additionally the Remorseless (ignore combat attrition modifiers) and Inexorable Advance rules (count as stationary if you didn’t Fall Back or Advance in the prior Movement phase, Infantry ignore modifiers to Movement, Vehicles ignore penalties to fire heavy weapons at targets in engagement range) both make the army considerably more powerful and resilient than they were. At the very least, it helps mitigate their slow movement speed and encourages you to take larger units with your plague marines.

Do you want to play this?

You absolutely want to play these fat, smelly lads. The new rules we’ve seen for them look sick as hell, and they’ll be getting all of the sweet updates that Chaos Marines need before any of the other chapters. 

Condit: I’ll play anything you want if it’ll get you stop making all these “sick” “gross” and “disgusting” puns.


Thousand Sons

Credit: Charlie A

What’s their deal?

Magically animated suits of armor led by space wizards and a giant cyclops who can do no wrong, the Thousand Sons are kind of the Chaos version of the Grey Knights, in that they suck absolute ass. Also because everything in the army will gift your opponent points for Abhor the Witch. The Thousand Sons seemed like they could have been good in 9th edition but ended up being really bad thanks to having expensive, mostly fragile units and the fact that psychic secondaries are mostly terrible. There are still a couple of stupid powerful units in the army however, so they at least have some value in Chaos soup lists, just like they did for all of 8th edition. Only slightly less.

What are the good units?

The Thousand Sons may be bad, but Ahriman is still very, very good and Magnus and Terminator Sorcerers are also solid. There’s enough power in these three units to make it worth adding a Thousand Sons detachment to an army of Chaos Daemons.

Wings: Daemon Princes too, who are better than all the other Daemon Princes in the game but the same price because of reasons.

Rob: True, Thousand Sons Daemon Princes, like Death Guard Daemon Princes, are good enough to actually play.

How much will you hate painting this?

All of the trim of Chaos Space Marines but with none of the teeth. Not great, but if you’re playing competitively you’ll only ever paint a handful of models for them.

Greg: It’s hard to overstate how much trim you’ll be painting on your dusty boys, but if that doesn’t bother you, and it absolutely should bother you, they’re basically just normal marines, the famous model we all love to paint.

What’s Happening for them in 2021?

Right now it doesn’t look like much. Though given we’ve seen some things in the Imperial Armour Compendium and FAQs, we do know that they’re getting a new keyword (ARCANA ASTARTES), similar to Death Guard, and that Cults are likely to return. It seems like a decent bet they’ll get an update before Chaos Space Marines, since there’s less to update there, but who knows? They certainly need it, though.

Do you want to play this?

Rob: God no. On their own, the Thousand Sons are terrible. At most, you want to pick up maybe Ahriman, a sorcerer, or maybe Magnus for a more gimmick-y list. You can skip the rest for now.

Wings: God help me but I kind of do? Space Wizards Rob – I want to play the Space Wizards. If they do get a new book just as I’m finishing off my Necrons it’s going to be a dangerous time for me…

Rob: Hell yeah. Paint the evil magic Roombas, Wings.


Next Time: Xenos

That wraps up our look at Chaos. Join us later this week as we finish off our 2021 preview by covering the game’s myriad Xenos factions. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback you can drop those in the comments below. Or email us at