Your Pain Will Be Legendary: Slaanesh Tactics in 40k (Updated Jan 2020)

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It’s been quite a year for Slaanesh in 40k. When we first published our tactics article on Slaaneshi units back in July, some new units had just hit battlefields but in the time since, we’ve seen a massive shift, both in terms of the meta becoming saturated with marines, and in terms of the Slaanesh-aligned units themselves. Massive points drops to many of the Daemons of Slaanesh and Chaos Space Marine units that work best with the Mark of Slaanesh, combined with new rules like Hateful Assault and the Emperor’s Children content from Psychic Awakening, have changed the game entirely. It’s a brave new world out there for followers of the Dark Prince and we’ve been eager to revisit our tactics article with an eye toward the changes.

While normally our Start Competing articles focus on an entire faction, as with our Start Competing: Khorne article, we’re focusing purely on Slaanesh here. In part because the Chaos faction is massive, in part because there are many Slaanesh-specific strategies worth looking at, and in part because while many competitive strategies call for souping daemons, most Chaos players prefer to avoid that kind of apostasy. So we’ll be focused on those units and strategies that align with the proclivities of She Who Thirsts.

As with our previous article, every tactics article represents a specific place and time. We are writing this article in the first week of January, 2020, shortly after the release of Psychic Awakening II: Faith and Fury, and Chapter Approved 2019’s Balance Update.

 

The Armies of She Who Thirsts

Slaaneshi forces are split into two major factions that we’ll be talking about today: Daemons of Slaanesh and Chaos Space Marines devoted to Slaanesh. 

Strengths

  • Great Shooting. For Chaos Space Marine units, the mark of Slaanesh has been the go-to blessing for shooting units, owing almost completely to the Endless Cacophony Stratagem, which allows a SLAANESH Infantry or Biker unit to shoot again at the end of the Shooting phase. This turns squads of bikes, Noise Marines, Obliterators, Terminators, and Havocs into double-shooting monsters and creates an incentive to take large squads.
  • Solid Melee Capabilities. Slaaneshi units are no slouches in the melee department, either — both on the Daemons side and the Chaos Space Marines side they have some incredibly powerful melee options that can tear through enemy units. 
  • High Movement. Slaaneshi Daemons have high movement values, and the Honour The Prince Stratagem gives Emperor’s Children a near-surefire way to make charges out of Deep Strike. With the Locus of Swiftness, Slaaneshi Daemons can advance and charge in the same turn, helping them close the distance they need.
  • Psychic Powers. Slaanesh units have access to some solid powers and some good tricks for casting them.

Weaknesses

  • Ho-hum faction bonuses. “Fighting first” has largely not been such a great ability in 8th edition and it’s clear that GW doesn’t really know what to do with it. It particularly doesn’t look great when compared to extra attacks and strength on the charge, disgustingly resilient, and an improved invulnerable save.
  • Relatively fragile. Slaaneshi Daemons in particular are among the least resilient options available to the army, with Daemonettes topping the list. Some of this can be mitigated with the Delightful Agonies psychic power, but generally, Slaaneshi units are built for speed moreso than durability. Because of this, they tend to want their monofaction bonus more than the other gods’ daemons.
  • No stratagem to fight twice. Slaanesh units tend to be solid in melee, but you only get one shot to do any damage you’re going to do — all of the “fight again” stratagems are locked behind the Mark of Khorne. Slaaneshi units can make up for this with a psychic power (more on that below), making it both more repeatable but less reliable and harder to set up.

 

Chaos Daemons

Rules

  • Daemonic. The standard 5+ invulnerable save.
  • Quicksilver Swiftness. Units with this ability always fight first in the Fight phase, even if they didn’t charge. If an enemy did charge, you alternate activating units, starting with the player whose turn it is. This is an ability that sounds a lot better than it is, if only because making it work can be difficult. It’s going to do its best work when you have units that are already in combat, either having charged or been charged the turn before. It’s really only good because the entire Daemons army can have it, and all of them can fight. The most clever trick to remember with this is that the Counter-Offensive Stratagem can only be used after a charging unit has fought, so if you have several units that haven’t charged, you can prevent an opponent from using Counter-Offensive by activating those units before your units that charged. 
  • Locus of Swiftness. If all the units in your Chaos Daemons detachment have the SLAANESH keyword, then the Characters in that Detachment get this aura ability, which gives SLAANESH DAEMON units within 6” the ability to Advance and Charge in the same turn. This is really good, and we’ll explore some areas where it can provide value.

Units

Credit: Svbfloorvg

The Keeper of Secrets

After being stuck with a dopey metal model and mediocre rules for the better part of three editions, Slaanesh’s greater daemons finally made a comeback in 2019, with a new model that demanded new rules. The Keeper of Secrets got a huge size boost and a profile boost to give them higher BS, more Wounds, and a higher Movement attribute, helping the KoS get into combat quicker. Because of its 16 Wounds and degrading profile, you’ll pretty much always want to drop the Shining Aegis on your Keepers in order to give them the extra survivability of a 6+ ignore wounds save (effectively giving them 20% more wounds). In addition, the Keeper of Secrets is going to be safest when it’s locked in combat – its Mesmerizing Aura gives enemies -1 to hit it in melee and the Witstealer Sword gives enemies that have been wounded by it a further -1 to hit. 

At first glance, the Keeper of Secrets appears to be hampered by having 16 Wounds and thus being targetable. However, as with the Lord Discordant, the Keeper of Secrets is powerful enough, fast enough and, following the Chapter Approved 2019 balance update, cheap enough to more than make up for that fragility. Like the Lord DIscordant, If you’re taking the Keeper of Secrets in a competitive format, you want to run three of them, maybe four for threat saturation. And while matched play rules prevent you from running four, the good news is, there’s a great alternative…

Shalaxi Helbane

The named character variant of the Keeper of Secrets, Shalaxi trades out the Keeper’s Wistealer Sword for the Soulpiercer spear, which allows it to attack at S12 AP-4 and do D6 damage, upgraded to 6 against Characters. This makes Shalaxi the ideal fighter for targeting Character Knights, Lords Discordant, and Smash Captains, especially when you factor in the Mesmerizing Aura it shares with Keepers of Secrets and the Cloak of Constriction, which gives incoming melee attackers -1 to Wound. This means that smash captains attempting to take down Shalaxi will be hitting on 4s and wounding on 4s. If they hit you at all, that is — Shalaxi can also move 6” when Heroically Intervening, allowing you to play some truly nasty tricks (in combination with fighting first) if opponents aren’t paying attention.

As with the Keeper of Secrets, you’ll want to give Shalaxi a Shining Aegis 100% of the time to maximize their survivability. Shalaxi is a strong addition to a Slaanesh Daemons detachment running multiple Keepers of Secrets as combat threats, and the massive 40-point drop it received in Chapter Approved 2019 pushes it well into the realm of competitive viability.

Syll’Esske. Credit: Brin

Syll’Esske

One of the few Chaos Daemons Characters that didn’t drop in points in Chapter Approved 2019, Syll’Esske, The Vengeful Allegiance carries a similar statline to a Daemon Prince only with double the attacks, plus both the Daemon Prince and Herald aura buffs in addition to a unique morale aura buff. So taking this pair allows you to skip out on adding a Herald to get the Strength boost. Syll’Esske’s biggest unique factor is the ability to 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. This makes Syll’Esske good at clearing out both hordes and heavier targets. Finally, Syll’Esske also has the DAEMONETTE keyword, which is relevant if you’re running the Masque.

The biggest downside is that despite their 9” movement, Syll’Esske lacks the ability to jump over screens like a Winged Daemon prince, so you’ll have to be very considered in how you use their multiple pile-in moves to move through crowds. In an ideal scenario you can use the 8-24 whip attacks and the Locus of Grace Stratagem to clear a path to other targets, but you may need to do more work clearing a path beforehand. The other challenge is that Syll’Esske’s 4+ armor save and 5+ invulnerable saves aren’t great, but as an 8-Wound character, you can protect them from enemy fire using the character rules.

Infernal Enrapturess

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. The Enrapturess doesn’t really do much for Slaanesh strategies; the vanilla +1 Strength aura is arguably more helpful when you’re running Daemonettes or Possessed, and while the option of resurrecting dead Obliterators is tantalising, it’s tricky to set up as you are probably deep striking them, sometimes away from your main force, and it relies on your opponent failing to wipe the squad. It would also often mean using the Denizens of the Warp stratagem to teleport her onto the table and there are probably better units to spend that CP on. That leaves the major value of the Enrapturess as the perils on any doubles ability, which when combined with the Daemonic Possession Stratagem can really wreck an opposing psyker but won’t happen reliably enough to be worth banking on.

Daemon Princes

Winged Daemon Princes of Slaanesh are fine. You generally want to give them double Malefic Talons and use them to jump over screens and tear up enemy forces. We’ll devote less time to these because they don’t really stack up to their Chaos Space Marines cousins (thanks to better relic and stratagem support), and in a Slaanesh Daemons Detachment you have stronger options to bring for your HQ slots.

The Contorted Epitome. Credit: Steel_Mentor

The Contorted Epitome

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.

Horrible Fascination is the other major draw here, preventing enemy units within 6” from falling back unless your opponent can roll under the unit’s Leadership on 3D6. This combines well with powers and abilities that reduce Ld and when combined with the Epitome’s 12” Movement range means you can run the Epitome up alongside your Daemon Princes, Keepers of Secrets, and Lords Discordant, protecting it thanks to its 8 Wounds, and then use it to protect your big characters by keeping them locked in combat the turn after they complete their charges.

Although the Epitome works great in a Slaanesh Daemons detachment, it also fits fine into a mixed Daemons list owing to its ability to cast and dispel two powers per turn with a +1 to cast and dispel. In a Slaanesh detachment that means casting Delightful Agonies on a 4+ and Hysterical Frenzy on a 7+ and in mixed settings casting Symphony of Pain on a 5+. 

This is one of Slaanesh’s very best tools, and has seen a lot of tournament play, so make sure you get one!

The Masque of Slaanesh

The only Slaanesh HQ to see a points increase in Chapter Approved 2019, the Masque increased by 13 points. It was a bit of an odd choice, given that the Masque has only seen limited competitive play. The Masque’s key benefits are an ability that gives friendly units +1 to their hit rolls against a unit within 1” of the Masque each combat and an aura that gives nearby DAEMONETTE models (within 6”) a -1 to be hit in the Fight phase. Otherwise, the Masque is a so-so fighter itself and lacks the +1 Strength aura. The Masque is worth considering in a Daemonette-heavy list (note that this includes Seekers, Syll’Esske, and the Contorted Epitome) but less valuable than a standard Herald elsewhere.

Herald of Slaanesh

At 50 points apiece, Heralds of Slaanesh are a solid addition to a Daemons army looking to fill out a detachment, because they are literally the cheapest HQ option a Daemons army can take. On their own merits, they’re decent fighters, with 4 Attacks at S5, AP-1, 2 Damage that can be AP-4 on wound rolls of 6+. In a mono-Slaanesh army, their biggest advantage is their Locus of Slaanesh aura, which gives +1 Strength to SLAANESH DAEMONS within 6”, a benefit that is particularly strong on Chaos Space Marines units that share the DAEMON keyword and can really use the extra strength, such as Warp Talons and Possessed. These can also carry the Forbidden Gem Relic, which makes them a great counter to Knights in a mixed Detachment.

Credit: RichyP

Daemonettes

At 6 points per model, Slaanesh gets some of the cheaper useful Troop choices. Daemonettes aren’t as tough as Plaguebearers and they’re not quite as good at fighting as Bloodletters, but they come with 2 Attacks base (which jumps to 3 when the unit numbers 20+), and AP-1 weapons that jump to AP-4 on Wound rolls of a 6+. With help from the Locus of Swiftness in a pure detachment, they gain the ability to Advance and charge, giving them the ability to get into combat without teleporting onto the battlefield. The big issue is that with only 3 Strength, even with Herald support they just aren’t particularly good at taking out medium or heavy infantry. As a result, Slaanesh Daemon armies are better off running multiple smaller squads of Daemonettes to fill out detachments rather than taking a large blob.

Fiends

Fiends dropped an additional 5 points per model in Chapter Approved 2019, turning a unit that already had some solid upside into one worth real consideration. Fiends are fast (14” Movement) melee fighters that come with 4 Attacks each and come with 2 incredibly destructive auras: The first is Disruptive Song, which gives enemy Psykers -1 to their Psychic tests within 12”, and the second is Soporific Musk, which stops units within 1” from Falling Back unless they can FLY. This makes Fiends hilariously good as harassment units, able to really wreak havoc on your opponent’s plans if they can reach their back lines. In addition to disrupting psychic powers, Fiends are useful for trapping enemy units in combat, either to protect your larger units or stop those enemy units from shooting. Ultimately, these aren’t as good overall as the Contorted Epitome, another source of this effect but their ability is more reliable against non-flying targets, and having the ability to deploy it in multiple places at once adds a lot of value.

 

Credit: Svbfloorvg

 

Seekers

Daemonettes aren’t really great in a big horde, but Seekers on the other hand can put in a lot more work. Seekers boost Daemonettes with a 14” Movement and 2 Wounds, plus an extra two tongue attacks every time they fight and the ability to re-roll charge rolls. With the added boost of a Herald and the ability to Advance and Charge in a pure Slaanesh detachment, Seekers can be an incredibly fast, relatively cheap (15ppm) melee unit that can help tie up enemy units early by having a 24-25” threat range on T1. 

Other Daemon Units

  • Seeker Chariots/Exalted Seeker Chariots – Large, conspicuous melee units that are likely to be shot off the board before they can do much damage and aren’t much of a threat when they actually do arrive in combat, thanks to having low Strength and AP on their attacks. 
  • Hellflayers – Similar to the Seeker Chariot, the Hellflayer adds D6 additional Sx2 (so 8), AP-1, 2 Damage attacks to the chariot’s profile 
  • Heralds on Seeker Chariots and Hellflayers – These options give you larger, faster, beefier platforms for the Locus of Slaanesh aura, which frankly, you don’t really need given that the Herald’s best trait is costing 50 points and you have the Epitome for that. The Hellflayer is interesting in that it gives itself S10 attacks, but the high variance on the number of attacks you’ll get prevents it from being a worthwhile investment. The Exalted Seeker Chariot makes your Herald targetable with 12 Wounds, and so is actively detrimental in most cases. That said, all of these options are much cheaper post-Chapter Approved, and of them the Herald on Hellflayer is the one most likely to merit consideration.

Warlord Traits

Slaanesh Daemons get their own set of six Warlord Traits.

  • Celerity of Slaanesh – Gives your Warlord +3” Movement. Not something you’ll really need most of the time, since even with a 17” move, Keepers of Secrets still lack FLY, and Winged Daemon Princes don’t need 15” movement all that much. Can be useful against the right armies, though. C+
  • Quicksilver Duellist – Re-roll failed hit and wound rolls against Characters in the Fight phase. Shalaxi Helbane has to take this. It’s OK but narrow, and both Shalaxi and Keepers of Secrets already re-roll wound rolls of 1 and hit on a 2+, making it less important to take. Still, it can help a lot against specific things. B
  • The Murderdance – Gives your Warlord +D3 Attacks on the charge. Has a cool name, and is great for winning decisively, which you’ll want to do most of the time. This would be great on Syll’Esske, but they have to take Bewitching Aura instead. B
  • Fatal Caress – Each time you roll a wound roll of 6+ in the Fight phase, your target takes a mortal wound on top of any other damage. You often won’t have enough attacks to really make this work for you. C
  • Savage Hedonist – Gives your Warlord +1 Attack. Not bad, but there are better buffs out there, including the Murderdance. B
  • Bewitching Aura – Non-Vehicle enemy models get -1 Attack while they are within 6” of your Warlord. Really wish that Vehicle clause wasn’t there, because taking away an attack from a Knight would be very helpful. As-is, it’s a solid defensive boost and being a 6” aura means it’s likely the most useful of the Warlord traits all-around, but may not fit a more aggressive playstyle. Syll’Esske has to take this trait, and it’s a good one to have. A

Relics

Slaanesh Daemons get access to 4 relics. One of them is pretty interesting, and the rest are rather boring.

  • The Forbidden Gem – Once per game, you can use the gem to try and hypnotize an enemy character within 12” at the start of any enemy phase. You roll 3D6 and if you roll over their Ld, they can’t act until the end of the phase and their auras are turned off. This is a very powerful effect and on that will succeed most of the time given that an average roll on 3D6 is 10.5 (and that’s before you start factoring in Ld modifying abilities and psychic powers like Phantasmagoria. Speaking of which, it works very well on a Contorted Epitome with said power. A
  • The Mark of Excess – Gives you +1 Attack and an extra +1 each time you kill a CHARACTER or MONSTER. It’s OK, but it’s not really the effect you want to spend a relic slot or CP on. C+
  • Soulstealer – Replaces a Witstealer sword or Hellforged sword with one that’s S+1, AP-3, 3 Damage and each time you kill a model, you regain a lost wound, plus you re-roll failed wounds against AELDARI units. Given that this makes your base profile attacks Strength 7 instead of Strength 8 on a Keeper of Secrets, it’s not something they want to take, which leaves Daemon Princes where it’s a significant upgrade on the Hellforged Sword. If you’re taking a Winged Daemon Prince, it’s not a bad investment. B
  • Slothful Claws – Herald only. Replaces their claws with a set that are S+1 AP-2, 2 Damage and go to AP-4 on wound rolls of 4+ instead of 6+. A major upgrade but not something you desperately need on a model whose primary purposes is buffing others. Probably going to give you the most value on a Hellflayer Herald. B

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Psychic Powers

Slaanesh Daemons get access to 6 psychic powers, one of which (Delightful Agonies) shares a name with the Chaos Space Marines’ Slaanesh power, though each has different rules (they still count as being the same power for the purposes of the Psychic Focus rule). These powers are all pretty good! Even Phantasmagoria, which would normally be a marginal effect at best, has real value on a Contorted Epitome.

  • Cacaphonic Choir (WC 6) – Roll 2D6 and add 2 if your test result was 10+. The closest visible enemy unit within 18” takes one mortal wound for each point this exceeds their highest Leadership value by. We covered the probability of getting out mortal wounds with this power in our Diet Smite Hammer of Math series (LINK https://www.goonhammer.com/hammer-of-math-diet-smite-chaos-edition/), and it just doesn’t stack up as a power, even with boosts. You’ll seldom be so loaded up with powers that you want this over a 2nd or 3rd Smite attempt. D
  • Symphony of Pain (WC 6) – The nearest visible enemy unit within 18” gets -1 to all hit rolls until your next Psychic phase. A very solid power, and while the nearest clause isn’t amazing, you can work around it thanks to the visibility restriction. Giving a unit -1 to hit is always useful and at WC 6, you’ll get this off most of the time. A
  • Hysterical Frenzy (WC 8) – Pick a friendly SLAANESH DAEMON unit within 18” that is within 1” of an enemy unit. That unit can fight as though it were the Fight phase. This power is incredibly good, giving you a free additional Fight phase that occurs before the Charge phase, allowing you to clear your way for another charge or just get in an extra round of damage before your opponent has a chance to hit you again. The only downsides are the need to keep a unit in combat past the charge and the WC 8 cost, but the Contorted Epitome can help make this a more reliable cast. A
  • Delightful Agonies (WC 5) – Pick a friendly SLAANESH DAEMON unit within 18” of the Psyker. Until your next Psychic phase, roll a D6 each time they take a wound and, on a 6, they don’t lose it. A strong buff, though easier to cast (WC 5 vs 6) and less powerful (ignore wounds on a 6+ instead of a 5+) than the CSM version. Still worth taking and very easy to cast. A
  • Pavane of Slaanesh (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy within 18” and roll a D6 for each model in the unit. That unit takes a mortal wound for each 6 you roll. We covered this one in our Smite analysis as well — this is going to do work against units of 15+ models. Take it when you’re up against those, leave it when you aren’t. B-
  • Phantasmagoria (WC 6) – Enemy units subtract 1 from their Ld while they are within 12” of your Psyker until your next Psychic phase. This is bad on most casters but straight fire on the Contorted Epitome, where it makes the Horrible Fascination ability that much more potent. Making it a 12” aura helps a lot here. A (Contorted Epitome) / D (Everything else).

Stratagems

There are some stratagems shared across all Chaos Daemons that we’ll discuss here, and three that are unique to Daemons of Slaanesh. The stratagems Slaanesh Daemons have access to are all at least decent, and the Aura of Acquiescence and Rapturous Standard are helpful for making large squads of Seekers viable.

  • Denizens of the Warp (1/2 CP) – Allows you to put units of Daemons in Reserves during deployment, to teleport onto the table at the end of your Movement phase more than 9” away from enemy units starting on turn 2. If the unit has a power level of 9 or more, this costs 2 CP instead of 1. A great ability to have for putting your Daemons in a forward position, though the biggest challenge is that Slaanesh Daemons don’t have as reliable way to make charges out of deep strike like Khorne Daemons. Still, with a Banner in place, making an 8” charge with a CP re-roll puts the odds in your favor. A
  • Daemonic Possession (1 CP) – When an enemy psyker suffers a perils, they take another 1D3 mortal wounds. Remember that death due to Perils causes wounds to nearby units, making this a rare but fun treat to use. B
  • Warp Surge (2 CP) – Use at the start of any phase. Improves a unit of Daemons’ invulnerable saves by 1 for a phase (to a max of 4+), but they can’t re-roll any of their saves. Helpful when you need to protect a large unit of Seekers or Daemonettes from being shot up. Having to use this at the start of the phase (and before your opponent chooses a target) is a rough downside, though. B
  • Locus of Grace (1 CP) – Used at the start of a Fight phase to give a SLAANESH DAEMON CHARACTER from your army an aura that gives all SLAANESH DAEMON units within 6” of that character the ability to make an additional attack each time they roll a to wound roll of a 6+. Per the FAQs, this can only give an aura to characters from the Daemon faction, but once it does, the aura itself can boost Slaanesh Daemons from the Chaos Space Marines faction, making it a very strong combo with effects like Veterans of the Long War and the Dark Apostle’s Soul Tearer Portent prayer to get extra attacks on Wound rolls of a 4+. Otherwise, it doesn’t do quite enough without the help. B-
  • Aura of Acquiescence (1 CP) – Use at the start of the Fight phase. Pick a Slaanesh Daemon unit in your army, and units within 3” of that unit get -1 Attack (to a minimum of 1) for the rest of the phase. This is a great way to protect your units in combat, and because it’s a 3” aura, it’s really part of the engine that makes large squads of Seekers work, allowing them to both protect their fragile bodies and also spread out and protect other units by giving their combat opponents an extra -1 Attack. A
  • Rapturous Standard (1 CP) – Used at the start of the battle to upgrade a Daemonic Icon to a Rapturous Standard. The Rapturous Standard is an Icon with the normal ability and once per battle you can activate it before the bearer’s unit fights to give the unit the ability to re-roll all failed hit rolls until the end of the phase. It’s no 3D6” charge, but it’s a very fine ability to have, and will benefit you more on larger squads. A

 

 

Chaos Space Marines

The other half of the perverted equation, Chaos Space Marines have a long history of Slaanesh worship, with Fulgrim’s legion being the first to fall wholesale to the worship of the Dark Prince. In 8th edition, Chaos Space Marine rules tend to favor Shooting units with the Mark of Slaanesh, though there are a few areas where CSM characters with the Mark of Slaanesh are some of the game’s nastiest melee fighters.

Rules

Chaos Space Marines have a number of special rules to be aware of, two of which they received in 2019 – Bolter Drill and Hateful Assault – that dramatically improve the army.

  • Hateful Assault. Gives non-Cultist Chaos Space Marines units +1 Attack until the end of the phase when they charge, are charged, or they Heroically Intervene. This is a very big army-wide upgrade that Chaos Space Marines badly needed and helps transform a number of otherwise middling Chaos Space Marines units into real combat monsters.
  • Daemonic Ritual. Chaos Characters can summon Daemons if they don’t move. This ability rarely sees play, mostly because you’ll rarely need to make game-time decisions about which daemons to bring.
  • Death to the False Emperor. Units with this ability get an additional attack each time they roll a to hit roll of 6+ against IMPERIUM units. Situational, but very powerful when it’s active. The good news is that prior to the new marine codexes, about half the field were IMPERIUM armies and post-codex, that number has only gone up. A helpful boost when taking on marines, AdMech, Knights, Guard, and Sisters.
  • Despoilers of the Galaxy. Troops in battle-forged Chaos Space Marine detachments get this rule, which allows them to control objectives regardless of the number of models. Helpful to have, particularly when you can take Noise Marines as Troops.
  • Bolter Drill. Another major improvement for Chaos Space Marines this year, Bolter drill lets bikers, terminators, and marines that stand still double-fire their bolters at full range. This turns Bikers and Terminators into bullet hoses and gives marines a nice extra boost when they’re sitting on objectives. 

The Subfactions

There are two fully Slaanesh-aligned subfactions for Chaos Space Marines. 

  • The Emperor’s Children. Fulgrim’s personal fancy lads got a hell of a bonus from Faith and Fury, adding a whole slew of fun new Traits, Artifacts and Stratagems on top of their existing rules. The Legion Trait for Emperor’s Children allows them to always fight First in the Fight phase which, as we discussed above, isn’t particularly good (the better way to word this is to make their opponents always fight last, a wording that has become more common as 8th edition has gone on, but Chaos missed the boat on that one). This can be particularly good on units that have Heroically Intervened however, so look out for opportunities to use it with a Lord Discordant, Master of Executions, Chaos Lord, or Winged Daemon Prince. The other major benefit to Emperor’s Children is that they can take Noise Marines as Troops, a massive boon that allows them to fill out Battalions with units they actually want to take. 
  • The Flawless Host. The renegade legion that appeared in Vigilus Ablaze, Flawless Host units have to take the Mark of Slaanesh and while they lose access to the Veterans of the Long War Stratagem, they make up for it with Death to the Imperfect, which gives Flawless Host units an extra attack every time they roll a 6+ to hit in the Fight phase. This procs in addition to Death to the False Emperor and, because it doesn’t specify unmodified hit rolls, can be improved to 5+ with help from the Prescience psychic power. Lords Discordant also give themselves +1 to hit naturally and can benefit from the trait (and can’t use Veterans of the Long War anyways since they are neither INFANTRY nor BIKERS), making Flawless Host Lords Discordant an immediate mainstay of competitive CSM lists.

Other Legions

Just because they aren’t completely in the bag for Slaanesh doesn’t mean that other legions don’t want to have Slaanesh-aligned units!

  • The Black Legion accept marines from all walks, and Abaddon himself has the Mark of Slaanesh. His aura, which allows Black Legion units within 6” to re-roll hit rolls, combos very well with Obliterators, Bikers, Terminators, and Cultists using the Mark of Slaanesh to double up on shooting.
  • The Word Bearers get some interesting tricks that let them give a character the POSSESSED and DAEMON Keywords, letting them make Chaos Lords who can benefit from Slaanesh Daemon auras. They can also have boosted summoning with the Dark Pact Stratagem, and they can give Possessed units +1 damage for a phase using the Revered Hosts Stratagem, giving them the most potent potential Slaanesh Possessed bombs.
  • The Night Lords saw a significant boost in Psychic Awakening, but don’t have so much to offer when it comes to the mark. Night Lords Warp Talons are a good fit for the Mark of Slaanesh when run with other Daemons, though they’d usually prefer to have the Mark of Khorne instead.
  • The Iron Warriors are primarily going to be focused on shooting and that makes them ideal recipients for the Mark of Slaanesh, particular on Obliterators and Havocs that want to shoot twice and can benefit from Iron Warriors stratagems.
  • The Alpha Legion benefit from keeping their units at a distance where they can enjoy giving enemy units -1 to their To Hit rolls before closing the gap. Alpha Legion Lords Discordant are good picks for the Mark of Slaanesh and the Intoxicating Elixir, as are Alpha Legion Terminators and Bikers.
  • The Red Corsairs tend to play more aggressively, using their ability to Advance and Charge to ensure that their melee units can get into combat early and often. Red Corsairs Lords Discordant benefit from having the Mark of Slaanesh and the Intoxicating Elixir for the boost it provides.

Units

Because only INFANTRY and BIKERS can use the Fury of Khorne Stratagem to fight an additional time in a Chaos Space Marines army, the Mark of Slaanesh ends up being the preferred mark for many of the army’s melee units, owing to psychic power access/benefits and access to the Intoxicating Elixir relic.

Emperor’s Children Noise Marines. Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Noise Marines

One of the biggest winners out of the two-punch combo of Faith + Fury and Chapter Approved 2019, historically Noise Marines have suffered from being far too expensive and their unique Sonic Weapons just not doing enough to justify using, especially the Blastmaster. For Emperor’s Children, being able to run these as Troops has always been a boon and CA19 gave them a few big points drops to their base cost and the Blastmaster, while Faith + Fury gave Emperor’s Children Noise Marines a much-needed boost with the Excruciating Frequencies stratagem, which for 1 CP improves both the Strength and AP of ALL Sonic Weapons in a unit until the end of the shooting phase. This encourages larger units and combos with the Endless Cacophony Stratagem to give you boosted shots on both rounds of shooting. Be sure to throw in Veterans of the Long War while you’re at it.

Cultists

Still haven’t got their access to Legion traits back, but now have a points cut to reflect this which puts them back into the range of cheerfully cheap meatshields. Your multipurpose rabble for Deep Strike screening, Overwatch sponging and objective sitting, and still the cheapest unit Chaos Space Marines have access to when it comes time to fill out a detachment. Noise Marine troops are great, but most of the time you’ll likely make that third Troops choice a Cultist squad. They may not be though of often as a shooting unit, but with re-rolls from Abaddon and a boost from Veterans of the Long War, Cultists can dish out a surprisingly large mount of damage, particularly against targets where their ability to wound on a 4+ will make 50-60 shots worth worrying about.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Obliterators

Prior to Chapter Approved 2019, the new iteration of the classic Obliterator was a unit often speculated on as being a competitive threat but passed over due to their cost pushing them just outside of the sweet spot for efficiency. After seeing a tidy points drop in CA it’s likely that we’ll see a lot more Obliterators running around, especially Slaanesh-marked. Best run in trios to maximize Endless Cacophony gains and as part of a first-founding legion so they can use Veterans of the Long War to ensure they maximize their output. Obliterators can and often will teleport onto the table, which helps protect them before they get a chance to shoot and mitigates their 24″ range. Also note that 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.

Daemon Princes

Chaos Space Marines have the superior Daemon Prince of Slaanesh options, owing to the Hateful Assault ability, a better save, access to subfaction traits, and better warlord traits and relics. Flawless Host Daemon princes boosted with Prescience can spew out a hilarious number of attacks, and when boosted with the Diabolic Strength power or Intoxicating Elixir or Raiment Revulsive relics, the damage they can do with just talons is very nasty. They also work well with the Rapacious Talons, and having the ability to fire them around using the Warptime power gives them an added boost of mobility. They’re solid melee fighters who can help fill a lot of gaps on your line, but their biggest downside is that they’re likely to be taking up a space that would otherwise go to a Lord Discordant.

Chaos Lords

There are three main varieties of Chaos Lord we want to talk about with Emperor’s Children:

  • Emperor’s Children Smash Lords come with Jump Packs a Thunder Hammer, and the Raiment Revulsive to re-roll everything. Give them Loathsome Grace Warlord Trait and you have a monster who comes in with 6 Attacks on the charge at Strength 10, AP-3, 3 Damage each, re-rolling all hits and wounds, and re-rolling charge rolls (plus he can use Honour the Prince to close the distance, if he even needs it — pair him with a Host Raptorial Field Commander so he can drop in and enjoy their +2 Charge distances aura. Or give him the Rapacious Talons so he can chew through hordes and infantry with ease using the Excess of Violence Stratagem. 
  • Jump Pack Chaos Lords with Combi Bolter are the sad replacements for Bike Lords (RIP), who use their movement to keep pace with bikes and lend them a re-roll. They’re cheaper but lack the double combi-bolter shooting and the ability to use Bolter Discipline on the move. You can get similar effects out of a Winged Daemon Prince. 
  • Barebones Chaos Lords are here for their re-rolls, and to fill out a Battalion Detachment. Keep them with whatever shooting unit they’re intended to accompany and give them a Chainaxe (1 point) just to make them a more credible threat in melee combat.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Lord Discordant on Helstalker

Forget Abaddon; This guy is the real big bad boss of the April 2019 Codex release. The Lord Discordant is an absolute buzzsaw in melee combat, throwing out absurd numbers of attacks with a degrading profile that doesn’t really lose much as he loses wounds. While some armies run them with a Daemon Engine-heavy strategy, they’re good enough on their own. Many competitive lists just run 3 of these, charging them up the board and using them to take out large targets. Because they have Toughness 6 and are targetable at 12 Wounds each, Lords Discordant are basically glass cannons – they’ll fold quickly to any kind of concentrated fire with AP-1 or better. So the goal is to get them into combat early and often. The preferred build for these is Autocannon + Techno-virus injector, which is the cheapest loadout and gives you the most oomph against enemy vehicles.

Emperor’s Children vs. Flawless Host

Traditionally, the play has been to run Lords Discordant as Flawless Host, where the Legion Trait combines nicely with the Aura of Discord ability to give the Lord Discordant extra attacks on every hit roll of a 5+, with 3 extra attacks for the Warlord using the Ultimate Confidence trait. But with the release of Faith + Fury, Emperor’s Children Lords Discordant have become a real contender as well. The Glutton for Punishment Warlord trait makes them much more durable, while the Loathsome Grace trait lets them re-roll their Charge rolls and gives them +1 Strength and Attacks when they charge, freeing them up to take a new relic instead of the Intoxicating Elixir (though that’s still a fine option, mind you). The Emperor’s Children Lord Discordant also has access to the Incessant Disdain Stratagem, giving him a 6″ Heroic Intervention, and powerful add-on relics like the Armour of Abhorrence (can’t be Overwatched) and the Raiment Revulsive (re-roll all charges, hits, and wound rolls), which feels a bit like burying the lede because it’s so good. The downside is that for your Emperor’s Children Lords Discordant, only one will get these bonuses, while all three will get the benefit of the Flawless Host legion trait. Unfortunately, you need three to fill out a Supreme Command, but either choice works, depending on your style.

Havocs

Havocs seemingly got a large boost with the new Codex back in April, becoming 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″. But then they never really saw use. This is in part because the Reaper Chaincannon, an ideal weapon for clearing out hordes, just isn’t what Chaos Space Marines needed, and as the meta has become choked with marines who have 30″ range, the gun’s 24″ range has become a real impediment. On the other side of the spectrum Lascannon/Missile Launcher Havocs have a bit more utility, though their shooting is very high variance. Fortunately, Havocs work well in Devastation Battery specialist detachments and love to use the Endless Cacophony Stratagem to double up on their shooting.

Possessed and Greater Possessed

Possessed are a unit that sees constant theory crafting as players fantasize about increasingly more insane Possessed bombs that stack a dozen different buffs, but the reality is that with a 3 ppm drop in Chapter Approved and the addition of Hateful Assault, they’re likely worth considering just on their own merits, or with 1-2 key buffs rather than with a crazy web of buffs piled on top of them. They really enjoy the +1 Strength boost that they can get from a Herald’s Locus of Slaanesh aura, and if they’re on foot, they really like the Locus of Quickness aura as well to let them Advance and Charge. You’ll want to pair them with a Greater Possessed for his Locus of Power Strength boost, and he’s a powerful fighter in his own right. These guys work very well as Flawless Host fighters, but are likely even better as Emperor’s Children, where they can use the Combat Elixirs stratagem to boost any one of their stats (all of the options have their uses, depending on what you’re up against and how you’re using them), and they can use the Honour the Prince stratagem to quickly close gaps and make charges. A good option to think about here is piling a squad of them and a Greater Possessed into a Terrax Termite Pattern Assault Drill, where they can pop out and use the stratagem to immediately get into combat.

Terrax Termite Pattern Assault Drill

A transport that Chaos likes a lot more than Loyalist marines, the Terrax is great both for its 12 model carrying capacity and the fact that once it arrives, it’s a combat monster in its own right and if an opponent doesn’t take it out, they’ll regret it. It’s a great way to get your Possessed to the party, especially if you’re going to use Honour the Prince after they disembark to make their charge.

 

Chaos Space Marine Night Lords Warp Talons , Painted by Tyler "Coda" Moore

Never. Painting. Trim. Again. , Painted by Tyler “Coda” Moore

Warp Talons

After being (justly) maligned for a long, long time, Warp Talons finally have their time to shine. DAEMONS who can teleport in and can’t be fired at with Overwatch the turn they’re set up on the battlefield, Warp Talons’ major boosts come from the Host Raptorial detachment, which can get them a 7″ charge out of Deep Strike, and the Honour the Prince Stratagem, which makes said charge guaranteed, or makes the 9″ version very easy to make. Warp Talons are a great way to coordinate your assaults so that none of your daemons can be fired at in Overwatch — just drop in the Warp Talons and charge everything that might shoot at your daemons, then charge with the daemons once the Warp Talons have tied them up. Moreso than most of the Daemon units in Chaos Space Marines, Warp Talons really, really need the +1 Strength bonus that the Herald of Slaanesh can provide, because Lightning Claws just don’t really get there at Strength 4. Emperor’s Children Warp Talons also make great targets for the Combat Elixirs Stratagem, where boosting their Strength is a huge benefit.

Sorcerers

Sorcerers of Slaanesh are great additions, both as backline support and using a jump pack to keep up with frontline units. They can use Warptime to ensure early successful charges, Delightful Agonies to keep units on the table, and Prescience to dramatically boost the output of units with BS 3+.  Foot sorcerers dropped 10 points in Chapter Approved 2019, a nice bonus if you need one to fill out a Battalion.

Master of Possession

A kind of sorcerer who only really works with <LEGION> DAEMON units, the Master of Possession got 10 points cheaper in Chapter Approved 2019 but hasn’t gotten good enough to really see the table. Part of this is their lack of mobility – With no access to Jump Packs, Masters of Possession can’t really keep up with the faster Daemon units they want to buff, and won’t usually be in the right place to meet Obliterators teleporting in from deep strike. Masters of Possession have access to the Malefic Discipline, which gives them their tricks. The best of these are Cursed Earth, which gives him a 6″ aura that improves a <LEGION> Daemons invulnerable save by 1 (to a max of 3+), Infernal Power, which gives them a 6″ aura that allows <LEGION> Daemons to re-roll hits and wounds, and Mutated Invigoration, which gives a <LEGION> Chaos Spaw, Possessed, or Cult of Destruction unit within 18″ the ability to re-roll key rolls such as the number of Attacks possessed get. The auras suffer from the Master of Possession’s lack of mobility, while Mutation Invigoration is useful but not so useful that it makes up for being WC and costing you an 80-point character.

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Terminators

Terminators got big boosts from both Bolter Discipline and Hateful Assault, increasing both sides of their damage equation. The result is a tough unit that can teleport anywhere onto the table and put out 20-40 bolter shots or 10-20 combi-plasma shots before charging in with 3 chainaxe attacks each. They’re fine targets for Endless Cacophony, though you’ll often be disappointed with the results of S4 AP0 shooting if you’re firing at marines. They’re likely outclassed by Bikers, whose extra mobility and the ability to tack on special weapons instead of taking combi-weapons gives them a clear edge.

Bikers

Some of the biggest winners from the addition of the Bolter Discipline rule, these guys can pop off 4 bolter shots per turn, every turn at 24″ range. When paired with the Endless Cacophony and Veterans of the Long War stratagems, a squad of 9 bikers can put out an obscene number of shots. The big downside here is going to be the lack of any AP on the shooting, though you can mitigate this by giving two bikers either meltaguns or plasma guns and giving a combi-melta or combi-plasma to the Champion. Give everyone else a free Chainsword to give the squad some extra punch in melee, where they’ll be able to put out 3 attacks each on the charge or when charged. Slaanesh bikers tend to work very well in both the Black Legion, where they can advance and still shoot and have access to the Let the Galaxy Burn and Tip of the Spear stratagems for cheap re-rolls, and Red Corsairs, where they can get the Maelstrom’s Bite, a particularly nasty relic combi-melta. Bikes still only have WS 3+, and benefit greatly from being accompanied by a Jump Pack Sorcerer to cast Prescience, or a Jump Pack Chaos Lord or Winged Daemon Prince (RIP Chaos Lords/Sorcerers on bikes and Steeds of Slaanesh). For Emperor’s Children, these make a fine target for the Cruel Duellists stratagem, where the volume of attacks (30 at full strength) is likely to give you a few AP-3 wounds, particularly if they’re still getting the buff from Prescience.

Helbrutes

Because they lack the DAEMON keyword, Helbrutes don’t see much use these days. Though it’s worth mentioning the Sonic Dreadnought variant, which is an option created by the Imperial Armour – Forces of Chaos FAQ for Emperor’s Children. The Sonic Dreadnought is a standard Helbrute who must have the Emperor’s Children faction and has the option to take a Doom Siren (+8 points) and replace its Multi-melta with a pair of Blastmasters (+24 points). There are potentially two ways to run these, and while neither is great, I do think both are interesting and cheap enough to be worth playing around with:

  1. “The Screamer-Killer” (Doom Siren + Power Fist + Power Scourge): This is a melee-oriented version of the Sonic Dreadnought, which uses the Doom Siren as a fun add-on for when it’s closing the distance. It’s a fine unit for counter-charging as well, though you can’t really protect it and you’re on the whole probably better off just doing a power fist + scourge Flawless Host Helbrute instead.
  2. “All About That Bass” (Double Blastmasters + Missile Launcher): The shooty variant of the Sonic Dreadnought. At only 24 points, double Blastmasters are a steal, giving you 2D3 S8, AP-2 D3 Damage shots at 48″ range that ignore cover when fired on single frequency mode, plus well, a Krak missile. Where this can really put in some work is when you bring in the Fire Frenzy Stratagem, which allows the Helbrute to double-shoot at the nearest enemy unit if it stands still. That’s either 4D3 of the big shots or 4D6 of the little ones, which isn’t too shabby when you need some extra firepower.

Venomcrawlers

Venomcrawlers saw a modest (-15) point drop in Chapter Approved, and combined with the extra attack from Hateful Assault can pack a real punch. 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), and is worth considering if you want to go heavy on Daemon Engines (though it’s probably not the optimal Slaanesh Strategy).

Forgeworld Dreadnoughts

Hellforged Contemptors, Deredeos, and Leviathans are all fine units and strong, but they don’t really gain much from having the Mark of Slaanesh. They can’t double shoot with Endless Cacophony, and they don’t really want the benefit from either the Emperor’s Children nor Flawless Host Legion traits. They also don’t benefit from any of the new toys for the Emperor’s Children in Faith + Fury either. So they’re fine, but you aren’t going to get the most out of them.

 

Black Legion Chaos Space Marine Lord with Thunderhammer

Painted by Tyler “Coda” Moore

Warlord Traits

Chaos Space Marines give Slaanesh Warlords several options, depending on the subfaction your Warlord belongs to. Generally speaking, SLAANESH Warlords in Chaos Space Marine armies want to be strong melee fighters, either being major damage threats on their own, or acting as part of a melee-focused spearhead. As such, we’ll be focusing primarily here on the general Warlord Traits that benefit melee builds.

Non-Slaanesh Chaos Space Marine Warlord Traits

  • Flames of Spite. Whenever you roll a 6+ to wound with a melee weapon for your Warlord, you do 1 mortal wound in addition to other damage. We looked at this in our Smash Captains Hammer of Math and saw that it was a powerful add-on effect for a combat-oriented chaos lord and combines well with Veterans of the Long War and Soul Tearer Portent. B+
  • Hatred Incarnate. You can re-roll wound rolls of 1 for your Warlord. There are other ways to get this for melee effects in Chaos, and it’s just not worth giving up other, better options for it. C-
  • Exalted Champion. You get +1 Attack. Yawn. C
  • Exalted Possession (Word Bearers). Gives the Warlord the POSSESSED and DAEMON keywords, as well as +1 Strength, +1 Attack, and +1″ Movement. The boosts alone are fine on Daemon Princes and Lords Discordant, but also work very well on Jump Pack Chaos Lords who suddenly have the ability to combine higher strength and attacks with the ability to benefit from Daemon auras such as the Locus of Swiftness. A

Emperor’s Children Warlord Traits

  • Stimulated By Pain. Add 1 to your attacks characteristic for each wound suffered (max 3), if you somehow regain the wounds you drop the attacks. There are just many better options than this. C
  • Intoxicating Musk. Enemy attacks made within 3” of the warlord have -1 to hit. Not a bad way to protect the warlord from getting punched back by a target that he either multi-charged or couldn’t kill, but marginal defensive boosts are still not what you want from your traits. C
  • Unbound Arrogance. This one is a fun mini game: When you fight with your Warlord, both you and your opponent pick a number between 1 and 3 on a dice, hiding it behind your hands. Revel the numbers. If the numbers are different add the number you chose to your attacks. This is making you work really hard to get +D3 Attacks and there are just better ways to get more attacks that don’t require you frequently guessing “2” because it’s always in your opponent’s best interests to take away the “3” option. C
  • Faultless Duellist. At the start of the fight phase, roll a D3. Until the end of the phase, subtract that many attacks from enemies within 1” of the warlord. Another way to reduce the damage you take back from nearby enemies and potentially better than Intoxicating Musk against anything with 2+ attacks. C+
  • Glutton For Punishment. Reduce any damage inflicted on the Warlord by 1 (to a min of 1). OK now we’re talking. You want to mitigate incoming damage on your warlord? This is the trait you want to do it with. This thing is a huge boon against Stalker Bolt Rifles and a fantastic add for your imminently shootable Lord Discordant. A
  • Loathsome Grace. Reroll charge rolls, and add 1 to your warlord’s Strength and Attacks when you charge or make a Heroic Intervention. Pretty much a copy-paste of the Imperium’s Sword from Codex: Space Marines, but very helpful to have when it comes to boosting a Lord Discordant or Daemon Prince. Works very well with the Intoxicating Elixir to double up on your Attacks and Strength boosts, but also very helpful on Host Raptorial Slam Lords who want to make sure they nail their 7” charges. A

Flawless Host Warlord Trait

  • Ultimate Confidence. Whenever your Warlord generates additional attacks with the Death to the Imperfect Trait, the generate 3 attacks instead of 1. Because this combines with modifiers to hit, it’s straight fire on Lords Discordant, who also get a ton of attacks. It’s part of what makes Flawless Host Lords Discordants such monsters. A

 

Stratagems

Between Codex: Chaos Space Marines and Vigilus Ablaze, there are sets of stratagems available to all Chaos Marines as well as those that are unique to Slaanesh-aligned Chaos Space Marine legions and those which can only be used by units with the Mark of Slaanesh.

  • Endless Cacophony (2 CP) – Used at the end of the Shooting phase to let a SLAANESH HERETIC ASTARTES INFANTRY or BIKER shoot again. Combines with effects that last until the end of the phase like Veterans of the Long War and Excrutiating Frequencies to get beefed shooting twice, which means you pretty much always want to use it when you’re also using one of those to get the most value. This is one of the game’s best stratagems, and works well for any good shooting unit. Obliterators, Havocs, Bikers, Terminators, and Noise Marines all love it. A+

The Flawless Host have a single Stratagem of their own. Note that the Flawless Host are a Renegade Chapter and so lose Veterans of the Long War. 

  • We Cannot Fail (1 CP) – Used when a Flawless Host INFANTRY unit from your army fights in the Fight phase. For the rest of the phase you can re-roll hit rolls for that unit. This is a huge bonus, and would almost be good enough to make up for the loss of Veterans of the Long War, if the Flawless Host INFANTRY melee options were what you really wanted to take. As-is, it works best on Warp Talons and Possessed, each of which have WS 3+ and can benefit strongly from full re-rolls to hit, but already have either high strength or re-rolls to Wound. It doesn’t work with Lords Discordant, the most common Flawless Host unit. A-

The Emperor’s Children get access to a very good array of stratagems that really make them competitive with Flawless Host and should see Noise Marines actually getting some play based on how much they can improve a unit’s shooting output. These are all at least interesting, and priced to move.

  • Combat Elixirs (2 CP). At the start of the battle select one Emperor’s Children unit that is not a vehicle or chaos cultist. You can only use this once per battle. Apply one of the following effects of your choice:
    • +1 Attack
    • +1 Strength
    • +2” to Move
    • +1 Toughness
      Expensive, but very good. Great for pushing a character’s stat over a key threshold. Also great for boosting a squad of something like Terminators or Warp Talons that really need the boost to be viable. The flexibility is just so good. A
  • Excess Of Violence (1 CP). Use this Stratagem in the Fight phase, when you choose an Emperor’s Children Infantry Unit to fight. Any time you destroy an enemy model you may make one additional attack with the same weapon against that unit. The Codex reprint. It’s solid ability for clearing hordes, where it can quickly help you rack up more attacks. Note that this also triggers if a unit of yours dies and then shoots something (and kills it) using the Music of the Apocalypse ability, so you can create some fun situations where you chew through units and then, when killed, you pop off 3 shots and if one of those kills a model, you can get another shot (and shoot at things outside your combat). Note that, post-FAQ, this will only work for models killed that aren’t within 1″ of an enemy model when they die, so feel free to get creative with your wound allocations in order to make your opponent pay for causing you harm with more than a bolt pistol shot. B+
  • Incessant Disdain (1 CP). Use this at the end of your opponent’s charge phase. Select one Emperor’s Children’s character and give them a 6” Heroic Intervention. Most move towards enemy Character models OR the nearest enemy model. Very useful for creating surprise Interventions, and forces your opponent to play around some very tricky situations if they don’t want to catch a facefull of Daemon Prince when charging into your screening lines. B+
  • Honour The Prince (1 CP). Use this AFTER making a charge roll for an Emperor’s Children Slaanesh unit from your army. Change the result of 1 D6 to a 6. As we mentioned above, this is an absolute pearl of a stratagem. With this it’s a mere re-rollable 3+ roll to get deep strikers in and critically you can use it after you have rolled, meaning as long as you don’t roll snake eyes your slam lord is going in hot. A+
  • Excruciating Frequencies (1 CP). When you select an Emperor’s Children Noise Marine unit to shoot with, use this stratagem to give them +1 S and +1 Damage on Blastmasters, Sonic Blasters and Doom Sirens to the end of the phase. This is exactly what Noise Marines needed as a boost. Getting S5 D2 sonic blasters ignoring cover and firing 3 shots on the move is great, and the Blastmaster loves this just as much. Combined with Endless Cacophony this does a lot to make Noise Marine Troops viable, and benefits you more for taking larger squads. A+
  • Cruel Duellists (1 CP). Use when you pick an Emperor’s Children unit (no cultists/vehicles) to fight with in the fight phase. Any unmodified 6s to wound will kick up your models to AP-3 for that attack. Solid for a unit of something like Raptors or Terminators where you might have a solid volume of attacks but low strength or AP because of how they’re outfitted. Shame it doesn’t combo with Veterans of the Long War. B
  • Tactical Perfection (1 CP). Before the first turn begins, select one Emperor’s Children unit and redeploy it to a new position, following the deployment rules for the mission being played. If it’s a transport with models inside they too get redeployed as well. Solid ability, and priced to move. You won’t use it all the time, but at least it’s not giving you a bonus to fighting a chapter from Istvaan. Though then again, having a bonus to fight Iron Hands right now wouldn’t be *that* bad. B+

Psychic Powers and Prayers

Sorcerers with the Mark of Slaanesh have access to the Delightful Agonies psychic power. The Dark Hereticus version can only target SLAANESH HERETIC ASTARTES units and is more difficult to cast (WC 6) than its Daemons counterpart, but has a better bonus (5+ to ignore wounds instead of 6+). It’s a very solid power and great for putting on large units of Cultists or Bikers that lack strong defenses and might eat a bunch of AP-1 firepower. Slaanesh Sorcerers also love the Prescience power for its ability to give +1 to hit with ranged attacks for a shooting phase, in no small part due to how it combos with Endless Cacophony to create very powerful shooting phases. Warptime is also huge for Sorcerers of Slaanesh who want to help push melee threats like Lords Discordant and Daemon Princes into early charges.

Dark Apostles also factor into the equation here, where Warp-Sight Plea can give a unit +1 to hit as well and Soultearer Portent gives +1 to wound rolls that can combine with Locus of Grace if you’re trying to build the most insane Possessed bomb you can think of. Every Dark Apostle devoted to Slaanesh also knows the Blissful Devotion prayer, which allows the Apostle to Advance and Charge in the same turn. The Apostle’s not exactly a world-beater in melee, but this can be handy in a pinch if you need to double-time it to counter-charge something. And it’s free with your mark, so it’s more like an added bonus.

Relics

There are two core Relics available to all Slaanesh-marked Chaos Space Marines units:

  • Intoxicating Elixir. Gives a SLAANESH model +1 to its Strength and Attacks. Straight upgrade to any character you slap it on, especially Daemon Princes, Lord Discordants and Smash Lords. Lords Discordant in particular enjoy having 9 Strength on the Charge and 8 afterward, and the extra Attack is especially meaningful when it can also proc additional attacks thanks to the Flawless Host Trait and Warlord Trait. A
  • Thaa’ris and Rhi’ol, the Rapacious Talons. A Daemon weapon for SLAANESH models that replace a pair of Lightning Claws or Malefic Talons with a set that are Strength User, AP-2, 2 Damage and can re-roll wounds. Plus when you roll for the Daemon Weapon ability, on a 2+ you get that many additional attacks, so 3-4 on average. This is a major upgrade over Lightning Claws on a Chaos Lord and a moderate improvement on a Daemon Prince. Worth considering if you’re bringing either. This combos very well with the Excess of Violence Stratagem, where you can really put in work clearing out hordes with a large number of attacks. B

The Emperor’s Children get a solid list of relics to call their own, with most of their options supporting the strategy of “make some insane melee characters who will be absolute buzzsaws,” though Remnant of the Maraviglia is cool for supporting a longer-ranged shooting strategy with multiple units.

  • Blissgiver. Replaces a Bolt Pistol with one that’s 6″ range, Assault D6, Strength:User, AP-1, 1 damage, can be fired within 1″ of an enemy like a pistol, and can target enemies within 1″ of a friendly. Every time it wounds but doesn’t kill a Character, roll a D6 at the end of the phase and on a 6 they take D3 mortal wounds. Still just… fine, but lacking anywhere you’d really wanna put it. There’s better relics fighting for a slot. C-
  • The Endless Grin. Enemy units get -1 to their Leadership and roll an additional dice, dropping the one of your choice when they take Morale tests within 6” of the model with this relic. Choosing the die is interesting for when you’re up against daemons, but otherwise this is another worthless Leadership-modifying ability. D
  • Fatal Sonancy. This is a weapon with 12” range, Assault D6, S6, AP-2, 1 Damage that hits automatically and ignores cover. So a nasty flamer in other words. Interesting because it doesn’t replace an existing weapon, acting like an upgraded Doom Siren. Neat for giving your Warlord a little extra short-range damage output, but the range is probably too short and the damage too low to make this worth taking.  C
  • Armour of Abhorrence. Enemy units can not fire Overwatch at a model with this relic and if they fail a morale test within 6” of a model with this relic, an additional model flees. The morale ability is whatever, but turning off Overwatch is really good, particularly when you’re going up against Iron Hands that hit on 5s or Tau that can hit on 5s and fire with multiple units. In a meta filled with both this can prove a decisive pick.. A
  • Remnant of the Maraviglia. Priest model only. Once per battle instead of chanting and prayer, the model can broadcast the Remnant. For the rest of the battle round, reroll wound rolls within 6” of the model with the relic. This is great for Chaos, who don’t get access to Lieutenants, and something you’re always going to combine with the Endless Cacophony and Veterans of the Long War Stratagems to have an insane round of Shooting. A
  • Distortion. Replaces a Power or Force Sword, S user, AP -4, D3 Damage and you can opt at the start of the fight phase to gain -1 to hit and S x2 if you wish, turning it into an AP-4 power fist. Pretty nasty, and the dual mode gives it a lot of utility. B
  • Raiment Revulsive. A model with this relic can re-roll all charge, hit and wound rolls. All of them. Holy moly shitballs give this to a Loathsome Grace Chaos Lord with a thunder hammer and jump pack and you are in for a whale of a time. Spend a whopping 1cp for Honour The Prince and you will make sure he gets into combat almost every time. If you want to make the best murderlord possible, this is where you start. A+

The Flawless Host get a relic of their own as well.

  • Flawless Cloak. Gives the bearer +1 Attack and increases the range of their auras by 3″. It’s OK, but the big issue is that the generic Chaos Space Marine character auras just aren’t that great, so this is mostly just giving you +1 Attack, making it worse than the Intoxicating Elixir. C

 

The Pure Chaos Space Marines by Tyler “Coda” Moore

Specialist Detachments

The Vigilus Ablaze campaign book introduced four Specialist Detachments we’re particularly interested in for Slaanesh-aligned Chaos Space Marine detachments.

  • Host Raptorial. Works with JUMP PACK units and gives access to the Vicious Descent and Terror Strike stratagems. Vicious Descent gives a HOST RAPTORIAL unit re-rolls on all hits the turn it arrives from Reserves, which is a good deal for Warp Talons coming in to eat Overwatch. The best part of the Detachment however is the Field Commander Warlord Trait, The Tip of the Claw, which gives friendly HOST RAPTORIAL units within 6″ of the warlord +2 to their charge rolls, allowing those units to make 7″ charges when arriving from Reserves.
  • Damonkin Ritualists. A Specialist Detachment focused on Possessed. Also includes Dark Apostles and Masters of Possession. The Warlord Trait here is the real payoff – a 6″ aura that causes mortal wounds for DAEMONKIN RITUALISTS rolling unmodified 6s to wound with melee weapons. Also gives you the Vessel of the Neverborn stratagem to give Daemonkin Ritualists within 6″ of a Master of Possession +1 Strength and Attacks for a single phase, but requires you take a Master of Possession to do it.
  • Soulforged Pack. The preferred detachment for Flawless Host Lords Discordant because it gives them access to the Infernal Engines stratagem that allows them to Advance and Charge in the same turn. Though note that you won’t need this if you have the Locus of Swiftness benefit in place from a pure Slaanesh detachment.
  • Devastation Battery. A specialist detachment benefitting Havocs and Obliterators. Gives you access to the Armourbane Field Commander Warlord trait, which gives Devastation Battery units re-rolls on to wound rolls of 1 against vehicles (very solid), and the Punishing Volley Stratagem, which for 1 CP lets you shoot a Devastation Battery unit at the end of your opponent’s first Movement phase if you didn’t have the first turn. A nasty trick for Obliterators or Havocs to use.

 

Tips and Tricks

We’ve covered a lot of these already, but there are a few things to go over when it comes to putting this all together on the battlefield:

  • Stack effects with Endless Cacophony. We’ve mentioned this a bunch but it bears repeating. Endless Cacophony doesn’t just let you shoot twice, it allows you to get double the benefits of your Stratagems, prayers, psychic powers, and auras by applying their effects to two separate rounds of shooting. Pay attention to when and where you use stratagems like Veterans of the Long War and Excrutiating Frequencies so you can combine it with Endless Cacophony to get the most bng for your buck.
  • Pay attention to where auras and other abilities offer cross-faction synergy. There are a host of auras and abilities that work across both the Chaos Daemons and Chaos Space Marines factions, such as the Chaos Space Marine Daemon Prince’s re-roll 1s aura or the many Locus auras that Chaos Daemons get. Note that most of these are on the Daemons side — many Chaos Space Marine abilities and auras only work on <LEGION> Daemons or HERETIC ASTARTES units, while most of the Daemon auras and powers work on any SLAANESH DAEMON units. understanding how these overlap will help you get the most out of units like Possessed and Warp Talons.
  • Have a plan for protecting your units. Both your Slaanesh Daemons and Chaos Space Marines tend to be very fragile, and will need protection. Often that will mean either hiding them effectively or keeping them locked in combat and using tricks like the Contorted Epitome or Fiends to trap units in combat. Have a plan for keeping your units healthy and ready to administer pain (and pleasure) in equal measure.
  • Be active in every phase of the game. Unless you’re running pure Slaanesh Daemons (which we’ll talk about below), a Slaanesh Chaos Marines or mixed CSM/Daemons army will have something to do in every phase, with lots of movement, good psychic powers, strong shooting, and terrifying melee units. It’ll take work to plan and coordinate, but you’ll want to make sure you’re active in every phase.
  • Mind your CP. Slaanesh-devoted Chaos Space Marines, particularly the Emperor’s Children, are a very thirsty army, particularly when we start talking about CP usage. There are a ton of different tricks you can pull with them, but they all cost enough CP that you aren’t going to be able to do all of them in the same game, especially once you start spending CP on things like re-rolls and Prepared Positions. Have a plan for how you’re going to use your CP and focus on the 1 or 2 tricks that will really take advantage of your army’s resources.

 

Credit: Svbfloorvg

Some Lists

Faith and Fury came out, followed shortly after by Chapter Approved 2019, and then the holiday season hit and no one played in any events, making it difficult to analyze the meta and understand the true impact of these rules. What we can do however is look at some recent list incorporating Slaanesh elements, and talk about how they’ve changed.

Asa Carlson’s Slaanesh Daemons List

This list, which Asa piloted to 3rd place at the Renegade Open event late last year, runs monofaction Slaaneshi Daemons to great effect. It’s got some nasty disruption in the form of the two units of Fiends, as well as the ability to lock down enemy units, trapping them in melee combat with the Fiends and the Contorted Epitome. Asa’s got three Keepers of Secrets plus Shalaxi Helbane to run up the board, acting in a similar fashion to Lords Discordant in the marine build, and the Fiends and Contorted Epitome help tie units up in combat once they arrive. And because it’s monofaction Slaanesh, every Character in the army can advance and charge in the same turn, giving them some amazing threat ranges. You’ve got 12 CP to work with after you buy the Rapturous Standard for your Seekers, and the Daemonettes can sit on objectives while the rest of the army goes to work.

When Chapter Approved hit, almost every model in the list got cheaper, and today this list is only 1,741 points. That’s a huge drop, and gives the list a ton to work with for next time. 

Asa Carlson's Slaanesh Daemons List - Click to Expand

++ Supreme Command Detachment +1CP (Chaos – Daemons) [39 PL, 750pts] ++ + No Force Org Slot +
Chaos Allegiance: Slaanesh

+ HQ +
Keeper of Secrets [13 PL, 250pts]: Delightful Agonies, Shining aegis, Symphony of Pain, Warlord
Keeper of Secrets [13 PL, 250pts]: Shining aegis
Keeper of Secrets [13 PL, 250pts]: Shining aegis

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Daemons) [72 PL, 1,250pts] ++
Chaos Allegiance: Slaanesh

+ HQ +
Shalaxi Helbane [14 PL, 270pts]: Shining aegis
The Contorted Epitome [10 PL, 195pts]: Hysterical Frenzy, Phantasmagoria, The Forbidden Gem

+ Troops +
Daemonettes [8 PL, 88pts]: Alluress, 12x Daemonette, Instrument of Chaos
Daemonettes [4 PL, 60pts]: Alluress, 9x Daemonette
Daemonettes [4 PL, 60pts]: Alluress, 9x Daemonette

+ Elites +
Fiends [6 PL, 126pts]: Blissbringer, 2x Fiend
Fiends [6 PL, 126pts]: Blissbringer, 2x Fiend

+ Fast Attack +
Seekers [20 PL, 325pts]: Daemonic Icon, Heartseeker, Instrument of Chaos, 19x Seeker

 

Richard Cozart’s Slaanesh-Heavy Chaos Soup

This Chaos Soup list, which Richard Cozart piloted to a first place finish at Slaughter Fest in July 2019, relies heavily on Slaanesh-devoted units, including a large squad of Black Legion bikers who use the Endless Cacophony Stratagem to shoot twice, three Flawless Host Lords Discordant to make early charges using the Master of the Soulforges stratagem. The list also runs a heavy presence of Damonettes, with a full-size squad backed by the Masque. The rest of the list is backed up by a mix of good stuff, with cultists to screen, a Dark Matter Crystal Daemon Prince to mix it up in combat and teleport around the Tzaangors, and Ahriman to throw out a ton of psychic pain. The Blightspawn is a fun surprise here as well, and an excellent way to keep the skies clear should you run into lots of flyers that your Bikers may struggle to shoot down.

This list took a hit with the changes in Chapter Approved 2019, where the points increases to the Winged Daemon Prince of Tzeentch, the Masque, and the Tzaangors weren’t quite offset by the drop in points cost for the Cultists. As a result, this list currently clocks in at 2,021 points. The list can easily be shaved to fit by cutting 3 Tzaangors (24 points), or a pair of Tzaangors and a Daemonette (22 points) without losing too much.

Richard Cozart's Chaos List - Click to Expand

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – MIXED HERETIC ASTARTES) [47 PL, 8CP, 923pts] ++
Legion: MIXED LEGIONS

+ HQ [16 PL, 311pts] +
Ahriman [7 PL, 131pts] Daemon Prince of Tzeentch THOUSAND SONS[9 PL, 180pts]: 6. High Magister, Dark Matter Crystal, Malefic talon [10pts], Warlord, Wings [1 PL, 24pts]

+ Troops [16 PL, 285pts] +
Chaos Cultists WORLD EATERS [3 PL, 50pts]: Mark of Khorne . 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion [5pts]: Autogun
Chaos Cultists WORLD EATERS [3 PL, 50pts]: Mark of Khorne . 9x Chaos Cultist w/ Autogun, Cultist Champion [5pts]: Autogun
Tzaangors THOUSAND SONS [10 PL, 195pts]: Brayhorn [10pts] INSTRUMENT OF CHAOS [10pts] . Twistbray [7pts]: Tzaangor blades, 24x Tzaangor w/ Tzaangor Blades [168pts]

+ Elites [4 PL, 77pts] +
Foul Blightspawn DEATH GUARD[4 PL, 77pts]

+ Fast Attack [11 PL, 250pts] +
Bikers BLACK LEGION [11 PL, 250pts]: Mark of Slaanesh, 2x Biker w/ Chainsword, Combi-bolter [2pts], Meltagun [14pts], 6x Biker w/ Chainsword, Combi-bolter [2pts], Biker Champion [38pts]: Combi-bolter [2pts], Combi-melta [15pts]

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Chaos – Daemons) [34 PL, 5CP, 585pts] ++
Chaos Allegiance: Slaanesh

+ HQ [14 PL, 260pts] +
The Contorted Epitome [10 PL, 195pts] The Masque of Slaanesh [4 PL, 65pts]

+ Troops [20 PL, 325pts] +
Daemonettes [12 PL, 205pts]: Alluress [6pts], 29x Daemonette [174pts], Daemonic Icon [15pts], Instrument of Chaos [10pts] Daemonettes [4 PL, 60pts]: Alluress [6pts], 9x Daemonette [54pts] Daemonettes [4 PL, 60pts]: Alluress [6pts], 9x Daemonette [54pts]

++ Supreme Command Detachment (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [27 PL, -1CP, 480pts] ++
Legion: The Flawless Host
Specialist Detachment [-1CP]: Soulforged Pack [-1CP]

+ HQ [27 PL, 480pts] +
Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon [10pts], Mark of Slaanesh, Master of the Soulforges, Helstalker: Techno-virus injector
Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon [10pts], Mark of Slaanesh, Helstalker: Techno-virus injector
Lord Discordant on Helstalker [9 PL, 160pts]: Autocannon [10pts], Mark of Slaanesh, Helstalker: Techno-virus injector

++ Total: [108 PL, 12CP, 1,998pts] ++

 

Putting This to Use

By now you should have everything you need to start building lists and testing out concepts of the table. Hopefully we’ve given you a solid rundown of your options and how you can build Slaanesh-devoted armies that really do some damage, using the faction’s unique blend of fast movement, powerful melee, and shooting to disrupt opponents early and often. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or tips and tricks of your own, feel free to drop us a note in the comments below, or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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