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Default What to Do Mk. II (Or, Tactica: 6e CSM in 7e)

Welcome, welcome. I am here to teach you...

What to Do with this Soggy Mess Mk. II (Or, Tactica: 6e CSM in 7e)


For my 3000th post... time to start posting the updated second edition of this tactica. I will aim for a whole large block of text the first 2 days, until I get through my old material, then will be posting as I write new sections. Hopefully going over all of this will get me inspired to finish off those more "tactics" and less "unit overview" segments I never quite got around to in the first version of this thread, so I'll aim for one segment a day. The old thread, with lots of good discussion, can be found here.

Do bear in mind that the tacticas by other forumites that I link to as "other resources" throughout the thread are almost universally from 6th edition (6e, vs 7e, as the thread will call them), so may be mildly out of date.


Table of Contents:

(note that the bottom posts linked here are incomplete. As I write more, those segments of the tactica will be added. And yes, the first link is supposed to lead back to this post)

- Introduction
- Wargear
- Codex or Supplement?
- HQ: Special Characters
- HQ: Normal Characters


- Troops
- Elites: Cult Troops
- Elites: Everything Else
- Fast Attack


- Heavy Support
- From Hel's Heart
- Allied Daemons
- Other Allies
- CSM as Allies


(generously provided by @mayegelt )
- Lords of War
- Forge World Tanks & Monsters
- Forge World Characters


- Flyers and Anti-Air
- Fighting Against CSM
- Y/N: Dark Vengeance?
- Collecting Your Army
- Building Army Lists
- Conclusion



Welcome to the Jungle

This is a comprehensive review of the 6th edition Codex: Chaos Space Marines in 7e, wherein I intend to discuss not only the strengths and weaknesses of various units in the Codex, but also how they work together. I will discuss aspects of list-building with the codex and the codex's possible allies, wringing this sorry scrap of cardboard for all the synergy it's got. I will be including posts on such additional material that can be used as the supplementary codexes, dataslates, and formations that CSM have available to themselves.

This guide will be primarily competitive, though it does intend to branch out into fun gaming options as well, though to a lesser degree.

I've started things off here with the following foreword to give the reader a sense of where Chaos is at, right now.


Cruel Gods

First, a hearing of the grievances we CSM players bear and a warning that things aren't all sunshine and daisies here in the Eye of Terror. In the grim darkness of the present, there are only war-games and the cruel laughter of thirsting gods. Those gods? GW's design team.

The fundamental flaws of CSM in 6e were not addressed by this codex, and that has carried over into 7e. We are still a close combat leaning codex that is stuck with shoddy, over-expensive Land Raiders and assault-crippling Rhinos; we rely on highly expensive specialist units that are often little harder to kill than normal MEQ; transports are capped at carrying 10 models so forget adding in an independent character to most units, when you need that 10th model for 2 special weapons; we must pay a ruinous number of points to mount even a semblance of reliable AA; etc...

Get used to removing many hundreds of points per enemy shooting phase, while killing relatively little by way of return until the later turns--if enough of your army hits home. I don't want to scare you off--but nor do I want to sucker you in with false promises.

What has Chaos got going for it? Artifacts like the Axe of Blind Fury, Balestar of Mammon, The Black Mace, and Daemonheart allow you to build some obscene melee monsters. The Heldrake is one of the hardest fliers to kill in the game right now and puts out a very respectable amount of Anti-MEQ firepower (even after their FAQ), and Bikers are a very solid unit. Cultists offer cheap units to act as a Battle-Forged tax, if you are so inclined. Cult troops are by no means terrible, either. Plague Marines are tough as nails and quite versatile, and the FAQs have treated Noise Marines with a great deal of kindness.

Huron Blackheart offers fun, reliable infiltration to help close the distance to the enemy. There are some truly nasty HQs you can build and buy, and though they come at a premium, they will wreck nearly any unit in the game--a Khorne Lord on a Bike with the AoBF, a Daemon Prince with the Black Mace, Abaddon, Khârn, Typhus...


You Will Not Be King

In the end, after a year or so of letting it all settle in, I'm left with the following conclusion: we were given a solidly mediocre codex with a few nuggets of gold that give us a fighting chance at winning reliably often. The advent of so many expansions to the Codex gives you quite a few new viable ways to play. The top tier competitive armies of Tau and Eldar will still give you a run for your money, mind you. Winning won't be easy, so don't trade in your list-building skills for a set of cookie cutters just yet—especially after the 7e nerfs to the Heldrake.


Ask Not For Whom the Dice Roll, They Roll For Thee

With that, let's start looking at actual wargear, codexes, units, and gameplay!


+++

WARGEAR:

Let's look at special rules and certain wargear options first, so I can clarify some of my preferences and make arguments for certain load-outs.

Power Weapons

Because chaos character always have to challenge, you really don't want to give them an unwieldy weapon (a power axe or fist) unless you are a tough-as-nails character who is going to be able to take the best that the enemy characters throw at you and laugh in their face. I find that the absolute preponderance of MEQ armies out there make it so that the AP4 Power Maul rarely wins its user a challenge. That leaves us with the humble and reliable power sword--or does it?

Units with, say, the MoK and/or Hammer of Wrath might be so reliant on crippling the enemy on the first turn that the power lance is actually worth it. Give the champion the lance, and they'll be a monster the first round of combat. By way of example, a Khornate biker champion can fire a twin-linked bolter, then charge for Hammer of Wrath, then get 5 AP3 S6 attacks (with an IoW in the unit). Nasty!

The other competitor against the power sword is the lightning claw. You get one less attack with a lone claw than a power sword, true, but rerolling wounds is invaluable when the dice are going against you in that pivotal combat. How does the mathammer break down? Well, against a MEQ opponent, you're going to average about as many wounds in a stagnant combat. If you get the charge (as you intend), the lightning claw pulls ahead. Against high toughness opponents and monstrous creatures, the claw pulls ahead again, nearly doubling your chances of wounding. Only against lower toughness opponents does the claw fall behind the power sword in terms of wounds caused per average combat--and really, against lower toughness opponents, more often than not your squad isn't going to have much trouble winning the combat.

Finally: do your champions really need to spend the points on an expensive power weapon? If your unit is focused on shooting, for instance, you don't want to spend those points you shouldn't need. Would a power weapon just be gratuitous overkill, inefficiently spent points in an already-deadly unit?

Some champions already come with useful weapons--do you want to squander the Plague Champion's plague knife he gets essentially free in order to buy him a fancy weapon…when you've given those plague marines, your objective campers, plasma guns? Do you want to spend a bunch of extra points on your terminator champion to give him a lightning claw when you can already give him a power axe (that he'll likely live long enough to swing) for free?

Much of this advice holds true to force weapons--but they can't get lances or claws, so there go my favorite choices. If the character is very tough (a sorc in terminator armor, for instance), sure, go with the force axe. Otherwise, stick to the force sword.

Consider what role the unit has, and whether a power weapon is really necessary. Then, usually, go with a lightning claw. Sometimes, go with a power lance if the situation calls for it. Really, though, go with the weapon the unit calls for, the list requires, and the points available allow for. Remember that three power weapons cost nearly as much as 10 cultists--a whole other objective claiming unit.


Fisticlaws

One particularly nasty combo available to the CSM codex is the ability to buy a power fist and a lightning claw. Both are specialist weapons, so the character gets their bonus attack back, and they can chose at their leisure between tearing apart MEQ or lighter with a blizzard of claw attacks and tearing TEQ or tanks apart with comfortable ease.

Unfortunately, fisticlaws often run second fiddle to giving a character one of the better chaos artifacts (ie the AoBF or the BBoS--nearly all your HQ should ever need), and is a decent pile of points. Still, it's a reliable combo, if the randomness of a daemon weapon doesn't appeal to you.


Icons

The downside of Icons is that they can be sniped out of the unit--a carefully positioned land speeder or flyer, a Vindicare assassin… these things are hard to defend against, while also keeping the icon bearer out of harm's way from the enemy gunline.

Icon of Vengeance - very expensive. Fearless is all well and good… but if you want a fearless unit, shouldn't you be sticking a Lord in the squad to make it Fearless or be taking a cult troop? Some minor utility in a themed Night Lords list, or something.

Icon of Fiery Flamey Stuff - Soul Blaze is terrible. Spend points for a 50% chance at 2-4 bolter shots next turn? Just don't bother. Buy two meltabombs for your champions instead.

Icon of Despairy Doomy Stuff - Fear is similarly useless. Except in a very specialized list as allies to Imperial Guard, I have yet to see a worthwhile usage. This icon is made especially laughable given that the Crimson Slaughter supplement (and the entire Daemons codex) gets Fear for free.

Icon of Angry Wrathful Stuff - This one is nice. Decently costly, but boosts the squad a good deal, and gives you a reroll on charge range that will save your rump more times than you can credit it.

Icon of Ecstatic Excessive Stuff - Another nice one, but the most expensive. Giving FNP to the squad is always nice, though, and will improve survivability markedly. If you have the points to spare and if the squad is large enough to justify the number of points per model you'll spend on this Icon (dividing it all up), go for it!


Veterans of the Long War

I... don't bother with this one. I can't guarantee that I'll be playing against a Space Marine player, so most often, it will end up as nothing more than wasted points. Well, the marginal Ld increase sometimes helps—if you have a few spare points, on some Havocs or Oblits, perhaps, so they don't flee from the field in terror after losing a few models—but most of the time I don't even bother. I'd rather have another meltabomb than to give my Havocs VotLW, to be honest.


Rhino

As much as I gripe about it, it's a turn of protection against your enemies and additional mobility. Its saving grace is the dirge caster; never leave home without one, if you're bringing the Rhino in the first place. I don't buy dozer blades or havoc launchers too often, but different strokes for different folks and they have their specific applications. Havoc launchers can complement a sit-back-and-shoot gunline list pretty well.


Psychic Disciplines

The God-specific tables are underwhelming, though the Slaaneshi ability to boost sonic weapons can synergize with Noise Marines, and the Nurgle Weapon Virus/random debuff are decent. It might be fun to build a deathstar of some sort around a Dark Apostle's boon rerolls and Boon of Mutation, but that's a fluffy rules quirk, not a competitive choice. The primaris focuses, which your psykers will be getting for free thanks to 7e, are decent witchfires, but at the same time, you have to generate (not “take the focus,” sorry peeps) one of the god-specific powers as one of your ML rolls, so that means no non-Chaotic focus unless you have an unmarked Sorc. Sorry. Yeah, I know, Daemons can get 2 focus primarises, life ain't fair, boohoo. Deal with it.

Otherwise, Daemon Princes should basically go Biomancy (for the survivability buffs like Eternal Warrior from Endurance and +3T from Iron Arm), and Sorcs should basically go Telepathy (for the survivability buffs like Invisibility and Shouding), as I see it. Exceptions: Be'lakor the Daemon Prince who knows all Telepathy, a Crimson Slaughter Sorc with Balestar for Divination. You can take different disciplines with different types of psyker, sure, play around to your heart's content, but those are the ones that I've more or less settled upon in my playing. You can always build a Force Staff Sorc who tries to get Iron Arm and become a melee monster, or something, though, so you are of course free to do as you please.

One noteworthy alternative is the idea of a Daemon Prince (or two) with Malefic Daemonology and a spell familiar, so it can reroll those WC3 powers if it fails/perilses. As a Daemon, it'll only perils on 6s, but at the same time, it has access to the spell familiar, which Codex: Daemons DPs don't, for the reliability inherent in that reroll. This is slightly downgraded by the fact the Daemon has to generate a power from its god spell table, and so can't get the Daemonology focus/primaris, but... ah well.


+++

CODEX OR SUPPLEMENT?

When it comes to each codex or supplement, their strengths and weaknesses largely lie in the Artefacts section: what special gear does this particular brand of Chaoticism offer? Warlord Traits and innate bonuses/requirements also come into play, but less so than the big “how you kit your nasty killmonsters” side of things.

At present, you have 3 options: Vanilla (that is to say, standard) Chaos Space Marines; The Black Legion; and The Crimson Slaughter.


Vanilla Chaos Space Marines

So you've bought the Codex, but who wants to pay a bunch extra for a single page of alternate rules? Now, I would never advocate that you go out and obtain the supplements through illegal means (...since I don't want to be held liable for your actions), so you are left wondering: can the CSM book stand on its own?

The short of it: yes.

Slightly longer: CSM have the access to some of the coolest Daemon Weapons, and while their Warlord Traits have as many duds as cool parts, you can take special characters with most of the cool traits. CSM do perfectly fine on their own, though they lack some of the flexibility and badass options of the other 'dexes.


Artefacts

Dimensional Key - Not worth it. You'll only unlock it after most of your deep striking units have come in, so don't bother buying it. The AOE difficult/dangerous terrain sounds like it could be a decent ally into the Necron Orikan/Writhing Worldscape combo, or as a counter-assault deterrent, but apart from that, I really don't think it justifies the cost…

Burning Brand of Skalathrax - because Doom Sirens and Baleflamers weren't enough AP3 flamers. Great. The moderate strength is occasionally a trifle annoying, but the excellent range and AP make complaining about the first point like complaining that your triple-decker chocolate birthday cake doesn't have strawberries on top.

Axe of Blind Fury - Killiness in a can; take it out when you need to fill a crater with blood and corpses. Not as worth it on a Daemon Prince, who already has AP2, but the stuff of wonders on a Khornate Lord on a juggernaut. The army list entry practically writes itself…

The Murder Sword - a very expensive power sword in nearly all cases, this one is under-impressive. If your character is highly mobile, you might be able to chase down the enemy character, and by all reports, seeing Mephiston or an Avatar of Khaine timidly tiptoeing around the edge of your character's threat radius is a heart-warming sight.

The Black Mace - very expensive, and only AP4. That nearly sinks it from the competitive scene by itself, but it can be great fun on a Daemon Prince, whose Smash ability gives him AP2 and whose larger base size gives you a larger Aura of Doom(!). I definitely find that seeing whole swathes of the center of the enemy battle line disappearing beneath the Aura of Doom(!) is eminently satisfying.

The Scrolls of Magnus – No. Never.


Warlord Traits

1 – A bubble of Preferred Enemy can be useful, but the fact that it's only against loyalist Sms (not even Armies of the Imperium) really limits the usefulness of this trait, from a min-maxing perspective.
2 – Soul Blaze? Really? Really? ...naaah.
3 – Ah, Master of Deception. Thankfully, Ahriman and Huron get this automatically. The “infantry” specification in which D3 units you can infiltrate is annoying, but, still, this is a trait that I have built lists and lists around. Especially since I can get it reliably.
4 – Hatred is nice. Very nice. Especially on some of the melee slaughterbeasts that you can build. And for his retinue.
5 – Fear? Yeuuch. Worse than Soul Blaze.
6 – Reroll Boons? Sure, I don't mind being able to avoid Spawnhood.

Half the traits are almost always useful (2/3 against a loyalist SM army), so you should probably be able to get one of the good ones with a Battle-forged reroll. Of course, you might get stuck with the junk half of the chart, so it's (almost) always worth considering rolling on the Strategic traits instead...

The Black Legion

The Black Legion faces, in my mind, a somewhat steep buy-in fee: the fact that every unit that can take VotLW must take VotLW. I've already made my opinion on the matter clear, but that's especially a waste on certain Fearless cult troops or Lords or Ld 10 Sorcerers, etc, for whom the Ld buff doesn't matter in the slightest—and who often pay a steeper price for the privilege. This can be worked around by buying units that can't buy VotLW (vehicles, cultists) or ones that already have it (Special Characters, Daemon Princes, Thousand Sons), but... as a whole, it can be a mild annoyance.

Still, it has some interesting quirks. I don't think Chosen as Troops are too noteworthy, given how expensive Chosen are (especially after VotLW) and that they die just as easily as normal CSM, but I suppose it could be a good way to spam bunches and bunches of plasma, or something.


Artefacts

Spineshiver Blade – AP3 isn't quite as low as I'd like, but otherwise the +Initiative and Daemon Weapon should let the bearer cleave through a whole bunch of fools. Kind useful on a Daemon Prince, whose incredible Initiative isn't benefited much but who does lower it to AP2—and still gets the bonus D6 attacks. On a simple Lord, somewhat less useful, given that he won't be able to kill Termis, artificer armor, Riptides/Dreadknights, Oblits, Centurions... whatever 2+ saves you can clog him up with. Nonetheless, he'll kill 90% of what the game can throw at him (ok, less, once you count the vehicles and flyers he can't scratch, but that's neither here nor there). All in all... strengths and weaknesses. I could justify the points, probably, but would rather have a vanilla Axe of Blind Fury.

Crucible of Lies – Um, ew. I don't want lasguns wounding my guy on a 4+. Ok, unit majority toughness will often save him, and on a MoT+SoC giving a 3+ invuln, this is nearly as good as a 2+ invuln. But... not quite. Not worth the points, I say.

Last Memory of Yuranthos – given the 7e way Psychic Tests are made, this becomes less tempting than it was—the chance to instagib yourself while trying for a WC 3 version of the power is too high. This can be counter-balanced with a Spell Familiar, but it's still dangerous. I could see this being fun to throw on a Daemon Prince with a Spell Familiar, then swooping into the heart of an enemy infantry army and letting rip, but... I still don't know if that justifies the danger. A gamble, no matter how you look at it.

Eye of Night – A one-use-only S5 AP4 large blast template for the cost of a naked Predator? Hmmm.... ok, yeah, it does D3 pens on any vehicle it hits, right. Given the fact that it's AP4 and 7e's damage table, a one-use-only shot at D3 penetrating hits is looking less tempting. I mean, you could still immobilize/stun the enemy Land Raider on T1, but it's a bit less brutal now that you can't explode enemies with it. It will struggle to make back its points more, now that it's in 7e.

Skull of Ker'ngar – that is a lot of points for Eternal Warrior and Adamantium Will. I mean, sure, those are situationally very useful abilities, but... I wish I could get a Storm Shield with that or something. Still, if it saves you from a Wraithknight Iding you at S10, it will have paid off its points. *continues to grumble about The Shield Eternal*

The (Left) Hand of Darkness – an excellent book. I highly recommend it. It really makes you come to grips with your innate sexal prejudices by imagining a society without biological sex, thus wiping out traditional gender roles entirely. It's really quite thought-provok—waaaaait, no, this is the artifact. I, um, mean You know how Smash works? Basically that super-charged. I mean, Armorbane, Fleshbane, 2x S, Instant Death... provided that your opponent doesn't have Eternal Warrior, they fail their invuln, and that you actually hit them, you're going to knock their block off. Or have a good chance at Exploding them. So: I hope you cast Prescience on this guy, or have Hatred, or something, since rolling that “2” to hit is going to be real painful, if you passed up on a squad of Cultists to sacrifice all your attacks for this. Still, makes the bearer great at pretty reliably sucker-punching Wraithknights and Great Unclean Ones.


Warlord Traits

1 – Hey, what was that about a Preferred Enemy bubble for Space Marines? See previous Warlord Trait table for my thoughts. I guess they had to rightfully include this Trait on the codex for Abaddon.
2 – Rerolling Boons, wahey! Good fun.
3 – A... one-use-only Soul Blaze flamer? Yuuuck.
4 – IWND is decent. Not as game-impacting as some of the larger traits on other tables, by any means, but it lets your Warlord tank a bit more.
5 – ID on 6s to Wound? ...well, let's just say I hope you didn't shell out the points for the Hand of Darkness on your Warlord if you roll this one.
6 – Warlord and units within 12” have Stubborn? I could see this being most useful allied to Daemons, so their Daemonic Instability is a lot less painful. But you can't reliably roll this, so you can't build a list around that. In an army that should be winning most combats, and that should be higher LD than usual anyways (thanks to VotLW), this one will be pretty situational. I could see it being used to hold Cultist tarpits in place against big enemy nasties, certainly.

Overall, a kinda mediocre table. I'd rather roll on a Rulebook table, probably.


The Crimson Slaughter

These guys get free Fear? Warp, if you don't have an army list built around getting the Burning Brand or the Black Mace, you might as well just take this as your primary detachment for free Fear all over the place.

Draznicht's Ravagers are an odd quirk that don't really fit anywhere else. I feel like they were added purely because of the way that Chosen Champion in Dark Vengeance was modeled—but I don't object, because Chosen with 5 plasma guns rerolling their Gets Hot misses against all opponents is freaking awesome. If I'm fielding Crimson Slaughter, I'll almost always include myself a block of Plasma Chosen, thanks to this guy.

Possessed as Troops are an... interesting choice. Especially given the replaced random table. I get that they're trying to make Possessed a playable, viable choice, but I dunno if they succeeded here. The random table is a bit bemusing—2/3 of the time, these guys aren't going to have a close combat bonus? That you can't rely on getting what you need when you need it (Shrouded when in cover, Beasts the turn before you would assault an opponent, the melee roll any time you are in combat) makes these guys even more of a random gamble. The worst part—as they roll a D3, not even Fateweaver can help them with his D6 rerolls.

I'd honestly probably rather take vanilla CSM Possessed, which is saying something, since though they are fragile and slow, I can plan for that and compensate, so they shine in combat reliably. These guys in the CS 'dex are flukes, whose random nature is very hard to plan around. I get what GW was trying to do, in counterbalancing the fragility, lack of mobility, and keeping them melee beasts... but that doesn't help when you only get a random one of those, no matter which one you might need in your present situation.


Artefacts

Crozius of the Dark Covenant – I don't think you'll see me buying this one. It takes the only thing interesting about the Dark Apostle and turns it into an actual useful bonus—albeit while inflating the price of the Dark Apostle even higher (and replacing his power maul... with a power maul). Possibly useful if you're running him in the middle of several large blocks of CSM or cultists, but otherwise junk.

Blade of the Relentless – I like it. I like it. Just make sure you get a few kills before you throw your Lord up against a 2+ save.

Slaughterer's Horns – Worth considering, as long as you're not running a Khorne Lord. All in all, though, it's just some turn-you-assault bonuses, so I'll forgive you if you pass on it in favor of spending those points somewhere else. A downside is it incentivizes you getting the charge greatly, but then if you have a bike or jump pack, you're probably already going to get Hammer of Wrath, so there are a few wasted points. Would be quite useful on a Terminator armored Lord/Sorc, I imagine, but then you'd have to take a Land Raider as a delivery mechanism to ensure you get the charge... ew.

Balestar of Mannon – the only real way for CSM to get access to Divination, apart from allied Daemons. And it almost doubles as a Spell Familiar (a Spell Familiar lets you reroll any psychic test; the Balestar lets you reroll any failed psychic test—but now in 7e, a Perils is never a failed test), and for only a few points more (and the loss of DTW bonuses), you get Divination. Less vital now that Prescience is WC2 to cast, but still damned awesome.

Daemonheart – Artificer armor plus IWND. A bit expensive, but damned worth it to throw on a Juggerlord or Palanquin-carried Lord, or something, since it stacks with other bonuses, unlike Termi armor.

Prophet of the Voices – Fleet, Fearless, and Daemon are fun, but the whole “Slaves to the Voices and can only join Crimson Slaughter Possessed” is less so, given my earlier-outlined complaint about CS possessed. Still, would be fun to throw on a Sorc who then starts casting Daemonology spells as a Daemon, so has far fewer chances to Perils. He doesn't have to be marked, too, so can get the Daemonology focus, unlike a Daemon Prince who has to break off for a god-specific power when going Daemonology.


Warlord Traits

1 – See, this is the kind of “situational yet still universally applicable” type of trait that I like. Hatred is always useful, but Super-Hatred (Dark Angels) is a nice fluffy bit that will probably almost never be applicable.
2 – An Ld penalty bubble is decent, but an additional -2Ld for Fear Tests (for a cumulative -3) is just nasty, against those armies that don't outright ignore Fear tests.
3 – Rage and Furious Charge, or as I call it, “I hope your Warlord doesn't have the Slaughterer's Horns or isn't a Mark of Khorne Juggerlord in a squad of Bikes with an Icon of Wrath.” The no-shooting-has-to-charge thing could situationally be painful (say, if you have meltas you want to crack a tank with). Kind of meh, but still can be useful.
4 – Crusader. Meh. Makes him a bit more mobile, so I don't object.
5 – A free D6 I10 S3 hits against every enemy in base contact with you? Ooh, that could be especially nice if your warlord is on a 60mm base (say, Juggerlord or Daemon Prince). An interesting quirk that I wouldn't mind having at all.
6 – Shrouded? Hells yes. Survivability is awesome.

All in all, mostly useful. Honestly, it's a pretty tempting spread.


+++

HEADQUARTERS:

Today, we talk about the first, essential building-block of any Chaos Space Marine (henceforth written CSM) army: it's leaders.

The HQ characters in any CSM army are the single most important part of the army. They will shape the rest of your army selection.

CSM characters offer 2 real categories: killiness and strategy. Killiness can be broken down into survivability, close combat capability, ranged capability, and mobility, while strategy is mostly how much you're going to build your list around the character to synergize with it best--though the character's cost comes into play, too.

The HQ choices you make are essential to what sort of army you're going to play. How many points are you going to devote to this category? It would be all too easy to dump up to 700 points into two kitted-out HQs, and that's not even touching on Allies and other detachments. And if you want to do that, more power to you, but just be aware that it cuts into the number of points you can focus the rest of your army on, which makes it... difficult to win.

We'll now go through the options you have available, the pluses and minuses of each of option, and (when customizable), what builds of that model are the most effective ways to run it. Each character will be rated on their cost, survivability, combat capability, ranged capability, strategic value, and mobility.

Special Characters

Other Resources:
- HQ Section review by @warsmith7752

>>> Abaddon the Despoiler: A nasty piece of work, but comes at a hefty price to counter-balance that. Note that, having two Specialist Weapons, he gains back a bonus attack. When you want to kill MeQ, use the Talon to shred your opponents to ribbons. When facing hordes or TeQ, use Drach'nyen for its bonus attacks or AP2 at initiative value, respectively. What does this guy have to offer?
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Eternal Warrior, T5, W4, 2+/4++ save--this guy is not going down easily.
(++) Combat capability: Can slaughter units on his own. When in a retinue of, say, Terminators, nigh unstoppable.
(-) Ranged capability: Doesn't have much to offer besides a combi-bolter--but doesn't need to if he gets into hand-to-hand.
(/) Strategic value: He allows Chosen to be troops, which is an interesting, albeit non-competitive, way to make a points-expensive, elite force. On the downside, though, he must be your Warlord and has relatively little to offer in terms of his Trait (though nearby plasma benefits from the rerolls).
(-) Mobility: He's in terminator armor, so he's not all that fast. You can stick him in a Land Raider and nearly double his cost; you can Deep Strike him in and risk scatter, mishap or concentrated enemy fire taking its toll. He can probably survive the third, or at least distract the enemy army long enough for the rest of your army to arrive relatively unharmed.
>Verdict? A one-man death star unit who is vicious but not too competitive. He should probably be relegated to Apocalypse games and the like.

>>> Huron Blackheart: Fun and versatile, with a Warlord Trait that complements his abilities nicely. Random psychic powers from the Hamadrya can provide a boost, but are often exasperating.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: A 4++ save is decent, but often not going to save your hide.
(+) Combat capability: No monster, but nicely versatile with AP3 and AP2 options available, plus some combat familiar attacks every turn. Can be boosted by a good psychic power.
(/) Ranged capability: Moderate, in the form of a heavy flamer and/or a psychic power. Still, not the reason you're taking him.
(+) Strategic value: Master of Deception. The best of the CSM Warlord Traits, guaranteed, in a decent package.
(-) Mobility: Poor. Infantry. Slightly mitigated if you infiltrate him, but still no guarantee that you'll get the charge.
> Verdict? Possibly the most competitive Special Character available. He might not get the charge, but that's what Overwatch is for, and his heavy flamer is nasty there--especially if he's in a squad with more flamers. He can handle himself better in combat than most MeQ characters, Special or otherwise, and he adds the aspect of Infiltration around which you can build your army list. Since he can only infiltrate infantry, this lends the other special characters (Lucius, Khârn, and Typhus) a bit more of a luster.

>>> Khârn the Betrayer: Kill! Maim! Burn! Kill! Maim! Burn! KILL! MAIM! BURN!
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: Very easy to kill. 3+/5++ T4 3W won't stop too much, without a retinue to eat wounds for him.
(++) Combat capability: Will tear holes in whatever he's near, especially if he gets the charge. Unless he goes against Mephiston, a kitted out Destroyer Lord, Fortuned Eldrad, or something in that vein, it's not going to live very long.
(/) Ranged capability: A Joker pistol. I guess it's better than a bolt pistol?
(-) Strategic value: Berzerkers as troops. Cool, I don't care. I guess Hatred as his Warlord Trait makes his Retinue more killy and makes him decapitate his own buddies less often.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. Poor.
> Verdict? A cheap slaughterer of foes, and occasionally friends. Less survivable than a Juggerlord w/ AoBF, and less mobile than a Bikelord w/ AoBF. Not too competitive, then, unless you're playing 2 FoC charts and have a spare HQ slot or something (having already taken a Khornate Bikelord and a Daemon Prince with the Black Mace, and still not being sated in terms of melee monsters). Okay, yeah, that's quite a long shot.

>>> Ahriman:
(-) Cost: Too damned expensive, for a glass "cannon" whose cannoning skills leave a rather lot to be desired. Still, does the same thing as Huron.
(-) Survivability: A 4++ save does not a survivable character make.
(-) Combat capability: A force weapon, sure, but it's a staff. AP4, and you have to cast Force for it to be effective.
(+) Ranged capability: Slightly broader range of choice than a standard Sorc, but bound within the lore of Tzeentch and with no psychic familiar to save his fumbles. Can shoot three different witchfire powers, which is… decent, though the lack of spell familiar means he'll be failing powers disappointingly often. Also, you probably aren't taking a Sorc for witchfire nearly as much as you are for the neat support powers.
(+) Strategic value: Thousand Sons as Troops! Hah, who cares in the slightest? The Master of Deception Warlord Trait is useful, as previously mentioned. Slightly less so with a ranged character than with a melee character, but… the option is still there.
(-) Mobility: Infantry, so poor.
> Verdict? I'd rather take an unmarked Sorc and save ~70 points, or Huron if I value the sneaky-sneaky. Still, he does similar stuff to Huron and is a ML4 caster to boot, so if you really want him, feel free to take him. I'm not the boss of you.

>>> Typhus, Herald of Nurgle: Slowly, methodically slicing and dicing the entire enemy army into rotting mincemeat.
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Termi armor, FNP, T5, W4. Most of the same stuff as Abaddon, actually. Hard to Instant Death, though a stray force weapon or S10 still might do it.
(++) Combat capability: Tough enough to live long enough to swing Manreaper, and deadly enough with it to wipe the floor with pretty much anything he faces. Naaaasty.
(/) Ranged capability: Nurgle powers/Destroyer Hive.
(+) Strategic value: Plague Marines as Troops, AND zombies? Oh joy! Depressingly meh Warlord Trait, but whatever. Take somebody else as Warlord, maybe.
(-) Mobility: Terminator-armored Infantry, so slow and cumbersome. Can Deep Strike, but loses out on Sweeping Advances.
> Verdict? Pretty nasty and fairly competitive. More useful than Abaddon thanks to his strategic value. If Huron's the Warlord, you can get him stuck in far faster, which is nice.

>>> Lucius the Eternal: I quite like this character. He's not min/maxed competitively at all, but most people sell him short of his potential, I find.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: As easy to kill as Kharn, though when he does make a save, he has his funny armor.
(+) Combat capability: No slouch, especially in a challenge with bonus attacks. No AP2, which is a shame, but his Armor of Shrieking Souls and Lash of Torment make for a slightly… different character to play than most others, you'll find. Mind you, he's awful against enemies with 2+ saves and vehicles.
(+) Ranged capability: Better than you'd expect, thanks to his Doom Siren. Stick him in a squad of Noise Marines and you can dual-Doom Siren just about anything MeQ to death. Overwatch, too, is just plain nasty.
(+) Strategic value: Noise Marines as Troops. Not quite as good as Plague Marines as Troops, but still something around which you can build a list.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. It can work with Huron (big surprise there), but otherwise pretty poor.
> Verdict? Not exactly semi-competitive, but still someone you can have fun with. The black sheep of the CSM family. In perfect honesty, not going to make the cut at the top levels of play.

>>> Fabius Bile: Not a Warpsmith so much as a Fleshsmith, and just plain shoddy.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: FNP isn't enough to rescue this guy from poor survival skills.
(/) Combat capability: Decent stats are boosted by the Chirurgeon, but the total lack of AP on his magic wand leave him relatively impotent. Still, the opponent only needs to fail one save...
(-) Ranged capability: A funny-looking pistol.
(/) Strategic value: Moderate to low. I mean, you're buying him for his buff to other troops, right? And he has, uh, Fearless, so you can throw him in a squad of Havocs to keep them from running away.
(-) Mobility: Poor, Infantry.
> Verdict? Not competitive; perhaps enjoyable in a fluffy list or vs Tyranids.


Dataslates

>>> Be'lakor: Prince of Shadows. A Dataslate rather than an in-book choice, but still a damned attractive notion.
(-) Cost: About as expensive as a Daemon Prince can get. Which is pretty damn expensive, for a T5 4W model.
(+) Survivability: Shrouded makes for a 2+ cover jink save, which is dead 'ard. If your opponent has ignores cover shooting, you can always cast his Invisibility on himself. Like I said, though, only T5 4W, and only a 4+ invuln in combat. Can always Swoop to make most things Snap Fire against him.
(++) Combat capability: Armorbane and Fleshbane on a Master-crafted +1S AP2 sword? Crunch goes the tank. Splat goes the character.
(-) Ranged capability: zip, now that Telepathy has lost Puppet Master. Ah well, it means you can jink freely for your 2+ cover.
(+) Strategic value: Excellent. Throw Invisibility on something, or Shrouding on another FMC/a unit of bikes to give that unit a 2+ cover save as well... delightful. We don't really care about his Warlord Trait, but it is technically a buff to Fear tests.
(+) Mobility: FMC. I mean, you could Swoop and not be able to charge for two turns if you want. I'll stick to Jump Monstrous Creature for the most part, though I think. Though, hell, if he doesn't have a target to assault in mind, you might be well served by the increased survivability of making most things snap fire against you.
>Verdict? In spite of all that his hefty price tag and fragile number of medium-Toughness wounds have to argue against his inclusion, this guy is almost an auto-include. He's fantastic. He is the only way to reliably get an Invisibility into your list.

>>> Cypher: Not technically an HQ choice, but still a Dataslate that fills a similar roll with a character who might as well be one.
(+) Cost: No more expensive than the area of Huron or Fabius.
(/) Survivability: Eternal Warrior is something. Shrouded helps out. Still a kind of mediocre statline.
(/) Combat capability: Some plasma and some bolt pistols. Meh, he'll get the job done.
(/) Ranged capability: Some (master-crafted, double-firing) plasma and some bolt pistols. Meh, he'll get the job done.
(+) Strategic value: He can give a block of CSM Shrouded, Hit-and-Run, ATSKNF, and Infiltrate. I think he offers a whole damned lot when it comes to strategic value. Minor Ld debuff to your Warlord; you should consider taking a Fearless Warlord, if possible.
(/) Mobility: Infantry are slow, but with Infiltrate, he should help you set up his unit where you want it.
>Verdict? If you only really want one unit infiltrated, and want more flexibility on that unit than Huron has to offer, go right ahead.


+++

HQ: OTHER

These are somewhat different. I will address each entry and discuss the options available, then present the option(s) I feel is/are the most competitive. I am going to be mentioning examples from different Codex/Supplements, as well.

Other Resources:
- Chaos Lord Review by @moshpiler

>>> Lord:
When taking a Lord, ask yourself how this guy is more special than the Special Characters on offer. The Special Characters have infantry foot-sloggers pretty well covered, and even branch into termi-armored Lords with Typhus and Abbadon. Where custom-built Lords can really shine is in mobility: Bikes, Juggernauts, Steeds of Slaanesh. If you aren't going to take this as cheaply as possible (a Lord with MoN as a tax to enable Plague Marine troops/babysit a quad-gun, or a Lord with the MoS and BBoS in a melee Noise Marine squad), there are a few builds I find to be best:

> Khornate Biker/Juggernaut Lord
(+) Cost: Cheap. 5 points more than Kharn, when fully kitted out? Gimme! Now!
(/) Survivability: T5 and a 4++ save is nice, and the +1 Wound for a JuggerLord is pretty nifty as well (though it won't stop your character from being Smashed into Instant Death, unless you go the expensive Black Legion route of Skull of Ker'ngar)
(++) Combat capability: Blood for the Blood God! Mountains of Skulls for His Throne! AoBF is the obvious choice, though if you have one of those already, fisticlaws aren't bad. If you're playing Crimson Slaughter, then Daemonheart and Blade of the Relentless work can wonders—but push his price window up a bit in points.
(-) Ranged capability: Hah. Hah. Hah. You can throw on a combi-melta if it makes you feel better, all right? Though you'll lose an attack, unless you swap a bike's combi-bolter.
(-) Strategic value: Leave a field of decapitated corpses is his strategy.
(+) Mobility: Better on the Juggernaut. Can go on a slightly more mobile bike, though, of course.
> Verdict? Oh, you better believe this is competitive. Deadly, cheap, and fast--the trifecta of glory. Brutally efficient.

> Slaaneshi/Nurglish Biker Lord
(/) Cost: Moderately high. If you want to kit him out the whole way, you're going to need to spend a bit more than you might be comfortable with. Not quite in the range of Typhus or Abby, but getting there.
(+) Survivability: 4++ is a must, plus either T6 or T5 with FNP (if you're kitting out the Bike retinue right). That, I believe, is what the orkoid races call (in their technical parlance) "ded 'ard."
(+) Combat capability: With Fisticlaws and Hammer of Wrath, you're doing better than Huron. Nowhere near what you could accomplish with the AoBR, but that isn't needed. On a budget, even just a power fist or axe ain't that bad on this tough old wart.
(+) Ranged capability: With the Burning Brand, delicious. Throw in some flamers on your biker retinue, why don't you! Char-broil time….
(+) Strategic value: Either Plague Marines or Noise Marines as Troops. Glorious. If you take the Slaaneshi Lord on a Steed of Slaanesh rather than a bike, you can Outflank a units with Acute Senses, to boot, though that sacrifices your bonus Toughness.
(+) Mobility: High.
> Verdict? Just as competitive, if not moreso, than the Khornate version. It sacrifices the über-killiness for strategic value, a tougher character, and the ability to barbecue MeQ and hordes with glee.

One more hypothetical build just for funsies: the Rock, a MoN Palanquin-mounted Crimson Slaughter Lord with Daemonheart (and possibly the Slaughterer's Horns), for a T5, W5, IWND character. Give him Fisticlaws or a power axe or something.


>>> Sorcerer:

> Unmarked Sorc
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: Poor--2 wounds. Can be mitigated with Palanquin of Nurgle or cheap Terminator Armor (much cheaper than the Lord, since you already have a force weapon so don't need to pay for a Power Weapon)
(/) Combat capability: Meh. Unimpressive stats, but a force weapon. Can get some decent buff powers. I've had good luck using the force weapon to kill Wraithlords and Wraithknights, but that was, admittedly, pretty flukey (to have A. survived the enemy attacks and B. rolled the 6 to wound I needed).
(+) Ranged capability: Go Telepathy for cruelly effective buffs (Invisibility and Shrouding) or Biomancy for more buffs and debuffs (Endurance and Enfeeble), and to generally wreck faces (Iron Arm, Warp Speed). A very good support character.
(-) Strategic value: Apart from being a good support character, not much. You can't rely on getting That One Power you need.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. Much faster when put on a bike to support a Biker squad with his powers.
> Verdict? A good support character. Borderline competitive, though will almost certainly be edged out by more killy characters.

>Slaaneshi Sorc
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(-) Survivability: Poor--2 wounds.
(/) Combat capability: Unimpressive stats, but a force weapon. Can get some decent buff powers.
(+) Ranged capability: Try to get Symphony of Pain (2/3rds chance on a Lvl 3 Sorc), then go for Biomancy or Telepathy and stick him in a Noise Marine unit: S5 sonic blasters, whee!
(/) Strategic value: Steed? Symphony of Slaanesh? You'll probably get some good synergy, here.
(/) Mobility: Steed of Slaanesh. With the latter, you can Infiltrate or Outflank with with unit of Noise Marines and show up in just the right place to rat-a-tat-tat your foes to pieces. If need be he can hop out and take on his own targets/run interception, but it's not wholly advised.
> Verdict? You need a Slaaneshi Lord or Lucius if you want to make Noise Marines Troops, so you've pretty much relegated yourself to a themed Slaaneshi list. Not to competitive, all told, but fun and very fluffy.

>>> Daemon Prince: Nasty at killing things, but expensive and can be one-shotted by S10--an Achilles Heel that removes them from much of the competitive scene. Never leave home without power armor and wings if you take this guy, for all that they cost a pretty penny. The added mobility and survivability will justify themselves far more often than not.

Picking a God as a patron is mandatory for some silly, contra-fluffy reason (I mean hey, you can make an unmarked Prince over the course of a battle, but can't buy one? Weak), so lets go over the choices:
- Daemon of Khorne. Furious Charge. On a Daemon Prince. …really? Atrocious, especially for 15 points.
- Daemon of Tzeentch. Makes him more survivable. Decent, but still a bit expensive. Also, 3/4s poor psychic powers.
- Daemon of Slaanesh. Cheaper than the others, and it gives a whole bevy of abilities slightly increasing mobility? Not bad, not bad.
- Daemon of Nurgle. Shrouded? Plus 7e's marvelous Jink on FMCs? 2+ cover save as you jump up the board? Yes please! Slow & Purposeful is annoying, but I think I'll survive.

I'll go with Nurgle every time, thanks.

If you want a force multiplier in the form of an offensive boost, you're in for another pretty chunk of points, but who cares about another few handfuls of cultists, anyways? The points look prettier on your Prince's sexy hide, you have to agree. This fellow will become not a Daemon Prince, but Daemon Prince Charming, here to sweep you off your feet and sweep the opponent from the board. As I see it, you have several choices:

- The Black Mace. Fleshbane, +D6 Attacks, Toughness tests in a 3" Doom-Aura, etc. The best part is that the Mace's major weakness--AP4--is negated by the Smash rule giving him a constant AP2 on all attacks. Joy!
- The Burning Brand of Skalathrax. AP3 flamers are no laughing matter… for your MeQ opponent. For you? Feel free to giggle away as you roast 2/3 of a squad then charge the survivors and rip them limb from bloody limb.
- Psychic Mastery Level(s). Expensive for the whole kit, sure, but with Biomancy you can make your Prince nearly unkillable (after getting over the one god-related power tax), and even more a melee/ranged monster. If he's firing off 2 or 3 powers per turn, you may well want to consider a spell familiar for him--it'll save your bacon time and time again, for what is (by this point) chump change. Biomancy also gives Iron Arm and Endurance, which negate much of the dreaded Instant Death out there that can instagib your Prince.

I would NOT buy the Axe of Blind Fury, personally: you already have AP2 at Initiative, which is much of what you're paying for. The Black Mace is so very much better for so very little more. In addition, Blinded will make it so enemies at WS4 no longer hit you on 5+.

I would say that buying (or at least maxing out) Psychic powers plus a Chaos Artefact would bump your points cost up to a rather unfeasibly high amount for a comparatively fragile model, so I wouldn't rely on that dual load-out either, unless you really want to push your luck.

> Daemon Prince w/ Daemon of Nurgle, the Black Mace, Wings, Power Armor
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: 4 T5 wounds. Don't let him get stranded on his own and watch out for cruel Overwatch, but you should be able to survive most stuff. As a DoN, he can get 2+ cover save with ease. If you're way out of the lurch, you can Swoop, though that means you won't be able to assault next turn.
(++) Combat capability: I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.
(-) Ranged capability: Ranged is for wimps.
(-) Strategic value: Leaving the center of the enemy battle line as a series of smoking craters is a strategy, right?
(+) Mobility: Wings. Slaanesh can improve mobility... but that means sacrificing your beautiful defenses.
> Verdict? Crunch. Only borderline competitive due to his high cost, but generally a badass and oh-so-fun to play with (except when he isn't because he dies early). Watching the center of an enemy horde army vanish beneath his aura of doom is satisfying in an intensely sexual manner. I may only be kind of joking with that statement.

> Daemon Prince w/ the Burning Brand, Daemon of Nurgle, Wings, Power Armor
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Solid, as long as you don't leave him in front of a firing squad.
(+) Combat capability: A mere destroyer of cities in combat, by comparison.
(+) Ranged capability: Don't you love the smell of roast MeQ in the morning?
(-) Strategic value: I laugh in the face of your "strategy."
(+) Mobility: Swoop and Glide and generally saunter around.
> Verdict? A lower strength Heldrake equivalent (Vector Strike, AP3 Torrent flamer) that can hide behind cover easily, and can flame a squad then charge it if it wants, or tear a tank apart with relative ease. Least competitive of the 3 Prince builds I present here by a hairsbreadth, but still fun on the playground. Will get to actually do kill things more often than a melee prince, since the 20.5" range of a Torrent flamer is pretty decent.

> Daemon Prince w/ Mastery Level 3 (1 mark-specific power, 2 Biomancy), Daemon of Nurgle, Wings, Power Armor
(-) Cost: Expensive.
(+) Survivability: Most survivable of the Princes. Biomancy will make him a rock that can regenerate wounds/have FNP/boost his toughness/lower the enemy S/whatever. It will make him more than a rock; it will make him an iron rock… yeah, that sounded more impressive in my head.
(+) Combat capability: No slouch. Stronger by far than a normal Prince, if not quite at the level as a bearer of the Black Mace.
(+) Ranged capability: Maledictions and blessings and witchfire aplenty.
(-) Strategic value: Baby Gods don't need strategy.
(+) Mobility: Faster than a Harlequin at a break-dancing competition, all right? What more need I tell you?
> Verdict? Most balanced of the 3 Prince options I've presented here. Versatile and flexible. I see a future for this guy.

>>> Warpsmith: An unsung hero of mid-ranged support when given the BBoS, I feel. Add an Aura of Dark Glory and you're set. I don't think he quite justifies the points to sit back and keep things repaired if you're running a gunline, though: no Conversion Beamer equivalent option hurts him, when compared to his loyalist opposite number.
(+) Cost: Cheap.
(/) Survivability: A 2+ save is nice, but counter-balanced by the loss of a Wound and a generally poor stat line.
(/) Combat capability: Again, poor stat line. The AP2 of a power axe, coupled with the bonus attacks from his mechatendrils, haul him back from desolate decrepitude to mere mediocrity.
(+) Ranged capability: Very flexible at mid to close range, especially if you throw on the Burning Brand of Skalathrax--then you can have 2 flamers or a meltagun, as need be.
(/) Strategic value: A bevy of odd abilities like Shatter Defenses, Machine Curse, and the ability to sit in a gunline and repair glanced vehicles, if need be. Nothing earth-shattering (well, literally yes, but tactically no), but still a character whose presence can shape the building of your army.
(-) Mobility: Infantry. Poor. We've been over this a few times by now.
> Verdict? Surprisingly useful, though much like the Sorc it often gets crowded out in favor of the flashier special characters, Lords or Daemon Princes.

>>> Dark Apostle:
(/) Cost: Cheap… but you're still paying too much for what you get.
(-) Survivability: Dead easy to splatter.
(-) Combat capability: Power maul? Hah, don't make me laugh. And any Daemon Weapon you could care to equip him with would be better given to a different character.
(-) Ranged capability: ...
(/) Strategic value: You can make a unit Fearless and give it Hatred. If you squeeze, you might make another unit Fearless too. Good grief, I'd so much rather a Fearless Lord whose Mark gives me beautiful cult troops and isn't a 2 Wound, AP4, Attack 2 louse. You can take the Crozius of the Dark Covenant if you want to try to give a few units Zealot, I guess... Fearless+Hatred is actually tempting, but by that point, you've sunk far too many points into this character.
(-) Mobility. Infantry.
> Verdict? Worst HQ choice in the book, bottoming out beneath even Fabulous Billy or Airyman.


+++

CSM Plog, Tactica

What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!

Last edited by Mossy Toes; 08-16-14 at 08:26 PM. Reason: minor TOC tweaks
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