(Troops, Elites: Cult Troops, Elites, and Fast Attack)
>>> Chaos Space Marines
Perhaps the single most versatile unit in the game. From spending 80 points on a tiny squad of 5 with one flamer and some CCWs to spending ~350 points on a squad of 20 with the MoN, 2 plasma guns, VotLW and a kitted-out champion, the sheer number of roles and loadouts for these humble scrubs borders on overwhelming.
Some people complain that they have lowish LD and no ATSKNF--aren't these supposed to be badasses from the dawn of the Imperium and millennia of combat experience; the chosen of the dark gods? Well, sure they are, if you give them Veteran of the Long War and a mark. The standard Chaos Marine, though, is the flawed metal; the failed tempering; the Space Marine who knows fear and so fell from glory. They are the arrogant, the self-absorbed, the venal, the cowardly, the renegade: these are the resentful dregs of the Space Marines that have turned to darkness and had their flaws magnified thereby. Ruleswise, it might mean they start out a fraction worse than a standard SM, but the sheer degree of customizability available more than fleshes out the spectrum of "scum to unholy harbingers of destruction"--a spectrum neatly capped off by the cult troops choices, the epitome of worship to each god.
I run CSM most often in squads of 10. Honestly, I find that squads smaller than 10 models just aren't worth it: sure, you can't fit the an attached character into the rhino with them anymore, but you get that second special weapon, and if you want a tiny, super cheap squad to hold a home objective, cultists should be your go-to choice there—or, warp, even Plague Marines.
Most of the time, I run my squads with a pair of the same special weapons. That way, rather than wasting much of their fire on targets they can't touch, so you get less utility out of the squad, they can excel at a set role: cracking tanks with melta, searing Termis, MEQ and light tanks with plasma, chasing guard blobs with flamers. The exception to this is if I'm making a stay-at-home squad in a gunline list or something, then I'll gladly grab a plasma gun and an autocannon/missile launcher.
Consider what the rest of your list is lacking when picking your CSM, and fit them to fill that role. The typical squad, once you give them the default Rhino with dirge casters, should run you in the neighborhood of 200-240 points. Less with no Rhino, but then you hamper their mobility markedly—but at the same time, you have fewer “easy First Blood” options for enemies to shoot at.
I'm a fan of quantity over quality, myself: give the enemy 4 bare-bones squads to shoot at rather than 3 expensive squads who will accomplish roughly the same amount. That in mind, I dislike what I see as superfluous upgrades: VotLW, power weapons on most champions, etc. It's purely a personal choice, and there are always exceptions to this rule, but it's done me relatively well, all told.
Let's look at a selection of viable builds for basic CSM:
> 220 - 10x CSM w/ Mark of Khorne, CCWs instead of bolters, 2 meltas, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
This unit is best run in parallel with several others like it, as well as another threatening melee unit or two: say, Spawn or Khornate Bikers acting as a delivery mechanism for a Juggerlord w/ AoBF. Move up with the Rhinos, hugging cover and staggering flat out/smoke, keeping your Bikers in cover behind the rhinos for a T2 charge… wonderful. Bucketloads of attacks make crunching infantry a cinch, while two meltas should be useful for popping tanks. You can give them the IoW if you like, to help ensure they make that charge and to buff that bucketload of attacks.
> 217 - 10x CSM w/ plasma gun, missile launcher, and a Rhino with a havoc launcher.
A solid backfield objective holder, which won't piss itself and scramble off like a cultist unit does if anyone so much as glances at it. The choice of plasma+krak or frag+havoc make the unit capable of a surprising amount of flexibility.
You can sacrifice some durability and firepower by dropping the rhino and swapping the missile launcher for an autocannon to make the unit a dirt cheap 165 points. Alternately, you can boost the unit with the MoN, if you want, but the point here is to secure the backfield inexpensively so the rest of your expensive soldiers can surge forward with enough strength that they survive the enemy shooting.
> 265 - 10x CSM w/ Mark of Slaanesh, Icon of Excess, CCWs instead of bolters, 2 meltas, a champion with a lightning claw, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
More expensive than the others, but with good measure! I5 FNP marines who will cut and tear, cut and tear, cut and tear your ass.
> 223 - 10x CSM w/ 9 additional CCWs, 2 meltas, champion with meltabombs, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
A unit solidly capable of whooping normal SM in combat, but equally at home in a bolter duel while closing the distance. Great objective capturers, great at anti-tank, solid at mid-range, will beat most non-melee specialists (and some of those, if they get the charge) in combat--probably my all-around favorite build for CSM, to be honest. If you already have one unit like this, feel free to bring plasma instead.
> 370 - 20x CSM w/ MoN, 2 plasmas, and a champion with meltabombs and a lightning claw.
A hefty points cost, but that's a lot of bodies. Consider dropping a few bolters in favor of a few CCWs for a nice mix of melee and ranged. Synergizes excellently when being buffed by Fabius Bile (fearless and +1S), infiltrated by Huron or Cypher, and/or given Endurance/Invisibility by a friendly Sorc. Can also be built with MoS and an IoE for CC nastiness that is still more survivable than your standard marine.
Ah, the villainous scum. The fallen Guardsmen and corrupted PDF; the underhive scum who have revealed their true allegiance and the daemon world-grown madmen who worshipfully follow their dark masters…
Dead cheap scoring units with nothing else going for them. Mere expendable worms. Their lives are as nothing to us cruel overlords. They mean nothing... except when they fill out our detachments with their dirt cheap squads, or when they win us the game by claiming that backfield objective. They used to be much more essential in 6e, when only Troops could score, but they still serve their uses, even as a Battle-Forged tax.
There are a few different ways to run these guys. The obvious one is to take a bare bones basic tiny squad of these squishies and hold them in reserve, so they can come on late game and grab your home objective (hopefully behind an ADL, so they can suck dirt whenever they get sneezed at)--basically a “battle-foged” tax to fill the minimum Troops requirements you need. Another is in a large blob as an expendable, many-wound escort for a melee slaughterer character like Khârn, who in turn gives them Fearless.
I would say a massive blob with autoguns and heavy stabbers, while tempting, isn't worth it in most cases. At that point, you might as well ally in a platoon of Guardsmen who cost about the same, but get orders and special weapons to boot. Come the Apocalypse on the allies table doesn't make it easy for us, sure, but... they're just plain not an effective unit built that way, as I see it.
> 50 - 10x cultists
Stick em in reserve, then come up and hide behind an ADL on the home objective. Simple as.
> 150 - 35x cultists
Stick in Khârn, Typhus, a Lord with an AoBF, a Slaaneshi Lord with Fisticlaws and a Steed of Slaanesh (to Outflank them to the board edge of your choice), whatever, and go. If they're getting gunned down too rapidly, the character can always hop into a nearby squad of power-armored bodies (who have probably been forcibly dismounted from their Rhino by now).
- Blessed by the Dark Gods
Ah, cult troops. Recall that complaint that you couldn't spend points on shiny toys and
on Objective Secured units? Well, with the right HQ choices, turns out you can, actually. Cult troops are Fearless scoring units that specialize in all manner of nasty.
Now, these guys are technically Elites, but you should definitely consider whether you want to take them as such. 7e made everything scoring, so unlike in 6e it's not wholly mandatory
to take a marked HQ to fill the same slot, but still—I'd rather take them as super-scoring Troops and not have to spend any more points on Troops, if I am taking them. If you want to, say, field Noise Marines without having to take a Slaaneshi Lord, though, they're still scoring now, so go right ahead! That's how you might justify a 2 Slaaneshi Sorc list.
Not all cult units are made equally, however...
>>> Khorne Berzerkers: Blood for the Blood God!
Khorne Berzerkers are have suffered, this codex, with a slight downgrade in stats and the revised rules for Rhinos. Compare them to standard CSMs with the Mark of Khorne and an Icon of Wrath: they are Fearless and WS5, sure, but are still rather more expensive and, quite importantly, cannot buy special weapons--locking them into a purely close combat anti-infantry role, at which they aren't that spectacular. Compare them to Death Company, Assault Terminators, Seekers--other armies' designated assault troops--and they fall flat. They can buy an overpriced chainaxe to be able to inflict more unsaved wounds on units they will already beat by a large margin in combat, but they really aren't worth it. They're slogging infantry.
They're the tragic cousin of the cult troops that nobody likes to refer to. All the more unfortunate is the fact that the best CC monsters are Khorne-marked lords, so there's no real synergy benefit to the army if you don't want to buy their associated cult troop.
How to run them--stick them in a similarly over-priced, drunken-weaponed Chaos Land Raider? I guess?
All right, perhaps I'm selling Berzerkers short. Still, they're going to be much less effective in this edition, still, as long as shooting is king and chaos transports suck.
>>> Thousand Sons: All is dust!
AP3 bolters, a psyker in every squad, and a 4++ save? What's not to like!
Quite a bit, actually. Slow and Purposeful means that Thousands Sons have no Overwatch and low mobility overall. They are very expensive models, and die to enemy dakka juuuust as easily as a normal Marine would. They are absolutely terrible in close combat, except as a tarpit to high-strength, few attack monstrous creatures and walkers (where Fearless and the 4++ are very nice, and it's possible to get a hail mary force weapon or meltabomb attack in)--but they are a very expensive tarpit, at that. Soul blaze? Ooooh, a 50% chance of about 3 bolter shots next turn (that doesn't stack). My enemies must be quaking in their boots.
The Tzeentchi powers are generally under-impressive--Boon has a decent chance to kill any one-wound model in your unit, and witchfire powers… you have to successfully pass the test, pass deny the witch, and that's all before rolling to hit, wound/penetrate, and saves. Special weapons are so much less of a hassle, with so many fewer chances to fail…and are less expensive than the mandatory purchase of the source. Meanwhile, you're paying a large premium for the force weapon on the psyker character with a terrible
statline who must
I dislike Thousand Sons. They need to be baby sat to keep out of trouble, the range of bolters means that in order to get into rapid fire range, they have to get easily into the threat range of that enemy unit--you'd better be prepared to wipe that unit out entirely.
So we return to those AP3 bolters. Are they really worth it? Chaos has a lot of anti-MEQ available: Baleflamers, BBoS and Doom Sirens cover only the AP3 flamers available, let alone the special weapons and low AP templates. Thousand Sons work best, I think, in tandem with another CSM squad: a baby-sitter, if you will, to shield them from/counter-attack enemy assault units, to assist in focusing fire to help mop up wipe an enemy unit, etc.
Yes, if you're running an all-Tzeentch list and cast Invisibility to turn the Thousand Sons invisible, 1ksons function beautifully. Of course, any
unit functions beautifully when the enemy is snapping shots and hitting in melee on 6s—even standard CSM with ccws would do remarkably better. If the Aspiring Sorc could roll on Telepathy or another more synergistic power table, I would like 1ksons quite a bit more…
How to run them? In tandem with another squad. The fluffy way is to have 8 Rubric Marines and the Sorc for a sacred 9, the number of Tzeentch, and that many of inferno bolts will make enemy MEQ feel the pain, all right. Giving them a Rhino helps them get away from Slow and Purposeful, even if it puts a severe choker on how many inferno bolts you'll be throwing into the air (until they disembark/are forcibly disembarked). Don't bother with a dirge caster, unless you want the Rhino to zoom off to support your assault troops after it's dropped the 1ksons on an objective. A combi-melta or havoc launcher wouldn't go amiss, though.
>>> Noise Marines: Pleasure is pain is pleasure is pain is pain is pleasure is pain is...
All right, all right. I start off by gushing how good cult troops are, then slag two of the units right off the bat. Let's get into the good
units, shall we?
Noise Marines are a bit odd. To start out, you pay a significantly higher cost than a normal marine for a model whose only differences are that it's I5 and Fearless. That's barely enough to get an edge over standard MEQ in combat, but really not enough to justify the cost. What's the fuss, then?
Well, they can really be built two different ways: into ranged or melee units. Ranged units pay for sonic blasters and Blastmasters (1 at 5 models or 2 at 10, thanks to that glorious FAQ) to put out, when stationary, a tremendous amount of heavy and salvo dakka that all ignores cover. Guard, Nids, Eldar, squishies hiding behind an ADL--all of you are to be crushed like insects. Marines hiding in a ruin? I will blastmaster you to oblivion in no time. I will stand on this objective and you will be forced to kill every last member of my squad before I will no longer be claiming it (all the harder if I've bought the [admittedly rather expensive] Icon of Excess).
Keep in mind that the Noise Champ technically isn't a "Noise Marine" as per the book entry, so can't buy a sonic blaster for himself. As a purely ranged unit, upgrades on the champ really aren't worth it.
> 261 - 10x Noise Marines with 7x sonic blasters and 2x blastmasters. You can buy the unit an IoE if you have the points to spare in the list for an even more durable shooting block. Positioning is key with this unit: the more turns it can shoot while standing still, the better.
> 134 - 5x Noise Marines with a Blastmaster, 3x sonic blasters. Cut-price version of the former, if you feel like spamming small units. Small units who still fire AP3 blast templates.
Consider not taking sonic blasters at all. I mean, 9 points more than a standard marine for 3 bolter shots when standing still? Not too cost-effective, most of the time:
> 125 - 5x Noise Marines with a Blastmaster. Small and effective. Can hold an objective well, can spit out a S8 AP3 small blast every turn. A fun unit to spam en masse as a Troops choice if you want to go full MSU. Still, a lot of other armies will get a lot more firepower per 125 points. Warp, honestly, you could get a Havoc squad with 2 autocannons and 2 missile launchers for the same price.
> 287 - 10x Noise Marines with 2x blastmasters and a Rhino with a havoc launcher. A good number of templates, and a solid-sized Fearless unit. You can always drop the Rhino, if you feel so inclined.
Melee Noise Marines? Not as effective, admittedly. They don't have quite as many attacks as Khornate marines and are quite a bit more expensive, but still, they take advantage of the Noise Marine I5. Always get the Noise Champ his lovely Doom Siren (I mean, that's why
you're running melee Noise Marines, isn't it?) for even more AP3 goodness. Give him a lightning claw as well, so he can pull his weight in a challenge, then add in an Icon of Excess for Feel No Pain, and you have a very nice (and somewhat anti-MEQ focused) assault squad.
Throwing Lucius or a Lord with the BBoS into this squad is even better--think of that AP3 dual flamer Overwatch! The squad's main real trouble is that, even in a Rhino (with a dirge caster, of course), it suffers when trying to get the charge/close the distance to the enemy for such an expensive unit. And it's pretty fragile. So, slow/expensive/fragile--not too competitive, but can be fluffy/fun.
> 251 - 8 Noise Marines with CCWs instead of bolters, Icon of Excess, Champion with doom siren, meltabombs and a lightning claw, and a Rhino with a dirge caster.
>>> Plague Marines: Rejoice, for these are the last days!
And now we have the real jewel of the cult troops; one of the absolute toughest scoring units in the game, who put out a solid package of ranged and close combat damage to boot. FNP, T5, plague knifes, 2 special weapons even in undersized squads--glorious. The only downsides are the (expected) high associated cost--more than worth it--and, uh. A crappy icon? Okay, their low I3 is sometimes a drag--but it also means you can throw a power axe or power fist on that champion without caring about the mandatory challenge.
Best way to run them? 5-8 marines with 2 special weapons, be they melta or plasma, in a Rhino. A power weapon isn't vital, thanks to the fact that the plague champion already has a plague knife, but can be useful. Editions may change, but Plague Marines keep solidly trucking along.
Annd that's about what needs to be said about Plague Marines: short and sweet.
> 228 - 7x Plague Marines with 2 meltas and a Rhino with a Dirge Caster
> 190 - 5x Plague Marines with 2 plasma and a Rhino with a Dirge Caster
I considered including these fine fellows in the "Cult Troops" post, on account of Abaddon's and the Black Legion's special ability to make them Troops, but Abbaddon is a rare enough purchase not to, in my eyes, justify their inclusion in the other post.
Please don't add a unit of melee Chosen to your army. Please. I know that the beautiful Dark Vengeance minis present that false path as somewhat alluring, but really. As an even somewhat semi-competitive player, I promise that every time a list includes a Marine with a power weapon who costs more than a Terminator with a power weapon, I will personally punch a kitten. Okay, I won't do that; I'll outsource the punching to India, where costs can be cut because kittens can be freely picked up off the street. More on what to do with Dark Vengeance models soon, in the "What to Do With This Soggy Vengeance" post.
Anyways, shooty Chosen. Shooty Chosen are pretty nice. You can give them the MoK(+IoW)/MoS(+IoE) if you want to have them be flexible enough to take on enemies in melee, or MoN to boost survivability, but these really push up the cost of the unit a significant amount. The real nice part is taking 5 special weapons (plus the opportunity for a combi-weapon).
Full plasma is fun... but dangerous. It's still “marines who cost more than Termis,” but 5 Plasma can throw out some serious pain—when they're not melting their own heads off. I find the best way to run this squad is in Crimson Slaughter with the cheap Draznicht's Ravagers upgrade to reroll their Gets Hot misses. Running them as Troops with Abaddon is also an option, since you'll get that Preferred Enemy bubble against a large number of opponents you'll face. Also on the table is throwing Prescience on them (whether you get your Divination from the Daemon bank or withdraw it from home-checking Crimson Slaughter).
Another way to run Chosen is with several meltas (3, perhaps, to give a highly probable chance of melting a tank) and a few other weapons; an anti-tank unit who is no slouch in combat. I'd recommend flamers, to boost the short-ranged nasty up to 11, or plasma, for some long range bite at a slightly discounted cost to going full plasma (and being better able to take out tanks).
> 249 - 8 Chosen with 3 meltas, 2 plasmas, a champion with a combi-plasma, and a Rhino
Want a somewhat silly deathstar unit? (fragile, as far as deathstars go, but capable of putting out a tremendous amount of anti-tank, anti-infantry, or melee damage).
> 260 - 9 Chosen with the MoK, an IoW, 2 meltas, 3 flamers, and a champion with a combi-flamer and a lightning claw.
> 165 - Warpsmith with MoK, AoDG, BBoS
> 235 - Land Raider with a dirge caster (can be replaced for a fragile Rhino easily, to save on points, but that limits the effectiveness of the squad massively, seeing as they all have assault weapons).
6 flamers, including one that is AP3 and torrent. Thanks to the Warpsmith, they still have 3 meltas (though the Land Raider could well bolster their anti-tank with its lascannons, cracking whatever transport they want to charge so that they can flamer the juicy interior many times over). The Warpsmith puts out 6 AP2 attacks on the charge, as well; sacrifice the champion to the challenge, and you could be chopping up a big chunk of a termi squad with this guy alone.
The largest problem I could see with this unit (apart from its exorbitant cost) is it being too effective in terms of shooting, getting themselves out of charge range of or perhaps even wiping out the unit they're torching, and being left out in the lurch to get shot up during the enemy shooting phase. Still, anyone that tries to charge them has to face that ridiculous Overwatch…
The downside? You could be buying a larger squad of CSMs for rather cheaper. In fact, you could buy 2 or 3 squads of CSM for the cost, who are just as tough to kill as the standard Chosen.
Chosen are fun, but not terribly competitive. If you want to go with Abaddon and have a full-on Chosen list, you'll find yourself outperformed in terms of "elite marines" by Grey Knights, who cost about as much and all have, oh yeah, bucketloads of psycannons and power weapons. A fitting case study, I feel, was the example of Filch's trials and tribulations
with an all-Chosen list. It's just too fragile and can't counter enough types of different enemy to be considered a serious competitive choice, unfortunately.
Keep in mind that Havocs can fill the role of shooty Chosen nearly as well, for slightly less expensive. Sure, they get one less special weapon and have less attacks in combat, but still, they're nearly as effective.
Termis remain effective--in fact, they could be considered even more so with the modern nerf of power swords. Their downside? Again, expensive and not scoring infantry. Plague Marines might be slightly easier to kill, but are significantly cheaper and, yup, scoring.
Anyways, Termis as a whole. I don't have Termis models, so haven't been able to playlets them, but right away one option jumps out at me: taking the MoT for a 4++. as well as several Termis with paired LCs (though you sacrifice combi-weapon capability). Excellent anti-MEQ, anti-horde, and anti-MC. More attacks than standard Termis, albeit at the loss of ranged capability. You probably ought to take a few models with power axes and/or chainfists/power fists for anti-TEQ and anti-tank, though, if you want a big nasty deathblob unit. The MoS and IoE are also a viable way to run the unit, making you strike before and practically invulnerable to MEQ, though at the cost of leaving you still vulnerable to the low-AP, high-strength shots that are the Achilles heel of Termis, and that the MoT helps counter.
> 369 - 8x Termis with MoT, 5 with 2LCs, 2 with a chainfist and combi-melta, and a champion with a power axe and a combi-melta.
Are Land Raiders worth it? Well, discounting cover and assuming the enemy is BS4 and within melta range, every melta shot has a roughly 13% chance to kill your Land Raider outright (about 7% better than the 20%ish of the 6e damage table), so that's not too bad. Gauss or multiple Haywire weapons will glance you to death in a turn (or two, at most) of shooting, or touch of rust will do the same in close combat. Your weapons are that horrifying combo of lascannon and heavy bolter. It puts a cap of 5 Termis on the squad, or 4 if you want to include a character. More on this later (in the, you guessed it, Heavy Support post), but you might be better off spending all that massive points investment on… more Termis, all of which deep striking. All in all, I'm still not sold on the CSM Raider—if it had a Crusader/Redeemer variant, like loyalists, or even some alternate upgrades to buy, in an instant. Otherwise... not too likely for me to take.
MoT is obviously the go-to choice for Termis, boosting their survivability as it does so dramatically. What about other marks, though? I really think MoN isn't worth it; sure, you'll be taking less armor saves due to low strength small arms fire, but nearly all weapons that have AP2 have a high enough strength to laugh at the exorbitant cost of the MoN (especially since you don't need to fear ID, as one-wound models). If you want to run Typhus in a Termi bodyguard, just run the squad unmarked, I say (unless you're dead-set on using the Destroyer Hive and don't want to hurt your preciouses--meh). MoK is nice because it gives you so many more power weapon attacks, though is slightly marked up to reflect that. MoS is similarly attractive (to non Unwieldy folks), but I've been over this already. The only real AP2 weapons that the IoE would offer protection against are plasma, rending, and power axes, leaving a whoooole bunch of AP2 weapons that would double-tap such Termis out of the ring. And, hey, it's not like Termis have much difficulty with Marines already.
Apart from 2LC MoT? Massed combi-weapon plasma and/or melta fire is always nasty when deep striking right behind the enemy line. Termicide is no less viable an option than it used to be.
> 262 - 5x Termis with MoT, 2 with combi-plasma and chainfists, 1 with reaper autocannon and lightning claw, 1 with combi-plasma and lightning claw, and a champ with combi-plasma and power axe (and one could cut MoT and one chainfist quite easily to save on points, or swap lightning claws for free power axes for a bit more AP2).
> 127 - 3x Termis, 2 with combi-melta and power axe (including champion), and 1 with combi-melta and chainfist.
One thing to keep in mind when buying Termi equipment: much like the Noise Champion, the Terminator Champion has a lot of wargear he'd like to buy from the his unit entry, but unfortunately cannot. "Chaos Terminators" are a separate statline to his entry, and are offered much cheaper wargear than him, since he has to buy all of his equipment off of the wargear chart. It really isn't worth it, in my eyes, to pay full price for a lightning claw or two or a power fist when his brethren can get them so much cheaper; leave him with a power axe, I say, and only buy him a merely slightly up-costed combi-weapon.
A non-competitive distraction unit. Jeeze, what a way to sum up the entire Elites section, after subtracting Cult Troops, eh?
Seriously, though. Consider leaving it with the default multi-melta or upgrading to reaper autocannon for a handful of points (for a nastier Fire Frenzy) if you're going to run it. The unpredictability of Crazed results means that you can't rely on having a melee Brute with 2 fists get into combat (oh look, I was immobilized by a Fire Frenzy for this turn!) or a ranged Brute (hi there, Blood Rage). All right, the chance of rolling the wrong choice is only 1/3 after being glanced or whatnot, but still, would not buy.
I'm under-selling the 'Brute due to personal distaste, perhaps, and sure, he makes a cheap way to spam AV12 walkers (alongside, say, Maulerfiends and [almost-walker] Heldrakes), but he's really not for me. Low number of attacks in melee means he'll be glanced to death by krak grenades before he squishes his opponents. Poor choices available means he can't go with the optimal loyalist Rifleman Dread configuration; the nearest approximation is a RAC and ML.
Unfortunately, it doesn't say anywhere that the 'Brute can take items off the Vehicles Equipment chart. How fun would that be, though? A melee 'Brute with a dirge caster anchoring your line of melee assaulters…
The best that can be said of the 'Brute is that he makes an effective distraction to soak up enemy fire and protect your real threat units. Thanks, but I'd rather just take more real threat units. The Helbrute Formation Dataslates add some other nifty rules that, to my eyes, might make them worth considering, but I'll be going into those in a later post.
I'll let fellow Chaos player
field this one, why don't I?
Possessed still suck, but are more reliable now. Why do they suck? Well they suffer playing second fiddle to units that fill your dedicated combat roles a lot better. Khorne chosen and khorne Bikers are far far better at killing GeCk and even MeQ in many situations (At a lower price to). While possessed will still flail around like angry children fighting MeQ and TeQ most of the time. Possesssed also lack any shooting, and type of grenades, and are generally very inflexible. These limitations mean that they A) are int 0 when charging through any cover B) need a upgraded champ to even touch av12 walkers C) Are useless for the turns that they have to walk slowly towards the enemy being shot.
40k is about shooting this edition, and the few units worth taking for CC are those that are guaranteed to maul the enemy when they reach them to make up for the extra shooting enemies get and the chances of failing charges. Possessed only have CC, and aren't even the best unit in the codex for it. So I will ask you this what will you do when you fail a charge with your 26-29pt marines (T4 3+ armor)? The answer is obvious you will end up giving 260-300pts of kills to you opponent without the satisfaction knowing that you got to kill something on the way in (I have lost chosen to the same failed charges, but often this loss is mitigated by the walkers I explode or the 20 or so gaurdsmen I annihilated with flamers).
In a gun fight only a idiot brings a knife that can randomly become dull.
By and large a succinct, accurate summary. There are better, cheaper, and/or tougher ways to fill this role in your army, especially if you can get a scoring unit rather than a never-scoring Elite. No assault grenades hurts them. They have no way of getting any anti-tank whatsoever. They die as easily as normal marines (a common complaint about the super-expensive CSM elites, it seems). I liken Possessed to being the "melee Thousand Sons" of the codex, personally. I've already gone over the Crimson Slaughter Possessed, too.
Possessed are much better than they were last edition, with a much more viable random roll option.
They still aren't competitive.
Much the same boat as the Possessed. Essentially super-assault Termis for a distastefully high cost, stuck with Slow & Purposeful, no grenades, etc. Deep Striking is pretty much vital (you want me to what, buy a Land Raider and attach a Termi-armored IC to the squad? …maybe, if… but no), but is made a pain by Slow and Purposeful; they can't run to spread out the turn they come in (despite having no guns to shoot and make sticking together worthwhile), and a bad scatter will see them helpless for an additional turn as they slowly, slowly trudge across the field.
The variety of melee weapons they have available is respectable, and you should be able to alternate between a good pairing no matter your foe, but this respectability is canceled out by: a) the a low number of attacks and b) the tiny squad size.
Marks cost a laughably high amount. In this case, only MoK or MoN look really worth it to me; MoK for the counter-balancing of that whole "few attacks" thing, and MoN for the very attractive dual benefit of making it much harder for the Mutilator to be ID doubled out while simultaneously making them tougher against small arms fire. These guys are one of the few instances where VotLW might be worth it, except for the exorbitant cost.
Well, they have Fleshmetal and Daemon rather than just plain old Termi armor, so at least they get Sweeping Advances, right? Nope, Slow & Purposeful. Seriously, I wish they'd just folded S&P into Relentless and had done with it, since Relentless confers the only bonus of S&P but none of the (many) downsides.
Finally, terrible models. I could kitbash better, were the statline tempting. I may yet, and run them for the Spawn produced by my Spawnhood rolls on the Boon chart and my Tzeentchi Daemons.
Would not run.
- Fast Attack: Choices Choices
Fast Attack is… where some of the pretty things live. Some of the prettiest things, in fact. It should weigh on your mind (along with Cult Troops possibilities) when selecting HQs and be your next stop, after picking your HQs, in building your list.
Raptors are pretty decent. Not all that expensive for squads that are rather more mobile than normal infantry, and who (if they walk in the movement phase) can get a jump-assault with Hammer of Wrath attacks. Small squads can still get 2 special weapons. They have assault grenades, so that bumps them up a ways along the CSM assault troop totem pole (along with their relative inexpensiveness and base CCW+BP).
MoK leaves them with a bunch of attacks (especially when they get the charge, which jump-assaults plus the IoW would get them pretty regularly), MoN leaves them tougher, MoS makes it so that they bash up MEQ before the enemy gets to fight back.
Not bad, not bad. Nothing to write home about in a hurry, but a solidly attractive unit. Mobile, lots of attacks.
I don't ever take them, just because Bikers outperform them in so many ways for only 3 points more per model.
What makes Bikers so much better than Raptors? Well, how about we take those Raptors, give them twin-linked bolters in addition to their CCW+BP, as well as Relentless so they can shoot it and still charge. Make it so that even if they move 12" during their movement phase, they still basically ignore difficult terrain when charging* and
still get Hammer of Wrath. Give them the option of going another
12" turbo-boost during the shooting phase, rather than a paltry D6" run roll. Oh, and did I mention that the Bikers can jink for a 4+ cover save? Yeah, there is that. They still get 2 special weapons in a (smaller, cheaper) minimum squad size. They still have assault grenades. Not to mention, oh yeah, the fact that Bikers also automatically get +1 Toughness!
The downsides? They can no longer deep strike (though they still have a 43" average charge radius by turn 2 from where they start [with 24" T1 and 12"+7" average charge T2]). They have to take dangerous terrain tests when moving through difficult terrain, rather than ignoring it (though, this edition, power-armored soldiers can pretty much laugh at dangerous terrain tests). Jink saves make them snap fire, though they are rerolling to hit with those of them that still have combi-bolters—and usually, I find they live longer in melee than getting shot at, so it's worth jinking to keep them alive while they close the distance.
I daresay that incredible upgrade is worth shelling out a few miserly handfuls of points. I will run out of Fast Attack slots from taking additional Biker squads before I buy a single Raptor. Or, uh, before I buy five Raptors, since that's the minimum squad size.
How do I run these beautiful, inexpensive wonders of the Fast Attack choice? Well, Ravenwing are going to beat you up in terms of special rules (Hit & Run and Skilled Rider, all of them, plus the option to get squads with twin-linked plasma… grrr), as are White Scars (*grumblegrumble* plus to Jink Saves and that other stuff), so you're going to need to stack on marks and special abilities in order to shame their fancy robes. Which, admittedly, makes them not-so-inexpensive. Especially if you take a melee monster HQ to join them, since that will add a good 175-ish points to the unit cost, if you count it all as one.
First off, which special weapons do you want to give your Bikers before you sic them on an unsuspecting enemy? All three options are even more tempting than usual, this time around, thanks to the special strengths of Bikers.
- flamers: cheap, and Bikers have the mobility to get them right in the enemy's face for maximum hits.
- meltas: short-ranged anti-tank? Well, with twin-linked bolters and bucketloads of attacks, anti-horde really isn't a concern of Bikers, so these add a lot of flexibility to a Biker squad. Bikers are generally the forward assault force of an army, so they're going to be the first units to close on enemy--making them excellent candidates for cracking the transports the enemy are hunkering down in. I typically took meltas in 6e myself, though might in 7e find myself more often leaning towards...
- plasma: good anti-light-tank for piling on glances, great anti-TEQ and -MEQ, and what's more, thanks to the fact that Bikers have Relentless, they can be fired and the squad can still charge. Very tempting (especially on slaaneshi Bikers with an IoE, for the Gets Hot! protection).
So, what builds are viable for a squad of Bikers? Bikercide, the equivalent of Termicide, is always cheap when you have a few spare points:
> 95 - 3x Bikers with 2 meltas and a champion with meltabombs
2 melta shots, a meltabomb and 2 krak grenades into rear armor should be able to wreck any tank's day. The only real issue is these guys are a bit easy to splatter. Still, if you have enough high threat value targets on the board, these guys should be able to slip in to deliver their vicious knife blow. Still, this squad uses up a precious Fast Attack slot, so I'd say only use it when you're investing many, many points in, say, Daemon Princes and Havocs and such. Feel free to throw on the MoN or another biker (as an ablative wound), or something, if you have the points.
> 226 - 7x Bikers w/ MoN, 2x melta, and a champion with a power lance and meltabombs
Nurgle Bikers. Gotta love T6! This squad would be neatly buffed by an unmarked ML3 sorc on a bike, who could go for biomancy (Endurance for FNP) or Telepathy (mmm, Invisibility…). Also, a Lord w/ MoN on a bike in this squad (with Fisticlaws or the BBoS) buffs its combat capability a bunch… and
adds the synergy of Plague Marines as Troops. See what I mean about your HQ choices really determining how you're going to build your army?
The problem with Nurgle Bikers is that there are certain nasty high strength, low AP weapons that splatter them outright. Large biker bases mean you should be able to space your boys so that templates can't hurt them too badly, but still: lascannons and battle cannons wound 'em on 2s and there's not a lot you can do to counter that. Except, well, taking Slaaneshi Bikers with an IoE for FNP as another roll on top of their jink save to try to save them.
> 264 - 8x Bikers w/ MoS, IoE, 2 plasma, and a champion with a power lance
Yeah, I'm a sucker for that power lance. With all the other charge bonuses Bikers get, and with them nearly always getting the charge, you might as well stack the odds in that first-turn-challenge in your favor, eh? Extra wounds spill over now, anyways. This build of the squad still splatters beneath S10 shots, but then what doesn't? They do, however, have a markedly better survival rate against S7-9 weapons than Nurgle Bikers, thanks to FNP. The Icon bearer can get sniped, which is a pain, but whatever. And let's not forget that these guys attack at I5 as well, after their I10 HoW attacks. Nasty. Very useful when joined by a Lord with the MoS (for Noise Marine Troops) on a bike and with the BBoS.
The more Bikers in the squad, the more cost-effective the fixed-price icon is, though beyond a certain point, the size of the squad is a bit excessive and is degrees of overkill. Strike the balance of squad size and points cost for optimum list-building.
> - 6x Bikers w/ MoK, IoW, and 2 meltas
What, exactly, does this squad do? Well, it provides an all-important retinue for the Khornate Lord with the AoBF on a bike. The power lance might just be overkill with the number of attacks being unleashed (and besides, the champion is just a shill to shuffle off into the challenge so the Lord can chop up the entirety of the rest of the enemy squad with a fistful of AP2 S6/7 attacks), but you can buy it anyways if you like. Furious Charge and rerolled charge ranges are very nice indeed, saving this squad's bacon quite often.
The real issue, here, is deciding who to stick to the front of the unit/remove in combat, since every model has such high utility. The 2 naked models can die first, then the meltagunners, then the champ, and the icon bearer last…as long as the Lord is still with them.
Another thing to bear in mind: if you have Telepathy and access to Shrouding, you can give it to bikers for a 2+ jink save! Totally radical, dude!
Anyways, TL;DR: I <3 Bikers.
>>> Warp Talons
Take Raptors, remove their assault grenades, make as expensive as Termis, and make them expert MEQ-killers. These guys are… delicate little flowers, to a degree. They die about as easily as marines--sure, like Possessed, they have a 5++ (which can be upgraded to a 4++ with MoT for an understandably high points cost), but the enemy just has to throw lasguns and autocannons at them to see them crumple.
The special deep striking ability is worse than useless; it's misleading. If you thread the needle, you might force one or (at a stretch) two enemy unit(s) to take a Blind check, endangering your Warp Talons to the slightest scatter deviation and/or enemy counter-assaults. No, far better to Deep Strike behind cover or a quick hop, skip and a jump away from the enemy line to allow for (a) scatter and (b) the unit's relative fragility (for how much it costs). However, if you have Malefic Daemonology to throw around, you might well be able to eliminate their scatter with Cursed Earth—buffing their invuln save, to boot! That is a very nice combo, if you can swing it, though it might rely on running, say, 2 Daemon Princes and allied Daemons to (almost) guarantee you get a Cursed Earth.
MoS is nice because it helps avoid casualties (by slaughtering everyone you're up against before they can strike back) while buffing combat capability. MoT is hideously expensive, but the improved inv save is also quite attractive. MoN is expensive as well but boosts survivability, and MoK just gives the prototypical, somewhat unnecessary, bucketloads of attacks (useful against, say, a massive squad of necrons or a guard blob, but not so much against the squads of 5-10 SMs you'll usually be charging and wiping out).
These guys suffer from much the same problem as Possessed, albeit being slightly more mobile and less random, but for a slightly higher cost. They still are rigidly inflexible in terms to the role they can fill (no anti-tank or weapons options, f'rinstance).
I'm just sick and tired of "expensive, but die easily" choices, really. All Chaos's AV12 walkers; all their super elite infantry that splatter like bugs on a windshield…
Let's move on before I get too maudlin. Sure, Warp Talons can be made to work in a fun list. No, they are not competitive.
All right, moving on to the borderline competitive.
Spawn are fast and ignore cover. They are tough (especially with the MoN), have several wounds each, and have a goodly number of attacks, plus their random ability. The big downside, in my eyes, is the total lack of a save (unless you roll properly in close combat). Enemy shooting is going to do a number on these guys, unfortunately.
Why include them, then? Why take these guys over Bikers? Well, cheaper and more wounds, really. They're a more durable distraction unit, for all that they lack a good reliable save (which will really let them down against, say, Wave Serpents with their massive amounts of high Strength, twin-linked fire). Still, my complaint with the Helbrute crops up again, here: why buy a distraction unit at all, rather than another real, versatile threat? Bikers, at least, can threaten tanks with melta or plasma, and have armor/jink saves. Still, here you go:
> 144 - 4 Spawn with MoN
> 150 - 5 Spawn
The best use for Spawn that I can think of as the retinue for a Lord with the MoK and the AoBF on a Juggernaut. Not quite
as mobile as a biker squad, but nearly, and having rather more wounds. Forced as he is to challenge, the Lord will probably waste the first round of combat killing an enemy sergeant, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; wounds spill over, this edition. Though it might well mean the enemy unit flees, which would disappointingly leave you open to enemy shooting come your turn.
In that instance, probably run the Spawn unmarked, since A) you want the enemy to survive that first turn, and B) the MoK isn't fantastic on the Spawn anyways. You can't, of course, stick a MoK Lord into a Nurgle-marked Spawn squad.
You can also run Spawn with a Lord with MoS, a Steed of Slaanesh, and the BBoS. Similarly to the Khorne Lord, this guy can no longer be Focus Fired to death, and he can Outflank with Acute Senses to turn up right where the enemy wants him least. With an AP3 torrent flamer, to boot.
I know that some people have an aversion to fliers. If you don't want to field a Heldrake, more power to you. It frees you up to go hog wild on Bikers for your precious FA slots.
Still, the Heldrake is arguably the most durable flier in the game: AV12 front and sides, a 5++ save, and IWND make it one tough mother (though the Ceramite Plating and rear AV12 of a certain Space Marine flier makes a strong argument as well; good thing meltas don't have Skyfire).
Then there's its gun. The Baleflamer is the way to go: a torrent AP3 S6 torrent flamer? Hells yes! Coupled with a Vector Strike for another S7, AP3 hit, you'll be wiping out whole squads of MEQ with this little shagnasty.
7e gives and takes away from this guy. The vehicle damage chart is even more forgiving to him, now. On the other hand, Vector Strike can't deal multiple hits to ground targets anymore, and his Baleflamer is locked in as a turret-mounted weapon, now, making his positioning altogether more important and disallowing the “Vector Strike a transport+flame the guys who disembark” tactic.
> 170 - Heldrake with Baleflamer
The HAC is worthy of consideration, thanks to the fact that the Heldrake has Skyfire, so it provides another way besides Vector Striking to take out enemy fliers or MCs. The real downsides are that it cripples your anti-infantry capabilities badly, which is where the Drake would otherwise excel, and BS3 means you're only going to average 2 hits. Okay, 2 S8 hits are enough to make nearly any flier or tank flinch a bit, and that terrible BS can be mitigated by an (admittedly situational) allied Herald of Tzeentch with Divination giving the Drake rerolls to hit. Admittedly, the Daemonforge special ability is more suited to the HAC taking out tanks/fliers than on the already-S6 Baleflamer, which wounds infantry quite easily.
A HAC Drake might well be the best AA Chaos has to offer, for all that it's a bit expensive for how mediocre an amount of damage it puts out and that you're giving up the opportunity cost of having a Baleflamer template to wave around. If you're fielding multiple Heldrakes, one of these guys is probably a solid investment.
> 170 - Heldrake with HAC
A word of warning: fliers that can go into hover mode (or the Stormraven, who can keep flying and turn so that its lascannon turret has a clear shot) can hit the Heldrake in its flimsy rear armor with ease if you choose to Vector Strike that flier, so you'd better have enough backup AA to take out that flier if the Strike is ineffectual, or you'll be taking a pretty big gamble.
Competitively, 3 Drakes in a list was the big 6e CSM thing. I think with the 7e faqs and changes, that may well not be the case anymore. And let's be honest—its power needed to be brought back in line, really. Cookie-cutter triple-dragon lists are point-and-click to play, and not fun to play against.