Chaos Lords and You: Becoming Pals (a.k.a Chaos Lord Tactica)
So, here you are, a budding servant of the Dark Gods, wanting to reap destruction for whichever deity takes your preference (I'm a loyal servant of Khorne myself). In your absence from the battlefield, you have elected to send a Chaos Lord to do your bidding on the tabletop, but with the plethora of choices before you, you find yourself in need of a guide through the warp. Well here I am.
Now, the Sorcerer is by far the most popular choice in most Chaos Space Marine armies, but by no means does that make them an auto-include choice, and in this little article we're going to focus on the merits of the Chaos Lords. Chaos Lords have access to almost every item of wargear in the codex, excluding Fleshmetal armour( which would have been a nice option) and one or two other things. So, you ask, what will a chaos lord give me that I can't get from the very utilitarian Sorcerer? Well where the sorcerer excels in a support role with the telepathy discipline, the Lord will take a much more direct approach.
Chaos Lords are close combat death machines, with a very strong, combat focussed basic statline. Now, don't get me wrong, a daemon prince with a black mace will probably scare the unholy shit out of more units in the game, but for the cost of a chaos lord (80 points less) you are getting a very good value unit.
The warlord traits available from the chaos table are very hit and miss for a Chaos Lord, but there is really only one totally shit one, and that's Lord of Terror, since Fear is pretty wank. Flames of Spite isn't great either, but it may do a wound or two. Hatred incarnate is by far the best for a Chaos Lord, since combat is where you want him, squashing units at a time. I actually prefer the option of rolling on the Personal Traits table from the rulebook, since But enough with Warlord Traits, since the option of Furious Charge/ Feel No Pain/ It Will Not Die/ or vetting VPs for slaying enemy characters will probably come in more useful in a combat situation. Legendary Fighter is particularly good for Chaos Lords since you have to issue and accept challenges, so you may as well be getting the VPs, since you will splat all enemy non HQ characters, as well as a lot of enemy HQs. But enough about warlord traits, since it's literally a roll of the dice, and onto the Marks of Chaos (woohoo!)
Marks of Chaos
So, the first thing you'll want to look at when loading out your Lord is which god you want him to kill in the name of. Tzeentch, Khorne are Nurgle are pretty useful marks, since they either increse your survivability significantly, in the case of Tzeentch and Nurgle, or add to your damage output, in the case of Khorne. Slaanesh's +1 initiative is pretty underwhelming, unless you plan on facing a lot of Dark Eldar, since you're already striking before most standard units with the Lord's basic initiative.
Khorne is my favourite mark, since it gives you access to two of the outstanding options for the lord, The Axe of Blind Fury and a Juggernaut, which we'll look at later. Nurgle would be my second favourite choice, because when combined with a bike, your lord becomes almost immune to small arms fire and infantry close combat attacks that don't have special weapons. Tzeentch is a nice buff for your ability to take on enemy characters who can lay some smackdown, since it can be paired with a sigil of corruption to give you a storm shield. And then there's Slaanesh. I'm trying to think of a good use for it, and I suppose you could throw it on your lord with a power weapon of some sort to take out enemy characters in challenges, but it's so underwhelming when compared to the others which unlock all sort of nasty combos. Then of course there's the option of having an unmarked lord, which can be useful with certain wargear combinations, but really you're wasting the HQ slot on a Lord if you're not marking him, since a Warsmith will probably give you what you're looking for.
So now that we've explored the marks, we'll look and see what nice pieces of Wargear you can put on him to make him a whirlwind of devastation.
This section will be short and sweet. There's only two options here, one of which is clearly superior since it doesn't inhibit your ability to actually move at a decent speed or take other wargear items. Yes folks, i'm talking about power armour. If you really have a burning desire to bring a terminator Lord, then i'd advise taking the Mark of Tzeentch for the 4+ invulnerable save, a Power Fist and a Lightning Claw, so you have the ability to take on 3+ or less saves or engage big nasties with the fist. Power armour is my definite preferred option, simply because you can purchase things to get your Lord into combat quicker, such as a Bike or Jump Pack, or a Daemonic Steed.
I'll include the invulnerable save upgrades here in this section as well, since they're kind of like armour. Theres the Aura of Dark Glory or the Sigil of Corruption, and for the extra couple of points, the Sigil is worth it every time over the Aura. That's pretty much that.
Here it is, the moment everyone has been waiting for, you get to pick what lump of metal you're going to bash your opponent's skull in with. I'll cover the basic ones first and then move onto the tasty Artefacts that you can buy.
Chainaxe: If you take this on a Chaos Lord, I will find you and stick said chainaxe up your ass sideways. NEXT PLEASE
Power Sword: It's ok, mediocre is putting it mildly. You want a bit more 'oomph' than just an AP3 base strength weapon, but if you're lord is shopping at Best Buy, it's a cheap and cheerful option which he'll cut down a few MEQs with. No more, no less
Power Axe: Does anyone actually use these anymore? You're sacrificing Initiative 5 for +1 strength, it's really not worth your while. Just get a fist
Power Maul: Power-LAWL. What a piece of shit.
Lightning Claw: Ah at last, a weapon worth taking. Better than a power sword in every way, for the same price. But don't take it without either another Lightning Claw or a Power Fist
Power Fist: Want to pop someone's skull like you're Gregor Clegane? This the weapon for you. By far the best option for taking on terminators or nasty high toughness units. I'd pair it with a Claw to give you +1 attack and the utility to take on all comers in combat
So that's the basics. Not enough Killy-Maimy-Burny-death, I hear you say? Never fear, there are some absolutely devastating options still yet to come; The Chaos Artefacts (yay, cheer, applause!). And just to be a wanker, i'm going to start with the useless ones.
The Scrolls of Magnus: this tops the list as the most useless Artefact. It may as well be called the Scrote of Magnus, but I think Magnus' old red wrinkly balls would be much more useful than this. One random psychic power from one random psychic discipline each turn. Crap.
Dimensional Key: Useless unless you're running a whole army of terminators, raptors and warp talons. Even then, it's so unlikely that you'll be in combat on turn two, so by the time this comes into effect most of your reserves are already on the table. No use really
The Black Mace: My favourite Artefact. 'But McMuffin', you cry, why is it only ranked 4th if it's your favourite? Well, my esteemed homies, it's my favourite, but only on a Daemon Prince, since the AP4 is negated and it becomes a 2+ squisher of everything. On a Lord it has its uses. You'll cut swathes through non power armoured armies, since most of those have a toughness of 3, but for the cost , it just isn't quite powerful enough to justify itself. Fleshbane is nice, but the AP just kills it as a viable choice on a Lord.
The Murder Sword: It's a power sword. But wait, there's more. It's got very specific uses in an army, and only really works on an incredibly mobile Lord, designed to take out a character and his retinue. It's a fun gimmick, if nothing else
The Burning Brand of Skalathrax: I watch your power armour melt all over the floor, and i watch it from far away. It's a torrent flamer with AP3 and soul blaze. How can you not love it? This has so many uses on a Lord, whether it's just a generic lord on a bike or jump pack scooting around torching units or on a close combat monster, such as a juggerlord, as a nice little appetiser before the main course of death. I love it.
The Axe of Blind Fury (a.k.a. the axe of 'I'll splatter you and your unit all over the floor'): This is the weapon you really want on your Chaos Lord, and it will turn him from a combat specialist to a squad killer. +2 strength means that, in general, he'll be wounding most models on 2s, and the penalty to his WS and BS is pretty irrelevant since this weapon is designed so that your lord can scythe down enemy infantry, not kill their HQ characters. WS5 is plenty for butchering a unit of Marines. You also get the bonus D6 attacks for being a daemon weapon, so your lord, on the charge (and assuming he kept his pistol) will have between 7 and 12 attacks, hitting on 3s and wounding on 2s with no armour saves. This makes almost every infantry unit's underwear just a little bit browner, since he'll be striking before they have much of a chance to do anything. This is a very very good weapon.
The shetland ponies of chaos, Daemonic steeds, are actually very useful. Some of them at least.
I'll start with the Slaaneshi one. It's pretty decent, it nearly makes the MoS a decent option for your lord. Outflanking is pretty decent, especially with acute senses, but you can't charge from reserve, so there's a turn of sitting being shot before you can do some damage. A blob of cultists to deliver the lord are certainly an option here, even though they aren't particularly mobile, unlike the lord himself. They're really only there as cannon fodder.
The Palanquin of Nurgle isn't awful, but it doesn't offer any increase in speed, even though it does make your lord very durable. But slow moving combat beasts, regardless of hardiness aren't any good to anyone. Probably best left at home
Discs of Tzeentch turn your lord into a zoomy zoomy dude. Jetbikes for the win. The downside is that there isn't a unit to put him with that can keep up with him, but I have found one nice build for a lord which uses this. Stay tuned.
The mother of steeds, the Juggernaut. This is the clear winner in the Chaos horse show. The stat buffs are excellent, and it's a cavalry unit. Your lord can smash into combat in no time, hitting like an entire battle cruiser full of bricks, and the juggernaut buffs his resilience so he can go toe to toe with a lot of tough units. Combine these stat buffs with the attack buffs from the mark of khorne and you have yourself one of the top tier close combat units in 40k.
There are a few bits and bobs that your Lord can take in addition to everything that i've already covered. The first is the Gift of Mutation. If you have 10 points lying around, go for it, there are some really handy boons that can enhance your lord a lot, like eternal warrior, fleshbane and loads of others. I always try to fit it on my lord, and a few of my champions too. Ichor blood is underwhelming, S3 hits are shit, if they were either a higher strength or a lower AP then it might be viable, but as it is, it's not. Combat Familiars are in the same bracket, two extra S4 attacks aren't really worth the points.
McMuffin's Favourite Builds
I've run through the theory of using your chaos lord, now I'll run you through my preferred builds and how to effectively use them. I build my Lords with a task in mind, usually it's killing stuff, but sometimes I specify exactly what I want him to achieve for my army. Here's the first one
Character Killer: It's definitely not the optimum build by any means, but it is enjoyable to use and works pretty well for killing off enemy characters and softening up your opponent's backfield
Chaos Lord: Mark of Tzeentch, Disc of Tzeentch, Sigil of Corruption, The Murder Sword, Burning Brand of Skalathrax: 200pts
It's an expensive build, and it takes quite a bit of finesse to use correctly. The mobility of being a jetbike means you can usually get to the Murder Sword's nominated target with a lot of speed. The burning brand can soften up the character's unit before charging in. Tzeentch gives a 3+ invulnerable save, which should hopefully keep your lord relatively unscathed after he kills his intended target. Assuming all goes well, you can continue zooming around the back of the board torching and cutting up your opponent's backfield units. This build is difficult enough to pull off though, and i'd recommend keeping the lord in a unit of either bikes or spawn until he's ready to pounce.
Bikerbomb Lord: This guy is a lot more well rounded and has a lot of potential uses. I usually find he's great at protecting an objective or cutting down enemy troops.
Chaos Lord: Mark of Nurgle, Chaos Bike, Power Fist, Lightning Claw, Sigil of Corruption, Gift of Mutation: 175pts
T6. Lovely stuff. No strength based instant death and basically immune to small arms fire, plus the mobility of a bike. What's not to love? The fist and claw give him the option of cutting down normal troops or taking on heavier armour, along with the +1 attack for having two specialist weapons. The Sigil is there for obvious reasons, and the gift is a nice little buff pre-game. The best possible boon you could get in my opinion would be +1 toughness, because FUCKING TOUGHNESS 7. Otherwise you'd hope for Shrouded (for the 2+ jink save) or feel no pain. The whole idea behind this build is durability, so any durability buffs on the boon table work well. The bike lord can run with two units, either a squad of Nurgle Bikers or Nurgle Spawn. Both have benefits. The Nurgle bikers provide a fantastic tarpit for your army, along with providing a champion to soak up challenges so the lord can slice n dice the rest of the unit. The Spawn provide 15 T6 wounds to carry your lord into combat, and aren't bad in combat themselves.
And now, you know what's coming next. In the red corner, fighting for Khorne, ready to fuck up entire squads at a time, it's the Juggerlord
Chaos Lord: Mark of Khorne, Juggernaut of Khorne, Axe of Blind Fury, Sigil of Corruption, Gift of Mutation: 180
This is Chaos Lord: slaughter edition. 7+D6 attacks on the charge at S6, I5, plus hammer of wrath. He's cavalry so he can re-roll his charge distance as well, which makes him reliable. There isn't much else to say other than that he'll butcher entire units, even the likes of terminators. I run him with a unit of Khorne Bikers, which gives added protection getting to combat, as well as a champion to soak up any challenges so the Lord can kill the unit around him, exactly like with the Nurgle Lord. The difference being that the Juggerlord is cheaper, gets more attacks and has a higher strength. If left unchecked a juggerlord with his cohort of bikes will cut through a huge number of units, since anything shy of a 10 man terminator unit will most likely be wiped out in a single turn of combat. On top of being really effective, Juggerlords are massively fun to play with, I wouldn't leave home without one.
I hope you enjoyed this tactics article and it encourages you to use Chaos lords in your army, since they're both really enjoyable to play with and pretty effective in game. Feel free to post any feedback you might have or anything you disagree with me on. Also I'd be interested to see what other builds for your lords you have come up with, so post them below. Thanks guys!
Originally Posted by McMuffin's Law
As an online discussion about 40k grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Squats approaches 1.
Keep in mind you are arguing "realism" about an army of genetically-altered supermen that are able to shrug off rocket propelled explosive bullets because someone is waving around a cup full of blood that reminds them of their long lost Super Daddy that was killed by there Extra Special-Super Uncle.
Space Wolves Tournament Results W:24 D:8 L:8
Jaws-ing my way to victory