Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Competitive Chaos Space Marines in 6th Ed. Part1: An Ode to the Ruinous Powers

Greetings fellow wargamers,

 Today’s post is dedicated to the beloved Sons of the Warp, the Chaos Space Marines and their position in the “ food chain” of the current meta.
Being the first “pure” 6th ed. Codex, Chaos boys heralded the start  of a new codex format which was supposed to be balanced and make every unit in the book viable.  Kind of…

 It is an undeniable fact that 80% of the units that are included in the Chaos Space Marines codex should be avoided in any competitive army list. Having said that, let’s take a look at those few units that are decent enough to be taken into consideration.


A rather uninteresting section of the book, most Chaos players should prefer the cheapest possible solution to fill that compulsory HQ slot. A naked Lord or Sorcerer ,hidden in a blob of Cultists is the standard option for most chaos lists.
Alternatively, it is possible to upgrade said Lord/Sorcerer with all sorts of weapons and equipment ,  then attach them in units of Chaos Bikers or Terminators ( see below) .  It all depends on the army list and the purpose of the HQ.
As far as Special Characters are concerned, I would suggest to avoid them completely, as  almost all of them offer little to compensate for their immense points cost and they give few or none army- wide buffs.  Even if some of them make horrifying beatsticks, they are simply not worth it,  as a nicely armed plain Lord can perform as well for half the price.


The only unit that is worth considering  from the Elite slot is the Chaos Terminator squad.  Compared  to their loyal counterparts, the Chaos termies are both cheaper and more versatile. In the past, these guys were used  as suicide units armed with combi- weapons. They can still perform this roll nicely and this is actually remains the most common way in which they are used.  I would suggest taking a small squad of terminators as distraction unit  if there are leftover points that can be invested.
 On the other hand, as I mentioned above, the Terminator unit can be further empowered with the addition of an  HQ character ( mostly Sorcerer) in terminator armor for some decent shooting support with combi-weapons etc.


The Chaos army has access to some rather nice troop options that offer both flexibility and adequate damage output.

Cultists:  by far the most common troop choice these days, cultists are dirt cheap and can fill the compulsory troop options for a mere 100 points. They have almost 0 damage output, 0 survivability outside of cover, but are otherwise decent for their cost. Their sole purpose is to claim objectives and thankfully they can do that very well.
For the most part, cultists are more than enough to cover the needs for Troop units.  Regular Chaos Space marines are certainly to be avoided simply because they are outclassed by those humble cultists.

 On the other hand, the codex provides access to another 4 units of troops: Khorne Berzekers, Thousand Sons, Noise Mariners, Plaguemarines. Although these guys are normally an Elite option, it is non-negotiable that they should never be taken as Elites. The only way that these guys become viable is via marked HQ’s ( with the appropriate deity’s symbol), as a Troop choice instead. This is why I am mentioning them in the Troops section.

 Khorne Berzekers and Thousand Sons are definitely bad options and have no place in competitive environment. On the other hand, Plaguemarines and  Noise marines, although they are both considered “ outsiders”, can perform well in most lists.

 Plaguemarines are rather expensive, starting at 24pts each, but their cost is arguably justified by their T5, FNP, Fearless and defensive grenades, all of which make those sick bastards quite obnoxious for the opponent. Still, they are armed with bolters, for what that’s worth, but can take up to two special weapons per 5 guys, which is OK.  Taking into consideration the fact that the amount of weapons that  ignore cover is on the rise, perhaps Chaos players should rethink their lists and make some space for a few Plaguemarine squads.

Noise marines were considered to be garbage, until the FAQ gave them 2 Blastmasters per 10 models.  Now, for 240 points you can get 10 marines with 2 str8 ap3 Blast weapons with the Ignores Cover special rule, and although the point cost is definitely non-negligible,  Noise marines can perform well as objective holders while dishing out some serious damage from a safe distance.


When people talk about the Chaos Space Marine codex, the main subject of discussion is almost always the same: Helldrake.

I believe there is no need to explain why the Helldrake is considered the best flyer  ever made, and possibly one of the best units to hit the tables. This mighty mechanical dragon would certainly bring tears of joy in the eyes of the Chaos gods themselves, and for the opponents of the Ruinous powers there is without a doubt,  no other instrument that can convey the sheer terror and butthurt  that is synonymous with the Denizens of the Warp..

Having said that, it is an undeniable fact that those 3 Elite slots , more often than not, are dedicated exclusively for the accommodation of Helldrakes.  For all and any competitive purposes ,  any Chaos list should begin with the addition of at least 2 of these wicked monstrosities. From that point on, the list can be tailored to match the desires and needs of the player.

Despite the fact that the Helldrake is the sole unit that still  keeps the Chaos engine alive, his effectiveness has diminished over time. Certainly, it will still perform excellent and all that, but the metagame is ever changing, and with all this bombardment of new releases that we experienced this year, the Helldrake has indeed lost some of his glory.

 For example, against the most recent threats, like Tau, who has a bunch of Interceptor weapons, and plenty of bodies with 2+ save, or Eldar, who spam AV12 vehicles and T8 MCs,  Helldrakes are not as effective as they used to be previously, when everybody used Aegis Defence lines and blobs of Troops. Furthermore, people realized that the paranoia that followed the release of the Helldrake was nothing more than a hype, and that the damage caused by the dragon can be easily reduced simply by spreading out your troops, keeping a safe distance from the opponent’s table edge or simply making changes in their army lists and try to play around it.

So, where were we? Oh, yes, FA slots! Except the dragon, there are other interesting options that I should mention.
 Chaos Bikers and Chaos Spawns are the alternative units that can be taken, if the Helldrake is not your thing. I am making a single paragraph about both units, because they are both used in the same manner: fast, durable melee specialists.
Bikers and Spawns need Lords on bikes ( or Juggernauts ) to accompany them.  Probably the best option is to use a Nurgle lord on Bike, with a chaotic artefact of your choice,  alongside a large squad of bikers/ spawns with the same mark. 
 I believe that bikers are somewhat better that spawns, because they don’t rely as much on the joined HQ. Spawns have no armour save and they need a sponge-character to absorb incoming damage. In melee they are quite decent though  and their 3 wounds can make them rather resilient against anything but massed shooting.
 Bikers, on the other hand have the characteristic reliability of the Space marine, some shooting potential, access to special and melee weapons etc etc. 

In the end,  both units are perfectly viable, although personally I would choose the Chaos Spawns, simply because they make better use of the attached character, and their Fleet special rule, which can make all the difference in certain situations.

Heavy support

 Obliterators: The second-best unit in the book, Oblis have been a common sight in Chaos Space marine armies for a long time and despite the changes in the metagame and a small hit from the nerfbat, they retain their potential as flexible shooting platforms. They should be included in most chaos lists as they are probably the best heavy support option available in the codex.

Forgefiend: This is a personal favorite of mine, a unit that I suggest every time I happen to chat about Chaos army lists. I believe that Forgefiends are one of the most underestimated units, and here’s why:
Sure, they are expensive to field. 175 points for an AV12 Walker certainly seems like a bad deal and it only gets worse when you notice that BS3, but he has 8 str8 ap4 shots at 48”, 5++  and the Daemonforge rule.
 It seems that Forgefiends are ideal candidates for prescience...and it just so happens that Chaos Space Marines can ally with Daemons and get access to Heralds of Tzeench. That’s all I am suggesting, perhaps I am wrong and that combo simply isn’t worth it.  I still need to test it out, but I think it can make a decent option.

Maulerfiend: The melee-oriented cousin of the Forgefiend is quite cheaper and has 12” movement, which make it a great option for dedicated assault Chaos lists. It’s not great, but can perform well in lists that are built around it.


The Codex: Chaos Space Marine still makes viable and competitive army lists, despite the fact that it had the misfortune of being the 1st 6th ed Codex,  in an ever-changing  environment where new threats are presented with each new release , can still perform very well.
 In this article I only wrote about those units of the codex that I consider the best, but that does not necessarily mean that the rest of the Codex is terrible. In any case, I hope you enjoyed this 1st part of the Chaos Space Marine tactica. More to follow…

 Stefanos Kapetanakis, out.

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