My Tactics pledge: I am not the greatest player, nor a seal pup. I will endeavor to speak from my experience and always be honest about what is theory and what is play tested. Never will I assume to know better than anyone else... unless I must call out ego or pretension.

Still Obliterating your Face

After the disappointment of not getting a new model had passed and the realization they didn't get the Mutilator treatment, you finally took a look at the new Obliterator rules.

Obliterators got only slight tweaks, which didn't change their general role, but did change how you should approach positioning them.

So how differently should you approach Obliterators?

It starts as always by looking at the differences between the 5th edition and 6th edition rules. Here is a side by side comparison.

(Click to Enlarge)

Obliterator Rules 2012




Obliterator Rules 2007




Shifting Sideways

  • Cost Reduction from 75 to 70 points per model
  • Loss of Fearless (Daemon)
  • Loss of Leadership 9 to 8
  • Obliterator Weapon Changes
  • Addition of Marks

 --Cheaper by Demand--

No one ever accused Obliterators of being over priced, so when I saw the cost reduction I knew to look for a catch. The trade-off is Obliterators lose Fearless and gain Marks, which you will almost certainly buy. Running Obliterators stock isn't a bad idea, but cheap Obliterators is a myth if you plan on using them competitively.

--Officially Daemon Spawn--

Obliterators lost Fearless, but gain the ability to cause Fear and get melee to death by Grey Knights, I think I would rather have kept Fearless. I sense this change was a streamlining endeavor to bring into line with the 6th edition and the future Daemon codex.

--I might scare you, but I scare myself--

What would happen if a Obliterators saw itself in the mirror? Well according to Games Workshop it might run from itself. Having Leadership eight is very dangerous as any Dark Eldar player will tell you. This reduction isn't fluffy or makes much sense, but it was part of Phil Kelly's design philosophy for the Chaos Space Marine codex.

--Never use the same Knife twice--

Obliterator Weapons have once again been changed. Now Obliterators get Assault Cannons, Lascannons, Multimeltas, Heavy Flamer, Twin-Linked Flamer, Melta, and Plasma. By getting two more options they lost the ability to fire the same weapons every turn. Now you actually have to think instead of sit, shoot, and forget for five turns making it the best change you can ever ask for.

--One Mark to Rule them All--

Let me say this clearly there is only one Mark: Mark of Nurgle. At only six points it is steal, not only does it make Obliterators immune to most Instant Death weapons, but it makes it much harder for small arms to force armor saves. Either go with Mark of Nurgle or go with none, because the other marks are either too expensive (Tzeentch) or just plan pointless (Slaanesh).

No one ever accused Obliterators of being over priced, so when I saw the cost reduction I knew to look for a catch.

Putting it all together…

Obliterators are simple creatures and understanding how to use them isn’t rocket science.

Obliterators are head and shoulders better than most fire platforms because they can move & shoot and are very resilient. The jump from 5th and 6th edition have done very little to change how Obliterators play. 85% of the time you will sit back in cover and shoot and call it a day.

The two biggest changes is the removal of Fearless and the addition of Marks. By taking Fearless away Phil Kelly created a weakness for the unit, that frankly makes them more interesting. You can no longer add them into just any assault hoping for the best, and you must be cautious about putting your Obliterators too close to the table edge. Obliterators are more susceptible to backfield nuisances that can cause Leadership checks as well.

In return Phil Kelly gave Obliterators the option to take Marks, most importantly, one mark: Nurgle. Going Nurgle makes Obliterators over the top and at only 76 points, a ridiculous bargain.

Lost in the bigger changes is now how Obliterators now works. No longer can you just shoot Lascannons. Now you have to think a little differently. Since Obliterators don’t get Missile Launchers you cannot just sit at 37+ inch range. It means Obliterators are more of a mid-field utility belt.

The sweet range for Obliterators is around 24” and since you can move and fire you shouldn’t have to worry too much about engaging in unwanted Assaults. The added Assault Cannon is a veritable boon for this unit. Imagine 12 Rending Strength six shots for a second... If you have to get up close having two Flamer options provides another dynamic.

Another change of note is what happen to Slow and Purposeful: no more random movement. It does mean Obliterators cannot Run or Sweeping Advance, two things that likely won't be missing. All in all, Deep Striking Obliterators are still out of the question, unless they are the only options to kill heavy armor or entrenched scoring unit removal.

Memory Lane: Obliterator

In concept Obliterators have always been the same through out their history: stand and shoot. It was in 1999 that we were first introduced to the Obliterator Cult and its devastating ability. In the 1999 codex Obliterators were 0-1 only unit. Obliterators couldn't assault nor could they repeat the same weapon twice in any phase. They didn't have an invulnerable save, but had really infamously terrible looking model.

By 2003 Obliterators move from the Heavy Support slot to Elites all at the same time still restricted to one unit per force. Obliterators got to embrace their inner Deamon and charge into combat finally! In addition, Obliterators got a new model, the one we are forced to live with today.It wasn't until the 2007 codex that the true power of the Obliterator Cult was unleashed on the Warhammer 40k universe. Obliterators dominated the twilight of 4th edition like few other units. All it took was one little change (0-3) and spam was invented. Every "competitive" list had nine Obliterators along with Plague Marines and Lash Princes and it was this legacy which Obliterators will forever be remembered for.

--Ways to play Obliterators--

Mostly you will have to decide between running a 3-man Obliterator unit or a 2-man. If you plan on taking only one unit going full size is your best bet; it gives you the most wounds, and maximizes both Plasma Cannons and Assault Cannons the best.

If you are planning on just sitting back between 36-48” inches I suggest two two-man units, so you always have a unit that can shoot Lascannons or Plasma Cannons every turn.

A Word about Allies

Obliterators work best with both Orks and Deamons.

Taking a Obliterator ally in your Ork army is a great way to bring some AP2 pain Ork armies sorely lack. A Ork army based more Dakka and less on Assault really takes full advantage of Obliterators especially used alongside Lootas.

As for Daemons the same principles apply as it would with Orks. The only difference is while you might have good shooting with Orks, your more likely won’t with Daemons, so being able to clear out horde units or heavy armor with Obliterators can be a real godsend.

Remember unlike other Battle Brothers Daemons ICs cannot join with Chaos Space Marine units under any situation.

Final Thoughts...

Not much has changed, but what has changed means you might be moving your Obliterators a little closer to the enemy. The cost reduction is mitigated by Mark of Nurgle, but boy is it worth it. The key (more than ever) is don’t forget all the weapons Obliterators and the range to use them. Obliterators are still the primary Heavy Support unit for Chaos Space Marines so don’t forget it!


It's Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.