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.
Pimp of the Castle
The biggest and best change you can find in the Chaos Space Marine codex is the changes to the Chaos Lord. The Chaos Lord had garnered the most pity of any of the HQ choices, but with the release of the new codex everything has changed.
Phil Kelly has made the Chaos Lord relevant again tailoring it to the needs of any player. The Chaos Lord in a unique way forces players to create stories because he dictates exactly how armies look and play.
The best place to start understanding why the Chaos Lord is the defining unit in the Chaos Space Marine codex you must first compare the vast differences between old and new codex.
(Click to Enlarge)
Compare & Contrast
- Cost reduction from 90 to 65 points
- Master of Traitors
- New and changed Wargear
- Terminator Armor costs more 30 to 40 points
- Chaos Mark changes
--Cheaper with Age--
The first and biggest change you will notice is the Chaos Lord dramatic point reduction. This is very important because you can build a Chaos Lord cheaper to start and make a really good for less than the cost of any special character.
--Leaders of Legion--
Chaos Lords are the primary way to get Noise, Plague, and Berzerker units as Troops. This changed everything, not only are Chaos Lords cheap, but they are essential to unlocking the most popular units.
--All the pretty Toys--
Chaos Lords get access to a vast amount of options. Along with Daemon Weapons and Chaos Mounts, Chaos Lords get all the standard issue weapons everyone has grown to love. The best part is that most of these upgrades are cheaper than the similar ones found in the old codex.
--Something Things ain't Free--
Because Chaos Lords started off so cheap, you can imagine that having more expensive Terminator Armor isn't all that bad when being brought in line with other codexes.
--Marks Him Up-
Chaos Marks are the Chaos Lord bread and butter each opening up different looks for your Chaos Lord. The points have been streamlined with only Mark of Slannesh getting a large points increase.
Chaos Artefact Review for Chaos Lords
Axe of Blind Fury -- 35 pts Mark of Khorne Only
The Axe of Blind Fury is a very situational tool. The Axe is best used against Terminators because of its AP2 and not being Unwieldy. You have to be sure that your Chaos Lord is not stuck in an unwanted Challenge when swinging this weapon. The chance to get upwards of 10 attacks is too much to waste stuck in a Challenge. The drawback of -1 WS is yet another reason for staying out of Challenges, especially against high WS targets
Chaos Lord with Axe of Blind Fury starting cost: 110 pts
The Black Mace -- 45 pts
The Black Mace isn't particularly a great weapon at first glance. Consider though even at AP4 the amount of attacks a Chaos Lord will put out, someone is bound to fail an armor save. Once a save is failed the Black Mace can easily (3" bubble of death) clear out any horde unit in just a few rounds of combat. Better yet the Black Mace always wounds on 2+ making it a can't miss weapon. The cost of the Mace and facing 2+ armor opponents is really the only deterrents for this weapon.
Chaos Lord with The Black Mace starting cost: 110 pts
Burning Brand of Skalathrax -- 30 pts
This is the go to weapon for shooty Chaos Lords. The ability to reach out and touch MEQs with template AP3 death is hard to pass up. The Brand is also a good against charges and is great for keeping Chaos Lords cheap, if you don't have plans for an assault monster. This is the best for MSU armies and players that want their Chaos Lords mostly for unlocking Cult units.
Chaos Lord with Burning Brand of Skalathrax starting cost: 95 pts
Dimensional Key -- 25 pts
This is case of cute, but completely non-functional wargear. The idea that you will kill an enemy model in assault quick enough to become a Deep Strike beacon is silly. Then you have the "difficult and dangerous" bubble which isn't big deal for most armies. If that is not bad enough the Chaos Lord will have a bullseye quickly painted on his forehead. At 25 points it is just too darn situational.
Chaos Lord with Dimensional Key starting cost: 90 pts
The Murder Sword -- 35 pts
The Murder Sword is a great weapon for singling out other HQs you wish to kill. Even if the Character you pick has Eternal Warrior you will still have a lot of AP1 attacks for the unit to deal with. Otherwise, the Murder Sword will happily kill most other units it will face. At 35 points though the Murder Sword has problems because you pay 20 points for the Murder ability and there is no guarantee your Chaos Lord will reach his chosen target. The Murder Sword could have been better if it worked against any Character. It also wouldn't have hurt if the Murder Sword was a Daemon Weapon.
Chaos Lord with Murder Sword starting cost: 100 pts
Scrolls of Magnus - - 45 pts Mark of Tzeentch only
The Scrolls of Magnus is a dangerous piece of equipment and at 45 pts is hard to imagine being that useful. The Scrolls are so expensive because they give a Chaos Lord psychic powers and makes those powers permanent. Then the Scrolls attack the Chaos Lord as well; making it essential the Tzeentch Chaos Lord has a Sigil of Corruption to get a 3+ invulnerable save. Overall, the cost is just too great for random powers that may or may not be useful.
Chaos Lord with Scrolls of Magnus starting cost: 125 pts
The Chaos Lord in a unique way forces players to create stories because he dictates exactly how armies look and play.
Putting it all together.
Once everyone gets over their love affair with Typhus, Chaos Space Marine players will quickly move to designing Chaos Lords to run mayhem throughout the Imperium.
Chaos Lords are the best HQ choice in the Chaos Space Marine codex because they're so flexible. The flexibility is designed to give players the opportunity to create specific armies based around the Chaos Lord.
Any Chaos Lord can be built to fit almost every list you are looking to make. Chaos Lords unlock most of the cult units, and they have the most variety of wargear options available.
Most players barely scratch the surface when it comes to Chaos Lord design. It all starts with the price tag. Chaos Lords start cheap and never cost more than 200 points for even the most tricked out.
The easiest way to build a Chaos Lord is throw a Chaos Mark and be done. You end up spending less than 100 points all for the glory of getting the cult unit you want changed to Troops. After you get tired of the stripped down Chaos Lord the next step is moving to the Burning Brand of Skalathrax Chaos Lord.
The Burning Brand of Skalathrax Chaos Lord is nothing more than a Chaos Lord, Chaos Mark, the Burning Brand of Skalathrax, and a Sigil of Corruption. This gives you a Chaos Lord with a Torrent weapon that threatens most armies. It is a cheap and effective unit that runs with anything hiding in a Rhino.
Then you have options like Chaos Lord on Bike. A Chaos Lord on Bike accomplishes a lot. The Bike Chaos Lord is all but immune to Instant Death and can be joined to any unit not in a transport. Drawing you to Nurgle or Slaanesh Chaos Bikers as a strong and powerful retinue.
Then you can go classic: Chaos Lord in Terminator Armor giving your Chaos Lord 2+ save and stock Power Weapon of your choice.
After those typical designs, things really start to get interesting.
You have Chaos Lords that serve very specific roles. This is where Chaos Marks really kick in; Phil Kelly likes to direct players into building specific things. You take Mark of Khorne and the Juggernaut of Khorne becomes available along with Axe of Blind Fury; creating a monster with a ton of attacks, but the Chaos Lord is also Calvary so Chaos Spawn become the likely escort.
The Chaos Lords also do things that the special characters (by design) don’t do. You don’t see any special character with a mount or really any option you find a Chaos Lord having. You can only get a five wound Chaos Lord if you take Palanquin of Nurgle or you can only Outflank if you have Chaos Lord on a Steed of Slannesh.
All this is for a reason, the Chaos Space Marine codex designers want you to explorer your lists and army through Chaos Lords. Likely, Chaos Lords are where you will see the most creative lists develop.
Chaos Lords are also one of the few ways you can get Fearless to units they join. The big three units to join are Chaos Bikes, Chaos Terminators, and Chaos Space Marines. All three units work, but with a Chaos Lord their effectiveness is amplified.
What about double Chaos Lords? If you love designing death stars two Chaos Lords is a great option. Chaos Lords also give leeway to take those not so good special characters. Take Huron if you know that Nurgle Bike Chaos Lord is coming for support. You can make sure Kharn will get his attacks off if he has Chaos Lord of Khorne along for the destruction.
Finally, a general rule when it comes to creating a Chaos Lord: the more expensive it becomes the less expensive the unit join should be. Throwing too many points in a Chaos Lord delivery system is often a bad idea. Most good players will pump everything into a Chaos Lord lead unit, so just remember that the unit itself is rarely going to be as good as the Chaos Lord. The key is makings sure the Chaos Lord and Aspiring Champion at least make it for Challenge shenanigans.
Memory Lane: Chaos Lord
--Ways to play Chaos Lord--
The following configurations are by no means meant strictly for competitive play, they represent a cross-section of the Chaos Space Marine codex allowing for flexibility and variety.
Death Star Configuration: 160 pts Chaos Lord with The Black Mace, Chaos Bike, Sigil of Corruption, Veterans of the Long War
Balanced Configuration: 145 pts Chaos Lord with Terminator Armor, Power Axe, Murder Sword, Veterans of the Long War
Shooting Configuration: 130 pts Chaos Lord with Burning Brand of Skalathrax, Combi-Plasma, Sigil of Corruption
Khorne Configuration: 175 pts Chaos Lord with Mark of Khorne, Axe of Blind Fury, Juggernaut of Khorne, Sigil of Corruption, Veterans of the Long War
Slannesh Configuration: 160 pts Chaos Lord with Mark of Slaanesh, 2 Lightning Claws, Chaos Bike, Sigil of Corruption, Veterans of the Long War
Nurgle Configuration: 190 pts Chaos Lord with Mark of Nurgle, Palanquin of Nurgle, Power Fist, Sigil of Corruption, Blight Grenades, Combi-Flamer, Veterans of the Long War
Tzeentch Configuration: 175 pts Chaos Lord with Mark of Tzeentch, Chaos Bike, The Black Mace, Sigil of Corruption, Veterans of the Long War
If you have any questions feel free to email me using the contact information below.
Overall, the Chaos Lord is a critical unit. The Chaos Lord is the basis for most Chaos Space Marine armies. The Chaos Lord is all about experimentation. The Chaos Lord is the shining moment of the Chaos Space Marine codex because it takes a bad unit and makes it good, without taking away anything from the rest of the codex in the process.
It's Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.
For tactical articles feel free to email me to continue the discussion or if you discover an inaccurate interpretation of the rules-- edits will be made accordingly.
Also check out other articles in this series...
- Getting Restarted
- Breaking Down the Codex
- Chaos Space Marine Unit Review
- Cultist Review
- Khorne Berzerkers Review
- Thousand Sons Review
- Noise Marine Review
- Plague Marine Review
- Chosen Review
- Mutilator Review
- Helbrute Review
- Possessed Review
- Chaos Terminator Review
- Chaos Bikes Review
- Chaos Spawn Review
- Raptors Review
- Warp Talons Review
- Heldrake Review
- Havocs Review
- Obliterator Review
- Defiler Review
- Forgefiend Review
- Maulerfiend Review
- Rhino, Vindicator, Predator, Land Raider Review
- Abbadon the Despiler Review
- Huron Blackheart Review
- Kharn the Betrayer Review
- Ahriman Review
- Typhus Review
- Lucius the Eternal Review
- Fabius Bile Review