About the Author: Learn2Eel, aka Jack White
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Hey guys, I thought I would consolidate my Chaos Space Marines 'tactica' here. Hopefully it can be of some use to all aspiring lords of Chaos; Death to the False Emperor!
Basically, I go into detail about what I feel are the competitive choices in each of our force organization slots, and my recommendations on the best builds for each unit. Something I didn't do earlier was example builds - I did these for HQs initially, but I didn't do them for the other units. I'll phase those in and also update this as necessary. Also, if you want to skip the wall of a text, I have included brief summaries for each of the Force Organization slots located at the bottom of each section. I am also going to do another post at a later date evaluating all of the individual wargear options and what units they benefit most. Thanks!
HQ - Here are my thoughts on each generic HQ choice, and then some example builds that I find to be competitive.
Chaos Lord - Very cheap, very killy. A fully kitted out one will usually run you well under 200 points, which is lovely. They can take crazy wargear options, and there are currently several viable builds you could use. Think about where you want to put him, what you want him to kill, and what unit you want him to run with, in any order. Has a decent shooting option in the form of the Burning Brand (it makes Space Marines cry). He has access to similar weapon options as a Loyalist Captain, but he also can take Daemon Weapons; whilst I wouldn't usually put the Black Mace on a Chaos Lord, the Axe of Blind Fury is fantastic and will make him a monster against other equivalent HQs. Basically, you can customize him to deal with anything you want, and he will do it cheaply. Very good choice overall.
Sorcerer - I have to keep resisting the urge to call them Sorcerer Lords. Brought in line with Loyalist Librarians, Sorcerers are in my opinion the best HQ choice we have right now. One with a 3+ 4++ and Mastery Level 2 is ridiculously cheap and has access to a very nasty primaris power from the Telepathy discipline - Psychic Shriek. Biomancy is a great psychic discipline, and Pyromancy has never failed me either. If you are using him in this role though, just stick him in with a Chaos Marine squad in a rhino. Sorcerer's aren't what I would call a defensive or support psyker - pretty much all of his powers are geared to offense. Even a basic Sorcerer Lord with Psychic Shriek will be hard pressed not to make his points back in an aggressive army - just remember to keep the Sorcerer protected, he will fall quickly to other combat-centric characters. Excellent choice overall.
Dark Apostle - I've noticed some people don't see this guy as very viable and don't like his pricey basic cost. Weaker stat-line than a Chaos Lord, more expensive, etc. However, he comes with a power maul, a +4 invulnerable save, and some very interesting abilities base. I see this guy as useful in two particular ways - as he has the Zealot rule, he grants himself and any unit he joins both Fearless and Hatred. Remember how you have to pay about 50+ points for that on a 10-man squad?
Well, for about double the cost, they are getting to use his LD10, have Hatred Everything as opposed to just Loyalists, and you get a two-wound power-maul wielding sucker that makes everyone near him LD10. In that sense, he's like an upgrade character for a unit - the only sad truth is that he is a HQ and not something like a 1-3 choice in the Elites section. He also lets any character (including himself) in the same unit re-roll their Chaos Boon rolls, which can be very handy - especially if it is to avoid turning into a Spawn/Daemon Prince at the wrong time. I think he's priced decently for what he does, but it depends on what unit you want him to go with. Just remember, he makes Cultists quite nasty if you don't go the Typhus route. Good choice, but only if you make use of his abilities - don't think of him in the same way as you would a Chaos Lord.
One other complaint I've seen about the Dark Apostle is his option to take Veterans of the Long War for free - as it provides no benefit to him, it is argued that it should either be included already or not there at all. My response is that the upgrade is there purely for fluff purposes; Dark Apostles in the new codex come in many flavours, either as leaders of rebellious uprisings or as the ancient corrupted Chaplains of the Word Bearers. VotLW allows you to demonstrate what your Dark Apostle is - it seems pointless, but for players that are really keen on the background of their army, it is a good option to have.
Warpsmith - One of the few HQs I have yet to use, but I find him to be quite a decent choice. Like the Dark Apostle, his base cost is high compared to the Chaos Lord/Sorcerer, but he gets some great abilities to compensate. +2 armour base, 5 (count them) power axe attacks base, repair, etc. Having a meltagun, a flamer and the ability to repair vehicles on a 4+ is just the icing on this sweet cake. Don't be afraid to stick him with a close combat unit or a shooty unit - his repair abilities also combine well with the Fiends, depending on which ones are used. Maulerfiends? Stick him in a Rhino and follow them. Forgefiends? Hang back with some Havocs or Obliterators and help out. Good choice overall.
Daemon Prince - I'll be honest - I wouldn't recommend the Daemon Prince. Whilst he is a crazy killing machine and, if kitted out appropriately, will make armies lacking S10 weaponry or lots of high strength firepower cry, he tends to be over-priced for what he does. Stay away from Grey Knights, Tau and Necrons. They will ruin your day in short order. However, despite all of that, he is the most powerful of your generic HQs by quite some margin - and he is a massive target because of it. Combined with the Black Mace, there is little the Daemon Prince cannot kill in a single game turn - provided you don't roll badly for the daemon weapon, of course.. Also laugh as you auto-sweep I3 enemies and lower. Even I4 is reliant on the absolute luckiest of dice rolls to get away from you, and WS9 means you can laugh off krak-grenade wielding Space Marines. Make sure to identify any S10 or instant-death weapons in your opponents' army, and stay away from them. Expensive choice, not typically considered to be efficient, but certain builds can be quite nasty if used right.
Now, for some example builds;
Chaos Lord w/ mark of tzeentch, terminator armour, chainfist, lightning claw, sigil of corruption - I've seen some variations of this, but I think a lot of people agree that this is one of the more frightening Chaos Lords to deal with. 2+ armour, 3+ invulnerable saves against anything. Chainfist for dealing with +2 armour/monstrous creatures/tanks, lightning claw for infantry/MEQ. Very cheap too. Works well in pretty much any role.
Chaos Lord w/ mark of khorne, juggernaught of khorne, axe of blind fury, sigil of corruption - Attach a unit of Chaos Spawn or Bikers and send him barreling into a suitable target. Keep away from Walkers. He will rip through all manner of targets; he has the number of attacks to deal with entire squads single-handedly, he can scythe through TEQs and MEQs alike with impunity, he can do damage to light vehicles, and the tasty +4 invulnerable save gives him a 50% chance of laughing off any S10 AP2-3 etc attacks. Fast and durable enough to make it through your opponent's shooting phase, and deadly to a wide range of targets. Veterans of the Long War and Meltabombs are also useful, cheap upgrades, depending on what you expect to face. And the big cherry on top? This killing machine will cost you less than 200 points.
Daemon Prince (any kind) w/ the black mace, wings, power armour - I find the best way to run a flying Daemon Prince is to make him a Nurgle prince, whilst being Slow and Purposeful means you can't sweeping advance enemies by making use of your extraordinarily high initiative, you get a permanent +5 cover save which increases to +3 in any kind of terrain. However, any of them are useful - just remember that a Daemon Prince with the Black Mace won't find much benefit from Furious Charge. Anyway, this is a very expensive model (in the Abaddon price range) that can fall to a single S10 hit.
However, flying gives you serious mobility and durability against non-skyfire weaponry. All the juice that comes with being a flying monstrous creature is here, but the real meat of this unit is the Black Mace - this is okay normally, but in the hands of a model with Smash, it becomes terrifyingly powerful. At WS9, you will hit almost any enemy in the game on a +3, and against unlucky Loyalists, you do so with re-rolls on the first combat round. You then wound everything on a +2 resolved at AP2 and I8. Remembering that you have 5 attacks base, +D6 and other bonuses. Toughness tests galore, let us not forget! Just remember not to go anywhere near Tau with this guy.
Sorcerer w/ sigil of corruption, mastery level 2, meltabombs - My personal favourite build for a Sorcerer Lord so far. Cheap as chips for what he does. Give him Psychic Shriek, put him in a Rhino with a Chaos Marine squad with a meltagun or plasma gun, and you are set. The second psychic power you generate is basically a bonus - Pyromancy is risky as it is mostly witchfire powers (meaning you waste his mastery level), but Biomancy is very good for almost any situation.
Special Characters - I wanted to attend to these guys separately to give out a more in-depth feel of them.
Abaddon - Still a nightmare in combat, but provides great buffs to your army - if you tailor the list to suit those benefits and remember that they are only really useful against Loyalist Space Marines. Typically, a good choice as he can reliably kill most enemy units in the game in combat, and will laugh off other armies dedicated combat HQs of similar costs - i.e. Mephiston, Draigo, etc. There aren't many things Abaddon can't deal with once he gets close - notably AV14 and the Swarmlord. However, his exorbitant price means you should reserve him for bigger games. A fun alternative - if you are playing against Loyalists - is to stick Abaddon into a unit of Obliterators and simply slowly advance towards your enemy. It makes the Obliterators even more of a target, but your opponent won't be happy when Abaddon tanks the damage whilst the Obliterators re-roll all 1s to hit and wound with lascannons, assault cannons, plasma cannons, etc. He also does work in this capacity in smaller games as you don't have to worry about a transport - this also allows him to move up with an army and they can all benefit from the joys of Preferred Enemy. A good choice overall IF you build the list around him.
Huron - He has probably benefited the most from the new rules, at least IMO. He could be quite accurately called the jack-of-all-trades special character of the codex, with a heavy flamer, a S6 lightning claw with 2D6 armour penetration, a power axe, a random psychic power each turn, etc. He also guarantees D3 Infiltrating infantry units if he is your Warlord. He has a 4+ invulnerable save. You literally cannot go wrong with this guy. He is also very cheap - he costs about as much as a basic Daemon Prince. Excellent choice overall, you could quite easily throw him into any army list and he would do the job you give him well.
Fabius Bile - He has lots of attacks, he is tough, he is strong, he can dish the pain out pretty decently and can give any enemy without a good armour save hell (and even power-armoured enemies have to be careful not to fail an armour save). He, like the Dark Apostle, can be seen as an upgrade character - giving an entire unit S5 and Fearless for free is a very nice benefit. This works well if you intend to use said squad in combat (which you should). However, his abilities are of questionable value - whilst the free upgrade to a unit is good, getting them into combat and realizing their durability doesn't change is still the kicker. Funny on Nurgle marked Chaos Marines, they are essentially super-marines with S5 T5 and Fearless. Personally, as his cost is similar to Kharn/Lucius/Huron, I wouldn't recommend him as his abilities just do not stack up IMO. However, he is not a bad choice by any means. Solid choice overall.
Ahriman - I've used him a few times so far in the new rules, and boy, he is quite the nutcase. My recommended power load-out is this - roll once on Tzeentch (mandatory), roll once on Telepathy (if you don't get one of the Mastery Level 2 powers, switch for Psychic Shriek), and then either roll twice on Biomancy (any power here is good, but Iron Arm/Enfeeble/Endurance/Life Leech are almost unfair on Ahriman) or take a roll on Pyromancy. Two games in a row, I got Doombolt, Psychic Shriek, Iron Arm and Endurance, and my opponent simply could not beat him down without Ahriman making his points back. Dependant on luck mostly though, which means he isn't the best option for a competitive army. Allowing Thousand Sons to Infiltrate solves a few problems, and he can spam witchfire powers to your hearts' content. Very expensive, and will statistically be killed outright by two krak missiles. A solid choice overall.
Kharn - You thought Huron's close combat abilities were good? Guess again. S7 I5 A7 AP2 with 2D6 armour penetration on the charge that always hits on a 2+ says hi. Get him into combat and also take advantage of his abilities, particularly his Warlord trait - as he grants Hatred to himself and his attached unit, you do not have to worry about Veterans of the Long War for his bodyguard unit. Keeping that in mind, he also gives the whole unit a 2+ Deny the Witch save. Run him into Grey Knights and laugh as their force weapons can't instant death you. However, be aware that daemon hammers and sheer number of AP3 attacks will still kill you. That is, of course, if they get to strike back (stay the hell away from Halberds). Also a challenge monster. Cheap as hell and one of the most damaging HQs in the game - there aren't too many things you should be afraid of, and remember, he's Kharn.
He can chop up monstrous creatures (remember to keep away from ones that can challenge you though), stands a great chance of blowing up Land Raiders (and thus any other ground-based vehicle), chops through walkers, weaves through Terminators and other Infantry, etc. Also, just in case his rules confused you, here are a few clarifications that I've found; he always hits on a 2+, even if he would otherwise hit automatically, in combat - this means you still risk hitting your own models when attacking a model that is WS0. Hatred also does not allow him to re-roll his misses; his rolls of a 1 are treated as 'hits' against his own side, even in a challenge, as it affects the same combat. As such, the only time he can actually make use of Hatred himself is if he is by himself in a combat (i.e. no allies) - however, the main reason he has Hatred is that he confers it to his unit, which is great and means you don't have to worry about paying for Veterans of the Long War. Very good choice overall.
Typhus - Nasty in combat, but of limited use against Walkers and high armour vehicles. Can make monstrous creatures cry. One of the toughnest nuts to crack as far as small arms fire goes. Fear is situational and you shouldn't bank on it. Be aware not to waste the Destroyer Hive - it might kill half a Terminator squad, but it will also make mince meat of his bodyguard. His best application (arguably) is his ability to make Cultists into Plague Zombies free of charge. T3, Feel No Pain, Fearless, scoring models that are cheaper than Ork Boyz. They can't do anything in shooting, but they are objective-holders/grabbers unparalleled in our codex. A 'build-the-list-around me' kind of guy, especially given his very high entry fee and inability to embark on a cheap transport. Good choice overall - becomes very good if you pair him with Cultists.
Lucius - Why aren't you taking Kharn? All jokes aside, Lucius is a useful character that is in the similar price range of Kharn and Huron - i.e. cheap. Lucius is quite different to those two however, and you must understand that if you want to make him worthwhile. Lucius is a challenge-monster against anything that isn't T6 or has a +2 armour save. The reason being, his I6 and A-reflecting opponent's weapon skill as well as Shred makes him very good at killing enemy commanders, infantry, MEQs, etc - but not much else. Unless you are lucky, you won't typically succeed against +2 armoured opponents or monstrous creatures. Don't be tricked by Armour of Shrieking Souls and its AP2 - +2 armoured opponents typically carry weapons that will put Lucius out of his misery from one failed save anyway. With three wounds, anything that ignores his armour (i.e. almost every combat HQ) will only allow him to really cause a wound back once or maybe twice.
Hence, that particular ability shines against things that force armour saves and not invulnerable saves, i.e. hordes/infantry in general. He doesn't have to worry about hidden power-fists either because he will promptly single them out and kill them before they strike. Against a Space Marine Captain in power armour (how often does this happen though?), he will have 7 attacks on the charge, hitting on 3s with re-rolls, then wounding on 4s with re-rolls. That is more than likely a dead Captain, all before he gets to strike. In that sense, yes, he is quite good. Putting him up against Lelith Hesperax is hilarious. As I said before, he is not able to deal with certain units, and as such should be used against what he will do well against. A solid choice overall, but you need to be careful with him.
Summary! The most competitive options are probably Chaos Lords, Sorcerers and Huron. If you are wanting to adopt a theme, i.e. a single mark, then Huron probably shouldn't be your HQ (Undivided). The Chaos Lord will usually cost you more if you trick him out, the Sorcerer however doesn't need many upgrades to deal damage. As far as marked special characters, Kharn and Typhus are the best.
Elites - I would typically say this is the one section of the codex that you don't need to worry about. You aren't as spoiled for competitive options that are necessary to a good army list as you will find in Fast Attack and Heavy Support, but that doesn't mean you can't make Elites work. Just remember that it is arguably the weakest section of the codex.
Chosen - A meltabomb more expensive than a standard Chaos Marine for a higher leadership, an extra attack base, and....five special melee/ranged weapons regardless of squad size. In reality, the latter is why you will take Chosen - think Sternguard mixed with Imperial Guard Special Weapons Teams and you have a pretty accurate summary of this unit. A five man unit with four plasma/melta guns will threaten damn near everything, and a Rhino gives them the mobility they crave. Quite cheap too. However, be aware that running Chosen in this way means you will lack the numbers to take hits back. I do not under any circumstances advise you to use them as a close combat unit - Terminators do it much better and are only slightly more expensive. Can be made Troops - and thus scoring - with Abaddon. Even the feared Dreadknight won't want to get close to a squad with four or five plasma guns. Also be aware that combining said plasma gun spam with Abaddon's Preferred Enemy bubble is both tasty and dirty - for you and your opponent, respectively. This isn't as good as it might seem at first though, as the afore-mentioned lack of numbers and expense-per-model ratios do not work in your favour. You are also relying on situational abilities and will not really faze horde or flyer-heavy armies. If you are in a marine-heavy meta though, go nuts. A good choice overall - but they must be made to fit a specific role. If you want utility or close combat, go for Terminators or standard Chaos Marines. You should always be using Chosen to bring lots of special weapons.
Possessed - Nasty on the charge, and that is about it. They have an invulnerable save and have nasty extra abilities rolled for in each combat phase. Ultimately, less random than before, but still probably too expensive for what they do. Mind you, it can be funny having the equivalent of Rubric Possessed (+4 invulnerable saves) to troll Thousand Sons players with the fluff-abuse it represents. I might be selling them a bit short, but their lack of ranged options limits their role, and in reality, Berzerkers or Terminators will do the same job more efficiently and less randomly. Marks give you interesting options to work with, and the high base strength is nice. However, again, outshone by other melee-oriented options. This may be an unfair summation, as their random abilities are all quite good - either you re-roll all failed to wound rolls in combat, or your weapons become AP3, or they gain +1 attack and +1 initiative - just be aware that you are unlikely to get what you really need on any given turn. A mediocre choice overall.
Chaos Terminators - They are Terminators, they are cheaper than the Loyalist equivalents when kitted out similarly, and are very customizable. We don't have TH/SS flying out our backsides but, hey, who needs them? The popular options with Chaos Terminators revolve around high numbers of combi-weapons - in this role, Chaos Terminators are cheap, durable, and provide some very nasty firepower - keep in mind that this is situational and dependent usually on deep strike scatter. A typical squad loadout is three Terminators, with three combi meltas/plasmas, one chainfist, and a mix of power fists and power weapons. This kind of unit can threaten virtually any target and is quite cheap. It will also play mind games with your opponent, especially if they have valuable units in their back-field.
In general though, Terminators are similar to Chosen in the sense that they are able to fit a wide variety of roles depending on how you outfit them - unlike Chosen however, Terminators don't suffer from being specialized to one particular kind of role, and they don't have to worry as much if they are in small squads. The aforementioned three combi-weapons/chainfist/two power fists kit out for a three-man squad will do the job very well. And let us not forget that you can use them in the classic 'CHARGE!' role; stick them in a Land Raider, attach a Chaos Lord/Abaddon/Kharn/Typhus, give them the appropriate mark, run them at your opponents biggest damn target. For those that like their eggs in one basket, but as always, devastating when it works. Always a good bodyguard unit. Marks and Icons can be quite nasty on them - T5 Terminators, +4 invulnerable save Terminators, I5 Terminators with claws and Feel No Pain, etc. Costs add up quickly though, but the slew of options available will mean you are hard-pressed not to indulge yourself. Overall, a good choice.
Helbrute - Hmm. Cheaper than Loyalist options, but lack the two most competitive options that Loyalist Dreadnoughts get (Drop Pods and dual-autocannon load-outs). However, these guys will still do their job well - they have a lot of juicy options that can make them very deadly against certain enemies. Remembering that you come with Extra Armour base through your Crazed rules, you get quite a good deal on the surface. However, the Helbrute suffers from a lack of focus - you don't have any in-codex means of getting them into your opponents lines quickly, and to make a ranged platform you have to take a missile launcher with your other weapon option, which limits your effectiveness. The Helbrute encourages having a ranged weapon and keeping the close combat weapon. This is fine, but the inability to give it that focus really reduces the Helbrute's viability. However, I don't mind something that is the minimum triple-digit cost for what it does. Ultimately, this is a unit that you should not rely on - send it at your opponent and hope it kills something valuable before it dies. If your army has a lot of more threatening targets, you may even find this guy can do a lot of unexpected damage to your opponent. A solid choice overall.
Mutilators - I'm not sure what to think about these guys. If you put one next to a Paladin, you get for the same cost - one less WS, one less LD, cause Fear, no psychic abilities, no force weapon, but instead you get paired combat weapons (and thus 3 attacks base) i.e. everyone gets chainfists/lightning claws/power axes/power mauls/power swords. At face value, this seems like a fantastic deal - unlike the Paladin, the Mutilator can essentially deal with any threat in combat and take withering amounts of firepower. However, that is just face value. Mutilators have no decent transport options and with Slow and Purposeful it is unwise to march them up the field. Unlike Paladins, they have no guns and thus rely on getting into combat. They can Deep Strike, but that is obviously risky. They can never be made to score like Paladins can, and they are capped at a squad size of three. As such, I am torn on these guys - they sound great at first, but how they would actually work in game is an entirely different matter. Marks are a good option for Mutilators - any of them can be useful, but Nurgle and Khorne will probably be the most common. Nurgle makes them immune to S8-S9 instant-death - which is what will usually target them if Obliterators are a good example - whilst Khorne increases their attacks so they can shell out ludicrous amounts of damage. A mediocre choice overall.
Now for the juicy part - Cult units! Remembering that each unit can (and probably should) be made scoring through the use of the appropriate HQ with the appropriate mark.
Khorne Berzerkers - Blood for the Blood God! This sums them up pretty well. Get them into combat = profit. Getting them into combat is the killer though, what with Overwatch, paying for a transport, having to endure at least one round of shooting when they jump out of said transport, etc. The options are typically unnecessary on these guys - the ability to take multiple plasma pistols is fine, but the real deal for them is chainaxes. It is a small points increase to make all of their (many) combat attacks AP4. Do you really want to kill make Dire Avengers cry? Do you want to make an Imperial Guard player feel insignificant for putting Carapace Armour on his Veterans? Do you want to do more against your main.....wait, that's right. Against Space Marines, AP4 will not help you. In that sense, think about what you will face and whether or not the upgrade is worth it. Typically, +4 armour units will get crushed by your sheer weight of S5 attacks anyway. Furious Charge, Rage and Fearless make you a powerful combat unit - but the latter also makes you vulnerable to targets you do not want to engage.
Also, what do you give the Skull Champion? A power fist so the unit can more reliably handle vehicles/walkers? Or a power sword so you can butcher MEQs? I would recommend the latter, as a Skull Champion with a power weapon will give even I4 HQs (such as Librarians) pause with the sheer number of attacks he generates - you are also likely to butcher any sergeant that gets in your way. Ultimately, Berzerkers are good at what they do and not much else - they will also typically be killed quickly by other armies dedicated close-combat units. Of course, such armies will typically be using much more expensive, non-scoring units in that role, hency why Berzerkers do fill a nice little niche. They will power through standard tactical marines, but will be blasted by Terminators. Remember that, and you can make them work. And get them a Rhino! Though you can't charge when you jump out, the tax is worth it so that you aren't getting blasted on the way to your target. A solid choice overall.
Thousand Sons - The core of my themed army lists, and obviously my favourite cult unit fluff-wise. However, they are also sadly seen as the least competitive of the cult units. As much as an AP3 bolter and a +4 invulnerable save sounds great on infantry, they have quite a few issues. They are highly expensive for what they do in the sense that cover saves are readily available in 6th Edition that will largely negate their AP3 boltguns. And again, they are still just boltguns - because of their cost, you can't have a lot of them to make up for their S4. A +4 invulnerable save has many obvious applications, but again, cover is readily found in 6th Edition, and a smart opponent will learn to simply shoot their anti-infantry (i.e. standard boltguns) at them - they die like any other space marine in this way. Mind you though, I've had a squad of these guys beat back an Assault Terminator squad twice in the same game without suffering a casualty. If your meta is dominated by lots of low AP weaponry, this works a charm.
They are also Fearless and, unlike other Cult units, they come with Veterans of the Long War in their basic cost. That sounds great, until you realize that they are terrible in combat - i.e. even worse than Tactical Marines. Thousand Sons do not have grenades and thus, outside of meltabombs on an already expensive aspiring sorcerer, they cannot deal with vehicles outside of glancing AV10 (which is unlikely). The Sorcerer is limited by having access to middling powers, and has no defense against Perils of the Warp. The only power you actually want is Doombolt, but you have a 50% chance of rolling it - the other power isn't all that helpful. It is cool to have a mini-psyker leading your unit though, and he even comes with a force weapon. He is easy prey for challenges though, but you will assuredly laugh your pants off the one time he kills a much more expensive HQ through a lucky force-weapon wound whilst tanking due to his +4 invulnerable save (which I've seen happen - one of mine killed a Greater Daemon from the previous Chaos codex). As much as I love them, they aren't that great - over-priced is the most accurate description I can give these poor automatons. Stick them in a Rhino so they can shoot quicker, or combine them with Ahriman for a nasty flanking unit. A mediocre choice overall.
Plague Marines - T5 with Feel No Pain, 2 special weapons with no minimum squad requirement. What more needs to be said? Poisoned close-combat weapons. Work best with either two meltaguns or two plasma guns in a rhino typically. 7-man squads tend to work out best in terms of both efficiency, the actual purchasing of the models, and venerating the unholy festering stew of Nurgle. You are crazily durable and can deal with almost any threat when kitted out appropriately, but don't for a second think you can just throw them at the enemies toughest units; Plague Marines will still die quickly to AP3 weapons, and as good as Feel No Pain and T5 is, cover will increase your survivability exponentially. Another key attribute of Plague Marines is that they have defensive grenades - this can really screw up units that rely on charge bonuses to swarm their opponents in attacks. Any opponent of yours that plays a Khorne army will hate you. Just remember that you are the second most expensive cult unit, and the most expensive per model. A very good choice overall.
Noise Marines - This is very much a unit that you need to decide their role before you outfit them. If you want a close-support unit, give them the extra close-combat weapon, stick a Doom Siren on the champion and give them a rhino. They will typically make their points back the second the Doom Siren unloads on a Space Marine squad and/or charges. I5 makes them a nasty proposition for Space Marines by killing them before they can strike back with all of their attacks, but remember that I5 won't matter against units like Wyches. If you, however, want a ranged-artillery unit, beef them up to 10 models, give them all Sonic Blasters and two Blastmaster's, as well as an Icon of Excess. Sit them on an objective and they will blast (pun intended) their opponents into dust.
In either role, they are quite efficient - their Sonic Blasters will absolutely reave low armour-save armies such as Dark Eldar, Tyranids and Orks. By reave, I mean 'annihilate' - all of their weapons ignoring cover makes them a brutal unit to use against horde armies. They also cause Pinning tests (or is that just the Blastmaster?). They work exceedingly well when combined with a Slaaneshi Sorcerer - the Slaaneshi Sorcerer can make whatever your Noise Marines shoot at die in abundance. Ultimately, which role you pick is really up to you - both are good, and both will be carried out well. I would typically recommend the ranged role, as shooting tends to be king in 6th, and Noise Marines do it better than any of the other Elites or Troops choices. A very good choice overall.
Summary! Terminators, Plague Marines and Noise Marines are the best bet for a competitive army list.
Troops - The backbone of the Chaos army, and our source of scoring units. Also by far the smallest selection of units (before any force-organization changes) in any of our slots.
Chaos Space Marines - Our primary Troops choice and the most common scoring unit you will probably see in Chaos army lists. The wealth of options and possible ways to run these guys means that very few army lists will use similarly equipped units to each other. You already give certain Xenos armies great pain by having a marginal base entry cost per model for someone who is still a space marine. This, paired with a nice 20-man squad limit, has led to the tactic of 'horde marines'. Fill the board with bodies and overwhelm your opponent with so many marines/bolters/special or heavy weapons that they simply can't deal with you. You can alternatively run such horde marines into the thick of combat in the name of Khorne - switch their bolters for an extra close combat weapon and give them the mark of khorne. Is this competitive? I would say no. But fun, definitely fun.
Upgrades are where this unit certainly starts to get interesting. You can give them Veterans of the Long War for almost nothing - this is....situational. I find it unnecessary, personally. The boost in LD means you are much less likely to fail morale checks, and Hatred is good, certainly. I dunno, I find bare Chaos Marines do fine. Nothing wrong with taking it. The Marks range from good to situational at best - let's start from top to bottom as far as this unit is concerned (in my opinion). Running a basic Chaos Marine with just the Mark of Nurgle is the same cost as a Tactical Marine - T5 marines say hi, Loyalists! This is both funny and highly useful - T5 makes your standard units much less prone to small arms fire, and also hilariously hard to kill against S3 enemies in combat. Khorne gives you both Rage and Counter Attack - nice in of itself. You can turn your Chaos Marines into Grey Hunters for.....a higher cost. Sorry, you don't get a better deal than Space Wolves here. However, this mark is still good and gives your units some much needed defensive and offensive punch. Slaanesh is simple and helps when fighting other MEQs, but is less useful against most Xenos armies - you will strike first against Necrons/Tau anyway, and Eldar/Dark Eldar will still go first most of the time in any case. Tzeentch gives you a +6 invulnerable save - not that useful. Unlike Havocs, you probably wouldn't want these guys sitting on a certain fortification, so I wouldn't recommend this mark.
Now for icons. Vengeance is available to any marked or non-marked unit - Fearless is great and worth the price if you can't stick a Chaos Lord/Dark Apostle in the unit. Excess gives you Feel No Pain, but is only available to Slaanesh units - obviously, Feel No Pain is awesome for an entire unit, but the cost and ability for the bearer to be sniped out is a scary proposition (albeit this is a weakness of all icons). Wrath is nice, but only worth it on a dedicated combat unit - and such units are of debatable use. The Tzeentch and Nurgle Icons aren't really useful, although they are cheap to compensate. Fear is useless against Fearless/Space Marines, and Soul Blaze is unlikely to do any real damage. As far as both marks and icons are concerned, I would say they can be ignored. For competitive lists, the best mixes would be either Nurgle, Slaanesh and Feel No Pain, or just Fearless. The other 'upgrade' for the unit would be the choice between exchanging their bolter for a combat weapon (not recommended), or taking an extra close combat weapon for a small points increase (worthwhile). Neither are necessary, but the latter is very good. Just remember - do not take the Mark of Khorne without taking the second combat weapon. Trust me. Having the extra attack all the time means you will get 3 attacks on the charge anyway, and essentially always have the second attack per Counter Attack.
Now, for special weapons and whether or not to take a Rhino. Because I feel as if I am waffling too much about Chaos Marines, I will make this short - take special/heavy weapons based on what you want the unit to do. Do you want a bunker unit with the Mark of Nurgle or I5/Feel No Pain? Taking a special weapon such as a plasma-gun or a flamer as well as an autocannon or missile launcher is recommended and makes the unit threatening to a wide range of targets. Fearless also helps this unit out quite a bit. If you want a midfield-rushing unit ala Grey Hunters (which I recommend) give them two plasma guns or two meltaguns - or a mix. Any of the three options is fine, and will probably depend on what you expect them to come up against (heavy tanks or terminators/light tanks typically) - just remember the plasma gun/meltagun option is the only one that does not require kit-bashing. If you are using them as aggressive objective-grabbers, I would almost always give them a Rhino. As much as Rhino-rush armies are falling by the wayside, the Rhino is still a smart and cheap purchase that won't let you down.
Also, consider what characters (if any) you are attaching to a Chaos Marine unit. If you use a unit in a rhino, you obviously can only take a 9-man squad and thus only one special weapon. This is fine, as usually the character will have tools that make up for the lack of the second special weapon (i.e. a 10-man unit with two meltaguns is the same as a 9-man unit with a meltagun and a Warpsmith in that sense). The way I usually run my Chaos Marines - and this is fine for competitive setups - is the basic bolter marine with a meltagun/plasma gun and a rhino transport. Cheap, still space marines, and can deal with most targets that get thrown at them. Ultimately, I wouldn't run too many Chaos Marines - running several units of them, similar to Grey Hunters, doesn't work quite as well. Two-three units is good. There isn't much to compare against, but Chaos Marines are always a recommended choice.
Cultists - This is a great unit, I must say. Their dirt cheap nature and the abundance of cover means that almost any army list can find a use for these guys. Say you feel you have enough points tied up in two Chaos Marine squads, a blob of 20 Cultists will be under triple-digit cost and give you the perfect extra scoring unit. Just don't expect these guys to kill too much, however, always remember that their pitifully low cost means you can spam them to all hell. Giving them autoguns and two flamers turns them into a very decent defensive unit that is quite cheap - this also makes them quite threatening to other horde units. This unit makes Chaos one of the very few Space Marine codexes that can run horde armies - as much as T3 and 6+ armour sounds terrible, the aforementioned flux of cover boosts their survivability exponentially. They also don't require a Rhino. Combat cultists can be a useful foil for your other melee units that typically want to avoid Overwatch fire or being hit back, and they can actually be decently threatening in large numbers. Just remember they will die in droves and you are set.
As far as their options go, Cultists can be made to fit different roles. You can make them like Ork Boyz by giving them the Mark of Nurgle, but just remember, aside from your higher I you are paying the same cost for something that is worse off in other areas (no Fearless, less attacks, less WS, etc). Tzeentch is actually not that bad on these guys, but it is still only a 6+ save. Khorne makes blob squads of these guys put out absurd amounts of attacks (i.e. Ork numbers). Slaanesh makes them strike at the same I as Marines, but the lack of grenades and size of Cultist squads means this isn't too useful. Giving Cultists autoguns is really up to you - you lose the extra combat attack and can't shoot and then charge. You have a higher range but until your opponent gets close, you won't get to rapid fire anyway. You put out ridiculous amounts of overwatch fire though. Heavy Stubbers are ok, but whether they are worth it or not is up to you. Flamers are the better choice overall, but always remember that it depends on what you expect your Cultists to get close to.
Cultists change significantly when paired up with certain characters. As has been made abundantly clear, Cultists work very well with Dark Apostles. The entire unit becomes LD10, Fearless, and has Hatred (Everything). This actually makes them a pretty nasty prospect in close combat, and as long as you can protect the Dark Apostle, you can tie valuable enemy units up for quite a while. A Chaos Lord does the same job, but without conferring Hatred (unless you roll the appropriate Warlord Trait). Basically, Fearless turns Cultists into one of the most cost-effective tarpit units in the game. The best kind comes from one that cannot be sniped, and this leads into.....Typhus. For free, you lose your guns, can't take any marks or other weapons, but gain Fearless, Feel No Pain and Slow and Purposeful. Needless to say, this makes Cultists into highly effective scoring and tie-up units. 30 Zombies will cost you almost nothing, and sat in cover on an objective, will be punishingly hard to dislodge. Also a funny way of tying up nasty close combat units for a few turns so you can happily deal with other threats. And when said Zombie unit dies, charge another one in! That isn't even sarcasm - they are so inexpensive that this is actually a viable strategy. Draigo's shiny dozen won't be so threatening when they are tied up by multiple Zombie units for most of the game whilst the rest of their army is systematically destroyed by the Chaos forces which have much less points invested into said combat.
Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with Cultists. I recommend them heartily - one unit is a perfect extra scoring option, and an army of them allows you to invest far more points into other slots. Just be aware that, obviously, they will end up costing you a lot more in terms of money.
Summary! I find the best choices tend to be Nurgle Chaos Marines, Chaos Marines with dual special weapons in Rhinos, blob Cultists sitting in cover as objective holders or Plague Zombies.
Fast Attack - without doubt the recipient of the 'most improved' award, this section of our codex stands strongly next to heavy support as being our most useful force organization slot. Competitive armies can and always should use some of the great Fast Attack selections on offer. Remember that my evaluations are based on other choices in the same slot of the codex.
Raptors - These guys are fantastic. For slightly more than a standard Chaos Marine, you have an extra attack base, a jump pack, cause Fear, and can have two special weapons at no minimum squad size requirement. Raptors can be made to fit a wide variety of roles - one is as a Deep Striking suicide unit that delivers the pain in the form of Meltaguns to enemy armour. Typically, for special weapons, I would not recommend the plasma guns as it means you are disallowed from charging if you use them - which can be a crippling factor if you do want to charge. Flamers are always a decent choice, but for Raptors, having the meltaguns will make you much more threatening to many other targets. They are also a good way to deliver a power fist. Their mobility means you can and should abuse cover with these guys if you can (typically by hiding behind it). They make for a good flanking or support unit, and are excellent as a counter-charge unit against more aggressive enemies.
Whilst causing Fear is nice and your Raptors come with it in their low base cost, it won't really work against most armies you face. However, it is great for non-Space Marine armies that you face; using Raptors as flanking units usually means you would get into combat with lower-leadership flanking units that would actually be quite vulnerable to Fear. Don't rely on it though. Marks aren't always what I would recommend, but Raptors get lots of benefits from them. If you are running said 5-man squad packed with dual meltaguns, the Mark of Nurgle seriously increases their durability for a relatively minimal cost. The Mark of Khorne is also obviously good, whilst Slaanesh is another good choice. Don't bother with Tzeentch - unless you already have an invulnerable save, it typically isn't worth it. Veterans of the Long War is ok if you need it. The icons are ultimately ok but not necessary - Feel No Pain is expensive and probably not as efficient as giving them the Mark of Nurgle would be; they already cause Fear so don't bother with the Nurgle icon; Soul Blaze is mediocre, and; having Furious Charge and re-rolling charge distances is actually quite nice, especially if you use your jump packs in the movement phase.
Raptors are a great way of delivering pain to both heavy vehicles and light infantry. Ultimately, whilst it seems I am indicating that they work best in small squads, bigger squads are hardly a bad option either. If you want to use them, I would recommend the Mark of Nurgle and dual meltaguns as well as maybe meltabombs on the aspiring champion. Overall, an excellent choice.
Chaos Bikers - In my opinion, Chaos Bikers are our second best Fast Attack choice. So far, I have used a three-man squad with two plasma guns in each game with the new codex that I have played, and I can never say that I am disappointed with them. For the minimum triple-digit cost, the unit packs a wallop of mobile firepower against a wide range of targets and is also quite durable. In a recent game, my opponent prioritized them over other more dangerous targets with his Obliterators simply because they would be liable to kill the Obliterators if not dealt with rapidly. I'm not saying this is the best way to run Bikers, but it pretty much exemplifies how I see them - I would cap your squads at five, as these guys cannot be made scoring and become much easier and more obvious targets for nasty weaponry. That isn't to say you can't make said Biker squad work, but I find a smaller squad will do the job more efficiently. Two plasma guns or two meltaguns is probably preferrable - like Raptors, they can take two special weapons with no thought as to the squad size. Unlike Raptors, they can make more effective use of Plasma Guns as they are Relentless and can thus charge after firing, making them a nasty unit for hunting down elite infantry.
If you want to mark them, one stands quite clearly above the others - Nurgle. Does T6 Bikers sound nasty to you? Oh yeah it does. Just remember that this becomes very expensive very quickly if used on larger Bike squads. Slaanesh and Khorne are both good however, as it turns Bikers into a pretty decent assault unit for their points and mobility. Ignore Tzeentch - moreso than on other units. Bikers have a 5+ Jink save and usually die to shooting anyway. The other upgrades I have mentioned before, such as Veterans of the Long War and meltabombs, have practically the same use on Bikers as they would on Raptors. As for Icons, I would actually recommend Feel No Pain on this unit. T5 I5 Bikers with Feel No Pain is brutal, but expensive. You must also weigh up what you expect the unit to be shot at with - if you expect Boltguns, don't bother with Feel No Pain and take Nurgle instead. If you expect Plasma Guns or anything similar, take Feel No Pain. The Nurgle and Tzeentch icons are cheap but not really useful, but the Khorne icon is quite good - a 12" move not slowed by terrain, and then a potential 12" charge range that can re-roll charge distance. Not to mention Hammer of Wrath and S5 on the charge with Rage.
Bikers are similar to Raptors but should always be used as a flanking unit, whether Outflanking or just zipping up the table edges. I would recommend smaller squads with either two plasma guns or two meltaguns. Marks work well but aren't necessary to what you will probably want the Bikers to do. If your opponent ignores them, they have opened up a great opportunity for your Bikers to make their points back in short order. If your opponent focuses on them, you can shrug your shoulders as they either withstand the punishment or die - either way, for how cheap they are, you won't mind. An excellent choice overall.
Warp Talons - As cool as their models are, these guys give me a similar vibe as Mutilators. Raptors with a 5+ invulnerable save, paired lightning claws, a nice Blind attack on their Deep Strike sound great, especially if you look at their points cost and think how much said upgrades would cost on Raptors. The problem is, that is what also makes Warp Talons quite similar to Thousand Sons - ultimately, they are over-costed for what they do. Warp Talons have absolutely no means of dealing with vehicles, unless you get lucky when you charge a rear-AV10 vehicle. Whilst they will shred through non-TEQ infantry, Warp Talons die to Bolters just like any other Space Marine. And though their decent invulnerable save means they are quite survivable against things like power weapons, plasma guns and the like, Raptors can still get a similar cover save from shooting simply by using cover and also minimizing the number of targets that can see them. This is very much a unit that you must use to fit their specific purpose and make sure the rest of your army is able to deal with what they can't - in essence, they are a unit that you must make up for their faults to use effectively.
Warp Talons are expensive. There is no way around that. However, on the off chance they aren't dead already, they can charge and make their points back pretty well against other infantry. Marks are a good way to make them a lot more effective, but it will cost you even more. Nurgle makes them much less fragile against what will most likely be killing them. Tzeentch is funny if you go up against an opponent that has AP3 or lower in abundance, but ultimately not as useful as Nurgle. Khorne gives Warp Talons a crazy amount of attacks. Slaanesh means you will be able to do said slicing and dicing before MEQs get to strike back - which can make a big difference. However, the latter two marks rely on getting into close combat, and Warp Talons need a reliable way of getting there - hence why I would recommend Nurgle and Tzeentch. Unfortunately, marks are more expensive on these guys than for most other units in the codex. Also, as cool as their Deep Strike attack is, I wouldn't recommend it. Unless you are going up against Necrons and are out of range of their vehicles and can assure yourself little deep strike scatter (i.e. threading the needle) do not do it. They are simply too expensive a unit to lose to a mishap. Stick them to cover and either use them as a hidden counter-charge unit or jump them from building to building, avoiding making yourself a target for as long as possible before you strike. A mediocre choice overall.
Chaos Spawn - Once considered the worst unit in all of WH40K, they are now actually a nice unit. No more Slow and Purposeful, they are Beasts (12" move, Fleet, Move Through Cover), are Fearless, cause Fear, have Rage and have a decent statline. 3 wounds per model at T5 with no saves, also S5 with D6 attacks each turn and a random D3 ability rolled for each turn - either a 4+ armour save, Poisoned (4+) attacks, or roll 2D6 pick the highest for their attacks value. They are also the same cost as Warp Talons base. They have WS3 and I3 but you really don't need to worry about that. The funny thing is, as much as having no save at all (unless they roll to get the +4 armour save) might seem like they are fragile, being T5 and having 3 wounds a piece makes them far more durable against pretty much any firepower that would be directed at them than Warp Talons (except for S10 AP3/2/1, where Warp Talons actually get a save and don't worry about Instant Death). They may not hit as hard in combat, but they can actually threaten transports decently and can put out a surprising large number of attacks - D6+2 on the charge is great.
You can also mark these guys now. I wouldn't recommend Khorne as you already have Rage, and your high threat range means you are most likely to charge anyway. Tzeentch does give them a save (a bad one), but I wouldn't count on it. Slaanesh makes them strike at I4, which is good but generally the Chaos Spawn won't die at the hands of Tactical Marines. Nurgle is by far the best for these guys - T6, almost completely immune to instant death. And unlike Warp Talons, you really won't mind paying for the marks. Frankly, a unit of these guys is also (strangely) a very good bodyguard for a fast-moving Chaos Lord - if you run a Khorne Lord on a Juggernaught, or a Nurgle Biker Lord (or any other permutation), Chaos Spawn are what I would recommend as the unit to attach to. They are durable, they are cheap for what they do, and they can do quite a bit of damage. They are also hellishly quick. Personally, I wouldn't run more than one unit of Chaos Spawn - I feel Raptors and Bikers will be more efficient, but Spawn are certainly no slouches either and are always a good option, especially for aforementioned fast moving HQs. A good choice overall.
Heldrake - Ah, the hellchick....er, heldrake, we meet at last! The Heldrake is a devastating unit - if used correctly and against the right opposition. As our only in-codex flyer, the Heldrake fills a rather unique role - as nasty as its offensive capabilities are, it is also a very reliable 'tank', meaning that it can quite easily soak up most of the damage that would target it. Hard to Hit, AV 12/12/10, 5+ invulnerable save, 5+ It Will Not Die, etc. It never has to Evade like other fliers and will not easily die to massed glancing hits. It is in the running for the most durable flyer in the game award and should be used accordingly - be aggressive with it, as your opponent will either be forced to ignore it or dedicate ridiculous amounts of firepower into its attempted destruction. Either way, it will typically make its points back the turn it comes on. I must strongly recommend the Baleflamer above the Hades Autocannon - whilst a S8 AP4 4-shot weapon sounds great, especially when hunting other flyers, the Heldrake has a mediocre BS and the weapon is not twin-linked. You also already have a Vector Strike resolved at S7 AP3, doing D3+1 automatic hits on any unit - including other fliers. The Baleflamer, on the other hand, is an even nastier flamestorm cannon mounted on a flyer that can be placed 12" away from the big bird and turned around for maximum devastation.
As awesome as the Heldrake sounds, and as inexpensive for what it does as it appears, I would never recommend running more than two. Heldrakes are still vehicles, as hard as they are to destroy due to being flyers and having an invulnerable save, they can still be obliterated quite easily by a lucky shot. Other fliers will probably win in an 'aerial duel', depending on what they are - I wouldn't worry too much about a Dakkajet, but a Stormraven or Vendetta is sure to blow your feathers *cough* wings off. As good as its cost is, it will still eat into your lists' points total quite quickly. Against entirely mechanized armies, they aren't all that useful. However, the Heldrake is lucky that footslogging or mixed foot/vehicle lists are the most common now. And in this sense, it is seen by some (perhaps justifiably) as the most dangerous anti-infantry unit in the entire game for the points. Don't bother with TEQs unless it is a big squad and you inflict a lot of wounds on them to force a number of saves in which they should fail one on average (i.e. if you cause 6 wounds). Flamestorm Cannons are already nasty enough as they are, especially on Baal Predators - no-one wants a S6 AP3 flamer burning their Space Marines alive with impunity. Less people want said Flamestorm Cannon mounted on a 36" moving flier with the Torrent rule - allowing it to be placed 12" away and turned around to maximize casualties.
One other thing to remember is the Heldrake's Daemonforge - once per game, in one of your shooting or assault phases, you can re-roll all failed armour-penetration or to-wound rolls. This adds a layer of tactical depth to the Heldrake - when to use your Daemonforge is not always obvious. If you really want to take out an opposing flyer and have the Hades Autocannon equipped, hope you don't miss and proceed to (probably) penetrate it twice and at least force it to Evade. A nice big MEQ squad you really want to get rid of? Burn it and make sure those 1s become anything but. Another funny application is if you find a line of Dark Eldar Raiders/Venoms - flame as many as you can, and observe as you make half of them fall out of the air. The Daemonforge is a nice ability, but I have rarely found a situation where I really needed it so far - I am quite confident in its abilities as it is, but it is always something to remember. And for the sake of your opponent, don't declare it immediately after you have a bad roll - you should declare it at the start of the phase. If you don't, you'll get a similar reaction as if you had suddenly decided your Power of the Machine Spirit was being used to target a separate tank with your twin-linked assault cannon to the one you just blew up with a pintle-mounted multi-melta.
Be prepared to wipe out almost entire squads (leaving one or two survivors on average if you hit an entire 10-man squad) and thus make your points back almost immediately - and that is on each turn it is on the table. The threat of a Heldrake is also quite obvious for any opponent - they might have fast-moving assault units, but be forced to think very carefully as it will mean the Heldrake can come on, flame them, and then on the next turn move further up and burn another squad. This is why I must stress the obvious - do not ever take more than two, as they are still nearly 200 point vehicles and will probably be the focus of most of your opponents shooting. The laughable thing is, the Heldrakes can withstand absurd amounts of punishment and are thus unlikely to be destroyed - if your opponent does shoot at them and does little, you can then grin as the rest of your army gets to move up unhindered and your Heldrakes keep the corpses rolling. Just be aware that this will more than likely be taken out by other fliers such as Vendettas and Storm Ravens and think about how you use the Heldrake carefully. The unit causes unparalleled devastation against foot-slogging non-TEQ army lists (which are in abundance nowadays), and is also scarily durable. Use it well and it could very well turn around entire games for you. An excellent choice overall.
Summary!All of the options bar Warp Talons are great choices - Raptors, Bikers and Heldrakes are all fantastic options, whilst Spawn can be very useful too. What you use your Fast Attack for is dependent on what you need - if you want fast-moving anti-tank or anti-TEQ, take Raptors or Bikers. If you want fast moving anti-infantry firepower, take the Heldrake.
Heavy Support - Our best force organisation slot in the last codex, and little has changed aside from our other slots getting noticeably better (particularly Fast Attack). If you want firepower, this is the place to be. Just note that the ridiculous number of competitive choices in this slot means you should think long and hard about what will work best for your army and, most importantly, what appeals to you most!
Predator - The humble Predator, as I like to refer to it, is a points efficient vehicle that is usually outshone by better choices. The Predator can be tailored to fit two specific roles - either strictly anti-tank, or strictly anti-infantry. I don't encourage a middle ground for Predators - they are cheap and durable, but you usually want them to focus on one specific kind of target so that they don't become ineffective. In this way, I really like how you can quite easily throw a single Predator into an army list and use it as the 'odd one out' kind of unit that will provide a nice fire-base. For anti-infantry, keep the autocannon and take heavy bolter sponsons - it won't threaten MEQs too much, but it is very effective against anything with a 4+ armour save or even, to a lesser degree, monstrous creatures. This build also provides a decent threat to light vehicles, such as Rhinos. For anti-tank, either keep the autocannon or take a twin-linked lascannon, and take lascannon sponsons. Ultimately, the decision on the turret-mounted weapon is one of how many points you are willing to spend. The anti-infantry build will run you under 100 points and the anti-tank build just over 100 points.
The problem with the Predator is that not only it is quite easily destroyed if an opponent can get at its side armour, it can only shoot one weapon at full BS if it moves. Given that Predators typically have three weapons, this creates an obvious issue of mobility, despite the background of Predators suggesting otherwise. As such, you really need to set it up in a good position so it can threaten targets from across the board whilst minimizing damage to itself. In this sense, the Predator can be a rather difficult vehicle to use effectively. It can be well worth it though - Predators are mightily cheap, and tend not to be perceived as an immediate threat for your opponent. Taking three of them is a viable strategy, but just be aware that unless you have other more dangerous units on the board, they will most likely be the recipient of all of your opponents anti-tank firepower. Front AV13 can only get you so far unfortunately. Kit them out for what you need, and you will rarely be disappointed - by that same token, you will rarely be mightily pleased either. As such, I rate them as a decent choice overall - not bad, not great.
One thing I almost forgot to touch on was vehicle upgrades - on a Predator, I usually wouldn't bother aside from maybe a Dozer Blade or Extra Armour. Do not get Daemonic Possession. As tempting as it is, a Predator already suffers from its weapons typically not being twin-linked - thus, reducing its BS is a bad idea.
Vindicator - My favourite Chaos Space Marine tank for quite a few reasons. Most notably, the S10 AP2 Ordnance pie plate from hell. I loved using these in 5th, and now in 6th, they are far more effective due to the changes to blast weapons - if even part of the large blast marker touches a vehicle, it will suffer a S10 AP2 hit rolling 2D6 pick the highest for amour penetration. These things are almost unmatched as far as 'bunker-busters' and will make any castling opponent cry. Just be aware - they will be the biggest target the moment you put them on the board for deployment. As soon as opponents see these, they will immediately adapt a strategy based around "destroy the Vindicator before it fires". Common tactics involve pre-measuring to make sure that the Vindicator won't be in range on Turn 1, setting up flanking units or anti-tank to hopefully get at its weak side armour (AV 13/11/10, like a Predator), or even putting only sacrificial units in its range. Nothing draws fire quite like Vindicators do - no-one ever wants to be on the receiving end of one. As such, they are similar to the Predator in that you have to be very careful with them. Think about how you can minimize damage to them on turn 1 - especially if your opponent is going first - as well as the target most deserving of unholy punishment. Typically, this involves your opponents biggest vehicles, Terminators, transport formations, heavy weapon teams and their equivalents, T5 or lower multi-wound units, and so on. A Vindicator stands a very decent chance of punching through a Land Raider's armour - just remember that you only have a 1/3 chance of actually penetrating AV14 per die.
Make sure to remember that cover saves can largely negate your shot. I typically wouldn't recommend shooting at units on higher levels of buildings - if the shot scatters off, it will mean that it won't be able to hit anything else. Also, be very aware of your own units when shooting a Vindicator - as unlikely as it might seem that the shot would scatter off 12" diagonally down to your left and hit your squad of Terminators, it can and will happen. The Vindicator also benefits a lot - unlike the Predator - from the vehicle wargear section. Though you can take a Dozer Blade, for slightly more you can take a Siege Shield that will never let you down (you wouldn't believe how many times I've either rolled or seen others roll two 1s in a row), and much unlike the Predator, daemonic possession is a very good upgrade for the Vindicator. Ignoring Shaken/Stunned on a 2+ almost entirely negates the most common strategy of dealing with Vindicators - i.e. neutralizing it for a turn. Daemonically possessed Vindicators are only slightly less scary than Blood Angels Vindicators, and in some cases, they are even more frightening. A pair of them is sure to make many opponents poop out bricks.
If you want to use a Vindicator, be aware that one weapon destroyed result can make it almost useless. Immobilizing it also effectively screws it over - a siege shield or dozer blade is mandatory (the former is recommended)! There are ways around this though - the first is to stick a combi-bolter on the Vindicator and pray your opponent gets the result they really don't want by relying on the flip of a coin. The other is to get a Warpsmith - your opponent will be forced to focus on actually destroying the Vindicators once they realize a Warpsmith can grow the Vindicators' gun back on a 4+. Overall, the Vindicator is a good choice - but I recommend running them in pairs. One is too easy a target, and three is just overkill. However, if you want to be nasty in Apocalypse games, you should get a third for that one time you want to use the Vindicator Linebreaker Formation (i.e. all the damn time). It is nasty. Look it up.
Land Raider - As much as Land Raiders are awesome, the sad and unfortunate truth is that Chaos gets the worst kind of codex Land Raider - at least for what Chaos needs anyway. Chaos are best using Land Raiders as assault transports, but ironically they don't get the two variants that are actually very good in this role - the Crusader and Redeemer. The one we get is the 'bunker' Land Raider - designed to sit back and provide long-range fire support. The Loyalist versions of this Land Raider actually benefit from having Power of the Machine Spirit - hence, their long-range firepower isn't wasted as they can continue to fire two weapons at full BS on the move. Our Land Raider, of course, does not have this benefit. That isn't to say it won't work, but it really is a crippling oversight that hangs over the unit. And if you want long-range fire support, Havocs, Obliterators, Forgefiends and even Predators are far more efficient. However, enough of that and on to the good stuff. AV14 all around, 4 hull points - the Land Raider is probably the most durable non-flyer vehicle in the entire game. It comes with two twin-linked lascannons and a twin-linked heavy bolter, so it can provide some very nice firepower. Don't make the mistake of using a Land Raider as a gun platform though - you have many other ways of getting far more effective and efficient firepower into an army list at a much cheaper cost. It is first and foremost a transport - it is also the only in-codex one that can carry Terminators, Obliterators, Mutilators and Chaos Spawn - though you would never put Obliterators or Chaos Spawn in there as it would defeat the purpose of both units. It also has the distinction of being our only assault transport, so it also works for other dedicated combat units, such as Khorne Berzerkers and Possessed.
If you take a Land Raider, be prepared to lose it. As unassailable as it seems, it will still die to a single meltagun shot - a gun that is readily available to almost any codex. It will die when charged by a monstrous creature. It will die when shot by masses of Gauss Necrons. It will be destroyed as easily as a Dreadnought against Dark Lances. Railguns and Zoanthropes will blow it up with little difficulty. And unfortunately for you, it will be a large and obvious target for your opponent. Also, a major crippling issue is that the guns most likely to destroy you - i.e. meltas and Warp Lances - are short range and thus become more dangerous as you get closer to drop off your cargo. If it is destroyed before it delivers its unit, it will feel like a massive waste. As such a significant points investment, you are forced to weigh up your other options - if you want to transport Terminators, maybe consider deep striking them as it is much cheaper albeit less reliable. If you actually do want it for durable firepower, then consider the firepower that 10 Havocs with eight autocannons brings for a similar points cost - park them in cover in your backfield and worry not. The Land Raider can take some upgrades, but these only add to its already considerable cost. A dozer blade is mandatory and daemonic possession is good albeit risky. Overall, as negative as I am about the Land Raider, it will still probably work fine for the most part. Just be aware that they aren't all that cost-effective compared to a lot of other choices. A decent choice.
Defiler- Some might say this has been 'Carnifex'd!'. I respectfully disagree. Whilst by no means do I think it is worth the price tag, the fact remains that the Defiler has benefited hugely from the 6th Edition rulebook and codex rules. Having 4 Hull Points, a 5+ invulnerable save, 5+ It Will Not Die, having an in-codex unit that can repair it, randomized weapon destroyed results and (arguably) the changes to Fleet means the Defiler has gained a lot and lost very little. Did I mention the Daemonforge which once per game you can use in one of your shooting or assault phases to re-roll all failed to wound and armour penetration rolls? It has access to vehicle upgrades - such as the Dirge Caster, which is hilarious on the Defiler if you use it right - and has more weapon options than before. I always thought in the old codex that the Defiler was worth it - the real jack-of-all-trades unit, with a battle cannon, a heavy flamer, a reaper autocannon and three attacks base at S10 ignoring armour. Always a great 'odd one out' unit in the slot. The fact that it got so much better paints a great picture. Unfortunately, I wouldn't run one in competitive army lists anymore for the simple fact that its base cost is far too high. As much as its abilities make it really nasty - as in almost unfair - against armies that rely on massed glancing hits to destroy vehicles, it will still die to the odd lascannon shot as easily as it did before. Apart from being able to snap fire the Reaper Autocannon, its damage output hasn't really changed either.
The Defiler suffers from being a massive target and a relatively easy one to destroy for high strength anti-tank weaponry. Though it can be used as an effective long-range artillery platform, its size means it is easy prey for autocannons, lascannons and other artillery weapons. The result is a unit that flouts the new cool daemon engine rules with sumptuous abandon, but is ultimately brought down by having to pay an unreasonably high tax for such abilities. Whilst a Defiler can still be useful in an army list, do not bet your strategy on it - they can do quite a bit of damage, but they are an easy target for your opponent and are not durable enough to make up the high points cost. Over-costed though it may be, remember that you can still fire your battle-cannon whilst the enemy closes, and then charge whilst mowing them down with the heavy flamer and reaper autocannon. Stay away from other walkers - staying away from monstrous creatures also goes without saying. A decent unit overall.
Maulerfiend - Ahh, its out to get me! NOOO! Anyway, the Maulerfiend is a very nasty unit that I recommend you give a thorough examination - especially if the model suits your tastes. Like the Defiler, it has a 5+ invulnerable save, a 5+ It Will Not Die save, Daemonforge, Fleet and Daemonic Possession. Unlike the Defiler, it has 3 Hull Points, it moves 12" and ignores both difficult and dangerous terrain when moving and charging, it has no ranged weaponry, it is more easily hidden and it has some nasty melee capabilities. All of that, and it is far, far cheaper than the giant crab. The implications of a 12" movement, the ability to re-roll charge distance and ignoring terrain for movement and charging are staggering - this is the fastest walker in the game (that I know of). Walkers usually suffer from a lack of mobility - this ignores all of that and is quite capable of first turn charges. And when it gets into combat, it hits harder than its profile would intimate; WS3, I3 and 3 attacks at S10 AP2 (including the extra CCW) doesn't sound like much, at least until you get to the juicy options the Maulerfiend has. You come with a pair of magma-cutters base - each one provides an automatic hit resolved at S8 AP1 I1 Armourbane as long as the Maulerfiend hits with at least one attack (the magma cutter attacks are resolved against an already hit model, so they are less useful against single-wound models), and double that per magma cutter if all of your attacks hit. This makes the Maulerfiend a wrecking ball when sent against any ground-based vehicles, and even makes it a threat against most walkers - as long as they aren't dedicated combat walkers, they are unlikely to destroy a Maulerfiend before it hits back and destroys them. Seriously, it will on average destroy a Land Raider or Monolith on the charge. Remember how fast this is too?
The other is lasher tendrils - for a slight increase in points, you get a pair of these which each reduce enemy models' in base-to-base A characteristic by one. Hidden power fists, walkers and monstrous creatures won't look so nasty with one attack. Whilst this is great in practice, ultimately I find it is less useful against most targets you will face - namely Space Marines. Almost all Space Marines come with Krak Grenades, which means the Lasher Tendrils won't make a difference to them. They will definitely help against other walkers and the like, but are less useful against grenade-toting infantry. Mind you, it can mean life or death when charging into quite a few units in the game - it is a good upgrade, and the power fists will still keep you threatening to vehicles. Despite this, I find the Maulerfiend's best application to be as a siege engine that barrels straight towards your opponent's most threatening/expensive vehicles. Maulerfiends don't care about whether a Rhino or a Land Raider is the prey - both will more than likely be wreckage once it charges. If you manage to charge your opponents most expensive vehicle (typically a Land Raider or Leman Russ, etc), I would recommend using the Daemonforge in that turn. Seriously, it is worth it to make sure your Maulerfiend makes its points back. As great as I feel they are, especially given their low points cost, be aware that the lack of any ranged weaponry means they are essentially useless against flier-heavy army lists. Also remember that the large size can't always be hidden behind terrain, as much as the speed of the Maulerfiend will allow you to abuse cover. Whilst it is cheap enough to use with little regret, and its inherent speed means it will probably make its points back on turn 1 or 2 when it inevitably charges, the Maulerfiend needs to be used delicately; mech-heavy opponents will be scared to death of it, and target it appropriately. A very good choice overall.
Forgefiend- The more popular of the two 'Fiend' variants and perhaps not without good reason, the Forgefiend loses the Maulerfiend's mobility and close combat potential but instead provides staggering long to mid-ranged firepower. The goodies of being a daemon engine are all there, and unlike the Maulerfiend, the Forgefiend can quite happily sit in your backfield and lay waste to your opponents. The Forgefiend is also a large and immensely frightening target, like the Maulerfiend - it will draw copious amounts of attention from your enemies. Don't be surprised if it is the first thing they attempt to destroy - remember to grin devilishly when it passes that lucky invulnerable save against a penetrating hit from a multi-melta or lascannon (it will happen more times than you would think). The Forgefiend can be equipped in four configurations, based upon its weaponry - similar to the Maulerfiend, this will change what targets you commonly choose. The first loadout is standard - two Hades Autocannons. Remember how nasty Psybolt Dreadnoughts are? The Forgefiend wants a word - 8 S8 AP4 Pinning shots. The only issue is BS3 and no twin-linked, meaning you will be prone to a bad roll - by the same token, you will be treated to an ungodly amount of hits. You average four hits, the same as the Psybolt Dreadnought. In that sense, you are doing the same job as one of the most points-efficient tank-hunters in the game. Just be aware that you are quite a bit more expensive, have more in-built randomness in your shooting, and a shorter range, though you offset this by being a lot more durable.
The second option is to keep the autocannons but give it an Ectoplasm Cannon to replace its head. Ultimately, for a decent increase in points, this will make you quite threatening to infantry as well as vehicles. 8 S8 AP4 Pinning shots will hurt almost anything, but adding a S8 AP2 blast makes you far deadlier to infantry (especially TEQs) and in essence gives you an additional S8 shot against vehicles. Be aware that the Ectoplasm Cannon has a 24" range whereas the Hades Autocannon has a 36" range, meaning that taking Ectoplasm Cannons will put you in range of weapons such as Psycannons, multi-meltas, assault cannons and so on. I haven't seen this loadout used as yet but it is an option to consider. The third loadout is to switch the autocannons for ectoplasm cannons for free - changing your role from a tank-hunter/sort of multi-purpose unit to an almost strictly heavy-infantry hunter. Want to make Paladins cry? As much as a smart Grey Knight player will put Draigo at the front of their Draigowing, remember that such army lists tend to have two units of Paladins. Either shoot the unit without Draigo or get around to the side and shoot their flanks. The Forgefiend will make its points back very quickly as long as you score some hits - again though, be careful to remember that the 24" range of your guns will subsequently put you in psycannon range. The last option is triple ectoplasm cannons, and it will make Terminator-heavy armies weep - this goes without saying. And the funny thing about the Ectoplasm Cannons and their Gets Hot! rule? The Forgefiend has to roll a 1, then fail a 4+ save, then fail a 5+ invulnerable save, then fail a 5+ It Will Not Die roll. Yeah.
Now that I've got the options out of the way, we can talk about application - my personal recommendation is the standard Hades Autocannon loadout. The 36" range means you can stay out of range of most anti-tank weaponry, and you will provide a punishing amount of firepower. It also means the Forgefiend can provide a decent threat to fliers - 8 shots will only average 1 or 2 hits, but S8 means it can easily punch a hole in most fliers. The Ectoplasm Cannons are devastating, but prone to scatter and will make the Forgefiend far more vulnerable to short-ranged anti-tank weaponry. You also invite being charged by fast moving units that may not necessarily destroy it but tie it up for most of the game - 2 WS3 I3 S6 AP- attacks per turn won't get you anywhere quickly. The joy of the Forgefiend is that you can magnetize the arms - and as the points costs are free, you can quite readily switch its guns out for other guns once you've seen what your opponent is using. This won't work at tournaments however, or any game where you are required to clearly mark down what weapons it is using. In friendly games though, most opponents either won't notice or won't care. I would avoid sticking the third ectoplasm cannon on the Forgefiend for modelling reasons, though it is certainly a good idea for gaming purposes as you can always either use it with the gun or not. The Forgefiend's role will change based on what you equip it for - my general advice is to keep it well away from enemy units and minimize any potential damage it may receive through LoS-blocking terrain. A very good choice overall - like the Maulerfiend however, it requires finesse.
Obliterators - Part of the infamous 5th Edition Lash/Plague/Oblit army lists, Obliterators are one of the most cost-effective and multi-purpose ranged units in the entire game. For nearly double the cost of a standard Loyalist Terminator, you gain an extra wound, cause Fear, and, of course, have access to the many and varied Obliterator weapons. With the inclusion of Assault Cannons, Obliterators can reliably deal with any threat you need them to - the lack of twin-linking on most of their weapons, particularly their long and medium ranged ones, can be a nuisance, but they will average a good number of hits. Whilst a three-man squad can be expensive, you would be hard pressed to say that they aren't worth it. A rifleman Dreadnought giving you trouble? Hit it with Lascannons. Terminators advancing towards you? Make them eat raw Plasma Cannons. See a flying monstrous-creature? Assault Cannons will give you a good chance of both hurting it and grounding it. A Land Raider parked near them? Hit it with Multi-Meltas or twin-linked Meltaguns. Hormagaunts about to pounce on you? Twin-linked Flamers or Heavy Flamers should do the trick. Notice a theme there? Obliterators get more and more weapons available to them as they get closer to the enemy - as in, you can engage more threats with a shorter range. Especially with the new restriction that the same weapons cannot be used in subsequent turns (and that Obliterators must all shoot the same weapons) it means that you shouldn't sit at the back of the board in cover - there's only so many long-range weapons they have.
This is why the most common tactic with Obliterators is to start them in cover with a good LoS to the enemy, punch them with lascannons, then slowly move forward, firing plasma cannons, and then assault cannons or other weapons as necessary - they really do become more dangerous as they get closer. This provides an interesting challenge - Obliterators have 2 attacks and power fists base, but they are wasted in assault. As you get closer though, you risk being charged. Altogether, it means that as multi-purpose as they are, you need to be very careful and considerate with Obliterators. They will also be the target of any smart players' shooting; lascannons and plasma weapons are the most common culprits. As each lascannon shot will instant-death an Obliterator if they don't pass their invulnerable/cover save, it is recommended that you try to either engage such targets and neutralize them or move out of their range/line of sight. Each Obliterator lost is a significant blow - their cost and low squad size means they can be easily neutered. The lack of Fearless and being only LD8, combined with their tiny squad size, means they are quite likely to fail a morale check at one point during the game - this is also why you typically shouldn't leave them sitting in your backfield.
Obliterators can also get some very handy - but expensive - bonuses from marks. As you want to avoid combat, Khorne really isn't that useful, and as your only combat weapon is a power fist, Slaanesh is virtually useless. Tzeentch and Nurgle, however, can make your Obliterators unfairly hard to kill. Tzeentch gives them a very nice 4+ invulnerable save, which is very useful once you shift out of cover. However, the generally superior choice is Nurgle - T5 means Obliterators are no longer lascannon bait, and makes them almost immune to small arms fire. Just remember not to get too arrogant with the inclusion of marks - Obliterators will still die to focused fire if you aren't careful. Veterans of the Long War is actually useful on these guys, as LD9 makes them much less likely to fail a leadership check. It is mostly up to you though. In general, there is very little you can say against Obliterators - they were and remain still one of our best sources of durable firepower. An excellent choice overall.
Havocs - Like Bikers and Raptors, Havocs have benefited immensely from a reduction in points and much cheaper upgrades/weapon options. Instead of being poor, over-costed imitations of Loyalist Devastators, Havocs are now arguably our most points-efficient Heavy Support choice. A five-man squad with four autocannons provides ridiculously efficient firepower at 20 popsickles less than a Psybolt Dreadnought. For the same cost as said Psybolt Dreadnought, you can have four missile launchers. Need I say more? Well yes, yes I do. The way you equip Havocs depends on what you want to use them for and what you find to be lacking in your army. The ability to take four special or heavy weapons in a minimum-sized squad is the defining trait of the squad - use it. If you use Havocs with less than four special/heavy weapons, your opponents - and myself - will probably say "you are doing it wrong" unless you have a specific plan in mind or don't have the models - not using their unique ability makes them a waste of time. As it is typically what defines Havocs, I will rate their weapon loadouts separately;
Flamer - Typically, you want Havocs to be used in an anti-tank role, but this isn't a bad option by all means. Even MEQs will die to sheer weight of saves caused by that many well-placed flamer templates. This squad requires a Rhino.
Meltagun - A squad of these is guaranteed either to die before they reach their target or simply annihilate any non-flyer vehicle they hit. They require a Rhino and should be one of many advancing units.
Plasma Gun - Four plasma guns is sure to make non-horde and non-AV13 units cry. You will kill a Hive Tyrant without a fight at rapid fire range, and have a decent chance of outright killing a Trygon or Tyrannofex. As mentioned though, horde units won't really care about them, and AV13 can shrug it off easily. Be very careful of overheating. A risky unit that is best served with a Rhino as well.
Heavy Bolter - I would recommend autocannons over heavy bolters anyday. Whilst Heavy Bolters provide 4 more shots if using 4 of them against 4 autocannons, they are at 2 less Strength and have 12" less range, meaning they are useful really only for MEQ suppression and hordes.
Autocannon - Probably my recommended choice, these are absurdly cheap on Havocs. Four of these in a five man squad puts out 8 S7 AP4 48" range shots per turn, averaging 6 hits, wrecking a vehicle that is AV11 or lower, and getting a glance and a penetrating hit against AV12. All this for only slightly more than 100 points. These are also pretty good against monstrous creatures and anything with a 4+ armour save.
Missile Launcher- Missile Launchers are probably the most versatile of the heavy weapons available to Havocs, alternating between 4 S8 AP3 shots and 4 S4 AP6 small blasts. Whilst not as good or cheap as Long Fangs, these will still do the job well and are guaranteed to bring the pain. You also have the option of Flakk Missiles - meaning you can threaten fliers, but I wouldn't recommend this as it is expensive and not all that threatening.
Lascannon - Lascannons are lascannons, as the saying goes - you love them, we know. I find autocannons to be more efficient however - but there is no doubt that four lascannons can and should destroy almost any vehicle they target. Just be mindful that unlike autocannons and missile launchers, they won't be able to do much against armies that don't utilize vehicles. They are the most expensive weapon option you can take, but they aren't as costly as they are in other codices, which is usually their main issue.
I recommend the autocannons or the missile launchers, and be careful not to mix and match weapons - you do not want the unit to lose focus and redundancy. Havocs are there to provide effective anti-tank firepower at a relatively low cost - if you want midfield units that can utilize four special weapons, use Chosen instead as they are actually very good in combat even without combat upgrades (or just stick to basic Chaos Marines). Like other Chaos Marines, Havocs can also be marked - Khorne and Slaanesh typically defeat the purpose of the unit, similar to Obliterators, and I would say Nurgle is the best by far. Havocs need durability, and cover is the best way to find that - T5 also means small arms fire is less effective against them. Being Havocs though, anti-tank firepower will often be directed at them, and as such, Tzeentch is tempting - but only for a specific reason. If you grab a Skyshield Landing Pad, you can stick Tzeentch Havocs (and Tzeentch Obliterators or anything with long-range firepower you want to protect) on top of it to enjoy near unparalleled LoS and a 3+ invulnerable save. The other upgrades are situational - I wouldn't bother upgrading the aspiring champion usually, and Veterans of the Long War isn't necessary. Havocs are easy to use - give them the weapons you want to give them, sit them in cover, point them at the best target, shoot, profit. Just remember to give them protection - counter-charge units such as Cultists are very helpful for this purpose. An excellent choice overall.