A quick note; this Tactica was written during the release week for Chaos Daemons. Thus, the Tactica does not account for the new Tau release.
Final Thoughts on the Codex
Chaos Daemons have always been a tactically rewarding, albeit very random, army that has long been unsuitable for all but the most dedicated of players, or those willing to invest the time to adapt strategies in a constant flux. Though the army is more inherently 'controlled' than its previous incarnation, there is still much that makes them an often bewildering force to employ - both for their owner, and any opponent willing to face them. The introduction of the Warp Storm Table is the most notable amongst such traits, with its ability to both strike and aid allies and enemies with impunity; there is very little natural defence against it either, meaning the players involved often have little say in what effects will take hold on any given turn. Though most of the results are quite tame, a certain few at either end of the randomly rolled spectrum can be quite devastating for either player, with far-reaching implications on any given game a very real possibility. However, happily, the Warp Storm Table is more the exception than the rule when it comes to random charts and the like with Chaos Daemons; though certain tables too have extreme, skewed results, for the most part the distribution is very even. And even then, to mitigate the very negative results attributed to the Chaos Daemons player, one can take unit champions, instruments of chaos and other such equipment on their units that minimises the damage potential of such rolls. Certain commanders, such as Fateweaver and Ku'gath Plaguefather, come stock with warlord traits that really aid in such an effort - taking them mostly because of their ability to mitigate the harmful effects of the Warp Storm Table is not a bad idea. Though it may not be ideal, the chances of severe damage being dealt to your army is minimal if you take the right precautions; of course, the same cannot be said for your opponent!
A unique trait of Chaos Daemons is that, unlike virtually every other codex in the game, they do not 'select' their wargear; rather, they choose a certain level of upgrade, and roll on a corresponding chart consisting of six unique results. Though this means 'What You See Is What You Get' is impossible to clearly represent on Chaos Daemons miniatures, and strategies dependent on certain wargear combinations are luck-based at best, there is less of a theme of "risk versus reward" than one might initially perceive. The charts typically have results that, whilst fundamentally different, tend to provide very similar benefits (almost universally good) that all improve the effectiveness of any given unit; much like psychic powers, if you are unhappy with your result, you can also swap the gifts out for a powerful weapon that few other codices could hope to match. The best benefit here is that you can go for different 'wargear' combinations between games; something unheard of at a tournament event, allowing your to have some fluidity in your army list between matches. The reality is that whilst there is a reward for those willing to risk rolling on a chart, it has in-built redundancies in place to allow you to get what is most likely to be a very useful result regardless. Squad champions that pay a measly ten points to take an AP two at-Initiative weapon that is master-crafted? No other codex can hope to match that, and this is one of the best parts about Chaos Daemons; they can reliably take weapons that are both much cheaper and more effective than their counter-parts in other codices. As much as 'random' may irritate those wishing to model their champions, commanders and the like in specific ways, or often not grant the result one would hope for, I think that owing to the potential of mitigation, they aren't nearly as crippling as one would fear. The Warp Storm Table can be given more leeway by taking unit champions, instrument bearers and the like, giving the players' units more breathing room.
|Soak in the tide of blood...|
What must be noted is that Chaos Daemons do tend to have some of the best units you can find in their class, though the efficiency of much of the army is outweighed by their special rules - Daemonic Instability, for example - and a lack of transports, meaning their units are definitely strong, but need a reliable way to reach their target. The codex is not lacking here, owing to those combinations of fast "homing" units and deep-striking forces mentioned above, but that merely scratches the surface of what is possible with them - certain strategies revolve around specific items, such as the Grimoire of True Names, and how it can affect any given unit, or the benefits a particular Locus or psychic power has with certain components of the force. What is apparent to me is that Chaos Daemons are an army based heavily on risk versus reward - deep-striking, Scouting, Outflanking, random rewards, Daemonic Instability tests, the Warp Storm Table, and so on - but one that can be designed around mitigating the risks whilst losing out somewhat on potential rewards. The theme is very much "go big or go home", and that may be very unappealing to many players. However, I think there is a massive amount of potential, given some of the wild or down-right cheesy combos players are discovering - Nurgle Soul Grinders, a tricked out Lord of Change, a Slaanesh Herald or Keeper of Secrets with the Witstealer Sword pairing up with Fiends of Slaanesh, the Grimoire of True Names combined with any number of units, the Biomancy-heavy Great Unclean One, Tzeentch Heralds giving everyone (including Chaos Space Marines) Prescience - the list just goes on, and on, as new ones are discovered every day, making Daemons a strong synergistic force. It is in this way that I think, as far as the other 6th Edition codices go (Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angels), Chaos Daemons are definitely the most difficult to play for a wide number of reasons, but I feel they have the largest selection of competitive options compared to those two if you take the time to make them work and scrounge out the details. The internal balance is mostly good, though there are definitely a lot more 'amazing' units in this codex than can be found in either of those codices - the Greater Daemons, Soul Grinders, Seekers, Flesh Hounds and the like - though as a Daemons army, it always has the off-set of random charts potentially spoiling an otherwise even game. They are a decently strong codex that sits nicely alongside Chaos Space Marines, Dark Angels and the other mid-tier codices, but I think it definitely has the most potential for competitive builds out of the three 6th Edition codices (again, this article does not account for the new Tau). Unlike Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angels, the army doesn't rely on a single unit or gimmick (Heldrakes and the Standard of Devastation) to be competitive - of course, that isn't to say that either of those two codices can't put out strong builds without the inclusion of those units, but they are definitely a crux. Most importantly though, they are a fun army that rewards experimentation - something I think every Chaos Daemon player has long awaited. If you are willing to take risks in an army that can be quite challenging, few will be as rewarding as Chaos Daemons.
Let, the galaxy.....Burn!
Mono-God Armies - This is an area that has long been a sore spot for Chaos Daemons players - the previous codex encouraged mixed armies, and whilst that isn't bad, it showed through the design of the army. Unless you were a Tzeentch Daemons player (and even then, that was mostly due to the infamous White Dwarf update), mono-god builds simply were not competitive in any real sense of the word, aside from maybe relying on taking objectives through a Nurgle army. In short; it wasn't really a codex that rewarded players that themed their army around a single deity. Fortunately, I think this codex updates most of the units and provides some helpful new additions that make mono-god builds much more than just a mere possibility - they are very much a rewarding theme to adapt, if you wish. Whilst mono-god armies still aren't the most competitive you can make from the codex, that isn't to say they are bad - with multiple units performing different roles that each 'cult' previously lacked, mono-god armies are both more flexible and efficient overall.
Khorne armies sport the strongest 'basic' (non-upgraded) Greater Daemon - the Bloodthirster - and arguably the most terrifying given their reputation; they are massive targets for any opponent with even the slightest survival instincts. They sport the most devastating character killer in the game in the form of Skarbrand, and their Heralds are the strongest in combat. Karanak and its baying Flesh Hounds are very useful additions to any force, given their speed and granting Scout to nasty units such as Heralds and Bloodcrushers. Their Soul Grinders are the cheapest and least effective, but their Bloodletters are power-armoured killers unmatched. Their combination of fast, deadly units that are very hard to kill, and flying monsters that are both tough and insanely powerful, make them a pretty nasty force to come up against. Aside from the Skull Cannon and dedicated Soul Grinders though, they lack for meaningful shooting, and not all of their units are quick enough to compensate for this. Most of their Daemons are very fragile for the cost, and as such, they are one of the harder mono-god armies to pull off successfully. I think the way to make them tick is to combine Flesh Hounds with Heralds of Khorne, and Karanak with Bloodcrushers, for a potential game turn one assault across multiple areas, as well as providing icons for deep-striking Bloodletters to get into the thick of it on turn three. Bloodthirsters move towards the toughest targets and force your opponent to fire on them or the other fast moving units; the speed of this army in getting into combat is its biggest asset. Combined with Skull Cannons and Soul Grinders to soften the enemy up and provide some hefty bonuses for assaults, and you can have a fast, hard-hitting army that is somewhat fragile but very rewarding.
|Burn in the fire of change...|
Nurgle armies are the toughest by quite a margin, and also the slowest overall. An army-wide inability to Run means their assault units can't get into combat nearly as quickly as Khorne or Slaanesh Daemons can, and given quite a few of their units move normally as Infantry, this can be a problem. Much like those other armies though, you have options available to mitigate this problem - notably Plague Drones, that can carry icons and act as 'deep-strike homers'. Nurgle isn't exactly lacking for a selection of fast moving units, another welcome by-product of the new codex, with Beasts of Nurgle and Plague Drones adding some much needed mobility, counter-charge and tarpit potential to the army. Nurgle Daemons work best hugging cover, and given most of them are immune to dangerous terrain or otherwise care little for it, this works well in your favour - they also have access to by far the best variation of the Soul Grinder (and arguably the best unit in the codex). Their Troops are the best suited for objective-camping, though they make decent objective-takers if taken in strong numbers. Their Greater Daemon is very powerful in its standard form, though, like the Lord of Change, it is far better when kitted out as much as possible - a Great Unclean One with three Biomancy powers and two Greater Gifts is almost certain to be by far the hardest monstrous creature to kill in any standard codex. In that sense, I would say Nurgle has the second best Greater Daemon - the Great Unclean is powerful and durable as they come, but slow and doesn't really lend itself well to supporting other elements, or at least not to the extent a Lord of Change does. Nurgle Heralds are the toughest available, but aside from granting Feel No pain to their units, they are arguably the least useful. Much like Khorne and Slaanesh Daemons, I think a competitive Nurgle-centric army will work off deep-striking their core units down off of the roving Plague Drones, who are in turn supported by Beasts of Nurgle and the like. Meanwhile, token units of Plaguebearers hold the fort alongside mighty Soul Grinders, scaring off any would-be attackers whilst providing heavy fire support. Great Unclean Ones and the like can either deep strike or move up the field, drawing fire away from other targets and generally laughing at the puny attempts to harm them. Nurgle armies offer the best out-and-out objective-holding Troops choice, and for that alone they are very strong. Infiltrating Nurglings, counter-charging Beasts and the like add some spice to the army.
Slaanesh armies are my pick for the most competitive mono-god build for a number of reasons, notably that they have the fastest and most dangerous combat units for the cost. Daemonettes are the most cost-effective of the Troops choices in combat by quite a margin, and are superior against any enemy unit in combat over Bloodletters with the exception of standard Space Marines and their equivalents. That each of their units has Rending, combined with a large number of high Weapon Skill and Inititiative attacks is sure to scare the pants off of Terminator-heavy armies, or elite enemy units in general. Their speed and reliable charge distances, owing to Fleet, mean they are less reliant on getting into a great position off of their deep strike, allowing a Slaanesh player to take fewer risks with their exceptional fast-moving units - Seekers and Fiends. Seekers are by far the most efficient cavalry unit in the codex - and arguably the game - with four Rending attacks each on the charge at a high Weapon Skill and Initiative all at a ridiculously low cost. With Fiends combining with other units to mitigate the lack of assault grenades, and in general making a nuisance of themselves, this can lead to a lot of headaches for your opponent. Keepers of Secrets are easily the fastest of the wingless Greater Daemons, and can - surprisingly - reliably expect to make combat by turn two, meaning they aren't paying for very expensive wings that would usually get them into combat at about the same time. Of course, they are the least durable of the Greater Daemons, but they still hit very hard - they are only marginally less proficient in combat than a Bloodthirster, as an example. Given they only really need two greater gifts to function effectively, they end up being by far the cheapest and arguably most cost-effective one in combat, considering their end price ends up being below two hundred and fifty tacos. Not bad. Aside from that, Slaanesh also has access to a great Herald that works really well either with Seekers or Daemonettes - providing necessary movement or combat buffs to either unit that make them incredibly difficult to best against evenly-costed units. The Seeker Cavalcades are also very effective and hilariously cheap chariots that can be very damaging and work as exceptional flanking units. When one combines Keepers of Secrets with Fiends, Seekers and Seeker Cavalcades all running up the field, backed by deep-striking Daemonettes and Heralds split throughout, you have yourself a very hard-hitting, very fast high-model count army, which is awesome given their raw combat prowess. Though most of them are fragile, they tend to be no easier to kill than Khorne or Tzeentch Daemons, and in that sense I think you needn't worry too much about them; when almost your entire army should launch an assault on turn two, and you can fit a large number of Slaanesh Daemons in across many units, you are the one laughing.
|Rot in the wind of death...|
For other Allies, Chaos Daemons can team up with a few; they are Desperate Allies with Dark Eldar, Orks and Tau, tough they are - thankfully - Allies of Convenience with Imperial Guard. Though they aren't battle brothers, the potential for an awesome 'Cult conniving with the warp' led by a rogue psyker or 'Dark Apostle' (use a Lord Commisar) is welcome. Of course, Imperial Guard are the most competitive Allies choice for nearly any army that can take them; you name it, and they can bring it, meaning they can make up for any deficiencies and weaknesses in another army with a small investment. For Chaos Daemons specifically, anti-air may be a bit of an issue unless you are running a mono-Slaanesh army, and in that sense a few allied Vendettas or Hydras would be a cheap and effective addition to the army. For bunker Troops or long-range firepower, you can't go past a Guardsmen Platoon or two loading multiple Heavy Weapons Teams, and Leman Russ battle tanks are always fantastic options to add into a force. Given that Daemons are primarily an army based around mobility - at least in their more competitive lists - some fast elements such as Rough Riders or Chimera-mounted Veterans would also be quite suitable. Still, the thought of Nurgle Soul Grinders teaming up with a squadron of Leman Russes is sure to make many enemies tear at their skulls in frustration. Dark Eldar work very well alongside a fast moving Daemons army, though they otherwise suffer similar issues of fragility. Orks and Tau are interesting additions - the latter especially given their access to railguns - though I think the competitive Allied choice would likely be Imperial Guard.
Other Codices and the Meta - Perhaps unsurprisingly, I rate Chaos Daemons to be about on par with Chaos Space Marines and Dark Angels - however, I must note that they are the most difficult to play by quite a margin. What balances this deficiency out, however, is the raw truth that they have a lot more competitive builds than either of those codices - mono-Slaanesh, mono-Nurgle, mixed Slaanesh and Nurgle and the variations in between are all likely to be considered pretty competitive armies, and that doesn't even include the different types of play-style available to those armies. Khorne and Tzeentch armies aren't exactly gathering dust either, it is just that their overall selection is a bit weaker than the other two deities - however, it must be noted they do share some of the strongest units found anywhere in the codex (and perhaps the game in terms of raw cost versus effectiveness) including Flesh Hounds and the Lord of Change. The long-winded and whacky nature of many of the options available, as well as their latent rules, combine to make for an army that can dish out some incredibly powerful combinations, all for a lot cheaper than you could find anywhere else. About half of their Troops choices are incredibly cost-efficient in terms of their role on the battlefield - notably Daemonettes, Nurglings and Plaguebearers - and they have access to some of the fast, deadliest and cheapest units that can be fielded in massive numbers, notably Seekers and Flesh Hounds. They can also field arguably the most powerful monstrous creatures that can be found in any codex, with the stock standard Greater Daemons coming in at an affordable price that puts almost any other creature of their class to shame. However, the beauty is in the options for those units - a Lord of Change or Great Unclean One tricked out fully is absolutely disgusting, albeit pricy, but nowhere near as expensive as their consistent performance would indicate. Still, as much as they appear to have a large number of great units, the army is balanced by the restrictions of transports and the like, as well as the looming threat of casualties suffered from a bad combat result - in short, being rash with them is not an option. This is what keeps the codex in line and prevents it from being a top-tier codex; their mostly melee-centric units lack the most reliable of means of making it into combat, and they are very vulnerable to nearly every form of shooting. In an edition that favours raw firepower above all else, this means playing Chaos Daemons can be quite tricky; hence why most armies will be built around target saturation and playing off of the handy reserves bonuses Daemons employ. If one just uses them as a blunt hammer, they will likely fail - unless of course it is an army designed around monstrous creatures and other beasts. That Daemons themselves lack shooting comparable to almost any other codex is a serious hindrance, and one that needs to be addressed by having a mostly mobile force.
|Bow in the wake of Excess...|
What is interesting to note though is how Chaos Daemons have introduced several top tier units into the game, though Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines together managed to produce only one of note (the infamous Heldrake) before certain combinations are taken into account. The most obvious of these is the Soul Grinder - particularly one dedicated to Nurgle - as its cost, firepower, melee prowess and durability combine to make it one of the most efficient land vehicles that can be found, with few real weaknesses to speak of. I would argue that the Soul Grinder, or at the very least its Nurgle variation, is amongst the best land vehicles in the game - no mean feat, even in an edition dominated by flyers. Then you stumble onto Skarbrand, who when one considers the base profile of any unit, has effectively sky-rocketed into the first amongst the 'challenge-kings and queens'; he will tear the Swarmlord's head off before it can strike, almost guaranteed, and will laugh at Mephiston whilst throwing his freshly sliced limbs to a roving pack of Death Company. Almost nothing in the game can reliably stand toe-to-toe with Skarbrand in melee, and he is also one of the most mind-bogglingly cheap monstrous creatures you can find given his durability (for a ground-based monstrous creature) and unmatched killing prowess. I've yet to see a single model be able to tear through a five-strong or more Paladin unit in one round on an average roll - Skarbrand does it with impunity! Then you have the Lord of Change and Great Unclean One, who, when tricked out, are arguably the best monstrous creatures of their type (the former is flying, the latter isn't) that can be found in the game for cost. The former is a whirlwind of death that also offers fantastic support abilities whilst being very hard to shift and incredibly mobile, and the latter shrugs off any kind of attack and simply dares your opponent to target it or die horribly in combat - the term 'unkillable' is very much an accurate description of a loaded out Great Unclean One. Then you have Seekers and Flesh Hounds, units that still make me think their pricing is a print error - they are far, far too cheap for what they do, given both will reliably make a turn two charge (or game turn one, in the case of the Flesh Hounds) and hit harder than any unit of their speed has the right to. And as mentioned earlier, there are some truly nasty unit combinations coming out that really enforce the notion of an army built around synergies and making all of these individually powerful - yet fragile - elements work together. Though these units may not be "over-powered" in the grand scheme of things, they definitely outshine their contemporaries both externally and internally - especially if the Daemons player knows how to use them effectively in conjunction with others. The balance here is that these elements work best together - even if they are strong alone - and the inherent fragility of most Daemons units is what keeps them in line. Don't take this the wrong way; I think they are strong, but I'm not trying to imply they are 'broken' or 'the best in the game' as a codex, it is more so that certain units in the army are incredibly strong in their role.
I am not implying Chaos Daemons are a top-tier army though; they have enough in built weaknesses and redundancies that this is simply not the case. However, they are typically a very cost-effective army that, with precision and care, can be put to great use. Working around their inability to make combat without suffering casualties along the way is key to success with them, as is working out a focus for the army - adapting tactics on the fly is necessary, given the Warp Storm Table and other effects that can change the game in a heart-beat. Though a decently strong army overall, I think many will indeed point to some of the more powerful units they possess - some of which, whilst not as over the top as a Heldrake or a Vendetta, are still at or near the top of the league in terms of their competitors. But that is what really pleases me about this codex - though there are a lot of powerful units, most aren't "I am here, click me" options that are easy to use. Chaos Daemons are very much a finesse army that requires a deft touch to make the most out of, but as they have a strong selection of top-tier units and a lot of viable builds, I would place them ever so slightly above their 6th Edition contemporaries found in Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines, but only if you are a smart general that can work out their deficiencies and work around them. They have a lot of potential, so to speak, though an inexperienced player will suffer far more than if they used either of the other two 6th Edition codices.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude for all the feedback and support I have received since the beginning of this Tactica series - it has been a long and arduous task, but one that I definitely feel was well worth the patience and time. I hope it has been as been as helpful and fun to you as it has been a learning experience for me, as this lovely codex has really re-invigorated the idea of playing for 'fun' whilst mixing a competitive army of my own design. It is a balanced army that sits nicely alongside its 6th Edition counter-parts, but I feel it will outweigh them both in the long run both competitively and in terms of sheer entertainment value - with access to some of the best units that can be found in their respective roles across the game, I think they are an army that, despite sporting some very obvious weaknesses, is designed to reward experienced players that are willing to invest their time into making them work. Though a challenging army that is not suited for beginners, I think they will still prove to be a popular force that adds a lot of unusual and often unknowable spice to any given game they participate in. That it allows mono-god builds without punishing the player heavily is a boon, though of course the best designed forces will still be composed of mixed elements. I think it is a well written codex that, despite some questionable design choices, is very much one of the more unique and interesting armies available to hobbyists in Warhammer 40000. Whether or not my prediction stands in a few months, well; all we can do is wait and see and hope that the early trend of balanced armies stands the test of time. Thank you again!
Did this Tactica series provide some helpful tips and tricks to designing and running a successful Chaos Daemons army? Or did you find that the information presented here was inaccurate or mis-informed? Please, let us know in the comments below - your critiques and feedback are, as always, much appreciated.
|Glory to Chaos!|