40K: Schemes and Machinations

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Behold as Kazzigum takes his first step upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change.

As a fan of all things Chaos in Warhammer 40,000 (40k), these are heady times.  Literally, we are at the zenith of Chaos in the 41st millennia, particularly from the point of view of Chaos Space Marines (CSMs), but I’d argue all forms of Chaos in 40k.  With the release of Wrath of Magnus and Traitor Legions we Chaos fans have the ability to really create the CSM armies of our dreams.

Gone are the pathetic Chaos renegades that Games Workshop (GW) has been trying to foist upon us for so long, and in their place the nine Traitor Legions of old have come storming back onto the scene.  And I have to say … I’m loving it.  I’m shedding bitter, bitter tears, but this time, they’re from joy.

60030102014_traitorlegionscodexstdedeng01Winning for the first time in 10 years (in a metaphorical, tasty kinda way).

I know there have been numerous reviews of both these books in the last couple weeks, and this article is not that, but I do want to take a moment to set the stage.  To me, Traitor Legions (and Wrath of Magnus too, if I’m honest, as it presents the same CSM gaming material) is one of the best codex supplements GW has ever done, specifically from a game rules point of view.  Each of the original nine Traitor Legions is given its own special rules (Chapter Tactics) and complex detachment composed of a bevy of CSM formations drawn from Black Legion, Traitor’s Hate, Wrath of Magnus or, in a couple cases, created specifically for this supplement.

These special rules and formations are well thought out and really capture the flavor of the way these original nine legions fight and behave.  Coupled with legion specific relics, warlord traits and in some cases expanded Chaos god-specific psychic disciplines (and the new powers are actually good … gasp!), each of the original Traitor Legions can now be presented upon the table-top and plays differently enough as to pretty much feel like a different army altogether (certainly as much as any of their loyalist brethren do).

The really amazing part of all this is that this is all accomplished by simply layering 4-6 pages of new rules, much of which is redundant because the rules follow the same basic layout, over the existing, old and busted CSM codex.  Of course, many, especially those awash on the swirling tides of the Endless Net, say that this is not good enough and that it doesn’t matter because the base CSM codex is so pathetically obsolete that it still results in CSM being weak and pathetic.

I disagree.  I firmly believe that Traitor Legions fundamentally fixes most of what is wrong with the CSM codex.  Oh, don’t get me wrong,  I know that the CSM codex is old, mostly out of date compared to recent codexes (on its own), and that many units in it are poorly costed.  But I’d argue that that is only really the case if you are a renegade CSM player (all three of you) and try to play CSMs now using only the base codex.  For those of us who prefer the original Traitor Legions (yes, most of us CSM fans), the rules in Traitor Legions really fix the underpowered and overcosted nature of the base codex.

CSM-cover1Sucking less all the time.  Sorta.

Now I could delve into each of the specific Legion rules sections to analyze just how better off we as CSM players are, and how I now feel we can compete, but again, that’s not my purpose here.  Suffice to say that I say we can now at least compete.  But Kazzigum, I hear the Endless Net gnash, CSMs are still pathetic and underpowered compared to Eldar, Space Marines and blah, blah, blah!  To this I say … so?

We don’t need to be the most powerful army in the game to be awesome.  We just need to not suck, and not be boring.  Especially boring.  Take note, I hate ‘the boring.’  I was drawn to CSMs back in the beginning, with the Realms of Chaos books, and back then, they were anything but boring.  And now, after decades of enduring the boring rise of Chaos Renegades, the Traitors are back, and they are just oozing with flavor (some in more ways than one).

csm-teaser-gwtv-10-16Looking hard for those Chaos Renegades players … wait!  There they … nope.  Sorry.  Space Wolf.

And lastly on the matter of the Traitor Legions supplement, let me say this – I personally feel that some are underestimating these rules.  While I’ve mostly been delving into the rules of the Thousand Sons, spinning and twirling them around in my mind, I have looked them all over and there is some very cool stuff in there.  I personally see some cool stuff I can do with my World Eaters, Death Guard and Emperor’s Children army projects (all of which I envisioned in a much more vaguely generic form  before), though sadly they are all just shoved down my personal project line by the awesome new Thousand Sons miniatures.  I think some are gonna be surprised by how CSMs fare in upcoming tournaments.

WAR_LordofChange1 (1)Which way?  Well, go over that way 18 paces …  What?  Fireball?  No, no, I’m just lighting the Pathway for you.

The Nine-Fold Path of Change

Personally, I’m loving where CSMs are at right now – and I can’t stop writing/creating lists.  In particular, I’m writing/creating Thousand Sons and/or Tzeentch focused lists, as he’s my favorite of the Ruinous Powers (though I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent some time mentally fleshing out those Death Guard, Emperor’s Children and World Eater lists I mentioned earlier).  In fact, I’ve created so many such lists, I thought why not share them with you all and take you through the process I personally use to do it (and it gives me a great excuse to push my 6-7 lists I’m kicking around to a full nine and, thus, please the Architect of Fate)?

thousand-sons-logo-horzIf I ever get a tattoo, I’m pretty sure this is it.

A word of explanation is probably warranted here before I really get into it.  I’m probably different than most wargamers you know, particularly most competitive types.  When I write lists, such as I’ll be doing here, I keep certain things in mind.  For starters, I don’t include units in said list that I either, don’t already own, or plan to purchase for said list.  I rarely create a list just as a thought experiment – I personally invest too much time in such creating to find it worthwhile.

So, in the lists I’ll be creating for this series, I already have the models or will be acquiring them soon (such as the ridiculous amounts of Thousand Sons I’ve pleaded with my wife to get me for Christmas).  This does allow me to use some of the same units in multiple lists, which is cool, but means I need to be cognizant of my color schemes and basing techniques or they might be mismatched, which I cannot tolerate.

Another quirk that you will not see in my lists is multiple characters that are basically the same guy – all loaded out the exact same way.  I loathe sameness.  It bores me, and it is likely what drew me to Chaos to begin with.  And for me, creating my army and playing it on the tabletop is about more than winning, or even just playing the game.  I need a bit of storytelling, of flavor, maybe roleplaying – even if just a bit.  So, wherever possible, I try to make my army characters be distinctly different than all the others.  They will rarely be armed with the same wargear, if I can help it, and I like to spread relics around where possible to really make them stand out.

I also like to add names and titles, though I rarely carry this down to squad leader character level.  From a competitive view-point, I suppose this is not ideal, but I’m good with it.  Besides, there’s been many a game where I was happy that I had a wider variety of equipment or skill sets than would have been the case were they all just cut from the same cookie cutter.  I also find it pleasing to swap such established characters from list to list, treating them as if they were unique characters in their own rite, and weaving a tapestry of Tzeentch’s servants serving his cause in a wide array of different ways (as established in my own mind).

ahc01_art_tentaclesNot sure what this is … but I like it.

My Madness Revisited

I think the most fitting place to start my journey on the Nine-Fold Path of Change is to revisit the list I originally presented in my Tentacles II article, the Cerulean Seers.  The idea for the list remains the same, a Tzeentchean Cult of mutants, monsters and sorcerers, so there are big parts of the list that have remained the same.  With the new units, special rules and formations now available with the release of Wrath of Magnus, however, there are a lot of cool things I am now able to incorporate to expand even further upon the monstrous nature of the army.  And even the parts of the army that have stayed the same, function differently now in many ways because I’m able to declare the formations as Thousand Sons detachments to benefit from those rules and because I can use the expanded Tzeentch psychic discipline (Baleful Devolution is officially the coolest psychic power EVAR).

937084-tzeentchspawnYep.  This.  All day long — this.

So, having said that, I present the new and improved:

The Cerulean Seers — 1850

Black Crusade Detachment (Thousand Sons detachment)

Lords of the Black Crusade Formation – 100

Subek, Sorcerer Acolyte of the Corvidae, Sorcerer x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, 1 additional Mastery lvl, Veterans of the Long War (VotLW)

Lost and the Damned Formation – 605

Thotek, Dark Apostle, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW, Scrolls of Magnus
Mutants (cultists) x 10, Mark of Tzeentch, autoguns x 3, heavy stubber
Mutants (cultists) x 10, Mark of Tzeentch, autoguns x 3, heavy stubber
Mutants (cultists) x 10, Mark of Tzeentch, autoguns x 3, heavy stubber
Mutants (cultists) x 10, Mark of Tzeentch, autoguns x 3, flamer

Mutants (cultists) x 10, Mark of Tzeentch, autoguns x 3, flamer

Mutants (cultists) x 12, Mark of Tzeentch, autoguns x 2, heavy stubber, champion w/shotgun

Spawn Formation – 34
Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Cult of Destruction – 354
Apep’Tu’Ra, the Toy-Maker, Warpsmith x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW, Dimensional Key
Mutilator x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW
Mutilator x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW

Obliterator x 1, Mark of Tzeentch, VotLW


Tzaangor Warherd Formation [separate Thousand Sons detachment] – 776
Osirum, Sorcerer, 2 additional Mastery lvls, Mark of Tzeentch, disc of Tzeentch, spell familiar, VotLW, Athenaean Scrolls
Tzaangors x 18, twistbray, 9 have auto pistol and chainswords
Tzaangors x 10, twistbray, 5 have auto pistol and chainswords

Tzaangors x 10, twistbray, 4 have auto pistol and chainswords

Chaos Spawn x 3, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

Chaos Spawn x 1, Mark of Tzeentch

And to push it to 2,000 pts, I will add:

Lords of the Black Crusade Formation – 150
Naphazar, Sorcerer, 2 additional Mastery lvls, spell familiar, Gift of Mutation, VotLW

tzaangorsWe’re so beautiful, it hurts.

Improved Tactics

The basic plan remains the same, flood the board with mutants, chaos spawn, but now also with Tzaangors (which as a Tzeentch fan of yore, I must admit I’m in love with).  The idea with these lesser thralls is still to snatch up objectives, get in the way and let the bigger tentacled monstrosities eat troublesome vehicles/units (though the oh-so beautiful Tzaangors might be able to lend a hand, hoof or tentacle as well thanks to their formation’s special rules).  Sadly the psychic power of this list is much diminished from the original version. There is still a bit to have the sorcerers attempt the original plan of hanging back buffing the hordes, cursing the enemy and mind-controlling dangerous opposing units to help us overthrow their fellows (Ha!  And thanks to the improved Tzeentch psychic discipline, this is still possible without the Black Legion Cyclopia Cabal).

The plan is for Osirum to roll forward with the spawn (at the head of the 3 spawn unit), hurling both Tzeentchean and flaming magicks everywhere and looking for opportunities to lead crucial charges.

Image may contain: shoes

Likes to play the backfield.

There are some obvious losses to the original plan, namely the Black Legion Cyclopia Cabal (and its sorcerous might) and the abandonment of the Crimson Slaughter Disciples of Mannon formation (and its Prophets of the Voices relic).  In their place I’ve added the Tzaaangors and a Cult of Destruction formation – which allows me to use these bad-ass Thousand Sons daemonhosts I kit-bashed some time ago and I’ve have been looking for a home for.  While not super strong, I enjoy deepstriking single mutilators in my opponent’s backfield, as they cannot be ignored and often prove more difficult to remove than my enemy is comfortable with.

My single obliterator can stand around my awesome-looking Thousand Sons Warpsmith firing twice a turn until my opponent gets annoyed enough to deal with him.  Sadly, I’ll need to abandon my plan to summon lots of Tzeentch daemons, unless I play the 2,000 pt version of the list, in which case Naphazar will return to perform that function, though less aggressively since he will no longer be a daemon himself.

No automatic alt text available.

Who can tell me where they’ve seen this guy before?

The theme throughout remains monsters, mutants and even more monsters from beyond.  Will it dominate?  Even with these improvements, nay changes (surely Tzeentch approves), still probably not, but it should perform even better than I had originally planned and it ought to be even more fun than the original list.  And why is that you might ask?  It’s simple, really.  Now than GW has pretty much given us everything I asked for in my two Tentacle articles, I no longer need compromise and feel dirty for using other Traitor Legion formations as ‘counts as’ Thousand Sons stuff or settle for generic warlord traits, relics and/or psychic powers.

I no longer loathe the Tzeentch discipline, because while those mediocre powers still remain, the three new ones that have been added are awesome – I get to mind control people and turn guys into chaos spawn again!  The only ‘counts as’ compromises I’ve had to settle for are chaos cultists with the Mark of Tzeentch as mutants and mutilators/obliterators as daemonhosts, and honestly, I don’t  mind either, as they feel like proper and appropriate proxies.

And even better, I was able to build in some Tzeentchean numerical mojo into this list as well, such as there being 9 chaos spawn, and 36 Tzaangors, two units with 9 auto pistols between them and the third with 9 as well, thus making 18 with the pistols and 18 without.  And while the 1,850 list has but 6 warp charge, the full 2,000 has 9.  I love that kind of stuff, and I’m a firm believer that it makes your Chaos armies perform better on the table when you plan such details into the army’s foundation (as the Ruinous Powers intend you should do).

tzeentch-warriorThe way is dark and deep, and those on the Nine-Fold Path never sleep.

Praise Tzeentch!

Tzaangors are back, baby.  Man, I missed those guys.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that one coming – not in 40k anyway.  So, what say you?  You ready to embark upon the Nine-Fold Path of Change?


Read more from Kazzigum on Slaved to Ruin

  • Michael Costa

    This is great! This is the kind of stuff I hope to see on the battlefield soon!

    • Agent OfBolas

      yes, especially Cultists with MoT are something I love to see when I play against it.


  • amaximus167

    I don’t have the new books yet so perhaps I am missing something but, is this a Traitor Legion Thousand Sons list with no non-lord TS marines, mostly spamming mutants and beasts?

    I mean, it sounds fun, but one of the biggest issues with the original CSM dex was how it wasn’t reasonable to use Marines. Obviously, you play the way you want and build the lists that you think are fun. I was just hoping to see a list with Marines in an article claiming that the new supplement fixes the issues with the old Dex.

    I am personally excited to look at the World Eaters again and may finally start an Alpha Legion warband.

  • Kevin Maloney

    Sigh. I get the author’s points in the article, and can appreciate the theme of this list, but…I was hoping on seeing a Thousand Sons list with actual Thousand Sons in it.

  • Diablix

    That’s because the supplement itself is not good enough to fix the dex. Not even close. It might be fluffy, but it isn’t effective nor funny at all.
    Some examples:
    – BL: All models with VotLW gets hatred against everyone and it lasts all turns against imperium. Cool but on average you play 5-10 models which can take VotLW. DS on first turn: cool! The problem is that you can’t control the scatter and you don’t have anything really effective to use with DS, with the only possible exception of Obliterators (only if you end up within desired range, and still not as good as loyalist Gravs)
    – WB: only real bonus, summoning on 3+, which would be cool if it weren’t for the perils on each double
    – IW: FnP 6+ isn’t a real game changer, if you consider all the limitation (no marks and no characters), i’m not sure it’s worth it: ok, you get oblys as troops but you lose MoN. So everything with S8/9 becomes ID and they become much easier to be wounded

    And so on. Only legions that get some decent benefits are DG (not that much tho: nothing good to be shot with relentless, FNP applies only to overcosted units that otherwise you would have never played, etc..), WE (some nice relics) and AL (cool if you love to play hundreds of cultists + some nice relics).

    The problem is that all previously almost-near to something that doesn’t get you tabled lists don’t get any benefit worth mentioning. New lists that are enabled by the new rules are no better than the previously existing ones.

    So, if you want to play a fluffy chaos warband legion list against a fluffy (become it’s exactly as described by the codex astartes) and funny double Demi-Company list… well, just give up

  • Painjunky

    Wow this guy has really drunk the Kool-Aid.

    Traitor Legions is an improvement but still mediocre. There are clear winners and losers. Sadly my NL are included in the latter.

    The concept of balance still eludes GW.

  • Brettila

    I want to disagree with the premise that no one wants to play renegades. Besides the fluff, which seems to say the legions don’t really exist or function as of old, I think many CSM players would love to he able to build a winning army out of their codex again. Having to play mono-god, extremely limiting formations (many are not even realistically playable due to absurd numbers of models or points) is not setting my world on fire. Because the basic codex has not been fixed we still face the same 2 basic problems: we have fewer bodies and we have less guns. Death Guard sounds great until it is facing a bunch of hull points.

  • Erik Gertkvist

    CSM have become far more interesting and fluffy by the expansions, but they do still suffer from two things – lack of Big Guns and decent hordes to complement their elite units.

    Why could not GW give CSM either some artillery/heavy weapons OR the possibility to add R&H units without the HQ tax? Iron Warriors without Earthshakers are like Space Wolves without wolves …

    In the best of worlds there would be three type of “cultists” for the Ruinious Powers to choose between – soldiers lika R&H (firepower and special weapons), cheap psykers like Wyrdwanes (psychic powers and Warp Charges) and and deamon summoners (more troops). Todays cultists in CSM are one dimensonal, boring and useless for everything but claiming objectives.

    Regarding the list – why not replace the Lost and Damned + Cult of Destruction with R&H infantery and heavy support? Call them Spireguard and give them marks/icons to fit. A lot of bodies, lot of firepower and far cheaper – maybe enabling you to add some Rubics to the list.

    Or ally in Tzeentch deamons for anti-tank (Exalted Flamer, Screamers and soul Grinder).

    I believe that your TS Warpsmith is the model that Forge World has as a puzzle on this site.