CSM Tactica:Berzerkers, Noise Marines & Plague Marines

SaltyJohn, and TFGRadio are bringing you the formerly red headed step children of the CSM codex, Cult Marines!

For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!

The Space Marines of the Traitor Legions are the most veteran “human” warriors devoted to Chaos that the gods have at their disposal. Having turned to the Dark Powers of the Immaterium 10 millennia ago many have become true devotees to one of the 4 Chaos gods or another. This long term devotion has paid dividends in their having access to warriors unrivaled in the foolish “loyal” legions. The Khorne Berzerkers, Nurgle Plague Marines, and Noise Marines of Slaanesh are phenomenal warriors whose combat style reflects the truest nature of their patron god. These Cult troops of the Chaos Space Marines are supposed to be warriors of unbridled ability, but are they that on the table top…

Prior to the release of Traitor Legions there was almost no need to consider running any of the “cult” Chaos Marines from Codex: Chaos Space Marines. In that book they are Elite choices, unless you unlock them as troops, and they’re expensive at that. The reason reviewing them as stand alone choices is important is because they each have a formation in Traitors Legion that now makes them worth taking but without understanding how they are used individually can make using them as a whole more difficult. So we’ll look at each unit individually but also comment a little on how they work in concert with their respective new Formations.

Khorne Berzerkers:

Oh boy. Khorne Berzerkers, the sons of Angron, Eaters of Worlds. Adeptus Astartes warriors whose minds have been altered with the Butchers Nails and who enter into a killing frenzy in combat that either subsides when the enemy is gone or the Berzerker has given his own blood for the Blood God. These guys are supposed to be beasts in Close Combat.



  • Power Armor
  • Bolt Pistol/Chainsword
  • Frag/Krak Grenades
  • Any model may take a Chain Axe (why…) 2 may take Plasma Pistols (hooray?)
  • Can add 15 additional Berzerkers.

Special Rules:

  • Fearless
  • Furious Charge
  • Mark of Khorne (Rage and Counter Attack)

105 points base but you’ll usually want to run them in larger packs.


Khorne Berzerkers have a lot of what they need on paper to be an above average Assault Unit. With Weapon Skill 5 they’re 2 steps ahead of Blood Claws and better because they have Fearless naturally. When discussing using Khorne Berzerkers in a CAD, like all three units in this review, we’re going to find the options of how to use them sub par. In the case of Berzerkers their lack of bonuses to movement, or resilience, due them in. If they had abilities to move faster, re-roll movement, or gain additional movement they’d be much better. Conversely if they simply had a special rule allowing them to charge out of a Rhino that’s moved they’d be instantly much better. Luckily the Khorne Berzerkers have a way to get one of those two scenarios. Their formation in Traitors Legions, the Maelstrom of Gore, along with the World Eaters detachment gives them a lot of additional movement. For more on that check out the articles on World Eaters and Maelstrom of Gore.

If you are looking to try and get them to work in a CSM CAD you have two routes. Take an HQ that will unlock them as Troops, so they’re Objective Secured and you can take more than 3 squads or keep them as Elites and run a single big block of them. Neither of those options is amazing but they’re the only two options you have if a standard CSM CAD is what you’re trying to do. A Khorne Lord, or even Kharn, in a unit of 20 Berzerkers isn’t exactly a bad unit, but without any way of getting them across the board quickly it isn’t likely there will be enough of them left to do a lot of damage when they finally hit the enemies lines.

Noise Marines:

The devotees of Slaanesh, descendants of Fulgrim, and masters of cacophonous instruments of war. The Noise Marines of the Emperors Children are among the most devastating units to Space Marines in the 41st millennium.



  • Power Armor
  • Boltgun/Bolt Pistol/Close Combat Weapon
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • Any model may take a Sonic Blaster (24″ range, S4, AP5, Salvo 2/3 Ignores Cover)
  • 1 model may take a Blastmaster (36″ S5, AP4 Assault 2 Ignores Cover or 48″ S8, AP3, Heavy 1, Blast, Pinning, Ignores Cover).
  • Champion may take a Doom Siren (Template, S 5, AP3)
  • Icon of Excess (All models with MoS have FNP, this Icon is even better when using the Kakophoni formation)
  • May include up to 15 additional Noise Marines

Special Rules:

  • Fearless
  • Mark of Slaanesh (+1 Initiative)


There’s a lot of options in there for building this unit. With +1 Initiative you may even think this unit would make a great assault choice, similar to Berzerkers above. In reality thought their special armaments make them much more useful as a gun line unit, even more so if you use their special Formation from Traitor Legions, the Kakophoni, in an Emperor’s Children detachment. Click the links for more on that. In general the Noise Marines are like the Berzerkers above, if you want to run them effectively you should look outside the confines of the CAD. But the unit has some interesting weaponry that really can help CSM players out against one of the most prolific lists in modern, 7th edition, 40k. The Space Marine Battle Company. The Sonic Blaster is a great weapon for beginning to take down MEQ units, it even wrecks Guard/Tau equivalents. the Sonic Blaster being Salvo can put large numbers of wounds on Marines, and with it’s AP5 Ignores Cover rounds will take out quite a few units that rely heavily on cover. The Doom Siren is really good at taking out Space Marines who are trying to come after an objective the Noise Marines are camped on and the Blastmaster can even force a lot of marines back using it’s s8, AP3, blast, ignores cover shot.

While the weaponry is there to make Noise Marines great we once again run into a problem with using them in a CAD which is cost prohibitive and the necessity to unlock them as troops. They are certainly more viable an option than Khorne Berzerkers but to truly shine need their additional Formation and Detachment rules.

Plague Marines:

The Plague Marines of the Death Guard are grotesque, bloated, and nigh unstoppable versions of Adeptus Astartes. Made ever more resilient through their devotion to Nurgle they march across the battlefields of the 41st millennium shrugging off massively powerful weapons and implacably laying down withering fire upon their enemies before dispatching wayward survivors with disease corrupted blades.



  • Power Armor
  • Bolter/Bolt Pistol/Plague Knife (Poisoned 4+)
  • Blight Grenades (Assault and Defensive Grenades)
  • Krak Grenades
  • Up to two marines may replace their bolter with: Flamer, Plasmagun, Meltagun.
  • Can take up to 15 additional Plague Marines.

Special Rules:

  • Fearless
  • Feel No Pain
  • Mark of Nurgle (+1 Toughness)

120 Points base, but you’re going to be taking 2 Special Weapons.


Once the most taken troops choice in Chaos Space Marine Player armies these tough SoBs have seen their stock fall of late. They’re certainly rocks of a unit. T5, Fearless, and Feel No Pain mean they aren’t going anywhere too easily, and with Poison weapons in Close Combat and Blight Grenades they have a slight edge over most other Troop choices that try to assault them. Great objective holders and able to take 2 special weapons on just the basic 5 man squad means they can put out a lot of fire compared to a CSM or Cult squad of similar size. Using squads of Plague Marines to anchor objectives, or sweep objectives of Vanilla Marines, is a great way to use them.

This is probably the only one of the “cult” units in this review that really work in a regular CSM CAD. A Nurgle Lord on a Bike with a unit of Nurgle Spawn is a solid unit, and the Lord will unlock the Plague Marines as troops. So then why isn’t this a good list? Well, a lot of it boils down to the CSM CADs are over costed for what they do. As is the case with the other two units discussed here, although admittedly to a lesser extent, if you want to run Plague Marines you’re probably going to be better of doing so as part of a Death Guard detachment using their Formation, the Plague Colony. Again, click the links for more info on those. Getting the re-roll of 1s to failed Feel No Pain rolls via the detachment rules is really good. In this edition anytime you can get a re-roll of any type you’re boosting your armies stock exponentially. The armies that can get a lot of quality re-rolls are just plain better more often than not.

On the whole the “cult” units in Codex: Chaos Space Marines are just not great choices, often being cost prohibitive compared to units of comparable ability. The new formations and detachments at our disposal in Traitor Legions really turns that old rule of thumb around, giving us viable options to once again dust off those CSM Cult troops and show them the light of day. Or the artificial light of your local FLGS more likely.

~As always, share your CSM Cult Marine thoughts in the comments section! 


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off, every day.


  • SilentPony

    To be worth it Khorne Berserkers really need +1 A and Preferred Enemy (Everything)
    Plague Marines need to be like 30k Death Guard, immune to Pinning and Fear
    Haven’t played with the other two…

    • Kazzigum

      Plague marines ARE immune pinning and fear. They’re fearless.

    • BT

      Think about what you are asking…

      Well, Rage does give them an additional +1 attack on the charge. So if you do the BP+CCW, you have 4 attacks on the charge at Str 5. I think 5 attacks on the charge and 4 in melee is to much for a possible unit of 20.
      Hatred via VotLW gives you a re-roll to hit on that charge phase, making sure you don’t waste that Str 5, which will give you a metric ton of wounds to mathhammer them to death. Prefered Enemy, allowing them to re-roll wounds as well is just stupid overpowered. Here is my advice, stop getting charged and be the one doing the charging. Besides, that stuff will not be added for free. I don’t want to pay Terminator prices on a unit that is in 3+ armor.

      What kills them is that they just bounce off of Power Armor. They will slaughter anything that is worse than power armor. They should have allowed 2 guys in the unit to have power weapons. Two AP 1 power axes at Str 8, 4 attacks each with re-roll misses (on a charge) would make that unit go a long way in CC. And it would be +30pts to a unit.

      • Brettila

        Why? 10 Flayed Ones get 50 attacks with Shred! Survive that BS for 13 pts each.

      • Karru

        What really kills ‘zerkers is the fact that they really won’t be doing much charging. Bring them in a Rhino and the Rhino blows up on turn one so those 10 ‘zerkers now have to walk across the table. Somehow get that Rhino across the table and they will be shot one whole round before they get to do anything.

        The problem with them isn’t the lack of killing power against Power Armour. It’s the fact that they are an Assault unit in a game that doesn’t encourage Assault units. Putting them in a Land Raider is useless. My friend does this almost every time he plays, not once has it reached my line. I either kill it on the first round of shooting or immobilise it. After that, I just shoot the ‘zerker unit a few times and boom, threat gone and I just took down almost a quarter of the opponent’s army.

        Also, there is no real point in taking ‘zerkers any more since the Traitor Legions book is out. World Eater CSM are better overall than ‘zerkers since they trade the WS bonus for the ability to take Special Weapons like Melta which helps them a lot. They are also cheaper and have Bolters for the long walk if their ride is destroyed.

  • Nyyppä

    This is pretty redundant. It’s not like there is any real need of actual faction specific tactics for these 3. 2 are close range factions and one is mid range. That’s it.

    Write an article on how to make mono WB competitive. That’d be useful to people, no less impressive.

    • BT

      I think the one tactic he should have mentioned was that you could put a squad of Berzerkers in a Land Raider to get them across the board, if you want to waste a heavy slot for them and effectively make them 220pts more expensive.

  • Karru

    Here’s some tactics for using Cult Marines: Take the Legion Marine instead, cheaper, gets the most important parts of the benefits and has more options. Only exception is Noise Marines. Done.

    • BT

      Best Sorcs too, don’t have to waste a power on a God to give you those extra re-rolls.

  • eehaze

    Death Guard CSM units are a better deal than Plague Marines in a CAD, and the Chaos Warband is a better formation than the Plague Colony in medium to large games.
    In small games, though, the Plague Colony can really shine. A plague colony plus a unit of spawn runs around 750 points, and it makes for a decent army.

  • DeCold

    Here is a tip, dont use any of them, unless you are running for EC, then you can consider Noise Marines.

    • Nyyppä

      This. The regular marines for those legions are just as good, just a lot cheaper.

  • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

    Purge. Because Purge.

  • BT

    Well, since EC is one of the few that actually does get BP+CCW+Bolter/SB for +1 point, it might be interesting to do a Combat Drug list that can benefit from the rolls. Almost makes me wish Bile was back to doing his version of Combat Drugs.

  • memitchell

    Them CSM are mighty bad dudes in Shadow War: Armageddon. Bad in a good way. T5 Nurgle Marines. +1A for Khorne, +2 Inv. for Tzeench. Yikes!

    • Nyyppä

      Yeah. That saves them in 40k too….no wait…..

      • memitchell

        Seems like less is more with CSM’s.

        • Nyyppä

          Yes and it seems that the average game size is growing all the time.

  • Marco Marantz

    Only Plague Marines are even viable. I use Berzerkers in fluff lists cuz i have always played World Eaters but they arent very good. Noise Marines are even worse.

    All are improved through detachment and Legion rules but Berzerkers and Noise Marines are still meh.

    Plague Marines dont require much improvement, if any. Maybe just a slight point decrease.

    Noise Marines are mediocre at range and poor in melee. Sonic weapons at AP5 do nothing. You really want to buff them, make Sonic weapons the Chaos Grav. Other than that improve the AP and something like for each unit with sonic weapons that hit the same target the STR goes up by one. I dont know. They also need to be difficult to charge (think DoW2 ability) and their ‘acoustic axes’ should make them decent in melee. Swing those g-tars around like the crazy rockers they are supposed to be.

    ALOT can be done with Berzerkers. They could get +1A. There are plenty of other base assault troops that have 2 attacks base and special rules providing additional attacks. Another rule that is kind of fluffy is when they roll a 6 to hit they get another attack, or instant death. this makes them useful in taking down OP monstrous creatures (wraithknights etc) if you can get them in. They could get Chain Axes by default which gives them either shred or rend. Giving them other weapons is not really fluffy but this helps them defeat armor better. Just giving them weapons with a low AP is not fluffy and too strong. If they get extra attacks then they need to math-hammer tough units to death. They also have issues with speed and survivability. Being able to run and charge would help. A 3D6 charge? As for survivability, Feel No Pain has become overused but devotees of Khorne have long been known to shrug off wounds in order to get to combat or in their frenzy. I still like the fluffy Chaos Armour for World Eaters from 2nd ed which gave a 2+ save.
    Id be happy to see them drop BS to 3 or even 2 to account for the crazed killers they have become who can barely hold aim on account of their rage.
    If you think these suggestions are a bit much just have a look at Wulfen and then have a look at Berzerkers.

    • Nyyppä

      If anything ever is CSM grav it has to be a thing that is spammable for every legion. Sonic weaponry is available only to EC.