40K CSM Codex Review: Iron Warriors

Today we do a bit of digging and review of the Iron Warriors from Codex: Chaos Space Marines.

Welcome all, Danny from TFG Radio here. If you want to shoot and have some fearless blobs of bros, here’s your pick! Be sure to check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner for all the goodness.

So, Iron Warriors are the siege breakers, the fortification fellers, the shooty ones with the slick caution striping on their weapons, so what do they look like in 8th edition?

Legion Trait: Siege Lords

All IW infantry, Daemon Princes, Helbrutes, and Bikers negate any cover bonus to armor.  They also reroll failed wound rolls against buildings.  So this is the exact same as the Imperial Fist Chapter Tactics, and well, it is a bit underwhelming to be fair.  Cover saves are nowhere near as ubiquitous as it once was as it much harder to get cover than before, so ignoring the bonus is a bit hit and miss.  As TOs, clubs, and events start to develop better and more robust cover fitting for 8th edition, this bonus may come in far more handy.  The reroll against buildings is also very corner case, and sure, it could come up, but it likely won’t in most games.   It is not like this is necessarily a terrible Legion Trait, but it is just not as overtly powerful as others.  If you want to make the most of it, high volume fire is the way to go.  Lascannons really don’t need to worry too much about punching through cover, but Missile Launchers and Heavy Bolters do.  Even just standard bolters can be frustrating when an opponent cannot bank on a sweet 2+ in cover.   Again, I think when our terrain-game finishes evolving, this trait will be far more useful.

Legion Specific Stratagem: Iron Within, Iron Without

You can trigger this Stratagem when an IW unit loses a wound, and for the rest of the phase, that unit ignores wounds on a 6, including the wound that triggered this stratagem. This is essentially giving an entire unit a 16% wound mitigation, which can come in handy in a number of ways.  First, on a larger unit like a big blob of CSM or even Berserkers (who are totally welcome in the Iron Warriors), this can help them survive some attention.   Big units of Terminators don’t mind this at all because with a 2+/5++, they are already resilient, but throwing in another 16% wound mitigation? That’s nice.  The real fun trick here is that GW FAQ’d that different sources of ignoring wounds seem to stack, so a big unit of Slaanesh Terminators with the Slaanesh psychic power of a 5+ to ignore wounds stacked with this suddenly has at worst a 5++, 5+ “Feel no Pain”, and a 6+ “Feel no Pain”.  That’s pretty beast, and if you’ve ever played against a Swarmlord with Catalyst up and the FnP warlord trait, you can attest how much damage that actually ignores.   For other reasons we’ll go into, Iron Warriors really like Slaanesh marked Terminators and Obliterators.   You can also go for a foot-slogging horde and do this with Possessed for 40 wounds of 5++/5+/6+.  A bit pricey and one-dimensional though, but as an “Anvil” unit that can take the center of the board and not go anywhere easily, it is pretty solid as far as 8th goes.

Legion Specific Artifact: Fleshmetal Exoskeleton

The Fleshmetal Exoskeleton is back, and yep yep, you still want to slap it on a Daemon Prince.  Giving a DP a 2+ save isn’t too shabby at all, and as an added bonus, the DP heals 1 wound per turn, so on an 8 wound character, that can actually be relevant.  Seeing as DPs can be screened, you are better able to choose where and when the DP starts to be exposed to damage, namely melee, and a 2+ save helps keep volume of fire attacks from being too problematic, and even bigger hits from AP -2 weapons are now saved on a 4+ rather than having to rely on the 5++ from being a Daemon.   Again, with 8 wounds and with far more control of when and how your Daemon is vulnerable, being able to tick back up can keep a DP alive to kick some butt.   This is also one of the truly free Artefacts as it does not require any piece of equipment to replace, so you can just slot it onto a DP and go from there.  If you don’t like Daemon Princes, you can even throw this on a Chaos Lord or Sorcerer with a Jump Pack for a cheaper terminator. If you are trying to shave 20-30 points, this could work out well. Overall, a pretty solid artifact.

Legion Specific Warlord Trait: Cold and Bitter

Friendly IW within 6 of the Warlord automatically pass Morale tests.  This is just baller.  It is one of the better legion specific Warlord Traits, namely because Morale control and mitigation is incredibly powerful, especially since it allows you to run chaff hordes far more effectively, and chaff hordes are great at board control and scenario play.   For just over 150 points, you can have a blob of 40 cultists that need to be killed to the last traitor so long as your Warlord is nearby.  That’s a big wall of cultists.  You could also run several smaller squads, but then you do run into the possibility that someone will actually blitz through them in a single turn, so larger squads are probably more optimal to ensure that your chaff line is not broken in a single turn.   This matters more when we look at the general stratagems that IW can really utilize well.  Even if you don’t want to run a cultist horde, having a bubble of Fearless is still great unless you are really only doing MSU with units no longer than 5.  If you do want to try to run a Possessed mob, this is a good Warlord trait for it, so you never have to worry that you’ll lose any Possessed to the morale phase.

Useful General Stratagems

Veterans of the Long War:  Pretty much every Legion is going to want to use this Stratagem because it is just so. damn. good. You can use this in either the shooting phase or fight phase, so you can actually use it twice a turn in matched play: once to shoot and once to fight.  For a unit like Terminators that can bring some strong shooting and strong melee, for 2 CPs, you can turn them into God-mode for half a turn.  Even just combi-bolters become menacing as hell with a +1 to wound as against anything T5-T7 are being wounded on 4s, and anything T3 is being wounded on 2s.  That adds up when you have 40 shots within 12 inches.  Of course, with Obliterators, you wounding any target not T14 or above on 4s with this, regardless of what you roll for strength, and if you roll max strength, suddenly you are wounding T8 on 2s.  Nice. In melee, Terminators or Possessed become far scarier with a blanket +1 to wound in close combat, and with the volume of attacks that Possessed can produce or the quality of attacks that Terminators can pump out, you can do some serious damage in the fight phase as well.  Overall, VotLW is so good.

Endless Cacophony: So, Iron Warriors really want to be Slaanesh, namely for access to the psychic power and this Stratagem. For 2 CPs, a Slaanesh infantry/biker unit can shoot twice in a turn.  Couple this with VotLW, and wow, you are doubling a ranged units offensively output for a turn.  Terminators with just standard combi-bolters are now putting out 80 shots with +1 to wound or Obliterators are putting out 8 shots each.  Slaanesh Terminators can be a linchpin unit for an Iron Warriors build as a big unit of 10 can drop in during the Movement phase, have Delightful Agonies and Warp Time cast on them, get VotLW and then Endless Cacophony in the shooting phase, and then charge in and get another VotLW on them for melee.   They will do tons of damage, and with Delightful Agonies up, they will have a 2+ or 5++, a 5+ Feel No Pain, and if they start taking a lot of attention, another 6+ FnP from Iron Within, Iron Without.  Yes, that is 5 CPs invested in a single unit, but as a single hammer strike, that can be devastating.  You can stretch this out to by simpling taking a few squads of Obliterators, and essentially have 2 or 3 turns where a unit drops in and shoots twice, and well, if the previous Oblits didn’t die, you still have to answer them too.

Tide of Traitors: While you don’t think of Iron Warriors as being the legion that is supported by throngs of cultists, with the IW Warlord Trait, they are really good at it.  Imagine having a 40 cultist strong unit that just absorbs tons of punishment, is down to its last four cultists, and suddenly, they disappear and return at full strength?  Well, with Tide of Traitors, you can do that.  An IW Warlord walking up field with a big blob of Cultist is good, but having the ability to heal them and have them redeploy to a flank can be game-winning, whether for Line Breaker or taking a far-flung objective.  Seeing as how IW get a lot of extra mileage out of Cultists since you never have to worry about suffering additional attrition thanks to Morale, if you want to run IW, a solid contingent of cultists would be a good idea.  For math’s sake, it takes over 100 bolter shots from a BS 3+ chassis to kill a 40 cultist unit to a man, and well, that’s not exactly easy to accomplish.  It takes roughly 60 shots to get a 40 strong unit to die via morale, and that’s a decent bump by being able to ignore morale, and again, all you need is one cultist to live and you can bring back the whole unit via this stratagem.

Flakk Missile/Daemon Shell: As I want over with World Eaters, being able to do a few mortal wounds at range is a good idea.  IW are still a mostly shooty army, so you should have a bolter on a character or a missile launcher somewhere, and being able to do 2d3 mortal wounds to a Flyer can really help you put one down without a big investment of firepower elsewhere.  It is just a good idea, if you have the CPs, to have this option available, for any army build really.

Useful General Artifacts:

Honestly, if you want more melee centered characters, then the Axe of Blind Fury is good or the Black Mace, but really, none of these really help IW more than anyone else.  IW are pretty CP hungry to pull off some of their crazier tricks, so it is not necessarily worth it to try and grab more than the Fleshmetal Exoskeleton.   In my estimation, it is better to just save CPs for Cacophony or VotLW.

Must-have Units: 

Terminators:  The ever classic Terminator is just so much improved in 8th edition, but Iron Warriors can get a bit more mileage out of them.  Iron Within, Iron Without helps multiwound models or large groups of models, and Terminators with their innate resiliency get a bit more out of IWIW.  As I said, mark them Slaanesh for some double shooting, and while expensive, a unit of 10 Terminators with combi-plasma firing twice is absolutely devastating, especially with a +1 to wound.  Don’t forget that if you have a Warp Time source nearby, you can send them off to fight as well.  Terminators are such a great double-threat overall, and while expensive, they can impact the game in huge ways in a single turn.

Obliterators:  Well, they are not Troops anymore for IW, but Obliterators are still quite good in IW.  They are essentially 3 wound terminators, so you can layer defensive buffs on them, and since they can shoot like champs if the dice aren’t too bad, they are great targets for Cacophony.  Whether you go for a large unit of 6 to just come down with one thunder-blow or 2/3 units of 3 to come in on Turn 1/2/3, it is a good idea to have some of these nearby.

Cultists: That Warlord trait, though.  Thanks to that, IWs are great at bringing a lot of chaff to the table that will eat up board space, deny reserves, and push forward to help secure objectives, especially since they are objective secured!  You should have at least 30, but really, 50-60 is probably the sweet spot as this is not that much in terms of points, but it can really help you control the tempo of the game, especially with your big hits waiting in reserve.  With Tide of Traitors, you can get quite a bit of mileage out of these units, and again, few armies are going to be able to easily deal with a large swath of cultists reappearing on their flank.  Even just a cheap Battallion of Iron Warriors provides you a ton of fearless Obsec bodies.  That’s damn nice.  Let me say it one more time: Fearless Obsec.

Possessed: I really like Possessed with IW simply for the cheap access to a temporary Feel No Pain.  Since Possessed are 2 wounds each now, they can make a resilient base for an army if you layer Delightful Agonies along with IWIW.  They can also add some melee punch to an army that mostly wants to shoot, and really, you can build a strong, varied IW list that has cultist chaff, a Possessed unit moving forward, a Daemon Prince Warlord that heals, has a 2+ save, and has a 6 inch aura of Fearless, and has terminators and/or obliterators dropping in to deliver some big, big hits.  Possessed make a good “on the board” threat that will attract attention but is still resilient enough to take a lot of it.  You could also throw them in rhinos or what not.

Daemon Prince: You’ll at least want one to get some sweet use out of Fleshmetal Exoskeleton.  A 2+ monster is not a bad thing to have at all.   A DP makes a great warlord to increase the fearless aura, plus with a 2+/5++ and healing one wound a turn, that is a decently resilient character hiding behind a chaff screen.

So there it is all, Iron Warriors.  While not as strong as other Legions on the surface, there are a few strong tricks here, and if you love the idea of terminator bombs or what not, this is a good Legion choice.  If you are only interested in high-octane competition, an Iron Warriors Batallion with 60 cultists, a cheap warlord for fearless (who is less likely to die and give up Slay), and another cheap character is under 500 points for a giant fearless obsec blob that can complement a lot of other builds like Magnus and Friends.

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  • Simon Chatterley

    As a long time Iron Warriors fan there’s no way to write them up positively at the minute. Ignoring cover is a bit pants at the minute and unless you want to run Cultist blobs the warlord trait is pretty useless too. In 15 games with CSM I can’t remember morale being a concern.

    But from a fluff perspective it’s awesome. Iron Warriors are bitter and angry at their place in the universe so having that rules that make me bitter and angry at GW. Perfect.

    • Nyyppä

      I’m going to see that and raise you with rerolling morale. Not only does that not allow large units to be played the WB rules do not support daemons at all. Basically they gave assigned rules to a sub faction that do not in any way represent the sub faction’s fluff or tactics. Honestly IW does better pseudo WB than WB does WB. 😀

  • LankTank

    Play IW thematically by making them all Slaanesh. And all Night Lords Nurgle

    • kobalt60

      Way back in the days of slaves to darkness, and lost and the damned, IW were a slaanesh legion. Night Lord’s were khorne dedicated though

  • Tushan

    At least they got the best damned relic armour in the game.

    The Imperial Fists got a f..g boltpistol.

    • That’s what the fisters get for being Piss Astartes.

      • Nyyppä

        Pisstartes is the new loyalist pronoun.

  • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

    No talk of Armour though? Shame.

  • Jakub Jánošík

    Could you do Word Bearers next ? I want to know how to play them effectively and more importantly what units to buy for them.

    • Nyyppä

      You do that by either by going IW and lying to yourself that the legion is WB or by going BL and lying to yourself that Abaddon is an apostle AND that the legion is WB.

      There is no way to make WB work like WB by using WB. It is impossible. The rules do not allow that.

  • Kifunk

    IW and Slaanesh… it’s not very fluff.

    If an Iron Warrior worship Slaanesh, he turn away from Perturabo and his legion, he will be considered deviant.

    from my point of view: Perturabo was betrayed by Fulgrim during the HH,
    so an “Slaaneshite” Iron Warrior would be frowned upon by his

  • The cultist build is actually really fluffy for Iron Warriors. The Codex mentions that they are a legion of specialists, supported by hordes of cultists; i.e. Tanks, Oblits, and Havocs. And if you go back as far as the Heresy, the IW were feared by the guard ‘cos they knew they would be sacrificed to the meat-grinder. Which is exactly what cultists are for. It makes sense for building a list too – they’re a cheap way to fill troops slots to get Battalion CPs, which I think is a must for IWs, they seem to rely on stratagems more than other armies.

    Possessed, on the other hand, have no business being in an IW army at all.

    • Xeltan

      Well according to the old fluff their possessed were heavily augumented marines using demons to power them up and looking more like strogg berserkers, so depending how it’s done it would make sense.