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Warhammer 40K: GW Puts Chaos Back In Its Place

5 Minute Read
Nov 07

Let’s talk about why Chaos is, once again, lagging behind in the competitive scene.

The forces of the Ruinous Powers have had a pretty tempestuous time in 8th Edition. They’ve pretty consistently had spikes of being a very competitive army, only to drop back down into a middle-tier threat again and again. In particular, GW seems very quick to drop nerfs on Chaos, reacting faster, and more consistently to them than almost any other faction. Now once again, after a short time in the sun, it appears as if Chaos has been put back in its place as an okay, and only okay, force.

What Has Come Before

Last year I covered in some depth the trials and tribulations Chaos had undergone up until that point. Chaos had started the Edition well with a couple of powerful books and had pretty consistently vied for the top along with Imperial and Eldar Soup lists. Then over a little more than a year, they got hit with repeated nerfs including:

  • Malefic Lords- one of the early stars of the Chaos lists. This cheap pysker could dish out smite spam like no one’s business. Eventually, he got a massive points increase. Couple that with a smite nerf, and these guys have vanished back into the warp.
  • Horrors. Horror hordes of one type or another was another early Chaos list type that saw success. Horrors got a few nerfs over the edition and have likewise faded away.
  • Poxwalkers. Remember the Endless Horde of Poxwalkers? What about the Plague Blossom list from LVO? Another Chaos tactic that won games. Also nerfed when they capped Poxwalker growth. One more unit, you don’t see much.
  • How about Stratagems? Using Tide of Traitors to bring back large Cultists blobs and for quick movement was also a big Chaos tactic that got nerfed when ToT went to one use again.
  • Magnus, one of the big bads of Chaos, became one of a handful of units to get a nerf when he moved from Index to Codex.
  • Speaking of pyskers, the spam nerf hit Chaos harder than most factions.
  • And what about that tried and true strategy of deep striking a unit and then using Warptime to get them to charge? Nerfed.
  • Invulnerable saves?  They (and the ability to buff them) have slowly been nerfed, with the BIG FAQ 2 even putting an additional nerf on the Chaos Deamons’ ability to buff them.
  • Another causality of the new FAQ? Alpha Legions infiltrators got a big nerf. They’ve been a super popular Legion since the book came out, let’s see what happens to them now.

All of this left them in bad shape as 2018 wrapped up.

A Return to Glory

As the new year turned, Chaos struggled under the tyranny of Imperial Knights, and all hope seemed lost. However, change (thanks Tzeentch!) came at last in the form of the two Vigilus Books and a new Codex Chaos Space Marines. These books revitalized the faction, updated a large number of units, both Demon and Marine, and introducing a host of powerful extra rules, and detachments.

Though some players had issues with having to buy both the CSM 2.0 Codex and Vigilus Ablaze to get the full CSM rules (a precursor to Codex supplements), the vast majority of players were pleased with the changes. With more in-depth rules, greater customization and variety, and an overall more powerful army, it seemed that Chaos was on the path to glory at last.

Knights and Knights


The CSM 2.0 book came out in March of 2019 and was a huge boost for the dark powers. With it and the new Vigilus rules, Chaos armies returned to being competitive. One major issue remained: Imperial Knights. Despite a jump in power level, Chaos armies still had trouble competing with Imperial Knight based soup lists. The power combo of Knights, Smash Captains, and the Loyal 32 proved hard to overcome.

Then in July, Chaos got a break. The resale of the Renegade Knight Codex and nerf to the powerful Knight Castellan turned the tables. Now not only did Chaos have full access to a Knight Codex, they arguably had better Knights than the Imperials. Couple that with their seemingly powerful Codex, and everything looked good. In early August, Goatboy proved the power of the new books by winning the GW North American GT with a Chaos soup list.

Put Back In Their Place

Chaos’ ascension was short-lived. This time it was not an FAQ or a nerf that stopped them, but the release, the month after Renegade Knights of a new updated Space Marine Codex and Codex Supplements. The jump in power level from the old Marine Codex to the new one was astronomical, and pretty much overnight transformed the meta into a Marine dominated one. Marines had answers for pretty much everything Chaos could bring to the table, with more rules, more stratagems, and better shooting and assault. Even with Chaos getting another slight buff, with their version of Shock Assault, it just wasn’t enough.

Comparing how the 2.0 version of the CSM book upgraded the army and how the 2.0 version of the Marine Codex upgraded that army shows a stark difference. Whereas Chaos got a couple of new units and a few pretty minor reworks to units here and there, along with bonus options for extra subfactions, the Marine book got a pretty fundamental rework. Not only did it get the same reworks and new units as the Chaos book, but a whole host of new rules and options.

Simply put: a loyalist Chapter will have access to close to twice the stratagems and relics, and 3 times the warlord traits and psychic powers as a Chaos Legion has. This is in addition to having several powerful additional army-wide special rules. Under assault from this powerful book(s) the Chaos Renaissance that seemed possible crumbled. Looking over results form the past two months, Chaos has pretty clearly been reduced to an upper mid-tier army now, finding some success, but lagging behind over all. It’s a sad state for a force that seemed poised to be the top dog only a couple months ago. 


Let us know what you think about the current state of Chaos, down in the comments! 

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