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Warhammer 40K: Ranking the Space Marine Chapters

7 Minute Read
Nov 5 2019

Let’s talk about which of the updated chapters is the best.

With the release of Imperial Fists and Salamanders all the announced  supplements are out and we’ve got a good look at what Space Marines are now. With that in mind it’s time to indulge in the ago old tradition of ranking anything we can from best to worst, in this case its the 8 chapters found in the codex. Now, just over two years ago I did this with the old book (has it only been a little over two years?) and I’m happy to say that the rankings have changed with the new book. To help with the ranking three quick rules:

  • I’m looking at this from a comparative standpoint, this list has nothing to do with fluff, pain or how cool the lists are, just how they act on the table,
  • I’m looking at the chapters in their totality, including supplements, not simply the core codex.
  • I’m not looking at successor chapters rules, there are a ton of combos and factors there, that we are not looking at nor how good the chapters rules work with successor chapters, just the chapters alone.

Now with that out of the way, lets dig in.

n.b. I want to quickly point out that while I am ranking these Chapters it does not mean that I think any of them are outright bad, the new Codex is very powerful, just that some are better than others.


8. Black Templars

Sad to say it but Black Templars, previously 6th on our list have fallen down to last place. Now the reason for this is simple, they didn’t get a supplement. The old Black Templars get less than any other faction, with their special units being stuck in a sub-optimal PDF. Now hope is not lost for them, they are supposed to get a lot of new rules in the upcoming Psychic Awakening supplement, and things might turn around for them big time. But for now, simply due to the lack of content, they get last place.

7. Imperial Fists

Imperial Fists have the somewhat dubious honor of remaining unchanged in the rankings, having been in 7th place in the original codex as well.  Now I’ve covered my issues with Imperial Fists in some detail already, but I’ll give a quick summery here. Their abilities, while potentially powerful in the current meta do not synergzie well, and are often underpowered. The army as a whole lacks focus, while its ablities are overly focused, and inflexible. If they fight armies with no to minimum tank support a large numbers of their abilities just won’t work. Their characters are underwhelming and they get fewer stratagems and relics then any of the chapters with a supplement. Overall they are lackluster.

6. Crimson Fists

Man the Son’s of Dorn just can’t catch a break with all 3 of their Chapters being at the bottom. Now Crimson Fists suffer from a lot of the same issues as Imperial Fists, since they share 90% of the same rules. Their Chapter tactic is powerful, but arguably works even worse with the Legacy of Dorn rule than the Imperial Fist tactic. In essence they are a anti-horde list that gets a bunch of buffs for shooting tanks… which doesn’t make sense. Their main unique tactic, the +1 to hit shooting larger units, by definition can never pair with the Legacy of Dorn. They do however still rank higher than Imperial Fists, despite even worse eternal synergy. There are a few reasons for this, for one Pedro Kantor, already great, got buffed and is far better than the IF heroes. In addtion the CF simply get more than their founding chapter, with access to all the IF relics, stratagems, and even it seems warlord traits, while also adding in their own unique options. Here at least, more is better.


5. Ultramarines

Ultramarines have fallen from 2nd place down to 5th. This however has less to do with Ultramarines being worse, and everything to do with other Chapters getting massive power boosts. In fact Ultramarines remain a solid chapter with a lot of good things going for them. They are a robust, flexible and formidable chapter overall, and great for newcomers to the game. Their strengths general don’t rely on crazy combos or complex tricks. However while they are solid, they also just don’t have a ton of tricks. They are a pretty straightforward foe to fight, and don’t do a ton to up either the deadliness or survivblity of the army. Overall this puts them as a middle of road Space Marine force – solid, but not crazy.


4. White Scars 

White Scars remain at 4th place, unchanged from the prior list, and this reflects their status as a slightly above average Chapter. The Scars have a decent amount of tricks, and are a fast and deadly force. They’ve got pretty good relics and traits, and can build one of the deadliest characters in the game. However a few things hold them back from being truly great. Their signature ability, while amazing, can’t come into effect before turn three. For such a fast assault army, this means the game will often be decided before their core ability comes into play. In addition, the army doesn’t mesh well with most of the new Primaris units, instead is synergizes best with many outdated and underperforming older units. It’s a bit of mixed message books, and feels like it needs a couple new units to really make it all click perfectly.

3. Iron Hands

Man(us), last time we did this ranking Iron Hands where dead last as the worst Chapter, and now they’ve jumped up to 3rd, with a decent argument to made that they belong up in first.  Look, Iron Hands are a really good Chapter. They are tough and reliable, and have a surprising amount of builds that work well with them. They are straightforward and deadly. They also don’t have a ton of tricks to pull. I think one of the big reason Iron Hands took off so quick in the meta is that they are pretty easy to use (and paint) and players were able to wrap their heads around them quickly. I also think this means it’s easier to come up with counters for them. Overall the straightforward nature of the army (and the nerfs) keep it from being higher in my list.

2. Salamanders

Salamanders may have fallen from the top spot, but they are still a hot army to play. This Chapter has a ton going for it, from amazing special characters, to great strats and warlord traits. It’s Chapter Tactic is just incredible solid, and the half of it that is Master Artisans is rightfully one of the most used successor traits, just showing how good it is. I think overall Salamanders are the deadliest Chapter out there, with multiple ways to get +1 to wound, both in shooting and combat, and ways to get +2 in some situations. The only thing really holding the army back is difficulty getting to the enemy. The best Salamander units are also fairly short ranged. However if Salamanders can reach their enemies there is pretty much nothing in the game they wont kill with ease.

1. Raven Guard

And here we have it, Raven Guard have jumped up to the number one spot on the list. Raven Guard are a quick, powerful and tricky army. They bring a ton to the game, they are great at taking on the common Knight lists, and have an unprecedented ability to kill enemy characters. Given how  much of modern 40K is about auras, the ability to kill important enemy characters with impunity and ease is mega powerful. Top that off with amazing deployment and assault options and this an army that can really do it all. It’s great at range, has crazy assault tricks, can remain mobile and pick enemy armies apart. It’s not the easiest army to use, and requires some skill, but run properly they are the best of the updated chapters.

Let us know what you think about out list, down in the comments



Author: Abe Apfel
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