It’s difficult to stay interested in a hobby when life is pulling you a million different directions. Everyone reading this has been there (or will be there) at some point. I probably shouldn’t say this part out loud, but over the last couple months I found my love for the game waning a bit. There were higher level changes like a several thousand mile move, a job promotion with increased responsibility, and hosting some friends for a couple of extended stays that made finding time to play (let alone hobby) more difficult. There were also some behind-the-scenes challenges that as a more private and reserved person, I don’t view this website as the right forum to share. Suffice it to say, my relationship with the hobby was at a little bit of a low point.
And that can become a bit of a self-perpetuating cycle. When I’m playing 40K often, I’m more mentally engaged with the game and have a million ideas I want to try on the tabletop. When I’m playing very rarely, I’m not as mentally engaged and coming up with ideas to try as much. It gets harder to be as motivated to make content, or work with the amazing Patrons to help them on their own 40K journeys.
It was honestly with some trepidation that I attended the Denver Fight Club GT this weekend. On the one hand, I was looking forward to meeting a lot of people in-person that I had only communicated with online. On the other hand, I was honestly stuck in my head about how the games were going to go. I was worried that if I showed up and bombed out, it was going to be proof to myself that I had forgotten how to play.
What honestly got me over the hump to attend was deciding to focus on sportsmanship and building connections over worrying about my standing. Maybe I couldn’t build a reputation as a great player if the games didn’t go my way, but there was nothing stopping me from building a reputation as a great sport regardless of how the games went. I made it a goal that no matter how the game was going, I was going to find things about both the opponent’s painting and their gameplay to compliment and appreciate. I think everyone has a certain level of responsibility for their opponent’s enjoyment at the table even in a competitive setting, and that is true whether you’re giving or whether you’re receiving a beatdown on the table.
Spoiler alert: I finished 8th/57 players. This wasn’t as high as I had wanted, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. What brought me the most satisfaction was remembering to compliment my opponents every game, and all the snacks and beers grabbed with people in between rounds. And best of all, after getting out there and playing 6 games of 40K in a weekend, I walked away thinking…
This game is honestly so much fun.
I also got to hang with some really great guys all weekend, including some absolute legends like Rob, Patrick, and Collin who I had first met in the Warphammer Discord. I also got to chat with some people I wanted to finally meet in-person on the Denver Mountain Trolls and Xenos Petting Zoo (absolute class acts at the table) teams. Are you interested in joining the most knowledgeable and positive community of Chaos fans and players out there? Take a minute and join the Warphammer Discord today! https://discord.gg/gyKnJU6d
Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, let’s dive into what you really came to Warphammer for: A breakdown of a new competitive Chaos list, and how it matched up with a variety of strong armies.
My Emperor’s Children List
One thing I made sure to bring to the tourney was my Noise Marine button. I bought a button a while ago that inputs an audio recording and plays it back whenever you press it. There was only one possible option for an Emperor’s Children player: A clip from the old Dawn Of War games yelling “THIS SILENCE OFFENDS SLAANESH!” over background music. I get to slam this button to warn my opponent about what is coming before every shooting phase. I forgot to unpack it entirely some games, but it was there in spirit. Check it out below:
Some people will wonder “Why are we watching a video of a button that plays Dawn Of War quotes? Isn’t this section talking about his competitive list?”
Real Chaos fans will understand that the raw chaotic energy of someone yelling “THIS SILENCE OFFENDS SLAANESH!” is what actually powered the list, and that these two things are inseparable.
I decided to bring back some old-school flavor to Emperor’s Children with this list, while still adding the touches needed to make it competitive in the current tournament game. Noise Marines with Doom Sirens in Rhinos is a list that would have made sense decades ago. Sometimes old school becomes the new school.
- 2 Emperor’s Children Patrols (2000 Points, 2 CP)
- HQ: Abaddon The Despoiler, Warmaster Of Chaos, Champion of Chaos Undivided, the Arch-Fiend, former First Captain of the Sons of Horus, Master of the Black Legion: Warlord Traits (-1 CP)
- HQ: Lucius The Eternal, the Scion Of Chemos, Champion Of Fulgrim, The Faultless Blade
- 4 Troops: 4 x 5 Noise Marines with 1 Blastmaster, 1 Doom Siren, 1 Power Fist, 1 Icon Of Slaanesh, with max Chainswords
- 1 Troop: 1 x 5 Noise Marines with 1 Blastmaster and 1 Doom Siren with max Chainswords
- 2 Elites: 2 x Decimators with Soulburner Petards
- 1 Elite: 1 x 5 Possessed
- 1 Elite: Shiinask, Butcher of the Master’s Holy Flesh: 1 Master of Executions: Traitor’s Mantle (-1 CP)
- 1 FA: 1 Venomcrawler
- 1 FA: 1 Spawn
- 2 Dedicated Transport: 2 Rhinos with default bolters
No Terminator brick. No Dark Apostle. No Master Of Possessions. No Black Rune Of Damnation. We’re trying something off-meta with my Emperor’s Children.
One tech piece I really like that I rarely see is Doom Sirens on my Noise Marine sergeants. It’s a bit pricey at 10 points, but adds a lot. A d6 shot S5 AP3 (or AP4) flamer that becomes 2 damage within 6″ is really destructive into power armour. Noise Marines are already really expensive relative to their defensive profile, so I want to make them as destructive as possible when they go in. But the other part that makes Doom Sirens shine is the stratagem Excruciating Frequencies. Most CSM players know this stratagem as doing a MW on a 6 to wound with sonic weapons. It also has a second part, which prevents a unit that was hit by a sonic weapon from firing overwatch. With a 12″ sonic weapon that will always hit at least once, I can always guarantee no-overwatch on my charge. There is lots of overwatch in the game these days that is very scary for the equivalent of 5 Tactical Marines defensively (Daemons, Votann, Tau, Guard soon, etc).
I added the Rhinos for multiple reasons. The main reason was I wanted some protection against alpha strikes from double Sunshark lists, double Harpies, Votann bikers, artillery, etc. The extra +3″ of movement from disembarking was really big, largely making up from not being able to advance and charge. They’re also great after they dropped off their package for screening or move-blocking or soaking overwatch or tying units up. They’re also a safe space for Lucius and the Master Of Executions to hide if the opponent takes Assassinate or Psychic Interrogation.
The big concern with transports is always the fact that if they die, your models inside will die for each 1 you roll. If I have 10 models inside, only 1 or 2 die on average, but you could always randomly low roll and lose 4 or 5. Noise Marines are uniquely set up to not care about that. All of their damage output is concentrated in 2 of the 5 models in the squad. Even if roll 6 out of 10 1’s, an insanely bad roll, I still have all of my Blastmasters, Doom Sirens, and Power Fists. And because they are leadership 9, neither squad even has to take morale. The other concern is getting your transport wrapped with your unit inside. As someone who has done that play many times myself, I was hyper aware of when my opponent might be able to do that and avoided that option with positioning.
MVPs and LVPs
My Decimators put in serious work during this event. A lot of the strongest armies these days are vulnerable to MW. They are really mobile in Emperor’s Children since you can always advance and not worry about the hit penalty. They also get exploding 6’s for most of the game, which makes them just brutal on turns you roll hot. I also look for angles to minimize return damage, since they are a bit fragile. I would rather shoot a sub-optimal target and take 0 damage back than expose them to shoot a slightly more valuable target and get blown up.
They also operate completely independently of everything else. They can operate at top bracket for 1CP, and can fire into combat without any penalty if they’re tagged.
One question a few people asked me was, “Decimators don’t get rerolls anymore. How do you stop them from just killing themselves when you roll 1’s to Hit.” One thing most people don’t realize is Decimators are capped at doing 1MW to themselves per gun. You should always roll the guns separately. Sometimes the first gun will roll all hits, the second gun will roll a bunch of 1’s, and you still only take 1MW total. And even if you take 1 or 2 MW, you heal 1 wound every turn and have a stratagem to fire on top bracket. It’s not that big a deal.
And because Decimators get the Slaanesh keyword in Emperor’s Children, they’re a great target for Murderous Perfection to change a hit roll of 1 into a 6. Change a failed hit roll into a 6, and you’ve generated 2 additional nearly guaranteed MW.
My LVP would have to be the Venomcrawler. I always had one too many large units to hide or fit where I wanted when deploying. It’s a very solid unit, but I would have rather moved some points around and turned it into a second squad of Noise Marines with a Blastmaster. Without any Psykers to take advantage of that huge +1 to cast bubble, I should have used those points to maximize my damage output.
One thing that Chaos Space Marine players have struggled with in the new codex has been secondaries. Nephilim left all Legions besides Creations Of Bile (and to a certain extent Night Lords) with genuinely abysmal competitive secondaries. This means we have only one path to victory: Find and kill every last one of them, and drive their Primary and Secondary scoring into the dirt.
If Games Workshop forces me to commit war crimes, than war crimes I shall commit.
While we can’t control our own secondaries, we can at least control the secondaries that we give up. And I optimized my list pretty heavily to do that. By splitting between infantry and mechanized builds, I avoided giving up too much in any one category. I gave up 7 on No Prisoners and 9 on Bring It Down. The most I give up is 10 on Assassinate, and those 3 Characters are all extremely difficult to interact with.
Lots of the top armies (particularly Nids and most good Chaos builds) don’t have great secondary options, and their second or third secondaries selected are kill secondaries from the opposing list. By making picking kill secondaries into me an awful proposition, I can sometimes make their secondary game as awful as mine. This tournament, like most serious tournaments these days, has moved away from Battle Points as the tiebreaker after Wins. I don’t have to score highly. I just have to score more than my opponent. That doesn’t mean secondaries aren’t a real disadvantage for CSM. It just means that we don’t have to automatically give up 15 on No Prisoners if we don’t want to.
One other advantage of this style of list is not bringing a Psyker. I think Thousand Sons (especially with Tzeentch Daemons so they can bring Flamers and double cast Witchfires) are easily a top 3 army in the game, and one that people need to consider when teching their lists. I was probably going to bring Thousand Sons with Daemons myself if my good friend had been able to mail me back my Flamers I loaned them in time. I’m not worried about facing an average Thousand Sons player. But when you’re deep in a tournament and face someone that fully understands how to sequence and use all their tools and how to consistently grind out points, they’re very tough to outscore if you can’t take the Banners/No Prisoners/Abhor The Witch combo and take away Wrath Of Magnus.
Round 1: Patrick’s Daemons on Recover The Relics (L, 70-84)
Patrick played really well. I have to give him credit for a well-deserved win. His list featured Be’lakor, the Bloodthirster with all the toppings, Kairos, a Changecaster, and some Bloodletters and Daemonettes and 3 big units of Flamers. I loved his inclusion of Kairos. Being able to increase the cost of your opponent’s psychic denial stratagem helps make your Warp Ritual or Psychic Interrogation more consistent, and his scaling casting bonus makes his mortal wound output insane once he comes out to play. He took the typical Daemons list you see these days and put his own unique twist on it, which you always love to see.
We shook hands at the end, I talked about some great plays he made, and we went to grab lunch with some guys at the restaurant next door. But internally, I was disappointed with myself. Showing up with almost no sleep (went to sleep at 5AM, woke up at 6AM) and no prior experience with this list came back to bite me in the ass. This matchup is uphill but definitely winnable for Emperor’s Children. I threw the game by struggling to stay focused and making some misplays. The biggest was not keeping my Possessed >1″ away from the wall on the turn his Bloodthirster had to come down, so he could get a 6″ charge out of Be’lakor’s Warp Locus. Patrick played with pure class and asked me if I wanted to push my Possessed back so the Bloodthirster couldn’t charge them, which I declined. I also wasn’t aggressive enough with Abaddon on one flank, letting his Flamers devour all my Noise Marines making a push up the field. The table also had tall solid L’s that hid both Be’lakor and Kairos from all my Blastmasters turn 1, which means I missed my biggest damage output turn with exploding Blastmasters. I have to give Patrick credit for bringing a list well suited to the terrain at the event.
Despite playing a far from perfect game, I still had a chance. I shot Be’lakor turn 1 with both Decimators, taking 10 wounds off. I was in position to do it again turn 2 with exploding 6’s, with CP to act at top bracket and flip a miss into two hits the following turn. Taking away his only Warp Locus would have made a huge difference. I just needed my 11 wound Decimator to survive just 3 Flamers. Unfortunately I failed 12 out of 13 4+ Saves. I also managed to shoot 4 Blastmasters, a Doom Siren, and Abaddon at his Bloodthirster turn 3 and did 2 wounds, failing to take off a phase of damage. With all that out of the way, I had a couple great dice games later. It all comes around.
Round 2: Daniel’s Death Guard on Data Scry Salvage (W, 90-44)
Primary (45), Engage On All Fronts (10), Banners (15), No Prisoners (10)
The big story of this game was Daniel’s great attitude in the face of a bad matchup and some awful dice on his end. I really enjoyed playing and chatting Chaos with him. His army had some really cool conversions that made his army stand out on the tabletop.
We’ve both played both Death Guard and CSM, and had similar thoughts when we discussed the game afterwards. My firepower just had perfect profiles into Daniel’s army. Mortal Wounds are just way too good into Death Guard. My Decimators had the mobility to get angles easily and rip holes in his units. In addition, my 3 and 4 damage Blastmasters had the output to power through his -1 Damage. His army had no choice but to interact with mine on this mission, and my shooting just shredded his Plague Marines and Terminators everywhere besides his home objective.
I would really, really, really love to see Death Guard get a 5+++ FNP vs MW added into their Disgustingly Resilient rule. Too many armies can easily tech into high volumes of mortal wounds. Death Guard are supposed to be the most resilient army in the game. Every time I play against them, it never actually feels that way.
Round 3: Mustafa’s Twilight Harlequins on Abandoned Sanctuaries (W, 94-78)
Primary (45), The Long War (15), Assassinate (15), Banners (9)
Mustafa took the traditional Harlequin formula–lots of Twilight Troupes in Starweavers with some support and smash characters–and added his own twist with 2 units of 4 Skyweavers with haywire for some added mobility. This matchup is one where the Emperor’s Children legion trait really pays dividends. The ability of all my shooting to ignore hit modifiers helps me rip open their transports, and ensures my damage connects once I finally hunt down any Troupes or characters. On the other hand, Harlequins retain their massive mobility advantage. I was very fortunate to play versus Harlequins on Abandoned Sanctuaries, where most objectives are in the midfield and there is a huge VP reward at the end for brute forcing a central objective–exactly what my army is equipped to do against Harlequins. On a 6 objective mission, Mustafa’s ability to out-maneuver my army would have been much more impactful.
One of the problems with the Harlequins matchup for Chaos Space Marines is that Abaddon is pretty much useless. They have an 18″ non-Line Of Sight targeted psychic power that can burn through part of Abaddon’s wound pool even if I don’t expose him. They can move through screens when the board gets messy to shoot or fight him. They can do mortal wounds in the charge phase. I basically had two choices in this matchup: Fight the inevitable and play Abaddon cautiously so he could slowly bleed out while doing nothing, or just get any value out of him that I could and accept his early demise. I chose to do the latter. The Harlequins went first, and delivered 3 wounds to him turn 1 behind my own wall. On my turn I made him into Red Corsairs, sent him to kill one unit and flip an objective. He immediately died the following turn. I was at peace with that.
Mustafa was an experienced and friendly player, and played a really great game overall. He understood his army well, pulled back out of my threat ranges when he saw he was losing a part of the battlefield, and delivered some serious damage when he wanted to. I think his only mistake–and to his credit, he said this himself when we discussed the game later–was getting inspired by Khorne and extending a bit too far to do damage early. The Emperor’s Children counterpunch into any elves near their lines is absolutely brutal. The Harlequins quickly ran out of resources to keep playing their game.
Round 4: Jake’s Leviathan Tyranids on The Scouring (W, 77-56)
Primary (~35), The Long War (9 or 12), Banners (~12), Rise To Glory (6)
This was an interesting matchup because we both had the exact same gameplan: Find the other army, kill them, and let points sort themselves out. On The Scouring, the “find the other army” part is really easy. The only question was which army would kill the other first.
It turns out, when the opposing army is a bunch of Carnifexes and a Maleceptor and an Exocrine and a Tervigon, the answer is the army shooting mortal wounds and 4 damage shots. I got a big advantage in that I “lost” the first turn roll-off. Getting to go second put some pressure on Jake to score points early and expose resources.
My Noise Marines felt very, very good in this matchup. The 4 damage shots ripped through Carnifexes and the Maleceptor, and their high volume of chainsword attacks took big chunks out of Gant units. Twice I was able to charge multiple units on the central objective and block the edge of the objective so there wasn’t any room for him to regenerate Gants onto the objective in his command phase.
The Rhinos were also great in this matchup for pushing up ahead of Noise Marines and Abaddon on the flank with the Zoanthropes and the Maleceptor, soaking up mortal wounds.
Round 5: Nico’s Thousand Sons on Tide Of Conviction (W, 90-60)
Primary (37), No Prisoners (15), Abhor The Witch (15), Banners (14)
Nico was a really sharp Thousand Sons player. We both played the game the way I love playing it–actively reminding each other to do certain things, premeasuring and agreeing on key rolls before dice are rolled, and helping each other manage the clock and clock it to ourselves if we saw the opponent forgot to clock it over.
Nico got first turn, and went for a knockout punch that–if it had landed–would have immediately ended the game. He planned to hit 4 units with a double Infernal Gateway on my right flank, and shoot a big brick of buffed Terminators at a Decimator and blow it up turn 1.
And then capricious Tzeentch just completely abandoned him. Absolutely none of that plan worked out. He had 3 chances to cast Infernal Gateway (WC8, +1 to cast on all casts) with 2 casters and a CP reroll. He rolled exactly a 6 three straight times when he needed a 7. Because he had to invest CP in his psychic phase, he didn’t have enough CP to use +1 to Wound on his Terminator brick, so they left the Decimator at around 4 wounds remaining. He also failed a 9″ charge from his Terminators into my Possessed. Getting them all into cover before getting Blastmastered the following turn would have been huge.
Tzeentch decided to mess with Slaanesh, and bless me with his favor instead. My Decimator clapback was brutal, and my Noise Marine clapback was LOUD. I ended up killing 9 out of 10 Scarabs and the Fateskimmer, which meant he couldn’t cast Bolt of Change or Infernal Gateway again.
Nico did a really great job recovering from the haymaker early, and smartly sent out Flamer and Rubric missiles to rip down Banners and hold me to a 0 and 4 on Primary rounds 2 and 3. Unfortunately for the Thousand Sons, I was able to push forward aggressively with his Terminator brick/2 best offensive spells out of the picture. The Emperor’s Children ended up basically tabling the Thousand Sons by turn 4, and I was able to score a ton of Banner and Overrun points at the end of the game.
We both agreed at the end of the game that while on average dice he wins the game turn 1 with his aggressive line, there was a high enough risk of failure that it probably would have been better to hold off one or two turns and play the trading and attrition game that Cult Of Duplicity with Flamers can play so well. He was really good at the sequencing details that separate a strong Thousand Sons player from an average Thousand Sons player and kept a great attitude despite his horrendous dice, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nico make a deep run at any tourney he attends.
Round 6: Joel’s Ulthwe on Secure Missing Artefacts (L, 69-71)
Primary (~40), Banners (~8), Engage On All Fronts (6), The Long War (3)
Joel’s army was really interesting, and I have to give him a lot of credit for piloting it perfectly. His Ulthwe list leaned heavily into T8 walkers (including the Avatar of Khaine) and indirect fire platforms, with some psykers and Rangers providing support and some Swooping Hawks and Shining Spears providing some mobile damage output. Ulthwe was a great pick, as a mortal wound shrug counters the counter that many armies have for T8 -1 Damage units and make all his buffing spells more reliable.
I figured this was a stat check game. With T8 and -1 damage, I had no meaningful ability to interact with his walkers in melee outside of Abaddon. And Abaddon was going to struggle to stay on the board, given that his Swooping Hawks can reliably do a phase of damage in the Movement phase if he got close. I had 1 turn to shoot him before he could close the gap, and then had to rely on moveblocking from there. The combination of Ghost Walk and Fate dice meant he can do 100% guaranteed 9″ charges whenever he wants.
I won the first turn rolloff, and knew my priority target was the Avatar of Khaine. He becomes ridiculously more difficult to deal with once he gets Fortune cast on him. Unfortunately, my Decimators had a disappointing first turn and I only did around 6 wounds between the two of them. A barrage of Blastmasters finished him off, but I didn’t have a lot of leftover firepower to punish the rest of his walkers for deploying on the line.
I then made one crucial error. I had sent forward a unit of Noise Marines on my right flank to charge a unit of Rangers that were <19″ away, so I needed an 8″ charge. This would have been a big VP swing. Not only would I have scored 3VP for Long War, but I would have denied him a turn of Banners since he had no ObSec in that area of the board and a round of his secondary to be on that objective in his command phase.
I Honoured The Prince, confirmed with Joel that I needed anything besides a 1 on my single d6 charge roll, and… rolled that dreaded 1.
While on the one hand that was really bad luck, it was my fault for not sticking to my gameplan. I started the turn with 3 CP. My plan was to spend 1CP on +1BS for 1 Decimator shooting the Avatar, and then spend 1CP to Honor The Prince my Noise Marines and keep 1CP to reroll their d6 charge if I rolled a 1. I got greedy, and CP rerolled my number of shots with 1 Decimators gun after I rolled 2’s on both 2d3 rolls for number of shots with my second Decimator. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad choice because Mortal Wounds are so valuable into the pre-Fortuned Avatar. But it then increased my risk of failing on the big VP swing Honour The Prince play from 3% to 16%. This game is a great lesson for any less experienced players in looking reasons besides dice that you lost. Even in situations where you got unlucky, there was almost always some choice you could have made to increase the likelihood of your plan working, or decrease the impact if you get unlucky.
Turn 2 my Blastmasters almost all failed to wound, and suddenly I had lots of T8 -1 Damage walkers in my face. We were able to use ObSec and (and a clutch usage of Abaddon counting as 2 models from the Red Corsairs Legion trait!) to put up a couple more 8’s on Primary and hold Joel to a 4, but we just ran out of resources by the end and couldn’t prevent him from scoring high on his secondary for being on the objective near him or putting up big Primary scores at the end.
I had a chance to win the game on my turn 5. I saw an opportunity to charge for distance off a nearby walker with a 5-man unit of Noise Marines, and trail off as far as possible and consolidate onto an objective, taking down a Banner and scoring me 2 Long War points. I needed to move 10″ with my charge, so a 4+ on a d6 with Honour The Prince. And here’s where I made my biggest mistake of the game… I joked that “there’s no way I can roll a 1 after using Honour The Prince twice in one game.”
You already know how this one ends.
The atmosphere at the tournament was fantastic. They raised a ton of money with a raffle for WarriorNow, a charity supporting veterans on Veteran’s Day weekend, which you love to see. Someone in attendance won an entire painted metal Sisters Of Battle army. As a fan of old school minis, that was a really great prize to give out.
I want to quickly mention that I got a judge ruling that I really, really, really didn’t agree with during one of the games. But I don’t think it’s fair to spend a long time talking about one ruling that I believe the judge got wrong, without spending a long time talking about all the complicated rulings the judges got right. Or without talking about the great job all the TO’s and organizers did in keeping a fun and positive atmosphere all weekend. Instead, I’ll just use this chance to remind everyone that occasional rules disagreements is a part of playing 40K competitively. You have the right to explain your point once or twice. After that, you have to be able to handle getting a ruling you strongly disagree with by thanking the judge for coming over and just moving on with the game.
While I would have loved to turn that 2 point loss into a win by not getting greedy turn 1 and to get some better dice, I walked away from the tournament with my desire to play and engage with 40K reignited. Forget the final standings–I’m hyped to keep waging the Long War in practice games and tournaments, and finish publishing all the Legion and faction guides that I have sitting around half finished.
Interested in learning from a successful tournament player who loves the fun and fluff of your faction as much as you, or turning your fluffy idea into a list you can take to tournaments? Sign up at https://www.patreon.com/Warphammer and join the team! Have 3 Helbrutes collecting dust? Want to run a swarm of Raptors or Tzaangors? We can make it work! Thank you for supporting the best resource for Chaos players out there.
As always, have fun, stay safe, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls!