Today at Warphammer, we’re bringing you an article I’m personally very excited about.
After writing the definitive guide to playing Emperor’s Children last month, I opened the voting up to Warphammer Patrons to decide what Legion to cover next. I gave everyone a few weeks to vote, and then went to check the final tally and start writing the next Warphammer guide.
I noticed something unexpected with the voting results. See if you can notice the same trend in the data that I noticed:
- Alpha Legion (100% of the vote)
I knew Alpha Legion were a very popular army, but getting 100% of the votes? Someone must have tampered with the voting. This could only be the result of Alpha Legion subterfuge. They must have broken in to my apartment, hacked into my laptop, and changed the voting results.
But then, right before deleting all the votes, I noticed something weird. I found a note left inside my office that I had never seen before. The note said:
No one tampered with the voting. This is not the result of Alpha Legion subterfuge. The Alpha Legion did not break into your apartment, hack into your laptop, and change the voting results.
While I couldn’t figure out who left the note, the proof couldn’t be any clearer: The Alpha Legion were obviously not involved in changing the votes.
But that did leave one important question unanswered…. who left that note? Could it have been the Alpha Legion? I stayed up late that night trying to figure out what was going on. To my relief, I got the answer the next morning. There was a new note left in my office that provided some more information.
The Alpha Legion did not leave that note.
The Alpha Legion were never here.
The message couldn’t have been any clearer. Not only were the Alpha Legion not involved in changing the votes, but they weren’t involved with leaving these notes either.
This was a big relief to me. With the Alpha Legion’s reputation cleared and the legitimacy of the voting confirmed, I was able to put this all confusion behind me and focus on the most important thing: writing this article.
In all seriousness, Alpha Legion are an army I’m really excited to discuss with you today. I’m going to present a way to think about Alpha Legion in the new codex that is completely different from how most people are thinking about them. Fans of Warphammer might remember I was one of the only people to put up a strong finish with Alpha Legion in 9th Edition with the previous codex (https://warp-hammer.com/2022/05/14/we-are-alpharius-alpha-legion-infiltrate-the-standings-at-the-seattle-open/). They’ve always been an army that was really underrated, and that has continued with the new book.
Contrary to everyone’s initial reaction when they read the new codex, I don’t think Alpha Legion are bad. They’re actually very strong, and today we’re going to discuss how to get the most out of this eclectic Legion.
Before we get started, I want to make one quick note.
I want to give a huge thank you to all of the Patrons who supported Warphammer and provided ideas for what to write. Word Bearers were the top vote getter among Patrons, and I’m working hard on a guide for them next.
Which Legions get guides written soon will be entirely decided by the voting of Warphammer Patrons. Have a personal favorite Legion you want to see a guide for? This means now is the best time to support Warphammer on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/Warphammer! Not only can you get personalized list advice and coaching from a successful tournament Chaos player who loves your faction as much as you do, but you also support the growth of quality 40K written content.
I can’t wait to chat 1-on-1 with you. Now without any further wait, let’s dive right into today’s guide to playing Alpha Legion!
Here’s the most important principle for any Alpha Legion player to keep in mind, and a mistake I’m seeing many players make:
You’re fundamentally still a Chaos Space Marines army. Don’t get too cute. Just go kill them.
Chaos Space Marines can make some really brutal anti-melee melee armies. Emperor’s Children and Creations of Bile immediately come to mind. Alpha Legion are the anti-shooting melee army. We’re obviously going to go way more in-depth over the course of this guide, but that’s broadly how you should view them. They are worse than most Legions into melee matchups, but feel much stronger than most Legions into shooting matchups. They also have some ways to play the mission (such as Renascent Infiltration) or mess with opponent’s gameplans (like Scrambled Coordinates) that other Legions don’t have access to.
The Chaos Space Marines codex has a lot of trap choices you need to avoid, and Alpha Legion take that to an extreme (fittingly). Let me give you a great example of what I’m talking about.
A lot of conversations I have in Discord or with Patrons go like, “You seriously think Alpha Legion are good? Their secondary Infiltrate And Subvert seems difficult to pull off. What’s your trick or list for making that secondary work?”
Here’s the #1 trick to making the Alpha Legion secondary work: Don’t. Just stop taking it. There’s no trick to making it work. It’s literally less than worthless, because you throw so many resources away and completely upend your gameplan trying to chase it. I’ve never taken that secondary a single time while playing Alpha Legion and I never will.
“But Mike, I’ve solved the Infiltrate And Subvert puzzle!”, I hear you say. “If you go first, and spend 2CP to pre-game move 2 jump pack units, and then your first unit charges their army and move-blocks their entire army from being able to come within 12 inches of the second unit, and then you spend 2CP on Conceal so they can’t shoot that second unit”… there are so many ways this plan can fall apart, and it will fail 100% of the time against a good opponent.
People want to make that secondary work because the text about stopping opponents from holding that objective is very enticing. I agree that stopping opponents from holding objectives is strong! Here’s the secret pro-move that Chaos Space Marine players can use to stop opponents from holding objectives… killing everyone on that objective.
Here’s what I’ve discovered Alpha Legion do best: Their entire ruleset is an amazing delivery system for smash characters, and breaking shooting phase mechanics.
What Alpha Legion are definitely not is a shooting army. While it’s true that the -1 to Hit part of the Legion trait helps you take less damage in a shooting battle, your firepower is going to be completely underwhelming. Units like Alpha Legion Havocs or Forgefiends should be viewed as something durable to hold down your backfield and contribute some plink damage, not serious damage dealers. And if you’re building a gunline list, you’re not taking advantage of the incredibly powerful second half of the Legion trait: Fall Back and Charge. Building a melee list that uses tricks to get up the board takes full advantage of both halves of the Legion trait, and gives you maximum benefit from the Alpha Legion ruleset.
You know when I talked about trap choices earlier? Let me give another example of a trap choice I keep seeing Alpha Legion players fall into: Conceal. For 2CP, Alpha Legion can make an Infantry unit untargettable outside of 12″. This seems strong, right?
I couldn’t disagree more. You should basically never be using this stratagem! All the units you want to Conceal–Havocs, Obliterators, Rubric Marines, etc–are all either short ranged, or require buffs on the offensive end to also be worth it. For example, I think Slaanesh Havocs with Lascannons that can use Murderous Perfection and be untargettable sounds great in theory. I agree that’s a good thing. But that combination will cost you 3CP a turn, and Havocs are absolutely not worth that kind of investment for 4 lascannon shots. Rather than throwing resources at a mechanic and wishing it were better, come up with a different gameplan.
Conceal is still a useful stratagem, but it’s real use is turn 4 or 5 to hold objectives when the game gets really messy. A wounded Legionary unit can limp back onto one of your objectives, use Conceal, and be completely immune from the Hammerheads staring it down to squeeze out 4 more VP in a close game.
40K comes built in with an even better version of Conceal that costs 0CP to use and can be used unlimited times per turn: Look Out Sir. Being able to spam 0CP Conceal every turn lets you move your smash Characters up the board.
Here’s the question you’re probably thinking: Why Alpha Legion? Every Legion can make smash Characters, and most Legions have much better relics and traits to make smash Characters. The reason Alpha Legion do this so well is that the core CSM codex already provides plenty of relics and traits to make characters as strong as you could ever want, and those are almost always better than any Legion specific options anyway.
Here’s the strengths of the faction that make it appealing competitively:
- Being able to redeploy any 3 units (including into Strategic Reserves) for a 1CP investment with Master Of Diversion
- Being able to redeploy units is one of the innately strongest mechanics in the game, and Alpha Legion do it better than anyone. Most factions have restrictions on what units they can redeploy (for example, Thousand Sons can’t redeploy Vehicles), pay more for their redeploy (Ultramarines pay 2CP for 3 units), or both (Aeldari pay 2CP for 3 units and can’t redeploy Titanic units). The Master Of Diversion Warlord Trait is one of the best mechanics in the game, and an auto-include in almost any Alpha Legion list. This includes redeploying a Lord of Skulls into reserves. No one besides the Alpha Legion and Creed are sneaky enough to hide an entire Lord Of Skulls from the enemy.
- Uncapped Pre-Game Move from Forward Operatives
- Being able to move the full 12″ with units like Warp Talons and Raptors is a great mechanic for disrupting your opponent’s gameplan. You can automatically win turn 1 against shooting armies by touching or wrapping everything in their lines, and doing that over and over again with Fall Back and Charge.
- Being more durable against shooting.
- Chaos Space Marines are almost always happy to brawl with other melee armies. Their biggest weakness is being shot off the board by armies like T’au or Guard before they can connect. Universal access to -1 to Hit before you are close enough to charge is a great Legion trait.
- Being basically immune to artillery.
- This is more niche, but I’ve found Alpha Legion just completely don’t care about artillery. Their -1 to Hit stacks with the innate shooting penalty for artillery (remember that Artillery suffer -1 BS, not -1 to Hit, so it is functionally a legal -2 to Hit with the Alpha Legion trait). There isn’t nearly as much artillery in the game these days, but it feels great when it does come up. And the one army that doesn’t take the penalty to their artillery, Guard, really suffer from -1 to Hit.
- Fall Back and Charge is so strong on fast units.
- This has been so huge in-game for me. Having your Warp Talons disengage from a combat that’s bogging them down and leave to go hunt down an enemy Character deep in their lines feels amazing.
While it’s not really the optimal way to play, Alpha Legion can do some nutty stuff with a Lord Of Skulls. Chaos Space Marines have some very strong spells to buff a Lord Of Skulls defensively (+1 Toughness to make it T9, and Cursed Earth to give it a 4++ invuln), but those are reliant on going first against a heavy gunline to get them off before your opponent has a shooting phase. Alpha Legion aren’t concerned with that. If they go second, they can just put the Lord Of Skulls into Strategic Reserves for free with Master Of Diversion. That ensures that once they arrive on the battlefield, you can immediately cast your defensive buffs. Alpha Legion never give the opponent a chance to shoot at an unbuffed Lord of Skulls.
The Alpha Legion Gameplan
Here’s the gameplan I’ve found works best for Alpha Legion: Bring two big units of jump pack units (Warp Talons are by far the best choice), and pre-game move them for guaranteed charges going first or behind ruins for easy charges going second. On the turn your Warp Talons explode outwards (usually turn 1), have a second wave of Possessed move up behind mid-field ruins, and stack all your smash Characters within 3″ of units out of Line Of Sight so they can’t be shot. That’s why I value Possessed so highly in Alpha Legion. Their damage output isn’t great, but the 9″ move and T5 makes them amazing escorts for your real damage output.
The following turn, you get to pull out your phone, turn the volume up, play Sicko Mode by Travis Scott, and proceed to start ripping their army to shreds with Abaddon/Lord Discordants/Daemon Prince.
Don’t forget the details of how Look Out Sir works: You just have to be within 3″ of a qualifying unit, and not the closest enemy unit. If they have 20 Warp Talons way up front in their face, you can have your Characters in front of a wall in the midboard with their protecting unit behind them. Until every single Warp Talon is dead (remember that the closer unit doesn’t have to be 3 or more models), they cant shoot your Character in front of the protecting unit. Just be wary of your opponent’s movement capabilities and pre-measure everything when pulling off plays like this. Oh, and if your Warp Talons ever win their rolloffs and prevent the enemy from falling back from them? You can create situations where the opponent literally has no eligible targets on the board except for artillery… and we’ve already covered how pathetic artillery are against Alpha Legion armies.
Fall Back and Charge also works well to keep your Characters safe once they’ve reached the opponent’s lines. Look for opportunities to charge an enemy unit with your smash Character + one other unit like Possessed, kill it with your smash Character, and then use your free Pile In and Consolidate movement to re-wrap your Character and keep them safe.
My 20 Warp Talons almost never earn their points back, and that is completely okay with me. Alpha Legion Warp Talons are elite at establishg tempo early. 20 power armor bodies that can stop people from Falling Back are great at disrupting their gameplan. Don’t forget that preventing Fall Back doesn’t just keep Warp Talons safe from shooting, but also can be used to move block. Did they leave a unit of Infantry strung out in front of their army? Tag it and stop it from Falling Back to force that unit to stay there, move-blocking their own army. All those Warp Talon bodies are great at move-blocking too themselves if needed. I am very happy to lose a battle over 5 turns that happens entirely on my opponent’s side of the board.
AL Warp Talons are also a premium anti-shooting unit. When you charge them turn 1, look for opportunies to string some models out and get off wraps so they can’t be shot. That seems risky because the opponent has the option to spend 2CP for Desperate Breakout to remove a unit from a wrap, right? Warp Talons have a rule to prevent Fall Back half the time, which is just so, so brutal in Nephilim. The opponent doesn’t get the opportunity to roll off until after they have spent the 2CP. Spending 2CP and then not being able to fall back half the time anyway is backbreaking in Nephilim.
The issue with Warp Talons is that they aren’t super killy in general. And that’s largely true (although they can get S5 and +1 to Wound from various buffs, which starts to make them very dangerous) for Alpha Legion, who have no direct stat boosts for them. What Alpha Legion does do is give them Fall Back and Charge, which is so strong on them. With Fly and 12″ movement, their Fall Back move can go even further into their lines and start hunting down Characters and squishy objective holders. Even a wounded unit with 3 or 4 Warp Talons left has a great chance to kill some support Characters.
Evaluating Units in an Alpha Legion List
It’s boring to just tell you what units to run or not run. Where’s the fun in that for either of us? Besides, people love experimenting with off-meta picks… and I am 100% here for that energy. So today we’re going to go over a lot of different units from the codex and explain why they work, or don’t work well, in an Alpha Legion list competitively.
Please also remember that this is coming from the perspective of trying to win high level competitive games. If a unit you love is in the Not Recommended section, that doesn’t mean it’s unplayable. It just means it doesn’t fit into an optimized Alpha Legion gameplan. Almost all of those units are still perfectly viable for friendly or semi-competitive play.
Warp Talons: An uncapped pre-game Normal Move from Forward Operatives and free Fall Back and Charge is incredibly strong on jump pack units. Warp Talons are the premium disruption choice for Alpha Legion players.
Lord Discordants: Alpha Legion have little access to damage boosts, so you’ll need to bring some innately very dangerous units. Lord Discordants are an excellent choice, and Alpha Legion help them move up the board easily.
Daemon Prince: Same logic as the Lord Discordant. I prefer Discos because of their anti-vehicle rules and access to a -1 Damage stratagem, but you can’t go too wrong with either type of smash HQ.
Abaddon: Same logic as the Lord Discordant and Daemon Prince, and turned up to 11. Unburned by the need to buff other units in Alpha Legion, Abaddon can finally live his best life: Running around ripping the opposing army to shreds. To shreds, I say.
Master Of Possession: Access to Pact Of Flesh and Mutated Invigoration makes a Master Of Possession worth it in most Alpha Legion lists. Alpha Legion could also arguably make use of double Master Of Possession lists since they’re likely going to focus on Daemonkin.
Cult Marines: Alpha Legion need some damage output, and all of the Cult Marines are pretty good in that role. The one exception is Noise Marines, who really suffer without the Emperor’s Children trait to ignore the Heavy and Assault penalties.
Terminators: Alpha Legion don’t do as much for them as other Legions. They’re already kind of immune to shooting simply with the Black Rune, 5+++ from Delightful Agonies, and cover on their 2+ Armour Of Contempt saves. The main benefit is Fall Back and Charge so they can’t be tied up, because CSM Termies can get bogged down surprisingly easily. You could also get really cute and pre-game move them 5″, move + advance them a further 5+d6″, kill one and resurrect it with a Master Of Possession for a further 3-4″ of movement, and get reasonable turn 1 charges with them… I’m going to stop talking right now because I know this isn’t very good, and I am afraid I’m going to talk myself into this.
Possessed: Talking about a unit that can get bogged down and loves being able to Fall Back and Charge, up next are Possessed. Their main benefit in Alpha Legion is the 9″ move to get behind walls and provide Look Out Sir to your smash Characters.
Venomcrawlers: Coming in at 9 wounds so they benefit from -1 to Hit at 12″ instead of 18″, Venomcrawlers are a great skirmishing piece in Alpha Legion.
Legionaries: Durable backfield units are always useful, and Alpha Legion add another layer of durability to an already decent unit. Give them the Balefire Tome if you have the points and cast +1 to Hit on your Warp Talons or other units as they move up the board.
Havocs: Havocs are fine. Not great, not bad, but fine. They’re reasonably durable for points if left unmarked and given autocannons, and provide solid plink damage all game. The other option is to mark them Slaanesh and give them Lascannons and use Murderous Perfection. I’m not in love with this idea, but it gives you something you don’t otherwise have.
Predators and Land Raiders: This isn’t a serious recommendation, but I’m into the idea of T8 boxes that are -1 to Hit. They are passable in Alpha Legion if you have the models and want to run them.
Master Of Execution: Another smash Character that doesn’t require an HQ slot? He has a role, even if he won’t actually show up in most lists.
Bikers: I’m actually really into Bikers in Alpha Legion. Master Of Diversion is so good on Bikers, who really want the option to deploy aggressively and pull back to safety if needed. Both halves of the Legion trait are also excellent on them. It’s not the optimal list and would be a high-skill list, but there is definitely an Alpha Legion Biker list out there that would do well.
Forgefiends: They’re fine. Reasonable durability, reasonable damage output. Just keep expectations low and you’ll be fine.
Lord Of Skulls: Alpha Legion give this incredible (and incredibly pricey) unit a chance to live it’s best life. While it’s probably better in Word Bearers or Iron Warriors, Alpha Legion can have some real fun with a Lord Of Skulls.
Not Recommended Units
Raptors: Just bring Warp Talons.
Chaos Spawn: Great unit, decent in Alpha Legion, but seriously suffers from being a Fast Attack unit that isn’t Warp Talons or Venomcrawlers.
Obliterators: Spoiler alert: Obliterators will not be in the recommended section for any Legion. What an incredibly disappointing unit.
Dark Commune: Just add Balefire Tomes to your Legionaries instead of bringing a Dark Commune. You’ll never have the HQ slots for this cute yet clunky unit.
Chaos Lords: It’s not a Master Of Possession. It’s not a Lord Discordant. It’s not a Daemon Prince. It requires an HQ slot. Get out of my Alpha Legion lists.
Sorcerers: It’s not a Master Of Possession. It’s not a Lord Discordant. It’s not a Daemon Prince. It requires an HQ slot. Get out of my Alpha Legion lists.
Warpsmith: It’s not a Master Of Possession. It’s not a Lord Discordant. It’s not a Daemon Prince. It requires an HQ slot. Get out of my Alpha Legion lists. The only exception is if you’re up to some Lord Of Skulls shenanigans, in which case being able to heal a Daemon Engine and give it +1 to Hit at range is extremely valuable.
Exalted Champion: It’s not a Master Of Possession. It’s not a Lord Discordant. It’s not a Daemon Prince. It requires an HQ slot. Get out of my Alpha Legion lists.
Helbrutes: Good news: They are annoying for your opponent to kill in Alpha Legion. Bad news: They will never kill anything or get anywhere as Alpha Legion, so your opponent won’t care.
Defilers/Maulerfiends: The lack of damage buffs in Alpha Legion for these clunky-to-move models is an issue.
Relics and Warlord Traits
We’re going to recommend some Relics and Warlord Traits for you to consider in your list. You can’t include nearly every Relic or Warlord Trait mentioned in your list, so think hard about your own list and playstyle and choose the ones that work best for you.
As a general rule of thumb, you can spend a maximum of 4 CP pre-game in Alpha Legion so you leave 2CP available for maximum usage of Forward Operatives if needed. You’re also probably bringing Abaddon, and should almost always buy his Warlord Traits for 1CP if doing so. This leaves you roughly 3CP to use as you wish. 1CP is almost always going to be spent on Master Of Diversion, so you really have 2CP of flex choice in most Alpha Legion lists, 3CP if you are a purist and don’t want to run Abaddon. This means you have to be very selective with your pre-game upgrades. Don’t get too fancy trying to sent up multiple CP combos for minor benefit.
Black Rune Of Damnation: A core CSM codex relic that is a smart choice in almost every single list. You’re going to stick this on a big brick of Terminators or Possessed or even Warp Talons to give them -1 to Wound every single game, and you are never going to regret that.
Liber Hereticus: This is a very potent relic on a Master Of Possession if you’re running a list with a big Core unit that benefits from Skeins Of Fate or Delightful Agonies. Being able to cast a third power means you can cast both of your Malefic Disciple powers while also casting your god power. The extra 6″ of range on your spells is also a great option for safely buffing your aggressive units on the other side of the board.
Intoxicating Elixir: Giving your Character a once per game damage cap of 3 wounds that phase, this is a great choice on a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant. The main downside is that you’ll probably go for a damage upgrade instead of a durability boost, since your army has lots of innate durability already.
Warp’s Malice: This relic pistol that spits out 2MW on 6’s to Hit combos well with the Headhunter trait to snipe out Characters. Make it Slaanesh for extra spice, and turn a failed hit roll into 2MW and an additional hit for 1CP.
Daemon Weapons: Your goal is to build smash characters, and all of the Daemon Weapons are great options on a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant. I would rank them as:
Frankly all of them are solid picks in the right build.
Note: Some people may be surprised not to see Mindveil here, as it’s one of the relics I see talked about most by Alpha Legion players. Frankly, it’s one of the biggest traps in the codex and not very good. It’s limited to Infantry, and Infantry can already go through all of the terrain you see on most tables because of the Breachable keyword. The only Characters it makes sense on–Chaos Lords and Masters Of Execution–can get much more powerful relics and traits. Leave Mindveil at home. This was much better when it could go on a Lord Discordant and stop them from wasting most of their movement going around walls instead of through them. You win some, you lose some.
Master Of Diversion: 3 unrestricted redeploys for 1CP is some of the best value in the entire game.
Headhunter: The math on Warp’s Malice + Headhunter is always a bit disappointing when I simulate it against common Characters, but it’s a very real threat that will force your opponent to play cagier all game. The most important piece of advice I could give is if you’re committing to one half of the combo, commit to both halves. Don’t bring Headhunter if you’re not able to bring Warp’s Malice too.
Hatred Incarnate: +1 Attack and full Hit rerolls combines extremely well with the Nurgle Daemon weapon to make a Daemon Prince or Lord Discordant into an absolute wrecking ball.
This list is all about leveraging the core strengths of the CSM codex–amazing smash characters–and adapting it to take advantage of the Alpha Legion’s strengths. I’ve played this list several times and been blown away by how strong it is.
Most importantly, this list is incredibly fun to play. You have several incredibly hard-hitting Characters running around ripping their army to shreds while everyone else focuses on applying pressure. The main skills you need to have to run this list well are being very precise with your Movement and charging/fight phase movement for distance, and finding angles and ways to take advantage of Look Out Sir.
Alpha Legion Battalion
- Lord Discordant on Helstalker (-2 CP): Mark of Nurgle, G’hollax The Decayed, Hatred Incarnate
- Daemon Prince with Wings (-1 CP): Mark of Khorne, Z’aal The Wrathful
- 2 x 10 Cultists
- 6 Legionaries: Mark Of Khorne, Icon, Chainswords
- 2 x 5 Possessed
- 2 x 10 Warp Talons
- 5 Havocs: Mark Of Slaanesh, 4 Lascannons
Supreme Command Detachment
- Abaddon The Despoiler (-1 CP): Warlord Traits
Underrated and forgotten competitively, Alpha Legion players are exactly where they want to be. Alpha Legion are a high skill cap army that is really going to reward you for mastering some core rules and your movement phase.
As we wrap up the Alpha Legion guide, let’s look to the future. If you want to help get your favorite Legion featured in content over the coming months, hop on over to https://www.patreon.com/Warphammer and join the team. There’s tons of additional benefits available to you too.
I’ll also be partnering with the great team at Goonhammer on their review of the Daemons codex once that is out. I’m really excited to dive into that book, and share new ways to play The Great Game with all of you wonderful people.
As always, have fun, stay safe, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls.
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