Hey everybody—my name is Justin Curtis, I’m frequently a judge at some of the major GTs in the US, and have been playing various Chaos armies at a highly competitive level for about ten years now. These days, I’m usually seen pushing some combination of Mortarion and/or Magnus into people’s faces. Most recently, I finished second in the NOVA Open and won the 2018 Thousand Sons ITC Faction award while bombing out just short of Top 8 at Vegas.
I kept promising to write an article about the new Chaos units, but wanted to test them first, rather than just writing a blind review of how we expect
them to perform. But then we had the Big FAQ coming, which changed quite a bit. And then we had some surprise Slaanesh releases thrown into the mix. So, while we’re pretty far from Vigilus at this point, I feel like we’re just now getting a handle on how these things will actually play.
So I’ll be throwing out some oversimplified 0-10 ratings in each case, but keep in mind, I’m doing so from the perspective of the higher end of the competitive meta; there won’t be any 10’s in here (that would be something along the lines of the Castellan from last fall) and there will likely be more than a few 0’s (anything that has virtually zero hope of impacting the meta in any way). For units that were changed from previous iterations, I’ll also provide a rating of where I’d have put them before the changes. Anything higher than a 5 I’d expect to see in some competitive lists; anything below it, not so much.
Vigilus Ablaze Units
Abaddon the Despoiler – 5.5 (Previous: 6.5)
You may be confused as to why Abaddon, who strictly got better, is getting a lower score than pre-Vigilus. There’s a real simple answer: this is the easiest space to complain about Cultist nerfs. Abaddon’s existence in competitive armies has always been as the Morale-lynchpin to Cultist spam armies, which mostly ceased to exist following the Tide of Traitors change, but a few were still clinging on as one of the only relevant horde armies of the time. The game-wide Infiltrate nerf hitting Alpha Legion was, in my opinion, the final nail in Cultist Spam’s coffin, but it appears Games Workshop did not agree—Cultists have now firmly arrived in the Conscript/Brimstone bucket of “keep kicking them until they stop moving” by being dropped to a 30-man unit cap and losing Legion Traits while going up a point for the privilege. While Black Legion definitely got some upgrades in Vigilus, I personally don’t see any of them adding up to the prior level of Abaddon standing in front of a sea of Cultists.
Lord Discordant – 7.5
I’m the conductor of the Disco Lord Hype Train, so I may be shooting a little high here, but I’m absolutely thrilled about these guys. After the “oh no they can be shot at” fervor died down, we all realized they’re basically mini-Greater Daemons at nearly half the cost and a 2+ armor save. The way I see it, you can run these guys three entirely different ways: as a support role in a Daemon Engine rush army, as a fire magnet in any smaller-bodied CSM list to help draw bullets away from your Power Armor guys, or as raw damage output in any list where you can find a way to keep them alive for a turn or two (most likely by providing other big threats to be shot at). Whichever flavor you choose, I feel like we’re going to be seeing a ton of these guys…and a lot of arguments about Impaler Chainglaves that aren’t pointing straight to the sky.
Master of Executions – 1.0
It’s really unfortunate that we keep seeing generic combat characters with absolutely no means to ever actually make combat.
Dark Apostle/Disciples – 5.5 (Previous: 3.5)
I really wanted to go higher on the new Dark Apostle, as I love the mechanic, but I’ve had the absolute hardest time finding a way to make the new Prayers work in practice. The start-of-round timing seemed like such a huge deal at first, but when you get into the actual mechanic of selecting Prayers, things start to get messy—you’ll be picking your Prayers before you even know who has first turn. Do you pick +1 to hit/wound, or -1 to hit? Unless you run multiple Apostles (which could be an option for some lists, at which point things get easier, but HQ spots are at a premium for Chaos armies) you won’t go into the game with the option for both offense and defense. That means they don’t have any of the flexibility we originally saw them to have—you’re effectively going into a tournament, at the army-building stage, with a game plan to have one Apostle use the same Prayer, likely on the same unit, virtually all of the time. That said, there’s still a lot of opportunity to get value out of +1 to hit/wound or -1 to hit in a vacuum—you just have to look at it as paying 110 points for that singular buff, and be certain it’s worth it.
Chaos Space Marines – 6.5 (Previous: 1.0)
This number is more a reflection of the fact that we will definitely be seeing basic, everyday Power Armor Joe Chaos on the board in competitive armies than it is of any sort of actual power increase on their behalf. The fact is, if you want Command Points, you have to take Troops—Cultists got a lot less appealing for various reasons, which starts to make that 15-point jump between the two seem a lot less steep. And then Red Corsairs came to town and things got very
Terminators – 6.0 (Previous: 4.0)
It’s actually kind of funny to see a unit get better by gaining a weaker
wargear option, but that’s definitely the case with Chaos Terminators—on top of receiving their own discount in Vigilus Ablaze, they also effectively got 3 points per model cheaper by gaining access to Chainaxes (which aren’t even exclusively worse than Power weapons, and are actually an amazing option for their cost). Screen clearing is always a problem for Chaos armies (who generally just want to punch you in the face, if there weren’t so damn many Grots/Guardsmen/etc in the way) and Terminators are now a very viable option for solving that problem—and at the heavily decreased cost, you don’t feel like you got ripped off quite so badly when they fail their 9” charge and you’re just living off the Bolter shots.
Havocs – 5.0 (Previous: 3.0)
Disclaimer: I’m purposefully undervaluing Havocs so that somebody will go prove me wrong.
That said, I personally cannot find a home for these guys—after the initial Reaper Chaincannon hype, I’ve honestly not seen much come of them. My initial reaction still stands at this point: 24 inch guns do not solve problems on Turn 1, and 35-point Power Armor bodies are too easy of targets for anybody to allow them to survive to the point where they matter. You would have to put some truly insane threats on the board to prevent people from brushing the Havocs off the board Turn 1, and as someone who specializes in armies that are easily summarized as “truly insane threats,” I don’t think the Havocs have a place in that sort of build.
Noctilith Crown – 1.5
Awesome! Terrain for my display board! Wait, it has rules? Oh…nevermind.
Skull Altar – 1.0
Awesome! Terrain for my [Khorne] display board! Wait, it has [like six paragraphs of] rules? Oh…nevermind.
New Slaanesh Daemon Units
Keeper of Secrets – 2.5
The Keeper unfortunately did not fare well in its transition to Big Boy Status, and may have actually gotten worse—following the Chapter Approved points changes, I’d actually seen some whispers surrounding using Keepers as cheap combat threats, but even those really never materialized. About the best you can say is that we finally have all four Greater Daemons available in the big kits after 20+ years.
Shalaxi Helbane – 3.5
Shalaxi is indisputably better than the stock Keeper, but it’s not enough to bring her to relevance, in my opinion. A bunch of abilities that protect you in combat don’t help change the fact that she’ll be shot in the face long before she gets there. If the meta suddenly swings toward Assault maybe she’ll find a home somewhere, but that definitely isn’t where we exist for the moment.
The Contorted Epitome – 5.5
I’m actually ranking this one slightly higher
than my own personal belief, solely because I think we’re going to see a lot of people trying to make it work. During the 10 or so days we were all waiting for her points value to come out, I was saying she’d be playable around 150. Landing at 195 put her out of reach, in my opinion—while she has other benefits, you’re realistically playing her for the mini-Skarbrand aura. But that aura, at six inches, is never going to be a reliable play (particularly since, even once you get her to within six, the opponent can still roll their way out of it) and I don’t think she has enough backing it up to warrant the cost. Seeing Ahriman-level psychic stats on her was unexpected, but she suffers in a bad Discipline (especially since you’re virtually locked in to taking the -1 Ld aura for synergy as one of your powers), but she’s passable midfield Psychic defense, if nothing else.
Syll’Eske, the Vengeful Allegiance – 6.5
In contrast to the Epitome, I’m actually toning Syll’Eske down a bit compared to where I think she could have landed—I’ve been trying very hard to make the Herald/Prince tag-team work in a list, because the stat line for what they cost feels incredibly efficient. The problem I’m running into is the rest of the detachment—Slaanesh Daemons are not in a good place right now. Daemonettes are easily the worst of the Daemon Troops, but you really, really want a pure Slaanesh detachment to get Advance and Charge Locus for Syll’Eske (and potentially some Lord Discordants, as noted earlier). That pushes you toward a Supreme Command, but even there, the options aren’t great; you’re also hamstringing yourself on Command Points, where normally when you dip into Daemons, you’ve got Horrors, Plaguebearers, and Nurglings waving at you offering you a Battalion for your efforts. I’ve gone so far as to consider just summoning Syll (and playing without the Locus) to get the efficiency of the statline without having to worry about the downsides involved in playing heavier into Slaanesh Daemon territory. I’m still confident someone will make her work in a list, I just don’t know if they’ll actually be getting what they paid for in the process.
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