Hello friends, it is I, Nick Nanavati to talk to you today about Chaos Knights! As with most of my articles, this one will focus on Chaos Knights from a competitive perspective, so I can show you exactly how to use your cool new robots to kick butt on the table!
Chaos Knights, much like Imperial Knights are a codex that live and die by how they can buff their big robots. To that end the real power of the book will come from the strats, warlord traits, household traits, and relics. I will first just give a brief overview of the 5 whole units in the book, and then go through the key rules and combos that make up for some truly potent knights. Finally, I’ll give some recommendations on how to best run Knights in your chaos army.
War Dogs- There’s not too much to say about these guys. They’re essentially chaos armigers/helverins. They’re decent, but ultimately I think most competitive armies will forgo these guys. They don’t really fit well into a proper Knight army which is often 3-4 Knights + support from allies, or just 1 knight supporting a balanced army. From a detachment perspective these guys make sense to unlock a super heavy detachment by taking two of these + one proper knight, however the combat versions are just really poor daemon princes, and the shooty versions are very poor forgeworld dreadnaughts, so you’re most certainly better off buying better units and just running a solo knight in an aux detachment. However, there is an argument to be made to run two war dogs along side a Despoiler to get a damage 3 Gatling cannon in an Infernal detachment for “cheap” (more on that later)
Knight Despoiler- These are the jack of all trades knight. Basically a combination of the Imperial Knight Warden and Crusader. They are highly customizable, and better than their Imperial cousins since they have the option to be equipped with two gatling cannons. Who knew being bad could be so good?
Knight Tyrant- This is basically your combination of the Valient and the Castellan, but covered in spikes and kind of evil. Since the last FAQ the Castellan has mostly fallen to the wayside due to his points increase and the lack of 3++ making him notably more killable. The Valient on the other hand hasn’t really seen any appreciation on the competitive seen, save from a couple players on the West coast finding some use for him. While his weapons are incredibly powerful, they’re also very short ranged, which limits his ability to interact with the table, and affords your opponent the ability to play around him. That’s just not good for a 600+ point model. I expect the Knight Tyrant variants wont be much different than their Imperial cousins unfortunately.
Knight Desecrator- The first Knight that’s completely unique to Chaos. This guy essentially has a D3 shot las cannon that does d3 mortals on 6’s to wound. Ok, it’s slightly better than a las cannon, but also not really. It also has a chain sword or a thunderstrike gauntlet. This dude is really bad unfortunately. From an all comers perspective a d3 shot las cannon has such a wide variety of targets you’re likely to encounter in a tournament where it’s completely worthless, *cough* hordes *cough*. Not only that, but a lot (and I mean a lot) of vehicles and monsters in the game that this guy would like to shoot at also have invuls. That makes it far too likely to just block the damage all together when working with such a low volume of shots. Finally, with only d3 shots it’s just too easy to whiff. d3 shots= 2 shots, 1 hit, 1 wound, 3 damage. That is literally average. I guess he also has a rule to give reroll 1’s to hit on wardogs, but I already covered that those aren’t ideal as is. Not to mention this is a 400+ point Knight which basically means if you’re using that as the justification for bringing him, he is essentially the world’s most overpriced chaos lord.
Knight Rampager- The Rampager is basically a Gallant, with spikes! There’s not much more to say about this dude. Rampagers are solid for their points cost, and they also fill a super heavy detachment significantly more cheaply than basically every other knight option.
There’s two main households for Chaos Knights: Iconoclast and Infernal. Iconoclast has a very marginal household trait compared to infernal. Essentially giving it an extra attack and an extra ap (especially noteworthy on titanic feet attacks), whereas Infernal Knights can inflict 1 mortal wound to themselves to randomly receive a buff of either +2″ move and +1 to advance and charge (for a total of +4″ on a knight using full tilt to advance and charge!), +1t (t9 Knights are exceptionally tough given that a wide variety of anti tank weapons fall into the S8-9 range), and +1s and damage to a weapon for a Knight *cough* gatling cannon *cough*. Alternatively you can give your Knight d3 mortals to choose the buff of your choice. The clear winner based off traits are Infernal Knights.
But wait, there’s more!
Iconoclast and Infernal both unlock unique strats. Let’s see if these impact the decision at all. Iconoclast Knights have access to a reroll to hit in combat strat for 1cp, and then additionally each knight can be given one permanent upgrade with a strat pregame. One gives the knight an additional attack for every 10 models killed throughout the game, not bad for a despoiler with double gatlings shredding infantry from afar and then charging in on turn 3 with +6 attacks (really +12 titanic feet attacks); still it’s only useful vs hordes. Another buff is basically the ability ignore wound rolls of 1,2,3 for 2cp. This may seem super powerful, but when compared to the alternative of a T9 Knight that Infernal could grant you for no CP, seems rather lack luster. Remember, most weapons in the game wont be wounding knights on 3’s anyway. This would be most useful against opposing Knights with volcano lances or shadowswords, Smash captains that can realistically get to you, and GSC with rock saws. The final strat is reroll 1’s to wound against units with T8 or higher. This is useful against opposing Knights, but that’s literally it.
Infernal have a 2cp strat to heal themselves on a 4+ for each wound they cause to an enemy in the fight phase. Pretty solid for regening the wounds done to yourself by using the infernal trait. They have a strat to resurrect a dead knight on a 4+ with d3 wounds remaining, but unlike their Imperial Taranis friends, Chaos Knights don’t have a strat to act at full health, so it’s very limited in purpose. They then have two fairly useless strats to make their heavy stubbers s5, and cause perils on any doubles to nearby psychers.
From a strat perspective Iconoclast is the clear winner. Ultimately, I think I prefer Infernal Knights if you are using 3 and you get access to the traits, just because the flexibility of their powerful abilities is game winning, however, if you’re only using 1 Knight Iconoclast is the way to go due to the superior strats.
Let me take a moment now to talk about the ugly red headed step child of the book. Dreadblades. Basically, you can take any Knight in your army and make it a dreadblade for free. This just gets it an extra keyword. This affords you an extra *marginal* buff for the knight out of a list of 6 *marginal* buffs. Then you choose between taking two debuffs of your choice from a list of *significant* debuffs, or randomly taking one. Now, some people might think this is fine, because to be affected by the debuff you have to fail a leadership test at the start of your turn, otherwise the debuff does nothing, however, when your 400+ point model starts to not function because you rolled poorly, you’re probably going to lose. “But it’s ok Nick, I can just CP reroll it” Sure, but Knights are already very CP intensive (remember all these cool strats, relics, and wl traits aren’t free), and wasting CP to make your knight work normally seems not ideal. All this to gain a VERY MARGINAL benefit. Did I mention marginal? The only buff I’d even consider is the one that gives extra CP and adds to your leadership. As I said, CP is a hot commodity for Knights, and if you need to spend a cp to reroll the ld check on the knight to not suffer the debuffs, at least it’s free. Not to mention the trait also gives you +1 leadership, so it’s actually rather unlikely you fail.
So, now that I’ve covered all the main options for Knights let’s go over how to put it all together.
Helm of Warp Spite is probably the best relic in the book- it gives the ability to ignore hit modifier. Want to know what’s kind of dominating the meta right now? -2 to hit plaguebearers, -2 to hit planes, and -1 to hit Caladius’s. Wouldn’t ignoring those pesky hit mods be really good? You can give this relic to a Depoiler with 2 gatling cannons shooting into two different T6 Eldar planes probably nukes (or at least almost nukes) both of them. Let’s also not forget the horrible, horrible things that will happen when the 24 rerolling to hit, modifier ignoring 2 damage shots go into the Death Hexed plaguebearers. Alternatively, you can kit your knight with gatling and thermal lance, then use the infernal trait to boost the strength and damage of the gatling, this will make your knight a monster for the tougher tanks in the game out there as well.
That’s right, death hex. The most powerful thing Knights have access to is actually from Thousand sons. This is really what’s going to elevate them to the next level, and the real reason I rate them higher than Imperial Knights. Other support elements like a red corsair battalion for a ton of CP, and of course daemons, also make excellent support pieces to a Knight army. Knights as a pure mono-faction are missing a lot of the tools which are needed to compete at tournaments, which means the tie breaker between the good guy and bad guy knight is going to be the support elements, and Chaos support outshines Imperial support by miles in this aspect.
Personally, I think from a competitive standpoint the most powerful army the Knight book will be a part of will be a single Knight inserted into a Daemon and TS list, much like a Castellan was inserted into a Guard list for the better part of a year. However due to the incredibly customizable nature of the Knight book, I think you can very easily make a 3-4 Knight army with a bit of support for CP and psychic powers highly effective as well.
It remains to be seen what this codex can produce, but I’m pretty excited to see how this shakes up the meta! If you want to learn more about Chaos Knights, of if you want help building your own Chaos Knight list check out Nights PRO!