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I thought I'd take an hour or so and set down my feelings on the competitiveness, or lack thereof, of the various choices in the Chaos Codex. I've proxied a few lists from the Dex and played games vs. normal competitive lists (Zilla Nids, Mech Tau, Mech Eldar, my Necrons, etc.) and I've talked on forums with some other gamers about how they'd do it, but for the most part this is theoryhammer. Take it with the grain of salt you reserve for such things.
Greater Daemons as a whole:
In general, I'm very down on Greater Daemons. They make excellent fire magnets, dropping and soaking up fire so that the remainder of your list can go unscathed, but they cost a great deal for this purpose, and they don't do all that much that troops don't do.
When you look at a Greater Daemon you are already resigned to spending a lot, but you want a lot of performance. The Bloodthirster is the absolute embodiment of this line of thinking, a veritable death star of a unit. On defence he's got a 3+ armor save, and his offensive capability is second to none. He's also got flight, so you can land him farther out from the enemy, thereby making the loss of your HQ through deep strike mishap less likely.
Despite all these great things, I don't like him as a unit. He costs too much for something that can be burned down this easily. He goes down like a dakkafex, but costs like a C'tan. In addition, all the fighty that you are buying is essentially overloading the one area that GD's already do excellently. Every one of the GD's own in melee combat. This extra fighting prowess will only kick in when he's fighting enemy HQ's. For infantry, they are pretty much all going to be hitting on 3's, and killing on 2's, and for vehicles the +2d6 for being an MC makes the huge strength score sort of beside the point.
Lord of Change:
This guy's value lies in the fact that his invul save is a point lower than the rest's, and he's got good range capabilities, which you can pay through the nose to upgrade further. You can also get the Breathe of Chaos (henceforth BoC) for a reasonable price. Also, he flies. This guy shares the Thirster's cost, but I like his strengths better than the thirsters. That bs5 shot is one of the few truly excellent ranged anti-vehicle weapons this codex has, and a 3+ invul beats a 3+ armor/4+ invul any day. I think that. of the 2, the LoC is the better Daemon.
Still not good enough for me though. That cost is just so prohibitive. I spend that kind of points I want the Deceiver. The LoC is probably the best Greater Daemon, but I don't think he's worth the points they are asking. Still, if I wanted a death monster in my list, this is the one I'd go for, and a 3+ invulnerable save can occasionally produce ridiculous resilience.
Keeper of Secrets
Now we are getting somewhere in terms of cost! Cheaper than either of the previous 2, the KoS is arguably as good in combat as Big Red. Fleeting isn't as good as flying, but this thing can buy the Pavane ( mini-lash) which can be used on the term if drops, and in a list as assault reliant as this one, that's pure gold. Hit and Run is also an extremely exciting upgrade. On the other hand, this is the most fragile Greater Daemon we've looked at yet, relying entirely on his 4+ invul save to protect him.
I still don't consider him cost-effective, but the KoS is closer than the previous 2. Even with his mini-lash he's a bit less expensive, and once in combat he'll wreck with the best of them. The grenades he's wielding are a bonus.
Greater Unclean One:
Now here's an affordable Daemon. And, by some bizarre coincidence he's the most survivable of the lot. Feel No Pain and a 4+ invul save make him harder to wound than the Lord of Change, and he's got an extra wound to boot. He can buy the BoC for a lot, and grenades for a little, and I'd say either is worth it (though the BoC moves him up towards KoS in terms of cost). On the other hand SAP is a huge drawback for a thing with no ranged attack.
If I went with a Greater Daemon I'd go with this one. Putting the BoC on him is probably overkill unless you are going for the Epidemius list, but as a fire magnet he's the best of the lot...and the most affordable. Drop him close and hope he doesn't drift. The enemy can't really count on SAP to keep him out of battle, so they might have to burn him down. His CC isn't on par with the Thirster or the KoS, but they are generally overkill for slapping around enemy infantry anyway.
I'm as pro on Heralds as I am anti on GD's. They are dirt cheap, and the ability to improve their statline and make them into scoring units with the chariot option is incredible. They also increase the # of dropping slots in the army, which helps with target saturation in the all-important first round. Heralds can also carry Icons, and a Herald without a chariot is still protected by the IC rules.
A Herald of Khorne in a chariot fights on a tiny bit less well than a bloodthirster (4 attacks that hit on 3 and wound on 2's vs. infantry, while ignoring armor saves vs. 5, and has a toughness one lower. It also can't fly. For these deficiencies it costs...roughly one third that of its big red bro. A Herald of Khorne, on a chariot, commands roughly the same degree of target necessity as a Thirster (albeit in a smaller range) for absolutely bottom prices.
This unit is a bargain as a killing machine, an absolute steal. The same is generally true of all Khorne choices, however, and it is a bad choice as an Icon bearer, since the opponent is already going to be trying to kill it because its threatening to maim them.
Wow, can a unit be too good? The HoS takes a stab at it. First off, its actually even cheaper than the HoK, and its actually got an extra wound. Its initiative is better than a stealer's too, and of course it rends. There's basically 2 ways you can go here:
1. The Icon Bearer/Pavane- er. This one's a little expensive (that is, it starts to get back into reasonable territory for an HQ slot), but putting an icon on a Herald and hiding behind your IC status while you pavane things is excellent. The bad BS makes the pavane undependable, but volume of "fire" can make up for that.
2. The chariot: It has to be said, a HoS in a chariot is utterly underpriced. It's less survivable than the HoK in chariot (despite its 5 wounds) due to its trash toughness and save, but it makes up for this by moving as calvalry. A 24" threat range with this many rending attacks at this absurd initiative is a steal.
Once again Tzeentch has stolen the ranged weapons. These guys have a mid-range ap3 heavy bolter, and a space marine's BS. You can also improve their statline with a chariot, as usual, and their save is one step better than normal, as usual for Tzeentchers. You can get Breathe of Chaos or Bolt of Tzeentch for them, both at the usual prices. If you are hurting for anti-tank, one of these guys flying around and zapping enemy vehicles with either of these vehicle killers is a good buy.
I think you can get what this guy is offering in other places, but they are great Icon carrier material, and decent BS anti-tank is sorely lacking from this list. I'd avoid the chariot and stick to being an IC with this guy, but the mount is a steal to improve his mobility.
Finally a Herald I'm not enthused about. As with most things nurgly, he's the most enduring one of the bunch, but this time there's no price advantage to mitigate the unit's tendency to not get anything accomplished. Probably the best upgrade is to give him the Breathe of Chaos, but the problem with this guy is basically that you are paying for something you've already got. As an icon bearer you are paying for sturdiness...but Icon bearers can already be IC's, who are invincible by definition. It doesn't help that his chariot doesn't change his unit type, so he's still SAP infantry, not that anyone is intimidated by him into moving away.
The only real reason I can think of taking him is to drop and Breathe of Chaos in an Epidemius list, where you are trying to rack the Talley up as high as possible, otherwise I'd take a Herald of Khorne if I wanted fighty infantry, and Tzeentch or Slaanesh if I wanted an Icon bearer (since they can do things while remaining not the closest target)
The GD special characters exaggerate the GD"s flaws, and I don't think their special abilities are anything insane. In my book, they simply cost too much. I mean, seriously, if you are going to cost as much as a C'tan, you sort of have an onus to be an insane contributor to the battle.
The Masque is the this book's Eldrad. I can't really fathom not taking it, as the Pavane is crucial and you get it 3 times at a good BS in one bargain rate package. If it had an icon it would be perfect, but this is a lot like Eldrad and a jetbike. We accept imperfection in something as awesome as a triple-lasher.
Epidemius is the center of a whole list devoted to him. If you are making a nurgly list there's no good reason not to take him. Plunk him down somewhere and let the Tally begin. The notion of nurglings wounding on 2+ and ignoring armor saves is hilarious. He doesn't fit into a generalist list, but any nurgly list benefits almost accidently from having him.
Simply the best assault troops in the game, the Bloodletters of Khorne are cheap power weapon carriers with a basically space marine statline and furious charge. Anything you charge with a unit of Bloodletters is done. They aren't as expensive as one might expect either. Their achilles heel is their fragility, as their lack of an armor save means that bolters will scythe them down in droves. They aren't any faster than other infantry either, so they need to land close and simply weather the enemy's attack.
(Some perspective on the "best assault troops in the game hyperbole" on the charge against SM's each Bloodletter will swing before the Marines, swinging 3 times, get 2 hits and wound 1.33 times, denying the armor save. It's ridiculous, imagine each berserker or wulfen having a power weapon)
I tend to think you can get the Khornish vibe better from Heralds or BloodCrushers, and the Bloodletters make abysmal Icon bearers (since everyone already wants them dead and they can't be dropped too far from the targets)
Bargain priced harlequins/stealers, essentially. Their invulnerable saves and grenades give them the edge against their analogs, but they are extremely vulnerable to dakka, as their toughness isn't up to snuff on top of their awful saves. Fleet lets you start them farther from the targets.
Basically I think of these troops as slightly less exaggerated bloodletters. They don't do quite as well in combat, but they can be dropped a bit farther out. Unfortunately I'd say Seekers are the way to go for Slaaneshy stuff (who hit a bit harder and move as cav) and they share the Bloodletters unsuitability for Icon bearing.
Pink Horrors of Tzeentch:
Now here's a totally different unit from the rest of them. Each of these guys carries a fairly good dakka gun, although their bs isn't the best. You can upgrade the unit leader to have the Bolt of Tzeentch, but he can't split fire from the rest of them, so I imagine that you won't be wanting to tank pop with this. They have the typical improved Tzeentch invul save, and they can be dropped at a good distance and still use their guns.
These guys make great icon bearers, fair anti-tank (if you drop behind the target or use the Bolt of Tzeentch) and fair anti infantry units. I haven't tried out the Tzeentch build all that much, but I really like the numbers on this unit, and dropping and shooting has to top dropping and getting shot, right?
Assault troops that don't fight all that well, or move very fast. They try and make up for this by being durable, but the problem remains, they can't really get much done. Their invul save and FNP combine to make them essentially as durable as t5 Space Marines, which is great, but the enemy isn't going to shoot at them until they've blown away the dangerous stuff, so who cares how durable they are?
They are the best icon bearers, because they are extremely durable and very low on the target priority list, but other than that I don't see much use for them. They can tarpit the enemy, but most foes will cut their way clear with power weapons eventually, and the possibility of missing your charge due to SAP is just too much.
Just when I'm getting ready to write off Nurgly troops these gems pop up. I never thought a swarm unit could be sicker than scarabs, but Nurglings pull it off. This scoring, deep striking swarm unit comes in fairly large sizes...and has the swarms rule (which gives it an improved cover save) and they are eternal warriors. Yes, that's right, no instant death. They still take double wounds from templates, but other than that this is the best tarpit in the game, bar none. The fact that their save is invulnerable is pretty much icing on the cake.
Nurglings can't icon bear, but other than that they are an amazing unit. Drop em right down in front of the enemy's whole list, threatening to multi-charge 2 or 3 units...what are they gonna do? They can't really back out of range with the threat of the pavane, but there isn't anything that can be productively fired at this unit.
Fiends of Slaanesh:
They are the usual slaanesh unit, fast, rending, lots of attacks. Their big gimmick is being 2 wounds and having hit and run, but they cost enough that they are basically 2 Daemonettes each. Hit and run is great, but anything that is hit by a unit of renders is unlikely to stick around long enough to let you run. I'd stick to daemonettes or seekers for my Slaanesh needs (although, if you are running an all-slaanesh list they certainly hold up the Elite end of the deal.)
BloodCrushers of Khorne
These are my favorite Khorne types, as they've got the durability that the bloodletters lack, and basically hit like monstrous creatures. 2 wounds, good strength and toughness, and they actually have a power armor equivalent on top of their daemon invul save. Each hits about as hard as a bloodletter and a half, while costing as much as 2.5. You are paying for the extra durability, and I think its a worthwhile expense.
Beasts of Nurgle:
These continue the Elite theme of being roughly as good as an identical expenditure in points in the troops section...or in this case, as bad as one. These units are awful, FNP and high t/an invul save don't make up for the inability to do well in melee combat. Their big gig is poison attacks and a variable number of them, like a spawn, but all the other elite units do just fine with a high strength score and a high static number of attacks.
Flamers of Tzeentch:
We have a winner. Each and every one of these has the insane flamer attack, and also the same dakka gun as the pink horrors if they land at range. They are only one wound, but they've got the tzeentch improved invul save. These units provide much of this lists anti-armor punch, as jetpackers with anti-vehicle weapons are quite dependable for obliterating enemy vehicles. They also do extremely well as anti-infantry, or just about anti-anything. Flying Breathe of Chaos-ers for the win. This is probably the best unit choice in the entire dex, and in a dex with Nurglings and Heralds of Slaanesh, that's saying something.
Hounds of Khorne:
Ok, the whole points of being Khorne-ish is the power weapons! These guys move as cav, but they don't have them. You can give their champ rending, but it sort of lacks something. Hounds of Khorne are, I guess, useful for tying up enemy units so the B-Letters can get to them, but they are just as vulnerable to dakka as the blood letters themselves while being far less killy. Karanack is a unit upgrade for them, and he looks like he's worth it to me, lending some much needed punch and the Move Through Cover rule. Sadly, even with him I don't think the unit is going in any of my lists, I don't need assault troops who don't obliterate the foe from this dex.
Seekers of Slaanesh
Now this is a calvalry unit! For sheer number of rending attacks per point, with the fantastic cav move bonus and a reasonable point cost, these gals are my favorite. This is my favorite variation on the Slaanesh theme, as the huge charge range allows them to land just about anywhere and threaten (with the aid of a nearby Pavane-er) just about any enemy. Definitely my favorite fast attack choice
This is a bad unit. Flying is all they have going for them, but, as before, being a daemon assault unit that can't negate armor saves is pretty much not gonna cut it. Even their fluff makes fun of them. Let's leave the furies to WHFB.
Screamers of Tzeentch:
An interesting unit, they are organic jetbikes, which is pretty cool. They have no shooting attacks, and can't fight their way out of a paper bag, but each of them carry melta bombs. I imagine a unit of seekers running up and rending is going to do this better, but melta-bombs will certainly make a vehicle careful. The jetbike movement is also excellent for objective taking, which a tzeentch list might actually need.
This is an excellent tank. For less than a defiler you get one that deep strikes and has a point better armor on every side. It fleets, ignores shaken and stunned and comes with a super heavy flamer (though, sadly, its not Breathe of Chaos). You can upgrade (raising the cost to slightly more than a defiler) and get a short ranged railgun (though your BS ain't too hot), or a battle cannon. Either is obviously good. My only reservation about this vehicle is that traditionally monstrous creatures are better than vehicles in 40k, and the competitor for the HS slot is an MC.
All right, now this is an amazing statline bargain, before you buy a single option. The options are, in general, reasonably priced and effective. You can give them the Breathe of Chaos, an armor save, etc. I think the dependability of the monstrous creature ultimately trumps the Soul Grinder, cool though it is. You an go with armor and a Breathe of Chaos, Mark of Tzeentch and a Bolt of Tzeentch, Mark of Slaanesh and the pavane, or just about any other combo. Its hard to go wrong with a Daemon Prince. One of the options I personally find to be overpriced is wings though. It nearly doubles the cost of the model, and while it makes them far more effective, it also makes them more of a target, and so you'll find yourself buying armor to keep it alive...at which point you've spent more on upgrades than the initial cost.
So that's my initial take on all the units. I hope it helps people as they start to experiment with the new codex. I'm starting to solidify some notions on wave composition and army tactics as a whole, but I think that stuff deserves its own thread.
Whilst i agree with most you've said, as far as i'm concerned the masque is effectively worthless. Or more to the point, 100 points to use pavane 3 times in one turn and then die. As the masque isn't an independent character, she's not going to get a second chance at using pavane, considering your opponent only has to do 2 wounds to a t3 model. Whilst that one turn will hurt your opponents battle plan, there really isn't much lingering effect. For instance, a dakka pred could drop her in a single volley, which isn't too unlikely.
In all honesty, a guaranteed pavane is worth the 100 points. The fact that you most likely get 2 (3 shots at bs 4 ought to hit twice) is candy.
As long as you threat the Masque moving their units the enemy is unable to commit to the strategy of running away, for fear they will get pulled back the crucial 2 inches and caught in a Rending or Khornish charge. Consequently they need to move up on your drop zone and dakka you down.
Further, the masque is, as you point out, not extraordinarily difficult to get rid of, but she does have a 3+ invul save, as I recall. You can't rely on a storm bolter to get the job done, you have to detail, as you say, a dakka pred or other anti infantry unit to drop her, which could have dropped, say, 6 daemonettes?
It's going to be match specific, but to make the best case for her, is 100 points too much to pay to shove Necrons out of their 6" bubble of WBB support and into your slower units assault range? Is it too much to pay to push a heavy bolter dev squadbackwards out of their cover? An Ork unit out to where it'll have to Waargh to get back in the charge, thus stealing its shoota volley? A dreadnaught out of charge range of some Bloodletters?
100 points to move 2 enemy units on the round she hits and then soak up fire from one of their anti-infantry units is, to my mind, a bargain.
I can see where you are coming from, but i still am not a fan.
Also, you've had a few more games with daemons then me, how have you gone vs mech lists?. Mech eldar and tau more specifically, has the general lack of ranged anti tank hurt? or could you deal with them effectively in CC. IE: Seekers and their 30 million rending attacks .
I beat the Mech Eldar list I tested against with a nurglings/seekers/flamers/DP/Slaaneshi herald list, but lost to it on the rematch. It's a rough matchup due to their ability to tank shock you off objectives in the last round, but their guns don't get enough done to run you out of scoring units, and you can swamp anything they send out to fight. Bout fair in my opinion.
Lost to the Mech Tau pretty decisively, haven't had a rematch yet. Really hard to handle all those seeker missiles coming from skimmers.