5 Hot Takes About Chaos Space Marines After 5 Games Played

Hey, you. You’re looking really nice today! That haircut is really working for you. That’s a sharp outfit. It’s great to see you’ve been taking good care of yourself. I’ve missed spending time with you, honestly.

It’s been a long time since the Warphammer website has been working. It is damn good to be back. People outside of our Discord have been wondering what’s been going on, so here’s a quick recap of the last 6 months in Warphammer. If you’re not interested and just want to get to the main article, jump to the “5 Hot Takes About Chaos Space Marines After 5 Games” section below.

Recapping the Last 6 Months for Warphammer

  1. Sometime shortly after LVO, we decided Warphammer had gotten way too big to be operating on the crappy old website.
  2. My good friend and Warphammer partner Wallace O’Donnell became owner of the amazing gamestore Tables And Towers in Maryland.
  3. We got a dev to merge the Warphammer website and Tables And Towers webstore. It would reduce our combined hosting costs, and create some synergy in traffic.
  4. The final product did not work at all. I don’t want to place the blame on the person who made the website. Our specs were probably poorly thought out and we didn’t know what we didn’t know about what features to prioritize.
  5. The interface was really clunky, and it killed my enthusiasm for making content. It didn’t feel “mine” at all anymore. I couldn’t adjust any formatting, couldn’t view any stats on how the articles were doing, and the articles didn’t feel like the focus on the website anymore.
  6. Here’s where things went off the rails: The dev’s account got hacked, and we lost control of everything. At this point, we shut the website down. This is why the website has basically returned an error message for the last few months.
  7. Warp-hammer.com is a re-direct for now to the temporary backup site (Warphammer.blog) where we are technically hosting the articles. All this means to you is that you can visit Warp-hammer.com and you’ll end up in the right place. Eventually, we’ll have it working where everything works with warp-hammer.com links and everything shows warp-hammer.com, but the warphammer.blog workaround will keep us going for now.

It took a lot of work to recover everything, but we’ve finally done it. The timing couldn’t be better. Warphammer is back, and better than ever, right as we enter 10th Edition.

I’m getting back to Warphammer’s roots, and what made it grow so fast in the first place: Content I enjoy making, and that will people will enjoy reading. Wallace will mainly handle the video content on our channel, and I’ll handle the written content. Of course, we’re both going to contribute to the other type of content whenever we can, but we are broadly going to focus on our strengths. We’re also lucky to have Kit Smith-Hanna as a core member of the Warphammer crew. Kit, in addition to being a 40K crusher that has been consistently winning or finishing highly at events with a variety of factions, is one of the best sportsmen and friendliest people in the game. He was one of the best Daemons players in the game by the end of the edition, but was somehow even better with Tyranids and Guard. I literally couldn’t find a better person to make competitive content with, or attend events with. I also want to give a shoutout to Jaden, our Nurgle loving friend who helps run the Discord. While the Death Guard index has disappointed, Jaden’s takes have not.

We’re also going to implement a more formal coaching or consultation call system. Previously, the system was “Mike takes DMs and tries to remember everything”. It is a complete mystery why a system centered around the busy person with ADHD trying to remember everything wasn’t wildly successful. Sometimes the system worked great–I would work with the player over several months to develop their unique idea into a strong list, give them a bunch of guidance on how to actually play it on the tabletop, and hear about their success. Other times, I would get excited to work with someone after getting their message, forget to reply at all if I didn’t reply instantly, and would be wracked with guilt when I found the message again in my DMs a few months later. That system isn’t going to cut it in 10th. We’re going to have a dedicated Coaching tab on the website where we take requests, automatically track and assign them to the coach of your choice, and make sure your request is promptly followed up on. Our coaching stable has also expanded from just myself to also include Wallace and Kit, along with [names redacted] that we are extremely excited to have join the Warphammer team soon.

Other content creators have done a great job over the last few weeks. It’ll take us some time to catch up in terms of volume of content, as we have gotten a late start. But I’m very confident that as 10th Edition goes on, Warphammer will return to being the single best resource out there for Chaos 40K content.

Enough of that. Let’s jump into why you’re here: 5 blazing hot takes about Chaos Space Marines in 10th Edition.

5 Hot Takes About Chaos Space Marines After 5 Games

Anyone that has a complete guide to playing a faction right now is selling snake oil. We’ll definitely have that for you at some point, but I still want to do way more playtesting of every idea I have for CSM. In the meantime, I’ll share 5 insights I’ve consistently noticed in my competitive testing of CSM so far.

The Core Gameplay Mechanics Of Dark Pacts and Marks Are Just Really Fun

This isn’t really a competitive take per se, but something I wanted to start with. There has been so much (often justified) negativity in 10th Edition so far. Let’s start with an unmitigated positive.

I get excited every time I get to activate a unit and see what it’s going to do that phase. Rolling buckets of dice that have the potential to go nuclear if you roll 5’s and 6’s is just fun. Rolling to see whether the Dark Gods demand a sacrifice for that power (“It is a good pain!”) is also fun. It’s very important that the core gameplay loop of a faction is fun, and GW has absolutely accomplished that with the Chaos Space Marines rules. You’re constantly making choices that feel rewarding.

CSM units are both very consistent, and have huge upside. Let’s take an Undivided unit with zero external expenditure from CP or buff characters. That unit will be hitting on 3’s, rerolling 1’s, with exploding 6’s. Or let’s take a Nurgle unit or Slaanesh unit near Abaddon. That unit will be hitting on 3’s with exploding 5+’s and full rerolls. That gives you a 133% hit rate on average (if you have 3 attacks, you’ll average 4 hits). Sometimes you’ll do worse than that, but sometimes you’ll do way better and double your amount of dice you’re rolling.

The act of rolling dice for CSM is the most fun in the entire game. That counts for a lot in a dice game.

There Are So Many Tricks Available to Nurgle Units

Dark Obscuration giving Nurgle units the Lone Operative ability is just so powerful, in both obvious and non-obvious ways. Let me list out all of the ways I’ve found to use Dark Obscuration on Nurgle units so far. I’m sure I’ll discover even more use cases as I keep practicing CSM against various armies.

  1. Safe Rapid Ingress
    • Rapid Ingress, the ability to deepstrike in your opponent’s Movement Phase, is one of the most powerful tools in the game… but it leaves you very vulnerable to being shot by the entire enemy army during the rest of their turn. Dark Obscuration stops that. Deepstrike a Nurgle unit 9″ away from something you want to charge, then pop Dark Obscuration to avoid being shot by anything except the units you deepstruck next to. In your following turn, move forward 5″ with your Terminators, and have an easy 4″ charge.
  2. Cultist Mobs Securing Objectives
    • Cultists have the rule to permanently hold your objective as long as they hold the objective in your Command Phase. The issue? With so much Indirect Fire in the game, they can be shot off before your Command Phase if you go second. A unit of Nurgle Cultists can pop Dark Obscuration to guaranteed last until your first Command Phase. After that, you won’t have to leave a unit on your objective for the rest of the game.
  3. Deploying Transports on the Line
    • Rhinos and Land Raiders are fast in a straight line. The downside is they have to deploy hidden behind terrain. This means they are in practice quite slow, because they lose most of their movement for the turn going around the terrain they hid behind. If you mark your transport Nurgle, you can deploy it right on the line in front of the open alleys on the table. This means you’ll be able to get full use out of their movement, and their ability to disembark models after they move.
  4. Letting Abaddon Exist by Himself
    • Abaddon is powerful but expensive. He becomes eye-wateringly expensive once you attach a Bodyguard unit to soak wounds. Dark Obscuration lets him walk up the board even against armies with artillery, getting in position to threaten Advance+Charge on the following turn.

On that note, I see a lot of people talking about a strategy centered around bringing a Nurgle Chaos Lord to let you repeat a stratagem for free, and making multiple units un-targetable. This does not actually work. It only works if your opponent shoots the other Nurgle unit first and THEN shoots the unit with the Chaos Lord, as you can repeat the stratagem for free. If your opponent just targets the unit with the Chaos Lord first, then you’re unable to repeat the stratagem on the second unit. Basically, this tactic only works if your opponent doesn’t understand your army. That’s not a way to win that you should feel good about, and its not a real gameplan if you plan to play competitively.

Obliterators Are Your Star Unit. Use Them Well.

Obliterators are the MVP unit in 10th Edition for CSM. I knew they were wildly strong at first, and included 6 in my first list. Then that went up to 8. By my 5th game, I now run 10 Obliterators in my list. That feels like the sweet spot for me personally, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is successful with the max 12. They are huge winners of the Dark Pacts/Marks system, as their firepower is now very consistent outside of the random number of shots. In an index that generally struggles to pop armor, the flat Strength 12/AP3/flat 6 damage shots are a true gift from the Dark gods. The ability to use Indirect Fire once per game is what truly takes them over the top.

The big mistake many players are going to make is firing the Obliterators’ indirect profile on the turn they deepstrike. The key thing to remember about Obliterators is that they are 4″ moving units with 24″ range guns that have lost all mobility buffs. They lost access to Advance+Remain Stationary and Warptime, meaning they are 4+d6″ slower than they could have been in 9th Edition. Once they are down, they are basically going to end the game there. The shooting angles they have currently are basically the only shooting angles they will have all game.

The turn they deepstrike is the only turn you’ll be able to freely choose your targets and angles all game. The Indirect Fire should be used to make up for their lack of mobility later. What generally happens with my Oblits is I deepstrike them and blow something up with Profane Zeal. The following turn m opponent doesn’t give you anything valuable in their shooting angles. That’s the turn I pop Indirect Fire and use them to clear a unit off of a hidden objective. The threat of powerful indirect fire out of deepstrike forces your opponent to play cagey or overextend their screens, and you can punish them with your other units for that.

Abaddon Is Viable, But Not Mandatory

Abaddon was the headliner for CSM in 9th Edition. Given the yo-yo nature of GW balance, I was very worried for what this meant for him in 10th Edition. Abaddon’s character from the incredible Black Legion series by ADB is a huge part of why many people (including myself) got into Chaos Space Marines. We all want him to be good.

And you know what? Abaddon ended up actually perfectly balanced! Couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

He still hits like an absolute truck with Profane Zeal. In my last game, he split attacks into 2 War Dogs, one-shotting both. On the following turn, he almost one-shotted a Knight Tyrant. He left it with just 3 Wounds remaining. You can imagine what he did to it next turn.

The issue is that he has become extremely fragile. Being merely T5 with no access to a Feel No Pain or ways to ignore damage means that he is going to almost certainly die if the opponent is able to put real firepower into him. With the amount of units with Precision and universal access to the Heroic Challenge stratagem, he’s also very vulnerable if another unit charges his unit first. Abaddon has given up his role as the game’s premier mid-table bully Character to Lion’el Johnson, the newer and flashier model. Instead, he has become more of a scalpel or counter-charger. If you use him smartly, he’ll clear out his area of the board. Put him in danger, and those 280 points will quickly evaporate.

His CP generation also adds some value. He’s one of the only ways the faction has to generate CP, alongside the Eye Of Tzeentch. Given how powerful the CSM stratagems are, every CP he gives you is worth its weight in topknots.

Melee Is (Largely) Dead

This one hurts as a CSM player, but it’s a competitive reality for the faction. While melee is very viable at a semi-competitive level against friends with unoptimized lists and tactics, CSM (and many other factions) melee is basically completely dead competitively.

10th Edition is just extremely harsh towards melee units right now. The new charges and fight phase rules are some of the clunkiest, most counter-intuitive rules I’ve ever seen in a GW game. If I’m 6.5″ inches away from an enemy unit, I’m actually rooting for a 6″ charge instead of a 7″ or 8″ charge so I can go even further on my pile-in instead of being forced to base them right away. If you’re on an objective and want to charge a nearby unit without pulling your whole unit off, you can actually be punished if you roll too high. There are some workarounds (like moving the back models in a unit first to try to move-block your own models), but they’re situational and feel completely clunky and gamey. The introduction of Overwatch in the movement phase was also a hammerblow to melee units. It is a complete joke that Overwatch can be fired from 24″ away. And now units don’t even need a stratagem to leave combat if you’ve wrapped them!

Our melee stats are also just largely garbage across the board. This isn’t a CSM specific problem (Drukhari and Space Wolves in particular got their melee annihilated), but CSM will really feel the impact. Melee damage has been completely outpaced by ranged damage. Considering how many more hoops you have to jump through to do damage in melee than in shooting, its really just not worth it. Chosen having 4 S5, AP2, 1 damage attacks means they are about as damaging (or less) as many army’s indirect guns. Power Fists remaining Strength 8 after every remotely tough vehicle went up to T9-T14 means that they’ll do nothing without Profane Zeal.

So many armies just are unbeatable for melee heavy lists, too. Eldar will destroy you in you own turn by overwatching with fate dice and rerolls. Custodes will fight first with their big bricks and annihilate you before you get to even swing. Marines and Guard will pound you with indirect fire (Oaths Of Moment working with artillery is a complete disaster). Barbgaunts and Spore Mines and Thunderfire Cannons will slow you down to a crawl. Knights of both flavors will destroy your units attempting to stage with their Towering rule. A lot of those are balance issues that might get changed in a few months, but its the reality we are in now. So many armies like Eldar and Grey Knights will just move away from your melee unit in your own turn after you get close.

My initial lists started off with an even blend between melee and shooting, with some Oblits and Forgefiends but also two units of Possessed and some Chosen. My current list has 0 Possessed and 0 Chosen. Possessed are incredibly deadly. They’re an almost busted unit in a vacuum. Yet with the way 10th Edition is shaping up, they’re largely a liability. Why bring Possessed when I can have a Forgefiend do similar damage on a more durable chassis that can safely fire from 36″ away? If I bring a Land Raider to keep my Possessed safe from Indirect Fire, I’m paying a total of 400 points for 4 Lascannon shots and 5 Possessed. When I can get 5 Obliterators for that price, the choice gets severely skewed.

I really wish this wasn’t true, and hope the 10th Edition rules writers take steps to reign in some of the most egregious units and rules issues so all types of units can shine.

Final Thoughts

10th Edition is a very mixed bag so far. Regardless of the rules, I’m not going to stop waging the Long War. Check back here often over the coming days and weeks for new content focusing on every Chaos faction!

And while you’re here, why not join the best 40K community out there? Even while the site was down, the Warphammer community has continued to grow, solidifying its position as one of the most knowledgeable and friendly communities out there for both new and veteran players. Join using the link here and come say hi! https://discord.gg/pCc6gRtZ

23 thoughts on “5 Hot Takes About Chaos Space Marines After 5 Games Played”

  1. Awesome article. Excited to see your lists!
    What do you think of the Daemon Prince with Wings, Rapid Ingress, Dark Obfuscation, and the Orbs of Unlife? Feels like a fun way to turn a Daemon Prince into a crippling Mortal Wound bomb. Takes lots of CP…but y’know…if you got it you gotta spend it anyhow.

    1. Thanks J! That’s a really cool idea, but I’m definitely worried about the CP cost. I would only run that if I had Abaddon or the Eye Of Tzeentch somewhere else in the list to make up for the CP drain.

      1. My thoughts exactly.
        I was thinking I’d run either a 5 or 10 man unit of Legionaries with a Sorceror and the Eye of Tzeentch. Sorceror keeps them relevant with MW output and some defence. Rerolls from Legionaries allows good reliability from the Eye. Shame Legionaries cost 100/200 ☹️

  2. TurdStainJimmy

    If Melee is largely dead, does that mean that World Eaters are kind of screwed as a faction?

    1. TSJ, honest answer is right now, World Eaters points costs are just awful. Eightbound and Exalted Eightbound are costed like melee is much better than it is. But their actual faction rules are very strong. The Blessings Of Khorne system is really powerful. Their stratagems and datasheets are very solid.

      Basically just get some practice games in with World Eaters to learn their rules, and then wait for a points update before taking them to a tournament.

  3. Hats off to Mike, after your points video I fully expected some mention of Noise Marines but there was none!

    Of course that probably means we’ll get a whole article on them later but still! Lovely read over all, excited to wage the long war. Just picked up Be’lakor myself and plan for full monster mash!

    1. Great to see the blog is back. I like reading more than watching videos so thanks for not abandoning written content.

  4. Does dark obscuration mean the unit shooting at the time you use the strat has to reselect a target if you’re outside 12″? Or do you have to eat those shots and it’s just the next unit that can’t target you outside 12″?

    1. You’re correct, it stops any shooting entirely. This was clarified in the Designer’s Commentary, which had a section that explicitly covered stratagems like this

      1. Víctor Yanguas

        According to the rules comments section, the attacking unit can select another target when the Nurgle unit becomes no longer targeteable

  5. Don’t worry Maxamundes, we’ll have plenty of time for things to get LOUD later! And monster mash seems really fun, good luck with Be’lakor and his friends!

  6. I read the Nurgle strat as you get lone operative against future attacks but the unit that intially target you still gets to shoot normally. If it works the way you’ve been playing it then it’s amazing though!

  7. I know combat is mostly dead, bit I’ve been loving my chosen with a MoP in a rhino. The extra movement on the MoP allows me to pull off 24 inch combat threat with relative ease!

    1. That’s really spicy! Chosen and a MOP are both well costed, them together gives you some really mobile melee. Can definitely see it working.

      And sorry for the slow comment approval, you will be good going forward

  8. Christian Voltaggio

    Iron Warriors guy (me) being happy to hear that I just need to shoot things more.

  9. Hoping to see an article about daemons soon, your discipline of Be’lakor article was fascinating in 9th.

  10. Awesome article! I was really hesitant on bringing so many oblits because they are so expensive but through a couple events i realized theyre also one of the only options to fight things like knights from range – the blast profile is also largely strong especially when they are chaos undivided.
    Im interested to hear your thoughts on accursed cultists. For me they have been the tanky unit to take up space on the board either fighting in the middle or stringing out to protect all my shooting units.

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