There are some units that are powerful in obvious ways. Eradicators are a great example of this. You can place them down on the table, and due to their base stats and points, they just do their job very well. Plasma Inceptors are another great example of this. Custodian Guard with Shields are another great example of this. Skyweavers with Haywire Cannons are another great example of this. Keepers of Secrets are another great example of this.
Tzeentch Daemons are definitely not an example of this. And that’s a huge part of why their fans love them.
Tzeentch has been by far the most requested God in my ongoing “How to Win with each God” series, and I’m very excited to bring you this article. Tzeentch Daemons are strong in many subtle ways, and are without a doubt one of the most underrated unit ranges in the game. Ready to play an army that requires creativity and careful planning? You’ve come to the right place.
This guide is organized into four main sections: General tactics, unit analysis, discussion about stratagems/relics/Warlord traits, and finally recommended Matched Play lists for both 1,000 and 2,000 points (While 2,000 points is the main points value for competitive play, I’ve heard from international readers that tournaments in countries besides the UK/US are often held at 1,000 points so I’ll try to help those readers too). Let’s dive right in.
Splitting Horrors is the most iconic Tzeentch mechanic, so let’s start there. There is a conception among many players that splitting Horrors is a “bad” mechanic. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Horrors with splitting points have three excellent benefits:
- 3″ of free movement by your ObSec unit in your opponent’s turn
- Messing with your opponent’s shot allocation
- Ensuring that you can physically hold an area of the board and continue move-blocking, screening characters, or holding objectives
The first point is really underrated, and has a lot of applications once you start looking for them. An example would be if you have a Horror unit with just 3 models on the objective, and your opponent runs 5 ObSec models over to take the objective. If they make a mistake and shoot those Horrors, you can end up with 6 ObSec models on that objective which can result in a 5 or 10 victory point swing. And extra out-of-phase movement is always great, even if it’s not leading to victory points immediately.
(This is a general Daemons tip, not Tzeentch specific, but remember that you can choose to use your nearly non-existent armour saves instead of your good invuln saves if you want to ensure a Horror dies so you can split it. Tzeentch wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice a follower to achieve his goals, and neither should you!)
Horrors are also a great tool to mess up your opponent’s shot allocation, because they have to declare how they will allocate their shots before you decide to split. If your Space Marine player has a unit of 5 Plasma Inceptors within range of a small unit of Horrors on an objective, they have a tough choice. Split your fire and put only half your shots into the Horrors, and the Tzeentch player can use reinforcement points to split the Horrors and ensure they keep holding the objective. If the Space Marine player puts the entire unit into the Horrors, you just pick them up and the Plasma Inceptors have massively overkilled a cheap unit. You have to develop a good intuition for how much damage your opponent’s allocated shots will do to your units, so practice is definitely required to take full advantage of this.
Horrors with splitting points are also a great way to ensure that a crucial screen holds when you absolutely need to keep that Character screened or that objective held. The trick is to never come in planning to split every unit of Pink Horrors you bring, because Blue Horrors and Brimstone Horrors are too over-costed to make up a huge part of your army. You’re paying heavily for the flexibility to choose whether to split during the game, so make sure you’re taking advantage of that flexibility. I can’t provide an exact answer to how many reinforcement points you should keep open if you’re running Tzeentch Daemons, but 200 reinforcement points at 2000 points is a reasonable baseline.
Tzeentch Daemons are one of the few factions that has a legitimate shot at consistently scoring almost every Secondary in the GT pack, specializing in the Warpcraft and board control secondaries. The trick with Psychic Ritual is that you should never be doing it with one of your Lords of Change, but instead using the Lord of Change and Horrors to screen for your Changecaster/Changeling/Fluxmasters doing the ritual behind the Lord of Change. Remember that unlike normal Actions, Psychic Actions don’t turn off your auras, so running a Fluxmaster or Changeling up behind a wall of Horrors and the Lord of Change to continue buffing them while farming VP is a fine play. The stratagem Warp Portal to place a Fluxmaster or Fateskimmer anywhere on the board is also excellent for scoring Pierce The Veil, especially on missions with diagonal deployments where you can easily screen the characters once they move into position.
I also want to briefly address Abhor The Witch, which people sometimes view as a death blow for factions with Psykers as Troops. Yes, it’s painful when your opponent is eligible to take it. But there are tons of armies that bring Psykers, and even Marines are heavily incentivized to bring a Psyker these days for the Psychic Fortress power and the amazing Blood Angels and Deathwatch specific powers. You’ll only run into Abhor The Witch in around half of your games at tournaments, and in those matchups you can average 12-15 points on Warpcraft secondaries in exchange. And our Characters are all either extremely durable, or don’t operate near the frontlines, so Abhor can actually become tricky for your opponent to max if you play cagey. Don’t let people talk you out of running Horrors or Tzeentch heavy lists because of Abhor The Witch, it’s really not as big deal in practice as some people theoryhammer it out to be.
Lord of Change (10/10): You can’t discuss competitive Daemons lists these days without mentioning Exalted Lords of Change. Commonly given the combination of the Impossible Robe/Incorporeal Form/Aura of Mutability, these Lords of Change can soak up truly ridiculous amounts of damage.
If you prefer increased damage over durability, the Lord of Change can turn into a powerful psychic battery. Give him the Lord of Flux exalted reward for an additional Mortal Wound and the Soul Eater Stave to heal after inflicting Mortal Wounds, and let him tear through Space Marines and Harlequins and Custodes. The mortal wound battery works best if run alongside several other monsters (such as Keepers of Secrets) that are higher priorities for opposing fire. If you’re going for damage with your Lord of Change, you should load him up with Infernal Gateway, Bolt of Change, and a power of your choice and use Magical Boon to cast Smite and two damage dealing powers every turn.
Bringing one or two Lords of Change should be a slam dunk pick for any army that goes heavy into Tzeentch Daemons. Just make sure that you load them out to fill the role you need in your list.
Kairos Fateweaver (5/10): Here is the first issue with Kairos: He is nearly the exact equivalent of a Lord of Change with the Mastery of Magic exalted reward selected and no chance to take a relic or decent Warlord Trait, which is something that no one would ever choose to bring. His ability to know every Tzeentch psychic power is nearly useless, because you have more casts than available powers in your army and are already casting any powers that are useful that turn.
Here is the even bigger issue with Kairos: His datasheet is so plain boring. Kairos is an incredible character with the potential for so many great rules, yet his special rules are all bland. I always try to stay away from rules complaints on WarpHammer, because complaining doesn’t help anyone grow as a player and just discourages players from experimenting with what they have. But please GW, do Tzeentch fans a favor and reevaluate how you handle Kairos in the future. When we get our next codex, the first thing I’m going to do is flip to Kairos Fateweaver’s datasheet in eager anticipation of improved crunch and fluff.
The Changeling (9/10): The Changeling is, hands down, the most underrated Daemons unit in the game. With a 9″ aura that provides a 6+++ feel-no-pain to all Tzeentch Daemon models, the Changeling can protect a massive amount of your army while giving you a free re-roll every turn with Gaze of Fate or farming victory points through Psychic Actions. He is also my favorite Chaos soup ingredient, since his aura also increases the durability of units such as Magnus, Heretic Astartes Daemon Princes, or Iron Warriors Daemon Engines. If you bring the Changeling, that also opens you up to roll for your Exalted traits on the Lord of Change instead of picking Aura of Mutability since you already have a feel-no-pain.
Changecaster (5/10): Changecasters are an important unit, but come with a painful points cost. The Changecaster got hit with a brutal points nerf when GW decided to dismantle every part of the old ‘Jim Vesal-style Plaguebearers list’ a couple of years ago, and the hits just haven’t stopped coming. Getting Horrors to S4 and Flamers to S5 is very valuable in most matchups, but it’s often tough to justify paying 85 points and spending an HQ slot on a Changecaster.
Fluxmaster (7/10): Now that the points costs for Changecasters and Fluxmasters are so similar, there’s basically no reason not to pay the extra 20 points and get a Fluxmaster instead of a Changecaster. Getting access to the extra mobility to consistently start Psychic Ritual/Mental Interrogation on turn 1 or use Warp Portal for Linebreaker/Pierce The Veil is worth it.
Blue Scribes (3/10): The Blue Scribes datasheet plays a valuable role as a chance for Tzeentch Daemon players to practice their kitbashing skills with the leftover bits from the Start Collecting set and Burning Chariot kits.
In game, their value on the tabletop is harder to identify. The aura to permanently remove psychic powers from your opponent when they fail a cast is great, but the 12″ range is so short that smart players will realistically never find themselves actually affected by this. Much like Kairos, the Blue Scribes are a unit with potential for an amazing datasheet, and I’m excited to see how the next codex handles them.
Horrors (8/10): As discussed in the General Tactics section, Horrors are an excellent Troops choice that would be much more popular if Nurglings weren’t (deservedly) hogging the spotlight as Daemons’ premier Troops choice.
Flamers (9/10): With enough quality flamer attacks to make the Salamanders jealous (at least the Salamanders that aren’t busy murdering defenseless Eldar children), Flamers provide excellent mid-range firepower that Daemons would otherwise lack. While their flames only have a 12″ range, their 12″ movement with Fly gives them a respectable threat range. The best way to play them is use LOS blockers to your advance, hiding them on the first turn and then using angles to pour fire into enemy units that move towards the mid-field while minimizing the return fire. Flamers are the kind of unit that competitive lists love to have: They do well on their own without support, but also have the ability to receive a few easy buffs and quickly get to a higher level. Flames of Mutation and Flickering Flames enable them to really punch above their weight and threaten both hordes and heavier vehicles.
Exalted Flamers (6/10): The combination of short range and taking the Heavy penalty means that the Exalted Flamer consistently underperforms in terms of damage. However, he has great utility for scoring Raise Banners (remember, that Action can be performed by even character Infantry) since he moves 10″ and can be kept safe after he moves forward.
Screamers (8/10): Screamers are a good unit waiting for a slight points drop so they can rise to great. Blisteringly fast, they are perfect for munching Marines and tying up shooting units while scoring Linebreaker and Engage On All Fronts. Large groups are also perfect targets for Boon Of Change. The randomness of the buffs from Boon Of Change are offset by the fact that every single option is a great fit for Screamers. A unit or two is mandatory in any mono-Tzeentch Daemon army. Don’t be afraid to Warp Surge them in a pinch if they are in a great position that’s tying up an important opposing unit.
Furies (8/10): With 12″ movement, Fly, and the Infantry keyword, Furies are one of the game’s premier Action scoring units. Marking them as Tzeentch for an effective 4++ invuln save makes them surprisingly effective at harassing enemy units. I often find myself performing Raise Banners with them on the first turn. Once turn two comes around, they head out to screen and harass opposing units (a 5-strong unit of Tzeentch Furies will reliably tie up a Redemptor Dreadnought for a turn or two, which provides the hilarious mental image of a giant metal box furiously trying to swat at the birds buzzing around his head).
Soul Grinders (5/10): In each of the previous God-focused breakdowns I’ve written, I’ve had people ask me “Where are the Soul Grinders?”. That’s a fair question. Tzeentch is one of the two Gods (along with Nurgle) where Soul Grinders actually have a chance to live up to their potential.
If you have some Soul Grinders you’ve painted and want to run, by far the strongest way is to run them is as Tzeentch with a Changeling. Their damage output is rather insipid, but Tzeentch makes them into interesting screens. While they remain over-costed (it’s disappointing comparing the points of a Defiler and a Soul Grinder), throwing multiple 14 Wound T7 models forward with a 4++ invuln save and 6+++ feel-no-pain is actually a pretty solid way to screen and disrupt their plans.
Burning Chariots (6/10): Burning Chariots are an interesting unit. Like Changecasters, they provide a lot of utility but are held back by a difficult points cost. If you bring one, look out for opportunities to use the Warp Portal stratagem to teleport behind screens and snipe opposing Characters. Unfortunately, they technically don’t screen for your characters since they have the Chariot keyword which is largely left out of any core rules. Burning Chariots aren’t bad since T5 with a 4++ invuln save is a really sweet spot to be in defensively against most armies you’ll face, they’re just lacking a bit too much in damage output and synergies to really rise to the next level.
Key Stratagems, Relics, and Warlord Traits
Rather than overwhelm the reader by going over every single stratagem and option for equipping your Characters in the codex and Psychic Awakening book, I decided to highlight the most valuable stratagems to allocate your CP towards and some recommend relics and Warlord traits.
Magical Boon (1 CP, one of your Psykers can cast an additional power at the end of the Psychic phase): A great tool for squeezing additional Mortal Wounds out of a Lord of Change, or getting a buffing/damage power from one of the Herald variants. Don’t forget that all the Heralds can know two powers even though they only have one cast. It can be really clutch to send a Smite and an Infernal Gateway from a Fluxmaster into an opposing Character during the late game.
Flames of Mutation (1 CP, your Flamers do Mortal Wounds on unmodified Wound rolls of 6+): Elevates Flamers from “interesting” to “incredible”.
Warp Portal (Place a Burning Chariot, Fateskimmer, or Fluxmaster anywhere on the board and more than 9″ away from enemy models): Mainly used for scoring Secondaries such as Linebreaker or Pierce The Veil, but don’t forget that it can be used to pop up behind Characters or valuable targets and do some late game psychic sniping.
Incorporeal Form (Reduce the damage of incoming attacks by 1): Good on a Daemon Prince, great on a Lord of Change, downright incredible on a Lord of Change with the Impossible Robe. I do worry that this rule being spread to all Dreadnoughts will have a negative effect as people bring methods to take down tough units that aren’t as effected by -1 damage, but it remains hilariously effective against armies relying on large volumes of 2 or 3 damage attacks to take down large targets.
Daemonspark (Re-roll wound rolls of 1 for ranged attacks made by friendly Tzeentch Daemon units within 9″): An interesting choice, it’s usually tough to justify over bringing a Lord of Change with Incorporeal Form. Daemonspark becomes much more interesting in a mono-Tzeentch Daemons army, where a Daemon Prince with Daemonspark provides the equivalent of both Captain and Lieutenant auras for all of your Horrors, Exalted Flamers, Burning Chariots, and Flamers.
Impossible Robe (Increase a unit’s invulnerable save by one, with a free re-roll on the final save you fail): It’s not flashy, but an effective 3++ on a Lord of Change remains as strong as ever.
Soul-Eater Stave (Heal a wound for every Mortal Wound that model inflicts on a 4+): This is an excellent relic, and combos extremely well with the Lord of Flux exalted reward for a potentially huge amount of healing over the course of the game.
The Crystal Tome (Turn off auras from an opposing Character within 12″ if they fail a Leadership roll-off): Now that most Marines lists are relying on a Chaplain with the ObSec aura Rites of War to contest objectives, this has become a fascinating counter-meta pick. You can turn off their ObSec aura before they do their scoring. I’ve had bad luck in my practice games with it and just failed the leadership roll whenever it was relevant, but the potential for this is massive and I encourage you to experiment with it.
Mono-Tzeentch Daemons (1000 Points)
- Exalted Lord of Change (Warlord, Soul-Eater Stave, Incorporeal Form, Lord of Flux)
- The Changeling
- 3 x 10 Pink Horrors
- 6 Flamers
- 3 Screamers
- 64 Reinforcement Points
Mono-Tzeentch Daemons (2000 Points)
- Lord of Change (Warlord, Impossible Robe, Incorporeal Form, Random Exalted roll)
- Lord of Change (Warpfire Blade, Random Exalted roll)
- The Changeling
- 2 x 30 Pink Horrors
- 1 x 10 Pink Horrors
- Exalted Flamer
- 2 x 6 Flamers
- 1 x 5 Furies
- 2 x 3 Screamers
- 258 Reinforcement Points (105 used to summon Fluxmaster from Exalted Flamer or Changeling, rest to split Horrors or emergency summon cheap Furies/Horrors/Flamers)
TJ Lanigan’s GT-Winning Tzeentch Flavoured Soup
- Lord of Change (Warlord, Impossible Robe, Incorporeal Form, Random Exalted roll)
- The Changeling
- 1 x 30 Pink Horrors
- 5 x 4 Nurglings
- Reinforcement Points: 45
- Thousand Sons Patrol with Ahriman, Daemon Prince with Wings, and 10 Cultists