Delightful Agonies: A Third Place Finish with Emperor’s Children, and Breaking Down a Loss

(Artwork Credit: @disarmonia)

Fans might say I have written an excessive amount about playing Emperor’s Children. True fans of Slaanesh will say there is no such thing as too much of a good thing. Let’s dive right into another tournament report with my Emperor’s Children!

I really don’t care about winning or losing. I just find this game interesting, and enjoy wrapping my head around it and trying to figure it out. The actual winning itself doesn’t bring me any happiness. The only time I have real emotions about the outcome of a game is if I win by too much and then start feeling bad. Which is why I was a bit relieved when my winning streak was snapped in this tourney. It had been putting some self-inflicted pressure in my head that I didn’t want. Starting with winning four straight at a GT and then winning a couple local RTTs, I got to a 10 game win streak in ITC tournies with my Emperor’s Children. This got in my head, and made me want to keep playing Emperor’s Children to see how long I could keep it going for. Now that it’s over at 12 games, it’s time to experiment with other CSM stuff. I’m so used to playing just absolute garbage into top tier factions, the idea of switching away from CSM into something top tier like Drukhari or Sisters just seems ridiculous to me. We’re going to continue fighting the long war.

Lucius And The Boys 2.0

(Emperor’s Children Battalion, 10 CP)

  • Lucius The Eternal
  • Dark Apostle, 5++ aura prayer, Remnant of the Maraviglia
  • Sorcerer in Terminator Armour, Warlord (Warp Lord), Prescience, Delightful Agonies
  • 10 Noise Marines (8 Sonic Blasters, 2 Blastmasters, Chainsword on Sgt)
  • 2 x 10 Cultists
  • 7 Terminators (Lightning Claw + Combi-bolter + Icon of Excess)
  • 7 Terminators (Lightning Claw + Combi-melta)
  • 10 Terminators (Lightning Claw + Comb-melta + Icon of Excess)
  • Relic Contemptor (Twin Volkite)
  • Relic Contemptor (Twin Volkite)
  • Dreadclaw Drop Pod
  • 5 Raptors (Lightning Claw on Champion)
  • 5 Warp Talons

I’ve written plenty about this style of list previously, but I wanted to talk about one change I made in this list. I had heard good things about Warp Talons, so I wanted to try them out.

Ultimately, I thought they were solid even though they are overpriced. I would love to bring a unit of Vanguard Vets with Lightning Claw/Storm Shield instead, but you can’t always get what you want. Warp Talons gave us a tool to reach out and punish cheeky infiltrating units on turn one. It also gave me a 4th dangerous tool to deepstrike turn 2 or 3. They give me all the killing power of 5 Terminators in melee with much less commitment. For example, in my first game there was a position where a character I wanted to kill was exposed turn 3, but I also needed to deliver some melta on the other side of the battlefield. I could Honour The Prince the Warp Talons into the character while freeing up the Terminators to head somewhere more important to double shoot melta.

The Warp Talons were a bit swingy, and I would probably like them much more in World Eaters or Night Lords for more consistency.

The local shop Tier 1 did a great job hosting the event, and yet again there was excellent sportsmanship throughout the tournament. Any tournament where I end up taking shots of sake at the local Asian food restaurant between rounds is a good tournament.

Round One: Marty’s Death Guard (W, 82-73)

  • Death Guard Battalion (Mortarion’s Anvil)
    • Malignant Plaguecaster
    • Lord of Contagion (Gloaming Bloat)
    • 3 x 16 Poxwalkers
    • 3 x 3 Deathshroud Terminators, one Sergeant had the Plague Skull relic
    • Tallyman, Tollkeeper
    • Foul Blightspawn, Revolting Stench Vats
    • Contemptor with Twin Volkite and Missile Launcher
    • 2 x Bloat Drones with Fleshmowers
    • 2 x Plagueburst Crawlers with Entropy Cannons
  • Secondaries: Stranglehold (12), Retrieve Data (12), No Prisoners (6)
Deployment, Game One vs Death Guard

This was a fun game that really showed the value of having lots, and lots, and lots of melta. Marty had a pretty standard deployment for a slow Death Guard list, with all of his Terminators and Characters in a deathball on one side of the field and his Daemon Engines and some extra Poxwalkers on the other side. He went first and chipped some wounds off a Contemptor with his mortars while moving up the board, while I picked up a unit of Poxwalkers with my Noise Marines and did some plink damage to Terminators with my Contemptors.

Turn two was highlighted by his Bloat Drone failing a rerolled 8″ charge into my Cultists on an objective, which was a bit unlucky for him. This turn I decided to start delivering some serious pain to stop his push up the left flank. I popped the Remnant of the Maraviglia and dropped the smaller melta Terminator squad in range for rerolls. The Contemptors spiked a bit low on mortal wound output, but we still picked up 5 Deathshroud Terminators, a very healthy total. My Noise Marines also used an advance roll and their ObSec to steal an objective and shift into a screening role.

Turn 3 saw him pick up the Noise Marines and continue moving around the board. My 10 man melta squad then came down and nuked all the remaining Deathshroud, while my Terminators charged all the suddenly vulnerable characters. His Lord of Contagion tanked my attacks like a legend, but at that point I had control over that half of the board was just going to rack up 15’s on Primary for the rest of the game. Death Guard are a great army, but they can’t really push back into the game once things go south because of their slow speed.

Marty’s only real “mistake” was not running a Malignant Plaguecaster out from safety to screen on turn 3. And that’s not even a mistake, more an above-the-rim play that he could have made. He also could have used the threat of his Entropy Cannons to control the movement of my Dreadnoughts a bit more. But I have to give Marty a ton of credit for playing a great game with an army that is hard to master, and can’t wait to play him again sometime.

Round Two: Jon Quennel’s Death Guard (W, 92-18)

  • Death Guard Battalion (The Inexorable)
    • Pretty standard Death Guard list with some Poxwalkers, Plagueburst Crawlers, Bloat Drones, Contemptors, Deathshroud…
    • … with a Sicaran randomly added in to add some spice. Love it.
  • Secondaries: Stranglehold (15), Banners (10), Grind Them Down (12)
End of Emperor’s Children’s second turn

People may look at the score and think I played particularly well, or Jon played poorly. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Jon (whom 40K podcast fans may recognize from Mob Rules or Grim After Dark) is a very experienced player who always plays a solid game.

This score is more a reminder that The Scouring is a pretty ridiculous mission.

It was impossible to hide most of our armies on our board with a huge firing lane down the middle. Jon realized that, and ended up just deploying basically everything on the line with some Poxwalkers screening in the back since he couldn’t hide it all anyway. And this is where I think he made his only actual mistake that game. My #1 goal was to delete his Bloat Drones and Chaos Spawn to remove his mobility and trading pieces off of objectives. When he put those in the center of that firing lane, I didn’t have to make any tough choices or positioning tradeoffs to shoot what I wanted. Once those were removed, his ability to suppress my Primary scoring was basically over.

This game also had a niche interaction that showed the power of Emperor’s Children. His Inexorable subfaction has a stratagem to give a charging unit -2″ to their roll. This means I need to roll an 11″ charge out of deepstrike. This seems like nearly insurmountable odds for most factions, right?

With Honour The Prince and a reroll, Emperor’s Children still have an 81% chance of making a deepstrike charge even with -2″ to the roll. Absolute nutter butters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Emperor Protects, but Slaanesh Provides.

If I were facing a newer player and had a completely lopsided win like that, I would have tried to provide some advice and offered to play another game for practice with the 1.5+ hours we had left. Jon was in no need of any of that, so we shook hands turn two and then went to hang out and watch our friends play. I can’t wait to play Jon again when he’s running his Grey Knights and I’m running my Thousand Sons, and have a real game of 40K that isn’t played on The Scouring.

Jon also wanted to try out the Sicaran with his Death Guard. I found it entirely underwhelming, as did he. It’s an awesome looking model at least. I really wish Chaos had access to the Sicaran Arcus version. An Iron Hands Sicaran Arcus might just be my favorite unit in the game (shoutout to my man Dan Paolini for introducing it to me and some of the Iron Hands synergies below). I guess Chaos players are stuck with Plagueburst Crawlers as our indirect fire, which is complete bullsh… actually, you know what, okay, that’s a completely fair tradeoff.

Round Three: Taylor’s Iron Hands (L, 90-89)

  • Iron Hands Battalion
    • Phobos Captain, Rites of War
    • Librarian (Psychic Fortress and Veil of Time)
    • Librarian (+1 Armour Save, +1 to Hit for a Vehicle)
    • Company Vets to Bodyguard for the Character Contemptor
    • Character Contemptor, 2x Volkite and Missiles, exploding 6’s to hit
    • Contemptor, 2x Volkite
    • 3 Redemptors, Plasma and various guns
    • 10 Assault Terminators, 7 Storm Shields and 3 Lightning Claws
  • Secondaries: Stranglehold (12), Retrieve Data (12), Priority Target (15, like everyone else that has ever taken Priority Target)

I loved Taylor’s list, and had been experimenting with the exact same Iron Hands Terminator brick when I was messing around with Marines. Iron Hands have an amazing synergy where they can stack a psychic power for +1 to armour saves with a storm shield and cover on Terminators. Let me say this a different way: Iron Hands Terminators can get a 2+ save against Lascannons. They’re just nutty. They can also pop a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain for 1 CP and just completely break the game. It’s a list that can struggle with mobility, but absolutely loves odd-numbered objective missions where there is a central objective and a diagonal deployment so it can quickly advance onto that objective. With Rites of War to give the Terminators ObSec, this list is basically guaranteed to max out Stranglehold and Oaths of Moment on those missions. Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what happened here (90 points is because of paint scores, Taylor wanted to see whether he liked the list before committing the time to finish painting it which I can understand).

I really, really didn’t want to see three units in an opposing list with 12″ deepstrike denial bubbles. Taylor had said he adapted his list after we played at the last few tournies (with my Emperor’s Children coming out ahead), and brought tools to control the board against all my deepstriking units. I have to give him credit for adapting to his local meta, and that’s what happens when you run a list that is largely a one or two trick pony. To be fair to me, I am playing Chaos Space Marines a year into 9th Edition. We don’t have a super deep pool of viable tricks to pull from left.

And this game really exposed what is ultimately the weakness of Emperor’s Children. The entire game was basically irrelevant once the first turn roll-off was decided. He was going to have a tiny advantage on Secondaries no matter what, because I was capped at 42 (15 from Stranglehold, 15 from Priority Target, 12 from Retrieve Data). Taylor had a basically guaranteed 45. We were all going to score 10 on Primary every turn for a minimum of 40, except for the player who went second who had a decent chance to score 15 on the bottom of turn 5. My one real path to victory was going second and grabbing a cheeky 15 Primary at the end, so it was unfortunate that I went first. Way it goes.

There was a point on turn 3 where I had a chance to swing it. 7 Terminators and 5 Raptors charged 4.5 Intercessors on a corner objective and popped every offensive buff we had, and if I kill the Intercessors then I score Stranglehold that turn and end up with a win. It would have been nice if the dice had delivered in that moment, but it definitely wasn’t guaranteed. I’m also glad in hindsight that the dice low rolled. Winning on paint scoring would be completely lame, and I am happy that Taylor got the win with his solid list and play. I don’t want the talk about how bad the matchup or mission was to come across as salt. It is what it is, and Taylor still deserves credit for executing his gameplan well and not giving me a chance to flip the scoring.

Shoutout to the Assault Terminators for tanking melta like absolute kings on turn 4. I fired 6 melta guns hitting on a 2+ rerolling 1’s, and did literally no wounds because he had 3+ saves against my AP4 meltas. It was honestly hilarious and showed the strength of Iron Hands. As their Primarch Ferrus Manus used to say: Iron Within, Iron Without.

Final Thoughts and the State of Chaos Space Marines

Let’s take a second and evaluate the current state of Chaos Space Marines competitively. I’m going to put together a quick power ranking of all Chaos Space Marine Legions as mono-faction armies:

  1. Iron Warriors (Daemon Engines and volume shooting)
  2. Emperor’s Children (Deepstriking melee and Noise Marines)
  3. World Eaters (Pre-game moving Raptors/Warp Talons, Berzerkers, and shooting rerolls from Kharn)
  4. Word Bearers (Daemon Engine support, Possessed)
  5. Black Legion (Abaddon and Council of Traitors, Cultists)
  6. Alpha Legion (Shenanigans)
  7. Night Lords (Combat traps, deepstriking melee)
  8. Creations of Bile (Forget this exists, you’ll be better off)

The top 3 are factions I could see going 4-1 or better at a GT, with Word Bearers through Alpha Legion definitely having potential to go 3-2 with some good matchups. Night Lords and Creations of Bile (along with monofaction Flawless Host, or something like that) just don’t really have any legs as a complete army. Now someone go out and kick some butt with Night Lords or Creations of Bile and prove me wrong!

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Published: September 1st, 2021. Last Updated: September 1st, 2021.

10 thoughts on “Delightful Agonies: A Third Place Finish with Emperor’s Children, and Breaking Down a Loss”

  1. Frederic Madore

    Nice, congrats man, love reading your posts. When do you think we’ll be able to see where you are going with Thousand sons?

  2. Frederic, thanks and really glad you enjoyed it mate! Thousand Sons are coming out in a week or two. The Changer Of Ways will receive his tribute, haha

  3. Thad Castille

    Nice write ups! Curious about the Word Bearers being #4 CSM legion. Would love to check out how you’d put together their list

    1. Hey Thad, glad you enjoy them!

      For Word Bearers, I would go with 3×10 Possessed in Rhinos and Characters to support them. They can move 17″ (7″+3″ disembark+7″ warptime) per turn. Basically stick Rhinos somewhere safe in the midboard and use these units as missiles to do damage and deny Primary. Bring a double rerolling prayer Priest and round out the list with a -1 to hit Lord of Skulls and 5++ invuln Cultists.

      Alternatively, go Daemon Engine heavy and take advantage of the synergy of Master of Possession with the Malefic Tome and Voice of Lorgar as Warlord. Basically guaranteed 9″ bubble from him of 4++ invuln and rr1’s to hit and wound. Bring a Lord Discordant and spend 1 CP to buy the Crown of the Blasphemer so he has a 4++ invuln, 3++ invuln after the spell goes off. Throw in a Lord of Skulls or two and then some Decimators or Defilers or Venomcrawlers to round it out. You’re basically playing “Iron Warriors with less offense and more reliability”.

      There are some nice synergies in Word Bearers, they’re less than the sum of their parts but can still play well if you pick a synergy you like a lean hard on it!

  4. I know it was technically a loss. But I wouldnt feel down, as you said in the writeup, the list was tailored just to beat you. I assume YOU are the local meta you spoke of!

  5. I really like this list but I have some doubts Mike. Generally, how do you deploy terminators? All in reserves or some units in table?

    One of the most difficult things is having the dark apostle in the right place of the table in maraviglias turn hahaha

    Because if all are in reserves the table is very empty! Hahahahaha. I tried it yesterday against custodes and they finally won me.

    1. Hey Manu! Terminators will start off the table generally, unless I’m going to get rushed in which case one squad starts on the board. Turns out Genestealers or Death Company rushing into your face really don’t like Terminators with lightning claws hitting back, haha

      Custodes can be a tough matchup because turning off rerolls is rough for us. But also, we completely dictate where the engagements happen. And double shooting melta from deepstrike will cut down even Telemons in time.

      And I definitely hear you about positioning the Dark Apostle! I have gotten in so many reps I have a pretty good idea where he will need to be in advance and I haven’t found that to be a big issue, but you’re right that it can easily go awry. And it’s tough to reposition him if he ends up in the wrong spot. That’s one of the downsides of playing an old codex, we just have much less of a margin for error.

      Good luck with your Emperor’s Children next game!

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