Such Sweet Cacophony: Winning a Tournament with Emperor’s Children

I recently had the opportunity to take my Emperor’s Children to another tournament this season. The tournament gave me a chance to both meet new people (it was my first time playing at MJ’s Cards and Games, and I’m definitely planning on coming back) and further refine my Emperor’s Children list. Every single time I put my Emperor’s Children on the tabletop I have a fun time, and I’m constantly learning tiny details about how to play my list better. People say Chaos Space Marines are bad. I don’t entirely disagree, but it’s an enormous toolbox that has a ton of depth to explore. The things CSM do well, they do very well.

It was honestly really refreshing to walk in and see a ton of faction variety. We had monster mash Tyranids along with multiple Tau players and Necrons holding it down for Xenos. We had Death Guard and Chaos Knights and my Chaos Space Marines repping the Dark Gods. We had a variety of Imperium armies, including Guard and a very aggressive Blood Angels list. I respect everyone regardless of what faction they play and have no problem playing AdMech or Drukhari (indeed, I even think I have a decent matchup into both). But as someone that plays on TTS where it feels like every game is against the exact same Lucius + Mars AdMech list, it was really cool to see basically every faction represented even in a midsized RTT. To make it even better, everyone there seemed really friendly and all three games were played with a focus on sportsmanship (and the TO and store host were great hosts too). On to the list!

Things Will Get LOUD Now” 3.0

(Emperor’s Children Battalion, 10 CP)

  • Chaos Lord, Jump Pack, Lightning Claw + Chainsword
  • Dark Apostle, 5++ aura prayer, Remnant of the Maraviglia
  • Sorceror, Warlord (Warp Lord), Prescience, Delightful Agonies
  • 10 Noise Marines (8 Sonic Blasters, 2 Blastmasters, Chainsword on Sgt)
  • 27 Cultists
  • 10 Cultists
  • 7 Terminators (Lightning Claw + Combi-bolter)
  • 8 Terminators (Lightning Claw + Combi-melta)
  • 10 Terminators (Lightning Claw + Comb-melta)
  • Relic Contemptor (Volkite)
  • Relic Contemptor (Volkite)
  • Dreadclaw Drop Pod
  • 5 Raptors

List Choices

Regular Warphammer readers will know I have been experimenting with Emperor’s Children competitively for a while. In my previous article, my list generally had a Daemon Prince, two Venomcrawlers, and 10 Noise Marines in a Rhino instead of the second melta Terminator squad, Contemptors, and Chaos Lord.

I made these changes for a few reasons. I found when running two units of Noise Marines, one of them was always overlapping with another Noise Marine squad or a Terminator squad for Vets + Endless Cacophony support. Dropping a unit of Noise Marines for more melta also helped shore up my matchup into Death Guard. I also wanted some long range shooting to threaten opponents without committing one of my hammer units, so the Volkite Contemptors that John Bianco recommended slotted in nicely. I was worried about the Contemptors being obvious targets, but honestly they just never die in this list. I’ve lost a total of one Contemptor across 6 games. I deploy conservatively and play angles with them early. Once my Terminators start coming down, the opponent’s big guns either start disappearing or have to focus on digging the Terminators out of their lines.

The Daemon Prince had to leave the list because of how busted AdMech bombers are. I have no idea why their bombers can do ~9 MW to my Monster Character just by flying over him. I have no words for whomever wrote that AdMech codex. Emperor’s Children have a decent matchup into AdMech compared to most factions, but you just can’t beat them wasting 200 points on a Daemon Prince. I was lucky not to run into AdMech at this event, but I always tech for TAC lists and will keep doing that going forward in case I happen to face an AdMech player.

One small (almost) disaster: My friend Chris had recently mailed me some of his Chaos stuff, which I put into my list. I hadn’t actually opened the box to check the minis until right before I left for the tournament. Nothing was snapped but basically all the arms had come unglued. I was running late, so I just grabbed some superglue and decided I’ll re-glue the arms once I arrive.

Round One: Joe’s Chaos Knights (W, 94-48)

  • Infernal Custom Household (Pride Fueled Fury, Abominable Constitution)
    • Knight Tyrant (Valiant equivalent)
    • Knight Despoiler (Gatling Cannon, Battle Cannon)
    • Knight Despoiler (Battle Cannon, Fist)
    • Knight Desecrator (Fist, Chainsword)
    • My Secondaries: Titan Slayer, Engage On All Fronts, Retrieve Octarius Data

My Secondaries: Titan Slayer, Engage On All Fronts, Retrieve Octarius Data

Gameplan: Destroy all the ranged Knights, screen and kite the melee Knight

Knights are about the best possible matchup for my list, so I have to give Joe a ton of credit for battling as well as he did.

Deployment in game one. Knights deployed aggressively since they can’t hide, I hid to weather the storm until the Terminators started bailing me out.

Joe got creative and used his Infernal damage boost on his Tyrant’s character sniping artillery missile, going first and sniping my Dark Apostle with the Remnant of the Maraviglia from the across the board. Damn! Having lost my rerolls, I only did ~20 Wounds to his Tyrant between my Noise Marine drop and both Volkite Contemptors shooting. I advanced my Cultist unit forward to screen his melee Knight from being able to finish its move within charge range of my Contemptors and Characters, and cast Delightful Agonies on the Cultists to make him put more firepower into them.

On his turn two, Joe decides his reign of terror amongst the leadership of the Emperor’s Children isn’t over. He spends 3 CP, and snipes my Chaos Lord next. Joe said his goal was to kill my Noise Marines and my Cultist unit entirely so I couldn’t use Tide of Traitors. That’s a smart play, as I had very little ObSec and his Knights vs my Terminators is a pretty fair fight. It came down to his melee Knight charging and putting 15 attacks into 11 Cultists. 3 Cultists survived. I had decided ahead of time that I was going to auto-pass morale if I had 2 or fewer Cultists left, but let the dice ride if I had 3 still alive. I roll morale and 2 Cultists end up surviving. Thank you 9th Edition morale rules.

In my turn 2, my melta Terminator squad one-shotted a Knight between firing 20 melta shots with +1 to Wound and charging while I plinked off the final wounds on the Tyrant and completed a 2nd quarter for Retrieve Data.

There was one point where Joe measured and his Knight technically couldn’t fit through a gap to charge my Contemptors. I hate how 9th Edition’s rules treat large models and offered to just move the wall out of the way so he could charge. At that point I knew the game was basically decided, and Joe was the kind of player who would do the exact same thing if the situation was reversed. The MD Open had a rule that large models could move through all reasonably large gaps in terrain even if they couldn’t technically fit. I would like to see that adopted more widely. 9th Edition is already biased enough against large models with Obscuring/Dense/Cover all not working for them, let’s not let terrain stop their movement even further.

I finished off his third ranged Knight on turn 3, leaving him with just a melee Knight. I focused on killing the ranged Knights because I knew that a solo melee Knight would have literally 0 ability to interact with my Primary or Secondary scoring at all. I actually couldn’t finish off the melee Knight once I ran out of CP in turns 4 and 5. Live by the CP, die by the CP.

Round Two: Talon’s Necrons (W, 78-76)

  • Custom Dynasty Double Patrol (Pregame 6″ Move, Army-wide ObSec)
    • Plasmancer (Veil of Darkness)
    • Plasmancer
    • CCB (Voltaic Staff, Enduring Will)
    • 20 Warriors (Reapers)
    • 10 Immortals
    • 6 Skorpekh Destroyers
    • Void Dragon C’tan
    • 6 Scarabs
    • 6 Scarabs
    • 7 Scarabs
    • 6 Wraiths

Secondaries: No Prisoners, Engage On All Fronts, Retrieve Octarius Data

Gameplan: His army plays Primary so much better than mine that I was going to entirely ignore Primary for the first few turns. I was just going to try to table him and catch up on points late in the game with a likely 15 on turn 5. When I asked and he said he didn’t have a Chronomancer, I knew to be conservative with my CP expenditure because I was going to want 4 or 5 turns of double shooting melta. My Primary score ended up being 0/0/5/10/15, which really tells the story of how it went. I have to give Talon a ton of credit for being a good sport and continuing to play the mission well while running out of units.

My first thought when Talon told me he runs melee Necrons was “Holy crap, I love everything about this”. Necrons are near and dear to my heart. I think Ophydians are rather underrated, so it was cool to see them on the table.

Deployment in Game Two.

I deployed super conservatively, with almost my entire army bundled up behind a wall of Cultists. I also deployed a few inches off the line to make the charge harder for his Wraiths and Scarabs if he won the first turn roll off, and with my Terminators and Contemptors 3″ behind the front Cultists so they couldn’t be shot by Veil of Darkness’d Warriors. I also started a unit of Terminators on the board in this matchup, because I wanted to have a real counter charge threat if he sent forward Wraiths or Warriors.

Talon seemed like a talented and thoughtful player, but I do think he made a mistake using Veil of Darkness turn one that decided the game. That was his only way to get Warriors out of combat if I tagged them to prevent shooting, and I think he needed that teleporting threat to respond to my Terminators (20 Warriors with MWBD + Solar Flare will completely nuke a Terminator squad). Shooting the Cultists with the Warriors also gave me the chance to front pull from the Wraiths and prevent that charge. And in exchange, my Terminators on the board had a guaranteed* charge into the Warriors and one-shotted them with Vets and Excess Slaughter. I generally find that tools like Veil of Darkness and the AdMech equivalent are best used defensively or late game, as turn one rarely presents a good opportunity to get value out of it.

* It was a 10″ charge, which doesn’t seem likely… but that is a 94% chance of success with Honour the Prince and a reroll. Slaanesh Provides!

My Terminator shooting and Contemptors was enough to pick up the Wraiths on my doorstep, so I held off on dropping the Noise Marines.

Turn 2, his Ophydians spiked the 9″ charge and mulched my Terminators. As a Necrons fan, it was cool to see. From there, I focused on killing Scarabs and getting him down to just a few units on the board. Emperor’s Children basically tabled the Necrons turn 4, with only the unit of Immortals left that I finished off turn 5. The deciding factor was that I scored a full 15 on No Prisoners. That secondary is just brutal for Scarab heavy lists.

Round Three: Andy’s Tau (W, 94-55)

  • Farsight Enclaves Patrol (~10 Drones were included throughout the army)
    • Commander Farsight (My favorite T’au character, always good to see him)
    • Coldstar Commander
    • 5 Breachers
    • 5 Breachers
    • Riptide Battlesuit with standard relic gun
    • 9 Veteran Cadre Crisis Bodyguards with ATS and Missile Pods
    • Devilfish
  • Farsight Enclaves Patrol
    • Coldstar Commander
    • 5 Breachers
    • Y’vahra Battlesuit with ATS

Secondaries: Priority Targets, Engage On All Fronts, Retrieve Octarius Data

Gameplan: Andy didn’t have much anti-horde shooting but had a lot of Terminator killing firepower, so it was a clear Tide of Traitors turn one play matchup. Clear screens with Noise Marines and the Contemptors, and then overwhelm the T’au on turn three. Never let him out of his deployment zone, either with move blocking or the threat of Terminators.

I was very happy to be playing T’au, as I hadn’t faced them in forever and wanted to practice against a new faction. I knew not to underrate this list, as it had a lot of similarities to the list Siegler had gone 7-1 at the ACO with (with the obvious exception of the Y’vahra in place of more stuff to play the mission). Contemptors and the Noise Marines would plink off screening Drones and Breachers, while the Terminators went in for the kill. Andy seemed like an extremely friendly opponent, and I knew it was going to be a good game no matter what.

I deployed super conservatively, so his first turn was basically just moving a Devilfish full of Breachers onto an objective and then firing a few indirect shots. He also Raised a Banner on his home objective. On the bottom half of turn one, I basically stayed hidden. Contemptors got an angle on the Devilfish, plinking some Wounds off. The real heroes were the Cultists, who went for a Tide of Traitors + Honour the Prince play to tear down his banner and tag the Battlesuits. I also knew that Andy was going to have a very limited window to score points before my Terminators wreaked havoc on his Primary and Secondary scoring, so I really wanted to deny points early.

End of my movement on the bottom of turn 2. The Cultists went on a joyride, desecrating the T’au banner and tearing it down

In hindsight, I made a small mistake tagging both the Y’vahra and the Riptide instead of just touching one. The Y’vahra ended up killing every Cultists by itself. I should have tagged the Riptide and Breachers, and let Andy make the choice between the Riptide not shooting or blowing a turn of Montka just to free up one Riptide.

On his turn two, he again had very few targets so he just shot my Raptors on the middle objective and put some pot shots into my Dreads. On my second turn, the Noise Marines and the non-melta Terminator dropped. The Terminators made a 10″ charge into his Y’vahra through the wall (we’re honouring the hell out of that prince), bringing it down to 1 Wound. The Noise Marines meanwhile picked up some Drones and did some chip damage to the Riptide, with the Contemptors also finishing off a few Drones. I was very happy to take less damage now (shooting Volkite at MSU Drones instead of Battlesuits) to take away his screening units so my Terminators would come in unimpeded on the next turn.

On his third turn, Andy mostly killed the Terminators in his deployment zone and the Noise Marines. On my turn 3, I fired 28 melta shots with various buffs into his Crisis suits and Riptide and that was basically the game. Andy did a great job leading a fighting retreat back onto his final objective. Farsight and a Commander heroically sacrificed themselves to move block my Terminators and keep them out of his melta range of his Riptide to gain some extra To The Last points. It was a true “For the Greater Good” ending, and we both had a laugh.

Going Forward

I’m going to shelve my Emperor’s Children for a while, because at this point I feel I’ve developed my list as far as it can go and I’d rather experiment with Disciples of Be’lakor (keep an eye out for a guide to playing that awesome new faction soon). I’m not saying this is the perfect Emperor’s Children list, but I’m saying for my personal playstyle this list is a toolbox that gives me everything I want. The only change I would probably make is dropping the Jump Pack on the Chaos Lord for a Missile Launcher on a Contemptor/few more Cultists/Terminator Armour on the Sorceror.

Where do Emperor’s Children fall into the wider meta? It’s really hard to say. I’d put them at a solid B-Tier faction. We don’t have very many tools, but the tools we do have are extremely powerful. I’m planning to play my Disciples of Be’lakor locally and then finally take my Emperor’s Children to a few GT’s this fall, although I’m starting a new job so we shall see how that plays out.

I’ve entirely moved away from Warptime in my list, and frankly I don’t miss it at all. The only two Psychic powers I bring are +1 to Hit, and a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain. I like those two powers because they’re great if they go off, but if I fail them then I’m still fine. A Contemptor that failed to get +1 to Hit won’t stop operating entirely. It will still do its role, just a bit less efficiently. A unit that moved up to get in charge or shooting range and then failed its Warptime is horrible. Not only is it now in the open, but you’re playing your turn down a unit that you thought you would have when you were doing your Movement phase. I’m just going to entirely leave Warptime out of my Chaos Space Marine lists going forward. And the great part is that if a situation ever arises where I need Warptime to make a risky play and get back into the game, I can just swap it into my Sorceror for 1CP. Everything else in Emperor’s Children is so reliable. Relying on Warptime to move things up the board is no longer something I am interested in at all.

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Published: July 13th, 2021. Last Updated: July 13th, 2021.

7 thoughts on “Such Sweet Cacophony: Winning a Tournament with Emperor’s Children”

  1. How much of your decision to ditch Warptime (commonly considered an MVP psychic power) is due to the reliability of Honor the Prince?
    Or, put another way, would you still play Warptime in non-EC lists?

    1. That’s a great point Brine. EC do their job so reliably with Honor the Prince and a redeploy strat and overwhelming firepower, Warptime adds a big failure point into these links. For other Legions or Thousand Sons, it is more valuable because they don’t have as many ways to win without it

  2. Great update! I really like how your list has evolved, and I appreciate your comments on Warptime. Random question – where are the actual rules for Volkite weapons? I didn’t even know that was an option for dreads.

    1. CB, thanks so much for the kind words! And the Volkite rules are located in the 9th Edition Imperial Armour Forgeworld book. They can’t be taken on most dreads or Helbrutes, they’re just a weapon option for Contemptors. Some other FW dreads also have weird volkite options, like the Deredeo

  3. By my calculations the list ends up 35pts short of 2000. Are these spare points left for a possible summoning or is my math just wrong?

  4. I saw Emperor’s Children won a tournament, and sought you out! You are showing us the way. I’m tweaking my list slightly to be more than *just* fluffy. Great combo ideas and strategies. Also loved your Noise Marine article 🙂

    1. Thanks mate, really glad you enjoyed it! Hope you find the right amount of spice to add to your fluffy lists. Gotta show those loyalists the power of following Slaanesh, haha

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