WE ARE RETURNED: First Tournament Report with the New Chaos Space Marine Codex

Chaos Space Marine players, welcome to 9th Edition. Refreshments are available in the lobby. Cultists are available for sacrifice in the basement. We hope you enjoy your stay.

I figured there is no better way to start a new season of Warphammer CSM content than an after-action report with the new codex. We’re (obviously) going to be exploring every aspect of this long-awaited codex over the new few weeks and months, but let’s start with some fun and stories today. Everyone can sit in front of a camera and read off how they think it’s going to play. I want to take you into actual games and show you how it plays.

Before I dive into the details of the games, I want to give a big thank you to all 3 of my opponents at the RTT that were happy to play against a brand-new codex. We’re located in Alaska and our tournament started 11 hours after the embargo date had lifted and all the videos had come out flipping through every page of the codex. The TO allowed me to run my new CSM list with the permission of my opponents. I brought my Thousand Sons to run instead if any opponent was uncomfortable playing against the new codex, and didn’t pressure anyone. I had posted in our local group chat about the idea and every response I got was “Are you kidding me? I want to see the codex in action, bring it!”. I centered my opponent’s fun in every game. I brought a printout with clear descriptions of every piece of my army and every single tactic, stratagem, and synergy I would use, and took an active role in helping them be aware of what my list could do during the game. I just wanted to address this at the start so no assumes the worst or that I was trying to take advantage of the situation. I voluntarily disqualified myself from prize support before the event. Everyone at the event got what we came for: A great time with friends, and a chance to see our lists in action against experienced opponents.

My Chaos Space Marines List

I took Creations Of Bile to the RTT. Astute Warphammer readers will remember this is actually not the first time I’ve discussed Creations Of Bile. Let’s take a quick look down memory lane to see what kind of relationship CoB and I had previously…

Why Play Creations Of Bile?

You were a dumpster baby who grew up surrounded by garbage, and you want a 40K army that reminds you of home.


Creations Of Bile Strengths:

1) None


When the new codex came out, my very first question was figuring out if CoB were any good. They were my least favorite Chaos army to play in the old codex. If CoB were interesting and strong in the new codex, that would be a great sign for the codex overall.

And you know what? Creations Of Bile are BACK, big time! They returned the +1 Strength/+1″ Movement part of the Legion trait, but also gained army wide fight-on-death as an additional Legion trait. That is an absolutely massive upgrade, and completely changes how the game works. This went from an okay-ish Legion trait to one of the most interesting armies in the game. The next change was much more subtle, but a huge upgrade. The stratagem to advance and charge was changed from a Movement Phase trigger to a Charge Phase trigger. Why is this big? You can’t use stratagems on units in transports, so you couldn’t charge after advancing out of a Rhino. Now your base infantry are moving 3″ + 7″ + d6″ before charging. That’s huge.

Mike Pestilens’ Creations Of Bile List

  • Creations Of Bile Battalion
    • Lord Discordant: Khorne, Surgical Precision (-1 CP), Khorne Daemon Weapon (-1 CP)
    • Dark Apostle: Illusory Supplication
    • Master Of Possession: Pact of Flesh, +1 Strength or Toughness spell
    • 5 Legionaries: Khorne, Icon, Chainswords
    • 5 Legionaries: Slaanesh, Icon, Balefire Tome (Delightful Agonies)
    • 10 Cultists
    • 10 Terminators: Slaanesh, 4 melta, Chainfist, 2 Power Fists, Black Rune Of Damnation (-1 CP)
    • 5 Plague Marines with Power Fist, Blighlauncher, Melta, Flail, Cleaver
    • Master Of Executions
    • 2 Venomcrawlers (SO GOOD!)
    • 5 Raptors
  • Supreme Command Detachments
    • Abaddon The Despoiler, Warlord (-1 CP)
  • 55 Summoning Points

Creations Of Bile lends itself well to melee units with its Legion trait and stratagems, so I wanted to explore a variety of options in this list.

Let’s explore some of the synergies here. I’ve been very impressed with Creations Of Bile Terminators, and wanted to keep them as durable as possible so they can apply pressure for 5 turns. In this list they will be -1 to Wound, have a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain, -1 to Hit in melee if needed, can only be hit on a 4+, don’t allow Hit rerolls, and can resurrect a model every turn. They’re a midboard bully that really benefit from +1″ Move and Advance and Charge. They’re not as killy as people expect, so Legions that can give them Objective Secured like Black Legion or Alpha Legion will really benefit from a Terminator brick.

The Lord Discordant has been the real star of the show for me. Surgical Precision means every 4+ to Hit auto-wounds and gains an additional AP. The Khorne Daemon weapon gives his lance +d3 damage. This means that against Vehicles, his lance alone delivers ~3 autowounds at AP4 D3+d3 and ~3 Hits at S8 with +1 to Wound, AP3, D3+d3. Damage 2+d3 against non-Vehicles was still great for killing units with -1 Damage or 3 wounds. Add in the +1″ Move from Bile, and he was a real terror.

Venomcrawlers have done nothing besides impress me, and this game was no different. +1 Strength from CoB is very nice for pushing their claws to S8 in melee. They are such a great skirmishing unit with their mobility and multi-damage shots, and the ability to fight on death makes them really annoying to deal with. The fact they also get a massive +1 to psychic casts aura makes at least one a strong consideration for every CSM list. I absolutely love them in Word Bearers where they get full hit rerolls, but going from S7 to S8 in melee makes CoB another subfaction where they shine.

Psychic HQs are expensive in CSM, so I decided to leave some summoning points for a Herald of Slaanesh. In matchups where I don’t want to take Psychic Interrogation, I can summon Furies or a Fiend against T’au.

The list plays as a “control” style list. I have two world-killing melee threats in Abaddon and the Lord Discordant that are untargettable behind units hiding out of LoS or buffed to the moon defensively, and plenty of skirmishers to clean up any messes in the midboard. The ability to fight on death makes it very difficult for opponents to dislodge me. The key to playing this list is knowing when to pull the trigger on exposing your smash units, and multi-charging and using Fight phase movement to keep Abaddon and the Lord Discordant unshootable even after they start fighting.

The Rhino was there to give units 3″ extra Movement, and keep my Slaanesh Legionaries safe turn 1. The clear best option for opponents with artillery would be to kill that unit to take away Delightful Agonies on the Terminators and one of my few ObSec units.

Let’s get these Creations on the tabletop. On to the first game!

Round 1: Collin’s Lamenters (W, 93-61)

I love everything about the Lamenters, so I was really happy to play against them round one. Collin was running them using Blood Angels rules but a Lamenters theme in terms of painting and unit selection. He did an especially amazing job with the free hand on the shoulder pads all over the army. The list featured some Marine greatest hits like Bladeguard and Eradicators and Terminators, but also had some style choices like a Repulsor Executioner and a Librarian Dreadnought and an Inquisitor.

Lamenters start their turn 1 Movement Phase

With Played Placed Terrain, I was able to set up a situation where I could put durable units out of LOS to get my Characters safely up the board. The Slaanesh Legionaries were the perfect backfield objective holders, able to sit back out of deny range and cast the defensive buff onto the Terminators.

The Venomcrawlers were stars this game, consistently whittling down Marine units at range before pouncing to finish them off or tie them up. Collin’s Executioner had some solid firepower, but we were able to keep it away from the Venomcrawlers by playing angles and it underwhelmed when shooting my Terminators. That being said, I’m not really sure there is anything in the game that efficiently kills CSM Terminators. Collin actually made a nice play to charge a unit of Bladeguard and a Dreadnought into my Terminators and tied them down for the rest of the game. Without Abaddon to babysit them and give them full hit rerolls, the Terminators were really unreliable offensively.

Collin took down one of my Banners early with some nice aggressive play, but the Creations basically tabled the Lamenters by turn 4 so I was able to raise a Banner on his side turn 4 to make up for the points I lost. Interesting game overall, and we wrapped up in time to go grab some lunch before the next round.

Round 2: Danny’s Death Guard (W, 57-50)

Danny and I had played a few times previously before he moved, so I was happy to see him back in town at this event.

Death Guard are one of the most improved armies in the entire game in Nephilim. The Death Guard list I had in mind was very similar to the one Danny ran, and I was looking forward to seeing two of my favorite armies in action. I’m working in the lab on some Death Guard lists, and would strongly encourage any Chaos player army with a Death Guard army to give it another chance.

It’s only turn 2 here, and my Terminators are already on his objective

Danny’s list was a greatest hits collection of Death Guard units. There were some Plagueburst Crawlers, some Fleshmower Drones, some Blighthaulers, some Plague Marines loaded with special weapons in Rhinos, a Blightspawn with the no-charge aura, some Deathshroud, some Poxwalkers, and support HQs, all run in Mortarion’s Anvil.

The most interesting takeaway from me this game was how mobile my Terminators were compared to his. With the +1″ Movement and Advance and Charge, when he took over the midboard I was able to charge a Plagueburst Crawler and slingshot my Terminators away to flip a back objective instead. While Terminator shooting usually isn’t great, the stratagem to Advance and count as Stationary in the shooting phase was great for plinking off backline Poxwalkers while I advanced around he board.

Army-wide fight on death was a decent counter to the Blightspawn’s aura. I didn’t want to charge there if I could avoid it, but it at least ensured I could force through damage if I needed. Normally the issue is you charge near the Blightspawn, fight last, and die to Terminators or Plague Marines before you do any damage yourself.

We didn’t have enough time to play another round at the end of the game and called it. This was a very interesting matchup, and I’d be happy to play Danny’s army again in a setting without a clock.

Round 3: Alex’s Necrons (L, 100-67)

I wish I had remembered to take pictures of this game. Alex’s Necrons are exquisitely painted, and Necrons vs Chaos is an interesting aesthetic contrast on the table.

(Artwork Credit: Zachary Graves)

Let’s talk about this matchup, because it’s a very interesting one. Alex was running a pretty standard competitive Necrons list, with The Silent King and buffing characters backing up a swarm of Wraiths, Skorpekh, Scarabs, and a Warrior brick. He was using the 6″ pre-game move/army-wide ObSec dynasty. He brought Illuminor Szeras mainly to fish for +1 Toughness on The Silent King, with his newly acquired Core. Interestingly, the Technomancer is able to resurrect Core models, which meant he could resurrect Menhirs. I think this is an absurdity within the framework of the game. However RAW is RAW and I didn’t mind it at all. The resurrecting Menhirs are distracting from what a monster Necrons have become in Nephilim. They have become an army to beat with their ridiculous Secondaries and efficient and spammable units.

This was a matchup where I really enjoyed being able to take Specimens For The Spider and No Prisoners together, since he was going to rush me and I was going to have to pick up everything in melee. Summoning points for the Herald came in clutch so I could dedicate the Herald to Psychic Interrogation and leave my Master Of Possession to resurrect and buff my Terminators. My third Secondary after No Prisoners and Psychic Interrogation would have been much tougher if I wasn’t playing Creations Of Bile, and Specimens For The Spider is a big selling point for that subfaction.

Even though I’m an experienced competitive player and am much more interested in discussing decisions than dice, that doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun complaining about dice. I pulled off my signature “double Perils Of The Warp from a single caster” move turn 1. This is an advanced play that has required years of practice to master. I guess sacrificing 8 Cultists that morning to receive Khorne’s blessings came back to bite me. If you’re interested in learning how to explode your own Psykers and complain about it for the rest of the game, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/Warphammer for some personalized list writing and coaching.

This game made me want more jetpack units, because getting completely boxed in by Wraiths and impassable terrain was rough. If I could still fly over them to threaten objective holders behind them, I would have been in a better spot. Some multi-damage shooting would have been nice once the Venomcrawlers got vaporized on the terrain-light board.

I really see the value in a unit of autocannon Havocs that could just sit in the back and toss some damage downrange. Autocannon Havocs are cheap as chips and will never be a priority for the opponent to dislodge. I like them much more in Iron Warriors where they ignore cover and become ridiculously durable, but Havocs are priced to move in every Legion.

Final Thoughts

It was an incredibly fun first event with the new codex. I wouldn’t change a thing. I saw enough positives to get even more hyped for the codex, while still having plenty to learn from. I wanted a CSM codex that had lots of viable options and a ton of depth to explore, and we received exactly that. The only part that bugs me is losing jump pack HQs. I know many players had amazing conversions and beloved models they used, so I’m hopeful we get some options added back in the future.

What would I change with the list? The Plague Marines didn’t do much damage even with the special melee weapons. I would replace them with a block of Berzerkers. That is a much more significant threat coming out of the Rhino. I also want to explore a list without Abaddon. He’s nearly an auto-include, but you really get a lot more “stuff” in the list without him. I’m also considering dropping the Terminator brick to 8 or 9 models instead of 10. Dropping a Terminator lets me upgrade the Cultists to Legionaries, and MSU Legionaries are amazing in Creations of Bile.

We’ll be back soon with more Chaos Space Marines content. As always, have fun, stay safe, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls.

Eager to wage the Long War with your own Chaos Space Marines or another Chaos army? Check out Patreon.com/Warphammer and join the team. Additional benefits and coaching are available.

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20 thoughts on “WE ARE RETURNED: First Tournament Report with the New Chaos Space Marine Codex”

  1. Hi Mike! Good to see CSM (especially CoB) back in action. What’s your thought on some of the “questionable” changes (like removing jump pack for Chaos Lord & Sorcerer) and other Legions so far?

    1. Hey Nicholas! Honestly those are all valid complaints. My biggest issues:

      1) Not being able to give Marks to Daemon Engines. This feels like a flavor miss for me. They could balance it by making the Marks cost more on Daemon Engines or something if they were concerned about gameplay

      2) No jump Characters. I know many people have amazing conversions or beloved models they can’t use anymore. Even though I only play tournaments these days, I think Jump Pack characters should have at least gone to Legends so people could continue to use them in Open Play

      3) No “Build-A-Legion” traits and only 2 renegade warbands. Would love to see custom chapters like Space Marines got so people could represent warbands like The Purge or the Crimson Slaughter

      An amazing codex overall and I’m really excited to play it more, but there were a few flavour whiffs. Hopefully our Jump characters get added in an FAQ or something. Custom/Renegade warbands will likely have to wait for a supplement of sorts in the future.

      1. maybe the optimistic view is that they’re adding jump lords and jump sorcs as their own datasheets with (another maybe) their own dedicated (and new!) models or (another maybe) they are codex WE exclusive units

        idk why i wrote this because i dont want to get ppl’s hopes up, but i just felt like putting it out there

  2. Awesome article. I’m excited to play CoB even more after reading.

    What are your thoughts on Night Lords in this Codex? A lot of players seem pessimistic (some even saying NL are the worst of the bunch) due to the Legion Trait only being -2Ld, unable to stack, and other sources of LD debuffs being quite restrictive. Do you share that view at all or do you think Night Lords might see some competitive play?

    1. Hey J, I think there is some good and bad with Night Lords. They’re the only Legion I’m having trouble figuring out a direction for. But there are enough cool things like preventing fall back and a no-ObSec aura that I’m sure a competitive list will come up. Just need to start getting some reps with them. Too many Legions that all look fun, never enough time haha

      One little combo I like is Night Haunter’s Curse changes a Hit to a 6 every turn. Slaanesh stratagem changes a hit to a 6. Those together seem really strong, just haven’t found the best fit for them yet. The universal relic pistol that does 2MW on a 6 to Hit seems cool with that. Or even on a smash character, you’re taking 2 misses and turning those into 4 hits every turn. Seems like there is something there

      1. you can read things at a much deeper level than i can, so tell me if this is off, but can night lords be played so as to crater tyranids? i know nid warriors have ld9, but a lot of bugs rely on synapse to stay on the board after taking casualties and since:
        -nl have significant ld debuffs
        -many bugs have natively low ld
        -nl have a strat to turn off auras and synapse is one

        can nl have their way with nids or at least, be able to trade favorably with them when including the nid player’s morale phase?

      2. J, I’m not optimistic about NL leadership shenanigans as a key part of a strategy. That doesn’t mean it’s awful but it’s situational (much better vs LD8 and below). The other Night Lords stuff like the no-ObSec aura and the strat to prevent Fall Back and really strong Smash Characters seem much better.

        And Mr. Pistons, even against Nids it’s not a big deal. The strat turns off the auras from one enemy unit, not prevents one enemy unit from giving off auras, and most bug horde units will be within range or 2 or more Synapse units.

        That being said since units like Gants and Pyrovores have awful LD as you said, getting +1 to wound in melee is a nice boost!

  3. I’ve been reading and watching a lot of videos about this new Codex. I’m still committed to the Death Guard but I actually played Chaos Renegades going back many many years and you can run Plague Marines or Nurgle Renegades but you must pick a Legion. So I’m leaning Iron Warriors oh the irony, because they should be the toughest plus they can field anything bezerkers, noise marines etc. and eventually maybe after this year I’ll get back to painting something non-Nurgle. I already have a havoc squad of all auto cannons, but I’m thinking of adding in more missile launchers or lascannons or perhaps a Mauler Fiend or Obliterators or even a Predator to get more anti-armour. So I’ll be waiting for the Iron Warriors to be featured…

    1. Iron Warriors are in a great spot Muskie! Almost everything is viable for them at least semi-competitively and that durability works well with your Nurgle units and theme. Will definitely be diving into Iron Warriors further in future content.

  4. Hey Mike! I’ve been following you since the beginning of times, first time writing though. I had a similar list in mind and I’ve copied your discolord build here. I’ve toying myself with a similar list those couple days that I want to share with you.

    Problem, as you say is that termies doesn’t kill enough. They are just a brick useful to hide abaddon and discolord behind preparing your massive assault. I really like the list anyways. Warp talons super useful I must say. I’ve tried to use a 2nd rhino without using them…but I don’t know.

    I’ll follow you all along the season to learn from your experience!
    Keep the good work up!

    ++ Supreme Command Detachment +3CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [15 PL, 2CP, 300pts] ++

    + Configuration +

    Detachment Command Cost [3CP]

    Legion: Creations of Bile

    + Primarch | Daemon Primarch | Supreme Commander +

    Abaddon the Despoiler [15 PL, -1CP, 300pts]: 3. Merciless Overseer, 5. Eternal Vendetta, 6. Paragon of Hatred, Stratagem: Warlord Trait

    ++ Battalion Detachment -3CP (Chaos – Chaos Space Marines) [98 PL, , 1,698pts] ++

    + Configuration +

    Battle Size [6CP]: 3. Strike Force (101-200 Total PL / 1001-2000 Points)

    Detachment Command Cost [-3CP]

    Gametype: 4. Chapter Approved: War Zone Nephilim

    Legion: Creations of Bile

    + HQ +

    Dark Apostle [6 PL, 110pts]: Illusory Supplication, Mark of Slaanesh
    . 2x Dark Disciple: 2x Close combat weapon

    Lord Discordant on Helstalker [10 PL, -2CP, 190pts]: 1-2. Surgical Precision, Aspiring Lord, Baleflamer, Mark of Khorne, Stratagem: Relic, Techno-virus injector, Z’aall, The Wrathful

    Master of Possession [6 PL, 105pts]: Chaos Undivided, Mutated Invigoration, Pact of Flesh

    + Troops +

    Legionaries [7 PL, 110pts]: Chaos Icon, Mark of Khorne
    . Aspiring Champion: Astartes chainsword, Bolt pistol
    . 4x Marine w/ astartes chainsword: 4x Astartes chainsword, 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades

    Legionaries [13 PL, 158pts]: Chaos Icon, Mark of Slaanesh
    . Aspiring Champion: Astartes chainsword, Bolt pistol
    . 3x Marine w/ astartes chainsword: 3x Astartes chainsword, 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
    . Marine w/ balefire tome: Balefire tome, Diabolic Strength
    . Marine w/ heavy chainaxe: Heavy chainaxe

    Legionaries [7 PL, 110pts]: Chaos Icon, Mark of Khorne
    . Aspiring Champion: Astartes chainsword, Bolt pistol
    . 4x Marine w/ astartes chainsword: 4x Astartes chainsword, 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades

    Legionaries [7 PL, 110pts]: Chaos Icon, Mark of Khorne
    . Aspiring Champion: Astartes chainsword, Bolt pistol
    . 4x Marine w/ astartes chainsword: 4x Astartes chainsword, 4x Bolt pistol, 4x Frag & Krak grenades

    + Elites +

    Chaos Terminator Squad [19 PL, -1CP, 375pts]: Mark of Slaanesh
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-bolter
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-melta
    . Chaos Terminator: Accursed weapon, Combi-melta
    . Chaos Terminator: Combi-melta, Power fist
    . Chaos Terminator: Combi-melta, Power fist
    . Terminator Champion: Accursed weapon, Black Rune of Damnation, Combi-bolter, Trophies of the Long War

    + Fast Attack +

    Venomcrawler [6 PL, 105pts]

    Venomcrawler [6 PL, 105pts]

    Warp Talons [7 PL, 140pts]: Warp Talon Champion
    . 4x Warp Talon: 4x Warp claws

    + Dedicated Transport +

    Chaos Rhino [4 PL, 80pts]

    ++ Total: [113 PL, 2CP, 1,998pts] ++

  5. Have you considered (is it possible?) to have Mark of Nurgle Terminator’s with the Black Rune?

    I’m assuming they’d stack for S4 weapons needing 6’s to wound and gives a mini transhuman with S8+ right? (wounding on 2+ becomes 3+ due to Nurgle, 4+ for black rune).
    Is that ‘better’ than Delightful Agonies?)
    That also seems pretty hard to shift.

    1. Stephen, that’s a nice option too. I like that a bit more on a Daemon Prince because he’s more likely to charge phase-locked Characters like Abaddon or Phoenix Lords since he has Fly, but either is fine

  6. Thanks for the write-up, great to see even the weirdo trash goblins of Chaos getting it done.

    I’m excited to get my Red Corsairs on the field, looking at ways to get mileage out of advance and charge. Any thoughts on what’ll go well with them, aside from the obvious?

    I keep toying with different loadouts for a unit of bikers with the Black Rune, just to give myself access to the Hounds of Huron stratagem. Tzeentch to make them more annoying to kill/AP on bolters? Slaanesh to give them fight first jank and give the powerfist +1 hit?

    I think my favorite thing about the book is that you can see legitimate reasons to take different marks on most units that can have them. It’s nice to get away from “shooting = Slaanesh, melee = Khorne, everything else sucks unless you’re unlocking a relic or something”

    1. LordKrall, thanks for the kind words and couldn’t agree more about the variety of options we have available.

      In terms of your Red Corsair bikers, Slaanesh could be an amazing option. You gain access to Delightful Agonies for a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain, which is amazing on 3 Wounds, T5, -1 to Wound bodies. Even melta will struggle to put them down. The stratagem Excessive Cruelty will be a great way to clog up their army with a big unit of bikes. Say you charge multiple units. When one falls back, you can consolidate 3″ and wrap the other unit to prevent it falling back.

      But frankly any mark is great on a big Biker brick, Red Corsairs will have a lot of fun with them!

      1. Thanks for the insight!

        In addition, Murderous Perfection could also go well with a couple of meltaguns, either to push through a trick shot, or do max damage on at least one.

  7. When I put the list above into BattleScribe I come up with 1950pts out of 2000, and that’s including one Rhino that wasn’t mentioned in the list statement but mentioned in the article. I am not well versed enough at playing CSM to figure out what’s missing from the list in this article. Any help spotting what’s missing?

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