Yo dily, doodily doo, neighbors! Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to discuss a tried and true strategy and explore how it applies to Chaos in 40K.
Maximum Threat Overload (MTO), a term coined by my friend Jy2, describes the strategy of presenting too many overwhelming threats for your opponent to deal with. It functions somewhat like MSU in that you are using the principal of forcing your opponent to make difficult target priority decisions to confound his ability to deal with your army. However, a primary difference here is that you are going one step further and choosing which units he will target for him.
It sounds simple, and is nothing ground breaking. Everyone knows that if one thing is good, more of it are better. However, this strategy goes beyond simply spamming (although it can incorporate spamming in list building). MTO revolves around identifying units that can reliably apply enough pressure to a wide enough variety of builds to be considered universal threats that will rise to target priority number 1 for your opponent, allowing you to dictate where and when combat happens on the table top. This has a twofold benefit: you are imposing your will on your opponent, and it allows you to skimp in other areas of your list, namely the troops section (although that isn’t always necessarily the case).
What I mean by this specifically is that if you present your opponent with a large number of threats he cannot ignore, he will not have the resources to take your most vital units out: troops. Therefore, you can funnel more of your points into damage dealing units.
So, what kind of units fall into these categories? Obviously, they have to have a high damage output. They must also be fairly mobile, or a fast enemy will just dance away from them, reducing their threat. They must also be fairly durable to survive going second against an army with a lot of firepower. If they have a weakness to a certain type of unit, you must have the ability to overlap that weakness to avoid having your entire list strategy fall flat. Lastly, they must be reliable, meaning that they should usually be fearless or close to it. You can’t have the wheels fall off the bus with a flubbed leadership test.
Jy2 came up with the idea when he used a Necron list in 5th which contained 3 units of 6 Wraiths, 2 Overlords in Command Barges, 2 Annihilation Barges, and 4 minimum sized units of Warriors with Lanceteks in them to fill points and for scoring units (we typically play 1750 here).
Now, at first glance, you look at that list and think, the troops are too vulnerable. Kill the troops and the Necorn player can’t win. True, but when you have 3 units of Wraiths, 2 Overlords and 2 Anni barges bearing down on you full force, you MUST deal with them or be assaulted and destroyed turn 2.
What we found is that the troops were almost universally ignored by everyone as they had their hands full dealing with fast, hard hitting, fearless (largely), durable units hitting their lines full bore. If you were facing an opponent with units that could handle your hammer units and still threaten your backfield scoring units, you could simply reserve them to keep them off board and out of danger.
I feel that that list was a bit too one dimensional as if you had an army that could handle the Wraiths (Dark Eldar Venom Spam, for example) you could find your list facing a hard counter, which is why I think a bit of diversity would improve the overall versatility of the list.
In 6th, Jy2 now mixes in some Fliers to create a list that is even more dangerous and has done quite well with it, winning the first GT of 6th: The Golden Throne.
Tyranids as played by most competitive players in 6th also really illustrate these qualities. Taking 2 Flyrants, multiple deep striking units such as the Doom, Zoeys and Ymgarls (technically not deepstriking, but you all know what I mean), and fast moving units you can apply so much pressure to your opponent so fast that they simply cannot afford to target your scoring units (typically Tervigons). You are forcing your opponent to play the game you want to play.
Now how does this apply to Chaos, you may be asking yourself? I get emails frequently from folks asking how to make Chaos work. I have made no secret of the fact that I have been pretty disappointed with the Chaos book. I think it is solid from an internal balance perspective in general, but some of the units are just awful, while some are so incredibly good (Helldrake, anyone?) that they feel like auto-include choices.
After many hours of brainstorming and trying to make certain lists work I have come to a conclusion about Chaos: their troops are subpar, IMO. I am not saying it is impossible to make a Chaos troops good, just that they fall short of other books’ troops on a points efficiency basis.
The cult troops are too expensive for what you get in most cases, or just too expensive. If you focus on making solid units of troops, you have no points for long range firepower or powerful assault units (and please don’t say Berzerkers, as compared to any other premiere assault unit in the game they fall flat, and if they do their job: assaulting, they often aren’t taking objectives). Plague Marines are solid, but so pricey. Noise marines are a good choice but die like Marines at an increased price. Regular CSM are cheap but suffer from leadership issues. Running them naked as Bolter slingers and objective takers is not bad, but still, for what you get they aren’t anything to write home to mom about. Thousand Sons don’t really bear mentioning (although we have a guy locally that somehow makes them work quite well, but that is certainly an exception to the rule). Chosen can work, but they mix roles. You want to min/max them due to their point cost, but that requires that they get in the mix of things to use their special weapons, which is often not a place units survive long to subsequently take objectives.
The solution I keep coming to (as do a lot of other folks) is Cultists and Zombies. For the points, they get the job done. Now as this applies to the MTO build, it opens up a lot of options when you abandon the idea of actually having any CSMs in a CSM list, haha.
6 units of 10 cultists (or Zombies) is only 300pts. That is a very reasonable tax to have 6 scoring units running around the board. They also register very low on your opponent’s target priority list as they have such pathetic damage output capacity. Plus, they have safety in numbers. 6 targets is more than most lists can destroy in a turn if you are playing the cultists defensively (which you should be). These guys essentially run around, hide, and go for objectives. That’s it. Assume they die if anything targets them and be pleasantly surprised if they survive…and dance for joy if they every actually kill anything!
300pts is what a single tooled up Cult squad can run you. No comparison, really. That leaves all the rest of your points for pure offensive kill power. That is what Chaos does well.
So now you need to ask yourself which units to take that will provide such an overwhelming threat that your opponent will HAVE to deal with them? That is the key to keeping the heat off of your wimpy Cultists (and putting them in reserve is always a viable option, too). The answer is of course maxing out on Warp Talons and Mutilators…..hah! Just kidding.
You choose units that fulfill the requirements we laid out above: universally threatening, fast, reliable, and durable.
Chaos luckily has a number of units that fall into that category. Spawn are fantastic for this. They are fearless, fast, tough, but don’t hit too hard. This is mitigated by taking the very excellent Lords to run with them. The Juggernaut Khorne Lord is an absolute beast. He hits like a ton of bricks, is also fast, and looks like a Boss for style points. Equip him with a Fist and Claw (my favorite combo for any lord. You can swing at Initiative and shred infantry with the claw, or at I1 with more punch with the fist and you get a bonus attack as they are both specialized weapons). I stay away from Daemon Weapons as the random 1 you roll can cost you the game and thus, a tournament if it comes at the wrong time. The downside here though, is that the Spawn will have to run unmarked (MoK for them is a waste of points, IMO).
A Nurgle Lord on a bike though, can run with MoN Spawn. They slow him down slightly, but it is acceptable. You could also look at a MoS lord on a mount to outflank (less useful now that you can’t assault form reserves) or MoT Lord on Bike with Sigil for the 3++. A biker Sorcerer is also solid with Spawn as they make him Fearless, and his powers can be quite useful. They’re all good in their way, but the Jugger Lord stands out to me as universally threatening.
So, 2 units of Spawn with 2 Lords is a solid, tough, fast, fearless, multi-threatening unit that pretty much any enemy army would have to deal with. If they have units in the upper levels of buildings, you can split the Spawn off from the Lords and let them attack separate units.
Bikers are also good in this role as they are fast as can be, a Lord Makes them Fearless, and with the right mark, can really hit hard, plus they have shooting as well.
Those units can form your hard core, and now you can look to overwhelm with threats to back them up and support them. I like the idea of Maulerfiends as they are as fast as the rest of the crew and while not particularly threatening themselves (they do scrape vehicles, though) their Lasher Tendrils are a great debuffing tool to allow the Lords and Spawn to deal with more threatening units that might otherwise be too much to deal with. Reducing the attacks of target units is a great tool. Forgefiends are also solid as they put out solid firepower on the move and are still reasonably resilient with the Daemon rule, and aren’t unreasonably pricey for 8, strength 8 shots on the move.
Helldrakes (Hell Turkey!! Squawk!) is also a clearly powerful tool, but remember that with bad reserve rolls, he may not come into play until turn 4, which really undermines the basic principle of the list strategy. You can mitigate this with a Skyshield or Aegis with Comms Relay.
Daemon allies are what jump out at me, personally. Taking a large unit of troops and a single herald of the same type to join them means the entire unit automatically comes in turn 1 with no preferred wave roll needed (as I read the rule). That means you can drop a huge threat into the enemy backfield as well as have 7-9 high threat units rushing up-field Against many opponents that will overwhelm their ability to deal with the threats, ensuring you are hitting them turn 2 with a ton of force. Also, particularly if you go first, if you are playing an Airforce army you have good odds of tabling them before the Fliers arrive.
And remember, you don’t have to destroy your enemy, either. So long as it isn’t Purge the Alien, you don’t even care if your entire attack force gets decimated. All they are there to do is to tie up your opponent long enough to allow your flimsy troops to get into position to win you the game by holding at least 1 more objective than he does.
The unit choices I presented above are just suggestions, too. Those were the first that came to my mind and with some further exploration of the concept, I am sure all of you out there could come up with a lot of variations on the idea. The only thing that bums me out about this list is that it has 2 actual Chaos Space Marines: the two Lords. But, I think that it would be a fun way to play Chaos: very aggressive and in character for the fluff. It also would be a tough match for many armies, but would struggle against high mobility, high firepower armies such as certain Dark Eldar builds (they are such a good spoiler army, but you don’t see them that often at events).
That’s it for now, I hope you all enjoyed reading this concept and take something away from it with you!