Cyclopia Cabal: Cheesing the Cabal

CSM: Cyclopia Cabal: Cheesing the Cabal

Hi everyone, DeeJay here.   Have you been considering using the new Cyclopia Cabal formation?    This article is going to explain some ways to get the most out of it!   For more great articles, check out our Tactics Corner!

The Cyclopia Cabal is the latest hotness from the “Black Legion” supplement.   This article will tell you about the rules behind the formation, and then will discuss how to use the formation maximize it’s effectiveness.


Don’t Spare The Details

The formation consists of 3-5 Chaos Space Marine Sorcerers, and it is a Black Legion Formation.   This means that each sorcerer must take a “Veterans of the Long War” for 5 points.

The cabal has a unique power then can manifest called “Shroud of Deceit”, for 3 warp charges.   This power will target a single enemy non-vehicle unit within 30” not locked in combat, which then makes a shooting attack as if part of the Cabal player’s army.     

For each sorcerer within 12”, you can add one dice when manifesting the power, and this does not cost any warp charges.   This provides up to 4 extra free dice for manifesting purposes.

Psychic Powers : Telepathy

Sorcerers generate their powers from the Biomancy, Pyromancy and Telepathy disciplines.    Telepathy is extremely good here, as it gives shriek, shrouding and invisibility.    As well all know, invisibility is one of the best powers in the game.   Dominate and Terrify are also excellent powers in this tree, leaving only Hallucination and Mental Fortitude as duds.   


Psychic Powers : Biomancy

Biomancy has some excellent powers as well.   Endurance, Iron Arm, Enfeeble, Warp Speed and Life Leech are great powers in the tree.   I’ve found most people  tend to ignore Life Leech, but I’ve used it to great success.     The only real dud power in this tree is Haemorrhage, making this tree an excellent choice for Sorcerers.

Psychic Powers : Daemonology

Another option is to go with Daemonology:Santic powers.   Yes, it’s completely unfluffy, but Gate of Infinity, Hammerhand, and Sanctuary are all extremely good powers that are cheap to cast.   If you are throwing 2 dice at them, the chances of getting a perils result — even on doubles — is only 17%.    Throwing 3 or more dice can get dicey, with the chance of peril’s results jumping to 44%.   So throwing 2 dice at these powers is what you want to be doing.

Daemonology: Malific is not really a good solution here.   The powers Incursion, Summoning and Possession are all 3 warp charge powers, and have a very high chance of causing a perils if used.   The best results are Sacrifice and Cursed Earth, but with only a ⅓ chance of getting those, there are better trees to roll on.


Psychic Powers : Marked Powers

If any of the Sorcerers have a mark, then they must generate one power from the mark’s school.   This means usually you will want the princes to be unmarked, but marking a Sorcerer is not out of the question.   A Slaanesh mark,for example gives a ⅔ chance of getting either Hysterical Frenzy or Symphony of Pain.    Ecstatic Seizures can be entertaining as well when you have a blob squad start hitting itself.

Psychic Powers : Shroud of Deceit

What makes Shroud of Deceit such a great power?    In many cases it is not.   If you are playing against a Gladius style Codex:Space Marine list, the power will be of limited value.   You might be able to do something with some grav guns shooting into the backs of their buddies, but the damage is fairly minor.

However, if you are playing an army that has a powerful shooting unit, like two stormsurges in a unit, a squad of prescienced grav cents, or a nova charged riptide wing then things start to get gross.    Since it’s a regular shooting attack, you can fire any and all one shot weapons as well, such as the stormsurge’s missiles.

While the squad cannot shoot itself, it can target a vulnerable point of your opponent’s army and cause serious problems.   This could be something like having a riptide wing shoot the commander and marker drone squad, or having a wraithknight shoot their own army in the back.

Psychic Powers : FAQ Changes

There have been a number of changes to the psychic powers, most notably that you cannot cast the same power twice.   This means if you have all the  Sorcerers in one unit, you won’t be throwing out 3 psychic shrieks a turn, but instead will need to be running multiple blasts or buffs.

Similarly, you cannot stack the same buff multiple times.   Throwing two instances of Hysterical Frenzy on a squad.    This means when rolling for powers, you will want to try and spread out your buffs.   Grab some from biomancy, others from discipline of slaanesh, from Daemonology:Santic and Telepathy.   You get a better bang for your buck spreading the rolls out across multiple tables instead of having everyone dive down for telepathy.   


WarGear : Mounts and Steeds

Sorcerers can get T5 from bikes, TL bolters, and 12” move.     This is a very solid option, and should be your default option.   With the new FAQ changes about Jump packs, having one Cabal Sorcerer with a jump pack will ensure the entire unit can reroll a charge distance.   

If your Sorcerer is marked, you can also bring a steed.   The most logical two choices would be a seeker or a disc.


WarGear : Spell Familiars

In most cases, when a codex in an edition behind the weapons and tools in the codex are underpowered and overcosted.   Compare Marks to loyalist chapter tactics — the loyalists get theirs for free where the CSM pay.  

In the case of the spell familiar, the opposite is true.   The spell familiar lets the psyker reroll the dice when attempting to manifest a power.    If you remember the article on math-hammering the psychic phase, we saw a significant increase in harnessing on a 3+ vs a 4+.   A spell familiar increases those odds even more.    To find out the exact percentage, it would be like any reroll

Chance of Succes + (Chance of Success * Chance of Failure)   

So if the chance of success of 75%, you would have a (.75 + (.25 * .75)  or (.75 + (18.75)) or 93.75% chance of success.

This only lets you reroll failed tests, so if you got a perils yet succeeded, you would not be able reroll the dice.   If you got a perils and still failed, you could.


WarGear : BeatStick Tools

Having one of your sorcerers roll on biomancy and equip out a ‘beatface’ statline is not a bad idea.   In this case, you will want to grab an ‘Sigil of Corruption’, which will stack with Santuary.    Since the Sorcerer is not a daemon, this will not stack with the grimoire.

You might also want to consider going with a black mace on this sorcerer, but honestly given that the sorcerer will be using a force weapon and might roll iron arm or warp speed, this should be enough in most cases.

It’s important to note that since you have to accept challenges, you want to have at least one IC in your cabal’s unit that can handle this requirement.  


Deployment : Where Do They Go?

The Cyclopia Cabal are Chaos Space Marines, and CSM are limited on the number of Battle Brothers they have.     There are Chaos Renegades, Chaos Daemons, Renegade Knights, and KDK.    This provides less options than Imperial armies in terms of deployment.

The ideal set of traits you want to have for your Cabal are durability, speed, fearless, and affordability.    If the attached squad evaporates under the scatter laser fire it’s not good enough.   If it’s slow moving they will not be as effective, and must be able to move at least 12″ a turn.   If the squad is not fearless, they can swept with a bad morale check costing you a huge chunk of points.  Finally all of these traits must come at a reasonable cost.   


Deployment : CSM

At the time of this writing, the CSM codex is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of relative power level.    There are not many units in the codex that quality as ‘stellar’, and most of them are overcosted. Sadly, to get such a thing, CSM pay a mint.   

Chaos bikers are too expensive in today’s meta.    You could take a squad of 10 bikes of slaanesh and give them a icon of excess, but to do this you will be paying 285 points for 10 T5 wounds with a 5+ FNP.      The math for a scatter laser shot is shown below, and it looks really impressive, until you remember that each 3 man scat bike squad has 12 such shots.  

2/3 hit * 2/3 wound * 1/3 failed save * 2/3 failed FNP = 8/81 chance per shot.   


Deployment : Black Legion Formation

The black legion are CSM with some cool formations added.    Some of the formations give some nice perks, such as The Hounds of Abaddon. You could make a case for any of these formations, but I’ve not found any that provide durability, speed, fearless, and affordability.    You can get close, but not quite all of them.


Deployment : Renegades

The biggest problem I’ve found with Renegades is speed.     You can stick them in a squad of stupidly cheap zombies and they will never die.  For example, you can purchase 30 zombies (with fearless and FNP 4+ for under 100 points).     If you have equipped your sorcerers with bikes or jet-packs, you can move them out to the front of the pack during your movement, cast your abilities, then turbo-boost or run back.     Alternatively, you could stick them in a group of spawn.     If you have any other ideas for how to use the Cabal in Renegades squads, could you please leave your ideas in the comments?


Deployment : Chaos Daemons

If only you could stick the Cabal in a squad of screamers, you would be set.    The daemons provide all four of the required traits, with two problems.  The first is that daemonic instability is not quite as good as fearless, as the models can still take horrible losses when bested in assault.   While the daemonic incursion helps mitigate this a little, it’s still an issue.   The other problem is Daemonic Instability, which prevents any CSM from joining the unit.  


Deployment : KDK

The KDK daemons do not have Daemonic Instability, and are fearless.   This means that they are perfect candidates for the Cyclopia Cabal to join.   There are two units in particular that come to mind, bloodcrushers and flesh hounds.    The problem with bloodcrushers, as always, is their relatively low toughness, which can easily be doubled out.     Of course, the hounds suffer from a similar problem, but you can take much more of them and they are cheaper than the bloodcrushers, and can scout as a bonus.  The formations you can use are the Brazen Onslaught, Gorepack, and Charnel Cohort.  

Out of these options, the Gorepack is the best choice.   A squad of 20 dogs runs 320 points, and gives 40 T4 wounds.    They give the sorcerers scout, move through cover and will be delivering hammer of wrath hits.   Puppets of war offers very reasonably priced flesh hound models of extremely good quality.   Bloodcrushers are the other choice, with 9 crushers costing 405 points, and offering 27 T4 wounds.   The crushers do have a higher STR and have an AP3 weapon.    The Bloodcrushers is come in the “Collecting : Khorne” boxed set, so getting them might be more accessible.    They are also generally considered a ‘garbage unit’ so you can find them on ebay for cheap.   If you are taking crushers, I would take the Charnel Cohort to get an extra herald and two squads of fearless bloodletters that can deep strike without scatter to add extra pressure.     This is the secondary option compared to ‘letters’ but you sometimes have to work with what you have.

Making Cheese : KDK Daemons + Cabal

So let’s assume that you are going to be going with the fleshhounds or bloodcrushers as your delivery system for the cabal.    This means your cabal will be looking for the following buffs

* Invisibility

* Hammerhand

* Endurance

* Sanctuary

* Hysterical Frenzy

* Force

To get Hysterical Frenzy, you will need to have Sorcerers with a Mark of Slaanesh join the Khorne Daemons.   It might seem against the fluff to have Slaanesh Chaos Sorcerers casting Santic buffs on Khorne Daemons…and you would be right.   It’s horribly stupid from a fluff standpoint, but it is possible in the rules today….

If you are taking Chaos Daemons in addition to the Cyclopia Cabal and KDK, then you can also use the grimoire and/or cursed earth on the daemons.    Taking a daemonic incursion also means that in 25% of the turns, you will be rolling a 10 on the warp storm table, giving the daemon’s another +1 to their save.

If Fateweaver is your warlord, that chance jumps to 55% of the time.


Making Cheese : How Sick Can It Get?

Getting a 2++ with your deathstar is actually pretty easy.    All you need is a grimoire and either Cursed Earth from a CD, Sanctuary, or by rolling a 10 on the Warpstorm table.    If you rolled Endurance you can also stack a 4++ FNP on top of that 2++.

Damage output on the squad starts to jump to obscene levels quickly as well.   The squad of Bloodcrushers with Hammerhand, Lunatic Strength (from Hysterical Frenzy), and Furious Charge will be assaulting at STR 9 with AP3 weapons and a STR 8 Hammer of Wrath with 36 attacks.  

(⅔ to hit) * (⅔ to wound) * (⅔ failed save) * (⅔ failed FNP) = 16/81   36 attacks can be quickly estimated to do just over 7 wounds to a sword and board WK — excluding the HoW hits.

Flesh hounds would be hitting at STR 8 with a STR 7 Hammer of Wrath.   With 3 attacks each, hitting the same WK would give the following.

(⅔ to hit) * (1/2 to wound) * (1/3 failed save) * (⅔ failed FNP) = 2/27   60 attacks would do around 4.5 wounds to the WK.    While the Dogs do less damage, they are more likely to keep a unit bogged down.

In addition, you have the Sorcerers wielding Instant Death weapons that are STR 7, AP2 if ‘Iron Arm’ was rolled as a power. Those kinds of attacks can put a D-Thirster down very quickly.

Making Cheese : Daemon Knight

Taking a Chaos Knight with the Legacy of the 1st War of Armageddon is another way to give your Cabal-Star another +1 to their invulnerable save in addition to threat a daemon knight provides.   

The challenge with this strategy is making it all fit in 3 detachments.   CSM for the Chaos Knight and Cabal only leaves you with one left over for KDK.   This means you are not getting the Grimoire.    In this case you might want to consider running more cabal Sorceres to try and get invisibility to cast on the knight.

Sample List

Cyclopia Cabal

…Sorcerer with Level 3 Psyker, Vet of Long War, Jump Pack, Spell Familiar

…Sorcerer with Level 3 Psyker, Vet of Long War, Bike, Spell Familiar, Aura of Dark Glory

…Sorcerer with Level 3 Psyker, Vet of Long War, Steed of Slaanesh, Mark of Slaanesh, Spell Familiar


…20 Flesh Hounds

…3 Chaos Bikes with 2 Melta Guns

…3 Chaos Bikes

Daemonic Incursion : Warpflame Host

…11 Horrors

…11 Horrors

…11 Horrors

…11 Horrors

…11 Horrors

…Exalted Flamer

…Exalted Flamer

…Exalted Flamer

…Exalted Flamer

…Herald of Tzeentch w/Level 2 Psyker, Disk of Tzeentch, Loci of Conjuration, Level 2 Psyker.

Daemonic Incursion : Daemon Flock

…5 Furies

The list brings 21 psychic dice with lots of options for summoning and powering the Cabal.

The Cabal joins the Flesh Hounds, giving them the option of outflanking with acute sense if they prefer.    The warpflame host holds the home objectives and acts as a psychic battery or summoning army.  

Sure, it might seem to contrary the fluff by having a steed of slaanesh join a squad of flesh hounds, but that’s only because it is…


I want to credit Toddy Silber for this list concept, which he used at the NOVA Primer GT in Manchester CT over the weekend of May 6th 2016 to win first.   He was able to do this despite competition such as Nick Nanavanti, Kurt Clauss, Jhason Hardy and Alexander Fennell.     

Don’t forget that Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off!   If you are going to exploit the rules to your advantage, you should also exploit these savings to your bank account!


23 Responses to “Cyclopia Cabal: Cheesing the Cabal”

  1. Prindlehaven May 15, 2016 8:28 am #

    This is a 2000pt list I am testing for Wargames Con. It’s two deathstars. You have 24 warp charges and a herald with paradox for at least 1 guarenteed summon every turn. You should be able to buff your stars with the remaining dice. KDK herald gives the Dog Star hatred. Biggest issue is that you have no Hit and Run so the whole of your killing power can potentially be locked down by a couple of mediocre combats, so it’s important to pick your targets carefully.

    Daemons CAD


    Tzerald, ml3, disk, grimoir
    Tzerald, ml3, disk, paradox

    11 horrors
    11 horrors

    9 screamers

    KDK Allied

    Herald, juggernaut, locus of wrath

    8 bloodletters

    12 flesh hounds

    Cyclopean Cabal

    Sorcerer, ml3, bike, sigil, familiar, meltabombs, vets, last memory

    Sorcerer, ml3, bike, sigil, familiar, meltabombs, vets

    Sorcerer, ml3, bike, sigil, familiar, meltabombs, vets


    • DeeJay May 16, 2016 4:18 am #

      Nice List!

  2. Gunfex May 15, 2016 9:24 am #

    Great in-depth tactical article. Very illuminating and thorough. Just a couple of comments/clarifications for those reading it and drooling over the power.

    – riptide wing is a formation of 3 units of riptides (almost always solo riptides) so it is not a viable “target” for the Shroud. You can of course target a single riptide unit from the formation, but it would not be any different than if you targeted one taken outside of the formation. The only benefit would be if the Tau player had used its Nova charge to trigger the nova profile. The wording of ripple fire refers to double shots from its secondary weapons “this turn”. It would not apply to overwatch or anything outside of the Tau player’s turn during which the nova charge was applies. There is also some ambiguity as to whether the CSM player can activate the formation’s Hailfire ability (double shots). Reference is made to the Riptides’ shooting and movement phases which would not let you do it during overwatch, for example. As it is a formation bonus and arguably not tied to the control of a single unit in said formation, I think it is a tough argument to say the CSM player can trigger the ability.

    – hammer of wrath is based on unmodified strength. Your math hammer makes it very clear that you can get great damage from the hounds/juggernauts – just not AS good. 🙂

    • DeeJay May 16, 2016 4:36 am #

      Thanks for the input Gunfex. I always ask 3-4 people to review the articles before publishing, but occasionally things still slip through the cracks 😀

      On the 7th I was playing in a GT with someone who brought a riptide with with 7 riptides in it. One squad had 3, the others had 2 each. that was the case where I saw the Cabal would be very effective.

      Nova-Charge allows the player to use the heavy burst cannon using the nova-charge profile. That same riptide player explained that he was able to use the same profile on overwatch. Note : This is different than ripple fire, which specifically says ‘this turn’. It’s possible he was wrong, but I wrote my article based upon that. I’ve also seen burst cannons more often than TL fusion blasters or TL plasma rifles on riptides. What do you see more of?

      I agree that they would not be able to use the Hailfire shots. They can, however, use one shot weapons from a stormsurge, which is a nice perk.

      The question is, do buffs like Hammerhand increase your base STR? Examples of things that are not base STR are weapons and furious charge. However, with Hammerhand and Lunatic Strength you can increase the STR by 3. If that’s base STR, that would be a STR 7 HoW from the dogs. (4 base + 3 from Hammerhand and Lunatic Strength)

      Again, thanks for the feedback! I appreciate you helping to keep the articles as accurate as possible.

      • Threllen May 16, 2016 6:03 am #

        Sorry, didn’t see this before I commented below. No… hammerhand wouldn’t increase your strenght. The rule says *unmodified* strength and *doesn’t benefit from special rules*. Hammerhand is a special rule that modifies your strength by +2. That seems pretty clear to me.

        • DeeJay May 16, 2016 10:33 am #

          Respectfully, I disagree. Hammerhand is a psychic power. Special rules are defined as “Furious Charge”. I would even go so far as to say that weapons don’t count. If a C:SM biker captain has a power axe, their HoW is not +1 STR.

          Of course I have been wrong many times before! I’ll send that off to the FAQ to see how the ITC rates it.

          • Threllen May 16, 2016 11:02 am

            Right… I could maybe see that argument if Hammer of Wrath only mentioned special rules. But here is the text in question:

            “…it makes one additional Attack that hits automatically and is resolved at the *model’s unmodified strength* at AP-. This Attack does not benefit from any of the model’s special rules.”

            I have a hard time accepting an argument that a psychic power that modifies my model’s strength by +2 isn’t actually considered a modification. In the same vein with weapons…. it says the model’s strength. The model’s strength is in its statline. It doesn’t include weapons.

      • abusepuppy May 16, 2016 8:48 am #

        All of the Nova Charge effects (including Ripple Fire) last until the start of your next turn; if you are using an improved profile, it will function during Interceptor and Overwatch. So yeah, if you can hit a large unit of Riptides (which seems to be popular these days) with the Cabal, they can put a LOT of firepower into a target.

        • DeeJay May 16, 2016 10:41 am #

          Thanks for the input Abusepuppy.

  3. AngryPanda May 15, 2016 9:51 am #

    One of the clearest signs of how complciated the game has gotten is that since 7th virtualy no list I’ve seen from the US would function here at all. Haven’t seen a tournmanet that allows more than two sources yet.
    And it feels like the game ist just gonna split up more and more.
    On the other hand its a positive article abotu some Chaos Marines and how often do we get that? 🙂 Thanks.

    • DeeJay May 16, 2016 4:37 am #

      If you were limited to just two sources, I would go with KDK and the Cabal, and increase the number of cabal sorcerers to 5.

      Glad you liked the article!

  4. WitnessMe4Khorne May 15, 2016 12:10 pm #

    Awesome article!

    • DeeJay May 16, 2016 4:38 am #


  5. Threllen May 16, 2016 5:41 am #

    It might not fit into a list such as Toddy’s above since there were a lot of points put into that daemonic incursion, but an Allied Detachment of KDK might be just as good as the gorepack. It’s easy enough to throw in a cheap 8 man squad of Cultists/Bloodletters as the troops choice and then you can take a Herald on a Juggernaut to pump up the killiness even more. Or a lord provided you don’t want to take a Slaanesh-marked sorcerer.

  6. Threllen May 16, 2016 5:44 am #

    How would you get S7 hammer of wrath with the hounds as you described above? Unless the physical book is different than the ebook version, the ebook says “resolved at the model’s unmodified strength with AP-. Does not benefit from any of the model’s special rules.”

  7. todd May 16, 2016 6:06 am #

    My list doesnt/didnt have an incursion. I had Daemon CAD (600 or so points) Ally KDK (450 or so), and 5 sorc.

    FYI special rules are from power fist, or furious charge. I think a spell that increases base stength is included. Not sure, my dogs dont have hammer of wrath so I didnt give it much thought.

    • Threllen May 16, 2016 6:36 am #

      A spell that increases your strength by 2 doesn’t modify your strength?

  8. Daemonrider888 May 16, 2016 7:59 am #

    I don’t have the BRB on me, but believe unless your Grey Knights you automatically perils when rolling powers on Daemonology:Santic powers? Malefic is the tree where you perils on any doubles.

    • Threllen May 16, 2016 8:14 am #

      “Psykers from Codex: Grey Knights can manifest Sanctic powers as they would any other psychic power, but they cannot generate Malefic powers at all. All other Psykers that attempt to manifest Sanctic powers suffer Perils of the Warp on a Psychic test that includes any double.”

      Anyone other than GK perils on any doubles when using Sanctic. The same goes for Malefic only Daemons are the only ones that don’t perils on a double. So you can use Sanctic powers in your sorcerer cabal but you just risk running extra perils. That’s why DeeJay suggests only rolling two dice for lower perils chance (plus the spell familiar gives you a neat 93.75% chance of passing a ML1 spell with two dice).

    • DeeJay May 16, 2016 10:35 am #

      Yep, just like Threllen said. If you are rolling only 2 dice, your chances of having a perils are low, and your chances of getting the power off are very high. It’s a win-win.

      The same does not hold true for the Maleific table, which has many high cost powers — which almost certainly will result in a perils.

  9. David May 18, 2016 5:28 pm #

    I’ve just finished assembling my first of two Cabals. I love the formation. I just wish it could affect vehicles as well. Then it would rock hard.

    No cheese with my Cyclopial Cabals, though. I’m lactose intolerant.

  10. Ryan June 4, 2016 8:51 am #

    I really appreciate this article! Great breakdown! I am working on a cabal of my own. I would like to go with 2 on a bike and 1 with a jump pack joining a 5 man nurgle spawn squad. Can you help explain/reference the comment you made about rerolling the charge (below)? That makes all the difference for what I’m trying to do. Any extra elaboration would be very much appreciated. I am not a rules expert.

    “With the new FAQ changes about Jump packs, having one Cabal Sorcerer with a jump pack will ensure the entire unit can reroll a charge distance.”

  11. Ryan June 4, 2016 10:36 am #

    Found it. nvm

    “When charging, the Jump model may use its jump pack (if it did not do so in the Movement phase) to re-roll the charge distance for the unit.”

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