Forces of Chaos unit Review, Chaos Space Marines: Exalted Champion

Hello fans of Frontline Gaming and TFGRadio, SaltyJohn  here to bring you a review of the new 8th edition Chaos Space Marines rules for the Exalted Champion! For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!

Warbands of Heretic Astartes cut swathes of destruction across the Imperium of Man in the name of the gods of Chaos. Led by might Lords of Chaos whose names are infamous legend in the Imperium these masses of Heretics, Adeptus Astartes, and Daemons sow death and destruction across the Galaxy but war on such a scale requires more than the leadership of individuals no matter how powerful. The Lords of Chaos have many servants at their disposal but perhaps their greatest assets are their Exalted Champions, those heretic Astartes who are blessed by Chaos and constantly vie for placement as next in line to be Lord of the Warband. Through battle with the mightiest of their foes the Exalted Champions inspire their fellow warriors, win their respect, and lead their masters minions into battle in the name of the gods of Chaos. The Exalted Champions of a warband are a glory to behold upon the battle fields of the 41st millennium as they cleave through their foes and inspire the soldiery of Chaos to do the same.

In 8th edition Warhammer 40k there is a dirth of ways to get massive re-rolls the way we once did in the dark days of 7th edition. While re-roll of 1s is fairly common the ability to re-roll the totality of missed rolls is more rare and it usually comes with a type of limitation. The Exalted Champion is one of two characters that when paired together gives units in Assault a huge boost to their damage output, the other is the Dark Apostle. The Exalted Champions of Chaos are the heirs apparent to the Lords of the Chaos Warbands, as such they have the ability to command and inspire those around them. The Exalted Champions play the way you’d expect the second in command of the Chaos Warband to play, this is a great trend in the 8th edition codices thus far.


  • Chainsword, Bolt Pistol
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • Model may replace pistol with items from the Pistols, Combi-weapons, or Melee lists.
  • Model may replace Chainsword with items from the Pistols,  or Melee lists.

Special Rules:

  • Death to the False Emperor
  • Aspire to Glory: You can re-roll failed wound rolls in the Fight phase for friendly <LEGION> units that are within 6″ of an Exalted Champion
  • For the Dark Gods: You can re-roll failed hit rolls for this model if the target is an enemy CHARACTER.


The Exalted Champion, like the Dark Apostle, is an excellent Character to run in a list that wants to utilize Assault as a lynch pin to it’s success on the battle fields of the 41st Millennium. The Exalted Champions excellent Melee stat line, couples with his ability to take items from the Melee Weapons list and his own special rules makes him a real beast in Close Combat for a unit that starts out at a mere 70 points.

Like the Dark Apostle the Exalted Champion will shine in a support role to army lists built for assault. However like the Dark Apostle they cannot take Wargear that allows them to Deep Strike onto the board from Reserves. So in an edition as lethal as 8th this leaves only a few options for getting these types of assault oriented units and lists into the enemy lines before they’re shredded. The first is Transports and the second is Advanced Deployment/Infiltration.

Like the Dark Apostle the Exalted Champion has two Legions it fits in quite naturally with, also usually it should be accompanied by a Dark Apostle, and those are World Eaters and Alpha Legion.

Alpha Legion provides the Exalted Champion with the chance to be deployed 9 inches from enemy models for 1 CP. Beyond that however it allows the Exalted Champion to be deployed within 6 inches of a Friendly Legion unit deployed just outside 9 inches from the enemy. The benefits to a strategy like this mean you can wrap the Exalted Champion, and Dark Apostle, in a unit or two that can assault the enemy turn 1, re-rolling to hits and to wound failures thanks to the two champions. If you design the list correctly you can even have a few second and third wave units ready to follow up if your first wave gets shredded. The best units to go along with this Strategy tend to be Cultists, as meat shields, Khorne Berzerkers because duh, and Possessed (if you can fit a Daemon detachment with the Changeling in there somehow).

Another great way to run this, like I mentioned in the Dark Apostle article, is with World Eaters. You take units of Khorne Berzerkers in Rhinos, either screened or followed up by Khorne Cultitsts, in units of 8 so there’s room for a Dark Apostle and Exalted Champion. Drive towards the enemy fast, assault and follow up.

Don’t forget the Icon of Wrath on those units of Berzerkers either. Even though you deploy close in an Alpha Legion list, or get close in a mech World Eaters list fast, the re-roll of charge distance is not to be underestimated. A couple artifacts stand out as good additions to these lists as well. The first would be the Black Mace on the Dark Apostle. The Axe of Blind Fury on a Khornate Exalted Champion isn’t bad either but losing the re-roll to hit on rolls of a 1 does suck. The Murder Sword, while situational isn’t bad for an Exalted Champion, and the Talisman of Burning Blood can make sure you get the Exalted Champion into a combat that’s further away than normal. These are all situational however and likely you’ll want CPs for something else.

Like the Dark Apostle the Exalted Champion has a very specific style of list he is useful in. If you’re going to build that kind of list though he is practically an auto-include choice as for his points he buffs the units in that list better than anything else in the CSM codex.

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About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

22 Responses to “Forces of Chaos unit Review, Chaos Space Marines: Exalted Champion”

  1. Beau October 14, 2017 10:29 pm #

    Is the alpha legion blade of the hydra relic worth taking on an exalted champion at all?

    • highwind October 15, 2017 4:05 am #

      I feel it is, just like the Teeth of Terra for loyalists… Both are very good multi-purpose weapons, being equally strong vs hordes aswell as characters/multiwound targets.

      The Murder Sword can be great in a World Eaters Detachment, though, especially if you expect enemys like Guilliman or Mortarion… Combined with the fight-again-stratagem in can severely criple or even take out tough-as-nails targets before those have a chance to fight back.

      • Blight October 15, 2017 4:17 am #

        Though the fight again stratagem is at the end of the phase so that character gets to fight back first. Against Guilliman or Morty that is one dead exalted.

        • highwind October 15, 2017 5:06 am #

          Good find… I remembered it to work exactly like the Berzerkers rule

      • SaltyJohn October 15, 2017 7:00 am #

        Yes, I agree. I missed that relic while writing the article, nice catch!

    • WestRider October 15, 2017 12:16 pm #

      I love the Blade of the Hydra. Rules-wise, it’s a Power Axe with better Damage and that grants Bonus Attacks. Fluff-wise, it’s a Chainsword that turns into a bunch of Chainswords when you strike with it. What’s not to like?

  2. The Traitor October 15, 2017 3:51 am #

    I’ve been playing a low points (1250) league in my local store and so far I’ve been pretty successful (3 out of 3wins, 2 of which were against a list with morty) rnning dual rhinos with 8 zerkers, one with an apostle and one with an exalted, 3 units of 10 cc cultists and 2 units of oblits with a kump lord. I’ve been using renegades cause that’s how my army is painted and it isn’t a very competitive environment, but Alpha Legion would probably be better (though couoled with the icon on wrath, zerkers get to charge units 21″ away from their Rhino on average). And the champion+apostle combo simply means that even if asingle unit of zerkers gets there the enemy is basically dead, having killed from 6 oblits in the charge to 20 skitarii. It is a very solid core which, coupled with slasnesh oblits, is capable to face any kind of target.

    • SaltyJohn October 15, 2017 7:01 am #

      Awesome, well done! It is definitely a cool way to run things and it isn’t something people have latched onto and run wild with like Guilliman, Morty, Magnus, Cultists, Conscripts etc. It’s nice to play unexpected lists, to a degree, as it sometimes gives you an edge.

      • The Traitor October 15, 2017 7:11 am #

        Totally agree, though I wouldn’t be surprised if oblits turned “mainstream”, their damage output is bonkers if you use the slaanesh stratagem and an eventual stat re-roll, if I wasn’t renegade I would also use VotLW on them. On agame they killed Mortarion through two turns, on another they downed Belisarius Cawl and an Onager through two turns and in my last game Mortarion in one turn and three oblits, a jump lord and a jump sorcerer in the other. Just mean.

  3. Reecius October 15, 2017 8:19 am #

    Great review, John!

    Man, the Exalted Champion is incredible. If he could take a Jump Pack…he’d be bonkers!

    As is though, an all star unit.

    • Blight October 15, 2017 8:37 am #

      Really wish they would focus on getting models for all types of characters with the different movement/armor types.
      Want more kits like the chaos/sorcerer lord in terminator armor.

      • WestRider October 15, 2017 12:14 pm #

        Or at least for the ones that are ridiculously easy conversions, like putting a Jump Pack on a dude instead of a regular backpack, or a Power Axe on instead of a Power Sword, or a Meltagun instead of a Flamer.

        Basically, if the “conversion” is no harder than adding a Lascannon to a Tactical Squad, it should be a Codex option.

        • abusepuppy October 16, 2017 1:33 am #

          Eh. I don’t feel a ton of sympathy for MEQ players who are complaining that they don’t get sixteen more variations for their seventy-three different types of HQs. I mean, yeah, it’d be easy, but if we’re nitpicking problems with the rules there are tons and tons of other things I’d rather see them put work into first.

          • WestRider October 16, 2017 11:35 am

            I’m more just annoyed about how many of the things I converted years ago have been invalidated. Also, I was thinking more of IG than MEqs with the Power Weapon bit. Almost everyone I know with a Guard Army had converted their Sarges to Axes or Mauls.

          • WestRider October 16, 2017 11:39 am

            Also, in the specific case of the Exalted Champion with Bike/Jump Pack, there is no current GW Model for the Exalted Champion at all as far as I can tell, so why not let people do more Conversions, since they need to do some anyhow?

          • Threllen October 16, 2017 1:44 pm

            Technically you don’t “have” to do a conversion for the exalted champion. You can use the “Aspiring Champion” that can be bought with 20 Cultists or by itself in a clampack. Technically that model is an Aspiring Champion from a CSM/havoc squad but who spends $20 on a model that is going to be a squad sergeant?

  4. abusepuppy October 16, 2017 1:32 am #



    The Exalted Champ is definitely nice as one of the ways to get rerolls for your melee units, but the limited scope of his aura means that I think it’s a hard sell over a Chaos Lord or even a Dark Apostle (who at least has utility against morale when you’re not locked in combat.) If the Champion had been a bit cheaper, I think a good argument could be made for them, but at the same price as the Lord/Apostle I don’t generally think they’ll make the cut.

    They are very handy when paired with Cultists, though, since the reroll makes their S3 attacks a ton more effective.

    • Threllen October 16, 2017 6:23 am #

      If you’re only taking one HQ – sure those other two may be more useful overall. But most people are taking 2+ just to fill out a battalion which makes the Exalted Champ pretty appealing.

      I’ve used a Lord + Champ with 40 Cultists in front of them and the combo can make even the lowly Cultist pretty deadly in close combat due to sheer volume of attacks. Any combo of Lord + Champ or Apostle + Champ can make CSM melee units truly terrfying.

      • abusepuppy October 16, 2017 10:32 pm #

        Even in the context of taking two HQs, I’d usually rather have two Chaos Lords covering different parts of the field; I’ve tried it both ways, and just never been that impressed with the Champ’s effect on the battlefield at the end of the day. He’s not awful, but having zero effect on the field until you get into melee is a problem.

  5. BBF October 16, 2017 9:23 am #

    Where are the rules for the Exalted Champion ?

    • WestRider October 16, 2017 11:36 am #

      Codex: CSM, Pg. 126. It’s not in the Index, if that’s where you were looking.

      • BBF October 17, 2017 7:40 am #

        Thanks !

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