CSM Review: HQs: Chaos Lord

Tired of missing your attacks? Plasma overheats got you down? Looking for the sweetest of sweet rides? Have no fear, the Chaos Lord has got you covered!

Click below to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.


The Chaos Lord is something of the “default” HQ for a CSM army and the mirror equivalent to the Captain in a Space Marine army- or, indeed, many of the other basic leaders for a lot of different factions. Coming in with a respectable statline and some excellent basic utility, a Chaos Lord is an excellent way to start almost any Chaos army, as it can buff almost any unit that stays near it and comes with a wide variety of options to open up different roles.

Chaos Lords start out with a pretty basic set of characteristics- they have similar stats to basic Chaos Marines, but benefit from a number of increases. WS/BS2+ mean that they will almost never miss with their attacks (especially thanks to their own ability) and four Attacks means that they can put out respectable damage in melee combat. Five wounds base with a 3+ armor save and 4+ invulnerable save make them tough enough to take some punishment, though you shouldn’t rely on it, as they will die pretty quickly if they start taking attacks.

Wargear, Abilities, and Options

Chaos Lords have a wide variety of options to select from, being able to take off most of the lists available to CSM. They come with Frag and Krak Grenades as well as a Bolt Pistol and Chainsword, and can swap out the latter two for various ranged and melee options- Combi-weapons, pistols, power weapons, etc. The Lord’s innate accuracy can make them an excellent carrier for the various special melee and ranged options, as planting a Melta shot or a couple Power Fist swings on a target can get your point across pretty handily.

A Chaos Lord can also select from a variety of types of upgrades to their armor and mobility; some of them are only present in the Index, but are still legal by most tournament rulings. Terminator Armor will give your Lord an extra wound and the ability to teleport onto the field as well as a 2+ save; it’s excellent for showing up alongside some other reserve units or delaying your choice of where to place yourself. A Jump Pack is a bit cheaper and still lets you arrive anywhere, but doesn’t come with any statline increases other than improving your Movement to 12″. However, the addition of the Fly keyword lets you assault targets that might otherwise be out of reach, so it’s definitely not something to dismiss. A Chaos Bike also improves your speed and gives you an extra Toughness and Wound, but doesn’t open up any other deployment options- as a result, it’s generally not a prime option. Finally, depending on your choice for Mark of Chaos, you will have one of four different mounts available to you; most all of them add a bonus wound as well as a speed improvement and some minor bonus attacks from the mount. The Juggernaut of Khorne is the hardest-hitting (three S5 AP-1 attacks, S7 on the charge) but is also relatively slow at only 8″. The Disc of Tzeentch is inexplicably bad, making only one S4 attack and giving no bonus wounds or other abilities aside from Fly. The Palanquin of Nurgle is also lackluster, actually lowering the character’s speed and making d6 S2 attacks each turn. The Steed of Slaanesh makes two S4 attacks, but ups your speed to 12″ and lets the rider advance and charge in the same turn.

However, the main reason you’ll want to be bringing a Chaos Lord is for its aura- all units of the same Legion within 6″ can reroll hit rolls of ‘1’, making both their shooting and melee significantly more accurate- especially as they are usually WS/BS3+ to start with anyways. As it also affects the Lord themselves, you’ll need to roll a pair of ones in a row in order to miss with any of their attacks- possible, but not terribly likely.

Like all standard CSM units, a Chaos Lord also has the Death to the False Emperor rule and will benefit from Despoilers of the Galaxy and/or a Legion trait when taken in the appropriate detachment.


So, unlike in past editions, as Chaos Lord doesn’t just exist as a beater; instead, they bring one of the most useful buffs you can have for a relatively cheap price. They are, in fact, somewhat lackluster in combat- especially since they are unable to access Storm Shields or some of the other nifty toys that the Imperium gets. On the other hand, there are a wide variety of excellent relics available for them to take, including the Blade of the Hydra and Black Mace, both of which can significantly up your melee game. So while they may not be ready to take out whole platoons on their own, they can generally stand up to most other basic-tier combat characters, which should be good enough.

More importantly, though, that reroll 1s aura is clutch. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, rerolls are where it is at and have been for a long time. Rerolls make your weapons more reliable and let you get around inconvenient things like overcharging Plasma and such; they’re just great in basically every way. So having one or more reroll auras is absolutely huge for any kind of tournament army these days, especially if you can stack it with other bonuses. In this respect Chaos does pretty well, since they have access to Prescience (which will virtually guarantee every shot hits and lets you completely ignore Overcharge penalties) as well as the Exalted Champion (whose own aura gives you rerolls on wounds, complementing the Lord nicely.) Since you’re looking at two or more HQs in almost every army- and more commonly 3+ such characters- you can afford to pick and choose a little bit to determine what you need.

The Chaos Lord isn’t the only CSM character who gives out a reroll aura, though- the Daemon Prince does as well, and so do the two respective Primarchs. However, the Lord is much cheaper than the other options, so if all you really care about is the aura then he is for sure your dude. (A Prince, being tougher and faster, serves as more of a hybrid buffer-spellcaster-beater character that does a bit of everything for a solid price.) I usually end up running two Chaos Lords in my lists, as it’s not really realistic to try and keep your entire army within a single 6″ bubble without completely ceding control of the board to the enemy; two such bubbles allow you to keep most things within range while not really limiting you nearly so much.

The basic Chaos Lord is pretty useful in terms of being able to hang out on your side of the field, but you shouldn’t underestimate the Terminator/Jump Pack versions, either- being able to arrive on the far side of the board along with something else (often one or more units of Terminators/Oblits) can be a pretty big deal as well. If you’re staying on foot, though, you might do well to consider picking up a mount for your Lord- especially if you’re running as Khorne or Slaanesh, as their mounts are both excellent. The abilities and characteristic boosts it gives you are reason enough, but the larger base size (typically 60mm) also expands the area that your aura can reach to, though it does make moving around a bit trickier. Losing out on the Infantry keyword can be big, though, as it makes cover harder to find, stops you from passing through ruin walls, and prevents you from picking up the Relic. All in all, there are good reasons to consider nearly every loadout, depending on what you feel you need to be doing.

Closing Thoughts

There really is no wrong way to run a Chaos Lord- every legion can benefit from their presence, and very nearly every unit will as well (barring the small handful that don’t make many hit rolls, such as the Heldrake.) So even though it (gasp) risks being fluffy, you will want to strongly consider including at least one in nearly every CSM army that you bring in order to at least get your most important units to do what needs to get done.

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About abusepuppy

AbusePuppy is the one who has been ruining 40K for everyone this whole time. He is also searching for the six-fingered man and is one of the three people who know the secret recipe for coke (not the soda, the illegal drug.)

14 Responses to “CSM Review: HQs: Chaos Lord”

  1. Threllen October 18, 2017 5:47 am #

    It’s kind of sad to me that Chaos Lords are no longer the beatsticks they once were. They’re only going to miss about once every nine rounds of combat but they need all the help they can get since they only have 4 attacks base and few ways to increase that (unlike last edition). They’re pretty cost-effective for what they do now (buff everyone else) but their ability to slice through enemies in close combat is not what it used to be.

    • AbusePuppy October 18, 2017 7:24 am #

      Well, they were never _that_ dangerous in previous editions, unless you were taking a Khorne one with the Axe of Blind Fury. So I don’t really think it’s fair to compare a single build from a single edition to their performance nowadays- they have more attacks than previously, and hit more often.

      The only issue is that their basic weapons are almost all Dmg1, which just doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to kill a lot of things. So you’re either taking a Power Fist, or you’re taking a relic weapon (Black Mace, Blade of Hydra, Cursed Crozius.) And none of those are bad options, but even they aren’t going to drop a tough character in one turn- not that even the Axelord had a realistic chance of doing that before.

      They at least have a point now, besides just unlocking certain units as troops. I’d argue that Chaos Lords are better off than they’ve ever been.

      • Threllen October 18, 2017 7:45 am #

        There were plenty of other things you could do as well. A pfist/LC lord on jugger or bike was always a solid choice. Wide threat variety and still got bonus attacks. Upwards of 6 or 7 attacks on a charge since you got +1 for two weapons, +1 for charging, bonus for juggernauts, bonus for khorne, etc etc. Even jump pack lords were pretty nice (although the Night Lords double LC relic still makes that viable).

        In this edition they are terrible at killing vehicles or MCs without a powerfist and even mid-strength units are much, much harder since you typically have less attacks than before couple with more wounds on everything.

        Like I said, they’re definitely good for 70pts now. But they’ve turned from leaders in the frontline to scared little commanders hiding behind Havocs or inside a group of Cultists just providing a stat buff to their friends.

        • AbusePuppy October 18, 2017 8:51 am #

          When fighting an enemy character, an 8E Lord actually puts very comparable damage on. A Lord with Power Fist is hitting 3.1 times and wounding on 2s; in 7th edition, a Khorne Lord on a Juggernaut with PF/LC was hitting most enemy characters (i.e. the WS6 ones like him) 3.5 times if he charged and survived long enough to swing, or 2.5 times if he didn’t get the charge. I would argue that is actually a significant improvement, as you will almost never be killed before attacking these days.

          Characters can still do plenty of work in combat, they just can’t solo whole squads by themselves anymore. And let’s be realistic: especially for Chaos Lords, that was almost never what they did anyways, they sat on the sidelines because CSM was a joke faction and the old Chas Lord was purely worse than your other choices.

          • MagicJuggler October 23, 2017 1:59 pm

            I would dispute that last statement by itself, at least post-Traitor’s Hate. Was the Sorcerer more effective choice? Yes, especially since Spell Familiars gave Sorcerers a distinct option that Loyalists lacked (reliable rerolls for Psychic tests). Was the Lord non-viable? That’s where things are murky.

            I ran the Chaos Warband fairly consistently ever since it came out. Universal Obsec was a useful tool, as well as being able to run more than 3 Fast Attacks (Bikes&Spawn). Getting “pick one or both” Chaos Boons also added up, especially when going Marine-hunting. Most Marine armies simply didn’t tool for melee. That, and he made the most logical vector for the Burning Brand (now losing that was a tragedy), since the Sorcerers most likely wanted to move-cast-turbo.

            (Granted, I was a loony that ran the Scrolls on him. Last game I played before 8th came out, he got Iron Arm and +1 Toughness, turning into a S8/10 T9 obsec smashing machine on Disc…)

  2. Blight October 18, 2017 11:31 am #

    I will just mention word bearers for their increased buff range and very powerful relic. Love that damage 3.

    • AbusePuppy October 18, 2017 10:08 pm #

      Yeah, while they may get stuck with easily the worst Legion trait, their relic is fantastic and their warlord trait is pretty good.

      • Blight October 19, 2017 10:29 am #

        It’s ok even if it doesn’t pop out as particularly good. I’ll take anything to play as Word Bearers. Just wish summoning was more useful. It should really just be a deepstrike mechanic. Its current limitations generally make it worse than just taking a detachment of daemons.

        • AbusePuppy October 19, 2017 5:00 pm #

          Well, it is very useful for bringing a “toolbox” of different units along and picking/choosing on the fly which ones you need; several lists I’ve seen at tournaments make good use of that facet. But you need to bring along enough characters to be dropping your summoning points down early, which can be difficult for the expensive CSM stuff.

        • Chris October 22, 2017 7:44 pm #

          I’ve found that having about 25=30% of your points in “summoning Reserve” is about right. then if you take the usual 3 HQs ie Apostle, Sorceror and Lord/another sorceror you can generally squeeze out your daemons over the first couple of turns no issues (first turn if your opponent is going to run at you)

  3. Dbiesto October 18, 2017 6:32 pm #

    Chaos Lord jump pack with dual lightning claws and warlord trait to mortal wound your opponent on 6+ is my favorite loadout, but ya, he dies really really fast these days. Still love the cheap aura and a decent counter charge unit.

    • OnboardG1 October 19, 2017 12:20 am #

      Especially with the Night Lords relic claws.

  4. Desc440 October 18, 2017 7:12 pm #

    The fact that Lords/Captains went from silly beatsticks to army-buffing characters is one of my favourite changes to (C)SM. The fact that they are really good buffers is extra gravy.

  5. Davis A Centis October 19, 2017 7:38 am #

    Love my Chaos Lord now. He’s a fair priced unit. Reroll 1’s is pretty good, he wear equipment well, and I’m always looking to include him. Loving the new HQ’s. Only thing I wish is that the Chaos forces had a Lieutenant-like model other than the Exalted Champion. Only working in the small scenario that you’re in combat and within 6″ of this guy is much more rare, so yes you get to reroll all failed wounds as opposed to just 1’s, but shooting happens every single turn of the game, and often with much higher strength weaponry, so the Lieutenant’s power is completely nutso.

    Then again, Chaos is doing fine in the format, so I have a grand total of 0 right to complain.

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