Death Guard Codex Overview

Hi everyone, Ahkris here bringing you a new tactica series on the Death Guard and all of their Nurgly goodness! In this article I will give a general overview of the codex as well as discuss its Warlord Traits, Strategems and Faction bonuses. Keep an eye out for future articles on specific units and army combos! Check the Tactics Corner for more great content.


The Death Guard have been a part of the Chaos Space Marine books for a long time, but with the release of 8th edition we have seen the first release of Death Guard as their own faction. With this release came many beautiful new plastic kits for many unique units. All of this transformed the Death Guard faction from a regular space marine sub faction to a powerhouse in its own right. I personally feel the DG codex is extremely varied and fun and does not pigeonhole you into a single “best” build, which is a good thing! Pretty much all of the Death Guard exclusive units are pretty damn good and offer interesting ways to build an army around.

Faction Bonuses

So what do we get for playing a detachment using only Death Guard? As usual GW offers us two things to incentivize staying away from the “soup” detachments.

Plague Host: Troop units within the detachment basically get ObSec, meaning they get better/more efficient at holding objectives. This can very from an absolutely huge bonus to pretty mediocre depending on your list and how much you value ObSec. In a daemon engine list with little to no troops this wont do much for you as you will just rely on shooting or punching the opponent off of whatever objective. If you play a poxwalker horde or a footslogging marine style army Plague Host will vastly increase the value of your troops. Death Guard troop choices are amongst some if not the toughest troops in the game, and making these tough and hard to shift troops better at scoring objectives is a welcome bonus.

Inexorable Advance: This is the real part of the special bonuses. This is the Death Guards version of a Legion trait and it allows all Infantry and Hellbrute units to ignore to hit penalties from shooting heavy weapons and assault weapons. Furthermore it allows any rapid fire weapons to shoot twice at 18” range instead of the usual half the maximum range. This is what makes the death guard infantry so good at shooting. This gives basic infantry a 23” double tap bubble on bolters and plasma guns as well as letting squads equipped with blight launchers advance without any real losses to their firepower. Also bear in mind that Forge World retroactively gave most dreadnoughts such as the Contemptor and the Leviathan the Hellbrute keyword, allowing you to once again to move with any of your fancy Forge World dreadnoughts or regular hellbrutes and not be diminished in your firepower.

Overall i feel like these two bonuses are extremely solid for the right list. Being able to rapid fire at 18” for instance makes sure your Blightlord Terminators equipped with plasma have more options as to where to deepstrike and still being able to double tap their intended target. I really would have loved seeing Inexorable Advance also affecting the Death Guard vehicles as right now if you dont have much infantry it does pretty much nothing for your list. The Plagueburst Crawler in particular really would have benefitted from this, but more on that in a different article!

Disgustingly Resillient: This one you don’t only get for playing pure Death Guard but i think it is worth mentioning anyway. This is what makes the Death Guard the Death Guard. On a 5+ you ignore any wound taken. This pretty much universally makes your entire army last ~33% longer! Especially on the larger multi wound models this rule is great as it allows you to mitigate the damage of high damage weaponry even after it gets past your invulnerable save. It also greatly reduces the damage you take from any mortal wounds such as smite spam or various strategems. I think large part of becoming a good Death Guard player is getting a “feel” for how tough their units are, being able to assess how far they can push their units before starting to take too many casualties.

Warlord Traits

Revoltingly Resillient: +1 to Disgustingly Resillient except on Mortal Wounds. Sounds good in theory but it is straight up worse than just taking the Tenacious Survivor trait from the core rulebook. Both add an additional chance to save any wound, the Tenacious Survivor trait however is not restricted by not working against mortal wounds. This one is a hard pass for me.

Living Plague: At the start of the fight phase each enemy unit within 3” of the warlord takes one mortal wound on a 4+. A mini Mortarion aura that does not degrade. I could see someone taking this on a Daemon Prince with wings or a deepstriking Lord of Contagion. Overall i am not very impressed with the damage output this provides: it comes down to half a mortal wound per unit within 3” and that is often not going to be more than one or two. Not terrible but i think if doing damage with a Daemon Prince for instance is your goal the Legendary Fighter trait from the core rules allowing an extra 3 damage swing from your axe seems better. Typhus has this as his standard trait.

Tainted Regeneration: The warlord regains a lost wound at the start of each player turn. Wow this is crazy! I thought it was at the start of your turn, this being at the start of each player turn makes it twice as good! Lets say your opponent deepstrikes a unit and manages to put a few wounds on your Warlord with it. He then regains a wound at the start of your turn and at the start of the enemy turn, meaning he regained two wounds before your opponent has a chance to start shooting at him again. Very good way to make your Prince or Terminator Lord go the distance.

Hulking Physique: +1 Toughness. Varies very much by who you choose to make your warlord. With the way the new to-wound chart works i am not a huge fan of this one. The most common shooting will be massed fire such as bolters or flamers (strength 4) or high powered shooting such as overcharged plasma and lascannons (strength 8 and 9). In both these cases taking a Prince from T6 to T7 or a LoC from T5 to T6 does not change the to-wound roll at all, and the Rotten Constitution or Tenacious Survivor trait would do a lot more for you. If a knight with an avenger gatling cannon shoots the warlord with a bunch of S6 shooting it would change but in this case you universally would be better off with Rotten Constitution. Obviously there are cases where it does make a difference, but the point is that they are not common and when they turn up this does not have enough of an impact to justify the trait. The one case where i can see this being a good and worthwhile option is when taking one of the T4 base characters, upping it to T5. This vastly reduces the effect of small arms fire was well as the things like overcharged plasma guns and las weaponry.

Rotten Constitution: I love this trait. Reduce all damage inflicted by 1 (to a minimum of 1). Holy cow that is so good! Combine this with the suppurating plate on a Prince and he really becomes a pain to take down. This trait won’t help you against small arms fire but you will have a 2+ save there. Overcharged plasma? Goes from 2 damage to 1 damage. Las cannon has got you down? This lets you essentially auto succeed on a Disgustingly Resillient save. Double gatling knight unloading all over your face? Cut that damage in half! D3 mortal wounds for 2 wounds? Lets make that 1 mortal wound followed by a DR save on the other wound. I personally pick this over Tainted Regeneration as this trait keeps your Prince from being focussed down and blown up right now. The regeneration does not help you if you die in a single shooting phase, this stops that from happening. Once again the mileage on this trait varies greatly by who you selected to be your warlord. If you selected a Chaos Lord to be your warlord and just give a reroll bubble or a sorcerer this probably is not the best option: they do not have enough wounds to benefit from this trait and they dont want to be in harms way anyway. If you selected a Prince to be your warlord this trait absolutely has to be considered top tier.

Arch-Contaminator: Upgrades plague weapons from reroll 1’s to wound to rerolling all failed wounds within 7” of the warlord. While Rotten Constitution and Legendary Fighter might be your go-to “punch people in the face and be a badass” traits, this is the go-to support trait. Many of the Death Guards best weapons are plague weapons, and they benefit from this a lot. This is not only great for the Blight Launchers, Baleswords, Bubotic Axes and Plague Belchers on your various infantry squads, it also massively buffs the damage output from your daemon engines Plague Spitters, Mortars etc. I can definately see building a footslogging list focussing on taking loads of Plague Marines and Blightlord Terminators with Blight Launchers, Axes etc crossing the field alongside Myphitic Blight-haulers giving them cover taking a Chaos Lord with this trait to cross the field with them and increase their damage output. The other option is taking this on a very fast unit such as a winged Prince, Mortarion or Lord in Terminator armour to get up in the enemy lines alongside a lot of plague spitting drones quickly and increase their damage output. Overall a very very solid option. Mortarion comes with this warlord trait as his standard trait.

Legendary Fighter: This one is from the core rules but its still worth keeping in mind as an option. If you are playing lower point level games and want to up your damage output a bit getting an extra swing with your melee weapon this is pretty allright.

Overall the DG traits have some meh options and some very good ones. If you want to build your warlord for support arch-contaminator sadly is pretty much the only option. If you want to boost your warlords endurance there are a few cool and fluffy options to choose from, and they each have their own merits.


Many of these have a lot in common with the regular CSM strategems, and you can find Reece’s opinions on some of those in the Tactica section. I will go through the ones i find interesting here.

Nurgles Rot (3CP) – Roll a d6 for every unit within 7” of a selected firendly DG character (yes, this includes your own units so be carefull) and on a 4+ they suffer D3 mortal wounds. Nurgle models do not take wounds from this.  This is pretty much Mortarions aura except for in the shooting phase. For a whopping 3 CP i dont use it very often. You are paying 3CP to essentially on average do a mortal wound per enemy unit within 7. Sometimes i get Mortarion stuck into combat and there are some little characters such as malefic lords, warlocks or primaris psykers/astropaths  nearby and the pulse from this strategem plus the following pulse from Mortarion will wipe out a lot of them. Many of these kinds of strategem work worse or are less likely to work on characters, but this one has no problem with that. Use this to your advantage! Most of the time this is three command points better spent elsewhere.

Cloud of Flies (1CP) – Select a DG infantry unit, it can not be shot unless they are the closest visible target. This can be extremely good, and it definitely can be the linchpin for various lists. Take for instance an expensive unit of terminators all armed with combi plasma. Your Death Guard Inexorable advance rule gives them 18 inch rapid fire range. You could deepstrike behind some of your extremely tough Drones or Crawlers, unload by double tapping plasma onto whatever needs killing and then keep them safe for a turn by using this stratagem, forcing your opponent to focus their fire into your way tougher daemon engines. Alternatively you could have a squad of up to 20 plague marines full of special wepaons footlsogging across the board together with some Haulers and various other support characters, being unable to be targeted for 1CP per turn.

Fire Frenzy (1CP) – If a Hellbrute did not move you can shoot it twice (but it has to be the closest visible enemy unit). Imagine a Hellbrute with twin las and a missile launcher putting 6 shots into that Landraider instead of 4. Pretty good right for 1CP? Now think back to earlier when i mentioned Forgeworld gave all of their chaos dreadnoughts the Hellbrute keyword. You suddenly can be throwing out 24 Kheres Assault cannon shots with a Contemptor or with a Leviathan shooting its Grav-Flux bombard twice, Meltagun twice and then pumping out 4d6 automatic Hellflamer hits. Pretty darn good for one point!

Putrid Detonation (1CP) – Automatically explode a Death Guard vehicle. Use this on a rhino and you basically have a better Nurgles Rot for a single command point. Many of the unqiue DG vehicles explode on a 4+ already and only do a single mortal wound, making it not as interesting. But if something like a Rhino, Defiler, Landraider etc get destroyed in close combat this quite often presents a very good option to spend command points on!

The Dead Walk Again (1CP) – Changes a unit of poxwalkers Curse of the Walking Pox ability. Each time an infantry model (other than a poxwalker) friend or foe is slain within 7” of this unit add one model to the unit. Once again a very fluffy, amazingly fun and really good strategem all in one! This alone for 1 CP can swing the tide of battle. I personally run a very aggressive DG list that gets very close very fast. You could have a handfull of Foetid Bloat Drones or Plagueburst Crawlers, Daemon Princes, Mortarion etc run up the board. Then combine this with one or two squads of 10 poxwalkers in Rhinos. Turn one is spent moving up the board and getting into range. Turn two you hop out the rhinos with the poxwalkers and use your run move to spread out as far as possible and get right up into the enemy lines. You use this strategem and a bunch of your plaguespitters start murdering the enemy conscript screen or gaunts or whatever it is. And trust me they will die very quick to plague spitters. Every single one of these guys who go down then immediately become a poxwalker in your horde. It is not uncommon to grow your 10 man unit to 40+ this way. Very match up dependant but i do like the 10 poxwalkers in a Rhino trick quite a bit.

Veterans of the Long War (1CP) – A DG infantry unit gains +1 to wound until the end of the phase. This is your bread and butter and you play with expensive infantry squads. All of that overcharged plasma shooting at that T7 tanks? Suddenly wounds on a 2+. That large Plague Marine unit or that unit of combi bolter Termies that rely on volume of fire to get through the enemy also suddenly gets way better. Suddenly bolters start wounding tanks on 4+. Use this early in the game and often, this obviously is way better while your squads are still at full strength laying the hurt on the enemy.

Relics of Decay

The Death Guard codex offers a variety of choices of relics to give your characters.

Plaguebringer: Replaces a stabby weapon with a better stabby weapon. The plaguebringer is a sword at Strength User, AP-2 Damage D3 and every wound roll of 6+ inflicts a mortal wound in addition to any other damage. Eh, its allright. The best character to put this on in my opinion is the Plague Surgeon, as his Geneseed-Thief ability will increase the amount of times you deal additional mortal wounds, plus he does not have any chocie in melee weapons. On a Chaos Lord or the like if you want to sue them for combat i would just pay the additional points to upgrade to a power fist. Overall not a terrible option but not very exciting.

The Suppurating Plate: Increases your save characteristic to a 2+ and every saving throw you make in the fight phase reflect a mortal wound to the attacker on a 4+. Hooo boy if you are running a Daemon Prince take this immediately! It increases an already pretty darn tough HQ to be even more unkillable and pretty much immune to hordes. This is the option i find myself taking the most.

The pandemic Staff: +1 to cast smite. Hard pass.

Dolorous Knell: Noxious Blightbringer only. 7” aura that on a 6+ does a mortal wound to enemy units in the morale phase, Also forces the enemy to roll 2d6 for morale and discard the lower result. This is… really good actually! The mortal wound aura is neat, but the morale penalty is the real kicker. I personally pretty much never run the Blightbringer in my army, but if you do it is not a bad relic to pick. Pretty cool to have the Blightbringer walk alongside Plague marines who advance every turn and fire their Bile-Launchers, increasing their run distances as well as debuffing any enemies once they get in close.

Fugaris’ Helm: Increases the character’s aura by 3”. If you settled for a cheap HQ such as a lord who stands in the backfield and gives  semi gunline rerolls this is a pretty solid option. Once again also a very solid option on the Plague Surgeon, doubling the range on his Tainted Narthecium ability.

The plague Skull of Glothila: A one use only grenade where if it hits you roll a d6 for each model in the enemy unit. Every 6 deals a mortal wound. If you chuck this into a 30 man conscript squad you will kill ~5 of them, effectively killing 15 points worth of models. It is really not that impressive. It’s a skip for me.

I hope this article was enjoyable and helpful for you. How have you been doing with your Death Guard army? Do you think they have the power to become a competitive powerhouse? Let me know in the comments! Also stay tuned for the next article that will be about augmenting your army, both through psychic powers and mixing in allies.


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About Reecius

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20 Responses to “Death Guard Codex Overview”

  1. Avatar
    Diggler November 23, 2017 1:16 am #

    Great overview! The fire frenzy strategem doesn’t have the word helbrute in bold which is what indicates a keyword. So I don’t think contemptors etc can benefit from it. I was looking forward to using it with my Deredeo..

  2. Avatar
    Dedwoods42 November 23, 2017 1:47 am #

    It’s worth noting that Rotten Constitution doesn’t work against Mortal Wounds – as they are treated as individual wounds not an attack with X amount of damage.

    Likewise, Fire Frenzy specifically works on Helbrutes, the unit – not the keyword. This is why Inexorable Advance was errata’d to affect the Keyword in the FAQ – but Fire Frenzy doesn’t apply to anything other than standard Helbrutes. It’s a shame as double butcher cannon array Leviathans would be disgusting with it!

  3. Avatar
    iago40k November 23, 2017 4:46 am #

    but…what about them grenades in combination with le stratagem?^^

  4. Avatar
    CJ November 23, 2017 7:01 am #

    Man I need to look at the warlord traits on more detail. Thanks for the help.
    One note on Rotten Constitution, mortal wounds are always resolved individually, so I don’t think it will help there.

    • Avatar
      CJ November 23, 2017 7:19 am #

      And fire frenzy works on helbrutes the unit, not the keyword.

      • ChrisG
        Ahkris November 23, 2017 8:26 am #

        You are correct on that one! Wrote a lot of this by heart so it slipped by 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Horton November 23, 2017 7:21 am #

    I absolutely LOVE Death Guard. They are such an awesome army.

  6. Avatar
    DavidDavis November 23, 2017 10:00 am #

    what about blightlord terminators?

    • ChrisG
      Ahkris November 23, 2017 10:04 am #

      What about them?

      I mean ill do an in depth article on them at a later date, but what about them is missing here?

      • Avatar
        XT84 November 23, 2017 12:03 pm #

        Cloud of Flies must be used at the start of the movement phase, Blightlords arrive at the end of the movement phase. So you can’t hide them with the stratagem the turn they arrive.

  7. Avatar
    KundaliniHero November 23, 2017 10:52 am #

    I have always played two armies in 40k: Deathguard & Tyranids. Although DG has its moments I don’t see them anywhere close to Tyranids when it comes to tactical options and flexibility. I feel like DG’s options are too expensive, resulting in a low count army that isn’t really good at anything (assault or shooting) but being survivable and even that catches up with you in this edition with people throwing upwards of 70-150 dice a turn. No doubt units like the foetid bloat drone and plaugeburst crawler are certainly all star units, I just see very few working strategies and limited synergy when it comes to my DG especially in comparison to Tyranids. Even Morty is out of touch with his own army as he is way too fast even for his own bodyguard. While we are on the subject: deathshroud are absolutely awesome but at 75 points a pop and with the speed of paint drying it’s hard to implement them into a competitive list. I guess I just have more fun with my Nids, ok rant over.

    • ChrisG
      Ahkris November 23, 2017 11:27 am #

      I personally think Deathshroud are the single worst unit in the codex. Sure they go down in points in chapter approved but that is hardly their issue. If they deepstrike it has to be out of flamer range and any enemy can then casually crawl away and they wont make it into combat or range all game with their 4″ move and half advance range. Pretty much the only time they will ever get to do something is if the opponent decides to charge something into them or if they happen to make their charge from deepstrike. Very disappointing unit overall.

      For the time being the drones and crawlers have to carry the army indeed, but with the upcoming point reductions to plague marines and a lot of war gear perhaps they will start being a pretty good option together with the Haulers. Its sad so much of the codex is dedicated to the wierd grenade tossing thing GW decided on for the Death Guard that just has no real reason to exist. On the flip side we have lots of ForgeWorld items we can take with us that are pretty good, and at least we have more options than loyalist space marines where i feel like every list just ends up being Guilliman Gunline or bust.

      • Avatar
        KundaliniHero November 23, 2017 12:46 pm #

        I agree for the most part on deathshroud, however if you get them into close combat they are absolutely brutal, each one delivering a diet Typhus like punch, but alas they are too expensive and slow. They also absolutely will keep Morty alive but it quickly becomes a tired situation as they are just too slow.

        I agree, specifically with the FW dreadnaughts, they are useful when running Morty as a multiple threat package, too bad they can’t deep strike. Can you confirm the “shoot twice” stratagem works on these bad boys?

        • ChrisG
          Ahkris November 23, 2017 1:49 pm #

          Sadly it does not, i went and double checked after someone corrected me in an earlier comment. It sadly is one of the few strategems that does not use keywords and specifically says Hellbrute. Sorry opponents i have unintentionally cheated in a few games!

          • Avatar
            Foh November 24, 2017 10:05 am

            You guys are forgetting about the death guard faq they errata this a month ago frenzy fire it up. It’s helbrute keyword

          • Avatar
            CJ November 24, 2017 11:41 am

            Nah, the faq only applies to Inexorable Advance

  8. Avatar
    Davis A Centis November 23, 2017 1:04 pm #

    Ummm… how is Revoltingly Resilient worse? I get it that it’s worse against Smite, but +1 to your Disgustingly Resilient rolls means you ignore 50% of all wounds. Revoltingly Resilient plus Tenacious Survivor just has you ignoring 44.44% of wounds. Seems like Revoltingly Resilient will win out if your meta isn’t taken over my mortal-wound focused armies.

    • ChrisG
      Ahkris November 23, 2017 1:38 pm #

      The difference between 50% and 44.44% will only matter 1 in ~18 times, which to me seems like it will come up less often than taking wounds from something like Flakk Missiles, Smite, mortal wound auras, orbital bombardments, perils of the warp, exploding vehicles etc. So far in my games these scenarios have come up quite often, but even then i would prefer taking Rotten Constitution over either of those options.

      Your mileage may vary though, this is all just one dudes opinion 🙂

  9. Avatar
    Foh November 24, 2017 4:31 pm #

    My bad your right

  10. Avatar
    Peter de Florio December 14, 2017 9:02 am #

    Is there a link to the “Augmenting Nurgles Rot” article?

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