Death Guard Review: Plague Marines

Greetings, Brothers in Entropy and welcome another addition to the Tactics Corner: The Plague Marine review.

The unyielding hulks of the Plague Marines conquer battlefields in the 41st millennium with bolt, knife, and disease. Using their peerless durability to assault enemy defenses and reconsecrate them in Nurgles name, these siege specialists thrive midst the bedlam of war. Whether through the Long March across No Mans Land, or in the holds of ancient vehicles, Plague Marines will serve you well as the core of any Nurgle Chaos Warband.

Plague Marines are durable heavy infantry suited to taking, or holding, contested objectives from everything short of dedicated anti-vehicle and anti-monster units. Their high toughness, armor save, bravery and disgusting resilience make them superior to almost all other infantry they face. While their equipment, ranging from bolters and krak grenades, to plague weapons and blight grenades, are each effective to the particular role the unit is equipped for. Any player who uses Plague Marines will benefit most from them when they are taking a forward objective, or sitting on it, while in cover.

  • Wargear: Plague Marines come equipped with a Bolter, Plague Knife, Blight Grenades, and Krak grenades. They can also be equipped with two plague knives, or a plague knife and a Bubotic Axe. Up to two members of the squad may be equipped with a Plasma Gun, Melta Gun, Plague Spewer, or Plague Belcher. Two members of the squad may be equipped with a Mace of Contagion and Bubotic Axe. While another two members may be equipped with a Flail of Corruption, or a Great Plague Cleaver
  • Special Rules: Death to the False Emperor: Each time [a unit with this special rule] rolls a hit roll of 6+ in the Fight phase, and it is targeting an Imperium unit, it immediately makes an extra attack against the same unit using the same weapon. These extra attacks cannot themselves generate any additional attacks.
  • Disgusting Resiliance: Each time a model with this ability loses a wound, roll a dice; on a 5+, the model does not lose that wound. Plague Weapon: You can re-roll wound rolls of 1 for a weapon with this ability.
  • Inexorable Advance: If your army is Battle-forged, all Infantry and Helbrute units in Death Guard Detachments gain this ability. Such units do not suffer a penalty for moving and firing Heavy weapons, or for Advancing and firing Assault weapons. In addition, a unit with this ability can fire twice with Rapid Fire weapons at a range of 18″, instead of only being able to fire twice with them up to half the weapon’s maximum range.


The Plague Marines are built for one thing: field control. As durable infantry with weaponry slightly better than the standard marine armament, Plague Marines are built to outlast enemy infantry in fire fights. This makes them ideal to take and control enemy objectives in support of other infantry blocks or mechanized forces. Their equipment depends upon the scenario, but primarily plague marines are best equipped with Blight Launchers or Plasma Guns to take advantage of superior mid-range fire power and durability.

They are best suited to consolidate on gains made by offense-oriented units such as terminators, Daemon Princes, Helbrutes, and Daemon Engines. This makes it difficult for your opponent to partition their forces between your durable infantry, and your offending elements. All the while your Plague Marines will contribute Plasma and Blight Launcher fire to supplement the aforementioned offensive power.

Codex Death Guard, and Codex Chaos Space Marines have a host of stratagems and psychic powers that facilitate Plague Marines role to secure objectives. With sufficient investment, these abilities enable Plague Marines to substitute and even outdo conventional offensive units. There are two methods in particular which stand out.

The first is shooting. Cast Prescience on a unit of Plague Marines that are in aura range of a Biologus Putrifier, and a Chaos Lord with the Arch Contaminator Warlord trait. Spend one command point for the unit to throw their grenades with Blight Bombardment. This ends up with 5d6 to 20d6 S4 D2 bs 2+ shots that cause mortal wounds on a 6+ all of which re/rolls to-hit rolls of one, and failed to-wound rolls. Given these buffs, assuming your target is T4 with a 3+ save, and all marines are in range to fire, you’ll generate approximately 17.5 to 70 shots, hit between 17 to 68 times, cause 12.76 to 51 wounds, and end up with 6 to 28 wounds.*

The second example is close combat. Cast Prescience, and Blades of Putrefaction on a unit of plaguemarines armed with close combat weapons that are in aura range of a Chaos Lord with the Arch Contaminator Warlord trait. Assuming this is a squad of 5 to 10 marines armed with 9 to 19 plague knives targeting a T4 target with a 3+ save, and all Deathguard are in range, you’re looking at 9 to 19 shots, 8.75 to 18.472 hits, and cause 6.563 to 13.854 wounds. This will cause between 3 to 7.618 wounds and result in 2 to 4.618 dead marines.* **

That’s a lot of damage from a battle line unit. The few codices who can exceed this damage output are typically far less durable, and specialized for their role. Astra Militarum, Genestealers, and Harlequins come to mind in this regard. Those books whose battle line do outperform plague marines in killing power and durability, such as Grey Knights and Custodes, are also much more expensive. You get what you pay for.

So, we have a clear picture of the Plague Marine. A T5 3+/5+++ marine that shoots twice at 18″. The Plague Marines are built to close with enemy infantry, destroy them, and take whatever objective is nearby. When supported by Lords of Contagion, or Typhus, they cause even more mortal wounds once they enter combat.

Support is vital to make Deathguard’s lackluster damage output a threat. On their own, Deathguard are marines of superior durability who can rapid fire slightly further away, and have a small buff to close combat. These advantages are certainly sufficient to make Plague Marines excellent objective takers, and guards. However, they are not enough to make Plague Marines Movie Marines. Running around without support obliterating anything in their way. That’s what Custodes do. Still, unlike Custodes, Plague Marines are disposable. Content to control a mid-field objective while lobbing Blight Launcher rounds into enemy infantry.

Plague Marines are at their best either inside Rhinos, supported by Blight Drones, and Blight Haulers. Marching across the field in 20-marine blocks behind mobs of Pox Walkers, and Cultists. Or dropping in a Kharybdis Assault Claw alongside Blight Lord Terminators and Deathshroud Terminators to ruin someones day. Whatever method you choose to use when fielding Plague Marines you must remember three things.

  1. Plague Marines are built to fight enemy infantry for control of objectives
  2. Plague Marines are deadly when supported by characters.
  3. Plague Marines are not invincible.

Follow these three principles and you will find tremendous success as a Son of Barabus. So, happy Sieging, my brother’s in entropy. May the Rotten Grandfather smile on your endeavors.

*These results include the mortal wounds these attacks would generate, but does not include the bonus from Veterans of the Long War. Results will vary depending on target toughness and saves.

** These calculations do not include the additional attacks from Death To the False Emperor


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4 Responses to “Death Guard Review: Plague Marines”

  1. Avatar
    Marandamir January 11, 2018 3:53 pm #

    This is a pretty good article. I’m actually quite pleased to see the options for plague marines in this edition. I’ve always loved the model concept but have been seriously disappointed in their price tag and damage output. The new version is priced pretty well for it’s stats and it fills the roles you described very well. T5 with FNP have the durability of something I would expect from a marine corrupted by the plague father. Add on top the same damage output of a stock marine with extra goodies in the form of weapon options and strategems that support them I think you got a solid troop choice that is on the top of the list of obsec objective holders.

    • Deadly
      Deadly January 12, 2018 12:19 pm #

      Thanks, Marandamir.

      8th edition Plague Marines are definitely great infantry for objective control. Although it can be a bit confusing knowing how to use them as they look like an elite choice and the stratagems do make them dangerous. However, I have found aggressive play with them doesn’t really work unless it’s to put them in cover to shoot at enemy infantry.


  2. Avatar
    Beau January 11, 2018 7:50 pm #

    I feel they are a unit that shines most when you have hot dice or your opponent is failing saves.

  3. Avatar
    Broxus January 12, 2018 12:14 am #

    I run 4x units of 5 PMs in all my lists. Each unit only has 2x blight launchers for upgrades. These guys are simply amazing in terms of damage against T7 vehicles when paired with arch-contaminator and mortarians -1T debuff aura. Suddenly, you are firing 16x shots hitting on 3s (rerolling 1s normally) and wounding on 4s rerolling. That does 16 damage ton average and can’t be ignored by your opponent very long. Additionally, when you put them in cover they become almost comically hard to shift off an objective. All this only costs only 105 pets per squad. With the new daemon psychic power reducing unit toughness they will become even better.

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