No matter which way the fouls winds of the Empyrean may blow, Chaos remains strong and ever stronger. Let the galaxy burn. For more great articles, check out the Tactics Corner.
Like many of the MEQ factions, Chaos Marines got a number of point drops across a variety of units- however, they were also quite a lot less than people were expecting, and unfortunately several of the core units (like Chaos Space Marines themselves) failed to see any improvement, and thus probably will be stuck on the sidelines. However, the good news is that there were a number of improvements to things that mattered, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
The most notable- and most unfortunate- change was to Chaos Cultists, who have gone up to 5pts per body now. A lot of people aren’t happy about this, obviously, but I don’t think it’s going to be a game-changer- Cultists are still a very good horde unit and they are still probably one of the best troop options the army has available. They no longer are mathematically the most efficient source of shooting, but they never really were supposed to be. Cultists will still do what Cultists were always meant for, i.e. screen your characters and other units from the enemy while controlling objectives. Chaos as a whole is still the horde faction par excellance and this won’t change that- it just means that lists bringing 100+ Cultists to the table are going to be less common. (It is worth noting that both the special weapons for Cultists went down in price, which may make the Heavy Stubber actually worth taking now. The Flamer I am still skeptical on, though.)
Two of the other potential troops did get price drops, though- Rubric Marines went down two points and Plague Marines went down a point. Although both of them tend to be better left to their respective specialist legions, they certainly aren’t useless in a CSM detachment and are certainly worth considering. Also note that many of the weapons for both units got cheaper, particularly the “flamer”-style ones- this makes it a lot more plausible to take these guns over some of the other options.
A number of the HQ choices for the army also saw cost reductions, mostly the Terminator versions of various characters. The Terminator Lord (-10pts) and Terminator Sorcerer (-18pts) are both pretty significant drops, which I think gives them some mileage compared to the Jump Pack versions of both characters while still retaining that all-important ability to come in from reserves when needed. The Warpsmith also came down a total of 15pts, which I believe now makes him the cheapest HQ option for a CSM army- and, it should be noted, he still comes with a Meltagun, Flamer, and Power Axe, plus the ability to repair vehicles or deal mortal wounds to enemy vehicles. While it won’t push him to the top of the list of choices, I think there’s enough utility there to really consider taking him if the rest of the list warrants it; unlike a Techmarine, the Warpsmith can still do a lot of work even when none of your own vehicles have been damaged and you shouldn’t underestimate the power to throw out mortal wounds while also doing some good shooting and melee.
Many of the named HQs also came down in price, although in some cases this was because they were hilariously overcosted. Cypher is now 80pts, which still isn’t good but at least is something like vaguely non-horrible; Fabius Bile and Huron also saw big drops, though I doubt anyone will bother do try either of them. Kharn saw a massive 40pt drop, bringing him down to 120pts- with his ability to dish out a large number of high-strength high-AP swings, I think he could possibly be a solid inclusion these days, though delivery remains difficult. Still, a potential fourteen attacks on the charge (and more if he’s fighting loyalists) at S6 AP-4 is pretty nasty, and while he doesn’t do a very good job of giving out rerolls, that’s a fairly minor point. Lucius the Eternal also came down to 85pts, which makes him… well, a basic Chaos Lord on foot, I suppose? You could do worse.
Aside from the basic slots, many of the daemonic vehicles received points drops as well, though mostly fairly small ones. Sadly, the Forgefiend, Maulerfiend, and Defiler are all still quite bad, as they die easily to dedicated anti-tank weapons while being fairly unimpressive in damage output themselves due to low weapon weapon skill and ballistic skill values. The Helbrute fared a little bit better- it got a flat 12pt reduction to its chassis and almost all of its weapons, both melee and ranged, saw reductions of varying amounts; most setups will be anywhere from 20 to 30pts cheaper, depending on exact details. I still don’t think this makes it broadly viable, but certain variants may have a place; the Sonic Helbrute in particular seems like it just might be good enough to give a spin, as double-firing all those multiprofile weapons can be very powerful. The Heldrake could also possibly see some niche uses, as it got an 18pt price drop and was already on the border of being good- a 30″ movement with the ability to assault can cause problems for gunlines and with careful positioning you can often lock down a horde unit while taking minimal damage yourself from the return swings- and, of course, since it flies you can escape from combat easily and continue shooting as needed.
Several of the other MEQ chassis went down by decent amounts- Raptors, Possessed, and Chosen all dropped by 2pts per body. I think it works out best for Raptors, as several of their special weapons got cheaper as well and reserve abilities are innately useful; Chosen still suffer from issues with getting into range, all the more so because of the nerf to Forward Operatives. Warp Talons and Chaos Bikers both dropped by 3pts, but seeing as both of them were extremely lackluster to start with, I don’t think that helps enough- though Bikers might have a place in certain lists, as they carry a lot of guns for a not-unreasonable price. Chaos Terminators also dropped 3pts, and I feel like they are perhaps the most likely to actually see some use out of it- earlier on in the edition there were some lists that used Slaanesh Terminators to drop in and vaporize something with rapid-firing Combi-Plasmas twice; though you can’t use Warptime to do shenanigans there anymore, a higher prevalence of infantry targets out there makes them potentially a lot more useful again, and if we see a decrease in some of the multishot Dmg2 weapons out there (looking at you, Imperial Knights) that could help a ton as well.
Chaos Spawn are the final unit I think are worth pointing out- at 25pts per model, with a potential squad size as low as one, they are an excellent slot-filler in a brigade and can be surprisingly dangerous once in combat. S5 AP-2 Dmg2 attacks are no joke, and it can put out a significant number of them; the various mutation bonuses similarly can increase its damage output by a goodly amount as well. While their defenses are still paper-thin, a few solo Spawn roaming about the field can give your opponent a real headache when they start tying up vehicles or pouncing on wounded characters.
Oh, the Chaos Land Raider came down in price a lot as well, but the things that make it bad aren’t just limited to its cost, so it’s still not worth using.
Tons of different weapons got reductions for the CSM codex as part of Chapter Approved, since GW re-evaluated the balancing of many weapon costs across the whole of the game. As many of the Chaos units have some of the most flexible weapon loadouts available, this is good news for them in general, as it makes a lot of the potential setups a lot more useful. Flamer weapons, for example, saw drops of 3pts (for basic and Combi-Flamers) and 5pts (for Heavy Flamers), Melta weapons went down by 4-5pts, and even Plasma weapons saw drops of 2pts. With many CSM units able to cram large numbers of special weapons onto their models, these can lead to some very significant drops in overall price even beyond the raw costs of the units themselves. For many units this still isn’t enough because they need a way to get in range to use these weapons effectively, but for those with good movement (e.g. Chaos Bikers) or reserve abilities (Terminators, Raptors) I think it might have some possibilities.
Several heavy weapons also saw such decreases- the Autocannon went from 15pts to 10pts, and the Missile Launcher from 25pts to 20. While the latter is more typically used by loyalist armies (especially Ultramarines ones), the Autocannon is largely the sole purview of CSM and has at various points in the past been a significant force in the meta. Havoc squads with four Autocannons are no small threat to light/medium multiwound targets, and with Knights generally expected to lower in popularity somewhat in the coming months, it’s not unthinkable that such a unit could present a very real threat to many units out there- especially since CSM gets a cheap and effective double-shooting stratagem.
The Power Fist also got a 3pt price drop, which ends up being very nice for CSM; lacking access to the Thunder Hammer, they have to get by on its weaker companion, so a cut in points makes it a lot more feasible to take on general-use squads here and there. The Chainfist saw an even more massive point, down to just 11pts; I think that makes it the superior option to the Power Fist where you can take it, although it’s still not as good as a Hammer because an extra point of damage is way better than an extra point of AP. A few other more specialized melee weapons also dropped (such as the Thunder Hammer and Power Scourge on the Helbrute), but I don’t think those will change most people’s choices.
Of the other generically-available weapons, the Havoc Launcher (for vehicles) came down 5pts; it’s still not an option that will blow you away, but it does make plating on the extra weapon to your vehicles a bit more attractive of an option, as it’s not a bad profile by any means. Reaper Autocannons also came down in price, but Reapers are terrible even with the changes, so there’s basically no incentive to take them still.
One small bonus for the Forge World side of things: although most units didn’t change much, the Butcher Cannon (available on a couple platforms, such as the Hellforged Contemptor) dropped by 20pts and the Butcher Cannon Array went down even more, going down to 40pts per weapon (from 80.) As the Hellforged Leviathan was already generally seen as a pretty solid unit thanks to its durability, firepower, and being able to benefit from Legion abilities, this is a major boost to its usefulness. It may not be a top-class contender, but it’s definitely something worth thinking about, as it gets you quite a pile of wounds with T8 and 2+/4++, not to mention BS2+.
Allies and Meta
This is probably actually the biggest alteration for CSM; while the codex itself isn’t really all that much stronger (except a few specialist builds), Chaos Daemons as an option got some significant boosts and it’s now much more viable to bring them as an ally. Daemonettes, for example, are down to 6pts per model- only 1pt more than a Chaos Cultist. While there are certainly still advantages to the Cultists (shooting attacks, Tide of Traitors, etc), the Daemonettes are looking a lot more attractive as an option now. Similarly, quite a number of daemonic units can down in price, some of them by as much as 30% on both large and small units.
In fact, I would go so far as to hazard a guess that there is some sort of “fast daemonic monsters/vehicles” army hiding somewhere in all of these points changes. I’m not sure if it’s a good army by any means, but with many of them seeing point drops of 10-30% of their total cost, it may be that there is something to it. Heldrakes, Helbrutes, Plagueburst Crawlers, Seeker Chariots, Hellflayers, Bloodthirsters… that is a lot of scary units to be tossing into the enemy’s face, and all of them rocking a 5++ (better with buffs) means the enemy won’t be easily able to sweep you off the table. Again, it’s purely speculative, but I think it’s something that could be experimented with and it has a lot of potential tools in its arsenal.
Death Guard and Thousand Sons also both saw some significant drops to their respective cult troops (Plagues, Rubrics) as well as a number of the subsidiary units. Although the “prime” choices didn’t change any, such as Daemon Princes or Plagueburst Crawlers, the increase in scope of units that can be considered playable or even good as allies is definitely a boost to the Chaos faction as a whole and a big help to Chaos Marines in particular, who can mix quite well with the other types of traitor marines due to the ability to mix stratagems with them.
The shift towards more infantry targets could also be very beneficial to Chaos, depending on the exact details. CSM have some incredibly efficient horde-clearing units in their pocket, not the least of which being Noise Marines and Berzerkers- and the things that either of these units can do to a big horde of Orks or Genestealers are pretty disgusting. CSM are well-equipped to take out both elite and horde infantry, and that’s just with the tools their typical lists were bringing to the game already- to say nothing of if they decide to take more specialized ones.
I think the big take-away from all of this is that while Chaos Space Marines can consider Chapter Approved something of a sidegrade for them in terms of just the raw functionality of their codex, the options for allies have expanded so drastically that I think the book is in a much better place overall. Chaos soup armies had already been performing quite well before any of these changes, and while they can’t spam out quite as many bodies as they could before due to bumps in price to some of the horde infantry, none of those options became unusable and several other good options have been opened up. While some of the choices (e.g. the Land Raider) are still pretty bad, far more of them were brought in line with the direction the game is heading in general and have made a lot of choices that were formerly just a complete trap into legitimate options for building an army list around, either competitively or for more casual play.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!