Chaos Daemons- although not as bad as, say, Dark Mechanicus, they were a faction with a lot of problems. But Chapter Approved made some major changes to them and they saw some of the largest price drops of any army out there- but in terms of raw numbers as well as overall percentages. So where does that leave them now? Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
While there were a lot of factions that saw some big changes with Chapter Approved, Chaos Daemons were undoubtedly one of the most-changed by it. Like Adeptus Mechanicus, they saw some pretty sweeping reductions to the point costs of a lot of units in ways that will make them far more valuable as both a primary force and an ally (to say nothing of the expected wave of releases that go along with Age of Sigmar that we can expect to see in the near future here.) Although the changes aren’t distributed evenly across the four Ruinous Powers, I don’t think that all four of them needed equal help, so that seems pretty reasonable.
One of the biggest alterations is the four greater daemons, all of whom saw huge reductions in points. The two Bloodthirsters saw reductions of 80+pts, bringing them down more into the same range as other factions’ monsters; for a unit that can easily put 12+ high-strength, high-AP hits onto a target, that is no small matter. Bloodthirsters remain fairly vulnerable to enemy shooting, but with the option to deep strike them and/or overwhelm the enemy with threats I think they’re a legit choice now. The Greater Unclean One didn’t see as big of a reduction (anywhere from 15 to 50pts, depending on loadout), but as it was perhaps the most successful of them in tournaments already that probably is fine. It still got a pretty major boost with most versions and generally comes in under 300pts now, in some cases quite a bit below. The Lord of Change likewise saw a 50pt drop in its cost, making it much more attractive as a hybrid beatstick/caster; the Keeper of Secrets also dropped by almost 60pts, keeping it the cheapest of the four at ~180 for the full package, but with its extremely poor statline and abilities I think it’s really only worth it as perhaps a bargain-basement choice. The LoC/Bloodthirster are both faster and hit harder, not to mention better-protected; Slaanesh had some definite gains as part of Chapter Approved, but it wasn’t in the greater daemons category.
The named greater daemons also came down in price as well, by fairly similar amounts- Belakor dropped 40pts, making him… playable, perhaps? Kairos came down 85pts and is probably a bit better than the stock model, but I’m not sure he really impresses me overall. Rotigus is also 285, which actually puts him on the low end of the scale when it comes to GUO variants; like Fateweaver, I think he generally is superior to his generic cousins, so if you’re looking to run one or more big poop daemons, Rotigus probably gets the nod. Finally, Skarbrand dropped by 30pts; as he is much less equivalent to the standard Bloodthirsters, this is a bit harder to assess, but I think he is still a bit too much of an odd duck overall to really make the cut for a competitive army- though his ability is extremely fun to play with, I have to admit.
A number of the other “herald”-tier characters also saw points changes. The Spoilpox Scrivener, not surprisingly, went up by a decent amount- given how critical he was to the functioning of many Daemon lists and how much of a force multiplier he was, this is probably not a shock to most people. However, he’s still perfectly servicable as an HQ and you’ll still see lists that are running large numbers of Plaguebearers make use of him, so I wouldn’t cry too much over the change. On the other hand, most of the other such characters went down by 10-15pts, including the Masque of Slaanesh, Herald of Slaanesh, Fateskimmer, Fluxmaster, Changecaster, Exalted Flamer, and The Blue Scribes. These units were for the most part not bad to start with and were pretty cheap anyways, so a 1/6th price reduction will likely do them quite a bit of good- especially in combination with the many changes to other units out there. I think the Exalted Flamer and Herald of Slaanesh in particular gain a lot from this and may start making some major tournament appearances, because both of them bring some very strong utility to a list while not necessarily needing a Locus or other support elements to do their job.
The pattern continues with a lot of the other units in the book. Plague Drones, interestingly, saw an increase in cost, by 6pts per model- which is a surprisingly-large jump, all things considered, as it’s more than even Shining Spears got. Given that Daemons (even the pure Nurgle versions) only did reasonably well, it’s a bit odd to see them get this much of a bump, but I suppose GW has their reasons. On the other hand, almost every other “mount” unit went down in price by a large amount. Seekers are down 4pts (a 20% reduction), Bloodcrushers are the same price (but gained a wound), Screamers and Flamers went down 3pts, and Fiends went down 4pts (and also gained a wound in the process.) While this may not make them all viable choices, it certainly improves them to a significant degree and I think Seekers in particular become much more useful; they’re a bit more expensive than two Daemonettes, but aren’t that much lower in damage output (in part due to the way that large bases work. Plague Drones are likely the only one that will get many major tournament appearances, but the others at least become somewhat more passable.
Arguably the most relevant change was Daemonettes going down by a point to 6pts each now. Given that Cultists are 5pts, this starts to make them look a lot more attractive for a build- spamming out 90 or 150 of them could be a real problem for some armies, especially when supported by a Herald, and they have a pretty favorable comparison to Tzaangors all things considered. With a 5++ they are almost as resilient and three attacks with AP-1 rending is no joke when it comes to tearing up enemy infantry or even vehicles; presuming that you are benefiting from the Locus, you also are pretty quick at moving across the board as well, and in a prolonged combat Daemonettes become pretty terrifying thanks to always striking first and the psychic power to allow them to fight an extra time. I’m not expecting them to displace Plaguebearers as the troop of choice for “hide behind dudes and cast smite”, but they do open up a much more aggressive build as an option for Chaos armies.
All of the “chariot”-style vehicles also saw reductions, the most notable of which being the Seeker Chariot. Down 20pts to a mere 50 per pop, a Seeker Chariot is capable of putting out quite a lot of mortal wounds and/or high-AP attacks on the charge and is relatively resilient to anti-tank shooting; taken alongside the Hellflayer (at 70pts) and Herald on Seeker Chariot, it can present a fast-moving force of assault units that can threaten charges on turn 2 while shrugging off most types of firepower with relative facility. With many other fast Chaos vehicles also coming down in price, I think there is a distinct possibility for some kind of list centered around these units- possibly incorporating Renegade Knights, or some Smite characters, or any number of other options. However, I digress; the other chariots also saw some decent drops in price, although none quite as drastic. The Skull Cannon seems like the most plausible to get some kind of role in an army due to essentially being a Battle Cannon with BS3+ for 90pts, although it does run into potential issues with breaking up your Locus bonuses. The Soul Grinder is down 55pts as well, to 185. I still feel like it’s probably too expensive for what it does, in particular because of the very mediocre weapon skill and ballistic skill values, but there might actually be some value in exploring what a Tzeentch version could do when backing up a bunch of other tough targets.
Other Factions and Metagame
So where does this leave Chaos Daemons as a whole? Well, obviously they weren’t the only ones to see some significant price drops, but in many ways they are a major beneficiary. Chaos Daemons themselves are still a codex that can struggle with a number of specific issues (such as anti-tank), but as part of the Chaos superfaction, they have access to some amazing tools, very few of which got any worse. In fact, since most of the other Chaos factions saw the same sorts of price drops (albeit not quite to the same degrees), they gain access to a number of new tools that can benefit them a lot. And since Chaos as a whole was already doing quite well at tournaments- taking home top prizes at many majors and GTs, to say nothing of its near-constant top 8 performances- I think it’s safe to say that the superfaction will continue to do well. Of course, Chaos Daemons themselves had struggled quite a bit prior to Chapter Approved, but I think that these changes will make a very noticeable difference in their performance for players of all skill levels
It’s also true that a few of the units in the Chaos superfaction got worse (namely Cultists), but as there are several other potential replacements in the form of Tzaangors, Plaguebearers, Bloodletters, and Daemonettes (depending on usage), I think that the overall loss to Chaos really isn’t so bad. The fundamental parts of the army are all still there, as none of the Smite batteries or other important components saw any huge changes. Just as relevantly, we saw some nerfs to some of the traditional enemies of Chaos this time around; none of them were backbreaking, but with the army doing so well anyways I don’t think it takes a big tilt to significantly affect many of the matchups. Keep a careful eye on those Ynnari, Castellan, and Ork armies out there, but also know that you certainly have the tools to potentially deal with them.
One army that is a significant danger (and that gained a fair bit from Chapter Approved), however, is the humble soldiers of the Imperial Guard. Vengeance for Cadia is an absurdly cheap stratagem that grants a unit full rerolls, which is absolutely terrifying when used on a unit of any size- be it a large block of Conscripts, a Shadowsword, a Tank Commander, or any number of other units. You absolutely should be considering how you handle the IG matchup with your Chaos armies and how you’ll deal with their getting abundant rerolls (in both shooting and overwatch) against your units, making them much more efficient than could otherwise be the case. It’s not an insurmountable advantage, but neither is it a trivial one and if you don’t plan for it, it is going to catch you completely off guard.
Speaking about Chaos Daemons more specifically, I think there is potentially some room for several new builds to make appearances on the scene. So far, Daemon armies that do well on the tabletop have either been part of Chaos Soup (i.e. integrating large portions of CSM, 1KSons, DG, or Knights) or have been nearly pure Nurgle and relying heavily on resilience to carry the game plan. It remains to be seen exactly how viable other versions will be at top tables, but I think there certainly are a couple of new ideas that are worth testing out.
As already mentioned, Slaanesh has some serious legs to it these days. Spamming out Daemonettes isn’t a strategy in and of itself, I don’t believe- they can’t fly, aren’t quite fast enough to really cross the board against heavy shooting, and most certainly aren’t tough enough to weather a lot of damage. However, they do create a cheap screen for characters to hide behind that must, itself, be dealt with or else it will overrun a gunline, which I think has the potential for a lot of value- their damage per point is a lot better than Cultists ever were and they can still be taken in quite large numbers. The Slaaneshi chariots (Seeker, Exalted Seeker, Hellflayer, Herald on Seeker) also have some potential mileage as well; they would need aid from other tough vehicles to work right, but I think that throwing a ton of 5++ or 4++ targets into the enemy is something that some lists just won’t be ready for. There are actually quite a lot of options for what to accompany it with- Morty/Magnus, Heldrakes, Plagueburst Crawlers, the various Cavalry daemons, etc, etc; Chaos has access to a lot of tough units with an invuln save that can help boost your saturation of threats. Of course, on tables with a lot of ruins and other impeding terrain you may find that they are struggling to get where they need to go in order to charge the enemy, so some amount of shooting, psychic powers, or fly/infantry models is probably necessary.
Depending on exactly how popular some of the heavy hitters (Lootas and Castellan especially) end up being, there may be some sort of “monster mash” list that can make it near the top tables as well. Although the various flavors of greater daemon are still pretty expensive, they are costed much closer to where I think they should be, and something like a Bloodthirster will absolutely destroy most squads that it assaults. I think it, the Lord of Change, and the Greater Unclean One all have some potential merit to running them, and it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll see at least one player at the LVO doing 4-2 or maybe even 5-1 using some sort of hyper-aggressive list with them- I’ve heard tales of a list paired up with Bash Brothers (i.e. Morty and Magnus), and I think Renegade Knights are also a possibility in that sense. Heck, maybe even hybridizing it with the above list that brings a bunch of chariots is a possibility; both bring some potential solutions to the other’s problems. However, if the anti-tank shooting in the environment is heavy enough, this list probably won’t do well- Bloodthirsters are still fairly fragile overall, and they lack a stratagem to shrug off the effects of the degradation chart, so causing enough damage can really slow them down.
Nurgle lists will continue to be popular, of course; although Plague Drones and the Scrivner both went up noticeably in points, which means a “nurgle rush” is probably no longer possible, but there are lots of other good elements in the list so I think it will remain, albeit with a somewhat heavier ally component than before. It may also get combined more with units from other gods, since a lot of those are much more useful now- in particular, Tzeentch and Slaanesh have the chance to bring some useful aids.
Tzeentch, which I’ve rather glossed over a bit so far, I think has the chance to make some significant gains. All of the Tzeentch herald-tier characters came down in price and there are some very powerful synergies between them- with the right set of spells, warlord traits, and abilities, you can make most of the Tzeentch shooting pretty terrifying. Big blocks of Horrors have already been on the border of being viable, and I think we may see them tip over the edge here and start seeing real play. The Exalted Flamer I think also deserves mention, as a lot of people don’t realize how powerful its shooting can be- either d6 S6 AP-2 autohits or d3 baby Lascannon shots, giving it a good weapon against almost all possible profiles. Although it is fairly short-ranged, its mobility means this is a lot less of an issue than it could be, and Chaos Daemons as a whole typically wants to be fairly close to the enemy. I still don’t think Screamers are worth much, but Flamers might see a bit of play.
Chaos as a whole is poised to make some strong appearances as we roll up on the end of the ITC season here as well as in the coming year, and I expect that Chaos Daemons will often be part of those appearances as either a primary or allied faction. Although I still wouldn’t call them a top-tier faction (as they are largely unable to stand completely independently), they have some strong tools in their arsenal and the ability to ally with so many other codices is a very strong option in and of itself. I think Daemon players can take Chapter Approved as a very positive thing overall, as they gained quite a bit from it and lost very little; the only question now is whether the meta will shape up in such a way that they can rise above the other options or not.