Chaos Knights Codex Review – LoW: War Dogs

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and yes, today I start looking at another codex and doing my deep dive into it, and let’s just start in order, and get to the little puppies before we get into the real beef.  Today, we are going to talk about War Dogs! If you want to know more about how speed, burst power, and/or range are kind of important to this game, you should also check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner for more!

Weapons and Upgrades:

War Dog Autocannon – Range 60” Heavy 2d3 S7 AP-1 D3. This gun does not suffer the penalty for moving and firing a Heavy weapon. (Have to take two)

Thermal Spear – Range 30” Assault D3 S8 AP-4 Dd6. If you resolve an attack against a target within half range, roll 2d6 for damage and drop the lower number.  (must take with a Reaper chain-cleaver)

Reaper chain-cleaverStrike Profile: S12 AP-3 D3 melee weapon.

                                          Sweep Profile: S6 AP-2 D1 melee weapon that makes 2 hit rolls for each attack.

Heavy Stubber – Range 36” Heavy 3 S4 AP0 D1.

Meltagun – Range 12” Assault 1 S8 AP-4 Dd6. If you resolve an attack against a target within half range, roll 2d6 for damage and drop the lower number.  May replace the mandatory Heavy Stubber.


Vehicle Squadron – May take 1-3 per unit, and when the unit is first set up, all of its models must be placed within 6” of each other. From that point onwards, each is treated as separate unit.

Ion Shield  – 5++ invulnerable save against ranged weapons.

Explodes – When a War Dog is destroyed, roll a D6. On a 6, it explodes, and each unit within 6” suffers D3 mortal wounds.

So, here we have the little buddies in an army of big bois, and they do have some interesting tek that can help round out a pure Knight force or help you fill out a Super-Heavy Detachment.  First, you have to decide if you want to go pure range or more melee focused.  Let’s start with ranged.  The double Autocannon build (what loyalist dogs would call a Helverin) is all about speed and skirting the enemy.  With a whopping 60” range, the Autocannons can hang around the backfield or a battlefield edge and still contribute to the battle elsewhere.  The base 14” movement on a War Dog means that an Shooty-Dog threatens up to 74”, which is pretty much the whole table, Line of Sight permitting.  This makes them tactically flexible, and if running lots of big bois, you have something that can sit on a far off objective and still be putting in work while your melee threats push forward.  A Shooty-Dog or 2 is a nice sidekick to 2 fighty Knights as the Shooty-Dogs can hang back and do some work while the heavy melee threats push the center. 4d3 shots is swingy (but definitely better than 2d6).  You can expect 6 shots, so anything more should be considered gravy, but in terms of math, it is best to focus on 6 for more reliable math-hammer decisions.  S7 is solid and makes the Shooty-Dog a real threat to light-to-medium vehicles, but the real oh wow factor is that the guns are a flat damage 3.  That adds up real quick, and one failed saved means heavier infantry/bikers like Harlequin bikes or Ogryn just need to fail one save to flat out remove a model.  It also means that on average, you only need 4 failed saves to kill most vehicles.   The one sticking point is AP-1, which isn’t ideal at all, but making your opponent roll saves tends to lead to failed saves, and a Shooty-Dog starts doing big damage fast if saves are failed.  Ranged damage 3 isn’t entirely common and for good reason, it is awesome.

Shooty-Dogs also make great use of Sky-Reaper Protocols, a 1CP stratagem that lets them reroll hits against anything with the FLY keyword, great for taking out those pesky Eldar Fliers and Wave Serpents.  Note that it is a “true” reroll, so you can reroll any hits, not just failed, so the -1/-3 penalty is a bit easier to overcome when you are rerolling all the dice.  This also lets you save Trail of Destruction (reroll hits) for another War Dog or of course, a big boi.  Chaos Knights actually have a lot of ways to get reroll hits, so being able to get 2 models in the shooting phase to radically up their damage for 3 CP is a good deal.  Rotate Ion Shields can be a life saver at times as T7 with 12 Wounds is pretty durable, especially with a 4++, and sometimes, keeping that one War Dog alive on a far-flung objective is worth it.

You probably don’t want to throw any relics on a Shooty-Dog unless you have tons of CP to spend, and Dreadblade doesn’t give much to them sadly.  Iconoclast or Infernal offer different things, but for Shooty-Dog, Iconoclast isn’t all that helpful really as they do not want to be in combat, but I suppose if you have to charge with one, getting 5 S6 AP-1 D1 attacks is better than 4 S6 AP0 D1 attacks. Infernal is a big gamble as with 12 wounds, you really do not want to start taking mortal wounds.  That said, getting one gun up to S8 and D4 is insane, but it is very luck dependent as you may just roll 2 shots for that gun. Really, a Shooty-Dog will just be whatever other Ambition the other models in your detachment need.

To shift gears to Fighty-Dog (again, in loyalist propaganda-speak, a Warglaive), you have a whole different set of tactics to employ.  Fighty-Dog is all about danger close and being somewhat expendable in the hope that they punch above their weight for a turn or two.  The real trick to the Fighty-Dog is that it is a threat in two phases.  The Thermal Spear is money when it works. Only needing to get within 15” for the melta to turn up is awesome, especially considering that they move 14” on their own.  If someone is within 29”, you can start to get those sweet spikes.  Of course, there are only d3 shots, but when they connect, they can do considerable damage.  Depending on the situation, it can be worth the CP to reroll the number of shots to try to maximize an angle on say a character or a vehicle.  Once the gun fires, then you have melee, and that’s where the Shooty-Dog brings more consistent heat. With two profiles, Shooty-Dog is more multi-purpose than other models in the codex, able to do some decent damage to hordes or do larger damage to hard targets. This is where Ambition really matters as Iconoclast really turns up the efficiency. Having 5 S12 AP-4 D3 attacks or 10 S6 AP-3 D1 attacks is some real output, especially since Iconoclast have access to two different ways to reroll hits in the Fight Phase through either Trail of Destruction or Break the Enemy Line.  Especially with Fighty-Dog, getting a charge off and popping Break the Enemy Line means that any Iconoclast fighting the target gets to reroll to hit, which can be great to free up a big boi that is tarpitted or still in combat from a previous turn.  Infernal is really only useful for one thing, +2 movement and the bonus to advance/charge, and if you really want speed, an Infernal Fighty Dog will fly across the board, but there are better melee threats. Still, if an opponent doesn’t position well, you can get that extra burst of speed to get around a chaff wall and snipe out a character or hit a weaker, backline unit.   Still, Iconoclast is definitely what makes Fighty-Dogs far more efficient.

Fighty-Dogs are definitely more about doing damage and then dying, so they pair well with a shooty Knight that wants to sit back a bit more, and with Spiteful Demise, it can be worth 2 CP (or 3 if you are unlucky) to rocket a Fighty-Dog forward, do some damage to a target, and when it dies, clip everyone within 6 for d3 mortal wounds.  They are also just a hair cheaper than Shooty-Dogs, so if you are just trying to fill out a Super-Heavy detachment to get the Ambition bonus and CPs, a Fighty-Dog is easy to slot in and really is point and click.   The Pack Dog stratagem isn’t really worth it unless you are spamming Fighty-Dogs, which isn’t ideal most likely. A solid Go-To that slots into a lot of army builds is a Double-Gatling Cannon Knight with 2 Fighty-Dogs as Iconoclast. Give the Shooty Knight Vow of Carnage to feed its attacks and the Helm of Warp Sight to ignore modifiers, and while the DubGatt powers up, the Fighty-Dogs keep pressure up front, and by the time they are dead, the DubGatt can get into the fray with +2-4 attacks (so 6-12 more stomps, yum).

A Fighty-Dog Dreadblade isn’t a bad ideas Demonic Vigor is almost tailor-made for them. Getting either +2 movement, WS 2+ or BS 2+ is all usable for a Fighty-Dog since it wants to move forward, it wants to fight, and it can do damage at range.  Path to Glory is also workable since a Fighty-Dog can be a real threat to characters, so getting reroll hits for free is great, and against another Knight, getting those 4/5 attacks to reroll for free is not bad at all, especially since most Knights won’t get a save against the big punch.  If you in a matchup where you don’t really need to Dreadblade anything, giving Fighty-Dog Knower of Profane Secrets is nice for a quick and easy CP and if it fails its leadership check, it is not a big boi suddenly at less than optimal.

So why aren’t these little buggers all varieties everywhere? Well, they certainly aren’t perfect. At T7 with a 3+/5++ and 12 wounds, they are hardy, but not terribly hard to kill with any real concentrated effort. They degrade noticeably, and after 6 wounds, going to Mv 10” and WS/BS  4+ isn’t great.  The reality is that they don’t pump out enough attacks where through weight of dice you can get some mileage out of WS/BS 4+, so they really need to stay healthy.  In ITC missions, they can be easy kills for your opponent since it is much easier to take out 12 wounds at T7 than 24 at T8.  This can make them a liability at times.  They are also swingy.  Shooty-Dog really does nothing if you roll less than average shots since AP-1 isn’t great at hurting the targets that it wants to hurt like armor, which almost always has a 3+. Fighty-Dog is relying on swing with the Spear since it is only 1-3 shots, and even in melee, 4/5 attacks at S12 and WS 3+ means against anything T7+, that’s only converting 45% of your attacks into wounds, so getting less than 2/3 in, which means 6-9 damage, which isn’t amazing.  Yes, you can get rerolls and what not, but that is using precious CP, something that Knights all want and is not infinite.  There’s also the reality that for their price, Chaos as a mega-faction has access to much more efficient choices. For just a few points more, you can get a Daemon Prince that is going to fight about as well, depending on flavor and relics, and who could be psykers for that sweet smite spam, and who can hide as Characters.   Really, the biggest sin for the War Dogs is that they are just not efficient enough to take over any choices unless you want to play pure Chaos Knights and/or you need to take 1 or 2 to get the Ambition of your choice.

*For those new to my articles, my rating rubric evaluates cost, durability, damage potential, tactical flexibility, and a whole host of other things, and generally speaking, anything 70 or above I would consider viable in a purely competitive environment, with anything at 99/100 being auto-takes. Anything sub 40 is purely for giggles and probably not worth putting on the table.

Shooty-Dog: 70/100. Can a list built around these guys work? No, but does it have a place in a competitive army? Yes, even if only to fill out a Detachment.  They are great at sitting in the far backfield and camping objectives while laying down some supporting fire.

Fighty-Dog: 73/100. Same as above, but I like Fighty-Dogs just a bit more as they really complement a Shooty Big Boi as forward threat that is disposable, and with the Iconoclast Ambition, they are a bit more reliable damage dealers.  They are also ever so slightly cheaper.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll be taking a look at the rest of the Chaos Knight codex each Sunday, and perhaps with a few special guest articles written by another head judge of LVO, the SaltyJohn, whom some would call the Most Famous 40K judge of them all.  Oh, don’t forget to get your name on the Wait List for the SoCal Open where I hope to see many a beautifully painted Chaos Knight army.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!




About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, one of the original triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town, afflicted with faction ADD.

5 Responses to “Chaos Knights Codex Review – LoW: War Dogs”

  1. Victor Yanguas August 25, 2019 2:07 am #

    “Getting 8 S7 AP-2 D2 attacks can help clear out heavier infantry like Primaris marines, and S12 AP-3 D4 big hits can easily polish off a lot of targets”

    Sorry to disapoint you, but melee weapons cannot be enhanced by the Daemonic power ability, it only affects ranged weapons

    • Danny Ruiz August 25, 2019 12:44 pm #

      You are totally right, and it was left over from an old draft before I did my usual check, but thanks for the editorial eye.

  2. WestRider August 25, 2019 2:17 pm #

    In my experience with Predators (which use essentially the same gun as shooty-dogs), most of the things I’m hitting with them have at least a 5+ Invul, so more than AP-2 would just be wasted. At that point, AP-1 starts to look not too bad. And the flat 3 damage at range truly is awesome. That said, they are relatively fragile, so I think your rating is about right overall. Right on the edge of usable in the right build, but not an auto-take or a never-take.

  3. NinetyNineNo August 26, 2019 11:41 am #

    Small note, the 4d3 shots from the autocannon version average 8, not 6 (you actually have about an 80% chance of getting more than 6 shots).

    • WestRider August 26, 2019 12:24 pm #

      I figured he was just using the 6 shots as what you can rely on the majority of the time, not the average. I tend to go for 75-80% as my “reliable” range.

Leave a Reply