Chaos Knights Codex Review: Knight Despoiler

Hey everyone, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, this is by far the longest article that you’ll see from me, at least for now, and for good reason. Today, we talk about the Knight Despoiler, and ho-boy, if you like to magnetize and you like to customize, then you need to be right here, right now.  Of course, you should also check out Frontline’s Tactics Corner for all the other goodness in there.

Main Weapons:

  • Avenger Gatling Cannon – Range 36” Heavy 12 S6 AP-2 D2. Comes with a heavy flamer attached.
  • Rapid-Fire Battle Cannon – Range 72” Heavy 2d6 S8 AP-2 Dd3. Comes with a heavy stubber attached.
  • Thermal Cannon – Range 36” Heavy d6 S9 AP-4 Dd6. When resolving damage, if the target is within half range of the weapon, roll 2d6 for damage and drop a result of your choice.
  • Reaper chainsword – S14 AP-3 D6 melee weapon.
  • Thunderstrike Gauntlet – S16 AP-4 D6 melee weapon. Subtract -1 from the hit roll. When a VEHICLE or MONSTER is destroyed as a result of an attack made by this weapon, select one enemy unit within 9” of the bearer, roll a d6: on a 4+, that unit suffers d3 mortal wounds.
  • Titanic Feet – S8 AP-2 Dd3. Make 3 hit rolls for each attack made with this weapon. Get those dancing shoes on.

Carapace Weapons:

  • Ironstorm Missile Pod – Range 72” Heavy d6 S5 AP-1 D2. This weapon can target units out of Line of Sight.
  • Twin Icarus autocannon – Range 48” Heavy 4 S7 AP-1 D2. When resolving an attack with this weapon, gain +1 to hit against targets that can FLY; otherwise, subtract 1 from the hit roll.
  • Stormspear Rocket Pod – Range 48” Heavy 3 S8 AP-2 Dd6.

Minor Weapons:

  • Heavy Stubber – Range 36″ Heavy 3 S4 AP0 D1
  • Meltagun – Range 12″ Assault 1 S8 AP-4 Dd6. When resolving damage, if the target is within half range of the weapon, roll 2d6 for damage and drop a result of your choice.
  • Heavy Flamer – Range 8″ Heavy D6 S5 AP-1 D1. This weapon automatically hits.


Ion Shield – 5++ Invulnerable save against ranged attacks.

Explodes – When this model dies, roll a D6. On a 6, it explodes and each unit within 2d6” suffers d6 mortal wounds.

Super-Heavy Walker – This model can shoot and charge after it Falls Back. When Falling Back, it can move across enemy INFANTRY models and SWARM models as if they were not there, but must end its move 1” away from enemy models. This model does not suffer the penalty for moving and firing Heavy Weapons. This model does not receive the benefit of cover to its saving throws unless at least half of the model is obscured.

Engine of Destruction – If this model is equipped with 1 Reaper Chainsword and 1 Thunderstrike Gauntlet, add 1 to its Attacks and it improves its Weapon Skill by 1 (to WS 2+).

So this is going to be a long one because do you want versatility? Do you want to trick out your giant walking machine of death? Yes, you can do that here.  So let’s look at the two main archetypes, fighty and shooty.

By taking a Reaper Chainsword and Gauntlet, you get a Chaos Gallant, so 5 attacks base and WS 2+.  This is a whole lot of pain in melee with either 5 very high quality attacks that will likely demolish any single target while 15 S8 AP-2 Dd3 attacks will chew through all but the meatiest of meat shields.  The Gallant is not going to utterly slaughter 30 boyz, but it has a great mix of high quality attacks or high volume of attacks.  Especially at WS 2+, they are incredibly accurate.  While they lack any of the big guns, for a scant 16 points, throwing on an Ironstorm can be quite helpful as D6 S5 shots that can hit units hiding in buildings can absolutely be game changing.  I generally recommend an Ironstorm in general, if you have the points.

In terms of Ambition, Iconoclast is easy to see the siren song. 6 attacks on the charge (or 18 stomps) is awesome, especially since the Reaper Chain-sword becomes AP-4, meaning it will ignore most armor and get those sweet, sweet 6 damage. An Iconoclast Gallant on the charge will kill another Knight on average dice unless it has an invulnerable save. 18 stomps is also impressive, especially at AP-3, meaning that most infantry will have just about nothing to protect them, and even hardier units are threatened unless they have a solid invulnerable save.   Infernal isn’t a waste either since the Gallant benefits from 2 of the 3 boosts. Not getting to combat Turn 1? Get that T9, baby. Need a long charge? +2 movement and +1 to advance/charge is an extra 4 inches of movement if you use Full Tilt to get advance and charge.  Whether you go Iconoclast or Infernal, you have plays here, but Iconoclast is likely better overall.

Stratagems are a bit more limited but workable. Death Grip can be helpful to add some extra damage to a hard target, and it is funny to squeeze Guilliman to death. Full Tilt is a bread and butter for advance and charge, which adds some incredible speed. As Gallants tend to run forward, blood for blood god type stuff, and then die, Spiteful Demise is essential for getting that big aura of d6 mortal wounds, and exploding Gallants is like its own combat phase.  Don’t forget Thunderstomp to help add a little more heat to a horde unit, and 1CP for d3 mortal wounds can be the difference between a wiped squad and recycled Orks.  Chainsweep can also be useful to help do a few more wounds to a really large squad, but it is a bit less effective than you’d think since you’d have to have a lot of models left around the Knight for Chainsweep to do work.  Devastating Reach can be quite helpful when you have a unit trying to hide from you.   For Iconoclast, Vow of Carnage can be money upon money against hordes if they do not have a lot of heavy threat to kill the Gallant easily. An Iconoclast Gallant on the charge will stomp more than 10 models, so each player turn, as long as it is combat, you are earning an extra attack.  Vow of Beastslayer is also not to overlook as the Gallant will often wound on 2s or at worst, 3s, so rerolling 1s against anything with 8 or more wounds can save the day.  Infernal Pact is great for the zombie Knight as losing a Gallant in combat can suck, but getting it right back up and still stomping on 4s even if at 1 wound? Very awesome.

And let’s not forget to Dreadblade or not to Dreadblade. Gallants make great Dreadblades for several options.  Daemonic Vigor is awesome if you get the extra movement, but even getting +1 BS can help make Ironstorm rocket pods reap a damn bloody toll.  It is unclear (at this moment) if you can get to WS 1+, but RAW, you certainly can (you can go to a +1 save, so why not +1 WS?). If so, that would allow you to use the Gauntlet and still hit on 2+. That’s AP-5 and the chance to throw some bodies if Iconoclast.  Path to Glory can be awesome if you are going against other Titanic units or against a character heavy army as rerolling hits is awesome.  Galvanized Hull is also sweet as ignoring -1 AP can really make a Gallant resilient to small arms fire or even things like Butcher Cannons.

Finally, there are a few Gallant specific relics that are awesome. Khornate Target is a great choice if you know you are going against Daemons, Bullgryn, or really any unit with a good invulnerable save as a Gallant is going to slaughter it once their defenses are down.  The Teeth That Hunger is also a solid choice as it is essentially a Chainsword that hits like a Gauntlet, but wait, there’s more, it also grants 1 more attack. Of course, if you didn’t kill anything with it during your turn, on a 1, you take a mortal wound, but honestly, that’s a small price to pay.  The Gauntlet of Ascension is also another tasty choice as while it loses the ability to throw a vehicle/monster, you do not suffer the -1 to hit penalty and you get to re-roll hits and wounds. That’s amazing, and it makes an Ascension Gallant uber reliable at murdering another Knights.  Plus, if it kills a character, get you +1 Attack and Strength, and while the Strength seems inconsequential, it is to your base stat line, so your stomps become S9 or more.  The Putrid Carapace is a good choice if you are going against Orks, Plaguebearers or any other horde army that relies on high volume of melee attacks, and your Gallant needs to be up there, so being able to reflect mortal wounds back into a big Boyz mob is great.  Finally, The Quicksilver Throne is a strong, strong choice as it provides two great abilities. First, +1 to advance/charge is amazing on Gallants, and it makes the first turn Gallant rush all the more likely. If you pair this with say Daemonic Vigor’s +2 movement, and Eager for the Kill Warlord trait, and hell, throw in Infernal for the extra boost to speed, you can have a melee monster that moves 16”, advances d6+3, and charges 2d6+3.  With Full Tilt, you are looking at an average threat of 32.5 inches.  Second, it allows you fight first in combat as if you charged, which means that your opponent cannot try to stack multiple melee threats on you as the Gallant is only going to take one hit before it gets to swing.   The downside to all of this is that you need to mind your CP and how many relics you are throwing out, but even if you run 4 melee knights, there are enough relics that could see play.

So what’s the problem with the smashy Despoiler? Well, the same problems as any melee focused large monster: terrain and flyers.  The reality is that you are spending a big, big chunk of points on a model that can only do work in combat, and there are plenty of ways for important units, particularly infantry, to hide.  Gallants are quite susceptible to being move blocked by Aircraft, and Gallants can’t magically jump into the sky to get them, so you can just get stuck.   Gallants also only have three phases, movement, melee, and explosion, so they are not as tactically nuanced as shootier Despoilers.  While they are cheap by Knight standards, you are still spending just shy of 375 points (or more depending on Carapace weapons), and Gallants are not really designed to live the whole game but push forward and create immense pressure on turn 1 and 2.  Still, a cunning opponent can deny them good charge lanes, and they are far easier to counter than the shooty versions simply for the fact that they have to walk up and punch you.   Gallants can also be incredibly CP hungry as there are great relics to get, but they also want to Spiteful Demise, Full Tilt, and maybe Devastating Reach if somebody is hiding on ruins.  Overall, it can be hard to balance an army around their overwhelming threat but limited application, and of all the other variants, they are the easiest to counter-play.

The work of the great Goatboy!

Looking now at the other path, the path of ranged death, Shooty Knights have a variety of builds.  The advantage that Despoilers have over their Imperial cousins is that Despoilers can create weapon combinations hitherto unknown to the Imperium, namely things like Double Battle-Cannons or Double-Melta.  Really, I am going to break from form a bit and do each in its own little section as there is just so much to go over.

With this in mind, let’s start with the obvious one:  The Double Gatling Cannon (or Dubgat) is a monster of reliability.  With 24 shots at S6 AP-2 D2, this is a weapon system where you never have to hope that you roll well for the number of shots.   While S6 isn’t the best, damage 2 and AP-2 are reliable killers, and again, it is about quantity, not quality.  While wounding on 5s isn’t super fun against T7 or T8, when you have 24 shots and easy access to reroll hits, you can start to force those 5s through and into the sweet damage.  Against infantry and medium vehicles like fliers, the Dubgat is brutal.  Even against that new hotness that is Space Marines, Primaris do not like Dubgats at all.  The obvious combination is a Dubgat with the Helm of Warp Sight, which makes the Dubgat an insanely efficient flier murder machine, and it even offers an answer to Plaguebearers as ignoring their to hit modifiers at range is awesome, and then at D2, it makes it much harder for the PBs to roll those Feel No Pains.   If you don’t need that, if Iconoclast, the 4++ relic is clutch, or if Infernal, the Act at double wounds relic also good.  The Dubgat is hungry for CP as it really wants Trail of Destruction each time, especially against T7+ so you can maximize how many wound rolls you get to make.

Ambition does change the math a bit as it depends on what you want the Dubgat to do.  Infernal is a great way to ensure that your Dubgatt will murder fliers and anything short of a Knight. By boosting one of its guns to S7 and D3, if you pop Trail of Destruction with the Helm, it is not at all out of the averages to kill 2 fliers a turn.  It also means that against harder targets like Magnus/Morty or T7 vehicles, you have a much better chance at burning through them. I’ve killed a Repulsor with one, so it can happen.  If you need the Dubgat to take on both an AA,AP, and AT role, Infernal is the way to go. Iconoclast is great for turning the Dubgat into a multi-threat attacker.  With +1 attack and AP on the charge, suddenly you have a mini-gun Gallant, but more importantly, you get access to Vow of Carnage, which is money on the Dubgat.  It is not hard for it to rack up 10 bodies a turn at range, so suddenly, when it charges in, it has 21-24 stops at AP-3.  Not too shabby at all.  Being Iconoclast gives Veil of Medrengard (if Iconoclast), which gives it access to the 4++ against shooting if you don’t need the Helm as a Dubgat tends to draw attention.   Dreadblade can also be helpful here, either for Path to Glory to get free rerolls to hit on characters and titans or if Iconoclast, Daemonic Vigor for either more movement, WS 2+, or the super money, BS 2+. Galvanized Hull is not bad either if going against a lot of AP-1 as it makes the Dubgat that much harder to kill.

What’s the downside here? The Dubgat is the most expensive Despoiler build, and it eats up a lot of points.  This means if it gets killed early, you are immediately on the back foot. It also only has 36” range on the guns, so in some match ups, it is simply outranged and has to try to weather the storm.  It needs to stay in the mid-range, but that makes it vulnerable, and again, at about 500 points depending on carapace weapons, if you lose it Turn 1, you are suddenly in a bad spot.  It is also not reliable at killing armor since wounding on 5s is not great, so if you aren’t going Infernal, then you can’t really expect the Dubgatt to carry your Anti-Tank needs. This means you need something else, which you might not have points for.

Looking at another choice, the Double Battle-Cannon, (the DubBC), you have a long range, heavy armor cracker that is a bit swingy.  On the good side here, range 72” is amazing, and it allows the DubBC to park itself in the far corner and still drop them blows.  Native S8 on the gun lets it stand a good chance to hurt all the big targets, and damage d3 can absolutely murder things if you roll well.  At 4d6 shots, you should expect 14 or so, but don’t bank on that.  The DubBC really is more of a heavy-armor hunter of the Despoilers, but it can try to handle hordes if you roll well, and if they are in range of the 3 heavy stubbers.  The Helm of Warp Sight is not wasted here either as the DubBC can absolutely murder fliers or Plaguebearers, if it rolls enough shots. Since it can hide in the corners, it is easier to protect.  That said, if Helm is a no go, then either The Blasphemous Engine (if Infernal) or Veil of Medrengard (if Iconoclast) are great at making sure the DubBC is harder to deal with as counting as double wounds for Infernal means your opponent has to do 21 wounds to get you to actually degrade, and of course, a 4++ is obviously strong.  I would argue that even more than the Dubgat, the DubBC needs to Trail of Destruction as you are not going to get 24 shots, so you need to make sure that you are getting the most efficiency out of the shots that you do have.

Ambition again changes the game.  Just like a Dubgat, a DubBC does well in Iconoclast for the multi-threat possibilities.  It is also makes good use of Vow Beast slayer to get a bit more efficiency out of the wounds on its preferred targets, heavy threats, and if you really want something durable, Vow of Dominance is great as it effectively means that half of the hits your opponent rolls will fail to wound, which is awesome for a model that can sit in the corner, maybe in a ruin that obscures 50% of it, and can just send hot death across the table.  As Infernal, you can either go resilient or devastating. Super-charging 1 Battle-Cannon to S9 Dd3+1 is awesome, but risky as if you roll poorly on the shots, you just take d3 mortal wounds for nothing. Going up to T9 proper can make a DubBC really hard to shift out of the corner, and even the extra movement can be important in the mid to late game where the DubBC needs to move out to claim an objective.  Dreadblade can be great here, especially Path to Glory as the DubBC wants to shoot at big scary characters like Magnus or Disco Lords or shoot at other Titans. Galvanized Hull is also even more resilience.  Daemonic Vigor is match up dependent, but could definitely work in certain scenarios.

The big hit to the DubBC is that it is not that much cheaper than a Dubgat, but more importantly, it is far more fickle. 4d6 shots isn’t as reliable as you think it is, and in plenty of games, you are going to roll 8 or 9 shots when you needed 14.  Since the DubBC wants to hang back, sling lead, and all that jazz, it can get in its own way since it cannot navigate terrain well, so sometimes you get stuck and it ends up in a bad firing lane.  Really, the only big drawback to the DubBC is the random nature of it.  A variable number of shots and a variable number of damage just means that some games, the DubBC is not going to be on your team, so you have to accept that and build contingencies into your list.

Next, you have the Double Melta Cannon, or DubM, which offers a budget package of murder. The gun profile is the strongest that Knights have access to on their main ranged weapons, and AP-4 and Dd6 is sweet.   With the melta-rule kicking in when within 18 inches, adding in 12 inches of movement, any hard target within 30” is at risk for a some big, big damage rolls.   Wounding other Knights on a 3+ is awesome, and a DubM will murder anything that relies on a 2+ armor save rather than invulnerable save.  The big thing is that the DubM is the cheapest shooty option at just under 397 without a Carapace Weapon.  This saves you big points compared to the other two main shooting platforms, and while 2d6 shots isn’t great at murdering infantry, you still have stomps.  The DubM is a danger close kind of Knight as it wants to get in there, get into melta range, and do work.  Again, because of 2d6 shots, this Knight is CP hungry as you want to make sure you are rerolling your hits to make the most of them, and you may want to save a CP to reroll the number of shots on a dice. Still, at only 25 points more than a Gallant, you get some great AT firepower, and you can still use them like Gallants by sending it forward to get work done and then Spiteful Demise once it goes down.  A big advantage to the DubM is that it is cheap enough to have 2 or even 3 and still have a lot of points left over for a solid battalion of daemons or CSM.

The DubM can make use of a few relics, and with the Helm, it is guaranteed to murder a flyer (unless you roll 2 1s), but I really like it with the Tzeentchian Pyrothrone for just a bit more offense with a smite.  Rune of Nak’t’graa is also not bad the DubM wants to get close, which means fighting in melee, and getting a flat 5++ helps it survive, and getting to choose 1 Pact and Damnation is money.   The Putrid Carapace is also good if you are going against a horde that relies on on volume of attacks in melee as the DubM can just reflect those saves back and help murder the squad itself. If going Infernal, The Blasphemous Engine keeps the big boi in the fight at maximum capacity for longer.  I wouldn’t use the Veil on a DubM as I would want the 4++ on something else.  As the DubM likes to live dangerously, Khornate Target can be super surprising or the Quicksilver Throne to again make sure that your opponent can’t melee your knight down with multiple threats without taking casualties first.

Ambition here is a bit easier choice than others. You really want Iconoclast because you want the extra attack, and you want access to either Vow of Carnage or Vow of Beastslayer.  Getting to reroll 1s on the wound against heavy targets makes those 2d6 shots just that much more efficient, and in games when you are going against hordes, Vow of Carnage helps the DubM get powered up to stomp some folk. Infernal doesn’t offer much except really except for extra speed or toughness as it is a bit wasted to charge one of the guns.  Still, Infernal can work, it is just not ideal. Finally, with Dreadblade, Path to Glory is amazing for this Titan hunter, but even Daemonic Vigor is worth it for the extra speed, WS or BS, or Galvanized Hull to make the DubM a bit harder to kill.

So why not take this? Well, it is a cheaper, but even more swingy DubBC.  2d6 shots is 7 on average, but again, averages never feel average.  Some phases, boom, 10 shots. Other phases where if you don’t kill that Knight you lose? 3 shots. That is the nature of swing, and you either dance to it or not, but if playing 6 games in a weekend, you can expect to see some big failures.  The DubM also lacks volume of fire, so it really has to be up close to shoot and stomp to be able to kill a lot of models in a turn, and especially if going against a horde, you have to rely on the stomps (which is why Iconoclast is so important to the DubM).  Really, a DubM is a good build, but it is not reliable, so if you want to take it, you have to build around the idea that sometimes, it is not going to perform, and you need backups.

Finally, let’s talk briefly about mixed platforms. You can absolutely do the standard Battle-Cannon and Reaper Chain-Sword or whatever you wish, but the reality is that Knights excel at overkill, and that’s where their real strength lies.  Since everyone can stomp, you have a good melee option already, so doubling up on the firepower is great. Infernal lends itself best to the mixed platform as you can choose, depending on what you need, to overcharge a ranged weapon like the Gatling Cannon to S7 D3 or to power up for speed if you plan to charge.  That said, if you are trying to fit points, it is an option, and likely worth experimenting with, but it is probably not the optimal path.

So, at the end of the day, what problems plague all the Despoiler variants? First, even the cheapest are expensive, especially if you want the Ambitions.  It is hard to “splash” a Knight into a list, but some can do it like a Helm Dubgat or DubBC. In ITC, taking a Knight generally means giving your opponent a clear Secondary in Titanslayers, and if you take 3 where 1 has to be a character, you also give them a viable Kingslayer target.  Because they are so expensive, they are vulnerable to alpha strike because losing 1 on Turn 1 can be devastating.  They also lack the model numbers to play the objective game.  Having 3 or 4 Knights is essentially the bulk of your list, and there are plenty of missions where you need more than 3 or 4 large bodies to win.  Terrain is also an issue as it limits where and how these big bois move, and in general, all the same problems that plague Imperial Knights are here.  Does this make them less competitive? No, but it does mean playing 100% pure Chaos Knights is difficult and not optimal. Can a Mixed Chaos list that uses Knights do really well? Absolutely. Can a pure Chaos Knight list do it? That’s harder to say, and my guess is not really.

90/100 – The Despoiler is the backbone of the Chaos Knight army. It is the best single Knight in the codex thanks to its customization.  You can argue all you want about if a Dubgat is better than a DubBC, etc, but at the end of the day, if you want to play Chaos Knights, you want to make sure to have a few Despoilers in the wings, and it really helps to magnetize!  Thanks as always for reading, and if you happen to be at SoCal Open this year, come say hi.

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




About Danny Ruiz

Long-long time 40K player, part of the triumvirate of head 40K judges at LVO, writer, educator, tyranid-enthusiast, disciple of Angron, man about town.

5 Responses to “Chaos Knights Codex Review: Knight Despoiler”

  1. abusepuppy September 1, 2019 8:34 pm #

    The double Gattling Cannon has superior numbers to the double Battle Cannon version, even against vehicles Twice as many shots is better than wounding 50% more often.

    • WestRider September 2, 2019 10:05 am #

      The range is really the key advantage, to my mind. Potential damage doesn’t matter if you can’t even target the thing you need to kill because it’s out of range. I don’t have one with double Cannon, but the one with double Gatling does have issues with range frequently enough that it’s an important factor to consider.

      • abusepuppy September 2, 2019 11:46 pm #

        It can be an issue, but with the Knights wanting to deploy forward anyways, 36″ range and 12″ movement should generally allow you to reach anywhere on the board. And the Battle Cannon is inferior in numbers by a significant degree, to the point where you’re taking a major hit at all times to get one turn of shooting once in a blue moon.

        • WestRider September 3, 2019 7:35 am #

          Corner Deployments and LoS Blockers in the center can make it harder than generalized geometry might indicate to get both range and LoS. It’s not a huge problem, but it is a non-negligible one. Especially since a lot of the things that are going to be hanging back like that are T7, which is the sweet spot for the Battle Cannon over the Gatling Cannon anyhow.

          It isn’t a reason to automatically take the Battle Cannon over the Gatling, but it is a factor that is worth considering for an individual Player, given the Tables, Deployment Types, and Opponents they normally see.

        • Reecius
          Reecius September 3, 2019 8:43 am #

          It’s less that the Gattling Knight can’t get there but more that the Battle Cannon Knight can shoot AND stay out of range of being shot back.

Leave a Reply