Send Me In Coach!: 2nd Tier Units in Competitive 40k

In this installment of “Send Me In Coach!” Mark “Neomaxim” Gottlieb takes a closer look at Possessed.

Anyone who has played 40k with me knows how much of a struggle it is for me to turn off “tournament” mode. I’ve even had to add other tabletop games to my hobby-life, just to play something casually, or purely for the joy of the thing itself. The issue at hand, is that I LOVE 40k; fluff, models, competitive, all of it, and that can be a frustration when the two sides of my hardcore fandom don’t quite align. 

Let’s be honest. Most tactica articles out there speak to the top 1% table strategy. There isn’t a single thing wrong with this, but a reality for the vast majority of us out there is that the top local event tables don’t always evoke the same meta we might theoretically be preparing for when we are at the list-building phase. 

To this end, I want to talk about the second-stringers… those sub-optimal units so frightfully often relegated to our model storage that they never get to come out on game day. This isn’t about just reminding ourselves to take a breath and love our personal favorite units though. A LOT of players get deeply disrupted when the status-quo gets weird, and that in and of itself is a powerful advantage. For players who have been around for a bit, just saying the word “Lictor-shame” evokes this perfectly. 

Today I want to look at my personal favorite, recent, second-stringer… the Chaos Possessed. 

A little dated, but still one of the most fun, and modular kits from GW

Clocking in at about 30% more points than a stock Chaos Space Marine (themselves not being exactly kings of points efficiency), and without any guns at all, Possessed can be a really hard sell to those trying to squeeze every drop out of their list. In an age where even the humble bolter can generate enough shooting to make real contributions, foregoing shots had better come with some serious benefits. 

What are those benefits? At a glance, you pick up a daemon-save, always appreciated, but not necessarily incredible, an additional 1” of movement, another -1ap melee attack, and a suspiciously unreliable attack profile of d3 hits per model. The last of their improvements is being S5, and a second wound which is where we finally get something substantial to be more excited about. A few nice pick-ups to be sure, but quick math shows why these guys aren’t the auto-include so many players gravitate towards. 

So what reason is there to even give these guys a look? 

There is a certain secret sauce some units possess (no pun intended), which helps them transcend merely acceptable stat-lines. In this instance that sauce is found by examining these models as receptacles for buffs. Synergy is increasingly important to playing 40k at a higher level, and some models end up earning space in your collection by virtue of their ability to 

absorb flavor. Possessed are the tofu of a Chaos army. Devoid of much flavor or merit on their own, but suddenly hearty in a stew. 

Benefitting from being both Heretic Astartes and Daemons (without losing out on the benefit of whatever Legion you make them a part of), means that these humble punchers can take on all kinds of buffs that they might not otherwise. Being unaligned, and allowed to take the Mark of any Chaos God while in many Legions, furthers this. Whereas World-Eaters might be able to field superior Berserkers, they literally aren’t an option should you find yourself wanting to mine some of the deep power groups like the Flawless Host have available to them. 

Hand-in-hand with this is the idea that small boosts pick up exponential value, when applied to a big unit, or with the right buff. Being Daemons makes Possessed a prime target for Warp-Time, where suddenly that 1” movement gained over most infantry is utilized twice. In a tournament scene where board-control is becoming more and more critical to success, and Space Marines can literally (again?) be dropping out of the sky and into your face, having a huge, and fast-moving foot-print of twenty bodies, can be game-changing. 

But you are probably, rightly, pointing out the fragility of those twenty, pricey bodies. Remember my speaking to how big groups gain that much more from buffs? Well these twenty, two-wound models just love making friends which some of the amazing support choices Chaos brings. A Dark Apostle with Benediction of Darkness brings value to almost any army. The flat -1 against ranged attacks is invaluable as the best defense in 40k is invariably just being hit less in the first place. Couple this with say, Alpha Legion Possessed, and you have created an offensively hard to shit tarpit that your opponent will feel bad devoting fire to, and which even the ever-present Plaguebears would acknowledge as being pretty tough. Oh, and these benefits don’t even hinge on a psychic test being made. 

Speaking of which… you do remember the flexibility of those Marks right? A Poxbringer of Nurgle slapping Miasma of Pestilence on your Nurgle Possessed might as well render them vulnerable if it gets off, or cleverly placed Feculant Gnarlmaw just helped ensure your Warp-Timed Possessed can do some serious alpha-striking. A Virulent Blessing, incidentally is as yummy on offense as the other perks are to defense, incidentally. 

That is just one avenue to defense, by the way. Even within pure Chaos, a Master of Possession can be on Cursed Earth duty in the early game, and shift to Infernal Power or Mutated Invigoration when combat is imminent. 

One last general point I do want to mention is the game-time oddity of a heavy hitter coming in the form of infantry. Chaos is one of the armies who can easily make their offensive threats come not in the form of vehicles, super-heavies, or other tempting Las-Cannon catchers. Your opponent will hate putting high damage, low shot count, weapons into Possessed, but small-arms won’t exactly do the trick either. 

Want to lean into offense? A Greater Possessed and a Sorcerer with Diabolic Strength, and Prescience creates Possessed at the mythical S8, each throwing D3 + 2 hits, thanks to Heretic Astartes newly gained Hateful charge attack. That is a lot of power coming from these Possessed, and as we all know, rolling volume of dice can help make damage output more predictable. 

This really is the tip of an iceberg of customization, as it doesn’t even address some of the other Legions, and Chaos God combinations. More importantly, as a PART of a well composed list, those support models will and should have other recipients of their buffs waiting in the wings once the Possessed are finally out of position, worn down, or whatever the case might be. 

Get used to seeing some of these guys as they are going to be Possessed’s best friends.

Best of all, the balance of offense v. defense Possessed can be adjusted by YOU the player, sometimes within the game itself to reflect your needs against that meta, or opponent. 

Are they fire and forget? Nope, but that wasn’t my intent here. The goal is to simply suggest that some models I love (yeah the kit is aging, but each model can be made so unique and cool), can be elevated to “worthy” status, and deserve to be owned. You may literally own units that do each of their roles better, but tofu is versatile, dammit, and ugly Marines need love too. 

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



About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

18 Responses to “Send Me In Coach!: 2nd Tier Units in Competitive 40k”

  1. Victor Yanguas November 11, 2019 1:02 am #

    Diabolic Strength applies only to a single model, not to a unit.

    So no 20 S8 Possessed. Just one

    • 40kChris November 11, 2019 12:26 pm #

      But if you run a greater possessed and a foot herald you can get to S7… so close. I do that with my Flawless Host Possessed unit at 20 strong with the icon for more extra attacks and a DP nearby for rerolls and more buffing.

  2. Dakkath November 11, 2019 1:24 am #

    Nice article. Hope to see more like it.

    • 40kChris November 11, 2019 12:29 pm #

      Same, this was a great article.

  3. Rob Butcher November 11, 2019 4:00 am #

    A pretty fair summary of the poor state of the hobby-journalism. Please lets have more articles like this – not many of us can afford a new army a month. We all have units we use “until we can afford to replace them”. Then never get around to buying new ones.

    And possessed are certainly more flavoursome to CSM than piles of cultists.

  4. Reecius November 11, 2019 7:07 am #

    Some of my teammates were running a possessed bomb style list to good effect, actually. You pile on every buff possible to a giant unit of them and they mulch anything they touch.

    • abusepuppy November 11, 2019 11:29 pm #

      The Possessed Bomb isn’t quite top-tier, but it can be very strong. Make them Black Legion so you can activate the strat to give them every Mark, then start slapping down buffs on them. Just as a small smattering of the possibilities:

      -The Dark Apostle, as mentioned in the article, can give them -1 to be hit or +1 to wound.

      -Prescience (+1 to hit), combined with rerolls from a Daemon Prince/Chaos Lord means every hit should land. Also fun with Death to the False Emperor.

      -Miasma of Pestilence and Glamour of Tzeentch both give -1 to hit and can be stacked.

      -All four Heralds can give +1 Str each, along with an additional +1 Str from a Greater Possessed. Add in +1 to wound from Nurgle and you’re looking at wounding Knights on 2s (and doing double damage on 6s.)

      -A Master of Possession has a variety of spells that benefit them, including rerolls to hit/wound and improved invulns. Combined with Weaver of Fate, that can get you down to a 3++ for the whole unit.

      -The Daemonkin Ritualists detachment gets you +1 Str and +1A for a single CP, along with mortal wounds on 6s to wound.

      -And of course Warptime gets them up the board lickety split, ensuring that the unit stays relevant to the game no matter your opponent’s movement.

  5. Mark "Neomaxim" Gottlieb November 11, 2019 9:20 am #

    Thanks for the positive comments so far, everyone. I think it is really important, and healthy for our hobby to explore armies, tactics… and really just passion, that is that one small step removed from the ultra-God-tier level of play.

    I’ve proudly been in GTs and been rolled by the elite, name-brand competitors (who are often some of the coolest advocates for this hobby), but rather than make it feel like a dirty-word to call someone a big-fish-in-a-small-pond, I want to take pride in my three-round, store-level, good-sportsmanship wins. 🙂 I’m betting many folks are in a similar boat.

    So these articles, across ideally multiple game systems, are my love-letter to people who love competitive play, but aren’t necessarily ready to rack up their GT airline miles quite yet!

    If people have requests for what units, concepts, etc… you would like to see get a deep dive next, let me know! Also what game systems might need a little more semi-competitive perspective, love!

    • Dakkath November 11, 2019 10:28 am #

      I’d love to see something on Crisis Suits or Ghostkeels. The former were what really drew me into the game.

      • JVail November 11, 2019 11:35 am #

        The problem with crisis suits being they’re not Riptides, same thing goes for the Ghostkeel. If the Riptides were less point efficient you’d see more Suits. Suits would also be great if they benefitted from Ob Sec. considering they’re the only mobile unit in the army that doesn’t die to a stiff breeze.

        • Dakkath November 11, 2019 1:02 pm #

          Personally I feel the main problem with suits is BS4+/that they’re not commanders. Anything* you want to do with crisis you can do more efficiently with commanders.

          *except for possibly flamers and ion blaster deepstrike bombs

        • Jace November 11, 2019 6:43 pm #

          I feel it has to be pointed out that similar arguments on there being better units than possessed could be made. The whole point is to look at units that aren’t the best and give ideas on how to use anyway.

      • JVail November 11, 2019 11:38 am #

        That being said, I think Ghostkeels are actually situationally better than Riptides. If they had just a little more durability ( a few more wounds or 1 more toughness) They’d see more play, I love the model, but its guns want to be up close and its rules want to be far away. I do think they’re a decent substitute for riptides though, now that theyre half the cost of a riptide because $30 increases on a box are reasonable.

    • 40kChris November 11, 2019 12:34 pm #

      Thanks for this article, please do more of these… on anything really. Lol, if you want a challenge try something from FW index for Renegades & Heretics.

      • Mark "Neomaxim" Gottlieb November 11, 2019 3:26 pm #

        You’ll have to let FLG know, if you want more. I’ve already got a running list of AoS and 40k armies and units that need some special attention!

        As for Renegades & Heretics… I’m not a miracle worker. 😉

  6. Yarium November 11, 2019 12:20 pm #

    Hmmmm; Black Legion Possessed, unmarked, then use “Chosen of the Pantheon” while surrounded by a Nurgle, Khorne, and Slaanesh herald-type and the unit would be S8 with advance and charge and reroll failed charges. No psychic powers or prayers or anything, though I guess you could make them -3 to being hit with Miasma and Tzeentch psychic powers along with the prayer, 3+ Inv with Cursed Earth and Tzeentch psychic power, be hitting on 2+ rerollable, and wounding with +3 to the roll (6+’s causing mortal wounds and double damage from Nurgle).

    My my, the power of daemons indeed.

  7. Nalathani November 13, 2019 5:27 pm #

    If you’ve got a pure Daemon detachment, don’t the locus auras from Daemon characters affect Possessed as well? I had always thought about running a small Slaanesh Daemon detachment so they could share the advance + charge aura on the Possessed. With Warptime it makes them mighty quick.

    • abusepuppy November 13, 2019 9:32 pm #

      They do, yes. Slaanesh is particularly good for this, although they can be a bit lacking elsewhere.

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