Chaos: To Moirax or to Contemptor?

Hey all, Danny from TFG Radio here, and today, well, today is a good day. I bought my SoCal 2021 ticket, and despite a hectic job and 2 small children, I am pretty locked into attending. But, with going to a Major event comes the joy and sometimes frustration of list design, and well, I think I am going to take Chaos this year, and well, 9th edition really wants you to have some shooting in your list, and I am here deciding: Do I want Contemptor Dreadnoughts or War Dog Moirax? Let’s find out, and oh, don’t forget to start teking out your list with all the info over at Frontline’s Tactics Corner.

So, as I start designing lists for SoCal as well as being a sounding board for others, a common question I get for Chaos Soup style lists (lists that use some combination of Chaos Space Marines/Death Guard/Thousand Sons/Daemons/Knights) is whether or not it is better to take Chaos Knight War Dogs Moirax or Chaos Space Marine Contemptor Dreads, most especially Volkite Dreads, as a dedicated shooting element to supplement a list? So let’s dive in:

  • Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought:

Cost – 150 with 2x Twin Volkite Culverin. 1 CP.

Offensive output

16 shots at BS 3+ at 45” range, S6 AP0 D2 with 1 Mortal Wound on a 6 to wound.


9 Wounds at T7, 3+/5++, and -1 Damage. Never degrades. 1 point for Bring it Down secondary.

List Synergies:

Easy access to reroll 1s to hit with a Chaos Lord nearby. Can be healed by a Warp Smith. Lot of access to various stratagems and warlord traits that boost their efficiency or survivability.

List disadvantages:

Requires at least a Patrol to take, so spending points on an HQ and Troops on top of the individual CP cost.

  • Chaos Knight War Dog Moirax

Cost – 155 with 2x either Volkite Veuglaire or 2x Lightning Locks

Offensive output

Volkite: 10 shots at BS 3+ (when healthy) at 36” range, S6 AP-1 D2 with 1 Mortal Wound on a 6 to wound.

Lightning: 12 shots at BS 3+ (when healthy) at 36” range, S6 AP-2 D1 with 2 additional hits on a 6 to wound.


12 Wounds at T7, 3+/5++ (against shooting). 2 points for Bring It Down Secondary.

List Synergies:

Can boost range and Fall Back and Shoot with the right Custom House.

List disadvantages:

Has to be part of a Super-heavy detachment or Aux (either way, costing CP), and very few ways to get rerolls or boosts.

Cost Comparison:

So looking at them side by side, a Contemptor without a missile rack is 5 points cheaper, but it does eat 1 CP, and I’d wager that 5 points is not equivalent to 1 CP.  The thing about a Moirax is that if you are just taking a Super-Heavy Detachment for them, that ends up costing 3 CP. It is a bit of a tie here though as while the Contemptor is a bit cheaper in both points and CP (most days), a Contemptor has to come inside at least a Patrol, so that’s points spent for an HQ and Troop choice while you can take 3 Moirax without having to take anything else.  Overall, I think the actual cost is a bit of a wash and really comes down to specific lists, but if I had to make a very generalized, often inaccurate statement, I’d say that a Moirax is overall less resource intensive than a Contemptor.

Offensive Comparison

When it comes to actual kill, a Volkite Contemptor with no bonuses does 6.519 wounds to a Primaris statline, will not actually kill a Single Deathwing Terminator, and against a heavy armor profile of T8, 3+/5++, you are getting 4.148 wounds on average. 

A Volkite Moirax does 5.556 wounds to a Primaris unit, it also does not kill a single Deathwing, and it does 3.33 against a Knight. 

A Lightning Moirax does 5.33 wounds to a Primaris unit, does not kill a Deathwing (but is closer) and it does 2.667 against a Knight.

From just flat, no buff, no synergy offensive output, a Contemptor is again just a bit more effective against both standard infantry and hard targets, but against heavy, elite infantry, the Lightning Lock is more effective thanks to a higher volume of fire at AP-2.  The thing here is that Moirax do not have easy access to buffs that increase this efficiency.  Yes, for 2 CP, one Moirax can Trail of Destruction for full rerolls to hit, but that’s just for one while a spearhead of Contemptors can reroll 1s to hit with a Lord nearby (or even full rerolls with Abaddon or Kharn hanging around).  Last wrinkle here: a Moirax degrades while a Contemptor does not, so a hurt Contemptor is just as combat effective as a healthy one while that is not at all true for the Moirax. Once a War Dog is tiered, its overall combat efficiency takes a dive. Since the Contemptor just has access to so many more rerolls and is always going to shoot at BS 3+ that to me, the Contemptor comes out here as the winner in terms of offensive output.

Defensive Capabilities:

In terms of surviving and winning games, let’s see how the Moirax Chassis and the Contemptor hold up against some fire.

It takes just about 82 S4 AP-1 D1 BS 3+ shots to kill a Contemptor, just about 15 Lascannons (S9 AP-3 Dd6), and 41 overcharged Plasma.

For the Moirax, it takes  about 109 S4 AP-1 D1,  14 Lascannons, or 28 overcharged Plasma for a Moirax to go down.  So what does this data mean?

Well, against large volume of fire, low damage weapons, a Moirax is much hardier than a Contemptor, but a Contemptor is just a bit tougher against the really heavy hits, and it is much, much tougher against damage D2 or Dd3 weapons.  This becomes somewhat of a meta-dependent conversation: are you likely to face a lot of low quality, high quantity fire? If yes, then the Moirax is tankier.  If you expect more middle of the road fire or bigger hits, then the Contemptor and its -1 Damage is better. 

To throw a wrinkle in here, it is worth noting that a Moirax does not have an Invulnerable Save against melee attacks while the Contemptor does. This means that a melee threat into a Moirax is going to be able to ignore the Moirax’s armor while a Contemptor always has a 5++. To illustrate this, let’s look at a Thunder Hammer character. It takes only 12 effective WS 3+ S8 AP-3 D3 attacks to kill a Moirax while a Contemptor requires 17 such attacks to bring down. This also means that on average, a Moirax is going to get tiered by a melee character pretty easily and be much less effective while a Contemptor is very much likely to survive and still be at full offensive power.

So again, the Moirax is going to hold up better against volume, a Contemptor is going to take mid-range and big hits much better, especially in melee.  To throw one last issue here: in terms of giving up Secondaries, a Contemptor is only worth 1 point for Bring It Down while a Moirax is worth 2, so taking 3 Contemptors is offering up to 3 points to your opponent while taking 3 Moirax is offering up to 6 points. 

With all that said and done, I’d say that unless you know you are going into a meta with a lot of high volume, low quality attacks, a Contemptor is just more likely to live and less likely to give up big points.


So what does any of this mean? Well, just looking at the data, both the hard math and the qualitative of list synergies, etc, I’d say that if you are looking for some ranged threat to slot into another build that is isn’t easy to push over, the Contemptor is the way to go.  There are certainly places for the Moirax War Dogs, a lot of them really, but in a sheer head to head, a Contemptor seems to be the way to go for the best combination of Offense and Defense.  I will add one aside here though: You can only take 3 Contemptors, you can take up to 9 Moirax, so that is also something to consider, depending on your overall list design.  Again, it really depends on what you are building, but if you only have  500ish points left for some shoot, then Contemptors are the way to go.  If you have more than that, maybe invest in the Moirax.

Thanks as always for reading, and if you are going to be at SoCal 2021, and let’s hope we all make it there, come say hi. I think I have a list in mind, but we’ll see.  Play games and be nice to each other!

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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.
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