Labor Day weekend provided the chance for me to finally take my Daemons to my first tournament of 9th edition. After dozens of practice games against good players in my area, I was really curious whether the success I’d been having with my Daemons would translate in games against a new set of opponents. The event was called Labor For the Emperor, held at Born To Game in Middleton, Delaware. There were a lot of great looking armies and friendly people there, and I wish I had been able to play more of them!
Anyway, on to the games. My list:
Mixed Daemon Battalion:
- Exalted Lord of Change, Warlord. Impossible Robe for a 3++, Incorporeal Form trait for -1 Damage, Aura of Mutability for a 6+++ and some healing. Spells are Infernal Gateway, Bolt of Change, Flickering Flames.
- The Contorted Epitome: Forbidden Gem. Spells are Symphony of Pain, Phantasmagoria.
- Poxbringer: Miasma of Pestilence
- 6 units of Nurglings (5 blocks of 3 Nurglings, 1 block of 5 Nurglings)
- 5 Furies (Tzeentch)
- 9 Flamers
- 3 units of one individual Beasts of Nurgle
- Exalted Wrath Of Khorne Bloodthirster. Unrivalled Battle Lust for the +2” to Charge rolls/6” Heroic Interventions
- 20 Bloodletters with the Banner of Blood upgrade for the 3D6 charge from deepstrike
- Skull Cannon
~200 Summoning Points (I brought 10 Pinks/Blues/Brims, 20 Plaguebearers, 5 Furies, 5 Beasts of Nurgle, 10 Nurglings, 20 Daemonettes, 5 Bloodcrushers in my summoning box for flexibility. It’s a lot of extra work and painting just for a bit of flexibility, but fortunately I love all the Daemons models and have a big collection to pull from! If you’re a new player, you can play Daemons competitively with way less, and in fact for new players I would recommend not leaving any summoning points at all.)
Quick thoughts on the list: A lot of playtesting and discussion with good competitive teammates went into this list. The most controversial choice would probably be giving the Bloodthirster the +2” to Charge/6” Heroic Intervention Exalted reward instead of the popular internet darling Bloodblessed that caps the maximum wounds taken per phase at 8. I don’t want to make that discussion too long here, but long story short is that I think Bloodblessed doesn’t translate to tabletop success. Half bracket Bloodthirsters are actually rather mediocre in terms of damage and mobility, and giving +2” to charge with the free Khorne rerolls gives me some flexibility to deepstrike it in certain matchups. The Furies are there just to Raise Banners (12” move Infantry with Fly are great at playing 9th edition missions), and I really enjoy having a throwaway unit with great mobility and a 4++ invuln just to provide some harassment late game. The Skull Cannon adds just enough long range shooting to make the opponent think about it, but it’s mainly there for the option to use the stratagem Bound In Brass And Bone (half damage for the entire phase when targeted) for to make it an annoying objective holder to dislodge.
Round One: Sisters Of Battle
The Opposing Army: Adam’s army was a classic mix of Valorous Heart with an Imagifier for durability and a Bloody Rose Vanguard for some extremely hard-hitting melee. Two Exorcists and plenty of meltas and deepstriking Inferno Pistols provide the ranged damage, and a block of Repentia out of a Rhino provide a melee threat with a huge threat range and the ability to delete anything they touch.
The Plan: Physically screen out the Repentia from turn 1 or turn 2 charges with a wall of Nurglings (each unit being spaced ~3” apart means they can’t go between them in the Movement phase), deepstrike the Bloodthirster to avoid being shredded by the Exorcists, focus on denying Adam his Secondary objectives since I was very likely to win the Primary objectives
Secondaries: Engage on All Fronts, Raise Banners, Mental Interrogation
Summary: I deployed my Nurglings very aggressively, while the Lord of Change and Flamers hugged Obscuring terrain in case he got turn 1. I won the roll off to go first, and moved and charged as many Nurglings as I could forward just to clog up his deployment zone. The Repentia were neutralized for the first few turns as I surrounded a Rhino to prevent 8 Repentia disembarking, without destroying the Rhino so he couldn’t use the Emergency Disembarkation stratagem to get them out and charge next turn.
At the start of the second round he still had enough screens that I decided to keep my Bloodletters and Bloodthirster in reserve to wait for a better opportunity while I continued to chip away with Flamers/psychic damage. I charged the Lord of Change into one of his Immolators (I lost a few wounds in Overwatch but it was worth the tradeoff for positioning) with the Contorted Epitome nearby to keep the vehicle from falling back and keep my Lord of Change immune to all the Exorcist and melta shooting. In his turn, Adam utilized a clever trick to shoot his deepstriking meltas in his movement phase and then declare he was performing the Deploy Scramblers action with them at the end of the movement phase, a trick unique to Sisters and one that ensured he would max his Deploy Scramblers by turn 2.
Turn 3, the Bloodletters and Bloodthirster came into the game and made Khorne proud with the skulls that they reaped. I used the Bloodletters to kill off his remaining ObSec and spread into a large footprint in his deployment zone, and the Bloodthirster destroyed an Exorcist. In his turn he annihilated the Bloodthirster with a single Exorcist (that one Exorcist literally did around 30 damage to my Bloodthirster, those things are crazy), and instantly melted the Bloodletters. But even though I had lost most of my killing power by that point, we just had too many bodies spread around objectives on the board for the Sisters to come back into the game. The game was won by focusing on board control/objectives while having just enough damage to remove the things we needed to remove, a playstyle that Daemons excel at!
Results: 81 – 34, Daemons Win
Round Two: Space Wolves
The Opposing Army: This was an interesting list because instead of the usual Space Wolves list of melee threats in Impulsors, this list had a Leviathan Dreadnought with two Storm Cannons and 2 units of Eradictors for some potentially devastating long range firepower. He also had a block of six Thunderwolf Cavalry with Storm Shields and Hammers, for a nasty ball of T5 3++ 3W pain (I’ve heard about this unit as a sleeper counter-meta pick, excited to face them in person since my usual Space Wolves opponent runs Infantry in Impulsors instead). And as always for Space Wolves, he had Ragnar and a few melee characters along with some Infiltrators and Intercessors.
The Plan: Stage a fighting retreat while scraping out secondaries before I get tabled. Physically hold him back with walls of Nurglings and Beasts, summon some Plaguebearers to provide another wall of screening, hide my Flamers and Bloodthirster from his shooting behind Obscuring terrain, and then pounce forward for one big counter-punch late game once the screens finally broke.
Secondaries: Engage On All Fronts, Raise Banners, Mental Interrogation
Summary: Space Wolves are a unique challenge to screen, because no only do all Characters have a 6” Heroic Intervention range, but they also have a strategem to HI 6” with any unit, so my Nurglings can never end their movement within 6” of any unit or they’ll just HI into me and kill my units/get free movement. Army-wide 6” Heroic Intervention is something you need to practice against or you’ll lose against a good player the first time you face it at a tournament, it entirely changes how you move near them and approach taking their objectives.
I knew my Flamers and Bloodthirster were both vulnerable to his shooting, but I also knew because he had two units of Infiltrators that deepstriking them would be an extremely unreliable option. So I decided my plan would just be to keep the Bloodthirster and Flamers hiding behind Obscuring terrain as long as possible, because once I brought them out to play they were probably going to evaporate.
The game was basically 5 turns of feeding him screens that he immediately munched while I gradually wore him down. A combination of psychic damage (A 12+ Infernal Gateway that also did 4 MW to a nearby character and a smite) and the Flamers contributing with some Mortal Wounds and high volume of attacks deleted the entire Thunderwolf Cavalry unit turn 2. Flames of Mutation is such a great stratagem, being able to add on 5 or 6 Mortal wounds every time you shoot the Flamers really let’s them contribute against a wide variety of targets that my army would otherwise be unable to deal with. I used my summoning points mainly on a unit of 20 Plaguebearers turn 2, because he didn’t have the type of shooting to remove them unless he used the Leviathan on them, in which case that meant the Leviathan wouldn’t be shooting something else for a turn. Turn 3 a unit of Intercessors charged them on an objective, which devolved into a slapfest where both units couldn’t kill each other–perfectly fine with me since I had more ObSec bodies there.
I think my opponent made one big mistake that cost him what ended up being a very close game–spending 4 CP to have Ragnar fight on death after my Bloodthirster charged him turn 3, alongside Knowledge Of The Foe and Gene-Wrought Might to boost his output. I think people sometimes get into auto-pilot when they have top-tier units like Ragnar, and because 90% of the time having Ragnar fight on death is an amazing use of resources, they always use that move when Ragnar dies in combat. But Ragnar’s offensive profile, S6 attacks with high AP, really can underperform against a T7 target with an invuln like a Bloodthirster. He did only around 6 Wounds to the Bloodthirster and had basically no CP left for the late game.
Result: 62-59, Daemons Win
Round Three: Death Guard
The Opposing Army: Luke brought the most durable army in the game– Poxmongers Daemon Engine spam with the Ironclot Furnace relic that gives them all a 4++ invuln, in addition to their usual 5+++ Disgustingly Resilient. Luke also decided to bring a big block of Blightlord Terminators with a Lord of Contagion upgraded to give them rerolls out of deepstrike, along with two big blobs of Poxwalkers for resilient objective holding and a unit of Plague Marines and a Foul Blightspawn in a Rhino.
The Plan: My other army is Poxmongers Death Guard, so I was very familiar with the opposing list. If Luke put the Blightlords into deepstrike (which is announced before deployment in 9th edition), I was going to forward deploy all the Nurglings I could and basically rush forward onto the objectives because there was nothing he had with the shooting and melee to clear out lots of Nurglings quickly. I’d also keep the Bloodletters in reserve in case Luke placed the Blightlords in reserve so I could have a counter-punch for them wherever he placed them down on the board. Frankly nothing else in his army was a real threat to my Nurglings or Greater Daemons (and in turn I had no real threats to his Daemon Engines!), so the game was just going to come down to positioning and who could squeeze the more points out on secondaries.
Secondaries: Engage On All Fronts, Raise Banners, Psychic Ritual
Summary: This match was a complete pillow fight, and we both ended the game with over 1300 points of each army left on the board. I benefited greatly from the change to overwatch in 9th Edition (now that it’s a stratagem, only one enemy unit can overwatch each charge phase) because I could charge his Daemon Engines largely with impunity to get extra movement and slingshot ObSec bodies around the board. I think Luke made a mistake deepstriking the Blightlords, because by turn 2 I had bodies all over the board and he was only able to deepstrike into a largely irrelevant corner of the board. They cleared out some Nurglings, but suffered greatly from the Bloodletter counterpunch in turn 3 that killed almost all of the Blightlords unit.
Luke grabbed control over the center objective early, and it looked briefly like he might pull ahead on primary points as he got two Plagueburst Crawlers and almost an entire unit of ObSec Poxwalkers into the middle of the board and onto the central objective. But next turn my Flamers were able to wipe the entire 20 man Poxwalker unit off the board, my Contorted Epitome tied several of his Daemon Engines in combat with swarms of Nurglings and my Lord of Change, and the Flamers were free to wander around with impunity from that point forward to chip in damage and get Engage On All Fronts.
Highlight was my Bloodthirster charging Typhus, double fought… and did a total of 4 Wounds. Luke hit almost all his saves with the calm of a seasoned veteran.
Result: 94-56, Daemons Win
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed playing this list, because it is both extremely strong and also a constant challenge that requires I really think hard about what I’m doing. With very few offensive threats, I had to play really cagey with my Flamers/Bloodthirster/Bloodletters until I was absolutely certain I needed them to go take care of an enemy unit. Many players might just charge their Bloodthirster forward in a matchup like Space Wolves, but I’ve gotten much better results keeping it hidden behind Obscuring terrain the first few turns or deepstriking it turn 2 or 3, since the threat of the Bloodthirster can often influence the game more than anything the Bloodthirster would actually do.
Flamers are the best kept secret in the entire Chaos superfaction. The blend of mortal wounds and high volume of AP1 attacks they put out means they can contribute to both clearing hordes (like when they one-shotted a max horde of Poxwalkers) and killing tougher opponents that generally have good invuln saves (like when they finished off a few models of Thunderwolf Cavalry with 3++ invuln saves). I’ve found them indispensable in the Marine matchup, and intend to write more about them in a later article.
Thanks for reading, and hope you got something out of this. Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions or want to discuss anything Daemon related, and have a look around the WarpHammer site while you’re here. Hope the Dark Gods bless your dice in your next (safe and socially distanced) game.