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Just As Planned: Winning with Secondaries in 9th Edition

Daemons weren’t great as a standalone army in 8th Edition–actually, scratch that. Daemons were downright terrible as a standalone army for most of 8th Edition. When 9th Edition rolled around, things started changing quickly for Daemons and their players. Daemons are no longer penalized for things they don’t do well (getting guaranteed kills every turn, which made getting Kill/Kill More in ITC scoring a complete headache) and can directly turn the things they do well (spread around the board quickly and be obnoxious to remove) into points. That’s right Daemons fans, the future is looking bright and warpy. 

We’re going to go through all the Secondaries in the GT mission pack to find which options work best for Daemons. I should note now that Daemons armies can be quite varied, and some Secondaries that work well for a Slaanesh rush list might not work as well for a horde of Nurglings and Beasts Of Nurgle.

When picking a secondary, you want to consider the following factors:

  • What units in your list can score this secondary, preferably early and often? (For example, Nurglings for scoring Domination on the first turn, or mobile Infantry for Raise The Banners high)
  • How much control does your opponent have over your ability to score this secondary? (Killing secondaries generally leave more control in your opponent’s hands, because they can try to hide what you need to kill)
  • How much will you have to go out of your way to score this secondary?
  • How will picking this secondary affect how your opponent plays?
  • How much variance is there in the scoring of this secondary?
  • How many potential points are there available? This can vary both based on the secondary’s available points and your opponents list (For example, Deploy Scramblers has a maximum of 10 points available, while Assassination has a maximum of 9 points available if they only have 3 Characters)

I’ll go into details when certain army compositions or units are particularly suited to particular secondaries, but if you have any specific questions about which secondaries for any particular units or lists, drop a comment below and I’ll be happy to help. I’ll start going through the Secondaries by category, starting with Battlefield Supremacy.

Battlefield Supremacy

Engage On All Fronts (9/10): The general rule of thumb is that you should take Secondaries that fit into what your army wants to be doing anyway. Daemons are so well equipped to score Engage On All Fronts that you would almost have to be actively trying *not* to score this every single turn. Nurglings actively want to spread out early and often to contest objectives and screen, and the speed of Slaanesh Daemons ensures that you can get a unit into every quarter of the table consistently. This is far from a slam dunk, and I’ve found aggressive melee armies like Blood Angels can make this tougher than you’d like, but this is a great pick for most Daemons armies. Don’t forget that charging, and Fight phase movement in general, is a great tool to move your units into different quadrants. I often find myself charging with units like Nurglings when taking this or another board control Secondary, just to get a second opportunity to move the unit and deny future space to my opponent.

Linebreaker (8/10): This is an interesting one. Daemons have some tricks to score this one, but it’s one that will require a plan to score consistently. The requirement that units be entirely within the opponent’s deployment zone means it’s tougher than you may think to actually score this one with a Slaanesh rush list. Be very careful with pile-in and consolidate movements with units on the edge of their deployment zone because you have to make sure that the entire unit ends your turn wholly within their zone. Dropping some small units in their deployment zone forces your opponent to deal with them to prevent you easily maxing out this secondary. 

Don’t forget the Warp Portal stratagem (which let’s you relocate a Fluxmaster, Fateskimmer, or Burning Chariot anywhere on the table more than 9” from an enemy model), which is a neat way to get a unit into their deployment zone in a pinch. Do note that if you’re putting units into deepstrike with the intention of them contributing to scoring Linebreaker, use Denizens Of The Warp rather than the universal Strategic Reserves because Strategic Reserves comes with additional restrictions that explicitly stop you from coming down in their deployment zone on turn 2. 

Domination (10/10): This is a near slam dunk choice on any mission with an odd number of objectives or in any matchup where you believe you’ll be able to control the board, and you should almost always be taking either this or Engage On All Fronts. You already want to end your turn on the majority of objectives, so you can deny your opponent Primary points and set yourself up to score Primary points next turn. Things have gone very wrong if a competitive Daemons list isn’t able to score at least 9 or 12 points on Domination every game. 

No Mercy, No Respite 

(These are some badass names, credit to whomever wrote these secondaries)

Thin Their Ranks (5/10): It’s great when it’s good, and useless almost every other time, including against even Infantry heavy Marine lists–keep in mind that multi-wound models like Nurglings and Intercessors still only give up one point each. It’s a nice option against Guard and horde-leaning Ork and Tyranid lists, but it’s really hard to actually score more than 7 or 8 points on this one in the vast majority of matchups. And even against an army like 100 Guardsmen, if you’re heavily invested in Nurglings and Beasts of Nurgle, you legitimately may have trouble killing enough squishy bodies for this to be worth taking. Basically, as a Daemons player, you generally don’t want to pick this one unless it’s so glaringly, blindingly obvious from looking at their list and your killing power that you would be mad at me for talking you out of it. 

Grind Them Down (6/10): A repackaging of the old “Kill More” objective, this secondary varies more than any other based on your army composition. Elite Monster Mash style lists that load up on 3 Keepers Of Secrets, some other Greater Daemons, and something like Magnus if you’re souping will love picking this in almost every matchup. But generally, this secondary is surprisingly tough for Daemons because we can generally keep them from killing many of our units, but we can’t reliably kill enough of theirs. 

While We Stand We Fight (5/10): In my experience, this is the biggest trap for Daemons players in the mission packet. I think a lot of people will look at their board control lists, which have something like a Lord of Change with the Impossible Robe/Incorporeal Form, an Exalted Great Unclean One with a 4+++ Feel No Pain, and a character which benefits from “Look Out, Sir!” protection as their 3 most expensive models, and think this is a great pick. Trust me–no matter how many defensive buffs you stack on your Greater Daemons, if you’re facing a strong army with a bunch of anti-tank firepower and nothing else to shoot besides Nurglings, those Greater Daemons will die (and die faster than you think). I have consistently lost my Lord of Change in a single turn after bringing him into the open against strong Marine or Eldar lists. Don’t get too clever with this, unless you’ve practiced that particular matchup and have a very good feel for how survivable your While We Stand We Fight targets will be. You’re probably better off picking board control/action/psychic secondaries the vast majority of the time. 

This goes out the window entirely if you bring Horticulus Slimux, whose datasheet was designed by scientists in a secret laboratory underneath GW headquarters to give you guaranteed While We Stand We Fight points. 

Purge The Enemy

Titan Hunter (8/10): I can’t explain the existence of this secondary. GW currently prints not only one, but two Knights codices, which indicates that GW wants them to be a part of the tabletop game. They’ve invested what must be a significant amount of resources into developing a fantastic line of models to help people bring them to life. And then with the release of this secondary, GW tried their hardest to reverse all of that and get people to switch away from taking Knights in their lists.

But what is a 10/10 secondary for almost every army in the game drops down to an 8/10 for Daemons, because depending on your army composition, actually killing even a single Knight might be really hard. I have been fortunate to be able to play this exact matchup many times because one of my good friends runs pure Knights (or mostly Knights with some allies). I haven’t killed even a single Titanic sized Knight in roughly 50% of the games we’ve played, which meant I had to win through superior board control. 

Don’t get into auto-pilot and pick this automatically just because you see Knights in your opponent’s list. Think hard about whether the opponent will have to play the Knight aggressively (because there is no chance any Daemons shooting is going to threaten a Knight from across the board) and what options you have available to deliver damage once it gets close.

And then probably pick it anyway because come on, 10 VP just for killing a single model, who wrote this crap. 

Bring It Down (7/10): Much like Titan Hunter, this is an extremely strong pick depending on the opposing list, just don’t go into auto-pilot and pick it just because their list gives up enough points. This is deceptively tough for melee armies like Daemons against something like Imperial Guard (who are notorious for giving up Bring It Down), simply because a smart player can screen your melee threats from their vehicles for a very long time. This is much better in matchups like a mirror match where your opponent is throwing 5 or 6 Greater Daemons at you, or a Marines list with several Invictor Warsuits that they’re going to throw in your face along with additional vehicles in the mid-field you can score points against. 

Cut Off The Head (0/10): The fundamental issue with Cut Off The Head is that your opponent can just put their Warlord into reserves, at which point the maximum you can score is 6 VP when they bring him or her onto the board during turn 3. And even if their Warlord is on the board, we don’t have the shooting to focus down a unit at long range, so they can easily deny us the kill. It’s a cool idea for a secondary, but this secondary needs a rewrite in a future update to be worth taking against anything besides the most casual of opponents. 

Assassinate (7/10): Even without any ability to snipe besides targeted smites like Bolt Of Change on a Lord of Change or Infernal Gaze on Belakor, Daemons can often rack up impressive Character kill tallies in many matchups with quick melee threats. I feel like a broken record at this point, but don’t just take it because your opponent’s list has enough Characters to score highly on Assassinate, think through the matchup and how well they will be able to keep their Characters safe while playing the mission. 

Shadow Operations

Raise The Banners High (10/10): Daemons are excellent at scoring this secondary, as long as you bring units specifically to accomplish this seconadary. As a reminder, banners can be raised by any <INFANTRY> (including Characters), as long as they didn’t advance. To score highly on raised banners, you want two things: An army that can apply pressure downfield or screen well so the opponent can’t come and remove your banners (Daemons excel at these), and Infantry that move quickly so they can reach mid-field banners early without advancing. 

In come Furies, one of the underrated gems in the codex. They have the Infantry keyword and move 12” with Fly, so they can start hidden and then easily get to any midfield objectives. Giving them the mark of Tzeentch or Nurgle for the 4++ invuln or Disgusting Resilience makes them just durable enough that they’re useful as harassment piecest/overwatch soakers in later turns. And at just 45 points, if they raise one banner and get shot off the next turn, you’re happy to trade that for 5 VP over the course of the game. 

Other great choices to Raise Banners are Exalted Flamers and Fluxmasters, who are Infantry Characters that move 10”+ and can contribute with some shooting or psychic support after raising banners on the first or second turns. 

One last note that I often see people misplay is raising banners with Nurglings–they don’t have the Infantry keyword, so you can’t raise banners or do any of the actions in the Shadow Operations section with Nurglings. Still a great unit, but make sure you have a few Infantry units (for example, bringing some Plaguebearers and Furies if you’re running pure Nurgle Daemons) if you’re running a lot of Nurglings and Greater Daemons and plan to pick Raise The Banners High. 

Investigate Sites (6/10): This one seems simple on the surface, but the fact that any opponent can turn this “off” for you simply by having a single model end their turn within 6” of the center of the board makes it tougher than it seems. Be careful not to pick this one unless you’re rather confident you can have 3-5 turns of holding them away from the middle of the board entirely. 

Deploy Scramblers (7/10): This is a nice option for Daemons lists that plan to deepstrike small units of Infantry or . Don’t be discouraged by the fact that you can only score 10 points for this secondary–if your list can consistently get 10 points on this, it is definitely worth taking this over secondaries with higher upside but many more potential sources of failure. If the opponent doesn’t have a large number of units and will have trouble screening their deployment zone, putting a small infantry unit in deepstrike is a great way to ensure you complete the action in their deployment zone. 

Teleport Homer (7/10): This is a solid secondary against opponents that can’t block off their deployment zone effectively. I generally prefer the safety of Deploy Scramblers since you only need to do one action in their deployment zone, but Teleport Homer is a solid option depending on the matchup. Keep in mind that Teleport Homer can be done by any Infantry, not just characters, so using Warp Portal to throw a Fluxmaster behind some Obscuring terrain and either make the opponent come deal with them, or let you rack up easy secondary points, can be a smart play depending on the terrain layout. 

Warpcraft

Abhor The Witch (1/10): The existence of this secondary is the main redeeming feature of pure Khorne armies, and a big blow to the vast majority of Daemons lists. Most Daemons armies will have at least one Psyker, making us ineligible to score this secondary. Against an opponent without any Psykers, they can stack this secondary and Assassinate or Bring Them Down to score 8 VP every time they kill one of our Greater Daemons (excluding Bloodthirsters, obviously). Brutal.

The main thing to keep in mind with this secondary is that it is so strong against Psyker heavy armies, you almost never want to take just a single Psyker and lock yourself out of being able to pick it. For example, if you have a Khorne Daemons army and want to splash in a Nurgle Patrol for some board control units, I would rather take a Sloppity Bilepiper in the HQ slot than a Poxbringer, because a Poxbringer would lock your majority Khorne from being able to take Abhor The Witch. 

Mental Interrogation (7/10): This Secondary is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, opponents can hide their Characters if you pick it, since you need Characters near the front lines (and on the board, so you can’t use this Psychic action if the Character is in a Transport). On the other hand, most armies with lots of Characters rely on them to function properly, and have to make backbreaking tradeoffs to keep them all away from the frontlines. I view it as a reliable 9 points in most matchups, with the chance to go up to 12 or 15 points. Just keep your expectations realistic, because even armies without psykers have counter play to this secondary. 

Psychic Ritual (7/10): People often think taking a tanky Lord of Change (generally with the Impossible Robe, Incorporeal Form, and Aura of Mutability) guarantees them this secondary because they can move to the center of the board and freely perform this action, but that’s not the case. While the Lord of Change is extremely tanky, most competitive lists will be able to shoot him down in one or two turns if there is a huge VP incentive to do so. This secondary makes much more sense if you have a Psyker that can benefit from “Look Out, Sir!” and plenty of screening.

Pierce The Veil (2/10): This one is intriguing, but has too many ways for it to go wrong to be worth taking. It’s difficult for a Psyker to survive multiple turns on the back edge of their deployment zone. And not only do you have to get to the back edge of their deployment zone, and stay there, but you also have to stay outside of 6” on the back edge so they can screen you out even after you have arrived. If you believe you’ll have so much control of the board and the psychic phase that you’re considering taking this, there are almost always better secondaries you could be taking like Psychic Ritual or Linebreaker. 

Final Thoughts

I want to leave you with a reminder: There is no substitute for practice, and getting in reps with a consistent list against a variety of opponents is the best way to learn what secondaries fit well with your list and playstyle. The most common secondaries I pick with my board control list are Raise The Banners, Engage On All Fronts, and Mental Interrogation, but you can build a list designed to score almost every one of these secondaries. Have fun, stay safe while gaming, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls.

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