An ancient evil has returned. He returns with an extremely weird set of limitations on what else can be included in his army, sure. And he returns at a time when AdMech and Drukhari are oppressively standing head and shoulders over every other faction, sure. But Chaos players are used to fighting uphill battles, and now we have an extremely cool new set of tools to fight them with.
By now you know who I’m talking about. Be’lakor is back, and today we’re going to take a dive deep into how to make the most of his Disciples of Be’lakor.
I specifically waited a while to write an article on the Disciples of Be’lakor. When the rules first became publicly available, there were a smattering of quickly conceived hot takes and then people immediately turned their attention to shinier and more mechanical armies. Disciples of Be’lakor (DOB from here on out) is an army that is going to be underrated right out of the gate because it’s not an army that plays itself. Having had the chance to play lots of games with the new rules over the past week, I think people are going to really enjoy playing this army once they have the chance to get some actual games in.
This guide assumes you know the general basics of what’s included in this army. If you’re new or need a refresher, I highly recommend checking out the great Goonhammer overview, available here.
One note: I’ll be honest, I’ve had to step back from 40K discussions online lately because of the absurd amount of monotonous negativity. If you want to complain about the list-building limitations, or that the army isn’t as powerful as AdMech, or that Chaos Space Marines still have one wound, I really can’t really help you with that. It is what it is. While I agree with most of the complaints, I would rather focus on making the best of what we have. Whether your army is bottom or top tier, you can always control improving your skill as a player and bringing a positive attitude to the tabletop. I’m aware there are a couple of potential RAW issues with list writing. We’re going to assume Daemons and CSM can be included in detachments together. That assumption doesn’t change anything in the article, and I’m even going to provide a sample list at the end that separates neatly into Daemon and CSM detachments if that’s how your TO rules. Just wanted to address this at the start to avoid getting any angry comments later. With the caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in.
At a very high level, DOB is an anti-shooting melee army. DOB immediately enters the scene as one of the most durable armies in the game against long-range firepower. The improved Daemonic locus to turn off ranged hit rerolls and give -1 to hit from 12″ is a seriously huge defensive force multiplier, and can be combined with some innately very tanky datasheets. People that haven’t played against Beasts of Nurgle before just can’t understand how tanky they are, and that was before the massive defensive buffs from being in DOB. This flew under the radar, but you absolutely should not be able to take a 9 man Beast of Nurgle unit and combo Warp Surge for a 4++ invuln, turn off Hit rerolls, and give it -1 to Hit. That is just filthy. There are many armies in the game that legitimately will never be able to flip an objective once you get a big unit of Beasts of Nurgle on it.
The best part about this locus is that it’s not God locked. Previously, Nurgle was the only God that could consistently get -1 to Hit on key units at range. Now that all four Dark Gods can join in on the -1 to Hit fun, our idea of which units are durable is going to expand.
The way you want to structure your Be’lakor lists is by building a castle that is extremely resistant to long-range shooting, and then sending units like Bloodletters and Screamers and Flamers out to do damage and play the mission. Go ahead and splash in some Chaos Space Marine units for firepower and to bring in a different damage profile, and take advantage of a few synergistic stratagems. The key to success with Disciples of Be’lakor will be not in bringing the exact right list, but in understanding exactly how to apply damage to best deny them primary and keep your own damage dealers safe. You have very few units that will actually threaten the opponent. It’s not inconceivable that your only shooting over 12″ is a single unit of Havocs, or you only have 4 or 5 units across the entire army that can do actual damage in melee. Turn 1 teleporting Bloodletters are great, but if the opponent hasn’t taken Banners then it’s much less important to get those bodies across the board and physically touch their objectives on turn 1.
The ability of the Shrouded Step psychic power to place a unit anywhere on the board 9″ from your opponent on any turn opens up a few interesting angles for Daemon players. We can now “deepstrike” on any turn instead of just turns 2 and 3. This means you can now start a max unit of Bloodletters on the board, hide them out of range, and then teleport them into charge range on a convenient turn instead of spending 2 CP to deepstrike them. This also gives you the chance to apply pressure from the very first turn. What I would do is run 3 units of Bloodletters, placing one or two in deepstrike. Throw waves of Bloodletters at them to start doing damage, but more importantly use Fight phase movement to work those ObSec bodies into their deployment zone and mess up Banners and their Primary scoring. People care way too much about trading point values. Once the game starts, the points are completely irrelevant. You don’t get a takeout box at the end of the game to gather up your remaining points on the table and add them to your next game. Starting a unit of Bloodletters on the board can also be a strong play because it gives you a chance to punish them if they push towards you early. Don’t be afraid to spend the CP upgrading every Bloodletter unit you have with the Banner of Blood. There are few better ways to spend CP in the game. Shrouded Step also works extremely well with Havocs, as you can get angles easily and threaten backfield objectives late game. When running Shrouded Step and Wreathed in Shades (the power to make a unit un-targetable), cast Shrouded Step first so you know will every unit will be and can cast Wreathed in Shades as protection with full information.
This army railroads you into running mostly Daemons with Chaos Space Marines splashed in. This is because it’s really, really hard to find CSM units that are worth their points without access to Legion specific stratagems. I love Cultist blobs in CSM lists with a Dark Apostle for the invuln, but that is basically just a worse version of Horrors in DOB once you factor in the points for the Dark Apostle. I’ve seen people ask if DOB can be run as a CSM focused army. Frankly, that’s not going to be a thing. A unit of Warp Talons would have been a very interesting tech choice, but without any of the EC/NL/WE charge bonuses they are way too unreliable in a DOB army.
DOB have a stratagem to autopass morale checks with a roll of a 1. This synergizes extremely well with Horrors, or any unit that can take a Banner to return models on a morale roll of a 1. This strat has become referred to amongst my friends as the “spicy autopass” (well… no one else says that yet, but I’m trying hard to make it a thing). The catch is that you have to be within 6″ of a CSM unit to use it. A great setup to take advantage of this is a unit of Havocs made un-targetable behind a blob of Horrors, with the Horrors screening the Havocs and the Havocs triggering the strat for the Horrors. Note that the CSM unit can be a Character, so something like a Master of Executions hanging around to counter-charge could serve in that role well.
Daemons continue to be inexplicably weak casters. Unless you’re running the Contorted Epitome, you’re going to have no bonuses to cast. Relying on casting WC6 and WC7 powers is not a good place to be. Start every list you write with a Changecaster so you have access to the stratagem to auto-cast a psychic power on a roll of a 9. Do note that the Disciples of Belakor explicitly exclude psykers from knowing powers from the Noctic Discipline and any other disciplines, so you can’t use the Endless Grimoire to have a Changecaster know some Noctic powers and also something like Gaze of Fate. Honestly, doubling down on Changecasters wouldn’t be a bad play. Belakor with Shrouded Step and Pall of Shadows, a Changecaster with Shrouded Step and Wreathed in Shades, and a Changecaster with Gaze of Fate and Infernal Gateway seems like a very strong selection of psychic powers with a lot of flexible options. Remember that each Changecaster knows two powers even though they can only cast one, and you have access to a 1CP stratagem for a Changecaster to cast again at the end of the psychic phase. Having Infernal Gateway in your list is great because the mere threat of a mortal wound explosion forces your opponent to move differently to avoid it. Most turns, that second Changecaster will be farming Gaze of Fate instead of spending the stratagem to cast again.
Secondaries you’ll want to take are Engage On All Fronts, Stranglehold, Retrieve Data, Raise Banners, and Warp Ritual. I really wouldn’t build too hard towards To The Last, that seems very much like a trap. Be’lakor is durable, but he’s no Mortarion–and even Mortarion isn’t that durable these days. You’re often going to have to sacrifice Be’lakor to achieve something during the game, and I’m not seeing two slam dunk To The Last choices after him. I think a DOB list could consistently score 5 on To The Last, but 10 and 15 would be a stretch in many matchups.
In this section, I’m going to go through all the units that deserve consideration in a DOB list and provide an explanation of why you would include them in your list.
- Changecaster (9/10): You’re bringing a Changecaster for the ability to know two DOB powers and the stratagem to autocast a power with a roll of a 9. With your strategy built so strongly around teleporting or concealing a unit, anything that adds some reliability to that process is a key piece of your list.
- Contorted Epitome (5/10): The Epitome is a really cool unit, and you’ll have games where you keep trapping Be’lakor in combat with enemy units to prevent him from being shot and feel unbeatable. The issue is that the Solar Flare relic (and other items or strats like the Veil of Darkness) has made combat trapping gameplans much less reliable. I also find that once I start including the Epitome alongside the mandatory Be’lakor, my lists quickly run out of points before I’ve brought enough “stuff” to fill out a reasonable army besides those two HQ’s. Much prefer the Epitome in a Slaanesh Daemons army.
- Bloodmaster (7/10): Any unit that can hold the Crimson Crown and synergizes with Bloodletters has a place in the DOB. Speaking of which…
- Bloodletters (10/10): Bloodletters are still a great unit, and DOB gives Daemon players the tools to fully unleash them. Here is a very typical turn one for a DOB list: Be’lakor gives full hit rerolls in the command phase to a unit of Bloodletters, then in your psychic phase you teleport them in front of the enemy lines to kill something and move those sweet ObSec bodies into your opponent’s lines. Because 15 Bloodletters with Chapter Master rerolls hit as hard as 20-25 Bloodletters previously, you have a lot more freedom to experiment with smaller unit sizes and save some points. If you want to run three units of Bloodletters, try grouping them into something like 15/15/30 to have some throwaway squads and then one brutal hammer. Honestly leaning hard into 4 or 5 Bloodletter squads is a good play, but you’ll have to be very careful to balance out your list with at least 3 or 4 units from other gods in that case if you want to spam one unit.
- Screamers (7/10): Screamers hit like a truck (S6 AP3 2D is a great statline), but have been held back by hitting on 4’s and a high points cost. DOB can’t help you with the exorbitant points cost, but Be’lakor can give Screamers hit rerolls to get around that WS4.
- Beasts of Nurgle (10/10): Beasts of Nurgle were already an incredibly obnoxious unit to remove. This locus takes it entirely to the next level. Plague Drones are honorable mentions with a similar profile, and you can’t go wrong with running either.
- Nurglings (8/10): Nurglings have access to a 1 CP stratagem to reanimate on a 5+ if the squad isn’t wiped out. I honestly don’t want to be the opponent trying to clear out 9 Nurglings in one go with this locus active. At the very least, bring one unit of 3 Nurglings just in case you face a matchup where you need to forward deploy for defensive purposes.
- Horrors (8/10): Just like with Beasts, giving an already durable and tricky unit a huge durability boost is a good thing. Big blobs seem fun, but I really want to experiment more with lots of MSU Horror units. A bunch of 10 model Horror units with splitting points and the locus will be a complete target allocation nightmare for your opponent. With -1 to Hit and no rerolls, you’re going to have a ton of rounds where your opponent way underkills or overkills your Horrors units. The splitting mechanic will punish them whenever they under allocate or their dice roll cold by keeping you on objectives far longer than expected. Horrors also do a ton of damage with full hit re-rolls and a Changecaster to make them S4, throwing an incredible volume of dice at lightly armoured targets.
- Lord of Change (0/10): Just messing, but can you imagine a Lord of Change with that locus? Sigh.
- Skull Cannons (8/10): Don’t laugh. They were already sneaky durable due to their half damage strat and contribute non-negligible shooting.
- Exalted Seeker Chariots and Soul Grinders (6/10): These are definitely “Hardcore Daemon fans only” deep cuts, I admit. But Exalted Seeker Chariots give you a cheap and deep pool of T5 Wounds, while Soul Grinders with the Mark of Tzeentch/Nurgle become very durable with the locus. I wouldn’t rush out and buy them if you don’t already own them, but you can put them on the table in DOB and not feel bad about it.
- Furies (10/10): Already an amazing unit, the ability to play around the God limitations with marked Fury units makes these near mandatory.
- Flamers (7/10): With so few options for damage in a DOB army, fitting a unit of 5-9 in your list is a great idea. You’re also always bringing a Changecaster in your list, and getting Flamers to S5 is a very nice boost.
On the Chaos Space Marines front, there aren’t nearly as many units to be excited about in a DOB army. Let’s quickly run through the viable ones, and why they fit well in a DOB list:
- Havocs (8/10): They’re overpriced but worth considering just because they give you something different. They’re definitely a scalpel in Be’lakor lists. Keep them safe early, then use them to clean up the board late in the game. Go with either the autocannons for cheap dakka, or chaincannons for the best all-around option.
- Obliterators (5/10): You’re already going to be running super thin on points in a DOB list. It’s going to be hard to justify Obliterators at 300+ points, when they are ridiculously prone to whiffing outside of Iron Warriors specific builds. If you’re hellbent on running Obliterators, a cool idea could actually be running a unit of two marked as Khorne. Spending 1 CP for Veterans of the Long War to proc exploding 5’s to Wound from the Crimson Crown gives you a cheaper shooting base that can still spike hot with much less investment than a full unit and 2 CP for Endless Cacophony. That feels like the sweet spot, until Daemons get some points drops and we’re not sacrificing so much “stuff” to bring a full unit of Oblits.
- Cultists (7/10): Tide of Traitors remains a great way to get bodies into different table quarters whenever an opportunity presents itself.
- Shooty Vehicles (7/10): Since Vehicles will also benefit from the -1 to Hit outside of 12″ Legion trait, Dreadnoughts (particularly Contemptors with Volkite or a Leviathan with the Grav Bombard) become a very interesting addition. Note that basically every single synergy in this army excludes Vehicles (including Be’lakor’s command phase rerolls and reroll 1’s aura).
- Master of Executions (6/10): Cheap little counter-charger that can hang around your Daemons to proc any stratagems that requires a nearby CSM unit. I honestly don’t hate spending a CP to buy him the Talisman of Burning Blood or the Elixir for Advance and Charge or +1Strength/+1Attack.
Key Relics and Psychic Powers
- CSM Relics: Since you’re limited to core CSM codex relics that don’t require you to have a CSM Warlord (so the relic Nurgle power fist isn’t allowed), your two main choices will be the Talisman of Burning Blood or the Intoxicating Elixir to beef up a Character. Realistically you won’t bring either since it will you a CP to buy it since your free relic from Be’lakor has to go onto a Daemon, but keep in mind that buying one of these is a tool you have available. There are far worse things you could slap into your list than a Greater Possessed with the Intoxicating Elixir to become a mini smash captain.
- Daemon Relics: The choice here is easy: There really isn’t any choice. Without Greater Daemons, the selection of relics becomes truly meager. The standouts are the Forbidden Gem or relic claws if you are running a Contorted Epitome, or the Crimson Crown on a Bloodmaster. If you’re really desperate, the -1 leadership bubble on a Poxbringer could help proc some Morale shenanigans. But at that point we’re just struggling
- Psychic Powers: We’ve already stressed the importance of Wreathed In Shades and Shrouded Step, so I wanted to quickly go over the remaining psychic powers.
- Pall of Despair: Anything that messes with opposing ObSec is potentially strong, but the fact that you have to cast on a 7 and then take a 3d6 LD check makes it extremely unreliable.
- Penumbral Curse: Giving -1 to Wound to an opposing unit in melee is nice, but I really wish this power was WC6 instead of WC7. It’s pretty funny that Daemons have access to a power to reduce incoming AP, when AP is almost literally irrelevant to an army with invulns and no saves.
- Betraying Shades: Sneakily good into Wyches and Troupes, where you’ll average 3-4 Mortal Wounds. Unfortunately it is just a worse smite against the vast majority of units. Really no reason to ever have this in your list in a TAC list.
- Voidslivers: The rules writers keep trying to make “draw a line to a point and damage everything underneath” powers a thing. They appear surprisingly often across a wide variety of codices. Much like in those other codices, this “draw a line” power is going to be completely ignored. Don’t ever bring this, just double up on a power you actually want in case one of your Psykers dies.
Single Detachment Disciples of Be’lakor List
(If you don’t like that it’s one detachment, the CSM units can neatly separate into a Patrol and you still have a legal list with 2 fewer CP. I would drop the Elixir on the MOE in that case to get a CP back and reduce the detachment hit)
- Be’lakor (Shadow Step, Pall of Shadows)
- Changecaster (Shadow Step, Wreathed in Shades)
- Master of Executions (Intoxicating Elixir)
- 9 Nurglings
- 15 Bloodletters (Icon, Instrument, Banner of Blood)
- 15 Bloodletters (Icon, Instrument, Banner of Blood)
- 10 Cultists
- 9 Beasts of Nurgle
- 9 Flamers
- Contemptor with twin Volkite
- 2 units of 5 Furies (Slaanesh)
- Havocs with Reaper Chancannons
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the Disciples of Be’lakor yourself. They’re going to be a solid mid-tier army that can get plenty of wins if played well. As always, have fun, stay safe, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls!
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Published: July 18th, 2021. Last Updated: July 18th, 2021.