Let’s acknowledge a completely accurate, undeniable, non-controversial fact at the start of this article:
Word Bearers are at the tip top of the top tier in terms of Rule Of Cool. There can be no disagreement on this fact.
Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk tabletop performance. Word Bearers are basically a non-existent army in 9th Edition. They saw occasional play with Possessed spam lists early on, before later 9th Edition codices horribly hard-countered that list. And you know what? I don’t really think that’s fair. If you come with a fresh set of eyes, there is a lot of great stuff in the Word Bearers toolbox.
I’ve been saying Word Bearers are actually solid for a while now, and decided it was time to put up or shut up. I decided to take the sons of Lorgar out to a local tournament last weekend. The gospel of Chaos had to be spread.
While I’ll obviously go into more details as the article goes on, I want to say that I was extremely, extremely impressed with how well the Word Bearers played. The results of the games honestly didn’t really matter to me. A few of the stronger players locally missed this tournament. The one I was most “worried” about facing (Alex, a very strong Thousand Sons player) suffered a close loss round 2 to the player I played round 3, so we didn’t play. I put “worried” in quotation marks because I really wanted to play him and give my list the toughest challenge possible. I was more looking forward to seeing how well the pieces fit together. And in that regard, they passed the test with flying, daemonic colors.
On to the list:
CAN YOU HEAR THE VOICES TOO?
- Word Bearers Battalion
- Lord Discordant (Warlord, Crown of the Blasphemer for +1 invuln, Diabolist for 6+++ Feel-No-Pain/3+++ Feel-No-Pain against MW)
- Dark Apostle (-1 CP Apostle of the Dark Council, -1 CP Epistle of Lorgar, Illusory Supplication, Benediction of Darkness)
- Master of Possession (+1 invuln aura, reroll 1’s to hit and wound aura)
- 3 x 10 Cultists
- 2 x 7 Possessed (Khorne)
- 2 Decimators with Soulburners
- 2 x Rhinos
- Word Bearers Superheavy Auxiliary
- Khorne Lord of Skulls (Gatling, Ichor)
- Khorne Daemon Patrol
- Bloodmaster (-1 CP, Crimson Crown)
- 15 Bloodletters (Icon, Banner, -1 CP Banner of Blood)
I think the #1 mistake players of “bad” factions make is trying to play the same game as better armies. My plan with Word Bearers was to start from scratch, identify the strongest synergies, and lean into them super hard. So let’s break down everything going on here.
My favorite part of Word Bearers is the double praying Dark Apostle. He can take an upgrade to know and chant an additional prayer, and a relic that lets him reroll his prayer rolls. The Dark Disciples nearby gives him 2+ rerolling prayers, which adds enough reliability to start building a gameplan around. The prayers also still happen at the start of the battle round. This means I’m guaranteed to get some defensive buffs up going second. Take that, 9th Edition codices with your tryhard “Command Phase”. We’ve got one command phase… Lorgar commanding you to submit to the Dark Gods.
Another strong Word Bearers trick is the ability to autopass an undeniable psychic test for 1 CP. I don’t like building around Masters of Possession in other Legions because if you fail a key psychic power, your army is just way worse for a turn. As Word Bearers, I can decide whether the +1 invuln aura or reroll 1’s to hit wound aura is more important that turn, and make sure it happens. It’s just more reliability in a faction that usually lacks it. In addition, I can swap in Warptime or Death Hex instead of the Master of Possession’s Smite and then autopass that. That’s a threat that the opponent has to respect constantly.
And Daemonforge on a Lord of Skulls continues to be just about the best stratagem in the game. Reroll all (failed) hits and wounds on a Lord of War for 1 CP… how is this even a thing? And it’s always -1 to Hit at range because of the Dark Apostle. A Word Bearers Lord of Skulls is just brutal. Now that Superheavy Auxiliary detachments are only 1 CP, you want to bring a Lord of Skulls in basically any Legion that can take Khorne units.
Speaking of Khorne units, the Crimson Crown synergy remains excellent. The Crimson Crown is a Khorne Daemon relic that let’s Khorne Daemon units within 6″ generate additional attacks on a wound roll of 6+. Not only does this work in shooting, but it also gives Possessed exploding attacks on a 5+ with Veterans of the Long War. Just brutal when paired with Decimators, or a Lord of Skulls with rerolling wounds. I wanted this list to be pure Word Bearers originally, but decided to allow myself 90%+ Word Bearers with a Daemons detachment because I love this synergy so much. And of all the Legions, it’s the most fitting that the Word Bearers would work alongside Daemons. I also like medium sized units of Possessed in Word Bearers. They’re pretty mobile and tough, and with Revered Hosts and Veterans can punch way up with no investment needed from character buffs or psychic powers. And when the Possessed get in combat near the Khorne Herald and Master of Possession? The damage output skyrockets. I love units that do well with minimal investment but can still take buffs like champions. That’s why I loved Possessed in Word Bearers, or Berzerkers in World Eaters.
Let’s talk about the Lord Discordant. Word Bearers can make him into a real tank. I never liked Lord Discordants in other Legions because at 200 points, they just do nothing and die. But in Word Bearers? They slap. The Crown of the Blasphemer gives him a 4++ invuln save. This synergizes with the Master of Possessions to become a 3++ invuln save. And let’s just go ahead and give him a feel-no-pain on top for good measure. Instead of a rush unit like most people play him, in this list he is a durable buff-bot that stays behind and makes the Decimators and Lord of Skulls super efficient.
Oh and by the way, late game? Once their anti-tank has been whittled down and the board gets messy?
He’s still a Lord Discordant.
Let’s get on to the games.
Round 1: Jake’s Tyranids (W, 91-63)
- Tyranid Detachment
- 2x shooting Heirodules
- Some Genestealers
- 2 units of Warriors
- I don’t really remember, Tyranid names and models confuse me
- Maleceptor with Resonance Barb, Catalyst, and Onslaught
Secondaries: Direct Assault (15), Stranglehold (9), Retrieve Data (12)
Tyranids are a really interesting army, so I was definitely looking forward to this game. Jake was a very friendly opponent and I knew we were going to have a fun time. I knew that the Heirodules and Warriors together had pretty serious volumes of quality firepower. I also knew that Jake’s list had less mobile ObSec than most Tyranid lists, so I didn’t have to invest as much in protecting the objective on my flank and could funnel my resources into pounding that central objective.
Jake went first, and did ~15 wounds to my Lord of Skulls and whittled down some Cultists. That -1 to Hit did wonders to keep the Lord of Skulls alive. Jake funneled both Heirodules into the central objective and pushed up some Warriors and Characters behind, while he got Genestealers onto both outer objectives.
In my turn, I picked up both Heirodules. The Decimators picked up one, and the Lord of Skulls with Daemonforge and a ton of exploding 6’s from the Crimson Crown picked up the other. I’m fully aware this was pretty lucky. I knew for sure 1 Heirodule was dying to both Decimators and the other was going to take lots of damage from the KLOS, but I didn’t expect to do as much damage as I did. Shooting mortal wounds is a good thing. You heard it here, folks. I also sent a Rhino with a Possessed unit around my left flank to threaten an objective next turn.
His turn 2 saw him getting my Lord of Skulls down to 2 wounds with shooting and psychic damage, and his Flyrant flying in to try to do the final 2 wounds. He got three wounds through and I had a 4+ invuln. I failed my first save, failed my second, and CP rerolled into a save. I asked someone watching to roll my third and final save for me (we had a really friendly atmosphere, and this is something I like to do to help people watching enjoy the game). He rolled a 1, and my Lord of Skulls died. I later learned this bystander was also a Tyranids player. I should have asked what he played before asking him to roll! There was no way a Tyranid player was going to pass a save to prevent a Flyrant from doing something badass. Karma got me there.
On my turn 2 I moved some Cultists and empty Rhinos and Possessed and Lord Discordant onto the central objective, pumped a ton of ranged Mortal Wounds into anything he had near that objective, and got a grip on that objective that would last for the rest of the game. My 7 Possessed disembarked on the left flank and charged the Genestealers on the objective, killing… 2. In exchange, the 6 Genestealers killed 2 Possessed.
I think Jake made a mistake deepstriking his Trygon and Warriors turn 2. They came down in an area of the board that was blocked off from the main action, so if he failed his deepstrike charges he was going to be out of action for a while. Jake played a really solid game on the whole, and I think this was the only serious mistake.
Turn 3, my Bloodletters charged some Warriors on his back objective and presented an issue that he was running out of resources to solve. He ended up not being able to go back and clear them out. In turn, I was happy to keep those ObSec bodies on his objective behind an Obscuring piece of terrain. They ended up doing the final Retrieve Data in his quarter on turn 5, ironically.
I think this game came down to my damage output being so extreme in the midboard between the Decimators, Lord Discordant, Possessed, and initial turn of Lord of Skulls shooting that he had to choose between giving up contesting that objective and losing most of his army.
Round 2: Joe’s Chaos Knights (W, 93-24)
- Infernal Custom Household
- Tyrant with Flamer
- Melee Knight with Khornate Target to turn off invulns
- Two shooting Knights
Joe is a really fun opponent, and this is a really fun list. Round 1, I played a list that was surprisingly elite for Tyranids. Round 2, I played a list that was surprisingly elite for Knights.
Joe deployed very aggressively. We had a discussion after the game about whether this was the right choice. I think we both came to the conclusion that he could have deployed out of potential threat range of my Decimators and had a guaranteed ~60 point loss, or could have deployed aggressively and had a 10% chance of a win and a 90% chance of a blowout loss. I think he made some clever points about his deployment, but ultimately I went first and it didn’t work out for him.
The Tyrant was destroyed turn 1 by the Decimators and a Daemonforged Lord of Skulls. He spent 3 CP to try to stand it back up, but he failed the 4+ roll. He moved forward, but was unable to do significant damage, charging some screening Cultists and getting one Decimator down to 2 wounds. On my second turn, I fired downfield and charged the closer Knight with the Lord of Skulls, killing two Knights. The game was over on turn 3.
It worked out well, because it gave Joe and I more time to hang out with people there and me some more time to walk my dog before the next round. Hats off to Joe for his always positive attitude regardless of the score.
On another note, why don’t Chaos Knights get the 5+++ feel-no-pain against Mortal Wound strat that loyalist Knights get? It definitely felt unfair. As a Chaos fan, I didn’t enjoy pumping Mortal Wounds into his Knights without any possible defense. Hopefully this is something that gets updated in the next Chaos Knights codex.
Round 3: Jon’s Imperium (93-83)
- Grey Knights Vanguard
- Dreadknight, Warlord, once per game 3++ invuln and +1 attack/removing invulns from Daemons in combat, ability to teleport once per game when shot
- Crowe, damage powers
- 2 Dreadknights
- Blood Angels Patrol
- 2 units of Sanguinary Guard
- 2 units of Incursors
- Unit of 5 Bladeguard
- Chaplain on Bike
- Contemptor with Volkite
This was a really interesting list. I see where he’s going with it, and like it.
I needed lots of screens, so I started one Rhino empty so I could use it to screen without the Possessed inside getting trapped. On his turn 1, he basically just moved some Bladeguard onto the central objective and picked up some Cultists with a Contemptor. My Decimators then picked up the Bladeguard. Some Cultists moved onto an objective, with the disembarked Possessed behind an Obscuring piece nearby to pounce if he tried to flip the objective.
I don’t really remember the details from there. I started getting a headache and was really hungry (I was walking my dog during any free time between rounds and hadn’t eaten all day). But good news for Chaos fans, we basically tabled all those Marines. The Lord Discordant ended up going wild, almost one-shotting a Dreadknight, killing a Character, and keeping some Incursors off an objective at the end by covering it so he would Heroically Intervene and kill them if they moved on. I made a big mistake by charging my Lord of Skulls into his WL Dreadknight, forgetting he could pop a 3++ invuln and live so he would get to swing back. Jon didn’t make any mistake that big, but I do think he made a some micro mistakes in terms of positioning or CP rerolling or firing unneccessary Overwatch that left him without any enough resources late game to stem my push forwards.
The highlight was a unit of Possessed coming in turn 2 and killing his Bike Chaplain on the central objective. Having a 1 CP stratagem to get them to damage 2 just makes them so threatening to things that normally wouldn’t care about 7 unbuffed Possessed.
I really enjoyed this list. This style of Word Bearers list works by deploying defensively (with the Lord of Skulls starting at -1 to Hit), winning the midboard over the first few turns, then using the Lord Discordant and guaranteed Warptimes on Possessed or Cultists late game to explode outwards.
I think the 3++ invuln Lord Discordant trick is… neat. It never really came up, because with a 6″ aura for his +1 to hit buff, it’s easy to keep him hidden while buffing the Decimators and Lord of Skulls. I would probably switch to the Malefic Tome on the Master of Possession instead of the Crown of the Blasphemer on the Lord Discordant. Other than that, I think this list is really well optimized and I wouldn’t change anything else without a lot more playtesting.
Just generally, I would encourage any Chaos players to keep experimenting with any faction that is considered “bad”. There is a lot of great stuff out there. While we lack the additional wound we would have with a 9th Edition codex, we can still get away with a ton of nonsense that will be restricted once we get 9th Edition codices. For example, this list had a Word Bearers Warlord but I bought a relic for my Daemons detachment. Every 9th Edition codex has required your Warlord to be from that faction to buy a relic. This is huge listbuilding advantage that CSM and Daemons still have.
Up next, I really want to try Night Lords. I think they could work well played very similarly to Slaanesh Daemons. I would build around Warp Talons, Raptors, and Terminators charging in and tagging something else to become untargettable via We Have Come For You. The infantry version of Lightning Fast Reflexes also seems very strong on large units of Cultists.
As always, have fun, stay safe, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls!
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Published: September 14th, 2021. Last Updated: September 14th, 2021.