It’s always a great time to be playing Chaos. With a new mission pack and meta on the way, lots of Chaos players are confused about where they should be focusing their attention and practice time in the coming months. Here at Warphammer, we’re going to help all Chaos players make their awesome factions work. This is going to be a big picture “Here is what list ideas/units to focus on”, rather than going over literally every unit from every codex.
I want to provide some general encouragement for people still playing Chaos in early 2022. And even more importantly than encouragement, I want to provide direction. Chaos has a truly overwhelming amount of options and units. Here is what you should be focusing on.
A quick note at the start: Summoning really has a place in competitive Chaos lists these days. Psychic Interrogation becoming an amazing secondary means that many lists are incentivized to bring cheap Psykers to achieve it. Leaving 55 summoning points in your list feels like a sweet spot, because you can summon a Slaanesh Herald to do psychic actions or Furies if you want to do regular actions. Bonus points if you don’t bring any Psykers in your list but leave summoning points available to summon a cheap Herald, giving you access to both Abhor The Witch and psychic secondaries.
Ranking the Best Chaos Builds
Let’s get started. Here are the strongest Chaos factions currently, with a quick description of the best build within each faction:
- Disciples of Be’lakor (focusing on the Daemon side)
- Chaos Soup (Epidemius lists and lists taking the strongest shooting units across factions)
- Thousand Sons (Bricks of Scarabs with Characters and Rubrics for support)
- Chaos Space Marines (Deepstrike and aggressive builds)
- Chaos Knights (Lots of Armigers)
- Daemons (Lots of smaller Daemons with a few Greater Daemons)
- Death Guard (Daemon Engines with some mission support)
- Creations of Bile (See their writeup at the end)
These armies are ranked assuming each army is running its strongest list and is played optimally. If we’re discussing average players running average lists then Disciples of Be’lakor would go way down and Death Guard/Daemons running lots of Keepers would go up.
Why Play Disciples of Be’lakor?
I’m honestly so excited about Disciples of Be’lakor. This army was created to play the mission, and that is more important than ever these days.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: T’au. I’ve seen a lot of sentiment like “Daemons are dead, T’au just auto-win against them”. I guarantee people that believe that also believe the only way to play Daemons is lining up big monsters and running them at people.
The REAL way to play Daemons these days is line up little monsters and run them at people. Come on people. Big difference!
Daemons have a huge advantage over other armies into T’au. We have a few strong options to prevent Fall Back, so the game is always one turn away from immediately ending. Charge 2 large units of Plaguebearers into a Devilfish and trail them across a few objectives, place the Epitome nearby, and the game is immediately over. The stratagem to move through other units is also amazing for the Epitome. People that don’t have a lot of practice with no-Fall-Back mechanics just don’t understand how busted they are.
“But… can’t Crisis Teams just shoot into combat now?” Yes, Crisis Suit models can shoot into Engagement Range, but the whole unit can’t shoot you just because one part got tagged. Just grab one end of the unit and you’re fine. Better yet, just grab something else and leave them with no targets for their Crisis unit. It’s beautiful every time.
Don’t get me wrong, big monsters are fun. But against T’au and all the overwhelming anti-large firepower in the game, you might as well pick your Keepers or Mortarion up as soon as you place them down. The Disciples’ locus (no hit rerolls and -1 to Hit outside of 12″) is really well positioned to counter a lot of the firepower we’re seeing these days. Plaguebearers in particular are well positioned to negate all the +1 to Hit with their innate -2 to Hit in Disciples. Seekers are intriguing for the same reason, being able to combine a -1 to Hit stratagem with the Disciples locus. I don’t think Seekers or Flesh Hounds are quite there yet, but you can put them in your list and feel fine about that choice.
Disciples have 3 general builds. The first is the lesser Daemon hordes, run to great effect by Mark Aescht at LVO. Bring blobs of Plaguebearers, Horrors, and Bloodletters, and overwhelm their ability to kill all your ObSec bodies before you have dominated Primary scoring.
The second is the mixed Daemon and Chaos Space Marine build. I’m torn on this one, because I think it is the best in theory but disappoints in practice. You’re burning through Command Points so quickly to support the Daemons that you’re unable to also fuel the Chaos Space Marine tricks you want. I think Daemon + Chaos Space Marine DoB builds will be way stronger once Chaos Space Marines get some datasheets that actually work well on their own.
The third build is one that I think could be really strong, but haven’t had the chance to play as much as the others. It’s a MSU style Daemon build with lots of 10 strong Plaguebearer, Horror, and Daemonette squads with some Bloodletter bombs. MSU Disciples are a genuine attack allocation nightmare for opponents because of how swingy every shooting attack is. -1 to Hit, no Hit rerolls, invulns, possible feel-no-pains… trying to allocate the right amount of offense to shoot 10 Disciples Plaguebearers off an objective is a complete headache.
Flamers are also a great option these days, having received a points drop to a very reasonable 20 points per model. You’re obviously bringing a Changecaster or Fluxmaster in any Disciples build, which synergizes very well with the Flamers. For 160 points, you’re got a very mobile and durable unit that shoots 8d6 S5 AP1 flamer shots with 5 or 6 additional mortal wounds and can’t be tagged in combat. That’s a great piece to have in your toolbox.
My Disciples List
- Daemons Battalion
- Contorted Epitome: Forbidden Gem
- 30 Plaguebearers with Instrument
- 30 Bloodletter bomb
- 15 Bloodletters
- 3 Nurglings
- 10 Daemonettes
- 8 Flamers
- 2 x 6 Furies
- ~200 Summoning Points
I keep switching between a Changecaster and Fluxmaster and between the Nurglings and a unit of Plaguebearers, but this overall shell has done well in playtesting versus some very strong lists and I’ll likely run it at tournaments going forwards.
Why Play Chaos Soup?
You don’t want to play Death Guard, but you want to take advantage of the fact Plagueburst Crawlers are ridiculously good at their current points cost. That’s honestly a good enough reason for many lists to soup by itself. Almost every soup list I’m writing these days is Battalion Of Something Good + Plagueburst Crawlers in a Spearhead. You can’t really go wrong just sticking Plagueburst Crawlers in every list you write these days.
Emperor’s Children pair very well with other armies because they bring reliable deepstrike charges to the table, as do Night Lords. A list built around a durable Nurgle core with some Plagueburst Crawlers paired with a Patrol of Emperor’s Children or Night Lords seems like a very interesting list idea. Warp Talons will pair very well into a lot of lists, as Chaos doesn’t have a lot of trading pieces that are mobile on the board outside of Warptime plays. Night Lords have the edge in pairing with Death Guard Daemon Engines because they can also take the mark of Nurgle, and thus benefit from and contribute to Epidemius’s tally.
Chaos Soup List
- Night Lords Battalion
- Daemon Prince: Wings, Talons, Killing Fury, Talons of the Night Terror (I honestly love this Daemon Prince build. He averages 17 hits in melee, he solves a lot of problems by himself)
- Lord Discordant: Scourging Chains
- 3 x 5 Chaos Space Marines
- 2 x 7 (Praise Nurgle) Warp Talons
- Death Guard Outrider
- Malignant Plaguecaster
- 2 Foetid Bloat Drones
- 2 Blight Haulers
- 2 Plagueburst Crawlers
- Reinforcement Points to Summon Epidemius
Why Play Thousand Sons?
Thousand Sons are underrated right now, and in a really interesting spot overall. All Is Dust is getting more play than ever as armies like Tau bring high volumes of indirect 1 damage fire. 2 damage melee, the worst counter to Thousand Sons, has largely been left behind.
Psychic Interrogation getting buffed has also been great for Thousand Sons. Lots of armies are going to want to start bringing a single Psyker for access to this amazing secondary, which plays right into the Thousand Sons’ hands. Wrath of Magnus is a bit overrated by people that don’t play the army against good opponents, but it’s still a very nice 9-12 points in almost matchup where it can be taken. Scarab Terminators (especially with the Orrery to keep their 2 damage in melee) have a great offensive profile into almost every matchup these days.
Thousand Sons lists also need to lean a bit heavier into damage output these days. Rubrics remain very useful and help play the mission, but Scarabs are more important because they also stop the opponent from playing theirs. Don’t go too heavily into Rubrics (like the 5 x 10 Rubric lists) or you’ll just get run over in some matchups. Something like 4 x 5 Rubrics and 2 x 10 Scarabs is a great core for a GT22 Thousand Sons list.
Thousand Sons List
- Cult of Time Battalion
- Ahriman on Disk
- Exalted Sorcerer on Disk, Umbralefic Crystal, Hourglass of Mahat
- Infernal Master, Egleighen’s Orrery
- 2 x 5 Rubrics with Icons
- 2 x 10 Cultists
- 2 x 10 Scarab Occult Terminators with all the toppings
- 2 x 5 Chaos Spawn
- Tzaangor Enlightened
Why Play Chaos Space Marines?
Chaos Space Marines are in a great spot overall going into the GT22 season. Their faction Secondary is actually really solid and thematic, and has been a big help since Chaos Space Marines usually struggled picking a third secondary. Getting a faction Secondary helps the army feel like it’s finally playing 9th Edition. Points drops to Warp Talons, Obliterators, and Chaos Space Marines have breathed some new life into the Fast Attack, Heavy Support, and Troops slots in Chaos Space Marine lists. I’d be even more enthusiastic about the current status of Chaos Space Marines if it weren’t for…
… T’au. I just don’t get why Games Workshop keeps missing the point that spammable non-Line Of Sight shooting breaks the game.
T’au are basically an auto-win vs any reasonable Chaos Space Marines list. All of their S4 and S5 indirect shooting with AP and ignoring cover just tables 1 Wound power armor bodies. And the worst part is that T’au don’t even need a good player to be oppressive vs Chaos Space Marines. A T’au player can wake up, eat crayons for breakfast, and then go to a tournament and table a fluffy Black Legion player turn 2.
Spammable indirect fire is just horrible for the game overall because it completely invalidates a lot of matchups. But at the end of the day, we are where we are. Chaos Space Marines are still going to be able to win, people just may not like the changes they have to make. Lists that succeed are going to rely heavily on deepstrike damage, Dreadnoughts, and melee units that can be protected as they move up the board.
What does this mean for Chaos Space Marines? I think Night Lords are looking way up, as are Emperor’s Children. Night Lords Warp Talons hit outrageously hard with their +1 to Hit strats and can make reliable deepstrike charges. They can also prevent opponents from Falling Back, which is an excellent survivability trick.
Chaos Space Marines in Rhinos are actually pretty good these days. I would honestly rather have 12 point Chaos Space Marines than 20 point Intercessors as my Troops. It’s fine taking either Cultists or Chaos Space Marines as Troops, and honestly my lists are going to take a mix of both. Cheap ObSec Troops are definitely incentivized in the new mission pack, and CSM have two good options. Basically every Legion that has something good to offer the humble Chaos Space Marine is looking up. Red Corsairs and Flawless Host remain the premier Renegade chapters because of what they can offer the humble Chaos Space Marine.
The soup restrictions don’t hurt Chaos Space Marines that much, because almost all Legions require being the center of attention in terms of CP expenditure. You’re much more likely to see Chaos Space Marines souping with other codices anyway. In anything, I think preventing Legions from souping together is probably a net benefit for the CSM winrate because it’ll stop people from writing a lot of lists that seemed good in theory but were actually quite bad.
John Bianco’s 4th Place Emperor’s Children from the NorCal GT
- Emperor’s Children Battalion
- Chaos Lord: Lightning Claw, Chainsword
- Dark Apostle and Dark Disciples: Remnant of the Maraviglia, Warpsight Plea
- Sorcerer: Warlord, Reader of Fates, Prescience, Delightful Agonies
- 1 x 10 Cultists
- 2 x 5 Chaos Space Marines
- 1 x 10 Noise Marines: Maximum Sonic Blasters and Blastmasters, Icon of Excess, Lightning Claw on the champ
- 2 Volkite Contemptors
- 1 x 10 Chosen: Lightning Claws, Icon of Excess
- 2 x 10 Terminators: Lightning Claws, Bolters, Icon of Excess
- 2 Dreadclaw Drop Pods
Why Play Daemons?
Daemons are in a very interesting spot. While their big monsters were relatively dominant earlier in the edition, ranged anti-tank has gotten so ridiculous these days that Keepers have lost a lot of their competitive appeal. Daemons players have to shift more towards lesser Daemons with a Greater Daemon or two for support, rather than just running as many Greater Daemons as they can.
But then that begs the question: If you’re going to shift towards running smaller Daemons, why not just run them in Disciples of Be’lakor?
That’s a really great question without a clear answer.
Ultimately, Daemons players want Daemons lists to play like a Daemons list should. They want cool shenanigans and weird stuff to happen, and they want to be able to survive crossing the battlefield to reach the enemy. A pure Daemon army in Disciples of Be’lakor just does that way better than a traditional codex Daemons list.
I don’t want to go too far and undersell what traditional Daemon lists bring to the table either. You can’t get the Slaanesh locus to advance and charge or bring Greater Daemons in Disciples, and those are still very strong tools to build around. Daemon Troops also play the mission very well.
Bloodletters have always been great and that still hasn’t changed. In fact, as T’au and Custodes bring -2″ and -d6″ debuffs to enemy charges, Bloodletters charging 3d6+1″ remains one of the few ways in the game to reliably make a deepstrike charge with a reroll. The Contorted Epitome has shot up in value as a way to prevent Fall Back and carry the Forbidden Gem into the enemy lines. Even Soul Grinders are actually looking extremely spicy these days. Tzeentch Soul Grinders rocking a 4++ invuln and a 6+++ feel-no-pain from the Changeling are no joke to put down. Flesh Hounds are definitely interesting after a points drop.
And just like in the Disciples writeup, Flamers are just such a great building block for Daemons lists these days. Their Power Level changed to 1 per model instead of 3/6/9 based on unit size, meaning you can have up to 8 Flamers in a unit and still deepstrike them for 1CP. You can run 3 units of 8 Flamers for under 500 points these days and deepstrike 2 units for 2 CP. That’s a really nice starting point for an Undivided or Tzeentch list.
Chaos Undivided List
- Slaanesh Daemons Battalion
- 3 x Exalted Keepers of Secrets: Sinistrous Hand
- 3 x 10 Daemonettes
- Undivided Daemons Battalion
- Exalted Bloodthirster: Armour of Scorn, Bloodblessed
- Contorted Epitome: Forbidden Gem
- 1 x 3 Nurglings
- 2 x 10 Daemonettes
Tzeentch Daemons List
- Tzeentch Battalion
- Daemon Prince: Impossible Robe, Daemonspark
- The Changeling
- 6 x 10 Pink Horrors with Icons
- 3 x 8 Flamers
- 2 x 5 Furies
- 480 Summoning Points for mainly spamming more Flamers/splitting Horrors on objectives/summoning an HQ with the exact spell you need for a situation/Soul Grinders if you want to take advantage of an area of the board where they don’t have enough anti-tank.
Why Play Death Guard?
Death Guard are by far the least exciting Chaos faction these days, which is sad because they are an iconic army with a brilliant model range.
Their playstyle has never really appealed to me personally. I like lists that have a huge toolbox and a bunch of different ways to respond to situations, rather than lists that get placed on the table and “do their thing” regardless of the opponent. And that’s basically how Death Guard play. Or I should say “want to play”. Nowadays, their lists get placed on the table and “don’t do their thing” regardless of the opponent.
Plagueburst Crawlers are incredible value these days. Blighthaulers and Bloat Drones are both solid value too. There is definitely strong stuff left in the codex. But if you haven’t started playing Death Guard by now, this GT2022 season isn’t a great time to start. I just don’t feel excited talking about Death Guard from either a codex strength or playstyle perspective. That’ll likely change if Plague Marines get a points drop, because that’s the model that got me interested in 40K in the first place. Until then, I honestly think Chaos Space Marines and Daemons are currently better than Death Guard.
Death Guard Daemon Engines still soup extremely well. If someone is interested in running pure Death Guard, go heavy on Daemon Engines and leave some points to summon Epidemius and turbocharge their offense and defense. It’s not the most interesting way to play Death Guard and is vulnerable to bad matchups, but it can hold its own against a lot of tough lists.
Death Guard feel like a very “solved” codex right now, and there isn’t a lot of room for experimentation. What draws me to Chaos is trying weird things and exploring new combos (part of why I have loved working with every Warphammer Patron, it’s really cool hearing all the armies and ideas people are working on). Right now there isn’t a lot of fun exploration available to Death Guard. I love the concept of the army, and hope they get a shot in the arm sooner rather than later.
Summoning is really the only innovation available to Death Guard players, so give it a shot. Summon some Furies to get some mobility later in the game. Summon some Plaguebearers to do actions that your Daemon Engines can’t. Summon a Poxbringer to heal your Daemon Engines or do Psychic Interrogation.
Why Play Creations of Bile?
You were a dumpster baby who grew up surrounded by garbage, and you want a 40K army that reminds you of home.
Disciples of Be’lakor, Thousand Sons, Chaos Space Marines, and some Daemon builds are looking like real winners in the current game. We’re not going to set the world on fire until T’au indirect fire spam and undercosted Custodes get reigned in, but Chaos overall is going to put up more strong showings than people expect.
Summoning is definitely a unique tool we have over other armies to play the new missions. While I think almost every list should at least experiment with summoning points, how many summoning points you leave available comes down to your exact list and playstyle. I find 150-200 is the sweet spot in a lot of lists I’m writing these days, because it gives me the flexibility to summon a combination of a psyker and a mission unit or damage dealer. I generally wouldn’t go past 250 summoning points unless you have a specific plan for them, like summoning a bunch of Flamers to get around the Rule Of Three in my Tzeentch Daemon list.
In terms of upcoming content, we’re going to bring you a very exciting interview here at Warphammer. John Bianco (whom readers may recognize from a discussion last year) went on a crazy run with his Emperor’s Children at the NorCal Open last week, and we’re going to be bringing him on to share his secrets to Chaos Space Marine success in the current game. John is always great to talk with, and I’m sure you’re going to learn a lot and have a good time while doing it.
As always, stay safe, have fun, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls!
Note: Excited to get your Chaos army on the tabletop? Me too! I’d love to work with you on making your fun or weird Chaos idea into a competitive list. If you’re interested in supporting the growth of Warphammer and quality 40K writing, feel free to check out Patreon.com/Warphammer and join the team. Additional benefits and coaching are available.
Interested in learning more about playing Chaos? Check out the Warphammer Discord here: https://discord.gg/SgBcXW5s6R
Published: February 15th, 2022
Last Updated: February 16th, 2022