Alpha Legion have become a forgotten army in 9th Edition. That’s exactly how a sneaky Alpha Legion player would want it.
The element of surprise is how the Alpha Legion like to wage war, so I knew they would be a good pick when choosing an underrated Chaos army for the Seattle Open. Thousand Sons are very strong, but I knew everyone would be teching for them. The new Chaos Knights codex wasn’t in play yet, and frankly I didn’t have enough free time to get a Chaos Knights army painted before the event anyway. My friend Wallace was taking Disciples of Be’lakor, so I wanted to choose something different. My ideal Death Guard list relies heavily on summoning, and I didn’t want to transport a huge summoning pool with me on the flight. This meant I was left with only one choice: Borrow my friend’s Tyranid army and run Harpies and a Maleceptor and Warriors and…
… I can’t even keep a straight face saying that. It’s all Chaos, all the time here. The meta will change. The Long War is forever.
A spoiler alert for the final result: My Alpha Legion finished 23rd out of 205 entrants at the major. We went 3-1 before bracketing to end up in the second bracket, and then went 3-1 in the bracket. Given the fact I was running an army that doesn’t even exist as a playable army in most people’s minds, I was satisfied with that result. My friend (and Warphammer partner… announcement coming soon) Wallace O’Donnell finished 7th with Disciples of Be’lakor. I’ve been telling you all year, Chaos (outside of Thousand Sons) are really underrated. Let’s take a look at the list.
Actually, one more thing: I just wanted to give a shoutout to every single opponent for being a great sport and a pleasure to roll dice with. I have nothing but love for everyone I hung out with this weekend, and can’t wait for the next big event.
My Alpha Legion List
- Alpha Legion Battalion
- “Alpharius”, Master of Possession: Warlord, Master of Diversion, Cursed Earth, Infernal Power
- “Alpharius”, Lord Discordant: Mindveil, We Are Alpharius: Flames of Spite
- “Alpharius”, Sorcerer: Warptime, Prescience
- 10 Cultists, led by “Alpharius”
- 10 Cultists, led by “Alpharius”
- 5 CSM with Chainswords and Icon of Wrath, led by “Alpharius”
- 5 CSM with Chainswords, led by “Alpharius”
- 6 Warp Talons, led by “Alpharius”
- 3 Decimators with Soulburners
- Alpha Legion Superheavy Auxiliary
- “Also Alpharius”, Khorne Lord of Skulls: Ichor Cannon, Gatling Cannon
- Khorne Daemons Patrol
- Bloodmaster: Crimson Crown
- 20 Bloodletters: Icon, Instrument, Banner of Blood
Here’s the funny story about this list: I brought these models, along with around ~500 additional points of CSM and Daemons, and figured I’ll just write a list when I get there. What I was certain about was that I was going to play Word Bearers. I was going to build around the super chaplain giving -1 to Hit to the Lord of Skulls and +1 to Wound to the Flames of Spite Lord Discordant, along with guaranteed or nearly guaranteed buffing spells. There is nothing wrong with that build, and I think Word Bearers are a perfectly fine mid-tier army. The smash Characters that Word Bearers can build are genuinely busted.
The day before the tournament, Wallace and I had a few hours free after poker and before dinner so we headed over to Terracrux Games (super friendly and well-run store!) to play our lists against each other. I’m really glad that happened. All his deepstriking and teleporting units just ran circles around me. Even though I was winning the fight in front of me, there was no way I was going to win the mission against a list like that. I felt really down on the models I had brought, but figured I would just show up and see what happens.
A friend flew in at 1AM before the tournament, so we were up until around 3AM chatting. While we were hanging out and sharing what we had brought it hit me! Alpha Legion are perfectly set up to solve my list’s issues with deepstriking unit or turn 1 board control. Wallace had already been pushing me there after some testing and had some tips on setting up an Alpha Legion list. Around 3AM I finish my list in Battlescribe, we chat for a bit longer, and then we grab a couple hours of sleep before the tournament.
The turning point for me was realizing that instead of spending 2CP and 90 points on the Dark Apostle, I could just spend 3CP to put the Lord of Skulls into Strategic Reserves in matchups where I was worried about him. Being -1 to Hit when being alpha struck is cool. Being literally impossible to shoot because you’re off the board is even better. That ended up being a really, really good decision. The Lord of Skulls out of strategic reserves got really great angles and controlled a lot of games. I’ve long believed that Strategic Reserves are way underused by the average player, and this tournament had a lot of great examples of that. And then on the turn my Lord of Skulls will show up out of reserves, I also bring in the Bloodletters and play more aggressively with my Decimators. Any firepower that goes into my Lord of Skulls is firepower that isn’t clearing out my objective units or firepower that isn’t taking reducing my mortal wound output.
One of the underrated MVPs of the tournament for me was the Mindveil relic on the Lord Discordant. I had believed it was useless because of the random movement, but threw it into my list to try it out. It ended up being incredibly useful. On the GW style board, most ruins were tall enough to hide my Lord Discordant behind the front wall. That meant I could keep him there safely and project a massive threat range directly through the wall. The trick with using Mindveil is to start every turn by rolling your 3d6 for his movement and plan your turn around the result, rather than planning your turn and potentially getting ruined by a low roll. You lose around 10″ of movement going 4-5″ backwards and then forwards again to get around the side wall without Mindveil, so even a low roll going through terrain can be faster than normal 12″ movement without Mindveil. Great relic, and one that I would happily run again on terrain dense boards.
The pre-game 3 unit redeploy from Master Of Diversion was absolutely massive with my Decimators. The trick is to deploy up to 3 of my Decimators/Lord Discordant/support characters aggressively and up to 3 defensively, so I could move one half to match the other after the first turn roll. Redeploys are absolutely worth their weight in gold. The rest of the Alpha Legion stratagems all had a valuable place, especially with all of our anti-deepstrike shenanigans against Eldar. I will say… it would have been really, really, really nice to have some sort of Legion trait on my Decimators. A couple of times opponents announced they were taking -1 to Hit when shooting my Decimators, and I just had to sigh and tell them they don’t get the Legion trait.
Let’s just address one final aspect of this list: The lack of CP. I started with painfully few CP, especially when I put the Lord of Skulls into Reserves. On the other hand, nothing in this list really needs CP once the game starts. I would let my opponents know I could pre-game move my Warp Talons so they would deploy conservatively, then save my Warp Talons for my final drop and almost never actually use the stratagem. The games I didn’t have to reserve my Lord of Skulls, I honestly had just way more CP than I actually needed.
Round 1: Jeremiah’s Ulthwe (W, 72-63)
Jeremiah brought a well-rounded Ulthwe list. He had two Fire Prisms, a big block of Windriders with Shuriken Cannons, Baharroth, some Farseers, some units of Rangers, then a variety pack of almost every type of aspect warrior.
Jeremiah was clearly an experienced player, and this was a really fun back and forth game. The key turning point was turn 2 when my Lord of Skulls came out of reserves and got an angle on one of the Fire Prisms, which he immediately picked up with Daemonforge. Once Jeremiah lost access to the stratagem for Fire Prisms to ignore invulns, he seemed to decide to ignore the Lord of Skulls instead of trying to kill it. This was definitely the right call over the course of the game. To get an angle on the Fire Prisms, the Lord of Skulls came down behind a wall and couldn’t slowly waddle into combat over the remainder of the game.
Rather than write more about the game, I want to talk about an interaction that happened turn 3. It’s become a running joke with my wargaming buddies that I basically coach my opponents during games and volunteer way too much information. Not only will I warn them of my main unexpected stratagems and such, but I generally actively remind them of stuff during the game. For example, if I declare an attack and my opponent doesn’t say anything, before I roll dice I’ll say “Do you want to Transhuman? These are my only attacks this phase that will wound you on 2’s”. Friends told me I’m helping opponents way more than is expected at tournaments. We talked about what was reasonable. The consensus was that I should answer questions honestly if asked, but I shouldn’t be actively volunteering or reminding any information. This felt weird to me, but I figured I would give this mindset a try.
This conversation was on the front of my mind turn 3 when my opponent deepstruck a unit. I announced I was going to use my 18″ Auspex Scan. He asked if he could put the unit somewhere else. I said no… and then two seconds later I realized how awful that felt, and immediately encouraged him to reposition that unit out of Auspex Scan range. I apologized to him for even asking to take my Auspex Scan shots, and we ended the game with a hug and best wishes for the rest of the event.
While it’s true that my default attitude may be oversharing too much about my rules during a game, I would much rather be way too far on that side of the line than the other way around. We both played with sportsmanship we can be proud of and had a great time rolling dice. Let’s move on to the next round.
Round 2: John’s Borkan Tau (W, 80-44)
I’m going to be honest. I took one look at this pairing and wanted no part of this. John’s list was a Borkan list which featured a Stormsurge, big Crisis bomb with all the fusion and plasma, 3 Broadsides, a Riptide with the big guns, some Characters, a Breacher squad, and plenty of Drones attached to everyone that could take them. He also had a really cool sandy beach display board and paint scheme, and it was a lot of fun playing against him.
I realized I had one path to victory–John’s list had basically no ObSec, so I could bully him off objectives with advances or warptime plays from behind my front walls. I also had a big advantage in that my CSM squads were basically immune to his indirect fire (hitting on 6+, saving on a 2+), and I could use a Character to hold the exposed objective since he had no Snipers. Despite his overwhelming firepower advantage, I was actually pretty safe on my objectives and just had to deny John VP. I sent my Warp Talons on a Warptime play turn 1 to go kill his Breachers. I hated doing that because a 6 on 2d6 with a reroll is so easy to fail, but the risk was worth the reward. From there random Cultist advances and a Bloodletter bomb held him to 0 on Primary for the first 3 rounds, and I gained enough of a VP advantage to hold on.
John was a smart player, and realized after the game that he should have just rushed me ASAP turn 1. If his army touches my front terrain pieces, he can easily pick up all my Decimators and Lord Discordant in one turn. I agreed with John’s assessment, and the game could have gone very differently.
Round 3: Brian’s Freeblade Lance (L, 75-95)
It was a real pleasure playing Brian’s Knights. All the Knights players I’ve played before had a “just rush their big robots at you” style, so playing a very defensive and thoughtful Knights player was a really interesting experience. Just in the way we were measuring everything and asking questions all game, I could tell he was a really strong player and this game was some of the most fun I had all tournament.
My Alpha Legion were definitely at a disadvantage from the jump here. A 6 objective hold 1/hold 2 mission meant I couldn’t bully his Primary score like I usually do to Knights. The mission secondary being units killed was also really bad in a Knights matchup, for obvious reasons.
I don’t want to complain about dice, but I will describe how my turn 2 went: My Master of Possessions goes to cast, and perils. I reroll the cast, and he perils again. I cast my next spell, and he perils. He dies and explodes in the center of my army. My Bloodletters are set up for a charge for a huge VP/board state swing. I roll my 3d6+1″ charge, and only get an 8. I reroll it, and get a 1, 1, 2 roll. My Lord of Skulls comes out of reserves and whiffs on killing an Armiger with shooting. In his half of turn 2, Brian one-shots the Lord of Skulls with his Castellan. I roll the explosion, and get a 6. I roll distance, and get an 11 on 2d6. Khorne was pleased as my army’s skulls scattered all around the battlefield! Probably the worst dice luck I’ve ever had in a tournament game, but it happens. Brian did a fantastic job capitalizing on my army’s implosion and not letting me back into the game, and a well played game by him overall.
Remember how I said it was a disadvantage that the mission was a 6 objective hold 1/hold 2? Once I was basically tabled turn 2, that ended up being an advantage for me because I was able to keep scraping out points despite having few resources left. The biggest takeaway was that in a tournament, never give up even if things don’t go your way early. You can still score tons of points in a loss and position yourself for a decent final finish.
Round 4: Ken’s Grey Knights (W, 87-82)
Ken was running an “old school” (by 9th Edition standards) Grey Knights list, focused around Dreadknights and Interceptors. He had all the greatest hits, including the mortal wound Librarian. Ken was a ton of fun to play, and I could tell right away we were going to have a good game.
The deciding factor was that I had a big range advantage in this game. While my Lord of Skulls couldn’t benefit from Obscuring, if I kept it on my backline he couldn’t shoot it with his 24″ or 30″ shooting from his deployment zone. There was really good Obscuring midfield from one direction, but from the other direction I could fire all the way downfield and blow up any Dreadknights that teleported or Gate Of Infinity-d towards me. I could pick secondaries that let me stay on my side of the field, focus my CP on infinitely resurrecting my Bloodletter bomb instead of deepstriking my Lord of Skulls, and put the initiative on Ken to cross the midfield and take a lot of damage on the way in.
Ken played a really solid game, and didn’t give away any resources unnecessarily. My big advantage was that with the old Daemons codex, I still had the Daemonic Incursion stratagem whereas he had lost most of his specific anti-Daemons tech. We’re definitely losing that stratagem in the next Daemons codex, so enjoy it while it lasts!
Round 5: Todd’s Space Wolves (W, 76-65)
You end up playing one Marine player every tournament, and I got lucky that my Marine opponent was Todd. Todd was the owner of Tablewar, and had a beautifully painted Space Wolves army centered around 3 Redemptors with defensive buffs and some Vanguard Vets and Smash Characters. Tablewar has done a lot for the wargaming community and charity work for children with autism, and it fun to meet Todd and get to play a game together.
With all those Bloodletters and the Lord of Skulls on the table, Todd was filled with the spirit of Khorne and attacked very aggressively early in the game. If things had gone differently and he had gotten just a bit further into my lines, the game could have gone very differently. Todd was an experienced player, and came close to holding my score down early.
As it played out, he killed several units turn 1 but none that would cripple me. In exchange, I was able to counterpunch really hard with Decimators and Lord Discordant/Lord of Skulls melee.
The MVP of the game was my Lord Discordant. The Lord of Skulls and Decimators drawing firepower kept the Lord Discordant safe, and he was able to phase through walls and gobbled up two Redemptors and a unit of Vanguard Vets over the course of the game. Flames of Spite on top of all those attacks is absolutely no joke.
Round 6: Rob’s Thousand Sons (L, 78-95)
After collaborating plenty of times on Goonhammer articles and discussing Chaos ideas, it was awesome to finally meet Rob in person! He had a beautifully painted Thousand Sons army, and we ended up hanging out a few times over the course of the event.
From a gameplay perspective, this was the only game of the event that I felt my Alpha Legion couldn’t win. Thousand Sons have notoriously hard-countered other Chaos factions since they got their codex, and Rob played a great game and didn’t give me any openings to gain an advantage. I knew I had a near-unwinnable game and tried to make some high variance plays early that didn’t work out. Rob’s idea after the game was even more aggressive than mine–he thought I should have basically deployed on the line and tried to go all-in on going first because I couldn’t win going second. I think there is a lot of wisdom in that idea, and maybe I should have been even more aggressive and given dice a chance to bail me out of a bad matchup instead of slowly losing the VP battle. I do think scoring ~70 points in this matchup was fine, and I knew I would still be in a decent spot if I won out from thre.
Shout out to the Lord of Skulls, who showed up turn 2 and killed his Leviathan with a short charge from my own board edge. I was then able to consolidate into a Chaos Spawn of Rob’s that was wrapped by another unit, and keep my Lord of Skulls safe from shooting for a turn.
Playing against Rob’s Heldrake confirmed my suspicions about the unit–it just doesn’t really do anything. I had considered one in my Thousand Sons lists as a tech piece against Eldar and Sisters, being able to fly around walls and get angles on fragile units with the baleflamer. Rob rolled a 1 on his 2+ MW strat, and we both had to laugh at how little the Heldrake actually does. Rob played a great game with a beautiful army, and I’m glad that my punt matchup is a fellow Chaos army.
Round 7: Guy’s Grey Knights (W, 95-68)
I have to give Guy a shoutout for how he approached the game. The morning of day 3, our rental car got its windows smashed in and some items stolen. While I didn’t really lose anything besides my bad with dice, my friend Erik lost some backpack with his expensive headphones and limited edition codex. I felt really bad for Erik, and wasn’t really in a mood to play 40K when I got to the convention hall. Guy could tell something was wrong, so he offered to grab us beers to calm things down. There was a list issue we quickly resolved, and went on to have a friendly game.
Much like my Grey Knights game against Ken, this was a very defensive and uninteractive game. My Bloodletters just focused on move-blocking and scoring Stranglehold, while my shooting castle waited in my deployment zone between screening Cultists and CSM. Guy did have a unit of Paladins which were no joke at all, but I was able to basically ignore them and block their movement so they couldn’t get into my castle.
I could tell Guy wasn’t a fan of how uninteractive the game ended up being, and I agree. You shouldn’t be able to score 95 points without crossing the midfield all game. Hopefully the next mission pack rewards more interactive playstyles.
Round 8: Quinn’s Aeldari (W, 81-56)
Quinn had a really cool themed army list with lore for his Ynnari + Dark Harlequins army. Even in competitive events, there is no reason you can’t have some fun with the fluffy side of the hobby. Quinn’s list was a mix of Dark Harlequin Troupes in Transports, classic Eldar shooting like 2 Fire Prisms and some aspect warriors, and then the Yncarne and some Ynnari flair.
To be honest, I’m not really sure how I won this game. My brain was in a haze after days of 40K and I just focused on the fundamentals. I lost 2 Decimators round 1, but my Lord Discordant survived a foray from his buffed Troupe Master and then took control of the midboard after moving through the wall.
My Lord of Skulls came out of reserves turn 2, killed the Yncarne, but was than targetted by his 2 Fire Prisms round 2. Quinn got the first of several low rolls during the game, only getting 1 hit out of 4 Fire Prism shots. By the end of his turn, Quinn did around 18 damage total to my Lord of Skulls.
Quinn asked me at the start of my turn what had degraded after my Lord of Skulls took all the damage. I just slowly shook my head and let him know nothing he cared about had changed. And that’s one of the real strengths of the Lord of Skulls compared to a Knight, Brass Scorpion, or Kytan: Non-degrading WS, BS, and firepower is amazing for turns when the opponents swings and misses at him. The Aeldari whiffed on the Lord of Skulls again next turn, getting him down to 2 wounds. With Daemonforge, even the 2 wound Lord of Skulls in shooting and melee continued to tear huge holes in his army.
This was my last big event before Chaos Space Marines get a new codex, and I almost felt a bit melancholy towards the end. After 5 years of the same rules, I still feel like I’m coming up with new lists and ways to have fun and win. I’m going to miss 1CP Daemonforge on the Lord of Skulls.
That being said, this event gave me a lot of great ideas for future lists. I’m going to look long and hard at any Legion that has redeploys in the new codex, because being able to move 3 units around before the first turn felt incredibly impactful.
Playing Alpha Legion instead of Word Bearers really highlighted how valuable movement tricks are as opposed to maximizing damage output. Going forward, I’m going to focus more on Thousand Sons and Chaos Knights until CSM get their new codex. I also think Death Guard have gone from overrated to underrated, and am playtesting some really mobile and responsive lists with Possessed, Daemon Engines, and summoning points. You’re not going to beat good opponents just waddling slow Terminators at them on most missions, so I’ve been coming up with some plays and list ideas to overcome Death Guard’s innate weakness.
If creative competitive lists are your style, I’d love to work with you on making your fun or weird Chaos idea into a competitive list or provide some direction to your collection. 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. If you play Chaos Space Marines and are waiting until the new codex, you could always sign up to support the site now and save up for a few lists and coaching calls once the new codex comes out.
Regardless, I’m just really happy to share this journey with you. One last big think you to my opponents and the tournament organizers for making it such a memorable event. Let’s keep this Year of Chaos going!
Published: May 14th, 2022. Lasts Updated: May 14th, 2022.