40K has had so many changes lately that I’m starting to run out of Tzeentch puns or change jokes to make. I don’t want to get flamed for reusing a previous joke. Can you imagine a Warphammer article without Tzeentch jokes? The Horror!
With that horrible introduction out of the way, let’s talk about why you’re here. Today we’re going to break down the impact of the huge changes in the Nephilim mission pack on Chaos players. There’s a lot happening. We’re going to quickly run through the changes and then break down the impact on each individual Chaos army and evaluate their Secondaries.
Without further ado, let’s see what changes Tzeentch has in store this season.
Note: I won’t cover Chaos Space Marines much in this article because their codex is getting closer every day. I am joining the always amazing Goonhammer team for their initial codex review, and once the NDAs are lifted I’m obviously going to start producing a ton of content about the new codex here at Warphammer. As you can probably guess, I’m just dying to dive into this codex with you. The next chapter of the Long War starts soon. In the meantime, there are plenty of other fun and strong Chaos armies to focus on.
Main Changes Players Need to Know
Command Points Are More Scarce
Let’s start with the most obvious change: Players now start with 6 CP instead of 12, and will receive 2 per battle round instead of 1. You are also no longer are able to give your Warlord a free Warlord Trait, or a free relic to a Character from your Warlord’s faction. You have to pay 1CP each for your first Warlord Trait and Relic, and can then use your codex’s respective stratagems to buy more Warlord Traits or Relics if you wish. This means your entire pre-game expenditure–including unit upgrades, deployment stratagems or pre-game stratagems, and putting units into Strategic Reserves–can be no more than 6 CP, and is ideally much less.
To be honest, I’m not thrilled that we are receiving massive game changes before every faction has received its 9th Edition codex. Some of the changes we’re seeing are so big that they feel more like testing a new edition instead of gradually updating 9th Edition. However, I’m really happy the game is being shaken up. The meta had gotten a bit stale, and any time the game is changed it creates opportunities for creative players to find new ways to win.
One thing to keep in mind as you’re assessing the impact of these changes: every single faction is feeling some pain from these changes. You can only judge the impact on your faction once you’ve gotten an idea of how other armies are affected. If your army feels nerfed but most armies are nerfed even more, you’ve gotten a relative buff.
One Superheavy Auxiliary Detachment is Free
This is a minor change, but one that is very welcome now that pre-game CP are so hard to come by. You used to get 2CP of the 3CP cost for bringing a Superheavy Auxiliary Detachment if it matched your Warlord’s faction, but now you’ll get refunded the entire cost of your first Superheavy Auxiliary Detachment.
Note that you must have a keyword in common besides just Chaos between your Warlord and the Superheavy unit for the refund. This is great news for players running units like Lords of Skulls, Kharybdis Drop Pods, or FW Greater Daemons like Zaraknyel. This rule does nothing to help players using the Fallen Heroes rule to bring a unit of Knight Dreadblades. That doesn’t mean adding a unit of Knights is never worth it, but it’s going to be a tough call for many players to make.
It’s Easier to Place Faction Terrain
While your Fortifications still have to be 3″ away from other terrain pieces, you can now remove one piece of terrain from your deployment zone to make room for your Fortification. This will really help with placing terrain pieces like Noctilith Crowns, which literally couldn’t fit on many boards because of their large size.
You know what that means: The age of men is over. The age of Feculent Gnarlmaws has begun. I don’t mean this seriously, but I’m not entirely joking either.
Generic Secondaries Were Changed
Stranglehold and To The Last were removed in this mission pack. To quote James Workshop, my attitude on these secondaries can be summed up like this: “You will not be missed”. I was happy to take advantage of TTL in many of my lists, but it always felt counterintuitive to show up to a war game and try to avoid sending your army into battle. Stranglehold being taken away is a nerf for aggressive Chaos lists that won by crushing opponent’s Primary scores, but fortunately most of those armies have another strong faction secondary in the same category to pivot to.
Other generic Secondaries were also tweaked, several in ways that will have a big impact on Chaos players. Let’s start with my personal favorite: Psychic Interrogation now generates an additional CP if the Psychic test was greater than or equal to the Leadership characteristic of any enemy models within 24″ of the caster. Chaos–especially Chaos Knights, Daemons, and likely Chaos Space Marines–have abundant Leadership debuffs that ensure you’re likely generating a few additional CP from this Secondary over the course of the game.
Raise the Banners got slightly buffed, as now you can still start the action even if an enemy is on the objective–provided that you control the object at the end of your Movement phase. This is definitely a net benefit for Chaos, as armies like Death Guard and Thousand Sons loved to Raise Banners but didn’t have the speed to move-block opponents from sending cheap units to block their banners. Engage now requires units to have a starting strength of 3 or more models to count rather than a current count of 3 or more models, unless you’re a Monster or Vehicle. The Engage change isn’t a big deal for Chaos, other than helping Thousand Sons score it with remnants of Chaos Spawn squads and things like that.
You Can Take Unlimited Faction Secondaries, and Every Faction Had New Secondaries Printed
This is such a massive change that we’re going to discuss this faction-by-faction in their respective sections. Suffice it to say, these changes are a lot.
Fun fact: Thousand Sons are the only army to not receive a single nerf in 9th Edition. They haven’t had a single points increase or rules change since their 9th Edition codex was published. This trend continues in the Nephilim mission pack, as the rules and Secondary changes leave Thousand Sons in a great spot.
The most interesting change to me is the Wrath Of Magnus change. You now gain 1 VP for each category of Blessing/Witchfire/Malediction powers you manifested more often than your opponent, rather than simply 3VP for killing more models in the psychic phase. This seems like a nerf to some, but I think it’s a lateral change or even a buff. People that just repeated “Wrath of Magnus was a free 15” must not play against good opponents. You were going to struggle to score it turn 1 usually, and later turns weren’t guaranteed if you were the player going first each round or lost resources. Wrath Of Magnus will now be super consistent against single psyker armies, because they’re almost certainly just bringing 2 Blessing powers you have to outcast. Key thing to remember: You manifest a power as long as you pass your Psychic Test and it isn’t denied. You can still cast your Witchfire and other powers even without a valid target to farm points. Anytime you can score a Secondary without having to expose any resources, it’s worth considering.
No one really pays attention to the categories, so to help you out I went through the list of psychic powers and came up with an accurate rule to know the categories of TS powers: Every power that does damage and nothing else is a Witchfire, every power that targets one of your units is a Blessing, every unit that has an effect (besides solely MW) on enemies is a Malediction. The only matchups you may struggle in are outscoring Aeldari in Maledictions and Grey Knights in Blessings, but that’s a small issue with a good secondary overall. Simply ask your opponent how many of each category they have, use 1CP each turn to swap in powers as needed to cover them in every category, and you’re nearly guaranteed to score 3 every battle round. Maledictions seems like the hardest category for Thousand Sons, but remember basically no other armies bring Maledictions.
The other Secondaries mostly remained the same. Sorcerous Prowess received a great buff, keeping the scoring for killing Psyker units but also giving you 2VP each time you kill a non-Psyker unit in the Psychic Phase. This makes Sorcerous Prowess a points factory against MSU armies. Mutate Landscape received a slight nerf because you now have to control the objective to do the psychic action. This won’t affect you much if you were scoring it with Rubrics, but late game Character slingshots are much less likely to work. Burn Empires remains the weakest of the bunch, but isn’t a bad third pick on missions with several objectives near your deployment zone to lock in 8 points. To The Last being removed is a definite nerf for Scarabs and Characters lists. Fortunately that was rarely the optimal pick unless you thought your opponent was going to take a killing Secondary themselves.
In terms of list construction, Thousand Sons players were almost always just running a single Battalion anyway so they are less affected than most. You may buy a relic with Dilettante instead of CP now if you weren’t already. Make sure you stick Icons on your Rubrics to keep some extra cabal points around to generate CP. The final change is the value of Ahriman has gone up relative to an Exalted Sorcerer, and you’re more likely to just stick Tzeentch’s Firestorm on him instead of an Athenean Scrolls Sorceror. Starting with at least 2CP is the cutoff point for me. You sometimes need to use Risen Rubricae to forward deploy a Rubric squad for defensive or mission purposes. One Contemptor at the cost of 1CP is still perfectly fine, just make sure you’re making tradeoffs elsewhere to be able to afford it.
Recommended List Archetype:
Cult of Duplicity single Battalion. Remember to bring a Malediction power in some casting slot you don’t care much about (like one of your Rubric squads) so you can ensure coverage in all categories for Wrath Of Magnus.
Sound the tainted chimes, prepare your putrid offerings, and gather your most virulent warriors: Death Guard are BACK.
I remember thinking “I must be missing something, these Death Guard secondary changes seem too good to be true” when I first read the new Death Guard secondaries. It just seemed like straight up improvements across the board with no tradeoffs, which is generally not GW’s style. Having had several weeks to read, reread, and re-reread the Death Guard secondaries, I can confirm they are as good as they seem.
Fleeing Vectors went from complete garbage to one of the better Secondaries in the game. Morale is an innately disadvantaged mechanic in 9th Edition 40K. If you’re going to tie your VP to a morale mechanic, it has to be very easy to achieve and have a great payoff. Fleeing Vectors fortunately checks both boxes. You’re going to get 3VP basically every time an opposing unit fails a Morale check, and that’s only half the reward. Getting 1 or 2 VP every turn you kill 7 models is very nice, and very fluffy to boot. Just make sure not to pick this against an army like Knights.
Despoiled Ground and Spread The Sickness both got subtle yet substantial boosts. Despoiled Ground now checks for <Death Guard> units instead of <Bubotic Astartes> units. This is a welcome change, as it enables units like Poxwalkers, Chaos Spawn, and Bloat Drones to help you score. Despoiled Ground still has the issue that it is much better if you go second instead of first, but it is much easier to score regardless.
Spread The Sickness got an even biggest boost: You can now start the action even if the opponent is on that objective, as long as you control it. You also don’t risk Mortal Wounds anymore. And most importantly, you get 3 VP for doing this on objectives in your deployment zone, which escalates to 4 VP for objectives outside of your deployment zone. On missions with 3 objectives near your deployment zone, you’re going to get 10 or 11 VP just for hanging out near your own deployment zone. Spread The Sickness is one of the best Action secondaries in the game now.
Terminus Est will be the most interesting direction for Death Guard players to explore going forward. They have a lot of stratagems you won’t use until the later turns anyway, so receiving their CP later in the game doesn’t hurt them as much. In addition, the mobility with units like Possessed and faster Poxwalkers will help you focus on contesting Primary since your Secondaries already received a big boost. The Daemon Engines are still great however, and one Contemptor with Tollkeeper remains a very solid option if you want to experiment with Mortarion’s Anvil or The Inexorable instead.
Death Guard are once again a faction that will reward player skill and has a ton of viable options. Dust off your Dark Imperium boxsets and get back into the fight, Death Guard players.
Recommended List Archetype:
Terminus Est with a focus on Possessed, Plague Marines, and some summoning
Chaos Knights are titanic fans of the ability to bring more than one faction Secondary. Their Battlefield Supremacy secondary Ruthless Tyranny was previously in an awkward spot. While Ruthless Tyranny is basically “Stranglehold but better”, Chaos Knights players generally chose a different faction secondary to shore up a category they were weaker in. That has completely changed now that Stranglehold is gone and we aren’t limited in selecting faction secondaries. Chaos Knights players went from “Great, we have another Strangehold…” to “GREAT, we have another Stranglehold!”
The other two Secondaries also return unchanged from the codex, which is not a bad thing. Chaos Knights players are going to take Ruthless Tyranny and Storm Of Darkness (basically) every game, and then choose their third Secondary based on the opponent and the specifics of their list. Mental Interrogation (don’t forget you can summon Daemon Heralds to do this), Grind Them Down, Path Of Destruction, or a killing Secondary are all fine choices for Chaos Knights. Add in the fact that Chaos Knights innately are excellent at crushing opponent’s Primary scores, and the faction is shaping up to be a points factory.
In terms of list construction, the CP change will push Chaos Knights players towards running swarms of War Dogs instead of big Knights. Full sized Knights generally require a Relic and Warlord Trait (or two!) to be worth their points, while the War Dogs all provide immediate value just on base stats. That may be a bit disappointing from a list variety perspective, but the codex generally rewarded running mostly (or all) War Dogs even before these changes. The fact that Knights can buy Favours with points instead of pre-game CP is a nice boon relative to other factions. Chaos Knights were already very underrated, and they’re going to be real terrors in the new mission pack.
Recommended List Archetype:
Iconoclast War Dogs with Abaddon once the CSM codex is released
House Korvax Abominant centered list with summoning points focused on mission play
Daemons are in an interesting spot. I don’t mean that sarcastically. They genuinely are in an interesting spot, with some issues but also some opportunities.
On the one hand, they are the (contorted) epitome of an army that spends all its CP pre-game. The Greater Daemons all require Exalted rewards to be worth their points, you often need a second detachment to have enough HQ slots, and there are some very solid relics and Warlord Traits you want to bring. These are all definitely downsides in a world where you start with 6CP and don’t get a free relic or WL trait. Some people are going to look at Daemons and hand wave them away as “unplayable”. While that’s completely wrong, I can understand why it seems that way at first glance.
Daemons really don’t need to spend CP in early turns. You get free CP rerolls from Gaze Of Fate if running Undivided or Tzeentch. Daemons lists are going to start with 0 or 1 CP, but often spend most of their CP on turns 2, 3, or later in-game. You’ll have enough CP by then to fuel the small handful of strats your list will need. A unit like Flamers that relies on a 1 CP stratagem is still perfectly viable, because you’ll have enough CP to use it when it matters. And Shalaxi is a fine substitute for one of the Keepers. You’re saving a CP from exalting that one and possibly CP for relics or WL traits. People already write plenty of solid Daemons lists that start on 6 or 7 CP. You’ll start with 0-1 CP in the new world, but that’s much less of an issue for Daemons than most armies.
The only army that seems genuinely crippled by these changes is mono-Khorne Daemons, who generally start with 3 or 4 CP. I’m sure with more time I’ll come up with some ideas, but right now all I can say is run your big Bloodletter bombs in Disciples Of Be’lakor instead so you’re not paying CP to deepstrike them.
Let’s talk about the Secondaries. Forget the actual strength of the Secondaries for a second–it just felt great to look at the page and see not 0, not 1, but 3 Secondaries specifically for Daemons.
Reality Rebels is a genuinely amazing Secondary, and going to prop Daemons up for a while. Reality Rebels also sounds like the name of a punk band, but that’s neither here nor there. You get 1VP at the end of the turn for every table quarter that has more units from your army than the opposing army, and an additional VP for having a unit wholly within 6″ of the center. People are thinking about it completely wrong. Don’t think of it as a substitute for Engage On All Fronts. Think of it like Purge The Vermin from Necrons or Herd The Prey from Dark Eldar, where you’re given tons of VP simply for standing still. You’ll get 10VP without ever crossing the midfield just for outnumbering your opponent on your own side of the field. If you take Reality Rebels and Raise Banners, you’re going to force your opponent to come interact with you. This gets them right where you want them.
The other Secondaries are a bit more hit and miss. Nourished By Terror (the new name for Malefic Terror) has been upgraded to viable. This Secondary gives you 1VP for every model that runs during the battle, and a chance to roll a Leadership check after killing enemy units to gain 1VP. The big change is Nourished By Terror doesn’t have a turn cap anymore, meaning you can rack up 15 points in one turn. This is much better for a morale Secondary. It’s not a mechanic that consistently scores every turn. Some turns you may score 0, and some turns you may have 5-10 models run. Now you’ll be rewarded for a big spike turn. It’s not amazing, but it’s worth considering into any army less elite than Marines. I’m really not a fan of the third secondary which requires you do actions and survive on objectives outside of your deployment zone until your next Command Phase, but it’s there. Useful on a mission which has two objectives right across the line to give you a safe 8. You’ll generally be taking Warp Ritual or Psychic Interrogation instead.
Recommended List Archetypes:
Pure Daemon Disciples Of Be’lakor
Slaanesh Daemons, with Syll’Esske and Shalaxi replacing 2 of the Exalted Keepers you would normally run
I’ll be entirely honest with you–I had a hard time writing this article because I’m so focused on the new Chaos Space Marine codex. I’m really glad I wrote this however, because the new Nephilim changes will seem overwhelming for many players. Don’t lose confidence in your army or skills with all of these changes. You’re going to have to change your lists and struggle to find CP, but so will every army you face. And Chaos players have an advantage in that we’ve got an excellent set of faction Secondaries (on the whole) to help us on the battlefield.
As always, stay safe, have fun, and may the Dark Gods bless your rolls.
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.