Ghosts In The Machine: Analyzing Vashtorr and the “Cogs Of Vashtorr” Army Of Renown

Vashtorr the Arkifane Image

Daemon Engines have seemingly been the forgotten half of the Chaos Space Marines roster in 9th Edition. While Daemon Engines have arguably been the coolest and most unique part of the army, Daemonkin and Core units have stolen the show so far.

That ends today. Go ahead and start dusting off your Forgefiends, Maulerfiends, Lords of Skulls, and all of the other amazing models and units that you haven’t felt great about running since the new codex dropped.

Games Workshop has released the rules for Vashtorr The Arkifane, a unique character with incredible lore. But they also released an Army Of Renown (AOR) focused around Daemon Engines, and honestly? This is one of best AORs in terms of a clear vision and strong rules that I have ever seen. There is no better way to summarize the Cogs Of Vashtorr rules than this: This AOR has almost everything you could want for Daemon Engines.

Without further ado, lets dive into breaking down the rules for Vashtorr, the rules for the Cogs Of Vashtorr, and how you can best use those rules to achieve success with your favorite units on the tabletop.

Analyzing Vashtorr

Vashtorr the Arkifane Image

Let’s start by talking about the unholy combination of man and machine that his AOR is centered around. We’re going to dive into his datasheet in more detail, but here’s the high level take about Vashtorr: He is the overpriced tax you have to take to unlock the Cogs Of Vashtorr AOR.

And that AOR is so wildly good, that guess what? That’s okay.

He comes in at 14 T7 Wounds, with a 2+/4++ save and -1 Damage. That’s not a bad defensive profile in vacuum, but the issue is that he costs 260 points. He’s just not durable enough for his points. I would have much rather seen him cost fewer points in exchange for having 9 wounds (and thus getting Look Out, Sir!) like a Lord Discordant, so he could play a more passive role as a buffer and counter-charger.

His offensive profile is solid, but not much to write home about. His d6 shot 1-damage flamer is hardly a major consideration. The rudest part about Vashtorr is that he didn’t even have the foresight to put the word “flamer” in the name of his flamer weapon, so he doesn’t get d6+2 shots in a Chaos Space Marine army. His hammer is pretty much a generic thunder hammer that hits on a 2+ and has the ability to do mortal wounds against Vehicles. I don’t want to dismiss that mortal wound ability entirely; flat 4 Mortal Wounds on an unmodified 5+ to Wound vs Vehicles can be powerful, albeit swingy. It just feels like we’re missing 1 more weapon profile to put him over the top.

The last part of his datasheet are his Command Phase abilities. You get to pick from 1 out of 3 options, and the option you pick lasts until the start of your next Command Phase. The first option, and the only option that buffs your units, is the one you’re going to be picking the vast majority of the time. You get to choose a Daemon Engine (excluding Characters, Aircraft, and Titanic units), and that Daemon Engine gets +1 to Hit. Considering that you get +1 to Hit in both melee and at range unlike the Lord Discordant’s or Warpsmith’s buffs, this is a fun ability to have. His other two abilities are both short range (18″) debuffs for opponents. Considering the timing of this activating in your Command Phase and requiring Line Of Sight, these are unlikely to ever come into play against a good opponent. One ability halves the range of a chosen enemy unit’s guns. The other halves the movement and attacks of a chosen enemy Vehicle. These are both good abilities in a vacuum that are hamstrung by the limitations placed on those abilities.

Realistically, are you ever taking Vashtorr in another Legion’s CSM army? No, not at 260 points. Honesty, I’m not too bothered by that. It’s better to have a unit that’s too weak than one that ends up being an auto-include in every single army.

But enough about Vashtorr himself. Let’s move on to the fun part… the Army Of Renown he unlocks. And are you going to be pay the Vashtorr tax to run that army?

If you like Daemon Engines, the answer is a resounding 01000110 01110101 01100011 01101011 00100000 01011001 01100101 01110011.

Analyzing the Cogs Of Vashtorr

This AOR’s rules are absolutely stuffed with great stuff for Daemon Engine fans. Let’s start with the basic rules of army construction, before diving into all the parts that make this army so exciting.

AOR Restrictions

1) All of your units must be Chaos Space Marine units.

Sorry to anyone who wanted to run a Soul Grinder in the Cogs Of Vashtorr–you’ll have to leave those daemonic crabs at home. This also means no Plagueburst Crawlers, Myphitic Blighthaulers, or Foetid Bloat Drones. This also means no Thousand Sons specific Daemon Engines can be included. This would be a real shame if Thousand Sons didn’t have a hilariously thin roster of units, and literally 0 unique Daemon Engines. I hope they finally get some more unique units by 99th Edition, in honor of Tzeentch.

2) Your Warlord must be Vashtorr. You cannot include any Daemon Prince models.

Vashtorr’s Warlord Trait is locked to Lord of Terror from the CSM codex. For those who haven’t seen this used before (which is probably 99.9% of players), this gives him a 6″ aura of 3d6 drop the lower morale checks, and opposing units count as below half-strength for combat attrition checks. There’s no hidden sauce to using this in this AOR–it is as bad as it sounds. Save your CP and don’t even buy that Warlord Trait.

3) You cannot include any Cult Marines.

I’m entirely okay with this.

4) You never gain any Legion-specific rules.

For example, you can’t say you have an Iron Warriors Cogs Of Vashtorr army to gain access to both sets of stratagems. You just get the core CSM codex relics/traits/strats and Cogs Of Vashtorr specific relics and strats. That is fair.

AOR Benefits

1) All units gain the Cogs Of Vashtorr keyword, and you gain access to the Relics and Stratagems of this AOR.

2) All units gain the Techinfernal Loci ability. While all units technically have this ability, this ability’s benefit specifies that it only works on Daemon Engines, so it’s effectively a Daemon Engine specific buff.

This rule is wild. All Daemon Engines are always considered to be in all 3 Wantons, meaning they permanently have exploding 6’s to Hit on every single attack they make. Non-Daemon Engines are never considered to be in any Wanton, so they never get exploding 6’s on any attacks. This is 100% fine, as any non-Daemon Engines you’re bringing are there to support your Daemon Engines, not do damage themselves.

That stuff is all important to know, and I highly recommend reading it carefully before moving on. Do also note that this AOR doesn’t remove the Mere Mortal restriction, meaning you still can’t run more Cultists than Core Infantry. But we’re all friends here, right? So I can admit that this is mainly just boring administrative stuff. Let’s dive into the Relics, which is where things start really heating up.


Talisman Of The Forge (11/10): Select one Daemon Engine within 9″ in your Command Phase. Until the start of your next Command Phase, that Daemon Engine has a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain.

Uhhhh… what? Is this real?

We can just give a Lord Of Skulls a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain?

This is just outrageously strong, and you’re going to include this in every single Cogs list you write. You don’t start with 6CP like every other army. You start with 5CP and the Talisman Of The Forge.

Helm Of The Cyberphage (6/10): All Daemon Engines within 6″ of the bearer get +1 AP when resolving attacks against Vehicles.

This is powerful, don’t get me wrong. There are matchups where you are going to love this. But between the fact that it’s useless in non-Vehicle matchups and the fact that many Vehicles you need help killing (like Knights) already have good invulns, this is more a meta pick than an auto-include. And that’s a perfectly fine place for a rule to be.

The Spite-Iron Goad (9/10): Select one Daemon Engine within 9″ in your Command Phase. Until the start of your next Command Phase, that Daemon Engine can Fall Back and still shoot/charge.

This is a great relic for a Lord Discordant, who has the Daemon Engine keyword himself. He benefits the ability to Fall Back and still shoot/charge, and also has a huge base from which you can instead select other Daemon Engines like Forgefiends to get out of combat and still fire away.

This relics (particularly the Talisman) are strong, and a real reason to run this AOR. But now let’s have a Daemonic drum roll and dive into the Stratagems. This is where things start really getting off the rails.


Forge Surge, 1CP (9/10): Don’t roll for the number of shots a non-Titanic Daemon Engine makes. Instead, make the maximum number of shots with that unit’s guns.

This turns the random number of shots from units like Forgefiends with Ectoplasma or Decimators with Soulburners into an actual strength. Why yes, I would love to shoot a flat 12 number of shots with my Soulburners. Don’t mind if I do.

Master’s Guidance, 2CP (10/10): All Daemon Engines within 6″ of your Warlord get full hit rerolls until the end of the phase.

Oh, okay. I guess we’re really doing this, huh.

Cogitated Fates, 1CP (8/10): The enemy does not get the benefits of cover when one unit from your army shoots.

This is just good clean fun. Note that it does not have a Daemon Engine rider, so units like Havocs with Reaper Chaincannons could also benefit from this.

Glitchcurse, 1CP (1/10): A lot of text about an enemy unit that is within 18″ and visible to your Warlord shooting a unit within 6″ of your Warlord and potentially taking 0, d3, or 3 mortal wounds.

The inimitable Leonard Cohen said it best: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.

Cakospark Prattle, 1CP (9/10): Use after your opponent spends a stratagem besides the Command Reroll while your Warlord is on the battlefield. The cost of your opponent’s stratagem increases by 1 for the rest of the battle.

Oh, neat. We also get Agents Of Vect.

Foul Alterations, 1CP (10/10): A Daemon Engine that advanced is still eligible to shoot and charge until the end of the turn.

Remember when people were talking about running Red Corsairs in Arks Of Omen just so their Lord of Skulls could advance and charge? And then I told people that was bad, because you would waste all of your guns, and Red Corsairs didn’t have any other benefits to Daemon Engines. So we never really saw advancing and charging Daemon Engines.

And then this stratagem comes out, and everyone is about to remember how utterly busted advancing and shooting/charging Daemon Engines can be.

The Dark Gods are good to us.

Competitive Viability

This AOR is the ultimate test of Daemon Engines’ competitive viability. This AOR has everything–I mean everything–you could want when running a Daemon Engine heavy list.

Does that push Cogs into the top tier? It will be brutal on certain terrain sets and missions, but I think it falls just short. Daemon Engines are still very expensive across the board. When you start constructing a list, you’re goin to be consistently surprised by how quickly you run out of points. You also are going to have very few units that can do actions unless you’re significantly cutting into your killing power/durability. You’re also going to be playing almost completely without ObSec, and have 0 access to making your Daemon Engines count as multiple models on objectives, or anything like that. Cogs also have very little access to +1 to Wound and no access to wound rerolls, so certain enemy profiles can be a very tough nut for them to crack.

You can summarize Cogs Of Vashtorr like this: We finally have a competitive way to run Daemon Engine spam lists. It’s not outrageously strong in the context of the overall game, but it will feel outrageously strong to people who have an incredibly low baseline opinion of Daemon Engines.

Tips and Tricks

Don’t forget that you don’t just have the relics and stratagems specific to the AOR. You still have access to Infernal Engines for -1 Damage on a Daemon Engine, which stacks insanely well with the Talisman. You still have access to Daemonforge for +1 WS/BS on command. You still have access to Death To The False Emperor for full hit rerolls vs loyalist Astartes. You still have access to CSM traits and relics, so you can still make a Lord Discordant with Flames of Spite and the MW Daemon Weapon.

Masters Of Possession will be key in your list, because Cursed Earth is such a powerful tool to have when basically your entire army can benefit from them. Warpmarked is also extremely powerful. Mutated Invigoration is also wild with the defensive buffs you have access to. You can stack +1 invuln, T9, -1 Damage, and a 5+++ Feel-No-Pain on a Lord of Skulls to make it basically immune to enemy damage. Infernal Power also becomes very interesting with access to full hit rerolls with the Master’s Guidance stratagem. Units that auto-wound on 6’s love being able to reroll their hits. There’s a cute combo you can do on a Lord Discordant with Infernal Power, Flames of Spite, and the Undivided Daemon Weapon where every 6 to Hit becomes 2 additional Mortal Wounds because it also counts as a 6 to wound and triggers both the relic and the trait, but this may be too much investmen down that path. In a Cogs list the Eye Of Tzeentch becomes extremely valuable as a relic on a Master Of Possession, because those spells are going to be so valuable that adding reliability will help your whole gameplan run more smoothly.

You can’t take Cultists easily, but you can take solo Spawn. 1, 2, or 3 will be mandatory in a Cogs list for screening and taking up space behind you as you push forward. Cheap units are very valuable when everything you want to run is an expensive unit.

It will be a challenge to stop fast ObSec missiles from stealing your objectives. To get around that, you can use Lord Discordants to hold objectives because they can heroically intervene. You can also position your bases so that enemies have to be within Engagement Range of your Daemon Engine to be within range of the objective… or even completely cover the edge of the objective entirely.

Forge Surge (the stratagem to make a maximum number of shots with all ranged weapons a unit is equipped with) really changes how you should view some units. For example, Defilers are considered bad. But did you know that a Defiler with Forge Surge and it’s flamer/twin heavy flamer can put out 22 auto-hits, as well as flat 6 shots on it’s 72″ flat 3 damage gun? This is not amazing, but it’s something, and breathes new life into previously discarded units.

The ability to advance and charge also makes a few Forgeworld units especially interesting. Greater Blight Drones don’t do a lot of damage, but they move 14″ with Fly and are perfect for harassing objectives and tying units up. The Blood Slaughter auto-advances 6″ instead of rolling and can occasionally get +2″ to charge with its gun, meaning you’re going to be able to bomb some long charges. Speaking of long charges–the Brass Scorpion has a flat 3d6 charge. With advance and charge, it’s charge range is effectively 12″+4d6“. That is a massive threat range, and helps overcome the fact that it loses lots of movement turning around terrain. A Brass Scorpion is very viable in this AOR, and looks like a bargain at 430 points.

Sample List

Cogs Of Vashtorr Arks Of Omen Detachment

Vashtorr the Arkifane: Warlord (No Trait)

Lord Discordant: Talisman of the Forge (-1CP), Flames of Spite (-1CP), Tzeentch

Master Of Possession: Eye Of Tzeentch (-1CP), Cursed Earth, Mutated Invigoration

Legionaries: Power Fist, Heavy Chainaxe, Malefic Tome (Prescience)

Decimator: Soulburners

Decimator: Soulburners

1 Chaos Spawn



Forgefiend: 3x Ectoplasma

Khorne Lord of Skulls: Skullhurler, Ichor Cannon


Mike Pestilens (magnustheread)

Mike Pestilens (magnustheread)

Mike, the founder of Warphammer, probably talking about which Warlord Traits he will include in his list. Not pictured is his date texting her friends to come pick her up early.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Dan

    Finally excited to play CSM for the first time since that travesty of a book released

    1. Frank Enbeans

      It’s a great book lmao skill issue is the only reason someone would think otherwise

      1. Mike Pestilens

        Frank it’s a great book with a lot of options, but there’s also some valid concerns. Still feels silly to me that units like Possessed can’t get Marks from a fluff perspective, and losing units like Mutilators and Jump Lords is crappy for long time collectors

    2. Mike Pestilens

      Even if we get nothing else out of this, the feeling of having cool new stuff to experiment with makes it worth it!

  2. Isaac

    This army of renown is missing the rule that says a unit can’t gain legion traits (Check Disciples of Be’lakor for the bullet point one would expect). Legion Traits are gained by being a CSM detachment not by being a Legion detachment, so RAW at least for now is that Iron Warriors would still get the ap reduction and ability to ignore cover. They just wouldn’t be able to use stratagems, take warlord traits or relics that are Iron Warrior specific.

    1. Mike Pestilens magnustheread

      Wow, that’s wildly good if TO’s allow it!

      1. Isaac

        Actually, I think I have to walk this one back. The Legion Trait granted by the Chaos Space Marines detachment is depending on which Legion you are, and it reads like you can only pick a Legion if you are a Legion Detachment.

        So… you get the Legion Trait special rule… but you don’t get any benefit from it… which seems equally unintended, haha.

    2. Ben

      I don’t believe that’s true, because the Legion Traits section on pg. 77 says “All units in Legion Detachments…will gain a Legion Trait”. So by not being in a Legion Detachment, they can never gain their trait.

    3. Clay

      So this is actually ambiguous believe it or not; Legion Traits are defined twice in the CSM Core Rules.

      The first time says: “All TRAITORIS ASTARTES units (excluding CULTISTS and AGENT OF CHAOS units, and units described in the Slaves to Darkness rule – see below) with this ability, and all the models in them”
      The second time says: “All units in Legion Detachments (excluding CULTISTS units and units described in the Slaves to Darkness rule – see above)”

      Since you can’t ever be a Legion detachment in the AoR, it’s now unclear which of these rules is meant to work. So that’s neat.

    4. Aaron

      I don’t think that’s the case, because it specifically calls out, “That detachment is not a legion detachment,” and you have to be a legion detachment to get your legion trait.

      Disciples of Be’lakor is just redundant in calling out that the units don’t gain a legion trait.

  3. Georg Bobkov

    Unfortunately, they are specifically locked to Legion Detachments as seen on page 77 under Legion Trait. All Legion units in a Legion Detachment get the trait, and Vashtorrs AoR specifically excludes that that AoR detachment becomes a legion detachment. Page 76 basically says that you get the legion trait ABILITY if you have a CSM detachment and page 77 specifies that you only get the actual traits if you have a Legion Detachment, which you don’t.

    1. Isaac

      Actually, the army of renown says your detachment is NEVER a Legion Detachment. A Chaos Space Marines detachment is not a Legion detachment and vice versa. Both types of detachments give Legion Traits, a Legion detachment just gives additional rules (warlord traits, stratagems, secondary objectives and relics).
      A Cogs of Vashtorr detachment is a Chaos Space Marines detachment but is not a Legion detachment. As is currently worded, the detachment gets Legion Traits.

      1. Aaron

        There are a few sections defining what legion traits and how they work. Let’s go into it.
        The first is the section talking about what a Chaos Space Marines detachment is, and what benefits it grants.

        “A CHAOS SPACE MARINES Detachment is one that only includes models with the TRAITORIS ASTARTES keyword (excluding models with the AGENT OF CHAOS or UNALIGNED keyword).
        -TRAITORIS ASTARTES units in CHAOS SPACE MARINES Detachments gain the Legion Traits ability.
        -(some other stuff)”

        This permits them to get the Legion Traits ability. The Legion Traits ability says:

        “All units !!!in Legion Detachments!!! (excluding CULTISTS units and units described in the Slaves to Darkness rule – see above) will gain a Legion Trait, as presented in following sections.”

        Emphasis on the things between exclamation points. So they get the Legion Traits ability, which grants them a Legion Trait, but only if they’re in a Legion Detachment, which they are not.

        1. Isaac

          I’ve already walked this back for different reasons, but that’s what the Legion Traits rule says under the Legion Detachments section. There is different text for Legion Traits in the Detachment Rules section for Chaos Space Marine Detachments.

          That being said, Legion Traits in the Detachment Rules section do appear to rely on being from a Legion, and the only way I can see to be from a Legion is to be a part of a Legion Detachment. I think. There’s an argument to be made that any unit automatically becomes part of a Legion when you pick a Legion keyword to replace based on the rules text of the keyword (both the section on Legion Detachments and the section on the keyword refer to picking the legion a unit is “from” which is the important word here)

  4. Lucas

    Your articles are always beautiful! There are three things I would like to say the first is that in the army restrictions it also specifies that you cannot use unique legion psychic powers, but they are not on the Smc codex and the second thing, which has nothing to do with this article is this , on the old site there are other articles that I can’t find, what happened to them and the third, when is something about the Word Bearers?

    1. Mike Pestilens

      Thanks Lucas, appreciate your kind words!

      GW showing as always that they don’t actually read all the Chaos rules that they write, lol. And it’s possible some articles got dropped in the website transfer, we’re new to this, I’ll give it a look.

      And don’t worry, I’m taking Word Bearers to a GT this weekend. If it goes well, I’ll have a detailed article or guide up to them next week! If it doesn’t go well… I’ll take some more time to read the Book Of Lorgar and sacrifice more Cultists for better luck next time.

      1. Gianluca

        Look, my concern regarding legion-specific psychic powers is that GW might release something that could contain such rules. That is, strange that in other AoR we don’t talk about legion psychic powers, while in this case we do. And anyway, in the ninth there are rare cases in which there have been such gross errors

  5. Nick

    I really wanted this AoR to be good but its not and this feels like a real reach to say its just short of being competitive. 3 of those 6 strats require Vashtor on the field. His major weakness is being targetable and not having very good defensive abilities. To get the most out of your daemon engines he has to move forward with them and stay close, I’m not sure how you’re going to be able to constantly keep him hidden. I will still try to make some lists with it but I just don’t think it can get there.

    1. Mike Pestilens

      Yeah Nick I definitely get where you’re coming from. I think it’ll be better on Player Placed Terrain, where you can set up a corner ruin for him to hide inside. 12″ move with Fly helps a lot there

  6. Will

    He cannot include the Lord Discordant or Master of possession within the AOR Cogs of Vashtorr detachment unfortunately as it is a named character. Also Tzeentch relics are not allowed.

    1. Mike Pestilens

      Don’t worry will, neither Masters Of Possession nor Discolords are named characters! Have fun including them in the AOR

      The Discolord’s box comes with a name on it so he seems like a named character, but that’s never been supported in the rules. Go crazy!

      1. William

        My mistake! I have started my CoV army then!!!

  7. Petraites

    One question: if you choose the Emperor’s Children legion in this AoR, can you get the SLAANESH keyword in all your units? If you can, it will be funny to get a second 5+++ FNP on a Daemon Engine or the “Consolidate after enemy Disengaging” Stratagem.

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