The QCC V9: Chaos Terminators, The Powerhouse of Shooting and Melee

Terminators are everyone’s favorite unit. And rightly so; with the right Legion, loadout, and Chaos mark, this unit can be an absolute powerhouse in melee and shooting, and a standout unit in any matchup.

Credit: Rotaken on DeviantArt

In the Quick Chaos Cut Volume 9, I’ll talk about Terminators, what looks good on them, and what doesn’t. The three different things to consider are Mark of Chaos, Legion, and weapon loadout.

Caveat: I’ll only be considering CSM Terminators in this episode, as Blightlords/Deathshroud & Scarab Occult differ significantly in profile and stratagems.

Marks of Chaos

When it comes to Mark of Chaos, each Mark of Chaos has 3 things: A psychic power (minus Khorne), an icon, and a stratagem. There is one clear winner when it comes to Mark of Chaos. There is one clear loser. The other two are in the middle.

Low Tier: Tzeentch.

Having a non-applicable strat (+1 to smite for a psyker), and a weird and essentially useless icon (1 mortal wound to an enemy within 12” if you roll a 6??), this mark doesn’t do anything for the Terminator squad. The psychic power, +1 to invulnerable saves, is good but unfortunately doesn’t add much until you get to damage from AP-3 or better weapons. All this comes together to make Tzeentch the clear loser.

Middle Tier: Khorne & Nurgle

Khorne has a 3 CP strat to fight twice at the end of the phase. Unfortunately this is expensive and has been nerfed slightly in 9th due to the change to multi-charges. Still powerful, and can make these Terminators do a lot of damage. The Khorne icon is an auto-take because it allows you to reroll charges. This is powerful, as deep striking is how the Terminators will be delivered in a lot of matches.

Nurgle has a 2CP strat to heal a model, or bring a model back. Unfortunately paying 2cp for a single ~30 point model ain’t great. The icon, -1 LD within 6”, is near useless as it has such a short range and LD hasn’t been too much of a factor in winning the game since 7th edition. It does have a great power, -1 to hit in shooting and melee. This is powerful, and can add to the Terminator’s survivability against everything that isn’t a mortal wound or auto-hitting.

High Tier: Slaanesh

Slaanesh provides the best stratagem, the best psychic power, and arguably the best icon, making it the clear winner. The stratagem, 2CP to Shoot twice at the end of shooting phase, can make this unit a shooting powerhouse. You can stack this shooting twice with other buffs of +1 to hit and wound, providing even more potency. The psychic power, a 5+ FnP, adds to this units durability against any damage taken. Fail a 2+ save? The Tzeentch power wouldn’t help. Take a smite or auto-hitting weapon? The Nurgle power wouldn’t help. The FnP is the most powerful defensive psychic power of the 3 available. The icon gives Death to the False Emperor (DttFE) on a 5+, which is amazing in the current meta where Imperium are running amok. This gives Power Fists and Chain Fists DttFE on a 6+ with their inbuilt -1 to hit. Prescience can stack with this banner, giving DttFE on a 4+, which is amazing for models that don’t have a lot of attacks to start with.


Credit: Me with Contrast paints and too much time on my hands

When it comes to Legion synergy for the Terminators, there are Legions that don’t do much, there are Legions that do a little, there are Legions that do a lot, and there are two Legions that do the most.

Low Tier: Word Bearers, Renegade Legions

With both of these legions not having a lot to offer Terminators in terms of Legion traits or Stratagems, these go at the bottom of the pile. [Insert tearful confession about how I have 10 Word Bearers Terminators painted up that I want to use; see picture above]

Middle Tier: Iron Warriors, Night Lords, Black Legion

Some of the stratagems available in these legions can seriously help Terminators. Night Lords have a +2 to charge stratagem when you’re in terrain and a no-fallback strat. Black Legion can make a terminator squad have all marks, or make them super-Objective Secured. Iron Warriors can make them ignore -1 and -2 ap and have a cultists screen. Unfortunately, these are really situational and overall don’t make for a really great legion for Terminators.

Middle-High Tier: World Eaters, Alpha Legion

World Eaters have the most bang-for-your-buck in melee. They have +1 attack as their Legion Trait. They can make Terminators Red Butchers to allow them to fight twice, always. This version of fight twice is better than fighting again at the end of the phase, as this fight twice happens at the same step as the first fight. (i.e. if they charge, the fight twice counts as another charging unit). They can get a ton of buffs in the fight phase, from an extra AP to DttFE against everyone. They can pregame move 9”, which can help them get to where they want to go. World Eaters have a Warlord Trait that is an aura of +1 to charge, which helps with making the charge out of reserves. Unfortunately, what holds these guys back from being amazing is that they can’t reliably get into melee. An 8” charge, even when rerollable, isn’t reliable enough to guarantee that the Terminators get to do damage when/where you want them to.

Alpha Legion has the best legion trait, a -1 to hit outside 12”. They also have extremely flexible stratagems that are all great for Terminators. Conceal to be untargetable unless closest, Intercept within 18”, fall back and shoot, redeploy on the following turn, and deny deep strike within 12” are all useful and flexible. This unit can do a lot of things. Definitely a consideration for Terminators.

High Tier: Emperors Children, [Last Minute Edit: Creations of Bile]

Creations of Bile are really interesting. They have really flown under the radar since release, overshadowed by the Death Guard supplement in the same Psychic Awakening. But wow does this Legion add some interesting things to a Terminator unit. The Legion trait of +1 to Strength and Movement is great. +1 Strength pairs quite nicely with all of their melee weapons, and +1 Movement is okay at first glance, but great once you understand how fast this Legion can make the Terminator squad. The stratagems are where this Legion shines. The first is an advance and charge stratagem that gives +1 to advance and +1 to charge. Unfortunately, this stratagem has to be activated at the start of the movement phase, so can’t be activated while in a transport or while off the board. But that’s okay, because this Terminator unit (5” move on it’s datasheet) can move, on average, 21” BEFORE THE CHARGE, and a +1 to charge to boot.

Don’t believe me? Take the Terminators base movement, add one because of the legion trait, add d6+1 for the advance. Now double all that because of Warptime and you get 21”. Wow, no one is going to expect this unit to come FLYING across the table at your opponent. This delivery method is second to only one Legion (coming up next) and can make Terminators scarily fast. Another powerful stratagem they have is full rerolls to hit. This is triggered at the start of the shooting or fight phases (timing is important) if your unit starts within 12” of Fabius Bile. This is really powerful in shooting and melee as it allows for extremely reliable hits. The timing on this strat for the fight phase is good because the unit only has to start the fight phase within 12”, which means it can pile in further and fight with more models. Other strats to consider are the reactive +1 toughness strat, which is situationally good, and pairs well with the guaranteed +1 toughness buff from Fabius. Overall, this Legion is great because it provides a reliable way for the Terminators to get into combat, and easy to access rerolls.

Emperors Children have the most reliable melee delivery method for Terminators. Honor the Prince is the best charge stratagem in the game, allowing you to see the result of your charge, and then pay 1CP to chance one dice to a 6. This is incredibly reliable; let me break it down. You have a chance of rolling a 9+ and making the charge without any CP. If that fails and you rolled a 3+ on either dice, you can Honor the Prince and make the charge. If that fails, you can reroll both dice with a CP, and if either dice are a 3+ you can Honor the Prince and make the charge. Overall, you’re going to make the charge 98.8% of the time from reserves.

They have a decent legion trait, always fight first, that comes in handy for Terminators that are stuck in. They have some other decent stratagems for Terminators, like rending on 6s to wound, extra attacks for every model they kill, and a 2CP pregame strat for +1 to A/S/T.

The reason that Emperors Children is on top is that this legion provides a reliable way to get the Terminators into melee. Other legions cannot say the same (barring Creations of Bile). Now the Terminator unit can reliably and consistently do damage in shooting and in melee, making them extremely potent as well as flexible in their damage delivery method.

Weapon Loadouts

Credit: G-hamm on DeviantArt

Shooting Weapons

Low Tier: Combi-flamer

With the same profile as a combi-bolter, costing 7 more points, and having a shorter range, there is very little reason to take this shooting weapon on Terminators.

Middle Tier: Reaper Autocannon, Heavy Flamer

Both of these special weapons are good, not remarkable. The Reaper Autocannon is the slight winner due to the range of the weapon. The Heavy Flamer is good, but really does suffer from short range.

High Tier: Combi-Bolter/Melta/Plasma

The combi-bolter packs the most punch for the points against all targets barring 2+ armour and tanks. Each Terminator can pump out 8 shots at Str4 with a +1 to hit and wound, providing a significant barrage of firepower when needed.

The Combi-Melta and Plasma are each good in their own right. Unfortunately, the Plasma has the chance to kill your models. There are rerolls available, yes, but really you’re giving your opponent points that they didn’t have to work to kill. Another issue with the plasma is that outside of 12”, they only get a single shot. Granted, that is more than a melta, but really isn’t great when you want to kill something. The melta has the same issue of range, but does not kill your models, and I find that a big win. The melta squad does some interesting things when you look at legions that can get these models into combat, where they can get stuck in for a turn, and then bust out the following turn with meltas ready to unleash their payload.

Melee Weapons

Low Tier: Power Sword/Axe/Maul

Power Weapons fall into the low tier because they really don’t do much more than a Chainaxe. Paying 4 extra points on a model with 2 base attacks for extra AP and extra strength here and there doesn’t feel like it is worth the points.

Middle-High Tier: Chainaxe, Powerfist

If you’re keeping them cheap or want them as a purely shooting threat, the Chainaxe is great for getting to that wonderful S5 and AP-1. 1 point is a bargain for getting +1 S and AP. Powerfists are great, as this is only 1 of 2 melee weapons that has multiple damage. The Chainfist beats the Powerfist out, as they cost the same points, and the only thing the Powerfist does better than the Chainfist is that it is Damage 2 flat, which makes it more reliable against anything but vehicles.

High Tier: Lighting Claw, Chainfist

The Chainfist is the winner of the multi-damage weapon options. It costs the same as a Powerfist, and has an extra AP, does flat 3 Damage against vehicles, but trades flat 2 Damage for D3 damage against all other targets. Overall, it is an upgrade. I really think there is merit to throwing a couple Chainfists into a squad to really add the extra oomph in melee.

The Lightning Claw is the clear winner out of all the non-multi damage weapons. It costs the exact same points as a Power Weapon, but does 2 things better: Gives rerolls to wound that can stack with Veterans of the Long War, and gives an extra attack. This is the weapon that I would equip a lot of Terminators with, as this helps with their low number of starting attacks. Rerolls to wound is better than gaining 1-3 strength, as mathematically you will get more wounds through in almost every scenario than wounding one better against some targets. The Lightning Claw isn’t that bad against non-T8 vehicles either, with Vets allowing you to wound on 4s rerolling.

Sample Squads

Credit: West40k on DeviantArt

The Pain Train [Emperor’s Children-325 Points]

  • Icon of Excess
  • 7x Terminators with Lightning Claw/Combi-Bolter
  • 3x Terminators with Chainfist/Combi-Bolter

This unit can take on almost any target. On the turn they drop, they can pump out 80 shots at 24” and S4 with +1 to hit and wound. They can easily make the charge, and absolutely annihilate most targets in melee. With FnP, and fight first, they can be a bother to remove. This unit is extremely flexible in how it can do damage. I really like this unit against any matchup, in any game. It’s an extremely strong and extremely reliable unit.

The Harasser [Emperor’s Children-130 Points]

  • 5x Terminators with Chainaxe/Combi-Bolter

This unit is great at being a general harasser and an Action unit. This cheap squad deep strikes in and can charge to gum up the opponent’s lines, or to put pressure on a weak flank in a play to grab objectives. It can also be used to deploy scramblers on the following turn.

The Tactical Nuke [Creations of Bile-345 Points]

  • Mark of Khorne
  • Icon of Wrath
  • 7x Terminators with 2x Lightning Claws
  • 3x Terminators with Chainfist/Lightning Claw

This unit is an absolute wrecking ball. Coming in with 38 Strength 5 Lightning Claw Attacks and 10 Strength 10 Chainfist Attacks, this unit shreds everything, and can double fight. On top of that, this unit can charge targets from 30+ inches away. There really isn’t any unit that wants to be taking a charge from these lads, and due to their surprising charge range, there won’t be many units that can avoid it.

Wrapping up

Terminators, when given the right options, can be a standout unit. They can have punishing shooting with the Slaanesh Mark, and can be deadly in melee with Legions like World Eaters, or Creations of Bile and Emperors Children that have reliable delivery methods. Overall, this unit can be a powerhouse in shooting and assault, and provide significant value in any matchup.


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 4 Comments

  1. Jason

    I have just made the decision to pick up a second army and have been seriously considering building a list around a termie unit that looks a lot like your Pain Train. In other places ive seen a lot more plasma love on a group of 10 EC terminators. With the deepstrike plan, 12″ range is no concern, its just the plasma risk as a downside? What other sorts of unit do I need to look for, noise marines/cultists/HQs? Is mono-EC much weaker than EC+demon soup? Cheers! And thanks for the post

    1. aidanbarkley

      Plasma is great, but really not as strong as I would like it to be for the points you’re paying.
      Noise marines are 100% the strongest shooting unit that chaos has. Definitely take those chaps. Mutilators are great harrassment units, sorcerers, chaos lords w thunder hammers, and dark apostles are all great HQs. Mono-EC is very much a glasscannon army, EC+daemons can really fill in the other’s weaknesses. Nurglings, Lord of Change, beasts of nurgle are all great pairs for this army.

  2. clement_regnier

    Now that flamers are range 12 like melta, I think they are quite good. On average, combi-f do twice more S4 shots than combi-b ! Against anything but T8 ou 2+ targets, combi-f can saturate a lot. And they are less random than melta shots.

    I disagree with Chain fist being an upgrade over Power fist. Against anything that have 2W/4W, power fists are better, even if the target does not have an invuln. Doing 2D flat is far more reliable. So it depends on what you are facing.

    Finally, I think I like IW terminator more than you do. Their legion trait is welcome, especially on bolter/flamer shots. And they also have access to Tank Hunter and Methodical Annihilation that are really strong with melta against vehicules. However in melee they have nothing to help them sadly…

    Great analysis, it is always nice to read other players point of view :).

    I am looking forward more posts from you.

  3. Jonas McAlpine

    Thanks for the guide. One remarks though: You can’t use warptime on a unit that has advance during the movement phase (but when using warptime you can move +advance). Cheers.

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