Denizens of the warp, I have a very special present for you today. I had the pleasure of chatting with Sebastian Larsson, who finished 2nd at a GT with his Chaos Daemons recently. He was eager to share his experiences and tips for playing Daemons competitively. Sebastian is a great player and a lot of fun to chat with, and I’m sure every Chaos fan will enjoy our interview.
Unfortunately the audio and video quality of the interview didn’t save very well. Fortunately, as a Chaos player in 9th Edition I am used to making the best out of limited tools. I decided to listen to the interview and turn it into a written article, transcribing our conversation. I made minor edits to the flow of conversation to make it more readable, but kept Sebastian’s ideas intact. Enjoy!
Mike Pestilens: “Welcome Sebastian, and I’m really excited to talk with you today. Could you tell me about your 40K background, and how you got into Daemons?”
Sebastian Larsson: “It all started with my brother in 2nd Edition. We just bought the models that we thought were cool, and didn’t understand the rules at all. I started with some Eldar Swooping Hawks. We had a lot of fun together. When I was 13 or 14, we moved to a new city and I joined a gaming club and watched the older kids play. My first 40K army was Imperial Guard. It wasn’t my favorite playstyle. When 3rd Edition was finally released, I started a Necron army when their plastic figures came out. I started competing in tournaments. It was a lot of fun, and I started doing well at some tournaments. I was asked if I wanted to join the Sweden ETC team, but I was in high school and didn’t have the money to travel and such so it was out of the question.
Late 3rd Edition, I got into Chaos and it grabbed me hard. I played the 3.5 Chaos codex, and back then you could do so much fun stuff with Characters. My favorite part of playing back then was how much you could tweak your army. Eventually our gaming club stopped playing as people got busy. I got back in the game with 8th Edition. I started a Thousand Sons army led by Magnus. My first 8th Edition tournament was a huge event with over 100 people. I won 3 games, lost 1, and tied 1 game. That gave me the desire to get back into more tournament play.”
Mike: “Wow, it sounds like you’ve played almost everything. You had some Xenos, you played Guard, and obviously you play all sorts of Chaos.”
Sebastian: “Yes, and I am playing mainly Daemons these days. I like the big monster lists, they are just so much fun to play.”
Mike: “Awesome. For viewers who haven’t seen your current list, could you go over what you’re running?”
Sebastian: “Sure, I can talk about my list. I have one battalion, one patrol, pure Daemons. In my battalion, I have Be’lakor followed by two Keepers of Secrets, both with whips. I made all my Keepers exalted, of course. I rolled for my Exalted traits. The reason for this is that with 3 Keepers [Editor’s note: He has 3 Keepers in the list, he will mention the other later], I think you should roll. With two Keepers, you can pick the -1 to Wound and the better invuln and give them tough targets to shoot. But when you get to the third, there is no option good enough to choose, and you can end up with Exalted rewards you don’t want. And they can just shoot the third one.
Then I had 3 units of 10 Daemonettes, and 2 units of 2 Fiends of Slaanesh. I love these Fiends. They turned out to be the real MVPs of the tournament”
Mike: “I love Fiends! For anyone that doesn’t know, Fiends have a rule that opponents cannot fall back from Fiends at all unless you are a Vehicle or have Fly. So I’m guessing you used the play where you had the Fiends keeping the Keepers from being shot at all. And if the opponent has Keepers they cannot shoot in their face, they are going to have a very bad time”
Sebastian: “Exactly. And the Keepers are close combat monsters, very little can stand with them in combat. Almost nothing can kill them in combat. And Fiends of course are Beasts and can move through Breachable terrain, and can advance and charge near Keepers, they are very easy to get into position. The last unit in that detachment was 2 units of Furies. They give me early Engage on All Fronts, Retrieve Data.
Then in the next detachment I have another Keeper and a Lord of Change. He is my Warlord, and of course has the -1 Damage and 3++ invuln and 6+ healing reward. The key is to keep the Keeper near the others so it can advance and charge. And then I have 3 units of 3 Nurglings just to keep board control, and opponents from doing pre-game moves. They matched up really well against AdMech in my last match, keeping his Raiders from moving up the board.”
Mike: “One thing I want to ask about, since the focus is on all the Greater Daemons. How are you using your Daemonettes and Furies during games?”
Sebastian: “I keep them back, to hold objectives, retrieve data. I usually deepstrike the third unit to Retrieve Octarius Data. They can also raise the banners high. Furies go to the corners. The Daemonettes are rarely in combat. There is little they can contribute compared to the Keepers. The main goal of the army is running the Greater Daemons into their face while the smaller stuff grabs Primary objectives, raises banners, retrieves data, things like that.
My list plays differently going first or second. Going second I have to think a lot. Going first, I just jam Greater Daemons into their face and play from there which works well against most opponents.”
Mike: “Speaking of scoring, can you take about your Secondary choices for your list? What you’re normally picking, and your reasoning when you pick something different.”
Sebastian: “Engage is a go-to for me. I’m usually scoring 13-15, almost always 2 or 3 every single round. Retrieve Data is another one. I expect to score 8 points, and am very happy if I score 12. On missions like Priority Target and Sweep and Clear, you get to use those Fury units very, very well. Of course, I can also choose Raise the Banners if I’m playing a mission with a dawn-of-war setup and I have three objectives near my zone.
For the third one, I often take a mission secondary. Other than that, I go with Grind Them Down or if I see a lack of psychic denies in their list, maybe a psychic secondary. In my last game I took No Prisoners because he had 100+ normal Troops and other units with lots of wounds I could score points against”.
Mike: “This list sounds like a great toolbox. I know in Sweden they play with a different scoring system than in the US. Can you talk about the 20-0 scoring system?”
Sebastian: “The scoring is based on point differential, and winning by more points gives you more points. You want to both score highly yourself, and also keep your opponent’s score low. This is a very interesting system because you play much more with your opponent, rather than just playing your own gameplan. It also leads to more varied lists, because you can’t just build an alpha strike list. You have to consider how to stop your opponent’s scoring for the entire game.
Mike: “Can you go over some games from the event?”
Sebastian: “First game was against Death Guard. I was playing the other Sebastian from the Swedish scene. He had the usual Death Guard list without Mortarion, with Plagueburst Crawlers, Deathshroud, Bloat Drones, and Contemptor Dreadnoughts. I scored 19-1. I know there has been lots of talk about submarining lately, and this is completely unintentional of course, but scoring 19 points put me right below facing the 20-0 lists and some of the strongest players in the next round.
My second game was against Adeptus Sororitas. When I looked at the list, I first noticed he didn’t have any Rhinos. This is usually my biggest concern, because I have nothing to crack open the Rhinos before being able to attack the Retributors inside. He deployed with a gap in his army which my forward deployed Nurglings could take advantage of, charging and tagging some shooting units and buying time for all my Greater Daemons to rush in. My opponent made some errors because they didn’t have much experience this edition, much like me from two or three years ago. He also didn’t have much experience against my army. This was helpful throughout the tournament, as most people had few games against my styleof army. My opponents knew my Keepers moved 14″, they knew they had advance and charge, but you have to see for yourself just how damaging they are in combat to understand how to face my strategy. The score against the Sororitas was 20-0.
Next was the cold shower against Drukhari, and the opponent who would go on to win the whole tournament. I had very bad rolls for my Exalted traits. getting two Keepers with Realm Racer and Battle Rapture which is just about the worst combination of traits. The last one got Realm Racer and Fear Seeker. And the board gave me little space to hide. Turn one he went first and shot one Keeper to pieces. And Drukhari of course are still a very touch matchup for Daemons”
Mike: “I want to jump in and talk a bit more about facing Drukhari. As you said about the Sororitas, we have no way to crack open the transports whether they are Rhinos or Raiders.”
Sebastian: “Yes, it’s just a terrible matchup. Even with luck in my favor, it’s a loss or at best a very very close win when facing a good player. Daemons have nothing to do against Drukhari”
Mike: “I agree, it’s just our worst matchup”
Sebastian: “At least that is true for basically every other army, too. So at the end of the first day, I was at 39 points out of 60. Up next was against Harlequins and Craftworlds. It had lots of jetbikes, and was supported by 3 Dark Reapers and 2 Nightspinners. He went first, took advantage of his indirect fire and shot some Daemonettes and killed all my Nurglings off the board. On my turn, I got a great charge with the Fiends to touch lots of units. And my Lord of Change did lots of psychic damage to his Dark Reapers. Since he lost lots of his shooting, my Greater Daemons were almost untouched in his second turn. He went in with a huge unit of 10 Harlequin bikes and killed a Keeper, but once those were killed in return it was a one-sided battle. My Fiends and Furies touched more things, and it went from there.
Harlequins and Craftworlds are much better matchups than Drukhari. The difference is the Character. Harlequins don’t have the same powerhouse Characters. They have no 10-14 attack Succubus that does Mortal Wounds and consolidates out of combat. Like most players, I have trouble against those. Harlequins have the Solitaire which is okay, but if I just touch him with a Lord of Change he isn’t doing much. And Raiders are just so much better than the Harlequins transports. I can kill the Harlequin boats with my whips and smites and then charges the guys inside. Against Drukhari, I can’t kill a Raider with a Keeper and then he is getting the charge with the guys inside. And Incubi are pretty much one of the best units in the game, and kill everything with buffs”
Mike: “Very interesting. Now let’s talk about the fifth game. Which, spoiler alert, since you finished 4-1, you won”
Sebastian: “That’s right. I was pretty scared before the game started because it is against one of the best players in all of Sweden and an experienced AdMech player. And one of the best AdMech players in the world. And AdMech are a pretty decent army.
We played Sweep and Clear. I got first turn and rushed out, tagging lots of his Infantry units with Nurglings and Fiends. My Greater Daemons focused on killing Infiltrators. There was a fun moment in the match where he put all his Disintegrators into the corner, but my Fiends made a long move through a wall and got trapped by some Fiends.
The key was my Nurglings blocked the pre-game move of his Raiders, so he couldn’t move in front to block my movement turn 1 and then fall back when charged.”
Mike: “Yeah with so many pre-game shenanigans these days, I think Nurglings are pretty essential for Daemons armies. My one question for this game is, if you went second, how do you think this game goes?””
Sebastian: “I would have had much less play against him. Even if he can’t pre-game move the Raiders, in his turn he could have just moved the Raiders 1″ away from my Nurglings. He could create a big wall. He also could have shot my Fiends with his Disintegrators. The game would have been a lot different. It was one of those games that if I go second, I might just lose regardless of what I do, so I might as well deploy like I was going first.”
Mike: “Yeah even after a massive nerf, the Vanguard stratagem is still amazing against us.”
Sebastian: “Yeah, it completely gets around the -1 to Wound in shooting that Be’lakor and Blessing of the Dark Prince provide. Fiends of Slaanesh are MVPs in this matchup for tagging. I think units of 2 are the perfect size for Fiends. They don’t have a large footprint for deployment, which leaves more space to hide my Greater Daemons. And of course Nurglings for preventing pre-game movement. I would run a third unit of Fiends if I knew I was playing AdMech more often. Because they can buff a unit so well, it’s okay to split damage around and kill models in several units.”
Mike: “Because of those AdMech flyers, have you thought about running shields for mortal wound protection?”
Sebastian: “No, the whip is just too good for clearing screens. Or helping pop transports. Or just picking up units like Vanguard Veterans. And you can think of it as if you don’t have a whip, you have no way at all to interact with planes. Over several turns, random whips and smites can bring down planes. And in terms of secondaries, they often give up lots of points on No Prisoners. And it is very easy to score Warp Ritual because they don’t have psychic denies. I focus on killing their units they are buffing instead of the characters providing buffs.”
Mike: “Yeah, that’s the one thing I like about the 9th Edition AdMech codex compared to the 8th Edition one. In 8th, it was easy to bring a mixed forgeworld detachment for a Graia unit for access to a 4+ deny stratagem. You can’t do that in 9th, and they aren’t taking Graia detachments so you’re free to cast whatever you wish. And that’s why I think Thousand Sons could do well into AdMech”
Sebastian: “Yeah, I’m curious about Thousand Sons. I want to see them in action more first. Putting up a Rhino and soaking up mortal wounds is pretty easy for most armies to do. Because they rely so much on doing mortal wounds to the closest unit, I need to see if they’re as good as people say. I have so many points of Thousand Sons, I can put together basically any list I want already. I really want to play lots of small units in Rhinos.”
Mike: “I want to get your thoughts on Magnus. What do you think of him in Thousand Sons armies these days?”
Sebastian: “He’s completely different. With the -1 Damage, he is less reliant on going first. But he is less survivable without the 3++ invuln anymore. And he has lost the threat of warptime to get in combat across the board. I think he’s worse overall than he used to be.
And knowing every psychic power they have isn’t as good as it seems, because most people are not going to pick the exact right three powers every time. Even if you pick pretty good ones, there is likely to be one that may have been slightly better than one you cast which means you aren’t getting his full value in that moment. It’s hard to keep 18 psychic powers in your head at all times. My advice is keeping all 18 powers handy, and take a look whenever you’re going to cast.”
Mike: “Yeah, I’m with you. With the glowup Mortarion got, I was very excited to see the defensive buffs Magnus got and was disappointed. The -1 damage is nice, but in matchups where you were worried about him dying turn one and had to reserve him, you still have to do that. I still think he’s cool.”
Sebastian: “Yes, adding 3 to his psychic tests is nice, but losing 6″ of range is a huge problem. He is much less likely to be in range when you need him. Removing the double move from Magnus was a mistake. Double moving Mortarion could break the game, but Magnus didn’t need that nerf.”
Mike: “Last question, and one I have to ask. What do you think of Bloodthirsters? It’s a model we all want to love.”
Sebastian: “I so badly wanted to run Bloodthirsters. It’s a Greater Daemon of Khorne, it’s supposed to be one of the best fights in the game. But it’s just not. The exalted reward to take a maximum of 8 Wounds per phase could have been good. But the issue is that it’s 8 wounds, which is exactly what’s needed to bracket them. Maybe if the degrading charts were changed to not be so bad, or it got changed to a maximum of 6 Wounds, Bloodthirsters would be much more competitive. And they cost more than Keepers for no reason.”
Mike: “I’m 100% with you. I’m okay with Bloodthirsters being a bit underpowered. Keepers are great, Lords of Change are great, they can’t all be winners or we would never lose games. But why do they cost so much? If you look at what other armies can get for 250 points, it just becomes painful.
But Sebastian, regardless of how much Bloodthirsters cost, it has been a real pleasure chatting with you. Congrats again on your great finish, and can’t wait to see what other events you crush with your Daemons.”
Sebastian: “Mike, thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Note: 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: September 13th, 2021. Last Updated: September 13th, 2021.
This Post Has 5 Comments
Good to see more people take a more serious look in with the whips. In my view they are simply the best option. Keepers are actually really good shooting platforms, if close ranged, but the whips basically give you a free close combat round and 6 shots at S6 -2 D2 is actually pretty decent. Especially at no added cost.
The shield is a points premium for a 16% shrug chance that, if you were worried, you could cast. I honestly think it is garbage. Whips and smites can clear screens and make close combat with a keeper if anything even scarier.
Interesting points John. You just can’t go wrong with the Whip on your Keepers in basically any matchup
Great read, thanks for taking time to write it up!
Thanks Phillip! Sebastian made it really easy by being a fun interview partner
Interesting seeing this after your article on the collapse of daemons competitively into 9th. Does this change anything you said in that article, or do you still believe daemons are overall not competitive with the top dogs anymore?