Sunday, February 24, 2013

40K Chaos Space Marines: Cult of Tzeentch

Oh the labyrinthine ways of the Great deceiver have come to you at last.  Everything you see moving forward could change and shift with the twists and turns of the plot.  The tale may be told four times without ever being the same, yet it be the same story.

These are the Ways of Tzeentch.

Why wouldn't you follow?  Provocateurs and harlots, charlatans and men of letters alike all have one thing in common:  they want to know what Tzeentch knows, and certainly more than the other guy knows.  They want to be part of the plot, to be bigger than they are, more important than they are, and to be an ever increasingly important part of the story.  Who can tell a tale or spin a yarn better than Tzeentch?  What enemy can outsmart or outwit you when you serve he who is subterfuge incarnate?  Your enemies will serve you unknowingly, your friends will owe you so much without ever realizing.  Before you know it, you become more and more the center of your universe, plucking the strings of all who encounter you, manipulating things such that lies can become reality and reality can become lies.  What manifestation of power could be more corrupting and seductive to the intelligentsia and the cunning?

The Scourged of Chapter Master Gallus Herodicus and others have come to understand that truth, in all its forms, can be a weapon.  Through madness or even through undeath, one can touch mysteries that would be beyond the kin of the mortal flesh.  Were not the very first Chaos Marine Sorcerers of Tzeentch?  Was Magnus the Red not of them?

To whom can you swear fealty and gain truth so seering that it may drive you mad to know it?  Those who serve him have rejected the role of deceived and now prey upon them.  Better to be a predator than the victim.

And so we delve into that well of true knowledge from which no sanity can be hoped for:  the Cult of Tzeentch.

Tzeentch Essentials

Tzeentch has the unholy number of 9.  Tzeentch is really a shooting army like Slaanesh is.  Unlike Slaanesh, the Thousans sons don't abhor close combat as much, as they are unafraid of many weapons that would make a lesser cult shrivel up in terror, inside of combat OR out of it.  They come equipped with a good melee weapon for their squad leader.  They don't benefit as much from vehicles and their potential is drastically reduced if they are in them in the shooting phase, so starting INSIDE of Rhinos might be okay but they really need to get out in turn 1 and be blazing away.  Unlike Slaanesh, Tzeentch warriors push the field far more with their core troops, in a manner reminiscent of Zombies chasing brains more than Khornes mad dash.  Go too fast and the enemy won't be soft enough for the final surge and may resist you.  Go too slow and you may not reach the objectives.  It's a balancing act.

Their LD is 10 with or without their Sorcerer and while you might say "so what, they're Fearless" this matters when getting hit by a number of weapons that use LD instead of Toughness, it matters for the LD check required even of Fearless units against being forced to Snap shot after a penetrating hit on a vehicle.  It also means they oppose Psychic Scream tests well, and they can overcome LD nerfs much easier.  So the 10 does have some real benefits.

Larger units make sense for Tzeentch, and thus will be more costly.  They are not as flexible an army to build if you want a truly devastating version of the cult.  They can be built to give up Kill Points in a very stingy manner.  They score, they kill Marines like crazy and they are tougher than steel.  There isn't much not to like when you look at it, other than a relatively low model count.

The Mark of Tzeentch is where it all begins.  Those who serve him are, like truth, immortal and as such benefit from an invulnerable save bonus of +1.  This means that the warriors of Tzeentch have fortitude that no other Cult can boast against the most nightmarish weapons the Eye of Terror can produce.  The Aura of Dark Glory that Tzeentch surrounds them with creates a net 4+ invul save.  Such protection is nigh impossible to match.  Even Terminators don't have that.

Thousand Son weapons are tremendously dangerous as well.  Inferno Bolts are AP 3 and that makes each and every Tzeentch Warrior quite literally the most durable equal of any normal shooting infantry unit in the game!

They are slow and purposeful, and thus cannot Overwatch nor Sweeping Advance.  In fact it is somewhat helpful in the case of Tzeentch, as it really only comes up when the enemy is losing combat, ensuring that the enemy must run even if they re the wretched Space Marines who must get away and out into the open or off the board!  The units for Tzeentch can now blast away again at the enemy instead of staying locked in melee where the Thousand Sons can do the least amount of good.  So when a charge bounces off them, it will never end well for a Space Marine army!  Just because the Sorcerer has a force weapon does not mean you should go rushing into combat!  It DOES mean that because your champion has the Champion of Chaos rule, he's not going to be a welcome sight for any character to face and Terminator Squads will hate getting tied up by a small unit of these.  Make sure to try and watch the order of fire so you can beef up your Socrcerers with boons.

Force Axe's make sense for Tzeentch since they are much more likely to see the challenge given their saves.  I think they are a good choice for them.  I find it intreresting that each cult really kind of has a weapon that works well for it.  Lances for Slaanesh, Swords for Khorne and of course, the Axe's here.

Key Tools of Tzeentch

Tzeentch features some interesting tools its followers can use other than the Mark of Tzeentch and the Inferno Bolts they fire from their Bolters:
Gift of Mutation is an ability in keeping with the Tzeentch ways.  Since the units pack such incredible firepower, it's actually quite easy for them to take advantge of the Boons table more often perhaps than others do and faster than they do also since they do their damage at range, and can finish very softened units up in challenges and attacks.  I think Tzeentch Sorcerers can really use the boost since their troops do not get as hellacious a number of attacks as say Khorne or Undivided Troops can in close combat and anything that allows you to be better can't be baaaaad, riiiiight?

Icons of Flame imbue the members of the unit with Soulblaze.  As if it weren't enough that they were killing MEQ units with the greatest of ease, they add insult to injury by insuring that they will continue to burn rounds after they've been hit.  This makes them POWERFUL against hordes as well as MEQ's and allows the unit to provide utility in both areas.

The Disk of Tzeentch basically makes a Sorcerer into a Jetbike and adds an attack.  That can really be nice when you consider the bevy of Psychic Powers the Tzeentch Chaos Lords can use!  let's look at those shall we?

The arcane is the province of The Great Deceiver.  Biomancy, Telepathy Pyromancy are all open to Tzeentch as is some combination of them.  KEEP IN MIND the restriction that only half your powers can come from the Discipline of Tzeentch, as with all Cults (rounded up).  So if you want more than one of the powers you gotta' pay for the level 3 upgrade.  You might have done so anyways, but its worth mentioning.  The price of power can be steep.

One of the powers you may get if your normal Thousand Son sorcerers choose from the table is Boon of Mutation.  This is one of the reasons the actual ability Gift of Mutation is good to have, allowing a character to roll on the chart then and there and with Gift you can re-roll the really unfortunate results.  The other Powers are shooting attacks of ranges varying from Template to 24".  All of them are nasty for the most part and it is easy to imagine them being quite good when cast from a secure Disc of Tzeentch, always at maximum distance necessary to maximize the effect. More firepower as if you needed it.  Particularly fun is the STR 8 AP 1 shot that can make an explosion go 2D6 inches!  Breath of Chaos is the Terminator killer though and would likely be the power to shoot for in the Case of the Chaos Lord (its Warp Charge 2, so the normal Thousand Sons Sorcerers can't use it). 

Personally amongst the powers available outside the Tzeentch list, Telepathy looks to be the scariest.  The units really dont need any more shooting abilities, but what Telepathy does to defend the unit or to turn the enemies strength against itself is very Tzeentchy and very welcome for a Tzeentch force that wants to KEEP ON shooting, closing the distance and eventually eliminating threats.  Its pretty cool to take control of the enemy mind.  It's like adding points to your army!

The Scrolls of Magnus are a Tzeentch only item.  It can unlock more powers for you and this, while dangerous, can also be rewarding.  You will have to take an invulnerable save if you use this item.  and as such, Biomancy may look good as an option given you can later try and learn Telepathy powers.  Biomancy has a power that can increase your invulnerable saves, and then when using the Scrolls of Magnus, you have abetter chance of surviving the experience.  On the other hand, a roll or two on the Boons table may make you tough enough to chance it.  In any event, this item gives you instant access to all 6 Psychic disciplines if you dare roll for it.  It's an amazingly cool item with a very uncool downside.  but when the chips are down isn't that when we all turn to the darkest purpose?

Perhaps MORE interesting is that reading from the Scroll can empower the user to become a Psyker when they were not one.  This means that a Dark Apostle, who has purchased this can actually become a Psyker himself! Chaos Lords can use it to become a Psyker with access to melee appropriate disciplines...  Do you hear Tzeentch calling you?

The Burning Brand of Skalathrax is basically a STR 4 version of the Heldrakes Flame weapon.  Again on a disk of Tzeentch, one can easily imagine the possibilities and being able to throw the flame 12" from you means a fairly safe distance for using it.

Warpflame Gargoyles for vehicles, while not explicitly Tzeentch, they really kind of fit..  The Soul blaze ability is kind of their thing.  More's super cheap.

Spell Familiars allow you to hedge your bet by re-rolling your Psycher tests (better now that 7E came along), and while I dont find that to be an exceptional buy, given you have a 10 LD (because before, you rolled LD to get Psyker powers off), I guess it depends on how much you're planning on turning to your powers for victory.  It seems like an expensive option, but I would be remiss if i didn't at least mention it.

So then what does a Tzeentch army look like?  Well it's going to be a LOT of blazing fire in it, that seems certain.

Let's Make a Tzeentch Army

Okay, Troops are always the first order of business.  Since Thousand Sons troops are so hard hitting and hearty, we will start with a larger unit of them.  Why?  Well my guiding principle is, you have some of the most devasatating firepower known to 40K and you should probably use it.  The units are SO expensive that adding the extras multiple times presses in on what is already an exorbitantly expensive unit.

449pts  18 Thousand Sons (Icon of Flame, Gift of Mutation, Melta Bomb, Force Axe)
 45 Chaos Rhino (Warpflame Gargoyles, Extra Combi Bolter)

272pts  9 Thousand Sons (Icon of Flame, Gift of Mutation, Melta Bomb,Force Axe)
45 Chaos Rhino (Warpflame Gargoyles, Extra Combi Bolter)

 272pts  9 Thousand Sons (Icon of Flame, Gift of Mutation, Melta Bomb,Force Axe)
 45 Chaos Rhino (Warpflame Gargoyles, Extra Combi Bolter)

This core represents a fire base that would really be the envy of any army.  It's also the minimum number of troop choices I'd ever leave home with.

We will Purchase our HQ.  To make the Thousand Sons into actual Troops chocies, the HQ has to be a Sorcerer.  We know we want level 3 Sorcerers.

230pts Sorcerer (Level 3, Disc of Tzeentch, Mark of Tzeentch, Sigil of Corruption, Scrolls of Magnus, meltabomb)

Expensive like everything in the force! Certainly making him more expensive by adding melee ability would be hurting our list as a whole, so his evasive ability and speed will have to be his best defense.

On an unrelated note there is something I noticed that you might take advantage of:  If you so desired for some reason, you could include a second HQ.  If you decided you wanted to do that, the Daemon prince can be both a level 3 Psyker AND ride a Disk of Tzeenth.  None of the downside of Wings.  all of the upside of the jetbike speed!  Sure, no Vector Strikes for being a Flying Monstrous Creature, but you're gaining another attack on a beastly model if it comes to it and you don't have the many restrictions and what not of flying, crashing and all that rot.  This would be a very expensive investment and probably not worth it, but it is fun to think about.  It would have to be your second HQ by virtue of of the fact that to make Thousand Sons into troops, it requires a normal Sorcerer model.

Moving forward, we've spent 1313 Points, and we still have no anti-tank/2+ nor anti-aircraft.

Fortunately Tzeentch has an answer to both, in the same unit.  Heldrakes can tear open transports as they glide over them, and hit them with flame if not actual people (more likely).  Sometimes both.  The Heldrakes are ideal for a Tzeentch army.  Hard to kill, multipurpose, fast, can attack aircraft and ultimately they take pressure off a little bit.  Anything that is near enough to charge can be taken down in size enough to allow the Thousand Sons to finish it. Taking two of the beasts ensures that interceptor fire won't completely ruin your day and defends against bad reserve rolls.  The Dragons can vector strike other aircraft, obviating the need for a dedicated anti-aircraft unit, which frankly, we can scarcely afford in a Thousand Sons army.  It can keep up with and rake the Speeder formations that Dark Angels now like to have also.  This multi-purpose answer gives flexibility in how you can attack the enemy and NO ONE would argue that the Heldrake is anything but fearsome to face.

170pts  Heldrake (Bale Flamer)

170pts  Heldrake (Bale Flamer)

That leaves us with needing an answer to land Raiders, Monoliths and the like and we still need to be able to kill 2+ armor.  We can control Hordes with the icon of Flame and sheer firepower.  We can kill MEQ units.  We can handle flyers as well as a plethora of fast things, but Land Raiders will confound us and allow Terminators to tie us up and end our forward progress.

This problem exists for most lists of any type and the obliterators seem always to be the answer since their Plasma Cannons can handle Terminators also.  The Sorcerers have the chance to get some cool anti-terminator and anti-vehicle powers, and if they do all the better, but that is up to fates fickle hand.

The choice is between 2 man Obliterator Squads and Triple LasPredators in this codex if you want this capability, price wise.  Cult armies are powerful and expensive to build.  Raptors with 2 meltas can also serve in this role, but again tend to be exchange units which I never like.   Cheaper yes, but ultimately you're getting two total shots a game from them if they DO go up against a land Raider.  Chosen cost much more to get four meltas up there.  Helbrutes just aren't swift enough and they are as likely to succumb to the Terminators inside as anything and become exchange units there again.  So I find myself much more compelled by the original two options.

140pts  Triple LasCannon Predator

140pts 2 Obliterators (Mark of Tzeentch)

We have covered all the essential jobs that a list needs to handle, using all the tools that are available to us and in keeping with our Cultish mandate and mantra of flame, flame and more flame.

It's got mobility and when it doesn't need it, it has LOS blockers, plus it is very stout.  Objectives that are way over yonder can be deep struck to by obliterators if necessary. which is all the more reason to have a second option on the board pounding away at armor until they show up if that ever became an absolute necessity.  it isn't a fast army at all, and that is a concern that can only ever be solved by killing enough enemies and so you will need to be very aggressive when you getr the chances to end a unit.  Don't leave remnants here or there that can tie you up at any point.

Tzeentch armies look and feel like a steam roller moving inexorably forward, remorseless and cruel.  Every hammering blow of their Inferno bolters feels like losing for the victim.  Each time you tell your opponent how many Vaporized models to remove from your sight, they will be cursing silently and cringing visibly, praying that the pain will stop.  But it won't.  Ever.  Of the wondrous things your master will teach their maddened souls in death, one of them won't be hope...

To summarize my thoughts on a Tzeentch force:

Triple LasCannon Predator
2 Obliterators (Mark of Tzeentch)
 18 Thousand Sons (Icon of Flame, Gift of Mutation, Melta Bomb,Force Axe)
Chaos Rhino (Warpflame Gargoyles, Extra Combi Bolter)
 9 Thousand Sons (Icon of Flame, Gift of Mutation, Melta Bomb,Force Axe)
Chaos Rhino (Warpflame Gargoyles, Extra Combi Bolter)
 9 Thousand Sons (Icon of Flame, Gift of Mutation, Melta Bomb,Force Axe)
Chaos Rhino (Warpflame Gargoyles, Extra Combi Bolter)
 Sorcerer (Level 3, Disc of Tzeentch, Mark of Tzeentch, Sigil of Corruption, Scrolls of Magnus, meltabomb, Force Axe)
Heldrake (Bale Flamer)
Heldrake (Bale Flamer)

As always I will point out that there are a dozen ways to skin the cat so this list isn't the only way to build one. I can also imagine lists where you are sending normal Marked Chaos marines into the fray as well as Chaos Cultists gone wild.  I think this may help you consider what Tzeentch might have to teach you though...

1994 Points
Models: 45
Kill Points: 11
Armour Pieces: 6

For other articles on Chaos Space marines:


  1. Interestinf list! I feel the call of change. How would you take this down to 1750?

    1. Also, would it not be advisable to throw in some cheap scoring cultist?

  2. At 1750, one of the Heldrakes can definitely depart the list. That leaves you with just a small bit more to trimm, which can come from the 18 Thousand Sons unit. Obviously that puts you out of compliance with the Gawds, but perhaps a victory will convince them not to wmite you.

    As for some cheap rear objective troops, I dont think they can hold the line better than basically anything else in this list. I think with this list you have to be thinking entirely in terms of an offensive, with Heldrakes who can handle backfield "defense".

    Every enemy will be different so the backfield wont be that big a deal a lot of the time, especially given how weak Tzeentch cultists are relatively. I think I would trust the Heldrake to handle buisness back there.

  3. you made some incorrect claims on the rules in the article. i don't see how the boon of mutation power lets you reroll a gift of mutation. also, the daemon prince can't ride a disk; a character has to have the infantry unit type to purchase steeds.

  4. Ben, The Sorcerer is on the disk and he's not a Daemon Prince. I'm not sure what you're talking about as far as the Daemon Prince? And I think what I said was: "with Gift you can re-roll the really unfortunate results".

    as in turning into a Spawn for example.

  5. With your troops being really point heavy, don't you think horde armies (Where inferno bolts won't really mean anything) will overwhelm them? I mean like noise marines at least have sonic blasters but arn't thousand sons just fat CSMs when up against say IG? I think that would be a vulnerablility.

    1. Hordes might be but they are still marines and thats no picnic to down with those invul saves. Blob guard are a threat but not as much to tzeentch force. Then again, there are no unbeatable lists

  6. As an adendum, i would recommend against a second Bolter o nthe Rhinos as they only snap fire if it moves in 7E.


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