Weekly List Review – Khorne CSM

Devoted reader Jack sent his list over to see how he could improve it!  Always one to oblige to the fans, I tracked down a more-than-capable Chaos Lord to give us his thoughts on the the list and how to take it to the next level!

We are hoping to do this sort of article weekly, so if you’re trying to fine tune that perfect list, don’t shy away to hit us up in the contact page.
Jack is playing Khorne-themed CSM, and has 3 criteria for his list:
  • Tournament list ( this is kind of a prerequisite for all lists we take on…)
  • No Forge World
  • Don’t turn it into a smite-spam list
And here’s the list itself:
Bataillon – Alpha Legion
  • Sorcerer Jump Pack MoS
  • Dark Apostle MoS
  • 10x Cultists MoS
  • 10x Cultists MoS
  • 10x Cultists MoS
  • 5x Bikes MoS 2x Plasmas 1x Combi Plasma
  • 5x Bikes MoS 2x Plasmas 1x Combi Plasma
  • 3x Obliterators MoS
Vanguard – Alpha Legion
  • Lord Jump Pack MoK Axe Blinded Fury
  • 20x Berzerkers MoK Icon of Wrath
  • 10x Noise Marines MoS Sonic Blasters 2x Blastmasters
  • 9x Terminators MoS 9x Combi Plasmas 9x Maul
We turn today to Justing Curtis for help.  If you’ve attended NOVA or Adepticon in the previous years, you might’ve seen Justin judging when he wasn’t playing.  Or, for the past 3 years he could be found after the ATC wielding a big trophy, being part of the ever-winning Team Happy.
It’s a pretty strong core to work with – all the heavy lifting is being done by the extreme offensive options in that Vanguard Detachment:
  • 20 Berzerkers – easily the most point-efficient combat unit in the game right now
  • A Combi-Plasma Terminator Bomb – something I’ve been playing myself lately
  • 10 kitted out Noise Marines -who are great at removing screens and can provide some neat tricks in certain situations with Music of the Apocalypse
The first conversation that needs to be had is the value of what’s commonly being referred to as the “Soup Battalion.”
In the new Codexes, you require pure detachments to benefit from Legion Trait/Chapter Tactic equivalents, as well as gaining new-Objective Secured.  But not everything in a list like this actually benefits all that much from Legion Traits or ObSec, so stretching for pure detachments can actually harm you.  It’s also worth noting that access to a Codex’s stratagems only require a single pure detachment in the army, and aren’t restricted on their use–so while your units in mixed detachments won’t gain a Legion Trait or get ObSec, they can still be eligible for stratagems (assuming they meet the listed requirements) if you’ve got a pure detachment elsewhere.
Mixing in a Battalion is a good way to get some cheap Command Points by filling slots with cheaper options than your own Codex may allow and synergy from outside your primary Codex or Legion/Chapter.
So what really benefits from being in a pure detachment in this list?
  • Cultists gain ObSec, but in 10-man units they’re functioning as more of a temporary screen than late-game objective holders, so they may not absolutely require it
  • Bikes and Obliterators are both expensive mid-range firepower that could potentially make use of the Alpha Legion Trait (-1 to hit outside 12″), but not as an absolute necessity
  • Noise Marines will likely be backfield shooting and definitely want the Legion Trait
  • Berzerkers and Terminators are both likely going to be too close to ever benefit from the Legion Trait in a meaningful way
  • None of the characters require the Alpha Legion trait, as when characters are being targeted they’re almost certainly within 12″
So there’s a lot of options here to move things to a Soup Battalion and gain some efficiency straight from an army-building standpoint.
The first place I look for changes in this list is the Troop slot–Alpha Legion Cultists are great, but you generally want them in larger units when possible, to make more efficient use of the Infiltrate stratagem (Forward Operatives) and potentially even Tide of Traitors.  So for the time being, let’s aim towards combining the three 10-man units into one 30-man unit.
The second thing we need to do is cut some less optimal units.  I’ve found that D3 damage weapons are the bane of the competitive game right now–they’re too random to be useful for targeting elite infantry, too expensive for cheap infantry, and ineffective against most vehicles.  Obliterators take this concept and say “what if our damage and AP were also random?” which is the point at which they’re not allowed to come along for the ride–even with the Codex doubling their shots for free, they’re just too unreliable.
Next are the Chaos Bikers.  Bikers are actually really good in this edition, but Alpha Legion doesn’t provide them a lot of benefits, and this list is already overloaded on the things they do well (Plasma is being provided by the Terminator Bomb, and the anti-horde shooting of mobile Combi-Bolters is being handled by both the Noise Marines and the Zerkers).  They’d fit better in detachments that synergize with their Turbo-Boost; either Renegades for 20″ move plus charge, or Black Legion for 20″ move plus firing their weapons.
Dropping those units frees up ~500 points to play with.
The Cultists–which were previously expendable backfield screen units–are now a much larger blob, looking to Infiltrate into the enemy’s face and cause immediate problems.  But that means you now need a new backfield screen.
The current baseline in the meta for cheap screening units is still Brimstone Horrors–their damage was nerfed and their cost was increased a bit, but they’re still great for catching bullets in the face.  Now that we’re willing to lose Legion Trait on the Battalion, they can be swapped in as a more reliable screen than Cultists that also comes with some small cost savings.  3×10 Brimstones and the Changeling come in a package at around 200 points and fill a lot of the required slots for our Soup Battalion.
Another change that needs to be made is the inclusion of a second Sorcerer–CSM have access to too many amazing Psychic Powers right now to limit yourself to only two of them.  Warptime and Prescience are both genuinely mandatory, so if you only have one Psyker you’re missing out on Delightful Agonies (Slaanesh FNP, great for the Terminators) and Death Hex (given the casting cost not as amazing as people make it out to be, but still worth the shot in the right matchups) as well as options for things like Infernal Gaze to snipe characters or the Nurgle/Tzeentch equivalent protection spells (Miasma of Pestilence and Weaver of Fates).
We’re now looking at an army like this:
Vanguard Detachment
  • Sorcerer, Jump Pack, MoS
  • Sorcerer, Jump Pack, MoT or MoN
  • 10 Khorne Berzerkers, Chain Axes, Icon of Wrath
  • 9 Khorne Berzerkers, Chain Axes, Icon of Wrath
  • 10 Chaos Terminators, Combi-Plasma, Power Sword, MoS
  • 10 Noise Marines, 8 Sonic Blaster/2 Blastmaster
  • 30 Chaos Cultists, Pistol/CCW, MoT or MoN
  • Chaos Rhino
  • Chaos Rhino

Battalion Detachment

  • Chaos Lord, Jump Pack, Axe of Blind Fury, MoK
  • Dark Apostle, MoS
  • The Changeling
  • 10x Brimstone Horrors
  • 10x Brimstone Horrors
  • 10x Brimstone Horrors

Here’s an overview on what you’ve gained:

Your backfield screen is directly more resilient–guys catching bullets in the face on a 4++ is generally more effective than guys catching bullets in the face on a 6+, and it didn’t cost us any Command Points.

A second Sorcerer – note that both the second Sorcerer and the Cultist unit (now 30-man) are marked as “MoT or MoN.”  As mentioned before, there’s 3 powers you are going to want every game on your Sorcerers (Warptime, Prescience, Delightful Agonies).  You only get one Delightful Agonies, and that’s likely to be used up by the Terminators every turn.  That means the second Sorcerer–who will have a free slot when you’re not taking Death Hex or Infernal Gaze–is open to take either the Nurgle (-1 to hit) or Tzeentch (+1 invul or 5++ invul if none present) protection powers in many matchups.  It’s hard to directly compare these two powers (and the Slaanesh equivalent) in a vacuum, so it’s basically down to personal opinion on which to take.

Regardless of which you take, however, you want to mark the Cultist unit to match.  Now you can make your (30-man!) Cultists -1 to hit or provide a 5++ invul on top of possibly benefiting from Alpha Legion -1 to hit for anything that isn’t close enough.  This makes them much more annoying to deal with, and they must be dealt with when they’ve infiltrated right into the enemy’s face, particularly with the looming threat of you pulling a Tide of Traitors and respawning the entire unit if they aren’t completely wiped out.

alpha Termi

A tenth Terminator for the Bomb (9-man Terminator Bombs offend Slaanesh).  The Terminators have also been switched to Power Swords, which is just my personal preference in my Terminator Bombs–the power weapons are all pretty comparable, but Axes cost more, and while Mauls wound more easily, that’s an ability that can be mimicked with Veterans of the Long War stratagem, where the bonus AP of Swords cannot.

A pair of Chaos Rhinos  these are possibly the most important change to the list, with the accompanying split to 9+10 Berzerkers, rather than one full blob of 20.

The temptation with a Berzerker Alpha Legion list is to throw them into your enemy’s face for guaranteed Turn 1 charges using Forward Operatives.  The issue with this is that the decision to use FO is made during deployment, when (under tournament rules) you won’t actually know if you’re going first or not.  That means you might elect to to Infiltrate your Zerks, only to lose the roll-off and either have them blown up immediately, or forced to hide them away from danger, wasting the Command Point you spent to do so.

Adding in two Rhinos provides flexibility in their deployment.  You can now safely deploy them inside the Rhinos in games where you’re not as concerned with immediately getting them into the enemy lines, as well as having them available as a backup option if you go for the Forward Operatives play, lose the roll-off, and need to deploy them somewhere safe.  Now instead of foot-slogging across the board, they can hop in the Rhinos T1, and hope to contribute even on a blown FO deployment–especially when you consider that you can Warptime one of their Rhinos to help out.

Swapping them down to 10+9 not only allows them to fit in the Rhinos (with a spare spot for their Dark Apostle friend), but also serves to spread their offense out a bit–20 Berzerkers kill 65 Conscripts a turn, and you aren’t necessarily going to be able to reach that many with one giant unit, even with two activations–particularly after the Noise Marines take their toll on the front line.  You don’t want the Zerks mowing down 30 guys and then having nobody nearby to use their second Fight on, so being able to have them in two places at once is generally better.

Angry Ron

42 spare points.  There’s actually a handful of points left over in this list to allow for personal flavor to be added, but here are some likely options:

A 10-man backfield Cultist unit in the Vanguard Detachment.  This would provide an Objective Secured backfield unit to guarantee objectives, as the Brimstones aren’t ObSec.  This could be particularly important in Maelstrom missions where the objectives are relevant the entire game.  Alternatively, you could dump these ten extra Cultists into the primary blob and play a maxed 40-man unit.

A handful of upgraded melee weapons for the Terminators.  A Lightning Claw is only a 4-point upgrade over a Power Sword, and a Power Fist only 8.  That’s enough for the entire unit to have Claws or half of them to have Fists, both relevant choices for a unit that will often be Warptime’d directly into combat off the drop.

A couple of upgrades for the Characters.  The Sorcerers or Lord are both good options for Combi-Meltas, as they’re likely to land within range (behind the Terminator Bomb) and unlikely to die on their arrival turn as people will be busy removing the Terminators and/or Cultists, possibly ignoring the Characters for a turn and giving you another Melta shot on a mobile platform.  Alternatively, you could give the Lord a Power Fist if you prefer access to a different Relic–potentially the Black Mace for your Dark Apostle, or let your Lord dual wield his Power Fist with the Blade of the Hydra.

A pair of Combi-Weapons for the Rhinos.  When your Zerkers are successfully Infiltrating and/or already got out, people tend to ignore the Rhinos.  A set of Combi-Weapons is a good way to get mileage out of them even when they’re empty.


With these changes, you end up with a list that should fare pretty well in the current tournament environment–a survivable pack of Daemons sitting on your home objectives, a blob of Infiltrating Cultists to distract and annoy, Zerkers and Noise Marines to clear enemy screens, a full-power Terminator Plasma Bomb double-firing with Endless Cacophony to remove the big threats, and the characters necessary to support them.

Thanks again to Max for inviting me to weigh in on CSM lists, and don’t forget: the Emperor is just a Poxwalker in a fancier chair.

And again, if you would like your list looked at by a pro, don’t hesitate to hit us up!

One thought on “Weekly List Review – Khorne CSM

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