Chaos Knights vs. Deathguard – Warhammer 40,000 Battle Report

In my last couple of reports (here vs. orks and here vs. Salamanders), I’ve been practicing the same list for an upcoming GT.

The last report had some ideas crop up in discussion around it that really intrigued me, and instead of being conservative and testing one at a time, I opted to just throw them all into a list at once and see what happened.

This time, I’m playing against Death Guard – which is a blast from my earliest games of Warhammer as the first approximately 20 games I played of 40k were against the plague boys in 2021 before the 9th edition Chaos Knight Codex was released.

Chaos Knights

++ Super-Heavy Detachment ++

+ Lord of War +

Knight Desecrator [22 PL, 440pts, -1CP]: Corrupted Heirlooms, House Herpetrax, Reaper chainsword, The Tyrant’s Banner, Undivided – Mark of the Dread Knight

Knight Desecrator [22 PL, 430pts, -3CP]: 4. Knight Diabolus, 6. Aura of Terror, Arch-Tyrant, Character (Traitoris Lance), House Herpetrax, Stratagem: Relic, Stratagem: Warlord Trait, Undivided – Blessing of the Dark Master, Veil of Medrengard, Warlord, Warpstrike claw

War Dog Executioner Squadron [9 PL, 175pts]: Iconoclast Dreadblade, Precision Cruelty
War Dog Executioner: Daemonbreath meltagun, Tzeentch – Mirror of Fates

War Dog Huntsman Squadron [18 PL, 330pts]: House Herpetrax
. War Dog Huntsman: Daemonbreath meltagun, Khorne – Blood Shield
. War Dog Huntsman: Daemonbreath meltagun

War Dog Stalker Squadron [25 PL, 455pts, -1CP]: House Herpetrax
. War Dog Stalker: Avenger chaincannon, Corrupted Heirlooms, Diabolus heavy stubber, Helm of Dogs, Slaughterclaw
. War Dog Stalker: Daemonbreath spear, Diabolus heavy stubber, Slaughterclaw
. War Dog Stalker: Avenger chaincannon, Diabolus heavy stubber, Slaanesh – Beguiling Majesty, Slaughterclaw

++ Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment ++

+ Lord of War +

War Dog Executioner Squadron [9 PL, 170pts]: Bold Tyrants, Iconoclast Dreadblade
. War Dog Executioner: Diabolus heavy stubber, Undivided – Warp-borne Stalker

Death Guard

++ Battalion Detachment -3CP ++

+ Stratagems +
Gifts of Decay [-1CP]: Additional Relics

+ HQ +
Lord of Contagion [6 PL, 120pts, -1CP]:
3. Hulking Physique, Plague Skull of Glothila, Plaguechosen, Plaguereaper Malignant Plaguecaster [5 PL, 90pts]: 1. Miasma of Pestilence, 4. Putrescent Vitality

+ Troops +
Plague Marines [6 PL, 105pts] . Plague Champion: Boltgun, Plague knife . Plague Marine w/ blight launcher . Plague Marine w/ bubotic axe . Plague Marine w/ flail . Plague Marine w/ special weapon: Meltagun
Plague Marines [6 PL, 105pts] . Plague Champion: Boltgun, Plague knife . Plague Marine w/ blight launcher . Plague Marine w/ bubotic axe . Plague Marine w/ flail . Plague Marine w/ special weapon: Meltagun
Plague Marines [6 PL, 105pts] . Plague Champion: Boltgun, Plague knife . Plague Marine w/ blight launcher . Plague Marine w/ bubotic axe . Plague Marine w/ flail . Plague Marine w/ special weapon: Meltagun
Poxwalkers [3 PL, 50pts] . 10x Poxwalker: 10x Improvised weapon
Poxwalkers [3 PL, 50pts] . 10x Poxwalker: 10x Improvised weapon

+ Elites +
Deathshroud Terminators [9 PL, 150pts] . Deathshroud Champion: 2x Plaguespurt gauntlet . 2x Deathshroud Terminator: 2x Manreaper, 2x Plaguespurt gauntlet
Foul Blightspawn [6 PL, 95pts]: Revolting Stench-vats, Viscous Death
Helbrute [7 PL, 110pts]: Helbrute fist, Multi-melta
Tallyman [4 PL, 70pts] + Fast Attack + Foetid
Bloat-drone [7 PL, 120pts]: Fleshmower

+ Heavy Support +
Plagueburst Crawler [8 PL, 145pts]: 2x Entropy cannon, Heavy slugger
Plagueburst Crawler [8 PL, 145pts]: 2x Entropy cannon, Heavy slugger
+ Dedicated Transport +
Chaos Rhino [4 PL, 90pts]: Combi-melta

++ Supreme Command Detachment ++

Mortarion [25 PL, 450pts, -1CP]: 1. Miasma of Pestilence, 1. Revoltingly Resilient, 2. Gift of Contagion, 2. Living Plague, 4. Arch-Contaminator, 5. Curse of the Leper, Gloaming Bloat, Stratagem: Warlord Trait, Warlord

List Changes, Rationale, and Questions

There are a few changes to the list, though most of them are merely swapping favours around.

First, the non-Warlord Desecrator used to have Beguiling Majesty on it for -1 to hit and wound with a potential for a 9 inch aura of -1 attacks later in the game. I’ve been convinced to give Mark of the Dread Knight (6+ Feel no pain that unlocks to a 5+ feel no pain)a try in its place and put Beguiling Majesty on a Stalker, which replaces Collar of Infernal Brass (-2 to Psychic tests in dread range which unlocks to immunity to spells and their effects).

Second, I’ve made the Executioners into Dreadblades so that 1) my Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment works properly and 2) so that they get some benefit from being in the list. +1 AP and Attacks on charges don’t really matter to these models with their zero melee weapons, but more AP and more damage is really good on their Autocannons. I’ve also given one of them Warp-Borne Stalker to let me deal with things like sisters of Battle staging grounds.

And then the big change, after much cajoling, I’ve consented to swap out the Abominant for a test run with a second Desecrator running all of its defensive tech (aside from the spells). This is the main point of contention for the list change that I am unsure about – especially as I don’t think I have ten more hours to paint a second Laser Destructor before the event!

The Game

We played the scenario “Tear Down Their Icons” from the 2022 Warzone Nephilim Tournament Packet. This is a pretty ugly scenario for Knights, as the only way to score the 45 maximum on Primary for us is really to score max every turn. Our action economy is such that spending a full models turn to do an action to make a bomb in the enemy deployment zone is pretty much impossible unless we’ve already tabled our opponent.

We play with 10 pieces of terrain – player placed because that’s how the events near us do it – and I won the roll off and opted to place the first piece and deploy first. I could not find a spot on the table that the biggest piece of area terrain actually helped me, so I jammed it in the corner.

Left to right:
Desecrator with Mark of the Dread Knight, Executioner with Mirror of Fates, Huntsman x2 (the red one has Blood Shield), Stalker x3 (middle has Helm of Dogs, right side has Beguiling Majesty) and then finally the other Desecrator with Blessing of the Dark Master and all of the upgrades.

My second Executioner is in deep strike thanks to Warp-Borne Stalker.

Left to right:

Plague Marines, Fetid Bloat Drone with Fleshmower, Mortarion, Foul Blight Spawn, Hellbrute, behind the Helbrute are Poxwalkers and a Plagueburst Crawler, to the right is a Rhino with five Plague Marines inside next to a Malignant Plaguecaster. After the big gap is five more Plague Marines, a Plagueburst Crawler, and ten more Poxwalkers.

The Deathshroud Terminators and Lord of Contagion are both in deepstrike.

Chris won the roll off to go first.

Round 1, Death Guard:

I kick things off in the Doom pathway for my Harbingers of Dread because I don’t have a choice!

Command Phase: We both get a CP, and the Tallyman fails to get Chris another. Tallyman does give the +1 to hit bonus out to the Helbrute.

Movement Phase:

Pretty standard turn here. The topmost Plague Marines advanced into the forest to get the dense cover bonus and potentially come to my zone on round 2. The characters all bunched up inside the ruin piece in the center, with the two smaller vehicles hiding behind it. The Rhino advanced into shooting range of the Blessing of the Dark Master Desecrator, and the Plagueburst Crawlers moved up tentatively.

The third unit of Plague Marines scooched onto the bottom objective and used Spread the Sickness.

Psychic Phase:

Mortarion got Miasma of Pestilence out on himself and the Malignant Plaguecaster spent its Psychic Phase casting a Warp Ritual.

Shooting Phase:

Things start off with the Rhino which hits and then fails to wound the Desecrator on the bottom. The top Plagueburst Crawler gets a few points of damage through to the top Desecrator, and the bottom Plagueburst Crawler blasts through some CP to upgrade its mortar before firing into my Blood Shield Huntsman. The Huntsman takes some damage – it rotated its shields for a 4+ Invulnerable save – and the models around it don’t take any mortal wounds.

Chris passes the turn having scored Spread the Sickness and Warp Ritual.

Round 1, Chaos Knights:

Command Phase:

We both get a CP, I think I get two from The Tyrant’s Banner.

Movement Phase:

I opt to play extremely conservatively here, drawing a wide angle around the battlefield and not committing to the center too much.

I have to kill Mortarion and the Helbrute before I commit to the center too hard, and that will largely be with guns. With 10 shots at Strength 9 or higher in the list, I should be able to drop him pretty reasonably before he makes a huge impact on the game, and the more distance I put between my models and the Contagion Aura the less likely the Death Guard guns are to actually hurt my models.

The top Desecrator moves up to hopefully charge and kill all of the Plague Marines. I put the moderately dented Huntsman into the middle so that it can be my sacrifice play as it’s already dinged up, and also because it’s the only thing that ignores Invulnerable saves in my list Chris can’t really ignore it.

Chris said after the game that this hyper defensive posture gave him quite a bit of pause, and I think it does leave the Death Guard side with some pretty limited options beyond “shoot stuff and pray”.

Shooting Phase:

Target prioritization was really easy here. First, the Executioner decided to be a hero and blasted the Rhino off the table, which unlocked Mirror of Fates’ second rule for an auto six every round.

The Rhino did not explode, but two of five Plague Marines died on the way out, so the center objective was mine.

Every Strength 8 and higher shot then went into Mortarion, which dropped him to 9 remaining wounds. The Gatling Cannons and Heavy Stubbers largely went into the Plague Marine unit hanging out on the bottom objective, dropping them to two members.

Charge/Fight Phase:

The Desecrator at the top makes its charge into the five Plague Marines there, and Chris uses the Death Guard stratagem to give my central Huntsman -2 inches of movement on the charge, so the poor War Dog fails.

The Desecrator mulches through the five Plague Marines it got to and unlocks the second half of Mark of the Dread Knight for a 5+ Feel No Pain.

Morale Phase:

Both remaining Plague Marine units fail their morale check, and both lose an additional dude to fleeing. We realized after the game that at least one of them should not have run due to Marines ignoring combat attrition modifiers from being at half strength or less, but (hopefully) that did not affect the outcome too severely.

I scored Grind Them Down and got three points on Ruthless Tyranny, and started a Storm of Darkness action with the Mirror of Fates Executioner on the top left objective.

Death! Death everywhere. And Fear. Fear and Dead Men.
Round 2, Death Guard

At the start of the battle round, I decided to go into the Despair side of the Harbingers of Dread. The first one of these reduces enemy Aura ranges by 3″ – relevant on the “never count as charging” ability in the Death Guard army and also reduces Command Phase ability ranges by – relevant for the Tallyman +1 to hit.

I was also setting up for round 3 when I could make Dread Tests required in order to pass actions.

Command Phase:

Tallyman gives Chris an additional CP and gives the Helbrute +1 to hit again.

Movement Phase:

I’ve deliberately made it so that Mortarion – now in his bracketed state – cannot make a charge on anything but the Huntsman.

Chris debates for a few minutes whether to put every single model he has – Bloat Drone, Tallyman, Malignant Plaguecaster, Foul Blightspawn, the lone Plague Marine AND Mortarion in the center objective so that he can Spread the Sickness there. The Helbrute would have needed to move an impossible distance to get around the building.

This is one of the moments where one extra Plague Marine might have mattered, as he could have kept one character back, but ultimately Chris decides that giving me easy access to all of his characters is a bad decision and after moving Mortarion up, putting the Bloat Drone in my poor Huntsman’s face, and shuffling Poxwalkers around, he Spreads the Sickness on the top right objective.

His deepstriking models pop up behind the central building as there isn’t a good position to put them in my backlines that will accomplish much.

Psychic Phase:

Once again, Warp Ritual happens and Mortarion puts Miasma of Pestilence on himself.

Shooting Phase:

There are some big ups and downs in this shooting phase. The Helbrute does zero damage to my bottom most Desecrator with its multi-melta. The top Plagueburst Crawler only manages to nudge two or three damage through the 5+ Invulnerable Save and 5+ Feel No Pain of the top Desecrator, and then his bottom Plagueburst Crawler drops 12 wounds off the pink Stalker, leaving it on two. Mortarion dings up the red Huntsman on the central objective, and the turn progresses into the charge phase.

Charge/Fight Phase:

The Bloat Drone makes a successful charge onto the damaged Huntsman and explodes it handily, scoring Chris some points on Bring it Down this turn in addition to his four Primary and Spread the Sickness/Warp Ritual scores.

Round 2, Chaos Knights:

Command Phase:

We both get some CP! I score 8 on Primary.

Movement Phase:

I opt to once again play a bit conservative here, and the only things that venture forth are the top most Desecrator gunning for his Plagueburst Crawler, the other Huntsman to recapture the central objective, and my nearly dead Stalker as insurance in case Mortarion fails to die to my shooting.

I deep strike the Executioner on the bottom half of the map – deepstriking was really bad this game.

Psychic Phase:

I finish Storm of Darkness on the top left zone.

Shooting Phase:

It takes basically every gun in my army to take Mortarion down. Every gun with a damage characteristic of “higher than 1” goes into him. The last shots from the deepstriking Executioner finally finish him off.

That same Executioner also finishes off the lone Plague Marine in the central zone, who until this point had survived 24 Gatling Cannon shots, and 20 Stubber Shots.

Charge/Fight Phase:

The Huntsman makes the charge into the Bloat Drone, and even though Chris reduces the charge distance of the Desecrator up top, it manages to get into the Plagueburst Crawler.

Unfortunately, this particular Chaos Knight model and these particular Plagueburst Crawlers have a long, storied history of the Knight getting into combat and failing to kill it, and the tradition lived on as the big guy only did 5 damage to the tank.

In the center, the Huntsman only half killed the Bloat Drone, which returned the favor and half killed it too.

At the conclusion of the turn, I’ve scored Grind Them Down, Storm of Darkness, and get four points on Ruthless Tyranny. I then start another Storm of Darkness on the bottom left objective.

Round 3, Death Guard

Before the command phase, I pop up another notch in the Despair track of Harbingers of Doom. This round, enemy models in Dread Range have to take Dread Tests before attempting actions. If they fail the Dread Test, they fail it. If they’re doing the action at the end of the turn they have to take another Dread Test. If they fail the Dread Test, they fail the action.

Command Phase:

Chris scores 8 on Primary, and we both get a CP. Tallyman puts +1 to hit on Lord of Contagion.

Movement Phase:

The Lord of Contagion waddles over to the top Desecrator. The Helbrute gets into the zone to come finish off the Huntsman if the Drone can’t, and the bottom Plagueburst Crawler moves up as well.

The Plaguecaster moves out of the building to use its rather excellent gun on the pink Stalker.

The Lord of Contagion uses his relic and does 4 mortal wounds to the Desecrator, which promptly ignores half of them with the 5+ Feel No Pain.

Psychic Phase:

The Plaguecaster puts +1 Strength on the Deathshroud Terminators.

Shooting Phase:

The Malignant Plaguecaster handily kills off the pink Stalker. The Plagueburst Crawler in melee with the Desecrator drops it to 20 health.

The other Plagueburst Crawler and the Helbrute bounce off the bottommost Desecrator.

Charge Phase:

The Lord of Contagion makes it to the Desecrator without a problem, and the Helbrute makes it onto the Huntsman.

I opt to use the -1 damage stratagem on the Huntsman, which keeps it alive through the Helbrute, only to die to the Bloat Drone after it failed to kill the Bloat Drone again.

The Desecrator takes about 7 damage from the Lord of Contagion and ignores two or three of them with the 5+ Feel No Pain. It fights the Plagueburst Crawler and kills it handily.

At the end of the turn, Chris scores 4 on Bring it Down.

Round 3, Chaos Knights:

Command Phase:

I score 8 on Primary once more.

Movement Phase:

The bottom Desecrator finally fires up its walking engines and moves into the center to go after the Helbrute. The top Desecrator falls back so it can shoot at the Lord of Contagion and then charge the Poxwalkers.

Finally, the Deep Strike Executioner moves onto the objective. Before scoring next turn, I’ll be turning Objective Secured off those Poxwalkers, so I want to deny Chris the points.

Psychic Phase:

I score 3 on Storm of Darkness on the bottom left zone.

Shooting Phase:

The Mirror of Fate Executioner kills off the Bloat Drone. My big guns on the bottom half of the table blast the remaining Plagueburst Crawler off the board, and the top Desecrator puts a planet sized hole into the Lord of Contagion.

Charge/Fight Phase:

The Desecrator in the middle gets a charge onto the Helbrute, and the Rampager makes a charge into the top Poxwalker unit.

Embarrassingly, the bottom unit of Poxwalkers survived with one model, so my useless in combat Executioner charges the lone dude in hopes of killing it.

The middle Desecrator makes very quick work of the Helbrute. The top Desecrator makes 15 sweep attacks into the 8 remaining Poxwalkers and kills them all with authority.

The Executioner does manage to kill the last Poxwalker on the bottom of the table.

At the end of the turn, I score Grind Them Down, and four more on Ruthless Tyranny. I start a Storm of Darkness on the bottom right objective.

(I forgot to take a picture of this turn, my models were all in the same positions they are in the next picture).

Round 4, Death Guard:

I go into the last round of Despair for this turn, which turns off all Objective Secured within 12″ of any Chaos Knight.

Command Phase:

The Deathshroud Terminators get the +1 to hit from Tallyman and we both get a point.

Movement Phase:

The Deathshroud and Tallyman move to the top along with the Plaguecaster. The Foul Blightspawn heads to the bottom of the table to tangle with an Executioner.

Psychic Phase:

The Deathshroud Terminators get +1 Strength, and a 2 damage Smite goes into my Desecrator.

Charge/Fight Phase:

All the charges are made, but the Desecrator handily survives thanks to the ever looming threat of the -1 damage stratagem forcing Chris into the sweep profile on the Deathshroud Terminators. The Executioner also survives nicely, and at this point Chris and I agree to just talk out the last round.

The Rest of the Game…

Whether immediately or on my turn, the Deathshroud Terminators die before they get to activate again. I’ll refrain from killing too many things so that I can score Grind Them Down on round 5 as well. Chris never scores Primary again, and his action based secondaries are done scoring as well. With just the Tallyman and the Plaguecaster left alive for his last turn, it’s also unlikely that he will score more points on Bring It Down.

I’ll easily max Ruthless Tyranny, and can score a fourth point on Storm of Darkness trivially as well.

Post-Game Thoughts:

Chris thinks, and I agree, that the Helbrute should just be more Plague Marines. In fact, most of the list should probably just be Plague Marines, but that’s kinda Death Guard life right now.

If we had played the Morale correctly, he would have had two extra Plague Marines and the score would have been somewhere between 6 and 10 points closer. I don’t think it made a dramatic difference in this game, but it’s certainly something to remember going forward.

It is absolutely absurd how much of a difference Strength 9 and higher weapons made in taking Mortarion down. I was never threatened by him the entire game, and was able to (reasonably) safely dispatch him with shooting regardless of where he was on the table. I think playing matchups like this cagey and spending the first two turns relying on the ranged output Knights have in spades is probably the best way to go.

List Changes:

I…am so annoyed how much I liked having the second Desecrator in the list. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

First, Mark of the Dread Knight is very strong. The Desecrator on the top stomped his way across the table and shrugged off half an army on its way. I think I’ll likely be keeping that change regardless of my second big knight choice, especially as it gives me access to the Stratagem to revive it on a 4+ once it does die.

Second, I loved having the shooting Dreadblade Executioners in the list. There were multiple times where the extra AP and Damage from Precision Cruelty came up, and quite a few times where the extra AP from Bold Tyrants came in clutch as well.

I am pretty set on my Favour and War Gear loadout for my War Dogs at this point, and unless I ever try out a 1 and 10 style list with more War Dog options, I think they’ll probably stay as they are.

So…the second Desecrator. Despite not doing much for most of the game in melee, when it did go into the Helbrute I definitely noticed hitting on 2s and being Strength 16 with the Warpstrike Talon compared to the Electroscourge. I also found that having 4 Desecrator shots on the board made quite a bit of difference in how I could allocate firepower. Some matchups will have that be completely overkill, and others…it will be game endingly important.

I’ll need to think a little more about this last Knight and what I want it to do or be. I’ve really enjoyed my Abominant, and that version of the list has a lot more testing behind it. I’ll have to see if I can get one or two more reps in with this layout to see what I think going forward and into the GT I’ll be playing at in a few weeks.

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