Stratagems are one of the key features of ninth edition, and Chaos Knights have some fantastic options. One of the most common questions I see from new and returning Knight players is “which Stratagems should I know?”
This article is geared specifically for that question. I will not be covering every Stratagem in the book – many are rarely worth remembering – but I will be talking about my choices that are always on my mind every game. Additionally, I’m ignoring the pre-game stratagems that give Warlord Traits and Relics. That would be an entirely different article.
Quick Note: x/x/x costs are variable costs for War Dogs/Abhorrent Class/Tyrant Class models. If there are only two values, the first is War Dogs and the second is everything else.
Bind the Souls of the Slain
1/2 CP, Infernal House Only
This Stratagem lets you gain back wounds on a 4+ by killing things in the fight phase.
If I wasn’t running alphabetical, I wouldn’t be putting this Stratagem first as it’s a little counter to what Infernals want to do – they’re much better at shooting things. Still, regaining wounds on a big Toughness 7 or 8 model is excellent, and this should be a stratagem to keep in mind if running an Infernal House.
Break Their Lines
1 CP, Iconoclast House Only
This Stratagem gives a model that charged +1 to hit in the fight phase.
This top tier stratagem is useful basically whenever you really want to kill something. It gets you back to parity against -1 to hit effects and makes every model in your army hit in melee on 2s unless there’s some negative effect in play.
The Non-Karnivore War Dogs and the non Desecrator/Rampager Titanic Knights all love this Stratagem, and it really messes with the math of your opponents models’ surviving. It’s even better combined with Knight Diabolus for rerolling 1s or Trail of Destruction for the same effect.
This is one of the best Stratagems Knights have access to, and one of the main reasons I dramatically favor Iconoclast Houses.
1/2 CP, All Houses
When a Chaos Knight model is chosen as the target of a ranged attack, you can play this Stratagem to give the target a 4+ Invulnerable Save against Ranged Attacks.
If you are getting shot at with high strength, high damage, AP more than 1 weapons on a critically important model, this is a good time to use Diabolic Bulwark.
This is a staple Chaos Knights Stratagem, and one of the primary reasons I think that 1 CP is the absolute minimum you can start the game with. Often times you will need to use this Stratagem on turn 1, and you need to have access to enough CP to use it.
Quick note: If your opponent has lined up a whole turn where they’re going to shoot your model and then charge it and take over an objective, sometimes it’s best to just let the model die so that they cannot charge it and claim the point. This is a limited use case, but it comes up occasionally.
2 CP, War Dogs Only
This allows a War Dog to fall back, shoot, and charge in the same turn.
This is a very strong rule that will come up once every game or so. Being able to fall back, let your army shoot at something, and then charge later in the turn is very good, nevermind the added damage the War Dog can do to other targets at range.
Most commonly, you’ll want to use this if a War Dog can fall back onto an objective and clear it to deny primary, or if you really need to shoot at the thing engaging the War Dog and the War Dog itself has a specific kind of gun suited for a different target (War Dogs can always shoot what they’re engaged with at -1 to hit).
1 CP, Vextrix Only
This Stratagem allows a model to ignore any hit roll or Ballistic Skill modifiers when making ranged attacks for a shooting phase.
If your opponent has models in or behind dense terrain, has a -1 to hit from a stratagem, spell, trait, or relic, or if your model is engaging the model, this is a great little stratagem that can dramatically increase your damage output. On something like a Thermal Spear with two shots, being able to hit on 3s instead of on 4s means that you’re going to hit at least one of them 89% of the time ish as opposed to 75% of the time.
Realistically though, this will be saved for really high impact guns like the Diomanas or for really high rate of fire guns like the Executioner or Magaera.
Knights of Shade
2 CP, House Korvax
This lets one Titanic or Two War Dog models ignore terrain and models for movement during a single move phase.
This is an incredibly versatile stratagem that lets you bypass Knights’ biggest weakness – terrain. Using this, a move 14 Karnivore can scootch right through enemy lines to charge their squishy psyker from the back or obliterate a unit of meltas hiding behind a building or….
The list goes on. Basically this is a massive threat extender and lets you get around move blocking completely with any knight or pair of War Dogs in the list.
Reap and Rend
1 CP, Any Knight with Chainsword or Chaintalon
This Stratagem gives a Chainsword, Chaintalon, or relic that replaces them an extra sweep attack at the cost of not being able to re-roll anything.
This is a really interesting stratagem as it entirely depends on what your attack profile looks like. Take a Desecrator hitting on 2s with a re-roll 1 effect. Baseline it will make 12 attacks with the Chaintalon, hit 10 of them and re-roll into around 1.8 more hits. With Reap and Rend, it instead makes 16 attacks, hits 13 of them, and cannot re-roll the three ish misses. If you’ve already invested points in the re-roll, this isn’t an incredibly huge increase in damage output.
Another scenario is a War Dog with a Chaintalon hitting on 3s with a re-roll 1 effect. They will make 8 attacks, hit around 6 of them, and then reroll into slightly more than 1 extra hit on average.
With Reap and Rend, they will make 12 attacks instead, hit 8 of them, and be unable to reroll the misses, again, about the same.
Anytime a re-roll one effect is in play, I think this is pretty close to a wash. Without, one, it’s a straight increase.
2 CP, War Dogs Only
This Stratagem makes it so that every time your War Dog models attack a specific unit in the enemy army, a hit roll of six generates an extra hit. (yes this stacks with the Moirax Lightning Lock).
This is a really excellent Stratagem, but it requires a volume of fire of sufficient size to be effective. Typically speaking, if you make six attacks, you can expect around one six . At 2 CP, this Stratagem had better be making 3+ extra hits for it to be comparable to spending those CP on re-rolls of some sort. This means if your War Dogs are all going to be focusing down a particularly nasty model (looking at you Mortarion) or if you need to kill an endless legion of things in one unit (less of these in the game now) and you are making somewhere around 20 or more attacks that matter, this is a good Stratagem to use.
That all said, sometimes this is absolutely overkill, and you should get comfortable with some napkin statistics and probabilities so that you can calculate when this is needed on the fly.
Trail of Destruction
1 CP, Any Model
Trail of Destruction lets you re-roll hit rolls of 1 made by a specific model when it shoots or fights an enemy unit that is within range of an objective marker.
This is another one of those “if you really need this model to kill something” stratagems, and I often use it in tandem with Break Their Lines so that my model is hitting on 2s and re-rolling 1s to hit something important. Even the humble Abominant starts getting really scary when it makes 15+ attacks that more or less all connect. Obviously on the Desecrator, Rampager, and Karnivore, this is just a money card all the time in combat, but it can also be really useful if you have a single model which can shoot a unit on an objective and you really need to kill it. I would not hesitate to use this in conjunction with an Executioner or Brigand to try and clean off a point.
1/2 CP, All Models
This stratagem lets you select a model of yours when it is chosen as the target of an attack during the Fight phase, and reduce damage from attacks made against it by 1 until the end of the fight phase.
Do note that your opponent has to declare which weapon they are attacking with before you have to decide to use this Stratagem, so you should rarely be using it into 1 Damage weapons as they cannot be reduced further.
This is the single most important Stratagem in the Chaos Knight arsenal, turning War Dogs into legitimately tanky models and Abhorrent and Tyrant Class models into nigh unkillable demigods. The number of Damage 2 Weaponry out there is staggering, and until this Stratagem existed it preyed on knights viciously. Now, with Unyielding Rage, units that are kitted out to destroy Vehicles in combat often just mathematically cannot do the job.
I like to use this on War Dogs a lot more than I have on Abhorrent models as it’s cheaper and they have Objective Secured, but sometimes your opponent has to get through a blessinged up Abominant or something with a pile of Power Fists and you just get to laugh as the unit completely fails to even bracket your big knight. Save CP for when you know you will need this throughout the game, it is literally the difference between winning and losing in many situations.
These Stratagems have powerful effects, but they are situational and won’t be used nearly as often as the ones in the High Tier list.
1/2 CP, Nurgle Model Only
This Stratagem allows you to pick a model during your command phase and let it act as if it is on full wounds for bracketing purposes until your next command phase.
For 1 or 2 CP, this can give a model something like +4″ of movement, +2 to hit at range and +2 to hit in melee. That’s an incredibly efficient trade, and it can let you take objectives that would normally be out of range of your banged up War Dog, make more high value attacks connect, ad more.
The Nurgle marks are kind of Niche compared to the other gods’, but I’m seeing more and more interesting ways to apply Aura of Corruption in my lists and this is definitely a Stratagem I would be keeping in mind when I do.
A Long Leash
1 CP, War Dogs Only
This Stratagem lets you pick a War Dog with the same Knight Household as a Rampager, Desecrator, or Despoiler and gain the benefits of their Auras regardless of where they are on the table.
There are two main reasons I would use this Stratagem. First, if you really need to guarantee that two separate Karnivores do their job and you are already planning on using Trail of Destruction, this is another effect that lets you re-roll ones if you have a Rampager in the list.
Second, and I think more interesting, is letting a War Dog benefit from the Despoilers aura to perform Heroic Interventions. This could completely flip the math on taking or holding an objective, potentially also letting you kill an important unit or character at the same time. For a single CP, this could swing the game by as much as 10 points in some matchups.
Crushed Like Vermin
1 CP, Any Titanic Model
This Stratagem requires the target to attack with their titanic feet to work. When they do, subtract one from each hit roll. If the attacks hit, the target suffers 2 mortal wounds and the sequence ends (unless the target is a vehicle or monster, in which case it does nothing).
First of all, you can build a really silly Rampager to abuse this Stratagem if you like. Check that out here.
In reality, this is going to be used if you have to kill something with not tons of wounds and a good Invulnerable save. With this Stratagem and Break Their Lines, a normal Iconoclast Desecrator has pretty good odds to do 10 mortal wounds to a Character or unit brick. If they have Knight Diabolus, that goes up to 12. That’s enough to kill 4 Terminators, most Daemon Prince variants, and basically any normal Character model. Even if they get a 5+ Feel No Pain against mortals, the odds of this killing them are almost always higher than smacking them normally and hoping they don’t fail their saves.
Doom and Despair
2 CP, Warlord Must Be Alive
This stratagem lets you pick a prior round Harbingers of Dread ability and make it active for your entire army as long as your Warlord is alive.
The most common way I could see this coming up is late game wanting to nab the first level of Darkness to force your opponent to take dread tests or halve their charges assuming that you went into Despair to force your opponents actions and obsec to fail.
Occasionally, I could see this being used to grab longer dread ranges to make scoring “Ruthless Tyranny” easier and forcing more Aura of Terror Dread Tests for enemy models. It also makes the Ravenous Pterrorshades Stratagem which we will discuss shortly more applicable.
1 CP, Slaanesh Model Only
This Stratagem gives a Slaanesh model +1 to its attacks characteristic for the rest of the phase if they are engaging an enemy unit with 6 or more models, and +2 to its attacks characteristic if they are engaging a unit with 11 or more models.
The obvious thing here is to give a model a higher chance to kill a little unit. I put Slaanesh marks like Beguiling Majesty on my Karnivore quite often, and I also really like it on a Desecrator with The Tyrant’s Banner. A Karnivore in Iconoclast charges and makes six attacks into the Marine unit and is likely to kill 5 of them. With Murderbliss that number goes to 6 (important for Morale and because the Marine unit now only has 4 members in it so the War Dog has more ObSec models on the objective likely). Additionally, against single wound models, this is effectively two extra attacks for one.
The less obvious case is to charge a big knight marked by Slaanesh into a unit of 6+ guys and a hard target you actually want to kill so that you can get an extra big attack into the scary target. You can even combine it with some cheeky consolidate and pile in tricks to not let the scary model hit you back!
1 CP, War Dogs only
This Stratagem lets War Dogs that are engaging the same unit have +1 to their Attacks Characteristic.
Either you’re trying to kill Elite, super tough models with great saves and defensive tech and every attack matters (looking at you Scarab Occult Terminators or CSM Terminators) or you are attacking a numberless Horde of models and they all mostly need to die.
Alternatively if you can get two War Dogs onto one important Character that really needs to die this can be a life changer.
In either case, 2 extra attacks for 1 CP is a good deal, but I think most good players won’t be putting 2 War Dogs into danger at once in the same place so this Stratagem comes up a lot less often than it otherwise would.
1 CP, Requires Dread Range of a Pterrorshade Model
This Stratagem has you choose an enemy unit within Dread Range of a Pterrorshade model in your army and force them to take a Dread Test. The unit suffers wounds equal to the amount the Dread Test exceeded their leadership by to a max of 6 wounds.
First of all, this can be a really handy way to finish off a unit or the last few damage off a Character model when the Aura of Terror is around.
Against Leadership 9 base, this averages one mortal wound with the Aura, and the potential for spikes is excellent here. If you’ve got a stock leadership 8 unit, you can reasonably expect to do 2 mortal wounds (enough to kill a Marine) which could be enough to:
- Make their morale check almost certain to fail.
- Cede control of the objective to you.
- Kill off a special weapon bearer in the unit if they’ve saved them until the end.
- Bracket a vehicle or monster.
I would like to re-emphasize that while the average on 3d6 drop the lowest is 9, the potential for spikes on 3 dice is quite high.
1/2/3, Any Model on Destroyed
This Stratagem forces a model to explode when destroyed.
This can be extremely devastating to your opponent if a Titanic Knight explodes in their lines with their characters, support units, and more all around it.
I’ve had this Stratagem do 30+ mortal wounds in one fell swoop, killing multiple characters, forcing enemy models to flee off points, and finishing off damaged units alike.
This is a very, very bad thing to use if your knight gets destroyed by ranged attacks with mostly your own models around.
These are stratagems that are occasionally (once per event maybe) useful. They’re better than the ones not even being mentioned, but they’re still super niche.
Beseech the Dark Gods
1/2 CP, Undivided Model
This stratagem lets you roll a dice and bring back a model that was just destroyed on a 4+ at the end of the phase.
This is a pretty obvious one, when your model dies you can use this Stratagem. Unfortunately, with no way to re-roll the die and Command Points being as precious as they are now, I have found myself regretting attempting this more often than not.
Also, this usually requires the Abominant/Titanic Knight with Blessing of the Dark Master to die, which doesn’t happen that often in my experience.
Skies of Fire
1 CP, War Dogs
This Stratagem gives your War Dogs +1 to hit Aircraft with their guns to offset the -1 they would normally get.
When you’re shooting at Aircraft that need to die, consider this Stratagem. It’s a very , very good Stratagem, but Aircraft are not hte most common thing so it isn’t quite as high on my list as it might deserve.
1 CP, Tzeentch Model
This Stratagem lets you pick one ranged attack that you hit with during the shooting phase and make it automatically wound. Additionally, if the model you hit is a Psyker, it makes a Dread Test. If it fails, it suffers perils.
Some models are incredibly annoying to wound, and this can force a save through guaranteed in that situation. For example, a Daemon Primarch with -1 to wound on it might be enough of a gamble for something like a Thermal Spear to send a CP and force the wound through. This is a rare ish scenario, but it can be incredibly clutch.
1 CP, Herpetrax Only
This Stratagem triggers during the Morale phase. Pick a Herpetrax model and roll a d6 for each enemy model within 6″. For each, a 2-5 on the roll inflicts one mortal wound and a 6 inflicts d3 mortal wounds.
This is really good for triggering morale on low leadership, single wound units. It’s also really good for finishing off a character or unit with a single wound left. This is a slightly worse version of the Ravenous Pterrorshades Stratagem, and while it has some good upsides, the other stratagem is usually better if the Aura of Terror is around. That said, sometimes you can do the 1-2 punch of them both and get some sneaky damage into a phase locked character cough Abaddon cough that otherwise would survive to wreck you next turn.
1 CP, Khorne Model
When an enemy model fails a psychic test within 18 inches of a Khorne model, you can use this Stratagem to force them to suffer Perils of the Warp.
Killing enemy Psykers is always good, and this combos nicely with Collar of Infernal Brass to make it more likely for enemy Psykers to fail.
That said, this is an ability that the best Psykers in the game ignore and that doesn’t give you any agency on when to trigger it. With that in mind, I think it’s a relatively low priority Stratagem to remember.
There are a lot of excellent Stratagems in Chaos Knights, and a number of really bad ones. Hopefully this has been a useful tool for what the best Strats we have available do, when they’re best used, and how to plan your turns with them in mind.
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