The Chaos Sorcerer and How to Make Him Effective

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Chaos Space Marines Review for 7th Edition

One of the things I have really struggled with in 40K 7th edition is finding a way to make the Chaos Sorcerer function. I love the advent of the psychic phase for 7th. I feel it reigned in psykers a lot while at the same time letting them do their thing. With a phase of its own, psykers can cast however they want and not have it impact their shooting or assault choices. I was very glad to see that brought to 7th edition.

Crimson Slaughter CodexAnother change though, and one that really affected my use of a Chaos Sorcerer, was the loss of being able to use blessings and maledictions from a transport’s firing point. I have no issue with the change, and I agree it was needed for balance, but it made it really hard for me to determine where to place my Chaos Sorcerer. He could no longer ride around in a Rhino with Chaos Space Marines bolstering their leadership and providing support to nearby units. To support the army the Sorcerer had to get out of the Rhino, and we all know it’s scary when you get out of the Rhino!

I tried a lot of things with my Chaos Sorcerer. When Crimson Slaughter came out I thought that The Balestar of Mannon would fix them. Having access to Divination is never a bad thing. I tried all sorts of Chaos Marks, different wargear, and where I placed him. I could go on and on about what I tried and what didn’t work. Instead I wanted to focus on sharing what I learned the hard way. This is just my experience, so your mileage may vary.

Always Have Your Sorcerer Accessible

This goes back to the transport thing I was saying. You can only use Witchfire powers from a fire point, so if your Sorcerer has other powers then keep him outside a transport, at least if you’re relying on those other powers. Some powers only effect the Sorcerer and his unit. There are situations when you will need to get your Sorcerer into another unit because of this, and that’s far more easily done when the Sorcerer is already on foot. Riding around in transports with your Sorcerer makes things harder than it needs to be.

The other side of accessibility is keeping your Chaos Sorcerer central to your army. Some powers have a really short range, so being able to reach your entire army with powers is crucial.

Keep the Cost of Your Sorcerer to a Minimal

It’s so easy to dump points into Chaos Marks and wargear. If your Chaos Sorcerer is also your warlord then it’s really easy to succumb to overspending. Remember, a Sorcerer is a T4 two wound model with mediocre stats for close combat. His ability is in his powers, not his physical prowess on the field. Investing a lot of points into a model, just to keep it alive, is often just wasteful. Those points are better spent elsewhere in my experience.

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Choose a Psychic Focus

Between the Chaos powers, and the three disciplines a Chaos Sorcerer has access to, there are a lot of options. The problem though is if you’re rolling on multiple tables, trying to cherry-pick the best powers, it will rarely work. Power selection is too random to pull from various disciplines reliably. If you marked a Sorcerer then I wouldn’t choose from more than one other discipline. Sticking to one discipline often proves more beneficial than dabbling in multiple.

Consider Not Giving Your Sorcerer a Chaos Mark

Star of ChaosI find the Chaos psychic powers to not be all that great. They are OK, but generally speaking there are better powers in the standard psychic disciplines. Having a Chaos Mark forces you to take at least one God power. The Sorcerer automatically gains psychic focus in that God’s discipline, which of course all means you can’t focus in a standard discipline when you are marked. As a result, if you really want a power from another discipline then you’ve greatly reduced your odds of getting it when you have a Chaos Mark.

The Sorcerer Should Enhance the Army, Not Be the Linchpin

Relying on psychic powers to make your army work will disappoint you. The process of casting powers is unreliable. Your army should function well on its own, and the Sorcerer should help them do their task better or easier, not be reliable for them to perform their job.

My Chaos Sorcerer Setup

I have played with my Chaos Sorcerer a lot lately, hence this post. I’ve learned a lot the hard way. I also wanted to share what my Sorcerer setup looks like based on those experiences.

Chaos Sorcerer – Terminator Armor, Spell Familiar, Psyker (Mastery 3)

Yep, that’s it. That setup weighs in at only 150pts.

I admit that this setup started off with me wanting to paint up my Chaos Sorcerer in Terminator armor for a 40K campaign we were doing. This wasn’t some grand plan at creating the best Sorcerer possible, but instead to make best with what I was using. I have gone down the road of really expensive setups, 200pts or more, and routinely been disappointed by the results in the past. I shaved off everything I didn’t feel was essential for the Sorcerer to do his job, and that job for me is to support the army.

The only non-essential thing is the Terminator Armor. Being mastery 3 is needed for added reliability in casting, and a Spell Familiar is a no-brainer. Again, this was the model I wanted to use and he has Terminator armor. I looked at it practically though. The Terminator armor is 25pts, and that gets the Sorcerer a 2+ save and a 5++. To buy the Aura of Dark Glory to get a 5++ instead costs 15pts. That means I’m only paying 10pts to get a 2+ save. Seems practical to me!

In Games

I have run this setup with two different bodyguards. One is to run him with a unit of Terminators. The really nice part about having the Chaos Sorcerer in with Terminators is that there is a Champion to take challenges for him. The other unit I run him with is Obliterators with the Mark of Nurgle. Obliterators have become my preferred retinue for him. Compared to Terminators, Obliterators are more resilient, and more valuable point-for-point. I almost always run my lists with Obliterators in it, so when he was with Terminators I had to buy them just to guard him, which seemed like a big waste of points.

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The last thing I started doing was to focus exclusively in Telepathy. Telepathy of course has Psychic Shriek and Invisibility, both great powers, but the gem I had overlooked previously is Mental Fortitude. I had always just read the first part of that power where it lets a unit falling back to immediately regroup. Well, that’s cool but situational in use. The next part though says that the unit gains Fearless. I don’t have to tell any Chaos Space Marine player how useful having fearless units is. It’s a damn game changer at times. The great thing too is if you manage to get both Invisibility and Mental Fortitude. That way you can make one unit Invisible and another Fearless. That gives you two units who are going to hold up for a turn.

Well, that concludes my recent experiences on how I managed to find a way to make my Chaos Sorcerer work on the table for me.

What’s your experiences with Chaos Sorcerers? Do you have any suggestions on setups and effective ways to run one?

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  • Kenneth Raymond

    The nurgle powers can be downright evil if used correctly. (having the longest ranged malediction in the game doesn’t hurt either, gift of contagion is 48″ range) Weapon virus? Just try shooting me now that all your guns have gained the get’s hot USR. (normally I leave the guy on foot, but a bike is very tempting especially if you have a bike squad to hide him in, thank father nurgle for T6. As jinking has no effect on maledictions you can exploit the nurgle powers nature without too much hassle. Weapon virus and gift of contagion are dastardly, S2 T2 eldar with get’s hot on there weapons, anyone? [Use on wraithguard or wraith knights to make your opponent cry nothing is funnier than a wraithknight dying to boltgun fire])
    I personally have strayed in this direction away from my previous sorcerer on disk with dimensional key approach. (3+ invun is nice the dimensional key more so. but he always gets murdered by overwatch and the tzeencth powers suck [Bolt of change being the only half decent power but there’s a 66% chance of not getting it.]

    • Nurgle is definitely the better of the powers and the only one I could see doing all my powers from. Tzeentch is pretty terrible. It really comes down to what you’re after for sure. I like my Sorcerer bolstering my units, and the God powers don’t do that, barring Hysterical Frenzy from Slaanesh. Blessings are the easier power to cast where maledictions can be shut down easier since you’re targeting the opponent.

      I never have much luck boosting the invuln on my Sorcerers. It’s nice, and can get you out of tough situations, but just having two wounds is tough. If my Sorcerer is taking a lot of invuln saves then things aren’t good, and even a boosted save will only get you so far. I generally find a high toughness outweighs a better invuln.

  • I think all of your points are correct. The fragility of MEQ psykers (aside from Grey Knights) means they’re the HQ choice that serves as cheerleader rather than quarterback. When I ran librarians, they got NO gear at all, and very rarely got an ML boost to level 2. I took them to make my Marines better, not to cause damage. Their weak stats and very limited access to wargear just didn’t allow them to match the output of a Chapter Master, or even a Techmarine in shooting/melee.

    Don’t forget that when you pay for TDA, you also pay for the ability to deep strike. So for those ten points over the aura you get your 2+ armor AND deployment flexibility. If one has the guts and sense of humor to go for bold deep strike placements, you can start throwing some brutal short range powers deep into enemy lines. Just watch out for grav and plasma units that will be there shortly to make your TDA into a joke.

    • I’ve tried running an M1 Sorcerer but it never worked well. I found myself lucky to get off one power most of the time. Getting those extra warp dice makes a big difference.

      Very true with deep strike. Getting Invisibility, and then planting Oblits and a Sorcerer in the backfield, would be brutal.

  • I have tried Telepathy and I’ve had some success. Invisibility is the big jackpot, shrouded and the primaris are great too. But there are so many so and so spells in that discipline. I’ve come to prefer Biomancy in most cases, but I play my sorcerer really souped up and offensive.

    Biomancy powers are great. Each and everyone. I run my sorcerer unmarked with a bike, stave, familiar, ml3, burning brand, gift of mutation, 4++ and protected by a retinue of 5-6 Nurgle bikers. Fast, long reach, resilient. Very offensive but not foolishly, he should hunt weaker stuff to burn and rearmour to wreak. Enfeeble in combination with the Burning Brand of Skalathrax is murder. Everything with one wound dies.

    • Terrify and Dominate are OK spells. They’re definitely situational, but against the right opponent they can be great. Certainly not my go-to Telepathy powers though.

      Biomancy is amazing for an offensive psyker. Bikes are great too, especially because you can get that T5 without a mark. It’s a good setup you have.

  • Good points from the article and everyone. Bit I think we know I will still be putting down a Tzeentch sorcerer on the table ;)

    • I’m all for fluff and themed armies. Being that I play an undivided warband, going without a mark is also fluffy for me :)

      • Oh very much so suitable for you. Your army has always had a lovely theme and look.

  • Tirelion

    Well, you know me. I prefer my sorcerers on bikes bolstering a biker gang with a mace lord. Telepathy being the obvious choice, either for Shroud (2+ jink) or invis. I actually prefer chaos sorcerers these days to daemon payers due to the spell familiar. And yeah, no marks for them, silly rules make the marks terrible.

    • I never even thought about the 2+ jink until you mentioned it. I’m going to have to rethink putting one on a bike I think.

  • I feel like the 20 Points for the mobility and extra Toughness of a Bike are usually worthwhile. I tend to have as much of my Chaos lists as possible moving fast, tho, so if you don’t push the speed as hard, he may end up outpacing the stuff he’s supposed to be supporting.

    That gives him the option of stuff like other Bikes or Spawn for a bodyguard, too, and those are both pretty nice durable Units. Watching someone who loaded up too much on Grav trying to take out Spawn is hilarious :D

    The Spell Familiar is mandatory. Re-rolls are good in general, but Psychic Tests can be both so clutch and so high-variability that they’re solid gold here. Also lets him use Warp Charge more efficiently, which is always nice.

    I’d also pretty much always shell out for ML3. Gives a better chance of getting stuff through on enemy Units with Lvl1-2 Psykers, better odds of getting the good powers out of whatever Discipline, more Warp Charge to play with. Totally worth the extra Points.

    Don’t overlook Malefic Daemonology, either. Even without Summoning, there are some good Witchfires in there, and Cursed Earth works on things like Oblits, MaulerFiends, and Defilers.

    • I do like bikes. You gain T5 and speed without a mark.

      Agreed on the spell familiar. That’s the one thing Chaos has going for it right now, a 15pt re-roll on psychic powers. I will cast my big powers first, and then just toss 1 dice at warp charge 1 powers with reasonable success because of the familiar. It’s almost like cheating ;)

      I’ve avoided Malefic mostly for lack of models to summon if I get those powers. I agree that there are some great powers on there otherwise though. I feel like I need an entire Daemon army just to work that discipline effectively.

      • All you really need are 3 Screamers, 10 Daemonettes or 5 Flesh Hounds, and a Herald of Tzeentch. Those will let you take advantage all of them except Possession, and swapping a decent Sorcerer for a Greater Daemon with no upgrades is usually a crap choice anyhow.

        • At this point I just need to get the Daemonettes.

          • Flesh Hounds are pretty usable for Summoning as well. They don’t have the hitting power of Daemonettes, but they’re faster for Objective grabbing.

            • I do have 10 Hounds. I just need to look over the powers again honestly. I’ve built up my Daemons a bit since 7th first came out, so I might be able to manage it at this point.

              • Yeah, they each have a ton of options for what you can summon, but you really don’t need to have all of those on hand. Just one solid option for each of the three good summoning powers. You only really need a ton if you’re building the Army around summoning, rather than just having it as an option if the opportunity presents itself.

                • Makes sense. I’m pretty sure I could easily do it with what I have for Khorne. It wouldn’t be the “ideal” summoning, but it would work at least.

  • Saekhor

    To be fair, all of this seems completely legit and an enjoyable read. You’ve highlighted what you do and it’s actually a fulfilling experience learning how other people use their beloved mental Wizards in their CSM armies.

    A personal favourite couple of techniques I use (or muse over):
    – Chaos Sorcerer: Mark of Nurgle, Bike, Mastery 3, Biomancy Powers. This allows versitility as well as the possibility of wrecking some serious face. Nobody expects a basic mook HQ to be T9, let alone have the ability to give your T6 Biker Mates (assuming he has any) Feel No Pain, It Will Not Die and Relentless (woops). Also, watching someone with +3 Initiative on a Nurgle Wizard is hilarious and nobody should expect it. Fun, fun.
    – Chaos Sorcerer: Prophet of the Voices (Crimson Slaughter), Daemonheart (Crimson Slaughter), Mastery Level 3, Daemonology Maelific. Due to how amazingly awesome Crimson Slaughter can be, I’d like to share this beautiful critter. Due to your army allowing Possessed as Troops and their new version of the Possessed table, this can be sick. Daemonology Maelific has Cursed Earth (+1 Invul, no Deep Strike Scatter for Daemons to all in 12″), which is cool. Your Wizard is also a Daemon (no Perils unless Double 6, winner) and you’re Possessed, if lucky, get a 5-6 on their chart (+3 Invul and Rending)… Don’t get me wrong, it’s silly, and random (which you’re not after) but I’m never gonna complain on having 2+ Invul Possessed running about with Rending and Fear. Funny thing, also, can give Sorcerer Terminator armour instead of Daemonheart and it becomes hilarious. Ever seen a Terminator move 12″ in the move?
    – Chaos Sorcerer: Mark of Tzeentch, Psychic Familiar, Terminator Armour OR Aura of Dark Glory, Mastery Level 3. A few people in my shop think that just taking Ahriman is better (because, well, it’s Ahriman) but I like this set up. Divination is now legitimately able to CSM due to new revamp of 7th Ed that came out… Last year? Which is hilarious. Sure, you get no focus (but due to being a MoT model, it gets the Primaris as Standard…) so you can just stack up on Divination for luls. Perfect Timing is what you’re after, so that your Thousand Sons buddehs (or your Havoc/Obliterator Squads) can ignore cover. Don’t get me wrong, if it doesn’t work (or you don’t get the power) then you’re boned… But apart from that, it should be hilarious and dangerously scary. Ignore Cover Plasma Cannons anyone?

    And finally:
    – Chaos Sorcerer: Mark of Slaanesh, Chaos Bike, Sigil of Chaos (4+ Invul, can’t remember name), Mastery Level 2. It’s a cheap build designed to take advantage of the Slaanesh tree. I personally really like it as it has a lot of “mess with your opponents stat-line” while being overly versatile in it’s own regards (Initiative 6 Biker, k-k-k-yeah!) Charge in, slam down a few Slaaneshi powers and allow your boys on Bikes (or Lucius, cause everyone loves him) to mop up. It’s a Support Caster with enough powers to either make your opponent upset (-5 Initiative is pain) or just allow them to get blatted by the Slaanesh Primaris (those rules are horrible when done properly).

    Either way, I hope giving you a few insights of what can be done and what has been done in the local shop for me. But yes, overall… Really enjoyed the read. :)

    • I’m glad you liked the article. Also, thank you for sharing your various setups; it’s impressive. A Chaos Lord has long been my preferred HQ choice, but the campaign I referenced made me bust out that Sorcerer and try something new. Not my first time with a Sorcerer by any means, but it had been a while. My article definitely covers what got him working well for me, but I’m aware there is certainly more than one effective way to use him, as you’ve clearly shown. It’s one of the things I really like about Chaos, change the mark and you can really change how a model performs.

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