Chaos Marines: Using Marks

Chaos MarinesAs I’m working on building up my Chaos Marines army I keep pondering marks. The beauty of the new codex is you can mark damn near anything. Using the right mark on the right unit for the right job can really push a unit from good to great. It can also be used in a way that’s not very point efficient as well. I figured I’d share my thoughts on the various marks.

For me, as I won’t express my opinion as anything but that, the big thing with marks is finding that tipping point. Take the Mark of Nurgle (MoN). If you already have a T5 unit, which is already robust by normal standards, and throw a MoN on it then you obviously have a T6 unit. Toughness 6 is a tipping point. At T6 your standard anti-infantry weapons like bolters now need 6’s to wound you. Your higher strength anti-infantry fire power, like assault cannons and autocannons, are needing 4’s and 3’s respectively. The benefits are obvious.

On the other hand, throwing MoN on an already weak unit, like Cultists, puts you at T4. They are normally T3 so going to T4 is a big boost, at least from S4 shooting, but at the cost of 2pts per-model on a unit that’s already 4pts a model, well it’s not really the most point efficient thing you can do. At that point you’re better of just buying more bodies.

Great places for MoN are on Bikers and Spawn, units already T5. It’s also very useful on your stock T4 units. Your basic Chaos Space Marines are a great example. If you’re using them for objectives and an all purpose unit then T5 is going to help them perform their job better. Another great example is putting MoN on Obliterators. Getting Obliterators to T5 means they will not take instant death (ID), wounds from S8 or S9 weapons as they normally would. Now they only fear S10 weapons for ID purposes. Being able to shrug off missiles and lascannons makes them more efficient at their job. On multi-wound models MoN can be extremely useful.

The tipping point for Mark of Tzeentch (MoT), is basically when you already have an invulnerable. It used to be if you took MoT on a unit without an invulnerable save that you got a 5++ from it but that’s changed. Now a unit with MoT who does not have an invulnerable normally only gets a 6++. Getting a 6++ is not worthwhile, just ask any Ork player how often he makes a 6+ armor save when he gets it. However, when you already have a 5++, or even a 4++, then upping that by one more is pretty significant.

Going back to Obliterators, MoT could be useful here to give them a 4++. You have to weigh the options though. Being able to save 50% of those lascannon hits is useful by all means but should you fail it then the model is gone when it’s T4. I feel taking MoN is more beneficial here. You’re only saving 33% of the invulns you’re taking but at least it’s not removing the model should you fail it.

Mark of Slaanesh (MoS), can be pretty liberally applied. With most Chaos units being I4, the boost to I5 puts them ahead of most other armies’ standard units. We all know the benefit of being able to swing first. The less attacks coming back at you means more of your unit survives. Where MoN gives you survivability in a more defensive manner, MoS is the offensive counter-part.

With MoS you have to weigh the options and figure out how to best apply it. If the unit is already pretty survivable, like Terminators, or has a safe delivery system for combat, such as a Land Raider, then MoS can be very useful. However, if you’re running around on foot as an assault unit then MoS is probably not the best choice. It’s great when you get there but it’s not going to save you from all the shooting coming your way. If you only have 2 models left when you reach the enemy then MoS isn’t going to cover the losses to your unit.

Additionally, some units aren’t going to see a big gain from MoS. Units or models that are already I5 won’t see a huge gain from going up to I6. There are situational benefits to being I6 for sure, and it’s not a waste, but consider all the other options and the role of the unit.

Lastly we have the Mark of Khorne (MoK). To start with it’s like MoS in that if you have a safe way to deliver your unit, or it’s robust to start with, then this mark becomes a consideration. Like MoS, MoK is pretty universally useful, at least on assault units. Any unit intended to beat face in can make use of an additional attack.

You have to weigh this mark against the others quite a bit I feel. All marks need to be weighed but this one more-so. Is getting that extra attack better than striking first? Would you be better served boosting your toughness with MoN to get some insurance against retaliation attacks? How about a better invulnerable for taking shots after you wipe a unit or for when you’re in that combat?

I feel the best place for this mark is on a unit or model that’s already got it all. If you have a Chaos Lord rocking a 3+/4++, or even a 2+/4++, and is I5 then another attack can be great.

In the end the best mark the one that aids the unit the most in its intended job. It can even come down to your local meta when you’re bouncing between different marks. Boosting to T5 doesn’t do you a ton of good if your meta is plasma rich.

  • Is it all about strategy/winning, or does theme come into your consideration when chosing what to mark (or which marks to choose)?

    • I play undivided so I don’t have a theme when it comes to marks. Though I enjoy themes and think it’s cool, I can’t just work a theme that’s ineffective just to have a theme. I’m not all about winning, my record clearly indicates my capacity there, but I won’t take poor options just for the sake of theme either.

      • I had the same thought as I started reading this post. In a themed army it may be less a decision about which mark to put on what and more a decision about which units get a mark using the same basic criteria you mention.
        As for the effectiveness of a themed force, it looks to me like the CSM codex would allow you to build a solid list around any one of the four gods. It may not be as easy to balance as an undivided list but it should be structured to play to the strengths of that god.

  • Have you factored Icons into your considerations? You need the appropriate Mark to take an aligned Icon, though you can take the Icon of Vengeance regardless of Mark.

    • Icons would be a whole other article.

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