Codex Preview – Death Guard: Stratagems, Relics and Warlord Traits

Warhammer Community has spoiled some of the Stratagems, Relics and Warlord Traits and advised which Warlord Traits Typhys and Mortarian have.

There’s a lot of Mortal Wounds being handed out here – all of them relatively short ranged but those will stack up quickly. Warhammer Community is kidding itself if this is going to be effective at scalping out Commissars (7″ is really easy to buffer a model from when we are talking Commissars buffing Conscripts) but it’s amusing to see them try and respond to the tournament sourcing. We said Conscripts were going to be mainstays the minute that Index got leaked back in June and look what’s happened…

I am a huge fan of the stratagem to allow vehicles to auto-explode. It’s shitty to play against but love it because it’s another stratagem that you should not build an army around but will be great to keep in your back pocket. Someone got a little too happy killing off a vehicle or said vehicle is on an objective? Use it. Vehicle dying in the backfield or just a bunch of Conscripts poking their bayonets into the vehicle? Don’t bother wasting it. This will force your opponent to be mindful how they are destroying things as well – particularly for those potential titanic explosions if Death Guard have any available.

Mortarion has been confirmed to have the Arch-Contaminator Warlord Trait which is okay depending upon what plague weapons there are. It’s certainly not amazing but not also terrible without context (and at least not Disgustingly Resilient to make that a monster [heh] of a multi-wound model to bring down). Typhus has Living Plague. Both are okay but not amazing – 4+ FNP in a game where 4+ FNP does not exist and its the only roll which can be madea gainst Mortal Wounds is pretty big.

The Plate is a nice Relic – forcing multiple Mortal Wounds on passed saves in combat means shoot me or take damage in combat. Good option but also sensing a theme of things that are generally better than waht we have seen from CSM, Space Marines and Grey Knights to date. Then again, these may be the best things Death Guard have…

Copy paste of info below.

Part 1: Stratagems, Relics and Warlord Traits

With the Death Guard codex on pre-order this weekend, we’ve had all sorts of questions about how this army is going to work on the tabletop. While the Death Guard have been a part of Warhammer 40,000 for years, the upcoming codex reinvents the army with new units and new rules. This week, we’ll be previewing what makes this army unique, starting off with a look at the Stratagems, Relics and Warlord Traits and your disposal.

Army Overview

In the game, the Death Guard march inexorably towards the enemy, weathering incoming fire with Disgustingly Resilient and slowly wearing down the foe with hails of fire, an accumulation of mortal wounds and deadly plague magics.

Death Guard armies can be played in loads of ways, but a few of our favourites are swarming your enemies with Poxwalkers supported by Typhus, commanding a deadly armoured column of Daemon Engines, and enhancing Plague Marines with powerful aura abilities from characters like the Tallyman. However you build your army, you’ll want to make use of your unique kit in the codex; with careful choices of Stratagems, Warlord Traits and Relics, you’ll be able to build a powerful Vectorium of your own and dominate the battlefields of the 41st Millenium for the Plague God.


The Death Guard have a range of powerful Stratagems available to their army, all of which complement their relentless way of war. Cloud of Flies, for instance, can be used to shield a key Death Guard Infantry unit from enemy fire:

Meanwhile, Nurgle’s Rot can turn a key Death Guard character into a lethal plague bomb – combined with Mortarion’s Host of Plagues, this has the potential to cripple an army in a single turn, or slay characters like Commissars that try and hide behind their underlings!

Our favourite Death Guard Stratagem is Putrid Detonation. Here at Warhammer Community, a popular (if unreliable) strategy is to spitefully spend a key command re-roll to try and make a tank explode. With the Death Guard, things are much simpler – spend a command point on Putrid Detonation and punish your foes for daring to kill your Land Raider!


The Relics of Decay owned by the Death Guard have a range of fun (and deadly) in game effects. The Suppurating Plate is particularly deadly on a Death Guard Daemon Prince. A 2+ Save is superb on a Toughness 6 model with 8 Wounds and Disgustingly Resilient, while the secondary effect of the armour is punishing on melee units with a high volume of low AP attacks. A unit of Ork Boyz with 80 Attacks, for example, would only be able to deal 2 Wounds to this Daemon Prince, and would suffer around 5 mortal wounds in return!

The Pandemic Staff is a simple relic that helps your Chaos Sorcerers and Malignant Plaguecasters maximise the effectiveness of Smite. It also increases the chances of triggering Pestilential Fallout, another ability that helps your Malignant Plaguecasters stack up Mortal Wounds on the enemy.

The Dolorous Knell is yet another source of mortal wounds (are you spotting a theme here?) and a great way to rack up additional casualties from failed Morale tests.

Warlord Traits

While Mortarion and Typhus make for great leaders in a Death Guard army, if you’d rather lead your force with a character of your own creation, there are a host of powerful Warlord Traits to help you do so. Living Plague provides EVEN MORE mortal wounds for anyone foolish enough to stand in the presence of your Warlord:

Revoltingly Resilient means that a Death Guard character will ignore half the wounds he receives – combined with a Daemon Prince wearing the Suppurating Plate, or a Lord of Contagion, your characters are going to be all but unstoppable.

Arch Contaminator is a support-focused ability that helps your Death Guard threaten higher Toughness characters with their plague weapons:

The Death Guard are the army for you if you want to take your enemies apart slowly and methodically, forcing them to watch their army dwindle as yours fights on unabated.

If you’re curious and want to know more, come back on Thursday, where we’ll be looking at the Psychic Powers and universal rules available to the Death Guard.

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41 responses to Codex Preview – Death Guard: Stratagems, Relics and Warlord Traits

I think morty alone will be enough, he is 12" + 12" + multi charge to get a nice spot with warp time, should get in np, then 3cp for 4+ for d3 mortal wounds to basically everything.

Only reason this stuff is manageable at all is GK's exist, and just gonna kill him in the first psychic phase with…mortal wounds.

Define “rare. Because to date they only seem to be available to numerous Unit if you are using the Death Guard list. Thousand Sons, Eldar, and Grey Knights can field a lot of units that cast Smite… But out of the 25-ish armies in the game, only having a handful that can make common use of a single mechanic seems “rare” to me.

The core rules are available free. Here’s the link:

I have not seen your stapler.

I was told that next time I could have cake. The ratio of mortal wounds to cake is too big.

I could set the building on fire.

I'm 90% sure the original statement was that _shooting_ mortal wounds would be rare (or at least one statement was – there might've been a more general 'mortal wounds are rare' which…yeah). Which is either:
A: Very true.
B: Sort of true
Depending on how you look at it (A – shooting that only does MW – 2 guns in the game? B – shooting that does MW rarely on, say, a 6 – not incredibly uncommon, but not frequent either).

That said, yeah. Not a huge fan. When psychic's become the 'mind bullets' phase, and now this looks…ouch. (And I don't even have 2+ or good invuls)

lol k that made me laugh. Unlike T'au, who can't laugh because they only way they have to do MW is to overcharge their Nova reactors :*(

Less quibbling over 'rare', more over what they said regarding MW being rare (i.e. I don't think they actually said that per se, rather that shooting MW is, which I'd say is true).

(So disagreed with your statement as written, agreed with the intent behind the statement 😛 ).

But yes, I can be rather pedantic – habit from rules discussion where pedantism is actually helpful I suppose (i.e. even if it's not technically relevant in the specific situation of discussion, having a better grasp of the rules is likely to be helpful in other situations).

Cloud of flies is dumb. Possibly the first auto spend points every round strategy I've seen. Allows you to make it so a T10 target is the only viable target in your army. It's good just as a strategy on it's own, but combined with an army list to back it up? disgusting. Double pox walkers and a -massive- unit of plague guard you are not allowed to shoot.

I think you've flipped the rule in your head. It doesn't make you shoot that unit, it means that unit essentially follows the character rule, you can only shoot at it if it is closest.

Not really a big deal since most Nurgle units are going to be up front, and I don't think they have a devastator equivalent (but they might, with the codex).

Nah, you can field an army with only 1 Infantry detachment and some brute of a monster pretty easily, Morty Magnus Knight, Plague guard and a bunch of HQ's for example, still get 7 cp total so fine for cp, and your huge plague guard unit is the only viable target for anti infantry weapons which now have to plow into the big dudes. Plaguebearers*2 + Plaguemarines and HQs is viable too, then you are forced to shoot into -1 to hit 5++ 5++ nearly as bad as trying to kill horrors, but you don't have the vulnerable changeling to worry about. Plaguebearers wanted to advance anyway, so you can shell out 600 pts on a unit happily knowing it can't be shot til all your dross is chunked through

The issue is making your 20 strong unit of deathguard survive t1. In my Deathguard army i use the same strategy but have my caster spam -1 to hit on them, but i am running Typhus and Necrosius buffed poxwalkers instead of Plaguebearers.

I am certain i should have gone plague bearers instead of walkers, but they weren't troops for CSM when i made my army and also were 8pts a piece compared for 6 for walkers and don't get the buffs from my chars, not sure i want to shell out the £60 to change them, gonna wait for the book to drop to see. Walkers are meaner in combat, and take no morale, but its only when Fabius gets the +1T buff on them that they seem to act as a really good meat shield, every other game i think is hould just drop the deathguard entirely and go pure tzeentch.

Thing is though, they do stop alpha strikes cold. Especially from melee based armies, and is all i really need to happen, magnus goes to town with w/e the hell Fabius decides to summon. i just saw the strategy and thought k, so the only reason i was unsure about whether i should take the marines at all is cos they just get focussed by everything (they are the weak link, their resilience per point is way way lower than the rest of the army). Now i think i will take them loaded with melee weapons, have Fabius buff them cos any buff is good (though please +1A) and with the buff off Necrosius they be hitting on 2's.

Being able to say a big unit infantry can survive the alpha strike doesn't seem like a bad thing. My instinct is that this could be good but never broken.

Try it and tell us how it works.

Just ran vs Ultras, was amazing. The poxwalkers held up nicely to the bolter fire, (Fabius got +T on both units!) Then got +1 str on the Plague marines (not great), killing 3 of them, but man, they were like a wrecking ball, it was beautiful. I was able to summon spawns on my flanks to deal with a sneak attack from dirty bikers and they cleaned up so goo, For a laugh I spent 3cp on the unit once it reached the enemy and it did ungodly damage. Its sick, the 14 strong unit of plague marines was 7" away from -everything- most importantly put 3! me on Roboute!!! who they then killed in melee, that's right! Plague Marines killed Roboute Guilleman after he charged them! wtf!?

Surviving the alpha strike with this alone is basically impossible, since you're only using this in your movement phase – i.e. you can't use it to block an opponent's T1 firepower unless you go first. Which isn't really an alpha strike anymore.

That said, I don't disagree that it seems a really stupid 1 CP stratagem. (And as someone who plays a melee army, the putrid detonation stratagem seems incredibly obnoxious).

Magnus always takes the turn 1 alpha strike. He is a bullet magnet without compare, in the game I just played he had 3 predators and a hell blaster squad try to warm his marshmallows on t1, he got a bit unlucky and went to damaged, so he went and took an objective off the scouts so he could get into cover and stay close to the changeling.

The strategem I think is not as good as the alpha legion one, I would rather have the unit of 20 plaguemarines actually sitting ready to charge and make my opponent focus them, but then, I am pretty sure the 'zerkers out damage them in melee.

We did run into an interesting situation in the game, at one point Magnus consolidated into a Predator that had its back to wall, the way his base and the pred interacted, he had it wedged in place totally, can the predator do a 90 degree spin on the spot then drive off sideways (we allowed it to cos otherwise the game was gonna be over there and then).

Similar problem with the Bio Titan. A malanthrope can actually float under the bio titan, which makes it impossible for the malanthrope to ever get targeted until the bio titan is dead. Nothing in the rules seems to say that vehicles must have bases. Same issue with some of the fliers that say measure to hull, you can easily fit a model under them, is that how its intended to work?

Cloud of Flies is just a broader use version of the smoke launcher that has been bog standard on every Imperial (and most non-Imperial) vehicle for decades now.

Mortarion doesn't have to take the Deathguard warlord trait if he is not in a Deathguard detachment (In fact most of the time i doubt he will be in a Deathguard detachment as super heavy chaos detachment with Magnus and a cheap knight is probably best). Simply make a Superheavy Auxillary detachment of Heretic Astartes then pick whatever trait you like. Same way you do it with Magnus to take 6+ feel no pain.

I believe you are only allowed to pick from the Faction specific warlord traits if your detachment is that faction, but I'm not sure.

This opens a very interesting discussion about FNP options for Deathguard warlords. They start with 6 wnds 5+ fnp, so 9 wnds. +1 FNP takes that up to 12 wnds. However a none deathguard warlord can take a +1w and 6+ FNP which puts them at 10-11w to die and another 6+ also netting them 12 wnds to die. that works vs MW too, so basically, the deathguard special FNP is worse than the normal chaos dudes one. Weird.

And you are right, you have to be faction specific for the warlord traits from the CSM codex, or Deathguard Codex, but Morty would still rather take a 6+ FNP to go on top of his already impressive wounds and 5+ FNP than he would take his own buff cos he just ain't intending to hang out with the lads much.

This is wrong. The below text is from codex space marines, but gk/csm (and one assumes dg) follow the same pattern:

“If the Warlord of your army is an ADEPTUS ASTARTES CHARACTER, you can pick their Warlord Trait from the Space Marines Warlord Traits table, or roll a dice and consult the table to generate their Warlord Trait.”

If you wish, you can pick a Chapter Warlord Trait from the list below instead of the Space Marine Warlord Traits to the left, but only if your Warlord is from the relevant Chapter.

The mightiest heroes of the Adeptus Astartes are exemplars of their Chapter’s methods of waging war. If a named character is your Warlord, they must be given the associated Warlord Trait of their Chapter. For example, if Marneus Calgar is your Warlord, he would have the Ultramarines’ Adept of the Codex Warlord Trait.”

So we see that a) SM traits and chapter traits are dependent on the warlord being space marine/chapter and not their detachment; and b) the special character having the given warlord trait is mandatory not permissive.

So, no, you can't get around giving the special characters a sub-par warlord trait.

Ya you missed the bit at the start of the rules which says, you only get all this stuff if you are a "blah blah". Magnus would tear his right nipple horn off to be given +1w 6+ FNP, but he can't take it, he is a thousand sons bro to the max (despite him seeming to spend his entire life hanging out with that changeling fellow), and so he is limited to select warlord traits from the main rule book only until his codex is released. It's why you dump him in the detachment with mortarion and a knight, make them a Chaos super heavy bro's detachment and pop your warlord trait onto an alpha legion dude cos then all your back line stuff has -1 to hit, and you can teleport a unit across the battlefield before the game begins wheeee! also get a sweet chainthingy to help with the murder.

But if you want to run Deathguard with Mortarion only, you have a choice of a Supreme Command Detachment or Super Heavy Auxillary, given Deathguard HQs cost roughly 100miliion points each, and they got good cheap troops, always best to go with the Batallion + Auxillary, so you are free to declare the aux is a Chaos Detachment thus can't take any traits other than main rule book ones, oh thanks ta i will take 6+ fnp.

There is nothing which says that warlord traits are restricted by detachment in any way. I would urge you to reread it.

Additionally, you cannot declare a detachment containing a single Heretic Astartes model to be 'only' a chaos detachment. The definition of a heretic astartes detachment is one which contains only heretic astartes units. Similar a legion detachment is one which only contains models with that legion keyword. A super heavy auxiliary with just Mortarion (or just Magnus) would thus be both.

Anyway, I'm done arguing about this and you're free to play any way you want. But the rules are clear.

Perhaps you are correct, but I think not. It quite clearly states that a Space Marine Captain must choose to be part of an Imperium Detachment or a Adeptus Astartes Detachment. There is no such thing as a none Imperium Adeptus Astartes unit, so the wording would have been very different.

As for Magnus is totally forbidden from ever using any of the rules from the Codex CSM, it quite clearly states he is Thousand sons. If he is your warlord, you do not get relic, he does not get a CSM trait even though he is 100% a unit with the Heretic Astartes Keyword.

It is mostly besides the point, because Mortarion will be dumped into a Detachment with Magnus and a Knight at which point they are always Chaos take a trait from the main rule book, and not give a damn, because they will rip through 4 knight armies like a knife through butter, and only really have to worry about crazy T'au/Ynarri alpha strikes.

There's a distinct difference between current Magnus (who doesn't have a defined warlord trait), Mortarion (who will have one), and Magnus from codex TS (who one assumes will have one).

Perhaps I was confused as to your point about Magnus since your initial post was about Mortarion. He will have a defined warlord trait and be stuck with it since warlord traits aren't connected to the detachment type in any way, unlike stratagems or legion traits. Magnus currently doesn't have a fixed warlord trait, so he can choose one of the base ones and, as you say, is expressly excluded from using the CSM ones.

"In this section you’ll find rules for Battle-forged armies that include Chaos Space Marine
Detachments – that is, any Detachment which only includes Chaos Space Marine units
(as defined below). These rules include the abilities below and a series of Stratagems.
This section also includes the Chaos Space Marines’ unique Warlord Traits, Psychic
Disciplines, Relics and Tactical Objectives. Together , these rules reflect the character and
fighting style of the Chaos Space Marines in your games of Warhammer 40,000."

"In the rules described in this section we often refer to ‘Chaos Space Marine units ’ . This is
shorthand for any unit that has one of the following Faction keywords: <LEGION>, BLACK LEGION, WORD BEARERS, IRON WARRIORS , ALPHA LEGION, NIGHT LORDS, WORLD EATERS, EMPEROR’S CHILDREN, FALLEN or RED CORSAIRS. A Chaos Space Marine Detachment is therefore one which only includes units with one of these keywords."

"Note that the Death Guard and Thousand Sons Legions deviate significantly in terms of
organisation and therefore cannot make use of any of the rules or abilities listed in this
section; instead they have bespoke rules and abilities detailed in their own codexes."

It's pretty clear, that if your detachment is not CSM you boned no goodies for you, so you can't for example put Abaddon, Typhus, Fabius and Magnus is a detachment, make Abaddon your Warlord and get the CSM bonuses of access to relics for having a CSM leader.

Abaddon therefore cannot take his normal warlord trait, he must default to one from the main rule book (I mean, if you set your army up like this is your own bloody fault but still). Mortarion in the same detachment can drop his normal warlord trait for the 6+ FNP from the main rule book.

When it comes to Mortarion in a single detachment, I am not so certain any more. Whilst there is a heavy implication you pick a keyword for a detachment from those available and build it using that, it isn't explicit about it. I could certainly see arguments for a detachment retaining all keywords that it still has on every unit in it, thus a Grey Knights Detachment, is actually a Grey Knights, Adeptus Astartes, Imperium Detachment, the issue there is it plays merry hell with successor chapter Detachments, which would retain their Ultramarines keyword too?

Hmm Ravenwing will sort this. k so err it didn't

Ynarri just make it even more confusing, all the units gain the ynarri keyword, but hang on a second, all the aeldari already share the aeldari keyword so I can just make an aeldari detachment of a wraithknight, a shadow seer an archon and a solitaire?

I can take a solitaire in my Craftworld army?

how the hell does this work~

You should go read the Warlord Traits section. It says nothing about your Warlord needing to be in a CSM Det to have access to the CSM WL Traits. Your Warlord just needs to be a CSM Character.

Here is my parsing of the header section which I believe shows that the only things that require a CSM detachment are the special rules/legion traits and the stratagems:

In this section you’ll find rules for Battle-forged armies that include Chaos Space Marine
Detachments – that is, any Detachment which only includes Chaos Space Marine units
(as defined below). These rules include the abilities below and a series of Stratagems.

– The first sentence says you'll find rules that require CSM detachment. The second sentence says the rules that require a CSM detachment include the below abilities and the stratagems. Note that each of the rules and the top of the stratagems page specifically call this out.

This SECTION ALSO [emphasis mine] includes the Chaos Space Marines’ unique Warlord Traits, Psychic Disciplines, Relics and Tactical Objectives.

– Note that it refers to the section also including rules for those listed items, but doesn't say the rules for CSM detachments include them. There is additional evidence for this since the pages in question (warlord, relics, psychic powers) don't mention a CSM detachment requirement.

Together, these rules reflect the character and fighting style of the Chaos Space Marines in your games of Warhammer 40,000.

– This line might be interpreted as somehow making the two sections part of the same CSM detachment rules, but I really don't think it does.

As for what constitutes a <BLANK> detachment, the rules have been pretty consistent that it's a detachment that only includes <BLANK> models where <BLANK> is usually defined by the keywords, but occasionally gets defined, like for "Chaos Space Marines Detachment" in your text. But anyway, that's another discussion.

You are so right, my thanks and my apologies.

That unleashes a new level of hell I guess since Magnus can be the Warlord and get +1wnd 6+ FNP and the army still gets to take relics and more importantly can use all the Dark Hereticus spells he wants including buffing himself to 3++ rather than having to take a sorcerer to buff him?

Yup, he can. K, so, my Chaos list was 12-2 (bloody eversors) vs none GK and 3-3 vs GK, this might just put it over the edge, to make it more deadly than the GK lists.