Daemons: The End is Nigh? by Gary Percival

2 Jun
Codex daemons:  I love the book and the army! You may have picked up from our podcast that i love play styles  that break from the norm.  Lining up and charging/shooting just isn’t for me, i enjoy using synergies of reserves and differing deployment tactics and mind games…..and this all started when i started playing with the denizens of the warp.

Lately, the general consensus is the daemon book has been getting the business end of the sh*ty stick in the “rock, paper,scissors” environment of tournaments. You’ve all been there, your uber list of doom kills all before it, and then bam!! You just run in to that one list you really have trouble with and your army crumbles like a bad buffy CGI. With daemons that bad match up used to be Tyranids and space wolves to a certain extent.  Infiltrating, Initiative 6 stealers, high assault value guns, bubble wrapped Tervigons, counter attack, hugging cover and murderous hurricane all making things very tricky. I’m not saying it was an auto lose, but it was one that I didn’t relish. And this is ok, if there wasn’t these tough match ups then everybody would be jumping on the bandwagon of the one army that wins tournament after tournament.  As it was, my cavalry based list was pretty good at beating the current top dogs: Imperial Guard; so i was happy with these 2 problem match ups as they were not unassailable.

This was the list that i ran 9 times out of ten in those heady days of demonic incursions :

1750 points

Khorne Herald on Chariot

Khorne Herald on Chariot

Khorne Herald on Chariot

Khorne Herald on Chariot

6 Fiends, might

6 Fiends, might

6 Fiends, might

17 deamonettes

5 Plague Bearers

5 Plague Bearers

10 Flesh Hounds

10 Flesh Hounds

10 Flesh Hounds

This tried to counter the wolves a little (you’ll notice no Great Unclean ones, and some deamonettes to try and hit those Grey Hunters hard and fast), but still it ultimately suffered vs the nids with their higher initiative and board control. But on the whole, I enjoyed it and was churning out the results at tournaments with a few trophies.

Then the Dark Eldar came out……

Then the Grey Knights came out….

And suddenly, the sky was falling properly.

With the Dark Eldar came the new and improved Splinter Cannons, packing 6 poisoned shots; with cheap venoms rocking two of these each…well, daemon players (and nids) started to look a little shifty. Combine this with the fact all the skimmers can move fast and fire at full effect- meaning 6’s to hit in combat and suddenly the cavalry builds I used were not the anti mech answer anymore. Crushers disappeared in flash of splinter bits, even(especially) monstrous creatures withered and died. This was after you worried whether you could land in the first place with all the skimmers turbo boosting turn one to make the deep strikes especially tricky. All in all, I’d say Dark Eldar became over night the worst army to play with deamons; preying on their weaknesses and ignoring almost all their strengths. To give you an idea, my good friend Gaz Jones, the current UK number 1 can pump out 132 splinter shots a turn.  That’s 22 wounds to demons in cover and that’s even before he lights up with dark lances, blasters or cheeky splinter rifle shots (dont even get me started with flicker field saves in combat).

Then, came the Grey Knights…Deamon Hunters by any other name, and there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Warp Quake… for when you absolutely, positively need to kill every mother Hubbard in the room…excepts no substitutes.   This power has the possibility to totally annihilate a demon army before it even arrives if it is forced to go second. If nothing else, it hampers a daemon player by them HAVING to take the first turn. In a nut shell it creates a 12 inch diameter impassable terrain piece centrered around the strike squads, so you mishap if you land in this bubble. Now this can be a pain in objective missions where I would normally have chosen to go second to reduce the number of turns I’m being shot at, or to nab exposed objectives by second wave plague bearers, who now can be shot out the water.   The other keys to Grey Knight daemon slapping are their similar abilities to Dark Eldar’s weight of fire, not the same, but still very heavy.  If my blood angels are having trouble with it, how do you think my 5+ save fiends are taking it; getting into combat, battered,shot, desperate: the Greyknights have re-rolls and some damnable librarian making them initiative 10!!!

And so, I despaired – then despaired a little more. Then, after a long deep, and may I say profound think decided that the problem was not so much the army’s, but more that the choice I took by default because they were “good”. My old list just wasn’t cutting it any more – the emphasis of the army just had to change.  Why did i take 18 fiends? Well because they are good vs mech. Why did i take 20 hounds? Because I couldnt get any more fiends. Why did i take deamonettes? Because i needed some high initiative. In the meta game at that time, that was fine: now it’s not. Is the sky falling in? No, it’s just changed colour and new choices in the codex are going to have to fly in these unfamiliar skies

And so, wracking my brains with a fellow Demon player (a Mr Rob Madely ) one day a curious idea was put forward.  Soul Grinders hmmm… Soul Grinders and shooting…

If combat and aggressive deepstrikes were a thing only to be pulled out now vs the correct opponents, then we needed something that could fulfill 2 roles when facing the daemon’s nemesis and that was resilience to multi-shot weapons and the ability to land out side these Warp Quake Zones of terror and still be able to reach out and make an impact during the game. Enter the Soul Grinder!

….no really hear me out:

They are immune to poison weapons!

They can carry ranged S10 weapons for killing tanks (im looking at you Mr Ravager).

They can carry marine killing large blast templates.

They are pretty fast with fleet if they need.

Av13 is no pushover, especially with possession.

They still keep the daemon list with a nice amount of monstrous creature attacks that you lose by shunning the Greater demons

So, doesn’t sound so silly now right? We all remember those early days when everyone took 3 Grinders and things calmed down and people moved on, the grinder became the little ginger child no one wanted to play with. It was the only mech unit in a very good infantry list.  But now? Now, with 5th ed having changed play styles somewhat (not to mention the LOS blocking scenery) the missile launcher is king and the light transport his steed. Maybe it’s time for these av13 dreadnoughts of doom to have a comeback.

But how would it fit in to a list? Well, this is what im thinking of trying out soon.  The tack of the daemons list changes immensely, but I feel it will mean you have at least the right tools for the job, no matter what army you face. apart from that, I know that redundancy is just another work for “spam” in some circles, I’d even go as far as to say this 1750 list is balanced:

Tzeentch Chariot, Bolt of tzeentch, master of sorcery, we are legion.

Tzeentch Chariot, Bolt of tzeentch, master of sorcery, we are legion.

Tzeentch Chariot, Bolt of tzeentch, master of sorcery, we are legion.

Tzeentch Chariot, Bolt of tzeentch, master of sorcery, we are legion.

6 Fiends, might

6 Fiends, might

6 Fiends, might

5 plague bearers

5 plague bearers

5 plague bearers

Soul Grinder- Tongue

Soul Grinder- Tongue

Soul Grinder- Tongue

This leaves 45 points; so an icon? a phlem on one Grinder to deal with those 3+ saves? these are things i need to playtest in the coming months.

But at its heart, what you have is a list that’s built to deal with mech armies still, but as a true combat/shooting hybrid rather than the full on combat of my first list.  I see differing elements shining vs differing opponents (the way a balanced list should work) and with them having to be expended and placed in the correct wave accordingly. I dont think it will be as simple to use as my old list, but that’s the price to pay to keep the army holding its own vs the power creep that is always inherent in this little hobby of ours.

Anyway, what do other people think? Have you come up with ideas of your own to keep daemons relevant in the current meta climate? Or do you really thing the day of the Demon is done? Get in touch and let me know, and if you would like to take part in our upcoming Daemons roundtable email me.

I for one, think there is a little light at the end of the warp hole.

Mr Gary Percival a.k.a ‘The Voice’.


11 Responses to “Daemons: The End is Nigh? by Gary Percival”

  1. mjayc50 June 2, 2011 at 09:49 #

    Great article Gary. Your spot on. I think the book is kind of dead at this point tho. But good luck trying to paper over the cracks! problem being you always sacrifice the easy games to have a better chance at the new hard games. That list being pretty long nowadays its very hard to avoid the bad matches in a 5+ game tourney. Its a shame 😦 As for the dark excommunication power – that is crazy. All ‘gifts’ (like rending on the fiends and power weapons for your khorne boys) just stop working. taking your beat stick and replacing it with a pointy stick.

  2. Franco June 2, 2011 at 12:57 #

    I’m not sure about tongue to be honest. It’s only BS3 is the thing, and quite often you’ll want to close with folks quite quickly with SGs. So you’ll use it when you land, miss with half, and then be disinclined to use it any more. The phlegm attack is usable against both mech and infantry, and being BS3 with it isn’t too big a deal. STR10 AP1 is pretty boss, but combine it with BS3 and a desire to get to grips with people… You know what I mean?

    Rarely will you come up against a tank that is capable of reliably killing a SG in one turn of shooting, so you could say they’re not even priority targets for a SG, but a squad of devs can do it. So again, tongue is less useful against those guys, but phlegm is pretty good actually.

    And if you’re going to throw SG in there, then would it not be worth having a tough MC as well? Like a Lord of Change or Unclean one? Or would that just make the shooting of dark eldar armies legitimate again? I know they’re a lot of points, but I’m just thinking from my (Tau) point of view really. If 2 or 3 Soul Grinders land I think, “happy days, my broadsides have something to shoot at,” but when you mix that in with a greater daemon now I’m a bit less confident. Now my missile pods aren’t free to shoot away infantry, they need to be targeting things they will only wound or a 3+ and who will save either half or 2/3rds of those wounds. Maybe I shoot the MC with my railguns as well because if I don’t it’ll be jumping over my kroot next turn and killing my ‘anything-it-wants-to’.

    Just something worth thinking about it all. My girlfriend plays (well, paints really) daemons and some of the hardest games I’ve ever had with my Tau have been against her because she uses 3 SGs and a LoC. I just can’t deal with all of that quickly enough really. I do quite well against other daemon armies, but my girlfriend, who has only played the game twice, took me to the wire both times.

    • Kirsty Sharpe June 4, 2011 at 07:37 #

      Great article Gary, there has been loads of talk at our local gaming group recently about dropping daemons compeltly, but armed with this knowledge I may well entice those ‘negative’ people to continue playing.

      • 40KUK June 4, 2011 at 08:12 #

        I concur Mr Percival – a very good opening blog for our website.

        I would go even further than you perhaps and be really controversial (Franco go easy on me):

        I am not convinced the end is nigh more for daemons now than it was before Grey Knights turned up. Yes, I agree they are a 4th edition codex and certain Grey Knight builds stomp all over them; I’m thinking of the Strike squad build here in particular. But I wonder whether both lists you have presented are still very much viable at a gaming club or tournament for the one simple reason daemons have always been good: the tournament gamer just isn’t writing a list to deal with them when needing to write a list to take on all comers.

  3. Franco June 4, 2011 at 11:58 #

    They have the same strengths they always had, there are just a few more holes to poke in them now is all. And any GK player who builds to beat Daemons might do that well but they won’t be beating much of anything else I reckon. Plaguebearers still camp objectives excellently, juggernaughts are still horrific if they hit you, greater daemons will still put the fear of bejesus in you, and the whole army is still fearless. I think what Gary is saying is true: the dex ain’t done it just needs to develop. So what else is new? And how boring would it be if you had one build that worked for now and ever after?

  4. Nathan Martin June 4, 2011 at 22:36 #

    Great article Gary. I empathise with your feelings towards the army. I came to Damemons about a year ago after playing vanilla marines for around 15 years and it was like a breath of fresh air. Playing marines was work, playing daemons is fun; I don’t ever want to switch so I won’t accept that they are dead.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert with Daemons, the highest I’ve ever placed with them is 4th (I finished a point behind Sharan at ASMOH) but this is the list I run with. It’s a ton of fun and it allows me to play the way I like; crazy risks. It seems like a joke compared to the more widely seen competetive Daemon lists but it seems to work for the most part.

    Bloodthirster, Blessing, Instrument
    Great Unclean One, Breath of Chaos, Flies
    5 Horrors, changeling, Bolt
    5 Bloodletters
    5 Plaguebearers
    5 Plaguebearers
    3 Flamers
    3 Flamers
    4 Bloodcrushers, icon, instrument, fury
    3 screamers
    Soul Grinder, Phleghm, tongue
    Soul Grinder, Phleghm
    Soul Grinder, Phleghm

    I enjoy playing this list, it’s fun and it can be devestating if played well.

    • Arnold1 June 5, 2011 at 11:44 #

      I think we need to stop kidding ourselves here, the writing has been on the wall for daemons for a long time and now they are over, whether Gary takes Soul Grinders, or borrows one of my landraiders to bring them on from the back of the board. ‘Fun to play with’ may well be the only way these guys are going to be credible, but they ain’t going to be in a tournament anymore.

  5. BJ the Brave... June 5, 2011 at 23:05 #

    A good read Gary…

    Like every other army I personally feel it is more a case of breaking the mold of what you are used to and creating a strategy to do well against the predominant armies…

    Try something original, Playtest, then Playtest some more and eventually you will have an army that can perform in most situations… Here’s my effort for the core of the army cant remember the points to be exact!


    18 plaguebearers

    18 plague bearers

    12 screamers

    12 screamers

    12 screamers

    5 Fiends

    5 Fiends

    The trick is knowing why you’ve chosen each unit and having a strategy to deal with the top armies!

    play around, and have fun!

  6. BadBoy June 6, 2011 at 17:44 #

    Your ‘Brave’ to even put that list up there. Daemons are done.

  7. The Voice June 6, 2011 at 19:47 #

    Thanks for all the comments guys. I think deamons are far from done, i do however think that the table top just became a whole lot scarier for them though. Ive been getting results out of them for a few years now and this is just the begining process of evolving them to handle to new armys. I did it for nids, ill do it for Dark Eldar too. I just think any tourney army always needs that bit of luck to miss its hoodoo match ups to do well but theres no harm preparing for the worst 🙂

    • Jacob February 26, 2012 at 23:20 #

      Personally I don’t think Daemons are ‘done’ just like Gary says. This might be because of my love for them. But they will always have an uphill struggle at tournaments from now on.

      I took them to Jan ToS granted it wasn’t a particularly competitive tournament it still showed how daemons fared against a variety of armies. I played GK and got kurbstomped. But that was the only game where my opponent had a reliable method of killing my 3 soul grinders, a vindicare. He also had warp quake and purifiers so when my army arrived piecemeal his firepower killed me quickly.

      The other 4 games were against Daemons, IG, nids and marines. Guard and marines were easy (my 2 wins) but the daemons weren’t easy as his list was better then mine for that game due to him sporting 3 MC’s. The nid game wasn’t difficult but just a good game. And marines was a wipeout, His army was great for mine due to the fact that I had 3 phlegms and he had lots of units out in the open on foot. Guard was easy he camped in an objectives I just held him there in the corner and he broke out a turn late.
      My list was
      2×5 Fiends (one squad with might)
      2×5 Pb’s with Icons
      2×5 Horrors with changeling
      3xSoul Grinders with phlegm

      Yes it’s not optimized but still worked fine and grinders are viable. Also fateweaver did crap in all games save against GK he still is great in almost all my games outside that weekend. So karios is still a good option for Daemons granted his abilities are null for grinders due to lack of saves but he is aggresive and works well with fiends and protecting troops. As for shooting lists, they would work well but you need a lot of horrors to do significant damage to MEQ armies especially those cowering in tanks. But flamers are great even if they are a suiside unit if they survive they can be a huge threat. But I’ve not used heralds so can’t comment.

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