Death Guard Guide
I think I speak for all of us when I say I understand/Why you folks might hesitate to submit to our demand
But here's an FYI: you're all gonna die screaming
All we want to do is eat your brains/We're not unreasonable, I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes
--- Typhus, Host of the Destroyer Hive
Special Rules, Abilities, Warlord Traits, Powers, Relics
Death To The False Emperor:
Roll a 6 to hit, make an extra attack. You can't really capitalise on this because you have barely any bonuses To Hit in the entire codex.
The reason you’re playing Death Guard, frankly: a 5+ save against every wound, even mortal ones. Think of this as +1 wound for every three wounds you have - since that’s how it ends up.
Re-roll ones to wound with this. That’s nice, and makes even your basic weapons a touch above what everyone else has. Keep an eye on which ranged weapons have it, since a few things buff plague weapons explicitly.
You can Advance and fire Assault weapons with no penalty, or move and fire Heavy weapons without penalty, or fire Rapid Fire weapons up to 18”. This is all pretty nice - remember that this means you can disembark from tanks or deploy from reserve and fire Heavy weapons. This can help cover for how slow your basic infantry is, but is much less useful than it could be since you actually don't have many Heavy weapons. Helbrutes love it though.
The usual Objective Secured. Taking any Daemons in your detachment is a bad idea, because you lose this. (Inexorable Advance is neat, but you can definitely build a list that doesn't care about it.)
Revoltingly Resilient - Pretty good! Gives you a 75% chance of just ignoring anything not a Mortal Wound.
Relics Of Decay
Living Plague - Cool I guess, but all the others make your Warlord VP a harder get
Tainted Regeneration - If you expect to be whittled down by low-damage firepower, take this.
Hulking Phisique - Fun if your opponent is using a lot of str-3 or str-5/6 firepower but otherwise not as helpful as would seem.
Rotten Constitution - If you expect to be targetted by lots of high-damage firepower, take this.
Arch-Contaminator - All Plague Weapons re-roll all To Wound rolls, instead of just one. Again, I’d rather be tougher. It does synch quite nicely with the Blades of Putrefaction psychic power (re-roll everything into sixes, Mortal Wound everything to death). This also goes well with the Blight Bombardment stratagem: throw out 5-10d6 attacks, low strength so most don’t get through and you get to re-roll them into Mortal Wounds. Use Veterans Of The Long war to do mortal wounds on 5+.
Plaguebringer - Only if you don’t have a good place for any of the others.
Suppurating Plate - While this is best on a Daemon Prince, or something that will take a lot of low-AP attacks that it can brush off, it can also be a neat bonus to a Plaguecaster/Blightbringer/Cheapolord or something that’s not already a 2+ save. I can’t see much of a reason you shouldn’t have this.
Pandemic Staff - No.
Dolorous Knell - Only if you know morale damage will actually help, and you’re not just taking the bell to Advance faster.
Fugaris Helm - Increase the range of abilities on your datasheet. Personally I’ve always found 6” (or usually 7”) to be quite enough, but hey. Actually pretty useful on a Blightbringer, since you’ll want to hand out debuffs while staying back.
Plague Skull of Glothia - ...nah.
Miasma Of Pestilence - A great power to stack even more survivability on something. I’d suggest having at least one thing to cast this.
Gift Of Contagion - Not terrible, I guess? There’s not many things where more than one result you could get from this is useful, though.
Plague Wind - Anything that you can get more than one or two mortal wounds on with this is probably weedy enough that bolters will do more damage.
Blades Of Putrefaction - This makes Plague Weapons better, so check which of your units have a lot of them. Combine it with the Arch-Contaminator warlord trait and re-roll failed wounds into Mortal ones.
Putrescent Vitality - This is the other really good one. Poxwalkers especially love this because both T3 to T4 and T4 to T5 are really useful buffs.
Curse of the Leper - As with Plague Wind, I think anything on which this would be more useful than Smite would care more about being shot with bolters.
Death Guard only have two good psychic powers… and they’re a viable target for all the incredible Chaos Space Marine powers. You shouldn’t put too much effort into taking Death Guard psykers and should absolutely instead bring in CSM psykers to cast Warptime and Prescience, or Nurgle Daemon psykers to regenerate wounds.
Remember that the way keywords and Stratagems work, you can use the Chaos Space Marine stratagems on your Death Guard just so long as you have a detachment of CSM (like, say, a Supreme Command or Patrol detachment with a good sorcerer.) Some highlights: Daemon Shell (though remember you have less units that can re-roll to hit), Tide Of Traitors (one of the only reasons to take cultists), Daemonforge (useful for Plagueburst mortars or Drones).
Nurgle’s Rot (3) - It feels like half the units in the codex do something like this? You better have a lot of units nearby to make it worth 3CPs.
Cloud of Flies - Fantastic for keeping certain units safe. Take two squads of poxwalkers, cast Miasma and Vitality on one, and force your opponent to only shoot them. No, you can’t use this on Mortarion, he’s not Infantry.
Fire Frenzy - In a Death Guard army list, your helbrute should absolutely be set up for this.
Grandfather's Blessings (2) - A <Nurgle> infantry or biker unit gets either +d3 wounds back or a single model back from the dead. Stellar, especially on expensive terminators or your important characters. No, you can’t use this on Mortarion, he’s not Infantry. If you have a Daemon psyker, they can cast a power that does a similar thing, and adding 2d3 wounds to a near-dead Lord is just nasty.
Putrid Detonation - This is a guaranteed set of Mortal wounds, unlike a lot of similar abilities. Absolutely do not bother with it on Blight-Haulers or Blight drones: they explode on 4+ and only do one wound.
Kill Shot - Add +1 to the wound *and Damage* rolls for three Predators when targeting Monsters or Vehicles. Niiiice. They don't even have to target the same thing.
The Dead Walk Again - This is less lulzbroken since the FAQ confirmed that you need to pay reinforcement points to expand the unit, but still pretty funny, especially when your enemy reduces a poxwalker squad to one model and you pop this to refill back up to twenty.
Plague Pact - Sure, very helpful
Blight Bombardment - Against hordes, this is great - though, that’s what your poxwalkers are really for. Combines pretty well with a Biologus putrifier, though not much else does. (Combine with The Dead Walk Again to bring back conscripts as Poxwalkers.)
Veterans Of The Long War - Add +1 to all wound rolls for a single phase. A neat way to add an extra kick of damage to a squad that REALLY needs to kill something. Typhus-buffed poxwalkers with this are wounding other T3 troops on 2s. Great if you’re trying to use flails or similar to take on tanks, or for one of the various "Roll 7+ for a mortal wound" abilities.
Chaos Boon - If your <Character> kills a <Character>, <Vehicle>, or <Monster> in the fight phase, get a random boon. The boons are almost universally useful for a close-combat character, and you have a 1/6 chance of choosing one. Don't try it on your Warlord, though - both Spawnhood and Daemonhood explicitly slay the character. If you get to choose, all the extra resilience ones are nice, but your Cataphractii characters really like having +3 move.
Daemon Prince of Nurgle
Like the other daemon princes, a pretty solid warlord. Has Disgustingly Resilient and hands out the important re-roll ones to nearby Death Guard units. You can make it fly, which makes it very fast indeed. Best choice of weapon is definitely the talons - everything else is super expensive. A prince with talons and wings costs about as much as Typhus, and you should absolutely use the relic to make him T6 2+/5++/5++
Grandfather Flatulent himself, Typhus costs about 35 points more than a Lord Of Contagion, and for that you get The Destroyer Hive, buffs to poxwalkers, and two psychic powers. That’s kinda worth it! The Destroyer Hive is great for thinning out tarpits, and cheap psykery is neat. Typhus is top-tier good when accompanying poxwalkers, though. (Check the wording on Nurgle’s Gift: it affects everyone within an inch of a unit within 7” of Typhus: use those big units of zombies and keep at least one guy within 7” to throw Mortal Wounds onto enemies a long way away.) Remember, he’s slow: if with his zombie apocalypse, don’t expect it to actually move much. Also remember he doesn’t hand out re-rolls like an ordinary lord would, so you may want a Daemon Prince or Lord as a second HQ to back him up.
Lord of Contagion
If you’re not taking poxwalkers, one of these can be significantly cheaper than Typhus and is just as much of a brick. He's much less effective, but you're saving nearly fifty points, so it doesn't matter - ally in a sorceror.
The cheaper way to get those important re-roll ones. Notably weedier than any of the other options, so this is perhaps better staying as a second HQ. Keep him basic and use him to support your shooting.
- ...in Terminator Armour If you want to come down with and buff Terminators, then this is your only option, but don’t waste the points if you’re just following some plasma guns around or something.
Death Guard psychic powers aren’t great, and most general-use Chaos Space Marine powers work on Heretic Astartes, so you’re much better off allying in another sorcerer. With four wounds, no invulnerable save, and no Disgustingly Resilient, is not a good choice.
- ...in Terminator Armor If you're getting a Sorcerer, get this guy instead. Not much cheaper and significantly more survi
If you must take a Sorcerer from this book, take this guy instead. He’s very slightly more expensive, but noticably tougher and hands out what is basically free Smites when he casts well. He’s a second choice to an allied sorceror for sure, but you need somebody to Deny.
Death Guard are in the wierd position that Typhus is the best HQ choice by an order of magnitude, but that all their secondary little buff characters are elites. You probably want at least one sorcerer around throwing out Miasma Of Pestilence and denying things - or maybe you have a bunch of plasma and want to re-roll ones at range (a chaos lord with combi-bolter is less points than several of those Elites). T5, 2+/4++/5+++ is about as tough as non-Lord-Of-War HQs get, so you should absolutely make your Warlord one of the characters with that.
Medium stinky boys. It’s actually sort of hard to see what to do with plague marines. If you want to go cheaper, Poxwalkers are great, and if you want elite shooting Blightlords are about as efficient per point, and can take more special weapons and deep strike in. What they can definitely do is trundle around in rhinos, be a little faster than either other option, and Secure Objectives from things that aren’t troops: that’s not super great but is a niche of sorts I suppose.
- If gearing them out for shooting, Plasma and Blight Launchers are best: firing twice at 18” is lovely (and the two weapons are much of a muchness IMO.) Everything else requires you get too close for such a slow unit (even advancing and shooting.)
- I suppose move-and-advance out of a Rhino will get you in range for your flamers or a meltagun. That starts to seem like an awful lot of points for a relatively small damage output, though.
- If going for close combat, flails are The Best. D3 attacks at Damage 2, spilling over, will allow you to put a certain amount of hurt on hordes, and even “elite hordes” like marines will feel the pain. Hell, you'll damage tanks a reasonable amount too.
- Double Knives is also cheap and very killy.
- Much as I love great plague cleavers, one attack at 4+ is no way to fight, not for 15 points. If you want that, a Mace of Corruption and Bubonic Axe is cheaper, and while less effective in many ways you do at least get to roll to hit twice. You could get half a squad of poxwalkers for the cost of that one model, though.
Sure, they’re slightly cheaper than poxwalkers - but there’s no way of boosting their morale in the codex, and they don’t have Disgustingly Resilient.
Small stinky boys. Hordes are the name of the game now, and Poxwalkers do a fantastic job at it. When backed by Typhus, they’re one of the best units in the game (take a blightbringer as well to get them moving faster), and when not, they still point-for-point compare to Conscripts. I would suggest the best start to a Death Guard army is Typhus and forty of these, and you can honestly just keep throwing more in. When you look at any other unit in the codex that tries to be slow, tough, and close-combat killy, I would suggest comparing it to poxwalkers.
Noxious Blightbringer (the one with the bell)
Reduces enemy morale, allows you to re-roll Advances. Absolutely vital if you’re footslogging anything much. Ignorable if not.
Foul Blightspawn (The one with the flame thing)
The AP-3 D3 Str2d6 flamer is nice, but i’m not at all convinced it’s worth nearly eighty points. You could get a whole Chaos Lord for that, and all the other Elite characters are cheaper and better.
Biologus Putrifier (the one with the grenades)
Damage 2 grenades is decent - and you can use him with the tons-of-mortal-wounds trick above to do even more mortal wounds. Now he's had a price drop, I think he's much more worthwhile, if you think you can use those grenades. (It's a neat thing to do before charging with Melee Plague Marines). There’s a pretty neat combo with him and the Blightspawn, but it’ll set you back more than a hundred and forty points. You could get a Helbrute or Plagueburst Mortar for that.
Plague Surgeon (the surgeon one)
Re-rolling ones on Disgustingly Resilient is pretty decent, and he is at least cheap. I’d rather have a Blightbringer for the same price if a unit is moving around, but otherwise he’s your man.
Tallyman (the tallyman one.)
Both of his abilities are really nice, and he’s nice and cheap too. Probably the best of these characters. (Assuming, that is, that you’re going into close combat.)
The trouble with these assorted buff elite characters isn’t with them… it’s that you’ve probably already spent 2-300 points on HQs and need some numbers, not more independent characters.
Deathshroud Terminators (the scythe ones)
I did not like these gentlemen at all originally, but having dropped fifteen points each to a much-more-reasonable sixty, they've grown on me a lot. They hit harder and tank more than Hammernators for only a little more, and provide both power and survivability bonuses to nearby characters. The problem is getting them places: they're very slow, and can't Deep Strike very effectively. You can teleport them in (in which case they’re out of range to help him if he’s in combat when they arrive) or you can put them in a land raider i guess (we’re now at 400 points for four models, or 800 for five if it’s morty). Perhaps that’s the best thing to be done with them - take a Lord of some kind and four of these in a land raider and go out in a blaze of glory. If you're playing in a very big game - one where your opponent will be bringing things like Shadowswords - 225 points is pretty much soley to keep Mortarion alive for the first turn and that's about all.
Blightlord Terminators (the not scythe ones)
Big stinky boys. Phew, okay, these are better. 34 points for two wounds of 3+/4++/5+++ is pretty decent, and with combi-bolters they’re better than two Plague Marines for not many more points. Shame they have to take (and can only take) axes or swords, but hey, they’re only 5/6 points, so you’re not the poor sods of ordinary marines who need power fists on your shooty unit. Plague flails are even more fantastic here with two attacks base, and Plague Spewers act as a good incentive to not charge - but take both and suddenly you’re down to only three models with good ranged capabilities, and you’re trundling around at 4+d3 inches per turn. (No, you can’t teleport strike and fire the Spewer - more than 9”, right?). Take a Reaper Autocannon instead, and you can probably get away with footslogging and shooting or Teleporting and shooting. A Blight Launcher is an Assault weapon, so you can move/advance/shoot... and think about how, that turn, 250pts of your army is essentially one plasma gun.
Helbrute (this one you know)
Don’t ever take a close-combat weapon. Missile Launcher and Multi-Melta brings some long-range anti-tank punch that Death Guard are almost entirely lacking, or you can take a twin lascannon if you’re feeling flush. You’re a little slower and fair bit weaker than a Myphitic Blight-Hauler, but that 3+ to hit is really good.
Slower than Melee Plague Marines, and cost more, and don't have Plague Weapons or count as Troops. Not bad, but second to another unit.
At 130-150 points, they're at the same price point as a Helbrute or Blight-hauler, but weedier and less well-armed. I’m not sure any combination of weapons is entirely worth it, to be honest: i’d rather have one of the others. <Fly> and decently high movement allow it to make a game stab at hunting down characters… but knock a few wounds off and they’re squashy inaccurate helbrutes. Without good guns. The fleshmower is probably best, mostly because it's cheap.
These compare pretty directly to Helbrutes. They have -1 to hit, -1 attack (but an actual melee weapon). In exchange for that, they cost about fifteen points more and have both Disgustingly Resilient and a 5+ invuln, which goes well with their cover. It’s perhaps about equal really - that -1 to hit really hurts. If you’re taking either en masse, take these - when they get +1 to hit for being in a squad of three, they’re back to 3+BS which is all-important with single shot weapons. Don’t be foolish enough to use one of these to give a block of Poxwalkers cover - they don’t care about a 6+ nearly as much as your plague marines or terminators will about a 2+ or 1+.
Occasionally you'll roll exactly the right thing on the mutations table and they'll be hilarious. D6 Str5 Ap-2 Dam2 attacks is nothing to sniff at - and applying an extra -1 leadership can be useful for the purposes of stacking debuffs. Unlike the Chaos Space Marine codex, there’s nothing else in this slot you should be gagging to get one of, so they’re a cheap way of filling slots should you need it.
Again, I want to like it… less of a terrible choice here than elsewhere because you have terminators that are good but slow. Really, though, 300 points is far too much.
With two Entropy Cannons, roughly the equivalent of a Predator, for much cheaper, tougher, and can stay out of LOS (inasmuch as thats a thing any more) and drop shells on things. However... I'm not convinced that Predators still aren't better. Even for the extra points, and losing 5+/5++, +1 to hit is really really useful. As with the Helbrute/Blight-Crawler difference, which is more useful to you? 5++/5+++, or +1 to hit? It’s a toss-up in my opinion. For the points saving over two predators, you could get a Lord to let them Re-roll ones.
They're cheaper than Land Raiders, about as shooty, and terrors in close combat (always take the scourge.) They're a lot squishier though, and you'll really notice that 4+ BS as soon as you try to move and shoot. In the Chaos Codex, you have lots of close-combat options which can get there much more easily: here, that’s not the case, and Defilers are a little more useful if you want something fighty. Note that it's a Daemon with a Mark Of Nurgle, which means more than a few things from the Daemon codex will affect it. Sure, I'd love Strength 18, or 2d6 damage attacks.
The best of all your shooty options, I think. Weedier, but more accurate. Just about your only decent source of lascannons. Also, the plagueburst crawler is, lets face it, a pretty ugly model.
If you want to get something closer to the enemy, this is basically your only option. If a transport is all you need, don't ever take a Land Raider instead. Don't forget your smoke launchers! And don't forget your Rhino can charge into combat too to avoid Overwatch. Plague Marines need them just a little less than most things, because they can move and shoot pretty effectively from further away - and a tooled-up squad of plague marines and rhino is going to hit about 200 points. Havok launchers are so cheap now they're basically a must-have.
Lords Of War
Mortarion is good! He is definitely not Guilleman good, and probably a little overcosted - but he’s fast, can kill anything he needs to up close, and a chunk more survivable than a Knight, which is perhaps the most directly survivable thing. It’s a shame that there’s nothing much in the codex which can keep up with him to benefit from the -1 Toughness, and the re-rolls for hit. GW’s article on Mortarion
is surprisingly not terrible, though some notes I will add:
- Combining -1 toughness with Curse of the Leper is fun (That and his aura of mortal wounds has a pretty decent chance of dropping a 5-wound Space Marine character straight up.)
- Silence is only really a good weapon if you can hit multiple “big things” with it, since killing two or three marines is pretty naff. Don’t be afraid to make use of the Phosphex Bombs instead.
- Mortarion ****ing hates psykers and so can try and deny three powers a phase. If he can get up in the enemy’s face, he can be within 24” of a lot of things: you can prooooobably get away without any other psykers.
- Deathshroud slow him down more than protect him, but you can maybe move him halfway across the board, drop them on top of him, and then next turn they move and advance to catch up with him. Lot of points for them to do literally nothing except tank for him. And relies pretty heavily on everything going right.
The advantage of Summoning over a standard "set up in reserve" ability (which you only have so much of) is that you choose what to deploy at the time, rather than at list-building. As such, there's only so much an army guide like this can tell you: pick what's a good unit at the time. A unit with an Icon gets a +1 to charge ranges if you want to charge from summoning (remember Warptime won't work on them). Also, remember you need to roll over the Power Level as well as pay the points: Average on 3d6 is 10ish so expect to roll about this.
Cheapish and numerousish. But that’s about it.
Cheap: good if you just want to throw some models between you and the enemy. Actually better if not Summoned: they can deploy up to 9” from the enemy deployment zone, and can start hassling your enemy turn one. They won’t last long against any serious attack, though, so you might want to take a few of them.
Beasts of Nurgle
Tougher - A little - than plague drones, but no ranged attacks and more points. Also much slower, so probably less useful for a fight. At least you can summon only as many as you need.
About the best use I can see for summoning is to throw a survivable unit between you and your enemy to tank some shooting and draw fire and attention off whatever else you have around. At only Two Power Level/34 points each, Plague Drones do a fantastic job of this - t5, four wounds, 5++/5+++. Plus, they have a shooting attack, and they’re super fast! Your best choice, I think. Worth considering for your main army as well - they’re as speedy as anything in the book, so worth taking to try and swipe objectives or take out backfield units like devastators or light buff characters.
As allies, Death Guard bring Typhus and Poxwalkers, Blightlord Terminators (who are better, point-for-point, than others, in my own opinion), and Mortarion. As the parent faction, they desperately need access to speed (and long-range tank killing would definitely not go amiss). Warptime, bikes, raptors/warp talons, havoks, Obliterators (and basic CSM, who are a good medium between tough expensive plague marines and poxwalkers), all these are things you’ll want to consider picking up. (See my CSM Guide
Is Death Guard better than Mono-Nurgle CSM? Depends on how many Plague Marines you’re running, and if you intend to run any poxwalkers. The best answer is definitely “take both”, though. My own plan is definitely to run Death Guard, along some CSM allies from the Schmeath Schmuard or something: if you’re taking them for the ability to race over and hit things then Renegade Chapters are best: if you’re only taking a few Sorcerers then they might enjoy the 2+ save Iron Warriors relic: you can’t go too far wrong with Alpha Legion or Word Bearers.
Epidemus is a great ally. He's affected by, and buffs, Daemon engines and Mortarion. Use your Blight-haulers to pop a few Rhinos and you're cycling through it far faster than was intended. I've also heard that mono-nurgle is the best Daemon list you can make, but you'll have to read someone else's guide for that.
When constructing a Death Guard army, at any but the smallest points, you might want to take a Vanguard or similar detachment with some various good <Chaos> units - sorcerors, Epidemus, Plague Drones. Epidemus and nine plague drones is only about four hundred points, gets you a CP, and if you have some Daemon Engines as well, those Plague Drones are going to hit pretty hard.