How to Play White Scars

Howdy, all! Remember when you got to shoot the enemies of the Imperium to death on turn one? Remember when all of your friends said that Space Marines didn’t require skill? There’s only one way to prove them wrong while also showing off how good you look in a topknot! John Lennon here to talk about how White Scars are staying relevant and how to get the most out of the sons of Chogoris. 

     First of all, let’s cover the fact that White Scars are an assault army. Every Space Marine army can be useful in melee while also providing solid shooting support. However, their damage bonus in the Assault Doctrine provides a benefit very unique among all of the Marine chapters. With that said, White Scars are not the best Marines in close combat. Their main strength lies in delivering them to the fight, and they have by far the most tricks for reaching close quarters. 

  • First, White Scars advance and charge. The most straightforward application here is to close the distance faster and engage a shooting army earlier without relying on reserves. White Scars generally do not bring as much shooting to the table, so you will often be sheltered behind line of sight blocking terrain in early turns while you wait for the Assault Doctrine to kick in.

  • Once you are ready to launch yourself forward, you can use a combination of the spell Ride the Winds and the relic Plume of the Plainsrunner to give an infantry unit +3 to advance. Even a Centurion unit will be outpacing normal infantry at this point, and a flying unit like a Smash Captain will be approaching ludicrous speeds, with 16-21″ of movement before declaring a charge that might also have +3 to its roll. 

  • White Scars also benefit from a psychic power to ignore overwatch that targets your unit and not the opponent. While this is a little unconventional, it can be cast from outside of the enemy’s deny range, including stratagems like those used by Iron Hands.


     Keep all of the above in mind as I dive into the best ways to effectively play White Scars. Playing with Scars is always a balancing act because you are more fragile than many chapters but can stack an incredible amount of buffs in one spot to make your army crush anything they charge. Let’s do a quick recap of all of the things that Scars do best to increase their damage output, in addition to their doctrine, and how to utilize them. 

  • A White Scar Chaplain can become an aura of reroll to wound in melee with their chapter litany. Take a Jump Pack Chaplain, make him a Reclusiarch, and give him a warlord trait to reroll his chants. Combat Guilliman is disgusting and will make even your weakest troops blend any unfortunate soul they charge. 

  • Kor’ sarro Khan gives an aura of +1 to wound on the charge. I think you know what this means. Punch better, kill better. 

  • White Scars have a collection of warlord traits to turn your characters into beat sticks. You can give a character +d3 attacks on the charge, or +1 to hit and wound any vehicles and monsters, in addition to the normal SM traits like Sword of the Imperium.


    There is one last tool in the White Scar kit that must be considered, and I maintain it will keep the faction relevant. Master of Snares is my favorite mechanic in the army and our best defense against the T’au menace. When a non-flier unit tries to fall back from the Master of Snares, roll a dice. On a 4+, you get to tell them no. Keeping units locked in combat is a perfect way to protect your relatively fragile Marines and provides excellent character screens. But with such power comes great responsibility. The strength of the Snare is in the threat it projects. Every opponent knows that they could get tied down and lose to one model who carries a Storm Shield and a lasso, but you also have to realize that you will sometimes fail the Snare. My rule of thumb is only to commit the Snare Captain if I can tag three units with it. This may sound like a lot, but if you find a weak character, they will often be near a screening unit that can also be tagged. Find where one screen leads to the next, and target that spot. If you commit to a one or two-unit Snare, even with a command point, the odds of failure are high enough that they could cost you the game. If you blow your Snare early and then roll poorly, you will lose not only the Captain but also the threat he projects, and your opponent can now use their flying units with impunity. If you are going to commit your Snare Captain to a low count trap, it should only be in a game that you are already losing and need to take risks to recover. 

     Alright, the recap is done! Let’s get into the gritty details of how to get the most out of your flashy Marines. White Scars are fast, mean, and become incredibly punchy on turn 3. Ideally, you can push up into terrain on turn one and avoid as much damage as possible. Then, on turn three, you can explode out with both reserves coming in and units on the battlefield charging forward. Once you connect, you can kill almost anything you charge and then consolidate into units that are potentially being trapped by your Snare Captain. If the Snare passes, you are suddenly untargetable and will be able to kill that unit in your opponent’s charge. Even if you don’t kill them, you can fall back and charge again anyway! 

The key to winning with Scars is to dictate when combat happens, and where. If you are playing against another melee army, all of your tricks to get into combat must be used to make sure that your opponent can’t reach your units with their own until you are ready to strike. Having screening units like Impulsors to tie up their melee units while you charge and take their army apart one unit at a time can save you from taking a charge and losing key pieces. The ability to fall back and charge will set you apart from most other melee armies. If you charge an Impulsor (who can advance and charge!) into the corner of an ork boy unit, they may not kill you in one turn and will be forced to sit for another round or use Da Jump to redeploy around your screens. 


     As amazing as this all sounds, we should also take into consideration the weaknesses of Scars. They are relatively low on attacks, as they lack a stratagem or relic to increase the attack count of their squads. Even Ultramarines near an ancient put out more sheer volume than White Scars! However, with rerolls and bonuses on both hits and wounds available, you can make sure that your attacks land with more accuracy than any other Marine faction.

Also, it is a common misconception that White Scars are not scary in melee until turn three. While you can deep strike melee units knowing that they will arrive on turn three in a state ready to destroy the enemy, you have to have enough threats in reserve to make your opponent respect the possibility that you will land on turn two. If you can force your opponent to screen out every turn, they will be exposing units to the rest of your army already deployed on the table. Ideally, you can thin their screens out early so that you are finishing them on turn three, or wrapping them and setting up to charge into valuable units. If you keep at least one unit in reserves that appears to be a threat on turn two, such as Assault Centurions, they will be forced to screen their flanks. 

     With all of this in mind, let’s write a list! 

White Scar Battalion:

Captain (Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Chainsword) Warlord

Chaplain (Jump Pack) Reclusiarch

9x Incursors 

5x Scouts 

5x Scouts 

White Scars Vanguard:

Chaplain Dreadnought (2x Combat Weapons, 2x Storm Bolters) 

7x Vanguard Veterans (7x Storm Shield, 2x Thunder Hammer) 

5x Assault Centurions (Hurricane Bolters, flamers) 

9x Reivers (Combat knives, Grav-Chutes) 

White Scars Battalion:

Phobos Librarian 

Kor’ Sarro Khan 

5x Intercessors (Thunder Hammer) 

5x Intercessors (Thunder Hammer) 

5x Intercessors (Thunder Hammer) 

Impulsor (Shield Dome) 

Impulsor (Shield Dome) 

Impulsor (Shield Dome) 


Ok, there’s a lot to unpack here. You will deepstrike or outflank all three of the elites from the vanguard, and you can deploy the remainder by infiltrating into terrain or putting them inside of an Impulsor. The first two battle rounds can be spent hopping terrain pieces to preserve the integrity of your army, but if someone should try to force the issue early you have an incredible amount of melee concentrated there, and they will not be able to easily dig out the Chaplain Dreadnought or various Thunder Hammer Sergeants. Even the humble Captain, who is only carrying a chainsword, turns into an absolute monster on the charge with 8+d3 attacks. By turn three, he will be hitting harder than any regular Smash Captain and has enough attacks to make Ragnar approve. Your Phobos Librarian can launch your Incursors forward at high speed when the time comes, making them leap from safety directly into the thick of combat. Just make sure to use the Tome of Malcador to give him access to your White Scar spells as well as the Phobos discipline! 

Your Impulsors will be vital in ferrying melee units and characters forward safely, but after they are empty, they serve as high-speed screens and objective grabbers who can charge after both charging and falling back, making them perfect for disrupting enemy units. Finally, let’s touch on the Vanguard Veterans. They may look like the odd man out compared to normal lists, but they are a tangible threat to wreck tanks or other melee units on turn two or to hit fliers that try to poke your hiding castle early in the game. Again, your opponent should be worried about your melee threats on turns one and two, not just three! Keep them honest and on their toes, and then strike where they are weakest! 

     All of these tenets can be applied to an allied detachment of White Scars as well. Just focus on units that already contain multiple damage melee weapons, and you will be able to take advantage of the tricks that Scars bring to the table. My personal favorite is to ally in a Snare Captain to any Imperium list such as Sisters of Battle! Scars strike fast and with great precision, but always be careful not to take unnecessary risks, and the sons of the great Khan will bring you victory! 

     Want more lists or to see some of these armies used on the table? Check out the Art of War War Room, where you can interact with the coaches and watch our weekly clinics! Also, make sure to check out the Art of War Twitch Channel. For the Great Khan!


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