Hot Takes on New Space Marines

Hello everyone! Welcome to another great article from the two foremost Space Marine players in the Art of War! We conscripted John Lennon and “Old Man” Brad Chester, the top two Space Marine players from last year’s ITC season, to give us their thoughts on the brand new Space Marine codex. Both John and Brad are coaches in the Art of War War Room, where you can take your skills to the next level!


John Lennon: Let’s start off by talking about what we think some of the most impactful changes are, and a few things that we believe may have slipped under the radar. A few of our most popular HQ choices have had some rules changes, as well as some of the special rules that Space Marines have had for several years. 

Old Man Brad: Let me stop your cheating [No profanity! – Editor] right there! “And they shall know no fear” is no longer a reroll on morale. Instead, you get to ignore the modifiers to combat attrition! You probably aren’t even aware that combat attrition can be modified, and now you don’t need to be. Also, let’s talk about the fact that you can only have one <Captain> in each detachment. If you were one of the people who brought two Smash Captains and fifteen scouts, it’s time to get [No profanity! -Editor] good. 

John: And let’s not forget the fact that we have to deal with < Core> now! It looks like almost every infantry unit (that isn’t a Centurion) and all of the Dreadnaught units will be <Core>. So, many of the units that Marine lists were built around are still going to do just fine. It’s a good day to be a Marine player! 

OMB: Marines are spoiled for < Core>. Sorry Necrons… But let’s give a shoutout to our fallen chapter tactics! The basic Salamander trait, Forged in Battle, now enables you to reroll one wound roll, while Master Artisans has changed to allow you to reroll one hit roll. Half as effective, either way! The poor, poor Raven Guard only get Light cover while 18” away instead of 12”, which is even harsher on a smaller board. 

John: That hurts for those chapters, but some others got buffs, right? We already had the White Scars changes from the July FAQs, but Space Wolves traded their 6” Heroic Interventions on characters for an army-wide 3” Heroic! Black Templars got a small buff, rerolling an advance at will in addition to their charges. 


OMB: All of the Chapter Command upgrades got rolled over from Faith and Fury and are now points upgrades, not command points! I would trade points for command points every day of the week. A Master of Sanctity on Primaris Bike clocks in at 140, which is still great value with all of the extra Warlord Traits and relics you can buy. You can’t beat Rites of War!

John: Absolutely! The fact that you can buy two additional Warlord Traits and two additional Relics for a command point each feels almost automatic. Rites of War stands out as the most obvious one for every chapter, a 6” aura of Objective Secured for all <core> and <character> units! As we covered, Marines are spoiled for choice there so you can dominate the missions. 

OMB: Sit down, John, we need to talk about the Chief Apothecary. Healing two different units for a flat 3. I guess that’s fine. However, returning a destroyed model to life with full wounds for 0 command points is bonkers, especially with options like eight wound ATVs and all of these chunky Indomitus units. Oh yeah, he also gives a 6+ feel no pain to every unit in his aura. 

John: Oh man, and here I was worried that unmodified 1s on plasma might mean that I lose models. Guess I’ll just bring them all back, right? But let’s switch directions and talk about a few noteworthy changes to stratagems. Many are similar to what we were using at the end of 8th, but there are certainly some noteworthy inclusions. 

OMB: We have to start with Transhuman Physiology. Click click boom! One CP for all of the five-man units, but you can still spend two if you brought more than that. And I guess it only works on Primaris, but come on. That’s all you were taking anyways.

John: Now that Grav-Amplification Wave no longer exists, I think I’m all in on the Primaris train. There’s another strat for all of these new Gravis models, by the way. One cp can give +1 to your saves against damage 1 weapons, because they are Unyielding in the face of the foe! 

OMB: They also managed to turn Hammer of Wrath into a decent stratagem! Instead of a flat 5+ to do a mortal wound with charging jump pack units, you now only need to roll equal or above the toughness of the enemy you charged. Imagine how many Harlequins you can kill! 

John: I think another sneaky winner is the Orbital Bombardment. This is one of my favorite strats, and it changed to dealing d3 mortals on a 2+ not a 4+. And if you hit that lucky 6, you can deal d6 mortals out instead! If you group your units up (that’s you, Nick) you’re going to take a lot of damage! 


OMB: There’s a few more we have to talk about that will be built into a lot of lists. Guerilla Tactics lets you pick up a Phobos unit and toss it into strategic reserves. If you miss having Scouts as troops, go ahead and replace them with Incursors! 

John: I think you mean Reivers, right? Because Terror Troops lets me strip away Objective Secured from any units within 3”, and they’re giving Objective Secured away like candy right now! As a bonus, you can even use this to shut down an action if you can beat your opponent’s leadership on 2d6. 

OMB: Alright, we have two more buffs we have to talk about. Auspex scan is at the end of Reinforcements after all reserves have come in, with no negatives to hit! And can we mention that the Suppression Fire off a Whirlwind will shut off overwatch now, as well as make a unit ineligible to fight until everything else has been chosen?

John: There are a lot of buffs here, but there are a few losers as well. Notably, that Smash Captain who fights on death can only be affected by the stratagem if they haven’t fought normally. And to top it off, only an Assault Intercessors Squad can be chosen to fight twice at the end of the phase, so you’ll be hit once by each unit now. Anyone miss a Captain fighting three times in one phase? 

OMB: So we haven’t talked about a single new unit yet, or most of the Warlord traits. I know you mentioned Rites of War once, but I think we can say it again. A 6” aura of Objective Secured for all of the units that are worth taking is going to be an auto take. Go ahead and write it in ink; it’s part of your list now. 


John: I can’t argue against that. I think that you just automatically take Rites of War, and you should honestly take Selfless Healer on the Chief Apothecary that you should also have.

OMB: I know not everyone takes Phobos units, but if you are, I want to mention Master of the Vanguard. It’s basically just +1 to every move, advance, or charge you want. Most of the rest of these warlord traits stayed the same or aren’t worth acknowledging. You are going to have those traits, and probably buy one more to suit whatever chapter or list you are going to take. 

John: Just about all of the relics are the same, too. Teeth of Terra is my favorite still, but I have to mention that they clarified the wording on Tome of Malcador, and the Vox Espiritum may see new value on a Primaris character to give out an extended warlord trait or built-in aura. Can you say 9” Rites of War? 

OMB: The psychic powers also are mostly unchanged. I think the biggest change has to be on Psychic fortress, which is now an aura of 5+ invulnerable save, even for those non-core units!

John: There’s been a lot of changes in general to when things happen. Games Workshop is really using this command phase a lot more, and I think this will disincentivize reserves units, as they won’t ever be selected to reroll hits by a Chapter Master on the turn they come in. Only one Litany changed as well, where Catechism of Fire now gives +1 to wound in close combat for one unit. 


OMB: Before we dive into the units, I want to cover one last topic: The codex-specific secondaries will be pivotal for most Space Marine lists. These do fit into the same categories as the existing secondaries, so you won’t be able to take the new “Oaths of Moment” with “Grind them Down”. Of these, Oaths of Moment has to be the best. You have three different ways to score points that are all checked at the end of the battle round. You can get a victory point if you kill an enemy vehicle, monster, or character that round. And, you get 1 point if you don’t fail a morale check or fall back. 

John: So, I get a point if my Deathwing don’t fail a morale check? I can get behind that. 

OMB: Yep! And finally, you get two points if you end the battle round with one unit wholly within 6” of the middle of the board. The fact that all of these are scored at the end of the battle round also gives a nice incentive to go second, where your opponent won’t have a chance to stop you. 

John: Codex Warfare is a pretty interesting secondary. You get one point for each unit you kill in each doctrine, to a max of five points, but you have to get the kill with the right weapon from each doctrine to score points.

OMB: Killing units is always good, but you have to do it in the right turns to get maximum effect here, and that won’t always work into your gameplan. Maybe if you use Dark Angels or Ultramarines, who give you a few ways to act as a different doctrine, this gets better? 

John: The final objective is Shock Tactics. It’s pretty simple. In any battle round where you take an objective away from the opponent, you get 3 points. While this is going to be useful in a tight, back and forth game, it’s actually bad if you are already dominating the scoreboard. Now that that’s done, let’s break down the new datasheets!

OMB: We’ve all seen the changes to storm shields and multi meltas, and I think the Storm Shield change is actually a massive boost for Marines. Being safer against incoming weight of fire and cheap attacks is going to go a long way!

John: These datasheets are designed to work with every chapter, by the way. So your Terminator unit will gain Deathwing or Wolf Guard as keywords if you take it as the right chapter. Same thing with the characters! Any bike character is going to end up hanging out with the Ravenwing. Which datasheet are we starting off with Brad?

OMB: I think we have to do the Primaris Chaplain on a bike. No safety features whatsoever! This monster is only ten points more than a jump pack and adds a point of toughness and attack to his healthy seven wounds! I want to slap him into just about every Marine list right now. 

John: I think he’s the only chaplain in the game, and frankly, he’s insane value for the points. Most of the marine characters haven’t changed, and almost all of the primaris datasheets stayed the same as well. Points were also pretty kind to the Space Marines. There weren’t many units that went up in cost. Even the humble servitor, action champion of the Imperium, went up to 30 points per four servitors. 

OMB: Uh, I think you mean the mighty servitor! These guys are the cheapest bodies you can find to sit on an objective. 

John: Which of the new units do you think we should be checking out?

OMB: The Primaris Techmarine is a great value. If you want to take any vehicles, he’s going to be the most efficient way to buff them. Tougher, punchier, and shoots better than a normal Techmarine! I also think it’s a big deal that Assault Intercessors can take Sergeant weapons. Several armies can ignore ap -1, or are just too tough to handle. Sneaking in a power fist is a small points investment, but lets you punch well above your weight class! 

John: I’m all about the hidden fist! Assault Intercessors seem like such a bargain for only 1 point more than a Tactical Marine. But for those Gravis fans, we should mention that the Heavy Intercessors are a new troops choice and aren’t unreasonably costed.

OMB: Intercessors are hot, heavy, and in your area now! I don’t know if these will be worth it, since any other Gravis armor unit will have access to Objective Secured through warlord traits. But I think these are going to be worth testing, as they are the cheapest Gravis Armor unit available. 


John: I think that my favorite Indomitus unit has to be mentioned. Bladeguard Veterans were the MVP of my Iron Halo list, and going up to six-man max squads (Or five, for lovely transhuman buffs) is certifiably insane. Every list should start with ten of these bad boys. But, the Eradicator went to the same size, fitting even more Meltaguns into your list if needed. 

OMB: I’m not hating on Bladeguard, but Vanguard are my most improved veteran! The new storm shields on a two wound flying model have just way too much defense, and they can take any of the special weapon options to make a hard-hitting melee unit. 

John: I think that the new Space Marine codex has done more for existing units than any of the new plastic kits we haven’t seen yet. Having looked at the new Storm Speeders and Gladiators, I have to say that I am not impressed. I bet I’m going to buy some because they look amazing, but I am not sold on these rules. 

OMB: Holy Emperor, they cost a lot! I have an aversion to paying a lot of points for any one model. With the increase in high damage Multi-meltas, not to mention the new Necron guns, I don’t want to pay that much for a single model with no invulnerable save that can get killed so quickly. 

John: I’m right there with you. In a world where the <Core> limitations didn’t exist, they might have had enough firepower to justify the cost, but they are quite expensive. Still, I’ll probably use them at least once just to have an excuse to paint those speeders!

OMB: With a tear in my eye, I want to bid a fond farewell to the Assault Centurions. Pour one out for my 4” move homies! Going up to 5” of movement doesn’t quite save them. The lack of <Core> and Bolter Discipline has to be the final nail in their coffin. 


John: I think the last change that I have to call out is to every Dreadnought and the fact that Duty Eternal is now just a rule they have. They all went up a bit in points, but permanent -1 damage is impossible to argue with! Contemptors also went down to 9 wounds, which is very convenient when you make one a character with Iron Hands.

OMB: And don’t forget my Space “Woofs”! Their Dreadnaughts are very punchy in combat, and I still love using their Blizzard Shield to have an inbuilt invulnerable save. I might take a sneak peek at Devastators with their added wound. A Grav Cannon got a longer range, even if it lost its best stratagem, and can be flat 2 damage against 3+ save units. I could justify Heavy Bolters for Imperial fists, but Grav still has to be the winner otherwise. 

John: At least Imperial Fists have some buffs with Thunderfire’s getting the classic double nerf. Firing Boltgun stats out of line of sight impresses exactly no one… But I think that covers all of the changes I immediately gravitated toward. Any final thoughts?

OMB: Yeah, I want to complain about all of the tanks that no longer fly. Being on a clear flying stem, floating above the ground, and getting slowed down by the tree nearby hurts my last brain cell. Again, this is just pushing Marine builds further into the infantry focus. 

John: Absolutely. My final thought would be that many vehicle-based Marine builds got nerfed, but the infantry (and especially melee) focused Marines got even better. All hail your new White Scar overlords! 

OMB: Sounds like someone doesn’t know the secrets of the Inner circle yet… 

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