Gregory Vettese returns with another guest article, this time pushing the boundaries of Chaos combos.
Recently my brother has been bitten by the Warhammer 40k card bug, so he has been on a buying spree. He kindly offered to buy some Chaos cards for me, one of which was the Doctor Mengele of 40k, Fabius Bile. The mention of his cursed name started insidious wheels turning in my head. As Bile returns destroyed cards to the command hand and Chaos has many infiltration abilities, I suspected there was a way to make a sick deck.
Comparing Bile to the Competition
Ghazghkull’s Waaagh! Fleet card is the most obvious point of comparison to Fabius Bile. Ghazkull’s Waaagh! might seem the stronger ability because it provides a permanent bonus unlike our frail science nerd, but I do not think this is the case. The fleet card only returns Goff cards to the command hand, and thus implicitly imposes deck building restrictions that do not burden a champion of Chaos like Bile. On the other hand, Chaos has many more cards with infiltration than Orks. Whereas dead Goff cards haunt their opponent as command lines, Bile can also resurrect Chaos units with the help from a few other cards.
To this end I drew inspiration from Chris Berger, who developed a gimmick combo deck for Dark Eldar a few years ago. Victory would be assured if the Dark Eldar player could pull off the combo, but ignominious defeat awaited the smallest misstep. The essence of Berger’s deck was to conscript as many dual infantry-vehicle units to improve the odds of Manufacturing Facility infiltrating a steady stream of troops and tanks. Force Field Generator would rally units after every successful infiltration. After infiltrating a dozen or two units, the highly mobile Dark Eldar could easily redeploy spare troops to they could other sectors. The problem with Berger’s ploy was that at least half of the deck were fragile units. If one does not draw the right cards or the key components are destroyed early on, then the Dark Eldar player would be left with an army of weaklings. In comparison, a Bile-focused Chaos deck could still put up a fight even if the good doctor himself were not present at every battle.
A Quick Word About Combos
Combos in Warhammer 40k CCG are different from Magic: The Gathering. Aside from the abovementioned Dark Eldar deck, combos rarely win a game on their own in 40k CCG. Preserving combo pieces is more difficult in the 40k CCG than Magic because each of your combo pieces (i.e., units, fortifications, and characters) can be removed by most of your opponent’s units. Moreover, there is less to gain from infinite combos because an edge of two or three units is usually enough to win a sector. Most factions have trouble moving units out of a sector, so a 40k CCG infinite combo risks gilding the lily. This is especially true for Chaos. Fabius Bile is more likely to offer powerful synergies than a three-card win condition—but one can dream!
Obliterators and Greater Daemons
Any self-infiltrating unit is a friend of Bile’s. Your opponent is given the unenviable choice of killing Bile himself (and risking a greater daemon wreaking havoc) or killing the self-infiltrator and risking its return next turn. So, hold back your Obliterators until the end of the battle because they are near guaranteed to take their shot. High rolls and fast blockers could be relied on to keep Bile alive, but I think the best defence is a good offense. Infiltrate your greater daemons ASAP to keep the pressure off Bile. Woe be to the player who ignores a Great Unclean One or Bloodthirster. Furthermore, every time your opponent kills the same card twice the flag count swings in your favour.
If your enemy kills one of your assault units, you can return it to your hand with Bile and then immediately re-infiltrate it with your Khorne Bloodletters. While all the Bile combos have the weak point of Dr. Feelbad himself, Bloodletters are probably even weaker. At the best of times my Bloodletters rarely survive past the second battle action, but there is a solution: to paraphrase Contact, why have one Bloodletter when you can have two at twice the price? Two Bloodletters need to be killed simultaneously to stop their infiltration reaction. You still need other assault units to infiltrate, so prioritize fast assault blockers like Fiends of Slaanesh or Tzeentch Flamers. Your opponents would need to lock, but not destroy, your Fiends or Flamers to expose the Bloodletters to shooters with speeds of less than 3. Fortunately for Chaos, Tzeentch Flamers are rarely locked for long and Fiends of Slaanesh have their own infiltration reaction.
3-Card Combo: You Can Do It, Scorpion!
Setup: Deploy Fabius Bile, Khorne Brass Scorpion, and Force Field Generator
This approach is loosely inspired by Berger’s deck. When Khorne Brass Scorpion kills a unit in assault, you infiltrate an assault unit from your hand with its reaction, and then Force Field Generator rallies the brass snappy boi. You can potentially get every assault unit in your hand into the sector and every one of your assault units connects unless they are locked by your opponent. This is conditional on rolling high enough for the Khorne Brass Scorpion’s assault d6 to kill units, which admittedly can be a struggle against Space Marines.
Five-Card Combo No. 1: Fortress of Not Solitude
Setup: Deploy Fabius Bile, two Khorne Brass Scorpions, and Chaos Fortress.
- Use Chaos Fortress to sacrifice a Khorne Brass Scorpion to immediately assault with an unlocked one. If Khorne Brass Scorpion kills a unit with its d6 assault, it reacts to infiltrate the recently deceased Khorne Brass Scorpion.
- Repeat until Khorne Brass Scorpions cannot kill anything, one way or another.
This 5-card combo goes ad infinitum until you fail a d6 assault roll or your enemy runs out of units. Just imagine a pair of Khorne Brass Scorpions tag teaming their way through your opponent’s army without even needing to charge. Just beautiful.
Five-Card Combo No. 2
Setup: Deploy Fabius Bile, a daemon, Erebus’ Cathedral, Force Field Generator, and a third unit (preferably a good shooter). Have at least one daemon unit in your command hand.
- Use Erebus’ Cathedral to sacrifice a ready daemon to infiltrate the other daemon in your hand. Force Field Generator reacts to rally another unit.
- The rallied unit shoots/assaults/etc.
- Repeat ad nauseum until there is nothing left to do.
This combo is more consistent than the previous one, as it does not rely upon the fickle rolling gods, but it is clunkier. On the other hand, how else can you live the Chaos dream of unlimited rallying?
Five-Card Combo No. 3: Daemonfest 2021
Setup: Deploy Fabius Bile, a daemon, Force Field Generator, and Chaos Fortress. Keeper of Secrets is in the command hand.
- Infiltrate Keeper of Secrets.
- Use Chaos Fortress to sacrifice another daemon to immediately assault with the Keeper of Secrets. The Keeper of Secrets draws you three cards, and then you infiltrate all daemons in your command hand, of which one is guaranteed. Force Field Generator reacts, rallying your Keeper of Secrets.
- Repeat step two until daemon hype levels are critical.
This 5-card combo is less a slaughter than a party. Imagine a Keeper of Secrets steadily infiltrating every daemon in your deck that is not already deployed. Few know the best part of being a daemon is vibing with all your friends.
Example Deck List
I strongly prefer the vanilla Chaos fleet card because it allows me to redraw my deployment hand, which means I am almost assured to pick up Bile most turns and avoid deployment hands full of greater daemons. The sub-faction balance is too divided to make much use of the Slaanesh or Tzeentch fleet cards anyway. The deck prioritizes Fabius Bile combos, infiltrators, assault units, and daemons.
In this way, the deck eschews Chaos’ usual strengths in rallying and die-modification and focuses instead on infiltration and recycling. Most of the combo fortifications are still useful even without Bile. Erebus’ Cathedral can cheat in greater daemons, Chaos Fortress can give a crucial tempo boost for a greater daemon or Khorne Brass Scorpion, and Force Field Generator has good synergy with the infiltrators – especially Keeper of Secrets! With seven greater daemons, this deck can put a lot of pressure on your opponent.
NEVER include any units with negative command lines in a Fabius Bile deck because his ability is mandatory!
“Comfort zone” deck list:
“Going wild” deck list:
As good as Bile is, he still has his weaknesses. He starts each battle locked, so he is vulnerable to shooting and assaults. Most enemy shooting can be blocked by your speed 3 units, but consecutive BA’s and transport units will mean at least one assaulter gets through. Negative die modifiers hurt Fabius Bile’s armour save and infiltration rolls for greater daemons. Counterattack can also ruin your Khorne Brass Scorpion combos.
In a recent post, Dave lamented how too many decks are predetermined by the ‘good stuff’ in that faction. Chaos is especially prone to this, with the same half-dozen cards appearing in most decks. I believe that such cards have occluded the fact that Chaos players have many possible tricks to choose from. It may be bitter medicine for some Chaos players to give up cards like Renegade Space Marines, but one should follow the good doctor’s advice for the chance to bury the enemy with unkillable daemonic hordes.