Hello everybody! Danny here to give you a quick and dirty rundown of one of the newer Deathstars to grace the competitive scene, The Black Legion Cabal-Star!
The competitive meta is all about the Deathstar right now, especially in non-ITC events where full powered invisibility or electrodisplacement is kosher, and while Chaos may be getting some new hotness, more than a few savvy players have already put in real work with the Black Legion update, The Cyclopia Cabal.
What is it?
The Cabal-star is built around the Cyclopia Cabal formation. It requires 3-5 Chaos Sorcerers, and once per their psychic phase, one may cast Shroud of Deceit, a non-classified power that takes over a non-vehicle enemy unit and proceeds to get one free shooting phase with it. As a bonus, for each sorcerer besides the caster within 12, the caster gets a bonus dice to cast this spell, making it quite dice efficient.
Ok, so this is clearly scary to Tau or any other army that takes a big, punchy shooty unit with little psychic defense, but how does this really get ramped up in competitive play? The moment you can spam characters, particularly psykers, you have the main ingredient for a death star. Suddenly, you can easily take 5 level 3 casters with force axes or staves and reroll casting attempts. That is a whole lot of juice to power a Deathstar.
Now that you have the delicious, delicious meat, you must have the bread and fixings, and that’s where either Spawn or KDK Flesh Hounds come in. Throw in a tanky chaos lord or two, and you now have a huge unit that can easily layer itself in protection while also fighting decently and possibly getting that Stormsurge to do work for the Chaos Gods.
Note: Do not mark your sorcerers. Let them roll for invisibility, endurance, incursion, or even those (as of this publishing) rumored copy and pasted Angels of Death powers if possible. Also, only Spawn or KDK Khornedogs work as they do not have the limitation on marks and what not.
This is what a typical list would look like to some extent (options vary)
3x Chaos Sorcerer
Level 3. Bike. Force Staff. Spell familiar
2x Chaos Sorcerer
Level 3. Bike. Force Axe. Spell familiar
Juggernaught. Blood-Forged Armour. Power Fist. Sigil of Corruption
Herald of Khorne
Juggernaught. Exalted Locus of Wrath
20x Flesh Hounds
1846/1850. ITC legal. 15 starting psychic Dice.
So how does this list beat me?
This list seems designed to shut down the infamous Frankie Pacific Rim Tau list. Double Stormsurges becomes a huge liability here, and a static gunline army will have a lot of problems with this. Drop Pod style lists may also struggle because they typically want to get close in and fire off the big hits, but this unit is innately durable and desperate to get into melee, so this would be a bad idea. In general, this list is dangerous to most others.
Well, it does two things very well: Punch you in the face and cast crazy powers. The Deathstar itself is no slouch in combat without any buffs up at all: Assuming a charge, the khornedogs pump out 60 WS5 Str 5 attacks, the Herald puts out 5 WS7 str6 AP3 attacks at Initiative 6, the staff sorcerers give you 12 WS5 str6 AP4 attacks at initiative 4, the axe sorcerers give you 8 str5 AP2 attacks at I1, and the lord gives you 6 WS6 Str8, AP2 attacks at I1. That’s a lot of damage right there, oh and thanks to the Herald, they all reroll to hit on the first turn of a combat, not to mention the 5++ invulnerable save. The chaos lord is also a beastly tank besides the 40 ablative wounds of the dogs. So, to be concise, this unit will knock you down, hard, unless you are another Deathstar or a massive tarpit unit. The two heldrakes also add a lot of mobile firepower that will burn objective campers to death pretty easily.
It also has a lot of dice, it gets free dice, and it rerolls casting attempts. That is insane, and Chaos has quite a few big disciplines open to it, so the Deathstar can keep itself safe with invisibility and endurance, it can do some damage with psychic shriek or Shroud of Deceit, it can debuff an enemy unit, and of course, it can start summoning in reinforcements to help it play maelstrom as well as generating more psychic dice. The fact that you get free dice and rerolls means that this is an efficient list with its powers, so the list can easily manage 4 or 5 powers a turn.
So essentially, this list is going to bully you with the Deathstar, it has a bit of finesse with the Heldrakes for removing objective campers, and it has the ability to flood the field with daemons to control objectives as well as continue to fuel the psychic machine.
You need to be aware that this list fights like hell, and the Deathstar can become insanely resilient, but its biggest advantage is that it is adaptable and can play the mission better than a lot of other Deathstars. A canny general will carefully chase the right powers for the situation, and this gives the list an unpredictability factor that can’t be ignored.
Well, how do I beat it?
This list has some matchup issues, and it has a big weakness.
In terms of matchups, this list does not like flyer spam. It lacks any real AA besides the Heldrake Vector Strike, so a flyer heavy army like Flyrant spam, Elysians, Chaos Flying Circus, etc will be able to dance around it and pick apart the summoned units to rock up kill points, score maelstrom in ITC, or set up a turn 5 land-and-win situation.
In another bad matchup, this list does not like Knights or other Superheavy walkers because it lacks any str10, low AP, armor popping goodness. Even a lone Knight could come in and tie it up for a long while, slowly doing damage (or doing some big burst damage with a 6 on the stomp table) while only the Chaos Lord has a chance to do damage back, and even then, it will be a slow, slow grind. A Brass Scorpion or Stompa could also give this unit fits as anything with AV13 or better means that it cannot do much in retaliation. Hell, even any dreadnought or walker with AV13 means that only the Lord can hurt it, and he may just whiff. The Cabal has to try and summon in a D-Thirster if faced with a lot of 13 or better armor, and that is no guarantee at all.
This leads to its big weakness: No Hit and Run. The Deathstar is in terrible danger of being bogged down by another unit, and while the Cabal-Star hits like a truck, there are plenty of units that can sit and take it for a turn or two, keeping the Cabal-Star where it is. A fearless guard blob, termagaunts, zombies, or even a lone dreadnought (AV12 is annoying to this thing as a few bad rolls means it is stuck for another turn) can theoretically tie it up for a turn. Without Hit and Run, the Cabal-Star has to pick its fights carefully, and you can freeze it in place with chaff. Then you can mop up the summoned creatures and win via the mission.
Aside from the Heldrakes, this list lacks any shooting threat, so a shooting army has at least one turn of free reign, possibly two. If you are canny, you can stagger your units, making sure that the Cabal-Star can only hit one or two units a turn, slowing him down and giving you a chance to pour enough firepower into it to start making a dent. If you have mobility, dance away as much as possible, feeding him units while you ever so slowly whittle down the dogs. Split the table and concede the center while you dance on the flanks as the unit cannot stretch the entire length of the board. If you can make the Cabal-Star have to seriously commit to one side, it will take it one or two turns to get back into position to threaten the other side. If you bait the Cabal-Star into a Voltron move, you can easily start to pick apart the characters.
As with any death star, work the angles and try to peel away the protective chaff from the important characters, so you can focus fire and force Look Out Sir! rolls. Seeing as the sorcerers only have 2 wounds and no invulnerable save, they are much squishier than they may appear. Of course, not every shooting army is going to be able to punch through this, so your focus will need to be on keeping the Cabal-Star contained and trying to win via mission. If the Cabal-Star has invisibility and endurance up, just ignore it and focus on killing what you can while getting into a better position.
Of course, Death Star on Death Star here is a coin flip, depending on powers rolled. Wolf-Tide does well against it as it has enough bodies to soak attacks and enough attacks to cheer through the dogs. Your typical Wolf-Star is a toss-up, but Wolf-Star has T5 on average, making it harder for the dogs to rack up wounds, and it has so much str10 that it is doubling out the khornedogs (unless endurance is up) as well as everyone but the Chaos Lord. Cent-Star gets rolled by this list as Grav weapons are meaningless against it. Either way, in the fun, whacky, crazy world of Death Star on Death Star, it really is dependent on who rolls better powers, but I give a slight edge to the Cabal-Star simply for being more dice efficient than most other Death-Stars.
So there you have it. Now you know about Cabal-Star, how it ticks, and what it does. I didn’t come up with this list, so save your hate for others, but I know TFG Radio would appreciate your love, so check out the Patreon. Hopefully, one day these List Briefings will be quick and easy videos for your viewing pleasure.