The Mark of Tzeentch
This little article dealing with the Mark of Tzeentch was originally written for the ezine of the CotEC-forum, 'The End Times'. As most such ezines it was ridiculously over-optimistic in what the members could produce and how often and so the fourth issue never materialised. Thus you will get the article here instead, slightly reworked. The article will be split into three main parts. The first contains the reasons why you’d want to place the Mark of Tzeentch on something (its good sides), the second contains the reason why you’d not want to place the Mark of Tzeentch on something (its bad sides) and the third section will be a little run down of all the various characters and units that can be marked, giving a little discussion of whether or not you should place the Mark of Tzeentch on that unit. I personally field a mixed Tzeentch / Slaanesh army and while I have several units and characters with this Mark, I don’t feel obliged to put it on everything. And just to clarify things right away: It is perfectly valid (though often not optimal) to select Marks because you like the background, models or the colour scheme. I won't touch on that, because preferences of that type depend on the player and is a bit meaningless to discuss.
Now, the Mark of Tzeentch has, through the editions, done a lot of different things, but mainly they have been connected with magic and mutations in some way. Back in 3rd edition a Champion of Tzeentch got a random magic item (back in those days when random truly meant random) and more random chaos attributes than Champions of other Chaos Gods (D3 rather than just 1). In 6th edition, the Mark of Tzeentch made the Champion into a Wizard of either level 2 (if he was a Hero) or Level 4 (if he was a Lord). It is worth noting that in 6th edition you couldn’t have a Sorcerer dedicated to Tzeentch, as the designers had (for some reason) decided that Tzeentch didn't like people who specialised in either fighting or casting spells. If you gave the Mark of Tzeentch to a unit, it generated one extra Power Dice in your magic phase as long as the unit was not fleeing. This never made much sense to me – a model becomes Marked, but doesn’t get any benefit from this himself and instead some other guy in the army (who might have an entirely different Mark) benefits instead. It became even sillier when not having a Mark let you re-roll psychology tests, so getting the Mark of Tzeentch was a disadvantage for your regular trooper.
In this edition, the Mark of Tzeentch has much the same benefit in Fantasy Battles and 40K, which is fitting I guess. I don’t know if some 40K designer came up with the idea first, if the Fantasy designer had the idea or if they were locked up in a small room until they came up with something they both liked, but it is nice touch. And what are those benefits? That is what the first part is all about.
The Mark of Tzeentch has four distinct benefits, though commonly a model won’t be able to benefit from all of them at once.
The model gains a 6+ Ward save, or adds +1 to any other Ward save it may have. All models with the Mark of Tzeentch get this, making it easy to remember. A 6+ Ward save may not sound like much, since most of the time you will fail it, but by negating one sixth of (almost) all damage, you make it so that your opponent needs to do 20% more damage to your unit to get the same result. Five models with the Mark of Tzeentch are as difficult to kill as six models without it.
Now, where it starts to get juicy is when the model has a Ward save from some other source, in which case the Ward save gets better. If the model has a 5+ Ward save and is granted the Mark of Tzeentch, you don’t need 20% more damage to get the same result, you need 33% more damage. It goes like this:
- no Ward save = 20% more damage
- 6+ Ward = 25% more damage
- 5+ Ward = 33% more damage
- 4+ Ward = 50% more damage
The bonus gives you the biggest relative increase in chance for spells that you struggle to get off. So if you for example need to get Gateway off with 4 dice, the chance to cast it is 53%, compared to 44% without the +1 bonus.
The model, if he is a Sorcerer, will use the Lore of Tzeentch. As with any Mark, Sorcerers who take it are limited to the Lore of their patron god. I quite like this Lore; the first spell is useful and easy to cast for what it does, only one of the six spells require a line of sight to the target and they generally have good range. One downside is that some of the spells are quite situational (Baleful Transmogrification is rather useless against Dwarfs, for example) and/or difficult to cast (Infernal Gateway needing a 15+). With a basic level 2 you can easily end up with two situational spells which can lead to turns where your Sorcerer has nothing to cast – wasting Power dice and making things easy on your opponent. Fortunately, we have many good Sorcerer-only items which can help with this. A level 2 Sorcerer of Tzeentch with the Book of Secrets and a Power Familiar, for example, has both less chance of only having situational spells (since he has three rather than two) and more chance of getting difficult spells off (since he generates four Power Dice on his own).
The model, if he is a character, may ride a Disc of Tzeentch. For many characters, this is the cheapest mount option, and also one of the most attractive. Being able to fly and getting +1 to your armour save for only 20 pts is a great deal, even if you cannot join any units as you are riding a flying mount. The S3 attack is a bit disappointing compared to the S5 attack from the last edition. Discs are good on fighter characters because it lets them rapidly engage where they are needed, and on Sorcerers because it lets them get into the optimum position for their spellcasting and lets them stay out of combat (unless you are dealing with highly manoeuverable foes). You do need to make sure they aren’t shot at too much, or alternatively invest in protective items. With the new Lizardmen, one thing to look out for is Terradons flying over and dropping rocks on your Disc riders. This can be quite tricky to avoid unless you manage to fry the flying lizards with magic first.
There are basically two downsides to the Mark of Tzeentch, which is the cost of it and the fact that taking one Mark of Chaos prevents you from taking any other Mark, which might be better. I will consider the two issues separately, which is a bit artificial but is done for the sake of simplicity.
The Mark comes with a points cost. As the Mark of Tzeentch most often means that the enemy needs to do 20% more damage to the unit to get the same result, a good rule of thumb is that the Mark is worth considering if the price is 20% of the unit’s cost. If the unit is worth less than 100 pts you can get more resilience out of buying more guys for the points, while if it is worth more than 100 pts, then taking the Ward save is more effective. As the Mark of Tzeentch cost 20 pts for most units, it is worth considering for units and characters worth 100 pts or more. As with any rule of thumb, it is not completely accurate; in some cases it is better to have more guys and in other cases it is better to have more resilient guys. For example, more guys gives you a higher rank bonus, while more resilient guys can give you a better combat result by having less guys die. Especially if your guys strike last it is better to have a Ward save, since gives you get more attacks back. If you are striking first then it is less important with a Ward since fewer of your guys will need to make saves (dead enemies don’t hit hard).
For units that have a Ward save from other means, it is different. For something with a 4+ Ward to start with, the Mark of Tzeentch would be effective if the cost was 50% of the unit’s basic cost or less. The Warshrine is a good example of such a case.
Finally, for characters, and especially Sorcerers, the Mark of Tzeentch does more than just improve the model’s Ward save, and the straight comparison of cost isn’t useful.
Taking one Mark prevents you from taking any other Mark. Saying this can feel a bit redundant, but often there are more than one option that is "worth it". Now, most units in the Warriors of Chaos army cost more than 100 pts, the exception being small units of Marauders of either kind. Assuming that you haven’t decided to run an army where every unit has either the Mark of Tzeentch or no Mark at all (as some do), the second consideration becomes whether another Mark is more useful than that of the god of change. I will run through the other three Marks, starting with the Mark of Nurgle, as that is the most comparable one.
The Mark of Nurgle protects against less types of damage than the Mark of Tzeentch, but when it works it always has a greater effect. When an enemy goes from a 4+ to hit to a 5+ to hit, this is the equivalent to your guys getting a 5+ Ward save, for example. For units, the Mark of Nurgle costs more for everything, suggesting that the designers have considered it to be, on average, a bit better. When your unit costs 200 – 300 pts, however, ten points more doesn’t make much difference. Which is the most effective then depends more on what types of ranged attacks the enemy army has (if they roll to hit, the Mark of Nurgle is better, if they don’t, the Mark of Tzeentch is better) and how effective they are in combat. If your unit has WS5 and the enemy unit has WS5 or 4, the Mark of Nurgle does nothing and the Mark of Tzeentch is naturally better, while if it has WS3, the Mark of Nurgle protects better than the Mark of Tzeentch does. As I reckon it, the units the Mark of Nurgle protects against in close combat aren’t those you really need protection against (few WS3 troops are dangerous to WS5 ones) and for the Mark of Nurgle, it is the protection against units such as Empire Handgunners and Dark Elf Crossbowmen that is most important.
The Mark of Slaanesh is in some ways similar to the Mark of Tzeentch in that it is primarily defensive, works pretty much all the time and it is also quite cheap. It differs in that the effect is very different; instead of protecting against pretty much all types of damage, it protects against pretty much all types of psychology. Which of the two is the most interesting then depends on the enemy army – do they rely on using psychology against you, such as Tomb Kings, or do they rely on causing direct damage, such as Bretonnia? It also depends on your own unit – a small unit is more vulnerable to Fear and Panic, while a unit with good Leadership is less vulnerable over all. The two Marks complement each other well and I can recommend taking an army with a mix of the two Marks, like I do.
The Mark of Khorne is the most different to the Mark of Tzeentch. It makes your units better at dealing out damage in combat and also protects against the effects of psychology (until you lose a round of combat). The Mark of Khorne does have a disadvantage in that you must charge if able to and you cannot flee if you are charged. If those disadvantages don’t worry you, the Mark of Khorne naturally becomes much more attractive. The Mark of Khorne is more effective for units where you have a good number of models attacking and they have good combat stats. It is less interesting on a Warshrine where it only gives one extra S4 Attack, but more interesting on a unit of 6 Knights, where it gives six extra S5 and six extra S4 attacks. However, if you want Frenzy you can get in other ways than with the Mark of the blood god, you could for example take the Banner of Rage instead. The Mark of Khorne is also slightly more expensive than the Mark of Tzeentch.
As mentioned above, this is the first edition of the game where you can give the Mark of Tzeentch to a unit and actually have ti do something positive for them (in earlier editions you either could not give it to units or it was a disadvantage for the unit).
Chaos Lord – The Mark of Tzeentch is great on a flying Chaos Lord, giving an improved Ward save to riders of Chaos Dragons or Manticores, or letting them fly around on much cheaper Discs. This is one of the best Marks, alongside the Mark of Khorne.
Sorcerer Lord – Probably the best Mark, since the Sorcerer Lord gets so much out of it. A flying Sorcerer Lord on Disc is highly flexible and a very good spellcaster. Give him the Golden Eye and he has great protection from ranged attacks.
Daemon Prince – The Mark of Tzeentch is a steal on this big guy, improving his Ward save to a 4+ Ward as well as a bonus to cast spells, all at a ridiculously low price.
Exalted Hero – An Exalted of Tzeentch on Disc with a halberd or flail and one or two extra little items makes a nice and cheap(ish) troubleshooter. I am also a great fan of a Battle Standard Bearer on Disc, since he can get to just where he needs to be to give the greatest effect. I would not take a magic standard, however, since that leaves him a bit unprotected with no option to take magic items.
Chaos Sorcerer – As with the Sorcerer Lord, a Sorcerer of Tzeentch is quite good, though a couple of the spells of their Lore is a bit difficult to cast for a level 2 and most of the time they will concentrate on the (admittedly excellent) Flickering Fire.
Chaos Warriors – For a small, expensive unit, Fear can be a big problem, and thus it would be recommended to place the Mark of Slaanesh (or Khorne) on Warriors. If you are not worried about that, the Mark of Tzeentch is very good value for its cost.
Marauders – The Mark of Tzeentch is only really effective on large units of Marauders since they are so cheap, but with only a Leadership of 7, the Mark of Slaanesh is probably still more interesting here. On small units of Marauders I would never bother with the Mark of Tzeentch.
Marauder Horsemen – These cavalrymen don’t tend to come in large enough units for the Mark of Tzeentch to really be cost effective and getting more guys instead is usually a better buy.
Chosen – The reason to put the Mark of Tzeentch on Chosen has more to do with their options for magic items than anything else. Take the Favour of the Gods on the Champion, and the chance of a whole unit with a better class of Divine Greatness (3+ Ward rather than 4+) jumps from slim to fairly decent. Another very tempting item for a Chosen Champion of Tzeentch is the Book of Secrets, to make him a level 1(ish) wizard with a +1 bonus to cast due to his Mark. The other three Marks are less interesting on Chosen - you can get the effects of both the Mark of Khorne and the Mark of Slaanesh with the Banner of Rage and the Mark of Nurgle isn’t really at its best on a unit of WS6 guys. Thus Chosen of Tzeentch can be more interesting than the alternatives.
Chaos Chariot – The Mark of Tzeentch is okay here, giving some protection against high Strength attacks, but most players will probably not feel it is all that interesting on just a single model. I rate it slightly more effective than the Mark of Nurgle here as the main threats to chariots are war machines, which generally aren’t affected by the Mark of Nurgle. However, the Marks of Khorne and Slaanesh are probably more interesting, for the protection against Fear tests and the increased damage from Frenzy.
Ogres – A Ward save on Ogres is quite nice to have, as even if you give them Chaos Armour, they are reasonably easy to hurt compared to their cost. They are also immune to Fear to begin with, which makes the Marks of Slaanesh and Khorne a bit less interesting (though one extra S6 attack per model can be quite juicy). The Mark of Nurgle is quite nice on Ogres, since it means WS4 enemies go from a 3+ to a 4+ to hit them. Our Mark of Tzeentch then comes in as a good, though dull alternative.
Chaos Knights – I like Knights of Tzeentch because taking the Blasted Standard gives the unit a very nice 4+ Ward save against cannon balls. On the whole, though, the Mark of Khorne (for its offensive power) and the Mark of Nurgle (for the protection against many ranged attacks, including those pesky bolt throwers) are probably a bit better.
Chaos Spawn – On these guys, the Mark of Tzeentch comes in at marginally useful. I don’t really consider any of the Marks interesting on Spawn simply because of the cost, with the Mark of Tzeentch being one of the better simply because it is the cheapest.
Chaos Warshrine – This is finally a unit where the Mark of Tzeentch is amongst the better ones. Going from a 4+ to a 3+ Ward save is great, especially since the Mark doesn’t cost more than on any other unit. As I see it, it loses out against armies with a good deal of Fear causers simply because on an expensive, slow, Unit Strength 4 model, it is problematic not to be immune to Fear and thus you might want the Mark of Slaaneshi instead.
Giant – Another unit where the Mark of Tzeentch is very good for the cost, though having a Giant with Always Strikes First should be tempting enough to make the Mark of Slaanesh rather more interesting.
In summary, for characters, the Mark of Tzeentch is highly interesting because they can get Discs of Tzeentch and often have the option for decent Ward saves (who become very good Ward saves with the Mark of Tzeentch). For Sorcerers it is further interesting, especially on level 3s and 4s. It is slightly less interesting, but still interesting, on Hero-level Wizards.
On units, the Mark of Tzeentch tends to be cost-effective, but is still often only third or fourth best because other Marks are better while not costing significantly more. And the Mark of Tzeentch on something with no Ward to begin with is just a little bit dull.
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