This is a rework of my guide to 1.41 – I haven’t had the time to accumulate the games/replays for illustrations and with Dark Crusade on the horizon I don’t plan to bother. It does take account of a few new techs and new playstyles.
How to improve your ladder score [Chaos] WA v1.51
Who am I?
I'm Admiral_Able, I also play as [TC]Admiral. I'm not the best player by a long shot but on a good day I make the top 100 leaderboard.
How can I help you?
I have little free time and I'm not blessed with uber micro skills so hopefully what I have to say can help most average ladder players. This is a guide for 1v1 automatch only and is aimed at the intermediate ladder player (around 1100-1400).
Before you start, this a more advanced guide, so read Da Fish's guide to Chaos here.
I'll run through some general tips – for all races before I get Chaos specific.
Aggressiveness – It is very important to be aggressive in Winter Assault. It's also important not to be too aggressive. If you've got the advantage in terms of troops you should make that advantage count and try to hurt him (either by killing troops or buildings or hurting his economy). However pushing your luck too far will result in problems. Typically this involves marching into his base with a slight troop advantage meaning his reinforcements arrive instantly and yours have to run all the length of the map. Your opponent can quickly turn the tide and inflict casualties on you as you run away.
Pursuit – Do not click "attack move" when pursuing fleeing troops. Follow them with the "move" command that way you will keep up with them and fire instead of stopping to shoot at them until they leave your range. You will inflict much greater casualties.
Fleeing – It can be worth sending your most backward squad headlong into a superior enemy force in order to have them stop and fire at that squad allowing the rest of your army to escape.
Damage numbers – Know your troops. Know the DPS vs each type of unit. Am I better in CC or ranged vs this target? Should my heavy bolters be firing at the falcon or the Reapers? Should my Zerks go for the reapers and the Sorcerer for the Lp2? (answer – yes!). Thanks to Exerdin for this - find a link to the DPS page here. Remember it's all relative so if you do 30 dps in CC and 5 dps ranged but your opponent's troops do 50 dps in CC and 2 dps ranged then stick to ranged.
Econ – Give your economy sufficient attention and again bear in mind it's all relative. If you spend 10 seconds decapping his SP that is just as effective as spending 30 seconds capping your own SP. Knowing when to build your first gen is very important.
Tier 1 vs Tier 2 – Tier 2 troops are no longer vastly superior to Tier 1 troops but they are still better. If you are approaching Tier 2 and have no pressing need for troops then save your money. There are lots of important techs and units to be built immediately in Tier 2 if you have the money (For Chaos in order – Sorcerer, Zerks, Sac pit, [maybe req and power boost], [horrors if vehicles are expected] etc etc). Chaos troops now upgrade (a little) like the other races but knowing how much to invest in Tier 1 troops is important. Once you do hit Tier 2 don't ignore your Tier 1 troops, some ranged support from a CSM squad (with or without heavy bolters) and disruption from cultist grenades can often decide a battle. Aspiring champion plasma pistols are always good support. If you've already got them use them and use them well but don't buy Tier 1 troops once in Tier 2.
Build orders – Know your build orders. For each race you play against and each map you play on they may vary. There is a way to tell your opponent’s race in automatch but I wouldn't encourage you to use it. Get to DoW Sanctuary and download replays.
Numbering – It is important to make use of the ctl+1 ctl+2 etc. Whichever way you decide to use them they will help you. Personally I would suggest 1 for HQ, 2 for barracks, 3 for armoury, 4 for sac circle, etc etc. This allows you to build/research whilst microing a battle. Also learn the hotkeys for certain things you use most (e.g. hit B and then E to build barracks, F to force labour and then switch to HQ to press H,C,C for Heretic, Cultist, Cultist).
Way points – Use way points from every building. It's particularly important from the HQ for capping. Combine this with the numbering of buildings for added ease. You can set a person (e.g. Chaos Lord) as a way point.
Cue orders – you must cue orders sometimes using shift. Particularly important for building things and capping points.
Repair – A tricky situation this. Chaos repair cost is 100%, so you won’t save any money by repairing. But certain key buildings (generally LPs) or vehicles using pop cap may well be worth it. So get key units repaired even if it's on the field of battle. Chaos suffer in that heretics repair at half speed (I don’t know why this is).
Stances - you must pay attention to stances. The default F1 stance is good for no one. Ranged troops should be on F2 (stand ground), CC troops on F5 (attack). Otherwise ranged troops will not stand still and fire as early as they can (and set up weapons will be useless) and CC troops may well stop their pursuit at a crucial moment or try to engage in ranged. Some units like the Lord will require stances to switch in different situations.
Troop management - this a very difficult skill to master. You must learn when to split your troops and when to keep them together, how many troops to fend off the harass with and how many to attack with. Try not to waste time defending if you can inflict more damage by attacking. Don't run the length of the map to fend off scouts shooting at your LP, send 1 squad to deal with that and attack with the rest. If you spend too long chasing units around your units may become outdated before you can use them.
Big gen - it's 4x the power for 2x the cost, get it whenever you can.
Chaos have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. I've played Chaos since DoW 1.2 and right now I'd say the order of the races (top to bottom) is Ork = CSM = SM > Eldar > IG. Balance is closer than ever this patch -so no excuses, Chaos can mix it with the best of ‘em.
(Balance is always controversial - please don't bother stating your opinion of my opinion)
The biggest weakness Chaos have is that cultists suck and heretics have very few HP. This means any player who decides to harass your base cannot really be prevented from killing your heretics. Why? Because cultists do almost no ranged damage and cannot tie units up in CC when they are moving. So any enemy units moving and firing at heretics or CCing heretics (which you've forced laboured to at least half health) will kill them taking almost no damage themselves.
Chaos's biggest strength probably lies in Tier 2. The sorcerer is a massive influence on games. He no longer builds quickly, but is still cheap (and now improved HP), and has very high damage and useful spells. He still has fairly low HP though so watch him carefully. Preds are a massive advantage in Tier 2 for chaos. Zerks and horrors do their job well but are not special. Do not listen to people that tell you Zerks are overpowered. They may well be overpowered at the lower end of the ladder as they require little skill to me massed and attack; however they lose to almost every other CC specialist unit (once upgraded) for cost. They are also massive pop cap drainers.
General pointers with Chaos
For cost chaos generally lose out to other races. Our barracks costs more, our armoury costs more and our troops generally lose out for cost to other units e.g. SM tacs vs CSM tacs (SM tacs do 10% more damage, have more HP, morale and faster regen). Notable exceptions to this are our heroes. The CL is cheap and a very good hero. Attach him to a squad of CSM and they will almost never break.
The sorcerer can be rebuilt cheaply so use him to explore and take advantage of his great building damage. He's the perfect building destroyer. Use the Chaos Lord's researches, get the symbol of Chaos and the level 1 veteran upgrades. Do not ignore them (of course if he has vehicles or is about to get them use the sac pit to get horrors first). The other exceptions to the rule are raptors and aspiring champions.
For cost aspiring champions, especially with the plasma pistol/power sword upgrades, are amazing (and purge the weak upgrade doubles their HP). Don't ever ignore them. Remember to activate berserk fury at the right moment (and if you attach a Lord or a Sorc he gets the benefit too).
Useless research/units – infiltration and furious charge. With the new tech of purge the weak you can gain some advantage from these techs – but only get them if you have a specific need.
Cultists are almost never worth reinforcing.
Preds are almost always better than defilers.
Possessed are almost always better than Oblits – their speed, morale damage and building destruction makes them one of the best tier 3 units around. Oblits require a relic (why?!) and have targeting issues.
Useful tactics you may not know – In the main fight attach your sorcerer to a Zerk squad, otherwise focused fire will bring him down fast. Away from the main fight detach him and have him go where your opponent does not suspect to take down an LP2 fast. In Tier 3 attach him to Oblits for deep strike capability.
The Lord is sometimes best attached and sometimes best on his own. It all depends on the targets and number of squads you're facing, whether you need to tie up more units in CC etc. The Lord is good vs. all targets and for example CSM are only good vs infantry so if faced with an early falcon and a guardian squad have the lord detach and go for the falcon whilst the CSM squad fire at the guardians.
Hide your heretics. Almost everyone will try to find your heretics and kill them. Keep them separate and out of the way where possible.
There will often be situations when you are trying to CC units and they are running away from you. Switch the squad you are trying to CC in order to test his micro ability and keep troops from being able to stand and fire.
Raptors can jump over terrain – use this to your advantage. Raptors can clear the forest on battle marshes, the central divide on outer reaches and many more useful terrain obstacles.
Once the Lord activates his 'slow' effect in CC keep pursuing the squad particularly the enemy hero, only those with fleet of foot can escape his grasp. Concentrate fire on the enemy commander as commanders are the only thing that can really harm other commanders. Kill his commander and it will take ages to rebuild and that will tie up his barracks. (In some cases ignore the Commander and concentrate on the troops but do one or the other not both).
Use raptor jump to slow an enemy retreat. Jump in front of an enemy to slow his retreat, particularly vs. enemy commanders to allow the Lord to activate his slowing CC effect.
Purge the weak – a superb upgrade and allows Chaos to be more fun to play. It still doesn’t make CSMs or cultists tier 2 troops but it takes them at least half way there. So if you’ve already got a few squads of CSM/Cults get it, if they were all killed in tier 1 don’t get it. If you do get purge the weak it still isn’t worth building more CSMs in tier 2 – it’s only useful for the ones you have. The one exception is asp champs – if they die – rebuild them.
Side note - Purge the weak double HP of asp champs and gives any other units in the squad +100 HP (cults, raptors and CSMs). You must have an asp champ in the squad to get the bonus. Heroes attached to an asp champ squad also get +100 HP.
Heavy weapon upgrades – a very powerful upgrade for tier 1 with many upsides and many downsides. Power cost is very high – generally better to use that power for tier 2. On the plus side it gives you a hidden 50% damage bonus to heavy bolters as well as letting you get 2 more for each squad. Really useful for outranging fixed positions or fighting reapers. Downsides are that it encourages you to invest heavily in CSM and they can be negated very easily by any jump troop or CC troop as they have a set up time. They still don’t stand up to SM heavy bolters so don’t get cocky!
Chaos taint is projected from all buildings except minefileds (yes from LPs). It's sort of like "if I could build a building there then I'll be in the taint area".
Morale regen of the enemy is reduced in tier 1 - note it's morale regen not morale itself (pretty useless). Morale is not reduced by taint, an enemy unit left in taint will not eventually break, but an enemy unit under fire in taint will recover their morale more slowly.
Once you hit tier 2 it produces a healing aura. That gives you 4x healing but chaos only have a 0.5 regen so they only heal at 2 hp/second in the healing aura (Zerks, Sorc and Lord aside). Zerks benefit from taint well and due to the long build time and cost of the Lord taint is useful to regenerate him if he gets his health low but it's otherwise pretty useless. The healing aura is a multiplier so those with 0 regen will still have 0 regen (heretics, horrors).
If you are in range of 2 building's control area you do not get 2x the benefit of taint, it is only ever 4x healing.
Following the 1.5/1.51 patch Chaos have been put in a stronger position because they no longer require a scissors/paper/stone build order. It used to be that building raptors first was essential or suicidal depending on your opponent’s race and build order. For example a scout rush would leave you with no heretics and most points decapped if you built raptors. Equally without raptors an IG defensive build would become too powerful if you couldn’t interrupt capping.
What does this mean? It means we have a bit more freedom to decide our own build orders – it also means that Chaos will be able to win and lose a bit more via their own skill rather than their chosen build order. So my advice now would be to change your build order according to the map and your own preferences. I tend to prefer CSM over raptors because in previous patches I became sick of raptors and CSM provide more support for your heretics.
The basic build order
2x heretic (the free one you start with and another one you build = 2).
Force labour barracks - it is best only to force labour them to half health as this at least means that anyone trying to kill them has to at least put some effort in.
LPs (map dependant - around 3)
CSM (as soon as Lord is done or just after)
Finish rest of LPs
Reinforce CSM squads taking 1 cultist squad and Lord to attack / defend (1 cultist left capping)
(Raptors if required – very useful when you already have 2xCSM esp vs SM/Eldar)
After first engagement usually build gen.
An example can be found here.
Small maps (e.g. Blood River) vs. Large maps (e.g. Meeting of Minds)
On small maps I use 1 heretic (no extra heretic) and 2 cultists. You can even get away with 1 cultist on some small 2v2 maps like ice flow. Why is blood river small? Partly the map size and partly the number of points available for capping (and the distance between them) – on small maps 1 heretic can just about keep up with the work required of him, on larger maps you will need 2.
Mobility maps (e.g. Fallen city) vs. Concentrated maps (e.g. Meeting of Minds)
On mobility maps there tend to be a lot of points with a lot of space between them – the two I have in mind are fallen city and outer reaches. Here raptors can cause massive problems to your opponent by travelling quickly between points and preventing him capping them. So guess what? Build raptors first. Quest’s triumph may also give you some joy with raptors in this role.
4 player maps (e.g. Tiborax) vs. 2 player maps (e.g. Battle Marshes)
On 4 player maps you have a lot more to think about. Where is my opponent and how can I capture the extra points? You must fight for map control and harass his cappers. Cultists are not good in this situation but you have no choice. Raptors can be a good choice here if you go for the harass option, equally you can just decide to seal off (your original quarter and) another quarter with CSM + Lord – saying to yourself I have half and you have half. I tend to prefer CSM because I enjoy it more.
Tech maps (e.g. Quest’s Triumph) vs. Rush maps (e.g. Blood River)
Think about when to get that first gen. On a rush map you’re more likely to come face to face with a big army, or be able to hurt him if he hasn’t built one. Reasons – distance between bases is smaller and there are no obvious choke points to defend. Tech maps require more teching and less troops. Probably get 2 squads of barracks troops + Lord but don’t reinforce until necessary, use the extra req for gens and maybe LP2 upgrade.
Notes vs specific races
SM – A lot of IMBA was addressed with 1.51 but these bad boys can still be a real problem for Chaos due to scouts having a free ride vs. heretics. If you know your opponent is SM go for CSM squad first. SM have surprisingly slow building damage in Tier 1. SM tacs will still outshoot CSM tacs but your Lord will beat his FC in 1v1 (and Lord is cheaper). Raptors will help disrupt his tacs.
Heavy weapon upgrades for CSM are rarely worth it because the SM ones are better and ASMs will almost certainly be used vs. your set-up heavy bolters making them useless.
Other points to note are that if he's gone heavy on infantry then build defilers (can CC missile squads and artillery disruption), if he's built dreds then go for preds and keep them moving as they can fire backwards. Whirlwinds will still own you.
Eldar – Reapers are no longer overpowered in Tier 1! But they are still nasty. If facing reapers then try to utilise cultists and raptors to chase the reapers whilst the CSM squad fires. It's very tricky if he uses FoF well. Banshees at least can be danced and the Lord is good vs. them. A good raptor harass against elder players is hard for them to defend.
IG –If they set up an early choke point it is often best to go around the side of it/jump over it, assaulting IG buildings head on is usually suicide in Tier 1. Any squads without commissars should be targeted as they will break quickly. Get to Asp champs with grenade launchers or heavy bolters on the squad as soon as you can. Cultist grenades are actually better at disrupting than the IG grenades. When IG squads fire their grenades they tend to focus on the same point thus they waste some splash damage, however cultist grenades spread out and tend to hit more squad members. The damage might not be as focused but the disruption is much more effective. You will need to be careful with your micro because the IG grenades do have an impressive range advantage, but it's not an impossible obstacle to overcome. You will often need vehicles before you try to assault their base. Take down any artillery ASAP, the damage on it is insane (deep strike horrors). I usually find that the key is to combine preds with horrors in Tier 2. Immediately target any sentinels and then rely on the fact they have no other anti vehicle (very few players use curse of the machine spirit well).
Chaos – Due to the raptor nerf (less jumps) Chaos mirror is fun again! If you have built raptors then head into his base to kill heretics, and then cultists. If he does chase you into his base keep your raptors moving and looking for soft targets (heretics and cultists). This match may well come down to who uses cultists better – deciding when to fight with them and when to cap with them.
Orks – vs Ork is a tricky match up because the BM is cheap, poweful and he is very mobile with his teleport. The Lord will of course beat him in a 1v1 but not if BM is attached to squad. Try to take advantage of low Ork morale with Lord's massive CC morale damage. Avoid those building guns and keep out of the way of his main army - if you have to - until you can overpower it – even if it means losing an LP.
Heavy weapon upgrades for CSM are rarely worth it because high HP nobz or teleporting BM will almost certainly be used vs. your set-up heavy bolters making them useless. Grenades for CSM (if you have a few squads) can often be very useful though (just for the 2 sec stun).
Ork Tier 2 is all about CC so if you're on the defensive maybe get a minefield or two around an LP2. The Sorc with chains is essential vs. an infantry based Ork Tier 2.
Preds are good vs Orks. Horrors are great vs. trucks and tracks but near useless vs killa kans.
Keep your head. If they do something unexpected just think logically. I was turret rushed by an Eldar player a few days ago. And I was like "errr what the hell do I do?" – the answer of course is to build your own turret with forced labour before he finishes his, it's simple just don't panic.
Now get out there and climb the ladder!