How to Beat Slaanesh with Joel McGrath

Following on from last week’s article, which discussed “Are Slaanesh OP?”, we’ll be taking a look at how to beat the bastards!

Joining me this week is none other than Australia’s #1 Slaanesh player, Mr Joel McGrath:

Joel has been running this army with great success, both before and after the book came out. In fact, Joel took Slaanesh to Australian Masters last year, which at the time was definitely a bold move!

Taking a very off-meta army into an environment where, by definition, every match is hard-fought against a strong opponent with a strong list, Joel nonetheless won the majority of his games (finishing up 3-2), which was an excellent achievement.

With the current Battletome to underpin the army, Joel has doubled down on his success with Slaanesh in 2019, by winning the Battle of the Northern Realms, a 2-day GT in Queensland, Australia.

Before we launch into it, I do have a couple of basic pointers of my own that I think are worth flagging up:

  • To avoid DP generation: 1-wound infantry is your friend! If Slaanesh summoning is causing you a lot of problems, everyone has access to 1-wound chaff that doesn’t give up Depravity; if not in their own army, then via Allies or even Mercs.
  • Check out my previous post for specific advice on how to place your models, if your goal is to minimise summoning.
  • In terms of countering Locus, one simple counter play to have in your pocket is multi-charging: If you can engineer a situation where two or more hammer units charge an isolated Slaanesh Hero, she can only apply Locus to one of them, leaving the other unit(s) free to layeth the smacketh down.

So now I’ll gladly hand you over to someone who actually knows his arse from his elbow: take it away, Joel!

Joel Spills the Beans

When Pete first asked me to do a write up on this particular subject, I couldn’t refuse, as nothing would give me more pleasure than to backstab my fellow followers of the Dark Prince.

So let’s get into it!

The First Principles

The first step on knowing how to beat Slaanesh, is knowing what makes Slaanesh tick.  Here’s a quick list of things you’d expect to see happening on the table when playing against them:

  • Slaanesh are super quick. One of the fastest armies in the game without question.
  • An almost abusive summoning mechanic.  Some argue that Depravity Points are broken, which they’re not.  But it is very good, and something you need to be mindful of when playing against them.
  • Insane damage output. Damage 5, rend everywhere, Mortal Wound output. The list goes on!
  • The most abusively powerful thing in a Slaanesh army is the Locus of Diversion. All Hedonite heroes have a relatively good chance to make you fight last in the Combat Phase… Every Combat Phase.
  • A surprisingly strong magic defence, with the Harp/Mirror combo especially.
  • A fair few ways to self-heal on Heroes: Spells, artefacts and the Hand on the Keeper’s Warscroll.
  • Double pile-in mechanic from the Keeper’s Command Ability makes them super strong in combat.
  • Daisy chain summoning. Probably the most effective way of daisy-chaining in the game, due to how much depravity you can generate.

So let’s balance this out and look at some of the weaknesses:

  • Slaanesh are super squishy. There is literally nothing in the entire book that has better than a 4+ save. No rend immunity, and fuck all Mortal Wound protection.  (Excluding the Contorted Epitome – which is probably the best unit in the book, more  to come on that later).
  • Apart from a few spells which have a wholly within 18” range (or worse), and the harp Shiela, there is realistically no shooting in the army.
  • There are no flying units in the army – everything is coming at you across the deck.
  • Did I already mention Slaanesh are super squishy?

With all that said, how do we beat Slaanesh?  Let’s break it down into the key points…

List building considerations

If you are looking to play the meta, then you should have already considered these. It’s just business as usual for us scrubs who can’t afford to chase the meta:

Shooting: Nice and simple to work out. You will need some form of ranged output in your list to beat Slaanesh. Otherwise you’ll be fighting uphill even more.

Chaff screens: Another no brainer.  Lack of flying really helps here.

MSU hammer units: these work well against Slaanesh to counteract the Locus.  Just make sure those units can deal 14 wounds against a 4+ save – the healing on the Keeper is full-on, so it’s your responsibility to make sure you can one-shot them.

Fast units: speed kills, and while Slaanesh are fast they only have the advantage if you’re slower than they are.

Durable anvil units: these can also work a treat. Something that can tank heaps of chaff attacks from Daemonettes will go a long way to winning the attrition game.


Slaanesh can’t generally teleport or summon in their Turn 1, unless you failed at an alpha. So you won’t need to give much thought in screening off your backfield. Just make sure you measure the threat ranges, check if a keeper has Thermalrider, and don’t leave any gaps.

You can cancel out the double pile-in pretty easily at the Deployment stage.  This ability can only trigger when an enemy unit (one of yours) is within 3”, so by leaving gaps greater than this between your screens and the units they are shielding, you can choke it off at the source. 

Look for opportunities to bait out Keepers.  Slaanesh players running Godseekers love to go fast, over extend and gift you the death of their Keepers / Bestigor / Daemonettes Turn 1. Keep this in mind when deploying.  Dangle something that will tempt them in, set up for a counterpunch and laugh at the noob across the table while you rack up all the points on Objectives.

If you have units that can deploy off the table and come on somewhere in your turn: Do it!  Because Heroes are crucial to this army, anything that can threaten them by dropping out of the sky will either force the Slaanesh player to waste disproportionate resources by screening front and back, or let you go to work on their Heroes who aren’t as well defended as they should be.

Combos to watch out for:

  • Thermalrider Cloaked Keeper of Secrets. This fucker can move 18” and fly over your screens. Make sure there’s nowhere for them to go, so she can’t fit in between your lines of shit. Deny her a landing zone: you want to create a bit of distance where applicable against Slaanesh.
  • Keeper’s Command Ability + any killy unit (including themselves). Double pile-ins are nasty. But they are exceptionally fucked when you’re also fighting last.
  • Epitome + Enrapturess. The Mirror / Harp combo. Guaranteed to fuck Tzeentch’s hero phase in the ass. You are forced to reroll successful casts, and if it’s a double on the reroll you take D3 mortals. The Epitome gets to reroll its casting, unbinding and dispelling.
  • Speaking of Tzeentch, you might see Kairos allied into a Slaanesh list. He’s the only non-Slaanesh hero that can generate Depravity Points (if a nearby Keeper knows the Song of Secrets spell, then he does too). Slothful Stupor is a very powerful spell, especially when it is cast through the Umbral Spellportal…by a Tzeentch Hero of all things! 
  • He will also change the game and break your heart, when that one time your opponent does actually roll a 1 for Locus…he changes the result.  As a clutch Hero who can generate Depravity (but won’t earn it by taking wounds), Kairos represents a priority target.
  • Spellportals you say?  One combo I do like is casting Hysterical Frenzy through it. This spell can Fuck.  Hordes.  Up.  It is wholly within 18” range, but that’s what the portals are for!

Target priority

You might be surprised when I tell you not to worry about the Keeper straight away.  It’s one model who is surprisingly whiffy.  Let it do its thing, feed it chaff and who cares.  Deal with it on your terms, unless it’s right in your face.  Unless your Slaanesh opponent is running the Super Keeper General – then all bets are off. That’s a scary motherfucker you don’t want roaming free.

Slaanesh players have a habit of going really top-heavy in their lists to get the most out of Depravity Points. I personally think this is a trap. But it’s great for you, reader!  Kill off their bodies and start scoring those Objectives.

Kill off the support Heroes before the Keeper. These Heroes are usually in the backfield or second wave. By killing them, and feeding chaff to the Keepers, you will limit where they can summon – this is a really key point!

Bringing It All Together: Overall Strategy

I’ve hinted at a few things through this write-up, so let’s bring it all together and highlight the key points:

  • Deploy smart. Ask for threat ranges, ask if one of the Keepers flies, and then simply don’t let your opponent get in your face Turn 1.  That’s one turn fewer of Depravity generation.
  • Kill the heroes outright.  Don’t leave them on a wound, if you commit to killing one make sure it drops.  That’s one less Hero your opponent can summon around.
  • Prioritize the support Heroes and infantry.  Control the board and choke your opponent’s summoning options.  The summoning mechanic isn’t great when they can’t use it effectively.  The support Heroes don’t usually have many wounds, so by getting rid of these it’s a double negative for your opponent.
  • Kill the Keeper on your terms. Don’t be afraid of a single Monster. Don’t get me wrong, they can spike damage and that sucks.  But for the most part, outside of a Pretenders Keeper they aren’t hitting much harder than a Ghorgon.  And when you do kill the Keeper, make sure it dies in one go. They have solid healing potential, and you don’t want to give your opponent more free Depravity Points.

I think we’ll leave it there: I hope people get something out of this. And thanks to Pete for giving me the opportunity!

Thanks Joel – Well there you have it, Mr Slaanesh has sold the family silverware! 

No excuses for anyone losing to Slaanesh now, just go out there and dominate. 

And if you want to see Slaanesh in action, make sure you subscribe to the Measured Gaming YouTube channel, where Joel and the boys regularly put Slaanesh through their paces in some great tactical batreps.


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