A case for why Chaos is the worst faction overall in the Conquest LCG.
The following is an argument for why Chaos is the worst overall faction in the Conquest LCG as of this article. Note that the following is my opinion and I welcome discussion about it. I know that Chaos has some success, but that doesn't mean they're good straight up.
*Warlords (And sort of units):
Chaos has two very strong warlords. And this is probably one of the main reasons for why Chaos suffers so bad. Hear me out on this. On paper, Zarathur is potentially one of the best warlords in the game.His ability to increase all damage dealt to the opponent's units is extremely powerful. However, I believe that this ability is one of the major reasons that Chaos suffers as a faction. Because of Zarathur's ability, FFG has to consider its implications with each and every Chaos card they make (as well as common Ork and Dark Eldar cards). Because of this, many Chaos cards are far more inefficient than similar cards in other factions. Take into consideration Ravening Psychopath. On it's own, when compared to a similar card like Tactical Squad Cardinis, it is much less powerful. Same stats and cost, but it's ability only deals 1 extra damage and at the cost of the unit damaging itself. However, if a card exactly like TSC were in Chaos, it would be far too powerful by virtue of Zarathur's ability. So the first major point I want to make is that Chaos units and other damaging effects are very weak compared to other factions because of the presence of Zarathur and his ability. Also, I do realize that Ravening Psychopath can deal both its attack damage and its ability damage to the same unit, so it and TSC are not perfect comparisons, but they're close.
Ku'Gath is a very strong warlord as well, though he suffers some from the "Not Being Zarathur" syndrome. That is, he uses the same cards that Zarathur does, but they are inherently a lot worse because they are tailored with Zarathur's ability in mind. Many cards such as the aforementioned Ravening Psychopath, Rotten Plaguebearers, and many other cards are unused in Ku'Gath because, quite frankly, they are bad with him. Now, of course, warlords are going to have different preferences, but I think many of us can agree that there are certain units within each faction that get an extreme amount of use by all warlords in that faction (Snakebite Thug, Warlock Destructor, Indominable, Klaivex, etc). Within Chaos, there aren't a lot of units or cards like that. Of course, there are some like Chaos Fanatics, Splintered Path Acolyte, Warpstorm, etc. But that is more out of necessity than usefulness more often than not.
Finally, we have Ba'ar Zul, which is almost globally considered to be the worst warlord in the game. And I agree. He has great signature cards, but his ability to so weird and unusual, and he has gotten literally zero support. It's not really clear what cards go well with him over someone like Ku'Gath, so most people just play Ku'Gath instead. So Chaos, right now anyway, essentially has two warlords to choose from.
Chaos has some of the worst command in the game. I would hesitate to say their command is worse than Orks, but it is very close. The only good "command" unit available to Chaos within its own Faction is Chaos Fanatics. Chaos' most commonly taken ally, Orks, also have very little to offer for good command units. DE, on the other hand, can help with command a good deal through Sslyth and Incubi, but Chaos rarely takes DE allies over Orks due to the "God Tier" card Ammo Depot and more solid units like Snakebite Thug, Goff Brawlers, and so on. In a game where a strong command game is very important, I often find when I play as Chaos that the faction has a very difficult time keeping up. Cards like Slaanesh's Temptation are good to help with that, but you only have 3 copies of that card in a deck compared to the opponent's several cheap, good command cards. Chaos would only need one or two solid command units to help fix this problem. I was excited with Seer of Deceit, but after a lot of playtesting it's just not there. Add in that Zarthur's ability is so good that he often cannot afford to command snipe, and the fact that Ba'ar Zul has 0 attack while Hale, and you have only 1 warlord left that can command snipe, and that's Ku'Gath.
Most factions have a very good selection of 1 drops (and, to some extent, 0 drops). 1 drops are very important in Conquest because they allow you to use all 7 of your resources a lot easier. They are also good deploy stalls and allow you to save the bulk of your resources for larger, more impactful plays later in the deploy phase. They are also generally good economy units. Chaos does not have this luxury. Chaos does not have ANY units that they can play for 0 unless you're counting Promise of Glory, which isn't an awful option (More on that card specifically later), but doesn't help command or combat really. As for one drop units, they have 2 (and neither of them are very stellar): Heretek Inventor, and Splintered Path Acolyte. Heretek Inventor is theoretically a good deal, but more often than not it sits on a single-resource planet, or planet 5, and basically doesn't really pull its weight. Late game, the card is almost completely useless because it can't generally take part in key battles, and late game you're often either winning command or losing it already. Multiples of this card become even less useful because the opponent typically ends up piling them all on the same planet, making them even more useless. Finally, a cunning player will put them on a planet they don't need to win, where they will sit and rot. Then you have Splintered Path Acolyte. This card is one of those cards that lots of other people like and I completely hate. First of all, its a terrible bargain stat-wise. 1 for a 1/1/1 is not good. In addition, it's ability requires you sacrifice it to get 2 resources that can ONLY be used to summon daemons. Since every daemon other than the two signatures ones and the single Rotting Plaguebearers are elites, this guy forces elites to be of any REAL use. Additionally, if you don't have a daemon in hand, or not enough resource to play said daemon this turn, this card more often than not gets sniped. It's not a combat unit, and it's not a good command unit, so its only real function is daemon summoning, and technically, it's very bad at that too.
When I consider a card that is solely used for its ability, I assume that its effect costs about 1.5 resources, since I value cards at 1.5 resources. Some people value cards at 2 resources, but I am optimistic and set it at 1.5. So going back to SPA. It's not a command or combat unit, so it's primary function is its ability. So when you consider that fact, you're paying 2.5 resources (its cost plus the cost of a card in your deck/hand) to get 2 resources that can only be spent on daemons. This is a terrible trade. At least with promise of glory, you're paying 1.5 resources for 2. So anyway, that being said, SPA is not good at any of the 3 things a unit can be good at. Also, as a smaller note, since it's a Tzeentch card, it very often interferes with Shrine of Warpflame.
Every faction has garbage cards. Whether they are cards that will forever be bad, or cards that are bad but can become good. However, I personally feel that Chaos has a disproportionate amount of garbage cards. Cards that just literally never see play at all (competitively). Turbulent Rift, Blight Grenades, Killing Field, Alpha Legion Infiltrator, Runic Armour, Doom Siren (!), Ecstatic Seizures, Umbral Preacher, Death Guard Infantry, Seer of Deceit, Virulent Plague Squad, Possessed, and Ancient Keeper of Secrets are all cards that, in my opinion, currently, are unplayable. That is a staggering amount of completely useless cards.
Chaos has almost no playable 3 drops. The only one that is actually playable is Khorne Berserker, and it's quickly getting less and less useful with the creep of the game. Noise Marine Zealots are alright-ish in Zarathur, but otherwise lackluster.
*Elite Focus and Daemon Economy:
Chaos is a faction with an interesting mechanic: you can sacrifice cultist tokens to reduce the cost of daemons. In theory, this is very cool and a neat mechanic (and fluffy too). However, in practice, it's just not very good. Why is it not good? Well there are 3 parts to it. Part one is that, quite frankly, there isn't enough cultist token generation. There are a total of 3 cards that generate cultists tokens. Of those cards, only one of them is really usable in my opinion. The cards are Promise of Glory (usable), Xavaes Split-Tongue (almost usable, but hard to get to work most of the time), and Throne of Vaneglory (not usable yet, and probably never will be). Splintered Path Acolyte can be thrown in here as well, but again, you're basically losing efficiency here to get that 1 extra daemon resource so I am not a huge fan. In my decks with a solid number of daemons, I run SPA, but it's because I basically have to, not because I want to.
The second part is that most of the Chaos elites aren't all that great if played without cultist economy. GPB is a great card... when it doesn't cost 5. GPB works alright when you have to play it for 5, but there are honestly better options for less. Warpstorm is a great example. For 3 cost, you're dealing 3 to every enemy at a planet (or two to HQ). Sure, you lose the 1/3/5 body, but it's a lot more cost effective. GPB is only a "great" deal when it costs less than 5. Most of the other Chaos elites are nothing to write home about either. Frenzied Bloodthirster is effectively unplayable other than with the battle effect that lets you put him into play for free. Same with the Heldrake. Keeper of Secrets isn't good because it has poor stats for its cost, and there aren't enough cultists to really keep it going for long. Soul Grinders are okay, but suffer from Chaos' bad command structure. Possessed are scary, but way too easy to deal with, especially in the current meta. The Bloodletters are good enough to run sometimes, but again, they aren't worth their full cost in my opinion and suffer from being shut down too easily just like Possessed. Flesh Hounds suffer from low impact compared to their cost (compare to the Leman Russ Conquorer, which people trash hard) and not enough cultist sac support. Finally, Prodigal Sons Disciple is actually quite great for its cost, but it's not a daemon, so most people shy away from it because you have to always pay full price.
Finally, the third problem here is that elites generally are not as impactful as several other cheaper cards. I know there is starting to be more elite support, and this fact may change my opinion in the coming cycle, but currently there just isn't enough reason to run elites over cheaper units (In chaos anyway) other than GPB. It's starting to get there though. Cards like STC Fragment, Backlash (sort of), Sowing Chaos, Shadowfield, and so on are forcing decks to be a little bit heavier. But currently elites are basically inherently weaker than non-elites.
*Almost No Tricks:
Again, people will probably disagree with me here a lot, but compared to most other factions, chaos is very predictable. There aren't a lot of tricks that Chaos has (that are good). Mostly just Warpstorm and Infernal Gateway. Berzerker Warriors sort of kind of helped, but not really. Tzeentch's Firestorm can be a trick in a pinch, but its very inefficient. EDIT: A lot of people have quoted things here like Slaanesh's Temptation and Sowing Chaos. ST is not a trick. You usually play it as your first card in the turn, and the opponent has to play around it. That's like saying that playing a BAV is a trick. It's not. The opponent has to deal with it just like Slaanesh. Sowing is sort of a trick, but again, it's a deploy action. A cunning player will play around that card. It's not really a trick because when it is played, the combat math changes and the opponent can respond (by playing more units, changing where they send their warlord, etc).
*And finally, No Shields:
Chaos just got a new 2-shield card. So that helps a lot. Chaos only has 4 2-shield cards. Of those 2 shield cards, one of them is literally completely useless (Doom Siren). Tzeentch's Firestorm is decent. Warp Rift is exciting, but it remains to be seen how useful it is. And finally, Slaanesh's Temptation is so important to helping Chaos not lose the economy war that is is almost never played as a two-shield unless times are dire.
Chaos is the WORST DESIGNED faction in my opinion. It's not unplayable. Ku'Gath Smasha decks are running rampant now. But in general, it's weaker than every other faction. Zarathur makes them have to deal with inefficient units. But the faction as a whole is very weak and is only playable because it is carried by two very powerful warlords. They have poor command and almost no good 0-, 1-, or 3-drops. They have a plethora of garbage / unplayable cards. Their focus on daemon economy and elites is, for now, very weak in the current meta and largely unsupported. They have a dirge of 2 shield cards, and they just don't have that many tricks.
*Ways they can fix these issues:
Unfortunately, they cannot fix Zarathur being in the game (unless they FAQ him, but they won't). What they can do is really brain storm on cards that will be good with him but still usable with other warlords. They can also make cards that will specifically benefit Ba'ar Zul to make him more playable. Cards that attach to Khorne units (meaning they could attach to the warlord to make him better), cards that work when your warlord is bloodied or damaged, and other similar cards would potentially benefit him over other warlords.
Command could be fixed with one, or two, really solid command cards.
Chaos needs a bigger pool of 1 drops. They're getting the Nurgling, but I am not sure it's really going to help Chaos overall.
They can make a lot of the garbage cards more playable by releasing cards that synergize with them. For example, they can make a chaos unit with Area Effect to make Doom Siren playable (again, we're getting the Noise Marine, but its actually terrible with Doom Siren). The Nurglings will make Blight grenades better. Etc.
Fixing the Daemon Economy can be done with 2 simple changes: Add more cultist generation that is usable (No more Vaneglory) and give Chaos some daemons that aren't elites. Also, any buffs to elites will generally help here.
And of course, add a couple more 2 shield cards (that are playable, stupid Doom Siren).
Feel free to discuss. I am sure that people will argue this post quite a bit. But I have played Chaos since the game was released, and I just see them getting less in every cycle than nearly every other faction. I am an avid Chaos fan, and I want Chaos to be good. I am just not sure that it really is right now. Here's hoping for more support in the Death World Cycle.