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Death Guard

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Death Guard


Legion Number XIV
Primarch Mortarion
Homeworld Barbarus
Current Base Plague Planet in the Eye of Terror
Chaos Affiliation Nurgle
Colours Putrid Green, Rusty Iron trim
Specialty Chemical & Biological Warfare[13], Bombardment, Heavy assault and attrition[84]
Battle Cry None.

The Death Guard, formerly known as the Dusk Raiders and known amongst themselves as the Unbroken[26a], were the XIV Legion of the original twenty Space Marine Legions. Their Primarch is Mortarion, who relocated their base to his homeworld of Barbarus after his discovery by the Emperor. During the Horus Heresy, Mortarion and the majority of the Legion swore allegiance to Horus, becoming one of the nine Traitor Legions who betrayed the Emperor. After Barbarus was destroyed during the Heresy, they relocated to the Plague Planet inside the Eye of Terror.[1]

Because of Barbarus's toxic environment, the Death Guard took great pride in their resistance to poisons, disease, and mortality in general. This fascination led them to worship the Chaos God Nurgle and in return he infests their armour with pestilence and disease, and elevated Mortarion to a Daemon Prince.[1]


Dusk Raider Space Marine[16d]

Dusk Raiders

Symbol of the Dusk Raiders[16b]

The base gene-seed stock of the Dusk Raiders, originally known as the XIVth Legion, came from Terra or more specifically the warlike and tough clans of Albia. In the Unification Wars the XIVth Legion quickly developed the use of tactics and methods of warfare that their ironside fore-bearers would have found familiar. Operating in the role of heavy infantry, they were experts at survival, endurance, and stubborn defense. Their grey Power Armour began to carry battle decorations as well as the modified imagery of Albia. As the Unification Wars came to an end and the Great Crusade began, the Emperor gave them the title of the Dusk Raiders, a nod to their use of the ancient Albian tactic of conducting major ground attacks at twilight when the shift of light confused an enemy's watch and gathering shadow would advance across open ground.[16b]

The Dusk Raiders' armour was originally unpainted, but with their right arm and both shoulders coloured crimson. This was done with the intent to show their enemies that they were the Emperor's red right hand, relentless and unstoppable. Many enemies simply threw down their weapons at nightfall so they didn't have to fight the terrifying Dusk Raiders.[2a]

For more then eight decades the Dusk Raiders fought across the Galaxy in the Great Crusade, earning a fierce reputation by failing to reunite with their Primarch.[16b]

The Great Crusade


When Mortarion was found by the Emperor upon the troubled world of Barbarus, he was swiftly given control of his Legion. Upon first seeing them he told them, "You are my unbroken blades. You are the Death Guard." The Legion's name was then changed in accordance with this decree, and Mortarion's words engraved above the airlock door of the Battle Barge Reaper's Scythe in honour of the moment.[2a] While the Legion was known as the Death Guard formally, its older members referred to themselves as the Unbroken, after Mortarion's words, in a tradition that still continues.[26a] Mortarion based the new Death Guard on his armoured toxin-resistant fighters of the same name that had fought beside him on Barbarus in the Overlord Wars. Their armour's colour was changed, and whilst their main armour remained unpainted, the trim colour became dark green. Mortarion's veterans of Barbarus formed the core of his new Legion.[16b]

Combat Disposition and Record

Before the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard differed from the other 17 known Legions in that they had only seven Great Companies, although these held far more men than those of other Legions such as the Ultramarines or Space Wolves. There were three privileged titles held by captains of the Death Guard. The captain of the First Company was known as the First Captain, the captain of the Second Company was known as Commander, and the captain of the Seventh Company was known as Battle-Captain.[Needs Citation]

The Death Guard tended to be organised into units of foot-slogging infantry, rather than mechanised squads. Mortarion ensured that his men were well-equipped and highly-trained. He also ensured that they could fight in almost any kind of atmosphere, and placed little emphasis on specialised units using jump packs or bikes. The Death Guard did not have dedicated Assault and Tactical Squads. Every Marine was equipped with a bolter, bolt pistol and close combat weapon and told to fight with whatever weapon circumstance dictated. The Legion was also well known for its use of Terminator Armour. Possibly as a result of this, the Death Guard were highly successful at high-risk boarding and close-quarter operations such as space hulk clearance.[1]

Heresy-era Death Guard Marine[60]

By the time of the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard is known to have had roughly 95,000 Space Marines.[16c]

The Horus Heresy

At the beginning of the Horus Heresy, many Death Guard who remained loyal to the Emperor were massacred on Isstvan III by their fellow Space Marines, including Captain Ullis Temeter. Roughly a third of the Legion was still loyal to the Emperor.[16c] Shortly after, they battled Imperial forces in the Drop Site Massacre. A number of Death Guard Marines, and one Luna Wolf who renounced his Sons of Horus status, led by Battle-Captain of the 7th Company Nathaniel Garro, remained loyal to the Emperor. They formed part of the crew of the Eisenstein, a frigate which ran the Traitor blockade in the Isstvan system in order to bring news of Horus' descent into Chaos to the Emperor on Terra.[Needs Citation]

During the Horus Heresy, the Death Guard joined Warmaster Horus in many battles and raids on the Imperium. The Lord of Death split his fleet, commanding one himself and Calas Typhon the other. Mortarion's smaller fleet led a failed attempt on Prospero to convince Jaghatai Khan and the White Scars to join with them, and the Mortarion found himself in combat with the Great Khan. After the White Scars managed to abandon the Death Guard fleet, Mortarion had his Legion embark on a spiteful purge of the Prospero System.[18] Mortarion then fought alongside Horus in the Battle of Dwell and Battle of Molech before rejoining Typhon's main fleet, which had been waging a campaign of misdirection and misery against the Dark Angels since the Battle of Perditus.[17] Later, Horus himself tasked Mortarion with finding and destroying the White Scars. Eager to settle the score with the Great Khan, the Death Guard and Emperor's Children allies under Eidolon cornered the Scars at the Dark Glass, but failed to destroy them in the Battle of Catallus. Angered, Mortarion realized that his divided legion was hampering his war effort and ordered Eidolon to find Typhon and his splinter fleet.[20] On the world of Ynyx, Typhon again showed himself and was secretly disappointed that Mortarion and his forces had yet to embrace the Ruinious Powers.[27a]

Plague Marines[61]

Fall of the Death Guard

When the Death Guard's fleet embarked for Terra Typhon made his move. The First Captain had his Grave Wardens frame and kill the Navigators, whom he alleged remained loyal to the Emperor, and assured his Primarch that he could lead the fleet to Terra without their help using his own corps of Librarians.[27a] Instead, he led them into a trap - becalming the Death Guard fleet in the warp, adrift, helpless and at the mercy of Chaos[19]. Then came the Destroyer Plague and the Death Guard were struck down, but Typhon received his reward from "Grandfather Nurgle" and he absorbed the full power of the plague from Ignatius Grulgor. His body became home to the flies of Nurgle, his armour a hive of pestilence. He then became Typhus, Herald of Nurgle and the Host of the Destroyer Hive[4b]. Mortarion himself succumb to the Destroyer Plague, facing its agony with his sons. Nurgle himself came before Mortarion, stating that if he did not pledge himself to the Plague God they would be doomed to torturous undeath for all eternity. Mortarion broke and pledged himself to Nurgle. Though the agony ended, the Death Guard were remade into a shambling army of diseased Plague Marines, bearing little resemblance to what first entered the Warp. Mortarion himself was remade into a Daemon Prince.[27b]

The forces of Horus besieged Terra and the Imperial Palace itself. After a breach in the Palace defensive wall was forced by Titans of the Legio Mortis Titan Legion, the Traitor Legions, including the Death Guard, poured into the breach only to be met by loyalist forces led by the Primarchs Rogal Dorn and Sanguinius. It is recorded that Mortarion personally led his pustulent Plague Marines into the thickest fighting that day.[4a] Following the departure of Perturabo and the Iron Warriors from the battle, Horus gave Mortarion command of the Lion's Gate Spaceport. However this was assailed in a sudden counterattack by Jaghatai Khan and the White Scars. At the height of the fighting, Mortarion and Jaghatai Khan dueled. At the end of the battle a badly wounded Jaghatai Khan managed to banish Mortarion to the Warp, while the loyalist Primarch himself grievously wounded. After the banishing of Mortarion command of the legion fell to Typhus.[64]

Horus Heresy Aftermath

After Horus' defeat, Mortarion led his Death Guard in a campaign of destruction over a score of planets, until finally retreating into the Eye of Terror. Here he received Nurgle's ultimate reward and became a full-fledged Daemon Prince, ruling over one of Nurgle's greatest Plague Worlds in the Eye of Terror. Mortarion sends out fleets of Plague Ships into the Warp to carry their contagions throughout the galaxy. Concerned himself with matters of the Warp more and more, Mortarion has periodically returned to lead his Legion but in his absence it has largely splintered into many smaller warbands.[1]

Recent activity of the Death Guard[25f]

However though it was factionalized, the Death Guard never fully disintegrated as a cohesive force. Their fragments continued to fight under a singular purpose, and never resorted to the civil in-fighting of many other Traitor Legions. The Death Guard remains one of the most ordered and coherent of all the surviving Traitor Legions.[25a] At the end of the 41st Millennium, Mortarion senses his Brother Primarch's rebirth and reasserted direct control over the Death Guard once more. The Death Guard launched a major assault on Ultramar in what became known as the Plague Wars.[23]

Notable Engagements

In timeline order:

Death Guard forces[57b]


Death Guard Chaos Space Marine[1]


The Death Guard's genetic traits always reflect the gaunt, shadow-eyed quality of their Primarch. Known for their hardiness, the contagion which led to their damnation corrupted them physically as well as spiritually. As a result the gene-seed of the Death Guard is putrid, infectious, and corrupted completely by Nurgle.[1-p75]

Home World

The Pre-Heresy Homeworld of the Death Guard was the toxic world of Barbarus. After exile into the Eye of Terror the Death Guard made the Plague Planet their new home.[1]

Culture & Tactics

Originally the Death Guard believed that humans should be free of oppression and that hardship should be faced with faith in inner strength, strong will and stern resolution. During the Heresy, these beliefs were twisted into contempt for the weak and the conviction that individuals were not fit to judge for themselves what was best for them.[1]

When the Legion was trapped and infected by Nurgle in the warp, their arrogance and contempt for weakness turned against them. Their surrender to Nurgle caused them to become self loathing and now they seek to spread ruin and decay in order to let their own fate appear less shameful in comparison.[1]

A modern Death Guard force is largely made up of Plague Marines, and still follows the doctrines that their Primarch Mortarion taught them. Their tactics are based on the use of foot-slogging infantry and their Bolters. Any vehicles that were in possession of the Death Guard at the time of the Horus Heresy have since fallen into disrepair or been commandeered by cheeky Nurglings.[1] The Death Guard make full use of Nurgle's gifts, spreading turmoil, advancing solidly amidst a mist of choking disease, surrounded by Nurglings at their feet and summoning horrific Plaguebearers from the Warp. In larger battles where the outcome is of dire importance, a decaying Daemon Prince may take the reigns of the army, or a Great Unclean One may posses a Champion.[Needs Citation]
Death Guard Marine without helmet[25b]

As with all aspects of the Death Guard, Mortarion has retained an iron grip upon the doctrines and dispositions of his champions. He expects even his most gifted sons to choose the path that best suits their talents, and then to cleave to it. In this way Mortarion ensures that even as the Lords of the Death Guard win the favour of Nurgle and progress along the path to glory, they still integrate with the pragmatic, infantry-based tactics of their warriors. Several specialties known collective as the Mantles of Corruption are practiced throughout the Death Guard, in particular their Chaos Lords.[25a]

Some Mantles of Corruption are taken up only rarely, and by the most unusually gifted individuals. The Mantles of Parasitism, Withering, and Flux are some such infrequently bestowed rewards. It is further rumoured that one mantle exists which none have ever been worthy of, and that it would transform its bearer into a being of pure, malefic entropy.[25a]


Organisation of the Post-Heresy Death Guard[54a]

Following the discovery of Mortarion, the Death Guard Legion was based on their Primarch's army of the same name on Barbarus. The Legion was divided into seven Great Companies, each with a nominal strength of 70,000 marines and divided into smaller battle companies. Some captains of the Great Companies had their own honorific titles based on Barbaran tradition; as such, the leader of the 2nd Company was known as 'Commander' while the leader of the 7th was known as 'Battle-Captain'.[2b] The Legion favored heavy infantry above all else, usually equipped for extended operations without resupply or support.[67]

Besides line infantry, the Legion also made heavy use of Dreadnoughts and Terminators. Despite a few exceptions such as the Grave Wardens, the Death Guard Legion lacked extensive elite units.[67] While not an especially large Legion, the Death Guard maintained a disprortionately potent fleet made up of heavy capital ships, many of which were relics from the Dark Age of Technology. Most infamous amongst these were the Terminus Est and Reaper's Scythe.[16e]

Due to Mortarion's traditionalism, the modern Death Guard uses roughly the same organization as it did before and during the Heresy. The primary force of the Death Guard consists of seven Plague Companies, each with its own mountain fortress on the Plague Planet. These Companies consist of thousands of warriors and their own fleets, aircraft, tanks, daemonic cohorts, and super-heavy vehicles, dwarfing modern Space Marine Chapters. Each Plague Company consists of Sepsis Cohorts of roughly seven hundred Plague Marines. A Sepsis Cohort is divided among two Maladictums, each with seven Colonies which in turn are broken up into seven squads.[25a] The current organization of the Death Guard consists of:[25a]

  • The 1st Plague Company - Known as The Harbingers. Ruled by Typhus and consists of the infamous Plague Fleet. Its ranks are infested with hundreds of strains of Zombie Plague.
  • The 2nd Plague Company - Known as The Inexorable. Favors mechanized assaults and boasts huge formations of tanks. Its warriors bear the Ferric Blight, which speckles their armour and vehicles with a crawling rust that infest foes.
  • The 3rd Plague Company - Known as Mortarion's Anvil. Excels in digging in and letting their foes bleed themselves against their defenses. They carry the Gloaming Bloat, a plague of fever sweats that slicks their armour and causes them to speak in wet gurgles.
  • The 4th Plague Company - Known as The Wretched. Ruled by the Daemon known as the Eater of Lives. Its members are wracked with the Eater Plague and prefer Sorcerers and summoning daemons.
  • The 5th Plague Company - Known as the Poxmongers, its members make great use of Daemon Engines. Its forces carry the Sanguous Flux, which causes endless half-clotted bleeding.
  • The 6th Plague Company - Called the Ferrymen or Brethren of the Fly, the 6th Plague Company garrisons the Death Guards fleets and acquires new ships for their armadas. Their numbers boasts large numbers of Terminators riddled with the parasite known as the droning.
  • The 7th Plague Company - Known as Mortarion's Chosen Sons. These are plague brewers and alchemists, blessed with the Crawling Pustulance.


Alongside the Black Legion and Word Bearers the Death Guard are one of the three traitor Legions that haven't fractured in the years since the Horus Heresy.[26b] The Legion fights for a singular purpose under the will of Mortarion, but until recently much of his rule had become remote due to his interest in the Warp.[1]

For all its theoretical cohesion, in reality the Death Guard Legion is broken up across thousands of galactic war zones, often at the whims of Chaos Lords, champions, and the like. These warbands vary hugely in size and composition, but all are known as vectoriums. Those that fight together for any length of time will be named by their leader, and will often adopt – or simply manifest – a unifying colour scheme. Most vectoriums are drawn from maladictums or colonies of the same plague company, but some can be more disparate still.[25a]

Following the Noctis Aeterna and formation of the Great Rift, Mortarion reasserted his control over the Death Guard and now leads it against the Imperium once more.[22]

Noted Elements of the Death Guard

Legion Artifacts

Main article: Death Guard Armoury
Death Guard forces[25d]


The Death Guard are known to have possessed the following vessels:[3]

All of the Legion's Heresy-era vessels are likely to have been stranded in the Warp following Typhon's treachery. The Terminus Est still exists, as does at least one other capital ship known as the Plagueclaw. It is possible that this is another of the ships listed above which has been renamed in honour of the Legion's Chaos worship.[Needs Citation]

By the time of the 13th Black Crusade, Typhus was in command of a powerful Death Guard fleet. This included the vessels Plagueclaw and Terminus Est as well as two other Battleships, three Heavy Cruisers, five Cruiser squadrons, and twelve Escort squadrons.[8b]

Notable Members

Heresy Era
Post Heresy
Unique Troops

See also