The Top 10 Space Marine Chapters in Warhammer 40k

When faced with the horrors of the galaxy, the Imperium calls upon warriors that are beyond human...

The survival of the Imperium of Man can be credited to the continued efforts of the Space Marines. Divided into a thousand chapters, each at least a thousand marines strong, they are genetically superior warriors who fight against inhuman foes and impossible odds. To honor these thankless heroes, here’s a list of the top ten chapters, highlighting the best of the best from among humanity’s finest.

10) The Blood Ravens

Blood Angels Space Marines

The Blood Ravens introduced many gamers to the world of Warhammer 40k, and their exploits have been one of the primary focuses of the Dawn of War series.

The Blood Ravens aren’t your typical chapter, having been made outside the actual lore for the purpose of starring in the hit video game series Dawn of War. Prior to the corruption in their Chapter nearly destroying them in Dawn of War 2, they were reknowned for possessing large amounts of psychic librarians in their ranks. In the lore, they are primarily known for seeking out ancient artifacts of their chapter, their leaders desperate to learn more about their enigmatic past.

Rumors abound as to the identity of the mysterious entity that the Blood Ravens revere as the “Unknown Primarch.” Given their imagery and name, many attribute their origins as successor chapters of either the Raven Guard or the Blood Angels. The high number of psykers have led many to think that their origins are far darker, crediting their parentage to the traitor legion The Thousand Sons.

9) Iron Hands

Iron Hands Space Marines

The Iron Hands skirt the border between man and machine, constantly removing their own body parts to replace it with pure metal.

The Iron Hands were one of the original Space Marine Legions that helped the Emperor of Mankind in his crusade to conquer the Milky Way Galaxy. Named after the silvery hands of their primarch, their initiates must remove one of their hands and replace it with a cybernetic fist in order to become a part of the Chapter. They are a grim chapter, the dark days of the Horus Heresy still bringing shame to them after so many millennia.

The Iron Hands carry an ancestral guilt, ever seeking to atone for their failure to save their father, the Primarch Ferrus Manus, and to purge the weakness they perceive in their own flesh. Due to the fact that Ferrus was the first primarch to be slain during the Horus Heresy, the Iron Hands have increasingly bitter and unhinged over the many centuries. They have formed close ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus because of their obsession, and some are rumored to have become entirely machine because of this relationship.

8) Black Dragons

The Black Dragons throw themselves into the harshest of battles, ever eager to atone for their sin of being mutants.

Part of the Cursed Founding, the Black Dragons are haunted by their own corruption. In a society that shuns mutation, they are shamed by a peculiarity in their gene-seed causes them to grow long, retractable bone spikes from their arms, as well as a crest from their head. Despite this abnormality, the Black Dragons’ gene-seed is still pure under the most stringent of genetic testing, and they continue to serve under an Imperium which distrusts them.

Despite their poor treatment, the Black Dragons have an unwavering devotion to the peoples of the Imperium, and throw themselves headlong into the deadliest of warzones. Nine out of ten of their companies were present at the Third War of Armageddon, slaughtering scores of Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka’s orks boys. They also stood as a bulwark against the Curse of Unbelief, a plague that swept through the Gothic Sector, protecting imperial citizens from the zombified infected.

7) Space Wolves

Space Wolves Space Marine

Few creatures can bare the weight of a fully armored Space Marine, but the wolves of Fenris are massive predators, and work well with their Space Wolf masters.

The feral sons of the ice world Fenris, the Space Wolves, or Vylka Fenryka in their own tongue, have always served the Imperium as its executioners. When the Horus Heresy broke out, the Emperor’s chosen advisor Malcador sent teams of them to each primarch, ready to assassinate them should they turn their back on the Imperial Truth. Now, ten thousand years after that galaxy wide war, they continue to hunt down traitors to the Imperium and give them a brutal death.

The Space Wolves also suffer from a bizarre quirk in their gene-seed that causes steady mutation over time, giving them physical traits of wolves. Covered in coarse fur and growing claws and fanged muzzles, the Space Wolves are constantly watched by the Inquisition. They are also one of the few Space Marine Chapters to make use of cavalry, riding into battle on massive Fenrisian wolves.

6) Blood Angels

Blood Angels Space Marines

The Blood Angels make heavy use of jump packs, giving them great mobility as they cross otherwise treacherous terrain.

At the height of the Horus Heresy, Primarch Sanguinius sacrificed himself to protect the Emperor. At that moment he let loose a psychic scream that forever altered his sons, the Blood Angels. Now they suffer from the Black Rage, a condition that makes certain members of their Chapter go insane, believing that they are Sanguinius at the Battle of Terra. As though that weren’t enough, they also carry an affliction called the Red Thirst, giving them a vampiric lust for blood that contrasts heavily with their majestic profile.

The Blood Angels are noble warriors, even if they suffer from such critical mutations in their gene-seed. They wage war across the Imperium, protecting its citizens from both alien and traitor forces, all while standing resplendent in their armor, serving as a sign of the perfection that all humanity can reach. They also make heavy use of assault squads, soaring into battle on wings of flame as they descend upon unsuspecting foes.

5) Salamanders

Salamanders Space Marines

The Salamanders are named after volcano dwelling creatures from their home world, and make heavy use of both bolter and flame weapons when committing themselves to war.

At first glance the Salamanders are a terrifying force, even compared to the genetically altered warriors of other Space Marine Chapters. Their skin is jet black, and their eyes glow with a deep, red luminescence like burning coals. This appearance betrays their true nature, as they are among the most compassionate space marine forces in the Imperium, going out of their way to protect civillians and ensure their safety.

The Salamanders are the sons of Primarch Vulkan, and have kept up the tradition of using heavy amounts of flamer weapons since his disappearance thousands of years ago. Their leaders push them to explore the unknown edges of the Imperium, searching for artifacts left by Vulkan as a test of their devotion. When all the artifacts have been recovered he will return to them, and as the 41st millennium draws to a close, he is increasingly needed.

4) Flesh Tearers

Flesh Tearers Space Marines

The Flesh Tearers are cursed by their genetic defects, but still charge into battle, making heavy use of chain weapons to cut down their foes.

The Flesh Tearers are melee specialists without peer, hailing from a planet similar to prehistoric Earth. Initiates hoping to earn a place in the Chapter must go out into the primordial jungles of this world and hunt some of the massive, reptilians beasts that reside there. When they return its bloodied corpse to the chapter’s fortress, they are welcomed as a new member and given their first set

The Flesh Tearers are a successor chapter of the Blood Angels, and, because of this, they are cursed with the same defects as their forbearers. Their gene-seed has proven even more unstable than any other chapter, and almost all of their initiates go insane within their first few decades of service. The Flesh Tearer’s apothecaries work tirelessly, searching for a cure to save their chapter before it is consumes them.

3) Ultramarines

Ultramarines Space Marines

The Ultramarines are master tacticians, holding their formation even when assailed by the darkest horrors that lurk within the Galaxy.

The Ultramarines are the standard through which other Space Marine Chapters are judged. Following the Codex Astartes, they are a tactically superior force that follow strict combat doctrine tested over countless conflicts. Centered on their home world Macragge, they are heralded as the defenders of hundreds of worlds.

The Ultramarines hold the distinction of being the first Imperial force to fight against the alien menace of the Tyranids. As such, their ranks are filled with veterans from the Tyrannic Wars that almost consumed their home world. Highly trained, well equipped, and supported by the entire Ultrima Segmentum, there are few forces in the galaxy that can hope to challenge the Ultramarines.

2) Grey Knights

Grey Knights Space Marines

The Grey Knights are the ultimate weapon against daemons and heretics, charging into battles that would otherwise be impossible to win.

The Grey Knights are the military arm of the Ordo Malleus, the branch of the Imperial Inquisition that deals with battling the against chaos daemons. Sealed in silver armor and armed with weapons specially made to damage the creatures of the warp, they are sent into battlefields twisted by the corrupting influence of Chaos. Where any other force would fall or be turned by the whispers of the chaos gods, they remain resolute and achieve impossible victories.

The Grey Knights are wholly incorruptible, able to wage prolonged battle against the forces of Chaos without ever wavering in their devotion to the Emperor of Mankind. Many attribute this to the elevated standard that their recruits are subjected to, though the truth may lie in their unique gene-seed. It is rumored that the Grey Knight’s gene-seed originates from the Emperor of Mankind himself, giving them a special connection to the master of mankind.

1) Black Templars

Black Templar Space Marines

The Black Templar are both devoted to their cause and ruthless in their pursuit of their enemies, chasing them beyond the Imperium’s borders.

Few Chapters operating in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium can match the sheer ferocity and devotion of the Black Templars. Measuring at over six times the average chapter number, they wage massive crusades to capture or reclaim planets, bringing entirely new systems into the Imperial fold. Establishing a chapter fortress on each newly conquered world, they are perpetually supplied, bursting with new recruits, and ever ready to seek out the enemies of mankind in their own territory.

The Black Templar are so fanatically devoted to their cause that they shun anything to do with the Warp. As such, they openly reject psykers and do not accept them into their ranks, meaning that they lack librarians. Despite this, they have some of the best melee specialists in the Imperium, and the resources to devastate whole stellar empires.

From this list, it’s clear that the Space Marines sport a great level of diversity from group to group, ranging from their color schemes, tactics, and choice of weapons. This gives players interested in getting into the wargaming hobby great level of freedom in choosing what chapter their space marine army depicts. No matter your personality or playstyle, there will be a chapter that suits you, just look into the setting’s massive collection of lore.

Sorcerer and scribe, I am always seeking out new stories, new worlds, new horrors. Delving into dusty libraries and tombs, I work to drag the Weird into the light, even if its not a very good idea...
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