The Death Guard: 7 Pestilent Legions Rotting the Galaxy

Death Guard

The Death Guard: 7 Pestilent Legions Rotting the Galaxy

The Death Guard are one of the original 9 Traitor Legions of Chaos Space Marines. Once the XIV Legion of Astartes who fought nobly for the Emperor during the Great Crusade, the Death Guard are now fully dedicated to spreading the plague and pestilence of Nurgle across the galaxy.

Tracing their origins as the XIV Legion, known as the Dusk Raiders, through their reunification with their Primarch Mortarion and their subsequent fall to Chaos during the Horus Heresy.

Interested in printing your own army? Read here for The Best 3d Printers for Miniatures

Key takeaways include:

  1. The Death Guard’s fall to Chaos is a tragic tale of nobility corrupted and the dangers of unwavering loyalty.
  2. Mortarion’s Legion has maintained a greater degree of unity and cohesion than many of the other Traitor Legions, thanks in part to their Primarch’s enduring leadership.
  3. The Death Guard specialize in wars of attrition, using their unnatural resilience and mastery of disease to grind the enemy down.
  4. Unique units like the Plague Marines, Blightlord Terminators, and Foetid Bloat-Drones make the Death Guard a formidable and highly distinct Chaos force.
  5. The Legion’s battles against Tyranid Hive Fleets represent a nightmarish form of biological warfare, with each side seeking to out-evolve and out-contaminate the other.

Death Guard Legion Overview

Legion Number: XIV

Primarch: Mortarion

Original Homeworld: Barbarus

Current Homeworld: Plague Planet

Allegiance: Nurgle, Chaos

Estimated Strength: 95,000 Heretic Astartes

Specialty: Infantry-based warfare, attrition, chemical and biological weapons

Battle Cry: None, for death should come silently

The Dusk Raiders

The XIV Legion was originally known as the Dusk Raiders. Hailing from the tough clans of Old Albia on Terra, they quickly garnered a reputation as a highly resilient Legion, expert in wars of attrition.

They bore unpainted grey armor with crimson right arms and shoulders – this symbolized their role as the Emperor’s red right hand, relentless and unstoppable. Many foes would surrender rather than face the implacable Dusk Raiders in battle.

Interested in building your own Death Guard set? Checkout our guide for Death Guard Miniature Starter Set

Reunification with Mortarion

When the Dusk Raiders were reunited with their Primarch Mortarion on the poisonous world of Barbarus, he renamed them the Death Guard. New recruits from the hardy population of Barbarus were inducted and Mortarion remade the Legion in his image – stoic, infantry-focused, and proud of their ability to endure any hardship and prevail against all odds.

The Death Guard earned many battle honors in the Emperor’s service during the Great Crusade, always at the forefront of the most hellish warzones. Mortarion’s resilient gene-seed and brutal training regimen ensured that the XIV Legion could weather attrition and privation that would cripple other Astartes.

They became known for their alchemical weapons and tactic of mercilessly grinding the foe down through slow advance and close-range firefights.

The Horus Heresy

When the Warmaster Horus first revealed his treachery on Isstvan III, the Astartes of the Death Guard who remained loyal to the Emperor were purged by life-eater virus bombing, their own traitorous Battle-Brothers advancing to finish the survivors.

At the subsequent Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V, the Death Guard turned on their former brothers, playing a key role in the near-destruction of the loyal Salamanders, Raven Guard and Iron Hands Legions.

As the Heresy raged on, the Death Guard were becalmed in the Warp by the machinations of the Dark Gods and assailed by the nightmarish plagues of Nurgle. Desperate to save his sons, Mortarion pledged the Legion to Father Nurgle in exchange for survival – a salvation that would forever damn the Death Guard to servitude.

Physically and spiritually transformed into the grotesque Plague Marines, the Death Guard went on to besiege Terra before being driven back into the Eye of Terror along with the rest of the Traitor Legions.


Before the betrayal of Horus, the Death Guard were organized into seven over-strength Great Companies, each commanded by powerful Captains who bore unique titles such as ‘Commander’ or ‘Battle-Captain.’

Specialist units in the pre-Heresy Death Guard included:

  • The Deathshroud – Mortarion’s elite Terminator-armored bodyguard.
  • Grave Wardens – Specialized Terminator units armed with deadly alchemical and rad weapons.
  • Destroyer Squads – Troops equipped with outlawed chem-munitions and rad weaponry.


In the 41st Millennium, the Death Guard are organized into seven Plague Companies, each consisting of thousands of Plague Marines and led by powerful Lords and Daemon Princes. Each Company claims one of the seven hulking fortress-monoliths that protrude from the Plague Planet’s corrupted crust.

The Plague Companies are further divided into multiple Sepsis Cohorts, each cohort broken down into two Maladictums, and each Maladictum consisting of seven Colonies. The Colonies form the basic fighting units of the Death Guard, each comprising seven squads of seven Plague Marines.

The hierarchy of the Death Guard includes many unique ranks and specialists, such as:

  • Lords of Virulence – Brutal commanders who favor close-assault tactics.
  • Lords of Contagion – Implacable warriors clad in Terminator armor, armed with manreapers.
  • Foul Blightspawn – Wielders of deadly plague sprayers, often used to bolster Poxwalker hordes.
  • Blightlord Terminators – Nurgle-infested Terminators whose maul-like fists and combi-weapons spell doom for the enemy.
  • Plague Surgeons – Twisted parodies of Apothecaries who delight in spreading new contagions.
  • Noxious Blightbringers – Daemon-possessed Plague Marines bearing dolorous nurglings and pest-censers that amplify disease.

Each Plague Company has its own favoured methods of war, often aligned with the proclivities and particular contagions of its Lord.

For example, the 1st Plague Company — known as the Harbingers and led by Typhus himself — make prodigious use of Poxwalker hordes infected with the Zombie Plague, while the 2nd Plague Company, the Ferric Blight, favor armored assaults backed by daemon engines.

Nurgle not your jam? Want to get in touch with your inner Khorne? Checkout our Khorne Starter Set for Warhammer 40k

Plague Companies

Each of the Death Guard’s seven Plague Companies has its own unique character and favored methods of war.

1st Company, “The Harbingers”: Led by Typhus himself, the Harbingers’ ranks are filled with marines infected with the Zombie Plague. They overwhelm the enemy with shambling hordes of mindless, disease-ridden Poxwalkers.

2nd Company, “The Ferritic Blight”: Masters of armored assault, the Ferritic Blight employ vast formations of tanks and daemon engines. Their vehicles are caked in rust and oozing slime, their engines roaring with daemonic fury.

3rd Company, “The Droning”: The Droning are known for their prodigious use of Foetid Bloat-Drones. These nightmare engines buzz across the battlefield, spreading clouds of plague flies and noxious gases.

4th Company, “The Eaters of Life”: Commanded by a mighty Daemon Prince, the Eaters of Life delight in summoning the daemons of Nurgle to fight alongside them. Nurglings, Plaguebearers, and even Great Unclean Ones march to war under their putrid banner.

5th Company, “The Poxmongers”: The Poxmongers are notorious for their disease-brewing cauldrons and plague vats. They concoct vile new contagions to unleash upon unsuspecting populations.

6th Company, “The Ferrymen”: The Ferrymen are tasked with maintaining the Death Guard’s Plague Fleets. They ensure that every vessel is a floating hive of disease, ready to spread Nurgle’s blessings to the stars.

7th Company, “Mortarion’s Anvil”: Implacable and unrelenting, Mortarion’s Anvil excel in siege warfare. They grind the enemy down with artillery barrages and waves of infantry, their resilience allowing them to weather any counter-assault.

Combat Doctrine

Attrition and durability are the watchwords of the Death Guard in battle. Implacable and unrelenting, the Plague Marines advance amidst storms of corrosive, toxic fire while chanting blasphemous hymns to Nurgle, confident in the knowledge that what does not kill them only makes them stronger.

Horrendous casualties are shrugged off, wounds that would lay lesser beings low only spurring the Traitor Astartes forward to share their patron’s blessings.

Loyalist forces confronting the Death Guard have often been staggered to find that cutting down the foe is simply not enough, as the fallen rise up once more as pestilent Poxwalkers and lesser daemons, stitched back together by the filthy resilience of the Plague God. Close-quarters battle sees the full horror of the Death Guard revealed, their hulking frames bursting with foulness, their corroded armor caked in filth.

Flails of Corruption and Plague Knives mete out Nurgle’s blessings in the form of noxious wounds and seething infections.

Supporting these implacable infantry formations are lumbering battle tanks and daemon engines. Plagueburst Crawlers and Foetid Bloat-Drones trundle forward on mission to douse the enemy in putrid slime and pox-ridden filth

Overhead, Chaos worshippers in Hell Blades and Hell Talons strafe the beleaguered loyalists, ensuring there can be no escape from the Death Guard’s deadly attentions.

Interested in a more Chaos neutral army? Checkout our guide for The Best Chaos Starter Set

Unique Units

The Death Guard employ a variety of specialist units and characters, each playing a crucial role in the Legion’s strategy of attrition and contamination.

Blightlord Terminators: These hulking warriors are Plague Marines encased in ancient suits of Cataphractii pattern Terminator Armor, bloated with decay and mutated by the energies of the Warp. They form the elite vanguard of the Death Guard, their combi-bolters and bubotic axes reaping a fearsome toll on the enemy.

Deathshroud Terminators: The Deathshroud are Mortarion’s personal bodyguard, utterly loyal and nigh-unstoppable. Each wields a manreaper scythe, the slightest cut from which can fell even the mightiest foe with virulent plagues.

Plague Surgeons: Twisted parodies of Apothecaries, Plague Surgeons delight in spreading Nurgle’s blessings. Their bodies host every imaginable disease, which they gleefully spread with their plague knives and surgical implements.

Noxious Blightbringers: Daemon-infested Plague Marines bearing censer-maces that emit clouds of plague spores, choking the enemy and sapping their strength. The tolling of their dolorous bells strikes fear into the hearts of the enemy.

Foul Blightspawn: These malformed Plague Marines carry putrid plague sprayers, drenching the foe in corrosive slime that dissolves flesh and armor alike.

Biologus Putrifiers: Masters of alchemical contagion, Biologus Putrifiers brew vile new plagues and toxins to unleash upon the enemies of the Death Guard.


The armories of the Death Guard are rife with wargear steeped in pestilence:

  • Plague Knives and corrupted Boltguns spread infection with every wound.
  • Plague Belchers drench the foe in diseased slime that quickly rots the flesh from their bones.
  • Blight Grenades and Krak Grenades contain virulent toxins that eat through ceramite and fill the air with thick spore-clouds.
  • Plague Flails and Bubotic Axes leave horrific, pus-weeping wounds that fester and claim lives long after the battle has ended.
  • The Manreaper is the favored weapon of Lords of Contagion, a huge power scythe that can bisect battle tanks.

Vehicles like the Plaguereaper, Poxwalker Hive, and Rotbringer are daemonic abominations in their own right, as much instruments of Nurgle’s will as mobile weapon platforms.

Plague Fleets

The Death Guard maintain a vast armada of plague ships, each vessel a festering hive of contagion and misery.

The Terminus Est: Flagship of Typhus, the Terminus Est is a gargantuan vessel encrusted with the filth of Nurgle. Its launch bays are filled with clouds of plague flies, and its torpedoes are packed with disease-ridden biomass.

The Plagueclaw: One of the largest ships in the Death Guard fleet, the Plagueclaw spearheaded many assaults during the 13th Black Crusade. Its pitted, corroded hull is said to exude a miasma of decay.

The Infested: The Infested is more a mobile plague colony than a ship. Its vile, organic interior is home to a great Daemon of Nurgle known as the Slimefather. Tendrils and pseudopods reach from its hull, pulling entire escort ships into its putrid embrace.

Nurgle Lord

Daemonic Allies

The Death Guard frequently summon and fight alongside the daemons of Nurgle, employing them as deadly shock troops and living weapons of mass destruction.

Plaguebearers: The rank and file of Nurgle’s daemonic legions, Plaguebearers are bloated with disease and decay. They march relentlessly towards the enemy, shrugging off wounds that would fell lesser beings.

Nurglings: These small, mischievous daemons infest the armor and weapons of the Death Guard. They caper and cavort, giggling with glee as they spread Nurgle’s blessings.

Beasts of Nurgle: Lumbering, slug-like monstrosities, Beasts of Nurgle exude a putrid slime that corrodes armor and flesh alike. They are deceptively resilient, absorbing enormous amounts of firepower before finally succumbing.

Plague Drones: Daemonic Rot Flies ridden by Plaguebearers, Plague Drones buzz over the battlefield, bombing the enemy with payloads of toxic slime and contagion.

Great Unclean Ones: The Greater Daemons of Nurgle, Great Unclean Ones are mountains of rotting flesh and putrid slime. They wade through the enemy ranks, crushing foes beneath their bulk and unleashing torrents of filth from their gaping maws.

Hive Fleets

The Death Guard have a complex relationship with the Tyranids. While Nurgle’s plagues can overwhelm most living things, the Tyranids’ rapid adaptability means they can evolve defenses against even the most virulent contagions.

This has led to epic confrontations between the Death Guard and various Hive Fleets. On the world of Rottgut, Typhus unleashed a virulent plague that reduced the Tyranid swarms to slime, only for the Hive Mind to resurrect the infected corpses as gruesome Plague Drones.

Similarly, during the invasion of Hive Fleet Lotan, the Death Guard fought the Tyranids to a standstill on the jungle world of Ghoist. The battle devolved into a nightmarish quagmire, with new strains of virus and bacteria evolving by the hour. Eventually, the planet itself was reduced to a seething morass of toxic ooze, too virulent for even the Tyranids to consume.

These encounters demonstrate the unpredictable and apocalyptic nature of the Death Guard’s battles against the Tyranids, each side unleashing ever-more destructive forms of biological warfare. It is a testament to the resilience of Mortarion’s sons that they continue to endure against such an implacable and adaptive foe.


The Death Guard’s gene-seed was originally as resilient as it was pure, engineered to grant Mortarion’s Astartes incredible fortitude and an inherent resistance to toxins and disease. Tragically, it is this genetic blessing that has become the Death Guard’s greatest curse. Physically twisted by Nurgle’s “gifts”, their genomes now writhe with the same corruption that bloats their bodies.

The Sinister Plague Surgeons of the Legion have turned Mortarion’s gene-crafting against the Imperium, concocting new viral blessings and poxes with every generation of Plague Marines. What was once an emblem of nobility and sacrifice is now a mark of damnation and pestilent rebirth. The Death Guard are stronger now than they ever were as loyalists, glutted on the blessings of Nurgle, but damned for all eternity.

Notable Campaigns

  • The Cleansing of Isstvan III (M31) – Loyalist elements of the Death Guard purged by virus bombing.
  • Siege of Terra (M31) – The Death Guard fight in the climactic battle of the Heresy.
  • The Doom of Hesp (Unknown Date.M41) – The Plague Planet and its daemonic Tallyman Poxfulcrum claimed by Mortarion.
  • The Invasion of Ultramar (Unknown Date.M41) – Typhus unleashes the Zombie Plague, ultimately thwarted by Guilliman.
  • The Plague Wars (ca. 111.M42) – Mortarion leads a revitalized Death Guard in a massive assault on Ultramar.
  • The War of Rust and Ruin (Unknown Date.M42) – The Death Guard battle the machine-cult of Solemnium.

Notable Members

  • Mortarion – The grim reaper of Barbarus, Primarch of the Death Guard turned Daemon Prince of Nurgle.
  • Typhus – Once first Captain of the Death Guard, now Host of the Destroyer Hive and Herald of Nurgle.
  • Nathaniel Garro – 7th Company Captain who remained loyal to the Emperor during the Heresy.
  • The Eater of Lives – A terrible Daemon Prince, lord of the 4th Plague Company.
  • Necrosius – A powerful sorcerer of Nurgle.

The March Of Death

The Death Guard have no official battle cry, for Mortarion taught that death should stalk silently, and that their victims should never know from whence their doom came. However, Plague Marines will often chant dire, droning hymns extolling Nurgle’s blessings as they advance implacably into battle.

Disgustingly resilient, implacable, and foetid, the Death Guard are the embodiment of Nurgle’s gifts of entropy and decay.

Existing in a state of perpetual rot, Mortarion’s sons endure through a twisted devotion to the Plague God’s will. Despising the Imperium’s facade of purity and ascension, the Death Guard are determined to drag all of humanity down into the muck and filth, to join them in worshipping at the altar of Nurgle.

Interested in learning more about The Death Guard? Checkout the Lexicanum for a more in depth view!

They are the chosen vectors of the Plague God’s bounteous gifts, each Plague Marine a disease-ridden demigod determined to share their curse with the unending masses of realspace. As they have endured, so shall the galaxy endure – an eternity of despair and degeneration.

Related Article