Welcome, lords of Shyish! This is a handbook describing Legions of Nagash, and how they play on tabletop in AoS 2ed. The aim of this text is to help new people to sort out all the confusing options - allegiances, units not in the book, etc. I also provided an estimation of each option's efficiency based on personal expirience (other people may disagree with me). Each unit will be marked from 1 to 5, with numbers meaning the following:
5 – excellent
4 – good
3 – moderate
2 – weak
1 – really bad Abilities and traits
First, all legions share a set of allegiance abilities and other features, some of them heavily influence tactics and playstyle of the faction. Bravery – All current Death units have a Bravery of 10 (very high), which makes them resistant to Battleshock and Bravery-targeting abilities. Note that any unit gains +1 Bravery for every 10 models in it when rolling for Battleshock. Summonable units – many units in the legions have the Summonable keyword. Such units can be healed and resurrected using necromancy of your heroes and gravesites. Other units will have harder time healing. Deathly invocation/Invigorating aura – these abilities are the source of healing for summonable units, and are used during hero phase. Each warscroll specifies the range and number of targets. For each target, you roll 1d3.
1-wound units just return that many slain models back to the unit.
2-wound units heal 1 wound if there was a wounded model in the unit, or return a slain model to the unit if you rolled 2 or 3 on your 1d3.
3-wound units heal 1 or 2 wounds (depending on your roll) if there was a wounded model in the unit, or return a slain model to the unit if you rolled a 3 on your 1d3.
4+ wound units just heal that many wounds if there was a wounded model in the unit (Bat Swarms are the only known 4+ wound summonable currently). The Unquiet Dead – before armies deploy, you can place 4 gravesite markers on the table (2 on your half, 2 anywhere else). They do 3 useful things:
-Heal/reanimate your summonable units. The healing from different gravesites stack. This helps to win attrition wars greatly, and works even if all of your heroes has been slain.
-Allow you to keep one or more units in reserve, deploying them later in the game from any gravesite with one of your heroes nearby. This helps deploying slow units (all undead infantry) closer to the enemy. It also helps threaten objectives, forcing your opponent to advance to the gravesite position (and likely allowing you to charge them easier) to stop you. And if they don’t, you can just occupy the objective.
-You general can return your wholly destroyed summonable units back to the table from any gravesite.
The most obvious way to use gravesite is to place them near objectives, since there will be a lot of action near them. Placing gravesites near each other also makes sense, because one unit can simultaneously receive healing from multiple gravesites. Deathless Minions – your heroes have 6” auras that allow Death units within to roll a dice for each wound taken. On a 6, the wound is ignored. Endless Legions – this is an additional command ability your general gains. It allows to return your completely destroyed summonable units back to the table from a gravesite. It costs 1 Command Point per use, just like all other command abilities, and can be used multiple times per hero phase.
Overall, all these abilities make summonable units very durable, and good at attrition wars, especially while a friendly hero is nearby. Summonables ignore some wounds, they heal/reanimate each hero phase if at least 1 model is remaining, and if they are destroyed completely, your general can bring them back, spending CP.
Other common abilities Banners – many legion units can unclude standard bearers. The banners all have the same ability: they lower Bravery of nearby enemies. This is more than useful since it stacks with other Braery debuffs available to Legions. Lowered Bravery not only makes enemy units fail Battleshock, losing additional models, but can also be exploited via Bravery-targeting abilities and spells that many Legion units and artifacts have. Musicians – many legion units can unclude musicians. After a Legion unit with a musician rolls for charge distance if the result is less than 6, you can charge 6”. This protects from failed charges on short distances.
Shields – Shields of the dead provide a defence bonus against attack with no rend. Situational, but useful anyway. Many battleline units in the game have no rend (including elite choices like Blightkings and regular Stormcast Liberators).
When you compose an army list, you should choose an allegiance. There are 5 legion allegiances, and each gives you access to different traits and artifacts. Grand Host – Grave Guard and Morghast units become Battleline. Morghast units also gain +1 attack (especially useful for halberds). Also features an additional useful healing ability for summonables, Legions Innumerable. A good choice if you a going to use multiple summoning units (which is usually a good idea anyway), or if you like using only elite units. Legion of Sacrament – Gives wizards in this legion an additional +1 bonus to casting rolls. Also allows to return your completely destroyed units back from a gravesite without using CPs via The Master’s Teachings ability. A good choice if you want to focus your army around spellcasting heroes. Legion of Blood – Vampire Lords and Blood Knights get an additional attack (mounts get that bonus too). Also, all legion of Blood units reduce Bravery of nearby enemies (yes, that stacks with banners). A good choice if you want to have several Vampire Lords on Zombie Dragons in your army, or want to focus on attacking enemy Bravery. Legion of Night – Skeletal units gain defense bonus while they are on your table half. Also allows to place up to 3 units in an ambush, deploying them whenever you like near table edges (6"), potentially outflanking the enemy. A good choice if you want to have a lot of skeletal undead in your army, or if you like using ambushes. Units
At last, we got to the meat (and bone?) of this handbook.
In matched play, units are separated into different roles – Battleline, Leaders, Behemoths and War Machines. Some units have no role. There are restrictions in matched play that are tied to these roles. First, you must have a certain minimum number of Battleline units in your army, depending on the game size. Then, the maximum number of Leaders, Behemoths and War Machines you can have in your army is limited, also based on game size. Units with no role are not restricted.
In this handbook, I decided to separate units by role, so that comparisons would make more sence. Battleline
The backbone of your army, the basic units. Note that Grave Guard (and Morghast, with Nagash) become Battleline if you choose the Grand Host Allegiance. Dire Wolves – An efficient 70 pts undead puppies. They are very fast, have good defence (which is improved if a Corpse Cart is nearby), moderate offensive power. They can can quickly capture objectives or charge enemy backline. The downsides are: lack of musician/banner and small numbers (5 models per 70 pts), which can complicate capturing objectives held by infantry mobs. You get a discount if you hire 30 of them. Summonable. 4/5. Zombies – A cheaper alternative to undead wolves. Zombies have typical death infantry speed (very slow) and no defence at all. Their attack power is weak, but scales with numbers – 40 of them are much more powerful than 10. Too bad that the discount exists only for mobs of 60. Corpse cart nearby further buffs their attacks. Compared to wolves, zombies can actually take a banner. Also they are more numerous, so scoring is easier. Summonable. 2/5 if you take 10, 3/5 if you take more, or 4/5 in a list based on Bravery debuffs. Skeleton Warriors – Spooky scary skeletons! Slow as most undead infantry. In small numbers, subpar to Chainrasps both offensively and defensively, but a discounted unit of 40 is really scary, with 2 additional attack per skeleton, and spears for extra reach (allowing an extra row of them to strike). They also get an accuracy bonus when a death hero is within 18”, and you were going to have at least one hero near them anyway. They can take a banner and a musician. You can also use a block of 40 as a meat (bone?) shield, in which case equip them with swords, since you are not going to have many rows of them (meatshields work better when stretched in a thin line). Summonable. 3/5 if you take only 10, 4/5 if you take 40 with spears, 5/5 if you also choose Grand Host or Legion of Night allegiance – both have ways to buff skeletal units). Chainrasp Horde – The ghostly kind of battleline, and currently the best. They are faster than skeletons and zombies, and can fly. Their offence is good from the start, but doesn’t scale much with unit size increase. Their defense is good against weapons with rend (they are ethereal, as all other ghosts), and rend is a common thing, so it is a very good bonus. They lack banners and musicians, however. Summonable. 5/5, unless you really want more banners. Units with no role
These units are neither required nor restricted, so you can have as much of them as you want. Since you are already spending some points on battleline, units with no role are expected to have some trait that puts them above your basic units. Morghast – These expensive elite monsters have two specialisations: Harbingers (bonus to charging distance) and Archai (armour that gives additional protection against mortal wounds). They are fast and flying. They dish out tons of armor-piercing damage (there are two weapon options: swords, which allow to do slightly more damage overall, and halbers, which have more rend). They have good defence and a bravery-reducing aura which stacks with banners. They, however, have a significant weakness: they are not Summonable, so there are little ways to heal them, and no way to resurrect. If you opponent knows this, he will focus on them, killing your expensive unit, and only then he will switch attention to you summonables. Still, they have their uses. Harbingers are effective as ambushers in Legion of Night lists, and Archai are good in the First Cohort battalion, where they act as bodyguards for Nagash. Any kind of Morghast can be used as a battleline in the Grand Host if Nagash is present, but summonable battleline will likely serve you better. 3/5, or 4/5 when used in Legion of Night or the First Cohort. Grave Guard – also known as wights, they are basically skeletons on steroids. While having the same speed, they have armor-piercing attacks (with a chance to do double damage) and heavier armour. They can also swap shields for two-handed blades, to increase their offence. They, however, cost much more than skeletons. Grave Guard are a bit weaker than Grimghast Reapers, but are still ok, especially in large numbers. Can be a viable battleline in the Grand host (if you like elite infantry). Summonable. 2/5 if you take only 5 of them, 3/5 if you take more, 4/5 if you also choose Grand Host or Legion of Night allegiance – both have ways to buff skeletal units). Black Knights – the mounted skeletons. Their steeds give them significant speed bonus over grave guard. They lack rend, but on charge they can outdamage dire wolves, with whom they can be compared. Armour is identical to Grave Guard, and comparable to the wolves. One of the ways to use them is to run a large unit. They will charge early in the game, do damage, and enemy will spend some efforts to kill them so that he can continue moving. If at least 1 survives, you can raise some back via gravesites, and your opponent will have hard times moving. If they are destroyed completely, bring them back using Endless Legions (using 1 CP), then repeat from the beginning. Summonable. 2/5, or 3/5 if you choose Grand Host or Legion of Night allegiance – both have ways to buff skeletal units). Corpse Carts – party wans. They are slow as zombies, their offensive is laughable, their defence its poor… But they are great support units, actually! They buff nearby zombies and dire wolves, and can be equipped with either a bell (which adds +1 to casting folls of friendly Death wizards and improves healing from Invocation on units near the cart) or a brazier (which debuffs enemy spellcasting and deals damage to nearby enemy wizards each turn, useful against Tzeentch armies, for example). 4/5, could be 5 but too easy to kill. Hexwraiths – the mounted ghosts. They are very fast and flying, have good offence (with rend and ability to do mortal wounds) and good ghostly defence (4+ save with ethereal). Somewhat overshadowed by Grimghasts, but still good. Summonable. 4/5. Spirit Hosts – the ghostly swarm. They are faster than standard infantry, and can fly. While their damage is somewhat low, it mostly comes as mortal wounds, so they can slowly grind through heavily-armoured enemies quite successfully, all the while being protected by typical ghostly defences (4+ save, ethereal). These things do guaranteered, unavoidable damage per turn. They are a personification of inevitable death. They may be a bit hard to reanimate due to having 3 wounds. Summonable. 4/5. Grimghast Reapers – currently one of the best units in the legions. This scythe-wielding ghosts are fast and flying, dish out a lot of rending attacks, are very effective in large units due to long weapon reach (2”, like the skeletons’ spears), and get a re-roll to hit against units with 5+ models (i.e. most infantry). Their typical ghostly defense makes then quite survivable. Take 30 of them for a discount, wreck your enemy. Reanimate any losses with gravesites and invocations, and even if they are completely destroyed, use Endless Legions! Summonable. 5/5, unless you a facing a lot of monsters/elite armies, like Beastclaw, in which case they become 4/5. Glavewraith Stalkers – horse-faced ghosts. Their speed and defense is ok, but offensive capabilities are very weak. Their only interesting feature is the ability to charge after retreating. Use it to your advantage, if you can. Summonable. 1/5, or 2/5 if you can find a use for their hit-and-run ability. Blood Knights – the vampiric cavalry. They are fast, have strong offence and good defense. But, like Morghast, they are not summonable, so no resurrecting for them. They are also quite expensive, even for elite cavalry. 2/5, or 3/5 in a Legion of Blood allegiance army as they gain bonus attack from it. Vargheists – the bestial vampires. They are fast and flying, and have good offence, especially against mass infantry. But their defense is weak, and they are not summonable, so they go down even faster than morghasts and blood knights. 2/5, or 3/5 if you choose Legion of Night, to allow them to act as ambushers, especially in a Nightfall pack battalion where they even gain a bonus attack. Bat Swarms – an utility unit, fast but weak. However, they can heal themselves in combat quite fast, and have an aura that debuffs enemy shooting. You can even heal them with gravesites/invocations, but cannot resurrect. You can have them fly towards enemy, or keep them in the grave and deploy them from a gravesite near enemy archers after one of your fast heroes gets close to it. Summonable. 3/5 if enemy has any shooting, or 4/5 if he is actually relying on ranged units. Fell Bats – they are a vampiric equivalent of black knights, faster and flying, but their defence is worse, and they need something dying near them to unlock their full potential. Summonable. 2/5, 3/5 if you can find a use for their fantastic speed. Behemoths
There is a limited number of monsters you can take in your army, dependant on game size. Note that Leaders who are also Behemoths count against both limits. Terrorgheists – Fast and flying monsters, with good defence and scary melee abilty, capable of tearing large holes in the enemy with the Gaping Maw, and one of the few units in the faction with a ranged attack – 10”, in their case. The Death Shriek works better if you apply Bravery debuff on target enemy beforehand, which you can provide from multiple sources (and all of which stack): banners, Morghast units, a Deathmages spell (see below), Legion of Blood trait. Also terrorgheists explode into bats when killed. There is only one problem with them – they have no in-built healing, so you will have hard times keeping them alive. 3/5, or 4/5 if you can provide multiple Bravery debuffs. Zombie Dragons – Terrorgheists’ kin, they are very similar, except their ranged attack (dragon breath) works differently and has nothing to do with Bravery. The problem is also similar – lack of healing ability. Zombie Dragons are dramatically better when taken as mounts for vampire lords. 3/5. Mortis Engines – corpse carts on steriods. Where Terrorgheists are damage-dealers, Engines are support pieces, relatively cheap, but much less powerful in melee. They provides both a +1 to casting for Death Wizards, and -1 to casting of non-Death Wizards (both stack with Corpse Carts). They has a special ranged attack that is a Bravery-targeting Area of Effect. Finally, each Reliquary on each Engine can be opened once per game to deal mortal wounds to surrounding living units, and heal nearby undead. This is one of the few ways to heal wounds from non-summonable units, so do not overlook this. 3/5, or 4/5 if you can provide Bravery debuffs or have many non-summonable units, or when taken as a part of the Lords of Sacrament battalion, where it also provides bonuses to Arkhan and his necromancers. Leaders
Leaders are very important in a Legions army, since they provide Deathless Minions aura, Deathly Invocations and various buffs, and many of them are spellcasters or powerful fighters, or even both. Note that there are infantry heroes, who a not expected to fight enemy alone, and big models with 10+ wounds who are better suited for that role. Also you can give any of you heroes an artifact (or several, if you are using battalions).
Again, there is a limited number of leaders you can take in your army, depending on game size. Note that Behemoths who are also Leaders count against both limits. Necromancers – possibly best heroes in the Legions. They has enough speed to keep close to any advancing summonables except flying or cavalry units. Their typically squishy wizard defense is compensated by the Undead Minions ability, which gives them a chance to pass wounds inflicted to them to nearby summonables in the form of mortal wounds (and then try to resist them with Deathless minions). Necromancer’s Staff attack can add a bit of damage to the unit they shepherd, while staying away from first ranks. They can use Deathly Invocation. And they are, of course, wizards. Necromancers’ custom spell, Vanhel’s Dance Macabre, is a powerful buff, allowing any summonable unit to essentialy attack twice in close combat (however, your enemy will get a window to retaliate). They can even learn an additional spell from the Lore of the Deathmages (or Sorrow, in the Olynder’s legion), usually a good debuff. 4/5, or 5/5 if you are using summonable units that hit hard (like grimghast reapers) and/or using the Lords of Sacrament battalion, which allows every necromancer in it to cast 2 spells per turn! Vampire Lords – great support heroes. They are fast (choosing between a Nightmare steed or a Flying Horror ability), so are ideal for zapping to distant gravesites to allow units kept in the grave to emerge there. Lords are reasonably armored, and can heal themselves by drinking blood from their enemies and/or from their chalices. Their attacks are good, compared to other infantry heroes. Vampire Lords can use Deathly Invocation (with more range and targets than necromancers’), and are wizards, learning an additional spell from the Lore of the Vampires (or Sorrow, in the Olynder’s legion). But their most remarkable merit is the Blood Feast, a command ability that gives any Death unit +1 attack for each weapon. You can use it on multiple units if you have enough Command Points, but it doesn’t stack with itself. A Vampire Lord can turn a good melee unit into an excellent one. 4/5, or 5/5 if you are using large units that hit hard (like grimghast reapers). Vampire Lords on Zombie Dragons –they are like regular zombie dragons, but better at everything (while being somewhat more expensive). A combined model is much more than a sum of parts. A zombie dragon provides its rider with his fast flight, dragon breath and a great chunk of health. A vampire provides the dragon with a lot of bonuses in return: additional attacks (you can choose between his regular sword and a lance that is suited for charging), a shield that improves defense, vampiric healing (chalice on a dragon is fantastic), Deathly Invocation, and a great command ability (giving anybody, including himself, re-rolls to hit). Vampire lords are also wizards, and their access to the Lore of the Vampires (or Sorrow, in the Olynder’s legion) allow a degree of customization – you can choose a spell to make the duo even faster, or a damage-dealing orb, or even some extra healing at the expense of enemy units. Their inn-built spell, Blood Boil, is not horrible and can be used as an alternative to Arcane Bolt. One of the most useful set-ups is a vampire on a dragon in an army from Shyish, which gives him access to the Ethereal Amulet artifact (Malign Sorcery), making his 3+ save ethereal, as if he was a ghost. Combine that with Chronomantic Cogs endless spell to re-roll failed saves, and you a looking at something extremely resistant to regular damage (not mortal wounds, though), and can heal too. 5/5, one of the best units in the Legions. Coven Thrones – built on the same chassis as Mortis Engines, these flying chariots carry Vampire Queens and their Handmaidens to battle. Its role is similar to Spirit Hosts: to tie enemy in close combat, slowly grinding through them while resisting return blows. While lacking support abilities of a Mortis Engine and ethereal protection of the spirit hosts and having a modest offensive potential, Coven Thrones do have typical vampiric Deathly Invocation (12”, 3 targets), a command ability that is very useful for elites (Blood Knights, Grave Guard) and a spell that shapes their playstyle: Beguile. You can choose the most threatening enemy unit within 12” of your Throne (typically one that just killed your cannon fodder), Beguile it, than charge it with the Throne. If any of your other units were locked in combat with the beguiled target, they should have retreated in the movement phase. Then, the Throne slowly grinds through the beguiled unit (re-applying Beguile each turn and possibly healing via The Hunger), while the enemy cannot even strike back. Of course, this tactic is not failproof. You can fail the casting roll, or fail to overcome enemy Bravery, or your opponent can attack your Coven Throne with a different unit (including shooting). However, you can overcome these dangers by providing a casting roll bonus (Corpse Cart or otherwise), reduce target’s Bravery (multiple sources), and shielding the Throne with summonable chaff (Chainrasps, but this will not work against shooting). You can basically turn off the best enemy unit this way, and Scrying Pool even provides a once-per-game re-roll of any 1 dice to the Throne. 3/5, or 4/5 if you have both bonuses to cast and bravery debuffs in your list, or use the Throne to buff elite units. Bloodseeker Palanquins – they too are built on the same chassis as Mortis Engines, but work neither like Engines nor like Coven Thrones. Their offence is better than Coven Thrones, they have the same area attack as Engines, and they are wizards. Like most Death heroes, they have Deathly Invocation. They have two distinguishing traits. The first is called “A Fine Vintage”, it’s an aura that turns on when an enemy hero is slain nearby and gives a bonus attack to friendly vampiric units. The second is their unique spell, “Blood Siphon”, which deals good damage to heroes (with occasional spikes), helping to trigger the aura. A little tricky combo, but may work. 3/5, or 4/5 if you have a lot of Soulblight units to receive the buff. Wight Kings – skeletal warlords. They are similar, and inferior to Vampire Lords in almost every way while being only slightly cheaper. They have no inn-built healing ability, they attacks are weaker, and their +1 attack command ability works only for skeletal units. If you do not have a Vampire Lord in your roster, you’d better take him instead of a Wight king. However, if you take both, you can give skeletal units even more attacks (+2 from two command abilities for 2 Command Points). Useful for Grave Guard, especially in a Grand Host/Legion of Night list, where you have ways to buff skeletal units even further. 2/5, or 3/5 if you are using large units of Grave Guard in a Grand Host/Legion of Night list and you already have a Vampire Lord. Cairn Wraiths – cheap support heroes. They have adequate speed (and flight) and defence, few wounds, and good offence (with same re-rolls as grimghasts, Frightful touch like Spirit Hosts’, and enough reach to do it from the second row, avoiding counter-attacks). They provide the unit they accompany with Deathless minions, but not with Invocation or any command ability, sadly. 3/5. Tomb Banshees – more expensive than Cairn Wraiths, but still cheaper than Necromancers, Banshee have typical ghostly speed and defence, and modest melee power (good rend, but 1 attack only). However, they also possess an ability to attack at range, which is rarity in the faction. Their howls work similar to Terrorgheists’, so you will need to apply several sources of bravery debuffs to make them work. 3/5, or 4/5 if you can provide multiple Bravery debuffs. Knights of Shrouds - have typical ghostly speed and defence, and their offence is comparable to Vampire Lord’s (i.e. adequate). They can heal a bit when they kill enemy heroes. Their gimmick is their command ability – Spectral Overseer, which creates a 12” aura that gives ghostly units completely within +1 to hit rolls. This is useful for units like Hexwraiths and Grimghasts, but not so much for Spirit Hosts. Note that Frightful Touch triggers on unmodified rolls of 6, so the Spectral Overseer doesn’t improve it. 3/5, or 4/5 if you are using units like Hexwraiths or Grimghasts. Knighst of Shrouds on Ethereal Steeds – They are, essentially, a ghostly equivalent of Wight Kings. If you already have a large ghostly unit and a vampire lord to buff them in your roster, you can add a KoS on a steed to the mix to create the same “+2 attacks for 2 CPs” combo as with Grave Guard. However, ghostly units tend to be faster and more durable than Grave Guard, so the ghostly variant of the combo is more rewarding. Grimghast Reapers even have long reach, so much more of them will be able to attack in close combat! 2/5, or 3/5 if you are using large units of Nighthaunt and you already have a Vampire Lord. Guardians of Souls with Nightmare Lanterns – a great support hero for your ghostly units. While having typical ghostly speed, flight and ethereal defence, they are wizards, and bear lanterns that add +1 to wound rolls for ghost units wholly within 12”. This is useful even for Chainrasps, and a good buff for most other nighthaunts except Spirit Hosts, who prefer to work solo. Guardians with lanterns also know the Spectral Lure, a spell that heals and resurrects ghosts just like Deathly Invocations do – only that it has a range of 24”, and you roll d6 instead of d3. 3/5 if you have at least 1 good unit of Nighthaunt in your army. Spirit Torments – another type of ghostly support heroes. Their attacks are not bad, having Rend of -2. They have two support abilities: Nagash’s Bidding gives re-rolls for hit rolls of 1 to surrounding ghosts (and this is useful for any nighthaunt unit), and Captures Soul Energy heals and resurrects models in a single nighthaunt unit at the start of the Battleshock phase, provided that you managed to kill at least 3 enemies. Note that this ability can heal any nighthaunt, not just summonable (i.e. heroes and monsters can benefit too), and that killing Stormcasts allows you to maximize healing. 3/5 if you have any other Nighthaunt in your army. Lords Executioners – yet another kind of support hero. Executioners give nothing to their own troops (except Deathless minions, of course), but instead help allies to fight enemy heroes in two ways. First, they have good Rend and a chance to do triple damage, which can finish off wounded heroes. Second, they, at start of the combat phase, give an enemy Hero in close combat range -1 to hit, dramatically reducing accuracy. This works for any hero, even one riding a monster, or who is a monster himself. Even Archaon would be affected. This stacks with other minuses to hit, like spells or Mournghul aura. 3/5. Prince Vhordrai – a named vampire lord on a zombie dragon. His lance have a bonus attack and improved rend, his dragon’s breath deals mortal wounds instead of regular damage, and he knows Quickblood (good self-buff) instead of Blood Boil. He is also somewhat more expensive. The only tricky thing with him is his command ability, which is also different from regular Lord. It allows another death hero within 14” to either pile in and attack in your hero phase, or to cast an additional spell. Since Vhordrai can’t target himself, you need to pair him with some heavy hitter hero to make most out of this ability. That means a mortarch, a ghoul king on terrorgheist, or a regular vampire on a dragon. 5/5 if you pair him with someone adequate. Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament –a liche, he is mounted on a Dread Abyssal. His steed makes him faster than Fell Bats (ultrasonic almost). His defence is moderate, and, with not so many wounds and being high priority for your opponent, he can go from full wounds to zero in 1 turn, just like other Mortarchs (don’t forget thet they are protected but their own Deathless Minions aura). You should not really allow your Mortarchs to fight alone - they always need support. Since Arkhan is a dedicated wizard, he is underwhelming in melee – he does little to complement his steed’s attacks. But Abyssals have Rend -2, and are accompanied by spirits with Frightful touch, so even wizened old Arkhan can do something in melee. Which is good, because Abyssals devour souls of the slain, healing themselves. While Arkhan is not impressive in melee, he is a great spellcaster, surpassed only by Nagash. His staff gives great bonuses for both casting and unbinding, he can cast 2 spells per turn, and his trademark spell – Curse of Years – can potentially instantly slay a unit with any number of wounds, so sometimes you will win games by casting a single spell and annihilating the best enemy unit with it. This is by no means reliable, but potential is ever present. He can also take an additional spell from any of the 2 schools. Last, Arkhan features Deathly Invocation which allows to re-roll the 1d3 used for it (making raising things like Spirit Hosts easier), and a command ability that allows to increase spell range of nearby friendly wizards (extremely useful for some short-ranged spells). 3/5, since he lacks both durability and hitting power for a monster-riding hero. 4/5 in the Lords of Sacrament battalion, which gives a lot of bonuses to Arkhan and his fellow necromancers. Mannfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night – another Mortarch on an Abyssal. He is similar to Arkahn, yet works differently. His speed is same as the liche’s, which Mannfred, at least, can use since he actually wants to get into melee. The defence and health are also the same, so he can go down just as quickly – but at least Mannfred has his special armour, which protects him from the first wound taken each turn, making this Mortarch slightly more durable, combined with Feaster of Souls healing (not by much, but still). While he still needs support and won’t last long alone in melee, Mannfred, unlike Arkhan, can dish out a lot of damage in close combat. His own weapons allow him to make 6 attacks befitting a Vampire Lord, and then you also have mount attacks (Claws + Spirit host, just like Arkhan’s). What is more, Mannfred can greatly buff his 4 sword attacks by just casting a spell successfully (easy for him). His command ability, Vigour of Undeath, creates an aura that improves offence for elite Death units (similary to Coven Throne), including himself. Last, as a Mortarch he is a competent spellcaster (but not as good as Arkhan), with 2 spells per turn. He even gets +1 to next cast/unbind roll if you deal any wounds with his sword (which is buffed when you sucessfuly cast a spell, kind of a loop). His custom spell, Wind of Death, is an AoE that deals a little damage to enemy units around initial target. He can also take an additional spell from any of the 2 schools, increasing his versatility. Mannfred also can use Deathly Invocation. 3/5, since he lacks durability for a monster-riding hero. 4/5 in the Nightfall Pack battalion. Neferata, Mortarch of Blood – the final Mortarch on an Abyssal, similar to the other two but with her own quirks. She has the same speed and defense (i.e. fast, but not durable enough to survive under pressure). In melee, she is a little weaker than Mannfred, which is compensated by her ability to instantly kill some of the enemies wounded by her dagger. It won’t happen often, but when it will, it will be a sweet surprise for you (and bitter for your opponent). She heals faster than other mortarchs while she kills heroes. She naturally has a mighty Deathly Invocation. She is a wizard on the same level as Mannfred, but with no casting bonuses. She can have an extra spell from the Lores of the Dead, but her custom one, Dark Mist, is also extremely interesting, It is a buff that turns a unit into ghosts, gaining flight and ethereal defense. This is huge as she can give rend immunity to herself – or to Nagash, if you take them both. Her command ability, Twillight’s Allure, creates an aura that debuffs enemies with -1 to hit, which is also great, especially if combined with other accuracy debuffs. 4/5, since she is actually the most durable of the Abyssal Riders, and can actually play aggressively, and even try to solo if her retinue dies. Nagash, Supreme Lord of the Undead – the God of Death and Lord of Shyish, the Great Necromancer. This godly lich is the leader of all the Grand Alliance, and has his own legion – the Grand Host. He is one of the most expensive (point-wise) models in the game, but he is worth it. His speed is not terribly fast, but above average, and he can fly. He has large health pool, great defence, additional mortal wounds resistance (and he can even return mortal wounds back to attackers), and provides Deathless minions to himself too. Enemies will have hard times killing him in 1 turn (but this is not impossible). His healing is tricky – he can only restore his health using spells, or with a Mortis Engine pulse. On the attack side, he one of the best fighter in the legions, with great rend on his attacks, and a pet spirit host for additional mortal wounds. He even has a normal ranged attack – an extremely rare ability in the whole Grand Alliance.
But his most remarkable feature is his spellcasting – he is the greatest wizard in the game, having +3 to both casting and dispelling and casting 8 spells per turn when in full health (and dispelling 8 enemy spells on their tun, too). Aside from the basic Arcane Bolt and Mystic Shield, he knows 2 custom spells. The first, Soul Stealer, is long-ranged and attacks enemy Bravery and can deal 0, 1d3 or 1d6 mortal wounds (depending on how good did you roll against enemy Bravery), healing Nagash the same number of wounds. The second, Hand of Dust, is a touch spell that basically has 50% chance to instantly kill any model, be it a dragon, giant, carnosaur, Kharadron Ironclad, Stonehorn, etc. Furthermore, Nagash can learn 3 additional spells from the Lores of the Dead, so he can take additional sources of healing, powerful debuffs, speed buff, or damage-dealing spells in any combination. He also benefits tremendously from using spell lores from Malign Sorcery, so always insist to use rules for any mortal realm (Shyish, Aqshy and Ghyran seem to be the best for him, but others will do too). You can also pay for Endless Spells, both those from Malign Sorcery and Nighthaunt/Flesh-eaters battletomes (he can cast them too). Ones of the most useful are Umbral Spellportal (for making Hand of Dust a long-ranged spell) and Mortalis Terminexus for additional healing.
Nagash’s command ability is not gamechanging, but still useful, slightly buffing accuracy and defense for all friendly undead, including himself (most useful for elite units), while also making them immune to battleshock (useful for large infantry mobs). His Deathly Invocation heals 5 units anywhere on the table, re-rolling the d3 just like Arkhan.
In addition to all this, Nagash has his own battalion, The First Cohort, featuring himself, 3 units of skeletal undead, and a unit of Morghast bodyguards who can take wounds in his stead, making Nagash almost unkillable while they live. Archai are recommended, since their ebon armour will negate some of the wounds transferred from Nagash.
One of his weaknesses is his cost – a single model for 850, he will leave you with fewer units to capture objectives, and he is not good at doing that himself. In some battleplans, this can cause you to loose the game despite suffering little losses, but in others, this won’t be important. Another one is the fact that his attacks and spells are designed to deal with elite heavy-armoured units, not numerous unarmoured ones. If your enemy will have something like 120 plague monks (in several squads), it will take Nagash forever to kill them all.
4/5, or 5/5 if you are using spell lores from Malign Sorcery. Allies
While Legions are self-sufficient and need no allies to function, ghouls and ghosts offer some interesting options to consider. Flesh-Eater Courts – Ghoul kings of any kind have command abilities that create a new unit once per combat. You can get 1 Command point for 50 pts, so you can summon things like 100 pts ghoul unit, or even 170 pts Crypt Flayer pack for just 50 pts. And ghoul kings are also wizards who know descent spells. And there is even an Arch-Regent, and upgraded ghoul-king! The best variant for 2500 seems to be a King on a Terrorgheist, as he is self-sufficient, and a damage-dealer in his own right. Nighthaunt – while many nighthaunt units are native in the legions (and all are native in Legion of Grief), some can only be taken as allies. This includes named characters (who work fine in a Legions list), Bladegheist Revenants as a Grimghast alternative, Myrmourn Banshees (anti-magic), Chainghasts (shooting with good rend), the Briar Queen and goons (Shadespire warband, the Queen has a unique spell) and even a ghostly monster, Mourngul (Forgeworld model, has an awesome -1 to-hit aura, not bad in melee too). Batallions
Batallions cost you points and require specific units. In return, they grant the units in them unique special rules, and also provide you an extra command point and an extra artifact. Deathmarch – makes skeletons faster. Units must be wholly within the designated radius from the Wight King to get the speed bonus, however. Can be combined with the Grand Host or Legion of Night allegiance – both have ways to buff skeletal units. Castellans of the Crimson Keep – allows Lord Vordrai and blood knights to enter play from a table edge while giving extra bonuses. The only trouble is the fact that blood knights are expensive point-wise. Use Legion of Blood to maximize their effectiveness. And even then, the battalion remains very expensive, and the fact that you must inform your opponent which table edge you choose greatly reduces this batallion's effectiveness. The First Cohort – allows Morghasts to be Nagash’s boduguard. This helps his survival (remember, he is not invincible), turning it from ok to exceptional. Take Archai, because their Ebon Armour helps them surviving the damage they take from bodyguarding. Remember that Morghasts gain a bonus attack while Nagash is leading. Court of Nulamia – provides minor bonuses to Neferata and her vampiric sidekicks. Seems to be too weak to make any difference. Nightfall pack – works like typical Legion of Night army, except it suggests using vargheists as ambushers (instead of Morghast Harbingers) and gives them an extra attack when charging, so they can actually kill a lot of enemies before dying themselves.. Lords of Sacrament – Arkhan and his necromancers can cast an additional spell each and gain cover while near their chosen Mortis Engine. Looks nice on paper, then you remember that Arkhan is too squishy and won’t live long against experienced opponent.
Legion of Grief – Introduced in the Forbidden Power, it swaps Soulblight and Beasts of the Grave for Nighthaunt units unavailable to other legions (including Mortarch of Grief herself), units in this legion reduce enemy Bravery like in Legion of Blood, and wizards from it have access to a new spell lore (Lore of Sorrow) instead of the Lores of the Dead from LoN book.