This is part 2 of our review of Battletome: Hedonites of Slaanesh for 3rd Edition, you can find part one here. This review was completed using a free copy of Battletome: Hedonites of Slaanesh provided to us by Games Workshop.
Similar to the other mono-god Chaos factions, Slaanesh has its selection of Daemons and mortals. For the most part, both play nice with each other and you’ll probably want a healthy mix of both. Many of the warscrolls got a sizable update so we have a lot of ground to cover.
Keeper of Secrets and Shalaxi
Let’s start by covering what’s consistent between the two – two more wounds, a damage table that degrades slower (Keeper is now fixed 4 attacks with Greatblade), and a general improvement in stats. The Aegis now gives a 5+ ward instead of a 6+ ward, the Whip has been rewritten to just pick a unit within 6” and on a 2+ they’re -1 to attacks of all weapons, and the Knife now does mortal wounds on a 2+ equal to the roll.
For the keeper, the Sinistrous Hand now gives flat 3 for killing a model or 6 for killing a hero, up from D3 and D6, and Dark Temptations has had the choice rewritten to be D3 mortal wounds to a nominated unit within 3” OR you gain D3 depravity, opponent’s choice. The Excess of Violence command ability is now just a once per battle ability (regardless of number of Keepers) that let’s another unit fight for a second activation with Strikes-last effect applied to 2nd, consistent with other updates to fight twice abilities.
For Shalaxi, their Soulpiercer is now a fixed profile of 2A/3+/2+-3/D3+3 for a significant increase in output, and their Cloak of Constriction has been changed to be a flat -1 to hit and wound for melee attacks against this model. Irresistible Challenge now inflicts D3 mortals if the opponent cannot finish within 0.5” of Shalaxi if they pick the charge option, but no longer requires all the attacks from the hero to target Shalaxi. Refine senses has been tweaked to also give +1 to wound against heroes in addition to +1 hit and save.
Overall I’m quite positive on both, with the Keeper being generally more compelling at their new price point compared to Shalaxi if only due to access to Command Traits and artefacts. There are some pretty potent combos in here, in particular Strength of Godhood being fantastic on the Keeper as a means of lifting their damage output. If nothing else, the 5+ ward if you take the Aegis means it’s reasonable to keep them alive past the first battle round against shooting armies.
Synessa and Dexcessa, the Slaanesh twins
Oddly these guys took a bit of a backseat in this book, with Synessa (the spellcaster) getting pretty significantly worse. She lost access to all the spell lore and their melee profile worsened. The Staff of Slaanesh is still here and now is flat 6 or 3 mortals depending on the roll, but they can no longer issue commands anywhere on the battlefield, and is simply a once per turn free issue of a command. Their Whispers of Doubt spell now is +1 to hit AND wound instead of just hit against the targeted hero, but at 270 points I have no idea why you’d take them over a Contorted Epitome.
As for Dexcessa, they went up 30 points, gained Warmaster and their Scourge went from a melee weapon to a ranged weapon (we assume this is a typo as it’s a 3” range missile weapon). There are just better options in the book than a 10 wound hero that has all the flaws of a big model (no look out sir, no cover etc) and no real survivability to make up for it.
That weird model very few people actually bought has been tweaked and is generally improved, but went up 45 points and I’m not sure the price bump is worth it. They hit significantly harder in combat than previously, and their Symbiosis ability (equal number of daemon/mortal units within 18”) now grants +1 to hit and wound WW 18” rather than reroll 1s to hit… but this ability is so hard to setup and so easy to disrupt I don’t think it’s going to be active very often in any game. Vengeful Alliance has now gone from a bizarre revenge +1 to hit and wound if targeted with a hit roll of 1, to a splash back of mortal wounds for unmodified save rolls of 1 in melee. Subvert (their warscroll spell) now can target any unit instead of just heroes making it more broadly useful and is probably their most appealing asset now. Finally, they lost their battleshock immunity bubble.
I want to like this unit, but I feel like it’s priced as if its Symbiosis ability is always active, when in reality it’s not going to be and it puts such a huge restriction on list building I think you just won’t bother using it at all, as it’s too overpriced for what it does when you’re not taking advantage of Symbiosis.
Onto brighter pastures, the Epitome is very good in the new book, with Horrible Fascination being rewritten to just be a flat out 3” aura of enemy units become unable to issue or receive commands OR retreat. Their Overwhelming Acquiescence spell has changed from RR1s to hit to be +1 to wound rolls for D3 different units, which while a shame to be losing the rerolls is consistent with 3rd edition books, and +1 to wound is a very useful buff to have access to, especially at the long range it has. Overall in a season where Galletian Champions are invaluable and shutting off command ability use is so useful, I don’t see there being many lists where the Epitome isn’t taken.
Slight tweak here, with the Discordant Disruption ability getting tweaked to do mortals on a double 1 OR a dice roll of 6 on the reroll, and then losing the ability to dispel endless spells. I don’t love this unit as it’s niche is a little bit narrow (it’s a bit shit if your opponent isn’t spellcasting) but if the metagame has a lot of low spellcasting bonus wizards throwing around important spells you might try and squeeze her in for 120.
They’ve seen a bit of a facelift and a rather interesting little chess piece now. For starters, their damage has gone from 1 to 2 and they’re wounding on 3+ over 4+. The Staff of Masks that heals or gives them extra attacks is now flat 3 as opposed to D3, making them a wonderful little assassin with 9 damage 2 attacks. Finally The Endless Dance has been rewritten to give them a lovely little niche – the activate from 6” is gone and has been replaced with a pregame teleport after deployment, letting you teleport them pre-game anywhere on the battlefield in enemy territory more than 3” away from all enemy units. In a list that can leverage a 1 drop army to ensure priority, you can make it very difficult for your opponent to protect a vital support hero considering how small her base is and thus how easy it is to drop it right in the middle of your opponent’s castle and charge something important.
I’m going to group discussion of these units into Seeker Chariots, Hellflayers and Exalted Chariots. In all warscrolls cases: all instances of Acquiescence have been changed from reroll 1s to hit to +1 to wound, and Flensing Whips attacks on hero chariots (+ the Exalted Chariot) are now damage 2, up from damage 1.
Seeker Chariots as a base unit are unchanged, with the hero version gaining an extra attack on piercing claws, and the new ability Thrillseeker – +1 to number of mortal wounds caused by the mutilating blades ability of seeker chariots wholly within 12” of any units with this ability (that’s the mortal wounds on charge effect).
Onto Hellflayers, which across both regular and hero versions now trigger their Soulscent ability on a 3+ rather than a 4+ if the enemy unit has 10+ models. For the Bladebringer variant, they now have the Slavering for Sensation ability, which gives hellflayers wholly within 12” of any units with this ability a +1 to their Soulscent roll.
Exalted Chariots however have seen a bit of a rewrite. The Bladebringer gets an Ironjawz mega bossy style double command ability if he issues both uses to an Exalted Chariot, and both variants lost Pungent Soulscent (the extra attacks ability). Those aren’t the only changes however, as Excess of Blades has also seen a rewrite, and is now the following: After a charge, pick 1 unit within 1” and roll number of dice equal to the charge roll. Each roll >save, cause 1 MW. Finally the unit version of the Exalted Chariot now has the Bitter Frenzy rule: Roll a dice when it receives a command from a friendly Bladebringer exalted chariot – on a 4+ add 1 to the damage of this unit’s Flensing Whips until the end of that turn.
Now let’s talk viability – I think they’ve given them enough support that a chariot heavy list won’t embarrass you, and they’ve tweaked things such that each have a bit of a unique niche (Seekers as your cheap consistent MW chip damage, Exalted Chariots for heavy save units and Hellflayers for hordes). I don’t think it’s the strongest build in the book however as they won’t generate depravity that well compared to other options. If you want to just splash a chariot into a mixed army, I like the Seeker Chariot if you have the points spare and no better alternatives, and the Bladebringer on Hellflayer makes for an interesting hero to stack enhancements on for a budget herohammer piece.
Its attacks are now damage 2 and it now has the combo fight ability many wayward foot heroes without much purpose have – this one lets you fight with a Daemonette keyword unit immediately after this unit fights if it hasn’t fought already. Like the Bladebringers, its Acquiescence spell has now been changed from reroll 1s to hit to +1 to wound. She’s fine but in a book filled with compelling hero choices ‘fine’ isn’t good enough.
The baseline Daemonette unit has received a pretty big facelift. For starters, they now hit on 3s base, and their command models now grant different abilities. Let’s just summarise what’s been gained and lost:
- Gained: +1 run and charge, Rally on a 5+, Reroll battleshock tests
- Lost: Reroll charges, Battleshock roll of 1 returns D6 models, Enemy units reroll battleshock rolls of 1 while within 6” of this unit
In totality, I think the army has gained more than it’s lost, and has received a +15 point increase to go along with these buffs. Taken in units of 20 or more, they become quite deadly little blender units once you have your depravity buffs online… but when you’re not quite there yet they’re a little bit fragile for their cost and you will want to be careful about presenting them to your opponent in the early game. Note: You can no longer summon units of 20 or 30 Daemonettes.
The ‘elite’ Daemon infantry have had some big changes too. Their Deadly Pincers are now damage D3 (up from 1) with 3 attacks as opposed to 4, and their Barbed Stinger is now Rend 2 (up from 1). Their anti-spellcaster roll has also been expanded, with their 12” aura now affecting not just casting rolls for enemy wizards, but their unbinding and dispelling rolls too (-1). Finally, their Soporific Musk is now just flat -1 to hit and wound in melee, rather than needing 4 or more models for the -1 to wound. They’ve gone up 30 points to 200 and I think they’re pretty respectable now as a one of for disruption purposes. I’m a little wary of investing in a unit of six however due to coherency issues and their base 5+ save means they’re rather susceptible to enemy shooting.
They’ve received the same changes to their command models that the Daemonettes have, and their Soul Hunters buff now lasts for the remainder of the game but only adds to their piercing claws profile. In addition, they’re now unconditional battleline! Overall I quite like them, though they are somewhat fragile with a 5+ save. I can see merit to a unit of 10 that you protect until you have some defensive buffs up, then let loose for a cheapish hammer unit that only gets more deadly as the game goes on.
Onto the mortals now, and it’s where a lot of the book’s power lies. Glutos is a lot better than he was, with a ton of changes that broadly translate to ‘degrades less, offers more’. He no longer loses crew as he gets wounded, and his mutants’ claws profile have been tweaked slightly, losing 1 attack with extra rend and reach to compensate. Gone is his warscroll ability to do mortal wounds on unmodified wound rolls of 6, as is his ability to reroll charge rolls. His 5+ ward is now just a passive constant rather than requiring a 2+ in each of your hero phases, and his Leerstave no longer grants bonuses to casting, instead it’s a 12” range missile attack at 1A/2+/2+/-/6 damage. The Grand Gourmand ability has had a few tweaks, with his bravery aura now going up to wholly within 12” and his spellcasting buff at round 4 now changing to be +1 to cast and unbind. Finally, his Gorge on Excess command ability is now just an ability, but is capped at healing a maximum of 6 wounds.
What does this all mean? Well he’s an absolute tank now, especially now the new depravity buffs means you can end up with a horrific bubble of -2 to hit. He’s expensive enough that you won’t see him alongside a Keeper of Secrets or other expensive models, but he offers enough consistent utility as well as just being a nightmare for your opponent to kill and I think he’s competitively viable as a result.
Lord of Hubris
The new kid on the block, the Lord of Hubris exudes huge ‘come at me bro’ energy from the model and the rules are consistent with that. As previewed on Warhammer Community, he can force a unit to fight him and only him in the combat phase, which is flavourful but also makes him an oddly compelling companion for other hammer units which can create very favourable combat situations. Let’s say I charge 10 Slickblade Seekers into a big ol’ unit of Chaos Chosen with the Lord of Hubris charging into them too. I can have the LoH taunt the Chosen, fight somewhere else in the battle entirely and let them crush the Lord into a fine paste… and then fight back with the Slickblade Seekers at my leisure to essentially trade my cheapish support hero for their expensive hammer unit.
In addition, he also provides a nice little ability if you’re bringing along Painbringers of Twinsouls in your army. At the start of the combat phase you can pick 1 of either of those units wholly within 12” of this unit – until the end of that phase said unit gets to fight on death. Fight on death is powerful enough of an effect that in a situation where you’re bringing a Lord of Hubris you should consider bringing at least 1 reinforced unit of elite Slaanesh infantry, or vice versa. I love this little dude and think he will see play.
In an appropriate move for the Prince of Slaanesh, it’s hard to beat perfection – he received a 5 point drop and his sword went from D3 damage to flat 2. Other than that, he’s largely as he was before. He’s still great and the biggest knock I have on him is that he’s a foot dude in a largely very fast army and he doesn’t really offer anything in the way of support for other models. That said, he’s cheap enough that you could bring him and a Contorted Epitome for the price of a Keeper of Secrets, meaning you can get your utility elsewhere. One last thing before we move on: While he hasn’t changed much, the book around him has, and he makes for a nice little depravity generator, especially against tougher armies like Fyreslayers and Nurgle that rely on their ward saves.
Lord of Pain
The standard Lord of Slaanesh has gotten a lot better and will be a mainstay in mortals lists. Why? His Paragon of Pain command ability is now just a passive aura, granting +1 to hit and wound for mortal units wholly within 12” while he’s contesting an objective. Doesn’t matter where the objective is or if you’re controlling it, just park this dude on an objective and you have a huge bubble of +1 to hit and wound. In addition, his ward has been improved to a 4+ ward, making him quite a useful Galletian Champion as he can take quite a beating before succumbing.
Shardspeaker of Slaanesh
Her basic staff attacks are a little worse now, but the Shadow Claws profile she gets when she casts a successful spell is now better and can make her a nasty little assassin as the game goes on. In addition, Mist Lurkers (the means by which she unlocks her Shadow Claws profile) now also gives her a 4+ ward instead of just +1 to save. Twisted Mirror has been changed to make it a useful (if unreliable) effect – you still pick a unit within 9” in the shooting phase, only now on a 4+ it’s -1 to saves for that unit until your next hero phase. Finally, Reflection Eternal has been tweaked to debuff the attacks characteristic of the target unit by 1, instead of -1 to wound for the enemy unit.
In totality, the Shardspeaker is a lot more interesting of a support hero than previously, as -1 save effects are rare in this game and significantly increase the damage output of your army. Getting a single cast hero with that ability on top of it, who also can randomly turn into a respectable combat threat is pretty sweet.
What if Reavers, but cheaper? Chaos’ lone premiere shooting unit (sorry uhhh *checks notes* Chaos Marauder Horsemen) also received buffs, going from a base 4+ to hit to a 3+ to hit for both their melee and ranged profiles. They went up 10 points but to be honest you’ll happily pay that for their improved damage output and their ability to dump Temptation Dice on your opponent in situations where you might otherwise struggle. A bargain and I’d say a list without at least 33 is hamstringing itself un-necessarily.
An interesting little tank unit in an army that struggles for them, as they’re now a base 3+ save as their shield ability is baked into the warscroll now, and they ALSO have the Paragons of Battle ability, adding 1 to their savage rolls if they’re wholly within enemy territory OR they’re wholly within 12” of an objective that you do not control. They gained an attack each on their scimitars but lost the mortal wounds on wound rolls of a 6, but you’ll take that trade off considering you can always get mortal wounds of your battle traits anyway. They’re more expensive than they were but with all your depravity buffs up they’re going to be often on a 2+ save before AOD/Mystic Shield etc, -1 to hit and with a 5+ ward. Just about the only knock I have for these guys is that they’re relatively slow compared to the rest of the army at 6” movement with no ability to teleport, deep strike or run and charge these guys.
Some weird changes to streamline the unit but they also lost a fair amount in the process as well. Starting off with downsides they lost an attack, an inch of range and 2” of movement. The trade-off is that they also gained a pip of rend and they now permanently have both ‘stances’ they previously had, though their effects are modified. Ego Driven Excess is now a debuff to your opponent, as enemy units that are within 3” of any units with this ability now deduct 1 from their attacks characteristic of melee weapons. Fiendish Reflexes is now always active but they only have the ward while in combat, making them a little susceptible to early game shooting.
Overall the unit is a pretty appealing unit to run MSU to hand out debuffs to combat units, but it’s not a unit I feel good about sinking a lot of points into unless you’re going all in and making them Galletian Veterans to give them back 2 ranked fighting and a Lord of Hubris to push up their combat efficiency a bit.
These dudes come in two flavours and they… well they got weird. In both flavours they received the same command model revamp that the Daemonettes had (so 5+ rally baby), but their two variants need explanation.
Hellstriders with Claw Spears
Claw Spears are now like… reverse lances? They went up to 2” range which makes sense and they lost the extra damage on the charge. Instead, if you’re within 3” of any enemy units at the start of the charge phase, they get +1 attacks and damage on their spears for the following combat phase. A unit that gets BETTER the longer it’s in combat is interesting, and with a 5+ rally they can potentially grind out a long combat and bring themselves back up to fighting fitness if they ever finish the combat off. At their price point I’m not sure if they’re going to get there competitively, but I’m glad GW is trying something different with them and I’m curious to do some further testing with them myself.
Hellstriders with Hellscourges
They gained an attack each and their Hooked Tendrils ability has been rewritten entirely, as they now shut off the ability for enemy models with a wounds characteristic of 1 or 2 to contest objectives while they’re within 3” of this unit. We’ve seen this ability previously (notably a worse version on Brutes) but pushing it to 2 wounds means this affects almost every infantry unit in the game and makes them interesting little chess pieces. I’ll admit I haven’t had a chance to try them yet but I think this unit has sneaky good potential.
The newer, shinier mortals on those weird freaking seahorses have seen some major changes, as their glaives are now rend 2 (though the poisoned tongue is now 4+ to wound, consistent with other freaky seahorses), and their Decapitating Strikes ability has been changed from extra mortal wounds to be +1 attacks for the glaives if they’re attacking a unit with 3 wounds or less. Finally, Unrivalled Velocity is now run and charge instead of reroll charges, really amping up this unit’s ability to QUICKLY move across the board (20” with a max run before charges) and make a charge into a key unit and just CRUSH them. Seriously, if you have some buffs up these guys make a premiere target for Euphoric Killers to generate lots of depravity. I think five make it into almost every list.
The bow variant had the same poisoned tongue change as their melee brothers, and their range has gone down to 12” from 18” on their bows, though they now hit on base 3s rather than 4s on both their bows and their blades. Finally, their Vectors of Agony ability has been changed from mortal wounds to be a save debuff, as if they successfully allocate any wounds to an enemy unit, said unit gets -1 save until the end of the turn. Notably this ability doesn’t stack so you can’t use multiple units to stack up the debuff, but this does stack with the Shardspeakers save debuff, and a unit of 5 makes an excellent opening salvo for your shooting phase, softening up a unit to allow your Blissbarb archers to shoot at rend 2 against a juicy target. Like the melee variant, I love these guys.
We’re into the weird part of the book now, they’ve been updated to have the same warscroll as the Beasts of Chaos version, though oddly they’re 145 instead of 130 – likely because they benefit a great deal more from the Slaanesh allegiance abilities. They’re killier than they used to be and they have a once per battle attack twice (strikes last applies the second time) to really pile on the pain which makes them an intriguing hammer unit if you can apply a strikes-last effect to the unit you plan on sending them into. That said, they’re still as fragile as ever and not sure they’re worth the gamble over some of the other options in this army.
Can we as a community just agree to basically ignore the Underworlds warbands for Age of Sigmar for the most part and only really discuss them when they’re relevant and powerful? Yeah? Excellent. This unit is a confused mess of statlines and you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Slaanesh Endless Spells
The Wheels of Excruciation and the Dreadful Visage are unchanged from their previous incarnation other than some clean-up of language. The Mesmerising Mirror however has seen a revamp, as it now affects every non-Slaanesh unit within 6” rather than every hero. You still roll 6 dice and for each 6 you NOW give your opponent the choice between resisting or gazing into the mirror. If they resist, they take D3 mortal wounds and if they gaze you gain D3 depravity. There’s a little bit of play here not just aggressively but in bringing some cheap allies to intentionally feed to this thing for extra depravity. Overall of the three I think Mirror and Visage still have the most potential, with the Wheels just kind of… well sucking.
Fane of Slaanesh
We’re at the end! The terrain feature now grants +1 to wound if you interact with it (either temporarily or permanently depending on whether you give it an artefact of power) instead of +1 to hit, which is so much better considering how easy it is to get +1 to hit with All out Attack. Best used on a Keeper of Secrets or Sigvald.
That’s it for the review! I’ve been really blown away at the balance between power, thematic rules and versatility in this army. So much so that during playtesting internally I came to the realisation I wanted to collect the army myself! I think they have the tools to give some of the meta darlings like Squig heavy Gitz issues, and the speed to keep up with Kharadron Overlords and other shooting armies. They might hit a speed bump against aggressive turn 1 melee armies like Slaves to Darkness, but they’ve got enough good matchups on paper I’d happily take them to a tournament this weekend if there was one.
In terms of issues with the book, I still think they haven’t really nailed the Daemon portion of the book, as it feels like the fact you can summon these units means they overpoint everything and they feel just a little lacklustre compared to their mortal brethren. That said, these are problems for competitive play and you won’t regret putting these guys down on the table for casual play or a path to glory campaign.