Age of Sigmar: Nullstones, Nagash, and The Mad King – A Death Army Roundtable

Goonhammer has assembled some of our well-known Age of Sigmar contributors to share what they’re thinking of after the most recent battlescroll, The Mad King release, and the new FEC releases. Since they’re all cooking up creations we wanted to hear what they see for death players over the next few months.

What were your initial impressions of the Battlescroll? What stood out as a surprise change for death players?

RagnarokAngel: The Battlescroll changed a lot more than I expected. I thought the game would be transitioning to a wind down phase as it looks like the next edition is on the horizon. While I found it mostly a lot of little things that didn’t impact me all that much, the changes to 2” range on several units that badly needed it was fantastic, and finally declaring units cannot make a ward save if they bodyguard was badly needed.

Cronch: I think the new Drain Their Power battle tactic is worth talking about briefly, more specifically how it seems very unlikely that it’ll ever be scored by a Death player. Sure, you could theoretically build an army with no casters, but it wouldn’t be optimal for any of the factions. The tradeoff of course is the multiple magic-themed battle tactics that the armies have easy access to, but some of them are singularly hard to score compared to the new one (I’m looking at you, Endless Expropriation).

On the more positive end of the scale, the changes to range on multiple Nighthaunt units are great, and hopefully give a new lease of life to Bladegheists in particular.

Vaporwave Nighthaunts
Vaporwave Nighthaunts. Credit: @dana_howl

Did any of the general FAQs impact how you’ve been playing?

RagnarokAngel: As someone who exclusively plays Ossiarch Bonereapers I will be speaking about them in specific. The general changes didn’t really impact the army as their main “problem unit” the Immortis Guard already called out that their bodyguard rule did not allow you to use the Ward, so no major changes there.

Cronch: Likewise for me with Nighthaunt, the main source of bodyguard (Spirit Hosts) already had it clearly laid out on the warscroll that transferred damage cannot be negated, so no major impact there. A slight clarification that multiple units of Myrmourn Banshees can’t attempt to eat the same spell effect is relevant too, but it’s not something I’d ever seen come up previously.

Have you played in any events since the Battlescroll with a death army? What were the results and did the changes make a difference?

RagnarokAngel: I brought Ossiarch Bonereapers to a local RTT last weekend that ended up using the battlescroll since nobody could roll the app back. I waffled a bit with my Double Mortarch list as I had two units of 3 Immortis Guard and one unit of 2 Morghast. I could choose to replace either one unit of Immortis Guard or the Morghast, and decided to replace the Morghast with a unit of Deathriders. Still not 100% sure I made the right call, but it hasn’t lost yet so I will probably bring it to Adepticon.

The 2+ Spell shrug to a 4+ for Null Myriad would have affected me, as I was using it previously but have tried to drift away from it even before the battlescroll as I found it was a bit of a crutch. As someone trying to get better at Mortis Praetorians, this was probably more confidence that I made the right call.

Cronch: I haven’t played with my Death forces since the Battlescroll, but I did play against new Flesh-Eater Courts twice in a row at the Goonhammer Open. Obviously the FEC book hasn’t been out for long enough to justify Battlescroll changes beyond points tweaking, and the things covered by the FAQ were mostly not relevant to the lists my opponents ran, save for the clarification that “counts as slain” models for Summon Loyal Subjects don’t count towards battleshock.

Ushoran, Mortarch of Delusion
Ushoran, Mortarch of Delusion. Credit: chimp

The biggest thought I have is that the Beastflayers really did not need a points drop in the Battlescroll. At 110 points (or more commonly, 220 points for a reinforced unit) they’re a crazily efficient amount of wounds for their cost, fairly capable in combat, and have an absolutely amazing warscroll ability to neutralise monsters. They can also interact with the summoning mechanics of the army to flexibly optimise for model count or damage dealing capability, choosing to damage and return the small chaff models or multi-wound heavy hitters as preferred.

In addition to the Battlescroll The Mad King introduced a number of regiments of renown. Do any stick out as having play in singles or team competition and why?

Cronch: The Sternieste Garrison, Mannfred’s regiment, has decent play I think. Teleporting to 6” away is a great trick, giving the Grave Guard a guaranteed charge with 31 attacks. Bats are a great piece for scoring Surround and Destroy and tagging objectives, and Mannfred himself is a fairly potent combat and magic threat.

Beyond that, Neferata’s battle tactic switching trick is absurdly good in a game where every VP counts, and Arkhan’s battalion also seems particularly strong. In team competition I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the six regiments though, being used to fill deficiencies in otherwise skewed lists, or lean even further into skewed builds. For a full talk-through of the Regiments of Renown, you can see our Mad King Rises rules review here.

Are there any particular regiments that require an opponent to adjust play significantly?

Cronch: My favourite thing about the regiments is that they almost all do have the potential to significantly impact your opponent’s play, whether that’s neutralising a lot of their magic potential with Arkhan’s 2+ ignore, or changing how much they commit to battle tactic denial knowing that Neferata can switch tactics and even retry failed ones.

Nagash, like several unique big models, received a big drop in points as part of the release. At the current points level do you see him having a place in competitive play?

RagnarokAngel: I think he’s now in this weird phase where he is viable if you want to run a weird skew or gimmick list but he might not be the most optimum play. I’m biased, since I love the guy, but he could come down a few more points before he hits prime time.

Cronch: I think at the moment his warscroll is good enough that he’s always going to be seen at big events, but the points are so high in the context of a 2,000 point list that it’s still very restrictive. Like Alice says, he’s not going to be the optimum choice for now, but no doubt we’ll still be seeing him, and probably still with a big horde of zombies.

Chimp: There’s competition and there’s competition. People will always take Nagash, because it’s Nagash. Will he be dominating the top tables? Probably not, unless some particular spam lists arise. That being said, tournaments are more than the top table and Daddy is a foil to certain archetypes, and can be a roadblock to less experienced players, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see individual Nagash Players do quite well.

How should non-death players deal with Nagash when they see him on the table? 

RagnarokAngel: Tie him up with chaff until you feel ready to charge in with your biggest hammer. He is a monster, so he will roar you and blunt your killing potential, but he’s not actually as scary in combat as you might think.

I may be speaking the obvious but if your opponent brings the umbral spellportal, put all your primal dice into stopping that, they will Hand of Dust you through it.

Chimp: Charge him with a Royal Decapitator and roll the 5+.

Even at his new low low cost of 860 points, Nagash is tying up a huge proportion of your opponent’s points – and his rules encourage them to bubble units around him. This kind of deathball has always been limited to only being able to affect one part of the table at a time. Your mileage may vary here depending on battleplan as some of them do just funnel your armies into the middle of the board, but you can usually play to pick apart and outscore armies like this.

Cronch: If a colossal god of Death Hand of Dusted me I would run over to where he is and kick the book out of his hand and kill him because he’s not specialised in melee fight. More seriously, like others have said, outplay him on position until it’s time to commit in melee, and understand which spells take priority for unbinding. Or shoot the heck out of him, if that floats your aetherboat.

Credit: Swiftblade (Editors Note: Nagash is a dick)

In your heart, do you think Nagash is a priest?

Chimp: You can pry Legions of Nagash from my cold, undead hands.

Cronch: Him being a priest would be acknowledging that there’s a higher entity that he’s praying to in order to manifest prayers, so it’s a no from me dog.

Chimp: Nagash praying to himself and rewarding himself would be incredibly on brand.

Non-OBR Death players are notorious for being able to marshall hundreds of models quickly. Do you think the changes have adjusted the production meta

Chimp: Ghosts and Ghouls are some of the most speed-paintable models that GW produce, someone somewhere is cooking up something absolutely heinous with Crypt Ghouls as we speak.

Cronch: Somebody somewhere is cackling as they blow the dust off of the tens and tens of Bladegheists and Harridans they bought from repeat issues of Mortal Realms magazine. Their time has finally come.

What is the wildest list combination that you’ve cooked up that you’re willing to share? 

Chimp: Like everyone else I immediately looked up how many Bladegheists you can take alongside Nagash and a Cruciator (it’s 60). That’s boring and predictable though, so digging through my old FEC collection I have uncovered 15 Crypt Flayers and over a hundred Ghouls ready and waiting to do an ungodly amount of damage to some unsuspecting friends. 

Cronch: Most of my listbuilding has been rotating lovely FEC models on the webstore before sighing and adding more Horrors and Archregents to the list instead. I’ve also been looking at going back to Nighthaunt; for LGT in 2019 I painted and ran 40 Bladegheist Revenants who have languished in a Really Useful Box for most of their subsequent (un)lives, so I’ve been toying with some ideas to get them on the table.

FEC got a great refresh and new rules? What is being overrated and what is underrated? How often are we going to see The Summer King?

Flesh Eater Courts. Credit: Doug Gibbs

Chimp: You’ll see Ushoran because the model is incredible and he’s a decent all-rounder choice. Top level FEC lists are more likely to coalesce around double Archregeants and Courtiers of choice supporting some max size Horror blocks, and that style of list is probably not where Ushoran is doing his best work. 

Cronch: It’s surprising to see the Royal Beastflayers doing well given what normally happens with Warcry bands’ AoS warscrolls, but not surprising given how points efficient and useful they are. For me, the thing people are sleeping on a bit is Crypt Flayers. They’re not without their downsides, and it’s easy to see how well Horrors and Morbhegs work in Hollowmourne, but the Flayers can still get a lot of work done and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some lists with them do quite well at some point. It’s disappointing to see the new small heroes mostly sit on the sidelines, other than the Gorewarden, but not surprising given their relatively niche functions compared to the Archregent especially. Ushoran I think we’ll see quite a lot, especially in a few more weeks when people have finished painting him. He’s a great centrepiece to build the army around.

Any final thoughts that haven’t been covered?

Cronch: I’ve declared this to be the “year of Death” for me, which sounds quite morbid now that I write it down, but what I mean is that my AoS focus for 2024 is primarily my Death armies. I’m getting into FEC, hoping to re-base and touch up my Nighthaunt, and also committing to getting through a bunch of my Soulblight stuff. It’s been motivating to see the new regiments in Dawnbringers offer some different ways to use my models before I have finished a whole army, and I’m looking forwards to getting them done. Death finally feels in quite a good place after a fair few years of feeling like the afterthought Grand Alliance.