Do you like Halloween? Want to cover the table in more plastic skeletons and goblets than a Party City? Soulblight Gravelords are for you. The aristocracy of the Night, Soulblight Gravelords are sevants of Nagash, the God of Death. The Vampire Lords are one of the few followers Nagash lets retain their sapience as they are just as prone to fighting each other as they are the living, meaning that they are unlikely to ever challenge him on a united front. Their foot soldiers are all manner of skeletons and zombies who throw themselves at the enemy with no sense of self preservation, creating a greater harvest of blood for their Masters.
In contrast to the more eccentric bone constructs of the Ossiarch Bonereapers, the Soulblight Gravelords are the successor to the Vampire Counts from Warhammer Fantasy Battles. That is to say they have much more “traditional” monsters like werewolves, skeletons and zombies in addition to their Vampire Masters. Generally a Horde army, the amount of unit selection allows for a flexible playstyle with a lot of different options on how to approach the field of battle.
Soulblight Gravelords have performed well going into third edition, generally ranking quite high on the GT circuit. This is a combination of having a lot of different ways to play in addition to unit abilities that let you bend the rules to outwit an opponent. A smart Vampire general can tie an enemy down in a blob of Zombies while their Blood Knights and Zombie Dragons soar over them to score the objective and a unit of skeletons comes up from the grave to box the enemy in.
If you want to be a pedant, not much. There was a recent FAQ which allowed you to finally break the Cursed City villains off into separate Leaders which opened up a few options. The book was published after 3.0 was announced so it was written with much of those sensibilities in mind. Still, check the FAQ because a lot of wording changes and questions might come up with certain abilities.
Since it was a 3.0 tome for all intents and purposes, what is new since it’s original tome the Legions of Nagash? Many units were taken out in order to give the book more of a “focus”, as the Legions of Nagash Battletome was still from 1st edition and as a result could be a bit all over the place. Arkhan the Black and Morghast Harbingers/Archai were moved to Ossiarch Bonereapers while the Banshee, Cairn Wrath and Spirit Hosts went to Nighthaunts (along with the Soul Wars units which should have stayed exclusively theirs in the first place). The subfactions have been given a bit more of a “thing” with two being led by Mortarchs and three more based on different specialties. All in all its a faction that can focus on a few things rather than just being a grab bag for random Death units that aren’t Flesh Eater Courts.
A lot of this article is going to talk about leaders, because Soulblight Gravelords have a ton of really good leaders. Consisting mostly of Vampires and a few Wights and Death-minded humans for good measure you have oodles of options here that it can become very overwhelming. Let’s look first at the humble Vampire Lord. You can take them on foot or on a Zombie Dragon and both options are pretty good, depending on what you want to do. The on-foot version has a very good command ability that grants +1 to a units attacks which pays serious dividends on a max size Skeleton Warrior unit. Be wary that the Vampire Lord on foot is not as good in combat as you’d think and can quickly become overwhelmed if they stage dive into a mob of enemies. For that you want to take it on a Zombie Dragon which does not have the command ability but is a real combat shredder. Between Mystic Shield and the Amulet of Destiny it can weather many a storm. It’s also worth looking at the named variant, Prince Vhordrai who has a great spell to make him a combat machine. Whichever you prefer is going to be up to personal preference
The Vengorian Lord is another Monster worth looking at. At only ten wounds its a bit on the delicate side but it packs a powerful ability to reduce rend by 1 for anything it gets into combat with, even if it’s not the one being targetted. Use it as a chaperone for your important Heroes so they are protected while in combat. Their command ability allows a pretty easy D6 healing to keep them alive as well. Rounding it off, it’s also quite fast and can potentially run and charge in the same turn, allowing it to zip around the field and grab objectives. As a monster it’s worth 5 models so it is certainly a valid tactic.
Both Mortarchs, Neferata and Mannfred are good additions within their faction and without. Neferata is a fairly straight forward combat blender. She can decimate the enemy in a straight up fight and comes with a strong Command Ability to grant -1 to hit to an enemy unit and her unique spell Dark Mist can negate high rend or negatives to saves. Mannfred is more tricky, supporting his role as Mortarch of Night. He can teleport after charging or being charged, meaning he never has to get into a fight he doesn’t want to. This can let you move to objectives on the other side of the field or in position to charge a much softer target. He’s not a slouch in combat after all.
Rounding out the Leaders that are strongly worth taking is the Necromancer. Although not a great caster, with no bonuses to cast and very fragile he has access to his own spell lore separate from the Vampires, Lore of the Deathmages that has some real bangers. Without a Necromancer there isn’t a way to get these spells without using Nagash or a Mortarch and that’s a lot of points. His warscroll spell is also powerful letting a unit attack twice a turn. Since many of your units win through volume of dice, you want all the hits you can take. Especially when coupled with a Vampire Lord on Foot’s command ability.
Some other noteworth mentions are Nagash, who can be good but at 975 you seriously have to build a list around him. Bring a Vengorian Lord to help keep rend down and support him as much as possible. He can slay entire units himself if properly buffed. Gorslav the Gravekeeper is a Cursed City Hero who is actually quite good now that he’s been decoupled from the rest. He gets a 4+ bodyguard save with Deadwalkers which is a nice perk, and can bring back a dead unit at half strength. So bring a max squad! Belladomma is a solid Vampire caster who packs a bodyguard roll with Dire Wolves, and can let them pull a gotcha in the combat phase by letting them pile in 6″ instead of 3″, even if they’re 6″ away from an enemy! No charge needed.
That was a lot. More than you could fit into a list to be sure, so pick and choose based on preference and what you want your army’s “thing” to be.
You’re granted one of the more diverse options when it comes to Battleline and your three “standard” battleline all have their own uses. Deadwalker Zombies are terrible on their face but do not let that fool you. Their 6″ pile-in is incredibly powerful and allows you to pile in even if you didn’t charge into combat. This allows you to position them in such a way that your opponent basically can’t ignore them. While they may not have a save, they will hold out against a lot of attacks, buying you time. There’s only so many combat phases per game, so sometimes that’s all you need. They’re cheap as hell and can spawn more in the unit on a 6 to hit (followed by a 2+). Deathrattle Skeletons are slightly better in combat, more likely to ding a few hits and can return dead models on a 4+ when nominated to attack, making your opponent not want to attack them too early lest their work be undone. Its debatable if they can hold up to Zombies from a cost perspective but they are still quite good as their job. Finally Dire Wolves are like the requisite battleline Cavalry part of many armies. Fast and fairly cheap, they won’t do a lot of damage but they are good at harassing enemies left alone or objectives left unprotected. They’re good candidates for keeping in the grave so you can raise them up and move into an advantageous position.
Blood Knights are one of the most coveted units when the book came out and its easy to see why. They look cool and good news, are extremely annoying to deal with (for your opponent). While their combat profile is above average, the real annoyance is that they can just move over enemies in the way, dealing Mortal Wounds in the process. Fly is an extremely powerful keyword and if an opponent tries to body block you from getting on a point just jump over them and keep riding. Grave Guard are one of your best “Hammer” units, able to hit on a 3+/3+ with rend -1 base and a 4+ save if you take sword and shield, they’re cheap for what you get. Definitely bring a big blob of them.
On the support end the unassuming Corpse Cart is a solid inclusion, sometimes worth including two. Both are pretty good, though the Unholy Lodestone is a bit easier to work with, with its +1 to saves and casting. The Balefire Brazier is still good, but as it debuffs your opponent it requires getting fairly close. Bring a proper screening unit.
There are other good stuff in the book too, but we’ve gone on long enough already. Experiment with what you like, you’re one of the armies with a really solid selection of units and don’t need to necessarily rely on the same stuff all the time.
How to Play
Unless you play the Avengorii Dynasty (which lets you take Zombie Dragons and Terrorgheists as Battleline) you are a horde army, straight up. Your units don’t tend to hit hard and they fall apart to a stiff breeze. What you do have is numbers on your side and boy do you have a lot of numbers. Your battleline has ways to regenerate itself after dying, you can heal units each turn and if a unit is destroyed you can bring them back at half strength later. You’ll often be able to outnumber the opponent on the objectives so it’s not always about killing them, it’s surviving their attacks.
When setting up, show caution about where you put your gravestones. It’s tempting to put two in your opponent’s deployment to mess with them but that’s not always a good idea. With a 12″ range, and the fact you can’t summon them within 9″ of the enemy means they can easily block the deployment of units you put in the graveyard. Put them near objectives, as that’s likely where the action is going to take place and they can keep your units supported with Deathless Minions, or bring in replacements close to the objective.
Your best faction picks are Vyrkos for general purpose use, as the buffs included can be helpful for almost any list. Rerolling casting is a super useful bonus, and the +1 to wound for most of your units is crazy powerful. It also helps that the majority of the names characters have the keyword so they can benefit from the rerolling casting. Kastellai Dynasty can be a close second, if you want to go heavy on the Blood Knights and that certainly is a valid strategy.
Soulblight boil down to using your hordes to tie the enemy down away from the objectives, and using your stronger Heroes and elite units to either carve through them or fly over them to the objective. Remember, Age of Sigmar is a game about objectives, not ever victory goes to the guy who kills the most.
You have a ton of options for Heroes and that’s going to direct a lot of your list building. Your core battleline is surprisingly flexible as well, letting you try out a few different combinations of things. All your stuff is super cheap too, allowing you to include a lot of different things to taste to occupy different roles. Let’s try a nice and flexible list with all the core staples.
Allegiance: Soulblight Gravelords - Lineage: Vyrkos Dynasty - Grand Strategy: Hold the Line - Triumphs: Leaders Belladamma Volga, First of the Vyrkos (200)* - Lore of the Vampires: Amethystine Pinions Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon (435)* - General - Deathlance - Command Trait: Pack Alpha - Artefact: Amulet of Destiny (Universal Artefact) - Universal Spell Lore: Flaming Weapon Necromancer (125)* - Artefact: Ulfenkarnian Phylactery - Lore of the Deathmages: Fading Vigour Battleline 10 x Dire Wolves (135)* 10 x Dire Wolves (135)** 20 x Deadwalker Zombies (115)** 40 x Deadwalker Zombies (230)** - Reinforced x 1 Units 20 x Grave Guard (280)** - Wight Blades & Crypt Shields - Reinforced x 1 20 x Grave Guard (280)** - Wight Blades & Crypt Shields - Reinforced x 1 Endless Spells & Invocations Emerald Lifeswarm (60) Core Battalions *Warlord **Hunters of the Heartlands Additional Enhancements Artefact Total: 1995 / 2000 Reinforced Units: 3 / 4 Allies: 0 / 400 Wounds: 168 Drops: 9
If you’ve been following along it’s easy to see where this list is going. We got a our basic battleline to help capture objectives and keep the enemy busy, while our Grave Guard and Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon hammer into them and the casters support them and keep them alive. Emerald Lifeswarm can be a real headache on a large unit, helping keep your otherwise delicate troops up and kicking. All you need is one to survive to after all.
You have a lot of room for variation and this is by no means definitive, just to get the creative juices flowing. There’s a real menagerie of solid units available to you that there’s just too much to include here so get out there and reap some blood and bones for The Great Necromancer!
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