Faction Pack Overview: Idoneth Deepkin – Age of Sigmar 4th Edition

A thank you to Games Workshop for sending us these rules and the Skaventide box set to be able to cover and review. Over the coming weeks, and with the benefit of having played dozens of games, we will be having faction experts provide insight into how they are building and running lists with these factions. For this overview we’re looking at what stands out for the faction, how much has changed, and how we would approach dealing with some of the common threats that are present in all wargames.

Elves that tangled a bit too closely with Slaanesh, hiding for untold ages in their own realm safe from interference from the main players in the Mortal Realms, an antagonistic relationship with their old gods, and warfare of brutal lightning raids conducted to harvest souls for the purpose of extending their own lives. Deepkin aren’t entirely Wet Drukhari, but they’re pretty close.

On the table, Deepkin move fast and hit hard; sometimes they can even take a punch back. They’ve also been defined by their place as Age of Sigmar’s ultimate foil for gunlines, and army wide strikes first for one glorious battleround. At launch the competitive army was a writhing mass of eels deployed in multiple small units, through third edition the army was largely in the competitive doldrums with brief moments of too-efficient multi-role sharks forming their own gunline. The threat of some sort of Namarti heavy infantry build has always lurked under the surface, but never quite managed to rise to the top. 

Whilst I’ve played AoS since launch, Deepkin were the first army I truly immersed myself in, aiming for the best of my ability at painting and play (with admittedly mixed results). The new faction pack is a sea change for the army, with some iconic abilities missing or fundamentally changed, and a new approach to the roles of some of the units. The army will still feel like Idoneth Deepkin, but there are new gameplay avenues to explore and playstyles the army hasn’t really had access to. It feels like the most open version of the army yet.

Army Rules

For Deepkin veterans the loss of Forgotten Nightmares is a bit of a shock, but there’s less of a need for it to exist in this edition. For new players or the fish-curious, it’s hard to explain quite how much the tides can dictate your gameplay – the army does ebb and flow around these rules and how you utilise (and how your opponent reacts to) High Tide is often the defining moment of Deepkin games. 

A beautiful quality of life change to the tides is Flood Tide changing from run and shoot or charge, to and/or; Deepkin have a few warscrolls that are active in shooting and melee and this opens the second battle round up for them in a big way.

For an army with a lot of 12-14” moves the baked in ability to deploy from reserve might seem an odd choice of battle trait, but the army does come with a few ways to play with this ability in powerful ways.

Battle Formations

Namarti Corps

Your Namarti units get to re-roll run and charge rolls, so long as they’re wholly within 12” of an Akhelian unit, which is a pretty forgiving condition. Thralls aren’t the hammer they used to be but running and charging is always powerful when it rears its head, and Reavers can make use of this as well with their ability to run and shoot. It’s nice for an aggressive Namarti army, but that might not be the best playstyle for them anymore.

Akhelian Beastmasters

+1 to hit in melee for the companions of Akhelian units. Deepmares, Allopexes, Fangmoras and Leviadons all hit on a 4+ by default now so if you are investing in Akhelians you are probably taking this.

Isharann Council

+1 to casting, ritual and lurelight rolls (the latter two for Tidecasters and Soulrenders respectively) for Isharann units within combat range of another Isharann unit. This is an annoying condition and the most limited application for a battle formation, but casting bonuses are good and this works out as an extra Namarti brought back by a Soulrender using its ability, so is probably the more obvious Namarti-focussed option.

Soul-Raid Ambushers

Once per turn at the end of your turn you can pick a cavalry or infantry unit that’s wholly within 3” of a terrain feature, remove them from the battlefield and into reserve as per the battle trait. This is powerful, especially if you build for it with Soulscryers, as being able to lift your hammer units out of harms way before sending them back into the fray lets you control the flow of combat. Wholly within 3” of terrain is tight, so this will reward players who can think turns ahead and are disciplined with their movement.

Heroic Traits

Ancient Pride

Unmodified hit rolls of 1-3 in melee automatically miss. Slap this on an Aspect of the Storm and watch it stick around.

Nightmare Legacy

Pick an enemy unit that the hero has damaged with an ability in this turn and subtract d6 from its control score. A nice effect, Aspects of the Sea have three phases of opportunity to try and get this trigger and Akhelian King’s have two. Otherwise, it’s a trickier sell as your smaller heroes are more of a supporting element.

Hunter of Souls

Anti-Hero (+1 Rend) for your melee weapons. Pushes the Storm and charging King to rend 3. This is obviously situational in its application, but if a metagame of big scary heroes develops this helps you push big damage through, and also helps to score the Slay the Tyrants battle tactic. 

Artefacts of Power

Armour of the Cythai

Non-companion weapon abilities have no effect on the bearer. This works against ranged attacks, which is a nice defensive boost. You can make a horrible tank Eidolon with this and Ancient Pride.

Delicious Morsels

Once per turn in any movement phase you can heal d3 for each cavalry unit within combat range. Allopexes are cavalry, eels still somehow have 4 wounds. Getting two pops of heal per battle round on these units is good. 


-1 to cast for enemy wizards within 18”. Straightforwardly good, unless you find yourself playing against Khorne as much as I do.

Lorai, Child of the Abyss. Credit: SRM

Spell Lore

Deepkin don’t have their own endless spells, so just the one spell lore, the Lore of the Deeps.

Steed of Tides – Unlimited

Old reliable, this is back and better than ever as it lets you pick any Deepkin unit wholly within 12” and lets you set them up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from enemy units. Deepkin have some reasonable access to casting bonuses now, so a casting value of 6 makes this relatively reliable. That being said, there are ways to access reserves and more reliable charges out of them than 9”, so this isn’t the be all and end all it was.

Arcane Corrasion

Pick an enemy within 12” and reduce their rend by 1. With rend getting toned down across the board the value of this ability goes up. This feels more like an Aspect of the Sea spell, as the 12” range is more restrictive for a squishy wizard like a Tidecaster.

Pressure of the Deep

Casts on a 7, picks an enemy unit and rolls a dice for each model in the unit and does a mortal for every 5+. The highest cast value and the least generally applicable (there’s a fair few armies this will be useless against), but it’s there when the inevitable 200 goblin meta arrives.

Gloomtide Shipwreck

This can be set up as one or two separate terrain pieces, with 14 and 7 health respectively. No longer a garrison or with easy conditions to turn its ability off, this now simply adds +1 save to Deepkin infantry and cavalry wholly within 6”. It’s a big terrain piece, and with the ability to split it up it can cover a lot of your deployment. This is now the primary save boosting ability to the army, but combined with the new effects of low tide and the Leviadon should still provide you with powerful defensive bonuses in the early. Because it sets up in your own territory and more than 3” from objectives it will become less useful as the game progresses, but +1 to save is not to be sniffed at.

Warscroll Spotlights

A lot of the hero warscrolls roughly maintain their identity, but it’s worth calling out the Isharann Soulscryer as the recipient of a huge glow up. With bringing units on from reserve now a core army ability, the Soulscryer gets to pick a unit being set up via that ability and bypass the usual deployment restrictions – setting them up wholly within 12” of the Soulscryer and more than 7” from enemy units. Given the Soulscryer can travel the aethersea itself, this gives your hammer units a lot more flexibility and reliability in where you can deploy them. To top it off, in your own hero phase the Soulscryer can also roll a 3+ to give your army +1 to wound against an enemy unit within 18”.

I mentioned it a few times in the enhancements but with 12 wounds, a 3+ save and 5+ ward an Aspect of the Storm with defensive enhancements is a nightmare to bring down. Throw in six rend 2, damage 3 attacks on the charge and the ability to inflict strikes last on an enemy hero on a 3+, and you have a solid melee centrepiece. A 12” +1 to wound in combat aura is the cherry on top. 

There’s now clear water between the function of the Akhelian King and Volturnos, do the detriment of the former. The King is now an OK beatstick in melee and lets an Akhelian cavalry unit activate immediately after it fights in combat. Volturnos is now really quite scary in melee, has a once per game (any combat phase) +1 attack to 3 deepkin ability, an aura of +1 to hit for Akhelians and a 3+ ward against spells, prayers and manifestations. 

Outside of heroes, I quite like Morrsarr Guard now (though they were criminally underrated all of third edition). They’re a less independent unit now, the army just works more synergistically with Akhelians than it used to, but retain their perplexing 4 wounds and rapid 14” move. A big quality of life change here is that their charge mortal wound ability now works every single charge phase, rather than once per game. A brick of 6 of these and an Aspect of the Storm is a melee menace.

There have also been big changes to the Leviadon, which now comes with a 3+ base save that never degrades. By itself this is probably worse than the old 2+ degrading save, but the Leviadon now sports a 5+ ward. With 16 wounds, this is a tough tough nut to crack. The passive ability void drum is now a 6” aura of 5+ ward. 6” isn’t the easiest range to work with, and the actual physicality of keeping your tall spindly models close to this low flying and wide monster will be quite annoying.

Finally, it’s worth talking about Namarti. Reavers have had the expected shooting de-tune, and are now 12” range with their whisperbows and wound on 4s. However, they’ve picked up auto-wounding on a crit and the ability to run or retreat and still shoot. These can still be decent. Thralls are in a very interesting place now. Their Lanmari blades are anti-infantry +1 rend and they get damage 2 vs monsters. Having your basic infantry be rend 2 into enemy infantry is a big swing. Plus, if you’re willing to invest in the hero support you can pile an absolute nightmare number of buffs onto this unit. +3 control from Lotann, unmodifiable control from an Aspect of the Sea, returning models with a Soulrender and -1 to enemy wound rolls from a Thrallmaster. 

Flowing Through Battle Tactics

Deepkin are naturally good at any battle tactic requiring specific positioning, and there’s a gimme early game Order tactic in Reclaim the Realms. You also have the units and tech to build for Slay the Tyrants. A universal tactic to keep in mind for specific timings is how good Do Not Waver is on your high tide, as you don’t have to worry about enemy unit activations ruining the secondary requirement of having no friendly units be destroyed. 

Tidecaster. Credit: Raf Cordero

Crashing Upon the Foe

There’s a lot to like here for new and returning Deepkin players. The fundamental feel of the army is in line with your expectations on reading the lore and just looking at the models. The army still plays around the timing of the tides, but there’s also an enormous amount of synergy baked into the warscrolls. I can see cavalry dominated Akhelian Beastmaster armies being popular, and they’ll be able to deliver lightning hammerblows whilst offering more engaging gameplay than the old point and click no extra rules style. On the other hand, I can definitely also see avenues for powerful Namarti themed builds playing defensively on objectives, but with an ability to quickly lash out with controlled aggression. It’s the most well rounded take on the army we’ve seen.

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