Kill Team: Nightmare – Drukhari Mandrakes Review

The upcoming Kill Team: Nightmare boxed set brought us two amazing new teams featuring all-new models for older units/factions in the game. The first are the terrifying Night Lords (you can find that review here), while the other are the shadowy Drukhari Mandrakes. Mandrakes have been around a long time and have always managed to dodge the limelight (likely intentionally), but with new plastic models and new rules they’re poised to storm the Kill Team meta.

Before we dive in we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a preview copy of the Kill Team: Nightmare boxed set and rules for review purposes.

Credit: John from Can You Roll A Crit?

Team Composition

Coming out of the shadows, the Mandrake Kill team is composed of nine Operatives. It is true that the Mandrakes do not bring too many specialists (almost 50% of the team is composed of warriors), but they make up for it with powerful Ploys and passive abilities. By buying a single box you can create the most competitive Kill Team possible, which as a competent player is always a great value. 

CYRAC: Mandrakes also debut the team with the most difficult specialists to identify for both your opponent and yourself. At least topknots semi-help identify specialists.

Faction Abilities

Shadow Passage

Once per Turning Point an operative can spend 1AP to perform a Normal Move and instead of moving, he can teleport as long as he ends up within 1″ of a heavy element. In addition, he can’t end his move in line of sight of enemy operatives or perform a shooting attack until the next turn (which means no overwatch either). 

This ability is fantastic both to improve your position as well as to achieve secondaries, and it opens a huge range of options for creative players. 

Also in this ability it is explained to us what is to be “within Shadow.” Mandrakes are within Shadow if they are within 1″ of a heavy element or under a vantage point. This is a term used liberally in the rules, so get used to it.

CYRAC: Being within Shadow almost seems too easy, especially when compared to the Nemesis Claw ability. It’s strong but triggers so easily which results in most of your abilities always being on unless playing on Bheta-Decima.

The board-wide teleport is slightly restrictive but it’s odd GW allowed such a powerful mechanic into the team that any operative can use. Incredibly broken/powerful on ITD and dense boards.

HappyRaccoon: For players wary about dealing with the Mandrakes many abilities, just realize that half the counter play is baiting Mandrakes out into the light of day. Fighting on their teams in the dark gives them access to all of their rules.

Umbral Entities

Mandrake operatives have a 5++ save, or a 4++ if they are within shadow, making them very resistant to gunfire just like their harlequin cousins.

Soul Strike

Any Mandrake weapon with Soul Strike (which is almost all of them) rolls against the enemy’s APL instead. This means that a Marine only saves on 2 or 3 and only crit saves on 1, and a Veteran Guard only saves on 1 or 2. This ability is fantastic for a Kill Team without AP to deal with highly armored targets.

CYRAC: The shooting reflects how Mandrakes play on the tabletop in regards to range. However, the implementation for it is kinda bonkers. No cover and stun would have been better than going off APL. Completely nullifying armour saves for every team in the game is strong and also quite problematic.


Mandrakes have a unique roster, and every member of it will probably see use: Four warriors, four specialists and one leader. With 6″ movement, 2APL, GA1, and equipped by default with Baleblasts (Bolters with Soulstrike) and Blades (4/5, lethal 5+) each operative is a threat in their own right.


Nightfiend by Ardathair

The Nightfiend comes equipped with Baleblast and a Huskblade with an impressive profile (5 dice 2+ 4/6 Damage, Stun). They’re a threat to be reckoned with in combat even before their excellent abilities:

Harrowing Whispers: When an opponent wants to activate a model within 6″ of the Nightfiend, roll against the model’s APL. If you roll above its APL, the opponent must choose another miniature to activate instead. Abilities that alter the tempo of the game are incredible and this one is no exception. It also acts as a defensive ability.

Oubliex: Ignore an attack die on a 5+ each TP; if this operative incapacitates an enemy using the Huskblade it may use this ability again during the same TP. (Basically the Just a Scratch effect on a 5+.) This will generate a lot of uncertainty in any operative that wants to attack the Nightfiend (and also in us).

CYRAC: The Nightfiend introduces worryingly powerful mechanics to Kill Team. Harrowing Whispers is kinda too strong, shutting down opponent operatives (repeatedly) with almost no counterplay. The continuing Oubliex ability is also wild as well. While mostly fragile, the leader is sooo powerful at shutting down opponent plays and operatives.


The Abyssal comes equipped with Balesurge, a shooting weapon that gains 1 die in attack (5 to 3+3/4) and either Blast or Lethal 5+ to adapt to the situation as you wish. In addition they can cover an enemy or allied miniature with Balefire for 1AP; enemies in Balefire will take +1 damage from shooting attacks and lose any cover, while allies wreathed in Balefire take -1 damage from shooting attacks. A fantastic ability that makes the fragile Mandrakes either more resilient or more lethal.

CYRAC: The Abyssal is some nice tech support for the team, and also helps cover some of their weaknesses such as into horde players bunching up.

Chooser of the Flesh:

The Mandrakes’ best combat operative; they are equipped with Baleblast like the rest, but thanks to his Baleblade, they have a 5 ⁄ 6 damage weapon with brutal, lethal 5+, and reap 2. In addition, their Soul Harvest ability gives the player a soul token when he eliminates an enemy (or two if he eliminates a 3+ APL enemy). This token can be used to gain 1 APL with any operative until the end of the game or to gain d6 wounds lost. This makes this operative a VIP for the team, one who always stays protected until they get the kill.

And the Chooser of the Flesh will get the kill, thanks to Part Collector: If an enemy operative tries to Fall Back, they receive d6 mortal wounds before they move.

CYRAC: He is great but needs a few FAQs (a common problem with the team as a whole). Currently the wording of Soul Harvest would allow an operative to go to 4APL or more etc. He is almost crucial to the team and is needed to get kills so the Mandrakes can shutdown the opponent. You’ll struggle to win if he never kills anyone.


The Dirgemaw has the standard loadout and three abilities. First, the Horrifying Scream. This scream has indirect 5A at 2+ with Damage 2/2 and MW2. This makes the Dirgemaw a hit-and-run vanguard, using the Scream and then vanishing back into the shadows to stay alive.

Their second ability, Haunting Focus, allows them to mark an enemy model in the strategy phase. If the opponent activates that model, then the Dirgemaw immediately activates before it. This is a very powerful ability as it again alters the tempo of the game. Also for 1APL you can use Pareidolic Projection to make an enemy model in LOS or within shadow considered Wounded and unable to gain APL until the next activation.

This operative gives us a lot of table control and can undoubtedly give many headaches to the opponent.

CYRAC: I don’t know why Mandrakes have interrupt mechanics and it’s weird they get two of the most powerful in the game. The Dirgemaw is great but your opponent will grow to hate it. You can reliably shutdown enemy first activation plays from TP2 onwards via incredibly unfun ways (for the opponent). It’s great, no doubt, but kind of worrying if we keep seeing similar mechanics like this going forwards with Kill Team.


The Kill Team’s mage, lurking in the shadows, is able to place a portal token for 2AP. This token will allow our Mandrakes to use Shadow Passage for free and will also generate Within Shadow for our operatives. Also for 1AP we can place Weave Darkness on the field, which for all intents and purposes is an area of smoke to protect our Mandrakes. 


Warriors, Mooks, or Goons Credit: HappyRaccoon

Finally we have the four reliable Warriors with the standard equipment Baleblast and Glimmersteel blade. This Glimmersteel weapon will have +1 to critical damage (up to 4/6) if the warrior is within shadow. This can make things very interesting, as 4/6 reaches many breaking points that the 4/5 normally can’t touch.

Credit: John from Can You Roll A Crit?


With nine operatives, 8 wounds and 2APL the Mandrakes’ ploys need to be absolutely amazing to help cover the possible flaws this team has (and oh boy do they cover). Whether it’s compensating for their fragility, making them more powerful, or making them survivable.

Tactical Ploys

  • Creeping Horror 1CP- Probably one of the best ploys not only in the team but in the entire game, it again allows you to play on the enemy activations. It allows our Mandrake operatives to dash after the enemy finishes his activation. It can only be done once per Mandrake and only if it’s in conceal and starts and ends within shadow, but it’s absolutely amazing the versatility this ploy gives you!
  • Gloaming Shroud 1CP- An extra die can be retained on defence. This combined with 4+ invulnerability can create very resistant operatives against shooty teams.
  • Blade in the Dark 1CP- Allows Mandrakes to become pseudo-Kommandos and charge in conceal as long as they start or end within shadow, a very good ploy if the map allows them to take advantage of it.
  • Inescapable Nightmare 1CP- A reroll in combat or shooting if you are within shadow. Yes please! Another of the Ploys needed to make the faction work.

Strategic Ploys

  • Slither Out of sight 1CP- Allows an operative within shadow to change the order to an operative at the end of any activation. A good player can use this to protect your miniatures or create an aggressive move during TP1.
  • Soul Feast 1CP- Allows operatives to heal after combat or shooting. It is situational but can be very powerful at the right moments.
  • Nowhere to Hide 1CP- Gives operatives the ability to ignore terrain. Again, a circumstantial ploy and with all the other great ploys you have, one you should try to save as much as possible.
  • Shadow’s Bite 1CP- This ploy allows you to turn the tables in combat. The Mandrake operative becomes the attacker, thus altering the tempo of combat. A superb ploy that if used correctly can generate a lot of agency for Mandrake players. 

Credit: John from Can You Roll A Crit?


The Mandrake team gets a reasonable equipment selection, a lot of different equipment to adapt to any situation. We’ll go over each in detail.

  • Chain Snare 1EP- A very interesting piece of equipment which makes it so that at 4+ (or 3+ if this operative has more wounds than the enemy) the enemy operative cannot perform a Fall Back, although he does not lose APL. Very useful against shooting hordes.
  • Haunting Projection 2EP- Select a target within 6″; subtract 1 from that target’s APL. It is a pocket reiver, making one of your closest targets more easily defendable or allowing you to try to steal a far objective marker.
  • Shadow Glyph 3EP- A super-conceal for an operative. Wonderful for avoiding getting shot at in the first few turns.
  • Spectral Essence 2EP- Adds +1″ to dashes. Combined with Creeping Horror it generates huge mobility for our Mandrakes. 
  • Soul Gem 2EP- Adding blast 1” may not seem like much, but in ITD paired with that sweet lethal 5+ it’s an option to consider.
  • Bone Darts 1EP- A low-powered silent weapon. Can be interesting for chipping damage in the first few turns.

Tac Ops

Once again we have a Kill team with three archetypes, which makes them particularly powerful. With access to Recon, Infiltration and Seek and Destroy Mandrakes can adapt to the battlefield and the situation quickly.

  • Death From Darkness – If a Mandrake performs a charge that starts and finishes within shadow and kills an enemy, you get 1VP; if you perform it again you get the second. It’s a good tac-op especially against hordes.
  • Shadow’s Reach– If you end a turn within 1″ of a controlled heavy element that is completely inside enemy territory, you score 1VP; if this is repeated on another element you score a second point. It’s again a good tac-op, though very situational, at least in Open World. 
  • Haunting Manifestation –Mark an enemy, and if you end up within 3″ of said enemy you score one point. If at the end of the battle said miniature is still alive, you score the second. It is a very complicated tac-op, since generally speaking if you bother to get within 3″ of an enemy operative you want to eliminate them.

Credit: John from Can You Roll A Crit?

Final Thoughts

Mandrakes come in strong, with a lot of aces up their sleeves. They are one of the teams with the fewest specialists in the game; however, as good elves their mobility is extraordinary. Thanks to their ploys they can be very resistant, and shadow passage allows them to position and reposition themselves in creative ways. Within shadow will be a mechanic that will differentiate the great players from the rest, and this is a Kill Team that will require many games to learn how to use properly — knowing when to use and when NOT to use a ploy will be absolutely vital. They have good tac-ops and a huge range of archetypes to choose from which will surely give them an advantage. In ITD they are going to be a faction that may be too powerful, as all walls generate shadow. It’s gonna be interesting to see how they interact with different maps and different regions. Mandrakes live or die by whether they’re within shadow, so the way in which the killzones are arranged will be decisive for them.

Only time will tell! That’s why we’re looking forward to testing them as soon as possible. Will this be the first Elf team after Harlequins that will be competitive at launch? We will see soon:

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us