Servants of the Abyss were the antagonist faction introduced in the Blackstone Fortress boxed game. Where Heretic Astartes are a strong warband, Servants represent a minor collection of cultists, traitor Guard, and beastmen with a Chaos Marine keeping them in line. There’s very little focus on Marines here, and most of the interesting units have very little armor but good offense for the cost. If you’re into Chaos, but care more about the weird, disparate bands of mutants and heretics than the daddy issues-laden mopers making up the Traitor Legions, or if you want the only “extra” kill team still seeing regular support, then Servants of the Abyss are for you.
- Psyker Faction – Rogue Psykers make Servants one of the few factions with regular access to psychic powers. They’re not particularly amazing as a model but they work well against some elite factions and don’t always have a lot of counterplay.
- Chaos Horde – Horde factions are good in formats that focus on controlling objectives, and Servants make a great horde.
- Solid Melee – Beastmen are cheap for their two WS 3+ S4 attacks, and Negavolt Cultists are one of the better melee units in the game with 3 attacks at S5 and two extra hits each time they roll a 6+ to hit.
- Unit Options – Servants of the Abyss have a lot of units to choose from, which gives you some options. And maybe they’ll get Plague Marines soon?
- No Armor Penetration – The Cultist Gunner’s Grenade Launcher, Cultist krak grenades, the Rogue Psyker, and the Ogryn are the only sources of AP you have and they’re all pretty bad at it. You struggle against power armor and have almost no answer to Terminators.
- Low Leadership – The Chaos Marines can give a re-roll aura for Morale, but that doesn’t do too much if you’re sitting at a 3 or 4 dead models and leadership 6. If your team breaks you are in trouble.
- Tactics and Subfactions – Servants of the Abyss have better support than the Starstriders, Gellarpox Infected, Chaos Daemons, or even Sisters of Battle, but you’ll still feel having fewer options when it comes to tactics and you won’t have a subfaction bonus.
Servants aren’t a bad team most of the time but they have some match ups where it’s almost impossible for them to kill anything and they don’t have ways to keep their team going in the face of an enemy that can kill squishy models with ease. Against the right team they can be strong but even in a format that works with them I’d give them a C at best.
Servants of the Abyss
Models with this rule re-roll failed Nerve tests while they’re within 6″ of a Heretic Astartes model. This is an interesting way to mitigate your low leadership in a horde and makes it worth putting a single Black Legionnaire on your Command Roster in case you think morale could be an issue.
ITC LVO Subfactions
If you’re playing with the ITC Rules from the 2020 Las Vegas Open, Servants of the Abyss get access to three subfaction bonuses called Heretic Cults. Slaves to Darkness is the big winner here, helping you smooth out your damage outcomes.
- Slaves to Darkness: You can re-roll a single injury roll per battle round for an attack you’ve made as long as it wasn’t from a mortal wound. This is a solid way to help mitigate your terrible damage capabilities by turning what’s often a 50/50 or 1/3 chance of taking a model out of commission into something morel like 75% or 56% chance.
- Mallex’s Followers: Add 1 to Advance rolls for your Kill Team. This can be neat for helping get your Negavolt Cultists into combat but not doing enough for you generally.
- Firebrand Renegades: At the start of the Fight phase pick a single enemy model within 1″ of a traitor guardsman or cultist and roll a D6; on a 6, they take a mortal wound. This isn’t reliable enough to be worth taking over Slaves to Darkness.
Servants of the Abyss Units
One of the three core horde options for the Servants of the Abyss. Beastmen cost two points more than a Guardsman but are stronger, tougher, and hit harder when they charge into combat. They make fine Combat and Zealot specialists, and work well as front-line assault units.
Negavolt Cultists can be surprisingly tough and can hit pretty hard in melee, but they’re also expensive for what you get. Another fanatical melee unit you can throw headlong at opponents. They get a bit of a nerf in the Annual now that they’re Max 4 on a Kill Team. It matches the number in the BSF box, but it’s a bummer if you were running more. These and Cultists are going to be the best units in your kill team because of the sheer power they can put out, but you’re going to want them to travel together and stay alive long enough to strike.
Essentially a less versatile version of loyalist Guardsmen, Traitor Guard give up a few ranged weapon options for the ability to take melee weapons and pistols. Your gunners can take flamers or krak grenades, and the Sergeant’s main value is being your team’s cheap Leader Specialist option. You’ll want to have a way to keep these guys from failing morale tests during a game, which is where Black Legionnaires can be helpful. Lasguns may be your team’s longest-ranged option but you’ll seldom want to be firing them from 24″ away with BS4+ models, so plan on pressing forward early with your traitor guard.
Cultists of the Abyss
Like Chaos Cultists from the Heretic Astartes faction, but with much better weapon options and the ability to bring higher AP shooting to the table thanks to the fact they all have frag and krak grenades for some reason. They can also take a grenade launcher or heavy stubber, and the champion can give you another Leader option that isn’t terribly expensive, either. The krak grenades are going to be critical for your team, because again, you’re going to struggle with AP otherwise. But it also means you’re going to have to get real close to start dishing out AP attacks and they’re BS4+ when they start lobbing them.
Also note that these are the ideal units for tanking shots against your Black Legionnaires, since they’re the cheapest of the bunch.
We were hoping Rogue Psykers might come down in cost in the Annual but they’re still wildly overpriced for what they bring to the table. They’re more expensive than Grey Knights despite being much more fragile and being more likely to roll Perils. While it’s an interesting option for Servants of the Abyss to have multiple regular psykers on a roster, it’s just not worth doubling up on them. A standard Servants of the Abyss kill team should have just one of these. Additionally, don’t sleep on their combat abilities, where the chaos staff’s ability to do D3 damage at AP-1 can be pretty nasty against the right targets. The Psyker probably shouldn’t be one of your specialists, but if you’re going that route, Veteran is the only choice that really makes sense for them.
Basically a Chaos Space Marine with a boltgun and no Legion Trait and no weapon options. They can take the Combat and Zealot options (unlike their Heretic Astartes cousins, who just lost the ability again, hilariously), but can’t take melee weapons so it’s not great. Their primary value is that they can give nearby chaff units the ability to re-roll Nerve tests, keeping your other units in line. You probably won’t need more than one on your team at a time.
At first blush, the Ogryn seems a bit overcosted for most standard games — with the model count changes and the fact that his Bodyguard buffs a nearby Traitor Commissar it would seem that despite being an infantry unit he will likely only find a home in Commanders games. Then again, he hits like a truck and Servants of the Abyss will have extra points to spend on things so maybe he’ll be worth it in 125-point-and-above games.
Servants of the Abyss Commanders
A solid option for a cheap commander, but only has access to the Ferocity and Strength specialisms. His Hellfire Torch is pretty nasty, though. Too bad his other ability is a suicide effect that will lose you the game in most Commander missions.
One of the faction’s three Commander options, and potentially the worst of them due to his cost and the fact that he only has access to the Fortitude Specialism. Hits like a freight train with his Thunder Hammer, though, and can absolutely wreck enemy Commanders in melee combat. He’s also the best Servants of the Abyss can do with regard to high AP/Damage output.
With his meatshield at his side, the commissar seems like a solid add for Commanders games, especially for the growing number of lists which more heavily fields traitor guard over other infantry units. He’s also only 20 points in his lowest form, making him one of the cheapest Commanders in the game and the cheapest Servants of the Abyss have access to by a country mile. The traitor Commissar is also your only commander option with access to the Leadership specialism, so he’s going to be your go-to most of the time for a competitive list, since Mallex just doesn’t bring enough beyond raw hitting power and the Commissar’s force-multiplying abilities in a guard-heavy list are pretty solid.
Servants of the Abyss Tactics
As we mentioned above, Servants of the Abyss are criminally under-served when it comes to tactics.
- Servants of the Long War (1 CP) – Same as it is for Heretic Astartes. Which is to say, not that great. C
- Expendable Minions (1 CP) – Allows you to tank a hit for one of your HERETIC ASTARTES kill team models with a non-ASTARTES model within 1″ in the Shooting phase, transferring the the attack wholesale. Helpful for protecting your more expensive models, particularly when they’re on an objective. B+
- Blackstone Trinket (2 CP) – Use when an enemy PSYKER casts while within 6″ of a model in your Kill Team. Roll a D6 and on a 4+ the power is negated. This is expensive but bonkers good against Psykers and will be money against Grey Knights and Thousand Sons. A
- Fully Charged (2 CP) – Works in the Shooting phase to give two Negavolt Cultists within 1″ of each other +1 to their invulnerable saves for a round. Was more useful before Negavolt Cultists were capped, but Negavolt Cultists with a 4+ Invulnerable save and a 5+ feel no pain save are pretty tough to dislodge. B
- Into Them You Dogs! (2 CP) – Use in the Morale phase to have your Traitor Commissar kill a nearby traitor guardsman or cultist to get re-rolls on your break test and to automatically pass any nerve tests. Will be helpful when you’re going horde-big. B
Sample Servants of the Abyss Team
- Leader: Traitor Sergeant
- Zealot: Chaos Beastman
- Combat: Chaos Ogryn
- Heavy: Cultist of the Abyss Gunner w/ Grenade Launcher
- Veteran: Negavolt Cultist
- Zealot: Rogue Psyker
- Demolitions: Traitor Guardsman Gunner w/ Flamer
- Black Legionaire
- 3 Chaos Beastmen
- 3 Negavolt Cultists
- Rogue Psyker
- 3 Traitor Guardsmen with Lasguns
- 2 Traitor Guardsmen with pistols and melee weapons
- Traitor Guardsmen Gunner with Flamer
This list maxes out most of the options. With KT 2019 you can only have 4 Negavolt Cultists, 4 Beastmen, 2 Psykers, etc. Each game you more or less have access to the whole roster and can figure out what works best.
Playing Servants of the Abyss
You’re a horde, and that limits some of your options. You can afford to keep models out of the fight so pick positional objectives and park cultists around the board. Do fight for objectives, you can’t compete with Berzerkers or Terminators but Negavolt Cultists will trade well with anything smaller than an Intercessor and against weaker models your beastmen and flamer cultists will win fights. The lack of any good ranged weapons means you can’t sit back so play to your strengths and be aggressive.
Playing against Servants of the Abyss
Servants have trouble punching through a 2+ save or multiple wounds, so a Terminator, Bullgryn or Wraithguard can stop their advance. They also have to charge to be effective so auto hitting weapons like Flamers can shut down their plans. Otherwise don’t overthink it too much, there’s a good chance your Plan A is as good or better than their Plan A so feel free to shoot if you’re a shooting army or get up close if that’s where you do work.
Painting and Modeling Servants of the Abyss
The models for Servants of the Abyss come in the boxes for Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress, Blackstone Fortress: Escalation and Blackstone Fortress: Traitor Command. I’ve never played the game but I’ve heard good things, and these boxes will give you all of the models you can use in the Servants of the Abyss kill team as well as models for Astra Militarum, Adeptus Sororitas, Adeptus Mechanicus and other Imperium Kill Teams.
There are also options to buy just the model sprues on the GW webstore, which is a cheaper way to get the models for this team but doesn’t get you the rest of what you need to play Blackstone Fortress. I don’t personally see the team interesting enough to build without BSF but if the aesthetic really strikes you it’s a good option.
Servants of the Abyss are hard to recommend as a competitive Kill Team, but if you play Blackstone Fortress you get the entire team as an extra bonus. They make for a great secondary team to give you a break from your main squad and they’re good enough to make for fun casual games. The models also look great, they’re all new sculpts and they really capture the feel of a rag tag group of Chaos cultists trying to bring down the world.